Monday, July 16, 2018

Nope

I'm not okay, and all I want to do is wake up up, even though I know there is nothing you can do to help me. I just can't stand being alone with my thoughts right now. I am overwhelmed to the point that I can't do anything that I actually enjoy anymore. I'm trying to survive this, but all I can do is get up and work. I have nothing left, and there's no reason for that other than it's just how I am.

I can't even get the rest of this out. I just need to go lie down.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Potato

Tonight is one of those late nights alone that has my mind pulled in about fifteen different directions, each one needing more attention than I have spoons to give at this point. I just got back from the gym, so I'm filled with the overwhelming desire to do everything yet too overwhelmed and unfocused to get anything done. 

I'm hoping to apply for grad school this fall. I haven't taken the GRE again. I've only briefly talked with the people I hope to have write my letters. I haven't even begun studying. I'm terrified that I won't do as well this time since my brain has been fried. I'm terrified that I won't get in. I'm essentially paralyzed and can't make any more progress. I'm even terrified of making the list of things I need to do. And I'm not sure what things need to go on it and what things don't. 

I don't want to screw this up again. I'm worried that I'll never get another chance.
Or that that third chance won't even be worth taking.
I'm worried that I won't be able to handle the environment during or after school.
I'm worried that my journey has to end. 

I know all of this, yet I still can do nothing. 
The guilt of being so out of control just exacerbates the problem. 

What's more is that I feel like I've failed my fiance again because I never feel like I'm good at helping in certain situations. No matter what I try, nothing seems to work. I just want to give you the right answers. To solve everything. But I can't. And I hate it. 

It's so quiet. 
I have a photo shoot Saturday.
I have a show Sunday. 

I need to make time to study. To set a date for this test. 

Do you see what I mean? 

I know I can do this, so why am I so stuck? Mental health, you nasty bitch. 

Also, 
I think I just got four more mosquito bites. 

I don't know how to explain the feelings I have right now. Of love. Of loneliness. Of fear. Of confidence. Everything tends to happen all at once, or to come in waves, which sometimes takes me from high to low and back again in a matter of seconds. It's dizzying. And the fear that that will never end...well, the knowledge that, yes, it absolutely will continue for the rest of my life and there's nothing I can really do to change that, sucks. 

I don't want damage control to be the story of my life, and I feel like it has been for a while. 
I want my thirties to be different. 
That feels weird to say. 
I still feel 12 years old. Just as confused, if not more. 
A friend and I figured out that secret a long time ago.
Everyone is just faking it. No one knows how to adult.
No one knows what the fuck is going on, and we're all secretly waiting to be found out. 

Work has taught me how to fake it until I make it. I just submitted a project proposal for a chance to work on a neuroscience portal for a major pharmaceutical company. They asked me to do it, and after a few rounds and 6 pages of absurd detail later, I did it. I had not one clue what the fuck I was doing. But I learned. I frequently have to work on papers outside my area of expertise, and google scholar has become my best friend. 
I also just killed a mosquito. So two wins for me, I suppose.

That's my story. Constantly feeling somewhere between "I'm actually really good at what I do" and "I'm a talking potato".

But maybe someday I'll be a potato with a PhD. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Musings on Exercise and Brain Function

Working out has saved my life more times than I can count. The chaos of Pride, my fiance's new job, and a full performance schedule until pretty much the end of the year caused me to lose focus on my workout routine. Day by day, I became less and less capable of functioning. More and more things started to feel overwhelming. Then one day, I was barely able to breathe without screaming. I couldn't avoid the thoughts of ending it all just to stop feeling that way, despite my seemingly contradictory existential death anxiety, which likes to creep in at random times throughout the day and night. It only took about two weeks for me to get to that point. I knew going to the gym would solve my problems almost instantly, but I was too far gone to make it alone. 

He sacrificed sleeping that night to go with me. He gave himself a migraine just to pull me out of the darkness when I couldn't do it myself. I don't know how to thank him for all the ways he shows how much he loves me. Words are never enough. 

It's day 2, and the world already seems a little less terrifying. I feel more capable of taking on new projects. I'm less afraid of failing. That's not to say that these don't represent major obstacles anymore, but working out allows me to broaden my view of the situation so that I can find ways around them. 

This is what I want to study. I want to research how something as simple as lifting weights can fundamentally alter brain chemistry, structure, and function. Particularly in people like me. I've seen these effects in others too. I've heard story after story of how physical activity has transformed the way people view themselves and the world around them, and I've been fortunate enough to be the catalyst for change in many of these situations. Knowing more about the neural mechanisms underlying these changes will provide greater insight into brain function in general, and in various populations. 

