2f240ee700000578-0-image-a-53_1449501705474Okay, I know it’s totally a first-world problem but I need more Internet in my life. My mental health depends on it. I can’t stand not being able to write down what I’m saying for the world to see, even if it’s tucked within the megapixels and nonsense spouting out from every other computer on the face of the Earth. It makes me feel better to post it in the ether and walk away. It’s not on a piece of paper for someone to find, for prying eyes. The impersonal nature of the whole thing is enticing to the point that I’m becoming one of those people. I need the Internet again. I need it more than ever. I’ve been sitting in the library for an indeterminate amount of time, watching my future plans fall to ashes around me and I’m completely helpless to do anything about it. Well, at one point I wasn’t, but now I am. It’s too late. The world is turning and turning and I can’t find enough courage to jump off…or jump back on.

Physically, things are what they are. I’m getting monthly injections, waiting for enough time to pass for my doctor to declare that the spinal cord stimulator is our only option. My other CRPS friend had one put in and has thus had a rash of complications. But I remain undeterred. I need this to make my life semi-normal again. Granted, it won’t fix everything, i.e. the inner turmoil that is my brain, but it will sieve off some of the pressure to conform, to walk up the stairs rather than take the elevator. To park in a normal parking spot instead of the handicapped one. And the pain will be over. God, that is what I look forward to the most.

I’m applying for University of Maryland, School of Social Work for the spring semester. Halfway down the application, they ask for three reference letters, none of which can be from family or friends. The problem with this situation? I’ve been so removed from the outside world, even in my academic pursuits that I have literally no one I can contact for these references. One of the professors I did attempt to speak with told me she would be hard-pressed to say anything positive about my work ethic. That’s what I mean when I say I can’t jump back on or jump back off. The world was spinning so damn fast that I lost it, got motion-sick and had to get off. And once I was off, getting back on was seemingly impossible. The hospitals, the medication, all of it threw me so far off the track that once I managed to reassemble a “normal” existence, it was too late. I didn’t make friends, I didn’t establish connections, I didn’t network, dine or have tea with the right people. I didn’t make acknowledgments the way I should have and now my future suffers because of it. I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. Part of me wants to blame myself; if I hadn’t completely lost my shit, this wouldn’t be an issue. The other part of me blames society as a whole. Why do we create these webs of connections that seemingly establish who we are as human beings? What we experience, how we live, what we do on a daily basis doesn’t matter a single bit. Who you know, how you communicate and your ability to manipulate both of those skills is what gets you through life. That’s how we ended up with George W. Bush as President of the United States. My inner turmoil, any sort of insight into human nature and the darkness that lurks in all of us doesn’t matter. What if you’re autistic and lack communication skills? What if you were sexually assaulted as a child and have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as an adult? What if you fought overseas and return to find your spouse in bed with another person? None of that matters if you can’t speak to your professors, if you can’t imagine yourself as a sexual creature or if you never developed a trade skill. That’s all your fault, according to society. The strength it took to survive those things, the courage, the determination, the struggle of bearing such a heavy burden doesn’t matter if you don’t have a white picket-fence, a dog, kids and are married. The American dream isn’t a dream at all. It’s a spoon-fed nightmare that all of us have been conditioned to want to experience. Despite the hoards of people that flock to fandoms, to conventions, to fetish chat rooms and underground parties themed with coffins and fangs, all of those people are considered abnormal. They’re considered to be the fringe of society. But if everyone is on the fringe, doesn’t that mean we’re all the majority? Doesn’t that push everyone closer, ever inward until the gap is closed and we are all united as a single group of people. Though we may look different, sound different, act different, we’re all the same. It’s like penguins. When the blizzards and snow storms hit the ice caps, adult emperor penguins, waiting for their mates to return from fishing, and waiting for the eggs nestled on their feet to hatch, huddle together in a huge mass of slick feathers. They rotate constantly, making sure that anyone getting hit with the impossibly cold winds on the outer edge of the cluster, experience the radiating warmth in the center. Everyone is cycled through the heat to make sure they all survive the storm, that their eggs survive and their mates return to happy spouses and little chicks covered in down. Why can’t we be like penguins? Why can’t we just wrap each other up and love each other? Instead, I am stuck questioning my very existence because I didn’t establish enough connections in college to receive recommendation letters from anyone. People suck.

