2016 In Review – the Tumultuous First Half

I wanted to recap my year, for my own failing memory purposes, and figured I may as well share with you how it’s all gone down, the lovely as roses bits, the gory murder-y bits, and the sad rom-com bits where they never quite end up together. It ain’t all sunshine and daisies! But in the end, it does all lead to growth and getting to know yourself better. Plus, now there are only a very few ways that 2017 could be worse than this last year – so that’s a bonus!

January – at the end of December I moved back in with He Who Shall Not Be Named across the bridge in a lovely artsy town where I now reside (I reside in the town, NOT with him – eww no, never again). We joined the gym, were supposed to go to Chattanooga to feed red pandas (the flight was canceled due to a huge snow storm, which HWSNBN did NOT take well at all), and I started making crystal pendants with copper tape and solder – finally being creative again.

February – I made up business cards with my fancy DISC certified behavioral consultant jazz on them! I saw a new Rheumatologist who wasn’t much more helpful than the previous one – she still vaguely diagnosed me with lupus and prescribed me the same medication as the previous guy. Because HWSNBN wasn’t asking me to pay rent, I asked my job if I could go down to 32 hours a week – which they agreed to! I used my days off to unpack and start getting a little more creative (but mostly unpack and run errands those first few weeks). HWSNBN and I went to a hockey game with amazing seats. Then I went to a different hockey game with my job people, including the C suite execs and my admin team – I got drunk enough to where it wasn’t wise to drive home, so HWSNBN had to pick me up – this did not end well although I did apologize. That hockey game was on the same day that I got side swiped by another car on my way to work, he just merged into me – like I wasn’t there. HWSNBN and I went to Chattanooga finally to feed the red pandas! That part of the trip, as well as some other little parts, were enjoyable. However . . . a huge blowout occurred when I suspected he was messaging someone and trying to hide it, he then proceeded to “gas light” me and it escalated into how I was being paranoid. Not fun. I started to plot how the hell I could move out when we got back to Florida.

March – I competed in my local Toastmasters Table Topics where I got second place, out of two people! But, I did try and I was proud of that. I got to vote for Bernie Sanders in the primary, which was super exciting. I still love that man. I had my first appointment with my new psychiatrist. On the 22nd, on the way home from work this time, I was rear-ended which then smooshed me into the car in front of me – my car was totaled and I could barely lift my head off of my pillow the next day. I’ve been getting various treatments for the neck and back injuries since, to no real resolution.

April – I was moved on to the second round of the Table Topics contest for my local Toastmasters where I got 3rd place . . . out of three people! I learned that I should make my topic universally accessible – as in don’t just talk about making the world a better place for little girls when the judges are mostly men. HWSNBN and I had a big fight, I don’t even remember what it was about, but he ended up sleeping on the couch, then the next day I discovered he wasn’t exactly faithful so it was time to move out. Rather than giving me time to find a place – I was told that I had a couple of days. Fortunately my brother just moved out of my mom’s house so in a matter of 2 days I moved all of my stuff out of HWSNBN’s place, into my storage unit and a suitcase of necessities into my ma’s, bought a new car (because mine was totaled the month before), and was again picking up pieces after a shit storm caused by trying to help the lost cause that is HWSNBN. Within a week I had found a new apartment in that artsy town! Within two weeks I moved into it (in May).

May – Moved into my new apartment. Had a “second chance” date with “Nice Guy” – someone I had had a crush on for like 3 years (I use crush for lack of a better word, it sounds creepy, but it wasn’t! I just always thought he was super cute and nice)  – that started “a thing”. So many quotation marks – all of which are code for “I dunno, man, it was a hot mess”. I started going out and doing things with people I didn’t actually know that well. Not in a scary stranger danger way, but in a “I don’t actually know anyone who’s going to this well enough to hang out with them, but I really want to go . . . so I’m just gonna go.” kind of way. That was the single best trend of 2016 that I plan to continue for years to come. It was the bravest activity I’ve forced myself into. Anyway – I went to a fun arcade place in another town with a crowd I don’t know that well and I had slightly awkward fun trying to make conversations with people my age. I hung out regularly with the Nice Guy and it was nice (I liked him). I launched an employee engagement effort at work where I talked to every employee one on one to get feedback – it was exhausting and fulfilling and I finally felt like I was contributing. I GOT A CAT!!!! Ellie, a Siberian kitty, needed to be rehomed and since it’s the only breed I’m not allergic to, I jumped at the chance. She’s three years old and the perfect combination of a total bitch and an adorable fuzzball of cuteness. I love her to pieces.

