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Embrace yourself, now

17 Aug

I’ve performed stand up comedy in my underwear twice,thanks to Joe Pettis and his underwear comedy party well,  once in boxers and a tank top, once in underwear, more like lingerie with a long sweater over it to cover the back, my ass was totally exposed (I LOVE my ass, but that was a bridge too far even for me). Both times were very fun and plan on doing it again next time it makes its way back around. What’s interesting to me is how many times I was told I was “brave” to do this show. Both before and after my sets. I found that word fascinating. Unfortunately I only taped my first set, not the most recent one from last year. I addressed this in the opening of both of my sets, in the link above I briefly talk about how this was just my body, my body has served me well, I’ve had two kids, and countless pizzas inside this body and this is it, it’s just my body, In my second set, I referenced being told I was “brave” again and said, I’m not rescuing kittens from a burning building, I’m just brazen enough to be okay with my body  as it is. I will admit there is a certain amount of chutzpah involved with being a woman of a certain size standing on stage trying to make people laugh, while wearing clothing that is underwear-like. But in all honesty, anyone standing on stage in general trying to make people laugh is pretty damn ballsy. My first underwear set was done about a month before my stroke, my second one, about a year after my stroke.  I was pleased with both sets. Do I think anything I did in my underwear has been brave, the second set more than the first,if I had to choose because post-stroke, I had a lot more issues to deal with (memory mainly) , and the road back to the stage was fraught with heartache and hardship. I don’t remember one person commenting how brave I was regarding my stroke after that set, but I did get the other comments  about my body. Does this mean Gainesville comedy fans are insensitive jerks? Maybe,  but probably not. I think it’s more that we’ve been socialized as a society to think to dare to live as a fat woman and be relatively okay with that is “brave”.

 

Several of my friends shared this Embrace official trailer on Facebook, and when I saw it, I shared it too. I got goosebumps when I first saw it, and read the heartfelt description about why it’s important for it to be seen in its entirety by as many people as possible, girls, women, men, boys, all different ages, nationalities, sizes, etc, society in general. I think what I took away from it besides the obvious junk we throw at people in this country regarding “ideal bodies”, is the importance of living in your body right now, emphasis on live. We have one life, this is it. I remember having a conversation with some past coworkers who were talking about not liking themselves in bathing suits, these women were moms. I told them “get over your weird feelings about your bodies, put on a bathing suit and go to the beach with your kids”. They weren’t very pleased with me.I lost 36 lbs. after my stroke, I worked really hard,  was hungry all the time, but I did it. My blood pressure didn’t drop one point, I didn’t magically feel better, I felt hungry. I gained what I lost and more back in a few months. I know, lifestyle change not diet is the key. I think if you followed me around you would be surprised that my diet is not bad or excessive. I don’t eat a lot. I don’t usually have chips, sodas or sweets in the house….I’m justifying my diet on my body positive blog…it doesn’t matter what or how I choose to eat, this is my body. I’m going to  embrace it and live my life now, inside this body. After I gained the weight back, I realized I was even more comfortable with my body than I had been before the stroke. I think maybe because I had fought back from stroke to get myself back to work and and back to my passion for comedy, and the fact that I fight my mental illness demons daily and will for my whole life, that it instilled a huge dose of IDGAF (I don’t give a fuck) in my psyche.

amy stage

This picture is from a comedy set I did last night(I promise the audience had more fun than it appears in this picture), pre-stroke, I NEVER would have worn a dress showing my arms like this . Last night I wore it because I felt like I looked pretty in it, it came in my size, it was cool (It’s 10,000 degrees here), so I said fuck it, and I spent the $11.00 to buy it, I stumbled across it when I went to get dog food quickly after work. I don’t care what I SHOULD wear according to whoever dictates those things. I also routinely wear leggings as pants because I’m a grown-ass woman who can do as she pleases. I can put them on my head and call them a hat if I want. Those snarky little memes showing (always a fat woman) wearing something deemed “socially unacceptable” with the oh so clever “advice” Just because something comes in your size doesn’t mean you should wear it. To that I say, if I want to wear it, it shall be worn.

