An Open Letter to Melissa

An Open Letter_awkward

The awkward girl without a book.

An Open Letter_highschool

The awkward girl with a book.

An Open Letter_now

The confident woman I’ve become. Thanks for helping me to make this possible.

Dear Missy:

I’m writing this letter and making it public now that school shootings have become a “normal” fact of life. To me, you are kindness incarnate, and though I may never reach such heights, your nature is a standard that I’ve made my own.

I was an awkward girl: small, thin, and poorly dressed. Your first instinct was to protect me. I don’t know why. I don’t know which of your experiences motivated you, but you saw me. You worried for me.

At the lunch table, when I made conversation so awkward with your friends because I hid in a book, I knew you tried to include me. You hoped I would swim in waters that I couldn’t navigate. Maybe when I was five or six, it would have worked; that was before everything went wrong for me.

My existence was hell on earth, and throughout my life, when things were the most dangerous for me, an angel has stepped up to show me the way out. You stand out in my memories as all the other angels do. While your efforts to bring me out of my shell, to protect me, appeared to have failed, you showed me the way out.

Each time I help another, I remember you. You didn’t care what I looked like. You saw through my ‘weirdness’ and my attitude. If I saw you in the hallways, you always had a smile to greet me.

That continued kindness made an impact on my very self-hood. You helped me save myself in ways you can’t imagine. Perhaps I would have shot up a school of innocents if you hadn’t reached out. Or died of an overdose somewhere on the east side of Baltimore.

There was so much potential for an unhappy ending.

The reason I’m telling you this is I want you to know you made a difference. You hoped I would thrive. I do now, but it was a long road. Your small actions were one of the lamps that lit the path to where I am now.

Others have expressed their admiration for your kindness, and the way I remember you, you will aver my praise and tell me that you didn’t help enough.  I say to you, seeds are small, but they grow into plants, crops, flowers, and trees. Never forget that every little kindness is powerful. That every plant that grows under your care will thrive even if you don’t see the fruit of your gentle labors.

I want you to know that when a butterfly flutters its wings, I think of you.

Thanks for reaching out,

Gwen

©2018. I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved for text and pictures.

 

Relapse Is No Fun

pendulum

Keep in mind that this a first person narrative based on reading and experiences over the years. I highly recommend that you do your own research. New discoveries are being made all the time.

Bipolar is a physical illness in the brain, one that if not treated, has the potential to shrink the corpus callosum and areas of the cortex. Untreated, it can devolve into dementia and other cognitive issues. Even with plasticity, your brain can’t keep up with untreated Bipolar as it “eats” your brain.

Bipolar is a life-long illness that cannot be cured. Bipolar has nothing to do with learning how to control your moods or thinking “positively” or the endorphins created by forcing yourself to smile. I’ve tried acupuncture, CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), doctor visit after doctor visit. I even tried the Celestine Prophecy without much success.

I’ve also discovered that medication doesn’t make Bipolar go away but does make it possible for me to live with the illness. I take my medication like a nun saying the rosary.

When I found out that relapse was a common event in the lives of Bipolar II individuals, I felt like I’d been hit by one of those Japanese bullet trains. It doesn’t go away? This shit’s gonna come back and get me again? Hospitalization?

The doctors talk about early warning signs of a manic or depressive episode. I’ve learned that I yell at my cats before a manic episode. Then I clean house like Serial Mom.

Finally, I’m depressed, and I sleep.  I can sleep away an entire weekend if no one stops me. I avoid things that need to get done, like laundry and paying the bills.

As I pull through another depression, I’ve discovered that the medicine helps more than I realized. The first spell of wellness is a rush. Then reality sets in. Bipolar doesn’t go away but it can’t take over my life like it used to.

Today, as my mind tumbled over everything that might have triggered this mild relapse, I decided to try that “smile” exercise. I was astonished. It worked! I ate a bowl of raisin bran, drank some water, smiled some more and now I’m happily writing away.

As I learn to manage my illness, other factors set in. Like peri-menopause. And getting older. Due to an injury, I am unable to work out, which is a line of defense against Bipolar. Do not underestimate the magic of living as healthy as you can.

Flax seed, fish oil, and other types of supplements and fresh foods that are chock full of B vitamins and Omega 3s & 6s help improve and maintain the think tank in your skull. They also help me remember why I walked it a room and what I was supposed to get.

Surprisingly, there is an ample and powerful first line of defense against relapses of all sorts. Water. A hell of a lot more than you’re probably drinking right now.

And get rid of that soda. It’s poison, calorie-free or not. No binge drinking alcohol. or binge drinking coffee. Moderation is the key because Bipolar is an illness of extremes.

