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0 Shades of Grey

7 Feb

When I was growing up, my biggest fear was that I would “go crazy” like my aunt, my dad’s sister. I remember hearing that she was schizophrenic which I mistakenly thought meant she had multiple personalities, I knew that she, like my dad, had grown up in an abusive household, my dad had his own demons but he was not abusive. I thought mental illness meant, a lifetime of mental institutions, shock treatments, and existing as little more than a burden to my family.When I reached adulthood without an actual  mental diagnosis, I thought, suck that childhood fears, I’ve got  this in the bag, I’m not crazy. I made it.( In my mind, either I was mentally ill and would live in the darkness or I wasn’t and would live in the light, there was no grey) In mid 2015, I sank to the depths of depression like I never had before, I was contemplating suicide to the point of having a plan. I felt totally overwhelmed by every aspect of my life and I felt like an absolute failure as a mom, as a daughter, as a sister, as a friend and as a human being.  I went to the local psychiatric hospital and told them what I was thinking, during the intake, I thought, this is it, I’ve finally gone crazy, I brought  this on myself, that whole that which you fear the most comes true thing. I deserved this. My life is over, I should just leave and kill myself. Before I had a chance to leave, and while I still had my phone, I sent a couple of texts to people to tell them I would be out of the fray for a few days. They all encouraged me to stay and get help. So I checked myself in and I started inpatient therapy right away. I spoke with several psychiatrists and they started me on Lamictal, a drug used to treat bipolar disorder and within hours, I started to feel shades of grey forming, usually grey is a color associated with dreary or bad things, this time it was a good thing,

I started to feel like, okay, I’m mentally ill, I can learn to live with this, After I was released from the facility, I went to see a therapist and had a group session with several other patients who were in the facility at the same time I was. During the session I told one of the other patients (because I know so much and need to speak instead of the therapist) that he was seeing things very black and white and missing all the shades of grey in the middle. A week later in my individual therapy session, my therapist brought that conversation back up and told me to apply it to a situation I was relaying to her. I was saying that people were either ” all in” or they weren’t  and if they weren’t it was my fault that they weren’t because  I wasn’t good enough or pretty enough and this caused me extreme anxiety, this never being enough thing, but if they were “all in” that wasn’t because of me either, it was because of timing or their own shortcomings, I set myself up in a game I absolutely could not win and I was hurting myself because of it. Once I started to embrace the grey in the middle, that I could be liked because I am wonderful and I am myself,  but they might still not be “all in” and that’s okay.  I abhor when people discuss someone like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and in the middle of talking about all the good things he did, someone chimes in with “but he cheated on his wife”, as if that is first of all our business (unless Coretta Scott King is reading this, it is no business of ours)second of all, like that cancels out all the amazing things he did. I can very clearly see shades of grey when dealing with anybody but myself.  I used big broad strokes to paint myself as a “bad” person. Not as a person who had made some mistakes.

Being comfortable in the grey doesn’t mean being a doormat or being wishy washy, it means seeing the nuances, and listening to and trusting your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, black , white, grey, charcoal, ebony, or eggshell, get out of the situation and don’t feel bad about it

I am mentally ill and to say that doesn’t throw me into an abyss anymore, I have anxiety, I have a lot of coping mechanisms, I will always be a work in progress, I will always need medication and therapy to keep my head above the water and when I visualize myself taking a deep breath in, I still see all the colors of the rainbow but I appreciate the beauty of all the greys.

grey

Middle-aged Woman; Interrupted

18 Oct

you-are-not-your-mental-illness

Most, if not all, of my knowledge of bipolar disorder comes from movies and TV shows, namely, A TV show I watched last year called Black Box, Apparently I’m the only person who watched it because it is no longer on, probably took it off to make room for Snorkeling With the Stars, or some such nonsense, anyway this is not about my disdain for reality television shows, this is about my shocking lack of actual knowledge that was not obtained through television shows and/or movies. In the show ( If you didn’t click the link above, you should) because I’m not going to outline the whole show, just my thoughts on the show and what I gleaned about being bipolar from watching the show. My thoughts were that sure her highs were high and her lows were devastating, but if she didn’t stay on her meds, which she didn’t want to because she felt like they dulled her personality, she got to make out with super hot doctors during her manic highs, and she felt very sexy and fearless ( this didn’t seem so bad to me) this is the only thing I thought bipolar disorder was, they showed a little of the lows, but she lived through them and I was no stranger to depression, especially post- stroke,As I say in my set I got through it with a handful of benzos and a fistful of lunchmeat and the movie Pacific Rim on repeat, I didn’t realize how low a manic low could be, I also learned about bipolar disorder by watching the movie The Silver Linings Playbook, I even wrote a blog post about my love for that movie and the foresight in that post is insane. This is all leading up to my own recent diagnosis of bipolar 2 disorder, rapid onset,which I never knew even existed.

