I am trying.

How many times do you say this? How many times do you tell your doctor, your best friend, your family… “I am trying.” Only they can’t see it. “Are you?” … Yes, really, I am. It’s just there’s this constant fighting going on in my head, and I’m sorry. I’m sorry you can’t see it. I’m sorry you keep asking. I am sorry you don’t believe me. I am sorry it’s been years and I am still fighting.

For some people, depression is linked to an event, such as loss of a job or a relationship. Sometimes just moving forward can help these people out of their depression. This seems to make them think that it is that simple for everyone. “Chin up, this will pass.” It will pass, but for many of us, it comes back.

If you’ve had a depressive episode and managed to come out of it and not return, please don’t assume that everyone has that ability. For some, there is trauma, from war, from abuse… This does not just go away by “getting over it.” You don’t just “move on.” For some, there are chemical imbalances in the brain. Please don’t tell me that you did it without meds, so can I. I can’t. I’ve tried.

I can’t always just ‘cheer up’ – I have learned to pretend to but even that has become so exhausting, I can’t do it often. I can’t always ‘just relax’ because my brain doesn’t understand how to stop throwing thoughts at me sometimes. I’m sorry you don’t understand this.

Someone’s going to read this and think I was talking about them in particular. I’m not. Please know that. This is something that those of us with mental health issues deal with on a regular basis just by interacting with people. Sometimes this is why we don’t want to interact with people.

If we tell you we are trying, please try to understand that the processes we’re going through aren’t visible to you but they are very real. We haven’t given up. We fight every day. We are trying.

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~

To Do List:

We all have our days where it’s one foot in front of the other… simple tasks are hard, harder tasks are unthinkable and even enjoyable (usually enjoyable) things feel like work. I hate lists… I get overwhelmed by them, but I figure for today, why not. This is what my “list” usually entails (in literally no order at all):

  1. Coffee … or tea … caffeine.
  2. Make cigarettes
  3. Take Meds
  4. Check social media
  5. Play Clash Royale
  6. Play fishy game (like Candy Crush but I like it more)
  7. Play search and find game
  8. Eat
  9. Shower
  10. Clean anything
  11. Drink enough water (near a gallon)
  12. Check the cat has food and water
  13. Take nap
  14. Go to bed

What my day really looks like lately:

2, 13, 1, 12, 2, 5, 4, 3, 5, 11, 3, 8, 3, 14.

I have no interest in half my games, not even Ingress right now because it’s been so hard for me to get together with my friends. Eating happens because C is a chef so, food happens. I’m just kinda blowing off most of everything still. It’s not intentional, it’s just that my motivation level drops significantly under stress or during depressive episodes. I want to do all the other stuff, or rather, I want to want to do the rest of it.  I’m out of spoons, I’m out of sporks, I’m just out.

So there’s me for the moment… how’s your list looking?

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~

Worse than I think I am…

It’s strange when my actions don’t really match what I think my emotions are. I have been off lately and I’ve been trying to figure it out. I haven’t been up for talking to most people, especially not one on one. Conversations about myself are still down to “How are you doing?” “Oh, I’m okay.” We all know I’m not but I’m okay enough to get away with it.

I can’t get away with it at therapy though. I don’t remember if I gave him a “name” or not, but for today, we shall call him Jim. Jim doesn’t let me get away with “I’m okay.” It’s pretty much his job to call me out on that. So, I started going through the fact that hygiene is getting more difficult to handle again and I’m losing interest in most of my games and my shows that I usually love. It hits me. These are signs of depression.

Some of this stems from being so sick as a side effect of my body getting used to a medication again. A lot, actually, because besides ‘feeling sick’ – I’m also isolated right now because leaving the house for more than an hour or two makes me even more sick the following day. I can’t change this. I need the medication for now until we can at least discuss other options. I need tests done for that. I am working on it all the best I can…

However, I’m still more depressed than I thought I was. This doesn’t usually happen to me. I’m usually much more self aware, much more able to gauge my own emotions. Being sick for a month will screw with your perception of everything though, I think, including yourself.  I am safe, I am not in danger of any type of harm to self or others, I’m just not quite emotionally available to people right now. Not as much as usual.

I will drink my peppermint tea (which I am so tired of but it helps), and I will snuggle with the cat. I will find new games to play for now for distraction and new shows to hold my attention until I’m more myself again. There’s just a lot of stress and sadness and grief in my life recently and I need to take time to process it.

I hope if you find yourself in a similar position, see signs of depression in yourself before you really “feel” them, that you give yourself permission for self care. Don’t just wait for it to get worse, do whatever you can to stay even or move forward, so when it passes, you’re ready to keep going in life.

