Because That Phrase Doesn’t Work

buck up

Although I have heard this one often, sometimes in jest, some other more PC versions include “Can’t You Just Get it Together?” OR “Just Pull Yourself Back into the Saddle” OR “Get Your Shit Straight!”

For everyone’s information, Rosa is working very hard at getting her shit straight, at “bucking up,” if you will.  The problem, when you are also dealing with a mental illness, in addition to serious life stress — it may just not be so simple.

When Rosa stays at home all day, relaxing, chatting with friends on the Internet, reading blogs, reading on the Kindle, playing with the Kizzer dog, this is how she recharges.  Because people.  Well, people.  What can I say, being around people, it just drains the life right out of me.

The most current issue of the “just buck up” phrase comes from the fact that Rosa and her bipolarity have driven away oh-so-many people, and she finds herself with only a very few close friends and family members that she can rely on.  This means that, out of four people, there might not be someone to call at midnight, or five in the morning, or what have you.  With more resources, it might be easier.  I’d like to think it would be.

I have a stepsister and a best friend from grade school.  Both live close, both have kids and husbands.  In the past, they would always make time for me, but I guess I have worn them out.  The ups and downs of bipolar disorder, the cancelling meetings, the crying on the phone, my insistent attempts to get them to talk to me, perhaps me just seeming too desperate.  It is clear they have given up on me.  No, it’s really not in my head.  Other people see it too.

And there’s the question of my stepmom, who should love and care for me, at least in some small way, for the simple fact that she loves my dad.  Well, this is not the case.  She let it slip a couple weeks ago that she is “completely  unsympathetic to the mentally ill.”  What the FUCK would give you an idea to say that to me of all people.  She complained about people getting hospitalized, of which I actually  have twice and have thought about even more.  She had nothing good to say about a person with a mental illness — not even me.

And it occured to me — this woman does not love me, she does not respect me, and in fact she sees me as a burden on my father’s time.  She has actually said those words — burden on my father’s time.  No doubt that she can go up once a week to see my sister and spend 12 hours up there, or spend money and time on her daughter.  I am that red-headed step-child that no one wants around.  Save for Dad.

So after much introspection, I am left mainly with anger.  Anger for these people abandoning me in my life, when I could have used them most.  My dad came by last night and I cursed and yelled and cried and, while I think it was overwhelming for him, I think he needed to hear it.

He cried, because, well, this shit is sad.  The people I thought I could depend on are not there, and the list of people that I CAN depend on shrinks by the moment.  On my part, there will be no more contacting these people.  They have my number, my email, my web address, my home address.  They can figure out how to find me.

So here I am, at the end of the day, and I am done.done.done. with a large group of people.  I am not going to subject myself to heartache anymore, just as I suppose they wouldn’t themselves.

Remember this?

 

The Story and the Stigma

Throughout grade school, middle school, and high school, I earned top grades.  I wasn’t the valedictorian, but I gave the high school commencement address, and I rocked it.  People on the outside saw a high-achieving, confident person.  Inside, I was fighting bipolar disorder, crushing anxiety, and an eating disorder.  No one knew, and I didn’t tell them.  I was afraid of what people would think.

When I went off to college, I went somewhere small, about an hour away from home, with the unsaid statement that I couldn’t go far away and succed; not without support.  Not without trips home every weekend.  I accepted it, and as time went on, I learned they were right.

I excelled at this small college, changing my major from pre-med to psychology after a horrific first semester in science classes that I couldn’t wrap my mind around.  I was depressed.  I had stopped taking my medication.  I think everyone knew that, and that summer, Mom tried to get me help again.

Every summer, actually, Mom would try to get me help again.  I would always participate, but then go off my meds as soon as I came back to school.  It was an ugly cycle, and it pains me to this day that I went through it.  But I didn’t want anyone to know what I was going through.  No one knew I had bipolar disorder, outside of my aunt who worked in the counseling center and my academic advisor, who was more like a surrogate mother.

My senior year, I was applying for Ph.D. programs that combined psychology and the law.  Forensic psychology, it was called.  I went on interviews.  Costly interviews.  They bore no fruit because I acted absolutely crazy when I went to these colleges.  They saw through me and saw that I was very ill.

After college and after failing to get into any kind of graduate program, I started working as a mental health technician on an Eating Disorders Unit (EDU) at a local hospital.  As a person living with bulimia, this was a bad choice.  I wasn’t on medication, I was drinking a lot, and I started to gain weight.  I was also working PRN at another hospital as a mental health tech.

I became manic.  Several days a week, I would work 7:30-4 at the EDU and then 5-12 at the other hospital.  A lot of the reason I did this was to stay away from Joe, my abusive boyfriend that I was living with.  All that working didn’t keep his hands off my body, or his reigns of terror on my psyche absent.  I became suicidal.

I moved out of Joe’s house and into my own apartment.  I picked up a boyfriend, almost literally off the streets, and continued to drink heavily and work many  hours.  Eventually, I completely cracked.  I quit drinking and I started seeing a psychiatrist.  When things didn’t level out quickly enough, my parents brought me back to live with them in the little city.

After a few months, I had a job and I moved back out.  I was working as a case manager with the mentally ill.  My caseload was loaded with the sickest of the sick.  It was a very stressful job and I didn’t fare well.  I was written up numerous times for poor attendance and tardiness.  I eventually left that job, three  years later, on FMLA because I had really lost it and couldn’t work.

