#LisMentalHealth week is an initiative started by my good friend Cecily Walker and Kelly McElroy. You can follow along on Twitter, add resources to the Google doc, or check out the Storify of Monday’s chat. Please do not diagnosis yourself via the internet — if you are concerned about your mental health or someone else’s, see a professional immediately.
The last couple of posts discussed what was going on inside my head, some background on being bipolar and borderline, suicidal thoughts, and how that conflates in every day life. I want to excavate deeper into the every day life part because it’s necessary, important, and gives others a chance to know they are not feeling alone.
(Punctuated with GIFs from Pride and Prejudice & Zombies, Becoming Jane, and Pride and Prejudice (1995 AND 2005 editions). Because obviously.)
People with mental illness are bad ass mother fuckers.
As we stabilize, and start to integrate into regularized life, we have to still have to navigate all of the pitfalls of being mentally ill.
Inside our head.
This is not to say we don’t have a support system, a good therapist on call, or even the wrong drugs. But those things can only do so much and we need to be prepared to handle the rest.
And when we’re in crisis, which does not always mean suicidal, we’re kind of straying off track of the fight. But give us a moment and we’re back into the ring, ready to do another battle.
Sometimes we are down on the mat, and the ref is counting. Sometimes we feel the only way to win is to die. But those who walk that path are still brave for they took their own life on their terms. It’s hard to digest, I know, but there are something bigger than us, all of us, that cannot always be beaten.
They are not cowards. Death is not shameful. They deserved to make that decision.
I’m not advocating for suicide. I’m not saying everyone who is mentally ill should go kill themselves. I refuse, however, to put on the facade that this wasn’t the person’s choice. It is their choice. They made this decision to end it on their terms, they should have the dignity for making that decision.
(Some of us just need something to keep us here. If you feel like you’re going through a rough time and you need help, call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1.800.273.8255.)
I know from my own experiences the line between wanting to fight and dying on my terms has been pretty blurred. What’s pulled me out of making the decision to die is my need to be a vengeful asshole and want to prove the world wrong.
I haven’t been suicidal in a very long time. I get into crisis mode which can be akin to waiting out a bad storm. I have too much to do in this world and like I said, I’m a vengeful asshole.
I wanted to die because I didn’t feel like anyone understood what I was going through. I wanted to die because I thought no one loved me. I wanted to die because I could not imaging going through life in this kind of pain.
It took a long time for me to accept people love me. People want to make sure I’m okay. When it looks like I’m going into crisis mode, people text/call me to make sure I’m okay or if I need anything. I know it will get better some day, so I let the tears out and the frustration, I take my drugs, I write in my journal, I meditate, and the sun starts to pinprick the clouds.
(And I’m a vengeful asshole, because fuck you non-believers of me.)
(My meditation guru, headspace, has this technique called noting. Instead of acting out on whatever (feeling, emotion, thought), you let the thing wander into your brain and you say to yourself, “oh. that’s just a feeling.” and the feeling, instead of overpowering, you acknowledge it which knocks it out of your way. I found that whenever a feeling / thought / emotion starts pushing its way forward, I note it, and it doesn’t feel so intense anymore. Headspace acknowledges that depression cannot be erased simply by noting, but it helps to better manage the symptoms.)
When I was 10? 11? 12? I wanted to write a book on suicide. Was I suicidal then? To be honest, I have no idea. I was sewing my fingers together and pulling out clumps of my hair, so who knows.
I went to the library constantly. Checked out books, memoirs, medical texts, anything I could find about suicide.
I was convinced they had it all wrong. No one knew what being suicidal was like. I knew. I could write this book.
Again, what does a middle schooler know about suicide? No one I knew had died by their own hand. Where did this come from? I cannot even guess.
I apparently thought I knew everything.
I have no idea what was going on through my mind. This was beyond writing a paper for school, there was this real big need to write a book.
No idea what happened to the papers or my thoughts on the matters.
But I did want you to know I’ve been there, it’s okay, and we can get through this together.
One of the big traits of being a borderline is our lack of self-image. What does that mean?
It means we cannot or have trouble with defining our own personalities. What we like. What we don’t like.
When you think of me, what do you think? My about page has a pretty good description of who I am and what I like. You follow me on Twitter or are a BFF on Facebook, my interests are pretty straight forward.