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Alright, let me state, for the record, that I had to change my password and wait at least 20 minutes before logging in today to get this all written down. Irritated to the max! Anyway, I know this is a blog about mental health and illness and just generally cruddy things but I want to make a statement. I’m climbing up onto my soapbox to let y’all know what’s up. If you aren’t interested, please, do continue passing by me on the street. I’ll let you know when it’s safe to return to the blog-o-sphere.

I’m mixed race. My father is black and Native American, while my mother is a blend of European cultures (and my grandmother was from Canada, if you want to count that separately). My biggest peeve while growing up was that I was always considered black. There’s nothing wrong with being black, I just didn’t feel like it was a true statement. How can I deny a whole half of my heritage because on the outside, I appear to be black? It used to enrage my parents as well, with my mom even fighting the affirmative action check boxes on my report cards and enrollment forms. She usually won the argument too, and would have me and Thomas identified as “other.” A lot of times though, there wasn’t an “other” category and we were blocked off into being “African American.” Why am I bringing this up? Because the Black Lives Matter movement has finally moved into the forefront of my consciousness. Before, it was hard to concern myself with things that were far off and distant, but the other day I was faced cyber-head-on with the reality of it all.

A girl I attended high school with, infamous for being a devout, tightly  wound Catholic with extremely conservative views, posted a status about the stand-off between Black Lives Matter protesters and the usual highway traffic on the interstate. She wanted to know why people would do this, knowing that others had to be at work. I commented, something I usually dare not do because of my temper, and the stupidity of people on the Internet (not y’all, you guys rock!), saying that their protest got the point across. Apparently, some older gentleman didn’t agree and replied with a snarky, sarcastic comment that got my blood boiling. I managed not to reply, except to say that the sarcastic tone wasn’t necessary since we were all adults. It backfired, as per usual, so I blocked the girl and any notifications I may have gotten from the post.

The old dude was upset because 8 policemen had died at the hand of a crazed sniper, specifically targeting white police officers. I understand that their deaths are tragic and I empathize with their families. One of them had a 4-month old baby. It was horrible. But, and this is a tentative and large but, Black Lives Matter. Just because an outlier in the movement went rogue and started sniping people does not mean that the movement is a terrorist organization as some have claimed. It does not mean that everyone involved in the movement is intent on violence and massacres until the job is done. That’s not the issue. The issue is that black people are institutionally and systematically oppressed, and have been for generations.

For me, it starts with not being identified truthfully. Because I look one way, people box me into a corner and make assumptions about me. However, I don’t have kinky curls, I don’t listen to rap music, I don’t know all the black celebrities, except those that have been in the news as of late. I don’t watch BET, I don’t care about cars, so on and so forth. Stereotypes are usually based somewhat in truth but they aren’t meant to be held as a standard for everyone and all people that fit into a certain category. Cutting off my feet to make sure I fit in with the rest of them isn’t how it should be done. I’m not African, my family hasn’t been African for generations. We’re American. I am an American, and nothing else. That’s how we should be identified, not based on the color of our skin. Because when people get it wrong, it’s offensive.

Now, let me explain the point of my blogging this, besides getting it off my chest. Mental illness. (Ha, you didn’t think I could come full circle, did you, but surprise!) Gunmen that go out and shoot a bunch of people are not necessarily mentally ill. Mentally ill people are not all violent and dangerous. All through my therapy career (as a patient, not a therapist) and my psychology studies, people have been saying how much the field as changed as people become more tolerant of those with mental illness. With the recent turmoil that has become our current state, mental illness has taken hundreds of steps in the wrong direction. People with a history of mental illness cannot own a gun, people with a history of mental illness cannot protest peacefully. Everyone is the scapegoat for other people’s problems. Being “black” and mentally ill puts me at the lowest space on the totem pole. I’m left to wonder when I’ll be exterminated, when I’ll lose everything. Because I’m considered black, my votes are barricaded, my input is devalued. Add in the mentally ill mixture and I’m equivalent to nothing. And my mental illness has never exhibited violence! I’m not a crazed ax-murderer or anything, but that doesn’t matter.

