Staying in the emergency room for a day and a half did nothing to ease my anxiety, not only about relinquishing control over my life but also admitting that I really need help. It allowed for a lot of contemplation, and a lot of worry. Going into the hospital last year really tested everything that I had inside me.
When I finally arrived – after an hour-long ride strapped in an ambulance – I was surrounded by an environment that I didn’t understand. My instincts went into overdrive, and I don’t think that my panic has ever been stronger. I sat there just thinking of how I could get out of there to go back and go through the mundane steps of my life. But there I was, and I had no choice but to look forward.
Something that people don’t tell you when you go into the hospital, even willingly, is that you don’t control when they deem you are ready to get out.
The activities with the strange people that I met made me feel extremely disassociated from reality. We worked on different therapy techniques and were allowed the freedom to practice fun activities like drawing, or writing. The greatest gift that was bestowed upon me was a notebook so that I could start distracting myself from my surrounding.
I will say that the best part of being there was sharing my experiences and learning from the experiences of others. There was a wide array of different people there, all with their own baggage. While at first, I was stand-offish to the experience and the people, I started to open up in group, and started sharing during our free time.
After two days I started to feel the fog lift. The seriousness of what I had been through started to seep in, and my brain started thinking of everything I needed to do once I got home. I spent my time there learning about myself with others and working on my first book. I hand-wrote 100 pages, or more, and it was so therapeutic.
When I finally got the okay to go home, my whole body buzzed with excitement. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to start my life once I got out, but I think that getting acclimated to my meds and taking a pause from the every day life that pushed me over the edge got me to a turning point in my recovery.
Close your tired eyes, just for a while
Grasp the slipping hand, it’s passing by
No one will understand what you’ve been through, until tonight
Truth ripping through the soul
You can feel some more
It’s time, goodbye
Who are they to condescend the dreams that were dreamt in bed one night.
There is no more to transcend.
There is nothing left.
No one to fight.
Give in to the warmth at hand.
Then you’ll understand, you have the right.
Look up, the future is here.
It’s not what you feared.
Why say goodbye?
Turning time will only tell
Happiness or burning hell
It will be alright.
Being diagnosed bipolar was something that I really didn’t expect, and totally took me by surprise. I didn’t think of myself as someone who was out of control, and never really thought that there was something in my brain working against me. But I guess that’s how it can work right?
The fact that I saw other’s around me have unsuccessful relationships with doctors and attempts with medications in terms of mental illnesses, on top of the stigma I already had in my mind that there just couldn’t be something that wrong with me, I had a difficult time accepting this conclusion.
On top of that, I had already jumped head first into treatment with the psychiatrist that my doctor had referred me to – and here was I was with a conclusion that I hadn’t expected and wasn’t all that thrilled about. I had two options. I could tell the doctor to fuck off, that there was no way her diagnosis was accurate. Or, I could follow through with the plan that I had set myself on to see where it would take me.
I guess the thought that really pushed me towards getting help was the realization that I had been going through my life with no assistance thus far, and I was still feeling so terrible every day, and things were still falling apart. Seeking medical help seemed to be the one avenue that I hadn’t tried out, and it honestly made sense for me to give it a try. So, I gritted my teeth, and went forward with it.
Something that every medical professional will warn you about, or should warn you about, is that a lot of medications meant to treat depression, or the antipsychotic medicine they can prescribe you to treat bipolar disorder, can make your sense of depression or hopelessness worse before it actually does its job and makes you feel better. Oh, and my favorite, it can make you more suicidal. Appropriate, right?
It was probably a week or so into the new medication when my mind snapped. I had come home from work for two nights straight and sat with a kitchen knife staring at my arm, just thinking about how easy it would be to get it over with. There was still a small voice breaking through telling me how stupid that was, though.
It was the night that I finally cut into my arm that I called my mom and told her that I needed to go to the hospital because I couldn’t trust myself while I was getting acclimated to this new medication. I was lucky enough to not do any damage; the best way that I can explain it is that I cut into my arm to try and feel something. And, as faint as it was, the alarm went off in the back of my mind to reach out for help. I am lucky that I did so. It was then that I would commit myself into the hospital for a little under a week, and give myself a chance to get used to the medication as well as press pause on everything that was causing my mind undue stress.
