The Weeds Growing in my Mind

Can I tell you a secret? I’m absolutely terrified of being happy. Not because I don’t want to be happy. Never because I don’t enjoy being happy. No, my fear sinks much deeper than that. I’m afraid of being happy, hopeful, joyful, because I know the deep pain that will soon follow.

Think with me now of a roller coaster. The higher the train climbs, the farther and faster it falls. Most people go through the highs and lows of life. It’s natural. The type of highs and lows I experience could only come from an awful disease. A disease that sits itself down in my brain and makes changes. It decides it doesn’t like they way I do things so it changes it. It redecorates.

I spent some time outside this evening pulling weeds. I think the way weeds grow in the ground could be compared to the way my illness sits in my brain. I go outside and plan my lawn just the way I want it. I plant flowers, do landscaping.. just to make my yard and garden enjoyable and beautiful. Then, weeds start to pop up. At first- I begin to pull them up right at the root. For most, this gets rid of the problem. As weeds appear most people can handle them just by pulling them up as the come along.

For some people, pulling the weeds alone isn’t enough. Some will try weed killers, herbicides, along with the occasional pulling to keep their backyard nice. It works for some people.

For other people, people like me, no matter how much work and time we put in, the weeds keep coming. For people like me we work all day, every day to keep the weeds at bay, but every single day they come back stronger and with deeper roots. We try the strongest weed killers available, we mow, we cut, we yank, pull.. nothing works. When we finally see the light. We see our lawn again. Our garden is no longer a forest. We don’t rest, because we know one small weed will turn into a forest in seconds. We can’t enjoy our happiness because we are getting ourselves ready for the next fight.

My brain is filled with weeds and I’m so tired of putting in the work. I’m so tired of the fight. I just want the weeds to overcome me and take me away. But, I continue to fight. When my mind is finally clear of the weeds of today, I prepare myself for the weeds of tomorrow. When I let myself enjoy the garden, the weeds come in like always, and I’m even more devastated because I know and have experienced what a weed free day is like. I’m hit with the harsh reality I may never experience the joys of easy “gardening”. I know I will never stop fighting the weeds.

I’m so tired of fighting, I’m so tired of knowing I won’t get better. But, this woman, won’t give up. I won’t let the weeds control my garden, at least not yet.

Who Am I?

Going through so many hard emotions, loving with Bipolar Disorder, makes it easy to forget who I really am. I have so many bad day, exponentially more bad than good. It fogs my sense of self. I obviously know I’m not the bad days. Though, so many of them make it hard to even remember that sometimes. On my good days I approach with such caution. Live my life in a sense of fear or dread. Sometimes I think maybe I’m having a good day, until I notice my mind racing. Mania is not a good day.

Who am I? Well, I find little ways to remind myself. I’m a red hot coal at the bottom of the fire, strong, withstand what’s trying to destroy me. I’m a wave in the lake, laughing and care free. I’m Pumba from the Lion King, jovial and carefree. I’m my dog, loving, childlike. This illness won’t take that away from me. I may not see myself very often but the real me still exists. I can’t let that be taken from me. Even if I never meet myself again, I still know who I am. I’m worth fighting for.

True Strength

Mental and emotional strength is something that is hard to measure. Physical strength has people lifting weights and showing off muscles. Physical endurance is often measured by miles ran, walked, swam. How is mental or emotional strength measured?

Sometimes it seems the strongest people mentally keep themselves together all the time. They can go through hard stuff and not flinch. The ones with emotional strength can cry when it’s time to cry but they don’t linger. They move on with grace and dignity. That’s what society would have us believe at least.

I question this measure of strength. I don’t think mental and emotional strength can be calculated or seen. The strength of the person who seemingly has it all together might not be strength at all. In fact they may be stuffing all of their emotions deep down, something we all know is very unhealthy. They might not show emotion because they don’t know how to properly express emotion. Maybe they care so much what people think they hurt themselves in the process.

