Thursday, January 24, 2013

100 Things to Make You Happy

After yesterday's serious subject matter, I thought I'd write about something a little lighter today.


In British Glamour I stumbled upon an article called "100 Things to Make You Happy." I enjoyed reading their list so much that I decided to make my own! I think we could all use a little happiness inspiration - especially when there's snow on the ground!

Play a musical instrument
Draw a picture
Read a book
Take photos
Try a new recipe

Spend Time With
A friend
A family member
A newborn
Some adorable puppies
A kitten with attitude

Songs by Women
 Stronger - Kelly Clarkson
We are Never Ever Ever Getting Back Together - Taylor Swift
Anything Could Happen - Ellie Goulding
Shake It Out - Florence & the Machine
Call Me Maybe - Carly Rae Jepsen

Songs by Men
Uptown Girl - Billy Joel
Together Forever - Rick Astley
Subtraction - Coheed & Cambria
Suitcase - Circa Survive
Gangnam Style - Psy

Mean Girls
Toy Story
The Cider House Rules
Star Wars
Batman Begins

TV Shows
Breaking Bad
Doctor Who
The Daily Show

Bossy Pants by Tina Fey
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi


Blogs of Note

Dungeons and Dragons
Cosmic Encounter
Time's Up!

PC/Video Games
League of Legends
Super Mario

Sweet Foods
Hot chocolate
Ice cream
Chocolate chip cookies

Savory Foods
Pasta with pesto
Pad thai
Mashed potatoes
French bread

Places to Go
Movie theater

Keeping In Touch
Reconnect on Facebook
Send a letter
Make a phone call
Send a text


Calvin and Hobbes
The Family Circus

National Geographic
Vanity Fair

Try a New Language

Things You Didn't Outgrow
Disney movies and cartoons
Blowing bubbles
Moon bounces
The alphabet game
Taking a catnap (cat optional)

Obviously, a list of one hundred things doesn't even begin to cover the innumerable possibilities.
Please feel free to leave your own ideas and recommendations in the comments.
I hope your day is full of happiness!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Dealing with Diagnosis

I want to start this post by thanking everyone who has read my blog in the last week. The outpouring of support I have received after sharing the fact that I am bipolar has been overwhelming. Family, friends, and even acquaintances have reached out to me, and I have felt so loved. 
I know everyone has a unique situation, but if you are struggling with whether or not to share your own diagnosis, I would encourage you to share with even just one person. You don't need write a public Internet post like I did. You might be surprised with the reactions you get - and if someone gives you trouble, I can only advise you to be patient with their lack of understanding.

This week I want to talk about getting a diagnosis, because it can be one of the most critical steps to helping you find balance in your life. I am not a mental health professional, and I am merely sharing my own story. If something you read strikes a chord with you today, I would encourage you to talk to a licensed therapist or psychiatrist. 


I wasn't born with "bipolar" tattooed across my forehead.
There was no special note on my birth certificate.
No extra stamp in my passport.

There weren't even symptoms until a few years ago. 
I had a normal, very happy childhood marked by some moves around Europe and strong friendships. I loved school, was a perfectionist, and liked drama and acting. I enjoyed performing in school plays and writing school newspaper. 
Yes, I hated aspects of middle school, but in that aspect, I believe I was like most tweens.

A religious conversion charmed my entry into high school. I continued to be a high achiever with a large friend group. I was passionate about life and excited about future possibilities. Unfortunately, I was forced to leave my comfort zone as we relocated for the sixth time in my life.

We decided to try online schooling to allow for some continuity in my academic career, but I wilted without adequate socialization. My eating disorder worsened, and I became depressed. The kind of depressed where you can't get out of bed, vacillate between eating everything and eating nothing, and cry constantly.
Consequently, I enrolled in a local school in the middle of the school year.
Although initially things were alright, I had difficultly making friends. The depression I had homeschooling didn't magically lift when I started going to school. I doubt my teachers or fellow students knew anything. When some of them found out that I had been hurting myself to cope, they were shocked and confused. The face I put on at school to avoid attention put extra pressure on me that resulted on crumbling when I got home. I had a very negative reaction with the first medication we tried, and I felt like I was sliding down the rabbit hole. I wrote morose poetry and dark short stories that reflected the pain I felt. Before long, I was back to not functioning. Back to laying in bed. Back to not coping.

