Why I Would Make a Bad Scientist

Based on my current life circumstances, I have concluded that I would be a bad scientist. This would be me:

Real scientist: Hmmm…I believe the gas bubbles in this beaker are because I just mixed baking soda with vinegar.

Hazel: Are you sure?

RS: Excuse me?

H: I’m just saying…it could be that, but it could be any number of things. I think I saw some dust falling from the ceiling when you put that baking soda in. Maybe it was asbestos. Does asbestos cause a reaction with vinegar?

RS: I don’t think so…

H: Ah HA! You don’t think so. So there’s a chance.

RS: No, I’m pretty sure it was because I put baking soda in with the vinegar.

H: Do you know if that beaker was clean? Maybe there was residue in there from the last guy. Was Frank working in the lab earlier? Everyone knows Frank is a slob. He probably left something in there, and it had a delayed reaction with the vinegar. Aw, Frank. At it again. Someone’s really got to talk to him.

RS: I cleaned this beaker myself.

H: Have you been hanging out with Frank? Maybe his slobby ways have rubbed off on you. You have to be careful who you hang out with – you are who your friends are, you know. And here you are, saying that the bubbles are from adding baking soda to vinegar, when really the facts that you’ve been hanging out with Frank and that this building might have asbestos could be causing the whole thing. Then you’re going to have faulty results. Such a shame.

RS: But it’s been proven-

H: *shakes head* Such a shame…

Today I’m having one of those days – an “I probably don’t have bipolar” day. I’m stable right now, you see, and probably all of my past symptoms could be explained by other things. The decisions I made while manic were because really I’m just very stupid sometimes. I could function with no sleep for days on end because, well, who doesn’t do that once in a while? Talk to college students in finals week.

Sometimes I get depressed because, umm…because life sucks sometimes.  I just handle it a little worse than other people. That doesn’t make me bipolar, it makes me…I don’t know. Something else. Bad at handling life.

As for the delusional panic attacks…uhhhh…I’m simply very creative. I think impossible things are happening because my creative mind is not constrained by the dimensions of reality. See? Now, that doesn’t sound so bad. I’m not bipolar, I’m very creative.

Or maybe it’s really the baking soda in vinegar that caused those bubbles.

No matter how much evidence I see pointing to the fact that I prooooobably have bipolar, I still have days where I think maybe I don’t. My husband, in the kindest way possible, will say, “Hazel. I’m 100% sure you have bipolar. You need to come to terms with that.”

And then I’m inevitably all, “Well, that’s awful certain. 100% seems a bit presumptuous. I don’t think we can ever be 100% certain of anything. Are you even 100% sure we exist? Maybe we’re holograms projected by an alien race to test certain sociological and cultural patterns.”

Then he’ll raise his eyebrows and say, “Uh…now I’m 101% certain.”

Haha…that part didn’t actually happen. He does say he’s 100% certain, though. I’ll accuse him of having no evidence, and he’ll give me the following:

  1. I’ve been diagnosed with it by a psychiatrist who’s been practicing for thirty years.
  2. I have experienced every symptom of it.
  3. The medications to target the symptoms have effectively eliminated the majority of the symptoms.
  4. He (my husband) has a doctorate and has taken multiple classes in neuroscience and abnormal psych. My diagnosis matches what he’s learned in school.

To which I inevitably come back with, “Okay yes but what if…” and then come up with some alternate reasoning about as logical as Frank and asbestos.

Does anyone else do this? I think I so badly want to be rid of this disease (what a gross word) that the only choice is to not have it in the first place. If I have it, it’s a lifelong battle. I can’t be “cured.” My only choice is to live with it – forever – or find another explanation for my eight years of symptoms.

Isn’t Occam’s razor the one that says, “The simplest explanation is probably the correct one”? Occam’s probably right, since he’s all philosopher-y and whatever.

BUT IN THIS CASE HE MIGHT BE WRONG.

Maybe.

Possibly?

Oh boy. Help me out, blog friends. How do you get over days like this?

Are You “Fiercely Committed” to Your Recovery?

I like to read the “about the author” portions on online articles. An article I just read on bphope.com described the author as fiercely committed to his bipolar disorder recovery.

