Manic Checklist

As mentioned in my previous post here is my checklist I use to try and keep my mania under control. By no means is this a cure it just helps me keep aware of myself and track my episodes. I’ve filled this out as an example. I fill this out everyday at 8am, 1pm, 5pm, 10pm and 1am, sometimes more if I feel I need to.

  1. What time is it? 4:30am
  2. Where are you? At home
  3. Who are you with? No one
  4. How are they finding your company? Nil
  5. How do you feel? Sore, restless, uncomfortable
  6. Do you feel manic? Yes
  7. Are you showing any symptoms? Yes, distracted, itchy, racing thoughts
  8. Do you feel anxious? Not particularly
  9. Do you need to leave your current situation? I’m at home but need this episode to pass
  10. Have you had enough sleep? No
  11. Do you need to go home and sleep? Yes
  • Breathe deeply for thirty seconds
  • Read through your answers again
  • It is okay to ask for what you need
  • If you need to excuse yourself from the current situation that is okay
  • You can go home and rest if you need

 

Everything Happens So Much

I’ve been going to start this post for the past hour but due to a ridiculous manic state, that I’ve been in for the past few days it’s taken me sixty minutes to actually start typing. I’ve opened WordPress multiple times, gone on twitter, created yet another Spotify playlist, read a list of the best movie quotes of all time, picked at my skin, put on my sneakers, decided not to go for a run, messaged a mess of random thoughts to random friends, watched a bunch of YouTube videos, changed my bedding, but finally I’ve sat still for a second to write this down.

I’ve struggled with manic episodes since i was about 13-14. You know all that crap about mental illnesses presenting once you hit puberty? Yep, that’s me. Back then it mainly presented as a lack of need to sleep and a compulsion for storytelling and over-dramatisation. I would stay up until four am watching TV, listening to music, painting, reading, whatever i could do without waking my family. I would then sleep for two hours and then get up and go to school, come home and do the whole thing again. The other main mania* symptom was my exaggerated storytelling, or lying. I used to lie all the time for no real reason. I would make up all these ridiculous stories to tell people just for fun. I loved seeing peoples reactions and finding out just how much i could get away with. These were all harmless lies that only served as entertainment for me. Even now I still come up with heaps of fantasies and scenarios in my head but I try to limit them to paper rather than to an audience. I’ve started approximately 15+ novels this past year alone.

I’ve just taken a momentary break to watch Dirty Dancing clips on YouTube. I don’t think people are watching or discussing this movie enough anymore. Feel free to contact me in regards to creating a Dirty Dancing fan club.

In my later teen years my mania mainly came out in an increased libido. I never really dated any one person, I had multiple guys and girls I would regularly have sex with as well as random one night stands. I thought this was fun and an okay behaviour but now I see that it was probably quite damaging. I hurt a lot of people and broke up a few relationships in this period. I don’t think I even overly enjoyed the sex itself it was just an activity that would solely hold my attention for twenty minutes. It fitted well into my insomniac lifestyle. There were some nights when I would see multiple partners and still not feel satisfied. However this has had major social complications for me. Even years later people still think of me as a slut and guys often approach me thinking I’m still as easy as I was back then. I played pretty fast and loose in regards to my health, condoms weren’t always used. I contracted a chlamydia a few times, had multiple UTIs and an unwanted pregnancy. However I have since learnt from this and often use my experiences to advise my friends coming to me with sexual health worries. So at least something good came out of these experiences.

When I turned twenty I discovered just how easily I could self-medicate my mania with alcohol. Even now alcohol is pretty much the only thing that dulls the mania, or at least makes me less aware of it. The problem with being manic and getting drunk at the same time is that there is absolutely no self control. Both work together to create this entirely separate persona of mine who has no awareness or responsibility for her actions. Which at times is really fun but also gets me into a lot of trouble.

Once after not sleeping for two days, then working a twelve hour shift, then drinking half a bottle of gin I ended up hitting a girl I’d been seeing. That’s sounds really bad, it was really bad I guess. I didn’t hit her aggressively, we were just play fighting in bed and I was a little too rough. I wasn’t aware of my actions until the next morning when she told me. I’d completely blacked it out having finally slept a little. She said I was just hyperactive and very excitable and that it was all innocent I just hadn’t realised my strength. She had to walk around with bruised cheekbone for a week. Which was terrible for her but a good wake up call for me that I needed to get in control of my manic periods.

