When It’s No Longer in the Cards

**** Trigger Warning: This post may contain triggers for some readers. Please proceed with caution.

I guess we all reach that point in our lives when we realize that certain events or special moments will never happen for us. That realization has once again come upon me today, as we have welcomed a new addition to our huge family. One of my cousins had his second child today, a baby boy. An adorable and brand new life, filled with so much hope, dreams and innocence. Ah, innocence… it’s the only time in any human being’s life that is filled with true innocence. He’s free of all the troubles, stresses and pain with which life is filled.

It’s a special moment when the birth of a child occurs, especially when it’s one in our own immediate circle. However, as much as I am filled with happiness and thankfulness that my new little cousin is here safely and healthily, I’m still a bit saddened. It’s a reminder for me that I will never experience that joy of having my own child to hold someday. Selfish? Maybe, it is. After all, it’s a wonderful moment for our family right now, but I can’t help what feelings are going through both my mind and heart.

It Used to Be a Dream

Steve Martin in 1989's movie, "Parenthood"

Steve Martin in the 1989 movie “Parenthood”

When I was a kid, I never wanted children. I wasn’t one of those little girls who dreamed of having a baby of my own someday. Maybe it had to do with the fact that I grew up with most of my nieces and nephews. I was exposed to the real life of being a parent at a young age. It wasn’t all roses as I learned early on, and so it set my mind on a different path. I was a tomboy too, so not sure if that made a difference. I still loved playing with dolls or stuffed animals and pretending they were my kids, but that wasn’t what I wanted in my future. I dreamed of being a career woman. I never thought of it that way until high school, but that’s what I wanted. I wanted to be everything that the world had to offer. One year I was going to be an astronaut, the next a doctor, then for a few years I was going to be a teacher. Then, there was the time I was going to go into astrophysics, but changed my mind. I wanted to be everything. Heck, when I hit thirteen, I was going to be an actress and begged my mom to let me go to auditions. I am grateful she didn’t allow me, ‘cause my personality is not that of someone who can handle such a career. I think I wanted that more back then, because I thought it would make me more popular in school. I wanted so desperately to be accepted.

Thankfully, it was not too long after that, when high school came into the picture. It was then that my love for three quite different careers starting taking center stage. I wanted to be in law enforcement, nursing, and filmmaking. I told you… three very different careers. Filmmaking seemed to always be on the top, though. I saved up for two years to afford my own video camera to make my own movies. And, when I finally did just that, I wrote, directed, edited and produced my own movies that starred my nieces and nephews. As I’ve stated before, my love for art and writing won the battle between the three.

I tried to be a cop, but it didn’t quite work out. I tried to be a nurse, and well, that should have worked, but I chickened out. However, my prospects eventually took me to graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Media Arts and Design and I now write more than ever, especially with my blog.

So, where am I going with this? Well, I guess what I’m trying to say is that dreams and goals change, either voluntarily or involuntarily. When it comes to my dreams of becoming a mother someday, those were somewhat taken from me against my will.

What Happened to Motherhood?

As I stated, I never dreamed of motherhood as a child. Not even through my teenage years. All I wanted was to be successful and work. I wanted to be someone of whom my parents could be proud. However, then when I was in my early twenties I went to a family reunion. I was standing there next to my sister as one of my cousin’s little girls (about four-years-old at the time) was dancing with my uncle, her grandpa. She looked so cute and was laughing and smiling. I watched her and suddenly I blurted out loud, “I want one of those.” My sister – who always wanted nieces and nephews from her sister to add to those whom she already loved dearly from our brothers – became excited to say the least. It was the first time I had ever shown interest in becoming a mom someday. Having kids? Wow! It was actually finally in the cards for me. I actually finally wanted some of my own. It was a revelation for me that same day as it was for my sister, and I thought maybe… just maybe… I’d someday be walking into a family reunion with a baby Summer in my arms.

Unfortunately, that is no longer in the cards for me.

