I Just Want You to Understand, Mom.

Mom,

“We’re medical people; we don’t understand all of that.”

The same response over and over when I try to tell you what it’s like to be rapid cycling bipolar I. To have Borderline Personality Disorder (that you denied for four years). To have a rare neurological disorder triggered by stress that even you doubted was real at one point. To have Generalized Anxiety Disorder despite having it yourself. To have been actively and passively suicidal since the age of 14, though I’m not now. You’ve even been telling me that I’ve been ADHD since the age of 13.

But if it doesn’t involve medication, you refuse to stop and listen.

“We’re medical people, your dad and I; we don’t understand all of the therapy and psychology stuff. We took that years ago in nursing school.”

Tch. Dad’s a recovering drug addict now. A changed man. Now an “expert in therapy” after a year in NA. He “knows everything”… and nothing at all.

You can’t stand to be around me for more than a couple of hours once or twice a week when I’m manic.

When I’m depressive.

When I’m in the middle of a conversion disorder episode—stuttering, the right side of my body dysfunctional, just losing chunks of time, having dissociative seizures, my vision tunneled, my hands not working well enough to even type.

When I’m having crippling anxiety attacks that leave me locked in my room, crying and shaking, or just shutting down completely and avoiding all work entirely.

I’m scared shitless, but you ghost on me because I’m “too stressful” to be around anymore with my mental health, my school stress, my work stress. All of my stress.

All of my past mental health issues have been too much, and you didn’t allow me to get the proper diagnoses to get proper treatment. “They’ll follow you for the rest of your life; they’ll label you. You’ll never be treated the same.” I finally told you to piss off and got diagnosed when my meds stopped working. Just depression was acceptable. You were diagnosed with depression; it’s okay to be clinically depressed. That’s “normal.”

You’d know about treating patients differently though. You do that to your own with psychiatric histories. Or you did, until karma bit you in the ass because your own kid was so borked in the head. You stayed with an abusive husband.

You’ve gotten meaner as you’ve gotten older, and the longer I’m around you, the meaner you get. I see you once or twice a week, sometimes every two…, three weeks. You’re sweet, loving. You tell me how much you miss me. You hop off my ass. You’re the “safe parent” I grew up with, even if you were meek and submissive back then. …Even if you’re defending dad now, comparing him and I despite him refusing to take responsibility for his behavior. Stockholm’s Syndrome. I swear.

Now, you just don’t listen. You don’t try to understand what I go through every day. The medication changes and side effects. The therapy. You know the medical bills because I’m still a student, on your insurance. You just don’t know what I deal with; you think you do.

“I’ve been doing that for years; buck up bucky. We’re all crazy. Just keep going.”

“Well, xxxx happened to me, and here I am.”

“You don’t have cancer; it could be worse. This won’t kill you.”

You have no idea. J literally saved my live. The friends I’ve made, all the way in Europe, thousands of miles away, have picked up your life. J, my Dutchie boyfriend, has been there for almost nine months now. He’s learned about every disorder, handled every manic episode when I become so erratic, so ragey, so spastic. HE takes care of me, from 5,000 miles away, where you can’t 30 minutes away.

Where are you? I appreciate the financial support; I need that despite hating the fact I rely on that through school. I don’t want it, but I have to have it. You’ve ghosted on me though when I’d needed you most.

Not that our household has ever been known for emotional support. Maybe that’s why I’m such an angry jackass now. At 22, an early-onset cynic.

I just want you to understand what I deal with on a daily basis.

You think you know. You don’t.

Tell me what it’s like to stop breathing normally, to wheeze and choke, just because psychological stress completely borks your Central Nervous System.

Tell me what it’s like to go without sleep for 61 hours, sleep for three, and go without for another 54 hours feeling completely refreshed. Snapping at friends, starting fights with your boyfriend over nothing… and fighting to control that manic brain but just losing the battle in the end.

Tell me what it’s like to vacillate between loving and hating your closest friends, reacting irrationally emotionally despite knowing it’s too much, to feel abandoned when you know damn well that person is still there (unlike you and dad)…

I could go on, but you’ve stopped listening a long time ago. I’m wasting my breath. I’ll be back for Sisi, Ollie, Kellan, Damon…, but when I’ve got my degrees, I’m out. Everything’s going well with J. I’m peacing out to the Netherlands. I’m staying. Don’t expect to hear much from me. I’ve tried to have functional relationships with you two.

