Sunday, March 13, 2016

On the road again

I work in a bike shop again. I can't tell you how monumental this is for me. This isn't merely a retail job where I do my time and collect a paycheck. This isn't just a great job because I get to be around bikes and get a discount. This is a big deal because I get to see who I really am in a setting I once enjoyed, even when my life was miserable.

I'm 5 weeks in and each day was pretty thrilling as far as a learning experience. I've learned that my anxiety level is low, not at a 0, but at a completely manageable level. I don't feel like I use to, I don't approach people the way I use to, I don't see things the way I use to. It's like a heavy burden has been lifted and I just get to be myself. It's a magical fucking thing. I get to act and feel as myself, which is something I didn't quite have before. I live, exist, talk, and act as the person who was always hiding inside wanted to. I get to be me.

People respond to me entirely different. This has to be the craziest and most unexpected part of the whole experience. I use to think it was the hair and makeup that would put people off but that might have only been a small part of it. I'm still covered in tattoos and have fake eyebrows but no one seems even slightly aware. I have little old ladies that are 2 generations of standards behind today come in and take to me right away. They walk in pretty much warmed up to me the minute I greet them. They laugh at my jokes and have a great time while we talk bike baskets and water bottle cages, not once looking at my physical appearance (I'm still not 100% conventional looking, even if it's almost night and day from before). I have middle aged businessmen (they would always look at me the strangest in my prior bike shop job) talk to me without any sceptical side glances or judgement in their voices.

They're responding to the person. Me. The real me.

There must be complete difference in my expressions and body language that I can't personally observe. I *feel* different, even though it's more of not being different but having the layers of struggle peeled away. I spent 3.5 years in a shop before, and even though the shops are different, there's still the same elements involved when talking to customers.

Feels good. Feels really good.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Don't Care

The inevitable winter depression has set in. The confirmation came as I was riding trails a couple weeks ago and realized I was miserable doing so, which is not how riding usually goes. Those two wheels are kind of my "other medicine" so being miserable during something you love pretty much kills your enthusiasm for everything else.

I've been doing all of the activities I love but have been receiving no psychological reward. My happy chemicals are on vacation. The usual climbing, riding, P90X, painting, comedy skits, and other dopamine producing activities have become tasks that I wade through. I still do them because if I'm not going to care about anything and feel empty, I'd rather do it 40 feet up in the air, or on a bike with the wind blowing in my face, or creating things to make people laugh.

Last year it was "The Nothing" as I called it, this year it's the "I don't care." Everyday is one big shoulder shrug.

I switched up my paintings to include much brighter subject matter (a depressed person wanting to paint brighter subject matter, I have no reasonable explanation for this). I started to paint scenes of the riders from the UCI World Championships that came through Richmond last September (best week ever by the way). I did feel excitement when I finally started moving in this direction as cycling is what I want to dedicate my craft to. But as I work on these paintings and make progress with my skills that are quite remarkable for someone who's been painting for only 3 years (more about impressing myself that others), I just don't really care. It's not that I don't feel anything, it's just that I don't give a shit and kind of abandon emotions as they come up. It's the same feeling I get when someone takes 5 painstaking minutes out of my life to explain a dream they had- At first I like the wackiness of it all and then it turns into me wishing they would hurry up and finish.

It could be a 65 degree winter day with the sun out and not a cloud in the sky. I'm cruising on a smooth windless single speed ride through the city, friendly people out that say hi or wave, just a perfect winter ride. Almost like the setup of a Disney movie and I'm waiting for the birds to fly with me and start singing.

Don't care. Don't care about any of it. The sun can go fuck itself and the weather just registers as an adjustment in my clothing. No leg warmers and no fucks given about any part of the day. Don't care about the birds, would probably smack them for shitting on my car all the time.

It could be a 6 day climbing streak, my arms feeling great as I clear harder routes than normal, work through some tough spots that I couldn't figure out before, and what feels like getting over my fear of heights.

Don't care. The personal accomplishments mean nothing to me. The heights don't even bother me, which they usually do. Even the natural responses in my body can't be bothered. The fight or flight reflex in my brain doesn't care.