This past week. I was laid off from a job it had taken months to find, I had the job for two months and I liked it, and was feeling like I was getting my mojo back as far as comedy and being a decent, present mom again, my personal, dating life was non-existent but I had gotten so used to that it was a non-issue. that lay off, and some other things I over thought to the point of constant anxiety, both of which should have been small blips on the radar of my life, turned into reasons to actually plan ending my life. I Googled all of the pills I had in my house and according to Yahoo answers,even my pills were failures and I didn’t have enough of what I needed to actually do me in, and I had no money to go buy sleeping pills and I didn’t want my children to find my body (somehow this was worse in my mind than them not having a mom at all for the rest of their lives). I thought I could go out in my neighborhood, maybe my neighbor’s yard and die there (that’ll teach you to steal my fucking lemons from the lemon tree in my yard) but then the thought of being peed on by dogs, grossed me out and I decided then that I needed to not be alone so I called my friend Cara and she came over bearing ice cream for me and alcohol for her, I told her of all my plans and said I would call my psychologist tomorrow but if I was honest they would commit me for having a plan. Tomorrow came and I called and he said “skip coming here at all go right to the Psychiatric Hospital” and I did and they asked me to voluntarily sign in which I decided to do, the psych hospital happens to be connected to the rehab hospital where I spent several weeks right after my stroke, I bring this up because the first day I was there the tech from the rehab side who had tested my INR (coumadin level), came to test my INR on the psych side, he said ” so how have you been?” and I said “I’m in a psych hospital, so what do you think?” he said “there’s no shame in that your life has gone through a major strain just after the stroke alone, whatever brought you here means you were living it and that’s a good thing” ” living it as an absolute failure” then I had to go in for an initial evaluation with the staff psychologists. Immediately I started to cry as they asked me about my past, especially careless and impulsive actions with no thoughts of consequences….umm…that’s kind of been my “thing” my whole life, I fly by the seat of my pants, it’s part of being creative, right? I won’t go into detail but I’m very lucky I didn’t end up a Lifetime movie of the week, they asked about manic episodes of staying up all night with scattered thoughts, that’s creativity too, right? I would do that and write(some people clean) not this girl, sadly. those things coupled with my extreme depression and suicidal thoughts over admittedly minor things, and my super high score on the depression test detailing my feelings of being a worthless failure and awful person in general, the doctors mentioned bipolar 2 as a diagnosis, but didn’t officially give me that diagnosis that day but many days after several more meetings with psychologists and group therapy sessions, and mentioned starting me on a mood stabilizer called Lamictal and staying at the hospital for a few days, by this time I resigned myself to it and said sure, I walked into the common room with all the other patients and was struck by the range of ages, Living in a college town, I was expecting mostly college age people but this mental health shit didn’t discriminate, there were college aged people all the way up to a 90-year-old. I plopped down in a huge blue chair and sat there so much, they started referring to it as “Amy’s chair”, I quickly learned that this was very different from the rehab side, and almost the exact opposite in the sense that we were constantly busy with therapies over there to the point of exhaustion, here we had  group, psychologist meetings, and food every two hours and a library cart where I chose a novel called “Catching Genius” that I read in one day. I looked around that first day and couldn’t find a thing that I could use to kill myself (which I’m sure is by design), but we did have DVD’s in the common room and I thought I could break one of those and slice open my wrist if I needed to but I wanted the movie to be something funny, like Die Hard, death by Die Hard struck me as amusing,Luckily we didn’t have the movie Die Hard, I got my first dose of Lamictal and within hours I was feeling a bit better, I was on suicide watch still so every 15 minutes, I had to talk to a nurse and tell them how I was feeling, I guess I wasn’t progressing as fast as they wanted so they raised my dosage. Quickly, we became comrades in this place together, some like me were there voluntarily, but most had been baker acted and were planning to make things as difficult as possible for not only the staff but themselves. One night there was a coup over the tv and one of the patients who referred to himself as “the court jester” took a vote (written on the back of a coloring sheet written in crayon) but he soon found that the techs intervened after he got unruly because he wanted to watch football and when he couldn’t he wrote 1-900- abuse (in crayon again) and slipped it under the door to the always locked nurses station. they did not find that amusing in the least. It was 8:30 but I went to bed at this time. I heard the next morning over breakfast that “the court jester” had a full-blown fit and called his mom and a lawyer. he was mad at all of us for several days. After I finished my book I passed the time playing cards and coloring, I colored a Halloween picture of a minion that said ” Going Batty”, I found that delightful but this just cemented my knowledge that I am a horrible artist.There weren’t many DVD’s or tapes to watch but there was the Blue Collar Comedy Tour but I made it clear that if forced to watch that I would become homicidal (I chose my words carefully because had I said suicidal, I wouldn’t have been out in 3 days, they would have made me stay longer) There were some beautiful things to be found in this harsh environment, however, we were allowed to go outside in the courtyard if accompanied by a staff member, someone had written in chalk “not all those who wander are lost”by J.R.R. Tolkien, one of my dear late friend Brett’s favorite authors, someone also drew a kick-ass picture of a giraffe that made me happy. In group we had to write a plan for our after care for trigger events to prevent a relapse or what to do if we do relapse. I realized while writing my plan that I have a HUGE support system in friends and family and I can live with this bipolar 2, and most importantly, I want to live. I’ll forever be under the care of psychologists, therapists, psychiatrists, but all of these people want me to succeed (whatever that looks like).

