Here We Go Again

I made a promise to myself to write more, but I broke it thanks to a depressive episode. I’m still working with a psychiatrist to get my medication right. Too much Latuda made me sleep all the time and really brought out the nihilist in me. I just wanted to stop existing, and apparently that isn’t something we should want. We started a different antidepressant and now I’m worried that I’ve bypassed hypomania for a full blown manic episode just based on my own understanding of how it felt last time. I’m doing my best to avoid big purchases and trying not to let stress push me over the edge—but it’s hard. I’m not just fighting my own brain now, I have additional chemicals fighting a battle in me.

On Friendship

Friends are helpful. Friends who have the same disorder are a godsend.

It’s funny how the world works sometimes. I’d be lost without one friend in particular, and I didn’t meet him because I tweet about mental illness. He actually presented at a conference I attended and I followed him because of his presentation. Interestingly enough, we both got diagnosed with bipolar around the same time. He’s asked me about side effects like akathisia, and I confessed to him two nights ago that I think I might be manic. Part of our relationship is offering encouragement. Two nights ago, he encouraged me to call my psychiatrist (I bumped up the Latuda last night). We also support each other through job stresses and the inevitable rollercoaster moods. We both have supportive spouses, but sometimes it’s just helpful to say to someone, “Hey, has your brain ever done X?” and hear an affirmative response. It means that things are going to be okay. It means that I’m not alone.

That’s something I didn’t realize with this diagnosis. I have a better understanding of myself, but I also feel alone because so much of the world is neurotypical (or just a lot better at pretending).

Hindsight is 20/20

The epiphanies since my diagnosis and partial hospitalization are too many to list. I started to reflect on this a bit with late night thoughts, but it goes beyond that. Periods of my life make more sense. But perhaps what upsets me the most is my whole trajectory could have been different with an earlier diagnosis. It’s not fair to dwell on what could have been, but when I’m in certain moods it’s unavoidable.

What would have happened if I’d stayed at the same college all four years instead of transferring and then transferring back after one semester? What would have happened if I hadn’t walked out on the job in publishing? Or the job at the nonprofit? And that one time I almost impulsively moved to D.C.—what would have happened if I’d followed through with that? Would I have dated so-and-so if I’d been medicated? What would life be like if I hadn’t spent so much on tequila and clothes and then had to dig myself out of debt?

And the most unfair question of all: Why didn’t anyone see it?

My life makes more sense now. The self-made obstacles that got me to this point are just part of my story. Asking “what if” is not going to bring back 15 years, and would I want to lose all those experiences anyway? I’m who I am today because of all the wrong turns and bumps in the road. My hope, as I move forward, is that sharing my experience can help others make sense of their own journeys. And knowing I’m not alone gets me through this.

 

On Grief

My grandfather passed away last year. On Christmas Eve of 2015, I drank a Budweiser to honor his memory, even though he had since become a Yuengling man.

This year was different. I feel like I’ve been in mourning all year. I’m grieving not only the deaths of both of my grandfathers, but also the world that I’ve known. That works on both a large scale (see: election) and a personal scale (see: mental health).

I’m grieving the end of President Obama’s two terms in office. Under our first Black President, I saw my country working toward equality and empowering women and POC. The Affordable Care Act, marriage equality, science valued over religion—I saw these things and more happen in his eight years. Not everything during the Obama years was perfect; the legislative branch created nightmares, mass shootings occurred on the regular, the Black Lives Matter movement needed to form in response to a systemic problem in our police force… But overall, Obama’s tenure is a bright spot in our history, and I am grateful to have witnessed it. I’m also grieving the party’s loss in this election. It proves we haven’t come far enough in our acceptance of women in power—because any man running for office would not have faced such scrutiny over the same details. Instead, our country elected a xenophobic misogynist accused of sexual assault, further driving home the inequality women are well aware exists in most every work place. I grieve for the dreams we thought were about to come true, for the hopes that we would see our first female President.

In these past eight years, I’ve also grown tremendously as a person. I finally have an understanding of what makes me tick. Treatment for anxiety better unmasked additional issues, and only now am I working with a diagnosis I often suspected. While I’m happy to have a better understanding of myself, I now grieve for the girl I used to be. I was a quiet mouse, satisfied to stay in one place. I’ve lost my sense of self; I not only mourn who I was before but also the opportunities I lost as that person. While I look forward to the future, I’m also worried about what changes my evolving self-awareness will bring to my life.

We can all agree that 2016 was a shit year. There’s no question that the sheer volume of celebrity deaths, the hideous election cycle with all its disappointments, and whatever personal demons we may have faced make this year qualify as a complete dumpster fire. But I cannot grieve forever. The changes, the losses, the emptiness—my hope is that all these factors can serve as motivation to live better in 2017.