Some may be asking why. Why would that suddenly not be in the cards for my life? I’m not physically unable to become pregnant. It’s prime time for me to have a child. I’m the youngest of all of my female cousins, and the youngest of all of my cousins with the exception of one of my male cousins who is one month younger than me. He’s also now expecting to be a father soon. They’re all having kids right now. It’s baby central in my family. So, why would I not be able to become a mother? The answer is simple… because I have bipolar.

Now to make it clear, I am not saying that having bipolar makes becoming a parent impossible. Plenty of bipolar parents are out there in this world and are successfully raising their beautiful children and doing a damn good job at it. Mental illness does not stop one from becoming a parent, most of the time. However, for myself and others whom I know throughout this blogging community, I know mental illness has been a reason for not wanting children. We have our reasons and they are enough to make us choose our own personal paths in regards to this subject in life. Months back I read a great post by Cate from Infinite Sadness… or Hope? It was on this same topic and I thought she was so brave to talk about it. She inspired me to write a topic on my own reasons for not becoming a parent myself, but I didn’t have the courage to do so back then. However, now after the birth of my cousin’s baby, I suddenly feel I can finally write about it.

Am I Afraid?

Is it fear? Yes, a little of it is being afraid of not being able to take care of my child properly. I can’t even properly take care of myself during a bad episode, so how can I think that I can take care of a child. A child is fully dependent upon his or her parent(s). I do not want to leave my child struggling for my attention or just a hug from mommy when I hate myself and can barely get myself into the shower. I’m afraid of scarring my child.

Fear also comes into play in regards to genetics. Bipolar has a genetic connection, and the fact that I could pass it down to my children is not lost on me. I don’t want to have children, only to have them suffer through a mental illness that I know I gave to them. And, to be fully honest, I’m also feeling selfish here too. I don’t think I can handle dealing with my own problems with this illness, while also trying to handle the problems of my child’s illness (if he or she were to have it). As I’ve said, it’s hard enough for me to manage my own issues, and I just don’t think I have it inside of me to also manage my child’s. I know… that’s selfish.

Finally, and probably the strongest reason for my not wanting children anymore, is one that is difficult for me to share. I have family and friends who read this blog (only those whom I have the utmost trust in), and I’m worried that this might worry them. Please do not feel worried (anyone who is reading this), as this is not how I feel right now, it’s just that I’ve been there many times before and it is from those places that I write this.

This life is hard. It’s hard for any human being who lives and breathes on this planet. It doesn’t matter how one’s brain functions, the fact is that life can suck horribly. It can be extremely beautiful, but let’s face it; it has some horrible moments too. Well, throw a mental illness on top of all of that, and it’s a mixture of much more distress, heartache, crushing blows and a world of stigma from people who do not understand what it truly is like to live with it all.

It’s no secret that the pain of mental illness can lead to suicide. It’s a sad statistic that no one really likes to address often, but it’s real and should be addressed. I’ve been in that place many times since my symptoms began to arise in my late teens/early twenties. I’ve hurt beyond words and felt as if this world wouldn’t miss me if I were gone, because I was merely a burden on my family and friends and everyone else. When no one understands, it makes it hard to find hope that all will get better.

As I stated already, I’m not in that place right now. I am thankful for that. But, the fact of the matter is, I have been in that place too many times to ignore it. And, it is for that reason most of all that I no longer want to bring children into this world. I guess it’s a reason that’s based upon both love and selfishness. It’s love for a child not yet born. I would not want him or her to have to grow up without a mom, and leave that child to wonder if it was his or her existence that made mommy go away. I would not want to leave that child with the thoughts that he or she was not loveable enough for his or her mommy to stay. I guess that is where the love foundation starts, but that’s also where it ends.

