Sunday, July 5, 2015

I Am Not My Disorder: The Girl's Story

 Yesterday I opened an email from The Girl - an email containing a request to guest post and a piece of writing. And just like that, my Mother’s heart filled with all manner of warm and fuzzy feelings, pride being the frontrunner.

 Back in April I wrote about the guilt I felt over having a child with a mental illness. I also said I wouldn’t write about their journey because it was their story to tell, if and when they were ready.

 That email I mentioned? Said she was ready.

The Girl’s Story

pixie.c.d. - I Am Not My Disorder: The Girl's Story

 Over the course of my twenty-two years I’ve let a lot of things define me. I am a writer, a poet, a dreamer, a sister, a daughter and a student. I have a 3.0 GPA in college and am working on a degree that only three other people are going for in my school. Four people in an entire school are working toward and English Literature degree, that astounds me beyond words. I am nearly finished with my path to conversion and will, as of next week, be Jewish. I cannot begin to express the joy that all of the things bring into my life, but that is something to discuss another day.

 What I refuse to let define me is the very thing I’ve been hiding for over a year, something that started at the beginning of the school year last fall and hasn’t gone away. I was scared and maybe even in a bit of denial, not wanting to admit that what was going on was getting bad until it was so out of hand that I couldn’t hide it and had no choice but to talk to someone.

 A couple of my close friends will know I’ve been bouncing through therapists since early April. By “Bouncing through” I mean I was having trouble finding someone who would listen to me. Living in a small town, surrounded by other small towns unless you want to drive an hour, there weren’t a lot of options on where to go. It took me three months just to find one who listens to me, who I feel comfortable enough with that I can talk about what’s really going on. Since February, my parents and brothers have been my rocks. They’ve been with me every step of the way. My mom’s been my biggest supporter, even going to appointments with me and listening to all the crazy days of tears or angry screams, reminding me that problems like this often takes years to be diagnosed.

 It took me about four months and a bad decision to be diagnosed. A few weeks ago I finally managed to get an appointment with a psychiatrist in a town about half an hour away, close to where my therapy appointments are. I calmly explained to her my symptoms and it’s been determined that stress has been the trigger for everything. I swallow my stress, in doing so I’ve given myself some pretty bad anxiety and a lot of other problems, I didn’t even know how bad it was until it became out of control. As a way to try and lessen the stress and maybe help some of the symptoms, I was prescribed some antidepressant and antipsychotic medication. And that is how I found myself where I am now.

 The antidepressant didn’t take away my anxiety. In fact, it made it worse and spiraled me into a manic phase that I’m only beginning to come down from. I felt fine, I felt like I could run a marathon or swim miles through the ocean. I wasn’t sleeping and was living off soda and candy bars. I had all these brilliant ideas that seemed like the best thing ever, but before I could follow through with one I’d think of another, my thoughts moving so fast that I couldn’t focus on anything to save my life. But I felt fine, I wanted to cut my hair and tattoo myself. I even thought about giving myself new piercings, who needs to go pay someone for that, anyway? I wanted to run around and party. I felt like I could do anything and I never had to sleep.

 I didn’t do any of that. Not because I didn’t want to, but when I started acting differently my family, specifically my mom and dad, were aware enough of it that they sat me down. My mom told me that she thought I was entering a manic phase and was watching me. I asked her if she’d accompany me to my next appointment and took the action of locking myself inside the house. I wanted to do so many things, stupid things just for the hell of it. Because, why not? I was bored. But I didn’t.

 Enter the second psychiatrist appointment. I was so distracted by silly things, like the pictures on the wall or my own thoughts, that I couldn’t finish most of my sentences, fortunately mom was following my disjointed thought pattern and finished every one of them, even adding her own comments. The doctor told me I should’ve called, and instructed me to stop taking the antidepressants, promptly starting me on a heavy dose of lithium.

 I am bipolar. Because of the reasons I began to go to start with, I’m Bipolar Type One. The diagnosis was a mixed bag of things. At the time it was given I was so relieved to finally have an answer, especially one that explained why I was experiencing what I was. But, as I come down from the manic phase and am able to think more clearly, I’m finding that while I’m relieved, I have to remind myself again and again that this changes nothing. I’m still the same person I was before. I’m not the disorder and I won’t let the stigma define me. I remind myself that I may not need to be on medication my entire life, but for now it is necessary to get myself back into a healthy lifestyle. I tell myself I need to stop some of the things I’ve been doing, things that aren’t healthy and will only make the disorder worse.

 Now, of course, all I want to do is sleep. It feels as though all the weeks of sleep I missed out on is catching up to me all at once. Each day I feel a little more like the ‘me’ I know and less like ‘manic me’ that can’t tell anything’s wrong. I have an answer, and I was lucky and got it a lot faster than I expected I would. Now my goal is to focus on getting myself into a better place, and learning new ways to deal with it.

pixie.c.d. - I Am Not My Disorder: The Girl's Story  One thing I can’t shake is the idea that some of my friends will stop speaking to me after this comes out, that they’ll hear the name of the beast and think I’m a freak or that somehow overnight I’ve changed. But the thing is, I haven’t. I’m still the same girl I’ve always been, that hasn’t changed. What’s changed is there’s a name to call the beast, a way to address it when I tell it I am stronger than it is. I will not let it consume me and I am not my disorder. I refuse to let the stigma push me down and hide part of me like it’s something I should be ashamed of. I’m choosing not to be ashamed; I’m choosing not to hide because I have no reason why I should. I am not my disorder, I’m stronger than it and I haven’t changed. I’m the same girl I’ve always been.

