Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Here’s my bit:
#‎mentalhealthmonth 2016 part 3

At the end of April I realized May would be Mental Health Month. I looked forward to seeing loving energy and attention being brought to those of us who struggle. Inside, my heart leapt. It wanted to contribute. It dawned on me that I could use my words and be vulnerable about things I deal with. I hesitated a bit because frankly that is scary and I would have to be brave.

The first ten posts are here. Days eleven through twenty are here. You can click the title of each one to see where I posted it originally on Facebook, and the comments it got there.

Fran

 


Here’s my bit
‪#‎mentalhealthmonth‬ may 21

Invisible illness doesn’t just mean you have an illness that can’t be seen, it means friends disappear and then you do..

‪#‎endthestigma‬


Here’s my bit
‪#‎mentalhealthmonth‬ may 22

Sitting on my favorite bench on the back shore letting the ocean get inside me.. Taking responsibility. Taking strength. Early on I stopped blaming everyone and everything for my illnesses including myself. I realized looking inward, being curious, and taking baby steps would be a surer and safer path. There are so many who say they have answers or offer services to those desperate for help who have no resources. When I stepped away from all that my own confidence grew. I eat when I’m hungry. I rest when I’m tired. I meditate and medicate when my mind races. I use ice or heat when there is pain. When I have energy I do stuff, when I don’t I don’t. For me simple is best.

My favorite tombstone now is:
She did what she could. ‪

#‎endthestigma‬


Here’s my bit
‪#‎mentalhealthmonth‬ may 23

When I’m on the phone I walk around my apartment. My slider was open. I saw my sweet neighbor down below pushing her cart through the parking lot. I called her name with a hi even though I was still on the phone. She looked up at me big eyed and excited. She shared the treasures she found at a yard sale close by. It’s something she loves and I’m glad for her. I, on the other hand, have not a yard sale bone in my body but I do recognize passion and that enlivens me. I’m not sure what flavor illness she has. Some call her crazy. I recognize the inside of her, the spirit, and that I love. And my friend on the phone, he was happy too..

‪#‎endthestigma‬


Here’s my bit
‪#‎mentalhealthmonth‬ may 24

I am aware that not everyone is happy with my writing about illness and often I am tempted to clam up. Then another private message arrives reminding me how my candid words help. I feel honored and inspired. I guess I won’t stop. Not yet. Not today.

‪#‎endthestigma‬


Here’s my bit
‪#‎mentalhealthmonth‬ may 25

‪#‎millionsmissing‬

When I am feeling sad or ill or less than the very last thing I need from you is ‘cheer up’ or ‘no you’re not’ or ‘look at all you have’ or ‘go for a walk’ or ‘summer’s coming, you’ll feel better then.’ That makes me shrivel and curl up into a ball, hiding under the covers, after of course I get utterly pissed off at the insulting way you have dismissed me, my feelings and my experiences. This is not empathy. And I will not trust you as a friend. Why not let me be who I am and feel what I feel and listen and maybe even hold my hand?

This may be hard for you to hear. This is the way it’s always been. Change is not easy. I had to get my brave on to speak out. Now it’s time for you to get your brave on..

‪#‎endthestigma‬


Here’s my bit
‪#‎mentalhealthmonth‬ may 26

The spiritual side of illness. I’m well aware of how our society touts the American Dream. The focus on goals, success, and being the best or at the very least being normal. For those of us weakened by illness there is little room made, in fact, we stay home. Our culture values ‘getting’ healed, ‘getting’ fixed as a measure of our character, morality, and spirituality. One of my close friends once said, ‘If you were spiritual enough, you’d be well by now.’ Those words slayed me like a machete.

The truth is we navigate dangerous waters. We battle dragons inside and out. Chronic illness is endless. That means n-e-v-e-r ending. The courage it takes to take a shower is an Olympic event. Just rising in the morning can be an Everest. All this is done in secret behind closed doors. No accolades. No reward.

For me living with illness is the truest life I have ever known. It teaches me compassion, kindness and patience daily. It teaches me to be alive and aware and flow to the nuances that my ‘limitations’ bring. I remember who I was. I remember how I was. I have grown. I love myself now.

I wouldn’t trade my life, its gifts, and its sheer honesty for anything.

