Friday, June 24, 2016

Guest Post: Meghan Shultz - New Author Details Her Mental Illness Journey

Today I'm happy to have a guest post from an up and coming author that just released her first book. I was in her position a year ago and sometimes it's hard to get a leg up when you're promoting your book. Especially when it's a memoir about mental illness. 
Congratulations to Meghan on beginning this journey!


Always Unstable: A Memoir
My book, ‘Always Unstable: Bipolar and Hospitalization: A Memoir’. You can probably tell a lot from the title. I have problems with stability, I have Bipolar Disorder and, I’ve spent my fair share of time in psychiatric hospitals. And it’s all true.

I’ve been hospitalized five times in the last 10 or 11 years. Sometimes in the US and sometimes in Australia. Four of my hospital stays were all within one ear. And I’ve been fortunate that every hospital that I’ve been in has been great, or at least mostly great. These hospitalizations are what I have based my book on. I go through them with as much detail as I can remember. I read through piles and piles of old journals from hospital to piece together those parts that I had forgotten about. And let me tell you, going though hospital journals can be pretty interesting, like the time I wrote about telling my psychiatrist that I wanted to have sex with him. My husband got called in after that one.

I’ve never been to a hospital for the same thing twice. I’ve been committed for a suicide attempt, a bipolar mixed episode, mania/ eating disorder, electroconvulsive therapy and last but not least, a psychotic manic episode. It’s always something. See, I like to keep things interesting. Not.

Throughout this book I take you on a journey through each of my five hospital stays. I go over what happened to get me there, like the suicide attempt, that was a very long time coming. I tell you what happened while I was there, and let’s be honest, psychiatric hospitals can be pretty interesting places to be. And lastly, I talk a little about what happened after I left.

My story is truthful, brutally honest and maybe sometimes hard to read. I know that often it was hard to write. I’ve been through a lot and it’s just about all in there. There are things in there that I hadn’t ever told anyone before. It’s easier to admit to wrong doings in writing than it is in verbal conversation. My Mum was the first to read my book. I expected her to be angry or even furious, but she wasn’t. She read all of the things that I’ve done in my life until now and I guess just accepted the bad things that I’ve done in part because of my illness. She said that she liked my book, I didn’t want to pry for any more details. I’m 27, not too old to be scolded by a parent.


Words are powerful things and I hope that mine are in the best way possible. I want to people to understand, I want people to relate, I want someone to read this and feel less alone. I want someone to read this and get help. 

Bio:
I am 27 years old I’ve been living with mental illness for a very long time, most of my life. I have Bipolar I Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, and Anxiety Disorder. But that’s not all I am. I am also a writer, a painter, a knitter, and an avid walker. I love the winter time; I love the rain. I also have a constantly growing collection of stuffed animals. I love tattoos. 

Twitter: @alwaysunstable
Facebook: @meghanshultzauthor
Book US version: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01H9XAXS4

Friday, June 17, 2016

What's the Difference?

When I post, I don't often weigh in on politics or religion. The reason being is that I don't stay up to date on politics, and I'm not especially religious. I don't think that means I'm unintelligent or apathetic. I just prefer to keep my distance from topics that could start an argument because I don't like confrontation. Not to mention, I don't have all of the facts to be able to have an informed opinion.

I've been thinking quite a bit about the tragedy that took place in Orlando. Being an empath, I need to stay guarded at times because there's always a chance I will pick up too much negativity or emotion and find myself severely depressed. I'll be honest, the last few weeks have been really hard on me, and I don't want to make that worse.

However, I have been considering the idea that the shooter in Orlando wanted to kill all of those innocent people for no other reason than they were different.

I feel strongly that even as a child I understood what made people different and how to be compassionate. I remember at a young age being devoted to Amnesty International and the campaign to ban Apartheid. Live Aid wasn't just a cool concert for me. The We Are The World and Do They Know It's Christmas videos were not just new ways to see my favorite bands on MTV.