Last year around this time was my grandfather’s funeral. I remember crying, unashamed because my grief was understandable, undeniable—my tears were completely justified. I have not shed tears for 2016 like I did for my grandfather, and maybe it’s time that I do. Or maybe it’s just time to toast 2016 with a Budweiser (or a Yuengling) and say good riddance.

Late Night Thoughts

Well y’all, it’s four in the morning and I just finished doing some organizing for a freelance project and writing this blog post.

I think this firmly proves that I’m still in some sort of manic phase, although I’m definitely not at the height of it, and I’m much more self-aware. In fact, I can see myself making the bad decisions and sometimes even stop myself.

It’s not that I’m not sleeping. I fell asleep around 7:00 on the sofa, went up to bed around 10:00, and woke up—bright eyed and bushy-tailed—between 1:30 and 2:00. Around 2:00 I decided I would just get up and do some work in the living room. I’ve been waking up all week, usually at 2:30 and 4:00. Sometimes I get back to sleep. Sometimes I stare at the ceiling for half an hour. It’s annoying and it leaves me drained, but this too shall pass.

It’s nothing like high school when I consistently got by on two or three hours of sleep each night. I would stay up working on my graduation project and watch The Crow twice a night sometimes. These were the days before I had a computer in my room. In summer, when my poor sleeping habits were more acceptable, I’d stay downstairs on the computer all night and sometimes fall asleep on the pull-out sofa in the computer room. I’d be chatting on IRC or playing Rollercoaster Tycoon, trying my best to be quiet as I listened to OutKast on repeat.

* * *

In our psychoeducational groups, they explained bipolar and other depressive orders with a graph. [Aside: I just now understood sinus rhythm is because it’s a graph of sine and remembered how much I hated trig.]my crappy graph drawing Anyway, the neurotypical mood graph is that gentle wave and my mood has this tendency to go up, up, UP, and then back down. The third line in my poorly-drawn graph is what a friend who has depression says her mood tends to be—her ups don’t make it to manic highs if and when she has them.

Part of the problem with this disorder is that it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between being happy and being manic. Another problem, for me at least, is that so much has also been masked by anxiety, which is what I first sought treatment for. In fact, I sort of wonder if the intensity of this manic episode I just had could be because I’m already on a great SSRI for treatment of anxiety. I haven’t had a bad panic attack in ages, and—knock on wood—I haven’t experienced a bottom-out depression on that mood graph for a long time.

This journey of understanding is just beginning, but I’m hopeful my graph looks a bit more muted in the future.

Hi, I’m Lindsay and today I’m feeling okay.

I have a pineapple tattoo on my arm.

It’s not my first tattoo, but it’s my first that I can’t hide easily. It’s not the first that I got while manic, but it’s the one that made me realize I needed help. At thirty-two, I found myself in therapy and marriage counseling. My thoughts were racing constantly. I spent months making impulsive choices that kept getting more and more reckless. I started to hurt the people around me. Suddenly, it wasn’t fun anymore.

In hindsight, I’ve been experiencing ups and downs for most of my life. I could always write it off as something else. I didn’t sleep because I was a night owl. When I slept all day it was because I needed to catch up. Invincibility was just confidence, and I should be happy I felt good! Hook ups and binge drinking were just part of the college experience. And so on and so forth until I excused it all away. I wasn’t hurting anyone then—unless you count myself.

So at the beginning of December, I entered a partial hospitalization program. From nine to three every day, I attended group sessions alongside peers with similar diagnoses. Some were recovering from substance abuse, others had anxiety or depression, others—like me—were bipolar. We learned from each other and a team of professionals. We participated in process groups, psychoeducational groups and expressive therapies.

Today, I was discharged.

I’m still processing what this means for me. The journey of the past two weeks, my growth in self-awareness, the friendships I’ve forged—I’m still sorting everything out in my head. What I can say now is that the focus on self-care that was the underlying theme of the program will not be forgotten. I clearly needed this break to regroup, to get to know myself again, and to figure out how to cope with a chemical imbalance that can lead to me jumping into the swamp before I look for alligators.

Writing more is a goal of mine, so I hope to expand on this journey over the next few months. Stay tuned!

Heart Will Always Be Relevant

I read an article today about the Gilmore Girls revival Netflix is planning, and I took some issue with it. The author, Darlena Cunha, argues that society has changed in the past decade and our favorite Connecticut ladies might not fit in a 2015 world. Cunha admitted she didn’t finish the series; she also mentioned that it started while she was in college so she “grew out of it.” But her belief is that to succeed in today’s entertainment scene, Lorelai and Rory “would have to branch out from their small-scale feminism and represent a broader worldview.

