My attempt at a normal life

When the inevitable is asked, as part of an introduction, I tell them that I’m “taking a career break before rushing into anything.” Which is a glossy version, and not at all a lie, but certainly not the whole truth. I get it: what is a normal looking woman in her mid-twenties doing in an art class made up of mostly retired middle aged/senior men and women on a weekend when she should be having mimosas with her other friends from work? I’m sure they wonder. But I don’t give them a clue- not even when the lady at the easel next to me talks to another lady about her real world job concerning psychiatric medication research- because what follows is the belief that psych drugs make people violent, said by the another lady, and then comes rushing in the Dylan Roof theories, and so on and so forth. I’m a coward, so I don’t let my intimate personal experience with mental illness be known as a point for counter argument, as it was only my second class, and I didn’t want to be pigeonholed as the mental ill girl, because for some people, that’s all they see once they know. And I certainly did not want the second lady (who strongly believed that all mentally ill people are inclined to shoot a lot of random people)  to think that I was going to shoot the whole class one of these days. (By the way, I’m getting pretty tired of ignorant people grouping together violent people and mentally ill people together, which are very independent characteristics.) Instead, I’m pigeonholed into something more mundane- math major, ex-financial analyst who is taking a career break and who now is back at art to pass the time until she feels like getting a job again, like a normal person.

I feel slightly embarrassed that I have to lie/leave out about a very essential part of my life at the moment, but at the same time, frustrated that even if I wanted to reveal it, it might do some damage to my character (when I have done nothing wrong.) I also feel embarrassed that I still don’t have the balls to stand up for myself. But I so desperately want to be back to normal, that desire is getting in the way of advocacy- For the 4 hours I’m there in the class, I want to feel like a normal person again, whether if I need to be incognito for it or not. So I keep pretending, But who isn’t pretending? We don’t go blabbering about all our troubles and tribulations to the strangers we meet, and they’re not entitled to that kind of information, anyway. Maybe I’m just so used to being transparent that hiding a piece of me from the world is difficult. That is one thing I don’t like about getting older- it’s the secrets. And as time passes the secrets snowball, every time we avoid talking about it. We cover it up with something else, patch it up with another lie there.

I sometimes liken my situation to another group. I imagine how the gay community did it, when they first came out to their fundamentalist parents, to a mostly religious society- that must have taken immense courage, and I respect the LGBT community for taking that big step. They’re getting normalized to society now, after that hard work. The movement didn’t start overnight of course, and not by one person. So sometimes I think that maybe as an individual, I risked taking that first step to speak out, come out, and educate, I wouldn’t be seen as this would-be-murderer, but as rather as another normal 20-something year old, who happens to have the misfortune of catching bipolar disorder along her journey.




Think for a second- how many of the things you do in a day are considered “an escape”? An escape from annoying or dark thoughts, avoidance from bad habits you’re trying to cut back? An escape from a life situation? How much of your life are you spending to escape from these unpleasant things?

I asked these questions myself, and shockingly, I spent most of my time in this way. Escaping from the unwanted thoughts by doing something that was distracting enough for the time being. When one distracting activity was done, however, I was back to square one. Back to the suffering.

If one acknowledges this, and is fine with it, there is no reason to read further. But this fact bothers me so. The fact that I’m living my life in spite of something. That I’m running not to run, but to run away. I don’t like that my purpose is to avoid, and not to live. Action, and not reaction.

But then I wonder, are there truly things that one does for the sake of doing them? Or is everything thing we do minus the essentials, at least a little bit, a distraction from our lives? How much distraction is healthy, and how much is too much? Can we truly be present with so many distractions? Is writing a blog post an escape for me right now as I wait in the car? Maybe.

Signs that your depression is finally fading

Much like how it starts, depression, even with the help from the right medication, only fades out gradually. It may start with one or two things on this list that seem random, but with time you become more and more sure that maybe you’ve reached the end of this brutal tunnel.

During the worst part of my depression, I very much doubted the kinds words from friends (including WordPress friends) and family, who warmly told me that it will all pass, and that I won’t regret surviving it. I doubted it because of the depressive voice inside of me that only lets dark thoughts in told myself that they’re not me. I’m sure there are others who are going through something similar, so I wanted to describe this part of the recovery process- the turning point– so that if you are ever skeptical that it won’t get better, you will see step by step that it really does get better with some effort and patience.

Here are the first few subtle signs I’ve noticed when my depression was lifting:

  1. You start sleeping better

Sleep is so important for mood disorders. Disordered sleep has been the best predictor for most of my hardcore depressive episodes. I slept horribly for the past year- I had both trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. I tried so many different tranquilizer medications, over the counter stuff, herbal pills, and aromatherapy, but nothing worked. But one day, I slept well- only woke up briefly, didn’t have trouble falling asleep- and the next day, and the next as well! I know that I haven’t really done anything to cause this, so I figured this was one of the signs that I was getting better.

