Yesterday

Yesterday was rough.

As the assistant manager at the convenient store I work at Saturdays are by far the most stressful day of the week. Every Saturday we have a large milk/tea order and a large grocery/cigarette/other tobacco product order, all of which fall on me to put away before I leave, while . To make yesterday easier I scheduled it so that it was myself and someone else at 6am and then I had a second person come in at 9am. Instead the person who was supposed to come in at 6 didn’t show and wouldn’t even answer their phone. I tried to call everyone I could but no one would respond.

I ended up alone for those 3 hours and it was CRAZY busy. When the employee scheduled for the 9am shift came in and told me that the one scheduled to come in at 6 texted him and told him that he couldn’t work any of his shift I flipped out. My response was: “No shit! I figured that out 3 hours ago when he wouldn’t answer his phone.” I went on about how no one would answer and come in (or come in early) to help me. After I finally calmed down I felt horrible for flipping out on him. But after I was done freaking out I started crying and had a lovely panic attack in front of both him and a customer. It was awesome.

I hate showing that side of me but sometimes I can’t fully control when it will happen. Basically, I’m not always okay and it sucks to admit it, but it’s true. If anyone with a mental illness tries to tell you they’re always okay and don’t still struggle at times they’re probably lying.

Sorry, this was primarily to rant and admit that I still have to deal with some parts of my mental illness.

Rock Bottom

Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

-J.K. Rowling

Those with a mental illness, including addictions, probably understand this. Many times you have to hit rock bottom before you’re able to recognize that you need help, that you’re not as okay as you keep telling yourself and others that you are. When you reach this place you have two options: let it consume you and not ask for help before it’s too late or learn to build yourself back up and become the person you want to be, the healthier and happier person you can be. I’m not saying that everyone hits rock bottom before they get to this point but many people do.

I had to hit rock bottom before finally listening to my therapist and psychiatrist, before then I was seeing them to make my mom happy not because I wanted to get better for me. Like J.K. Rowling stated, it became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

Sometimes you have to sink before you can swim.

Trying to Describe My Cycles

Those of you out there with bipolar disorder probably understand what I mean.

My therapist recently asked me how i know that I’m about to cycle. I honestly didn’t know how to answer. There can be little clues, subtle changes, warning signs that you’re going into a manic phase or a depressive phase. For some reason they’re so hard to explain to someone. Like for mania, it could be you’re getting more and more restless or starting to talk faster or mind is more scattered than usual or your brain-to-mouth filter is slipping, etc. Then there’s depression, you start to notice your becoming more lethargic or starting to lose interest in things you find enjoyable or, similar to subtle manic changes, your thinking patterns start to change, etc.

But how do you explain it when you get thrown into a manager position, working 7 days a week and 73 hours a week as well? This is bound to cause similar changes even in someone without bipolar disorder. So how do you explain in this type of situation that you still know you’re starting to cycle again without it sounding like “normal” things people would feel in this situation.

Living with bipolar disorder and trying to explain the subtle warning signs as well as determining whether something is a “normal mood change” or a “bipolar mood change” can be the most frustrating thing in the world.

The Lasting Effect of Childhood Trauma

Most people think of childhood trauma as the individual experience some form of physical abuse, but there are other things that can be considered traumatic for a child. Some might not view the story I’m about to share as traumatic, but trust me it was and is to many other people.

Shortly before I turned 3 my parents got a divorce. I still saw my father every other weekend but both he and my mother quickly started dating other people. His, now wife, had a large family including grandkids (my dad is 20 years older than my mom) so I ended up having to spend those weekend trying to share his attention with the other kids. On the other hand, my mom started dating a man, we’ll call him Tom, who had a daughter, we’ll call her Alice,who became like a sister to me. For approximately a year we even lived with Tom, but even when we didn’t I still saw him all the time. Tom was like a second father to me.

Fast forward to when I was about 7 years old and they broke up. In my eyes he was there one day and then he was gone. After this I ended up with horrible nightmares that would, at the very least, unsettle even an adult. These nightmares always ended the same, my mother, father, Tom, and Alice were all dead. When I would wake up I’d run to my mom’s room and have to poke and pinch her until she finally woke up so that I knew she was alive, I’d then have to either sleep in her bed or on the floor next to it so that she couldn’t disappear.

