what a wonderfully crippling world.

And ya’ll actually thought I had given up on writing. It was pretty believable for a while there. My facebook page is gone, and I haven’t posted a single thing since July 3rd. But here I am, here to tell you the things in my life that I don’t always know if people will care about, but are still relevant to the mental health community.

So the move happened, and I’m finally settling back into this life of living at home and regrounding myself. The beginning was rough. As soon as I got off that airplane, and walked out into the 95% humidity, I immediately started crying and regretting the decision I made to leave Colorado. And for about 2 to 3 weeks following coming home, I was pretty depressed while still trying to figure out what I was really doing here.

Familiarity is always good. Feeling the warm hugs of people who genuinely love you make you remember that life isn’t always so lonely. Sitting down in front of the easel you abandoned so long ago and just painting every color that you feel in your blood and soul is an instant release of everything that feels bad. Seeing my old therapist in person was weird, but ultimately relieving. Even when you go back to the gym you used to go to and see the same people doing the same things feels both homey, yet slightly sad, but I mostly find it hilarious. Finally, after one good night, it’s like something in me finally opened up, and I finally felt like I could dig myself out of my depression once again.

One night towards the end of July, I peeled myself out of bed on a particularly dreary rainy night to go see Andrew McMahon in Baltimore (if you don’t know him, please do your mental health and your soul a favor and look him up). Standing in the crowd of all types of people I would normally hate, there was this weird community where we all felt that Andrew had changed our lives in some way, and was still continuing to do so as he sang his little heart out on the stage of Ram’s Head. After the show, it was pouring down rain. I mean POURING. I got a flash flood warning on my phone. But regardless, I had gotten this far, and I decided to be an idiot and stand out in the pouring rain for an hour because I was that determined to meet Andrew for some weird life-fulfilling reason.

After waiting in the rain for an hour, or so it felt, Andrew finally steps out of the venue with no shoes on, and a giant plastic cup filled with wine, looks at us all standing in the rain waiting for him, and with a huge smile on his face, says “What’s up, everybody?” He made his way down the line of people and when he finally got to me, I gave him a hug and started crying while I told him how his music saved me when I was the most alone I had ever been while in Colorado. I’ve never felt like anyone has actually listened and understood how I felt in that moment until then when he looked me directly in the eye, and gave me another hug like there was nothing more that needed to be said, and I could move on now.

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sometimes people make you feel the impossible

After that night, I started using my synesthesia for painting. I stopped caring about making my painting good, and making them look how I felt emotionally and physically. Synesthesia presents itself in different ways, so for me, I perceive emotional and physical sensations as colors. Instead of feeling the warm fur of my cat, I sense a warm campfire orange. If that makes sense. Feel free to ask me more.

I was painting everyday. I was painting so much that I was stepping over the paintings in my room to get almost anywhere. And it felt so good. I looked forward to just sitting down with a bottle of wine and my paintbrush and watching the colors form across the canvas. And as I kept doing this, I kept feeling more and more at home, and happier in some way, which is a weird thing I’ve never felt.

A couple more weeks passed and I had never felt so great. I was beginning to feel at home with my new job, some new friends and old friends I had reconnected with. I could socialize comfortably for the first time in years. I started doing great workouts at the gym and was starting to feel comfortable in my own skin after months of hating my body. I felt great, I looked great, and I knew it. Each day was better than the next. I would try new things, and do things I wouldn’t normally do, and that was totally ok because I was finally stepping out of my comfort zone and into this new, confident, happier me.

But finally it hit me. This “new” me, wasn’t me. This was hypomanic me. This was the uninhibited, no impulse control with nothing in my brain to tell me to “stop” me. I wasn’t sleeping much, would eat a lot or nothing at all, and got annoyed when people would try to stop me. I felt invincible. I was a goddess and nothing could bring me down.

And it’s amazing what small things will bring a person down from that kind of high. This post is brought to you by my post mania depression that resulted from a bad night of drinking, yelling at people in the street, and spraining my ankle, my wrist, banging up my knee and elbow and ultimately, an extremely bruised ego. I can’t walk, can’t exercise, can’t paint. I went to my first ceramics class of the semester yesterday and walked out feeling completely defeated because my ankle hurt too much to use the wheel and everyone was making beautiful pieces while mine kept falling apart.

