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Out with the Old, in with the New Year.

24 Jan

This is my brain
And it’s fine
It’s where I spend the vast majority of my time
It’s not perfect
But it’s mine
-Tim Minchin

 

So, I’m kind of really bad for keeping up with online things (my YouTube channel is way behind, and now this).

I apologize.

But I must say, things are good!

Since we last got together, you and I, I have become more healthy in the mind than I ever have – and by that I mean, I successfully came off of the dreaded Effexor.  If you’ve never heard of it, you’re lucky, if you have heard of it – I hope you never have to deal with it yourself.

Let me start from the beginning…

I started Effexor roughly 2 years ago.  At the time, I was still diagnosed with Bipolar (II), but given the very little time any psych doc spent with me, they wouldn’t really know my true diagnosis at the time (I’ll get to that).  The doctor at the time wanted to make sure I was on the strongest dose of one of the nastiest antidepressants out there, and boy did it suck.

I was still very sick – as you can recall, I lost jobs, and have been an emotional mess.  This made me so frustrated, that I was going to come off these damn meds myself if it killed me (scary thing is, they very well could have).  So I called everyone I could think of who could switch my meds (without having to go back to London) and finally was able to meet up with a psych doc via video conferencing (Oooo! Fancy technology!). [Sidenote:  there are NO psychiatrists where I live, and also no available doctors.  You’d think I was living in the middle of nowhere.]  Anyways, I met with the doctor and within minutes he was telling me about how the drugs I’m on are potentially making my ‘episodes’ even worse.  Great.  After telling my life story to what feels like the millionth person, he said that what I have is actually Rapid Cycling Bipolar along with Bipolar I (which makes WAY more sense).  So, on wards to my journey.

Coming off Effexor was pure hell. I have survived benzodiazepine withdrawal, and now this.  This hurricane in my head, making me dizzy, emotional, nauseous, wanting to stab my head – it was brutal.  I even went to the ER because I was sure I was dying (and I really, REALLY hate going to the ER).  While I was there, the doctor’s request was to just, “go back on them” to make the spins stop.  Um, no thanks.  I also stupidly decided to taper right before Christmas, which meant I was sick for Christmas, New Years, and then my 29th birthday a couple weeks after.

BOO.

Ah, but now… since tapering off, my head seems so much clearer, and I now have energy to do stuff again.  It’s really like a breath of fresh air.  Also, my mom has been pushing me to get my photos out to the world, so I’m slowly doing that as well (come visit me at: http://nicoleelliott.wix.com/nicoleleephotography !!!)

I am, unfortunately, back on a new med – Abilify – because everyone around me seems to think I MUST be medicated.  Someday I really hope to be free of it all, though. Maybe old age will rid me of my mental sickness and I’ll feel like I’m 29 all over again and live the life I’ve always wanted.

Until then, this is me.
Now to get rid of the remaining side effects..

Hope you are all doing well!

 

P.S. I don’t think I’ve even talked about the newest addition to the family –
Meet Basal! Our tripaw’d bengal kitten!! He is a little ball of destruction, but we love him 🙂

http://nicoleelliott.wix.com/nicoleleephotography

 

Donkeys… because… LOOK AT HOW CUTE THEY ARE..

 

http://nicoleelliott.wix.com/nicoleleephotography

 

Ragged Falls – Oxtongue River Provincial Park, just before we got totally dumped on with snow 🙂

 

http://nicoleelliott.wix.com/nicoleleephotography

Self Harm

28 Sep

** This is a disclaimer that this information might be unsettling to some, especially those who know me, or know someone who has self harmed **

 

A while ago, someone on Facebook posted an article about how, “self harm is beautiful”.  It has been bouncing around in my head ever since. Let’s start with explaining what self harm is:  WebMD‘s definition had a little more meat to it than others, so I’ll add it, plus the link for more info:

Self injury, also called self-harm, self-mutilation, or simply cutting, is defined as any intentional injury to one’s own body. Usually, self-injury leaves marks or causes tissue damage. Self-injury can involve any of the following behaviors:

http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/self-injury

 

When I first tried to find that article I had read, I had come across this picture: tumblr_mrqjy0XOoW1sctwrio1_500 I remember when I first started self harming, I blamed it on the barn cats.  “Yes, of course the cat scratched me – on both arms – to cover every square centimeter of my arms – that’s why I wear a sweater in the middle of summer – so people don’t think I’m cutting myself.”  I know? Pretty clever for a high school kid, right?  (Yikes)

Beautiful, right?

