Anxiety Shopping

She’s in the grocery store pushing her cart; the territory is familiar. The aisles seem tighter than usual and she begins talking to herself. It used to be that the talking was in her head, but as people pass her by, now they wonder who she’s speaking to. Yelling at. Making fun of.

“You leave your cart on the left side of the freezer section aisle, but you are actually on the right hand side of the freezer aisle picking something out. There’s a box of God knows what in the center selling something for pets and I can’t get by.”

So she stands there waiting.

“Excuse me!”

That time she knew she was yelling out loud. The “Oh, sorry…” didn’t fill the void of anger as she continues her shopping in agony because people and noise and disruption are all part of her triggers.

Today she only needed a handful of items so the self-checkout was there and waiting. She mentally prepared herself for the woman inside the machine who told her what to do, step by step, usually a step behind what she was already doing.

Put the item in the bag…

I already DID!

Remove the item from the bag and place in on the scale…

What the fuck for?

Place the item in the bag…

Oh, you mean the one where it was before you dumb bitch!

Select method of payment…

I already scanned my card!

Don’t forget to take your bags…

Why in the fuck would I go through all of this and forget to take my bags?

Thank you…

People are listening and staring, and she actually cares but she rushes out of the store in hopes those same people won’t be there next time she returns.

—Actually me in every store!!

You are my favorite teapot, and I will love you even when you leak.

I will never forget the day I complimented you,
and instead of taking it, you assured me that you were not perfect
because you hate to do the dishes,
and you don’t see well when driving in the dark,
but darling, you don’t seem to understand
my definition of perfection,
for I find it hidden within all of your quirks.
You are like the polka-dotted teapot I once found
tucked in the back corner of a local shop.
You have smooth edges and the cutest paint job,
but you came at a price—the crack near your base;
I bought you anyway, and I hoped with all my heart
that you wouldn’t leak too badly.
Except, sometimes, you do,
and when you do, I wrap you twice over to stop your seeping,
and I go about my business.
You are never a burden, nor are you a hindrance,
and I will not dispose of you.
I may tell others after the fourth complaint
that I’ll simply put you on a shelf to admire,
but not to use,
though never for always.
Because your tea, somehow, tastes just…a little bit better
than the rest.

This is Not What I Expected

I stare out the window,
stand and watch the rain beat down
harshly on the rug spread on my patio;
It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

I sip coffee from a chipped mug that I broke
during my last move;
its temperature scalds me—
just like life.

By the time I finish my cup
and the day has halfway gone,
the raining stops;
So, I do as I always have.

I trudge outside,
hand the sodden rug over the metal furniture to dry,
and I make my peace that,
oftentimes, life occurs in such a way that I am both
the mess and
the broom;

No worries, though,
for I will always have the ability
to sweep myself back up again.

Seafarer; From the Perspective of a Future Lover

Her hair—twisted like long, green tentacles—fell like water across her face
and as the rain came pouring down, algae liquid followed suit—oceanic.
In the depths of her laughter, I explored the brightest and most beautiful coral reefs,
and in the wake of her tears, I learned that, sometimes, they…get bleached.
Luckily, she always finds the light again, and I am able to sun-bathe in her warm glow;
Together, we grow tanner, and as nightfall breaks, her body crashes like waves upon me.
Over and over and over again, I get to enjoy her tides until it’s time for me to nurture, rather than to relish.
Because as the sea rises and falls, so does she, but that doesn’t make her any less my favorite place to be.

Depression is a Lying Bastard

Depression is filled with lies and ugly underlying issues.

It hovers over you whispering sweet nothings into your ear…You stupid bitch! What are you doing with your life? You’re nothing and you’ll never amount to anything. 
I’d tell it to screw off on a normal day but depression tricks you into thinking the lies are the truth.

Depression not only gets into your own head, but the heads of others. The people in your life get a little gust of wind blown at them and start saying things to you that you’re already thinking and make you feel even worse about yourself.

Don’t you think this is bad timing? Oh! This isn’t a convenient time for YOU to turn MY LIFE upside down? What was I thinking?

Depression lies. It steals. It makes you do things you don’t want to do. It makes you say things you’ve been holding in for far too long. It makes you silent. It grabs hold of your throat and gasp for breath. It makes you think far too strong. It makes you stare into the beyond.

