The Clock – inspiration through despair.

With Easter approaching, I want to share with you the story of a friend I lost on Good Friday years ago. I don’t think I could tell her story any better now than I did in 2011, the year she passed away. I had already lost friends who had taken their own life, as well as my biological father whom I had never met. I’d lost family and friends to natural causes. Michelle’s passing was different, is different. If it could help just one person understand that this is the only life we have and we’re meant to live it, I know she would want her story, our story shared.

Beloved Friend – June 2, 2011

I’d been running my facebook support page for months. It had grown to the point where it needed multiple admins and to be checked multiple times a day instead of the once every few days back in the beginning. We had hundreds of members instead of the handful I expected. I guess I didn’t realize how many people there were like me, that couldn’t get to a face to face support group, or needed more when they were home.

I first noticed Michelle because her posts were a little hard to understand. She was using her phone to access the page, and her typos and missing words were always a part of the posts. She was very far down, there were no okay posts. Only down ones. She would say she couldn’t take it, she would say it hurt too much.

After a few weeks I was talking to her in inbox messages as well as on the page. We had added each other as friends. I read a note of hers that was titled “Read only if you are strong.” She never wanted to bring others down or put things on them that they couldn’t handle. She told me to make sure that I was doing good before reading it. It was a description of what she’d gone through recently. Her son has Dravet’s Syndrome – a child seizure disease. She was constantly overtired because he would have fits through the night as well as the day, and during the day there was no rest because her daughter was awake. She suffered multiple types of abuse by her ex husband, some worse than I want to remember reading, even after the divorce.

She only had one really close friend who would visit when she could, when she wasn’t working to help take care of Michelle’s son. Other than that, she was pretty much on her own. Even her family was not helping much regardless of her son’s health and her mental health.

She made a post one night when I was overtired. As I said before, sometimes her posts were hard to understand. It had something to do with finishing a handful, and I didn’t know what she meant. I am not even sure what I responded with but she said it was good that I didn’t understand her, and she deleted the comment. I realized that she was meaning to finish an overdose that she’d just been starting. I sent her messages in her inbox asking her not to, and begging her to call a crisis line, giving her the phone numbers (she was in the U.K. so I had to look them up, but I did as quickly as possible). I was pleading to a non-responsive screen.

The next day she apologized, she thanked me. She told me she flushed the rest of those pills. About a week later, we got a message that she overdosed and was in the hospital. She messaged us again when she was out of it, she left as soon as they took the needles out of her from the I.V. and left the room. She hated hospitals…

A week later I was messaging her again, I’d seen on her friends wall that she was “going to visit her friend for the last time.” I saw on her wall that her friend would be there soon. I asked her why this would be the last time. She messaged me back saying that she’d tell me the next day maybe. I assured her that I was doing good that Saturday morning, and that my boyfriend would be with me all day and all day the next day, so if I might need support, this was the best time to tell me.

She told me she was dealing with the consequences. I asked what that meant, and she said that her liver was failing. The two overdose attempts weren’t the first. The damage she’d done to her liver was irreversible and because of the reason for the damage, there was no chance of a transplant.

After a couple days, I finally got the courage to ask her friend how long she had, because through the conversation, Michelle gave no real indication. A couple weeks maybe… My heart sank. This woman suffered through so much between her ex husband, her mental state, her children’s health and she had tried to end it all, each time she’d lived she would ask God why, but say that he must have a reason. If she thought one of her friends was already depressed that day, she would inbox another friend with problems instead of posting where everyone could see. Even when she told me she was dying, her main concern was whether or not I was going to be okay with finding out. As the days passed, she would post things on the wall still of the support group. One stuck out in my mind the most.

“i wish i could turn back the clock but i cant”

Michelle English, mother of two, beloved friend, passed away on Good Friday less than one week after she told me she would pass. I’m not a Christian, but she was, so that is how I remember the day. The date was April 22, 2011.

