Self-Tanner and Racing Thoughts

Racing thoughts. I had never encountered them in my life until I was in my early thirties. Have you ever had them? If you’re not sure, you haven’t. Because they are the most frustrating thing I have ever encountered in my life, and I hope to never have them again.

Imagine having thoughts coming at you 55 miles a minute. No sooner do you have a thought, and a profound one at that, poof!, it is gone. You try to go back and remember what the thought was, but it has forever disappeared, never to return again. We all have this from time to time, thought blocking. But imagine thought after thought after thought racing at you like bullets flying, like rapid machine gun fire, until you can’t finish a sentence. It is as if your mind is so busy, that you become communicatively incompetent. I mean this literally. I once tried to send a text message to my father and mother. The crux of the message was “help me, I think I am manic, and I need to go to the ER”. The one little string of three sentences that I was trying to write literally took thirty minutes to complete. Getting words and sentences and thoughts across to others when you are speaking to them is like wading through quick sand. Just thinking about that time in my life, is frustrating. Just trying to describe it is frustrating. Just trying to convey it, it’s frustrating.

I remember the first time I was able to finally identify and label racing thoughts. I was sitting in the doctor’s office. My doctor was asking me questions, and I knew the answers, I just couldn’t slow down my mind enough to focus on them and express them. She finally got frustrated, and said, “okay, you are an intelligent person, and you can’t answer simple questions, what is going on here?”. It was at that moment that a light bulb went off in my doctor’s mind, I could see it in her expression. She said “your thoughts are racing, aren’t they?”. So I said yes, that’s it! I don’t even know how I knew that this was the case, kind of like the time I was fainting, had never fainted before, but immediately knew that was what was happening. I was so relieved just to have a label, and a description, and just to have someone understand. It was then that treatment started heading in the right direction. Up until that point, all treatment had focused on depression, and the treatments that were given to me actually skyrocketed me into mania. Now we had an answer, a treatment method (mood stabilizer), and now I had hope.

If you are encountering racing thoughts, first of all, I’m sorry. This is incredibly frustrating, and it sucks! There is help though. You must reach out for it. You can’t and shouldn’t try to do this on your own. Tell a trusted friend, loved one, etc. If you need help accessing the resources that you need, I will be glad to help! Secondly, buy a little memo book and keep it in your pocket with a pen. As you have thoughts that you can grasp, write them down, before they can get muddied by what is coming at you. Then you can come back to the important points, organize your thoughts on paper, and remember important things. The process can be tedious, but like the example above, it may have taken a half hour to convey an important text message, but in the end, it was conveyed, and help was granted.

So what do racing thoughts have to do with self-tanner? Honestly, absolutely, positively nothing. Just like the thoughts that came at me like bullets. One thing did not have to do with the next. Everything was tangential and all over the place. Plus, I promised that this site would talk about things that make us happy and give us a boost.  I remember that summer described above, I started using self-tanner, and have used it ever since. Don’t ask me why or what that has to do with anything, other than the fact that a little color can give us a boost (a good one, not a manic one!). Self-tanner, however, is tricky. It is hard to find one that doesn’t streak, and doesn’t smell bad. I highly recommend So Bronze Airbrush by Hemp. It is a spray tanner, no odor. It is especially good for us fair gals, who get real streaky with the average tanner because it is too dark and won’t blend with our own skin tone well. After spraying it on, blend it with a mit. It dries almost instantly, you won’t believe how quick and simple it is. Another good one is the Tan Towel. No streaks, a little more of an odor, but it is a nice pina-colada- with- lime type of scent.

And if you get a streak, nail polish remover can help lighten it. If that doesn’t work, always remember, it is temporary, not permanent. Just like the depression and the mania, the racing thoughts,   our circumstances,  and all these things that make us feel hopeless and helpless. With time, they fade, and voila!, you are back to yourself again. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Book of Job

Spirituality is so important to our mental health. Crucial, in fact. In my own opinion, it is the one thing that can make it or break it. Yet, it is the one topic that is mostly  “off limits” for psychologists, psychiatrists, etc. This is for good reason. A person’s individual religious persuasion must be delicately respected and protected from the treatment provider’s own religious leanings. It is kind of like the “separation of church and state”. It is about protection, not a lack of respect for religion or spirituality. Please note: one does not even have to have a particular religion, atheists often have their own type of spirituality. I don’t want anyone to feel left out.

