I tell myself this every day

I tell myself this every day

Thursday, September 14, 2017

A Living Ghost

I had a dream about my brother last night. I want to write that his ghost visited me in my subconscious state but I don't consciously believe that. Although, if you dig deeper you might find that I do.

He was still alive, still an addict. A slideshow of what would have been his future was presented to me, had he not been snatched up only 23 years into his life. He walked up to me, his body skinny enough to silently advertise that the drugs still meant more to him than his own health, but not too far gone to look like an obvious heroin addict. He was still young, a man of no more than 25. I was helping him walk down a hallway and into a bathroom to help him get cleaned up. His bodily neglect apparent, but still able to help himself into the shower. I left the room as I did not want to see my brother naked, nor did I really want to see the effects the drugs have had on his body.

Dream me knew he had been trying to get over his struggle with heroin, and outside of his death 7 years ago (something that my dream forgot to include), he was doing ok. He was still young, and alive, and when you're alive there is always a chance to get better.

He left the house after a few days and my life continued as normal. Nick just might be alright, dream me thought. This time he has a chance.

The next time he showed up at my door he was worse off. His eyes bloodshot and swollen and he sometimes relied on a chair or a wall to help prop him up, but not too bad off for someone 30 years old and still battling demons that echo inside a syringe. I led him to the shower, this time I had to help peel his clothes off of him. There was feces and urine inside his pants and what first looked like black grease, but upon closer inspection was dried blood. I asked him if he was ok to undress himself past his underwear since I REALLY didn't want to see my own brother naked. He said he could manage so I left him alone. He stayed for a couple of days, talking about getting clean, for real this time, and then left with a heartfelt "thank you" hug.

The next time he didn't show up my door. I had to go and pluck him from the shit hole of a house he was in. Did he live there? I don't think so. Did any of the people I walked over live there? Doubt it. Were those people even alive or did I just traverse through corpses to find my little brother? Either way, it was time to get Nick back to my house and in the shower- my dream's reset button for my brother's fight against heroin. This time he could barely stand on his own, I gave him a cane to help keep himself upright.

In real life, when he was only 16 years old and I was 20, he had demanded my mom get him a cane when he was being fitted for a suit for my first wedding. He was the only one who got one but he was ready to fight tooth and nail to get it back then. In my dream the cane made an appearance but it was no longer a funny joke or the result of a strong willed tennagers whimiscle expression of indivuduality.

I helped him into the bathroom and had to fetch scissors in order to cut him out of his clothing. It had long since become a solid mass of excrement, vomit, and blood. The fabric stood on it's own, more like cardboard than cloth. I had to cut off his underwear, too. I didn't want to see my brother naked but he was too weak to work the clothing off himself. He was covered in sores, some of them infected from laying around in his own blood, shit, and piss. He said he could wash himself, thank god because the last thing I want to do is have to bathe my brother with my own hands. He went to the doctor and got on antibiotics for his infections and once again left my house looking and feeling better.

The next time I fetched him was from the hospital emergency room. He had overdosed, but unlike reality where he's been dead for 7 years now, he survived. His eyes were swollen, like ripe fruit stuck in sunken caverns inside his skull. There was dried pus that had seeped from his eyes and dried over into pale yellow flakes running down his cheeks. He weighed nothing, and I knew this because I had to carry him as he could barely walk. I took him back to my house and washed his worn and abused body, not caring that I had to scrub caked on excrement from his groin. He was alive, my little brother was still alive, I would do anything to help see him better.

I would go find him and bring him back to my house over and over again, the circumstance were always the same, even though the drug dens or hospitals changed each time. Every trip to get him dissolved into the scene helping him down the hallway and into the bathroom, each time is only a couple of years apart but his body aged in decades. By the time he's in his 40s, he's unable to walk on his own and looks like an animated corpse, kept moving only by supernatural forces. Every visit to my house he cleans up, or tries to. I have to wash him. Wash the trails of crust off his eyes. I have to scrub his infected arms, his body sores, his own waste off of his own ass. I have to wash him like I did my kids when they were babies. Helpless, weak infants.

He's always in better shape after a few days in my care, getting plenty of good food, rest, and no drugs. He always talks about going clean, this time he really means it.

Each visit he becomes more death than man.

He thanks me every time. He's pleasant, appreciative, and doesn't steal from me. He doesn't lie or argue. He cleans up and goes on his way.

This was a courtesy that either my brother or my brain provided me. I was shown the pattern that his life probably would have taken had he not overdosed at such a young age. My life would have been pulling him out of absolute hell holes in between the hospitals and jail, or worse, prison. It would have been an emotional, physical, psychological, and financial burden- one I would gladly had accepted if I had known there was a possibility he would get clean and live at least a few years sober and happy.

He was telling me to let that notion go. The message was clear- that's not what would have happened. He spared me the harsh reality of what loving a junkie long term is really like. He spared me the cruel reality that is being the loved one of someone struggling with a losing battle against addiction.

Throughout my dream he was my brother, my little brother, as he had once been. In real life the drugs warp the person into something else, it carves them into a different creature- one that steals, lies, and will break you down. In my dream he was allowed to be himself, to be human, yet still have this addiction. He was able to leave out one of the most ugly truths; the addict is not the person you know, it's just their body doing the will of the drug and their insatiable need for it.

My brother didn't die again in my dream. I eventually got the point. I knew before I woke up what the purpose of all of it was. He was letting me know that he didn't lose out on his life, he was spared decades of suffering, and so were we in a way. We don't have to worry if he's dead or alive, we don't have to worry about disease, incarceration, or what the addict in him might have done to us. He got to die a tragic character, but one that was spared a lifetime of addiction that would result in no resolution. No peace.

He showed me that his 4 years of struggle and eventual death was nothing compared to the life he would have wasted had he never gotten free from heroin.

