Life’s Like A Jump Rope: Blue October

Yesterday was my day off and I was on Twitter (as usual), when I saw Blue October tweet that they were having a free show at the Barnes and Noble out in Moneyville. As you know, Lamesville isn’t known for its music draw and the chance to see one of my all time favorite bands in my town for free was not to be missed. So once the traffic died down I put on my Yee-haw Kitty Shirt and started the drive.

It did not go smoothly.

First, I missed my exit. Then my GPS refused to reroute it. Then the map server fell off the face of the earth and I found myself circling a fancy-pants area of town called The Rim. After giggling like a 12 year old boy, I stopped a gentleman in the Bass Pro Shop parking lot and asked him where the hell the B&N was. He gave me some circuitous directions and I finally found my way to the “venue” with only about 10 minutes to spare.

Then there was a line. The upper deck where they were having the show was filled to capacity and they weren’t letting us up. I decided I would have to content myself with just hearing the concert. Then the kind manager let the rest of us up and I squeezed myself in with a bunch of other people, all of whom were taller than me. By some amazing stroke of luck, two people moved a certain way and I was able to see Justin from between their heads.

blueoctober

The set was awesome. I finally got to hear songs from their newest album and the story behind Bleed Out made me get teary. Then he had everyone in the store sing Into The Ocean and I really got teary.

Then I found out they were signing CDs. I immediately ran down to the music department, bought a CD and got my group number (I) for the signing line. My plan was to get some Starbucks, grab a manga, and just chill ’til my group was called. Unfortunately when I got back upstairs I discovered I was in hell. I couldn’t get to the manga. It was behind where they were signing. So I made a new friend. Her name was Alex and she was like 20 years old but we bonded over nail colors and Blue October “oldies.”

When I got up to the signing table, I got the VERY LAST poster of the night. They were all “you’re the winner!”  I was all “What did I win?” What was the answer? “The very last poster!” Which they then signed for me.

swayposter

The signing was great and everything, but the real moment of the night (probably the week or possibly the month) for me came when I got to stand in front of Justin and thank him. Thank him for all the times I felt alone in my mania or depression and his words saved me. Thank him for letting me know through his songs that he had been where I was and was still going as best he could. Thank him for giving me the chance to sing along and know that someone, somewhere knew how I felt.

My voice shaking, I told him thank you. I told him I went through some really heavy stuff last year and that his music helped me through and let me know that someone else had the same issues and was keeping going. Justin shook my hand and told me he was glad to be there for me, then he said the one thing that matters to someone like me and to people with mental illness all over the world.

“You’re never alone,” he said.

How I didn’t start crying right then and there is beyond me. I gripped his hand and thanked him again, then moved along so everyone else could have their chance to thank him. I’m crying right now, though. But they’re happy tears this time.

At this time last year, I was still hiding in my house. I was hearing voices and wondering why I was even alive. I was scared all the time. I never would have been able to put on clothes, get in a car and drive myself to see a show, even if it meant meeting one of my heroes. I never would have been able to see a tweet, toss on a pair of shoes and head to Moneyville. Every day, I’m still amazed at how much I’ve been able to do since then. And through all of it, Blue October has been there to tell me that “Life’s like a jump rope.”

Thank you, Justin. More than I can ever say.

Advertisements

A Kind of Therapy

I have a small dose of happiness today. Mister E and I have decided that once I get into therapy and start getting better, a good idea for me would be to do something out of the house. That involves finding a safe place where I won’t be surrounded by triggers, and where I’ll be able to focus on getting better through helping others.

Our first thought (actually his) was something with animals, but because of everything that’s happened I’m afraid that it would be one big trigger. I’d also be put in a position where there would be the constant possibility of seeing the people who started this horrible chain of events and that can’t happen if I’m ever going to improve. Instead, I want to volunteer at Morgan’s Wonderland.

Photo from Morgan’s Wonderland

Morgan’s Wonderland is one of the bright spots in the town where I live. Its mission is “to establish a special place where smiles and laughter make wonderful memories with family members, caregivers and friends. To build a place where the common element of play creates an atmosphere of inclusion for those with and without disabilities, encouraging and allowing everyone to gain a greater understanding of one another.”

