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!
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!
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.
I woke up at 6AM today after falling asleep around 6:30 or 7 last night. I picked up my things and went and got Mom and Dad from their room to go to Costa to get coffee/tea and breakfast. I had a coke and a lemon muffin that was delightful. It had some lemon curd in it. At about 7:30, we all walked to the train station, which was very conveniently located right next to our hotel. We boarded the train, stowed our luggage, and found our seats. The train departed at 7:55 and we were stunned by the beauty of the landscape around us. A woman with a trolly of tea, coffee, snacks, and sweets came by. I got a Yorkshire tea and some shortbread and Jac got some coffee. Then Jac went to find the buffet bar on the train while Mom, Dad, and I enjoyed the scenery.
We arrived safely in Edinburgh, got our luggage to the shop the airBnB owner has to store, and went to Eteaket for afternoon tea! It was delightful.
We walked back to the airBnB and unloaded before walking around Edinburgh, stopping at a grocery for some things, and going to dinner at The Elephant House. We were all pretty exhausted, so we went to bed early.
Our flight was a little late boarding and a little late departing, but we made it to the airport and got through security with plenty of time to spare.
This has probably been the most turbulent flight I’ve ever been on. I can’t remember a more bumpy ride on any of my flights.
In spite of the Ativan and Ambien that I took and the capability of using my CPAP machine, I couldn’t fall asleep as people were wandering the aisles bumping into me and talking and making noise even after the cabin crew turned the lights down. It’s only 10:43 EST, but in 2 hrs and 25 minutes, we will be landing in Amsterdam at about 7AM local time.
Mom has some type of weird pain in her ear that doesn’t seem to be going away no matter what we throw at it; but Dad, Jac, and I are doing alright. I imagine I’ll be pretty cranky our first day in Inverness from lack of sleep, but that’s probably true of all of us. I’m grateful that we weren’t seated near any small children or infants.
We will have a four hour and forty minute layover in Amsterdam, but that’s really not enough time to leave the airport since we are fairly certain we have to go through customs as it’s our entry point into the EU.
Update: We didn’t have to go through customs in Amsterdam. We probably could have risked leaving the airport. We have been waiting here for almost four hours. Jac may have slept for about an hour and a half on the flight from DC, but none of the rest of us got any sleep. We will arrive in Inverness in a little over two hours, where we can drop our luggage off at the hotel and explore the city a bit. Mom and Dad are grateful they don’t have to immediately get on a train for three more hours to go straight to Edinburgh, and I’m honesty ok with relaxing a bit tonight since I’m running on fumes, caffeine, and stimulants (prescribed to me!) at the moment.
We got to Inverness, dropped off our luggage, and went exploring! I went to the Victorian Arcade while Jac and Mom did some shopping and Dad walked down the street. I went to Milk Bar and had a salted caramel milkshake and Dad met me there. We all went back to the hotel, checked in, then went out walking. We are walked down to the River Ness and saw Hootenanny then crossed the bridge and walked down the River farther.
We ended up eating dinner at The Filling Station, which has American food, because we wanted to eat somewhere close to the hotel. I had a chicken sandwich, Dad and Mom had burgers, and Jac had fish and chips. We went back to the Royal Highland Hotel where we were staying, Mom and Dad went to their room and Jac and I went to our room, I took a shower, and we all crashed after having been awake for more than 24 hours.
Recently, Bill Maher said some incredibly inflammatory things about fat people. He asserted that “the problem with our healthcare system is that Americans eat shit and too much of it.” He stated, based on this OPINION PIECE in the New York Times , that “poor diet is the leading cause of mortality in the United States.” The article, which contains gems equating fatness with disease such as “Three in four adults are overweight or obese. More Americans are sick, in other words, than are healthy,” is misleading at best.
The study that this opinion piece cites actually says “Specific diseases and risk factors, such as drug use disorders, high BMI, poor diet, high fasting plasma glucose level, and alcohol use disorders are increasing and warrant increased attention.” It further states that,” Ischemic heart disease (IHD); cancer of the trachea, bronchus, and lung; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; Alzheimer disease and other dementias; and cancer of the colon and rectum were the 5 leading causes of death.” While “obesity”and overeating are risk factors for Ischemic heart disease, so are things like:
amyloidosis, a condition in which abnormal proteins build up in your tissues and organs, including blood vessels
history of smoking tobacco
alcohol or drug abuse
Rather than examine the complexities of the information presented in the study, Bill Maher decided to lash out at an already marginalized, ridiculed, and shamed population. “But why do people have so many pre-existing conditions? Being fat isn’t a birth defect. Nobody comes out of the womb needing to buy two seats on the airplane.” He goes on. “Everyone knows “obesity” is linked to terrible conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and virginity.”
