I hope the result of this blog is a positive one for you.
I hope the result of this blog is a positive one for you.
Gogh ahead. Read my take on the mind of Vincent.
A true story. Education on the difference between hyper and hypomania.
My antipsychotic med is a champ. It has done it's job very well since I got on it about 9 months ago. For me, it wards off delusions (beliefs that aren't based in reality) and paranoia (that thought that someone is talking about me or plotting to hurt me). It seems to greatly decrease what might be a hallucination I experience when looking in people's eyes specifically at night.
I recently had a show. I grabbed my keys to leave for my gig. I noticed the pill holder on my keychain (which doubles as my earplugs holder...gross), was still full from the night before.
"I forgot to take my meds last night...dammit."
Key in ignition and off I go to the gig.
It could have been the mere realization that I hadn't taken my meds, but I observed tiny delusions in my thoughts here and there on the road. I saw a license plate that started with the letters GDD. "GDD...that is a sign that God is here...I am God. The one true God."
*Snaps out of it
"That's not real."
*Turns up radio
This is my question: Am I seeing magic or madness? My passion or my plight? I have surrounded myself with people who are following their dreams. They tell me synchronicity happens in their lives. Unexplained coincidences. Signs. I feel like i can tell when I really do have signs reminding me that I'm on the right path. But sometimes I can't tell if I'm inside a delusion. I so badly want to follow the sign to see where it leads, but it might lead me into the belly of the beast.
In sync or out of my mind? Hard to tell.
What do you get when you cross The Holy Trinity with Kim Jong-il and Satan? A blossoming friendship. That's what.
I finally made a friend who also has a pretty gnarly case of the mental illness.
We will call my friend "Kim" from here on out.
Because that is someone he is when he's manic. The infamous Kim Jong-il. Kim also has Bipolar 1 Disorder and he's the only friend I have that does. Really the only person I personally know who has also had several psychotic breaks.
Kim and I decided to have a jam. Or should I say...Kim and Jesus. I was skimming my own surface at the time of meeting Kim. My delusions of grandeur started getting the best of me. He had just gotten out of the hospital and I was struggling with staying in my own reality as Veronica.
We will call me "Jesus" from here on out.
So Jesus invited Kim over. Kim brought an electric guitar. Jesus had two amps so they both plugged in. The first thing Kim did was crank the amp to its full capacity. Heavy, driving metal music. Punk. Loud. Chaotic. Awesome. Jesus had never played like this. It was new and felt foreign but Jesus prevailed. Jesus felt things he had yet to feel. The jam was great because all they had was water, but Jesus didn't care. *Waves hand. Makes wine.
Ok that last part didn't happen.
Kim shared more of his story. Other times he felt like Satan. His entire landscape was dark in mania. Jesus' landscape was generally light in mania but dark was always trying to get in and take his light away. Kim and Jesus had a long discussion about it. They have talked about it since.
Jesus explained that dark felt "bad" to him. The trident-toting Korean of chaos said that it just wasn't so. One night after a conversation, Kim was able to give insight in a text:
Don't be afraid of demons. They are really your ancestors. They are the unheard, unresolved energies of yourself and your environment. They are the source of your creative power. You already have the light, so by accepting the unknown, you will have the power to heal the dark. The angels are already with you. I can feel it.
I still have reservations when it comes to the dark. Maybe someday I'll be able to sit in it without feeling like it's taking something from me. For now, I'll leave it to my friend to lead in darkness. It's a side of me I need to get to know. I think it's just as important.
Years back I went to a spiritual center for a total of three whole consecutive Sundays. The minister was great. I'll never forget what she did one of those three Sundays. She held a crisp $20 bill in her hand and said, "How much is this worth?" We of course said, "$20." Then she crumpled it, smashed it on the floor and picked it up saying, "Ok...now how much is it worth?" We of course said, "$20."