This made me wonder – am I “fiercely committed” to my recovery? Are you? If I wrote honestly, my about the author section would read more like this:

“She is recovering, but she frequently sulks about the challenges.”

“She’s doing what she has to in order to recover, but this is super annoying.”

“She takes her pills, but she glares at her pill bottle often as if this whole thing is the bottle’s fault.”

“She’s recovering. Mostly. Whatever.”

“She knows the healthy choices she should make, and she makes them often enough to not go into a full episode (but fudges the rules if she can get away with it)”

“She’s doing what her doctor says, but would prefer to pretend she’s perfectly healthy whenever possible.”

Fiercely committed would look a little different. Case in point: I might be offered a summer internship where the hours could be super weird. My husband said, “Um, that’s a problem…you know an interruption in sleep patterns can trigger episodes.” I immediately said, “No way, I’m fine. I’ll be fine.” *odd look from my husband* “Totally fine. Seriously. I’ve got this.”

Which, who knows? Maybe I would be fine. But does “fiercely committed” go into situations that are clearly hazardous to someone with my condition?

I’ve read numerous articles about the fact that a healthy diet and exercise regimen is essential to mental health for everyone, but especially to those of us with a mental illness.

Here’s the thing: running hurts, and eating cookies doesn’t. Pizza is yummy, and celery isn’t. I would rather sit and read than go “feel the burn” and sweat. Sweating is yucky.

But is any of that fiercely committed? It’s more “let me do the bare minimum to stay mostly stable.” Which, I guess is better than nothing, but…it’s only okay. I shouldn’t settle for only okay.

What have you done to be fiercely committed to your recovery? What inspires you? Because I would need some pretty major inspiration to give up pizza and go running in the snow. Also to turn down that internship (which I am so not going to do if I get it. I’ll be fine. Really).

Looks like I’m not fiercely committed. Hm.

 

They Don’t Like My *AHEM* “Voice”

Apparently I have a bad voice.

I’m not even sure how this is a thing.

It’s my writing voice that’s bad, by the way. I think my real voice is fine.

I won a writing competition a few weeks ago, and the prize was that agents could look at the winning entries and request the manuscripts. Eleven agents requested mine (for you writers out there…that’s kind of a big deal). I’ve written a novel with a bipolar protagonist, and…I think it doesn’t suck. I like it, anyway (but that’s like my mom saying I’m pretty, isn’t it? I created the characters. Of course I like them).

Three of the agents have gotten back to me with rejections. One was terse and gave me nothing, but the other two said that they simply “didn’t connect with the voice.” I once had someone in the publishing industry tell me that “I don’t connect with the voice” is a basic cop-out rejection because no one can really argue it. How can someone change their voice? It’s a catch-all when agents don’t want to give actual feedback (allegedly).

BUT WHAT IF MY VOICE ACTUALLY SUCKS?! WHAT DO I DOOOOOOO?!

I give up writing, I guess.

HA. Funny. Okay. Moving on.

Here are way more entertaining things that agents could say to reject me when they don’t like my voice (to the eight agents who still have my book…go ahead and copy and paste. Hand on heart, I won’t be offended. I gave you the responses. You’re welcome).

  1. Your protagonist’s voice was kind of bitchy, and I wanted to slap her by chapter two. I don’t like the violent tendencies your book has inspired in me, and so I don’t want to read any more. You are rejected.
  2. I actually fell asleep while reading your manuscript, and that’s impressive because I was at a parade at the time and I drank five red bulls that morning. That’s how monotonously boring your voice is. You are rejected.
  3. Your voice is a combination of Gwenyth Paltrow and Dora the Explorer. Oh, you don’t understand how that works? It’s because it doesn’t. You are rejected.
  4. Your voice reminds me of my college professor who had a terribly nasally voice, and he used to drone on and on. We had to act like we were paying attention, but I tried to tune him out to listen to buzzing flies because they were less annoying. That’s what your book is like. You are rejected.
  5. Your voice reminds me of this terrible blog, hazelhillboro.com. It’s abysmal. I am so disappointed in myself for ever wasting time on it. Go waste your time on it, because you sound like her and therefore will never get published. You are rejected.
  6. Your voice is like an opera singer who’s trying to get over laryngitis (but in a writing way, of course). It’s like there might have been talent there, but it can’t shine through the nasty. You are rejected.
  7. Your characters are trying too hard. You tried to make them cool, but it sounds like they’re all constipated. You basically need to coat the entire manuscript in ex-lax and get things flowing better. You are rejected.
  8. I didn’t connect with your voice because I have a hard time connecting with anyone. I’m seeing a therapist about this. Unfortunately, I haven’t made much progress yet. You are rejected.

