Archive for the mental illness Category

The Perception Misconception

Posted in mental health, mental illness with tags , , , , on May 25, 2018 by morgueticiaatoms

I’ve long said there’s very little truth, only personal perception. The problem with personal perception is, often, there is no malicious intent. We are all human, prone to bias based on our own experiences, so often our truth is very different from what is scientific fact, or fact proven with evidence. Now this could launch me into a political tirade but instead…

If I say, “I remember you doing this, and I said that…” Well, that is my personal memory and perception of the matter.

You can say, “No, you took it out of context, you didn’t hear me correctly…” And that would be your truth, your perception.

But if a video camera captured that same exchange and showed either you, I, or both were wrong and it unfolded differently…that’s fact. That’s proveable truth, not fallible human perception.

So short of every moment of your existence being video taped, there are going to be many, many times when perception on either side of the fence is simply wrong or a misunderstanding or breakdown in communication. And it’s okay because, hey, only human, we make mistakes, blah blah blah.

The ONE time when I do, however, find different perceptions to be very dangerous is when you have a legitimately diagnosed mental disorder, but those around you don’t mere debunk it but flat out refuse to believe it could possibly be for real. This is when perceptions can become harbingers of doom.

My family, AKA THE ORIGINAL harbingers of doom, perpetually doubt, question, dismiss, debunk, scoff- any negative reaction to mental illness one can have, my entire family practices. No matter the long mental disorder history on both sides, or the fact that my mom, me, my sister, my brother, my great grandmother-all spent time in treatment or in a psych hospital for the disorders-changes perception. Hell, even my mom and sister declared themselves cured and only weak people need medication, I need to get over myself.

Battling this daily- perception ceases to be benign and becomes a malignancy. Frankly, it beats the hell out of your self esteem because these are the very people who are supposed to love and accept you, as you are, no matter what and yet they make you feel as rejected and dejected as the masses. It takes a strong psyche to face this daily battle and not lose your mind or be overwhelmed with self doubt and self hatred.

It may hurt a little less but facing the same sort of invalidation from friends and romantic partners never gets easier. You warn them, this is my condition(s), this is how it can get bad, they swear they are strong enough and care enough to weather it out…then time after time, abandon ship because they had no idea you were so difficult.

Much as the rejection stings, I can’t help but laugh derisively. Wussies. They get to walk away cos it’s too tough. I don’t get that luxury. Furthermore, I basically slap myself with a ‘toxic’ skull and crossbones as well as a ‘biohazard’ label as warnings and still..the cockroaches scurry off. Oh, wait. That’s MY PERCEPTION, not fact. They’re not really bugs and they have every right to flee and not be dragged down by whatever shit I have going on. But I perceive their abandonment less as them trying to spare themselves and more as persecuting me for that which isn’t in my control. And they perceive my disorders as some sort of personal affront on them, as if they bring out the worst in me or I hate them so I’m moody or high strung. (Again, when greeted with a skull and crossbones and biohazard symbol, take a beat and THINK.)

And there’s the rub. Perception deception.

While everyone perceives me as negative and pessimistic, I truly do tend to view most negative views towards those with mental diagnoses as simple ignorance, rather than something evil or personal. People get scared of what they don’t know or understand and they lash out or tense up. Ignorance, however, can be resolved with some information and communication. I’d like to think *most* are willing to be educated and learn more facts before a final judgment. But the bottom line is, there will always be those who simply will never come around. And while they may judge me as crazy, I feel pity for them. Some are born not very bright and due to educational lacking or some sort of impairment, they can’t really become the next Einstein.

Ignorance, however- that is a choice. And if you are presented with facts and personal experiences and still choose to be ignorant and hold ignorant views…you are to be pitied. Nothing sadder than choosing to be dumb when the information is right in front of you.

But, hey, again…perception deception. Maybe the masses that are asses (gotta love L7 for that title) have it right and my perception is all wrong.

Maybe pegacorns are real, politicians aren’t corrupt, and body odor smells pleasant.

Not fucking likely.

But I am humble enough to entertain the merest possibility that my perception could be wrong. If so…

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE MAKE PEGACORNS BE REAL.

Gas is up to $3.15 a gallon and I can’t handle being in Armpit, I need transportation. 😉

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Illness Identity?

