Posted in Anxiety, bpd, coping, Depression, ED, mental health, PTSD

Self-Therapy: How I Had the Best Monday Morning I’ve Had in Years

I started writing this earlier this morning and am proud to bring you the best self-therapy I think I’ve ever had:

My mental illnesses are taking over. It’s taking all the energy I have to keep myself from attempting suicide, and I don’t even want to die!! My nightmares/ dreams are so bad I can’t even tell if I’m awake or dreaming. My eating disorder and self-image is at nearly an all-time low and I’m starting more intense therapy.  My knees ache in the springtime because of the cool, damp air. My back is getting worse and I’m scared wearing an occasional brace and electrotherapy won’t be enough in the near future. My blog traffic is down so low it’s worse than the first month is was live. I’m stressed all the time. My financial situation is dire. My bipolar is temporarily stable, but the fear or losing control again makes it even harder for me to trust my mood. I’ve had life-altering pain in my side for 7 months with no answers, and more my digestive system is revolting against me and doctor’s don’t know why yet. I’m a mess. I need a vacation. I’m curled around a puke bowl crying and browsing Facebook. I don’t even remember what inspired the thought, but something made me realize I need to do my best to live life despite the blows that knock me down. Lake Monona is my backyard. I got a bigger boost of inspiration than I’ve had in months.

IMG_20170522_080844949It’s 7:30 am on a Monday morning and I just got home from the ER about an hour ago. I’m struggling with my Bipolar Depression and thoughts of suicide while struggling with the scary and unknown thoughts of digestive failure or kidney disease. Every fiber of my being screams to just curl up in a ball under blankets and just watch a movie I’ve seen a hundred times over. Something on Facebook inspires me to just make a positive memory for myself and live a happy life, at least for the morning. I needed to just let go of all of the anxiety over unknowns in my life and enjoy myself. I wasn’t going to let anxiety win. I got up, threw my phone, a waterproof speaker and an Ensure in a bag, grabbed my favorite canoe, Pea Pod, and dragged it all down to the shoreline. I was so excited, but also nervous, because I had this gut feeling it was a bad idea to go canoeing in my current physical condition. Somehow my persnickety brain allowed me to throw caution to the wind and go canoeing anyways.

I started out quite clumsily, it was hard to find a way to paddle that compensated for my current right flank pain. It was so early in the morning that the sun was either directly in my eyes or so low that I was in the shade and chilly. After a period of wrestling with the canoe and the sun, I realized I had forgotten to turn my music on! That improved the entire situation 1000%.  I was singing at the top of my lungs, laughing, talking to the wildlife and enjoying the view. I went down this channel that has a great balance of interesting houses, and wildlife, to look at while paddling. img_20170522_082707328.jpgI drank an Ensure, which is a nutritional drink I was prescribed when I was diagnosed with my eating disorder. I’ve been struggling a lot with my eating recently because I’m about to start meeting with a new professional about it, so I’ve been avoiding drinking the Ensures so that I appear “sick enough” for this new doctor (PRIME EXAMPLE OF WHY THE EATING DISORDER STIGMA IS DANGEROUS). It made me feel really good about myself, but there was still this hesitation inside of me that I didn’t like. My thoughts immediately jumped to pushing myself really hard paddling so I’d burn off the calories and not get fat because I drank it. Instead of acting on that thought, I practiced a DBT skill where you imagine your thoughts and urges as leaves on a river, and picture them flowing past you without judging them or acting on them… only I did it in real life on the lake with some leaves from a nearby tree and watched my urges to over-exert myself and self-image issues drift away from my canoe. Then I “took matters into my own hands” and paddled away from them. I decided to make a conscious choice to leave those issues behind me and “paddle towards recovery”. I think my phone heard my thoughts because the next song that played was a song from my library that dealt with physical appearance and learning to accept yourself (as long as you promise not to judge me for being a Gleek, you can listen to the song here).