One of my first experiences with discrimination of any kind was when my parents took me to Pearl Harbor when I was in 8th grade. (If you haven't been, you really must. It changed my life!) One of the first things you did before going out to the Arizona Memorial was go into a theater to watch a documentary. It detailed everything that happened December 7, 1941. All of the lives that were lost and the destruction was overwhelming, even for me at that age. I watched my extremely strong and stoic father cry like a baby. Walking out, our eyes were adjusting to the sunlight, when we heard a lot of loud laughter and shouting. I looked down the steps, and four buses of Japanese tourists were running up the stairs gleefully.

I was livid. I was just a kid, and I was angry because I got it, and they had no clue. It took me many years to get over that event. Even to this day, when I think of that amazing trip, that image flows back into my mind. I had to teach myself that those particular people were not at fault for Pearl Harbor and not all Japanese people were bad. After such an emotional experience, it was a tough lesson to learn.

I may not have always had a firm grasp on the stark reality of these situations, especially when I joined PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). I couldn't have been much older than 13, but when they started to advocate that members set the lobsters free at the local grocery store, I'd had enough.

Let's think about differences for a minute. I like tattoos; I have a tattoo and plans to get another one. Would I cover my whole body in tattoos? No, I would not...but do I hate you because you have? Absolutely not. You're just a little different from me, and you're allowed to be!

Take one of my favorite TV shows for example. There are some people who will probably disagree with me on this, but I adore the show Sister Wives and the entire Brown family. When I first started watching, it was out of morbid curiosity. I've watched many documentaries on Warren Jeffs, who is a Mormon that used his position in the church to abuse children, especially young girls. So, I was shocked that a polygamist family would make their situation public.

To be clear, the Brown family is not and never will be a part of the same Mormon sect as Warren Jeffs. They are Fundamentalist Mormons, and are completely different from Warren Jeffs.

I can't put into words how grateful I am that they chose to come forward. The more I watched, the more I fell in love with the family. Would I ever share my husband? OH HELL NO. I'm far too jealous to ever follow that path, but I do see the many benefits of polygamy as it relates to their family. Sometimes I catch myself thinking what a blast it would be to have sister wives! It's almost as if they're best friends! Well, I know from faithfully watching the show that it's not a blast for them 100% of the time, but they are a strong and happy family. I wouldn't consider polygamy for myself, but I do respect their right to make that choice. They've always said, "You don't have to agree with us, but please allow us the right to make our own choices."

Another example for me would be some of the shows about little people. I didn't know anything about the struggles of a little person, aside from the obvious height issues. I never considered the discrimination they would face. I just didn't consider them at all. Shows like Little Women LA, Little Women NY and Little Women Atlanta may be an awful lot of drama and silly arguments, but I have learned from them. I understand the differences in the types of Dwarfism. I've seen them struggle to conceive a healthy child. I've witnessed how they're pigeon-holed into demeaning roles in the entertainment business.

I remember asking my husband, "Why would a little person want to have children? After all of the physical issues they face, why would they want a child to go through all of that as well?" There's a chance that they will have an average sized child, but it seemed to me that they were far more likely to have a baby with Dwarfism.  You know what I figured out? It's because they are human beings with the same types of values as the rest of the world. They are completely aware that their child may have to have surgery at some point in their life, but they still want to complete their families. Then it occurred to me, anyone can have a baby with an illness or birth defect! Two average sized parents can have a little person. Every pregnancy has some risks. Little people are different, and they deserve a happy life regardless of those differences.

I could go on and on about how different everyone is. The shooter in Orlando was a Muslim, was he not? I don't take that information and decide to hate every other Muslim in the world. Like anyone else, I worry about what some of the Muslim terrorist groups are plotting, but the same could be said for any religious sect. There's hatred everywhere, we can't deny that.

Do you know why I don't hold people's differences against them? Because I'm different! I am mentally ill, and I expect the same amount of courtesy and compassion that anyone does. I don't always get that consideration, but you can be damn sure I'll keep fighting to get it. What if a particular group of people decided I was too different?

