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~

When Life Hands You Lemons…

I always hated this because sometimes there just aren’t any other ingredients for your lemonade. Sometimes it’s just lemons. There’s no sugar or water. I don’t believe that every cloud has a silver lining. I don’t believe that it’s always possible to turn a situation around and make it positive.

This isn’t pessimism. This is life with mental illness and chronic pain. I may be stronger in some situations because of what I’ve had to endure, but what I endure makes me weaker as well. I can empathize with people who have panic attacks and crying fits. I can offer them ideas on how to cope with them. This may make some people think “See, you can help people with it!” While they’re not wrong, I also still have panic attacks and crying fits that I can’t cope with much more than existing through them.

I can give people metaphors as to what mental illness is like but that doesn’t actually make my mental illness any better. It’s not a silver lining, it’s simply a more positive side effect than the inability to sleep on any sort of normal schedule or the soreness in my neck and shoulders from the anxiety. People say things about those of us with mental health issues being more creative, and while some of us are – during our depressions, our creativity might be completely stifled leaving us only with frustration. In these times, it is not a silver lining, it is another cloud.

Something many people know (but often fail to consider long term) is that both mental and physical illness can leave you completely drained. You could be passed out for hours or stuck like glue to the couch trying to find the energy to even look for the remote to the TV. There’s no upside to this. We’re not “lucky” we don’t have to work, we’re not working because we’re unable to function on that level.

I hear people say it all the time. “You’re so lucky, I wish I didn’t have to work.” It’s a hard thing to hear as someone that has not been able to work in a dozen years. The first month or so is filled with some sense of relief as you’re finally tending to yourself. By six months in, I wanted to be able to work again. I wanted to be able to have some sense of accomplishment, to be “productive” by society’s standards and my own. In year twelve, I cry sometimes because I’m afraid I will never be “productive” by these standards. I am viewed as lazy. I am viewed by some that are physically disabled as less deserving of help because my main issue is mental health.

I have mentioned my high brain pressure a few times. This is a physical problem, one that I am working on fixing. Having daily headaches that may or may not disappear when I pass out and wake next is exhausting and frustrating. Not knowing when things will get worse or if I will have enough help by then is frightening. When I was first diagnosed, I joined a facebook group with others that had the same problem. After a while posting and reading in there, I saw a post saying that it wasn’t fair how people who “only have depression” could get disability but they were having trouble with theirs.

I wanted to scream, I wanted to throw things. I was absolutely livid. I was denied my disability at first. It took two years to get my appeal. I couldn’t work for those two years, I had no income. I could not provide for myself and yet this person was judging my disability to be less than hers. I left a ranting response and left the group. You can’t quantify pain in this way. It’s not fair to decide that your pain is more deserving of help than another person’s because you can’t feel their pain.

This isn’t a competition. My problems are no less valid than yours whether we’re discussing my brain pressure or my mental health. Your problems are no less valid than mine, whether they are physical, mental, or situational (like your boss is a complete dick). Pain and frustration vary from person to person and it is valid. This holds whether you’ve experienced the same issues or not.

None of us react the same to pain nor to mental illness nor even simply stressful situations, like arguing with a significant other. I won’t judge you for your reactions, coping skills, life choices or what you do with your lemons. I am holding onto my lemons so I can squirt people in the eye that judge me for my way of life. Feel free to finish the title your own way in the comments.

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~

My brain is sick.

I am on, currently, seven medications (not counting the prescription I just got to manage the pain of my headaches until I see a neurologist). I see a lot of people who talk about “big pharma” and how people should handle their mental health with supplements and not psychiatric medication. While I believe that pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies are totally screwing us over on costs, I do not believe medication is “unnecessary” for everyone. Whether or not you take medication has to be up to you and your doctor, but if your blood pressure is at a stroke risk level, you take blood pressure medication. In my mind, if your mental health is at risk of hurting your life in some fashion, you should consider the same types of options.