Many people have attempted suicide. Myself included. Sometimes people plan it, sometimes it is done spontaneously. This is a woman that attempted, survived, and then had almost two weeks to come to terms with the fact that she WAS indeed dying. There was no passing out and not waking up, no immediate death. She had to come to terms with what dying really meant. Her response to it? “i wish i could turn back the clock.”

She is missed. She is loved. It took dying to make her want to live and by then it was too late. I hope anyone that reads this looks for what there is to live for, even if it’s just a single person they love, and holds onto it with all their strength until they feel that life is worth living again. We can’t turn back the clock.

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~

P.S. Please consider sharing Michelle’s story. This isn’t just about one life, it’s about all of us. It’s a reminder not to let the depression win.

Also consider commenting in honor of someone you’ve lost to depression.

Glowy screens are my friends

(aka Distraction isn’t the start of the apocalypse)

I have started to write repeatedly in the last couple days and gotten nowhere beyond two sentences. It’s hard to stop and focus. My fiance asked me last night if I’d written anything and I just stared at him shaking my head. He asked if I was taking weekends off. No, no that’s not it. I just had no way to get myself to stop the hamster running in the wheel inside my head long enough to get words out.

I held my phone up and started listing non-Ingress games I’m playing – Clash Royale with its three minute rounds, my fishy game which is one of those ‘match three gem’ kind of games with rounds that are even shorter, my search and find game with two minute or less rounds… I’m like “I couldn’t even finish my crown chest yet!” It means getting ten towers down in that first game, usually takes me under half an hour. It’d been over three hours and I was still at 9, with the phone sitting dark next to me.

“That’s my level of focus, three minutes and, really, not even that.” I’ve been using phone games as distraction from my physical issues lately. There are many coping skills but over the years I have learned that when things are weighing heavily on my mind, it’s distraction that helps most. It lets my subconscious mind work on the issues without invading my conscious mind to the point of obsessing and panic attacks.

While we are becoming a generation of screen junkies, there are benefits sometimes. Yesterday’s distractions, beyond the games, were: watching Empire Records, talking to a person online I’d never talked to before, contemplating meeting friends from online and running through a list a friend gave me of topics he’d like to see me tackle. I must have read the list twenty times. It’s a short list, but I like it – some hows and whens and a little entertainment.

Distraction is my warm comfy blanket as far as coping with racing thoughts is concerned, as well as anxiety and sometimes depression but most often the racing thoughts. I do have an actual warm comfy blankey for the others, and a bear (Mr. Bear… I’ve had him about ten years, he’s sitting next to me now), and a cat when she’s awake. Some people say you need to work through your issues or you need to ‘figure things out.’ While they are correct, sometimes taking some time away from those issues and those things is exactly what can help you figure out how to handle them.

This morning, I am in a much better place emotionally. I’m more able to accept the high brain pressure thing, more able to handle needing to retest my blood in a couple of weeks to see if I truly have an issue with my kidneys, more able to think about my future. By the way, the kidney thing – that test that was off when I wrote last – my general physician just wants a retest – the level is not far out of range so I’m not as terrified as I was. I will still keep you updated.

Mainly, if distraction is being detrimental to your life – if you’re binging netflix instead of eating dinner – that’s not really good. However, sometimes a little distraction can make you feel capable enough to make dinner or to take a shower, or to actually have that conversation with your boss to request a vacation. Our little glowing screens may have the power to diminish our quality of life if we’re not careful, but sometimes… sometimes they can vastly improve it.

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~

If we expected it, it wouldn’t be “the unexpected.”

It has been a few days since I’ve really felt able to string sentences together into coherent paragraphs. I am not sure I am really even there yet, but since this is part of being me, I figured “fuck it, let’s try.” It’s near 4:15am which is a normal time for me to be awake, or was, but my sleeping has decided that stress is now in charge of its schedule. My ideas on when I want to be awake or try to sleep have absolutely no standing.

