Backwards Advice

There are a lot of articles about “what I would tell my younger self”. Today, I feel the opposite. I’m looking at my younger self for advice.

After getting my heartbroken by my first love, going through my parents divorce, putting myself through different schools because I felt so lost and dealing with a sibling that I lived with yet, didn’t speak with, I gave myself the best advice. And that was. Do what is best for you.

I put my heart and soul into swimming. I went to bed early. I woke up early. I gave 110% at practice. I ate the right foods. I said no to dances and proms because I wanted to be the best athlete I could be. It was the one thing that I had control over and it was the one thing that I felt such an amazing reward from.

I did have fun, had friends and I went to parties but I also had my heart set on me.

I won’t forget how awful it felt those first mornings after my break up without text messages from my now ex boyfriend. It would be before 5am driving to swim practice and I would just tell myself it’s okay because I’m going to get faster today in the pool and that’s going to make me happy. The happiness I got from swimming completed me.

I think over the past 3 years as I’ve gone through the ups and downs of bipolar, I’ve lost that girl. I lost that competitiveness and that drive.

That girl has come back. I’m working on bringing it back because I’m changing my mindset. The moment that I have my priorities and what I love and my health in check, everything else will fall into place.

My dad is coming this weekend and he’s the only person in the world I want to see. I have this huge sense of relief and comfort when I’m with him. But we’re having dinner with some of my friends and my one friend keeps trying to get me to drink…why? I don’t know. She knows about my illness, my hospitalizations and my medications. She knows I have trouble monitoring my drinks and I blackout. And it bothers me that she’s so insistent about me drinking and it also scares me that I’m going to.

But I have to keep telling myself no. I have a goal. I have commitments. I have promises to myself that I have to keep.

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My Manic Alter Ego

As I write this post, I walk along the charles river after waking up at 5am for the 4th time this week. I had planned to go for a run but given my shin injury, this morning I had to walk.

While I seemed to be one of the only people awake in my neighborhood, I thought back to growing up. I remembered how disciplined and dedicated I was to the sport of swimming. I went to bed every single night at 9pm or earlier for about 10 years, including most of my college years due to my early morning workouts and just because my body constantly needed the rest. I would leave parties at 1am or earlier for the first 2 years of college.

Then I became the girl who was always up for more. Later nights, heavier drinking, more parties and with those behaviors came being less productive, less present and ultimately harmed my health.

I won’t give all the credit to my mania for when I became the party girl but it definitely influenced her.

This week, I decided to take a serious pact to myself to be sober because it’s a trigger and I miss the productive girl who said no. She was a badass. She got things done. She was up with the sun and she had her agenda to tackle.

Along the way of my illness, I partially lost her. And I miss her and I’m desperate to have her back.

Lately, this thought keeps popping into my head, I don’t want to look back on my 20s and not remember any of it.

I want to look back and feel proud. I want to be proud of my accomplishments. I want to have great relationships. I want to remember being healthy, stable and present. I’ve spent so much of the past few years not there, whether, I was manic, depressed, anxious, drunk, starving or just hungover.

I cringe when I think about how many times I’ve “backed out of life” and how ashamed I feel. But then I remember, without those cringeworthy moments, I wouldn’t be here right now, watching the sunrise on an early Thursday morning over the beautiful city of Boston.

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The Medication Dilemma

I have a basket next to my bed, which is next to my apartment door and it keeps my keys, my TV remote, the current books I’m reading, my AirPods and my medication. Usually there are 3 pill bottles next to my bed. The medications I take at night, in the morning and during the day. Over the last few weeks, the bottle next to my bed dropped to 1 and sometime 2. I took out the medication that keeps me most stable and I put it in the bedside table, on the other side of my bed, in a drawer.

For the past few weeks, I have been off my main medication. I don’t know what prompted me to start it. Maybe I felt I was gaining weight. Sometimes I feel bored and a little dulled out so I feel I needed a little hypomania in my life. Regardless, on my own, I said enough with Lithium and I stopped.

I read an article a while ago on The Mighty and the article speaks about how Bipolar isn’t good nor bad but society deems it to be a problem. The article compares bipolar to gay conversion therapy and my main take away from that comparison is that people try to fix bipolar people by reducing their symptoms, their suffering and the things that don’t fit in a functioning person. Therefore, the fixation is usually medication, therapy and other types of treatment. The article was enough to justify my medication vacation. I decided I didn’t want to change something that I was naturally given.

