The Midwife of Mental Health

In a very surreal moment, the kind you only see in movies or on TV, I was sitting cross-legged on the floor of my across-the-alley neighbor’s apartment telling her boyfriend to shut his mouth as I tried to soothe her during a panic attack. I had just hung up her phone from calling her mom and realized I should probably call her best friend back, I had got off the phone with her just a few moments ago and left her likely quite confused.

I have not yet once talked to this neighbor in the last 9 months that I have lived in my apartment. I’ve said maybe 12 words to her boyfriend on two separate occasions – he smokes out on their stairwell so I see him in passing. I was leaving to meet up with a friend at a set time and as I was dragging my stuff out of my place I noticed that my neighbors were arguing – very loudly – I just figured it was the 20-30 something typical couple’s fight of whatever and yeah, yelling’s ok to some people. It didn’t seem to be abusive and I couldn’t make out anything. As I came back out for a second round of my stuff to take to my car it had escalated, I could tell she was sobbing and he was shouting orders about standing up and breathing. He stormed out and I heard him on his phone talking about how she was having a panic attack and he couldn’t handle it. Then she was screaming after him to help her – then she screamed “somebody help me!”

So. . . fuck. . . I gotta do something. The boyfriend was being a dick. I can understand both sides of it because I’ve been on both sides. I’ve had bipolar breakdowns and flipped my shit on a partner before – something which at the time I could not control and was an absolutely horrendous mess. I suppose as a test of if I had learned the lesson life was trying to teach me, I have had the same out-lash inflicted on me. I’ve also had a panic attack and witnessed others try to help me with logic then watched their frustration escalate as their logic or “solution suggesting” failed to improve my condition – which can sometimes even further escalate their reaction to anger.

I believe this boyfriend reverted to the “suggest solutions” then “use logic” and once those two things didn’t work and he didn’t understand why – he flipped and started yelling.

Let’s get something clear. You DO NOT YELL OR ESCALATE when someone is having a panic attack.

If you know someone who has a history of panic attacks, it would be very kind of you to ask them what works FOR THEM when they are having an attack. If they prefer to be left alone – then you leave them alone. If they say they prefer to be left alone when they’re not in a panicked state then once the attack hits and they decide they want you by their side – you go be by their side.

I’ve learned these things (through research and experience) and as a completely unrelated bystander I was much better suited to help.

I knocked on their door – kind of terrified actually – and the boyfriend automatically started talking about whatever whatever at me but I went straight over to her, she was slumped over on the floor, leaning against the couch. I shushed him as he kept trying to explain her panic attack – I DID NOT need him to mansplain HER panic attack – I also didn’t need to escalate or assume anything so I just shushed him and focused on her.

I don’t really do touchy-feely stuff unless I’m in a relationship with someone. Even my BFF gets hugs but like, not all the time. This poor girl though, I just instinctively started rubbing the back shoulder blade area and I might have called her sweetie? I never use names like that. She was hyperventilating and asking to call her mom – she was on the phone with her best friend but hung up. I called her best friend back and explained who I was, and decided to call her mom. I assured her best friend that I wasn’t leaving until her mom arrived. Meanwhile the boyfriend was still talking at us – I don’t know their situation and I’m sure he meant to be helpful but no! I did ask her if she wanted water and when she said yes he went and got her ice water, so that was very nice.

I called her mom and explained who I was (this was so incredibly surreal – “Hi, I’m Jessie, your daughter’s neighbor. She’s having a panic attack. Can you come over? She’s asking for you. How far away do you live? Ok, I’ll wait here with her until you get here.”

It took her mom about 15 minutes to get there. In that time I called my neighbor’s best friend back and told her what was happening, I met the neighbors’ cats and learned that they all (the neighbors and the girl’s best friend) think my cat is very pretty (I’m assuming they see her in the window all the time), the boyfriend is bipolar (it was his excuse for not handling the attack well, I said NOPE! I’m bipolar too and that’s no excuse not to put your own shit on hold to help your partner), and I was remarkably composed for such a weird situation.

When I was rubbing her back I was gently saying that panic attacks, and mental health, are not things we can control and are not our fault. I might have given the boyfriend the stink eye some. But he chimed in with his excuses for not handling it well and how he’s had a panic attack once but then he researched it so he would never have one again. I calmly explained that – there is no logic in a panic attack, you as the partner are there to support the person and get them through it. Talk about solutions for the NEXT TIME when this one has passed.

