Another Post About Mental Illness

Hello again everyone! I’m back with another post on Mental Illness. Why? Because it is so important to me that people understand that there is no reason to hide or be ashamed to talk about their MI, but also because I was asked if there was any way I could write something about how to be a good friend or supporter for someone with MI when you yourself don’t have one. I think that it such a great idea that I have started trying to formulate ideas right away. I’ve even done research (sort of!), for those of you who haven’t realized it yet, research is not my favorite thing to do. I’m more of a write what comes to mind kind of person, but I wanted to have resources out there beyond just what I can write about. Every person is different and every one with MI is especially not the same. What might work for one is not always going to work for another, so keep that in mind as I tell you what helps me.
I have Bipolar II, what that means is I can often become severely depressed, even to the point of mania. I can also be so happy I’m almost euphoric, but those states don’t last as long. Yeah there is a whole lot more with B2 that I could mention, but this post isn’t about what I have, this is about how, as a friend or family member (biological or chosen) you can be there for me, and for others like me. The reason I tell you what I have is because it is important to know. It is important to educate yourself when you can. Don’t believe the misinformation that is out there, and there is a lot. Try to find resources that you know are going to be telling you the truth not trying to push some kind of stereotype.
If you are comfortable enough, ask your friend. Sometimes they won’t want to talk about it, or sometimes they won’t even know they have a MI. For the longest time I thought I was a fairly normal teenage girl. My angst and my mood swings, they were normal because if they weren’t that mean there was just one more thing about me that people could use against me. I didn’t accept what I had until my early 20s, which wasn’t soon enough, but it was better than not knowing I guess. I continued un-medicated most of my adult life thus far, as you can see in a previous post that is no longer the case, but that isn’t what this post is about.
So other than educating yourself what can you do? For someone like me it is as simple as letting me know you are there. Letting me know that you understand that sometimes I say things I don’t mean because I’m not exactly in the right frame of mind to think clearly. I’m a fairly solitary person so my Manic episodes are often unnoticed by those around me and that is fine I’ve spent a lot time dealing with it myself, but as my friend if I call or text you and tell you I need someone, just try to be there. You don’t have to respond to my 6 AM text message, but respond when you can. I just need to know that you are still there and you still care.
When I’m Depressed I often just need to hide away under the blankets, but I can’t because real life gets in the way, so I get up and I do what has to be done. I need extra attention in these periods and they usually last much longer than when I am Manic. I am mentally and often physically exhausted after only a few hours of trying to do anything. I can cry at any moment, and for any that know me, I’m not a crier generally but when I’m depressed it could come at any time.
Beyond my B2 have Anxiety. So that requires a bit more understanding. My anxiety manifests in a few different ways. The first and most common is making plans with friends and canceling last minute. It isn’t because I don’t want to hang out with you, I do, but after making the plans (which I was totally into at the time) I realized that I just can’t do whatever it was we had planned to do. There could be many reasons for this change, but most often it is that going out in public is something that can often be really difficult for me. At least when I feel like I have to be “turned on” in the process. Turned on is not a sexual phrase, I am using it to describe the feeling of having to be present and engaged with another human being, a process that comes easy for most, but not for me. It is exhausting and sometimes I just can’t do it. Now if you want to come over and sit quietly and read books and drink tea, I can tell you I am almost always down for that, but having to be engaging and in public, that takes a whole lot of energy and most days I just don’t have it.
I have just recently started to be able to go out and do things in public by myself. That is a huge step for me. I don’t generally do anything alone and often require the presence of another who fully understands that sometimes I just need you there with me, but I don’t want to have to be engaging. I have a few people that I can do that with, and it is wonderful, but I’ve been trying not to need them so much because I know, especially for my husband, it can put a damper on their plans sometimes. So I’ve been able to go out and do things, and that is great. The reason I bring it up is because I need my friends and family to understand that just because I can do something alone, does not mean I can do it in a group of people. I can sometimes do it one on one, but not always (see last paragraph).
My Anxiety also loves to tell me horrible things. It tells me I’m a burden, it tells me that my friends often don’t actually like me, it tells me people are talking about me, sometimes it tells me that my family doesn’t care. I try my best to remember when my brain is telling me the truth of when my Anxiety Brain has taken over, but sometimes it isn’t that easy and I will say or do something stupid because I fully believe what my Anxiety is telling me. This is a perfect time for you to set me straight. I don’t often like to be told when I’m wrong, but I need you to point out when my Anxiety Brain has taken over, but still be kind, just firm. Reassure me that yes, you are still my friend and that no I do not want to quit writing. Tell me that I need to stop and think about what I’m saying for a moment. It often helps.
I also have Anxiety Attacks, they are less common currently but I’ve just started new medication so that is normal. If you aren’t familiar with Anxiety Attacks let me describe it to you (keeping in mind this is my experience and may not be the experience of others): My heart races and I feel like everything around me is hopeless. I cry, I rock back and forth, my brain is telling me all these things and I’m believing it. Everything is horrible and I can’t handle much of anything and can often not form clear thought. I’m overwhelmed by everything around me and I just need to hide, or get away, or some how remove myself from whatever situation it is that I’m in. These aren’t super easy to deal with, but the one thing I can tell you, unless I request otherwise do not touch me. Many articles I’ve seen state to get behind someone having an anxiety attack and hug them and don’t let go no matter how much they struggle. I can tell you that I, and almost anyone I’ve ever talked to with anxiety do not want you to do this. For me, it will make things so much worse. Don’t do it, you are not helping if you do. If I ask you to hold me or hug me, that is different, but unless I clearly ask for it, touching me is off limits. Just talk to me, try to be as calm as you can, because I’m freaking out enough for the both of us. If it is in your power to remove me from whatever I’m doing, then that is appreciated. Otherwise just talk to me, be my friend.
Honestly for me all I need is a bit of understanding. You don’t have to know what I’m going through. I don’t need you to understand. I need for you to be my friend. Yeah sometimes I require a bit more effort than most, it is true, but I kind of think I’m worth it. That is really all I can say on how to deal with me and my MI. I’d love to see any others share how to help them, if they are comfortable doing so.

