Mental Health, Uncategorized

Nothing Has Changed But Everything Is Different

Three weeks after my diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) I sit alone in my studio apartment hovering my finger over my keyboard. My screen set to Google search. I’m hesitant to type, terrified of learning what behaviors I display that are the result of this new, to me, mental illness.

I was diagnosed with bipolar in 1993. I was so young that I never had a grieving period for the person I thought I was pre-illness, I had not yet gotten to the point of defining myself. Throughout the years, I’ve lived my life through the lens of someone who is bipolar. It is not who I am, but a distinctly undeniable part of what makes me me. It never scared me because it was always there.

I struggle with Agoraphobia, I have PTSD, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. But this (BPD) feels different. All of the mentioned illnesses I’ve aquired were undeniable and obvious when they struck. When I became ill with each new disorder I still knew who I was, I still understood my own triggers, ticks, and quirks. I was still there, sometimes barely recognizable, but I never lost hold of this basic understanding I’ve formed about who I am as a unique, individual person.


Borderline Personality Disorder is not blatantly obvious, if you do not know the hallmarks to look for. It’s a lot like bipolar, not in all the symptoms, but in the stigmas. People generally understand anxiety and rarely fault you for it. PTSD is widely talked about and almost never seen as a personal fail. Agoraphobia, is basically the need to isolate, or fear of public spaces, again, not seen as a personal fail. Borderline though, like bipolar, comes with a lot of assumption and judgment. They are both often misunderstood and treated as a personality flaw.

This new diagnosis makes me feel like I don’t know anymore, who I am. I learned for the first time in over twenty years that there are behaviors I show that are the result of an illness that I know nothing about. I could not stop crying when I got home from seeing my therapist who confirmed what my boyfriend had suspected and even researched for six months prior. He kept saying, in hopes to comfort me “nothing has changed, you’re still the same person you were before the diagnosis” but, what I could not put into words was that, maybe nothing has changed, but everything is different. I may still be the person I was five, ten, even fifteen years ago, but how I think of myself has shifted. I feel upside down, as though the grasp I thought I had, of my own identity, was false. As if I have to relearn what and why I act the way I do, and learn new ways to cope, deal, or curb actions I thought were under my control, or in the very least within my understanding.

I reached out to someone I trust, who in an attempt to comfort me advised that I pay no attention to the new diagnosis. As if ignoring it would somehow make everything ok. I would love to ignore it, but this is not something I can unlearn. Now that it is confirmed, that I have this illness, it is my responsibility to understand it, because how else can I get better or learn to navigate myself if I deny the root of my behaviors?

I don’t know. I like to wrap up my writings like a present, you untie the bow, open the box, and have some sort of satisfactory ending like a shiny new toy. But today, it’s like I didn’t have time to buy wrapping paper. So here it is, in a paper bag, the price tag still hanging off the side. I don’t have an easy way to end this post because I am still grieving for a perception of myself that is now gone. Maybe next time I will have had a revelation, good news, a shiny new toy. But for now all I have to give is the truth, and it isn’t pretty. ~Davs

Image by Davs at http://www.Davs.Etsy.com

Standard
Mental Health

Being OK With Being OK

  

I’ve been ashamed of myself, for months, maybe longer. Ashamed because I have not lived up to the person I thought I was going to be by this time, after making some life changes a little over a year ago.

It’s hard to look at yourself in the mirror and not find everything wrong, when you are disappointed in yourself. Guilt, I have too much. Emotional issues I believed had been laid to rest, reawakened, unexpected, like fast zombies, because we all know zombies are supposed to be slow.

I am ok though. I am managing. I’m not on top of the world. But I am not at the bottom. I guess being bipolar for over twenty years has left me confused as to what it is to be ok. Before the medication, before the therapist, before the psychiatrist, before I began seeking help for my mood swings, it was either or and no inbetweens. Either singing from proverbial hilltops, or swinging from a metaphorical noose.

What it is to be OK, I am learning only now. Learning to be OK with being OK? That’s where I fall. I’m supposed to be this great mom, artist, friend, writer, individual who breaks glass ceilings. I’m supposed to have an active social life, always adding to my contacts, painting soup bowls for charity. Never sweat pants, never three days with no shower, never sitting alone in a stairwell crying because I can’t come to terms with just being OK. Just here, living, breathing. 