So, yeah. Relapse. It’s real. Keep your mood journal and you’ll be able to tell when one is coming on. Keep taking your medicine. Keep drinking water. Talk to your psychiatric care physician (I just had my medicine upped to 300 mg and a supplement added).

And don’t get down on yourself because of a relapse. It’s a normal and expected part of the illness and there are ways to mitigate the magnitude of a relapse. You’re not going crazy. I swear.

©2018. I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved for text. Image may be subject to copyright.

Confessions of a Crazy Woman

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I believe in telepathy. I believe in Twin Flames, but beliefs are irrational. I want facts. I want to confirm that I’m not crazy. Or that I am.

There is the Man in my head. He speaks to me and no one else can hear him. But he isn’t a spirit guide because he loses his temper with me. He isn’t a direct line to the ineffable though he surprises me with the “timbre” of his voice when he’s pleased with something I’ve done.

The Man is a solitary practitioner, just like me, and trained in the same tradition as I. A tradition that believes telepathy is a very real thing. He’s close to my age, and we’ve been carrying on in this fashion coming on eight years. Eight years. And what has kept this going, even though he gets angry and has hurt my feelings with something he said recently, is that he has never steered me wrong.

Examples:

  1. The first time I asked him for something, he told me it would happen. $500, which I needed desperately because of medical bills from 2009.
  2. A few days later, my bestie calls and has a breakdown over her financial situation. She was afraid she couldn’t pay her rent.
  3. It wasn’t a hard decision for me. I asked him to reroute the energy to my bestie.
  4. She called me a few days later with wonder in her voice. She had received $495 of back pay for child support. Her rent was paid.

This money thing is not an easy bending of reality, which is what prayers and spells are meant to do. One person alone might not see fruition until years later.

But two of us were involved. Both of us had strong emotions of protection and an alignment of purpose. I don’t expect any prayer or spell to manifest so quickly and this meant I was dealing with a very disciplined mind.

  1. I was in a classic narcissist-empath, abusive relationship back in 2010. Let’s just say I kept taking him back. The sex was yum and I was in my thirties.
  2. I took a little over a year, but The man kept saying, “Dump him. He’s an asshole.”
  3. He kept telling me I was amazing and better than the douche-rocket, pussy-hound, poor-excuse of a man with the amazing sex and the long, beautiful hair.
  4. I dumped the narcissist. I completely shut him out of my life. I defended my boundaries and my integrity

The Man helped me exact revenge. He has a very passionate approach to everything he does. I will not discuss the details here.

The Man has protected me, has been loyal to me, and has saved me from myself on more than one occasion. He says that I helped him become a better man.

He has a daughter and she was kept from him. When he was able to visit with her again, she was less than pleased by his assertion of parental rights. They fought constantly either with words or her silence and his frustration. He was at his wit’s end, which doesn’t take long for him when dealing with girly, emotional stuff.

The Man asked me how to cope. I told him, “She’s been filled with poison all this time and at a young age. The only thing you can do is meet her anger with love. She wouldn’t be angry if she didn’t care.”

He followed my advice, and it worked. He was delighted, even overboard with his excitement overthe breakthrough. He started applying this path to success in other relationships and interactions. His life has improved.

That’s the telepathy part. I still question myself despite the little signs and the way the Universe speaks to me with random people, media, and Nature herself. The Twin Flame part of it is a little trickier.

I thought soul mates, or Twin Flames, were a bunch of hooey. In a sea of seven billion people, how could one person be the one for you? I considered that there were multiple, compatible people for each person. Realistically, that made more sense.

But now I’m not so sure. When I went on medication, which made me question every aspect of my existence as my health improved, the Man was so happy. As I started to reclaim my life, he realized then how sick I had been, and still was if I didn’t take the medication. He kicked himself over and over for that. He’s got this guilt complex that I don’t understand.

The Man has remained, when so many other things have departed from my life and good riddance. The Man knows me at my worst. And he stayed. He stood by my side (figuratively) as everything unfolded, as his frustration with my, “I’m not ready yets,” and failures to show in potential Salem meet-and-greets accumulated.

I wasn’t ready for any of it. The Man professed love. He said that he fell in love with me the moment I asked to have my test go to my bestie. He even asked me if I knew why he’d fallen for me? I figured it was because I was that nice of a person.

“No. I fell in love with you because you’re fiercely loyal to your family. I want that.”

That surprised me.

I loved him the best I knew how as ill as I was. And I wanted to love him, past and all. Together, I wanted to fulfill his goal of getting married before he turned fifty, but that birthday looms and my “not-yets” and “no-shows” have cost us. I regret this, my mindlessness, but there is no easy way to change the past.

