morning in the moment

I start posts constantly, but never finish them because I am waiting, searching for perfection. Funny how it constantly scurries off before I find it. Today, I will write and hit publish.

I am grateful. Those words seem simple and easy. We use them all the time. However, I am not sure we (or at least I) think or truly mean them.

Twice yesterday I was struck with the absolute realisation that I am grateful and that gratefulness had given back to me something I was missing. The circumstances are important but the specifics are not. My new job, new career has given to me skills, teachers and more. My co-workers are amazing. Their families are fantastic and I am beginning to feel slightly more whole. I have a (tiny) bit of confidence, that is constantly shot down, but it’s there! I feel fortunate and simply grateful. It struck me in a moment yesterday how I felt. And there was no guilt involved.

Then later on in the day I went for a mani/pedi (which I usually hate spending the time doing). I had no other plans, nothing pressing, no one waiting for me. As usual, I noticed everything around, sensory overload, the brain clicking away as it does for me. My pedicurist I thought was a bit slow and soft, but he also had a tattoo that I just couldn’t quite see or figure out. I was intriugued. Before I was finished, of course I opened up my curious mouth to ask 20 questions about him and yep, the tattoo! He chuckled a bit and said it was him…or what he thought he was in an earlier lifetime. The time I spent wondering about this man’s arm and this particular tattoo (he pretty much had two sleeves) put me through quite a few emotions. I felt intrigue, curiousity, wonder, fear, patriotism, political conviction and finally peace and possibly a vision of epiphany (his, not mine). I also saw and felt his slow and soft was simply gentle and a matter of him staying in the moment, taking the time to be completely present.

We all have a vision of who and what we think ourselves to be. Sometimes we choose to believe it is a forever us. Is it? Most likely not. However, I know I could not have told younger self all I would go through. I know I would make all the same choices, some may say mistakes. For me they are who I am. The good, the bad, and everything in between led me to who I am today – imperfect and really, truly grateful.

I appreciate things I didn’t realise and too many to thank or recognise. I’ve tried to be mindful of my appreciation in the past 6 years especially. I’ve done the journal thing (didn’t work). I’m not sure exactly how or what switched on or off yesterday, but it did. I am so grateful and it is sincere. It really comes down to “thank you,” two far more powerful words than most of us realise.

i hate clichés

Like a fish out of water….

I hate clichés. I use clichés. Clichés are useful and often appropriate. Clichés suck! Grrrr…. Particularly, in my mental health adventure they seem to be omnipresent. It must be a comfort thing, something familiar. This too shall pass is my favourite. Not in just my decade of debilitating illness, but in life generally. It fits and damnit, it’s true.

Despite the depths of my despair, the state of my mind, the protection sporadic amnesia offers, I knew that the way I was thinking about everything was often not realistic. I could not, however, pull myself out of my head. It wasn’t possible. Before you go off on railing on my use of the word can’t, let me enlighten you to the truth. There are some things we can’t, cannot do. Trust me, I have a great “can do” attitude. I will try, keep trying and go back to trying when most have given up long ago. (This is different from procrastination. My procrastination is mainly out of fear of failing, yet another shortcoming.) About a year ago I went into carpentry without any real clue what I was doing. I have NO natural talent for it. It took me 8 months to say that. I’m not sure if I’ve accepted it. There are things I can’t do, because I can’t see the forest for the trees (cliché). In time with practice, patience and dedication I may well be able to master some things, or fake them. However, there is a distinct possibility that I just won’t be able to do them. I can’t.

In January of 2011, it began. The event now, seems irrelevant. (It’s not, but here it doesn’t matter.) By June of 2011, I wasn’t me. I can recall sitting at my son’s graduation not realising what was going on around me. I looked fine, but there was an emptiness I was to become intimate with, entangled. The spiral only continued. I attempted to mitigate the symptoms and alleviate the blur life had become. The drugs didn’t help, (and yes, I gave this round the necessary time to work). I had a masters dissertation staring me down. A cross-Atlantic barrier, an advisor who left the university, an absent program directory, and my emotions were uncontrollable. My inablity to know what was happening to me or see what I was doing to everyone around me, engulfed me. I could not see it. I could not understand it. I could not handle it. At the time, “I can’t” was the reality but not acceptable to me.

After years of trying to hide, run, escape – while staying put – I lost, because you can run but you can’t hide. I lost my marriage. I lost my mind. And in my mind, I lost my assets, my talents, my potential. I had no value. No amount of real world exposure or “in my face” obviousness made me see the situation as it truly was. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t instant. I had moments of positivity, maybe lucidity? But it always returned to self-hate, self-degradation, all out verbal assault inside my head. I spent so much time alone that my only friend was me. Much of this was self-inflicted. Like many people, I retreat, shut down and shut out everyone. Even now, I have few people in my life I see on a regular basis. A lot of it was by unconscious choice. I alienated many.

My sanctuary was work. I spent a solid 18 months working between 70 – 90 hours a week. Pretty much every waking moment I was at work. It was a distraction, a holding place, and I really didn’t care about the money. I just needed to belong somewhere. Before I go further I have to tell you that work, for me, has always been far more than a place to go and earn money/do a job. My emotions run high (bipolar!) I am passionate and I won’t do anything I don’t want, mostly because I’ll suck at it and might fail, so I’ll cut and run before that happens (see above). It’s not an “I can’t”. It’s an “I don’t want to” out of lack of fulfillment. Work brings people into my life that I might otherwise not get to know. I experience things I don’t know exist or how to do. Work is education, interaction. It gives me that overload of senses I crave. So if my heart isn’t in it, I don’t want it. I took two full time jobs, one with fluctuating hours and a set salary. The other was my “family” of nearly 15 years. Looking back they were both in an industry I can basically do in my sleep. It was something I knew and was capable. I’m enormously grateful now. I was grateful then, I just couldn’t see it. They all saved my life, more than once.

There is a period of time mid-decade that I simply can’t discern what happened when. All of my usual defense mechanisms, lifelong coping strategies rendered no relief. It was in and amongst this period I lost trust. The trust I had in everyone around me died. More importantly the trust I had in myself disappeared. (I struggle with acceptance of my bipolar diagnosis. Even now I often think it’s complete bullshit. Then I talk to friends or family and know it’s been there nearly all my life, lurking in the shadows.) The straw that broke the camel’s back was when I couldn’t trust myself. My brain betrayed me. I couldn’t find or hold my mind. The most intricate piece of we humans, the organ we know so little about, the thing that protects, maintains, mediates, delivers all the signals to us, failed me. And alone, because I pushed everyone away, I could’t relinquish myself to anyone else. I trusted no one.

