We Need to Talk About Bipolar Disorder So That You Don’t Do It Behind My Back

We Need to Talk About Bipolar Disorder So That You Don’t Do It Behind My Back

 

I remember taking an anatomy and physiology exam when I was a Sophomore in college.

I had taken a year off from nursing to get my political science minor so I entered nursing school with a group of 45 strangers, none of which particularly wanted to spend any time with me. Surprisingly, the day before, I actually got an invitation to study with some girls from class.

Looking back, I should have said no.

I was sipping on weak coffee with way too much sugar when I heard a girl’s voice dig a hole a self loathing for me that I would spend years trying to climb my way out of.

“I had a hard time remembering what a bipolar neuron was,” I heard her say. “Since the bipolar neuron is responsible for photoreceptors in the eye, I just think of someone who is bipolar, and how I never want to see them, because they’re usually an absolute mess.”

All of the girls laughed and I almost dropped my coffee cup…or smashed it over her head. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t breathe, and I wanted to be anywhere but that poorly lit cafeteria with a girl who didn’t seem to care about one of our country’s most marginalized and generalized people. Despite my better judgment, I slammed my cup on the table, gathered my things, and bailed. I left, ran into a bathroom, and cried my eyes out.

  1. When were you diagnosed? Just before I turned 19 years old.
  2. How many people are bipolar? About 3% of the American population.
  3. Did you have any idea that you were bipolar? No. I just thought I was moody.
  4. Isn’t it just an excuse to treat people badly? No.
  5. It must be nice to have meds you can take to calm you down. The rest of us have to stress. Not how it works at all, but whatever.
  6. Has bipolar been the reason for any break ups? Yes. It happens.
  7. What does bipolar II mean? It means that I’m more depressed than I am manic. I do have episodes of mania, but not as severe as those with type I.
  8. What has the disease taught you so far? People leave when things get hard.
  9. You look tired. Yeah. I am most of the time.
  10. Are you scared that if you have kids, they’ll be bipolar? Yeah. It terrifies me.
  11. A lot of patients are addicts. Have you ever been? Yes.
  12. How does it feel to be a manic pixie dream girl? I wouldn’t know. I will not be fodder for some sad young writer’s work. Don’t reduce me to a stereotype.
  13. Do you feel alone? All the time. You go through a type of emotional turmoil that’s hard to communicate and hard to find in others.
  14. Are you sure you’re not doing this for attention? 100% positive.
  15. You lost weight! Thanks! Lamictal makes me not want to eat!
  16. I wish you’d stop talking about it so much. I wish you’d stop talking about The Bachelor, but I don’t want to be rude about it.
  17. What’s gotten worse over the years? My sensitivity. My self esteem. My jealousy.
  18. What’s gotten better over the years? My understanding of emotion. My empathy. My sense of justice.
  19. What’s your biggest regret? Not getting ride of my non supportive friends sooner.
  20. You don’t seem sick. It’s mostly because I hide it exceptionally well. It tends to make people uncomfortable.
  21. What does it feel like to swing? It feels like the world has gone suddenly dark, and that everything good has disappeared.
  22. It’s not that big of a deal. I almost died from overdosing on pills because of it, so I’d say it’s a big deal.
  23. Do you have any funny mania stories? Always.

 

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Thank You, Carrie.

Thank You, Carrie.

Let me preface this by saying that many celebrities have been excellent voices for mental health reform and awareness. However, as I searched for answers about life with my diagnosis, only one gave me real hope:

Carrie Fisher.

Princess Leia.

Bad ass space queen.

I found her when I googled “celebrities who have bipolar disorder.” I was desperate to find someone who was like me. Many celebrities had depression, but it was more than that. I could relate, but only for  a little while. There was no one like me: someone who had awful highs, pitiful lows, and had to make sense of the things in between. But Carrie was like me. Carrie was living proof that you could have bipolar disorder and still live a fulfilling life, finding humor in it along the way.

