Tag Archives: bipolar

Play nice

It’s New Year’s Eve tomorrow, that time of year when we lay the law down upon ourselves (or not) and get real (or don’t): lose weight, make amends, do better. We resolve to improve something about ourselves or our lives because the turning of the clock from one year to the next is supposed to psychologically prepare us for a clean slate. Still, the landscape of broken promises that lies across the frozen tundra of February and March can attest to the futility of the exercise. Every New Year’s resolution is made in full acknowledgment of the years’ past and how they were infamously squandered.

I haven’t really made a New Year’s resolution since I was eleven and I resolved that in 1998, I would resolve to make no more resolutions.

It’s been working out for me, I think, because that was I promise I made to myself that I could actually keep. More over, it was a promise I wanted to keep. Why set myself up for failure and disappointment by publicly declaring a lofty goal that is more societal construct that actual personal passion or desire? To hell with that — I just want to be happy in my own skin. I want to see the people I love and care for be happy as well. But this year, maybe I’ll bring the New Year’s resolution back. You can do it with me.

Maybe, for the year 2015, we should all resolve to be a little bit fucking nicer to each other.

Just-Be-Nice
For realz.

There is no reason I can think of that increased mutual respect, appreciation, and care for one another as individuals wouldn’t be accepted by each and every one of you. And if you want it, you gotta give it, baby. That’s how it do.

But it do, Mr. Gamble. But it do.
But it do, Mr. Gamble. But it do.

I just can’t think of a good reason to be a jerk. Having a mental illness doesn’t give you the right to be an asshole. Not even being a schizophrenic gives you the right to be a dick. I don’t care if you’re an unmedicated bipolar in your ninth month of pregnancy (been there, done that; I wasn’t handed a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card) or an over-worked, underappreciated retail slave. We all have our our horror stories, our various loads of baggage, our scars and battle wounds. I will gladly help you carry the load. I will even share war stories with you. But I am not going to stand still while you displace all of your emotional trauma onto me. No one on this earth should serve as another human being’s emotional punching bag. You can be miserable, if you need to be. You can be a fucking troll, if that’s what gets you going. But I’m not going to stick around for it — I owe you nothing.

Granted, I’m bipolar and sometimes I can be a raging bitch — I’ll own that. My husband refers to my daily allotted patience and stamina for social interactions as “people points.” Time alone or in small groups of close friends will typically replenish my People Points. Frustrating, emotionally exhausting days or large groups of people cost me a lot of People Points. There have been times when I have maxed out my People Points before the day is over, then I was unable to manage a stressful situation when it arose. The shit hit the fan, and — MAN DOWN! — I lashed out at those around me. But even then, even in the throes of my deepest, darkest, most disassociative behavior, I knew that what I was doing was wrong, and I most certainly apologized once the dust had settled.

There are no real acceptable excuses for lavish rudeness — unless you’re an honest-to-goodness psychopath, you know when you’re doing wrong. The kind unmitigated malice that used to exist behind closed doors and cold shoulders is now on message boards and Facebook feeds. We’re hungry for it. We lustily turn to our friends’ posts just as the comments get juicy, either jumping in feet first or sitting back to enjoy the carnage for sport. These are school yard fights for a new age, only no one calls out the bullies any more, because at one point or another, we have all been the bully.

Resolve not to be. Peaceably accept that the Internet is never going to be the platform from which you will be able to have an intelligent debate or discussion on any topic, and let it go. See your college roommate’s Facebook post on the insidiousness of Chemtrails, take a deep breath, and keep scrolling, my friend. Your blood pressure will thank you. Yes, that commentor did use “literally” to mean “figuratively” — let it go…

And remember: Be. Nice.
And remember: Be. Nice.

Finally, happy birthday to my wee little blog! The Real Sarah C is a year old! Woo-hoo! I am so stoked to have brought this project so far, and so grateful to all of the readers, subscribers, and commenters. Mahalo!

Coming out

A bad thing happened in October and I’m not ready to write about it yet, but people who have been paying attention will notice that right about the time that I really went off the deep end. (Well, this time around, anyway.)

I have pared my daily life down to the most basic the most and essential life functions because SURVIVAL. I just need to get by. Do my job. Take care of my kid. Sleep. The other stuff will either wait or it won’t get done or it will get frustrated and scream for attention. As the latter has occurred more than once, I’ve been dolling out quite a few explanations and apologies lately:

“I’m sorry, I’m doing the best I can.”

“It isn’t that I don’t want to do X, I just haven’t had the time/energy/attention span.”

“Give me time. Please. I’ll get better. I’m doing the best I can.”

Nope. It really never even occurred to me to try.
Nope. It really never even occurred to me to try.

This Button Poetry video showed up in my Facebook feed. In it, Sabrina Benaim eloquent and powerfully explains to her mother what depression looks and feels like from the inside.  Thank you for those stirring words and images, Ms. Benaim. As I’m sure you could tell from the reactions in the audience, you accurately voiced the feelings of many.

From to her explanation of depression as miniscule and managable one day, then as massive and brutalizing as a bear the next, to her characterization of anxiety as an unwelcome party guest — Sabrina brings it home. After watching that video, I felt like giving her a slow clap.

I grew up in the 90's. I know of few higher commendations.
I grew up in the 90’s. I know of few higher commendations.

