Thursday, 31 January 2013

MI - from different to disconnected

Can't breathe,
Panic stricken,
Overtaken by unwanted yet unavoidable emotion. I hate to feel.
Its quite the unfortunate evolutionary product if you ask me. There must be some "survival of the fittest" reasoning behind it, but right now its pretty hard to make out.

The past few days have been tough, who knows for what reason... but they've been tough. Being back at school is both a blessing and a curse. In one sense the constant surrounding of friends/acquaintances and even strangers is a welcome change from the stuffed animals in my bedroom at home. But the constant socializing is also a constant reminder of the fact that all though "Alannah" may fit in... I don't.

Living with the weight of illness or stress in your life changes you, not necessarily for the worse or better, but for the different. Theres nothing wrong with being different, I prefer it to being the same, but when the problem arises, at least for me, is when the "difference" morphs into disconnect. A parted seam between the people around you-- and you. The inability to be fully connected with someone who has not endured. Not always for a lack of trying on both parts, simply the ever present unawareness of the effect of mental illness and its severity.

Even when I'm "balanced"-- which for me is a state of not fully manic and not fully depressed, rather than somewhere actually on the midline of emotion --I carry the weight of a lifetime of personally waged wars, haunting memories of my lowest points, fear and excitement of my highest and what seems like a split unable to be mended between the visible aspects of me, the internal ones and my emotions. I've separated the three unknowingly in order to cope. My balance is visible. My emotions, pure chaos. Me? My internal balance is fleeting, lasting sometimes longer than others, but it always leaves, quicker than it came.

I don't want times of balance and happiness to be fleeting. I'm tired of my mind in such an unresting state. I want be "cured".

But then I realize,
This illness is so tightly intertwined with who I am,
So incredibly connected to so many attributes that make me, me.
I'm 19, I don't know who the hell I am.
But who would I be without Bipolar?

I don't know. And I will never know.

So yeah, brutal few days. But I wouldn't know that these days were so bad if I'd never experienced good ones. 

Thursday, 24 January 2013


mood swings. manic. bipolar. depression. hypomania. mixed mood. medication. therapy. changes. restrictions. different.

loss of self. lost. improving. relapsing. new focus. old habits.
fear. anxiety. creativity. intelligence. fog. thoughts.

self harm. self hate. hell. isolation. insomnia.
high. low. lower. higher. cycle.
pain. desperation. numb. feel. repress. express. crumble.
anger. sadness. lonely.
motionless. unstoppable. impossible.

why. questions. genetic. predisposed.
stress. never-ending. sickness. illness. disease.
complicated. worthless. burden.
denial. acceptance. grieve.

one more breath, on more hour, one more day.

easier said than done.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

The "UGLY" Truth

If this blog were anonymous, this post would be so much easier to write.
I hovered over the "publish" button for a long while...

So here it goes, welcome to blunt honesty.

My Ugly Truth does not, unfortunately, include Gerard Butler in a romantic comedy with a happy ending...
Instead its that I have an all-encompassing preoccupation with my body.
With logic and self compassion I know that the "ugliness" is not my appearance; its the way I consistently put myself down about it, day after day. Or the times I look in the mirror and don't want to leave the house because I actually get grossed out to the point of feeling nauseous by how I look, or at least how I think I look.
With logic, I know that I'm obviously not fat because I can walk into a store and fit into a small 90% of the time. So then, I beat up on myself for being stupid for beating up on myself in the first place.

If my mind had fists, I'd have a black eye, brusied ribs and a missing tooth or two.
How can these thoughts that are so empty and meaningless - merely brought on by activity in my brain - have such a hold on me? Why, as far back as I can remember, have I never been comfortable with my body, and never been able to swing a fist back at these thoughts?

What could possibly cause me to have so much self-discust that I feel the need to restrict myself from eating, or binge until i feel sick and so guilty I have to get the calories out?

Im a science geek, and to be honest, reading and comprehending research articles on the risks and ineffectiveness of eating disorders, is probably the only thing that keeps me from having one.

Its exhausting, to always be self-conscious of the way I dress, or sit, or stand, or dance, or eat, or laugh, or breath, or run... of my arms, or stomach, or the roll over my jeans... you get the picture... My mind is constantly evaluating how to appear perfect to people around me.

When I'm manic, I lose weight because I exercise a ridiculous amount and don't get hungry. I feel overly confident as opposed to self-concious. And thats the hardest thing for me to give up by going on medication.
And with depression? Its a spiralling cycle. Depressed, no exercise, binge eat, gain weight, more depressed, less exercise, more eating... repeat.