I’m done. I can’t do it anymore.

I still love you, but you’re getting more and more toxic with age. For the sake of my mental health, I have to detach completely, and for good.

~Jessie

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Would You Read This, Dad?

Dad,

I’m wondering what’s going on in your head anymore. I’ve moved out for college. I don’t see you much. I’ve asked mom, but she doesn’t really know anymore either. You’re still married. It’ll be 24 years this year on October 1st, together for 25 or 26. You’re… different… now though.

As of January 2016, you’re clean. We never knew you had a problem, and it was never a specific substance, nor illegal substances. You experimented as a teenager, but many do. You were just an all-around asshole growing up.

Your brain has been fried by the drugs. You’re more inert than a noble gas. You don’t stand up for yourself much anymore when you were once an angry jackass with an explosive temper. You’re quiet, wandering around in the landscape of your own warped psyche, lost in thoughts of… only you know.

I want to know what you’re thinking. I want to know what I can do to make you proud. I want to know what I can do to MacGuyver some kind of relationship with you. What we had growing up was superficial and brittle; it fell apart over the years and has long fallen to dust and blown away in the wind.

As much as I tell myself I’m fucking done trying to rebuild a relationship with you, that mostly-dead, five-year-old Jessie is still alive. By some miracle, she’s managed a weak pulse. Seventeen years is a hell of a long time to keep breathing with no hope. …Maybe it’s because we’re so damn stubborn.

Mom once told me you were a different person before you two married, before I was born. …Did that man die because of me? Mom thought she was too old, but you wanted me. You were 25 and mom 36 when I was brought into this world. Was I mistake? Did you realize you’d fucked up when you looked at that black-haired little jelly bean wrapped in a Minnie Mouse blankie?

Most of me despises you for what you did to me, to Sisi. She’s your step-daughter, and you still managed to mess her up to some degree. What you did to mom, too. God, did you goof big time there. More so than me, and you borked me pretty bad, too.

That little girl though… She feels like she failed you. She hates herself for that. She feels like you hate her.

In the back of my mind, I can always hear, “I want my daddy back. Please, just tell me how to make it better. Daddy, what did I do wrong? I can fix it. Just tell me how. I promise I’ll make it better.”

It hurts 22-year-old me. I just want her to let go and die peacefully. …But she’s a bull-headed fool…, just like me.

..That five-year-old misses you, dad. She wants you to come back. She remembers the softball games, sitting in the truck and playing the Question Game, listening to songs that she plays in my mind on repeat, sitting at the ICU nurses’ station and you shooting packets of sugar at her with tourniquets or spraying her with foam hand sanitizer with your coworkers. You laughed. She did too. I can see the grin on her face even without closing my eyes at the memories.

She watched the concerts we went to when I was older. She liked that. She wants that back. It was fake, but it looked like it was real. She pretends it was real, and she wants it to be real if it comes back again.

Until she gets it through her thick skull that it’s just not happening, that I’ve tried time and time again, I’m forced to continue. She doesn’t understand that you’re not coming back—that the person you were before I was born is dead, and the blip of that man she saw one night before you got clean was merely a ghost of the past.

So here we go again. Round… tch, 500 (?):

How can I fix this? How can I get through that barrier and into your mind? How can I find you and truly talk to you? Find that common ground we once had? Get you to really talk to me again? How do I re-connect with you before it’s too late?

I Am Not

am not cookie dough.
You can’t just find your favorite cookie cutter,
hidden in the cabinets,
long forgotten from my childhood,
and press me into who you want to see—
what you wish I’d turned into rather than what I’ve become.
am not cookie dough,
and I am not sorry that you can’t handle the warped finished product.
You burned the cookie.

am not a quilt.
You can’t just take your favorite fabrics,
your favorite pieces of me,
and sew them into a pretty little blanket.
Crisp edges and bright colors with wide fields of May flowers preceded only by mild April showers.
am not a quilt,
and I am not sorry that you’re unhappy with the aesthetic of a frayed, storm-torn, barren cluster of scraps.
You fucked up the stitching.

am not a military contract.
You can’t sign up for 18 years,
serve your time,
and choose not to reenlist when shit goes south;
decide that you don’t want to re-commit because the state of my psyche has declared WWIV.
WWIII was mandatory—
year 16 or 18.
Damn.
So close, right?
I am not a military contract,
and I am not sorry for the wars you let happen, contributed to.
You were blind to the red flags.