What does one do with so much uncertainty? I always believed that by my mid-40s I would be in a much different place. The chip on my shoulder weighed heavy between expectations and reality. Despair is an understatement. My occupation watched what my mind couldn’t. But every now and then, the facade fell. My mind slipped further away. I don’t have a clear understanding or knowledge of the situations or any triggers but I know things happened. I know I contemplated, tried suicide inadvertently. My mind, failing and all, protected me from the explicitness of that hopelessness. But, as time passed and nothing changed, the oscillation of my stability wore heavy. Habits are hard to break and I needed to leave if I was going to have a chance to survive. Even in the uncertainty of my head, I moved to Scotland. I went back to school fully intending to get my PhD. I went deep into debt. (How much is a life worth? Mine currently stands at about $100,000. I have a piece of paper, okay, two pieces of paper for the price.) I was saved again.

I dared to plan, and let go of years of anhedonia. (After so long without emotion I may need to revisit and qualify so much of the past ten years. Possibly I can untangle part of what’s missing.) Scotland wasn’t completely foreign to me. I didn’t know much, certainly not enough but opportunity doesn’t knock twice. By the time I arrived my weight was down to roughly 115 pounds. I was unhealthily thin and could actually fit into a prom dress from 1985 when I was 15. Again, it was scary for those around me. I just moved through life. Conviction can ofter overcome inability. I worked those 18 months in sleep deprivation and forced myself into physical labour. If I couldn’t feel emotion, I would feel pain. My conviction dulled even that. Arriving with all my worldly possessions in two suitcases, I jumped on the motorway in my tiny rental. My first stop was to get food! I was finally hungry.

I had been unable to secure housing before I arrived but knew what the money would afford me. I had a long term Air BnB and knew how to ask questions. My first few weeks were more about settling and accepting my new reality. I was still lost and alone. Just now, it was in a different country. I wouldn’t use exciting as my state of mind. I had already done it when I moved to Ireland. I was hopeful, cautiously optimistic, going out of the frying pan into the fire. Classes started and I began to feel my shattered soul making a few lost connections. I am a confessed agnostic, but I do think that people collide for unseen reasons or opportunities. The case in point was my search for a flat. I made inquiries, went back and forth with landlords and agencies until an appointment I had cancelled somehow seemed viable. The man offered to pick me up to show me the flat. As a single middle aged crazy woman in a foreign country I fully knew what fate might befall me. Fuck it! I went. It was the best choice I could have made. I had a place to live and enough room for visitors.

I spent a year in Scotland. I realised and accepted that my incredible conviction could not carry me through a PhD. I didn’t have it in me. (Don’t be fooled, I still want a PhD and may get one at some point. But I have a much better realisation of what I need in order to be successful.) I wrote another dissertation, with a lot more guidance and support from my institution. I got another piece of paper. But I was still lost and depressed, just not suicidal. I was sad.

Coming home was okay. I didn’t feel that I let myself down or failed. I discovered too much to allow disappointment. What I did not have, still don’t, is pride. I completed two masters while I was really sick and all I have is a reality that I didn’t do my absolute best. Every now and then I take both of them out and start to revise and edit. Then I think, I don’t want to relive this even though I know I can do much better. My high hopes for a fresh new start soon shifted to the easy option. Patience is a virtue, and as one of my kids once screamed, “Ya! It’s one I don’t have.” Sure enough, the kid got it from me. I went back to waitressing. I found a new family and I loved my co-workers. They had more confidence in me and gave me so much support. But I was still ill. Bipolar wanted to keep me on the ride a little longer. Life’s a bitch!

The pandemic hit. Life changed for the world. We are not the same society. I am not fully healed, but, I have had a year of promise and potential. I felt, in my soul, what gratitude is. I learned to trust again. All these things I approach with caution. I take everything with a grain of salt. Most of all, I feel. My emotions still run with an intensity most people can’t imagine. (Yes, you can’t imagine how overwhelming I feel. And no, I don’t think I can explain it.) It’s fantastic. I can see the the forest and make out some of the trees, I collided with a few new souls who let me in without the harsh judgement I served myself for the past decade. I finally found medication that works. (I still have issues with the need to take anything, but I know it settles my head.) Throughout my lost decade I attended more classes, group sessions and discovery sessions than I can count. Tips, tricks and coping mechanisms were shovelled at me, usually without penetrating the blood brain barrier. However, I did file a few away in the recesses of my brain. I use them when I can, and I remember. They weren’t easy for me to wrap my head around, even when I was willing and tried. When life happens, I now make an effort to take a moment and acknowledge whatever feeling/emotion I am experiencing will pass. I haven’t gotten to recognising or accepting it, but I know it’s not forever. Often it’s not even for very long, this too shall pass. Additionally, just yesterday I had the privilege of being present for nearly the whole day and the pleasure of recognising my presence. Without appearing maudlin, I got to stop for a second and just bask in my own smugness of “getting it.” As everything does, it didn’t last forever but it took a tiny bit of the chip on my shoulder and patched up another piece of my shattered soul, All clichés aside, my cautious optimism feels a little stronger.

emotional deposits

I don’t harp on my manic depression. It doesn’t own me. Most of the time, I barely remember how much it impacts my life. That can be a tricky line to walk.

Of all the “symptoms” or maybe more accurately, characteristics is that of emotional intensity. Until my full diagnosis and subsequent therapy I had no idea that the way I processed emotions, as well as simply experienced them in the moment (and by memory) was any different from anyone else. However, it is different. My emotions are way more intense, visceral as compared to most other people. It is sometimes difficult to hold them together in a moment. I am desperately overwhelmed more often than I want to admit.

In all honesty, it’s not all bad. When it comes to happiness I often cannot contain my joy. As silly as that sounds I know my feelings ooze out, divulged in my facial expression and anxiety alike. I’m not sure how to describe it exactly, aside from pure bliss. When I am totally immersed in a moment, no other thoughts, just there, it feels as if I will explode and none of me will be left. Honest to goodness, just burst apart at the seams. Pop!

The dark times are just as intense, pain so great the only respite is deep sleep or death. Sleep eases the emotional wounds by allowing my mind to escape, if only for a few hours. Death becomes logical ONLY because the pain cuts so deep. It is not a rational response. I am well aware. But in full disclosure, that’s how I feel inside. It sucks. I have a fairly high/good tolerance to real physical pain, perhaps it’s because the emotional gashes strike so harshly. I can only surmise that this intensity adds time to my healing from emotional set backs. I can’t heal these wounds in a normal, acceptable time frame. (Yes, I am aware there is no “normal” time frame, but it’s unacceptable to me, and too long for friends and family to last through full circle.)

