This Is The Face Of Bipolar Disorder

Let's start with the facts:
"Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a mental illness that brings severe high and low moods and changes in sleep, energy, thinking, and behavior.
People who have bipolar disorder can have periods in which they feel overly happy and energized and other periods of feeling very sad, hopeless, and sluggish. In between those periods, they usually feel normal. You can think of the highs and the lows as two "poles" of mood, which is why it's called "bipolar" disorder.
The word "manic" describes the times when someone with bipolar disorder feels overly excited and confident. These feelings can also involve irritability and impulsive or reckless decision-making. About half of people during mania can also have delusions (believing things that aren't true and that they can't be talked out of) or hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren't there).
"Hypomania" describes milder symptoms of mania, in which someone does not have delusions or hallucinations, and their high symptoms do not interfere with their everyday life.
The word "depressive" describes the times when the person feels very sad or depressed. Those symptoms are the same as those described in major depressive disorder or "clinical depression," a condition in which someone never has manic or hypomanic episodes.
Most people with bipolar disorder spend more time with depressive symptoms than manic or hypomanic symptoms."
                         
There you have a basic layout. The mere foundations for a diagnosis that, if explained by someone experiencing these symptoms, could lead a person down a winding rabbit hole. There are no two people alike. Therefore, no one experiences the same exact symptoms. So how do you understand something that sounds so complicated and at times, downright scary? 
You start by asking.
******************
This is the face of bipolar disorder:
This is the face of someone with bipolar disorder who wakes up to a 6:30am alarm after a night left tossing and turning in and out of poor sleep. This is the face of someone suffering from chronic insomnia- something she had since she was a child. Something that has morphed into many things as she grew older. As a teenager it was poor grades, bad behavior, inability to concentrate in class, anger, fear, carelessness, suicidal thoughts, etc. 

As an adult the sleepless nights turned harder to handle as responsibilities grew. 
Sleepless nights shifted from insomnia to infant care, and the sleep in between (due to stress) turned into a place of literal nightmares. Nightmares that began to induce a fear of sleeping at all. 
This is the face of someone who after years of sleepless nights now takes medication for her nightmares. 

*Take 1 pill once a night for sleep.

This is the face of someone who loves her children, loves her home, loves her family and loves her surroundings. Yet struggles to even plant her feet on the floor some mornings. Day after day after day, until the depressive episodes fade. This is the face of someone who is loved, cared for, and reminded daily of how special they are, but still has the ugliest thoughts about her life when she's consumed in her irrational grief. 
*Take 1 pill once a day for depression.

This is the face of someone who does not engage in physically or emotionally harmful behavior. Who, in fact, has made it her highest priority to avoid negative triggers and people- for the safety of herself and her children. This is the face of someone who knows that self medication, alcohol, or excessive drug use will serve as no substitute to a healthy dose of reality. 
Let me tell you, reality isn't so easy when you are of sound mind and have a deep understanding of yourself. Understanding that your mindset can switch at the flip of a coin is exhausting, because in order to be healthy you need to keep a never ending checklist going in your head. 
It means having to take accountability for your actions, 
all of them.
It means that when the tingling in your entire body starts to creep up under your skin and the sounds become too much, the lighting and excessive movement too strong, and you have no where to go to calm your nerves and you inevitably snap at your poor child who is only playing a game of monsters-- you take accountability for your actions and apologize. It also means explaining to that child what is happening within you and why they are not to blame. It means finding new ways (probably for the thousandth time) to decompress in stressful situations.
*Take 1 pill twice a day as needed for anxiety
Struggling with bipolar disorder means that when you're feeling excessively low and the urge to self harm, drink to cover emotions, stop eating or eat more as a way to gain control over your situation, make any move in any direction that could harm your future due to a brief moment of self-pity or grief-- you take accountability and reach out for help. 

This is the face of someone who has had to "suck it up" far too many times and admitted defeat in order to keep her sanity. This is the face of someone who had to openly say, "I need help. Please." Three words that sound so easy to utter, but hurt like daggers for someone who is trying to show the world she is a capable and thriving woman. The world's definition of "strong and independent".
That was, until a few years ago when she realized that asking for help when she needed it was strong and independent.

