Every time I say something I think is a positive breakthrough to a therapist or other mental health professional, I get shot down with a “Why are you so negative all the time? We need to change this negative attitude that you have.”
I’m currently in an intensive outpatient program, and let me tell you, I just didn’t want to take this for the millionth time. My response was lengthy, rambled, and something like a disjointed rant.
I pretty much said I was inherently negative, and no amount of therapy or medication could change that. I was a Negative Nancy. Every morning I wake up on the wrong side of the bed in the negatives, and work my way up to zero with three cups of coffee and three cups of matcha, along with meditation, prayer, and scripture reading.
Maybe it’s because I hide my emotions so well, even my positive ones, that even if I’m happy, I don’t necessarily show it the way other people do. I don’t really smile that often. It actually hurts my face to smile because it takes so much effort. I remember my grandmother telling me not to frown so much because it would make me ugly when I’m old. But I didn’t really care.
I do smile quite often, but it’s not really noticeable. Since we’ve gone into the zoom age, my smiling looks like a neutral, even lip, when I feel my cheeks working full force to turn upwards.
My husband, Positive Polly that he is, is the same way. He has a big ol’ frown quite often, then a huge, exuberant smile. I call him my golden retriever. He’s the optimist of the two of us.
So, I have to say, if God made you a Nancy, it’s okay to own it. You don’t owe anybody yourself but God. It’s good to have gratitude. I make gratitude lists and I have people tell me I don’t seem the type to make them. But alas, I do.
Be you. Go rock it, even if people throw well-meaning, self-improvement shade.
In yogic philosophy there is the concept of the known and the knower, or the field and the farmer. You observe your body, your mind, and your thoughts, but you know that is not who you are. The knower, your true self, is a soul with an inner, divine light who sees your body, mind and thoughts. Then, you cultivate and care for them.
The concept of a soul, or my true identity, was something I always struggled with. As a bipolar person, whenever I was going through a depressive episode, I was always told “that’s just part of your personality” or “that’s just who you are.” And that always hurt. I didn’t want I be the dark sides of “me,” whoever she was. If I was this monster I would certainly be doomed to my personal hell forever.
I discovered Speaking Bipolar and Bipolar Hope, then began sending articles that resonated with me to my friends and loved ones. After sending one article to my mother, she explained she did not know that what I was experiencing as a “negative personality trait” or a “negative personality” was actually a symptom of bipolar, or an illness. It was not something that I was, like having fibromyalgia.
None of my family would define me as a “fibromyalgian” or a fibro, but they would probably all say I’m bipolar and not a person with bipolar. Chronic pain may have a huge grip on my life, but it is not something others define me by, let alone experience with me. Bipolar has been more damaging due to its impact on my relationships and led to developing medically induced lupus. So, yeah. The body follows the mind.
But my body and mind are not who I am. Who I am is the unchanging essence who comes from the Divine God who created the universe. I am God’s child. This is who I always was and who I will always be. The concept of this gives me great peace. Now, I can tend to my field better.
Before I developed chronic pain, I had a host of mental health disorders. Two biggies were dissociation and anxiety. I would bump into people walking around in public, duck out of hallways to be met by a face too flustered to apologize (and not sure to apologize). Not to mention my health was poor in general. I lacked stamina and self-esteem (problems which came back later).
My university offered 200 level and 300 level kinesiology courses in yoga for a required fitness credit. I took three of these required 200 level courses because I loved it so much.
Gradually, through learning savasana and deep breathing through poses, I became more in tune with myself. I began to see the world around me and my place in it. It was easier to not bump into people in public and my posture improved — because I was now aware of how my physical body felt.
Outside of my kinesiology classes, I took yoga at the recreational center daily, and purchased a yoga mat (which has now been destroyed by cats, and I badly need a new one).
I fell out of yoga when I graduated college due to working the night shift, but journeyed back once I developed chronic pain. I found I still remembered many of the asanas and my yoga textbook from college. Surprisingly I was still limber — although the philosophy of yoga is so much more than that.
