Share your story, Speak your truth.

This is a Really Real Mental Health post.

Lately, I see a lot of people getting Really Real about mental health. Part of it is who I surround myself with, part of it is that people are pulling of the veil and deciding to be truthful about who they are.

Now, I know not everyone can, or wants to do this.

But I’m so happy when I see people who do.

Parker didn’t exactly hide her mental illness, but at the same time she was afraid to speak up when it mattered most. It had, and in some ways still has, this underlying notion that mental illness is a weakness.

I remember the first time I was told to pull myself up by my bootstraps. The first time, not, by far, the only time.

It’s nice to see friends who are talking more openly. Talking about their triumphs and struggles.

Some of my favorite posts are the “I’m having a rough day, please send me memes” posts. I occasionally reach out in the same way and it’s so nice to see everyone kind of come together to shower me with love and laughs. It’s what we need! Community and support make this road a lot easier to travel.

Even better are the posts that show us we aren’t alone in this struggle. We may not have the same diagnoses or life situations, but the underlying emotions are the same.

I’m super lucky that I have an amazing support system (spanning multiple countries) but I got that support system by speaking up. By being real. By speaking my story and sharing my truth.

By being vulnerable.

Vulnerability isn’t a weakness. Vulnerability is strength. It’s how you build community, it’s how you reach out for support.

I’m glad that I see more people being real and raw and open and I wanted to globally say how much I appreciate that.

Share your story. Speak your truth.

Be vulnerable!

 

What would it look like?

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

This one got long and I’m leaving it that way, because there’s some really good stuff in here.

It’s been almost a week since I wrote.  I can normally tell things are going well when I’m not writing every day.

It’s hard to write when things are just,

Okay.

I started asking for a word a week or two ago.  I asked my therapist, asked in group therapy, asked Wonder Woman. “What’s the word for baseline, midline, “normal”?  Not manic, not depressed, just, okay.”

I don’t like using the word normal. I don’t think there is a “normal.” Add to that, having a period when I’m not hypomanic and not depressed certainly isn’t normal for me.

It hasn’t really lasted any significant period, so I wouldn’t classify it as stability.

Euthymic.

According to an online medical dictionary, “Euthymia is a normal non-depressed, reasonably positive mood. It is distinguished from hyperthymia, which refers to an extremely happy mood, and dysthymia, which refers to a depressed mood. It is a term used frequently in mental status exams.”

I’m mostly euthymic right now.

My meds are working. Unfortunately I’m on some higher doses and I’m having some shitty side effects, but I’m finding ways to cope with them.

Meanwhile I’m working on some hard shit in partial. I’m digging into some core beliefs about myself that are supremely unhelpful. I’m trying to sort out the process of getting rid of them and replacing them with positive truths. I’m digging into how I’m supposed to do that.

It’s easy to say on the surface, especially when I’m doing well, “I’m not too much,” “I’m not less than,” “I’m good enough,” and ultimately “I’m allowed to be me and I’m wholly lovable as my true self.” But, when there’s an underlying belief that it’s all bullshit, that surface shine falls apart as soon as depression hits.

It becomes a spiral.

Depression makes me question my validity.

And my worthiness.

And my right to the space I take, both physically and emotionally.

And eventually my desire, and even my right to exist.

That’s so hard to look at from the outside.

How do I change it?

Telling myself “I am pretty, I am kind, I am important” is a great place to start. (Side note: I’ve never seen that movie) However, it only goes so far.

I was asked, “What does life look like without those beliefs?” “What does life look like without mental illness?”

Well, fuck.

This is all I’ve known.

Where does the illness end and I begin? What happens if you take me away from the trauma, away from the chaos, and away from the mental instability?

Who would I be if I were to achieve stability?

I keep saying, that right now it isn’t fair that my brain is being such an asshole. My life is the calmest it’s ever been. My bills are paid, I have lights and food and a stable roof over my head. My house isn’t filled with tension from the latest screaming match, or problems we are avoiding. I’m, in a lot of ways, living my best life right now.

And my brain is more unstable than it’s ever been.

Maybe it doesn’t know what stability should look like.

I mean, it’s not just one thing. It’s also that life is finally calm enough that I can process and heal from all of the trauma, and healing isn’t pretty.