While eating healthy and exercise and supplements and yoga and meditation and whathaveyou can take people far, it can’t take everyone all the way to where they need to be in order to live more fulfilling lives. These things could help your blood pressure too… but they can’t help everyone. There are drawbacks to medications, all medications, not just psych meds. The medication I took for my high brain pressure, for example, took away my sex drive. Blood pressure medications often have that side effect as well. It sucks. I know it sucks. Well… sometimes it can be funny as well.

While I was still married and doing the first medication switches, I always read the potential side effects so I knew what was to be expected. I didn’t always remember to tell my husband the ones I was experiencing unless they were REALLY bad. One night, in bed, he poked his head out from under the covers and asked, “Is there something I should know?” I had started a new medication a couple days before and in the less common side effects was “lactation.” Guess who the lucky winner of “less common side effects” usually is? I did notice it was happening, I totally forgot to mention it. This is a much more common side effect of “pregnancy” … Luckily, it was just the Risperdal.

What I experience when I don’t have the right medication, and during the times when I had no medication, is far more frightening to me than the side effects that I have experienced. Negative side effects that I could not handle (like a medication that dropped my appetite to nothing and I did not eat for five days straight) are temporary. If I contact the doctor and they tell me how to come off the medication safely, within days I’m fine again. Being so anxious that small things like dropping a bowl make me cry for hours because I don’t know what to do and shut down, so depressed that I end up at the edge of a river… these “side effects” of mental illness can last for weeks, months, years, or until death.

Not everyone needs medication. Some people can learn the coping skills they need to move through life without it. Some people have healthy enough bodies that they will not need medications for physical reasons well into the second half of their life. Some people need to take insulin for the diabetes no matter how healthy they try to be… Me? I need to take psychiatric medications as well as physical ones because my brain needs the chemicals to function properly.

I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind who consistently uses the phrase “big pharma” while talking about conspiracies to keep people sick. I just want you to know that I know my medications are necessary for me, and that I see no more shame in taking my lithium than in taking my blood pressure medication. They are both keeping me alive. If supplements, talk therapy and yoga aren’t doing it for you, I encourage you to seek psychiatric counsel. If your heart was sick, you’d go to the doctor, please don’t treat your brain with any less care.

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~

The last time I tried to die.

I never tried to hide the fact that I have been suicidal, nor that I have attempted suicide. I don’t shy away from conversations where people say that it’s selfish or unfair of a person to take their own life. I am not going to debate that right now, though. This isn’t about excuses or forgiveness. I speak for myself and only myself. In doing so, I hope that even if no one changes their views, maybe someone at least considers another way to see things. Nothing is as cut and dry as people want it to be.

When I was 27, I moved back in with my family. My mother, brother and sister lived in one house. Next door to us were our ex husbands and ex mother-in-laws. Somewhat strange arrangement. I still just call it the family compound. It was good for my brother and sister, though, as after my mom and dad separated, they didn’t have to go far to travel between households. It is hard to move back in with family as an adult though. No one knows where to draw the lines between roommates and parent/child. It’s messy and frustrating.

My depression worsened severely due to the inability to find a medication that would work decently and the inability to find a doctor I worked well with. I was back off of all of my medications again. This was never a good sign. I still had the random bottle here or there of medications I hadn’t finished, but I wasn’t taking anything regularly.

I was crying often, unable to do much of anything. I had a lot of trouble sleeping, so I would often be up through most of the night. My brother and sister were teenagers. I was thirteen when my brother was born, fifteen when my sister was. They were now at that stage where they were moody, not going to bed on time and not doing what they should around the house. Anyone that has had a teenager or been one knows this stage. Our actions were very similar but the reasons were so far apart.

While depressed, it’s almost impossible to see the good in things, especially yourself. It’s very easy to believe the lies in your own head. Mine told me I was worthless and incapable and a burden to my family. It’s even easier to believe these negative things when someone else says them to you, even if they are said out of frustration during an argument.

My brother stayed up one night watching television in the living room past four am. My mother woke up to get something to drink, saw the TV on and yelled at him to go to bed. The next morning at about nine o’clock, my mother stormed into my room, screaming at me to get out of bed. She ripped the blanket off of me (which felt very demeaning since I sleep naked), and kept yelling. I found out later that she had done a similar thing to my brother just before. I couldn’t understand why she was so angry, but I just tried to get something to wrap around myself. She continued on when I finally emerged into the living room. “It’s your fault they’re like this. You’re setting a bad example. You stay up to all hours. You don’t pull your weight around here. They don’t do anything they’re told to do. You need to set a better example.”

