Living in a Fantasy World? You’re Not Alone

Back in April of last year, I published a post on a special and – until I announced it on my blog – private experience. The post was called Living in a Fantasy World, and it was my way of finally revealing this place to where I go when I need to escape from this world of reality. I tried my best to explain what such an experience feels like and how it looks when my mind is lost in this world of imagination. It’s a unique place in which to be, that’s for certain, and it’s something that I wish I could bring you all into for at least a day. Then again, it’s also quite personal and a place of refuge and meditation, so it’s probably best it stays that way. However, I’m so glad that I decided to share it on my blog, because it has been a place for others to feel comfort. I have received many comments on my post since April, but especially in more recent months, which has inspired me to want to write this follow-up.

Refuge and Meditation

Refuge and meditation… those are two words that I hadn’t really associated with my fantasy world until I finally told my therapist about it, and posted here on my blog. When I first revealed my fantasy world to my therapist a couple of years ago, I was so worried that she would think of me as being completely crazy and in dire need of more help than previously realized. I mean think about it. When I enter this world, I become lost inside of it. I’m not just this world in my mind as I lay down on my bed. No, I am ‘lost’ inside of it in every sense of the word. I am mentally, emotionally and physically there. I see it, feel it, touch it, and even more dramatically… live it. It is my world for that time being. It becomes my reality and it is the most magnificent place to be, because I become free of all pain, stress, and feelings of being the hopeless and pitiful loser that I so often feel like in the real world. Therefore, when the time came that I revealed this private world to my therapist, I expected the worst reaction. Although, she had proved herself trustworthy to me, which is why I finally felt I could tell her. So, I guess there was a part of me that hoped that she’d respond in a different way. Well, she didn’t let me down.

The telling of my world to my therapist was a wonderful experience. It started off nerve-wracking as heck, as I recall not even being able to look at her when I talked about it. I also read to her a description about it that I thought would help to better express this world to her. That helps with the no eye contact thing too. And, her response was so supportive that it made me feel like such a better person than I had before that day. Prior to that day, I felt as if there was something seriously wrong with me. Ok, yeah, I have bipolar, so it’s not like I can say that I’m all ok in the head. My family and friends can tell you just how bad I can be at times. But, this isn’t anything about mental illness. My worries weren’t of having a mental illness (as this was prior to my diagnosis anyway), but rather, that I was somehow becoming distanced from reality and heading to a bad place of losing touch with it all together. I worried that I was somehow stuck in some unending childhood. I felt almost as if I was stunted somehow and that I was unable to leave this world of make-believe that I should have left by the time I hit my teenage years. I felt that it was time to grow up, and yet I was struggling to do so.

Well, my therapist – over the course of quite some time of discussing it in the sessions to follow – helped me to realize quite the opposite. She told me that there wasn’t anything wrong with having a fantasy world. She thought it was such a great and beautiful thing to have in my life and I should embrace it. Wow! Embrace it? Really? I never expected that to come out of her mouth, that’s for sure. Yet, it did. She had also began to help me understand just how important this world had become for me. I wasn’t diagnosed with bipolar until late 2009, and up until that point I was lost for years in a downward spiral into what can only be described as my own personal hell on earth. It’s quite an upside-down-topsy-turvy-complete-loss-of-control feeling when the world continues to move along normally around you, while you are slowly disintegrating into nothingness.

So, what does this have to do with my fantasy world? Well, my therapist helped me to finally see that my world of imagination was in actuality a refuge for me. It had become the place that would save my life. I can’t say that I would have ended my life without it. I know I wanted to many times, but I can’t say that I really would have done so, because obviously I didn’t. But, I also wonder now, thanks to my therapist, if maybe my fantasy world saved me too. When I was too depressed, then my mind was too exhausted and numb to be able to imagine my place of happiness. Happiness was gone. Before I even reached those points, though, I would sometimes head into that world and it would help me during those times. I would feel good for that period of time. As I wrote in my initial post back in April, coming out of that world was a different story. If I was interrupted somehow, then it was jarring and I was left angry and not the most pleasant person to be around. That’s still the case. If I naturally come out of it, though, I do not feel like that. Unfortunately, though, the depression will return and often sometimes worse knowing that my world of success is only in my head.

However, through it all back then, that world still provided me with a refuge during times that could have otherwise been spent obsessing on the negative that surrounded me. It did indeed save my life during those times when I had no therapist, no psychiatrist, no meds, and no diagnosis as for what on earth was happening to me. It gave me a place to go where my life was not upside down. That is where what my therapist described makes so much sense. And, I thank her for helping me to view my world as more than just some childish, losing-control-of-my-reality type of experience. And, then there is the blogging community. After my posting, I had several responses from people who read my post and not only appreciated me sharing, but helped me to feel like it was a place of meditation and importance that was creative. They, along with my therapist, helped me to see just how much creativity it takes to go into such a world in my mind, and that it was something that I should embrace and of which I should be proud as well.

I now realize, loud and clear, that being able to escape into my fantasy world is a gift that God has given me. He knew I would need some way to survive through some of the most tormented times of my life. And, having that place allows me to escape from a world that does not understand me. No matter how much my loved ones may try (for which I appreciate and love them dearly, and hope they never leave me), they just can’t understand what I feel inside. What those thoughts are that drill into my skull and cause pain that makes me want to use a sledgehammer to shatter my dysfunctional brain. The pain it feels to be high on top of the world. To feel happy, carefree, and enjoying life like I have the right. But then, suddenly crash to the bottom and wind up curled up on the couch in tears and exhaustion, and many times not even know what triggers it. It’s not fair, but mental illness isn’t fair. It sucks beyond all meaning of the word ‘suck’.