See? There you go. Eight responses for the eight agents left. Now I’ve written the book and the rejections. Most compliant and helpful author ever? I think so. 🙂

the_authors_voice_twitter

Mental Health Elitist

Sometimes I fear that I’m a mental health elitist.  I fully comprehend that this is a bitchy kind of person to be, so I’m working on it.  I wonder if any of y’all struggle with this, though?  Can I get a “me too”?

I noticed my elitism when my future sister-in-law posted something to facebook about high-functioning anxiety.  It was a video about how hard it is to live with this condition and how we should all feel bad for her because she has it.  The video said things such as, “high functioning anxiety means worrying about if people like you or not” and “it’s staying busy and struggling with perfectionism.”  To me this simply sounds like being a human.

What really got me is when the video said, “it’s silent panic attacks while you’re calm and smiling.”

Ummmm….  I’m no psychiatrist, so I am in no position to say that’s not legit.  HOWEVER – I am finding it very difficult to dig up sympathy for this girl for her silent panic attacks.  She says we should all feel bad for her for having this terrible disorder, but I wan’t to say, “Hi, yeah.  It’s me, Hazel, over here posting jokes and cat videos.  Sorry to interrupt your pity party, but I was wondering: have you ever had a panic attack where you asked someone to call 911 because you thought you were dying right that second?  Have you ever hyperventilated until you puked?  If you’ve ever experienced the sheer terror that comes with a true panic attack, then I’m sorry – you were not CALM AND SMILING.”

But that’s me being elitist, because maybe there are silent panic attacks.  If there are, I’m sure they suck.  I simply have a hard time feeling bad for her because, straight up?  I feel like I’m a lot worse off than her when it comes to mental health, and I’m annoyed with people when they want sympathy from me about it.  It’s like someone with strep throat going up to someone with throat cancer and being all, “Yeah, these throat problems…they really suck, amirite?”  Yes, they do…but you’re annoying and please go away.

I have friends with mental illnesses who can’t keep jobs…who can’t get out of bed in the morning…who have been hospitalized multiple times…who take on every day as a challenge to keep living.  I have so much respect for them and for the mountains they climb every single day, and I hate to see it cheapened by people who post to social media about needing sympathy for things that seem so-not-an-issue compared to what these people face.

I really have to get better about this.  Any sort of mental problems are awful, and I should feel compassion on anyone struggling.  I know this.  We’re all on the same team here, we’re just varying degrees of invested.  It’s like sports fans – some bought tickets off Criagslist the night before the game, and some have season passes, painted their faces, and decorated their houses in the team colors.  Despite how deep into fandom we are, we’re all on the same team. RAH RAH! WE HATE MENTAL ILLNESS! RAH! *cheerleader cartwheel*

Mental illness, no matter the severity, always sucks.  There are people who have it better than me, and there are people who have it worse. It’s not my job to decide if they deserve my sympathy or not.  Sometimes it’s tough to feel bad for someone when I would trade brain function with them in a second, but I need to do it anyway.  If they need help and compassion, it is not my job to hand out judgement.

Anyone else ever struggled with this?

Teeter-totters (and Other Terrifying Situations)

First grade can be hard.  There are spelling lists, letters that you somehow have to make into words, numbers that add together to make other numbers, and then also one of the trickiest situations of all: teeter-totters.

I remember my favorite game on teeter-totters:  I would sit right on the fulcrum (a word I did not learn until much later), and I would work really hard to balance.  Inevitably, the teeter-totter would start to lean one way or the other, and I would have to readjust to try to get the board to balance in a perfectly straight line.  When I finally got the board to balance, then the tricky part really began:  DO. NOT. MOVE.  The slightest movement would tip the teeter-totter, and then my moment of perfect balance would be over.  I didn’t move.  I yelled at my friends not to touch the teeter-totter.  I yelled at butterflies not to fly too close and throw off my balance with the wind of their wings.  Basically, I needed the world to stop for a minute because I FINALLY GOT THAT FRICKIN THING TO BALANCE.

