I’m Tired.

I’m tired today.

  • I’m tired of trying so hard to keep it together every day.
  • I’m tired of following a sleep regimen and still waking up fatigued.
  • I’m tired of trying to do everything “right” – going to the gym, losing weight, calling friends, not drinking, being vegan and not eating anything processed, and still not feeling good or having extra energ.
  • I’m tired of not being able to have more than a day or two of stability and balance.
  • I’m tired of having to make decisions.
  • I’m tired of not having a purpose that isn’t about myself. While I don’t miss working crazy long hours, I miss having a job where I am spending time thinking about others and doing work for them.
  • I’m so tired of seeing all of the hate and ignorance in the world today. Of watching history repeat itself.  Of knowing it will never stop and will only get worse. And not knowing what to do. Because $15 isn’t enough. Volunteering isn’t enough. There isn’t a job that will be enough. And people don’t really want to listen, to learn, to compromise, to change. I don’t want to stand aside – but I feel so useless.
  • I’m tired of not liking myself.
  • I’m tired of trying to understand why I do not like myself.
  • I’m tired of being told to have hope, to think positive, to just keep trying.
  • I’m tired of not being able to help the people I love. To watch them in stress, in pain, in sadness. Shitty stuff happens, but I wish I could just alleviate some of it.
  • I’m tired of the constant shame I feel about who I am.
  • I’m tired of the guilt I allow myself to carry.
  • I’m tired of not knowing what to do next.
  • I’m tired of not knowing the “right” thing for “me.”
  • I’m tired of caring so much, about everything. Of feeling so much.
  • I’m tired of trying so hard to just keep it together for everyone: my family, my friends, my therapist and psychiatrist. I’m just tired of feeling responsible for adding stress or pain to their lives because of my stress and pain. Of trying to make them happy or relieved.
  • I’m tired of all the dichotomies in my life. Of wanting to be alone but feeling so alone. For wanting to be happy but feeling like it’s a charade anyway. For wanting love but not the strings that come with it.
  • I’m tired of being so scared to do things. I don’t know when I became this way but I’m so fucking tired of it.
  • I’m tired of feeling like I have lost so much time in my life, so many chances, so many opportunities, and still wanting sometimes to just end it all because I’m just too tired to try to catch up.
  • I’m tired of my fucking side effects.
  • I’m tired of trying to imagine what it feels like to wake up without a mental illness. To have shitty days and stress and life, but not have to take drugs that make me feel like shit to just survive them, while others take none and are able to function just fine. To go to bed without fear that tomorrow I might not be able to get out of bed. Or wake up without knowing if I will be able to make it through the day.
  • I’m tired of feeling so guilty that I want more. That this is unfair. That I don’t deserve this. And then feeling guilty for thinking that. It just cycles over and over again.
  • I’m tired of having to change. To constantly fight myself, to unburden others, to hold back my anger, my frustration, my words to not hurt others. To get up every day and try to want things, work for things, be effective, have goals, work to get better at who I am. To push down the bad thoughts, the urges, the desires, to assuage others.
  • I’m tired of never knowing who to blame: is it the meds? the disease? my circumstances? me?
  • I’m tired of only seeing the mistakes I make. The failures. The not good-enoughs.
  • I’m tired of having hope. It’s almost more exhausting than just admitting defeat.
  • I’m tired of thinking.

I’m just tired.

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One Extra Pill: My Brain is Such a Drama Queen

Besides the constant tremors and occasional rapid heartbeat and dizziness, the new drug regimen I started last Tuesday seems to be working. I feel different. More steady. Anxious more than sad, which while anxiety sucks, still feels safer than sadness.

I am astounded at how incredible the mind is. Changing a medication by .25 sends it into a rapid depressive episode that last for weeks. Upping a drug by 100mg makes the person feel ready to face the day, even on the days she doesn’t want to.

Don’t misunderstand me. It doesn’t fix you. I still have dark “abnormal” thoughts about myself and my life. I worry I will, like before, suddenly spiral into destructive behavior. I’m not normal, whatever that might be. And I never will be.