Why I Wrote This Post

As I stated in the beginning of this post, I wanted to write a follow up to my previous post back in April on this subject. The reason for this is due to all of the recent feedback I’ve had on it. I feel that lately, people have been suddenly hitting on the post again and a few have commented recently, and that tells me that people are searching for the topic. These people want answers to what I also so long wanted answers. I couldn’t find many responses or articles on this topic back when I used to search for it, and so it makes me feel good that my post can help others to not feel so alone. I felt alone when I couldn’t find any, and that just made me feel – even more so – that I was losing touch with reality.

One person, in a recent comment, talked about his/her own experience with their fantasy world, and then followed that up with, “Am I crazy?” I assured them that they are not, and thankfully, due to the loving support and advice that I have received from many of you and my therapist, I was able to say that with confidence.

I find it quite telling that such a post has been hit on so much recently. I think more people out there have these worlds, and want an answer to that same question… “Am I crazy?” I know I always wanted that same answer. I want each and every one of those people out there who are searching for answers on this subject to realize that there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a fantasy world. Take it from someone who has one and has been in that boat of worrying about my sanity due to it… there isn’t anything wrong with it. I love that I can finally say that. It’s OK. It’s our normal. It may not be the normal for most people in this world, but it is for many more than who come forward. And, that’s ok. No one has to reveal this place of private pleasure to anyone. It’s your world and no one else’s. If you choose to share about it, then great! If not, then great too! It’s great, because that is your choice, and you need to do what is best for yourself.

It’s important for me to emphasize that just because you may have a fantasy world, that doesn’t mean you have a mental illness. Such worlds can be a place for all people, no matter what is the source of his or her stress, pain, and need for a refuge. My therapist told me that. So, please don’t think that just because you have a special fantasy world that you go to, that it means you are suffering from bipolar like myself, or any other mental illness. It can just mean that you have a wonderful imagination of which you should be proud. And, hey, if you do happen to have a mental illness too… well, that’s OK too. You are not alone. We are all in this together. Mental illness or not, you are not alone.

Tap Into Your Imagination’s Energy

One of my favorite artists, Greg Olsen, and his perfect illustration of imagination.

One of my favorite artists and writers, Greg Olsen, and his perfect illustration of imagination.

Fantasy worlds can be a place for great material for books too. Think about it… our imaginations are taking us to places of happiness and enjoyment. Or, maybe for some, it takes them to places of darkness and scary scenarios, but if that’s what provides them with some sort of response that they desire, then that’s a place which is welcomed. It can be a place where one gathers up all of his or her creative thoughts and turns it into material for art, writing, music, or even interpretive dance. Basically, wherever your heart and mind can take you. So many places can be reached in reality with the content that comes out of our imaginative minds during these periods of fantasy. When you come out of those places, write it down. Have a notebook or journal nearby, and just jot down different parts if you can. And, who knows, someday you may come up with your own way of expressing it all to the world to share with others. Suddenly, the world can go into your world and experience the same joy, fear, or wherever you want to take them.

My therapist told me that another way to view it all, along with my dark thoughts that stem from my obsessive-compulsive disorder, is that Mary Shelly, Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe, and many others, all had to get their ideas from somewhere. Sure, the culture around them can inspire them, but without their own dark thoughts and imaginations of their own, they wouldn’t have been able to sculpt those inspirations into the works of Frankenstein, The Shining, and The Tell-Tale Heart. Those works have entertained generations, and in some cases for over one hundred years. That says a lot. I can now understand what my therapist meant by, ‘embrace it’.

Those of use who can relate to having a fantasy world have so much in common. We have a shared experience that not all can say they have. So, be proud of your fantasy worlds, no matter what they may be. Take them for what they are and enjoy every minute of your experiences, because it truly is a special place to have the ability to visit. And, even better than that… you own it! It’s your world! Your mind created it, no one else! You took inspirations from around you and created a world of your own. How freakin’ awesomely amazing is that!?!? EMBRACE IT!

In closing, I would just like to add that to those who do not go to these places of wonder and enjoyment, please do not look down upon those of us who do. For we may just be the people that provide the entertainment that you may one day add to your list of all-time favorites.

 

A song about loving imagination, by one of my favorite musicians, Adam Young (Owl City). Please give it a listen… it’s a beautiful song.

 

 

Give Yourself Credit

Did you know the people that are the strongest are usually the most sensitive? Did you know the people who exhibit the most kindness are the first to get mistreated? Did you know the one who takes care of others all the time are usually the ones who need it the most? Did you know the 3 hardest things to say are I love you, I’m sorry, and Help me. Sometimes just because a person looks happy, you have to look past their smile and see how much pain they may be in. To all my friends who are going through some issues right now–Let’s start an intention avalanche. We all need positive intentions right now. If I don’t see your name, I’ll understand. May I ask my friends wherever you might be, to kindly copy and paste this status for one hour to give a moment of support to all those who have family problems, health struggles, job issues, worries of any kind and just need to know that someone cares. Do it for all of us, for nobody is immune. I hope to see this on the walls of all my friends just for moral support. I know some will!! I did it for a friend and you can too. You have to copy & paste this one, no share button, because kindness is a effort given from the ♥ not the press of a button…

~Author Unknown

 

Occasionally, a post will appear in my Facebook news feed that really captures my attention. I pay attention to all of the posts that I see in my feed, but some really stand out. The above quote is one that recently did just that. A cousin of mine posted it on her timeline and when I read it, I felt it was one of those “wow” moments. I wish I knew who is the original author of the post, but unfortunately I do not have that information. As I read it, I felt like it was talking about me. Sure, lots of inspirational quotes and others can make us feel that way, as that’s the point of them. However, this one hit me on a more personal level.

