Wednesday, June 19, 2013


I had been manic for the past several hours; I could practically feel my brain buzzing. In an attempt to calm myself down, I had sprayed my ritual mist, brushed my teeth, and prepared for sleep. But sleep did not come. Instead, the voices arrived.

It sounded like there was a family of four camped out in front of my closed bedroom door eating dinner. I could hear the clink of the glasses and cutlery, the murmur of conversation. I could distinguish the voice of a man, a woman, and at least two children, but I could not figure out what they were saying. I was terrified. In bare feet and an old t-shirt, I opened the door. The empty hallway greeted me with a sardonic smile. I crept around the house, searching for the source of the sounds. Was my mom watching TV in the guest room? Was my brother playing video games? There had to be a logical explanation for what I was hearing. I returned to bed, troubled and in tears. The silence reassured me and tempted me to back beneath my duvet.

I was in bed less than five minutes when the dinner resumed. I shut my eyes tightly, trying to block the noise out. After a few minutes, it went away. I relaxed, tried to fall asleep again. It returned. This game continued for a couple of hours. I was finally so exhausted that I was able to ignore the sounds outside my door.

This pattern repeated for several weeks. I didn't always hear the voices. It usually only happened on nights when I was particularly stressed or upset (all of finals week). I didn't tell anyone about what I was hearing. I was afraid that they would make me change my meds, restarting the lengthy process towards stabilization. I was afraid that they would change my diagnosis from bipolar to schizophrenic. I was afraid that people would think that I was just too crazy.

I finally summoned enough courage to tell Chris about what was happening. He agreed that it was spooky, but he didn't reject me as I had feared. Confiding in him gave me confidence to tell my therapist and eventually my parents. My therapist reassured me that my medication levels would just be adjusted and that I wouldn't have to start a new set of pills. She also gave me some surprising information.

Not just people with schizophrenia can experience auditory hallucinations. The phenomenon affects people with bipolar, depression, and anxiety as well. 

So why do we label hallucinations as "crazy?"

I propose that there is no such thing as crazy. There is only misunderstood and under-researched. We don't fully know what causes hallucinations, and I think that that causes fear. My friend, Steven, explained it to me as synapses misfiring in the part of the brain that processes sound (the auditory cortex). Unfortunately, we don't yet know what causes these misfires. It bothers me that there is still so much about the brain that we don't know. Everyone has one, yet they remain mysterious. 

Right now, I can't do neurological research. I can't conduct studies and figure out why some people hear or see things that don't exist. I can, however, help fight stigma. That's why I'm writing this blog post. I'm still embarrassed about this most recent symptom. I'm still afraid I'll lose friends because of it. I'm still worried that it might be a little too "crazy" for people to handle. 

But: If this post helps even one person reconsider a judgment they've passed, a fear they have, or misconception they harbor, then it's worth it. It's worth the temporal discomfort and embarrassment. That is why I blog.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Plodding Along

There are times in life when we suffer. There are times in life when we thrive. Then there are times when we're just sort of plodding along. Can you guess which stage I've been in the past few days?

I've been my normal range of emotions: happy, sad, cranky, manic, depressed. The lows aren't too bad and the highs are getting under control. I'm going to therapy, taking my meds, and doing what I'm "supposed" to do. 

I wanted to write a meaningful piece (one that I'm actually collaborating with a fellow bipolar blogger for) about symptoms, but lately I've felt this aversion to opening up. A new symptom has appeared, and I'm not comfortable talking publicly about it yet. Partially because I don't really understand it. This lack of understanding has made me realize how important it is that I first inform myself and then inform my readers. Part of fighting stigma is providing information. So expect a blog post on that early next week!

I've also been feeling confused about my YouTube channel. While I love making humorous videos, I also want to post thrifting hauls and some prettier music videos. Part of me says "Do what you want! It's your channel!" and another part says "That's a poopy idea, you stinky loser." I'm sorry that half of my sub-conscience is a three-year-old that hasn't had a nap yet.

