Nickel-Cadmium Battery

lightning-night-sky1

Running myself down like an old nickel-cadmium battery
Charged at the beginning of the day but with the energy
Of a twenty-four hour a day memory
Remembering the length of time I spent yesterday
Spinning my heart and mind over the bumps
And creaks my body speaks,
The groans and the braille tell the story
And this hi[s]tory is trapped in the chemical reactions
That give me energy after
Forgetting if I fell asleep the night before
And waking with the pools of my eyes dried shut

Must keep in mind to make the battery run dry
Before feeding it more or it will give me less to go on
Tomorrow.
Or tomorrow will be shorter than the last.

If depression is a rock
And anxiety a hard space
I’m stuck between an ever-narrowing valley
Of the things that broke me
And the things that maybe will
The electricity in my body is running so dry
That the desert of my skin misses
The rain of my body
Dry thunderstorm in no one’s arms

My battery is running low with nowhere left
For this last bit of current to go so I can sleep
And the desire to feed it to you is so short
An upturn of the palms would let it arc
Like I am always the third rail
The pleasant tap on the tip of your tongue
From a nine volt,
Looking out at skyline distance, capturing lightning bolts
I swear for the fleeting moment I was there
And then gone again.
Camera flash
The millisecond passed
Then I was gone again.

A NiCad battery should never be plugged into energy
Until it’s drained of all its stored capacity
Or it builds up a memory
And run out of its electricity more quickly.
I have a long memory.
Don’t plug me in unless you plan on keeping me.

Foundation of Society, Anxiety

what-is-anxiety-disorder

There’s an electric current running from my chest to my gut. This is not a new feeling, in fact I’ve been experiencing it for over a decade. In case you weren’t aware, the onset of mental health issues is often occurs with the onset of puberty. Since age 13 or 14 I have been dealing with this live wire inside my body that feels a lot like panic, like impending doom, as if something bad is on the horizon. Among my many brain-related ailments, anxiety has always been one of the more difficult ones to control. Have you ever grabbed a live electrical wire with your bare hands? You know that feeling you get in your gut when you are about to take the stage to give a speech or perform a musical number or even when you’re sitting there waiting to be called in for the interview for that job you want so desperately?

I live with that. Almost constantly for no reason at all other than a little twist in brain chemistry.

Generalized anxiety has a high comorbidity rate with Bipolar patients. Before I was properly diagnosed, I was put through the ringer of SSRI’s, SNRI’s, and MAOI’s by a general practitioner and more than one Behavioral/Mental health specialist. It was actually the anxiety that put me in the hands of a Psychiatrist in the first place because my GP at the time was testing SSRI’s to control anxiety and gave me Xanax to hold me over until the drugs kicked in. I ended up having a pretty severe panic attack shortly thereafter which is probably the scariest thing I’ve encountered in years.

I went through a number of psychiatrists before landing with one who actually knew what he was doing. He put me through a battery of tests before prescribing me a ton of medication including an MRI and an EEG. Once it was determined my brain didn’t have any functional or structural issues I was given a regular prescription for Clonazepam which is a lot safer and has a longer efficacy than Xanax (which has proven sometimes fatal should you ever want to detox off it). Thankfully, there were less side effects as well. Xanax would actually put me to sleep so fast I’d nod off mid-sentence.

Like any medication, there’s no guarantee of 100% effectiveness so I do deal with anxiety on a fairly regular basis. My therapist has taught me how to cope by turning me on to mindful meditation. What some people don’t realize is anxiety comes from focusing too much on the future. Mindful meditation brings you back to the present with a series of guided exercises and breathing. It’s super simple and it’s helped me out a lot lately, especially during stressful days at work.

What has also been extremely helpful to me is learning about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Some go to therapists to learn the skills necessary to use this as a coping mechanism. I bought a book by the daughter of the innovator of this form of therapy and taught myself mostly because I was bored and I needed to learn something new. The basis of CBT is to learn how to take catastrophic or anxious thoughts and reframe them into more rational explanations. For example, I have severe abandonment issues. This affects me on an almost daily basis in one way or another. If someone doesn’t talk to me I instantly jump to blaming myself, that I did something wrong. That’s the anxiety talking. What I then have to do is take that thought, bring it back to the present and think of a more plausible explanation like, “They must be busy,” or “they have a lot of work to do and are probably seriously stressed out.” You’d be surprised how easy it is once you get the hang of it and how much better you feel once you’ve done that reframing.

The downside to this is sometimes there is no reason for the anxious feelings I get in my guts. It’s just there and I have to focus on something else or just continue to breathe. I try to avoid taking more medication during the day because I’m stubborn and need to believe I’m somehow able to control it. Being out of control is one of the hardest things for me to deal with which is why my faith is hard to deal with sometimes. People will tell me to rely on God or give it to God and He will take care of it. I fight those statements hard because, if I don’t do what I feel is my part, I can’t let go of it. This goes the same way with depression, only I lose my voice to speak to anyone and get stuck.