But here, this is the thing, I am here, I’m alive, I’m breathing and I’ve got to learn to be OK with not always being on top of my game. What good does it do me to pick myself apart? So what? So what if my art isn’t selling right now? So what if I didn’t take an extra two minutes to apply mascara today? So yeah, maybe I’m not wearing a cape and scaling buildings. But why did I ever think I was supposed to be a superhero? This isn’t a movie. Nobody can be great all the time. I catch a voice inside me saying “at least you knew how you felt before. Not like this, where nothing is extreme” I admit, being medicated has been a journey. Nobody wants to want to die, but when you find yourself always at the extreme end of a feeling there is some comfort in knowing exactly how you feel. Not having that intense emotion all the time leaves me confused, to be honest. Am I happy? I’m not laughing hysterically. Am I sad? I’m not making plans to kill myself. I mean, that is strange, right? That I don’t know that I’m OK. That I have to remind myself that I’m OK.

Please don’t misunderstand this: I’m glad I got help. I’m glad for this. This new reality of being OK. But it’s new to me, and alarming at times. It confuses me, it leaves me a lot of room for thought. Before I got help, very little thought was put into some of my biggest life decisions. And I paid dearly for that. I was so fervent in whatever opinion, or feeling, or belief I had, before I got help, that I missed out on a valid reality; just breathing, just being alive, just being here. My dreams come from that time in my life, I like to call it the ‘Hot Air Balloon Era’ and they are so big, I’m embarrassed to tell you. And maybe a big part of what makes this new reality of simply being OK, so hard. Because the urgency of my emotions did not have time to just be OK.

Yes, I am not winning any marathons. But I’m not burning any bridges either, and I need to appreciate it.

I am here, I’m alive, I’m breathing.

I’m here, I’m alive, I’m breathing.

I’m here, I’m alive, I’m breathing.

You have to admit, there’s something very beautiful about that.

~Davs 2015

Standard
Mental Health

Agoraphobia

  

Standard
Mental Health

What Depression Looks Like

  

Standard
Mental Health

The Social Contribution Complex

Here I am. Almost 33, mother of two children without custody, art maker with one hell of an unorganized, tumultuous, self destructive tendency. Being a thirty something. Settle down time? Find myself? Just keep on trucking? WTF. I’ve not been to school since the ninth grade.

I used to harp on myself for being a barnacle on society. I’m the statistic. I’m the one the GOP complains about. I’m Daniel Desario; James Franco’s character on Freaks and Geeks. A loser. 

But what if I’m not? 21 years ago I was diagnosed with bipolar and spent my entire teenage career on probation. I was a walking time bomb. In my twenties I was on autopilot in a Kamikaze. After having my second child I did some serious trial and error until my doctor I found the perfect psych prescription cocktail and I’ve taken it with the dedication of a toothpick sculptor ever since. 

That’s the thing. What I don’t think anyone really understands. My life right now, is at risk every thirty days. I take pills that have literal killer withdrawals. When my pharmacy has a glitch I’m teetering on an emotional wire. Today, for example… Oh, this is just something that happens without explaination or known reason other than the magic words: side effects. My tongue, and my shoulders to chest, and fingertips.. just roll a numbing sensation through me.

I do take pills to help with the side effects of my psych meds, that also have side effects. I do this. I do it because I came to a point in life where everyone that truly knows and loves me gave me the ultimatum, get help for my illness or lose their support.

I’m an artist. I rarely make money, lately I’ve used my art to barter goods. I’m poor. I don’t have the ability to hold down a job. I need support in one way or another, always emotional.

So many hours I spend wondering if I could hack weening off my meds, what would I be like? As temperamental as before? Out of order? Would I slink into the night, find a needle and pass out in a gutter somewhere? I’ve been there. In the gutter. I’ve been the hitchhiker in the rain at night without a clue as to what direction was home. Chronic bronchitis. Chuck Taylor’s molded to my feet after weeks of never taking them off. Sleeping under a bridge. Endless cups of coffee bought up with nickels and dimes just to be inside some place warm.

People who don’t know all the chapters in my story can’t fathom my illness. I clean up well. I know how to smile. People who think they understand my illness encourage me to kick the psych meds and whole heartedly believe I can navigate my illness intuitively. People think I was born yesterday, for who could be so naive as to go through the shit storm of hassle it is to take a multitude of medication to Just to control an unruly temperament… Just stop being moody. 

