Belittling the Struggle

Belittling the Struggle

Painting
‘Belittling the Struggle,’ a painting I did while hypomanic.

The title of this post may be a bit misleading, because I’m not sure if this is belittling the struggle, but this is actually a common comment you can find all over the internet: people are not as put together as you think they are.

This is annoying to me. It suggests that we’re all ticking time bombs walking around, every single day, absolutely miserable, ready to explode at any given time, and at some point during the day, we do explode, leaving casualties all over the place. It suggests that happiness does not exist, because when you’re not put together, let’s face it, you really aren’t happy, because not being put together suggests an uncomfortable, obnoxious anxiety, and who is happy when they’re negatively anxious? But, contrary to popular belief, happy people do exist! When I’m not being bipolar, I am put together. Surprise! Surprise! And I’m not afraid to use bipolar as a verb because I do have this disorder and therefore, I am allowed to use it in that way.

You still have bad days outside of episodes, but maybe it’s because I have perspective, but I’m definitely A LOT more put together when I’m not in an episode.

In my last post, I admitted to being jealous of all the writers who could do writerly things that I cannot do because they do not have bipolar disorder. And guess what? I know these writers. And they do not have bipolar disorder! It is not comforting to me when you tell me that these people are not as put together as I think they are. These people do not have bipolar disorder, so they cannot know what it is like to be frustrated knowing you have limitations bipolar disorder puts on you, knowing you have limitations that are out of your control. Bipolar disorder is one of the few mental illnesses that absolutely MUST be treated with medication to manage the disorder. So you’re only in control when your meds are working the way they are supposed to be working.

When you are in an episode with bipolar disorder, just about everything is out of your control, and you are pretty much miserable EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. until you can get out of that episode. Perhaps when you’re manic you’re not, but the crash is never worth it, and you’re going to be doubly miserable for all those non-miserable days you didn’t have when you were manic. Some people don’t become depressed after an episode of mania. But even if this is the case, mania can make you destroy things you didn’t mean to destroy: your bank account, relationships with people, your job, and so on and so forth.

Everyone’s struggle is different. We all struggle in different ways. But when I tell you I am jealous of all those writers who can do all those writerly things, I am flat out jealous. Even if they aren’t that put together, they’re still doing the things that I WISH I could do but can’t. That doesn’t wipe away my jealousy by telling me those people might not be as put together as I think they are. They are put together in the writing department, that much I know. And I wish I could be.

So let me put it this way:

You are a recent amputee who had legs most of your life. You were a ballet dancer at one point, and you could still be a ballet dancer had your legs not been taken from you. You look at all these people with legs and envy what you can’t do anymore. You’re mad that they can do what you can’t. They can walk, jump, run–and dance. Would you want to be told by someone that those people with legs aren’t as put together as you think they are? Probably not. So why would you tell that to someone with a mental illness angry about people who don’t have a mental illness?

I know a comment like that is coming from a place of comfort, but I just want to let you know that it’s not. It really is belittling.

Feelings are feelings, and what you’re feeling at the time should never be belittled.

 

These Limitations I Hate: This is Your Brain on Hypomania

These Limitations I Hate: This is Your Brain on Hypomania

I have been so frustrated these past three weeks: frustrated in general or frustrated for a reason. I am still frustrated. I’m calmer now that I’ve talked to my therapist, but I’m frustrated that I can’t just pull myself out of this hypomanic episode. Perhaps being hypomanic gives me this delusional belief that I can just stop it; I feel like I can. When I’m depressed, I don’t even bother thinking there is anything I can do about it other than taking my meds and waiting for them to work. But being hypomanic makes me feel like I can press the switch. And-it-will-stop.

Apparently not.

I just want to dig my heels into the sand and stop that spinny thing you find in parks. (Thingy has been a huge word in my vocabulary these past three weeks. Difficulty concentrating is fun, isn’t it?)

Right now I’m in rapid-speech mode, and anyone who has bipolar disorder can understand this. You read too fast, you speak too fast, your thoughts are alphabet soup. I was about to have a complete freak out because I couldn’t slow down the pacing of my reading for my American Lit homework, and because I couldn’t do this, I couldn’t concentrate on what I was even reading! So I had to remove myself from all distracting things, basically put myself in a sound-proof room, and just sit there and get my mind under control.

This hypomanic episode has made me hyperaware of my limitations–and I LOATHE them. I was pretty much convinced that I was never going to have any sort of manic episode again, and that if I did, it’d last only a day and I’d be back to an even keel. For the past few weeks, I started thinking that FINALLY I am able to write late at night. This is great. Fantastic! My brain is oddly not tired.

Nope nope nope. That’s all hypomania–

And it’s delusional that I thought I’d never have an episode again.

My therapist does believe it’s my meds, among a combination of things, but usually when my meds stop working, I go back to being depressed. Not like this. This episode would be great if I’d been depressed for a while, but it sucks when I’ve been stable, and suddenly I’m like this. I prefer it over depression, but during my blow-up moments, I really do want to kill myself to get rid of those feelings, because it’s not like my brain wants me to sleep to help me escape those feelings.

And I don’t want to be. I’m irrational, snappish, rage-filled, lack inhibitions, have no emotional stability, feel reckless, and I hate it. I seriously do. I like being rational. I hate irrationality in myself.

So what limitations do I need to accept?

