It’s World Suicide Prevention Day.

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Most of you who know me know this is a cause I’m not so quiet in advocating for, and here is why:
-Globally, suicide in the 2nd leading cause of death for people aged 15-29
-Globally, more people die each year from suicide than murder and war combined.
-One person takes their life by suicide every 40 seconds.
-For every completed suicide, 20 others attempted

Please take the time to learn the warning signs, and make the effort to reach out to those who are in need. People do not die of suicide, they die of despair and hopelessness. We owe it to one another to take any action we can to stop that.

If you are suffering, please tell someone. Tell a friend, a family member, a mentor, me or a random stranger on the internet. Reach out to someone, anyone. The situation cannot become worse if you are already at this point.

Communally, we must come together to improve. Unlike other illnesses, this is one that both individuals and our community have the ability to change.

Try.

the flip side

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I’ve been messed up for awhile now. Really, seriously, morosely messed up. I’ve felt it in my bones, in my soul, in the pressure of my eyelids over my too dilated pupils.

and I’ve written. I’ve written all the bad, scary things that live within me. I’ve written the the shit no one talks about because it is fucked up, incomprehensible, and feels stupid and small yet vast and cavernous at the same time. I’ve written about all these things that are detracting from the life I want to lead. That are pulling me apart from the inside out.

But I haven’t written about the rest. The good, the normal, the decent… I have those too. Sometimes I don’t recognize them, or sometimes they simply cannot compensate enough for the bad and scary, but I have them, just the same as everyone else. They are the fragments of the life I know that I’m fighting for. Because I am fighting… thats what all of this is. Its the constant desire for betterment; a blind faith in something not yet experienced, a life not free from symptoms but managed, understood, and contained.

I lose this belief sometimes. Not in the fact that it exists (I know it does. somehow.), but in my own capabilities to achieve it. I know I am working as hard as anyone can work, but I am not patient. It is hard to be just scraping by for so long. To be entirely dependent on a support system of other people to ensure you make it through the day, hour, minute. And there is nothing I can do but try. So we move forward, inch by inch, through sheer force of will and the strength garnered from gracious others.

But the fact of the matter is, for all my dark and morbid, or my psychotic and colourful, there’s been a semblance of regular life. And I think, honestly, this is the part people on the outside struggle with the most– the inability to reconcile the words of a seriously depressed/manic/suicidal/whatever person, with that of a person continuing to lead an apparently functional life. You’re one or the other; you’re sick or you’re healthy. You’re perfectly normal or you’re so insane anyone who looked at you would notice. I think this is something I suffer from myself… like if I can do anything at all, I’m not that sick and there’s so many people who are sicker than me because I can still do such and such and real sick people couldn’t get through that. So I should just suck it up and get through it and stop complaining, because somebody somewhere is really sick, and I’m just failing. Stigma’s a bitch.

So I’ve decided to talk about the normal. The flip side. The bits and pieces that fill my day while I’m busy being bipolar. This is my good.

PEOPLE.

I have been moving forward. And although that choice is mine and mine alone, it’s been made with the help of many others – some of whom realize it and some of whom do not. And yet I’ve never written a thing about them. So here goes.

1. My family
My parents are extremely invested in my well being. I am 27. They not only let me, but encourage me to go home for weeks at a time when I’m not well. They drive me to doctors appointments, they pay for my prescriptions, they cook my meals, they drag me around on errands with them so I’m forced to leave the house. My dad got me to take daily walks on trails when my pills were making it hard to move without getting dizzy. They don’t push, they don’t yell, they don’t try to make sense of it. They just try to be supportive and to get me help. I am unbelievably lucky.