The selfish reason is one of much less love. I hope this doesn’t make me look like a horrible person. But, I don’t want anything tying me down to this life. I don’t want to have to worry about a child depending on me as a mother, when I’m done with this life and ready to leave on my own accord. I don’t want anything holding me back when the time comes that I’ve finally had enough of the pain and hopelessness. I’m not saying that I will definitely take myself out of this world someday, but as I look forward in my future, I can’t see a real life. I can’t see myself in five years, ten years, or twenty years. I can’t see it in my mind. As a child and a teenager I could. I had dreams and hopes. I had goals of how I’d reach what I wanted. Now, I live each day, one-day-at-a-time. I have dreams of where my writing can maybe someday take me. I’m writing a novel and hope that someday I can reach a point of publication. But, at the same time, I can’t truly see it. My life is bits and snippets of production today, in my present life. But, in my future, those bits and snippets are even smaller. So, if I can’t see a clear future for myself, then how can I bring a child into this world knowing that I may just very well want to leave it someday? I don’t want that hovering over me.

I know this probably not only sounds awfully selfish, but also extremely dark and morbid. However, as I’ve said it’s based around how I’ve been in the past, when the depressions have gotten me so low that I feel that the best option would be to leave forever. I’m not discounting the possibility that someday I may just be an 80-year-old woman sitting on her porch watching the children play along her street. But, what I do know is that those children won’t be my grandchildren. Believe me when I say that is one goal of mine, though, that I can at least hope will happen. I may not be able to see it clearly in my future, but I do truly hope it will happen. I want to survive this illness. I want to make it.

A Closing…

I don’t want to leave this post on a depressing note. I know that’s kind of hard to do after laying all that out there for the world to read, but I want to end this post with a bit of hope.

I may not want to be a mother anymore, but I will say this… I absolutely love the little ones in my family. They are all special to me and I have a special place in my heart for each and every one. Not all women are meant to be mothers, and I think some of us who aren’t are accepting of that. I know I am. I am saddened that I will never have a little one of my own, but I’m not so saddened that it will kill my spirit of love. I love children, and the ones in my circle of family and friends will always be ones that I look forward to seeing. I have been blessed to watch one of my cousin’s three little ones grow up before my eyes. I held them each as newborns and they now sit on my lap with such happy innocence in their eyes. I’m watching these three little ones, as well as three of my great-nephews, grow up and form their own personalities and become these little people who will someday run this world.

As a child, I grew up with most of my nieces and nephews; therefore I didn’t get the chance to appreciate that growth in them, because I was growing myself. But, now I am old enough to watch it and take it all in and it never fails to make me look on in awe at their development.

I’ll never be a mom in this lifetime, but I can still love on the children who are in my life and be the best aunt, cousin, or friend to them. Mental illness may have taken motherhood away from me for my own personal reasons, but it can’t take away my love.

So, take that, bipolar… I’m stronger than you thought.

 

This is a beautiful song about parenthood. Written and performed by Ben Folds for his daughter Gracie.

 

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!

 

 

Bipolar and Migraines – A Connection?

Everyone has probably had a headache at some point in his or her life. I’ve suffered from headaches since I was a young child, and I remember quite clearly the pain that they had caused me. They would force me to stop playing, or whatever it was that I was doing, so that I could lay down and try to sleep the pain away. I would cry and just beg for them to go away. I thought my experiences with headaches back then were bad enough… that is until I experienced my first migraine, in my early twenties.

So, what’s the difference between a headache and a migraine? Well, a headache is literally pain in the head. It’s when you have pain, but it’s not really affecting any other part of your body. A migraine, on the other hand is different. Here is how WebMD defines a migraine:

There is a migraine “pain center” or generator in the brain. A migraine begins when hyperactive nerve cells send out impulses to the blood vessels, causing them to clamp down or constrict, followed by dilation (expanding) and the release of prostaglandins, serotonin, and other inflammatory substances that cause the pulsation to be painful.*

Basically, a headache hurts, but a migraine hurts like he… um… heck.

I can’t describe what anyone else’s experience with a migraine is like, but I can describe my own.

