Revelations and Recovery

I meant to write this post last May, for Mental Health Month.  I had hoped to get it finished during Mental Illness Awareness Week.  I’ve discovered that it’s very hard for me to write in depth about my own mental health issues.  But before I get into that, I want to share an analogy about mental illness that my dear friend and personal hero, Steven Hall wrote.

The Batman Analogy  by Steven Hall

Imagine, for a moment, that you’re Batman.

Imagine that you fight crime with the help of a butler, a sidekick, a police commissioner, and several Bat-themed accomplices. You have virtually limitless resources from which to either purchase the tools and weapons you need, or you just craft them yourself. You have a computer that can analyze anything and a vast secret base from which to operate. Your most diabolical enemies are locked up with a brief, intense struggle, and while they always manage to escape Arkham, you always manage to put them back where they belong.

Now imagine that your most diabolical enemies have discovered where your Batcave is, and have taken up residence there. They have access to all the gadgets and the computer, the support network, and your secret identity, and they’re somehow using them all against you. There’s no place you can hide, nothing they can’t access, and nowhere to run that’s safe. They will always find you because they know everything about you, so you just sit there in the Batcave and let them torture you day in, day out, using the very tools that you built to fight them with. The Scarecrow is there, too, making sure that your reality is a constantly fluid and everchanging concept. There’s no sense trying to put them all back in Arkham, because they built a tunnel that you can’t access leading them straight back to the Batcave. The whole idea of being Batman is suddenly and utterly pointless.

The first scenario is, what I understand, how the normal brain works. You have your resources, you have your tools, and you can usually overcome your obstacles with a little bit of effort and determination. You’re a hero, and that’s what heroes do.

The second is the brain of an individual with mental illness. Eventually, the fight becomes so ludicrously overmatched, you just give up hope and start to just sit there and take it, not fighting back, wondering when the fight is going to end. You start rooting for the bad guys in the hope that in the end, there will be mercy.

But the point is this.

In that second scenario, you’re so far beaten that you forget who you are. You draw a blank on this Batman guy and all you can think of is how badly Bruce is getting his ass kicked in his own safe house. But no matter how bad things get, YOU’RE STILL A HERO, AND YOU’RE STILL FIGHTING, even if all the fight that’s left in you is to just breathe and survive the day.

Because one day, you’re going to find something left within you, just enough strength to rise once more and take the fight to your enemies again.

And THAT’S what heroes do too.

***

I hate to admit it, but for awhile there, the bad guys were winning.  I’ve been diagnosed with Chronic Depression, Anxiety/Panic Disorder, and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.  I also suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder and Insomnia, plus a handful of physical ailments such as Arthritis, Raynaud’s Phenomenon, and Eczema, which are worsened by stress and anxiety.

Last winter, my anxiety was completely out of control.  Between the stress of my husband’s uncertain health (he’s still getting migraines and cluster headaches several times a week), our even more uncertain financial situation, going to graduate school, and running a business, I was having some major pain issues in my neck and shoulders, my own headaches (not as severe as my husband’s, but that’s not a competition I want either of us to win), and heart palpitations.  I’ve since described anxiety as a flight or fight response where you’re stuck on the “or” part, and boy was I.  It also exacerbated my SAD, Insomnia, and ADHD to the point I was in a constant state of fog, unable to sleep, and unable to stay awake.

***

I started back on antidepressants (I had managed without them for years), but it took several months to find a dosage that helped.  In the meantime, I couldn’t keep up with the work required for my MLIS classes, and I was disqualified from the program.  This was a pretty big blow that did not help my depression one bit.  I couldn’t keep up with getting orders from my Etsy shop out in a timely manner, and had to shut it down.  Another blow, which only added to the stress of the uncertain financial situation.  I was feeling like I’d failed at everything.  My general mantra of “it’s okay, just try again tomorrow,” was sounding like a broken record and I was beginning to wonder if trying again was really worth the effort.

It’s ALWAYS worth the effort

It’s not easy living with mental illness.  It’s not easy to go undiagnosed for 40 years (my ADHD diagnosis was about a month after my 40th birthday).  Some days, it’s not easy to even get out of bed.  But it is always, always, always worth the effort.  Even when that effort is simply “I’ll try again tomorrow.”

***

I don’t like to talk about my mental health issues very often.  I look at what some of my friends and loved ones are going through, and I feel like I’m whining if I mention mine.  But that’s one of depression’s traps.  My illness isn’t any less valid because it’s less severe than someone else’s.  My pain might not be as intense as what my husband is suffering, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.  I get pissed off if anyone tries to tell anyone with a mental illness that “it’s not that bad,” or “suck it up,” so why do I tolerate it when I say it to myself?