I think getting attitudes to change about how fat people are perceived and sometimes shamed for being fat, won’t be an easy one. I think some misguided people think fat = unhealthy , but studies  have shown that to not necessarily be the case. My stroke was caused by a congenital heart defect and me being a dumbass and not taking my blood thinner regularly. We all have a comfort zone for how we feel most comfortable with how we look, if how you think I should look isn’t how I look, I don’t care,  get out of my bubble. You worry about you. Furthermore, I don’t know one person, fat or otherwise who would be appreciative of some stranger,under the guise of “being concerned about  their health” either fat or thin shaming  someone by telling them they need to lose or gain  weight. You cannot look at someone and magically assess their health based on outward appearance.   I think acceptance is very important, I want children to grow up with the realization that they are beautiful, special beings,inside and out. I want that for everyone beyond what their bodies look like, or what color their skin is, or how they identify themselves, or who they love, etc. I just want kindness. I don’t think that’s a tall order for humanity.

I will continue to be a bad ass/fat ass and stand on a stage wearing what I want, while getting people to both laugh and think about talking openly about mental illness and if simply doing that is perceived as “bravery” I can’t imagine that’s a bad thing.

As for me, I Burn All of the Purple Incense; Moving on after a Bipolar Hyper Sexual Manic Phase

29 Jun

One of the best things about being diagnosed with bipolar disorder relatively late in life is that I’ve had a chance to ruin as many lives as possible with my un-medicated craziness. That’s a joke, I am, however, writing this after a hyper-sexual episode. If that term freaks you out, get over it, it’s a real thing and this post explains it better than I could. Sadly, hyper sexual behavior is one of my symptoms. I’ve also done the spend copious amounts of money thing. I have heard that some people experience high levels of energy and will, for instance, clean their house all night long. Not once have I had that desire, though I’ve stayed up writing or engaging in unhealthy activities.

http://www.everydayhealth.com/bipolar-disorder/bipolar-disorder-and-sex.aspx

I won’t go into details but, I am fortunate yet again to not be dead at this point. I’m learning about my triggers and how to identify when I’m slipping into risky behavior, part of my recovery plan involves telling those closest to me that when I  giddily talk to them about some stupid guy (whether I’ve known him for half my life or not), if I start to romanticize him, ask me “could you be having a manic episode right now?” I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ve asked one of my closest friends, and two exes (who are now my friends) to do this the next time I get starry-eyed and stupid over some a-hole who is unhappily married or just unhappy and is possibly struggling with his own bullshit.As embarrassing as that is,  I’ve learned 10 minutes of feeling good is not worth days and days of me hating myself for poorly controlling my impulses during a manic phase.

Here’s the thing, I know right now, I can’t have a romantic relationship of any substance because I’m not emotionally healthy enough. I have liked a couple of people enough to effectively push them far far away from me because I liked them too much to subject them to the horrors of a relationship with me. Right now I couldn’t guarantee fidelity, emotional or physical. I also know, that’s not the end of the world. I’ve been holding on to purple lavender incense to burn the next new moon (because I’m a straight up witch at this point…not really)to bring love into my life…but never mind…I burned it last night (and unlike in the sage burning incident, I did NOT light myself on fire at any point.) I’m surrounded by love all of the time.

Five factors  got me through last night when I was at the height of feeling worthless, my boys (and not wanting to miss out on the fantastic people they are now and are becoming), honestly not falling into the pits of despair and thinking they would be better off without me is a HUGE improvement, my sister who broke things down for me and made me realize this thing,while most definitely qualified as self-destructive behavior did not make me a BAD person, my lifelong friend Dawn whom I haven’t seen in ages and the fifth factor is the movie Jaws that my friend Dawn and I are going to see Friday. I have more than a small obsession with sharks in general, I wrote a post about my thing for sharks. Yes, I Do Have a Shark Tattoo on my Butt. That’s a lot of love for one person, and that’s just the 5 I thought of first. bipolar

I know sometimes this blog seems like if you read it backwards it’s the story of a relatively happy, flawesome woman who slowly descends into madness. I don’t mean for it to sound dramatic, I just feel like sharing and in my case over sharing all of the pitfalls of mental illness is the only way to bring it out of the dark. This is the story of a woman learning how to navigate the sometimes choppy waters of life and adjusting her sails accordingly (and the story of a woman with a true love for sappy metaphors.)