Do I really believe that my brother visited me in a dream in order to let me experience this? No, I think it was my brain's way of helping me cope. But if you look deeper into my soul, you might find a different answer. You will find that I do believe.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Nothing more and nothing less

I spent the morning, this being the 3rd day of summer, playing with my dogs in the creek by our house. The recent heavy rain has washed away most of the garbage that would normally deter any concerning Lakeside citizen from wading around in what could otherwise be uncapped sharps, used condoms, and a fine layer of jagged beer bottle glass everywhere. It was absolutely gorgeous out. The cruelly bright sun that I hadn't been familiar with for months now burned my shoulders, but was a welcome change from the blocked out windows of my bedroom where I had retreated to for the past 10 weeks. The heat had helped dry up enough of the creek bed that a fair amount of large flat rocks to relax on were available. The water had been undisturbed by fishers and usual drunks, enough to see the algae covered bottom of the creek as clear as glass. It was a beautiful sight and I found myself enjoying the moment. I assessed my emotional state and realized I felt happy, not ecstatic by any means, but a relaxing form of content.

I spent an hour tossing tennis balls into the deeper parts of the creek, watching the short legs on my dogs frantically tearing at the water in a sloppy race to get to the ball first. I loved knowing I'm doing something fun for them since they had to endure me not leaving the bed or house for a couple of months. I was also enjoying the fact that Dovah is the only one fast enough to get the ball, yet Annie diligently struggled and swam after it every time, her hope about getting to the prize first never waning. I soaked up the beauty and innocence knowing that just a few weeks ago I was living the antithesis of this moment. I had about a 10 percent chance of surviving yet here I was, feet stuck 6 inches into a soft sandy creek bed, laughing hysterically at my 2 dogs in life jackets desperately trying to stay afloat with their solid pit bull torpedo bodies. There's nothing buoyant about a compact 45 lbs dog that's pure muscle.

Every morning, before the past week or so, I would wake up and spend my day assessing what my chances of survival were. It was like being tucked into hospice care, with everyday the doctor being asked the inevitable "what are the chances she'll make it through today?" I felt like a body that was still functioning through the power of machinery and pulling the plug on myself was inevitable. Each day felt like a new diagnosis with a new survival rate. Some days I felt like I was given a few weeks to live out while other days I felt my diagnosis was more terminal and I that I had mere days. Either way, I started everyday feeling that there was an expiration date not too far off in my future.

I knew the depression was getting the best of me but what could I do? You're best bet to get away from someone who's beyond reason and trying to kill you is to run, but what if you're tied down and can't move? I was trying to kill me, how can you escape yourself?

Every morning my chances of survival were decreasing. I caught myself counting my sleeping medication and other sedatives to see how much of what it would take to do me in. I was writing all sorts of numbers down in order to find the equation of body weight to milligrams of what combination of pills, liquids, and powders would take me out the easiest and the cleanest. Most people who seriously contemplate and plan out their death will tell you that one of the important variables on your mind while you're plotting your own demise is how you can avoid making your loved ones clean up a large mess. Nevermind that you're taking yourself out of existence, you just don't want to ruin the bed sheets with your decaying fluids, or make them squeegee your brain matter off the TV in the living room. Depression is a queer beast.

I wish I could tell you that my friends, family, or pets pulled me out of it but that would be a farce. An hour or two after I had my pills sorted and counted out I just sort of lost interest. There wasn't a defining moment, no revelation, no divine intervention. I just decided to go do something else and by the next day my 2 or 3 month long funk was gone. I confessed to my husband how close he had been to being a widower with the same demeanor as if I was expressing the mail came late that day. When I'm no longer in crisis I tend to no longer speak about grave issues in such a way. We discussed what we wanted for dinner and I casually mentioned my pill counting and internet search history on destroying myself in the same manner.

You become accustomed to coming close to death. It no longer becomes scary after a while. You know you should be frightened but its familiarity no longer sets off a warning signal in your brain.

When you live with bipolar disorder, and many other similar illnesses, you live with a constant self destruct button. You never really want to push it but sometimes you wake up to find your hand over it and one slight change in pressure will send you off to the next world. I survived this bout just by pure luck. If my moods hadn't of changed later that afternoon then I know for certain that this blog would have been all that's left of me to give my friends, family, and children in hopes of them finding some kind of peace about what I had done. There wouldn't be any cryptic answers or warnings, but they would swear that were silent calls for help and that they could have done something.

The truth is simpler than that. I would have been gone because the disorder wanted me gone. Nothing more and nothing less.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

If I could catch my breath just to exhale

I've spent the past 2 weeks holed up in my bedroom and in bed. My depression and the accompanying anxiety are my constant companions. Whenever those emotions become too much and I can no longer hold the mental waste in, I grab onto my dog Annie and just cry. I wrap my arms around her thick and compliant neck and bury my tears into her fur, wishing she would turn to me and say "everything will be alright." I feel mostly sadness these days with many of my daily routines having gone out the window, I feel like I have very little remnants of what could be described as a life. I don't venture out, I don't go to the store, and I'm finding it harder and harder to accomplish simple tasks like bathe or brush my teeth. I lay in a heap of my own misery and if it wasn't for the 12 hours a night I sleep, I wouldn't have any reprieve from it.

The job at the SPCA didn't work out but I found another event coordination job that was holding me over to help me slowly get back on my feet. I was behind financially but if I played my cards right, I could slowly get caught up. Then the company suddenly went under and now I'm left in the dark again. For the past 2 weeks I've been filling out applications online, as much as I'm able to do in a day while fighting against a barrage of discarnate voices telling me how worthless I am. I only have my past work experience and my high school diploma to navigate me through this world of employment and they're producing more closed doors than opportunities. I see openings for hundreds of jobs I'm not qualified for, I have to scroll through pages and pages of job descriptions that require much more than I have to offer.

This feeds the depression monster. It loves to look at each job summary and point out that I am inadequate. It revels in the moments when I become discouraged, lapping up the ineffectiveness of my search. I have 34 years on this earth and very little to show for it. Or as least that's what my mind tells me. I have a hard time separating what my actual thoughts are, the things I would normally say and feel, and the involuntary thoughts of the depression monster. I constantly feel devoid of value as a human and a failure as someone who's constantly only tried to do better for themselves and those around them. I am flawed. I am flawed at a chemical level and while it isn't my fault, it makes for really poor coping mechanisms naturally. I have to fight bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder at the same time and I currently feel like I'm losing.