Ah, shit… My friends. If only you’d been there. 

I may not be growing a community garden. I may not be organizing food not bombs picnics or discovering cures to disease. But god dammed if I can’t say with confidence that I contribute to society everyday. Morning and night. With each pill I swallow, trust me, I contribute. 

~Sarah Davenport 2015

Standard
Mental Health

Depression On Sale

Depression for sale.

A post shared by Sarah Davenport (@davsart) on

Standard
Mental Health

Sinking In Silence

20140516-004342.jpg

I’ve been wanting to talk about something, without alarming people. And I’m angry. Because we live in an “I’m Fine” culture. How are you? I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine, even if on the inside you’re fucked.

I’ve been wanting to say to my friends “hey guys, I’m depressed” but anticipating the awkward position that puts people in, anticipating the courteous, well intentioned but generally placating response, if any, gives me the fear.

And too, I feel like the word depression has lost meaning; in terms of how we think about someone outside of ourselves experiencing depression. I feel, by saying I’m depressed, I’m downplaying the realities of how I actually feel. When one is depressed don’t assume that they’re “just” depressed. When I’m depressed, I’m not just sad, and sulky. I’m drowning, I’m suffocating, I’m torturing myself. A ghost whispers reasons for why everyone would be better off without me, haunting my thoughts, overshadowing rationality.

I can’t even say in public how I really feel at times, because sometimes I’m not ready to put my freedom in jeopardy. Why do people suffer in silence? Because we can’t be honest. And when we can it’s for one hour twice a week at max with a therapist, who we get showered and dressed up for and smile and say I’m fine. We might say we’re depressed, but we know the keywords to avoid the therapist from being legally obligated to institutionalize us.

I have a secret though. I do have someone I talk openly about my depression with, when it’s taken me over. I can say whatever I want, and instead of being whisked away with a shot if Thorazine in my ass, this person reminds me of all the reasons my thoughts are not logical or truthful. It’s an ongoing open discussion on equal terms. I’m respected enough for this person not to placate me with pats on the head and compliments, or vague hopeful expressions “you’ll be fine.” I’m respected enough that this person trusts that I’m being wholly honest, allowing me to say even the hot button keywords, trusting that I will answer the question “do you need to go to the hospital” honestly. Because I would.

I wonder how many people didn’t have that person who are now gone, and if they had, would they still be around. You have to understand, that while therapy is helpful, a therapist is not available at your beck and call. Sometimes depression can’t wait for a week until your next appointment. Having that next appointment can feel like a lifeboat, and be something to hold onto, but in the meantime, no one should have to hesitate voicing their emotional state. Why is therapy useful? Because it provides professional guidance. Why should everyday people listen to a friend gush about feeling hopeless? Because to be genuine is to accept all facets of our being. It enriches relationships, garners honesty, trust, and when it comes down to it, it punches holes into the wall that may be crushing your friend.

I may be depressed at times, and yes, it is like part of my mind is Clockwork Orange, forced to stare at unsettling images on repeat. But I’m also still here, I’m still able to listen, and think, and grasp that logical hand reaching under the pile of my emotional rubble. (fuck this, I just said emotional rubble. WTF.)

I know if I didn’t have that hand to grasp, I’d be a fading memory.

I’m angry because no one should have to sink in silence. I’m angry because our society is built on “pulling up your big girl panties” “be a man” “suck it up” “How are you? – I’m fine, how are you? – I’m fine” I’m angry because people don’t realize that when you’re drowning, you don’t want someone to tell you your pretty, or offer a hug. You want to be able to yell out “THIS IS HOW I FEEL” without fear of judgement. And for someone to respectfully acknowledge that feeling and give us reasons, not superficial, for why how we feel is temporary, or doesn’t add up. Offer real advice, not go have some chocolate, or take a bubble bath. We want you to talk openly about any experience you’ve had with depression, showing us a) you’re capably empathetic b) how you got through it c) why you’re glad you did d) proving to us that you can handle our honesty in return.

And absolutely, yes. Sometimes, we are too far down the spiral, and we need help now. And I think the majority of us would be willing to admit it, if, we have that logical reasoner reminding us that a few days, weeks, in hospital is worth it.

