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.

that time that my mother told me to go to AA

The worst thing about mental illness is that you don’t realize it’s happening until it’s too late. You see the train coming, but you know that you have the sense to move before it gets too close. But trains travel a lot faster than you think.

So I just spent an hour talking on the phone with my mother. That’s seriously a record considering I only call her when I need something and I usually put the phone down and walk away while she’s talking and she doesn’t notice. 10 minutes is usually my limit. But it’s true: she told me I should go to AA. She does this freaky thing where she can suddenly get me to tell her everything that’s going on in my life from who I’ve hooked up with to how much alcohol I consume on the daily. Things that you usually don’t want to tell your parents. I am way too hungover for this shit. And shaking with anxiety.

I transitioned last night. So that’s a thing. Thank god it didn’t last long but Alice did leave me high and dry with a shattered phone screen. So that’s another thing. Drunk Alice me is apparently extremely unattractive. I asked Blob what he found unattractive about her and I think the word he used was the most accurate description of her: explosive. After angrily telling him to just go home after work instead of coming over, I started driving away and started crying, then called him and begged him to come over. I felt better once we got home and I cracked open my bottle of wine. Alcoholism at its finest. I don’t understand how that man puts up with me on a day to day basis. Or really anyone. But those who do put up with me I guess are the ones who are worth keeping around. And the ones who get up early and make you awesome breakfast after the whole episode are definitely worth keeping around. Don’t let your ego get too high, Blob. You still annoy the fuck out of me. This is just an appreciation paragraph.

Why do I cry so much now after having a total dry spell for a year? I might have to call out of work because I can’t stop crying. I’ve skipped class a few times because I can’t get out of my house without my face being a total wreck. Why do I wear so much makeup? My eyes are always red and puffy to the point that only black eyeshadow can cover up this damage. I am a wreck. You know how on the internet you find those little inspirational quotes that say things like “those who suffer from mental illness are the strongest individuals” and shit like that? Man, I don’t know who came up with that because we are such a train wreck. But I guess those who don’t have any mental illnesses would not be able to deal with the kinds of things I go through on the daily. I guess I gotta give myself some credit here. This is just an appreciation paragraph for myself. Bipolar disorder/DID is a gift and a curse. I can feel things that no one else has the ability to feel, which sounds great sometimes. Mania is awesome, who can argue that? But with mania does come the depression that just drags you down like you’re tied to a 3 ton boulder. Days like this are difficult. I’m trying to find some silver linings.

I really don’t want to go to AA. I’m such a stubborn person. I know I have a problem but I just can’t stand the thought of being Marla Singer in a support group. I am Jack’s wasted life. No thank you. So here I am today sitting at my computer and trying to get the courage to get up and out and hopefully make it through the day without having to end it on a drunk note. My mom told me to try not to drink tonight. I’ll try. I’ll try to color or play with my new hula hoop that’s coming in the mail tonight. I’ll try to not disassociate from myself. I’ll try to not run away from everything.

I’m always running from something.

I just can’t outrun my brain.

that time I French kissed a goat

But actually I kind of did. Goat selfies all day. This is Malcolm.

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Some days you just have to push yourself out of bed to do the simplest things. Even if it’s just reaching for your laptop so that you can read over notes from class for a test, or get up and make yourself coffee.

Today was a lot different. I got out of bed for social interaction right off the bat. And it was totally worth it.

Big group outings are not my thing, obviously. As the socially anxious person that I am, group outings are terrifying even if I know everyone there. Today was just a day out with my coworkers who I am totally comfortable with at work and usually I enjoy their company outside of working. You guys are great, really. Despite my hatred of hardcore vegans, some of us are actually pretty chill about it. And get way too excited when we find vegan donuts (that was them, not me. I’m the freak that doesn’t like donuts), play with farm animals for a few hours, and binge on veggie sushi (who said that you can’t od on vegetables? I mean maybe you can). Us vegans can be very chill creatures. We just like animals.

So anyway, I woke up this morning and told myself “Yeah, you can go out!” And I did. Wow. We all made a trek down to a farm animal sanctuary to visit some rescued farm animals and I have to say that it was totally worth all the anxiety I had about getting out of the house. And yes it’s true: a goat totally licked me on the mouth as I was kissing it. I’ve always loved goats. As a kid, my mom worked on a farm that had about 20 goats, a cow and several ducks and geese. My favorite thing to do was hang out with the goats, which today then brought out the goat lover that I am. And animal lover. And I never wanted to ever say this, I understand this whole “being vegan” thing now. Not that that actually has anything to do with how I eat, but embracing that vegan lifestyle is really about loving all animals in every way you can. That includes hangin’ with some farm animals. I can’t argue with that.