I don't want to be the kind of girl who won't leave the house without makeup, I don't want to be the girl obsessed with her weight, I don't want to be self-conscious comparing myself to every other girl, I don't want to care what other people think, and most of all I don't want to care what I think.

But I don't know how.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Mental Illness is a Coward.

Mental illness is basically a cowardly, sneaky son of a bitch in my opinion.

At least other diseases have the balls to take your life themselves.

Mental illness isn't brave enough or strong enough to to ruin or take your life itself. Instead it makes you do it yourself; stripping you of who you have the capacity to be, of relationships, of career opportunities, of decision making, of reality and so many other things.

All ^ of these things beat a person down repeatedly, again. again. again...

and again, to the point of desperation when sometimes physical pain is the only escape from all of the internal pain you're is feeling, or the idea of living one more day in the hell of your mind surrounded by the hopelessness of your life situation becomes to much. Mental illness storms your mind with negativity and self hate. shame. worthlessness. 

Whether these overbearing feelings and loss of reality lead to suicide, suicidal thoughts, depression etc. mental illness has succeeded in making you and others Think that you are the cause of your downfall, the reason you've "failed" at so many things in life, that you took your own life.

You didn't. Mental illness, like any other illness, took your quality of life, and potentially your life.

By creating awareness and fighting stigma against mental illness we are forcing it to take accountability for its actions.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

The Grasp of Bipolar

"wake up
wake up
wake up
wake up
wake up
WAKE UP! " whined the alarm.

"hahaha" He just chuckled, rolling back over taking Her with him. She didn't want to go. The days she'd always loved to explore and live and love... they were gone. He'd taken them; and with each imprisoned day, she too was stolen away.

How can you escape what binds you so closely, what heeds you from within you? What takes who you are, and fragments it as if an antique chandelier had fallen, reduced to a million shattered pieces of crystal; each with it own unique jagged edge, creating an impossibility for reconciliation between them.

She had been fragmented by him, no longer whole; instead an extension of his destructive all-encompassing body. By filling her mind with lies and twisting her heart with emotion he forced her to be the cause of her own downfall. He remained blameless in the shadows.

And then, he was gone as quickly as he'd come. She was free of his grasp. Or so it seemed.

Ecstatic to be unbound, she lived - high on life itself, soaring through moments which felt like hours and days that passed so quickly they went unnoticed, unremembered, un-regretted. Her current world was blurred, but amazing crisp. Unrelenting thoughts provoked her. Something was luming though, she could sense it around corners, in dark places... had he come back for her?

Immediately she spiralled,
HE is my bipolar, to cope I must separate his grasp from me.
I think this clip from SYTYCD was more based around the hold that drug/alcohol addiction has on people, but it relates to anything that keeps you down or prevents you from being who you truly are or who you want to be. I remember watching this well before I was diagnosed and felt I could connect with it. It has stuck with me ever since.
 >>> For the most part I've tried to make the posts in this blog as positive as possible; partially because I'm naturally optimistic to the point of annoyance... but also because even when feeling immensly down and hopeless, its quite the "pick-me-up" to write about how you want to feel. Fake it 'till you make it right? For me, that actually works. Short-term at least!

This post may not be positive and I don't apologize for that. A day in the life with bipolar is a lot harder to spin positively when looking at the mere daily coping - day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute - as opposed to viewing BP from a broader perspective as a life long journey, rather then a death sentence.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Day 1: back to the real world

After dropping my fall semester this year due to a manic episode which lead to the diagnosis of BP, I'm back at school for winter semester. I've been wildly lucky to have had a relatively side-effect free and effective experience with the medications I'm on. It's just been in the past week or so, however, that theres been a noticeable difference with regard to the stability of my moods.

The feeling of needing to crawl out of my skin is a lot less frequent.
I don't feel like crying every second of the day.
People don't piss me off (as much!).
My ability to concentrate on simple tasks has improved.
Anddd, I can ACTUALLY get out of bed a lot of the time without dreading the thought of having an entire day to suffer through.
Over all I feel 'less' depressed/hopeless/apathetic toward life. (Although 'less' is relative to the over bearing quality of these feelings)

As much a medication has clearly helped me, I don't think i'd be where I am if I didn't have the support from my friends and family, and most importantly myself. For me personally, being aware and acknowledging depression as a biological thing, helped me to treat it as such, and push through. Did I need a lonnnng while to spend my days doing little more than breathing? Did I also spend those days feeling horrible in every way? Yes and yes. But this depression was shorter and different then other periods of depression I've felt, and I think its because I knew why I was feeling down and useless and hopeless and agitated and indescribably tired. It was the knowing that enabled me to avoid falling deeper and deeper-- I knew the cause of my symptoms and could change my way of thinking to offset them. 

