Paralegal by Day…

“So what are your plans for the weekend?” asked my friendly paralegal office neighbor as she popped her head in my office on her way out for the weekend.

“Going out of town to see my husband,” I replied.

“Oh. Is he out of town for business?”

I paused briefly before answering.

“Yes. Yes, he is.” I mean, I was not really lying.

He was out of town because of business.  Ok, so it was because of  illegal business.

FINE! I was stretching the truth a lot. Why? Well, I was going to be spending the next few days playing endless games of UNO and whatever various board games and card games were available in the visiting room at the prison my husband was “vacationing” at for his small side business selling marijuana.

I was a “prison wife.”

But, really, I honestly wasn’t really lying. That actually was his “business” and his punishment is what had him “out of town.” I just left out the fact that he really wasn’t allowed to leave that town…or even that facility, or a lot of times even that room.

About once a month I left the office on Friday with my suitcase in tow and went right to the airport. Attorneys were always going on business trips with their small rolling suitcases, so no one would bat at eyelash when I had one, despite me being a paralegal.

I would arrive, head to the hotel and get ready for my visit tomorrow morning. I had to make sure that my bra did not have ANY metal (the first time his mother went, she didn’t realize and because she was from out of state, they made the exception and they just confiscated her bra until the visit was over.  but the rules state that women MUST have all undergarments) so I had to make sure I had a sports bra, a shirt that was not fitted and did not have any writing, or metal.  Then, I had to make sure that my pants didn’t have any metal, BUT also could not be form fitting, so no leggings. Jeans have metal buttons and studs near the pockets. If you can’t wear an underwire, you absolutely couldn’t wear jeans.

After barely sleeping because it’s been about a month since we had last seen each other and I’m worried about what he looks like this time, (with each visit he looks more and more worn), you wake up and head over to the prison as early as possible so that you are let in at the very beginning of visiting hours and you can stay all the way to the end. After traveling several states for these visits, you want to make every second count.

You get through security, similar to security at the airport with metal detectors and such, then hand the person on the other side of security the form that allows one felon to visit their spouse in prison. The wait for the guards to get him from the back seems like forever. You can’t stand still and keep shifting weight from one leg to the next. All you can do is remember how much he had changed between the last 2 visits and are hoping that he has not been any more worn down with even more gray hair than the last visit.

Still not being able to stand still, I decide to make use of the nervous energy and go over to the wall closest to me with shelves of prison approved games and activities that are appropriate for not just adult visitors, but for those who bring their small children to visit.  I find a deck of cards and continue to wait.  When he finally emerges from the back, she stands in the doorway scanning the crowd of visitors until we lock eyes, I see his forced smile. You know, the one he puts on because he doesn’t want me to worry. We are allowed a brief hug (any longer and the guards are very eager to let you know you’ve had too much contact) and then we walk over to the tables and chairs and find a spot in the back where we think we will be bothered least by all the loud sounds of the children playing.  We settle in and start with some basic, everyday chatter trying to make it feel like we are anywhere else than a prison visiting room. The only food that is allowed is from the vending machines that accept quarters only. You have to arrive with them, a big ol’ bag full of it.  There is no change machine, so no quarters, no food or drink.  A lot of times this is the only time the inmates get a chance to eat treats.

After a 6-7 hour day of playing cards, or children’s board games to pass the time, the guards tell the inmates it’s time to go. The inmates must leave first so they don’t try to walk out with us (not like they actually could)  and they are searched completely to make sure no contraband has been smuggled in from the guests they were visiting.  They then allow us to leave and we head back to the hotel for dinner or to catch a flight back.

During the flight back home, I usually spent part of the flight crying and the other part was spent staring out the window at nothing but darkness or the tiny lights of the cities below. Arriving at the airport was also quite sad because I knew it would be a long couple of weeks before I would see him next. I would get home from the airport in enough time to fall asleep in the half empty bed making your arrival that much harder. It’s a final reminder of his absence before it is time to head to work the next morning and begin the facade all over again; pretend that your husband is hard at work, while you are hard at work at the law firm on your cases.

I was a prison wife for about a year, but not many people knew because the facade became so easy after while. You get into a routine.  Now when they get out, that’s a whole other story…

 

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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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Feelings or Numb

(Excerpts from the journals of the Bipolar Hot Mess. All names have been changed for privacy.)

Why do you love someone?? Love is such a weird emotion. I hate loving people. Actually, I hate having emotions. I hate feelings. I hate feeling sad, or mad, or upset. I hate being annoyed.

I hate loving someone. I hate it because I always love that person too much. I always love the person like 100 times more than they love me. Or care about a person 1,000 time more than they care about me. I always end up getting hurt.

