Sunday, September 22, 2013


I've barely left my bed in the last 24 hours. I only get up to go to the bathroom. This morning, I tricked myself into getting dressed: a bra, clean underwear, pants, a shirt. I hoped fresh clothes would catalyze the reaction. The activation energy is still too high for my meager supply.

The noise outside my window irks me like everything else does. I don't shut the window because I want to stay connected with the universe that expands outside my dorm room. Or I'm too lazy. Comfort in discomfort.

I know there is work to be done, reports to be written, bibliographies to be assembled. My sheets cradle me like a spider's web. The threat lies in how benign it seems. Inaction siphons away my blood.

I don't want food or water, gifts or pleasant words. I want company. I want someone to crawl into bed beside me and to stroke my hair until this mood passes. I want someone to trace pictures on my back to remind me that I exist. I want this lonely paralysis to end.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Excuse Me, Is My Bipolar Showing?

Is there lettuce in my teeth? Can you see my patterned underwear through my leggings? Is my bipolar showing?

Each day I try to avoid showing my symptoms to others. I'm always monitoring my interactions: am I talking too fast, getting overexcited, or making bizarre, childish comments? Am I looking sad, acting bored, or avoiding people? I worry that people will think that I'm bipolar. I'm almost constantly concerned their perception of who I am will be tainted by the diagnosis that is printed in black pen on my insurance claims. 

Knowing I'm bipolar because I personally told them or because they read my blog is completely different. When I tell someone that I'm bipolar, I'm relieved when they tell me that they never would have no. To me, that means I'm not claimed by symptoms. It means that I am Jenna first and bipolar a distant second, third, or even tenth. 

I try to present myself to the world as a BIC - bipolar in control. I get out of bed every day, shower, and take my medicine. I have friends. I function. Episodes are unwanted threats to this carefully constructed label. They jeopardize the most critical component - control. When I succumb to mania or depression, I feel so weak. I feel like my brain chemistry has overcome my personality and my will to live normally. 

My dream is to be an intelligent, well-adjusted teen with nice teeth and shampoo commercial hair, and bipolar doesn't really fit into that equation. It's like having a handmade jigsaw puzzle, and all of the pieces fit except for one grotesque piece that refuses to work anywhere. Does this one piece ruin the whole puzzle? Of course, the answer is no. Roses are beautiful with their thorns, dalmatians are cute with their spots, and many men and women function with their bipolar. 

Everyone has minute insecurities that can translate into worry or panic. But for people with mental illness, there's an additional issue that occupies mental realty. I think this is because we perceive mental illness with so much stigma - we think that we could be doing more to control ourselves and our symptoms. When someone has lettuce in our teeth, we don't change the way we think about that person. We usually just tell them and continue our conversation. We probably don't even remember the next hour, let alone day. With mental illness, the way we feel about the person exhibiting symptoms may change. We get frustrated or angry with them, almost as frustrated and angry as they are with themselves. These thought processes help no one.

I believe that it will be easier for individuals with mental illness to accept themselves and their symptoms if others can accept them, too. Everyone needs to start seeing the illness separately from the individual - myself included.

So yes, there will be days when my bipolar shows, just like there are days that you can see the pink polka dots of my underwear through my leggings. There will be days when everyone can tell that I am manic or depressed or numb or angry, and that's okay. Because that's the funky little puzzle piece I carry in my pocket. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Uplifting Links: September 18th

Today, I cried. I'm frustrated about my major, sick of not being thin, and a little homesick. I needed to make an Uplifting Links post to try to remove the "suck" from my life. Prepare to insert happy, people!

The truth about babies (I met the husband-wife duo behind this book on Saturday)

Happy habits (via Jeff)

It's okay to have a bad day, and it's perfectly acceptable to boost yourself up with the help of the Internet. The Internet is nothing but a massive collection of resources - resources that can be accessed for all occasions. The goal of Uplifting Links is to do some of the searching so that you don't have to. It's my way of sending a virtual, biweekly hug to you.

Enjoy, and feel free to send your contributions to

My cousin sent in some great YouTube recommendations for the next post!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


I wake up every morning at six to take a pill.
Every night before bed, I take nine more.

Sometimes I feel like my life is contained in these plastic bottles with child-proof caps. I know that without them, I couldn't function. I can't imagine my life without these tablets and capsules.

When the doctor saw the desperate scratches on my left arm, he prescribed me Prozac. He said it would make life a little easier, and I didn't think twice about incorporating this new pill into my routine. But instead of relief, I found terror. I couldn't stop thinking about ending my life, and I began cutting more regularly. I stopped going to school. I refused to see my friends. I was drowning in fire.

The first thing my new doctor did when I can to America was take me off of the Prozac and put me on Zoloft. I tolerated the Zoloft for a long time, but eventually it just stopped working. When I went to the emergency room with suicidal thoughts, the pediatrician told me that I was experiencing "Zoloft poop-out." After a while, he explained, sometimes your body starts to tolerate the medicine, making it ineffective. We set up an appointment with my psychiatrist to discuss options.