I compare myself to all my author friends on Facebook. These authors are able stay up for hours and get stuff done. Drink coffee. Get stuff done. Stay up late. Get stuff done. Then go to bed late or function on little sleep. And get stuff done. And promote and all this other stuff that comes with the territory of being an author. The only good thing this episode is doing for me is allowing me to work on the promotional aspect, but it’s such crap, because it’s not like I can normally do this–because I just can’t due to my mental health!

They get books finished, get books subbed off, have more books published. Make more sales than me because they can do all this and more and I can’t. And I hate it. I’m jealous. I’m super, super jealous, because I realize I can’t do any of those things. And so I’m bitter and frustrated and full of rage, and these feelings are coming from being hypomanic. And, yeah, these feelings themselves worsen hypomania, but, hey, that’s the irony, isn’t it? Things trigger hypomanic rage, and when you realize that trigger, you get frustrated by that trigger, so you just get angrier.

Not only do I have to go to bed because I either have work or school work or ballet, but if I stay up all night, there is a chance I could go manic, even stable on meds–and I can’t risk that. I just can’t. And if I drink too much coffee, I could go manic. What people don’t understand about the coffee aspect is that coffee wakes up a normal brain, and yeah, the consumption of more coffee can make that brain wired. But the continual consumption of coffee for a brain with bipolar disorder makes that brain manic. Mania isn’t just about lots of energy, but reckless thinking, oftentimes delusional. You feel riskier, want to do things you would normally never do, your speech is rapid, you can’t shut up; you get ticked off when someone tries to slow you down; you don’t want to slow down–you want to keep going and going and going. You enjoy things TOO much. You want to spend money because it’s something to do (and believe me, I want to blow my bank account, but I’m keeping my debit card in the kitchen cabinet for a reason). Any little thing can trigger something in your manic episode. You can also be arrogant. And I’m feeling arrogant right now, mostly in regards to my job, and I’m usually a very humble person, but I just have this intense arrogance that makes me feel like I’m THE best, just because my boss has given me permission to be in charge at events where I’m working with newer people and putting me in charge of re-training the new girl because another senior co-worker of mine, yet again, is slipping through the cracks, for whatever bizarre reason. It happened to one co-worker, and he is no longer with us! And I am hyperaware of this, and I know that I am not THE best, but knowing and feeling are two completely different things. I FEEL the best, hot stuffs, the queen of my job, but I KNOW I am not.

Just today when I was working Boshears, I was watching the grand finale where there were seven planes, all in sync, and my mood suddenly skyrocketed from the ambivalence and whatever attitude I had prior to seeing it. Then suddenly I felt risky. I wanted to be risky. I didn’t know what I wanted to do to be risky. Driving fast was one thought, but I don’t want to say I was speeding down the road. I was just far less tolerable of cars not doing the speed limit, so my lack of inhibitions made it so that I wasn’t afraid to pass every slow car I came upon, even on a three-lane road. I’m just normally a very inhibited person and accept that some people can be timid drivers.

I’m so, so, so mad that I can’t do what all those authors can do, with being able to write through the night and being able to subsist on coffee without losing it and being able to function on little sleep without losing it the way a bipolar brain would and being able to be on social media throughout the night to promote the crap out of themselves and all that other…ugh, I’m just going to stop here.

Contrary to popular belief, when you’re manic and you write, your writing isn’t going to be that great, because most of what you write is going to come from being manic, not from a rational brain. A lot of manic writers will tell you they love mania because they use that energy to be more productive, but then they come down from that episode, realize their writing is crap, and realize they weren’t as productive as they thought they were. And if they were productive in their writing, they generally find its crap. Maybe there are a FEW lucky ones who can do it, but it’s generally not so, no matter how aware you are of it.

Mania is not rationality, no matter how aware you are that you are manic, no matter how much you are able to draw that energy in.

You’re. Still. Manic.

My therapist decided it was a good idea I not get back to my contemporary book until I come out of this episode. And she’s right. And I hate that she’s right. Because I love this book. But I don’t want to use my energy to write it with this awareness that the letters pouring from my brain could be coming from a place of hypomania. It would be different if it were a rough draft, because I would then let my brain off the tracks, but these are REVISIONS. I NEED my rational brain.

But I have to accept these stupid, crappy, awful limitations. Right now I just want to pick up a book, throw it against a wall, and scream, “I hate this! I hate this! I hate you. I hate everyone who can do what I can’t!”

To be honest, writing this post is making me angrier, but that’s hypomania for you. Hopefully people who find this post will find something in it that currently I’m not getting from it, other than being able to pour out my brutal honesty so that people can understand a hypomanic brain, because all of these words you’ve just read are not from ME.

 

 

 

Os Trigonum Syndrome

Os Trigonum Syndrome

I had myself some coffee yesterday, which perked me up pretty fast, because I could not wake up, as I am not used to 50 mg of Seroquel anymore. I woke up at 9, and by 1 PM, I still did not have my bearings, so I had to have something. In fact, I wonder if it perked me up a little too much, because normally when I drink coffee, it doesn’t really do anything for me. I normally drink it out of enjoyment, just because I’ve learned to appreciate the taste of coffee itself a little over the years. I mean, I added a lot of sugar, but even when we had work meetings and I decided to have coffee, I’d still add a lot of sugar, but that didn’t make me up. I was still at the same energy level I was when I finished drinking it. But a similar thing happened to me last Saturday when I worked Market on the River. I was already awake by the time I got there, but it’s not like I was bleary. I was just in a super crabby mood. I didn’t want anything to do with anyone, and I figured people were going to tick me off. My co-worker wasn’t ticking me off, but whenever I talked, it was all this irritable negativity. But as soon as I had some coffee just to warm me up, suddenly I was up and ready for the world, and despite the crummy weather, I had this sudden burst of confidence and desire to do stuff, to wander around–to not stay still, basically.