Jobs that I am qualified for don't pay a wage that I can survive on and a lot of them are hard labor and/or mind numbing. I see the jobs I'm qualified for, or that basically anyone would be, and I think to myself that I've come all this way in life just to appear to be starting from the bottom. I fear my car being repossessed the most. If I lose that then my options become disparaging limited. I am buried in anxiety most of my waking hours, worried about my finances. My youngest daughter wanted to get ice cream the other day and I had to explain that I couldn't. I'm the other parent, the fun one they get to visit so when I had to tell her that I couldn't afford it, I broke down inside. They're good kids, they understand, she didn't protest, she didn't ask why, she just went back to what she was doing before.

It breaks my heart because I don't know if I'll be able to buy food for them for the next time they come over. I don't want to cancel any of these precious visits I get with them because I can't afford simple items like cereal or mac n cheese. I have celiacs so everything has to be gluten free in the house, which makes these items more expensive than normal, which makes me feel guilty for having another medical condition I have no control over. I always want to look at them and apologize. I always want to say I'm sorry for having these disorders. I want to tell them that one day it will all be ok and mommy will overcome her biological setbacks. But I don't know if I will.

My medication is working. My depression is currently situational, which means I am able to work. But so far I haven't had anything promising and it's eroding my ability to cope.

I just hold my dog and just cry in between filling out job applications. That's my only option for now. Maybe one day she'll be able to turn to me and tell me everything will be ok.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Close to death

I watched the cars traveling at high speeds soar down the highway and disappear underneath me. I stood on the sidewalk of the overpass gauging how long it would take me to scale over the chain link fence and for my body to hit the ground below. Could I time it just right so a car were to hit my body and make sure I was dead?

Able to pull myself away from staring at the highway for a moment I began searching my surroundings, trying to find something to ground me to this world. A cyclist rode by, I hid my face. I didn't want anyone I know to see me like this. I looked up at the beautiful blue sky that aroused no feelings of awe within me. I looked at my feet in my brightly colored running shoes. I looked at the park next to me, the grass a fresh color that only early spring brings about.

And I felt nothing.

My gaze shifted back to the overpass I was standing on and back to the only thoughts I had, ending my life. But I didn't want to die, I just wanted the pain to be over and it was the only solution my brain was showing me.

Think of your kids, I tell myself.

I felt nothing.

What good is a mother that's constantly sick and suffering, my mind rationalizes with me. What does it show them to constantly see that their mother is going through hell with no end in sight?

Think of your husband.

I felt nothing.

Think of everyone, anyone, I scream to myself. Still, I felt nothing.

The cars aren't frequent enough. Someone would stop and the chances of me surviving the fall are too great. I stare down at the highway below me and I can see my twisted body laying on the concrete, injured, bleeding. Dead.

Without thinking I put my hand on the chainlink fence. My foot comes up but I'm able to stop it and put it back down on the ground. I don't want to be injured, I just want this pain to end. I want the medications, the depression, the thoughts of self harm, the invasive thoughts, the hopelessness- I want all of that to end.

I would do anything for relief.

My hand falls off the fence, I turn away and start putting one foot in front of the other, grinding my teeth as I do. What am I living for? How is this going to get any better?

It doesn't matter. I just have to keep going. I have to keep walking, walking away from the overpass. I can't reason my way out of suicide so I have to just keep moving.

I finally make it to the gym and try not to make eye contact with anyone. Do they know they're looking at a dead person walking? Do they know how close I just was to another story on the evening news? I try to guess how many would see it as a coward move and how many might understand the horror that is your own mind trying to kill you. I'm a walking statistic, nothing more.

I'm ok. I have a plan to go to inpatient if my health deteriorates any further. I called my doctor shortly after this incident and they have switched my medication. I wanted to share this incident because suicide is a very real part of my mental health struggle that I haven't talked about in a very long time.

This incident happened to me today and it scared the shit out of me once I was able to come back to my senses. I was in the middle of a run inside the VCU gym when I started bawling uncontrollably and had to leave the gym. All of my thoughts centered around ending my life for a period of 2 days before I was able to catch on. I've had several medication switches lately and with nothing working my mind seemed to deteriorate without giving ny warning signs.

I would like to reiterate that I'm currently ok and not a threat to myself BUT if for any reason that changes I've already contacted people that will help make sure I'm put into an inpatient facility if it comes to that.

Thanks for reading

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Truffle Shuffle

We're told to love our bodies no matter what they look like and that being big is beautiful, and while I don't see other people being fat or obese as a bad thing, I'm having a hard time applying my apathy towards body size to myself. What if you can't apply that kind of indifference about body image to yourself? What if what you see in the mirror doesn't line up to the standards you hold for yourself? What if you hate your body and compliments only make you feel worse?

Latuda and Abilify had me gain a total of 30 lbs in less than 2.5 months and going from 132 to 162 has been difficult for me to accept. I haven't weighed that much since I was pregnant 11 years ago. The Latuda threw my binge eating out of control to the point where I was pulling my hair out in cold showers just to stop thinking about eating for 10 or 15 minutes during the day. Binge eating is a symptom of borderline personality disorder, it's a form of self harm, just like cutting is. It's terrible because all you can think about is eating nonstop and when you binge on all the shitty foods you're craving the relief is so miniscule and so momentary that it actually makes you feel worse. It creates a cycle of feeling like shit because you gave in and the only relief is eating. You're filled up with self loathing from what you think is a lack of willpower when it's really part of your mental disorder that strips away any control you think you have over yourself.

It's not because I didn't want to stop eating, I couldn't. I would grind my teeth as I paced around the house trying to go over why eating a pound of candy is a very bad idea. I tried to pacify the impulse with herbal teas, gum, planning out all of my meals, trying to limit how much candy I would buy and eat, and dozens of other tricks but not a goddamn thing worked. I was spending so much of my day fighting the impulse to binge eat that I didn't have energy for anything else.

