My Mind and the Lack of a Middle Ground

Hi everyone. It has been a while. Nobody likes to hear excuses for anything, and I am included in that, but I would just like to give you a super brief explanation of my whereabouts. I opened a new business, The Witches Abode, and it sure has kept me busy. I love it though. I get to be creative and work on my craft and interact with amazing people on a daily basis. Everything that I have ever wanted as a small business owner is coming to fruition, and every day I wake up feeling more and more fortunate. I also have been working behind the scenes on a super-secret project which I hope to be announcing within the next month or two. Now, unfortunately, with all of this good in my life, there also needs to be some bad, because there always needs to be some sort of balance. 

One thing that is truly starting to trouble me is I feel like I have never been properly diagnosed when it comes to my mental illness. First, I was diagnosed with depression. Then I was diagnosed with severe depression and bipolar disorder. Then I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety. Then, my most recent diagnosis is clinical depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and PTSD. You see, I never thought that bipolar disorder was something that I had because I never really thought that I had manic episodes. I was always just very depressed with suicidal tendencies, but I never went up and down with my emotions. I am starting to realize that maybe I have had manic episodes, but I just never knew what they were.

The past couple of months have been a rollercoaster. I am ashamed to admit that I haven’t been taking my medications, which include Lexapro and Abilify, regularly. I don’t know what it is. I feel like I am starting to feel better so I stop taking them, and then I wonder why I come crashing down. I have started questioning life again. I have started having major anxiety attacks because I feel like I am not doing anything perfectly. I lay on the couch sometimes and list off all of the things that I should be doing but I can’t bring myself to do them. I have thought about self-harming. I haven’t purposely done anything to myself in about a year now, but there have been moments where I was shaking because I wanted to so bad. So instead of hurting myself in a negative way, one night while I couldn’t sleep, I bought a stick and poke tattoo kit. And when that kit arrived in the mail was when I knew something was wrong.

You see, I feel so much pressure that it almost feels indescribable. I am trying to work on The Witches Abode, I am trying to work on my secret project, I am trying to maintain my home and tend to my plethora of animals. I am trying to take care of my husband and try to have a social life that I can be happy with. And I am also trying to take care of myself. Well due to the pressure that I feel and my obvious lack of coping skills, I started to crumble. I became fragile. So instead of hurting myself in a negative way, I started tattooing myself. Then, before I knew it, three weeks went by and I have gained fifteen new tattoos. Fifteen tattoos that I did to myself as an inexperienced tattoo artist. And that is not to mention the three new piercings that I have gotten (by professionals) within the past two weeks. Let’s go back to the tattoos though. Now I am fortunate that I love every single one with the exception of one, and I have already been in contact with my tattoo guy to get that atrocity covered up, but fifteen tattoos in three weeks is worrisome due to what it represents. Each of those fifteen tattoos was done to prevent myself from self-harming. 

I believe that I have been in a manic episode, and I believe that I am finally starting to come down. I have spent money that I should not have spent, I have done things to my body that I probably should have spaced out more, and, to be frank, my sex drive has been even higher than it already is. I just know something is different, and I really think that there is something going on.

I have been talking to my therapist about this, and we have devised a plan to help me with my coping skills. Luckily, I do have a lot of work that I need to focus on, so instead of tattooing myself, I will just work on my business and on my secret project instead. I am behind on my project, so I need to use my time wisely to catch up on that. Also, I have a huge event that I am doing for The Witches Abode in December, and I need to work on that. I also have a new contract as a freelance writer so the assignments will help keep me busy. Luckily, I have work to occupy my mind. 

I think the thing that is scary to me is the fact that I am never just living and enjoying life. I am either so depressed that I can’t leave my bedroom or I am so elated that it doesn’t feel like reality. And when I feel like I am not in reality there is a part of me that tells myself to calm down, but I almost lose control over myself and my actions. It is an odd experience and I feel like a lot of people like feeling manic but I hate it. I hate to not feel control over myself. 