I won’t say my life is easy but it’s not as hard as some have it so I must be grateful with what I have. My struggles with anxiety and depression have allowed me to connect with people others have not been able to. It’s allowed me to sympathize in ways no one else can but it has also put up substantial barriers in my life because it’s hard to have friends who can’t grasp what it is I’m dealing with. It’s probably why I have so few friends. I can live with that. The friends I do have are loyal to the bone.

So, what’s my point here? I’m not entirely sure. This is often true of most of the things I write; they’re just true to how I’m feeling at the time and writing has proven to be a great release for me and has been for a very long time. I will say this: if you struggle with anxiety, you’re not alone. If you don’t know how to cope, ask. Seek help. i’m not a doctor, I don’t even play one on TV but I have a lifetime of experience, so ask if you need to.

I Can’t Hide Either

hiding

Truth be told, I spend a lot more time on social media than I should. I can think of quite a few things, just off the top of my head, that I could be doing rather than clicking the little Facebook icon at the top of my computer screen to see people posting pictures of their food, pictures with their girlfriends/fiancés/wives/kids, random reposts and other such internet detritus. Facebook happens to also be my source for news stories as I subscribe to a lot of different news outlets on there as well. Among the wreckage there is some information that is of interest, but not much.

But I, like many, am unable to pull myself away.

In case you haven’t noticed, Facebook has implemented this neat feature to the right hand side of the newsfeed that tells you what topics are currently trending as hot discussion topics all over the their giant social network. One that has caught my eye over and over again is the recent “coming out” announcement by Ellen Page.

You might know her from the news stories that have been popping up all over your newsfeed recently. You might also recognize her from great movies such as Inception, Whip It and Hard Candy or from some not-so-great films like Juno. The quote that keeps resurfacing over and over again is the statement she made at the Time to Thrive LGBT youth conference in Las Vegas where she made the announcement. Of course, she did not just announce the fact that she was gay but that she was, “tired of hiding”.

I’m going to stop right here and say that I am, in no way, a taking a shot at Ellen Page or the LGBT community. I do think it’s interesting she felt like she was hiding. This country is at a point in history where being gay arguably more accepted than it ever has been. Sure, there are still people who refuse to move with progress and a lot of people in the church who like to play God and judge those they feel are sinners rather than trying to show them Christ (something you can’t do when you’re condemning them to hell before they have a chance, FYI). And there are just so many hip and wonderful people out there these days championing the cause for civil rights for gay people. Ellen Page is “tired of hiding”?

Admittedly, it still may be difficult for some to “come out” these days and there are a lot of people who are still hiding. From what I’ve seen, there is a lot more support for them these days than condemnation. There’s something about this whole thing that gets on my nerves and it is the fact that there are those of us who are tired of hiding as well but for an entirely different reason.

I see people like Ellen Page and their advocacy for themselves and those like them and I can’t help but wish there were more people like that standing up and advocating for people who are probably in more imminent danger and, in my opinion, are far more misunderstood.

I wish society would get behind people who advocate for Mental Health the way they are rallying behind Ms. Page.

Understand that, just as sexual orientation is considered a protected class by the United States Government, so is Mental Health under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The truth is, you will find a lot of advocacy groups that address the needs and issues caused by Mental Health issues but they mainly support those suffering from depression and suicidal ideation. Groups like To Write Love on Her Arms do a good job of focusing on hope and healing but with a demographic of people in their teens and maybe early 20’s, it’s difficult for me to take them seriously on a national level and they certainly don’t blow up my Facebook Newsfeed.

Let’s put this into perspective. According to the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) there was an estimated 9.6 million adults ages 18 and above in the US suffering from a serious mental illness which was qualified in their study as the following:

• A mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder (excluding developmental and substance use disorders);
• Diagnosable currently or within the past year;
• Of sufficient duration to meet diagnostic criteria specified within the 4th edition of theDiagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV);
• Resulting in serious functional impairment, which substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.

Another study shows that only 6.7% of the US adult population was diagnosed over a 12 month period with major depressive disorder and only 2% of these people were classified as severe. This is a little less than the 2.6% of the US population that are diagnosed with Bipolar disorder and 1.1% of the US population is diagnosed with Schizophrenia. So, we’re talking small numbers here. But doesn’t that make those of us with Mental Health issues according to the the United States Government, a minority?

Yes, in case you caught it, I did say, “us”. If you’ve read my writing before you know that I am not very protective of my diagnosis of Bipolar II disorder. I was diagnosed eight years ago and have been medicated for it ever since. I have been through hard times and hell and the way my brain is wired doesn’t make it any easier to cope. At the same time, I have friends who live with their own form of Mental Health issues on a daily basis as well; some have it less difficult than others.

