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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Let me paint you a picture

What does anxiety look like? Well, it looks a lot like this

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Yep, that’s me yesterday hiking in Horsetooth park. Now that the weather has started to perk up for the summer time, I decided it’s time to get back outside to remind myself why I came out to Colorado in the first place. So, I did the same loop I did about 4 months ago on Christmas Eve, which takes me through the falls, and then up to the top of Horsetooth Rock. Well, actually I didn’t. This photo was taken about halfway through the planned route before I started having a panic attack and made it to about 15 minutes away from the top and decided that I couldn’t do it.

Moral of that story? Don’t believe that everyone who posts these nice selfies on Instagram and Facebook are “happy.”

So here’s what anxiety really looks like. It started with yesterday, going for a nice hike and overall okay despite the fact that it was my first day without a single dose of my anxiety medications. I was about 15 minutes away from getting to the top of the rock when I decided that I wanted to go climb up another rock to sit and eat my snack and drink my “summit beer” (usually these things happen at the actual top, or the “summit,” and it’s always definitely a good idea to bring something that’s low ABV, which in this case was 4.5%). That’s when the anxiety set in. Suddenly, everything felt different. A sense of dread and everything seemed foreign, despite the fact that I’ve done this hike probably half a dozen times in the past year. I felt shaky and out of my body. Despite all this, I wanted to make it to the top of the mountain since it was easy. I climbed down from my rock and proceeded to hike, and then decided, nope, I wanted to go home. I wanted to crawl into bed in my sweatpants and watch Netflix by myself. And that’s what I did. A really exciting end to that part of the story.

I sat in bed trying to drown out my sense of dread and anxiety with Netflix and another beer, really not looking forward to waking up early for work the next day, which I really didn’t want to go to. I just started this job and was super excited about it because it meant that I was able to leave the job I hated and be involved in something I liked: locally sourced food. As a vegan and an advocate for natural, locally sourced food, I took a job in a new market opening up in town that sounded like it could be my new home, where I could thrive a bit being around something that I’m legitimately passionate about. But it’s ended up being a sense of dread because I hate being bored and being around new people and in particular, new bosses whom I’m convinced dislike me. There’s no real reason for that, just a feeling. The anxiety talking to me. Either way, I tried to drown out my anxiety with a Netflix binge, some yoga, seeing D, and trying to get some sleep.

But I couldn’t sleep.

I kept trying to think of a million reasons to not go to work. Tired. Sick. Klonopin withdrawal. I could find another job. I could pick up more shifts at my other job to get by.  Eventually, the tiny dose I take of klonopin at night kicked in and fell asleep to wake up to the day I dreaded. I tried not to think about it as I got ready for the day, but I still found myself sitting in silence for minutes at a time (good thing I get up early) just thinking and thinking and thinking and wondering how I could possibly get out of going to work, how I could get on with my life, what I should even do with my life in general. Why am I here? Why am I doing this to myself? Why am I out here doing jobs I don’t like to go on adventures that I don’t want to go on anymore and in the end, being semi-broke, hating myself and my life.

Biking to work helps. Except for when I get super anxious when I’m in the middle of traffic and I’m scared that everyone on the road hates “that stupid biker that I almost hit.” I try to drown it out and know that everyone who drives in Fort Collins knows that there are cyclists everywhere. Most of the main roads are bike friendly, but I road through the backroads and neighborhoods to avoid traffic. I got to work and had to take a moment to collect myself while locking up my bike, telling myself that I was gonna make it to 2pm. Only 6 hours, that’s not a long work day. I’ve done worse.

But I got to work and immediately zoned out and couldn’t focus on anything. One of my bosses finally came up and asked me to go to the walk-in fridge/freezer to seal up popsicle wrappers. This basically involved me standing in the walk-in fridge for about 30 minutes using a heat press to seal the ends of popsicle wrappers (my bosses also run a pop shop a couple streets over). About 10 minutes into this, I got really cold. Like REALLY cold. And then I realized I was stuck in there for I don’t even know how long because I’m a wimp and hate cold, and I started to panic. I could feel myself getting sick but didn’t want to say anything to my boss because I didn’t want him to think that I actually was a wimp and couldn’t stand being in a 40ish degree fridge for short periods of time. But I stuck with it, despite telling one of my co-workers that I felt sick and I have a hypersensitivity to cold. She responded with “Do you have bad circulation or something?” To which, because it totally made the best sense and would give me a reason to not be in the fridge, I responded “yeah, I have low blood pressure,” which is actually true.

