mark of disgrace

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Stigma is “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.” i.e.: the stigma of a mental disorder.

The reality is bipolar disorder is highly stigmatized and carrying around that kind of associated shame hurts. I have pain in my chest and it gets hard to breathe at times.

Even though I don’t identify in the least as being a Kanye West fan, when I see people slamming him for his potential bipolar or other mental illness diagnoses, it hurts. Making light of a one in five chance of suicide seems cruel.

The only thing worse than the disorder itself is the stigma and shame that binds.

And stigma breeds self-stigma when internalizing beliefs.

When millions of people would do anything to not claim the disorder you have, it starts to take its toll.

When there’s hardly compassion and mostly laughter, you become prone to feeling less than.

I get so physically and mentally uncomfortable when past memories resurface, and I kill myself over thinking about who remembers what, and what they think now.

I fear that other people might fear me. And that makes me cry sometimes. Research shows that people who have bipolar are a far greater danger to themselves than they are to anyone else.

Though my identity has become far more secure, and I’ve educated myself, there are still times when I slip, and I wonder.. God why did you make me like this? And why can’t they understand.

I want to talk about Depression and Anxiety

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Probably not what most people want to do.. but I genuinely want to talk about depression and anxiety.

I don’t feel special anymore for having dealt with depression and anxiety. This is because Anxiety Disorders are the most common disorders in the US, with 40 million people (18% of the population). Anxiety Disorders are highly treatable, but only 1/3 will receive treatment.

Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, with an estimated 350 million people of all ages who suffer.

I just can’t wrap my head around how this epidemic is so largely swept under the rug. How can we ignore that this many people are feeling hopeless, can’t get out of bed, are empty, are contemplating or completing suicide, and have constant anxiety?

Do we talk about? Yeah, sort of? Most every time I hear a well-intentioned person talking about depression, it’s in such a soft and pitiful tone. Like we are scared to talk about depression because we might catch it.

Depression is scary. Your mind and world turns grey, and often times there is no logic.

I deal with bipolar depression, and if I hear one more time to “just think about what you’re thankful for,” I just might punch something. Depression is not a choice. It can affect anyone, and I do mean anyone. It doesn’t matter how much or how little you own. Sure, circumstances can add to it, but a lot of times depression happens for no reason at all. A person with depression has a sick brain. They cannot decipher reality for the time being.

Let’s be honest, depression sucks. A lot. While writing this post, I’m in a great place in my life. Hindsight on my depression is 20/20. I had the worst depression of my life the spring of 2013. I told myself I’d never be fooled by depression again. Then came spring 2014, 2015, and most recently 2016, which was the worst one since.

If you treat depression like it’s in someone’s power, you’ve got it all wrong already. It encompasses the whole person. Everything feels meaningless. Why try. I’m not good at anything. Everyone is better than me in every aspect of my life. I have no place in this world. No one would really care if I left. Nothing is fun. No one understands. I want to be included, but even more than that I want to lay in this bed all day.

Darkness was my best friend for those 5 months in 2013. All I wanted to do was crawl in my bed and sleep. Because sleep meant nothingness and it meant escape. And I needed to escape from my own brain, which is mostly impossible.

There’s nothing worse than being afraid of yourself.

This is how depression makes me feel. I am genuinely afraid of my own mind. I can’t process most of what someone is saying to me. Getting dressed is a huge process. Following the storyline of a movie is impossible. Laughter isn’t really a thing. Everyone has their life in order. They all look so happy. They know what they’re good at, and they’re making life happen for themselves. God isn’t real. How could God do this to me?

I could hardly talk to my therapist during my sessions this past spring. Back in May, after I told her I’m a stupid person, she asked me, “so, you feel stupid?”

I said through my tears with such conviction that, “No. I don’t feel stupid. I am stupid.”

We both cried.

And I really appreciated it. She carried my hurt for that moment. I made a definitive statement about myself. No, I don’t feel stupid and awkward. I am stupid. And I am awkward.

I look back and I cry, because I was wrong about myself. I am capable. I am smart, beautiful, and loved. But my mind wouldn’t let me see it.

