NaNoWriMo: Introversion for Introverts


I have my outline, my sketches, and my worksheets all filled out. I spent most of October hidden away as I prepared for this triathlon of thought, imagination, and the clicking sounds of the keyboard.

I’ve completed 25,000 words already and we’re only a third of the way through. I’m on fire!

I’m also off line. I’m not writing anything else this month, except for this one article, and that’s all I write. Except for my novel.

I’m very excited. I don’t think I’ve been this excited about writing anything. I’ve been passionate in short pieces, but a novel? I think this may be the longest committed relationship I’ll ever be in.

Just don’t expect to see me on the street or eating turkey or celebrating my birthday outside of the confines of the world I’ve created. I’ll return soon enough and will have so much to tell you!

A Bad Day: Why Medication Is NOT a Weakness

Wile E Coyote

I forgot to take my Lamictil last night. I feel like shit today. I took it this morning when I remembered but then I forgot to take my Prozac. I was dragging all day and nearly in tears because it was horrible.

I didn’t feel half as bad as I did before medication. I’m surprised I lasted all those years without it. I should be dead and somehow, I’ve clawed my way through to the other side.

Yesterday, I listened to a woman cry out her frustration on the phone. She has fibromyalgia, which is basically your body telling you to go-fuck-yourself. It’s mistaken for Lupus or rheumatoid arthritis and is often misdiagnosed for years.

No one believes her pain is real because they can’t see it, but it destroys her days and nights. She battles through every moment of pain and knows very little relief. A single mom and facing the indifference of her employer, she works until she drops. And the vicious cycle repeats.

Fibromyalgia’s physical pain is probably the best analogy I can make to how Bipolar feels in the mind. Both have something to do with the nervous system but the damage occurs in different ways. One is physical, one is “psychological,” and the people who carry these illnesses suffer in silence.

I do not want to be that person again, suffering and scaring my loved ones. The medication helps so much because when I forgot to take it today, when my routine was interrupted, the aftermath reminded me that I am very ill. I will not get better without my meds. I’ll fight this battle for life.

I talked to one of my friends about how down I felt, how hard it was to accept that I had Bipolar, and how hard it was to accept that it wasn’t my fault. I’m angry at society and the people who hurt me when I couldn’t defend myself. I’m angry at the people who made fun of me and shamed me for being different.

I rage for the broken, little girl that I found in a broom closet, beneath the stairs, in the basement of my subconscious. There is so much anger and all it does is poison me.

I cried to my friend on the phone, and instead of telling me it was going to be all right, he said, “I’m here.” His words lifted a burden from my chest. There was no “advice.” He has no idea what my illness is like and he acknowledges that he can’t fix it no matter what he does.

It took a while for him to get to this place where he stopped trying to fix me, but only after seven years of friendship. He watched me deteriorate. His frustration was as unhelpful as his advice but he’s a true friend. He kept trying until he figured out the equation.

I can’t think of anything that anyone has ever done to make me feel as safe as his two words. He didn’t promise a better future because that’s up to me. Fragile as I was, his understanding filled in some of the slash marks the illness leaves now and then, soothing the wound like a balm of Comfrey.

I told him my deepest fear, that I would age into this lonely, old lady who kept forgetting to take her medication. I’d end up wandering through Target in my dressing gown only to have a melt-down because corn pads were no longer in stock. This is a viable reality for me. Jail time could be an option.

He didn’t laugh, though there was a dark humor to the scenario. Instead, he offered to remind me to take my medication. In that moment, he not only comforted me, but my acceptance of his help comforted him. It’s not easy for anyone to walk this tightrope of well-being or to watch from the ground.

Just because I feel better doesn’t allow me to deny that I have an illness or that medication is the reason I’m okay. For nine years, I denied that I had asthma or that I needed medication to manage it. After semi-annual bouts of bronchitis and increasing allergic reactions that set off moments of terror as I fought for breath, I broke down. I take my medication daily and if I don’t, I pay.

I will do my civic duty. I won’t let my family and friends worry needlessly. I won’t grumble at my friend when he tells me to take my meds. I’ll swallow the damn pills and remind myself that I may be ill, but I don’t have to be miserable.

©2017 I.O. Kirkwood. All Rights Reserved.

