Why My Mental Illness Does Not Define Me

•September 5, 2015 • 2 Comments

I’ll come right out and say it first, so you can get an idea of where this article is going. I am a survivor of bipolar disorder. I was heartbroken when the doctors told me this diagnosis. I thought it explained a lot, yes. But I felt helpless and terrible, and that no one would love me. I felt like I would never be a good parent. I’d be forever bound by the chains of a mental illness, something that was inside my head.

You’re probably wondering why I call myself a survivor. It’s because every day I can triumph over my worst enemy (myself), it’s a good day. Every day I don’t feel depressed and worthless, it’s a good day. Every day I don’t go out and blow tons of money, it’s a great day.

I wish every day were like that. I wish I felt totally and completely in control of my life (and therefore my emotions), at all times. But I don’t, and that’s the struggle of having any mental illness, not just bipolar disorder. There are many mental illnesses out there, and they all get a bad wrap for one reason or another. Bipolar people are told that they’re crazy. Depressed people are asked “can’t you just be happy?” Borderline people are seemed as selectively antisocial. And it’s because of these very stereotypes that people who suffer from these illnesses do not want to be with people. They risk humiliation and shame by opening up about their illnesses. Well, I’m tired of feeling like that. Do I agree that people should just accept me for the way I am, and I can just be livid one day, and ecstatic the next? No. Do I use my bipolar disorder as an excuse? Absolutely not. But by opening up to people about it, they can start to connect the dots of why I am the way I am. And if people can’t accept that at face value, I walk away.

Let’s be clear about this. I do not do awful things or say awful things and then go “well, I have bipolar disorder and that’s just who I am.” I do not let my mental illness define me. I know just as well as everybody else when I am being difficult, and I feel guilty about it. I kind of feel like a 14 year old because I’m still learning how to communicate in a healthy way. When you get on that roller coaster, it’s hard to get off. Everything accelerates in your mind. It’s the typical snowball effect. The way I’ve learned to stop this is to have an amazing support system. Someone who can help me stop the roller coaster in its tracks. Whether you believe it or not, there will be someone to take that phone call at 2 AM. There will be someone to answer your texts. The trick is that you have to make the effort. You have to reach out. By reaching out, you’re not being cowardly, quite the opposite in fact. You are being bold and strong by reaching out to someone. Whether it’s just to talk and that person listen, or needing advice, you’re taking a huge step in the right direction.

Like I mentioned before, I do not let my mental illness define me. I have gone through a very difficult life, and I’d like to say I’m a  survivor in life (I’ll touch on that in future blog posts). I used to be consumed by my dislike for people, for myself, and for life. But I’ve learned a few things about myself. I started reading articles written by people with bipolar disorder through social media. They came out right away, not trying to hide anything. They accepted it, and sometimes even embraced it. When kept in check, bipolar disorder doesn’t actually have to be a disorder.

Being bipolar has opened up many new doors for me, mostly good but not all of them. For example, I feel empathy for people very easily. I feel love deeper. I buried myself in my studies and strived to be as intelligent as I could be, and I still do. I’m never done learning, and I love having that drive. I’m also a talented musician. I studied in college. I feel music as if it were an emotion. I can be anything I want to be, and do anything I want to do, because I have the determination, focus, and passion for many things. I get bored easily, which drives me to do something to get myself interested in something new. I’m extremely competitive (almost to a fault), but I’ll never settle for anything less than great (because obviously perfection cannot be attained). Contrary to my belief (any many others’), I’m a great mom. I’m strong, disciplinary, but I could never be cruel. I’m fair, but not unjust. I know what it’s like to have an awful childhood, and I will do anything I can (within reason), to make sure that my daughter gets every opportunity in life, and that she grows up to be passionate, just like me.

Not every day is sunshine and rainbows. A lot of days are very difficult. But I’m convinced they can get better. I’m convinced that there has to be more to life than feeling miserable. There comes a point in life where you are fed up with how you feel day to day. No one can make you come to that realization, only you can experience that for yourself. But there are so many great things about people, especially those who suffer from a mental illness. I’d love to hear about of your great qualities in the comments from those who need a listening ear, or just want to share their story of finding themselves though the dark forests of a mental illness.