Now, we’ve already covered that this is normal teenaged behavior. We’ve covered that this was said in frustration (please don’t judge my mom on this, we have ALL said things in anger). To me, this was all proof that I was a bad influence on the family. This was proof that I didn’t belong here. This was proof that my mother’s life would be easier if I was gone because my brother and sister would not be seeing my bad behavior. I retreated back to my room. A little bit later, my brother came in and sat with me. Mom had been screaming at him again for not refilling the dishwasher. Dad wouldn’t let him go next door until the dishwasher was taken care of (one of the few times I remember a united front in punishment). My brother put some things in a bag and left to go to a friend’s house.

I sat there crying again. All I could think was how much more difficult I made everyone’s life. My mother didn’t deserve to have me being such a bad influence on the kids. My brother and sister deserved better role models. I couldn’t do anything right. They would be so much better off if they didn’t have to handle the burdens of my illness, of my existance. I found two bottles of medication, one full, one half full. They were a benzodiazepine and a sleeping medication. Overdosing on either could be fatal. I took both bottles and put them in my purse with a bottle of Baileys. The alcohol wasn’t for my nerves, it was because overdosing can make you puke and Baileys sits well in my stomach.

I walked out the door and down to the water. My family lives on a river so it was only the end of the street next to the house. I sat down on the other side of a small grouping of trees so I could barely see the house. I took all of the pills. I swallowed them in handfulls with irish cream. After I took them all, I sat there a moment and realized I hadn’t left a note so I dug around in my purse and found a pink envelope… The only thing I could find to write with was purple lipstick, so I scrawled “Sorry” on the envelope and lit a cigarette.

As I stared out over the water, I thought about how much better everyone’s lives would be. I figured my brother and sister would be more focused so they would get better grades, go to better schools and get better jobs. I felt my mother would be less burdened so she’d be able to enjoy her time that she wasn’t working so much more. She wouldn’t need to yell at the kids so much so she’d have less stress. Somewhere between one drag of my cigarette and the next, the thought crept into my mind, “Wait… what if this means my brother and sister will need psych help, to deal with the trauma and grief? What if they will need to go to all the doctors I have to go to? What if I will be the cause of them needing medication?” and I panicked. I realized I might make their lives harder and I didn’t know, any longer, if this was the right decision.

I finished my cigarette. Yes, after all of this I still just sat there and finished my cigarette because I needed to be sure of what I did next. I stood up and walked back to the house. I walked in the door and said as I was walking by “Mom, you might want to call an ambulance.” “What?!? WHAT DID YOU DO? WHAT DID YOU TAKE?” She was screaming again and I couldn’t handle it so I went back to my room. Her boyfriend stopped me and had me walk in circles because he knew I should not fall asleep. We walked in circles until the ambulance came. I don’t remember anything after passing out in the ambulance.

Obviously, I didn’t die that day. I’m glad I didn’t. I am glad I was still alive to tell my brother that he couldn’t have changed anything and that it was not his fault. I am glad that I have since gotten a lot more psychiatric and psychological help. I have since found much better support systems. I encourage everyone to seek help if they need it.

Depression lies to us and it confirms fear that it has no right to confirm. Depression may make us look selfish or lazy or stupid but we are not. We can not only survive it but learn to live with mental illness but know it takes a LOT of work. I am not here to say “I survived and you can because I did.” I am saying that I did survive and anyone reading this should know that it was a choice I almost didn’t make. You don’t know who is around you right now that may be making that same choice, you don’t know their decision… so please if you notice signs of depression in those around you, reach out. We are not contagious.

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~

Knowing they care is hard.

It’s hard being on disability. It feels like everyone around me has this piece of their life that I can’t really be a part of. In place of a job, I have pain management, medications, doctors appointments and trying to shower. People lose interest quickly. They can complain about coworkers or a boss each day for weeks and others will commiserate. When I show them my world, though, those days it’s really getting to me, they don’t know how to react. Often, people just don’t react at all.