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Yep, that is me cuddling with a goat. He was happy. I was happy. Anxiety gone. I could do this everyday. Thanks to Sara E. for the photo.

What else happened today? I signed a lease for an apartment in Colorado. As of August, I am actually going to be living in Colorado! There’s plenty of farms with goats there too, right? Being outside makes me feel more alive than I ever have (despite the wicked sunburn I got. I’m actually a lobster) and oh boy will I get outside into the beautiful Colorado mountains whenever I’m able to once I’m there. Adventure is out there! I just had to make that big step.

I guess I could say that today was a good day. That’s really all I need in my life right now: good days, one at a time.

This post is brought to you by me finding several missing pieces of myself in a single day. Without alcohol.

that time I realized that I am Jack’s cold sweat

Good days for me are the ones where I accomplish things. And by accomplish things I mean I went to the gym, ate breakfast, showered, and went to work. A really productive day would be that, but I also went to the bank, put gas in my car and even bothered to shave my legs while in the shower. That was today. I am exhausted. If I make time to see someone somewhere in the midst of all that then, damn, that was a really good day. But you know, people like me who have the most crippling social anxiety are just proud of themselves for shaving their legs or making it through the work day while maintaining a good mood.

I’m just going to tell myself that today was really productive because I studied for an exam I have this week, but really, I kind of just glanced over my notes and read them and I’m telling myself that that is better than nothing but knowing that when I get to that test, I am going to have no idea what is what. And then there’s that anxiety of knowing that but being kind of unmotivated while also overanxious about having to study in the first place. See, this is anxiety. Anxieties have anxieties and it’s always a downward spiral. So how do you stop it? Anyone?

In the past, my anxiety could be avoided by me saying goodbye to the world for a few hours while my alternate personalities take on my life for me. Now it’s just me and my brain. My overly emotional, hypersensitive, overly anxious brain. It’s a really dark place in here. Earlier this week I felt great about myself. I knew that yeah, I have a lot of issues, but damn my makeup is on point and I felt alive and free being outside playing with a hula hoop. Now I look at that hula hoop and I feel sad because I’m frustrated about it. I have social events I’m supposed to participate in this week that I’ve had several months notice about but I just can’t bring myself to go.

So I decided that eating a whole box of cookies and writing would be a better option than hooping for a bit, having a glass of wine, listening to good music and then getting some possibly well-deserved sleep. And now I’m having anxiety over the fact that I just ate a whole box of cookies and that’s why I’ve been gaining weight lately. The worst part is that anxiety isn’t even really an emotion. I don’t feel sad or depressed. Anxiety is just this state of being.

And then there’s social anxiety. In the past, I’m normally saved by alcohol. If there’s going to be alcohol involved, then yeah, I got this. Funny, charismatic Emily brought to you by Alcohol. If there’s not alcohol involved? Well.. Maybe I’m just gonna have to either bring a flask or flake at last minute. I am that notorious friend who flakes last minute. I guess that makes me what they call a “flake.” It’s not that I’m a “flake,” I just can’t do social situations that don’t involve alcohol. Clearly, I’m a social drinker.. or maybe I’m just an alcoholic. You decide. We all remember that time in Fell’s Point when I had 10 drinks and.. oh yeah that time at the Phoenix when several beers in.. and that other time when I ran away from my boyfriend at the time.. oh and I guess everyone definitely remembers that time I drank too much tequila and took some Xanax and ended up in the hospital for 3 days.

And now there’s that time when it took drinking a whole bottle of wine just to write a fucking blog post, play with my hula hoop, and say “yeah! I’ll be there tomorrow!”

I am Jack’s wasted life.

 

that time my coworker accidentally broom raped me

Got ya. I totally just wanted to use that as my title because I told him that I would. Shout out to Mik for playing it cool. Mostly. Shout out to me for keeping it togeth-hold up. I don’t think sitting on the floor tearing up from laughing is keeping it together. It’s ok though, guys. Now I know that rape CAN be an accident. And that broom handles and vaginas do not go well together. That’s probably how IUDs get dislodged. Moving on.

24 hours later, I’m finally lucid. I finally have my body back. Most of the time, my dominant alternate personality, Alice, only sticks around for roughly 4 to 5 hours, which is just enough time to do a lot of damage and then fuck off when she doesn’t want to deal with the damage she’s caused and leaves me exhausted and often high and dry. So try 24 hours of that. I checked my phone and it wasn’t pretty. Dammit, Alice, I even password protected my phone because of you! So I guess that doesn’t work on alternate personalities that have your memories? Identity theft taken to another level.