I thought about it day and night, I couldn't focus on anything else. It got to the point where I knew I was losing the battle. I couldn't overpower my body's impulse to eat all the time. If I couldn't stop eating I needed to gain control in another way. I resorted to the only thing that made sense in that state of mind- throwing up all the food I couldn't stop myself from consuming.

I had a short stint of bulimia and the only reason I stopped is so my husband wouldn't find out and feel worse for me than he already does. For 2 weeks I tried to throw up after my binges, I could never feel like I got as much out as I put in and it only caused me to feel worse about myself. It's a scary cycle and I wanted out before it got worse, thankfully after those 2 weeks I was no longer purging.

My doctor took me off Latuda when I told him about my bingeing and unstoppable sugar cravings, I never told him about my purging. He put me on Abilify and I lost about 10 lbs during the switch, which was a relief. Finally I can get back to a normal weight, or so I hoped. After 2 weeks I started gaining weight but this time without binge eating. My cravings weren't gone but there was a 50/50 chance of me giving into them and they weren't as strong. I wasn't hitting my calorie goals each day but I was no longer overeating. I also felt more relief after eating while on Abilify, it wasn't as empty or as hollow of a feeling. But then those 10 lbs came back.

I'm now back to 162 lbs and I hate my body.

I'm uncomfortable, bending over is difficult because there's so much more to me now. Even Though I have clothes that fit me they're terribly uncomfortable. Things don't sit or fit right, I feel heavier and weighed down whenever I move around. I'm not even going to get into how awful it feels riding uphill on a bike.

I hate how I look in the mirror and can't accept it. The world beats into our head that there's nothing wrong with being overweight, and I honestly couldn't care less about other people's bodies. I don't judge others for their weight or body type, I save all unfair and cruel criticism for myself. When I look in the mirror I don't see me, I see 30 lbs of burden thrusted upon me because of psych meds that didn't end up helping me in the end anyway. I had no control over how I got here, yet I experience all of the blame and guilt. I don't want to be this size, it isn't me.

It's completely destroyed my self esteem. I feel like I'm living in someone else's body, not the active bike woman my life actually is. It affects how I act around other people, it affects what I do that day, it keeps me in a mild state of depression because the situation feels hopeless. I'm being weaned off Abilify but I don't know if that will help me lose any weight. I'm overwhelmed and lugging this odd, 30 lbs heavier flesh vessel around makes me miserable.

I don't feel powerful, I don't feel strong- I only feel shame. I want to wear a shirt that says "this body isn't my fault," but I would only be trying to convince myself.

But I'm only 162 lbs, I can't imagine what it's like starting off heavier and having medications add to that. I know people who have gained over 100 lbs thanks to meds and I can't imagine how someone could deal with that. My 30 lbs make me feel hopeless about getting my body back together, trying to imagine the situations other people are dealing with blows my mind.

I've gained empathy where there was once apathy about body image.

Thanks for reading

Friday, March 17, 2017

The dog days are here

I've decided that I'm healthy enough to work. Because of how bad off I was, the plan was to get on disability pay in order to take the time I needed to get my meds straight and find some stability before I entered the workforce again. Between the russian roulette game that is figuring out psych meds and recovering from my termination and bullying at the bike shop, I was finding it impossible to get basic life tasks accomplished, so disability seemed like the only viable option until I got back on my feet, mentally. But now that the doctors and I know what I'm facing- not just bipolar disorder but also borderline personality disorder- we can treat it accordingly.

The meds weren't working because my bipolar wasn't the culprit, BPD was, and just like when I was diagnosed with bipolar 4 years ago, I hit the ground running to educate myself about the disorder. It's surprising it took this long to catch but BPD is exacerbated by stress and with my former boss doing things like mocking me to my face about my symptoms, it set off a BPD hell storm. By the way, yes, my former boss came up to me one day mockingly shaking his arms around and said "so, is this what we're going to do all day?" clearly making fun of my lithium tremors. Yes, my former boss mocked me like a child on several occasions and when politely asked to stop he threatened to fire me.

I was in a bad situation but I figured as long as I didn't give in to his bullshit then I could continue to do what I love- work in a bike shop.

The good news is that I no longer have to worry about disability or trying to secure odd jobs because I have finally entered the workforce once again- I officially work for the Richmond SPCA as a kennel assistant. It doesn't pay much and it's only part time but it will bring home pretty much the amount I would have been getting with disability. Since knowing, understanding, and treating BPD my mental state has improved greatly between DBT, CBT, and no longer throwing meds that don't work in the mix, my mental state has improved dramatically, and more importantly, I have complete faith in my ability to work part time in this particular job. I plan to find a way to move to a full time position eventually if I feel like I can handle more.

I will say that if there was a perfect job for me that doesn't involve bicycles then it will be one that involves dogs.

Me having too much fun when I was volunteering at the SPCA

I hate to do it but I'm asking for help one last time. My car payments have piled up since I had no income for 3 months and my phone is close to getting shut off. Both of these things I will be able to maintain with my new job but I won't be making enough to get caught up. I have a GoFundMe and Paypal, the difference being GoFundMe takes 10%. Anything and everything helps, I seriously mean that. I've been unable to sleep and have panic attacks whenever I think about my car being repossessed or my phone being cut off. These aren't the only bills that are behind but it's the only two I truly need help with enough to ask. Once these two are set I will officially shut down my GoFundMe campaign and be able to close that chapter of my life. Thank you for everyone who already contributed, you are responsible for me getting to where I'm at today and I will never forget that.

Car payment: $1,160.02        due as of 3/17/17
Phone bill: $369.15               due as of 3/17/17

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Nervous breakdown

Late November of last year I took 2 weeks of medical leave from work in order to deal with my overwhelming symptoms. I did so in order for my performance at work to stay at a functioning level; it was a preliminary strike in order to reign in my mental health before it seeped into my job performance. I ended up in a very bad place and I couldn't figure out what caused it, I reflected on everything and came up with no answers. Was it just the bipolar throwing me for a curve ball? But it felt bigger and much more complicated than bipolar disorder.