But for now, at least for today, I’m pretty sure I won’t. And that is amazingly different than just a week ago.

my divisive brain is having an argument and evidently i’m not invited

i totally don’t have time to write this but seriously, what is wrong with me?! Ok, writing that sentence is pretty funny, since i believe there is a list somewhere. i can feel my nervousness boiling inside and i just don’t want anyone to call because i’m going to hate what they say no matter what they say and i’m going to be rude to someone i love. and that’s not fair.

i’m learning all these skills and i get that and yay for me. but i can’t seem to handle change, decision-making or mass moments of stress. lol. that’s like life in a nutshell. so woohoo, i can fucking not overeat and i can make it to an appointment. but i feel like i’m crumbling because i can’t control how much my insurance sucks. i mean, i just want to go to their office and sit there and be like “please listen to me. look me in the eyes and listen to me. you’re going to help me, we’re going to figure out how, and we’re going to do it without you reading off a fucking script? i brought you a coffee so settle in.” but i can’t.

and i can’t afford this sleep program. but i’m going to do it anyway. honestly, i can’t afford anything i’m doing and i’m just so tired of having to accept help from my parents. i’m so fucking lucky and i’m complaining.

i think i want to feel in control. i just want to feel like i have a plan. but i’m so scared that i have a list but i’m afraid to break it apart and deal with it. and i keep trying to say “value all that you’ve done these past two weeks” but all i can see is what i haven’t done and what i need to do. why can’t my mind accept any good? and how can the same brain want to do something and can’t? that makes no fucking sense.

ok, i’m going to go stick an ice pack on my face for 30 seconds because evidently it calms me down even though it feels ridiculous. ‘cuz it is. but so am i and this stupid brain i have. it’s not even clinical depression. i can’t even blame that anymore. it’s just me and my self-pitying habits. you know what it is, i’m angry at myself because i know i can do better.

ok. onwards…not sure about the upwards part. but onwards.

 

Traveling Abroad: Making the Jump Without Guarantee of a Parachute

Well the reality of it all just kicked in. I suppose because in two hours and one week I will be on a plane to London.

I have had the fortune to travel to some cool places in my life – both in groups and by myself. I hated the idea of being a tourist so my favorite thing to do was just walk around the neighborhood, maybe go get a coffee and watch people. There, no one knew me and I could be anyone or no one. My mom always freaked out because whenever I traveled, I would unintentionally cut off completely. I once went away for 6 weeks when I was 15 and I only called home twice. I guess when I’m there, I’m just immersed.

It’s funny, because you would think being severely depressed with a lot of hangups about eating in front of people, having people judge me, and overall anxiety, would have held me back from traveling in my 20’s. And while it terrified me, I knew once I got there, at least I’d be somewhere else. A place where I wasn’t defined by my family or my past. (I also drank quite a bit and would meet people in hostels and make “fast friends” that I would never see again.)

But those were my twenties. Since my breakdown in DC, I’ve only left California once in the past five years for a trip back East for a few weeks. And it was a difficult trip given my mental state. So how will traveling be now? To another country, which by the way, has been my fantasy country for as long as I can remember.

In a way, I’m more terrified of it now that I’m feeling better because I don’t know what to expect and I don’t have the same safety nets of when I was younger. I have been working a lot in therapy on choice, decision-making, and skills to help push through my fears. But I have only tested them within the confines of my incredibly small life here. While I don’t want to live in this area where I was born and raised forever, I’m afraid to run away now because for the first time it actually feels like a safe space. I have my doctors, my mom, my siblings. I know, it’s not enough, but it’s a support system that has held me up and kept me alive. Who and how will I be without my safety net?

It’s a bit frustrating. People should be more confident in their 30’s than in their 20’s. In my 20’s, traveling alone made me feel like an adult; now given what I’ve gone through, I’m in my 30’s, but I feel like a child. As I’ve often said, now that the clinical depression has lifted, it turns out I’m still 18 in a lot of ways. And I haven’t experienced very much as a stable, sober person. It also, unfortunately, feels like a bit of a test. I actually think that is one of the main reasons I’m going. Everyone is watching to see – will I actually jump? Has all this work proven that I am strong enough to challenge myself and not have a breakdown or end up in a drunken stupor or hiding in my room with a clif bar because I’m too afraid to go out? And it’s not just them watching – I’m just as curious to see myself.

My family and I discuss the reality that I may never be able to hold a job; that I may never marry; that I may be financially dependent on my parents for the rest of my life. That my expectations of what my life will look like may have to be very different than the picture that was drawn for me or even the one I attempted to draw for myself.