Until I took a long, hard look at my life in full, not segmented, I wasn’t able to identify and see the pattern that has obviously run throughout it. Emotional pain led to depression at a very young age and my inablility to process the ferocity of these emotions meant they had nowhere to go. I had to find some coping mechanism, a way to relieve the pressure. Even joy caused extreme stress. It still does. So, I took out an audio account and made deposits. In other words I embed some intensity, pain and joy (as well as every other emotion) into a song. I realise this is not a novelty, many people do this inadvertently. For me, it is a necessity, essential to survival. When asked what is the one thing you could not live without? Music.

In high school, I buried the pain (and yes, I hate to admit it trauma) of my abortion in Don Hendley’s “Boys of Summer” (https://youtu.be/qkk0RMRwGDs). With the first guitar riff, the pain floods back into my system. I can instantly cry (god! I should have been an actress, lol). I know my mind in the summer of 1984. I can see the attention, any attention I needed to have. I feel the care I desperately wanted to explore, come to know. And I can now see how misguided my mind was. Still, I wouldn’t change a single thing. I grew up in such an instant, one moment in a New York City Hospital on a cold January night. Boom! You are an adult, figure it out. (Those are my sentiments, not likely what was expected from everyone.) But, I fucked up and I had to unfuck what I had fucked (both literally and figuratively) in life.

Conversely, I can encapsulate the only truly “happy” year in my high school career (all of my teens actually) , my senior year, with Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes’ “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” (https://youtu.be/4BQLE_RrTSU). It is a song I really don’t like. It’s cringeworthy. However, it sums up a time and place of real joy. My senior year felt like all I had ever wanted. What I had been alive for 17 years to get to. My friends, my boyfriend were everything. School went well and I took all the classes I wanted (not that shit mandated by the state). Just pulling up that song throws me back to it all. I end up crying from the happiness bottled up within the first 30 seconds. It’s pathetic, lol. Especially because I really don’t like the damn song.

Flip again to the mid 1990s and I’m all tied up again with a flurry of feeling. Will Smith’s “Just the Two of Us” (https://youtu.be/_WamkRSDeD8) struck a chord that ran so close to my heart that the strings play right along today. I got divorced early and had a huge amount of fear, anxiety, stress from the challenge of raising two kids without a fucking clue how or what to do. I wanted my kids to know, love and experience life with both parents as fully as possible. There was definitely a part of me that was angry I wasn’t a better, stronger person. That I wasn’t able to power through and make it work. In essence it is a reminder of my own shameful weakness, as well as my dedication and overwhelming unconditional love for my kids. Wrapped up in Will Smith is equal joy and pain. That’s a really hefty deposit.

The songs go on by name, artist, dates and a variety of emotional deposits. I encapsulate life in a soundtrack, no different than most except the intensity doesn’t decrease or alter with time. The years, decades only preserve the emotions, gently protecting what I could not, cannot process.

Please don’t think these deposits take away from emotions that happen “in the moment.” They don’t. Just last week I experienced a near perfect moment and no song, no music was there for the deposit. The only place I could put it was the ocean lapping up against the shore, and let’s be honest, that is no place for an emotional deposit. Way too much goes on at the beach. Lol. The moment took over my senses and my abilities were rendered a bit useless. It was only last week, but I get stressfully overwhelmed just recalling the intensity of the moment. It’s awesome. I love it and hate it equally. It’s who I am and I wouldn’t change it. But I know I actively, desperately looked for someplace I could make a deposit. It just wasn’t there.

My emotional audio bank would not be complete without an entire section dedicated to Coldplay. They may be the one band who (nearly) single handedly kept me alive during the deepest darkest times of depression in my mid-forties. Particularly the Ghost Stories album let me deposit emotions that may have pushed me that extra bit over the edge of a cliff of no return. (Thank you Coldplay.) I can span the Coldplay catalog with good, bad, happy, sad, midling, wonder, awe, sadness, cynicism, just life in general, but one song brings a smile and gives me hope (a seriously undervalued emotion), “Up and Up” (https://youtu.be/BPNTC7uZYrI). Beyond the lyrics, the easy mellow rise and fall of the melody underlaid with a strong bass drum line, the single best part comes at rougly 2.45 into the video. The build up to the bridge makes me well up every time. It’s just one of those moments that allow for release. The bridge pushes into the last choral reprise with a sustainable rush of what I can only describe as positivity until it ends with tender gentility. It’s like a virtual hug laden with encouragement. Plus who can resist an awesome concept video with skateboarders rolling along a disengaged booster rocket.

Without boring you with the multitude of tracks impregnated by my emotional overload, it’s important for me to state my need for music. The fact is it houses far more than notes, riffs, melodies, thunderous bass lines that ease my tinnitus. Music protects me. It returns things I’ve learned, felt, struggled and celebrated. It eases those emotions I simply cannot process, that engulf me entirely, swallow me whole. As far as my bipolar is concerned, uncontrollable and intense emotional response is by far the number one thing I hope I can somehow convey to other people. I can’t describe mania or hypomania except to say it is unforgiving. I can’t describe depression beyond utterly crippling. I know the right medication is a lifesaver, and taking it deadens the part of you that keeps you alive and makes life worth living. I struggle everyday with an antiquated mindset toward mental health: pull up your bootstaps, put your head down and get it done. I have found compassion, just not for myself. I have also found gratitude and try everyday to recognise it in some small part of me. Acknowledging the role music plays and its importance on my life is an act of gratitude. And, hopefully it helps someone else, maybe you, to better understand how manic depressives interlock the pieces of their lives.

the intersection of generations and mental health

Lately I’ve found myself arguing in support of generations that are younger tham me. I am technically a Gen Xer. My birth falls well within the dates and I readily identify (or understand) with the stereotypes applied. However, I am the mother, coworker, teacher, and student of millenials. I feel millenials are worlds away from the identity they’ve been assigned and pigeon holed by society. This juxtaposition is alarming enough that I feel a need to address the situation because millenials are the generation that “gets it.”

It would be impossible for me to not talk about the issues of mental health with regards to generational differences, but it is not the only area. Experience as a universal guide, both generations experienced economic prosperity and recession, both see technological innovations permeate the world, both have dreams realised and crushed and both know the struggle of health issues, especially mental health issues. However, the way millenials understand mental health is far different than a Gen Xer. I know. I know because for the majority of my life I was a judgemental, angry, mind over matter sterotypical Xer who followed the hard and fast rule of “pull up your bootstraps and get over it.” (I have apologies to make for that mindset, but that is another post.)

