Adventure

Never Be Afraid of Who You Are

Carrie Fisher once said, “At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of. They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication.”

As you may have read in an earlier post, I was hospitalized in May for suicidal ideation. The past few months been really rough and I let my brain trick me into thinking that I’m a burden, that those I love would be better off without me, and that I am unworthy of love and belonging. While I was in the hospital, I finished reading Untamed by Glennon Doyle. I would like to share some quotes from it that really helped me gain some perspective.

“I am here to keep becoming truer, more beautiful versions of myself again and again forever. To be alive is to be in a perpetual state of revolution. Whether I like it or not, pain is the fuel of revolution. Everything I need to become the woman I’m meant to be next is inside my feelings of now. Life is alchemy, and emotions are the fire that turns me to gold. I will continue to become only if I resist extinguishing myself a million times a day. If I can sit in the fire of my own feelings, I will keep becoming.”

“Like Westley from The Princess Bride who said, ‘Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.’ “

“Pain is not tragic. Pain is magic. Suffering is tragic. Suffering is what happens when we avoid pain and consequently miss our becoming. That is what I can and must avoid; missing my own evolution because I am too afraid to surrender to the process. Having such little faith in myself that I numb or hide or consume my way out of my fiery feelings again and again. So my goal is to stop abandoning myself– and stay. To trust that I’m strong enough to handle the pain that is necessary to the process of becoming.”

These quotes (and many more from Untamed) helped me reframe things. Yes, I’ve been in a lot of pain lately. But I can either continue to try to fight that pain or give in, surrender, and trust myself. When I sat with it for a while, what my self told me is that I should go to a residential treatment center (RTC) for my mental health. It isn’t easy. It is brutal and painful and difficult. It will be roughly 80 days away from the family I love and the friends I count on for support. But if not now, when? Getting laid off sucked. It was sad and disappointing and it hurt. But it allowed me to stay on unemployment through the end of July. Which means I don’t have to look for a job right away while I figure stuff out. Which means I actually have the time to dedicate to myself and my mental health right now.

Adventure

Copied and Pasted From My Facebook

TW: Suicidal Ideation

I used to sing Park Ridge/Advent Health’s Women’s Hope Unit’s praises loudly and frequently for everyone to hear. I can no longer do that in good conscience because they have a new doctor and he is terrible. I don’t think many people really know this yet, but I try to be as open as I can about my mental health, so: I was hospitalized from Friday to Tuesday for suicidal thoughts. I checked myself into the ER and they admitted me several hours later. As if going through that isn’t bad enough, Dr. Johnson at Advent Health believes that stimulant and benzodiazepine use in adults is wrong. So I got to experience withdrawal while being incredibly depressed. It’s not an experience I can recommend. He wanted me to stay for 5-7 more days and do their benzodiazepine detox treatment that involves phenobarbital. I don’t misuse my benzodiazepines and I don’t feel like it would be good for me to come off of them at this time. Neither does my actual mental health practitioner who has known me for three years instead of five minutes. Dr. Johnson stopped my stimulants cold turkey and refused to give me my ADHD medications while I was there. While I was able to get ativan the first night I was there (Friday), it was Monday night before they gave me an incredibly low dose of it again. On Sunday morning, the only mental health medication they gave me was my normal dosage of antidepressant. They refused to give me my antipsychotic that doubles as a mood stabilizer until that evening after I complained for a long time.

The nurses were, for the most part, incredible. There was one I had an issue with because I threw up my medicine (nausea from withdrawal) and she said she would give them to me again but never did. The others were all incredibly kind and compassionate.

I’m safe and am feeling much better now. I feel very loved and supported, but my brain was lying to me and telling me that I was a burden and that everyone I love would be better off without me. Bipolar Disorder is no joke. May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I meant to make a post about it but was too depressed to do so, so this will be my post about it.

If/when you are feeling suicidal, your brain is LYING to you. You are not a burden. People would not be better off without you. This feeling won’t last forever. You are special and loved and whole and valued exactly as you already are. You are worthy of love and connection. You are worthy of hope and a future. You are worthy of compassion and compassionate care.

If you are ever in the hospital and feel like you aren’t being treated well, ask for a patient advocate. It’s not something most people know to do.