Part Two: How Treated Bipolar II Presents to Those Who Love You



I have never felt this good in my life. Right now, I’m experiencing an irritable anxiety (mixed state) and instead of crawling into bed to hide, I’m dressed and warmed up for the gym. I’m not imposing my irritability on the people I love—road rage does not count—and I’m not burrowing into a hole of misery.

You should have seen my ex’s face when I told him I was back to my “old self.” I’ve known him for over twenty years so I could tell by the set of his mouth, the way it wobbled just a bit, that he was not pleased with the current situation. I was once again the woman he’d first dated all those years ago but new and improved. If he’d just stuck it out, we would still be married. Disloyalty has its price.

I’m ready for a relationship now. I’m not willing to settle for the man-children I’ve dated in the past. I have my heart set on a mature relationship, one where he takes care of me and I take care of him, like family. Where there’s a meeting of not only hearts, but minds and spirits. I know I will give my all to a worthy man.

My children are over the moon. My younger son gave me a hug today because I had anxiety so badly I trembled. My stomach hurt but I was quiet and I didn’t lash out at him. “Do you need a hug?” he asked. I sighed in defeat. “Yes.”

He hugged me and he didn’t seem so tense. He comforted me, and though it didn’t make me feel any less anxious, we both felt better. He felt empowered because I’d let him inside my hellish moment and I felt better because I didn’t feel alone. I felt seen and I felt loved.

My friends are still worried about me. I’ve been holed up with my laptop churning out articles and poems and listening to music non-stop. But I don’t make plans and break them anymore. If I say I’m going to be there, dammit, I’ll be there. I’ve just learned to make better commitments of my time. #INFJ

Everything I tried to do to organize myself, my life, is paying off now. When I was ill, I couldn’t get past the research but I’m glad I did it. From zero to sixty is an apt description.

At work, I am efficient, positive, and goal-oriented. I still need leave now and then because I feel like I do today, but I can also work tomorrow’s 13-hour day I’ve planned in my head as my gut churns for reasons that I can’t discern.

As far as ritual goes, I was so miserable that I had no discipline in my life. I have come into my power as a human being. I don’t need others to show me the way.

Now I wake up at five in the morning, because I write best in the morning, and I have a discrete set of activities I must perform. Those activities may be done in any order, but the actual tasks within are in a set order so I don’t lose my damn mind. On the other side of my work schedule, I’m developing a set of evening activities.

One small step at a time, I’m changing my life, not just habits but perspectives and illogical beliefs. I’ve shed layers of my past that seemed caught in the grip of my illness. Six months later, I feel whole. I don’t think I’ve ever felt like this before.

Granted, I still cycle through happiness and doubt, but the length of each cycle has shortened from weeks to multiple cycles in a day. That means at the top of the wheel, I’m happy. On the sides of the wheel, I’m at rest, and on the bottom, I’m having a bout of existential dread or irritability.

For my type of personality, this is considered normal. I have higher highs and lower lows than others, and that’s just how I am, but medication has balanced these experiences. Happiness is no longer a precursor to misery, and the length of my happiness has increased while my misery has decreased. Since I’m human, misery is not going to wink out of existence.

I used to worry when I had bouts of intense elation. Colors were more intense. Sunlight was a texture. The sense of oneness with my environment was supernatural.

When this happened, I knew I would suffer for at least a week. I chalked it up to ‘as above, so below, but in a different manner.’ I couldn’t feel this ecstasy without experiencing the opposite but the cost had become too great. The ecstatic moments shortened and came fewer and further between the bouts of depression and anxiety.

Ecstasy has evolved into contentment. I can pursue goals, organize my world, and enjoy my achievements. I’m now as gentle on myself as I was with others yet I’m no longer a door mat.

I have no desire to commit suicide. Life is good. There are still moments where I say, “I want to die.” The urge only lasts for about ten seconds and the wheel turns upward. I’m not drowning. My wings are on my back now, instead of on my feet and holding me under water.

I’ve also noticed that the urge happens maybe twice a week, and only when I’m faced with something unpleasant. I’m putting it down to habit and the fact that I’ve only been on medication for six months. I’m still learning what belongs to my personality and what belonged to the illness.

Medication is only part of my process. Working out, taking supplements, doing things that nourish my mind, eating well, and relaxing my standards of perfection all contribute to my overall well-being. The medication was instrumental, but to get the most out of it, I must salvage only what supports my new outlook. It’s still work, but now I have the grit and I’m going to take this to every level I can before I take my last breath.

