I have a mental illness and it sucks

I’m fucking mad.

I’m mad that I have to take pills everyday. I’m mad that they don’t work fast enough. I’m mad that they have side effects. I’m mad that they stop working. I’m mad that I currently can’t run because of my meds. I’m really fucking pissed that I feel like a burden to my husband, despite his reassurances that I’m not. I’m mad that he’s afraid to leave me alone. I’m even angrier that I’m afraid to be alone. I’m mad that it seems that my husband and I have a weekly conversation about whether or not we should go to the hospital. I’m mad at how mad I am. I’m mad that I can’t handle stress. I’m mad that I can’t stay up late. I’m mad that I spend what seems like half my life in doctors’ offices. And I’m mad that I’ve had so many blood tests in the past month that the nurse can’t find my veins anymore. It’s like I’m a fucking heroine addict with collapsed veins.

But do you know what I’m most angry at? I’m fucking pissed off that I have a mental illness.

This cat gets me.

This cat gets me.

I may have won the genetic lottery in some aspects of life, but inheriting a mental illness that runs in the family wasn’t my luckiest moment. I don’t know which side of the family I inherited this damn disease from, but both sides make a compelling argument. We’ve got alcoholics to the right and severe depressives to the left, and sometimes the two happen to meet. It’s like my DNA was destined to be fucked.

I know I’m not supposed to say these things publicly because you know, fighting stigma means presenting people with mental illness as happy, healthy, and smiling. Mental health organizations and advocates want to ensure that we appear nonthreatening, so no one really talks about how shitty it is to have a mental illness. Well, guess what? I’m pulling back the motherfucking curtain (and using as many swear words as possible. Does someone want to start a fuck count?).

I have bipolar disorder II and it really fucking sucks. And despite what some mental health advocates say, our mental illnesses do limit our lives.

Almost every major decision that I make is influenced by having bipolar disorder. For example, at 29 years old I have to weigh the consequences of going to a party and staying up late because this means taking my meds late. Taking my meds late means that I’ll be incapacitated by grogginess the next day and waste it in bed. Every time I have a social engagement, I have to ask myself, is it worth it? Instead of agreeing or disagreeing based on my schedule, I weigh the consequences to my mental health. This may seem like a ridiculous, insignificant aspect of life to be worried about. But do it for 10 years and then come back to me and tell me how insignificant it feels. I guarantee eventually you’ll want to just say, “Fuck it! I’m partying tonight who cares!” And then you’ll feel like shit the next day, not because you’re hungover (because being bipolar means you shouldn’t really drink) but because you’re medication is slated to meant to sedate you. You’ll wish you were hungover because it will feel better than being groggy.

Sick person

Or how about this? My ability to manage stress is significantly lower than yours. I don’t know if this is standard across people with bipolar disorder, but it seems the more stressful the situation the more my disease rears its ugly head. This
sucks because I work in a fast-paced, high-stress job that I’ve just realized is not good for my disease. To make matters worse, I’m really good at what I do and I actually like it. A year ago I would have told you that this was my career and I would move up the corporate ladder. But now I’m floundering and debating quitting to work at a coffee shop. This weekend, I saw a job posting for a sales clerk in an odds and ends shop. The store was incredibly quiet and I thought – that would be the life! I know as soon as I can leave this corporate job, it’s the end. There’s no high powered, high paying job in my future. I feel deep in my soul that my life will be filled with part-time work that pays a minimum wage.

stressedSince I don’t manage stress, everything is so fucking overwhelming. I used to be a clean freak, now cleaning my house doesn’t even register on my radar because it’s too stressful. I’m so stress out that it’s a fucking miracle that I get out of bed. It’s a feat that I shower, dress, and put make up on. And guess what? It makes me so angry when I’m having a particularly hard day and someone says, “But look at how well you’re doing.” Well guess what? That’s because I slave away at showing you the put together, efficient, and intelligent professional that you think I am. I would love to show you the crying, angry, insecure mess that lives inside of me, but you don’t actually want to see that. Despite what you say.

When I’m home (never alone, obviously) it’s my husband who gets to see all of these nasty bits. My favourite thing to do right now is to rage cry. This is when I fly into a sudden fury and start throwing and slamming things around until I tire myself out and fall apart and start to cry. This rage is frightening. I’ve never felt anything like it before. On Friday, I flew off the handle in the  middle of the grocery store because I didn’t like the way our groceries had been bagged. The kid doing his job had used too many bags and not filled them with enough things, which made walking home with them impossible. I grabbed the bags and started flinging produce into the bag, screaming “this is how you bag fucking groceries. It’s not fucking rocket science.” (I would know, I worked in a grocery store for 2 years).