I want to thank my absolutely incredible brother, mom, and dad for being 1000% supportive, loving, and caring during this very difficult time. I want to thank the friends I told for holding onto the hope I couldn’t see for me and for encouraging me to get help. And I want to shout out my amazing therapist Alli Ramirez at Higgins Counseling + Consulting for being the best therapist I could possibly ask for. I’m not sure if she is accepting new patients, but if you ever need a therapist, I highly recommend her.

I’m sorry to the people I scared and worried. Thank you for supporting me in getting the help I needed.

Love you all!

Adventure

Social Distancing and the Effects of COVID-19 on Someone With Mental Health Struggles

It’s been so long since I logged into WordPress that I almost forgot how. November 4, 2019 was the last time I posted. It was a post about my amazing trip to Scotland with my family. I haven’t had much time for posting since then. I was taking care of a neighbor after school and working at a church providing childcare on Sundays, then in December I got hired at the preschool of my dreams. I officially started in January. Trauma informed. A boss who encourages you to bring your whole self into the room and whatever situation you’re in. Wellness coaching. Permission to make mistakes and see them as “oopses.” A growth mindset. Colleagues who are amazing and creative and kind and generous. Children that give love freely and are amazing, wonderful, people. A place that feels, finally, like home.

Now, I’m grieving and scared and listless and feel like I’ve lost my purpose. We closed the doors of the preschool because of COVID-19 last Monday. I had missed the prior Thursday and Friday because I had an upper respiratory infection. Yesterday, we were officially laid off, not knowing when it will be safe or ethical to reopen the school. We are providing online programming for the kids. Things like recorded story times, videos about how to make homemade playdough, etc.

My situation is a little different. I’ve worked for over 90 days at the school, but the unemployment office views your employment for the past several quarters. I haven’t made enough money to qualify. The Department of Labor is paying me some, which is helpful, but won’t truly be enough because of interest payments on credit card debt accumulated during manic episodes. I know I’ll find a way to make it work, but for the first time in almost two years, I’m feeling depressed.

I’m sad and listless and scared and feel like everything is futile. I don’t feel like I have a purpose. I can’t read for pleasure because I can’t focus for long enough. Watching an entire movie is a tremendous task. Watching a tv show is difficult. The only way I can read is in front of a camera, knowing it will help someone else. I struggled a lot with whether or not to read the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for people. J.K. Rowling isn’t my favorite person anymore. Not since she proved how transphobic she is. But her books have brought me hope in times of darkness. In times when I felt like nothing would ever get better. I wanted to share that hope with others. You can see that video here. By using the password TheBoyWhoLived .

I’m trying to put on a brave face. I know I don’t seem depressed to people I’ve video chatted with in the past week. I’ve tried to put on a smile and act like everything is normal, but it isn’t. Nothing is “normal” about this time and nothing will ever be “normal” again because COVID-19 has changed everything. We will find a new normal, but it will take time.

I’m not telling you I’m feeling depressed because I want your sympathy, but because I know in my bones that I’m not alone. Which is somewhat of a miracle since my depression usually tricks me into feeling I’m the only person in the whole world who is currently feeling this way. There are 327.2 million people living in America according to Google. According to the Washington Post, “U.S. workers are getting laid off at an unprecedented pace as the coronavirus outbreak shuts down much of the economy, and the government safety net to help the newly jobless appears ill-equipped to handle the surge in the unemployed.” More than one MILLION workers are expected to lose their jobs by the end of March. I know I am not the only one who will fall through the cracks and not be covered.

I’ve experienced a similar financial panic before, when I found out that my Worker’s Compensation payments didn’t count as income towards the health insurance marketplace (because they aren’t taxable) and found out I would have to pay $600 a month for health insurance PLUS copayments on doctor’s visits and medications. Medicaid, ironically, DOES count the payments as income. So I made too much for Medicaid, but not enough to be eligible for a subsidy. I made that work, but that was when I was receiving a full payment from Worker’s Compensation. I put a call into them on Friday to see what my options are now that I’ve been laid off, but I have a feeling that returning to full payments would mean a doctor determining that I’m incapable of work because of one of my accepted conditions: Recurrence of Major Depressive Disorder or Bipolar Disorder.

