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My Journal

Welcome to my journal page where I will give daily/weekly/biweekly updates on what crosses my mind, struggles, questions. Enjoy.

7-14-08
It has been a bumpy ride recently. I have a lot of different stressors coming from different places. I am very worried. But, I have a hard time expressing that to anyone. I think part of me is afraid to talk about any of the stressors because I don't want anyone to worry about me or wonder about me. I have worked very hard in Arizona to be a new me in a new life. So right now, I'm trying to be the picture of control and restraint.

I have noticed recently though, the days where I want to be just left alone and I don't want to be touched or talked too...well they are growing more frequent. And I know internally, that is not a good sign at all. I want to talk, I just don't know what to say. I'm not scared exactly, at least of the past moods bubbling up or taking actions that I used to take. I'm not sure what I'm scared of exactly, I guess. In fact, I think I don't know entirely how I feel. Which is why, I suppose, music has been so very important to me lately. I'm expressing how I feel.

I also see little things happening. Like how once a comment just in passing, stuck with me all day and ate at me all day. In the past, I would have just let that roll off my shoulders. It is now...where I see the medication I take is so important. They do help regulate me in a way, especially when stress happens to me. My system reacts in extreme's and though a lot of it is behaivoral, some of it I know is my impaired flight or fight response.

But no matter what comes at me right now, I think, I will not be like before. I am forever changed. I notice these little things, but in the big picture, they are next to nothing. I am still enjoying the little things. I am still a functioning human being. I am still moving toward solutions. I will still be okay. I think in the back of my mind I still hear little voices telling me that I won't succeed, that I am destined to fail and that I'll never be more than my past and disorders. And those voices...well those are the voices that make me take each new step every day...they make me go forward not backward. They remind me of where I need to go and what to keep walking away from. I used to believe those voices...but though they are still there, the volume is turned down and I choose to ignore them or use them as fuel to keep going.

I think a lot of this disorder is choice. Choosing not to indulge in certain appetites. I read sometimes about others with bipolar think and I am amazed at how many cling to the extreme's. I know...it is a disorder of extreme's. And I understand it, because I chose to indulge in those extreme's time and time again. They talk about how getting rid of those extreme's turn them into someone else or they feel numb or they lose their happiness. And I remember being that way. And I think about my life now. I choose not to indulge in extreme's. And while in the past I thought that would bring me numbness and a passionless life, I haven't found that in reality. I have found instead...that I could take those things that brought me so much passion and channel that passion in a stable life. Treating kids with autism was always a passion...and one I took to the extreme of everything and promptly lost everything and in the end...I flew so high that...it interfered with that passion. But now...I channel all of my manic tendencies into something good, into something that could use my passion. But not in excess. I think one of the keys to being bipolar and being stable is to channel all of that pent up manic stuff into something good that you can control and have boundaries for.

And while part of me sometimes wants to errupt in a glory of extreme's...I choose not to. Because I finally have a life that brings me happiness everyday...and I don't over-whelm myself with a million activities that eventually I can't keep up with so I end up in a depression stupor. I broke my life down to the bottom and now I am adding things as I can take them, so as not to over-involve myself. When stress happens, I don't go running for the extreme's...I take it all instride.

And so I think that is when I become quiet...because I am trying very hard to keep an even keel because that is what is important to me now in the life I lead. So that just means a little more music for me, maybe a little art and a little alone time. And I think in the end...that is okay. Maybe soon I'll get up the guts to talk about the things going through my mind, but maybe, just maybe, I'm not ready yet. And that's okay.

There's a quote, "Nobody realizes that some people expend a tremendous amount of energy merely to be normal." Albert Camus. That's me. I spend a lot of energy trying to be normal. But of course I can hear the bipolar crowd shout about what is normal? Who wants to be like everyone else? We are who we are. But at the same time...the way life is now...people as a whole aren't ready for those constant extreme's...it's not functional to this life on earth right now. And its' not that I want to be normal or I want to conform...it's just I need to appear to be normal to live the life I want. But don't be completely mistaken that I am just a numb conformist normal wannabe. I'm not. I am very, very passionate and I have some moments of extreme passion. But I'm smart...I found an avenue where that is all okay, where it's not seen as abnormal or cause for concern. My work gives me the creative freedom that my heart and mind need to create a more normal exterior. Sometimes it can come out after work, but for the most part I can expend all of that manic energy from 8am-6pm every day and then the rest of my life is okay.

I am not normal and I never will be, but I didn't want to be an outsider for the rest of my life or someone that has to be hospitalized every three months or someone that finds her way to suicide sometimes or a razor blade or a woman that can't keep friends because it's too hard for everyone else or someone that lost her family with the tides and ebbs of her moods. I lived that life and in the end it was too much to hold. So yes...I work very hard at being normal so I can have friends, family, a roof over my head and a stable job to bring me money to live this life. But I have my secret- the secret is that at my job I"m probably manic all day, but it's in a context that is acceptable. It is okay for me to be as loud as I am (I can be heard down the hall ways) because I am cheering on a kid that is trying to talk. My brain works very fast at work which is wonderful because that is exactly what the kids need. And I have people coming to me for advice the whole day long, so the the racing thoughts are hidden and actually reinforced because I have to think on my feet for ten hours. It's perferctly acceptable that I am laughing and carrying on and throwing kids around because that's part of my job.

And I think perhaps that is what the secret is for many people who are successful with bipolar. They find something, usual a job, that they can be extreme in. You hear a lot of stock broker types with bipolar, actors, singers, etc.- well, I think that suits that kind of life well. Or Dr. Jamison...she found a job where it pays to be a little manic sometimes. The trick is though, to also expend energy to live in the normal world. So my extreme's end at 6pm (okay sometimes 7) and I am back to slowing my thoughts, quieting my voice, becoming more introspective and everything is slowed. My mornings are calm as I begin the day, just rising, getting dressed, talking to my friend and getting set for the day. Then 8:30-9am comes and I get revved up and can stay that way the rest of the day. So I guess, my days are in a cycle, but it's a cycle that lets me a live life well.

I think the problem comes when I have extra stressers. But I'm dealing with them. I'm choosing not to indulge the depressions tugging at me. I'm choosing music expression instead of pain expression. I'm choosing writing over blood. I'm choosing solutions and not indecision. Strength is a matter of a made up mind and I made up my mind when I moved here that things would be different. And I get strength from that. And so this is all just another testament to me here in the present and future. A life with controlled extreme's if there is such a term. :-)

7-6-08
As you can see, I have several entries for July 6th. I was home alone all day with no car so I got to writing. I wrote some emails and letters today and I finally found a funny way to explain how my bad days are today versus the old life, the before life. This is how I explained it to people. That now my bad days may consist of me being a bit peeved at the world but it really comes down to...is that I listen to Linkin Park instead of Dar Williams.

And that's it, by golly. On my bad days...I don't cut, I don't get suicidal, I don't rant and rave, I don't ruminate. I do the same things I do on a good day, except the music I listen to is heavy metal instead of rock or folk. I thought that was a good way to conceptualize my bad days now. It's amazing how I use music to convey how I feel. I can't imagine trying to tell someone how I feel without using music. It's been cool recently talking to my music therapist friend about music and how I used it in my healing. As my old counselor used to say, she should give some of the payments to Dar Williams for all her help in my healing. For sure music therapy was always my favorite therapy in the hospitals. And without realizing it, or maybe she did, my counselor played music therapy to me. I learned about emotions and how to express them through music. For a long time it was the lyrics that really spoke to me, but as I have become more mature in expressing my emotions, I have found the music without words to be more powerful. And I'm hoping to explore a whole new realm of music.

I also mentioned to my music therapy friend that sometimes when I hear music, I see colors. It's much like when you play music on windows media player and winamp and they have all these crazy color designs that go with the music. That's how I see music in my head...they are often paired with colors. My friend thought that was interesting and said that wasn't that common of a thing in people. I of course researched it. I am not entirely convinced I have the thing where music is directly connected with colors in my mind, but it is interesting. It's like I have this little TV set in my head and as the music plays, I see these colors swirling all around. Like some of my favorite acoustic tunes with wicked guitar playing...I see them in this beautiful shade of blue and it's incredibly calming. Often I see Sarah MacLachlan's music in yellows and oranges. A lot of drumming music is in brown. Very often Metallica, Linkin Park and the like are in black. Dar Williams...well it depends on the song, sometimes blue, a lot of times green. I think it's cool. It got me thinking about getting some pastel's and maybe trying to draw what I'm seeing in my head when I listen to music. It's like when I read books...it's not like I'm reading, it's like I'm watching a movie in my head as I read along and that's why I can get so engrossed in what I'm reading and why I can read so fast. I don't know if I'm a visual learner, like sixty percent of people are...but I definitely have interesting ways of viewing things. Like when a child is brought to me for assessment...it's just weird how all the parts come to me in my head and I'm really good at picking up strengths and weaknesses and how they all go together. And I can manipulate it like a model in my brain.

Anyway, just some interesting observations. Time to sleep, as I have another week of staying with friends while I break my lease and possibly move in with my friend. I need to figure out the money angel, but I am quite certain I can afford the breaking of the lease, pay for next month's rent and also half the rent with my friend. It'll be tight, but I will make it. I held fast to my faith lately and that faith has seen me through. It's a strange feeling, for once holding on to faith and the unknown and knowing that it will all turn out alright in the end. Before I would just return to what I did know (self destruction, pain, chaos etc.), rather than holding fast to faith to see me around the next corner. And I didn't limit my options, I had many options, some that did not include a car, but biking or walking! So cool to see how things have changed. You just never know what's around the next corner ;-)

7-6-08
Lately I have been going back to my old journal entires...some years ago. I was especially curious about the Spring 2005 entires because I even dubbed myself "healed" with an ed and not an ing. Curious, especially since almost exactly one year later I seriously tried to end my life.

I have been trying to analyze where it went wrong. Because for a time I was out of therapy, my therapist and I felt I had made enough progress and I went to try it on my own. I see for a while it was all good. Then, I was reading entries that talked about how I got back to normal, or I would stay up all night for a few days then declare that I realized what I was doing and that I was healed because I could recognize when i fucked up and then I would try to fix it.

But now I suppose that was the problem. Being healed did not mean that I just recognize when I fucked up but to recognize BEFORE I fucked up and not even take that path. I didn't get that before. And that led to my undoing. I kept doing unhealthy things and then trying to fix things. Always intervention, never prevention. That's what I do now, prevention...stop the fucking up before it starts.

And I see that I was always over-involved. Nothing was ever enough in the before life. And that I think was a major downfall. The more I read, the more I see how things went wrong. Even if I didn't outright admit it in public, I also remember what I was thinking during some of those times. I totally remember practicing inducing mania either by not sleeping, not taking meds or playing around with the medications.

I did heal some though. I really did heal from my past- the physical, sexual and emotional abuse from my family. And I know some of my depressions stemmed from the ugly past. Pain had become a comfort to me and chaos is what I knew best. And I read a lot about my mom in my journals about her own cycling of coldness and loving with me. I never knew where I stood with her. And some well placed cold words could send me spiraling down. But with therapy I learned to not take so many things to heart and I learned that I was not a worthless person because of how people treated me and that I could muster up some self esteem.

But always I see my life at this frenetic pace that at times I just could not keep up. I would be able to for a while, when I was manic, but then always I would crash. And then things would just blow up in my face. And then I would try to fix everything, but not everything was fixable. Eventually everything bubbled and spilt over to the point of no return. And then I just always wanted to die because I couldn't stand the mess I made of my life.

Then came the time when I got delusional and probably a little psychotic and I choked down almost four hundred pills and waited for death. But life came to me instead. And for a while I played it off like I had some big revelation and life would be good. I did not graduate from college, but still landed what I thought was a good job. But...I was just...plain blinded. I lived on the surface, too afraid of what was underneath.

And then I lost it all, big surprise again and really made a mess of my life, losing my job and everything else. So I found solace with my father in Alabama, but was still restless and even attempted suicide again. But I was aimless. I think I was a ghost. So I did what I always did, I induced mania to get through the hard times. Because I always knew in a manic state things would happen and sometimes, very often, good things happened. And so I left Alabama in a blaze of glory only to dissenigrate into a very hateful, angry person. And I was gone. The Erin that people knew was gone. I wasn't even fun to be around anymore. I was not the nice smartass, the fun, always easy smile Erin that everyone knew to be a pleasant person to know. I made it through my days by not thinking about much of anything. I didn't really have hope and I think that showed in the very many hospital visits I went through in the summer of 2007. I was back in Virginia, but it was not home anymore. All the nice things I knew were gone- the job, the kids, the friends, the guide, parents...everything. I sought out Virginia because I thought it was my true home and that no matter what I could find myself there. But then I got there and was let down because it was no longer my home and I felt for the first time since before I found my counselor or the job with autism, that I was lost, truly and utterly lost.

But now here I am sitting in the after life, very found. I am still trying to come to terms with how that happened. That's why today I was trying to analyze what the hell happened. How was I so far gone only to come into my own. Maybe the ghost like living was a sort of defense mechanism to keep me alive. That if I truly felt how hopeless everything was I would have killed myself in the end. But instead I floated through the days with no real feeling only reacting to outside stimuli. Though I remember in the end I even gave up that and just stayed in bed the whole day and whole night. Again, maybe a defense mechanism. And I still don't remember what I said to people on the net for them to reach out like they did. But they reached out and I had nothing so I said okay.

