Whispers.

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I don’t know if being educated about my illness(es) from an early age would have made a difference – the struggle is the struggle, no matter how much you learn about why. But I saw this on Facebook and felt, like, *yes*:

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It’s an image uploaded from Whisper, an app I’ve used, in the past, to share things I’d never admit to anyone. And that phrase: “sometimes it’s ourselves that make us feel like…” I find that to be so true.

Things, obviously, are not always easy. Things get dark. And during those times I am oh-so painfully aware that it IS myself that’s upsetting me. Unbearable! Of course there are antecedents – triggers, if you will – a compounding of factors to produce a perfect storm… but underneath it all lurks something that is very much my own. It’s familiar, gravitational, and seems to rise of its own accord.

I wish I could reach out to this girl, and say “YES! LADY!! I GET IT!” But I can’t, because Whisper is anonymous. You don’t “follow” people – there are no “profiles”. So I’ll never know who she is, or how it is she knew how to say what I feel, when I feel that way. The least I can do is put it out there again, so maybe another person will see – and, maybe, understand.


Delusions.

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Like most people with mood disorders, I’ve always loved reading books about other people with mood disorders. More than one of them have had a bipolar protagonist. And I’ve always thought, while reading: “Huh. That kind of reminds me of… me”. This is not to say that I’m inclined to wear a tutu to the grocery store or buy spur-of-the-moment tickets to Vegas on a newly opened credit card, but the way things tend to cycle inside my head has always made me wonder.

For example.

Syracuse, NY (home of my alma mater) is not known for its fine weather, but the perpetual slate-grey skies mirrored my dysthymic mindset to such an extent that I could only conclude that the pairing was meant to be. I went to class, kept my grades up, and partied like a rockstar, but, behind the scenes, my mind was an abyss. I sought help on more than one occasion, but no amount of talk therapy seemed to lighten my load. And, at the time, I was resistant to medication. The summer before my senior year things got so bad that I had to quit my waitressing job in Boston, bow out of my prizewinning internship at an ad agency, and move back to SU, head in hands. My boyfriend and I had just recently ended our year-plus relationship, and I was terrified of all that lay in store. That first semester was a nightmare. Horrible.

Then, suddenly, it wasn’t.

I remember the moment everything turned roses – it was the screening night for my film class – and finally, to quote the great Sylvia Plath,

“All the heat and fear had purged itself. I felt surprisingly at peace. The bell jar hung suspended a few feet above my head. I was open to the circulating air. ”

It was wondrous.

But, as we all know, the only constant in life is change. And it wasn’t long before my euphoria plunged back to black despair. The moment the switch flipped back is just as clear as the moment it flipped on, and I cried on Katsu’s shoulder, knowing that my reprieve had ended. Not knowing when, or if, it would ever begin again.

Those switches are less clear now, but I’m beginning to think that some have flipped. The first was euphoria – living alone, freewheeling out to my new boyfriend B!, even moving home bothered me less than anyone could have imagined.

The second, of course, is now. The realization that all those good times were on some spectrum of yet another mental malfunction – a symptom of this suspected disease. All the progress I thought I’d made? Nothing but hypomania triggered by my stint in the Bin.

And you know what? That really feels like shit. Seriously.


Next thing, I’ll be telling you all how much money I make.

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THANKS A LOT, NEW YORK TIMES.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/01/magazine/tara-parker-pope-fat-trap.html?pagewanted=all

I’m just sitting around, minding my own business, recovering from my New Year’s party and then WHAT? Here’s the Times talking about weight  – how once it goes on, seriously, it never comes off. The lengths to which people go to keep it off. Now, I may or may not have drunk a Big Mac’s worth of champagne the previous night and I may or may not have had buffalo wings for breakfast, but either way this is not what I want to be reading as day fades to evening and late lunch becomes an early dinner. Not one bit.

I put it out of my mind. I had some cereal, went to bed, and, by morning, the bad news was far from my thoughts. Except, it wasn’t. It never is. I weighed less than 100 pounds when I was in the hospital. And, though I did gain a little during my early recovery, I lost even more while I was living by myself through early 2010. I’d never been skinnier, and I loved it. (Let’s be honest, I still love it.)

