Mystical Forest

 

*** This post may contain triggers for others. Please continue with caution. ***

Can you see it? It’s over there, beyond the lake where the sky’s reflection glistens in the sun. It’s so magnificent, don’t you think? Look at those trees. They seem to reach endless heights, as if there is no end in sight of their existence. So many for as far as our eyes can see. I want to see more, do you? Let’s walk over to the dock and get on the rowboat.

Ah, that sound. Swishing of water back and forth, as each stroke of the oars caresses the calmness of the water. I wonder what the fish down below think. “New arrivals, everyone! We’ve got new arrivals to the mystical forest ahead.” That’s it! That’s what they’re saying. They’re happy and welcoming. They are glad to see us magically floating above their heads toward the beauty that lies before us.

Wow! Look at glow! It’s magnificent. Do you see how it shines through the leaves of the trees and bounces off of the ground?

Ohhh!!! Look at that! Did you see it? It was a silhouette of birds swimming through the flowing glow. I bet they are a family. What do you think? A family of birds heading to a place of enjoyment… that’s what I think. It was a momma and papa taking their kids to their favorite eating spot, and a night out at the local forest animal theater. Yeah, that’s what I think.

We’re almost there… you excited? I know I am. I can feel it. I feel the peace coming over me. The stresses from behind us are going away. Oh, what a wonderful feeling. The heaviness in my head is lifting too. It’s going away. That monster is going away. I can’t wait to get there. I wish my arms could move these oars faster.

Listen. Is… is that what I think it is? You hear it too, right? It’s… yes. It’s singing. Wow. It is indeed singing, but unlike any I have ever heard before in my life. How is that possible? The words are flowing through me. I feel them circulating in and out of every pore of my body. It’s as if they are embracing my heart with each lyrical gust.

I’m being hugged. Yes! That is it. I’m being hugged. Who is hugging me, though? I don’t see anyone. Could it really be? Oh my gosh… it is! It’s Him! I’m here. He’s the one hugging me. I’ve made it. This is the place. This is the place for which every bone in my body has ached for so long.

Are you ready? This is it! We’re going to be in that mystical forest of love and hope. It’s that place of natural beauty that only His love can sustain. Watch your step out of the boat. Let’s go.

Wait.

What?

What’s going on?

No.

No, it… it can’t be. I can’t get past the edge of the water. Can you?

NOOOOOOOOO!!!! I want to get in! Please! Take me in! I want to get in!!! I need to get in!!! Please!!!!

It’s not fair. I wanted to get in so badly. I’m ready now. But, He isn’t ready for me. Why? Why not? What on earth does He have for me here that I must stay? I have no choice but to stay and wait? THAT’S NOT FAIR!!!

Maybe, I should sit here and just wait until He realizes He’s making a mistake. Maybe, I can sit here where the air is a blissful breeze and the water’s natural barrier keeps me safe. I don’t want to go back. I can’t get back on that boat and leave behind this place. I can’t go back there, to a world that doesn’t understand. I can’t exist in that world. That world is not for me. Maybe, if I beckon Him.

Please! Please let me in! I don’t belong back there. That world is horrible. It’s hurtful. It’s filled with a pain that exists inside my head and will never leave me. Your forest, it’s my only hope! It’s my only refuge to get away from this disgusting monster that exists inside of my head. Please! Take me now! Don’t make me go back!

I guess the lack of a response is enough to tell me He doesn’t want me. He’s going to make me go back.

Come on. Let’s get back on the boat.

I don’t want to look behind me. Is it fading? It is, isn’t it? The beauty. The singing. It’s all going away. All I can see is the ugliness that lies before me as I head back to that place. That place back across the lake where only pain exists. Where the monster is waiting to jump back into my head where it wins each and every day. That place where loneliness drowns me. It’s not fair. It’s not right. He knew I was suffering, but didn’t let me in. That’s cruel.

I see the dock. No. Maybe we should turn around. Do you think we should turn around? Should we try again? Maybe, He will change His mind and let me in.