‪#‎endthestigma‬


Here’s my bit
‪#‎mentalhealthmonth‬ may 27

Many times when I meditate the garbage truck comes. It parks right below my window and takes the trash and recyclables. It is loud and clanky. This need not be a problem. I continue on with my practice. I am grateful that my house and mind aren’t overflowing with things that no longer serve me. I appreciate the emptiness that is left behind ~ I have not always been this appreciative. Now more often than not, I giggle. ‪

#‎endthestigma‬


Here’s my bit
‪#‎mentalhealthmonth‬ may 28

I have bipolar. What’s your excuse? ‪

#‎endthestigma‬


Here’s my bit
‪#‎mentalhealthmonth‬ may 29

Wellness in a nutshell. Many things come with owner manuals, except us. Whether we are sleek fast spaceships or rusty rickety grounded ones like me, having some kind of guide helps us navigate. Marty and I created a personal care manual, a wellness toolbox, and a travel plan to do just that. They are living documents that help keep me well.

Input. Output. Rest. Most obviously, these words are a way of looking at diet, exercise, sleep. But life provides a wide range of choices that either feeds us and allows us to give, or depletes us.

Sometimes I need a back to basics repertoire and sometimes I can be more expansive. My illnesses give me continuous feedback as to what I can or cannot do.

This need not be a problem. They are simply asking me to care. Sometimes extreme self care is needed. I get to listen or not listen. How many of us listen to what our bodies and illnesses are saying? Do we respond in kindness?

Tweaking and tinkering can be a joy or a chore. I choose joy (mostly). There is no one big fix. Most folks want that but life is not that way. Resilience works best. Tease out your ill parts, accept them, reside in that well part of you. Deep well.

I am the expert of me. When I allow my own wisdom to bubble up rather than frantically running to others to fix me, I can access a space that holds my highest good. And that quiet wisdom can guide me further inside or to fitting healers.

Some colors in my palette:

  • Medication Meditation
  • Nourishment Exercise
  • Hygiene Heat Ice Decluttering
  • DBT CBT ACT EFT NVC
  • Mindfulness Guided Imagery TED Talks
  • Acupuncture Chiropractic Massage
  • Movie therapy Brave Heart Gilmore Girls
  • Art Music Theater Nature Connection
  • Marty

When I am unsure what to do or what not to do I use my 51% rule. I check in and feel what percentage I am on board with something. If it’s not at least 51% it is not happening. I also use my coin toss app or maybe even use real ones.

Wellness is not about getting fixed. It’s about resonance. It’s about being choiceful. It’s about baby steps. And it’s about life being custom made.

What’s in your nutshell? ‪

#‎endthestigma‬


Here’s my bit
‪#‎mentalhealthmonth‬ may 30

Words matter. Say what you mean. Mean what you say. Communication is difficult enough without choosing words unwisely. The way in which they are said, intent and delivery, is another critical component. Interpretation and perspective may well be the listener’s responsibility however kindness (or not) reflects thoughtfulness (or not) on behalf of the speaker. Words are the window to thoughts, feelings, and even the soul. Let your mouth be a gatekeeper. Spoken or unspoken. ‪

I learned a few things from a friend and a counselor. One is: Feelings aren’t right or wrong, they just are. Another: All feelings can be funneled into four flavors - mad, glad, sad, and afraid. This makes it easier for me to decipher the kaleidoscope of feelings that can clobber me at any time. Simple works best. ‪

Since bipolar is a mood disorder often words pierce in ways that they would not otherwise. Balancing emotions becomes an impossible feat. Skewed perception goes even more haywire. The actual words are the only measure I can attempt to wrap my mind around, so delivery, whether sloppy or careful, matters greatly. My emotions can easily spin out of control, making sound thinking unfathomable. I can easily dive to depression or fly to mania. This is not something I can control. ‪

Thankfully I have a few chosen friends who support me to process in a life enhancing way. ‪

My responsibility and challenge is to eliminate judgmental, devaluing, debilitating words from my vocabulary in my own head. Examples of these are should, shouldn’t, have to, need to, supposed to, try, sorry, worry, and a host of others that are sticky and that I no longer even remember from disuse. I literally clip my lip and I ask others to do the same. For me it is a matter of life and death. ‪

There are other ways and words that can be used that are more powerful and considerate. Here’s an example: “I’m sorry I’m late” can be transformed into “Thank you so much for your patience.” For me this gives two completely different visceral responses. One I feel deflated and less than, both parties lose. The other feels uplifting, connecting and affirming. “I worry” can be swapped with “I care.” ‪

I spent one whole year saying No to everything. When invited I would say, “No thank you, but if I change my mind I’ll let you know.” Doing this taught me what my Yes’s are. It was life changing. ‪

Wisdom is key. ‪

#‎endthestigma‬


Here’s my bit
‪#‎mentalhealthmonth‬ may 31

It took quite some courage for me to write my bits. When I first became ill I tried to hide, while desperately pursuing healing and fixing. I tried clawing my way back to my former self. I was terrified of how people would treat me and treat me they did. All of them left. I was alone.