Assumptions. That’s the problem. Assumptions and excuses are what makes our country spin on its axis at the center of the universe, pulling the rest of the world down the drain with us. But we can’t let this continue. No matter who you are, no matter what color or creed, state of health, it cannot continue. It’s true, all lives do matter, but that standard cannot be maintained until everyone is equal. And that won’t happen until people understand that black lives matter. The mentally ill matter.

Who loved Andy more, Woody or Buzz? Who’s parents were better, Nemo’s or Dory’s? Which sister had a harder time, Anna or Elsa? If you can argue one over the other, you are part of the All Lives Matter movement and don’t understand. But if it takes breaking it down to Pixar level, I am willing to do it. Because everyone matters, and choosing one over the other is not the answer.

Alright, I’m jumping off my soapbox. I’m finished discussing this issue. It made my blood boil last week to the point that I could get nothing done. I couldn’t focus on anything else and didn’t feel better until Brendan was sitting with me in the car and listening to my endless rant about the whole thing. The library isn’t currently holding the level of happiness I usually receive. I’m going home, I think.

“…Disappointment & Heartache Is All Part Of…Growing Up…”

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I’m freaking out. That seems to be all I do lately. Sitting in Starbucks while Brendan is in his interview for the latest notch on the corporate ladder that is the massage world. The coffee I’m drinking probably isn’t helping my nerves (I’ve had 2 cups today) but I wanted some so badly that the bags under my eyes basically disappeared at the mere thought of enjoying a cup. But, back to why I’m freaking out.

I designed an Excel sheet for my church when I was still in high school for my Girl Scout Gold Award. They’d been using this archaic cataloging system for the food pantry they run. Since the Gold Award project has to be something that benefits the community, I took the 1500+ index cards with dates on them dating back into the 90’s and input them one by one into a spreadsheet. It took me about 2 months with hours of dedication to the task. Well, now that it’s been in use for years, I can step back and examine the problems with the initial system. Firstly, the computer we bought at the time (through donations, I do believe, because you aren’t allowed to fund your project. That’s part of the process) is starting to quit on us, though it isn’t used for anything else. I took it home one night to connect to the Internet and update it, to give you an idea of how old this is, and it took nearly 3 hours for the whole thing to complete. Ridiculous, right? I went to the people with power and convinced them that it was time for an upgrade. We did nicely with an HP. I chose the one with the number pad built in since we spend a lot of time inputting dates and phone numbers. Anyway, I wanted to move on from the Excel spreadsheet because it was almost as archaic as the computer, and frankly, did not meet our design needs. People were deleting things and saving them in the wrong files. This group of individuals is on the older side, leaving me the sole person with enough computer knowledge to navigate any program safely, even if it is as simple as Excel. Well, now, my computer savvy is failing me and this group of people is completely dependent on my knowledge to get this mess done. Since Microsoft likes to charge you a gazillion times for each program, we had to pay extra for Access, a database program I was repeatedly reassured would serve our needs best. The problem is, Access is a new program (as far as I know. How about we just say it’s new to me?) and I have absolutely no clue how to use it. I’m stuck in this position of knowing what the hell I’m doing in front of them and completely losing it when I’m working on the forms. I took the measly form I did have in for a test run and it was a complete disaster, not only because we have new paperwork we have to fill out, but also because one of the volunteers was complaining in my ear the entire hour about problems with this form. I tried to explain that this was a beta-test run, that I was still working out the kinks and had even volunteered my time for every opening for the rest of the month, but she wasn’t listening. I feel like a creditor that is secretly broke. Or like someone that owes a loan shark a lot of money and has to repeatedly reassure the loan shark that “I have the money, I swear. I’ll get you your money!”