Posted in mental health, mental illness with tags , , , , , on May 11, 2018 by morgueticiaatoms

As usual, a simple plot line in a TV show sent me on a Google quest that further lead me down a rabbit hole that ranks right up there with mindfulness and cognitive behavior therapy, for me. Which is…nada. Anyway, I went to search for “why would a doctor prescribe only amitriptyline for bipolar disorder?” Because ya know, this was common in the 90’s but these days, it’s just shoddy medicine asking for a manic episode to be triggered and negligence suit to be filed. Been down the antidepressant-only road too many years, it isn’t pretty and the fact it’s referenced-even on a fictional Australian TV show- irks me.

Anyway, while Googling this, I came across an article about how bipolar disorder is wrongly treated so frequently. In the course of reading that article, I encountered an unfamiliar term. “illness identity”. Though not popular theory (yet) in the mental health field, it essentially means that people with a mental health diagnosis often develop their illness(es) as part of their identity thus it impacts their self esteem and ability to be in relationships, hold a job, be a parent.

So in my new quest for self awareness I spent the entire day Googling some more and soul searching. Is that me? I mean, I sure do talk a lot about my disorders. But then this is a mental health blog meant to share my experiences, to educate, and often, just for me to vent the poison in my mind so it doesn’t boil over. Does this mean I have come to identify myself solely as my depression/bipolar/anxiety diagnosis symptoms? Am I self sabotaging by being on disability because I let fear and stigma convince me I’m unemployable?

I suppose anything is possible. The moon just may be made of blue cheese. And I’ve met some people who do seem to base their lives and choices around whatever diagnosis they have, though in their case, it’s generally physical ailment.

I just don’t see it with me. I NEVER wanted to go on disability. I worked from the time I was 16 and when I was stable or manic,I was a powerhouse. Then splat or nervous breakdown would come and I was no longer the employee they needed me to be and yeah, my disorders created many problems and made me an unstable candidate for employment. I kept trying, for years, and years, and years. It was the therapists who watched me fly so high than crash so low, who saw how great I was when functional, how brutal it was when non functional. They told me it was admirable to want to work but I was doing myself more harm burning through jobs and getting bad references and never knowing if I could pay rent so I needed to protect myself and seek disability.

So did I let them get in my head and instead of continuing to fight, I just gave up?

I think how long I tried to hold on and help R at the shop through multiple breakdowns indicates I have never given up, do want to work and be productive and feel good about myself, and I do not define myself by my disorders. My illness is a factor in my daily life, much like a diabetes, blood sugar testing, insulin, and pills are part of a diabetic’s life. Are they guilty of illness identity if they talk about their numbers or diet or medication side effects? Or if they know a certain activity overtaxes them so they limit their participation? No. But we all know the putrid double standard when it comes to physical illness verses mental disorders.

Aside from not being stable enough to hold a job and blogging about my experiences with these disorders…

My life goes on pretty normally. I have never given up on being a parent or maintaining a home of our own. I recently applied for summer babysitting but for some reason, was rejected by the lady who was looking for a caregiver for her son. I cook, clean, take care of the cats, go grocery shopping, occasionally go to a yard sale or two or take my kid to the park or for a bike ride. All the while I AM riding out mood swings, depressive lows, and crippling anxiety. It is difficult and many days, I do have meltdowns. The difference is, my kid and cats can’t fire me for my instability. If I need a break, I can get a sitter at my family’s and I can close my bedroom door to keep the cats at bay. In job situations when you ‘snap’ or ‘splat’ there is no corner to go stand in until you work through it. And other than failing to show up one day or failing to give proper notice or missing too much work- I doubt my former employers would have much critical to say about my work except for the depressive periods or panic meltdowns.

But that’s their job, to hire not just partly functional people. They need stability and I can’t offer that consistently. So while I do want to be well and stable and work…If I am deemed unfit and it’s not simply stigma from my mental illness but the fact that such situations, combined with my disorders, lead to meltdowns…I can’t fault employers and I don’t think I should be faulted, either. It’s not like I don’t try my hardest and keep trying.

I suppose it all sounds like justification, like I am trying to convince myself, but I am honestly viewing it as objectively as possible. Even though I am far from stable and a summer with my own kid nearly drives me to the bring, I was willing to babysit for extra money. I was polite, I gave references, a reasonable rate, the kid likes me, I am close by…but I was still rejected. Instead of blaming it on my disorders or being defeatist, I just view it as being an outsider in this town and people may know my dad and his faction but they don’t know me and I can respect not wanting to leave your child with someone you don’t know, or who, for whatever reason, gives you a bad vibe. (I’ve heard of people not being hired because of their eye color making someone uneasy, never work in management, you find out the law is a joke, it’s largely based on personal bias and quirk.)

