Things have taken a bad turn via a rough mixed episode. I am unable to write very clearly, but wanted to note that if things don’t improve soon, hospitalization may be imminent and posting through next week may not be possible. I would really appreciate some good vibes… thanks for your support, hopefully things will bounce back soon.
Let me start by asking when is the last time you laughed? I mean really laughed?
A friend of mine recently passed on a book recommendation to me. She said it was both hilarious and reminded her of me, so I looked into snagging a copy at my local library. I quickly found myself eighty fifth in line to check a copy of that book out which immediately confirmed - this sheezy must be good!
Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened is a book by Allie Brosh inspired by her already (rather popular) blog Hyperbole and a Half.
The book itself seems to act as something as a (very loose) memoir with several hilarious stories about her own childhood, the behavior of her eccentric dogs (something any dog owner can associate with) and her desire to learn more about herself and what makes her tick.
Let me just say, the dialogue itself is funny, but the real clincher here is the series of illustrations that go with it, creating something akin to a book with an identity crisis (am I a book or a web comic?).
While funny enough to make me cry from laughing so hard, I wouldn’t suggest this book to you for that simple reason alone.
Allie Brosh’s book takes an interesting turn when she spends a chapter describing her experience with depression. While I find this chapter extremely relatable (knowing very well what depression feels like myself) I was both intrigued by her continued usage of funny illustrations to help her descriptions and analogies hit home and the way she actually describes depression and how the people around her reacted to her situation.
I would say this book is about 80% light and hilarious, with 20% (maybe even less) focus on serious topics (like depression). Because of this I was immediately struck by how this book makes a great introduction for people who aren’t familiar with depression, coming at the topic initially from a comedic standpoint and then really digging deep to convey what depression feels like and how difficult it can be to convey to others.
While this book is in and of itself great (I will definitely buy a copy, I loved it) I think it would make a wonderful tool for anyone who is trying to reach out to someone either with depressive symptoms who wont address them, or to help gently explain to others what living with depression is like before having a more serious conversation about the subject.
I feel like people are always asking, “how can I bring up the subject of [depression/mental illness] in a positive way with the people around me? how do I know how my [co-worker/family member/friend] will react?”
Well, one answer might be to give this book a read and share it with the people around you. After they’ve read it, you could ask what they thought about the portion about depression, and I can see this really helping to create a dialogue between people (especially young adults, teens) on the topic.
Depression can feel like a very heavy, intense topic, so being able to approach it in a smart, fun way (sandwiched between two hearty portions of comedy) makes a discussion about it more accessible to a wider audience.
As I mentioned, this book has a lot to offer and I was very impressed by how something seemingly silly could offer up something profound.
Happy Monday! Today I want to share a recent article from USA Today that seems to address some issues I’ve been seeing (and living, let’s face it) about a lack of support around people with mental illness in the workplace.
I’ve been hitting a lot of big roadblocks when it comes to applying for SSDI, and I’ve honestly had some big questions about how our disability system works (or doesn’t work) here in the US. I’ve come across countless people who are against the whole idea of SSDI because it doesn’t support people who are disabled and want to work part time, and the current system seems to only support an “all” or “nothing” style of support. There have been so many situations I’ve found myself in where I know I could mentally benefit from working a few hours a week (giving my life a better sense of structure and a bigger sense of accomplishment and purpose) but the way the system is set up, trying to help myself this way is extremely frowned upon.
The article I’m sharing today addresses the idea of a “supported employment program” that potentially allows employers to do a better job of bridging the gap between the needs of their companies and realistic employment abilities of those with mental illness (which, let’s be honest, can widely vary for any given person over time). Personally, I consider this to be a stellar idea… I am just not sure how well this could realistically be executed. If companies aren’t currently willing to make the necessary accommodations for exceptionally well qualified applicants with mental illness as it is (something I have experienced several times), what would encourage them to use a program like this one?
At any rate, you can check out the article here. Give it a read and let me know what you think!
This Friday I thought I would start by leaving you with some good news; after a very lengthy application process and some big hiccups we’ve been approved for the apartment we wanted!
Living in Seattle has involved a lot of moving for me. Since moving here in 2006 I’ve moved 8 times, and the last three years at our current place is the longest stretch I’ve gone in one place since moving away from home at age 18.
When I got to the city I was moving around so much I didn’t accumulate much (in terms of stuff) but having been staying put the last 3 years has meant diving into a much more intense packing process. Beyond the usual stuff I’ve gleaned (boxes and boxes of fabric, more rik-rak ribbon than any one person rightfully needs) I have also accumulated an extraordinary amount of paper goods.