Rewind to a week ago, I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder in addition to bipolar disorder. I'm not shocked, I've had my suspicions but until a doctor says anything, was sticking to bipolar disorder as the culprit.

I've hit my research hard, reading, watching, and absorbing everything I can about BPD and when I did so, a new picture started to take form. I knew exactly why I had my nervous breakdown in November. It was the way I was being treated at my job. The more time I have to reflect on it the more time I'm glad to be out of the environment I was in, the more time I have to see that my boss firing me didn't come out of nowhere.

I was told to clock out if I was going to talk to customers for too long, which came as a surprise since my whole job revolved around talking to people. People love to chat when they come into the shop, anyone who's ever worked in the industry knows that. If a guy wants to tell be about the kayak he bought from Rowlett's 20 years ago, then that's what we'll be talking about (as long as I don't have any pressing issues or other people to attend to.) His talking about something that seems so irrelevant was actually a treasure trove of information for when the conversation circles back to cycling. I can gauge his level of fitness, whether he would do better with a road or mountain bike, and how much time a week he would be riding. All conversations greatly helped me in making sure these people got the right bike and the right equipment.

But I was pulled aside and told to clock out if I want to hang out with my friends at the shop. But they're... customers. I can call some of them friends but that's because I ride with them regularly. I don't really know them outside of a cycling context and plus, isn't that kind of my job? To talk to customers, whether they're regulars or not? To represent the bike shop as an active member of the cycling community? I was in sales, it's my job to listen to people to better figure out what they need in order to enhance their riding experience.

I was told if the topic isn't about cycling specifically then it's inappropriate and I need to clock out.

No one else in the shop was help to this strange policy that I found out was exclusively for me. Everyone else had friends come in the shop and hang out for hours at a time but the owner never felt like it was an issue to bring up with them. I didn't care that it happened, I just wanted to be held to the same standard as everyone else. My friends rarely came up there, when they did it was to buy something from me or to take 2 minutes to say hi and then be on their way.

This is just one small example of how I was treated so much more different than the rest of the guys, I'll write further posts about other ways I was treated unfairly over the next several weeks because I now know it's what set me off. I was being singled out and it was wreaking havoc on my mental health. I just wanted to do my job, I wanted to sell bikes, get people into cycling, and bring all the people that I know or ride with to come over to the shop I was working at. I was good for business. I brought in a lot of regulars.

But I didn't have any defence mechanisms for being treated unfairly. BPD causes me to internalize these things. The more I was treated poorly, the worst I got.

I was singled out long before I picked up on it. I think he was afraid of me since day one, thinking that at any moment I could have a "bipolar fit," which isn't even a thing. I had a BPD meltdown because of the way I was being treated, but that only causes harm to myself, no one else.

I just wanted to be in a bike shop and do my absolute best to serve the cycling community.

Thanks for reading

Thursday, March 9, 2017

A love letter to my husband

I always want to use the phrase "thanks for putting up with me," but I can't. In our 3 years together, and for the first time in my life, I've not once felt like a burden. I'm not something you put up with, you laugh with me when people would normally be laughing at me. You stand by my side when my mental health would, and has, made people run away from me. You've never shown fear towards me, despite experiencing fear when my disorders take a scary turn. You've had many instances where it would have been so easy to run or renege on our commitment, but your dedication since day one isn't just admirable, it's legendary.

You're the strongest individual I've ever met and that's not just in the context of my mental health issues. Your strongest trait (outside of getting free car parts off Craigslist) is your ability to pull through anything and everything that's thrown your way. We share that trait, the ability to end up on top in the end. You probably don't see this quality as clearly as I do but I observe everything you do; you're terribly fascinating to me. I never enjoy seeing you down but I always look forward as to how you're going to pull yourself back up, because you always do. You give me strength just by being you, by always ending up on top after being knocked down.

You knew I had bipolar disorder before we started dating, you had no idea what that would entail but you went forward anyway. I didn't think this relationship would work, not because of anything on your side, I thought you were perfect, but because of my life long string of unstable relationships. I either chose poorly or eventually sabotaged a good thing. Why would a relationship with a barely divorced bike mechanic be any different?

But you were different. You were kind. It was very shortly after I fell for you that I realized that a relationship with you was worth trying, even if it didn't work out in the long run. You were worth becoming vulnerable for. Every relationship someone has will fail until one doesn't and if you didn't work out, well, that was a risk I was willing to take. I didn't want a relationship when I found you. I didn't want to date, I still had so much to learn about myself and my bipolar disorder. I didn't want to expose someone new to my complete psychological mess.

I'll never be more thankful for the universe sending you my way. I'll never be more proud of myself for choosing a healthy and functional relationship. I was attracted to you because of all of the hard work I had been doing with my mental health. I was attracted to a higher caliber person because I was viewing the world through mentally healthier eyes. My bipolar (and also what we now know is BPD) didn't make that decision for me, I did. Gwyn did.

It hasn't all been rosy, you've experienced the wrong end of my disorders; watching me snap and bolt out the door in the middle of the night, with talk about throwing myself into highway traffic. I know you were afraid when I sat in a kitchen of broken dishes that I destroyed as you watched me switch from Typhoid to Gwyn and back to Typhoid over and over. You had every right to be fearful in those situations but what separates you from the rest of the world is your ability to keep cool and calm in order to make sure the woman you love doesn't end up in any more pain than she needed to be. You realized she wasn't hurting you on purpose, she was just a product of her flawed brain chemistry.

What makes you unique is that you have always been able to separate me from my symptoms. You knew you were dealing with my mental illness and not with the woman underneath.

Being brave doesn't mean fearless, it's being able to trudge forward despite overwhelming fear. I see you as by far the bravest person I've ever encountered, even more so than myself.