It just bothers me that I try so hard yet am constantly filled with so much self doubt. This is normally where I’d say, “Hey, counseling might help.” Except the new ‘behavioral health’ concept has me so rattled on top of my prior bad experience at that center, the idea of seeking ‘help’ there when they caused me so much damage is met with as much horror as a lobotomy. Unreasonable? Maybe. But until I ‘get there’ to that mental stability spot where I don’t feel they will do more harm…I am just going to have to be my own cheerleader.

Yes, I am a manic depressive. I have anxiety disorder.

It’s not who I am.

I am a woman. I am a single mom. I am a cat owner. I love Halloween. I love heavy metal, crime shows, horror movies, black eyeliner, yard sales, and I say ‘fuck’ a lot.

That all has nothing to do with my disorders. That is my identity.

And the fact that six weeks ago I could have never thought that, let alone felt it, meant it, and write it- tells me we may be onto something with the Cymbalta and my pursuit of an even deeper self awareness.

Counseling could happen.

But right now..I am going to focus on healing from all the upheaval in my life, continue treating my depression and anxiety, and venting my feelings here. Healing is a process and this is my way of going about that process. Everyone has their own method, their own path, this is mine.

Yes, I am a bit of a dark gothy ghoul but that has NOTHING to do with my disorders.

I’m also the 45 year old woman with a pet net hanging from the ceiling filled with furry cats, bears, iguanas, and Furbies.

I am light. I am dark. I am me.

My illness isn’t my identity.

But it’s the monster under my bed that I have to live with popping out way too often so good thing I kind of dig the whole monster thing. 😉

Mental Illness:Telling People What They Want To Hear

Posted in bipolar disorder, depression, mental illness, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 10, 2018 by morgueticiaatoms

Seems daily I am asked, ‘How are you?’ I know *most* are merely being polite. But the stigma of mental health issues makes the innocuous,polite question seem like a landmine to me. Especially with family and friends who refuse to grasp the gravity of depression,bipolar,anxiety,etc. I find myself selling the ‘I’m fine’ line 24-7. Experience has taught me to bottle it up because empathy won’t be forthcoming.

How sad a statement about the human race is it that those with mental health issues have to LIVE A LIE so those around them don’t have to feel uneasy?

Even this blog often forces me to stuff down my true feelings (you didn’t know I was holding back,didja?). I hate having to think if my writing is gonna ‘trigger’ someone to self harm or not. Hate having to label something as a potential trigger,much as I understand why it’s not just polite but necessary. Guess I lack the self confidence to believe my lowly words could inspire people for good or bad. But words do have consequences.

That being said…

TRIGGER WARNING.

Yesterday had me seriously close to that precarious edge. Everything with the state insurance is all fucked up so all that anxiety on my kid and the cost of gas into town only to find out even dental has changed and her doctor isn’t covered….was a waste.

Dejected would be a mild term for how I felt.

Still I faked it through a playdate for Spook and got her to bed,then curled up in Fort Blankie myself. I was further crushed by the expected call back from the shrink’s office,saying to increase the Effexor by 37.5 mg for another week cos insurance won’t pay for another med til I max out on this one.

Are you fucking kidding me?

I didn’t have the nards to tell her I upped my dose that much last week and instead of feeling better or at least the same…I feel worse. I did mention feeling worse,just not my self prescribed increase. But zero fucks are given. The insurance company is now part of the hindrance of me getting adequate mental healthcare.

Meanwhile, I sink down the rabbit hole more and more and feel life slipping away.

Which leads to SPLAT and feelings of worthlessness and yes..wanting to end it all.

It was suicidal ideation I fell asleep with last night. Because I can’t deal with all the insurance problems and more expenses than income while not in my right mind but some insurance company says I’m on hold til I max out on a med that’s not helped an iota in 5 weeks…

It feels futile.

At least the blackened mood lifted to dark charcoal gray today. I still feel like I am nearing the end of my frayed rope,but unlike last night,I’m not as scared I will act on those feelings.

Still…when you have to postpone venting your feelings out of fear they could trigger someone…

It feels like my entire identity and voice are being censored and muted by every faction of my life.

I guess it’s karma for every time I tell people what they want to hear and say I am fine.