Maybe I expect too much. Maybe I shouldn’t expect people to treat me nicely. My philosophy is always treat others as you would want to be treated. But, it doesn’t seem that anyone else really follows that. A lot of people are very selfish and only care about benefitting themselves. Maybe my problem really is that I care too much about people. I do so much for them and give them everything that I have (physically and emotionally) and I shouldnt. Is there one person out there that would give me every thing that THEY had physically and emotionally??? Nope.

When I want to cry, who is there for me???? No one really. There are a lot of people who would be happy to tell me all my mistakes.

When I want to talk about something, who is there? Apparently, I talk to much. I have a bit of a motor mouth and talk way too much. I guess I get annoying.

When I want to be happy about something, who is there to be happy with me?! Well, as long as there is a party involved, then almost anyone! But, about 90% of the people will take what you have to be happy about and then try to one up you. I.E. I am looking for a job to get more money and more experience. Friend comes up.. OH yea. ha. I was just sitting there and someone called me up and offered me a new job making more and stuff. ARE YOU KIDDING ME??!! Thanks for rubbing that in my freakin face!

I love my boyfriend with all my heart, however, these days, I feel like he is so distant. He thinks there is something shady going on with me and his roommate. UNBELIEVEABLE. SOOO NOT TRUE.  He mentioned that he thought that me and our roommate were closer than me and him. Well, in some respects, it is true. His roommate listens when I talk. He wants to hear about my day and wants to hear my funny stories. He laughs with me. When I am at home by myself, he invites me to hang out with him and his friends. He doesn’t pick up and leave and make me feel like I am such a burden or such a bitch that someone NEEDS days apart away from me.

At home with my boyfriend, everything that I do, is somehow wrong too. I am trying soooo freakin hard to make everything ok for him and make him happy, but its not enough. He gets sooo mad at me, FOR NOTHING, and kicks me out of our room. I feel like all I am is a burden these days. All I do is make his life miserable. I have been very happy and trying to do all the things he mentioned before that he wished that I would do, and even then, he is still not happy.

I don’t think that I will ever meet anyone’s standards. I will never be good enough for anyone. For a while, I was starting to believe that I WAS good enough. But lately, it seems that I am just not.

I wish that there was something I could do that would numb the pain. Something that would just make all my feelings go away. Something to take away my tear ducts. I don’t want to feel sadness or hurt, or guilt, or betrayal, or ANYTHING. I don’t even want to feel happiness. Because if I feel happiness, that means that I have feelings. I want to become an insensitive bitch. That is the only way to get around in this world. It sucks, but apparently, that is how it works.

As I sit upstairs alone, because I am afraid to go downstairs and make my boyfriend angry or upset that I am in the room, I think about how I could wake up tomorrow and just walk around with a FUCK YOU attitude. I get myself all psyched up and think about how I am going to be a bitch. I am not going to give a shit and that will make my life better. Well, the morning comes around and as soon as I open my eyes and see my boyfriend next to me, curled up with my little puppy, I melt. I think, why can’t every single moment in this lifetime feel this way???? Why can’t everyone just be peaceful and warm toward each other. Why can’t everyone do that? Is it so hard????? Is it soooo hard to just be nice or to return favors, or to compliment someone, or to just listen to them, or be happy for them? Is it sooo hard to put the self absorbancy aside for a few minutes and be happy for someone else, or be a compliment to someone else, instead of always having to be the star????

I will never be a star. I will always be that compliment. And maybe one day that will be a good thing, maybe it won’t. All I know is that I try to treat others as I would want to be treated. I try not to say mean things that I will regret. I try to give everyone else every single ounce of me if I can. I don’t expect anything in return, not even a thank you.

I will close with this…. when you love someone… it hurts. It hurts sooo much. You cry when they cry, you laugh when they laugh, you yell when they yell. you become one with them.

I wish I didn’t love. I really do.

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Fake A** Peeps … Letting Go of “Dead Weight” .. another step toward moving on

I think we all encounter a few types of people in our lives that fit into some specific categories that if not handled the right way, can really affect our lives in a negative way. However, what type of person WE are and how we handle each type of person, makes a huge difference. It can make or break a situation. Take me for example. I’m the person who has to “fix” everybody and make everything, and everyone better, no matter what the cost or toll it takes on me and my life. (I know, it’s a flaw, I’m working on it)

Type A. The Bad Lucker’s

We all know people, friends or acquaintances who tend to encounter some bad luck.   Now you, being the nice person you are, help them out of the unlucky situation, or are there to help guide them through it, and helps things get sorted out until all is good and calm. Time goes by and now you are beginning to realize that this “bad luck” incident was not just “an incident” but instead, this person is a bad luck magnet. You spend more time helping them from one crisis to the next, then suddenly you realize you haven’t even had a chance to think about your own life, nor have you even attempted to begin to fix the shambles that it is in.

