There are apparently a few things that need to be said before I get started.
1. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who reads my blog and is supportive of it. Numbers 2-4 do not apply to you.
2. Blog posts are not me “going on and on and on on Facebook.” A blog post is not the same thing as a Facebook post. You have to go out of your way to click a link to get to the full content of the blog post.
3. No one is holding your face to the screen and forcing you to read my blog posts, so please, if you don’t want to read them, the simplest solution is to just not read them.
4. Please don’t complain to my grandmother about my blog posts. See numbers 2 and 3. When you complain to her, that results in me getting lectured about posts I have written that I know help people because people have reached out and said so. It’s very frustrating to have someone invalidate one of the few things in my life that makes me feel like I have purpose. Please don’t enable that.
Now on to what I really want to talk about today.
“Vulnerability is the courage to show up and be seen when you have zero control of the outcome.” -Brené Brown
People often tell me how courageous and brave I am for the amount of vulnerability I show in writing about my mental illness, and I don’t quite know what to make of that or what to say to them aside from “thank you.” At first, I felt very courageous for writing about my struggles. When I wrote Coming Clean, I was terrified. I had no idea that so many people would react with so much poise, grace, support, and love. I was scared that people would be angry with me for lying about my diagnosis and that people would be uncomfortable with the amount that I shared, particularly when they learned that I had been hospitalized for mania, but you were all loving and supportive and absolutely brilliant and amazing. You showed me that I had the strength to show up and keep showing up and share my story with the people who make their way to this blog, people I interact with online, people I meet in real life, and even the news, http://www.themighty.com (who I have submitted two stories to), and a man from webmd.com who is considering doing a video series on Bipolar Disorder and interviewed me on the phone for about an hour last week.
I can’t tell you how many people I’ve made connections with in real life because of my willingness to explain why I have a psychiatric service dog. One time I was at a movie MeetUp and the movie was over and I was standing outside talking to one of the other girls from my group about our chemical imbalance issues and the fact that I am taking a memoir writing class and want to write a book about having Bipolar Disorder. An employee of the place we were at happened to be sitting nearby and she turned around and said something to the effect of, “I’m sorry, I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, but I just wanted to thank you for writing about that. I have Bipolar II and it’s so important for people to share their stories and I think you’re really brave. Thank you.” Now every time she is working we greet each other by name and share a smile. This is all possible because of all of you and your support and because I feel as though it’s my duty to help other people.
I don’t feel courageous, but I do feel a willingness to be vulnerable. I earned my B.S. in Psychology and my M.A.Ed. in School Counseling, volunteered at an orphanage in Kenya, and joined the Peace Corps. Those aren’t things you do unless helping people is important to you. There are limited ways that I can help people now. On days like today when all I want to do is stay in my room on my bed and hide from the world, the only way I can help others is by reaching out through my keyboard. My vulnerability is one of the very few things I have to offer to the world when I’m not doing well, which has been the case off and on for the past 6.5 months now. So I do what I can. I’m as honest as I feel comfortable being, which is pretty damn honest. I tell you when I’m having a bad day. I tell you when I’m having a good day. I try to explain what it’s like in my head in hopes that other people with my illnesses will feel a little less alone and others without my illnesses will feel a little more educated and empathetic.
The past couple of days have been rough. I messed up my medication on Saturday by taking my evening meds in the morning. Then I had to take a two hour nap (that felt like it only lasted a few seconds), then took my stimulant late, then couldn’t re-take my antipsychotic at night, then couldn’t fall asleep so I had to take extra Ambien. The result of all of this is that yesterday (and perhaps still today because I think it takes a couple of days to get back into your system properly), I haven’t had the correct dosage of antipsychotic in my system. I have felt low. I’m unsure if that’s all because of the medication or if it’s also because my family recently received some disheartening and very sad news about a family member’s battle with cancer. I’m going to go see her next weekend, but that also means that I will see a family member who is not always the most kind to me (or to other specific family members, for that matter). In the words of Anne Lamott, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” But in the words of Glennon Doyle Melton, “Write from scars, not open wounds,” so I’ll say nothing more on the matter at this time.
All of this is to say, I don’t feel particularly well and I want to be really open and honest about that. I’ve been at about a 6 or a 7 on my new scale, but yesterday I was probably at about a 4 and was really spacey all day and today I may be at around a 5. That, of course, is the scale where 0 is suicidally depressed and I need to go to the hospital and 10 is happy and stable. There will be a different scale for mania, but I haven’t experienced it in a while so I haven’t made that scale up yet. I feel sure I will feel better in a few days, or at the very least a few days after I get back home from being out of town.
To everyone who calls me courageous and brave for sharing my stories, thank you, but it is you who I should be thanking. You inspire me every day to keep going by encouraging me and letting me know that I’m really helping to make a difference.