After finishing up in the fridge, I sat out behind the counter with some hot coffee for a while, feeling light headed, weak, and a bit panicky. I kept wondering how the hell I was going to make it to 2 o’clock when it was barely 10am and I already needed to leave. After a while, I finally mentioned to another coworker that I felt a bit sick from being in the fridge and told her I was probably going to ask to go home. She told me to just go home. So I did. I felt bad. I felt everything and nothing. I hated my job, but I hated myself more. Still feeling legitimately a bit sick, I started to bike home, which really sucks when you feel lightheaded. I was panicky the whole way home. Shaky and barely able to stay in the bike lane. When I got home I crawled into bed and hid. Hid from everything. Myself, my job, my roommates, my entire world. I could feel my heart beating in my chest. I stared at Craigslist Jobs and Indeed for about an hour before I stressed myself out even more by wondering what the fuck I was doing with my entire life.

And so ends my 24 hour long panic attack. I’m still trying to figure out how I can get out of work tomorrow, and if I do go, can I make it? I can’t leave work early 2 days in a row. I don’t want people to think I’m weak, because in the hindsight of it all, I’m not. I just feel things more strongly than others. I feel life and its stresses clearer, not always in the best way, but sometimes logical when need be. I know the things I can do, the things I can’t, and the things that I’m still not sure of.

But I know I can take a selfie and look like I’m doing more than alright.

Anti-Consumerism Month Update Numero Uno

Okay so I haven’t really been on top of the whole “update” part of this anti-consumerism month thing I resigned myself to. But here’s my first update! Are you ready? It’s oh so terribly exciting. Full of withdrawal and resisting the things that I “need.” It’s exciting, I swear.

Well, not really. I just had to draw you in somehow. So far, it’s been a bit difficult. Some of the things that I’ve wanted to do haven’t been able to work out. Frequenting farmers markets right now doesn’t exactly fit into my schedule at the moment. Since it’s the off season for farmers markets in Foco, the only farmer’s market that I know of takes place on Saturday mornings, and unfortunately I work on Saturday mornings, which has forced me to still rely on King Soopers, Safeway, Sprouts, etc. However, it has made me realize that some of the foods that I really love and tend to buy frequently, are either not necessary (oh, Complete Cookies and Lara Bars, how I miss you) or just expensive (avocados and tempeh, an unfortunate sacrifice). Food shopping is hard. It’s just so easy to overspend. Eating a mostly vegan diet does help in some ways since tofu is much cheaper than meat, and not buying cheese or milk cuts out a large portion of the grocery list. I’ve kept eggs on the menu, however, so it’s not completely vegan. Apparently there’s a whole different section of vegetarian and veganism that is called “veggan” aka, not eating any animal products except eggs. It works out though and while my vegan values are telling me that eggs are bad, I’m still trying to make sure that the eggs I do buy are from hens that are ethically raised. Also I forgot how good eggs taste and I refuse to eat the dreaded “vegan egg” (some weird powder made of seaweed that Follow Your Heart puts into egg shaped containers and tastes like nothing and is extremely overpriced, and also a complete waste of packaging. I’ll put the “not buying the vegan egg” in a definite anti-consumerism category.)

But also since I’ve been cutting back on my meds (on doctor’s orders), I’ve had to be extremely cautious. Benzodiazepine withdrawal isn’t something to be taken lightly. While I’m coming off the medication slowly, it’s still risky because of the whole likelihood of seizures thing. So basically, if I wasn’t already a heavy drinker, this medication withdrawal wouldn’t be as much of a concern. But coming off a benzo and trying to cut off alcohol completely in the same month? That’s basically me walking to my grave. Like being taken off benzos, alcohol is the same way. Cutting it off completely is very risky since alcohol works on the same neurotransmitters in the brain (fun fact: benzos are a common medication prescribed to alcoholics in rehab in order to prevent withdrawal). So I think it’s pretty safe to say that I shouldn’t go cold turkey on alcohol while going through benzo withdrawal (who came up with that “cold turkey” saying anyway?) So I buy cheap wine and try to stick to only a glass or two. So far, it works out pretty well. I’m definitely spending less on alcohol and my tolerance is decreasing so I don’t have to drink as much, which is kind of nice.