I know with a lot of people, this is what coffee probably does for them. I don’t know. All I can tell you is that coffee normally does not make me up, up, if that makes sense.

But today I woke up, and it’s like I hadn’t even taken 50 mg at all. I woke up at 9, my usual time, unfortunately, just because Seroquel is annoying, but my mind was sharp and racing with thoughts. I laid in bed for fifteen minutes, just so the sleepiness could drain from my body itself, but I was zipping around, ready to get my paycheck, cash my work check and AEC one, send of WSD to a Tumblr winner, and I even went to Hobby Lobby to buy new brushes, paints, canvas, and an easel. For some reason, whenever I’m hypomanic or manic, I get this strong urge to paint, probably because it’s therapeutic and I don’t have to worry about making it right. I can just mix colors on canvas, abstract fashion, and just go with it. I collected my supplies, went home, and did my Access homework. I had this sudden confidence with my Access homework, so confident I got a 99 compared to yesterday’s 89. And I can’t figure out what I did differently with today’s assignment that I didn’t do with the last one.

So I got some bad news on my ankle, the thing I talked about in the last post. I have a syndrome called OS Trigonum syndrome (this isn’t the bad news, although it’s still bad). This means that something didn’t ossify when I was younger, so I have an extra bone at the back of my heel either fused to my talus or held in place by a piece of cartilage. I think pointe work began to irritate this bone. What happens when you do plantar flexion or pointe work, this little bone gets crushed between your heel and ankle, so it gets very irritated. Jumps mostly aggravated the bone. Many dancers report it hurting during pointe work, but my injury might not be that bad…yet. But the bad news is that I was hoping I could get the MRI ASAP, get the surgery soon, and then take a break over the summer. However, apparently I’m not going to get the second opinion until July, which means surgery being delayed, and Grade V starts in the fall.

Now being hypomanic, you can imagine my explosiveness toward this news. I wanted to scream, I wanted to break things, I wanted to hurt myself because I couldn’t go to bed to escape these feelings because hypomania says you don’t want to go to bed, no matter how crappy you feel. My dad had to talk me down from it, because I couldn’t. You get so irrational, so rage-filled, that you can’t concentrate, you can’t find that silver lining. And someone HAS to talk you down from it. So there is a silver lining. I can do Session I of the grade IV intensive  and learn the grade V barre work (because for some reason you do grade V barre work in a grade IV intensive). And let’s assume I get the surgery in October. I will have a month and a half to learn the Grade V exercises, get the surgery in October, and come back in January. I’ll probably be a little behind, just because they build on the exercises, but I will have at least learned those exercises; I would just have to see what was added to them.

I am going back en pointe though. I am not staying off pointe for five months, not when pointe work didn’t cause me any pain to begin with. This decision is out of sheer stubborness and the fear that I am going to fall behind in pointe work. Now if it does begin to hurt, I’ll take myself off pointe. I’ll also probably limit the jumps I do in class. Like maybe do every other jump exercise, depending on what it is. This is my decision, my choice. And even if it starts hurting worse than it hurts right now (because it’s not so severe that I can’t dance), then I think by that point, I’ll be okay with not doing anything until everything gets taken care of. As it stands, I can still dance; therefore, I will keep dancing until my injury literally tells me it is not possible to currently dance.

I’ll just load up on Icy Hot.

Hypomania and How I’m Trying to Deal With It

Hypomania and How I’m Trying to Deal With It

I was really worried that I was getting depressed again, because I started exhibiting some symptoms that started the week before last. At the same time, depression didn’t make sense because I wasn’t feeling the usual symptoms: hopelessness, apathy, loss of appetite, lack of desire to get out of bed, and suicidal ideation (which is an unfortunate symptom for me when I am depressed). I was/am just intensely irritable, snappish, have irrational reactions to thinks I shouldn’t get frustrated about, foul mouthed, and just overall feel guilty and depressed over my reactions–but it’s not depression.

I began exhibiting these intense reactions when I realized I wasn’t getting full commission at my job. I went out into the living room, screaming my head off and cursing, thinking someone had screwed me over. My much-loved boss brought me down from this and made me feel so much better when we figured out what it was: a hole in the week. I also had a panic attack trying to figure out Excel, crying like someone had died, and I knew the reaction was super irrational, but I couldn’t control it. I feel so ashamed, too, for my explosive reaction on Facebook over this frustration with Excel. My dad had to bring me down, and he even admitted there was something wrong with my reactions. I just didn’t know what was wrong. I thought maybe it was because the Klonopin hadn’t kicked in yet, but the moodiness kept continuing. It wouldn’t go away. I was still snappish, still irritable, but I was doing my best to keep it under control. But increasingly I wanted to stay away from people.

For example, at work lately, whenever somebody made a smart remark about the car, I started cursing them beneath my breath. That isn’t who I am. The good thing, though, is that I never lashed out. I was also extremely, extremely ticked off that someone at work had lost my paperwork, which meant I lost appointments that could have been potential commissions. I couldn’t let this go, even at work. And when I saw the numbers from Monday, I wanted to cry Tuesday because I left with zero, even though I was really putting myself out there to get something.