Let’s talk about depression and anxiety. Please.

 

players

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“Prosperity knits a man to the world. He feels that he is finding his place in it, while really it is finding its place in him.” 
― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

As a girl in this world, growing up I was always feeling insecure.

One of the best pieces of wisdom I’ve ever heard told is this: Nobody really cares that much about you.

Sounds harsh, but it’s so comforting to me.

Nobody truly cares about how you look, what you’re doing, what grade you made, what awards you receive. They don’t ruminate on what you said two weeks ago. They could talk about it, but that’s most likely their own insecurity shining through. Because they don’t really care.

There’s a lens in all of us that’s unique, but the same- our worldview and perceptions. It’s human nature to make our worldview revolve around our favorite topic- which is us.

K admit it, we love to talk about ourselves. Almost every little decision we make keeps in mind what someone else might say, think, or do about it afterwards.

“All the world’s a stage and all the men and women are merely players.”

A lot of the time I have to make a conscious effort to just listen. To just stop talking and thinking about myself for one minute and to take in someone else’s thoughts. I admire so much the people who can do this really well.

This is not all to say we don’t have genuine moments and connections with people. My point is that it’s the people who matter that will care about your accomplishments and listen to your concerns, because they love you. Not for any other reason. If someone cares deeply otherwise it’s because they are jealous and insecure like the rest of us.

While I think it’s probably impossible to rid ourselves of all insecurity, it’s so freeing to let go of as much as we can. Trading in superficial conversation and appearances for meaningful relationships is one of the best things I could’ve ever done for myself. And I still work at it.

There will always be that person who is smarter, prettier, funnier, nicer, more likable, and has a better job or goes to a better school than you do. To me, that’s become a good thing, because I don’t feel as much of a need to live up to something so unattainable.

We’ll never be able to measure up to the expectations we put in other people’s heads about ourselves. I think it’s important to try and find a new forefront for our minds- one in which we decide to consciously empathize with someone else.

Being the perfect cocktail of physically perfect and “emotionally unavailable” is a waste.

Care for other people.

You cannot take what you’ve earned in this world to the grave. Nothing and no one is going with you but your soul.

Is that scary, or comforting?

-Laura

“I have seen all things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, like chasing the wind.” -Ecclesiastes 1:14

wishing

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I find myself wishing.

I wish I didn’t feel the need to explain myself constantly. Or to explain mental illness.

I wish I didn’t have to prove my normalcy and only then feel comfortable enough to tell my disorder in a whisper.

I wish mental illness and its effects were just already common knowledge. That it was taught with compassion in school and by our parents, not stumbled upon reluctantly on television.

I wish people would just get help.

But I wish there were adequate resources to even do so. There’s a 3 month waiting list to get an appointment with a psychiatrist. Cancelation is the best bet for counseling. Everything is expensive.

I wish my counseling appointments weren’t 200 dollars per 45 minute session.

I wish I didn’t have these extremes- the mania and the depression. That I felt I am the captain of my mind. And the chemicals would simply align and do what they were intended to do.

I wish I knew what everyone else felt like in their body and in their mind everyday.

I wish I knew which version of myself is the “real me,” and which is my illness. They are so hard to decipher. Am I creative and outgoing? Or am I unable to form a sentence and awkward?

I wish people understood that bipolar doesn’t mean I’m happy and sad and moody all in a day. I wish they knew it means my circadian clock throughout the year lends me to manic tendencies in the fall, and depression in the spring.

I wish I could help people. I want them to know they have value, and that their mental illness isn’t who they are. People aren’t cancer. They aren’t heart disease. They aren’t cerebral palsy. But they are bipolar.

Semantics… I have bipolar, not “I am” bipolar. But it doesn’t matter how you say it, it’s how others feel about it. It’s how you feel about yourself.

That girl “is” bipolar. It is her identity.

But it’s not?

I am more than a disorder, despite how I have felt about myself in the past.. the times when I let the diagnosis dictate every thought and every decision of my life.

