Mary Mary Quite Contrary…

One of the first things you learn in therapy for a severe mental illness is to track your moods. Track them in relation to food. Track them in relation to days of the week, weeks of the month, months of the year. Track them in relation to exercise. Track them in relation to caffeine or alcohol consumption. Sometimes it’s as specific as track them in relation to consumption of Red 40, or gluten, or waking up after 8:00 or wearing blue. It’s ridiculous. When I’m doing well I have good intentions of tracking all these things, but I’m lazy. If I remember to do laundry or dishes it’s a good day. Tracking calories, exercise,  or slight fluctuations in my mood will never be something I’m good at completing. Hell, I can’t even keep a budget.

Because I never track anything, in spite of the best efforts from my therapists the best I have about what causes triggers are end of semester (finals stress, even though I’ve been out of school for almost 4 years), excessive caffeine consumption (usually in the form of extremely sugary soft drinks…is it really the caffeine?), and extreme stress (usually brought on by change). Those might seem specific, but they are no where near as specific as I need. When I get busy (stress) I usually choose quick meals on the go (fast food) where I choose to buy the meal, the meal comes with soda so that’s what I drink. A little planning ahead would fix this, but for someone that generally doesn’t get dishes or laundry done on schedule planning ahead for anything feels insurmountable.

This past winter has been a nightmare. My medication was changed in October, this was amazing, except my insurance caused me problems with refilling the medicine until the end of December. Without the medication a dark spiral started just as the days were getting shorter and colder. I got sick, really sick; bronchitis, the flu, a kidney infection. I slipped away as my brain started to call the shots. The voices started, hallucinations increased, I woke up later and later every day as my dreams consumed all my energy. I made this goal to become a marketing expert for my husband’s business, to blog regularly, learn how to create and edit videos…every big aspiration felt more and more impossible as the days wore on. Even talking to my son became a huge chore.

Getting out of the grave my brain dug for me was no easy task. My voices are me, meaning it’s my voice speaking in an authoritarian tone. It tells me people are tracking me, not just people, those who I rely on most. I can’t talk to anyone about it because they will lie. They all lie. These things are repeated to me until I understand how true they are. My job isn’t important. People don’t need me. My family would be better off without me. I hit this episode’s rock bottom last week.

I was rescued by my coworkers the day my world would have fallen apart. Completely out of the blue, they had stories to share with me. Silly stories, serious stories, it was from so many different sources there was no way it had been orchestrated the way my brain was desperately telling me. That day logic won and I started crawling from the depths. This week has been good so far. My planner is in use, my world is getting more orderly. I made it to the gym yesterday and I can’t remember how long it’s been since I felt that good. With spring comes rebirth, and this year I am being reborn.

Overcoming the negative

As I’ve been returning to myself I’ve put a lot of thought into who I am, how my thoughts affect my behavior, my sense of wellness, as well as the root of the debilitating thoughts. I’ve kind of started seeing a therapist that isn’t convinced she’ll be able to help me, in the meantime she’s been pretty helpful. Yesterday we talked about staying in the moment during conversations, not allowing the internal conversation to distract me from the task at hand. This is way more difficult than it sounds, but an important skill to master. Trying to figure out what to write today I came across this article on Psych Central that struck a chord with me. Sometimes the person you need to ignore for positive mental health is yourself. Here is my list for the negative self talk that needs to be avoided.

  1. All your problems are made up / used for attention.
  2. You’ll never be happy again.
  3. Not only are you always the third wheel, you’re the wheel no one wants.
  4. Your friends and family would be much better off if you are gone.
  5. You can never trust anyone that tries to correct any of the previous statements.

There are a few ways I try to turn these thoughts around. First, I know for a fact that my “problems”, meaning my illness, is not in my head. Too many times I stopped taking my medication and proved to myself this is not imaginary. When shit really hits the fan I become an introvert, kind of hard to be begging for attention when you really want no one to notice how terrible you feel on the inside. Second, I’ve been through hell and back over and over again. I know there is happiness on the other side, I just have to push through and get there.

The last three are much more difficult for me to navigate. Over the last decade or so I have developed a very specific type of relationship with my friends. It’s difficult, but I have been with my friends for so long I just trust them. Even when I don’t want to, I trust. These are people who have been with me in the worst, gotten a glimpse of the horrors underneath. I trust them to tell me the truth no matter what, even about stupid things, and they do. Because once that trust is broken it takes a long time to get it back, they’ve seen the struggle and heard the heartbreak. Even when my heart and head are telling me I’m not enough, I’m not wanted, I’m not needed, if they tell me I am that will be enough. It’s not pretty, it’s guarded and the negative talk is constantly there, but I take their word because if I don’t the whole house of cards falls.