Then I began Access, and I stopped at number four. I wanted to ram my head through my computer and scream. I just eventually broke down crying because I couldn’t figure out number 4. Then I just had to talk myself down from the freak out, as I knew my dad would help me, no matter what. So I just stopped the Access and got back to my novel, which has been soothing for me as of late. I just keep thinking about that one publisher that follows me on Tumblr, and the fact they love my posts so much they constantly re-blog my stuff. And I know my book would be a good fit for them, so I keep that in mind whenever I go into this book.

At my Wednesday meeting, I was acting out, not in the sense that I was being disruptive, but that I was talking about all the things that were currently making me angry. I talked about how leaving with 0 appointments made me so angry that I wanted to do this and this and this. I also talked about how mad I was that, in my words, “some idiot took my appointments and left them in an office that clearly does not deal with appointments. What moron would take my appointments out of the mail box and think to not stick them on my boss’s desk? I had appointments that were supposed to go out on Tuesday, and all because of that idiot, they’ll have to be re-scheduled, and clients rarely re-schedule. And my boss was searching all day for my appointments. Freaking idiot.” I just kept going on and on about this person. As I’m writing this that anger is flushing through me again. My co-workers knew there was something up, so I had to explain to them what was going on, then had to talk myself down from it.

This was something I did on the fifth day of my stay at Summit Ridge, when I had no idea why my mood suddenly changed. I was so excited to go home, then I stopped caring about going home because I was turning into this burgeoning ball of rage. When my parents and fiance visited, all I could talk about was why I hated that place. Then on the last day, I was absolutely irritated, loudly voicing why I hated Summit Ridge to everyone in my group–when the counselor wasn’t in there. My Summit Ridge buddies knew there was something up, and they had figured I’d been misdiagnosed, but I didn’t understand at the time. I just thought depression was creeping in, but it was actually hypomania.

So Wednesday I saw my pdoc this week, told her I thought I was going into a depressive episode, then gave her the list of symptoms. She actually told me it was hypomania, which stunned me–and made a lot more sense and a little relieved, because depression is awful, and I’d rather be hypomanic because it’s much easier to treat. But Lamictal is a really good medication to stabilize you. Not to mention my Klonopin should have been tempering the anxiety and all of that that accompanies the nasty side of hypomania. She thinks it’s likely the fact that I started with 100 mg of Seroquel and brought it down to 25 mg. It could be that. Seroquel is an antipsychotic, after all, used to treat mania. But I also think something triggered it. I just can’t pinpoint what.

But I’ve e-mailed my therapist to see about setting up an appointment with her, if she gets back to me, so I can figure out what to do to not trigger an episode. Even with medications, manic episodes can still trigger. For now, these are the steps I’m taking to keep my hypomania from taking control of me:

  • Whenever I feel like I’m about to panic because I can’t do something, I step away from that thing and have an internal dialogue with myself. Even though Dad had helped me figure out number four yesterday, I still felt that intense reaction wanting to come. So I left and asked Dad for help. Then Dad would periodically check on me, which kept me calm throughout the assignment. Well, calm for the most part, even though I still felt that ball of anxiety knitting a lovely scarf for me.
  • People, people, people. They can aggravate me for no reason at all. I called my fiance yesterday to give him a status report on my ankle (which I’ll talk about in a later post, depending on the results of the MRI), and I started getting very irritated with talking to him because I felt like he just wanted to go on and on and on. I stopped the conversation right there and told him I needed to go inside and practice some things before the start of dance class, before my tone escalated to convey my irritability. When I stepped into that studio, it’s like I wasn’t even hypomanic anymore. When I’m at a ballet studio, all I can think about is ballet in that moment, and nothing else matters. It calms people with bipolar disorder down, gets rid of that energy building up inside of us, whether it’s anxious/irritable energy, or hyped-up energy that makes you think you’ve drank a bunch of Red Bulls (which I’ve never had, as I’m not fond of energy drinks). So when I came home, the irritability was pretty much gone. However, an issue with any kind of mania is that you don’t want to go to sleep. It’s not always an inability to sleep, but a lack of desire to sleep, and I didn’t want to sleep. I just kept wanting to do things that weren’t exactly productive. Even so, I knew that if I didn’t, I could have launched myself into a full-blow manic episode. It happened one day when I was released from Summit Ridge with my misdiagnosis. I was hypomanic for about the first week, I think, and then I never went to bed one night and launched myself into a full-blown manic episode. The energy was so insane that I walked out into the freezing cold, without only a jacket, a light shirt, a skirt, and a pair of stockings along with running shoes, and ran around the entire block. The energy still wasn’t gone.
  • Self-talk. As I’ve mentioned above, I’ve been having internal dialogues with myself, trying to be cognizant that my behavior, my reactions, are a result of hypomania. Once you know this, you can start taking care of the problem. It’s difficult, but it’s like ballet. Once you know what you’re doing wrong in class, even if it’s difficult to fix, you’re still on the right path. So being aware that I’m hypomanic means I can be more cognizant of what sets me off so I can talk myself down from it.

 

The Devastation Mental Illness Brings: Good-Bye, Ned Vizzini

The Devastation Mental Illness Brings: Good-Bye, Ned Vizzini

In case all of you haven’t heard the news, YA author, Ned Vizzini, died a few days ago. He committed suicide, but I won’t go into the details because you can simply click the link over his name.