I've lost almost all of my social restraint. I'm not trying to be mean but my sense of humor is getting caught up in my speech and it ends up coming across as pretty nasty. "Hey, what do you think of my shirt?" Me: "I think you should have cut holes in a trash bag and slammed that over your annoying head."

Despite the depression I'm able to keep the house clean and stay on top of chores, which is pretty crazy considering how depression works. The house looks fantastic, especially after all the painting and improvements made to it during last summer. And yet I don't care. Each room is as useless in having an effect on my emotions as the other. But I stick with it because letting those things go will turn not caring into apathy.

Most of what I do on autopilot is to make sure the depression doesn't get worse, even if none of it makes me feel better.

I'm not apathetic, I'm just not impressed or entertained by anything. The connection is made but then given up on. I'm trudging through everyday without wanting to do any of the work or activities I'm doing but also can't think of anything else I rather be doing. That's kind of a shitty feeling to walk around with.

No sadness, I don't care enough right now to be sad about anything.

I make sure I keep going through the motions because like I said, if I'm going to be miserable I rather do it going through the woods on a bike or 40 feet up on a climbing wall. Staring at the walls in my house will probably turn the not caring into apathy which will turn into sadness, which will toss me into "The Nothing" phase and I don't want that. I rather accept the depression and stall it from descending to the next level if I can.

Thanks for reading!!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Searching for Fantasia

The seasonal depression is starting to set in. The last post I made was when I was finally able to start riding again after a 2 month break due to a bad ankle sprain, and I got 3 rides in that week. That weekend I ended up catching the flu and that has resulted in another 2+ weeks off.

Riding is all I'm able to do while my ankle is still technically healing as it is a low impact activity. My choice in activities are currently limited to only cycling- no climbing, running, or my at home strength training workouts, and after 2 more weeks of immobility, I've cracked.

I had high hopes this winter of avoiding depression. Last year's episode was hard to shake but I trudged through it thanks to the above mentioned activities. 2014 had me in much better circumstances and during the fall I came up with a great plan to keep the momentum going and get through this winter with minimal, if any, depression. Or at least that was the plan before my injury.

Depression has many forms, the common ones are overwhelming sadness and what I like to call "the nothing." I stole that from The Neverending Story, a movie I watched way too many times as a child. In the movie it is a huge storm that is a negation of existence that swallows up everything in its path, it's described as "human apathy, cynicism, and the denial of childish dreams." My depression usually ventures on the side of the nothing and very rarely is a long bout of sadness.

I don't feel a drive or motivation, it has kind of dried up or dissolved without me really being able to do much about it. Today I was going to ride but after checking the weather yesterday they said it was going to be a high of 44 degrees and raining all day. I woke up today to a sunny 49 degrees but something inside of me just closed the front door and decided to give up anyway. The Nothing has taken over.

Depression will make any and all tasks seem too daunting and not worth the effort. I don't want to get my bike and winter clothing ready, it just seems like too much work even though it's not. I've been doing this for so many years that gearing up for winter riding isn't that big of a deal, even though my brain is saying otherwise. I just don't have the energy for anything.

I've mentioned many times in this blog that these athletic endeavors are more than just hobbies, this post is not about a woman crying over not being able to go outside and play. They are "the nothing" prevention, they provide a sense of accomplishment, and they produce wonderful batches endorphins, life's natural depression fighters. I use them to regulate myself and now it's just more waiting while my moods deteriorate. The self deprecating thoughts set in and the want to get out of bed each day just withers away.

I'm not sad and I don't feel bad about anything. I just feel nothing. I don't care if I'm eating toast or winning the lottery, I just simply couldn't care less about where I'm at or what I'm doing.

The lack of sunlight each day gets to me as well. I have a very small window of riding time due to being a night owl by default and working at night. Bipolar people naturally have a "broken" circadian rhythm, we are almost always night people. It's a biological part of the disorder, not a result of bad habits or lack of discipline.

