According to Business Insider, 4 days ago, on April 3, 2020, via statistical analysis of governmental measures to survive COVID-19*, one-third of the World Population is on Lockdown due to the devastating effects of this novel coronavirus.
It is a strange and scary time.
People are suffering for many reasons that are the same and many reasons that are different. We are suffering from the illness, yes. Our friends, neighbors, and acquaintances are dying, yes. We are frightened and anxious. We are feeling stir crazy and bored. We are not experiencing as much of the life-giving air and sunshine that we need to thrive but, more than anything, we are isolated, kept apart from one another.
Our habits are changing. Our thoughts about our actions and those of others are changing. The world will not be the same once a vaccination is found and we feel free to leave the safety of our lodgings, coming and going as we did just a few months ago and for thousands of years before to the beginning on man living in dwellings.
I believe we will see very obvious changes to the functioning of our societies; there will be social changes that we will long for which may never return, longings that our unborn children, our grandchildren, would be shocked or repulsed by or even just curious about while simultaneously being so surprised to learn just how different our childhoods and life experiences were from what theirs is.
Will the future be filled with a world of germaphobes? Will we be wary of people standing too close? Will our children and grandchildren not yet born also be wary or will they be immune to these fears? Will we use Mork’s or Spock’s hand gesture of greeting, or will we organically create our own (and if so will it be a worldwide greeting or different greetings around the world) or, as I hope, will we be stuck with the elbow bump? Will little girls play Patty Cake and Miss Mary Mack? How about Say Say Oh Playmate, Down Down Baby or Down by the Banks of the Hanky Panky? Will adolescent boys give high fives for making baskets? Will first loves, young marrieds, or seniors stroll through parks hand in hand? And how will sporting teams greet one another? By standing in a very large circle and bowing in unison?
Time will tell and I think that some of these changes will be fascinating to see. I expect there are enormous changes coming, changes at all levels of our existence. I cannot tell you why I think this. I can only tell you that I feel this.
I suggest that in addition to outward changes in social behavior and thinking, there may well also be hidden changes deep within our subliminal selves, the not-yet understood definitions that make up each one of us, creating infinitely unique individuals from every spermatozoa and egg that unite, even those eggs that later split creating not one but two tiny babies that will grow into integral members of future humanity. There are changes taking place right now, today, in the mechanisms that guide us toward our behavioral choices, actions, beliefs, and feelings… our souls.
And could there even be something within us, as a species, that is changed forever? Will the impact of this cause a chemical change in our DNA that will be visible to science proving that we, as a species, made a sudden adaptational leap in the DNA of today to the DNA of the generation that follows? And, if so, what will that adaptation mean for all of us, the people who are walking our earth now and all of the generations that may come after?
I have written quite a bit about isolation over the years. And I believe firmly that isolation kills. But now, for our mortal survival, individually and perhaps as a species, we must isolate away from one another. And that is an enormous shift in humankind and it is why I suggest that this may, in fact, be the kind of event that changes who and how people are, how they interact with one another, how they think, as well as changes to their physical and sub-physical natures.
Of course, I could be wrong.
The wonderful photograph was taken by Aaron Burden and acquired through Unsplash. It’s a great source for free photos under the Creative Commons Zero license, so check it out!
☀ ☀ ☀ ☀ ☀
*“…statistical analysis of governmental measures to survive COVID-19,” is my laymen’s terminology of what was created and presented.
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
Note: This post was handwritten (printed!) in a 4.75×3″ spiral notebook during the height of a full-blown manic episode. It is genius as you can see how crazy fast the brain was unravelling. My ending thoughts never made it onto the paper as I suddenly and instantly transitioned out of mania and into nothingness. The next day I couldn’t even find the notebook. The date was Dec. 15, 2016 and I have just now April 22, 2017, found the notebook and am about to read/type it for the first time since that night.
I hope you find it as fascinating to read as I was excited to be writing it! It is a long read. However if you get tired of reading it, just scrolling down you will see some of the magical brain unraveling over the course of writing it.
Being in the full-blown manic state is living 100% in the moment, every single second. And your brain is more than fully engaged, it is hyper-engaged! I experience perhaps 5000 FABULOUS ideas, plans, and schemes from one second to the next and find myself living in the whim of whatever idea, plan, or scheme lures my engagement in that exact moment the thought crosses the neurotransmitters of thought.
This full engagement is fantastic! Sometimes I think that what we call today “bipolar” or “autism” or “asperger’s” are really not mental illness or handicaps but an evolution of our species. These different-brained folks have gifts that reach beyond those of the “average norm” of thinking and behaving — hold that thought for a moment and I will try to return to it.