Taking these steps are the only way to know how far I can go and where my stop-point will be. If I can go to graduate school, can I work full-time? Or will it be too much? Do the things I need to be healthy – like the gym, my eating habits, my therapy – which take priority and require time that therefore cannot be provided to other tasks – will that constrict my choices? I know I need these things to be healthy – if I didn’t have them, I certainly couldn’t have a job anyway, as a breakdown would more than likely rear its’ powerful force. So what can I manage while still maintaining my mental health?

And the truth is, I can only know by trying. And that jump, that unknowing, scares me. I want to trust that the parachute will open. Deep in my chest, I hope that I will soar and land softly where I am meant to be. That I will no longer be the person that everyone tip toes around; who if she doesn’t return a text, gets 12 right away with panic; who earned those concerns by pleading for death as I laid in bed for years.

This disease does not go away. The work I need to do – on my self-esteem, my anxieties, my weaknesses – that hold me back from being the person I want to be (or even knowing who that person is) – that’s never going to be “fixed.” My life may end up looking different than I imagined. I know that. I know that there is always a chance that everything I have been fighting for this past year might be taken away. The medication could stop working; I could have a breakdown at school and need to leave. The foundation I have been building could be demolished in a week.

And for so long, that possibility kept me from making the jump. And while I’m terrified, absolutely numb with fear, there is a part of myself, a voice inside that has slowly gotten louder though still timid, telling me to jump.

If not now, when?

(If you write something, does it help you believe it? ‘Cuz while that may be an inspiring ending, the nausea I feel ensures me I may still have doubts.)

 

 

Maybe I’m Not Sorry, And That’s Okay

I have been trying to cut down on apologizing. I don’t mean that I irrationally yell at someone and then refuse to say sorry, or I stand someone up and don’t apologize. I’m talking about the common sorries that (often women) are taught, in order to be liked, proper, and polite.

Here are some of the ridiculous examples of my automatic apologetic responses (please feel free to share yours):

I apologize before I complain to a customer service representative. (Partly because I imagine that most people take out their anger on them and they are innocent victims of the crimes their companies perform.) I apologize when I order food and ask for something to be taken off the meal that I am paying for and that will make me sick if I eat it (though I was a waitress, and I know how annoying that can be.) I apologize when I hit a wall or door by accident (yes, to an inanimate object.) I apologize when someone steps ahead me at the grocery store to get the produce I was looking at. I even apologize if I get near a person looking at the produce that I want to see. I apologize if I open a door and the person insists I walk in first. Did I mention that I apologize to walls?

But I want to stop apologizing when it is not necessary. Just today, and so many times before, I will be on the phone/walking/in a restaurant with a friend. I will be talking and a baby/cashier/stranger will start speaking to them and they will have to cut me off to answer/take care of the baby/deal with the issue at hand. And my very first reaction is to apologize. And I think that I’m apologizing for speaking. It’s almost as if I cut the other person off. I’m embarrassed and feel shame that I am talking about myself and at that. I start to think: “Am I talking too much? Am I boring them? Do they have something else to do?” And while those questions are common for someone who is insecure, saying “sorry” when I haven’t actually done something is like a natural reaction. I am apologizing for taking time away from their lives for myself – but that’s what talking to your friends is – two people sharing stories about their lives.

It’s particularly bad when I’m angry and trying to express my feelings. I’m constantly trying to invalidate and apologize for my feelings. I’ll say: “You hurt my feelings when you teased me about this issue I have, and I know that I’m horrible and I’m sorry that I’m being such a nag. It just hurt my feelings but I’m really sensitive and I’m sorry because you probably didn’t mean to hurt my feelings and I know that.”

I think part of it is fear that somehow I’m wrong to feel frustrated or slighted; a part of me tries to empathize with their side of the situation – and so while I’m angry, perhaps there was a reason for their behavior.

But I am allowed to express anger and frustration, even if in the end, that wasn’t the intention of the person. I also have realized that at its’ core, unnecessary apologizing comes from a place of self-hate and shame.

Think about it. Each of the examples demonstrate my feelings that I am less valid than the people around me. My feelings don’t count as much as theirs; I don’t deserve the same respect I give them. I think I am apologizing for existing. Wow. That’s awful.

If I’m going to try and find some sort of contentment in the long-term, I have to be able to own my right to take up space, to have opinions, to feel emotions, and to express myself. I have to respect myself as much as I respect others around me and know that my feelings are legitimate and valid.