I’m panicking now, but it’s a slow burn kind of panic. I don’t feel that anxious, just terribly sad and uncertain. I’m so grateful that I live with my parents and don’t have to worry about rent or a mortgage. I’m grateful that I know I’ll have a roof over my head and support during this time. I’m terrified about what’s going to happen when it comes time to pay 2020 taxes because I receive a tax credit for my health insurance on the basis of my employment, which has been terminated. I’ve just applied for Medicaid and SNAP benefits online. We will see how that goes. It makes me feel a little calmer to have done that.

I feel better now that I’ve written this. Now that I’ve gotten it out and it isn’t just swimming around in my head. If you’ve read this far, thank you. If you’re feeling like I am, I’m sorry. If you’re scared, try to remember that we are all in this together.

Adventure

Day Nine: Inverness (October 10)

On our last day in Scotland, Dad and Jac took the car and headed out to Glen Strathfarrar and ate at the Nessie Deli, which had amazing fish chowder. Mom and I elected to stay in Inverness and shop for souvenirs at the Victorian Market, have lunch at the Rendezvous Cafe, and visit The Bakery.

After walking home from The Bakery, Mom and I relaxed for a while then began packing up our stuff. When Jac and Dad returned, Jac went out walking around. Dad and I drove down to the River Ness Islands and walked around them. Apparently, Jac was there at the same time (he saw the rental car), but we never bumped into each other.

After walking around the Ness Islands, Dad and I went to visit Inverness Leisure, the indoor swimming facility that had a competition pool as well as a pool, slide, and water toys for people to play in. We saw swim caps signed by Adam Peaty and James Wilby, who are Olympic swimmers for “Team GB.” We drove back to the AirBnB, then the four of us drove to the Black Isle Bar and Rooms for dinner. We had a margherita pizza and a haggis pizza and we enjoyed them both.

When we finished eating dinner, Jac decided to walk back to the AirBnB while Mom, Dad, and I went to The Whisky Shop to get a souvenir for one of Dad’s friends then drove the car to the airport and took a taxi back to the AirBnB. We all finished packing then went to sleep early for our 3:00 AM wake up so that we could be in our taxi by 4:00 AM and at the airport by about 4:30AM for our 6:25 AM flight.

Adventure

Day Eight: Inverness (October 9)

On Wednesday, we decided to explore some of the areas around Inverness. We started out at the Clava Cairns at Balnuaran of Clava, Bronze Age circular chambers with standing stones around them. Balnuaran of Clava is believed to be the inspiration for Craigh Na Dun in the Outlander series and most of the stones there are believed to have been placed over 4,000 years ago.

We left Balnuaran of Clava and drove to the small town of Rosemarkie, where we hiked up to the two Fairy Glen Falls and took some photos. It seemed like a really popular place for people to walk their dogs as we saw several along the trail. At the both of the falls there were “money trees” where people hammer coins into logs as an offering to the fairies, a tradition I was happy to take part in.

After making the return journey from the falls, we went looking for a place to eat. The sign at the Fairy Glen Falls had mentioned the Rosemarkie Beach Cafe, so we decided to go there. Dad and Mom said they had the best burgers of any of the burgers they ate in Scotland.

When we were finished eating, we walked along the beach a little bit before it started raining and we returned to the car. From there, we drove to a place called the Falls of Shin. A Scottish man Dad and Mom met at the Falls of Falloch along Loch Lomond had recommended it as salmon are known to jump up the waterfall. We were lucky enough to see several fish attempt (and many make) the jump up the falls.

We were exhausted from all of our hiking, so we ended up just eating McDonald’s for dinner in the heart of Inverness. I tried the cheese and herb melts which were really just like sad mozzarella sticks.

Adventure

Day Seven: Isle of Skye to Inverness (October 8)

On Tuesday, we all woke up, packed the car in the rain, and set off from Harrapool towards Inverness. Our first stop was at Eilean Donan Castle. We pulled over to take pictures, but didn’t pay to go inside as we learned it was rebuilt in the twentieth century.

