“Change the Playlist.”

By Elaina J. Martin • Less than a min read

change the playlistI woke up today and I wasn’t happy. I had a lunch date with my favorite Virginian friend, but I wasn’t looking forward to it. SLEEP. That is what I wanted instead. Food is frivolous. Friends are frivolous. I needed to hide in my bedcovers until this terrible thing called a “break-up” was over.

That’s not how it works. I promise. Food and friends are not frivolous. They are important and imperative.

On the way to lunch I listened to a specific Sam Smith song, gorgeous in its entirety – also able to make me cry about my now faded relationship. So after lunch, when I got back in the car to spend the rest of the day and night alone, I changed the playlist. I put on Phoenix. Who can be sad while Phoenix is playing? (I dare you.)

My point: If it is dragging you down or making you unhappy, change it. Change the station, change the tune, change the relationship. You are worthy of infinite happiness, please, don’t forget that.

 

 

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net



“Put it on the shelf.”

By Elaina J. Martin • 1 min read

shelvesThis week has been rough. I can’t remember who I talked to on the phone or what I said. My brain is scrambled. If you read my last blog post, you know that my 5 & 1/2 year relationship ended. That is hard. THAT is hard.

My therapist is a saint, really, she is. She came in an hour early just to listen to me tearfully recount the past few days. I told her how he told me he didn’t want to get married. I told her that he wasn’t kicking me out until I had money to move. I told her I didn’t know what to do with my stuff – store it here, or NC, or take it to TX…She told me to “put it on the shelf.” Meaning – you will deal with it in due time, but for now just store it up there with all the rest of the questions swirling around your mind.

It is so hard now. So hard. There are so many unknowns.

But I can tell you that the ex and I are being friends. I’ve lived with an ex before so maybe that helps, but so far we have survived. I just hope we can continue to be friendly and civil and not bring other “interests” around here. I have sworn off dating for at least 6 months, but I don’t know where he is, and don’t want to know.

So, know that I am alive and as well as can be expected and when it gets to be too much I “Put it on the shelf.”

 

Image courtesy of Stoonn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net



The Break-up

By Elaina J. Martin • Less than a min read

heartbreakI have been with my boyfriend for over 5 & 1/2 years. That is more than half a decade. That is a long time.

Today he broke up with me, saying we should “go our separate ways.” In a TEXT message. 5 & 1/2 years and I get a text message.

When he came home I cried some more – a lot more. I don’t cry pretty so it wasn’t a selling point. But the fact that he doesn’t want to get married is what ended it. I wanted someone who would commit to me and provide me with security; he wanted a girlfriend.

Different.

The sad fact is that he will find a “non-crazy” girl and marry her. I am just not enough.

I am so sad.

 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net



You Always Have A Choice

By Elaina J. Martin • 1 min read

choices ladySometimes with bipolar disorder, things can seem black and white. Depression. Mania. Mood swings. Or maybe they just seem black and it’s hard to find the white – the light. I know how this feels. This week was tough, but I distracted myself. Bought myself a whole milk latte before therapy. Went clothing shopping armed with coupons. Ate some pretzel bites. Treated myself to a coke. Got a free sample at Bath & Body Works. Scheduled a much-needed haircut. Had coffee with my best Virginian friend and got the cutest Valentine’s Day card from her and her 5-year-old. (It was a little late because we’ve both been out of town for a couple of weeks).

Anyway, I had a choice. Lay in bed and wallow in self-pity or get up, get showered, and get out there and live. Part of me was fueled by anger, but most of me was hurting. But you know what, all those little things – the coke- etc, made me feel better and worthy and special. We are talking about a damn coke here, but those tiny sweet bubbles dancing on my tongue made a difference.

Sometimes when I get depressed I deal with suicidal ideation. That means I become obsessed with the thought of killing myself. I have no concrete plan. I am not “a danger to myself.” They are morbid obsessive thoughts. And when I get like that, as hard as it may sometimes be, I know I have a choice. I can choose life. I can choose whether or not to self-harm. Everything is a choice. If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts please call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

There are always options. There are always choices. There is always hope.

 

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net



STOP Catastrophizing

By Elaina J. Martin • 1 min read

stop stress signI’m really good at catastrophizing. I’ve even ended up overdosing and in the hospital because of it. What is “catastrophizing?” It’s mental health jargon for thinking the worse thing that can happen, will happen. For me, it is a snowball rolling down a hill. One “bad” thing happens and then I think what if this then what if that ’til soon I am homeless and destitute in my mind.