Years ago, a very wise young person told me that my generation was full of “miserable, depressed alcoholics on anti-depressants.” I had/have a hard time arguing against that. Most of the people I knew/know fit that description. While I have no idea whether or not our parents (ok boomers) fell into the same trap at their mid-life point. They definitely did not have so many drugs available. Oddly enough when you read the paperwork on most of the SSRI’s, they state not knowing exactly how they work on the brain. Telling, isn’t it.

These Gen Xers, miserable and unable to cope, hone in on their other generational attributes. We are cynical, sceptical, non-believers (only in what we choose to not believe). We can be less sensitive to causes such as climate change, LGBTQ rights, civil rights (becasue we think that was ‘solved’ in the 60s). A generation of latchkey kids, raised by a two parent working or divorced family, and tech that moved as fast as it does today (MTV, cable, Atari). We held on and rode the wave with hair bands, new wave, punk rock, skateboards and cassette tapes. Sex was still taboo (my earlier post states where I fall on that issue). Gen Xers were the future, until…

The millenial generation came along in the eighties. But before I head off into what makes a millenial so awesome, I should address a few things. (Most of which I discovered while outlining this post.) My friend base (the people I can really count on in my life) are pretty much all in the early 30s category. I didn’t plan this. I’m not sure how or why it happened, but it did. I have little to few friends in my own age group, or I feel somewhat disconnected from them. I have, and do, work with millenials. I have gone to school with them, hung out and found I easily relate and find more comfort with them. They are less judgemental, more interesting and understanding. I am often tasked with working closer or training new people who represent millenials. Many Gen Xers say, “I can’t deal with them. They are so entitled and lazy, always on their phones.” Sterotypes taken as truth. It’s discouraging for both parties involved. Not to mention, it fails on arrival. Because the experience I’ve had and the wide range of millenials I know, I think it is time they took the lead in the world; politically, economically, socially, environmentally, et. al.

Millenial stereotypes seem to run back to front from Gen Xers depending on timing. They weren’t latchkey, rather had care of some sort of after school care whenever possible. They are more hopeful while still acknowledging the issues Gen X is ambivalent to. They value diversity and change rather than fighting for a status quo that, let’s be honest, hasn’t existed for a long time. Rather than seeking a “life/work balance,” millenials seek meaning in the work they do. All these ideas are generalisations, but I find they fit. The attitude and approach are just as important for both groups when they interact. I was taught a long time ago to treat people with respect for their dignity. It’s easy enough to follow and has served me well. Age is not a default to respect, but neither is it a rush to judgement. Simply respect and treat everyone the same (this includes kids, elderly, old, young, the lot). Equal respect, that’s an addendum to the golden rule. (I refuse to explain that one, it should be known. Kidding, not kidding.)

Both generations were pegged as lazy slackers in their prime, but I suspect both will find solace knowing it’s not true for either. Both are entitled up to a point, that is as much about the place as it is time we are here on the planet. (Clearly Americans of any age benefit in ways that most of the rest of the world does not.) Both are tech savvy, but millenials keep moving along with it while, let’s be honest, Gen Xers fall in the “do or do not” category. Where Crack and AIDS came along, Opiods and mental health moved in. It’s a shift, nothing new. However, the big change I see is the way millenials understand and view what mental health is. How it effects a person. They accept it as real and a true detriment to overall health. Compassion replaces cynicism, hope pushes through anger.

My millenials are my friends, my children, my bosses, my co-workers and in many cases my saviours. They have seen me through dark times, reminded me of my faults and calmed me with my strengths. They move through the shit life hands them by rerouting their plans and moving on, not getting derailed and hateful to everyone they encounter. They take their prescriptions and talk about their struggles a more openly, not hiding both in medicine cabinets, purses and under beds. Mind you, these are generalities and I know plenty of exceptions to the rules in either group, but my experience has been millenials get a really bad reputation for no good reason.

My mental health challenges didn’t surface fully until my 40s. I was fortunate to find both diagnosis and help. That does not mean it was easy. I’ve been fighting my own mind (when I could find it healthy enough) for nearly a decade. In less than two years I was given nearly 30 different prescriptions, often the side effects were worse than my disorders run amok. Seven years later, I learned not everyone thinks about suicide like me, or that all drugs are weaknesses. I am only starting to accept I cannot just “get over it.” Part of that acceptance is because of the strenth the millenials in my life possess. They appear to understand better than I do. By no means are they open and honest about everything in life – that’s some weird utopia that doesn’t exist. But they do pull us middle-agers out of our wannabe stoic attitude. I’m not sure I would have finally noticed “me” between my manic-depression if not for my kids, nor would I have opened myself up in therapy (even if only a little) without my friends. I am grateful.

To all of you sceptical (or cynical) to the ability or intentions of millenials in the world, I say, “get over it.” Whether or not anyone likes it, they will inherit the earth. I believe they have the tools and the intellect to take it on now. I would much rather see them move into places of power and authority in order to pull the world into the century we live. Government regulation is already overrun by people (Boomers) who cannot pronounce technology or understand it, yet we want them to legislate over it? (It’s usually well after the damage is done or monopolies developed). I, for one, advocate passing the torch before the next generation, the Xers fuck it all up, once again. Boomers are running the planet into the ground. The generation right behind them have come along, but not necessarily ahead. Why not let those who understand both – the people and the future – teach and support us, while they harness the power of tomorrow. I suspect, the retirement funds, legislation of tech and big business, education, and (oh yes) healthcare changes they make would improve the world exponentially. I know that while some millenials will reject Gen Xers as peers, more will embrace, educate and assist them/us. I look forward to spending more time with my kids, my friends, my millenials.

sex in the eighties

This post is true as I recall it. It deals with some sensitive information. It discusses freedom of choice, coming of age, teen pregnancy, abortion, and the reality of one individual. These events are real and might be disturbing. However, I wholeheartedly believe that it is a fundamentally necessary conversation.

On January 26, 1985 I had an abortion. I was fourteen years of age. And, here is my story.

I turned fourteen the summer of 1984. For me, it was a great time. I had loads of freedom and spent my days with friends sailing or hanging out. Often, I spent time over friend’s houses. My parents were dealing with a significant medical situation that was all consuming, leaving me plenty of unsupervised time.

Seven weeks after my birthday I experienced a rite of passage. On a beautiful red and white checkered plastic (soft backed) table cloth in the back yard of my friend’s house, I lost my virginity. And by all accounts it was exactly as it should be, not like anyone envisions. Good thing I hadn’t pictured anything special, just the deed. I knew I wanted to have sex and I was willing. Those were the only two things I needed for it to happen. This was my decision. I was the initiator.

In the following months, I was reckless with my activity and my attitude. I started high school (never an easy or fun transition). My one saving grace was that no one in my school knew of my activities. I had the benefit of two nearly separate worlds, summer and winter. Luckily, I found anyone outside of my classmates better for socialization.

