Why I’ve been absent

I haven’t been “engaged’ on social media (such a weird word – engaged) for a week. I could explain why but my brain can tell the story better in illustrated (badly) form I think.

So here is the story of why I’ve been absent…

***Trigger warning for depression***

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So that is the story of why I’ve been absent. I’m sure I’ll be back soon and I will answer ANY AND ALL NOTIFICATIONS, you beautiful people, you.

Much love to you,

me.

(And much destructive love from Fang the Kitten Of Destruction)IMG_4880

P.S. sorry I misspelled taint-squeegee in that one panel. It’s spelled TAINT-SQUEEGEE just for posterity.

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What Carrie Fisher Means To Me

“At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of. – Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher is a hero for those of us with mental illness. She was open about her life and struggles and victories and helped people understand manic-depression. She helped people empathize. She educated others even though it was never her job to do so. She voluntarily put herself out there, risked judgement and bullying, so that others may never have to face stigma. Thanks to her and others like her, the raging stigma that has caused so much harm is finally lessening. I owe her a huge debt, not only for myself but for my daughters, both of whom live with mental illness.

 

*TW* bipolar, depression, eating disorder, anxiety, PTSD, rape

 

I am bipolar. I don’t talk about it. Maybe I should. Maybe I should be as open as Carrie Fisher about my mental illness. Not maybe…should. I should be more open. I’ve talked about my depression but never my mania, never about being bipolar 1. In a future post, I’ll describe in more detail what it’s like living with manic-depression. For this post though, I want to thank Carrie Fisher by telling her and the world about three people with mental illness (me and my girls) who owe her much thanks: who we are, what we’ve overcome, and all that we’ve accomplished.

Why talk about our accomplishments? Because one of the stigmas people with mental illness face is that we are less-than, that we are incapable, that we are worth less than those who don’t have mental illness. I assure you, this isn’t the case. Maybe this insight into our worlds will help others understand. Maybe it will invite empathy. Maybe it will show anyone who doubts the potential and worth of those with mental illness, that we are amazing individuals who live great lives and accomplish incredible things, and deserve respect and an end to the stereotypes and stigma that try to misportray or limit us.

Me:

What is it like living with bipolar 1?

I take medication and have been stable for many years. When I wasn’t on medication, my mood was far from stable. At the start of a manic cycle, thoughts raced through my head. My words couldn’t come out fast enough. I could write for sixteen hours straight at lightning speed or clean the entire house, do all the yardwork, wash and wax every car we owned, and still feel driven to do more. Someone needed some volunteer or charity work done? I would volunteer or charity-ify until I collapsed.

As the manic cycle proceeded, my racing thoughts would lose cohesion and become thought-salads. Ideas would jump around in spastic starts and stops. My over-the-top energy, once productive, would become problematic. I’d find myself in the gym trying to lift waaaaay more than was safe, or doing hundreds upon hundreds of repetitions until I gave myself a wicked case of subacromial bursistis. Or I’d find myself racing down steep hills on my bike, oblivious to the danger. I, grown ass woman, would try to climb to the top of trees just to feel the thrill. I’d wake in the middle of the night and decide, much to the neighbors’ dismay, that NOW IS THE PERFECT TIME TO VACCUUM OUT MY CAR. My concentration evaporated. My appetite evaporated. All that existed was ACTION. ACTION NOW. My attention darted from one shiny object or idea to the next. I craved excitement, danger. And that craving often got me into trouble. I was out of control. Mania controlled me. And then meds came along and the mania settled. I no longer have manic episodes and I’m thankful for that.

When manic, I was pretty much the same person inside: empathic, a caregiver, generally happy, creative, a people-pleaser. I didn’t become a Jekyll and Hyde. I wasn’t mean or nasty or hurtful. I was quite fun to be around, or so I’m told.

I was, however,  driven to irresponsible and compulsive actions. I put myself in stupid or dangerous situations.