I just want to be happy.

I want help.

I want my problems to be someone else’s problems.

I want to smile and fucking mean it.

I want to tell you I’m Fine and feel it.

I want more.

I fucking deserve more.

Depression is a lying bastard.

MANIAC

Today has been good.
I got out of bed. I showered. I got dressed up.
I was productive. I had coffee. I filed papers.
I socialized—flourishing in the limelight.
…I made a mistake.

Today has not been good.
The shower was so hot it scorched my skin.
When I was getting coffee, I almost hit another car.
While I was socializing, I crossed boundaries that I knew were there but didn’t care about in the moment.

Today has been manic.
I cried hysterically when I put on my ex’s favorite shirt. I didn’t stop until I was ordering my drink.
My productivity consisted of using up old art supplies by tie dying my bathroom towels at 2:30 in the morning.
I think I pushed away my best friend.

Today, I took my medicine. But today, it didn’t help.

Tell Me How You Really Feel

{This was originally written before the holidays and is brutally honest. Honesty goes a long way and often makes others feel less alone.}

I took a shower. Washed my hair. Shaved my legs. All of this to feel squeaky clean and smooth when I put my sweatpants back on.

Beneath is a new pair of underwear, which really does make all the difference in the world when the rest of you is a ratty old piece of shit.

I’m wearing a 13 year old sports bra complete with holes, old stains from dying my hair and is too stretched to even make a difference. But it does a phenomenal job soaking up boob sweat.

I was going to take a bath today. Put on some music loud enough to hear in my bathroom. Read a book while soaking in the tangerine scented bubbles. But that would mean I’d have to clean the tub first and who the fuck wants to go to that extreme?

There’s a sheet of ice outside and snow is falling. So delicate and serene. It’s a good thing I’ll be staying home today. Alone. With the threatening voice in my head whispering sweet nothings into my ear. So much so that I can’t concentrate on the Netflix marathon of movies I added for this day.

I try to read but I’m not grasping what’s happening on the pages, which sucks because I really want to read this book. It’s peculiar and smart and dirty and one day I’ll get through it and understand what it’s about.

Maybe I should vacuum the house. Maybe I should pour a glass of wine, or better yet, a whiskey on the rocks. Maybe some Klonopin would make me not feel what I’m already not feeling. Maybe I should work on writing the half dozen stories I started and haven’t touched in weeks. Maybe I should try to forget that the voices are reminding me of the fresh, unopened bottles of pills that are still in my purse because I’m too afraid to place them in the cabinet. Within reach.

Depression is a motherfucker. It lies. It steals. It makes you do things you don’t want to do. It makes you say things you’ve been holding in for far too long. It makes you silent. It grabs hold of your throat and gasp for breath. It makes you think far too strong. It makes you stare into the beyond. It makes you scratch at your skin, just to feel something-even pain-leaving fingertips warm and covered in blood.

“They” say people get depressed around the holidays. Funny thing to say to someone who is clinically depressed all the days of the year.

BIPOLAR ESCAPISM: PUSHING PEOPLE AWAY & DISAPPEARING

When a person in a relationship—whether platonic or romantic—has bipolar disorder, the symptoms can often affect both people. These interferences will arise in a variety of situations—whether manic or depressed—and they will manifest differently based on the personalities of the persons involved and the situation at hand.

One thing I have noticed across the board, though, in both my personal life and the lives of the bipolar individuals around me, is what I’d like to call an escapist tendency. This tendency can manifest in any mood or altered state, but I see it creep up most often in romantic relationships—particularly when the relationship seems to be going a bit ‘too well.’

I know—that doesn’t really seem to make sense. If things are going well, isn’t that good? Yeah, of course it is. But for people with bipolar disorder, for those of us who are always waiting for the other shoe to drop, being in a romantic relationship that makes us so incredibly happy also often reminds us that there is a big downswing waiting just on the other side. Because we live cyclically. And that’s destructive thinking, yes, but, sometimes, we can’t pry ourselves away from it because it’s all we’ve ever known. Up, then down. Up, then down. Over and over again. And the more encompassing the high, the mightier the fall.

So, when things are really good? We have a tendency to run. Because it’s better to remove ourselves from the situation than it is to watch such a beautiful thing come crashing to the ground, right? Especially if we feel that wonderful thing is crumbling because of us and the way that we exist.