I just now discovered through my current multi-leveled thinking or presence in all that is around me that I am handwriting this post in a 5×3 notepad! CRAZY!
Now back to topic:
I just recognized also that although 100% of my blog posts are stream of consciousness thinking and writing as organic as that is I am still writing one word at a time with no idea where the journey will take me… I always discover it after it is finished and i re-read it for typos, misspellings, and obvious grammar errors. And that writing now in this organic yet manic state that my thoughts are not meandering as much as is typical when I post. Frequently my posts change direction midway to my surprise, but this post is turning out to be succinct and on topic despite the million things I have thought of while printing this in my tiny 5×3 inch notebook!
Before stopping I want to emphasize the benefits of mania.
2. Excessive energy, drive, and motivation
3. Accomplishments, lots of accomplishments in a short amount of time
4. Having the ability to multitask like a supercomputer A.I.
5. All things are possible and therefore success and pride abound!
And those are just a few of the gifts that being a bipolar individual can bring.
Unfortunately manic phases, at least for me, are short-lived and divided by long periods of depression at the same level of intensity. Oh, and three side affects of mania are:
1. No sleeping
2. Constant talking, fast and loud — and for the record, I am not a talker. I am a listener. So that’s pretty weird, right?
3. I become fast and loose with money. In the past 24 hours I have spent over $200 on Christmas gifts to myself. Why not? I’ve earned them! I have had a helluva year and suffered through 8 to 9 months of varying degrees of depression.
Here’s my scale…
The photo is graphic and disturbing. Proceed with caution!
Phase one is deep depression. Desires and longing for death; feelings of total and complete worthlessness; the absolute belief that I have nothing of worth to share with humanity (neighbors, jobs, communities) nor anything of value to share with my world (family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and acquaintances); the full and complete knowledge and acceptance in the fact that my life does not matter. Life for those in my world will march forward without me. My life has changed nothing. Not for them, not for the communities I am a member of, not for our country, our world, our galaxy, or the universe…
Which brings to mind this example of what life is like living in two different existences: String theory says there are multi-universes, meaning other dimensions of “us” with different choices and outcomes being made! Wow, incredible! I live in two dimensions! Can you say that about yourself and have the evidence to back it up? Because I do!
And another side effect is frizzy hair! I am certain it is from lack of sleep. The brain is not meant to shut down certain specific functions so it can restore out entire bodily functions. It screws with our electrical output. This particular manic episode has been interesting in that I am extremely jumpy. I have “jumped” and heard my voice squeal in fright at least 20x today. I am jumping at movement that does not exist…
at least not in this dimension!
The funniest was when my dog, lying on the floor about 4 feet ahead of me lifted his tail in a half-wag. I jumped sky-high! That’s a mile, right? LOL, I crack myself up!
In fact, this happened today: I had to drive into town to pick up some medication at the pharmacy. It was snowing out but I needed it, I’d be out otherwise. And if you’re thinking that’s not a big deal than you do not live in the Pacific NW. Our snow here is not the same as back East or even up North. It is extremely treacherous because it is in a constant state of transition of snowing, melting, freezing, snowing, melting, freezing. It creates layer after layer of black ice. And, to top it off, the majority of people out here don’t know how to drive in snow but that doesn’t keep them from trying; driving too fast, making last minute decisions, breaking, attempting to summit hills and traverse down those same steep hills as though they were on a waterslide. Hey! I guess, they ARE on a waterslide of sorts! LOL. Predictably and ultimately they slide off course ending up either crashing into other vehicles or in a ditch. Surprisingly however, they rarely plowdown pedestrians who are not fool enough to risk life and limb to reach a goal. I guess they’re not bipolar.
See what I did there? I went off on a tangent not relevant yet related to the topic at hand. I just proved how adept I am at stream of consciousness writing. I mislead you down an unknown path, which you followed and ultimately you arrived at the same destination: Bipolar. From bipolar to driving in snow to bipolar again for those of you who may be feeling lost. But don’t worry, I’ve got this under control. This post is still tugging me stronger than the tens of millions of thoughts that have crossed my mind since we began. And I’ll prove it now.