I did an intensive outpatient program and started to feel better.  After about a year, I was hired at the local prison to work with the mentally ill on things like obtaining disability and getting services set up in the community.  Here, I was constantly being written up and warned about my attendance and lack of punctuality.  I was very depressed, I was very manic, I was very anxious.  I was always very something.  I did good work, though, and even won awards.  My boss liked to say that I’d outwork anybody, as long as I came in that day.

Eventually pressure built up again and I was very ill.  I went on FMLA and had to resign because there was no way I could come back to work.  My mom saw a pattern in my work and educational history, and talked with my doctors and therapist about filing for SSDI.

I couldn’t see a life without work, but I filed anyway.  We applied April of 2012 and it was awarded June or July of the same year.  This quick answer, with no questions or rebuttals, confirmed to me that, while I might feel like I could work, the powers that be disagreed.  SSA, my parents, my doctors, my therapist all concurred — Rose can’t manage full-time employment.

So here I stand, at the bait shop.  SSDI checks coming in and working about 20 hours per week at an extremely low-stress job, so that I can function on a daily basis.  I moved from high-achieving college student, pursuing a Ph.D., to a cashier and bait slinger.  How far we fall, right?

What I can say now, however, is that I’m happy.  I am truly, genuinely living a life worth living.  It’s not always easy and there are many bad days.  Not enough sunlight or getting my sleep schedule thrown off can put me in a tailspin.  If I stick to my structure, to my routine, use my DBT skills, and employ my support system, I do pretty well.  I even like my job in the bait store, slinging bait, ringing people up, and keeping track of files and paperwork.

People who knew me way back when may not recognize or understand who I am now.  I generally don’t give them that luxury, either.  There is a very difficult stigma surrounding mental illness, and additionally surrounding young people being on SSDI.  I tell only those I trust, and only those who I think will have an either neutral or positive response.

What you see isn’t always what you get.  There is more to me than bipolar and depression and anxiety.  If I had high blood pressure and diabetes, you wouldn’t shame me, now would you?  The unfortunate truth is that you will likely never know who I am and what I go through.  I would rather you not know me than be shamed for having illnesses that came to me through no fault of my own.

Blog For Mental Health 2014

As I did last year, I’ll be joining “Blog For Mental Health 2014” through A Canvas of the Minds.  The gist is that you vow to blog about mental health issues, promote awareness, and decrease stigma.

It isn’t really a conscious decision for me to blog ab0ut mental health.  It’s just something that I do, because, well, I have mental health issues and I use my blog to sort out my feelings, reminding myself of what has and hasn’t worked, and use it also to track my mood cycles.  So, the writing won’t change, there are no special prompts; it’s just blogging as usual.

In the original words of the founder:

“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”  

Anyone interested in joining, check out Canvas of the Mind and Blog for Mental Health links at the top of the page.bfmh14-copy-e1388959797718

Less Pressure, But Still Obsessed

Wellpers, as  you all know, NaBloPoMo is over.  When I first started, I kinda thought, after the dust had cleared, that I’d take a long blogging break.  What I didn’t realize is how ADDICTIVE writing and reading other posts and making new bloggie friends would be.  Putting my thoughts on paper every day gives me a great way to track how I’m doing and to see where I need to modify my behavior, for better or worse, to come out smellin’ like roses.

Thanksgiving week was pure hell (and it’s not over, because I don’t count Sunday as the first day of the week), and I think most of that had to do with DSB’s refusal (up to the bitter end) of Thanksgiving festivities, and the fact that I had just quit smoking.  And I have learned a lot about both of those things here within the past week.

What I have learned about DSB’s refusal of Thanksgiving is that he genuinely doesn’t like attending.  He doesn’t like all the people and he doesn’t like the family dynamic.  Even my fairly “normal” family (as in, we generally get along) bothered him, although it is altogether possible that some people were being bigger assholes than usual.  It’s the hormones, the lack of nicotine, the protectiveness…it’s all of that and it’s ugly when you throw it in the mixing bowl and stir.

I’m not sure if DSB will “do” Christmas yet or not.  I hope he does, because it means a lot to me, and selfishly so, I hope he would just sacrifice and go anyway.  Good gawd that sounds terrible, but it’s what I wish for and no one said what I wish for had to be nice.  What I truly wish is that DSB could get caught up in the beauty of the season and forget all that little petty BS.

Now let’s take the quitting smoking.  It has been rough and bumpy, but is overall going quite well.  Yes, I have slipped a few times and had a cigarette, so my quit hasn’t been perfect, but I still think that’s pretty good.  I’ve gone from smoking three packs a day down to maybe 1.25 cigarettes a day, and some days none.  I think I have to give myself props for that even though there are a lot of naysayers out there.

And to them, I really just want to say, “Eff you.”  Because seriously, you have no idea how  hard this is.  You have no idea what I am going through right now and I hope you never have to wean yourself off what is perhaps the most powerfully addictive substance on the planet.  Studies indicate nicotine is more powerful than heroin, crack, and meth.  And how many people succeed in getting off those things?  Not tons, folks.

So, what I ask of those people, is to cut me a little slack.  Be extra kind to me.  Go out of your way to avoid me if you can’t say something nice and encouraging.  Even the most well-meaning people can be complete dicks when it comes to something like this.  Don’t tell me I’m not doing this right when you can’t even manage to quit your Oreo cookie habit.  Don’t tell me I’m not doing this right when you can’t even manage to go a day without drinking.  And don’t tell me I’m not doing this right if you haven’t done it before.

Well, now that I’m all wound up, I think I’ll go throw some dishes around and hope they shatter on the floor.  Now THAT would be good stress relief (if only DSB would clean up the mess).  😀