mental health

Letter to Self

22 October 2020

Dear Catherine,

Of all the letters you have written during treatment, this one may be the most important.  I know that sometimes you feel hopeless, helpless, worthless, and like you will feel that way forever.  I want to remind you that no feeling is final.  I want to remind you that in the moment you are writing this, you feel a sense of hope, peace, and comfort in spite of the fact that there are a lot of really stressful things going on.  I want to remind you of some key elements that will help you remember how to get out of the woods when all you can see is darkness and trees. 

First of all, check the facts.  Is it really true that you don’t deserve to live or is that just your brain being mean to you?  I know you’ve done some unkind things in your life, but you’ve helped people, too.  With your courage and vulnerability, you have helped others know that it’s ok to ask for help and seek treatment when they aren’t doing well.  With your kindness, you’ve shown people that they are worthy of love and belonging.  You also learned from when you messed up.  As Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better.  Then when you know better, do better.”  What would someone else have to do for you to feel that they don’t deserve to live?  Have you done any of those things? My guess is that no, you haven’t.  You don’t believe in the death penalty for other people, so why would you believe in it for yourself?  I know that right now it feels like these feelings will last forever, but that hasn’t historically been true.  Even when it feels like the night will last forever, the sun eventually rises.  It has without fail every time before.  You have no reason to believe it won’t this time.

You have known about self-compassion as a concept for several years now, but you hadn’t really done much work to put it into practice until recently.  You have found that when you acknowledge that you are in a moment of suffering with your hands over your heart, it can actually make you feel better, as silly as that may sound.  You have found that when you practice kindness towards yourself, acknowledge your common humanity, consider the power of hugs and gentle caresses, observe what you are feeling, describe what you are needing, remember that to err is human, and remember that suffering = pain x resistance, you are a much happier and healthier person and you judge yourself far less harshly.  I know sometimes it can feel like you are the exception.  You sometimes feel like it’s ok for everyone else in the world to make mistakes except for you.  That isn’t true.  It is true for everyone in the world including you that it’s ok to make mistakes, especially when you use them to grow and learn, which you do almost every time.

Two of your core values are vulnerability and courage.  When you live from those values and use vulnerability and courage to share your experiences, you feel like you are making a difference in this world, even if it’s just for one other person.  You know that your most read blog posts were written when you weren’t doing well.  They are open, honest, and authentic about your struggles.  When you are courageous enough to be vulnerable about how you are doing, it helps other people, but it also helps you.  You know that when you write posts like that, you get messages of love and support.  So reach out and tell someone how you are honestly doing, even if it’s only one person and you don’t currently have the capacity to write a blog post.  It will be good for you and it will be good for whoever you choose to be courageous and vulnerable with.

Advocacy is another core value of yours.  I know it’s exhausting to have to try to stick up for causes that affect you every single day.  I know it’s exhausting to feel marginalized and lonely and alone.  I also know that you have the power to impact positive change in systems and people around you.  Sometimes it feels like you don’t have the capacity to advocate, and that’s ok, too.  You have to take care of yourself before you can help make change for yourself or anyone else.  Sometimes it will feel like people expect a lot of emotional labor from you.  That’s because they do.  They always will.  As a fat and disabled woman, you’re going to be marginalized and experience oppression.  Don’t forget the myriad of ways you hold privilege, but don’t let that invalidate the oppression you experience.  People are going to expect you to explain and justify that oppression to them and to random people and to the people oppressing you.  You are not obligated to explain to someone who is hurting you how and why they are hurting you.  Someone they aren’t oppressing can do that.  Be willing to take a step back when it feels like it’s too much and allow someone else to do the education surrounding the issues that affect you.  When you have the capacity, by all means, help educate people about causes and issues that impact you.  When you don’t have the capacity, don’t feel guilty about it.  It’s also ok to speak out about things that are hurting you without having to be the person who educates the person or people doing the hurting.

It’s ok to be open to new experiences.  I know new things are scary, but they aren’t always bad.  It’s also ok to go back to old experiences that you know support you.  If you need help, reach out to your therapist, The Refuge, or Willow Place.  If you need that level of care again in the future, it isn’t something to be ashamed of.  You can feel proud knowing that you’re asking for what you need and doing what is best for yourself.  You can feel good about putting yourself first so that you are able to help others later.

I know you are struggling and suffering right now.  If you weren’t, you probably wouldn’t have sought out this letter.  I’m sorry that you don’t feel like you’re at your best right now, and I want to remind you that there is hope.  “Stay afraid, but do it anyway.” Live anyway.  Love anyway.  It won’t feel like this forever and when this feeling passes, you’ll be so grateful that you decided to stick around and actively engage in life.   

