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7403a22ad2d4bf8a32fe06092df37ceeI would like to take this time to introduce myself and the world I live in. Before you get excited there should be a note that you have yet to see anger like this. Before you run and show someone else this blog know that you have yet to see disillusionment like this. Its the plot. Its the scenery, the characters and the villains.  Some will understand my world even when I can’t; and some will be lost by the first word.

My whole life, everything that I am, everything that I will be, my family, my marriage is wrapped up in a disease that some God decided I deserved. Some God thought that it didn’t matter that I was a good person or thought about the fact that I am not always strong. Some God decided to give me a sickness that takes away every iota that is me. Some God decided that having my brain destroyed, so it doesn’t recognize evil, gave me a mental illness.

I use God as the reason for this disease but the truth is the same words could be applied to any entity that considers life a toy to play with. Any thing that forgot that children aren’t supposed to die from a disease they can’t pronounce, or that a loving woman with three children isn’t supposed to die suddenly, without warning, in front of the children she would die for. Any being that decided that taking away the mind is not wrong; the God that believes that I can jump those hurtles is crossing a line that I may not forgive.

My world? My world turns small and large equally spaced circles over and over in that wheat field no one knows where is. My world repeats itself over and over again despite the steps that I take to prevent it. Each turn of the arc is another side of the disease that I was required to understand three months ago and somehow having to learn all over again. It goes round and round and there is no stop lever that will allow me to finally get off.

I live in a place that requires that every word I say leads and falls toward persons swearing to help instead being discriminating. I have to worry about my family and their understanding about who and what they are to me and what they wanted me to be, and I have suppress my world and move it deep inside of me because of the words I say are considered dangerous. It is considered that I am dangerous.

My world consists of two incredible children. Children who are forced to live with a woman such as I. Children who have to learn coping skills to handle the moods better than most adults. Children who are required to be someone’s reason for living although they don’t even know death. And every day I have to fear that they will be taken away. Taken away for their safety; taken from me because someone somewhere decided that I was broken. Someone I don’t know thought I was unworthy.

And maybe I am not worthy; I haven’t gotten to that part of this journey. I know that because of my disease I can’t look at myself in the mirror without dressing me down better than any drill Sargent. I know that I have to be cautious around even those who swear they love me the most because my feelings, my abilities are directly affected by them. And it doesn’t matter if they know it, or forget it, I spend most of my life in this world suppressing everything I can in order to survive the night. Because otherwise I lose more than I have to give.

This disease requires of it physical pain to justify its being. In order for my world to know if I am alive, they have to thread it with pain. Sometimes the pain is easier to understand than others. Sometimes the pain is worth knowing so I can never see the other side of that coin. Sometimes I live in pain without knowing if I have a problem or if my mind has just decided to handle the winds in this matter. I don’t know when I am whole and when there is less of me.

I am exhausted trying to pretend that walking into this world is comfortable. I am so tired of having to pretend that I am available even for simplest of hellos. I am tired of the panic attacks, the fear, the besiege of emotions that hits me anytime I leave the world that is around me. I am tired of not being able to handle a person much less a crowd. I am tired of not being able to sit and make friends despite how easy it would be. I am tired of not being able to look someone in the eye; I am tired of forgetting who is on my side and who would like me to die.

The voices each and every day taking from me the right to think. The voices take my dreams and destroy them as easily as I am destroyed; for there isn’t enough room for the fairy tale.  They hit in the vulnerable craters of my mind and spirit, and never take for granted that what I fear has never gone away.

I am tired of not understanding. Not understanding those things in this world that seem to cause other’s greatest happiness. I don’t understand people that would rather talk to their friends then see their son hit a home run. I don’t understand people who can’t stop and help no matter circumstances. I don’t understand people who take all that they have been given and all they have been spared and not know there are others who suffer each moment. I am tired of not understanding the happiness of putting someone down, of teasing them, of making them feel inadequate. I am filled with sorrow because I will never be able to survive in that world.

I never know what to do with the anger when I think about the fact that everything I see and feel today will be there another day. I never know what to do with the fact that over and over again I will be destroyed. I don’t know how to find that one place of perfect safety that I can finally rest in. I never know the purpose of my world.

I don’t have the skill but the anger. I don’t have the hope but I have the pity. I don’t have the reason but I know the question. I don’t have the love but I have the destruction. I don’t have the understanding but I have the doubt.

This is the world that I live in; a small, claustrophobic space that will never encourage the spreading of wings. This is the world that I will die in. This is the world that I will separate myself into simply to survive the darts of those who don’t know me at all.

I will spend the rest of my life on this journey always sick. I will fall much farther than I will climb and I will search for that one place that is safe and secure. Because maybe in that place my world will finally open.

Why Are You Here?