No.

I started self-harming “before it was cool”.  Ugh. Yes, I jest.  But on a serious note – when I started self-harming I did everything to hide it, including blaming it on my ever-so-cute  cats.

I’m going to say this now, and likely again, “Self harm is not beautiful”.

I am someone that has lived with depression for as long as I can remember, and then was diagnosed with bipolar around the age of 25.

I started cutting around the age of 14-15.  It’s unfortunate to say, but back then – the issue wasn’t as visible as it is today.  Now, there are a lot more people showing signs of self harm and still not enough people reaching out to help them.

Let’s say, back then, someone noticed the damage I was doing and brought to a specialist’s attention.  No matter what – there is something going on.  If I did it for my only personal pleasure, or I did it, “for attention” – something needs to be addressed.  Because, trust me, it may be easy to drag a blade across your skin, but when you can successfully stab a full knife directly into somewhere that can ‘nick’ an artery – then it has gone too far.

You may think your teenager is “seeking attention” by cutting their arms, but trust me – you do not want to know what that teenager could do a couple months or years down the road.

If I can explain it in the simplest way: It is NOT easy to cut yourself. It is NOT easy to stab yourself.  It is NOT easy to slit your wrists like on TV, or anything you see on TV that is related to self-harm.  If someone you know is self-harming – there is something going on.  And that person needs to talk to someone. To get help.

One of the main reasons for self-harming is to gain control of your body.  

If you were to try and pick up something sharp right now – try and cut yourself – It’s hard right?    I can’t help but laugh at TV shows and movies now when I see people so simply cut their wrists or whatever – I call BULLSHIT.

As things progress, though… things WILL get worse..inevitably.
It will get easier and easier to cut through skin – and by that time – it may be far too late.
Simple ‘cat scratches’ on my arm, turned into me being hospitalized a decade later. After friends found me lying in my blood (had to throw that futon out) – joking aside, it wasn’t good. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by people that would take care of me (thanks, Nick), but not everyone is so lucky.

If you can take anything from this blog – no one’s issues are too small.

People want to talk about mental health issues, but not do anything about it.  Be the person who does something about it.

Self harm – is not beautiful.

Cheers.

Lessons

17 Aug

“A moment of consideration often prevents a thousand apologies”
― Kevin J. Anderson

I apologize for not writing more often.  My head has been all over the place this year, and it’s been hard to want to write about… anything, really.

This past month I spent my time “down unda’” – in New Zealand and Australia.  It was an amazing trip – beautiful country, adorable animals, and wonderful people.  As much as I loved this trip, I was reminded of how much we still need to teach people about mental illness.

For me, when I get too overwhelmed/anxious/nervous/etc, I tend to retreat to a space that I have (wherever I am) where I can be alone, to calm down.  My parent’s are well aware of me doing this, so when I randomly just walk away, and curl into a ball in my room, they understand that I need that time to recoup.  I didn’t think about this for my trip.  My mom was worried about me going and I couldn’t understand why – I mean, I’ve told people in NZ that I’m living with a sometimes debilitating illness, so I thought I’d be fine.  I guess for me, I don’t see myself on the outside – I don’t know what it looks like to someone else when I ‘disappear’, or don’t want to partake in activities because it’ll just be too much for me.

I don’t think I made the best first impression for meeting my partner’s family.

Anytime I was around someone, my heart would would try to force it’s way out of my chest (I swear, haha), but I’d try really, really hard to keep my cool.  Questions would race through my head, all day – every day, “Am I standing right? Do I look awful? Should I be doing this? Maybe I should be doing that? Maybe I should help with this? Maybe I should say that? I wonder if they think I’m good enough? I wonder if they think I’m overweight? I wonder if they think I should talk more?” etc etc.  This alone – is exhausting.  And you can’t tell me, “Just stop thinking like that.”  It doesn’t work like that.  I don’t want to feel or act like that, but I was on edge most of the time.