Then the numbers on the scale started creeping up. Slowly first, so I almost didn’t notice, and then faster. Now I’m afraid to weigh myself because I would probably be near 130. That doesn’t sound like a lot, maybe, but consider it in context: I gained 30 pounds in two years, I’m not all that tall, and I have an eating disorder. So that weight in this body can never be far from my mind.

But So I’m driving home from work today, and effing Tom Ashbrook comes on On Point with thishit:

http://onpoint.wbur.org/2012/01/05/keeping-off-the-fat

AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR OF THE GODDAMN NEW YORK TIMES PIECE. And, like a martyr, I’m listening to it and feeling all crappy about my prospects. I mean, I totally screwed up my metabolism with all that starving and purging BS. I haven’t eaten like a normal person since I was 14, so what makes me think that 16 years later, I should be able to feast hearty and not pay the piper? People get older, metabolisms slow, and we can’t seriously expect to wear that little black dress forever. Cheer yourself up, I thought! But I couldn’t.

Then, the author, Tara Parker-Pope, started talking about her OWN weight. Her OWN struggles. And I can’t remember her exact words (I was driving, you know) but she exhorted the audience to be healthy in the bodies they’re in. And the way she said it, I was like, damn. That makes a lot of sense. I couldn’t cheer myself up. But she did it for me.


Baloney.

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So Christmas came again. The run-up was the usual mix of meditation and insanity, and the holiday went faster than I would have liked. I worked through Thursday evening, celebrated my sister’s birthday on Friday, then stayed at home with my family (and B!) until Monday afternoon. It was awesome.

But being at home? It gives you all these feelings. Mostly good feelings, of course, but also feelings about how life used to be, and how that informs your life as it is now. And also feelings about where you are now, and how what you came from makes you feel about where you are now versus where you thought you might be or, in some ways, where you ought to be. Get it?

No? 

Me neither. But I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. It’s kind of like mental Twister.

I always kind of hated that game.


I’m a Winner

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Hey, I won something! I mean, really, it’s nothing – literally. It’s not a thing. But anyway, winning is cool. Especially if, like me, you are BI-winning. This weekend I ALSO won a pair of free tickets at the Coolidge by telling my tale of Etsy revenge to a theater of enthusiastic hipsters. Where’s the revenge, you ask? Let’s just put it this way: his store is no longer open for business. Whether that is due to his own (questionable) choices or my grassroots campaign to get him kicked off the site, well, who’s to know?

Anyway, this storytelling and winning things and this post on DefineFunctioning all kind of merged in my brain suddenly, and I realized that I felt a lot weirder telling my Etsy story to strangers than I would have telling the story of my breakdown. It’s Mental Health Awareness Month, which I put right up there with pre-sliced apples on the Scale of Ridiculous Man-Made Concepts. Like, I feel that we’re all pretty AWARE of mental health. Nobody really needs a reminder. Antidepressant ads are everywhere, having a therapist is the functional equivalent of having a toaster, and, aside from primary care, there’s nowhere harder to get an appointment than a good mental health clinic. They’re all full.

And yet.

And yet I know so many people who are struggling with their OWN mental health awareness, but don’t feel comfortable getting help. People from all types of situations with all types of personalities dealing with all types of issues, but always the same refrain: “I just wouldn’t want anyone I worked with to find out”. I mean, I’m not just talking about like, one person, here, I’m talking about more people than I have fingers and toes.

So, per the requirements of the award, here are seven random things about me:

1) My story about Etsy revenge last night was way too long

2) Because I tend to talk a lot when I’m nervous

3) Probably too much about myself

4) But I think I’m good at listening, too

5) At least, I can be.

6) I wish my doctor would weigh me backwards, so I don’t have to watch her fix the numbers.

7) But I’m too weirded out to ask.

I preach and I preach, but, in my own life, I’m sometimes too embarrassed to be frank about what goes on inside. So, I think that in honor of May 2011, Mental Health Awareness Month, everybody who is on the fence about being frank should just give it a shot once or twice. Check out therapists online, call your insurance company and ask about benefits, reach out to a friend for help.

Or, you know, you could also take out your aggression with a secret war against a total stranger on the internet, and then admit it to a totally different bunch of strangers in the hope of winning a free DVD of this Korean film. That’s worked for me as well.

(The movie passes are better. I know.)


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