As promised, links: (Don’t take these as a rule, just a way to start to educate yourself)

Supporting Someone With A Mental Illness

15 Ways to Support a Loved One with Severe Mental Illness

For Friends and Family Members

How to Help A Loved One

 

The Day I’ll Never Forget..

I’m not sure if I’m ready to write this post or not, but I keep feeling like I need to do it, so here I am, I’m going to try and I guess we will see how it goes.
On December 30th, 2016, my 34th birthday, it went like most any other day. I woke up to the Facebook post from my brother Matt of a Youtube Video of NOFX’s “New Happy Birthday Song” which was our birthday tradition. I had sent him a different version of the same video the day before for his 34th birthday. We have been doing this for about 10 years now, at least. And before you ask, no we are not twins, though we might as well be. In fact we are about 14 hours apart (give or take) and have grown up like most twins would, with probably the same relationship as most twins have, however, I was adopted and we are not blood siblings, but you would never have known that. We loved each other and there has never been a me without him, or a him with out me. Well, until that day anyway.
Around 8 pm, or so, my parents called. I figured, as was normal every year they were calling to say Happy Birthday, but sparing you the horrid details, that is not what they were calling me about. No, it was that call that threw my whole world into chaos, more so then my mind has been doing to me for the majority of my life (thanks anxiety and depression for that by the way!). I freaked out and tried to figure out how I was getting home as soon as possible. My poor husband tried to console me while I was on and off the phone with my best friends who are in Boston. Between the group of us we got me on the first flight out so I could get home the next day (I live in SC and home is NH, for those that don’t already know).
So now that you know the background, at least as much as I’m willing to share anyway since somethings between families remain private, at least for me. You should know that my brother- all of my brother’s (I have 5) mean everything to me. We have varied relationships some closer than others, but it doesn’t matter, I love every single one of them with every fiber of my being. They are what makes me who I am, I grew up with a strong sense of how important they were in relation to who I was. I have always felt a major sense of responsibility when it came to my brothers, even if I couldn’t see them as often as I wanted, or if we didn’t have as close of a relationship as I hoped. They always were, and always will be the most important men in my life.
Matt was my constant. He was my first best friend (that I can remember) and we were damn near inseparable. We shared clothes, friends, good times, bad times- everything. When he died, suddenly, I broke, or shattered is more like it and I’m still struggling to find all the pieces and put myself back together. Like anything that shatters, no matter how much glue you use, you will never go back together the same. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I can never be the person I was before I lost him. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I can’t talk about him without crying, or that I feel a huge void in myself at least once a day, or that I’m unsure if I’ll ever not have the urge to call or text him when I see/hear/think of something he might like. What I haven’t come to terms with is that my brother is gone and that at the end of this year our birthdays will roll around and I won’t be able to share it with him, or that I won’t be able to hear his voice telling me “Happy Birthday Turd Burger” when he gets on the phone after my parents. While I’m so lucky to have had him as a brother for this many years and that I know I’m the only person in the world that was as lucky as I am to have him as my brother and I’m so lucky to have all my brothers I’m still broken. I don’t know if I’ll ever find all the pieces of myself and I hate it. I hate it because I know and I can see him shaking his head at me for still being so sad, for still missing him, because he wouldn’t want this for me, but feeling any other way feels like a betrayal to him.
This whole horrible experience has changed me, and not always for the worst. I’ve gained new family with his best friends, who I adored before, but I adore even more now- and their 3 boys. I’ve started to work on staying in touch more with those I care about, which has never been my strong suite before, but I’m trying. I’m trying to get through the day every day, and I have a huge support system, my parents, my brothers, my friends, they are all here for me. I’m trying, I really am, but the one person I want to talk to the most when I’m feeling so down, isn’t here any more and that makes it hard.
I can’t write any more about this. It is just too much, maybe in the future, but for now, this is it.



