When I was a young girl, I was adorable and small. Feisty and athletic. I grew up in a hilly city in suburban western Wisconsin where the best ways to get around were on bicycle, roller blades, or your own two feet. In the 80s and early 90s (the 1900s, for all you young folk), we could roam freely throughout town as children and all the adults watched out for us. My best friend since kindergarten, J, was my partner-in-crime and we spent many a summer day at one of the local river beaches. We rode our bikes out behind the cemeteries and ventured out into the countryside (unknowingly at the time, on what was my dad’s best friend’s family property). There we had our own tree-climbing, fort-building version of Lord of the Rings, long before we even knew what hobbits were.
By the time I hit adolesence, I was into sports (though, admittedly not nearly as much as my oldest sister). I played a little basketball in middle school but gave it up for cheerleading and dance line in high school. And I ran track. I was decent, but for me, it was more about the personal goals and records.
I weighed 115 pounds soaking wet back then. And I was once 5’7″ – an unfortunate car accident compacted a couple of discs in my back when I was 18 – but I’m now 1.25 inches shorter than I was. The older I got, the less I realized how important staying active was for being able to continue consuming the massive calorie counts I was used to and I put on the pounds. Didn’t help that my choice in guys was less than stellar and I allowed their mental abuse to live rent-free in my head for far too long. At my heaviest, I weighed 236 pounds!
If you’ve been following my story, you already know where this is headed to hit my lowest low in December 2017 – I ate my feelings. I ate when I wasn’t hungry. I ate everything I wanted and it just added to my depression and anxiety. I ate until I no longer recognized myself, outside or in.
But somewhere along the way, I found that my desire to look like I did years ago was greater than my desire to continue on this downward spiral, so I started counting calories. I used a free app and at first, I just logged my calories and tried not to judge what I was eating. I was more interested to know how many calories I had been consuming before I decided how I wanted to proceed. I already knew that the ONLY way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you take in. Simple.
I really do like to be active, so the more I focused on limiting my calories, the more active I was becoming again. I was able to hike for longer periods of time, for futher distances, and on tougher terrain. With every walk through town, kayak trip on a local lake, and hike in a state park, I felt stronger, skinnier, and happier. (I am currently tipping the scales at 149 pounds, only 4 away from the top of my ideal weight range!)
I was getting my confidence back. I know that I’m fighting an everyday battle against Bertha, and yet the stronger I get, the less she looms over me, no longer threatening to strike at a moment’s notice. It really was about getting my mind right.
Stress is the number one killer of anyone, and I’m not sure you could ever convince me otherwise. And my biggest stress? ME. I was making my life harder because I expected TOO MUCH of myself! Then the right people came into my life at the right time and taught me how to let go of things. Let go of negativity, other people’s opinions of me (they’re none of my business), let go of my own ridiculous expectations for myself, and stopped criticizing myself.
Then I learned how to build myself up and love myself again. Trust me, this came before the recent weight loss! Not enough can be said about the importance of truly loving yourself – and showing it – on every aspect of your life!!
What does loving myself mean to me? Ignoring text messages from the toxic people that were in my life not many years ago. Smiling at my reflection in the mirror. Taking proper care of hygiene and chores. Spreading smiles to people around me. Taking breaks from social media and electronics and getting out in nature. Paying attention to my budget and saving money. Excusing myself for feeling negative emotions occasionally, but also allowing them to happen and then reflecting on why I reacted in that manner. Giving myself compliments when I’ve done something well at work, but laughing when I make a mistake – and using that mistake as a stepping stone to learning to do better next time.
There are a million and twelve ways to show yourself love. I won’t say (anymore) that you won’t find someone to love you until you love yourself first because it’s simply not true. But if you don’t love yourself, you will have a harder time loving others. Hurt people hurt people.
How do I know this? Life experience. Personal experience. Take your pick.
Then – and I cannot emphasize this enough – once you love yourself, start building others up without tearing yourself or others down. We all grow differently and under different conditions. We’re all meant for different things. Why should I feel competition for paths that aren’t mine? I’ve got my own path and I’m rocking it. Go rock yours, too! 🙂
If you see something beautiful in others, speak it out loud. If you search for goodness, you’ll find it. Remember the opposite is true, too, and avoid seeking it out. You’ll thank me later if you chase the positive vibes.
I’ve been working on myself the last few months and one of the best things I’ve done for myself has been to surround myself with positivity. I have been sharing and posting little tidbits of positivity everywhere on my Twitter account and wouldn’t you know it? Positive people seek other positive people as much as misery loves company, and I’d venture to guess even more so!
In this COVID pandemic era, many of us are feeling downtrodden and defeated, so I understand. Mental health has become increasingly difficult to maintain when many are afraid to leave the home. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be social.
In fact, we have many more options available to remain social, even if anxiety keeps us from the general public: Zoom meetings have expanded into virtual parties, Twitter and Facebook allow friends, family, and fans to connect (in text and video form), and we also have the use of our ever smarter smart devices for more of the same.
I myself have also personally visited some of my closest friends, in socially distanced form, when I can. Then again, I haven’t not worked for most of this pandemic thus far, so perhaps I’m taking more risks than necessary, but I also realize life is too short to spend it worried about what might happen to me only to miss out on a plethora of great memories I’ve been busy making with all those positive humans!
When my most recent change of returning to third shift work started me feeling increasingly lonely, I ventured onto Twitter more often because I’ve found many wonderful, positive people there (from across the globe and other fellow grave shift workers). I’ve built up an army of positive friends and I’ve yet to meet any of them in person! (OK, so recently my friend J signed up and followed me, but we’ve been friends forever in real life, so it’s a natural transition.) I will remember the new tradition (#packersslumberparty) we tried to start and all the highs and lows of a fun 2020 Packers season. I will remember the amazing group of ladies who share in the “lift each other up” category more often than not. (See: this thread.) And I’ll remember how I attempted to be positive for myself and every one of my followers and show them that if I can overcome my depression, which has nearly killed me a few times already, then so can you. (See: this thread.)
I believe in you – do you believe in you? If the answer is yes, congrats! I have nothing to teach you. If the answer is no, then please do everything in your power to find that self esteem and seek professional help. Therapy of any kind isn’t something to be ashamed of, either; it’s a useful tool to help you get in the right mindset. Kinda like when you need a cast for a broken limb – fix your brain when it’s not working optimally, too! 😊
And remember, just because you’re positive doesn’t mean you don’t have bad moments, you just learn how to help those pass quicker. Isn’t your life worth more happiness than misery? I know mine is! Best of luck to anyone struggling with mental health, and remember this tweet. Please use it if you need. I’m here for you and if I can’t help, I’ll find you the right kind of help for you. I’m rooting for you!
God bless and good night. And remember – you get what you manifest. So manifest positivity. 😉💚
Forgive me for taking that extremely long hiatus, but things have been… interesting, to say the least. I am the only responsible party for neglecting my blog and for that, I am sorry. I never wanted to abandon my site, but the past several months have been a blur in what turned out to be simultaneously the shortest and longest months I have probably ever experienced.
I’m sure many of you can relate! What with the pandemic, George Floyd protests, the election, and now the events of treason that happened at the U.S. Capitol, we’re all exhausted and disheartened.