As I’ve discussed before, I am not a thick-skinned person. I’m often reminded that I’m overly sensitive, thin-skinned and definitely not “tough as nails”. I get my feelings hurt easily (which a lot has to do with past experiences and just overall low self-esteem). Although, as I’m reminded of these personality traits of mine, I’m also consistently told by people who know me that I need to become tougher. I need to basically suck things up and get over them. As if it was that simple. That’s great that some people can do that in their lives. I commend them and wish dearly that I could do just that. But, I cannot. It’s not me, and I would hope others would understand that having such expectations about me and others, is never going to help change that. I am what I am.

So, as I read the above Facebook post, I felt as if it was speaking directly to me, and I realized that I needed to share this with more than just the people on my friend’s list. I reposted it on my timeline, but wanted to share it with more people. As I said, I wish I could give credit to the person who wrote this, but it was nowhere in the post. However, whoever did write it deserves a great deal of respect and I thank him or her.

One of the lines that made me feel that I should share it on my blog was the part that talks about “just because a person looks happy, you have to look past their smile and see how much pain they may be in.” This reminds me of mental illness so much. Of course it’s not just directed at mental illness, but rather all difficulties in life. However, it definitely fits one of the common areas of mental illness… façades.

I think many of us with mental illness put on those façades for people we know because we don’t want them to feel stressed. We don’t want them to see us as whiney or complaining, or just downright unbearable. We also don’t want to have the response of “get over it” being laid upon us. It’s just easier to hide it all sometimes, than to let others see what we are really feeling.

I have often discussed about the fact that I have worn a façade for years, trying to hide what I felt and dealt with from everyone I knew. It started to become noticeable to others, but they still didn’t realize just what was going on ‘cause I would wear a smile. I didn’t share my life with them. I didn’t want anyone to see me as anything other than happy, optimistic Summer. I mean who would want to lose such a great image of oneself to others? I loved being able to be this person with whom my friends and family loved to hang out. I loved being that person with a smile, not a frown. And the times I wouldn’t be able to hide what was going on inside, I’d be told just to cheer up. “Smile, Summer.” “Hey, Pickle face”. Such phrases that probably meant very little to the persons speaking them, but in fact they meant a lot to me. They told me that I couldn’t show my true self.

I still hang onto that façade as I continue to have difficulty with people seeing when I’m struggling. I don’t want to burden them any more than I know I already do. My blog, however, has been a way for me to express myself and let out who I am and what I feel, without placing that bag of trash all over my friends and family. Does it still show through to them at times? Yes, and I hate that a great deal. But, at least this has been a place for me to release some of it out into cyberspace, as opposed to in the direction of my loved ones.

I like what the Facebook quote states, because it tries to teach others to think with their hearts, rather than just knee-jerk reactions. It tries to show people that just because someone seems weak in your view that they can in reality be stronger than yourself. It also tries to remind those of us who deal with these same personality traits, that it’s ok to have them. Just because others have an easier time dealing with life experiences, doesn’t mean that we are feeble for not being able to do the same. I think people with mental illnesses need to be reminded of this. We need to be able to respect ourselves better, and also respect the struggles with which we deal on a daily basis. Just as everyone else in this world deserves the right to pride themselves on how they handle their personal struggles, so do we who suffer from mental illness. Some may see us as overly sensitive due to how we react to various life experiences, but in reality we are just more in touch with emotions than others. The fact that we deal with intense experiences within our own minds makes us more in touch of what those emotions feel like. They make us better understand that when others are hurting, we don’t know what they are feeling, but we can offer support based off of what we know we’ve felt. We can pass along compassion that so often is not distributed among the mental health community.

I’ve read on many websites online, how people who live or know those with bipolar think we are selfish, overly sensitive, dramatic, and bringers of nothing but trouble. Well, I admit that living with myself isn’t the easiest thing. But, I beg to differ that I’m any more selfish than those people who don’t understand what I go through, yet expect me to conform to their “perfect” way of living. I am Summer. I am not you. I can only live my life the best way “I” know how and someone else telling me to change my ways so that they can feel more comfortable – because let’s face it, that’s all it ever really is about – makes me feel about as big as an ant’s foot.

So, I ask that all of you read the above Facebook post and think about it. Just sit where you are for a moment and think about how strong you are. Think about all of the work that goes into dealing with your struggles, and be proud that you fight as hard as you know how. Some days, that hard work might be forcing yourself to get up and brush your teeth, but that’s still a great achievement. It’s awesome because depression hurts…. not just emotionally and mentally, but also physically. To manage and do that when it hurts so much deserves credit. No matter what the struggle of your particular mental illness, try to give yourself credit where credit is due.

The Facebook post is one that is meant to make people think, and it did that for me. It made me look at my own situation and realize how just because I’m struggling and just because my personality is one of “weakness” in some eyes, that it doesn’t mean I have to accept that. I’ll never be able to control what others think of me. It’s a hard thing to accept and I’m still working hard on getting there. What people say or think of me affects me greatly and it can hurt like a mother… But, this at least gives me a little more fuel in my arsenal of tools that I need to finally get past that.