I know it doesn’t always seem like it, but I do love you. I love your laugh and your smile and your kindness.  I love the way you’re always thinking about how to help other people.  I love your intelligence and your ferocity and fierceness.  I love the way that you can imagine a better world.  I love your passion.  I love how much you love reading and traveling and sharing things you’ve baked with other people.  I love your sense of humor and your love of baking and the love and care you show River.  River loves you.  Mom and Dad love you.  Jac loves you.  Dani loves you.  Georgianna and Amelia love you.  Tiffany loves you.  Ashley loves you. Beth and Jim love you. Your family and friends love you. There are many people and beings in this world who love you exactly as you are.  They love you so much on your good days, but, my god, how they love you on your bad days.  You never expected that to be true.  You are worthy of their love, even on your worst day.  You are worthy of belonging, even on your worst day.  You are worthy of eating, even on your worst day.  You are worthy of water, even on your worst day.  You are worthy.  You are loved.  You are enough.


mental health, Random Life Things, Tragedy

I’m Ashamed of My Love for Harry Potter

On May 11, 2012, I wrote a blog post about how I’ll never be ashamed of my love for Harry Potter. A lot has changed since then. While I’ll always appreciate the sense of friendship and security the books gave me, I can no longer support the author, J.K. Rowling. At first, it was a like on a transphobic tweet that she tossed up to being caused by old fingers. Because she knew how people would react to J.K.R. being transphobic. Then it was the way she treated a trans character in her Robert Galbraith books. Recently, she wrote an entire post on her website that was anti-trans. She has doubled down in her anti-trans rhetoric and even shared a link to an anti-trans website where she purchased the shirt she was wearing in the photo in a tweet. Other people have described her transphobia much more eloquently than I could, as a quick google search would show you.

I do not stand with JKR. I am disgusted by her transphobia, bigotry, and hatred. I am disgusted that when I read and re-read the books, I didn’t notice or care that she used the Goblins as caricatures of Jewish stereotypes. I didn’t notice or care that there were so few POCs represented in the books. I didn’t notice or care about the abundance of mental health and physical ableism. I used to think the Harry Potter series stood for inclusivity, but I was wrong.

This is me making it formally known: I stand with trans people and condemn the actions of J.K. Rowling. I stand with people who hold minority statuses who were not represented in her books or who were represented unfairly and inaccurately. I stand with fat people who her series ridiculed and made to seem like bad people.

As such, the web address for this site has changed. It is no longer I’m selling that domain name. The new domain is in reference to the Carrie Fisher Quote that has been at the top of my site for quite some time.

mental health

The Refuge- A Healing Place

I returned home yesterday afternoon from 89 days spent in a residential treatment facility in Florida. I was at The Refuge- A Healing Place in Ocklawaha, FL. While I was there, I participated in two therapist-led groups and a 12 step or similar client-led group each day seven days a week. In addition, I received an hour of individual therapy each week and more on weeks when I needed it. It’s difficult to summarize 89 days worth of treatment, but I’d like to share some take-aways. Text in blocks of color come from the cited sources.

I’m not comfortable going into the details of my trauma at this time, but I have decided that I want to be really open and honest about the fact that I have been diagnosed with PTSD. One thing I learned at The Refuge is that my trauma is real and valid and shouldn’t be minimized. Many things played into my diagnosis of PTSD, but if you need something somewhat easier to digest, please consider my entire experience in the Peace Corps, prior to which I didn’t have symptoms of PTSD. Here is some information from Mayo Clinic about PTSD. I feel like I’ve been inauthentic in the past by using this blog to only talk about my diagnoses of Bipolar Disorder and anxiety and I’m trying to rectify that.

From The Refuge website:

When events occur that make us feel extremely frightened, threatened, or distressed we may end up developing an emotional or psychological wound. Some people may be able to move beyond this experience with the help of friends, family, and an extensive support network. However, many people do not have these resources and end up feeling very alone. This can lead to an increasing inability to cope, function in important various areas of daily living, or maintain regular routines. Often trauma victims feel that no one can understand what they went through and the suffering they experience which can cause them to withdraw from loved ones. Conversely, loved ones may realize that something is wrong with their loved one and want to help but feel confused, rejected, and unsure of what they can do to help.

There is no “normal” way to react to trauma – each person is different. Some people try to repress or forget the event by distracting themselves with other activities. Others may focus on the traumatic event constantly. There may be a drive to remain continuously active to prevent unwanted thoughts from surfacing or an individual may become overwhelmed, paralyzed by intrusive thoughts they can’t get out of their mind. Often individuals who have experienced trauma lose the ability to feel pleasure, leading to a lack of motivation to do much of anything. Some people may feel a sense of emotional numbness while others may experience emotional oversensitivity.

Often those who have survived one or more traumatic events don’t fully realize the impact it is having on their lives. At our PTSD treatment center, we want you to know that you don’t have to deal with trauma alone. We’re here to help you through this troubled time. We see each resident as an individual with unique needs and recognize your desire to belong to a community that understands you. When you become a part of our rehab center’s family, you will begin to replace the negative experiences you have lived through with the positive experiences of re-establishing positive relationships and the joy that life holds. Don’t try to go at it alone. We’re here to help.”

I was in denial about having PTSD for quite a while, but I’ so grateful that I had the opportunity to go to The Refuge and learn more about it. We primarily used narrative therapy, which means I wrote a bunch of letters to people, concepts, and emotions. I wrote a ten page letter to misogyny that I may share an edited version of on here at some point following several unsettling interactions with men on the campus.

In addition to PTSD, I realized with the help of my amazing therapist that I have authority figure issues and specifically people pleasing issues when it comes to authority figures. What I learned is that people only have as much authority as I give them. I am not obligated to do things for people just because they are in a position of authority over me. I can say “no” and it is a complete sentence.