Right now 45 minutes a day of yoga is helping my pain flare, any more than that is damaging me. I am hoping I can pull out of this okay. Right now the Yoga Alliance is letting online students register with them upon completion of a Registered Yoga School’s program by December 30, and I intend to do just that.
I can throw myself really hard at things, and I’m trying not to do that. Pacing for me is very difficult. Currently I’m reading the Bhagavad Gita as an audiobook and copying my notes from the past two days.
There’s been a lot of talk about neurodiversity in the media at large in the past few years. 99% of neurodiversity talk has been aimed at the autism spectrum and how autism is basically just fine and spiffy, just different.
While this is good and I’m happy for any positive representation a group is getting, what if I told you there were different ways of being neurodivergent?
Just as autism exists on a spectrum, there’s a spectrum for pretty much everything, from gender to sex to fibromyalgia. And when it comes to neurodiversity, I’d like to introduce you to the horror film of spectrums: the schizophrenias.
If you’ve ever been in a group mental health setting, you’ll quickly realize something: the people with depression quickly achieve “most normal” high status, followed by those with anxiety, then those with a mix of depression and anxiety. I know those with depression and anxiety have rallied for years for representation and less marginalization, and I’m telling y’all, you basically have it in an IOP, therapist’s office, or mental hospital. Then, most people hate bipolar people because they have a fucked up mom or kid who can’t do jack shit. This is in the mental health facility. Still in the facility, the descending rung is borderline personality disorder, because those people WILL fuck you up and run off with your wife or something? Give you heroin? And way down, low in the mud, not even on the ladder, are the folks on the schizophrenia spectrum.
Yes, tumblr, I hate to tell you that there are disorders more than anxiety and depression. I would love to tell you that there isn’t prejudice and privilege within the mental health community. But as within any community, from the disabled to mental health, there is.
You have high functioning and low functioning, moderate to severe. People who are guaranteed to fuck you up. I’m not saying moderate depression or high functioning anxiety are cake walks but they’re walks in the park compared to the schizophrenias. This is due in part to representation. People who are “more capable” have the tools to have more of a voice and gain more respect from their communities. Stigma is generated for other mental health groups due to lack of resources to advocate for themselves.
Typically speaking, if you have time to advocate for yourself, you aren’t working. Which leads to scrutiny from society at large. Unless you can make it your job to be an activist, mental health of any kind gets swept under the rug.
Consider all the spectrums. You’re on one. I’m on several. We’re 15 billion different colors of rainbows. Let’s coexist.
I suffer from an extreme form of fibromyalgia, which gives me constant pain and even worse pain flares, and post-traumatic stress disorder, which can turn ordinary life experiences into nightmares. Because of this living my life is a bit like Russian roulette: you play your cards but there’s always a price, no matter how they’re dealt. You’re never sure when you’ll get shot, either.
My husband and I have an extra bedroom, and during pain flares I often find myself retreating there to avoid skin-on-skin contact. Even worse is when my PTSD is acting up, or when my pain and PTSD are going bananas at the same time. The spare room is my hidey-hole. It’s right next to my office, and it makes a sort of blanket fort.
After beginning EMDR, my marriage with my husband has significantly improved. The best thing about EMDR for me is the use of imagination to cope with daily life. That’s me in a nutshell. If I feel scared by a loud noise, I can escape to my private worlds and receive comfort instantaneously.
I’ve been in a pain flare for a month, and have spent most of my time in my figurative blanket fort. One time the pain got so bad I started crying. I wanted a friend. Anyone who could acknowledge what I was going through.
I plodded through the house in tears, calling my husband’s name. I knew he was my friend. He was and is my best friend. It was midnight, and I was afraid he would come out of our bedroom in a huffy attitude. But I was met with buttery, gentle sympathy. He caught me in a warm, tender embrace as I cried, and I knew I wasn’t alone in this battle.
“Do you want to spend the night in bed with me tonight?”
I didn’t hesitate.
“Yes. Yes, yes, yes.”
We went off to bed and I slept hard, for the first time in a month. I woke up in time for breakfast with him. My pain flare wasn’t gone, but it had abated a little. But I was happy to see his face next to me in the morning.
