Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Goodbye, The Awkward Indie Girl!

A lot has happened in the last month. My blog and I have gotten a lot of attention, and I have had some amazing opportunities to serve as an advocate for the mental health community - expect a blog post about this soon!

I think I have finally reached the point where I have outgrown The Awkward Indie Girl. I have migrated all of my posts to

and that is where I will be posting from now on. Instead of using a high school nickname, my own name will be my brand. I'm very excited to see what the future holds.

So be sure to update your bookmarks! I am still learning how to use Wordpress, so I appreciate your patience over the next few weeks. I think this change will benefit everyone involved.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Sometimes I Am Disabled

Most people who know me know that I am bipolar. When it comes up in conversation, I don't mind sharing. I'm happy to answer questions, and I am always willing to be an advocate. Not much of my private life is actually private. On my blog I admit to having bipolar, OCD, and EDNOS. I confess to self-harm. My two in-patient hospitalizations are forever recorded on the Internet.

Despite this claim of transparency, I have a very difficult time showing that I actively struggle with these issues. I would like to present myself as a successful portrait of mental illness. The major mood swings, the cutting, the starving and purging - all elements of my past. I am "stable." Just look at me! I go to class, I have straight As, I am involved in activities. I exert a lot of effort trying to appear well-adjusted. I've been working towards being on the cover of Time, plastered on the front a box of cereal, and featured on 60 Minutes with the claim that I "conquered" mental illness.

Unfortunately, my type-A personality has set an impossible goal. I have a disability, and sometimes that means I am disabled. I am not stable right now. I have been struggling with my mood swings again. I have been having severe physical reactions to stress. But, I am learning, this does not detract from my message of advocacy. Part of representing the many individuals with mental illness is acknowledging the suffering, the heartbreak, and the difficulties that are a part of daily life.

Stability is not a magic status that occurs once you have logged a certain number of hours. Healing is a process. That process includes ups and downs. There was at least a solid month when I felt very good, but now I do not feel very good. In fact, I feel pretty bad. My blog is a place where I can acknowledge the good and the bad. It is not my job to always be a beacon of hope.

I am a human with unfortunate brain chemistry. I can live a meaningful life, I can be an advocate, and I can be a writer, but I will have days that will be lost to my illness. These lost days do not detract from my message; they are part of my message. Despite my struggles, aches, and losses, my net effect is positive. My failures amplify my triumphs, just as the rain makes the rainbow that much more beautiful. Bipolar has taught me that nothing is all good or all bad, but everything is temporary. Glean what you can from this moment, because you do not know what the next moment will bring.

So let's share these moments: the manic, the hypomanic, the stable, the depressed, the devastating, and all of the shades in between. Let's share the milestones and mistakes. We can celebrate and mourn simultaneously. It is most important that we create a community of acceptance for all states of our illness, including our wellness.

In the comments, I invite you to share one aspect of your life that is going well and one that is challenging you. For example, I am celebrating six months of being self-harm free, but I am struggling with exercising.

Friday, April 4, 2014


I have been off Lexapro for a week now. It's my first time with 0mg since my first hospitalization in 2012. Late last year, I started taking Latuda, which is for bipolar depression. It seemed like a good time to try weaning myself off of the Lexapro.

I take a lot of meds. I used to be concerned about how the pills were "changing me," but I realized that all of the pills do is help balance me to a point where I can function normally. It seems to go against logic, but I am able to be more myself when I artificially add the chemicals that my brain lacks.

Recently I have become aware of a part of the mental health community that concerns me. Just thinking about it is making me cry right now. There are people who say that I use my pills as a "crutch." That instead of learning techniques to control my patterns of thinking and behaving, I pop pills.

I have been struggling as I have been decreasing my Lexapro. I notice that I'm having a tougher time dealing with stress, I have been more emotional, and I am having more thoughts about self harm. I don't know if this is because of the dosage change, stressful circumstances, or a combination of both.

I'm meeting with my psychiatrist on Monday, and we'll be discussing whether or not I should stay off of the Lexpro. Part of me wants to show that I can manage without it - that I can use the coping skills I've learned in therapy. I feel like if I can get through the months of April and May, I'll be fine. But the other part of me doesn't want to tempt a disaster. I can't afford to have a bad episode during these next couple months.

I honestly don't know what to do. It is entirely possible that I would be feeling this way even with the Lexapro; things are very stressful right now. I'm still functioning. I'm going to class, doing my work, and participating in activities.

For me, it's not a question of whether or not I will take medication. It's a question of how much. Without the Lexapro, I'm still taking seven pills a day. I don't think I will ever be completely drug-free, but part of me would like to embrace this chance to reduce the number of chalky tablets I put into my body.

Ultimately, I need to make this decision myself. That said, I am still interested in other opinions. It's important to note that saying no to Lexapro right now doesn't mean that I can never go back on it. I think that all of us have different ways of dealing with our conditions and that we shouldn't feel shame in taking medication or choosing not to take it anymore. I'm just trying to figure out which way is right for me.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

High School

I did NOT take this photo. This is from Rock n Roll Revival last year, but it captures the spirit of the show better than any other image I could create myself. It was taken by Connor Smith.

Last night, I attended Rock n Roll Revival XXV at my old high school. RnR is the glistening jewel of Severna Park, outshining all other local events. Forty songs are performed over the course of two acts, and the singers, dancers, and band members are all students - except for the one faculty number. The talent is incredible. Each year I've been overwhelmed by seeing what my musically-minded classmates are capable of.