After talking to my new (kind of) therapist I need to start making pro and con lists. All the negative self talk will go on the con side, all of the reasons against will go on the pro side. Eventually when I get brave enough I’ll give the con lists to the few people I trust enough to always tell me the truth. I’ll do my best to trust them and use their words to build me up when I’m not strong enough to do it myself.

Dear Husband

When I read this article on The Mighty this morning it really struck a chord with me. After my horrific experience being engaged to my ex-boyfriend I had a long list of needs my new significant other had to fulfill. Since my previous engagement ended I have never been afraid to come right out and tell someone that I’m bat-shit crazy, it may have been one of the first things I told my husband after letting him know how much I loved Sweeny Todd. I’ve long thought if you can’t handle my shit I don’t want you around. I thought the same thing when I “lost” a job opportunity over a piercing last year, if you don’t want me unedited you don’t want me at all. I now have a great job, work with amazing people, am learning so much, and you know what? If I have a really shitty time like I did last week that’s allowed. I don’t have to tell them anything I don’t want to, no one tried to make it better, I just got to be me. Everyone should be allowed to be their own true self in their whole world, not just in part of it. I will probably always call in with some sort of physical ailment when I mentally can’t handle the weight of my pain, but that’s my choice. If I chose to tell the truth the result would be the same level of support and caring, and I get to be my authentic self. I may get there some day.

This list is my version of the “Dear Future Boyfriend” for the man who loves Sweeny Todd, Monty Python, random road trips, and being completely ridiculous just as much as I do.

1. You know when I’m struggling before I do, and instead of “fixing” me you wait for me to figure out what’s wrong. There is no level of “fixing” from another person that is more valuable than learning to take care of myself.

2. You put up with more than any other human should, and yet you continue to let me be my authentic self. You know how to take those psycho moments and turn me back into the person I want to be.

3. My dreams are beyond awful. If there are seven levels of hell each dream takes me to the deepest depths. Sometimes I feel like I haven’t slept in months. You hold me, stroke my hair, and remind me that I’m loved, all the while reminding me I don’t belong in the depths of hell.

4. Thank you for telling me when I hurt your feelings. Trusting others is not easy for me, knowing you will let me know when I screw up makes me trust you more than I thought possible.

5. You’ve never once looked at me with anything other than love and compassion. I look into your eyes and I can see the hurt my brain causes, but more than that I can see your love and that does more for me than you will ever realize.

6. When it’s really difficult for me to see your life as anything but better when I’m gone, you help remind me that I’m wrong. Always so matter-of-fact, never betraying the sadness you say you feel. It’s taken a long time to figure out how to handle each episode and even with my brain creating problems you still manage to come out on top.

7. Thank you for reminding me to do things I love. Life gets in my way more often than I like to admit and every time you remind me to slow down and just do things I love.

8. You are my rock, without that I would not be the person I am today. I would still be floating around, angry with the world, depressed that I screwed up so much in the past I was stuck with this lot in life. You challenge me, making me want to be better, because of you I know I am good enough. That this life isn’t punishment, but a journey I’m on because it gives me strength and compassion.


I love you.

Connecting Again

I have been making a real effort to connect with the people I love again. It began a week ago when I finally reached out, I don’t think that process ever gets easier. My brain automatically shuts my social life down. Even when my friend got to my house last week I was upstairs bawling my eyes out. My world is really depressing without people to tell me about their lives. Candy Crush and Etsy do not make me a well-rounded person, I definitely do not fault anyone for being bored with me.

I’m making baby steps to where I need to be, a few days ago I had an awesome conversation with another friend I love dearly. She was telling me about trying to come up with a morning routine. She’s reading a book by Tsh Oxenreider that recommends creating a morning routine, 5 things just for you – cleaning and getting the kids ready doesn’t count – with the recommendation of no screens. I am anything but a morning person, but I think a positive routine may help drag me from this black hole I live in right now so I’m going to give it a try as a daily thing.

