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Barbie can have a brain too!

There was a very big stereotype that Barbie, you know, the perfectly figured blonde haired beauty was just that, outter beauty. She wasn’t known for being smart or intellectual. Every girl not only wanted a Barbie doll, but they wanted to be Barbie. Why? Well, Barbie had this incredible “dream home” a silver corvette, a gorgeous boyfriend named Ken, not to mention all the fabulous clothes and accessories. Her plastic world looked so good, little girls couldn’t help but want to be just that.

And the marketing. Well, they sure did a hell of a job because you couldn’t watch any children’s tv show without seeing a commercial for the latest Barbie or Barbie dream life addition: jacuzzi, jeep, jumbo jet etc. Ladies, try to think back to when you were kids.  Was there this big of a hype for Nancy Drew? Didn’t think so. Can you think of any other female that had such a huge influence on girls growing up?

Well, looking back on that, and then thinking about guys and how as they became adults, Hugh Hefner and his beautiful blonde arm candy became desirable to many men, it’s easy to see how the two sort of morphed together to form this culture of women who were expected to be “seen and not heard” and to basically be the perfect “arm candy.” You show up at the events that the men attend mostly just to show off their latest edition, look as beautiful as you can, act as graceful and charming as possible, and don’t embarrass him.

If you grew up having major self esteem issues, or always felt you were the ugly duckling, and then suddenly, as you get older, your looks start attracting more attention, it’s very easy to fall into this type of world. It’s a world you watched from afar, always wanted to be part of but never imagined you could be. Yet, suddenly, there you are. It’s fun for awhile, not going to lie, but, there is a part of you that IS intelligent. That IS smart and IS successful in your career of choice (not the arm candy career). As time goes by and you get older, things have now completely flip flopped. You never imagined this would happen.

You want people to notice you for your accomplishments, your success, your intelligence, not just your outter appearance.  Now, whenever you are approached, you get a little sick inside because you know that 9 times out of 10 this person doesn’t give a crap about who you are or what you do. They don’t care what you’ve done or how educated you are. They see your looks and that’s all.

Good grief. If I could get a snapshot of the look on every one of their faces when they ask one of these questions and I respond with my answer, what a collection I would have.

Q: So, what do you do for a living?

A: I was a litigation paralegal for about seven years. (Priceless look of astonishment here thinking I’m not old enough for that)

Q: Did you go to school for that?

A: (casually) Yea. I got my bachelor of science in paralegal studies, and a Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice, then I also did a year of law school. (Priceless look of astonishment as they had confessed earlier that they had either gotten only an associates or had not gone to college at all)

Q: So, how old ARE you then? I thought you were like 25.

A: Aw. Thank you. That’s so sweet. I’m 33.

Q: (looks at left hand) And you’re not married?

A: Divorced. (Another flabbergasted look)

Q: So, what do you do now?

A: I’m a mental health blogger. I run two websites for people with mental health issues such as bipolar disorder like myself. (Look of terror)

Q: Well, that sounds interesting. My buddy over there is all by himself and I feel bad, so I have to go.

A: Bye ( I now have a big smile on my face, and my friends laugh)

Sure, it sounds funny, and yes, there are women out there who rely completely on their looks and are perfectly content with that. That is THEIR choice. My choice, however, is that yes, my looks may grab attention faster than others, BUT, I do not want my relationships with others to be based on my outward appearance. I have a whole lot to offer inside.

Do I have a mental illness? YES. I’m not going to lie and say I don’t. Does that make relationships harder at times, of course it does. Does it change the fact that I am well educated? NO. Does it change the fact that I am a damn good paralegal? NO. Does it prevent me at times from performing those duties? YES. That is why I am on disability. But, just because there is a patch of time that I am unable to perform those duties doesn’t take away from all the work I did prior.

AND JUST BECAUSE I HAVE A MENTAL ILLNESS DOES NOT MEAN THAT EVERYTHING INSIDE OF ME IS COMPROMISED. It doesn’t mean that now all I have left to rely on is my looks and being “arm candy” again.

Mental Illness does not destroy everything inside of you UNLESS YOU LET IT!!! If you fight back and say that you are not going to let it control you and you are going to control IT, you can still get back to the person you were.