I guess the lesson in all this is that it’s not a bad thing to have unmedicated bipolar disorder. I wouldn’t trade my hypomania for anything because it’s the best thing I could possibly feel and it feels like a gift to feel so alive, and to feel something that no one else can. Sometimes it’s even worth the horrible, crippling depression that follows and the stupid mistakes you made (like wearing heels while drinking and dancing). But there’s a difference between managing your mental illness, and living with it. And obviously, I can’t just live with it and expect to be okay. It’s not okay to start acting psychotic and screaming at people in the street because voices are screaming in your head. It’s not okay to become a total klepto during a hypomanic episode. It’s not okay to let depression make ¬†you sleep for 3 days straight despite having an ankle injury and avoid contact with everyone.

But I will be okay. I always am. And at least this time, I’m not alone because I’m finally home.

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I just really don’t trust doctors

I kind of wanted to just leave it at that and not even write a post about it. Let the title be the end of explanation.

But for real, I officially don’t trust doctors.

After driving down to this really sad part of Colorado to see a psychiatrist, I basically spent my $20 copay to get yelled at by a psychiatric nurse practitioner about my health habits. I’ve been taking klonopin for about 4 years now. After I told her that, I sensed the KLONOPIN LEADS TO EARLY ONSET DEMENTIA AND ALZHEIMERS rant at which I stopped her before she even started and almost yelled YES I KNOW THAT FROM MY 2 DOCTORS WHO DIDN’T SEEM THAT CONCERNED ABOUT IT. Clearly, my first psychiatrist didn’t seem that concerned about having me on 3 different types of mood stabilizers at once and another time when he had me taking Xanax 5 times a day in addition to taking Klonopin twice a day.

Here’s the struggle with mental illness and psychotropic drugs: finding one that works for you can be one of the biggest struggles of mental illness. It’s frustrating, time consuming, hard on your body, and endlessly exhausting. When you find one that works, that’s it. You don’t want to change because after all that struggle, why would you want to change? From weight fluctuation, to no libido to insanely high libido, to the seizure I had in high school, the manic episodes from the first SSRI I took, to the other drugs that I just felt like didn’t do anything except make me feel exhausted for no reason, yeah, when I found that klonopin was actually helping me and the side effects were bearable, no way did I want to change. Let’s be honest, who would?

Now there’s this doctor who wants to take away the one thing that’s worked for me and make me change my entire lifestyle after going through the health questionnaire. Stop drinking, don’t be vegan, don’t take the Klonopin, get my blood tested for 8 different things, start a “selective carbohydrate diet” for my IBS, take a B12 supplement… Um. I thought I was seeing a psychiatrist. Not a life coach or my physician.

Somewhere, in every psychiatrists’ education, it has slipped through the cracks that when people find a medication that works for them, that’s it. End of the road. No more trying new medications.

And then there’s my hatred for medications. I would love to not have to take medications. Honestly, I might be able to. I’ve been medicated for 9 years now, so how would I even know if there’s anything actually wrong with me?

After a lot of reading about traditional Chinese medicine, I’m starting to believe that the only way to heal myself, is by myself. Chinese medicine looks at the body as a whole, and how the body connects to nature. It’s not like modern Western medicine where we have separate doctors for each part of our body. Chinese medicine believes in having one doctor that has a complete connection with their patient, mind, body and environment. Everything is connected. Qi (pronounced “chee”) is the basic concept of Chinese medicine which encompasses a life force that inhabits both the body and the earth. When Qi is not in balance in the body, the body will become ill. Having the perfect balance of Yin and Yang in the body is what will make the body whole and healthy. When both Yin and Yang are in balance, then Qi flows throughout the entire body and keeps the body in balance.

Some people may think that this whole Eastern philosophy is total bulls**t. But think about it, it really does make sense. When someone suffers from migraines, instead of treating the migraine, we should be looking at what is causing the migraine. Stress in any part of the body can trigger distress elsewhere. You know that whole thing about how depression can cause sleep disruption, appetite changes, and body aches? Well, there’s your proof that the body and mind are connected. Yes, doctors can argue that the chemical changes in a depressed person’s brain can affect the rest of the body. This argument is valid. Having taken neuroscience in college, yeah those little neurotransmitters in your brain can have a huge impact on your mind as well as your body.

But medication isn’t going to fix it. Medication is still only a band-aid and that band-aid can lead to worse problems. See the body as a whole. See the body as part of the earth. The body is an element. The body is a garden. It needs maintenance and care. If you have a garden, you would know. You can’t look at your garden, see that your tomato plants are dying and ignore the rest of your garden while you care for them. The key is balance. The key is balancing the energy in the entire body, not just one part of it.

