Dear Joe

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I’ve always wondered who you imagine me to be, in your head. Because much like I know you mostly through mom and dads recaps, reading abstracts of your scientific papers and vague childhood memories combined with yearly visits with screaming children at the forefront, I know it cant be very accurate. I know from the last visit that you don’t really understand much of what’s wrong with me, or how that impacts my life, and really, I don’t either. But what has become clear is that your mental version of me has little to do with the reality of my life right now. I wonder if the same is true for me with you?

I was put on thorazine recently, because sounds became louder than they were, louder than they could be, louder than any single thing and instead a chorus of many. Colors got brighter, brighter, brighter, until the ceiling started to look pink and it got a bit unnerving.

Thorazine is an anti psychotic medication, with the benefit of being an extreme tranquilizer as a side effect. Its always hard to say how much of these things is caused by my seemingly incessant state of extreme sleep deprivation, and how much is part of a bipolar symptom. I think the general conclusion is a little bit of column a, little bit of column b.

Thorazine is the brand name. My psychiatrist only refers to it by its generic name, and im unsure if this is because its simpler or if he was hoping I wouldn’t look into a seemingly innocuous name of yet another drug I shove in my body – which, to be fair, its rather surprising I did, given my current state. But I did. Apparently it’s the first, like the literal first, anti psychotic medication ever produced. There’s whole songs written about ‘thorazine dreams’ and ‘the thorazine shuffle’ and all those good dead and drooling side effects that characterize all patients who took it for decades. This is oddly not much of a deal to me. I think, at my stage, you don’t get to think about quality of life in the same way as the average person. Yes, taking this may cause all sorts of things, but are those sorts of things worse than seeing in technicolor acid trip swirls or thinking a song played through a grocery store speaker was the universe trying to send you a message? Because I feel like there’s a tipping point that comes after that that I don’t want to see.

I’m very clearly losing my grip on interpreting my reality correctly. I am not, however, actively psychotic, because I catch myself, to an extent. Like I know the ceiling should not be pink, as I know it is not painted pink, and I can usually make that logical connection. Therefore I am in, as my doctor says, “the funky stuff”.

Possibly the most frightening realization Im having is that I can understand how delusions work now. Its not something that sort of… appears and you suddenly believe you’re Christ and think you can save the world, or whatever the fuck the stereotypical thing of delusional people is. It’s the little things.

I was at the grocery store with mom, because I live with them now, because I cant function as a human. Not sure if anyone told you that yet. My apartment remains but I don’t exist in it and the idea of it makes me a bit uneasy. But I digress. The grocery store. Mom wondered away to get lemon and left me with the cart and the task of getting yogurt. I was very… alarmed inside. My doctor calls it heightened sensory perception, which is how he explains the Technicolor and such, but I wasn’t seeing things. I was just very alarmed, and suddenly very, very frightened. And I tried to reason with myself as I pushed the cart the 10 feet to the yogurt section, my fingers gripped around the cart handle, but people were in the way and I couldn’t get there and the fear just escalated so quickly. And I know you think I mean anxiety, but I don’t. I mean pure fear. Like falling out of a ten-story window accidentally.

Then suddenly I hear the store radio start playing a Billy Joel song. One of the ones mom used to play in the kitchen while we (well, I) was little. It was like a tidal wave of comfort. I felt for sure the universe was trying to provide me comfort. To take the fear away from me, personally, that this event was someone meaningful beyond mere coincidence. Part way through the song mom showed up and I was following along behind her sort of half mumbling the words to the song, catching my breath, basking in the sweet relief. She had no idea any of this happened. The song changed to something I didn’t know, and I swear to god I felt like the universe had abandoned me. Hit like a ton of bricks. Mom asks if I need to go outside but I tell her I just need to stay by her now, and she continues about her shopping while I snap back into reality enough to realize what the fuck was happening and how my brain was rebelling against logic without me. She doesn’t know any of that happened. I took an abnormally long time trying to pick a breakfast cereal. My eyes were probably really wide and I probably talked sporadically, but I don’t think shed have noticed much at all.

And isn’t that scary? That you don’t notice?