A very very sweet moment where I felt oddly, proudly helpful – I asked her if she had a blanket or a pillow or some stuffed animal that really comforted her that she’d like to have. She didn’t really respond but her boyfriend hopped to and asked if she wanted her squishy pillow to which she perked up and he quickly went to their bedroom and got it for her. He poofed it up and helped put it under her head. It felt like he was finally calming down, listening, and maybe picking up on how this whole deescalation thing works.

As I recounted this story to my mom I blurted out that I felt like a “mental health midwife” and that’s exactly what it was. I filled a temporary need, pulling resources together, sharing information that will hopefully stick, and then left when the real players came in to really do the healing work.

I have not yet been back to my apartment today. I’m hopeful that they won’t be embarrassed or weirded out or anything when we run into each other next. This morning was not the time to tell them that it’s my own personal mission to end the stigma of mental health, but I did try to make them feel like I was a judgement-free zone.

And there you have it. A very bizarre Saturday indeed.

 

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Also, just now researching it I feel like “psych doula” should be a thing – so I totally just registered that as a web domain and shall determine the feasibility of inventing it. I imagine it may be much like a life coach. A supplement to legitimate LMHC or psychiatric counseling. #bam

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The White Rose

I promise I’ll be getting posts together on my trip – it’s been insanity since I returned! 

A recent post on Facebook from one of my “conspiracy theory” friends caused a blind rage in me.  He posited that the Holocaust of Germany in the 30s-40s was fake. 

After taking 4 hours to tour the National Holocaust Museum in DC this made me livid with and sad for this person. Are you kidding me? So 6 million people just up and died for no reason? D Day wasn’t a thing? Ugh.

So to counter the negativity of that post I want to share with you the part of the museum that taught me something new and meaningful. 


“The White Rose (German: die WeißeRose) was a non-violent, intellectual resistance group in Nazi Germany led by a group of students and a professor at the University of Munich.”


The museum featured a display of this movement. I knew nothing about The White Rose and reading about it at the museum for the first time just made it that much more impactful. Seeing photos of the members and realizing most of them were barely young adults made my heart swell with appreciation, pride, and a renewed sense of the good of humanity. This was not an easy feeling to come by in this museum.

They created leaflets to spread their message at a great danger to themselves. 

I didn’t want to be a Debbie Downer today but I’m hoping you can take away the message that we CAN make a difference when we come together. 

Perspective: Entitlement vs Gratitude

Here’s how I’m seeing things currently: 

My apartment does not have central AC in Florida, I don’t get paid what I deserve, I was just told by my landlady that she’s selling my place, I have to take medications every day to be at a base level of happy, I go to bed alone, I’m stuck working an 8-5 and trying to figure out a side hustle for the foreseeable future because: bills, I have a car payment now after an accident totaled the car I nearly paid off and loved, I miss my dad, and my level of physical fitness is sad. 

Those are the things I think. 
Here’s what I am constantly encouraging myself to replace those thoughts with: 

I have an apartment that I can afford in a place that I like and enough income to buy fans, I enjoy the work that I do and the people I work with – plus I just spoke up about my rate so I’ve said my belief to the person who matters and we’ll see what happens, there are always housing options – they may not be perfect but they might just be even better, I don’t have to take medications to stay alive – I have learned coping mechanisms and have a support system – it would just be a decrease in quality of life, my bed is empty because I’m waiting for my perfect partner in crime and am done settling (let me tell you it took an embarrassing amount of time to learn that) – plus I have my new kitty Ellie who likes to sleep at my feet, I can see there’s a way out of the corporate grind and I am working my way toward it – in the meantime I don’t HATE my job like most people do, I survived two car accidents in the span of a month – suck it up, I have a mom and a brother that I love and I have so so many good memories of my dad, and DAMMIT JESSIE – you have no right to complain if you choose cupcakes over bike rides – quit making excuses! 
So that’s my little internal monologue of practicing gratitude rather than negative entitlement. 

Put my best foot forward and I’m bound to get SOMEWHERE. 

Right?