Lastly, just because at one point in your life, you were viewed as “arm candy” or treated like Barbie, doesn’t mean that there isn’t more to you inside, and that there aren’t people out there who will see it. I’m not going to lie and say it’s easy to tell them apart, because it’s not. You just have to stay true to yourself and not let the “perks” of the “arm candy” lifestyle sweep you away initially. Because you know the perks are really nice at first, but they get really old, REALLY FAST. Don’t let yourself get stuck. I did way too many times and looking back, I wish I would have checked out of that sooner.

Being Barbie isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but don’t think for a second that that is all you have to offer. It’s not!

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birthday blues

Another birthday creeping up…

Another year farther away from what my life used to be.  That can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it.  This year , I want to make this a birthday to remember, but I want to remember it the way my new life is; not how life used to be.

What did life used to be? (I’m going to use different names to protect the privacy of those involved)  I was reminded of my former lifestyle when I received an email from “Ryan Lieffer” wishing me a Happy Birthday and hoping that I would I would want to celebrate my birthday using his promotional company.  I get the option to have a personalized birthday flyer, a hosted bar package, a FREE champagne package (basically a comped bottle which is gone in a swoop when your friends all fill their glasses, no cover, and other VIP “specials” at the clubs they do business with.

Now, what’s so funny about that?

  1. The email begins by thanking me for being a valued member of their promo company.
    I have not been to a Chicago club, let alone any event the company has had since at least 2009-10.
  2. I have met you Mr. Lieffer on numerous occasions as you are hard to miss with your droided out body and disproportionate head.
    Each time I have met you, whether it was on your jam packed half the size of mine boat, or at the clubs during my time there, you were a complete jerk and total asshole to me.
  3. I dont even know how I got on your email list.
    Our group of friends had their own promotional company and professional DJ who ran and owned it, and we had our own parties on our boats and at the clubs. This is captured by many photos.
  4. You ask me to take a second to think about where I was last year and compare it to now.
    Well, last year I did not choose to use your service, nor the year before, or before…. In those years, I decided that it was time to grow up and out of the club scene.

While I am very grateful that they have taken the time to send me an auto generated Happy Birthday a few weeks early, my days in the club have ended. I decided that my own self care was a priority and trying to get my bipolar disorder stabilized, which meant cutting out the alcohol since it does not mix well with my medication. Also, all the recreational drugs that are rampant in the clubs is not my style either and I would rather not be subjected to a bunch of 20-somethings who are rolling on Molly and so drunk they can’t walk straight. I have my own issues walking straight at times due to my medications. I also don’t find being in a venue where I am shoulder to shoulder with people and it is hot and sweaty just standing there. My anxiety would hit the roof.

Yes, at one time I did do all those things and experience the clubs and dancing and drinking like those I mentioned before hand, but now, I know that those things actually hindered my ability to stabilize and for that, I actually am grateful.

They say you have to hit rock bottom before you can finally move up.  That was the start of my rock bottom.  They also say it’s good to learn history so you can prevent it from happening again. I definitely do not want history to repeat itself.

This party girl has hung up her heels and retired her boat party bathing suits. Turning 36 in less than two weeks is not going to change that. I’ve got a whole new life filled with family both in Chicago and in California, I have a lot of new friends who understand me and my illness, and friends that have never given up on me.  Oh, and I have the cutest little dog.

What could be any better than that?

Did you reach a point in your life where you finally understood what self care meant and chose that over the way you had been living?

 

 

 

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journal writing

A Day In the Life of A Bipolar in Therapy

This is a direct entry from my journal.  Sometimes I have to look back to see how far I have come and to remind myself where I DON’T want to go……

September 16, 2006

I spent the day with MSA from group.  I had a good time.  [My boyfriend’s] friend gave us his tickets to go see Wicked and we went.  This was the second night in a row I felt normal.  I mean, we talked a bit about group and some other things related to our illness, but for the most part, we just had fun.  It was nice to be outside of therapy.  Therapy is so emotionally draining.  MSA and I were talking about how we both needed some intellectual stimulation though because we feel like our brains are dying.  All I hear about lately is depression, mania, bipolar, schizophrenia, and low self-esteem & confidence, which is good and helpful, but at the same time, I am more used to intellectual things.