I went to a cabin in the Maine woods either to die or to live. I’m still not sure which. I was alone.

I moved to an island somewhat restored only to have the most horrific mania and subsequent depression. Again everyone left. I was alone.

I met my best friend then. In the midst of my hell. And he dared to care for me. It didn’t matter that we lived 3000 miles apart. It didn’t matter that I was scraping the sky or down and dirty or that I was moment to moment suicidal. None of that mattered. He looked in my soul and saw me. His name is Marty.

From that point on, step by step, word by word, we walked together, no matter the weather. And little by little I found my voice. Only from being able to lean on him have I been able to find my strength, my way, my life. We wrote a book.

‘Here’s my bit’ came from wanting to make a difference, wanting to make invisible illness visible, to bring it into the light of day. All I needed was a little bit of courage and commitment. Change only happens when something changes. That change was me.

Thank you all for joining me on this journey..

every little bit counts.. ~fjh

gumonmyshoe.com

#‎endthestigma‬

 

Saturday, 21 May 2016

I Was Going to Write Today

I was going to write today but I didn’t have my special pen with me.

I was going to write today but my favourite table at the café was taken.

I was going to write today but I was interrupted by my friend messaging me.

I was going to write today but I was busy searching online for the perfect journal to write in because these things are important to a writer.

I was going to write today but I wasn’t sure anyone would be interested in what I had to say.

I was going to write today but I was scared I would upset someone.

I was going to write today but I was scared I wouldn’t upset anyone.

I was going to write today but the moment wasn’t right.

I was going to write today but my idea seemed too trivial to bother with.

I was going to write today but my idea seemed too huge to get my head and words around.

I was going to write today but—whatever.

I was going to write today but I had to go get groceries.

I was going to write today but I couldn’t find my brave.

I was going to write today but there’s always tomorrow, right?

I was going to write today but I didn’t bring my laptop with me.

I was going to write today but they’ll hate it.

I was going to write today but they’ll hate me.

I was going to write today but I’m scared to discover who I am.

I was going to write today but I’m scared to discover there’s nothing there.

I was going to write today but it’s getting late.

And in the meantime the world goes on. And other people write. And they are not necessarily “inspired.” And they probably don’t have the right pen or the perfect notebook. Maybe they found the back of an envelope to scribble on when their laptop crashed so they didn’t lose what was bursting to get out. And maybe the cat just spewed up or the baby did. Or they feel sick today or depressed or despair of ever making a difference or even getting through another day fuck even another hour but you know what they dare anyway they dare to care and write and scream sigh vomit breathe craft something from the guts of them because sometimes that’s all you have and all you can offer to the world and sometimes it is enough you are enough YOU ARE ENOUGH.

I was going to write today. Maybe I did.

 

Friday, 20 May 2016

Here’s my bit:
#‎mentalhealthmonth 2016 part 2

At the end of April I realized May would be Mental Health Month. I looked forward to seeing loving energy and attention being brought to those of us who struggle. Inside, my heart leapt. It wanted to contribute. It dawned on me that I could use my words and be vulnerable about things I deal with. I hesitated a bit because frankly that is scary and I would have to be brave.

The first ten of my posts are here. The rest will come later. You can click the title of each one to see where I posted it originally on Facebook, and the comments it got there.

Fran

 


Here’s my bit
‪#‎mentalhealthmonth‬ may 11

I get upset when people feel they are entitled to argue with my reality or tell me what to do or speak down to me because I live with illness. I have my own wisdom, my own intelligence, my own value system.

When I first became ill I sought any advice from anyone in any fashion in quite a desperate way I’m ashamed to say, until I learned my own way. I no longer seek to get fixed or cured. I only seek to live well and love well in this moment. Having been chronically ill for so long I have developed some skills with empathy and kindness and I honor those who struggle because I know what it takes. Life is easy when you are healthy. That doesn’t make you an expert for the rest of us.

I have no answers for anyone. I offer my lived experience. I invite sharing. I aim to keep my ego out of it. I am care full with my words. Words can hurt. Words can heal. So much of it is about intention and approach. And, most of all, heart.

So instead of suffocating us with your language why not learn ours.

#‎endthestigma‬


Here’s my bit
‪#‎mentalhealthmonth‬ may 12

‪#‎cfsawarenessmonth‬
‪#‎millionsmissing‬

For those of you who don’t know, not only do I live with Bipolar Disorder I live with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (C.F.S.) / Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.) and Fibromyalgia. To make it easier for all of us I simply say fatigue, pain, and mood which is in no way meant to diminish the seriousness of these conditions, which I affectionately call my invisible illnesses.

