On Sunday, March 1st, I woke up with a bad headache and a strong, dry cough. I did not go to church. I called my work and told them I was sick and would not be in until better.
On Thursday, March 5th, I still had that bad headache, the strong, dry cough was now accompanied with a sore throat, muscle aches and pains, and by afternoon I was shivering and shaking, teeth chattering, it was so bad I called my county health department asking what I should do. As terrible as I felt, in terms of do you need to go to the hospital my problems were minor. After our discussion, I called a nearby walk-in clinic (my doc is an hour away) I sometimes go to. They wanted me to go to my doctor. Thanks for that.
March 5th was the first day that they announced testing would be available for people. There were locations that were determined to be the providers for those drive-by tests. My private practice doctor was not going to be one of them, and regardless of that, I was not capable of driving anywhere. I did learn where to go and what to expect.
I was so damn cold and exhausted from the struggle to find direction from someone “in the know” I crawled into bed and slept for another 4 hours. My temperature was 101.3.
When I woke up I was no longer “freezing.” It was 5:30 PM and I knew I had to get going. I got dressed, got in the car, and drove to the town 30 minutes north of me where the tents and drive-thru testing was to be.
Nothing. There was nothing there. Well, that’s not quite true, there were tents, abandoned blue tents and no cars lined up or people wandering around looking lost.
There were a few parking spots with cones at the front, I parked in the coned spot closest to the tent hoping they were watching from windows because it was very stormy, heavy, heavy rain and strong winds. My temperature was 103.3, I was sick, and I didn’t know what I was supposed to do.
And nobody really had any answers.
Long story short, I did end up inside after being told I was to wait in my car until they had a room ready for me (I had all the symptoms of Coronavirus and had spent 3 hours with an individual who was in China when the illness broke out, returned home, quarantined in home 14 days w/o symptoms and returned to work; where I met with her.)
An hour and a half later, a nurse in full protective gear came to my car and took me through a side door to my room.
I was tested for strep, tested for flu. I waited. Strep. Yeah, that’s probably it. Both tests were negative. I was taken for x-rays of my lungs. Good news, my lungs were “clear.”
And, the reason the tents were empty, the status change for testing had not been made official. The doctor called the health department and pushed for me to get tested. It was late now, after 8 PM. The individual said I likely would not pass criteria to have the tests read but to go ahead and do it and the next day a decision would be made about whether she could submit them for processing.
So they scraped my throat again and then pierced my brain with their 12″ nasal probes, one per nostril which, once finding its destination was twirled around to get a good sample.
I was told 3 days. I would know in 3 days.
I cannot tell you about the next 3 days as I was flush with fever, delirious at times, sleeping.
Three days came, three days went.
On March 9th, I called. I knew my test was being processed as I had called and gotten the confirmation that an exception had been made in my case (they had already used the test after all, and we had pushed the fact that I work with seniors).
The wait was now 7 days.
On March 11th, my fever broke. On March 12th I learned the results of my coronavirus test. Negative.
However, I am to remain in quarantine until all of my symptoms have resolved.
Today is March 17th, I am still coughing up my lungs, although now I occasionally get something coming up out of the lungs. Because I was sick so early, I was unable to prepare for this by shopping for food, toiletries, etc.
And yet, I am calm. I feel at peace. The earth is cleansing herself. Isn’t it interesting that the world’s children are not hard hit? I find it fascinating, it feels like a plan. And ultimately, I know that God turns all things for good.
I’m a mental health writer and advocate, and a suicide attempt survivor. I’ve told people on this blog many times, “Keep reaching out.” I’ve written multiple articles preaching the importance of vulnerability, defying stigma, and owning your struggles.
This is my whole thing, okay? This is what I do.
So when one of my closest friends died by suicide a few weeks ago, I wasn’t just shocked — I was completely gutted.
I thought there was never a question of whether or not my loved ones could reach out to me. But the very person who I’d talked to so often about mental health… didn’t call me.