I Am Not My Disorder
I am not my disorder
I am in charge of my life,
What I know is right
I’m a survivor, a fighter
I’m the decider of my destiny
I am not my disorder
I will not let the stigma define me
Or be all that people see.
I am the same beautiful, caring girl I was before
The same me you’ve always seen
I am my friend and my own worst enemy
My mind is my safe haven
And my toughest battle
I am in charge of my fate
I am the master of my life
I will fight the stigma
I am not my disorder
I am simply me, the same me you’ve always seen.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Mental Illness and Why We're Celebrating

pixie.c.d. - Mental Illness and Why We're Celebrating

 You enter that place where the house grows quieter, the days move slower and the adventures become a little more tame. The people who were once the main characters in your personal story request their names are now left out of things. They refuse to let you take pictures of them wearing a cat as a neckwarmer, tape their impression of Christopher Walken singing I Like Big Butts, or film them performing the theme song they wrote for their brother. (Ahhh-hhhh...Moist!) (Sometimes it’s best not to ask too many questions. This? Is probably one of them.)

 More and more the only time you hear from them is when they need roadside assistance. So you begin the letting go, the casual smiles in passing, and the days without really having much conversation. Until that moment you realize that, while you were busy working on letting go, one of them has been silently asking for your arm to help hold their heads above water.

 There are both dangers and advantages to knowing your Offspring so well that you become aware of the small shifts in demeanor or personality. The advantages are obvious, but the downside of familiarity is you can mistakenly assume the early stages of mental illness are just normal teenage angst and the push for freedom.

 Yesterday we finally got an answer in the form of a diagnosis for Unnamed Offspring. Now we have a foothold for our first steps on the path to mental health.

 And so we celebrated. Which might sound weird to those who deal with things in a slightly more serious and mature way. But neither of those words holds much meaning in a house where we prefer celebrating the surprise bumps in the road, over mourning the things we think we’ve lost.

 So, we laughed and we hugged.

 Then I cried and said, “Thank you,” over and over.

 “Why are you thanking me?”

 “Because you were brave enough to ask for help.”

 That’s what we were really celebrating. The fact that someone in pain, who knew something had become “not right,” had the guts to push past the stigma - stigma they’ve witnessed first hand from living with a Mom who openly speaks about mental illness - and asked for the help they needed.

 Now that we have a name for the Dragon, we can begin the journey of learning how to tame it and live the fullest life possible despite it. We can gather tools for keeping the small crack in the windshield from becoming so much broken glass. (That fine line between psychosis and a psychotic break.) Now we have a goal to focus our fear of the unknown into determination to become whole.

 And that’s a damn fine reason to celebrate.  

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

I am the architect

This morning I was sitting here contemplating exactly where I could find some funny in the last week. Setting aside what’s going on in the greater world around me, I’ve had to switch my focus to the more immediate problems of life with chronic illness.

 This last week has seen a return of the vertigo beast and the ENTIRE RIGHT SIDE of my body decide to go on some sort of muscular strike, leaving me unsteady and wrapped in pain whenever I try to do jack-freakin’-shit. There’s also been daily borderline-migraines and intestinal issues leaving me with Unpeakable-H of epic proportions to work around.

 Are you ready to stretch out and give up yet? Because I’m not even gonna lie, yesterday I sure as hell was.

 Then this morning...well, I remembered some of the things I frequently tell myself.
“Find a way to find the joy in every day.”
“Some days I’d rather live life from the couch with a smile.”
“My life my way.”

 I was swept up off the path I was weaving down and dropped like a hot potato, smack in the middle of another way of thinking about things.

 Then, this kinda happened...

I am an artist, an architect of the imagination.
With broad strokes and bold designs I choose the color, the angle and just the right light at which my life is viewed.
If the tones don’t suit me, I’ll choose another.
If the temple of my life doesn’t match the beauty in my mind,
I add, subtract, I build up and tear down until the glow can radiate through the cracks,
From the inside out.

I am an artist, the architect of my imagination.
I alone know the blueprints from which I work, if there are blueprints.
The temple I erect to house my holy life is organic, erratic, completely unplanned, allowing me the freedom to add until the piece, the color, the tile feels just right.

I am the Winchester Mansion - a forever work-in-progress.
I am nothing more nor nothing less than a monument to my own existence and the ghosts of those who came before me.
I am flawed and frayed, cobbled together from their scraps to create something more than I once was.
I am purposefully and accidentally built with the intention of finding not perfection, but a reflection of what I wish to leave for the next soul when I’m gone.

My life is a work of art, and architectural miracle!
Some walls may fail to hold, yet the patterns formed when they fall is worthy of a frame.
Paint runs together creating swirls and eddies of color.
Some are muddy, some almost neon in their brilliance, but all are mine - so much me.

This body that refuses to follow the rules and plans in my head
knows itself better than my vision. So I adjust accordingly to once more find the cathedral among the rubble.

This body may not appear perfect, unblemished, unbroken, unbound,
But if you step twice back and to the left when the sun rises and the clouds are just right, you’ll see it as I do;
A work of art.
A church worthy of worshipping the grand beauty of that which is life, both mine and all other.

This form is a carnival, a funhouse, a madhouse and everything in between!
It holds cemeteries of lost dreams and birthing huts filled with the new.
It encompasses the thoughts too big to describe in words and the fears too wild to be trapped, like mustangs breaking free from their pens.
In every cell
Of every part,
I hold the universe in all its awe inducing glory!

Mine may not be the painting you choose to hang on your wall or place on your shelf, and for that very reason, my soul continues to sing.
Because art is subjective - reflective,
And mine must live and breathe and grow,
For it wishes to remain alive and not withering under the dust and shadows of a static existence.

On those days when it’s hard to see the beauty in my life,
I must remind myself to remember,
I’m not looking with the right set of eyes.
Because I am an artist and an architect of my imagination
And I alone choose when and where my work is done.