Part of self management is a strict sleep schedule- I have to be in bed at the same time each night as well as awake at the same time each day, combine this with an already faulty internal clock and you have someone who could wake up at 8am every day but their brain functions won't actually wake up until 2pm and end up twice as tired each day. Messing with sleep is the number two cause of mood swings. I will break this schedule every once in a while to go to sleep early for a morning group ride, but being off the bike for 2 months has set me back to the point where I can't do the rides I want, I'm not that strong anymore. That's currently one of the largest negative thought cycles I get into, if my brain decides to "feel" anything.

So my plan of action is to suck it up and try again tomorrow. I will get my bike and gear ready today so it will be easier for me to slip out the door and ignore what my body and mind are trying so hard to prevent me from doing. "Whether I feel like it or not" can't be an excuse I live off of for long- that will ensure that this depression won't clear up by spring time or any time soon. For today I'm going to play video games (something I don't do often) and try to keep my head above water.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, December 29, 2014


This is my newest painting. It speaks from my soul and represents my inner being. Just kidding, I'm not that deep. But I have been painting this for the past hour because of a mixed episode. Some bipolar sufferers will go off their meds even though they know better, it just happens with some people. I'm not one of those types but I do have my own mental block as far as self care is concerned. I keep testing the waters with my gluten allergy. I know better but something inside of my brain still doesn't believe how sensitive my body really is to the stuff.

I ate something yesterday that was only minorly contaminated, as in it has to be such a small amount that I considered it probably ok. I know I shouldn't risk it and the best thing I can do is avoid anything that even remotely has a possibility of contamination. Well, I fucked that up again. With instances like these, it's like my brain can't accept that a food substance, no matter how small or large the amount, will actually set off bipolar mood swings. But just like every other time I've ignore it, I end up like I am right now.

I'm in a mixed hypomanic state. My hypomania is never fun. I don't get anything accomplished, I don't feel euphoric, I usually can't stop my eyes from darting around so fast that it actually gives me a headache. Then I end up severely frustrated because my thoughts aren't connecting and I can barely talk or figure out what my body is trying to do, which leads me to bumping into things and covered in bruises the next day.

I just sat here and painted that 9'x5.5' piece of illustration board black for over an hour. I couldn't stop. I needed to paint it black in order to create the image on top of a black background, but I put so many layers of paint that I'm pretty sure it's bullet proof at this point. That is insanity.

I was only able to pull myself away because the frustration built up until I felt like I was going to peel the skin off of my face and scalp. Luckily I didn't, and my boyfriend will be happy to wake up and find a girlfriend with the same amount of skin as she had the previous night. During my moment of insanity I stopped, looked at myself in the mirror, and said "you're bipolar. This is a mood swing. This is not a result of any of the thoughts currently in your head. The world is not ending, you do not want to rip your skin off." This alleviated some of the tension, enough of it in order to bring myself back down to earth. My brain fights when I try to regain control, it loves the crazy swirling emotions and panic more that it loves me. But I've learned that I can override it. I still have to experience the inferno, no part of that experience goes away, but I convince myself to trust what I'm now telling it and that all else are lies. It works. It takes a lot of practice, but it works.

I have wished so many times in my moments of insanity that I wasn't bipolar. That's where the feeling of wanting to peel my skin off comes from- I don't want this anymore. But I have learned that wishing I wasn't of the chemically flawed variety does nothing to solve the moments when I feel like I'm in crisis. My goal isn't to wish it away anymore, it's to latch back on to reality and weather the storm. I want to get away from those all consuming emotions and that is something I have some control over sometimes.

So now, in this moment of clarity, I can decide to end today. I am going to take my sleeping medication, read a book (which will be difficult), and wake up tomorrow with all of this gone or significantly lessened. I've learned to find the reins I can grab instead of trying to wish away the out of control horse.

Thanks for reading

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Why I Ride

2 months ago I severely sprained my ankle. I'm lucky that it was only soft tissue damage, but it hurt like hell. I was advised to stay off it for 8 weeks. I don't know if most people could understand what it's like to be told not to run, ride, climb, or workout for 8 weeks when your life revolves around those activities. I know a lot of people can, but the majority might see it as a mini vacation and as having that much more free time. To me it feels like a death sentence.