Along with waiting for my Neurology appointment (which is about a month from now) for the brain pressure thing, I had my lithium changed because the medication I had been on affected the levels, so coming off it did as well. My psychiatrist is amazingly thorough and although it feels obnoxious to go through, he orders the necessary blood work to go along with my medication level tests. This means fasting – which SUCKS as a caffeine addict. It means that every time I need my lithium checked, I invariably need to plan for the withdrawal headache and thus need to plan my test for a time I can get there without worrying about spending extra hours in pain.

Usually there’s nothing of concern in the tests, so, honestly, I don’t expect phone calls first thing in the morning the day after my test from my psychiatrist’s office. Yesterday they called. Apparently one of the levels is high in the metabolic panel he did. If you take meds, you know some of them are going to strain your system, especially over time which is why these tests are so important. This particular test indicates my kidneys may not be happy with me.

I take over half a dozen different medications a day. The questions of how it might affect me in the long run have always been in the back of my mind but this is the first time they’re front and center. I had the results sent to my primary care doctor and I’m waiting on them to give me a call and let me know how we’re moving forward. I probably need another blood test. Not looking forward to another caffeine withdrawal morning but it’s worth it to find out what’s going on.

So, I have lots of questions and not enough information for answers yet. My mind and body gang up on me to respond to this with full on anxiety for hours while I’m awake and needing to go to sleep with no notice. I’d already started this when I knew I was getting pressure headaches again, the whole hyper-alert and passing out game is just now more insistent on my cooperation.

I think that’s something many people don’t always associate with anxiety, they think it’s intentional avoidance of issues or tasks. Sometimes, I don’t actually WANT to take a nap, I really want to try to get things done, especially when they freak me out. However, if I get overwhelmed, sometimes my eyes just start to close. I could down a full cup of coffee and still just pass out like I haven’t slept in days even if I only woke a couple hours before. It’s a defense mechanism, I think, my body trying to keep my mind safe, but it’s really frustrating when you need to take care of something even if it scares you.

For the past few days, I’ve been oscillating between the hyper-aware and passing out, so it hasn’t left me a lot of time to really focus on any one thing for long. Even just writing this has taken what feels like forever because my eyelids are starting to pull themselves down. People say ‘Expect the unexpected’ but we never can, we just have to hope that we’re prepared to cope with whatever the unexpected might be. I’ll work on figuring my new one out. I hope you continue to find ways to cope with yours.

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~

p.s. I don’t need or want “natural” remedy ideas for my illnesses. If I need to come off of medications, I will discuss all options with my doctors. If homeopathy worked for everything I had, I wouldn’t have gone back on medication a dozen years ago. I appreciate the efforts of people that try to offer these solutions but they are not for me.

Semicolons, suicide and solidarity

Out of the group of very supportive women I mentioned yesterday, there is one more. Diana* has been one of the most helpful both online and playing in person. She and her husband drive me to game gatherings often and I am grateful for it. Yesterday morning, she said that Amy, founder of the Semicolon Movement took her own life. She went on to say how it made her feel and asked me what I thought it meant for this or future movements.

We have a woman that created a suicide prevention and awareness movement with a grammatical concept. It’s based on the idea that a semicolon is where an author could have ended a sentence and chose not to; as authors of our own lives, our story is not over yet. This idea has brought people comfort, support, solidarity with others that struggle. It has brought people together, helped people show support when they did not know how. Amy’s passing leaves a lot of people with many different emotions. Sadness, helplessness, frustration and even anger.

None of these feelings are wrong. However you feel about Amy’s passing is valid. I do want people to understand, though, that her passing does not diminish the meaning behind the Semicolon Movement. It does not negate what the movement stands for. It does not take away the meaning of the tattoos and pictures that you see or that you have or that you created as a part of this.

