I’ll probably never recover

And that’s okay. I’ll get better. I’ll learn to manage my symptoms. I’ll find ways to live a good and fulfilling life despite my struggles. In fact, I’ve already done these things. And I will continue to do them so long as I’m breathing. But will I fully recover? Nah. Especially now that bipolar is in the mix (it never goes away!) but even without that, I don’t think C-PTSD is currently curable. How could it be? Why would we expect that of people?

My parents used to ask what it would take for me to get better and live a normal life with a normal job. What I should have said was that it would have taken a childhood that they weren’t involved in. I remember sitting down at an intake for residential treatment, my parents seated next to me. My dad turned to the greying counselor seated across the room and said, “so can you fix her or what?”

Ohhh, you stupid idiot.

I wish at the time I’d had the knowledge or the audacity that I have now – enough to say something back to that. But instead I sat there, head in my hands, probably still hungover from the night before.

For the record, the treatment didn’t fix me. Didn’t even come close. It added more trauma to my life in the form of my friend hanging herself in the room next to me the night I relapsed. I left in far worse shape than when I went in. I got sober again a few months later on my own, without the expensive, infantilizing treatment.

I think so often we forget in our excitement to get better that mental health treatment is an industry. For many people, it’s a business. In some ways, we – the sick – are both the product and the consumer. The business couldn’t exist without us and no one would buy it if we didn’t exist. We are fueling a monster. A cursory Google search just now revealed that the industry is worth AT LEAST an estimated $300 billion. That’s more than the fucking diet industry. The two have a lot in common – false promises of a better life, faulty methods, and a system that people end up depending on for years upon years because… it doesn’t work.

I feel kind of crappy because for months – even years – I have tried to convince my partner to see a therapist even though my own experiences have been shit across the board. It’s no wonder he digs his heels in after seeing the bullshit I’ve gone through trying to find a decent person to talk to. And the help I get is free because I get help from the government. If he sees a shitty therapist, he has to pay partially out of pocket. If they suck or mistreat him, he’s literally paying for his own suffering.

I think I suggest therapy because a part of me still wants to believe that there’s a magic fix out there. That talking to someone can cure these massive traumas, these years upon years of pain and suffering. But most of these people haven’t come close to suffering in the same ways and if they have, they usually aren’t mentally stable enough to be helping others. Can’t really win.

Will I keep looking for the right therapist? Probably. I found someone decent to shoot the shit with but I don’t think she’s going to heal my trauma in a profound way. She’s more like a friend that I can vent to. In some ways, I think that’s the best I’m going to find until there’s a radical awakening within the entire system. It starts with adding C-PTSD to the DSM and ceasing to label deeply traumatized people with BPD. DBT is not the cure. I’m sorry, but it’s just not. It might help people stabilize to a certain extent, but that’s it. It doesn’t get to the core issues. I have yet to find a type of therapy that really attacks the core of complex trauma. And yes, I’ve tried everything that’s been recommended.

The more I strive for something unattainable, the more I suffer. The more I realize that I’ve made it in so many ways – that I’ve survived despite my circumstances – the happier and more satisfied I feel. If this is as good as it gets, I’m okay with that. I’ve come a long fucking way on my own.

You know what helps? Writing about it. Making art. Sharing your feelings with people you trust. Loving people. Making friends. Chilling in nature. Maybe the occasional therapy session but, trust me, it isn’t black magic. If your life isn’t 100% better after a handful of therapy sessions, there is nothing wrong with you. You’re just on the shit end of a terrible money-making machine.

Sorry to be so jaded but that’s what I have for you today.

Wish you well.

xo,

Leif

Can you progress when you’re bipolar?

Happy Halloween. Err at least it was Halloween when I wrote this. I’m watching true crime right now – it’s my favorite type of entertainment when I’m depressed. Not that true crime is entertaining in a happy way, but it definitely captivates me. I think that’s what I like best about true crime – it captures my attention fully and lets me forget about my own life while I’m consuming it. My favorite true crime show is That Chapter, an amazing YouTube channel by a guy named Mike Oh. Or O. I don’t know. But he’s an incredible storyteller and manages to infuse these horrible stories with humor but in a way that’s respectful to the dead. He’s good shit.

At least my true crime obsession makes sense on Halloween.

Halloween season has been slow this year, as I imagine it has been for everyone. I usually try to do some ghost hunting or at least find a way to get in the spirit early. It’s my way of coping with a bad trauma that happened in October. The trauma is far enough away now that on the anniversary, I didn’t even think about what happened. So that’s progress!