So much of my mental health depends on my physical activities, especially cycling (in fact, all other activities are just to enhance my ability on the bike). That's how I get rid of the extra energy that would otherwise build up in my brain as negative thought cycles, which my bipolar's #1 way of manifesting itself, even when my moods are stable. It's how I work through a lot of issues- there is a lot of free head space when you're on a bike for 2+ hours, and if it's not that long of a ride then it's going to be a faster ride which really zaps the energy that my bipolar side requires to invade my conscious domain. These negative thought cycles are when my brain can't stop mulling over something but also doesn't allow me to fully processes it. The thoughts just keep repeating the same pattern over and over again, but nothing gets accomplished. It's like having a song stuck in your head except that it's a bad thought or emotion. My bipolar will hyperfocus on an event that could have happened recently or 5+ years ago and will force me to dwell on it and re experience the awful emotions associated with it. The incidents it picks have already been dealt with long ago or never were a problem to begin with. It could be the way I said something to an acquaintance that I am now seeing as dumb or awkward, and now I'm feeling embarrassed or that I'm a loser- which isn't true but the inability to wrap it up or dismiss it causes and fuels bad anxiety. Or (which is it's favorite) it will dwell on some sort of emotional trauma from my past and just throw me right in the middle of how I felt back then. It will be like it was just yesterday, even though the subject it chooses has been dealt with and is long since over. It isn't PTSD, it's just some bad emotions and thoughts my bipolar brain Tivo-ed and makes me work 10x as hard to think anything else, if I can even get to that point.

It's hard to get anything done or talk to people when you're sitting there trying to convince yourself that everything you're thinking and feeling is incorrect. It's like being on fire and telling yourself you aren't on fire. It feels real to me and telling myself otherwise doesn't stop it, it just keeps me from reacting on the outside, but that's all you can really hope for.

When I'm riding I am usually thinking productively, creatively, and processing life in a healthy manner, as well as centering myself. I've tried meditation and I hate it- my road bike is my meditation. It's so INCREDIBLY helpful, almost as great as therapy. Other times I use pedaling to control a mood swing or manage a bad day in order to prevent a mood disruption. I also ride to get through depression, when I couldn't care less but rather do something and feel empty than sit around and feel nothing. The bulk of my mental stability is heavily contributed to by 3 things. They are, and in the order of their importance: medication, therapy, and cycling. This is obviously not the scale everyone goes by but this is how my life is defined. When I was told to take one of those away, I really didn't know what to do. I was facing a medical injury so I knew throwing my hands up in defeat or ignoring Dr's orders weren't smart options.

I sat at home with a swollen ankle trying to figure out what the fuck I was going to do with myself for 2 months. I needed to come up with a plan that didn't consist of whining and annoying my boyfriend.

Lucky it was October and that's when I have a lot of hired makeup and costume projects to do. I kept myself insanely busy and was actually enjoying the extra free time. After Halloween was over I dedicated my time to painting and actually got my own studio on November 1st. Things were going really well until the last 4 weeks hit. I had a full blown manic episode. It didn't last long and that was directly because of the involvement of my boyfriend. He was able (god only knows what super power he has) to keep calm and let Typhoid (the name for my manic persona) run her course without provoking her or escalating the situation further. He said and did the right things in order to bring enough of me back and calm me down so I could safely take my sleeping meds and have the night be over with. He's currently in the fire academy and is working extremely hard to become a full time firefighter, so he isn't the kind of person to panic in a dangerous situation (he was never in danger, but he knew that I was). He separated who I was from the symptoms that he was facing that night. He knew that wasn't me and didn't react irrationally or emotionally, even though it was tough for him. I'll go in depth about the incident in a separate post, but the point is I had my first manic episode since being properly medicated and having turned my life around. I think the largest (but not only) contributing factor is the built up energy that my bipolar feeds off of. I haven't had one of my three most important tools that assist my overall bipolar management. I feel like it was only a matter of time.

The refractory period for my mania is anywhere from a month to 3 months. This time around it was only 3 days. I cannot express how insanely wonderful that is. Even though I had a full blown manic episode, it shows me that all of my hard work has payed off and my life choices have been the right ones.