The events of that one August night were profound, to say the least. I found that I only spotted during my period, while I usually fully soaked pads. But in my head, the spots were enough to push any thoughts or doubts deep into the recesses of my mind. I was fine. Claiming to be oblivious while ignoring any indications of pregnancy was easy. I never had any morning sickness or other typical side effects, no detectable proof to signal the condition. In a different situation my naiveté would be consider a blessing. For me, ignorance was a learned behaviour. Deeply rooted in my psyche, it was etched into my personality.

Ignoring things was a learned and encouraged behaviour that began in ernest at eleven years old. It was during a difficult period of time and without delving into the minutiae, I’ll skim the details.

Sixth grade meant a whole new school with new people, new opportunities and way more freedoms. Up until Christmas break, everything was great. I found new friends and settled into classes with ease. But, after a childish squirmish with a girl more popular, the fun ended. To say I was ostracised is almost an understatement. (People were still apologising at high school graduation.) I was shunned; in class, at lunch, on the playground, and even on the school bus. The bullying began during homeroom with wispers, stares, and finger pointing. It was followed by a lonely table at lunch where cooties turned to leprocy. The playground was the worst though. Each day kids cornered me against the school building and just hurled insults. For twenty minutes an unattended school yard was my own personal hell. The bus ride home added insult to injury with hair pulling, gum throwing and nasty nicknames.

I am fairly certain the school and my parents were at a loss to know precisely how to mitigate the issues. I know I saw the school psychologist and was allowed to spend lunch and recess in the library. But beyond that the advice was, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” I was fed a diet of “ignore them,” and appear oblivious to the haters existence. (To my credit, I’m damn good at ignoring things.) This advice, given in good faith, could not have been any worse. This was not a one off or short lived event. It was daily, for months. On top of all this, I also began my period in the middle of the school year. Ugh.

I was somewhat prepared for my passage into adolescence. The school had done their part in fifth grade giving boys and girls separate classes to explain what was going on with our bodies. The physiological aspects were concise while a bit sterile. We girls got these huge boxes with samples of every feminie product made to ease the monthly curse upon its arrival. (I tucked mine under the bed just hoping for the day it would serve its real purpose.) The only question I was left with was, “what happens to the boys?”

For years I had been told all about my period. My grandmother (who lived with us) had talked, explained to exhaustion the mechanics. She had been born into a family/time when it was absolute taboo. She ran to her mother one day bleeding and had no idea what she had done. Her mother’s reaction was, “have your sister take care of you”. She was shown the rags and told it was fine. It would happen every month and this is what you do. Beyond that, no explanation. Seriously! To counteract that ignorance, she talked incessantly about it. I knew all about my period, but maybe not how sex fit into it (no pun intended). My ideas about and knowledge of sex came from yet another source.

Recently I was told of my first known discussion about sex with friends the same age. Sitting in the back seat of a car on the way home from a ice skating, I chatted to my friend. We were both around seven or eight. The talk went something like this: “Know what sex is? It’s when a he puts his cock into her cunt.” (Sounds funny now, maybe a gif or a TikTok? Not in the seventies.) Well, the parent driving me home told my mother about the conversation as I was dropped off. (My mother didn’t even know some of the words). I was never reprimanded or even spoken to about it, that I recall. However, I will enlighten you on how I came to know such language. I learned it all from the “well hidden” Playboy and Hustler magazines in the bathroom. (Did I mention I was an early learner? Reading and writing by age 4.) All this information about menses and reproduction somehow never came together. Biology and sexuality were about as far removed from one another as possible. Throw in the psychological effects of being persecuted by peers and you’ve the groundwork for disassociated maturity by the time I turned twelve.

The autumn of 1984 pulled these together, very real and very fast. (Don’t worry, I didn’t stay in the dark for too long about the connection of sex and mensturation. The class in fifth grade did that, clinically speaking.) All that textbook learning convinced me I could not possibly be pregnant. While all the common sense signs pointed directly to it. That night on the table cloth was two maybe three days after my period ended. (You couldn’t get pregnant until mid-cycle, about 14 days out.) Spotting was sometimes a side effect of stress or changes in exercise. (I had begun to ride my bicycle, a lot – in order to see boys.) And I did’t have any kind of pregnancy’s usual side effects; sensitive breasts, increased or decreased appetite, sickness or feeling different at all – nothing. So, reality was ridiculous to me. But…I knew. Just like any woman knows. I knew and I ignored it.

(Before the obvious question gets asked, I will head you off at the pass. “If I had sex more than once, how do I know the pregnancy was the first time?” I know because I didn’t have sex afterwards for another 4 weeks or so. I know because of the medical records after the fact that showed the gestation. I know because of where and how and what kind of abortion I needed to have.)

Conscious ignorance doesn’t speak to unconscious knowledge. My freshman year I had study hall in the library. During that time, I devoured every available book or excerpt related to pregnancy, abortion, adoption, even teen motherhood. I gave my education over to Roe v. Wade that first semester, while remaining oblivious to why I was so interested. One specific article I often returned to was detailed account of a saline abortion. What impressed me and has stuck with me to this day, was the graphic description of the procedure. It was visceral, and it was scary. Those study halls gave me ample time to consume everything available in my tiny school library, and little did I know it set the precedent for my personal approach to studying – learn it all, every aspect, backwards and forwards, pros and cons.

Clearly, avoidance was not a sustainable remedy. The situation demanded attention, as did the movement inside my still very small 14 year old belly. My silence about the situation was broken when I finally trusted one friend who happened to have a fairly young, liberal minded mother. Oddly enough in my oxymoronic denial I had procured a pregnancy test that for months sat taped to the back side of the built in drawers in my room. I finally removed it and brought it to her house so I could pee on the stick.

Of course, it was positive. My fear and shame came over me. Any hope of appearing capable of handling the self-made predicament dissolved. For a brief moment my friend’s mother had offered to help before she realized it would be unwise if not impossible. And so, the journey began.

The darkness that overcomes many endeavours in life can be stifling. It can be unbearable. It may smother any hope for respite. However, even in the face of unimaginable despair, as long as a tiny flicker of light exists, there is hope. My fear was overwhelming and my shame matched. But, needs must and I finally told my mother. I recall sitting on the floor of my bedroom on the gold rug, the phone stretched out with its extended cord from my parents room. I sat at the ready to let the dust settle and call the father. Once my mother spoke to my own father, I rang the boy and explained. I don’t recall giving him any choice, just information. If he raised any objection or concern, it didn’t register. I had given my mother the news and the plan to seek an abortion. I gave him absolution.

