Wednesday, December 16, 2015

I'm Not Ashamed Of My Mental Illness

Let's be honest, it's not something to be proud of, either. It's not like someone with Diabetes or Muscular Dystrophy goes around saying, "Hey! Look at me! I have an illness! Look at me, look at me, I'm so cool!" I'm not saying that.

What I am saying is that having a mental illness makes me determined to be open, to talk about it, to discuss what I go through.

Well, ok, I process externally so I tend to type up most everything I'm feeling anyway. Once I hit the 'publish' button and send it out into the nether to be read or ignored, the thoughts are no longer bouncing around inside my head.

Talking about the onset of my BiPolar Type 2 / BiPolar Depression, Anxiety, Psyche Ward stay, visits with my psychiatrist, and suicide attempt, are ways for me to cope. So really, this blog and my posts aren't honestly for anyone else; it's to help me process.

So why do I make it public instead of private? Because communicating is sooooo helpful. I'm a little strange that way.

I have found that most others who struggle with the same thing or different variations of these illnesses feel that there isn't anyone who understands.

Do you know why they feel that way? Because people who have never had clinical depression or anxiety have NO IDEA what it is like. I know this, because I'd never, ever, ever had it, nor understood it until I went through post-partum depression after my son was born. Two years of post-partum. That sucked. It was wonderful when that was over!!

The year I turned 40, the mad chemist experimenting inside my brain decided to switch things up on a more permanent basis. This sudden onset was/is not a pleasant one. I say sudden because I was privileged to live most of my life of working and having babies with a normal, healthy, robust amount of energy. I have met and know several people who have struggled with depression their entire lives.


I cannot even comprehend living with this, trying to manage this while working - sometimes two jobs - finishing my degrees, and having small children.

These folks do it silently, with few people who understand, listen, or help when needed. They struggle with adulting while dealing with the guilt of not being capable of basic things when it's a really bad day.

They are heroes in my eyes. Do you hear me? HEROES!!!

I fell apart after a year and needed to be hospitalized. I was trying to claw the skin off my face because the pain was the only thing connecting me to reality. After another year, I really did attempt suicide. Coping with the onset of anxiety along with the depression was simply too much. TWO YEARS.  Two years, and I couldn't handle it. Still am attempting to manage it.

So these folks who've lived with it for their whole lives? HEROES. I'm not even kidding.

Some are absolutely ashamed to talk about their mental health or their hospitalizations. Some simply cannot admit that there is an issue because they feel like they should be able to control it.

--- This one was me. I spent a good six or seven months convinced it was some sort of early menopause. My doctor ran just about every blood test possible, checking my hormone levels, my thyroid, the levels of vitamins and minerals in my system, etc. I was convinced that I could talk myself out of it or fix it with every naturepathic or homeopathic strategy I knew.

Nope. Depression. After three or four months of therapy and some low doses of temporary meds, diagnosed with BiPolar depression. No more temporary meds for me. Mood stabilizers AND anti-depressants with some Xanex on the side became necessary. In spite of every alternative health trick I knew. Wahoo. Boy, that went over well with my family. NOT. ---

I need you to realize that some cannot talk about it openly because of private personal reasons. And others simply don't feel safe discussing it with anyone.

This one right there? This is horrible and awful and sooo lonely. Understandable, though, because of the prevalent attitude. You know, the one saying that people who are depressed are using it as an excuse to be lazy. Should just cheer themselves up and get over it. Or claiming anxiety to get out of doing something they just didn't want to do.

*frustrated sigh*

I am one of the very few willing to talk openly about my experiences, my honest thoughts, or the massive grumpy days I have. Currently I have been in a horrible mood for nearly two weeks. Everyone frustrates me, I feel like they're all jerks and inconsiderate. Most of that is me, I know, but it's how I'm feeling.

Logic part of my brain says "don't interact with people right now. At least not the ones you love. Just hug them tight and keep your mouth shut. You get paid to be nice to people at work, so the pretend happy face works there. Wish you could keep pretending at home."

Illogical part of my brain says, "Who cares. Everyone can just go to hell. I want to move and live by myself out in the boonies where I don't have to see anyone, hear anyone, or have anyone getting into my stuff, move it around, break it, or whatever else is making me feel picked on."