It's my opinion that we all deserve respect for the ways that we are different until we prove that we don't deserve it. Obviously, someone that kills more than fifty people and injures nearly as many does not deserve our respect. There is no question about what he did. It's a fact that none of us can escape. I completely understand the theory of innocent until proven guilty, and I stand by it. If someone is clearly guilty, any concept of respect goes out the window for me. If there's reasonable doubt, I take that case by case.

One thing I won't do is lump a bunch of people together because someone that may share their way of life did something horrible. I'm asking the very same thing of the general public every single day. Please do not look at me the same way you would look at a serial killer that is mentally ill. I would never hurt another human being in that way and to assume I would is nothing short of discrimination. I'm only asking for the respect that every human being deserves until they do something so grievous, they no longer deserve that consideration.


"If you can understand the me, then I can understand the you."
-Metallica
The Unforgiven II







Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Thoughts on PMS and Bipolar


I understand that this post may not be popular, especially with men. None of us enjoy talking about our menstrual cycles. I'm certain men dislike it more than women. However, I think that it's worth exploring the relationship between bipolar symptoms and that time of the month.

In my research, I've found some interesting articles. While reading an article on WebMD.com, I was able to find a validation of sorts. I've had people that read my book question the validity of my diagnosis or my story because I don't focus a great deal on the mania side of bipolar. Even though I've chosen not to argue with people about that, I really would like to clear the air.  During the time that I was writing my book, mania wasn't that much of an issue for me. I don't generally have bouts of mania immediately following bouts of depression. It just doesn't work that way for me. Here is an important paragraph that I found:

"Bipolar disorder occurs with similar frequency in men and women. But there are some differences between the sexes in the way the condition is experienced.  For example, a woman is likely to have more symptoms of depression than mania. And female hormones and reproductive factors may influence the condition and it's treatment." www.webmd.com

I've stated clearly all along that I can only write from my own experiences. Your path is not my path. Hence the title, It's Not Your Journey.  I don't know how many more ways I can explain myself. Just because you deal with mania regularly, doesn't mean I have to, or I'm not actually bipolar. It's a ridiculous notion. Why is it that some people that have cancer can be cured, and some can't? Do you think the ones that can't are waiting in the wings to criticize the ones that can? As if they really didn't have cancer because it's cured?

Ever since I first got my monthly cycle, it has been brutal. Every month I deal with more migraines than usual, horrific cramps, and severe depression. To the point where I will just start sobbing for no tangible reason. I've been on birth control pills in the past in an effort to manage the symptoms, but I've been told by two different doctors that it's not really wise for me to take them. Both times I was on them for any length of time, I was hospitalized for a mental breakdown.

I have an app on my phone now that lets me track everything. I'm glad to have found it because now it's not a guessing game anymore. I know within a few days when to expect the storm.  The cramps generally start at least a week before. By the time it actually starts, I find myself bed-ridden for sometimes 3-4 days. As soon as the worst of it hits, I'm an emotional wreck. Suddenly, even the smallest things have me crying my head off...and I'm in the middle of it right now. You may think, I go through all of that too, and I'm not bipolar. How is it different?

"Studies have looked at the association between bipolar and premenstrual symptoms. These studies suggest that women with mood disorders, including bipolar disorder, experience more severe symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. Other research has shown that women whose disorders are treated appropriately actually have less fluctuation in mood over the course of the menstrual cycle.  The greatest evidence of a hormonal association with bipolar disorder is found during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Women with bipolar disorder who are pregnant or have recently given birth are seven times more likely than other women to be admitted to the hospital for their bipolar disorder. And they are twice as likely to have a recurrence of symptoms." www.webmd.com

That explains things a bit, but it certainly doesn't make it easier. I've tried on many occasions just to put the symptoms out of my mind. I've attempted to get up and be productive more than once. Even if I find an extra burst of energy, it never lasts very long. I've listened when people say that exercise will help with your symptoms. Trust me when I say, that is not the case for me...and no that is not an excuse to be lazy. 

The worst part is the guilt. Your depression tells you what a failure you are if you need to put life on the back burner.  When you combine physical pain with emotional pain, it's often too much to handle. At least for me it is. 