Let’s see, why else am I panicking? Oh yea, Brendan’s car. He spent a lot of time and effort getting it painted, modified and decal-ed the way he wanted it. It looks good, although a bit flashy for something I would drive. He had fun doing it and everything but now the engine has completely failed. Failed as in it has to be completely replaced. He needs a totally new engine before his car will rule the road again. I mean, I wouldn’t be waiting for him if his car hadn’t died in the driveway when he tried to leave this morning. Now, it may seem a bit first-world to complain about not having two cars. With patience, we can make it work. Waiting for each other, splitting gas costs, stuff like that, is perfectly manageable. That’s not what I’m worried about though. He decided to replace the engine. Now, someone explained how much a new engine would cost and that he could buy a “used” engine for less money but it would already have miles on it. Great! He doesn’t have to give up his car! Except that, paying his regular bills on top of paying to replace this sucker is going to put him in the red. Like, way more than either of us is comfortable. And I’m not good financially but paying my own bills and fixing my own car has temporarily put me in the red as well. The house has had several showings this week, more than I ever thought would happen, but at this rate, we’ll be moving back in with our parents. I mean, last week, I literally burst into snotty, sobbing tears at the mere thought of paying for independent living. It makes me shake. And I can’t completely get mad at Brendan. It’s not his fault the engine puckered out. And it’s not his fault I spend my money the way I do. I mean, it’s mine. But this is getting harder way before I ever thought it would. Being an adult sucks.

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Ok, so I had this really weird dream last night. I used to have a blog specifically for my dreams but when all that shit went down with Mara, I let it fall by the wayside and started this one. I may have actually deleted it, which is sad to think about, because it means all that writing is gone, even if they were just dreams. Anyway, what happened last night…

I was in this store with a strange woman and a girl I went to grade school with (literally, I went through K-12 with the same people, and she was one of them). The woman was jogging along this river (sort of like in Venice) and a voice inside my head told me that I could go swimming. Well Grade School Girl got the same idea and as she dove in, so did the strange woman. They started swimming side by side, but the strange woman was polluting the water with this black ink. As Grade School Girl swam and got covered in ink, she became more and more fish-like. She was like the mermaids in Harry Potter. Not the pretty kind that sit on a rock and sing to you, but the siren kind, that are basically fish people. I dove into the water after that and the same thing started to happen to me. The effects wore off as we got back out of the water. Then the woman led us to some store where we could do all the shopping we wanted. Everything fit and looked amazing on us but in the back of my mind, something wasn’t right. I asked the woman directly what was going on and she was like, “oh, you didn’t know? You’re in Hell.”

This particular version of Hell wasn’t the fire pit of doom from Supernatural or the layered fortress of Dante. It was a sunny, seaside town with pastel colors, great fashion and the bluest water you could dream of. It was basically the opposite of anyone’s version of Hell. While Grade School Girl was trying on a new outfit, I was talking with the woman. She proceeded to explain to me that I had to enter Heaven and recruit everyone there for some reason (I don’t remember if she even told me why). Grade School Girl and I dove back into that weird river and in a Pirates of the Caribbean move, were upside down for a moment before surfacing in Heaven. She was just as confused as I was but we were determined not to fail in our task.

This particular version of Heaven was pretty much what you’d expect. It was white marble buildings and columns, same town-ish vibe as Hell but the whole atmosphere was chipper and pleasant. In Hell, it sort of felt like you were getting away with something you shouldn’t be doing (like the shopping) but that didn’t stop anyone from doing it. Heaven felt like Chuck E. Cheese. You were allowed to do whatever you wanted because you deserved it! Grade School Girl and I walked into some building that was very reminiscent of 1930s architecture. We climbed up this triple-wide, spiraled, marbled staircase looking for the souls we were supposed to recruit. And we found them.

Everyone I knew was there. Mara, Thomas, everyone. And they were armed. Grade School Girl and I thought this would be the easiest way to get everyone to fall from grace. Violence. But alas, their weapons were bouncy balls and guns that fired a red flag labeled “bang!”. Why we thought it would be any different in the hallowed halls of Heaven, I’m not really sure. But after chasing the blessed souls of all these people into the basement of the marbled building, we came up with a different plan.