I realize going into this trip, that I wasn’t the most ‘picture perfect’ partner to bring home to meet mom.  Currently unemployed, ‘ill’, and on top of it, people viewed me as being ‘lazy’, because my comfort zone, was often the bedroom that I had wherever I stayed – as it was a place I could shut the door, and then shut down myself.   But I thought that shouldn’t matter – I make Matt happyTHAT’S what should matter.

A month is not nearly enough time to get to know someone, though.  It would have been nice sitting down with everyone and talking about what goes on in my chaotic brain, so that they would hopefully see me in a more positive light.  When you’re travelling all over a country, a month sure isn’t long enough to explain anything about yourself, so I guess that was my disadvantage.

I think when it comes down to it, it’s all about learning, and wanting to learn.  I’ve always said, if there’s ever a question you want to ask me – ask me!  Nothing is too intrusive, stupid, obnoxious – just ask me.  I’d rather people learn about me, than to judge me negatively before getting to know me.  I understand that if you were never faced with the issue of mental illness, then why would you spend the extra time to learn about it?  It’s kind of like learning to fix your car – I’ve never had the desire to learn, and haven’t been faced with having to fix it on my own (despite my ‘awesome’ luck with cars needing to be fixed) – so why learn about it?  The less you know, the easier life appears to be.   I sometimes wish I didn’t learn about half the things I’ve seen and done – it paints an atrocious picture.

There are people in my life that are still learning about how to live with me and I hope they will continue to learn.  It’s hard every time the wrong chord is struck, but I have to realize  that no one knows what it’s like to be in my shoes – and so I can’t expect them to understand me all the time.  I just have to keep teaching them about myself, and hopefully keep a good flow of communication.

It’s never easy though..

Don’t get me wrong – the good far outweighed the bad, and I absolutely loved this trip!

DSCN5429Fur Seals in Kaikoura

Visibility.

1 May




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I feel like I have been slacking..

It’s hard to stay motivated when you’re – well… depressed.

Today was an absolutely gorgeous, sunny day – and finally in 20+ degrees (that’s 68+ degrees for you American folk).

I thought about all these things I could be doing – “RE-PAINT THE OUTDOOR FURNITURE!”, “SHOP FOR MY MOM’S BIRTHDAY!”, “WORK ON MY PHOTOGRAPHY!”, “GO FOR A WALK!”, “GET FOOD – to.. eat, obviously”..

Guess what I did?

NOTHING.

Correction – I did finish up the new Netflix series, “Hemlock Grove“.  But aside from that.. Nothing.

No, I’m not lazy.  No, I’m not agoraphobic (I think?).  I just couldn’t do it.

Welcome to my life.

_____________________________________________________

It’s nice being in the “northern” part of Ontario, Canada.  Aside from the absolute beauty that is up here, it’s so remote – that I feel almost comfortable.  What I mean by that,  is, is that I feel like I can ‘disappear’ when I need to – and THAT is comfort to me.

Visibility.

I would love for someone who has never experienced any kind of anxiety to step into the shoes of someone who has to live it daily. Just for a moment. It’s terrifying.  You feel like you are -going to die-.  Yet, people still say, “What’s wrong with you?”

“Oh, I don’t know – I just feel like my heart is going to explode, but go ahead and finish that cheeseburger – YOU’LL be fine”.

_____________________________________________________

My friend is dating a famous movie producer.  She is in multiple articles – and even has been ‘demoted’ in articles to, “-Arm candy”.
She is so fierce, and so – alive.  As much as I feel jealousy for her, I am so afraid.

She is in love with someone who will always be in the eyes of the world to see.

For someone living with social anxiety AND depression – you feel like you are being constantly watched, controlled, judged – but to be free-living and in the eye of society – I just, don’t know how she can do it.

She is one of the most beautiful people I have ever met (inside and out), I will swear that up and down – and definitely one of the strongest.

I just can’t ever imagine living a life like that.

_____________________________________________________

There are constantly a  million things running through my head.
Always.

Welcome to my life.

 

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Through the Looking Glass

26 Mar

“Do you think I’ve gone round the bend?”
“I’m afraid so. You’re mad, bonkers, completely off your head. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

This past weekend really made me think.  It’s one thing to go through my own adventure, it’s another thing to try and explain it to someone else who will be reading through my eyes.

Trust.

Honesty.