There were many times I started to turn around. My depression was screaming at me to go back into my bed and just spend the next few hours mindlessly on my phone. Even now, I don’t completely know how I was able to fight those thoughts off and keep going on my planned route. I would mutter a little pep talk (“you got this, remember you’re having a good time?” or “oh no you silly brain. this is my morning and you aren’t taking it from me” or something of the like) and paddle on. At one point my foot fell asleep so bad that I had no feeling in my foot. If you know me, you know I’m ridiculously ticklish

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Accidentally wore the perfect shirt…

on the bottoms of my feet. I can even tickle myself! I ran my finger across my foot and couldn’t feel it AT ALL. It was a weird out-of-body experience, and also kinda scary. Needless to say, the rest of the ride I was always wiggling my feet and knees so they didn’t fall asleep. I paddled along, quacking at ducks and then laughing at myself… that’s a really powerful gift, to be able to have enough empathy towards yourself that you can laugh at the silly quirks you have, instead of tearing them down. That thought was another positive thought that I noted to use in the future when I begin hating my childish quirks. I seized the moment and sat cheering myself on for the distance I’ve already run in the marathon to self-acceptance.

 

At this point, I’m about 2/3 of the way through my planned trail to blaze in Pea Pod. Once again, as if on cue, a string of my self-empowering songs played. Pure positive energy seemed to burst from my chest. It was surreal. I paddled with renewed life in me. My cheeks hurt I was smiling so much. I paused long enough to capture a quick video of the moment:

I paddled home in the best mood I can remember ever being in, in recent history anyway. There are a gazillion more thoughts I had and experiences I will treasure from my paddle, but I will leave you with this, recovery is not a straight line. Things had been going well for me these past two weeks, and then everything came crashing down. Even with this paddle to lift me up, I’m still in a funk and overwhelmed. This wasn’t a wand-waving experience that made me feel all better. In fact, I’m still a little low-key passively suicidal. But the opportunity to suspend reality, if only for a moment of relief, was well worth the effort. I’m depressed but rejuvenated. The self-discovery journey I went on today was one I will never forget. I hope this post encourages you to stretch yourself this week, and allow yourself the freedom to take things as they come, and go on a journey with your closest friend… you ❤

Want to hear “My Paddle Playlist”? Check it out here.

Posted in Anxiety, coping, Depression, mental health, stigma

My 1st Week as a Crisis Counselor

As some of you may have known, this was my first week as a Crisis Counselor for the Crisis Text Line. I’ve completed 34 hours of training over 6 weeks and officially became a certified crisis counselor. Over the next year (and hopefully beyond), I will be spending a minimum of 4 hours a week responding to the texters who text into the CTL, listening and supporting them through their crisis. This can be anything from bullying, stress about finals, suicide, abuse, and more. This service was started so that you don’t have to call a hotline and talk to someone, which can be nerve-wracking, but instead, text them, which can be much less stressful.
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Leading up to this week, I was excited. I couldn’t wait to start talking with texters and supporting them through their crises. In the hours before my first shift, I was downright terrified. My thoughts were racing: “what if I say the wrong thing and make it worse?” “what if I mess up using the platform?” “what if I’m not good enough and my supervisor fires me?” “what if I’m triggered and can’t help the texter?” … the thoughts went on and on. When it was time for me to log in, I was shaking from nerves. My supervisor was very supportive, and I was able to jump right in. For confidentiality reasons, I cannot share the nature of the conversations I had, but today I’m going to talk about my emotions as I went through my first hours of counseling.

Everything I heard while in training was right, as a counselor, you really do save lives, and let me tell you, it feels pretty great. I was so pumped up after helping my first few texters, I ended up working 5 hours straight instead of just 2 on my first shift. I’ve always known this was my passion in life. Earlier this week, my best friend reminded me that back when I was my sickest mentally, I still talked about how I couldn’t wait to be able to use my story and experiences to help others. Being able to live out that passion is pretty spectacular. But I quickly learned it isn’t all cake and roses.

I knew this was going to be difficult. I knew I might be triggered. I knew that it was going to drain me emotionally and mentally. But nothing can prepare you for the real experiences. Nothing prepares you for the unknowns. The people who when you end the conversation, you don’t know if they’ll be safe tonight. Nothing prepares you for the people who never text you back. And there’s the fact that there is nothing you can do about it. You did what you could. You probably even did your best. You’re helpless… even as a trained counselor, you couldn’t do it. I found myself thinking it was my fault. The “if only”s raced through my head and my heart. I held all the guilt and put it on myself. I failed. The fulfillment and the adrenaline were gone. I felt empty. I wanted to cry. Nothing could have prepared me for this.