Type B. The Cry Wolfers.

Yes, I’m sure we can pinpoint at least one person who you help out of a pretty big jam, but because you had helped them out once in the past,  they keep coming back “crying wolf” with every little tiny thing being  an enormous earth shattering crisis, or disaster.  You spend more time coming to their rescue, again and again, and you have no time to try and reassemble your own life, so you decide to take a stand.  BAD IDEA! When you finally stop acknowledging them and their false alarms, It gets turned around and YOU now have become this evil, horrible person who “doesn’t care” or is “selfish,” and become the newest target for them to set out to destroy and make sure everyone knows what a horribly rotten person you are.  (Apparently the 1,001 “wolf cries” that you were there for and went above and beyond to assist with are suddenly forgotten).

Type C. The One Uppers

Ahhh yes. The  “one- uppers.” We can’t forget those. No matter what you say, do, or have, they make it their MISSION to have something to say that makes them seem better.  Or, they will do something that they view as “better” than what you did, maybe even do as much as they can to obtain and surpass what you have and make it a point to constantly point out “their” new “obsession” and all the ways THEY are better (or more obsessed) than you.

Type D. The “Friend”  Who Vanishes

One day you meet someone and you both seem to have a lot in common. So much, it’s almost eerie, but at the time you don’t really notice much because you are finally grateful that you have found someone on the same wavelength as you. They show a lot of interest in the things you do, so you begin to teach them things. You help them out a bit, open up a few doors, etc. All seems fine when suddenly, they are gone. They have climbed up the ranks and now suddenly, there you are, left down on the bottom and they barely acknowledge your existence. Wow. Well, that was a blow to the gut. Yes, you get over it, but not after you sit and wonder and question why this person would just take advantage and scram. Then, you realize that this seems to be a common theme. You help, and encourage, you wish nothing but the best for them, you help them celebrate their victories. For many, they would then vanish, but with some, you suddenly find yourself completely misunderstood and accused of actions that were taken out of context and shut out of their life completely and you can not explain because there is no way to. A several year friendship just gone, and while they are moving on and the world has no idea what happened or the horrible things that were said to me, I am left to sit back and watch and witness my other friends go on as nothing happened. Why don’t I speak up? Because despite the ill sentiments that were thrown at me, I do honor and respect a request when someone says to not tell anyone else.

I guess in this case, I am the one who was the “peep” that “needed to be let go” and that is a whole new feeling. I was hurt, and I was hurt so badly and taken by such surprise that it took me several months before I could discuss it without bawling my eyes out or being depressed for many days. Over and over in my head I wanted to know what I could have done to have saved that. But, everyone always says that good friends will only stay mad at you for a little bit and will come back to you to work things out.  It’s been a few months and there is no progress. Posts I had written have been taken down like I don’t exist.

Type E. You are the excess baggage

It is a lot harder to deal with when you are the one who has been kicked to the curb. If I had done something unforgivable, then I could understand. I wish nothing but the best for this person. I always have and I always will. It’s taken a while for me to not get so emotional about it (I still do, but it’s become easier).

When it comes time for you to cut ties with someone, either any of the above mentioned, or just a friend in general, put yourself in the their position when you decide to say goodbye.  Don’t do it when you are in an angry state, or if you are going through a medication change. Those times can cause the most hurtful comments. Take a bit to cool down beforehand and then reasses the situation and see if you are still upset or if it is still rational.

For me, it’s quite unfortunate that a friendship has ended and I’m deeply hurt by a misunderstanding, but I’ve spent many months going over and over everything in my head wondering what I could do differently and at the end of the day, I’m the one who was the excess baggage.

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Mental Health Awareness? Oh yes….

This post was originally posted on another site last year, but has been taken down, so I thought I would post it here.

 

Oh yes I am very much aware of my mental health.   I am very aware that I take a handful of meds each morning and evening in an attempt to maintain stable mental health.  To stabilize the bipolar cycle, to boost the depression, to reduce the anxiety levels, to make the racing thoughts stop just enough so I can catch a few hours of slumber, yes, every morning and evening I am reminded of my mental health state; I mean, how could you forget?

Then there is YouTube.  Just watch a video or two and you can be instantly reminded of what stability looks like and what happens when your stability becomes a stable stream of depression and negativity.  The pros and sometimes maybe cons of being a blogger and logging the ups and downs in various media formats is that you can see yourself at your best and see yourself at your worst and then hope that the best will come again and the worst will fade away faster than it swooped on in.