I am a fiercely independent person, I don’t like being told I can’t do something, and it can be very difficult for me to ask for help.  So part of my issue is not wanting to give in to my mental illnesses, not wanting to admit how much they really affect me.  Admirable in theory, but ignoring them does not make them go away.  I don’t want to “wallow” or use them as excuses, though.  It’s a strange dichotomy, not letting mental illness rule our lives while advocating to eliminate the stigma we face on a daily basis, even within our own minds.

I’m also an optimist.  Yes, optimists can have depression.  My depression isn’t necessarily a sadness, and my anxiety isn’t necessarily a worry.  I don’t really tend to dwell on the negative or concern myself with thoughts of what might go wrong.  I am more of a Pollyanna and a cheerleader, and my positivity and enthusiasm don’t really go away when I’m having a bad bout of depression and/or anxiety.  It’s more like they’re on the other side of a glass wall; I can see them, but I can’t touch them.  And that makes things worse, because I know it’s irrational, I know I don’t really believe whatever negative thoughts might be creeping in, but I’m stuck.  I can’t do anything but press against the glass.

***

If you have a mental illness, you are a superhero.  Every day you exert superhuman strength just to appear “normal.”  You live a kind of double life with a secret identity.  But instead of your secret identity being a “normal” person, it’s your superhero identity that is the “normal” one.  Your superhero identity is the face you show the world, hiding your secret identity as much as possible.  It’s like you’re two different people, and others don’t see the connection, that they really are the same person.  But unlike Clark Kent and Superman, it takes more than a pair of glasses to switch between the two personas.  And some days you just can’t.  So you try again tomorrow.  Because you are a superhero, and that’s what heroes do.

***

So I am “heroing up” here.  I am taking back my life, getting back in business, and writing a book.  Yes, I’ll still have bad days.  But I also have the right medications now, and amazingly supportive people in my life.  I’m not in this alone.  And neither are you.

You are my hero

Advertisements

Reintroductions: Blowing the Dust Off

*cough-cough-cough*

Wow, it’s been nearly a year since I last used this blog.  Those who’ve read my posts in the past will recognize my “I’ve been busy” mantra and the “health issues” excuse.  To say it’s been an interesting year might be a slight understatement, and I apologize in advance that this might be a rather long post, as there’s quite a lot I’d like to catch up on.  I’m also currently fighting off an anxiety attack, so I’m hoping that getting some of my thoughts down on virtual paper will help ease the demons in my head.

You’re probably wondering why I’m jumping back into blogging again, and how long I’ll stick with it this time.  The short answer is because it’s a class requirement, so I’ll be posting at least biweekly for the next four months or so.  I am starting a Master of Library and Information Science degree through San Jose State University and will be tagging these posts with MLIS so those who only want to see what I’m doing for my classes can click on the MLIS tag in the cloud on the right, bookmark this link: https://rewondered.wordpress.com/tag/mlis or follow this RSS feed: https://rewondered.wordpress.com/tag/mlis/feed/.  Of course, I also hope to use this blog more often for my business and other topics I am interested in, but more on that later.

Let’s start off with the reintroduction, as there will be those who are required to read this for our class who know nothing about me, and perhaps some of my old readers are getting a new notification from this blog but don’t remember why they subscribed to it.  My name is Heather, but I also go by Wondie.  Wondie is a nickname I received from a character I created in City of Heroes named One Hit Wonder.  I began using this character as my DJ persona for The Cape Radio in 2004 and the name was shortened by my listeners to Wondie.  My business name, Rewondered, is also based off of the One Hit Wonder name, so I tend to use Wondie as my business persona as well.  You may call me either Heather or Wondie, I will answer to both.

Wondie

 

Through Rewondered, I design and create jewelry and accessories using found objects and leftover supplies, “rewondering” them into new wearable art.  I sell my designs on Etsy and at local events or craft fairs, mainly in New Hampshire.  I will be at Antrim’s Home and Harvest Festival on September 13th and Hillsborough’s Schnitzelfest on September 27th.  I have also been a merchant at several SCA events, and plan to return to Birka for the third year in January.

Part of my set up at Birka in 2014

Part of my set up at Birka in 2014

 

So what’s been going on this past year?  My last post was in October, which isn’t too surprising considering October through January are my busiest months of the year.  January through March I was working on my last regular classes for my Bachelor’s degree, one that was an accelerated version and one that I had designed myself and was probably a little bit more ambitious than it should have been.  April through June I was working on my Capstone with another likely-too-ambitious project.  There was a great deal of stress, but I survived, got my Bachelor’s degree, and was accepted into the MLIS program, which started this week.