Marriage gives you a guardian angel to watch over you, someone to fight with you and for you, and you likewise, when it’s a good one. I just needed to remember to reach out. My husband had been shelved by my physical and mental turmoil, and I merely had to remember he was my friend to find peace and solace.
Spending the night with my husband is not something that happens every night, and I don’t think that’s a doomsday marker for my marriage. It’s not because we fight. It’s not because we don’t love each other. We are learning how to cope with my physical and mental ailments together, and we will spend the night together every night as I improve and we both learn to communicate. I have hope and gratitude for us. This is why I am thankful for every night I spend with my husband.
This month is National Mental Health Awareness Month, and I’ll most likely be posting quite a bit about mental health, as I typically do.
I entered the mental health world when I was 12 – I was being bullied at school and my parents didn’t believe me. Eventually I developed trichitillomania because I was being bullied for my hair, which I grew to hate.
Trichitillomania is compulsive hair pulling. My self-hatred and misery led to a golf ball sized bald spot on the back of my head that I covered by gathering what I had left into a ponytail.
I never particularly cared that I was depressed, angry at my parents, or that I had trichitillomania – I just wanted someone to do something about the bullying. My boomer parents expected me to punch somebody in the face and be done with it. If I had done that, I would have gotten into a melee with the entire school. Besides, it wasn’t in my nature to throw hands.
My mom noticed the pile of hair by my bed growing ever higher, and took me to the GP one afternoon. He promptly referred me to a childhood psychiatrist, who barred me from therapy until I was on stable medications.
I just wanted someone to talk to. I didn’t perceive any of my so-called friends at the time understood what I was going through, and if they did (they most likely could but were unable to articulate, this is middle school here) and would have happily opened up to a therapist. But Dr. Whatserface? No.
Over the course of two years I would come to take 13 different pills a day… all for my mental health. Within four years I would receive a bipolar diagnosis.
Ten years later I developed chronic pain, which has been linked to bipolar meds I can’t get off of for the sake of my functionality.
Eventually the docs would tell me that all the chemical grief I went through as a child and teenager was unnecessary, but hindsight is 20/20. You live with what you are and what you become. Own it.
I hope this article helps a teenager or parent before hauling off their moody but normal kid to the psychiatrist.
The following is an excerpt from my memoir draft. I was trying to be funny but I think it came out sad. You should let me know.
Nobody ever told me this, but I had the notion I was a fool child.
My parents both had two hour commutes one-way. I grew up in an industrial oil town and was quite literally born in a hospital overlooking a bayou. As I grew up, I would come to play baseball in swamps, and do other generally dangerous things even by 1990s parents standards. There were even a few times I was stopped by police for playing, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s get back to this one point in time, when I was three years old.
Because my parents had two hour commutes one-way, I almost never saw them. I woke up at 3am every day with my father, who I spent the most time with and therefore liked the most. My father had a calm, gentle voice and worked at NASA Mission Control. Sometimes when he worked weekends, which he very often did, he would take me with him. I felt like my own version of a scientist sending rockets to the moon. Now that I’m older, all I remember were the Florida pink walls and the potted palm trees inside the building up the flight of stairs before you made it inside security clearance. It was supposed to make the place look unassuming.
This morning was not a NASA morning. Today I was going to daycare, and I did not want to spend more than 12 hours alone with a group of kids that hated me.
Ever since I could remember at daycare, the other kids were mean. My three year old brain couldn’t register it, but they didn’t understand me and I didn’t understand them. They came from blue-collar working class backgrounds compared to my highly educated parents. My father had a Master’s degree in Computer Science and my mother graduated second in her engineering class from Louisiana Tech with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. This was almost unheard of in the South at her time, the 1970s. I sensed some sort of class difference the day I proclaimed my family was rich because I could see with my two eyeballs that our house was the biggest house in our neighborhood. The kids responded that if I was, I wouldn’t be at this daycare. I had no comebacks. When I told my mother, she chastised me, saying it was never good to flaunt your wealth. Honestly, I just wanted the kids to finally like me, I explained. Mom said that you get people to like you by talking about things they like, but I wasn’t allowed to like anything they liked.