There's so much work to be done. For example, wouldn't it be interesting to compare the effects of resistance training to those of commonly prescribed antidepressants/antipsychotics, or the combination of the two? To cardiovascular training alone? In people with depression versus controls? What does the brain look like before and after resistance training? Does functional connectivity change, particularly in executive function networks? If so, can resistance training be implemented to help people with disorders affecting executive function? 

The funny part about all of this is, working out is the only thing that is going to allow me to have the functional capacity to do any of this research. A few days ago, I thought about scrapping the idea of grad school altogether. If I could barely function doing what I do now, how could I ever manage the work involved in getting a PhD and finding employment in the field? 

I'm pretty sure these ramblings will find their way into my personal/research statement, which is definitely impersonal at this stage. 

I'm starting to feel like I've got this. Who knew some lat pulldowns could be so powerful?

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Failure

I got halfway across the parking lot trying to get to the gym today. I broke down crying. Then I tried an hour later, and it happened again. Even though I have my medicine again, my anxiety has been worsening for weeks. I don't know how to fix this. It hasn't ever been bad enough to do this to me on my way to the gym. That's usually the one thing that can save me from episodes like this, and now I'm not sure what to do to fix things. I can't even stop my whole body from shaking right now. I want to tell myself that it's okay to not be okay, that I should stay home tonight and try to take care of myself so that I might be able to avoid this tomorrow. But what if I can't? I know I shouldn't be thinking like that, but if you can tell me how to prevent my brain from doing what it always does, you're much better at this life thing than I am. I already feel like most people are. Maybe they're just better at hiding it than I am.

I want this to stop. I hate this. I don't even have much to say, but I needed to do something to keep myself from screaming and waking my fiance. I want to run away, but I have nowhere to go. I may try one more time tonight, but even that thought is making things worse. I've already failed twice, and I can't get it out of my head. I can't stop the physical feelings, which are just making the screaming inside my head worse. How do other people do this?

For the longest time, I had no idea that people didn't deal with these overwhelming feelings of anxiety. With constantly feeling on the edge, terrified, and overloaded. I've never NOT been this way. I understand neurotypical people about as much as they understand me.

If I can't go, things will just get worse. I know I won't be able to handle this right now, so that means they are going to. I need to figure out something to do. I don't think I'll be able to stop myself from screaming, and that's even more terrifying.

I want to keep writing, but I have nothing.

I'll never be able to overcome this. This will always be a part of me. And I feel like I'm destined to fail at everything because of it.

I'm surprised I'm even still here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Post-pride depression

Pride 2018. I'm still trying to mentally recover from the weeks of exhaustion, which were well worth it at the time and may still be. I'm just having a hard time readjusting to the real world, where I spend much of my time alone with my thoughts. I had forgotten what it was like to be able to spend time with friends every few days rather than every few months, but I had also forgotten to take care of myself during my visit to Pittsburgh, which made things more difficult after returning home. Post-pride depression is one of those phenomena that deserves further research. I keep seeing posts from friends who also seem to be struggling with mental health issues right now.

I don't know how to explain it to some people. That feeling when you know you need to do something, when you actually really want to do it, but your brain and body just refuse to let it happen. The guilt you feel when you can't do something simple for yourself then just makes it even worse. It's hard to escape the cycle, and it's even harder when you've already got to deal with anxiety, intrusive thoughts, and an overwhelming desire to scream and cry for no reason. It's not easy to separate these components in the moment. Sometimes you feel it all at once. You freeze because the alternatives are much, much worse.

This is the second time I've run out of medication without being able to get a refill. I'm again trying to fight hating myself for not being able to survive three days without these pills. I'm also trying to fight hating this mental health agency, which is pretty much the only option down here. Therapy at this place hasn't been very helpful at all. Every session felt more like small talk with a stranger.

My fiance has a new job working for the government, which is all I'm allowed to know or say. The days are long for him, but they haven't changed much for me, and maybe that's contributing to my depression. It's nice to spend nights together, but I'm at a point where I feel numb most of the time that I'm not feeling down. I had a few manic moments today when I started listening to music, pacing the floors in excitement, thinking of all the things I could do for an upcoming show. It was a helpful distraction, but it was short-lived.

I'm getting more worried about grad school. About whether this is something I'm even going to be capable of doing, physically and mentally. Taking a week off for Pride means I have to push myself a little harder these next few weeks. My productivity pretty much stops after 6 hours. It's hard to believe that anyone would ever hire me given that kind of stipulation. Feeling like this is as good as it will ever get is also pretty depressing.

Then there's that whole existential death anxiety thing that invades my consciousness, often multiple times a day. It's absolutely terrifying, and sometimes it makes it hard to even get the motivation to do anything. Other times, it just paralyzes me in a way that I can't fully explain.

I just want to make it through this and feel okay again. Then I can work on feeling happy. I know what my brain is doing to me. I know why most of this is happening. But it doesn't make it any easier to handle. It doesn't make me more capable of getting out of this place.