This isn't me saying I'm some sort of professional at dealing with this disorder. Nobody is professional at anything really, theres always more you can learn. In my case, the learning to be done is how to cope... and this learning will be done over the course of my entire life.

So today is DAY 1 back at school; being on campus; living with my roommates; getting my classes in order. And it feels good. Really good. I don't expect that the next few months of my life are going to feel like this, I know school is going to be more stressful and harder for me than usual, I know that avoiding the partying involved in university life is going to be tricky, AND I also know that a few weeks in, I may realize that I'm not ready to be back at school, and return home. The idea of not being able to finish the semester sucks, theres no way around it, but I'm already proud of myself just for trying, and even having a few weeks of being more social and busy will help me to keep that going if I end up back at home.

TODAY:  I woke up. I went to the gym. I booked appointments. I tackled some online banking. I planned a daily/weekly schedule. I'm writing this post. & the day is only half over.

I accept that somedays, the waking up is as far as i'll get.

But I don't accept that most days waking up is as good as it gets. I want more than to just "get by".

Friday, 4 January 2013

Stomp out stigma-- Start with YOU

So today I was thinking...
Of course I was thinking, I'm always thinking- Great, now I'm even thinking about thinking.

Back on track now...

[TO CLARIFY: In this post I separate physical health from mental health in order to compare why there is more stigma around mental health. I DO NOT believe that they are separate entities at all. Health is Health, good or bad, visible or not.]

Social Media, charaties and organizations are working to eliminate stigma surrounding mental illness. Why is there stigma around an illness that manifests invisibly in the brain, as opposed to an illness which is physically present? I think the main issue is ignorance toward the reality and commonality of mental in illness in contrast to the many stereotypes- psycho, crazy, loner...

On top of this, symptoms of mental illness are a lot harder to spot than symptoms of physical health. If you have the flu you may be sweaty, sluggish and vomiting... people around you may not want to get to close!- but they most likely feel a sense of empathy toward you, as they can see you are not feeling well. And will probably excuse you for being grouchy, or not getting all of your work done.

However what if those surrounding you are unaware you have an illness? And you're in a depressive state, trying you're very hardest to keep your head above water. Everything is exhausting. You may start to fall behind at work, or show up late, making you seem lazy. Or maybe everything you're going through has increased your stress level so much that you snap at a friend or co-worker. They probably just think you're being a bitch. Theres a good chance you'll with-draw from people and not be very sociable, making you no fun to be around.

SIDE NOTE: even if someone does recognize your recent behaviours are not normal for you they may ask "are you feeling okay?"... and instead of simply saying "I have the flu" you'd have to reply with something like "I suffer from depression, I have Bipolar, I have Schizophrenia," each of these infinitely more difficult to say, let alone explain to a person who may or may not be supportive.

These are symptoms as a result of mental illness. You are sick, no different from the flu. Except that, from the outside you seem well, so your "symptoms" are most likely perceived as character flaws.

Bringing me to the rant about you, yes YOU. Whoever you are, if you suffer from a mental illness (including ME) read this.

We, (those of us sick) are working to see a change in the way people view mental illness and those effected by it; by attempting to change the opinions of those who let their ignorance of mental disease effect the way the see and treat sufferer's... I'm not by any means saying anyone involved in trying to educate others and raise awareness should stop, I will always advocate for those with mental illness, as I did even before I was diagnosed. BUT how can we expect others to see us as being worth love and compassion if its not even seen by ourselves?

I've been reading a ton of blogs about Bipolar and other Mental illnesses, often what I discover is that the general self view/perception, is one of a negative nature, feelings of being a burden or unlovable and so on. Once again, I'm not saying this is is everyone or that its not understandable to feel this way, as I often feel this way. A lot of the negative thoughts people with mental illness oppose on themselves are very similar to those felt by people physically ill.

But heres the ugly truth, how can others love/understand/empathize with those affected by mental illness if we don't love/understand/empathize with ourselves?

The task of learning to apply these things toward ourselves is no smaller task than trying to get wide-spread social attitudes to change regard to mental health.

If you have any friends or family you feel you can be open with about your illness, doing so will be a huge step toward creating more awareness about mental illness, the more people know (as in number of people AND amount of information) the less the stigma.