3.30.

This upcoming Monday – March 30th, 2015 – what will you be doing? Will you be waking up, cursing at your alarm, as your body prepares to face yet another work week? Will you be frantically running around your house, trying desperately to find your child a pair of matching socks in order to get him/her to the bus stop on time? Will you be sitting in class, taking notes on a subject that you swear you will never use in “your real life”? Will you be stuck in rush hour on your way home, stuck listening to some dumb break up story on the radio? Will you be on a vacation, somewhere sunnier and warmer, with people you love surrounding you? Will you be making your weekly shopping list for upcoming dinners to cook? Will you be busy returning missed phone calls and emails from the weekend?
What will you be doing on March 30th 2015?

For many, the day will come and go without much thought. It will be another Monday, another day to “get through” in order to get to the weekend where you can really enjoy yourself. It won’t have much significance, since the banks and post offices are still open, and it won’t be a happy or sad day to remember – it will just be another Monday.

For others, March 30th 2015 will be a day that is painted in green. The sky on that day, in their eyes, will miraculously change from blue to green. The trees, no matter the geographic location, will all turn green. The ocean, the sand, the birds, the world – everything will be painted in green.

When you take blue, the color associated with sadness, and mix in yellow – the color associated with happiness – you get GREEN. When you take sadness and happiness and mix them up really, really, really fast inside the mind of a human – you get BIPOLAR.

March 30th is World Bipolar Day. It is a day where the world will, for a brief moment in time, take a pause to recognize the daily challenges that those living with bipolar disorder face. It is a day where people will cover themselves in green as a representation that they are breaking the stigma. It is a day where people will come out and declare “I AM A PERSON LIVING WITH BIPOLAR.”

March 30th is also a day when the graves will be visited. They will be covered in green ribbons, tears, and many unanswered questions. The voiceless – those who lost the battle, who couldn’t seek help, who were told they were weird, who left far too soon – those are the ones that this day is for.

March 30th, 2015 – what will you be doing?

Turbulence

It has been a long time since I have opened up this blog. My apologies. The ride of living with bipolar disorder has been, for the most part, a calm ride since I last spoke with you all. The symptoms have been manageable and life has brought about many happy moments – the biggest one being my marriage in December. The ride has been smooth.

Turbulence.

The ride was smooth until recently. Without understanding, reasoning or any “trigger” that I can pin point – turbulence has reared its ugly head on my ride and the shaking of emotions has been enough to bring me to my knees at moments.

These past few days have been turbulent and trying. The depression creeps up and is almost paralyzing to the point of having each breath be an effort. The doctors just prescribe strong sedatives – I sleep for hours and hours. It’s almost worse than it was before.

I lash out at loved ones for no apparent reason and then fall into a whirl wind of shame. I become closed off, lazy and quiet. I isolate myself. I don’t like people during these drops in what they medically refer to as “down periods.” It’s exhausting and I wish I could tell people “This is why I am acting like this…” but I can’t because I don’t even know why it happens. It just does. The frustration of not having answers to give people builds shame and anger inside.

My husband has been a hero to say the least. He knew my disorder prior to saying “I Do” and continues to be my biggest supporter. He seems to get it, or at least he tries his best to.

The ride has been rocked and I have been told I need to “pray harder”, “try harder”, “be stronger” – Well…

If I don’t have the answers to why my own brain acts the way it does, I am pretty sure your answers are not going to help either. In the mean time, I am faithful in God – whatever his will is – and trust that as always, the turbulence will calm and once again, I will ride along smoothly.

Why I am called to be a chaplain…

In These Walls (Hospital Chaplaincy)

In these walls, my hands are far too small to catch all the pain but I will stand firm as I try – knowing that even the smallest droplet that lands on my hands will make a difference. In these walls, I am no longer a 26 year old girl who is afraid of the dark, but instead I am a friend to a dying 88 year old male who is afraid of leaving his wife. In these walls, the tone of our skin does not matter because tears are tears and I will hold your brown body up with my white arms and we will cry together. In these walls, my god is your god and your god is my god and we shall praise that god together because your results came back negative. In these walls, you face Mecca and I face the cross and together we pray because prayer is prayer and damnit we have a lot to lift up. In these walls, a spark of humor always arises in the midst of grief and we are always caught off guard by the gift of laughter that God seems to bring to us in our darkest hours. In these walls, you feel small lying in that bed so I will be small with you just so you know that you are not alone. In these walls, there is no such thing as language because a smile and hug are universal, as well as tears.
In these walls, God breaks through all barriers. There is great joy, great sadness, great fear and great faith. In these walls, a four year old is no longer a preschooler that loves recess, but that four year old is a warrior in the battle of his life against cancer. In these walls, an M.Div doesn’t matter because the pre-K graduate often becomes the minister and I become the pupil.
In these walls, I meet God. I sit with Him, walk with Him and talk with Him. I meet Him in every room. God lives, in these walls.