My phone is basically my life so I won’t be going screen-free, but I have started listening to podcasts again. Right now my new favorite is Guys We F****d, it’s two comediennes in New York with this fabulous sex-positive attitude. They are hysterical, and I love listening to them. So that’s first on my list. I have put on 40 lbs over the last 6 months. That has to stop, so going to the gym is second on my list. My eyebrows are a forest and my skin is an oil well. Third is grooming and self-care. Coloring is going to be on the list. I got some really sweet coloring books for Christmas that require attention, so that’s fourth. Last, but not least, I really love making graphics, like, a lot. I’m going to go through my photos, maybe take some new photos, and create wonderful things with them. In fact, yesterday I bought some really sexy shoes and now my own damn feet are my screen saver. Nothing conceited about that, right?


What are your 5 things to do, just for you?


It’s been a while…

Every year I start with this idealistic view of new beginnings. I will write blog posts every day, I will check Twitter for inspiration and content, I will be sane enough to help people through my writing…This year that all went to shit before I even began.

In October my medicine got changed from Seroquel to Seroquel XR, which was a life changing event for me. I can eat gluten again, my sleep schedule is much less dictated by my medicine, I feel more alive, more human than I have in years. So many years ago standard Seroquel changed my life in the exact same way, I had no idea life could be better. It was almost like when my husband went from standard hearing aids to his BAHA implant, completely a game changer. Except (I hate that word, it always means something bad is coming) Seroquel XR is not scheduled to become generic until May, thanks to the legal battle fought in 2012. The insurance filled the first month as a “courtesy” then denied additional refills, forcing me to be off medications for more than a month. The whole system is fucked up, I knew that. What always gets me is I have experience navigating the system. I get frustrated and want to give up, but what do people do that have no experience or legitimately cannot function enough to fight back? Blows my mind that we make such a big deal of gun safety and mental health is mentioned EVERY SINGLE TIME a mass shooting happens and someone like me still has to fight to get the medications that keep me from being looney toons. Ugh.


So anyway, I finally got my meds back in December. I was off of work for 12 days on vacation. Life was busy with Mixing Spirits, really it still is but hopefully that’s getting under control now. We got so slammed over the holidays. Completely blind-sided by how popular our products were. Now we are fighting to stay above water as frustrated customers want to know when their glasses are shipping. We’re almost to the end, but it’s been a really rough few weeks. I’ve been trying to help, but answering frustrated customers when you’re collapsing into a little ball of hatred in your head is a really terrible idea.

Speaking of that little ball of hatred…I forgot how much that place blows. It’s been happening for a while, that voice that says I need to push harder. I’m not doing enough, I’m not helping enough, I’m not good enough. It starts at work so I push harder. This time it happened at work and at Mixing Spirits. I pushed harder, I worked until I wanted to die. Which is ultimately where that leads. It’s been a long time since I’ve had legitimate end game plans. That also is much worse than I remember. I rewatched part of Elizabethtown. (“I’ve been the substitute person my whole life”) The more you want to see yourself as the third wheel the easier it becomes reality.

I have a really hard time understanding why people want to be around me. I always feel like I’m too serious to have fun or be silly, like an anchor that weighs the whole experience down. At work I feel like I’m not smart enough; unworthy of my position. I don’t ask enough questions to really get to know someone, but when I do I’m too nosy. I’m going to work on being nosy again. Last night was excellent, I got to spend one on one time with one of my favorite people in the whole world. That one on one time has catapulted me from the black hole I was entering into the living world. Thank goodness. I can’t even begin to describe how horrible that black hole felt after so many years of being away. I hope I can get out of it’s reach entirely this time.

The Rocks, The Pebbles, and The Sand

I started a new job about a month ago. This marks three jobs for me in the last 18 months, with 9 months before that as a stay at home mom while I figured out what to do when grad school turned out to be not for me. It’s been a long journey, and I feel like I’m finally ready to stop searching. January of 2014 I happened to accept a job working for a company that makes auto paint as a chemistry technician. I had no idea what went into paint, no idea what was in store, I fell in love. Coatings has become a passion for me that I just can’t describe. It’s likely due to the amazing people I worked with at that first company. They are smart, knowledgeable, willing to listen, willing to teach. They are kind, caring, and just an all around great group of people. When I was there a few positions opened and I was not selected for a full time position (for good reason, I don’t think I have had a worse interview before in my life).