I spent all of today shaken over the unknowns of last night’s shift. I could barely get out of bed this afternoon. My nightmares completely overcame me when I drifted off to sleep watching TV. I was practicing a lot of self-care last night after my shift. I drank tea, I snuggled my bunny and got lots of kisses. I meditated and watched my favorite movie while surrounded by my favorite stuffed animals. It still wasn’t enough. I was so wired I didn’t get to bed until 5 am I got out of the house today and met a dear friend at Barnes and Noble… and was an hour late. All I could think about when I was there was how much I needed to write… and how I wish it was easier for me to settle in with a good book. The second I got home I fell asleep again…. only to be met with more nightmares. It’s been clear to me that I am certainly an empath, and it was very apparent today.

This was only my first week. I have a lifetime to get it right. I’ll continue the mantra that I’ve done what I can. I’ll sing about how this is my calling in life. I’ll talk to my animals about the difficulties I faced during my shift. But most importantly, I’m going to persevere and continue to change lives both as a counselor and in my own life.

I can do this.

 

If you’re in need of help, know there is someone who is always there to listen. Text HELP to 741-741 or message the Crisis Text Line on Facebook.

 

 

Posted in diagnosis, mental health, stigma

The Face Behind Ungluing Stigma

So today I’m taking the time to make some fun and quick announcements and then answer some questions about myself to help you get to know me better!
Coming up on Ungluing Stigma, we’re going to have a surprise guest writer! I won’t spoil who it will be, but they’re just as passionate about ending the stigma as I am! Also coming up in the next few months, I will be continuing to write a few blog posts that will be shared on the blog of the spa I work at and will be sharing them here as well. Finally, I will be giving a presentation at work about empathy, and how to respond appropriately to any client who comes in with a mental health issue. I’m hoping to get a video of the presentation, or at the very least get my notes up on the blog, so be on the lookout for that as well. This weekend I also got a burst of inspiration on various blog post topics, so it’s an exciting next few months here at Ungluing Stigma!

So you all know some things about me, from the experiences I share here on the blog, from my Instagram, or maybe you know me personally and are a friend or family member reading my blog. On Pinterest recently I found a 14 Day Blog challenge and realized it would be a great way to officially introduce myself to all you lovely people. Rather than spending two weeks on these questions, I’m going to rapid-fire answer them here and now! Here we go!

  1. Introduction. My name’s Serenity Rae Kaspar, but I typically go by Ren. I have Complex PTSD, Severe Anxiety Disorder, Rapid-Cycling Bipolar 1, Borderline Personality Disorder, Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, Binge Eating Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I’ve lived over 10 different places in my life, but I’m able to proudly say that I’m a Wisconsin-Raised gal. I’ve been dancing since I was 3, and now I choreograph for local theaters in the Madison Area. I love theater and have been in over 15 different plays/ musicals. I’ve kept a poetry journal since 8th grade. I have a bunny, a guinea pig, 2 gerbils and a hamster. I love to spend quality time with my friends.
  2. 20 fun facts about me!
    1. I’m a Libra
    2. I’m a Harry Potter Fan: Ravenclaw and Pukwudgie
    3. I met my best friend in kindergarten and we’ve been BFFs ever since (so that’s 16 years)
    4. I love kids movies
    5. I have 7 Build-A-Bears
    6. I love the DC Universe more than Marvel
    7. If I could have anything growing out of my head besides hair, I’d choose flowers so that I never had to wear perfume and always a piece of spring with me – I love spring (bonus fact!)
    8. I’ve played almost every Nancy Drew Mystery computer game
    9. I’ve been to 40 states
    10. My younger brother and I can quote the entire movie Cars… this is a theory we actually tested and we do indeed know every line
    11. I have a moped to get around town
    12. My first kiss was at a cast party for my senior year’s musical. I had to keep my eyes closed while they picked someone to kiss me and so I don’t know who I had my first kiss with.
    13. My medium of choice when coloring is always crayons or highlighters
    14. When it thunderstorms I run outside in a tank top and shorts and get soaked while playing in the mud.
    15. In my lifetime I have lived with 11 different cats
    16. I hate math even though I was one of the best at math in high school
    17. I’ve been to NYC 3 times and each time I saw a broadway musical: In the Heights, Wicked and Newsies.
    18. I once went on a 37-day roadtrip to 11 different states
    19. I helped rebuild houses damaged by Hurricane Katrina
    20. I used to have hair so long it was past my butt
  3. The meaning of my business name: I knew I wanted it to be about mental health and ending the stigma. I originally thought about Ungluing the Invisible but that title wasn’t as clear. I also considered Lead by Butterflies, I hate mental illness… it’s awesome, and Confession Time
  4. Earliest childhood memory: I remembered getting stuck in the frame of our kitchen table when I was around 2 and they almost had to call the fire department.
  5. My guilty pleasure: watching the sad movies where someone is sick and/ or dies (Bridge to Terabithia, The Fault in Our Stars, If I Stay, Me, Earl and the Dying Girl, Safe Haven… etc.)
  6. 3 personality traits I’m proud of: empathetic, thoughtful, creative
  7. Favorite foods: Ice Cream, any kind of pasta, deep fried cheese, yogurt, pancakes!
  8. Old photo of me: my Godsister had dressed me up to go swimming:1072290_514412761941364_875904172_o
  9. Piercings and tattoos? Yep! My ears and my belly button are pierced and I currently have 7 tattoos (with 3 more in the works), my Instagram has pictures of 6 of them
  10. Fist celebrity crush: Being demisexual I didn’t have many celeb crushes, but boy howdy I loved Evan Lysacek, a figure skater from the 2010 Olympics. I slept with a photo of him under my pillow and would kiss it goodnight.1386682395000-USATSI-7465724
  11. My most proud moment: when a blog post of mine when viral
  12. If I won the Lottery: I’d get a lot of tattoos and go to Disneyworld
  13. Favorite Quote: good ol’ JK Rowling: “Words are our most inexhaustible source of magic”
  14. Dream job: getting paid to write about mental health on a blog or website of some kind and working at the Crisis Text Line to continue making a difference in the mental health world.

