My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward

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I had the great pleasure of reading Mark Lukach’s memoir “My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward” recently. It was interesting to read from the perspective of a loved one and their experiences dealing with the mental health of their significant other. It’s easy in the struggle to maintain sanity to forget that it is not just you struggling but rather your family is right there with you. Lukach details the account of his wife Guilia’s several stints in the psych ward in a relatively short span of time. Mark speaks about his feelings of abandonment from the  professionals at the Emergency Room who sent his wife Guilia home with medication instead of admitting her when she was having delusions of the Devil.

Mark and his in-laws would ultimately have to bring her back to the ER when she had more ramblings about the Devil and how he is still here and that she protected them from him. They gave her Ativan to calm down and through the fog of it she said “Mark, I am the Devil.” The on-call psychiatrist stated that she would need to be admitted and treated. Mark remembers this moment, “I knew that this was coming, that this was the inevitable next step in the process, but it still felt surreal.”

I realized while reading this book, I never truly thought about my parents and what they had to go through when I was admitted to the psych ward. Did it feel surreal to them? Were they upset? Did they feel as though they had failed me? Dealing with the pain of being forced to be hospitalized left me with no room to consider these questions until now. I feel so incredibly selfish that it took until now to reflect upon them. I hope they know they did everything they could to take care of me but that psychosis is inevitable when untreated for bipolar disorder. I wonder if it was a shock to them that I was being diagnosed with bipolar and sometimes I wonder if they think less of me for it. I know my mother never likes the word being uttered around family or in public as if I was saying God’s name in vain.

Mark’s wife was admitted on a form 5150 which means she was involuntarily checked in and needs to spend 72 hours there as required by law. He describes his first visit with her at the psych ward and it is heart wrenching. She screams at them to leave and that the Devil is there and wants them. She was hysterical with fear and screamed “Don’t you dare come near me!” At one point she rolled onto her back and started to chant “I want to die, I want to die, I want to die.” Mark recalls this moment, “I’m not sure which scared me more: listening to my wife whisper her death wish or scream it.” Throughout all this Mark continued to support his wife and assured her that the Devil would not get her or him and that their love was stronger than any of it, they would get through this.

I similarly had a moment in the psych ward where I wanted to die. They had me on a heavy dose of lithium which we have now learned does not work for me and actually makes me more depressed and suicidal. I laid in the hospital bed crying that I wanted to be with my father and that I thought I was ready to be with him (my father died years ago). My mother just held me crying and I eventually drifted off to sleep and waking to a new day in which they decided to take me off lithium  and instead put me on a nice healthy dose of anti psychotics. Anti psychotics have worked for me then and ever since – keeping me stable.

Once Lukach’s wife was discharged from the hospital she slumped into a eight month depression following her psychosis where she fixated on suicide and was extremely lethargic from the medications she was put on. She was discharged with no firm diagnosis but the doctors had ruled out schizophrenia. Lukach writes, “We had no clear explanation for what had gone wrong. It was probably related to a combination of lack of sleep, stress, hormones, and chemicals in her brain, but not even her clinicians knew what it was.” This meant they did not know if it would come back, however, ninety percent of the time psychosis recurs. They went on with their lives hoping that Guilia  was of the ten percent but as time would tell she was in fact part of the ninety percent.

The reason this book stands out for me not only because it is a memoir about a husband’s experiences with his bipolar wife’s psychosis, but also because it highlights the other side – the caretaker’s struggle with mental health. Lukach mentions he also started seeing a therapist while Guilia was unwell. The therapist wanted to know why Mark wanted so badly to be Guilia’s hero. Mark writes: “I wasn’t too interested in understanding why I devoted to much of my caregiving to Guilia. To me, the answer was simple and cliched: love.”

Mark mentions feeling like shit all the time and wanting to know why. He had never felt so disinterested and lethargic before in his life and was used to having an excessive amount of energy. His therapist said of course he feels like shit because he has been through a lot the past nine months with one month of his wife’s psychosis and following eight months of depression. She also points out that “the worst is over but everything you once knew is gone. The love you had with Guilia, the way you once knew it, is gone.”

Mark reflects on this realization: “Nothing could ever be the same. Our bliss, our puppy love from college, our charmed lives, it was all gone. Guilia’s psychosis and depression would color the rest of our relationship. Maybe even my own happiness wouldn’t come as easily as it always had. I would have to work for it and have the courage to do the work.”