To go off my medication, I was honestly hoping I would spring into some hypomanic or controlled type of mania. I don’t think a controlled mania exists, that’s probably an oxymoron for me. But to be honest, being off my medication for a few weeks, nothing major happened to me. I still slept 8-9 hours. I was functioning at work. I had a normal amount of energy. But I was also going out, spending money and drinking a lot more than usual. I went out every night this past week, drinking to fall asleep and walking a ton with all of the energy I had.

Generally, I spend a lot of time alone because I live alone but this past week I was with friends all the time. If I wasn’t at work, I was with my best friend, at her apartment or going out to dinner or the gym. I was more talkative, engaged and that led me to drinking, going out and spending money. One could say it’s hypomania but for me, it was just a nice little vacation from a responsible stable life.

Now, given my history, it’s a slippery slope. I feel good and I want it to stay that way but I ultimately crescendo into this huge manic episode where I’m up all night making collages out of the magazine I hoard and running miles at 4:30am and I can’t sit at my desk at work for more than 18 minutes without going into a fit. And then I’m coming home to shop online for things I don’t need with money I shouldn’t be spending.

So, last night, I had a moment of reflection when I decided that my Lithium pill bottle that saves my sanity belong right with the rest of the pill bottles that I take religiously.

I had a week last week and I realized I don’t want to keep it going. It was fun. I don’t regret it. But it was enough of the mania side to make me pop open that Lithium bottle and go back to being the best version of myself. Today, the best version of myself is a person who does comply with my medication routine, is responsible about lifestyle choices and daily routines. I want to live that life because I know once the world comes crashing down after a manic episode hits, I don’t want to be back in the spot of picking up the pieces.

I want to function at work. I want to hold a proper running training schedule. I want to budget my money correctly. I want to have self-control and self-respect. These things come with those pills I have to take every day.

People have altering views about medications, treatments, illnesses and such. But for me, I do need to take my medication to be healthy and be a productive member in society. I’m proud of myself for ending my medication boycott on my own. Things could have turned out very poorly and I’m lucky that I didn’t let them get that far. Or that they didn’t get that bad before I could stop them.

I’m taking the past few weeks as a learning experience and one to remind myself the next time I want to move that pill bottle into the drawer and forget it exists that I have these pills for a reason and it’s a good one.

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Happy World Bipolar Day 2018!!!

Happy Day to us, living with Bipolar Disorder! Today is the day to celebrate those of us who fight, strive, struggle, thrive, last and live through each and every day, no matter how hard and no matter how difficult these days may be.

I remember writing a post to celebrate and acknowledge this day in 2017. I remember walking to the T and heading off to my former legal firm for a day’s work. I was in such a different place. I was on a different medication routine. I was on a different lifestyle/exercise routine. I didn’t have a regular therapist. I had different friends that I communicated with regularly. I was in the worst stage of my anorexia. I went back to my hometown more frequently because I was so dependent on my parents and I didn’t know how to feel safe anymore.

I woke up this morning after laying in bed all day yesterday with a stomach virus and my right shin acting up from too much running. The previous night I laid on the ground by my toilet and as I was getting sick, I cried. I didn’t know what to do because I felt alone. This morning, I really didn’t feel too great about today. I saw an overdraft fee in my one of my checking accounts, went to the bank to try and get it reversed and they said no. I wasn’t sure if I was going to shower. I reluctantly pulled out my old air-casted boot and put it on my right leg so I didn’t further my physical pain, delaying races I had excitingly signed up for post foot fracture. I didn’t know what this day had for me, but I didn’t feel good about it.

When I got the email from bpmagazine saying it was World Bipolar Day, it made me remember how far I have come since this special holiday last year. It hasn’t been easy and I’ve learned a lot. I went through a hospitalization. I went through a few jobs. I fractured my foot. I have been very up and very down. I still go through that. I will for the rest of my life.

But I’ve overcome so much within 365 days.

Today, I write this post with so much hope and so much gratitude for everyone who has helped me to get to this point in my life. And I write this post to be there for others, who need strength, need to feel not alone and have been in a bad place, once or countless times. You are not alone. And there is always help. You will feel and be better and no feeling will last forever.

I’ve realized my problem with my addictive personality whether it be with exercise, shopping, alcohol, controlling my food intake, or just plain being impulsive. I’ve made Boston my home and I don’t like to stray too far from where I have cultivated and created this safe space for myself. I’ve created an amazing relationship with my current therapist and psychiatrist, two care providers that I sought out on my own, no help from my parents, social workers or hospitals. I’ve learned which friends I can count on, who can listen to my story and which friends are just my friends to keep me company at the end of the day and not take things seriously. I know how to pick my battles better and which battles to let go of.