You constantly see me struggle and I'm always honest with what I'm going through mentally no matter how insane or dangerous it is. I have never felt the need to hide the darkest parts of my struggle because I have never felt judged and you've never made me feel crazy. I can turn to you and say "my brain is telling me to kill myself" without you freaking out or seeing me as a danger to myself. I can be 100% real and honest about what my brain is doing and you never look at me like I'm crazy, even when I'm... well, being crazy.

You make me feel human. You make me feel valid. You make me feel like I'm not alone.

Thank you for that.

Thanks for reading

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Freaky Fred

I lost over 30% of my hair while on lithium. It was one of the unfortunate side effects that I not only experienced but was hit pretty hard by. I didn’t have bald spots but it was an even, all over loss of volume that was pretty easy to see. My body was starting to broadcast on the outside the hell I was going through on the inside. 

I suck at hair. As an artist it’s the one area I just don’t understand and don’t have the patience for. Whatever female magical power women are supposed to come with that makes them patient at trying to manipulate the thousands of dead cells pouring out the top of their noggins must have skipped me. I kept it simple- cute little V shaped bangs and shoulder length hair. Nothing fancy but the V bangs gave it enough of a different look that complimented the sharp features of my face and was easy to maintain.

I’m girly. I’m a much girlier person than most would guess. I’ll spend an hour or 3 putting makeup on, and managing my outfit accessories can take just as long. But I fall flat when it comes to giving a shit about the process of hair. If I have to touch a curling iron or hairspray I will immediately bitch about how it’s taking too long and that my life is over and I hate everything. I also can’t seem to figure out how to coordinate the movements of my arms while looking into a mirror. I can’t make the connection in my head and with the results being mostly 3rd degree burns and eye injuries involving bobby pins, I just brush my hair and lie to myself the rest of the day.

And then I lost my hair.

My V bangs became thin and gaps developed which looked terrible and reinforced the fact that life wasn’t even going to let me have a moment of relief with just looking not homeless. It was going to have my mental state in an uproar and my physical appearance in a sad state as well. I simply brushed my bangs to the side and ignored my head and avoided all mirrors.

But then I started to look like a nuclear fallout victim, with large areas obviously missing chunks of hair. Once it escalated to the “overworked and underappreciated washed up soccer mom” state, I knew had to act. I felt like hell on lithium and I wanted to at least lie on the outside and be able to look like I’m holding it together perfectly. Problem was the only hair style I ever loved on me was a 2 foot tall death hawk. The style isn’t the problem, the association was. That was Typhoid’s hair.

Typhoid is the name of my manic personality. She’s funny, impulsive, life of the party, and all around awesome- except when she’s mean, volatile, and getting me arrested. She’s an inflated ego come to life, she is my manic side and she’s dangerous.

I fear her more than any other aspect of my bipolar disorder.

So when I started toying with the idea of shaving just one side of my head to give me the look I really enjoyed, the death hawk when it wasn’t up, I started to worry that she was popping back up again. Typhoid is me, not an actual persona or personality switch, she’s still 100% me, I address her as a separate entity on purpose, it’s a safety mechanism. Mania LOVES itself, it’s a drug. When you’re high on drugs nothing feels bad at the moment, and if nothing feels bad then what’s the problem? Especially if that euphoric high comes naturally. Who wouldn’t love to be on cocaine, ecstasy, and good vodka all at the same time for weeks on end, naturally?

Mania feels good but just like a drug there is a crash and it’s absolutely devastating.

I have to keep her separate in my mind as a way to help control the possibility of a hypomanic state creeping up on me without me knowing. It’s a safety measure. Typhoid doesn’t just pop up, she slowly creeps her way into existence and I have to take all measures to make sure I’m not having symptoms that are red flags that she might be coming if I don’t do something.

So once I started having the thought of shaving the side of my head I started to panic because associated that hair style with her and I’m deathly afraid of her.

After about 3 months I finally broke down and did it. The hair loss was just too much and even though I was off lithium at that point my head was going to take a year or two to recover. I wanted to feel good about myself again but I wanted to make sure that that was truly my motivation. I didn’t want to go 2006 Britney Spears on myself.

I still feel like I’m still discovering who I am as far as my tastes go. I don’t feel like I really started exploring who I was, as in who I am completely separate from my disorder, until I was diagnosed and started really separating who I was from what the disorder causes me to do. I wasn’t into the same things as I was before- music, movies, people, everything was different. And I think I ran away from any semblance of my previous life and style because I associated it with Typhoid. I’m finally coming to accept what was part of my mania and what was actually me and it turns out my personality is much different but my tastes haven’t strayed too too far, they’ve just evolved.

I still like darker things, I just like them with a smile on my face now.

I no longer fear my haircut, as silly as that sounds. It not the haircut I feared, it’s the reasoning behind it. I now know that it’s just a haircut I wanted because it’s low maintenance and looks good on me, not Typhoid’s claim over me.

Thanks for reading

I'm still fighting to survive currently while I wait for disability. If you would like to help you can donate to my Paypal (no fees) or my GoFundMe (10% fee)
I'm currently struggling to get caught up on 2 missed car payments.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Taking a break

After 6 months of medication complications and instability I have been left weak. Bipolar disorder isn't just being moody, it's losing control over what you feel at any given moment with long bouts of negative feelings and states of mind. It wears you down and getting proper help is just as difficult as surviving the dark places your brain takes you to. The doctor and nurse practitioner I have been working with over the past 6 months has been detrimental to my health. They gave me very bad medical advice and did not handle my prescription drugs in a safe and responsible manner. For this I have suffered more than has been necessary. For this I'm the one rendered almost incapable yet have to pick up all the pieces. I've decided an inpatient stay is what it has come to, unfortunately. I wouldn't have had to go this route if I hadn't been terminated from my job the way I was. That silly little bike shop job was 1/3 of my happiness in what had become a daily struggle to survive.

Because of the physical side effects of the medication complications I couldn't ride, which is a pretty big hit to my mental state in itself. I didn't have a choice- the withdrawals had my whole body shaking and the lithium had me off balanced with hand tremors. I was a danger to myself and others if I hopped on a bike, so I didn't. What kept me going was knowing that once everything settled I could then figure out how to get back on the bike. But in the meantime I had a way to fulfill that part of my life- working at the bike shop.