Guilia would eventually end up back in the psych ward following the birth of their son Jonas, after tapering off lithium mostly because she would not be able to breast-feed on it. Instead of a psychosis fixated on hell though this psychosis would fixate on the notion of heaven. After days of not sleeping and rambling about heaven being earth she was admitted to the psych ward for her second time in three years. The doctor believed Guilia was suffering from postpartum psychosis. The doctor would eventually officially diagnose Guilia with bipolar disorder I, characterized by soaring highs and crippling lows. Guilia somehow experienced both as negatives with her mania fast-tracking into psychosis, with paranoia and delusions. The doctor made it clear she will have to be on lithium for the rest of her life.

Guilia would be released from her second stay at the psych ward after thirty two days. Mark would end up feeling uneasy with the two hospitalizations and begin to research bipolar more thoroughly. He spoke with Sasha Altman DuBrul, one of the founders of the Icarus Project, an alternative medical health organization that calls mental illness “the space between brilliance and madness.” Sasha introduced to Mark the concept of a mad map. Mad maps allow psychiatric patients to outline what they’d like their care to look like in future mental health crises. They are designed to encourage patients to plan ahead in order to give them more control and avoid, or at least minimize future mistakes.

They came up with a plan for if Guilia starts to relapse again. If she can’t sleep again, she will take one milligram of Risperdal (an antipsychotic) by midnight. If she still can’t sleep by two a.m., she will take two more milligrams for a total of three. Guilia would relapse again and even though she followed the mad map she would end up in the hospital a third time. However, this time, she was discharged after thirteen days – the shortest of all her stays. This may be because they had the safety net of the mad map which lessened the blow of her episode with medication ahead of time instead of only after the fact.

This book was a beautiful account of a husband’s struggle and triumph being his mentally ill wife’s caregiver. It addresses resentments felt and issues with the mental health system. Mark stands by his wife through three psychotic breaks and proves what true love looks like – it is kind, understanding and supportive. He even struggles with his own depression as a result of his wife’s mental health but finds solutions such as exercising regularly and seeing a therapist. The one thing Mark never does is give up on his wife. He genuinely stands by the vow “in sickness and in health” which some not as strong as him may have taken Guilia’s illness as a way to cop out.

If you are looking for a book that shows the other side of mental health – the side with loved ones who struggle to grapple with and understand their significant other’s mental illness – then look no further. This book has shown me what a true caregiver looks like and how they struggle with a variety of feelings. This book is called “My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward” and it is written by one of the loveliest husbands who in my opinion is a hero, a hero to Guilia.

The Weekly Smile for October 14, 2019

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The blog “Trent’s World” hosts a weekly smile blogging event in which you can write about what made you smile the past week. You can find the rules on his blog provided in the link below:

https://trentsworldblog.wordpress.com/the-weekly-smile-weeklysmile/

I will admit my smile for this week is a little macabre in that it was caused by a car accident I was in this week. I smiled in the passenger seat of a cop car, while catching a glimpse of my boyfriend in the ambulance ahead of me, to check whether or not my newly fixed teeth were still there and alright. I smiled bigger when I realized my teeth were just fine but also because I realized in the grande scheme of things my boyfriend and I, were fine…we were still alive.

We were rushed to the hospital emergency room and were registered to have our injuries accessed – we were both experiencing neck pain. Around 8 hours later we would be released with a clear bill of health minus some muscular pain that the ER doctor said could be managed with ibuprofen. I smiled then too, after our X-rays were back and I was told we did not break or severe anything. The biggest smile I had that night though was witnessing an act of kindness and love in the emergency room that night.

There was a young man with a big gash above his eye and his eye was swollen over. He was waiting to be examined and to get stitches since he had been jumped on the street. I smiled because right there with him through all of it was his girlfriend who held gauze pads to his eye as he slowly fell asleep against her. She had argued with a nurse to get those gauze pads since the cloth they gave her was sticking to his gash. I smiled because even though it was horrible what had happened to him that night, he had someone who supported him and was kind enough to hold gauze pads to his face for roughly six hours straight.

I was losing sight of being positive about the accident and how we were ultimately still alive and spiraling into a negative tailspin of “why would this happen to us?” Until I seen the scene I described above and I smiled, truly smiled because I realized THERE IS STILL kindness in the world no matter how scary or awful it may seem at times.

 

Emerging Blogger Series – Mental Health @ Home (Part 2)

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I had the recent pleasure of being featured on the emerging blogger series on Mental Health @ Home. I talk about manic psychosis and my own experiences with it. The blog post on this site will be featured in two parts with the second part having been released today. The post goes into detail about delusions, hallucinations and paranoia I experienced during this episode.