The links between being fat, diabetes, and heart disease are there, but are not well understood and don’t prove which causes which. “Excess weight is an established risk factor for type 2 diabetes, yet most obese individuals do not develop type 2 diabetes. Recent studies have identified “links” between obesity and type 2 diabetes involving proinflammatory cytokines (tumor necrosis factor and interleukin-6), insulin resistance, deranged fatty acid metabolism, and cellular processes such as mitochondrial dysfunction and endoplasmic reticulum stress. These interactions are complex, with the relative importance of each unclearly defined.” Not all patients who are fat develop Type 2 Diabetes. Not all people who develop Type 2 Diabetes are fat.
Maher goes on. “There’s literally nothing being overweight does not make worse.” He cites things like eyesight, pain, memory, fatigue, depression, and a weakened immune system without actually offering evidence to support any of these claims. “We scream at congress to find a way to pay for our medical bills but it wouldn’t be nearly the issue it is if people just didn’t eat like assholes who are killing not only themselves but the planet.” He says a lot of other really inaccurate and inflammatory things, but I’d rather get down to the nitty gritty of why this matters.
Fat Shaming DOESN’T work. According to a 2014 study from the University College London, “Our results show that weight discrimination does not encourage weight loss, and suggest that it may even exacerbate weight gain,” the study’s lead author, Sarah Jackson, said in a statement. “Previous studies have found that people who experience discrimination report comfort eating. Stress responses to discrimination can increase appetite, particularly for unhealthy, energy-dense food.”
Health At Every Size is an approach that every doctor should be familiar with. I’m very lucky. I have excellent doctors who actually listen to me, evaluate me, and work hard to accurately diagnose me. There are people my size and larger who are not so lucky. There are women who have been told their pain would resolve if they lost weight who actually had undiagnosed cancer. Health At Every Size posits that the war on obesity has been lost and that, rather than shaming people for something that is very difficult if not impossible to sustainably change, doctors should address their own fatphobia and anti-fat bias when it comes to how they practice medicine.
Diets don’t work. Here are some good places to start if you don’t believe me or if you just want to do more research on your own:
James Corden’s video is a good start, but still has some problems. “We know that being overweight isn’t good for us, and I’ve struggled my entire life trying to manage my weight and I suck at it… I’ve basically been on and off of diets as long as I can remember and, well, this is how it’s going.”
I’m not going to get into it too much on this post, but Intentional Weight Loss is inherently fatphobic. From Fierce Fattie, “The fat acceptance movement was created so the fat bodies were no longer erased and marginalized and discriminated against. By intentionally losing weight, you are erasing a fat body if you have a fat body, and you are buying into the rhetoric that being thinner means that you are more worthy, more desirable, and a lot of people say, “Well, I’m losing weight to become healthy.” You are also buying into that rhetoric that being thinner means that you are a healthier person, which is not based in science. “
In the words of James Corden, “Fat shaming is just bullying….and bullying only makes the problem worse.”
Want to know more? Virgie Tovar is a great place to start. She has this excellent Tedx Talk:
255. That’s the number of mass shootings we have seen in America this year as of six days ago. Some organizations define a mass shooting as a shooting event where four or more people are killed. According to Gun Violence Archives, there have been 9,049 gun deaths this year alone. I know that it feels hopeless because I have felt hopeless about this issue. My hope is that generations to come will be surprised and appalled by these numbers because by then, hopefully, our government will have stepped in to do something.
I went to Washington, D.C. in May to lobby with Amnesty International for Lobby Day and one of the issues we lobbied on was universal background checks (H.R. 8- The Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019). The legislative coordinators for my representatives (all Republican) were, unsurprisingly, not supportive. One of them mistakenly believed that this bill would somehow take away guns he already had. That’s not what this bill would do. Federal law already requires licensed dealers to conduct background checks. H.R. 8 would require unlicensed gun sellers to utilize this same system by requiring them to sell or transfer firearms only through licensed dealers.
Depending on how the question was asked in different polls, between 84-94% of registered voters support universal background checks for firearm purchases, so why hasn’t this been implemented yet? The short answer is the NRA. My two senators, specifically (Burr and Tillis), have received more money from the NRA than almost any others, with the NRA spending almost $7 million on Burr and $4.5 million on Tillis. The House passed H.R. 8 about five months ago, but Mitch McConnell, who has received $1.26 million from the NRA, has elected not to bring H.R. 8 up for a vote in the Senate.