I moved back to the States in the spring of 2010 in order to care I needed. The therapist I first met with believed I was bipolar, but the psychiatrist I met with thought that it was probably just situational depression that would end now that I was removed from the "situation."

I'll fast-forward to now, where I have an excellent new team consisting of a great therapist, a talented psychiatrist, and a supportive family. We were able to track my moods in a way that we could see clear patterns. Things didn't get better just by moving to the States. A lot of the same problems moved across the Atlantic with me, but we targeted them and alleviated the ones we could.

I only got my official "bipolar" diagnosis while I was in the hospital this past Christmas.
Now I do have a piece of paper that says "MOOD DISORDER: BIPOLAR" on it.
I can carry it around like a badge, scrapbook it, frame it, burn it.
Though none of those ideas are very helpful.

It may seem after all of that that getting the diagnosis was the tricky part, but what's really tricky is what's ahead. It's what I do with this diagnosis.

While I am bipolar, I am also, most importantly, 
Bipolar disorder explains my mood swings and some of my behaviors and thought processes.
But it does not define me.

I'm still the girl that likes drama and writing, but now I have new interests to add to those.
(and Barbies and PollyPocket have been left at the wayside)
I'm still the perfectionist and high-achiever. I'm still passionate about life, and I want to change the world.

Some days, I cling more closely to my bipolar label than I want to; it's a process developing daily.
Some days, I feel like THIS IS ME.
Other days, I don't want it. I shirk it. I hate it.
But it doesn't change the fact that I am what I am.

Bottom-line: We all have our labels. Even labels that aren't related to mental health affect how we perceive ourselves. Daily, we try to reconcile these labels with our ever-expanding ideas of who were are. 
My hope is that we give those struggling with mental illness the same respect and time to reconcile, and that we give them the support they need to be who they are, diagnosis and all.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mental Health

I haven't hit the "New Post" button in weeks. I haven't even checked on my blog.

Kind of funny, considering my blog is my favorite thing.

I can't think of a creative lead, so I'll just explain my absence plainly:

Bipolar disorder is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain that results in extreme mood fluctuation between depression (lows) and mania (highs). It's more than feeling up and down; it's a loss of control. The roller-coaster metaphor is used a lot, but I would say that in my experience, it's pretty appropriate. You surge upward with inflated self-importance and self-esteem, huge plans and extravagant schemes, boundless energy and no sleep. Then you crash downwards at breakneck speed with hopelessness, thoughts of self-harm, and loss of will to keep going.

The good news is, it can be managed with the right combination of medications and therapy. 

I've spent a lot of time figuring of what triggers my episodes of depression and mania, and what helps me recover from those episodes. Improv, one of my favorite activities, turned out to be a trigger right now, so I've had to take a break.

 I also realized that blogging is a huge help. It makes me passionate about creating original content and creating a dedicated online community. I want my blog to give attention to mental health concerns. I started that with my Eating Disorders post, but I think it needs to be a more regular feature. 

My message today is that if you have thoughts of ending your life, there are people and places that can help you.

Call 911. You will be taken to a local hospital and evaluated. They will keep you in a safe place and determine a course of treatment for you. This may or may not include an extended stay at the hospital. Staying at the hospital allows you to get intensive therapy alone and in a group, get your medications in order, and be away from outside influences while you rest and heal.

Tell an adult. A parent, a teacher, a guidance counselor, a therapist, a doctor, a family friend. For my younger readers: friends your own age will want to help you, but they might not know what to do. 
If you don't feel like there is anyone you can tell, try a hotline, such as 
1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

*Note: If you go to my high school and are experiencing mental health issues, I would recommend going to see Ms. Gallagher. She is a wonderful, kind woman with a plethora of resources to help you through this difficult time. She stayed with me while I contacted my parents and made arrangements to go to the hospital, and she helped me get back on track when I returned to school. Your individual counselor can also help you when taking care of yourself has to become your first priority. School is important, but your life and health is more important!

In the future, I will write a post about what's it like to stay at the hospital, removing the stigma from taking medication, and a more personal post about bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety. I will still do outfit posts and Vintage Photo Monday, but I will also be an advocate for mental health. If there are any posts you would be interested in reading, please let me know! If you would like to share your story, please contact me. Just click the "Contact Me" button under my banner. 

I hope you are all safe and well.