Not too long after I was offered a position (still contract) for a competitor. They still do coatings, and they hire pretty frequently. It was a pay cut and afternoon hours, but being the main breadwinner for my family the promise of a full time position was very appealing. Leaving my initial position was a really difficult choice, I believe in giving my all to those who treat me well. I felt like I was letting someone down. In the end the second position was not at all what I needed. The company is in a large transition state, they run like an auto union shop instead of the companies I was used to, and the people who bought them out were trying to transition away from that. The result was some really amazing people that I worked with and a few that were very vocal about being bitter. The people I worked for were the same as the company I had left, knowledgeable, kind, willing to listen and teach. I worked on a different part of automotive coatings from my initial position, and there was a plant on site, so I learned a lot of really valuable lessons about the industry and the history of the industry. I interviewed for a full time position there as well, but realized pretty quickly I was not what they needed, and the company was definitely not what I needed.

I was only there 6 months, and leaving was (yet again) bittersweet. The people were funny and genuinely great to be around (for the most part), the man I worked for and the people we worked with were wonderful. I’ve made professional contacts and friends at both of my previous companies, but when I was offered an interview for a smaller company I took it. While it took a long time to get everything sorted out I started my newest (contract) position at a much smaller company. With the plant included there is less than 70 people on site at the corporate headquarters. The R&D division has grown to a whopping 15 people in the last few years. I love the smaller atmosphere and as I’m training I’ve met with the head of QC, QA, and the president of the company (just to name a few, it’s a very extensive training).

When I accepted my newest position I felt like I’d been doing internships; 9 months here, 6 months there…starting the new job made me nervous like it always does. Who will I be working with/for, will I fit in, have I maybe found my forever spot? After time at two separate companies I knew that I wanted to stay in coatings, preferably in color. That is exactly what I found. The group I work with is kind, genuine, hard-working, considerate, quirky, and right up my alley. I love waking up and going to work every morning, and within the first two weeks I knew I want to keep working for and with this company. What really cemented my decision that I honestly love my new company was when I was training with the president of the company. He reminded me of this story:

A teacher walks into a classroom and sets a glass jar on the table. He silently places 2-inch rocks in the jar until no more can fit. He asks the class if the jar is full and they agree it is. He says, “Really,” and pulls out a pile of small pebbles, adding them to the jar, shaking it slightly until they fill the spaces between the rocks. He asks again, “Is the jar full?” They agree. So next, he adds a scoop of sand to the jar, filling the space between the pebbles and asks the question again. This time, the class is divided, some feeling that the jar is obviously full, but others are wary of another trick. So he grabs a pitcher of water and fills the jar to the brim, saying, “If this jar is your life, what does this experiment show you?” A bold student replies, “No matter how busy you think you are, you can always take on more.” “That is one view,” he replies. Then he looks out at the class making eye contact with everyone, “The rocks represent the BIG things in your life – what you will value at the end of your life – your family, your partner, your health, fulfilling your hopes and dreams. The pebbles are the other things in your life that give it meaning, like your job, your house, your hobbies, your friendships. The sand and water represent the ‘small stuff’ that fills our time, like watching TV or running errands.” Looking out at the class again, he asks, “Can you see what would happen if I started with the sand or the pebbles?

It’s one of my favorites, and is one of the foundations which the company has built their post-recession values. The rocks at work are designed to lead the company towards their three year goals, the pebbles are the daily bullshit that happens that can ruin a day (flat tire on the way to work, ordering a material that hasn’t arrived in time), the sand is everything else. Distractions can be overwhelming and that is something I have experienced in former jobs, at school, in my personal life. He explained to me that it’s really important to keep the rocks in sight, and leave work at work. When I go home I have email that comes to me, but it’s not really a distraction. As an hourly contractor I’m not allowed overtime, I’m still learning about the company and the company’s process, and that helps me from getting overwhelmed. I do research and study about coatings in my free time, but it’s because I honestly love coatings. I get home and we have a whole routine with Edgar, and I now have two hours at night where I can do whatever I want after he goes to bed. It feels freeing, and much of it is I honestly enjoy work again.

The Disney Shift

Terry and I watched Malificent the other day, it was so much better than I expected and really got me thinking about the changes I’ve seen in Disney movies recently. Frozen had a strong female character with no significant other besides her (female) sibling, Malificent became a love story between a (jealous) parent figure and child, Big Hero 6 contained real consequences for characters who really did nothing wrong except being in the right place and the wrong time (mostly due to their big hearts and desire to help others), and Brave showed a girl fighting for her own right to not marry.