Now that I’m better, I’m able to see what is done rather than what is said as the ultimate test of a person’s integrity. Because of him, life is intrinsically MORE joyful, surprising, wondrous, and scary. Sometimes all at once. And my words have a solid foundation in action.

The Man’s loyalty and steadfast presence finally broke through my walls. He has entered the sacristy of my heart. He’s entered a place where no man has been permitted to visit.

Maybe that’s the whole spiritual exercise, learning how to love completely and unreservedly knowing that the person you love will disappoint you. But not on purpose and without negative intent.

I’m okay with being wrong about this whole thing. I have been traumatized to the point where I can’t remember what happened to me as a child. I haven’t eliminated the possibility of delusions.

I’d rather know I’m bat-shit crazy. I would seek help. Maybe check into a hospital.

I’m deciding that no fear will be how I live my life. I’m going to make my amygdala behave. Here’s my crazy jump off the cliff.

If you’re out there, if you’re real, I want to find you. I want the love the bards sang about. I want fights, tickle sessions, and lots of laughter. In person.

I don’t want to fall into the abyss of loneliness. I want to touch you, taste you, hold you, and swallow up the sun. I want to gaze at the same crescent moon from the same back yard instead of wherever we are at the moment with too much distance between us.

“You see the moon? Isn’t it beautiful?”

“Yes, it’s my favorite kind of moon.”

You may be my Twin Flame. I’m ready, [insert endearment-I’m-not-permitted-to-use-in-public here].

One way or the other, I’m ready.

Inspired by the song #fallingtoblack

©2018 I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved.

NaNoWriMo: Introversion for Introverts

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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 Witness to Violence

abusedchild

I am multi-dimensional. I can be many at once or singular. Sometimes both simultaneously. I am a survivor of child abuse and I’ve escaped the cycle. You can too.

Marie-Claire

The shouting was always a bad sign. Though Marie-Claire wanted to hide in a closet somewhere, I forced us to stand our ground and watch the physical abuse unfold.

Our Middle Brother, the one most like us, had a smart mouth and a quick mind that operated under Occam’s Razor. He defied the injustice of Father’s oppression. Marie-Claire loved Middle Brother for his spunk but despaired of him surviving to puberty.

He provoked the beast inside of Father, a creature of rage, jealousy, and sublimated pain. It didn’t help that Father’s hangovers amplified his inner demons. Marie-Claire’s heart wept for Father and for the terrible dynamics that ate like a cancer at our family.

Middle Brother sailed through the air. He was a little thing. His trajectory was impressive and the moment had a horrifying slow-motion quality. His landing was a rack of bikes.

Middle Brother didn’t move. We watched Father as he left the room. We followed, but not to find Father. Instead, Marie Claire insisted we find a washcloth and take care of the gash on Middle Brother’s forehead.

As we wiped the blood from Middle Brother’s face, his first sight when he opened his eyes was our concerned face. His first sensation was our ministrations. Relief poured through us but we said nothing other than, “Are you okay?”

It was useless to chastise him. Middle Brother wouldn’t change. Sometimes we thought he wanted to die at Father’s hands.  Father confined behind bars and wearing orange was a satisfying fantasy that could very well come true.

Mori

The coward left the room as Middle Brother lay unconscious. I struggled with Mori as visions of stabbing Father again and again, his blood staining the carpet, gave me a thrill of terrified pleasure. We are too small, I said. Mori’s eyes glowed with rage. Father hurt what is ours. Left him to die. She paced inside the prison that contained our primal urges. He must sleep sometime.

Alicia

While I managed Mori’s darker urges, Alicia planned. I could feel the gears in our head rolling through multiple possibilities. Cold logic. Insatiable curiosity. She studied Mori’s visions of blood and hate, parsed the rage into tidy categories, and filed away every thought, every feeling. She planned, not Father’s death, but his ruin.

Regina

We could use this, Regina whispered. Tell Mother that he didn’t fall into the bikes. That Father threw him. I shook my head. That’s not how it works. Regina rolled her eyes and I could feel her calculation coil inside my head. Mori was a beast, but Regina was a viper. Little Brother witnessed it too.

I scoffed, but not outwardly. We’d been beaten at any sign of defiance. Little Brother hides. He doesn’t speak. Frustration twisted in our chest. We were helpless, too small to fight back, and too frightened to move out of harm’s way. Mother will call us a liar. Like she always does. She hates us.

Regina offered a Cheshire smile. She’s jealous. We’re more than she. Prettier, smarter, and more powerful. I didn’t agree because Regina boasted. She saw us as better than anyone else. Sometimes she leaked through and alienated potential allies, diminished them, and I felt terribly alone despite all the voices in my head.

~How you can stop child abuse: Education. Please click HERE to find out more. 

To report abuse: National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-422-4453

©2017 I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved.

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

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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.