This aspect of my life, the inability to share my life with people who do not go through the same things, it hurts. It creates a feeling of loneliness, of being forgotten. I know it’s tedious listening to me complain about issues that I’ve had for years or will have the rest of my life. I know it’s not happy. I know you don’t know what questions to ask, and some don’t want to. I know you don’t have words that will make things better so you choose to say nothing.

I don’t know how to fight the thoughts of “No one cares,” or “Why do I even bother?” I tell myself they care. I tell myself I matter. I tell myself a lot of things. It’s hard to shout into the void sometimes. It’s hard to say “My life has meaning and my struggles are important.”

Your struggles ARE important. Your fears are valid. Your emotions are valid. Mine are as well.

I have been having a really hard time lately. Most of my friends are used to my depression and anxiety issues. They are used to me having to disappear to recharge my soul so I have compassion and love to give to others. They are used to me babbling in hypomania and sleeping through emptiness. They are not, however, used to me in pain.

I am learning it is hard for people to switch gears. My general mood is okay but I have a lot of fear surrounding the pain that I have because the problem causing my headaches can also take my vision. I am trying to handle it but sometimes that means talking about it and it’s really hard to talk when it feels like no one is listening. I know my friends love me and care about me. Yours do as well. I know I am not a burden to those that love me, and neither are you. However, at times, I do not feel like these things are true. Tonight is just one of those times.

Please know you are always loved, cared for and are not a burden. It doesn’t matter if your friends know the questions to ask to help you FEEL like they care, the reality is they DO care. I want to say something uplifting like “stay strong” but really, you don’t have to be strong all the time. We will love you and care even if you need to melt down for a while.

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~

Doctors, Pain, Self Advocacy.

I had every intention of talking about the need to be assertive when dealing with doctors for this post. Please note, I did not say aggressive, simply assertive. It doesn’t do you any good to yell at them, they may stop working with you. However, standing your ground when you need help, when you need something changed, this is important. When your medications aren’t working or you’re still in pain when you should not be, when your side effects are not something you can live with… Tell the doctor and make sure you get them to understand you. You NEED to be your own advocate even if others are helping you.

I will go further into that another day. Today I am back stuck with fear and frustration. These headaches, well, I can’t tell what’s bringing them on or what’s getting them to stop. I believe that I am dealing with the pseudotumor again. By the way, it’s called a pseudotumor because your brain is acting as if there is a tumor there but it is simply the pressure of your cerebro-spinal fluid. It’s not a “fake disease.” It just has misleading symptoms.

I am going to try to reschedule my doctor’s appointment. I want to make it earlier, if possible. I will need referrals. I do not want to go back on the medication I was on for the last four and a half years. I need to try to find a different solution and I am sure that the specialist I used to see will only want me back on it.

There are definite side effects from it that affect my life, and there are issues that have come up since starting it that mirror those of my friend who also takes it. She and I were talking last night and comparing diagnoses we’ve received since starting the Diamox. If I have to go back on it, my vision is kind of important to me, so I will find a way to make that sacrifice. However, if there are other options available, I have to try.

We all self-identify as certain things. For some, it’s being a free spirit, or being creative. Some people identify as intellectuals, others as sarcastic comedic relief. One of mine has always been that I am a sexual being (oversharing is another, obviously). I just have been for as long as I can remember. I was writing erotica before my first kiss. Diamox takes away my sex drive. It’s like losing a piece of my soul. Some people will think that’s overreacting, however, consider how you identify. If you’re an avid reader, what if someone took away your ability to read? Or to enjoy it?

So, this is where I am. I need to see doctors. I need to find options. I need to take care of myself and I can, and I will. I will advocate for myself so that I can try to keep that “piece of my soul” and I will stand my ground. Doctors are amazing people, but they are still just human. So, even if the specialists I do see recommend the Diamox, I will be assertive and let them know that I want and need something different if there is any chance to handle it another way.

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~

 

**Disclaimer: I’m not a medical professional. Everyone reacts to medications differently, this is about me, not meant to be medical advice for or against any medications**