My then-psychiatrist, who I affectionally call Dr. Ass-hat, still did not believe that I was bipolar. His reasoning? I had straight As. "You'd be struggling in school if you were bipolar." I considered ripping his diplomas off the wall and smashing his desk to demonstrate my case, but I decided against it. He put me on a very weak dose of Topamax, an anti-seizure medication that has an iffy track record for helping people with bipolar. I think he was just trying to get me to shut up.

After this, I confided in my therapist that I needed to get Dr. Ass-hat out of my life. I got an appointment with my current doctor, Dr. Awesome. She got me off the Topamax and got me started on Lexapro, an anti-depressant. For a mood stabilizer, we added Risperdal.

Some of my problems were solved, but I was still having manic episodes. After a long discussion, we decided to add Lithium to my little medicinal cocktail. Honestly, I was scared to take Lithium. I thought taking it would mean that I was officially crazy. But I was willing to try anything to get some relief. 

I should mention that I was taking a relatively high dose of Lexapro, and that that is probably why I ended up in the hospital. People with bipolar have to be careful when taking antidepressants, and my Lithium levels weren't high enough to prevent my manic episodes yet. In the hospital, they took me off the Lexapro and I felt great! For almost a month, I had no mood swings. 

Then the depression hit. With the Lexapro was completely out of my system, I crashed. Sure, I wasn't experiencing mania, but the depression was debilitating. We decided to put me on a low dose of Lexapro, but it was going to take 4 to 6 weeks to get me at a therapeutic level.

Fast-forward to now, when now it's the Lithium that is no longer working effectively. We've added Lamictal to the mix, and we're waiting to get that up to a therapeutic level. Everything is a waiting game. Six week here, a month there, more blood tests, more side effects.

There are times when I wonder if I'm masking "the real me" by taking medicine. Sometimes I get frustrated that my body was made in a way that it can't properly function without outside intervention. I wonder if I would be more creative, more intelligent, more me if I didn't have to swallow ten pills a day. But I eventually come to the same conclusion every time:

My pills let me be me. My pills let me get out of bed and explore the world. They let me write blog posts, go to class, and make friends. They also keep me safe. The chemicals I consume free me from depression and mania (or at least they will when we get the dosages right).

I embrace modern medicine, and I choose a higher quality of life through chemistry. Even though sometimes I feel limited by my medications, I know that ultimately they help me. I don't just take my medicine for myself; I take it for my family, my boyfriend, and my friends. 

These little pills help all of us.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Introducing the Bipolar Book Club

I have an announcement...

Get the book here:

Responses will be accepted until October 13, 2013 at 11:59 PM

Video responses can be posted directly to the video above, and all other entries can emailed to

You can also email me questions or suggestions for next month's book.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Uplifting Links: September 4th

A new feature is coming to the Awkward Indie Girl Blog!


Every Wednesday, I'll help you get through the "middle-of-the-week-blahs" with a few links. I'll direct you to some of my favorite places around the Internet. Some sites will be funny, some will be interesting, and some will be sweet, but they will always be positive!


(via Joanna Goddard of Cup of Jo)

(via Eric)

(via Mom)

(via Dad)


If you have any links you want me to share next week, send me an email at


Oh! And now for my uplifting news of the week: I'm going to be the mental health blogger for my college's newspaper! I'm honored and excited to hold this position. I'll be posting everything I write for the college on this blog as well, so you won't be missing anything :)

Monday, September 2, 2013

20 Before 20

Yesterday I turned 19, which marks the beginning of my final year as a teenager! I spent the day with friends and ended the night by watching the latest episode of Breaking Bad. What more could a birthday girl ask for?

I started my 19th year in such a positive way that I want to keep the momentum going. I want to live this year. To keep myself inspired and accountable, I'm going to copy many other bloggers by creating my own "20 Before 20" bucket list. I've come up with twenty experiences that I want to have before I turn 20 on September 1, 2014.


1. Do a handstand
This means I have to practice yoga every day!

2. Be part of a meaningful service project
I want to serve others with a project I believe in.

3. Try acupuncture
I'm curious if it will work for me.

4. Start "The Bipolar Book Club"
More information coming soon!

5. Get my driver's license

6. Read 20 books

7. Watch 20 movies

8. Join a club on campus
So far I'm thinking about Active Minds and Best Buddies.

9. Try 5 new fruits
If you know how much I hate fruit, this makes sense.

10. Perfect pad thai
I'd love to be able to make my favorite food well!

11. Write at least 52 blog posts

12. Have my first classroom teaching experience
This should happen in my STEM teaching class this semester.

13. Write to a pen-pal.
If you're interested, let me know!

14. Do 5 craft projects from Pinterest

15. Unplug for 24 hours

16. Attend a sporting event
I'll even attempt to be peppy!

17. Write a book

18. Go to California again

19. Give a meaningful gift

20. Eat a vegan diet for one month
I've tried this before, but I didn't stick with it.


I'll be documenting my attempt to conquer this list throughout the year in monthly updates. You're welcome to join me! It doesn't have to be your birthday for you to commit to new and exciting goals :)