I find it interesting. Mental illness is a way of distinguishing how our brains work. Really that’s all it is. It’s a term that is used to state that our brains aren’t working the way that they should. However, the above Facebook post is one to which all people can relate. My cousin who posted this on Facebook does not have a mental illness, yet she relates and grasps what its message says. I said in my last post that having a “mental illness does not equate to an alien race that doesn’t belong on this planet.” I repeat it here again, because we are no different than those without mental illness when it comes to being deserving of both respect and dignity. I can respect peoples’ struggles, and I only ask for the same in return. Please don’t expect me to change to fit your mold, when I don’t expect you to change to fit mine.

So, if you’re smiling when it really hurts inside, then give yourself credit for having that strength. But, when you have to drop that smile and give into the cry, then give yourself credit for having the courage.

 

Dreams Gone By – Regret #1

Life is one heck of a roller coaster. I’m not referring to the bipolar roller coaster either, but rather the roller coaster of life. That “topsy-turvy, make you want to hurl at times” track that every human being rides from birth to death. Yeah, I know… after that, I doubt God would ever hire me for Heaven’s marketing team for advertisement on life, but I’m sure He understands from where my thoughts are coming. After all, He made us humans, and He gave us the ability to feel and think how we do, even when that deals with regrets.

Regrets. We all have them, men, women, and even children (although, depending on age, they may not always realize that’s what they’re feeling). So, this post is finally the beginning of a project that I wanted to start about two months ago. The project is one regarding regret, and getting rid of those unwanted pains that have stricken me long enough throughout my life. Is that going to be easy? Heck no! Is that going to be possible? I’ll just leave that at a, “Maybe”. My goal in this project isn’t to forget about my regrets. I don’t think that’s even possible without slamming my head into a brick wall enough times. But, at least I can “try” (hey, my favorite word) to do my best coming to terms with them, and in doing so, moving past them.

So, for my first regret, I’m going to start with one that causes me much disappointment. It’s my regret of a dream gone by. A dream that I did not follow through long enough to realize if it was something that I should really do with my life. It’s my regret of not becoming a registered nurse, or at least trying harder to do so.

I guess I should give a little professional background before continuing. Only a handful of people I know are actually aware of this little fact that I’m about to talk about. And, three of those people read this blog. So, here I go spreading the word to everyone else. In the 11th grade, I began to have a serious desire to go for a career in law enforcement (yeah, don’t worry, this leads to the nursing dream). I come from a family with a few law enforcement individuals, and growing up around that knowledge always made me think that it was a possibility for me to enter the same field. However, as a child I wanted to be everything in the world. I was never set on just one profession. As many kids, I wanted to be every profession with which my mind was inundated. By the time I was sixteen years old, though, I was feeling the law enforcement bug a lot more strongly than ever before. So, when I graduated from high school, I knew that if I really wanted to become a police officer, then I’d better lose weight. At the time I was 100 pounds overweight and I knew that if I didn’t lose that weight, then I’d never have a chance to be a cop. So, I went to college and while there, I started losing weight. I was exercising, eating healthy and feeling great physically. And, by the time I was eligible to apply, I had lost 104 pounds, and was fit and thin. Of course, as previous posts of mine have shown, that weight loss did not stick. But, at that point in my life, I was thin.

I made it! I had reached the goal that I had set out for myself, and followed up that drop in weight with an early departure (I hadn’t finished) from college, while I tried to continue toward the goal of wearing a badge, and basically continue to find myself. See, I knew that I wanted to be a police officer, but there was still doubt inside of whether or not I’d make it. And, as I worked up the courage to try, I worked hard at my job, while I tried to weigh all of my options. It was during this time too that I had been dealing with the early stages of what I now know to be my bipolar. However, at the time, there was a part of me that thought, “Hey, if I become a cop, then I’ll be happy, ‘cause it’s what I want to do with my life.” I was looking for happiness in something that I now know would not have given it to me, at least not to the degree that I wanted.

Well, the time came that I felt I was ready, and I sent in that application. A month later, I received my letter of approval for taking the written and physical exams an hour away, over in the next county (where my city held its exams). So, I bought the book to help me prepare for the written exam and I continued to work out like crazy to prepare for the physical fitness test. So, how did it all turn out? Well, considering what you all know about me from my blog, I’m sure you can figure out that answer.

I passed the 3-hour written exam with flying colors, but the physical fitness test… well, let’s just say some pretty dazed-induced colors passed by my whirling head, before they filled up the huge lumps on both my head and knee from a failed jump over the wall. Yep, I missed. I thought I was ready, but alas, my upper body strength was not as built up as my lower body, so I was able to get up on the wall, but just not over it. What did I look like, you may ask? Picture someone with both arms stretched out and hanging onto the top of the wall for dear life, while her feet are firmly planted on the side of the wall. Now, imagine in your head that person saying, “Oh crap! How do I get out of this position?” Imagine all of that and you got me, trying climb that stupid six foot wall. Oh yeah! I forgot to mention that, didn’t I? I couldn’t climb over a SIX FOOT WALL! If there ever were a zombie apocalypse, I’d be the straggler, hanging onto the wall as bait while my fellow survivors jumped over.