I’ve wanted to volunteer there since I moved here, but because of work I’d never been able to. Now, I can. As an added bonus, the people who did this to me are so self-centered and cruel to those who are different that the idea of such a wonderful park would never even occur to them. It’s not just a safe place for those who come to the park, it’s a safe place for someone who wants to volunteer. Mister E is even willing to take me out there and back.

Provided they’re willing to accept someone with a mental illness to volunteer, I’d really like to help there. I know there’s a possibility they wouldn’t want me because I’m crazy, but I’m prepared for that. It’s worth trying. I think that by helping others, I can get a little better myself. We’re looking at October for me to try.

It’s tiny and it’s in the future, but it’s something to look forward to.

What’s your happy for today? Share it over at Band Back Together!

Psychiatric Meteorologist

That’s what I’m calling my shrink from now on. When I went to see him yesterday he listened to my symptoms, wrote down some things, then said “since you were in a depressive episode for the last month or so, I’m predicting that you’re going to be looking at a manic upswing soon.” Like I should be worried about a low-pressure front or something. I don’t like that much. Drops in the barometric pressure give me migraines.

Sorry. I think this is what they call “deadpan.”

Anyway, I went to the psychiatrist yesterday. He said some things that made me have thoughts for most of the day yesterday. Deep thoughts. Relieved thoughts. Sort of. I’m still trying to work through some of them, so if you’re looking for me to be terribly amusing or snarky today, back away slowly from the computer and come back tomorrow so I can tell you about Persona 4 Arena.

::deep breath::

I now have an official triple diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder I, panic disorder and agoraphobia. Oh yeah, I wasn’t content with being a functioning bipolar member of society. I thought I’d have myself a messy little breakdown with a tidy little psychotic episode on the side, then I’d wrap a scarf around my head, put on my black glasses and retreat gracefully into my home saying “I vant to be alone.”

Or maybe that’s not how it happened at all. Unfortunately, people seem to be of the opinion that it’s exactly how things happened. I’m not sick, I’m lazy. Never mind that I can’t drive anymore, or that I rarely leave the house and when I do it’s clinging desperately to Mister E. Please disregard that talking on the phone to a strange person gives me panic attacks so severe I have to take several pills to calm down. And let’s not mention the fact that I can’t make my body do what I want. I should suck it up, get over it, pull myself up by my bootstraps, and cowboy up because mental illness isn’t really a thing.

I already knew I was agoraphobic. How could I not with all of those things in mind? I even wrote about it on Band Back Together. But there’s something about seeing a diagnosis written on a form that makes it feel real. Like a steel door slamming shut behind me. I’m suddenly trapped by it the same way I’m trapped in my house and in my head. The worst thing is that I know I’m trapped. It would be so much easier if I didn’t.

Movies lie. In movies, the person who is agoraphobic is just a person who has given up and all they need is the love and friendship of the perfect person (often a Manic Pixie Dream Girl or her male analogue) to help them see that life is worth living and they trip along out into the sunshine of a brand new world. In reality, it’s going to take a lot of therapy to get me anywhere near back to normal, which means I’m going to have to find a one-on-one therapist I can trust. That in and of itself is going to be a task.

I think the thing that’s really on my mind is how I’m never going to get better. Shrink wrote on the form yesterday that “the disability is permanent.” Meaning that even if I’m able to function again, I’m always going to be screwed up. There’s never going to be a time I’m not bipolar or have panic disorder, and unlike some lucky people I probably won’t be able to have a normal life.

I’m officially “disabled” now by my mental illness and as much as I would like to let the psychosis take over and crush this horrible self-awareness, I can’t. And it sucks.

Harry Potter and the Nervous Breakdowns

It’s amazing how certain things can send you back to a particular moment in time. There are songs I still can’t listen to without thinking about things that happened in high school, and that was a long-ass time ago.

Five years ago I was working in Wisconsin as a receptionist. It wasn’t the best job, but it wasn’t the worst and it was the only thing I could find there. The only problem was that the office manager was constantly on a power trip, and was absolutely convinced that the only person who could do the job properly was her so she never let us out of her sight. This meant that half the time her work wasn’t getting done, which of course, was our fault. Still, this isn’t an unusual thing in the workplace and I figured I’d just have to put up with it like everyone else. After all, I’d already been there a year and a half.

