Category Archives: mental health

Creative Survival


It has been over a month since I got my official diagnosis. As you may remember, Dr. P was toying with the idea that I’m bipolar. She had said, “I’m not ruling out the possibility.” To me this meant that she wasn’t sure.

During my final appointment, she decided what to write in my chart, what advice to give my primary care physician. As she explained it to me, I did not have enough symptoms for a definitive diagnosis of bipolar II. She stated that my doctor and therapist should continue to be watchful for any mood cycling, and if does occur, she suggested a mood stabilizer to add to my daily cocktail. Basically, I’m a borderline case, someone who is right on the edge of the diagnosis, dancing precariously on the side of anxiety disorders mixed with depression.

Here is my official diagnosis:

Depressive mood disorder
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Social Anxiety Disorder
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Honestly, this all sounds right to me. Just looking back over the years and the experiences I’ve had, this mix makes sense. Not that bipolar doesn’t make sense, just that I always defined my “cycling” as long patterns of chronic depression, broken up by uncontrolled anxiety attacks, which on one occasion included “psychotic” features (meaning dissociation and hallucinations).

As I explained to Dr. P, I allow the stress to build to the point that my mind forces me to take somewhat of a vacation. It’s a survival response, although many would call it crazy.

Now, to continue on my path of getting healthy, I need to make sure that I continue to take my medicine and not allow myself to get fooled by the notion that “oh, I’m okay now.” I’ve done that before, and the result has been less than attractive. I’m also continuing therapy with Dr. F, changing my lifestyle and most importantly, being more aware of my physical responses to things, particularly when I begin experiencing signs of a panic attack.

This is the course of action I’m taking. Not just medicating myself, but looking for ways to prevent these responses before they happen, to get at the root cause and placate it. This approach has been working well for the anxiety. Not so much for the depression. It seems that medicine is the only thing that helps with that darkness.

The Cauldron is Brewing


There is change on the horizon. It may be slow, but it will be glorious.

I’ve been writing, getting healthier (have lost 30 pounds) and forming ideas for an epic venture for all of us to enjoy.

Much of this stems from the fact that I realized that when it comes to my day job, I don’t love what I do. I don’t love my environment. In fact, I consider my current work situation to be untrustworthy and unhealthy. It’s beyond time for change.

When thinking of what I want to do in the future – aside from writing, of course – I know that there has to be a teaching aspect. I once received a tarot reading where the person told me that at my core I am a teacher, and whatever I do in life, I should never stop teaching. It’s the reason why the majority of my professional career has been in training and development – I’m currently an Instructional Designer, developing eLearning courses for a large company. So with these new ventures, I’ll most certainly devote much of it to a learning aspect.

Speaking of tarot, although I have not mentioned it before, as a writer it’s time to come out of the broom closet. Yes, I am Pagan. I have practiced various forms of Paganism for over 26 years. I embrace the word Pagan because not only am I a country dweller at heart, labels such as Wiccan never felt right to me. But that’s me. And these are things that we’ll all explore in my new ventures. I will post more when plans are closer to being finalized.

Thanks to everyone who has been supportive during these trying months. Your kind words have impacted me more than you know. Blessings to you all…even to the haters.

The Deceiver Gets Deceived


I don’t know how, but I know when. Everything changed for me, and not in a good way. I had almost one year of a life I thought unimaginable…then it slipped away, taking a piece of me with it. Hollow. Like a part of my essence, my soul had dimmed to nothingness, vanished. And I don’t know how to get it back. 

As stated in previous blogs, I struggled with a darkness that pulled me into romanticizing death as the only one who could want me. From an early age I began believing that my own father didn’t even want me, much less any other man. Add to this my struggles with weight and the gnawing, agonizing belief that I was completely unattractive…I began to accept that I would never be loved by another. Not that I couldn’t fall in love. I was actually capable of feeling so deeply that I could drown in it. No, it would never be returned.

Then he happened. My high school boyfriend. Tall, broad shoulders, extremely good-looking, creative and spiritual. More amazing, he seemed to like me. I more than liked him. For the first time in life, at the age of eighteen, I kissed someone and there was such an electric charge that I felt it all over, my knees buckling. I had never experienced anything like it. And it was with HIM. A totally HOT football player. And me. A nerdy, unattractive, overweight, gracefully-challeneged nobody. He kissed ME. How in this world could this be happening? Why would someone so hot want to touch ME? Be with ME? Kiss ME? Could it be that what I had thought before was an illusion? Men really could find me attractive and want to be with me?