But the scary part for me is that I can see the logical connection to those feelings and normal rational feelings I would have had in that situation if I were just, say, anxious. Music is one of my calming tools it is what I do to distract myself from my other senses or to cheer myself up. That song making me feel better wasn’t illogical. But it didn’t make sense.

That’s now a thing I haven’t to consider more than I really know how. Over or under pathologizing behaviour isn’t very helpful but believing the universe is speaking to you isn’t exactly a symptom you can let slide, when you’re able to recognize it as a symptom.

So I take thorazine. It makes me sleep, so the sleep deprivation is gone, but the “funky stuff” still lingers so the dose is being increased. Although this stuff would usually be considered part of a manic episode, the fact that I’m also horribly depressed for large swaths of time indicate it’s a mixed episode. In other words, we have barely scratched the surface of the emotional well of crazy that is your sister.

I wonder how much that mental image of me has changed now. Do we know each other well enough that this is just a thing about me, or is it starting to define me, more than you want it to?

 

mixed, with no blessing

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i legitimately have no idea where to start or what to say or what the important bits are, anymore. im just going to ramble and see what floats to the top.

ill start with the obvious.  im in the middle of a (diagnosed) mixed episode. its been a month now. still going strong. things have been… unsettling.

my sister came down for a week because its her birthday, and this happened to coincide with my doctor cutting my wellbutrin dose in half (complicated story, simplified:  anti depressants bad. mood stabilizers good. lowered mood stabilizers, increased anti depressants, bad things happen. like mixed episodes that last for over a month).  This is a dramatic decrease, obviously, and because im me and im sensitive as fuck to medication, i obviously got some stupid withdrawal symptoms for a week. so the two combined and i stayed with my parents until they left today to drive amy back to new brunswick.

i never actually wrote about the trip to philly to see my brother here, and i still cant really, i mean i should, theres definitely stuff to say, and if i could string a coherent thought together i would, but basically my mixed episode started on the trip, manifested as intense anxiety and panic attacks with lots of mood shifts, i was a fucking wreck. my brother didnt know how to handle it. his family really didnt know how to handle it. i didnt know what to do. i avoided everyone a lot. i cried a lot. hysterically. hysterical is the word i would use to describe the experience.  i think joe and i got a lot closer? in the end? and i think he realized we dont actually know each other very well, considering we are siblings. it was interesting. and a mess.

things calmed down for the last few days of the trip (mood shifted up). then we got home and the mood went down but everything else stayed up up up. all the agitation. none of the sleep. all of the rapid thoughts. none of the happy.

ive been in some weird cluster of mismatched bipolar symptoms for a long time, but at any given time, what these mismatched symptoms are is a complete surprise to everyone, including me. so far the most noticeable have been extremely suicidal, extremely tired, very very very agitated, completely enraged, pumped full of adrenalin, spontaneous crying, hyper vigilance, and pressing thoughts. very few of the so called positive effects of mania.

but then.

then there are the concerning things.

yes, but definition, i guess i am implying that the previous symptoms do not merit ‘concerning’, in so much as, ‘part of being bipolar, sometimes’.

when we chopped the wellbutrin off at he knees, initially it had some very positive effects. the agitation definitely reduced. the thoughts slowed down a bit. i slept through the night for a couple days. then i slept all day, too. then i started getting sick every morning until my dose kicked in (because we cut my night dose). but like, overall good. thought that might be done.

but no.

ive been getting the scary symptoms again.

the ones ive only every gotten when extremely manic, or in a psychotic mixed state.

colors got super super bright for awhile. just like five hours here or there. only it wasnt with the exuberance that happens with mania. and then the worst symptom. the symptom i try to explain to people and they think im describing like an adhd symptom but i am really really really not.

all sounds become very very loud, and they all scramble together into a big lump. the volume doesnt bother me, like it doesnt hurt or anything, i just can. not. untangle. the. noise.

