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Surviving Marriage with a Bipolar Partner, I am Kanye West, bipolar disorder, mania, Kim Kardashian, I am Kanye West

Kanye West is in the middle of what appears to me to be a shit storm of a manic episode and I should know because I’ve lived through my own fair share of shit storms of manic episodes. They’re not pretty and coming out of one is the worst part. It’s like being held hostage while your mind spins out of control and explodes all of your relationships. Surviving marriage with a bipolar partner is one of the hardest things anyone can experience. Of course, I never had my manic episodes in full view of the public. I was never a celebrity and thank God for that because what an asshole I was. I am Kanye West.

Bipolar is a mental illness. I don’t even know how to accurately describe it as I’ve only ever known it from the inside out. When I’m non-episodic, I can look back with a clear vision and see the outrageousness of the manic me but in the throes of it, I couldn’t recognize it if you paid me. This is why the Big Guy and I have a system in place.

He doesn’t blame every bad mood on my bipolar 1 and I don’t get away with bad behavior because I have a diagnosis. We both know that when I’m flying high, the last thing you can do is try to reason me down, so when/if I have a full manic episode, he’s my rock to keep me grounded. He agrees to be my reality check and I agree to give him that power. It’s the greatest trust you can give to anyone else. This is surviving marriage with a bipolar partner. You’re probably wondering why I’m telling you all of this. There is a point.

I’ve seen what Kim and Kanye are going through. More importantly, I see what Kim is going through. It breaks my heart because I’ve been Kanye. I’m telling you this because I read Kim Kardashian’s Insta Stories posts and they got in my head and in my heart. You see, I’ve been watching Kanye and I see myself. I’ve been him. This is mania. Mania is a gift and a curse. It’s like having wings; you feel invincible. You just keep rising higher and higher until no one can touch you. And then, just as suddenly and unexpectedly, you come crashing down in one of 2 ways, you either fall into a pit of despair and depression or (like me) you get stuck on “ON” and you can’t stop and your body gets exhausted but your mind won’t turn off and you are trapped in a mind and body at war and you’re the hostage. It is exhausting, it’s irritating and in the end, it’s terrifying to never be able to turn off your on switch.

READ ALSO: How my diagnosis saved me

You’re asking yourself, why not take medicine? If only it were that easy. We’d all be chemically balanced. Well, I did take medicine and many years of behavioral therapy because after accepting your illness, you have to learn to live with it. But it’s not easy figuring out the drug cocktail to a definitely not one size fits all mental illness.

If you do get the right drugs, you have to get the right amounts and you have to constantly monitor for changing moods and chemicals. Think of it as having an imaginary balance scale that you’re constantly needing to adjust so that you don’t chemically topple in one way or the other. On top of all of that, you have to be cognizant that your actions can be catastrophic to the people you love. It’s a lot especially when we are usually known for our creativity, so we’re assholes from the beginning.

It’s like being Icarus, you go so high you touch the sun, you get burned, catch fire and turn to ash and the world watches on. You watch on, held captive by your manic mind, only to come down to be confronted by all the destruction you caused while eclipsing the sun.I went through the worst of mine as a college student and newlywed before I had kids and before I lived my life online.  Still, even without kids, for the Big Guy surviving marriage to a bipolar partner was almost impossible. Our marriage would not have survived if I hadn’t gotten help.

I am Kanye West

Kanye has had to live his Bipolar episodes under the scrutiny of the public eye and I would not wish that on my worst enemy. Anyways, back to why I am writing this, Kim Kardashian. She wrote some powerful words about the disease. Words that only a person whose been through it or watched someone they love descend into madness could write.

 Surviving Marriage with a Bipolar Partner, I am Kanye West, bipolar disorder, mania, Kim Kardashian

Kim’s words of love and compassion are a true commentary on what it’s like loving someone with bipolar. It’s brutal. Like seriously fucking hard. My husband, I don’t know how he stayed but I’m glad that he did. I was as difficult as anyone could possibly be. I had no boundaries and no respect for consequences. If you know me now, you wouldn’t think that about me but I am who I am because I went through what I went through to become who I am.

Surviving Marriage with a Bipolar Partner, I am Kanye West, bipolar disorder, mania, Kim Kardashian

READ ALSO: I am Robin Williams

 

Surviving Marriage with a Bipolar Partner, I am Kanye West, bipolar disorder, mania, Kim Kardashian

So when I say that Kanye is acting crazy, it’s not an insult. It’s not me being flip about mental illness, which I think some people thought that from a post I put n Facebook. I forget that not everyone knows my business. I’ve written about it quite a few times on here and I guess I take it for granted that everyone’s a fan.

It’s me recognizing my illness in someone else, having compassion and empathy for Kanye. Hoping that his marriage can weather this storm because of all the things we are forced to sacrifice to our illness, our partnerships shouldn’t have to be one of them. It’s rooting for him to come through this on the other side without damaging too many relationships or ruining his career.

Surviving Marriage with a Bipolar Partner, I am Kanye West, bipolar disorder, mania, Kim Kardashian

Kim deserves to know the road map for surviving marriage with a bipolar partner.

The thing with mania is when we’re manic, we don’t think beyond the moment. We’re not capable. It’s a very id serving illness and you can’t tell us any different because we can’t be reasoned with because we are not in a rational state of mind. This is not a choice we make. Honestly, the recklessness is something that comes along with the mania and drags us along for the ride. The easiest way to recognize someone with bipolar is reckless behavior. It’s a red flag. Pressured speech. CHECK. Speeding. CHECK. Spending a lot of money. CHECK. Insomnia. CHECK. From the outside, I was fun on steroids and then I was hell on wheels. There was never an in-between for me. I was all or nothing and it ruined relationships, friendships and opportunities.