One of my greatest fears lately is that there’s only so much progress I can make as a bipolar person because I will always be bipolar, even if I heal my trauma. There is no cure as of yet to bipolar disorder and that’s daunting to sit with. Just knowing that if I go off my meds, I am liable to become manic and destroy my life is kind of heavy. And lately, I’ve been tired and unable to carry much weight.

Because I’ve been so fucking tired, I’ve decided to start eating a keto diet again. I did this in my 20s and I had a lot of success with balancing my moods, though I was unaware of my mood disorder at the time. I just generally felt so much more stable and regulated. I’ve read some cursory reports of keto working well for managing bipolar disorder. There aren’t many thorough studies of this, but the ones that do exist have shown positive results. I’m not approaching keto as a fad diet but as a lifestyle choice that’s meant to be longterm. I’m interested in seeing if keto is capable of lifting my dysphoria and allowing me to feel energized again. I will keep you updated on whether or not that’s the case.

I’ve gained about 50 pounds since I got pregnant and I don’t hate my body but I don’t really feel comfortable in it, physically. It is hard to do the strenuous exercise that used to keep me mentally stable. My body feels heavy and tired and difficult to maneuver. I am usually only able to workout 30 minutes a day, compared to my former one to two hours. And I know that sounds like a lot, but I am usually a very intense person with a ton of energy and that’s always been my means of burning it off. Now I have no energy. I honestly eat like shit. I eat fast food at least a few times a week and I notice that my mood drops as soon as I am finished and sometimes stays that way for a full day.

I enjoy eating but not to the extent that it impacts how I feel during the day. I eat too many carbs and sugars, as do most Americans, and I know that’s the major contributing factor in why I’ve been gaining weight lately, on top of taking a new anti-psychotic. Those drugs notoriously make people gain weight. I have no problem with fatness aesthetically but my cholesterol is also high and when weight gain starts to impact my physical health, that’s when I start to take issue with it.

Earlier this year, I had a period of feeling super confident in my bigger body. I think I was manic, but still – I felt great. That’s one of the things I sort of miss about mania, the crazy confidence. The belief that everything is not just okay, but fucking great. That I’m not mentally ill. That my body is wonderful. That I am happy and the world is beautiful and perfect. Thinking back, I can hardly believe I ever thought like that but I did. And I thought that very recently.

Sometimes I feel sad that my anti-psychotics take these things away from me but I also know that I didn’t feel that good all the time. Sometimes I felt extremely suspicious and paranoid. I stopped trusting my loved ones. I pushed loads of people away. I obsessed over numbers on social media and made content that not embarrasses me. And when the mania was over, I would crash into massive states of depression that took months to climb out of. In fact, I am still trying to climb out today.

When I told my old therapist that I’d been diagnosed with bipolar, she kind of chuckled and said something like, “well, that’s not too surprising, is it?” And I feel a bit bitter about that because she’s the one who instilled in me that I have borderline personality disorder and that it was the cause of all the problems in my life. In hindsight, it makes so much sense why that diagnosis never sat well with me. It was wrong. There was something else going on. I had undiagnosed bipolar disorder behind the scenes and this brilliant psychotherapist totally fucking missed it and diagnosed me with the same thing she diagnoses all of her patients with.

I have so many issues with the mental health establishment. It’s such a fucking inexact science, almost like new agey bullshit. Half the time, doctors are just speaking from their asses, making guesses about what could be wrong with you and then guessing again about how they can treat it. The truth is that there are so few solid answers within the mental health field about why we are the way we are. All they seem to know for sure is that we need to be medicated and we need to devote the rest of our lives to engaging in mental health treatment. Sounds a little bit like they’re making sure their pockets stay lined forever, doesn’t it?

Anyway, I just wanted to check in and spill some of what’s on my brain because there tends to be a lot at all moments. I’ve really enjoyed blogging again and I missed blogging here in particular. I stopped because of social media, bane of my existence. But that’s a topic for another day.

It’s the day after Halloween now and my second day on the keto diet. I already have a noticeable amount of energy and motivation and I feel a lot less heavy in my body, even though my weight hasn’t changed. Carbs have been making me so damn lethargic and as a mother to a one-year-old, that isn’t very practical. I am excited to be taking back control over my life and finding the motivation to make changes. I am excited to be starting something new. I haven’t even thought about smoking weed since I decided to start the keto diet, which is a huge improvement compared to where I was at a week ago, when all I could talk about was how much I was missing weed. I don’t miss it as much when I have something else to work towards and look forward to. Half the reason why I smoked was plain and simple boredom. Fill that time with something motivating and a lot of the obsessive thoughts go away.