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~

It’s a little harder for us…

Things you stop taking for granted when you have mental illness:

  • Sleeping through the night
  • Showering regularly
  • Getting out of bed
  • Getting dressed
  • Leaving the house
  • Going to parties
  • Finding joy in your own hobbies
  • Talking on the phone
  • Being able to make your own appointments
  • Feeling loved
  • Remembering to eat
  • Caring if you don’t
  • Being mildly annoyed instead of severely agitated
  • Smiling
  • Going an entire day without bursting into tears

There are so many more, but having the attention span to read long lists would be one of mine. I’m not saying that people should consciously appreciate the things that we can’t do and they can, but I wanted to just take a short moment to say, “Hey, we get that this comes easy to you, but it’s really hard for us, and no we’re not just saying that to get attention.”

What’s one thing you used to take for granted that you now have trouble with?

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~

Invalidation.

Yesterday, I was told that I don’t care about anyone but myself. This wasn’t by some random acquaintance or anonymous internet troll. I got told this by my mother. Last week we got into an argument, yesterday after a week of not speaking, same argument. She was telling me how to handle my doctors. I was telling her that I had it handled.

Any of you with chronic mental illness or chronic pain, you know the multitude of appointments it comes with. You know that sometimes you need to change treatment plans or doctors. I need to change psychiatrists and I am also going to a neurologist on Monday to work on a treatment plan, if possible, for my brain pressure that causes migraines. I’ve had all of this going on for weeks to months. The psychiatric issue has been half handled, the neurology is scheduled. Somehow I was being told that I’m not handling it correctly, that I’m not listening and that – and this one gets me good – I’m going to the wrong doctor for my brain. The reason that last one gets me is that she’s known about this appointment for six weeks.

Sometimes, yes, I do ask for help when it comes to where to go when I am unable to do it myself. This time, however, I had a plan. I had appointments. I hadn’t asked for anything. For some reason, this plan that my mother had been made aware of weeks earlier was not good enough.

This has happened before about a lot of things in life. It’s probably happened to you as well. You make a decision and people support you and back it and then they change their mind. Maybe it’s about a job and your best friend doesn’t think you should quit even though you already put in your notice. Maybe it’s about a guy and your dad doesn’t approve when you get engaged… Whatever it is, all of the sudden it’s as if your choices aren’t good enough. Obviously, being treated this way is going to create disagreements.

Sometimes the change of heart is because of something that is happening or has happened in the other person’s life. It’s okay to change your mind and change your views. It’s not okay to invalidate someone else’s choices because you change your mind though. It’s not fair to either of you. If you want them to hear you, you may need to hear them too.

I work hard to advocate for myself. I work hard to advocate for others. I am assertive when it comes to anyone’s healthcare. I want us to find the professionals we need to get the treatments that are necessary. I have also spent the better part of seven years running peer support on facebook. I have stayed with family to help care for them when they were unable. I have acted as extreme emotional support for people who have been unable to get it professionally. I have shown up on the doorstep of a suicidal friend so they would not be alone. I do these things partly because I can, I have the knowledge and capacity. I do them because it helps me cope with not working. I do them because I love.

So, now, I’ve been treated like I can’t deal with my own medical treatment and told I don’t care about anyone but myself. Honestly, I have been in pain for over a month almost daily. My medication was incorrect due to a differing opinion with a doctor, and a friend of mine has passed away. I don’t really have the emotional capacity to handle the problems of others that I usually do. This doesn’t mean that I don’t care. It simply means that I need to practice self care right now and have boundaries.

I draw the line at anyone invalidating my choices in life, my choices in healthcare and my opinions on how our interactions are going. Why am I telling all of you this? Because people WILL invalidate you in life, and I want you to see that it’s okay to stop letting them. This is me trying to explain to you that it is okay to make your own choices and your decisions ARE good enough.

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~

Today hurts… so,

Can it just be enough?

Can it be enough for you if all I do today is love you? If all I do today is smile through the pain and give you a kiss? If I can’t think straight through the pain and I’m not sure I want to not think straight through the pills? Can it be enough if I just exist today?

If I can’t be there for you when you message me? Or if it’s been weeks and we should talk but I can’t dial? If I see that you’re hurting but I can’t explain that I care? If I am here and you know I’m here but I feel a million miles away?

Can it be enough that even through the pain I am still pushing to move forward?

I know there are things I should do, or would do if I were having a better day. I could shower, or maybe tell you that everything is going to be okay. If it were another day, I could do more than puzzle games and passing out. If it were a better day, I could actually giggle at your jokes, reassure you through your stress, and remind you how strong you are.

If it were a better day… but it isn’t. So, can it be enough for you if all I do is make it through to tomorrow?

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~

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~

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~