Because, you see, my happiness is also a high fever that will ultimately break. That is what mania is. So when someone says to me, “I just don’t know if I really believe that you actually have bipolar disorder — I’ve never really seen you be manic.” What am I supposed to say? Observe: My illness is not so much roller-coaster as it is pendulum, swinging from side to side, and so we shall go from the light side to the dark, and while you will certainly recognize the dark days for what they truly are, you will mistake the light days for health and wellness because you don’t see that I am actually sailing into the Sun. Proof? Really, you need evidence? Ok, here you go, flip through these snapshots of me over the past ten years — I like to call it the “Watch Sarah Gain and Lose and Gain 100 Pounds” Show.

Mania, you fatty bitch.
Mania, you fatty bitch.

If I’m not proving I’m sick, I’m defending my right to self-care: “You know, I feel like our relationship has been really one-sided lately.” You’re right. It has. Because even though I love you and I care about you as a person, right now my head is one big snarly black mess of fluff and lint, and I can’t seem to keep arbitrary things like dates, appointments, or birthdays straight. I love you, but I don’t want to go out –because I don’t want to have fun when having fun just isn’t fun anymore. I just want to sleep and make sure that there is enough energy left in my reserves to properly take care of my child because if anyone is going to be short-changed it sure as shit isn’t going to be her.  It might have to be you. I’m sorry. I love you. I am doing my best. Can you hang on until it gets better? If you can’t that’s okay! Here: have an out: You can hang on until it gets better or you can plead self-preservation in your own right and leave for a while. I won’t be upset. I wouldn’t blame you. You wouldn’t be the first.

I feel like explaining my depression is something like what my non-heteronormative friends tell me about coming out: it isn’t a one-time traumatic release. “Oh thank God, I got that off my chest!” Nope! It’s over, and over, and over, and over. And each time, depending on who I’m “coming out” to, a host of new fears come to the party: will this effect my job? My reputation? Will I lose her as a friend, a colleague? Have I said too much? Is she still going to like me, respect me, want to be around me? Have I frightened her? Overwhelmed her? Will she now turn tail and run?

After a certain point, this whole blog became a calculated risk — people that I know in REAL LIFE read this and will now know me differently! Even if they never bring it up, they have seen behind the mask. My entire adult life I have heard comments like, “You have anxiety? Well, I never would have guessed!” or “You carry yourself with such poise. I had no idea you suffered from depression the way you do.” I am letting that go up in smoke, because I’m willfully telling you: Yes, I am a mess. Yes, I have these disorders. No more compartmentalization and no more hiding. Even if I didn’t know it at the time of inception, that was the mission behind starting the Real Sarah C Project.

But here’s the thing — I fooled you.

For a little while, at least, I fooled you, and now perhaps you will sit back and wonder how many other people in your life are functioning with some form of mental illness — 1 in 5 adults, according to this study — so chances are you know someone. You might even be that someone. And when you consider the masses of individuals coming out and embracing their own non-nueronormativity and fighting to dismantle the systemic stigmatization surrounding mental illness and other disorders, it is plain to see: we are just not as isolated, as powerless, or as dysfunctional as our faulty wiring would have us believe. Perhaps some days, it’s all we can do just to function and to survive, but every so often, we’ll shine.

A perfect storm

Actor Robin Williams took his own life today. By all accounts an extremely funny, extremely intelligent person, he lost a battle with depression. I’m probably more upset by this than I have any right to be — Mr. Williams being an actor and a public figure whom I enjoyed does not mean that he belongs to me in any sense. It doesn’t seem right to eulogize someone I have never, and now will never, meet, despite his featuring prominently in the entertainment landscape of my childhood. Maybe it’s just that his humor resonated with me, because I see similarities to my own sense of humor… and maybe because his actions today resonate with me, also.

Seems to me that it goes something like this: A good sense of humor is an indication of intelligence. Intelligence is a predisposing factor to depression and mental illness. People who are depressed are also more likely to be humorous, probably as a result of their higher intelligence and perhaps as a result of coping mechanisms developed to mitigate their depression.

Smart people are also marginalized in our society. Those who suffer with depression and other mental illnesses are likewise stigmatized. We use humor to deflect and cover up our wounds, and then we suffer quietly. Alone. As we spend more time alone, we are observed to be introverted. People who are introverted, on the whole, seem to be less desirable companions and are therefore sought out less by their peers. In the end, you get a bunch of smart, suffering, funny people with no close friends.

And then we kill ourselves because human beings aren’t meant to be islands (Bon Jovi had that right) but what choice does a person have when their territory is being colonized by naysayers and doubters and people who, in general, just want to make you feel bad for being who you are and enjoying what you like.

Seriously. Fuck those people.

This is what being a Stigma Fighter is about. Standing up to the unenlightened masses who would prefer to see a greatly homogenized culture instead of embracing and celebrating our differences, mental illness included. I wonder if Mr. Williams, had he known about our mission, would have joined us. Something tells me he might have done just that.

The other side of the coin

I recently wrote about how I’d rather be manic than be depressed.

Because mania is such fun.
Because mania is such fun.

Well, now I’m depressed, so fuck the me who said that.

What bullcrap.

Depression sucks. Mania sucks.

Mania makes me want to do all the things at once. When I’m manic, I truly, honest-to-God see the madness within myself. Depression robs me of the will to do anything — including things I like to do. Things that make me feel better. This is pretty much all I can bring myself to do:

image
This is not conducive to long-term happiness. Or anything, really.

I need a vacation from my own head.