While I love the old school Disney, and I feel like characters like Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, and Mulan taught me valuable lessons about kindness, strength, beauty, mental toughness, and perseverance as a young girl, I really love this new trend. There is a humor in the most recent round of Disney movies that I wasn’t mature enough to see in the movies of my childhood. They seem geared more towards a general audience rather than a specific gender. Granted, there does seem to be a long way to go in the “general audience” direction with Frozen, Brave, and Malificent being princess movies and Big Hero 6 seemingly directed more towards young boys in advertisements, but these are movies for everyone to enjoy. My son is too young for Malificent, but my husband enjoyed it just as much as I did. There were excellent action sequences, a compelling story line and a real element of surprise for me at the end. Frozen and Brave have characters geared towards both boys and girls. My son is definitely the traditional vision of a rough-and-tumble boy and favored the characters of Sven and Olaf, but even at two he paid attention to the stories. When Kristoff and Elsa both took issue with marrying someone you met “you know…that day” I cheered. When Elsa was satisfied with herself as she was I cheered. When Hans was shown to be the awful villian and Kristoff and Anna developed their relationship with consent as a staple I cheered.

[Kristoff: I could kiss you! I could. I mean, I’d like to. I – may I? We me? I mean, may we? Wait, what?    Anna: [kisses him on the cheek] We may.]

I’m looking forward to the next Frozen installment and watching movies that I missed, my younger cousins love Tangled the way I love Beauty and the Beast. It’s on my list.


Until tonight I was content reading all the posts about Robin Williams and remaining quiet, but there have been a few things I read that make me feel like I need to respond for my own sanity and safety.

To begin with, this is a topic I feel strongly about, I have personal experience, done a great deal of research and have had a great deal of exposure to the world of mental illness. I have schizo-affective disorder. I like to call this full-on crazy. No other explanation has felt appropriate to me, and I understand that it can be offensive. I have manic-depressive swings, I have contemplated suicide, I have made the choice to call 9-1-1 instead of taking the pills I so dramatically liberated from my husband’s safe (without the key, without the combination, without breaking the safe), I experience full hallucinations (auditory, visual, tactile, ol’ factory…all in one episode at one time. I once had a doctor suggest that I might be a spiritual medium, that was entertaining for the scientist in me.)  I am smart, I hold a bachelor’s in French language and biochemistry, and an Associate’s of Applied Science in Biotechnology. I was accepted and (arguably) completed one year of graduate school in chemistry before I decided it wasn’t for me. I hold jobs in my field, I’ve been married for 5 years and I have a 16 month old son that is amazing. I was fortunate enough to not deal with any postpartum depression or psychosis beyond what I feel I would have experienced anyway. I have been in-patient 6 times, have a (fabricated by the ER) suicide attempt on my record, and for the past year I have been in treatment funded by the county I live in, exposing me to a lot of people on many levels of functional. I give this background, which I’m sure is readily available by reading my posts, because I don’t update regularly and I have no idea what I’ve written previously.

A friend posted this response to this post by Matt Walsh. I will preface this by saying I don’t read the bottom half of the internet unless it is in response to me, and I don’t have any previous knowledge of Matt Walsh. The article from Matt Walsh made her so angry that she felt it inappropriate to link to it, clearly that wasn’t the case for me and I feel like I want to address some of his points based on my own experience.

“The death of Robin Williams is significant not because he was famous, but because he was human, and not just because he left this world, but particularly because he apparently chose to leave it.