 

What have I, as someone with bipolar 1, accomplished?

I’ve graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Exercise Science.

I graduated with honors from University of Colorado with a Masters of Science in Kinesiology.

I taught a course at the University of Colorado.

I’ve worked in research laboratories, taught fitness classes, and worked in physical  therapy.

I’ve written seven books, the first of which will be published this year by Glass House Press. Yay!

I’ve made and sold my art in various forms.

I’ve painted murals (many gratuitous).

I’ve made and kept beautiful friendships.

I’ve volunteered as a mentor to children in need.

I’ve volunteered for Mobie Loaves and Fishes, serving meals to homeless people.

I’ve volunteered at schools.

And I’ve been a great mom and a great wife.

 

My eldest daughter:

What is it like living with a severe eating disorder, depression, and anxiety?

From observation, I can tell you it is hell. My daughter has been in eight different mental health facilities in eight years. Her body is covered in self-inflicted scars. She has nearly lost her life on multiple occasions.

 

What has my eldest daughter, as someone with multiple mental illnesses accomplished?

She graduated near the top of her class in high school.

She was accepted into the University of Texas (which only accepts the top 7% of graduates)

She has worked at several jobs, always putting her all into the job.

She has volunteered at Mobile Loaves and Fishes, serving food to homeless people.

She’s been a model but has decided to forego that as a career because it is not a healthy profession for her.

She has a steady boyfriend and plans for her future.

Her artwork has been displayed at the city level.

She is a caring, loving, and generous person and beloved by many.

 

My youngest daughter:

Lives with depression and PTSD after being raped two years ago.

 

What is it like living with depression and PTSD?

As an observer, I can tell you it is hell. I’m not sure I can explain the horror and pain.

What has my youngest daughter who lives with depression and PTSD accomplished?

She graduated valedictorian of her graduating high school class.

She has been the leader of several organizations on her high school campus.

She is attending a prestigious university.

She excels at math.

She has worked several jobs, and is always admired by her bosses.

She has a close-knit group of friends and is beloved by many.

 

So there you go, three people with mental illness who are doing awesome things in the world and who are, in no way, to be stigmatized. Yep, I feel a little weird shouting myself out but I’m taking a lesson from Carrie Fisher and letting the world know:

I have mental illness and so do my daughters and we’ve all been through the darkest of hell and back and guess what? We’re strong af and the world is better for us being here!

 

Thank you, Carrie Fisher, for giving me the courage to say that.

 

I love you and I am grateful you graced this world with your light. I hope I make you proud.

 

Me

 

“Bipolar disorder can be a great teacher. It’s a challenge, but it can set you up to be able to do almost anything else in your life.” – Carrie Fisher

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A not-so-great picture of one of the murals I’ve painted. But I love the message: never, never, never give up.

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Another not-so-great picture of a mural I’ve painted (replete with dried food on the plexiglass because the mural is in an Elementary School cafeteria). 😀

But the seal seems happy despite the dried food (maybe BECAUSE of it) so I wanted to post it. Hey, maybe Happy Seal is telling us something profound – maybe we should all try to be like Happy Seal – no matter what life flings at us, find our happiness.

Then again, maybe it’s kinda gross, splatted, dried cafeteria tortureloaf or something.

 

Either way, much love to you,

 

Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Social Media-ing While Depressed

I’ve been struggling with a bit of a problem lately. Here’s the thing: I’m a writer and I need to be on social media. It’s part of my job description. Yet, I’ve been battling severe clinical depression for quite a while now. Anyone who has experienced clinical depression knows that it often manifests as intense sadness, despair, hopelessness, and numbness. It can cause your normally sharp mind to dull to a witless lump of gray matter, unable to focus, unable to see positives, unable at times to form coherent sentences. Even small decisions become excuciatingly difficult. Creativity disappears. Energy disappears. Humor disappears.