His most notable book is It’s Kind of a Funny Story, which was made into a feature-length film, and a novel that I hold very close to my heart. I do consider Ned Vizzini somewhat of a celebrity, if authors are even allowed to be called such. But a celebrity’s death has never affected me so deeply as his. I was sad when beloved children’s book author Diana Wynne Jones died, because I loved her books, but she was also in the prime of her life, and was able to spend a good bit of her life living her dream as an author of beloved children’s books. She lived what was hopefully a fulfilling life, leaving this incredible magic behind that I hope people of all ages will enjoy.

I saw a Tweet that said ‘So sad about Ned Vizzini. His family is in my prayers.’ My heart immediately jumped to my throat because I knew exactly what happened, because it always seems to happen to artists who suffer with mental illness. Always. I frantically typed his name into Google, and there it was, my fear confirmed: Ned Vizzini died at the age of 32. I immediately burst into tears, the kind of tears where it’s hard to breathe, and I have never, ever experienced such grief from a celebrity’s death before. Ever. I only briefly talked to Ned Vizzini on Twitter before, and a Tweeter and I even made a little hastag for him called Fanzini (which, by the way, is totally spelled wrong). He was even on board with it, as you can see in the picture below.

Screenshot (16)

It wasn’t this brief chat on Twitter that did me in. Not at all.

Before I was hospitalized at Summit Ridge for self-harm and suicidal ideation, I read It’s Kind of a Funny Story in order to have a better grasp of what it was like to be a young, depressed person being admitted into a mental hospital for the first time. I was terrified, as well as severely depressed, and I finished the entire book while waiting for the ambulance that would take me to Summit Ridge, which is a few hours from where I live. There were no beds available in my area.

The story comforted me in ways that no one who has ever been hospitalized with mental illness can ever understand. The fact that it was semi-autobiographical, 85% of the book being based off Ned’s experiences, made it all the more precious to me. It was especially the last paragraph in the book that was so uplifting for me (it’s long, just warning):

“Run. Eat. Drink. Eat more. Don’t throw up. Instead, take a piss. Then take a crap. Wipe your butt. Make a phone call. Open a door. Ride your bike. Ride in a car. Ride in a subway. Talk. Talk to people. Read. Read maps. Make maps. Make art. Talk about your art. Sell your art. Take a test. Get into a school. Celebrate. Have a party. Write a thank-you note to someone. Hug your mom. Kiss your dad. Kiss your little sister. Make out with Noelle. Make out with her more. Touch her. Hold her hand. Take her out somewhere. Meet her friends. Run down a street with her. Take her on a picnic. Eat with her. See a movie with her. See a movie with Aaron. Heck, see a movie with Nia, once you’re cool with her. Get cool with more people. Drink coffee in little coffee-drinking places. Tell people your story. Volunteer. Go back to Six North. Walk in as a volunteer and say hi to everyone who waited on you as a patient. Help people. Help people like Bobby. Get people books and music that they want when they’re in there. Help people like Muqtada. Show them how to draw. Draw more. Try drawing a landscape. Try drawing a person. Try drawing a naked person. Try drawing Noelle naked. Travel. Fly. Swim. Meet. Love. Dance. Win. Smile. Laugh. Hold. Walk. Skip. Okay, it’s gay, whatever, skip. Ski. Sled. Play basketball. Jog. Run. Run. Run. Run home. Run home and enjoy. Enjoy. Take these verbs and enjoy them. They’re yours, Craig. You deserve them because you chose them. You could have left them all behind but you chose to stay here. So now live for real, Craig. Live. Live. Live. Live.”
This last paragraph was a piece of hope for me. Not only had Craig been able to accept his situation and move on from it, but it was also directly from Ned himself–Ned, who suffered from chronic depression; Ned, who wrote that book and others to inspire young people struggling with these things; Ned, who was a mental illness advocate; Ned, who was older than me and survived and seemed to be doing well and seemed like he would always do well and fight through the depressive moments and live and live and live to give hope to people like me. I even once told him on Twitter that his story helped me when I was being admitted into a mental hospital, and he told me that he was glad it did.
It would have been different if Ned had died in a car accident. I would have thought it tragic, I might have even cried a little bit, but, no, he took his own life, after all that hope and light and love he gave through his books alone. Suicide, to me, is the most tragic thing in the world, more tragic than war or famine or any other terrible non-suicide-related thing. Suicide is standing at the edge of the universe and realizing that the universe isn’t going to keep expanding for you anymore the way that it should. Suicide is saying that there is nothing left, that there is no more hope, no more light, no more love. Suicide is also saying that none of that matters. Some individuals may feel suicidal after a break-up, a divorce, or some other earth-shattering thing. But for people like me, suicide is a diagnosis, a reality we struggle with in conjunction with our mental illnesses. Suicide, AKA suicidal ideation, is a symptom of a mental illness. In my case, It’s Bipolar Type I.
I couldn’t believe how hard I was crying. I cried over my grandpa’s death, but not as hard as Ned’s. I cried over my former boss’s death, but not as hard as Ned’s. I cried over my dog’s death, but not as hard as Ned’s. And I knew why I was crying, too: because I know what it feels like to be at the edge of the universe where you can see no more stars.
I’m sensitive to suicide. I cry whenever I hear that someone ended his/her own life. I cry when I hear songs implying suicide. I cried when I wrote a scene in All Shattered Ones about my main character committing suicide (it’s not a spoiler).
Ultimately, I cried for a somewhat selfish reason. This is something I have never, ever admitted to anyone, not even my therapist, but I’m finally coming out with it because I want you all to understand what was behind those tears I was crying when I found out about Ned’s death. Bipolar disorder is forever. It’s not going away. It claims lives every year, in higher numbers than many other mental illnesses because of the devastating highs and lows. I was on Remeron first, and it gave me back who I was. But then it made me severely manic, hospitalizing me again. Then I was put on Trileptal, which did nothing for my depression, but did put a stop to the mania. It took almost half a year before I got put on Abilify, and then I thought the darkness had finally ended, that it was gone for good, so long as I kept taking this little miracle pill. But then it stopped. For good. Upping the dose did nothing, and I was back in that darkness again, suicidal ideation once again taking residence in my mind. Not every person with a mental illness struggles with suicidal feelings. For many, the thought never crosses their minds. But for others like me, who see mental illness as an intolerable thing to live with, it does…and it did every day.
Then I was put on Lamictal. It didn’t work right away. I believe it took about two months for it to finally start working, and now I am back to being stable–but now I can no longer believe that that stability will remain. Oh, certainly I hope it’ll just take a rise in dosage to help, but what’s going to happen to me in those in-between moments, those moments when I am temporarily depressed, when I am seeing the endless chasm of no return, when I see that there is no way to go up?
This is the thing I most fear more than anything else: I fear that ultimately my life will end by my own hand. Do I want it to? No. But sometimes I feel like it’s not a choice. And I have never told anyone this.
It sounds illogical, irrational, maybe even a little silly. After all, how can someone such as me who seems to have it all, who has endured depression before, who has a tight, loving support system, fall prey to such a terrible thing? That’s what everyone thinks…until it’s them. That’s what I thought about Ned Vizzini, that’s what people think about so many artists who took their own lives. One of my favorite singers, Emilie Autumn, attempted to take her own life. Thank goodness she failed. But I’m also afraid that one day she’ll try again…and succeed. I haven’t attempted yet, but I’m scared that one day I will–and one day, that attempt may succeed.
So, ultimately, that’s where the tears stemmed from. If Ned Vizzini, someone who lived his life to help others, to inspire others to fight their own battles, ends his own life, who’s to say that I won’t one day? Of course I don’t know what the future holds, but for someone like me, I HAVE to take it one day at a time. I can no longer look at the future anymore and see a world full of promise and hope that I’m going to be at this stage of life doing this thing and loving this thing and being this thing. I can’t do that, because I have to accept that bipolar disorder limits things. People with chronic mental illnesses have low stress thresholds. Even with proper medication, we can still fall prey to depression if even a little bit of stress is applied. I have to be on anti-anxiety meds for crying out loud, even though I am stable depression-wise. Otherwise, I tend to get panicky when I have a full day.  
And there is nothing I can do about that. So I sometimes irrationally await the day when my dosage of Lamictal stops helping me. And then I wonder ‘what is going to happen to me then? How am I going to feel? Just how severe will it be? Will I be tired of the constant tug-of-war battle and just think it’s better to quit on this life?’ My therapist tells me I’m so brave and strong, but Ned Vizzini seemed like he was, too.
My Lowest Point as an Author After the Book Launch