Anyways, I am working towards being more balanced when it comes to my mental illness, and I remain hopeful that one day I can feel somewhat normal if normal even exists.

Lows- Part Two

When you’re about to go into a low, you know. A couple of days ago I woke up and I felt different. For the past few weeks, I had been feeling so great. I felt happiness, a sense of calm, and I found joy. I attributed my feelings from my marriage being in a really happy, wonderful place as well as getting back into writing. I was sleeping again, and I found a balance to keep my life and all my emotions in line. Then, I woke up one morning, and my sense of security was no longer there.

Anyone who knows me knows that Harry Potter is my all time favorite story. I love everything about it, from the silly moments to the lessons that you can apply to your own life. J.K. Rowling, to me, is the beautiful soul who has helped me get through a lot of undesirable life moments. I have watched and read many of her interviews, and I truly can relate to her. One of the things that has always stuck with me is the symbolism with dementors. Dementors in Harry Potter are the guards that watch over Azkaban, and they basically suck out all of the happiness from within a person. Now it is possible for a witch or wizard to ward against a dementor, but the witch or wizard must be very powerful to succeed. In order to be protected against a dementor one must use a patronus, which is essentially powerful magic that takes the form of an animal to act as a guardian between you and the dementor. Now J.K. Rowling has stated on numerous occasions that she has suffered with depression, and the dementors represent depression. The past couple of days I could feel a dementor lurking by me, and I have been trying to be powerful enough to produce my patronus but I can feel it failing. The light that I had been feeling inside of me is starting to dim, and I can feel my soul starting to detach.

I am starting to not feel anything positive. This is the one thing that I hate about depression because you feel hopeless. Anytime something positive happens I lack the ability to really care, because I feel like something bad is going to happen to balance out the good. Every time I do a simple task, like brushing my hair, I feel myself exerting an immense amount of energy to complete that task. I haven’t even brushed my hair today because I couldn’t bring myself to do it. The reality is, I’m slipping back into a low, and as a result I’m slowly turning in to my empty shell of a person. I’m metamorphosing into a zombie a little more every day, and I can feel it happening but it is almost as if I can’t reverse the process. I am losing my strength, so now I am losing me.

Depression comes along with a lot of really fun sidekicks. Insomnia, fatigue, crying, and overeating are all crowded around me constantly pushing me down. My depression is the main bully, but every bully has their goons. Not sleeping regularly is really starting to fuck with my head. It has only been a couple of days and I am already feeling the repercussions mentally and physically. Depression is a trickle of symptoms. Once you start to feel one of the symptoms, you know the other ones are not too far behind. Every time this happens I try to gear up with all of my armor. I try to channel every ounce of energy to defeat my depression before it fully invades me, but it’s usually successful in taking down my blockades.

I don’t know if everyone who has depression experiences it the same way that I do. With me, it’s not intense right away. It slowly creeps up, with every day more and more of me slipping away into the darkness. At this moment I am feeling my depression, but I am still somewhat functional. I am not having suicidal thoughts, so I am not concerned about that right now. But this is the phase that is kind of scary for me because I know what is about to happen. I know that in a couple of days or in a week I will be on my bedroom floor crying hysterically holding on to my dog. I know that I am going to be in excruciating pain, and I am going to question if I want to be here or not. I know my soul will be completely detached, and knowing that is what my future looks like is terrifying. I know myself and I know my patterns, and I know that I can try to deflect the depression as much as possible but once it starts creeping in there is no going backwards. You’re basically forced to take it in, like you’re the host and your depression is the parasite. The more you wither away the stronger it becomes, and you can feel your armor breaking away.

I am not sharing this with you for pity. I am sharing this because this is my reality. This is something that I deal with on a regular basis, and unfortunately I am being forced to deal with it again. There are so many people out there that have depression, and I feel like they are afraid to talk about it like I was. Because depression is not really talked about, I am afraid that there is a lack of knowledge on what one goes through when they are in the midst of it. I would consider myself successful if I can help everyone understand depression a little bit better, so I am officially inviting everyone into my mind for a better understanding.