I know this post will not be popular with some people, but the reality is that gun violence has reached epidemic proportions in the USA and we have to do something about it. Just this week, Amnesty International issued a travel advisory for the USA because of how pervasive gun violence is here. Some people argue that requiring background checks won’t prevent all gun violence- and they aren’t wrong- but shouldn’t we at least try to reduce gun violence in any way we can? Isn’t any reduction in gun violence an improvement?
The other piece that I wanted to address is the frankly astonishing number of people blaming mass shootings on mental health. This week, Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York advocated making a database of people with mental health problems. There are SO MANY problems with that, starting with the fact that it would have virtually no effect on gun violence. Between 95-97% of violent crimes are carried out by people who do NOT have serious mental illnesses. Only 3%–5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness. People with mental illnesses are TEN (10!) times more likely to be VICTIMS of violent crime than our neurotypical friends and family members do. These shooters have many things in common- their belief in White Supremacy, their hatred of women, their fear of people who are different from them, a history of violence (particularly against women) but MENTAL ILLNESS IS NOT ONE OF THOSE THINGS.
You may be thinking, “ok, that all makes sense, but realistically, what can I do?” Here are some actionable items:
Call Mitch McConnell and urge him to hold a vote on H.R.8- (202) 224-2541 You can say “Hi, my name is ______________ and I want to tell Senator McConnell that he needs to hold a vote on AND support H.R. 8.” Call your representatives and let them know you support H.R. 8- If you are in North Carolina, they are Tom Tillis ((919) 856-4630) and Richard Burr ((828) 350-2437). You can say, “Hello, my name is __________ and I am a constituent from __________, North Carolina. I’m urging the senator to support H.R. 8, The Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019.” If you have personal experience with gun violence, tell them about it. Personal stories make things more real to legislators.
Support Moms Demand Action, a nonpartisan group working to end gun violence. According to their website, “Moms Demand Action is a grassroots movement of Americans fighting for public safety measures that can protect people from gun violence. We pass stronger gun laws and work to close the loopholes that jeopardize the safety of our families. We also work in our own communities and with business leaders to encourage a culture of responsible gun ownership. We know that gun violence is preventable, and we’re committed to doing what it takes to keep families safe.” Visit this link to find a chapter near you. I know the Asheville branch meets on the first Monday of each month at The Block Off Biltmore at 6pm.
If you’re exhausted after reading this and after watching the news this week, I feel you. I’m also exhausted and disheartened and occasionally feel hopeless. In the words of Glennon Doyle, “we can do hard things.” We can’t only contact our representatives following horrifying mass shootings. We have to tell them year round that we want an end to gun violence.
Trigger/Content Warning: Mention of past suicidal thoughts.
Today (March 30, 2019) is World Bipolar Day. Tomorrow (March 31, 2019) I turn 30. These two things may not seem to be particularly related at first glance, but having World Bipolar Day fall the day before my birthday is incredibly meaningful to me. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 2013, but my struggles with mental health started way back when I was 13. While every birthday is cause for celebration, there were so many times throughout my life that I thought I’d never make it to thirty, so this birthday feels really special to me. There have been many times in my life when I’ve been incredibly depressed and considered suicide. Because of this, I was certain I would never make it to 30.
Today, on World Bipolar Day, I want to reduce some of the stigma associated with Bipolar Disorder. I want to be honest about the fact that I’ve experienced pretty much all of the symptoms classically associated with mania and depression. You know someone who has spent money recklessly, hallucinated, been delusional, and experienced psychosis. You know someone who has been so depressed that I’ve considered ending my life rather than go on in pain. You know someone who experiences mixed episodes, which means I experience all of the heightened energy associated with mania while having extremely negative and harmful thoughts associated with depression at the same time. You know someone who has Bipolar Disorder and, honestly, I’m not so different from you.
I have good days and bad days. Since last May, I’m thankful to report they have been mostly good days. But over the course of the past five and a half years, there have been many days where I could barely get out of bed or where I couldn’t sleep at all. Conversely, my good days look pretty normal. I smile and laugh and hang out with my friends. I read. I play with my dog. I eat. I drink tea. I write. I plan for the future. I have Bipolar Disorder, but that doesn’t mean that I’m violent as is so often stigmatized. People with mental illness are more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators. I have Bipolar Disorder, but I’m still a daughter, a sister, a cousin, a niece, a friend, and a dog mom.