I felt like all of my hopes and dreams had come true. I had hit the jackpot! I never thought I would ever connect on an emotional and physical level with a guy, much less someone who should have been dating the head cheerleader. Someone so awesomely attractive that I would be the last person he would look at. But it was real. We were together. And for that one year, I came out of the darkness…at least part of it.

I cannot begin to describe the depth of love I had for him. Words just seem so inadequate, like no description could do it justice. I was in so deep, that when he was away, I physically ached. There was a heaviness in my chest, a pressure, making it hard to breathe. There was one time he went to visit family up north. I wouldn’t be seeing him for a while, and in those days, we wrote letters. I read those letters over and over again. I didn’t want to be around anyone else. All I wanted was him and me together again. A piece of me was up north, and I actually grieved. The only solace I could find was looking up at the night sky, gazing at the moon, and knowing that the same stars were twinkling down upon him.

When he returned, all was as it should be again. When I was with him, the rest of the world fell away, and there was just us. Public displays of affection were common, because we just weren’t conscious that anyone else existed on the same heavenly plane where we were floating in each others’ arms. At least, that’s the way it was for me.

I opened up to him more than I had ever done with anyone. I laid myself bare in front of him, confident in the fact that I had finally found someone who would accept me unconditionally. There WAS someone other than death. All the lies I had believed growing up were just that, lies. I felt so comfortable in this – that my prayers had finally been answered – that I shared a secret with him. Something that I had thought that I would never tell another soul. I was absolutely certain that it was safe with him. After I told him, he dumped me.

I don’t know how it happened, why it happened. How could it be? I felt like someone had punched me in the chest and was trying to remove my spine through the front of my body. It was all a LIE. I knew it. There were no illusions, except with him. All those things I grew up thinking about myself, they were true. He didn’t really want me. He didn’t really love me. He could never accept me the way that I am…no one could…I’m destined to be alone because it’s exactly as I feared. When people see the real me, they will run…just like he did.

I lost a part of myself that day. An aspect of my spirit died. I even stopped writing the hundreds of pages of poetry that had been my only outlet and comfort. No passion for life. No passion for death. Just nothingness. 

For the past twenty years I have tried to get the passion back. To feel that deeply for something – to feel the way I did with him, or even as deeply as I did when embracing the darkness. But it’s gone. I don’t know how to revive that part of myself. So I go on living, doing what I think I have to do…just existing, taking the joy where I can get it. It has never been enough. Not enough to get me out of bed in the morning or keep me from having nightmares at night. 

I never knew that unconditional acceptance again until I had my daughter. That’s all I’ve got. But I’m trying. I want to bring the passion back. It’s hard getting over the belief that it’s just gone, never to return. But I’m going to try. It will be painful, and I’m not confident that I’ll succeed. But I have to hope. The pain will be better than this nothingness, blankness…no color…no sound…just gone.

I miss my spark.

What diagnosis?


cartoon+blue+landscape

I have been working with a couple of doctors, seeking a diagnosis to address my anxiety, depression and other issues that I’ve discussed in previous posts. One doctor (we’ll call her Dr. P) said something that I had a rather bad reaction to – “You definitely have PTSD, but I’m not ruling out the possibility of bipolar disorder.”

When I was a college undergraduate, a campus counselor had also suggested that I was bipolar. At first I accepted it, but the more I analyzed myself in relation to the diagnosis, the more I rejected it. For over ten years, I have disregarded this possibility. Until the Dr. P said those words.

As she said those words, tears started to fill my eyes. The tightness in my chest signaled that deep down, I really didn’t want this diagnosis. Not just because I don’t agree with it. It also seems that I have fallen into the stigmatization of bipolar mood disorders. In part I think this is because of the celebrity association I have with the diagnosis. When I think bipolar disorder, one of the first images that comes to mind is Axl Rose. Surely I’m not like that.

As a teenager, I remember reading any article about Axl Rose and bipolar disorder. Friends of Axl commented that you could be talking to him and he’s fine one moment, then the next he has you up against a wall, beating you. Explosive temper to say the least. Like it or not, I can identify with this. I do have a rather short, fiery temper, but as I told my other doctor (we’ll call her Dr. F), my temper is not something that just randomly explodes. Something is said or done that triggers it in me. And quite frankly, I don’t think my unwillingness to put up with bullsh*t means that I’m bipolar.