Obtaining an abortion in the mid-eighties in the northeastern (US) was fairly straightforward, thankfully. My friend’s mother had helped me get the basic information, phone numbers and addresses. I relayed all this to my own mother and the wheels were set in motion. As the timing intersected with mid-term exams, I had most afternoons free the following week. The appointment was scheduled and directions were obtained. I don’t remember the specific days of my appointments, but if I had to guess the first one was on Wednesday.

The state of Rhode Island has always been more progressive than Massachusetts. From the days when Roger Williams was asked to leave, RI opened up for the heathens. So, we headed southwest to the ocean state. In the eighties street signs in Providence were scarce at best, making the quest to find the clinic difficult. Once we arrived, we met the objections of people outside the clinic (January was the anniversary of the Supreme Courts Roe v. Wade decision). I know they were there but have allowed the memory to fade enough to not remember any specifics. My conviction allowed me to walk past them. I went in (with my mother) to face the consequence of my action.

Upon examination, I was told that my pregnancy was too far along for any abortion procedure to be done at that facility. In fact, I was too far along to have a procedure within the state. They gave my mother (and presumably me) the number and address of an office in Brookline, Massachusetts that would do an ultrasound and precisely calculate the gestation of the baby. All I knew at that point was I could feel it. Life was inside of my belly. I was pregnant.

The next appointment I recall without hesitation, Friday. After I finished my exams, we drove to Boston and the ultrasound was performed. Results were given the same day at the same appointment. I was told that I was nearly 24 weeks and too far along for any procedure in Massachusetts. The contact information for the now defunct, Catholic Charities was obtained and my fate felt sealed. I would go off to a home to have the child, sign off, and move on with my life. To this day I am not sure what transpired. Perhaps my face, the receptionists sympathy, my mother’s visible anxiety, after a moment of acceptance we were called back to the desk. A new name and number passed hands and there was renewed hope. For a few short minutes I had felt the pang of disgrace, the knowing I would give birth and give up this child. I never had a second thought other than to put the child up for adoption. Never.

This new phone number, new hope was siezed upon immediately after returning home. Viola! A space was open. Again the journey would go further and the blackness grew deeper. I had secured a spot at a Jewish hospital in New York city that performed late term saline abortions. The flights were secured, hotels booked and in a matter of hours my brave mother took my hand and my future off to NYC.

After arriving at LaGuardia, we hailed a cab. A big yellow taxi that ironically had the theme to Taxi playing on the radio. The mind remembers odd tidbits, often insignificant but still visceral. The hotel was found and sleep came due to sheer exhaustion. The following day would be early and it would be long.

I don’t remember waking up. I don’t remember the cab ride to the hospital. I know we drove thorugh Bedford-Stuyvesant, but I had no idea its significance at the time. The hospital was big. It was brick and it was old. We were taken into a small office where the procedure was explained. I trust my mother understood better than I what was about to happen, because I stayed nearly in the dark until each stage was upon me. However, one of the most signifant moments of my life happened right there and then, in that small office in a hospital in New York city. My mother turned to me at the requirement of her signing the consent form. She spoke firmly with deep compassion, “This is not my decision. You are now a woman and must make your own choice. This is not my life, but yours. What is your answer? What do you want to do?” I knew this was for real, for keeps, and I understood the rite of this passage, along with the weight of my decision. My answer was definitive. It chose to go ahead with the procedure. I wanted to have the abortion.

The next twenty-four hours were profound. They set the tone of the time in my life, if not a great deal of my future. They also informed me giving a comprehensive education in very little time. I had no way of knowing in that moment all that this choice would bring to me, give to me, but hindsight works magic – both good and bad. I found my bed, up against a wall with a small table next to me. My mother stayed until she was told to go. It started.

A saline abortion is rarely performed in the United States today. In the eighties it was the minority of all terminations. It is a detailed procedure, graphic in nature and complete in process. For all intents and purposes, it is as close to giving birth as possible. Only, the mother knows the outcome will not be another’s life. Seaweed packets are placed in the cervix to ease expansion as they are exposed to moisture. (I find we often underestimate the usefulness of natural resources all around us.) I had no idea why or what was happening, except to remember the seaweed packets were inserted. From there, time passed to allow the relaxation of the opening, preparing the womb for what would occur. I admit to not recalling if the next step, the injection, happened before or after the packets. But I do remember the lenght of the needle. I can remember watching it enter through the amniotic sack to penetrate the womb and end the life inside. There was no going back now.

Later in the day, pitocin was administrated. Nowadays, pitocin is used to induce natural labor in the latter stages of pregnancy when need or desire to move delivery along is deemed safe. For me, it was the crucial part of a saline abortion, it did the same thing as it does in a full term pregnancy, caused contractions. It doesn’t happen instantaneously. It takes time. It was around ten o’clock at night when the need to push became overwhelming. Each of us going through the procedure were given a commode. I’m not sure how many of us knew what it was for, or how this all worked. I know I was the youngest, maybe even the most scared and, possible the most determined. I thank the gods for my ignorance. It helped. The contractions were uncomfortable, but brief. The pushing was easy, but it was scary. We all seemed to expel in successtion. The nurses flitting about to calm and aid each of us. I know I felt bad to be a burden (always a people pleaser and apologist for asking too much). I needed to see what my body was doing, but I chose the wrong moment. Even now, I can see the life that came out of me. I saw the tiny, little boy that I did not want and I could not give to anyone else. But the moment passed when I felt another need to push. Why? I just saw the baby and he was out. Was it twins? The nurse finally came by to check on me. Her accent was so thick and my provincial upbringing came out. “What did she say? Afterbirth? Huh?” The afterbirth indeed passed. There was finally relief. But the next journey was about to begin.

As if a whirlwind of travel in order to beat the clock securing a procedure was not enough, the psychological aspect was unexpected and incomprehensible. Once I returned home, my milk came in. So, I was bound. (Binding is the process of tigtly wrapping the breasts in order to soak and suppress the production of milk from the breasts.) In addition to bleeding, I was physically exhausted for a short time. Otherwise, I was healthy and bounced back quickly. My first full pelvic exam was post-abortion. That was nearly more frightening than the abortion because of the unknown, at least I had read about the saline abortion. I also felt as though I was being judged in eht doctor’s office. In hindsight, I probably wasn’t. The physical issues were inconsequential. But the emotional ones were excruciating.