Based on Matt Walsh’s own rebuttal to his post he feels like this statement was under fire when he was called cruel and told he lacked compassion. The whole premise of the article is about the choice of suicide, how it affects others, how it affects the world. I feel very strongly about the word “chose”, and having experienced mental illness the way I have I believe in choices for the mentally ill community. Every day I battle thoughts that I have to physically choose to keep or reject. Every day I make choices to get up and live my life or stay in the shadows and let life happen to me. These choices are universal, everyone makes these choices. It starts little, I’ve been seeing it in my son. Does he want the blue shirt or the red shirt? Does he have a meltdown about uncut watermelon, or does he ask for it to be cut? I guide him in his choices, help him choose options that will serve him well later in life, while I grapple with my own. Do I get out of bed and go to work or stay home and get fired? Do I take on that extra project or elect for more time for personal reflection and growth? They seem so different, and the choice of do I call for help or choose to leave for good seems to be somewhere off the charts. I guarantee that they are not that different. For my son it can be catastrophic for that watermelon to be uncut. He cannot see beyond that rind to understand that cutting the watermelon is a simple solution to a desired result. I am now capable of choosing to go to work every day because I love what I do, and the people I work with make that an easy choice, but I need help and guidance to choose time for personal reflection and growth. I am really fortunate that my husband is as kind as he is when helping with that choice, and even more fortunate that I have coworkers that also understand when I cannot see the simple solution in front of me. The solution to live rather than die is also a simple one, but like my son and myself, people need help and guidance to see that solution. The tragedy happens when people feel they are so different from others that they can’t get help, they don’t deserve help, they aren’t worth help. They then don’t open up about the horrific world in their own heads, they don’t let the danger escape, they don’t feel worthy of themselves, the result of this is an inability to see the simple solution of asking for help and the choice to leave life seems like the simple solution. Yes, I feel that suicide is a choice, it is one that is made by not understanding the severity of our own situation and not wanting to bother others with our “trivial” troubles and pain. Is it an easy choice? Of course not, it’s one that is fraught with months or years of pain that isn’t visible to the outside world, often not even those that love us most. It takes a great deal of candor on the part of someone with mental illness for someone who loves us  to pick up on the dire need for help. There is no one to blame for the act, the person who needed the help couldn’t articulate their pain, and the person who loved them had no way of knowing, but in the end it is a choice. We can learn a lot as a community about Robin Williams’ choice. First, this is not something that only affects the weird person on the bus talking to people who aren’t there, we are all susceptible no matter our economic standing, our “popularity”, our race, our family status. Second, just because someone has the financial ability to have the best care in the world does not mean they understand how to ask for it, or have anyone around that can see the need. It is very easy to get wrapped up in the act of life, and that is what Robin Williams did for a living. Last, as a country we have a long way to go in understanding and discussing mental illness. This prevents a lot of people from asking for help and receiving treatment. My mother told me a few weeks ago that she is continually grateful that I can have, and don’t fear, that conversation. It can destroy a person’s whole career to admit to a mental illness the way I do, that’s completely unacceptable to me. I don’t hide behind an ideal of normal because that is not who I am, I am also not my illness. It took a long time to come to that conclusion because a lot of people would prefer I hide my illness to make themselves more comfortable or they feared other’s wouldn’t understand. Fuck them. I am me, and a lot of that is due to my illness. I talk about it and as a result I am not afraid to admit when I need help. I know who to ask, and what avenues I need to travel. I am lucky, but refusing to hide behind normal was also a choice.

“It is not freeing. In suicide you obliterate yourself and shackle your loved ones with guilt and grief. There is no freedom in it. There is no peace. How can I free myself by attempting to annihilate myself? How can I free something by destroying it? Chesterton said, “The man who kills a man, kills a man. The man who kills himself, kills all men; as far as he is concerned he wipes out the world.” Where is the freedom in that?”

This is a hard truth about suicide. It’s something that suicide survivors know on a level that others just can’t. I have not myself been a survivor (my suicide attempt was fabricated, I never intended on suicide, therefore I cannot be considered a survivor), but there are lots of different types of survivors. Someone who tried and failed is clearly a survivor, the loved ones in Matt Walsh’s dialogue are survivors, people that are affected deeply that have no real connection to the suicide are survivors. I don’t deny that making that choice can seem freeing. Most of the commentary I read about this part said people don’t need to be reminded of how their actions can affect others when they are already teetering on the edge of suicide. There was an implication that people might choose suicide by thinking of the pain their loved ones would experience, another implication that people shouldn’t be forced to choose between their pain and the pain of their loved ones. This approach is clearly not for everyone, but there is a large subset of mentally ill people for which this approach works. I have been hospitalized 6 times, the most recent in January of 2013, and this is something that every hospital works on with patients. Who will you leave behind if you do what you are talking about? How will they feel? Will they experience financial issues? How do you feel about causing them pain? The answers vary wildly, as expected. Some don’t care, some deny they need help entirely, some are so wracked with grief the hospital has to choose another treatment approach, others, like me, use this approach to save our lives and make the choice to reach out for help. When I approach the breaking point I don’t care about me, suicide wouldn’t be freeing for me. It would be a means for freeing my loved ones of burden. They would no longer need to worry about me, pretend they love me, pay for me to have a roof over my head, the list goes on and on. Then my brain gets rational. Will my husband be able to pay the bills? Where will my cats live? How will my snakes get fed? Will my son have what he needs? This approach is effective and appeals to the little bit of rational thought that sits in all of our brains. Those every day actions of feeding an animal, watering a plant, fixing a car…those are powerful motivators to bring a brain back to reality when it’s spiraling out of control. That is the message I saw in this section of Matt’s post, an having been in treatment both in and out patient for nearly a decade and a half I have seen this method work, and have used this method on both myself and others around me.