Not even to say goodbye.
In the weeks following their suicide, my grief took me to dark places. I soon began having my own suicidal thoughts. And even then, when it was my turn to “reach out“? Even after losing my friend? I began to withdraw, too.
I watched, with painful awareness, as I did much of what my friend seemed to do leading up to their suicide. I wrote myself off as a burden. I isolated myself. I got lost in my own head. And despite knowing the danger of where I found myself, I said nothing.
After an especially scary night, I realized something: No one ever explained to me how to ask for help. No one told me what “reaching out” even meant.
As my grief began to snowball, I hesitated to tell anyone I was struggling, largely because I didn’t know how. I didn’t know what to ask for, and without knowing what to ask for, it felt too complicated and futile to ask.
“Why didn’t they tell me?” is such a common refrain when we talk about suicide or mental health challenges in general. It’s easy to make this remark, because “tell someone” seems like a simple request. But in truth, it’s vague at best.
“REACHING OUT” IS THIS SKILL WE’RE SOMEHOW EXPECTED TO KNOW, YET IT’S NEVER TAUGHT AND RARELY MODELED FOR US.
It’s this vague, hopeful sentiment that people throw around, without ever really defining it. What are we asking people to do or say? It’s not exactly clear.
So I want to get more specific. We need to be more specific.
I don’t know if an article like this could’ve saved my friend. But what I do know is that we need to normalize asking for help and talk about what that might look like, rather than pretending it’s a simple and intuitive thing to do.
Maybe then, we can reach people sooner. We can meet them more compassionately. And we can find better ways to support them.
So if you’re struggling but you don’t know what to say? I get it.
Let’s talk about it.
1. “I’M (DEPRESSED/ANXIOUS/SUICIDAL). I’M NOT SURE WHAT TO ASK FOR, BUT I DON’T WANT TO BE ALONE RIGHT NOW.”
Sometimes we don’t know exactly what we need, or we’re unsure of what someone can offer. That’s okay; that shouldn’t discourage us from reaching out. It’s perfectly fine if you have no idea what you need or want — especially when all you can think about is how much you’re hurting.
Let someone know how you’re feeling. You might be surprised by the ways they offer to support you. And if they aren’t helpful? Keep asking until you find someone who is, or seek out a hotline (I know it can be weird to talk to a stranger, but there are some awesome hotlines out there).
2. “I’M STRUGGLING WITH MY MENTAL HEALTH AND WHAT I’VE BEEN TRYING ISN’T WORKING. CAN WE (MEET UP/SKYPE/ETC) ON (DATE) AND COME UP WITH A BETTER PLAN?”
Feeling helpless or exhausted is part and parcel for dealing with a broken mental health system. But a team approach can make it a little more manageable. Sometimes we need a cheerleader/researcher that helps us explore our options, especially when we’re having trouble believing that we have any.
One thing you’ll also notice is that, for almost everything on this list, I suggest setting a time.
This is important for a couple reasons. The first being that it helps the person you’re talking to understand the urgency behind your ask. It can also be helpful to know that there’s an event in the near future when you can expect to receive some support. This can help us hang in there when things get bleak.
3. “I DON’T FEEL SAFE BY MYSELF RIGHT NOW. CAN YOU STAY ON THE PHONE WITH ME/COME OVER UNTIL I CALM DOWN?”
I know this is a hard one to say. Because we often fear telling someone just how much we’re struggling, and admitting that we don’t feel safe? That’s a biggie. Obviously you can replace the word “safe” if it’s not working for you, but I always encourage people to be direct, because it’s the surest route to getting exactly what we need.
Asking someone to be present might feel especially vulnerable. It might not even feel like, in the moment, it’ll make that much of a difference. But you’re more likely to feel better with support than without any.
And remember, from everything we know about mental illness, depression is more likely to be a liar than a truth-teller (I talk about that a bunch in this blog post).