On a personal note, I was busy trying my hand at new jobs – worked at a credit union for their loans phone support line (through a temp agency) for a couple months, then shopped and delivered groceries and alcohol for Instacart (who did me dirty), and now I’m starting a new job on overnights and I’m excited. Had my two days of orientation on Monday and Tuesday and am excited to be officially starting training Saturday night!! I swear, I was born for overnights. 😁
I was thankful to receive my stimulus money in time to pay my AT&T bill (before I would get hit with a late fee) and pay my dad back for a small personal loan and still have enough left to get me to my first paycheck next Friday! And stoked that I stumbled into a job that pays weekly… I budget best that way.
I also have now experienced my first full dose of Ocrevus and I’m hopeful that my next MRI will show no new (nor active) lesions because my recent one showed a new – but not active – lesion. So now, I get another one in March, but I have been trying to stay positive because I truly believe this one could be my miracle DMD! 🙏
A few other things have been happening in my life that I’ll tell you all about later (if you don’t already know), but I assure you, I am doing pretty great. 💚 I am trusting in God and trying to be patient, but it is difficult when it’s something you really want!! I’m only patient for some things – this is not one of those things, even if I know it’ll be worth it in the end!
And of course, for everyone who knows me, I got distracted by the amazing NFL season my team has had so far… and I believe this could be the year we get championship #14!! #GoPackGo 💚🧀🏈🧀💚 I have been saying this all over my Twitter, but I am so loving THIS SQUAD!! Watching my Packers this year, I’d swear these were a bunch of kids having fun and playing FOR each other!! And bonus, I’ve connected with a fantastic group of fans from around the globe on Twitter! I may not have a lot of followers, but what I’ve got is great people – guys and gals who are tremendously supportive and fun. 😊 (I even have a few cool Bears fans and I believe even a Vikings fan… 😳😂) So anyway, naturally, I believe it’ll be my Packers against my second favorite team on February 7; I’ve been putting a lot of positive vibes out into the world, so it’ll happen, right?? 🙏
I’ve been working on quitting smoking, but it’s been my crutch so long I’m thinking I need support through this. Recent political events have made the craving stronger, sadly. In fact, I am writing this particular entry while sitting in my “office,” which in reality is in the driver’s seat of my Jeep, which is parked in my driveway. This is my space in the world and if I could change one thing, it would be to be able to freely travel all over the states, spreading hope to humanity. And someday I hope to do the same worldwide. But for now, I shall speak my truths and I believe that all people have the capacity to love. Some sadly hide that part of them. But good and evil exist to teach us. We reap what we sow; I, for one, wish to plant flowers.
But I digress… I will continue to strive for better days for myself – I’ve been stubbornly overeating for a couple weeks as well, but today is a new day and I am going to focus once again on the things I was getting right and tune the rest out for awhile. Life is far too short to waste any more time on misery (and hate)! I think it’s time to double down on my efforts and keep the happy positivity flowing freely!!
To anyone who reads this: I love you, fellow human, and I care about you. Let’s all go heal ourselves and show support to everyone doing just that! You are wonderful. YOU MATTER. My door is (figuratively) open for anyone that needs to vent (don’t come let yourself into my house… hahaha) – even if we’ve never met! If you’ve been following me on here, you already know I’ve been at that lowest of low places.
Anyway, thanks for coming to my 4 a.m. ramblings! I just felt compelled to come on here, since I’d been neglecting my love of writing again. My next blog post will have a lot more continuity in topics!
I’ve been intentionally quiet in recent weeks, but be assured: I am alive and kicking!
I’ve been quiet because I received my psych evaluation, after an uncomfortably long waiting period. It could have been a literal week, but even a day feels like eternity when you’re anxious for results. (I may have been born extremely stubborn, but patience is a virtue I have only recently begun practicing…hahaha!)
It took two days before I would even let myself open that email. I was 100% terrified of the result because I knew I was about to face some cold, hard truths about my character. Things I’ve known all along about who Kelly Terese IS but also was ashamed to admit outright to others, though I’m not sure why. I might face a whole new set of challenges with the diagnosis – am I really ready for that?
Once I was determined that this evaluation wouldn’t change my goal of getting back to the happiness I remembered experiencing in childhood, I decided I would accept whatever clinical diagnosis was made. I took a deep breath, opened the email and downloaded the pdf. As I read through the file, I very quickly found myself exhibiting Kübler-Ross’s model of grief (for those who remember from psychology courses).
It’s amazing how quickly one can progress between stages of this basic model of psychological truth, especially when you’ve been through plenty of life-altering changes typically associated with grief – the untimely death of a dear friend, the unexpected diagnosis of an unpredictable autoimmune disorder, countless failed relationships…so in some ways, I’m quite well equipped to handle yet another challenge. What really is another evaluation when I’ve had several already?
In fact, the reason I initiated this evaluation process was to shed some light on what has really been going on with my mental health all along. Back before Dr. A retired in 2013, I had asked for his professional opinion on my long-held Bipolar I diagnosis, as I had always suspected it was somehow in error. I couldn’t recall a manic phase for years prior and I knew the chances of it being magically suppressed on its own without an assist from a mood stabilizer were slim to none. I had been highly skeptical for at least a decade at that point so I discussed it at length with my doctor and he seemed to agree with my suspicions.
This has been on my mind a long time but now that I have been reincorporating healthy habits into my life, it was time to address my hardest struggle – and in turn, make everything easier. I sincerely believe that every issue we will ever face is conquered with a “mind over matter” approach. I was going to conquer this diagnosis, too, but I have to know my enemy in order to emerge victorious in the end.
As I read the psychologist’s written statements, I grew increasingly irritated over spelling errors and misrepresentations of some things I had reported to her in my initial appointment. Anger. Denial. As I continued reading her two-page summary, though, my logic returned to me. And I reminded myself that I wanted to know, that I sought these answers because I want to be better and feel better. I am driven to find the happiness that had eluded me for so long and I just wanted to feel sheer joy again on a regular basis! I began making mental notes of the things I would give up just to be free from the struggles of depression and sudden mood swings. Bargaining. I cried a little. Ok, I cried a little more than “a little.” Depression. I finished reading her report and I decided that there was a lot of truth in it. I also recognized how much I had already changed for the better since my troubled twenties and I realized that I was finally headed in the right direction. Acceptance.
I know I have a long way to go. Let me repeat that: I know I have a long way to go. But I will get where I want to be.
And now that I have a name for this disorder, I can treat it using more effective means. I will most likely need to try a mood stabilizer again, but hey, it isn’t the end of the world. And if it lessens my mood swings, then I’ll happily take it! The hardest part for me will be (and has always been) to maintain awareness of my thoughts, words, and attitudes. Mindful meditation has been helpful so far; now I just need to practice it regularly.
P.S. I will not be divulging my diagnosis on here at this time. Thank you for your understanding!
Have you ever been told by someone you know that you’re an inspiration? How did it make you feel? Was it by just one person, or maybe two, or even twelve? Perhaps you’ve been told so many times throughout the course of your life that you’ve lost count. Did you internalize these compliments and believe them as truth, or were you skeptical and suspicious because you didn’t believe them (even if your skepticism was specific to the person making the comment to you, i.e. you felt they had an agenda behind the compliment)?