While I knew to some degree that I struggled with Codependency prior to going to The Refuge, I have a lot more codependency issues in my life than I realized. CODA (Codependents Anonymous) lists some of the characteristics of codependents:

  • I have difficulty identifying what I am feeling.
  • I minimize, alter or deny how I truly feel.
  • I perceive myself as completely unselfish and dedicated to the well being of others.
  • I have difficulty making decisions.
  • I judge everything I think ,say, or do harshly as never “good enough.”
  • I do not ask others to meet my needs or desires.
  • I value others’ approval of my thinking, feelings, and behavior over my own.
  • I do not perceive myself as a lovable or worthwhile person.
  • I compromise my own values and integrity to avoid rejection or others’ anger.
  • I am very sensitive to how others are feeling and feel the same.
  • I am extremely loyal, remaining in harmful situations too long.
  • I believe most other people are incapable of taking care of themselves.
  • I attempt to convince others of what they “should” think and how they “truly” feel.
  • I become resentful when others will not let me help them.
  • I freely offer others advice and directions without being asked.
  • I lavish gifts and favors on those I care about.
  • I use sex to gain approval and acceptance.
  • I have to be “needed” in order to have a relationship with others.

I also attended ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families) meetings, and learned just how many of those characteristics I embody:

The Laundry List – 14 Traits of an Adult Child of an Alcoholic

  1. We became isolated and afraid of people and authority figures.
  2. We became approval seekers and lost our identity in the process.
  3. We are frightened by angry people and any personal criticism.
  4. We either become alcoholics, marry them or both, or find another compulsive personality such as a workaholic to fulfill our sick abandonment needs.
  5. We live life from the viewpoint of victims and we are attracted by that weakness in our love and friendship relationships.
  6. We have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and it is easier for us to be concerned with others rather than ourselves; this enables us not to look too closely at our own faults, etc.
  7. We get guilt feelings when we stand up for ourselves instead of giving in to others.
  8. We became addicted to excitement.
  9. We confuse love and pity and tend to “love” people we can “pity” and “rescue.”
  10. We have “stuffed” our feelings from our traumatic childhoods and have lost the ability to feel or express our feelings because it hurts so much (Denial).
  11. We judge ourselves harshly and have a very low sense of self-esteem.
  12. We are dependent personalities who are terrified of abandonment and will do anything to hold on to a relationship in order not to experience painful abandonment feelings, which we received from living with sick people who were never there emotionally for us.
  13. Alcoholism is a family disease; and we became para-alcoholics and took on the characteristics of that disease even though we did not pick up the drink.
  14. Para-alcoholics are reactors rather than actors.

I hope none of you ever have to seek residential treatment. But if you do, I hope you seek it at The Refuge. I’ll write more about my experience later, but this is getting pretty long, so I’ll leave you with this for now: You are worthy of love and belonging. You have the right to say no. You can say what you mean and mean what you say.

mental health

Carrie Frances Fisher (October 21, 1956- December 27, 2016)

As many of you know, I am in a residential treatment facility in Florida for my mental heath. After discussing my love for Carrie Fisher with my therapist, he gave me an assignment. The assignment was to find some way to show what I love about Carrie Fisher and what that says about what I love about me. I elected to make a collage and do some writing on the subject.

Carrie Fisher was an American actress, comedian, and writer. She was best known for playing Princess Leia in the Star Wars films. She was also Hollywood Royalty, the daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher. That’s what her Wikipedia entry says, but she was so much more. Carrie Fisher was fierce, fearless, and incredibly open about her struggles with Bipolar Disorder and substance abuse, even though she was in the public eye. She was an advocate for those with mental illnesses and those with substance use disorders. By all accounts, she was funny, warm, generous, kind, and creative. She was an incredibly talented writer and storyteller. She helped the people she loved, but she also helped complete strangers.

Carrie Fisher gave me hope when I felt like I had none. Following my Bipolar I diagnosis, I felt alone and scared. She once said, “at times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with his illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of.” She also said, “Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.” I have found each quote to be profoundly helpful in my journey with mental illness.

The memoirs Carrie Fisher wrote about her experiences with mental health and substance abuse are some of my favorite books of all time. She wrote Shockaholic, Wishful Drinking, and The Princess Diarist about her challenges with mental health, her challenges with substance use, and her affair with Harrison Ford during the filming of Star Wars: A New Hope. Her book, Postcards From the Edge, detailed her relationship with her mother and mental health.  Candid and hilarious, her books paint a realistic portrait of what it’s like to live with Bipolar I. They show that people who make mistakes (myself included) are still whole, capable, competent, worthy people. They detail the immense pain that people like her and me feel and share tools and tactics she used to help her feel better. Her books helped me feel less alone and my hope is that someday I can help other people feel less alone with their mental health struggles, too.

Not only was Carrie Fisher a badass in real life, but she played my favorite fictional character- General Leia Organa. Many people would say that Princess Leia is their favorite, but there’s a special place in my heart for the Leia of the new trilogy. She may have been adopted into royalty, but she earned her title as General through decades of hard work and dedication. She wasn’t a perfect wife, mother, or person, but she stood up for what she believed in and ultimately sacrificed herself. She used the last of her energy to call out to her son, Ben Solo, and saved Rey, the Resistance, and the galaxy in the process. I think I find this so appealing for a variety of reasons, some of which aren’t healthy. I seem to love the idea of giving and giving and giving of myself until there’s no me left to give.