But aside from all that, my family.. like the whole thing… is really close. We have dinner every Thursday night out at my parent place- me, my sister and her husband, my brother and his wife and their two kids. Every week. So we all get together, I get at least one full, balanced meal a week even when I’m too gone or too broke to make one myself, and I get to be in a room full of people who dont give a shit if I didnt manage to get out of my pajamas or shower that day. And my brother’s kids. I love those kids. They just don’t give a shit. It’s really hard to see absolutely no hope for the future when a 3 year old is asking you to be their friend. It just is. It doesnt fix it, or negate it, but for those 10 seconds, it helps a little bit.
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2. The Poop Circle

This is the ever so affectionate name I gave our circle of friends. There’s apparently a bird that poops in a circle and lays its eggs in the middle. If the egg is inside the circle, it protects it as it’s own; should the egg roll outside the circle, it no longer recognizes it as it’s own and attacks it. Seemed accurate.

Anyway, theres about 15 of us, give or take. We all invite each other to everything, everyone makes an effort to include everyone in plans. Everyone made an effort to invite me to things even when I was ruining everything by crying in the corner or having panic attacks at the fair. I have friends who sat in hospital waiting rooms with me. I have friends who answered the phone at 5 am and talked to me while I was literally psychotic and they had no idea I was even bipolar. I have friends who will drop everything and help me, if I really, honestly need it.

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Brandon, the roommate who actually worrys about my well being.

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Sometimes they get me to put on make up, even.

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Kale waiting with me in the ER.

3. My thesis advisor

Angie. Angie is the only reason I have gotten through this year in tact. Angie fought for me well above and beyond the call of duty. Angie helped me get my medical deferrals when I was too sick to do it myself. Angie met me over and over again, talked me through things, calmed my anxiety. Shared experiences. She made me feel ok. She made me feel like even though I may have had a massive mental breakdown, I was still smart, and still belonged in school, and was still the best in my class. She helped me when she could have easily let me slide, fail, or leave. She pushed me when I couldn’t do it for myself.

4. My therapist

Ok, so maybe this is stupid because he’s my therapist, aka I pay him and it is his job, but I have had a lot of shitty mental health professionals in my life so I’m counting it. Matthew is awesome. He gave me is cell phone number for emergencies. His actual cell phone number. And he answered it at 10pm on a Saturday when I ran home from a party, everyone else I knew was drunk and I was holding a knife and a bottle of pills. He fucking answered.

5. Eddie

Eddie is a random I met on OkCupid, but who lives in another country and thus remains a total random. And this is weird because I know he will read this. But anyway, I talk to Eddie more or less daily in the early morning hours, about nothing, or something, or somewhere in between. I don’t feel like he judges me. He’s interesting and distracting and he helps me get through the night, every night. I’m unclear if he realizes this.

6. Jon

Jon was my boss at StudentsNS, but since I had to… shall we say leave?… that position, he’s just my friend now. and that’s pretty killer. because you know what? He hired me, saw me have a mental breakdown and screw him over, and he called me up and was like I want to be friends, lets get a drink. And you know what, that made me feel awesome. That is awesome. Jon is awesome.

This is my support system. These are my people. They are many, and they are awesome. I couldn’t ask for better.
Some of them know how bad it is, and some would be shocked.

Sometimes having a support system like this is enough– you always think it would be when you’re down and entirely alone (I have been there before), but in reality, there are somethings a support system can’t do. I do my best, they try their hardest, and with any luck we will make it to the other side in tact. But whatever happens, I am someone to all of these people. And that means something.

swing low

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I’ve been on medical leave from life for awhile. A long while. Entering month number 3 here, in fact, though now I’m not so much on medical leave as on having an excuse to not look for a job or get on track with school. Here’s the thing about medical leave… it doesn’t end when your symptoms stop being all consuming forces that noticeably dictate your entire life. Weird right? I’m not sure why I continually feel like if I have ever felt worse, then I must be better. It’s becoming problematic.

I’ve got about a week under my belt of being coherent and relatively functional (in that I dress myself and eat things on a regular basis), meaning its been about 7 days since being awake was too much of a task in and of itself, about 10 since I was actively considering the best method to drown myself, and about 45 since the hysterical disrepair.