The first time I heard that I inspired someone I knew, my cheeks grew instantly warm and flared red; it embarrassed me! I was highly doubtful of their compliment – not because of who said it to me (because I honestly don’t remember), but because of whoI once thought I was. And the person I felt I was certainly wasn’t an inspiration, but rather a very lost and damaged soul. I figured to be an inspiration to others you had to have accomplished great things.
I thought of inspirational people like beloved author/podcaster Rachel Hollis, who has written books in the self-help and fiction categories and inspires women daily through her uplifting messages to chase your dreams and to have goals to help you accomplish those dreams. Or like Nick Vujicic, a man with a rare condition, Phocomelia, which meant that he was born without limbs (not even one)! He is now a motivational speaker and participates in things most of us consider “normal,” like playing golf and swimming, because he didn’t let his lack of arms and legs stop him from enjoying the same activities as the rest of the world. Or Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa, who achieved his title only four years after being released from prison, where he had originally been given a life sentence! There are many, many more inspirational humans on this planet that I could name, but my point is simply this: I never felt that I had accomplished much of anything in my life, let alone anything that might inspire others!
I haven’t run a marathon or won an Olympic medal. I haven’t won a Nobel Peace Prize nor have I earned a Pulitzer. I haven’t climbed Mount Everest. I haven’t solved world hunger nor saved a life. There are countless high achievements I hadn’t accomplished and likely never will. But I spent so much time beating myself up mentally over things I haven’t accomplished that I forgot about all the things that I had!
In second grade, my teacher nominated me for the Young Author’s Conference by submitting my original story I had done for a class assignment (complete with my very own illustrations, mind you). I can only recall the smallest fragments of that experience, but I know that Mrs. D was a huge part of sparking that desire to write early on.
By middle school, I belonged to our school district’s gifted program for students, referred to as L.A.M.P. – Learning for the Able and Motivated of P-City. Ok, so the P in L.A.M.P. actually stood for the name of the city in which I grew up, but I’m not about to make my city famous and wind up with a serial killer for a stalker. No, thank you! The few of us who were in the program were pulled from our regular classes to attend accelerated learning activities every month or so. Among those activities, I learned the basics of what could have been a very lucrative future in robotics through a school partnership with Lego, but I digress…
Later in my youth, I was sent to a prestigious honor choir (comprised of several hundred highschoolers from multiple states) which took place at Luther College in Iowa – not once, buttwice! The event was only open to high school juniors and seniors, so I was humbled to be among the elite. (Side note: I can still picture the beautiful moment in Decorah, when I found myself fortunate to be an inadvertent recipient of a beautiful, sporadic serenade from several dozen baritones and tenors; it occurred between rehearsal sessions when we often intermingled.)
The point is, I was blessed with many gifts, yet I no longer saw them (or at least would admit to them)!
It has taken me many years of therapy, a plethora of unhealthy coping mechanisms, and too many failed relationships to even want to count them anymore before I discovered from where my problems stem: I cared more about being liked than I cared to be unapologetically ME!
Somewhere along the way, I started to downplay my achievements to others because I felt that many people began acting differently around me. I know that it was somewhat true, but I am also certain that I made a mole hill into a mountain by overgeneralizing. Sure, I’m positive that there were students who treated me differently because I didn’t fit in with much of the rest of my cohort, but I don’t know if it was because they were jealous of my gifts (instead of recognizing their own unique talents), or if I somehow gave them the impression I felt superior (I did not feel superior, btw), or if they simply just didn’t like me for a myriad reasons.
As I aged, I learned how to conceal my gifts more and more around my classmates and took on the role of ‘supporting cast member’ in the ensemble high school drama that was my life. I still participated, but other than my stint as the unofficial “official national anthem soloist” and among my best friends and my choir friends, I tried not to stand out much, for fear it would garner unnecessary teasing (in the form of humiliation) from the “cool” kids. And over time, all that “quieting down” I did had seeped its way into my subconscious mind and my self-esteem suffered. It suffered because I believed all the nasty things those schoolmates would say to me eventually, and those words became the mantras of my mentally ill brain.
When your inner voice becomes your worst enemy, mental illness only grows darker and starts to consume you wholly. I didn’t want to think so lowly of myself, but there I was in my mid-20s, weighing 100 pounds more than I should and feeling hopeless about life. It wouldn’t be until much later when I found the desire to improve my health, but I was at my lowest at that point (or so I thought – that would come that fateful day in December 2017, as you may recall).
Of course, back in my primary school days, I cared about finding the reasons why some of my classmates didn’t like me or include me within their circle of friends, but now that I’ve been out of the public school district for over twenty years, I look back on that time and wonder why I even cared about making friends with everyone around me. These days I honestly don’t care if people choose to walk out of my life. Sure, it can hurt at first, but I also have a 100% success rate in surviving every loss that I thought I wouldn’t recover from, whether it is in a friendship or a relationship.
Years back, when I had lost the first big chunk of weight and was working toward liking myself more, I realized that people really do fall into one of three categories: a reason, a season, or a lifetime. If you’re unfamiliar, let me recap for you. The customer who gave me his mother’s Mother Teresa quote plaque and other random strangers who have helped me when I was in a jam would all fall under the “reason” category, because I likely have never seen them since and perhaps never will see them again. People I had considered friends who later walked out of my life (or in other cases, when I walked out of theirs) and the long list of boyfriends/friends with benefits I have had throughout my adult life all fall under the “season” category. But the ones that stayed: my good girlfriends I’ve had since grade school, my family, and other good friends I made along the way (even those few who I thought had walked out of my life for good, but in the end returned) – they’re in the “lifetime” category. I may not talk with them all very often, but when we do reconnect, we pick up right where we left off and I could not be happier with my circle!
What I later realized about those different categories of people was that I had allowed them all in to my life, whether out of necessity (for either party) or not. When put in this context, it makes me seem a little masochistic, like I welcome pain! Well, perhaps I did at one time. *shrug* Fortunately, I can let all of that go, because I am a completely different person today and working every day to become an even better version of myself, so I no longer have the time or energy to invest in looking back; I must stay focused on what lies ahead of me if I am to attain the goals I have now set for myself.
It will likely take plenty more years ahead to train my inner voice to speak only niceties, but the important thing is that I ignore the insults and lies my subconscious tells me and encourage more compliments and positive thoughts. That in and of itself is no small feat for a mind ripe with mental health issues, but then it makes me understand that perhaps this – as well as never giving in to Bertha when she’s being cruel to my body – is what all the people who have called me an inspiration at various times have meant, because now?
Now I can see that it is quite inspirational to talk yourself out of a depression, to continually work through pain, numbness, and imbalance; and it is definitely inspirational to others when they see me struggle but never quit. I understand that now – and it makes it hard to disagree with those who have referred to me in this way. I am beyond humbled for their kind words, and now I encourage all of you to do some introspection into the lies and insults you tell yourselves and flip the script! After all, we’re all stuck with ourselves for the rest of our lives – wouldn’t you like to enjoy your time by yourself, not dread being alone for any length of time? I know that I have never loved my alone time more than I have throughout these last few years; if I can “flip the script,” so can YOU!!
