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.

Wait For It

This is a Really Real Widow Post.

But also a Really Real Mental Health Post.

One of those that blur the lines because in the days after Parker died it was hard to tell where grief ended and depression began, where mania subsided and constant running for distraction took over.

That first year was probably the hardest year of my life. I found dozens of different methods to cope, trying one thing after another, some of them helping, others being left behind. One thing that kept me going was making playlists based on where I was in my grieving process. There was”Cry” and “Remembering Her” and “Joy” and the one that got the most play was the “You Got This” playlist.

One of the songs on there was “Wait For It” from Hamilton.

For me, that was my song that told me no matter how bad I felt in that moment, if I just kept fighting, things would get better. I just had to wait for it. There were nights that my suicidal thoughts were screaming in my ear, urging me to join Parker out of desperation to see her again. I would put “Wait For It” on repeat, blasting it through headphones trying to drown out the thoughts. It was one of my anthems urging me to just hold on.

I listened to the entire Hamilton soundtrack on repeat hoping that one day they’d put it on TV so that I could actually see it. Seeing it in person didn’t even cross my mind, because that was outside the realm of possibility for me. It wasn’t even on my radar. That was something that other people dreamed of, my hopes were much simpler than that.

But in the three years since then my life has changed. I’ve started seeing more of life, started seeing there is more than just survival. I knew it wasn’t likely, but just maybe, one day I’d get to see Hamilton in person. The soundtrack was such a huge part of my life, I knew the lyrics by heart, seeing it preformed would be amazing.

Tickets went on sale locally. Of course they were way outside of my price range, and they were so hard to get. I knew there was no way.

And then Wonder Woman calls me to tell me some friends were taking us to see Hamilton as an engagement gift.

What?!?!?

This can’t be real.

I spent weeks just knowing it wasn’t real. That any day now someone would tell me it was all bullshit. That I wasn’t really going. I had misunderstood, they had changed their mind, I dreamed it. I refused to get excited, I just got anxious. More and more anxious.

And then the night is here. We walk up the street and I see the marquee. Holy Shit! I’m going to see Hamilton.

Such a mix of emotions the entire show. While there was amazement and excitement and awe, there was also this mix of grief and remembrance. What if she had just realized that she could wait for it. That life could be like this. That maybe one day she could sit in a theater and see something as amazing as Hamilton.

But holding Wonder Woman’s hand, sitting beside her and feeling her emotions, feeling my own emotions, just being there. Actually being present in that moment. The audience disappeared and it was just us and the stage. My anxiety was gone, my grief was gone,

I was enthralled.

I’ve had a hard life, there’s no denying that. I’ve been through more than a lot of people can imagine. I still have a lot to process and heal. But my life is good. Honestly my life is pretty amazing and as hard as it is to see sometimes, I believe I will continue to make forward progress It might be slow progress, but it will be forward progress towards better things. And you know what?

I’m willing to wait for it.

Doing the Things.

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

Do you hear what I hear?

I mean, probably not because you’re where you are, and not where I am . . . but I hear the sound of calm and quiet and stillness.  Even my brain is quiet for the moment.

I was over emotional earlier this week and I think it was the beginning of some hypomania sneaking in, but it went away as quickly as it showed up. Now I’m just . . . calm. The feeling of stability I get where I try not to wonder when it will all go wrong again.

There are a few dishes in the sink but it’s not like I don’t feel like I can do them because of depression. I just don’t want to do them, because who the fuck really wants to do dishes. That’s the difference, when I’m depressed I get to the point that I want to clean up the mess around here and I just can’t do it, sometimes I want to have the desire to clean up the mess and can’t even find that.

But right now I’m not really fighting against that.

I just feel, okay.

And okay feels really good right now.

 

 

 

 

Be Still

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning.

But I did.

First I woke up Wonder Woman and asked her to hold me and remind me that it was just depression and that I really did need to get up and go to the gym.

(I realize how lucky I am to have a woman who doesn’t get mad at me when I wake her up for those sorts of reminders. She even threw a “You’ll feel better afterwards” in there.)

And then I packed my bag with clothes for DBT and I went to the gym with Bat Woman and I did the things.

(And Wonder Woman wasn’t wrong. I felt a bit better afterwards.)

And then I went to DBT and participated fully.

And then I sat reading chapters and articles for school while waiting for mobility.

But I still feel like I’m just going through the motions.

I still feel like I’m walking through a fog.

Now that I’m home I want to go take a nap, and I can’t tell if that would be great self care, or if it would be giving into depression. It really could go either way.

I guess it depends on if I get up when I wake up the first time, or if I lay there for 3 hours wallowing in self pity about how this depression

just

won’t

let

go.

I appreciate the fact that my moods have stabilized on my current medications, however, I kind of miss the hypomania breaking the monotony of the depression.

The other one is, I definitely don’t miss actual crises occurring in my life. I’m so glad I’ve had this past year or two where I haven’t spent most of my time in therapy putting out fires and have instead been able to spend time healing from all of the trauma. But, I miss the rush of crisis mode.

I miss the adrenaline and emotional response that was needed to survive that sort of thing.