I’m still very confused about what I’m doing with my life, as it seems to change every few weeks. The main thing I’m doing is parenting and I need to be okay with that. Parenting and caring for my mental health. I had such a big episode this summer that I think I need to accept that it’s just going to take some time to crawl out of that and it’s time to be patient and not force myself to accomplish all of my dreams while I’m trying to recover. My life is likely not going to end tomorrow. There is time – for all of it. I can allow myself to rest and come to terms with my diagnosis on my own time. Keto is part of that. I am learning new tools to manage my moods every day. That is progress. It really is. I may not be able to heal this shit, but I can learn to live with it in a way that isn’t so destructive to my life.

So yes, I think you can make progress when you’re bipolar, it just doesn’t look the same as other types of progress. And when did any of my quests resemble the mainstream? Lol.

That’s all for now. Hope you get something out of this. If not, hope you enjoyed the reading.

Have an awesome start to your week!

Best,

Leif

Grim indeed.


My mental heath is shit lately. Coming out of a depressive episode now that lasted about three months and in that time, I learned that I have Bipolar I, which has been causing me great distress since long before I realized what was going on.

My moods, like the river, are erratic. My moods, like the river, change drastically with the seasons. My moods, like the river, are uninhabitable for others for half the year. My moods, like the river, can drown the unprepared. My moods, like the river, flood into parts of life they aren’t supposed to touch.

I like the river because I’m also chaotic. I’m unpredictable. My changes come without warning. I seem fun from a distance but lurking in my waters is a recipe for trouble. I relate to this river. I feel her on a deep level. And for that reason, I don’t mess with her. I know what she’s capable of. I don’t tempt fate.

The river has many moods. Mostly mean. Even when she seems calm, she’s not. She’s just waiting to suck her next victim under, and I know that’s what many think when they think of me. They look from afar but they don’t get too close. I don’t blame them.

I wish that, like the river, I didn’t owe any reasoning for my changing moods. I wish people just knew when they looked at me that I‘d be liable to change course, change intensity. I wish, like the river, I wouldn’t have constantly apologize for these changes. That I could embody change in all it’s uncertainty and be accepted that way. But people expect consistency if you aren’t a river, even if I insist that I am. People want you to act like they do, even if you aren’t them. They want you to be slow, predictable, measurable. I am none of those things.

I’m a raging current and, like the river, if you try to tame me, I act out. I flood over. I destroy. Some things aren’t meant to be tamed or even understood. They are just meant to be as they are, imperfect and wild. Wild. Unrelenting. Immeasurable. Inconsistent. You read these words and you have judgments about them, don’t you? But are any really “bad”? Is it bad to defy? Is it wrong to veer off course?

I like the river because I relate to her and I’ve felt equally as misunderstood. I like the river because my depths also hold the casualties of my moods. I like her because, frankly, she’s beautiful, and endlessly intricate and complex. She’s more questions than answers, wrong answers, more questions.

I am sorry I’m not less like a river and more like a rock. I wasn’t made solid. I wasn’t made stagnant. I was made to rage and twist and flood and curve.

And I think that’s okay. You want stagnancy, swim in a pond. You want solidity, collect rocks. You want straight lines, find a stick. There should be a place for everyone. There is in nature. Nature doesn’t discriminate between types. It makes room for all.

I sit at the banks of the river and feel at home. Cradled. Understood. No words necessary. No excuses. No explanations. Home.

Imposter Syndrome

Another post I’m transferring from my new blog because it fits better here.

I enjoyed my blog more when I wasn’t trying to get followers – when it was just a project meant to provide a home for my photography. Now I’m back in that sick cycle of feeling irrelevant unless I have such and such amount of followers. I got back on Instagram and now I’m back to comparing myself and judging the quality of my photos. I see professionals who have probably been at this for 10 years and I think, “well I might as well give up because they’re so much further along than me.” But is that really why we, as humans, have hobbies? To show off? Or is it because we love the craft and the process.Mother Mary

I know this about myself – as soon as I get wrapped up more in gaining attention than in the process of making art, the art becomes miserable. Why do I do this? I don’t know. It could have something to do with my mania. But it’s unnecessary. An artist makes art because they have to, not fundamentally for others. Sure, the eyes of others are a bonus. We want that validation – everyone does. But that’s not why we make the art in the first place. It’s not why we need to write or paint or sing. We need to do those things because there exists a force within us that tells us those things are necessary. Save us all!