The one thing that I have managed to be good about is not eating out. As much as I love pita pit and sushi really aren’t necessary when I have food at home and it does save a good amount of money. Also not going to bars or going out is just an unnecessary expense when buying a 6 pack or a bottle of wine for $10 will last me the week.

Really, the hardest part is the realizing the amount of food that I consume in a week. Since I work out almost every day and do some heavy lifting, it feels like my body constantly needs food. Trying to find healthy and cheap foods to keep me well-nournished is difficult. Buying protein bars is convenient, but not cheap. I wandered around the King Soops for almost half an hour yesterday trying to figure out what cheap and healthy snacks that aren’t chocked full of high fructose corn syrup I could buy. After staring at the cracker aisle, the nut aisle, cereal aisle, and even just the general snack aisle, I settled for a bag of apples which I figured out upon purchasing them, that granola bars were actually cheaper. Just another learning curve. Since I already know how to make granola on a budget, I can probably figure out how to make snack bars in bulk that will long term be cheaper and healthier than store-bought granola bars.

Life has been stressful, and I admit to being a stress eater. Between the stress and withdrawal anxiety, it’s been tough, which has made me need to find other ways to relieve the stress. Some days have been hours long marathons of watching Buffy. When I have adequate energy, hooping has helped a lot. Staying active has helped combat the stress and the anxiety since anxiety seems to manifest itself in me as an overabundance of energy. Instead of stress eating, I try to hoop more, do some sit ups, yoga, hiking or just working off the energy on the elliptical. The nice weather we’ve been having here has helped keep my energy up (as much as it does concern me that it’s March in Colorado and it hasn’t snowed in almost a month).

Week 1 has been tough. Hopefully it’ll get a little easier from here given the learning curve of the past week. And hopefully the klonopin withdrawal will start to ease which will help as well.

More updates on Emily’s Anti-Consumerism Month 2017 next week (and hopefully other unrelated updates throughout the week). Stay tuned to see my sanity slowly deteriorate.

the need to make my life smaller

Buying things we don’t really need because we think they’re going to make us happy. Let’s face it, we all do it. Splurging on some fancy chocolate at the grocery store because it’s that time of the month and chocolate is a “necessity.” Needing “new” jeans or a shirt because your current wardrobe just seems so blah. Driving everywhere because we’re lazy. It’s a been a long day/week/month/year. I “need” a drink. Hanging onto everything we’ve ever acquired in our lives because we just can’t let go of it (like that scarf that you really like, but to be honest, you haven’t worn it in over a year). We’re all guilty of it, especially me.

So last month, two of my good friends out here in Fort Collins decided that they were going to do an “anti-consumption month” challenge. At first, I was just like, why would you do that to yourself? After reading their updates week to week, it seemed like they were struggling a bit, but after a while, they found that what they thought they NEEDED in their lives, were completely unnecessary. Anti-consumerism is basically the principle of reducing one’s impact on the environment, the world, and our consumerist society. It is taking away everything that one thinks they really need and living on only what they actually need. Sounds a little crazy, right? I thought so too. Sometimes you need to treat yourself. But is that really necessary? Maybe what you think you “need” isn’t so lovingly over wrapped in tinfoil and paper (aka those Chocolove bars that really hit the spot when I’m PMSing or stressed out).

Here it goes: Starting March 1st, I’ll be starting my own anti-consumption month (which will then hopefully turn into something a little more long term). The rules of the game? It’s simple. Live on what you only really need to live. Get rid of the things that I think I really need to hold onto. I actually already started doing this this month when I went through a bunch of my old t-shirts and realized that I hadn’t worn or wanted to wear about 10 or so band t-shirts in over a year. Why do I still have these? They’re currently in a vacuum storage bag under my bed until I find some way to get rid of them (but not throw them in the trash).