My classmates liked the Spice Girls. I once faked knowledge and attempted to play along. They sassed me, proclaiming that I was Scary Spice. I had no idea who that was, but it sounded bad. Defensive, I explained I was not Scary Spice. I was Princess Spice (who I would in seconds learn did not exist). The girls explained I was Scary Spice because of my ugly curly hair and my mean personality. No, I said. My hair is not ugly and I am not mean. Yes, you are, they proclaimed. Go away.
I was not intentionally mean. I did not know what I did wrong. What was mean? Who was Scary Spice? I needed to investigate.
That evening my parents went to Walmart. I begged to go to the toy section, and they obliged. I saw a set of Spice Girl barbie dolls. Scary Spice was the darker skinned, dressed in black, curly haired doll. I was appalled, but I knew I needed these dolls for science. As soon as I picked up the dolls, my mother shrieked, “Put those down! Those dolls are bad girls. If you get those dolls you will become a bad girl!”
“But my friends want them!” I said boldly.
Now my father joined in, bellowing in his former 1980s preacher voice, “Meara, you have bad friends! They will only hurt you with those dolls! We don’t want you to be a girl like the Spice Girls so you must put them down!”
“How do you know that the spice girls will make me bad?” I sassed a little with my tone.
My father turned red and snatched the dolls from my arms while my mother dragged me out of the store. I was promptly spanked in the parking lot.
The next day, my father woke me up at 3am per usual, but I was numb. A strange liquid formed under my newly grown exoskeleton that appeared overnight. I wasn’t sure what it was, but the whole world knew when he dropped me off at daycare. It was an emotional bomb.
As my father walked me inside the window paned doors, I clung to the doorknob and sobbed. “Don’t go,” I wept defeatedly. “Don’t go, please don’t leave me here.” I slumped to the floor and bawled. “DON’T LEAVE ME HERE. I DON’T WANT TO BE HERE.”
My shot of negativity into the universe was duly answered when playtime came around that day.
It was clean-up, and I was sassing the “Everybody do your share” song as was my custom, when four little tykes ambushed me, put me in the toy box, and sat on it. I banged against the top. My meager three-year-old arms were not strong enough for four other toddlers. I screamed and cried. Eventually, the box moved, and in front of me stood another nemesis: a teacher.
I didn’t like the teachers, but I had to tell on these kids. But I hadn’t seen who they were. It did happen, though.
“What got you crying today Miss Glum?” the teacher queried. She didn’t use my name. I liked my name. And she used that kid voice my parents never used.
“The kids put me in the toy box,” I whined.
“That’s not possible. Quit lying.”
Quit lying. The story of my life already. My daycare teachers thought I was a liar. So did my Sunday School teachers and my parents. I couldn’t gauge my grandparents but I think I had them perplexed.
This is where I began to die a little inside. Where the darkness crept in. The princess wanted to be rescued, but she was mistaken for the dragon.
It’s dramatic, it’s not horrible, but it’s my life.
Before Bear and I married, we honestly didn’t know how bad my PTSD was. I knew I had it to some degree, but it was vanquished because I didn’t talk about it. It was simply buried like a honey-badger about to attack our tiny baby marriage from beneath the surface. Does anyone remember that meme?
I remembered how bad my PTSD was when it first started. I would scream in the shower and twist my shampoo bottles across the water. I’d cry randomly in everyday places. Eventually I developed chronic pain once I did stop talking about it. I turned online to vent my fears. But the biggest thing was, the medical professionals denied my PTSD because I kept it under control by staying single for 6 years until I decided to date again, at my roommate’s suggestion.
Once I did, my career spiraled out of control. I began to see and hear things that did not exist at work coming from my male coworkers. There was no way I could work in an office. By the time I quit my job was the time I started going steady with my husband, who had no idea what was actually going on. Neither did I – I thought I had developed schizophrenia.
The same thing would happen at three more places of employment before I gave up and went to grad school, which was a lovely experience. But once I had a new permanent male figure in my life, the craziness exploded again – this time at my husband.