Luckily we weren’t in front of the poor kid, but I had completely lost myself inside the anger. This wave of anger was the first time I felt like I could potentially hurt someone else. As I slammed produce into bags, my husband asked if we should go home. He was worried. As a joke he said, “I’m afraid you might kill someone.” I shouted back at him, “Well if I killed someone they would probably deserve it for being so fucking stupid!”

Hurting myself is a regular thought of mine, but hurting someone else has never crossed my mind. And it terrified me.

depressionNormally the rage that lives inside of me is more self-directed. I was so angry this past weekend that I was seriously considering vaulting myself over the ledge of my 6th floor balcony because I just couldn’t take it anymore. I’m not being hyperbolic. I was weighing whether or not the distance from my 6th floor balcony to the ground was far enough to actually kill me, or just paralyze me. I don’t want to be fucking paralyzed and fuck up my husband’s life further than I already have.  I’m actually panicked by the impulsiveness of my rage that I might actually act on it. But suicidal thoughts aren’t new to me. It’s rare that I go one day without thinking about a way to die. Waiting for the metro, and all I think is how easy it would be just to step out and be gone. A cabby takes a left hand turn too quickly and I think, man wouldn’t it be great if he hit me and I died. I pass bodies of water I can’t help but think about drowning. I’m prepping vegetables for dinner and I think, man this knife just wouldn’t be sharp enough to slit my wrists.

This is the reality of my life. I am incredibly unstable right now, which is why everything is so extreme. So, no this isn’t the normal everyday life of a bipolar person, but it’s one part of what it’s like to have bipolar disorder. The hardest part of the disease is that stability is never a guarantee. Sometimes you bring it on yourself, and others it comes out of the blue.

But right now, I’m exhausted by trying to appear normal and pretending that living with my mental illness is no big fucking deal. So the next time you think about “how good I’m performing” or “how good I look” or “that I have a spring in my fucking step” remember that it’s all a performance, an act for your benefit.

The reality is, I have a mental illness and it really fucking sucks.

And don’t forget to enter to win a $30 promo code for Wear Your Label. The contest runs until May 31st.

Rage & love: A glimpse into a bipolar relationship

“Are you mad at me?” He asks from the sofa. I’m standing in the kitchen about to start dinner, and our dishes from lunch are still sitting in the sink.

“No, I’m not mad. Why would I be mad?” I’m doing that stereotypical female thing that, as a feminist, I hate so much. I hate being that trope of a wife. But the fuse in me is lit and it’s short.

“You sound mad…”



“Well I guess it’s up to me to do all these fucking dishes and make dinner!” I scream, throwing the dishes into the sink. Rage possesses me like a demon. It’s like there’s a little voice inside of me shouting at me to shut up, telling me that my anger at him is irrational, and brought on by the hypomania but it’s fighting a losing battle. I am the demon’s bitch. I don’t have control over my words or limbs.

“Well that’s unfair,” he says, joining me in the kitchen. “I was just going to check something quick on the computer and then I thought we’d cook together. I wasn’t leaving you to do all of this on your own. You know I wouldn’t do that.”

Of course I know that. For a moment the little voice inside of me has beaten the demon down. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” I say clutching my head, as if holding my head between my hands will somehow keep the demon at bay. “That was totally irrational.”

“It’s okay, you’re not feeling well.” He tries to rub my back, but I feel myself shirk back. I try and mask my aversion to his touch by grabbing a head of broccoli out of the fridge, I reach for a cutting board, and a knife.


He’s right. I’ve been hypomanic for about 2 weeks and the rage is an indication that it’s about to break. I had felt a murderous pressure in my chest all day.I could have ripped the face off a bear. I scowled at anyone who looked at me the wrong (or right) way. It didn’t matter what was said or how someone smiled or even how they complimented my outfit. Everyone was out to get me. Everyone was an idiot. Everyone was in my way. Everyone was just so fucking slow.