What I’ve noticed, then, is that, instead, we disappear. We push people away, and then we exit their lives slowly—casually. Or, we forgo the pushing them away stage and just straight-up ghost them, leaving them to wonder whether or not we were ever even real. And while that is nowhere near fair to the people that this keeps happening to, I cannot say that it makes us any less prone to be “runners.”

I don’t think any of us ever look at leaving as an attempt to harm the other person. We’re just trying our best to survive, and, sometimes—with our minds the minefields that they are—escaping feels like the only way how.

What I learned on my journey to stop hating myself.

I’ve always been really hard on myself. When I was a kid I would punch myself in the head or if I was in trouble and had to stand against the wall to get swats, I would bang my head while I was there. Although I learned to stop doing that, I was still taking what everybody told me to heart.

The great number of people who say I’m “slow.” The doctors who said I lacked empathy. The kids who laughed because I couldn’t kick the ball right. The teachers who told me I would never amount to anything. All the people who told me I was a bad person.

Even today I still hear some of those types of things. It turned out just a few were true and most all weren’t. I shouldn’t have believed a lot of them. All the bad things that people said about me. They didn’t even know me. I still believed them. I trusted what they said about me more than what I knew about myself.

I really hated myself and who I was because of autism and bipolar. I tried to deny and ignore it for 23 years. I finally had to admit that I had problems; I had to stop hating myself at the same time. So there I was admitting I had problems — but had to learn to stop beating myself up for it.

I was working a big time job. I was being bullied and teased about being autistic. I was being told what a bad person I was because I am bipolar.

I hated those people with all my heart. All that hate finally burned me up. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I had to stop hating. Before I could stop hating them, I had to stop hating me. Before I could believe that the things they were saying weren’t true; I had to believe in me.

I was at a point where I felt I didn’t deserve all this, but I had to do something. I don’t deserve a lot of things. I didn’t know what to do. So I just said the heck with it all. I’m going to go have a start having a good time.

So why should I believe that I’m not a bad person when I’ve done all these bad things? I chose to believe it because there’s no way I was going to become a better person if I didn’t. It was part of becoming — and maybe the only way — I could become the person I wanted to be.

The first thing I had to do was to stop beating myself up. There’s no easy way to do it. When I see that I’m beating myself up, I stop. I distract myself. Whether that is watching TV, listening to music, arts and crafts, or reading something new. Whatever I have to do.

It will get easier every time that you do it. You don’t have to be perfect. No pressure. Just try it once.

It’s not something you get right all the time, right away. I learned to do it time by time. I did once and then I did it again. I just kept doing it till I got it right. As you go along, it gets easier. You get better at it.

Every time I did stop beating myself up, I patted myself on the back. Good job. I deserved to be congratulated. I didn’t beat myself up. That’s an accomplishment.

The hardest thing I had to learn was not to beat myself up because I beat myself up. I did screw up but just couldn’t hold it against myself. I was never going to get through this if I didn’t give myself a break. So I just threw my hands in the air and gave up. I’ll get it right next time.

I started giving myself real breaks as well. My doctor calls them mental health breaks. They are five or 10 minutes for me to relax or catch my breath. They are also a good time to do my relaxation techniques. These are the relaxation techniques I used to help control my anger.

A banner promoting The Mighty’s new Bipolar 1 Support group on The Mighty mobile app. The banner reads, Join the Bipolar 1 Support group to connect with others who understand what it’s really like to live with hypomania, rapid-cycling, depression and more. Click to join.

First, find a relaxation technique out on the net that you like to do. Do it at least a few times a week. Once a day is best. I like to do it when I come home from work every day.

Once you have found a good relaxation technique, choose a word to use as your keyword. Of course it’s easy to choose “Relax.” Although I chose the word “Calm.” That way when I heard the word relax or talked about relaxing I wasn’t using my keyword.

When I did my relaxation technique, I repeated that word over and over again. That way I trained my body. I could now say the word “calm’ when I wanted to relax. I used this for anger, anxiety and in general if I worked up for any reason.

I got serious about the self-affirmations that I learned in group therapy. I wrote out 10 statements that were good about me or that I wanted to be good about me. Again, that I
“wanted” to be good about me.

I am a good friend.

I have a good heart.

I am a good person.

I am worthy.

I am good enough….

