We Look Like You

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

I’ve heard it a few times before.

“You don’t look like you’re crazy.”

But what exactly does mental illness look like?

I sat in my DBT group today and couldn’t stay focused. I spent some time looking around at our group of 10 people, 12 if you count the instructors (who, as Social Workers, most likely have diagnoses of their own, it’s pretty common) and we are all different shapes, sizes, ages, backgrounds and education levels. This class is taught in modules with a few of us switching out every month and with me on my 37th week, I’ve seen a lot of people come through here. We all look different, we all have different stories.

None of us “look crazy.”

Well, maybe a few of us, especially those of us with pink and purple hair, and bright pink unicorn covered skirts and sparkly rainbow Docs.

That’s me, maybe I look a little crazy.

The other day on mobility there was a huge mix up and I got stuck on the bus without a drop off scheduled. “It’s really important that I don’t miss my therapy appointment, is this fixable quickly?”

“What? Are you one of those bipolar people, turn into the she-hulk or something, start hitting people with trash cans?” I told him it wasn’t quite like that. He says, “I don’t know, you look like you’ve got a streak in ya.”

What exactly does that streak look like? And we won’t go into just how wrong that entire conversation was, fuck that nonsense.

But, mental illness doesn’t have a look, and I’m amazed that there are people who think it does. It’s part of the stigma that still attached. You’re crazy therefore you must be visibly ill, visibly disheveled, you must wear it like a scarlet letter.

What exactly does mental illness look like?

It looks just like me.

It looks just like my neighbor down the street.

It looks just like that law student.

It looks just like that therapist.

It looks just like that EMT.

It looks just like your doctor.

It looks just like you.

Notifications

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

I’m an Inbox Zero kinda person.

The kinda person that can’t stand those little notification bubbles anywhere.

The kinda person that will leave someone one read just because I have to click on their message to make the notification bubble go away even if I don’t have the time or energy to respond right then.

Right now I have well over 300 unread emails in my gmail account.

Blog posts and important messages and not so important messages and advertisements.

Things I clear out and take care of the second they hit my account.

Right now they are backing up more and more and more.

I don’t really care.

I mean, I guess I do care, I’m in a state of functional depression. It’s not quite dragging me under but I can’t quite stay on top either. I keep dropping some of the balls I’m trying to juggle.

I’m making it to the gym and eating a healthy diet and getting to my appointments but ugh, do I really have to clean the house? Do I really have to take care of my email? Do I really feel like focusing on my blog? Do I really feel like taking care of every day mandatory self care stuff?

Just how mandatory is it?

Can I put that shower off just one more day?

I have phone calls I’ve needed to make. Benefits I really need to apply for.

I keep saying I’ll take care of that tomorrow.

Tomorrow.

Tomorrow.

I don’t think I realize how much depression is taking its toll on me until I type it out like this because really, I feel fine. I still feel like I’m finding joy in life, I guess. I’m not actually miserable. I don’t feel sad. I’m not crying.

Mostly I’m not suicidal.

But in between activities my bed keeps calling my name and I fight to stay out of it. Such a comforting nest of blankets to wrap myself in.

It’s funny how depression can hide itself in the middle of a seemingly typical mood.

But over 300 unread emails isn’t typical for me.

And right now I don’t really care.

 

One Year Ago and Today

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

Today my Facebook memories reminded me that one year ago I wrote a big, long, really real mental health post about suicidal thoughts I was having.

It was hard to go back and read those dark words from that dark space.

It took me back to that time where I got a message from a friend at just the right time to help me.  A message letting me know that she was thinking of me, even though she had no idea I was in such a dark space.

This is one of the reasons I do what I do.  So that a year from now I can see these words and remember where I was.  I can see my growth and my progress.  See the dark and also the light.  I can also see how far my writing has come in that time.

Today I’m fighting depression, but the dark, suicidal thoughts are mostly quiet, only peeking their heads out but not taking hold.  I have a plan to handle the pain that I’m in, which will hopefully give me some relief through the trip this weekend.

I still fight suicidal thoughts sometimes, nothing has really changed there, they still get really dark, really fast and I’m still learning how to sit with them without them becoming so dangerous.

I think I’ve gained a lot of skills in the last year, through my time in partial, and my time in DBT, but at the same time.  I handle the flow of my moods a lot better.

Things may not change as far as my moods shifting and the suicidal thoughts coming, but how I handle them has changed and will continue to change and get better.  I’m growing and learning and doing better.

And I still have amazing support around me, for which I’m quite thankful.

Come Find Me

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

I wish I could show you the thoughts.

What’s locked inside my head.

When I silently walk away.

And go lay down in bed.

That place inside.

That place I hide.

I wish I could show you the place.

That’s locked inside my head.

I get this far away feeling and I feel like I need to hide from the world.

I want to be alone, but more than anything I want you to come find me and hold the pieces of me together while I fall apart.

Putting it into words feels melodramatic.

My arms are heavy and I need something to struggle against.

But I don’t know how to ask.

I want to cry and I need someone to catch my tears.

But I don’t know how to ask.

I feel like a bomb ready to explode and I need someone to make sure I don’t lose any of my pieces.

But I don’t know how to ask.

It feels like I need too much, too often, always.

You have your own struggles and shouldn’t be worried about mine.

You have your own tears and shouldn’t be worried about mine.

You have your own pieces and shouldn’t be worried about mine.

So I walk away quietly.

I lay down alone.

I gather myself,

again.

Because I don’t know how to ask.

“I’m fine.”

Zoom Zoom

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

I wish I could take a side step off of this roller coaster and just settle.

Wheeeeeeeee.  I’m up high.