The demon is back with a vengeance as I recall my day. Why can’t everyone just do what I want them to do at the speed and capacity that I want them to do it? I wonder, savagely attacking the head of broccoli like it has murdered my puppy. Like, why doesn’t my husband know that he should be fucking washing these dishes right now while I prep dinner? It’s all part of the plan so that we eat by 7 p.m. Why can’t he just see the fucking plan? Why can no one ever see the fucking plan?

“You know,” I say turning and pointing the knife at him. “You should just fucking leave me.” The words come out of my mouth like a flood. They come out before I even think of them because I don’t control them. “You’d be better off without me. Actually, everyone would be better off with out me.”

He takes the knife from my hand and places it on the counter away from my reach. He’s not afraid for his life, but he’s afraid of what I might do to myself.  But I’m not threatening suicide. I truly believe that he would be better off with a partner who wasn’t bipolar. I believe my parents would be better without a bipolar daughter. I know my employer would be better off without a bipolar employee. My existence is just a fucking disaster for everyone.

I have this sickness that turns our lives upside down. I have this sickness that makes me dependent on him in so many ways. He is my support system. He comes to doctors appointments with me. He worries about whether or not this will be the episode when I kill myself. He has been working on his thesis while picking up the slack at home. He does groceries when I cannot handle the people. He cooks. He cleans. He does all of those things that we would normally split because I have been mired in this sickness.

“I have some fucking audacity to be angry with you for not helping out. These past 6 months have been all you taking care of me and the house. Aren’t you tired of babysitting your wife? Fuck I’m such a mess and here I am, angry at you over some fucking dishes. You should just leave me before you just end up resenting me.”

He is crying now. But I’m not sure why. I’m giving him this out that so many men in relationships much worse than ours would beg for. I’m giving him permission to leave me; to be free of me and this illness. I often wonder whether he’s a masochist because the reality that he could actually love me this much is currently beyond my understanding.

The rage has now left me, as if I have gone through an exorcism. Now we can talk through the issues. I explain how guilty I feel. How sorry I am for yelling, for the sickness, and for everything I have ever put him through. And he tells me that he never feels like a babysitter because he loves me. He loves me and all my flaws. He has stayed with me this long and is not going to leave me, ever. I am stuck with him, not vice versa.

And then we fall back into our regular routine. He washes the dishes as I finish preparing dinner. But we both know that this isn’t the end. This won’t be the last time. But we take the calm as it comes.

Is it so much to just want to feel normal?

Orphan Black

The clones from Orphan Black, which admittedly i have been watching and probably why I asked this question.

“If there was a clone version of me, would you be able to differentiate between me and the clone? Like could you tell that it wasn’t the original? This troubles me. I think if there was a clone version of you, I’d totally know that it wasn’t you. It would say something and I’d be like, bam, you’re not Shane you’re a replicate. What’d you do to my husband?”

We were sitting in a small examination room with walls that reminded me of The Yellow Wallpaper. In a few steps, I could walk the length of the room and if I stretched I could touch it wall to wall.

Alice in WonderlandMy husband, who is 6’4, looked gigantic in this tiny room and sitting in an even smaller chair. It was straight out of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and he ate the mushroom that made him grow ten feet tall.

Meanwhile, I feel like a caged animal as I pace back and forth and ramble about clones.

“I would know it’s not you because the clone wouldn’t ask me questions like this.” He looks at me and laughs and I laugh too. Was it inappropriate? Was it too loud? I have no control over the volume of my voice.

In these situations where I’m in the grips of my mental illness — in this instance deep in hypomania — my husband has the ability to bring levity to the situation while also keeping me calm.

“Why haven’t we seen the doctor yet?” I asked. We had been waiting in the walk-in clinic for 3 hours. My doctor was working at the walk-in clinic today so I had to spend the long wait in the waiting room with people who are physically ill. I will probably contract some virus from them in the coming days. So that when I finally come down from my hypomania, I will be depressed and sick. I considered putting on one of those masks they give you if you have a cough, but I didn’t want to look crazy. “What if she’s taking so long because she’s calling the hospital thinking that I need to be admitted?”

“That’s a paranoid thought Marisa,” Shane reminds me gently. Logically, I know he’s right. That’s not how the system works. Hypomania overrides all logic and, for me at least, brings in paranoia.

“It’s the waiting, it’s getting to me.” I keep scratching my arms like I’m tweaking. We’ve been here for what seems like forever and I’m about ready to tear my skin off. I can’t sit still. I’m sure the pacing is driving him nuts.