As it is Thanksgiving, I feel the need to add that I am extremely grateful for my sanity today since as you will see in my post I briefly lost it and would ultimately lose it again (see my blog post on my second manic psychosis). I am also thankful for bloggers like @mentalhealth@home who give bloggers like me a chance to share their story on an additional platform. I am grateful for the opportunity to have contributed to the emerging blogger series and hope you all give it a read! Link below to my post on Mental Health @ Home.

And Stay Tuned for a Blog Post about the downs in bipolar disorder, specifically the depressive episodes I experienced and was also hospitalized for.

Emerging Blogger Series: Brittany – Part II

 

It’s My Birthday! And I’ll Cry If I Want To

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A Birthday is by far the most reflective-inducing day. It is a time to celebrate, yes! But for most people it is a time to reflect on what they have accomplished so far and for most it becomes a trap of reflecting on what they lack. Thoughts like “I should have had a degree by now” or “I should already be in a career by now” or even “I should be married by now” inevitably creep up and sometimes you feel like banging your head against the wall instead of cutting your cake and appreciating what you DO HAVE.

Rachel Hollis outlines this trap in her book “Girl, Wash Your Face” as one of the lies we tell ourselves: “I Should Be Further Along by Now.” She even mentions sitting with a group of women, having a glass of wine, when the topic of age and whether or not they like to celebrate their birthday came up. The general consensus was “definitely not.” The reason was because birthdays serve as a reminder of everything they hadn’t achieved. The passing of another year marked a point in their life where yet another thing they planned on having achieved by that age still hadn’t happened.

Hollis explains that everything in life happens exactly when it’s supposed to: “You look at your life and the eight things you thought you’d have accomplished by thirty-five (in my case twenty-seven) and feel depressed. But maybe it’s just that you don’t have enough life experience yet…or maybe the goal wasn’t ever meant to be yours. Maybe you are destined for something so much cooler, which won’t come until five years down the road” (Hollis 106).

I thought I would have a degree, be in a career as a professor and be married by now, by twenty-seven. I know these seem like lofty goals but if you had seen the trajectory I set myself on at the age of 13 you would have known it was possible and believed me when I said it would happen. However, my mental illness which I didn’t even know I had derailed literally all those plans. Suddenly I was spending my twenties in and out of a hospital bed rather than finishing my undergrad and going on to my masters then eventual PhD. I could chose to reflect on this loss as I have every year up until this birthday but something finally clicked in my brain this year (maybe it was reading a plethora of self-help books) and this year I chose differently.

This year, rather than reflecting on what I DON’T HAVE, I have decided to think fondly on all the things I do have such as a new found empathy for all humans as a result of my crippling mental illness. I also may not have a husband but I have a loving boyfriend who has taught me so much about love it astounds me. I am the healthiest I have been in a long time since I am now sober and cigarette free. But more importantly I am thankful for my sanity another year, something I used to take for granted until I lost it to manic psychosis.

I have figured out that life doesn’t always follow the path you set out on but rather branches off into avenues unknown. I am excited to travel these new and different paths because what I may see on them may not be what I expected but is exactly what I need or was meant to see. I may not have been meant to become a professor but maybe I’ll become something much more worthwhile and time will tell. I have always wanted to be a writer but thought it was not worth investing my time in because I had nothing truly I wanted to share with the world. Now, after having experiences with bipolar disorder, I finally have something I want to write. I want to write a book that outlines my life struggling with this disorder so people with mental illness may connect with the words and know they are truly not alone in this. I’ve been there and I’ve fallen and chosen not to get up but ultimately I did chose to get back up and you can too!

A birthday should not be a day to reflect on what you have not accomplished so far but a day to reflect on everything you did! You survived, you made it this far and that is an accomplishment in itself. My family did not think I would see this birthday and that I was going to die in the hospital but I am here and I am glad. I am proud of the woman I have become – empathetic, strong, resilient, loving, forgiving, you name it! I refuse to negate this by becoming caught up in a shit storm of “if only’s” or “what ifs” in my mind. The fact is I am here and I am able to celebrate another birthday and you know what that is enough for me right now. I also see this birthday as a challenge to live my life as authentically as possible moving forward and to constantly work on bettering myself. I may not have all the things I wanted but heck I have all the ones that I need.

Anxiety And The Dentist

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If you read my blog regularly, then you already know about my fear of the dentist and the horrible shape my teeth are in from battling years of depression where I simply could not even get the energy to brush them. You’ll also know that I avoided the dentist until two months ago for over a period of five years. Now you can imagine the state my teeth are in! I have a bazillion cavities and have, I guess now past tense “had,” a crack running across my front tooth. Because I was able to face my anxiety this past month and actually show up to my appointment  instead of running (which I considered and people can testify), I now have flawless front teeth!