It’s not too hard to research some information on a topic of my own
But I will ask you one last time
Why are you so bold?
Walking through an empty hall
Attempting to speak to you about a faith I have never truly held
Do not mock my heart for refuge in my prison-like cell
You would like alone time as well
If you don’t, well you’re a liar.
I will be hasty and call you so because I can
It is as simple as that.
My eyes are swollen and puffy and sad
So how difficult is it to give me the cool clear drops to stop the poison from spreading?
I am sure you are not prepared to meet my demands
Say goodnight and kiss my hair
And be okay with an intermission
You will have to sit still and be quiet for now.
While I suffer through inner turmoil
Thank you for connecting me together
With the silvery smoke
That is currently escaping your world
Just hold my hand
And give me the wave
And allow me to flow all night with you.
Time to fast forward a bit so I can give you guys a picture of what I have been living with all these years, and so you can see the culmination of almost ten years of up-and-down chaos come to a stop. All I can say is that now, looking back on everything and understanding myself and the circumstances, I can make a more concerted effort to be a better, more appreciative version of myself than before. That’s how I want to live and have been trying to push to live my life, in the past year and a half or so.
Back in 2016, I was in the throws of a deep depression. Well, correction, it was more of an up-and-down rollercoaster. This was a pattern I was familiar with, or I guess that the people closest to me were familiar with. Since my vision was so clouded by the thoughts that my mind convinced me were real and important, I thought that I was a self-realized person. And, in comparison to a lot of cases, I was. Unfortunately, my ability to convince myself that I was smart enough to know everything that was going on and keep an eye on it myself had kept me away from doctor’s and away from anyone who could have potentially helped me any sooner.
Anyways, the erratic behavior that my family and friends had seemingly grown accustomed to had started to resurface in a volatile manner. I chopped my hair even shorter. I dyed it blonde…again. Then it was blue. Then, it was purple. I was chain smoking. I spent a couple nights drinking by myself. I started spending money, recklessly. These were all just external examples of the way I was trying to control my body because I felt like everything was spinning out of control.
I spent everyday on the up-up-up to get through work. Logistics is a tough industry and requires a lot of energy and attention to detail to get through it. I was able to throw energy into it to get through the day. For the most part, the hysteria or the complete empty feelings that gnawed at my insides were kept at bay while I was at work and had to focus on these tasks.
But as soon as I left, the distraction was gone, and the feelings settled in. And I was in for a long night. I had finally sought out the help from my general doctor to start getting to the bottom of whatever was going on with me. I figured it was a minor case of depression, perhaps with a side of anxiety. I figured that’s all it could be, and I knew so many other people who were affected with variations of the same.
The process with medication started off slow, but I was open-minded to it. You’ll have to keep in mind that I had already spent ten years neglecting that anything was wrong. By this time, I had reached out for help, I was ready to accept what they had to offer.
So – as I said, the process started off slow with the medication specifically geared towards depression and anxiety. It took weeks of testing out different medicines and their side effects, and then moving over to a psychiatrist to start narrowing down that it wasn’t just depression and anxiety, there was something else at work.
That it haunts me to know I cannot move forth
And to move the vase of flowers
To the closet from the window
They’re so perfect the iridescent green holds onto the water droplets as a struggle.
Well I won’t stop it, just infringe it.
So, don’t mock my hair, which is fried from
Colors and burnt on the ends
For an artificial high.
Haha – I don’t think so.
Not another happy ending when I am
Standing in the cold, smoking a cigarette,
From the cheapest brand I don’t enjoy
Give me your oversized sweater and flee
I won’t stop you
I merely seek warmth and comfort
And snowy kisses on a mountain
When we occupy your dreams
They will transcend into reality
Until we’re actually there with the manmade
Snow fluttering all around us
And we drink our cocoa
At separate, stringent tables
Do not forget to pray for those
Who do not seem fortunate enough
To experience such a dream like reality.
Who knew we were so lucky to hold our own
But please do not untie my dress
I quite like it hanging there from my assets from my mother.
So just allow it to adorn me for now.
The weekend is almost over anyways
So, we’ll be heading back to mundane
Soon if there are no obstacles
And no more forks in the road.
