I Am Not My Illnesses

Sun shining through an up close enlarged pink lily flower in a green field with a blurred blue sky. Text overlay: "I am not my illnesses: how the concept of a soul helps me. Spoonielifestyle.com"

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.

Mental Health Awareness Month: Schizoaffective Disorder

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.

Mental Health Awareness Month AKA My Life: Why I Am Thankful For Every Night I Spend With My Husband

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.

National Mental Health Awareness Month: Trichitillomania

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 Absolute Realness on PTSD and Marriage

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.

Warm hugs.