Please note, I’ll be starting a series of blog posts regarding coming to terms with mental illness and childhood pasts and will be posting as frequently as I can. Let me know if you have any questions you’d like addressed in the next blog post!

Reflections

•December 9, 2013 • Leave a Comment

As I stare outside into the gentle flurries that grace the sky, all time and commitments are forgotten. I’ve been up since 6AM (I am not a morning person in the least), because my daughter decided she wanted to play. At first I was irritated. I love and cherish my sleep, but ever since I’ve become a mom, I don’t sleep much. And even before that, I never slept well. I go to bed late and wake up at least three times every night (even when I don’t have my daughter). I don’t really have a choice as to when I go to bed; no matter how early I lay down, my thoughts consume me and I lie there for hours. That’s kind of how I feel now as I watch the snow fall. Lost in translation.

My grandmother’s birthday is today. She would have been 64. In November of 2002, she passed away due to lung cancer. Words could not describe her personality; she was harsh yet gentle, crazy but calm, and had a somewhat cruel yet funny sense of humor. I know my daughter would have given her a run for her money. They would’ve loved each other. She passed away when she was just 52. That seems so young to me. She had so much life in her, enough life to pass on to many more people.

My grandma from my step-mom’s side of the family is currently in the hospital. We are hoping things will be okay and she will be able to go home in a few days. I know that tests are being done and that everyone is on standby. It’s a scary thing, to not know. When I think about it, I realize just how little I do know. My grandma on my dad’s side is also not doing well. She’s a tough bird and has been hanging on for awhile. She is very stubborn, as is my dad. That’s probably where I got that trait from. Actually, I know that’s where I get that from. It’s a family tradition.

I get lost in my thoughts a lot. This morning, I realized yet again how much I take things for granted. I thought about all the complaining I do, about anything. It’s cold outside. My car won’t start. I’m always tired. My daughter woke up early or is being a stinker. Work. Insecurities. The list is endless. But the thing is that those things really don’t matter. Or at least they shouldn’t. I think we as a society put too much emphasis on things that aren’t important. We stress about things we shouldn’t stress about. What really matters is our family and our well being. Even if you take away the money, the house, the car, the TV, and all of the other material possessions, you are still left with something. Our lives are not our possessions. I personally do not want to watch my life pass by while I’m doing things that aren’t going to get me anywhere in life. What I’ve come to realize is that I need to spend more time living in the moment, and overall, in the present. I’m always worrying about the future and my past is never far behind me. But sometimes it’s nice to start a new chapter. Not even nice, but necessary. Life is precious. My time on this earth is limited, as well as that time being used to the best of my ability with the people that matter most in my life.

I know I will need to be reminded of this time and time again. Generally speaking, I don’t believe humans have the capacity to truly appreciate everything they have and what they should be thankful for. I know I certainly don’t have that ability. My I can sure as hell try.

The Deception Technology Holds (Short Version)

•November 27, 2013 • Leave a Comment

*Disclaimer: the original of this was actually written by hand with pen and paper. It would have been ironic of me to complain of technology while using technology as the only form in which to communicate this.

Technology, as well as the part of society that is ruled by it, has begun to overwhelm and concern me. This first draft is being written on paper with use of a pen, instead of using my tiny iPhone 5. I do not believe I would have enough battery life to tell you why I am so concerned, and it would be contradictory as well. Let me explain.

I am currently on a train to Milwaukee because I have no car. I do quite a bit of driving usually, so I feel absolutely lost without my vehicle. It’s like oxygen to me. I can understand being dependent on a vehicle; it’s how we get to the grocery store (super market, to some),  as well as work, extra curriculars, etc. I don’t quite understand the dependence upon technology, however.

I love the fact that I am able to play a slew of songs on my iPhone (currently, it’s “Round Here” by Counting Crows). I love the fact that I can summon a map if I’m lost. I also love my Dictionary.com, IMDb, and banking apps, as well as being able to pull up 500 pictures of my daughter with just a few clicks. Technology has a lot of good uses, and by itself is not evil. What is evil is that it consumes our lives and well being. I know I am not the first person to have written about this. Sometimes it’s as simple as your phone dying and not being able to call someone because you have no need to remember phone numbers anymore. That is unfortunate, but that is not what I am going to write about.