When I looked at people who I knew saw me as “normal” and thought and believed, “if only they knew, I’m not normal, I’m one of those freaks.” I am the one you’re talking about who stayed in the “looney bin.” That was me. A few short years ago.

I wish I had figured everything out sooner to avoid insufferable pain.

I wish the world would recognize mental illness as real and important to know about. It affects everyone, whether we want it to or not (and of course we don’t want it to). If it’s not you, it’s a friend, coworker, family member, acquaintance. Somebody.

I wish we didn’t feel the need to hide our condition.

From everyone. There are so many people in the working world and just in life who are successful and charismatic, and they deal with a mental illness you would never know about. We’re not all “weird, deranged, dangerous.” We are like you.

We’re people who have a chronically sick brain. Just like people have sick hearts, stomachs, lungs.

I wish I didn’t have to take medication everyday. And I wish I didn’t have so much pride about needing it.

I wish mental illness received a hand and heart to help, instead of a kick to the chest.

I wish people understood mental illness. That it’s not a character flaw, it’s not a choice. It doesn’t discriminate in who it afflicts.

But I am lucky. I accepted my diagnosis within three years, instead of the average ten. I have a family who does everything in their power to protect me, and who loves me so fiercely I have no choice but to want to better myself and take care of me- for them. Not all friends stood by me, but some of them did. And I am so lucky.

I have Eric. He comforts me and treasures me as his future wife, not as his basket case. I am so, so lucky and fortunate. And I am so heartbroken for the people with my disorder who can’t say the same.

-Laura

mental illness awareness week film

 

MIAW is this week Oct 2-8. My goal is to shine light where there is a lot of darkness in our country, around the world, and in our hearts right now. Having a severe mental illness has been tough to say the least, and receiving slim to none understanding over the past years hasn’t helped.

If your heart or any other organ is chronically sick, there’s usually no hesitation to get help or to talk to someone about it. With our brains, for whatever reason, it’s a different story. Admitting you have a mental illness is usually done under your breath if at all. And it’s mostly met with “why would you ever admit that.”

I’m a part of 2.6% of the population with Bipolar Disorder. Dbsalliance.org says that 1 in 5 people with Bipolar Disorder will complete suicide. That is a devastating statistic for me. A 1 in 5 chance to live is not a comforting reality and shouldn’t be accepted. This is part of what motivates me to educate others on our illness. Because it is an illness that has been around since the beginning of time, not our imagination. While the manias and depressions are beyond awful, the associated shame and stigma is hell on earth.

People with severe mental illness used to be treated like animals, chained in prisons, hung and thought to be witches, lobotomized, and basically treated as sub human throughout history. I wish I could say this has improved far more drastically than it actually has. (http://www.inquiriesjournal.com/…/the-history-of-mental-ill…)

After I left Clemson finally in the Fall of 2014, after having been sexually assaulted by a student there, being sent into a severe manic episode, and overdosing twice within a week, I went to an inpatient facility for a 2 hour interview where they deemed my case “not severe enough” to stay there. There’s nowhere to go.

I wrote a fan letter to a strong woman in the sport’s industry, Samantha Ponder, where I told her I was coming to terms with leaving Clemson and having Bipolar Disorder. And I was treated by ESPN security like a criminally insane stalker for it. I’m now apparently on a list to look out for, because I told this woman I wanted to be like her one day. I can’t help but feel that if I had a different illness that that letter would have been received completely different.

Education. Conversation. Long term treatment in conjunction with acute treatment. Understanding. Acceptance. Erasing the stigma. These are so desperately needed.

If you would share this post or my one from a couple days ago in hopes of allowing others to be more aware of mental illness, that would be wonderful. Mental Illness affects all of us in some way whether we want it to or not. Might as well do something about it.

“Our purpose is in our pain” -Brandon Marshall

Christians


Take the world, but give me Jesus,
Sweetest comfort of my soul;
With my Savior watching over me,
I can sing though billows roll ; Ascend The Hill

Mental Illness Awareness Week has come to a close today. There’s one more thing I wanted to say.

To *some* Christians in my life, mostly past, and some present, I want you to understand mental illness.