I remember thinking, "Don't forget what you learned today." A reminder that we are all worth the same. No matter what we may look like on the outside or how we might feel about ourselves on the inside. Admittedly, I don't think I find myself as worthy as others. Because of this my true potential seems to be lying dormant, waiting for me to wake it. I know in my head, and often times in my heart, that I'm a force. I know I am a great human. I just don't think I understand it enough to 100% believe in myself at all times. To alway look in the mirror and say, "You are worthy."
What would our world look like if we all felt worthy? I guarantee the majority of our culture would look at someone on the streets next to a man on wall street and have the thought, "This one is worth more than this one." And as a society, we tend to treat these two people from totally different upbringings and experiences with a different amount of honor and respect.
I hope this blog was worth your time.
I had the fortune of empowering girls all week at rock and roll camp for girls san diego. Last year transformed me so much that I accepted a position on the board for the camp. This year I led three talks. One of the talks was called "Image and Identity".
Developing this powerpoint was challenging. I saw my own "stuff" come up. I got to a slide touching on the idea that we all have what I called "identifiers". That it's not our image that matters at all. It's all the beautiful ways we identify ourselves. How we can look in the mirror and say "That's me right now". Our descriptors. I talked about how different we are.
As I was building the powerpoint I dragged in the image. It was an image of me rocking hard. Then, I brainstormed. I just started writing down the first things that came to my mind. What am I? These were my gut responses:
Female. Musician. 34. Caucasian. Lesbian. Bipolar 1. Change Maker.
I looked at the slide. A picture of me to the left with my list of identifiers to the right. My first thought? But...what would they think. The kids. The parents. I backspaced two descriptors. Lesbian and Bipolar 1. I looked at this new, shorter list. My first thought? But...that is not all of me.
I felt like there was a tiny part of me somewhere thinking there is something wrong with being a lesbian. That there is something wrong with having mental illness.
I stared off. I felt conflicted. I cried. The theme for rock camp this year was Power. I had to find mine on the day of that talk. My re-revised longer list showed up on the screen. I didn't go into too much detail on any descriptor. I just stated the facts and moved on. Female. Musician. 34. Lesbian...I thought... "Cool. I got through it and no one asked questions".
I thought it ended at that. I asked them to share some of their own descriptors. A few were mentioned. 15 years old. Loves basketball. Swimmer.
Then my worst fear happened. Gender and Orientation were brought up. Bisexual. Non-binary. This was a kind of vulnerability I had never experienced. Is this ok to be talking about right now? What will they think? What will they tell their parents? And then I felt something inside me stir. A voice that said, "This needs to be talked about".
Who knows what next years camp will be like.
It was a space of vulnerability with one another. A space where everyone could just be themselves. A space where everyone totally rocked.
The C word. We all know it. It's a word I feel we need to take back. A word that more people need to know and to support:
It's the eloquence of vulnerability. It's that beautiful marriage of trust and love.
When I drew this picture just yesterday it was inspired by a woman I love. But it went deeper than that. It's a picture of two humans facing each other. Connecting. The shirts are different colors because they are individuals. The roots are not tangled because they are rooted independently. Grounded like a pillar, but connected to an equal.
This blog was gonna be awesome and poignant and beautiful but after todays events, this picture looks different right now.
My dear friend is dying. It's happening. I am accepting that. At this time he is on life support. I have asked to be there when they disconnect him. As I stood by his bed today rubbing his arm I thought of all the times we connected. We all have the ability to connect to one another and I'm so glad he and I connected on so many levels so many times.
The hardest thing about connection is that eventually, we have to disconnect. The easiest thing about disconnecting is knowing that eventually, we will reconnect once more.
So it's been several months on this new med, Vraylar. I don't know if I've ever felt so "normal." So like I did before I was diagnosed. I can almost taste my early 20s. My three favorite frenemies have cut me out. My delusions seem to be a distant memory. My paranoia is non-existent. My hallucinations are but a thought. So what am I grieving?