While skimming through Facebook (first mistake), I came across an app called “Facetune.” It boasted that it was the “most powerful portrait photo editor around!” So now, you can use Photoshop on your face just like the rest of the celebrities and magazines you complain about on a daily basis! This is concerning on so many levels. This app basically advertises to people who are already insecure about themselves. Now you can make your dull pale skin into a flawless, tanned face. No more zits for you! Many people might see this as the perfect opportunity to take a “selfie” (now an actual word in the Oxford Dictionary!), and perfect it with their new app, and now upload it to your social media website(s) of their choice.

This poses some problems from the start. Take online dating, for example. I have heard stories from men who have done the online dating thing, and they will initiate a message conversation with someone, but when they meet in person, said person looked nothing like their picture suggested. Obviously, this is just one example. I could use many more, but I won’t bore you with that.

With this new Photoshop app, you are not just lying to other people, you are lying to yourself. It is so misleading, in fact, that I have to question whether I am looking at a photo of someone, or the perfect image of themselves.

The same can be said for music. Most “artists” that exist these days do not write their own lyrics or melodies. They use auto-tune to perfect their voices. They have ten producers on a track. They make more money releasing a single than they do an album. They use fake instruments (take drum machines, for example), and are essentially lying to us about how talented they really are. They put on very little effort when they tour, if they tour at all. They make a show out of lights and other stage props, but not themselves. As a musician myself, I find this insulting. I, as well as every other musician out there, put in countless hour and effort into the music that I play. I know I will never play every passage to perfection. The point of music is not to be perfect, it is to show and express emotion.

Getting back to Facetune, now. I am not perfect, and I never will be. I know that. I feel nothing but pity for those who have to alter the way they look just to get 20 “likes” on Facebook. I am insecure. There are many things I don’t like about myself. But if I have learned anything from discovering this app, it is that I could not lie about who I am as a person, and that my imperfections should not define me negatively. I should embrace them, because they are apart of me and I cannot change them. I hope my daughter will realize this sooner than I did. I hope she realizes that her imperfections are what make her special. It is not about the way you look. The way you use your mind is what you will be remembered by. If you cannot be honest with yourself, you need to go back to the drawing board titled “Values.”

So thank you, Facetune app, for causing me to rethink my perception of myself, and helping me to realize that there is more to me than meets the eye. I’m sure that was your plan the whole time.

photo

To Love Yourself, You Need Support of Others

•January 21, 2013 • 2 Comments

My dad always used to tell me that you have to love yourself before you love others. To a certain extent, I believe this to be true. I believe that if you don’t love yourself, you will take your flaws out on whoever is closest to you. I believe that if you don’t respect yourself, you can’t respect another. However, what if something has happened to you that makes it difficult for you to love yourself? A checkered past or rough childhood, for example. This is where friends and family must come into play.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a button that says “Love Yourself Now!” So how must you go about loving yourself?

1. Patience is key. I cannot stress this enough. You (and your loved ones) will need A LOT of patience. Some days are going to be great, but it is the days when you’re not feeling great that you’re going to need the people you love around you most.

2. No false expectations. Realize that you are only human, and you will get further faster. Your loved ones must also realize this as well. You will have up days and you will have down days.

3. Realize this will take years. Not days or weeks, but months and sometimes years. You must learn by trial and error. Make sure your support group knows this as well.

4. Look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself you’re beautiful, intelligent, whatever you feel you are lacking in. You may not believe it, but positive self-talk can do wonders over time.

5. Have a confidante. People are all biased. Some people are judgemental. And sometimes people have their own problems to deal with and just don’t have the energy to listen to yours. That’s why it’s great to have a therapist, maybe one that you just see every other week or once a month, to have an unbiased view into your life. They will be able to guide you in the right direction as to how to go about certain situations, and how to handle and react to them. If you don’t have a therapist, consider journaling or some other constructive activity to let out any negative emotions you may be feeling.