I want to be like Carrie Fisher- open about my struggles, good at writing, and a published author who is known for her humor and generosity. In some ways, we are similar. We share a diagnosis (Bipolar I), but we share more than that. I try to be generous with my time and money. I advocate for myself and others. I love writing about my mental health and my family and friends seem to enjoy reading it. I am kind and loyal. I use humor and care deeply about others. I work hard to fight for causes I believe in and I’ve spent my whole life wanting to help others. We share a love of dogs and I believe we share a deep desire to be liked and accepted by others as shown in the book Carrie Fisher: A Life on the Edge by Sheila Weller. The biography details Carrie’s drug use and relationships, but it also shows a woman desperate to feel love and belonging, which I can certainly relate to.

Carrie Fisher once said, “Do not let what you think they think of you make you stop and question everything you are.” She also said, “I trust myself. I trust my instincts. I know what I’m gonna’ do, what I can do, what I can’t do. I’ve been through a lot, and I could go through more, but I hope I don’t have to. But if I did, I’d be able to do it.” I hope that I can someday live up to both of these quotes as well as the strength, courage, authenticity, and vulnerability that Carrie Fisher showed. I find it awe inspiring that Carrie Fisher was aware of how important it is for validation to come from within. This is something I personally didn’t realize until spending well over a month in a residential treatment facility and having been told about it by multiple therapists during that time. While my head knew that it logically makes sense that validation from within far surpasses external validation and even though I learned about the internal locus and external locus of control in graduate school, it wasn’t something I could get my heart to believe until very recently.

It’s truly challenging for me to compare myself to such an incredible and amazing woman who remains my idol. When I sat down to write this, I knew it would be difficult. I suspected that everything I came up with would be a stretch that other people disagreed with. What I actually discovered is that I have a lot more in common with my idol than I realized. For some reason, I praise her for being a woman willing to publicly make mistakes and learn and grow, but I shame myself internally for similar mistakes, learning, and growth. If I can see Carrie Fisher as someone worthy of being my idol, maybe it’s possible that I can start to love myself more and hate myself less.

mental health

Never Be Afraid of Who You Are

Carrie Fisher once said, “At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of. They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication.”

As you may have read in an earlier post, I was hospitalized in May for suicidal ideation. The past few months been really rough and I let my brain trick me into thinking that I’m a burden, that those I love would be better off without me, and that I am unworthy of love and belonging. While I was in the hospital, I finished reading Untamed by Glennon Doyle. I would like to share some quotes from it that really helped me gain some perspective.

“I am here to keep becoming truer, more beautiful versions of myself again and again forever. To be alive is to be in a perpetual state of revolution. Whether I like it or not, pain is the fuel of revolution. Everything I need to become the woman I’m meant to be next is inside my feelings of now. Life is alchemy, and emotions are the fire that turns me to gold. I will continue to become only if I resist extinguishing myself a million times a day. If I can sit in the fire of my own feelings, I will keep becoming.”

“Like Westley from The Princess Bride who said, ‘Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.’ “

“Pain is not tragic. Pain is magic. Suffering is tragic. Suffering is what happens when we avoid pain and consequently miss our becoming. That is what I can and must avoid; missing my own evolution because I am too afraid to surrender to the process. Having such little faith in myself that I numb or hide or consume my way out of my fiery feelings again and again. So my goal is to stop abandoning myself– and stay. To trust that I’m strong enough to handle the pain that is necessary to the process of becoming.”

These quotes (and many more from Untamed) helped me reframe things. Yes, I’ve been in a lot of pain lately. But I can either continue to try to fight that pain or give in, surrender, and trust myself. When I sat with it for a while, what my self told me is that I should go to a residential treatment center (RTC) for my mental health. It isn’t easy. It is brutal and painful and difficult. It will be roughly 80 days away from the family I love and the friends I count on for support. But if not now, when? Getting laid off sucked. It was sad and disappointing and it hurt. But it allowed me to stay on unemployment through the end of July. Which means I don’t have to look for a job right away while I figure stuff out. Which means I actually have the time to dedicate to myself and my mental health right now.

mental health

Copied and Pasted From My Facebook

TW: Suicidal Ideation

I used to sing Park Ridge/Advent Health’s Women’s Hope Unit’s praises loudly and frequently for everyone to hear. I can no longer do that in good conscience because they have a new doctor and he is terrible. I don’t think many people really know this yet, but I try to be as open as I can about my mental health, so: I was hospitalized from Friday to Tuesday for suicidal thoughts. I checked myself into the ER and they admitted me several hours later. As if going through that isn’t bad enough, Dr. Johnson at Advent Health believes that stimulant and benzodiazepine use in adults is wrong. So I got to experience withdrawal while being incredibly depressed. It’s not an experience I can recommend. He wanted me to stay for 5-7 more days and do their benzodiazepine detox treatment that involves phenobarbital. I don’t misuse my benzodiazepines and I don’t feel like it would be good for me to come off of them at this time. Neither does my actual mental health practitioner who has known me for three years instead of five minutes. Dr. Johnson stopped my stimulants cold turkey and refused to give me my ADHD medications while I was there. While I was able to get ativan the first night I was there (Friday), it was Monday night before they gave me an incredibly low dose of it again. On Sunday morning, the only mental health medication they gave me was my normal dosage of antidepressant. They refused to give me my antipsychotic that doubles as a mood stabilizer until that evening after I complained for a long time.

The nurses were, for the most part, incredible. There was one I had an issue with because I threw up my medicine (nausea from withdrawal) and she said she would give them to me again but never did. The others were all incredibly kind and compassionate.

I’m safe and am feeling much better now. I feel very loved and supported, but my brain was lying to me and telling me that I was a burden and that everyone I love would be better off without me. Bipolar Disorder is no joke. May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I meant to make a post about it but was too depressed to do so, so this will be my post about it.