Because I have only been taking photos for about a year, I struggle endlessly with feeling like an imposter. It’s a brand new craft and even though I love it, there are many things I don’t yet understand and haven’t been able to grasp. Something that brings me solace is the fact that I’ve seen loads of old people take up photography as a hobby in their old age and, in doing so, they probably rarely if ever think about the eyes of others, but only about the fact that taking photos brings them joy. I hate this obsession I have with validation and needing the eyes of others to create and I think the only way to fight it is to keep creating regardless of who watches. To do it because I have to, because I love it.

I’ve been doing things I don’t really enjoy because I get more followers. Things like making videos for YouTube and considering a podcast and posting videos on TikTok. I did those things because I knew there were people consuming that type of content, even if it wasn’t the type of content I wanted to be making. Part of the reason I stopped blogging was because I knew people weren’t reading blogs as much, even though blogging brought me more joy. It was a slower pace and allowed me to practice the skill I went to school for – writing. I traded that for something hollow for the sake of validation from people I don’t know and will probably never meet. I couldn’t just be satisfied with the modest reader-base I had acquired. I needed more.

And I do think that’s my mania speaking. My manic self wants fame and glory. My depressed self doesn’t give a shit. She’s satisfied with hiding, with the slower paced, more modest life. My manic self is not. She wants the spotlight. And perhaps that’s not only because of mania but also because of my trauma. I seek attention because I don’t have a lot of people in my life. I seek validation from strangers because I don’t have a family. That’s sad. The validation I get from strangers isn’t the same. It’s not like the love of a family. It’s fleeting. And that’s why I always need so much more of it.

I don’t really know what I’m doing with my life. I thought I would have a book published by now but instead I have a child and I can’t afford to edit a potentially traumatizing book while I’m trying to raise her. So it’s gone on the back burner and I have photography in its place. I’m not the best at it but I’m not the worst. I’m just okay. And if I want to progress at all I need to be satisfied with that and stop striving for this American ideal of being the best. I know that’s where half of this comes from is just American dream bullshit. We’re not supposed to be satisfied with having just enough. We’re supposed to want millions, the big mansion, the fancy car, the perfect family, the perfected skill. We’re supposed to strive for greatness. And I think that American ideal got lodged somewhere in my brain even though my heart doesn’t fully agree with it – even though part of me wants a humble, quiet, just-enough life. I suppose that bipolarity fits my diagnosis, doesn’t it? I’m a person of extremes.

The undertone with all of it is a fair amount of self-hatred. I’m just endlessly uncomfortable with who I am, how I feel, the way I exist in the world. Because I haven’t been on social media for a few months, I feel like no one, like all of my friends have forgotten about me. It feels like in order to be loved, you have to be a slave to these systems that you may hate. And boy do I fucking hate them. I hate the feelings I get when I scroll Instagram and see people who seem to be doing better than me in this or that way – a feeling I don’t really have when I’m not on the Internet. I’m much more comfortable with modesty and humility when I’m disconnected. Social media raises the stakes in ways that feel involuntary. Does anyone else feel that?

I prefer the quiet life to the comparisons, judgment, self-hate, and isolation I feel when I’m connected to the Internet. Isn’t it supposed to have the opposite effect? But then how would they rope us in? These negative emotions are crucial for maintaining an audience. The worse you feel, the more you check, the more you compare, the more you judge, the more your scroll. It’s brilliant, really. And since social media has been compared to a casino, we can roll with that metaphor and consider the poor soul who loses ten bucks to a machine, feels shitty, and then is hit with this determination to feel better using the very thing that’s caused them distress. They spend ten more. Lose it. Another ten. Lose it. And on and on. That’s what I feel every time I post.

Blogging is different. It is slower. It’s fairly desolate. I’m doing it for me more than for accolades. And so I will continue to do this so long as I still have words to write. Typing hurts less than handwriting these days because of my pregnancy-induced carpal tunnel. And I enjoy providing a home for my photos. But the more I think about the eyes and trying to find validation, the more I want to curl up and die. So perhaps it’s best to just do this in silence, for myself, because I have to.