And I found myself in a new place where everything was different. Things I used to find so hard to do came easily to me. It is just so hard for me to reconsile the two me's. Is it like I described? That when I hopped on that plane and stepped off into Arizona, the bad parts of me were washed away and I was left with the strong part. That the light in my eyes finally came back on becaues I recognized the opportunity for change. Maybe it is as simple as the quote, "change only happens when the fear of holding on is greater than the fear of letting go." I feared holding on to that crummy life far more than striking out and changing. Maybe the excitement of going somewhere different and trying something new breathed new life into me and I recognized the change happening and it sparked something deep within me.

And I think I realized the other night that a lot of the changes that went on were all mental. Because things are still happening in my life. Like the whole car situation, getting pulled over and more tickets. Well that happened in my before life too. And I flipped out majorly. But I didn't here. I took it in stride and my friends and parents helped me. I allowed them to help me and not feel guilty about it. The guilt killed me I think to some degree in the past. The guilt and the shame. Buried me. But I don't let it here. I did a lot of cognitive distortion work before in the past and I knew a lot about it, but it never really changed my mind or the way I thought. It took a lot of work to get through the CD's. It was very conscious what I was doing. But, I realize now that it DID change the way I thought. Now it does not take work to get through the CD's because it's automatic to the point that even when I have the negative thoughts, I may not recognize them because the positive thoughts overcame the negative before it even gets to my consciousness. Pretty damn cool if you ask me. All that hard work was worth it. I'm glad I kept at it for so long.

I keep writing right now because I keep wanting to pinpoint exactly what happened when I moved, but the more I write, the more I realize that it wasn't just one thing, nor was it something that happened all at once. I once sent a quote to one of my families who was struggling with potty training and were wondering when their son would just "get" it. The quote said something like this, you hammer at a rock one hundred times and on the hundred and first time the rock splits. But it was not the hundred and first strike, but rather, all of the hundred strikes before that one. Maybe that is what happened, I kept chipping away at my life and then I made one huge decision and that was the one to crack it all open and make it all better. But it wasn't just that decision, but rather all of the decisions I made before that one and all of the hundreds of hours I put into healing prior to moving to Arizona. Moving to Arizona just gave me a place in which I could safely change without...without expectation that I had in Virginia. I didn't have to prove my wellness, there was no pressure, there were no precedence...it was just a place to start over. I could just be...I could discover who I was above and beyond all of the hurt and past and disorders. In Virginia...eventually...I burned far too many bridges. Even with families I once worked with...most became all to aware of my disorder and how it impacted my life. And though many thought I was brilliant in treating autism, it was a brilliant madness. And I look back on it now and that working environment was not healthy for me either because I was an in-home therapist...there really weren't any centers. So I was always a lone cowboy, I didn't have peers to work with that were on my level, or anyone to turn to really. But here in Arizona, I found a center, one that was super positive and where there were many peers on my level and people to turn to. I was not a lone cowboy anymore. And that was a healthy change.

So I guess in the end I used up everything Virginia had to offer me. The resources were all used up from counseling, to schooling to friends to working environments. The only thing left for me to do was to say goodbye. The final lesson perhaps. And I realized that in the end and I did move.

I often try to find how what happened to me could help others. Maybe that's why I try so hard to explain what happened to me when I moved. What's my advice to others? Pick up and move and start over? Maybe. For some that could be the answer. Experiences are so varied and for me and me alone, that is the path I needed to take.

I think about the poem that is something like my autobiography in five verses. I get it now. And I just chose to walk down a different street without the hole.

I
I walk, down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in
I am lost...I am helpless
It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

II
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in the same place,
but, it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

III
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I†still fall in...it's a habit
my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

IV
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

V
I walk down another street.
by Portia Nelson

7-6-08
I just read some old rants. Well, first I wrote my old counselor a letter. In that letter I mentioned two emails she had sent me a long time ago, four and five years ago. And I told her I didn't remember what set off those emails. So then I decided to look up the corresponding journal dates and sure enough there were two great journal entries.

One thing about this after life I have noticed is that I view my before life with much disdain. I only see a sad and angry and hateful person. I forget all of the good. But there was good. There were times that I 'got' it. And I have to say that I've forgotten that. It's just a wonder to me how bad off I eventually got. How lost I became. Those years with my counselor were full of upheaval and rocking the boat and both a lot of bad terrible times and a lot of happy times. Then, when she left me, and rightly so, I fell hard and I never came back up. My safety crutches were knocked away from me and it took me a long time to heal from that...a good year or two.

And so in my after life...my memories are skewed. But I do have these journals and they make me remember. They make me remember that sometimes, even briefly, there were these great sparks of light. It was those sparks that make my time now awesome. Because all along I was capable of sustaining that light. But...I had to find my own way I guess. My counselor...she taught me a lot of things. A great many things. She...was probably the best teacher I have ever had. Period. That's what she was really, if I think about it. Sure we talked about things, she let me get my story out, but she also taught me...about life, love, saddness, happiness, joy, music, therapy, relationships...so many things. What plucky meant ;-) And though my life is heavily dotted with those really bleak and out of control, chaotic times...there are those small snippets of time where I was happy and I got it. The only difference now is that...those small snippets of time are now my whole life and the times that are bleak and out of control...don't exist anymore. Do I have bad days? Sure, everyone does. But my bad days no longer mean suicide or self injury or loss of control. They just mean that perhaps I am a bit peeved at the world and I like listening to Linkin' Park instead of Dar Williams. That's what my bad days are now.

I think it was good that I read those old entries. They reminded me that not everything was so black and white way back when, before I stepped foot in Arizona. And it has given me perspective on the after life now. I shoud not forget where I came from no matter how painful, nor should I forget that there was also a lot of good that came with all that bad.

I remember telling my friend Holly about the bad times. And then after we stopped talking, I realized that perhaps I painted a too bleak of a picture. So I had to go back and retrace my steps and tell her that though there were those bad times I was overall a very likeable person and that most people who met me, liked me. I was a pleasant person to be around. For the most part I was able to hide those really black parts of myself. And never did I really have those depressions where I stayed in bed for days. No, I had different sorts of depressions.

But I guess my memory has the recency effect. I remember the last year before I came to Arizona. And it was chalk full of crazy. Of that crazy ass road trip to Michigan and the breakdown in Ohio and just losing all my marbles. The crazy time at Snowden where I took a shower curtain rod and tried to destroy the bathroom and how I took a marker to the wall and mirror and any surface I could find. How I lived with that crazy woman and her children and eventually the light went out in my eyes and I was nothing more than a ghost. How I lost everything in the end there in Virginia. Reminds me of the song Pirate Bones, "And if I finally get to the place that is home/And I don't belong/where's the point in it/when I'm gaining all but losing it." I swore Virginia was my home even though when I was there...I didn't feel at home. I staked everything on that and then it fell through and I was loss. But I guess I had an angel looking after me because a light was shone on Arizona and there I went and found myself and my life.

And instead of just moments of "getting" it...I got it ALL. Thank you Kiandra, Bobb...brilliant counselor. And like I said in my letter to her...I hope she is proud of me now. I may not have deserved some of what she said to me over the years because I feel like I let her down in the end. Because in the end, that she knows of it, I lost it all. I fought so hard for so long only to give up. I walked that death line for so long that she had to herself let go. I think back now to that time and I know that it must have been incredibly difficult for her to do. And I hope she never has to face that again or that kind of decision with a client. It was the right decision...she had to let me go so I could discover who I really was. We had four solid years together in which she constantly taught me about life. But then I think the time came when I had learned most of what she had to teach me...and yet I wasn't getting better. So then there was the final lesson...the one where she lets go and I have to sink or swim...use what she taught me...or lose myself more. For a while...I let myself go, I sunk. Like a stone. Like...she taught me how to swim and make it to shore, but instead I panicked and forgot everything she taught me. Until, I guess, I hit the bottom of the ocean and I looked up. And instead of complete darkness, I saw a light. So I swam to it and swam and swam until my whole body ached. And then finally I surfaced. And when I surfaced, suddenly my body reacted and did the things it was taught to do and in very short order I found myself on the shore.

Funny how I always have water analogies, like my poem wave rider. But that's what it feels like. So here I am in this after life. Doing quite well. I have given a sincere effort at life and this is what I have come up with.


7-1-08
There are some things I've noticed about this after life. I was talking to my friend about why it was so different in the after life. And I got to thinking. And I realized in the before life...I knew crazy...very well and so I cycled within it and I didn't know any better of how it could be. So it was really hard for me to think about changing my life for the better when I didn't know what I was missing out on. Now, I am in this well life, this after life and everything is different. Now I see what I've been missing, I see how good it can be and what it can be like. And I'm not willing to give it up. When I thought about cutting after my car was impounded...I thought about it and realized probably for the first time in my life that it wasn't worth it. Because people knew me here and well and if I did that...then people would wonder and worry and...just thinking about returing to such a life...I couldn't fathom it. I couldn't choose to go down that path again. I had newer and better coping mechanisms and I chose to use them because it was worth it to me now.

I am happy. Though things are shit, I am happy. I love the life I have made for myself and the people I have surrounded myself with and it just makes everything worth it. And I can't give it up. And I realize now how behavioral bipolar can be. There is definitely a chemical part to it for sure because I do need low doses of my meds so I don't get too high. But...I choose to do a lot of things to keep me well like sleeping, eating, having friends and what not. When faced with a stressful situation, I don't choose to act out but use other coping mechanisms.That was my language before but not now. I have replacement behaviors. And I choose not to delve in the extreme. It has become a sort of choice for me. It's like I went through my bipolar adolescence and now I have mastered some control over my behavior and how my brain works. And that's comforting. And like I said...it's worth it for me now to be well.

Before I cut...for punishment sometimes, for release other times. Now...I talk to people...I may not say truly how I feel or really let anyone in, but I talk, I acknowledge my discomfort with a situation. I talk it through. Sure I wanted to punish myself for the predictament i found myself in...but I didn't because I figured it was punishment enough what was going on. You know, the things happened before when I was sick and I have to pay retribution for them now. I do. It's a fact of life and I will face it because I have to...that's life and I choose to live life.

Before...I went manic...because frankly I enjoyed it. It was like a drug. I remember not taking meds or only taking some meds or not sleeping to induce mania. Or inducing it to curb the depression. I used mania like a drug and I guess in a way I found out how to control it. Only...when the ride was over, I was left with nothing. With my depressions...a lot of it was life event oriented. But just in the extreme. I just took things to the extreme paired with my very black and white or all or nothing thinking and my past, just made it all worse. Depressions were like the punishment for enjoying the drug of mania. And so I spent a good six years addicted to my own bipolar and instead of figuring out how to get well, I just figured out how to control my moods. But I was addicted to the extreme's and so that is what I practiced. I mean, the psychotic aspects weren't that great, the voices and what not, but again, that was like the punishment for mania.

So now...it's a drug I choose not to indulge in. I don't find satisfaction in manipulating my moods. I don't find happiness in the extreme's. I don't like to be high anymore. And the depressions don't really come because I don't need the punishment. So I guess in the end...I found a life worth living in the norm...and not the extreme's. And when my heart is bursting with joy at the end of the day...I guess that's what I'm addicted to now. That feeling and I know to sustain that kind of feeling...I have to be well, so I do the things to maintain the wellness.

I've been, get this, reinforced for being well now! Before I just had my counselors praise of the good stuff, but the praise just wasn't high enough on my reinforcer list. I had to have more to combat the goodness I also derived from the maina's and depressions. And so when I moved and I found my little life and I saw the reinforcement of being well (stable jobs, friendships etc)...well it was finally worth it. And I don't wonder any more what it's like on the other side of the fence. I went out and experienced it and instead of stinging or biting me, it was pleasant and I thought that maybe I would stay awhile.

Will things change in my brain in the future? I don't know, I just don't. But I can learn to enjoy the every day like now. And take it day by day and hope that if the time does come where things are knocked out of balance...I'll remember the healthy coping mechanisms and the support I have now and that will get me through.

And no matter what it was like before...I have changed me forever. No matter what may happen in the future...it is all changed and will be changed and I may never react in extreme's again because of the actions I have taken.

6-21-08
The After Life

A lot of people have written books about what it was like to be in a mental ward, or depressed, or just plain crazy, or what it was like in an abused childhood. They wrote about the hell they found themselves in. And then at the end of the book you learn how they healed and now have this bright future ahead of them. But what I always wondered was, what happens after? What happens after you stop being admitted to psych wards, or end your years of therapy and how you grow up after being abused. They go through that hell and then BAM! They are older and wiser and living the good life? What is it like then? What do they say to people when they ask about gaps in employment or why you have so many scars on your arms? What do they say when people ask, why did you move out here, when the truth is that you moved to out run your ghosts and start somewhere new where people don't know your name or where you came from. What happens when your mental health is no longer the focus of your life, but in the background and just in your past. I just want to know what happens after. Why? Because I now find myself in that after kind of place. And it's not like the famous people who write books. They went through some great personal tragedy and was able to write about it and either became famous as a result or were already famous and just came out of the closet so to speak. You hear about them winning awards and being featured on the TV movie of the week and they have all this glitz and glam to go with their once troubled life. But what happens in the after to the regular joe schmoe on the street who was released from a mental hospital for the last time in their life and suddenly they find themselves in this whole new world where everything is different from everything they've known.