I think it’s extremely important to find what works for you, I’ve seen the meme about just taking a walk in the woods when you’re depressed and not needing to take any meds (brought to you by Tom Cruise I presume) I can tell you if I had taken a walk in the woods the day I checked in, I would have found the sharpest stick I could have and plunged it into my chest, pharmaceuticals and extensive therapy is what I needed. find what you need and if you are feeling worthless and un- loveable like I was, take a chance on yourself and get some help. Speak kindly to yourself, be your own advocate. You’re worth it and let’s lift the stigma surrounding mental illness, let’s talk about it.

1 (800) 273-8255

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Hours: 24 hours, 7 days a week
Languages: English, Spanish

The Wisdom of a Broken Heart. Again.

10 Dec

Love is never lost. If not reciprocated, it will flow back and soften and purify the heart.

Washington Irving

There are probably a few things you’ve learned about me from the last few posts

1) I write when I’m processing emotions
2) I have a lot of emotions to process right now
3) I’m an Aquarius

The first and second are the most important, though if you’re into astrology then maybe the third will give you some insight into the first two.  You may be asking yourself “why the hell doesn’t this girl invest in a diary and stop hitting publish on every damn thought that enters her head?” To that, gentle reader, I say this IS my diary. I have always written, always poured my heart out via my fingertips.

I thought about not publishing this series of miserable posts but after the first one I received so many comments from people who could relate that I thought I would continue. Also, I’m a total hippie bullshit freak and feel like if I can write about what’s in my head, it will help me to process these feelings and send them out into the universe. I know, right? Trust me, half of me is making fun of the other half just for typing that.

I have read a lot about shame and guilt and how those particular feelings can color our entire perception of ourselves. I have first-hand experience with both shame and guilt.  Without going into a lot of detail in this particular post, I branded myself with a giant scarlet A,  and made sure that nobody could hate me more than I hated myself, for years.

After I spectacularly drove my marriage into a ditch, I kept myself in a painful jail of guilt for many years.  I stayed in a relationship that was less of a relationship and more me trying my damndest to be the exception to the rule and trying to “fix” someone.   I stayed put either actively engaging in fix-mode or beating myself up for actively engaging in it. It was a no-win situation for my psyche, and I did it to myself. Cue the shame and guilt.