So that’s me! I think this post was a great way to help reinforce the idea that I am so much more than just my mental illnesses. I’m a real human with real feelings and experiences and silliness. Remember that everyone you meet is more than just their mental health diagnosis. Have a spectacular week everybody! And remember to keep an eye out for all of those exciting things coming up!

Posted in coping, mental health, PTSD

Mental Health and the Workplace

So many of you know I work at a local day spa (as much as I want to go on and on about how amazing it is to work here, I’ll resist the temptation.. but for those of you in the Madison WI area, please go check out Kneaded Relief Day Spa & Wellness next time you need to practice some self-care with a massage, manicure/ pedicure, facial, waxing, body treatments, personal training… etc. you won’t be disappointed). I was asked to write a blog post for the blog at the spa I work for. But I’d like to encourage all of you to read it, I explain PTSD and the effects it can have on someone. A spa is a great way to help you practice self-care, take care of your body physically, and it’s fun! Even if you can’t make it a regular thing, it’s a great way to spoil yourself and love yourself. Going to the spa doesn’t have to be stressful. Keep reading as I explain PTSD and then how you can advocate for yourself in the situations life presents itself with.

At our last staff meeting, we talked about our clients with mental health issues, more specifically PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and ways we can help those clients as therapists. Seeing how May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I think it’s the perfect opportunity to talk about PTSD and how we as therapists are willing to come alongside you in your journey of recovery.

What do you think of when you hear PTSD? Is it a soldier? If that’s where your mind went to, that’s okay. Soldiers can have very severe PTSD from the things they might have seen while overseas. But did you know that anyone can have PTSD? It’s not limited to just soldiers. If someone has been abused, assaulted, in a car crash, bullied, had a medical emergency, or even watching a loved one go through a serious physical or mental illness… these are all examples of people who might be traumatized and experience PTSD.

As someone who has personal experience of what it’s like to live with PTSD, I can attest to the fact that there are times (both sometimes or all the time) when you don’t want to be touched. Being touched can trigger various reactions, and for different reasons. Say there is someone who was in a car accident. A massage can be very healing for the body, but not always for the mind. The client’s seat belt might have cut off their windpipe, making it difficult to breathe. That can be a scary and very traumatizing thing, to be unable to breathe in a very alarming situation. While massages and/ or facials usually include neck and shoulder work, this can trigger the client and that can result in a myriad of things.