I was upset that Mara was there. Grade School Girl, while ditzy and a bit preoccupied with something only she knew about, had never done anything in the time that I’d known her to deserve to be in Hell. But Mara? We all know how those emotions run deep in me, and especially rear themselves in my subconscious mind. And so I unleashed on her. I yelled at her and told her all the horrible things she’d done, not only to me, but to everyone she knew. I watched the grace that had dyed her eyes a lighter shade of their natural hue, drain from her irises. Her eyes darkened with hatred and, as if waking up from a dream, she wanted to know where she was and what was going on. Aha! I’d found the key to recruiting these souls in Heaven. Help them remember the ugly hatred they’d once felt on Earth. Grade School Girl and I proceeded to shout at everyone in our paths. We told them all the evil they’d done on Earth and made them remember all the ugly feelings they’d felt as human beings. Eventually, we’d recruited enough souls that the river opened back up. Grade School Girl and I led this new army through the river, back into Hell.

Once there, everyone was slightly shaken but overall, seemed to know the point of our recruitment. I found the strange woman and asked her what our next task was. She explained that we were now to recruit the souls in Hell, by any means necessary. And that’s when I started to remember why I was there. In my human life, I’d committed murder. It was justified on Earth and I was exonerated, but my soul had remained tarnished. When Grade School Girl and I were in Hell, it was just us and the woman. But now, as we walked around with the new, Heavenly, recruits, I saw more people. Innocent people that didn’t deserve to be there. But I did. And the shame and ugliness I always seem to feel in my dreams seeped back into me. I walked around until I found the victim of my Earthly crime. She was enjoying herself, doing whatever it was that gave her the feeling of getting away with something she wasn’t supposed to be, and I knew how to recruit the souls in Hell. I had to make them feel love, the same way I’d made the Heavenly recruits feel hatred. But this task was much harder. Hating someone is easy. It takes a lot of energy, but it’s energy easily expelled. Loving someone, forgiving someone, that was going to be nearly impossible.

I remember how I murdered her in the dream, I remember how good it felt to be in Hell and I remember how pissed I was at the souls in Heaven. And I remember how good it felt to infect them with the same hatred I had. To watch the heavenly grace leave their eyes. How sick is that? I woke up, trembling and my heart is still fluttering in my chest. I can’t catch my breath. I’m trying not to let this affect me, as my dad would tell me, it was just a dream but whoa. This is harder than usual.

 

*The original quote for the title is “Heaven and hell suppose two distinct species of men, the good and the bad. But the greatest part of mankind float betwixt vice and virtue.”

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Alright, let’s break this shit down really quick. I’ve been trying to pump out a blog entry for the past 2 weeks and have been unsuccessful (obviously) every single time. Therefore, I’m going to sit here and do this. Problems of the past 2 weeks that may be worth mentioning…hmm, might have to think of a way to narrow that one down. I guess we’ll start with…

Medications: I’m supposed to be on lithium (a low dose, for “maintenance”, my psychiatrist calls it) and Prozac for the depression. That’s all I take. It’s not a lot to remember. And yet somehow, I have managed not to take any of it for 2 weeks. Instead, I’ve happily been consuming Klonopin (I was prescribed that for something else and then started taking it for sleep), and liquor. Doesn’t matter what kind, doesn’t matter what it’s mixed with. I’m not a big drinker, I really only do it socially and when there is someone sober to drive. I know it’s a slippery slope with me and anything that could be cause for addiction. Alcohol is no different. I don’t have any clinically defined addicts in my family but I know my personality well enough to know that once I get hooked on something, it’s not going to stop. That’s why I binge eat certain foods for months at a time, or only watch particular TV shows until I run out of episodes. I go through withdrawal, even in those circumstances. This week was no different. I knew I was drinking too much. I would wake up and still be woozy from the drugs and the alcohol (because I was consuming them both at the same time, safe or not). I would think about going home from whatever I was out doing and drinking myself to sleep. It was my escape, it’s always been my escape, and this time was no different.