An appropriate quote: 
Tina Fey is sort of my spirit animal, if you didn't know. On occasion, I've been compared to her (because of improv), and they had to restart my heart both times. Bottom line: I love Tina Fey.

Part of plodding along is frustrating. I feel like I could be accomplishing more, and yet I'm stuck. But things aren't really that bad, so I feel guilty for complaining. I feel like I'm in the middle of a hundred projects, but not a single one is inspiring enough at this moment. 

I need to take some time to relax and refocus. I'll be in my room watching Mean Girls and reading Bossypants while dressed up like Tina Fey as a man if you have any questions.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


(psst it's an AirSoft gun, not a real one)

In yesterday's post, I briefly mentioned triggers. I realized I had a lot more to say than I covered, so I decided today's post would be dedicated to the topic.

Triggers are people, places, things, and situations that trigger an unhealthy response. Unfortunately for our brains, triggers are often things we can't avoid or that we don't want to avoid.

Here is a picture of my number one trigger:

Tyra Fricken' Banks. 

I probably owe you an explanation. After all, I can't just paste a picture of one of a world-famous supermodel and label her as a trigger.


When I was struggling with my eating disorder, I often turned to pictures of models as thinspiration. I don't blame the models for my eating disorder; their photoshopped bodies just happen to be triggering for me. Once I started recovery, I swore off fashion magazines. Then I found America's Next Top Model.

It was like crack. I couldn't get enough of the models, the photo-shoots, and the drama. I practiced "smizing" and "tooching" in front of the mirror - it's worse than it sounds, I promise. I downloaded all of the photo shoots so I could pore over them, critiquing their poses and angles. But the most tantalizing aspect of the show was that these young hopefuls were just like me. I could, in theory, be America's Next Top Model. The only things standing between me and television stardom were my thighs. And my tummy. And my boobs. And my hips. But I had the height, right?

I noticed that the more I watched the show, the worse my eating patterns got. I started obsessing about food again. Fearing full relapse, I made myself quit watching the show cold turkey. I deleted my ANTM tumblr account, and I said goodbye to Tyra.

I was fine until last year, when I saw the season premiere was featured on Hulu. I'm okay now, I thought. I can handle it. I'm only watching it for the photography. My obsession resumed. I watched it religiously; I ran home from the bus stop to watch the newest episode each week. I made Chris, my mom, my brother, anyone watch the show with me. At first, I really was simply enjoying the program. But then I started to wonder, was I Top Model material?

I was Cady-Heron-obsessed-with-Regina-George-obsessed. I was going to be a model. It was THE ultimate goal. I thought about postponing going to college just in case I was chosen for taping the show.  But most importantly, I started feeling funny about my weight again. Old habits resurfaced. After the season finale, I knew that I had to stop. Plus, I was mad that Laura didn't win.


I'm fairly certain that I'll never be able to watch America's Next Top Model again. I finally understand what it means for something to be triggering. It can look enticing, but it's ultimately not good for me. I've learned to make compromises with myself. I may not watch ANTM, but I've found that Project Runway works for me. There's less of a focus on the models and more emphasis on the passion and hard work of the designers. Plus, there's no way in hell that I'd ever be able to compete on that show.

It's frustrating when we have other triggers that we can't avoid. For example, another one of my triggers is having people over to my house. I can't erect a forty-foot wall around the home I share with my family. It's against code. Also, you just can't live like that. I'm slowly learning that I can have pleasant interactions with pleasant people where I live. No, I won't be hosting a massive rave in the near future, but having some friends over for brunch is doable. I'm accepting that when a large gathering is absolutely necessary, there is no shame in taking a Xanax beforehand and a really long nap afterwards.

With triggers, it's all about personal management. It's finding out what you can handle and accepting your limitations - maybe even embracing them. For me, the key to doing this was using coping skills and/or finding substitute activities, depending on the trigger. It's a learning process; what worked yesterday might not work today. It's important that we forgive ourselves when things don't go according to plan, and move forward with renewed grace and determination. 