At the age of 13, deeply depressed and despondent, I had a deep connection to the Divine. This is not bragging, I had this connection because I needed it. Yet, for a while, religion brought me little relief. People would often try to say that I was not faithful enough, because I was depressed. I didn’t trust enough, they said. I didn’t read the Bible enough. In other words, in their eyes, I was found lacking.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Anyone who has been through clinical depression knows that it takes an ENORMOUS amount of faith just to get out of bed in the morning. Just to survive.

At 13, when others were distracted by boys, reputation, popularity, clothes, hair, etc; I was attempting to ask and answer deep philosophical questions from a desperate need to make sense of my world. I read the Bible daily. Especially the Book of Job. Because, you see, I felt like Job. I could think of nothing that I had done wrong at the age of 13 to cause me to deserve to suffer from a chemical imbalance, to live without my father at home, to endure the deaths of my beloved Grandaddy and Aunt Kiki within months of each other. So I read the book, looking for answers. I suppose I was supposed to feel comforted by the book. I hope I am not being disrespectful toward God when I tell you that I did not. The whole concept did not make much sense to me, altering Job’s life in order to prove to Satan what a good servant Job was. If he was that good (and he was), why punish him so? Instead of growing close to God, I became terribly, horribly frightened of Him. I am not knocking the Bible. What I am knocking, is trying to make sense of the world through religious materials when you have no guidance from others, don’t know the context, are looking at it from a depressed mindset, and don’t know the whole book. It must be taken as a whole.

So what is my point? Somehow I did find comfort. I found it in the friends who reached out to me with love, whom I am certain God was using as His precious angels. The 15 year old girl who drove me to school every day, shared her struggles with anorexia and bulimia, and gave me a Footprints in the Sand card. I have it to this day, and I will never forget her. My Catholic friend’s mother who took me to church on Sundays, invited me to Bible study, and looked me in the eye and said “God wants you to be happy”. The Jewish counselor who suggested that I be open and honest with God about my confusion surrounding Him, and who suggested that he and God would listen with only love, sans judgement. The guidance counselor who had me in her office daily to check on my well-being and discuss my sad feelings. They were spirituality in action, and I will never forget them.

I have come to a place where I trust my Higher Power immensely. God and Jesus and I, I feel we are tight. It took the struggles and angst and good times and yes, bad times, to arrive at the place of the butterfly: something that has gone through great struggle, and yet can come out beautiful. I can’t take credit for that concept, and I don’t know who can, but God makes beauty from the ashes. Love from the hate. Light from the darkness. Trust from the fear. Healing from the clinical depression.  Hope from despair. For God is beauty, love, light, trust, and hope.

If you are going through a little something, grab on to that which sustains you spiritually. Let go of that which is not working for you. And cherish those who are God’s angels, looking out for you, nudging you, helping you, etc. But most of all, when you are feeling better (and you will), return the favor. Yes, you can be one of God’s angels.

Okay, now let’s get to work, shall we?

Casseroles

I once saw an excellent article, questioning why we bring casseroles to sick friends, but never to someone who is depressed. Here is the thing, a casserole is  probably the most practical and wise suggestion I have ever seen on how to help someone going through clinical depression. It is not unusual to feel that we don’t know how to help someone going through a dark night of the soul. So we distance ourselves. Try bringing a casserole. If you call a friend who is depressed, and suggest that you eat one together, and they reject you, that is okay. Take it anyway. Leave it on the front porch. Because when you are depressed, you forget how to cook. You have no energy to go to the store or even get in the car to go to the local drive through. Sometimes, you even forget how to eat. Just picking up the fork takes so much energy, you feel you can’t do it. This lack of nutrition compounds the situation, leading to a vicious cycle of decreased energy. But if someone leaves you a casserole, now you can’t let it go to waste, can you? And so the process of nutrition and self-care begins. Worst case scenario, they let the casserole go to waste. No biggie, they still know that someone cares, that they are important, and that you will be there for them. Priceless.