Don’t do that! Don’t shake your head at me. You have to tell me He will let me back in. Why are you killing my hope?

No, you’re not. You’re not being truthful. You’re lying! You just want me to stay on the side of the lake where it’s ugly, hopeless and disastrous. It’s not anything, but a sea of trouble and burden that I bring to those around me. Why do you want me to suffer? Why do you want THEM to suffer? Why do you think I should continue to cover them with the torrential rain of my brain’s toxic waste? You’re taking His side, when you should be taking mine.

Don’t touch me. Don’t you dare put your hand on my shoulder.

Stop talking! I don’t want to hear it. What you say means nothing… nothing to me! I’m getting off of this boat now and walking away from you. Do not follow me.

You can keep shouting at me to come back, but…

Ok, what!?!? What do you have to say to me???

Yes.

Yes.

No.

Alright, so now that I’ve answered your questions… now what? Yes, I love my family and friends. Yes, I miss them. No, I don’t want to hurt them. So, what is your grand advice for me?

But, I don’t want to wait. I want to go now. I want Him to let me into that place now… today! I want Him to welcome me.

Noooo. I don’t care if it will come someday. I want it to come now.

Because.

Just, because.

Because I’m tired!!! I can’t exist among these people. I don’t do well. I don’t fit in. I cause only problems. Our brains are what govern everything we do, and mine’s has a mission to destroy everything and everyone around me. Its goal is to push those around me over the edge. I can’t do anything right. I can’t live in this world… in this life of people. All I do is hurt them.

No.

No.

Fine.

I’ll keep trying. But, don’t blame me when the world around me falls apart and I’m the one to blame for its destruction.

Yes, it will. It will be destroyed and I will be the one to do it.

You can say that all you want, but you’re wrong. I’m telling you I will destroy it.

Alright. Let’s just go home now, but… just one more look.

Those trees. Their endless heights.

He may be making me come back to this awful place, but I’m not staying for long.

Someday… I promise you… someday… I will climb those trees. I will get up to their unseen peaks and look back over the lake and smile. I will shout at the top of my lungs with a joy that echoes throughout that entire forest. I will be filled with magnificent bliss, because this side of the lake is over for me. I no longer have to return here. Instead, I will be in His land of peace and harmony.

I cannot reach that place… not yet. But, I promise you… that Heaven will be my home someday. And, I’ll no longer be filled with pain, because my brain will be dead and only my soul will exist. It will all finally be over… for me and everyone around me.

I look forward to the day that the Lord calls me home to my mystical forest.

 

 

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.

 

 

Blog For Mental Health 2013

blogformentalhealth20131-1

Almost one year ago (will be a year in March), I joined the blogging community. In that time, I’ve met a lot of people – both fellow bloggers and readers – who have been generous with their time and interest in what I write. It’s been quite an experience, to say the least. It’s strange because when I first started my blog, I never considered that I’d become a part of any community. I just thought I’d post pieces and if people read them, great… if not, then that’s ok too. I was doing it mostly to help with my own healing and acceptance of my mental illness. However, after almost a year, I’ve discovered that I am in good company in the blogging world. I’m surrounded by great people who all understand the pain, stigma and heartaches of mental illness. And, we all share our ups, downs, good times, bad times and worst times, and are able to be there for one another.

Therefore, when I read about a blog pledge that is taking place among this mental health community, I wanted to learn more. To state right off the bat, this is not an award. This is a pledge to be a part of a growing community of mental health bloggers who want to make a change. People who want to help change the world’s view of mental illness and help people to understand what it’s really like. In addition, it’s to help provide comfort to those who suffer. Last night, I read two posts from two separate bloggers who are pledging to blog for mental health in this new year of 2013. Cate from Infinite Sadness… or Hope? And, Ruby from I Was Just Thinking are the two I read about, and they both are so encouraging in their pledges. So, I went to the original post about this blogging pledge called Blog For Mental Health 2013. Canvas Of The Minds has made an open pledge to those who wish to join this campaign, and I have decided to accept it.