I’ve never seen Lorelai and Rory as feminist icons. In fact, the more I watch the series, the more I see the flaws in their feminism. Is this bad? No. It’s human nature. Even feminists can have terrible boyfriends walk all over them—lord knows I have. For me, and for many others, the show is about growing pains, family relationships and a quirky small town. The most political moments were probably Paris and Rory trying to get people to sign a petition for political prisoners in Burma and Rory dreaming that Madeline Albright was her mom. Sure, Rory had the same Planned Parenthood sign hanging in her dorm room that I did, but abortion was never actually discussed.

There are several reasons fans of the show are excited about the potential reboot. First, Amy Sherman-Palladino left after season six and many of us like to pretend that season seven didn’t actually exist. The final season tied up some loose ends, and Rory went off to a job following Obama on the campaign trail—which turned out to be a good choice in May 2007. But some of the main relationships were never fully resolved, and Cunha is not necessarily interested in this closure.

Cunha states that she would watch the show for different reasons than most of the fanbase. Operating on the belief that Lorelai’s growth from maid to owner of the Dragonfly is some sort of early aughts feminist journey, she expresses concerns that Gilmore Girls will not be able to stand up to the cultural changes we’ve seen in the past eight years. Cunha says she wants the girls’ struggles to be more realistic; that she wants “to watch Lorelai and Rory take on the world as full-fledged adults who have sorted out their issues.

Asking for a change in the core of the show and saying it’s in the name of feminism is misleading. If we’re limited to four 90-minute episodes, confronting stark issues is not an option and the absence of trying will not affect the show’s relevance to its fanbase. It is not more or less feminist if the show fails to tackle real issues or acknowledge cultural hot topics. If Rory was still in college, could we examine rape culture? Possibly. However, shoehorning issues that don’t touch the Stars Hollow bubble into six hours of show would be a disservice.

What’s more, Lorelai and Rory are never going to be full-fledged adults. That’s one of the reasons we love them. Who ever truly grows up and feels they’ve got a handle on the world? When I rewatch Gilmore Girls on Netflix now, I see beautiful disasters. I recognize the self-sabotage in relationships. I notice the confidence issues that real women have to overcome. I’m disgusted by how terrible all of the men actually are when I think about it. Lorelai and Rory are just living their lives and dealing with the challenges they’re handed. If it wasn’t for the fabulous writing and the quirky story, their stories could be incredibly mundane.

Gilmore Girls worked because it existed as the story of a family and a town living in the world but not necessarily dealing with the world’s problems. Feminism was present in the broadest sense, represented by independent women but not exemplified by actions. References to George W. Bush where limited to Lorelai saying, “He’s stupid and his face is too tiny for his head and I just want to toss him out.” Money was never an issue because the grandparents had unlimited funds. This fictional world allows Lorelai and Rory to struggle with smaller, personal issues—straying from that model would make the show different and shatter the illusion. What use is relevance if it destroys the heart?

Post Wedding Blues

I’ve definitely been hit pretty hard with a case of the post-wedding melancholia. There’s nothing left to do except thank you cards and selecting what pictures we want to frame. No more decisions to make. No more anticipation.

I wonder if this is worse for an only child. I hate to think that I’m bummed out because I miss the attention, but in a way that was kind of nice. When you’re planning a wedding, everyone asks you about how it’s going and you can select what detail you want to talk about. The questions now range from how’s life as newlyweds to when are we having kids, and they’re harder to answer—and not as frivolous and fun.

Another issue with the post-wedding slump is that we both jumped back into work after only a few days off. His job has been especially tumultuous, with people on his team leaving and constant pressure driven partially by his Virgo perfectionism and partially by the field he is in. I jumped back into post-Commencement work at the College and I’m essentially doing a content audit as part of a long-term website redesign project. Our “honeymoonish” as we dubbed it was really just a chance for me to sleep off the heat stroke and for us to hang out. We’re going to the beach for a week soon, so I’m hoping that will help us feel a little more like newlyweds.

Going into this, people told me I would feel differently after the wedding even though we’ve been together for six years and living together for almost four. To some degree, I do. In some ways, though, it hasn’t completely clicked yet. We’re still operating as we always have, just with extra rings on our fingers. When I look at the pictures though—which are fantastic, by the way—I do feel an immense swell of love in my heart. I know that I’ve met my forever person and I’m glad that some of our favorite people were there with us that day to celebrate our love.