Guilt is deadly. Even now, I have a hard time accepting the choice I made to cut someone, the someone who these recent posts have been about, out of my life because after he told me that he didn’t have the capacity to care about me the way I cared about him, it just wasn’t good for me to be in contact with him anymore. It wasn’t healthy for me, and I absolutely hated the emotional wreck that I had become.  When he told me towards the end to let him know if I needed anything, my retort was “I need everything. That’s the problem I think”. Everything meant exclusivity.  And he couldn’t do it.

I have written about one of my favorite books called The Wisdom of a Broken Heart, by Susan Piver, and how it has taught me to give my feelings validity, and how not to be stuck in a cycle of guilt, or to be afraid of my feelings. I also learned how to just be still with my emotions, and ask myself what is happening to cause me anxiety. Once I realized that I was truly experiencing anxiety attacks waiting for him to tell me he was dating someone else, I had to be calm, and let go, and write 10,000 blog posts about my feelings, rather than stay engaged and inadvertently make him feel bad just for feeling the way I did, and make myself feel bad because of the way he didn’t.

So I stopped, because every single time I talked to him I thought surely it was the time when he would realize how amazing I was. It was killing me. And it hurt. And if I could figure out how to still talk to him and not feel like I was constantly being rejected, I would, but I don’t know how to do that.

I know this is not where I live. I’m sad. I’m hurt. I miss him every day. I’m a little angry. I’m Taylor fucking Swift.  However, this is not where I choose to reside. So now I’m working on telling myself that it is not a bad thing to do something that is right for me, even though it is so hard and it hurts. And I realize that even after all the work I did to pull myself up out of the jail of self-hatred and guilt that I had put myself in for years, the jail is still just right there, waiting. It’s up to me to keep walking by. I sentenced myself. I can pardon myself too.

heart

Next Stop, the World

30 Sep

world

 

Well, I did it. Thanks to my efforts,  Marissa Alexander will be receiving a new trial.  Next, I’ll work on getting the mandatory minimums reformed so that nobody has to deal with what she did ever again, then I’ll move on to solve the problem of homelessness, then world hunger, then I’ll grab my Nobel Peace Prize, write my memoirs, and retire to Greece.

In all seriousness, this news is sanfrantastic and I am thrilled.  I REALLY hope that the State of Florida gets it right this time. What would be even BETTER is if the State chose to drop all charges. The state has until October 16 to re-file the charges against her and now the push is on to convince them to do just that BUT, if you know anything about Florida at all, you might know a little something about Angela Corey, the state attorney. This woman is the gift that keeps on giving.  I could make a joke about her being born on Halloween, a day that is tied closely to horror, but I am a lady dammit, and won’t stoop to such things. Plus, I love Halloween and don’t want to sully it by tying her to one of my favorite days.

If I’m mincing my words here, let me be clear. I do not like Angela Corey.  I feel that she is overzealous and has a personal agenda that I can only assume includes higher political aspirations. I don’t want to get into the Zimmerman thing, but her handling of that case is being called into question on many levels.

BUT HEY, I have not come to bash Angela Corey, I am here to celebrate what is essentially good news regarding Marissa Alexander! This is from a press release sent out by Marissa’s lawyers the day the new trial was announced, September 26, 2013 –

Marissa was informed of the reversal of her conviction early this afternoon. Marissa expressed her gratitude for today’s decision as well as her continued confidence in the judicial system’s ability to correct mistakes. Marissa also wanted to thank those who have offered their support and prayers during her incarceration. Finally, Marissa expressed her desire to be back with her children and family.

THIS amazes me. Every time I have corresponded with Marissa, I am struck by how she never lost faith in the system. I cannot imagine I would feel the same. I have lost faith in just about everything, as we sit on the cusp of our government grinding to a halt because of stubbornness and the inability to compromise and as Dr. Phil would say “a bunch of RIGHT FIGHTERS”.