And the list could go on.

Mostly, thank you to this community I have here through my personal blog. Thank you to Step Up For Mental Health, the organization that allows me to share my voice through my blog posts to the mental health world. Thank you Boston, the city that has given me a place to call home. Thank you to my community at SoulCycle that brings me up when I feel down and need the motivation. Thank you to my body that has allowed me to recover when I neglected it’s needs and it has still allowed me to drive it into the ground with exercise (in a healthier way). Thank you to my psychiatrist, therapist, in-patient and out-patient facilities that have kept me safe and brought me back wellness. Thank you to my family, my friends, my co-workers, my neighbors, my city for making me feel like I’m worthy of love, respect, confidence and stability.

I’m so thankful. No one asks for this illness. But we’re all in it together. We have each other’s back and we’re all fighters. Let’s break the stigma. Happy World Bipolar Day!

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True Life: I Hate Traveling

What to do when you hate traveling but love your family…and they live far away (and I have no car)

I hate the question, what do you do for fun? Because I don’t have fun activities. It’s taking care of myself, or trying. It’s running and exercising, an unhealthy amount. It’s spending money or binge watching TV. It’s just hanging out with my family and friends. It’s not too special.

But I lie, I say I love to travel. I’ve been lucky that growing up my parents could afford the luxury of travel to countries like Italy, England, Russia, France and more. But as I’ve become older, I’ve realized that the short trip of 4ish hours, by train or plane, to New York City where my family resides is harmful to me.

Last summer, I spent almost every weekend in NYC. And the more I went, the more I realized I longed to be home, in my space, in my apartment, in my city.

Travel itself gives me anxiety and makes me overwhelmed. And it also brings up the serious risk of drinking and my track records says I usually give in.

I have this obsession with planning my everyday life that drives me to make lists of what to pack, what to wear each day, how to keep my regular workout routine, whether it be running or SoulCycle. I have this anxiety of if flights get delayed, trains come in late, weather changes. It’s a control problem and I’m sure it’s not a coincidence that I have an eating disorder as well.

I feel like it’s become the norm to “love to travel” but I don’t. I don’t want to explore the Rockies. I don’t want to backpack through Europe. I don’t want to trek through Antarctica. I love the comfort of my neighborhood. I love my small studio apartment that I have all to myself. I love that I know the people in my community, my grocery store, my spinning studio, the stores I shop in, the places I get my nails done. I feel safe and I feel stable. I love love love my environment and it took 24 years to get here.

I used to dream of living in NYC. I was born in the city, raised by all New Yorkers and I’ve even been hospitalized in NYC for mania… I demanded to be hospitalized in the hospital I was born in…of course.

But at the end of the day, I love my mom and I love my dad so much. It can feel kind of pathetic for me because I am so reliant on them, in so many ways. I’m coming up on 25 this summer, but I very much am a kid at heart. My dad and I talk all day long and I seek his advice in every situation. I will randomly send him gifts just to remind him that he’s the best dad I could ask for. My mom and I still sleep in the same bed when I visit. Her and I have very different personalities but she knows me so well. I can go to her in a crisis and in a second, she will make me feel better. My parents know absolutely everything about me. I have no shame about still being so vulnerable to them and still sharing so much of my life with the people who gave me life.

Sidetone…I’m so lucky to be so close to these humans because they are so different and they are divorced. But even without that, I have them and I have their love and support. I wear a necklace everyday that is engrained with 10.17.1987, which is their anniversary date. When people ask what it means, it can be kind of awkward. But for me. I love knowing that I have my mom and dad wherever I go.

On the flip side, I’m not lucky because I do not have them physically close to me. I can call my parents, in any state of mind, but I can’t crawl into my moms arms at 2am and I can’t sob in bed with my dad about how unfair I feel life has been to me. And that distance hurts. The moments when I can mean everything.

It sucks because I love my city. Boston has completely stolen my heart. But my family is further than I’d wish and it’s the sacrifice I make to see them. They visit me often, too! But they can feel too distant for my comfort and because of that, I hate travel.

I love my apartment. I love my cats. I love my routine. I love my city. I love my family. From afar. And we do our best to ensure each side knows that but at the end of the day… someone please invent teleporting. I need my mom and dad

Have a great weekend as I’m spending mine with my mommy!!!

XO,

Michelle

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(Almost) TGIF

Hi friends!!!