If someone trusts you enough to tell you they’re depressed, trust them enough to understand that they are reaching out for that logical hand. Ask where they are, on scale from sad to suicide. Why is that scary? Unless they have proved otherwise, trust them no matter their response. Give them meaningful reasons for why they need to hold on… loved ones, pets. Realize they may be feeling like their doing a service by removing themselves from life, and tell them that it’s natural to feel overwhelmed while in a depressive state. Remind them of the times they were contented, and promise that if they keep talking and holding on it will eventually go. Ask them to promise their honesty. Tell them how much it would affect you if they did something undoable. Do encourage therapy, and having an honest talk with a doctor. Tell them why they shouldn’t feel ashamed, tell them they are not alone, tell them there is help. But most of all really listen.

If that is too much to ask, find someone you trust that can help, and if there is no one, urge them to call a doctor or therapist, or both. And in extreme case, go with them and hold there fucking hand while they admit themselves into inpatient.

For me mental illness is something I have to live with for the rest of my life, and I may not always be one step ahead, but actively, openly, having the freedom to express brutal honesty is a huge part of managing myself. For me, having bipolar means I need an active support network. And to honestly, actively check in on my mental whereabouts.

But even if temporary depression, or seasonal depression, postpartum depression, please don’t sink in silence. Someone out there understands. Internet support groups, real life support groups. Find someone to talk to, a friend, a doctor, or therapist. It’s not your fault.  It’s no different than having a physical illness, but in your mind. You know how you feel like you’re going to die when you have the flu? Well you’ve got the brain’s version of the flu. It’s unbearable at times, and feels never ending while it’s there, but it does go away. Sometimes medication is necessary, like insulin is necessary to a diabetic. Being depressed has nothing to do with strength or weakness, it’s a condition that millions of people live with. And there are lifesavers everywhere waiting for you to reach out for that logical hand. But in order to find it, you have to shatter the isolation of silence by being open and honest until you get whatever kind of help sufficient enough to save you from yourself, until you don’t need saving.

I’m tired of hiding. I’m tired of this uptight cupcake, ironed pants social indoctrination that allows us to suffer in silence. People don’t want to hear I’m depressed because, somewhere along the line we were taught that depression is personal. Don’t mistake me, I love things about life too, social niceties can be exactly that, I’m not always depressed, typically I am in good spirits. But how refreshing would it be to say “Hey guys, I’m feeling really low tonight” without scaring people, or awkwardness, or regret, and to get real feedback and understanding.

It would be awesome to live in a time where I could sit beside a stranger on the bus and when asked how I was, casually say “I’m down” without it putting a damper on the mood. The honest truth is that I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t suffered from depression, whether it be circumstantial, or chemical. Depression might be dampening the mood of the depressed person, but if someone tells you they have a headache, you don’t get a headache too. And you automatically know to say, do you have any ibuprofen? When people can talk about depression out loud, openly, and honestly it takes it from an emotional place that is unstable, and puts it into a reality that is like looking at it in third person. Verbalizing emotions enables logic to enter the paradigm. In a society that welcomes honesty, we could speak candidly about our real emotions, and in return feel less isolated, we shouldn’t have our realities swept under the rug because they don’t fit into a unicorns  asshole.

In a culture where depression was accepted into open, everyday conversation, we would know to say; what are your symptoms and be able to determine how to proceed from that, just as we do with a headache, or a sinus infection.

If you’re sinking in silence, be assured there are many, many people out there who understand, even people who don’t know you are capable of caring, so many it may surprise you. Tell someone you trust, or announce it to the world. If you don’t have insurance and think you can’t afford a therapist, let me tell you I paid my last guy $15 per session, a professional. Often times therapists will work with you on a  sliding fee scale based on your income. All you have to do is ask. And if that feels overwhelming there are suicide hotlines that you can call while curled up in bed, still not showered at 2pm. The important thing is to take those streaming negative thoughts and emotions and put them into words, push them out, realize that allowing yourself to drown is scarier than admitting you need help.  The longer you go without speaking out, the deeper you go, and you are putting yourself in danger by letting that happen.  Believe me, someone out there cares. As Mr. Rogers said, When he was a boy and saw scary things on the news, his mom would always tell him to look for the helpers. Yes, there might be people who may run away, but there are also people who will come running. But they won’t know to, unless you tell them.

Suicide takes the lives of nearly 30,000 Americans every year.

Please don’t sink in silence.

Standard