Part of the anxiety I have involves keeping pieces of paper that I deem “important”. Apparently… this means everything. Like, a doodle I did of a dog, or our light bill from the 8th month we lived here. Looking back while packing, I can see clear periods where I attempted to clean some of this up and then slumped back into depression, leaving behind piles representing particular periods of time scattered throughout the apartment.
Most of the papers I’ve gone through in the last week have been repetitive. SSDI paperwork. DSHS paperwork. Insurance (or lack-thereof) paperwork. Yes, important at the time, but now a year or more later… useless.
Every so often I strike gold and find something useful.
“Oh good, I’m glad I really DID put a forbearance on my student loans!”
Because… who knows at this point. I can’t remember a whole lot!
In one of the piles I hit the equivalent of a gold nugget; the workbook I filled out during my last hospitalization in 2011.
I leafed through it knowing I had scribbled crap down in there right before being released because I had found out filling out the pages was required rather late in the game. One loose page fell out though, and this one looked genuine. It said:
1.) On the left side of the page, identify which one of these areas you are struggling with the most and write it out. (Think about why you came in the door).
(I didn’t have the left side of the page, but what I wrote seemed pretty self explanatory.)
“Wearing the mask – I don’t normally express my feelings in a daily setting.”
2.) Ask yourself how you might be able to think about or do things differently to get some kind of positive momentum going for yourself?
“I would like to see a talk therapist again and continue gradually letting my boyfriend in.”
A few days ago when I read that, bells and whistles went off in my head, particularly the response to question one. Frankly, even though my symptoms have gotten noticeably worse since then (overall) I feel eons better after dropping the act, “the mask”, and allowing myself to show real emotion (even if it is out of proportion at times) instead of trying to keep it contained internally or just in journals.
I was happy to see that the response to question two is one that I have followed through on. Not only do I have a therapist (which has helped me continue to express those feelings from question one) but I have talked a lot to Corey about the things I am dealing with and he is usually the first to help me brainstorm a workable solution (even if that solution is to do nothing).
Sometimes it can be hard for me to look back, I normally don’t allow myself to read my own journals because I find them triggering and my blog posts are structured much more differently than my everyday sort of casual, emotional writing. It can be hard to know if things have really gotten any better, but this one piece of paper (found in thousands) was a nice reminder that I have moved forward and by continuing to do the things I’ve set out to do, I am continuing to help myself.
In a stressful situation, it is amazing how finding a needle in a haystack has helped bolster my confidence about getting things done and moving on to something different. After all, this single page is a real reminder of how different can be great.
When I told my therapist last week I wasn’t feeling any emotions (only anxiety) I was shocked at his response.
“Anxiety is an emotion,” he said, “it is an emotion based on fear.”
I don’t know what was more shocking, his response, or the fact that I was shocked by it!
I guess in my experience, anxiety has never been a member in my usual emotional club. This might have something to do with the fact that I have bipolar disorder, though it might have more to do with the fact that I also have generalized anxiety disorder.
Er… let me explain.
Because I have bipolar disorder, my moods are very erratic. They aren’t typically logical, but they can be reactive at times. I’ve been tracking my moods for three years now and they jerk around all over the place.
And then there’s anxiety.
My feelings of anxiety don’t follow the other emotions, or the other types of responses I have due to bipolar disorder. On the contrary, I’ve been tracking my anxiety levels for three years as well and they most often have nothing to do with my other mood swings.
While the bipolar mood swings will build up and die down (for me somewhat rapidly) my anxiety level almost always remains relatively constant (minus panic attacks). It has for as long as I can consciously remember.
Sure, it will get worse if something stressful is going down, but even when something stressful isn’t going down, or something fun is going down, it is there. It is like a feisty leprechaun inside my chest who holds onto my spine, takes a deep breath, and then holds it to take up as much space in there as possible.
Most of my anxiety these days is almost purely physical, I’ve learned to cope with the serious quantities of dread I’ve felt every day since childhood (or, at least, I thought I did). I think this is another reason why I haven’t been considering it an emotion, because it feels much more physical these days.
On top of that, I’m sure the fact that all my other huge emotions have been overshadowing any emotional aspect of anxiety for a while now. Like I said, it pops up every once in a while (that dread) but for the most part, I’m too busy feeling depressed, or elated, or a horrible mixture of the two to notice it.
I know that this “overshadowing” of emotion put on by bipolar disorder is another reason why when all of my emotions (except anxiety) disappeared last week (we are still looking into why that happened, you can expect more on that odd situation later) I quickly felt like that little leprechaun was working overtime. There was nothing to dampen his smug little escapades.