When I arrived at the aforementioned pharmacy my hair became conductive! It was literally reaching and grabbing at my face like static cling. I couldn’t get it off my face! I would brush it away or push it to the back of my head but it would immediately return to my face, tickling my cheeks, my mouth, my nose. I know that when it snows the ion consistency of our atmosphere is significantly different than all other weather conditions which is why it has that unique smell which we all identify as “it’s going to snow.” Now, it’s true we’re not accustomed to snow here in the West like the rest of the country, however, that #fakescience #fakenews #conspiracytheory of #globalwarming is to blame for that. Twenty-five years ago when I moved here it never snowed. Now it is every year with a #bigsnow about every seven years which would be in 2019 as we did #shutdowneverything for the #snowpocolypse of 2012. Which, I should mention, would have the rest of the world laughing at us.
— Quick break. It’s getting very cold again so I’ve got to add another heater and pee… I’ve been holding it for a long time. I’m going to go multitask for a moment and, if we are lucky, some other whim will not take my fancy and I’ll be able to come straight back and finish my train of thought. I know I can do it. I can do anything! #ThisLifeRules #ManiaIsMyFriend.
And by the way, the hashtags, yeah, that’s a behavior shift most definitely. Be right back have a lot more to say.
I am very lucid right now and surprisingly do know exactly where I am going with this piece (and I don’t mean Letters to the Mind though I will most definitely share it with that community. This article will definitely #furtherunderstanding about #bipolar and #mentalillness and take us on another step to #endstigma. This is going to be powerful!
I cannot promise to return from my #peebreak but I can promise that if you keep reading you’ll gain greater understanding. Okay, #peetime #pottyfirst #heatersecond.
Okay, I’m back! #ToldYou.
#Lying. Stopped to put on a #Seahawk knit hat to cover my ears, slip on a cozy coat, slide on my fingerless gloves, and take 5 gulps of #AlpineRose chocolate milk. #MyFavorite.
#LetsGetReal. I have seriously used up half of this notebook thus far so I also grabbed — and I am beginning to hear another whim increasing in intensity. This #girlsgotgoals #livinginthemoment #truthbetold
Oh yeah, better write this down!
Double damn! #IHadIt
Whew! Got it back. Took a few, I was #gettingworried. But I’ve written my reminder so let’s #finishthisup. This post is about the Four Faces of #Memee @Memeesmusings on #Twitter. And I previously warned you about the image and have explained stage one or #Face1 which represents the words that the image tells and that’s the graphic part. #HardPartsOver #YouMadeIt
So, stage 2 #Face2. This is the stage I pretty much live in. #TheBlahs
Hey! I just realized I’ve also already covered stage 4 #Face4
Back to stage 2: The Blahs #FormerlyKnownAs #theduldrums
#archaic! also known as #WhotheFuckCares
Gotta love the modern English lexicon.
I am pretty sure you have a good idea about what this stage is all about because #everyonesuffers #fromtime2time Here is what that looks like for me…
Oh, I remember something that I thought was important to include about the negative side effects of #mania. #SoImportant!
There are two different kinds of #BipolarDisorder #formerlyknownas #ManicDepressive #Archaic
I suffer from Bipolar 2 (depressive bipolar with hypomanic episodes that last up to but do not exceed 5 days) with #rapidcycling.
#RapidCycling doesn’t mean I ride a bike super fast all over the place. However, that’s a pretty apt way to think of mania as one symptom is — I #gaveyouahint earlier
I know, I know, you’re feeling a little stupid right now. That’s okay. #IForgiveYou #I_Love_You #My_Minion
I bet you thought because we had #alreadycovered faces two and four that this post would become #shorterthanotherwise #Sorry2Disappoint #I’mMemee. I’m a Blabberer Not a Summarizer.
#Managing to #useitup #anyway #HavingFunDoingIt
#LongReads are my #specialty #it’llbeworthit #IntheEnd #Ipromise
#StreamofConsciousness stops when there’s no more to say… Ugh-oh! #I’mManic I talk incessantly. I work nonstop. #WhatIDon’tDo is #SlowDown #FullStop
We may be in for the ride of our lives! I’ll try to #SpitItOut #Just4U
Oh grudge! We’re still on Stage 2, The Blahs. Sorry about that! Stage 3 will be short, I promise. #Damn #LotsofPromises in this post! #ForgiveMe please.
So what rapid cycling means is that I have —
#IAmSuperSmart #Spontaneous #BrilliantWay to #KeepPromise to #SpitItOut. Here’s a #Snippet instead:
And that my friends is where I finally fell asleep 4 days after entering my mania and did not complete the post or deliver on my promises. When I woke back up the mania was gone. But if you read all of that, I’m sure you’re grateful to be done!
I do find it a fascinating read, seeing the mind in mania in action and evolving.
Here is the note I had written down to complete this article:
“Well, this did not turn out to be as succinct as I thought it would be. But it is clear and cohesive. #Memeeforthewin! You should have known that though because I am usually long-winded in my writing — well, except for my #FlashFiction.