The dentist filled a cavity that has been limiting my smile for years today. Literally, if you scroll through my instagram account and look at selfies I have taken, you’ll notice I do not smile very big. No more! And above is my first selfie (on snapchat to my best friends) with a genuine and big smile. I no longer have to be self conscious about that moment when someone says “Say Cheese!” and snaps a photograph. Now I am going to own it and maybe even work it. But let me tell you it was not a easy process to get me there to here, as in, in the dentist chair. I had to work through some real anxieties and even had to get sober first to realize my health comes first – oral included.

When I was getting high every day I was pushing down and bottling my emotions about everything, including the nagging sensation that I should go to the dentist. When I was high I didn’t care what state my teeth were in and even was able to cope better with the inevitable toothaches. This was not a viable solution to my problem because over the years my teeth became worse and my toothaches more frequent. When I made the decision to become sober and ultimately I did (almost 6 months sober today), I could no longer cease the constant thought processes that my teeth were fucked and something felt seriously wrong about them.

I faced my anxiety one appointment at  a time and that’s all I can really say for those of you who have a lot of dental work looming. Take it one day at a time. I talked myself into going to the initial exam by saying “You’ll be alright. It’s just an exam. They aren’t going to do any actual work that requires pain.” But after my exam and the results came in, I could not put blinders on anymore. He laid it out to be plainly that I had one too many cavities and my wisdom teeth need to be pulled. He confirmed my reality that my teeth were ACTUALLY as fucked as they felt.

The second appointment which was to be my first cleaning in five years, the dentist told me he would have to freeze half my mouth. The panic set in. Needles! I kept thinking over and over about needles for a month until my appointment. Each day I would ruminate about how many and how painful it was going to be. I almost rescheduled but called in the big guns, A.K.A., my dad. I told him about the appointment and how “I know, I know I’m almost 27 but please come hold my hand!” He obliged and it held me accountable because I did not want to look like some giant pussy literally running away from the dentist and my appointment.

Lucky for me this dentist actually uses numbing jelly before applying any needles in the mouth. My previous dentist unfortunately did not spare me any pain and would proceed sans jelly. I barely felt any of the needles except the one on the roof of my mouth. But I talked myself through it, “Brittany, this will be like 30 seconds of your life that is painful. Bear with it. Your teeth are so very important and you are worth it.” This actually helped and soon I found the freezing was over. And within an hour and a half my appointment was over.

Today was the first appointment with fillings (I had two cleanings with freezing) and I had anxiety all month about how I wouldn’t be able to cope and that the needles would somehow hurt more and I would feel the fillings acutely. Boy was I wrong! In a good way! The dentist walked in on me basically almost in tears and informed me that it would be less freezing this time and therefore less painful. I also had the pleasure of holding my boyfriend’s hand during this dental appointment. I had no clue though that in an hour and a half my front teeth would look so vastly different! The crack on my front tooth – I thought he could not fix and wasn’t going to be – was gone! That thing has been haunting my smile for years and I thought was going to be a forever thing.

I am so thankful to this new dentist who makes me feel super comfortable and is very understanding of my anxiety. The two things, however, that help me with my anxiety prior to a visit in the dentist’s chair are talking things through with myself and practicing being in the present moment. When I get anxious about an appointment that’s like three weeks later than the present time, I practice a few deep breaths to ground me in the moment and try to reflect on my five senses and enjoy them. I also tell myself “You’re not going to die but you will feel some discomfort. It is worth it for healthy teeth. YOU ARE WORTH IT! This may hurt in the meantime but in the long run it is necessary for your oral health.” And this generally calms me down to the point I can move on with my day until the next bought of anxiety which I then just repeat the process mentioned above.

I am so very happy I made it to my dentist appointment today for I now know the joy of lovely front teeth. I also am proving to myself that I am capable of more than I think. The above selfie is a testament to my new smile but also my new attitude to stop avoiding things and start tackling shit. I got this! I can finally say I truly got this.

My Second Manic Psychosis

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The third time I was hospitalized was for a manic episode, more specifically a manic psychosis. Psychosis is a mental disorder characterized by symptoms like delusions and hallucinations that indicate a break from reality.  I was experiencing delusions of grandeur which is a clear symptom of manic psychosis. I wholeheartedly believed that I was a celebrity with millions of dollars at my disposal and this belief was erroneously wrong.

I was admitted to the hospital for something so simple yet very indicative of mental illness – I was walking around in a onesie in public handing out brand new perfumes like Chanel Chance and Ariana Grande’s Ari perfume as part of a marketing scheme to promote my Instagram account which I claimed and believed was dedicated to a business I had created. I thought I was in charge of a talent agency of sorts which brought together photographers, models, and the like. I believed I was the Madame of the entertainment business connecting talented individuals to one another and promoting their work. I even believed I was a drug dealer to the stars, providing all entertainers with a good time.