If you want to feel well, whether for the first time or again, and anti-depressants just make it worse, you might have Bipolar II. Resources can be found in a prior article called The Hidden Illness: Bipolar II.

If you want to know how untreated Bipolar II can look, check out the article Part One: How Untreated Bipolar II Presents to Those Who Love You.

If you think you want to commit suicide or are close to making that decision, please read Suicide: How You Can Help Yourself.

Meanwhile, I’m going to hit the gym for an hour of cardio and another hour of weight training. Maybe it will wear out my anxiety. Wish me luck.

©2017 I.O. Kirkwood. All Rights Reserved.

Beautiful Nightmare


She is made of ravens and wolves.
She moves like midnight. Stumbling in her dark,
I feel the hot breath of mortality against my cheek.

I chained her struggle beneath my skin
until I learned that she made me
—not prey
—not pray.
Her claw and bite marks form
a dream catcher of scars within my mind.

Our peace is uneasy.
I’ve unleashed her in increments
still terrified of her hungers.
She fucks like a beautiful nightmare.

In battle, she leaves no head unturned,
no taboo unmolested,
no limb unreckoned, the last digit tallied
in her ledger of destruction.

She is fierce in her love,
in her hate, in her
sense of justice that is blind and armed.
She records every slight to our person.

She is the horror of beauty.
Deny her, embrace her;
like any other creature,
she longs to be loved.

©2017. I.O. Kirkwood. All Rights Reserved.

SUICIDE: How You Can Help Yourself


WARNING: This is a very sensitive, even volatile, subject. If you want to respond, please do so when your rational mind is engaged. Step away, think about how you feel, and comment appropriately. Be respectful, be kind, and be informed.

Mr. Cornell most likely committed suicide because he was on an anti-depressant that made him go off the deep end. Even though he might have taken his medication religiously, the treatment made him feel worse.

Of course, this is speculation on my part but I have years of personal experience and research to support my opinion. I went fucking crazy in the middle of ritual thanks to Prozac. Gods only know what I would have done if I was alone.

I’m very sorry for his family’s loss and the loss that Mr. Bennington’s family is experiencing. I know this pain. My heart aches for them and I relive the aftermath of my favorite uncle’s suicide (guess what? He was bipolar too). I hope my post doesn’t cause further pain and hopefully, my words shed some light on the madness.

It sounds like a spur of the moment decision, right? And it was, but the underlying condition was years in the making. Mr. Cornell’s and Mr. Bennington’s suicides most likely were built on this foundation. Back in the 60’s and 70’s, people killed themselves with drugs. Our opioid epidemic and alcoholic culture exists because people are miserable and killing themselves slowly—anti-depressants might be a hidden epidemic.

Truth Bomb Alert: If medication, ANY medication, makes you suffer more than it helps you, it is the WRONG medication. You sail your proverbial ship and doctors who don’t listen to you should be fired.

Just in case you missed my last post, my desire to end my life was planned. I had decided that if the illness stole one more precious moment from my life, I was dead already. I was at the point where I was saying daily, “I want to die,” or, “I want to find a hole where I can hide and sleep for a [month] [year] [decade].” Sometimes I said both multiple times per day. Out loud. I knew something was wrong but no one seemed able to help me.

I made plans as if I was going to tough it out too, hoping that pursuing things that used to make me happy would end the torture. I would put a good face on it. No one knew how ill I was except for my kids. I stopped writing. I love to write. The illness took away the very thing I was born to do.

Who wants to live trapped inside herself? Who wants to fight himself to have an interaction with another human being?  I am so lucky my doctor is as dedicated to research as much as to care. I thank her every day for recognizing my illness.

Truth Bomb Alert: If you recognize that you have an illness, you have a moral obligation to seek treatment. You aren’t responsible for the onus but you are responsible for how you respond. Adults take their medications and pair the biochemical treatment with other types of non-pharmaceutical treatments.

I have always had a very positive outlook throughout my life with the understanding that my thoughts created my reality. My life was not getting better no matter how hard I tried. I’ve had years of cognitive behavioral- and psycho-therapy, taken multiple medications, and seen many different doctors who couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t responding to treatment. I did everything I could (and now that I’m well, all that work is paying off). I would have tried for another ten years for my family’s and friends’ sake.