What it a trigger, and why does it matter? Dictionary.com defines a trigger as anything, as an act or event, that serves as a stimulus and initiates or precipitates a reaction or series of reactions. Okay, lots of fancy words. What does that mean? Let’s go back to the client that was in an accident. Touching their neck can remind their brain of the time when they were strangled. This can cause a series of reactions that are, but not limited to: a flashback, in which hallucinations occur of the traumatic event, often convincing the person that they are actually reliving that moment; an emotional response similar to the one the person had at the time of the traumatic event; fight or flight mode; an intense and “irrational” fear of the person who triggered them; and many more similar reactions.

At Kneaded Relief, the therapists (whether it be for a massage, facial, body treatment, etc) take the time before the treatment starts to check in with the client. Update on any changes of health history, talk about areas that need some attention… this is a great time to let your therapist know if there are areas you want them to avoid so you aren’t triggered. You don’t have to be afraid of judgment. Our staff had a wonderful conversation at our meeting, and I can speak from personal experience, having PTSD and other mental health issues myself, the staff takes a non-judgmental stance when it comes to opening up about mental health issues.

No matter who you are, or where you are, this concept can be put into practice. I think it’s wonderful to talk about mental illness in the workplace. I’m glad my employers are helping lead the way to education and the end of this stigma.

Posted in Anxiety, Bipolar, coping, Depression, diagnosis, mental health

Greiving a Diagnosis

Receiving a diagnosis of any kind can be devastating to a person’s life. It’s perfectly normal to need to grieve a diagnosis. Getting diagnosed can mean extra treatment, new medication, hospital stays, lifestyle changes, and more. It can put a strain on even the strongest of relationships. A diagnosis can also leave a lot of unknowns for what the future holds, and that can be very unsettling. Fear of the unknown can hold a lot of power over a person. Grieving a diagnosis can look like any other type of grieving, commonly depicted in 5 or 7 stages. I’ve received 9 mental health diagnosis over the years, 2 of them were misdiagnosed and so today mental health professionals agree on 7 diagnoses and an 8th in the works. When I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, I definitely spun into a deep state of grieving, and it took me nearly a year to fully grieve my diagnosis. My bipolar diagnosis came slowly, first I was diagnosis with Bipolar 2, then my psychiatrist disagreed, saying it was just my Borderline showing similar symptoms. After getting a third opinion, it was finally accepted that I had bipolar 2. One time I went into therapy, it was very apparent to my social worker that I was fully manic, a state that can only be reached if you have Bipolar 1. Almost a year later, I was talking with my therapist and I mentioned how I get manic for about half of a month and depressed for the other half. According to her, someone who has bipolar only gets manic once or twice a year, at most, not every single month. this means I have rapid-cycling Bipolar 1. About 2.5% of all US citizens have bipolar disorder, and of that 2.5%, only 10-15% have rapid-cycling. Because of this long, drawn-out process of getting a proper diagnosis that 4+ mental health professionals agree on, I went through the grieving process multiple times when it came to my Bipolar disorder.

Drawing on my own experience and various articles online, I’m going to talk you through what grieving can look like after receiving a mental health diagnosis.

Shock/ Disbelief- What did the doctor just say? Surely I didn’t hear him right. I’m perfectly normal. Everyone just gets a little stressed sometimes… right? The chaos can be all you think about, You have to find out what happened, no matter what the cost.

Denial- This can’t be true. It just can’t be. I don’t need this medicine. I can’t have this illness. I’m so healthy! I’ve felt like this my whole life. Why should now be any different??

Bargaining- I can beat this, I just have to grin and bear it with my treatment team. Maybe if I tell them everything’s better, I won’t have to go to therapy anymore. And my mom won’t have to look at me with such sad, desperate eyes. That’s it, just pretend and do what they want you to do and say. Maybe if I went and got a second opinion…

Depression- A number of people tend to get stuck in this phase and that makes it the most dangerous stage. This is where the sadness and guilt can set in. Self-blaming can take over. If only I had gotten help sooner… now it’s helpless. I can never get better, it’s just too hard.

Acceptance- Reaching this stage is something not everyone is able to reach. It’s looking in the mirror and saying “Welp, this is the hand I was dealt with. I can do this.” You radically accept any emotions that come your way about your diagnosis.  You can begin to forgive yourself, and let yourself be loved again.