In 2006, I was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder.  With that diagnosis, I found hope.  Why?  Because there was actually a name for what I was feeling; thus resulting in a plan for treatment.  There was a bright light at the end of that incredibly long dark tunnel I had been walking through for so long.  I began to learn about the illness, took my medications as prescribed, joined support groups, and began writing about it.   There I was, knee deep in Mental Health Awareness.  I was aware of my own mental health and was learning all I could about how mentally “unhealthy” I was.  This part is actually called “self-awareness.”  Once I accepted that I had a mental illness and that there REALLY WAS a way to make me “mentally healthy,” the real hard work came.  The real hard work is waking up everyday and following all your doctors instructions, keeping up with regular visits and adjusting your life so that you can live each day as close to “normal” as possible.  And so I did; and this is what happened.

So, for several years, I lived “mentally healthy” and accomplished some great things.  But, as those who have bipolar disorder know, cycles come and go.  Some cycles last longer than others.  Some of the longer lasting cycles are not always the stable “happy” cycles like we hope.  Sometimes the dark cycles are the ones that last longer.  Its not that you don’t try to get the cycle back on the upswing, but part of mental health is “self-awareness” and knowing when you are down, and knowing that when you are down, you can always come back up.  Why? Because you have before.  And the good thing about being a blogger and documenting everything, is that you can look back and see, and be reminded, that there is an “up.” That things CAN get better, they did before.

I think it should be called Mental Health EDUCATION month, because, lets face it, a majority of us that have mental illnesses are “aware” that we have them.  Those that have them and are not diagnosed, well, this is the month that we are educating people about them and maybe they will recognize the symptoms and seek treatment. Those that do not have mental illnesses, well, this month is here to help educate you so that you better understand what your loved ones who do have mental illnesses experience and can be better equipped in dealing with them and even supporting them.

I know I am definitely “mentally aware” of what is going on with me, and yes, I am currently on a downswing, but the education that comes from so many different sources throughout this month helps my friends and family understand me, and even educates me on new treatments, studies, and better ways of self-care.

This video reminds me that even when you feel you are at the top, you can still cycle way down.  You just need to believe and have faith that you can rise back up again.  Because you can, and you will.  I know I will.  I have before.

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Sometimes traditional therapy just doesn’t cut it!

Lets face it.  Having bipolar disorder can give us some symptoms that are really, really hard to control, like trouble with our spending habits.  Not all of us face it, but a lot do.  Some call it spending sprees, others refer to it as retail therapy.  Whatever your pleasure, its still the same.  Mine used to be going on my lunch break and walking around the stores, gathering all the things that I thought I needed or wanted.  Then, I would either purchase them and return them the next day because guilt would wash over me, or, at the end of my stay at the store, just before hitting the line for the checkout, I would look at each thing and give a reason why I SHOULDN’T buy it….. thereby leaving EVERYTHING in a heap near the checkout line and walking out of the store empty handed.

BEFORE THOSE OF YOU THAT WORK IN RETAIL START YELLING……  I used to work in retail.  I worked at Walgreens for 2 1/2 years, then during holiday seasons when I was back in Chicago from school, I worked at a clothing store (yes, during Christmas time at a large chain clothing store attached to the closest mall for several miles, with varying departments), most seasons working in Men’s Furnishings where I spent many Christmas seasons folding men’s silk ties after being torn through all day by the customers filled with their holiday spirited rage!   SOOOOO, YES, I would feel HORRIBLE leaving it all there because I have been the girl who looks at the pile of stuff and goes “WTF!” and rants and raves about how people are too lazy to put things back and why did they have to leave a whole heap from every single department in the store in MY department for me to clean up.  SO, yes, I would feel horrible.

There was a girl I worked with who was a paralegal and was going to school to get her masters in Psychology, and her office was next to mine.  She took a great interest in my behaviors, not in a judgmental or weird way, but because she was interested in seeing first hand the behaviors of some of the illnesses that she was learning about.  She would always ask me what I did on my lunch break.  When I would tell her I went to State Street (my work was 1/2 block off of State Street in Chicago) or Water Tower Place, she would always ask what I bought.  When I would reply,  “Nothing,” she was always confused.  I would explain all the things I had wanted to buy and then gave her all the reasons I didn’t buy it.  Or, if I had bought something, the following day when I would tell her I returned it, she would be so confused.   My reasons were usually that it didn’t fit right, or I realized I had something at home just like it and I should use the money for something else, etc.