The Curse of Introspection, My Bipolar World

12 May

I’ve used the term “comfortable in my skin” so often, it’s become a running joke with me (and probably only me)  and I’m thinking of expounding on it a little and adding it to my set as part of my online dating bit, because I put it in every online dating profile I’ve ever had, to me it’s another way of saying “I’m fatter in person and I don’t give a fuck, I’m okay with it”. I struggle with accepting myself but that does not equate to me hating my outward appearance, even though, as a “great big fat person”

 

 I feel like society tells me I SHOULD. 98% of the time I think I’m adorable on the outside, mom jeans and all. I started this post with  Prince in mind, because I am legitimately sad that he is no longer with us. He seemed to me (his public persona anyway) to be someone who was infinitely “comfortable in his skin” because he seemed to just be himself, no matter what that looked like, from paisley suits to Afros, the man morphed from one fabulous creature to the next and though Madonna has done the same thing Prince always seemed like this was just who he was, Madonna always seems like she is wearing a costume, whereas Prince seemed to be totally himself through and through. Like I said maybe this wasn’t really the case, maybe he threw himself into a panic over who he should be at any given moment. Also, I had a pink and green paisley suit (pants and jacket) that my mom gave me for Christmas when I was 16 or 17 and I wore the HELL out of that thing and looked magnificent.

As I am prone to do, this post became less about Prince and more about trying to embrace the parts of myself that I don’t like and if not loving them then at least accepting them.As I mentioned just a few sentences up, I’m pretty okay with my exterior. I have a hard time making peace with my interior, I’m not sure how people with bipolar disorder LOVE living in a world that includes simultaneously feeling all of the feelings and hating myself for feeling all of the feelings, becoming drawn into the minutiae of almost every issue in my life, figuring out what my”triggers” (events that may possibly contribute to, in my case, a quick descent into major depression) are and realizing I needed to remove both the Facebook and Twitter apps from my phone for my own emotional well-being, even though I enjoyed both of those things, it’s too easy to pop onto either one and poke around and  remind myself how horrible I am because everybody else in the world seemingly has this life thing on lock and I can’t do anything without either becoming mildly depressed, on a good day, or suicidal, on a bad one (and there are bad ones still, though not as many as there were before starting medication). Becoming obsessed with people who want anything but for me to be obsessed with them, knowing I become overwhelmed very easily and needing to get 8 hours of sleep or I will become especially overwhelmed and possibly not be able to even function.

The above is my bipolar life, I understand it’s different for everybody. I’m not disclosing all of this because I want to make myself out to be a victim. I just do not know how to begin to wrap my head and arms around all of this and love it. The curse of being painfully introspective is that I know,  sure, I’m hard to deal with sometimes, but the payoff is nothing special, so there’s that.

ridiculous

I am fortunate that I have a huge support system, though I feel guilty about that, guilt, the gift that I wish would die in a fire, I seem to carry a piece of it with me everywhere for a myriad of reasons. Just know that if you become my friend, at some point you will have to talk me down off a metaphorical, if not literal ledge. I’m afraid that people will get sick of that pretty quickly, but on the other hand, I couldn’t blame them if they did. I annoy the hell out of myself.

MAN, I can brighten up a blog quickly. I’m reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown and so far, I’m really liking it. I always thought that I was fine with being imperfect, but I think I just meant my exterior. My interior imperfections are on a whole other level and that level is the 200th floor where snakes and clowns are sold(my version of hell).

imperfection

I hope soon to write about my return to comedy and accepting myself for the messed up but desperately trying to be less messed up person that I am. ALSO, I really wish I still had that paisley suit.

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.

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J. A. Allen

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