I had a hard conversation with my boyfriend of 5 &1/2 years yesterday and though it didn’t go the way I wanted it to, it didn’t go far from expected. After it was all over, I started to catastrophize. Then I remembered what my amazingly smart and talented therapist told me: STOP.

She told me that when I started thinking or talking about the “what ifs” to imagine a road stop sign and simply stop. Live for today. No one knows what is going to happen in the future and her favorite – one day at a time.

I used that technique yesterday for the first time and I’ll be honest, it was helpful so I thought I’d pass it along to you, dear reader. My therapist said that she has used this technique with another client and that client went out and bought herself a replica stop sign as a reminder. I may just do the same and install it in my woman cave.

Just because something doesn’t go your way doesn’t mean the world will end. I know this. I’ve thought my world would end many times before and here I am still kickin’ and writing this blog post.

 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net



When people can’t deal with your mental illness

By Elaina J. Martin • 1 min read

standing out from the crowdThere is this thing called “stigma” that gets thrown around a lot when talk of mental illness comes up. To me, what I mean when I refer to the stigma of mental illness is that someone thinks less of you because of your illness or judges you unfairly.

In your life, as you become more comfortable coming out of the bipolar closet or people happen to find out you are mentally ill, you will find people who will judge you harshly. I am sorry, but that is the truth. I know. I live it.

Before I attended graduate school I was assigned a mentor – someone in the MFA creative writing program already – to answer any questions I had and just help prepare me. One day, while instant messaging each other, I told her that I planned to do my thesis (a completed book) as a memoir on mental illness because I have bipolar disorder. The next line she wrote me was, “Hey, sorry gotta run to the grocery store. Bye.” She never mentored me again after that. That was my first very bitter taste of stigma.

There were other situations – after my suicide attempt (before the mentor reaction) my therapist dumped me and told me not to contact her, that she would be sending me something in writing. I understand that she felt like she couldn’t help me the way I needed to be helped at the time, but it stung nonetheless.

Some friends called less and less until they stopped calling at all.

But what I want to tell you is that this thing called “stigma” is a reflection of them, not you. You are amazing, just as you are. I feel that I am better off without the people that would judge me than I would be with them in my life. I am still Elaina J. I still laugh really loud. I am still empathetic. I am still a good friend/daughter/sister/girlfriend. I just happen to have bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

I don’t mean to make it sound easy when people can’t deal with your mental illness. It isn’t and it sucks. I’ve cried over it and you may too or you may get angry or you may get depressed, but it is good to feel something about being stigmatized because then is when you learn to be brave. You’ll learn, sometimes sooner than others, that you will be okay without the judgmental person in your life. And you will find new people – awesome people – who know about your mental illness and like/love you just the same. These are the people to hang onto; let the other ones go.

 

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It’s okay to move back in with your parents.

By Elaina J. Martin • 1 min read

home sweet home keyIn the fall of 2008 I had, what you might consider, a nervous breakdown. I tried to kill myself – to end my life. After a few days in both the intensive care unit and the psych ward, I was released. But I had to leave my new job and new apartment and all that California could have been for me to move back home with my parents in Oklahoma, after basically living on my own for a decade.

I was 27.

I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have the parents that I do – parents that are supportive, loving, and nurturing. I am so lucky. They sorted through my medical bills, combining my money with theirs. Never telling me I owed them a cent. “We just want you to get better,” they told the girl who only wanted the pain of life to stop.

I lived with them for 2 years: An adult child. I moved out when I started graduate school and I was scared shitless. Could I survive on my own? Would I go crazy again? Could I handle the pressure?

I went home to my parents, an hour and a half’s drive from Wilmington, North Carolina, every weekend. I couldn’t stand being alone with just my gorgeous beast of a dog, Hope, to keep me company. I needed my mom’s cooking. I needed to watch a movie with my dad. I still needed support.

I didn’t stay in graduate school. I took a leave of absence which turned into a decision to not return. But I moved in with my boyfriend in Virginia. Someone else to love and care for me.

I just want you to know that it is NOT a sign of weakness to ask for help or to accept it. Living with my parents probably saved my life. I know it made it better. My mom drove me to all my appointments, buying me a coffee before the awkward therapy sessions. They suffered through all the med changes with me. They dealt with my moods. They are heroic.

Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t proud of the fact that I had to live with my parents at 27 and 28, but I am thankful for their love that wrapped itself around me like the handmade quilt my mom made me for college graduation.