we were playing a board game and people were talking and the pieces were clicking and cards were being shuffled and the dog was sleeping and the fridge was humming and someone was talking on the street outside and amy was knitting and all the sounds all the sounds all the sounds. they get maxed out. everything at max volume and max intensity. with no ability to sort through them. like. all the sounds happen all the time, and everyone takes in all that info all the time, but our brains focus in on the bits that are important and ignore the rest, most of the time. thats why you dont usually hear yourself breathing, and how you can have conversations in coffee shops. and when i try to explain it people think im just constantly getting distracted by sounds we dont normally notice (like the fridge humming). but thats not it. its that all the sounds come in together, smooshed up, and i cant tell that that is the humming of the fridge or that that persons voice and the humming of the fridge arent the same noise.  i just. i cant explain it. but then there becomes this.. space. this layer of padding between me and all of my senses. i jut stop being able to take in any information or make sense of anything im hearing, and then seeing, and then sometimes i get extremely aware of all the sensations of my body that you dont normally notice (jeans on leg, pressure of chair, hair on arm, etc), and it all comes with an extreme sense of confusion and being overwhelmed. and then, its like my mind pops, a giant 404 error, and complete disassociation begins. but i wouldnt call it anxiety, while its happening (though definitely anxiety producing after the fact). and it can last hours and i cant make it stop. sometimes days. and all i can do is basically curling in a ball in the dark in as close to silence as i can manage and hope i can sleep until it goes away.

for me, everytime this has happened, ive been diagnosed as either being psychotic or having psychotic symptoms shortly after.

i dont know if thats happening. i dont know if like, the wellbutrin was pushing me in that direction but the sudden drop like staved it off and now im going to be fine.

i dont know whats coming.

i have never been in a position before to identify symptoms of psychosis. if you can identify them, is it really psychosis?

like i dont know how this works

i dont really consider psychosis and a standard part of my illness, but its not an unprecedented occurrence.

i dont know i dont know i dont know.

writing this is the longest ive been coherent and stable in ages.

im very tired now.

I got into grad school

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I found out like a 2 weeks ago, while I was in Philly.  I told my parents, without too much bluster, and they told Joes family, and we celebrated, kinda, a little, while we were there (there were lots of things happening, Joe got tenure! its easter! its my birthday! im having a mental breakdown!).. so it was a bit of a weird reception…. and then… then I didn’t tell anyone. At all. And theres quite a bit of story to tell in that. But for once, I’m just going to keep that seperate.

This is my thing.  This is THE thing I have been trying to do for years. And I got in. I got in with a scholarship that completely covers my tuition.

I just want that to breathe. I want that to be the part of this I go back and read about in the future.

And I know that getting in and going to school does not mean that I will finish it, or that I will do well. Hell, it doesn’t even mean I will successfully complete the stats refresher course I have to take before starting the program.  And I know my therapist thinks this is a horrible idea, and I know he might be right. I know these past 2 years have basically been an example of exactly how I am not invincible to the socioeconomic effects of mental illness, and that it is not unlikely that I will spend large amounts of my future in some combination of unable to work, living in poverty, working sporadically, and maybe just feeling accomplished to hold a job of any kind.  and I get that. But I’ve also decided I can’t just let that truth dictate my goals. There is a solid argument that I shouldn’t do this, one my therapist has made many times, one that mostly surrounds failing and making myself sicker. But the financial impacts of trying are pretty small – thanks to scholarships – and I think the benefit of trying will outweigh the prospect of failing. I would forever regret not trying.

So this is it. This moment is a culmination of every fibre of perseverance, strength and that nagging sense of hope in my soul.

I’m going to grad school.

 

progress.

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my grad school interview is tomorrow.

im a little hesitant to write this because im in a generally positive frame of mind about it at the moment and dont want to make myself all nervous over analyzing shit.  so thats mostly all im going to say about that.  I didnt get the CIHR scholarship I applied for, which sucked, but honestly i was in a pretty bad state when i wrote that so i guess its not horribly surprising.  I did just find out I received a different scholarship for $10,000 (renewable) though, and given canadian tuition prices, that is quite a lot. so thats encouraging. im not sure if they give entrance/school specific scholarships out with acceptance or not. i also dont know if ive been accepted or not. hence the interview. ack.

in other news, i have officially decided to go visit joe on friday. happy, positive, non bipolar vibes please.

so.