Dr. P did say that how bipolar is defined now is broader than it used to be. I researched the common definitions of bipolar disorder I, bipolar disorder II, cyclothymia and bipolar spectrum. If one looks at the bipolar I definition which states that you only have to have ONE manic episode in your life, then yeah, I could be considered bipolar. The episode that I had in grad school where my mind basically shut down, and I even had hallucinations…sure, you could consider that a manic episode. 

Still, whether I’m just scared of the diagnosis or overly-self-analytical, I’m still not convinced that bipolar disorder is the issue. In my perspective, I do suffer from PTSD where certain things do trigger certain reactions related to previous trauma. This is something that Dr. P, Dr. F and I all agree on. Chronic depression has been a serious issue since I was a teenager. Even on “normal” days, I struggle with the side of depression that affects motivation and energy levels. Some days it just seems like too much effort to leave my home. On the worst days, it’s too much effort to leave my bed, even to take a shower. When you regularly have to force yourself to do these things, you become quite exhausted. I never have episodes of extreme happiness, activity, rapid speech/thoughts, etc. What I DO sometimes experience is extreme avoidance…specifically with situations that cause me great anxiety. For me, that’s related to an anxiety disorder. 

Stress is something that we all experience. For some of us who have a chemical imbalance, increased stress can completely disable us. In some ways it’s like the depression, but instead of not wanting to leave your home because it’s too much effort, you don’t want to leave your home because of fear. THIS is what I deal with in my life. Even looking at the episode I had over ten years ago that some could categorize as a manic episode, my stress levels during that time were off the charts. I was working more than sixty hours a week and going to grad school full time. If that weren’t stress enough, Andrew passed, which completely devastated me. It was too much to deal with for any one person. Although I was living with someone at the time, she was no real help to me in dealing with these things. So, since I couldn’t deal with it adequately myself, my subconscious mind forced me to take somewhat of a mental vacation by shutting down normal production, tuning out from a reality that my conscious mind could not deal with. Is that bipolar disorder? I’m not sure. What I do know is that at that time, it was the circumstances that were abnormal, and my body saw fit to deal with them in the best way it knew how.

Dr. P hasn’t given an official diagnosis. She wants to talk to me one more time. What this tells me is that even she is not confident that bipolar disorder is the right diagnosis. In processing the possibility, I have come to terms with it. Whatever label you want to give it, I just want to be able to wake up in the morning without fear and happily shower and get dressed for a day that may be stressful, but is nothing that I can’t handle in a healthy way. Is that too much to ask?

 

The Evolution of a Character


cartoon+crows+and+moon

I almost threw “Mining the Dark” in the garbage. 

As you may recall from one of my previous posts, I realized that the character of Emma is highly influenced by my own trials and tribulations. Once I realized that, I somehow thought that the characterization was “fake,” which is odd given that we’re talking about a fiction book. I guess “fake” in the sense that it was too real, too me.

I discussed this with a friend, specifically in talking about how art impacts life and life impacts art. For those of us who are creative, not having an outlet for expression can just about drive you crazy. It should be no surprise that some of the greatest artists struggled with some type of emotional/mental challenges. My favorite example is Edgar Allan Poe. Poe is one of my favorite authors of all time. He, quite naturally, struggled with depression due to the untimely death of his wife, which many have said suggested influenced much of his writing. Another favored author is Emily Dickinson, who was widely known to be deeply troubled by thoughts of death, as many around her died when she was young. Her depression was so significant that as an adult, she became more and more reclusive. And then there is the ultimate example of Sylvia Plath, an acclaimed poet and novelist who committed suicide not long after being prescribed anti-depressants.

Extraordinary artists are all a bit…askew. Given their challenges, they are able to see life through a lens that some find shocking, while others shout, “Yes! I’m not the only one!” They always make an impression, a very emotional one. This type of response is the reason why I always said that I appreciated it when someone hated Emma, because I marvel at the fact that a character I created could evoke such strong feelings in another person. That is, until I accepted that Emma is somewhat an aspect of my own personality. When you hate her, you hate that part of me. Although I may not know you, the thought of that terrifies me. 

I’m embracing the fear. When I was a teenager, writing poetry was a great way to release the pent-up thoughts and feelings that would’ve otherwise consumed me. It’s foolish for me to think that I cannot use my own writing to do the same thing now…and maybe help another person along the way.

Love her or hate her, Emma is here to stay. I’m not throwing out “Mining the Dark.” If anything, I’m more committed than ever in completing the manuscript as soon as possible. 63,000 words and counting….