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~

Self Care

“Self care” and “functioning” seem to be interchangeable to some people, at least based on memes I see reposted/reblogged. I don’t think they truly understand what self care is. Maybe I am the one that is understanding things wrong. That’s possible and it would be okay but it would take a lot to change my mind.

When people are having trouble with depression or severe anxiety, to me, self care is more about self soothing than anything else. It’s about trying to make life feel livable through those moments. I recommend pleasing each of your senses. I do recommend bubble baths and incense, scented candles, chocolate, your favorite movie or book and a soft blanket. I recommend finding the things that make it feel worth moving forward. I recommend snuggling and sex. I recommend french fries and heavy metal.

I keep seeing posts on social media that say “self care isn’t the cute…” but then go on to list things like showering, washing dishes, paying your bills. If I am capable of doing these things, that means it’s a good day and I am functioning. Some days I can take a shower and I can put my dishes in the dishwasher. If I can’t do those things, then those are the times I actually NEED self care.

Sometimes I’ve already done the showering and it feels like too much. Afterward, I’m sitting here not really able to do anything and I need my soft blanket and a cup of tea. Am I the only one that feels that these are two separate things? That feels that self care is about taking care of your emotions so that you’re able to function later? Or that functioning can lead to needing self care?

I realize this is a somewhat rambling post but I have only slept an hour and quite honestly, putting my thoughts out there for others is a form of self care to me. Later today I have a doctor’s appointment and thus have to “function.” If we’re going by my descriptions which do you feel you can handle right now?

~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. 

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~

I. Hate. Everything.

I had every intention of writing yesterday. I opened the window several times to do so. I stared at the blank screen until I wanted to break it. I have gotten my blood test done but don’t have the results so I haven’t really fixed my medication yet. I’m not sure at the moment if I mentioned it’s off, but it is. Stopping one medication means throwing off the balance. I’m now actively riding the bipolar roller coaster. There is more than just up and down, more than mania and depression.

It has the ability to create or destroy almost any feeling – like irritability. That’s the one that kicks up most often for me right now. It comes when I have all the energy and nothing to do, and when I have everything to do and none of the energy. Most frustratingly, it comes on its own. It shows up as the “I hate everythings.” The normal annoyances are there, and the little ones I’ve grown to ignore or cope with become glaringly obvious. I stare at things that I would normally roll my eyes at and move on.

I hate the things people say, the way they say them, the way a picture looks or the meaning it’s supposed to hold. I hate the sound of a newscaster’s voice and realize I hate the sound of my own voice while complaining to the air. I hate that I let my coffee get cold and then I hate that I finished it because now I don’t have any. I hate my hair. I hate my mental illness. I hate my medications. I hate myself.

Maybe an hour later, maybe the next morning, this will pass. I will realize that I don’t really hate these things. Even while it’s happening I know I don’t hate them, but I FEEL like I do. Today is better. I still hate that my coffee is getting cold, but there’s more in the pot still and I know I can reheat it. I get frustrated at posts on social media but I shake my head, and I scroll by. My fingers don’t shake so badly at words on a screen or voices from speakers. I don’t cringe as badly when the cat meows (because for some reason she’s determined she must always tell us when she uses the litter box). I don’t want to cry just because I need to take my morning pills.

The world is no better than it was yesterday, but I feel better about being a part of it.

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~