4. “I’M IN A BAD PLACE, BUT I’M NOT READY TO TALK ABOUT IT. CAN YOU HELP ME DISTRACT MYSELF?”
You do not have to talk about what’s bothering you if you’re not ready.
Opening up a whole can of worms might not be the safest or best thing for you in that particular moment. And guess what? You can still reach out for help.
Sometimes we just need someone to shoot the shit with, so we aren’t stuck in our heads, making ourselves a little crazy. This is a valid and healthy thing to ask for! And it’s a subtle way of making folks aware that you’re having a rough time, without needing to go into detail.
The sooner the folks around you are aware that you’re having a hard time, the quicker they can show up to help you through it.
Early interventions are so critical for our mental health. In other words: Don’t wait for your whole basement to flood before you fix a leaky pipe — fix the pipe when you notice the problem has started.
5. “CAN YOU CHECK IN WITH ME (ON DATE/EVERY DAY), JUST TO MAKE SURE I’M ALRIGHT?”
I cannot say it enough — do not underestimate the value of asking for a check-in. I am such a huge fan of this as a coping skill, especially because it can be super helpful for everyone involved.
If you take nothing else away from this article, it should be this: Please ask people to check in with you. It’s such a small thing to ask for in the age of texting, but it can help us stay connected, which is freaking critical for our mental health.
(If you’ve played The Sims before, remember the social bar? That’s you. You need to fill it. Humans need to connect with other humans. It’s not just about wanting to, it’s that we actually require it to survive.)
And this can happen in so many smart ways. A few of my favorites:
“I haven’t been doing well. Can you text me every morning to make sure I’m okay? It would really help me.”
“Hey friend. I’ve been kind of sad lately — do you maybe want to Snapchat/send selfies to each other before bed every night, just to check in? It’d be nice to see your face.”
“I’m in a funk right now. Do you want to be self-care buddies? Like text each other once a day something that we did to care for ourselves?”
“I’ve been isolating myself a little lately. Can you check in with me every so often, just to make sure I didn’t fall off the face of the earth?”
Add emojis wherever fitting if you want it to feel more casual (but really, you don’t need to, there’s nothing wrong with asking for what you need!).
Asking for people to check in with you when you’re struggling is just like buckling your seatbelt when you get in a car. It’s just one extra safety measure in case things get rough.
Both can actually save lives, too. Consider this a PSA.
6. “I’M HAVING A HARD TIME TAKING CARE OF MYSELF. I NEED EXTRA SUPPORT RIGHT NOW AROUND (TASK). CAN YOU HELP?”
Maybe you need help getting to an appointment or the grocery store. Maybe you need a cheerleader to make sure you took your meds, or someone to send a selfie to to prove you got out of bed that morning. Are your dishes piling up in the sink? Do you need a study buddy? It doesn’t hurt to ask for support around tasks like these.
Sometimes these things add up when we’re struggling with our mental health. But we forget that it’s okay to ask for a hand, especially at those times when it could really make a difference.
Being an adult is already challenging. If you’re going through a rough time? It’s even harder. We all hit a point when we need some extra support. Don’t be afraid to let folks know directly how they could support you.
7. “I’VE BEEN FEELING SO LOW. CAN YOU REMIND ME ABOUT WHAT I MEAN TO YOU OR SHARE A FAVORITE MEMORY? IT WOULD REALLY HELP ME.”
I used to think that asking for something like this meant I was “fishing for compliments.” And what a lousy way of looking at it…
Sometimes we need reminders that we matter! Sometimes we can’t recall the good times, and need someone to help us remember them. This is true of every single human being on the planet.
It’s such a simple request, too. If you’re the kind of person that feels nervous about making a big ask (again, I’d encourage you to challenge that assumption — it’s okay to ask for help!), this can be a small step in the right direction.
8. “I’M STRUGGLING RIGHT NOW AND I’M AFRAID I’M REACHING MY LIMIT. CAN I GIVE YOU A CALL TONIGHT?”