I hate mental illness. I hate how it feels like it is entitled enough to invite itself into someones life and take away everything that they are. I hate that it uses torture and pain to get what it wants, to take over you. I especially hate that no matter how many times you overcome it it still comes back for another try to take you away. The best thing you can do is fight it with everything that you have, and constantly tell yourself to stay strong no matter how much strength you lack. Depression is a bully, and bullies never should be given the opportunity to win.

Regrets

I hate when people say that they live a life without any regrets, but only because I can’t possibly fathom how that could be true. There are times, especially when I am in my “lows,” where all I think about are my regrets, and I wish I could change things in my past. I try to look at everything that I do as a life lesson, but damn, some things that have happened really haven’t taught me anything other than I can be an imbecile sometimes.

Most of the regrets that I think about are from when I was in high school. Back then, I didn’t have a filter, I thought that my opinion was the right opinion, and I acted before I considered the repercussions of my actions. I have hurt people with my words, and I have been punishing myself for those instances ever since the moment the words left my mouth. I graduated high school seven years ago, and I still can’t seem to forgive myself and let go of the mistakes that I made back then. Perhaps this will be an issue that I will have to deal with forever, and to a certain extent, I definitely deserve it. I used to act on my anger and frustration, and when I would do that, I wouldn’t care about what harm my words and actions would cause. When someone hurt or upset me, all I would see was blood, and I wanted to hurt people like they hurt me. It was not wise, I was not being logical, and I was just being mean. Grown-up Brookana definitely wishes that I could go have a major talk with teenager Brookana, because teenager Brookana used to be really superb at turning on the “bitch switch.”

I briefly spoke about this before, but one my biggest regrets was how I treated my mom and step-dad. I punished them for years, and as I got older, I knew how to push their buttons better. I was incredibly vindictive, and I wanted to hurt my mom by withholding a relationship from her. I knew my mom loved me, and I loved her, but I was mad at her and I wanted her to know that I was angry. I would ignore her, I would blow her off, and I would leave her out of things that was happening in my life. For example, junior year of high school the journalism team threw the talent show, and I was going to be one of the emcees. It was a big event for me because I was never into sports and I wasn’t apart of any clubs, so my parents never got to see me involved with any school functions. Well anyways, I didn’t tell my mom about it, and she only found out about it after someone else had mentioned it to her after it had happened. That was deeply hurtful for her, but at the time, I didn’t care. I was so cruel to my mom and my step-dad, and I regret that because I hate that I caused them so much pain for so many years. As I have gotten older and as I have matured, I have been able to see them for the people that they are, and my parents are incredible. My mom will have hour long conversations with me when she is exhausted or has a migraine. Last year, I had to have two major surgeries on my hand and my mom flew down to Dallas both times to take care of me. If my brothers and I were on a railroad track with a train heading our way my mom wouldn’t hesitate to push us out of the way. My mom has a beautiful soul, and I can’t believe that I hurt her so badly in the past. My mom is literally an angel in my life, and I love her so much.

With my regrets, I know that I am basically mind-fucking myself every time I think about them. When I think about them I become borderline obsessive, and it eats me alive. I think about all of the scenarios that those situations could have turned into and how I could have saved myself from hurting others. I think about why I lashed out, and why in some cases I completely overreacted. I wonder if my words haunt the other person as much as they haunt me. I wonder if I should reach out to the other person, or if I should pretend like nothing ever happened. I have confided in Stephen about my regrets, and I truly envy his mindset. Stephen has never really done anything to be sorry for, so he doesn’t quite understand why I have all of these ghosts. His advice is to “stop thinking about it” or “get over it” or “that was so long ago, it doesn’t even matter anymore.” Is it bad that I find those statements to be maddening? Like yeah, that’s great and all, and I really fucking wish that I could get over it that easily, but obviously I’m struggling here. Thanks Stephen for your awesome advice, but my obsessive mind won’t let me forget what I have done.