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SgtsaltI have always believed that there is no question that cannot be answered. If there is a question than by right there should be an answer. It may not be the answer we want, not the answer we expected, but there is an answer. I suppose this is a naive view brought on by the invention of Google and my ability to simply find anything out that I want when I want.

But I finally ran into a question I can’t answer. Have you ever noticed that questions revolving around your own actions, your own motives, and your own past are some of the hardest questions to answer? You are able to find the answer, sometimes after soul searching for a little while, but no matter the answer it is going to give you a little dose of the shivers. When we are asked and have to acknowledge certain facts about ourselves the feeling that comes is not comfort.

Monks have for years been trained with the almost unanswerable questions. They sit for days and weeks meditating until the answer that makes the most sense is revealed. My favorite one tends to be, “At what point is death?” And of course, there is the famous if a tree fell in a forest…by the way, the answer all depends on your definition of sound.

This week I was asked by my therapist why I am in therapy? Was it because I was bipolar or was there another reason. And two days later after thinking of little else, the truth is I have no idea why I am in therapy. No…idea.

Am I looking for absolution? Justification? Resolution? Each of these questions implies that there is an ending; that there will come a time when I don’t need therapy. So question remains what? from what? for what? Where am I suffering?

I am sitting here even now wondering about the answer to this question. And although I don’t know why it is so important to me to answer this question, I do know that using the answer of ‘I am going to therapy because I am bipolar’ is not the answer. There are times when your teacher, your mother, even your therapist makes it very obvious which answer she does not want to hear. It could be in the way they ask the question or in the case of my mother these evil looks she gives.

What secret is my brain holding that will answer this question? What vague answer will finally be revealed? And what if what is revealed is a mirror image of what I hoped it would be? What if the reason I am seeking therapy is warped when I always thought it had to be good? What if my purposes are not good but rather reveal the truth about my personality? Maybe I am egocentric and I go to therapy so that someone will tell me how good I am. Maybe I am selfish and simply can’t handle not being heard. Maybe I want justification for all the bad I know that I do.

Do I want my brain to tell me that I am worthy and would I believe it? Do I want my brain to tell me that I am searching for a way to better myself, and would I believe that? Do I want my brain to make it seem like I have pure motives rather than a ridiculous need for someone’s notice?

I don’t know. I feel that this answer may be of some import in my life but I haven’t figured out why yet. I haven’t figured out why this question is keeping me up and causing me to fall away deep in my thoughts for an answer. I don’t know why out of all the questions she has asked, and all the answers that have come so easily, I got stuck on this one.

It is possible that like every close relationship I want to prove to this woman that I am a good person and smart enough to answer this question. It is possible I want to impress a woman whose role in my life is becoming more and more significant. I don’t want to feel stupid, and I hoped desperately that this was supposed to be a hard question. The idea that I am sitting on some vague answer that is right in front of me, yet unseen, is a little embarrassing. I don’t want her to know that. I don’t want to struggle in front of her.

Yet I know that I do often. She is not the type of personality that let’s the real clues pass her by; she is going to ask the tough questions because while she already knows the answer she wants to make sure I do as well.

But why therapy? Why do I go? What is the goal? or is it a simple matter that I know I am bipolar therefore I go? We don’t talk about me being bipolar, we don’t touch on the effects and reactions of this disease too much; instead we focus on how I am, how I was effected, how I reacted? So it isn’t because I am bipolar.

I suppose to answer this question I have to come up with all the other questions that can lead me down the right path. But what is the first question? What is the first step down this road that I feel so compelled to travel? And why am I compelled?

Leading questions to help me down the path may include: what goal are you trying to achieve? Why are you in therapy at this time in this place? What changed in your life that you needed some therapy? And why do you return each week?

So I know the question, but still I have no answers. I will continue to sit here and listen to my songs wondering over and over what I am supposed to say. Because the truth is this answer is either buried way deep and therefore will have the impact of a meteor on my life, or there is no answer. No answer to find, no answer to know.

Responding to Screams

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6192cc64c3afa001cc6faf65964311adWe have all heard the word, we have all had an opinion of the word but once that word becomes part of the day to day vocabulary of your own self, you really get the word. The word? Psychosomatic. I really wish I could have a trumpet play the stringing notes of a powerful announcement when I type that word; it seems fitting.

This word more than any other can fill me with the most astonishing fear. Fear that makes my disdain of snakes look like a child’s fear of a monster under the bed. This one word, large and unwieldy, means that we are finally what they feared. The word in my brain means that everything they said, any negative, doubting idea is actually true.

We live with this mental illness. We live with it because the truth is unless we are willing to sacrifice our brains to science we don’t have much other choice. Mental illness is a everyday, all day thing. You don’t get a respite, you don’t get a nap from it; it is as much a part of you as the smile on your face.

