Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mental Health Stigma

Unfortunately there is a stigma associated with mental illness. This stigma leads many people to suffer in silence. Or worse, to not seek help.

This week a friend called me Hester Prynne. You know, the heroine of Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic The Scarlet Letter. For those of you who slept through American Literature in high school, Hester committed adultery and a few  months later she birthed a daughter out of wedlock. The novel is set in Puritanical New England. So the society was big on shame and punishment. Hester did some time in jail, and when the baby was born she had to stand on a pillory for a few hours. For the rest of her life she had to wear an A emblazoned on her chest. But Hester was a seamstress. And a strong woman. She was not to be shamed. She designed an elaborate A. And instead of wearing it as a badge of shame, she took this as a chance to own her sin while simultaneously showing off her craftsmanship.

So my friend called me a modern-day Hester. Instead of shrinking from the stigma of having bipolar disorder, I have embraced it. I don't know why I don't feel the stigma. But I just don't. But I want to be the voice for those who do feel the stigma and are silenced.

I am reminded of a quotation from Audre Lorde: "When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak." Lorde, the self-defined "black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet." Silence does not protect you.

My goal of becoming a bipolar spokesperson has been coming to fruition. By next month, I will have had three interviews (two Internet radio interviews and a blog interview) I blog here and at Huffington Post. And I'm in the midst of writing my bipolar memoir. This whole process has been incredibly therapeutic. And I hope that my life and story has been a blessing to others.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The. Best. Summer. Ever.

I was manic from April to May 2013. Then when the mania ended, I became depressed. I was depressed from June 2013 until May 2014. The depression mainly consisted of insomnia and an empty, numb feeling. It really sucked. I thought the empty feeling was my new normal. I didn't think it was depression because I didn't feel sad and I was on medicine. But it was depression. I've learned that all depression doesn't look or feel the same. And the medicine I was on were anti-psychotics not anti-depressants. So they didn't treat the depression.

I was not hospitalized for the depression. I never go to the hospital for my depression. I just suffer through it. I don't recommend this. The depression only ended because I became manic in June 2014. This is why I love the mania. The mania has saved me from depression twice (in 2007 and 2014).

I swore to myself that I would have an amazing summer given the awful year I had. I would spare no expense. Deny no whim.

At the beginning of the summer I shared all of my summer plans.

This is an update. Be warned: there are a lot of pictures!

 I attended a few concerts this summer. 
This picture is from a Joe Budden concert in Brooklyn.

 I spent a lot of time in New York City this summer.

 I attended the Dave Chapelle show at Radio City Music Hall in NYC. He was incredibly funny.

 I saw a few Broadway plays: Avenue Q, Once, Wicked, Heathers, and Book of Mormon.

 I took a few vacations. I visited Savannah, Georgia; Atlantic City and Ocean Grove, New Jersey; Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina; Baltimore, Maryland; Washington, DC; and Old Saybrook, Connecticut.

 
 I visited the Kara Walker exhibit.

 
 I bought a beautiful painting from an artist at the Harlem Book Fair.

 
 In Washington, DC at the Smithsonian museums.

At the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland. 

At a drawing class in Brooklyn at MOCADA (I drew on an apron and a tote bag). 
The class was led by artist Shantell Martin

 At the beach in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

 Had an adult game night for family and friends.

Hula-hooping in the park. We were having a family reunion. 

 
 I also ate amazing meals. This is flan, empanadas, and shredded chicken with white rice.

At the John Legend concert at the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn. 

Had a picnic on Governor's Island in New York. 
That's the Statue of Liberty in the background. 

Pretty much :-) 

 
At a Ferguson/Mike Brown rally in Durham, North Carolina.
"Hands up. Don't shoot." 

 Rihanna and Eminem concert at the Met Life Stadium.

 Amazing Jeff Koons exhibit at the Whitney Museum
Definitely check it out if you're in the area.

The view from my hotel room in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. 
The hotel is on the Long Island Sound. 

 At the Cloisters in Manhattan.

All dolled up to see and be seen at the Essence Magazine Street Style Block Party in Brooklyn.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Memoir Writing Workshop

This week was the 7th class for my memoir writing workshop. The class meets every Monday in NYC (from July to September) for 10 weeks from 7pm-10pm.

In the class we have been working on the components of memoir writing: description, characterization, setting and pacing, and dialogue. We do free writes and read model texts to see the concepts in action.

We also bring our own writing. Each week two people bring 5-15 pages of their writing to be work-shopped. We discuss what worked well and what didn't. We discuss what confused us or pulled us in.

I will have my work discussed three times. The first time I used excerpts from my blog. When I first started blogging I assumed I would turn the blog into my memoir. But after hearing the feedback from my classmates I have decided not to take this route.

In my first writing (the excerpts from the blog), my classmates said it sounded too WebMD. Ha! They said that it needed more storytelling. Their assessment is accurate. That is the tone I wish my blog to have: educational and informative. But I want my memoir to feel like a story.

In my second writing, I submitted ten pages about my first and second hospitalizations. I strove very hard to turn the tales into stories. Judging by the feedback from my classmates, I succeeded. They asked for more elaboration in parts. So I'll work on continuing to flesh out the action.