That’s how my life feels at the moment.  I’ve spent months trying to get my life into balance, and I finally feel good about where I am.  The problem is summer break.  I think I’m the only teacher in the history of humanity that is scared of summer break.  I don’t want to mess up all of my routines.  I don’t want hours of spare time to sit around and think.  Thinking is not usually my friend.

balance-quotes-5

Perhaps it will all be fine.  Maybe I’ll be able to make some new routines and still keep to my general sleep and exercise schedule.  Historically, though, summers look completely different and quite unpredictable week by week.  Summers, generally, are tricky for me.  It’s like the fat kid from my first grade class is running towards my balanced teeter-totter, planning to jump on it, and I want to say, “GET AWAY FROM HERE, FAT KID!”  But the fat kid keeps running.  Now I’m going to have to readjust the whole thing to consider the fat kid factor.  Which begs the question – can I even balance with the fat kid, or is he just going to muck everything up?!

One of my friends described having bipolar disorder like being on a trampoline.  People who have a normal range of emotions are jumping on one of those cute little exercise trampolines used in eighties exercise videos.  They jump not too high, not too low.  People with bipolar disorder are jumping on one of those crazy high-bouncing trampolines that require you to have a harness and be strapped in with bungee ropes because you’re about to scrape the clouds when you jump.  It sends us incredibly high, but also so incredibly low.  I don’t want to be on that trampoline.  It’s like this year finally allowed me the opportunity to buy one of those cutie small trampolines, and now I’m hugging it close and saying, “Don’t put me back on the big trampoline!  I like this one!  I look good in neon colors, leggings, and puffy headbands!  Let me stay in the eighties exercise video!”

Life has a way of not letting people stay in one place very long.  The only constant we can expect is change, but change doesn’t have to be scary.

Except, obviously, THAT IT IS SCARY.  I’ve faced a lot scarier things than summer break, though.  I can handle a few changes of routine without bouncing off the trampoline.  I think.

Bring it on, fat kid.  I’m gonna rock my leggings and balance this thing called summer.

Doing It Right (Granny Style)

When kids play games, they usually play school or house.  They rarely play pharmacy.  I’ve actually never seen anyone play pharmacy.  Maybe that is because it’s not very fun.

Lately I’ve felt like I am playing pharmacy.  I have an impressive collection of bottles that almost completely covers the navy blue tiles of my bathroom counter.  There are fat bottles, skinny bottles, orange bottles, blue bottles… (Where was the Dr. Seuss book about this?  MISSED OPPORTUNITY).  Every night and every morning, I pick up each bottle and take “one of these, two of these, a half of this one…” etc.  It takes forever.

If any pharmacies in the area are robbed, I hope no police officers check my bathroom.  I’d be a person of interest faster than you can say Xanax.  They might just skip the questions and arrest me on the spot.  No one could possibly have that many legal pills (right?).  It doesn’t help that some doctors give me three months of a prescription at a time, so then I have stupid amounts of pills lying around even if I’m only taking one or two per day.

I’ve been resisting the inevitable, but I think it’s finally time:  I’m going to have to do pills granny style.

When my grandma was alive, my mom used to go to her house every Monday morning at 9:00 AM to “do her pills.”  That meant taking grandma’s personal pharmacy of pills and sorting them into easy-open compartments separated by day and time of day so that when grandma had to take her pills, it was just POP! – open the plastic flap and there you go.  All of the pills in one easy spot.  She didn’t have to play counter top pharmacy games every day.   Her pill container looked like this:

pills

Now, that is very handy and nice for grandmas, but I’ve always felt like you should hold a genuine AARP card before needing to buy one of those.  I’ve told myself, “No problem.  I’ll just sort out the pills as I take them.  Not a big deal.”  The problem is that we have a beautiful bathroom counter top, and I CAN’T EVEN SEE MOST OF IT.  Plus, when I’m trying to dispense my own pills at 6:30 AM, half the time I’m still all bleary with Einstein hair and feeling angry at the world for existing so early.  I’ll frequently pour too many pills or accidentally drop one or two on the floor (then subsequently put them back in the bottle because – hello – ten second rule, and also it’s too early to think about germs).