Our next stop was Urquhart Castle. The current ruins date back to the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries and are on the same spot where a medieval fortification used to be. The ruins of Urquhart Castle sit on Loch Ness and we were able to go down and touch the water. It wasn’t as cold as we thought it would be, but there were a lot of waves from the wind.

From Urquhart Castle, we made our way into Inverness and parked at a large public car park. We ate lunch at The Grumpy Chef, a restaurant I had read about on TripAdvisor. The food was good and the atmosphere was calm and cozy. After eating, I went to the famous Leakey’s Bookshop while Jac walked around and Dad and Mom went to the bus station to find the public restrooms.

Mom and Dad met back up with me at Leakey’s and then we all met with Jac at the car park. From there, we drove out to Culloden Battlefield, the site of a 1746 battle between government (mostly English) forces and Jacobites (supporters of Bonnie Prince Charlie- Charles Stuart). We took a thirty-five minute long tour of the Battlefield in the wind and the rain.

After Culloden, Jac, Dad, and I dropped Mom off at the AirBnB then ate at the very unimpressive The King’s Highway, stopping at a Co-Op for groceries and Miele’s Gelateria for some gelato. Then we stopped at McLeod’s Fish and Chips to take food home to Mom before relaxing for a while then going to sleep.

Eilean Donna Castle
Adventure

Day Six: Isle of Skye (October 7)

On Monday, we spent the day touring the Isle of Skye. The first thing that we noticed was that there were waterfalls everywhere. We also saw about four rainbows during our time there.

Our first destination was the famed Fairy Pools. Unfortunately, the attendant at the car park told us that the river you usually cross to get to the Fairy Pools was flooded and it was unlikely we would be able to see the Fairy Pools. We walked along the river, searching for a place that was safe to cross. One man told Jac that he had tried to cross but the water was up to his waist, so we decided not to try our luck. While we were there, it rained sideways. We were glad that we were prepared with rain pants, jackets, and hats! A few of us needed to use the restroom when we got back to the car and the closest public toilet was in Carbost across from the Talisker Distillery. We had to pay twenty pence to get into the toilet!

We made a short stop in Portree, where we got some paninis, chips, and sodas at The Granary and took them back to the car, where we were on our way to see the Old Man of Storr. I don’t have any good pictures of the Old Man of Storr because you really can only see it before and after the car park for it, which we didn’t know initially. We parked and started hiking to see if we could get a clear view, but it was rainy and we found out the hike was eight miles long, so we turned around and walked back to the car.

Our next stop, although we didn’t know it at the time, was to be Lealt Falls. We were looking for Brother’s Point, but pulled into a car park a little before we were supposed to. It was so windy that I was scared we would be blown off the side of the cliff.

A short car ride later and we were at Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls, where the view was just as beautiful facing the falls as it was looking the opposite direction down the beach.

Our next destination was a place called The Quiraing. Apple Maps failed us when we ran into a hand printed sign saying “No Access to Quiraing”, so we turned around to look for another way to go and found a road sign pointing the way. On the way to and in The Quiraing there were many many sheep. We pulled off on the side of the road and took some pictures of the beautiful scenery both with and without the sheep.

We left The Quiraing and headed for the Fairy Glen, a place I was adamant I couldn’t miss since I had missed the other Fairy location for the day. We parked the car and walked up the terraced hills, looking out over two waterfalls and a gorgeous valley.

We stopped for dinner at The Caledonian Cafe in Portree on the way back to our AirBnB. Jac walked to the grocery store and back then everyone got some sleep.

Adventure

Day Five: Travel from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye (October 6)

On Sunday morning, Dad and I Ubered to Hertz Rental Car at 10 Picardy Place to pick up our blue Kia Sportage. It took longer than anticipated to make it back to the AirBnB because driving through the roundabouts and determining which lane to be in to turn was quite confusing at first.

After we got our luggage packed into the rental car, we set off from Edinburgh, passing through Stirling, Arnprior, and Buchlyvie before stopping at the Co-Op grocery store in Balloch at the south part of Loch Lomond to look for a cooler bag. We were unsuccessful in finding one, but did get some drinks and chips and snacks before returning to the parking lot and eating our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

We then passed through Luss, Culag, and Inverbeg before stopping in Tarbet to see Loch Lomond. We saw a few “Cruise Loch Lomond” ships and Dad and I felt the water to see how cold it was. (Dad said it was in the fifties and not too cold, but it was making his hand cold). Jac walked around taking photos while Mom stayed in the car.