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ok.

so.

i havent been writing because ive havent been feeling or doing literally anything. so there was nothing to say. i also stopped communicating with all but a handful of people.

but.

now.

ive been avoiding writing this for awhile. i dont know what to say. but we are at the point in the spiral where the talking needs to start happening, and because im no longer in therapy because i am broke as fuck, i guess this is now when the writing needs to start happening.

so.

for several months my mood has been shifting from ‘wow, this is what its like to have normal level emotions?’ to ‘uh. im not sure i like normal level emotions…’ to ‘…wait, do i even have emotions now?’ to ‘no…nope i dont’.

I saw my psychiatrist three or four times during this decline. To recap, in the fall he had upped my mood stabilizers and taken down my wellbutrin (anti anxiety/depression meds), and then sometime in like december? i cut my clonazapram (anxiety)  in half because i wasnt feeling really anything, so i wasnt really feeling anxious and im trying not to build up my tolerance.

so. first visit:

me: im having trouble adjusting to not feeling things like i normally do. like it feels like my world is small and i dont know what to do. its making me feel like i am missing out on my proper existence. i know this doesnt make sense.

him: this is unfortunate but mostly normal. try seeing your therapist. we will keep an eye on it. (only nice).

second visit:

me: i always thought once i stopped being actively suicidal that would mean i gained some sort of will to live? but i dont have one. at all. i cant find a reason to get out of bed. i have no drive or motivation to do anything. im exhausted all the time. i dont feel sad, or chaotic, or out of control though, and im not suicidal, so this isnt anything like what i would call depression.

him: so, sounds like youre depressed, but your mood stabilizers are working. have more wellbutrin.

third visit:

me: nothing changed. im getting less and less interested in being alive and im completely apathetic to everything around me. still dont feel sad, or chaotic or suicidal, so it still doesnt feel like depression like i know depression.

him: ok, youre definitely depressed. its weird that the wellbutrin increase had no effect. lack of drive and motivation are side effects of your mood stabilizers. lets cut 75 mg off your total of those and see if that makes the wellbutrin work.

me now:

I FEEL ALL THE THINGS AND THEY ARE ALL BAD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD EVERYTHING IS AWFUL I CANNOT BREATHE HOLY FUCK HOLY FUCK HOLY FUCK OUTSIDE IS HORRIFYING I CANT TALK TO PEOPLE HOLY FUCK HOLY FUCK HOLY FUCK IM LITERALLY SO ANXIOUS I CANNOT FUNCTION HOLY FUCK HOLY FUCK HOLY FUCK IM REALLY REALLY REALLY UPSET FOR NO REASON HOLY FUCK HOLY FUCK HOLY FUCK

i cant give many concrete examples, because i have legitimately stopped leaving my house unless it is in a car with a family member, and usually only to my parents house or like, grocery shopping (which is its own little form of hell right now). this is the first of three major signs of when my anxiety crashes into my bipolar and i stop being a functioning human. step 1: agoraphobia step 2: intense fear of germs (see: scrubbing down showers for hours with tooth brushes, for example) step 3: extreme anxiety about animal life. things living underground start freaking me the fuck out. nature becomes extremely unsettling. how the universe is constructed becomes extremely unsettling. step 4: some sort of bipolar break down.

on saturday i had people come to my house.  i was supposed to go to brandons house twice during the week but i had to cancel both times because i couldnt leave my house and was super panicky (side note: it really bothers me that there is a ‘k’ in panicky), so i avoided the situation because i could. brandon kinda knows whats up, but not really. so. saturday. third time trying to make plans with brandon. he and sav have this thing where they watch rupauls dragrace together and the new season was starting and he wanted me to join. obviously, we learned leaving the house probably wasnt going to happen so they were going to come here. ok. then robb was going to come too. ok. day of: sleep schedule massively fucked up. already panicking about having people in my house. brandon invites kale too. i like all of these people. these are literally my best friends. i have a hyperventilating panic attack. i call my parents, stay on the phone for like an hour just basically being unable to talk and crying. brandon says they can go to savs if i cant do it. i eventually resolve to do it, 1 mg of clonazparam and 4 mg of ativan later. they come over. i have basically cleaned my whole apartment but i keep apologizing for how dirty it is because literally all i can see is the dirt of things that arent really that dirty (like the dust i missed while sweeping, and shit). it is mostly fine, and mostly a good night. first time watching dragrace, more enjoyable than expected. people leave around midnight, so basically 5 hours of company. they leave and i then start panicking and overanalyzing everything i said all night and whether or not kale hates me now (we have a convo about the trans guy on survivor and i think what i was trying to say came out wrong). fixate on this for several hours. dont sleep.