Please remember that I am not an expert in grief, I am speaking from personal experience and the experiences of others that I know. Greif can look different for every single individual. Have you ever grieved a diagnosis? Do you have any tips or tricks that helped you in your grieving process? Let me know in the comments below!

 

If you’re struggling with grieving a diagnosis, know there is someone who is always there to listen. Text GRIEVING to 741-741 or message the Crisis Text Line on Facebook.

Posted in coping, mental health

Tracking Mental Health

Tracking your mental health can be very important. You can learn your triggers, understand possible reasons for a depressive or suicidal episode, heck, you can study patterns to predict your mental health more effectively. Today I’m going to take you through a couple of ways that I track my mental health.Screenshot_2017-04-25-15-36-37

Apps. There is a myriad of apps in the app store that offer ways to track mental health, physical health, diet, blood pressure, medications, mood, fitness… the list goes on. Throughout the years I’ve tried many of them. Daylio (play store, iTunes) is the main app that I use to track my mental health. To the right, you can see a screen shot of what my last few days looked like. You can choose between 5 different moods (the default are rad, good, meh, fugly and awful, but you can customize them to whatever you’d like). Then you select from a customizable list of activities, thoughts, chores, etc. based on what you did that day. I added many of my own tasks, including manic/ depressed so I can track my bipolar cycles, whether or not I had self-harm or suicidal urges, if I cleaned my pet cages, etc. At any time you can go to the statistics page and there are a number of unique ways that you can view the data in whatever way suits you best. You can set reminders for you to fill it out each night, and there’s a space to add your own personal notes. Everything can be backed up onto google drive and it’ll tell you how many days in a row you’ve filled out a diary entry!

I take a handful of medication every night, as well as having a few “as needed” medications for times where I need extra help getting to sleep or to help with my anxiety, I use Medsafe (play store, iTunes) to keep track of my meds. I love this app because you can customize pretty much everything. You can even pick what the medication looks like so you can see it in your digital pillbox just like it appears in real life. There are lots of great apps for tracking your medication, this is just my personal favorite.IMG_20170425_151115.jpg

I have yet to find an app that I like for tracking what I eat, without it getting too technical, like counting calories. Instead, I track what I eat in my Bullet Journal. It’s quick and simple, without me having to feel guilty about eating so many calories and having that trigger something with my eating disorder. I also track how many glasses of water I drink every day, to make sure I’m staying hydrated. I draw one little water droplet for each glass of eight or more ounces of water that I drink. You can also see that I track how many words I write a day because my monthly writing goal is 10,000 words a month, I also use an app on my phone to track this, so I’m still ironing out the kinks of how to track it on paper. I like this layout because it’s quick and easy to use. Do you use an app to track your food or water intake? I’m always looking for suggestions! Let me know in the comments below, or go to my Contact Us page for more ways to get in touch with me.

As I mentioned in the paragraph above, I have a bullet journal that I use to keep my life somewhat organized. Below is an overview of what a week looks like in my bullet journal:IMG_20170425_151233

I played with a number of layouts before I settled on this one. You can check out all the pins I saved for inspiration on my Pinterest board that is full of artsy ideas. It gives me space to write down my schedule for the week, track my sleep, meals, water intake, and a boatload of other things. As you can see, I have a system of different colored pens, as well as different symbols to keep track of various appointments, chores, due dates, and a daily gratitude. I have a graph that lets me quickly and easily track my sleep. The bottom right photo is a small graph where I track things like if I took my medication, which days I did a variety of chores like cleaning my pet cages or laundry. I track if I’ve done yoga, or if I’ve used laxatives (which is a harmful behavior that I’m trying to stop).

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There are a few other ways I track my mental health that I’d like to share. Being someone who has rapid cycling bipolar, It can be very devastating to have my quickly changing mood affect my plans and daily routine. So this year, I’ve been tracking when I’m manic and when I’m depressed so I can start to see a pattern, and be able to plan accordingly. It’s very east to do, all it takes is highlighting the date with either pink to signify that I’m manic, or orange to signify that I’m depressed. You can already see that there’s an emerging pattern that I use to help me know when to make plans with friends, and when to know that I’m going to be stuck in bed with depression and might need to increase treatment frequency.IMG_20170425_151318

I also use the Daylio app that I talked about earlier to create a big-picture idea of what my mood (NOT linked to my bipolar phases) looks like throughout the year. I take the same five moods/ type of day (rad, good, meh, fugly, awful) and simply fill out a square on the graph accordingly. At the end of 2017, I’ll have my entire year in pixels! It’s fun to look and see the different moods I felt during the same time frame over the past few months.