Basically, it’s time to bite the bullet and go granny-style with pills.  It will save me a lot of time, it will clear counter space, and I’ll stop accidentally eating dog hair from my bathroom floor.  I started shopping on Amazon for a good pill container, and I tried to find a hip, non-ancient-person looking one.  I tell you, fashionable pill containers do not exist.  Why can’t being crazy also be kind of cute?!  This is unfair.  I’m going to create a line of stylish pill containers, and all of my mentally-awesome blog friends will buy them.  I’ll sell them to psychiatrists for distribution.  This could catch on, y’all.

Until then, I’ll use a dumb granny-looking one.  I’ve decided I’m also going to put a gummy bear in each pocket. I hate taking pills, but I feel like I can’t possibly be that mad when I open the container and see, “Hey look!  A gummy bear!”

Wait a second, that’s kind of like when my parents used candy to potty train my sister, isn’t it?  I am using candy to make myself form positive habits.  Oh boy.  I’m a granny, but I’m also two years old.  Faaaantastic.  My life is strange.

Here’s to you, Grandma K.  Let’s rock these drugs old-school style. Maybe I’ll even do my pills on Mondays just to be like you.

Uses for Old Pill Bottles

What can I do with dozens of empty pill bottles?

The possibilities are endless.  Don’t ask me why I have dozens of empty pill bottles.  I have no explanation.  I swear I throw them away, yet they still end up in all corners of my house.  Maybe they’re reproducing.  I find them everywhere.  My nightstand is FULL of pill bottles in various states of emptiness.  The other day I found an old green pill bottle from 2010 and thought, “Awww…my very first Prozac prescription.  How cute.”

I have issues.

I wish there was a pill bottle fairy who would come scoop up old pill bottles and trade them for money.  Surely old pill bottles would be more useful than baby teeth?

I decided to find out all the uses for old pill bottles, hoping I could stumble upon something inspiring to do with my army of plastic cylinders.  I went to Google images and typed in “uses for old pill bottles.”  Here were some of my favorites (with my own commentary, of course):

pills2

This one is actually a good idea (one of the very few I found).  Dig a hole, plant a pill bottle, and keep a house key in it.  Just remember which rock it’s under.  Also, I might actually leave a Xanax or two in the pill bottle, because if I forgot my keys again then it’s probably a Xanax sort of day.

pills6

Deck the halls with proof that you’re sick, Fa-la-la-la-la-la  la-la-la-la.  People will think your brain is a brick, Fa-la-la-la-la-la  la-la-la-la.

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You can use them as party favors!  It’s the absolute perfect choice if you don’t really like your friends.  You can creep them all out so they’ll never come to your parties ever again.  Finally – peace and quiet!

pills4

You could make this…..thing.  I have no idea what this is.  I don’t have any clue why someone put this online.  I say throw it in a science fair and see what happens.  Weirder things have won prizes at science fairs.

pills5

This is a cool idea.  My earbuds always ensnare the contents my purse into a wiry mess.  This would keep them separate and relatively tame.  I wouldn’t put that girly decoration on the side, though.  I’d slap a white label on there that says “YOU CAN’T OVERDOSE ON MUSIC” in black Sharpie.  That will make me look hipster and deep.

pills1

This one is my personal favorite.  I sort of want to do this one day just so when people comment on my beautiful chandelier, I’ll say, “Thank you.  I took all of those pills myself.  It took ten years of bipolar disorder to make that chandelier.”  Then I’ll smile and ask if they’d like a glass of champagne, and they’ll get all squirmy.  It could be fun.

 

After I posted those pictures, I realized Google overlooked some very simple but effective uses, which I will add here now:

Glitter Bomb.  As soon as I thought of this, I thought, “BRILLIANT!  WHY HAVEN’T I DONE THIS BEFORE?!”  Fill a bottle with glitter and keep it in your purse.  When you’re at a store and someone is super rude, or when someone takes your parking space and makes you mad – BOOM – glitter bomb.  It’s like pepper spray except less aggressive and prettier.