I have Bipolar Disorder and I have struggled with depression and anxiety for 17 years, but tomorrow I will turn 30. I have made it 17 years when there were times I thought I’d never make it for another single day. I’m not usually that into birthdays, but I’m definitely into this one. Tomorrow, I will turn 30 and that by itself is such an accomplishment for me.
This is a seven part series. A new part will be released every Wednesday until all 7 are out.
Disclaimer: As some of you may know, I took a Memoir Writing class in 2017. For that class, I wrote a lengthy (22 page) story about my first time going inpatient in a mental health facility back in May of 2015. I utilized a “journal” or sorts that I kept while in the hospital. It was really just a yellow legal pad with notes scribbled all over it each day. I was hesitant to share it here because it’s very frank and may contain details of thoughts I had that some people may find disturbing, but I also feel it’s an important look at what being in a mixed episode can feel like. In a mixed episode, you experience symptoms of both mania and depression. So you may have a ton of energy and engage in risk taking behaviors but your self talk may be incredibly negative and scary. At any rate, I’m now going to share that story with you weekly in several parts. I’m not sure how many parts yet, but I don’t want to make each post so long that no one wants to read it. Some parts of this story contain strong language not suitable for children. I know some of the stuff I have written and write in this part are really off the wall and bizarre, but they are the honest thoughts that I had at the time.
It’s about 12:25AM so it’s technically June 1st now and I’m still pretty wide-awake. Last night the meds worked so well together, but I was also taking double the dosage of Latuda at the time. I would really love to be sleepy and be able to fall asleep easily. My head hurts a bit, too. I wonder if I’m getting a migraine on top of everything else. I bet taking 2 Naratriptans would help me fall asleep, but that would be a super off label use for those. I wonder if every book ever written is really just an autobiography or a biography. I keep trying to come up with ideas for my books but it really isn’t working, even though I’m manic. My best ideas for them are at least somewhat based in reality or in someone’s perception of reality. Monica said she would read these journals as a book. Changing all of the names would be a giant pain in the ass, but maybe there could be a journal compilation of all of my mental health stuff one day when I’m older.
I’m pretty even keeled at the moment, but I did take a whole bunch of medicine two and a half hours ago. I love that this is a women only unit, unlike anywhere else in the area. I really miss River Dog and I wish I could see her. I can’t wait until I get back home to her for an extended period (after Destin, hopefully). I really hope I can get into the IOP when I get back it town. It really helped at Mission last time and I bet Park Ridge is even better. I was so very worried about going inpatient and it has largely been a truly positive experience. I really wish I had Google here so I could look up some quotes. I’d like to make a quote collage or quote book. It really meant a lot to me when Jac said he thought it was courageous to come here.
I’m supposed to wait until 1AM to check back about meds. I really fucking wish I was sleeping because I really want to go home Friday and go to the beach on Saturday. Today will be my fifth full day here and I was told 5-7 days but I’m still awake right now so that isn’t looking too promising. I don’t know whether or not I should lie to the doctor and say I’m feeling better than I really am. I can always do inpatient again when I get home if I need to. It’s after 1:10AM and I’m still not tired. The nurses Kaylee and Zoe gave me 1mg of Ativan, but I take that during the day and it barely affects me. I wish I could Google Seroquel to see what all the side effects are to see if that’s a viable candidate. The doctor was mentioning Depakote as the gold standard for people with mixed episodes.
I’m currently hallucinating the instrumental soundtrack for Titanic but I don’t want to tell the nurses because I want to go to the beach so badly on Saturday. I’m most bummed because Mom and Dad won’t go to Destin without me and I would feel really guilty if they missed seeing everyone and a whole week at the beach. Nurse Kaylee said that if I’m still awake by 3, she will go ahead and take my vitals. I don’t want to miss any groups or anything, but the nurses will start waking us up in a little over 4 hours for vitals and 4 hours of sleep to me is basically 2 hours of sleep to anyone else. I really wish I could call Mom right now and ask her what to do. I’m going to have to make sure it’s in all my goals and everything that I want to be discharged on Friday. Maybe the P.A. I see tomorrow will be more sympathetic. The hallucination has stopped now. It lasted for probably 20 minutes or so. Maybe if I stay up all night tonight and all day today, I’ll sleep really well tomorrow night. Between 1:30-4PM are the only things I really care about tomorrow anyway. Ugh this not being able to sleep is so annoying. And despite what she said, I doubt Monica or anyone else would be interested in reading this drivel. I think I’ll try reading my book or lying down or something that may be more conducive to falling asleep. This really sucks.