Sometimes you have to perform an action before you actually believe it internally. Like in DBT, there is a skill called “half-smiling.” It’s exactly what you think: basically it’s fake it till you make it, but in this case it’s fake it until you start to feel it. If you smile long enough, you will start to feel better. So maybe if I control my apologies, over time, I will realize why I deserve the respect to exist, to want, to need, to feel, to be who I am. I want to be worthy – not only to others, but more importantly, to myself. And I’m not sorry about that.

Who Says Honesty is the Best Policy: Admitting My Illness to Others

Some say that the key to true advancement (in terms of research and respect,) in mental illness is to break down the stigma and ignorant assumptions currently held in our communities. Many believe this can be done by humanizing the disease; having those who suffer mental illness “come out” and tell their stories; attach faces to the disorders; and speak the truth to deconstruct the myths that pervade.

I have already mentioned my struggle with this action in previous posts. As a civil rights activist, history shows the power individuals can have in changing perceptions and thus enable progress for their causes. Mental illness is being talked about, but I believe those who suffer (with the disease or as a partner/friend of someone who is suffering,) have the true power to guide and change the conversation to address what we in the community want others to know.

And while I fight for other oppressed and discriminated groups, I, for the most part, do not associate with my disease. In fact, I find myself often frustrated by the limitations I feel are caused by this invisible illness and struggle that whether silent or loud, I often feel as if I lose either way.

When I first moved home, I told people that I had come home to help my parents, as they were older and needed help. This worked with people who didn’t know that while my parents are older, they definitely don’t need my help. I also avoided any public situations by never leaving my house. While I was doing ECT, I thankfully didn’t go out much. I tried to start a new job while I was still weaning off of ECT, and luckily I had only been out of work a short amount of time, so I could use the “I wanted to come back to California and be close to my family” as reason for the break in my work resume. As miserably depressed as I was, as sick as I felt, I have to say it at least felt better being able to talk to someone and be living on my own and with a job. I knew I could bullshit and charm the rest of the conversation. But when I quit my job in Santa Cruz and they re-diagnosed me and told me ECT was no longer a viable option, I was fucked.

I wasn’t working, I was living with my parents, my drugs weren’t working, I had no hobbies and no friends, I was once again cocktailing some new drugs for my new disease, and I wasn’t 22, I was 32. See at 22, you tell people you are not working and living at home, and they understand you are saving money and trying to find your way. At 32, people wonder how bad you fucked up.

While I have been living on my own for a few months now, have at least one hobby, and some possible future plans, I still find these conversations difficult. I have started to tell people that I have an illness that I have been suffering from for the past three years. That in fact, I had it in DC and it got so bad I had to come home. I had been misdiagnosed and therefore was still too ill, but the doctors now finally have found a concoction that seems to have quieted my condition for now and I am now beginning to get back on my feet again. It’s horrible, but I think I frame it to sound as if I have cancer or a disease that can be in remission but come back. While it’s true that I do have a condition that is currently being controlled through medication, I will always have it, and it can always come back. It does destroy my life, my body, my future, and can be lethal. So I imagine people think it’s more like cancer because they are not used to seeing depression as a life-long disease that one must constantly fight.

Sometimes I forget to use it, and I end up with the “um…you know…I’m living on my own…looking at things.” Now that I got into the Master’s program, I tell people I’m preparing for that even though I’m not even sure I’m doing it. I have a job one day a week for a few hours and sometimes I make it seem like that’s my “job” and I do it full-time. So I’m lying. And maybe that’s ok because they don’t really care and they’re just being polite before they can talk about themselves, but I feel like a fraud and I realize I am ashamed.

While depression and other mental illnesses get compared to other diseases, I still think it’s validity is ranked pretty low, and so the process of telling someone is different. I do tell a few people about it, but I’m pretty particular with whom I tell. I can usually pick up on people’s vibe based on their reaction and opinions to other issues. If someone is bitching about how “lazy” poor people are, I personally don’t think they are going to like that I am on disability when I seem just fine to them. (I also don’t really want to talk to them because they’re ignorant, rude, and have no idea about the world.) When to tell is a question I’ve explored with friends in reference to dating (which I don’t do, but speculate about a lot just in case I’m ever ready). When is the right time to tell someone about your disease? How important is it for them to know about it? After all, it doesn’t define you, but I know at least in my life, it has definitely shaped who I am.