I can't just annouce to a mother of a child I'm treating about why I have these ugly looking scars run up and down my arms. I don't know how much trust she would put into me if she knew that I once ran razors up and down my arms for kicks. And I can't just tell my new boss why I moved out here, well the real reason, because she wouldn't want to know that just months ago I was locked up in a place where I didn't have the key and how my room there was also known as the quiet room. No matter how far mental health and illness has come, stereotypes still prevail as the traditional way of thinking about people with mental illness. Once people know your ugly past, they do look at you differently and can't help but wonder that if that is your past, can it be your present and future? Famous people have the benefit of being famous and in a sense the public is okay with their sometimes horrible pasts because they can act brilliantly or write the best novel or sing about those horrors in a way people will listen and love them for it. Some people accept it because in their head it brings them down to a normal person's level. Makes them a little less above everyone else which the public likes. Then take a Jane Doe off the street who lived in mental hospitals for most her life, but who now has this nice little life carved out for herself, but people find out and it doesn't make them more human to the public, it makes them afraid. That person becomes a little unknown to them. Once crazy, always crazy? That's the question they secretly wonder about. Can't get crazier than dragging a razor blade down your arm because you like the pain and the blood exhilirates you.

So what's the average person to do in the "after" part of their life. Instead of ending a story with the prospect of "after," that is where this story begins. One glorious afternoon, a few weeks before Thanks giving, I walked out of a mental hospital for the last time in my life. I had been in and out of institutions since my teenage years and was diagnosed with many disorders until finally the right one, Bipolar I. I've been on most of the medications they have come up with, been through years of personal therapy and had the type of childhood most people come to expect from someone that is mentally ill- emotional, physical and sexual abuse. That was my life before.

But I walked out of that mental institution and contemplated my life. At the time, I didn't know it was going to be my last visit. Part of me wondered if I would always need a psych ward near by, just in case. Or that I would end up in a group home. In my last conversation with my mother, that is where she wanted me to be. She believed that I was not a functioning and contributing member of society anymore and just needed to be "taken care of." I have always been a little rebellious, so it occured to me that I needed to do something to steer my life course away from this.

So, a few weeks after walking out of that psych ward, I boarded a plane to move two thousand miles away, live with a woman I've never met, to a place I've never been, with only two bags of clothes, my cat and my laptop. I was beginning my "after" life.

The thing about it though, was that I wasn't real sure about what happens next. But I had made my decision to change my life for the better and for the first time in my life, I decided to just go with it and weather any storm that might develop along the way. I arrived in sunny Phoenix just before Thanksgiving. I was living with an online friend and her family. They were nice enough when I got off the plane to begin my new life. In a way, I think they saved me by giving me a place to which to start from. Eventually it didn't work out, but I perservered and life went on and I got my own apartment, car and life. I had gotten a job right away and friends to go with it. It was nice.

A big part of the after I have noticed is the whole life not being in chaos all of the time. To not turn something into a big huge drama. That even two thousand miles away from my family and my old friends and everything that I knew, I could figure out the solution to a very big problem without everything I left behind. Hell, I didn't even need to call a counselor to ask, where do I go from here. It was all on me and I delivered.

Another thing about being famous and crazy- they often don't have to worry about keeping a roof over their head, food to eat and a job. I had to worry about the very basic things of life. And so for the first three months of being in Arizona, in my first three months of the "after," I relied on friends to put the roof over my head and food to eat. But I had established one very key element right after I moved here: I got a job that paid money. And after saving for those three months, I found both a car and a studio apartment. Sure the car was older than I was and had many quirks, but it got me from point A to point B and back again. And the apartment- it was mine, my own roof over my head. So of course I stocked it with the cat I already had, plus another adopted cat and adopted dog. Animals are my weak point. And I sacrificed to keep that car and roof over my head. I made pretty much peanuts at my job, so it wasn't like I was living the high life. That's the other thing in the "after." I lost all my money and savings when I was manic last, so when I moved out to Arizona, I had zero dollars in my bank account. I was literally starting from scratch. And when I bought the car and got the apartment and the animals, I had no money left over for anything. That also meant furniture.

So, I slept on the floor. I lived in an apartment with a total of zero furniture. Not even a chair. Nothing. I did buy a few essentials like a towel, shampoo, soap, a pan, plastic forks, shower curtain, and laundry detergent. And I bought Ramen noodles for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They cost ten cents a pop, which was in my budget. So for the next two months, I lived in a furnitureless apartment and ate Ramen for every meal. No TV or internet, so I learned to love reading all over again. The library was my new home most days after work. I often thought, if this is what it takes to live a normal and healthy life, I can do it. After all, I had been homeless before- both on the street, in a shelter and in my car. I still remembered the days without eating when I hit a few real low spots and had lost everything. I was just happy to be paying for my own roof over my head, so meager rations of food and a car that kept me in the business of making money. I didn't see any of it as bleak. But I knew that I didn't need to be content here, I needed to be hungry for more.

I had no road map in this after life. My whole life up till then was all about survival and my map consisted of counselors who were willing to help me and many mentors I had along the way. And the road had been written about too- about life in mental institiutions or how to heal from an abused childhood and the mental institutions always had after care plans for you to follow. But my after care plan was only as good as the waiting time between institutions. I was in a different kind of after now. What do I do now? I have an outline of a life, but I was struggling. A full and healthy life did not include eating just ramen for every meal and not having enough gas to go out and do things- only just to get to work and back. So I made a choice. In my horror of a past, some good things did happen. In my turbulent college career, I had had a job. And it was a job that I loved with every fiber of my being and it both became the best of times and also led to my undoing. I was a behavioral therapist for children with autism. I worked out in the child's home. I loved those kids fiercely and did everything in my power to help them and their families. I worked an ungodly number of hours, never said no and was adored by the families. But I was under tremendous pressure. I had become quite successful pretty fast. I guess you could say the children and I understood each other in a sense. And I quickly had a large waiting list for people wanting to be my clients. And to the clients I did have, I became a miracle worker to them and it was hard keeping that up. Plus, I was in school, but sometimes it seemed only in name. But I digress. It was something that I loved and during those times, it was the one thing I knew I was undeniably good at. It was natural to me. And my ability to help these kids was unhampered by my mental illness- I could work with them and be successful depressed or manic or those short times in between. Meds or no meds, having just been in or about to go to a hospital, I was still good.

Having that in mind, I knew that somehow I needed to find my way back to that. Day care was becoming boring to me and there was too much drama. Lots of stuffing going on beaurcraticly. And I was used to working with kids one on one, not one on twenty. Plus I wasn't really teaching- I was a glorified babysitter. I thought it was a waste of my talents. And plus I didn't make much money. But I thought long and hard about making the move back to autism. I was afraid. Part of me wondered if I was throwing myself in to something I was not prepared for. After all, my life was divided into the before and the after. Autism and my ability to treat autism was something in the life before.

I feared that it would send me spiraling down back into the world I came from. I feared that it had been a year and a half since I used my therapy skills and what if I was not as good as I used to be. BecauseÖI know I was damn good at it. I was. Was I still? I was afraid of slipping back into my old mode of having to save the world. That it would consume my soul like it used to. Before, all that mattered was that I get very good at doing therapy so that I could be the best I could be to the kids and produce the miracles the parents suddenly expected of me after some success with some of the children. I gave up friends, boyfriends, good gradesÖI gave up a lot. I immersed myself in roles. The only thing that saved me was my therapist who saw to it that I was more than my job. She exposed me to music which also consumed a great deal of me. But she always got me thinking about what else I could do besides work. Too bad I threw it all away that one summer when I got the high paying job with autism and worked over eighty hours a week. With college done, I then could devote all of myself to my work, screw everything else. And I had the save the world mentalityÖin everything. I was huge in mental health advocacy at the time too. I just had to save, save, saveÖeverybody but me.

But when I came to ArizonaÖit was about saving me, finally. So did I do it? Did I save myself enough that I wonít lose myself again. I wanted to go back to treating kids with autism. It was the one thing in my life that I knew without a doubt that I was good at. That I made a difference in this world, one small child at a time. But it was something that was my undoing at the same time. It wasnít the main feature of the problem, though, I supposed. It was my life at the time. I was willing to cling to anything to survive. But I was not in survival mode anymore. I was in live mode. So maybe itís okay to go back to that.

I thought it might be good to go back to that. It did make me happy. And I got to witness a miracle every day. There is something special about that. And things were different now. For one, instead of the very personal aspect of doing therapy in a person's home, I would bedoing this at a center. Plus, I had friends, a very active dating life and I had things that I want to do. Join a book club. Start karate class. Maybe find an art class. I was interested in doing things, outside of work. I wanted to write again, but not necessarily about me. I had thought about some form of fiction. Yes, I wanted a life outside of work. But I wanted a hell of a working life too.

So after all that thinking, I stopped. I took my sleeping pill one night and felt that a new day could change my life again. I would face my fear and prevail. I was in a new life and I was a new person. But I wanted to think that I took my strengths of my old life and applied them to my new self. I did what I needed to do to save myself. So then it became about filling in the pieces of my life and right then I was in unrest about my working environment. So I decided that I should solve that problem and I would go back to something that even kept me alive at the worst moments of my life. That was good. I feared, but in a way I was not afraid. I looked forward to the challenges that awaited me. Somehow I knew that I would not fall prey like I once did. This would just be something to make me happy, to do my small part ot save a child's life. And there is nothing more important than that...except to make sure my life had been saved and I'm okay. So I wouldn't be using work as a crutch to keep me alive. Now I would get to do it soley because I love the work that I do. It became clear to me in the end that that is what was best and most important.

So I pulled up an old email that had all of the local behavioral therapy providers listed. An email I had sent to myself at an ealier time when I was thinking that I might make this kind of move way in the future. And one day, after a particularly bad day at work, I got online at a coffee shop and filled out some applications and sent my resume out. A few days later, I got a call from a place, that out of all the names in the whole wide world, this seemed the most perfect: L.I.F.E.

I was thrilled. And worried about the interview. It had been almost two years since I practiced. Did I even remember everything? So I gave myself a crash course in behavioral therapy. I looked up all my old power points from when I was the trainer doing the teaching. All of my paperwork and old textbooks were still in Virginia at my mother's house, since I had left one night in a mania fit and had pretty much left everything of mine behind for my parents to clean up. So I looked online too, to try and remember terminologies. And then there was my resume to consider. I had done therapy work, but it was almost two years old. Since then, only day cares. Would they wonder about the absences of work time, when I wasn't working at all for months on end or why I had stopped doing autism work. So I came up with a few half truths and out right lies. I would say I stopped doing autism work when I got fired from one of my jobs because I got in a car accident and was in the hospital for a few months recovering. That was a half truth. I had gotten fired but not because of a car wreck- it was one of the times I was institutionalized. And why did I go to Alabama and work at a day care for some months? Oh, I needed to recuperate after the hospital visit and my father offered and I needed something low stress. And why had I returned to Virginia, but worked as a nanny? Oh, well I was getting better and wanted to go back "home" but I didn't have a car at the time so I was working up to it. But why did you move to Arizona? I needed a change of scenary and didn't want to do the nanny work anymore and a friend offered me a place to stay, so I thought what the heck.

Those sounded like good answers huh? In the after life...one must think of these sort of things. Who would hire a woman who spent half her life in a mental institution and saw things that weren't there and did things because voices told her to. No, they want some steady, stable employee and not some nut job. So, the truth had to be skewed a little bit to make me sound stable and steady. Because, after all, I was now stable and steady. It's just, like I've said before, the past can color a person's view. More about that later. So I had all of these answers lined up and I made sure I wore my lucky blue shirt to the interview.

The interview went like a dream. They looked past all the recent day care work and saw my five or more years as a therapist, plus the published research (did I mention in the height of some of my mania's I managed to publish some work on both autism and what else but, self injury?) and all my advocacy work. They didn't ask me technicle questions, just the kinds of kids I worked with, the program guides I used and things like that. They were very impressed they kept saying. They did ask why I moved out here, but my nice answer was okay by them. No mention about the gap in work times or anything like that. And they offered me a job on the spot, with twice the salary I was making at the time. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. When I was driving to my current job after the wonderful interview, I kept playing Patty Griffin's Heavenly Day. I had landed one hell of a job and I could start in two weeks. Suddenly I was happy again after a few weeks of low morale. I had to drive a little extra to get to the new job, but I was being paid so much more, so gas was no longer a problem. I suddenly saw possibilities again. Schooling again in my future to finally finish my degree (I had a suicide attempt two months before graduation and failed my last semester, oops), and then go on to get my behavior certification and then maybe move up in the company and become an expert on autism again. And then I thought, STOP!! SlOW DOWN! My brain was moving too fast and at a speed I saw only as self destructive. I got this new job and it was great and the pay was better, but I had to be careful. I needed to not blow my money like I used to and I need to do things at a nice even pace. And so I slowed and decided to take each minute as just that, one minute at time.

I suffered through the next two weeks at my day care job, swore I would stay in touch with my friends from there, and then started my new job.

So this was after? You go through some bumps and maybe get a few bruises, but it's okay. Things happen. Doesn't mean your world has to go to shit or you need to sit in therapy and have everything analzyed but never actually do anything about it. Life does not have to stay in constant chaos. These are the things I wish they had shown me in all the books I ever read that only ended with a hint of the after life. That there would still be hard times, but you can preservere. Just hold tight to a strong foundation. And take everything you learned from years of therapy and years of lessons from the mental hospitals and apply them. That's what I was doing really.