People tell me all the time how strong I am. How I’ve survived so much and that is strength. I don’t understand this logic. I’m suicidal all the time- this feels like the ultimate form of weakness. It wasn’t until I started reframing my thoughts that I started to understand. My strength comes from endurance. I endure a pain every single day that I think a lot of people wouldn’t be able to handle. I think of ending it all but I don’t pull the trigger. When I have attempted suicide I’ve not taken enough to be killed. I’ve cried out for help. I show my vulnerabilities to those around me. Maybe that is true strength. Maybe strength come in other ways as well.

People shouldn’t be judged by the strength we can see with our human eyes. We don’t know the how hard the mind is fighting every day. We can’t begin to know how another persons past has effected them. In reality, I think all people are strong. We all have issues and things we have to overcome. The important thing is not to judge someone for how they handle their battles. To the homeless drug addict, we have no idea what they have gone through. As humans, our only goal is to figure out how to love someone more perfectly.

I hope people wouldn’t measure my strength in suicide attempts. In the same way, instead of judging, take that person by the hand and show then a better way. Be a friend. It’s easier to lift a bolder with the help of a friend. Be that person. There are some days I feel I have no strength at all. In those times I rely on my family, friends, God, to lift me up. I’m living not on my own strength. I couldn’t do this alone. No one can do this thing we call life alone. We are social creatures, built for community. Let’s lift each other up. As one body together-we are strong.

Silent Screams

I keep forgetting. My mind runs so fast I can only catch a thought or two before they disappear forever. One side effect of depression I guess. Maybe that is why I write. My thoughts need to be as slow as my fingers can type. Even so, my brain gets confused and mistakes are made. I can’t be perfect.

Since I was a child my mind always ran at the speed of light. Perhaps I can attribute some of my intelligence to this. I’m constantly thinking about something— well multiple things. I’m analyzing, comparing, processing, faster than my body can handle. My handwriting is atrocious I believe because my hand can’t keep up with my mind.

Is this another side effect of depression? I’m not so sure. I believe my thoughts don’t help any. I get trapped in a paranoid state of ‘what if’. Every singe possible outcome plays through my mind like I’m watch an old movie reel. Each real takes up a fraction of my head and they all play in unison. My mind is left trying to decipher alternative realities. I choose the one that makes the most sense to me.

I think and I think and I think and the wheel never stop spinning. I just want my brain to shut up for 5 seconds. I’m focusing so hard on negative outcomes that positive ones seem like trash. All good things come to an end. I’ve learned all things come to a horrible end no matter what, the end. I stopped getting my hopes up years ago. When your hopes are high, your spirit crushed harder. I have no expectation of a good or happy life anymore. Existing is all I can do. Every single day I wake up, I exist, I go to sleep and pretend I don’t.

Even existing is hard work. When your brain runs a mile a minute, when you have no expectation of happiness, when you brace for disappointment, existing can be nearly impossible. I’m not looking for pity, but maybe I am. I don’t think anyone can begin to comprehend so I don’t expect them to. I share my feelings because I need to be heard. I feel my cries of agony are silent. I post the stuff I do because I need to be heard. I need my screams heard. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

Here lies me

Here lies me

Cause of death: suicide

That can’t be right can it?

At 10 I loved my life

Joyful and carefree

I understood more at 17

A narcissist taught me fear

I was my happiest at 20

College was a world of opportunity

21 changed me

The darkness crept in

Like a smoke it filled every crevice

At 23 the darkness tempted me

I followed it into a trench

When I was 25 I married

I was happy, but never joyful again

Every moment lived is another burned

Pretending until I can’t

Making mistakes

Hurting those I love with my hurt

The darkness controls me

The happiest days of my life have passed

Here lies me

Cause of death: the darkness

Burn Unit


Burning
Sizzling Flesh
Rather be dead
Pain prison
Disfigurement

Depression
Sizzling flesh
Wants to die
Pain Prison
Burning

Suicide
Lost cause
Easy way out
Tormented soul
Freedom

Gasping for Air

Depression feels like…

Being unwanted

unloved

a failure

burning alive

Living a lie

Being fired from a job

Living in poverty

fear for your life

hunted by a predator

Torment

Gasping for air

Drowning

death is the only cure

Loving but not being loved

Grief

A life worth nothing

Hard work

misunderstood

Judgement

A guilty verdict when you’re innocent

A terminal illness

hospice but you’re not able to die

Sadness

Hopelessness

Anger

A death sentence

Depression

What Should I Tell My Mentally Ill Friend? How Do I Help?