Bully

I normally post about Bipolar disorder, but today this post is about bullying. I am a living victim of bullying. I was bullied prior to the Anti-Bully movement. This ties into my panic disorder and I am sure many of you out there can relate to these emotions. Here it is –

I remember how your words cut me like daggers. They sliced me in half and did not stop cutting despite the agony and wounds that covered me. I was paralyzed with fear. I could not flee. I could not put up a shield to stop them from viciously attacking me. I was trapped in your evil web and for the life of me could not break free.
I remember feeling your presence at my back with every step I took. I tried to move quicker than you. I tried to block out the sounds that flooded my ears. You pretended to purge. You made gagging noises and when I didn’t turn around you continued to fake vomit even louder. The sounds were haunting. They drowned out the noises of the bell signaling class beginning. They drowned out the noises of people hustling to get to class. They drowned out my dignity, my self-esteem and my joy.
I remember the words spray painted onto my driveway. The hate was stained into the most visible aspect of my life that everyone drove by. I remember the wilting trees from the poison you poured out. The trees symbolized my soul as it withered underneath your hate. I remember the forest on the side of my house being white as the toilet paper waved in the wind. With every gust, it was like you were waving your hate in my face. I remember wanting to run, but your hate covered all of my hiding places. I remember feeling alone.
I remember the phone calls. Your voices, covered with laughter, mocked my mental state. You pretended to cry, mimicking my reaction to your taunting ways. I remember sitting in my closet and physically becoming ill when the phone would ring. The fear that you instilled in me was real. Your voices traumatized me.
I remember being scared to fall asleep in the safety of my home. You took all that was safe and ripped it away. I remember looking out my window every half hour in fear that I would see the flames you promised to ignite on my house. I remember shaking at every noise I heard, in fear that you were out there – ready to follow through with all you swore you would do. I remember hating my home because you stole the comfort of it. You made me restless.
The hate you poured out on me is still carried on my back. It is because of you that I struggle to be open with my peers. It is because of you that I hide my emotions in fear of being trapped in a harassing circle because of them. It is because of you that I hated walking into school every day. It is because of you that I believe evil exists. It is because of you that ten years later I still get anxious when I am trapped in rooms. It is because of you that I am now beginning the journey of letting those years go. Thank you for stealing part of me. I hope that it was worth it to you and that you wake up every day in deep regret. I never did get my apology.

There Must Be

    I got the opportunity to visit what is deemed “the severe section” of the mental health floor the other day while doing my job as a chaplain. I had to go through numerous check points prior to entering. They had to ensure my lanyard was a break away one and that I didn’t have anything that could possibly be used as a weapon against me. I’m not going to lie… the butterflies were growing inside of me with every check point I crossed through. I was envisioning people in locked rooms, pounding on walls and screaming in anguish. As I entered through the last door leading into the unit… what I saw was not what I expected at all. My heart immediately sunk inside of me.

     There were about a dozen individuals sitting in chairs in what was known as the “community” lounge. They sat in wooden chairs that looked extremely uncomfortable. They had IVs hooked up to them that stood on rolling polls next to their chairs. Their arms were held down by restraints and there faces were completely void of any emotion. Their eyes were glazed over, unable to track me as I walked by them. I smiled at a few people and waved, but it was like they didn’t even see me. Some of them had their mouths hanging open with drool pouring out… unable to even realize their shirts were becoming wet or wipe their chins. They didn’t talk. They didn’t move. They didn’t engage with anyone. They simply sat there… medication induced zombies with no ability to react to life around them.