My Lowest Point as an Author After the Book Launch

Depression sucks, and this is the only way I can start this post. In fact, bipolar disorder sucks because, I don’t know, I’ve learned that bipolar depression and depression are different, in that in bipolar depression, irritability and rage seem to be more common–and believe me, I have plenty of irritability to go around. I hate the irritability because it makes it so difficult to connect with people, and I tend to get snappish. Sometimes I just want to break down crying when I’m around my fiance because he is being so attentive and loving, and I just can’t reciprocate because I am literally paralyzed by my depression and irritability. I desperately want to talk to him and cry in front of him, but I feel so paralyzed. 

In any case, Shannon Thompson wrote about one of her lows as an author, and I thought I would do the same, even though my lows have to do with depression. 

During the launch week, I didn’t feel the sting of depression at all because I was on Cloud 9 with all the exposure my book was receiving. I knew it was being bought, and even if my Amazon ranking sucks right now, I’m confident the e-book will do well–or I should be confident–because I plan to do different giveaways for the book blitzes–like Amazon gift cards instead of e-ARCs. I feel like that by the time the e-book releases, an e-ARC might discourage people from buying the e-book due to the fact that they just might wait around until the giveaway is over with.

WhenStarsDie-3-1

In spite of When Stars Die being published, I have fallen from the high I had last week. The launch week was wonderful and beautiful and gave me the confidence I needed as a writer, but now that I’m done with that, I am filled again with crippling self-doubt: What if my book doesn’t sell as well as I want it to? What if my royalty check blows, pointing to the fact that my book isn’t selling well? What if, even when the e-book comes out, all the people who can’t wait to read it never buy it because of monetary reasons or they have other books they want to read first? In fact, in spite of being on YA Interrobang, Veronica Roth’s book obviously stole the show from all the other authors’ books who were being released that day, like Mary Gray’s The Dollhouse Asylum. Even though my book is in a store, is anyone buying it? I know one person bought it, and that put me on a super huge high during launch week.