A manic episode is a period of abnormally elevated mood and high energy, accompanied by abnormal behavior that disrupts life. In severe manic episodes, a person loses touch with reality. They may become delusional and behave bizarrely. I was an extreme case of mania in which I generally believed I was a millionaire with tons of money at my disposal and a huge following on social media when in actuality I was on welfare and may have had about 300 followers on my Instagram account. Despite empirical evidence to the contrary, I would not let go of this delusion and even spent my entire welfare check – $800 – on makeup and perfumes at the local shoppers drugmart beauty counter just to give away all the products as part of a “marketing scheme” to boost my following and show appreciation for fans.

It was the receipt from this purchase that my mother found that indicated to her I may be manic and need to be hospitalized. People experiencing mania tend to blow their money without thinking and on unnecessary things. This is an indication that something is going wrong and that their mental state may not be as stable as it should be.

When my mother approached me to go to the hospital, I thought she was out of her mind but decided to go to prove her wrong. I in my deluded thinking thought she just could not accept that I had become successful. I went through a grueling intake in which first I was triaged and then brought to a little room for further questioning then promptly locked up in a padded cell. The bed did not even have sheets which I am guessing is a precaution to people strangling themselves with them.

I could see the camera aimed on me and thought “Big Brother is watching.” I began to scream at the camera saying “this is against my basic freedom and rights! When my lawyer catches on to this, you’re toast! I’m going to sue all your asses including this entire hospital!” (I in fact did not have a lawyer nor never have I had one). As an hour passed, of me screaming profanities at this security camera, and pacing nonstop back and forth in this padded cell, I boldly stated that “I am going to piss all over this bed unless someone comes in here and talks to me face to face!” Well that got their attention (god forbid I make a mess).

A nice lady came in telling me to calm down and that I would be admitted into the psychiatric unit at the hospital but they were waiting for a bed to open up. She explained that I was being placed on an involuntary hold and would be observed for three days minimum. I don’t remember much about my reaction but I bet I uttered more profanities and threatened to sue her personally. Oh, and I might have said some deluded thing like “I have a concert with thousands of fans waiting for me! Who is going to refund their tickets? You?” Needless to say I ended up in the psych ward under a three day observation which turned into a thirty day hold to eventually resulting in me staying at said hospital for three months before I finally “came down to reality.”

You can look back on my much older posts on Instagram and find ones that indicate this slip from reality. In one I post a picture (or rather steal) of a man dangling his legs from a high up building and below are the rooftops of nearby buildings. I wrote a post under this photograph saying FearANDSelf-Loathing was hiring photography interns and that best believe we pay! FearANDSelf-Loathing was actually my first ever WordPress blog that I wrote during my undergrad at Carleton. It was poetry, speculations and my journalistic portfolio. However, in my delusional mind it became a company that I ran and what I believed to be a million dollar revenue company.

I never got any serious inquiries (thank god) but I did offer vice presidency of my supposed corporation to my best friend who knew I was deluded and played along. I unfortunately reached out to several people and offered contracts ranging from 10 000 to 50 000 dollars who actually believed me and were pretty pissed when the truth came out – that I was mentally ill and currently living in a psych ward. Some people guilted me when I was out that I had offered to upgrade their car and that I never followed through. I was like “excuse me did you not get the part about how I was in the nut ward?” But they ‘d go on to say I promised even though they finally knew the truth. They didn’t ask me “Are you okay,” instead they asked “Where’s my fucking sunroof?”

When I was sick with these delusions in the hospital I continued to believe I had the means to purchase whatever the fuck I wanted. They give you access to a telephone and at the lobby you can find magazines filled with adverts for local businesses. I began calling all of them trying to order , well, stuff! I called the local Ford dealership and tried to order five brand new Mustangs. These people of course thought I was insane but some people on the other line of the phone believed me because I spoke so confidently. However, when it came time to pay and I actually lacked the funds to bankroll these ideas people quickly came to realize I might be insane.

As I write this chapter of my book (I am writing a memoir on my experiences with bipolar disorder),  I’m sitting across from my mother who is sorting her taxes. She asks what the topic is and I say without hesitation, “my delusions.” She laughs and responds, “I can list a few if you’d like.” I hesitate, because as much as I am writing about this topic now it is still a hard pill to swallow – that I lost my mind and my entire family witnessed it.