To be honest, it wasn’t until my friend died that I finally found these words in particular.
Up until that point, I’d never been sure exactly how to raise the alarm. You know, that moment when you’re not at the end of your rope, but you’re getting there? It’s a crucial moment.
Yes, you can and you absolutely should reach out then, even if you aren’t sure if it might make a difference (spoiler alert, people might actually surprise you). I think about how much pain I could’ve avoided if I’d saw that moment for the opportunity it really was.
Listen to that little voice in the back of your mind, the one that’s trying to tell you that you’re a little too close to the edge for comfort. Listen to that nagging feeling that tells you you’re in over your head. That’s your survival instinct — and it’s an instinct you should trust.
9. “I KNOW WE DON’T TALK MUCH, BUT I’M GOING THROUGH A TOUGH TIME AND I FEEL LIKE YOU’RE SOMEONE I CAN TRUST. ARE YOU FREE TO TALK (DAY/TIME)?”
I wanted to include this because I realize that not all of us have people we’re close to that we confide in.
When I was a teenager, everything changed for me when I reached out to a teacher at my high school that I barely knew. She had always been incredibly kind to me, and I had a gut feeling that she would “get it.” And she did!
To this day, I still believe that she saved my life at a time when I had no one else to turn to. She connected me with a social worker, who was then able to help me access the resources I needed to recover.
While it’s important to be respectful of people’s capacities and boundaries (and be prepared, of course, if someone can’t be there for you or isn’t helpful — it’s not personal!), you might be surprised by the responses that you get.
10. “I’M SUICIDAL. I NEED HELP RIGHT NOW.”
Raise the alarm.
Raise the damn alarm, friends, and be as direct as you need to be. An emergency is an emergency, whether it’s a heart attack or a self-harm risk. Harm to you in any form is reason enough to ask for help.
I promise you, there’s someone in this world — an old friend or a future one, a family member, a therapist, even a volunteer on a hotline — who wants you to stay.
Find that person (or people), even if it takes time. Even if you have to keep asking.
Give people the chance to help you. It’s a chance that my friend deserved, and it’s a chance that you deserve.
(And if all else fails, I have this resource about going to the emergency room when you’re suicidal. I’ve personally been hospitalized twice, and while it’s not a ritzy vacation, it’s the reason I’m here today.)
PICK SOMETHING FROM THIS LIST. WRITE IT DOWN, EVEN IF IT’S ON YOUR HAND OR A STICKY NOTE. REACH OUT — BECAUSE NOW YOU KNOW HOW.
Hell, bookmark this article while you’re at it. I know I’m going to, because there are times when I need this advice, too.
If you’re struggling with your mental health, let me remind you that it’s never too soon or too late to let someone know.
And it’s never, ever too heavy, too messy, or too much to ask — even if you asked fifty times the day before.
I’d have rather had my friend “bother me” every day for the rest of my life than have to lose them forever. Their life was that precious.
And yes, so is yours.
Hey there, friend. Before you go, I want to share some resources with you.
If you’re suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386, or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.
You can also go to the emergency room. If you’re not sure if you should or how to prepare for something like that, I’ve got an article for that, too.
This isn’t just a generic “here are some numbers” plug, this is a “I want you to stay, we need you here, please don’t go just yet” plea.
There’s a memorial fundraiser in honor of my dear friend, Chris Alvaro.
The funds raised will go to organizations that support trans mental health and racial justice.
This article is, of course, dedicated to them.
Topher, you’re still the brightest star in my galaxy. We couldn’t keep you safe. But I will never stop fighting for a world that could have.
A year ago I wrote a piece on the Out of the Darkness community walks put on by the American Foundation to prevent suicide. Well, today we participated once again in our community walk. It’s been a year since we lost our last loved one to suicide (rather than a month) so attending the walk was much easier, no more tears only a touch of sadness — nothing more than we feel on any given day. We were able to enjoy everyone coming together in community to remember those we have loved and lost.