There is something about walking uphill. Something in every human that wants to make the choice to persevere. When we are coasting we don't always get that fire. That I'm-not-gonna-go-down-easy mentality. When I find myself in a minor to somewhat-moderate crisis I go into protection mode. I put my armor on and fight the dragon. And usually, I win. Usually. I'm the hero of my own story.
It's sort of like training for a triathlon. The taste of challenge is bittersweet. There is a certain focus it takes and a certain commitment to self. The sweetness. We know that the race isn't going to feel easy in the least. There are going to be times we want to give up. The bitter.
I've only done a 5k though so who am I kidding...
There is something about contrast that seems so appealing to me. The black and the white. It's in my nature as someone with Bipolar 1. I've had a lot of practice with extremes so it seems like home now.
I know I don't have to worry too much. Over time my frenemies will knock on my door and I won't have a choice but to let them in. And I will. It isn't always graceful and it isn't always fun, but there is a certain magic to it all. Usually I know what I'm experiencing isn't based in reality so I have to trick myself, talk myself down, live inside the challenge. With a sword in my hand and a spark in my spirits I can fight off anything. Usually.
After over a year and a half of saving dollar bills here and there the time had come: Tailored Suit time. So I counted up my dough and headed to New York. I had a particular company in mind called Bindle and Keep. The idea was to have the suit ready for my CD release party. The week and a half leading up to the CD release was crazy for me:
1. Talent Show for my students 2. KPBS interview 3. KUSI morning show
4. Sold out Poway performing arts center show 5. Two rehearsals for different shows
6. Keynote Speech for women working in prevention for teens 7. Choir practice for cd release
8. Part of a mental health panel for people with mental illness in need of jobs
Needless to say....it was a lot. By the middle I had found I felt completely locked up. I felt paralyzed. If I had only been able to see from the outside things would have been different. It all came to a head and I spent a day in depression. I couldn't stop crying. Hard. On that day I got a package in the mail. It was my suit. And nothing was going to make this day better. Not on my watch. I tried it on and this is what my brain did.
"This looks like shit! The material is cheap! I can't believe I wasted this money!!"
I sent more than one email demanding a refund. Telling Bindle and Keep what a terrible job they did with such cheap material.
That night was the talent show for my kids. I had to lock it up for them. I was nervous for them. But they all rose to the occasion. They all did an outstanding job and I was able to stay present and really soak it all in. As I drove home I left the cloud I'd been carrying around with me behind.
I tried the suit on again. I saw it with the same eyes but in a better mindset. I loved it. I sent an email apologizing to Bindle and Keep.
They called the next day not realizing I had apologized. When I told him I sent another email he said, "Another one?"
I explained to him that I had been under a lot of stress and also told him I had Bipolar 1. But at the end of the day, was I just being a dick? Did this have anything to do with my mental illness? Sure, people do cruddy things when they feel anxious but was I giving myself an out?
Am I able to separate myself from Bipolar 1?
I got off the phone feeling like I had lied. But one thing I do know is true: This isn't the person I am. The person I am is loving. The person I am is kind and considerate. But when chemicals and hormones come knocking on the door I feel like I have no choice but to let them in.
And I rocked that suit at the CD release party.
What is real? Usually I think I am certain what is and what isn't. When the madness of mania pops its head out of the water just a little I am living in "reality" and "unreality." I am able to observe and recognize that what I'm experiencing isn't real while I am truly experiencing it as 100% real. Until I'm not. Until the madness soars out of the water in a beautiful, terrible flight.
When I'm in a depression, it oozes slowly out of the cracks of my logic. I know what is real but I don't have the energy to believe it. It seems to last a lifetime and I really just want to go away.
What can I say is really real? After 34 years I've decided that one of those real things is ironically a dream.
Sidenote: Is that ironic? Alanis Morisette ruined my concept of irony. Rain on your wedding day isn't ironic. It's unfortunate. It just didn't roll of the tongue as well.
