…and zombies

#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.
Dear Internet,
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.
We’re fighters.
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.
Like music.
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.

This Day in LIsa-Universe: 2011, 2007, 2004, 2003, 1999

Crazy – The Jane Austen Edition

#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.
Dear Internet,
When I was a kid, I used to sew my fingers “…together with needle and thread, through the upper layers of your skin. You would sew and sew and then rip it out gingerly and start over again.” As a teenager “…start a new habit of breaking things. You get angry and start breaking anything made of china or glass.” I used to stand in my bedroom, on top of my bed, smashing glass things on the floor. Never too much for my mother to notice, but enough so that she eventually did.
At one point I used to pull huge clumps of hair out. I’m surprised my hair hasn’t thinned or I have bald spots.
I no longer sew my fingers together. I not longer throw glass on the floor. I no longer pull huge clumps of my hair out.
Now I tattoo and pierce. Much more aesthetically pleasing.

I began this post with something wholly different in mind, with plans on concentrating being borderline as it is enough of an obscure disorder that had barely has been written on it in the public sphere other than medical chit chat. What I have found for community support and personal perspective is buried deep, deep into google search — essentially useless since hardly anyone goes beyond the first page of results. If interested, I’ve put together a list of resources found on websites, subreddits, and books I recommend/use are at the bottom of this post. (Be warned, some of the content can be triggering.)
If these posts helps someone not feel alone or to get help, that’s enough for me.

The above quotations comes from a piece I wrote in 2001, about a girl, dealing with the crazy to the point I was thisclose to having a mental breakdown. I found the piece when looking for the bit on sewing my fingers together that I was originally going to reference. I read about a girl, cried, and re-read some more. I’m no longer self-harming, hitting/punching people, or planning my death. TheExHusband, who was kind enough to listen when I read it out loud, pointed out if I was in the same state now as I was then, the pile on what happened in the last two years convinced him I would have killed myself because I couldn’t take it anymore.
He’s right. So yay me?!

So I’ll talk about being borderline interspersed with Jane Austen gifs. Get the word out. Find some other peeps who suffer, create a community. Think about how far I’ve come (I can marginally cook), I am not suicidal or do (as crazy) crazy things. I lived beyond the age of 40. Some good, yes?
Everything changes. Nothing changes. I will deal with this for the rest of my life.

I need your approval and adoration or else I do not exist

One of the tl;dr’s of about a girl was my mother’s lack of validation of me as a child. Who in thee fuck sends their nine year old to therapy? Grounds them for years for being a “bad” child, which meant punishing you for the mess your younger brother did?
I did not have validation, so I need validation from you or else I don’t exist.
I will do anything of that validation. Anything. I will get into a shitty relationship with you, I will do things I’m not comfortable with doing, I will lie for you. I am your pet trained monkey, say what you will and it is done.
I would deny the date rapes, the sexual harassment, the rapes and almost rapes because it meant someone(s) finally loved/wanted me. What more could a girl ask for?
Is it so terrible I have a credo which states I will do anything as long as I don’t land in jail? Bully for me I’ve been able to keep that creedo on point.

You will stay with me forever, even if you don’t like it.
Relationships, platonic and romantic, end. Some just drift apart, others there is a trauma, and yet still others you just manage to grow out of your mutual interests. Some of the endings are mutuals, others are not. Some of this sounds familiar to most of you — I can’t imagine anyone whose life is so perfectly balanced they haven’t navigated these waters.
With borderlines it’s different.
You could dislike me / break up with me for a host of a million reasons, all of them legit, but I need to know why. Why don’t you like me? What have I done that I can fix? What can I change to myself to make whatever has been fucked better for you and for me?
I don’t understand why there can’t be a change.
I don’t understand why you don’t like me.
I have made relationships worse with this behaviour. Relationships that could have been naturally saved if I had not decided to forcefully intervene.
I have burned bridges.
But after burning the bridges, after forcefully intervening, we tend to apologize for our behaviour.
A lot.
I throw out the lines “fuck ’em if they don’t like me” and “I don’t want to be with anyone who doesn’t want me” and “I’m not to everyone’s taste” but secretly I need you to validate who I am. I put on a brave face because that is what I am to do but secretly…I need you to like me.
A lot.

