Bad Spells, etc. (Pt. 2/?): How

Alright then, the “How”. Kind of.

First,  you drink a lot of tea. From your favorite mug. Herbal stuff, because of that caffeinatedanxiety thing. Or cocoa I suppose, if you’re one of those non-tea drinkers.

I say kind of because coping with shitty circumstances is never going to feel good: there is nothing that I know of that will take something that is a) hard and b) necessary and c) uncomfortable, and make you love doing it. And if you find it pretty please let me know?

I love to write–putting down my thoughts so that I can see them, read them and process them linearizes my thinking. Things aren’t this vast tangled web, and I can figure out what I’m actually thinking about and what I actually want, need, and feel. In fact when I’m manic there is almost nothing other than knitting and writing that actually helps me stay calm, or in one place. But writing this thesis: the first long writing piece I’ve had to write about the technical/mathematical craziness I love that is physics, has been hellish.

The other aspect to this that has taken a little while to understand and move past is that it truly knocked my confidence in my recovery. I thought I was a bad ass, honest, leave everything on the table, speak my feelings, recovery oriented ninja and then suddenly I was skipping meds, missing class, missing meetings with my advisor, neglecting myself, and my pets, and generally avoiding anyone who cared enough about me to question the mess that things were obviously becoming.

It turns out that the way I got things to start to come back around was the same way I’ve done so in nearly every other aspect of recovery: find people who I trusted to help me figure it out, spill my guts…

…(be incredibly grateful when they don’t judge me for avoiding everything and everyone and also for helping me come out of the panic attack that inevitably comes up)…

…make a plan, and execute with much communication and help.

For someone who tells those who honor me with their trust, and ask for my advice, that mental illness is physical illness: that it’s physical illness of the brain, and that they don’t need to feel ashamed for needing help, it was a bitter pill to swallow when I had to give the same talk to myself.

In my case this time, I was lucky enough to be at a small, liberal arts college where all the professors in the department know me, and know each other. My advisor reported concern, and I had to face up to the mess I’d been shoving under the rug all term. Since that happened, I’ve started making progress on my thesis again. It isn’t going to be what I wanted, or what it could have been, but that’s something for radical acceptance: I’m hanging onto what one of the lovely people told me when I asked for advice (they work for the college): “The best thesis is the thesis that is done.”

In the spirit of getting all the shit done, when everything is shit, please find below my attempt to distill my experiences here into some general to-do’s for the next time this happens.

And yes, if you know me in the real world please feel free to smack me upside the head with this if I pull a vanishing act on you.

  1. Find someone who you trust loves you enough to call you on your bullshit. Talk to them, tell them what is in your head, and then ask them to help you make a plan to get back above water.
  2. Spread your plan out, and make sure you’re not overloading yourself. It’s not going to do any good if you panic about your plan, and then feel shitty for not doing it “right”.
  3. Drink a cup of tea. Breath. 
  4. Ask your someone if you can check in with them, and if they don’t hear from you if they can check in with you. Feel that other people around you care, and that you aren’t alone in this.
  5. Get shit done. 

Treat yourself as kindly as you would treat anyone else who is feeling like you are. We’re all human here.

My thesis is due on the thirteenth, for better or for worse. A thesis that is the best I can do under the circumstances is better than a thesis that never appears. People are here for me. I’m not alone in my shit. You also, are not alone in whatever shit is going on in your life.

When mental illness rears back up it can really feel like it’s life interfering with the mental illness rather than the other way around. Remember in the midst of that, that you are a person with a mental illness and not reducible to it. We’re all here, dealing with our own shit, and rooting for you.

Until next time,

Kerry

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On Mental Health Awareness Month

One thing I always wonder about is what people think of me once they friend me on Facebook. I meet them in person, and we get along well enough to at least want to stalk each other on the internet, and then they come on Facebook and there I am–not hiding my struggles in the slightest.

That’s another reason I haven’t been posting as much–I’ve been meeting people, and for a time I was worried about how they would react. But it’s almost the end of Mental Health Awareness month, and I haven’t done a goddamn thing, and that’s not okay with me.

You see it all the time–those posts that say “The brain is an organ, and gets sick just like every other organ!” And this is true. The false part is though, that its not just an organ–it’s ourselves, in a squishy mass of gray matter. And this makes it more personal.

I saw a statistic today that I disagree with in a big way–“1 in 4 people are affected by mental illness.”

