yes, deceased fathers still count.

tony

I’m going to do a special Father’s Day post because, let’s be honest, part of my bipolar disorder stems from my father’s genes.

 

The past few Father’s Day celebrations have not been easy for me, as I have lost two fathers; one physically and one because that is the relationship he chooses to have with me. Up until I was 24, I always associated this day with the one who raised me, gifts and fancy dinners and hallmark cards. It wasn’t until our relationship fell apart that I realized I had been celebrating the wrong man, that I should be honoring the very man who gave life to me. Even though I don’t know much about him, I am more connected to him than the father I spent 24 years with… and that’s saying a lot.

 

I don’t remember the conversation about my adoption, I just remember it was something I always knew. It was never hidden from me or talked about in secret. My mother was very open and honest about everything, which I am very lucky and thankful for. But there are some gaps in my birth father’s story, one important fact that seems to change every time I hear about him. And that is how he died. I’ve been told a few things; that he passed in his sleep, that he had a heart attack, that he accidentally overdosed on heroin and that he committed suicide. As I got older, the story seemed to change from heart problems to full blown drug addict.

 

But with the knowledge of him being a troubled teenager combined with how I felt growing up, suicide doesn’t seem so far off. I’m sure that’s going to offend some people but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve considered taking my life, not so much these days but it was a common thought (and sometimes an attempt) until I was 21. There is a darkness in me and I’m certain he had it too. I was raised by a man who doesn’t believe in mental disorders or depression (yet I’ve never met a more depressed human being) so there was always comfort in that, the idea that someone understood, that I wasn’t crazy. I know pain and struggle and iniquity are not uncommonly felt, I am not special here… but knowing that it was experienced by someone who had the same blood running through their veins was consolatory. It was almost as if I wanted to get through the depression just to prove to him that it was possible, that he wasn’t a failure for taking his life… that in all reality, it gave me back mine.

I don’t know if you believe in the paranormal but I most certainly do; some people have embraced it, most people have found it strange. But I know that my birth father is there, I have felt him and even seen him on many occasions, mostly during the moments where the darkest corners of my room were most comforting. Sometimes I swear he just shows up to remind me that I am not alone, that I have a father, that I’m safe.

 

I just wanted to take this day to celebrate you, a man I never got to meet but is a better father to me than the one I grew up with. And if that makes me sound crazy, it realy wouldn’t be the first time.

 

Rest in paradise.

 

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a world of weird.

 

brain

There are certain things in life that affect me differently, in ways someone without a chemical imbalance would most likely find strange or abnormal. No matter how medicated or stable I am, I always overreact to the most minuscule things; running out of cat food, dirty laundry, my boyfriend’s humorous stabs at my personality flaws. Not only am I hypersensitive to these situations but I obsess over them, to the point where I can’t sleep or function “normally”. I have no idea if it’s part of the bipolar or if it’s really just how my brain is wired. All I know is it has been a curse for my entire life. It typically turns into a state of mania and my apartment is cluttered with lists I scribble down to help stop the over thinking process. “Nope, those are not grocery lists” I am constantly telling my friends. They laugh hesitantly when I explain to them that it’s a list of all the things I am worried about and why shouldn’t they? It’s ridiculous. But list making and insomnia are not the most ridiculous part, the part that baffles me the most is that when extremely stressful events happen in my life, I am uncharacteristically calm; my parent’s divorce, my father disowning me, my ex boyfriend’s suicide. Particularly that last one.

I remember it was Monday, the day before my 15th birthday or the day after is where things get fuzzy.
I remember there was no phone call, no police officer standing at my door. It was in an e-mail message. Not one that said much. Just the sentence “he did it” and a file attachment of his suicide note. I didn’t need to open it to know what it was and it wasn’t until later years I would truly understand how fucked up it was that someone would send that to me.