It is hard to reflect on and harder so when I realize I was not the only one there during my delusions of grandeur. I smile and reply “sure” to my mother. She begins to list a few of my delusions , “that you were going to buy and live in a mansion. You called several real estate agents looking to hire them promising a large commission if they could find you a mansion in the Decew Falls area. You tried to arrange a big wine tour with twenty of your closest friends and called several wineries looking to book. The strangest was you asked me to order you an engagement ring.” We both laugh and I say “Aren’t you so glad I’m sane now?” She smiles and says “For now.”

I wonder where these delusions came from and if they are rooted in any truth. Perhaps they reflect my subconscious drive for fame. I never realized I had this within me but it could very well be a real thing. It could maybe even explain my Instagram addiction, haha kidding! Whether it was rooted in some deeper meaning or not, the fact is these delusions occurred. I was the sickest I have ever been in my life, mentally that is. I spent three months in the hospital being pumped with all sorts of mood stabilizers and anti psychotics. I eventually came down from the high that is the delusion of grandeur and realized I was simply one of the masses, the many.

Another interesting thing to note was my steadfast belief in my delusion. Despite a lack of proof or evidence that I was a celebrity with boat loads of money, I still clung to the belief that I was. I would practice songs in the corridors of the hospital mentally preparing for my next concert I would put on as an entertainer. I truly believed with all my heart that my delusion was reality. I was so lost in the deepest recesses of my mind, I could not get out without the help of medical intervention. I am so thankful to my mother for recognizing the signs of my bipolar disorder and getting me to the hospital in time before I did any real damage to my self or others.

I am so thankful for my closest friends who visited me during this tumultuous time in my life at the hospital. They are my real friends because they never have thrown into my face that I’ve been seriously mentally ill. They stood by me while I was having delusions and even played along with them. My best friend of all time recalled that I would phone her from the hospital trying to get her to order limousines and other bizarre rich people things. She said she would always agree with me and play into my delusion because when she did not, she noticed I would become quite stressed and agitated.

Thankfully, after three months I was ready to join the real world again –delusion free. However, I rely on a 300 mg dose of abilify (an antipsychotic injection) every four weeks to keep me on the straight. This is a small inconvenience in my life when compared to the reality that I could lose my mind again if I do not keep up with these monthly injections. I do not wish my experience with manic psychosis on anyone because when the fog lifts and you’re left with just yourself, there is a deep sense of shame that overcomes you – that you could think, act and believe so bizarrely.

The important thing to recognize that this is an illness and it is not your fault but rather the brain chemistry you were born with and that it is treatable and possible to live a normal life. I think the shame comes from the stigma of being hospitalized for a mental disorder because it is not as accepted as it should be in society. I did go insane but that is not my baseline setting and is abnormal for me. Movies and Hollywood glamorize mental illness as people constantly living with insanity and being dangerous to others and themselves but this is not always the case. Medication can do wonders to balance out the brain and correct abnormal behavior in those living with mental illness. It is not a death sentence or a sentence to being in a psychiatric unit your entire life – in my case maybe for intervals but the majority of the time I am like everyone else just living my life to the best possible potential that I can.

Emerging Blogger Series – Mental Health @ Home

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I had the recent pleasure of being featured on the emerging blogger series on Mental Health @ Home. I talk about manic psychosis and my own experiences with it. The blog post featured on this site will be released in two parts and details my delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia experienced while under a manic psychosis. I will be posting soon about my second manic psychosis in which I thought I was a celebrity spokes model/singer with billions of dollars while in actuality I was on welfare and barely keeping it together. Check the link below to read the first part and I hope you enjoy it!

https://mentalhealthathome.org/2019/10/09/emerging-blogger-series-brittany-part-i/

 

 

 

 

 

INKTOBER – Empirical Evidence of An Improvement In My Mental Health

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My Inktober sketch for Day Four’s Prompt “Build”

Inktober is a month long art challenge created by artist Jake Parker that is focused on improving skill and developing positive drawing habits. Every day for the month of October anyone participating in the Inktober challenge creates an ink drawing and posts it online. There is a new “prompt” list each year for the challenge which is a one word prompt such as in the above picture where “build” was the prompt. I decided to draw the Brooklyn Bridge because many lives were lost to build it and it still stands today.

Inktober this year when compared to last year’s efforts has already revealed an improvement in my mental health. For example, I lacked the motivation and esteem to follow through and complete a drawing for each of the thirty-one days of October last year. This year, however, I am six days in and have completed a drawing each day and within the allotted day instead of spilling over days’ drawings.