Am I ashamed of these thoughts? Well, if I were, I wouldn't be typing them up here. Do I wish I could turn them off? oh yeah.

What I *can* do about these feelings that I cannot control is try to interrupt the tape. I kiss on of my kids' neck up and down until they giggle like mad. Or hug them tight for several minutes. I read out loud. I do anything I can to distract myself and concentrate on anything BUT the thoughts and feelings.

You who don't know Depression don't have a clue how hard it is to have to continue to interrupt these stupid stupid destructive thoughts that run in a loop.

Depression LIES, but it is oh so believable.

I need you to understand this. Those of us who struggle with Depression have our super awful bad days. It's such a fight to get out of bed. And some days that's the only battle we win. If our sinks are full of dishes, the floors not swept or vacuumed, it doesn't mean we don't care about living in a yucky environment. Oh, trust me, we care very much.

A depressive's messy house means one of two things: 1 - There are a bunch of kids living there and it's laughable to even think of summoning the energy to reinforce daily chores.

2 - Looking at the mess and seeing all that needs to be done is overwhelming. Knowing where to start is simply impossible and makes us cry. Summoning the energy to pick up a pair of socks and carry it to the laundry basket is hopeless.We feel guilty and horrible because any normal human being should be able to do something so simple. So we sit and stare at those socks and wish we could do it, wondering what the hell is wrong with us that we can't even do that simple little thing.

And anxiety? It's the weight of an elephant sitting on your chest, the pain of drawing in a breath, panic caused by ... ?? something?? People? some thought? Noise? What the heck triggered this?? And then can't breathe, can't breathe, can't breathe, curling up, shaking, then sobbing uncontrollably for AN HOUR!!

Ok? YOU PEOPLE WHO HAVE NEVER EVER EVER IN YOUR LIFE EXPERIENCED THIS?? Shut up about us folks with these types of mental illness being lazy. Just stop it. Right now.

This is real. I struggle with this.

I am not ashamed of the symptoms of this illness because they're real. Are you ashamed for having a runny nose when you have a cold? Or a raspy voice when you have a bronchial infection? I'm not proud of my symptoms; oh, they are so very frustrating.

Trust me, I'll tell you up front if I'm being lazy about cleaning, or just can't do it. Believe it or not, I DO recognize the difference. One involves the inability to summon motivation and energy. The other is simply not wanting to do it.

When I don't want to do work I hear my grandmother's or my mother's voice telling me "Sometimes you just have to do what you don't want to do."

Being incapable of doing the work means having to tell those voices to shut the hell up, because ranting at myself won't help me feel any better. It certainly won't make the weight of the world go away or prevent the fog of darkness from jumbling my thoughts so I can't concentrate.

Do you understand? This is my reality.

I have received so many messages, emails, phone calls, and visits from people who just wanted to talk about their struggles. Who couldn't believe that I'd talk openly - in church, for crying out loud, or on Facebook - about my constant fight. One woman was having such issues with anxiety that going to church was hard for her. Her husband didn't understand at all, and she was so worried that she was the only one suffering. She cried on the phone as we talked about it because she was so relieved that someone understood.

You guys. It is sad and heartbreaking that people don't feel safe discussing this issue. That we are considered weak. Trust me, we're not. As often as I've complained that I *feel* weak, I'm smart enough to know that because I'm still here, still fighting, and still attempting to be the best mom I can be, that I'm NOT weak.

And hey, dr. laura? I am so very, very angry at you for convincing my mother that my illness is made-up by big pharma to sell more drugs. Thanks for that. Means a lot. (Nope, not capitalizing your name.)

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Um, Thanks?

I speak openly about my struggles with depression and anxiety.

Adjusting to the changes in my physical chemistry has seen me throwing temper tantrums, anger at God, anger at the physical imperfections in this body, grief at the loss of control, frustration at the new obstacles in my path and at having to re-train my brain for a new thinking process, acceptance and a determination to see this through, regressions and despair, hope and strength. I am a living dichotomy of emotions.

I have my ups which are awesome. When the meds are working, my thought processes are in line, and I'm not listening to the depressive rhetoric that pops up. I can take on the world and manage those mean curve balls that life throws.

Yes, I'm clarifying that when my meds are working, I can think better. Meds work for me. I need people to understand that.