Since then I’ve been a lot better. I’ve realised that, like when I’m having a depressive mood, it is better that I isolate myself from others. Even though I often feel this strong desire to socialise and surround myself with people I’m aware that that’s just my mania talking as most of the time I’m quite introverted. It is better for others, and myself in the long run, if I avoid society when I’m in one of these hyper-euphoric stages.

My main coping device is a checklist** that I’ve created that is set with an alarm on my phone. The alarm goes off at the same times each day and I’ve been very vigilant at making sure to answer the questions each time it does. Even when in public I will excuse myself to run through the list. I’m public about the list with a few close friends and will openly interrupt them and say Sorry I’ve got to do my checklist. Which they allow me to do with no judgement before we return to whatever activity we were doing prior. A few times I’ve tried to ignore it but I’ve always had one of these friends around who forces me to fill out the questionnaire. It is very important to have a good support group and I am very grateful for having such.

It’s hard trying not to drink when I feel like this. It’s ingrained in my mind that if I have two pints and a gin I’ll level out. I’ve tried smoking pot to help but that just gives me extreme paranoia and an even more distracted brain. So pretty much the opposite of what I need. Cigarettes are another bad one. On my most manic days I can easily smoke two packs. Which makes me want to vomit just thinking about it. Cigarettes carry the same train of thought as alcohol. I’ll just have a smoke and that will settle me. Two hours later I’ve had ten cigarettes and have ashed all throughout the house as I can smoke and do anything simultaneously. I’ve baked batches of scones with an accidental tobacco flavour, without realising lit a smoke in the grocery store, though my favourite incident was trying to put on mascara while having  drag and poking myself in the eye. I don’t know why I was putting on my makeup at 3am anyway.

The one symptom that I hate the most however is the constant need to pick at my skin. Even while writing this I’ve gotten up multiple times and gone to my mirror to squeeze at pimples that aren’t really there. My legs and arms are littered with scabs from incessant scratching. Plucking out my leg hairs is also a good habit I’ve developed. These obsessions I hate the most because they are a symptom that people can visibly see. I once scratched practically all of the skin off the top of my left foot which was really hard to explain when wearing sandals during it’s healing process. Especially because all I could say was my foot was itchy. There’s no other explanation. Saying I was having a manic episode and subsequently scratched at it for ten minutes, sounds even crazier.

Anyway, this particular episode I think has been brought on by a combination of being sick of feeling so down and being downright bored. I’ve been awake for 32 hours which isn’t good but I’m limiting my actions. I’m not socialising even though a girl I really like asked me to hangout tonight. It’s hard because all i want to do is chat endlessly about the thoughts racing around my head. I’ve put band-aids over all previous scabs so I can’t pick at them and cut off my fingernails so I can’t create new ones. I’m trying to funnel all this energy into something more creative and productive. Though so far I’ve started writing three different short stories, watched a bunch of movies while listening to non-related albums, started to read two novels, attempted a sewing project and started a painting. So I’ve got a lot of little things started but I probably won’t finish any of them. If I could just focus all this energy into one activity I think I could probably change the world. Excessive self-confidence is a common symptom of mania.

Also I’m kind of annoyed that the memorable line from Dirty Dancing is Nobody puts Baby in the corner. I definitely think it should be I carried a watermelon.

*What a great combination of the same letters

**I will post My Manic Checklist in a separate post

Of the People, By the People, For the people

I’ve just finished watching Requiem for the American Dream and if you haven’t seen it I highly recommend giving it a gander. Requiem for the American Dream is an interview with the intellectual great Noam Chomsky discussing the economic state of American and the world, the erasure of the middle class and how the wealthy discreetly control the government. He delves into what it means to be a democratic government and when you think about it, we aren’t really as democratic as we’d like to think.

I live in Australia so I will admit not everything applies as significantly, certain laws and policies differ, Australia is still a part of the Commonwealth, but we are a democratic country.  The scariest thing about Australian politics and government is just how closely we will follow whatever the U.S government does. America says jump, Australia says how high? We follow America into war, majority of our entertainment is Americanised and the way the Australian government controls the financial state of the country is very similar to what has and is happening in America. I don’t know why we think of America as our guide, things have been going downhill there for nearly half a century now. There’s this cycle of money being shifted around pocket to pocket between the governments, to big banks and to the 1%. It’s all connected and we, the 99%, are here to serve one purpose: To help the rich get richer. We do this by paying high taxes, working for a lower wage and by being generally complacent.

The basis of democracy is to let the people rule. Every person gets a say in what they want for their country. Though this is obviously not what it feels like. How many people out there actually feel like their voice is heard at all by the government. I sure don’t and I don’t feel like I’m given enough resources to be fully informed. The government loves keeping citizens in the dark. To say that I feel I have any power in regards to the well-being of my country would be a lie.

