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

296.89 Project #1: “Lights Out”

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I wanted to start a small photo series about the consequences of bipolar disorder beyond what the general public eye can see.

I wanted to start with a self portrait.

See, I’m good at hiding. Not to say I’m lying to you all about who I am, but I am trying to project the person I used to be before I really got sick.

Once I come home and have shaken off the burdens of school, studying, and taking care of other people during clinicals, you can really see me. I don’t smile. I retreat into a shell. I become withdrawn and have no emotions whatsoever, and if I do I’m usually weepy. There are bags under my eyes from not being able to sleep.

This is a tired person. Lights out, but it’s the same cycle the next day.

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.

 

 

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Laura.

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Laura.

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I use this phrase in jest when I feel like everything is spiraling out of control, but sometimes the question turns serious.

Like, seriously. Are you there, God? It’s me. Laura. You know, the person You created. Down here. Suffering. Nothing? Really? It’s fine. It’s fine. Nothing’s on fire. I’m fine.

But deep down inside, or maybe just below the surface, I’m not fine.

I’m not okay. And there’s the age old question that’s always asked and never answered:

Where is God in the suffering?

If you’re looking for an answer, or an uplifting anecdote that will leave you hopeful for about 12 hrs, you won’t find it from me. I don’t know where God is in the suffering. Right there? Really? Because I don’t remember Him picking me off of the floor. I don’t remember Him counting out my meds every day. He doesn’t schedule my doctor’s appointments.

“Pray about it.”

Oh, you mean stare at the ceiling in the dark until the turmoil in my head subsides or the clonazepam kicks in?

“Trust His timing.”

How am I supposed to trust someone who’s essentially 6 years late to the wild party that is my life? When will it stop hurting, when I’m dead?

“Leave everything at His feet.”

What, so I can come back and pick it up 2 seconds later? Mental illness doesn’t move for any person, distraction, or chemical compound on Earth. Jesus can’t solve my problems. They are not neatly tucked away into a backpack that I can leave with Him forever.

The worse I get, the farther the concept of an all-knowing being gets. This isn’t a Christian college student puff piece on Jesus healing my depression, and just because I go to a Christian university doesn’t mean I read my bible as I hammock. This doesn’t make me a bad person by any means. Just because I’m too tired to “chase God” doesn’t mean I’ve sold my soul to Satan. We need to stop alienating the people who are still questioning their religious beliefs, or people whose religious beliefs have been compromised.

If God knew me before I was born, then he would have created me to struggle. He would have created me to someday deal with this thing called bipolar disorder. And when I’m doubting, I’m told to turn to the very person who created me that way in the first place.

I feel like a child whose parents forgot to pick them up from school, a child who’s swinging their feet as they see all of the other children being picked up and carted home. 

I find solace in poetry. I find solace in cinema. I find solace in music. I find solace in fiction novels. I find solace in dancing. I find solace in a good cup of coffee.

I’m still waiting for God to show up. I don’t know if there is even a God, and I’m not afraid to say it. I haven’t figured out how I feel about that yet. Until then I’ll sip my coffee and read a book. They haven’t failed me yet.

The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there’s little good evidence. Far better it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.

-Carl Sagan