She was everything I wanted to be: bold, sassy, creative, and open. She didn’t shy away from the topic of her mental illness as I often did (and still do). She was open about what she felt. She talked about what her illness had driven her to do and how she was better because of it.

Carrie Fisher was truly a light in the darkness for me. She was respected, strong, hilarious, and sick; she was sick and still built an amazing life. Most of all, she never lost sight of herself in a world that didn’t quite make sense to her, one that still doesn’t quite make sense to me. When she died, I wasn’t just upset because the world lost a great woman: I was upset because my mentor was gone. Whenever I thought I couldn’t do it, I thought about Carrie. If Princess Leia can press on, so can I. I mean, she lost a planet after all.

Thank you, Carrie Fisher, for reminding me that there is a life to be led beyond diagnosis, a life that is not easy, just different. And that different life can be just as rewarding. If I had the opportunity to meet her when she was alive, I would just want to sit and bitch with her about medication and therapy (while I played with her dog). And I’m pretty sure she would let me. After all, her urn is a Prozac pill.

She’s my hero.

At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of. They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication.

Carrie Fisher

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296.89 Project #2: What About Laura?

296.89 Project #2: What About Laura?

Loneliness. 

One of the most dangerous emotions I feel, if not the most dangerous. Being an extrovert, I need human interaction or I suffer.

I’m focusing on self portraits and taking one shot photos of what I look like in a swing: no posing, no retakes. Just my face. You never realize how much a facial expression can tell you.

Chapped lips: I forget to drink water most of the time. 

Unkempt appearance: I think I’ve stopped caring at all. 

Furrowed brow and wider eyes: Deep, aching sadness. 

Droopy eyes and dark circles: I’ve kind of hit a wall. 

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Music recommendation: In Collusion with The Waves by Seas of Years

Film recommendation: “What About Bob?” starring my hero Bill Murray

Okay, They Matter. Now What?

Okay, They Matter. Now What?

As I walk around the conservatory after chapel, I can’t help but notice the bracelets dangling off of people’s wrists.

“YOU MATTER.”, it reads.

YOU MATTER.

YOU MATTER.

YOU MATTER.

YOU MATTER.

YOU. MATTER.

OKAY, I GET IT. I matter. The movement is noble in nature. It surely will brighten someone’s day if they happen to be looking at your hands.

But you can’t wear a bracelet and expect to change the world. 

In light of Suicide Prevention Week drawing to a close, it’s important to reflect on whether we are showing up or showing off. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 people experience some type of mental disorder. 1 in 25 have a serious mental disorder. Think about how many people you interact with a day. Now do the math and think about how many of those people are struggling.

Maybe you think your bracelet is inviting, that someone who is struggling will flock to you because you are now a lighthouse of solidarity and safety. I’m here to tell you that you’re dead wrong.

The first step to take is to build trust with your loved ones. Many people who are struggling with mental illness will not talk to you first. There is a permanent guard up for fear of being shamed, for being judged, or just being pitied. Don’t be a lighthouse. Do the hard work and row that rowboat to meet that person where the seas are the roughest.

Show up. Do not ignore signs of struggle because you don’t know what to say. Be interested and invested in your friends. Ask how their day is, and be genuine about it. Try to understand their conditions. Do not toss cookies at your person while they’re in their dark place; go and sit with them in that darkness (feel free to bring cookies with you).

You can post that you’re “here if you need to talk” on Facebook all you want, but you can never be truly accessible until you put that into practice in real life. Do not let your social media persona be better than your actual self. It’s easy to post. It’s harder to talk. We are facing an epidemic of indifference in our communities. We put up a sign that says “I CARE” but immediately retreat when someone actually shows up on our doorstep.

Apparently, I matter. Now show me.

Left Behind: How Our Perception of Mental Health Hurts Women

Left Behind: How Our Perception of Mental Health Hurts Women

“What are you reading?” A classmate asked me one day in the nursing building. Half forgetting what I was actually reading, I turned the old hard cover over.