Yes, it always appeared that I had shopping bags and that I was a huge shop-a-holic, but if you ever looked at my actual bank statements, you would have seen otherwise.  I mean, I’m surprised I was still allowed to shop at some stores because I was always back returning the things.  Don’t get me wrong, there were some things that I would keep, if I could truly justify them (I needed the dress because I had an event to go to and my weight gain/loss had affected the ones I already had, the white sweater could be worn over almost every one of my outfits during the summer at work, so I could keep it at the office, so it was practical, etc.)

Retail Therapy The Bipolar Hot Mess Way 2

So, yes, in a sense, I had a shopping addiction, but not in the same traditional way that most define it.  The more I was accused of spending all my money on shopping, but in reality knowing I didn’t spend anywhere close to what others thought, made me think more about changing my habits.  (Plus, once I went on disability, I wasn’t so close to State Street and Water Tower Place anymore)  I am a huge reader and LOVE a few magazines.  I love reading Vanity Fair, Vogue, and Elle.  I used to read Shape, but found that reading magazines that focused too much on food, calories, weight loss, etc. were not helpful in keeping my eating disorder in check, so I had to steer clear of those.

Perusing through those magazines allowed me to not only read some pretty interesting articles (which some of my future blogs will be based on), but I got to see the advertisements and all the latest fashion trends and styles and the prettiest of the collections right at my fingertips and not having to walk through the crowds at the stores and worry about how much time was left on my lunch break and what I would wear it to or what excuse I would have to not buy it or why I would return it….. I could just look at it, and admire it GUILT FREE!  It didn’t matter how much it cost either!  My bank account was going to remain the same no matter how much I admired it!  Suddenly, I had a huge stack of pages ripped out of magazines stuffed in a few folders.  I went through the pages and found that some were articles I wanted to research and write about and some were just pretty things.  Some of the pages had things that I found to be not so pretty anymore too.  That’s when I had my own little epiphany.   YES, YES, I know its scary when I have those, but this one was really good and cost effective too!

I decided that instead of going to all those stores, looking at the pictures of the shoes, purses, dresses, jewelry, etc. was giving me the same happiness of retail therapy without spending a dime (or making a mess for the poor workers at the stores!) and I didn’t even have to enter a store and be tempted to spend the money!  Even better, when I decided that I really didn’t like something anymore, I could just throw away the page or clipping and not feel guilty at all because I had not spent a penny to purchase it!  The clippings took up far less space than the actual items, and I didn’t have to worry about them fitting me if I gained or lost weight, or having things to match.  Ok, so it may sound a little  weird to just admire the glossy pages of magazines, BUT, the reality was, if I had gone through the stack a few times and STILL thought that the item was amazing and still gave me the happiness it did the first time I viewed it, then I would consider purchasing it.  Granted, most of the items were either Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, Tiffany’s, Burberry, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, and all the other names that are easy to say but each letter of their name is like a zero added on the price tag of their collections, so I would keep my eyes out for items similar to that in the stores that I could afford.  When I would find an item that was like the one in the magazine clippings, and it was affordable, I would buy it and feel soooooo much better about the purchase because I knew I had wanted it for a while and I knew I would not be taking it back and that I would be using it for a while too.

Retail Therapy The Bipolar Hot Mess Way 3

THAT became my Untraditional Retail Therapy.  Its soooo much more cost effective because it satisfies the urge to shop in the times that hypomania rears its head.  Just head to the local drug store when you pick up your meds and go down the magazine aisle and pick up copies of Vogue, Elle, InStyle, Vanity Fair, Lucky, etc….. A few issues of those are a hell of a lot cheaper than a full blown shopping excursion.  Heck, I had subscriptions to Vanity Fair and Elle and so once a month I get a surprise at my door and I let them sit until the urge arises…… THEN, I pick them up and shop!Retail Therapy The Bipolar Hot Mess Way 4

 

Since this is Mental Health Awareness Month and I promised you guys that I would be posting my favorite things that help me manage my illness, this is just another way.  Curbing the maniacal spending by magazine browsing.  I hold on to the clippings though and when I am feeling down, sometimes just flipping through all of them help me feel better too.  I may not have the items, but thinking about what I would wear it with, or what I would do with it, or where I would go with it, brings me to happy places!

So, here are a few of the clippings I have right now… I made them into little collages….  and while this may be a girly thing, Guys, you can do this with anything!  Car magazines, electronics, any type of hobby.  Women, you can do this with other hobbies too, not just shopping!  This is just MY way of curbing the urge to shop and spend!

 

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Another anniversary. Do you celebrate this one?