This is the face of a woman with bipolar disorder who wakes up, sends two kids off to school and is home with a three year old all day while battling debilitating exhaustion and complete lack of motivation. 
No she isn't lazy. No she doesn't skip her medicine. No this is not an excuse to keep a messy home. 
In fact for her, she makes the tough times easier by giving herself small to-do lists before she allows herself the luxury of giving into her emotions and "giving-up". She cleans her dishes, she feeds her child, she washes the laundry and scrubs the counters and tells herself over and over through-out the process, "You can do this. You are okay." All the while choking back tears and praying for the sun to set so she can finally crawl in to bed and not have to move, or think, or even feel human for just a few hours. Some days are horrific to her on the inside. Some days she completes these lists, and she is proud. Other days she doesn't, and she tries her best to not berate herself for hardly being able to stand that day.
However, every single day she is proud that she tried not to snap on the outside the way her every nerve-ending felt within her on that specific day. If she did snap? 
She took accountability, and apologized. (There's a pattern here when being honest with your brain's malfunctions.) 

Lucky for her, she rejoices in the sporadic days in between the depressive episodes that allow her the blessing of energy, insane amounts of energy. On her "good days" (which to most would simply call a "normal day") she accomplishes every task and more. She is kind and loving, affectionate and ready to play with her kids. Her house is spotless and she feels an immense sense of pride within herself. Those good days are amazing for her. The sun couldn't be brighter, her life couldn't be lovelier, and every thing feels like glitter is dripping off of it.
*Take 2 pills once a day to balance the rapid cycling.

Statistically this is the face of one person among approximately 5.5 million Americans, or 2.6 percent of the adult population, who suffers with this neurobiological disorder that often presents itself 
in a multitude of many frustrating and unpredictable ways.

One person who hates admitting where she is flawed, but recognizes the beauty and power behind working through her perceptions of what being "flawed" means to her, instead of avoiding its existence all together. 
This is the face of one person who loves exactly who she is but has no problem telling you that she understands how exhausting she can be, but how thankful she is when you stick around and try your hardest to understand her. 
This is MY face. MY struggle. MY journey. 

However, there are so many who quietly suffer in shame of something they feel they 
have 0 control over. I need you to know, first and foremost, that it takes bravery and accountability to climb your highest, hardest mountains. I need you to know, it is possible to hold power over your most seemingly powerless moments.

I need you to know...
You are not alone. 

Without judgment. Without expectation. Without doubt.

It's January 2016.
I am a shaman.
I am a tarot professional. 
I spent two years busting my butt to build my own business.

I spent two years relentlessly working on myself.
Acknowledging my inner demons and cleansing
the dark corners left unattended for more than a decade.
While raising three children.
While holding down a part time job. 
While balancing depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety.
While going to therapy. Religiously.

I spent last year falling in love, and re-breaking my heart a few times.
I spent less time mending it back together and more time picking
apart the lessons each heartache blessed me with. 
I let go, I went crawling back, and I let go again.
A few times.
(Hey, nobody's perfect...)

In 2015 I stopped feeling sorry for myself.
I stopped victimizing myself and my "situation".
"Situation", hah... 
I finally realized there was no "situation".
There was me surviving and thriving and making my way in this world.
Fearlessly embracing the unknown and 
embracing its beauty with a ferocity I never knew I 
possessed. 

I stopped replaying old scenarios that no longer served me. 
I stopped being bitter and resentful. 
Though, sometimes the bitterness took new forms, and I recognized
their shape-shifting quickly.
 I caught them and threw them back outside 
where they belonged.
I worked and re-worked old paradigms. 

I stopped being 
"Divorced, single mom of three, too many animals, 
no time for you. Get away from me. I don't need you."

I became
"This is me exactly as I am. 
Take me or leave me.
I love who I am and I won't change myself
to fit your insecurities. 
I won't ask you to change who you are either.
I wont guilt you if your free will leaves you 
wanting to walk away from me."

I became okay with the ever changing, impossible to predict
motions of life. I became okay with the fact
 sometimes I may be too strong for someone.
 Or not enough for others. Or just not the right time.

In 2015 I learned to take life as it approached me.
Without judgement.
Without expectation.
Without doubt.

I was exactly where I was meant to be, learning exactly what needed to be learned, 
experiencing whatever needed to be fed to me. 
I was living. 

In 2015 I was living authentically. 
Finally. 

Cheers to 2016 being just as beautiful and raw!

I Felt Some Feels Today

I had deleted his number months ago, but in that moment I prayed I had it magically stored in my phone.
I was sitting in my car, hands shaking, tears welling in my eyes. The music in the background as my daughter napped peacefully, did nothing but make things worse. 

I knew he was the wrong person to text, but in that moment I needed the only person who had ever seen pieces of me that I was disgusted by. Ashamed of. He was the only one who had seen my darkest moments. He would know what to say, and it would come in a way that would rip my heart to shreds but be the honesty that a friend would feel too bad to say. His number was still in my phone somehow. So I texted him. 