But still, I went downstairs smiling and had breakfast with my family. I even went to Disneyland with my best friend. I told everyone I went to his funeral and cried in the parking lot, just to sound more human. Truth is, I never even made it that far. Most people would probably tell me I was in denial, that I was avoiding some type of painful recognition. But it wasn’t that I didn’t feel anything, it was like I had already accepted it before it happened. It’s almost like the part of my brain that goes off when tiny, absurd things happen shuts down and blacks out the trauma. Not completely, it still hurt like hell but sometimes I feel like I’m in a permanent state of endorphin rush, that feeling you get that allows your body to ignore pain for a minor time frame. Even to this day, I can talk about it without flinching or getting upset… it’s just become another slot in my timeline.

 

People always tell me how strong I am, that they could have never lived through something like that when they were 15. But this isn’t what strength looks like to me or feels like to me and I’ve never felt like a stronger person because of it. I hope I don’t sound like a complete bitch, his death changed my life and has had me fighting publicly against self-harm since the year it happened. I am a huge suicide prevention advocate. I just find it strange that events that could easily rip me apart become just minor pin points in my life, just circumstance that helped mold my beliefs. I will never understand the part of me that throws fits over stale bread but stays composed during times of crisis. Is it a survival tactic? Is my brain stronger than I realize? Is something trying to protect me?

I don’t have any answers but some days, it makes me feel stranger than I already am.

 

that little yellow pill.

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I cheeked my medication for years. For those of you who don’t know what “cheeking” is, it’s a treatment kid term for hiding, obviously on the side of your cheek or under your tongue. If any of you have ever been to treatment or rehab, you know that they check your mouth with a flash light to deter you from this common avoidance method. So once I got to treatment, I was screwed. I had been cheeking since I was 13 and discovered that these meds, although effective, turned me into something I hated. I would always fake swallow, run to my room and immediately dispose of the pills. I was rarely smart enough to flush them down the toilet, however, and by the time I was 15, my mom had discovered my secret stash when our family dog almost died from ingesting them all.

 

For years, I lied about my habit. I wouldn’t even call it lying, it was more denial because I had so forcefully convinced myself that I was fine unmedicated. And don’t get me wrong, there are survivors out there who do just fine without medication; some who prefer yoga and mediation or chinese herbs. I however, am not that lucky. I do not have enough skill to do such things, the mind power to survive to go at it alone. I need my medication and I need it every day. And I didn’t understand this until just last year. It took a very intense relationship to realize just how badly I needed to be stable… and just how unstable I was.

I was with Matt for about five years. I had known him for much longer though; he was one of the main reasons I think I survived the Utah treatment center. For 17 months, he wrote me every week and assured me that I wasn’t insane, that he would be waiting when I came home. Next to my brother, his support meant everything to me. When I came back to California after being in the middle of nowhere, he was there just like he promised and we got pretty serious right away. Another huge change that happened quickly after I came home was that I started cheeking my medication again. There was no unpleasant nurse or house staff shoving flashing lights down my throat and once again, I had convinced myself I was okay without any doctoral help. I had really only been on a medication regime because it was forced and I wanted to follow the rules so I could graduate on time.

Slowly but surely, our perfect little world started deteriorating and by the time I was 21, I had become a monster. I was constantly yelling and screaming, calling him horrible names and throwing anything I could get my hands on. It was like I was 5 years old again, at least in mind set. Surprisingly, he stayed with me through all of my tantrums and uncontrollable outbursts (some of them so bad I can’t even begin to describe the scene of events) and I am forever thankful for that. Ultimately, breaking up was my idea. Although I would tell him a whole strew of lies about why, honestly I felt like I was destroying his life. Bit by bit, I was wearing him thin and tearing him down and he deserved so much better (which I am happy to say, he has now). But when I found out he had cancer, I couldn’t help but feel partly responsible. Not for the diagnosis, but the motility. I had read articles on cancer research that states stress on the body can be a probable cause for transgression and I was no walk in the park. Loving me, even to this day, is difficult and I can’t help but feel guilty, even if it may be ridiculous to even consider.