I’m going to plagiarize myself a moment, some of this I wrote in a status yesterday on facebook. Amy did not end her story when she initially considered it. She continued on to write further chapters and to help many people in the process. Her story is over now and that is extremely sad, but she had those extra chapters. You still are the author of your own story and you still have chapters to write and her death does not change this.

One of my friends said, “what it says for the movement is that we need to keep moving on and supporting each other” and I know that she didn’t mean it the way I read it – however, I felt like she was saying that because of this one woman’s death we need to keep supporting each other. I know her better than this, however, responding emotionally, I said “i have a much different take on it in my mind because the death of one woman isn’t what means we need to keep pressing forward – the deaths of all of those we lost to suicide is why we need to press forward.” I stand by what I said, though.

I went on later to say “it is very sad and we do need to keep up every effort for suicide awareness and prevention but please know that it’s sad EVERY time… we can’t just think it’s sad when it’s a public figure. that won’t help anyone.” I stand by this, too. We have become a society that focuses on individuals rather than issues. When Robin Williams died there was an outpouring of support from and for the mental health community. When that boy in the hospital got the attention from the person behind the voice of Pinkie Pie from My Little Pony, there were pictures plastered on facebook of the pink pony and places where tattoo artists would donate proceeds from a tattoo of the character to help those suffering from bullying. I can not remember the last time I have seen anyone post a picture of Pinkie Pie, nor even talk of Robin Williams’ mental health.

When people stop thinking about the public figure that brought awareness to an issue, many times they also stop thinking about the issue. I hope that people who see others with semicolons continue to show support and increase awareness about suicide and suicide prevention. I hope that this movement does not fade out. Honestly, I was never enamored with it. I don’t have a semicolon tattoo, nor do I have any desire to get one. I respect those that do, though. I hope that people continue to show up for those that need the support and don’t let this movement or this issue fade to the back of their minds.

Amy’s death does not negate the good that she did in her life. Succumbing to her depression does not negate the awareness she brought to the world. There are so many reasons that people take their own lives, and honestly, part of what this does is show that even those that are trying so hard to create awareness, they are not immune. They need support as well… and honestly, sometimes even with all of the support one can handle, things can still take a turn. Please don’t let her death stain your view of suicide prevention efforts of this movement or any future ones. Please, find the people you know need support and just be there for them, not just today, but every chance you get forever… because mental health doesn’t fix itself in a day or a year. For many of us, it is lifelong and that is how long I hope you continue to be aware of and support those that struggle with suicidal thoughts and self harm.

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~

*Name changed because I forgot if I can use her real one.

Image: My friend Chloe’s gorgeous tattoo from just as she got it finished.

Bad Days Happen.

Not every day is a good day. When you have mood disorders, no matter what medications your on and what therapy you have participated in, some things are going to break through. For me, it can happen when I’ve tried to mentally prepare myself for something for days, and yet what happens is unexpected.

Yesterday morning, I tried to call the neurologist’s office that I went to five years ago. I couldn’t remember his name, so I asked the receptionist to look it up for me. I was prepared for “He works in a different office,” or “He moved to California.” I thought I was prepared for the disappointment of not being able to see him again. She gave me his name and told me he retired just after I left last time. “Retired” was not something I prepared myself for.

For a lot of people, that small difference of “moved away” versus “retired” wouldn’t mean much. They both mean that he’s unavailable as a doctor currently. For me, I broke into tiny pieces. My voice changed immediately as I tried not to cry and as soon as I hung up the phone, the floodgates opened. I messaged a friend, I messaged a small group of Ingress friends. After being unable to stop crying after almost half an hour, I also texted my mom asking her to call me.

My Ingress friends, the women I left a note for as I could barely see through my tears, are amazing. I mentioned in my Ingress post (How I Got Out) how supportive my team has been. This includes when I’ve lost my shit completely. I hadn’t slept enough, the crying was making the pain in my head worse than it had been in days, and I had no idea how to move forward making an appointment with a neurologist.