"I'm a fucking fraud, and everyone thinks i'm so strong and brave- but I'm not. I can't take it.'

The time ticked by painfully slow as I waited for some sort of response. He ignored most of my texts, but he always responded in my desperate times, and I knew he would now. 

 I braced myself for an onslaught of words confirming my exact fears. 
"I know you put on a front. I've always known when I got behind it, for small amounts of time."

"Don't tell anyone. I'm ashamed." 
He never told anyone anything, and I think that's why I had to turn to him. The most toxic person for me- the exact man who had shattered me a thousand times over, who fought with me a million times more- was the only one who held my secrets in the most sacred way. 

I waited for comfort. I waited for a bunch of flowery words to distract me from what I believed to be my truth. I waited for the deflecting jokes he always did when we got too deep. But instead he posed a question. 
"So whats your course of action?"

I was taken aback, he wasn't going to bypass this, he was going to force me to find my own answer. It was a good question- how was I going to proceed with these thoughts?
I answered quickly and truthfully... I guess right in that moment my subconscious took over and knew my course of action was one I didn't even have to think about. I had already been living it for a few years now.
"Take care of my kids. Take care of myself. My job is to help people and make them happy. And I'm good at that. I'll keep doing that."

 It was that easy. 
I was hit with the realization that I was turning my emotions into their own entities. I was letting them take over the bigger picture and not allowing myself to feel a basic human instinct. Sadness. Again I associated sadness with weakness and turned a simple moment of tears into my entire being a fraudulent personality. When I write my joys and gratitude down I mean them because I feel them in that moment. And those moments are far more present then the sad periods I go through.  I am not wearing some mask, preaching happiness and gratitude to people when I myself don't feel it. I am speaking openly and honestly about happiness and gratitude to everyone because I do feel this way. I want everyone to feel this way. However, I can't cover the world in rainbows and glitter. I have to be honest with myself and honest with everyone else so they know it's absolutely okay to feel the down times, to embrace them lovingly and treat them kindly. 

"I'm a fraud."
I had to get those words out to someone who would never tell a soul. I didn't want anyone to ever know just how deeply the rawness welled inside of me in that moment. 
 But as the day went on and I processed the feelings that swirled inside of me, the word fraud didn't feel right to me. It was sour and unnatural on the tip of my tongue. Worse to look at in text. Fraud was not a word I would use to describe myself. As the day went on and I calmed myself, I realized I didn't want him to hold this admission for me. I was ready to hold myself. I wanted to open my heart and share my shadow parts so that others who are like me, others who "Sad Shame" as I call it, understood that these feelings are just as crucial to growth and ascension as happiness and gratitude are. 

So there... That was my day today. I felt low. Very low. And then I took those emotions and quietly listened to them as they sat in my heart. As the day progressed they slowly dissipated into the most beautiful lesson.
The lesson that it's okay to feel. 
I felt some shit today and that's totally cool. 

New Plan. New Map. Same ship.

I just spent the last hour constructing the longest post filled with words like "failure", "doubt", and "not good enough".  
I wrote the entire thing with a chest filled of fear. 
And each day, for a fraction of a moment I truly feel those words fit me. 

However I deleted that post.
Space by space by space.
 I watched the letters disappear and told myself this was not the story I wanted for myself, or for the world to see. This is not the story I want to feel.

I have come too fucking far to directly aim these words like daggers in my direction.
I have come too far to know that there is never an "end" and despite a change in 
course-- I will forever be absolutely fine. 
Do you know how many times I have switched the direction of my sails? Each time has become so much easier. Each time my faith that that very precise moment, exact situation, exact feeling, was needed.
No matter how scary or painful or hard it had to be.


So for now, I need to feel exactly as I feel. And to be honest, this feeling doesn't feel good at all. 
However I refuse to berate myself for feeling poorly about a shift in course. There is nothing wrong with feeling low.
I have ceased to fear the darker times just because I can't see ahead of me for a brief moment in space. 

Here's whats changed-- that moment where I stand in the darkness, completely at a loss for which direction to turn because I was dead set on certain path- has gotten shorter. 
I instantly make a new plan. I sure as hell cry all over the new map as I draw out the steps I need to take.
But I set a plan. 

The world doesn't stop when someone leaves or something terrible happens. The world begins again-- this time differently. With doors that open and welcome you anxiously. Doors that weren't there on your last journey. How insanely magical is that!?
Thank God we have these doors or else we'd be stuck in a hallway of darkness with no exit plan forever.
Or at least until we dug our way out... and that isn't fun either. 

Hello doors.
I have such great ideas for when I step through your threshold.
Love,
         Kelly



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