I am not your “smiley baby girl.”
Not anymore.
You can’t just stick your head in the sand,
watching the clips of the past in the recesses of your mind.
She’s dead;
she has been for ten years.
What’s left is the husk of the creature she wanted to be.
I am not your “smiley baby girl” anymore,
and the only thing I’m sorry for is the burden you place on others in picking up your slack because you can’t face the truth.
You let her slip away.

You’re Worried?

You love one whose thoughts slither from a mass of tangled,frayed,
stripped,
severed,
bent,
and warped self-loathing;
one whose dreams dance around the idea of (and sometimes seek out) the allure of an eternal abyss long before one her age should,
as if it were normal that anyone should.
You’ve traveled through the recesses of her mind, only injuring yourself in the process.
Tch.
And you’re the one that’s worried?

You bear the scars of chemical burns,
evidence of the chemical combustion of her mind spitting acid in her words.
You wear your own wounds of the past,
of which she has,
though unintentionally,
dug her claws into and made bleed further,
causing you unnecessary heartache—
unnecessary pain.
And though she is sorry,
she questions your forgiveness.
She does not deserve it.
And you’re the one that’s worried?

She cringes at silly things,
flinches at uncontrollable human reflexes,
withdraws,
hyperventilates,
trembles,
freezes,
and in the past,
even cried,
at the most basic of human needs,
desires.
Yet here you remain beside her,
refusing to leave.
And you’re the one that’s worried?

The majority of her heart is dead,
smothered and beaten,
abused,
neglected.
What little remains is shoddy,
spotty in functionality.
“Condition: mediocre at best.”
She can be cold,
far away in her own mind,
unfeeling.
She fails to find words,
to give meaning to the emotions smoldering in her thoughts.
Only short,
repetitive syllables.
Nothing intelligible.
And you’re the one that’s worried?

She’s worried.
More than you can imagine.
She never knows when that last admitted thought of the end,
that last injury to you,
that last chemical burn,
that last bloody talon torn out of past wounds,
that last shutdown,
that last cold,
unfeeling night,
will drive you away.

She’s worried,
above all else,
that you will one day disappear,
but she will understand.

And you’re the one that’s worried?

Ten Things I Learned as an Undergrad with Mental Health Disorders

Getting through college with any mental health disorder, any number of mental health disorders, is not an easy task.

Sometimes, it will leave you feeling like you’re drowning—suffocated by social, academic, and financial responsibilities.
Sometimes, it will leave you frustrated to the point of tears.
Sometimes, it will leave you so overwhelmed that you want to flip the desk at which you sit and kick a whole in the wall of the lecture hall.
Sometimes, it will leave you feeling so despairingly hopeless that it’s infuriating.

All of these things… sometimes, they will leave you feeling like throwing in the towel—like giving up and dropping is your only option.

Don’t.

Do. Not. Give. Up.

In four years, you learn a lot. And despite the fact I am a senior by credit hour, I will not graduate this Spring. I still have another year to go. Why? Because I am stubborn. Because I learn lessons the hard way.

So why am I writing this article?

Because I want someone else to do what I did not: do it the easy way, save some money (we all know how expensive college can get), and do so with as little stress as possible. Like I didn’t.

 

1. Right off the bat: take a step back and breathe.

Just take a deep breath. Everything. Is. Going. To. Be. Okay. Clear your mind, even if just for a few seconds, so you can come back with an empty space to put everything in its proper mental folder. Get your thoughts, emotions, and priorities in proper place. Write it down if it makes it easier to have it visually mapped out in front of you.

2. Take it one day, one assignment, one exam, one quiz, one paper, one work day at a time.

Sounds impossible in college, right? You’ve got two midterms, a paper due, a quiz, two homework assignments, and a presentation all in the same week. Oh, and don’t forget the readings you’re supposed to do before class because the lectures are “just for review”. It’s all right. Get ahead. Study a week, two weeks, in advance and go back every day, two days, to refresh. The earlier you study and the more you go back to look at the notes, the easier it will be to remember the information, even when you have six other assignments to mentally juggle.