Thankfully, the guys I was taking the test with (all but myself and one other girl were guys) were extremely supportive. The first time, when I ran up to the wall, my foot slipped off the side of the wall, forcing both that leg’s knee and my head into it (leading to the colorful lumps). It was then, though, that the guys were yelling, “Come on girl! Shake it off! Shake it off! You can do it!” So, that snapped me out of the stunned pain I was in, and I turned around for my second (and last allowed) try. It was that final try where I just hung there on the wall. I really think I should have gotten some points for some kind of Spiderman skills and stamina. Unfortunately, however, this is real life and in real life, you often don’t get points for effort. So, I walked away from that experience a failure (at least in my eyes). I was immediately disqualified, as part of the rules stated that if you miss any of the individual physical tests, then you’re immediately gone, until another year when you may try again.

As I walked away with both swelling in my knee and head starting to form, I was strong and thanked the police officers and trainers for their time and opportunity. I then walked off alone and cried once I was out of sight. After working so hard to lose weight and get into shape and study for the written exam, I failed because I literally hit a wall. Believe me, the cruel humor of that is not lost on me.

I was crushed, and I felt even more lost than I was prior to making the decision of going for the academy exams. Now, with the bipolar, I know that I most likely wouldn’t have made it past the psychological exam anyway. But, back then, I didn’t know anything about what was going on in my head and failing that test hurt… badly. So, I headed back to work the next day without the opportunity to tell my boss and co-workers that I had succeeded. Instead, I headed in there as if the previous day was just as ordinary as the last. A couple of months later, I received a call from the Lieutenant for my city’s Police Department, offering me a rare second chance to take the physical exam again. He said my written exam scores were high and that he felt I had it in me to pass the physical exam, if I just built up my upper body strength a bit more. He remembered my fantastic ability to plant my head so firmly into a wooden wall, and said that he could see that I was strong, just not strong enough at that point. I flipped out (once I was off the phone with him), and was so happy that I was being given this wonderful opportunity. I was excited. However, that excitement was short-lived. A couple of months later, as I was still prepping my body for the test, one of my police officer family members was seriously injured in an accident while on patrol one night. It was an extremely serious set of injuries, and it was a frightening time in our family’s past.

After a long recovery, he made it through, and is now ok. Thank God! That experience, however, made me start to re-evaluate my goals in life. At that time, I obviously knew that dangers come with being a police officer, but there was something about a car accident while on patrol that never occurred to me before. I had thought getting shot or stabbed would be a rare encounter if ever while being a police officer. But, a car accident… that was something so much closer to home. It was something that would be much more likely considering my role as an officer. I did a whole lot of soul searching after all of this, and decided that the best thing would be to leave that dream behind. I no longer wanted it. I was hit in the face by a fact about that career that I had never considered before. I realized right then and there, that it was a dream that I may have once ached for, but no longer did. It was something in my past.

Therefore, to this day, I do not regret it. I followed through with that dream as far as I could, before realizing it wasn’t for me. I realized that it wasn’t the place in the professional world where I was meant to be. And, I’m now content with that. I do not regret being just an ordinary citizen without a badge. I don’t regret it because I followed through with it. Unfortunately, though, I cannot say the same thing for nursing.

Nursing was something that was on my mind off and on throughout these same years. It was always in the back of my mind, and then would often move to the forefront before moving backward again. Throughout the beginning of my college career, I took prerequisites for the program, and was working toward that goal, while also working on getting my body to a point of law enforcement eligibility. And, after deciding that being a cop was no longer for me, I quit my job months later, and went back to school full-time for nursing. I took almost all of my prerequisites, before the doubt began to set in. Once I reached the point of the anatomy and physiology courses, I started doubting my ability to be a nurse. I used the excuse that I didn’t think I could handle the blood and guts, but that wasn’t true. I was merely using that as an excuse for those I knew, so that they wouldn’t see me as the lame loser that I knew I was. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. Why was I suddenly losing the motivation? Why was I feeling so low, again? It was that depression creeping up on me again, and I could feel it. So, I lied and said I couldn’t handle the blood and guts. What was the real reason for my not following through with my dream, aside from the creeping depression? Fear. I was afraid. I was so scared of failing as both a nursing student, and even worse… as a nurse. I also worried that in doing so, that I’d hit a whole knew realm of defeat in my already confused life. So, I stopped. Just like that, I stopped going to classes one day, and that was it. I was stuck in limbo for the next months. During this time, I spiraled into a deeper depression, due to feeling so lost and out of place in life. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was without a job, without school, and even worse… without a plan. I had no goal left for my life. All that I could focus on was what I was going to do with this pitiful life.

But, then, the conversation happened. One day, I was at one of my aunt and uncle’s houses. My uncle (a law enforcement officer) was the only one home and we were just hanging out and having a great conversation about all sorts of subjects and issues. Eventually, the conversation worked its way into my future plans. I told him I didn’t know what to do at that point. I was at a loss. He had recently seen a video I had created, though, and he told me that he felt I should go back to school for arts and design. He told me I had a talent that needed to be explored and developed, and it was important for me to do so. I have great respect for this man, and so hearing those words from him did something to me. I guess you could say that they lit a fire under me and made me really start wondering if he was right. So, over the next couple of months I kept thinking about what he said and how he said it. So, as I fought against my depression, I also juggled the words and advice that my uncle had given to me… words that meant much more than I think he realized that day. See, that’s the important part. What he said was so nice to hear. However, it wasn’t just what he said, but rather how he said it that made the difference. He wasn’t lying to me. He wasn’t patronizing me. He wasn’t just giving me some pep talk filled with bulls**t. He was speaking from his heart, and I could see that. He’s one of those reputable people in my life whom I respect and admire. It was the tone he used that day… the words he used, and the fact that he looked directly at me, staring me down with the encouragement he was setting forth. He really meant what he said.