I am happy to be a part of something greater than myself, and thrilled that as one person on the Free Marissa Alexander Facebook page said “a lot of tiny raindrops make up a great thunderstorm”. Proud to be a part of the thunderstorm. It gives me much-needed hope.

marrissa-alexander

Hopelessly Falling in Love With Fictional Characters Since 1979

1 Jul

AMC's "Mad Men" Season 4 Premiere - ArrivalsI have watched the AMC show, Mad Men, since it aired six years ago. In that time, my feelings towards Jon Hamm’s character, Don Draper, have changed from almost idolatry to an uncomfortable truce with the person I now know he is. I used to find him rakish and charming, but now I find his cavalier attitude towards everyone and everything maddening.

He has demons. I get it. The creator of the show, Matthew Weiner, has shown us through flashbacks that he is haunted by his childhood. He grew up in a whorehouse and was witness to women being treated like, well, like whores. Don Draper is not even really who he is, name, credentials, and otherwise (girl, there is so much more, but just watch the show).  Because of the fact that he just won’t deal with his childhood, he hates himself, he drinks too much, he smokes too much, he makes reckless personal choices, and he has severe intimacy issues. He relates to women either as playthings to control or as arm candy that exists only for his pleasure.

I once wrote a letter to Don Draper (just in case you need any further proof that I am crazy) and this line “your choices are causing you to leave an indelible mark on everyone around you and at this point, if I stay involved with you, I will be the one to blame for the blackness you have left on me” stands out because, yes, I wrote the letter to the character Don Draper (and I’m not TOTALLY crazy, it was to be the blog post that turned into this), I was actually addressing someone from my past who reminds me very much of the character Don Draper.

I have always fallen in love with literary characters. Gilbert Blythe broke my heart right along with Anne Shirley back when I read Anne of Green Gables. Most recently, I ached for Naoko and Toru of Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood. I look for bits and pieces of myself or people I have known in these characters that entrance me so. Sometimes it is easier to make sense of a past hurt or situation when seeing it through the eyes of someone else.

Recently, I watched the movie The Silver Linings Playbook, based on the novel of the same name by Matthew Quick. The book has been on my list of books to read for a while so when my friend Chelsea loaned me the movie I thought I would give it a shot.

I have never been one to go crazy over Bradley Cooper. I think we all know that my favorite cast member from The Hangover is Zach Galifianakis.  However, I was crazy silver liningsabout Bradley Cooper in this movie, and joked that of course I was because he was playing a bipolar man who’d had his heart shattered and that I was drawn to him for those reasons. Maybe , maybe not, but I truly was enthralled by him in this movie.

The true love affair for me,  however,  happened as I continued to watch the movie and I got to know Jennifer Lawrence’s character Tiffany, who plays Cooper’s dancing partner and love interest, eventually. This character was mesmerizing, and Lawrence, who was 21 years old when she made the movie, deserved the Oscar for best actress that she won this year. Let’s give her Gwyneth Paltrow’s Oscar that she won for Shakespeare in Love back in 1998 too because Jennifer Lawrence deserves two and Gwyneth doesn’t deserve any (and I love The Royal Tenenbaums as much as the next guy, but no. Sorry). Marissa Tomei, my dear departed dad’s love for you has kept your Oscar safe. For now.

I think this line encompasses why I love Tiffany so much –

“I was a slut. There will always be a part of me that is dirty and sloppy, but I like that, just like all the other parts of myself. I can forgive. Can you say the same for yourself, fucker? Can you forgive? Are you capable of that?”

The fact that her character made some choices that she wasn’t very proud of and she didn’t deny the fact that she made those choices and she didn’t blame anyone else, and she forgave herself, and embraced her “dirty and sloppy”, is an amazingly beautiful thing.

I am introspective, sometimes to a fault. I have tumbled choices around in my head to see them from every angle to try to figure out why I have done some things I have done. I have practically turned beating myself up for those choices into an art form when it became painfully evident that they were mistakes. I do this to hopefully try to learn and become a more evolved, better person. I’ll be honest, it can be exhausting and there are times I wish I was much more like someone who could package the ugly and the dirty and the sloppy into a pretty box and shove it way into the back of my mind and go on with my life, BUT, when I think that might be the way to live, I am reminded of Don Draper, the man who does just that, and the ugly that has permeated every square inch of his life because of it.

I won’t give up on Don Draper (the character), or Mad Men. I also won’t give up on myself.

“If you show someone the sun in your bones and they reject you, you must remember, they hurt themselves this very same way.”

nayyirah waheed

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