The inequality between classes is a quickly widening gap. Back in the fifties and sixties, progression between the classes was possible. Even if you were a low income earner, it was possible to go to a good school, buy a decent house in a nice neighbourhood and do better than your parents had in the previous decade. This form of hope that if you work hard you can build a better life for yourself is a joke nowadays. It is extremely difficult to break out of the class you were born into, the system is rigged against you. Funding for public schools is lower but private school tuition is higher than it’s ever been. So not only are you already facing the usual struggles of poverty you are now receiving lesser education preventing you from getting into good universities and into a high paying career. If you do make it through the public education system and get to attend university you then are looking at ridiculous tuition fees much higher than ever before.* But don’t fear you can get student loans, but you now will have to start paying them off earlier Then you’ve got to get a job in a job market that is already so overfilled, wages are going down, taxes up, the housing market doesn’t exist to me because it’s so unrealistic, I don’t even think about it. I’m going to stop because I’m getting too overwhelmed. But it’s obvious the odds are not in our favour.

There’s a loss of community that’s formed as we’ve slowly slipped into this detrimental financial crisis. We are getting pitted against each other. Taxes in theory are something we should be happy to pay. In theory our taxes come back to us in turn. If we have a little bit of extra cash should we not be happy to give it to someone less fortunate so that the can live a better life too? Everyone is all for equality except for when it comes to the sharing of wealth. We should all be given equal opportunities despite our class or financial standing. That’s what democracy means to me.

I’ve always been inspired by Chomsky and his political activism but I think I stumbled upon this documentary just at the right time in my life. A lot of the points he raises in this film are the same concerns I’ve been trying to communicate to my friends and family. Though, as I’m not an academic linguist I often come across as a raving conspiracy-theory nut. Now when someone asks me what my opinion is on economics and the way our government functions I can just point them in the direction of this film. The only issue I have with this film is that it offers no solution or hope of things getting better. Which is the major problem I’m having with society at the moment. People are becoming aware of what is happening around us but no one knows how to fix things. Everyone is just accepting that this is the way things are. Life’s not fair. So how do we get up every day and function with the knowledge that game is rigged against us? Why do we have to struggle while the rich just get richer?

* Earlier as in as soon as you earn over $42,000. That’s only 20% over the minimum wage.

Cheese, Glorious Cheese

There’s something about grocery shopping that I find messes with my mental health every time I’m forced to go hunt for provisions to keep me alive for the week. I look ridiculous going from one aisle back to the other comparing prices and trying to keep my weekly food budget under twenty dollars. I am quite adept at utilising my mania when trying to decide between yogurt or cheese this week. It can be quite productive but at the same time I know how ridiculous I look. I have a fear of trolleys so I carry all my items in my arms. I move very quickly in this odd shuffle motion not properly lifting my feet. My eyes are wide and I often look faint. I have been approached several times by staff members and customers asking me if I’m feeling alright or if I’d like to sit down. I find this to be a great confidence boost. Grocery shopping is not my friend.

Today’s drama unfolded in the dairy aisle. I was pricing cheese and trying to figure out if I could stretch my shampoo for another week so that I could afford the 250g block of tasty goodness. For some reason the pre-sliced cheese caught my eye and I began to think more and more about that as a concept. My minds been stuck on the thought all afternoon and here I am six hours later still stuck on it and with no cheese.

Now I’m not talking about the processed Kraft Singles type of cheese, though I do have issues with that as well. The cheese I’m talking about is the natural cheese that you can buy from the grocery store pre-sliced. At first glance there’s nothing overly wrong with this. It’s time saving, cutting down the 10-15 seconds it takes to cut a few slices for your sandwich. It saves dishes, no knives or graters. But do we really need those few extra seconds? Would it kill us to wash that one extra knife? It just seems ridiculously lazy. Like so fucking lazy that it makes me hate humanity. I hate being a part of this mass-produced world.

With most people agreeing that the relationships we develop with others being the most important thing in life it seems so odd that we’ve lost this sense of community especially in the way we receive and offer our goods and services. I’m a big market shopper, I find the whole experience way less stressful. After strolling around and chatting with the people who actually grew the food they’re selling makes me feel this nice, warm, homely buzz. Plus it makes the food taste better. Or perhaps that’s the lack of pesticides and preservatives? Either way the sense of community and helping out a fellow person is what I desire and enjoy the most. And this is what I fear we are all losing touch with.