If you have a voice and don’t use it,you lose it.

Snap- A poem about Mental Illness

Posted in mental health, mental illness, poetry with tags , on July 1, 2015 by morgueticiaatoms

snapoutofit

What The Mental Healthcare Professionals Don’t Tell You

Posted in mental health, mental illness with tags , , , , , , , , on June 10, 2015 by morgueticiaatoms

THEY JUST DON’T KNOW.

We’re taught to respect doctors because they’re educated, they’re experienced, science is science…But when it comes to mental healthcare, for every one thing that’s been learned over the last hundred years, there’s a dozen of questions they still have no answers for. A lot of counselors and psychiatrists do NOT admit this to patients. And the ones who do, downplay it because they have their precious DSM that tells them which cluster of symptoms qualifies you for a disorder.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Meaning, lots of research of lots of people and a consensus on what the masses suffer which qualifies as disorder A, B, C, D. It is not the least bit comforting to know when I talk to a psych professional, I am little more than one more number, one more statistic. Not an individual. Not someone with different genetics, physiology, different past experiences that left an imprint. Nope. Just. A. Statistic.

Also not publicized by the professionals are their own personal experiences, biases, beliefs. Some still use rorschach tests and consider it combative if you tell them it looks like someone spilled ink on paper. Some are old school and think Freud had legitimate points rather than just some sort of obsession with phallic symbols and mommy. Some are against medications. Some do nothing but push pills and “hope” a counselor keeps you from killing yourself. It’s a mixed bag, and for many of us, we’re kind of stuck with what we can get when you consider the average cost of a ten minute med check is over a hundred dollars.

This means we are also stuck with whatever their issues are, their beliefs, their experiences. If they knew a string a patients who were faking it or simply addicted to substances and creating their own mental issues…YOU get stuck with that, no right to individuality. Mental healthcare professionals are HUMAN. They go into the field for the right reasons for the most part, but make no mistake. THEY ARE JUST AS FUCKED UP AS THE REST OF US. Your male doctor might have issues with females and objectivity can be tainted by such feelings. Your female counselor may hate brunettes and not take you as seriously as a blonde client. That psychologist with all the alphabets behind their name, all the experience and beaming smile…may think all mental illness is behavioral and treat you as such.

It’s easy to feel doomed so most just choose not to think of the reality of what I am saying. And I get it. We’re programmed from an early age that questioning those in authority- doctors, cops, et al- is some sort of defiance issue. But it’s all a case of “who watches the watchmen.” If you don’t question your doctor and stand up for yourself, who will advocate for you? I’m not talking defiance for no reason. But if you don’t feel you are being listened to, you have EVERY right to speak up. Few of us would put up with a rude, dismissive cashier at the store. Yet none of us think twice when deferring to doctors and such.

Professionals may have the education, the training, the experience…But they are fallible, same as we are. Which is why it’s important to SPEAK UP. And if the doctor brushes you off, speak up louder. I’m that situation right now with my doctor. He is insisting Trileptal is the right choice over my faithful Lamictal and I do not agree. The trileptal has made me feel as bad as Lithium, which was the whole point in switching to Lamictal. Did he think raise the dose? Nope. Just toss out the flavor of the week mood stabilizer. I am shocked by how many people are on Trileptal and yet this is my first doctor to ever even mention it to me. Which means…along with the Latuda and Seroquel, the flavor of the week has changed. Because the STATISTICS say X amount of people respond better to this than the others. Not because Z works better for patient Morgue. Nope. Flavor.Of. The. Weak.(Not a misspell.)

I have no intention of caving in to this doctor. I will speak up because I’ve proven to myself part of my problem is Trileptal. Does this make it a bad medication? Hell, no, lots of people respond very well, have no problems, and it helps. But for me, if side effects prove to be a hindrance and the medication doesn’t work so well…Deal breaker, even if the doctor is the expert. Because none of his education and experience entitle him to know me better than I know myself. I am a patient of mental healthcare. I am not feeble minded, lacking in intelligence, and unable to gauge when things are worse rather than better. Will he listen? Who knows. But I am to the point where I’d rather go off all meds than take Trileptal. I was blaming the Latarda aftermath but the last couple of weeks of nightmares and numbness, feeling disconnected…I don’t care if three million people surveyed didn’t experience it, I AM.