Unfortunately I haven't been able to get completely back on track since then. My moods aren't shifting drastically but my mind seems to be in a light fog. I haven't been on top of my schedule and I don't have as much energy as I should. I know that's the lack of riding catching up to me, but I had no other options except to try and distract my mind. I haven't been as focused and my motivation seems mediocre at best. I'm not depressed, I'm just avoiding a lot.

I've become the Mad Procrastination Woman. I spent a good percentage of my free time reading about irrelevant subjects instead of working on what I need to. I now know the economic history of Russia over the past 300 hundred years.  That was horribly depressing so I switched to other useless subjects instead of getting ontop of what I needed to. I taught myself all the events that led up to WWI, how HIV is medically handled better these days, and why dogs don't catch diseases from humans. The list goes on and on but the issue is my brain seems to have shut a little bit of itself off. I've still been painting and getting stuff done but the rate of these things has slowed dramatically. As you can also see, I have been neglectful of my blog.

Today, December 15th, I am officially allowed to ride bikes again. It might have to be slow, short rides as I'm not sure how far I am in the healing process, but I am able to test the waters and will do so this afternoon. I am not proud of my manic episode, nor am I really all that thrilled about my mental fog, but I am proud of how everything has been dealt with and how far I've come in this process. Living with an extreme case of bipolar isn't easy but it's been incredibly rewarding through all of my hard work and through the efforts of the people I keep close. Long ago I accepted that I'll never be symptom free and the past 2 months have reminded me of that fact. I cannot beat myself up for what has happened, I cannot blame myself for my chemical imbalance, but I can keep moving forward and handle each situation better than the one before.

A huge thank you to Matt. He's taken on the difficult task that is loving someone who suffers from bipolar disorder. He has been an endless source of support, comfort, and empathy. He has never judged me for my bad days, never said an unkind word to me, and has never seen me only as my disorder- no matter that the circumstances. Through his efforts I have become more resilient in my fight against my faulty brain chemicals, and he has proven me wrong in my scepticism about healthy relationships and bipolar. I don't believe in luck, I believe I worked myself to a level where I was able to choose a healthy and compatible partner for myself, and he proves me right every day.
Thank you.

Sunday, November 23, 2014


I received that comment and after a lot of consideration, I decided to respond to them. I get mean, nasty, or passive aggressive messages pretty often so I'm quite accustomed to ignoring them. This one had me thinking for quite some time before I decided to abuse my keyboard once again and pound out a response.

I don't owe anyone anything. No one owes me anything. There are a couple of people I would love to be friends with now that I'm a better human being but a relationship just isn't possible. Some of them I have wronged and others I just rubbed the wrong way. It's unfortunate, but that is how life works. I'm dealing with a disorder and I'm not in denial of my faults. They have every right to choose whether we're friends or not. I don't hold that weight when I go about my daily life. It isn't mine to hold. If I was legless I certainly wouldn't be upset that I couldn't be a soccer player. Everyone's life has limitations and this is one of mine. I will not be able to be friends with everyone I want to because of who I was and who I am.

Chances are the person who made this comment is probably not one of the people on my short list that I am interested in having a friendship with.

The other side of this is that there are some people who rubbed me wrong as well. I'm a healthy individual now, not Ghandi. There are people that I avoid and some that I just plain don't get along with. It's not my goal to love the world and teach people absolute forgiveness. If anyone stumbled upon my blog expecting to find that then they should have realized a bipolar person is not going to cultivate an adequate breeding ground for inner peace. I'm coping and living with a disorder, not completely blind as to how the world works.

I'm not sure what this person was trying to get out of this or if they are even someone I ever knew. The internet is full of trolls who love nothing more than to shit wherever they can squeeze their giant, bored anus into. Frankly, I don't care what this person's motivation was, nor do I care to reconcile any wrongdoing they felt has been done.

I will not please everyone with who I am. I will not please everyone with my efforts. I will not change everyone's opinion on bipolar, or mental illnesses for that matter.