It sounds so stupid but my brain craves bike life. Riding, talking about it, being a part of it. It's some sort of sick weirdo thing I have but it's just part of who I am and I've come to accept it. There are worse things to be obsessed with, so I've heard.

I don't think I can express how much I not only love riding but how balls deep I am in love with the sport itself. What I gained from working in a shop was the fact that I thrive off of getting people up and out riding. I live for getting people pumped about cycling- from the little old lady who wants to cruise a quarter of a mile comfortably down the street, to getting people set up for their first Iron Man- everyone counts the same for me. You want to ride a bike? Well, you're my new favorite person. I didn't care if you took 30 minutes or 8 hours of my time. I didn't care if you were spending $200 or $10,000- you were going to get my best. I didn't work on commission so my payout each time was the level of their satisfaction and enthusiasm. You only get enthusiasm from a "customer" when you're selling people exactly what they need and not just what you can get them to pay the most for. I loved every minute of it.

I also hate using the word "customer" when talking about people who came into the shop. A customer is someone who buys something from you and is a much more sterile type of interaction. "Good day, sir. How may I help you?" That's what you say to a "customer." When I see you out riding on the same road or trails as me, or riding in an event with me, you're not a customer. You're part of the community. If I have to solve issues that deal with chafed or numb genitals (and guess what 99% of people have?) then I'm not just another sales person and you're not just a customer. 

Most people don't trust you to solve their testicular area disaster unless you're a doctor or a bike shop employee.

I will say my proudest moments were ones where I hadn't thought much of it to begin with. I hosted clinics for women to help them learn how to change a flat tire if they get one during a ride. It's so simple to a lot of us who ride more often than your average person and something we rarely think about. But the reaction I got from these women week after week wasn't something I had expected. These women were so grateful that I took the time to host free clinics in order to help them learn this basic skill. The emails and handwritten letters I received over thanking me were what I did it all for- people deserved to be treated as important and capable, especially women in the cycling industry. Here I was receiving all this praise and I just saw it as bike shop basics- you should be helping out the cycling community in this small way., and I had the advantage of being a female. I didn't think of this as special, this is what you're supposed to do. But the way I must have been conducting these clinics was better received than I had hoped for. Ladies (and the brave men who showed up) had fun. They got stoked and gained confidence. That meant the WORLD to me. I don't need commission or extra perks, getting people enthusiastic was the ultimate pay off for me.

Cycling loads me up with a stockpile of happiness and a provides a sense of freedom that I have yet to find elsewhere. If I couldn't ride, the thrill of bringing happiness to other people's lives via bicycling kept me going. So when I was fired because my boss found my blog, I can't tell you how big of an emotional hit that was. I worked so hard to make sure my disorder didn't jeopardize my job, yet just having the disorder and being open about it is what cost me that piece of happiness in my life.

I had lost my source of income, but more importantly I had lost a main source of happiness.

Now I have to make a decision that's incredibly difficult but necessary. I have to be able to recognize when I need help, more help than I'm able to provide myself. My situation has gotten to the point where I need to have constant monitoring of my meds and symptoms. Nothing is going to get better in its current state. I would like to put out there that I am not suicidal, a lot of people think the hospital is only for when you're trying to kill yourself. It's not. I'm in a crisis situation but this is one of the few times it hasn't involved suicide. 

I'm having behaviours that worry me, like ignoring the danger behind a gun someone pulled out because I wanted to beat his ass for pulling said gun out. He pulled a gun out and instead of my brain saying "run," it just wanted to grab the gun, flip it around, and beat his skull in with it. You'll have to check my Facebook for the rest of that story, but yeah, someone brandished a gun in order to try and intimidate me the other day because I mouthed off after he said rude things while catcalling me.

Needless to say, I've earned my trip to the nut house this time. Life keeps throwing shit my way but I keep dealing with it. I'm in a bad place but I know I'll get through it, even if the timeline is unknown.

I'm still financially struggling, well more like financially bottomed out. Once released from the hospital I will be applying for disability. Until then my bills will go unpaid without knowing how I'm going to be paying them, which is another added stressor in this whole kit of life upheaval that's been so graciously dropped in my lap.

And the joy of waiting 3-6 months to get cleared for disability....

If you would like to help I have Paypal and a GoFundMe campaign. GoFundMe takes 10% and PayPal goes straight to me. If you don't know me personally and are afraid your money will be ill spent, know that I'm drug and alcohol free with no history of addiction issues, I was employed full time before this, am a mother of 2, happily married, and responsible. I've always been on top of seeing my doctors and taking my meds, it's just recently I had to switch doctors and the new set completely fucked me over.

I don't know how long I'll be in the hospital for since it is an inpatient program and my release is based upon my progress. Could be a few days, could be a few months. Just know that anything helps- if you want to donate dog food (some people locally have offered to donate time to help care for my dogs while I'm gone), toiletries, I will leave contact info for my husband so he can manage all of that while I'm gone.

To everyone who has already helped in some way- thank you. I will be better soon.

Thanks for reading

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Just put me in a wheelchair, get me to the show

Just like clockwork, my winter depression has hit and is disrupting my ability to conduct my daily life. I'm having a hard time getting out of bed, staying on top of hygiene routines, and staying motivated to do anything. I sometimes still can't believe I have a problem with my brain that inhibits me from performing basic functions like making sure I shower every day, there's more to it than that but sometimes I try to find the humor in the simplicity of dumb things this disorder does to me.

Depression makes you immobile and incapable. It's like it takes your arms and legs away for a few weeks, or months. I'm not physically incapable but the areas in my brain that should be firing off the command to do these things isn't working.

I'm day 2 into the symptoms becoming problematic and beginning to interrupt my ability to operate. I woke up at 6:30 am today but didn't get out of bed until 9:15. Yesterday I woke up the same time but didn't get out of bed until 10am. That's not good. Sleeping in, or even laying in bed for that much time after I've woken up is not ok. Most people would think that's great- wake up when you want and have the luxury of staying in bed until you want, getting more relaxation time snuggled up in bed during the cold days of winter. Sounds great, right? It's what everyone rushing off to work thinks about every morning while getting ready for the day.