In my before life I lived in a constant state of fear. I always feared I would go crazy or I was crazy and the truth was I did always go crazy and I was crazy. I made lists- lots of lists. Warning signs, medication, what to do if I'm having a bad day, daily schedules and all kinds of schedules and lists. I lived and breathed them, or at least always for a little while when I was inspired after a journey through a psych ward. These lists were meant for me to stay on the straight and narrow. I thought I would never remember all the healthy things I needed to do to be well, healthy. I thought my brain just didn't understand how to live life and be healthy and happy. I had to have something to constantly reference. So instead of posters of movie stars or rock bands in my apartments or dorms, the walls had lists that I filled out constantly. They were supposed to keep me well, but somehow I always ended back in the hospital.

But, then I hit this after life. In this life, I need no lists and I have none. I have everything I need to know, right here in this little brain of mine. I know the warning signs of depression inside and out, along with mania, and psychosis. I can now tell automatically when something is off or I'm having an off day and then I adjust my life accordingly. And thus far, I haven't ended up in the hospital. And I am always doing little things to improve my life. Okay, job is getting boring and every day I'm a little less happy. What do I do? Go back to doing something I love. And I did. And it helped. Okay, your eating habits suck, but you are getting more money now, so what do I do? I go out and buy the healthy foods I know my body needs to stay healthy. I didn't need a list to tell me to do that. Okay your life is lacking a bit outside of work. So, I am getting signed up for a book club and karate class. I need to make sure I buy things like furniture and basic needs things. So I made a monthly budget and stick to it. No list told me to do that, I just knew I needed one. My medication. I know I need to take it, so I take it every day and no list reminds me. Just some in the morning and some at night and I'm done. And I don't need lists to tell me when to shower, wake up, go to bed, eat, get dressed, work, play etc. I just do it. I go to bed at around the same time every night and wake up the same time every morning. I make sure I almost religiously get eight hours of sleep no matter what. I just know now that sleep is extremely important to my mental and physical well being.

So the point being, in this after life, I don't need lists to keep me straight. Step by step, brick by brick, over time people have imformed me of how to live a well life. I took all that knowledge and finally applied it. So now I live a well life, though I have to keep it in constant check and I make small adjustments when needed. In some books and movies they do show you how people are led up to the after life- these lits and after care plans and daily mood logs and so forth, but I never saw what happened after you didn't need them anymore. Most of the time I thought that was how it was going to be for the rest of my life. And I think some mental health professionals thought I might need them the rest of my life too. But, you grow up and on without them.

This was what after was like too, a little I suppose. Always checking yourself and making sure you weren't going to take a path that would lead you to before. I had to make sure I wasn't making a u turn. And since I didn't have any particular road maps, I had to just double check sometimes. It wasn't like I was in constant fear of going crazy again, but I think a little fear was perfectly healthy. It was the way I handled the fear that needed to be different. Before I ran from fear. I avoided it like the plague. If I feared something, I would do what I could to avoid it. Didn't like a particular class or had anxiety about it- I skipped it. Didn't want to make a phone call- made it when it was too late. Didn't have the money for a payment, waited until it was too late and late fees accumulated until it really was too late. Needed to make a tough decision- well not making a decision was also a decision. I avoided fear and blamed other people when things didn't work out. But now, now I took responsibility. When something needed to get done- I did it. If something anxiety ridden came up, like an important phone call, I made it then and there, no waiting. I learned to master my fear. I learned that action was my most valuable tool in the after. It was all about the doing. In the before I would do a lot of thinking. I would research a lot about how to do something, but then I never did it. So I accumulated a lot of knowledge and it felt good to finally use it. You only see a little bit about that in books and films that end with the beginning of an after life. The character finally does something courageous and overcomes some huge thing, but then it ends. They don't show what happens next, if it is truly about action and how to keep going after you make that first step. But I was learning.

Then of course, at my new job, there were eventually questions. It is HOT in Arizona, so I wore short sleeves and my scars are prominent. Even the children, who could talk, would ask me what happened. The old me was a huge advocate and felt like she needed to hide nothing. I went on national television even, and told my story with no shame. I didn't feel the need to hide that I was crazy or did crazy things. But, I learned a few things in the after. That I didn't need to be a champion of causes and I didn't need to feel ashamed that I couldn't always tell the truth about my past or my scars. Sometimes the world just isn't ready to learn about such horrors. And I wanted to be taken seriously at my new job and not thought of as a nut job, so I chose to deflect questions and come up with, well, basically lies. So either my cat scratched the hell out of me or I fell through a window. Both would make those kinds of scratches, but if you were cognizent enough to know otherwise, you might raise an eye brow with that kind of story. Some people bought the story well, others I thought, perhaps knew the truth, but knew enough not to talk about it. I think one day I would tell the truth again out right, but before anything, I needed people to know that I was a nice and stable woman now. That I was not my past. But I had to build up to that. I had to prove myself first. Because once you let that cat out of the bag, there is no going back. I wanted to build a firm foundation and have people see me perform my work very well so when the time came for the truth, they would see past the stigma of mental illness and the things you did to survive in that world.

That leads me to another thing about the after life not depicted in popular media. What do you tell people about your past? New people when they meet always exchange things about their past, where they lived, what they did, why they moved out here or if they lived here all their life. All of that. For a while new people bought my story about a change of scenary and I didn't talk about my life before much and if I did, it was just the good things. Eventually, my good friends knew the truth but loved me anyway. I made some very good friends. But, then there were always a few people who felt I was veiled about my past and were curious. Especially a few male suitors.

So, how do I explain my past? Itís like when I moved to Arizona my previous life ceased to exist. I stepped into a new person and have fully become her. The only signs that I was previously crazy is the medication I take every day and the scars that adorn my forearms. Otherwise I look and act like a normal, healthy human being. I quickly made a life for myself here and enjoy it immensely. I may be on the poor side of things, but life is looking up for me. But still, I was stopped in my tracks when asked about my previous life.

It never occurred to me that I would be so different from my once crazy self. That one day there would be no more hospitalizations, no more therapy, no more manic or depressive episodes. No more harming myself in any way. No more preoccupation with death. Just a love for life and living now. I didn't feel pain every day anymore. I was not scared that another mood episode will claim me in some way. I was not scared of my mental health period.

I had read a lot of books about people afflicted with mental illness and knew that recovery was possible. But those people were basically famous people and so they could afford to have their past spoken about and not be harshly judged. But what about regular people? When they finally recover from mental illness? How did I talk about my past? When people asked, I didn't want to lie, but at the same time, I knew the judgments that people make. I knew the stereotypes people have in their head. I knew the stigma attached to being crazy. Once you tell someone about the institutions and therapy and medication, stereotypes overcome them and your present self is overridden with your past ghosts. People think once crazy, always crazy. And I just wanted to scream, Iím not crazy anymore.

And how do I describe the phenomenon about how I was in and out of hospitals for months right up until my move to Arizona and then suddenly I was fine. I couldn't even describe it to myself, I just knew the change that had happened and trusted in that change. I just knew when I moved and left the past behind I became someone new, someone better, someone well. Itís like I needed the change of scenery to put all the bad stuff in a box and lock it and throw away the key. And it was a box I never had to open again. Plus, I did receive a lot of help from the time I was a teenager to my mid twenties. And when I moved I put to good use everything I learned in those years. All those years of accumulating information served a purpose. I finally acted on everything I knew and it worked. Here I am happy and healthy. I just needed something drastic to jar my system.

Instead of analyzing why my life suddenly turned around, I had just gone with the flow, which I think has served me well. For once I had accepted goodness instead of wondering what could go wrong or how I didn't deserve it. And life hasnít been perfect since I moved out here, but the difference is, I had dealt with that stress in a normal way. No cognitive distortions ruling my brain, or past trauma coloring the way I thought or felt. No moods jumping around. It has been nice.

And I have found new purpose in my life. Before it was all toward trying to get well anyway I could. And everything revolved around mental health and illness. Literally my whole life was colored by everything mental health related. Now, itís different. For a while I had no real ties to anything mental health related except the medications I took. So I was able to reconceptualize my life. I did eventually realize I wanted to continue to help kids with autism, so I found a job to do just that. So part of my old self is still with my new self, but just it seems the good parts. Like another part of me wants to go back into advocacy, especially now because Iím well and sane, which is important for a mental health advocate. But itís different now. Before I was searching for answers and now I have them, so my drive and purpose is different.

Itís just weird. I read about recovery and longed for it in the deepest recesses of my heart but never did I honestly think Iíd get there. Thatís the plain and inelegant truth. Recovery was this abstract idea that was out there at the end of a road, but I just couldnít figure out how to get there. And the more I tried and failed, the more I thought I was just destined to not get there. Good ole stinkiní thinkiní there. But then, at the end of my rope I made a decision. And that decision included a lot of things I have never done before. I had never moved so far away or so far away from family and everything I knew. I had never reached out to a friend and taken what they had to offer me. I had never been without a vehicle of my own. I had never considered letting a friend help me like that. And when I got here I considered letting friends help me, like my new friends helping me when my old friend turned out to be rather toxic to stay with. I had never dared to dream about being anything more than my disorder and past. So I did what I needed to do to get by until I could make it on my own. And now here I am making it on my own. I may have slept on the floor, owned no TV or internet and eaten ramen noodles every day for lunch and dinner, but I have my own roof over my head, vehicle to go where I please, two cats and a dog, a phone and a new kickass job doing what I do best. And I continue to surprise myself which is nice. Iím discovering who I really am inside. Without the constraints of my disorder.

It's not that I don't want to talk about my past and what I went through and all the help I did recieve from the mental health community. Iím grateful for all the help that I did receive. I got to tell my story and that was important. I had to get it out because it consumed me and turned me into someone ugly. But once my story was out there, it was all about picking up the pieces. But I was always looking to someone else to tell me how the pieces went together. Like I didnít own any part of my life. But all along, I knew how the pieces fit. It was just about making the leap into the unknown to put them together. And looking inside myself to find the answers to questions like, how do you live life? PleaseÖI seriously had to ask people that, particularly one counselor I had. I didnít get the concept of how life went. Which seems stupid to me now. Life is what you make it, not what someone else makes it or how they make it. Everyoneís life is different from one another, sure there are similarities, but you canít just model your life after someone elseís. You are uniquely you and the only one who can tell you how to live your life is you. Itís up to you to figure out what you like or donít like. Itís nice though when people do offer you choices and then you can pick out what you do or donít like. But you canít keep yourself limited to that because then you are just going off what someone else likes or doesnít like. I had to learn to like to explore and try new things. Thatís how I know I like sushi now ;-) I just decided to try it. I swore on everything that Virginia was my home and it was the only home for me. But then I left it all behind and discovered this wide, wide world out there. And that home wasnít necessarily a place. I feel perfectly at home right now sitting in my empty apartment with no tv or internet and just my animals and books. And Iím a million miles away from Virginia and my family. But Iím home. Not that this will always be my home. Home is where I decide to make it. Home is wherever my heart decides it needs to be. I could get a hair up my ass one day and decide that I need to move my home to California. Or Iowa. Or wherever. Home is a concept but does not have to be permanent. At least I donít have to stake all my beliefs in one place. I will always have a soft spot for Fredericksburg in my heart and would love to visit several times a yearÖbut itís not a place I want to live. At least right now and at least not in the foreseeable future. My home right now is here where I have made friends, have a nice job, animals and a whole host of things I want to experience. Home is where I decide to make it.

So when people as me about my past? You know, fuck Ďem. My past is my past however inelegant and messy. But itís a part of me and has helped forge who I am today. They want to know about my past? I used to be lost but now I am found. Thatís what I can tell them. I struggled and tortured myself trying to find any path that led to some form of a normal life. And I found the answers when I moved here, to Arizona. The important thing about my past is that it led me here. So it couldnít have been all that badÖbecause ultimately I got here, body and mind in tact and happy. And that will always amaze me. That I went through a lot, though I did not have the hardest life by any means, but I went through my own private hell but found myself in tact and healthy and happy. Ainít that the damnest thing?

Maybe it's when you have nothing left to live for that you are finally free to do anything. It came to the point to where I was either to just die or fade away or break free from the chains which bound me. Because you see, I was chained in the before life. I was diagnosed with a mental illness and suddenly my world was colored in those shades. My mind broke as did my life. I could not always tell the difference between real and fantasy. When I was manic, the world was my oyster. I was popular, supremely intelligent, head strong, bold, courageous and completely out of my mind. Sometimes when I was manic good things happened. Like I would treat autism like no other therapist and make monumental gains with children. I would get involved in awesome research projects or I became a leading advocate for those with mental illness and landed TV gigs. Or, I could believe the world was against me and I had to protect myself. I could believe in things that weren't there or weren't real. I thought I had abilities that I did not. And when I was depressed, nothing good that I ever did was good enough. No matter what happened in my life, I was a complete and utter failure. And as a result I should die. And the voices. Oh the voices. Sometimes they came when manic, other times depressed. When I was manic, they tended to be good. Depressed was another story. They berated and made me hate myself more than anybody could hate anything. Sometimes they were whispers, other times their shouts overrode any other auditory sounds. And from the time I was just a teenager to my twenties, 95% of the time, I was either manic or depressed, with and without meds and therapy. No one it seemed could get the medication and therapy combination right. So I was shackled to whatever my mind dealt with me.

Did I have control back then? That's up for discussion to some people. Clearly, my brain cells were misfiring, to produce the hallucinations and delusions and the manic mood and depressions. But my life was also shrouded in chaos. I thrived on it because that is all I ever knew since I was a child. Just pain and lots of it. So I modeled my life style after my trials and tribulations of childhood. I lived fast and hard. And so, sometimes I was on meds, sometimes I said fuck 'em. Sometimes I had lists and plans of actions and sometimes I said fuck 'em. Sometimes I lived a holistic, healthy life like my counselor wanted and sometimes I didn't. It was all just a lot of chaos. I was shackled. Chained to what my mind hath wrought.