READ ALSO: Carrie Fisher the Warrior Princess who gave me hope

Now, I live in the in-between with slight ticks up and falls down but nothing like before I was diagnosed. It’s still hard. There is no cure. You learn to live in the in-between. I have moments when I can feel the mania coming on but I don’t give myself over to it anymore. Instead, I hold on and I do whatever I can do in my power to minimize damage and destruction to my life, to my family and to the person I am today.  The luxury of just riding the wave and feeling it all isn’t an option because the price is too high. I say all this with the clarity of education, therapy, wisdom and experience because I’ve been living with this illness most of my life but diagnosed for the past 20.

My diagnosis did not scare me. Hope is in accepting the broken. Relief came in knowing. Ready to embrace the disease by the time I received it because I was so weary from surviving it. I read everything I could to learn more; immersing myself in understanding. Giving myself forgiveness and grace because it was the only way to move forward and separate myself from the disease was the only thing to do. Otherwise, the shame spiral would have been too much to overcome.

We all do things that we otherwise wouldn’t, especially when chemically imbalanced. We have no control before we know what the problem is, we accept it as it is who we are. Just because we are bipolar doesn’t mean we don’t deserve to be loved. But it’s not easy to love us. We’re difficult even on our good days. I am Kanye West and this is what surviving marriage with a bipolar partner looks like.

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ACEs, three people who saved my life, childhood

This post is made possible with support from the American Academy of Pediatrics through a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All opinions are my own.

I grew up in a big family with an even bigger extended family. Our family wasn’t just the people we were related to. It was also the people in our community whom we loved and who loved us and cared for us, too. I am grateful for those people who were there when I needed them most. 

My parents are good parents. They’re even better grandparents. When I was small, they were new at parenting and, like all of us, they didn’t always know the right thing to do. I’ve made mistakes as a mom, just as all of us do. But I survived those moments thanks to good intentions and the village that was there to help guide me when I was a little lost and couldn’t find my way. In many ways, I’ve thrived because of the positive childhood experiences I’ve had.  

I did however live through my fair share of ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences). ACEs are negative childhood experiences that impact children and can have long-lasting effects. There are 10 ACEs, and they fall into 3 categories: 1) Abuse (physical, emotional, or sexual); 2) Neglect (physical or emotional); and 3) Household dysfunction (mental illness, domestic violence, divorce, incarcerated relative, substance abuse). Thankfully, ACEs can be prevented or mitigated when adults and children have strong support systems through individuals or organizations. 

There are a lot of traumatic things that can happen in a child’s life, including death, pandemics, or natural disasters, but ACEs can be prevented either directly with help from another person, or indirectly through policy, education, or society changes such as paid family leave or prison sentencing laws. 

The ACEs that I experienced were physical and emotional abuse by a father who was an alcoholic. He has since stopped drinking. He has been sober for most of my adult life, but those early days have left their scars. His alcoholism sucked all of the air out of the room. This isn’t to say he wasn’t a good dad. When he was sober, 5 days of the week, he was a devoted, loving, and involved father. But when he was drinking, he was selfish, mean, quick-tempered, unpredictable, and volatile. He was scary, maybe even more so because when he was sober, he was so good.

His behavior had ripple effects. His instability caused my mother to spend a lot of her time distracted, overwhelmed, afraid, and unhappy. She loved us so much, but it always felt like she was withdrawn, even though she was always physically there. She teetered between being emotionally removed and overly emotional. For me, I never felt like she was completely present; putting out fires while awaiting the next crisis. 

ACEs, three people who saved my life, childhood

In turn, this caused me to pick up the slack, and that impeded my childhood. With 6 children, a volatile father who drank, and a mom who was always overwhelmed, worried, and afraid, I was left feeling abandoned even when I was living in the house with both of my parents. They were physically there, but I felt very alone. I needed to talk. I needed to be seen. But I was just one more thing on their lists of things to survive, and sometimes, my needs were too much for their patience that day. 

Each day was an unknown—maybe it would be a day at the beach followed by a cookout and laughter, or maybe it would be a drunk dad, an overwhelmed mom, and a slap or a belt buckle for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I just never knew, and that was my entire childhood until I went away to college, which may have never happened if not for a few special people who saw me drowning and threw me a buoy. University was my escape plan, but these people were integral in helping me get through some of the rough patches. 

ACEs, three people who saved my life, childhoodThankfully, for as many adverse childhood experiences as I had, I also had many positive childhood experiences with my parents. Luckily for me, a few very special people’s simple acts of kindness towards a little girl in crisis helped me to grow into the person I am today. They’re the reason I’ve always made myself available to lift children up when I can, to advocate for my children’s friends, and to be a champion and cheerleader for my girls. I learned from the mistakes and the kindnesses of the adults in my life. Our actions, good or bad, have ripples and can make a difference in other people’s lives, especially a child’s. 

There were many but these are the three that I would like to thank:

Mrs. Vrabel, my 2nd-grade teacher who took a special liking to me and saw me at a time when I needed to be seen. She nurtured my gifts and praised me at a time when I was one of five children under 7 at home. She made me feel special when my parents were too busy, tired and overwhelmed to do it themselves. 

ACEs, three people who saved my life, childhood

My Tio Narci and my Tio Ramon, who both made the time to talk and listen when I was trying to understand what was going on with my parents’ fighting and my dad’s drinking. They made me not feel alone, and I felt safe knowing they were there to intercede when my mom couldn’t. I felt heard when my voice felt small. They stepped in on my behalf to remind my parents we were still there watching—afraid and confused. They made me feel normal at a time when my life felt out of control.