If/when you are feeling suicidal, your brain is LYING to you. You are not a burden. People would not be better off without you. This feeling won’t last forever. You are special and loved and whole and valued exactly as you already are. You are worthy of love and connection. You are worthy of hope and a future. You are worthy of compassion and compassionate care.

If you are ever in the hospital and feel like you aren’t being treated well, ask for a patient advocate. It’s not something most people know to do.

I want to thank my absolutely incredible brother, mom, and dad for being 1000% supportive, loving, and caring during this very difficult time. I want to thank the friends I told for holding onto the hope I couldn’t see for me and for encouraging me to get help. And I want to shout out my amazing therapist Alli Ramirez at Higgins Counseling + Consulting for being the best therapist I could possibly ask for. I’m not sure if she is accepting new patients, but if you ever need a therapist, I highly recommend her.

I’m sorry to the people I scared and worried. Thank you for supporting me in getting the help I needed.

Love you all!

mental health

Social Distancing and the Effects of COVID-19 on Someone With Mental Health Struggles

It’s been so long since I logged into WordPress that I almost forgot how. November 4, 2019 was the last time I posted. It was a post about my amazing trip to Scotland with my family. I haven’t had much time for posting since then. I was taking care of a neighbor after school and working at a church providing childcare on Sundays, then in December I got hired at the preschool of my dreams. I officially started in January. Trauma informed. A boss who encourages you to bring your whole self into the room and whatever situation you’re in. Wellness coaching. Permission to make mistakes and see them as “oopses.” A growth mindset. Colleagues who are amazing and creative and kind and generous. Children that give love freely and are amazing, wonderful, people. A place that feels, finally, like home.

Now, I’m grieving and scared and listless and feel like I’ve lost my purpose. We closed the doors of the preschool because of COVID-19 last Monday. I had missed the prior Thursday and Friday because I had an upper respiratory infection. Yesterday, we were officially laid off, not knowing when it will be safe or ethical to reopen the school. We are providing online programming for the kids. Things like recorded story times, videos about how to make homemade playdough, etc.

My situation is a little different. I’ve worked for over 90 days at the school, but the unemployment office views your employment for the past several quarters. I haven’t made enough money to qualify. The Department of Labor is paying me some, which is helpful, but won’t truly be enough because of interest payments on credit card debt accumulated during manic episodes. I know I’ll find a way to make it work, but for the first time in almost two years, I’m feeling depressed.

I’m sad and listless and scared and feel like everything is futile. I don’t feel like I have a purpose. I can’t read for pleasure because I can’t focus for long enough. Watching an entire movie is a tremendous task. Watching a tv show is difficult. The only way I can read is in front of a camera, knowing it will help someone else. I struggled a lot with whether or not to read the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for people. J.K. Rowling isn’t my favorite person anymore. Not since she proved how transphobic she is. But her books have brought me hope in times of darkness. In times when I felt like nothing would ever get better. I wanted to share that hope with others. You can see that video here. By using the password TheBoyWhoLived .

I’m trying to put on a brave face. I know I don’t seem depressed to people I’ve video chatted with in the past week. I’ve tried to put on a smile and act like everything is normal, but it isn’t. Nothing is “normal” about this time and nothing will ever be “normal” again because COVID-19 has changed everything. We will find a new normal, but it will take time.

I’m not telling you I’m feeling depressed because I want your sympathy, but because I know in my bones that I’m not alone. Which is somewhat of a miracle since my depression usually tricks me into feeling I’m the only person in the whole world who is currently feeling this way. There are 327.2 million people living in America according to Google. According to the Washington Post, “U.S. workers are getting laid off at an unprecedented pace as the coronavirus outbreak shuts down much of the economy, and the government safety net to help the newly jobless appears ill-equipped to handle the surge in the unemployed.” More than one MILLION workers are expected to lose their jobs by the end of March. I know I am not the only one who will fall through the cracks and not be covered.

I’ve experienced a similar financial panic before, when I found out that my Worker’s Compensation payments didn’t count as income towards the health insurance marketplace (because they aren’t taxable) and found out I would have to pay $600 a month for health insurance PLUS copayments on doctor’s visits and medications. Medicaid, ironically, DOES count the payments as income. So I made too much for Medicaid, but not enough to be eligible for a subsidy. I made that work, but that was when I was receiving a full payment from Worker’s Compensation. I put a call into them on Friday to see what my options are now that I’ve been laid off, but I have a feeling that returning to full payments would mean a doctor determining that I’m incapable of work because of one of my accepted conditions: Recurrence of Major Depressive Disorder or Bipolar Disorder.

I’m panicking now, but it’s a slow burn kind of panic. I don’t feel that anxious, just terribly sad and uncertain. I’m so grateful that I live with my parents and don’t have to worry about rent or a mortgage. I’m grateful that I know I’ll have a roof over my head and support during this time. I’m terrified about what’s going to happen when it comes time to pay 2020 taxes because I receive a tax credit for my health insurance on the basis of my employment, which has been terminated. I’ve just applied for Medicaid and SNAP benefits online. We will see how that goes. It makes me feel a little calmer to have done that.

