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bipolar

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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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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mental health awareness month, mental illness, bipolar, depression, OCD, PPD, Eating Disorders

You’re crazy! Oh My God, she is acting so bipolar! I can’t go shopping this afternoon, I am so depressed! Get over it. Take a chill pill! Don’t have a panic attack.

We hear these statements made almost daily. For some, they may seem harmless but to those of us who suffer from these diagnoses, it’s far from funny.  It’s serious.

My chemical imbalance is not your bad mood. My battle with eating disorders is not you trying to lose 5 vanity pounds. Someone’s deep depression is not the same as you having a bad day or being sad because things didn’t go your way at the game tonight. My inability to see myself as I am in the mirror is definitely not the same as being slightly concerned with the way your ass looks in your jeans.  Someone’s PPD is not the same as you being overwhelmed because you took on too many things. Somebody’s OCD is not the same as you wanting to wash your hands before meals. Being afraid to take a risk is not the same as being so terrified to be in a room with people that your heart races so fast that you are sure you are having a heart attack.

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