I have noticed this improvement in my mental health since I got sober roughly five months ago. I am starting to challenge myself to set goals and follow through with them with things as simple as Inktober to things such as quitting smoking cigarettes which I am in the process of doing (haven’t had a smoke the entire day! and until a month ago I was a five year straight smoking a pack a day kind of gal). These may seem like simple things but they are building blocks to setting the tone for my next goals. If I can accomplish getting sober, quitting a pack a day habit and well, hey, Inktober then I feel like I can do pretty much anything I set my mind to. It’s about showing up for yourself and practicing self-care. I have also adopted a new habit of running each morning which until recently seemed like an impossible endeavor due to lack of motivation.

The change I’ve noticed the most in my mental health since last year compared to this year is my motivation. I have significantly higher energy levels since quitting dope and have decided to turn this energy into positive things like completing blog posts , finishing a book, running, exercising in general and the greatest thing I have put my energy behind is setting goals. Now last year I could not have even dreamed up a goal much less set one, I was too busy smoking up and wallowing in a pool of self-pity. I had zero self esteem and assumed I was not capable of accomplishing any goals I could think of setting – so I just didn’t set any. This year I have several goals, all kinds of goals, to starting writing those pesky memoirs on my experience with bipolar disorder to trying my hand at going to school again. I know I may not succeed but I know I am in a good enough place that I can handle failure and I think that’s what was stopping me before – a fear of failure.

Inktober has shown me that I am more than capable and yes some days my drawings suck but I still finish them and other days I make a freaking masterpiece and am so glad I put my mind to it. The important thing is to show up and the rest will fall into place.

Below is my latest creation and yes, I am quite proud of it. It’s for the prompt “husky.”

huskyinktober

 

 

Reminder: you could die at literally almost any moment

possible

This reminder: you could die at literally almost any moment slapped me in the face this morning while I was reading Elan Gale’s “You’re not that Great (but neither is anyone else).” It is a truly ubiquitous reminder for it’s in the back of all of our minds but we simply choose not to acknowledge it. However,  maybe if we acknowledged it a bit more we’d be striving to be the best version of ourselves instead of settling for mediocrity. Why do we always say we are going to do something but put it off for “tomorrow?” I have decided I am officially done with that bullshit.

It’s easy to lie around and accept what is but it takes true awareness and motivation to want to actively change it. If you do not like who you are or where you are simply change it. And I know you’re thinking “well how do I do that, Brittany?” That’s not up to me to answer for you but for you to do the research. For example, I’ve decided I want to lose weight (keeping it simple here) but I keep saying I’ll exercise and then don’t. I have a monthly gym membership (my bank statement each month reminds me) and I barely use it. But I’ve decided enough is enough! I have set a really healthy and realistic goal of exercising 30 min a day whether that be walking, biking, running, etc, as of today. I have also decided to increase my water intake and reduce my consumption of calories (perhaps cutting out that midnight snack). It is up to me to follow through though and realize that today is all I have and hey, this is morbid, but I may not even have today (I could get annihilated by a city bus).

Another thing I want to work on is my finances cause guess what I am done settling with the mediocrity of walking everywhere. Fuck Yes, you betcha I want a fucking car! This means I need to research how to budget my money cause like every other millennial I was never taught these basic skills. But I am committed to change and I am willing to put in the work. You want something more out of life? Cool. Then start actively working towards that goal and stop allowing yourself to settle for less. You got big dreams? Fuck Yes, shoot for the stars! You may fail but you may just fail into something better. Maybe you won’t get that Audi you dreamed of but maybe through your hard work and determination you might just be able to finance a Chevy Cruise (another more reasonable car I enjoy driving). Stop saying that this is it and work for what could be. Put in the fucking work. Let me repeat myself, put in the fucking work.

And you are probably going to struggle but that’s the beauty of life figuring out the stuff you’re made of. You might just discover you’re stronger than you think. I have this reoccurring thought “I’m not smart enough to go to school” or “My brain has deteriorated since being hospitalized as a result of bipolar disorder” and you know what I ve decided rather than sit on my ass (like I’ve been doing the past three years), I am going to try and challenge this thought by actually going back to school part time. I might fail, who knows? But at least I will have tried and that’s worth something in my books. If you constantly sit on your ass instead of working towards your dreams/goals then you guessed it you’re gonna have to live with regret. And have you felt that shit before? Because let me tell you it isn’t pleasant.

So thank you Elan Gale for reminding me that I may die tomorrow because as of right now I am going to use the best of today. Because fuck it, I know I am worth it.