Two close friends died these last two years. One, a man my age, fit and active, died by depression. The other, a young woman who actively advocated even while severely debilitated, died by chronic fatigue syndrome. I refuse to use the term suicide because if they did not have these illnesses they would still be here. Suicide implies lack of will and lack of character, which these well loved souls had in abundance.

We are not sitting around being lazy, unable to cheer up, unable to calm down, laying around eating bon-bons, complaining about our pain. This is real and this matters. The overwhelming symptoms we endure can be easily validated online if you choose to look. Unfortunately most folks including those in the medical establishment don’t want to look. Hence another reason for the term invisible.

If you think these illnesses can't touch you, think again. If you don't think they are dangerous, think twice more.

Not only is this Mental Health Month, it is also the month to raise awareness of the myriad of Invisible Illnesses. I will be posting links throughout the day. It’s your choice to pay attention or to scroll on by. Whatever you do or don’t do makes a difference..

‪#‎endthestigma‬


Here’s my bit
‪#‎mentalhealthmonth‬ may 13

I believe in moving. I was active as a child. I ran 5-7 miles daily in my engineering days. Illness hit like a mac truck. I would spend beautiful Maine summers with blinds drawn and bedridden. I spent tens of thousands of dollars with healers of every sort trying to claw my way back to some semblance of my former self. When I lost my home I moved to a camp in the back woods of Maine. I stopped everything because everything stopped. I slept 20 hours a day. I would wait in bed for the impulse inside to arise. Then I would move one finger at a time.

I stopped insisting to do more than I could. I dismantled the push, strive, achieve, goal, do best model that I had been fed all my life. I moved from inside rather than outside no matter how slow. And I learned to love myself for it. I slept almost a year like that. And then it was time to move. Even now I have bouts of days, weeks, months, where I simply am unable, and I allow myself that. When I do what others easily can it’s usually way too much and I pay for it. In this way illness has been my teacher and has invited me to be my true self. There is just no wiggle room.

I found a wonderful senior fitness group. Some of them are over 90 years old. I try to keep up but often can’t. They are a good gracious kind caring bunch and I do my best to get there three times a week even if I must forfeit everything else. And if I can’t make it they miss me. That’s my tribe.

I’m half turtle half koala. I admire gazelles but can never be one. ‪

#‎endthestigma‬


Here’s my bit
‪#‎mentalhealthmonth‬ may 14

Broken brain. Muddy mind. Cognitive chaos. Anything is better than the phrase mental illness. How vague. How utterly useless to describe our conditions. It serves only to carry on the stigma that further debilitates us. A broken leg we can understand, cancer too. Those labels are respectable. If only I could trade mine in.

I cannot tell you how many different medications I have ingested. And how many side effects I have endured. Wrestling the illness is bad enough. I was misdiagnosed with major depression in 1994. For ten years I was prescribed antidepressants until I was correctly diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2004. So what? you ask. Antidepressants significantly exacerbate bipolar episodes. Sadly such misdiagnosis is not rare.

Finally in 2012 I resigned myself to take lithium. The horror stories I had heard and read petrified me. But one thing about lithium kept poking and prodding me. It was the only drug reputed to curb suicidal thinking and I desperately needed that. Within a week torment subsided. It’s not gone but it’s much better. I have blood tests regularly that keep me from toxicity but over time it will likely affect other organs of mine.

Risperdal thwarted a particularly high and dangerous bout of mania. Since is it so addictive I now use it sporadically to head off episodes (crossed fingers) and for my insane insomnia. Both lithium and Risperdal are guaranteed weight gain drugs which bring a host of other problems.

I won't bore you with the countless nightmares of all the other prescribed medications.

I have studied/study all the acronyms offered - DBT, CBT, ACT, EFT, NVC. I’m sure I’ve left some out. Tons and tons of talk therapy - some good, some not. If there is one thing I’ve done it is work very diligently and exhaustively to keep things at bay. Sadly that is no guarantee. It is frightening to know no matter how hard I try to stay on the well side of things my illness can take over at any time for however long and for no reason.

All these things and others help but what is MOST valuable is having regular people who care. Being alone in hell makes hell much worse.

‪#‎endthestigma‬


Here’s my bit
‪#‎mentalhealthmonth‬ may 15

I have pain. I have it when I get out of bed. I have it when I have my morning drink. I have it when I dress for the day. I have it while I am on the computer. I have it when I walk. I have it at exercise class. I have it during massage. I have it when I visit you for lunch (of course you have no idea). I have it when I watch Netflix. It is invisible. Ever present.