I can’t begin to grasp your fingers
Too large for mine
Small dainty fingers
You don’t care, you cover me up
And hold me together just like the glue
You used to fix my elephant
When you were my hero and I was upset
The clothes are too big, too baggy to hide my new-found beauty
It is tiny and cold and pale and yours
You will wrap me up in your arms
Because it’s still too cold for one as frail as me.
Your arms are too big
So, I’ll be content to swim in your embrace as long as it’s you.
This feeling of concern about self-control is bleeding through the cracks;
I hold onto one single breath
I can’t let go because it hurts; and the whole thing is twisted.
A topsy-turvy occurrence of confusing circumstances controlling the night around being
Keep in touch with your soul
Fragmented shards flying through
Transcending all that is known
In and out the grains of fabric
That clothe the reality that surrounds the iridescent particles of color that put together my body
And it frames my world with swirly rips from my heart.
Freak out the crazy, push it to the back, no longer alone.
Just keep me alive.
Everyone’s life; grains of sand and clay
Broken pieces through the cracks.
Might as well not let them slip while you still can.
It’s all a little bit more entertaining when you place it in that order.
So, lock away the box from my dreams in your nook.
Do me the favor and never let me see them again.
Alcohol was easily defined for me as a lubricant for my social awkwardness. It started right after I graduated from high school and was forced out of my comfort zone. As I already reminisced, my freshman year found me at Eureka College. It was only a 45-minute drive from home, and with my car on campus with me I had the luxury of escaping back home. This allowed me to only approach the first year to my college experience with a ten-foot-pole.
I had a hard time connecting to people. For the first time, I was in different settings, trying different things and meeting new people. After growing up in the same town that I felt safe and comfortable, I was suddenly hit with crippling anxiety. I couldn’t just talk to new people. I couldn’t be the outgoing, fun-loving person I thought I was. Any party at school I attended, or any time I ate lunch in the cafeteria, it was like my entire body was an exposed nerve.
The comfort of alcohol was like an answer to my prayers. It literally gave proof to the term “liquid courage.” Suddenly, I was able to talk openly with people. Small talk was no longer something that left me frozen with fear.
It brought on something new that I wasn’t used to either. Most of my life, I was never the girl that stood out. I was never exactly the center of attention at parties – or most venues, for that matter. And then, thanks to alcohol, all of that changed. Laugh out loud memories, connecting with new friends and getting hit on by guys that I would have never thought.
At the time, it was fulfilling because I thought these were the types of memories I should be making. I thought that if I spent too much time alone, or being anti-social, that I was doing something wrong. And my anxiety did nothing to help with my feelings of isolation from others my age. I would spend time reading, writing or watching T.V. and wondering if I was doing enough to cultivate my social life. It was this internal struggle and my desire to fit in and – yes, I will admit it – desire for attention that pushed me even farther into the party scene.
One thing to note is that partying is not an uncommon theme from my hometown, so between my time at school and driving home to visit new groups of friends, I was pushing my own limits of what I was comfortable with on all fronts. My alcohol intake began to grow every night I drank, and then the number of nights I drank became more often each week. And so far into my experiences drinking, other than a few…. adventures I decided to go on, I was just having some harmless, young fun.
It began as harmless fun, but I clung to alcohol has the fun in my life and the only method of entertainment. By the time I got to NIU for my second year, it was a crutch that I leaned on heavily. I was able to make friends, but my focus was obviously not on my studies as I fell deeper into the bottle.
When I walked in the room and eyes fluttered my way,
And my ears turned red,
I remember today,
How it felt to feel naked and be scared of the world.
In a place long ago, before I had grown in
I place my finger on the memory that bleeds so badly.
It gushes and gushes with remembrance I no longer wish to hold
Even though I know I have stored it away,
but not for long.
I will use it against you
when you threaten those things,
When you threaten me for death and even for living.
That doesn’t scare me, don’t be so bullheaded.
I may take a lot of things and place them under my hat,
Even though it is falling apart.
So what I ask is this: What is the idea?
When I am all huddled and frightened of things
That happened in dreams, and places that don’t touch me.
What is it then that holds onto my wrist and measures my size?
Only because that’s what I like to do,
You can find it queer but at least I’m not the one who thinks highly of himself.