Halloween Treat.  Take the labels off so parents can’t track you down, then put white mints in the pill bottles.  Hand them out to kids who come trick-or-treating.  Look extra crazy and say, “These make you feel reeeeeeeal good, kid…” then dart your eyes around wildly and slam the door in their faces.

Shot glass.  Hello…does anyone else think that pill bottles are just the right size to be shot glasses?  Unfortunately, you have to shoot 7-Up or whatever since the side of the bottle clearly tells you not to drink alcohol.

Tiny Bowling.  Line up ten pill bottles in a triangle, get a good bouncy ball, try to knock them all down in one roll (STRIKE!!), and wonder why you have nothing else better to do on a Saturday night.

Modern Art.  Everything’s art, right?  I feel like modern art is especially weird, so you could probably throw a pill bottle in that genre.  Melt the bottom of the bottle a little bit, call it My Fading Life, and sell it for thousands.  Millions, even.  It’s art.

There you have it, friends.  My top uses for old pill bottles.  Let me know if you have any other ideas.  Also let if me know if you want to buy a beautiful piece of orange plastic modern art.  I’ll cut you a deal for following my blog.

Eeeep! No Awareness! Except…ALL THE AWARENESS!

Mentally ill people find themselves in a weird paradox.

May is national “mental health awareness month,” and I don’t really know what to do with this.  OF COURSE I want people to recognize mental illness as a real thing, and OF COURSE I want them to know more about bipolar disorder. OF COURSE I’m sick of people seeing mental illness as “oh yeah, that’s like, serial killers, right?  I watch those people on CSI.”

I AM NOT A CHARACTER ON CSI.

Although that would be kind of fun…hmmm…I bet I could play a crazy person really well…um, never mind about that.  Back to the point.

I want awareness brought to mental illnesses, but I certainly don’t want to be the one to bring about the awareness.  Therein lies the paradox: I want the awareness without the attention.  One of my friends posted something about the best young adult books for mental health awareness month to facebook.  She put some status about how they might be tough reads for people who struggle with depression, and she tagged me in it.  She’s a teacher, I’m a teacher, and in reality I’m pretty sure that it would be great for my kids to get some exposure to those things.  It was quite a logical tag.  Still, here was my internal reaction:

*eyes bug out of my head*

She tagged me in WHAT?!  WHAT WAS SHE THINKING?!  I don’t want anyone to know I struggle with mental illness!  What if they think she tagged me in this because I’m mentally ill, and THEY WOULD BE RIGHT?!?!  UNTAG! UNTAG! UNTAG!  How long ago did she post this?!  How many people might have seen it? FREEEEEEEAK OOOOUUUTTT!

For someone eager to have awareness, I’m certainly not doing great about making it happen.  Still, it seems a bit unfair.  When there are events for breast cancer awareness, people wear pink ribbons without shame and (rightly so) declare their pride in being survivors.

I’m running a 5k in a few weeks for a place in my hometown that helps mentally ill teens.  It’s a bullying/suicide prevention run.  I’m running it because – *ahem* – “I am a teacher and want my students to know that they can stand up against bullying.”

I would never say, “Because I am a suicide survivor” (a term I hate anyway), or “because I have a mental illness and want people to know that the struggle is real but that it can be overcome.”  That would be the “bringing awareness” route, but instead I’ll shuffle through the 5k and hand over my money to the people who are actually bringing awareness.  Then I’ll go quietly home.

Maybe that makes me cowardly, but you know what?  I’m trying.  I’m telling people about this illness one person at a time, and a lot of times it goes horribly, but I’m still doing it.  I’m never going to be the person who wears my heart on facebook statuses.  I’m not going to walk around town wearing a shirt that says, “LOVE ME.  I’M BIPOLAR.”  I’m actually pretty sure I’d get fired if my work knew about my illness, because those people just couldn’t handle it.  You might say, “No! They’d be super understanding!” but

  1. You have not met the people who run my school, and
  2. Do you want your child to have a teacher who has been diagnosed as mentally ill?

That’s what I thought.  Because no one wants the villains from CSI teaching about adjectives.