But maybe it’s time to take a long, hard look at what my life would be if it weren’t the only thing I’ve ever known.

And that’s some hard shit.

I see you, I hear you.

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

I’m the public one.

The one who speaks up.

The one who screams my story for all to hear.

The one that everyone says is so brave.

I don’t think it’s bravery.

I’m the one getting all of the support.

I’m the one getting all of the help.

I know there are so many others in the world.

Those that suffer in silence.

Those that don’t want to tell anyone what’s going on.

Those that won’t say how bad it really is.

Those that read along and see themselves in my words.

Those that are on the edge but just can’t break down, afraid of what will happen if they do.

Those that have broken down, but no one knows.

Those that are holding themselves together with smiles and laughs

And makeup

And perfect hair.

I see you.

I know you’re out there.

I know you’re the brave ones.

Without anyone to talk to.

Still putting one foot in front of the other.

Holding on for dear life.

Begging yourself to make it one more day.

And as you kiss your babies to bed each night.

Silently hoping you’re there to see them in the morning.

I hear you,

Even when you don’t have words to say.

 

Where do I begin?

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

This post started out as a post about something completely different. But as I was writing, the topic morphed, and I realized that I needed to process through something.

Where do my illnesses end and I begin?

And not in a “I am not my illness” kind of way, but in a “I need to take responsibility for my actions and not let my illness take the blame for all of it”

I talk a lot about how I do or don’t do things because of my list of labels. The depression will keep me from cleaning the kitchen, executive dysfunction from ADHD will get in the way of doing the dishes, mania will have me spending all of the money, or anxiety will cause me to cancel plans with friends.

Any of them can send me running to my bed with covers over my head.

Maybe my kitchen is a wreck because I don’t feel like cleaning, maybe bipolar has nothing to do with it.

Maybe my sink is full of dishes right now because I’m just being lazy. Maybe it’s not executive dysfunction.

Maybe I want to spend money because I’m just bad with money. Maybe it’s my own fault and not the bipolar. Maybe I just need more self control.

Maybe I cancel plans with friends because I’ve become more introverted and I’m more comfortable being alone.

Maybe, sometimes, the illness is easy to blame, but maybe it’s just as much my personality as anything.

But, I wonder if it matters.

No matter why I’m not cleaning, I need to figure out a way to get the kitchen clean and the dishes done. It doesn’t matter if its because of my illness or because I’m a lazy lump that day, I need to find a way through it so the job gets done.

And I need to do it with kindness and compassion towards myself.

Same with the money, and finding ways to follow through on plans.

Blaming myself isn’t doing anyone any good.

I also wonder how much these things became part of my personality because of my illnesses.

Where do I end and the illnesses begin?

 

 

Body Positivity

This is a Really Real Body Acceptance Post.

Body acceptance is hard.

It’s an ideal I’m constantly chasing.

While also trying to change my body.

It’s no secret that I want to be smaller. I want to fit into this world in better ways and I’m working hard to do so.

I want to hurt less and I’m working hard to do so.

Fuck, I’m getting surgery to do so. And I’m already working on the life changes that are going to take place after that.

But I also try to accept my body where I am right now.

Where I will be five pounds from now.

Where I will be ten pounds from now.

Where I will be, with skin sagging, fifty pounds from now.

One-hundred? I don’t know if I’ll get that far, but if I do I want to accept myself now just as much as I do then.

I know there will be challenges then too.

We always find something wrong.

For me, body acceptance is one day wanting to make shirts saying “Fat! So?” and wear them loud and proud.

But then the next day I want to hide in bed because I see pictures of me in a tank top with my arms hanging out.

My arms which always seem too big.

My arms with skin that already sags from weight I’ve lost thus far.

I see pictures and I wonder how I managed to feel so confident in a tank top when I looked like

that.

How I manage to wear them to the gym and out in public at all when I look like

that.

I pick apart every little detail.

It sends me to my safe space.

Hiding in bed with covers over my head.

Body acceptance is hard.

I’m not there yet.

I’m not sure I’ll ever be.

But hopefully I’ll keep rocking the tank tops and faking myself out.

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.

Head In The Sand

This is a Really Real Post.

I’ve had this post floating around in my head for most of the day.

