Mental Health’s Greatest Hits

  Good morning! I woke up this morning to the pleasant aromas of party mix floating from the kitchen. I think my mouth filling with anticipatory saliva got me up quicker than my filling bladder…
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  Yes, my oldest, the day sleeper, had taken over the kitchen to prepare his yearly addition to our Holidays. Party Mix! *insert much rejoicing here*
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  Putting the Party Mix out of my mind for the moment, today’s prompt has me chasing my tail. “Write about mental health” they said. What if I can’t? What if I don’t want to open that door and look around at all the things I try no to dwell on that are sitting on the shelves?
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  What if…I “cheat” and simply take some of them down, brush the dust off, and line them up as a sort-of “Mental Health’s Greatest Hits.” Heck, musicians do it ALL the time!
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  Ladies and Gentlemen, this morning we present for your reading enjoyment Chris’ Greatest Hits of the Mental Health variety! So sit back, enjoy the show, and without further ado, here she is…
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4-23-12
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  …Once upon a time, I let the crazy “out,” so to speak. I would sit down at the keyboard every morning, and just let the crazy go for it! Oh, it was “liberating” for a while. People laughed, my hubby learned to sleep with one eye open, and my daughter worried about mental health and heredity.
  Then the “funny” wore off when people figured out I wasn’t making sh#t up…and my social life got REALLY quiet…After all, you’re fun to hang out with when you’re one “crazy chick”…but you’re creepy to be around when you are one “CRAZY chick”! (Also, things that get you labeled a “free spirit” at 17 get you labeled as “off your nut” in your 30′s and 40′s…just sayin’!)…

5-16-12
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  …The first time someone actually told me I was “off” was during a two week hospitalization my 8th grade year. I was having “laughing attacks” (think 45 minutes of hysterical, uncontrollable, PAINFUL laughter for no apparent reason…gets kinda creepy!) and Doc was worried it was a rare form of Epilepsy. (Seriously…it really does exist! I looked it up…) Turns out it was a bizarre manifestation of anxiety attack. .
  During all the fun and games of my two week stay, I was given my first (of many) Psychological Profile test. I failed. Actually, his words to me were, “If sanity is a highway, you’re driving a little left of center. But you’re functional.” (COOL! I’m functional. Yay me!)…
  …After many years of alternating between fighting things on my own and attempting more therapy, I’d collected a flippin’ bag full of “Depression” and “Anxiety” diagnosis. It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my last kid that an awesome Doc noticed there were days I’d come in and be bouncing off the walls, out of my head with giddiness. Enter the Bipolar Disorder diagnosis!
  Suddenly, all the pieces fit…and my wild mood swings made a bit more sense. (Then the fight REALLY began!)…
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6-3-12
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  …Today I will admit that I’m currently trapped in the Hall of Mirrors…everything distorted and made ugly by pain, worry, and fatigue. It sucks! (Wait, it doesn’t just suck, it sucks on toast! It sucks on ice! It’s suck-a-tude on a cracker!)
  Ahhh…but the worst part? It would be so very easy to stay here. So effortless to simply close my eyes and allow my back to comfortably rest against the gentle curve of the mirror behind me…the cool surface feels lovely and welcoming. The air is pleasantly warm with just a slight hint of the disinfectant they used to clean…
  …The hard part is fighting my way out of the lies that surround me. Fighting my way back through all the confusing bullshit, back to the sun and the breeze and freedom!…
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7-29-12
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  …For years my family just thought I was a little “odd” for my occasional outbursts of “SHUT UP!” until recently when they realized I was talking to my head. They’re not afraid of me, but they do sometimes worry about me. Because, sadly, this bullshit makes them feel just as powerless as it does most of us. (Yet another reason I fight so fucking hard!)
  I want to be a Day person. I want to be steady and dependable. I was to smile and truly be at peace with all that I am. The physical illness I can stare dead in its shit, understand it, and accept it. I can even embrace it as a part of my life and hold its hand as we walk along a metaphorical beach. It’s part of me…and I’m OK with that.
  But this? This darkness that hides at the edges of my vision, threatening to overtake me if I let my guard down…I will NOT make peace with this bastard! I will never again embrace it or offer it a hand. I’ve learned the hard way that yes, it is a part of who I am, but not a part I can easily accept or ever really make peace with. We cohabitate…but we dance around each other in a dark tango, me doing my best never to let it take the lead…
  …So we keep silent. We hide in the darkness and pray for dawn. We hope we hide the shadows we carry with us well enough that no one ever notices. We find ways to fight and use smiles to camouflage the battle scars. And all too often, we believe we’re alone in the fray.
  That right fucking there is why I stopped swallowing the urge to write about it this morning…because the one thing all of us Night people should remember…the thing that might help give us the strength not to give in…is the fact that none of us are alone.
  We may be partially hidden from each other in between the black waves that crash and roll around us, but we’re there. And sometimes? That knowledge can be the one tiny difference between continuing to stay afloat until morning comes, bringing with it a calm, beautiful blue sea…
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8-2-12
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  …Yes Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the point on the arc of our Mood Swing where thoughts race by so quickly you’ll get whiplash if you try to watch. It’s that magical place where the images and sounds are whirring at such high speeds they simply blend together until they become white noise, leaving you sitting in front of a blinking computer screen, wondering what to write about while drooling on yourself!
  This, my friends, is mental overdrive! (Technically known as “Racing Thoughts.” But I like mine better…)
  …This is the side of Bipolar no one really thinks about. Everyone’s familiar with the image of a manic high where the person is running around like a crack-crazed monkey on industrial strength coffee. Or even the Lows so low, well…you can come up with your own analogy for that one. (I don’t have it in me to crack jokes about depression of any kind. It’s just not funny.) But what few people realize is that a lot of the manic swing can actually occur INSIDE your head!
  When the definition said “racing thoughts” it wasn’t freakin’ kidding! Those suckers book it like Time Trials at the Indy 500…and they ALL bring their friends! It’s like I’ve got a 3X Speed Kegger goin’ on up there!
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10-10-12
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  …Don’t. Please…I don’t wanna do this.
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  We have to . It’s been too many years. It’s time you understood it’s not your fault you’re bipolar. It’s just something that “is.” It’s time we made peace with each other.
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I can’t. There’s just too much I’ve done. I can’t let anyone know. They’ll hate me! They’ll tell me I’m crazy and should be locked up!