“A Farewell to Arms,” I replied. “Ernest Hemingway. One of my favorite authors.”

“Oh, he wrote that one about the old man and the sea right? Cool!” She replied enthusiastically.

I could tell she didn’t actually think it was cool at all. Then, an idea popped into my mind.

“Do you know how Ernest Hemingway died?” I asked carefully. She shook her head “no”.

“Old age?”

I reopened the page where I had left off and shook my head.

“He killed himself.”

Continue reading “Left Behind: How Our Perception of Mental Health Hurts Women”

America Bless God

America Bless God

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Tommy paced the floor anxiously, pondering what he would say to his father when he walked through the door. Questions swam around his head like tiny little fish in a bowl, and it seemed like the world he knew had melted away.

“I’m home!” Tommy’s father’s voice boomed down the bomb shelter, bouncing off the red and white painted walls. He hung his coat on the brass eagle claw coat hanger.

“Dad?” Tommy inquired, peering out from the darkness.

“Yes, Tom?”

“I don’t think we’re good enough Americans.”

Tommy’s father’s head snapped towards his son and in a rage, grabbed the small boy tightly by the shoulders.

“What did you just say?”

“I’m only saying that because I’m confused,” Tommy cried pitifully. “The Jones next door have 40 American flags in their yard, and we only have 35.”

Tommy’s father paused for a moment, thoroughly dumbfounded.

“Oh my America,” he said in a broken whisper. “We’re good Americans. We pay our taxes! We’ve never spoken highly of Europe! We’ve repeatedly torn down Facebook posts that suggest the Canadian health model is superior.” He takes his small son in his arms as he weeps gently.

“Pray to Reagan tonight, my boy. Tomorrow, we go to the flag store.”

 

Nationalism is an extreme form of patriotic sentiment, including feeling superior to other countries. Nationalism may seem like a glorified form of patriotism—harmless, honest, and normal, but to me, it’s dangerous.

In America today, we have majority and minority groups fighting for rights and powers here or there. Some win. Some lose. Some groups fight for rights based solely on the fact that they do not have any. Others fight for their own political and, more commonly, religious agenda. I’ll be touching on religion and politics.

Americans somehow decided that God was the official mascot of the United States somewhere in the creation of the country. I’m not sure why this happened. I’m not sure when this happened. This creates something messy and dangerous: theocracy. That is not what America was founded on. Separation of church and state is clearly an American principle and Americans just choose to ignore it. 1456204106163889300.png

These guys will gladly tell you that they’re proud Christian, American-lovin’ Americans, then tell you to get out of their country because this ain’t no immigrant nation.

You can love your country and appreciate it, but here’s where most of the Christian right makes a mistake:

They worship America and use God as a weapon.

Most of them are proud to be American, not Christian. Most of them use their “Messiah” to create contention and discord by means of making Him a crazed war lord who feeds on the blood of Communists, atheists, homosexuals, and immigrants. They use their Christianhood to wield power over the minority, while somehow transforming themselves into the minority when the time is right.

And this, friends, creates the scariest thing a Christian can possess:

A CHRISTIAN PERSECUTION COMPLEX!!!!

When, O America, will we be able to practice our religion freely? To celebrate Christmas? To maybe–dare I say it–open colleges geared towards our religious demographic?!

Many people have confused Christianity with frenzied nationalism, sometimes combining them to create something SUPER frightening, and it’s being perpetuated by Donald J. Trump, billionaire and tanning bed addict. “Make America Great Again” connotes that America has fallen to pieces, and that our fragile, flightless bird of a country needs to be taken back: “All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state”, once quipped by famous Italian fascist and murderer Benito Mussolini.

We have room for but one flag, the American flag… We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language… and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.

Theodore Roosevelt

Welp, I guess there’s no room at the inn. That’s erring more towards American rather than Christ-like.

We’re the BIGGEST, we’re the BADDEST, we shoot who we want. Amen. We are ‘MERICA.

For a “Christian nation”, we sure do like to worship Old Glory.