When I’m not depressed, I love being on Twitter (not so much on Facebook except for the cat and baby goat videos). I love people and I love my writing community with their unbounded wit and cleverness and enthusiasm. I love joking around and learning cool stuff and cat gif wars. With Depressed Brain though, social media becomes a looming, scary thing that I am ill-equipped to face.

I knew I needed to be on social media, but every time I opened Twitter or Facebook, I froze. I’d sit there thinking, “Hey loser wimp self  (because that’s often how Depressed Brain talks), despite depression, you need to do your job. You need to be online and posting and talking. Do it. Do it now.”

I told myself this and then I clicked on my notifications. Notifications waited for me, people who had engaged with me days before when I’d had a moment of energy and some small semblance of ‘Humor-That-Usually-Comes-Easy-For-Me-But-Evaporates-Into-A-Dark-Ether-When-I’m-Depressed’ to share. Only problem: that energy and humor had long since gone AWOL. I stared at their replies and felt…

guilt – I should be replying and I feel rude not replying but I have NOTHING, nothing to say (other than “Hey wow I’m really depressed and I know I didn’t seem so at the time of this convo but honestly I was then too and now, at this uberly depressed moment, I have no words. By the way, I am an awful person.”).

more guilt and some confusion– I wish I could interact with my fellow humans, but right now my brain is all darkness and doom and gloom and despair. I don’t want to spread my negativity in the world so I will not engage. But this makes me a lousy member of the community doesn’t it? Or does it?

something close to panic – if I reply with something upbeat-sounding, I’ll need to maintain that facade and I. Cannot. Do. That. Right. Now. It would be like trying to smile and joke when your rib cage has been crushed by a wrecking ball and your innards pulverized into gooey pulp and you’re splatted on your back on the floor. But if I reply with a truthful, “Sorry, depressed here. Aaaand that’s pretty much all I got. Hope your day is going well though. Please don’t reply to this reply because then I will have to talk some more and that’s kinda the absolute last thing I feel like I can do right now.”, then I feel like I’ve exposed myself (NOOOO!) AND done a thoroughly inadequate job of Being A Communicating Human and geez I royally suck. This sounds really lame as I write this but I’m not exaggerating. In the midst of depression, the simple act of talking intelligibly can be torturous.

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And if I’m truthful and post that I’ve been absent because I’ve been depressed then a lot of beautiful people will be quick to tell me “HUGS” or “I understand and it’s okay.” or a million other kind words. But then I feel like I need to reply to everyone and OMG can I do this I don’t think I can do this it’s physically and psychically excruciating I need to crawl back into my silent dark corner again I seriously neeeeeeed it. And then the guilt explodes and Depressed Brain yells “REPLY TO THESE BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE, YOU WIMP,” and so I do but then quickly log off because my God I am exhausted now and feel lousy about myself for Being Depressed Around People and yes I know this is counterproductive thinking and I’ll try to work on my cognitive distortions when I’m feeling a bit stronger but lawd help me I need to isolate and recuperate for about two months after that Extreme Socializing Thing.

So I tell myself, “Tomorrow. Tomorrow you’ll feel better and then you’ll get back on social media. But then tomorrow comes and I do not feel better.  I’m trying to do all the things the Depression Experts tell you to do when your depressed: get some sunshine and exercise. Maintain a regular sleep schedule, don’t isolate, do something productive, take your meds etc, but I’m still in a very bad head space. I’m managing to handle all my chores and errands and book revisions, but interacting with other humans feels impossible. Day two turns into day three and then day four. “Get on social media!” you demand of yourself. Although now you’re brain is so confused and dark that you have zero idea how to even do that. Maybe just retweet some stuff and then disappear again? But it’s called social media, self, and that isn’t really being “social” now is it?

Confusion, depression, guilt.

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Kinda desperate now, I Google “posting on social media when you’re depressed” but the only articles that come up are: How Social Media Use Is Linked To Depression, Golly Did You Know That Twitter and Facebook Make You Depressed?, How I Got Off Social Media And Now Everything Is Rainbows And Happy Jumpy Unicorns. (And then you decide to write this post because the topic of “posting on social media when you’re depressed” isn’t covered anywhere that you can find.)