I feel better now that I’ve written this. Now that I’ve gotten it out and it isn’t just swimming around in my head. If you’ve read this far, thank you. If you’re feeling like I am, I’m sorry. If you’re scared, try to remember that we are all in this together.

mental health, Random Life Things

You Have The Right to Remain Fat

Recently, Bill Maher said some incredibly inflammatory things about fat people. He asserted that “the problem with our healthcare system is that Americans eat shit and too much of it.” He stated, based on this OPINION PIECE in the New York Times , that “poor diet is the leading cause of mortality in the United States.” The article, which contains gems equating fatness with disease such as “Three in four adults are overweight or obese. More Americans are sick, in other words, than are healthy,” is misleading at best.

The study that this opinion piece cites actually says “Specific diseases and risk factors, such as drug use disorders, high BMI, poor diet, high fasting plasma glucose level, and alcohol use disorders are increasing and warrant increased attention.” It further states that,” Ischemic heart disease (IHD); cancer of the trachea, bronchus, and lung; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; Alzheimer disease and other dementias; and cancer of the colon and rectum were the 5 leading causes of death.” While “obesity”and overeating are risk factors for Ischemic heart disease, so are things like:

Rather than examine the complexities of the information presented in the study, Bill Maher decided to lash out at an already marginalized, ridiculed, and shamed population. “But why do people have so many pre-existing conditions? Being fat isn’t a birth defect. Nobody comes out of the womb needing to buy two seats on the airplane.” He goes on. “Everyone knows “obesity” is linked to terrible conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and virginity.”

The links between being fat, diabetes, and heart disease are there, but are not well understood and don’t prove which causes which. “Excess weight is an established risk factor for type 2 diabetes, yet most obese individuals do not develop type 2 diabetes. Recent studies have identified “links” between obesity and type 2 diabetes involving proinflammatory cytokines (tumor necrosis factor and interleukin-6), insulin resistance, deranged fatty acid metabolism, and cellular processes such as mitochondrial dysfunction and endoplasmic reticulum stress. These interactions are complex, with the relative importance of each unclearly defined.” Not all patients who are fat develop Type 2 Diabetes. Not all people who develop Type 2 Diabetes are fat.

Maher goes on. “There’s literally nothing being overweight does not make worse.” He cites things like eyesight, pain, memory, fatigue, depression, and a weakened immune system without actually offering evidence to support any of these claims. “We scream at congress to find a way to pay for our medical bills but it wouldn’t be nearly the issue it is if people just didn’t eat like assholes who are killing not only themselves but the planet.” He says a lot of other really inaccurate and inflammatory things, but I’d rather get down to the nitty gritty of why this matters.

“Obesity” is complex.
While we all know that overeating is one thing that can contribute to being fat, “The risk factors that contribute to “obesity” can be a complex combination of genetics, socioeconomic factors, metabolic factors and lifestyle choices, among other things. Some endocrine disorders, diseases and medications can also cause weight to increase.” Healthy foods are considerably more expensive than processed foods, genetics play a huge role in whether or not you’re fat, and some medications, particularly psychiatric medications, cause side effects like weight gain, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or even diabetes. A few years ago, a combination of medications I was on caused me to gain 70 pounds in 2 months.

Fat Shaming DOESN’T work.
According to a 2014 study from the University College London, “Our results show that weight discrimination does not encourage weight loss, and suggest that it may even exacerbate weight gain,” the study’s lead author, Sarah Jackson, said in a statement. “Previous studies have found that people who experience discrimination report comfort eating. Stress responses to discrimination can increase appetite, particularly for unhealthy, energy-dense food.”

Health At Every Size is an approach that every doctor should be familiar with.
I’m very lucky. I have excellent doctors who actually listen to me, evaluate me, and work hard to accurately diagnose me. There are people my size and larger who are not so lucky. There are women who have been told their pain would resolve if they lost weight who actually had undiagnosed cancer. Health At Every Size posits that the war on obesity has been lost and that, rather than shaming people for something that is very difficult if not impossible to sustainably change, doctors should address their own fatphobia and anti-fat bias when it comes to how they practice medicine.

Diets don’t work.
Here are some good places to start if you don’t believe me or if you just want to do more research on your own:

James Corden’s video is a good start, but still has some problems.
“We know that being overweight isn’t good for us, and I’ve struggled my entire life trying to manage my weight and I suck at it… I’ve basically been on and off of diets as long as I can remember and, well, this is how it’s going.”

I’m not going to get into it too much on this post, but Intentional Weight Loss is inherently fatphobic. From Fierce Fattie, “The fat acceptance movement was created so the fat bodies were no longer erased and marginalized and discriminated against. By intentionally losing weight, you are erasing a fat body if you have a fat body, and you are buying into the rhetoric that being thinner means that you are more worthy, more desirable, and a lot of people say, “Well, I’m losing weight to become healthy.” You are also buying into that rhetoric that being thinner means that you are a healthier person, which is not based in science. “

In the words of James Corden, “Fat shaming is just bullying….and bullying only makes the problem worse.”

Want to know more? Virgie Tovar is a great place to start. She has this excellent Tedx Talk:

She wrote this book that changed my life:

She has a great website with a blog and resources:

Here are some things I’m meaning to read but haven’t got around to quite yet:

And here is a whole great list of books I hope to read many of!

mental health

World Bipolar Day 2019

Trigger/Content Warning: Mention of past suicidal thoughts.