So, by the next semester, I was back in school and on my way to my bachelor’s degree in Media Arts and Design, which I earned in 2007. I made it a point at my graduation party to pull my uncle aside and give him a private, yet strongly appreciative thanks for what he did. He gave me the encouragement that I needed, during a time when the still-unknown bipolar was starting to push me further into emotional unsteadiness, leading me into deeper doubt about my own capabilities.

Am I happy that I graduated with my bachelor’s in that field? Yes! I am extremely happy and grateful for all who helped, supported, taught, and endured me throughout those years of both academic exhaustion, and emotional turbulence. I’m not sure how I managed to make it through school and actually graduate, but I did. Through all of the turmoil that bipolar was starting to throw at me, I still managed to bypass it for that time being and pull forward. And, I’m satisfied with that achievement in my life. I’m not sad about it. I’m not regretful about it. I accomplished something that had always been a goal of mine… to receive my college degree. So, if I am happy with reaching that educational goal, why on earth would I be regretful about not attending nursing school?

Well, the disappointment in my not following through with nursing school didn’t begin to show its face until after I was diagnosed with bipolar in 2009. It was then that I began to feel that I may have missed my calling. I feel that with everything I have dealt with – and continue to deal with – in my life, that I could have been a better nurse than I had ever realized. I was so afraid of failing at such an important role in the medical field, that I let that keep me from moving closer to that goal. I never stopped to think what qualities I had that could have been useful in that very field. Then, again, maybe I just couldn’t see those qualities back then. After all, I hadn’t been diagnosed as having a mental illness yet.

Let me explain what I mean by that. Bipolar is a curse, but, strangely, it can also be an odd blessing. I’m not sure how many sufferers from the illness would concur with me on that, but here’s my reasoning. I’m in touch with emotions on a different level than people who are not bipolar. I’m not saying that people without the illness aren’t in touch with their emotions. I’m absolutely not saying that. Rather, what I’m saying is that through my highs and lows, I have not only experienced a range of emotions, but I’ve also had to face them head on… often on my own, but also through therapy. I’ve been from points of suicidal ideation, to points of feeling like sleep was a mere hindrance to a better and more productive life of creativity and fantasy. Due to this extreme range of emotional experience, I often wonder if maybe I could have been a good nurse. Of course, I would have had to be stable to do so, but in that stabilized state, what if I could have been there for patients in a way that not all people can understand? What if I could have been that person who understands them in a way that most people don’t? To be a good nurse, you definitely don’t need to be bipolar, but you do need to be in touch with what others are feeling. I have such deep respect for nurses, and know a few in my family whom I admire.

I don’t know if I would have made a good nurse. I don’t even know if I would have been able to handle the stress of it. I would hope that I could have been the kind of person that could calm the fears of a patient and comfort them in times of pain and trauma. I would hope that I could have been there with the family of a loved one for whom they are worried and distraught. I would hope that I could have been a hand to place on their shoulder, or the arms to place around them in a hug of support. But, that is something I will just have to dream about. This is one regret that I have which I am currently trying to just move beyond. I went to school, got my bachelor’s, and spent a lot of money doing so. Going to school for nursing now… well, that’s something that for a time I thought could still happen, but that dream has been fading.

I guess I just need to continue to wait for what God really has in store for me. I’m trying to figure it out. I want to know what He wants for me. I want to know what I’m supposed to do with all of this craziness that is my life. I want to know why I can’t live my life without putting my family and friends through my crap. I often ask myself the question, “Of all the people I could have been in this life, why did I have to be me?” However, then I ask another question. Who would I want to be if I wasn’t me?

As Leona Lewis says in one of my favorite songs (and puts it best), “I just want to be happy.” But, I don’t know what would truly make me happy anymore. All I know is that I want it. I want to be happy… really, truly, happy, for more than just a day or two before something sets me off and I become an unpleasant annoyance for those around me.

Yeah, I guess that’s it. I just want to be happy.

 

 

The Place I’ve Reached

****Trigger Warning: This post may contain triggers for those who read. Please proceed with caution.

My therapist has been on vacation for a few days now (she left on Wednesday), and will continue to be until the middle of September. It’s starting to really hit me now that I’m alone until then. I know technically I’m not alone, but I feel alone. Whenever my therapist goes on vacation, I know that the one person with whom I can talk without reservation is gone.

So, I’m just counting down the days until I get to see her again. It didn’t hit me when I saw her last week. We had been preparing for her departure for the last few weeks, and she’s been helping me to get ready for not having that connection. But, it wasn’t until last night when it started to truly hit me. Usually, every Friday I think about how it’s only a short time before I get to see her again the following week. I look forward to it, especially when things aren’t going well. However, last night, when the thought began to enter my mind, I was reminded that I would not be seeing her. I would not be seeing her for another two weeks.

I know to the average person that probably sounds like not such a big deal. I mean two weeks… that’s not long. That’s true. It’s not a long time when what you’re waiting for is just an average event or experience to come your way. But, two weeks is a long time being without the one person whom you feel most comfortable telling your most inner darkest feelings, without being afraid of pushing that listener away.