So this is my official “posting on social media when you’re depressed” post. Except I’m not really an advice giver so if you are in this situation (depressed yet trying to maintain your socia media stuff), I’m not going to sling advice at you. I can tell you what I’ve tried and what has kinda, sorta worked for me though.

  1. Check my cognitive distortions. See my post on cognitive distortions for some of the common ones: https://sonyacraig.com/2016/08/11/cognitive-distortions/. Does my social media presence have to be either FUNNY AWESOME STUFF OF SUPREME EXCELLENCE or SUCKMEISTER DEPRESSO EXTRAORDINARILY YUCKY DOG PUKE? Will the world really stop spinning on its canted axis if I tweet kinda meh stuff because that’s the best I can do right now?
  2. Get on social media in brief bursts when I feel able and then, when I need to retreat, inform everyone that I am leaving for a bit. (I’ve done a lousy job at the informing people part and I’ll try to do better.)
  3. Avoid depressing hashtags, news, and rants. Depressed Brain can’t handle more depression.
  4. Social media seems to have moods. Some days it’s Wee Hee Escaped Llamas Giddy Happiness. If that’s the case, then I may be able to hang around a bit. When, however, the general mood is ALL IS SUCKY IN THE UNIVERSE AND EVERY OUNCE OF HOPE NEEDS TO BE DROP-KICKED INTO THIS BURNING TRASH FIRE OF A WORLD, then I click off and try to go find some happy unicorns somewhere. (not this one)rbunicorncardmeh
  5. Keep it light. Any heavy topics can wait for another day.
  6. If my creativity isn’t there, I’ve stopped trying to force it. It isn’t a national emergency if my Current Personal Level Of Interesting rivals old dried sludge.

So that’s how I handle social media when I’m in the throes of clinical depression. I hope you never have depression, but if, like many writers, you do experience it, then I hope maybe this post helps a tiny bit. And if you have any tips for Social Media-ing While Under The Influence Of Sucky Depression, I’d love to hear from you.

As always, stay weird and prosper my friends.

 

me

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Depression and the Writer

TWIGGER WARNING: depression

If the topic of depression is triggering, please do not read further.

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Over lunch recently, a friend asked me, “What does depression feel like anyway? It’s like sadness right?”

I stopped with fork halfway to my mouth and kinda sat there with my jaw hanging slack. First of all, since I’ve lived with this disorder/condition/illness/piss-stanky-unfun-sludgefest-wet-blanket-of-yuckiness my entire adult life, I’m always boggled whenever someone tells me they’ve never experienced depression. It’s as incomprehensible a concept to me as if they had never experienced breathing. “What’s that breathing thing like anyway? It’s just like playing an oxygen accordion or something right?” Second, I was at a loss of how to succinctly, casual-Friday-lunch-appropriately describe An Entire Lifetime Battle with Depression.

Clinical depression seems rampant among creatives. All my writer friends struggle with depression. Which gives new meaning to the lyrics I got friends in low places. I am no exception. Depression and I are long-time buds (without all the fun and chummy feelings that word implies). I’m so familiar with it that I actually had a tough time explaining despression to my lunch pal. Like explaining the color black. “It’s, ya know, dark and blackish, and well… it’s BLACK okay?”

I realized I needed to up my Depression Description Game. My friend had the mistaken impression that depression equated to sadness. Sadness is definitely part of depression, but it’s far from the whole story. And depression, while containing some universal elements, is also unique to each individual. No one experiences depression the same way.

So for anyone wanting to understand depression better, I’m posting this Brief, Illustrated Guide to One Creative’s Depression. That creative being me, myself, and I.