I finally fell asleep sometime after 2. I saw the P.A. named Jessica and the only change she made was to increase my Ambien to 10mg. She said the goal is for me to leave by Friday. I got to go on a walk with Samantha, Evelyn, and Tia. Katie said someone named Teri called while I was out but I can’t figure out who on Earth that is because my therapist, Teri, is on vacation this week. I also spoke to the social worker today. She liked my WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) and discharge plan. She said the treatment team met today and decided the goal is for me to leave on Friday.
Elizabeth freaked out and slammed the phone and the door and threw her chair earlier. She was refusing meds and is very paranoid. They told her she could take the pills or they would give her a shot of her Geodon. Sometimes I really feel like I belong here and sometimes I feel like I’m much better off than most of the people in here. The worst is when Evelyn says crazy things that make perfect sense. I called Sheridan today and talked to her. I would like a nap but we have a group where we will learn about nutrition in a few minutes and I really want to be able to fall asleep tonight.
Tiffany called me, not Teri. This is sort of like the time that Katie hung up on my mom because I left the phone hanging for like ten seconds. She’s real sweet, but not the brightest crayon in the box. Although, sometimes I get the impression that she is smarter and more manipulative than she lets on. I’m exhausted. On some level, I think I should just let my body go to sleep whenever it wants to. On another, I’m not one hundred percent sure I’m capable of taking a nap and sleeping tonight. I think I’ll go ahead and read then take a shower before meds so I can go straight to bed after.
Jac called and I was woken up from a very brief and fitful nap to talk to him. He sounded really good. I’m excited to see him Saturday night. I’m so exhausted. I can’t wait to go to sleep tonight. I think I may finally be coming down. I took a shower and now I’m going to call Mom to ask her about shorts and a swimsuit. We are going to go get me the shorts and a swimsuit on Friday after I get out of here before we pick River up. I wish River could just come with us, but that doesn’t seem like something that can happen. I know I haven’t covered all of the goings on of the day or even the most quotable moments, but I desperately want to get a good night of sleep tonight.
P.S. Katie has a sore throat and if she gives me strep before my one real vacation this year, I will be murderous.
I’m feeling better today and I slept fairly well last night. I’ve noticed a pattern: many if not most of the people in here are very sick but think they are very well and don’t belong here, including me. I am irritable today and I’m getting over-stimulated fairly easily. I think I’ve dipped down into hypomania now. The P.A. said I can go home tomorrow, so I will get to go to Destin after all. I just had to take an Ativan because a lady in our group was talking about incest and even though I’m thankfully not a victim of incest, it was triggering and really upsetting to hear about. I will pack a whole bottle of Ativan for the beach trip, I think. Mom, Dad, and Tiffany are coming to visit today. I’m happy I will be seeing them. I think I’ll write less now that I’m no longer manic. I think I’ll take a nap soon. Elizabeth thinks the nurses are always talking about her and was rambling on about how they know about Ingles because they saw her Facebook. It made literally no sense at all. I understand now what the doctors and nurses mean about my level of insight and self-awareness. I think I’ll take a nap now. Just kidding, it’s ten minutes until lunch. I’ll eat my chicken fingers THEN I’ll take a nap.
I did nap briefly until a friend called and someone came and woke me up so I could take her call, then Mom, Dad, and Tiffany got here for the group. Mom and Dad left afterward to drop my prescriptions off at CVS but Tiffany stayed until visitation ended at 4. I’m so grateful to her for driving all the way out here and coming to visit me. I know the mental hospital makes her uncomfortable and she came anyway. She really is my best friend. I read a little bit then went to Relaxation Group with Samantha at 4:30 then dinner at 5. Afterwards, I had my blood pressure checked and Nurse Bethany gave me my Propranolol. She thanked me for being so nice, I thanked her for being so nice, then I apologized for all of my many questions. She said she would much rather have all the questions than cussing and people saying they hoped she would die. I said that was fair enough. I’m going to read until PM group/snack, then take a shower, then take meds, then go to sleep. Tomorrow, I go home. This place was so scary to me once, but now I see it for what it truly is, a place of rest and rehabilitation.
If you’re still here, thank you for reading all of my wild ranting and raving. Some people have told me it’s hard to tell when I’m manic and I think that’s because so much of it goes on inside my head and isn’t visible. I hope this doesn’t frighten you or change the way you feel about me, but I thought it was time you got a good look inside my head.