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!
I have been in therapy a good portion of my life and I don’t have a definitive diagnosis as such. They keep changing it to suit the therapy group I’m participating with at the time. I don’t know if they don’t know how to categorize people like me or if it’s ME, because part of my own complaint is the ability to morph into what I think the ‘person in charge’ wants to hear.
In the latest therapy effort, I’ve tried hard not to do that and to be as honest as I can about my problems. I still feel pretty mixed up about it all though. I do a group therapy session about once a week (it’s a long drive and our weather has been bad, plus I’ve been sick a lot this winter so far) so I don’t always make the group session. In that group we deal with addictions of various kinds, of which I didn’t ever really think I had any, save food, and so I have been resistant to the process. Others deal with drugs, alcohol, sexual addictions and the usual type of stuff. I’ve felt like an outsider. I’m also a good deal older than most of the women who attend that group, and I’m further along (in my own estimation) in the healing/dealing process.
It’s been odd therefore to realize that in that group I’ve discovered some depths to my own mental illness that I hadn’t considered before. The group is a trauma group, all of us in there have suffered some sort of traumatic event, whether it is childhood or spousal abuse, abandonment, physical abuse or whatever fits under the umbrella of “abuse.”
And again I’m worried that I over-identify with the ailments of the other patients. One has pretty severe OCD and through her sharing I’ve identified some traits of that in myself. I always knew I had elements of OCD, but I thought they were pretty minor (I continue to think that), so I never thought I ‘had’ OCD.
I overthink things. And this ‘letter of introduction’ if you want to call it such is getting too long.
My own problems include:
Dysthymia (or major depression)
Possible bipolar II (depressive bipolar disorder)
Possible BPD (borderline personality disorder)
Very mild (to me) OCD
Agoraphobia (very mild)
It sounds really stark and overwhelming listed out that way. I don’t think if you met me IRL, you’d even suspect any of these. I have learned over decades to hide them well. Privately I know I have some issues and I’m not comfortable around people. Someone recently told me I have a true introverted nature, which in psycho-speak means I draw energy from myself best, and I expend it when I have to be around other people. Being in crowds exhausts me and I don’t do well if I’m forced to wait for things or if someone is holding up the progression. I find that I’m becoming more vocal about it, and this leads me to want to stay home. I’m embarrassed by being that way, but I’m finding it happens more and more. People stare at you if you are grumbling to yourself about what an asshole the guy in front is being. Or if you openly ask this asshole if they are EVER going to conclude their business and get the %$@# out of your way. I have anger issues.
Well that’s enough about it for today. Thanks for inviting me here and for listening.
Author’s note: I was invited to Letters of the Mind by B.L. Memee of Memee’s Musings, and I thank her for offering this chance to address mental illness in a safe venue.
About the author:
I’m Melanie. I have been diagnosed with major chronic depression. I also deal with social phobia and anxiety.
I’m a 56 year old woman who was born and raised, and remains in Utah in the United States of America. I have degenerative bone disease (type undiagnosed), diabetes and the mental health issues [I’ve discussed], and therefore I am under disability and retired now. I am widowed (going on five years in February). I live alone and have one pet, and I prefer it this way. I am considered reserved. I am Mormon in faith, but I am not judgemental nor do I consider myself holier than thou or anything. I try to be open-minded and accepting of everyone. I TRY. 🙂
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Ghandi
The wonderful photograph was taken by Maria Victoria Heredia Reyes and acquired through Unsplash. It’s a great source for free photos under the Creative Commons Zero license, so check it out!
About the author:
I am a survivor of incest, teen pregnancy, emotional abuse and multiple family estrangements. It sent me to the edge of suicide but I stepped back and have been finding my way ever since. I have begun the healing process and now try to share with others in hopes of making sure no one feels alone in their pain. In “Scars” I address emotional scars, self-doubt and internal struggles.
What to make of scars,
so pitiful and weak.
Oh, physical scars,
how I envy you,
those of skin and bone.
You can be seen.
You scab over, heal,
pain ultimately subsides.
But oh, the scars of the heart,
they’re jagged, deep –
I’m amazed my heart still beats.
You’re hidden, unseen,
with pain that never quite
oh how you lie,
pretending to be healed
while cruelly laughing,
waiting to rip open,
to make me doubt the progress
I have made.
You shout, “Look at me!
Yes, I remember you well.
You remind me where I’ve been.
You helped make me who I am.
But you don’t own me anymore –
your time is past.
You are only a scar, not
my innermost being.