I am sure some of you have been wondering why I haven’t posted anything new to my blog in over a week, but I have been busy doing some introspection, working on some personal growth goals, following some live streams of the protests…and crying. I have shed more tears for a man I’d never met because of the awful way his life ended and the stark realization that not everyone has the same heart as I have. I have read more hateful comments on social media feeds from people all over the world that broke my heart as I read them. But I also read so many more positive, loving words from people spread far and wide, and here is what I have found: we are all hurting, we are all angry, and we are all fed up. MOST importantly, we all want the same basic things – to behappy and to feelsafe.
I have spent many hours this past week and a half following a few local live streams of the mostly peaceful protests in Minneapolis (typically when I should have been sleeping). But what I learned from watching those live videos – filmed by members of the community – was that my years of avoiding news media have been worth it, because what I saw happen there at the intersection of 38th and Chicago was breathtakingly beautiful.
The community came together in solidarity on a common goal: to show the world that all lives can’t matter, until the most marginalized populations of humans matter, too. They shared personal accounts of the discrimination they had faced throughout their lives as well as shared their own advice for how we can proceed as a community, as a country, and as all of Earth’s residents.
I admit, I will never know what it is like to belong to a minority group in America, so I can’t speak for anyone else, but I can speak to you from my heart about what I believe this world needs…
I believe we need to be mindful of our words. As much as we like to think of the antiquated saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” as a truth, it simply isn’t. Words are powerful. Words can cut deeper than weapons, for the scars left behind by cruel or unkind words are too often much longer-lasting than the physical scars we’ve received from war injuries, skiing accidents, and bicycle collisions from childhood.
We could all learn a lesson from Thumper’s mother (for those of you who remember Bambi): “if you can’t say nothin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.” Unfortunately humans are great at making mistakes, so I’m 100% positive we are all guilty of uttering many unkind words, whether to someone or about someone. We can’t change the past, but we can change the future by making more conscious decisions of slowing our responses, especially if in the moment it is in response to something that enrages us or hurts our feelings.Really think about whether our words will be received well by others or if they will instead turn into weapons – daggers of hate and contempt that may drastically alter the direction of the conversation for the worst. If we stop and think about what we are going to say, we gain an opportunity to choose more loving words and perhaps we will begin to focus more on our similarities than on our differences.
I also believe we need to be more willing to live by the golden rule. Imagine if we all actually followed the one basic principle of every religion – treat others as you wish to be treated! I highly doubt that anyone wants treated like they are worthless or somehow “less than” others, like many minorities in this country feel they have been treated! I doubt anyone really wants to be abused, neglected, humiliated, or ignored, either! So why do we continue to do these things to others, if we ourselves wouldn’t want to be treated in any of those ways?! Actually, why do we treat ourselves in this manner, either??
I believe that true revolution starts from within. Since I have already been making a conscious effort to change the way in which my inner voice speaks to me, it isn’t much effort to utilize the same tactics in the manner in which I speak to others, either. I pray that God helps remind me to remember the golden rule before I speak or act, and to remember why He gave us two ears but only one mouth – we should listen twiceasmuchas we speak. It may have taken me most of my 39 years to learn, but it’s going to make me an even better person to put this into practice every day. It starts with speaking words of kindness to myself…and continues when I spread that kindness to others around me.
I hope you take my words to heart! From one hurting, angry, and fed-up American/Earthling to another, please join me in mindful meditation/prayer to begin treating yourself better – as well as others. Build your self-esteem up and remember that you are enough! Help others to feel worthy and know they too areenough – by treating them as you wish they would treat you, first. Respect is earned, and the only way to receive another’s respect is by showing them your respect first, and always.
I believe if we all took some time to speak kindly to ourselves and others, and listen twice as much as we speak, we could create a world where nobody is judged for the things we cannot control: the color of our skin, our gender, our sexual identity, our nationality, or our disabilities. Perhaps someday soon we’ll all see each other as we are:human beings.
Sunday had been an uplifting day. I woke up a little later than I had anticipated, likely because I had stayed up a little later than normal the night before. For a third day in a row (I think), I didn’t wake up with a headache. When I got up and ventured out of my room, I had my full breakfast before I decided I would have my first cigarette of the day. I decided to start my day with a few games on my tablet and then read a chapter from the book I had started recently. Mom invited me along for her walk, but I’m still not up to completing her typical four miles, so I politely declined. I was still feeling yesterday’s walk and didn’t want to feel like I was slowing her down, as she’s used to that distance already. While Mom was on her walk and Dad was out mowing our massive lawn, I took a nice long shower and psyched myself up for the rest of my day.
I had started a system for tracking my progress on some goals I had set so I could hold myself accountable for actually meeting those smaller, daily goals and remain on pace for my first “big” goal. Since that first big goal is to weigh within my most comfortable range (where I feel the healthiest), I had set that goal to be accomplished by my fortieth birthday – which just so happens to be 360 days away now, or little more than 51 weeks. Since my desired weight range is only 37-47 pounds less than what I weigh currently, this should be no problem once I have turned these smaller steps into habits. I don’t even need to lose a whole pound a week!
Since my birthday on Wednesday, I have successfully finished four-24 ounce cups of water each and every day, and on at least two of those days, I finished a fifth glass! I am certainly visiting my bathroom to relieve my bladder more often, but hey, it’s definitely worth it. I have been tracking my calorie intake and output with an awesome app that I should have never stopped using in the first place – the last time I had scaled down to around 155-160 pounds with it, I thought I would be fine without the app anymore. I failed to remember that it still meant I would have to keep my calories in balance or I would definitely gain it back (and then some). But, I had promised myself I would neveragain tip the scaled at 200+ pounds. I am determined to keep this promise!
So, I track my water and my calories, but I also have cut my Wild Cherry Pepsi intake down to one can every other day so far. For me, that is one of the biggest accomplishments I could attain! Recently I had been drinking 3-5 cans a day (again)! 3-5 cans! That’s nowhere near my worst relationship with sodas, but it’s still borderline insanity. The more I have increased my fruits and veggies and other healthy foods, the less I have room in my caloric budget (and my stomach!) for junk foods. That’s not to say I don’t still eat pizza (hello – my birthday dinner!?) and sugary snacks; I just eat fewer of them and/or in smaller portions. There’s no reason I shouldn’t enjoy cheese curds and jalapeno poppers occasionally; I just keep them in check.
Take today’s meals for instance:
Breakfast – medium banana & 1.5 cups of Tootie Fruities cereal in 0.5 cup of 1% milk
Lunch – 3 mozzarella sticks, 3 jalapeno poppers & a can of Wild Cherry Pepsi
Dinner – 5 oz. chicken breast (boneless & skinless), 0.5 of a very large yam (roughly 1 cup), 1 cup broccoli, & 0.5 cup green beans
I still didn’t eat the healthiest foods today (except for my dinner and the morning banana) but nevertheless, I came in under my allotted calorie intake and that’s what matters. And even though I declined to join Mom for a walk today, it doesn’t mean that I didn’t meet my daily exercise goal. In fact, after dinner, I decided to walk around the freshly cut lawn for my 30 minutes. I had no planned route or method of exercise, other than to get my heart rate up a little and to get my daily 30 minute minimum in, so I literally walked circles around the front four to six acres surrounding the house and other buildings, as well as the enormous vacant garden plot behind the house. I even took a few laps around the various fruit trees in the mini “orchard” in the front of the property (near the highway). There are so many gradual hills and slopes in the yard that I may as well have been hiking it. I am proud to report that I have not missed one 30+ minute workout yet, and I’m sure when I am able to more consistently handle a higher daily goal, that will increase as well.