Here is a recipe for a “casserole” for helping someone who is depressed:

1 cup of good listening skills.

1 dash of practical advice (keep it to a minimum, and if they don’t have energy- do tasks for them or with them, with their permission of course)

3 teaspoons of patience.

A generous heaping of prayer.

That is all that you need! The simplest casserole ever!

 

 

Welcome!

Hello, and welcome to my new site, dedicated to fashion, beauty, and most of all, mental health. Because fabulousness begins with good mental health.

Here is the thing. I started this site in memory of and in dedication to my brother, Jefferson Joseph Blanton-Harris. He was a fabulous brother, musician, father, and friend. He took his life in 2013. So why am I telling you this, and what does this have to do with this blog?

For years I walked around with a well-kept secret. As a psychiatric nurse, I would look around and think, someone who is fighting this battle against Bipolar Disorder needs to “come out of the closet”. People who are newly diagnosed need examples of people who are happy, healthy, and functioning well. Someone really ought to do this, I thought. BUT NOT ME! I am a psychiatric nurse, with over 20 years in the field. I need to be professional, I can’t be open about my struggles with Bipolar Disorder. I have a reputation to protect.

What kind of world is it, when the very people who have Bipolar Disorder, and are functioning well enough to take care of others for over 20 years, can’t even admit that they have the condition? What does that say about the stigma attached? Why should people walk around in secret, and lie, because of stupid stigma? What does it say about the profession, that it is not really okay to have the disorder? What does that tell our clients/patients?

Enough!

Surviving the suicide of a loved one changes a person. You live with incredible guilt, for not having done everything within your power to save your loved one. I live with the sting of this guilt every day, every moment. But living in that place does not serve me, my brother, or the community at large. There is only one thing left to do. That is to be open about my struggles. Because I can’t save my brother, and I can’t bring him back. But I quite possibly could help someone else. And that is what I am bound and determined to do.

It is not easy being a 15 year old, feeling dead inside, in a doctor’s office in 1985, hearing “I think you have Manic Depression”. Quite frankly, I thought doc was nuts. He was socially awkward and wide-eyed and seemed naïve and I didn’t think very much of him. But here is the thing, he was right. I spent 15 years lying to myself, and telling myself that this strange doctor didn’t know what he was talking about. I finally accepted the inevitable in 2001. It was the best thing I have ever done for myself, to admit the truth. Admitting and facing it led to recovery, the appropriate tools for coping, the appropriate medications, etc. I thank God for my treatment team. I thank God I survived. But most of all, I thank God that I don’t have to live with the “secret” any longer.

Though it is at times embarrassing, I will share my story and hold my head up high. I am proud of my accomplishments in spite of my condition. I have two college degrees, graduated from both Magna Cum Laude, was the President of the Honor Society, etc.  I have never been unemployed and have enjoyed lengthy employment at my work locations, with good evaluations. I have been married for 10 years. I have a beautiful son whom I adore, and is my greatest gift. I accomplished most of this while being extremely depressed one day, then manic the next. That is no small feat. I share all this, not to brag, but to inspire hope that in spite of a mental illness, and with the help of God and your treatment team, all things are possible.

Yes, I will hold my head up high. Screw the stigma. It is time to be a Mental Health Warrior. It is time.

Thank you for visiting my site. I know nothing about blogs and I am still working out the kinks in this program. But I want to make this a site about you, and the things that make you feel fabulous. Fashion, beauty, family, relationships, God, spirituality. But most of all mental health. We all need each other in this adventure we call life.

God bless you real good. Let’s ride this journey together, shall we?

 

*Please note- this site is intended simply as a peer support site where ideas are exchanged. It is not intended to substitute psychiatric or psychological care. It does not intend to diagnose or treat psychiatric conditions. For referrals and resources such as these, please contact the writer and/or use the AFSP link.