“Only we shouldn’t turn the subject into a purely cold, clinical matter. “Chemical imbalances,” people say. “A man is depressed because of his brain chemicals, and for no other reason.” No, we are more than our brains and bigger than our bodies. Depression is a mental affliction, yes, but also spiritual. That isn’t to say that a depressed person is evil or weak, just that his depression is deeper and more profound than a simple matter of disproportioned brain chemicals.”

In his rebuttal Matt mentioned that he was said to have been dismissive of depression. In fact, in this post the author writes “Depression is a mental affliction, yes, but also spiritual,” he says. But no. No, it’s not. Let’s be very clear on this point. CLINICAL DEPRESSION IS A MEDICAL DIAGNOSIS. (Emphasis belongs to the original author.) I disagree that he was being dismissive. I share his belief that mental illness encompasses more than “just” chemical imbalances in the brain. I have read a lot of academic papers that struggle with the idea of nature (chemical imbalances) and nurture (the surrounding environment) and how much they affect mental illness. In one life I could have easily been the lady my mom saw on the bus recently, talking to someone that didn’t exist outside of her mind. In another I could have become a drug addict. In yet another I could have ended up broke, unable to hold a job, full of empty relationships and a family who hates me. All of those scenarios are things I have seen in various therapy groups and in-patient stays, all of them people with my exact diagnosis. What makes me different from them? We have no way to determine if my brain chemistry is different from theirs, science is not there yet. What I do know is their environment was significantly different from mine. The friends they chose made bad choices, they were from homes less supportive than mine, they were not pushed the way I was pushed to graduate, their role models were significantly different than mine. The same friend that has prompted this post sends me information that I have used in my treatment and maintenance programs. She sent me literature on B12 and hallucinations when we learned that my B12 was dangerously low. She shares reguarly literature on healthy relationships and communication. She has been a sounding board when I’ve been ridiculously low and (literally) talked me off of ledges. I strive to succeed like Kay Redfield Jamison, and others I can’t think of right now. My friends and family help me remember that I am capable, and I can live a successful life. Brain chemistry is a huge part of it but there is research now that suggests changing thought patterns can change brain chemistry. There is a reason that cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy are so successful. In mental illness you have to treat the whole being, not just the imbalance. There is a huge push in the medical field to do the same with cancer and other serious illness. Commercials for hospitals that specialize in cancer treatments regularly show patients that are grateful the doctors treated them and not the disease, some even mention how they treated the family and not just the disease. I understand that depression cannot be “fixed” with religion or spirituality, but suggesting that was the intention in the above passage comes from a trigger within the person feeling that way, not from Matt’s written words. What we need to take from the above words is mental illness is bigger than the brain chemistry, it’s bigger than the person experiencing it or their family and immediate support system, right now we need to be waging a community battle for the mentally ill. We need to de-stigmatize, we need to learn acceptance, we need to step beyond our cultural comfort zone and reach out, provide information, remind people that the simple solution is help and hard work, not annihilation and destruction. Great advocates of de-stigmatization are Glenn Close and her sister Jessie.

“We tend to look for the easiest answers. It makes us feel better to say that depression is only a disease and that there is no will and choice in suicide, as if a person who kills themselves is as much a victim as someone who succumbs to leukemia”

While I understand the sentiment here I must respectfully disagree. I do believe suicide is a choice, but it is a choice made by a lack of options. Most who make this choice do not choose lightly, and the disease eats them from the inside out for a long time. That would make this very similar to leukemia. I do consider them a victim, this thought is too complicated for me to put into words effectively, but it boils down to what I said above about the tragedy of suicide and how it robs the person of their ability to rationally choose the alternative of life.

“…in the end, joy is the only thing that defeats depression. No depressed person in the history of the world has ever been in the depths of despair and at the heights of joy at the same time. The two cannot coexist.”

I don’t agree with this. I have experienced exuberance and depression at the same time. In the middle of that it feels like joy and anger and sadness all rolled up into a tiny ball in your heart that you can’t escape or express because no one understands. In the Bipolar world they call it a mixed episode and it is terrifying. I understand that isn’t what he is getting at, but man do those words hit close to home. I don’t think we are all “destined for joy” the way Matt says earlier in his post. That is not the purpose of life. My husband says the purpose of life is passing on genetic data from generation to generation, but that is too scientific for me. I feel life is about making an impact on our surroundings. Sometimes it’s positive, sometimes it’s negative, but we are there to make that impact. We are there to learn and to grow from our actions and others. I think happiness is a ridiculous goal that is not reasonably reached. Humans are constantly striving for that next thing, we will be happy when we have more money, meet the right person, find the right job, win the lottery…the list goes on forever. I strive for being content with what I have. I love my husband and my son, my coworkers are wonderful, my job challenges me and excites me, I want to learn more because of it. This Cracked article talks about comedians and how unhappy they are as a group, with some very specific examples. I honestly believe that while there are happy moments, happiness is like love. Unsustainable for the long term and only truly enjoyed in those short moments. Some people are not destined for happiness, they are destined to make others happy and that is ok. More than ok, it is amazing and wonderful that they can make others happy and that should be celebrated.