Yesterday something else overwhelmed me, too. As I walked across the parking lot to our car, my ears still slightly ringing, I felt sadness. There was a lump in my throat. What can I say of my high school experience? I never auditioned for RnR - the closest I got was signing up for an audition slot and crossing my name off the day of because I was too afraid. I never tried out for any sports. I have very few friends from that time in my life. There were no crowning achievements, no ribbons or trophies, no scrapbooks full of happy memories.

When I was alone with my dad, I told him about my feelings. "You were sick," he explained. "It would be more unfortunate if high school was the high point of your life."

He has a point. It's hard to make friends, join clubs, or audition for roles when you can't even convince yourself of your own worth. How do you make yourself appealing to a potential friend when you are disgusted by yourself? I didn't go to prom or graduation because I didn't feel any sort of attachment to my peers. I had enclosed myself in a box. I had withdrawn from everyone. Some nights I would get very upset that no one wanted to be my friend, but when anyone tried to get close to me, I pushed them away. Depression has a way of isolating you when you most need friendship.

I cannot let myself think how different high school would have been for me if I had had my bipolar disorder under control. To me, those years are lost. There are a few glimmering moments of happiness, most of them involving academics or discussions with my teachers. Despite my efforts to limit my closeness with others, I have a couple of very good friends. Overall, however, those years are marred by depression and mania.

Even though seeing RnR saddened me, I'm thankful I had to the opportunity to attend. I felt rare pride for my community, a place that I normally see as obsessed with athletic competitions and standardized test scores. My hometown is full of very, very talented young men and women. The best part is, I don't think RnR will be the high point of their lives. There is so much more in store for people with that kind of pure talent coupled with motivation.

So whether you shined at high school or just survived, I firmly believe there is more. I am finding happiness at college, where stability has finally allowed me to pursue the activities I enjoy. Soon I'll be playing softball again with a team from my dorm. I get to write all of the time. I'm making a difference through Active Minds, a club I'm involved in that helps fight the stigmatizing of mental illness. 

Things are getting better. High school is not the end.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The "B" Word

At Towson University, I have seen several posters advocating for "Spread the Word to End the Word." There is an entire website campaign dedicated to purging the word "retarded" from casual use. At first I was skeptical. Does one word really matter? The more I thought about it, the clearer the answer became to me.

Our choice of vocabulary matters. Now, I try to make a conscious effort not to say "retarded." I am aware that the word is not meant to be used to describe a situation I think is annoying or stupid. It  belittles and demeans those with actual intellectual disabilities, and it creates a hostile work or learning environment. It's not good for anyone.

I want to take the movement farther. We should take a similar approach with mental health words. For example, when you use the word bipolar to describe anything but the mental illness, you are stealing my voice. You are diluting my message as a young woman who struggles daily with the disorder. When you perceive the weather to be rapidly changing, you are not witnessing a bipolar experience. I will gladly share my experience with you, but please do not make this comparison. I wish my mood swings were as simple as the weather.

It seems trivial. One word! But our choice of word shapes our attitudes. Let's challenge ourselves to find a more respectful, intelligent substitute. The English language has a plethora of words for us to choose from. Let's not take the easy way out and compromise our ability to empathize with our friends with mental illness.

I know this is a controversial blog post, so I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments. I'd like it if we could have a healthy conversation.

Thursday, March 6, 2014


Today I'm going to bring to light a secret I've been harboring. My therapist says, "You're only as sick as your secrets." I briefly mentioned this secret in the post I wrote about losing my religion, but I am ready to share a few more details.

When I was in tenth grade, I was sexually harassed by one of my classmates. It climaxed in an altercation that occurred after my first experience drinking alcohol unsupervised, and then persisted as a series of lesser incidents that involved inappropriate touching and what I have determined to be stalking.

Today I would like to focus on the lesser incidents. It started with an "innocent" hand on my knee, and progressed. I was told that this was happening because I was single and this was the best that I could get, that this is what I deserved. It happened on public transportation in front on many people, but I never had the courage to get up a move. I never made a scene. I sat in the same seat every day,   dreading what became the routine.

I was fourteen years old. I was very smart. My parents had talked to me about what to do if an older man tried to touch me inappropriately.

But I wasn't prepared when the person touching me was a classmate, my peer. I knew it was wrong, but I did not possess the proper context to handle my situation. I was timid. I didn't have the courage to make a scene.

So how do you confront someone who is in your class and you see every day? The same way you would confront a stranger who would treat you with such blatant disrespect. The following image that I have created applies to anyone who touches you when you don't want him or her to: friend, family member, classmate, or stranger.

Feel free to share this image on Pinterest, Tumblr, Facebook, etc. We need to teach people that they do not have to live in fear. It took years for me to "get over" what happened, and I still don't feel entirely comfortable sharing that part of my story. I think we're all ready for things to change.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Bipolar Interview

Hello everyone!

Today I'm over at Like a Bird with Kendra. She interviewed me about my experience with bipolar disorder as a part of a monthly series on mental illness. She is interviewing one woman a month with a different mental illness, and I'm so honored to have been a part of her inspiring project. To read the post, click on the picture above!

On a different note, I have been floored by the reaction my last blog post received. Wow. I've gotten comments, texts, emails, and Facebook messages. Some are more pleasant than others, but they have all reaffirmed my belief that it is important for us to honestly share our stories. I feared losing friends, but I have only made more. It's been my most popular blog post ever. Thank you to everyone who read, shared, or engaged with me. Interacting with readers is the most rewarding part of my blog. I always love to hear from you! You can leave a comment, email me, or send me a tweet.