Our next stop was at the Falls of Falloch. A short hike led to a beautiful waterfall, the first of many we would see in Scotland. We got back to the car and made our way up to the Three Sisters of Glencoe. I think it is the most beautiful place in the world.

We continued to the Glenfinnan Viaduct Viewpoint, where I was overjoyed to see the famous bridge the Hogwarts Express crosses in the Harry Potter movies. Jac and Dad saw the Glenfinnan Monument on the other side of the road.

The journey went on through Arisaig, Morar, Beoraidbeg, and Glasnacardoch before we arrived at Mallaig for the last ferry to Armadale of the evening. The crossing took about thirty minutes. Dad and Jac enjoyed the views from the top of the ship while Mom and I stayed warm in the car.

We drove past Armadale up to Broadford, where we stopped to find something to eat. The first place we stopped was a little too fancy and didn’t have anything for my picky taste buds, so we ended up at the TripAdvisor recommended Siaway Fish and Chips. A comment on TripAdvisor said they had the best fish and chips in Scotland.

After eating dinner, we went and found our AirBnB. It was a lovely, spacious, beautiful, well supplied home on the Isle of Skye.

Adventure

Day Four: Edinburgh (October 5)

Today we sort of separated off and did our own things. We all had to rearrange routes and plans because of a March for Scottish Independence that took place today. Mom and Dad did a hop on hop off bus tour and toured Edinburgh Castle, Jac hiked Arthur’s Seat then did some shopping, and I did some laundry, wandered around various shops and book stores, then came home for lunch and to hang my wash to dry.

Standing outside The Boy Wizard on Victoria Street

Jac wanted to go check out the Frankenstein bar, so he did that while Mom, Dad, and I toured Holyrood Palace. It was really cool to see where Mary Queen of Scots spent so much time and where the current royal family hangs out when they’re in town. I also really loved the ruins of Holyrood Abbey. Mom, Dad, and I Ubered back to the flat.

Abbey ruins at Holyrood House

Jac texted us and said he had met some friends at the Frankenstein bar who had taken him to the end of the march for Scottish independence and that we should go ahead and eat without him. We went to a kebab shop and each order came with SO MUCH food. It was delicious though. Mom walked back to the flat while dad and I walked on to Tesco to see if they had ziploc bags and a cooler bag. They had the ziplocs, but not the cooler bag. We came home and hung out for a while and eventually Jac got home. Mom took a shower while Dad and I went over some of the maps for tomorrow. I love Edinburgh and I’m so happy we got to come here, but I am also so excited to see the Isle of Skye!!!

Adventure

Day Three: Edinburgh (October 4)

This morning, my alarm didn’t wake me up. Oops! Dad and I went to have breakfast with someone who used to be one of his swimmers at The Elephant House for breakfast. Mom met us a little later and shared my breakfast with me. After that, Kendall took us to the Scottish National Museum and showed us some really cool Viking artifacts!

Breakfast at The Elephant House

Even though we went our separate ways, we met Jac at Pret a Manger for some lunch. Everyone seemed pleased with how inexpensive and tasty it was. We caught an Uber out to Leith, where the whole family saw the Royal Yacht Britannia and Jac saw Pierce Brosnan walking to the car park outside! My favorite part of the yacht was probably the state dining room. So many famous people have walked through those doors!

The state dining room on the Royal Yacht Britannia

We ubered from Leith to Calton Hill, where we made a short climb before enjoying some incredible views of Edinburgh. Then we walked back towards our flat and I popped into a shop to buy the things to made a grilled cheese. As a family, we stopped to eat at City Cafe. The food was pretty good, but the service was terrible. I just had some French fries, anticipating my grilled cheese, but I was so full after the French fries and exhausted from all the walking that when we got home at 6:30, I just wanted to rest. I fell asleep around 7:30 or 8 but woke up at 10:40 because I needed to use the bathroom and eat something.