Quick Fixes for Anxiety

I’ve learned a few small, quick actions that help me during extreme anxiety, panic attacks, and episodes. They don’t cure, but they help.

Splash your face. Cold water on your face jolts your system and tries to reset your body to a calmer mode. It also gives you a chance to be by yourself for a minute if you’re in a public situation and need to calm down.
Take a mindful shower. Trying to tap into the reality of the present moment is the most powerful tool (outside of medicine and professional help) that I’ve found so far. Finding the present moment is an ancient Buddhist practice that western civilization has appropriated and renamed “mindfulness”. To take a mindful shower, do everything in slow motion and take time to notice everything you see, smell, and feel. Do not rush…

Helped, but not cured

With episodes, no matter how many tools I use, I still hurt deeply. I cannot be cured. The goal of medicine and coping strategies in my case is to ameliorate my symptoms, not eliminate them. I do have good days. Sometimes I can string them together for a while, but this is how my brain works, and I don’t get to trade it in. Sometimes the idea of living sick for the rest of my life makes me very, very depressed. It can even lead to a thought spiral, which in its own right can trigger an episode…

How To Help Yourself When You Hurt

Everyone struggles sometimes, and often they feel alone; only you see through your eyes. Feeling alone can be very hard. For whatever kind of pain you have, you’ll need tools to cope with it. Family and friends are a good place to start, but for many that’s not an option. Instead you have to rely on yourself to get through your rough times. The biggest benefit of therapy I’ve gained is learning the things I can do to help myself. I’m going to share with you some of the tools that have collectively saved my life…

Living With Bipolar

I’ve lived with this diagnosis for the past eleven years. Sometimes I get angry that this is the brain I got. Don’t get me wrong; I’m an emotional warrior. A feelings ninja. There’s a whole lot that I can withstand, but I’m seen as breakable or fragile. The truth is that most people don’t survive this kind of brain. I read a statistic that 40% of bipolar II people die by suicide. I have no idea if that’s accurate, but I suspect it’s at least close. I got a tattoo in my second year of my diagnosis as a promise to myself to not leave this world by my own hand. Two years later I took a massive overdose of lithium with no regrets, and I failed. Failing at suicide is the lowest I’ve ever felt, and I’ve failed twice…

I wrote this at the beginning of an episode, before I lost my mind

In this minute, in this hour, in my bedroom, I am in an episode. I don’t function well, I shake, I stutter, my memory comes and goes. I would paint, but I’m too far gone. Typing is a challenge. I shake, I twitch. My soul hurts. I don’t understand why everyone is different. We’re all humans, but we each live a completely individual experience, alone. We’re each alone. We interact, but no one will ever see out of my eyes but me. My brain goes into a deep spiral…

Broken Brain

I did not luck out on genes in the brain department. Technically I’m diagnosed as Bipolar II, rapid cycling, mixed state, with psychotic features. I also have Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder, but it’s all one brain. In layman’s terms, I’m crazy. One night when I was eighteen I was driving home in the rain after breaking up with my first high school girlfriend, and I imagined a goldfish traveling down a highway in the rain at night, and it was a happy goldfish, because it knew it had done the right thing and was now moving confidently in the right direction. As soon as I got home I got out some ancient crayons and watercolors, and I sat down to paint what I had seen in my head. The first of the goldfish series was born…

How I Went Crazy

When I was eighteen, I felt on top of the world. I had won several contests for my singing, graduated in the top five percent of my high school class, and been accepted to the most prestigious voice program in the United States. When fall rolled around, I trotted off to Oberlin Conservatory to begin my adult life. It was glorious for a while: the people were socially advanced and forward-thinking, there was a free exchange of exciting ideas, everyone was friendly and smart, and there was world-class music surrounding me everywhere I went. My first two months there were the happiest I’ve ever been…