I took 2 weeks off and here is what I learned….

I didn’t write anything for the last two weeks, aside from my daily journal entry. After my brother’s death I’ve had a hard time adjusting to my life and figuring out where I’m supposed to go from here. Everyone has said that it will take time to find the new “normal” for my life. I’m not there yet, probably not even close, but my mind has started to settle down most days, and nights long enough for me to get through.

One of the ways I tried to help myself get through this time was take breaks from the things that seemed to be pushing me too hard. Writing and blogging was top of that list. Every time I sat down to write one of two things happened: First my mind would go completely blank, even more blank then when I’m fighting a case of writer’s block. I would basically lose the knowledge that I had of the written word. Poof, gone. The second thing that could happen would I would be able to think of nothing but my brother. I wanted to do nothing but write about him, base characters off of him, and just pour my heart out. Which would have been fine, probably, but the minute I would start to try I would lose either all motivation, or like the first scenario all knowledge I had of how to put words together to form sentences.

It has been a horrible three months since his death, taking two weeks off from writing won’t “fix” me in any way. I’m not really broken, I’m just no longer whole. The reason I took the time off in the first place was because trying to push myself to get everything done every day was killing me. I started medication for the first time in 15 years and it made me so fatigued I could hardly keep myself awake for a couple hours at a time. So after an exhausting 9 hours or more at work I couldn’t make myself write, workout, eat, study, read and everything else adults have to do. Something had to give, something had to be put to the side to see if it was still what I needed in my life now that my life is no longer the same.

So, at the title to this post states, I want to talk about what I learned from this break. I learned that I miss blogging, even though I don’t have much of a following, but I realized that maybe I would really like to grow this thing in the future. Not just as my “I’m a writer look at me” kind of thing, but just in general. I can’t be the only person in the world who goes through what I go through. Being a part of #TheBloggessTribe has shown me that beyond a doubt. Maybe something I write here might help someone else out some day? I also learned that writing in general is still my life and my therapy. Without it I am not a person that I want to be. I may never be a famous writer, I may never even be known as a writer, but that is okay because it makes me happy and in the end, that is all that matters to me. I need, now more than ever, to be happy. Or as close to happy as I can get anyway.

That might not be as much as you expected. I won’t apologize for it, but the reason behind that is the possible subject of another post for another day maybe. I would really be interested in hearing your thoughts, either in comments, on twitter, tumblr, google+– whatever format you prefer. And you can find me on all of those platforms if you want to stay in touch with me. I’m sure the links are on my site somewhere.

I hope to everyone out there that is struggling with one thing or another that you all know you are not alone. Please, if you ever need someone to talk to reach out to me. I am here. #NeverAlone