But I will sleep comfortably at night knowing that I am ok with and proud of who I am and my efforts. I focus on progression, not perfection.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


I participated in and finished a Tough Mudder on Saturday, June 14th. At the end of the day, long after all of the high fives and "hell yeah!"s were dished out, I sat in the bathtub amazed by what I had just done. I sat in orange tinted water, not contemplating my performance or the physical challenges I had just put my body through, all I cared about was my ability to accomplish something that would have been impossible a year and a half ago. I was able to have an epic adventure completely free of social anxiety.

I'm a pretty fit person who takes great pride in my physical well being but that hasn't prevented me from being terrified of doing athletic activities with other people in the past. This Saturday was a perfect breeding ground for my social anxiety but I experienced none. No part of me mentally shut down or caved in. There were other athletes there that are beyond what I'll ever be, enough to intimidate anyone who doubts themselves even in the slightest. But I saw them as motivation instead of my brain telling me they're better than me and that I'm not good enough for what I'm about to face. I didn't have one embarrassing moment and that wasn't because I escaped doing embarrassing things. In fact, I found myself in a few situations that would have made great viral videos of what not to do. I also bombed some of the challenges so bad that I'm sure I made everyone else feel better about their performance. But I also did amazing on the other obstacles. But the memorable part is that I didn't care and that I laughed it off, the bad as well as the good. I did great but most importantly I felt none of the anxiety that once would have been there.

I am beating my own chemically programmed fears.

In the past I could have never possibly toyed with the idea of joining something like this. There are a million reasons my mind could instantly come up with that would scare me away from any event with other people involved. None of them are reasonable but anxiety within the bipolar spectrum isn't always fair or warranted. It took me years to build up the gall just to do group bike rides. Even then it wasn't necessarily courage that brought me out onto those paved country roads, it was someone I connected with that told me I was going. But even then I was a wreck though the entirety of those rides. I wasn't afraid of how other people saw me, I have rarely if ever cared about that. My anxiety is me judging my own actions, my self image turns on itself.

"You're really quiet. I never pegged you for a quiet person."

I'm not. I just have no idea what I'm doing and I'm fighting the urge to fake a death in the family so I can run and hide from this verbal exchange.

"Are you ok? You don't look ok."

No, I'm not ok but it's my goal in life to make these situations ok, so please bare with me as I sweat like a 600lbs person in 110 degree weather and make unprompted seasick faces.

I'm going to act like the opposite of who I really am because I'm treading water in a polluted river of chemical imbalances. I don't know why I want to run and hide but the compulsion to do so is overwhelming. I'm going to look awkward and do awkward things during these moments because I forgot how to move my bones and muscle in conjunction with the skin that's encasing them.

My social anxiety manifests itself as unwarranted fear. No logic associated with it, nothing to pinpoint, just the feeling of fear. The chemical reaction in the brain that causes that emotion without any reasonable trigger. It may not be warranted but it is unfortunately 100% real. The fight or flight chemicals being dropped like atom bombs while I'm comfortably sitting in a coffee shop with other decent people I may or may not know. I'm not hard to make friends with and I make friends quite easily, unless it's during these moments.

I'm not a sensitive person. Sarcasm runs through my veins and is more important to me than balancing my check book. I take jokes and sly remarks very well, I enjoy the lifestyle that is trying to get the best of one another. I don't get seriously bothered when strangers are rude to me or if people stare at me in public. I don't mind asking stupid questions or tripping over my own feet. I'm incredibly witty and usually a very self confident person. It doesn't make any sense for me to randomly be afraid of people. It isn't always just strangers or people I know. Sometimes it's one or the other and sometimes I can be frightened just by the concept of other people. I have days where I'm outgoing and all smiles around strangers. I'll crack jokes with a cashier who's ringing me up, I'll have no problem going to the bank, or waiting at the DMV and striking up a conversation with the person next to me. But sometimes during my chipper day I'll run into someone I know and I'll get this weird feeling in my stomach and have no idea what the hell to say to them. I just conversed with 100 strangers without any problem so why is my stomach churning at the thought of speaking with a friend? It could very well be a close friend but my mind will still freak out.

"Hey Gwen! What are you up to?"

I'm currently praying that the entire milk aisle will spontaneously combust so we all have to rush out of the building and I can avoid a painful conversation with you that is through no fault of your own. 

"I saw you Facebook post about _____, how was it?"