So when will everything click? Perhaps once the last review is written and the thank you cards are sent out. Perhaps when we have our guest room back and the gifts we received have found their homes. Maybe once we can actually spend some time together where I’m not dying of heat exhaustion or overtired and he’s not stressed about work. I don’t think there’s a right or a wrong here, and I don’t think what I’m experiencing is out of the ordinary, especially for girls who make extensive planning spreadsheets for their weddings.

All I can say now is that it’s been a hell of a spring and I’m so happy that I have this gentleman by my side as my partner.

On Losing My Grandfather Two Weeks Before My Wedding

I will readily admit that I did not know my Papa as well as some of his other grandchildren. I’m the Yankee grandchild, the daughter of his firstborn daughter who disappeared off the grid for a while and surfaced in Pennsylvania. Throughout the years, my visits with him were limited by distance, by money, by age. But I know that he loved me, and I believe that he was proud of me.

What became evidently clear at his vigil and funeral was that my Papa was a helper. He went above and beyond to help anyone—blood or not—in any way that he could. My mother and I benefited greatly from having such a kind and generous man in our lives. He helped make college a possibility for me. He always had good advice and a shoulder for my Mom—even when she didn’t want it. He was a rock. Not only was he a rock to our family, but to his community and to his friends.

He knew what was coming better than any of us ever could. We thought our rock was invincible. And in some ways, I kick myself for not seeing the signs.

Knowing that the odds would be extremely slim that Papa would be able to trek to Pennsylvania for my wedding, Dan, my Mom and I took a road trip to visit him for my 30th birthday. My Mom stayed at the house, reading while her Dad—who was probably sicker than I realized—napped in his chair with the television volume up high. Dan and I explored Moore, Norman and Oklahoma City, joining the family for dinners at the house, sharing our stories of museums and the zoo. Papa, in his motorized chair, showed Dan and me his shop and his collections of tools and all things useful. I saw a picture of Lebanon Levi from Amish Mafia that Mom and I had sent to him in his office.

We left on my birthday. I wanted so badly to see Memphis that I had planned a more extended route back. Instead of spending another day with family, I wanted to see Sun Studio. Papa understood my wanderlust; he’d seen the city before and understood why I was interested. If I’d known then that it was the last time I’d see him, I would have stayed as long as I could. As we took family pictures, he put his arm on Dan. He told him it was up to him to take care of his girls.

As we pulled out of the driveway, I cried silently. I tried to think about the next time we came back to visit, picturing dinners with Papa at the head of the table, making jokes, picking on Dan.

Now, at home in Maryland, this all seems surreal. Did I really just spend three days and four nights in Oklahoma? Did I really say goodbye to a man who, despite a physical barrier of miles, helped shape the person I am today? I think he knew, when we left the last time, but he didn’t want me to miss Memphis. He wanted our trip to be full of good experiences, of love, of reflection.

I am so proud to call this great man my grandfather. I’m determined to continue to make him proud, to carry on his legacy as someone with a big heart and willingness to help others. My wedding day will be bittersweet without him there. But I know I am marrying someone who he trusted to take care of me, and I will carry him in my heart as I always have. There has always been distance; instead of miles we’re separated by mortality, but it doesn’t mean there is any less love in my heart. I know he loved me and that his love for his family is eternal. That is what will keep me smiling as I walk down the aisle next week.

My Papa, always in my heart.

Welcome. Here’s some navel-gazing about my job.

I work for a liberal arts college. I should add here, and probably in an about page, that the views expressed in this blog are not the views of the college—though in some ways, they are informed by my experience at the college.

You see, I attended Washington College from 2003 to 2007. I graduated into a terrible economy, held a variety of jobs, and somehow—with a bit of luck—ended up working at the College in 2011. My liberal arts education shaped me as a person, and it instilled in me a passion for learning that will never go away. If I could collect master’s degrees like Pokémon, I would. So far, I’ve only got one, and it’s in secondary education. Before I got the job at Washington College, I was planning to become an English teacher. Instead, I ended up in College Relations and Marketing, an office at the school that makes videos like the one you see above, promoting our annual Birthday Ball event.

In my job I get to be creative. I get to work with an amazing team. I get to learn and grow and strategize and help others do the same. Working for a liberal arts institution is almost as awesome as attending a liberal arts institution. Some days it can be trying, just as any job is, but for the most part it’s the perfect environment for someone quirky who loves to think strategically about communicating with audiences (that’s a fancy way of saying I like to think about the internet).

When I was a kid, I wanted to work for an ad agency. I know, that’s kind of a weird job to pick—most kids probably opt for doctor or astronaut. So I’m not working for an ad agency, but I am marketing a product I firmly believe in. At 30, what more could a girl ask for?