When did we turn into this competitive, money hungry society?* I’ve always felt like we were on the earth to support one another and have meaningful connections with one another. Now it just seems like it’s all about who can make the most money and what the easiest way to do something is. We’ve become lazy and are too accepting of this detached community we’ve allowed to form.

Obviously this is bigger than just cheese slices. I know it sounds tedious and obvious and that some hipster with a beard has said this all before. I’m just worried about the world we are creating for ourselves and future generations. For how much longer is this going to sustain us? I’m bored already of the mass produced faceless food that is constantly crammed down our throats silencing any voice trying to object to this way of life.

*Cheese singles hit the American shelves in the fifties

Oh The Places You Won’t Go

I’ve been out of action these past few weeks due to a really bad depressive period which is only slightly getting better. Though as I typed that sentence tears began to well in my eyes and a lump the size of a small planet formed in my throat. But it’s okay I’m slowly becoming a master of swallowing my feelings. This isn’t the first time that I’ve felt a little glum, down, or blue. I’ve just never felt truly depressed the way I have recently. I’ve never been reduced to lying in bed all day because I physically can’t lift my heavy limbs out from under the covers. But at least it’s a new experience right? A try everything once kind of thing? I can pass it off like that right?

I think the hardest part is that I know exactly what is causing my depression but it is completely out of my power to do anything about it. As I’ve previously mentioned, I quit my job mid-February and now in May I am still unemployed with no prospect of anything mildly resembling a job appearing in my future. This is what’s killing me. In the past few months I must’ve sent out around 200 resumes. Not kidding. This ranges from directly emailing businesses, individual applications, job search sites and the old fashioned walk in and shove a resume in a potential boss’s hand. Still nothing has worked.

So when I broke down about it, what is the one thing people say to console me? “It’s not you it’s just that it’s so competitive for work these days.” That statement irks me so much, my teeth have started clenching just thinking about it. The thing is I’m not going for a high skill job. I’m a barmaid always have been always will be. Or so I thought. I have been pouring beers since I was thirteen and have done the necessary certificates, courses and qualifications needed to keep up to date in the industry. Obviously I don’t think I’m God’s gift to bartending but I do think that I’m at least hire-able. It’s just that there’s always someone better, which I get. There will always be someone better at what you do than you yourself. I can accept that. I can’t accept that I’m going for a low-skill, low-wage job and am still coming up short.

Why is this there this massive lack of jobs? And when is it supposed to be getting better? Because as far as I can see it’s only getting worse. I know of multiple people who have recently graduated and can’t get a job in their desired field and guess what they’re still doing for work? Yep, waiting tables. So what does that do to people like me? That leaves us lower class people who cannot afford to go to university or to not be consistently working thirty hour weeks due to study pushed out of our industries. I’m not blaming these university students for my unemployment. I’m sure they’re just as disheartened at not being able to get a job in their own field too. With the old age pension going up and people being forced to work until a later age in life than in previous decades does this mean fewer jobs are opening up for young people? What I’m trying to figure out is where does this leave me? If we are all getting pushed down lower on the employment chain does that mean that the elusive category of being homeless could become a possibility for someone like me?

I’m just so sick of trying. It’s very hard to be constantly rejected and told you were good but not good enough. I wish I was receiving more constructive feedback because at least then I’d have something I’d be able to work on. Or that there was some prospect of the job market improving. As far as I can see, the only thing I can see happening in the future is the gap between low and high class getting stretched even further apart. It constantly feels like the system is rigged this way. That the rich keep getting richer and the poor just keep getting pushed down.

When discussing this with my sister as we pooled our ten and twenty cent pieces together to go buy a loaf of bread, she said that she constantly felt this weight of stress on her shoulders. University loans, car payments, rent, food, electricity. All of that stress constantly pushing her down as if there physically was some rich politician constantly stomping her back down into the poor category she is trying so hard to break out from. I wish it was more American History X style. Just gutter stomp me and put me out of my misery.

I feel like there’s no point in trying as the systems so clearly rigged. It is unrealistic to dream of being financially stable let alone rich. So what’s the point in trying? Why get up every day just to struggle? And I know this all sounds so whiny and that I need to suck it up because life’s not fair. Life’s not fair. But how many games do you continue to play once you realise they aren’t fair. If you find out the games rigged don’t you normally quit playing the game?

All of this plays heavily in my mind constantly. It’s become all I can think about. The only thing that accompanies it is this constant ringing in my ears. Which I also don’t enjoy. I wish I could get myself out of this funk but I can’t see why I should bother. Why get out of bed every day to struggle and hate life whilst pretending to be happy? How does everyone else do it?