I can make it worse. Stress. Insomnia. Toxic people. But rarely can I make it better. The only thing I have found to help is rest. That prevents a lot of living. The other thing is attitude. If I listen and pay attention I can care. This is my body talking. ‪

#‎endthestigma‬


Here’s my bit
‪#‎mentalhealthmonth‬ may 16

I’m taking the day off even though my mental illness doesn’t. ‪

#‎endthestigma‬


Here’s my bit
‪#‎mentalhealthmonth‬ may 17

Borrow a brain. Lord knows I do. My best friend edits each and everything I post. My psychiatrist reminds me my moods and thinking aren’t always down to bipolar. It could be I am being human just like the rest of the world. But when I am in that driver’s seat with the mud flinging and smudged on the windshield, wipers so completely ineffective, I rely on my passenger who is seeing sunshine and rainbows, clear skies ahead. He talks me through, giving directions gently and expediently. ‪

#‎endthestigma‬


Here’s my bit
‪#‎mentalhealthmonth‬ may 18

I am always honored when people respond to my mental health posts. I know the courage it takes to like or comment and become visible to others..

I also recognize the conflict in clicking “like” on something difficult you want to acknowledge and support but don’t actually like..

I decided a long time ago to make some good out of my situation.. It’s not easy for you or for me but it is so worth it when folks either get it or are helped.

Thank you.. ❤ ‪

#‎endthestigma‬


Here’s my bit
‪#‎mentalhealthmonth‬ may 19

Each one of us experiences highs. Each one of us experiences lows. Each one of us knows pain. Each one of us knows fatigue. But there are orders of magnitude. It’s a matter of functionality. There is feeling depressed and there is DEPRESSION. There is feeling manic and there is MANIA. There is pain and fatigue one can live with or that passes and there is PAIN and FATIGUE that renders one bedridden for days, weeks, months. Both levels are real but they are NOT THE SAME. These are important distinctions because if you got ‘over it’ you are likely to expect others to get ‘over it’ too. Perhaps empathy may be a more compassionate way. ‪

#‎endthestigma‬


Here’s my bit
‪#‎mentalhealthmonth‬ may 20

Mental illness crosses all boundaries. Race, gender, geography, politics, economics.. and any others you can think of. At least one in five has mental health issues and many others are affected: loved ones, family, friends. Next time you go to a party or an event look around and really get what one in five looks like, just how close that really is, and open wide your heart. ‪

#‎endthestigma‬

 

Sunday, 15 May 2016

An Open Letter to My Bipolar Best Friend

Saturday 14th May, 2016

Dear Fran.

It is 11:30 a.m. here at Caffé Nero. 6:30 a.m. with you. My favourite corner table. My favourite time of the week. I’ve had something to eat and one coffee already. My second coffee—large black Americano, one extra shot—is close to hand. Normally I’d be looking forward to a call with you about now but that will be late today because you have Laurel staying. We’ve chatted, though. In fact, I am chatting on and off with you on my phone as I write this letter!

I used to sit in coffee shops wishing I had someone to meet up with. Now, this place is my social hub. With friends online and friends face to face I meet and chat and share and talk and laugh here, regardless of geographic distance. What changed? You entered my life! In the five years since we became friends I have opened up enormously. Opened to you, opened into our friendship, but also opened to let others in, opened to let myself out. Our friendship has been and is transformative for both of us. This relationship between a well one (me) and an ill one (you) has turned both our lives inside out, and its impact ripples out into the world.

Yesterday I was severely frustrated because I couldn’t find a way into writing the guest post I’d been invited to write for Men Tell Health. I had a few ideas, but nothing wanted to flow. You said I was jealous of the daily pieces you have been writing and posting for Mental Health Month. Not jealous—that would be to take away from your achievement—but envious, yes. You have such a gift for expressing what it means to live with illness, and I am proud to help edit and present your words to the world. My own writing comes much more slowly. I am a better editor than I am a writer, I think. I find it hard to “just write.” I am my own worst critic!

You messaged me overnight, “Wish you were feeling less flat.. You wrote a book.. A whole fucking book.. Don’t you give yourself credit for that?” That jolted me out of my self-pity (thank you!) And you’re right! I (we) have indeed written a whole fucking book! Our book, our story. A guide to inspire and inform others who—like me—support and care for a friend with mental illness. That’s part of what I meant about our friendship rippling out into the world.