ACEs, three people who saved my life, childhood

My friend’s mom, Linda, who I will never forget. To this day, I adore her. A lot of things were happening at home when I was a senior in high school. It was all so much that I was depressed and, at one point, suicidal. School wasn’t very important to me. I knew college was my escape plan and I got good grades, but I was depressed and I just didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to be anywhere.

ACEs, three people who saved my life, childhoodBy that point, I was suffering from eating disorders, and that was just one more thing I had to hide. I suffered from a lot of stomach issues from anxiety from my home life, so I missed a lot of school. My mom let me stay home because she knew what was going on and that was the only thing she could do to help. My English teacher tried to fail me for the last quarter of my senior year because of my attendance issues despite my grade being an A. 

He would have succeeded. I was terrified when he gleefully told me. Yes, he smiled. He didn’t know what was going on at home, and he didn’t care. That wasn’t his job. He just knew that I missed his class a lot, and he felt that deserved punishment. Did I mention I was #3 in my class? Did I mention that I had been in journalism, yearbook, and newspaper for all 4 years of high school? Did I mention I took 2 languages, all 4 years? I was the nerdy girl who worked her tail off to get accepted to every college she applied to. I got a gold seal on my diploma. But he tried to fail me, and I had no one to advocate for me because my parents were otherwise engaged.

I didn’t know what to do. Then my friend, Laurie, stepped in with her mom, who happened to be on the school board. The teacher was overruled because all of those journalism classes counted as English coursework, so his one quarter was not going to affect my overall requirements. She saved my future when no one else could or would. 

I’ll never forget what these people did for me. They saved me at pivotal moments in my life when I could have been lost. It’s so important to create safe, stable, and nurturing relationships and environments in childhood, which are essential to lifelong health and success as well as the prevention of ACEs. Prevention or mitigation is possible when adults and children have strong support systems through individuals or organizations. That’s the idea of preventing them directly. You can help other people and stop ACEs from happening, and other people can help you and stop ACEs from happening. That’s why support networks are a necessary component of preventing ACEs. 

ACEs, three people who saved my life, childhoodThese three people changed the trajectory of my life. I am who I am, in part, because they were in my life when I needed them most. Are you one of some child’s three people? Are you a  resource that children can rely on to create those safe, stable, and nurturing relationships and environments? How can you be part of someone else’s “three,” and provide that vital support that every child needs growing up?

 

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new normal isn't normal at all, coronavirus, pandemic

We’ve been sheltering in place for 10 weeks. It’s been challenging in some ways. In other ways, there’s been peace in knowing that I’m doing my part to keep everyone safe. I’m not a doctor, nurse, first responder or healthcare worker. I can’t save lives on the front lines like some but I can do my best. I can shelter in place, wear my mask and social distance. It’s been hard mentally, physically and spiritually and the new normal isn’t normal at all.

I’m an extrovert. I’m human and I need people. Even more than that, I care about people so while it feels completely unnatural to shelter in place, I know it’s the right thing to do. It’s the only thing I can do, anything else would be selfish. So while my soul may be craving the attention of an audience, my brain knows better.

READ ALSO: How to Protect Your Mental Health During a Pandemic

Last week the Big Guy had to go back into the office as Indiana is reopening. His job can be done from home, and that is what the governor’s guidelines recommend, but his company is “essential” so they require that everyone needs to be back in the office.

My husband is one of 3 people wearing a mask, out of 600 people. Working in a cubicle leaves him exposed. Others aren’t observing social distancing so he wears his mask because he is hypertensive, I am diabetic and our daughter is immunocompromised. He wears his mask because if he contracts Coronavirus he doesn’t want to pass it on to us nor does he want to be responsible for passing this potentially deadly virus to one of his coworkers and their families. Unfortunately, most are not extending us the same courtesy. So he wears his mask, despite others not wearing theirs.

This new normal isn’t normal at all and it hangs in the air like a death sentence when you try to ignore it, just waiting for you to let your guard down.

It’s difficult for him to breathe wearing his mask for 10 hours a day, at his desk, on the computer (doing what he’s been doing from home for the past 8 weeks) but he goes in because we need an income. His glasses fog up so badly that he can’t wear them. He’s getting sores on his face from the mask rubbing the bridge of his nose from talking all day. Still, despite the weird looks he gets from all of his coworkers and as uncomfortable as it may be, he knows that being dead or killing someone we love would be worse.

READ ALSO: I Miss You Most at 6 Feet Apart

His choices are to prioritize our health or our livelihood. We can die from coronavirus or we can die from starvation. The choice is ours. I did not want him to go back into the office. He asked if he could work from home. He reminded them of our conditions and his. They were not moved. His attendance at the office was mandatory.

Every day, I’m afraid for him. I worry about him. The thought of him in his office being physically and mentally uncomfortable, having trouble breathing, feeling jeered and dismissed for being cautious is horrible. He’s doing the right things but sometimes doing the right thing is hard. He’s doing hard things every single day, for his family.

New normal isn’t normal at all.

Despite the world being upside down right now and our entire way of living being turned inside out, we try to do our best. However, is our best good enough? I’ve found that there is a false sense of hope that is born out of feeling “normal”. You see, when we went into lockdown, I got really stressed out. I’m not talking about your everyday run of the mill stress eat carbs. I’m talking about forgetting all the rules, we’re all going to die, release the cortisol, this is fight or flight. “My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father prepare to die” kind of end of the road dire straits.