You can still have poise without a supermodel in your life.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Spread Your Wings

I received a very heartfelt request for advice, and I'm going to do my best to offer some tonight. The question was in response to my Living For You post. Here is the question:

"I don't exactly know why I'm responding to this specific post or at all, but this idea about living for you (or in my case myself) has been my biggest struggle. I've been dealing with my depression and suicidal thoughts since elementary school and i mainly stifled it by throwing everything i am into other people (on top of other things) But on my own I've been trying to do more for me and I'm not sure how i can balance it out because when i focus on me, i tend to do things that aren't healthy, like drinking and pain killers and sex outside of my serious, committed relationship . I can feel myself regress and i can tell I'm pulling away from people again. It just feels like I'm incapable of taking small steps to being a self sustaining individual. I'm scared to be in that really dark place again. I just want to know how you've taken those steps for you and strategies you may have been using to cope. i just don't want to end up tearing apart my skin and thrown into a hospital again. ... I've just been struggling to do the same thing you're struggling with for years and it always ends bad. advice? "

First of all, I'm sorry that you've been going through so much - especially from such an early age. When we get accustomed to feeling bad, it can be difficult to break the pattern. The pathways in our brains that connect these poor feelings become overused and it can be difficult to form new, happier pathways (A doctor explained this to me. I'm no neuroscientist). But you've already decided that you want to feel better, and that's the most important part. Because you want to feel good, you deserve to feel good. It doesn't matter what you've done in the past, who you've slept with, what you've had to drink, what pills you've taken. You deserve it.

There are a few steps you can take to cope with those dark feelings. First, determine what your triggers are and avoid them as best you can. Some triggers, like homework, can't be avoided. Give yourself permission to ease up on these ones. Digest them in small bites, and reward yourself when you handle the situation in a healthy way. Second, find positive influences. Maybe it's a new person you're getting to know, a TV show that makes you really happy, or a blog that inspires you. Enjoy these peaceful elements of your life. Third, trust yourself with small responsibilities. Show yourself how good, kind, and helpful you are. Make one of those cheesy lists of positive things about yourself and hang it up in your room. Read it every day. Make a list of reasons you want to stay alive, why you want to fight for a healthy tomorrow, and hang that list up too. Fourth, take care of yourself - physically and mentally. Try a new type of exercise (of course I'll recommend yoga), take a long bath, talk to someone you trust. If you feel comfortable, talk to your doctor/psychiatrist/therapist and revise your treatment plan. It might turn out that you need medication or that you need medication adjusted. In my situation, my depression had lasted for so long that I needed medication to get my chemical levels back to normal. 

I understand your concern about focusing on yourself. Instead of thinking of "focusing on you" as doing whatever you want or whatever feels good, think of it as doing what you need to do to take care of yourself. It's not always fun to focus on yourself, but in the long-run, it will get you farther.

When you focus on yourself, when you are working hard towards being healthy and happy, good things will start to happen. I'm not promising miracles, but you'll start to notice changes in yourself. You'll have more confidence in your health and in your decisions. For the first time in a while, (at least for me) you won't be afraid to be yourself. You'll finally be able to spread your wings and enjoy life. This is the best part. This is your reward.

At this point in time, I feel like I'm just starting to poke out my little wings and test the air. I've discovered what I really love - creating digital content - and I'm pursuing it. I still have tough, moody days. It's a struggle, but I'm already getting a taste of how fun and meaningful life can be, too.

I hope this answers your question and helps you out. Remember, you deserve to feel good. It sounds kind of funny to say, but it's true. You're a human, and that's one of your rights.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Awkward Happiness

As this is my 100th blog post on the Awkward Indie Girl Blog, I thought I would celebrate with some "awkward happiness." I want to share some of my hospital memories, the ones that make me giggle or smile and remind me why I believe in people.

I'm afraid that if I don't write these down, I will forget them. These won't be presented as full stories. Instead, they'll be little vignettes of my stay.