Blogging often brings about that fear for me. I worry that I may push those I know away with what I write. Everyone has his or her own problems. I fully understand that, and I worry that sometimes people I know may get sick of reading what I have to say. I’ve only told a handful of loved ones about my blog, and I love and trust each and every one of them. But, that doesn’t take away that fear that maybe they will one day just say, “I’ve had enough of this whiner… this annoyance.”

Maybe, I’m just in more of a self-pity place right now. I’ve been trying to keep myself up for the last month. I’ve been trying to be active in Facebook as it’s the only connection that I have with the outside world, of course in addition to this awesome blogosphere. As frustrating as Facebook can be at times, it’s also the one place where I can feel that I’m connected with loved ones. But, as I’ve mentioned before, Facebook can bring about some of the most anxiety-inducing and disheartening situations. I realize that I’m oversensitive, and I’ve discussed this in previous posts. I’m trying hard to work through that in the Facebook world, though. I know I will not change how I am, but my hope is to just learn how to better adapt in such environments. But, boy is it hard.

I noticed the other day, after my last post, that I only made three posts in the entire month of August. I wasn’t feeling much in the writing mood last month, but didn’t realize just how much of a stump I was in. I apologize for not being as present in my blog as of late. I have been trying to keep up with my reading of blogs too, but it’s been hard. I feel so far behind. I don’t even know why this is happening. In the beginning of the summer, I was in a low and was working hard to come out of it. But, as August approached, I seemed to have gone back down again. Yet, I’m not depressed right now. The strange thing is that I’m finding myself feeling fatigued and emotional at times, but then I come right back up and feel ok again. Again, it’s not depression that I’m feeling, though. It’s something else. I can’t help but think it has to do with my therapist. August has never been my favorite month, as I discussed in my post I Never Liked August. However, I think my therapist going on vacation is what has made me go down. It’s been on my mind all month, as I’ve dreaded this time away from her.

I know I have anxiety due to it, and my Tourette’s has flared up too. It always flares up during times of immense stress and anxiety. In the past, it flares up each time she has gone away for long periods of times. Now, as and adult, my Tourette’s is mild and not as bad as it was when I was a kid, but it’s still there. I hope it eases soon, because the facial tics are hard to deal with. The facials are worse than the vocal tics, as they cause me to be unable to breathe sometimes, until I can get the tic finished. The sensations are in my nose and throat, so those aren’t the best places.

So, as the summer comes to a close, and the fall is just around the corner, I am trying to bring myself to a place of stability that makes me feel good. I’m worried, as Christmas gets closer, as I have tended to fall into a seasonal depression the last five years now. But, I’m hoping this year will be different.

I have come a long way since my diagnosis in 2009. I have been thinking about that a lot lately. Sometimes, I wonder if maybe I don’t need my meds anymore. Maybe I just think I do, and if I stop them, then I will be able to handle everything. I will wonder if maybe the doctors have it all wrong. I’ve read that it’s common to feel that way… often questioning your diagnosis. But, I still can’t help but wonder if maybe I could stop all of the meds and I’ll be fine. However, then I remember those days.

I remember the days when I’d be in a state of utter despair and feeling as if I didn’t have anything for which to live anymore. I remember those days of standing in the kitchen and screaming at my mom in pain. I was hurting inside, and couldn’t put it into words. All that I could say to her was that it hurt and that something was wrong in my head. I screamed at her, “There’s something wrong!” I’d proceed to bang my head on the wall and punch it with my fists. It was as if I had hoped that whatever it was would come out. The pain felt good too, ‘cause I knew that I was causing it. I had a source for it, whereas the other pain didn’t have a source. It was this mysterious torturer that was attacking my soul.

I remember the day I walked around the house looking for a place that would support my weight to hang myself. I just wanted it all to be over, and my prayers to God to take me weren’t doing anything. I couldn’t bring myself to do it, though. I didn’t want to do that to my parents. I knew they’d be the ones to find me. I couldn’t put them through that. In addition, my faith teaches me that it’s a sin to commit suicide. I’ve done a lot of research about that, actually. I’ve wanted to know if it really is a sin. I still have yet to find a definitive answer. I’ve found opinions, but nothing more. So, I would just go back to praying and hoping that God would finally take me home.

To be clear, I’m not in that place right now. I haven’t been that low in a long time. But, I remember it clearly, when I allow myself to reflect back to that time. In doing so, I also allow myself to realize that I truly have come a long way. To not be in that place anymore feels wonderful. I’ve reached pretty low places in regard to depression episodes since, but never that low. The meds are helping, and I am grateful for that.

It is, then, that I remember… when I know that I must not stop my meds. I must not stop doing what I’m doing; otherwise I will slip back down into that place, and may not come out of it next time. Then, there is the opposite end of the spectrum. I’m often tempted to stop my meds to feel that hypomanic euphoria. I want to feel that. It’s such a great emotional high, and I get so much done during that time. Sleep becomes completely unnecessary and I love that ‘cause I don’t like to force myself to sleep every night. But, I know it’s not a good place to be either. It may not always be as bad as the depression in terms of mood (although, it can be in its own way), but it is in terms of safety and health. I try hard to remind myself that I need these meds to remain balanced. I hope that I never lose that focus.

I always say that my denial is gone. I’m starting to think, though, that maybe our denial never goes away. Maybe, it’s just always about trying to fight that temptation to ignore what our treatment has done for us. Some people are better at that battle than others, but I think I’m someone who still needs to work on my fighting skills. The temptation comes at me way too often, and it comes on strong. It’s a fight between the parts of my brain saying, “Stay on those meds… don’t forget where you used to be.” And, “Screw it all! You don’t need any of that.”