We’ve discovered that letting each other be open and vulnerable even over subjects the other thinks is stupid is the key to getting through our current situation. I’m no longer hearing monsters in the night. Tonight we slept in the same bed for the first time in two weeks. Not because he asked me to leave the room, but because I was hiding. That must have felt horrible to him.
I accomplished two sessions of EMDR this past week, and I think it’s responsible for getting my mind to chill out enough to communicate with my husband. I recommend it for anyone needing trauma therapy. Yes, you can do it remotely.
Disclosure: Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. Keep in mind that I link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.
My husband and I have been through some real hell. There is no doubt in the medical professionals’ minds that I have PTSD although I’ve been saying that for years in an attempt to get help. It all exploded when I married Bear. I exploded HUGE twice.
I’ve got some major guilt about what I’ve done in the light of my PTSD. But I’ve started trauma therapy (and missed one day due to being extremely ill) and hope that I’m on the path to recovery. Bear is who I want and who I love. He’s who I am eternally grateful for in the midst of all this crazy inner turmoil.
Lately I’ve come to realize that Bear is a human being *GASP* who has dreams, and gets frustrated and anxious when those dreams are delayed or seem thwarted. This realization came to fruition with the writing of my next book, when my beta readers wouldn’t get back to me, finding editors and agents, and not knowing my way around the book world whatsoever.
I mean, I always knew that Bear had dreams, interest, and goals. But the experience of chasing after things most people would deem trivial, such as Master Gardener, while constantly being thwarted by circumstance, enabled me to understand him on a deeper level.
When it comes to marriage, it’s easy to make the bogeyman out of your spouse, but most of the time they have good intentions. At least that’s the case with mine.
Anyways, those are my marital musings of the day, on to the review!
Product Review: Foster-Stephens, inc White Heirloom Wedding Gown Storage and Preservation Box
The Foster-Stephens box arrived in style with a neat color scheme and design. But because it’s a box within a box within a box, the actual box that holds the dress ripped when I attempted to take it out. This wedding dress preservation kit is all cardboard.
It’s an attractive box, in a grandma sort of way. Cheaply made and flimsy, we only paid $75 when some kits are over $200. As I was working to put the acid-free tissue around my dress, the cardboard box was bending.
This is the inside bottom of the box where the DIY bustier form is. I could somewhat make the cardboard bustier, but it was too large for my wedding dress as my dress had an empire silhouette. Or maybe it just wasn’t cooperating. In the end I stuffed my dress with acid-free paper provided with the box.
I don’t know how I was supposed to wrap the rest of my dress and stuff my bodice with the acid free paper provided because the pieces were so small. My dress doesn’t even have a train.
This Wedding Dress Preservation Kit Comes With
DIY Cardboard bustier
Instructions with how to watch on You-Tube
This Wedding Dress Box Does Not Come With
Dress cleaning supplies
Before using this box or any other, you should get your dress dry cleaned!
I put my dress in a white box partially wrapped in acid-free paper.
It cost me $75.
If you really want gown preservation, I suggest saving up and going elsewhere, but if you have a case of the poors like we do, this is a box and it does something for your dress.
I follow the Memes for Jesus page. One time I actually messaged them and got no response.
Recently I thought of a meme about PKs, or preachers kids. Often times in the comments of the Instagram page people seem to have the idea that the PK does whatever they want. That wasn’t my experience.
My idea was that PKs on the inside were the song Reflection from Mulan. In the song, Mulan expresses sadness and anxiety for perceiving to not live up to her family’s expectations. Generally all PKs I know are balls of perfectionism and anxiety, whether they end up functional or heroin addicts, Christian or otherwise. This is a mix of expectations from their parents congregation and expectations of their parents to be perfect examples of Jesus to the community.
I still grapple much with my upbringing and my faith. There’s a lot I wish were different, but you do the best you can with what you have.
Sometimes all you have is six chords and the truth or a bible and your tears, and that’s enough.
Whatever enough for you is, know that you are worthy, no matter who your mother or your daddy was.