It was somewhere between the generic answer I should give and the weird answer my mouth is going to produce that will result in you feeling uncomfortable because I suddenly forgot how to interact with the human race.

Other days it's the opposite. I can crack amazingly wonderful jokes that have all of my friends laughing. I am my comfortable and outgoing self. I can conduct a conversation with an acquaintance, everyone enjoys my company, and I theirs. But as soon as I'm in the presence of strangers I feel a bizarre pressure to make sure I don't say the wrong thing.

"Which pump did you say, ma'am?"

I don't know. I'll just stare at this Wawa attendant and hopefully the other 8 people in line won't murder me.

"Nice weather we're having, isn't it? I see the bikes on your car, going for a ride?"

A what? Oh yeah. I'm going to go ride bikes today. "Yep. I'm going to rotate my feet so they move forward. Or the weather. Yes. We have weather."

And the ever popular days where I can't seem to interact with anyone properly. On days like these everyone is a threat to my mental stability. Strangers, good friends, even the chubby babies who stare at me while I wait in line or while sitting across from me in a restaurant. I like to make nasty faces at these babies on days like that. At least I'm only mildly intimidated by someone whose life centers around shitting their own pants.

"I've been texting you for a couple days, are you mad at me or something?"

No. I've been ignoring all of my messages. I've been avoiding eye contact with my pets and the neighbor's dog. I'm even hiding from images of human beings on the internet.

Social anxiety hits me for no reason and often out of nowhere. I can start off an interaction like a normal person and an hour after talking to them I suddenly feel like I have no idea who they are and I must escape the situation as soon as possible. They haven't said or done anything wrong. In fact, they're still tuned into the conversation and when I suddenly cut off the interaction it's very obvious that I'm trying to get away. People take this personally and think that they've done something offensive or that I dislike them. My behavior comes from no such foundation. The natural organic flow of human interaction that is inherent in all of us leaks out of my brain and I'm stuck trying to figure out what the hell to say in response to you. 404, social behavior not found.

"So after I found my cat sick I rushed her to the hospital and it seems like everything is going to be ok."

Oh god, do I need to comfort them? But the cat is ok-ish? What the hell do people say to things like this? Just say what naturally comes to mind. "That seems like an good bad situation, or a bad good situation... I mean they have other cats out there... I mean if that one doesn't work out, like as in it (holy fuck, don't say dies)... Sounds like it's going to be fine."

"____ and ____ got engaged!"

Fuck! Show enthusiasm, open your eyes wider and smile, or something. "Oh great! (the muscles in my face only retract my lips and eyelids, now I look like a bug eyed cannibal). So I guess that means they're having a marriage or a married?"

The over abundance of nervousness that builds in your system causes you to not want to see anyone for the rest of the day or the next couple of days. You don't want to experience the pressure of remembering how people are suppose to talk to each other. I already know how and I'm great at it except for the times when my brain chemicals decide to temporarily abandon this skill. After a while avoiding people for a long stint of time seems to be the only answer but of course that's impossible. I'll just continue to walk around acting strange and making people feel uneasy while they lose faith that I ever liked them or thought of them as a friend.

I've over come a lot of that and Saturday was the proof. I still find myself trapped in those loops every now and again but I'm capable of overcoming them. The biggest realization is that hiding from people doesn't work in the long run. However, I can take some time to myself and recuperate when I need to. Recognizing when to give myself alone time in order to recharge the energy needed for successful social interactions is now a gift. I no longer beat myself up for this behaviour because I know it's bipolar based.

My participation in the Tough Mudder wasn't made monumental just by me showing up. It was the fact that I was able to motivate and help people all day long. I didn't have any of the social anxiety fueled mood shifts that were once my entire life. I shook hands and introduced myself to others, something I'm usually terrible with. I joined forces with strangers to better get through obstacles and motivate each other along the way. Not once did I feel uncomfortable or had any fear of being around others. I put myself in the right situation and with something I love- athletic endeavors. Physical activity is my first and foremost tool against bipolar and nothing is better than seeing all of my efforts paying off in the environment I'm most comfortable in.

Mad bike women:1
Social anxiety:0

Thanks for reading.