I have three classes left. And I have to submit 5-15 more pages. I'm hoping to incorporate the feedback I received.

If you are interested in writing, I would highly suggest you join a writer's circle. I cannot stress to you enough the importance of getting feedback on your work.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Instagram Memes

I am obsessed with Instagram. I mean, really obsessed. I love taking #ootd (outfit of the day) pictures. I love taking pictures of my food. I love making photo collages. I am no photographer, by any means. But I like to think of my Instagram as another creative bipolar outlet, like my writing.

Lately, I've posted a number of memes that have really resonated with me. Here are a few.

The following one speaks to my soul. I have worked my butt off for everything I have. I have degrees from Duke and Rutgers. I'm hoping to add a second masters to the list in a few years; I'll be in graduate school in a year. I've been manic three times, depressed three times, and hospitalized three times. It is a process to stay stable. I have made some bad decisions along the way. I have paid the cost for them. But I have (painfully) grown into the 30-year old that I am. And I love her, so dearly.


This is how I feel sometimes (in the picture below). I have been having such a great summer. But I fear that I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. Last year, I became depressed after the mania ended. I fear that the same thing will happen again. Although I think I'm better protected this time around; I'm on an anti-depressant.


This is a pet peeve of mine (see image below). I hate when people use mental disorders as put downs or as adjectives. Find a better, less offensive word. I blame the Katy Perry song for this.


If you are on Instagram, you should follow me! My username is Krystallised.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams


I am deeply saddened by Robin Williams' death. Depression is a serious condition. You never know what another person is going through. His smile and laughter were hiding a tortured soul. I pray for his family, friends, and fans.

This is how I want to remember him.

If you or someone you know is suicidal, please reach out for help. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-(800)-273-8255.

The warning signs of depression are: either sleeping too much or too little, eating too much or too little, lingering feelings of sadness or emptiness, loss of interest in activities that used to interest them, feelings of despair or hopelessness. 

Suicide is never the answer. It will get better. With help, it will. Finding the right medicine takes time. It is trial and error. You can also supplement psychiatric medicine with acupuncture, meditation, yoga, deep breathing, exercise, and talk therapy. Please seek help.






Thursday, August 7, 2014

New Psychiatrist

I have been with my therapist and psychiatrist for seven years. I love my therapist! He is a walking contradiction. He's tatted up, has piercings, and wears combat boots. He curses freely. And is awesome at what he does.

My psychiatrist on the other hand is different. We didn't gel as easily. He's a little stoic. And over the past few months I have not been happy with his care. I was hospitalized twice in a year on his watch. In February 2013 the Tegretol made my liver sick, so I had to come off immediately. (I've had a number of side effects over the years from my psych meds). I had been stable for six years so he did not replace the Tegretol with any other meds. I was only on 100mg of Seroquel. I spoke to my friend/colleague/acupuncturist about my sick liver. She suggested I increase my water and fiber intake and start adding chia or flax to my food. I took her suggestions and within two months my liver healed itself. The liver can do that.

The second hospitalization occurred in June 2014. About two or three months prior my psychiatrist took me off of Lithium because it was subtherapeutic (meaning, there wasn't enough of the medicine in my system to be doing any good) and it was also exacerbating my psoriasis. Again, he did not replace the Lithium. And I was only on one medicine. Within two or three months I was manic again and hospitalized for five days. I don't last long on one medicine. I need to be on two medicines at all times.

When I was in IOP (intensive outpatient therapy) I got suggestions from the nurse on great psychiatrists. She gave me two women. This past week I had my initial visits with both of them. They were both great. However, one is in my insurance network and one isn't. The one that isn't in my network charges $450 for the initial visit and $200 for each subsequent visit. The one in my network takes my insurance and I don't have a copay. Of course I liked the more expensive one more! Thank god I make a great salary and can afford to pay so much for my healthcare.

The psychiatrist that I ultimately chose was amazing. She was very thorough. She spent an entire hour with me. She painstakingly went through my medical history: asking about mental and regular health, asking about my family history, asking about my six episodes (three manias and three depressions). She then made some suggestions. I was impressed with her care and look forward to working with her. 

The psychiatrist that takes my insurance suggested I take a third medicine. I informed her that the Latuda has given me anxiety and restlessness, she said she could give me a medicine for the restlessness. I declined. My original psychiatrist lowered the dose and the restlessness seems to have gone away. I am not trying to add any more psych meds to my regimen. 

I just want to encourage you all to actively self-advocate when it comes to self-care. You have to control your care. Know what questions to ask. Know your rights. And don't blindly take any medicine. Listen to your body. Know how you respond to different medicines and medicines at different doses. To be quite honest with you, the majority of psych meds come with side effects. But the side effects can be managed or minimized. The sucky thing is that it is trial and error. So please be patient. It takes time.

Here are the holistic suggestions from my new psychiatrist.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Radio Interview


I was interviewed tonight for the Black Women Empowerment Radio.

If you missed, it you can listen here.

I was very nervous. But it went well. And the three callers were all friends of mine. I am very happy with the support and love I get from my family and friends.