But with the knowledge that we have mental illness comes much more destructive understandings. It means that there are millions of people in this world who not only hate us but actively fear us. It means that there are doctors who will look us dead in the eye and tell us they will not treat someone in our condition.  It means that when we finally need the big help, the 24-hour doctor care, agents of companies we don’t even know where they are based out of, will make decisions for us. They won’t ask us. They won’t ask the doctors. What it means is that we are out of luck.

There is of course other realities of this disease: you will probably lose your children in any court case no matter how many character testimonies you bring. Another reality is a simple one – if your boss finds out, you will be fired. We can all get up on our horses and state that this is against the law but truthfully there is very few champions of those with mental illnesses.

We can posit that this is because they don’t understand. We can assume that it is caused by a media who thinks that sensationalism is more lucrative than truth. We can assume that an easy buck, a ruthless traitor, even a rainy day can make the reality of this disease so much worse. There is literally not one good thing in life about these diseases, and if you think there are, I have this island.

And then one day your brand new therapist says the word: Psychosomatic. And the rocky cliff that you were standing on starts to fall away from you. And you slide, and you slide and you begin to see almost immediately that everything you were hoping about yourself is a lie. Those points that you have been making have less meaning; those fights you were fighting don’t draw the right blood.

Psychosomatic. The word just reminds me of horror. If I have the audacity to tell anyone that I have psychosomatic systems the first thing that will be yelled, “I knew it.” It was all in our minds. The doctors the world over will rejoice because they no longer need to work on those tests and therapists will get a day off. The diseases that we sufferers have been talking about, screaming about, begging about is all in our head.

For those who don’t know psychosomatic means that you have physical symptoms to mental emotions. Many can equate hypochondria will this word. And when we see hypochondria at least half of us – mostly from the South – think of that rich, old, and jeweled lady demanding her salts and faintly laying on the chaise as if it will catch her. We all know that if she just got up and turned on the air conditioner she would be better, but for now she likes the attention and the drama of the symptoms. By the by, hypochondria is often a good way to make people dance to your tune…just in case.

So despite the fact I do have a recognized and diagnosed disease the fact that I might be going through psychosomatic problems right now undercuts all that I am fighting for. I know that these psychosomatic problems are a response to my own stress. I know that they are a very real way for my body to remind me that holding, cradling and pushing down the true views I have is dangerous. I know that these problems are a way for my body to say, stop. think. get better.

This morning I entered my therapists office with the usual fear/optimism. Toward the end after she had already given my homework (and it is hard) she asked how I was physically feeling. She noticed that I looked tired and run down; and she wondered if I was taking care of myself. All normal therapist things.

I responded that I had been more tired lately, but what was really hard is all the panic attacks I kept having. One after another they have caused me to lose weight I can’t afford and they have made my ability to do much of anything suspect. My bathroom habits are all a mess (but I won’t go into detail here) and my complexion hasn’t only broken out but has the kind of acne that is literally painful sitting on your skin.

And then she said it. That word. And then my stomach for the first time in weeks let loose a really long breath. And my brain stopped as if God himself has spoken. And I knew. I knew the words were true just by my reaction.

The thing about psychosomatic systems is that unless or until someone points them out to you, you can’t see it. You are blind to it. It is like a complete disconnect between the brain and the knowledge the brain possesses. Until someone looks at you and says that these symptoms, which are not normal for you, is psychosomatic it is hard to appreciate all that your brain can truly do.

My brain has been screaming and I have been responding with pain and medication. My brain has been trying desperately to tell me so many things, warning me as loudly as it could, and I have been giving up. Rather than listen to the very real clues that were finally coming from my brain I choose to suffer. I choose to ignore and lay on that chaise for another day.

And now I have to try to listen to a symptom I don’t normally come in contact with. I have to figure out what it is I am doing that my body finds so abhorrent. Because while the world will think that my disease is cured by the knowledge that I finally have a temporary reason for this response, I know that even listening to my brain won’t stop the reaction until it is time.

Until I have done the work and I have resolved the problem the suffering continues. And as it continues it continues in a much harder way. Because I know about it now. I know the problem’s cause so I can no longer ignore it in the haze of those medications. I can no longer give myself permission to complain.

Is It Over Yet?

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1b6033f108b9cc5ef93e5eb65e807908The dreaded question. The dreaded search for an answer that destroys all hope. We hear it during crucial moments of a movie when our eight year old turns and asks at the most pivotal scene. I heard it in a song the other day so artists are asking the question. There are even variations of the question: It ain’t over yet; I will be back or It isn’t over until the opera singer sings.

It is a legitimate question especially if like me you are mentally ill. It is a legitimate question because the events that would make you hope so hard for the ending, don’t end. It is a good question because it makes us look back on all that we have already gone through and understand that we will repeat it until the day we die.