I realized it is one thing to explain something to someone –  that has nearly destroyed your life – to actually being able to live through hearing this.

It’s not only about telling “my” story – it’s about telling the story of those who have lived it with me.

How can I explain to someone, what it’s like to love someone with bipolar and depression?  I’m not the one looking from the other side of the glass.

It’s not even about me.  This is about those who love me – who love you.  It’s one thing to be able to say, “This is how I am feeling right now”, – but what about the people that are living with us – loving us – trying to understand and comfort us.

How can I explain to someone “What It’s All About” – when I’m on the wrong side of the mirror – What is it like for parent’s to see their child going through this?  To hear that their child has been admitted to a hospital because they tried to kill themselves?  To know that something is going on wrong chemically inside a loved ones mind?

I’m not on that side of the mirror.  And it hurts me to think of being on that side of mirror –  even more, knowing I put people on that side of the mirror.

When will it be ‘okay’ to talk about mental illness?

When will it be okay to actually live with a mental illness?

xo

limitless.

21 Mar

It’s funny how media can start to relate to your life.

Let me explain..

When  you bought your first car – and it was *BRIGHT RED* (or insert another color you thought stood out)… the weeks following, did you think, “Wow – I am seeing a lot of *BRIGHT RED* cars out here!”

Thank your brain for that.  It’s a little thing called, ” availability heuristic“.

[I’ll give you time to Google or Wiki that term…]

When we learn about things, we start to relate more and more to the subject at hand (*ahem*- Medical Student Syndrome).

I recall the day I was told I was “BIPOLAR” – and yes, I freaked out.  I knew I was depressed, but to tell me I was bipolar scared the crap out of me.

The more I listen and watch the media talk about Bipolar and Depression, the more I try to study what they’re trying to convey.

——-

While meeting with one of my workers, they had asked me, “Have you watched ‘Silver Linings Playbook‘?”, and I had said, “no”, because honestly, I am into horror movies, mostly, and I had never heard of the movie.

She said, “I have been asking my clients who are depressed or bipolar if they’ve watched it, to see if it actually rings true”.  Curiosity affects us all.

I went home, downloaded it, and watched it.  Not a horror movie, but having Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in it definitely makes it break even.

I won’t lie – there were times when I connected to the movie.  One part in particular, I had to chuckle, because I don’t know how many times my parents would ask me this or something similar:   

Dolores: “I’m making crabby snacks and homemades.”
Pat: “Come on, dad, be nice. She’s making crabby snacks and homemades. Come on, dad!”
Pat Sr.: “What are you so up about?”
Dolores: “You’re very happy.”
Pat: “I’m happy.”
Pat Sr.: “No, you’re so up, up, up.”
Pat: “Isn’t that a good thing?”
Pat Sr.: “No, you’re just up, up, up, up, I don’t know what that is. Are you taking the proper dosage of your medication?”
Pat: “Am I taking the right dose? Of course I am”
Pat Sr.: “Okay, are you taking maybe a little bit too many or something?”
Pat: “No, if I was taking that I’d be on the floor, dad.”

To me, this was an obvious movie to connect to, because I sat through the whole thing thinking, “Yea that’s like me.. No, that’s not like me.. Maybe that is me? Yea that’s a lot like me..”

But it’s the movies and media that I don’t need to think about that catch me.

I watched “Limitless” the other night with Matt, because it was another Bradley Cooper movie, AND Matt doesn’t like horror movies.  What I didn’t expect was how much I would relate to THIS movie.

Synopsis of Limitless: A writer discovers a top-secret drug which bestows him with super human abilities. (IMDb)

Weird, right?  I remember a part maybe a quarter of the way through saying, “That was me on benzos!” to Matt.

Ok, so I didn’t become incredibly intelligent like Cooper did in this movie, but when I was on them – I was a different person completely.  I really felt like I was invincible (invincible and in a zombie like state a lot of the time).  Don’t take this the wrong way – they have been the worst medication I have been on since being treated, but looking back on it now – I know I was the evil side of the doppelganger.  I did some really stupid things, mean things, and the worst part of it was – I didn’t remember most of it – until each person would come up to me and say, “listen, we need to talk – you’re a real dick!”.