Please don’t judge me, but there have been times where I was driving myself so completely crazy with my regrets that I once looked into hypnotherapy to see if it could help me forget. It is so odd, I can cope with my bi-polar disorder and depression and I can cope with my diabetes, but these regrets are something that I just can’t shake. I don’t think hypnotherapy would do anything to help me, but in a way I am glad that I wouldn’t be able to do it because that would be the easy way out. I made my mistakes, now I need to learn how to forgive myself and to cope with the past.

The truth is, I don’t think that I have ever said or done something that was truly horrible and devastating. The worst thing that I have ever done was to my mom by blocking her out of my life, but we are in such an amazing place right now and we will only continue to grow our relationship. At the end of the day, I actually have learned somethings from what I have done. I have learned how to control my emotions so that if I do need to say something to someone, I can have a clear head space to avoid hurting them. I have learned that not everything that upsets me needs to turn into a battle, because usually when that happens it goes from bad to worse. I have learned that I don’t need to be friends with everyone, because sometimes toxicity will leak into your life that could cause a lot of harm. I have also learned how to reflect on a situation that turned out poorly, and learn what I could do differently the next time.

Honestly, I doubt that people who say that they don’t have any regrets actually feel that way. I mean, if that were true, that is amazing and I would be jealous, but if I were to guess I bet those people just know how to cope with their regrets better than me. I am hopeful that one day I can breath in and then exhale out my regrets, and finally be able to forgive myself, but for now, it is a work in progress.

Suicidal Thoughts

***As a warning, this article is about suicidal thoughts and my experience with them.

PROJECT SEMICOLON: https://projectsemicolon.com/

SUICIDE HOTLINE: 1-800-273-8255

Let’s talk about something that most people try to avoid talking about. Let’s talk about something that is affecting a good number of people, but still people don’t want to talk about it. Let’s talk about about something that is a great fear in peoples lives, so it’s not talked about. Let’s talk about suicide.

I can’t speak for other people who have suicidal thoughts, so I think the best thing that I can offer is to give you insight from what I go through. As I have stated in my previous post, “Lows,” I have bipolar disorder and severe depression. I was officially diagnosed back in high school, but it has been something that I have had to deal with for as long as I could remember.

The first psychologist that I was saw was as sweet as could be. I remember feeling like I could instantly open up to her about everything, and I truly felt safe. She had a way of talking to you that felt so maternal, as weird as that may sound, but it was always just so warm in her office. We would talk about my parents divorce, my misophonia, my goals, my fears, everything. I would look forward to seeing her, because I knew I finally could unload everything that I had been holding in. My first suicidal “event” happened one night after seeing her. I had not been feeling well mentally for a couple of weeks, and it was one of the things where you could feel your soul separate itself from your body. When I get like that, I am aware of what is happening around me, I know who I am, and I know the people that I love, but I feel like a zombie. Everything becomes hazy. I feel like I am an empty shell, and there is nothing to me anymore. I thought about death off and on before that night, but I never thought I would ever come close to doing anything. My mom and I were in the kitchen, and I literally felt as though I were already dead. My physical body was here, participating in life, but my soul, the thing that makes me me, was nowhere to be found. The medicine cabinet was in the kitchen, and I just felt drawn to those pills. I stared at that cabinet for what felt like hours, thinking about what it would  be like to take everything. Would it be painful? How much would I have to take? How long would it take? Is this what I want? Those were just a few thoughts that were going through my head. After sitting there, I got up, went to the computer, and wrote an email to my psychologist. I told her what I was feeling, what I wanted to do, and that I was scared but I felt like I couldn’t go through this anymore. After I sent it, I didn’t feel sad, angry, or relieved. I didn’t feel anything. I think I went up to my room after that, and I laid down on my bed. The pills were still on my mind. Death was still on my mind. I don’t know how much time passed from the moment I sent the email to when my mom came in my room. She looked worried. She had just gotten off the phone with my psychologist, and wanted to check on me. It was decided that I would not be attending school the next day, and that I needed to go see a doctor. I felt like I didn’t sleep at all that night. It felt like every ten minutes my mom would come in my room and put her finger underneath my nose to check if I was still breathing. I pretended as though I was asleep, but I knew she was there every time she came in. The following morning my mom had informed me that she had spoken to my endocrinologist and he wanted me to be taken to a hospital immediately. So my mom, step-dad, and I went to a hospital and went into a little room and waited for a doctor to come speak to us. When someone eventually did come in, they started asking questions about what I was going through, and then they started talking about how while I was there I would still be able to work on my schoolwork. That was when my mom freaked out a little bit. She was under the impression that we were just going to talk to someone to see if I could get more help, she did not want me to be admitted. So we got up and left.