So if you are in a bad place and you have a friend or a family member or a loved one who reaches out a hand – take it.

 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 



Tired

By Elaina J. Martin • 1 min read

woman sleeping on booksFor every blessing in my bipolar journey, there seems to be a cost. My anxiety is pretty much under control lately. (Yay!) I take anxiety meds three times a day. I can function. I can drive my car. But I am tired most of the time.

I take an atypical antipsychotic called Saphris. It is my wonder drug. It was the first thing that really seemed to get my moods and symptoms under control. For years I took two 10mg tablets at bedtime. Recently, my psychiatrist has asked that I take one at night and one in the morning as that is the way it is prescribed to be taken. Easier said than done. Although not a sedative, it has sedating properties and makes me exhausted. So now I set an alarm for 6 or 7 in the morning (depending on how early I go to bed), wake up, put the tablet in my mouth to dissolve, and go back to sleep. I’ve learned I need about 4 hours to get over the fatigue. I’m not lazy. I am medicated.

I wish I didn’t need these meds. I wish I could just function like a “normal” person, but the fact is that I do need them and they are working and as long as they are working, I will continue to take them. I rather be cool, calm, and collected than anxious or manic any day so I deal with the fatigue.

*I know there are some of you out there that read this blog that do not believe in taking medication and I respect your decision. Please be respectful of mine. 

 

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 



Recreating Your Support System

By Elaina J. Martin • 1 min read

support systemsI have been mentally ill – maybe forever. As far back as junior high I can remember dark thoughts permeating the light ones. It is nothing to be ashamed of, it is chemical composition. As much as I don’t want these thoughts they are as much a part of me as my green/brown eyes and curly hair. They just ARE.

As I have mentioned before having a support system is paramount. You need people in your corner. You need your own cheerleaders because sometimes getting out of bed is an insurmountable feat. You need someone to vent to, someone to TRY to understand how it feels to be mentally ill. This life is hard as Hell.

Recently my best friend and I have passed emails back and forth about not being there, about trying to be there – about life. Jesus, life is hard.

All I know is that your support system is ever evolving. Add a new member from your support group. Drop that old high school friend who is always comparing your lives. Give. Take. It is an evolution.

I am not even trying to say I am dropping the “best friend.” I am simply saying that you have to be open to new supportive people in your world.

I have met a local lady who “gets it.” It is so nice to have coffee with someone who has been on the inside of a psych ward – it is like a secret handshake. I have even found a couple of online friends that I trust. I have never met them face to face, but I know they “get” me.

Search and reach out to people who understand you. They will help you. They will keep you safe.

 

Image courtesy of Vlado at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 



Impromptu Therapy Sessions

By Elaina J. Martin • 1 min read

call now noteI had a rough night. I got overwhelmed. I catastrophized – thinking what if this, then that and then that and then what will I do???!!! It is not a healthy way of thinking,but not uncommon for those of us with OCD.

So I did what I would tell you to do if you felt you were in any kind of crisis, I phoned my therapist this morning. Luckily she had an opening today at 3. I had an ophthalmologist appointment at 1:30 and hoped I could make it there in time. (Side note: No changes to my vision and no eye problems. We have a lot in my family. Good news and relief). I was late to therapy but she had told me there was a twenty minute window where she could still see me if late, I made it just under the wire.

The first thing I did upon arriving to her office was to take one of the water bottles she offers her clients and take my anxiety meds. It was that time of the day and I was definitely feeling anxious. Then we took a few big deep breaths together and then I began.

I don’t want to get into my personal shit here (ironic, I know), that is for me and my therapist, but it was the best decision I could have made to phone her and set up an appointment. I noticed a new look on her face today, like maybe she was thinking – “Finally! How she really feels!” I felt a little better afterward. More safe. Less alone with my emotions.

I know we can’t all have impromptu sessions with a therapist, shoot, this is the first time I’ve ever had a same day appointment! But we all have other outlets to vent to – friends, family, partners, or simply writing it out – putting on paper (or screen) all the things you are feeling. You need not make any decisions or have any big “talks.” “When you are strong enough,” she said to me.

This has all been a bit of a ramble, which is how my mind and soul feel today, all twisted around. But my point (!) was, when in crisis or emotional trouble, seek help the best way you can. Feel free to check out one of the many forums here on Psych Central, where you can be as anonymous as you wish and chat with like minded individuals. Or call a friend. Or buy a journal. Just get it out.

 

Image courtesy of marcolm at FreeDigitalPhotos.net



 
 

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