parents know i cant take the bus to their house for sunday dinner so they come get me. feeling mostly better and able to function around people, which is good because jeffs kids are there. exhausted, pass out at midnight and wake up at 10am. have moments of talking about my bipolar with my mom, which we dont really do. mostly stuff about being really uncertain what symptoms are coming and how everything is factoring in with possibly going to visit joe, and how joe, while family, having no experience with me as a mentally ill person, and how i dont know if thats something im going to do. manage to go to the grocery store on the way home today. mom had to do most of the work, but i was physically present so that is something.

i came home and cooked an actual meal – roasted a chicken and vegetables. ate that. watched an episode of girls.

so here we are.

i need to call my psychiatrist tomorrow and see if he will change my meds, or do something, because things are bad, and they seem like they are about to get a lot worse. im not scheduled to see him for four more weeks. i dont think anyone anticipated this med change throwing this sort of wrench into life. they weird part is, i dont think it actually changed anything, i think it just kind of ripped the plastic wrap off. like the complete numbness that was on the surface went away and all the horrible stuff underneath is now being felt again.

i guess the kind of fucked up part is i find that a bit of a relief.

now the overarching thing im worrying about -besides breathing, sleeping, the outside, people, public transportation, people touching me, the bipolar shitstorm that is coming, my complete lack of financial stability, etc –  is whether or not i should go to joes with my parents in april. its stressing me out a lot.

also, i got an email notification that theyd made a decision on my giant scholarship application but that i cant access the results of that decision until april 1. so thats unsettling. also im supposed to find out if i got in to grad school in a couple weeks. probably while id be in philly. im…. assuming i didnt get in and also very worried about how im going to handle that. i still dont know if ill go if i do get in. but i feel like having something lined up might help? i dont know.

ok. thats all. im starting to panic again.

prattle & self loathing

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SO.

that last post was fucking depressing and weird, amiright?

i wrote it and it was genuine and i wrote it and i felt more like myself, somehow.  i think that ‘somehow’ was because it was guilt ridden and full of mostly unreasonable self loathing, which are two of my defining features (heh). but then it sat there for a day and it just started making me feel weird and uncomfortable. though when i actually read it i feel like theres a lot of good in the post, the drive behind writing it was basically that i felt guilty for not being sick, or not properly representing being sick. or some weird fucked up version of that. and i dont feel good about that.

so to be clear: i dont ALWAYS feel bad about doing well. it was a weird combination of holidays, and bad bad bad holiday blog posts by other people talking about how awful happy people are, and my new bambi-learning-to-walk like relationship with a steady emotional life. but i wrote it and part of me meant it, so there it stays.

MOVING ON.

i went to trivia tuesday night with jon and his girlfriend and a friend of hers, as is our tradition. we went weekly when he lived here so we try to go every time hes home, but its not really the same since all of the other team members also moved away.

we did not win, at all, but we did respectably well for four people. also i knew like every song played and  bunch of misc shit so thats always satisfying. then we went to a dessert bar and had an awkward conversation about dating where i learned jons girlfriend has only ever slept with him and no one else and i said nothing but was mentally like WELL YOU NEED TO FIX THAT BEFORE YOU MAKE A LIFELONG COMMITMENT OR IT WILL END BADLY. which is like, a completely unreasonable response to that information. probably. i still definitely think that though.

im going to the mall with brandon tomorrow. ive got to get up at like 930 to meet him at 11. which is like, ungodly early for me. thats basically like telling a normal person they need to get up at 230am and be a functional human. and then ive got to go back out to my parents for the day because my sister is back from visiting people in the valley and its probably? the last night i will see her before she leaves, because im going to a drunken nye party and she is going to play board games with elli.