This is why it’s unfair, people.  Many people with mental illnesses cannot speak out about their experiences because the personal cost is too high.  I’ve lost friends. I’ve alienated family members.  I’ve…

Wait.  No.  That’s not true.

Bipolar disorder has cost me friends.  Bipolar disorder has alienated family members.  Because none of those people treated me poorly until they learned about my diagnosis, and then I went from being a person to a pitri dish.  I was interesting, but wholly untrustworthy.  What used to be seen as “spontaneous” became “volatile and unstable.”  I’m the same person, but they don’t see me the same way.  That’s not exactly the encouragement I need to start shouting from the rooftops about my disabled brain.

I feel like we all want awareness brought to these things, but none of us want to be the one to do it.  We need to stop hiding, but we need a world that is ready to receive us.  I’m really not sure how to achieve one without the other.  I guess this blog is a small step.  Each person I tell is a small step.  We’ll get there.  It’s just going to take longer than May.

Mental-Health-Awareness-Ribbon

When My “Sparkly Brain” Pukes

Sometimes my brain pukes out on me.  I’m not sure why this happens or even exactly what goes on when it does.  It’s this weird thing where I’m not in a distinct episode of depression or mania, I’m not having a panic attack, but I also can’t think straight at all.  My brain gets “swirly and sparkly,” which is apparently what I told Andy last night.  When I tell him I’m “not doing so great,” he knows exactly what that means.  I frequently go sit in the closet when this happens (don’t ask me why…), and I’ll sometimes write rambling weird things on bits of notebook paper.  It’s strange to look at it the next day, because even my handwriting changes when I write in this state.  It’s very, very weird.

Last night I apparently had no notebook paper, but I did have my phone.  I logged on to WordPress and typed the following “blog post.”  I was going to delete it today because it was so strange, but then I thought, “Well, this is kind of an interesting look at what’s going on when my brain is AWOL.”  I ran it by Andy today and asked, “Is this really how I talk when I’m not doing great?”  He read it and said, “Yeah, that’s exactly what you sound like, except all of that should be in caps because a lot of times you’re yelling.”

“I do not yell,” I said, indignant, as if I had a clear memory of last night (I never have a clear memory of these episodes, which is terrifying in and of itself).

“It’s not like you’re angry,” he said.  “You’re just…really loud.  Sometimes yelling.  I don’t know.  It’s just how it goes.”

Sounds pretty awful.  Glad I don’t remember a lot of it.  My mental illness guru readers – any clues on what’s going on here??  I would love some insight.   Anyway, here’s last night’s literary genius:

Sometimes I can’t think right.  I say the same things over and over again.  I keep saying them.  I say them over and over again I do not know why I keep saying them.  It’s like I have to say it one more time.  One more time.  One more time.  I don’t know why.  It makes me feel a little bit better to keep saying them.  It’s weird.  I think I’m a bit mad.  I mean, I know I am, but sometimes I also feel that way.  That’s very strange.  Then I think and speak in ridiculous run-on sentences when – HELLO – I am an English teacher and avoid run-on sentences almost as much as I avoid sushi, which is an awful lot because I really really hate sushi.  I am telling you I really hate it. You have no idea.  I hate it a lot.  A lot.  So I avoid it

And then I sit in the dark typing blog posts on my phone, but I have to go back every two words because my brain types much faster than my fingers even though obviously my brain isn’t typing so what I end up with is a jumbled mess of auto corrects that I have to fix because maybe I can’t stop thinking in run-ons, but I’ll be damned if I’m also going to let this thing be riddled with typos.

Wanna see what happens if I type without rereading?  Here:  this iswhay happens when I’m typing without feedstock and unfeeling like ohm going at a normal typing speed but obseear to you that my normal texts arntw so humpback and what the duck jab an overeat anyway because THAT MAKES DNO SWNSE.

So.  There’s that.  A bit disconcerting.  Trying to be intelligible forces me to slow down at least.  Maybe I should stop typing this in the dark and go take a shower.  Who can be stressed in the shower?  I mean, it at least puts a damper on things.  Okay.  I’m gonna do that.   Hazel out. (Like Ryan Seacrest – does anyone else remember that?? Man, American Idol was my life.  I wish Clay Aiken’s devastating second place finish was still my biggest problem).