You probably notice the wonderful pledge badge at the top of this page (and on my right sidebar) that was created for this campaign. Lulu from Sunny With A Chance of Armageddon designed the awesome badge. Thank you Lulu for creating a wonderful badge that can give us a visual representation of what we want to accomplish this year.

It’s Time to Make My Pledge

So, now I will follow the required steps as I make my official pledge to Blog For Mental Health in 2013.

I pledge my commitment to the Blog For Mental Health 2013 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.

As I’ve stated, I have accepted this pledge from A Canvas Of The Minds, in their announcement post. I thank them for welcoming those of us who wish to join in this crusade; a crusade of ending stigma, providing real facts and not misguided information, and most of all, giving support and a hand to those who are struggling with mental illness in this world. Thank you for offering me the chance to provide something positive through my illness.

The third step in accepting my pledge is to provide a short biography of myself in regards to my mental health and how it affects me. So, here it goes.

I have suffered from bipolar disorder since I was in at least my late teens. After a few years of therapy now, I’ve been able to realize that my mental illness began around that time and it only continued to get worse as I got older. I knew that something was wrong by my early twenties, and that is when it became noticeable to others. For this reason, I usually say my illness began to show its face in my late teens/early twenties. I’m never sure which is accurate. The symptoms (at least those that I can for sure pinpoint) began in my late teens, but they didn’t start to become problematic until my early twenties.

Either way, though, by the time I was in my mid twenties, I was starting to lose complete control over whom I was and I was losing myself to who I was becoming. I was frightened, angry, frustrated and hopeless that I’d ever find out what was wrong with me. My loneliness was mounting during this time, and it would only get worse leading up to my diagnosis in 2009. It was then, and only then, that I finally found doctors who truly listened. They didn’t offer me their quirky theories about what was going on with me. They didn’t hear me explain how I felt, only to respond with a simple, “Mhm.” These new doctors listened. In a year that had become the darkest and lowest of my life, I had finally found people who wanted to help me… truly help me.

It took a while to receive an official diagnosis from these doctors, but that was ok. I knew they weren’t just taking their time for no reason or because they didn’t care. It was quite the opposite. They did care, and wanted to make sure they got it right. So what’s my diagnosis? I have bipolar II, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and severe social anxiety with panic attacks. I take medication and go to therapy weekly. I see my psychiatrist every 1-3 months, depending on how I’m doing.

So, what does this mean to me? It means that I will have an unexpected struggle for the rest of my life. When I was a kid, I never thought I’d be diagnosed with a mental illness. I felt sorry for people who were diagnosed with such problems. Now, I’m one of those people. The difference is now I don’t feel sorry for ‘them’ anymore, because I realize that there is no ‘them’. We are all the same as any other normal person out there in this world. Yes, we struggle. Yes, our brains don’t work the way they should. Yes, we need to take medication to help keep us going from day-to-day. Yes, we have pain and often are not understood by even the most supportive of loved ones. But, even after all of that, we are still human beings. We are still worthy of dignity, respect and most of all, compassionate support. We all deserve to be loved and accepted. 

So, with this pledge, I vow to try my best to blog for mental health awareness, and help bring about the fact that mental illness does not equate to an alien race that doesn’t belong on this planet. We have every right to be here as anyone else, and we need to let it be heard that we are not going to back down. We will not give into the stigma.

Hopefully, someday, a generation of youth in this country will be able to hear someone make an ignorant comment about mental illness and respond with a, “Wow! You’re lame. Stigma was sooooo 2013.”

As I come to the end of my pledge, I am left with one final task, and that is to pledge five bloggers whom I feel would be great for this campaign. However, I am going to take a page from the wonderfully awesome Cate at Infinite Sadness… or Hope?, and extend the open pledge that The Canvas of the Minds originally offered. I hope anyone who reads this and wants to join in will indeed do so. The community of mental health bloggers needs great minds like yours. If you speak or want to speak out on mental health, then please join us. You have a voice and it’s worth a lot.