When Monday came, I could barely get out of bed, so I stayed home, stayed in bed practically all day, slept, and missed class because I just couldn’t do it. Even now I can barely do it, but I have to so I don’t get dropped from my classes with a fail. I even so desperately wanted to cut myself–mostly my thighs and wrists–but I didn’t do it, ONLY BECAUSE MY LEOTARD AND TIGHTS WOULD NEVER COVER THEM UP. If it weren’t for ballet, I may have fallen prey to the blade. 

It wasn’t the self-doubt of my book that brought upon this intense depression. It was just falling from the high I had during that week, the awesomeness ebbing away, and me just feeling the depression once more. It’s discouraging because my Lamictal is currently at 150 mg, and I don’t notice an improvement at all. Not one single improvement–not even a tiny bit. While I’m on Klonopin and it gives me patience, I feel like I need to up my dose now, because the previous week, it made my head clear and didn’t allow the depression to incapacitate me. And this terrifies me because what if I have to have electroshock therapy, like Esther in The Bell Jar? I know that’s a totally irrational thought considering there are plenty of meds for bipolar individuals out there, but Abilify worked for a time, then crapped out. Upping the dose of Abilify did not improve my mood, so Abilify stopped working period.

There are a few lucky individuals out there whose meds work for a long time and seem to work for the rest of their lives. My grandmother is on Lamictal, and while she is not blood-related, she seems to be holding strong with it.

Why can’t I be one of those lucky individuals? 

Everything has been so hard because of this stupid depression. While this semester is easier than the semester I had in the fall, it’s still so difficult to get out of bed and get things going. I still have this strong feeling that I’ll end up in a psyche ward again. I don’t know why. Sometimes I have this sense of impending doom that I’m going to do something awful to myself, even though I have yet to do so.

As soon as I get up and start my day, all I can think about is going right back to bed and napping until dinnertime–the Klonipin at least lets me nap comfortably. And even with ballet, my thoughts constantly switch between going and not going. I know going ups my mood, but it’s the going that is so difficult because all I do is want to sleep, sleep, sleep, so I don’t have to feel the depression raging in my brain.

It really sucks, because even though I have a book blitz going on this week, nothing can get me out of this. I have even been writing on The Stars Are Infinite, and I like the direction it’s going, but it’s not doing a thing for me.

Like Shannon, I am trying so hard to up my mood, to be put back on the high I was on during launch week, but I can’t do it. I simply can’t do it. It’s this stupid flaw in my chemistry that makes it all so difficult. It’s this stupid flaw in my chemistry that brings upon the self-doubt, because I’m certain if I wasn’t depressed, I would be totally blowing up my social media right now, being chatty with everyone, being personable, being proud of my freaking book. But, no, that doesn’t want to happen and isn’t going to happen, probably not until the e-book’s launch, or until my freaking meds start working. 

So I want to leave you all with a picture quote from When Heaven Was Blue (it says His Vanity in the corner, but that is no longer the current title of the book), a contemporary fantasy I hope to get back to work on in December (involving mental illness, of course), because this is exactly how I feel right now. gene

But in spite of feeling this way, I don’t want to discourage anyone else. All I can do is keep writing and keep publishing, and for now, that is what keeps me tethered to this world, even when everything else is so impossible to connect to. I want to be honest with all my Stars. I don’t want you thinking that now that I have a book published, I’m living cozy in my house, sipping moscato, while pounding out another brilliant book and not lacking in confidence what-so-ever. 

Tomorrow I am going to blog about what an anonymous user on Tumblr told me about my publication path. 

Cover Reveal–2013: A Stellar Collection

Cover Reveal–2013: A Stellar Collection

1232474_228974277259508_712675402_n Here is this thing that I have been talking about, this thing that has been AEC Stellar’s Anthology, and here is it’s gorgeous cover! Mine is “I Am the Bell Jar,” a story about two mentally ill teens trying to make an unstable relationship work that ultimately ends in tragedy.

It will appear October of 2013, probably before the publication of When Stars Die, so “I Am the Bell Jar” will give you a taste of my writing. I also helped to edit two of the short stories that are appearing. And guess what? The e-book version will be free, so that’s even more of a reason why you should pick up a copy! There will also be a print version as well that you will have to pay for.

So I seriously hope you guys will download a copy because I really want to share my short story with all of you. It’s my first time writing anything literary and will give you a glimpse of where I’d like to take my writing once all my genre stuff is done. This doesn’t mean I’m going to quit genre forever. This just means that I’d like to start writing literary stuff, mostly sick lit stuff about mentally ill teens.

I hope you guys will share this cover on your blogs!

Trapped in the Bell Jar

Trapped in the Bell Jar

Unfortunately in people with mental illness, this is almost impossible to do.
Unfortunately in people with mental illness, this is almost impossible to do, not the words part, but the mood-changing part.

Stars, I am having one heck of a time trying to get myself together. You wouldn’t think I’m a wreck because I’m still doing what I’ve always done instead of letting myself get shot in the trenches of my mind (which is a metaphor I use in “I Am the Bell Jar”), but I’m a serious wreck on the inside. I’m angry all the time, I don’t want anything to do with people at all, and all I want to do is stay in bed and not go to school or work or have anything to do with anything that involves forced interaction. I skipped out on ballet yesterday because I just didn’t want to go. I mean, I know it’ll make me feel better, and rationally I know I love it, but forcing myself to go all the time is emotionally exhausting. Forcing myself to do anything when I’m like this is emotionally exhausting.

