Friday, November 16, 2018

5 Ways Orange is the New Black Contributes to Stigma

One of the most binge-worthy shows of the last few summers is Orange is the New Black. It’s a show I’ve grown to enjoy, even though I’ve had trouble with some of the scenes from the start. If you aren’t familiar with the show, it’s based is a women’s medium security prison.

The show follows the main character, Piper Chapman, and all the colorful personalities found at Litchfield Correctional Facility. The story is derived from a memoir of the same name. It’s a strong rated R and at times borders on an X rating.

Now that I’ve watched the whole series several times, I’m not as uncomfortable about the sexual scenes, but it did take some getting used to. While the writers of the show feed into many negative stereotypes of a women’s prison, you’ve got to give them credit for putting it all out there.

While watching the newest season, I started realizing how the show could have a negative impact on some of its viewers in a different way. There’s no trigger warning at the beginning of each episode, and perhaps there should be. After watching season 6 once again, I started to compile a list of ways Orange is the New Black contributed to stigma.

1)  Graphic depictions and discussions of self-harm. Three different episodes feature either talking about how self-harm could be done or characters shown practicing self-harm behavior.
2)  Graphic depictions of suicide. Two characters attempt suicide and one character, after being found dead from a drug overdose, is made to look as if she died by suicide.

3)  Frequent use of the word “commit” when referring to suicide. We in the mental health movement are struggling to get this term removed from the suicide discussion.

4)  The use of the expression “suicide is for cowards.” Unfortunately, there are still people that believe this and will jump on that bandwagon. As a suicide attempt survivor, I can guarantee making that decision has nothing to do with being cowardly.

5)  Using the word “freak” when referring to a transgender character as well as the frequent and blatant use of the word “retard.” I am certain that these terms would bother those standing up for equality.

I can understand where some may find me too nit picky, and maybe that’s true. But, when you’ve been through as much as I have, as many other people have, you start to become more aware of the consequences of your actions.

It’s true that Orange is the New Black is a drama based on real experiences, but there were times when I had to pause the TV, look at my husband, and say, “That just irresponsible!

Do writers have a responsibility to the audience? Should they factor in how these negative stereotypes will impact the viewers? Or is this too much to expect? I realize that if they had to pick apart everything that was said for fear of insulting someone, there wouldn’t be much of a show. At the same time, I feel like some of us are fighting a war out here, trying to tackle stigma of all kinds. We could use a little help from the people who can spread the message to the biggest audience.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Control Enthusiast

There are times in my life when I lose track of who I am and what I want to do with my life. It happens more than I would like to admit. I wouldn’t call myself a control freak, but I can be very controlling. I have to be.  I take charge of everything I possibly can; even where the pens are positioned on my desk. I can’t stand the feeling of losing control.

I think that’s why self-harm became such a big part of my life. I couldn’t control my emotions or how I was feeling, but I could control how and when I cut myself. Until I couldn’t anymore, and it became an obsession.

I read that one of the symptoms of borderline personality disorder is going from one extreme to the other end of the spectrum, with no gray area; it’s all black and white.
I will admit that in the 17 years I’ve been married, I had to let go of the reins a little bit. My husband isn’t a slob, but he doesn’t do a lot of things the way I want them to be done.

That’s the hard things for the spouse of a “control enthusiast.” They feel like they can’t live up to our expectations, so they just don’t try. The hardest part for me is that my house used to be spotless. Everything had an exact place, and that much control over my environment kept me happy.

Now, as I’m struggling with depression, there are things that I can’t drag myself out of bed to do. I just keep going over and over in my mind that my kitchen cabinets are dirty. So, what is it like to feel totally out of control in every aspect of your life?
Overwhelming. Like a constant panic attack. So you do what you can to find some semblance of peace. You make sure your notebook is in the exactly same place. You keep moving random things around until they appear to be exactly where you want them. Just enough to settle the anxiety.

One of the most frustrating parts of this situation is my inability to complete many tasks due to physical ailments. I’m in pain a lot of the time, so I’ve quite frankly lost control of everything I should have a hold on.

I know I’m perpetually a work in progress and it’s hard to find balance. I do little things like vacuum my room every day, I make sure the soap is in the right spot in the bathroom, and I keep my mind off of self-harm as best as I can.

I guess it’s a double-edged sword. It’s better to give up a little control if it brings you a little peace. On the other hand, losing that control can cause intense anxiety. Somehow, you just have to find a happy medium.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Bipolar Weight Gain

This won’t be the first time I’ve written about my extensive body issues. It’s something I have dealt with since I was a child. My parents had to take me to the “Husky” department at SEARS for my clothes. I was completely traumatized, and it never got any better from there.