 

I know a lot of things in my life would be so different if I had kept taking my medication. Relationships saved, both friendly and romantic, amongst other things. But there are days when I look at my little yellow pills and I quiver. Will I really have to be on these for the rest of my life? And don’t even get me started on the health problems. Insomnia, weight gain, raised blood pressure, migraines, memory loss and of course, the inability to have children. Yes, sometimes I wonder if the negative effects outweigh the stability. And perhaps, someday, I can be like those people who don’t need medication anymore, who have discovered natural ways to overcome (or at least stabilize) their mania and depression. But for now, it’s a small yellow pill, two times a day, seven days a week. And that pill is saving my sanity.

absent father syndrome.

this is a spoken word piece i wrote a few months ago. it has been a huge part of my recovery process.

 

they say that changes in mood and personality are common after a stroke.
these changes include depression, irritability, aggressiveness and immense apathy.
be patient and supportive for these changes are only temporary.
temporary, as in, lasting for only a limited period of time, non permanent
like a headache or a sprained ankle or a bruised knee.
at least, that’s what all the medical pamphlets will say.
they will forget to mention the evaporation of a biological blueprint
the signs of a man abandoning his responsibilities as a parent.
they will not give my mother lessons on how to prepare her children
for an absent father.
because the only evidence of negligence will be on the inside
and there is no pamphlet for that.

 

you will learn how to walk again, how to move one leg in front of the other
without stumbling to the ground,
how to form proper sentences without slurring your speech.
your movements became robotic and foreign
and the stronger you became, the harder it was to reach you.
you had nothing left to give but ghost faces and simple bouts.
but I still told stories about you with pride
always waiting for outstretched arms and goodnight kisses.
I tried to fill all your dark places with light,
trusted you even when I didn’t want to
and loved you even when I thought I couldn’t.
but you suppose they cut into your artery and removed
whatever it was that made you human,
that the doctors stapled you completely shut, forgot a screw or two
or maybe you just lost some circuits on the way
because there was a

missing

in your chest that never used to be.

 

I will come to you completely wrecked
a messy headed girl in a lavender dress
spinning herself wild and so incredibly terrified
of the demons waging wars inside of her brain.
I will tell you I need you.
you will tell me I am being too loud
and to “remember, Paige, that only freaks suffer from mental disorders
and freaks belong in hospital gowns
and you don’t really want to go back there, do you?”
you would think that being one of the oldest in a house with nine children
would have instilled in you a basic instinct to protect.
but I never found a safe place in you.
you always created ways to become part demon yourself
and you made our house feel like a funeral.
I bet I could pull you apart and I’d only find grief.

 

and maybe I always knew you weren’t okay.
my skin can still feel the cold bathroom floor against the burning red beltmarks
can still smell the alcohol on your breath and hear the locking of the garagedoor
where you grabbed me and whispered
“most days I wish we never adopted you”.
I don’t remember you healthy,
always in a state of wilting,
a circus tent sagging,
business suit like a second skin.
You were always a little more monster than man.
You took your insecurities and built us a mansion out of each one,
a giant house with a big red door
and enough rooms for you to hide when your children came looking for you.
But still your silence was loud like a drum.
I could always hear you coming,
rattling down the hallways
with empty beer bottles and bones made of metal.
when did you start hating your own happiness?

 

it hits me in the middle of the grocery store
that it takes more than a stroke to create malevolence in a person.
that perhaps that day, they surgically removed all the good in you
because you were born with so much evil in your blood
that it began pushing all of the kindness and integrity out,
eventually clogging your arteries and causing your heart to stop.
your body got tired of pretending you were a decent man.
you see, every time I find something worth defending, I remember.
I remember the day you told me that you thought I was a failure
that you no longer possessed the capability to be supportive
and that my collection of so called catastrophes had made you embarrassed ofme.
I was no longer a daughter to you,
but rather a down payment for all the things you felt you deserved.
and those things did not include the past 24 years of commitment.
I finally realize you were just clawing your dirty fingernails into my skin
looking for a place to bury your own mistakes
…and I was just trying to live.