I’ve never much related to how people talk about bipolar disorder before. I am very disconnected from my emotional experience most of the time… or maybe not disconnected but in a state of blatant disregard for emotions and their influence… either way this whole ‘mood swing’ business seemed rather false. Big picture I can look backwards and characterize 3 month chunks as generally pretty shit or perhaps a little too ‘good’, but this whole notion of ‘swinging’ felt like other peoples problems.

And then I started looking at how I was describing what I was going through to other people: a pendulum, where I’m supposed to be in the resting centre position, and with way too far up on being swings to the left and way too far down being swings to the right. Even in my very first speech I described the difference in experience of emotion as other people being like boulders: heavy; it took something strong and forceful to push them into feeling something one way or the other. I described myself as one of those rubber balls attached to a paddle.

Apparently mood swings are my problem.

That’s weird.

Here’s the thing, though. I don’t feel like I go up or down. I feel like I go left and right. I don’t feel like one is better than the other; I see them both as interference. Which makes me wonder if I’ve ever really ben manic because everyone else seems to have fond memories and all I’ve got are some weird memory gaps, hysterical anxiety, and a lot of shoes.

I feel like being so disconnected (or whatever you want to call it) from my emotions may be the reason I don’t relate to other peoples descriptions of being bipolar. I don’t recognize these periods of elation. Most of the time, I don’t even recognize these periods of morose despair. Everything seems normal to me. Everything feels like something to work through.

Therapy has been working on that, my compulsive need to push through things and get to the end, perfectly, come hell or high water. I recognize this is one of those things I need to challenge… despite appearances it’s not overly conducive to leading a fully functional life. Turns out, just because you can do something doesnt mean you get the same enjoyment or rewards out of completing it as someone who didn’t murder themselves to get there. But I’m terrified of losing that. It’s what makes me successful at things; it’s how I go back to school after being pulled out over and over. Its the separation between failure and worth, right now, for me. I don’t know how to turn that off.

Right now I treat myself in these periods as separate entity. This is the bad I have to overcome. I don’t know if this is entirely false. I do know that I have always treated the opposite of this as healthy, which is not true. The opposite of this, when I’m functional and acing everything, still has sick fucked up trauma me and healthy me fighting it out. It’s like I have three things happening. Actually, it’s not “like” I have three things happening I just do. I have the bipolar symptoms, the ptsd me, and the healthy me. Only until now I’ve never been able to tell them apart.

Speaking of which, I noticed I actually mixed you the healthy and the sick voices in my last entry. That’s the battle, I suppose. Sick me is horribly disappointed in myself. Healthy me is relieved. It’s hard to retrain yourself.

This entry wound up being entirely different from what I thought I was coming here to write. Maybe tomorrow I’ll get around to thinking about learning to relax and the point of medical leave.

Breathe.

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Today is better.
I don’t know if it will last, and I’m choosing not to stress about it.

I didn’t kill myself yesterday.
I was close. I was closer than I care to admit, closer than I ever remember being… including the days spent sitting in the ER.
Many people helped me not kill myself (my therapist, my mom, my brother, a random stranger who commented on this blog), but I did it. I stayed alive, in 60 second bursts, for the entire day. Through a fight. Through urges. Through fits and bursts. I did that.

I have coping skills. I have the doctors, the therapists, the support networks, the people to call, the order of things to do, the small goals. I have the things you are told to build when you end up in the ER. I have the things, and sometimes, the things are still not enough. Sometimes, there are just 60 second blocks, one after another, and you just try to get through each one. Little goals. Tick. Tock.
There is nothing to do but wait it out.