AFSP has local chapters in all 50 states and is “the leader in the fight against suicide. Fund[ing] research, creat[ing] educational programs, advocat[ing] for public policy, and support[ing] survivors of suicide loss.
“The Out of the Darkness Walks are proof that when people work together they can make big changes in the world. They are AFSP’s largest fundraiser – they produce millions for suicide prevention programs, unite those who have been affected by suicide, and create communities that are smart about mental health.”
You can read about my previous Out of the Darkness experience. Or you can read previous posts I have written about how suicide has impacted my life in these posts listed below:
You can also read two powerful posts about personal struggles that I hosted here on my site written by guest bloggers Chris, and Sarah. The post written by Chris does have a trigger warning attached to it so if you are thinking of suicide do not read it. Instead, please telephone or text the resources below. It is confidential and will help alleviate your pain.
Crisis Text Line 24/7: Text “Go” to 741-741 to get started National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Veterans they understand your experiences are different. Press 1 for a line dedicated just to you. LGBTQ National Youth Talk (afternoons & evenings M-S only): 1-800-246-7743
It’s been a long, long while. I have been suffering with bipolar depression in a very extended way lately. Some people who don’t understand bipolar have the misperception that we suffer both the depressive side and the manic side equally. We don’t. Also, we’re all different in our levels of functionality at the various phases of the disorder. So I’ve been down and out of the game. I am on a new medication, Latuda, and I think it may finally be kicking in. I certainly hope so! It is supposed to relieve the symptoms of Bipolar Depression which is a very big deal for me as I have never had relief from this phase and it is the phase I suffer from the most frequently as well as it being the most catastrophically impactful for me.
Anyway, the picture above was put together back in December at the beginning of a manic phase which I will be sharing with you very soon. During mania I have many brilliant ideas and am extremely active. Unfortunately the mania does not last long and when it burns off suddenly my activities cease and my plots, plans, schemes come to an abrupt halt. For instance, this article had the headline written and the picture uploaded, and even a link to some statistical data but no body. Fortunately, I know my main intent was to go over my 4 “personalities” (for lack of a better description) that I am constantly trying to adjust to and live with.
Left to Right:
Deep Depression. This is where I have been for the last several months. My days in this state consist of sleeping (escaping my problems, but also I am exhausted physically and mentally), crying uncontrollably for no specific reason, staring at the ceiling or blank wall sometimes with no thoughts registering in my head and other times inundated with only negative recriminations for being this person (something I cannot control) that suffers this chemical imbalance of the brain. I’ll get up to pee and return immediately to bed. I mostly drink my calories during this time as I have no energy or desire to even pour cereal into a bowl to eat. I will bathe once a week but don’t remember to brush my teeth and do not bother brushing my hair or changing my clothes. I am completely shut down. Inhuman. Some days I am afraid to be alone because I fantasize about killing myself. I know that is not the answer and it is really not an option. Besides, in this state I am frozen in grief and depression so I do not act upon thoughts. I “just” terrorize myself with them over and over again. Visualizing myself killing myself. It’s not fun, believe me. It scares me and heightens my depressive state.
2. “The Blahs” This is where I live the majority of my life. I still have difficulty with hygiene most days. I am messy and tired. I have zero focus, zero attention span, zero interests, zero motivation , and zero drive. I do nothing but zone out on the computer or Netflix day after day. My mind is chaotic and so is the environment around me. It’s better than the deep depression but it is no life. A waste.
3. Happy/Balanced. This is my goal persona. It is who I long to be. I enjoy friendships and can hold onto a job. I feel like I am pursuing goals and making real change in my life toward becoming this person authentically. I bathe bi-daily, I pick up after myself, I eat and sleep in a normal pattern. I have a life and recognized the blessing it is. I may even be able to have a romantic relationship again!