   2.  What you want the most is more than just “feeling better”

A leather motorcycle jacket. That’s how it all started. It seems silly, but during my depressed phase, which included Christmas and my birthday over the winter, I could not name a thing that I wanted more than to feel a tiny bit better and to not feel suicidal. But one day, when I was browsing through fashion lookbooks, I found that most people doing capsule wardrobes like me all have a leather moto jacket- and I wanted it so much. Then, I realized I haven’t desired something other than my recovery for a very long time.

     3. You have passions (again)

Waking up in the morning had been so dreadful for the past year because I felt like I had nothing to live for (when in reality, I did). Through opposite action, I made myself go to art class, where I learned figure drawing. Getting there and back by subway took 30-40 minutes each time, and the class was 3.5 hours each, so it was difficult when I was depressed. Weeks and months went by with me religiously going to class, and I got better and better and my passion for it grew. Recently, I realized that one of the things that propels me out of bed is the fact that I get to create art that day.

    4. You laugh and make jokes (again)

Depression makes you lose your sense of humor. It’s hard to laugh at anything even if you find it funny when you deal with life and death every day. I noticed that one day, I was laughing more, and making others around me laugh. Then I realized that before all this started, I did used to like to make people laugh, and I was rather silly.

   5. You’re not scared to leave the house

Every time I left the house in the past year, I was triggered by the things that usually would’t bother a healthy person. A homeless person. A picture frame that was on sale with a sample background picture of a happy bridge and groom. People who are dressed in business casual. Loud noise. The list goes on and on. But because of all those reasons, I stopped leaving the house altogether. But opposite action saved me once again. Except for the really bad days when depression held me tightly, I made myself leave the house at least for a walk in a quiet place. I was able to get out more easily after weeks of just focusing on this. Leaving the house does stress me out a little still, but it no longer gives me a PTSD like reaction.

What to share, and what not to share?

Note: Possible trigger warning. This post talks about suicidal thoughts.

Therapy was meh. I was in a happy and careless mood going in, but what I shared with my therapist was apparently not something that I should have felt careless about.

Two days ago I had a dream that I injected my leg with a syringe that was full of lethal material. And I knew that it would kill me if I took it and jabbed it. Anyway, I did, for some reason. But it turns out that I did not die from the injection. My first thought was, damn it, I didn’t die. And the next thought was about how badly my parents would take it if I did die. Then I felt horrible about having thought this through. Then I woke up.

My interpretation of the dream was metaphorical. I wanted to kill my ego, and my old self and I wanted to be born anew. I took the dream as wanting a complete transformation, a metamorphosis from my old self to my new self. I thought, this was a good thing, kind of like what the hanged man represents in Tarot cards, depending on the position. Of course, it as it turns out, I did not succeed in that endeavor, fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how metaphorical you get.

I said all this nonchalantly, and C totally freaked out, and zoomed into the suicide thing. She was stating that dreams represent my unconscious and that she was worried about me. She didn’t seem to agree my interpretation, and she asked if I was going to hurt myself if left to my own devices. Of course not, I haven’t had a suicidal thought in weeks!

C likes to hear dreams and sometimes when I remember them, I do share them with her. Especially if it’s the kind that of shook me to my core. But I wish she wouldn’t take it as an omen right away. My dreams are a hodgepodge of my unconscious thoughts, true, and get very dark most of the time, but as someone with bipolar, a bigger than normal portion of my unconscious thinks about suicide, whatever the weather- and that’s part of my battle, like how some people with weight issues must battle with their unwieldy appetites. I wish C would not react in such an exaggerated way about my dreams (something that I can’t control) and in turn, make me feel guilty about having such thoughts. I will probably not bring in dreams in my future sessions to discuss.

Sick while being sick

I got physically ill this past week from a cold, so it put a huge damper on everything. It’s funny how the body cannot multitask being mentally ill and physically ill. I feel as if my body shifted its priority to feel more pain physically than mentally, which was ironically a relief from my bipolar symptoms, namely the mania.

The point I want to make is that I’ve been doing so well… And then the hypomanic episodes happened, I signed up for too many things, I did more than I could handle, and I got fatigued and sick from my immune system failing on me. I knew it was a lot, but it was too late. This exhaustion dates back to January when I started my art classes and escalated with my new classes added in. So it’s no surprise, really.

Sometimes you think you can handle your schedule, but your body surprises you, and tells you that it is barely holding on, and you need to delete half of the things in your calendar via becoming very sick.

I have therapy today. Last week my homework was to take little breaks and not exhaust myself. I guess I pretty much failed that one.