im slightly stressed because its fancy nye party, where youre supposed to dress up and look nice, because im way too broke to buy a dress and im not sure i actually own a fancy dress that fits me since i gained weight. or more like, failed to lose weight. my old meds made me gain a bunch of weight that i just… never got rid of, so now my entire wardrobe is like a size or so too small, and has been for like a year, but i cant afford new clothes so im just like.. wearing old shit from when i was this size like 5 years ago and things that are stretchy. im like.. not super happy about this situation, but im also not doing anything about it? so i guess im not that unhappy with it?  or at least, not unhappy in any sort of productive fashion.

i never actually mentioned this on here because i wasnt blogging at the time, but i went to florida last february with my family on this disney vacation (wealthy brother paid for it). i came back from that SUPER self conscious and hating my body and i cried every time i had to get on a plane (which was like 6 times in total) because i felt too big for everything. like i spent the first night of the vacation sobbing in my bed, which also broke (not my fault at all but daaaamn did it feel like it), because being on the airplane made me so uncomfortable and awful in a way i couldnt push to the side or ignore. the airplane seats were crammed and awful. the whole vacation was amazing, but was also plagued by my overarching fear of being too fat. i was too afraid to try half the rides because i was afraid i couldnt fit. and it was just like… very very very stressful and awful feeling. which i know no one has any sympathy for because im fat, and thats my fault, and whatever. but it was really awful.

i went on a pretty hardcore calorie counting binge for like 3 or so months after that but i was barely eating (1200 calorie deficit. weighed everything i ate, tracked it in MFP, my dietician sister in law made me meal plans like… it was legit) and i lost like 7 pounds or something, in three months. which seems impossible, but losing weight on my med regime is apparently an extremely uphill battle. plus the pcos. even my sister in law was baffled.

and then i started throwing up all the time. like id just get super nauseated and then start gagging and then throw up… kind of like my now preggo sister in law, only i wasnt pregnant. though it did make me worry i was. but anyway i was barely eating and also throwing up everything i was eating and it became a detriment to my health more than improving it because, as my therapist always says, its amazing someone with my particular personality traits hasnt developed an eating disorder. and then after that i tried going back on a very extreme elimination diet that i was on when they were diagnosing my food problems, and i did that for a little over a month, but that just made me throw up even more, inexplicably, and i was super depressed at the time.. so that ended in october. and since then ive just been “not thinking” about it. and honestly that would be a little liberating if i didnt feel like a substandard human because of my weight. and also if i didnt feel like i had to choose between actually having a real relationship and being fat (not that i want to chose being fat, but i seem to be choosing it anyway, now dont i?).

but, uh, anyway, that was a very tangental way of saying i dont have anything to wear for new years and its spiking my self loathing.

god dammit.

i had this plan to write something banally happy today. like i half wrote a blog post in my head about cooking while i was making quinoa cakes earlier. if nothing else i could have just causally mentioned that i had vertigo for 24 hours, inexplicably, and told the story of me falling sideways into my bathtub (hilarious in retrospect, painful and confusing in the moment. also, wet.).

tomorrow.

tomorrow i will say something fun.

but right now i already wrote this and im sleepy and apparently need to wake up at the equivalent of 230 because “friendship” or something.

things are still good! despite evidence to the contrary.

mental illness, society, guilt & holidays

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so i have a strange feeling. its going to take awhile to get to, but hear me out.

i am a mentally ill person. i read a lot of mental illness blogs. i have a lot of mentally ill friends. i have even more mentally ill advocate “friends” on facebook.

and i recognize that this is a shitty shitty time of year for the vast majority of them. i wish there was something to be done about that, but for the most part there isnt. i cant replace family, or be the accepting parent, or give them a day off from the blinding depression so they dont feel guilty about not feeling happy, or whatever, that is the cause of the shitty shitty feelings. society has built this time of year into something it isnt: joyous, perfect, shiny and bright, filled with only happiness and love. and thats shitty, for everyone. because you always feel like you arent living up to a standard that doesnt exist. and it makes your strained relationships with people feel soul crushing and awkward, it makes your depression stand out that much more by comparison, it causes you to evaluate your situation not just against everyones perfect instagramed selves but also against like every possible media posting, church preaching and news outlet depiction. and theres no life, no matter how seemingly perfect, that lives up to that standard. and the more you feel like you have to, the further away from it you get. its fucked up and it fucks things up.