4. Mania! I am awesome! You are awesome! Life is awesome! I have big plans and they are, no matter how far-fetched, attainable! I just got to follow my plans step by step and I’ll do it! I will succeed at anything I try and I will try anything that interests me! The world is my oyster, my cake, my playground!
So yesterday I talked about my long absence and how bipolar depression wreaks havoc on my life. Bipolar patients used to be called manic-depressives because they lived life on two extreme ends of the same spectrum, with the middle being considered “normal”. You don’t have to read the entirety of yesterday’s post to understand the depression side, but do feel free to page down to the large blue lettering to jump right into my symptoms.
If you’ve read about my extreme lows, here is a partial example of my behaviors during an extreme high. I am leaving out destructive behaviors and illusions of grandeur because, frankly, I am not that forthcoming about my life. I am, in person, a private person. I have worked with people for years and they know practically nothing about my life outside of the job despite the fact I am fun and engaging and seem to have sincere connections with those very same coworkers. Some people describe me as mysterious. I’m not trying to be mysterious, alluring, or secretive. I just feel safer keeping my private stuff private.
Now that is a crazy statement… a blog writer, who shares her innermost thoughts and feelings on the Internet where nothing is erased and anyone can stumble upon it, describing herself as a private person!
Today’s Thursday, right? Where to start? Oh, yeah, at the beginning. No, that’s not right either, it actually started earlier than that, Saturday. Yes, Saturday, Oct 29th. I had gotten my normal sleep schedule 2 a.m. to 11 a.m. — well, I guess technically that is Sunday — I got my solid 9 hours sleep as recommended for adults my age. Saturday itself had been a pretty normal day for me. You know, me lying around in bed, not getting dressed, eat, sleep, repeat. Eat, sleep, repeat.
Anyway, back to Sunday. As you know, I had to fast all day and begin drinking that nasty prep at noon for my procedure the next day, Halloween Monday. I drank tons of fluid and used the restroom frequently and entertained myself with brainless Netflix fodder. Scuttling off to the restroom every few minutes or so meant no real hope for rest that night so I didn’t even bother pretending I would be going to bed. I just kept on keepin’ on. I had to check in at the hospital at 9:30 a.m. Monday and it is an hour’s drive. My internal workings finally settled down at 6:00 am Monday and so I did manage to get 2 hours of sleep. The procedure lasted only half an hour so I got another half hour’s rest at the hospital. And when I woke up they were taking the endoscopy mouthguard out of my mouth.
I had been dreaming. It’s nice to know that when they put you into a full sleep for surgeries you get to dream (rather than having zero, nothing, blankness and blackness like when having a grand mal seizure).
A friend picked me up and drove me to her house where after about 2 hours of chatting I asked if I could go lie down for a cat nap on her bed. She said yes and just as I was standing at the bedside, removing my shoes, my son arrived to take me home. We had the hour drive and a stop at the pharmacy. We got home. I ate dinner and WHAMMO! I wasn’t tired anymore. So I turned on the Netflix. And around my normal time, 2 a.m. turned out the light to go to sleep. But I didn’t fall asleep. I tossed. I turned. And I harrumphed. I listened to the clock ticking off the seconds of sleep I wasn’t getting and I watched the sun become brighter through my windows.
I did manage to make it to group that morning, Tuesday. My first time back in a year. And it felt great seeing my old friends again. I puttered around afterward getting my errands done and in the evening pulled up, what else, my handy-dandy, ever faithful, binging buddy, Netflix. And then I felt it sneaking up on me like a herd of wild elephants. I was awake. Wide-wide awake. My mind was clear and the fog had lifted. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep that night. I had too many notes to make; too many things I would need to write down so I would remember when the fog inevitably returns.