Names have been changed.


It was two days before Christmas, so the Family Guy Christmas Special was. The nurses didn't allow Family Guy, so we were all huddled around the TV with the volume turned down low. We were stifling our laughter, trying to avoid drawing attention to our forbidden activity. We got about halfway through the episode when Frank burst out laughing. The joke wasn't even funny. We glared at him, but it was too late. "WHAT ARE YOU WATCHING?" shrieked one of the nurses from behind the glass station. She ran over, grabbed the remote with her long pink fingernails, and changed the channel to the X Factor. While Carly Rose Sonenclar sang, she lectured us on how Jesus wouldn't approve of our vulgar humor. 


"I own a taxi cab company. If you give me your number, I'll give you free taxi rides for the rest of your life."
A tempting offer. "No, Frank."
"What if I promise to drive you to the beach for all the crabs you can eat."
"No, Frank."
"All you have to do is give me your address."
"I'm not telling you where I live."
"Oh no! Not for nasty purposes! It's just purely work-related. My brain's like a computer. That way I can find the quickest route from your house to the beach."
"No, Frank."
"What if you pick me up?"


Lunch was one of the most boring times of the day, so a few of the patients came up with a game to pass the time. The game was called, "How High Can We Get Anna's Blood Sugar?" I am fully aware that this is an evil, revolting game. While I never played, I didn't stop it either. The rules were that you had to give Anna, an elderly, overweight woman with poor portion control, your dessert without getting caught by the nurses. Anna ate everything. The nurses couldn't figure out why her numbers kept going up.


Many of the patients who were in the ward were homeless. During their stay at the hospital, they were given scrubs to wear. The pants, however, were often too big and strings/belts were forbidden items. Consequently, I saw a lot of butts during those seven days.


"Have you ever flashed your boobs at a stranger?" Karen asked me.
"No..." Where was this going?
"I have," she replied. "I was visiting my boyfriend in prison, and we were getting private time to talk. I flashed him before I left. One of the guys working there gave me a high five on my way out. Those two -way mirrors will always get ya!"


There was a fight in the ward the day I was discharged. Frank insulted Eddie, and neither of them really knew how to fight. They were mostly just slapping at each other until Eddie pulled his Timberland boot off and beat Frank on the head with it. Security came to separate and tranquilize them both. This didn't stop Aaron from telling the same joke for the rest of the day:
"Knock knock.
Who's there?
Boot who?


"Will you escape with me?" Michael whispered.
"Michael, we can't escape. We're here to get better," I said.
"I'm already better, and I need your help to escape. Those doors look pretty heavy, but I think if we all ran at them at once from the end of the hallway, we could bust out," Michael explained.
"Ok. If you get everyone else to agree with your plan, I'll do it."


"I'll vote for what you want to watch on TV at 8 if you give me your salt packets."
Transaction made.


We were supposed to come up with 26 words, one for each letter of the alphabet, that were positive about ourselves. I can't even tell you what most of the guys came up with. You'd think the nurses would learn and take that game out of the curriculum. Surprisingly, Frank's was almost appropriate. 
"B - Birds sing in the trees about how sexy I am."


I don't want it to seem like I'm mocking these people. For my seven day stay, they were my friends. We took care of each other. There were many funny moments during that time of healing, and I just want to show that. In each day, there is humor, and where there is humor, there is often love. I can laugh about the people I met because I love them, and they laughed about me, too. Remember, hospitals, like the world, are filled with humans. Some very funny humans.

P.S. If you want some more humor, you should check out my new YouTube channel!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Living for You

In yesterday's post, I mentioned how my inspiration for getting help was my brother. Truthfully, he was my primary motivation for staying alive at that time. I wanted today's post to offer an update, as well as to provide an opportunity to talk about the positives and negatives of living for yourself vs living for someone else.