It’s insulting, really, to be put through this living hell because psychiatry is an inexact science. Twenty years ago, I was on Effexor for almost a year. It quit working. My doctor told me to just stop taking it. I started coming unglued, hallucinating. I called his office. They insisted it was my imagination, there’s no withdrawal from anti depressants.

Nowadays, tapering off SSRI’s is common because they do know there can be withdrawal in some patients.

My new doctor, unfortunately, is of the mind that there’s no withdrawal from SSRI’s and you can take your dose once a day at any time and the levels in your blood will remain the same. Which is at odds with what the ten doctors before him said. And honestly, I like his way better, I suck at remembering to do this at 8 a.m., that at noon, this at five, that atten pm…Once a day works for me. But am I getting the full benefit? Mind you, this is the one who said Latuda had very few side effects, suicidal thoughts wasn’t one of them, and there was no aftermath. Once again, it’s based on STATISTICS. I just happened to be one of the unfortunate souls who reacted outside those stats and was basically told I made it all up. This doctor is super nice, friendly, not a jerk at all. Yet I find myself questioning his medical advice. Not out of disrespect, but out of my own research and experience. I don’t think this guy is even ten years younger than me, which means in spite of his education and all…I’ve got ten more years experience living with mental illness and treating it.

I have a right to be skeptical, to have concerns, to ask questions, to do my own research. Because while he may be a wonderful human being and a great doctor for the statistics…It doesn’t make him one that is going to help me. Do I hold it against him? No. Doctors are entitled to be individuals, have their own beliefs, biases, and operate within the nicely wrapped box of the DSM and the cases they’ve treated. I think I’m giving him more benefit of the doubt than he’s giving me or else I wouldn’t walk out feeling like I’m somehow troubling him by not caving to his every edict. He has the experience and statistics to go by. I have only my own personal experience. Until you’ve fallen victim to the horrendous side effects experienced by too few to be considered “serious”…You don’t really know, you’re just guessing based on numbers and studies.

The point of this post is…Remember doctors are only human. They make mistakes, have biases, and your best interest is often just the party line. Psychiatry doesn’t really know how the brain works so intricately as far as mental illness goes. You can’t expect an expert on what is essentially a guessing game. What you can do is, be an advocate for yourself. Speak up. If you’re not being heard, speak up more loudly. And if that doesn’t work, reach out to the staff, the nurses, receptionists. I did and it got their attention. I don’t regret it. Rather being a number, I suddenly became a name with a voice who wasn’t going to be quashed.

I wish this post were better written, filled with studies and facts and numbers. Actually, I don’t. Because we get enough of all that from our “treatment”. This post is one individual’s point of view. Because we are allowed to have one even if our years of mental healthcare tries to deny us of one with threats of non compliance and being “irrational.” So repost this anywhere you think it needs to be heard. We are the patients, but we are also the ones PAYING for their services. That does not include rudeness, dismissal, or having to accept their treatment making us worse as opposed to better.

Speak up. Be heard. Politely. Calmly. Leave the sporks at home.

 

 

“You Just Don’t Want To Be Happy”

Posted in biolar disorder, mental illness with tags , , , , on June 9, 2015 by morgueticiaatoms

If I had a dime for every time some well meaning schmuck has said that to me,  (and by well meaning, I mean, utterly clueless) I could buy Neverland Ranch.  “You just don’t want to be happy.”

Hmmm….Ranks right up there with the shrink who told me the Zoloft wasn’t working because I didn’t want it to work. I am super fucking magical if I can control the success of a medication with negative thought alone.

But maybe the idgets are right. I DON’T want to be happy.

I am bipolar two. All my happy experiences are tied to manic episodes where I was “too happy”. I made impulsive decisions, I did things out of character for myself, I had no self awareness, no concept of consequences, I didn’t care who I hurt because I WAS TOO HAPPY.

The mistakes I made while too happy haunt me to this day. So yeah…I don’t want to be happy. Not like that, ever again. It does happen, manic episodes come and go even when medicated. I had a two week period in March when my Prozac was increased and I went manic. The crashing fall from that made me resent the brief respite of happiness.  Plus, I did some things that I normally would not do. Like live in the petri dish and have faith in another human being. Once again, it bit me on the ass. And leg. And face. And I have festering psychological anti people rabies now. Fuck mania, fuck the happiness.