I was driving last night and my anxiety was through the roof.  Every time another car came near me I was seeing the impending accident.  It’s not all that often that I get to drive, and normally I love it, but last night was just terrifying.  Luckily it was late enough that there weren’t many cars on the road and I only had to focus on my own anxiety about the car blowing up or a tire blowing or something happening to cause me to have an accident by myself.

I didn’t go to bed till after 5:30 in the morning.  Just couldn’t stop.

Unfortunately I can’t get wrapped up into productive things like cleaning the house, which would be nice right now after a week of depression, instead I’m crafting and making more of a mess.  But I’m having fun and making really cool things, so there’s that.

My brain is going a million miles a second and my urge is to drink coffee and take my ADHD meds and stay awake and focused and keep going going going, but I also know that it is an incredibly bad idea to do such things so I’m avoiding coffee (WHAT!?!) and my ADHD meds until I float back down.

I’m hoping I don’t just suddenly crash.

I also wonder how much of this is a mixed episode (and why do I even care, it is just exactly what it is) because my body image issues are still there this time.

I’m not getting comments about my “amazing energy” from strangers and those comments are always a sure sign that I’m going manic.  I’m still pretty withdrawn and not interacting with people on the street and in stores so I’ve probably got a pretty good lid on it.

It’s probably just more mixed episode.  At least the suicidal thoughts are gone for now.

But my thoughts are going zoom zoom all over my brain.  I feel like there’s an interrogation light in my skull and shining onto the back of my eyes and like the bright light is shining out everywhere and everyone can see.  Not literally, but I just feel like I’m radiating, something.  Like I’m vibrating with the number of thoughts that are pinging around all over the place.

And they are dying to get out, I want to talk about them but I can’t organize them enough to get them into the air.

And I want to buy all of the things.  I NEED to buy all of the things, Right, Now.

And I have really good reasons for wanting all of the things Right Now.  And they make perfect sense in my head.  But they probably don’t make actual sense in the long run and sometimes it’s so hard to understand how something can seem so clear and true right now, but once this neurotransmitter induced high wears off it will seem so dumb.

I have to live with any of the decisions I make now, even once I come back down.

Mania seems like so much fun from the outside.  But from the inside, it’s just a different kind of mental illness hell.

No Change Please

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

I’m having a really hard time with change right now.

Even when the change is good for me, but especially when it isn’t.

If I expect _this_ to happen and _that_ is going to happen instead…

Fuck.

That.

All hell breaks loose in my head.  I feel the rage building.

I want to throw a temper tantrum.

I’ve been working on sitting with that feeling.  Seeing what I can do with it.  I know it’s irrational, things change all the damn time.

Sometimes the change is good for me.  I’m too tired to go someplace, and plans change last minute and I no longer need to go, it makes zero sense that I get angry.  Sitting with that feeling of upset is hard though.  I want to react to it.

But when there’s a change in plans that I have no control over?  What happens when I was really looking forward to something and it ends up not being able to happen?  There’s a mixture of rage and disappointment.  There’s a feeling of being let down.  I feel it settle in the pit of my gut and I want to lash out.  I want everyone to know that it isn’t fair.

But it wouldn’t do anyone any good for me to lash out.

I haven’t yet figured out how to find the balance between speaking up about my disappointment, dwelling on it, and just ignoring it and letting it dissipate.  Sometimes squashing my feelings isn’t healthy, but spending too much time focusing on them or complaining about them isn’t healthy either.

There is no easy answer.

I’m stuck tonight.  Feeling that gut wrenching upset in the pit of my stomach and being unsure of what to do with it.  Is it me, is it just my mental illness, is it just that I’m sick in the head and I need to deal with this on my own.  Or am I right to be upset over this and I need to speak up.

Just because I overreact sometimes doesn’t mean I’m never allowed to react.  But how do I know what is an appropriate reaction when I’ve been overreacting for so long?

How do I know when I’m just upset because of change, and when I’m upset because of the thing that caused the change?

How about we just avoid changing things?  If everything goes the way I have it planned in my little head, I’ll be a much happier person.

Routine

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

My brain is almost always at least somewhat chaotic.  A jumbled mess of thoughts and ideas, plans and problems.  I spend more time then I care to admit staring off into space, fixated on some random point, lost in thought, because my brain is moving too fast for me to remember to pay attention to the world around me.

But I’m amazed at the order that comes out of my chaos.  I float around most mornings, using my natural propensity for chaos to do 20 things at once.  Making my coffee and breakfast while doing the dishes and feeding the dog.  Getting halfway dressed and throwing a nightgown over the rest of me to take the dog out before checking the cats food and water.  If it’s a busy day I’ll get dinner started in the crock-pot, figuring out what needs to be started now and what can be added later.  Flitting from one thing to the next and back again, going with the flow.  It looks like chaos, but in reality I do everything the same way almost every morning.

On Mondays I make and peel a dozen hard boiled eggs to get us through the week.  Setting alarms to make sure I get the timing just right with the Instant Pot natural release (the 5-5-5 method is amazing).   Stopping to peel them carefully, being careful not to mar the smooth skin of the soft egg.  It is a sort of meditation in the midst of the whirlwind of my morning.  Cooking will always be one of my favorite ways I take care of us, I can’t believe I lost that for so long.

I’ve never been a morning person, but yet, I wake up at least an hour before I need to, just so I can follow my routine of chaos and care for all of the beings in the house.  I’m sure there’s a more efficient way, but it wouldn’t honor my natural state.  I’m sure that focusing on one thing at a time would get them done in a faster, more complete way, but I can’t imagine tying myself down that way.  Instead I allow my ADHD to shine through, following it in a sort of dance around the kitchen, until I work my way back to where I started.

And sit down with my cup of coffee to clear my head and write.