So yesterday, Doc, yesterday I was feeling pretty great and I accomplished a lot! I did laundry, cleaned my bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen and even made three meals and, shockingly, I even hopped on the treadmill! Then I stayed up all night cleaning up my email boxes and working on two of my blogs which I haven’t touched in 7 months. At 10:00 a.m. I decided to try and sleep so I turned out the lights and crawled into bed. It felt warm and cozy and welcoming. Two and a half hours later I awoke full of energy and made a beautiful breakfast, put the clean dishes away, swept, vacuumed and even moved furniture to do a real thorough job on all the floors. Then I cleaned the terrarium, took out the recyclables and garbage, packed unwanted stuff into my car and went to Goodwill, the bank, the grocery store, the pharmacy, got my son the flu shot, picked up applications at the Y for membership, bought gas, returned home, put the groceries away, walked the dog, answered important emails, and then made dinner. And I feel like I can just keep on at this crazy whirlwind pace.
Please doctor, what is your diagnosis?
So now as I write this blog post on Friday I can tell you that I did force myself to sleep by taking a sleeping pill. Went to sleep at 2:00 am and woke up at 10, so that’s 8 hours of sleep last night. And today I was very active again just as I was on Wednesday and Thursday. But I can feel the tide beginning to turn again. It is always so short lived. The happy, bouncy, proactive, efficient, productive Memee is starting to retreat again. Tomorrow I hope she will give me one more day with several good hours before she hibernates for weeks or months again.
I did the math for you I have gotten 10.5 hours of sleep in a time span of 144 hours.
The wonderful photograph was taken by Emre Ergen and acquired through Unsplash. It’s a great source for free photos under the Creative Commons Zero license, so check it out!
You’ve been ever so patient with me (I think). I mean, I haven’t gotten any hate mail from anyone for disappearing on you for so long. It’s been four and a half months since my last post, the erotic flash fiction story entitled, In Our Little Yellow Tent. It has been seven months since I was posting regularly… April of 2016! I cannot say time flies or that it got away from me. I wrote only one piece in May called Simply put that explained why I had been absent for a while: I moved from California where I wanted to be, back to Washington, where I didn’t want to be; however, my mental health necessitated it. (If curious you can learn why in my posts entitled, Agonizing Turmoil and Persona Non Grata. But that wasn’t the big thing keeping me away from blogging, the big thing was depression and I wrote about how I was feeling at that time. Well it never got any better. In fact, it only got worse.
This week I feel I have turned a corner. You see, when I moved to California last year I went off my bipolar medication. Not because I wanted to or thought I could. I just failed to seek out a new doctor. Perhaps subliminally I felt that it wouldn’t last… the hopes and dreams I had about my future. I mean, never in my life have things worked out the way I hoped they would. But really, let me be honest here, rationally I know that is true for everyone. But that is the thing with depression and especially bipolar depression. It sucks everything out of you; literally everything. Anyway, I started back on meds last month and they are finally kicking in. I am also taking 600 mg of St. John’s Wort daily and use essential oil aromatherapy when I need an extra boost.
To read more about my bipolar journey please visit my bipolar posts category.
Rather than going into a long-winded account of how it all works I want to share with you, reblog if you will, from a wonderful writer who is clear and succinct (unlike me!) And although she lives in England we walk a similar life path. I followed her blog regularly and when others wanted to understand bipolar better, I would send them to her blog. Sadly, she took it down many months ago. Tonight I found a wonderful blog post she wrote about bipolar depression in my email and that is what prompted me to write to you this evening. Everything she says in this post is true of me except for the hallucinations. Thank goodness I don’t have that on top of everything else. Don’t worry though, I do plan on being here all week. And have set the goal to begin doing at least one Flash Fiction story a month for the year 2017! See, I am feeling hopeful once again and ready to go! Or maybe I’m just hitting a short term manic phase. That is, after all, entirely possible. But I hope not! Think good thoughts for me!
So with no further ado, I introduce you to my fellow Bipolar sufferer, Brighton Bipolar:
Depression means different things to different people and everyone experiences their own personal low points with varying symptoms. As a Bipolar sufferer, my own struggles with depression are probably very similar to those many other people have to endure on a daily basis. For those without first hand knowledge of how difficult it can be to function in a depressed state, I hope my words can give a bit of insight into the darkness that clouds us both mentally and physically.