What I REALLY want is STABILITY. I don’t need to feel happy. I don’t need to be rich or have possessions or go fun places or have a relationship to validate me to the point of happiness. That shit is fleeting for the bipolar mind. Stability, and being consistently well, now that’s a dream I could happily embrace. My entire life has been instability and no matter how hard I try, it never changes for more than a few months at a time. This has done so much damage to my self confidence, especially when even the professionals there to help me act like I’m being some drama queen. For every one that has seen the hell I go through and commiserated, there are two that have been completely dismissive, if not outright cruel. So not even in my psychiatric care do I have stability.

We all want what escapes and eludes us most. Most people, it’s wealth.I wouldn’t turn down a winning lottery ticket.  But I am smart enough to know money isn’t going to cure me. Nor is true love and other fairytales, a fancy car, fancy house, nice things. I have an illness. Money can treat it, not cure it. And the cure so often is as bad if not worse than the illness…No, money wouldn’t fix a thing. It would help reduce stress and increase options of treatment…It wouldn’t give me what I want most.

Contentment. I can live with bad luck, shit happens, et al. I can roll with the punches life throws. I’m not so naive that I think life is rainbows and puppies. I am also not stupid enough to think it’s only bad stuff.

The thing is, with mental illness…Stability is so fleeting, you can be manic and laugh at a funeral, or you can be stable and react normally, or you can be depressed and the world is a blackened cesspool, or so anxious you think the shadows on the wall are out to get you. Distorted thought precipitates everything. So telling me to “cheer up”, “lighten up”, “be happy”, “Be grateful for what you do have…”

That’s as helpful for mental illness as berating and overweight person and expecting it to “motivate” them to lose weight. Tough love is not always the answer. I have never told anyone to tell a chronically ill patient with Lupus or such to “suck it up, be happy.” Yet for mental illness, it’s the party line.

Guess what? IT IS OKAY TO NOT BE HAPPY. IT IS OKAY TO NOT EVEN WANT TO BE HAPPY.

Sometimes, just aiming for stability and contentment lead to happiness, and that’s good enough for me.

Postnote-

If I did have the money to buy Neverland ranch, I’d totally make it the Volatile Femmes headquarters so we could ride roller coasters, pet llamas, hole up and avoid the world, or throw massive Mardi Gras Manic Parties. Much love to me fellow femmes- Blah, Sass, Diane, Tessa,Zoe. And though not a femme, Chris, you’re invited to join our Mental Health Retreat too! Gotta have dreams,right?

Mental Illness: Who I am Versus Who I Want To Be

Posted in biolar disorder, mental illness with tags , , , , on May 27, 2015 by morgueticiaatoms

distorted-mirror

Mental illness is a lot like looking into a mirror and seeing what you want to be. You look away for a moment, then reality is looking back at you. That kitten may view himself as a fierce lion, king of the jungle, but…Best he can hope for is to grow into a good sized domestic cat. WE ARE WHAT WE ARE.

Do I cede that mental illness has to define and limit us? Absolutely not.

When I am manic, I see that lion in the mirror and forget I am but a kitten. I feel fierce and powerful and unstoppable. Intrepid.

When depressed…I see this hollowed out husk with no light left behind the eyes and lines of a tortured existence etched into what used to be a lively pretty face.

What we are and what we want to be are two very different things. And to liken the mentally ill to someone without mental illness who likely *can* become whatever they put their mind to…is insulting. A sick mind cannot become a well mind by willpower and effort. We can manage, we can improve, we can just maintain and keep going…But the part of us that is responsible for every function is ill and to deny this is a hindrance is asinine.

sick-person

As a manic teenager, I had so many dreams and goals and flights of fancy. My dad told me to get a job schlupping coffee in an office, people like us didn’t become anything else. I told him I was going to be a star. Never mind I can’t sing or dance or well, do anything with any consistency. I’m a good writer, but even that hinges on my clarity at the time. Mental illness does not bring consistent clarity so even that which I am good at and enjoy is affected. At that time, I rebelled even against my own self doubt and especially against my gloom and doom father. I told myself I was going to be the one in a million, I’d beat the odds, I would become more than my station in life declared I could be. I certainly wanted it desperately enough.

Then would come the depressive bouts. Months and months in a dark place feeling no hope, no joy, being beaten down by my own mind. I’d come to terms with my limitations and decide maybe schlupping coffee’s not so bad. Except, I tried that in the form of waiting tables, and my longest period of stability was about seven months. FYI, you make great tips when manic. Depressives who force smiles and look ready to bolt…Not so much. Still…I tried.

Come manic phase…Lather, rinse, repeat.