It started with starving myself. Eventually, I would both starve myself and abuse laxatives. It served my purpose at the time. I lost a bunch of weight, but I was doing irreparable damage to my body. I just didn’t know it yet.

There were times when I could have considered myself to be thin. My weight dropped pretty low a couple of times. The irony was, it didn’t matter because, at any weight, I looked in the mirror with self-loathing and called myself fat. Upon doing some research for this article, I stumbled onto this information. I thought it was very enlightening.

·         Weight gain is clearly caused by medications used to treat bipolar disorder, some more than others.

·         This weight gain can be so large as to have its own serious health consequences, so we need to take it very seriously.

·         Physical activity and diet can help prevent this weight gain, and sometimes reverse it but simply telling patients to eat right and get exercise as a means of coping with the weight gain medications can induce is pretty close to an insult and generally simply attempts to shift the responsibility for the problem to the patient. It takes more than this simple advice.

·         Weight gain may be, just may be, associated with causing mood problems that look like bipolar disorder. If this was true people could “look” bipolar from weight gain, and weight gain caused by medications for bipolar disorder could make mood problems even worse! This obviously bears some examination.

In my early, to mid 20’s I was still not eating on a regular basis, and I added obsessively exercising to the game plan. I would watch TV, and every time a commercial came on, I jumped up and started doing sit-ups or using my weights.

The whole thing was getting out of hand.

I kept up with the starvation and laxatives off and on throughout my 30’s. I knew it wasn’t working anymore, but old habits die hard.

I’ve never gotten back down to high school weight. I just can’t seem to focus on a routine of 3 meals a day. Nearly every day, it’s between 3:00 and 4:00 before I realize that once again, I forgot to eat all day. I like to wait to have dinner when my husband gets home, and that can be as late as 9:00 PM. I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been in my life, and I am so ashamed. I hate being in public and around people I know.

I wish I could go back to age 12 or 13 and start all over. I love my parents, but they never really did much to educate me or help me set healthy goals for myself. I’ve gone around and around with different diets or lifestyle changes, and occasionally I would find one that would work for a brief period. Due to my depression, I expect to see numbers change on that scale by the hour. I have to keep myself from obsessively weighing myself, so I keep the scale where I can’t readily see it. No matter what, when the depression hits, the first thing that falls by the wayside is my diet and exercise program. At this stage in life, I’m depressed much more often than I’m not, so these are not great odds.

You would think at my age; I could get it through my head that everything I’ve tried in the past didn’t work. Usually, I’m so deep into a depression that it doesn’t matter what I tell myself. I’ve already been set up to fail.

This is something that I want young people, especially young girls to know. Spending all of your time finding ways to keep from eating is so bad for you in more ways than one. I’d give anything to go back and tell young me what happens to us due to our terrible habits. I cry at least once a week for the me I used to be. Even at a young age when I weighed about 140 pounds, I thought I was huge. What I wouldn’t do to be that size again.

I’m trying to hold myself together and figure out what I can do to make things better. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not trying to shift blame here. I’m the one that messed myself up so badly. I even tried to resort back to starvation in my 40’s, and it only made things worse. I need to accept it doesn’t work and move forward.

So, the next step is surgery. It’s not something that I’m looking forward to, but I’m starting to believe it’s the only answer. How much does bipolar disorder relate to what essentially boils down to body dysmorphic disorder? In my case, the two go hand in hand.

I would love to look in the mirror and have some semblance of self-esteem. Maybe one day, I’ll get there. For now, I’ll keep trying to move forward and find some answers.

Source –

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Updated - Migraines and Bipolar Disorder

Since the age of twelve, I have been experiencing painful migraine headaches. I’m pretty sure that at the time, my parents just chalked it up to the braces on my teeth. It seems completely valid to me now. I just knew that I took a lot of Excedrin.

The older I got, the worse the headaches were. At the age of nineteen, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I spent a lot of time wondering if there could be a connection. Now, at the age of forty-five, I’m certain there’s a connection. Upon my research for this article, I stumbled on some interesting articles. The connection between migraines and bipolar is so strong that over one-third of people living with bipolar suffer from migraines.

I think my migraines are typical. Everything is either too bright or too loud. Not to mention the various smells that can trigger it. I can’t take scents like burning wood, cigarettes, bonfires, burning leaves, along with many perfume scents make me instantly feel like I want to vomit. That explains why I’ve been using the same body spray for more than twenty years. It’s the only one that doesn’t cause a negative reaction.