Anniversaries, milestones established and remembered because they have some type of significant meaning. There are wedding anniversaries, anniversaries with your place of employment, anniversaries of sobriety dates, I think you get the point. But today, today is an anniversary that I’m very conflicted about. There are many reasons to be happy and celebrate it, on the other hand, there are reasons why I harbor some ill feeling toward this day in particular. That said, I don’t know if I should even be keeping track of this date anymore and treat it as an anniversary, or if I should chalk this one up as a loss. The negative tends to outweigh the positive so instead of putting me in a festive mood, it makes me bitter and angry all over again.

Three years ago today, I completed my “sentence” for the little (ok, slightly life altering) event that involved me and the legal system. Most people would think that finishing a government imposed punishment would be fabulous and they would be breaking out the bubbly; but, I am not quite at that point yet. Why? Well, I guess I should make the pros and cons, wait,  “cons” LOL. OK OK. Totally cheesy joke, but maybe if I write out those lists, I will be able to clear this conundrum which has plagued me the last three years.

PROS

  1. I can travel outside the Chicagoland area without having to get a permission slip, and the travel is no longer restricted to very few circumstances. (Get caught without that permission slip, well, it’s not a good idea, let’s just leave it at that)
  2. No more random phone calls, drinking as much fluid as possible, then running the 2 blocks over to the Federal building to go pee in a cup with someone staring at you while you do it.  (Yes, they watch you so there is no funny business with trying to cheat with your sample. You get one strike with a dirty sample. Strike 2, you are out, and not showing up counts as a strike)
  3. No more monthly report sheets to fill out and visits back to the Federal Building to hand them in.
  4. My freedom is restored. I don’t have to report or check in with ANYONE anymore.
  5. No more random “home checks” (where they come to the address you have listed as your home and look around,to make sure you ACTUALLY live there. Oh yes, they check the closets and everything.)
  6. I can eat poppy seeds again!!

I am sure there are more, but that’s all I can think of at the moment.

CONS

  1. My legal career still is gone and that won’t be coming back. ( Even though others will get their law license back and can practice law again)
  2. It’s one more date that I am reminded of just how stupid I was and another example of a stupid thing I did to trash my life.
  3. One more day that I get to be reminded how the justice system sucks.
  4. I get pissy because I want to start yelling and screaming  “HOW THE HELL DID THIS WHOLE GOVERNMENT AND LEGAL SYSTEM THAT IS ALL ABOUT “CHECKS AND BALANCES” ALLOW PROSECUTORS TO HAVE NO ONE, THAT’S RIGHT, NO ONE OVERSEEING THEM AND REGULATING THEM!!!!!  Private attorneys have the American Bar Association and such.  Prosecutors pick and choose and do whatever the hell THEY want and that is supposed to be “justice,”
  5. I get even more mad that I haven’t finished writing my book yet.
  6. I realize that another year has gone by and I’m still angry inside about this. A “normal” person would be over it by now, but not me. No, not Miss Hypersensitive Bipolar Hot Mess sunk in a hole of bitterness and self loathing, self hatred and disgust with the continuity of her ability to make yet one more bad decision topped with another horrible decision coated with an even worse decision even though she is trying her hardest to make better decisions.
  7. Its another day for her to hear the words echoing through her head .. “I told you so….” living on in her head for a good 6 months, while she continues to try and fix all the bad that came out of the situation trying to do things better and differently, but those words never go away…..

Hypersensitivity. Several shrinks, hospital staff, and therapists have all agreed. “Perfectionist, hypersensitivity, and can not take criticism.”

I guess I have my answer then on what to do about this date……..

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Why a mental health advocate cares about crime, justice, prisons, prosecutors and laws

Some of you have known me for many years as friends, relatives, colleagues, or just through my writing and advocacy work on other sites, and I thank you so much for still supporting me and following my journey! Many are just starting to get to know me, The Bipolar Hot Mess, as a blogger, an advocate, and slowly as a person through what I reveal to you all in my posts and such. In the years prior to my blogging and even in the years during my advocacy work and blogging, there were many parts of my life that I kept hidden or silent about. There may have been times that I had made some subtle hints or had sort of beat around the bush on some issues because at the time, they were very hard to talk about, or even think about because they were either still happening, or had just finished and were so raw, I could not address them just yet.

Anyone confused yet? Well, if you are, I apologize, and I’m about to explain.

One thing that many of you know is that part of my education background includes degrees in Criminal Justice, Paralegal Studies, and some coursework in law school.  I also worked for many years as a legal assistant and paralegal for several prestigious Chicago law firms and my exhusband was an attorney from a family of attorneys, so I had quite the exposure to the legal field.