I don’t remember how it happened, just that it happened. One minute I was doing my job, the next I was being carried out by a couple of my friends while I screamed and sobbed. One thing led to another and before I knew it I was smack dab in the middle of my first nervous breakdown and diagnosed as bipolar. I was drugged up and depressed about this and it was on that weekend that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released.

Special K thought I should stay home and miss the midnight release party but I told him that I didn’t care what happened, I was going to pick up my book. I’d been to every midnight release sinceGoblet of Fire and I wasn’t about to miss it because of something as silly as debilitating panic attacks. Besides, we weren’t bailing on the yearly trip up North so I thought it was only fair that I get to go to the party.

I spent the rest of the weekend reading Deathly Hallows. I didn’t feel like moving or interacting with people and our friends were understanding. They left me alone until I was ready to talk, which meant I basically stayed on the couch with my book and read constantly.

When I finished it, I was at a loss. After I finished Half-Blood Prince I spent almost a week crying over a certain death that I know shouldn’t even be a spoiler issue anymore but I’m still not going to mention because it’s poor manners. Suffice it to say that it was like losing a member of my family and I was extremely upset. I didn’t have quite the same reaction to the end of Deathly Hallows but it still brought up some serious emotions. I felt hollow. Empty. I’d been reading the books for almost a decade and I needed to process the end of the book and the knowledge that I was never going to read a new Harry Potter book. I went outside and I stared at the stars.

It’s been five years since that happened, almost to the day. Five years since the diagnosis and five years since I first knew I would one day be put in the position I’m in now. It all came back to me when I started re-reading Deathly Hallows yesterday and I was blindsided by the emotions and memories.

I’ve been forcefully reminded that I’m no better now than I was five years ago and it scares the hell out of me.

How to Deal With Being Crazy

People have a really weird idea of crazy, because most of them haven’t had any exposure to it other than what they’ve seen in movies, television and books. And though we all know that the media never lies, exaggerates or otherwise gives us the wrong information, mental illness tends to get twisted around a little.

This is what people think crazy looks like.

If you’re thinking “quirky girl crazy.”

Or possibly this.

More along the lines of “batshit crazy.”

Really, being crazy is more like this.

A LOT of this.

The trick is to take your medication. That kind of keeps you from being crazy, at least most of the time. Usually it’s a lot of pills and most of them have shitty side effects. This is the reason a lot of people stop taking them, because they don’t want to deal with the side effects. I personally weaned off my previous antipsychotics because they were too sedating, and the ones I’m on now seem to have less serious effects. But if you take your meds like a good little girl/boy/non-binary, chances are you won’t be quite as symptomatic. Sometimes it takes a while to figure out which ones you need, but that’s part of it.

If you decide not to take your meds, own up to your shit. Hell, even if you are taking your meds and you do something impulsive or criminal – stealing, spending too much money, busting up someone’s car with an umbrella – don’t immediately play the “I’m bipolar, you can’t blame me because I’m off my meds” card. It was your choice not to take your meds, so that is not a valid defense to me.

Another big part of it is not taking shit so seriously. Crazy is not a pejorative term, and every person that calls someone “crazy” isn’t sanity-shaming them (yes, that’s a word someone used in a blog post). Nor is calling someone crazy akin to calling someone a fag or a tranny (another blog). That is an incredibly huge insult to the gay community and I find it offensive, not to mention that it makes light of people who really are being discriminated against and makes light of body shaming. Yes, people with mental illness get discriminated against. Yes, we do deal with a lot of stigma. But as a person who is currently locking all the windows and doors and looking behind herself every four steps, I don’t take being called crazy as some sort of personal attack.

So in conclusion, the best way to deal with being crazy is to take your medication, take responsibility for your actions, and don’t take shit so personally. None of these things are going to cure your mental illness – kind of like being an alcoholic, you’re never fixed, you just learn to cope – but they will make it a lot easier to get through life and make you feel less embarrassed about it. For some people this makes it easier to talk about and thus helps to break down stigma.

And then this happens.

That’s totally me up there.