And for the purpose of hopefully being informative to anyone who lives with someone who battles depression and wonders “What the heck can I, or should I, do for my depressed friend/family member/loved one/feathered, lippy dinosaur (who BTW has reason to be depressed because he is a dinosaur who has lame-ass feathers and stupid lips), I’m also going to describe what I need during different phases of my depression. I don’t know what your loved one may need when they’re depressed. If you’re unsure what your loved one needs, it’s okay to ask them. And if they are unable to tell you what they need, it’s okay to wait until they’re feeling stronger and ask them then.

Okay – I cannot speak to anyone else’s experience with depression, but mine looks like this:

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What I feel: Sadness. Yes, the overwhelming component of my depression IS sadness. A crushing sadness that WILL. NOT. LET. THE. HELL. UP. An engulfing, relentless anguish that grips me from the moment I wake up, clamps down hard for every excruciating nanosecond of the day, and only releases its choke hold when sleep kindly powers off my conscious mind. Woo hoo sucky sucky sadness.

What I need: When I feel this way, I need to be alone. I have a weird, glitchy, feelings-processor that needs solitude when sadness strikes. I do not seek out hugs when I’m hit with sadness. Quite the opposite. I cannot cry or Be Freely Sad around others, so if I’m hurting and someone is hanging around trying to comfort me, I feel cornered and under attack to be honest. I need to be able to manage my sadness and I cannot do that with someone hovering near me. Any attempt to comfort/console/soothe me at this time makes the depression worse. Counterintuitive? Yep I guess so. But nobody said depression was logical huh?

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What I feel: Hopeless. All is lost. Never again will anything in my life be okay.

Oh yippee yay hopelessness.

What I need: When I’m feeling hopeless, IF I ask “Is x, y, z hopeless? Is the world really a spinning vortex of utter despair disguised as a blue and green planet with cute animals and flowers and stuff?”, someone could theoretically try to tell me x, y, z was, in fact, not hopeless, that no, the world is not an inverted cyclone of endless misery, but indeed a pretty little marble loaded with fuzzy koalas and kittens and magnolia blossoms. Depressed Brain is likely to disbelieve any such answer of course, but it’s okay IF I ask to try to fling some hopefulness at Depressed Brain. Hey, maybe that slippery hope stuff will actually stick.

If I do not ask, it means I need space and silence. If I do not ask, it means I’m in too dark a place to be able to communicate. If someone tries to discuss x, y, z when I need silence, Depressed Brain will flare with pain and all manner of other unpleasant emotions that will only deepen the depression.

Again, I know Depressed Brain can seem illogical. Black holes seem illogical too, but that doesn’t make them any less real and yes, confusing and problematic.

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What I feel: Agitated misery. At times, my depression flares with a kind of agitated misery. Hurray agitated misery.

What I need: Possibly distraction. Not always, but sometimes distraction helps when my depression is the agitated type. A silly movie may help. I can’t guarantee that I’ll even crack a smile if I watch it, but if I’m watching it, it means it’s distracting me and therefore helping.

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What I feel: Weakness. Another aspect of my depression is an intense weakness that takes over my body and mind. I remember well the first time I truly comprehended how potent and real this component is. I was in my twenties and a kick-ass fitness buff. At the time, I could bench press 135 lbs at a bodyweight of 110. I could practically deadlift a dump truck. I was taking mixed martial arts out of a dude’s garage who loved to train us until we literally puked in his lilac bushes. And although I hated it, I also ran 5 days/ week.

That is, until a severe depression hit.

Telling myself to suck it up, I went to the gym, piled my usual amount of weight on the leg press stack, climbed in, planted my feet, and pushed.

And nothing happened.

I stripped off some weight and tried again. Nothing. Stripped off more weight. Again, nothing. I ended up taking off eighty percent of my usual poundage and even then I could barely eek out a few reps. I was weak – not just in the soul, but in the body. In my sad, wretched state, tears threatened and, quick before any of the steroidified gym rat dudes could see me, I left the gym. I felt like a wimp. I felt defeated. But I could not deny that the loss in my strength was real. I hoped it would come back (it did), but its loss added to my feelings of inadequacy. It made tangible the lies my brain had been shouting at me: “You’re weak, you’re worthless, you’re nothing.”