Ultimately, the concept of not feeling my typical barrage of emotions made me… well, anxious. It didn’t matter much, considering that anxiety was already present. Still, I wanted to demand my therapist explain to me why that emotion remained when all the rest (many of which I typically enjoy) were gone.
Still a mystery, but I feel like I am getting closer to figuring it out every day. We still need to run more tests, I need to take more notes, and though my other emotions are returning (sporadically) I feel totally confounded by the whole situation.
Have I ever felt nothing except anxiety before?
If I have it has been too long for me to be able to recognize the feeling, since childhood, perhaps… probably more specifically before the 6th grade. Even then, most of my anxious memories are littered with anger. A substantially pissed off kid, angry for not knowing why I felt so afraid all the time.
“At 28 you think you’ve felt every emotion there is? You don’t think there are any you haven’t experienced?”
My therapist brought up a good point. I have gotten used to feeling so many emotions that it can be easy to feel like there couldn’t possibly be any beyond the ridiculousness I’ve experienced. I’m sure that isn’t true though, heck just last year I had a manic episode unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before, and found myself in the same kind of uncharted territory two weeks ago.
I guess I find the notion of unlimited emotional possibilities a bit tiresome… frankly it can be very difficult with the ones I’ve already got.
At any rate, once I know more I’ll share it. This whole thing has been a big learning experience, and while it can be rather disconcerting getting thrown a curveball I am someone who is always eager to learn something new. I can’t say this is the way I wanted to learn it, but it is too late to look back now.
I would never refer to myself as an ardent patriot, but I do (on occasion) have the opportunity to spend time researching history and then living in a manner that our forefathers (and mothers) were accustomed to. The time of the American Revolutionary War is one that is of particular interest to me.
What is it about the period leading up to the war and the transition into a unified country I find so fascinating? Well, while others are roasting their hot dogs today and lighting off fireworks, I’m thinking about why July 4th is a holiday in the first place.
It is a story of a group of people being taken advantage of; an example of a true tale of the underdogs fighting for the rights they believe they deserve until they have achieved them.
This is an important story, and though it is one that comes up again and again in US history focusing on many different groups of people, this is a story that is still in its early stages when it comes to our story.
The American Revolution itself faced difficulty in reaching unity within the colonies. It provided a period of thought and contemplation about what basic rights should be afforded to all people, and (what people usually remember) also included a brutal struggle through the physical act of fighting.
You might be surprised to hear it, but I see a lot of similarities between the fight for American independence and the fight for fair, competent mental health services in our country and the need to bring people together on this issue. I don’t expect our journey to involve a navy or muskets, but I’m sure that is for the better!
The snake, for example, in the propaganda banner above is broken down into pieces representing each of the colonies that needed to come together to create a unified force. I think we face similar issues when attempting to unify people behind the cause of mental health because many of us have different viewpoints, different backgrounds, different disorders, different symptoms! Still, if we can find a way to work together we will find we are a force to be reckoned with; a snake you’d better not step on again!
During the American Revolution the British soldiers greatly outnumbered the colonist militia, so the militia changed the rules of war; hiding in wooded areas in an attempt to shield themselves while making an attack.
Most of us with mental illness have felt like we have needed to hide in order to keep ourselves safe, and being smart about when we share our experiences or staying calm and choosing our battles is a strategy that has already began to show some improvement in our nation’s social dialogue.
I know that while I feel comfortable coming forward and being open with everyone in my life about my experiences, I understand there are others in situations (like in a questionable workplace, family, or school environment) who have to be very careful about the battles they choose to fight and when they can fight them. I know these situations can be distressing, but I don’t consider this to be a drawback because when a hidden warrior chooses to finally make themselves seen there is a big impact.
One of the things I’ve found is that the act of hiding makes discovering a sense of community ten times more rewarding. This is part of what makes us strong; we truly appreciate much of what each other has to offer. Though I know there is still a little work that needs to go into unification for our cause, our community is constantly growing.
I expect that this 4th that there will be picnics and a sense of community and giddy children lighting off fireworks in the streets, but I hope that today you will also think about the reason behind it all.
No, it isn’t our right to bear arms, nor our hatred of paying taxes. It isn’t about guys in powdered wigs or military prowess. July 4th is about being someone who has struggled, someone who has been walked on, and demanding a better life.
If nothing else, that thought inspires me because I see myself in it. If that is what it truly means to be an American, maybe I’ve been a patriot all along?