Also, here’s my kitty, Ellie, she makes me smile. Even when she interrupts my reading. And my one AC unit, it makes me happy too. 

Why I choose gratitude

This is only my second mobile post so forgive the brevity. I have a point I want to make though! 

A sorority sister,  who I haven’t spoken to in 10-ish years, messaged me on Facebook last night and it just floored me. 

“Hey Jessie! I know we haven’t talked in a while but i like to keep up with my old friends any way I can! I always see your posts about personal empowerment and empowering others! I just want you to know how much I’ve admired that about you since we met so long ago! I know (again from your posts) you’ve had some tough times–I think we’ve all been through the ringer in many ways–but I just adore your positive attitude! You’ve always been a role-model to me in that way! Keep kickin ass girl! Miss you, friend! 

LICO 💜

P.s. Love the Harry Potter post!”

First, I still love Harry Potter as much as I did in high school. 

Second, those “tough times” are WHY I choose gratitude nearly every day (no one is perfect and I definitely let negativity get the best of me sometimes). Knowing the depths of depression and not wanting to be ALIVE gives you a lot of perspective when you recover (it’s still a process and a fight to maintain that recovery). My dad’s death 5 years ago put a lot of shit into perspective too – in the least enjoyable way. 

My point is, try to ACTIVELY CHOOSE GRATITUDE.  Every day.  It’s tough, I know.  Trust me though, it can become a habit (brain rewiring – science!) and it is one of the best things you can do for your health. 

The Flaw Finder

Learning While Adventuring

When I said that my trip was “eye-opening” in my previous post, I was referring to a few experiences, this one in particular.  Let me explain.

Things that I know about myself:  I can be pushy/bossy/stubborn/whatever you want to call it.  I can also be overly helpful when mayyyyybe someone didn’t even want to be helped.  These are character flaws that I have been distantly aware of.

After the corporate training in Baltimore was done for the day (two Fridays ago now), I went out to a local pub, on the suggestion of a friend, and sat at the bar. My plan was to just sit there and eat some food, drink some beer, and maybe, just maybe meet some friendly locals.  Shortly after arriving I met the “friendly local” sitting next to me, a bartender from another place off for the night, who seemed to be friends with the bartenders of this bar.  The two working bartenders, the “friendly local” off-duty bartender, and myself kept jumping into each other’s conversations so I scooted  to the seat next to the friendly local eventually and we ended up talking about his current relationship.

This is a thing I do.  I talk to people about their intimate details because that’s real, I hate small talk.  I ask questions and I love listening.  I love getting to know a person for more than their superficial representations.  Maybe I should be a therapist after all. . .

At first my new friend was just showing me photos and talking about how he and his “lady friend” had plans that night that she backed out of. Me being curious about things that are none of my business (stranger’s relationships), I asked more about how they met and what they like to do in the city.  After some more talking it turns out that the “lady friend” is actually married.  WHAT?  But. . . (it gets better) she got married while he was dating her and he only found out through (getting better. . . .) Facebook.  UMMMM. . . . WHAT?

This sounds like insanity, right? And maybe you’re thinking “C’mon Jessie, he’s just trying to play on your sympathy to try to get with you.” but I assure you that is not what happened here.

He goes on explaining to me the timeline of how all of the insanity went down (which apparently was over 2 years) and 5 minutes in I stop him so I can pull out my travel journal, rip a clean page out, and document this whole mess.  For the next 30 minutes I took notes, in chronological order, on paper, so that he could see – written down – just how ridiculous this all sounded.  “Unsolicited Advice Jessie” was in go mode and he didn’t seem to mind, in fact he’d point out where I could write in other shitty things that happened.

After that unsolicited advice exercise he ended up taking me around to a few other local bars where he knew the people and I met new friends. I took a lyft back to my hotel and he walked home – NO SHENANIGANS.  (ok, but even if there was shenanigans that would be totally fine because I’m my own person and you over there can just calm down)  It was a really fun night out in a strange city thanks to what I’m writing up as, an alright guy.

 

Flaw-Finding

In my venture to figure out what I bring to a relationship and what I want from my next partnership, I’ve been trying to uncover potential flaws of mine that I’m not readily aware of.  My theory behind “uncovering” these quirks is so that I can have an idea of where trouble may arise in a relationship that I can help control on my own part.  And I’m not necessarily talking about FLAWS, because that’s a strong word, maybe just habits that could be taken the wrong way in a relationship?

