How Discrimination and Stigma Feels

 

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I feel physically and mentally great!  I have no physical pain in my body.  I am able to move and stretch and function properly.  Mentally I am capable, as well.  I am able to make decisions as to my daily well being, my care, my own little world, inside my box (so to speak).  I am physically and mentally functioning well.  But why is it that I am still being regarded as an individual who is incapable of being a responsible adult – because I have a mental illness??

I have bipolar, so that deems me as incapable.  I should not be typing on this computer.  I should not be thinking in any rational terms.  I should not be able to take my own medications, or to dress or feed myself.  All of these things may stress me out and I may need to take a pill to be able to live my life.  Right?  I believe that I would be able to KNOW if I am having a hard time, or if I need a break – and I could share that if necessary.

So, if I had kidney stones over a month ago, this would mean that I cannot physically function now a month later?  I’m asking??  I may need a pill, or need to take a break because of the FEAR of the pain being there (over a month later).  Perhaps I had an autoimmune response in which I needed meds to recover.  It is now over a month later and I’m still recovering, right??  Better yet, I am gay.  I came out a month ago.  Therefore, as long as I live, I should now be shamed and not trusted.

This is what discrimination and stigma feels like.  Get it???

 

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Radical Acceptance of the Unknown

 

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How is it that a period in time in my life is lost??  The amnesia that I have encountered during this period of time is frustrating.  I am told that I was combative.  I am told that I was unable to form any type of sentences.  I could not explain my thoughts.  Was it that I even had any thoughts that were cohesive enough to even be able to remember?  The period lost is maddening to me.

My family was told by the doctors that they thought that I was having a stroke of some sort.  I have no recollection of my behaviors, of being cleaned, of brushing my teeth, and doing any of the simplicities of activities of daily living.  I recall once kicking my food tray, and it flying across the room.  Why was I so angry and upset?  This was and is so out of my character.  Perhaps my breaking point had been met.

I recall, when I was in nursing school, talking to one of my professors about the period of delusional behavior that had happened when I was twenty-one (a few years prior to our conversation).  This professor explained it to me in the sense of a (brief) period of time in the scope of a life of events.  Those ten days (while in the hospital) were what amounted to a minuscule period of time.  It was time to accept and move forward.

The difference between that period of time, and this recent period of psychosis is that I cannot recall the memories.  I cannot even try to make any sense of them, or to analyze the break because the loss of memory is not allowing this.  The frustration with this amnesia is frightening, and a complete loss of control.  I do know however, that I made it through.  And I know that I had the supports available to help me to make it to the next step of my life.  I am in the next step right now, though prevention of another episode is a major part of my life right now.

Moving forward and radical acceptance of the unknown is encompassing my life right now.  I have to realize that whatever happened to me, I made it through the tough times and now I am on the other side.  I am stronger because of fighting through the tough times.  Time to slowly glide through each day and bring sunshine into view.  I am strong and I am capable.  Thanks to you, God.

 

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / stevanovicigor

Circle of Helping Hands

 

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“I have no friends”.  This is a common thought of mine.  I have experienced many times the feeling that I have no one to turn to or to help me.  It is a terrible feeling to think that I am so alone.  To be so lonely that I have absolutely nobody that I can talk to, and to not even have the capability to reach out to others so that they can have the chance to help me is the terrible feeling of isolation.

For me, I have looked back on journals and this common theme evolves.  I have nobody to turn to.  My ex-husband and I were on different wave-lengths, and the ability for him to understand my depths of depression and fear (I believe) were incomprehensible to him.  I did have my parents to turn to for the majority of my life, but the fear that they would someday not be available was always there.  I always had fleeting friends in and out of my life that provided a sense of comfort and joy, but to allow them to be a protector when my thinking was distorted was not even an option.

I struggled with the concept that God would not give me more than I could handle.  I thought that I had already been tested by that, and that I had lost that battle time and again.  My mind would become overwhelmed and would disappear into its own depths of delusions.  Isn’t that more than I could handle?  It never made sense to me.  What I did not see was that despite my mind going into delusions, I came out of that despair.  I recovered and I was able to once again function and have more strength from the previous battle.  God is indeed Good!

And to think that I don’t have any friends that I can rely on – that is absurd.  I do feel lonely at times, or I am alone.  However during my lifetime I have been blessed by strangers becoming friends, acquaintances helping during times of despair, and long-time friends always lending a hand in times of need.  The problem sometimes is knowing when and how to ask for help.  It is a hard thing to do to ask for assistance, even if that assistance is from my own children.