I poke my head out of the room and I can see my doctor on the phone. She’s speaking french. I have to listen hard to understand her because her voice is lowered, and for some reason when I’m hypomanic, understanding french is more difficult. She’s definitely not talking about me.

After 40 minutes of waiting in the Yellow Wallpaper room, my doctor finally comes in to see me. This is the second time I’ve seen her this week. The first was when the hypomania started.

“Ça va mieux Marisa? Are you doing better?” Although she knows I’m an anglophone she speaks in both languages. It’s sort of endearing. We speak in a mixture of French and English. Something that only really happens in Montreal.

“No, I’m not doing any better. It’s getting worse actually.” I try and speak in short succinct sentences because I know that if I talk too much, the words will come out in a loud flood. Hypomanic speech embarrassing. As someone who already speaks fast when I’m healthy, my hypomanic speech is a flood of words that don’t always make sense.

“Oh ma pauvre.” She looks at my husband. “I feel really sorry for your wife. Ce n’est pas facile ça. It’s not easy.”

“So what do we do now?” I ask.

She writes me a script for 1 mg of lorazepam that i’m to take twice daily, plus an extra 50 mg of Seroquel that I’m to take at lunchtime and then at night I take 200 mg of Seroquel. My insurance company is also demanding another note from her with a consultation report.

“I do not think you should start working full-time yet. I want you to go back to 3 days per week.”

“No!” I shout at her. My tone and volume startles her. “No, no, no. I’m not taking steps backwards from going back to work because of this. No. It’s not happening.” I’m shaking my head and pulling my hair back in anxiety.

“But they’re going to ask why if I saw you and you are hypomanic, why are we going to stay the course? Tu comprends?”

“Okay, well I already started at 4 days a week this week. I don’t want to go back to 3 days a week.”

“Okay, so I write that you remain on 4 days a week because of the hypomania. Does that work?”

“I guess…” I’m sitting on the examination table and I kick my legs back and forth like a child. I feel like a loser because of this. Why are my moods cycling so much? Why can’t I just return to work like I wanted to? Nothing ever works out the way I want it to.

“Doctor,” my husband speaks up. He’s been mostly silent during this appointment letting me speak for myself, except when I ask for his observations. He’s a good man. “I’m concerned by the frequency that her moods have been cycling. We’ve had a mixed episode a few weeks ago, depression a few weeks before that, and now this. Should her medications be reevaluated?”

“Je comprend, mais je suis pas psychiatre. I’m not a psychiatrist. Maybe I refer your wife to one.”

I wonder if I look as dejected as I feel.as I stare at my husband. He knows how much I hate psychiatrists. I’ve had so many bad experiences. But ultimately, my doctor is a GP and doesn’t have the expertise to deal with Bipolar Disorder. Perhaps it’s time to bite the bullet and go and see one.

We left the office with a medical consultation report for my insurance company, a referral to the agency that can refer me to a psychiatrist, and more anxiety than I know what to do with.

I call my therapist, who was once a psychiatrist back in Europe but is non-practicing in Quebec, and explain everything that has happened, Once I’ve stopped talking she finally says, “Well you could present yourself to the ER at the Douglas to ensure you see a psychiatrist there. They have a good team that I trust.”

My stomach drops. That’s the last thing I want. I don’t want to be hospitalized. “Isn’t there another way?”

It turns out, at the Douglas Institute that specializes in psychiatry and is more advanced in the way that they treat people, the only way to see one of their psychiatrists is to admit yourself into the ER. The admission into the ER could result in a hospitalization, which would completely ruin my back to work plan. My husband and I discuss this and decide that my fear of hospitalization is greater than my fear of dealing with hypomania.

Right now, I can at least channel my hypomania. I work with it. It’s not pleasant, but I can mold it into useful energy to get shit done. I work out. I socialize. I clean the house.

Hypomania is wrapped up in productivity, which makes me appear normal and ultimately that’s all I really want — to appear normal.

Hold on: Find your depression life preserver

It’s been a hell of a week. Despite all of the wonderful things happening around me: my Facebook Page has reached just over 300 likes, I’m going to be in a documentary about Clara’s Big Ride, I had a journalist from Elle Canada contact me about a post I wrote on self-harm, my depression was so bad that I thought I was going to have to admit myself into the hospital.