The Twinge Begins

It begins with a twinge. It’s a familiar pain that suddenly appears over my left eye. Unlike headaches, migraines tend to often occur on one side of the head only, and often it is the same side for each migraine. Although, there are indeed people who suffer from full-headed migraines too. I am thankful that is not the case for me, as I feel that is a much more severe case of the illness. For me, though, I will first feel a headache coming, and I will start taking the over-the-counter pain medicines that we have in the house. If the headache goes away relatively quickly, then I know it was merely a headache that was starting, but I was able to ward it off. However, when the pain doesn’t disappear, and only begins to get worse, I know that I will be suffering in agony for at least the next one to two days. When I get hit with a migraine, I am down for at least a day. The pain radiates from my left head, down to my left ear and left side of my jaw. I will be spending my time lying in the dark, walking around the house with sunglasses, and whispering ‘cause it hurts too much to hear my voice echo in my head. I’ll feel like crying constantly, but won’t because that will only make my head hurt even more. I’ll usually have a wet towel and bag of ice with me constantly too, but it doesn’t really do any good. If I place my hand over my left side of the head, or anyone else does, my pulse can be felt beating hard and clearly. It’s the only visual ‘wound’ (if you will) of the pain deep inside of my head. The ice can feel numbing for short periods, but the pain is still there, deep inside. And no matter how much ice I have, it doesn’t do anything to calm the dizziness, lightheadedness, and nausea.

The nausea. The nausea is awful, and the thought that I will have to vomit or dry heave, only adding to the pressure in my head, makes me worry it will explode. However, considering how much during these times I wish I could just rip into my head and pull out the source of my pain with all of my might… a head explosion wouldn’t be so bad. Sleep is usually the only thing that I can do during migraines, although I tend to have horrible dreams during these times, often with pain in them. The pain will then wake me up and it’s back to trying to bear with it in an awakened state. I can’t stand the light and too much sound is awfully irritating, both emotionally and physically. I will keep the TV on with a low volume as I need a little sound to stop my thoughts from taking over me, but that’s about it. Food? Forget about it. If I’m lucky, I manage to get some plain scrambled egg and toast in by the end of the day, but other than that, I will sip on juice or something carbonated to help the nausea. I will take way more pain meds than is recommended by the dosage on the bottle (I do not recommend doing that… don’t do it), but when I’m in that pain, I don’t care. All I want is for the pain to stop, yet no matter how many pills I take, it doesn’t. I know, as I lay there waiting for time to just speed up, that I will be sick for the rest of that day. And, if I wake up the next morning and it’s still there, then I know it will be another day of misery. It’s just how my migraines work.

One of my methods of trying to quell the pain is pushing my head up against the wall. I will stand up and lean really hard on the left side of my head and rock back and forth. It actually feels kind of good, but the pain still remains. I usually wind up with a red mark or bruise on that part of my head by the end of the migraine, but it’s something that I couldn’t care less about when I’m in that pain. Besides, as a hermit, what does it matter?

So, that is what it’s like to have a migraine… for me at least. The shortest migraine I’ve had was a day long, while the longest was four days long. That one sent me to the doctor. It’s something that I have not learned to live with, and I never will. I can learn the symptoms of one coming on. I can learn what I need to do to try and make it last as short as possible. However, I will never learn to live with the pain. It’s one of those things that you just have to deal with when it comes. You can learn to handle it as best you can, but when that pain hits, there is no way to learn to live with it. It’s a “going through the motions” experience that can only be relieved when your body decides it’s ready to play nice.

What About Bipolar?

So, considering that the title of this post is “Bipolar and Migraines – A Connection?” – I guess I better get down to the bipolar part. You may be wondering what migraines have to do with bipolar. Well, up until a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t think they had anything to do with one another. However, that’s when I got hit with another migraine. Two days of that pain was enough for me, and thankfully my body agreed.

After that dreaded experience – which I guess I knew was only a matter of time before it occurred again for me – I started thinking about migraines and bipolar. I’ve been having a difficult time these last months, and thankfully, I am now on my increased dosage of my medication, which I think is finally starting to kick in a bit. It’s been a week since I started it, and my psychiatrist said it takes a week for it to start becoming noticeable (since it’s not a new medication). I’m hoping it really is finally kicking in and not just my mind wishing it to be. The next few weeks will tell I guess. Well, after my migraine, I began thinking about how the timing of it was quite ‘perfect’ really. I mean, what better time for a migraine to hit than when you’re already down to begin with. I wondered if there could actually be a connection. I know stress is one of many triggers for a migraine, so that was an obvious one that I thought about. But, I also started wondering if there was more of a connection.