READ ALSO: How Coronavirus is a Blessing in Disguise

But then the Big Guy went back to the office and I lost 3 pounds almost immediately. I was walking again and, despite my allergies being out of control, I could finally exhale and feel “normal” in the “new normal.” My brain subconsciously sent a message to my body that everything was going to be alright because today resembled some random Wednesday back in 2019 before all of this bullshit happened.

Even though I know we’re right in the middle of a pandemic and my new normal is wearing a mask and not touching people and who knows when my children will be able to go back to school, that simple act of the Big Guy leaving the house tricked my brain into a false sense of safety and I think that’s happening to a lot of people. They’re not seeing the people they love die so it doesn’t feel real to them. I know it’s real. It’s a silent, deadly killer that walks up on you in broad daylight. Maybe you’ll get lucky and be asymptomatic but while you’re not exhibiting symptoms, you’re giving it to everyone around you.

New normal isn’t normal

The weather is changing. Sure we had snow last week (in May) but now the warm weather is coming and everything in the Midwest is blooming, the governors are opening the states (the public is skipping over steps and ignoring others) and from the inside of my house, it’s beginning to feel normal.  We’ve been hiding indoors from coronavirus for so long, we’ve almost forgotten it’s out there. Not really but in a way, I feel safe because it looks like a normal day in May.

The quietness of it, the hushed whispers and contradictory reports are confusing and they fool you into having hope that the worst is over but then my brain kicks in and I remind myself that this virus hasn’t gone and is going nowhere anytime soon. We have no cure, there is no vaccine and, really, there is still so much that is unknown about how coronavirus works long term. What we do have right now is common sense, some basic precautions to take to stop the spread and flatten the curve and we have choices to make but unfairly we have a false sense of security that might lead us beyond our reason and into danger.

READ ALSO: How to Enjoy Your Summer Together while Social Distancing

All the doctors can do right now is best guess treat the symptoms. The scary part is the tests are still not meeting the standard of care we need. There is still a huge percentage of false negatives. An ED doctor friend of mine told me that she had 2 patients who were obviously infected with CoVid19 test negative. The test isn’t working guys and we don’t know how or if reinfection is going to hit someone who’s already been there and done that or how hard it’s going to hit if it does.

There’s security in normalcy even when it’s not safe. But there’s no safety in the new normal because the new normal isn’t normal at all. Enjoy the quiet moments in the sun with your family. When it starts to feel like things are all right in the world just remember to be safe. Don’t forget that right around the corner a silent killer is lurking but you can save yourself. All you need to do is practice social distancing for a little while longer and wear a mask. That’s it and you can be a hero, not just for yourself but for the people you love too.

What are you doing to protect yourself and the people you love in the new normal?

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carrie Fisher, bipolar, addiction, Princess Leia

Today, in some bizarre twist of fate, the moment Rogue One began to play on the screen, my Apple watch flashed the breaking news, Star Wars icon, Carrie Fisher, dead at 60. Her big, beautiful heart just stopped beating. Just like that, she was gone and all the air was sucked out of my lungs. It was a cosmic punch to the gut. I sat there in shock in the dark theater as the words, in a galaxy far, far away flashed on the screen. It was surreal and the most ironic thing I’ve ever experienced.

carrie Fisher, bipolar, addiction, Princess Leia, star wars, rogue one

I spent the duration of the movie watching from behind tear-filled eyes, stifling inappropriate sobs. I wasn’t crying over the loss of Princess Leia, that was just a character that she played in a movie. I was devastated by someone that I felt a kindred spirit in so many ways.

Carrie Fisher was a hero to me for her outspoken, feisty, live out loud female empowered way that she lived her life but she was particularly my hero because she was a survivor. We survivors, we recognize scrappy in one another and we admire it. I admired her.

carrie Fisher, bipolar, addiction, Princess Leia, star wars, rogue one

She survived addiction and Bipolar, and believe me, if you’ve not had to survive either of these you have no idea just how strong this woman was. She faced it head on and said, “Fuck you! I’m not going down without a fight! Bring it on, bitches!” (That’s NOT  a direct quote but a sentiment sort of an inner warrior princess battle cry.)

When we are children and young adults, we naturally gravitate towards heroes to emulate that we recognize glimpses of ourselves in. I saw myself in Carrie Fisher. I loved the way she just told it like it was. There was no time for bullshit. Life is too short, especially when your mind takes you on a perpetual roller coaster ride.

She came out publicly about her struggles with addiction and her bipolar diagnosis in the mid-90’s. She inspired others to do so too. Soon after, I was diagnosed bipolar 1. When you are suffering undiagnosed and self-medicating just to try to feel “normal” it’s like you’re not even really living; you’re getting by. You feel broken and to find out that there is a name for it, to find out that you are merely bent and not broken, is sweet relief. I could identify on so many levels with her on this. We shared that experience and its sort of like sharing cancer or war together. It etches that person on your heart in a way most others can never be.

carrie Fisher, bipolar, addiction, Princess Leia, star wars, rogue one

After I was diagnosed, I made it my mission to learn everything I could about the disease. Not only did I see my psychiatrist and psychologist weekly and religiously, I read every book I could get my hands on, including the DSM. I gave books to my family and friends so that they could educate themselves and understand why I was the way I was. I learned all of my comorbid diagnosis and how to cope with them; some with medication and all through behavioral therapy. I learned what made me tick. I embraced the madness. I even took it a step further and took a few graduate clinical psychology courses just to wrap my brain around it as much as possible. I learned how to diagnose not because I wanted to diagnose anyone but because I wanted to recognize, educate and help anyone else who was feeling broken.