6. Have an awesome support system. If you are married to someone but feel you cannot talk to your spouse about anything and everything, that is a problem. When you are at your worst, you need your support people to be the ones to pick you up when you’ve fallen down and can’t get back up on your own. When you don’t feel beautiful or intelligent, or whatever it is that you feel you’re lacking in, you need your significant other, your friends, and family, to be the ones to say “you are beautiful”. They should be there for you to say encouraging things to help you on your bad days. If that’s too much for them, find a new support person.

7. Don’t take your issues out on people. This is probably one of the hardest things NOT to do, and I struggle with it all the time. It’s one thing to go on a tangent about how so-and-so was doing this at work, but it’s another thing to act rude to the person you come home to. Odds are, they’ve had a trying day as well, and have their own issues to deal with as well. The fact that you’re adding on your mood on their “things that went wrong today” list, doesn’t help your partner’s situation, and doesn’t make them at all willing to talk to you about anything. If you’re feeling slighted, irritated, or angry, do something constructive first before talking to your partner about your day. However, your partner/confidante/friend, should let you rant and get it out of your system; it’s overall healthy, as long as you control it!

8. Realize that some people just aren’t healthy for each other. If you’re in a toxic relationship (and it doesn’t have to be with your spouse), realize that you will never be able to grow. If you feel your partner/relative/friend is bringing you down, it’s time to either sit down with that person and have a discussion, or leave the relationship. Usually, personal growth comes easiest when not in those kinds of relationships.

9. Respect yourself. Treat yourself how you would treat others. Seems backwards, right? But you probably wouldn’t be critical of other people you’re talking to, correct? You’re probably nicer to other people than you are to yourself. You may even make excuses for other people. In that case, make it a point to treat yourself the same way.

10. Stop the negative self talk. When you think of something negative to say to yourself, turn it around with something positive. “I’m not pretty enough.” Well, if you’re in a relationship, your significant other obviously must find you attractive. If you aren’t, tell yourself you’re happy with yourself just the way you are and you wouldn’t want to change a thing. Often times you’re your own worst enemy, and it’s because our thought process just naturally takes us down that route. For each negative thought, think two positive thoughts about yourself.

11. Realize you are who you are. People who love you will not want to try and change you. And neither should you.

12. Find a song/painting/book that you can connect with on a personal level. It will make you feel better to know that you’re not alone.

All of the points I’ve listed will be hard to do at one point or another. But the nice thing about these points is you don’t have to start at 1 and end at 12. You can do them at your own pace. These are things that have worked for me in the past. Different things work for different people, as well all know. I’d be interested to hear what has worked for you as well! Feel free to comment below.

Why Employers Shouldn’t Judge Us By Our Past

•December 26, 2012 • Leave a Comment

This is something that has been bothering me for the past year at least. Nowadays, employers are looking up our social networking sites, backgrounds, and now even our credit scores. Honestly, I think it’s unfair that employers base the decision not to hire us on our life outside of the work environment. Here’s why. 

1) Social Networking sites. 

Facebook. Twitter. Pretty much anything that isn’t LinkedIn. For awhile I was hunting for a job. Any job as long as it wasn’t fast food. So many resumes, and so many interviews. Sometimes even second interviews! But I never got the call back. I couldn’t understand why;  I had all the credentials they were asking for, and even more than that sometimes. I had the personality, the best answers, and professionalism. My Facebook account, however, did not. If you were able to find my Facebook account, you’d see a new mom who likes to have fun with her friends. You’d probably find some pictures of me drinking, and there are some innocent pictures of my girlfriends and I at State Fair, concerts, etc. I turned 21 a few years ago. Of course I went out. However, now that I’m older, and a mom, I just can’t do that anymore. And to be honest, I don’t want to do that anymore. Those pictures are from many months and years ago. I’m a completely different person now than I was back then. That doesn’t mean I don’t like to reminisce, and apparently potential employers don’t mind it either. According to them, that is what defines me as a person. I have obvious issues with this. The first point I made; I’m always changing and am more mature than I was back then. The second point: my social life is exactly that. My social life. It’s what I do outside of work. I am a completely different person outside of work than when I’m at work, and I believe I have the right to be as well. That is why we leave outside issues at the door when we get to work. That is why we leave work issues at work when going home to our families. They are separate. That is why I have a LinkedIn account; so people can view my accomplishments and my professionalism. I have a Facebook so that I may connect with my friends. Ever since I’ve made it almost impossible to find me on Facebook, I was hired on at my current job. They interviewed me, saw my qualifications, witnessed my personality and my eagerness to deliver, and judged me on that, as it should be. 

2. Background checks.

While I do believe that background checks should be performed before hiring someone, I still do have a few problems with this. If an employer does a background check to find out if a potential employee has stolen something or committed a crime that would affect their business, I understand that. However, if something came up in the background check such as a small claims filing, speeding, or other misdemeanor, I think it biased to judge a person based on that. Yes, it may show some irresponsibility, but again I stress the point I made above; people change, and anything on the background check such as those listed above was committed outside the work place. People can still be responsible at work, and (depending on what comes up), misdemeanors should not hinder someone from getting the position they desire.

3. Credit Checks. 

This is probably the most shocking to me. Why would an employer need to check a credit score? Again, it’s about the responsibility theme. This was another reason I wasn’t able to get hired. A long long time ago, I made a terrible mistake that still affects my credit score today. I also had a lot of medical issues, and therefore plenty of bills. Those are the only things on my credit score, but boy do they add up. The contradiction lies here, however: How can I repay my debts if no one will hire me because I have a bad credit score? Isn’t that the whole reason I’m trying to get a job? So that I can be current on my bills and pay off bad debts? And how else am I supposed to do that without a job? What else bothers me is that one mistake I made 5 years ago will haunt me if an employer were to perform a credit check. Just one mistake, and that’s all it takes. 

I understand employers have the ability to be picky nowadays. However, I believe that they should be picky when performing the interview and stick to the basics. Before the wonders of internet, how else would they have done it? Would they have followed me out of the building to see if I went to a bar later on with my friends? No, they wouldn’t have. If I display professionalism in my interview, and I fulfill the qualifications, judge me by that. Don’t judge me by what I do in my free time, that is my time for a reason. 

5 Mistakes Or 5 Signs?

•December 21, 2012 • 1 Comment

Lately, I’ve really been in to the whole LinkedIn thing. I’ve made connections, updated my resume, made a free website, and read blogs. One blog that came up in my ‘LinkedIn Today Recommends’ section was a blog entitled ‘5 Mistakes I Continue to Make In My Marriage.’ Now, I’m not married. Probably won’t be for a really long time, if at all. Point is, I don’t plan that stuff. You just can’t. Anyway, I read the article, and I really liked the points the author brought up. In fact, I’ll list them for you right now.

1. Demanding gold stars. 

2. Using a snappish tone.

3. Not showing enough consideration.

4. Score-keeping.

5. Taking my husband for granted.

I read this article and thought “wow, what a great article! She’s completely right.” The author did elaborate on these points. I realized that I’m guilty of the majority of them usually, and occasionally all of them. In conclusion, I’m not really all that fun to be with sometimes. Now, I knew that already, but to hear that someone else did the same thing I did made me feel like I wasn’t alone (obviously). Let me now do my own elaborations on them.

1. Demand gold stars. I am sometimes guilty of this theory; do something nice to get his attention, dress a certain way to get a compliment, blah blah blah. But really, it’s game playing. Because if I don’t get that compliment, and he doesn’t say thank you for something I do, I’m going to be angry or irritated. “Look, I did something and it goes unnoticed. I’m not appreciated.” And honestly, that’s how I felt. Unappreciated. Maybe he does notice and just doesn’t say anything. Maybe he just expects it of me. But really, I’m just setting myself up for failure if I’m fishing for compliments and thank you’s. And sometimes that leads into point 2.

2. Using a snappish tone. Yeah… this one I am guilty of almost every day, I’ll admit it. There are a lot of contributing factors to this one, though. Bad day at work, baby is cranky, my basic needs aren’t met, I’m feeling overwhelmed by the mess, etc. But really, this is just an excuse. Maybe my partner also had a bad day, or is stressed and has things on his mind. It is not okay to take out your frustrations on the other person. Now, it’s one thing to rant. I get ranting, and I do it a lot. I don’t like to be told to calm down when I’m ranting because I’m just letting it all out, and you can’t be calm and rant at the same time. At least in my experience. But when you’re done ranting, boy do you feel better (unless you’re still holding onto it). I’ve really been trying to work on this one, but this one is DIFFICULT. I put that all in caps because I really struggle with it. And when I get called out on it, I’m already in a mood that isn’t exactly rational. What I need to do is either rant to someone else, write it down, or just sit and not talk about why I’m irritable. Just let it stew, I suppose. I’ve been working on coming back to an issue after I’ve had (at least) a few hours to calm down. Communication is key, but I’ve learned that how you communicate is just as important.

3. Not showing enough consideration. Now, the funny thing here is that I’ve been accused of this, but I never really realized when I wasn’t showing enough consideration. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m not sure what else to do or say except “thank you” and a massage when we get a quick break in the day (which is almost never).  Is a “thank you” good enough? I’ve been trying to work on this one too. I don’t like to come off as dependent, a mooch, or a taker and not a giver. However, I think that it can be hard to show gratefulness. What worked for someone else doesn’t always work for the person you’re with now. Throw in the fact that there’s no time to do anything special for that person, and you don’t have a lot of options. At least that’s how I feel. If I could, I’d plan (at the minimum) 6 hours with my significant other to spend time with them and just be with him and show him how grateful I am and how much I enjoy him as a person. Something romantic, maybe (what does that word even mean anymore?). In any case, I never feel like I do enough in this department. But I’m trying to figure it out, and I think I’ve been getting better. As far as what my significant other says, well who knows.

4. Score-keeping. Now, I don’t typically do this as much. I don’t do the barter thing very well. If I made dinner for someone, I cleaned. It was my way of showing that person that I really wanted to make them a romantic dinner and that I didn’t want a trade-off of services, so to speak. Now, I get that if someone is making dinner on a regular basis, it’s only fair I do the dishes (dishes are therapeutic for me, anyway). So, at least I have one point I’m not completely guilty of.

5. Taking my husband for granted. Hmm, I’ve been accused of this one too. I also think this ties into point 3, at least for me it does. I’m trying to work on this one too, but I’ll admit it’s hard for me because I don’t always realize when I’m doing it. When I am doing it, it’s usually pointed out to me, but usually when we’re arguing, so we’re both switching between attack/defense mode. Sometimes I am guilty of focusing on his flaws and not his virtues. I think we all go through that thought process (sometimes more than once). It’s the thought process that comes up when you start contemplating if you want to invest more time and effort into the relationship. If the other person is even worth your time and effort. I’m not the easiest person to get along with, and honestly I look at my own flaws more than my virtues. In the end the question is always the same: “What the hell does he see in me, anyway?” In returning to the literal explanation of this point, I think I am getting better at this one. But again, you might want to ask my significant other if he agrees.

Now after doing this self-analyzing (which is very hard for me, usually), I felt great after reading this article. Then I scrolled down to the comments. Most women felt how I had felt. “Thanks for the advice”. “Oh my gosh I do this all the time!” “Good pointers, I”ll have to try them out!” Things to that extent. Then I read the comments that men posted. They were ALL THE SAME. I’ll paraphrase all that I read:

“No one is perfect by any means but you basically just made a list of all the reasons guys fear getting married to a girl because of who they might turn into.”

“Wow. The author sounds like a real pain in the ass.”

” The fact that you have to make yourself “not keep score” is a disturbing trend to this union. the fact that you have to make a conscience effort to be considerate and not snap is borderline rude and finally, to not show your partner consideration is unforgiveable…”

Now, I thought the article was eye-opening. I have a lot of outside issues which can sometimes cause me to do the points listed above. However, after reading those comments from those men, I must say that opened up my eyes even more. What guy would want to put up with some nagging, immature girl. I wouldn’t want to put up with a guy like that either. There are plenty of other fish in the sea, but if I want to keep my fish, I really have to choose which battles are worth it. In that aspect of things, I think I’m getting better. Something made me really upset this past Wednesday night, but I never said anything about it because I knew it wasn’t worth the fight. I have to remember if I want to keep a great guy, I have to be great myself. I can’t let my insecurities and issues chase that great guy away. The hard part is to remember that when I’m in the heat of the moment. That will be my charge.