This went on for several months, slowly getting worse. I couldn’t sleep at night because she might not be there when I woke up, then she couldn’t be more than a room away and had to be within eyesight. This continued on until she would have to drag me into school, literally, kicking and screaming because I didn’t want her to leave me. Then one time it happened outside of the guidance counselor’s office and she ended up recommending play therapy. The play therapist told my mom and dad that I was experiencing “childhood depression due to feelings of abandonment.” I started going to girl scouts with Alice and would occasionally go over to Tom’s house to spend time with her, which I’m sure helped. Eventually I got a little bit better, or at least to the point where it didn’t control our lives.

Fast forward again to when I was 9 or 10. My mom ended up in an on and off relationship with a man who we’ll call John. It got to the point where she even asked me for advice. At this point I started to become her rock. After the second or third time of getting engaged they finally tied the knot in Vegas so he couldn’t get cold feet again. When we moved into his house John started to really show his true colors.

He became verbally/emotionally abusive. I would listen to him screaming at my mom day and night while I cried in my room covering my ears. At some point I started to try and stand up for her since she wouldn’t do it herself. This turned his attention towards me. He would start screaming that I was just her little brat and when she wasn’t around he would call me things a lot worse than that.

This was around the time my bipolar disorder started manifesting. I turned to self harm to deal with both the emotions that I couldn’t control as well as the anger at myself for being unable to help her and internalizing the things he said to me. It wasn’t until I was about 14 that they finally got a divorce. They weren’t married for a super long period of time but it was long enough to cause lasting damage.

I continued to believe everything he used to say. I continued to believe that everyone left because of my mom’s previous relationship with Tom. While therapy has helped and I’m actually engaged (a huge deal considering my abandonment/trust issues) I still have John’s voice in my head sometimes and still struggle to believe that my fiance won’t leave me, that I’m not good enough. I’ve learned to respect and love myself, but that doesn’t mean I always like myself.

I will battle with not just my bipolar disorder and anxiety disorders, but also with the the trauma caused by my childhood. Many people around the world will struggle with this too and believe, just like me, that it wasn’t true trauma and abuse because it was never physical. This is still abuse and trauma though considering it will effect you throughout your life.

What happens in childhood doesn’t always stay in childhood

Work and Mental Health

Working when you have a mental health condition can be a challenge, whether you’re working part-time or full-time. It doesn’t matter if the task you’re doing is big or small, it can be difficult. Always try to make your manager aware of your illness(es). They may not approve or like it but it’s important they know before you end up having a break down (panic/anxiety attack, etc.). For example, I was at work one day, I work at a convenience store, it was crazy busy and I was the only one on register but when my manager came out to help me with the line and saw the way my hand was shaking when I was redeeming a lottery ticket she whispered to me to go take my five (break). One day, before this I had told her about my mental health problems and because of this she recognized that I needed to get out of that situation ASAP because I was having an anxiety attack. Sadly, there are times when things like this happen and no one is around to help you out or your boss isn’t there to tell you to get away.

For instance, my manager was on vacation and ended up injuring herself. So, being the assistant manager, I’m now in charge until she’s able to return. That being said, I’m currently on a two week stretch without a day off, having worked 73 hours this week and 58 last week, and now taking on all of her responsibilities. Needless to say, I’m under A LOT of stress. Earlier in the week I even had a panic while at work, it’s been a fun time. Don’t get me wrong, I can manage the store and do well at it but my mental illnesses make it all the more difficult on me.

No matter what mental illness you have it can be hard to balance both taking care of your mental health and work. Seeking treatment, finding the right therapist, and depending on your condition getting the right meds, can help you learn some coping mechanisms to deal with the problems that can arise when trying to manage these two things.

It’s not easy but it can be done.

Introductions

Thank you for coming and visiting my blog. This is the first time I’ve ever created one so bear with me as I figure all of this out.

A little bit about me:

I have type 2 bipolar disorder (bipolar depression) and multiple anxiety disorders.

I’m a psych major in college. I have a passion for helping people, especially those who are constantly battling with their own mind.

My animals (2 dogs, 2 cats, and a snake) + music +reading= my therapy outside of therapy

I will never pretend that I’m always 100% and that I don’t still struggle will my illnesses nor will I act as though stigma doesn’t still make me nervous.

I’m going to use this blog to share my story, day-to-day issues, positive and encouraging posts for those struggling, mental health “fun facts “, etc. because I want to make sure that you’re aware and never forget that you’re not alone in this fight.