Every time Carrie Fisher spoke up about mental illness and advocated for mental health, she made it easier for the rest of us. She also inspired us to be honest to tell our mental health truths. Having a mental illness diagnosis is not like having a physical illness diagnosis. When you have a mental illness, somehow the world sees you as defective by your own choice; as if you did something to deserve it or it was some punishment for being weak-minded but no one would ever say that about someone with diabetes or cancer. Carrie fought those stigmas at every chance because once you can separate yourself from the disease and see with that intuitive clarity, you just want to help anyone you can.

carrie Fisher, bipolar, addiction, Princess Leia, star wars, rogue one

Carrie Fisher’s bravery inspired me to share my own stories; my diagnoses. I told the world things I hadn’t even said out loud to most of my friends because I was ashamed they would somehow think less of me or make every fault about the diagnosis. I was terrified to tell you my deepest, darkest most stigmatized secrets but I wrote them out and became an advocate because by being open it destigmatizes it just a little bit for the next generation; the next group of sufferers. That’s who Carrie Fisher was to me. I saw myself in her and I will miss her. She gave me hope.

In the last 5 seconds of Rogue One, just when I thought I couldn’t possibly hold it together for one more second, there on the screen was Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) turning around to face the audience, beaming in the way only Carrie could, and she said, “We have hope.” It was one last serendipitous pep talk from a woman who has inspired me to be strong and brave when I was at my most vulnerable. Rest in peace, my fellow warrior.

carrie Fisher, bipolar, addiction, Princess Leia, star wars, rogue one

 

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Amanda bynes, mentally ill, mandatory psych hold

Last week, I read in the Daily Mail that Amanda Bynes‘ doctors are seeking to have her held in a psychiatric facility for up to one year and force her to take medication. ONE.YEAR! 365 Days of her life. Her doctors were planning to ask a judge to allow them to hold her for up to a year, during which they’d be allowed to keep her confined and, if necessary, restrained and force her to take medication

“A judge will only grant this type of hold if the person is deemed “gravely disabled as a result of a mental disorder or impairment by chronic alcoholism.”

So, hopefully the judge will find another way to help Ms. Bynes without needing to confine her to an institution for an entire year. Maybe they could make a stipulation of freedom be that she is medication compliant. A simple blood test could be used to check for compliance.

I feel like the media is reporting this matter of factly, as if having a mental illness diagnosis warrants immediately being locked up. Would we ever consider locking up a diabetic against their will, withholding sugar and forcefully administering insulin? I think not.

Media rubberneckers find this to be an entertaining topic of conversation. “Oh that “crazy” Amanda Bynes with her “crazy” antics, setting things on fire, tweeting out salacious photos, doing the most off the wall behavior for attention.” The thing is, this is serious and this is scary.

 

Amanda bynes, mentally ill, mandatory psych hold

When I see this photo, the only thing I think is maybe she looks a little thin…not crazy.

If you’ve ever had a mental illness diagnosis, as many people do these days, you know that our biggest fear, aside from outing ourselves as “mentally ill” because then everyone just attributes everything you do to being “crazy” and having it undermine and tinge every single thing you do for the rest of your life, we.fear.being.locked.away against our will. This is why mentally ill people keep their mouths shut, don’t take meds, don’t share with friends and family and don’t get better because if the price of help is being locked up against your will, it simply is not worth it to us.

Why the world thinks it has the right to banish her to an institution or condemn her to a life of being “crazy”, I don’t know? She is young. She has made some mistakes. She has exhibited some bad behavior but that doesn’t mean that she should be written off as a lunatic.

I was diagnosed at 27,with BiPolar 1. If you knew me then, you might have thought that I was “CRAZY” if you had spent any extended amount of time with me. In small doses, I could pass for funny and enthusiastic but if you spent a substantial amount of time with me, like my husband did, you would have quickly realized that there was no off button.

I was reckless, careless, I drove fast, I shopped a LOT, I was hyper sexual, I drank almost constantly, I did very outrageous things simply because I was bored, I was the life of the party and then I was the meanest bitch you’d ever have met. Luckily, I was not a celebrity nor were Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat or Pinterest in existence or maybe I would have been the token crazy online.

I got help. I didn’t need institutionalized. I never became psychotic. I was able to control my mania with medication, reducing triggers like alcohol, caffeine and sugars, behavioral therapy and cognitive therapy. I made every effort to know and embrace my illness. I did this privately, with the help of my husband. My family knew but I didn’t live near any of them. It wasn’t something I told strangers. I was allowed the dignity of keeping my mental illness private and this allowed me to not let it define me.

Years later, I came out about my mental illness on my blog because I was ready to share my story in hopes that maybe it could help someone else know that you can get through it.

Maybe Amanda Bynes needs to be institutionalized for help but a year is a sentence. She’s done nothing wrong. She is being punished for a crime that she didn’t commit. Mental illness is not a crime, it’s an illness.

I understand  72 hours or 2 weeks to get meds stabilized  and make sure someone is not a danger to themselves or others but  isn’t a year a bit extreme? If this happens, this could happen to anyone with a diagnosis, including you or I. Consider that.

Do you think doctors should be able to ask for a mandatory 1 year psychiatric hold to a mentally ill Amanda Bynes or anyone?

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Robin Williams, parkinson's disease, 1-year anniversary,robin williams, suicide, bipolar, manic depression, depression

As I sit here, I am saddened no I am devastated by the suicide of Robin Williams. I am, however, not shocked. I want to scream and cry and I am mad. Pissed off that this f*cking disease has stolen another brilliant mind from this world. He was a genius, with eyes tinged with sadness who always made everyone else around him happy. We shared something in common, Robin Williams and myself, aside from being from Chicago, a bipolar diagnosis.