The worst therapist I ever had told me, “You’re a lost cause. No one can help you. You should kill your self because you’re wasting mine and everyone’s time.” Harsh? Yes. Tough love? Maybe. Helpful? No.

The best Psychiatrist I ever had said, “If you’re going to get better, part of you has to want to get better. You may hate yourself and hate this pain. That’s okay. You can be suicidal, but you have to deep down know there is something worth fighting for. I can’t help you if you can’t help yourself.” This changed my whole perspective on my fight with depression and mental illness.

I just gave you two examples. Two mental health professionals saying essentially the same thing. One, made me want to end it all permanently. The other, gave me something to think about- something to work for.

In my illness through the years I’ve gotten some advice that has been extremely helpful. I’ve also gotten a lot of advice that (though well intended) actually has been very hurtful.

When someone you know is struggling with a mental illness, it’s important to know a few very important things.

First, and most importantly, do not think you know what they are going through. You can Empathize but don’t Sympathize. Even if you have had similar experiences, trust me when I say everyone’s journey and pain is vastly different.

This idea comes often with people who are grieving. I lost my father this year and I got well meaning messages say “I know how you feel, I lost xyz” Well no, you don’t know how I feel because you don’t know me, or my relationship with my dad. I also don’t know you and what types of feelings you felt. I can’t imagine my moms grief because she lost her soulmate, her husband. I can’t even know my brothers grief because he had a different relationship with dad and he lives farther away. I’m sure I don’t know how he feels in his grief. In the same way, everyone’s mental illnesses, traumas, life journeys are different. You can’t know the pain I’m experiencing because you are not me.

Second, it’s important to understand the ill person before offering advice. Let me explain. Imagine a man has a tumor in his brain. He goes to the doctor and he recommends chemo and radiation because he is young and healthy otherwise. Now the next day, another man goes to the same doctor. He finds out he has the exact same tumor as the other man. Now this man is the same age and seems healthy enough. The doctor decides that this man’s tumor is inoperable and he is put on hospice. Same tumor, two different recommendations. The one man was healthy and his body could fight and withstand the chemo. The second man found this tumor because he was recently diagnosed with sage 4 lung cancer that metastasized to his brain. Without knowing the patient, we couldn’t possibly give advice to either one.

In the same way, people with mental illness have gone through different things. Some need medication to survive. Other may find therapy is enough. Some respond well to harsh criticism like my therapist above. Others need a gentle push in the right direction. Some people, like me, are treatment resistant, meaning I will likely struggle the rest of my life. Others get hit hard with it, but with therapy and a first line anti depressive can live a normal life in a few years. So, before giving advice, think about the person you are trying to reach. Maybe instead of telling them what to do ask them what they think has been helpful. Ask them if they need extra support and then ask what support you can give. Don’t assume anything. You can offer advice but make sure you say something like, “I’m not sure if this would help you and if it doesn’t that’s okay. I just wanted to share something I have done to help me when I’m feeling sad/anxious etc. Don’t feel any pressure but just know I am here for you if you ever need me and I want to help.” Be kind and loving. Asking questions can help more than giving advice most of the time.

The third and final thing to remember is to respect their wishes. *I will preface if someone is suicidal or homicidal the most loving thing you can do is reach out for help for them* I know it may be hard to see someone you love stay in bed all day. I get it. You can absolutely encourage them or try to entice them to get out of bed for a little bit. In the end though, do no force the person. It will only make them grow to dislike you.