Why do I tell you all this? Because I wish there was someone in the public spotlight who would step up and advocate for those of us who are medicated, depressed, suicidal, anxious, delusional, inattentive and paranoid. All I ever seem to see are people who end up martyrs for the cause because there is such stigma still surrounding Mental Health. The recent death of Philip Seymour Hoffman is a good example. Addiction is a disease and is either caused by or brings on depression. Unfortunately, such an illness makes it very difficult to go into the public forum and champion a cause for others.

The way I look at it, you take care of your body by going to the doctor and staying healthy. You take vitamins and you take medications to correct issues with blood pressure, cholesterol and even pain. But you have all these health-related TV shows and programs that are designed to help you maintain that portion of your health. Some of that does benefit people like me or my friends but it’s not a cure-all. A lot of us are medicated and some of us are in therapy. If you’re like me, you do both. I do it because I want to be able to function as best as I can in society and do the things I want to do without some aberrant chemical reaction in my brain telling me it’s not worth getting out of bed today.

So, we come back to Ellen Page. I will admit she was brave to come out, though it was in front of a bunch of like-minded people. The fact that it was released to the American public is another thing altogether. I want someone to do that with mental health. Believe me, if you’ve not experienced being Bipolar II then you have no idea where I’m coming from. Therein lies the danger. If you haven’t experienced it, relating to it becomes difficult, almost impossible to comprehend what I go through every day. But I feel I wouldn’t have to hide it from work or from new people or even a potential female interest if there was someone willing to step up and waive the flag for those of us in the small percentage of the American population who have to live this way.

Maybe that person will be me. Someday.

The Dialogue

“You wonder if she has a conscience at all?” This ghost of a girl took her normal post next to him on the bench, smoothing out her skirt.

“It’s one of the biggest questions on my mind and it’s been driving me crazy. This is far from the first time something like this has happened to me but this one just feels so much worse than the others.” His gaze dropped to his shoes and he took a deep breath that gave him away as someone who bore the weight of his sorrows on his shoulders.

“Have you talked to her since…?” She trailed off as if mentioning the event itself might drop him like a right hook to his glass jaw.

“No! No… absolutely not. Such is my dilemma, I guess. She told me she wanted to be friends-”

She cut him off, “She actually told you that?”

“Yes. The real issue for me is that I feel like I was the one who got shafted in this whole ordeal. So, if I’m the first to make contact and tell her I wouldn’t mind being friends I feel like I’d be legitimizing what she did and give the false impression that I don’t care at all that she broke my trust. I don’t trust many people anymore, I just don’t. And when that trust is broken coming back from that should not be my responsibility, should it? I mean, if she actually has a conscience then shouldn’t it strike her in such a way that, while she may be content with where she’s at, she should be sorry for stepping over me to get there? I can’t even begin to comprehend the whole thing but if I’m as important to her as she claimed, enough to stay in contact after she kicked my heart in the ass, then shouldn’t she be the one coming to me in some form of contrition? Aren’t I owed at least that much?” He stood up, took a few steps and stopped to let the question float out on the summer air.

He glanced back. She was sitting forward with her hands on the edge of the bench, clasping it while staring at her crossed legs punctuated with sandals on her feet. She looked like she was absorbing the words he had just sprayed into the air. She was not used to him aerosolizing such invective but was willing to absorb it because that’s most of the reason she was there as far as time as time had allowed her to reveal. To him she was still a specter, an unknown. He didn’t know her and she had not introduced herself. That was important.

“This is the awkward part of these situations. You have to remember the one who is allowed to control the conversation is the one with all the power. So, yes, you would be yielding a lot of healing power and catharsis if you were to engage her in conversation to let her know that she’s important to you as far as friendships are concerned. I think you’d also be opening yourself to a lot of ache as you watch her run around with your, uh… replacement.” She looked at him to check for any emotional response. He was solid, statuesque, and staring off into the landscape of the park into the city street in the distance.

“Yeah. I can’t deal with that right now,” he said. His voice was flat.

“So, maybe you forget about her as best you can and work on you. Don’t hope for any great miracle, just know that if she meant what she said that she’ll make contact. If she doesn’t then it’s her loss. It was her loss in the first place, in my opinion.” She shrugged her shoulders.

He couldn’t see it because he wasn’t looking at her. His head dropped and he put his hands in his pockets. He took another deep breath and exhaled as much negativity as he could. He still had enough stored to last him for quite a while.

“Yeah. Yeah, maybe you’re right.” No affect. As flat as the pavement he stood on.

He started walking back to his apartment, not looking at her as he walked past where she sat. She watched him from the veil of shadows she sat within and didn’t say anything. Sometimes, there are just no more words.