I take a needle to my eye and draw within it the thread
That I have sewn and cared for and created for so long.
I tie it in a knot around the things I have seen,
Those are held in a place in the dark corners of being.
Through the tunnel out of hazel that you didn’t see coming
is when you’ll be slapped in the face
for questioning the things that you have.
Like the pretty questions of who is sleeping there
and how can I get away with such things.
Well, do not ponder for long on the ideas
I have held in a pocket in my pants that fit all too tightly.
Isn’t that what you wanted?
A simple reprieve…
How about the book written about the secrets of you and me?
Thank me now for not being a blabbermouth
And respect the fact that I hide in your lies;
behind the new girlfriends but before the story of your drinking.
Keep it all in order, and it will all be okay.
A part of me still feels like the 18-year-old girl who had the world laid at her feet, so many opportunities to choose from. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have ended up in a good spot and have finally found myself in a place where I am extremely happy. I also don’t believe in regrets — I have lived my life. I am chock full of experiences – some good, a lot of bad.
I suppose when I was 18, and I was granted the full liberty to go and do whatever I wanted, the overwhelming urge to go-go-go became a visceral need. Luckily, I was young, and surrounded by other young people growing up in a town with little entertainment to offer.
Pressure was mounting because of senior year, and the pinnacle of my life’s work – getting into a good college and making my family proud – was finally on the horizon. Never in my life did I think that I would start shrinking away from the challenge.
We were climbing in my two-door cavalier ten people at a time to go on all-night adventures, fueled by crappy Denny’s coffee and cigarettes. Hiking trips in the bright rays of the sunrise, down by the river front or up under the bridge to overlook the highway. Only wearing light hoodies, worn down moccasin shoes and our hair too disheveled for our own good – because at the time, that was what looked good, you know.
We were having too much fun running amuck to do any real damage, but there wasn’t much focus on my future or concern about anything past the night ahead. And while that worked for the time being, when it finally came time to pick a college, I used my lame relationship that would only last about a month longer as an excuse to pick a college close to the area. I even tried insisting on living at home during this time.
Lucky for me, my mom pushed me out of my comfort zone and even though I ended up at a nearby college, I did end up living in the dormitory there. It was my first college experience, but it was mine.
I know that the people in my life who maybe didn’t understand those late-night adventures with my friends during those adolescent years saw this time as “the turning point” for me. This is when I turned from the girl who barreled straight-ahead towards her future with no fear to someone who proceeded with caution, and clung to the familiar.
My dream was to always be a writer, and while I was out there living my life, and I was still writing, some might say that I wasn’t as focused as I needed to be. Some could argue that these experiences helped form me into a more well-rounded person. Experiences can help fill in some gaps, and move a person forward.
This was a time where everything was exciting to me. I started off every day feeling fabulous. I had a couple good friends who would ride-along with me, encouraging my whirlwind ideas and enjoying the late nights, heavy eyes and couch surfing.
When my high school graduation came and went, so did any sense of responsibility. Starting the night of my graduation, drinking copious amounts of liquor became my famous past time. I had made some new friends who would have everyone over to drink at their apartment regularly. This began a whole new phase for me, and if the people in my life thought I had hit a turning point before….they hadn’t seen anything yet.
It’s a sad truth that through our lives, as we construct the building blocks of memories in an ever-changing landscape, that the scenery starts to change. We don’t expect for these foundations to slowly fade away; until one day they are no more than wisps of nothing.
I miss the beach off the gravel track, with the morbid nickname. The river water would do its delicate dance, lapping at the edges of the world as our footsteps found their way.
I miss the tunnel that never ends. In the darkness, when we all grab hands and run until our lungs could burst with the urgency of it all; and the echoes fly around like birds in the sky.
I miss the hidden field, where cars and bikes and civilization couldn’t reach. The warm sun beating down on the soft grass or lying back on the blanket to count the stars winking back at us like old friends.
I miss the skeleton houses on the lake, decrepit and old and filled with the lives of people before. Where we would climb over nature to snap the best photo shots and zoom in on these forgotten homes.
I miss the spot under the bridge, where the colors splashed across the canvas with purpose and meaning. And our fingertips turned blue from the paint, but it was ok because we were creating our own worlds.