When my mood was at its worst, when my thoughts were the scariest, I was not capable of believing in myself. Honestly, I didn't believe that I was worth it. I didn't value myself as a person; I thought I was too damaged and weak. My brother gave me purpose. Staying alive for him, I thought, was more noble than staying alive for myself. I am proof that in times of dire need, we can temporarily sustain ourselves by living for others.

Although much was remedied during my hospitalization, I still had to work towards achieving wellness once I got home. Thoughts of self harm still crept up. I avoided hurting myself, however, by promising my boyfriend that I wouldn't do anything. I kept myself safe for him - not myself. This wasn't a problem until our relationship ended. Who would I not cut for now? Lacking answers, I made a painful mistake.

This past week, I've noticed a change. I see the reminder of what I did, and I'm confused and a little embarrassed. Because I know that I deserve better. I deserve to not hurt myself.


I've always been a "people pleaser." We talk about this in therapy pretty often. I overextend myself by refusing to say no and I sacrifice my own comfort for others'. It sounds noble, but it's really just crummy. Part of being a people pleaser has involved me valuing others more than I value myself. This ties into my feelings of not wanting to live for myself. Living for yourself requires you to be a little selfish sometimes and to limit how much you try to fulfill others' expectations.

Today, I tried to live for myself. I didn't shave my legs to go to a scholarship luncheon because I just didn't want to and no one there should be looking at my legs that closely anyway. I went to therapy. I went to yoga. I helped my brother with math not because I owe him, but because I love him. Today, I feel worth it.

Living for yourself is not about being a pretentious poop. It's about recognizing, as my yoga instructor would say, the divinity within yourself. That divinity is just something that you recognize that is more powerful than you are. It can be beauty, art, music, science, service, friendship, family, or anything else that moves you. Just know that a little part of that lives in your heart, and because of it, you are stronger. Recognize what makes you divine.


I confess that part of my motivation for telling you about my recent regression is to keep myself accountable. I recognize that I am a fallible human being, and that this is just one of the many mistakes I will make in my lifetime. I think that even though I made this mistake, I did the right thing by telling my mom and therapist and recommitting to my desire to have a safe, healthy life for me.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Getting There

The last time I posted about my time in the hospital, a reader asked me how I got there. Today's post is my answer to that question.

I write extensively on my suicidal thoughts. If you think these may be triggering for you, I suggest you skip this post. 


I had slowly been sliding down the gorge of dangerous depression. It was not a sudden change. I had been losing my footing on previously familiar territory; I was struggling to do homework and keep up with my classes, I had stopped attending my club meetings, I wasn't contributing in class. It was like I was being replaced by this alien creature who couldn't handle my life. I watched myself attempt to function from a little glass box across the room. I saw myself fight to just get a few hours of sleep. After a depressed day at school, mania claimed me. I was hyper and nauseous for the hours until I collapsed.

But I'm not sure those patterns alone would have gotten me to the hospital. The key for me was when my suicidal thoughts progressed into a plan. I gave away some of my most precious belongings as well as things I didn't want to bother my parents with. One morning, I woke up early, and I wrote letters explaining what I had to do, my reasons, and my apologies to family members, friends, teachers. I planned on disfiguring my face so that there wouldn't be an open casket at my funeral. I chose my outfit, complete with shoes. Then I went to school. 

That day at school, I felt sick. I kept thinking of my brother, Ben. I didn't want him to be affected by my actions. I wanted him to stay the perfect all-American boy that he is. I didn't want him to be judged by my actions. I knew what I was planning on doing would impact how people saw him forever. Maybe some foolish people wouldn't take the time to get to know him because he would be "the boy whose sister killed herself." Still, I was unable to trust that I wouldn't hurt myself if I went home. No one would be home after school for a while, so I went to the Food Lion where Chris works. He told his understanding boss that I couldn't be by myself, and they let me sit there until my mom could pick me up. When she picked me up, I told her that I was afraid I would hurt myself, but I didn't tell her the whole story. I should have.

The next morning, I was greeted by those scary suicidal thoughts. My mom drove me to school, and I told her about my thoughts and about my desire to stay alive for Ben. I cried. So did she. But I got out the car and went to class. 