Little bits and pieces of it coming to me, but for the most part I’ve been unsure how to put it into words. Now that I’m putting fingers to keys I keep writing and erasing because nothing I put seems to fit quite right. Nothing really gets to the point I’m trying to make.

Maybe it’s because I haven’t figured out what point I’m trying to make.

This week as soon as Wonder Woman shared the article pointing out that J.K. Rowling is a TERF, I deleted the Harry Potter game I had just started enjoying. I’m kinda bummed that I haven’t read some of the newer books, but now I never will. I won’t get into the politics of it, I won’t get into an argument about it, I just won’t support a person who follows that many people who hate my fiancee just for existing. I won’t support a person who very likely, herself, hates my fiancee just for existing.

For those who aren’t aware of the terminology, TERF is Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist. They have a lot of hatred towards trans people, trans women specifically. I don’t really want to spend this post writing about it, but feel free to do your own research.

Before I started dating Wonder Woman I wouldn’t have worried about this, though. It wouldn’t have been a blip on my radar.

Just like before I came out as some version of queer, I ate at Chick-fil-a, and didn’t think twice.

Just like before I lost my wife to suicide I used the phrases committed suicide and Russian Roulette and did the finger gun to the head bit.

Once we know better we do better, hopefully.

Sometimes, well, often, we learn more because the world hands us a big helping of life experience and we have to take our head out of the sand.

I’ve gotten a few messages from friends who feel that, because I’m trans-adjacent, I’m a good person to ask about Harry Potter this, or J.K. Rowling that. I appreciate that the discussion is being had. I’m glad they care enough to think about it instead of moving blindly forward with their head still buried. Please keep the discussion going. But the fact is, each of us has to decide what we’re comfortable with. Just because I deleted my game and won’t read the books I haven’t read yet, doesn’t mean you’ll make the same decision. And I won’t tell you to.

But I also won’t tell you it’s fine if you keep doing it.

I’m still not sure what my point is.

But it really pisses me off that now I need to figure out how to separate the author from the world I spent my pregnancy engrossed in. I have fond memories of reading those books, fond memories of falling asleep to the movies with my late wife.

But that doesn’t change what I’ve learned.

And now that I know better, I’ll do better.

How far?

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

I’ve written about this before, but it’s been getting worse again and I feel like not enough people talk about this type of mental health. It seems too “strange” to put it into words, and also, everyone experiences it differently which makes it harder to find commonalities. The typical type of dissociation that everyone can relate to, is zoning out when driving and having no real memory of going from point A to point B, maybe even driving home when you meant to go to the store because you were so out of it and just automatically followed your normal route.

This is my experience of it.

It happens at least once a day right now, but sometimes twice, or even three times. Sometimes more, maybe, I didn’t always count. But, I’ve started keeping track on my DBT diary card.

How big are my hands? Definitely too big for my body.

How far away is my computer screen? Why is it across the room when I’m sitting right here?

Why are sounds echoing when the room hasn’t changed?

My face seems to flicker, it feels like trying to watch something on Pay Per View when you didn’t pay for it, back in the days when that was a thing.

A mouth feel like biting on Styrofoam, and a taste to go with it. I don’t actually know what Styrofoam tastes like, but this must be it.

Why is everything too small for my hands?

How far does my spoon have to travel from my bowl to my face? Feeding myself becomes a chore, no longer an automatic task.

Don’t forget to chew.

My thoughts are slowed, I feel as if my speech is too. Those around me say they can’t notice anything different.

Derealization.

Dissociation.

Having names for it helps. It is a known thing, just a shift in my perception of reality, nothing has actually changed. Knowing I don’t seem to act differently to anyone else helps too.

I’ve learned to just keep moving through it, not let it stop me from whatever I was doing. It seems to pass quicker that way.

Some people are able to identify triggers that bring these episodes on. I haven’t found any regular ones yet. I know that talking about it makes it try to happen, but I can often fight that. I’ve been holding it back the entire time I’ve been writing this. Sometimes it happens when I’m bored and lost in thought, other times when I’ve read too long at the computer, sometimes when I’m stressed, sometimes when I’m happy, sometimes none of those seem to apply.