 

at Christmas, I will settle for halfway hugs and counterfeit comments
about how proud you are of me,
purposely portrayed in front of my grandparents to keep the entire room
believing that you are everything a father should be.
I will read your once a year e-mail that comes exactly a week after my birthday
because picking up a phone is nothing short of an inconvenience.
But I won’t protect myself from you anymore,
won’t pretend that you are anything more than the rust on your
great big elephant chains that you keep trying to shackle me to.
Most days I convince myself that I made all the good parts of you up.
because it’s been fifteen years,
and this state of parental abandonment reads
anything but temporary.

 

 

 

Bipolar Disorder and My First Day of High School.

Let’s go back to that first day of my freshman year of high school. It was orientation and I couldn’t seem to grab hold of anyone long enough to even make an acquaintance. I was wandering around aimlessly and anxiously alone. I hadn’t seen most of my group of friends since 8th grade graduation. I had stopped returning phone calls, stopped answering pleas to hang out and spent most of my summer being watched over by my mother, although that part is a blur. My friends slowly went opposite ways and honestly, I think they were scared of me. I thought high school was going to be an opportunity to start over but it seems my reputation had followed me and would only grow worse over time. But nobody understood that I was unstable and mostly unmedicated; they all just thought I was strange and mentally incapable of being normal, that the things I did were for attention.

 

I walked into the library to hide. The corners were dark and uncharted and I knew I could quietly breakdown without anyone paying attention. As I came through the giant oak door, I felt something cold hit the side of my cheek and fall to the carpet. It was a half empty bottle of Excedrin. I’ll never forget the way the black letters glared violently up at me, rolling back and forth.

“Don’t you want to take the rest of these? Hopefully they kill you this time.”

It was Eric, someone I had considered a good friend in middle school, someone who had been there for me, and he had now chosen to treat me as though my existence had become unacceptable.

I was too mortified to cry. To move, even.

 

That was the day I decided I would keep quiet about my disorder, that my monsters would remain a personal battle I would never have to explain to anybody. I spent six years “in hiding”, although I think a lot of people knew there wasn’t something quite right about some of my behaviors; the lying, the promiscuity, the lashes of terrifying anger. To be honest, I never took it seriously until I was 22. I flushed thousands of dollars worth of medication down the toilet, sat silently (but angrily) in every therapy session, put on a pseudo face for everyone and lost a lot of important relationships. Although in the beginning, I felt like nobody knew how to handle a 13 year old with bipolar disorder, as I got older, opportunities were given to me to receive help and I brushed them under the carpet, something I didn’t realize until a few ears ago. I truly thought if I just ignored it, it would go away. Even when I had people at my Utah therapeutic boarding school, screaming in my face that I needed help, I never acknowledged it. And for that, I suffered immensely.

 

I know, I sound ridiculous, like a kid who clearly had years of therapy. But trust me, there are a lot of treatment methods I suffered through that I don’t agree with and a lot of dark things I have yet to come to terms with. It’s not all “rainbows and butterflies and compromise”. Some days, I am still hell to be around and I do a lot of unexplainable things that even I don’t understand. I’ve just come to terms with what I experienced when I was younger and I know now that as much as I want to, I can’t blame my father for all of it.

Yes, I have severe daddy issues too. Of course, add it the list.

 

the night of my diagnosis.

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I am sitting on freshly washed sheets. My bed is perfection out of a magazine , no wrinkle in sight, every pillow is placed with intent neatness and I am uncomfortable. I am always uncomfortable. This room has never felt like home to me and tonight, it seems more foe than friend.