I got talking here at the cafe earlier with a guy who told me about a local writers’ group—Newcastle Literary Salon—which meets once a month. I looked them up and the next two meetings are on mental and physical illness. I will go along, and see if I can get a slot to read from our book. It’s scary to put myself out there in person, but that is part of what I’ve learned: to dare, to challenge myself—whether it’s doing a zip-wire slide from the Tyne Bridge to raise funds for Crisis, addressing the Mental Health First Aid team at Virgin Money, volunteering at the Time to Change Mental Health Day event, or appearing live on radio! I would never have done any of this if it were not for our friendship. Connection and challenge have become my watchwords.

When I was discussing my blogging “stuckness” earlier with Mike, he suggested I could interview someone for Mental Health Month. “I’ll make it easy for you,” he said. “You can interview me!” That says a great deal, I think, about the health of our father/son relationship. I am looking forward to seeing what comes of it!

The courses I’ve taken and the events I’ve attended have also brought me new people—my dear friend Claire who I met on the ASIST course. Darren who I first met at a Time to Change event, and who models for me a deep awareness of the human condition, respect and empathy for those struggling. Carol (via the radio show). Gemma (Mental Health Day). Angela (Time to Change). The list goes on and on! Online too, of course. We have made some amazing connections, both individually and jointly. Our friendship resonates with so many. Just by being ourselves, by being open and honest about what it’s like to be friends when one friend lives with illness, by sharing our story, we offer something that—sadly—is not commonplace.

I am proud of us, Fran. Proud of what we do and are. Most of all, I am proud to stand at your side. I am proud to be your friend.

Marty

 

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Here’s my bit:
#‎mentalhealthmonth 2016 part 1

At the end of April I realized May would be Mental Health Month. I looked forward to seeing loving energy and attention being brought to those of us who struggle. Inside, my heart leapt. It wanted to contribute. It dawned on me that I could use my words and be vulnerable about things I deal with. I hesitated a bit because frankly that is scary and I would have to be brave.

Here are the first ten of my posts. Part two is here. The rest will come later. You can click the title of each one to see where I posted it originally on Facebook, and the comments it got there.

Fran

 


Here’s my bit
‪#‎mentalhealthmonth‬ may 1

may is mental health awareness month..
more mind full
more heart full
less hurt full
be..

‪#‎endthestigma


Here’s my bit
‪#‎mentalhealthmonth‬ may 2

Not sure how many of you have noticed, but I have not been posting much lately. When I am not strong I have few words and little faith. I withdraw because I feel no one cares about those more vulnerable. I work hard to stay strong but am dealing with my own demons and self care must come first at such times.

I ask those who have minds, energy, and care to step up to the mark, because frankly those who are ill are not enough to help those who are ill ~ the drowning rescuing the drowning, the blind leading the blind. Your compassion counts. Make room. Take time.

‪#‎endthestigma‬


Here’s my bit
‪#‎mentalhealthmonth‬ may 3

silence stigma suicide
3 little words ‪

#‎endthestigma‬


Here’s my bit
‪#‎mentalhealthmonth‬ may 4

It’s remarkable when you have friends and a support team that circles in to help you be safe. Mental illness is not fun and games and is certainly not a choice. The love exchanged is beyond comprehension..‪

#‎endthestigma‬


Here’s my bit
‪#‎mentalhealthmonth‬ may 5

I’m 55 and still alive.

I am proof one can suffer suicidal thinking for a lifetime and not only survive but thrive. My devoted and tenacious friends are the most successful antidote daily inviting me back from that edge, besides the countless souls who have dealt / deal me kindness. They are my suicide interrupters. You too can make that difference.

Let’s do this..

#‎endthestigma‬


Here’s my bit
‪#‎mentalhealthmonth‬ may 6

Rarely do those without illness want to hear of chronic illness struggles. I find that we only want victories, happy endings, and positivity. This Mental Health Month of May has given me permission and courage to go ahead and share the insides of my lived experience of illness. My hope is to encourage insight and care. I will post regularly through the month. Then I will get back to fluff, flowers, and animal videos which are more acceptable.‪

#‎endthestigma‬


Here’s my bit
‪#‎mentalhealthmonth‬ may 7

When one is invisibly ill nothing shows on the outside. On the inside, however, there is much going on. There is an unending queue of changing symptoms. There is confusion about who one is, a feeling of being out of one's mind with skin crawling, anxiety, terror even. And on top of all this, stigma makes us have to fake it, to pretend to be someone else in order to make others comfortable. And so we hide.