I am rational enough to realize that this is no way to exist. I've tried whatever home remedies I could. Now I think it's time to hand it over to the "experts". Next month when I see my psychiatrist, I'm going to bring this up. 

I'm sure at some point, I'll have to give in and see a gynecologist. I've been avoiding that eventuality for several years now.  It looks like it may be time to tuck my tail between my legs and just do it.

For now, I'll just keep pushing forward and doing the best that I can. That's all any of us can ask for. 


Monday, June 13, 2016

Lost

This is the first poem I've written in a very long time. 


I followed along on this path I'd never taken, 
hoping it would make me new.

When the pain on the inside became far too dark,
I could no longer hold true.

Now, I fight to find the light and I struggle as I 
hold tight to you.

I've lost all that I had become, 
and all that I knew.

It hurts with a pain I've never
carried as I'm searching for the truth

I stumbled, I fell
I feel I'll never steady my view

I've lapsed into the loudest silence,
I stagger my way through

Tomorrow I say, tomorrow it will be.
I need so much to believe.
I have to find what I've lost

If it's the only thing I ever do.

I've decided to create a blog just for my poetry. If you would like to read more, head over to:
http://capturingmyemotion.blogspot.com

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Why?


There are certain things about bipolar disorder, which even if I live to be 100, I still wouldn’t be able to understand. I get that there will always be ups and downs. I’m fully aware that our illnesses may not even make sense to us, let alone others. However, today is one of the days that I am truly struggling.

I’m in tears as I type this, and if someone were to come into my room right now and ask me why I would have absolutely no reason.  In fact, common sense tells me that I have nothing to feel the least bit upset about. It’s actually just the opposite! Things have been going well lately. Our marriage is wonderful, our cats are healthy, our families seem to be doing well, I'm doing my best to avoid drama, and I’ve been getting a lot of exciting offers when it comes to my book.

So, what the hell is wrong with me?

Why did I wake up crying? Why did it take me three hours to physically leave my bed? Why did I start sobbing in the kitchen because there are dishes in the sink?  I can’t shake it. I feel like I’m suffocating. Of course, I’ve been through something like this before, and I can think rationally (even if only for a moment) that I’ll get through it. I just don’t understand why it hurts so bad right now. I feel like I’m two different people. On one hand, I’m the blubbering mess that can’t stop sobbing and on the other hand, I’m the observer thinking, what is her problem?!? I need to get out of here; I can’t deal with this.

I feel like this has been creeping up on me for a while now. I’ve had to work my way through a lot of strange feelings lately, and most of the time I can get myself together before my husband even gets home from work. This feels different. As if something is strangling me, but I can’t see it or figure out how to stop it.

What can I do? What am I supposed to do? I’m all alone, and I can’t even explain this to myself, let alone try to spell it out for anyone else.

I guess that’s why I’m writing through the tears. There are so many people out there that don’t understand situations like this. That would rather look at us like we’re “crazy” or “attention-seeking”. They would rather treat us like outcasts than try to be sympathetic about something they couldn’t possibly understand. Sometimes I feel like it’s useless to try to keep explaining over and over. There will always be stigma, there will always be discrimination, hatred, and fear.  Even though I can barely breathe right now, I know that I still have work to do.  The question at this moment is whether I’m strong enough to handle it, and I don’t think I am.

There will be a day where I can proceed, and it will probably be soon. However, if it’s not, I have to be alright with that. I’m a fighter, and I always will be. It’s just that sometimes we have to fight a battle inside of ourselves before we can take on the outside world.

I’m doing everything I can to keep from falling too far into this hole, where I convince myself that I’m not good enough, and I can’t do it. As if the pain of depression alone wasn’t bad enough, your brain starts playing tricks on you. Reminding you of all the missed opportunities, the failures, and the relationships gone bad. I have to work every single minute of every single day to keep the past in the past. To know that I’m a better person today than I was three years ago when my life was almost over.

I wouldn’t struggle so much with this disease if I knew how to keep these horrific, soul-crushing episodes from taking over my life.  I guess if I knew that, there would be a lot fewer depressed people in the world, including myself.  I hope that despite everything, I’ve made some sense while writing this. I don’t want sympathy, and I don’t want someone to fix what is broken. I just want people to know that we’re all out here trying to do our best with what we’re given, and sometimes we just aren’t given enough to be OK.