One more thing… 

Lulu has also asked that we help to build this sense of community by joining the Blog For Mental Health 2013 Official Blogroll! So, if you decide to join in this campaign, no matter what time of the year it may be when you read this, then just link back to the Blogroll’s original post. Once you do that, just click here and leave a comment with the link to your pledge so that you can be added to the official blogroll page.

Show the world our strength, show them our solidarity, show them what we are made of. Take the Blog for Mental Health pledge and proudly display the badge on your blog!

A Special Thank You

I would like to end this post with a special thank you to a very good friend of mine. She’s still standing by my side, even after some not so great times, especially recently. She has helped me to also see that blogging is beneficial to me in more ways than one. I appreciate her encouragement, love, and especially her patience. I know I’m not easy to be patient with when I’m in a bad place. I thank you, Lisa, for not giving up on me, and being such an awesome, caring and understanding friend. I love you!

Take care, all… and I hope this year can be a fruitful one for all of us in this mental health community and beyond. God Bless!

 

 

Is It Over Yet?

Well, the world didn’t end… go figure.

Courtesy of NASA

Courtesy of NASA

I wish I could say that I haven’t been blogging lately because I really thought the world was going to end today and figured what was the point. However, I cannot say that… at least not honestly.

I apologize for being such an awfully inconsistent blogger these last few months. I guess when I fell out of the groove a few months ago that I couldn’t get myself back into it. I love blogging (and of course writing as a whole), but I just haven’t had the motivation. However, what better motivation is there than realizing the world has indeed begun another day.

First of all, I would like to say thank you to some new followers of my blog. I have recently had notifications that several new people are following My Bipolar Bubble, and I thank you so much for your interest. Welcome! And, to those of you who have continued to follow me over the last several months, I am grateful for your on-going support, interest and friendship. I am so blessed to be a part of such a wonderful group of bloggers, and I do not take for granted the bond we all share (both readers and writers of all of our blogs).

As you can see by this post’s title, I asked a question, “Is it over yet?” I guess that can be interpreted in many ways. It can be a reflection of the Mayan Calendar end of the world reference, or it can be in reference to something more. I actually meant it as both the former and the latter.

I had a discussion with someone yesterday that got me to thinking about one of my recent therapy sessions. As I have said, I did not believe the world was going to end today, although there was a huge part of me that had been hoping it would. Between the way I have been feeling lately, to the negative turn that it seems our society is taking, it just felt as if maybe it would be best. Why continue to live in a world that offers so much pain, hate, anger, frustration, tragedy, and most of all… grief?

It feels like it would be so much better for the world to just destroy itself than to keep dealing with us humans. But, alas, that’s not what ended up happening today. The day is barely beginning as I write this, but I’m pretty sure the sun will set and tomorrow will dawn anew. It’s something, though, how the brain works. It can take any outside source and try to use it against us. At least that is how it feels for me. This time it was the so-called prophesized end of the world. Next time, who knows what it will be.

It’s Baaaaack!

A lot of feeling this way has to do with my mood levels as of late. Since August I have been out of it. September was when it really started to hit me, though. However, it’s not the usual crash to the bottom lows, or shoot to the moon highs. It’s been one really lame roller coaster that was built with only inclines and free-falls. I can’t recall if I’ve ever described this before, but what I have been feeling lately is something that first appeared late last year. Then, it was in December, but this year it started months before. It’s a difficult feeling to describe, but I’ll explain it as best I can.

It is all of the bipolar highs and lows, except on a sped up cycle. I can be feeling great. I can be doing anything, and be either mobile or immobile at the time. I can even be laughing and having a great time, but then it happens. I get hit with an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach. To put it simply, it feels like grief, and as if all energy and substance has just been sucked out of me. In literally a matter of a few seconds, I go from feeling good to feeling like I’m lost, alone and surrounded with grief from some unknown loss from my life. If I’m sitting at the computer when it happens, I have to stop what I’m doing immediately and lay down. I can’t sit up ‘cause the energy it takes to just that is much higher content than I have to expel. If I’m talking to my mom, I will have to leave the conversation and go and lay down. No matter what it is I’m doing, it will hit me, and last from minutes, hours or days on end. It always varies. Pattern? No. Same trigger? No. Completely random? Yes. It doesn’t matter what I am doing, where I am, nor whom I’m with… there aren’t any reservations for this cruel and invisible punch to the gut. It is no wonder I have been crying myself to sleep more often than not these last few months.