A dream is really just a goal. I realized it was time for me to wake up and start making moves. If my dream is to tour, I throw out 100 emails to get 10 back. But I get 10 back. If I want to become a better blues player I take lessons from people better than I am. I can't just sit here and pray about it. I can't just manifest and will them to come into my life. I have to walk to the door myself. I have to use my own hand and my own power to open up the opportunity.
So really, for the first time in ever, I have taken complete ownership of my own destiny. Sure, things will move in ways I don't expect, but if my intention turns to action my action will turn into my new reality. My dream, alive.
I'm really scared, but I'm even more really excited.
Vraylar, meet Veronica.
This medication can decrease hallucinations, help you to think more clearly and positively about yourself, feel less agitated, and take a more active part in everyday life.
I have been taking the antipsychotic, Zyprexa, for about 6 years. It helped me stay away from paranoia, mild hallucinations, and delusions (beliefs that aren't real). An example of a common delusion for me is that I have to drowned myself to save the world. I definitely shouldn't be driving my chevy to the levee...
I started skimming the surface heading steadily to hyper mania so my psychiatrist needed to change things up. Out with the Z and in with the V. In hypo/hyper mania everything just seems to make more sense...even when it is senseless. I see souls through eyes more than I usually do. I recognize the divinity in others and I can tell some recognize it in me. I KNOW that heaven is on earth and I'm lifting that veil. The world lights up. I light up.
And then I swallow a Vraylar and say goodbye to it all. It silences that side of me. It mutes the glorious music of madness.
What do I not say goodbye to? My creative abilities. My stability. The longer spans of time between hospitalization. I realized I had two choices: Excitement or Joy. I decided on the latter. Sure, colors might not be as bright, but they are real. Whatever that means.
So I embrace (loosely) my new Vraylar. Because if not I will have to say Bye Bye Miss Veronica's Mind.
Sometimes its ok to get your hands dirty.
This one is for the ladies.
slang term for a person suffering from chronic mental disorder with abnormal or violent social behavior.
(chiefly in science fiction) a person with the paranormal ability to apprehend the mental or emotional state of another individual.
Yes, I know psychopath is already a word but I'm being creative and pretending like I'm mushing these two words together. Work with me and see where I'm going.
Let me clear the name of (probably) most "psychos" and say, by definition, we aren't all violent in ways one might expect. Although violent tendencies can be accurate, it isn't usually a clear-headed, malicious attack toward someone. When I'm violent in mania it is always because I am inside a delusion and I'm just trying to protect myself and what my delusions are telling me are 100% fact.
One example is when I was burning my family photos the morning I was hospitalized for my 3rd manic episode. My friend, Lindsay, was there and she started dousing the pictures with water. I got inches from her face and yelled as loud as I could. I remember the look on her face. She startled. I scared her. Some part deep inside me, very deep inside me, felt bad that I hurt her. My delusional mission was too strong to make any other decisions. What she didn't know was I thought I had to burn the men in the family photos to free all the women in my family. All women in the world. I thought she knew that and that she was trying to stop the process because she was being brainwashed by my male psychiatrist, whom she was on the phone with. I thought he was telling her to put the fires out. Men controlling women and mind control in general are common delusions in Bipolar 1. She hung up and called the cops. Once I felt I had burned everything I needed to, including my Grandfathers funeral pamphlet, I was calm. I held muddy, ashy, paper in my trembling hands and I felt complete serenity. My mission was complete and I could move on.
I used to think the things that happened to me as an empath were signs that I was about to go into mania. On a regular basis, I can see things inside people's eyes. It almost exclusively happens in the dark. This "thing" started when I was about 17 years old but was dormant until about 25. In the past 3 years or so it has built and built and built. A persons whole face will change. It seems like a hallucination. If they say something malicious I see a fire ignite inside them. Sometimes their eyelids close from left to right like a snake. Sometimes I get so scared that I have to not only walk away from conversations, but run away. I've left parties and once I get away I have to convince myself that I'm going to make it through the night. Once that door is open, it won't close for awhile.