I've been preparing to go to the gym for over an hour. But I know this is one of the few things that can help snap me out of this. I just need to be able to leave my house without crying. Even thinking about it is making it hard to breathe. I wish I had someone to go with me right now.

Breathe. It's okay. It's okay to not be okay.
Nothing worth having is ever easy.

And nothing seems to be working right now.
But I'm still going to try.


Saturday, May 12, 2018

Mental Health, Abuse, Surviving

The last few months of my mental health journey haven't been the greatest. I started feeling worse and worse, to the point that I decided not to refill my medications once they had run out a few weeks ago. I was fine at first, but it wasn't long before things became more and more difficult to do. Then, one night, my mood dramatically shifted in the negative direction, and I just crashed. I essentially didn't move from bed for 10 days. I've been back on my medicine for about 4 days now, and I'm only just beginning to feel like myself again. With major events coming up in just a few weeks, this has been one of the primary drivers of my anxiety/depression. I'm beginning to feel like I'm in control again, and I just hope I haven't lost too much time.

I don't feel at liberty to discuss the details of recent events. All I can say is that a long-term abusive situation almost ended in murder. Watching history repeat itself has been so difficult, especially when you've been made out to be the villain. But watching their strength in claiming the label of survivor, in moving forward and beyond the pain and years of manipulation, is inspiring. Rediscovering yourself is not always easy, nor is it painless. Abusers know how to control your emotions. They study your responses over time and learn how to get what they need from everyone involved. They will try to claim victimhood, to escape responsibility and consequences in an effort to get back to how things used to be--to their version of "normal". It takes strength beyond measure to disengage from a toxic, even dangerous relationship. You (plural) have that strength, and you have a family to support you.

As before, I will always stand by those who have survived, those who have escaped. I will always tell the truth for those whose voices have grown too tired, especially when others aim to silence you. Not only will you continue to survive, you will thrive as you rediscover your true self and the love with which you are surrounded. And we will do whatever it takes to help you when you need it most, when you feel like doubting yourself and your decisions. You are my friend(s). You are family. We will never abandon you.

I have more experience than I care to discuss right now. Even now, I wait for a day I feel will never come. When she finally has had enough. I wish I could say more, but it's been made clear that it's not my story to tell. I have to fight back tears when I think of what could have been for one of the most important people in my life.

I guess the point is that I haven't just seen or heard.

I know.

I may have what some people consider extreme reactions to anger. I just want to point out that I'm on high alert for a reason. It is by this point a built-in response mechanism, and I have little control over how terrified I appear. Interestingly enough, when someone directs that anger toward someone I love, my response is markedly different. I like to think that explains what kind of person I am without having to do it in so many more words.

I posted this here for a few reasons. Trigger warnings aren't my thing, but I can draft a title that gives people the option to avoid the subject, even temporarily. I needed to do this for myself as much as I did the people I love. I have a lot of my own deeply buried issues to deal with, and I'm sure I'll need to revisit this in the future. But, right now, it's not about me. It's about everyone who has ever lived through abuse, about those who have escaped and those still trying to find the courage to. I refuse to contribute to silence surrounding domestic violence. I refuse to let the abusers win. That's something we can't do alone, and I've seen such a tremendous outpouring of support in the last few days. It makes me feel confident that this ending marks a new beginning. That we will see that light shine again. However, there is still someone out there who needs that same support from the community. Friends, please don't hesitate to reach out to them as well.

My brain is doing that thing where it's going to circle back around. So, I will leave with this:

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46446/still-i-rise

Monday, February 12, 2018

Bipolar.

I'm in a weird space right now. Earlier today, I came to the realization that maybe my getting better was really just a hypomanic episode, since I've been on a bit of a downward spiral for the last couple weeks. Others tell me that this depressive episode is the anomaly, likely because they're trying to make me feel better. Unfortunately, most people with my type of bipolar disorder are depressed more often than not, with episodes of hypomania at varying frequencies. There is no getting better here. There is only managing, and I've never quite been able to do that for very long. I'm worried that I'm starting to repeat the cycle, and I don't know what to do to keep things from getting worse.

I fear that I will never function well enough again to do the things I want to do with my life.

That fear itself is paralyzing. Why try if I will never be a functional member of society? If I will never be able to go to grad school, have a family, etc.?

I fear that the only response here is to increase my dose of lithium, which may be the cause of my months-long gastrointestinal issues after all.

I know things are getting bad because I notice myself taking longer to get myself ready to do anything. I feel disconnected and demotivated most of the time. The flashes of motivation sometimes last only seconds, and this tug-of-war is exhausting. I'm not making phone calls. I'm not talking to anyone or making plans. I know what's happening and feel powerless to stop it.

I don't want this to be my life. To be my forever.

Help.