Everyone is affected by mental illness. Maybe not to the same extent as others, or for the same duration of time, but everyone is affected.

You’re affected when you hear about suicide rates, and wonder how anyone “could be so selfish.” You’re affected when you judge people as selfish, or not, for their actions. You’re affected by mental illness because you’re in contact with other people, and have a brain. You’re affected by mental illness more than other illnesses because of its nature–because it’s not just a gene mutation, or a virus (though they may certainly play a role in risk and cause). Mental illness is a fleeting thought turned pervasive and detrimental. It’s good intentions turned bad, and the belief in falsities.

Mental illness exists because people exist, its potential exists in all of us because we all have thoughts, and we all have beliefs and we all try to do what we think will get us where we want to go. We are all at risk for mental illness, and this terrifies people.

But instead of being terrified of the mentally ill, and trying to distance yourself from the notion of being so, do your best to be aware, and supportive. Don’t judge, but recognize that someone who can’t get out of bed truly feels certain that they can’t get out of bed in the same way that you feel certain that you can’t climb Mount Everest: it may be possible, but it isn’t happening anytime soon. Use the commonalities between people as a source of understanding, rather than a source of fear of comparison.

The thing about Mental Health Awareness is that it (like all the other months of awareness) needs to be more than a month of good intentions. It needs to be an accepted practice.

And to all you who may read this who didn’t know about my mental illness before this, I’ll say this again: while I hope your opinion of me isn’t affected by my openness, or by my mental illness, and my past, if it is remember that before you read about it explicitly I was in your mind no different from you–no less normal.

Mental illness affects us all, and is all around us, and it’s time for the stigma surrounding it to drop.

Tough Shit: On Recovery

Recovery sucks.

I apologize, but this is my blog and I’ll whine if I want to and this well and truly sucks. I’ve spent more time today in tears than smiling, and more time in treatment than in school. I’m fighting not to puke up what I just ate, and I’m not going to be able to forget the calorie count for days.

But the thing is, its never going to change. There is never going to be a time that is more convenient to exit your life for a while, and its never going to be easy to say, “Fuck you.” to the concepts and ideas that have been your bible for so long. So why can’t I just fucking do it?

My therapist had an answer today: that it’s hard, and I don’t often do hard things unless I really want to do them. Her theory makes sense, the hardest thing I’ve ever done (other than recovery) is having an eating disorder, and in a weird twisted way I did really want that.

But why don’t I really want to recover all of the time? It would make sense: I’ve got a family and friends who love me, I’m enrolled at a great college with great grades, I’ve got a multitude of bizarre and unexpected hobbies that I love… it should be a no brainer. One way a group leader at my program today said that you can combat an obsession with food, and body and fat is by growing the other areas of your life so that they crowd it out. I’ve done that, so what’s happening?

What’s happening is that my life’s reached maximum capacity, and now I have to shrink the eating disorder or shrink real life.

Like I said, this should be a no brainer. I’ve done the pro’s and con’s lists–they’re all clear. Eating disorder es no bueno. La vie est belle.

But what you have to understand if you want to understand where I’m coming from, or really I would think where any person with an eating disorder is coming from, is that recovery literally means doing what you don’t want to do, 24/7, 365, until you want to do it. As a friend of mine put it, it feels like the treatment team is brainwashing you when in reality they’re just trying to clean the fucking wreck your eating disorder’s left in your brain.

But here’s the thing: there really isn’t any living with an eating disorder. Winning at an eating disorder means dying of starvation, and the only option other than death is “admitting defeat” to your eating disorder, and recovering.

Conceptually I know this stuff down pat. I can spew it to no end, and predict the therapists’ arguments before they say them. But despite knowing that eventually you will have to recover, if you want to live at all, I still find myself putting it off…why?

Because I’m addicted to it, because it’s been there when no one else has, because it tells me in glittering lights that if I just do it right this time that it will make me skinny and perfect and happy.

All of these reasons are valid, and the truth is that I have no idea if any one of them, or even a combination of them is correct. I have no answers for why I continue to believe deep down that my true happiness is hidden inside an eating disorder.

The only thing that I do know is that sometimes you have to go with logic instead of intuition, and that logically I know that if I want more than to be a patient I have to do this shit, and that I might as well do it and get it over with now so that I can get on with my life. No matter the sense of loss, and no matter the loss of identity. Identities are immaterial things, made and changed at will: life is not.

Thanks for reading.