Until one day I was pretty low. Other people were beginning to try to take control of my future. And I suddenly saw my future the way they saw it: bleak. Group homes, residential communities, mindless, meaningless jobs, mental health professions constantly around. My life was to be lived on survival only. To just get by without disrupting the people around me. I was going to be put away so I was less of a burden on the world with my moods and lifestyle. I had never really seen myself as disabled or handicapped. I had accomplished so much from working with the children to research to my advocacy work. Sometimes I was a force to be reckoned with. The community in which I lived knew who I was and most people knew my past. Some had heard about me through the wonderful work I did when I was well or hypomanic and others heard about the antics when I was too manic or depressed. And going home to my mother or my father wasn't an option. My mother didn't want me near her new family and I had already tried eight months with my father. And that only brought me a couple month state hospitalization and a wild manic episode in which I left in the middle of the night on a harrowing corss country journey which of course ended with...the hospital.

So there I stood at the end of a path. I had taken all kinds of roads and paths to stand at the end of that road. And it pointed to that bleak future where others could decide my fate. My mother was months away from getting the courts to intervene and have me placed. I was at the end of the road where I was the driver. And I got to that end of the road and I looked and looked and suddenly knew that I had taken the wrong road. This was not the place I wanted to be in. Sure death was an option of course. But I had come to really understand death and all it's finality. I knew it wasn't peace and that I would never feel another thing as long as I lived. And I would leave those behind with a sour taste. But yeah, death was there on the table. But so was another option. To back up and take another road. Find another path. Sure, it may just be a circle and maybe my future was meant to be bleak and only for survival. I had tried and exhausted pretty much every other option. I had gone to college, I had gotten a career (or two), I had lived on my own, I had lived with parents, I had basically sometimes lived in the hospital. Where else could I go.

I spoke about this on my support group. The thing with my support group is I had become close to a few people. And often I had invited people to come stay with me if they needed a place to go. One had lived with me for the summer. I got her a job and housing and food to eat and my good company of course. So when one friend heard of my plight, Jen (who I've spoken about and you know that ending), and offered me one final option.

I took out a map and realized that the answer to the question, where else could I go, was right in front of me. I could go anywhere. I knew how to be homeless and survive and did get myself out of it. I had kickass survival skills. So would it be such a leap for me to just pick up and move and start out somewhere fresh where no one knew my name or my past. Of course I still wondered if I would be shackled. Would my mind continue to break? Would I continue to see the things not there and hear the voices? Would I continue my manic and depression? Well, they could follow me, after all my mind was coming with me. But at the same time, I could do some things differently. At present I was living in hell. I was jobless, living in hell with a woman as crazy as I was, carless and every other kind of 'less. I had nothing. If I moved, I would have a place to stay and a means to get to work. From that kind of starting point, I could build a life. Or at least I thought I could. Only time would tell how my mind would make the journey. But, I looked at the options and thought, what the hell.

I spun that globe and stopped it on Arizona. My new destination. And in a few short weeks I summoned all of my courage and strength and I stepped onto that plane that would take me away from a place with so many memories, both good and bad. And when I arrived in Arizona, my after life began. Still to this day, I can't explain what happened on that plane. I got off a different and changed woman. Sure, I carried a broken brain, but every day I spend in this new place, my brain gets rebuilt. I did things I had never done before, like rely on freinds for once, even when it turned sour. I just did things differently, I guess as part of riding on this new road. Some how I was able to change my life's course with this one decision. Somehow I was able to unshackle myself. Maybe it was that I had lost everything and I broke myself as far down as you can get. Maybe death was not the only way to kill myself. Maybe I had already killed off the things inside of me and I was hollow and empty. But when I made that decision to change, when I went to a different road, I began to rebuild my foundation and how I view and lived life.

When I go to treat a child with autism I make a lot of evaluations. Most importantly I have to assess their foundations of language and social interaction. I have to find where they are weak and where their foundations are shaky. And that is what I then concentrate on- rebuilding their foundation so it's strong. And from there they can accomplish anything. So maybe I did that to myself. I took my foundation and found where it lacked and worked on rebuilding and now I'm living the after effects of that. I'm in the after life rebuilding my foundation, and from there I can accomplish anything.

Maybe it wasn't the meds that were always wrong or the wrong kind of therapy. Those were always the two key points that were changed when things went wrong. Maybe some of the meds were right, but I was lacking in some fundamental life area's and had not gone back and fixed those wrong things. What have I discovered in the after life that was so wrong before? I'm not always sure. I moving away from everything I knew was part of it. I was in a rut where I lived. I had crutches- like I knew the local mental health hospital and it's staff inside and out. When things went wrong, that's where I would go running to. I had people that watched over me carefully and offered their advice or intervened sometimes on my behalf when maybe I should have just let go. And, I was always alone. I was alone as a child and as I grew into an adult. I didn't trust and I never relied on another person to help me out. I didn't accept help very easily- I thought I could do it all on my own. When I moved I HAD to rely on help- for housing and food to a ride to work. I guess I learned proper social interaction to a degree. I let people help me up- even if it didn't work out in the end. And I worked hard. I found a job right away and I worked hard. I saved and saved my money so I could get on my feet. I mean, I always did work hard, but I took the first job that came my way and went to work every day even when I didn't feel like it. I made phone calls and all kinds of stuff I had never done before. I just did them because I had to. I took my meds every day, just like I was always supposed to. I ate meals. I slept eight hours. I went back to basics. Before, I would just kind of dance around the basics, do a little here, do a little there. But after I moved, since I was already on ground zero, I started with the basics. And starting from the basics and working your way back to the basics are two different things. When I started with the basics I could plug up any holes along the way because I was starting from the beginning, learning. Before, I was going back trying to find the holes and plug them, but I always missed something.

So when I moved, I was a shell of myself. My purpose in the beginning was to just start at the beginning, which I guess is what most people do starting from childhood. But with my childhood being what it was and then the way my mind bent and broke later...I wasn't afforded starting at the basics. I grew into an adult when I was just a child. And then as an adult I was experiencing an adolescence and it was all just mixed up. Whe I moved, it was just about the basics.

When I read other's accounts about the after life, I never did understand how they got there. It's just like at the end of the book or movie the person would have some big revelation and the all would be well, or at least that is what they wanted you to think. But I found that there were so many revelations. The day I finally whispered yes I had been sexually abused or the day the doctor looked at me and said I had bipolar disorder. The day I realized that I forgave my father and then my mother for what happened when I was a child. And I forgave my cousin for the innocense he took. Those were major revelations. Even the revelation that my future was bleak- some books or movies would have ended there, with me on that flight and getting off the plane in Arizona. That would have been IT. But it's not, I still have revelations. Like I trusted pretty easily when I first arrived here, but then my heart was broken by friends sometimes. And I realized that hey, it's okay to trust and have that trust broken. It doesn't mean that I should never trust again to make sure my trust is never broken again. It's just something you get sad over and mourn and then move on. That's life and that's people. I didn't get that revelation until the after life.

But how did I get to the after life? I guess it was a revelation. I just realized I wanted my life to be different. I suddenly saw what others saw and I didn't like it. So I could die and that would be the end of that. Or I could just try something different. I mean, death would stil be there- I could still choose death if I didn't like the new path I chose. So really, the question and answer was easy. If I died, I would have lost everything and not been able to gain anything. But at the same time, what did I have to lose by trying something different? Again, I had nothing to lose, so why the hell not and I had the added benefit that there was the possibility for gain. It was win win I figured to choose to try something different.

Like I said, when you have lost everything, you are free to do anything. That's how I got here to the after life. By freeing myself to the possibility of life and a good one at that.

I didn't just deserve death and destruction, maybe I deserved some good to come of my life. And not the mania kind of good, but just honest to goodness living. Maybe I did deserve to live a normal, healthy life and not one lived fast and hard and died young. Now, does everyone need to come to my conclusion to find their way to the after life? Probably not. I'm sure there might be an easier solution, but in a way, I think it all revolves around freeing yourself. From whatever shackles have you chained to your present life and where it is going. Maybe some people just need to change one thing like getting a different job or maybe trying some new medication or a different kind of therapy and then boom, your in the after life. But my before life was such that...well something major had to happen. A whole life kind of change, not just one thing. Like I said, I had built my life on a poor foundation and that needed to me remedied.

So here I am in this after life, living the things no one told me how to live. Well, I think maybe they pointed me in the right direction. I spent years in therapy and hospitals where they taught me how to eat healthy, learn social skills and leisure skills, how to like myself, how to organize my life, basic daily living requirements and that my worth was not tied to the things I did, but simply because I existed. But still, I needed to figure out where everything fit and where I had gone so wrong. I had to learn to temper the beasts that raged inside me and only I could do that. No one could defeat my demons for me. I had to figure that out and do it all on my own. I had to free myself to let go of them. To honestly not miss the manic moments. Do I have my moments where I think, man this would be so much easier if I could stay up all night and have endless energy or I wish some big idea would come to me to help this child...sure, I have my moments. But in my heart of hearts and deep in my soul I am so very glad not to be manic. The things I accomplished in those highs...well they were just not worth what I had to pay to get them. Besides, I have learned what I can accomplish normal and it's still a hell of a lot. I still do great work with children, I just do it while keeping me healthy. Maybe I might have inspiration sooner if I ran myself dogged, but then I might lose it all and be of no use to the child, inspriation and all. Now, inspiration might come a little slower, but I can sustain it and not take away from the child. The old addage, slow and steady wins the race. I get it now. I still love to do the things that I did manic- the kids, research, advocacy, but I just do it on a manageable level, so that I may have a life and do those things I want to do. That's the after life. I didn't have to say good bye to all those good things.

And that is what I always feared, I think. Part of what kept me chained. I was afraid of losing what I thought were the good parts of me, being able to work with the children, do research, advocacy, be extroverted and a hell of a friend etc. I thought those things belonged to just the manic side of me. And if I lost the mania to normalcy, I would lose those things too. I especially was afraid of losing my touch with the children. The whole mania being linked to creativity thing. But, one day I made a leap. I decided to risk those things being gone so I could just be normal and healthy. And a wonderful thing happened. I didn't lose those things- they were a part of ME not the mania. They just took on new meaning and had to find their own place in my new normal and healthy life. I just lost the extreme parts of those things. I don't need to work myself like a slave to reach these children, I don't have to do research that is super publishable and exhault me to the top of an intellectual pile and I don't have to be the number one advocate and find myself on Oprah. I can still reach the children by tapping into many parts of myself and not just the endless energy and time to figure things out, I don't have to be the best researcher in a field, I can just do the research because I can (like just taking research data on the kids, but not necissarily doing anything with the data right now), and I can be an advocate in my community not in the whole wide world. Everything is tempered. And the parts that are me are still there. Everything is just not in chaos or taken to the extreme.

I remember once I was wondering which me was me- the mania, the hypomania, the depression or the elusive stable me. I wanted to find a book then that taught you how to have bipolar in a stable world. I guess in a way, I'm writing that book now. That's the after life, living in the stable world while having bipolar disorder. In the end I found the real me, underneath all of that crud. I wasn't defined by my disorder, I was defined in all sorts of ways that made up the complicated me. I wasn't just my disorder or my job or my relationships or my past, present or future. I was all of those things. I was built brick by brick and each one of those things affected me. In the after life, at least for me, it's all about temperment too. Learning to temper my extreme's into something manageable. And while I thought I would lose some of myself when I shut down the mania and the depression, I learned more than ever to just be myself. That when all was said and done and I looked at myself in the mirror...I was still the woman who did damn good therapy with kids, that loved animals and children, loved to read and write and do research and loved to be with people, not in large crowds, but with just some good quality friends. The mania and depression just seemed to heighten certain aspects of myself and amplify them over everything else. Like sometimes when I was manic I just concentrated on being one hell of a therapist or mental health advocate. I just threw myself into things and everything else be damned. In my now stable life, everything has it's place. Early on in the after life, my job probably weighed a little heavier than anything else. But that was simply because I loved doing it and that is where my heart wanted to be. I guess the main thing was that everything calmed down in the after life. Nothing was over the top anymore. The volume dial was just turned down to a manageable level. And I didn't lose myself in the end. I would say that instead, I found myself.

It's funny. When I began my after life, I thought I would make sure I did nothing that resembled my previous life. But I some how found myself back to treating autism and once that started, I heard another calling. Advocacy had been huge for me for many years in the before life. I was afraid at first to touch it again. I wrote to a previous counselor that I didn't want to go back to save, save, save mode and forget about myself. But while I was scared of the before life coming back to haunt me, I was also realizing what really made me, me. And some how I found advocacy fitting again. Besides, unlike in the before life, where I really was crazy and never stable, I was finally a person with mental illness who took control of her life and was living among the normal people with no one the wiser. I was a success case, strange as it sounded to me. And while when I first moved to Arizona I was afraid to stand up for myself, afraid of what people would think...suddenly I found myself wanting to stand up again. I guess maybe I had proved myself to everyone around me that I wasn't crazy anymore. People knew me well and not sick and I think that made a big difference. And hey, while before I just added to the many voices about mental hospitals, medications and therapy, here I was finally able to talk about the after life. And maybe that could help some people. I thought maybe, just maybe. So, I once again became a consumer member of NAMI and from there it took off. I revamped my website, started my support group again. But, I made an important decision. I did not get the internet at my house, so I could not constantly check things out and be there always. My rule was...nights were mine. Most nights I even stopped bringing home work. Sure, I may have gotten up early to do work, but the nights...the nights were exclusively mine to do whatever I pleased. And this I think helped me keep my sanity.

