Showering. It’s possible.

So, today I really need to take a shower. For many people, this is a simple, everyday task. For many of us with depression and anxiety issues, this is a monumental feat. You take a shower, dry off, go back to your day. What’s the big deal? Right?

For some of us, it is a much longer list. You may have to: find towels, turn the water on, get into the shower without slipping, wash your hair, wash your body,  shave your underarms, legs and stuff, which may require sitting and then standing again without falling even if it makes you light headed, rinse everything off, get out of the shower without falling, dry off, drink water because you’re now dehydrated.

It feels overwhelming. It feels like an impossible task. I make deals with myself: I just won’t shave this time, I will shampoo but not condition, I’ll do these next time. Even then, it feels like I’m embarking on a potentially dangerous and overwhelming journey. It has to be done, but I will admit it is not done every day. It’s not done nearly as often as it should be.

Today, however, I will do as the day demands. I will “March 4th” and get into that shower and do what needs to get done. If you can today also, I am proud of you. If you’re not ready to tackle it today, I’m still proud of you for knowing your limits and I hope tomorrow is an easier day for you.

If you don’t live with mental illness, I hope this gives you a small look into how an everyday task for you can be overwhelming for us. No matter whether you live with depression or not, I hope you embrace today. March forth and attempt your goals. Don’t forget that even though tomorrow is the “March 5th” – you can still attempt any goals you could not finish today. I have faith in you. I have faith in me. We can do this!

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~

How I Got Out

(or Killing agoraphobia before it killed me)

Isolation is a horrible thing. When I’m depressed, I withdraw – as do many others. It is easy to believe when others say “You did this to yourself,” and spiral into self-loathing and loneliness. After my breakdown at 24, more and more things made me afraid – lightning, social interaction. Because of this, I withdrew, and because of my depression, I internalized the negative things people said to me about it.

By 27, I could not leave the house alone. I had to be with someone I trusted. I had long since stopped driving (because traffic was terrifying). I wanted to be around people, I needed to be but couldn’t get there on my own. By 29, doctors, grocery shopping, more doctors were all that got me out of the house – and only because I pushed myself hard to help with the grocery shopping. Still never without my fiance or family.

A year and a half ago, I mentioned my agoraphobia to my friend Josh. He said I should check out a game called Ingress. Some of you may have heard of it, it was the Niantic augmented reality game that came before Pokemon Go. Pokemon got a lot of attention for getting people outside… Ingress, however, got me outside and got me a community. It’s a lot more strategy and community based.

It’s hard to make friends as an adult if you don’t work or go to bars. It’s hard to make local friends when you don’t leave your house. I downloaded Ingress onto my phone to see what it was. It’s like a worldwide game of capture the flag but it’s also so much more. You capture these portals which, in the game are places where “exotic material” (xm) leaks into “our world”, in reality, they’re mostly places of cultural interest: churches, schools, art installations. They’re all over the world. I could see across the street there were a dozen of these portals. My fiance wouldn’t drive me there. If I wanted to capture them, I had to do it myself.

For weeks, I would drool as we drove home, but they were unreachable from the road. I kept saying, “I’m going to get those portals, they’re going to be mine.” Then one day it happened: I got dressed, took my phone and my keys (and every other thing I could possibly need in the next twelve hours even though I was walking across the street) and actually walked out the front door!

Over the next few weeks the local community told me how to contact them online and I joined our  Slack (a chat platform). I started meeting these new people at the college or my fiance would drive me to meet them in nearby towns. We have get-togethers where we play cooperatively either to get better in-game items or to create large fields (linking three points together) that take sometimes dozens of players and LOTS of planning.

I have these friends now that I can’t imagine not having. My community has been so supportive they got me to Brooklyn, New York to play with thousands of others for the day without bringing a family member or my fiance. Each of us has our reasons for playing, competition, strategy, friendship, self confidence, defeating anxiety. After about eight years of agoraphobia, I finally defeated it as an Enlightened Agent of Ingress.

There are many badges (accomplishments) in the game. Even if you don’t want to contact your local community, you can use these badges to help get a sense of achievement. One of my favorites is “Trekker” – it’s for distance walked. Since I didn’t leave the house alone less than two years ago, getting increased levels in it is amazing.

I’m not selling miracle cures. What you get out of it is what you put in, but Ingress is free to download and free to play. Finding your community, leaving the house on your own, learning how to make new friends again… these are priceless. What do I get for telling you? The occasional “I tried Ingress and it really helped!” That’s the best gift, finding out we made a difference. Oh, and selfishly, I hope you choose Enlightened!

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~

 

**Ingress is free on android and ios. i am not being compensated for this endorsement**

Why “eccentric”?