That said, I made it pretty well known that I was quite passionate about the legal field and then when I was diagnosed with bipolar in 2006, I was not just passionate about the criminal justice and legal field as a whole, but also as it pertained to those with mental health issues.

A few years later I became so much more interested in the criminal justice system, especially prisoner, prisoner rights,  and prosecutors and their conduct and discretion.

What you don’t know is why.

I myself had my own experience with the legal system…

Only I was on the wrong side of the courtroom this time.

Why did I do what I did? I admit that I did something very stupid and foolish. I was not thinking clearly at the time, I was scared and in that moment all I wanted to do was protect someone I loved, and I was in autopilot, never thinking that what I was doing was actually a crime AT THAT MOMENT.  Looking back, yes, it was a crime. But, in the chaos of the few hours of what had gone on, I had no idea what to do and being the person I am, gut instinct kicked in and you protect your loved ones.

This is probably the first time I have gone public about this.  I won’t go into many details or anything of that nature, because those don’t really matter. What matters is that because of this crime, I have paid some hefty consequences.

With my legal background, and since the case was indeed a federal case, I know, (as we all should, since it’s written plain as day, right there) that the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution prohibits the federal government from

imposing excessive bail, excessive fines, or cruel and unusual punishments to criminal defendants who have been convicted of a crime.

I will no longer be able to work in the legal field because of this momentary lapse of judgement. This was a non violent crime, and I had no prior record. The other 30+ people indicted had been involved in the actual crime. My part was a lack of judgement after the indictment had been executed and my punishment was far greater than some of the other 30 individuals. In fact, a lot of them were completely dismissed from the case.

I accepted complete responsibility for my actions. I fulfilled my sentence (several years of probation), however, with respect to the punishment being proportionate to the crime, I do believe the legal system failed me there.  I was promised something else and did not recieve that, and then, to lose my entire career, and the only career I had ever known and made a living doing, had all my schooling in, to be taken away as well, I do not think THAT is proportionate to my crime.  Other defendants who were active in the crime and part of the 30 people, who served prison time, are able to go back to their careers, and I am not.

This is why I started to become an advocate for prisoners rights. There are so many prisoners that are charged with so many crimes that they either didn’t commit and are being used as pawns, or are being treated like dirt for something so minimal, while more violent or repeat offenders are being treated better or are out on the streets.

I am from Chicago and lived in Cook County.  Cook County Jail is the nations #1 LARGEST MENTAL HEALTH FACILITY!! A JAIL!! Not a hospital or a treatment center, but a jail. Many prisoners who have mental illnesses are not treated properly for them either. I can do many posts about that.

There are also factors like behaviors that untreated people with mental illnesses do that get them incarcerated, but if,they had been treated or had proper treatment, would not need to be in jail.  Then you have people who commit crimes just so they don’t have to live on the streets, at least in jail you get fed and housed.

And so I digress….

Back to my point.

I’m a mental health advocate but I am also an advocate for prisoners rights, prison reform, changes in prosecutorial discretion, and just plain making the criminal justice system what it was intended for because I myself have experienced things from the system that make it flawed and I hope I can help prevent these types of things from happening to others

*SIDENOTE – I have already checked, MY SPECIFIC CHARGE IS ONE OF THE TWO CHARGES THAT CAN NOT BE EXPUNGED OR SEALED!!! Believe me, I’ve tried.

(Yes, I did do insurance defense work, toxic tort/asbestos work, defended Chicago Police Officers in misconduct charges, and other defense work, so it might seem weird that I’m pro prisoner rights. When you work in the legal field, in the civil litigation side, when you defend a person or a company/corporation in a lawsuit, you are not looking for guilt or innocence.  You look for how MUCH fault was the defendants and how much fault was the plaintiff’s.  It is a very different type of law, so you can not compare the two.)
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What Do YOU Want To Hear About?

This website is not just mine, or a place where I dump out all my feelings. This is also a place where I want those of you who read my posts to be able to look at some of these posts and find either the answers you might be looking for, or things that you can relate to that may make a difficult situation a bit easier for you. Heck, I would love to write about some funny things too so that you guys might be able to relate to some of the crazy and random things that happen to me also. I have so many moments where I say to myself, “Jeez, this could only happen to me.” My former brother in law had a saying that I absolutely loved, because it was so true, and I had contemplated almost naming a blog or a book after it. The saying was:

“This is another for the ‘You Can’t Make This Shit Up Book’.”

And it’s actually true. Some of the things we all experience are so weird and strange that they truly are stories that you couldn’t make something like that up even if you tried!