Today isnt like that.
I woke up bad, but not awful. I woke up (goal #1), I swallowed pills (goal #2). Stripped off the sweat drenched bulky sweaters and layers of clothing I had piled all over my body as protection from myself the night before.
I dont remember falling asleep. My body aches all over from the constant clenched tension I’d held in it all night.
I showered (goal #4). Didnt shave. Too much of a temptation (goal #5). Got dressed (goal #6)
I ate a peach: nutrients (goal #7).
I left the apartment (goal #8) and got a package from the post office. I came home and did skype therapy. Therapy makes me feel like I’m working on the problem, so therefore therapy makes me feel better, in and of itself. There no worse feeling that that of feeling like you are doing nothing to fix being horribly, crushingly, defeated.
I made tea. I hugged my roommate (goal #9). I ate vegetables (goal #7).
And then, something weird happened. I felt like maybe going outside would be ok.
I haven’t felt like maybe being outside would be ok in a long time. So I decided to act on it as fast as humanly possible. Ellie stopped by shortly there after so I dragged her to a nearby park with me. it was sunny but not hot. There was a water fountain: I love watching water fountains. They calm me. We stayed there for an hour and then everyone was going to trivia because its Tuesday. I love trivia. I was already outside. I was worried about the crowd because on Saturday I had to leave a party due to a massive panic attack turned suicidal downward spiral. Decided to go and sit at the table with Amber and Nicole because we need to show up like an hour early to save the table. Could leave when a crowd started to form if I needed. We got a good table and I got to sit by the wall… lots of space. Made it through trivia night. Last minute text to my boss and he came down to play, too. Sat in the dark park with my boss after 11pm. Talked about work. talked about life. talked about where things were at. He walked me home. (goals #10-72384238)
I’m going in to sign my contract tomorrow… start health benefits. In a week or two I’ll start working only the hours I feel up to being there, and not being there when I’m not. I’m extremely lucky to have such a supportive amazing workplace. I wish I could just give one to everyone who goes through any of this. I dont know how I’d have survived without it.

Todays a good day. Maybe tomorrow will be too. Maybe it wont. But I’m grateful for the pause; the reminder. The intake of air.

Crush

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Things have changed.

I know this should be the easy part. The part where I just simply recount the past couple weeks of soul crippling depression in bits and fragments… some sort of counter part to the ‘psychosis’ post from a few weeks ago. But it isnt. Its never easy for me to admit this half of the spectrum; the one I feel like I should be able to control. Its been here longer, and it takes up much more space inside me. It is a part of me in a much more tangible, recognizable way: the pitch, pitch black.

Last week, I was forcibly taken to the ER because I was suicidal and the people closest to me were gravely concerned for my well being. I’ve hinted and mentioned and touched on this fact, and the circumstances leading up to it in bits and pieces. It was (is?) a bleak period for me. there is something so inherently difficult to explain here… some coming to of an innate, constant reality that just broke me.

As a mental health advocate, its an incredibly taboo thing for me to say, but I’m going to say it: the realization that I was, in fact, bipolar, or at the very least not “just” anxious has been, at times, unbearable for me. It is not that I don’t value people with these heavy diagnoses. I do, I really, truly do. people that have these problems and cope. That make it through their lives and do what they want to do, who be who they want to be, who are good, amazing, wonderful people who better the world. The people who have such strength and fortitude to survive: they are my heroes, in every sense of the word. But lately, or maybe always, I have a deep seeded doubt that this is something I can ever personally accomplish. And that is crushing.

I cannot pretend my mental illness is not a burden: it is. it is painful. it is heavy. it is a boulder that sits on my chest and the only thing keeping it from crushing through my rib cage is the strength of my finger tips and sheer force of will. It is not easy. It is not pleasant. It is not without struggle.

I spend a lot of time fighting to not be defined by that struggle. A lot of time. So it is painful for me to admit that in the face of recognizing that that struggle was something serious, something permanent, something that wont necessarily improve with continuous hard work and diligent effort… it broke me. Looking at the state I was in, and knowing, unequivocally, that there was nothing I could do to stop it, to stop myself from being back here again, that I was already doing everything anyone could suggest… was devastating.

I work hard at being mentally healthy.
I go to therapy. I work on things that my psychologist tells me to work on. I have insight into why things are happening and what is causing what. I do my best to reason and talk through things. I use all my CBT training. I have a psychiatrist. A good one. I take the pills I’m told to take. I go to my appointments. I modify my diet. I do the stupid routines and sleep hygiene. I work. I try. There is literally nothing I could be doing right now to work any harder at this, aside from being better at doing nothing at all.