Today (March 30, 2019) is World Bipolar Day. Tomorrow (March 31, 2019) I turn 30. These two things may not seem to be particularly related at first glance, but having World Bipolar Day fall the day before my birthday is incredibly meaningful to me. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 2013, but my struggles with mental health started way back when I was 13. While every birthday is cause for celebration, there were so many times throughout my life that I thought I’d never make it to thirty, so this birthday feels really special to me. There have been many times in my life when I’ve been incredibly depressed and considered suicide. Because of this, I was certain I would never make it to 30.

Today, on World Bipolar Day, I want to reduce some of the stigma associated with Bipolar Disorder. I want to be honest about the fact that I’ve experienced pretty much all of the symptoms classically associated with mania and depression. You know someone who has spent money recklessly, hallucinated, been delusional, and experienced psychosis. You know someone who has been so depressed that I’ve considered ending my life rather than go on in pain. You know someone who experiences mixed episodes, which means I experience all of the heightened energy associated with mania while having extremely negative and harmful thoughts associated with depression at the same time. You know someone who has Bipolar Disorder and, honestly, I’m not so different from you.

I have good days and bad days. Since last May, I’m thankful to report they have been mostly good days. But over the course of the past five and a half years, there have been many days where I could barely get out of bed or where I couldn’t sleep at all. Conversely, my good days look pretty normal. I smile and laugh and hang out with my friends. I read. I play with my dog. I eat. I drink tea. I write. I plan for the future. I have Bipolar Disorder, but that doesn’t mean that I’m violent as is so often stigmatized. People with mental illness are more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators. I have Bipolar Disorder, but I’m still a daughter, a sister, a cousin, a niece, a friend, and a dog mom.

I have Bipolar Disorder and I have struggled with depression and anxiety for 17 years, but tomorrow I will turn 30. I have made it 17 years when there were times I thought I’d never make it for another single day. I’m not usually that into birthdays, but I’m definitely into this one. Tomorrow, I will turn 30 and that by itself is such an accomplishment for me.

To learn more about World Bipolar Day, visit

#WorldBipolarDay #WorldBipolarDay2019

mental health

We’re All Mad Here Part 7/7

This is a seven part series. A new part will be released every Wednesday until all 7 are out.

Disclaimer: As some of you may know, I took a Memoir Writing class in 2017.  For that class, I wrote a lengthy (22 page) story about my first time going inpatient in a mental health facility back in May of 2015.  I utilized a “journal” or sorts that I kept while in the hospital. It was really just a yellow legal pad with notes scribbled all over it each day. I was hesitant to share it here because it’s very frank and may contain details of thoughts I had that some people may find disturbing, but I also feel it’s an important look at what being in a mixed episode can feel like.  In a mixed episode, you experience symptoms of both mania and depression.  So you may have a ton of energy and engage in risk taking behaviors but your self talk may be incredibly negative and scary.  At any rate, I’m now going to share that story with you weekly in several parts.  I’m not sure how many parts yet, but I don’t want to make each post so long that no one wants to read it.  Some parts of this story contain strong language not suitable for children.  I know some of the stuff I have written and write in this part are really off the wall and bizarre, but they are the honest thoughts that I had at the time.

It’s about 12:25AM so it’s technically June 1st now and I’m still pretty wide-awake.  Last night the meds worked so well together, but I was also taking double the dosage of Latuda at the time.  I would really love to be sleepy and be able to fall asleep easily.  My head hurts a bit, too.  I wonder if I’m getting a migraine on top of everything else.  I bet taking 2 Naratriptans would help me fall asleep, but that would be a super off label use for those.  I wonder if every book ever written is really just an autobiography or a biography.  I keep trying to come up with ideas for my books but it really isn’t working, even though I’m manic.  My best ideas for them are at least somewhat based in reality or in someone’s perception of reality.  Monica said she would read these journals as a book.  Changing all of the names would be a giant pain in the ass, but maybe there could be a journal compilation of all of my mental health stuff one day when I’m older.

I’m pretty even keeled at the moment, but I did take a whole bunch of medicine two and a half hours ago.  I love that this is a women only unit, unlike anywhere else in the area.  I really miss River Dog and I wish I could see her.  I can’t wait until I get back home to her for an extended period (after Destin, hopefully).  I really hope I can get into the IOP when I get back it town.  It really helped at Mission last time and I bet Park Ridge is even better.  I was so very worried about going inpatient and it has largely been a truly positive experience.  I really wish I had Google here so I could look up some quotes.  I’d like to make a quote collage or quote book.  It really meant a lot to me when Jac said he thought it was courageous to come here.

I’m supposed to wait until 1AM to check back about meds.  I really fucking wish I was sleeping because I really want to go home Friday and go to the beach on Saturday.  Today will be my fifth full day here and I was told 5-7 days but I’m still awake right now so that isn’t looking too promising.  I don’t know whether or not I should lie to the doctor and say I’m feeling better than I really am.  I can always do inpatient again when I get home if I need to.  It’s after 1:10AM and I’m still not tired.  The nurses Kaylee and Zoe gave me 1mg of Ativan, but I take that during the day and it barely affects me.  I wish I could Google Seroquel to see what all the side effects are to see if that’s a viable candidate.  The doctor was mentioning Depakote as the gold standard for people with mixed episodes.