Everyone deserves the help they need to find their content life. We absolutely need to wage a community war against stigma that prevents people from reaching out, providing them tools to learn when, how, and who to reach out towards. This is necessary because losing lives like Robin Williams, and my friend’s dad, and my husband’s friend, and my own is a disaster. It is an epidemic, and it needs to stop. This post is mostly for me, and if it’s found in the bowels of the internet where I post I fully expect no support for my opinions, but I needed to write this down, get it out of my head, and allow myself space to prepare for tomorrow’s job interview.

A Return and A Reflection

It’s been months since I’ve updated. Part of this was fear of who might read what I’m writing, part of it was laziness, part of it was how busy I’ve been since beginning work. The last two weeks I’ve worked 50+ hours, I regularly have averaged 45 hours or more since January. Part of that meant I haven’t been checking my twitter, which in turn means I haven’t been up to date on the most recent mental health writings. There have been a few things that have happened recently (most notably the Elliot Rogers debacle) that have been blowing up the blogosphere, I can’t find myself interested enough to write an entire post about the feminism vs. mental health debate there. Most likely because I don’t have any experience with dressing, piercing, or tattooing for anyone but me. My goal is to start blogging again, to read more, to knit more, to bury myself in chemistry again, and to enjoy time with my kid and husband. I feel like those things will make me more balanced again, more myself, and bring back the cheer I’ve been missing lately.

This brings me to the reflection portion of this post. I was asked last week why I bothered to have a kid if I was just going to complain about him all the time. There are a few reasons why this has been happening. First, when I start to feel overwhelmed and like I’m not making any headway in anything I do I ramp up mentally. This is the beginning of a manic state designed to keep myself going until I do make a dent in the things I need to do. Most of the time it doesn’t go anywhere. When I begin the process everything feels like an emergency, nothing is enjoyable, and if I lose my drive to continue the process spirals out of control. Second, after a lot of reflection on this question, it seems rude to always be happy about my life. I have the happiest marriage I have ever seen. We never fight, and really no reason to ever fight. We either always agree on things, can come to a compromise quickly, and truly enjoy being around each other all the time. If I spent all my time with my husband, son, and cats I would always be happy. My son is a great kid. He’s content, smart, very sweet, and full of love, joy and kisses. I’m taking this weekend to indulge myself in some of my passions, relax, remember how amazing my life is, and hang out with my cats and the sweetest kid I know. Next week is a new insanely busy week, and I’m going to try to find my joy in all of it.

This post is a bad idea

These days what keeps me alive is the knowledge my son can’t be left alone during the day. Once my husband comes home he doesn’t allow for those thoughts to continue so I stay free until my dreams. There has been a lot of to do lately over my decision to not feel awful when I go on Facebook. I would say feelings were hurt, but it feels more like they know they are better than me and miss the opportunities to revel in that feeling. I used to tell myself that being paranoid was a silly thing my brain encouraged. Why would anyone bother themselves with talking about me? I’m nowhere near that important. Now I know it wasn’t silly. There are actually people that feel I’m worth enough to keep down in this hole I’ve dug. My damaged brain feels justified and keeps growing with hatred for how I treat people. In July I was told it is my actions that are ripping apart families. In the last few weeks I’ve learned this is true. Many months ago my husband told me my child does need me, the more my brain ruminates on recent events the more I believe he is lying. Who could possibly need someone that treats people the way I treat them?

A few months ago I lost a classmate. In the wake of that tragedy my brain will not release the thought that it should have been me. The cause was something so simple that it could have easily been me. There will be a number of consequences as a result his death, if what I heard is true. There will be warnings, constant reminders of what happened. There will be snap judgments made by people that don’t know a damn thing.

I don’t have a clear train of thought, beyond that the only people who care are the ones that enjoy knowing they’re better than me. It’s nice to know where I stand at least, and my brain loves the continuous flow of degrading thoughts that are now impossible to stop. So there’s that.