Brilliant, no? *eyeroll*  Anyway, wherever my brain decided to escape to last night, it’s back now.  That’s good.  I wish I could find a way to lock it down and keep it from leaving me in a lurch again.

That Time When Someone Said the Right Thing

It’s not easy being crazy.

It’s even harder when it’s a secret.

Secrets have weight.  Some secrets are relatively light: “I’m the one who ate the last piece of cake that one time” or “I’m actually three pounds heavier than what I told you.”  Some secrets are heavy.  Having bipolar disorder is a heavy secret.

Not many people know my heavy secret.  I’ve changed my last name for this blog so that my students and friends won’t stumble upon it (and really, “Hillboro” is a cool last name anyway.  Let me pretend).  Keeping my secret is a good thing for now, maybe forever, but it comes with its challenges.  One of them is that people say really stupid crap that they would never say if they knew I have a mental illness.  They make jokes about moody people being bipolar.  They joke about cutting themselves and killing themselves when it is so, so not funny.  I’ve had multiple nurse friends talk about their mentally ill patients like they are sub-human, when I don’t see why those patients have any less worth than their otherwise-ill peers.  It’s strange.  I think people would be more sensitive if they knew, but it makes me see the world through new eyes.  Did I ever make those kinds of jokes?  Is that how I viewed people with mental illness?  I certainly hope not, but I also don’t remember.  It’s tough to remember what life was like a decade ago, before I started down this road.

Last week, I was riding with my brother-in-law to Ann Arbor for something he had to do for dental school.  He needed someone to ride along, and I said sure.  My in-laws are 89% cool, but none of them know my secret.  They’re the kind of family that doesn’t talk about problems.  We talk about the weather and recipes and baseball games.  It’s the all-American family, and I don’t want to wreck the magic by having a mental illness.  My husband is a great support, but I think his family would be horrified and completely lost on what to do with that information.  Anyway, they’re all in the dark.

While I rode with Jake to Ann Arbor, I asked how his girlfriend is doing in nursing school (she is scheduled to graduate next year).  He said she’s doing fine and that she’s working in a psych ward rotation this quarter.  I immediately wished I hadn’t asked, because I was pretty sure I didn’t want to hear anything he was about to say.  I couldn’t completely shut down and stop talking, so I said, “Oh. Ummm…how’s that?”

“It’s hard,” he said.

“I can imagine,” I replied, staring out the window.  I was suddenly very interested in the highway.  I wanted this conversation shut down NOW.  Jake elaborated on his previous statement even thought I hadn’t asked him to continue.

“She says it’s mostly sad,” he said.  “Like, her first day there, she worked on someone who looked just like her mom.  She realized that these patients are real people, you know?  Just like us – with families and dreams and stuff. Most of her patients are voluntarily admitted.  They’re not dangerous or anything – they’re just sick.  It’s like any other sickness, but it’s in their brain.  People don’t understand that, which bugs her.  And me.  People need to get that it’s just a sickness.  They need help just like someone who has liver disease.  But it has to be so scary to have an illness in your brain, because you can’t even think straight.  Wouldn’t that be scary?  I hope that never happens to us.”

“Me neither,” I automatically said, even though that probably would have been a great time to say, “Well, actually… I sort of do know what that feels like…”  I was too stunned.  No one – no one – has ever said anything like that about mental illness to me.  Especially someone who doesn’t know I have one.  Occasionally people will say encouraging things when they already know my secret, but then I always feel like maybe they’re just saying that because they feel obligated.

I was embarrassed to find my eyes filling with tears because I was so-freaking-happy to hear someone say what Jake just said.  I wanted to hug him.  I was glad he was driving and couldn’t see me getting all emotional in the passenger seat.  I immediately texted Andy and asked, “Does Jake know the secret?”  I figured maybe this was Jake’s way to try to get me to open up about a secret he already knew.  No one could actually hold that logical of an opinion about mental illness, could they?  Andy texted back, “No, I told you I wouldn’t tell anyone, and I haven’t.  Why – did he say something stupid?”  I laughed because Andy immediately thought his brother said something dumb.

“No,” I texted back. “What he said was perfect.”