No, The meds do not solve all of my problems. I am not magically cured. I still have to control my thoughts, my attitude, and the crazy difficulties of life. It is my responsibility to see when I'm getting overwhelmed or over-extending myself, which is a trigger for a down.

But it bares repeating: The medicine takes the heavy weight of the air, the dark fog that surrounds me, and lightens it, letting the sun through.

I have my downs - my fairly severe downs. I'm openly blunt about when I am having issues with contemplating suicide. This is one of my safety mechanisms. If I *tell* people I'm thinking about it, it means I'm not *doing* it. It means I'm putting myself out there so I can make use of the awesome support system of friends and family that I have.

I see a psychiatrist. I take meds. I communicate - or try to.

A doctor's visit does not an immediate fix make. The nail has not been removed from my forehead - I am trying to remove it, but it is a slow, slow, slow process.

So that's where I'm at.

Hugs, happy thoughts, commiseration, encouragement are all part of what keeps me going when I can't find the strength to want to keep fighting. But I am here. I continue to go to work. I continue to get out of bed, breathe in and out, giggle with my kids, and help them try to enjoy their childhood. I fight.

If this warrior spirit within me wasn't working overtime, I wouldn't still be here.


After yesterday's FB post and admission of my anxiety regression, the offers and suggestions have been rolling in. All of the helpful hints, links, cd's, books, supplements, food additives, whatever, that I have been inundated with in the past 24 hours are extremely overwhelming. I'm almost sorry that I admitted just how bad this recent low is.

It feels like people are saying, "You can't possibly be trying hard enough to be ok. You need to do THIS."

I'm still struggling to want to be here. I still feel wounded and vulnerable. Enough that it kind of hurts to have all of the 'do this! do that! Try this!' thrown at me.

Kind of hurts? no. Let me be honest here. Hurts enough that I was extremely angry or insulted every time I logged onto facebook and had a new message. Anger is so much easier to feel than hurt. I felt attacked or that I was not good enough.

Should people apologize for offering help? Good heavens, no. Should they be worried about offending me? Again, NO. My emotional armor is fairly non-existent right now, but it'll grow back. Walking on egg shells around me would just piss me off even more.

*I* am responsible for how I feel.

Just saying that right now, offers of help feel painful. Why? Because it's a reinforcement that I can't take care of myself all the way. Does that mean folks shouldn't offer help? NO!!! I NEED help.

My emotional reactions don't make a whole lot of sense right now. It's just part of where I'm at. I hope that I've been polite and grateful in my responses. I recognize that my gut reaction is rude and off-putting, so while I'll discuss it's existence here, I certainly won't act on it.

Logically, I know that people care and are trying to help.

I'm open minded enough that I will try stuff if I feel good about trying it. Not today, though. Nor tomorrow or next week while I'm working on the challenge to discard and throw out things that are overwhelming - self-imposed or otherwise.

I love and appreciate everyone who has been so loving and supportive.

Just, please keep in mind that if I'm not super excited about what is being offered, it's because I'm going to have to take some time to be ready to hear, read, listen, eat, or add to my med regimen.

I'm overwhelmed by the basics right now. Let me get that part figured out and the willingness to try new things will be back.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

An Hour And Two Xanex Later

(note: some hard truths about teenage kid here. You don't get to give her lectures if you know her. this is about me, not about making her life harder than it already is.)

I have been in a pretty steady decline for a few weeks. Last Friday I very badly wanted to walk that long walk and go for a late-night swim in the Great Salt Lake. (Note, it was about 30 degrees at the time).

I was a good girl and went home. Texted a couple of friends and told them I was having real struggles. Spent a lot of this week venting and trying to work through my thoughts with a very good friend.

Saw my psychiatrist today. I had my husband come in and give him an outside perspective, I felt it was needed.

My meds have been upped. I have been challenged to identify all the stressors in my life that are making me feel overwhelmed and out of control. Also to be honest about the self-imposed expectations that I can't live up to, face them, and let them go.

A lot of that includes delegating to my kids.

The worst part of this decline is that my anxiety is back to full blast.

Tonight when my kids wouldn't quiet down when I asked them, when my teenager wouldn't stop arguing with me or demanding that I defend every opinion or statement I made, when I couldn't find the right words to help my 8 yr old with her stupid (yes, STUPID) division homework, I lost it.