And this still happened.

This horrible, crushing, terrible thing still happened.

I cant work it away.
I have always been able to work it away.

As stupid, or misguided as it may be, having a diagnosis of depression and anxiety, as opposed to bipolar or schizoaffective, or whatever label it ends up being, made me feel like I had more control. It made me feel like I could work my way through it. It made me feel like if I just tried harder I could get somewhere, because I have always held that sliver of hope. That hope that so many people have lost.
But, for some reason, for whatever reason, the bipolar label makes me feel like I’ve lost that. And the switching of labels.. the oh your bipolar, oh nevermind you’ve got anxiety, oh i meant ptsd, oh no, “just” depression… it feels like I was robbed of time to adjust.

I know its just a word. A label meant to help those who help me; not one to define me or who I am. But it matters. I have very separate emotions attached to each. and they may be unreasonable and they may be the byproduct of stigma and internalization of bullshit, but they are mine and i have a right to work through them.

I have a right to be devastated by apparently old news. I am devastated by old news. My finger tips can only hold some much weigh before they give. The boulder is going to fall, some of the time. My ribs are going to have to learn how to take it.

I have a right to be tired. I have a right to let myself be crushed.

emergency

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my therapist threatened to call the cops on me yesterday.

threatened sounds like a strong word.

my therapist felt legally obligated to get me to a safe place by way of a community service yesterday.

he managed to get ahold of kale instead. kale left work (took a sick day), drove here. brandon came home. they drove me to the er, so i didnt have to get a police escort.

kale has been experiencing these ‘coincidences’ of sorts. like the other day there was a depressing song on the radio and he commented. and i said ‘maroon 5 has been depressing lately too’ as he changed the radio station to one now blaring maroon 5. magical thinking, maybe. but coincidences.

this song came on the car radio as we were going down robie, the hospital not quite yet in view. me crying. them feeling heavy. this song made us laugh.

im thankful for that.

so. have i mentioned im not jewish?

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so i went on a date with a rabbi.
in fact i let him touch me. i havent let people touch me in quite a long time. sure, ive hugged my roommate on occasion, and my mom, and given a good friend a quick squeeze good bye… but i havent been able to do any form of sustained touch since i woke up and realized: rape. and he touched me. he made sure i was comfortable. he talked to me. he brushed my hair off my face, he looked in the eyes. he rubbed my neck, he kissed my forehead. he kissed my lips. things (but not THINGS) happened. and i was ok. i got anxious and froze and locked my whole body up.. and then hed just touch me and talk about things until he could feel me relax again.. over and over again.

when i left i started to panic. the drunk panic where you dont really make sense and you babble like a three year old while slightly losing touch with reality panic. i called chris. i rambled at him. he was a good sport.

i feel very conflicted, about the whole thing. on the one hand, theres this person who wants to help me in the ways that i need help right now. i need to relax around people. i need to relearn how to be touched. or maybe just learn, in the first place, because my family never really did that and my two modes of touching have always been: extremely uncomfortable or crazy sex. but on the other hand. hes, you know, a rabbi. and you know what im not? jewish. im definitely not jewish. im not even religious. im like, pretty much a respectful atheist up in here.

this can go nowhere. is that a problem? can i just be friends with this person and let him touch me and kiss me and whatever casual whateverness until it heals something inside me and have that be ok? i really feel like he could. and he feels like he could. but then i feel weird, about the religious lines, which is dumb because they arent mine. they arent my things. its his choice to handle that however he wants to handle that. and hes already been exceptionally clear it cant turn into anything, because im not jewish, and all. but i wonder how long it will be until he freaks out about it. till theres back track.

i dont know. maybe ill try it. unless hes all “holy shit, im a rabbi wtf am i doing? in a couple days. i think i could do this though. i think i could trust him. in whatever weird way.