When I have told people, I have to admit it is pretty hilarious. Damn, do people get uncomfortable. Especially if they aren’t familiar with mental illness or think it’s a crock of shit. It’s like they are trying to pretend they are cool with it with their eyes wide open but don’t realize that the rest of their face has started to slowly droop in slight horror/uncomfortable awkwardness. Their smiles just kind of melt a bit. Some throw out that they know someone who was schizophrenic, or that a month ago they had a really bad week and just couldn’t get out of bed. Those people are sweet. Way off the mark, but definitely E for effort. There are people who nod and perhaps try to look concerned, and then change the subject to “what’s in my future” as if clearly since I’m standing before them, I’m fixed. The best is people who turn into doctors telling me that I should really try seeing a chiropractor or get a sun lamp in my room. ‘Cuz I’ve never tried any other possible solutions in the past and shit, good thing I met you – who knew this whole time while I’ve been lying in my bed for weeks crying and wanting to die, I just needed to use a sun lamp more. I don’t know if it’s being in California, but if one more person recommends a fucking vitamin because my medications are really the pharmaceuticals way of getting my money, I’m going to open-hand slap them. Ok, I’m not, but I’m going to imagine doing it.

See, that’s the thing. Me “standing up” and trying to tell people that the person standing before them, who looks “normal,” doesn’t make them understand mental illness any more than before. When those people try to tell me to try homeopathic remedies and I explain I have tried everything in the book, but that I am missing neurons, that there are chemicals that I do not receive and therefore cannot see the world or operate in it the way they can, they still don’t get it.

Maybe it’s scary to others, but I don’t get why. They know they can’t catch it. I’m pretty sure they’ve figured out that I’m not going to lash out in anger or get on a chair and start singing show tunes. Sometimes I try to push and I explain to them what bipolar II is – I usually make it a joke to try and lighten the mood – to try and let them know I am comfortable talking about it. I often find myself making light of what I’ve been through, which I later berate myself for – because fuck them. Why should I have to tone down the severity of my illness for their comfort.

Yes, I know I am going back and forth. In one paragraph talking about the shame of my illness and guilt to others. And then in the next, telling them to fuck themselves because it’s a valid disease and if they don’t like it they can go find someone else who’s fucked up for different reasons.

I know we have to stand up. I know we have to tell our stories. I know we have to show the face of our disease – to try and make others understand, even a little, about what we face. But I’m telling you, if one out of every four people has some sort of mental illness, than I must be speaking to the three other people.

I am an activist. I believe in education and empowerment. I believe that people who are mean and close-minded, just don’t have the proper information or haven’t seen the issue from a different perspective. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt that inside, they are perhaps afraid of what they don’t know, and especially of what they can’t see. I know what they see on television is a distorted view of the reality, and that the majority of people get their information from their television. I talk to people all the time about policing, racial profiling, gender discrimination, class discrimination, education inequality – and I speak from my heart and I look at them with hope that they will listen, and ask questions, and try to see what I see.

But then I look at mental illness. When I try to put it in the same framework, it doesn’t seem to fit. What am I doing wrong? Is it because it’s so invisible? Is it because it’s so diverse? Is it because there’s too little known? I try to put it as an issue I might train on (I used to train heads of organizations on how to teach their communities about specific civil rights issues) and think about what outreach I would recommend, what language I would use, what stories I would tell. And I know that I would tell people to focus on relatable stories. That facts and figures don’t matter until later. To get people to care, you have to make them feel the issue. To be able to put it in a way that they can understand – put them in the shoes of the issue, so to speak. In fact, I bet you I could write up a training on mental illness and put together some wonderful stories and workshops to help people get more comfortable.

But I know if someone asks me what I’ve been up to, I’m not going to tell them that I have been suffering from bipolar II and trying to rebuild my life. Perhaps it’s shame embedded within me. Perhaps it’s fear of judgement. But either way, I’m angry at myself, sad, and incredibly disappointed. I tell people to do their best to practice what they preach. I’m such a fucking hypocrite and I don’t know exactly why or how to change.

I apologize to all of you. I’m just going to add this to my list of shit to figure out.

What do you do? How do you handle social situations? Do you feel the need to be an agent of change? Do you feel responsibility for the education of our illness? Do you feel that people treat you differently once they know you have a mental illness? Any thoughts on what we should be doing about this?