For some people grounding helps bring them out of an episode. For me, ignoring it and moving forward helps better. Grounding or mindfulness exercises just makes me focus on it and gives it more power.

Is dissociation something you cope with? If you feel comfortable sharing, let me know what yours feels like and your coping methods.

Lets shine some light into all of those dark spaces and help end the stigma.

 

One Little Piece of Bone

This is a Really Real Widow Post.

Parker tripped off a step.

She was taking Siah out for a walk, something that fell on her shoulders far more often than mine, and Siah went the wrong way around the porch rail. Parker lost her footing and tripped off the edge of the porch.

She broke the tip of her bone, in a non weight bearing area that normally causes some pain but doesn’t even keep people off of their feet. Most people don’t even realize they broke it.

But hers never healed and 3 years ago today she went into surgery to have it removed and have some ligaments and tendons moved around so everything would heal properly.

I took some pictures and a video of her that day in the pre-surgery room.

She hated me taking her picture.

I’m kinda glad she did because it allowed me to get “the Parker look” on video.

She was still wearing the boot from surgery the day she died.

These next few weeks are a series of memories leading up to the day she died. These next few weeks are the final moments. The tension, the struggle. Things just weren’t right and I didn’t see it.

But it wasn’t my job to.

I can’t believe it’s been a full three years.

But I can’t believe it’s only been three years.

Time is a dichotomy.

I’ve felt this grief building in my gut since the beginning of the month, I knew it was coming.

But I’m not sad right now. I’m grieving for sure, but it’s not the gut punching sadness.

It’s hard to explain.

I miss her. I miss who she was and who she would be now.

I miss the Parker look when I would do something supremely unhelpful to the situation.

But I’m not sad. This isn’t that kind of grief.

I’m at peace with where life is right now.

But I also know that may change over the coming weeks as it gets closer to June 8th.

I hope she’s at peace where ever she is.

I don’t have a specific believe in an afterlife, but I don’t have a non-belief either. I know she’s somewhere even if it’s just the ashes in a box. She still exists either as matter or a soul, somewhere.

I hope she’s at peace, where ever that is.

She spent too much of her life not at peace.

One little piece of bone.

That’s all she broke.

 

 

Oh no . . . That’s today.

scientific calculator ii

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

Mentally, I still feel like shit.

But a little less like shit then I felt yesterday, so that’s a plus, I guess.

The difference between, I really want to die

and

I just don’t want to live.

And for those who have never been here, there’s a distinctive difference.

Today is a good day for that difference, because today I have a final exam to go take for my health class.

A final exam that I may not have shown up for yesterday, but today I’ll at least show up.

I all but aced my English class.  Two points shy of a perfect score.  I’m still waiting on a few grades to come back from health, but I think I’ll pull at least a b, depends on how I do on this final that I didn’t study for.

Yesterday was rough. I spent most of the day in bed with covers over my head. I got up to cook but didn’t clean and my sink is overflowing with dishes.

We had dill pickle chicken wings for dinner which were both amazing and time consuming. Even though I baked them, my house smells like fried food, which is kind of annoying.

When I’m depressed like that I’m also super triggery, although I hate the word trigger. But the wrong sound from a video game or the wrong scene in a movie will go straight through me and I’ll need to run and hide, or I’ll want to fight back against it. But I can’t find my words to ask Wonder Woman to turn the TV down or that I can’t handle that movie right now. Sometimes I’ll put headphones in so that I’m not a bother, so that I can just zone out into my own world at the computer.

Other times I run away to the bedroom, into my safe space. Under my down comforter with the covers pulled up over my head. Just enough light filters through that it’s not completely dark in there. The sound is muffled like when there’s a few feet of snow outside.

I feel safe.

I always quietly hope that Wonder Woman will eventually come and check on me even if I can’t quite tell her all of what is wrong.

She is part of my safe space.

I also hate that I just walk away without telling her that I’m going. Words are hard when I feel like that. I want to shrink into my own skin.

I don’t want to admit that I need to hide from the world and speaking it out loud makes it too real.

Makes it too noticeable.

Makes me feel like I’m over reacting.

Like I’m being a drama queen.

But today is better. Today the sounds aren’t quite as loud and I don’t need to run.

Today I don’t want to die.

I’m just not quite sure I’m ready to live.