On Monday, I spent three hours sobbing in bed without any explanation. I woke up in the morning and I felt off kilter but I figured it was because I hadn’t had a full night’s sleep in over a week. I had been experiencing terrifying nightmares. Not just nightmares where you’re late for work or you show up to your presentation naked, but the kind of nightmares that make you question your brain. Nightmares where I was gang raped, nightmares where I watched my husband’s throat get slit before they did my own. These nightmares woke me up, panting and sweating and unable to go back to sleep. I was afraid to sleep because I was afraid of the nightmares that might happen.

It's Okay to CrySo Monday was day five of this sleeplessness and in hindsight I should have contacted my doctor earlier, but I thought it was just anxiety. By Monday afternoon I was in full blown crisis. My husband came home for lunch and he could read it on my body that I was in a bad way. He decided to stay home because he was afraid. There’s nothing that can quite make you feel as guilty as someone telling you, “I can’t go back to work because I’m afraid I might find you dead when I come home.” That’s when he asked me, in between my sobs and screams of frustration, if he should bring me to the hospital. And that’s when we both realized, we had no idea where to go.

We have been living in Montreal for about four years now and my mental health issues haven’t been prominent enough for us to think about this. It’s not that I haven’t been struggling because I have been. If you’ve been following this blog, you know that I have had to take time off of work because of my mental health, I have been experiencing daily panic attacks that have only recently abated, and I had a full blown hypomanic episode.

But, there’s a fine line between anxiety, depression, and hypomania that is manageable from home and that place that makes you and everyone around you so completely helpless that you resort to checking yourself into a psychiatric ward. My husband and I have been there before and it’s never an easy decision.

Finally, I decided to take a Clonazepam just to calm myself and I took a nap. I napped to hang on a little while longer. Two hours later, I woke up and felt I didn’t need to go to the hospital and I could hang on until I could speak to my therapist on Tuesday. Tuesday came and I felt worse than I did on Monday, but at least I couldn’t cry anymore. I couldn’t do anything. I sat in front of my computer and watched my Twitter feed until I could speak with my therapist.

I just want to say that I have the most amazing therapist in the world because she is out of the country and still responds to my e-mails that are written mid-panic. She called me from wherever in the world she is and calmly explained that she felt it was simply lack of sleep that was making me feel so despairing. She reminded me how when I lack sleep, I feel like a totally different human being. She told me to get off the phone and make an emergency appointment with my doctor.

Depression problemsWhen i saw my doctor on Wednesday, my husband accompanied me because he didn’t want me playing down or intellectualizing how badly I felt (I have a bad history of that). However, I think my doctor was able to read me well enough to know that I was not doing well. I was a mess. I was unshowered, greasy haired, dressed in leggings and an oversized sweater, and on the verge of tears. She increased my dose of Seroquel to essentially tranquilize me into sleep and a referral to the local psychiatric hospital, just in case, since she wouldn’t be working over the weekend.

Now for any of you who have taken Seroquel before, you know what this is like. If you’ve never taken Seroquel well it hits you like a truck. The sedation is intense. This is not a drug to be fucked with. It knocked me out but I could barely function. Extreme dizziness accompanied every small movement. I had skull crushing headaches. My brain felt like it was wrapped in cotton. My concentration was so bad that I couldn’t even watch daytime TV. I couldn’t speak in full sentences and my husband had to guess the words that I was trying to speak so that he could finish my half-started sentences.

Finally on Saturday, I felt good. I felt rested. I felt happy. I also felt like I was having a mild hypomanic episode. My husband noted I was rambling and talking really fast. I was having thoughts that didn’t connect with anything and blurting them out loud. But compared with Monday, this was a vast improvement. I actually willingly left the house. I was hopeful. The came Sunday and my mood had crashed again. I was anxious and agitated and felt like there were ants crawling on my brain. It is so frustrating to have these fleeting moments of good moods and you try and cling to them, but they slip through your fingers like water.

It’s now Monday again and I feel a million miles away from where I was last Monday. The dizziness has largely dissipated, except when I stand up too fast and when I wake up in the middle of the night. I can concentrate for larger chunks of time (hence the blog post). But it’s still slow going. My words still feel stuck between my brain and my lips. My headaches are constant and Advil only mildly touches them. But at least I don’t feel like I need to be in the psychiatric hospital, so that’s a win!

I don’t really have an overarching message for this blog post other than to hold on. Find something to hold on to – whether it’s to see your doctor or therapist – and cling to that like a life preserver when you’re drowning in the despair of depression. Just keep holding on.