We are charming as fuck
We want your approval and we’re trained circus monkey’s who will do any trick we can to make you love us. We want you to validate us and by having you remember us, we will be adored.
For me, it’s anything I can do to make you remember me whether it’s as simple as remembering who you are to sending thank you cards (truly, I AM grateful when those are sent) to providing you with something you are missing in your life. So many people don’t remember names, send thank you cards, or do simple gestures so when someone DOES do those things, they are more memorable than not.
And I am validated.
My sarcasm and with tend to bring the smart people around to my side. My fashion choices tend to hook others.
I’ve got a million ways to charm you and if you’re a potential sex partner, some that will make your toes curl.

I am a pretty, pretty princess and I must always be the center of your world

Borderlines have to be the center of your world.
A fight means a break-up. A change in plans means you hate me. A missed phone call and you never want to hear from me again. Platonic friendships invoke jealousies. Friendships with ex-partners? Ha. Ha. Ha. You’re fucking cheating on me and you’re never going to change.
If we can make those things not happen (validation) and tap dance our charming ass off, borderlines will always be the center of your attention and therefore, we are finally whole.

I don’t self-mutilate, I pierce and tattoo (which is totally different. Ha. Ha. Ha.)
Borderlines tend to have incredibly self-destructive behaviour. They are alcoholics, drug users, risky with sex, self-mutilate, and attempt suicide at least once.
I tell myself, “Oh boy. Aren’t I lucky I’m not into those self-destructive behaviors!”
Self-destructive behaviors started when I was eight or nine and I would sew my fingers together. Then the hair pulling in clumps.  Then throwing glass against the floor. The manic behaviour in my 20s.
The the risky sex partners.  (How I’ve never gotten a STD from the crazy early 20s is a goddamned miracle. In the last ten years it’s been a string of long relationships with three separate men. Yay me? )
I forgot all of that. I forget a lot of things. It’s buried deep deep inside of me. A pomegranate seed I refuse to let grow. I do not water it. I do not tend to it. Yet it lurks its leaves under the soil waiting to bury it’s roots deep and its flowers high.
Instead I pierce. And I tattoo.
Nearly 15 years ago (jesus lord), sitting on the couch of an ex-boyfriend who in one breath wanted to fuck me and in the other called me a prision bitch. WHY LISA, WHY? You’ve ruined your innocence, he said.
You cry. But I tell him what the tattoos really mean: a protective seal to protect me.
If you see the tattoos, you’ll more than likely not fuck with me, if you don’t fuck with me, I’m safe. No worries about abandonment issues because I won’t let you in close enough to hurt me. As long as I played the guise of loudmouth, tattooed, bitchy bitch face, I was safe. People would respect me for it (which always blew my mind when they did. Which is a lot. People do like assholes.).
Because obviously tattoos and piercings, for some, are not a sign of self-mutilation but for me, they very subtly are.
Ha. Ha. Ha.
If you saw I was really a bookish, nerdish girl who would rather knit and read a book rather than get rowdy enough at a bar to get thrown out a bar (like I was at 21), you wouldn’t like me. No one liked me when I was a four eyed square in primary and middle school because I was different from everyone else (hoo boy, things changed when I grew breasts and got contacts), no one was going to like me now. Honestly? When I do show that side of myself, no one really expects it and think it’s some facade. What they can’t figure out is the opposite is true.
And the bitchy sarcastic cuntface continues to live supreme because that’s what people want, and I want them to like me, so it will remain so.


Find more materials on Amazon.