I look at this point that I’ve reached in my life, and I think I need to be proud of myself. It’s so easy for me to say that I haven’t accomplished anything these past years. My life isn’t where I want it to be – or where it should be, for that matter – and it’s so easy for me to put myself down, and say that I’m a loser. In the Facebook world of comparing oneself to others, those thoughts come a lot more easily. But, I think I need to realize where I’ve come. I may not have accomplished the average achievements that society deems ‘normal’. But, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t accomplished other goals. I have come a long way since 2009, and well before that, and I need to appreciate that. So much easier said than done, but I can at least try.

I know that I have many more struggles ahead of me with this illness, and that I will always have to be on guard not to fall back into that hellish abyss from years ago. But, I also know that I also have some struggles in my past through which I have made it. I just need to keep reminding myself of one fact. Through hard work, the place I’m in now is better than where I used to be.

I think that’s one heck of an accomplishment.

The following is one of my favorite songs. I think it should be the unofficial song of those of us who suffer from mental illness. We’re not freaks. We’re not crazy. We have something unique to offer the world. Everyone, we are strong, and we have wonderful voices.

 

My Musical Foe

Look at him.

He’s just standing there. Watching me. Mocking me.

He tempts me to give into the urge of taking his body into my arms, and gently gliding my fingers down his neck.

He laughs in silent persuasion, getting into my head and making me feel his sensation of melodic hypnosis.

What can I do? The temptation is too much. I must give in. I have to go forward and embrace the yearning… the craving that has overcome me.

Should I do it? Should I allow myself this pleasure?

I guess I have nothing to lose.

So, yeah, I’ve decided to learn how to play the guitar. Ever since childhood I’ve wanted to learn how to play a musical instrument. Within the last decade, I have tried to learn the piano and the acoustic guitar, but I never stuck with them for more than about a month or so. I ended up selling both instruments, once I thought that I was going to leave that dream behind. Well, I’ve decided that it’s time to try again, but this time stick with it and give it a real go. I’m going to be teaching myself, so we’ll see how well it goes.

I’ve purchased a very inexpensive, but well-reviewed, electric guitar. I don’t want to spend a lot of money on something that might just turn into my last two attempts at joining in on the world’s musical culture. I have decided on an electric guitar for practical reasons. I don’t want to disturb the rest of the household when I want to play at night, so with the amp that I have purchased (another inexpensive one), I will be able to plug in some headphones to keep my playing almost silent (unless you’re siting in the same room, you won’t hear it) to everyone else.

I’ve setup some goals for learning an instrument this time around. Hopefully, they will keep me grounded enough to not allow the guitar to gather dust.

  • Learn how to properly pick the strings. This was a problem the last time around, as I had feared that I’d snap them in half. I never applied the right amount of pressure.
  • Next, I will start to learn to read music. I learned to do so back in my fifth grade’s music appreciation class, but that was a long time ago. So, it’s time for me to refresh this chaotic brain of mine and see if I can regain my grasp on the ability.
  • I will follow up my learning of music by applying what I’ve learned. I plan on practicing with the guitar while learning the music too, but I don’t want to get all “Speedy Gonzalez” on myself and try to go too fast. That’s how I’ll probably burn myself out before even having a chance to enjoy the fire.
  • Practice! Practice! Practice!
  • Finally, I will end this journey with an outdoor musical rendition of Animal House’s “Shout”, and bring the city down to its feet with my musical genius. People will gather ‘round me in cheers and shake the rockin’ van that I’m standing on, chanting, “Summer! Summer! Summer!” Then, as I’m hauled off to jail for disturbing the peace, I’ll flash a wink at my newly found fans, in confirmation that I’ll be back and even better in the future. My fellow inmates will admire my fortitude, and I will rally them together in a rousing rendition of Elvis’ “Jailhouse Rock”. And, I’ll go down in history as the one person to bring together so many people in unity for a better tomorrow.

Yes! That is what will happen!

Well, maybe after I’ve terrified all of the birds and dogs away from my neighborhood with my musical sounds that will mimic fighting, screeching, and poo-flinging monkeys.

In all seriousness, I know that I’ll be probably practicing for the rest of my life, as I doubt I will ever become great. But, that’s ok. I don’t mind that because my goal isn’t to be awesome, it’s just to learn.

I do have one last goal in mind for my musical journey though, and that is to write original music. I’ve loved to write since childhood, and I would often compose music lyrics that only my family ever heard. I’ve come across some audio recordings recently that have me singing as a young child. These were songs that I wrote with the innocent mind of a child, and with a desire for my voice to be heard. Unfortunately, I only had the tunes in my head, as I couldn’t write them down. I had only learned the basics of reading music back then, and writing music was foreign to me. I would like to someday be able to understand music notes enough – and be able to actually play them decently – so that I can write music lyrics again, but with actual notes and chords to go with them.

So, I shall begin this musical journey with this post. Along with my all-time favorite song, “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon”. I’ve loved this song since I was a toddler, as I always wanted to have the moon all to myself back then. I never slept right as a child and spent many nights filled with unending energy, while my mom tried not to pass out from exhaustion in the middle of the night. While awake throughout those toddler years, and as fired up as could be, I would just stare up at that huge glowing beauty and wanted it so badly. My mom gave me the moon when I was little, and this song has always touched my heart. It’s still my favorite and it always will be. I must learn how to play it.