That's the problem- I don't want to be there. I don't want to be in bed, I don't want to mindlessly veg out on my phone or fall back asleep. I want to get up and start my day, get on top of everything I need to be doing at this dire moment in life.

But I can't.

My mind checks out on me. I tell myself 5 more minutes, or that I'm going to put my phone down after I read this one last article, but an hour will go by and I'll take no notice of it. It's just *poof* 2 hours later and I've done nothing mentally or physically. When I am finally able to get out of bed I feel absolutely awful, mostly for not getting up sooner, and that's when the best part of my day starts. I start beating myself up.

"You're lazy. You lost your job and spend your morning doing nothing."

"You can't get out of bed, how do you expect to do much else today?"

"How do you expect to do much else in life?"

"Other people out there are actually sick or physically disabled. Your legs work just fine."

"Remember that big project you've been working on? How about you just give up on it. You know you're going to anyway, just admit you're a failure."

"Every minute you spend in bed is one less minute you get to enjoy today. You're just throwing your life away."

"Don't think this morning was it. You're going to get lazier and lazier and eventually you'll be spending only a few hours a day just trying to get something productive done."

"You probably shouldn't even try."

"You know what? I know you won't even try. Because that's who you are."

Depression talks to you, through you. It doesn't directly control me, it manipulates me. When I'm hypomanic or manic by brain just tells me what to do "go jump off that curb, go write a whole book in a week, go repaint every ceiling in the house for no reason." Depression manipulates you. It uses your own thoughts against you.

You're not a willing participant, you're a prisoner.

Thanks for reading

If you would like to help you can donate to my Paypal. I was recently fired from my job because
my boss read my blog and decided that he didn't want someone with a mental illness
working for him. You can read about it here.

I also gave a Gofundme campaign if you rather donate there. Anything and everything helps!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Scream my face off

There are no laws in my favor when it comes to my situation (read here if you’re wondering “what situation?) which I don't necessarily see as defeat. I actually feel like it frees me up to be able to speak out about what happened, I don't have to keep things to myself because of a pending court case. This way I can scream and yell about it until mental illness is normalized and I have nothing to yell about. I took audio recordings of quite a few conversations, especially the one where I was actually fired. I have emails, and text messages backing up everything I say so I kind of have more power over the situation this way than if I did have a legitimate lawsuit. Well, how I view power anyway.

None of the discrimination laws cover me at federal or state level but I rather use this as a way to speak up for those who can’t say or do anything for fear of their situation ending up like mine. I worked at a bike shop, I loved it and it requires a lot of specific knowledge and dedication, it isn’t a skill less job, but my position wasn’t exactly a career one. I could, in the grand scheme of things, afford to lose that job the way I did. I didn’t lose a career.

I’ve been told if I didn't want this to happen then I shouldn’t have thrown my private life out in the open for the world to see. It’s not a matter of just my life, I am just an example of what already happens to others.

I think about people who went to school to establish themselves as a professional. Not that going to school is the only sign of working hard, you’re reading the writing of someone with a GED, and I have no doubt my writing style might have already told you that. I’m referring to someone who did go through school, acquire student debt, fight to get into a particular field, and bust ass to stay there- all while dealing with depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder, OCD, borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, or any other serious mental illness. THAT person would be absolutely devastated if the same situation had happened to them, if they were dragged into their boss’ office because it was discovered they had a blog about their very difficult health problems.

I can't imagine a school teacher being fired for a parent of one of their students finding their writing about dealing with their mental health. It’s not a problem that it’s out there, mental health should be treated just as serious as physical, it’s a problem because they could lose their career due to the stigma still attached to it.

What if she’s an outstanding professor or he’s a special education teacher? What if one of them ends up fired because of they talk about their disorder in a constructive way? Not that it has caused any interference with their job, but because the people in charge decided having a mental illness was a threat?

It’s terrifying, and not just as a hypothetical, but because you and I know it happens all the time. All. The. Time.

I'm a tough son of a bitch and will get through this. I can't imagine someone who is a caregiver for an elderly or chronically sick family member being in this predicament. If they lost their job like I did what the fuck are they suppose to do then? How do you go home to that? How the hell does anyone expect someone to deal with that? What if they didn’t have the solid career they had hoped for and was already forced to live paycheck to paycheck trying to survive life, mental illness, and caring for someone else? This shit blows my mind and creates and overload of emotions, non bipolar related ones, actual empathetic and sympathetic feelings.

This system and cycle is what creates the down and out cases who can’t do anything about their situation. The world expects everyone to run a marathon while some people have broken or amputated feet.

I have 2 kids, something I always mention but never really talk about, mainly because it’s boring. I get the luxury of being the "other parent." My ex husband and I are great friends but when we split he was able to be a stay at home dad and has a large family support system so it made sense that the kids live with him. I see them whenever I want and their dad and I are still great friends. My husband and I go on double dates with him and his current wife if you really want to be weirded out by how undramatic it all is. I don't have to financially support my kids but what if I did? What if I had to come home after being fired, dealing with my mental state that I've been in, and walk into my house, trying not to blow my brains out?

You have mentally sick mothers and fathers trying to support their children who can’t say shit about what they go through for fear of losing everything.

It happens all the time. All. The. Time.

I feel lucky that my job in the grand scheme of things was not that important. I’m lucky I didn’t just have a career ruined. I won’t be able to work in another bike shop again, I’m sure of that, but that was a risk worth taking. That’s a huge bummer but compared to the scenarios I mentioned above, I’ll take that consequence any day.

I rather get my story out so people who can’t afford to lose their livelihood and careers don’t have to break their silence, or, hopefully, break the stigma behind mental illness so they don’t have to hide their suffering for fear of backlash. I’m not speaking up for anyone, I’m going to scream my face off for you.

Please help spread my story.

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