Tracking mental health can be very important. It allows you to better understand what can seem like a chaotic and random illness. You can better answer questions that doctors and therapists might ask you during an appointment or hospital stay. I find it gives me peace of mind to have a tangible documentation of what is otherwise a very difficult thing to understand and track. Do you track your mental health or have an app that helps you when things get chaotic? Let me know in the comments below!

Posted in Anxiety, coping, Depression, ED, mental health

Dear 8th Grade Me

2008. The year I started eighth grade. Life got messy the summer before and things have only gotten messier since. If I could go back to what I consider the “beginning” of the chapter of my life that I’m in, here’s what I wish I could say:

 

Dear 8th grade me,
Hi. It’s your future self. You’re 21 now, and drinking a grasshopper as you write this. I know, us drinking alcohol… weird. You don’t know it yet, But you’re not neurotypical. Okay, what does that mean? It means you don’t show atypical (“normal”) brain patterns or behaviors.. yeah, we’re actually mentally disabled. Hard to believe, huh?

So this past summer, at camp, you learned that some things in life are not as they seem. I know you’re completely crushed and lost right now. You feel like the only person who will understand is your camp counselor… but you made a mistake with her and she’s no longer in your life. Over the course of the next year, you’re going to reach out to a lot of different people: potential mentors, friends, even strangers, all because you’re desperate to find answers to all this pain and confusion. It’s going to feel really helpless. You’re going to question every fundamental aspect of your life: love and relationships, your purpose here on earth, your beliefs and your passions. You’re going to start cheating in school… please don’t. I come from the future where you did, and not only do you academically suffer from not learning that stuff in math and history, your self-esteem suffers too. You spend all of your time latching onto people, only to burn them out, along with yourself. This is one of the main symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder – you get diagnosed after high school graduation, so be prepared for this to screw you up for the next 4 years. You will have people who will criticize you frequently for your raging emotions… that also comes from Borderline… strap in and prepare to write a lot of poetry. In fact, it is probably best that you get a journal specifically for your poetry. I have one I’ve had since I was your age, and it’s like my heart is outside of my body it means so much to me.

You’re also going to have your fair share of physical challenges too. You just got diagnosed with a few different knee problems. You’re going to have to wear knee braces for the foreseeable future… you still have to wear them in 2017! Being the stubborn girl you are, you’re going to push through the pain… but sometimes you’re going to take opportunities away from others with your stubbornness… sometimes you gotta let it go girl. People will love you even if you’re not unbelievably “strong” physically.

You’ve never self-harmed. You’ve even put a razor to your skin to try to imagine what that’s like, and you swear you’re never going to cut. You even tell the youth pastor who’s worried about you that you won’t ever cut yourself – and you really mean it. Keep holding onto that as long as you can. Cutting is really addicting… and you get addicted to it. But never fear! I’m writing this at 393 days clean! Right now it’s your dream to go with the high school ministry to Romania… and you’ll be accepted on the team after Junior year. But because of your undiagnosed mental health issues, you’re going to be pulled off the team mere weeks before they leave for Romania for a month. You’re absolutely gutted. That’s when you first attempt suicide by overdosing and start cutting. A few months later you lose favor with your dance teacher and push yourself unbelievably hard dancing in the Middleton Parade. You collapse and are taken to the hospital, and you trigger life-long lung issues, almost dying from it. Please, learn how to take care of yourself. Practice radical acceptance and healthy coping. Start coloring! Play more music. Enjoy the nice weather. Write as much as you possibly can. Life’s going to get rough, and without your 100%, my past is your fate.

Dear 8th grade me… Do your homework. Go to therapy earlier than junior year. Learn how to cope with the curveballs that are coming your way. Lean on Erin, she’s the only one who stays all four years of high school and beyond. Enjoy being young. And if you ever need me, you can always find me within yourself. Stay unique girly. Rock that multicolored fake hair piece no matter what your friends say about it.

Love,
Me