I thought I was just a flake until the mental health diagnosis. Of course, it was the wrong one, I was given the wrong meds, and never did get better for more than a couple of months at a time. Least then I knew I wasn’t stupid or immature.  Notions of grandeur are a hallmark of mania as much as hopelessness is a hallmark of depression.

If you had asked me twenty years ago what I’d be doing now…I’d have said I’d be a published author, maybe still broke, but I’d have at least pursued the one dream I know I stand a chance at fulfilling. I could not have seen all that would come my way to hinder that dream. (One of the biggest hurdles being stuck in a small town and of course, literary agents charging seventy five bucks an hour just to read a chapter or two.) Then my husband at the time had two brain surgeries in a six month space. My needs took second place. I was still struggling with my own issues. There was never a point where I said, “I can’t do this, I won’t even try.” No. There was just the reality of life reminding me I had other priorities, other responsibilities. I was okay with that. I could do my writing thing later on.

It was all so clear in my manic mind. I could see myself, wearing the nicer clothes I can’t afford, well groomed and made up, my house clean, my car new, my life a balance of personal and professional. Until the mania wore off and the depression swooped in. Even then, I never admitted defeat. It was just another bump in the road, I could postpone until my mind was in a better place.

Once I had that bad reaction to Nardil and spent a week in the hospital with the doctors unsure if I’d ever come to…That was when everything changed, for the worse. Almost like my will to live was sucked out of me during that week I was out of it. I started getting numbers mixed up, saying the wrong words, forgetting where something was when I’d been there a dozen times. I was different.

The mental illness, however, was not. The cycles came and went. Except the manic episodes were briefer and the depressions were longer, deeper, darker. I was no longer my smart sunny self even in the manic episodes. There was something different about me, about how I was able to feel. It was always like joy was covered in layers of gauze and it wasn’t simply the depression. I wasn’t the same person anymore, which gave credence to the shrink’s flippant remark about, “There may have been brain damage.”

I kept writing. Unfortunately, it was all tainted by my depressed mind state or if I was manic, it was run on sentences even I couldn’t tolerate. I kept TRYING. I even wrote poems that got published. No pay, though. Truthfully, I am not a poetry person. Writing it makes me feel like a hypocrite. Novels have always been my goal. And I have at least ten full manuscripts I’ve written over the years, including a couple a New York literary agent was interested in. IF I could pay for her time, which I couldn’t.

In 2006 I found the most amazing doctor. She diagnosed me bipolar and gave me mood stabilizers. I thought, finally, I can have my life back, or start living one for a change.

Mood stabilizers helped immensely. Except the depressions remained the same. Doctors don’t like to give anti depressants to bipolar patients so my doctor saddled me with enough sleeping pills to put an elephant down on a nightly basis. Still, for the ten hours I was awake, I was minimally functional and not suicidal. It was something.

The bottom line is…Life requires consistency. It’s the one thing I can’t seem to manage. I try. I envision where I want to be in life, how I can make changes, what I can do to ward off the depressions…Nothing works. I had a plan four years ago. I really thought that time it was going to stick. I was determined, the meds seemed to be working…And all it took was one seasonal affect depression to put me back into the gutter, back on the medi go round. Side effects, failures, brief periods of functionality. My best intentions count for nothing.

I never wanted to be a 42 year old woman who struggles just to bathe and put on clothes or clean the house. I never wanted to be on disability, I always worked from the time I was sixteen, even if it was only during the manic episodes for a couple of months. I tried. I had dreams. In my current months long depression and its anhedonia, I currently can’t focus on anything but daily survival. You want me to make a five year plan of goals to aim for? That’s not gonna happen. I can barely make a plan for five minutes from now.

Oddly back in February when my prozac was increased, I went absolutely manic for three weeks and thought I was cured and could kick the world’s ass.

This disorder is cruel. It is a hindrance. It is the bane of my existence. Yet it’s the only hand of cards I was dealt.

But make no mistake…Who I wanted to be has nothing to do with what I am now. I can make some changes, adjust my attitude. I cannot, however, cure the bipolar. It is what it is.

I never wanted to be this husk of a human being. Yet here I am and much as I loathe it, I keep doing battle.  Maybe focusing less on what I once wanted to be,or what others think I should or could be…I need to  focus on the fact that no matter how many times life and mental illness have beaten me down…

I have the fortitude to get back up. I keep trying. That takes strength the non mentally ill will never ever possess or grasp.