Migraines affect about 1 in 7 (14%) persons diagnosed with bipolar disorder, who are 3 times more likely to experience migraines compared to the general population. The risk of developing migraines is not the same among all types of bipolar disorders. A study by Low et al found that in the subgroup of patients with bipolar-II disorder, the lifetime prevalence of migraine was 65%.   (I’ll just note here, I’m bipolar-II.)

In the same study, the overall lifetime prevalence of migraine among all patients with bipolar disorder was 39.8% (43.8% among women and 31.4% among men).

I’ve missed out on some very important events in my life due to migraines. I harbor a lot of guilt because of that fact. As far as treatment, I’ve tried many. None of them seem to work out for more than a few months, if at all. I vomit nearly every time now, and the pain will travel from one side of my head to the other. I have thrown up more in the last ten years of my life than in the entire rest of my life.

Individuals who suffer from pain and are diagnosed with a mental disorder, such as bipolar disorder, have been found to experience a worsening of psychiatric symptoms. In addition, health care professionals may at times fail to give complaints about physical health problems serious consideration among patients with serious mental illness. (A point that I touch on in my book, which several people told me was a lie) These patients are also less likely to recognize or monitor their comorbid medical conditions compared to the general population. In addition, they have an increased likelihood of experiencing conditions that cause pain, and a lower probability of receiving adequate care.

For example, people diagnosed with bipolar disorder have an increased prevalence of depression, which has been linked to greater pain sensitivity. Chronic pain in persons diagnosed with bipolar disorder is associated with impaired recovery, greater functional incapacitation, lower quality of life, and increased risk for suicide compared to individuals without pain.

Thanks to migraines, many people no longer like me, or they’re pissed off because I missed an important event. I wish I could make people understand how a migraine feels, just once.

Over the last couple of years, we’ve been exploring food allergies. I

have a gluten allergy, and I was doing so great with it, but I’ve never been very good at taking care of myself. Gluten only knocks me on my butt when it feels like it. It’s not a 100% of the time situation, and when it doesn’t, I guess I start getting delusions of grandeur and keep eating it until I’m officially sick.

I’m writing this blog because I want people to gain some understanding of what I go through on a regular basis. I’m not faking, and I’m tired of being told that it’s all in my head. YES! It is…that’s the whole point! I live in constant fear that something is going to set me off. Of course, I have superhero scent abilities. I can smell anything, and most of the times, it’s not good. That leads immediately to a headache.

For now, I think I’ll go back to eating right and exercising because this headache every single day thing just isn’t working out for me.

*Source – Treatment Center of America

**Source –

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Routine or Rut?

For months now, I’ve been doing the same thing nearly every day. I’m forever hoping that today will be the day, and my energy will return and I won’t feel depressed. Maybe even I’ll accomplish everything on my to do list that’s been building for months on end. It would be nice to feel really good about myself again.

Yet, every morning I wake up, judge how exhausted I feel, maybe get a couple small things done, and spend the rest of the day watching the same movie and trying to get back to sleep. It’s incredibly embarrassing to be admitting that, but it’s the truth.

It’s not much of a way to live, but it has made sense to me. You often hear that it’s OK if all you did today was breathe. But, at what point does that become an excuse for being lazy? Or does it? I’m really beginning to wonder if that is going to take up the rest of my life.

I’m grateful for the sporadic days where I can get some writing done, and maybe do some cleaning, but I know it’s not enough. I know for certain that some day I’m going to look back on all of this and be furious that I wasted so much time.

So, it’s clear, what begin as a routine has turned into a rut that I can’t seem to break free of.

I’ve been attempting to brainstorm ways to get out of this situation, and everything I come up with seems so draining and anxiety inducing. Much more than I can handle.

I’m not really living anymore, I’m just existing, and that’s the whole problem. I have so many wonderful things I could be doing with my time, right at my finger tips. So, why am I not doing any of them? When will it feel like the weight has been lifted off my shoulders.  I don’t know how many more times I can watch Titanic!!!

The hardest part of this situation is feeling comfortable in the rut. It’s very easy to just be. It’s very comforting to not have to think about anything, or do anything too hard. But, I’m always beating myself up at night when I go to bed. I think of all the things that I didn’t accomplish. Some days I don’t even make it down to the lower level of my house. Which means I forget to eat again. I feel like I’m chained to my bed.