My Yang is weak, while Yin rules most of my body. Yin gives me quiet and coolness, but in excess, it’s unhealthy. Restoring balance to the heat and activeness (Yang) and coolness and quiet (Yin) is what will eventually heal myself as a whole.

I don’t need medications to find balance. I don’t need a Western doctor to tell me to do xyz and my body will be better. Don’t see me as a brain that needs tweaking. See me. See me as a whole being.

I don’t trust Western medicine educated doctors.

frozen bread and trash cookies

So lately, I’ve realized how food and drink obsessed our society is. Like, whenever you want to go do anything, food or a drink is almost always involved. Getting dinner is a date. Hanging out with a friend to go grab a drink or two. It’s literally impossible to avoid food culture unless you’re a hermit like me who eats trash cookies (more on that in a bit).

This whole “getting sober” thing is one of the most impossible things. Alcohol is considered a “normal” part of everyday life. I can’t watch a single show on Netflix where alcohol isn’t involved and in the show, it’s totally normal. Even if a character drinks a lot, they’re not an alcoholic. They’re just quirky and a party person or depressed. I guess I fall in the latter. Ever realize how on almost every show, getting a drink after work is a daily thing and no one even questions it? It’s not alcoholism. It’s just socializing. Well, I wish it was that easy. I wish I could just “go out for a drink” after work to decompress, socialize, whatever.

The media sets these unrealistic expectations of both men and women when it comes to eating and drinking. Characters on tv don’t think twice about knocking back a 6pack every night, or having a Ben and Jerry’s binge, yet if I do that, I’m looking at getting plastered and depressed or consuming a disgusting amount of calories. What people do on everyday television, I feel like I have to go on the elliptical for an hour afterwards because I’m not trying to pack on unnecessary weight. For people like me who have a weird range of some type of body dysmorphic disorder/exercise bulimia/anorexia etc., being around people or socializing or seeing anything that has food or drink involved is a total trigger. I see the beautiful, skinny, healthy women in shows sipping dirty martinis and all I can think about is how badly I miss that crisp, saltiness of an extra dirty vodka martini, but knowing that I can’t drink, and the calories aren’t worth the amount of exercise I did that day.

But yeah, I do have the weirdest eating habits. I became aware of the fact that I’m definitely what has come to be known as “freegan,” in which I only eat food that’s free. Ok sometimes I pay for food. I hate paying for food because I’m still not working yet and I’m kind of broke. So when your roommates throw perfectly good cookies in the trash, you fish them out. They were wrapped in two bags and I don’t feel bad about eating these “trash cookies” that were going to be wasted anyway. Also have you ever eaten frozen bread? I’ve gotten to a point where whenever I buy a new type of bread, I have to see if it’s good frozen or not. Some breads just aren’t as good as others. Like, some breads just taste stale when they’re frozen or some are still weirdly fluffy and just taste cold. I can defend my habit of eating frozen bread: the butter doesn’t melt and it’s like eating toasted pita.. but cold. It’s fine when you dip it in soup because it just becomes soggy either way.

Have you ever eaten a cookie while falling asleep? Drank your coffee on the toilet? Eaten soup or beans straight from the can? Left the fig newtons open so they’ll become stale and crispy? No? Okay, it seems I really am the only one here. I swear I can defend all of these statements. But then again, I just like food, and I’m a binge eating exercise bulimic so maybe I should have thought about that when I made my new year’s resolutions.

But I have gone back on my sobriety stint and it’s been almost 4 days. A rough 4 days. I’m at the point of wanting to ditch Netflix, pour out all of the alcohol I have in my apartment and just going back to eating trash cookies and becoming a tea addict* (I’m pretty sure drinking a whole bottle of wine has more calories than eating a bunch of cookies, let’s be honest). And okay, I actually did do some of that. I poured out the rest of the Jose Cuervo that sat on top of my fridge and actually made a point of opening and pouring out an entire beer. Can I REALLY ditch Netflix though? How else do you think I do 50 minutes on the elliptical every day?

Society, you’re killing me. I’m climbing back down the rabbit hole and drinking tea with my real friends. They don’t have croissants there either. Just a lot of blanket forts and tea parties.

img_3087In case you ever wanted to know what $15 tea looks like. Dead soggy flowers.

*some teas are basically drugs. And it tastes good. If I’m a junkie for herbal teas then so be it. And yes I bought a $15 bag of tea yesterday because I’m just going to assume it’s like wine or beer and the more expensive it is, the better it is. Let’s just leave that there. Tea Addicts Unite. Tea Addicts Anonymous (TAA)?