If I say, I’m feeling suicidal but I will reach out for help if I need it. Trust me. I will reach out. You are welcome to check in on me but don’t call the police because I’m working through hard thoughts. It’s all a part of the process. It’s about learning your self and your emotions. Coping is about control urges and temptation. General reminders are good and can be helpful. Always ask what is the best was to help.

Obviously I am not a medical professional and this should be read from the perspective of someone with a mental illness. I can’t claim any of this will be true for all people but my hope is that sharing my experience can help others and help reduce some of the hardships mentally ill people face. Thanks for reading.

Hope Comes Through The Darkness

I share this because it was written in the darkness and it deserves to be brought to light. What follows is my suicide note that I drafted about five years ago.

I share this note now after coming through the worst year of my life in multiple ways. I share this note because I am alive! As dark as the following note may seem I have fought and I have won!

I am a survivor and I have survived multiple attempts at my own life. I proud to share my story. I’m proud to share my hope!

My heart is aching.  I hold this pain of the past and present.  I think of death everyday.  I think of the escape that it holds.  The sweet, sweet, relief its emptiness holds.  Its unknowns hold in its hands the key to my happiness.  Life on the other hand holds my sorrows, hurt, pain.  Deep pain that cannot be quenched.  Pain that a fire no amount of water can touch.

In my pain I have hurt others, countless others.  I scold them passing through. It would be better off if I weren’t here.  I would be better off dead.

My thoughts consume me. I am better of gone.  I am better off dead.  Those around me fail to see I hurt more than I help.  Everyone will move on without me.  Their lives will be better off.

Maybe I can’t share my feelings.  Maybe I have to keep pretending.

Maybe this is my goodbye.

I wish it would be.

I’m glad it was not. Stay alive friends.

 

Some Seriously Depressing Stuff

I have been yearning to write during the past couple of months but my brain forbade me. With everything going on in the world right now, politics, hate, the death of my best friend-my father, and seeing so much distress in others lives, I couldn’t put to words how I was feeling.

I was feeling like a shipwreck on an unknown island. I had to figure out a new way to live and come to terms with some hard losses. I’m still working on it. Grief is like a leach slowly sucking and draining my emotions. It’s always there reminding me. The smallest things set me off. I can’t focus. I sleep for 18 hours a day if I’m not working. If I am working I cry on and off for 8 hours straight before I get done. Then I go back to sleep.

I snap, I go crazy like a loose wire breaking it a windstorm. The electricity in my brain gives me a new surge of energy. I turn into a suicidal Harly Quinn with a smile on my face I will laugh as I tell my poor husband how I plan to inhale cloramines until I get to see my dad again. I’ll laugh through tears stumbling around trying to find something, anything to take away the pain and fear that grips me.

Hard Grief plus Bipolar Depression plus COVID 19 equals the worst possible combination of death eaters I’ve had the displeasure of knowing. There is only a handful of reasons to live and an ocean of reasons to die. Do I like those odds? Nope. I don’t think there is much I can do about it. I’m doing all that I can. I’m getting out, spending time with my Mom and Husband (my two biggest reasons to stay alive), I’m (trying) to keep going to work even when I can’t breath because the anxiety closes the chest in pain, I’m taking my pills, I’m talking to my doctors, I’m meditating, I’m eating healthy, I cut out pop, I’m exercising more. I’m doing it all right. Pain wins in the end.

I’ve started to discuss, much to my husband regret the possibility of Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT). Over the years I’ve changed drugs so many times they are running out of things to prescribe. Perhaps rewriting my brain will be my only hope at getting ride of this dreadful disease. It’s a last resort, I know. But, I’m sick this same rotation. I should not have to find myself in this place over and over again. It has hurt relationships, jobs, and life. There has to be a solution.

I know there is more to life than this. I’m not meant to live my life crying underneath the blankets. I’ve seen good and I know it’s out there. I just wish my brain didn’t want me dead.