So, when I saw my psychiatrist this past Monday, I told her. After hearing me out and listening to everything I was saying, she said it was time to up my meds again. She said it’s rapid cycling and it’s happening because my meds aren’t doing enough. It’s like they’re helping, but not enough. I don’t recall rapid cycling anytime in the past (prior to late last year’s first appearance). So, this is new within the last year. It makes me feel that it is indeed due to my meds not being strong enough at the moment. Basically, my current dosage isn’t doing it for me anymore. I got the feeling from the tone in my doctor’s voice that she knew this was coming. I admit I’m not the easiest of patients. I haven’t been from the beginning. I have sensed her frustration with me in the past, but she has an immense amount of patience with me, which I greatly appreciate. The dosage she wanted to start me on back in 2009 was much higher than it has been. I refused it, though. I told her I was afraid of the medicines and did not want it that high. She worked with me, but has always tried to get me to go higher. Well, with this new dosage, I have now reached the dosage that she originally wanted to start me off with back when I was first diagnosed. What concerns me is that it will continue to be moving up, since this is where she wanted to start me in the beginning. Only time will tell, but I’m frustrated with myself that it took me three years to agree to do what she wanted. She didn’t give up on me. That says a lot to me… not just as a patient, but as a person.

Probably, what mostly made me a bad patient was that I hate my meds and I hate going to my psychiatrist. I don’t call her like I should, and when my therapist tells me to, I refuse. I don’t want to take my meds and often feel tempted to dump them in some way or another. Yet, although it goes against what I want, I still take those pills and keep my appointments with my psychiatrist because it’s what I need. Being fortunate enough to be able to see my therapist weekly, and sometimes multiple times a week, helps me to be able to stick with my treatment. Also, knowing that my mom (whom I love dearly and beyond the description of any words) needs me, keeps me going too. But, without those two driving forces… well, I’d rather not get into that discussion.

That Bubble Won’t Pop

Here’s the frustrating thing. I find myself still hiding. I’m still hiding in that Bipolar Bubble about which I’ve discussed before. I hide behind the façade that I so desperately continue to try and destroy. I try to say what I’m feeling, but I know people don’t want to really hear it. Everyone, I repeat… “Everyone”, has his or her own problems. Maybe it’s not mental illness, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t extremely difficult, depressing, and painful. Mental illness is only one source of pain and despair in this life. Due to that fact, I try so hard not to burden others with my problems. Especially since I have a therapist, I try to be courteous of the fact that I have someone who listens every single week. I have someone whom I can talk with when so many others do not have that option. I do not wish, nor desire, to be selfish and believe that I am the only one in need of emotional support in this life. Therefore, the façade remains. I keep the smile on, keep the laughter going when I can, and I hold it all in until I’m alone.

I’ve broken down in recent months around my mom, and that only makes her join in on the tears and worry about me. I don’t want to worry her. I don’t want her to know I’m hurting. I often lie and tell her I’m fine when she asks in that concerned tone, “Are you feeling ok?” When I was a kid, I was never good about showing my emotions to others. I would hide them from everyone whom I knew, because I knew they wouldn’t give me the comfort that I needed. I would wait until I was around my mom. I knew she’d hug me, hold me, and give me that love I needed. She was really the only one whom I could turn to in such a way. Yet, now, I find myself not even wanting to do that. I see the look on her face when I cry. She hurts and I don’t want her to hurt. I guess that’s just what happens when we grow up. We stop thinking about just ourselves and begin to realize that our actions, words, and emotions do indeed affect others who care about us. Even when we think we’re the only ones in pain, those who truly love us feel that pain too, whether it is a parent, spouse, child, friend, or any other significant person in your life.