3. Don’t take on more than you can handle.

Each person is unique when it comes to what they can handle in terms of course loads, work schedules (if working at all), and extracurriculars (if any). You’ll only leave yourself feeling more overwhelmed if you do too much. It’s recommended that students only work 20 hours per work with a full-time course load to maintain the necessary amount of study time to achieve desired grades, if at all. I worked 24-30 hours per work during my first two years in university. My GPA suffered, along with my (at-the-time) untreated mood, anxiety, somatoform, and personality disorder.

4. Fact or fiction: You must take 15 hours per semester in college to graduate in four years. You will not be successful if you do not take 15 hours per semester or if you fail to graduate in four years.

FICTION. Fifteen hours in a regular semester is an incredibly heavy course load. If you can handle that, then do it. If not, like myself, take 12 hours. That’s still full time. Take 12 hours in the regular semesters [Fall and Spring] and two classes during the summer. It’s the equivalent of two 15 hour semesters. You’ll still graduate in four years. And if you can’t handle a full-time course load? Go part-time. That’s okay, too. Only take on what you can handle.

5. Talk to your professors

Professors aren’t scary, inhuman, unfeeling robots without hearts. Many of them do genuinely care, and they are willing to work with you. Just talk to them. Disclose what you’re comfortable disclosing. They’re typically in accommodating your situation. Unfortunately, there are those that are not helpful, that do not care, and are not going be very kind, but those are generally speaking, the minority.

6. Utilize Student Mental Health Services

Many colleges have some form of mental health provision for their students, such as: short-term individual therapy, referral to long-term therapy, group counseling, psychiatry, learning disability testing, crisis intervention, student sobriety groups, other group therapies, and other varieties of assistance depending on the size of the college. Don’t be afraid to go. That’s what they’re there for, and they’re there to support your psychological health.

7. If Applicable to You, Consider Filing for Mental Health with Student Disability Services

Filing for Mental Health with SDS can benefit you in leniency with absences if you happen to have counseling appointments that cannot be scheduled outside of class times, debilitating depressive, manic, or other episodes of some type, or illnesses related to mental health or medications. You can take exams in the Testing Services office, a quieter environment, if needed, or be given extra time on exams, if needed. They accommodate mental health needs as they would physical health needs. Professors must comply with the ADA regulations regarding mental health disorders as they would physical health disorders.

8. Do Your Best.

Sometimes your best is only making it to one class… or none, because you couldn’t get out of bed that day. Your anxiety got to you. You had a panic attack. Your social anxiety had you locked in your apartment/dorm/etc. for several hours. You had a psychotic episode. Whatever the case may be, sometimes, your best is just getting out of bed and bathing. And good job, because you did your best. That shower, the fact that you got out of bed and put pants on, you went out and did the dishes, you took out the trash—you accomplished something, and those small accomplishments are meaningful, too.

9. Take Time to Relax

Do something nice for yourself. Do something fun. Watch a couple of episodes of your favorite show on Netflix for a study break. Treat yourself to some ice cream or a beer or a meal at your favorite fast food place with friends now and then. Take a bubble bath. Read a couple of chapters of your favorite book. Surf the web or play video games for 30 minutes. Do something that you enjoy and let yourself enjoy it. Don’t let those worries settle in. Don’t let the “I should be…” or “I wouldn’t have…” creep into your mind. Try not to spoil your “You Time” with that, because you deserve it.

10. Be Kind to Yourself

Remind yourself that it’s okay to have a bad day. We, as humans, are imperfect creatures. We make mistakes. We screw up. We fail tests. We fail quizzes. We forget about an assignment here and there. It’s okay. Pick yourself up. You failed a test? Take that energy and channel it into finding out where you went wrong and study harder. Forgot an assignment? Get a planner and write out everything that’s due from all of your syllabuses. Tedious, yes, but you won’t forget. Muscle memory and maintenance rehearsal are wonderful things. Screwed up at work? It’s all right. We all have our off days. Don’t beat yourself up for it. Take that screw-up as constructive criticism. Remind yourself of something you did well that day, too. You failed that test, but you also remembered to turn in an assignment. Your boss passed along a compliment from a customer on your service. Your mother told you she was proud of you because you were dealing with so much and pushing through.