For me, depression can come on in waves, like a tidal change, slowly getting progressively stronger and threatening to drown me at any moment. One minute everything seems fine and the next, an all enveloping fog descends, giving the world around me a grey tinge and a sense of foreboding. It’s not always something I can predict or prepare for – Some days I simply wake up to find everything around me has slightly changed, like the world has tilted and I’m still upright wondering where the dizzy, sick feeling In the pit of my stomach has come from.
My Whole Body Aches – Depression can actually manifest itself as physical pain. It feels like I’ve run a marathon with every inch of my body aching, which makes walking around or even standing up very difficult. This is often accompanied by migraines or headaches, adding to the feeling of being completely drained and not wanting to move. Symptoms can be very similar to those of severe Influenza.
Chronic Fatigue – Coupled with the aches and pains, comes the overwhelming tiredness. Like being totally drained of energy to the point where simply getting out of bed seems too exhausting a prospect to even consider. All I want to do is sleep (during these times I sleep a minimum of roughly 16 hours per 24 hour period) and every day tasks like taking a shower or getting dressed are impossible without assistance (my husband has washed and dressed me many times over the years, when I simply don’t possess the strength).
The need for Isolation – Lacking energy and being in physical pain isn’t exactly conducive to socialising. At these times I have a desperate need to be on my own and fear leaving the house or having to interact with anyone. It’s almost like a phobia and the thought of going ‘Outside’ away from the safety of my home is terrifying.
Uncontrollable Emotions – When in a depressive phase my emotions are in chaos and I have very little control over them or how they manifest themselves. This results in violent, unexplainable anger at times or more often, uncontrollable bouts of crying. I don’t mean a few tears – but gut wrenching sobbing that can go on for hours without reason or warning.
Suicidal Thoughts – It’s during these dark times that I find myself wondering if the struggle is worth it. The idea of ending the mental and physical pain becomes a very seductive one and a lot of my time alone is spent planning and organising my own ‘Exit Plan’.
Self-esteem and Self-worth Simply Vanish – There seems to be no reason for my existence and I can see no positive aspects of my life at all. In my mind, I’m a burden on those around me and cause everyone nothing but heartache. Looking through the fog of depression I see (what I feel at the time is) the reality of my situation – I am universally despised by everyone and my life has no value. At times, I’m overcome by paranoid thoughts which can take the form of either aural or visual hallucinations, confirming in my mind, my way of thinking.
These depressive phases can, for me, last anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks or when in a state of ‘Rapid Cycling’ I can jump from depression to mania several times in one day. Trying to ‘Mask’ or ‘Hide’ my symptoms is very stressful, tiring and all consuming – I don’t doubt that the effort used to try to appear ‘Normal’ contributes to my irregular mood swings and general exhaustion.
No matter what others may tell you, depression is a serious condition which should always be treated with respect and understanding. Living with the symptoms can be as debilitating as those of many severe physical illnesses and should never be taken lightly.
I originally published the above poem at my other blog, Letters to the Mind. Please consider writing to the mental illness that impacts the world you walk in and sharing it with our new community blog. The site was built in the hopes that other creatives who suffer from a mental illness or have a family member/loved one with a mental illness will write to the illness and post it on the site for two purposes.
The first is as a way to grow and challenge how we relate to our illness. In the act of writing to your illness you achieve empowerment. And the second purpose is to educate other people about the various mental illnesses that people live with every single day and how their struggles differ or are similiar to everyone else’s. With education comes understanding and with understanding stigma begins to fall ill and eventually dies.
For more information on contributing to the Letters to the Mind please click here.
We ALWAYS need contributors, any and all mental disorders welcome. No one is turned away and your own blogs, media platforms are cataloged and linked on the site.