I miss the ledge that overlooked the city most of all. Where I spent so many nights sleeping, and talking, and dreaming, and exploring, and fighting, and loving, and hoping. And while I knew the nooks and crannies of the city below, from up above I still felt the magic of possibility.
A difficult part of recovery that has been a pain point for me has been how to handle drinking – particularly in social situations. I – much like others who suffer with bipolar or other mental illness – spent many years turning to self-medication via alcohol.
Nights drinking with Manic-Rikki, however, were a very different experience from anything that someone who knows me now could imagine. On a good night, I would simply collect as many people together as I could, figure out a venue for us to hang out, and let the good times ensue. Sure…it led to some wicked hangovers, but that was no harm.
There were times more often than not that have become fuzzy around the edges – of the parts I can remember at all. Dangerous choices were made, I was carefree and way too wild. I trusted the wrong people, focused on unimportant things and checked out of my out life.
It’s hard for me to think about this, admit this, or sometimes even see this in my past as it was sometimes just a collection of three days…and then I would be okay for two months. But then two weeks I would go insane. A week of depression. Then claw my way out.
And over…and over…and over…
Once I moved back home from college, there was a good four or five months of struggle before I ended up pregnant. I was shocked awake, and was lucky enough to be drawn away from everything that was feeding the chaos in my head.
After the pregnancy, I was terrified of going back to the life I once lived. I was terrified of hitting rock bottom. I no longer knew the person that was back before, but I wasn’t sure who I was supposed to be. And while it was a slow slide…. I did eventually find myself back in turmoil, pouring myself into a bottle a night to tuck myself away from my problems and deal with the disappointment in myself and the loss I was feeling.
Interestingly enough, me getting a car and being hired for my first “grown up” job – in logistics – in Peoria gave me a reason to clean up my act. I was now a Monday-Friday worker, and I had a job that was somewhat challenging.
Life was exciting again!
Over the next few years, I went through phases of weekend partying, followed by months of sobriety. I couldn’t find the right mix, and would get myself so worked up that I felt the only way to have a social life was to jump back into the old one. Hell, sometimes I still feel like that.
It wasn’t until I moved out of my mother’s house, and was in a new city, with my new job that I started having to face this demon along with many others. My relationship to alcohol wasn’t one of those things that was clearly defined, or that was even harmful all the time, so it wasn’t even the star of the show for a long while. But eventually, like everything, it had to be addressed.
The parting water sweeps the skin
Churns angrily in the night
Melt away with me, the stars have shown their spite
The crowds yell out to us now
Calling for consummation on the drive.
Hold onto me then, I will lead you through the light.
The scales draw out the blood now
It’s almost time to drink
Trickle with the sweat snow, tell the brain not to think
Dilate your senses baby
We’re almost on the brink
Allow the darkness to swallow you
I am right here at your side
Hunt the gods in me babe
The only law we must abide
Do not allow your frame to slip away
Be afraid, hold onto me then, swallow your goddamn pride
Paint the sand tonight with your fingertips
Then desecrate the bride
Let’s leave our mark on the world honey
Let us go cause a riot
Run through trees and dive off cliffs
Perhaps we may take flight
Recognize yourself in me
You really ought to try
Hold onto me then, I will lead you through the fire
Salty tears of the lust run down my face
Figure out the plan for us before time slips away
Run into the streets with me, I will win the race
The belt tightens, deathly like
And we’re gone without a trace
Hold onto me then, I will lead you through the lace
Ring the bell of mercy baby
Cry out in the angst
Force your voice to be heard
So everyone may have a taste
The worst is yet to come for us
If we fail to move with haste
Hold onto me then, baby, I will lead you through the waste
Come on honey, let’s face the truth
As it crowds underneath your soul
Realize your lost to young, your dug into a hole
Twice around the wrist now baby
Go on and measure its size
Hope is all that we have left, are you ready for the surprise
Hold onto me then, baby, I will lead you through demise.
I can look back at my life in pieces, and see the rollercoaster that time has taken me on; the ups and downs throughout my adolescence and twenties that brought me to where I am today. It’s a difficult reflection for me, thinking about who I was in the past.