I haven’t been writing much in When Stars Rise either. I’ll write in it here and there, but not as consistently, probably because I know putting more work on myself is just going to make me angrier. And it’s not even that I’m doing a whole lot. I’m only taking 9 credit hours this semester and only working about 8-10 hours per week (although this week I’m doing 14, which honestly makes me angrier, but some extra money won’t hurt either, especially because I didn’t have class Monday). It’s like exerting any little bit of energy just makes me angrier and angrier. My anger nearly got the best of me at work Monday because some woman came by, looked at my co-worker and I really funny and wouldn’t stop staring at us, and I called her the b-word to my co-worker when she walked away. She then came back and asked us for the number to the office, and I was terrified that she overheard what I said and was going to call me in. But that wasn’t it at all. She just wanted to inquire about a product or whatever. I know I shouldn’t have said what I said, but any little thing is just setting me off. However, I can’t afford to just take a sojourn from work when I need the money for ballet.

I can’t even care about school. I’m doing my work, yes. I’ve done and read all the research for a paper I’m going to start. I’ve done my geography study guide. I’m doing the reading I’m supposed to do, but I’m very detached from it all, like I don’t care what the outcome of all of it is.

I’m just tired of it all.

And then there is the matter of my meds. My Abilify was boosted, but I don’t notice any changes. My pdoc then wants to wean me off all the meds I’m currently on and have me just on Lamictal because it’s supposed to be this great med for bipolar. But I’m terrified that it won’t work. I know I shouldn’t be thinking of ‘what-ifs’ but it’s so easy for people to say that when they’re not the ones affected by it. I mean, upping my Abilify doesn’t seem to have worked. It took less than a week for Abilify to originally work, and now it’s been a week and I don’t notice any changes. I’m still angry and still depressed. And maybe I am angry for a reason. I just don’t know what that reason is.

But it’s not all bad. I did a guest post and an interview. When Stars Die has 5 stars on Goodreads so far, even though I don’t have that many ratings. And “I Am the Bell Jar” is ready for publication in AEC Stellar’s upcoming anthology. But to be honest, all this social media stuff is exhausting too because it is so difficult for me to find people who will interview me or let me do guest posts. I’ve contacted well-known blogs about doing an interview, but it’s been over a week, and NONE of them have gotten back, and I must have contacted over 20 bloggers. I just want to give up because I can’t do this on my own. I really can’t. But then maybe I’m not in my right mind to be saying that. I don’t know.

Mental Health Update

Mental Health Update

I just want you all to know that it might be some time again before I do a serious blog post, mostly because I think I am becoming depressed again. I am not certain, but I feel it and have seen no signs of cessation. The diminishing of my appetite is often a serious sign that something is wrong, but until I get my head screwed on straight, the only writing I’ll be doing is outlining for an SNI (shiny new idea) and writing for When Stars Rise. Otherwise, it might be a few more days. I do know what I want to blog about, but I just don’t have it in me to blog about it. It’s too much for me right now. Heck, everything is too much for me right now, but I’ve got to keep coping and not succumb to this possible depressive episode.

I can tell you, however, that the next post will be about where I want to go with my writing–I want to take my writing to a more literary level. Less genre. My SNI will be included in the post.

 

Mental Illness and Creativity

Mental Illness and Creativity

I’d like to thank litebeing chronicles for inspiring me to write this post.

People have this conception that a prerequisite to creativity is some form of mental illness. After all, don’t you have to be some sort of mad to spend hours on some piece of art that may never see the light of day? I suppose so, but then there are a variety of mental illnesses out there, some that might enhance creativity, and others that may inhibit it.

I can only speak as a person with bipolar disorder who has gone through mania, hypomania, mixed states, and depressive episodes. I can’t speak for any other type of mental illness, like schizophrenia or dissociative identity disorder or panic disorder or even borderline personality disorder. So my experiences with creativity, or lack thereof, only come from my experiences with my own mental illness.

Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night. Oil on can...
Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night. Oil on canvas, 73×92 cm, 28¾×36¼ in. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mental illness can enhance creativity in some aspects. I never hallucinated during my manic episodes, but the fast, racing thoughts and overexcitement of life seemed to have resurrected dead creative brain cells that were lying dormant in their little graves. Stolentime was partly the product of a manic episode and mostly the product of my sanity working through what my mania came up with. Of course, the novel was a completely different story then, but only because my mania had no filter and no way to logically structure a story. So while my mania came up with an idea, it couldn’t bring that idea to proper fruition because the thoughts I had were too grandiose and I couldn’t look at reality properly. I was completely delusional, so to speak.

I once read some of Van Gogh’s paintings were a product of his mania, but there was no mention whether he painted them while he was manic or after he was manic because mania can give you thousands of ideas, most that you’re not even going to remember.

But depression inhibited my creativity. My brain was so weighed down by this thick, heavy black fog that it couldn’t come up with anything new. It kept trying to grasp on to those ideas it came up with during mania, but it didn’t have the energy to put any sort of logic to them. However, I do think some writers have used their depression to their advantage. Apparently Sylvia Plath wrote her final novel when depressed before ending her own life, so it is possible to write while depressed–just very, very difficult. I couldn’t really brainstorm Stolentime while depressed, but I had enough in me to work on When Stars Die because it didn’t take whole re-writes.

Overall, I think mental illness can enhance creativity, but after the fact. It’s very difficult to enact creative processes while ill, but that doesn’t mean one can’t use one’s illness as a source of inspiration–might as well make something good come from the bad, right?