I took a week off school before I returned. When I returned I found was my one friend I had entrusted with my secret told everyone in my absence, students and even a few teachers. Whether or not everyone knew, it appeared as if they did. In 9th grade curiousity in a small town is a world away from fear. Friends did not call. There were no more boys to give me a false sense of security in the moments before or after sex. I felt ostracized. My age and ability left me with emotions I had no idea how to process. I was unable to cope with the loss, the freedom, the anger, the fear, the joy, the hate and, the loneliness. Immediately following the abortion, I had my mother make an appointment for a psychiatrist. I had anticipated the need for support outside my immediate connections. But when I went either I, or the doctor, or maybe both of us, were unprepared to tackle the issue. The mid-eighties was no stranger to teen pregnancy, but it was a world away to its commonplace now.

The psychological experience was like a weight heavy enough to drag and keep one at the bottom of the ocean. Even while my recollection now is blurry, I remember tantrums of unprocessed emotion, boughts of uncontrollable crying, and racing emotions that moved so fast across my mind and body I could not keep up with them. More than anything, I recall the pain enduring school every day. It effectively crush my self-esteem and ripped apart my confidence. My grades, that were low already, plummeted. The loneliness of being alone ate away at any potential. I did not see the strength it took to admit, address, choose and accept my abortion. While it is not accomplishment, I did go through this with little support (my own choice, and my mother was nothing other than amazing), and with my move to womanhood/adult put upon me at the moment of the abortion, I knew I was in a new place that my peers could not understand. My inability to move quickly or unscathed through the trauma only served to add self-judgement to all the other emotions. (My mid-life diagnosis of bipolar disorder helped me put in perspective this reaction and understand the intensity of my emotions. I always presumed that everyone felt the same all-consuming intensity of feelings. Thankfully, even if it was late, I learned that the magnitude of my emotion is altogether different.) That period after the event was awful. No one, including me, had a clue how to deal with my psychological pain or ease the suffering. I was severely depressed.

In early April I had a glimmer of hope come in to my life. A wonderful young man asked me to prom. It was not my school, but another town (still safe). I had a new to focus to pull me out of my funk. But even this new prospect was shroud in shame in my mind. There was a burning need to absolve myself of the abortion, the killing of my son. While the conviction of my decision held strong, there were sectioned parts of my mind that saw a myriad of emotions, all with varying levels of guilt. Faith and sin were fleeting, but not absent. I believed, in part, that I was not deserving of anything good, no joy, no happiness. Therefore, I felt a sense of urgency to confess my transgression, not allow its power to grow as it sat just below my very thin skin. So, I did.

It was a cool early April evening when I spoke of my deeds. However, where I anticipated judgement, I found compassion. My new boyfriend immediately came to my side to give me comfort. While I cried, he simply listened. And he heard me. Until this point, my relationships were, to my mind, one sided. They were for me to feel. Perhaps it was my sexuality or just the need to feel a boy next to me. All I know was I always felt it was my power, my choice. The idea of reciprocity or care from another regarding intimacy was foreign. (I must put in a personal note about physical touching. Touch was/is always on my terms and determined innately. There are times and people I am unable to show affection, including family members. I’ve never explored how or why my walls come up, I simply know they do. Perhaps to protect the other person – because I share so much of myself with so many.)

My abortion now exposed, I was able to take a deep breath. I felt less shame and more acceptance, of myself. Again, to abort was entirely my choice and I would not change a single thing, but I needed to process. As years went by, I often found myself confessing my self-perceived transgression as the first conversation with new found friends. In some odd way it was a badge, not of pride or joy but maybe self-judgement. Each re-telling of the story was a way to gauge acceptance or rejection, absolution or conviction. A part of me felt I needed to test everyone’s value system, as a reflection of my own? My years of confession lasted over a decade, but the ritual inevitably faded. My needs were met, or my heart accepted my action. I moved along. The emotions that I carried included shame and self-judgement. However, embarrassment, fear, hate and guilt dissolved. I accepted my actions.

I am passionate about reproductive rights. My experience at fourteen solidified my opinion and I will argue a woman’s right to choose whenever challenged. My first abotion was an education of exception and acceptance. I represent(ed) a minority, both in age and type of procedure (see the cdc statistics referenced below). I am neither proud nor ashamed of my choices. However, I am absolutely sure my abortion was right for me. I know at 14 years of age I had a profound experience that set the tone of my life. As I look back, remember, recall and expose all this, I see what I carry. It’s not pride, but strength. Do not think I did not or do not even now struggle with my decision. I do. It is one of the most difficult challenges of my life. For many years I glossed over it. Now, I realise the impact and the importance this story offers. For me, this was the best choice. My choice. I only hope that the future allows all women to choose, and I offer them support. It’s not easy.

The following are just three websites I found while I decided to write this. My intention is to help anyone faced with this situation. My need was long ago and much has changed, but the attitudes today are as varied as ever. The options feel more narrow and the support just as fleeting. This is a right every woman should have . It needs protecting and preservation. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00001467.htm https://www.newyorker.com/books/under-review/the-study-that-debunks-most-anti-abortion-arguments?utm_medium=social&utm_brand=tny&mbid=social_facebook&utm_source=facebook&utm_social-type=owned&fbclid=IwAR1yVi5Syz1ibzAmi-YW-4hcEZxN67vEnNw_f2x_EKWozBnMgZJ9X9ZEs74 https://www.amazon.com/Turnaway-Study-Consequences-Having-Denied-ebook/dp/B0831S4XB2?ots=1&tag=thneyo0f-20&linkCode=w50

oxymoronic passive aggressive games

From babbling brook to
class V rapids
and everything between.

I don’t understand my mind. It’s that simple. It is my one love, my greatest asset and simultaneously the only thing I believe I am truly afraid of. It serves me in a way I do not understand, like a dysfunctional relationship full of oxymoronic passive aggressive games. When people say to me (or I say) trust yourself, go with your gut or what does your instinct tell you? I cringe. It wasn’t always that way, or rather I didn’t feel it was always that way, but now I question nearly everything. My biggest concern has become keeping myself safe. How does one do that when what you fear is your own mind? How…when what you must trust is the one thing you can’t trust.

My bipolar is not at the forefront of my life. I often-to-always choose to push it back, down, under, away, which only serves to have it bubble up like a sewage backup in a museum. While I try to keep myself assembled, I occupy a space suspended somewhere nearer to a decade ago. However, the world moves forward. My best analogy to how bipolar feels is that of a river. At its start a bubbling brook that flows gently, allowing fallen leaves to float along, animals drink from the shores, and fish glide through varying depths with ease. As I drift along, I can see and feel rocks occasionally scratch me along the way. They redirect the water, interrupt the flow as I continue to move. I might need to hold my breath occasionally, swallow some water, work harder to stay on course. Until…the rocks are boulders. They span the river and line the shores. They are high and low, jagged and smooth. The water moves faster and staying afloat becomes nearly impossible. It is thrilling and horrifying, somewhere between invincibility and asphyxiation. Between each rolling rapid I’m submerged under the water, unable to breathe. But just when I’m asking for permanent absolution from life, I rise up and feel the euphoria and power. I can do anything.