I am violently sobbing.
I have been empty for months and tonight my mother has finally given me a reason to succumb to these newly adopted feelings of hopelessness. I sneak into her bathroom, all shaky hands and fumbling fingers, and stuff my pockets full of any pills I can find.         There’s a lot of them.
I bring them downstairs and pour them all over my father’s place mat. I swallow a few and scream at my mother that I want to take them all, I am going to take them all and I proceed to scribble down words on notebook paper that nobody can decipher. Even to this day, I have no idea what I was trying to write, which is parallel to what I was feeling inside of me when I grabbed that pen. Maybe if I was older and had better understood what this was, it would have been nothing short of a suicide note. Or perhaps a plea for help… rather than an amateur, messy attempt at an early escape.

My mother, completely horrified, calls 911.

I don’t remember driving to the hospital or being interviewed by a psychiatrist or filling out paper work. I don’t even remember if my mother was comforting or angry towards me. I just know that she was there and she watched hesitantly as I sprawled my body across three plastic blue chairs and stared at the television as miracle gro infomercials blinked across the screen. It was a sterile, white, freezing cold room, everything characteristic of a hospital… but I expected something different out of the psychiatric unit. Something you see in the movies, I suppose; something that makes you very aware that you’ve done something unearthly, something worth shackling every limb. However, it was seemingly normal, even the people waiting right along with me. And that’s one of the things that stood out to me most that night and the most important artifact I will come to learn about mental illness; 99% of it looks like complete normalcy.

By the time we left, it was around 9 in the morning and my body was exhausted. I could have slept for days, something I had managed to secretly do for months now. But “over sleeping is a serious sign of depression” and I was too young to be in that state of mind, a doctor told my mother. She made immediate plans for me to attend a sleep over that night. I had no time to decompress, to digest, to be alone. I was on suicide watch, though my mother would never admit it.

I didn’t speak about what had happened that night to any of my friends. I was cold and quiet and unresponsive. And by Monday morning, somehow most everyone had still found out. I still had the hospital bracelet wrapped around my wrist, branding me as a new member of the mentally ill. And my bloodstream was pumped full of anti-depressants meant for a 20 year old adult.

I didn’t know what to do.
What do you say? What do you say to a room full of 8th graders? How do you tell a 13 year old that you are in an inconceivable amount of pain…. and expect them to understand? To not judge you, to not make you feel crazier than you already do.

I would learn very early that a lot of them, in fact, didn’t understand. My first day of freshmen year would include a former friend of mine throwing an empty bottle of pills at my head and laughing hysterically before running off. Advances like this would become normal to me.

I remember saying to myself in that moment “this is just the beginning.”

and it was.

 

let me introduce myself.

hello blogging world,
my name is Paige. I am a 26 year old living in San Diego, California. I am a licensed cosmetologist and a certified make-up artist, which means I’ve attempted a lot of websites before… fashion, make-up, hair and all things beauty but I was never personally attached to them.  It was always factual or something I always ended up reading somewhere else. There was nothing personal about any of it. As my 27th birthday rounds the corner, I am realizing I am nowhere near where I should be in life. And no, I don’t believe there’s a set time for everyone but I have goals and dreams that are farther away than they ever were… and all I can do is watch them pass by.  Because I am stuck in my sickness.

Among all those other things, I have bipolar disorder. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was 13, panic disorder when I was 21 and agoraphobia last year. As much as I wish to exclaim with confidence “I have bipolar disorder but it does not have me!”  that would be a bold face lie. It’s had me in it’s death grip since I was 11 years old, the worst episodes being in my late teens. Lately, it’s been back with a vengeance, crippling depression and manic episodes I don’t remember… I spend a lot of days in my bed. I’ve always had a journal but I wanted something more public to let people know that they are not alone. I don’t want to say I was judged harshly as a child but I was definitely misunderstood and I still think a lot of the information available today about bipolar disorder is very factual, medical and repetitive. I think people are scared of it when really, it’s quite a tangible disorder that a lot of the world suffers from. But I’m tired of being private about it. I know people are silently suffering and I hope to be a voice to some of them. And if not, I hope someone will ride this crazy journey with me.

I am not a professional by any means, just a girl on a journey of discovery and immense soul searching.