Many words mean abnormal or mentally ill. Most of them have negative connotations, but I like eccentric. I  also think of myself as “emotionally unstable” and while that’s also something I don’t suggest calling me in the middle of an argument, it’s pretty accurate. I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, social anxiety, general anxiety, agoraphobia, depression, and some physical stuff. Diagnoses change over the years, not all mental health problems are life long. Some, however, like bipolar are forever.

At sixteen, my mentor died from a heart attack at the end of the school year. I couldn’t go to his funeral because I was in Germany (three month private exchange). I cried so hard that I couldn’t even explain to my host family what was wrong for two days. I couldn’t say it. I couldn’t write it down. That fall, I started having severe crying fits I couldn’t explain, couldn’t stop, couldn’t understand at all.

During one such bout of misery, as the rain fell, so did my tears. Apparently a couple hours had passed. My parents thought I was in my room. They didn’t realize I was outside, I didn’t realize it had been hours. This was the day psychiatry entered my life. I was immediately diagnosed with bipolar disorder. No one was surprised, not friends, especially not family.

I was put on medication and took myself off pretty quickly. I wasn’t ready to know I would be on medication for the rest of my life. I made myself a deal: If I got so bad my family, my work/schooling or my relationships were severely affected, I would get professional help. At 24, I had a breakdown. I just started crying at work, for two hours with no reason we could find. One of the girls there asked me about every aspect of my life we could think of. Everything was fine… except me.

I went back to psychologists, psychiatrists. The bipolar was joined by borderline when I was inpatient at 27. I had also become agoraphobic. I couldn’t leave the family property without someone close to me. There were more diagnoses, and suicide attempts. Luckily they failed – well, some of it was luck. One of them I had my mother call an ambulance because I realized I would be hurting my brother and sister if I succeeded.

I’m not ashamed of any of this. This is my past. This is my path and how I got to be who I am today. We will revisit my mental health repeatedly. It is a major part of my life and who I am. On bad days, I might not feel like this is who I want to be, but on good days I know that I am who I need to be. I invest effort into bettering myself, and helping others and that is important work.

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~

Writer’s block the week you finally start your blog…

(or everyday obstacles to achievable goals)

It’s rare to imagine how something will happen and have it turn out exactly as you pictured it in your head for the past few weeks or months. More often, you realize there’s never going to be a perfect time and dive in. Once started, there’s almost always something that goes wrong, takes your attention away, halts your progress.

For me, this is an accepted part of life. I am not being pessimistic or saying these things you shouldn’t start anything. We all know that life is going to throw us curve balls. It’s okay to strike out once in awhile as long as you keep playing.

The past few days, there have been random thoughts playing over and over in my mind each time I sit down to write. Things like how I handled situations with certain friends, how others have treated me, how I am treating myself just continue to resurface in my brain. I am dealing with ending friendships and medication changes and through it, trying to figure out how to write more regularly, to let a newer audience into my life.

I wanted to have this post up by Thursday. I started out with the intention of creating posts a few times a week. It’s 3:00 Saturday morning and I’m still trying. This is what gets things done. It doesn’t matter if you have depression and anxiety pulling you back, or children needing help with homework, or a sink full of dishes. It’s okay to not get things done precisely when and how you want to do them. Life doesn’t always want to work on our schedule.

However, please don’t stop trying. This is how we move forward in life. Whether it’s writing a blog, taking a shower or getting your PhD, life is about perseverance. There will be disappointments and delays but those are just part of how we get to our victories. You are capable of achieving your goals as long as you are willing to push for them.

Be stubborn. Be victorious.

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~

Honesty versus Insult

 

Mainly it all comes down to intention.

I refer to myself as brutally honest, and I have a couple of friends that are the same way. If I ask for their opinion or their help, they will tell me the truth. It may be something I don’t want to hear. It may be the same advice they’ve given me before and an admonishment for refusing to listen. If they ask me for my opinion, I give it. Sometimes it may seem rude or insulting, but if all we hear is what we want to, we don’t grow.

Honesty isn’t about trying to hurt someone. It’s not about some sort of emotional sadism. There are people who intentionally antagonize others trying to elicit hate or hurt but mainly confrontation. This is not what brutal honesty is about, even if they start with a truthful statement. Brutal honesty is about helping someone move forward. Whether it’s about their appearance, their love life, their heath (physical or mental), it’s about giving an objective response.

Judging others is never the intention of my type of honesty. I have been judged plenty in my life. I’ve been judged for my mental illness issues, which include depression and anxiety. My appearance, my behavior and whether or not they’re appropriate for a specific place or time of day. Yes, mommy, I know my lipstick is too dark for the daytime… She has long since accepted my choices as far as that’s concerned. I’m not always “socially acceptable” and I’m okay with that. My appearance isn’t aesthetically pleasing to all people, and it doesn’t have to be. I don’t live my life for others. You shouldn’t either.