A mentally ill person doesn’t stop either figuratively or literally. Our brains bounce around bringing first amazing doses of pain and then unbearable moments of recognition of all that we are and all that we will always be. It doesn’t stop when the moon rises, when they throw electricity through us, and it doesn’t stop when we take more and more medication just to take the edge off.

Mental illness in every one of its forms doesn’t stop. It is an ongoing journey that requires stamina, strength, intelligence, and sheer, unadulterated luck. It requires that the person with the disease recognize that death is much closer for them than for those others looking in the same mirror. This disease requires the mentally ill to find hope and let it be ripped away; to find happiness only to destroy it and to find faith only to finally recognize truth.

Despite our periods of intense manic behavior when cleaning a whole house is easy and there is no such thing as sleep, our ability to see that what we are doing is scaring those around us does not lead to absolution. When we are in our periods of complete and soul-stripping depression and there is finally a light showing us that once again our darkness reaches those we love there is no absolution. Despite the ups there are downs. And despite the downs there are always ups.

I could sit here and spend hours telling you how wonderful you are despite the disease. I could sit here on my soap box and convince you that if you just follow exactly what I say then you will be cured. I can even spend my hours listening and dispensing advice in the hope that you will finally find peace.

But I can’t do that in truth. In fact, there isn’t a soul on this earth that can do that.

Once years ago the solution to mental illness was lobotomy. A seriously horrific procedure it still stands today as one of the few things that will dramatically change a mentally disabled patient. Never mind that you are going to lose what is left of your mind, what is left of your memories, and what is left of your brain’s ability to survive. At least it will stop the craziness, the ups and the downs.

For the rest of us that consider this a crime instead of a solution there is no true alternative. In today’s world cures are usually listed as medications, therapy, and possibly inpatient hospital stays. But what they never tell us at eighteen, when we have finally been diagnosed with a disease we have shown years of signs of having, is that there is no cure for mental illness. There has been few scientific leaps of knowledge about the human brain. And there have been even less understanding of why a medicine might work on me and not on you.

Instead we have to come to terms with the fact that we will always go through an unpredictable cycle guaranteed to destroy every relationship we know. Somehow we have to learn that the best doctors out there can not prevent the days of curling up in our beds and not leaving. In someway we have to understand that the ups and downs are as much a part of us as a nose is to someone else. It’s there constantly and it is used by your body for its own purposes.

There is no good news about mental illness. I have yet to meet a person who had these diseases and decided to jump up and down in joy. Unlike cancer where you at least have a glimmer of hope, the mental diseases eradicate that long before the first week is out. There are no hopes, there are no cures, there are no miracles; good or bad you have a disease that will destroy you in some fundamental way.

It is never over because it never reaches a conclusion that will satisfy both the brain and the body. It is never over because the darkness and the light are so tangled with our brains that it would take longer to make sense of it than it would to simply learn to deal with it. The question implies that there is an ending, even one as miraculous as cures, but in the case of mental illness that is about as truthful as the idea that a therapist can change your past.

When I was born I didn’t expect to have a disease that would consume me and my family’s lives as much as this one does. If I had known I would like to think that I would have put a lot more enjoyment in my younger days. I would have taken every opportunity to sing in the sunshine and dance in the night. I would worry less and try and find the ability to put off those big questions.

Because I know now that those big questions can’t be answered by a diseased mind but they will continually live there waiting for me to give it a try. The questions of hope, truth, light, even the notion that one can fly, is completely disintegrated into the unavoidable knowledge that no matter how fine I am today, there is no guarantee for tomorrow.

My family often jokes about the fact that day to day they don’t know who or what I will be. And it took me a long time to realize that this joke, in particular, isn’t funny. Because it is true. It is never over for me because I will be up again and I will be down again. It is never over for me because not even the greatest scientists can predict how I will react tomorrow. I will take medications until I die but even it won’t stop the very real knowledge that my brain will push itself through that wall and fall on its sword for its liberty. There is no over because there is no end.

I don’t know what the future will bring. I don’t know if scientists will figure this stuff out or at least be able to make inroads into why my brain doesn’t act like my moms. I don’t know if the large amount of pills I take today will work tomorrow. And I don’t know what that therapist will uncover that I have hidden for so long. Because there is no end. It continues and continues forever.

Is it over yet? No. Is it ever over? No. Should we just give up now? Absolutely.

The Warring Sky

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The sky shows only the war within.

I ride towards the moon’s destruction

as the sun mocks my efforts to find peace.

For she knows that peace isn’t for those like me.

I stare with all my might toward that warring sky.

I stare with all my might hoping

for the answer to the question I never ask.

I hope for the sign of my peace.

Each day and each night the winds pull

while the moonbeams dance in laughter.

And I am on that tiger watching for their truths

and I on that tiger prepare to run.

For the war within looks like that great sky.

Fighting for salvation, fighting for reality.

The moon and I, we pull dreams from the soul

and the sun and I pull reality

from the possibility of a safe haven.

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