Every or nearly every day I think about what I like: James Bond, Doctor Who, Jane Austen, Vikings, MINI Coopers, Regency, Edwardian, and Medieval history, Caravaggio, knitting, England, Scotland, Wales, BBC, literature, graphic novels & comic books, Jazz Age, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Baroque art, technology, travel, Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes, Downton Abbey, Italy, and West Ham Football Club.
These are just a few of my favorite things.
Why do I like these things?
You could argue a lot of people pick up traits of the people they are involved with, regardless of the intimacy level. We’re being introduced to new things and those things resonate with us, so we make them ours and explore them on our own terms. But with borderlines, we want to be like that person, so their things are now our favorite things, typically discarded when the relationship ends and we start all over again with the next person to get a whole another set of interests.
When I look at my main interests, listed above, some of them follow that described pattern. TheEx was heavily into F1, MINIs, West Ham United, James Bond, and knitting. Now they are my interests but if I’m honest with some of them I haven’t picked since we split nearly eight years ago. Some of them I follow half-heartedly. Others I keep with abandoning passion.
(That’s amazing thing about interests — spend a half-hour google searching and you can get up to date on that item real quick.)
I used to have a really hard time with music, television shows/movies, and anything else people find of interest. If you’ve been to any place I’ve lived, I’ve got a thousand and one things that look like I’m interested in, but in reality I’ve started and given up on most because I got bored or not everyone was doing the same thing anymore.
(Remember, we want to be loved so what you like, we like.)
It took a really long time for me to learn how to like something. I had to teach myself how to like something and honestly? I have a hard time moving beyond that thing.
Music was a poultice to medicate, not to be enjoyed.
Bands like R.E.M, New Order, and The Smiths really resonated with me in high school, so I followed their careers obsessively for years and the cool kids I was desperate to join liked them. I also liked them because it was myself in their songs.
(I listened to industrial to drown out the crazy.)
I started paying attention to songs on the radio, in clubs, at friend’s houses. Why did I like this song? What could I like about this song, albums, band? I like the words. Okay, that’s good. I like the sound. Okay, even better. One plus one = two. Turn it into a logical equation and it’s easier to swallow.
I am really simplifying this as it’s not that straight forward.
A lot of you know I’m a big fan of Joy Division. I knew they were the precursor to New Order. The lead singer killed himself when he was 23. It was thought he was bipolar or at least depressed.
A man I could get behind.
I didn’t get into them until I was in my early 30s when I was researching something and came across Joy Division’s biography. Based upon what I found out and what I later learned, they became my band de jour.
My favorite song is not Love Will Tear Us Apart or Transmission but She’s Lost Control.
I could live a little better with the myths and the lies,
When the darkness broke in, I just broke down and cried.
I could live a little in a wider line,
When the change is gone, when the urge is gone,
To lose control. When here we come.
Here was a band who released this single when I was 7 and they are as relevant to me today as they were over 30 years ago.
They have a distinct sound. I call it the Mancuian sound, music straight from Manchester, UK. Every band I have fallen in love with either emulates that sound (Interpol), is from that period (Factory Records), or is heavily influenced by Joy Division. Almost without fail, when I hear a new song on the radio and I like the song, they are 90% not only from Britain but from Manchester.
Everything from food, to clothes, to where I want to live — nearly every aspect of my life is thought out, ruminated, digested, and researched before I decide to like it or not.
And all of this is going on with rapid fire thought, subconsciously without fail, every second of every day.
Teaching myself to like something was a big step towards being whole. My interests listed above? Took me a long time to separate the interest from the thing associated with it and make it mine. Now when I meet someone, I have very clear boundaries on what I like, I have ideas what I don’t like, and it’s work to maintain this is me rather this is me being you.
I sound aspie, but it’s not about keeping to a pattern, it’s about discovering what it is that makes “you” you and making it your own. This also does not mean I’m not open to new experiences or adventures, but please understand that to even consider that thing, I’m making rapid fire decisions, a 1000 a second.
Now tie this in with being bipolar, the mania, the need to be an exhibitionist. You are HERE and you’re living in this moment. But do you like this moment? Can you trust this moment? I AM THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE. But do you like me to being the center? Can I be in your world?
You stabilize the brain with drugs, so the needs become less punishing. Yet it physically hurts to think sometimes, so much is going on in my head.
And people wonder why I’m chaotic neutral.