Torture victims want to survive as much as they want to die. I didn’t want to kill myself. I didn’t want to leave my family and friends, but I disappeared in other ways. I was alive, miserable, and still hurting my loved ones. I may have caused more harm living. I know I already have and here I am breathing and dealing with regrets and making amends.

Truth Bomb Alert: The suicide of anyone is about the survivors so keep your fucking “cop-out” and “coward” comments to yourself. Just because you wouldn’t die by your own hand doesn’t mean you get to steam roll everyone else who might commit the act or who are dealing with the aftermath. That smacks of psychopathy and if you don’t understand this concept, please Google psychopathy.

Anti-intellectualism is part of the problem. Shaming those who have a mental illness is another part of the problem. Who wants to identify herself with an illness on the mental health spectrum? Who wants to say a “little crazy” runs in his family? That would be social suicide in most scenarios.

Sure, there are selfish and destructive people who don’t care about others. Usually they kill others first and then commit suicide when they can’t escape capture. But most of us are just trying to get by in a modern world that confuses us, bombards us with unrealistic expectations, and is filled with people who tell us we’re worthless because misery loves company. I’ve been the reason some of my friends have NOT committed suicide—because I understand.

Repeat my mantra, the one I have my children repeat: IF YOU ARE CONSIDERING THE ACT OF SUICIDE, GET HELP.  If your doctor isn’t helping you, find another doctor. Be proactive in your journey to wellness. Illnesses run in families, just like heart disease or cystic fibrosis, and all of these illnesses can kill you, one way or another.

I’m not saying if you’ve already decided you want to commit suicide. Please don’t let it get to that level of insanity. My point is that if suicide becomes an act that you consider at least once a week, something’s wrong. You’ve been compromised by an illness. This is the time to get help.

The occasional, “What would happen if I just turned the wheel,” contemplation is not indicative of mental illness. Humans are curious by nature and death terrifies and fascinates us. Mental illness is when a reasonable behavior is magnified to an alarming and neurotic degree. Untreated, it could turn into psychosis.

Truth Bomb Alert: Suicide is a type of psychosis. Suicide is not an act anyone wants to commit. I will say this again: Suicide is not an act anyone wants to commit. 

Ask for help from someone you trust or a mental health provider. Get to it before you can’t help yourself. Children and adults can do research on the Internet and this allows them to participate in your journey to wellness. Knowledge is power. Empower your loved ones.

If you don’t understand suicide, then you are blessed. This does not negate your suffering and struggles or how well you cope with life. People like me want to be like you and proper treatment makes this possible. But if you try to understand (instead of making it about you), your efforts might save a life. Your compassion might save someone you love.

Be kind to each other. Please share if you feel this post would benefit others.


P.s. Nasty posts will be destroyed. See WARNING above.

©2017 I.O. Kirkwood. All Rights Reserved.

#BeKindToEachOther #Suicide #SurvivorsGuilt #TruthBomb #NotaMoralWeakness #GetHelp #TreatmentIsBravery #StandProud #LiveWell #LoveHard

The Alchemist



I traced your inked skin with my fingers,
studied the history of your hell,
plucked the piercings that recreated your pain,
that displayed your shame.

I could not protect you from
the Monster under the bed who,
on occasion, joined the family
at the breakfast table and sipped coffee.

Your anger poisoned the prana you breathed,
twisted into mistakes repeated.
As you free fell, you prayed the ground
would swallow you on impact.

Only you may forgive the child you were,
when the flower of emotion
became the ivy of self-loathing.
There is no outside source for self-love.

You are the Alchemist:
dross Calcinated to ash, anger Dissolved in tears,
truth Separated from belief, until
present and future Conjuncts in vision.

Allow your ego to Putrefy, Ferment
new wisdoms, vanquish old fears
that stalk you until the gold-eyed feather
grants context to your flights of horror.

Distill the lessons learned.
Coagulate a foundation upon which your
daughter will rise to peaks unexplored,
the gold of your soul reflected in her eyes.

Over seven years, seven stages of transformation
stripped you to your essence. You removed
the piercings, the ink that did not belong,
left the past behind, let your monsters rest.

©2017. I.O. Kirkwood. All Rights Reserved.