for years growing up i kind of hated christmas. i mean, i was still a kid who got gifts, because i come from a privileged background of sorts, so i cant say it was entirely bad or that i hated every part of it. but my memories are EXTREME STRESS FOR AN ENTIRE MONTH. i remember bawling, multiple times a day, every christmas, for multiple reasons: for years before some very intensive therapy i really resented my family and a lot of my childhood and especially my brother, and my parents for not saving me. i felt robbed of something, like there was a harsh disconnect between me and them despite all this togetherness and seemingly tv family activity. and i felt guilty. when i was little i felt left out by my family and siblings because they were all older and never wanted me around while they did teenage to adult age things so i was alone when i felt like i was supposed to be taking part. and i felt lonely and like i was doing something wrong. there were crowds and crowds of people that i didnt really know and or there were so many people i couldnt breathe, or move, and id have huge panic attacks locked in a washroom somewhere. my family also has a very strange insular dynamic where for the entire week between christmas and new years, and even a few days before christmas, we were expected to be with family, and only family, and not have outside lives so it was this constant constricting force (this is still true when any family member visits). then there were other factors, like my father having an extremely high stress level and very short fuse when he was working at his high level job, that made him angry and awful a lot and christmas added to that stress level to the point where hed be flipping out all the time and he just hated it. he hated it a lot and you could tell; and he made you hate it a little too, because you felt like the cause of his anger. and then my brother didnt live in the country anymore, so it simultaneously became an even more hyped up occasion if he was coming home and also this awkward, disappointing, land of confusion and abandonment the years he didnt. and then we were all awkward ages and three of us kids were dealing with mental health issues of varying severity, and my mother’s severe social anxiety would go into overdrive and her bordering on eating disorder tendencies would come out, and my dad and whatever shit he was going through that never came up. and then there were those years were my brother had a severe eating disorder no one talked about, which made christmas especially difficult for him, and by extension, my sister and i, as we would look at my parents to fix it, to do something, and they didnt. and we didnt.

and theres a lot of things i could say or delve into that would better explain how christmas can be sort of horrible, and how it was sort of horrible. and i think that almost everyone has those stories, for whatever reason.

but this year, i dont have those feelings. and i feel really, really guilty about it, somehow, when i read all these blogs and facebook posts and talk to my friends who i know are in the middle of all this shit.

because christmas is shit. if we are honest, the average experience of christmas is stress, obligation, dread and anxiety. and i feel like im now somehow perpetuating the joyful stereotype of the day, because my life this year has been very… on point for societal views of the season. and i feel like im betraying my people.

i feel like that a lot when i talk about good things as wholly good. and thats really kind of a strange fucked up thing. like i feel guilty when my mental illness isnt at the forefront ruining everything for me because i know it is for so many people and i dont want to be that thing. and everyone with a mental illness knows what that thing is. the thing people without a mental illness (or sometimes we as people with mental illnesses) point to, sometimes meaning it in a positive ‘you can do it too!’ manner, sometimes meaning it as a ‘she can do it, you fucking loser’ manner, as a person who has suffered through your thing and is not “ruining” or causing “discomfort” or being “abnormal” or otherwise breaking social norms by being themfuckingselves. because we, as mentally ill people, cause discomfort. it is somehow our job to reduce ourselves, to placate other people, with our pretending. with our moulding to societal expectations. being unabashedly mentally ill is a political act. and thats fucking so hard to explain. that being mentally ill is a thing, its ok, to be yourself. to feel your feelings, to have your symptoms. to not be okay. and we dont need all these things glowing and pointing all around us to remind us that we arent being enough by being ourselves. be yourself. your whole fucking messy, uncomfortable, societal ideal failing self.

so i dont know what to do. and maybe this is part of why ive never written much when ive been doing well. i feel guilty for being that thing, sometimes.

part of it comes from all the public speaking i used to do. being mentally ill in a spotlight is very strange, because you’re only really in the spotlight for that stuff when youre doing well. so then no matter what you are saying, youre sort of normalizing mental illness as something removed from the symptoms. because people arent seeing symptoms, they are hearing that they happened and then starring at this person they dont equate with those things, because they are functional seemingly normal people, and thinking “wow, shes come a long way” or “im so glad thats over for her” (both of those things have been said directly to me after more generalized mental illness speeches) and they treat you like youve magically become better. like you have a secret and like other mentally ill people could find it if they too tried as hard as you did.