I rocked in my bed and sobbed for an entire hour. Couldn't stop. Texted my 20yr old daughter and told her to call her teenage sister and make her stop fighting with her siblings. Get them to calm down, shut up, and play together. They were quiet for like 5 minutes. Then began yelling at each other to shut up.

I know kids need to rough-house. I know they have a right to play. And they needed to take it down to the basement where I couldn't hear them.

Sob, sob, sob.

MP3 player on. Turned up LOUD. Gonna be deaf in a few years, but I don't care. It shut out the noise. That helped. still couldn't stop sobbing.

I swear it felt like it took forever for the xanex to work.

My 11 yr old brought me a chocolate chip cookie. Chocolate is always good.

Then she got the brush and started smoothly brushing my scalp. then did a scalp massage. Fifteen minutes after that (an entire hour of sobbing. I cannot even believe this.) I stopped sniffling and could breath.

Not gonna lie, I still feel like there is an elephant sitting on my chest. I still feel like any little thing will set it off. Have my earphones in still, even though the little ones have gone to bed. Asked my kids to please clean up their craft mess in the living room because if I looked at it I would start crying again. In fact, almost started again just asking them to take care of it.

My 11yo explained the math homework to her little sister. The 7yo pulled out his Lego's and sat and played quietly. The teenager made dinner for the little ones. The mom breathed in and out.

and right now? Right now I don't want to talk to my teen who is still awake. I completely understand that 15yo's are gonna be the way they're gonna be. I was one, once. I'm not going to deal with it anymore today. I just can't. If that makes me a bad mom for being frustrated with it, then so be it. It's simply the way it is today.

I have communicated with the kids that my mental state is bad right now. They have seen that there are very real consequences, whether they understand them or not, when they don't listen to me when I tell them that I cannot handle their behavior and they need to move it or stop it.

the little ones were all a-hug. all worried. The big kid just said, "Hi" when I finally came out of my room, able to handle the open spaces of the house again. Hi. In that obstinant way that only a 15 yr old can.


I love my kids. I am so proud of them. But wow, the teenage days are a very real pain.

I'm not going to feel guilty for being angry at the attitude.

My mental health is what it is, like it or not. I am fighting. I am trying to cope and fix it and improve. If I wasn't, I wouldn't have gone to the doctor. I wouldn't be communicating with friends and saying, hey, I'm having issues.

I wouldn't be here if I wasn't fighting. I'd be done and gone.

I can't do that, though. Much as I really, really, really want to escape the pain and the hard right now. Oh it's so hard. But my kids need me. They need their foundation to stick around so they don't have permanent trauma the rest of their lives. Right now knowing that is what's keeping me communicating and trying. Eventually when I get to a better place I'll have a better attitude about being needed. Right now, I honestly resent it. that's the horrible, honest truth.

So. anxiety attacks, depression so bad that suicide is on my mind a lot right now, and a family full of young children who are loud, rambunctious, and energetic. Not exactly an easy combination. What God was thinking, sending my six children, I don't know. But it is what it is.

I can do this, dammit. I can delegate a lot of the hard, I can find some order. I can find some joy. Even if it's small, it's still do-able.

Right now? Right now after that xanex and crying jag, the with this dumb weight still on my lungs, I am going to go lose myself in World of Warcraft for a few hours. Because I can. Because the house is finally calm and quiet and safe. Because I need to shut my brain off so it can unscramble.

Anxiety is no fun, folks. It's real. If you don't understand it, don't judge it. It's not like it's controllable. The beginning signs are there and steps can be taken to ward it off, but sometimes it just happens anyway.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Right To Feel Old

It's no secret that once I hit 40, I felt like my whole body had pretty much rebelled and was headed for the junkyard.

Recently, I have felt worse and worse. I think I have had a steady sinus infection for the past few weeks. I've started getting random migraines out of nowhere. I popped a bursa sack in my right knee at work last week, so I've been hobbling. The cold weather has made the arthritis in my elbow (where I broke it back in 2004) hurt like a bleeping alarm telling me that WINTER IS HERE.