But then there is also the constant struggle for me on what topic to write about. Since I lost my career in the legal field, I don’t get to satisfy my love for it by working in it, so, there is like a void inside.  I am torn. I want to write about the legal field. I want to write about how it affects the mentally ill, and I want to,write about subjects that have some personal meaning to me like prosecutorial discretion and wrongfully accused.

There are so many things I want to write about and just not enough hours in the day, so I want to,hear from you guys.

What topics or subjects are important to you? What would you like to see more of? I can still write about all those other things, but I want to know where to put my focus and what you guys want. My stories? Information? Topics? Just my opinions?

You tell me and I’ll listen!

 

 

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The “WTF Is Happening” Phase

Initial Chaos

I can’t speak for everyone, but right before I was diagnosed with bipolar and the weeks and months after, there was A LOT of chaos. When I talk about chaos, I talk not just with me, but with my friends and family too. One minute, there I was, sitting in my office Bates stamping documents for a document production for one of the cases I was working on, the next, I was in the psych ward at a nearby hospital because I checked my suicidal self in, the next, I was attending a 5 day a week 9am-3pm outpatient therapy group with about 30 strangers,  on a whole list of medications, and everyone I knew and cared about around me were completely different.

I mean, let’s face it, did I honestly think that after being released from a psych facility that everything was going to go immediately back to normal? On one hand, yes, I did. On the other, I honestly thought things would actually improve because there was actually finally a name for what it was that was going on with me! FINALLY!!! I could begin to put together the pieces as to why I acted a certain way, or responded a certain way or said or felt certain things. There was a diagnosis, which meant a cure right?

Boy was I ever wrong.

I thought that not understanding what was going on inside of me was distressing, little did I know that what was to follow my decision to walk through the door to that psych ward was going to be even more confusing, stressful, hurtful, chaotic, and just a bigger mess than before I walked in.

I had my employer (a prominent U.S. and international law firm) leaving me ranting messages on my voicemail telling me I was not in the hospital and I needed to call her or report to the office immediately. (Despite the calls the hospital made saying I was, in fact, a patient there) There were so many rumors spread around the workplace so when I did return a few months later, I lasted a whole 3 HALF day shifts before I broke down because of all the stares and whispers outside my office door and the peering into my office through the glass panes on the doors.

Panic, Fear, Blame

Then there was the panic from family members who were scared because nobody really knew what bipolar was (myself included) and they had never been to a psych facility before. After being a patient in one, I can understand how frightening it would be to see your child (adult child to be more exact) in that type of setting.

There were the people who wanted to place the blame on my significant other. They claimed “he” did this to me and it was his fault.  Then there were the people who just vanished all together. Oh, and let’s not forget my favorite ones, the ones who “claimed” they were there for you and understood but behind your back made it very clear they wanted nothing to do with you because all you are is “crazy” and just “drama.”

Loyalty

But, there were a handful of people who still stuck beside me.  I had family and friends, despite being scared of the unknown, they were still there.  They learned with me. They didn’t always understand, but they tried. I didn’t make it so easy for them either though. I was still learning myself.

I made a lot of mistakes.  A LOT. I will never deny that.  However, did try to learn from them. It didn’t always happen right away, but eventually I learned. And boy did I apologize. I was so grateful for every single person who gave me a second chance that I always said that I would always do the same for others because without the second chances others gave me, I wouldn’t have a lot of the people who are in my life today.

This all didn’t happen overnight though.  This took months and months of therapy, medication changes, and the help, support , and encouragement of others.

There is one more thing. This “thing” is what took so long for things to start settling down and start falling into place.

ACCEPTANCE.

I had to accept that I had bipolar disorder and the only way my life was ever going to resemble ANYTHING close to a somewhat stable/similar to what it was before life, was if I accepted that I needed to make adjustments to not just my medications and frequency of doctors visits, but I had to make changes to my lifestyle, my eating and sleeping habits, my weekend drinking with friends habits, etc. I had to be all in, and accept it all, or it would never be any different.

I had spent so many months trying to “work the system” and prove to my therapy team that I didn’t need to change any of that and I would be just fine.  Unfortunately, all it did was continue the chaos for all my friends and family, basically everyone around me.

Stability

When I finally chose to accept the whole package, I found stability.  I went back to working full time, was running websites, and for once in I can’t even remember when, I was stable.

Stability doesn’t come immediately.  There is no quick fix, no magic med combo, it takes time, lots of love and support, and it takes a lot of work on your own part. It’s not neat and clear cut. You will try many different medications before you get the right one. You may not always be pleasant to be around and let’s not forget that our friends and family have their threshold to, especially if they don’t understand the illness.

Until then, it’s the “WTF IS HAPPENING” phase…. FOR EVERYONE!!!!!!

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