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  No. They won’t. They’ll understand because there are too many others in this life that carry secrets and scars.
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  But…how do you tell someone how much it can hurt?…
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  …You told people!?!
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  Yeah. And you know what? They don’t hate me and they never threatened to lock me up. They love me just the way I am and they help me through the roughest parts of life.
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  Are you happy?

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  Yeah. Even though you never thought you would be, we are. And I figured out a long time ago that “normal”? It’s just a setting on a dryer. This IS my normal.
  And most days, I’m OK with that… 
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10-12-12
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  ..After I was in the office and the annoyance had been settled, the question, “Is there anything else I can help you with?” was thrown out there.
  I began to shake from head to toe and then the stream of mix-and-match words flowed, the hands that fly and flutter aimlessly like hyperactive birds appeared and I finally managed two words that made sense. “AFRAID! anxiety.”
  There were no judgmental looks. There was no derisive pointing and laughing. There wasn’t even any eye rolling or annoyed sighs. Only a light of understanding and a gentle smile.
  Yes, there was a series of questions to determine what “state” I was in. There were more questions to help her make sense of the answers I’d given with the first series of questions. And yes, there was discussion about our local Mental Health Clinic and me paying a visit for an evaluation.
  “I’m fine with the other stuff, it’s just everything at once…OVERWHELMED!” It made perfect sense to me.
  “You said ‘this’,” as she motions at nothing in particular, “the physical combined with financial stress and your mental stress is causing the anxiety? Sweet heart, none of ‘this’ is ever going to go away. You will now be dealing with ‘this’ for the rest of your life.”
  W-O-W! As silly as it sounds, it really was an amazing revelation! Flares may come and go, but auto immunes and bipolar are both for life…
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  Over the last year, I have traveled an odd, winding road with my mental side of things. Never before have I spoken or written with as much brutal honestly as I have in the past nine months.
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  Some would call it the wrong thing to do, but I’ve discovered that it was the completely RIGHT thing for me to do at the time. It was the true thing, the raw thing, and the best thing for others who also walk this weird, looping path.
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  Too many of us are even more ashamed of our mental health glitches than we are of our physical health. And the two feed each other like Lady and the Tramp eating spaghetti, you simply can’t separate them.
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  I may have “cheated” a little with compiling a “Greatest Hits” but this morning these words are once again my truth just as much now as they were then. And the most important truth I can give you, the one new track to add to this compilation is this…
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  Screw the word “Stigma” and all it stands for! You are NOT alone and you are NOT broken. You’re among friends here, so smile and know that you’re with one heck-y of a rockin’ group of people!
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  And guys? You’re so very safe and so very loved, glitches and all!
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  Now, I don’t know about you but I’m heading into the kitchen to sneak some Party Mix..


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