Anyway, on and on and on. My hair is graying. I'm lumpy. I'm not sure if my vision has changed again or if there's some other reason I get headaches after I read for x amount of time. I have to keep a bag of Poise in my bathroom because six babies bouncing on my bladder didn't leave it any kinds of happy. 

ker-blah, ker-waaaah, ker-poop.

In addition to the physical crap, my anxiety has gotten steadily worse this past week, along with the depression. Oh that depression. I hate it, and it won't go away.  Nor will the forgetfulness or aphasia. 

My point?

Today a co-worker asked me how I was feeling. 

The moment she asked me this, I had just come in to work. It was a cold walk, I was freezing, my joints hurt, etc. I had tried to call in entirely because I was fairly sure I needed a mental health day, but I ended up cutting my shift down to three hours as a compromise. So there I was, cold, depressed, attempting to find a smile for work, and hoping to hell that I wouldn't need another xanex to deal with screaming children today.

Because yesterday's mom who shopped around the store for probably a half hour with her tantruming two year old had completely thrown my anxiety into full whammo blammo mode. Screaming kids? No, can't do it. Not today.

My answer to my co-worker: "Oh, hanging in there. Just getting old."   

To which she replied, "You can't feel old. Don't even talk to me about feeling old until you're my age. I'm 61, so you don't even have a right to be feeling old."

I don't have a right to feel old.



I have a right to feel anywhere on the emotional scale that I want to feel. Period. Who the hell does she think she is, telling me that I don't have a right to feel old? And no, she wasn't saying it with a smile on her face, she was waving me away, negating what I was saying because I had no idea what it felt like to be 61. 

True. I don't. I know how it feels to be 42 vs how it felt to be 20. 

MY 42 feels ancient compared to my 20.  And at this moment in time, I FEEL like I am falling apart, old, rusting, and ready for the junk heap.


A few years back, I had this dream - a very real, very vivid, I remember it like I just lived it dream. In this dream, I was a grandma. I had to go down to my basement to get something for my grandkids. I wanted to show them some of the artwork I had done. The stairs were steep and I walked with a cane. I had to hold tightly to the stair rail, because I couldn't see very well. My hips hurt so badly as I walked down the stairs, and I knew if I fell, I'd break something.

When I finally got into the basement, I found my old computer and realized that my old files were in a format not compatible with the current technology. It would take too long to convert them, and my grandkids' visit would be over before I could finish. I'd have to do it another time and wait for their next visit to show them. Only I didn't know when that would be.

So I went back up stairs. Again with the steep stairs and the joint and muscle pain as I creaked upward. And when I got up there, oh I loved hugging and kissing those grand babies, no matter how big or small they were. 

But they jabbered at me constantly and my hearing was terrible. I couldn't make out half of what they said. It was so frustrating to see the excitement in their eyes, but not be able to share it because I couldn't understand it. 

My daughter was packing her kids up to leave finally, and was trying to talk me into moving in with her. She had a point about the stairs in my house being dangerous. I remember hating the idea of having to rely on someone else because my vision was fuzzing and blurry, with most of the peripheral vision gone. My fingers were gnarled with arthritis, useless as tools for writing or painting. A lot of my regular activities were harder now. My mobility was seriously limited by the arthritis in my hips, knees, and ankles. I had a cane, but it was still hard to get around, even though I insisted on walking to keep my health up. Everything was so frustrating because communicating was getting harder and harder.


I described this dream to my then 88 yr old grandfather. (he's 90 now)  He looked at me straight in the eye and said, "That is exactly what it feels like. You'll be prepared when you get here."

So yeah, I may not know what it feels like to be 61 or 88, or someone else's 45. And I may only have a dream memory of a geriatric stage which I'm sure most will tell me can't possibly be accurate. And being 42, I'm certainly not old by today's standards.

But I do have my own physical and chemical issues. Currently I can feel the chemical issues becoming more and more of a problem. Frankly, I'm just a teensy bit worried that I might end up back in the psyche ward fairly soon.  I see my doc next thursday. I promise, if I feel I need to see him sooner, I'll call him.

My point being that my life is just that. MY life. Not hers. Not yours. Not anyone else's but mine. I don't know what it's like to walk in her shoes and she has no idea what it's been like in mine. 