Before I got in touch with my mommy (and yes, when I’m crying she’s still “mommy”), Lois* left a message describing the next steps I should take (with Superwoman* and Pretty Bit* agreeing). At the time, I could read the next steps, but I couldn’t actually get the information to stick in my head enough to work with it. When my mom called me back, she and I talked for a few minutes while she was at work. I managed to mostly stop crying, and she gave me almost the same exact information. After being a little prepared for it by Lois, I was much more able to comprehend and internalize the information mom gave me.

Basically, I need to call, make an appointment, ask to be put on the short list (waiting/cancellation list) and be prepared to go in with little notice in hopes that I can be seen sooner than six weeks from now. This seems like such an easy task to read it now, but overtired and emotionally drained from unexpected information and crying for half an hour and giving myself an extremely bad headache, this was an insurmountable task. When I first saw it, I felt like it was impossible, but I owe Lois many thanks because it was her preparing me that made it seem like I could try it later when my mom gave the same advice.

A lot of people don’t understand how something so trivial, like a doctor retiring, when we’re not expecting it can be so devastating. I can’t explain to you why it is, I can only tell you that it’s much more possible than people without mental health issues typically understand. I am lucky in that my support group is vast and includes these Ingress ladies. Pretty Bit kept reminding me to breathe and while at the moment even that seemed impossible, just being reminded is so helpful. Breathing is something we do automatically but the deep breaths that help us calm down are not, they are intentional and controlled.

I got some sleep, got the headache to subside in the afternoon. Milan*, one of the other women in the group I mentioned earlier, checked in and asked how I was doing. I was much better by this point and appreciated her support. While I have not made my necessary phone calls yet, I feel I will be able to today.

It’s okay to have depressive episodes. It’s okay to have bad days that break through your treatment. It’s okay to not be able to handle things sometimes. If this happens, though, please find your support systems. Talk with them, be honest, let them help you. We can sit and do nothing and tell no one and nothing will change, or we can try to ask for help. It is one of the hardest things we do, but it is also one of the most necessary. I will keep you updated about the doctor, and I hope you keep your friends updated on your struggles too.

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~

*Names changed. My life is an open book, but their privacy is important, if they wish it.
**Image is my hand – heartbeat ring from my sister, a reminder that life is ups and downs, green nails because my Ingress team’s color is green. 

Opposites really do attract.

As open as I am about pretty much everything, my fiance is a very private person. Since he’s not as public with his life, there will be very little to do with him unless necessary to explain a situation. Not his job or his family, only things that relate directly with me and only with his approval.

We’ve been together for about seven years now. I met him at Rocky Horror a couple decades ago and I was entirely infatuated back then. I didn’t get to date him or anything back then. He’s 9 years older than me, it might have been awkward age-wise. I did develop this HUGE crush that stayed with me, actively in my mind through the years, even long after losing touch.

When I started using facebook, I got in touch with a few people from back then, and then met some of the mutual acquaintances. One of whom knew almost everyone I did from back then and many I didn’t. He also had a large network of friends. We’ll call him Frag for the moment because I am trying very hard to ask permission before using real names here, and I haven’t asked… Anyhow, Frag asked if I wanted to get back in touch with anyone from the old days. My fiance was one of the first people that came to mind, I suppose we shall call him C as I haven’t asked what pseudonym he’d prefer either. Frag and I searched for him for a bit using real names and nicknames and he found someone who knew his number.

We called while I was staying there as a short getaway from my family (a story for another time). C knew who I was immediately when I told him my name, even remembered both my real and nicknames. I was was as giddy as a school girl. We met the next week and after not seeing each other for about thirteen years, I was just as attracted to him as I was back then. He lived across the state, literally, westernmost area to where I was on the east coast. Since I don’t drive, I was concerned about the distance.