As I stated, my migraines started around my early twenties. This was about 5 years or so after my first bipolar symptoms (or least those that I can pinpoint, looking back) began. That made me even more curious about what the two have in common, if anything. I wanted to know if it was just a matter of timing for me, or if there was something more at work. Therefore, I started to do some research and realized that there is in fact studies that have been run and completed on the connection between migraines and bipolar. And, guess what they found… there is indeed a connection!

Can you believe that? Migraines and bipolar actually have a connection. Maybe it’s just me, but when I first discovered that a couple of weeks ago, I was quite floored. I had never before put the two together. I had always thought that they were two very different illnesses. But, apparently, they’re more connected than I first thought. Now, to be clear, people can be free from mental illness and still experience migraines. But, what the studies found was that a high percentage of people who suffer from bipolar, also suffer from chronic migraines. It’s a comorbidity that I had never thought about for bipolar, mainly because it’s not an extremely wide known fact. Even my therapist was surprised to learn about my findings when I first told her a couple of weeks ago. And, my psychiatrist knows about my migraines, but has never offered the connection before. I found it interesting to read comments on some of the sites I visited on the subject, and realize that many others were also enlightened by the connection.

In an article that I read on the Psychiatric Times website, the percentage of bipolar-migraine sufferers was broken down. The article is from 2002, but it still doesn’t change the facts and results of the study. In one of the conducted studies, the findings were quite illuminating. It was found that 27% of people who have bipolar I, also suffered from migraines. That number is interesting enough, but get this… a whopping 82% of people with bipolar II suffered from migraines as well. That number is probably the part that floored me even beyond how much I was when I first learned of the connection in the first place. I have bipolar II, which as I’ve stated before in my blog is the same as bipolar I, with the exception that mania reaches the hypomanic level, and depression tends to be the more prominent of the episodes. So, as a bipolar II and migraine sufferer, I definitely fit into that 82%. I always wanted to fit in when I was a kid, but that’s not really where I had my goals aimed.

In addition to the connection between bipolar and migraines, anxiety disorders were also found to be higher among those who suffered from migraines. In another study completed in Zurich, Switzerland, it was found that it was twice as likely for the bipolar-migraine individuals studied to have anxiety disorders, as opposed to those who did not suffer from migraines. And, it was six times as likely for those with panic attacks to suffer from migraines as well. The Zurich study also found the following to be true in regard to bipolar disorders.

In the Zurich study, people with migraine had a threefold-increased one-year prevalence of bipolar spectrum disorders (9% versus 3%), a non-significant increase in manic episodes and a twofold-increased prevalence of major depression (15% versus 7%).**

So, What Now?

What does this mean? Well, we’re screwed. Ok, well that’s just one way to look at it. But, if we must look at it from a much more intellectual and mature point of view, I guess we could deduce that it means that there is some neurological, physiological, or genetic connection between the two – or rather between the three, including anxiety disorders. We already know that bipolar has a genetic attribute. Migraines have also already been considered to have a genetic source behind them.*** Therefore, it makes sense for the two to be connected. Times like these, I wish I were a medical doctor or medical researcher, so that I could find an answer that I could thoroughly understand, and relay to all of you. So, if anyone out there has more information to add to this topic, please sound off in the comments below. I’d love to learn even more or hear about any personal experiences in this matter.

I guess, in the end, the main result for my research query was found… there is indeed a connection between bipolar and migraines, and even more so if you suffer from bipolar II. Unfortunately, now I’m left with more questions about what exactly is causing the connection. I will definitely be keeping an eye open for more information on the subject. If or when I hear of any, I’ll be sure to add it here to my blog.

Well, with that load of information, I shall end this post with something a bit more hopeful. Here’s a song that I’ve been listening to a lot lately. It’s a great song and one of my many favorites. It makes me feel a little better whenever I hear it. I hope it does the same for you.