I don’t talk about it often because I am so much more than a diagnosis. It does not define me. But, I take this personally. It’s a punch to the gut because many of us who suffer from this diagnosis know that suicide is a very real outcome for our lives. It’s not so much a matter of will he or won’t he kill himself, it’s more of a when will he just not be able to bear the burden any longer because even though our pain threshold is higher than most, even we have a limit to the torture we can endure.

I’ve never suffered from an official diagnosis of severe depression, but I have spent a lifetime suffering from a diagnosis of bipolar 1 which for me has mostly meant teetering between mania and extreme irritability. People love you when you are manic because you are the life of the party. You are fun and funny and everyone loves you.

But when you stay manic too long, you become irritable; irritable at the fact that you cannot calm down from your manic high, annoyed with yourself for being this person; for breathing. You begin to feel out of control and then you become angry and mean. You hate the world. You hate yourself. Then, just to add insult to injury, sometimes you fall from your vibrant mania heaven to the deepest, darkest pit of depression hell. You feel worthless and unworthy of the air you breathe.

I haven’t been “depressed” since my teen years. Like I said, I used to exist between manic and irritable. I’ve been non–episodic for 12 years. I’m 41. I was officially diagnosed when I was 27 but I had been exhibiting symptoms of bipolar from about the age of 15. At that time, I did frequently got depressed. I used to lay awake at night crying trying to figure out a way to disappear; to kill myself because living felt pointless and it hurt to feel that worthless. But the thought of breaking my mother’s heart was too much for me to bear so I held on.

When I was diagnosed with Bipolar, I wept with relief. I was so happy to have a name for this terrible demon that had literally turned my life upside down. When I was diagnosed, I was on the brink of losing everything but I was so manic that I did not care. I was drinking heavily to try to quiet my mind. I would wake up chipper and pleasant and happy-go-lucky and then it was like my engine got stuck, revved up and I just couldn’t stop and I was so tired of being “up” so then I drank myself into a stupor. When I was irritable, I was mean and biting with my words. A part of me wanted to alienate everyone and destroy anything that was good in my life because I didn’t feel like I deserved it when I was coming down. That’s the thing. It’s a shame spiral. You get manic and feel like the king of the world and then you come crashing down and feel unworthy of life and that’s when the demon creeps back in. Sometimes your meds quiet the demons, sometimes they can’t. But you choose to fight, every single day until you can’t anymore.

I am non-episodic but I know every day could be the day that I become manic. I know that every day could be the end of my life as I know it. I fight. I fight to stay here to be here because today, I know how wonderful it can be. Right now, I am living as close to normal as I’ve ever been.

Robin Williams was 63 years old, he fought his demons every day for all these years but today he was too beat down to fight back and we lost a comedic genius, a father, a husband, a friend. Today, I lost a fellow warrior. He has fallen and my heart is heavy. My thoughts and prayers are for those who loved him that he left behind, may they find the strength and courage to carry on. May he finally rest in peace.

Don’t let his death be meaningless. Don’t let one more person die in mental health vain. We need to be more open, remove the stigma and support one another. Bipolar disorder, manic depression, depression or whatever it is that you call your demon can only be defeated when all the warriors stand tall and share our stories and own our issues. I won’t lie, Robin Williams’ suicide scares me because it makes me feel vulnerable.

There should be no shame in being sick, there should only be compassion and understanding and HELP! Share your stories. Come out of your mental health closet. #RobinsWarriors If you need help, don’t be afraid to reach out. You are not alone. Don’t give up.

24-hour Hotline

National Suicide Prevention Helpline

1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK)

Do not go gently into that good night…rage until you can no longer draw breath into your body. Rage warriors, rage harder than you ever have before.

Robin Williams, there will never be another you and you will forever be missed.

 

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No, How to say no, Saying No

You know what no one teaches us as children? How to say NO! Sure we may say “no” for a few years in obstinate defiance as children but soon, that is beaten out of us ( not literally but we are told over and over again that it’s not nice to say no!) We are taught from the time we are toddlers that to be pleasing in word, deed and action to those who surround us. We are even urged to look pleasing. Inadvertently, we are turned into yes to people. We are taught that to say no is to be disagreeable. “No” comes with a metric ton of guilt. But what no one tells you is that  “no” can be empowering. We all need to learn how to say no, not feel bad about it and carry on. Guilt is overrated. I have enough guilt from drinking the Kool-Aid that’s told me there is such a thing as the “perfect parent”, when we all know the “perfect parent” is no more real than unicorns.

I’ve spent my entire life trying to fit in. That is what society dictates. To be “pleasing” is not the same as coloring my world all unicorns and rainbows but it is also not in your face instigation. I assume it comes from growing up in a household and a society where I was told regularly to ‘be quiet” as to not rock the boat or cause discourse. Why the fuck is it so important for everyone to like what everyone else says or wants? Once I really thought about it, sure who doesn’t like to be “liked” but then I thought, if I’m always saying yes to shit I hate, it’s all a big lie anyways and no ones pleased really; not the people I am saying yes to and certainly, not me. Not to mention, saying yes can become overwhelming and you will find yourself bogged down with things that you don’t want to do and missing opportunities that would be better suited to your life. This can happen in your career, school, family or friendships.

I’m sure the people pleasing started when I was a child. I wanted to make my parents happy like all children. I wanted to feel special among the 6 children they had. My claim to “special” child was pleasing disposition and great grades. I said yes, I did my chores, I did my homework and I strove for perfection in all areas. I thrived in the praise of , “Good job, Debi!” But then it was never enough. Parental approval became like a drug and soon I found myself feeling let down and never able to meet the standards.I just kept saying yes to please people, even though I was becoming completely miserable. In fact, I found myself finding excuses to refuse offers to go or do things because I just felt like me not wanting to was not a valid reason. It seemed selfish and warranted disapproval.