The other small daily goals have nothing directly to do with weight loss, but they also were set with larger goals in mind. The first is to write for a minimum of one hour every day. It can be for the blog, for my private journal, some creative writing exercises – the point is, I wanted to get back to writing more often and damn it, I am going to do just that!
And finally, I have been practicing my meditations. Before the coronavirus changed our lives as we know it, I had been working with a secondary doctor learning relaxation therapies and other techniques to help my spiritual and mental health simultaneously. Unfortunately, it is much more difficult to meet with her virtually in order to get the most benefit out of the techniques, especially since I don’t have access to the technology and software she has been using for my appointments. I can only hope that I will be able to return to see her soon, but in the meantime, I have been practicing with an app that she had directed me toward and it has been helpful.
Now, I wish I could report as great of results in sticking to these non-weight-related goals this first week, but to tell you so would be a lie. I am happy to report that I was able to complete some time every day to both of those goals, but I fell short of the total minimum times all but two days. I consider these successes nonetheless, because I was able to spend at least 5 minutes in meditation each day (instead of my minimum goal of 15 minutes), and although I didn’t necessarily justwrite for an hour every day, I did work on making improvements to this blog and write for that minimum hour each day. In fact, most days when I set off to write, I spent nearly 2-3 hours in total on the computer, directly aimed at my goals for writing. It just so happened that I was spending more time making small tweaks to the already existing posts and pages and less time actually writing new material. And hey, if I can live with those shortcomings, then I’m sure you will all forgive me (especially since you already know I am still pretty new to all this blogging stuff).
I am looking forward to getting these first five behaviors set as habits so I can slowly start adding in the other steps to creating the good habits necessary in achieving my biggest goals. I have been working hard on mind, body, and spirit to create a more positive life and I know I will get there.
I love myself too much to fail this time. I owe it to myself!
Inspiration really does come at the right time, and for me it’s often when I think I have nothing to write about. When I set off to start this blog entry, I found myself looking at this piece on my wall that I absolutely LOVE! I have looked at this every single day and often look back on the circumstances under which it became mine. I cherish this piece more than most other gifts I have been given throughout my lifetime, and undoubtedly because of the story behind it.
Ok, so back when I had first been given my diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, I had been working at that national retailer for just shy of two years. I couldn’t say for certain if my position was as Assistant Operations Manager (Ass-Ops, as we liked to call it) or lead Customer Service Associate (CSA), but I was definitely part of the formal wear department (as I was for all of my roughly twelve years with the company. Most of my duties revolved around helping customers choose their rental attire for their formal events (weddings, proms, galas, and the occasional funeral). I had also received training on measuring people for these pieces (yes, even the occasional female), and by that time, I was pretty dang good at getting them in the right sizes for the products they had selected.
One day, within a few months of my diagnosis, a very nice gentleman came in to be fitted for his tuxedo for a formal dinner given by the American Heart Association because his friend’s daughter was one of the guests of honor. My teammates sent him back to where I was sitting at the desk in our tuxedo department and I greeted him kindly and invited him to sit across from me while I got the necessary information to find his event’s file. I asked the typical interview questions before I could start on his measurements and help him select a style he would be comfortable in. (Our products fit differently depending on brand and style, so knowing his style preferences were an important step in the process.)
At the time, I had been having some bothersome symptoms and had been using a cane as a “just in case,” as I often do in the midst of a flare-up. I laugh about it these days, but back then I was highly self-conscious, since I was just 28 and didn’t look to be at all disabled. When I found the file I needed, it showed that there were no specific styles required and he could choose what he pleased. I grabbed my cane and tape measure and I asked him to stand in front of me so I could take his measurements (customer service tip: know your job so well that you know the most efficient ways to do anything, and you’ll never fail; Especially if you can do it with a genuine smile on your face!). I usually made small talk with my customers along with my interview questions. I like to think that it made the process better for us all.
Of course, when young, healthy-looking me stood up, cane in hand, this customer (who we’ll call EZ) hesitantly inquired about my cane. Naturally, he guessed that I was recovering from an injury of sorts. But blunt little ol’ me didn’t mince any words as I nonchalantly told him that I was recently diagnosed with MS and was having a bit of an exacerbation; the cane just made me feel more secure in my balance. He remarked with his apologies that I had to deal with such a disorder at my age, but then our conversation took a more spiritual, positive turn.
I felt God’s presence in this man who was a complete stranger before this chance interaction, and as we spoke, he struggled to recall a quote he said his mom loved, something about God only giving us what we can handle. I quickly tried to recall my favorite Mother Teresa quote (though not verbatim) and we laughed about how we knew what we were trying to say, but both at a loss for the actual quote. (I hope I never forget how I felt as we laughed about a quote we both knew, but couldn’t in that moment recall completely, because it was definitely an uplifting moment! I may quite possibly remember his name for the rest of my life, even if I can no longer conjure up a mental image of him.)
As I continued assisting him in selecting his formal attire, we continued easily in our conversation, but I couldn’t tell you what else we had spoken about that day. I know it was not an incredibly long interaction. When we finished with his transaction and I had given him his pickup instructions, I shook his hand and thanked him for letting me assist him and I bid him farewell until his October event.
Flash forward to the week of his formal dinner and EZ comes in to pick up his rental. I recognized him immediately and greeted him by the registers at the front of the store, where I had just been helping a coworker. I instructed him to wait by the fitting rooms and I would go retrieve his tuxedo. Somewhere during the walk from the front of the store to the tuxedo department, he smiled and told me he was happy to see me without that cumbersome cane in tow. I explained that the exacerbation had gone away after a long week of steroid therapy (after we had last met in the summertime), and I thanked him for his kind words and well wishes. I finished setting up his garments in the fitting room and asked him to step out for final adjustments when he was done trying on the major pieces (shirt, vest, pant, shoes) and I would help him with the coat once I had made any necessary adjustments to the other pieces.
By the end of his fitting, he had complimented me on how easy and stress-free I had made this entire process for him. I know I likely gave some smart ass response like “I would hope that after my 7 years in the business, I have learned a couple things,” and shrugged it off as being my job (because believe it or not, I haven’t always been good at accepting compliments). EZ couldn’t have been a more pleasant customer to help, even if I have had more than my share of wonderful customers over the years! (And yes, I have also had to deal with the not-so-nice customers as well, but I choose not to dwell on negatives very long.) I told him he would have to bring a few pictures of him and his group at the dinner when he returned his tuxedo, like I did with all my favorite customers through the years. (I just really like seeing people looking good and having fun!)