I believe that a good exercise for me to have completed was to make a list of all of those friends: long-time friends, siblings, spouses, children, parents, facebook friends that I message occasionally, aunts, uncles.  Even though I do not speak to these people frequently, I have these people as a part of my circle.  I need to know who I can trust, and who I can let my heart be opened to.

It is with my own self-discovery over the past year that I have realized that I am so blessed by having all that God has given to me.  Everything is in God’s timing.  During a recent struggle with my illness, I was upheld by all of those wonderful people who I couldn’t even think to ask for help during my depressed state.  These people offered their help, and to my amazement I had a group of friends (angels).  I even looked back to my messages that were on my phone when I was in the emergency room, and to my surprise I realized that I had left a message to a long-time friend of my mothers.  I do not even recall sending this message, but I had asked her to please put me on the prayer chain at her church, which she immediately did.  When I got back in touch with her after I was beginning to recover and told her that I didn’t even recall sending the message, her response was that she was thankful that I felt comfortable enough to ask her for help.  Even in my unconscious mind, God was providing and helping. Now I find that amazing!

 

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When I Thought I Lost My Mind The Mind / Body Connection

 

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The situation and circumstances began over and over again.  Thinking back I can relate it to the movie with Chevy Chase ‘Ground Hog Day’.  Every time I asked a question about when my daughter would get to the hospital, the answer seemed to be even longer than before.  I believe that mentally I was so tired that I didn’t know if I could wait that long for her to get there.  The need to have her near me and see her beautiful face was urgent.  I didn’t know if I could make it that long.

I was initially told that perhaps I was having a stroke.  My speech was becoming impaired.  My blood pressure was significantly high.  My right arm was becoming like a dead weight and had something like pins and needles.  It all seemed so surreal.  However the maddening part of it all was that I could not control what was happening in my mind too.

I recall the guards in the emergency room getting ready to hold me down on the gurney in the tiny sterile room.  There were two, possibly three guards coming toward me, and I heard and saw my husband saying that he could not do this.  He later told me that he held my hand, but could not hold me down because of my fear of being restrained against my will.  I was told that I needed a CAT scan of my brain immediately, and I was refusing.  I recall the medication Versed being verbally thrown around in the emergency room while I was on that gurney.  Nothing seemed to make sense.  Everything was a blur from that time on.

I was told that later an MRI on my brain was also done.  Structurally everything appeared to be well.  However mentally my mind was decompensating.  To see the mind, body connection and to actually live through that experience is remarkable.  The brain is truly a structure in our body that is such a mystery that it scares some people.  However much research and understanding must take place so that as a society, empathy and compassion and knowledge can move forward and be utilized.

So finally my daughter got to the hospital, and I was later told by her that the elevators would have been too slow to get to me.  So there was my thirty-year old daughter running up many flights of stairs.  She was on my speaker phone, as I was wondering if I could see her face again.  She was breathing heavy and going as fast as she could.  I don’t recall the exact moment that she came into my room.  I do however recall her decisively telling me to breathe.  She was instructing me – telling me “Look at me, Mom.  Breathe in (she would demonstrate), now breath out (a full cleansing exhale)”.  She was truly helping me.  I so needed her at that moment.  Upon her recollection, she said that I was not breathing when she arrived.

The torture came to my mind then, though…  As I was breathing with her, I lost the capacity to follow her instructions.  I could see that she was trying to help me, but I was no longer able to be a part of her, for her to be a part of my life or my being.  I watched her drift away as she was telling me how to breathe.  My conclusion was that I had either died, but that could not be (she was still so close and could be seen).  Instead I decided that I had truly lost my mind and that I would never be able to communicate effectively with those that I loved ever again!  Truly a frightening thought.  I began yelling over and over again, “I’ve lost my mind”.  Then somehow peace came over me.

My husband said that when our daughter was breathing with me, the nurse slipped a drug into my IV to help control my undeniably scary and over-bearing thoughts that were plaguing my mind.  So finally comfort and sleep was able to overcome me.  Thank you God, with my whole being, for helping me through this strengthening (though terrifying) experience.  You truly are amazing!

 

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / Nejron

Adding “My Time” Activities to “To Do” List

 

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A priority for me, each and everyday is at least a one to two hour window of “Time For Me” Activities.  In our busy schedule of life, this may seem impossible.  But I believe that this is an essential item to add to everyday.  Because if we don’t take the time to take care of ourselves, WHO WILL??

I made my list last night for “My Time”, and I made it very generic.  Perhaps , my time, can be done in segments within the course of the day.  But for me, I got up early, and with one eye closed as I made my coffee, I started my day.