The day after completing the “why am I with this person?” exercise with my new Baltimore friend (read: complete stranger who knows nothing about me and my plethora of quirks) I realized I had done it again.  I just up and gave my opinion then proceeded to point out how it was right, to an ABSOLUTE STRANGER!  I am aware that my “unsolicited advice” and in turn, my bossiness can come across as rude, domineering, being on a “high horse”,  or simply annoying.  I know, I fully understand.  Where I’m convinced I’m being helpful, others may find me annoyingly bothersome (or, if I find the right person, endearingly misguided??).

 

What to do with your Findings

I’m currently single and still attached to the idea that I have the perfect partner in crime out there (perfect FOR ME! not actually PERFECT) so while I’ve been on the path to figuring myself out, I’ve been looking at what I find from the perspective of how it would work in a potential partnership as well.

In previous relationships I have been woefully ignorant of my own shortcomings and I have dated rather nice people who were either too nice to call me out, tolerated my sh*t, or were stifled by my bossiness and thus never brought these flaws to my attention.  OR, I was just running around with my fingers stuffed in my ears pretending I was perfect despite the shouts from the crowd stating the opposite.  Who knows?

My point is that once these potentially irksome habits come to light in my daily living, I take note of them.  Having a bipolar brain has made it difficult to really take stock of who I am, what I have to offer, where I can improve, and where my best qualities are.  It’s like there’s a constant static around what I truly want to get at.  From the ages of 13 to 29 I lived most of my life in the reactionary mode.  I was constantly reacting to situations rather than actively creating my own situations (or learning to view life differently).  Being successfully medicated for the last 3+ years has given me the space between my thoughts and my actions to step back and observe more, react less.  It’s fantastic.  I’m taking this new ability and using it to better myself, for myself, my friends, and whatever new relationships lay ahead.

I’m finding my potential flaws, assessing them, and figuring out where they fit into my best version of myself – one experience at a time. 

Adventuring for the Introvert – My First Solo Trip

Whew!  I made it!  I am back in the swamp lands of Florida, just in time for tropical storm/tropical depression/hurricane Hermine, whatever she’s been upgraded-downgraded to now.

I won’t go into details in this post, I’m still exhausted, but I wanted to let y’all know that I survived my very first solo vacation!!!  I was in Baltimore for corporate training for 2 days, which I then took advantage of by hopping on over to Washington, D.C. for 5 days to explore.  I’ll be writing more soon once I rest up some more – I’m recovering from a lovely sinus infection that I got whilst running around in foreign allergens for a week.

Anyway, a little teaser. . . it was fun, exhausting, eye-opening, intimidating, heart-warming, clarifying, educational, challenging, memorable, and both too long and too short at the same time.

Hooray!  I did it!  Bucket list item, CHECKED!

adventuring

 

Adventuring

I’m writing this brief little post from my aisle seat on the first flight of my August adventure.  I’ll be getting some training for work today and tomorrow then I’m off to a BIG CITY to explore – SOLO!  I’ve never vacationed solo so this will be an adventure.  I’m nervous and excited and terrified of trying to master public transit. 

I’ll be posting when I return, typing out all the notes I collect in my travel journal and maybe even sharing some photos!

Alas, it’s time for take off!  Wish me safe travels! I’m also terrified of flying!  Gah! YOLO! 

These are my good luck charms.  Don’t judge. 

Swearwords as motivation

If you’ve read my blog in the last couple of weeks you may recall this post here:  It’s a Process – try, fail, succeed

In that post I shared a lovely graphic that I made in the hopes of inspiring you to embrace failure.

Well, after asking a representative at Canva if I could use swearwords in a non-defamatory way with their site to make my graphics, I got just the answer I was looking for: yes.

I bring to you, my motivation through swearwords version of that graphic.  This one should not be displayed on cubical walls.  But definitely text it to your bestie if they’re having a hard time at work.  They’ll appreciate it.

Copy of When you repeat the cycle of is sitting on the other side of fear. (1)

It’s a Process – try, fail, succeed

I made up another thing with words that I thought up.