Maybe that’s part of my depression. Maybe I was just so used to living in crisis mode for so long that now when I stop, when there isn’t something to fix, a fire to put out, something to be reacting to . . .

Maybe I’m still learning how to just

be still.

I’ll get there.

Racing the Clock

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

I’m racing the clock with this post.

It’s 14 minutes till therapy and that’s not counting the time it’ll take me to walk from the coffee shop, but I feel the need to get this out of my head before I walk into that office.

So I’m writing.

Today is going to be a hard session.

I know it.

I already know what we’re going to talk about, I’ve known since last night. It’s a hard topic but one I need to work on deeply.

Self worth.

I don’t feel wanted because I don’t feel deserving of that sort of affection. So even though Wonder Women shows me that sort of attention I don’t always see it.

Well, that’s not even it. I see it, but I don’t internalize it.

I see it as something she’s doing out of obligation. Something she’s doing because she has to. Not something she’s doing because she actually wants me or finds my body attractive.

I guess it isn’t self worth exactly.

It’s more body image, but not even that exactly. It’s so complicated.

I’ve lost 20 lbs in the last month (and before someone says that’s too much, my doctors are on board.  Noom is the shit and I highly recommend that program to anyone.). I feel like I’m becoming more attractive. I feel sexy, I feel sexual. But I don’t feel like anyone else could possibly see me that way.

Anyway, 3 minutes till therapy and I still have to walk to the building.  Guess I should get going.

Today’s session is going to be hard but needed.

I have a love/hate relationship with therapy.

Was It Ever Different

This is a Really Real . . .Something? . . . Post.

Maybe Relationship.

Maybe Widow.

But no matter what the subject is, it’s Really Real.

You should all know by now that I check Facebook memories and Timehop every single day, without fail. It lets me see how far I’ve come, lets me see the amazing things I’ve done with Wonder Woman and Kidlet and Batwoman, and before that it shows me little gifts in the forms of messages left behind on my wall to and from Parker.

A year ago I was in a partial hospitalization program. I was in a severe mixed mood episode, was both suicidal and manic. Wonder Woman had been staying with me for 2 months but was officially moving her stuff in.

Now, a year later, I’m reading those posts and remembering when we first moved Wonder Woman’s bed into the house and got rid of mine. Remembering all of my stress over the moving happening too fast and not fast enough. Wanting her stuff here now but holy shit her stuff is invading my space and changing the way I live.

It all feels like it’s from another lifetime.

It’s only been a year but it feels like she’s been here forever.

I can’t imagine this house without her shoes (so many shoes) all over the floor in the living room.

I can’t imagine not knowing the recipes I’ve learned to cook because it’s food she likes.

I can’t imagine coming home and not seeing Trillian (her sweet kitty) in the tub.

I can’t imagine waking up or going to bed without cuddles, almost every single time. 

So many cuddles.

But at the same time, I absolutely can imagine the day that this all goes away.

I have, almost the benefit, of knowing that life can change in an instant.

Sorry friends, this is where the sweet sappy post gets grim and dark.

I still check her breathing, I still panic when she’s late, I still wonder who I would call, I still wonder if they would know to call me if she wasn’t home.

I almost can’t imagine a day that she wasn’t here but at the same time I’m constantly aware that any day this could all be taken away.

But I try, so hard, not to live like I know, while always living like I know.

The benefit to widowhood is that I appreciate all of those little things that I mentioned before. I even appreciate things that would have annoyed me in life before death.

I wish everyone could learn the lessons without the loss.

What can you be more appreciative of?

Logistically

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

Today is a day of logistics.

I woke up super early and popped out of bed. I’m definitely feeling better emotionally because I don’t dread the day as soon as I open my eyes.

Another sign that I’m doing better is that I’m working on “doing all the things.” I start an accelerated 6 week college course next week and they opened some of the course work early so I started working on that. I also did more work on plane tickets for an upcoming trip. I scheduled some appointments and also sent off an email asking my primary care NP for a letter of support before she leaves the practice.

Busy, busy, busy.

And if feels much better than sitting around staring at a computer screen scrolling Facebook endlessly.

Unfortunately when I’m stuck in that low grade depression all I really can do is sit and stare at the screen. I can’t find the motivation or interest in anything else. I want to be interested, I really do, but nothing grabs my attention.

Of course, even though I’m interested in doing stuff now, doesn’t mean I can figure out what, exactly I should be doing once I run out of logistical stuff to work through. I want to craft more stuff, but can’t figure figure out what to craft. I can only cook so many dishes. I can only plan meals so far ahead. Only so much school work has been opened.

I could clean more of the house but, lets not get carried away here, I’m not quite that bored.

I did finally color my hair. It was so faded it wasn’t even pastel anymore, it was, well, I’m not sure what it was but it was kinda gross. Now it’s bright and vibrant and you can see me coming from a few miles away.

Now I get to sweat pink and purple at the gym for the next week. I’m always afraid a drip of bright pink is going to run down my face while I’m on the elliptical. That’s the one problem with these bright colors, but I can’t imagine anything but my signature pink and purple.

Have you ever done anything wild with your hair?