I used to think it meant that person was evil. Now I've come to realize I'm seeing the persons pain. I can see when someone is suffering. I can feel that suffering. Sometimes I can even predict what the person is going through.
Mental illness and being an empath play off of each other. If I haven't had good sleep or am already mentally topsy turvy my empath side comes out to play.
But it isn't all gloom and doom.
Sometimes in the light of day or in the peaceful stillness of a special night, I see the beauty unfold in someone's face. When I see someone thriving, I feel someone thriving. I can share their joy. They give that to me.
I've had people tell me they wish they could "take it all away." My dad said if he could take my bipolar he would. But he would be robbing me of my wonderful identity as a human. Yes, it is hard. Yes, it is amazing.
As someone with Bipolar 1, I am able to see into other worlds of dark and light because I experience detrimental depressions and mighty, magnificent manias. What I see in myself I can see in you. As an empath, I do the exact same. Don't take this away from me. I am on my path. My psycho path.
There are two realities in our nation. Maybe in all of humanity. We either think we can make a change or we do not. There is great power when you realize your strength. Your ability to make an impact. For awhile after this election, I felt powerless. Yes, because it was Trump. But almost more than that, the way our American comrades started treating one another.
This needs to change.
The truth is. It takes one person. Every time. If every person that marched with Martin Luther King Jr. had the thought, "It's just me. I can't do anything by myself," then he would have marched alone. It isn't even about making this massive global impact. It's about treating one another well. It's about smiling when you pass a stranger who has a furrowed brow. If we look inside and ask ourselves, "How can I make a difference?" The answer is always there. It just takes one minute to find.
Be the one.
Here comes the Phoenix. Here comes the phoenix. And I say it's alright.
What would you do if....
...you were a mom with a boy who has cerebral palsy. It is rainy and cold and you are outside just waiting for the trolley. An able-bodied, strong, young man approaches your sons wheelchair and with a fervor blazing in his eyes says, "Can I take a picture with your son?"
You would have done exactly what my friend who happens to be that mom would have done.
Not only "No." But "Hell no." As he walked away like a comet burning down the railroad line you would have talked to others around you. "What a creep. Can you believe the nerve of that guy? Some people are unbelievable. Who does he think he is?"
I knew exactly who he was.
I observed his behaviors. He kept trying to engage with people. He couldn't stop moving. I caught up with him and introduced myself. I got a closer look at him and I just peered into his eyes. They were a raging blue and even though he looked back I could tell he couldn't see me. His face was leathered and his mouth was at a constant tremor. I said, "Are you ok?"
"I'm pretty manic right now."
We then talked about how he use to be on lithium and he had been in the hospital more times than he could count. I asked what his name was and he said, "My street name is Dirt."
Dirt. Just the way I'm sure most people treated him when they saw his reckless behavior. A behavior that any civilized person should be able to keep at bay. Each passing trolley was packed and he felt is mission to help my friend's son on the trolley. As a trolley door opened he hung onto it. I pulled him back and as the trolley sped away he ran along side it and looked like he was tagging it. Like he had a spray can in his hand. But it was just his hand. He said he had tagged a lot of stuff around town.
Sometimes I feel like Dirt too. I've approached little kids and tried to engage with them. Every time I'm hypo/hyper manic I think children have the secrets to the universe. They can see inside my eyes and I see inside theirs. If I hadn't "been there" before I would have reacted the way my friend did.
If you haven't been there, you wouldn't understand. But I think more than that, you wouldn't know what signs to look for, so compassion for his situation wouldn't even register.
The trolleys were so packed because we were on our way to the Women's March. Signs of all sorts sprung up. "Women's rights are human rights" from a woman. "Black lives matter" from a black man and so on and so on.
They fought because they knew what it was like. They have been in the trenches. And I'm sure sometimes they feel like dirt too.
This is a limited edition blog post.
A piece I wrote a few months after my 2nd manic episode.