We both kept saying we were working on ourselves and did not want a relationship. We still saw each other every couple weeks. I would get so excited, I would have my sister help me clean my room (depression makes EVERYTHING harder), and I have the BEST sister. After seeing C for about five months, we realized we were already IN a relationship. Our relationship, like any, has its good days and its… difficult days. He does, however, still make me feel giddy as a school girl just being with him.

C is a very patient man – so far you have read about a tiny little cross-section of my life, but he lives it day to day. I am not the easiest person to get along with, I have mood swings and medication changes and physical health issues as well. It’s hard to find someone that can even tolerate so many depressive moods, anxiety, and doctor’s appointments but he doesn’t just tolerate it, he loves me through it all.

I’m divorced… I’m not sure I mentioned that yet, but I think it’s one of the reasons that while I would love to push for the “commitment” of marriage, I feel I’m already committed and don’t want to push for the ceremony and such. Someday, perhaps the engagment will end in marriage, but for now, knowing he loves me is enough. People always ask, when you say you’re engaged, “When’s the wedding?” So if you’re thinking that, the answer is “When we’re both ready for it.” Remember, it took us five months to even admit we were in a relationship. We’re a little more cautious than I used to be… I think he may always have been this cautious.

Anyway, that’s just a tiny look into my love life because while C is a very private man, I’m writing about my life. I want you to know that I’m not ignoring parts of it that include him, I’m not trying to ignore his impact on me, I’m just trying to honor his wishes. I hope that you find someone supportive in your life, romantic partner or not, someone who you know will be there when you need them. He is one of my people… There are others. I will introduce you to them in time.

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~

I can’t always be there for you.

I won’t. I’m not sorry. I can not always make time for someone, no matter how much I care about them. I can not be there for even my closest friends, for even my family “no matter what” because I have to care for myself. Sometimes I am completely drained and I have no energy, physical or emotional. If you come to me at one of these times, it is unfair to assume I don’t care about you.

Sometimes I don’t have the emotional capacity to talk to anyone. I can’t send you a message back immediately just because you are hurting. I will always be there for people when I can. I will always try to listen to friends, to commiserate, empathize, give advice… However, sometimes I’m curled up in a ball on the couch with a blanket wrapped around me, a teddy bear in my arms playing stupid games on my phone because I can’t handle anything more  emotionally involved.

I refuse to apologize for not being there. I will not apologize for being myself. I am so sick of seeing those posts on social media from friends and mental health pages saying that I have to be there for someone, no matter what, if I really care. In reality, because I care, I can’t be there every time something triggers you because some of those times I need to be there for myself. If I don’t do this, if I don’t take care of myself emotionally, if I don’t take breaks to recharge my soul, at some point I will break down. When this happens, I can’t be there for anyone for a much, much longer period of time.

I know that there are a lot of us trying to be there for everyone we care about. It leaves us drained and, at times, emotionally empty. I encourage you to step away. If you need to, close your browser, put down your phone, turn it off, stay home, go out. I have had friends temporarily ban me from a facebook group that I ran so I would stop trying to be there for everyone and start being there for myself. I declared a day “off” even though I don’t work. I declared Sunday to be my day off, my day for me.

For those of you that don’t work, I encourage you to also consider a day off. For me, it meant that if you messaged me with your problem, you knew it would be handled the next day. It meant I didn’t have to keep apologizing for not being able to help someone with their coping skills because since it was my ‘day off’ they knew they were supposed to find someone else to help them with these things or to wait.

Being able to admit you cannot always be there for someone you care about is extremely difficult, and also extremely liberating. I need to have days when I can only worry about my own issues, when I can let everything else go. I need these times when I can seek out support specifically instead of giving it. That is how support is supposed to work. You can make sacrifices for those you care for, but please don’t sacrifice your own happiness or sanity. The people that love you, that you love, will learn to understand the need for self care. It’s a hard process to start, but it is worth it.

You don’t have to be strong every day. You don’t have to be the rock every day. You are allowed to be the one that needs a rock. You are allowed to take care of yourself.

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~