School wasn’t the only thing going on, either.  I’ve continued to have some health issues, but I am doing much better than I did in 2013.  The big news on the health front is in March, I finally got my diagnosis of ADHD.  I’ve been reading books and articles to learn more about the disorder and how to best cope with it, and realizing just how much it has impacted my entire life.  I’ve tried so hard, but I’ve never lived up to my potential, I have always had some serious time-management issues, and I can’t stop chasing new ideas long enough to finish the old ones.  I’m working on it, but it’s a slow process.  I want to make sure that the changes I’m making are going to stick, that the ideas I’m trying are going to work for me.  In the past I’ve always jumped into a big project to get reorganized and ended up completely overwhelmed, so I abandon it before I can get any use out of it.  This time I’m taking it slow, using suggestions specifically for people with ADHD, and really examining all sides of my “great organization idea” before committing to it.  I’m not giving myself any specific deadline it needs to be done by, so I don’t rush it and make it all fall apart, but I’m trying to get at least a little bit done on it each day.  So far, so good.  I’d share before and after pics, but I’m really just too embarrassed about the before state.  Instead, I’ll share some pics when I’m done, and a bit about my process to get there.  I’ll also share some of my experiences and suggestions for running a business and/or being a graduate student with ADHD, as I figure out what is working and what is not, now and in the future.  Those posts will be tagged ADHD, so look for that in the tag cloud on the right, bookmark this link: https://rewondered.wordpress.com/tag/adhd, or follow this RSS feed: https://rewondered.wordpress.com/tag/adhd/feed/.

My husband has also been having some health issues, and has spent most of the summer fighting off almost-daily migraines.  The good news is there doesn’t appear to be anything we need to be particularly concerned about (i.e. it’s not a tumor!) but the bad news is no one is really sure why he’s having them so often.  The other bit of “good” news is his average pain lately has been a 5 or 6, rather than a 7 or 8, and the incidents of being actively mauled by a bear are decreasing in frequency (special thanks to Hyperbole and a Half for the pain scale reference).  We’ve been taking one day at a time, and I’ve been doing most of the driving whenever we’ve had to go anywhere.  This week has been better, and on Monday we celebrated our two year anniversary by going to see Guardians of the Galaxyfitting since we met because of superheroes (he’s also a DJ for The Cape Radio, but we are both on hiatus at the moment).  I admit that I have never read any of the comics, but I enjoyed the movie and would love to pick them up.

One of my favorite pictures of me and my husband, even though his eyes are closed.  His shirt says "Super Genius" and mine says "All this and nerdy too" - it's like we were made for each other or something. :)

One of my favorite pictures of me and my husband, even though his eyes are closed. He’s wearing a shirt that says “Super Genius” and mine says “All this and nerdy too” – it’s like we were made for each other or something. 🙂

 

Speaking of The Cape Radio, I am leaving in the morning to attend CapeCon.  This started out as a meet and greet for DJs and listeners of the station and other players of City of Heroes, first held in Chicago in 2008.  I went every year through 2011, which was the first year my husband was able to go, and thus the first time we met in person.  We were married a little over a year later.  We were unable to go back in 2012 or 2013, and with his current health issues, he doesn’t want to risk getting a migraine on a plane or spending the entire weekend holed up in a blanket fort in a hotel room, so I am going by myself.  This is part of where my anxiety issues are rearing their ugly heads.  I don’t like the process of traveling by plane (the flying itself is fine, but I don’t do well in large crowds and I don’t like strangers touching me, just to name a couple of my anxiety triggers) and knowing my husband will not be there to hold my hand and remind me that everything is okay is a bit unsettling.  CapeCon is being held in a different place this year, San Antonio, so even though I’ve been there several times in the past, this still has an element of the unfamiliar.  Luckily, several of my close friends will be there, and I have been promised drinks, so I am sure once I get past this initial anxiety, I’ll have a good time.  I am glad I will only be gone for three days, though.

FeedingBaron

Me and another of The Cape Radio’s DJs at the first CapeCon/Meet & Greet

 

So what’s next for me, Rewondered, and this blog?  There’s quite a bit of reorganization in the works, everything from my studio to my website, but this process may take a couple of years.  It will also take a few years for me to get my MLIS.  I chose to pursue this particular Master’s degree because I’ve always had a fascination with books and libraries.  My first “real” job was actually working in a library.  One of the projects I was helping with was converting the card catalog to a computer system.  Which probably gives you a hint about my age!  I’m fascinated by the way technology has increased access to information exponentially.  I’m also seeing some ways that creative solopreneurs can incorporate information science into their businesses to help them operate more efficiently, so this will likely be a major focus of my future studies.  I would really like to use what I’ve learned and will learn in future classes to help other one-person creative business owners like myself, particularly Etsy Sellers and those with ADHD.

After completing my Capstone, I began plans to write a book, possibly even a series of books or reports, specifically geared toward those who want to keep their business small enough that they can handle it on their own, but successful enough that they can make a real living.  I’ve been getting several nudges from the universe that I need to start writing and sharing my knowledge, so the first step will be getting this blog going again.

And I’m going to be continuing to figure out how my brain really works, and how to make it work for me.

HeathersBrain

 

%d bloggers like this: