life- mental health

College Mama: Mountain Climbing

Wow. I did it.

I'm sitting here on my couch snotting and sobbing from relief, elation, and gratitude.

I did it y'all.

I MADE IT THROUGH MY 1ST SEMESTER AT PBU.

I'm in shock and awe about this because back in July, and even as recently as October when I wrote this, it just seemed like such a daunting task.

  • Bad breakup; newly single
  • New diagnosis
  • New medications & adjustments
  • New therapies & psychiatrist appointments
  • New state, new city, new apartment, new environment...far away from family & church support
  • New bills
  • My boys
  • My (hypo)mania
  • My severe depression
  • My "mixed" states
  • Excruciating anxiety
  • Struggling with wanting to live...and fighting urges to self-injure (which I didn't always succeed in doing)
  • New school
  • Full course load
  • Surviving off of GI Bill benefits, disability, & financial aide...new financial worries
Back then and at times throughout the course of the past 4 months, this mountain just seemed impossible to climb. Too painful, too rocky, too tough to grasp, my strength and mind felt too diminished and futile to even think most days, let alone actually LIVE.
Wait... Sorry...Give me a minute...I'm crying again....*reaching for tissue*
(Pause)
But here I am, at the top of the mountain I didn't think I'd be able to climb and when I look out at the view that surrounds me, I see
  • A therapy & medication routine that's starting to be effective and take hold
  • A fresh perspective, one that's no longer weighed down by unrealistic expectations & standards
  • A course load that's manageable because of academic accommodations and open dialogue with my professors
  • Two unbelievably amazing close friends, one old, one new (I'm looking at you, Lyrical Dilettante) who hold me accountable, help me see myself in a healthy, realistic light...and just...accept me. challenge me. laugh with me. dance with me...cook with me...and sit with me when I'm in my low moments and am struggling with wanting to kill myself.
  • An INCREDIBLE group of online friends who feel more like family. From my #PPDChat Army (Lauren, Charity, Susan, Jaime, Katherine, Story, & more).... to my new friends in the Bipolar Depression Closed support group on Facebook, who are from all over the world, and encourage me on a daily basis, help me understand my BP, and love on me in my darkest moments....
  • My other "in real life" friends who I talk to at school and on Facebook...old and new...blood related and not...
  • My boys...happy...healthy....growing...laughing...super smart and enjoying being their own people
  • Forgiveness and understanding paving the way for a healthier relationship with my ex...
  • A new dating potential who told me this morning that I don't have to hustle for worthiness with him, out of fear he'll leave....as he puts it, "I'm here because I want you." (His exact words.)
  • Oh yeah....and my new hair color!

The view from up here is breathtaking....Even with all of it's stress, highs, lows, and anxiety, everything I mentioned above has created a solid and healthy environment for me to live and thrive in. Catching a glimpse of the beauty that's laid out before me fills my heart with a quiet comfort because I know when it's time to climb the next mountain (and the next semester) I can do it.

I have everything I need to make it :) I'm so grateful for all of you it's ridiculous!

Self-Love Saturday: My Box is Full of Color

Remember a few weeks back when I posted about the journey I'm on to make it back to my Box?

In that post, I talked about how I most of my life, what's been in that box has been dictated by other's, their needs, and how THEY wanted my box constructed. I mentioned that I'm not 100% sure what goes in my Box but I was starting to find out by streaking my way towards it....

Well, guess what? Dying my hair funky colors has helped me identify at least one thing that goes in my Box, one attribute that makes me, well, ME. If you really know me, it's probably not a huge surprise, but

COLOR...

BRIGHT...

BOLD...

BEAUTIFUL...

LOUD...

Color belongs in my life. It's at the core of what makes me A'Driane. Lots & loads of color. Gobs of it, probably so much that people would label me tacky, but I don't care anymore, I'VE GOTTA HAVE COLOR! From how I decorate my living space, to how I wear my hair, to the clothes I wear, they must have color...When it comes to fashion I'm forgoing all sorts of rules from here on out and am just wearing as many colors as possible, whatever feels and looks good. From bold eyeshadows to headbands, to scarves, to the rubber bands I place in my hair........

Or the color that adorns my fingers and Barney Rubble toes...

O

I"ve just gotta have color. From my dishes  to my couch, to my lamps to my bed sheets, my apartment is full of splashes of it. I've spent years trying to downplay and even stay away from such boldness because those around me gave me the impression that it was inappropriate for a person my age. "Living out loud" and self-expression is for teenagers & kids, not for mothers approaching their thirties.....but I'm foregoing those thoughts and ideals because they aren't mine. They aren't me. Dressing in normal colors and living in clean, modern, sophisticated living spaces might be for some people and that is totally ok. For me though?

Give me color or give me death is the motto I'm adopting.

I wasn't allowed to express myself growing up, and so I thought the need to do so through what I wore or how I styled my hair was just a phase I needed to get out my system. But the more I've been thinking about it, and about my personality, I know it's something more and I'm finally in a place of acceptance about it.

Being surrounded by and wearing bold, brightly hued, rich & warm colors is a coping strategy for me as well. It creates an environment for me and my boys that breathes health and life, creativity and  expression. I'm hoping that surrounding us with a spectrum of color blinds the dragon of BP so it stays deep in it's cave. I'm learning fast that mental illnesses like BP are genetic, and being as though schizophrenia and depression run in at least one side of my family, (and I strongly suspect BP runs on the other side) I want to give the boys as healthy of an environment as possible. One that breeds creativity, love & warmth. I want my boys to have that. I want them to look at me and always know that self-expression is okay. Living out loud is okay. Passion is okay. Creativity and thought are awesome and worth pursuing wholeheartedly. Splashing our lives with color is a way to do that.

So, on this Self-Love Saturday, I refreshed my blue & pink streaks in the ol' Afro, and even added some more. I went through my closet and tossed out every drab, grey item I could find. I promised myself that from here on out, only color goes in the closet and on my body.

We only live once y'all. We only get one shot to do this thing called life. I'm determined to live mine as wholehearted and colorful as possible, Bipolar and all :)

Confession: Falling Off & Getting Back On The Wagon

SO....I have some things to confess. I spent last week in a full blown episode of  (hypo?) mania & didn't even realize it until last night when I was laying in bed crying my eyes out, wondering why the heck I was feeling so low. I had felt so great earlier yesterday morning...but by midday the grey cloud of depression was hovering over my head, raining on my little euphoric parade.... Ahhhh euphoria. (Sigh) You know...I didn't even realize how high I had been until I had already crash landed back on Earth-or rather my couch...immobilized. Stuck. Heavy. Sleepy. Edgy. Here's the thing I've learned out being in a state of euphoria after this recent episode: it blinds you to the warning signs, the signals, the indicators that are flashing bright red, hoping you'll notice their warnings. And even if you're able to see the warnings, euphoria hits the mute button on the sounds of the sirens...they go from shrill to dull. Your inclination to care, your motivation to heed the signals loses it's edge, and before you know it you're rationalizing it away, allowing yourself to believe the lie that it's not happening-you're ok, it's no big deal, you're fine, you're just a little excited & happy & that's ok-you deserve to be happy for once don't you? Don't you?!

I should have paid attention. I should have fought harder to hold on to the edge I've gained the past 4-5 weeks. But I didn't. Instead I allowed myself to take a break from fighting.....

It started the week I was sick with the Plague. That's when I stopped fighting, mostly because I felt like pure hell & needed to get better. Problem is, I got better physically, but I started slipping in other areas. School took a hit-I missed some assignments & barely caught up. I started feeling anti-social & withdrew from people. My ex and I had an argument that led to him saying some things that crossed the line and hurt me deeply. He apologized the next day, but the damage was done-I spent last weekend struggling to cope-emotionally eating, drinking too much Moscato, & just trying to numb the hurt. Then last Monday when I got my refund from school, my excitement over being able to pay bills I was backed up on & buy some necessities for my apartment tipped me over the edge & into full blown euphoria.

Having money...getting paid...being able to pay bills, buy groceries, not having to worry about finances for a few weeks...it gives me a high I don't really get from other things. Now I will say this: I'm pretty responsible with money in the respect that I pay my bills, especially the ones that are necessary to live-rent, daycare, groceries, etc-but I'm very irresponsible with what I have left over. I can't save.  And unlike other people, I don't spend it on Gucci bags, expensive electronics, clothes for myself....I spend it on little things that add up to big amounts. Instead of spending $15o at the grocery store, I'll spend $300. Seeing my cabinets & fridge full, knowing that we have food to eat gives me a high.  A simple furniture purchase might be a necessity, but the exhilaration I feel is more than the normal person would feel. I don't spend just to spend most of the time. Getting my nails done to feel better, buying the boys clothes they may need, going out to eat or buying something for my apartment....those are the things that make my spending habits a problem. Going to Wal-mart or Target can be a major problem when I'm in a state of euphoria.  The compulsion to buy even necessities becomes too strong, my resistance to impulses is weakened...telling myself, "I don't need this," or "I can get this later," is something I've only recently been able to start doing. When I don't have money to spend, I'm fine. But when I have it, and my basic bills are paid? Forget it. My mind races with ways it can be spend-literally.  Saving? (sigh) It's a skill I used to be somewhat good at & now I just flat out suck.

So like I said, last week, having that money....I paid what I needed to, I followed my "how to spend my refund check" list to the tee. But once it was all over, I found myself wanting to keep feeding the high because it felt so good, I felt so good, I felt capable, not unworthy or unwanted like the argument with my ex & stress had me feeling.  The euphoria had me feeling fantastic, but underneath it was the ugly undercurrent of emotions that were pushing me further & further away from the progress I had worked so hard to gain. I skipped my meds a few days this week. Big mistake. Stupid mistake. I kept telling myself I'd take them & then I'd get so caught up in the boys, in midterm semester assignments, in catching up, in the euphoric bliss & forget.

I messed up. I fell off the wagon last week. And my crash back to reality began Saturday night. I passed out on my couch unexpectedly after getting my hair done. Sunday morning I still felt good, but the cloud was back...by midday it was hovering over me, darkening my mood & by evening I had fallen back into the gravity well of a depressive mood.  I cycled this past week. I cycled & didn't pay attention until it was too late to care or resist.

Here's the other thing I've learned about euphoria, cycling, & just living with this crazy beast: It's VITALLY important you have at least one person on the outside who can tell you (in love) what they see happening, what they see you doing. Someone who cares about you, but who is objective & can tell you the truth when you need it. For me, that person this past week was my ex. When I called him crying last night & feeling like crap, he confirmed for me what I had already started to realize: "Addy I've been so worried about you this week, because you've just seemed so high...and talkative....and....and a little manic...and then yesterday I could hear in your voice you were starting to dip...what happened? What are you feeling? What's wrong? Let's talk about it. I"m sorry...I think our fight helped trigger it, and I'm sorry for that. I'm sorry you've been struggling-talk to me. Have you been taking your meds? Have you been drinking too much?"

(Sigh) That's the kind of person you need in your life, and I'm glad I have him. We may not be together, we may fight, we may not see eye to eye, but I know that he cares about me and he wants me to be ok, because he can be that person for me when I really need it.  I'm also grateful for my neighbor who saw that I was upset late last night & stayed up talking to me, trying to help me smile & laugh. I need more people like that in my life.

I fell off the wagon. Today I'm trying to get back on. It's not easy. But I made a commitment to improving my mental health and despite this step back, I'm determined to regain the ground I lost. That's how recovery is sometimes: you take 2 steps forward & take one back. It sucks, but the point is to keep going in spite of the set backs. That's what I'm trying to do today.

I'm not perfect. I try but I fail sometimes ya'll. I have to do better, but I can admit when I don't. Writing this, and admitting these things were hard for me today...but I've gotta face the music.

So I'm off to go to the park & run. Gotta get back up & continue to streak my way back to the box. Here's to making it.