Well, that Sunday his tuxedo was due back to the store, but it was a scheduled day off for me that week, so his pickup was my final personal encounter with him. But that is not where this story ends, either…
I got a call that Sunday from our assistant store manager, J, because he wanted to see if I would come in to the store to get something a customer had just dropped off for me. J kept jabbering on about this package, so I told him I would head up there in a little bit. Typically when I got called on my days off, it was because someone else called in to work, but hearing J tell me this story about this mystery customer who left a package and complimented me on my service, my curiosity was certainly piqued!
I have received plenty of thank you cards and emails from grateful customers throughout the years, but I had never received a package before (or after) that point! When I arrived to the store, J was eagerly anticipating my arrival. He had already told me a description of the customer, but nothing could have prepared me for what I would find!! I hadn’t even looked in the thin gift bag yet – about the size of piece of copy paper, and roughly half an inch thick – but as I began to read the attached card, I suddenly felt my eyes fill with tears of happiness.
To say that I was overwhelmed by this man’s gesture is a bit of an understatement, because the card told me everything I needed to know about this gift: it was the very plaque that was once his mother’s! This man, who was a perfect stranger to me prior to his initial visit to the store, had now given me a thoughtful, meaningful gift that could very well have been a family heirloom, but instead he wanted ME to have it!
Me – that simple retail employee who was just doing her job, in the manner she tried to provide service to every customer! I didn’t feel that it was something I deserved for simply doing my job, but EZ felt that I would appreciate that plaque most! Jaw dropped. Tears flowed. I finally opened the bag and took out the plaque with tears still in my eyes (and a bunch of nosy co-workers waiting to see what I had received) and told everyone that I would need a moment to gain my composure back.
While I stepped outside, they took turns reading the note and looking at that extremely thoughtful gift. They had already seen me through the beginning of my journey with Bertha as my daily companion, so not one person questioned my very emotional reaction they had just witnessed on my face. They understood.
So, EZ, if you miraculously make your way to my blog and see this post, please know that your gift has been such a treasured possession over the last eleven years that it has hung in my bedroom in every place I have lived since I received it! I will forever remember how selflessly you gave this stranger a thoughtful reminder of what I’m made of, even when I don’t always see it in myself. (P.S. I still pray for you and your family regularly!)
I hope every single one of my readers has an experience like this at least once in their lives, because no matter how small you think your gifts may be, they might just mean the world to someone else!!
Forgive me, but I’m NOT about to apologize for being truthful with the world, but I AM sorry if this entry is tough for you to read! Feel free to skip over anything you don’t want to know about me. I won’t hold it against you! This is MY story and I know it could help others to hear it, so I am giving you the opportunity NOT to read this one now, because you can NEVER unlearn this about me. I love you and that won’t change whether you read it or not!!
I have to be delicate with how I handle part two of this post, because I am going to retell parts of the story that I am incapable of telling from my own perspective, so I am relying on my (horrible) memory and things others have told me since the following events occurred. I will do my best not to guess at the feelings of others but to simply stick to the facts as they had been relayed to me.
First, a little background information:
From early December 2016 until late November 2017, I had been involved in a “friends with benefits” kind of relationship with a very good guy friend of mine. We had been hanging out for years prior to that with absolutely nothing physical happening between us, but for some reason it happened. And then it happened again. And before long, sex kinda became part of our friendship. We would hang out with other mutual friends and do typical platonic friendship things – go to movies in a group, hang out at karaoke nights at local bars, go bowling, you name it. And it never seemed awkward for him and I to hang out alone, either. I even helped him with projects on his place (even though I have no business doing construction-type work).
After about 5 months of sleeping with him regularly, I realized that I was starting to have feelings for him that went deeper than as strictly platonic friends. I fought it with every ounce of my energy, because I knew how he was in relationships – I’ve known him since grade school, but our friendship in adulthood began in that mutual group of friends where he and I would swap dating advice because we had mutual respect and honesty between us, and neither of us were interested in the other for dating.
Ok, so maybe when I first met him in grade school, I asked him to be my boyfriend, but I don’t honestly know if that was just one of his funny stories he made me believe happened or if it, in fact, really happened. It definitely fit my boy-crazy elementary school self’s M.O., so naturally I believed this guy, who was my friend. There are other stories I could bring up, but I am trying to keep this as generic as possible to spare feelings and reputations of anyone tied to this story. (Did I mention it’s a small town?)
Regardless, several months into the “friends with benefits” scenario, I distinctly remember that it was feeling much more like we were in a relationship at one point (after my feelings were becoming clear to me) and in a small town, if you’re out and about with the same person of the other gender frequently, people start to assume you’re a couple. We both denied it any time someone asked us directly, but because of all those other opinions that had come into the mix, I grew confused on where he actually stood on the issue, and started seeing signs that maybe all those people were right.
Anyway, the first weekend of December 2017, we had gone out to the bars with a group of friends. By this time into the “situationship,” I was completely convinced that he was just oblivious to what this “thing” between us was and that he would eventually realize we would make a good pair. My depression had begun to overcome me, though, because I had grown so involved in this relationship that didn’t even exist.
I had allowed this fucked-up situation to become an actual relationship in my mind, because who wouldn’t want to fall for their really good friend? Growing up, I had learned from my family that those tend to be the strongest relationships, so why not, right?
Once again, my expectations let me down. I was already feeling depressed that night when we went out and I have a rule about drinking: never drink alcohol when you’re in a negative mood. Angry, sad, annoyed – don’t drink.
Well, I didn’t follow my own rule that night. I proceeded to get so shitfaced drunk that I needed to go sleep it off or I feared I would spend the rest of the night throwing up the Captain Morgan and Pepsi cocktails I had been slamming all night. So I was walked to this friend’s house by him and a few others from our group; I was told I could sleep it off there.
The next part of the story is where I can only tell you what others have reported to me, because I hardly remembered anything after everyone else left the house. I was left alone to sleep while they all continued the night’s party with an after bar (I believe).
The last thing I remember was that I decided I wanted to “sleep until my problems went away” or some bullshit like that. (Again, I’m going based on bits and pieces of a story I have been retold from other people’s perspectives, and what little I could put together from the fragments of the memories that showed up from that completely inebriated mind of mine that night.) I just know that my mentally ill mind was clouded by the imagined hurt I felt from his supposed rejection of me that night, and especially so by all the alcohol I had added into the already toxic mix of an ill mind.
Well, that poisoned, drunken, mentally ill mind decided that apparently the only way to “sleep until my problems went away” was to swallow every single pill I had in my prescription bag that promoted sleep – sleeping pills, muscle relaxers, and tricyclic antidepressants. Even in my drunken state, I somehow had the wherewithal to avoid the “uppers” like the Adderall I had for my fatigue. (If there’s anything I know for certain, it is that my “book smart” intelligence is rarely affected much by alcohol, and I could prove it to anyone by pointing out my drunken text messages, because I still only have a few typos in my drunken messages in comparison to my sober ones. Neither often has spelling or grammatical errors. They happen, just not often, regardless of alcohol intake.)
Anyway, as I was lying on the floor in this friend’s house, alone, with a stomach full of pills, I was able to send out a group text message to my parents and my sisters. I don’t remember sending it, but I believe what I sent that night simply said “I’m sorry. I love you.” I’m gonna give God all the credit on that one, though, because I don’t believe I could’ve sent it by myself, in the state I was in prior to the pills! I am thankful I did, too, because I don’t believe I would still be here today to write this blog if they hadn’t seen my middle of the night text messages and quickly sprang into action to find me!