Depression can make me feel like I’m walking around with 200 lb weights strapped to my back and wrists and ankles. Every movement requires a Herculean effort. Huzzah weakness.

What I need: Maybe some help with chores or errands. Being me, I will never ask for said help, but the help would be appreciated, I can guarantee you. No it isn’t cool that I won’t speak up if I need help. I’ll try to get better at that. But if you see chores and errands that I normally handle slipping by the wayside, it’s a good bet that although I’m trying to work, that I’m trying to manage, I’m also feeling like every tiny task is a gargantuan, impossible feat.

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What I feel: Muddy anger. At rare times during a depression, I’ll have a spark of inner strength that has enough energy to feel something more than sad, hopeless, empty, and hollow. I’ll feel anger. It isn’t the kind of anger that would allow me to climb a mountain to bellow my warrior cry at the capricious gods of the universe like Prometheus. It isn’t the kind of anger that has the energy to Hulk smash anything. It’s a heaviness with enough weight, enough mass, and therefore enough momentum to look at the bad crud in life and say, “Eff you. Eff you so hard, you bad crud you.” Yass muddy anger (unlike all the others, this hurray isn’t sarcastic).

What I need: Now is a great time to share some dark humor with me. In fact, I probably kick butt at dark humor during this time. Let’s have a Dark Humor freakin party.

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What I feel: Empty or numb. Walking through the world numb is a feeling I know well during various phases of my depression. I feel separate from the world around me, alien, empty, hollow. My movements are slow and sluggish. My mind is slow and sluggish. Wee hee emptiness.

What I need: Ideally – silence and stillness. During numb periods, I am unable to process others’ conversations well. I am unable to keep pace with the world as it spins in mad circles around me. I am a cold anesthesized lump of nothingness trying to operate like a functioning human being. Like an anesthesized person, I need time and quiet and stillness until the anesthesia wears off.

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What I feel: Bombarded with negative thoughts. Part of my depression is a constant bombardment of negativity. I have to scratch and dig through endless layers of dark hardpan to find any nugget of positivity.

I hate the torrent of negative-thought-sludge that pours from my synapses during this time and yet I can’t, no matter how hard I try, shut it off. Rah rah rah for raging pessimism.

What I need: Distraction will probably be helpful here, something to hopefully yank me off the Dark Thoughts Carousel and away from the spinning, braying horses screaming pessimism and fatalism at me.

So anyhoo. Okay. That’s it. That’s a quick overview of my depression. Sadness, hopelessness, agitation, weakness, numbness, emptiness, spinning non-Merry-Go-Rounds of pooping fatalistic horses. Yippee and yay. Woo hoo!

 

I need to add this: Regardless of the phase of depression I’m battling, there is always one thing I do need and I need it desperately: I need for those around me to go about their lives. I need to see that I am not bringing them down. I need to know that they are okay. I am relieved when they are happy and going about their business. I’ll get through my depression, but while I’m working to get there, I need to know that my loved ones will be alright even if I’m temporarily down. That doesn’t mean they aren’t allowed to have their own sadness or emotions – it means if I see that my illness is hurting them, I feel enormous guilt and self-loathing and that guilt and self-loathing only exacerbate the depression. (Which also means that even if I’m ragingly depressed, I’m pretty good at imitating a fairly high-functioning person for just this reason – to minimize any impact on others.)

So, that’s what my depression looks like. Yours (if you experience depression) will look different than mine. You will need different things than I do when you are depressed.

If you’re the loved one of someone who battles depression, your loved one’s depression will look different than mine. They may need completely different responses from you than I do from those in my world. But hopefully this post gave those wondering what depression “feels like” some insight and maybe answered some questions.