Before, I was a pretty good advocate. I had a lot of big ideas and I had a lot to say. But I think I hid a lot of my life. I didn't want other advocates or people listening to me to know that I was unstable. I thought I was a success back then, but I really was lying to everyone including myself. But now it's different. I'm ready to not hide, but to throw open the doors. Before, I was...I guess an advocate for recieving help like with therapy, meds and hospital. But now, I'm so much more. There is more to the story. I have this after life. What happens when the pieces are all picked up and put back together. What is life about for you then? That is what the after life is about. And that is the story I very much like to tell.

And that story is surprisingly similar to other, typical people. I have my ups and downs but I have ways to manage them. The difference may only be that I take three medications a day to keep those highs and lows in check. Or that I sometimes see a doctor called a psychiatrist instead of a general doctor when I go for a check up. Such small differences when you think about it. I may be a little anal when it comes to self care and sleep. Or with partying since I don't drink. I may show a little more pause when making decisions. But overall, I think the differences don't amount to much. A lot of it is internal. Do I still have an internal struggle? Maybe on trouble days, but most of the time no. I don't have these excrustiating monologues with myself about how I miss the mania or what it was like struggling with depression. I don't torture myself with what might have been or what I might be like when I'm manic instead of normal. And like Jamison writes...she would choose to have manic depression because medication is available to temper those moods. She ran faster, loved faster and thought faster than most she knew. Normal or manic, I have been the same. I have had incredible experiences in my life and though not all were good, I wouldn't give them up because they helped to forge who I am today. And even when I'm normal and my extreme's are tempered, I still think I have a higher creativity level and somehow when it comes to treating children my mind is on a different plane. And when it comes to treating the children, I think because of my experiences, I understand just a little more than the average person. I know the struggle. I know what its like to make a theraputic connection. I just "know." People have always been amazed at how the children respond to me and somehow I don't think that would have happened if I had been born neuro-typical. So yeah, life was hard in the beginning, in living with bipolar, but that didn't mean it always had to be hard. And I'm living proof of what can happen in the after.

6-21-08
It's been a year and three and a half months since I wrote in my journal section. Wow. A lot has happened. So here is a brief synopsis.

I was living in Alabama from late September/early October to the end of May. Well, wait. Before that March 2006 I attempted suicide, was in a coma for a time and barely lived. I did live and I woke up and lots of things changed. I did not graduate from college...couldn't catch up on the work. I did manage to get a kick ass job regardless but that was just a disaster. So in a hospital visit in September, preparations were made for me to live with my dad since I ended up jobless and homeless. So back to Alabama. I got there and was miserable and I attempted suicide again in October. I lived through that and was sent to state hospital for a month. I got through that and was actually somewhat happy. I found a day care job and things were okay for a time. Though I still self injured. Anyway, eventually I just couldn't handle life and was back in the hospital for two weeks in Feburary as you can read below. So that brings me to that March post. I managed to keep my job, but then my car broke down and with no way to get to work, I was fired. This set off a huge chain reaction of events.

I pretty much lost touch with reality. I became so manic that I didn't know which way was up. I decided in my head that a friend of mine would come from NYC so we could do a road trip to Alabama to Michigan (to visit a friend) to Virginia. At first I was just supposed to visit Virginia, but then I had a fight with my father and decided I would just move there. I sneaked out in the middle of the night from my dad's (didn't even say goodbye) and drove with my friend to Michigan. That was just a diaster because,again, I was too manic and I blew up at my friends and alienated them. I was quickly losing all of my marbles.

So we left Michigan and were driving through Ohio to get to Virginia. And just a reminder...I didn't know where I was going to work or live, I just had it in my mind that Virginia would make everything okay. Well, we broke down in Ohio. I lost it. We managed to get to a hotel but I was gone. Really gone. My friend left the room in anger with me and when I couldn't find her, I lost it more and broke a light bulb and slashed my arms. Then I poured out a bunch of pills and swallowed them. I was a wreck. My friend came back to my room, saw me and the state I was in and called the cops. Who then came and took me away to the hospital. I was so out of it, to this day I couldn't tell you what hospital I was in or even what happened. But, I was at this hospital, no cell phone or phone numbers for any of my family (well I was compeltely estranged from my mother's side at the time). Eventually after a few days my father and his family found me. And so after a few days, the hospital was ready to release me because I was oh so convincing that I was sane. So, I was supposed to go to grey hound bus station to take me to virginia and my aunt was going to pay for the ticket. Well I got to the station and no ticket. So there i was , in the middle of some town in Ohio, forty miles away from the hotel that had all of my worldly posessions and a broken down jeep. I had seventeen dollars. So with no other option, I bought a map and some water and I set out to walk those forty miles to the hotel.

So I walked forty miles in three days to the hotel with my stuff. I went over a mountain, I fell into a creek, I got picked up by the cops, I slept outside, I didn't eat and I shit in bushes. But after three days, I made it. And the hotel had wifi and I got online and contacted my father. Who then got me a room and money for a taxi to go to the grey hound station with a ticket this time.

So, I was still manic pretty bad. But I got on the bus for virginia. The plan was to stay in a homeless shelter. Oh wait. FYI: I had to leave MOST of my worldly posesssions. Including all my favorite and inspirational books and journals, my xbox and all electronics except for my laptop, and clothes. I had just my backpack and a bag of clothes. But anyway...it took me 23 hours to arrive in Virginia where I took a taxi to the homeless shelter. And there I was informed that I had to be a resident of virginia for thirty days before I could stay there. Crying, I called a few people I knew to drive me to another shelter, but no one could come through. And again, I was out of my mind. And so I sat at a fork in a road trying to figure out if I wanted to walk 30 miles to another shelter that would take me or what? I decided that...I was indeed crazy. So I walked myself to the hospital and once again entered the mental hospital that I knew so well. They were not happy to see me or the state that I was in.

I raged for three weeks at that hospital. And I mean raged. I took a shower curtain rod and trashed my room. I took markers and wrote shit everywhere. I probably figured out ways to harm myself, just can't remember. The Quiet Room was my room for the duration of my stay. They had me on many medications and I was doped up. During my turbulent stay, a woman offered me a place to live if I would nanny for her children, who were behaviorally challenged. I was desperate so I said yes.

After three weeks of craziness they saw fit to let me go. I was somewhat saner and very doped up on Lithium...which later proved to be a toxic dose. Anywho, went to live with this woman. Well she was crazier than me and her children were...out of control. For maybe one month or two of my four month stay, things were good. But always chaotic. I again started cycling and I think I went in and out of three different hospitals at least once a month the whole time.

In essence, I was jobless, carless, moneyless and slowly losing my mind faster than they could medicate me. My mother who re-entered my life, was looking for a group home with me, because I was deemed not functional in society for the most part. Basically...I had no more life. I was gone, or at least the self I knew me to be. So one day I reached out online and told people about my plight.

One friend answered and said, come to Arizona and I will give you shelter. I had nothing to lose. So my dad bought me a ticket for me and my cat ;-) And I stepped on to a play on a rainy november day and left everything I ever knew behind, including my dismal self.

And seven months later, I have a kickass job, friends, money, a place of my own, a boy friend and everything I never thought I'd have. No sign of being crazy and I only take pretty much ONE medication as opposed to eight to ten. My life changed when I moved to Arizona...and I may never know exactly why...I am just damn glad. I am not crazy anymore. I like to shout that sometimes in my head, I'M NOT CRAZY ANYMORE!!!!!!

And that's the catch up...I will also post a little something I am writing called, The After Life. It talks about what happens when you one day leave a mental hospital, never to return again. Books...well they talk about being crazy or how to live through childhood abuse or life in a mental institution. But they never talk about "after." What happens after you leave all that behind. What happens after the major revelations that change your life. I am living the after life...and this is what I have to say :-)

3-2-07
On year ago I was already unconscious in an ambulance to the hospital. My first suicide attempt.

One month ago, I planned my suicide for this anniversary. It would have been my third suicide attempt.

Today, I have NOT planned my suicide. I slept in and went to my pdoc.
 
I may not be where I wanted to be at this point in my life, but I am where I need to be and I work my ass off every single day to get where I want to be. I was depressed this month and even went to the hospital. But I understood my depression and made the necessary changes to get better (reduce work hours, add a medicine, up a medicine). My hard work is paying off and I am doing very well today.

While I wish I had not made the decision to die one year ago, I am happy that out of it I have chosen life with more feeling than before the attempt. No one can dare call me indifferent. I care very much and work my ass off to get better. And I will keep working at it to get on with my life and the goals I have set for myself. Out of death I found life...and I'm alright with that.


2-18-07
At the beginning of February I became depressed again. So last week I made the decision to get help at a hospital. What follows are my thoughts after I was released.

Well, my visit  to the hospital was rather quick. But going to the hospital I had several goals in mind. First and above all else, I wanted to stop the compulsive suicidal ideation. With two suicide attempts behind me...I knew that any suicidal thinking was very dangerous. Second, I knew my meds were wrong because I was doing so many good things and couldn't find a reason to be depressed. Third, I knew there was something wrong but I couldn't figure out what it was. I hoped the hospital could shed some light on the the hell was going on with me.

I was at the ER for some eleven hours! That was a disaster. They had eight admissions that night so eventually they stuck all of us crazies in a hall way. That was kind of fun- all of us just hanging out together. But, the later it gets, the less depressed and more manic I get. For whatever reason, after ten o'clock my body goes into manic mode unless I take my night meds. Finally I got moved over to the actual hospital, but they couldn't give me my meds without seeing a doctor. So from midnight to about four AM, I paced my room and asking the nurses constantly about meds. Finally at about five AM they gave me just seroquel. I got about four hours of sleep. The next day I was high as a kite. But lots of fun! I was kind of pissed though...because I wanted help for the depression not the mania that I now found myself in.

Anyway, I met with the doctor the next day for a long intake. When I got done with everything he looked at me, sighed, and said we were running out of choices (medication wise cuz I've been on so many). I was honest with him and told him which meds I thought were doing nothing for me and which I thought were helping. So he left me on the good ones and took me off the two that weren't helping. Then we discussed anti-depressants, which I have been on many and hate them. BUT, it had also been three or four years since I'd been on an anti-depressant and I told him so. I told him I would keep an open mind if he wanted to try one again. So, we settled on Cymbalta since it is new.

Overall, this is my last anti-depressant to try since I've tried several from each class. I have about two anti-psychotics to try before I've tried them all and I have like one mood stabilizer left to try. That's not a lot of meds.

Anyway, after getting cymbalta I realized it was going to be a looong next month. It would mean that I would have to be okay with depression for a month while I waited for it to work because I couldn't stay in the hospital until it worked. Then I realized my lithium level was about in the middle. So the next day I asked him if he would consider raising my lithium level while I waited for the cymbalta to work. He thought this was a great idea (hmm where's my medical degree?). So he raised my lithium to the highest, right next to the toxic level. So now I have to be careful.

So, I've completed one of three goals. Meds are changed. Also, since I went manic for two of those days, the suicidal thought onslaught was ending and fading. So another goal reached. So this left me wondering where the hell everything went wrong. I had no idea what I did wrong because I was doing everything the people told me to do to remain healthy.

That day I attended all the groups and they were very good. One of the groups was on fear and it made me really think. And I realized that the thing I feared the most was relapse. I was actually afraid of relapse and didn't know what to do about it. Later that night we had wrap up group with a great counselor. He posed a very important question to me, which I am still thinking about. It is the central question about my treatment.
Do I try for remission or just less cycles?

The next day was just a lot of thinking, especially about what could be wrong, what did I miss that made me unhealthy. After thinking all day and not getting the answers I wanted, I hunted down a staff member I liked and asked to speak to him. He was great and I found an answer. With driving time, I work twelve hours every day. This leaves room for nothing really other than work and sleep. For someone with bipolar, this could deadly...and it was for me. So the counselor asked me to bring this up with my doctor. And I did. The doctor had an immediate answer...he said there was not much of a chance for me to be healthy while working the twelve hour days. I needed to either leave my job for something closer or drastically reduce my hours.

And there was the answer and he was right. I started getting bad when I started my job. My doctor said that I probably felt trapped keeping those hours and he was right. So then I knew it would be decision time about my job that I just got.

And that's where things started to improve and I finished goal three out of three. One of my final decisions was about when to leave the hospital. I was given a lot of latitude with this and I knew what I needed to say to either go or stay. I decided that I couldn't become dependent on the hospital and that I had accomplished what I needed to. I knew/know that I am still depressed and I will have to wait for cymbalta to work. But I also realized that I could now fight the dark thoughts on my own, so I was safe. So I told the doctor I could be safe yesterday and he said okay. Then he asked if I had a regular doctor on the outside and I said no, but as luck would habit he had a private practice and my insurance took it...so I get to see him on the outside.

And that was my stay. A lot of stuff happened, but this is just the outline that I needed to get out. I am very glad I once again made the decision to go to the hospital. I don't see it is as this awful thing to avoid...but something that is there when I need it. I am not ashamed to say that though I was suicidal, going to the hospital had more to it than that- I needed a safe place to escape to....to think and figure out why I was depressed. Sometimes, I need to get away from the world to do this. Instead of waiting for me to cause more destruction while I tried to balance out...I chose instead to inconvenience myself for a few days and have very little destruction.

My suicidal thoughts are mostly faded...I have my medication changed...and I know a big reason as to why I started a downfall. Not bad for a weeks worth of thinking. So that's the deal...I am depressed right now, but hopeful. I at least know which direction to start moving in. And that's important.