Right now I am watching Girl Interrupted.  I’m scared.  I am scared about ever going back in the hospital.  It was so scary in there and I hope I never have to go back [side note: I do end up back in the hospital at 2 am Thanksgiving morning and again in October 2012].  Its so weird that I am not living my normal life or a life that people think is acceptable.  I am on disability!!!  Its hard for me to accept that because I can physically lead a normal life.  I thought disability is supposed to be for people that have injuries or physical health problems.  I don’t associate it with mental illness.  Its so hard for me to accept that I was/am so sick inside that I can’t even perform basic things that never before gave me problems, like focusing.

I hate that now, being in crowds makes me so anxious I want to crawl out of my skin.  I hate that I’m always afraid I’m going to have a meltdown around [my boyfriend].  Actually, I’m afraid of meltdowns in general.  I hate them.  Its so scary to not have control of my crying or anger or anxiety that right now I have to take meds to keep my moods regulated because I go up and down so fast and that they are so extreme.

I hate that I get so scared about being alone because of what moods I might get into and I might start cutting or crying and never stopping!  But I like being alone to write and watch MY movies and do MY things.  So I’m always torn in circles and don’t know which one is best.  Being alone with my things or being with someone feeling safe, but not always doing what I want.

How long will it be before I have normal moods, and normal thoughts?  Why does eating scare me?  Why is it so hard to get out of a rut that I am in so deep.  I feel like I am sinking most days.  I feel happy and at peace every now and then, but mostly, unstable.  I don’t want to push [my boyfriend] away, but at the same time, I don’t want to get too close because I don’t want to lose myself again and mold my entire existence around him and his activities and then my own life and things are 2nd in line.  I want to be independent and confident.

I WANT TO STOP CRYING AND START LIVING!!!!!  WHEN??????

Here is an excerpt from the next day….

September 17, 2006

….  Sometimes I want to claw my brain out.  Thoughts come up and they won’t stop.  I want them to stop.  I want to erase all those memories. [some high school and college memories]   We are all guilty of saying things we don’t mean, but why was I always the scapegoat?  What did I do to all of them?  The answer is easy.  I didn’t fight back.  I just gave up and sat in my room depressed cutting myself up.  I was also thinking about what[a staff member] asked me in group about using my beauty as power.  I do not enjoy being only identified by my looks or thinking I got what I want because of them, nor do I want others to assume that either.  I work hard and have worked hard my whole life, but I am now questioning if I got where I am because of my looks or because of my ability.  I feel like I always have to look nice and pretty and perfect because that is what everyone expects of me.  The expect me to be dressed cute and makeup and hair perfect, perfect body.  And I am tired of it. So, so, so, tired.  I want to sleep and sleep and have someone just take care of everything for me.  I am so tired of doing it all and then even my attempts aren’t good enough and there are not enough hours in the day.

I want to just give up.  I want to give EVERYTHING up.  I am tired of trying to be perfect when I am not.  I’m tired of feeling like a loser because I’m not perfect.  I’m worn out.  Ever since I have left the hospital, I am expected to be 100% better and expected to do everything I was before the hospital AND MORE.  When do I get to focus on me?  The thoughts ruminate in my head, but I don’t have time to do anything about it because I’m trying to be perfect….

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girl painting lips

Paintbrush

I keep my paintbrush with me
Wherever I may go
In case I need to cover up
So the real me doesn’t show
I’m so afraid to show you me
Afraid of what you’ll do
That you might laugh or say mean things
I’m afraid I might lose you.
I’d like to remove all my paint coats
To show you the real, true me,
But I want you to try and understand
I need you to accept what you see.
So if you’ll be patient and close your eyes,
I’ll strip off my coats real slow
Please understand how much it hurts
To let the real me show
Now all my coats are stripped off
I feel naked bare and cold
And if you still love me with all that you see
You are my friend pure as gold.
I need to save my paintbrush though
And hold it in my hand
I want to keep it handy
In case somebody doesn’t understand
So please protect me, my dear friend
And thanks for loving me true.
But please let me keep my paintbrush
Until I love me too.