Them: I don’t know how else to refer to them, except as Them. It’s a collection of everyone imaginary that I wish was in my life but aren’t because they aren’t real. Leon, my imaginary friend from childhood. She’s my twin except that she’s the ideal of what I want to be: skinny, thick-flowing hair, confident, brave and magnetic. Then, I’ve got 2 empty slots that sort of fill up with anyone that I’m currently thinking about at the time. This week, because They made an appearance…sort of, was Sherlock. Brendan and I have been watching the BBC version with Benedict Cumberbatch and it’s wildly fantastic (I’ve seen it before but he hasn’t so we had to rewatch the whole thing, but totally worth it). Alright, let me break the scenario down for you. I was driving home from a visit with a girl I know from Girl Scouts (and social media) and haven’t seen in years and years. It was nice, fun, awkwardly polite. On the drive back to the farm though, my brain went all fuzzy. I don’t know if it’s from the previously mentioned issue, or if it’s the lack of medication, or a combination of both, but Leon was visible in my mind’s eye, lounging in the passenger seat, looking incredibly relaxed and at ease with herself and all the worries going on in my head. I could imagine her voice, telling me to relax, to ease up off the reins and have a little fun. She was ridiculously couth about the entire thing. Then, in the backseat, my mind’s eye saw Sherlock, sitting there, calmly cloaked in his winter coat and scarf, playing the devil’s advocate. He and Leon were having a cool, relaxed argument, the way two people that don’t have a personal interest in the matter do. The three of us went back and forth, silently, calmly and before I knew it I was pulling into the driveway of the house, trying to decide who was right in the situation. And for Leon to argue with Sherlock Holmes is mightily impressive, even if neither of them are real. While the conversation made me feel better, the actual thought of Them being there, and giving me comfort is sort of weird. Like, I can’t confide in anyone else right now so I have to make up my social circle. That’s a very strange concept. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, per se, because I’m not actually seeing physical beings but still…I’m 25 years old with imaginary friends. Which leads me into my next topic of conversation….why I need imaginary friends.

Relationship: Brendan and I are sort of in a rocky place. But literally, it’s all in my head. I’m holding things back, I’m not expressing myself to him the way I should be and it starts this snowball effect. I block him out and slam all the doors to myself emotionally. Then, he does the same thing in retaliation, or return, I don’t really know. And it continues like that until we’re pissed at each other for no particular reason. Everything he does upsets me, down to the way he breathes when he’s sleeping. And some part of my brain knows that most of this is the result of being off my medication. I know that the dips in my emotions, the inexplicable anger is the bipolar but it still bothers me. Like, what if that’s how I really feel underneath it all? I don’t think I do but that doesn’t stop the thought from popping up and buzzing in my ear like some annoying bee. And by his breaking point, Brendan will tell me that he doesn’t think he’s ready to handle all of my emotions, that he isn’t sure he knew what he was signed up for when he started dating me (though I told him straight out the gate). It stings when he says that because it makes me feel defective. It makes me feel like if he can’t love me, and I know he does, then who the hell could? If someone who was so willing to give me leeway when it comes to my emotions and crazy attitudes, can’t handle it, what the hell am I going to do if he leaves me? Conversely, I’m so pissed off and low when I stop taking the medications that I don’t care. I convince myself that things would be better off without him here, that I should take the advantage of us having to move to break out on my own. I want to blame all of my problems on him. My financial situation, my living situation, stuff like that all magically seems to be his fault, even when it really isn’t.

It’s easier to live in this world with Them. It’s easier to think that someone, anyone is on my side and completely and utterly understands me in every situation, in every standing and in every problem. Putting my own face over that is not possible though. Trying to explain to the emotional side of my brain that They are me, that Their voices are my own, just divided and situated into different faces and bodies, doesn’t work. If I say that sort of thing to myself, it means nothing. If They say it to me, it’s exactly what I need to hear. It’s the type of support I need to boost my mood enough to get me through the day, or the drive, or whatever I’m trying to get through. Coping skills should be involved somewhere but I feel like this is it. This is my only option and I’m left with nothing else. I’m left to invent friends since I have very few on my own and encourage myself through their words and mouth. It’s pathetic and completely ridiculous.

In other news, I graduated. I’m moving. I’m applying for jobs and organized to apply for the spring semester at University of Maryland. That’s all that’s happened recently. Besides the whole, hearing-voices-sort-of thing. But hey, what’s a girl to do?