Today in Lisa-Universe: 2015, 2011

Mental Illness, Shame, and the Art of Asking – 2016 Edition

#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.
Dear Internet,
If you’ve been reading (or following me on social media), it’s no surprise I’m open about my mental health. I talk pretty extensively on being bipolar (especially since I’m bipolar one which means I creep towards mania than depression), mental health in general, borderline personality disorder, adhd, depression when I get it, anxiety, and about my drugs, shrink, and fuck, probably a lot more I’m forgetting.
While I try not let me be these diseases, so much of what they do is an integral part of my life, it’s very hard to talk about them in some sort of context, “I’m being cray today. Ugh!”
So here is a week where I can talk freely and abundantly about my brain with professionals in my chosen career only to find as I opened up this editor to write — I am stumped on what exactly to say.
Three years ago (!), spurned by a TED Talk by Amanda Fucking Palmer, I wrote this piece: “Mental Illness, Shame, and The Art of Asking.”
In case you missed it, here is Amanda’s talk:
What I said three years ago

Yesterday, I was part of a panel at MSU Comics Forum where we gave a presentation on Golden Age: Comics and Graphic Novel Resources in Libraries. Our schtick is to present on this topic at non-library conferences because we knew it was important for artists, writers, creators, educators, and comic book lovers to be aware of what/how libraries are doing with comics and graphic novels. Within the library world, it is a given. Outside the library world, not so much.
While prepping for my talk, I was debating on whether or not to mention I was bipolar and relate that to graphic novels available on the topic. If part of my argument is graphic novels should be in libraries is because they help broach difficult topics, is this not a difficult topic and ergo a perfect example? The other question that would be asked is what kind of obligation do I have in mentioning I am bipolar to anyone about anything? Why does the onus fall on me?
This debate went on in my head up until I took the podium.
When the slide came up I had earmarked to mention being bipolar, I found myself just saying it as naturally if you please:
“I’m bipolar. I’ve had several friends who’ve read Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me and say to me, ‘Okay. I understand what you’re going through. It was eye opening.’ And this is perfectly illustrates how graphic novels and comics can help broach difficult topics.”
Several heads in the audience nodded with agreement.
In the space of a few minutes, I had negotiated in my head the trust relationship between myself and the audience. I gave myself permission to be candid. The floor did not open up and swallow me nor did fire come reigning down the heavens.
While I was feeling manic up until that moment, and then the world shifted into focus. When my 15 minutes was done, I felt my body relax for the first time in weeks.
Before watching AFP’s talk last night, I had not realized the mental negotiations taking place in my head about having a mental illness were about exchanges in trust with whomever. Oh, not you Internet, but with those in contact of my daily life, who don’t follow me across the social sphere or read this blog. There is a price tag on honesty, and on revealing, one that was too high in the past to contemplate, and one that is constantly always under scrutinizing but is becoming easier to negotiate.
AFP rationalized it is not about taking a risk, rather it is trust. Shame comes in when those not part of the negotiation attempt to criticize it. I am currying trust with my readership by telling them about my crazy, but someone who doesn’t read my blog, or know me, starts to make judgements on the already established link between me and my readership, they are installing shame on the affair. Anything different is open to criticism and this needs to change.
My name is Lisa and I am bipolar.
It needs to be said, it has to be said, I will continue to say it.

That piece still sums up what I feel today, except when it’s not.
Bipolar can be controlled with drugs and therapy. I’ve been on the same cocktail for over a year now and 9 times out of 10, life is pretty even keel. Now Borderline Personality Disorder is taking center stage, rearing its ugly head and that has been running my life for the last year+.
BPD has ruined a lot of things with the most current such as TheBassist1 breaking up with me not because he didn’t love and want me, but because I was a flight risk2 and will always be a flight risk until I got my shit together.
BPD has ruined not only romantic relationships, but platonic relationships; it’s distorted my world view; it’s fucked a lot of things for me and sometimes I feel utterly and completely out of control. “I hate you, don’t leave me!” “Everyone hates me; I’m the greatest thing since sliced bread.” “I have made a mistake somewhere and now I will be shunned/fired/etc.”
Coupled with being bipolar, I’m often surprised I’ve made it past 40. Hell, past 30.
I talk a lot about the domino effect which has plagued me these last few years. But what I haven’t discussed is exactly how that affected me on a much more personal level:

  • The #teamharpy case has made me a leper in the library world
  • nina and I racked up $15K in legal fees
  • I ran myself into $40K credit card debt between September 2014 and June 2015
  • On paper I’ve been homeless, on and off, since October 2014
  • I’ve had several breakdowns, starting with a long period of mania that lasted for about six months, then a bout of depression, back to mania, which finally came to a head in October when TheBassist broke it off with me.
  • From October to mid-December I rarely left TheExHusband’s condo or got out of my jimjams or did any kind of self-care. I ugly cried nearly every day
  • I’ve rarely smoked more than a couple of cigarettes a month until this past summer where I’m coming up to half a pack a day
  • While not suicidal, I’ve been in crisis at least twice in the last year

I’m probably missing a few things but this is the laundry list of ills that have been the albatross in my life for the last 18 months. A lot of these are my own choices, “If only I had…”

  • …used the word ‘alleged’ in that fucking tweet
  • …stop spending money on useless shit since I don’t have a job
  • …stopped denying everything was great and I was sick
  • …listened to what my loved ones said instead of thinking I could go at this alone

There are a lot of “If onlys.” Aren’t there always?
Being mentally ill is a goddamned highway with lots of on and off ramps. You make decisions based on your illness, it backfires, and you lose something important. You make a decision based on your illness, it comes up smelling of roses. You just never know how the die is going to roll and we keep taking the chance that what we decided was right.
We’re gamblers, we are. We worry by not telling anyone, we’ll not be able to get help when we need it. We worry if we do tell someone, we’ll lose out on life/partners/jobs. We worry how drugs will affect us or if self-care will actually work. We worry about the stigma, the pain, the anguish, the shame. We make ourselves sicker because we cannot disclose our sickness without fear something terrible is going to happen.
And the most painful thing? No one trusts you. TheBassist doesn’t trust me. TheExHusband doesn’t trust me. I’ve lost a lot of friends who can no longer trust me. What comes out of my mouth today can and has been either half-way true or another variation tomorrow3. It’s hard to ask for help when no one trusts you, even if they love you.
A lot of hard questions are coming up in the #lismentalhealth chat. Questions I want to be the queen of all that is mentally ill and bestow my wisdom to everyone as I have all the answers (“I am the greatest thing since sliced bread.”). I’m afraid to post because I don’t want to be seen as a scene stealer (“Everyone hates me.”). I don’t want to seem “weak” (“I can control this thing no matter what you say”), whatever that means, and I don’t want people to take pity on me even though I crave their adoration (“Don’t leave me.”). I’m a raging, sarcastic asshole towards people (“I hate you.”)
Being mentally ill is goddamned exhausting. I think this is one thing we can all agree upon.
One of the questions that did come up I can, somewhat, safely answer is about disclosing your illness to current and future employers. Right now I’m of the mindset of “No.” In my last position, because I was hell bent on being open and honest, I told my immediate boss. Within a few months, they used my illnesses against me. See the revised job description they put up when they did a call after my contact was about to expire. Look particularly at 12. They also would use verbiage such as, “Go take more drugs,” and “have you seen your therapist lately” out of spite. (Yes, I did try to get them reprimanded for such impertinence but since no one heard them, I had no physical proof…you get the idea where this going, right?) Despite the disability act/equal opportunity form you can volunteer to answer when you apply for a job, I choose “no response” to the question or I don’t fill out the damned thing at all. I cannot take the chance if someone sees I’m bipolar they will automatically disqualify me from getting a job. While this is illegal, I’ll never know since I will just get your standard rejection.
I have nothing to say. I have everything to say. I have a zillion answers. I have no answers.
I wish I did.

1. One day there will be a day when I don’t mention him in a piece but today is not that day.
2. I can’t blame him for this part of why our relationship failed this time around. When the love of you life is leaving you every couple of months and then calls you ugly crying, you’d probably cut ties off too. But that’s a post for another time.
3. Pinky swear, on my grandmother’s grave, everything I’ve written in here, my world, has been true. It may have been fucked up, crazy sounding, or depressing as fuck, but this is the only place I have always felt like my safe space and thus can be completely honest.

This Day in Lisa-Universe: 2013, 2011, 2011, 1997