See, Cooper had fallen into a rut with his writing career.  His place was a disaster, he was unkempt, and socially inept. (*coughDEPRESSIONcough* – but after running into an old acquaintance, and the introduction to this new drug – he bounces ten times higher than he ever was, accomplishing things he couldn’t do before (maaanic).  There’s one scene, right after he takes the pill, where he goes and completely over hauls his apartment.  That’s when I said, “yea, my place was never cleaner than when I was on benzos”.

I’m often told to think about the “positive” things I have accomplished while being sick, such as getting my degree and a diploma, challenging the artistic world more through photography – and for some reason, I always go back to how clean my apartment was.  It’s making me grin right now while I write this.

I know this blog comes outta nowhere, but it’s things like this – silly movies – that allow me to open back up the dark doors of the past and understand myself better.

Have you ever watched a movie, and it turn out to be your life?

Discuss!

xo

P.S. Some recent shots from the great white north 🙂

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“Ever notice that anyone going slower than you is an idiot, but anyone going faster is a maniac?” – George Carlin

20 Feb

Hello, and welcome back to the RING – OF – INSANITY!

*crowd cheering*

Anyways,

Tonight I want to talk about “relationships”.

Oooo some of you giggled and some of you quivered in fear.

I’m talking about all relationships – from friends, to lovers, to family, to coworkers, etc

Picture this:  You walk into a bar, you see someone you want to talk to, they look in your direction, they casually walk towards you with a smirk on that sexy face, you start to sweat … quick! You have social anxiety – what do you do?

Obviously, you don’t go out in the first place.  Come on, now.

Alright, alright.. I have had my share of times out dancing the night away – ONLY if my good friend, alcohol, is coming with me.  Let me explain..

Relationships are hard work regardless of what’s going on in your life.  Throw in a mental illness and you’re in for a show – whether it be a party or a ‘I’m going to curl up in a ball in this corner, now, please leave me alone’.

For the most part, making friends for me has been easy.  When I need to be, I throw on my disguise of, ‘strong, tough, bitch’ when I need it (and trust me, you don’t know how many people come up to me and say, ‘when I first met you, I was afraid of you’).  But deep down inside, all I want to do is be by myself.  Or maybe with a certain few people.

Let me tell you about some of the people in my life, first:

My family – I have the greatest family in the world (and no, I’m not being biased, they really are the greatest family in the world).  They have been through just as chaotic of a trip as I have, and have stuck by me the whole way.  No one will ever understand what I have been through, and will continue going through, but I will always have them there to support me.. and sometimes say, “Have you taken your meds?” “Are you sure you’re ok?” “You’re surprisingly happy, please don’t spend any money (etc)?” 😉

Someone else who is a very important role in my survival is my wonderful boyfriend – who had no idea what he was getting into when he started dating me, and for some crazy reason has still stuck by me for over a year.

He is the main reason why I wanted to write this.

Meeting someone is the easy part – getting to know someone is very hard – especially if you are dealing with things that ‘most’ people don’t understand.

Simple questions like, “So, what do you do for a living?” can send a shivering blade down your spine if you’ve lived like I have.

Do you go into details about why you just lost another amazing job?  Do you try and make up something like, “oh, the drive was brutal – I had to quit”? Do you try to explain how your boss discriminated against you, and there was nothing you could do about it?

Back when I was still very sick, on benzos and alcohol, I could lie up a storm – with being more clear headed, it’s harder to hide what’s really going on.  I cherish every new person that accepts me into their life, but it’s still a struggle to meet with someone one on one, in case I’m put into that situation where I have to talk about what’s really going on with me.

I don’t expect anyone to understand what is going on with me, why I react the way I do, why I do the things I do – but it’s hard, and tiring, to try and explain it to everyone I meet.  I wish I could just wear a badge on my forehead that said, “BIPOLAR” – wait, new tattoo idea?  (Just kidding, mom).

What I’m trying to say is.. I’m sorry if I don’t come out to your parties, I’m sorry if I don’t come over to visit, I’m sorry if I don’t always do the things you want me to do, I’m sorry if I’m not available (ever) – I’m literally shaking scared with anxiety because I don’t know what to do or say anymore.

But trust me.. I AM better than I was – and will only continue to get better.

..and I leave you with a picture of my (stuffed) STI’s and me. 😉

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For now, I bid you farewell,

xo