I just wanted to send a reminder that I am an ambassador and volunteer blogger for Step Up for Mental Health. You can find my blog posts here!!!!!

My blog posts for Step Up for Mental Health go up a few days after every other Friday so check in! It’s a great organization based out of Chicago! I absolutely love writing posts for them and being active in the mental health community..there’s no better way towards recovery than having a strong community and sense of support towards being mentally healthy.

Also, I decided to start an Instagram account. I follow a lot of accounts on my personal instagram about being sober, mentally healthy and my passion, running. I have always wanted to create my own about my illness (and also running) but haven’t found the courage to “out” myself into such a large social medium like instagram. But tonight, I created an account it’s found here! Please follow me and I’ll follow back! #like4like. I think it may be a hybrid account about athletes with mental illnesses. It’s an interesting thing that I’ve learned.. A lot of athletes who have mental illnesses don’t get treated for them because they are engrained to believe that having a mental illness means you are weak and athlete’s cannot be portrayed in that manner. So it’s inspiring for me to be that image. To have been a division 1 athlete and to continue being an athlete through my mental health crusade and continue to be strong. It’s scary and vulnerable to put myself out there but I also want to help the people who are suffering and struggling and need a voice.

I read this quote today that I loved and wanted to share. I hope everyone has a goodnight and braved the storm this week (if you had one)

Xoxo, Michelle

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Decisions, decisions, decisions…

How many decisions do we make a day? A million, trillion, billion. I think some are obviously more engrained like oh I will drink coffee this morning without a thought and some are forced, planned or maybe, impulsive. Anyway, decisions come up left and right and you don’t even know you’re making them. They can feel natural.

Since my last hospitalization (which is now 7 months ago) I have been in job limbo. I call it job limbo because I quit my law firm after briefly returning and having it be detrimental to my mental health situation. I took a full time job in retail. Fun, I did enjoy a lot of my time there, but not a “career” for me personally. I can’t afford my rent, my bills, my lifestyle. Also, I wanted to take on more.

I’ve applied to at least 300 jobs, done 100 phone interviews, gone to 50 interviews and some of them have had multiple rounds. I’ve been rejected, ignored or I’ve been the one rejecting. But for the most part, I’ve had little to no success.

Currently, I am working at a small medical malpractice law firm. The “team” consist of a head lawyer, and 3 lawyers under him. I am 1 of 2 females in the practice. I am not a lawyer. I do more paralegal, admin, secretarial work. While it gives me something to do during the day so I’m not going insane and doing stupid things. I hate it. I hate so much about it.

But, lucky for me, yesterday I had a WONDERFUL interview at a University in Boston. It seemed too good to be true. It was an assistant-type position for a program that throws tons of events, lots of innovative thinkers, smart people, and really creative. I don’t think I would spend a day bored. Also, it’s very lenient in the sense of hours. If I work a weekend, I take some weekdays off. If I want to come in at 8 and work until 4.. that’s fine too. It’s very, get your job done, and we’re good to go. I loved it. But it’s an hourly position. And I’m assuming that means little to no benefits. It’s a commute that isn’t too great from my commute now. It’s not close to my mental health doctors. There are downsides.

Lucky for me, today, I received a “soft” job offer via phone at a different law firm but it’s a more corporate setting. It will be a boring 9-5 desk job. I will be doing work that makes me want to cry. But I will be in a building with, coincidentally, one of my best friends. I will be in one of Boston’s up and coming area’s where I have my gym, my spin studio, my favorite lunch spots and I will be able to use Boston’s version of Citibike.

At this point, I’m making decisions based off my mental health. Do I take a job (hypothetically since I didn’t receive an offer yet) off of the fact that I would love it, but it would not provide the support I need. Or do I take the job that helps my lifestyle and provides the mental health resources and support I need?

Throughout my treatment, I have learned my most favorite thing ever. It has to do with lists (that I’m obsessed with) and it’s simply pros and cons. If you’re in the middle of a big decision you write the pros and cons of acting on the situation and the pros and cons of not acting on the situation. It’s such a good way to contrast the benefits, downsides, rewards, etc, etc.

So, I’m giving myself a snow day tomorrow whether we get 2 inches or 22 inches and I’m going to pro and con it out. I’m leaning towards the law firm just for the support and for the reassurance that at the end of the day, I have the resources and access to care that I need.

I don’t want to sound dramatic but growing up is hard and growing up when you have a mental illness is even harder. Goodnight! I hope everyone gets a snow day (if you want one)

 

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