1-29-07
It's amazing what actual belief in yourself can do. For many years I convinced myself that I could not learn Latin. I thought there was no way, I was just one of those people who could not learn another language. Lately, I've decided to believe in myself that I could learn this language. And I am learning it. Now I feel like punishing myself for not learning it sooner and getting my bachelors degree. Instead I'm stuck with learning it now and I think I can do it. At least enough to get a C!

Tomorrow I go on a job interview and I am NOT inducing mania. That's huge for me. My last slew of interviews I made sure I was a little bit manic. But tonight I told myself, I can do this stable. So this will be a huge thing for me, if I can do well stable. I'm also not super studying like I did the other times. I know I know this information. And I can do this stable. Tomorrow will be a big day for me. I hope it will go well...I don't think I can handle it going badly.

And tomorrow...I see my new pdoc. Let's all pray that she rocks and I won't have to shop around. Another thing to add to my big day. Here's hoping it will go well!

1-27-07

What do I want?
This is a question I have been asking myself lately. I always come back to the same answer: I want to move back to Virginia. My home is there...my community. But, in knowing what I want most, I have also been asking, what can I live with? For sure I want to move to a community. A place where I have a favorite restraunt to go to, where I know so many of the people and we are brought together by various functions. Besides the city I lived in...the only other way to get what I want is to get back into military life. I have been trying to figure out why I have loved Virginia so much and it dawned on me that it was a lot like the military life I grew up in. A sense of community. That's what I want most. I want to raise a family in a community. I don't want a place where I am restricted to just my home...like I am now. I want to meet someone that I love, start a familly and live in a community.

Maybe that's why I love SC... I've been able to build it into a community and I love that. Maybe that's why I never minded going to a hospital...because that was a community. I guess I could even say I liked working in the autism field because there is a sense of community- same with the advocacy work I was doing. Here in Alabama I am missing that- I'm not working and not doing advocacy work. I am confined basically to my house with my dad...it's not this community of people and places and things to do.

So that's what I am saying I want right now...to move back into a community- wherever that may be...but I hope Virginia. That's where my friends are, my mentors are, my music scene, my places and just people.

I'm starting this so I know where I started at...and see how it changes.

1-23-07
Life has been stable. I take my medication as prescribed every day and try to get used to everything being slowed down. As I move along in my life...I know I need to be stable and figure out how to live in a stable world. I have too much to lose now. I have been through the worst of my illness and come out the other side okay. I am okay. That's a good feeling.

These days I look back at my mistakes and I'm starting to learn from them. I'm picking up the fragmented pieces of my life and putting them back together. This includes finally letting go of what my mom has done. I'm finally ready to forgive and move on. I've spent a lot of time hating, but it has only served to hurt me more, rather than help. I'm twenty three years old and ready to truly begin my life. 

About a week ago, I "met" a guy online. For a good part of my life, I have always searched for someone that was like me- someone who understood what it meant to have an abusive past, what it has meant to struggle for so long just for a regular life and understands why sometimes I just hurt. I finally met that someone who has been there himself. He understands without me even having to put words to my feelings. He gets it. You know, at first I passed his profile and then I stopped went back and just lingered. I couldn't figure out why I was drawn to him. So I sent a hello and he sent one back and we've been talking ever since. And for the first time in a long time...talking is easy. We haven't met physically...that comes tomorrow and I can't wait. The guy is special, for sure. I look forward to beginning a relationship with him. 

And that's where I am. Still waiting for a job to open up, but I have faith. A new guy in my life who I already know will at least be a great friend and I hope more. A great relationship with my father and hopefully a new beginning with my mom. I get to talk to Julia and her family almost every day and that brings me great job. I have my three wonderful cats that always put a smile on my face. And I am stable, my illness is in remission. I'm living life and feel okay. That's good enough for now.

Climb, climb into the rocket
And we set the fuse to go, go go
Head start, cosy in the rocket
And I need to go, go, go,go
Tip top ready for the sky
Sd I'm tip top ready to go
Tip top ready for the sky
And I'm tip top ready to go,go,go

Come, come, fly into my palm
And collapse
Oh oh, suppose you'll never know

Nobody knows where they might end up
Nobody knows
Nobody knows where they might wake up
Nobody knows
Nobody knows where they might end up
Nobody knows
Nobody knows where they might wake up
Nobody knows

Tick tack toe, you're fitting into place
And now the old ways don't seem true
Stick stop blue you're only changing i
In the same old space you always knew
Tip top ready for the rocket
And I'm tip top ready to go
Tip top ready for the sky
And I'm tip top ready to go, go go

Come, come, fly into my palm
And collapse
Oh oh, suppose you'll never know

Come, come, fly into my palm
And collapse
Oh oh, suppose you'll never know
-Grey's Anatomy Theme song

1-16-07
I am now far from mania and back to stable ground. I did a few experiments in the last month and found exactly what part of me each medication fixes. Now, being back to stable...I miss the little manic high's I was getting. I again revisit 'the choice.' Hypomania is the best I can possibly be...but I can't choose hypomania because then that chooses losing control, that chooses possible death. Two times when I have been wildly manic...I have attempted suicide. Mania has become a deadly mood. So that leaves me with stable...which is a more mediocre me. Everyone says to try your best...but I'm not allowed to try my best anymore.

Part of me wonders if I decreased the doseage on some of my medications...if that would give me hypomania but not go overboard. But then I know that is dangerous territory, because what if I can't control my moods with less meds. The medications I'm on now for sure make me stable. The doctors finally fixed my bipolar. But then I wonder if I want to be all the way fixed.

In the end I know stable gets me life and mania gets me death. My bipolar has become a matter of life and death and I hate that. I just want to be a little "up" and get on with my life. I just want to be able to choose how great I can be and not have to settle for mediocre. I just...want something I can't have. And I have to learn to be okay with that.


1-4-07

Mania
I think about to enter into a full blown manic episode. I ran out of Seroquel for a full day yesterday and I already notice changes. I didn't sleep last night due to feeling highly active. I have noticed that my dry mouth has also disappeared. It's weird to taste saliva again. I was so used to dry mouth. I also had stopped Lithium for several days or took a third of the dose. Today I took two thirds after an interview.

Physically I feel changes. My stomach is having an overhaul. I feel sick to my stomach all the time. Another sign of impending mania. I'm exhausted, but not tired. My thoughts have sped up and flashbacks have started.

My anxiety seems tempered by the mania episode. I am willing to do things I would otherwise be afraid of. That is what makes returning to stable so difficult. Stable I am afraid, mania I am not.

So how do you choose then? Great heights with just as great pitfalls? Or a stability that gets you less of both? Why must I make that choice? No one should be subjected to the great's of mania and then have to choose between that and sanity. It's like showing me something wonderful and then telling me I can't have that because of the risk of losing my mind. It's like most things in my life: not fair.

But I do know the path mania takes: death. Mania is a journey that can end in death. Stability is a journey that can give me life. So while I struggle with daily feelings of missing mania, I know I must keep in mind what stability will get me in the long term. Mania is more natural to me so I also have to figure out how to get stable to become natural. I need to figure out how stable can be not afraid as well.

I was shown something wonderful, but I choose to take it down a notch and keep my sanity.


12-25-06
So this is Christmas/And what have you done/Another year over/And a new one just begun

I used to believe in Santa Clause and each year I believed in a jolly old man that would bring me my hearts desire. I didn’t believe in love or even in God, but I believed in Santa Clause and all stood for. So every year on Christmas I got up early and bolted to my parents room. Then we went downstairs and I would see presents wrapped and I knew He had to be real.

Then I turned about seven. And I stayed up late to see this jolly old man. Instead I watched my parents bring the presents from down the hall. Now I didn’t believe in love, I didn’t believe in God and I didn’t believe in Santa Clause. Suddenly I felt empty.

When I turned eleven, I believed in Santa Clause again, or at least the feeling and idea of him. I had a baby brother and old feelings arose in me. As my brother got older and believed more firmly in Santa Clause, so did I. Suddenly I am building ginger bread houses that fall at least twice before we get it right, I spend hours searching for the perfect gift to give him and I made sure I reached out to others. Noah believed in Santa Clause and through his belief so did I.

Then I was fifteen and I had another little brother. His charm has always been irresistible. And he believed in Santa Clause. As the years went by my heart continued to be warmed by these two boys. We continued with the ginger bread house, we would check the naughty and nice list and we would all spend hours searching for the perfect gift. Brandon would go around the house and take things from people’s rooms and then wrap them and give them to the person on Christmas. He would also spend hours in his room building things for his loved ones. How could I not believe in the spirit of Christmas?

Every Christmas Eve we read The Night Before Christmas and then we checked the NORAD Santa Tracker to see where Santa was. We also checked the Santa Spotter to see how close he was and how much time we had to get in bed. When it was nearing ten or eleven, we’d race to bed and lay tightly together. I’d tell my brothers to hush and we listened for Santa Clause. Suddenly we heard bells and a Ho, Ho, Ho. It was Santa, I’d tell my brothers. Then we heard hooves on the roof and we knew it was reindeer. My mother did an excellent ho, ho, ho and my step father threw the pine cones up on the roof. And though my parents and I knew this, we were just as excited as my brothers.

Then they’d get up early, take the covers off the bed so I would wake up and we’d race to my parent’s room. Then we’d sit up on the stair top while my parents got things ready below. Then they’d say we could come on down and the boys raced down stairs and the look on their face was priceless. Then we’d all settle in and begin opening presents one by one. And that was Christmas. It was special and it gave me something to believe in.

Now Christmas is nothing and gave me nothing to believe in. My brothers are several hundred miles away which feels like forever. They went about their Christmas Eve as they always did, but without me. They raced down the stairs like they always do, except without me. They still believe in Santa Clause, but that ship has sailed for me.

This Christmas I was barely awake at seven am to open only the three gifts my brothers sent me through the mail. I had already picked out two video games that were my presents, as well as my latin class being paid for and fixing my care. My step mother opened her three gifts up and my dad opened his. Then I went to bed until 1pm. That was Christmas. My belief has shattered along with my life. This Christmas I feel only an empty loneliness. I feel like shutting myself up in my room and engage in self destructive acts. I just want to go and hide and never come out. No Christmas magic can save me now. And I can’t help but think this is all a result of what I have done...the steps I took in September. I lost nearly everything and some days I wonder why. And then I think that maybe this Christmas is trying to tell me something too. Get in treatment so I can get my life back. I guess that is Merry Christmas to myself.

So this is Christmas and this is what I’ve done.


12-22-06
These days I am in so much pain I can hardly stand it. It's mental pain, but I can even feel it physically. I am battling my deep longing to be manic again. I have been stable for over a month now and I see it's weaknesses...which mania would fix. I get very anxiety ridden for anything social, especially phone calls. If I was manic, I wouldn't be afraid. I am scared to death to finish my latin class because I think I will fail it (again). So then I think mania would allow me to learn better. In fact, when I think about anything, I think that mania will fix it or make it better. But at the same time, I know the destruction that mania causes. I almost died the last time I was manic. In fact, the last two times I was manic I almost died. I lived twenty two years through abuse and depression without trying to kill myself once. But when I was at the height of a manic episode I finally did it. Then eight months or so later, I did it again. Death follows mania.

But then I think I'm smarter now and I could control my mania more. I think a controlled mania would be great. But the inherent nature of mania would seem to make it uncontrollable. That's what medication is for- to control both my mania and my depression and everything in between. And medication does control it. Except what I am feeling now. But then I think it's an environment problem and not a medication problem. Or it's a fear problem.

Fear rules my life. It always has and I don't know how to fix it. I am so afraid to do so many things and it freezes me. I hit an ice wall. I couldn't even make a fucking phone call...it took me more than a day to work up the courage and even then I have to write out exactly what I am going to say. Why? I don't understand it. These are the days that I miss Kiandra.

And then there is my so broken family. I know my relationship with my mom is dead, but not buried. A couple weeks ago I wrote her a letter that put myself down (i.e. I am such a bad daughter; you are the best mother) and I wondered if I would get a response. Previous to that I had sent the most honest letters I had ever written and apparently it hurt my mother (according to step father). So I wrote this new letter and sure enough...I get a heart felt letter. So if I'm honest, I'm shit to her...but if I lie, I'm great to her. Some fucking...way to be to a daughter. That lying letter also brought Christmas cards from my brothers and presents. I can't stand it because I can't honestly tell if this is because I lied or if I would have gotten this stuff anyway. How will I ever know that? But I have sworn...I will do whatever it takes to be close to my brothers. So if I have to suck up how I feel...then I will. They are worth it.

I'm starting to hate who I am again. I thought I had buried this in my past, but it's asserting itself right now. I hate that I don't have a job and there must be something wrote with me because I couldn't get a job. I hate my intelligence because it fails me in the one fucking class I have to pass to get my degree. I hate myself for all the things I'm not. I'm not the high functioning woman with bipolar doing great things with her life. I shriveled up and became nothing. So what am I supposed to do? What in the hell am I supposed to do??????!!!!!!

When it comes down to it...I don't think my stable self is strong enough to do what I need to do. I don't think I'm strong enough to call the places that need calling, to fill out the papers that need to be filled out, to take this latin class and pass and to land this job I need.  I'm just not strong enough. And that's why at the end of the day, I feel like being manic. It's the only thing I know that will make me strong enough. The only problem is it also makes me weak. How am I supposed to figure this out? I'm just one person. I feel alone. But I know other people struggle and shit...but I just feel alone because there isn't anyone I can really talk to about this. I'm supposed to be the strong one. But Kiandra couldn't handle me so there is no way anyone else can. And maybe that's why I'm still angry with her. Because she's made me feel like I'm too much for someone to handle.