I may not be able to pinpoint the exact reason that I can’t stop sobbing right now, but I have to be able to forgive myself for that. We all do. None of us planned our lives like this. We didn’t wish for mental illness. No matter how knowledgeable you are, or how long you’ve been dealing with your disorder, there are going to be times when you just don’t get it. The how, the why, or the when.


I know that I’m not alone in this. I’m grateful for that. Life might be a struggle for me for a little while. I may not make a lot of sense, or be able to keep up a strong fa├žade.  Just know that I’ll be here, still trying to put one foot in front of the other, no matter how much it hurts. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

Too Good to Be True?


Just days after receiving some really good news, are you supposed to feel like a deflated balloon? Should you be terrified that you can’t possibly handle the responsibility?  I’ve been screwed over before. I’ve been left hanging for weeks, sometimes months on end. My brain has the speech memorized, this isn’t going to happen, there’s been a mistake, and we don’t want you after all.

I hate feeling like everything I touch turns to crap. I’ve lost that elated feeling I had upon hearing such fabulous news. Just in case you missed it, I received an email asking that I become a Huffington Post contributor. This is amazing news, right? Then why am I sitting here expecting the worst? I was told that an editor would be contacting me to give me further instructions. That hasn’t happened yet. It’s been TWO days, and I already can’t breathe just thinking about why it’s taking so long.

What a horrible personality trait. I just can’t seem to shake it. If I'm honest, though, how many times have people shown me that they can be trusted? It happens very rarely, and that is unfortunate because if something doesn’t go exactly as I thought it would, I immediately assume that I’ve done something wrong and lost my opportunity.

Am I putting too much pressure on myself? I can’t possibly control the outcome in this situation, but my brain doesn’t differentiate between things I can’t control and things I can. It’s going to race from scenario to scenario, none of them good.  I was thinking today about the hoarding epidemic. It occurred to me…I’m a hoarder in a sense.  At least my brain is a hoarder. Every awful scenario that has ever taken place in my life is stored up there. If something seems to be going well, I can always trust my brain to offer up that proverbial "other shoe" just to discourage any possible thoughts of success.

I’ve tried to open my mind and let go of all of it. It doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen. I hate mental illness. I hate that I even have to have this conversation with myself. I long to say, just be happy about something for once!

I wish I knew how to overcome this intense feeling of dread. I’m constantly telling myself that getting hysterical about this situation will neither make it happen faster nor change the outcome. So, why do I still want to sleep away the day, so I don’t have to think about it? 

I’ll get by no matter what happens. Everything that has been thrown at me up until now, I stuck my glove out and caught it. Sure, sometimes I bobbled a little, but I always came out on the other side. I think knowing that is the only thing that is keeping me from completely losing control of my emotions.

It was the end of June in 2013 that I last attempted suicide. I still get a lump in my throat when I consider what the outcome might have been. So, perhaps it’s the impending anniversary of that horrible time that has me down. When you’re already in a dark place, it’s hard to find anything to illuminate the situation. I think I’m most frustrated because my normal coping skills/tactics aren’t helping me right now.

If you’re feeling as if you can’t even handle the small stuff by taking baby steps to get there, you certainly can’t deal with the big stuff.  Imagine you have a broken chain and flat tires on your bike. It depends on your outlook on things, but perhaps you decide to fix the tires first because that seems like the easier task. For whatever reason if you can’t even conjure up the strength to deal with the easy part and get air in the tires, how are you going to move on to the hard stuff, like the chain?

It may seem like a strange analogy, but it is true.  

When it’s all said and done, I have no choice but to busy myself with other things until I receive further instructions. So, I’m going to watch a movie, cuddle with my cats, and finish writing this blog. Now I can say I got one thing accomplished despite all of the turmoil. There are always going to be days where I can’t find the silver lining, but that doesn’t mean I’m a failure. At least I keep looking, right?