This is where my narration ends completely, because I don’t remember that one sister got a hold of a family friend who is a police officer in our town to let him know about my text that was out of character, especially for the time of night. (I am often up late; my family isn’t.) I don’t remember that my parents went to another friend’s house to look for me. I don’t remember my family’s reaction to that friend’s nonchalant response that “oh, she’s fine; she’s just sleeping it off.” (This is simply what I was told by my family later, and the friend who gave that response didn’t mean anything harmful by it; just that she had assumed that I was sleeping off my drunkenness at the aforementioned FWB’s house. How could she have known, if those text messages only went to my family? I harbor no ill will on my friends for their seemingly blasé reactions to my family desperately searching for me because they had no way of knowing what had happened after they left me.)
I have no recollection of officers breaking my friend’s door to gain entry when they couldn’t reach him. I have no memories of the paramedics who rushed me to the hospital in an effort to save my life that early, early morning. I don’t remember being transported to another hospital via ambulance when the first hospital did all they could for me before transferring my care to a hospital in St. Paul that had far more experience with situations like mine, and I couldn’t even tell you confidently that it was four days instead of two that I had spent at that hospital, but I am positive my parents and sisters could tell you how they felt, seeing me almost comatose in that hospital bed. I’m sure that it was one of the scariest moments in their lives, and I am still brought to tears when I think of what I must have put them through!
I vaguely remember waking up in a hospital room with all of them anxiously waiting to see if I would be alright. I remember that I was hungry and wanted Taco Bell, but I think I was probably also still under the influence of some drug or another, because I also vaguely remember swearing at my sister about the Taco Bell she was so gracious to go get for me and I was incredibly unappreciative then. I can never take that back, but I can apologize to her again as many times as it takes me to feel better about being a complete bitch to her when she didn’t deserve it. (I still am very sorry for that, and I don’t think I have apologized enough, and I don’t know if I truly can. But I AM sorry and you DIDN’T deserve that!)
At some point after I had eaten my food, I was transferred to another ward in the hospital where I stayed another day and a half or so for group and individual therapies. The only other time I had been in anything even remotely similar was when I had checked myself into another hospital in St. Paul because I was feeling suicidal, but that time I was able to check myself out hours later, because I was not there on an involuntary hold. Imagine feeling so low that you voluntarily check in to a hospital, but then are left alone in an empty room with nothing but your thoughts that you would be better off if you were dead. There was no group therapy and only one or two basic interviews with any trained professionals there. This time, I was put on an involuntary hold that I was vehemently against from the moment I was told about it, because I thought this would be like the other time, in the other hospital and I didn’t want to be left alone with my thoughts again! It can be a very dark, incredibly terrifying place in my mind sometimes. And I was convinced that this time would be like before, and I was certain that my overdose was just a fluke, because I was drunk when I had no business drinking alcohol in my already depressed state in the first place!
I was able to have visitors this time, and my family showed up every day. If I ever doubted their love for me before that December, I had absolutely no reason to ever doubt them again in that hospital! I started to feel miserable for most of the others in that ward, though, because I was the only one in the group who had visitors to every single visiting hour. I am forever grateful for that experience, no matter how difficult it was on me at the time to be in that ward, because it reminded me that my family loves me unconditionally (and I am probably still not as grateful for them as I should be)!
I spent most of my time in that mental health ward being angry that I was on an involuntary hold and that I couldn’t go outside and smoke my cigarettes. The nicotine patches and gums that I was allowed were nowhere near strong enough for my frustrations of being kept against my wishes, but I was released after the short time because my state-funded Medicaid insurance would no longer cover my stay, and the psychiatrist there felt assured that I was no longer an immediate threat to myself, especially given my protective, supportive family I would be returning home with.
Eventually, I got over my feelings for that “friend with benefits,” but it took time and the attention of another man and a lot of physical distance between us. I needed my move to Kansas City as much as I needed to get away from some other toxic “friendships” (unrelated to this incident, btw) and to prove to myself that I could be independent. Unfortunately, I may have jumped right into something with the other man only to continue the pattern of “situationships” I had become all too familiar with in the more recent years. (Only that one felt different than any of the others, but that is definitely not something I am ready to discuss here yet; he is the only one of those “situationships” who wasn’t afraid to say “I love you” to me, and I believed him. Maybe I still believe him. I guess we’ll see what happens, but for now, I have a blog to write and I’m gonna focus on my health, both mental and physical.)
Forgive me, but I’m NOT about to apologize for being truthful with the world, but I AM sorry if this entry is tough for you to read! Feel free to skip over anything you don’t want to know about me. I won’t hold it against you! This is MY story and I know it could help others to hear it, so I am giving you the opportunity NOT to read this one now, because you can NEVER unlearn this about me. I love you and that won’t change whether you read it or not!!)
I feel like I have been holding back from talking about all of my struggles, and I have been wrestling with how to discuss the mental health aspect on this blog thus far. Probably largely for the reasons in which most of us don’t generally discuss things like anxiety, depression, mania, and the other plethora of mental illnesses: it typically makes people uncomfortable to talk about it. Perhaps this is why there is that unspoken stigma surrounding schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, multiple personality disorders, and even eating disorders. Newsflash: these things exist whether we discuss them or not!
I, for one, would like for us all to be able to openly discuss our own personal struggles in life without shame, pity, or judgment, because we really don’t have the foggiest idea of what others deal with in their lives, only what they share with us (and even then, it’s probably not everything, anyway)! I realize that, as humans, we naturally attempt to understand another’s situation(s) or struggles through our own life’s perspective, and through the ways we are brought up, but how on earth can I understand anything with which I have exactly zero experience, or perhaps only know someone who knows someone who deals with the same issues?
I could never truly understand how one feels when they have fully submitted control to a substance, such as alcohol, and how that must feel to be faced with the decision of whether they want to continue on the path of addiction or if maybe today they will be stronger than their disease and find the help they know deep down inside would improve their life immensely!
I could never truly understand why someone who struggles with anorexia or bulimia feels the need to starve themselves daily, or why they never feel as skinny as the rest of the world sees they are, after years of binging and purging every single meal, never to allow their body the opportunity to absorb the nutrients they so desperately need to be healthy (those things that the rest of us see as obvious, but that is in complete opposition to what their minds and eyes see when they look in the mirror.
I could never truly understand what a paranoid schizophrenic feels when they claim that someone is trying to steal their thoughts and ideas, or why they feel someone is always listening to them (and what purpose would that even serve the supposed spy?). I can never truly understand these things because I do not suffer from alcoholism or from an eating disorder, or from schizophrenia. But what I do have is a long-standing diagnosis of Bipolar I disorder (around 1998-99) for which I am finally seeking a second opinion, long after I celebrated my 20-year high school reunion.