Of course, there was fun time and this was very brief, indeed.  Then I started by letting Miss Daisy out for a quick walk.  And then “my time” began.  So on my list was to paint my toenails.  A very simple, but somewhat (for me) an indulgent task.  This actually was accomplished last night – so cross of the list!  Write in my Journal was next – this I love to do, and need to make more time for, so Gratefulness Journal you are now complete for the day.  I’m on a roll.  Read in my devotional book and pray:  this is always a great way for me to start the day.  Really, in my devotional book, each brief story is about two pages long.  I love it!  And praying is so easy and such a sincere act.  Bring it on!!  My other two “My Time Activities” for today included; reading and taking time to meditate.  I therefore read articles that I had saved, and the guided meditation by Steven Aitchinson made my morning complete.  I don’t believe that I even took a full two hours.  I’m not sure because the clock was not my focus.  A beautiful way to start the day!

So yes, it is wonderful to have a to do list with all the tasks of the day.  But an important aspect of that to do list is adding in “My Time”.  I am so happy and much more content that “My Time” is complete today.  Time to take care of me is so vitally important!

 

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The Compass of Love on Christmas Day

 

Compass Christmas Morning

 

I had a sneaking suspicion (a gut instinct).  It was getting closer to Christmas Day.  It was probably two to three weeks before Christmas Day.  My boyfriend decided to begin building me something.  Yes money had been tight, but we always managed to get by and get the necessities with a little bit of extras.  Yet Christmas seemed to always be so expensive, so I thought that perhaps was why my boyfriend was building something for me this year.

I was curious, but kept my promise NOT to go into his workshop area and ruin the surprise.  He would give me insignificant clues as to what the gift was.  First he brought up sticks that seemed to be a little larger than toothpicks.  To me that wasn’t even worth my time as a clue.  Baffled, I kept wondering and going about my business.  He also brought up other items that meant absolutely nothing to me.  He seemed to be enjoying teasing me, and obviously it increased my interest.   I was trying to appear excited (which I was), without being annoyed by his little game.

The previous year on Christmas Eve, my two intelligent and handsome sons (a mom’s perspective) had slept over so they could spend Christmas time with us.  It seemed surprising that when they got up to go to bed we all noted the time to be after midnight.  A brief discussion then ensued with the option being given to the “kids” to open the gifts before going to bed.  This was enjoyably, and we were pleasantly excited.  It was a fun time because opening all our gifts the night before Christmas was never before introduced.

This Christmas was somewhat the same except it included my recently widowed,  beautiful mother, and of course one of my still intelligent and handsome sons.  We again chose the Christmas Eve option of opening the gifts.  The waiting to see what the specially crafted gift that was made by my boyfriend would be over, finally.  I recall being given a beautiful watch that I knew must have cost a small fortune.  I was so pleased because I needed a new nice watch.  But the crafted gift never came out to view.

I had the idea, in my mind, that perhaps my boyfriend would have proposed to me that Christmas.  But that thought withered away with the obvious apparent cost of the watch.  I would never have believed that he could have or would have wanted to spend the additional cost that it would have been to also buy an engagement ring.  So off to bed we went and the crafted gift was never spoken of.

The morning of Christmas arrived and before I even awoke or put my feet on the floor , my boyfriend was standing beside our bed with a BEAUTIFUL BIG BOX.   This box was far too big to have the engagement ring that I believed was now not even worth thinking about or even imagining about anymore.  Yet I was still somewhat intrigued and joyous.  Christmas Day, December 25 of 2010 was here.

He gently asked me to sit on the side of the bed, which I did eagerly and somewhat suspiciously.  What could this be?  I untied the big beautiful bow on the box and carefully opened it to preserve the beautiful package.  Inside the box was the  name KING spelled out and was made of wood.  There was a sparkly cloud-like interior material, with bright pink and silver crowns surrounding the name.  I looked at him somewhat sideways with a smirk, as if to say huh??

He patiently began to remind me about something I had asked of him from much earlier in the year.  That special something was when I told him that all I wanted and needed was to take his last name, and our lives and love were not about material items that could be provided.  As I began to understand, fluttering butterflies began to emerge inside of me.  He got down onto one knee and took out the engagement ring that my father had given to my mother, and explained his devotion and love and asked me to be his wife.

Not only was my dad who had passed away earlier that year, but also my mother who was my beautiful friend, helper, and an ever-present strength, a part of this beautiful proposal.  My parents love (blessed by this ring that was given to us – in this beautifully creative proposal) was also present.  And my forever partner and faithful companion – who had already changed my view on life – was now to be my trustworthy united lover who was now going to travel alongside me while experiencing the journey of peace and happiness with God as our guide.

 

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