So, what do I do now? The first step is usually realizing you have a problem. At least that’s what people say. Perhaps if I could make my to do lists much smaller and just accomplish one or two things on the list every day. It will be a battle fighting the urge to stay in bed. If I could accomplish two things a day, that would start to add up, right? It could be a step in the right direction.

I hope so. I don’t see any other way out of it. I can’t go on like this anymore. I’ve already wasted too much time.

Friday, July 27, 2018

When Bipolar Disorder Becomes Your Best Friend

We have very few chances to make long-lasting friendships in our lives. Life always seems to get in the way. Work, kids, money; it all prevents us from quality time with friends or family. In my case, I’ve been burned a few times, and bipolar disorder also prevents me from making strong connections.

Bipolar is a very lonely and isolating disease. Even if you’re lucky enough to have a positive support system, you still feel alone and afraid. At my lowest points, I don’t even reach out to friends or family. Historically that has not gone well for me. Most people just choose avoidance or the good old “What does she have to be depressed about?”.

I’m incredibly grateful for the mental health community on Twitter. They’ve shown me some other ways to cope with what I’m feeling, and someone is always there to listen. The downside is, they are only online; they don’t live next door, so I can expect to see anyone pop up on my front porch to kick my butt into gear. I have made some good friends.

The one constant thing in my life and something I can always count on is bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is very misunderstood. People are afraid of what they don’t understand. After my suicide attempt in 2013, “friends” started dropping like flies. This disease isn’t contagious. They simply left because “only a coward attempts suicide.”

So, once you break everything down and you consider all of the variables, what do you have left? In my case, I have an amazing husband that I am grateful for every single day. He can’t be with my 24 hours a day to make sure I’m OK. It would be wonderful, but not very practical.

What I do have is a disease called Bipolar Disorder, and I can always rely on that.

Whenever I feel totally alone, I can find bipolar resting comfortably on my shoulder, reminding me that it’s always there.

The constant black shadow hanging over me drains all of my energy and leaves me feeling useless and lost. But, what is always, always here? Yep, you guessed it. I can always count on it. It’s ironic; the one constant in my life is the one thing I want to get away from so badly.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Welcome Back!

I found it. I found it in that last place I thought to look. It should have been the first place. But, none of that matters now because I’m over the moon with gratitude. You’re asking yourself, “what the hell is she talking about” I’m sure. Simply put, I’m talking about my voice. My ability to put pen to paper and come up with something resembling a blog post. For months I’ve been mired down by negative thoughts, fears, and grief. Writer’s block is a bitch, my friends.

So, please allow me to take a moment to welcome myself back to the land of the living. I don’t know how long I’ve got in this particular universe, so I’ve got to use my time wisely. I wish I could talk about a sign or some kind of miracle that brought me back to writing again. It was quite simple, and for that, I am very lucky. For the first time in months, I thought of a topic, and the ideas started flowing. Sentences ran through my head, and I jumped up, grabbed my notebook, and here I am!

I’ve been through a lot since I last wrote. Some good things, some bad things. My physical health hasn’t been great, and my Agoraphobia symptoms appear to be at an all-time high. I’m still grieving the loss of my father, and I’m still dealing with horrible nightmares.

Thankfully, I now have a doctor that truly seems to care and listens to me. Of course, the constant support of my husband helps tremendously. There are days where none of my coping skills help me…cope.

I can tell you one thing that I am incredibly proud of. At the end of June, I celebrated FIVE years of being self-injury free. Five years ago was also my last suicide attempt, and it feels good to be able to get some of that negativity behind me. I have a lot of work to do; I know this. I’ve signed up for online courses, one of which is pretty difficult, but I’m making my way through.

I’m working with International Bipolar Foundation as a volunteer three days a week. I’m helping with their social media. I also became a Listener for 7 Cups of Tea. That has it’s own challenges as well, but I’m working on it!

I’m still struggling with getting out of bed and being productive. I know self-care is important, but sometimes it feels like that’s all I ever do. I’m started to feel ashamed and embarrassed. There are days when I don’t even go down the stairs to the main level of our house. It’s something I need to work on. But, here I am taking quite a few steps in the right direction, ad hoping for continued days free of severe brain fog.

How many of you out there have struggled with writer’s block? I would love to have you comment on this article some of the tactics you use to break free from it.

In the meantime, I’m back. Let’s hope it stays that way. There’s a big lump in my throat because I had given hope up of ever being here again. Today I can say that I am genuinely grateful.

5 Ways Orange is the New Black Contributes to Stigma

One of the most binge-worthy shows of the last few summers is Orange is the New Black. It’s a show I’ve grown to enjoy, even though I...