It may seem strange to others that I would have sought out a second opinion so many years after having been told (pretty definitively, I might add) that my mental illness has a name and various treatments available for overcoming it. Well, I’ll tell you – it is partly because for many years, I denied that it even was my mental illness. Sure, in high school I can remember countless sleepless nights when I would just continue reading or writing long after I was told to go to bed “because it’s a school night,” but I just thought that was normal of most teenagers! Aren’t we told to do things as teens, even if we didn’t think we needed it, because “oh, well, I could get some more of that essay done tonight in one shot (even though it isn’t due for another two weeks) because I’m just not really tired tonight.” Y’all, that’s typically called a ‘manic episode.’
The reason why it had become so easy to just disregard as a ‘mistaken diagnosis’ for me for so long was because I had only really remembered those manic episodes for select years – from about age 17 until maybe age 23. That’s not to say that, when looking back honestly over my past, I didn’t have periods of mania after those ages, only that they showed up in other ways, sometimes more subtly, so I often couldn’t recognize it in myself. Those other ways were much easier to convince myself that it was due to some other cause, like in the case of my promiscuity; I was just a slut who enjoyed sex.
And that was exactly what I told myself! I called myself the worst things in the world that I could think of, because I started to think those things were my truth and I couldn’t escape it. (My inner demons are much more than just Bertha, obviously, but it came to a point when I had to realize that, even though I do love sex, itwasn’t always within my control to decide wisely. Those chemical imbalances are quite the powerful catalyst to drive many unsafe behaviors. Add a little alcohol into the mix and I could no longer say no to a “good time” because I had lost all control of my decision-making abilities, and my demons were going to win that battle, too.)
But, I got really good at denying it!
So flash forward to now, mid-May 2020, and I am seeking a second opinion because I need to hear it for myself again. From another psychiatrist with whom I have already developed a good rapport, and (likely since I am no longer a teenager who thinks she knows better than a trained professional) I am ready to hear it, definitively, once again. I am 99.9% sure that it is exactly the diagnosis I will receive again once she scores the tests I had submitted this week, but I am honestly ready to hear it and to get myself the medications and therapies I need to live a life where my mental illness is as ‘in control’ as it can be. Bertha certainly doesn’t help my mental health, either, but it would be nice if this chemical imbalance in my brain were able to be balanced.
I’m sure those of you who are strangers or casual friends and acquaintances are confused as to what brought on this desire for a second opinion, so I’ll just tell you what happened the weekend before last. I started my day with a ton of energy, immediately from physically getting out of bed. (If you know me well, mornings are my crabbiest times, each and pretty much every day, because typically I need to allow my brain more time to “wake up,” even if my body is already out of bed, moving about.) I despise being awakened before I am ready, too, that I am almost another being, like a fire-breathing dragon the likes of Smaug. Seriously: DON’T WAKE ME UP unless you are prepared for the possibility of a huge, unnecessary fight that could have been avoided.
(Just ask my good friend, E, who had the pleasure of being my roommate for a time. She’ll likely tell you about the times when she’d sweetly sing “You Are My Sunshine” to me to wake me, and I would cruelly throw every available pillow, blanket, and stuffed animal at her from my top bunk perch. Back then she found it hilarious; and I guess now, looking back on it, I finally do, too. Thanks, E, for putting up with my crabby ass, btw! You are one amazing friend, mother, and person, and I don’t think I could ever say that enough!)
Fortunately, I’ve gotten a lot better about mornings in my adult life since sharing a room with E, but if Bertha had been a royal bitch the night before, or I didn’t get enough restful sleep, or someone interrupts my sleep before I am ready to be awake, Smaug returns with a vengeance and I can only apologize after the angry tirade is over. (Though, I promise I am still working on it!)
Anyway, back to what happened the weekend before last, and my waking with so much energy…
I felt like I could accomplish everything on my to-do list plus another 3-4 years’ worth of projects before the day was through. This had been so unlike me in recent years that initially I wondered if I had somehow accidentally taken my morning medicines in my sleep. (One of the meds I take is Adderall, used for the ‘off-label’ purpose of combating my fatigue; so naturally, I thought maybe that was the culprit.) I decided I’d better play it safe and only take my Adderall if it was necessary after a few hours, and only if I was feeling fatigued by then. That day I stuck to just my Prozac for the depression, since I felt that it had been doing quite a bit of good over the few months since Dr. R had increased the dosage, and I was feeling less depressed every day. Great news, right?!
Not so much. At that time in this COVID-19 lockdown my parents and I were on, I was living the overnight shift, because the first two weeks I was back at their house after my month in Kansas City, it was pretty necessary to avoid as much contact with my parents as I could until we knew I had gone fourteen days without any symptoms of the pandemic. So, of course, my waking time was actually around 7:30 p.m. and I was WIDE AWAKE. I was as jittery as my coffee-loving friends are after they have polished off the first pot of the day, I’d imagine, so I decided I would go for a walk and get some exercise that night. But after an almost two-mile walk, I was still too fidgety to just sit down and watch TV, yet I still needed to stay quiet enough so as to not wake my parents who, by that time, were asleep in the next bedroom. What was a girl to do?
Well, that’s where this blog began, actually. I had come up with the idea earlier but hadn’t actually looked into what it would take to start it. Luckily, I have the most amazing and awesome friends, because M suggested I look into WordPress earlier, so that night, when I had more energy than a room full of toddlers after a preschool field trip to the candy factory, I finally did my research and bigbadberthaandme.com was born. It was that night I was able to write what you would now recognize as my first couple of posts. Apparently I am at my most creative when I have enough energy to run a marathon or two or three. (Honestly, I probably didn’t even need that particular “endless night” to remind me of this; most of my best papers in college were written after verylittle sleep and typically, as close to deadline as I could submit them!)
That particular “endless night” lasted a total of close to forty straight hours awake, give or take 20 minutes. Some of you think this is crazy and impossible; in high school, many of those nights were more like 55-60 hours straight, so I am honestly just happy this most recent occurrence didn’t last into a third or fourth day. Truth be told, I sometimes don’t mind having days like that, but since it had been over a decade since I could recall having one that could rival those sessions like I had experienced in high school, I knew I needed to talk with my primary care doc and my therapist.
They both agreed that my concerns were justified, and after my therapist asked me questions from the mental health screening she had, I agreed that it would be beneficial to have me formally re-tested to determine if that diagnosis I had been in denial about for so long was actually really true. After several days of scheduling, and then cancelling, appointments with several clinics (to find one that my insurance would help cover), I was finally able to have my first virtual appointment with Dr. W. She asked me mostly background information about my life, my family, if I had experienced any traumas – really, all the basic information any mental health clinic will ask a new patient. She then instructed me she would be sending a couple of questionnaires via confidential, secure emails and to complete them as I as able. She also told me not to rush through it, but that all truthful answers would serve only to help me. Since I had learned enough about these tools already through my own psychology training (and I had already taken several similar tests, if not the same ones, in the past), I was prepared for these as well. I had forgotten how difficult it was sometimes to select only true or false, though, so we shall see what comes from this testing!
Postscript: I had originally set out to write about another mental health issue, but as I continued writing, I decided that I needed to make this two parts. The same warning at the top of this post will apply to family and close friends. I just feel it more appropriate to give it the time and energy it deserves, because it is by far the worst thing I have ever put my loved ones through and I don’t want them to have to relive it without sufficient warning to make that decision for themselves.