June – June was a whole lot of NOPE. A whole lot of it. I went to the beach with a new group of friends, one friend from roller derby and a bunch of her friends – which was fun. Then I got completely and unfairly overlooked for a raise at work. It was blatantly discriminatory and possibly even meant to get me to quit. Work took a serious turn for the worse – meaning, where I spent EIGHT HOURS A DAY, FIVE DAYS A WEEK became soul sucking more than I could have ever imagined. Nice Guy and I had spent May hanging out, then we learned that he wanted biological babies while I wanted to adopt – this turned out to be a deal breaker but for some reason we kept going. Well, June was the breaking point. He invited me to spend his birthday weekend at the beach with him and his friends, knowing that it would be “just for fun” – ok, sure, why not? Welp, during that stay the Pulse shooting happened. I found out in the morning from the news on the tele and I just started crying – I’m not good at processing things or letting things out/talking about them. Pulse was a place I called my own in college (I went to UCF). Going to that gorgeous club with its fun décor, bright lights, dancey music, complimentary patrons, and incredibly welcoming atmosphere was such a change of pace from the dude-bro clubs that lined Orange Ave. I never once worried about roofies or getting grabbed or hit on or even just annoyed. My friends and I would go to dance and be ourselves completely. And that morning, while staying at a hotel on the beach, I found out that more than 50 people were shot there, in a place that so many people called home. I shut down. I’m still shut down from it. The beach weekend continued – a lot more muted. Then the day after we were back, I went to his place to “break up” – that weekend showed me how much I could like him and if we were just going to break up eventually because I didn’t want to bring a bipolar baby into the world (and have to go through a bipolar pregnancy) I didn’t want to get more attached. Ugh, he said he called me his girlfriend for the first time to the maids (he’s an oddly adorable Nice Guy) and we agreed to postpone talking until I got back from my planned trip to visit my BFF in NC after I texted him. My trip to NC to visit my BFF was amazing – we just did leisure activities – hiking, tubing, dining, drinking, chilling in hammocks, and mostly talking. It was so so so needed after hearing about Pulse – it was one of our favorites. I discussed Nice Guy, she asked me what “my type” is and I realized I have no idea. It was a good trip. I came back and asked Nice Guy when he could meet up – he picked his birthday – that wasn’t my choice! I asked at the end, since we had planned to talk when I got back, and I thought that was the plan, if he still wanted a biological baby and I don’t think I ever got an answer other than it wasn’t really the right time to do that. Oh man – I’m really not the best with timing or patience or any of that. On MY actual BIRTHDAY (ok, the day before) it was the gay pride parade in my town and my friends (the roller derby girl and her crew) came over to my place to hang out before going to check it out. It was fun and loud and so colorful and full of love. They had a dedication to the Pulse victims at the beginning and you could tell that everyone had so much more appreciation for each other – or maybe that was just me. Then the next day on my REAL birthday, I went to Orlando with my ma to visit a couple of friends living there so I could see them for my birthday. I got to meet a friend’s brand new baby – he was adorable, and her toddler girl who is hilariously awesome. My other friend had her baby shower – zombie princess theme – and that was fun to bring my ma to. After that trip, I realized that I had done the same with having a baby that I had done with having a cat for my entire life. Ever since I learned I was allergic to cats as a kid I decided I hated them – you can’t miss out on having a cat when you hate them, right? Being bipolar, I assumed I shouldn’t actually produce a child – I should be on my medications and I shouldn’t be passing on my bipolar to a kid – so therefore, how can I regret wanting to adopt when I really shouldn’t be birthing a baby? Well I researched it and discovered that biological babies and bipolar are doable. And thus a whole new conundrum appeared.

And there you have it! The first tumultuous half of my 2016! It was a bit messy (a lotta messy) and I would probably skip some parts if I could, but the latter part of the year wasn’t as bad so I suppose it’s a wash in the end. I’ll be posting that wrap up later this week!

My Vision Statement – She Should Run

Hello everyone!

I’ve been immersed in several useless wastes of energy lately that I’ll be struggling to wrangle into order so that I can start 2017 off right. Fuck 2016, amirite?

One very cool thing that I’ve started is the She Should Run online incubator which is one of the most exciting things to come of 2016.