Also, please please please remember…

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Also remember – there can be light and fun stuff again. Remember – you are still awesome even though depression is telling you otherwise. You are awesomely awesome and you are loved (and not just by this weird little dude).

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I’d love to compare notes with fellow creatives. Do you experience depression? If so, how does yours manifest? What helps? What doesn’t help? Anything else to mention (because I probably left out all manner of important stuff here)? Hit me up.

And as always…much love to you, my fellow humans,

 

me

If you need support, NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) is a great resource: http://www.nami.org/Find-Support

Potholders and Mindfulness

TWIGGER WARNING: Suicide, mental illness, depression, grief, psychiatric hospital, eating disorders, anxiety, body dysmorphic disorder, self-harm, substance abuse

Do not read further if these topics are triggering.

As many of you know by now, about a week ago (I’ve lost track of the time honestly), I took my suicidal daughter to the emergency room. After twelve hours in the emergency room, she was transferred to a nearby psychiatric hospital. That first night in the psychiatric ward, she became medically unstable. In imminent danger, she was rushed to the intensive care unit at the regular hospital. The psychiatric ward informed me of this development and I hurried to the hospital, panicking so hard my hands shook on the steering wheel. Her time in ICU was the thing of nightmares. Hallucinations, ripping out her catheter, sheer confused terror. I arrived to find my baby with tubes in her body, blood on her sheets, and mittens on her hands so she wouldn’t harm herself. Her eyes darted to me. “WHY? Why, Mama? Why me? Why can’t I just be normal?” she said over and over.

After she stabilized, she was sent back to the psychiatric hospital. The HORRIFYING psychiatric hospital.

As I write this, she is still in the psychiatric ward, a horrifying, REPEAT – indescribably HORRIFYING place.

On Monday she will be flown to a co-occurring treatment center and need to be interviewed before our insurance will allow her to be admitted. If our insurance turns her down, I don’t know what we’ll do – try to find another place for her I guess. There are very few co-occurring treatment centers in the country though. This waiting and hoping for insurance to MAYBE allow my daughter to receive the treatment she so desperately needs is agonizing. But that’s a topic for another post.

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What do you do when you’re in the ER with your suicidal child for 12 hours? You try to help her be happy by drawing silly pictures.

What do you do when you’re in the ER with your suicidal child and you so want to make her happy? You draw her silly pictures.

What do you do when you’re in the ER with your suicidal child and you so want to make her happy? You draw her silly pictures.

My older daughter is tortured daily by invisible sadists. Her demons have been attacking her for almost a decade now. Her diagnoses are numerous: anorexia, bulimia, anxiety, depression, possible borderline personality disorder, substance abuse, addiction, self harm, and body dysmorphic disorder. And I have sought out every possible avenue of help for her. She’s had a consistent team of professionals since she was thirteen: a psychiatrist, psychologist, a registered dietician, and numerous support groups. She’s been in eight different mental health treatment centers/psychiatric wards in eight years. She’s been treated by the best facilities in the country.

And yet, eight years later, she is suffering as much as ever before.

SHE HAS BEEN SUFFERING FOR EIGHT YEARS.

MY BABY HAS BEEN SUFFERING FOR EIGHT YEARS.

AND NOTHING HAS HELPED HER.

Excuse me while I take a loooooonnnnng moment to go scream my anger and pain at the universe.

Okay. I’m going to switch gears now because I want this post to lead to something positive. This next bit of my post will give you a view into the mind of a parent of a suicidal child. I’m not writing this for sympathy. Honestly, I kinda don’t wish to talk about this pain anymore. Sometimes talking about it actually magnifies the pain. So I do not need words of sympathy. I write this because parents of children with mental illness need ways to cope with the overwhelming emotions this bastard of a disease causes. This disease that abducts our children and tortures them day in and day out. This disease that strips them of their happiness and their dreams and their life.