this is partially because some people go through one serious bout of depression, usually brought on by a very specific set of circumstances, from which they are able, through the help of temporary medication and some serious help, to get out of, and they do overcome that depression and they dont fall back into it. and then these people talking about being mentally ill. and maybe this is a jackass thing to say, but they arent. they are people who have suffered from depression, but they are not chronically mentally ill. and somehow, people think this is the norm for mental illness. it is not.

so. im sorry if you are going through shit. i am sorry if i am presenting a view of life right now like its gotten better! ta da! im sorry if this has been a thing for you to compare things to, that makes you feel worse. and im sorry that i feel sorry for not being sick enough. that is a weird, unhelpful feeling to put out into the mentally ill universe.

so let me say this, to ease my conscious, to normalize, to give perspective, or context, or whatever it is, to my last few posts.

-ive have had an extremely relaxed, low key, family oriented christmas. i am happy. it has been joyous and full of love and happy things. i didnt feel stressed, or cry, or feel crushed by the weight of something that wasnt there. i do miss my grandma, but it is ok. i feel ok. there was a noticeable lack of stress. it has been exceptional. i am very lucky. this is true.

-my family, every single member except my oldest brother, have gone through therapy. my sister and i have gone through a lot of therapy, myself going on 8 years with the same psychologist, and several misc attempts before that. we did family therapy. my brother did ocd specific therapy. we have recognized that there is a problem (or many, layered interacting problems) and worked on ourselves and also our family dynamic, from many different angles, for a decade and a half. we are a family that puts family above everything else, for whatever reason, and we have worked through some pretty serious trauma and family shit to get to where we are at. many people have said i have a “tv family” in recent years, and there is some truth to that, now, but i cant underscore enough that this was not always the case.

-i am still very conscious of my mental illness. it is a fibre of my being. it dictates many of my life choices, even when im well. i  plan around it like it is a child that i must take care of. when im sick its an infant and when im well its a grown up that you never stopped worrying about. it is always present to some degree. it will come back full force, sometime. i am not fixed.

-my family does not completely do stereotypical christmas. particularly around gift giving. my father strongly believes that we should help each other when we need help, year round, not on a misc day of the year where we buy each other shit because we are obligated to do so. he also hates shopping, malls, and generally the public in the month of december. so he has opted out. my parents dont exchange gifts. my siblings and i dont exchange gifts. occasionally my brother will send something up if he finds something he thinks one of us would really enjoy, because we dont see each other, and he is very wealthy. my sister loves the idea of giving people things at christmas, so sometimes she will give things, usually to me or my parents, and usually not expensive but very thoughtful (see: the christmas miracle tape). she also makes food based christmas stockings for everyone with my parents money. i usually help her. if we all happen to have spare cash and my parents actually need something, we will buy it for them, because they do a lot for us and are not at a point in their lives where they need much from us during the year (this year my brothers were the only ones with money, and they bought my parents a set of glasses because they needed them. in previous years we all had a lot of money and bought them a washing machine when theres broke a week before christmas. most years they get nothing.). my mom usually buys my sister and i a few items because she knows we are struggling financially and she wants us to have something to enjoy. but basically there is absolutely no pressure to get anyone anything, to spend money we dont have, or to brave overcrowded shopping malls. we feel zero guilt about this. moreover, the members of my family with children can afford gifts for their children. this combination is a luxury few people have.

at the end of the day, my point is writing about feeling normal is hard for me, for strange reasons. and i feel guilty sometimes when things work out for me, and i dont know why. its almost the same feeling i had when i was very depressed and someone i knew got cancer, and all i could think was ‘why couldnt i take the burden instead?’. i just. i feel like an outsider sometimes. like im looking in on the lives of people and i know what they are going through and i feel helpless. probably like my parents feel about me.

why am i the one that gets the good period?

fucked up question right?

maybe only other seriously suicidal people will understand. maybe no one will. maybe this is all crazy gibberish. i know it will come back, but it feels unfair that i get to be this ok, for this long, and so many people dont.

im sorry.