Lesson 1: Develop Your Vision for Making an Impact

I wrote about 6 versions of this before finally just releasing it into the ether of the internets. I had to let it go in order to move on. I wanted to share what I came up with though because it applies to my blog (it mentions my blog!) and I spoke from my heart 100% – as I feel I do in this here space as well. Please feel free to read at your leisure and comment if you can suggest any edits that may make this vision statement more powerful for a political campaign-type purpose (I’m not running any time soon or anything, but I might as well start getting feedback now!).

 

In 2014 suicide was listed as the 3rd leading cause of death in youth ages 10 to 24 and 90% of those who died by suicide had an underlying mental illness.*

In 1999 at the age of 15 I attempted suicide because I could see no escape from the emotions that I felt trapped within for over 4 years. Because of this attempt I was committed to a psychiatric facility where instead of taking the opportunity to heal I continued to lie to my family, my treatment team, and worst of all, myself as I stood my ground in declaring that I was perfectly fine; there was nothing wrong with me. I grew up in a middle class nuclear family with as much privilege as you would imagine a Caucasian girl in the suburbs would have. Because I was aware of this privilege I struggled with asking for help when I needed it. Who was I, someone who had two working parents and a decent path to college to cry over what seemed like nothing at all? Who was I to refuse to get out of bed every morning when I had a bed in a good neighborhood? Who was I to be sad when I had nothing justifiable to be sad about? I felt so much shame not only for harboring a mental illness but also shame for not wanting to exist when I had so many more reasons that I should be grateful and not miserable.

I suffered my bipolar disorder for 8 years after that suicide attempt before I would admit to a licensed professional that I might need help. That was 8 years of quitting jobs abruptly, arguing with partners over nothing on any given day, losing the respect of my friends, and allowing my self-worth to wan and wax with the cycles of my bipolar; all because of the shame and stigma that went with it in our culture. At 23 I began seeing a therapist and psychiatrist but it still wasn’t until another 4 years later that I actually took my mental health care seriously.  Finally, at the age of 27 I started treating my bipolar like a diabetic would their diabetes; monitoring my medications and my reactions to them, checking in regularly with my physicians, I recruited my close friends to be my support team, recording my symptoms and how they change, and taking it seriously as a life and death matter because it truly can be.

I didn’t talk openly about my bipolar to my friends, family, and previous partner until 3 years ago after I had sought out serious treatment. I was embarrassed that I knew something was wrong that entire time and had failed to do anything about it. I was embarrassed that I had a “mental illness”. I felt like I was now certifiably defective. In reality I had played into all of the damaging stigmas of mental illness and because of that I suffered needlessly for far too many years. It has taken me a very long time to embrace who I am, to openly admit my mental health struggles, and to say that I have something of value to offer my community because of these things.

In November of 2015 I joined Toastmasters in an effort to learn to speak publicly about mental health so that I can help make this a topic that we aren’t ashamed of. I want someone who is struggling at the age of 15 to identify their feelings of total apathy and emptiness as possible depression and be comfortable talking to their school counselor about it. I want us to have conversations about mental health just as we do about physical health, because there should be as much shame about anxiety as there is about a broken arm, which is to say none.

In this past year I’ve shared my story through social media and on a blog that I write somewhat regularly. I’ve been messaged, retweeted, tagged, emailed, and continue to received heartfelt comments expressing gratitude for my candid approach to discussing my own struggles with mental health. There are people all over the world who have not yet found a way to get over the stigma of mental illness and so they continue self-medicating or hide their emotions. I was recently messaged by a reader who said that I inspired them to become more open about their issues with anxiety, and that despite their worries of being negatively received they’ve gotten nothing but love and support from the people they’ve opened up to.

This brings me to why I’m here with She Should Run; I want to help give a voice to those who don’t feel strong or confident enough to be their own voice yet. I want to empower those who feel they don’t have a say to realize that they have much more than they know right now and they have the power to use it for the benefit of everyone in our community. I want to speak up for the homeless, the prison population, the addicts, and the veterans who might not realize that a part of their suffering could come from mental illness. I want to be a part of the governing body that decides to allocate resources to help repair this. I want to fight to end youth suicide due to mental illness with comprehensive mental health programs, especially in at-risk areas. I want to use whatever privilege I have to help those who have less.

 

* Behavioral Health Trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)