 

 

Sources:

* Migraines & Headaches Health Center – WebMD.

** Are Migraines and Bipolar Disorder Related?, by Ole Bernt Fasmer, M.D., and Ketil Joachim Oedegaard, M.D. August 1, 2002. UBM Medica Psychiatric Times.

*** The Pain in My Brain, by Carlton Davis. May 14, 2012. The Bipolar Coaster: Adventures in a Manic World. Psychology Today.

Headaches From Hell, by Barbara Kantrowitz. September 15, 2008. The Daily Beast.

 

 

Feeling Left Out

So, here I am, about a week (little less) before I can finally get my new prescription for the upped dosage of meds that I need. I really need them now, and the weird thing is that I actually want them. I hate taking my meds, but right now I can feel it inside. I feel the anger, hurt, and loneliness. I had some caffeine today in hopes that it would help me feel a little better. It did, which is why I’m probably actually writing right now and not collapsed on the couch. But, obviously that’s only a temporary fix. I was sitting here and feeling so alone and angry, about things that I don’t even understand.

Lately, every little slight, or perceived slight, has sent me hurdling downward. I begin to shutdown and suddenly want to tell everyone, “Go screw yourselves! Goodbye!” I want to turn my phone and computer off, and just curl up in a ball and just wither away. I hate who I am… from feeling left out, to feeling like I’m worthless, to feeling like I’m nothing more than an irritating flea in the lives of those I know.

I’ve been playing an online game I’ve played for years. But, something’s been happening to me in that environment lately… it’s making me feel even more left out at times. And, I don’t even understand why sometimes. It’s been the source of many therapy sessions for a few months now and I still can’t get past what I feel. However, there are times when I know exactly what is causing me to feel as I do. For example, I was on a talk chat channel the other night. It was myself and two other people. Well, one of those people has a little girl and put her up to the microphone. Well, it was obvious she told her daughter to say hello to one of the people in the channel… guess who that was… not me. I suddenly felt as if I was non-existent. The three of us adults were all talking and then, it was like I was suddenly not there and worth one of those adult’s time. It was obvious to me that she didn’t want her daughter to talk with me, and only wanted her to talk to the other person. That doesn’t surprise me due to the relationship of those two, but it still hurt. How do you tell your kid to say hi to one person, but completely ignore the other? Would you do that face-to-face? I’m curious how that person would have felt if the roles had been reversed. I’m getting tired of feeling like I’m not even there… like I’m the third wheel on a bicycle built only for two.

That’s a really horrible feeling and only takes me back to my childhood when I was completely ignored by kids. Literally pushed away for being unwelcome. Heck, it takes me back to even more recent years when my own family has ignored me. I’m annoying. I’m a burden. I’m nothing but this person people happen to know. These are the thoughts that have been going through my mind ‘cause I know that would make me want to ignore someone too if they had such qualities. I can be fine. I can be laughing with family and friends, and having a great time. However, all of a sudden, something triggers me. The switch is flipped for my shutdown. I become angry with these people and feel like I’m nothing to them. I cry and lose control over what I feel. And, sometimes, I can come back out of it right away, and others I need to leave the setting. This last week, I’ve cried more while lying down at night, than anything else. I haven’t slept properly at all, but it doesn’t matter. Between family problems, which are wearing me down, to the disappointment I have for my life, to the realization that another year has passed where my life is a total failure, I’m feeling like this is never going to end.

Since the night of that chat channel incident, I have gotten past it, as I’ve found myself having to do a lot lately. No hard feelings, but it still hurts when I think about it. But I have to just get past it ‘cause that’s life, and life is just crap. Life sucks. Anything I, you, or anyone can do about it? Nope. That’s just how it is until the day we die. That’s why I have my façade. The lying, make-others-feel-better façade that hides the pain I feel inside.

I think Linkin Park say it best in one of my favorite songs of theirs.

I know what it takes to move on. I know how it feels to lie. All I want to do is trade this life for something new, holding on to what I haven’t got.

I know I’m not the only one who can relate to this.