Being the manic and kind of your worst nightmare psycho girlfriend type is exhausting. Transitioning into another person is just weird. For me, it’s more of a depersonalization because I was there the whole time, but it’s like being behind a sound and bulletproof piece of glass and watching your life happen how someone else would play it out. The other weird part is that she is strong enough that she knows my entire life. She even knows how to do my job, which is convenient (because damn, I made out good serving today and I didn’t have to do a thing or somehow get my shift covered), but she is an awful human being. Maybe kind of misunderstood, but awful. Alice didn’t have to keep sneaking really terrible notes to Blob about wanting to take a bunch of xanax and calling him a sociopath repeatedly. He knows he’s a sociopath. And I do not want to end up in the hospital again. But here I am, thankfully with no pills in my system, at home and somehow I think I managed to stay sober the whole time (someone correct me if I’m wrong). I’m sorry Blob.

Alice is like a drug. When I’m Alice, I am unstoppable-

holy mother of jesus fuck.

Excuse my language.

I think I had my first bipolar manic episode. Back to diagnosis square one.

that time I wrote a post during psych class

So today is #worldbipolarday, apparently. Thanks Facebook! As I was scrolling through the black hole that is facebook at 8:45 this evening during class (it’s not like you’ve never done it. And besides it’s 8FUCKING45 AND I’M IN CLASS), I noticed that little annoying thing in the corner of things that are “trending,” one of which is #worldbipolarday. I’m about to throw some facts in your face like a cream pie so look out. And taste the cream pie.

First of all, bipolar disorder is NOT borderline personality disorder. There are several varieties of bipolar disorder, but simply, there is bipolar 1 and bipolar 2. It’s kind of like diabetes, 1 is worse than 2. Worse is kind of a bad word. Ok how about “more severe.” When most people think of bipolar disorder, they probably think of the common features of bipolar 1, which is the rapid cycling and severe highs and severe lows that can change very quickly. HOWEVER. People with bipolar disorder do NOT switch back and forth between being angry to happy to suicidal in a matter of minutes. Manic episodes or depressives episodes can last for almost an entire week. Same with a rapid cycling episode. Rapid cycling is more like the stereotype of bipolar disorder: it’s exactly what it sounds like. Rapid back and forth with mood. Rapid cycling can be seen in bipolar 2 as well.

And let me tell you, rapid cycling is scary. It’s unexplainable. One minute you feel great. You can conquer the world. You’re going to go home and knock out all of your homework and stay up all night drawing and tomorrow you’re going to go run 5 miles and then go get plastered that night. That’s the plan anyway. Your manic brain’s plan. But, as the rapid cycling goes, maybe an hour or so later, your mood drops lower than you could ever feel. You want to die. You want to curl up in a ball in your bed and waste away with Netflix and junk food. Nothing matters. You don’t care. You’re tired. Fuck everything. You feel depressed. But wait… you bounce back eventually!

Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder. Major depressive disorder is a brain disorder as well, but you can trick yourself out of it (that makes it sound so easy). Yeah, your brain chemistry is messed up but I know that it’s easy to trick yourself into feeling happy. Bipolar is different. You are literally trapped by the reduced volume of your prefrontal cortex (it’s the part of the brain right above your eyes). Among other structural abnormalities in your brain. And some other neuroscience that I don’t understand because I just have an (almost) degree in psychology and psychology majors do not understand biology. Unless you’re getting your bachelor of science. Then you can’t sit with us B.A. psych majors. We’re a different species. Ok so anyway.

Did you know that bipolar disorder is so incredibly common? It shocks me that a very large percentage of the population has bipolar 2 disorder, and often it’s misdiagnosed as depression. 2.6% of the US adult population suffers from bipolar disorder, and 2.2% suffer from severe bipolar disorder (thank you, NIMH statistics). This doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s literally about 3 out of every 100 people that have bipolar disorder.

My therapist has a chalkboard in her office that has a huge list of celebrities that have bipolar disorder so here’s a few: Jim Carrey, Russell Brand, Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Mel Gibson, Demi Lovato, Marilyn Monroe (I know, right?), Lou Reed, Axl Rose, Ernest Hemingway…. The list goes on forever.

Sidenote, I don’t have bipolar disorder. I’ve been misdiagnosed with it several times and maybe I do have it but honestly, who knows. And I don’t care. You are not your label. You are not your DSM code or the medications you take. You are a person. A beautiful person that I want to hug and tell you that you will be ok just like everyone else. Some days will be better than others and that’s inevitable. But it’s ok. As a very annoying smiling cat once said…

We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.
Lewis Carroll