I said them in the morning, every morning. I stood up and said them like a personal pledge of allegiance with my hand on my heart. You don’t have to do them in the morning. It can be before bed or anytime but the morning worked best for me.

As I said these statements, they became habits. Habits of thinking I was a better person. I unconsciously was holding myself to them. In a few weeks I made progress. In a few months I became them. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Eventually I realized I already was them. I just needed to believe it.

If a statement was making me feel good, I kept it. If a statement had become comfortable then I replaced it with a new one. Don’t be afraid to change them as you go along.

Anytime I did any of these things right, I patted myself on the back. Well, not just these, but anytime I did something good for myself I patted myself on the back. I congratulated myself for every little thing that I did. I still do. I made it a habit to tell myself that I am doing a good job. I deserve it.

I started treating myself. Whether that was out for lunch, a haircut, a new clothing item, incense, bath bombs or just a $5 item. I found it’s not so much the price as it is the act of buying it for myself. Yes, I do deserve these things.

One thing that I still like to do is to go out to eat or buy myself a good lunch every payday. It’s a reward to myself for making it through the month.

All this didn’t happen overnight. I did the self-affirmations for almost a year. It took me a couple years to learn not to beat myself up. I still need to work on that at times. Again, I still pat myself on the back for everything that I do. Altogether this took me a little more than two years.

I had a 12-step program hold my hand. You can have a counselor or a therapist hold your hand. It’s so much easier than going it alone.

I hope you learned to love yourself. You do deserve it. You are worthy. You are enough. I wish you the best.

Know Your Medication

I’ve had some bad psychiatrists over the years, but I’ve had a couple of good ones too. Some play the role of a higher power (or wish they could do so on TV) and others sit back and write prescriptions to get through their shift. Many will (and should) work with you and not against you.

The first time I stepped foot in a psychiatrist’s office, I didn’t know what to expect. When I left his office, even in the state of mind I was in, I knew I was going to have to be involved in my mental health care. I was going to have to hit the interwebs (reputable sources) and study my illness as well as the medications that treat the illness.

Some individuals walk into any doctor’s office and take their word because they went to medical school. In my opinion, this isn’t the way to care for your well-being.

When it comes to psychotropics, you have to be informed. There are different trial and errors for every medication but I’m going to focus on psychotropics today.

Many psychotropic medications require blood work before you can even begin taking them. Doctors are testing for things such as glucose levels, platelet counts and the thyroid hormone. Some of these medications can cause diabetes, hypothyroidism, a white blood cell count differential, impairment of kidney function, liver disease, and the list goes on…

The tests are completed before taking new medication to have a starting point of your blood levels to be monitored during the course of treatment.

If you’re in the clear to take the new medication, labs are tested again down the road (depending on what you’re taking-the timing will vary) to recheck your levels. Doses may need to be adjusted accordingly. The tests don’t stop there. Regular testing, especially during dose changes, will be a part of your life. Hopefully less often as it takes effect and you’re on level ground again.

Not all medications require such lengths before you can take them. Recently I was faced with making a decision of my own with my psychiatrist (because I don’t let my doctors decide for me, they’re there to hand me the info and we conclude together). Do I:

 A. Not change medications right away, get my labs drawn, wait up to two weeks then figure out what to do…

— or

B. Change to something that doesn’t require blood work so I can get to feeling less like death immediately and then move back to plan A should I need additional help…

I went with plan B. Why? I couldn’t say for a fact that I’d still be around when the lab results arrived. My symptoms are that bad.

My point? Work with your doctor. Don’t just do what he tells you to do. If you’re being treated by a doctor that will only keep seeing you if you do everything he says, he’s not a good doctor. Make decisions together. Do your research. Know what you have to do prior to swallowing something new. Know the common side-effects and the rare side-effects. You may be one in the small percentage who experiences these side-effects, but it’s important to have the information on hand. Researching after the fact can be devastating. In my personal recent experience, my doctor insisted that a good portion of the effects I’m feeling wasn’t from the medications. He only said that it was possible, in quite a weary tone.

Be armed. Be informed. Be ready to fight for what you know. Be ready to fight for what you want.

Your doctor is experienced and shouldn’t brush you off because your time limit is up. He should stick by your side until you’re comfortable enough moving forward with your health plan, and be at the ready if you have questions in the interim.