The next few years was a giant cycle. For a couple of months I would be okay, just skating on through life like anyone else, but then, just like clockwork, my soul would detach. Junior year of high school was when I officially had to be admitted to the hospital. This time it was my psychiatrist that wanted me to be admitted, so for six days I was a patient at a psychiatric hospital in Rockford Illinois. It was hands down one of the worst experiences of my life. I was terrified every second that I was there, to the point where every time my family came to visit me I would be crying hysterically for them to take me home. I wasn’t getting help, I wasn’t feeling any better, I just felt like I was in prison. I couldn’t bear to be in that place for much longer, so I learned how to be manipulative so I could convince them that I was fine. In hindsight, I should have been there a lot longer than six days. But it was an environment that I did not feel safe or comfortable in, so it was doing more harm than good.

I never have been powerful enough to just will the suicidal thoughts and depression away, and I know that I will never be. Mental illness is a part of me, just like my diabetes. I do what I can to cope with it, to control it to the best of my abilities, and to get through it, but every time I’m in low, it’s just a waiting game to see  how long it will last this time. My most recent low happened a couple of months ago, and it took a lot out of me. If I were to be honest, I think that was the closest that I came to doing something since the first time with the pills. I think the thing that made me reconsider was when I was crying on the floor and my dog came up next to me. I could feel her weight on me while she was licking my tears away, and it felt so comforting. I try to distract myself as much as I can when I’m having my thoughts. That particular night I cleaned and scrubbed every square inch of my apartment. Then, when there was nothing else left to clean, I sat on my bedroom floor, put on my headphones, turned on Falling in Reverse, and just held on to my dog. My dog, Luna, is incredibly intuitive, and she always knows when something is wrong with me. We have such an amazing bond, and I really think that she gives me strength when I am in a low.

Every person has their own way with handling things. My way is the right way for me, but it’s not going to be the right way for everyone. For me, when I am in a low, I know how to mask the pain that I am feeling. I guarantee that if I didn’t tell people what I go through then no one would ever know. But after all of these years, I’m sick of hiding this illness like it’s a shameful secret. I shouldn’t need to feel ashamed or suppressed because of the fear of how others would react. I have had people tell me that I am crazy, that I need to just get over it, and that I am dragging other people down with me. But the thing is, I am not crazy. I work hard every day to cope with my mental health. And the absolute LAST thing that I want to do is drag people down with me. I know that this is my battle, hell I have been battling this for most of my life, but every time I come out of a low and I am still alive and breathing, I feel as though I just added another piece of armor to myself. A little less than a year ago I added something to my body to help me when I am in a low. I got a semicolon tattoo, and every time that I am in a low I hold on to it to help me realize that my life doesn’t need to end yet. The semicolon tattoo is actually from a project called “Project Semicolon.” It is to bring awareness to mental health and suicide. I will set up a link to their website, and you should really take a look at it.