I couldn't function at school. No work got done. All I could think about was home much I needed to die. For the first time, I used my Crisis Pass (a little slip of paper that lets me leave class and go to the counseling center). I went to the school psychologist and fell apart. I explained my thoughts and feelings; we called my mom, therapist, and psychiatrist. We determined that I needed to go to the hospital for an psychiatric evaluation. It's not normal or acceptable to feel that awful.

My mom took me home, and then we went to the hospital. After many, many hours, a blood test, a urine test, several evaluations, and a grilled cheese sandwich, I was admitted for voluntary inpatient psychiatric care. 

Oh, did I mention that it was my dad's birthday?

In retrospect, my therapist and I have determined that I waited too long to go to the hospital. I should have gone before I began to materialize a plan. When your thoughts move beyond feelings of misery and sadness to thoughts of action, it's critical that you get help. 

When we exercise, we're told that we should listen to our bodies, but in our everyday lives do we spend enough time listening to our minds? We give ourselves warning signs, we beg for help. We need to tune to the right frequency and listen. We need to not fear the consequences of taking care of ourselves. I didn't want to go to the hospital because I didn't want to miss school. Staying at school, I sat in the chair, but was I really present? It was more valuable for me to go to the hospital so that I was able to have a successful rest of the school year. Let's get our priorities straight, right?

In closing, I believe that if you are unsure of whether or not you should be in the hospital, if you have doubt about your safety, if you are scared, you should go. Going to the hospital does not mean you'll be in inpatient care for a week like I was. It means you will be evaluated and a care plan suited to your needs will be created. Advocate for yourself, your health, and your safety. Be honest about the thoughts and feelings you've been having. It can be a frightening experience, but your life is worth it!


If you have any more questions about my hospital stay, I'm willing to answer. I would like others to benefit from my experience in any way that they can.

Stay safe,

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Healing Power of Friendship

From Left to Right: Marie, Oreo, Giselle, Bear, Glory, Totoro, Lamby, and Pooh

I've done more with friends during the past week than I had in the past six months. Each day I've done something with special people, and it's making me feel so great that I have to share!

"Hanging out" used to freak me out. I hated it. This was partially due to paranoia, and partially due to my introverted nature. For me, paranoia takes the form of thinking that my friends and family members hate me and wish that I were dead. I constantly felt like the awkward +1 and doubted whether anyone even wanted me there. I used to try as hard as I could not to use the bathroom while hanging out because I was terrified that when I left the room to pee, everyone would talk about how much they just wanted me to go home.

Since I'm not feeling paranoid right now, I can understand how ridiculous and unhealthy these thought patterns seem. Obviously my friends want to spend time with me like I want to spend time with them. They don't want me to die, and they don't want me to go home so they can have more fun. I'm sure I can be annoying just like everyone else can (especially when I'm manic and laughing like a hyena), but true friends overlook those things. 

Actively fighting my paranoia has allowed me to spend more time with great people. I've been able to completely relax while hanging out, and staying busy means less time in bed feeling sorry for myself. As Sean Covey would say, win-win! Spending time with others is also helping me value myself more as an individual. I am starting to realize that I am someone that is (usually) enjoyable to be around. Note: This does not apply when I haven't had enough sleep.

While it can be downright painful to step out of our comfort zones and face people instead of the TV, it's absolutely necessary. Talking with others forces us to challenge the stories we've been telling ourself about why we're not good enough or plain not worth it. Gaining comfort in social situations is a slow process, and I haven't transformed into an extrovert. I still enjoy my alone time a lot, but leaving the house and talking with interesting people has been a rejuvenating experience. I still usually need a nap afterwards, but overall I feel much more positive. Everyone says that humans are social creatures and require interaction, and I'm finally understanding that I am not exception to this rule. I think even the most introverted among us can benefit from social interaction. It's all about finding the right people with whom to share your time, and luckily, I've found them.

Girl Power