Since my friends’ lifestyle is a little bit different from mine, I had to do some tweaking in order to fit my lifestyle of what I really need. So here are the rules for Emily’s Anti-Consumption month 2k17:

  1. Spending only $30 a week on groceries. It’s actually amazing how much you can buy in the produce section of a grocery store. Works perfectly for my vegan lifestyle. I’m also going to start being good about bringing my own bags when I go grocery shopping (which everyone should do anyway).
  2. Eating out? Out of the picture (unless I have leftover grocery money).
  3. Set a budget for gas. Unfortunately, driving to work is pretty much my only option right now since it’s a little too far to bike to and I’m pretty sure the bus doesn’t go that far. Besides work, it’s time to get back on the bike for everywhere else I need to go.
  4. Goodbye alcohol (unless I have some leftover grocery money, and even still, this gives me a good reason to cut back on my drinking in general).
  5. As anyone in their 20s knows, there are some things that I can’t avoid paying for like rent, utilities, recurring monthly payments, you know.
  6. Tis (almost) the season for spring cleaning. It’s time to go through all those clothes and other random things that I still have and donate them/recycle them in some way. Kind of like when I started to pack for moving, everyday I would find at least one thing in my room that I really thought I didn’t need, put it in a box/bag and would wait a week. If I forgot about it, I didn’t need it. Same thing goes for this month.

So what’s the point of this? Minimizing my lifestyle and my impact on the environment and not giving in to this consumerist society. Granted, I am going to have to throw down some money for some unexpected things (like that traffic ticket I got and the doctor appointment I have this coming month, my pet rats need food as well, and I might possibly need to get my oil changed.. but some of these things are unavoidable unfortunately). The point is to live with the bare minimum of what I need to live. Live small and minimal.

I’ll be posting weekly updates on how I’m doing, so stay with me here. Thank you John and Kacie for inspiring me to do this. I know you’ll have my back through this (and maybe Sweet D too if he decides to do this with me).

Let the hunger games begin.

writing is hard

And it’s even harder when you work a 9-5 in which you spend in front of a computer all day wondering “what random crap can I look up on the internet today?” and you come home and the last thing you want to do is stare at another computer screen. But here I am because it’s post Valentine’s Day and I’m sure you guys know what that means.

To be honest, most days at work I spend browsing Craigslist missed connections and damn I’ve learned a lot. Apparently Fort Collins has a glory hole?* Those still exist? And to the guy who’s wondering why there’s not enough traffic at “the local glory hole,” I’m going to find that glory hole and stick my vagina in there. Or get some other girl to do it. Hopefully he doesn’t have mouth herpes but considering a guy who is literally sitting in a bathroom stall waiting to suck some dick, the odds may be never in his favor when it comes to acquiring herpes. And why do guys get all the glory? I find this incredibly sexist.

Also I found where to buy TruckNutz (actually spelled like that on the official website), that cell phone use while driving is legal in Colorado (except texting), and peanut butter and pickle sandwiches are a commonly prepared sandwich in some sick part of this universe that I don’t want to know where or who or why. Same thing with peanut butter and mayo. You people on the internet sicken me.

So how did my Valentine’s Day go? Well, better than last year, but not as good as the year before in which I ran a mile in my underwear under the influence of redbull and vodka to raise money for children’s cancer. There is internet evidence of this.

Why did it go well? I think we can start with the fact that I’m not dating a sociopath who convinced me to eat a lamb burger and told me my blog doesn’t make sense like the DC metro (really, Blob, the DC metro still doesn’t make sense to me). See last year’s post.

Instead, I realized that Sweet D and I know each other too well superficially (that’s the word I was looking for last night, D, just FYI). I can order a pizza without even asking him what he wants on it (pepperoni and pineapple), I always know what he wants to watch on Netflix (Scrubs or whatever he happens to be binge watching), and I know that if I get up to go to the bathroom mid-Netflix, he wants me to grab him another cookie while I’m up (I’m a good girlfriend and made him non-vegan peanut butter cookies). And of course, he asked me if I wanted to watch Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Well, duh. It’s Valentine’s Day. Sometimes just knowing these seemingly superficial things about your significant other can actually make you realize that you do legitimately care about someone. Also when D is being too quiet for no reason at all, he has to pee (sorry D, but you know that I know it’s true).

I also know he hates my alarm. It’s okay. I think most people would be aggravated by hearing Heat of the Moment every day at 7am but how else am I supposed to wake up in the morning? No apologies. And “sober as a gopher” is code for “I’m drunk.” I guess I just spilled all my boyfriend’s secrets on the internet (not all, but a good amount). Not sorry, D, you’re just too cute even when I slather face product all over your face while you’re sleeping and you wake up to your face being super red and irritated. I should really stop attacking my boyfriend with overpriced face products as my own personal experiment.

Writing is hard when the only thing you have to talk about is the weird shit you found on Craigslist that day.

*to you innocent souls who don’t know what a “glory hole” is, here’s all that urban dictionary can tell you about glory holes.