I’m currently hallucinating the instrumental soundtrack for Titanic but I don’t want to tell the nurses because I want to go to the beach so badly on Saturday.  I’m most bummed because Mom and Dad won’t go to Destin without me and I would feel really guilty if they missed seeing everyone and a whole week at the beach.  Nurse Kaylee said that if I’m still awake by 3, she will go ahead and take my vitals.  I don’t want to miss any groups or anything, but the nurses will start waking us up in a little over 4 hours for vitals and 4 hours of sleep to me is basically 2 hours of sleep to anyone else.  I really wish I could call Mom right now and ask her what to do.  I’m going to have to make sure it’s in all my goals and everything that I want to be discharged on Friday.  Maybe the P.A. I see tomorrow will be more sympathetic.  The hallucination has stopped now.  It lasted for probably 20 minutes or so.  Maybe if I stay up all night tonight and all day today, I’ll sleep really well tomorrow night.  Between 1:30-4PM are the only things I really care about tomorrow anyway.  Ugh this not being able to sleep is so annoying.  And despite what she said, I doubt Monica or anyone else would be interested in reading this drivel.  I think I’ll try reading my book or lying down or something that may be more conducive to falling asleep.  This really sucks.

I finally fell asleep sometime after 2.  I saw the P.A. named Jessica and the only change she made was to increase my Ambien to 10mg.  She said the goal is for me to leave by Friday.  I got to go on a walk with Samantha, Evelyn, and Tia.  Katie said someone named Teri called while I was out but I can’t figure out who on Earth that is because my therapist, Teri, is on vacation this week.  I also spoke to the social worker today.  She liked my WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) and discharge plan.  She said the treatment team met today and decided the goal is for me to leave on Friday.

Elizabeth freaked out and slammed the phone and the door and threw her chair earlier.  She was refusing meds and is very paranoid.  They told her she could take the pills or they would give her a shot of her Geodon.  Sometimes I really feel like I belong here and sometimes I feel like I’m much better off than most of the people in here.  The worst is when Evelyn says crazy things that make perfect sense.  I called Sheridan today and talked to her.  I would like a nap but we have a group where we will learn about nutrition in a few minutes and I really want to be able to fall asleep tonight.

Tiffany called me, not Teri.  This is sort of like the time that Katie hung up on my mom because I left the phone hanging for like ten seconds.  She’s real sweet, but not the brightest crayon in the box.  Although, sometimes I get the impression that she is smarter and more manipulative than she lets on.  I’m exhausted.  On some level, I think I should just let my body go to sleep whenever it wants to.  On another, I’m not one hundred percent sure I’m capable of taking a nap and sleeping tonight.  I think I’ll go ahead and read then take a shower before meds so I can go straight to bed after.

Jac called and I was woken up from a very brief and fitful nap to talk to him.  He sounded really good.  I’m excited to see him Saturday night.  I’m so exhausted.  I can’t wait to go to sleep tonight.  I think I may finally be coming down.  I took a shower and now I’m going to call Mom to ask her about shorts and a swimsuit.  We are going to go get me the shorts and a swimsuit on Friday after I get out of here before we pick River up.  I wish River could just come with us, but that doesn’t seem like something that can happen.  I know I haven’t covered all of the goings on of the day or even the most quotable moments, but I desperately want to get a good night of sleep tonight.

P.S. Katie has a sore throat and if she gives me strep before my one real vacation this year, I will be murderous.

I’m feeling better today and I slept fairly well last night.  I’ve noticed a pattern: many if not most of the people in here are very sick but think they are very well and don’t belong here, including me.  I am irritable today and I’m getting over-stimulated fairly easily.  I think I’ve dipped down into hypomania now.  The P.A. said I can go home tomorrow, so I will get to go to Destin after all.  I just had to take an Ativan because a lady in our group was talking about incest and even though I’m thankfully not a victim of incest, it was triggering and really upsetting to hear about.  I will pack a whole bottle of Ativan for the beach trip, I think.  Mom, Dad, and Tiffany are coming to visit today.  I’m happy I will be seeing them.  I think I’ll write less now that I’m no longer manic.  I think I’ll take a nap soon.  Elizabeth thinks the nurses are always talking about her and was rambling on about how they know about Ingles because they saw her Facebook.  It made literally no sense at all.  I understand now what the doctors and nurses mean about my level of insight and self-awareness.  I think I’ll take a nap now.  Just kidding, it’s ten minutes until lunch.  I’ll eat my chicken fingers THEN I’ll take a nap.

I did nap briefly until a friend called and someone came and woke me up so I could take her call, then Mom, Dad, and Tiffany got here for the group.  Mom and Dad left afterward to drop my prescriptions off at CVS but Tiffany stayed until visitation ended at 4.  I’m so grateful to her for driving all the way out here and coming to visit me.  I know the mental hospital makes her uncomfortable and she came anyway.  She really is my best friend.  I read a little bit then went to Relaxation Group with Samantha at 4:30 then dinner at 5.  Afterwards, I had my blood pressure checked and Nurse Bethany gave me my Propranolol.  She thanked me for being so nice, I thanked her for being so nice, then I apologized for all of my many questions.  She said she would much rather have all the questions than cussing and people saying they hoped she would die.  I said that was fair enough.  I’m going to read until PM group/snack, then take a shower, then take meds, then go to sleep.  Tomorrow, I go home.  This place was so scary to me once, but now I see it for what it truly is, a place of rest and rehabilitation.

If you’re still here, thank you for reading all of my wild ranting and raving.  Some people have told me it’s hard to tell when I’m manic and I think that’s because so much of it goes on inside my head and isn’t visible.  I hope this doesn’t frighten you or change the way you feel about me, but I thought it was time you got a good look inside my head.