There are always going to be difficulties. Always. It’s going to be hard, but you know what? Where we, as humans, inherently flawed; however, we make up for it in resiliency and innovation. We are resourceful creatures. You are a resourceful, persevering, human being. And you know what? I believe in you; I believe in me. I believe in all of us.

~We can do this. Together.~

Again and Again

When you first said,
“You make me happy.”,
my gut reaction,
my initial response was,
“Why?”

Why,
how,
could some pessimistic,
worrisome,
neurotic,
clusterfucked,
disorganized,
self-loathing,
son of a bitch like me make you happy?

I ask why,
remembering every time you tried to be optimistic,
tried to tell me,
“It’s going to be okay.”,
keep me from losing it,
only to be shut down—
remembering each time looking in the mirror,
seeing the jagged,
gnarled,
wounds that have only physically scarred,
thinking of how it will pain you to see those for the first time.

And yet here you sit,
sighing to yourself though with the same jovial lilt in your tone,
still saying,
“You make me happy.”,
again and again.

When you first said,
“I’m the lucky one.”,
my gut reaction,
my initial response was once more,
“Why?”

Why,
how,
are you the lucky one?
You put up with the tangled,
frayed,
fucked up little ball of crazy that is me.
You put up with the breakdowns,
the ASI,
the PSI,
the mood cycling,
the periods of unresponsiveness,
because I just… shut down.

I ask why,
remembering every night of silence,
every morning of sleepless panic,
every tear I’ve shed,
every tear you’ve shed at my own fault,
every medication rollercoaster,
every manic high,
every depressive low,
every mental break,
every frantic call,
every anxious question.
So tell me,
why are you the lucky one?

And yet here you sit,
chuckling a “For fuck’s sake” under your breath,
still saying,
“I’m the lucky one.”,
again and again.

When you first said,
“I love you.”,
my gut reaction,
my initial response was still,
“Why?”

Why,
how,
could anyone love… this?
A broken,
angry,
tired,
empty,
scarred husk of a… human being.
Am I human?
Who am I?
What am I?

I ask why,
seeing every character flaw,
looking at every physical imperfection,
remembering every shitty thing I’ve ever said,
ever done,
to you especially.

And yet here you sit,
shushing my protests,
still saying,
“I love you.”
again and again.

However,
you can’t shush me permanently,
Schat.

So, no
You make me happy.
Before you,
genuine smiles and true laughter…
Those were but long faded memories.

So, no.
I’m the lucky one.
Before you,
I hadn’t known what love was,
or what it was to be loved.

So, no.
I love you more.
Before you,
I was a lifeless,
shell of a creature,
merely going through the motions—
but you were a jolt of electricity,
striking a cold,
dead,
black heart.
You did the impossible:
you got a pulse.
You showed me that I am,
in fact,
still human.

You make me extraordinarily happy.
I am the luckiest person alive.
I love you very much.
Please don’t ever forget that.

~Little Bird

Just a Little Bit of Happiness

“Do you even know what he looks like?”

You really ask me that?
Honestly,
I thought you’d be happy for me.
For us.
You know what I’ve dealt with,
lately in particular.
I can’t just have this little bit of happiness?

“He’s only seventeen.”

And just who the fuck are you to judge?
Twice your age,
not that it particularly matters,
but playing petty games even?
You’re to blame too, you know.
I told you as a friend.
I thought we were friends, anyway…
I just want a little bit of happiness.

“That’s some serious long distance.”

Really?
Fucking really?
Sure,
you two aren’t quite as far,
but you aren’t particularly close either.
How many miles?
Cross country, yeah?
Goddamn hypocrite.
I need just a little bit of happiness.

“I thought you weren’t into guys…”

Ever heard of fluidity?
I’ve had so much trouble,
so much fucking trouble,
with my sexual identity—
had to defend it to my mother for ten years.
And here,
someone who dares call me a friend,
tries to shatter that?
I deserve just a little bit of happiness.

Don’t take your problems out on him.
Don’t spit your acid,
mess with his head,
cause him astronomical amounts of pain,
confusion,
suffering,
because you refuse to face your own fucking problems.

Don’t call me a chameleon,
accuse me of “blaming my pills”,
not taking responsibility,
calling me my fucking father.

I will have just a little bit of happiness,
and you will not ruin it because you cannot find your own.