     The nurses explained to me that “this was the only way to keep them calm” and that “this was the best thing for them with their severe mental illnesses.” — Wow. We really haven’t come that far in our treatment of the mentally ill, have we? Most of these individuals were diagnosed with schizophrenia, severe bipolar disorder and/or personality disorders. Most of them were born with these diagnoses, showing symptoms at a very young age but were never properly treated and/or diagnosed. Most of them had been homeless at one point in their lives or in jail. Most of them were fairly young people… some not much older than myself. They, however, were now being “managed by the institution” with little to no chance of ever being brought to a cognitive state to actually seek proper help. Their lives were now placed inside of a box that consisted of breathing, going to the bathroom, needles and being spoon fed.

     I am not a medical doctor and do not know the full extent of what these people’s backgrounds were. I do not know what the “best” is for them nor do I know what works and what doesn’t. I do know this though… no human should be induced into that life because they were born with an illness that was bigger than them. I do know that we have so much further to go in mental health treatments. I do know that it is unfair. I do know that my heart broke as I smiled at those souls and realized they could not even react. I do know what God does not create us only to be tied to a chair with a needle in our arm.

      What is the right way to go about these severe cases? I do not know. I do know that I will fight for those souls until we do find an answer as to how to treat their illnesses. Everyone deserves a fighting chance. No one knows what goes on in their minds but those individuals because unlike other diseases – mental illnesses cannot be seen. They are not visible to the eye and cannot be taken out of our heads and placed on a box on a table for people to examine. They are invisible diseases which scares people.

     Dear God I pray for those souls on level 6 unit two. May we continue to push forward in mental health treatment.

Reality

     I think it is safe to say that everyone living with a mental illness desires the same things: understanding and a cure. We constantly struggle between our own reality and the desire to have everyone else’s reality — clear thoughts. We walk on a tight rope daily with the fear of one moment of not complete concentration leading to a fall that is far deeper, greater and scarier than most people can comprehend. We are vulnerable individuals because we deeply trust our medical care teams in their decisions to prescribe what is necessary to align our thoughts and relieve the pain of dark thought cycles. That trust, however, can be extremely costly.

   We trust that whatever we are told to put into our bodies will fight the illness and ultimately (and hopefully!) conquer it to the point we can live lives without much thought to our diagnosis. The problem, however, is that every individual metabolizes medication differently, reacts differently and there is no set “dosage” that is “healthy” across the board. It’s trial and error. When it works, WOW, it works. When you fall into the “error” part though… well, you fall.

    We can’t look at suicide and self harm as behavioral issues anymore. The reason is this: if a medication fails inside of you, it can literally manifest itself to pull you of reality and into a place that you are no longer in control. We hear of suicide and self harm and automatically think that the person deliberately sat down and mapped it out. Now, YES, there are cases where this DOES happen… but my point is this — MEDICATION CAN BE REALLY SCARY if it doesn’t work.

    I am 100% for medication for mental illnesses. I take two medications daily that allow my brain to fire signals at a normal rate and stabilize my mood. Without it, I would experience manic and depressive episodes constantly throughout a 24 hour period. I recently, however had an EXTREME reaction to a medication that almost cost me my life.

    To explain to people that it was not me but rather the medication is so difficult. How can you explain to someone that you literally were not there but rather a manifestation brought you to certain choices — choices that in that moment you were told made PERFECT sense? It’s hard.

     What I know is this — I am living proof that suicide attempts and self harm are not always a will or choice of that person, but rather a manifestation of the mind that pulls you from reality into a very, very, very scary place.

 

     Please, TALK if you have weird thoughts or feelings. I promise you, it might save your life. Break the stigma.

 

Here’s To The Ones…

Here’s to the ones who are deemed “crazy, insane and weird.”

Here’s to the ones who see the world differently.

Here’s to the ones who are scared to death to say the words: “I need help.”

Here’s to the misfits – the ones who are teased and bullied because they are “crazy.”

Here’s to the ones who manage to get out of bed in the morning despite the heaviness of their illness.

Here’s to the ones who have thoughts so vivid they can’t help but feel trapped by them.

Here’s to the ones who don’t meet the “status quo.”

 

Here’s to ALL OF THEM because they are the ones who will push the human race forward to seek change. They are the ones who will push us to think differently and more open in regards to the differences God has given us. While the world may look at them and say “insane”, I look at them and say GENIUS for their thoughts are thoughts that give light to a different outlook. I see GENIUS because the people who are “crazy” enough to believe they will change the world… they are the ones who actually do.

Here’s to viewing mental illnesses as nothing short of a difference that can change the world.

Break the Stigma.