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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

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J. A. Allen

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