I don’t like to see and/or hear that my loved ones are hurting inside. It hurts me so much to know that someone, whom I love and care about (whether it is family or a friend), is hurting in this life. However, it’s getting harder and harder for me to say it’s going to be ok. I guess because I don’t fully believe that about my own future. To be clear, though, right now, I feel ok. Contrary to how it may sound, I’m not sad; I’m not feeling empty inside. I truly feel ok right now as I write this. But, I know at some point it will hit me again. That punch in the gut will come out of nowhere and send me into an abyss of loneliness and wanting it all to end.

I have to fill the prescription that my psychiatrist gave me, but unfortunately my stupid pharmacy will not be able to fill it until another few weeks. They have an auto-refill system, which I’ve tried opt out of on multiple occasions, but somehow it never registers on their end… gee, I wonder why. It just automatically refilled all of my bipolar meds last week. Therefore, right now my insurance will not pay for another bottle of the one my psychiatrist has upped, and I’m unable to break the pills I have in half to up the dosage that way either. So, I’m essentially screwed for another 2-3 weeks. And, it’s going to be a timing game with them to get the script into them before they auto-refill again (they don’t take them until time to refill), because even when I talk to someone in person the request goes in one ear, and out the pocket book. It’s all greed. Auto-refill and get more money. My psychiatrist said many pharmacies are doing that now and she doesn’t like it. It’s all to get more money. Welcome to health care in the United States.

I will continue to deal with this as best I can. I will enjoy the times when I feel ok (and I definitely do have those times), and then sleep or lay away the times my invisible torturer comes to visit me. When my doctor upped my meds earlier this year for these same mood shifts, the medicine helped. It took it away and I was feeling good again. Sure I continued with ups and downs, but that’s just the illness, as well as life in general. It was nothing like what is currently happening. I’m hoping the new dosage will do the same again. I do not want to go through starting a new drug.

A Brand New Year

So, the world continues to live on. This weekend, I will be wrapping gifts, online-gaming with my friends, and eating things that I really shouldn’t eat (it’s the holidays so it’s ok… um, yeah, that’s it). Next week, I will be celebrating Christmas and wishing my Lord, Jesus, a happy birthday. And, then the following week, I will be saying goodbye to the year 2012, and saying hello to 2013.

I remember when I was diagnosed in 2009, that when the end of the year came, I began to say what I had always said over the years… “May next year be a better year than this one.” However, that year it hit me that I could no longer say that. It hit me right then and there that I could not say, “Bipolar was last year, this year it’s gone.” I had already known that bipolar was for life, of course, but it was a moment that the fact got drilled into me. I had bipolar in 2009, and I was going to continue having it in 2010, 2011, 2012 and every year for the rest of my life. Every New Years since, I stopped saying, “May the next year be better than this one.” The thought still went through my mind, but I could not say it and truly believe it. I felt like it was an impossible wish. But, I realized something last night. I was sitting in my parents’ bedroom with my mom and we were talking. We were discussing all of the stresses and negative experiences that have taken place this year, especially more recent ones. And, before I could even think about what I was saying, the words came out. “Hopefully, next year will be better than this one.”

It’s not a big deal, I guess. But, it tells me that I had a bit of hope last night. A part of me believed that maybe, just maybe, next year could be better. After dealing with my bipolar diagnosis for these last few years, I have learned that there is no going forward without it. Bipolar does not make up everything about me, but it is indeed a part of me. It’s not who I am as a whole, but it is part of what makes up my brain… my mind. And, therefore, I need to continue to learn to deal with it and realize that my life can be better from year to year. I may not be able to cure this bipolar, but I can find better ways to live with it.

The world didn’t end today. I will still have to deal with mental illness on a personal basis. However, maybe on this New Year’s Eve I can once again say, “May 2013 be better than 2012,” and truly believe it’s possible. I’ll do my best to try.

To those who celebrate Christmas around the world, Merry Christmas! To those who do not, I wish you a Happy Holidays. And, to each and every one of you…

God Bless you all!

 

My favorite Christmas Song. It never fails to make me smile and move.

 

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.