I am not a psychologist and I do not have a “10 Ways To Cope With The Pain Of Having A Child With Mental Illness” list. As a parent of child who is suffering, as a parent who has been pushed to the brink by this sadistic bastard of a disease, I do have one lame little story to tell you. One that I hope may help even if it’s just a tiny bit.

As any parent would be after nearly losing their child to suicide and placing them in a psychiatric ward, I’ve been massively stressed: worried beyond all description for her, feeling her every pain as if it were my own, terrified for her future, mourning all the losses, feeling powerless to help, and struggling to maintain hope.

Stressed and grieving to the point of shaking, sobbing, and rocking on the cold tile floor in the middle of the night.

Stressed to the point of almost shutting down.

Unable to focus on anything outside of chaotic thoughts and emotions, I’ve barely been able to perform the daily tasks of living. Unsurprisingly, I’ve haven’t had enough focus to be able to write, revise, draw, blog, or almost anything else. I’ve been showing all the signs of grief: insomnia, nightmares, zero appetite, unplanned weight loss, alternating numbness or intense emotional anguish. The smallest tasks have seemed gargantuan. I’ve felt physically weak and ill, beaten down, severely depressed, and overwhelmed.

Yesterday, I neared the breaking point. I needed something, ANYTHING to escape the worries and sadness, if only for one small moment. I didn’t know what that “something” was though.

As I walked around the house like a zombie picking up Fang the Kitten of Destruction’s collection of mangled and shredded cat toys, I bumped into this cheap, crappy storage furniture thing I own in the front entrance knocking off the bottom cabinet door. Inside the cabinet sat a plastic loom and a pile of colorful fabric loops, items I’d forgotten were there. Items from when the girls were little and we used to do crafts together. I pulled out the loom and stared at it dumbly for a long moment. Then, I took it and a few handfuls of bright loops to the kitchen, dropped into a chair, and started, with clumsy-numb fingers, to make a potholder.

And something happened. My fears and grief sort of eased into the background as I rotely worked. One potholder turned into two, turned into four. The afternoon passed. I won’t say the pain evaporated. It didn’t. But it didn’t crush me in its grip as it had been doing for a week solid. I think Buddhists would mention the word “mindfulness” here. As I focused on the repetitive task, the constant violent thrashing of fear/sadness/guilt/regret/loss/anger/mourning against my vulnerable psyche eased. My mind emptied a bit, a welcome draining of the tsunami of emotions that threatened to drown me.  

The pain is not gone forever. I know this. It will return. The wounds are not healed. I know this.

But for that brief respite from unbearable pain, a big thank you to potholders. And to mindfulness. And wow, this sounds completely lame as I finish this post: POTHOLDERS TO EASE YOUR AGONY. But then again, if a freakin potholder can take away even five minutes of another person’s pain because of this post then it was worth it.

If you need support, please reach out. NAMI (National Alliance On Mental Illness) is an excellent resource: http://www.nami.org/Find-Support

Reach out to a friend, to a family member, to a therapist. You do not need to bear this pain alone. Others want to help you. You are so very important and you are loved.

potholdercorrectallignmentP.S. The one on the lower right is supposed to be a sunrise. My younger daughter fell in love with it and asked if she could have it. I said, “I love you and of course you can have it, gooby.” So now she’ll be taking it to college with her and I hope this little sunrise potholder helps her through any tough times and reminds her of the value of mindfulness. As soon as I know my older daughter is safe within the walls of the treatment center, I’ll start sending her something to hopefully help her through the tough times. The treatment center has very specific rules about items allowed so my options are limited. I think I’ll send cards. I’ll probably start with my HUGS 4 YOU.

DrawingHugRobot2CopyrightI hope everyone in your world is in a happy place. But if they are not, I’m sending a big HUG 4 YOU to them and to you too and wishing you comfort and healing and strength and hope.


*IMPORTANT*

If you or someone you love is thinking of hurting themself, please call  1-800-273-TALK (8255)

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/


You take care of you.

Much love to you and yours,

 

me