The energy required for the facade only makes us sicker and doesn’t yield the connection we long for. Isn’t it about time to drop judgement and let the light of honesty and kindness in? Let’s be real.. ‪

#‎endthestigma‬


Here’s my bit
‪#‎mentalhealthmonth‬ may 8

Sitting here on this gray day I’m going through all the business cards I’ve gathered over the last twenty years. I cannot tell you how many dedicated and hopeful practitioners dared to work with me. So much money. So much time. So much effort. All spent.

My greatest healing has been acceptance. My body speaks to me in pain, fatigue, and mood. Acceptance of that allows me to move through life honestly, gracefully, messily. This is my truth.

Please stop promising me a rose garden.

That being said I have an amazing massage therapist and outstanding chiropractor that patiently and wisely keep putting me back together again as I continually fall apart.

It’s a process. It’s called life.

#‎endthestigma‬


Here’s my bit
‪#‎mentalhealthmonth‬ may 9

The psychiatrist I worked with for over ten years was old school. He believed in minimal drugs and talk therapy. Even though I am diagnosed as bipolar he always wrote mood instability on all the paperwork. He did not believe in labels. He did not believe in the fancy expensive drugs. He believed in people and their ability, when given proper care and connection, to move toward balance. I never felt like a patient. I felt like a human. I believe there is much wisdom here. ‪

#‎endthestigma‬


Here’s my bit
‪#‎mentalhealthmonth‬ may 10

There are those who envy me. They look at my life and think I'm on easy street. I have a lovely apartment in a lovely city. I have extraordinary close devoted friends.

People think I’m strong. People think I’m lucky. People think I have an interesting story. “You should write a book.” I get that a lot.

The road taken to get where I finally have support was a very long one. It included rape at 15. It included a 7 year physically and mentally abusive marriage. It included a sexual discrimination and harassment lawsuit. I’ll stop there. There was much more.

These things are forgiven. I am not ashamed. I count them not only as beautiful scars but as a measure of my character and resilience. I don’t however take them into my present. What happened then happened then. What happens now happens now. And yes I am vigilant to who and what comes into my life.

These days I rest - a lot. I twist in pain - a lot. My mind takes me on benders - a lot.. There are those who envy me.. But would they trade their life for mine?

#‎endthestigma‬

 

It’s Always Okay, by Meghan Shultz

Trigger Warning: suicide and self-harm

When I was just a little kid I could see them . . . and hear them. I was so confused. They would stand by my bed at night time, watching me, talking to me. It was terrifying. I surrounded myself with stuffed animals to keep myself safe from them. I was so scared of them I wouldn’t even get up to pee, so I wet my bed instead.

Sometimes they found me during the day too, that was less scary. I would talk to them then. They told me that they were dead. I saw these people on and off for a very long time. For the longest time I didn’t tell anybody about it. I was confused about why only I could see them and not anyone else. So I said nothing. I see less of them now. I’m so sedated that my mind can’t manage it I suppose.

Thoughts of suicide started to enter into my mind at a very young age. I remember when I was about 10 years old, drying the dishes after dinner and thinking about what it would be like to hurt myself with one of the knives. It was terrifying. I was terrified. I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t tell anyone, who knows what they might of thought. So I just kept keeping on, doing my best to try and keep the thoughts out of my mind.

Fast forward a few years and I found out just what that knife felt like. I had scars all over my arm and some more on my leg. They were starting to get really hard to hide. But I couldn’t stop, it was like an addiction, I wanted more. I was self harming more and more as the thoughts of suicide got stronger and stronger. When I was 15, I over dosed. When I told my Mum she took me to the emergency room where I was put on a drip for the night. After that I was transferred to the psychiatric unit.

For a very long time I kept everything to myself. I didn’t want to bother anyone with my thoughts and I didn’t want anyone to think that I was weird or strange. Sometimes the voices told me not to say anything too. I had no idea what was happening to me, what was going on in my head but I was afraid to speak up about it.

When I was young we weren’t taught about mental illness in schools. I think in high school they may have glossed over the subject. I really had hardly any idea of what mental illness was until I was 15 and hospitalised. It was just a little bit traumatising. Had we been taught about it at a young age, even before high school, I wonder what might have happened. Had we been taught that it’s okay not to be okay would it have made a difference? If we were taught about mental illnesses would I have recognised mine for what it was? Would I have spoken up and said, ‘I’m not okay’? Maybe. Maybe I would have understood that the things I was seeing and hearing were hallucinations. Maybe I would have recognised my suicidal thoughts were not normal. Maybe I would have spoken up and said something.

It's okay not to be okay. It is always okay to talk about mental illnesses. Talking about mental illness with those who don’t suffer can help them to understand and talking about it with those who do can help them to feel less alone. It’s okay.