F**K it – Be At Peace With Life Just As It Is

fuck it

I was perusing the book store when I came across John C. Parkin’s “F**k it.” I will admit I was drawn to it more because of my affinity for swear words than anything else but regardless I decided to buy it and give it a read. The book overall was a little bit of a let down, however, there are nuggets of wisdom and surprisingly ideas congruent with that from “The Power of Now.” (see previous blog post) One thought that struck me the most was the following: “We take a big step forward in life when we recognize that working out what we’d like to feel is more important than working out what we’d like to do, or
whatever other aim we have in life” (Parkins 80).

Parkins raises a good point about how to gain peace in life and that is to stop waiting for things to make you feel content such as the next job promotion, the next relationship, etc. Looking to external things for contentment and peace of mind is severely misguided when it is internally that you need to do the work. Haven’t you ever heard you need to love yourself before you can truly love another person. It’s an overused statement for a reason cause its dead right. If you are looking outside yourself for peace such as through a new shiny toy or next big life milestone, you’re missing the point. Life happens now in this moment and waiting around for the next big thing or distraction only takes away from finding the peace of mind to enjoy the present moment for what is. You think you need this or that to be eventually happy but if you’re never happy that’s on you to work through – internally and not externally. You will eventually find you do not even need these things to feel at peace, you just will be. The greatest avenue to finding inner peace is through acceptance of what is and who you are in this moment.

The author himself mentions struggling with his expectations of how things are supposed to go but ultimately to be at peace he had to let that go: “Well, F**k It to how its supposed to go. I hereby (attempt to) embrace how it goes – in real-time-unfolding-reality – rather than how its supposed to go. It is after all, the gap between how I want it to go, and how it actually goes, that will cause me pain. And to close that gap, I must simply accept more what happens, as it happens” (Parkins 168). Parkins mentions a gap between what we expect and what occurs as causing pain. This pain is the emotional unhappiness we feel when things don’t quite go our way. If we can accept life for what is rather than what we think it should be then we will be much more at peace. It is our unrealistic expectations that are slowly killing us and causing deep rooted depressions. If we can be content with what we have then life would feel infinitely more happier which brings us to another helpful activity the author mentions in finding inner peace which is practicing gratitude.

Being grateful comes more easy to some people than others. Most of us focus on what is wrong and what we don’t have rather than what we do have. Parkins says, “being grateful, then, for who we are, what we do, what we have and our lives as they are, is a quick way to find peace in the now” (Parkins 97). Th author mentions that when he feels particularly like moaning he stops himself and writes a list of all things he is grateful for. I strongly encourage creating a gratitude journal in which you can practice this task. You can start light by writing each day three things you are grateful for today – a practice an inpatient group taught me at the hospital when I was hospitalized for major depression. This activity forces you to acknowledge the good things that you are overlooking in your life. They could be simple things like the ability to talk or specific to your life like that you are thankful for your cat who comforts you when you’re down. Being grateful forces you to re-think your life and not fixate on what is lacking but rather look at all the things you should be thankful that you do have in this present moment.

Parkins also references an interesting study in his book that gets you thinking. It illustrates how people most the time are wanting more even when they are wealthy. A survey asked extremely wealthy people, millionaires, and billionaires, if they felt content with their wealth and the majority said no. They were then asked, “How much more would make you feel content?” And they were invited to put a $ figure on it. The researchers turned that figure into the percentage of extra wealth that wealthy people wanted in order to feel content. The figure was, roughly, the same for all of them: 20% extra. Parkins concludes, “It seems then that everyone is 20% away from being content, regardless of their income. And that’s worth bearing in mind as you go about wanting more wealth, more things, and trying to get them. If you believe that you’ll be at peace when you’re wealthy, the research suggests you’ll remain forever 20% away from peace” (Parkins 47).

This reiterates the point I was making earlier about how external things such as money can never truly make you at peace with yourself. In order to be at peace you need to be grateful for what you have and accept it. Even the wealthiest individuals are not happy with what they have and want more so don’t be too upset that you’ve fallen for this trap. Real peace, real happiness, comes from within when you accept that you are right where you are supposed to be. Everything unfolds as it is supposed to and you just got to trust that or you’ll drive yourself insane trying to fill the void of what you supposedly lack. I was thinking a lot about my past and how I refused to accept where I was in life leading to a 6 month deep depression where I literally never left bed and ultimately had to be hospitalized. I am now at a better place because I understand that I am right where I am supposed to be, right now. I can accept my past failures for what they were, a guide to where I am now. Now I am at peace more than ever before because I accept that I have what I have and am thankful for it. I am  happy for the first time in my life, genuinely happy because I am not fighting some idea of what I think I deserve but understand that my life is meant to unfold the way it has and is. The beautiful mystery of life is that you may never truly get what you think you want but you always get what you ultimately need.

So say F**K It! Fuck it to what you think you want and be at peace with life just as it is.