Fear rules my life and that's how it is. I'm desperate at this point that I would risk my life to be manic again to accomplish what I need to accomplish. The question now is...what will I do? Pondering this question has caused me so much pain that I feel it physically. I don't think I have made the decision yet, but some day soon I will. But at what cost?

12-20-06
A little cognitive distortion work:
I need to be manic again to accomplish things. In mania I can make phone calls without anxiety, I can face people I wouldn't be able to face and my life will go faster and better. I need to stop my meds and bring on a high period.

Well, this should be an interesting one to untwist. First, I don't have to do anything. That's sounding a little black and white. Second, mania has often times caused either a suicide attempt or a hospital visit. Do I really want that? I admit that I do miss going faster and doing more, but being stable is what I need to get used to. Mania caused my downfall and I don't want to lose all the progress I have made since then.

Now I just have to say this every day or several times a day until I believe it.


12-19-06

Erin vs. the Narcissist...and I won. With regards to my mom, I wrote one final letter to her, catering to her narcissistic tendencies. It was much like a test to see if she is truly narcissistic. She is. It was hard writing that letter because I lied through my teeth...oh mom I am so sorry I am an awful daughter and you are the best mom in the whole world...that type of thing.

Previous to that letter she told me that the letters were hurting her and my stepfather told me to stop writing. It was awful.

After that letter, she wrote me a letter that was nice that told me to keep writing letters and sent me money. You can't get any more clearer than that.
 
And that's it, I put my pen down because I can't lie again. I'll do whatever I need to do to keep my relationship with my brothers but that's it. At least now I know what I am for sure dealing with, someone with narcissistic personality disorder.

12-15-06
Finding Grey
 

Throughout most of my life I have been subjected to extremes. Extremes in mood from bipolar and extremes in emotions from abuse. My counselor Kiandra tried very hard to steer me away from such extreme’s but I wasn’t a very good patient and instead sought comfort in the extremes. Everything was black and white. People were good or people were bad, a situation was either good or bad or had just one solution or nothing. There was only pain or no pain and no in between. I either hated people or I loved people. I was either well or I was unwell. There was never any grey.

Until now.

Never is this more evident than in my relationship with my older brother. I found him to be a monster and all bad. In my head there was no good, not even a drop (due to childhood abuse from him). Whenever I am around him I am in defense mode, waiting for the bad to happen. And in his first week here visiting at my dad’s, I constantly reacted strongly to anything he said or did. But then something strange happened. Occasionally he would do something that was nice. I pretty much rejected this because I couldn’t understand how he could be an ass and still be nice sometimes. So, to counter act this I decided to make my brother dead to me. I would be numb so his comments wouldn’t hurt. And in being numb, I found myself. I found my voice that stands up to someone being mean to me. And his being an ass began to recede.

Then I was left with him sometimes being an ass and sometimes being nice. At first I couldn’t rectify the uncomfortable feelings I felt about his behavior. Then it dawned on me. He could be mean and he could be nice, at the same time. I found the grey area I had been missing. I don’t have to lock my brother up in one adjective like bad, but he could be more than that, good. And more than that, I could accept the good and the bad. I don’t need to reject the good just because he is sometimes not nice and I don’t need to fully take the good because sometimes he chooses to be an ass. I can take each for what they are worth and be okay with that. While this is still a little weird for me, it’s okay, I’ll get used to it.

Now I know in other situations in my life I can apply the same principles. Like I’ve learned I can be happy even though I am sad a lot of my days. The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. I have some sad things happening to me, like losing my family, but I also have some happy things happening, like finding wellness. Before I would wither be sad or happy or angry or whatever and that would be all.

Plus, I’m learning that situations aren’t all bad or good either. It’s a little of both. Like my current situation where I lost near everything. Though it was horrible to lose so much at one time, I also found myself through all the badness. I did become stable despite the awful situation I found myself in. I can be stable and still have bad things happen and that is okay.

So that is where I am. Learning something new. I’m still trying to figure it out, but I get the gist of it. I am finding that grey area that has always eluded me. I just wish I had Kiandra near and I can tell her the great news. But I can tell my dad, I can tell Laura, I can tell you guys at SC. And so I am :-) I found the grey area and now I’m going to explore. Finding grey...you all should try it sometime :-)

12-13-06
The anger surges through me. It's a feeling I had forgotten for a time. It's that feeling of frustration when I can't get something done or something keeps going wrong. Right now it's trying to find a job. When I lived in Virginia I had plenty of jobs, at times more than I could handle. But here in Alabama jobs are hard to come by, especially because I'm in an in between stage. I have my bachelors in psychology- all of the course work is complete and then some. But I have one class left, non psych- Latin 202. For goodness sakes, it's a class I'm never going to use, but it keeps me from saying I have my bachelors. Then, my experience is with autism and mental health advocacy. There are no autism or advocacy jobs in Alabama. Plus in Virginia I was very well connected and I had a reputation. Here I have nothing. People in Virginia would put me in jobs I might seem not qualified for, but they knew my name and they knew I would get the job done. Here they don't have that. And I don't know a soul.

There goes that anger again. I want to smash something, but I don't. I just take a deep breath.

I just want something to do every day. I spent all of my life working my ass off and now nothing. I remember everyone used to tell me to slow down. Well, I've had my taste of it and now I'm done. I am stable and not manic, so I know I am ready for a job and will work it within the norm.

I want to go back to Virginia so badly. I have two jobs waiting for me and a life I put on pause. I did what everyone wanted me to do- get stable, stay with a parent who loves me and take a break. I know challenges await me in Virginia, like finding a place to live, but I know I could do it- I always made it work before.

I just want to go home.

12-12-06

It feels weird writing a journal again. For a long time I just wrote specific essays and posted them on Second Chances (SC), the support group. But lately my head has been so cloudy I felt that I couldn’t write. Then I realized maybe it wasn’t that I couldn’t write, but I didn’t need to be so specific. I just needed to write about what I was thinking.

My brother has been on my mind lately, the older one. He is a walking contradiction. Sometimes he is a pain in the ass and other times he is nice. Now I know brothers are supposed to be like that, but in my head he’s always been a monster. He abused me when I was already being abused by both my parents and he continued the abuse into my adolescence, just as my mother did. And so I grew to hate him. We haven’t spoken for years until he showed up for vacation at my dad’s, where I am currently living. At first it was unbearable- I felt like he hadn’t changed a bit. But at the same time I realized my tolerance level with him was next to zero. But given I am just two months out of a suicide attempt, I take things personally, especially if he’s saying them.

So I became numb to him, in my head I considered him dead. And wouldn’t you know it, things got better. Somehow by making him dead in my head, I became more myself. That’s what I couldn’t get- I am a huge advocate and I speak my mind and I don’t let others control my worth. But I let his hurtful comments hurt me even though I knew they were coming from an asshole. But things changed and I stood my ground and that changed everything.

I still have trouble dealing with him when he tries to cause me pain and I’m sure at times I look weak, but it’s a hell of a lot better now. Will I have a relationship with him? I’m pretty sure NO. I can’t leave myself that open right now when I am going through this sadness with my mother thing too. I think he still needs to grow up and I don’t want to get hurt while he’s in that process. But at least I finally find him nice some of the time...that’s better than nothing. To me, he still doesn’t exactly exist as a brother, but there is room to change. I will wait it out.

Then there is my mother who is not speaking to me and I’m not speaking to her. I used to send her a letter every day pouring my heart out and then I got trampeled on. I knew that was a possibility because I was being so honest, but it still hurts. So, again, she is dead to me. The only things I try to do is make sure I sill have a line of communication with my brothers. But I do not wish for a relationship, I do not wish to speak to her and I do not wish to see her. I have made my decision. Not even if in a couple months she comes back to me and asks to talk or tries to make things go back to how they used to be. I’m tired of the past- I am focused on the future. And she’s not in it.

I sent my last letter to her and I have made piece with my decision. I need her out of my life if I am going to grow anymore. This has been a hard decision to make...but it doesn’t mean I don’t love her. Quite the contrary, I love her very much. But she is incapable of loving...she is a true narcissist. She only comes to me when she needs me to be the successful child. And I don’t want to share my successes- or failures- with her any longer. I don’t want to feel the pain of having her near yet unloving or even hope that she will change. She’s forty something years old- she’s not going to change. But I can change.

My only interaction will be for my brothers- if I want to call them or see them or whatever with them. They will not lose their sister over this and thankfully I think that she won’t hurt them while hating me. But if the days come when she severs my contact with my brothers, I will continue to stand up for what I believe in. I hope that when my brothers get older they will understand my decision and see me as a roll model for being true and not trying to be someone I’m not just to have my mother in my life. I cannot be who I am in her presence and I can’t stand to life.

As a result of all of this, I am sad. I am sad every day because everything is so different these days. But I know I must be doing something right because I wake up stable every day and sometimes I’m even happy. I’ve never had days like this before- I’m finally on the right path, I believe. But It’s Christmas time and I can’t stand to be away from my brothers. Here are my memories and how Christmas used to go.

 My brothers and I would build a home made ginger bread house which always would fall over a few times before we stabilized it. We ate a good part of the candy too! We’d stay up with hot chocolate and watch Charlie Brown episodes, especially Christmas and Garfield’s Christmas and all the other Christmas movies like Frosty and Rudolph. We’d spend time outside play basketball or football in the cold. Christmas Eve would come and be the snuggiest night of the year. We would check online for the “Santa Tracker” which would tell us how much time we had before Santa came to us. We would also track Santa through Norad and they would have video’s. We also checked the Naughty and Nice List and somehow we were always nice! We’d have a big dinner that night and get to open one present. We’d go and shake some of the presents under the tree until we heard something we liked. Then we would all take joy in opening the first present of Christmas. Before bed we set out hot chocolate and cookies for Santa. Then we’d hop in bed and get ready to read Christmas stories. The Night Before Christmas was always read last. Then I would be the one to lay with them. About a half hour to hour into falling asleep my mom and step father would go outside and ring bells saying Ho Ho Ho and then throw pine combs on the roof which sounded like the reindeer’s hooves. My brothers would get so excited and dive under the covers. I would tell them to hurry up and fall asleep or he might not leave presents and come back later. About a half hour after that they would fall asleep. I would then get up and go downstairs to help my parents with the gifts and drink the hot chocolate and eat the cookies! Often times my brothers had gifts that needed assembling and so I would get to work. My favorite time was a great pirate ship that I had to assemble including the ropes. After that, I would get in bed myself, with my brothers, and wait for Christmas morning. Even though I knew the real identity of Santa, I still got excited because my brothers would get so excited and the joy on their face was priceless.

They would get up around six or seven and wake me up- and I’m not a morning person. But they would take the covers from me and I would get up. We’d get to the top of the stairs as my mom and stepfather would get things ready downstairs. Then they would give the word and my brothers tore down the stairs and smiled with immense joy at all the presents. Instantly Brandon (the younger one, 8) would go and read the name tags and start handing out gifts. We would slow him up and everyone got in their usual present opening spot. For every five presents my brothers opened they would toss one to my parents and I. I cannot describe in words what it’s like to watch my brothers open their gifts, especially when they would open mine. Each year I make sure I get them something special...just for the sheer pleasure of watching the joy come over their face when they open it. It is like magic. After about half the presents were opened, we’d stop and start breakfast and then get to the rest of the presents. After that and breakfast is done, we start on the stockings. We each have one since birth. After the stockings, it was time to take stock and take things to our rooms. Sometimes I get clothes so I put those on and I help my brothers open stuff or start games or play with games. The rest of the day would be just family as we all played with our new toys.

And that’s our Christmas. It is the only Christmas I have really ever known. And this year I won’t get to see that or see the joy wash over my brothers faces. I pray for a phone call, but I know that might take a miracle. I just hope I’ve been good enough this year to receive a miracle.

I just hope I can pay this price I’m setting for standing up for what I believe in. I always hoped in my heart that there wouldn’t be any price I wouldn’t pay for being who I am. That no price would be too steep. Messing with my relationship with my brothers is coming close to that line and that scares me. What scares me too, is my life is still rapidly changing. I’m in Alabama, but not for good, so at some point I’ll be moving back to Virginia. But when will that happen? I don’t know. My life is on hold until I get back there. And so all my changes have not occurred yet, I’m still in the process. I guess some part of me wishes I knew what happens next and how my relationship with my brothers will change. I think out of everything in my life, that is what is most important to me: Noah and Brandon. And that’s the truth of my life. I just wish I knew where to go from here.

And those are the thoughts in my head. I don’t know where I’m going from here and that scares me. But I have forward momentum and I know I must be doing the right thing because I am stable. I just keep putting one foot in front of the other and follow my stability. I don’t have to know where I am exactly and I don’t have to know the next move. I just have to be here now, in this moment, and appreciate the stability I am in and enjoy the times I am happy. The next day will come and will find me stable. And I’ll keep waking up like that and if something changes, I can evaluate what to do next. But I trust only in this moment and that’s okay. I can’t wait to face the next moment and the one after that and after that. And most of all I can’t wait to face the moment that I feel my brothers in my arms again. That’s where I know I will have known I picked the right moments. Just to be with them.

12-11
Well, I haven't posted here in a very long time. A lot has happened in the last five months and I will be updating a lot in the next few days.

Current Rants-2006
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