Why can’t we all just have our feelings without seeking validation from others. I have friends that I love but we don’t agree on politics or religion or even the color of the sky but we are friends still; we agree to disagree. I respect them as people and I respect their right to their opinion even if I don’t agree. I like hearing their perspectives. Hell, maybe I’ll learn something or they will point out something I never even thought of. I would never want a friend who only always said yes because if they only ever agreed with what I said, I’d have to wonder if they ever had a thought of their own and if they were genuine at all.

I know all this about myself and I am trying to break the involuntary response to placate others without ever considering first what I want. Still , on a regular basis people ask me to do stuff that I don’t want to do and do not benefit me in anyway and I say yes because I don’t want to hurt feelings, piss people off or I simply have no excuse to refuse other than I just don’t want to. Saying no doesn’t make you selfish. People do huge life changing things for the wrong reason all the time because they are afraid to say know. People marry the wrong person, take the wrong career path,stay in a marriage and even have children because it was what was expected of them. That is just not a good enough reason.

Who says no because they don’t want to unless they are a two-year-old throwing a tantrum? I am an adult and somehow saying no feels petty. Who wants to be thought of as petty? I often find myself frustrated and doing something I didn’t want to do but didn’t think I had the right to say no. Why can’t I say no? I don’t want to do it. I am an adult. I have the right to make a choice. The right to refuse. Remember to consider if when you say yes to others are you saying no to yourself? I am saying no from now on when I don’t want to do something and I refuse to qualify why to others.

Last week, it just clicked for me and someone asked me to do something that I didn’t want to and before I could even think about it, I said no. I caught myself and I felt embarrassed and guilty. It was a simple request from my husband to help him shovel the snow, during the blizzard. He never asks me to but there was a LOT of snow. But I was cold and the thought of shoveling snow that was 14 inches high and still falling felt too daunting a task and I wanted no part of it.I said no and I meant it. I think I shocked him. I eventually acquiesced and we shoveled together. Thank God, it may have killed him shoveling al that snow by himself. But when I said no, you can’t believe how happy it made me to say it out loud.

It starts with little things like, “Come on try a piece of this or that, just a taste.” You want to say no but why bother it’s only a small piece but then before you know it, it’s your virginity, your career, your happiness. It’s your life. When does it stop? We get into a habit of avoiding conflict and just saying yes. Say NO. What’s the worst that can happen? You inconvenience someone else? So what. Isn’t your happiness just as important as theirs.

Forgo the guilt and soak up the giddy excitement and sheer joy that comes with saying no. It’s invigorating to say no. Now, I understand why the two-year-olds love it so much. The liberation of saying no to something that you genuinely don’t want to do is one of the most . Consider yourselves, your wants and needs before you answer and if you don’t want to do something, feel free to confidently and graciously say no. Grinning and bearing it never made anyone happy and lying to get out of things is exhausting. Feel heard and know that you should never feel afraid to have an opinion. Somethings in life we have to do, even if we don’t like them because they are what is best for us. Guilt should not be a part of saying no.

How do you say no and not feel bad about it?

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keith Vidal, Throat Punch Thursday, mental illness, Schizophrenic teen, Schizophrenia, Bryon Vassey

The family of 18-year-old, Keith Vidal, called their local police for help when their son was behaving erratically during a schizophrenic episode last Sunday night. The 18-year-old from Boiling Spring Lake, North Carolina, was first tasered by two police officers and on the ground when shot and killed by a third officer, Bryon Vassey, from the neighboring town of Southport.

According to this emotional video by Keith Vidal’s stepbrother, Mark Ryan Wilsey, Keith was recently diagnosed with Schizophrenia and was coping while dosing was being figured out.

Vidal’s father, Mark Wilsey, called the police Sunday night because his son was armed with an electric, six-inch screwdriver and was threatening his mother. According to the family the two officers had the situation under control, with the 100-pound Keith Vidal on the ground tasered, when Officer Vassey entered the premises and within 60 seconds said, “We don’t have time for this.” Then he shot Keith Vidal in the chest, killing him. I can’t get the disturbing image out of my head of someone putting down a lame dog.

Officer Vassey first said he was ‘defending himself,” only to later say through his lawyer he was defending another officer. How could deadly force be the only option when there are 3 officers and a Taser involved to subdue one skinny teenager?

My heart breaks for this family. Any person who has ever dealt with, loved with or been mentally ill knows that getting the right meds dosage is critical. Sometimes it takes months or even years to find the right dosage. Meds can alter your state of mind sometimes even worse than the mental illness itself.

This kid was 18-years-old and recently diagnosed. Can you imagine what a pill it is to swallow to be told that you have a mental illness and will be medicated for the rest of your life just to be “normal”? I can. When I was first diagnosed with Bipolar 1, I was at a point in my life where I had been ill for years with no help. No diagnosis. I felt irreparably broken. I felt alone and severed from everyone around me.  I can’t even describe to you what it feels like to feel so broken. The closest I can compare it to would be like living in quick sand and you are being swallowed whole by the disease but the more you struggle to resist, to survive the deeper you sink and the more likely you are to lose yourself. It is terrifying because you don’t know why this is happening to you. Was it something you did or didn’t do?

When I finally got a diagnosis, I was terrified but relieved. Relieved that there was help to be had and to find that I wasn’t so broken as much as really bent. It was a struggle to get back to “normal”; whatever that is. I’m not sure I really know. Normal is relative, I suppose.