So if I want to say I feel old, I'm gonna say I feel old. With feeling. Because I damn sure don't feel like a 16 yr old.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Who's That Girl?

I looked in the mirror and did not recognize the face staring back at me.

I knew the eyes. Those dark brown eyes flecked with green, yeah, those were mine. The eyes that see too much, sparkle with mischief, feel the weight of the world, love much, and blink back the pain. Yes, those were my eyes, but the shape is off.

The rest of the face and hair and stuff? Who IS that person?

There have been times in my life when I look in the mirror and don't like who I see. That's usually my first indication that I'm struggling with Depression with a decidedly capital D.

But this feeling that I'm wearing a shell? That's new. I've made the analogy a lot over the past couple of years that I feel trapped in my head. And yes, I know I'm aging - thus feeling like my body has outlasted all of its warranties and is decaying all around me comes part and parcel with that. But this is more than that.

I feel like I'm stuck in someone else's skin.

The hair is unruly. It can't be my hair. I know how my hair behaves when I run a brush through it vs when I've slept on it. I know how it behaves wet, with product, or without product. Not this hair. This hair does things I've never seen it do. This hair curls more, parts on either side of my head, and does the complete wrong thing when I brush it. There's no rich dark brown anymore. The texture is completely foreign, and I don't know how to manage it.

The color and texture of the hair, though, that's me getting old. Of course I'm graying. I've earned every gray hair that I have. I know that I have graying hair. I just don't recognize it.

The face? Now that's where I get completely lost.

I always loved my cheekbones. Also loved the shape of my ears. Didn't think much about my nose except to note that I had one and it had blackheads but otherwise it was a nose, found my lips interesting, and was glad my chin didn't have a dimple. Always hated the perpetual double-chin hiding in the wings, waiting for me to lower my head and turn into a frog. I never once used an eyebrow pencil and only used mascara if eyeshadow powdered my lashes into looking lighter. There was always a patch of acne in one spot or another waiting to bloom, and then there was that sign of... life? spark? glow? that gave away the multitude of thoughts going on behind my face.

That's me. That's always how I've pictured myself.

This face, I don't know who I am looking at. It doesn't have that same glow. Where'd the acne go? But more than that, where did the shape go? It's not the same shape.

It has a red nose and red circles on the cheeks like a painted china doll. Or Rudolph. Or an alcoholic. I'm not even sure if those cherry spots on my cheeks demarcate the cheek bones.  The overall pallor is gray. It matches the hair. The double-chin is more than just a hint, and are those my lips? I guess they are, but are they? The eyebrows and eyelashes are graying; the eye lashes require mascara in order to be visible.

I have never, ever, EVER *required* mascara!!  And where did the elvish hint in my eyebrows go??

But it's more than the changes due to aging. Its the fact that I feel surprised every time I look in a mirror. Who IS that person? What is going on behind those eyes? What are they hiding? Where did they put the person who belongs there? The Aura is completely different. This has to be some nightmare.

When my doctor first began trying different medications a couple of years ago, the wrong meds would leave me with the feeling that my skin didn't fit.

This isn't that feeling. In fact, sitting here staring at my computer monitor feels completely normal. I'm wearing my favorite pajama bottoms and USMC hoodie. My toes are cold because they're always cold. I feel like me.

I've acclimated to the "this knee is sore today" and the "Oh, it's gonna snow, the arthritis where my elbow broke is acting up" and the "Now what did I do to that ankle??" pops, zings of pain, and general I'm-getting-older limps and feels.

I've  ... um... well, not *adjusted* to the anxiety and dizzy spells and other things associated with my mental disorder and side-effects of my drugs, but I have learned to identify them and cope.

So how I *feel* on the inside still feels like me. You know, angry that my brain is having the hiccups, joyful and full of grattitude for the blessings in my life, singing because I can, snarking because I can, being silly because I can. etc. It's my brain, I am quirky.

But how I look? I mean, seriously, that can't be me. It just can't.

Do I actually look like that? Have I always had "resting bitch face"???  Even putting jewelry on doesn't conjure up 14 yr old me wearing a new pair of earrings and feeling pretty because of some shiny cheap metal I bought for a dollar at the gas station.

So who is this girl? Who is that girl in the mirror?

Is this what it feels like to age? You're you on the inside, but the outside no longer matches?