One of the last things that I want to say in this article is actually a favor that I am going to ask of all of you. When someone is in a low and they come to you for help, please don’t turn your back on them. If they are expressing to you that they are feeling suicidal and you try to change the subject or avoid it because you are uncomfortable, you are not only doing an injustice to them but also being incredibly selfish. You might feel uncomfortable with the topic, but imagine the pain that they are feeling. It takes a lot of courage to realize how bad of a place you are in and to ask for help, so please, just do your best and help them. Hold them. Tell them that you love them. Give them strength. Make them see their worth. Please don’t ignore their pain.

I hope I gave some sort of insight to what it feels like to be in a low. Just remember this: just because you may not be able to see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there.

PROJECT SEMICOLON: https://projectsemicolon.com/

SUICIDE HOTLINE: 1-800-273-8255

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Lows

I was diagnosed with severe depression and bipolar disorder many years ago, and it has been something that I have had to cope with ever since. I have been on countless medications, I have seen many psychiatrists and psychologists, and I have been hospitalized. No matter what was done I always felt miserable. There is an unsettling feeling when you are about to go into a “low.” I feel as though my symptoms are pretty textbook. I could get ten hours of sleep one night and wake up feeling like I didn’t get one hour of sleep, or I just wont sleep at all. My suicidal thoughts take over me, and I often think about if I am capable of actually following through with my plan. I eat more than anyone should possibly eat in a day, and those are just a couple of things that happen when I’m in my low stage.

I hate when people tell me that I need to just get over whatever is bothering me, or that I am not being strong, or that people have it worse than I do. A lot of times, when I am in a low, there really isn’t anything that is bothering me, it is just an overwhelming feeling of sadness that takes over me. Every feeling of happiness is gone and there isn’t a light in plain sight. Hope is nonexistent, and I think that is because I lack the energy in every aspect to hope for the best when I feel like everything that happens happens to chip away even more at my soul. When it comes to being strong, I don’t think I lack strength when I am in my lows. I actually feel like in those weeks or months I am at my strongest. When I am feeling suicidal, there are moments where I think about how glorious it would be to not feel this crippling pain any more. All I would have to do is follow through with my plan and it would all be over. In those moments where I am having those thoughts, where I am basically talking myself into doing something so drastic, that’s where I have to turn to myself and say “Brookana, that is not going to happen today. Give yourself time. This feeling is only temporary.” The strength it takes to get yourself through that, to stop yourself, to realize that maybe that is not the path that you want to take takes a lot out of you. And even though it takes a lot out of you, you are also building yourself up because you are saving yourself. Who needs someone else to be your hero when you can be your own hero? I know that people have harder lives than I do, but with that being said, that doesn’t mean that my pain becomes invalid. Unfortunately, this is chemical. This is involuntary. I highly doubt that anyone would want to experience this dismay, and if they did, well, I would feel awfully sorry that they would want to do that to themselves.

The thing that I have had to learn throughout the years is that my depression and my bipolar disorder does not make me selfish. It does not make me any less of a human being. It does not make me weak. It makes me realize that I just have to work a little bit harder to try to achieve a life that I am satisfied with. I don’t know if it is possible for anyone to ever feel constant bliss, but I would like to be as close to that as possible. There are going to be trying times in life, times where you feel like you are repeatedly getting kicked in the stomach, and every time you feel like you can breath again you get thrown down and kicked again, but that is when you have a choice to make. You can let whatever the issue is become dominant in your life, and you can just settle for what is instead of thinking about what could be. OR you can learn from it and prevail, and try to do whatever it takes to turn that situation around and better yourself. Everything that you are today is from a choice that you made in the past, so instead of always focusing on what is happening in the moment, think about the future and how it will be affected by whatever you decide now.

I am alive today because I choose to be. I am alive today because I have more to live for. I am alive today because of the effort that I put into my well-being. I am so proud of myself when I overcome my lows, and if you have gone through any, you should be proud of yourself too.