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Medication changes

How Many Times Can You Pull The “Med Change” card?

Having a mental illness usually means we have tried a medication or two, or two hundred. We all have different reactions to medications  as well. Some medications may help us, but some medications can end up with the unfortunate side effects that are worse than the effects you experience due to your illness and are trying to subdo.  Typically when that happens, you and your doctor will sit down and discuss another alternative to try that may help, rather than continuing in an unpleasant situation.  Since everyone’s body is different and reacts differently to each medication, what works for one person may not work for another. Finding the right combination of medications can be really tricky, and frustrating.  It is pretty rare to find two people with the exact same “med cocktail.”  I don’t know anyone that has the same “cocktail” as me currently, BUT, just because a person is on different medication doesn’t mean they aren’t working properly to help diminish as many symptoms as possible. My newest combo seems to be working drastically different and better than my previous one, thankfully.

When trying to get to that  perfect combo, you can go through some pretty hellish times.  Those medication changes can have effects on your body physically, can affect you emotionally and mentally, and therefore it can also affect your friends and loved ones around you who are there while you go up and down and all around on the bipolar coaster waiting for the medications to kick in (usually 2-4 weeks is when you begin to see the biggest results). Knowing that certain med changes can cause certain behaviors, I VERY intentionally remove myself socially and from social media until the time comes when I become stable again because I have made the terrible blunder of putting myself in social media ans social situations before the meds kicked in but not before lashing out on those around me.  After that happened once or twice, I learned that it was best for not just me, but EVERYONE I know and interact with, to pull myself away because it wasn’t fair to others to have me lashing out like a beast at them for no reason other than my mood was a wreck, and for something that can be so easily preventable by just removing yourself socially for a little while.

So when does it become TOO many times that you have pulled the “med change” card? How many times can your friends handle the torment and torture that you put them through during those med changes?  How many times can YOU handle being the punching bag of someone’s else’s med change drama?

I’ve been put in the situation a few too many times and mostly all by the same individual.  Knowing the way they react with certain medications, we all tend to give a lot leeway during “med change time” because we know the reaction. However, this happens very frequently and despite the frequency, the behavior never changes.  Well, this time it did, and I became just one of many that were thrown under the rug and left for garbage despite years of friendship and us knowing this was just “med change time.”

For me, it only took once or twice before I was so embarrassed and ashamed at how I had acted before I decided to withdraw during those crazy times. So, I guess my questions are:  If you know how you are with med changes, then why put yourself out there to hurt others? And how many times do I have to say its ok and just accept the treatment? Unfortunately, this time, damage was done and Irrational thoughts led to the end of a friendship, and I have been quite sad and upset about it, however, what’s done is done.

Irrational thoughts and things that are done can not be undone, nor will I be the one to apologize for being hurt.  So before you go and use you “med change card,” I think we need to stop and think to ourselves where the least amount of emotional damage will be done to not only yourself, but to your support system and others around you.

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happy or sad sleep

A blast from the past………

Another trip through the Bipolar Hot Mess Archives…..

So, I have been going through journals and re-reading poems that I have written, trying to piece back together what happened and what I was feeling prior to and while I was in therapy. Sometimes, it seems such a blur, and sometimes it seems clear as day. Sometimes, I can’t even remember anything at all. I found this entry in a random notebook:

I came to a conclusion this morning. It’s not that I don’t want to wake up again, but am afraid to. I am afraid of what that day will bring. Will it be good or bad? And the days that I am happy, I don’t want to sleep because I am afraid that I won’t have another happy day again.

Sitting here today, just reading that, astounds me. That I was so absolutely afraid to sleep because I didn’t want to stop the happiness or because I didn’t want to endure yet another horribly depressing and self destructive days. The progress I have made in my therapy and by taking my medication, never seemed as apparent and clear as it does now, reading an entry like that. I honestly can’t remember the last time I ever felt that badly or could relate to those feelings. Its been quite some time. But, the more time the passes, the better I feel, because I know that I am one day stronger and if I get to that point again, I surely can pick myself back up and eventually be happy again. But today, I’m going to be happy for the day I had, go to sleep and look forward to what lies ahead tomorrow. I’m definitely not scared anymore!!!!!!!!!!!

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