 


About the Author

My name is Meghan. I have Bipolar I Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, and Anxiety Disorder. Sometimes life is tough but you know what? I’m tougher. I have a love of writing, painting, rain, and stuffed animals.

Follow me on my website/blog, Twitter (@alwaysunstable), and Facebook (Always Unstable).

 

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Love in a Bipolar World, by Rebecca Lombardo

When you find that special person that you know you want to spend the rest of your life with, you have to consider a lot of factors. If you are bipolar, the list of considerations changes quite a bit. Should you tell that person up front? Will it scare them away? What if you don’t tell them, and you experience depression, anxiety, even mania?

I know in my situation, I met a couple of guys before I met my husband, and I was always brutally honest. I never kept my condition from anyone. I was sure to make it clear that there was nothing easy about my situation, and there would be ups and downs. If the discussion ever warranted, I also made sure that they knew that kids were not in my future.

Some seemed to think they could handle it, but truthfully couldn’t. The first time my depression kicked in, they stopped calling. Others were long gone before I finished the words, bipolar disorder. Joe was different from the start. He was kind and caring. He seemed to accept my issues. He came from a strong Catholic background, and I knew it would be hard to sell me to his parents. Particularly with no grandchildren in the mix.

It didn’t take very long for Joe to realize that perhaps I wasn’t right for him. He suddenly dropped out of the picture, and I was left confused and alone. I hoped my disease wasn’t what scared him off, but deep down, I knew it was. Not many people know that about us. Our first time trying to make a go of it, we just didn’t click. I suffered through a series of mentally and sometimes physically abusive relationships after that. I convinced myself that this was the best I could do.

In May 2001, Joe started calling again. I was guarded because I didn’t want the past to repeat itself. My parents were thrilled, especially my mom. She had always liked Joe and she was constantly worried about the other guys I chose to spend my time with.

Joe confessed to me that he hadn’t been able to stop thinking about me. That a couple of years earlier, he wasn’t grown up enough to understand what challenges I would bring to the table. We worked harder at a relationship this time around, and by the end of July, we were talking about marriage and moving in together.

When I look back on my failed relationships, I absolutely cringe. I should never have settled for the pain and heartache I had to endure. My self-esteem was so far in the toilet. I just knew that since I wasn’t truly good enough for anyone, that men could treat me as such. I just accepted it. After you subject yourself to this for years, if something good comes along, you can hardly recognize it, let alone believe it’s actually happening.

I’m here to tell you that you do not have to allow yourself to be treated like you aren’t worth it. You are not broken, useless or a failure. You have just as much to offer this world as anyone who doesn’t suffer from mental illness. There will probably always be that little voice inside your head telling you that this one is going to walk out on you too. Don’t let that voice take over!

Relationships are hard for anyone. They are even more difficult on those of us with bipolar. I’m not going to tell you that it’s always perfect. Once you find the love of your life, it’s pretty damn close. Honesty, communication, and laughter. You must have all of these. Talk about your feelings! Give them a voice. Know that your spouse loves you for you, and for the happiness you bring into their life. When you get down, don’t do what I’ve done in the past and offer them a way out. It hurts them more than it hurts you.

Anything worth fighting for is hard work, we all know this. When you find love and acceptance in the eyes of your best friend, you will know true happiness. Don’t doubt yourself or your relationship. You will, of course, have ups and downs, there is no way around that. Everyone does! Yours will be a different set of challenges, and you must be realistic about that. Just know that you can do this.

All of my life, I have struggled to find something that I am actually good at. I have finally found it. Loving my husband so completely is my calling in life. He means everything to me, and I can only hope that each and every person reading this can find that as well. Being married with mental illness is not impossible. It takes work, but it is more than worth it.

August 3, 2001


About the Author

I’m 43 years old and have been happily married for nearly 15 years. I enjoy reading, writing, music, watching movies and sports. I live in Michigan with my husband and our cats.

At age 19, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I have struggled with mental illness in many forms for more than 20 years. I’m a published author, bipolar blogger, and a mental health advocate.

Follow me on my website, blog, Twitter (@bekalombardo), and Facebook (It’s Not Your Journey - Book).

It’s Not Your Journey is available on Amazon (print and Kindle).

 

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

The River

There are those who are lucky. Their rivers have scarcely any stones. They live a life of luck and ease. Golden they are.

There are those who aren’t. Their rivers rage and toss with leaks in their boat. They scream silently and sink to the rock bottom.

I live a river wild, a river free, for when the storms come my back leans into the wind, my front accepting, soft yet strong, my face gleaming with mona lisa smile, steady eyes seeing the prize, character arise.

Fran