When you repeat the cycle of is sitting on the other side of fear.

Word.

That’s all I got for tonight.  I’m trying to write about leadership – which is a lot harder than my stream of consciousness!

 

PS – I make all of my little “things” via Canva – it’s an awesome website with tons of free stuff to use.  They don’t pay me, I just don’t want y’all thinking I’m some graphic designer.  Plus, if you wanna make “stuff” like this – you totally can now!

Leap then Look, When not to Consider the Consequences

BEST IDEA EVER!!

I’ve always had a knack for carelessly jumping head-first into whatever grand idea I thought was The Best Idea Ever at any given time.  I would chalk this up to the poor decision making abilities that come with my bipolar, but this goes way back into childhood.  I broke my arm when I was super young, during preschool years, because I absolutely NEEDED to “couch dance.”  This was dancing not just on the couch cushions where one sits, but also the backrest of the couch which is completely ill-advised for a small child.  I was told not to, I didn’t listen, I had an AMAZING time doing it, until – the THUD of my tiny frame came crashing to the ground behind the couch.  The fun was over.  At least until the cast was off.

I’ve never much thought about my ability (or disability, depending on how you view it) to make decisions with my gut and go for them full steam ahead without much consideration until recently.  Being a new member of Toastmasters, I gave my Icebreaker Speech late last year in which I chronicled my “inventive” and “entrepreneurial” spirit throughout my development into adulthood (I went with the fact that I spell my name Jessie with an “ie”).  One of the members commented afterward that she wished she had approached her life like I did when she was growing up.  I didn’t know what she meant because to me, I kind of seem like a hot mess looking back, but she explained that she appreciates my “why not?” attitude about everything.

 

Yeah, WHY NOT?

The woman had an excellent point.  I’ve accomplished a lot of random little victories in my life because I’ve looked at most things with that “why not?” outlook.  Opportunities came up and with little thought I embraced them wholeheartedly and let them play out.  There are times in life when caution is advisable and 100% appropriate, but with a lot of the non-essential stuff, stuff that your heart just whispers to you “Hey, this might be kind of neat to try” why would you stop yourself?  Thanks to my whim-following heart I’ve hosted a radio show in college, been involved in roller derby for 9 years, was the social chair of my sorority, told multiple people I thought they were cute/I liked them (I would say it was a 50/50 ROI on that, I’m way better with rejection than I am with “waiting to see if they make the first move”), moved to Denver, acted in sketch comedy skits, and opened multiple Etsy shops.  These were not things that I thought through.  The idea came to me, or just presented itself all up in my face, and I embraced it.  Some of those ventures failed, some happened and were fun, and some changed the course of my life (I guess all did technically).

 

Leap already!

I’m sure we’ve all seen those articles on our social media feeds that list the “Top 30 Things You Regret not Doing when You’re 70” or whatever, and every single one emphasizes that you wind up regretting the things that you DIDN’T do.  Here is a list of things that I believe you can go ahead and DO, just leap before looking!

Cut your hair, audition for a play, apply for that promotion, SING KARAOKE, ask the cute person across the way to dance, say yes when your friend invites you to try something new, explore that hobby you’ve always been interested in, start saving for that big trip you’ve always wanted to take, just go take that little weekend trip already, try out for the sports team, join an adult recreational sports team, START BLOGGING, raise your hand excitedly the next time you hear “Can I have a volunteer from the audience?”, dance – even if no one else is, go back to school, volunteer your time, write a book, or join a new group a little outside of your comfort zone.

 

 

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Ok, take a peek over the edge real quick, but then leap!

And now, the things that perhaps you should take some time to consider before acting on (because I definitely have one tattoo that I did NOT look into before leaping).

Adopt a fur child, get a tattoo, change careers, move to a new city/state/country, actually go on that big trip you’ve always wanted to take, pop the “big question”, start a business, or go in to the boss person and ask for that raise at work.

 

You do You

Most importantly, you do you.  Speak and act your heart’s truth.  The last thing you want is to go through life regretting chances you didn’t take or the bad choices you did make.  If your gut says “LEAP!  NOW!”, maybe tell your best friend first and see if they offer a parachute or downright refuse to let you get in the airplane – then weigh their input and act accordingly.  Life is way too short to wonder “What if?”