If, however, I ask someone how I look, I want them to tell me whether or not they like it. I prefer hearing things like “It’s not my style, but if that’s what you want to wear, go for it” rather than just, “You look fine.” Maybe I do just go for it, maybe I take a second look in the mirror. Either way, it’s an opinion I asked for, so lashing out rarely happens even if I feel offended.

There is, of course, the negative side of honesty. Sometimes it’s unintentional. One day someone said to me,”Wow you really do have more grey hair than me!” Now, I’ve always been self conscious about my grey hair, I started finding them at age 12. I felt so hurt that my immediate reaction was “Did you gain weight?” I lashed out intending to be hurtful because I wanted her to feel how I felt. Now, she didn’t mean to hurt me and I wasn’t being honest when I responded. When I feel insulted, I tend to react harshly. It’s something I’m working on. It’s something that given the volatile nature of the internet, we should probably all work on.

After my first post, someone commented negatively about my hair on my Facebook page. I got angry for a short while. My friends did as well. Many of them lashed back out at the person, as did I. I’ve since found a lot of humor in the entire ordeal. I love the way my hair looks in that picture. It doesn’t matter who else agrees. I am amused (and a little embarrassed) that I reacted so poorly. I’ve spent more time laughing at someone believing I wanted an opinion on my looks than I spent angry.

I’ve said never ask a question if you don’t want the answer. If you, like me, make random objective observations, be careful when and how you share them. They are not always welcome. Losing friends, hurting family members is not fun and coming back from it can feel impossible. So please, whether it’s a conversation with your sister or a comment to a stranger on social media, be careful because what you say may matter. Whether they’re over it in ten minutes or it stabs like a knife for years, words can hurt.

If I say something that feels insulting, please tell me. I know I come off as harsh and that’s why I call my honesty “brutal” but I do not try to be hurtful. Freedom of speech means you don’t get arrested for being an antagonistic asshole, but it does not mean I will allow you to direct it at me or anyone else I care about.

Be kind to each other, be honest when you can. Thank you for being here with me. I know it’s a choice to spend your time reading my thoughts and opinions and I appreciate your decision to do so.

Much love,

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~

Awkward Beginnings and more.

cam008971There’s always a beginning. It’s awkward and you don’t always know how to take that first step. Sometimes it’s when you meet someone for the first time, you think you click with them but then you fumble around in your head wondering, do I ask for their number? Do I ask them to grab coffee sometime? Maybe you get the words out, maybe you get lucky and they get the words out so you don’t have to. Maybe you’re starting a new job, you walk in and feel under-dressed (or overdressed). You worry that your coworkers are going to have this first impression of a slob (or a snob). That’s what this moment is for me. I’m sitting here wondering if you’re going to get past this first post or think this isn’t worth your time. That’s me there… if you can’t get past the weird hair and make up, we probably won’t make it far.

First impressions are hard, but they’re not everything. I’ve learned a lot from interactions with people across the world. I’ve learned how to fall in love and fall out of it. I’ve learned how to live with mental illness and not just survive but really live. I’ve learned how to help people with their jobs, relationships, coping skills, families and how all of these things work with each other. I have learned how to give peer support and relationship advice and even helped people learn to understand their family in order to get their family to understand them better.

Unfortunately since there are many law suits in the world, and let’s face it, I can’t afford one, disclaimers are a necessity. I am NOT A DOCTOR. I have never been a doctor, I’m not planning on ever becoming one. NO advice here should EVER take the place of a medical professional. If you decide to follow advice that you see here, please know that you’re an adult and it is YOUR choice to do so and I am not responsible for any outcome. If you see information about a medication, it is based on personal experience and not meant to be any sort of advertisement – actually this goes for anything – I’m not here to sell you cures. I’m here to offer wisdom from experience, mine and those that have known me. I may add to or edit this specific post as needed to reduce liability but please, just be responsible and understand that this is not a place to come in lieu of any professional.

I do give good advice though. If you ask anyone that’s known me for a bit, they’ll tell you. It’s not the advice you want to hear. I’ve always been brutally honest, hence the name. This leads to people getting upset with me sometimes, and it has ruined friendships. People believe honesty is refreshing, until it’s something they don’t want to hear. Some people are able to incorporate constructive criticism. These are the people who tend to stick around.

One of my rules – don’t ask a question you don’t want the answer to. This seems like a simple concept, but people forget that the honest answer isn’t always the easy answer. I don’t do little white lies. I don’t do enabling. I welcome you all to ask me questions and I will answer you. Perhaps not right away, but I do intend to answer as much as possible when I am able to. I do have emotional limits… but I will do my best to work with you if you want to work with me.

So this is the awkward beginning of a journey with a 36-year-old woman with mental illness who wants to try to help bring a little sanity to your world. I hope, in time, you’ll come to trust me and we’ll abandon the road less traveled for a path we create together.

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~