People tell you that after your 18th birthday, after your 21st birthday, after your 25th birthday, years will just start to slip away, and that time will disappear on you in a flash. All of these years are ingrained in my memory, to the best of their ability considering the circumstances – and my love of alcohol.
The thing that no one can prepare you for is how to handle and fix your life if you’re losing your mind. No one has a guide for you for how to ask for help, especially in cases that aren’t cut and dry. If you aren’t an addict, or a constant danger to yourself, then as an adult it is difficult for outside people, even your family, to know that everything, including your mind, could be crumbling around you.
Of course, I didn’t know any of this back then. I thought I was just a girl who liked to have just a little too much fun. When you’re in college, that’s seemingly acceptable, even when your grades suffer a little because of it. I didn’t realize then that alcohol and the constant partying was simply a form of self-medication, and a tool that my mind was using against me. And even though my loved ones were a little worried about the recklessness – what could they do?
I wish I knew then what I know now. It has been a little over a year since my diagnosis with bipolar disorder, and even though I still don’t fully understand it, I have studied it enough to trace its destructive path throughout the chaos of my life. The ups, downs and the plateaus have all started to come together and make sense; it’s as though I could paint my life as a self-portrait of how the disorder has affected my adult life thus far.
And, of course, it doesn’t stop there. There have also been long-time body issues such as body dysmorphia along with binge-eating and food restriction over the years, on top of an abuse of alcohol and other issues of excess. My body has spent years racked with guilt and anxiety over ideas that are either created in my head, or that are insignificant to begin with. My fear has allowed me to distance myself from friendships, ruin relationships and test my commitment to my family.
Today, I am managing my illness, and since I have begun the journey of recovery, my life has improved exponentially. I have been able to allow myself to experience life more socially, I have improved relationships with family members and friends, I am in the healthiest relationship I’ve ever been in, I am finally pursuing the last leg towards my bachelor’s degree, I am working towards body positivity and am making headway in my career.
And it’s been like this for a year now. Most of the time, I am taking small steps forward, but occasionally take giant steps back. I still feel anxious enough to want to stay home from work sometimes, or hide out from people and avoid conversations, but most of the time I’m at least able to push through the rough days – and at least my head is a lot clearer now. That’s all apart of recovery though, and part of the learning curve…give and take.
I try to paint pictures for you to try and understand
The kind of circumstances I am experiencing
My hair is no longer soft enough to run your fingers through.
Your hands are dirty and dry, and you must leave it to treat them another day.
Try and hold onto the hope that things will be on their way to getting better.
Let us dance together through a lonely night and hold onto the bottle just a little longer
Isn’t it disappointment to ride along a barren drive
Waiting to obtain an impossible high.
One thing that I know is that I don’t remember growing up and hating my body. When I say this, I mean all the way through adolescence and most of high school. Sure, there were spurts of time where I would start to feel self-conscious about something here or there, but I never thought about it.
First let me paint you a picture. Growing up, I wasn’t exactly the smallest girl on the playground, but I didn’t have too much baby fat either. My thighs, calves and butt had some…substance to them. I was a happy kid, however; shy but happy. In high school, I was never one to “flaunt my stuff,” but I never developed the body issues. At least not yet.
It wasn’t until later in my high school career, after a couple of devastating romantic blows and some back handed remarks from people close to me, the resolve that was held in my mind started to crumble around me.
Suddenly, the dark brown hair that fell to my shoulders, that I sometimes cut to fun shorter lengths was no longer cute – it needed to be red, or blonde…hell, even blue. I became obsessed with tanning; my pale, clear skin was no longer good enough. Never bothering with makeup before, I began heavily painting my eyes with black eyeliner and other colors. I even became so obsessed with my image that I started smoking.
But the biggest effect this shift had on me was the attention I paid to my weight. I was no longer satisfied with the little extra bits of me there was to love. That is when the unhealthy behavior started. So, on top of the fact that my wild streak was just starting to take off, my brain decided to throw in this fun side issues in the form of binge eating and a small case of anorexia.
I would go through fluctuating periods of not eating and eating way too much – and when I was eating, it was nothing but junk. I was constantly smoking cigarettes to keep away the food cravings. I wasn’t even exercising, however. I spent most nights partying, so the strain on my body continued to pile up. And this was only the beginning of the troubles.