It took months of highs and lows. I was originally misdiagnosed as depressed and given enough anti-depressants to kill a horse, which made me ever increasingly manic. In the end, I was at the brink of psychosis. I saw madness. I felt it. Touched it. Lived it. It was the biggest part of me.

Eventually, anti-depressants were taken down to next to nothing; stabilizers and Ambien entered the picture. Where mania once ran rampant, now zombie like living: walking into walls and all-consuming lethargy had become part of who I was. After a few months, I was finally regulated and began to feel “normal” for the first time in years; maybe ever.

It all seems so cut and dry when you write it out but it’s not. The part I haven’t told you that before my medication dosage was right, I was highly erratic. I was like a ticking time bomb. What was going on inside my head was so distracting that it left me annoyed and irrationally angry with myself and everyone around me. Later, through therapy, I realized that the irritability was directly proportional to my mania. My body and mind were pissed off because no one ever turned the lights off. My body and mind were exhausted and there was no off switch to be had.

I did irrational things just to feel alive because I ALWAYS needed to feel alive; I drove fast, lived fast and never considered consequences. I teetered between feeling invincible and wanting to die. I drank a lot. I know now that I subconsciously did that to shut things off. It’s actually pretty common. I alienated family and friends because I overreacted to everything. Sometime between high school and college graduation, I had spun completely out of control. The insomnia was just fuel to the fire.

I fully accept responsibility for my behavior in those days though, honestly, I had no real control over a lot of it. I never wielded a weapon at my parents but I did throw a friend’s belongings off my balcony and came pretty damn close to tossing her as well during a particularly manic episode. I used to be quite good at pushing people away. I think I was afraid they’d see the real me and know something was “off ”. Even before I knew what it was, I knew something wasn’t right. I hoped and prayed that there was a reason for the behavior.

My whole point for this very long and drawn out story is that if you met me today, you’d know that I’m not the same person I was at 18, 21 or even 25. I am the mother of two, a wife, and even a room mother. I am just like you but maybe I wouldn’t be if someone decided that they had no time for me to get help; to learn to live with my diagnosis. Perhaps, this is the problem with the world, we resign ourselves to believe that those who are mentally ill are dangerous, less than or even worthless. We forget that they are people, just like you and I.Well, more like me than you, I suppose:) My point is that just because someone is mentally ill doesn’t mean they can’t be valuable members of society or good human beings. It only means that they might have a more difficult journey than the rest of us.

Officer Vassey might have been scared and felt threatened because sometimes in the midst of an episode, the person suffering looks scary. The fact remains that if two officers had Keith Vidal tasered on the ground, what possible reason could there have been to shoot him? Unlike me, Keith Vidal is dead and now, will never have the chance to learn to live with his disease; to grow up, to have a family, to be a dad or a husband.

What are your thoughts on this tragic story? What would you do if you were Keith Vidal parents?

 

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ash beckham, closets, truth. honesty, being yoru authentic self

I watched this TedX video of Ash Beckham and she reminded me that hard is hard and we truly all do have our closets that we live in. Me, I’ve had a few. Unfortunately, they shroud you in shame but better the devil you know, right? Rejection is the worst and no one wants rejection. Most of us would prefer to not try at all than to try and fail and that is why we live in closets. Closets are not just about being gay; closets are about being afraid to tell your truth. It doesn’t matter how big or small or what color you paint it, a closet is a closet is a closet. No one should be afraid to tell his or her truth because your truth is what makes you who you are.

In my lifetime, I have had many closets. Thankfully, with the birth of my blog, I started busting out of all of my closets. It was one of the scariest things I ever have done; telling the whole world all of my faults. Most of the time when I hit publish, I feel sick to my stomach and I think that is a good thing. How can I be honest with you, if I can’t even be honest with myself? Now, I wish everyone had a blog to help them bust out of their closets. Hard conversations: mental illness, child abuse, obesity, eating disorders, alcoholism, miscarriage and not being the kind of mom I want to be to my children. I used to hide them deep inside me, because who wants everyone to look at them like they’re a freak? It’s one thing to be crazy, it’s quite another to announce it to the world.

When you spend your whole life pretending to fit in but feeling like you are an imposter in the house of life, you might be living in a closet. Have the conversation and like we’ve all heard, those who matter won’t care. Well, that’s a lie, they might, but they will get over it because they love you. Those who have a problem with you being your authentic self? Well, who the fuck wants them in your life anyways? Not me.

You know. I spent all of my life, up until I met my husband, pretending to be what everyone wanted of me. Good girl, good grades, friendly, attractive, fun-loving and life of the party but inside, inside my closet, I was a hot mess and it was like juggling jello trying to keep myself in the closet while the version I thought everyone wanted to know came out every day all day. I cried a lot. My poor husband, he had no idea what he got himself into.

When you hide in that closet for so long, you become a master of convincing, even yourself, that the performance you give every day is the real you but at night, when you are all alone with nothing but your thoughts, you feel like a fraud and that is one of the worst feelings you can have. You feel like a liar. Turns out, once I came out of my closets and had those hard conversations, I was free to be me and guess what? Anyone who has read this blog and then met me will tell you, I am the same online as I am in person only slightly less in your face. Turns out with the freedom of being out of my closet and living out loud and proud, I am the person that I pretended to be only I don’t need to cry at night because I’m not living in that damn cramped, dark closet hiding like a scared child anymore and it is liberating.

So, watch Ash Beckman’s video and come out of your closet. I promise you’ll be so much happier out in the open. Sure, you might feel nauseous right before you have the hard conversation but that’s because it’s important. Do it anyways. Teach your children to be honest with themselves and the people who love them. A closet is no place for a human to live.

What’s your closet?

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