But, just as rapids come in different classes, so too do episodes of bipolar. For too long, I fought reality, instead choosing to ignore and remain oblivious to any consequences. After years of circumventive efforts; unhelpful prescriptions, work as an escape, school as an escape, fear as my only companion, anger and frustration the only two emotions allowed, I am chipped. The veneer is cracking, losing its gloss without any effective repair method. The build up to detonation formula is unsustainable. My momentary acknowledgement of the disorder does not substitute for a consistent regiment. My avoidance of anything real or substantial in therapy is an obvious tactic. Avoidance never works. 

Although I have been in therapy for over a decade, I rarely give any information below the surface, always wearing a mask. I recently confessed my approach to a friend who  just answered with honesty. “Why would you pay for nothing?” Mainly it is for the comfort of others. I can’t say I am in total denial. I know my disorders (bipolar, anxiety) and their potential effects. I have read and studied the digestible information and the scholarly publications alike. I am aware, well versed. But, but, but…I am not honest with the only person I need to be, myself. 

At the end of therapy last week, I stopped and exposed a crack in my facade. I admitted to knowing and seeing things in my past that are easier if avoided. I connected a few dots between childhood bullying, depression, fear, anger and a debilitating lack of trust. Clearly it is not a one session fix, but it is a place to start. I also had a reckoning recently that if I don’t confront my bipolar, I may lose my mind and more. So, here we go. 

I take a myriad of drugs, but not anywhere near as many as most. They do work to steady my mood and quell the twitches of imbalance. Because I am not always in full control of my mind. There can be a disconnect. I am often reckless and ambivalent to danger. The techniques I have learned don’t often help. Anger and frustration often feel like my only companions. 

Wanting to wish it away or dismissing bipolar has not served me. In order to reconstruct my potential I need to surrender, accept my susceptibility. Only after I capitulate will I be able to alleviate the symptoms and heal my self-loathing demons. Knowing I’ve lived more than half my life with bipolar makes me feel foolish. But experience has shown me that even in dark times a single light may be all the spark necessary to ignite a personal guide for the inevitable trip down the rapids.  

* My over-analytical mind doesn’t help in group therapy or CBT/DBT approaches. I question the integrity of the process, the methods and the sheeplike attitude of others in employing the tactics.

vulnerable shame

Kill your demons.
Attack what you fear.

I have spent days attempting to look at every aspect of how to use WordPress. From obtaining a domain to setting up the pages, and OH! the pages versus the posts, my head is wrecked. Just to get away from it today I watched a separate video and made my first TikTok. Needless to say, it is rather unimpressive. But hell, it was a diversion. Making a website has taken more time with less success than I had hoped. The minutiae takes me to a different place, one that I wish had some tranquillizers to ease the frustration. (Or maybe some kids who can do the programming for me.) It would be great if I could sit down, write and push a publish button, but, NOooooo. On top of all that, my perfectionism is like an rhino on my chest. So, if you made it this far…so have I.

Do you see that picture of me on this page? That’s me walking over a rope bridge that dangles between two serious rock faces jutting out into the North Atlantic. The drop is close to 100 feet (30 meters). I am terrified of heights, but consistently attempt to keep challenging that fear. I made it across the rope bridge only to find that if I wanted to get home I had to walk back across it. Who the hell thought of that? Additionally, I undertook this feat in a shitstorm of emotions and events in my life. (Inevitably I’ll address that, but for today just leave it.) Honestly, it is one of those pictures you keep around to dig out when you truly feel like crap and need help saying, “Yeah, I did that!”

While I am most definitely afraid of heights, there is little else I would say I fear (aside from everything to some degree). I find that many things age and wisdom has led people to think better of – escapes me. My inhibitions are less than most peoples, and I fully believe that an opportunity not take is a risk to optimal potential. This is not to say I go looking for danger, I do not. If I want something or want to do something, I do it. The obstacles between me (usually my mind) and the goal are irrelevant. No one is going to live your life for you and in the end we all only answer to one person, ourselves.

For the record, this is not always the most sound advice. However, I’ve done some pretty awesome shit over my life. I am grateful for all the opportunities and the support I have had. I know I am fortunate. There is no “but” or “however” to go along with that statement. There is a caveat that I am omitting because I am afraid and ashamed about it. It’s something I’ve known for about 6 years, and still don’t know how to compartmentalize it in my own mind. Mostly because as much as it scares me, it is likely the thing that enables and motivates me. I have (not ‘am’) manic depressive (bipolar) disorder.

Now, depending on your age, gender, generation, nation, and a million other things, you either left this page or decided to read more. I too, am that judgemental (mostly about myself). Since getting diagnosed my compassion and understanding for anyone else with a mental health disability has grown exponentially. Self-acceptance is not forthcoming. My compassion and understanding for myself has only added layers to existing callousness. I don’t say that for sympathy. It’s just true. I don’t take it easy on myself. There ain’t no rest for the wicked. (Thank you, Cage the Elephant ) Hard on myself is a slight understatement. I am under constant personal review (if not attack) which usually leads to self-flagulation (not kidding, look at my resume). In the end, such self-criticism takes a toll that prompts an event, which for me inevitably leads to shame. While this a+b=c structure is clear, what I have come to know is the event often occurs when I am not quite in my own mind. There is a disconnect that comes from a fear I didn’t know I had, nor did I know I existed.

You might be thinking at this point, “that’s okay, just stay aware, track any fluctuations.” I do. But I have yet to find or determine a pattern/situation that triggers me. When it is your mind that you need to watch you, yet your mind is the thing that goes all haywire, trust becomes an issue. You know how they say not to trust someone who has crossed you, how do you untrust yourself?

Before I get too dark, I decided to start writing in a public forum to open up and fight my demons. It may likely backfire. In addition to the opportunities that life has offered me I have also met some good friends. (And I’ve lost many too.) For years they have said I should write a book. My ability to separate the static among the voice in my mind has slipped away and I have little semblance to stay on topic, but I always come back to the start in a conversation. So, this is my attempt to quell my stream of consciousness writing into bite size pieces and assemble concise thoughts that might end up in another form. I’m going to open up and let the fear course through my veins.

I am a pretty incredible woman who believes that conquering fear is the only option. I should also mention that I am sarcastic and think in a round about method. Often my commentary is flip and seemingly insensitive. Please know I am just extending myself with honesty, not hate or judgement (for others). I’m settling into some truly unknown territory attempting to write. I’m ashamed of much, embarassed by more but willing to be openly vulnerable letting my fear escape as I dive down into the abyss the only way I know how.