I don’t want to yell at you. I don’t want to totally point the finger and place all my blame. But I do want you to know I remember and it hurts. I’m usually relatively vague in my blog about what has happened with old friends. It makes sense that you’re scared, because you’re just not educated on the subject. A few churches are compassionate about the the topic, and support treatment and openness.

While others are repulsed, and believe there is a sin I committed to deserve this. If I pray hard enough, my brain will magically repair its prefrontal cortex and replace its malignant chemicals with healthy ones. If I just trust in God to bring me joy, He’ll give it to me instantly.

What if Ephesians 3:20 doesn’t mean immeasurably more health and happiness. What if it truly means that He has plans for me also, to use my illness as a platform for Him. To glorify Him through my pain.

Despite my doubt and shame, He chooses me every day. You know who condemned as if they themselves were God? If you didn’t cherry pick the Bible for the sin you don’t personally commit (premarital sex, divorce, homosexuality, underage drinking, etc.) you might know it’s the Pharisees.

A lot of you weren’t there for me when I needed you the most. You still snicker at the thought of my name. You untagged yourselves from pictures with me because I was once an embarrassing human when I could not help it. You asked me to dance when I was skinny and didn’t look my way when I was noticeably depressed and had gained weight. Your good deed for the century was driving me to the hospital and later rolling your eyes. Because how could I be so stupid and far from God’s best for me?

Thirty of you or so didn’t acknowledge my presence save a room full of stares, though I used to go to your houses and laugh with you.

You told me in my gullible manic state to call someone and leave a hateful voicemail for something they didn’t do. And the rest of you stood by and laughed.

One of you was my best friend in the world, and didn’t come to my hospital bed in 2012 or even send an “I hope you’re okay” when I was incapable of forming a thought. Now you’re in ministry, preaching what you couldn’t practice for me. I never really heard from you again. I had formerly volunteered in your church’s nursery and your dad was my pastor. I reached out in 2014 not to rekindle a romance but to tell you I was diagnosed bipolar and struggling. Your response was blocking me.

I get it, we are all imperfect. I know I am flawed. I pray I can forgive you, and I work towards it.

Know that your actions carry so much weight, obviously not just for me, but everyone you will encounter. Remember that not all the Psalms were filled with joy, but they all had hope.

Psalm 38

“Your arrows have pierced me,
and your hand has come down on me.
Because of your wrath there is no health in my body;
there is no soundness in my bones because of my sin.
My guilt has overwhelmed me
like a burden too heavy to bear.
I am bowed down and brought very low;
all day long I go about mourning.
My back is filled with searing pain;
there is no health in my body.
I am feeble and utterly crushed;
I groan in anguish of heart.
All my longings lie open before you, Lord;
my sighing is not hidden from you.
My heart pounds, my strength fails me;
even the light has gone from my eyes.
My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds;
my neighbors stay far away.
those who would harm me talk of my ruin;
all day long they scheme and lie.
I am like the deaf, who cannot hear,
like the mute, who cannot speak;
I have become like one who does not hear,
whose mouth can offer no reply.

Lord, I wait for you;
you will answer.
For I said, ‘Do not let them gloat
or exalt themselves over me when my feet slip.’
For I am about to fall,
and my pain is ever with me.
I confess my iniquity;
I am troubled by my sin.
Many have become my enemies without cause;

Lord, do not forsake me;
do not be far from me.
Come quickly to help me,
my Lord and my Savior.”

let go

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Letting go is hard. I’d argue it borders on impossible. I’ve advanced closer, waded somewhere in the middle, and regressed. I’ve had one limb in forgiveness, one in bitterness, and a third in embarrassment. I just don’t think I can say I’ve let it all go. I know I can’t say it.

What I’m talking about is my heartache, people I’ve been hurt by, whether intentional or not, and painful memories.

Sometimes I’ll go through long stretches without thinking about any of it, which is nice. But other times I’ll be laying in my bed or driving in my car and an old memory resurfaces, from however many years ago, to taunt me or to remind me that I should be embarrassed. A lot of memories I’ve repressed, but eventually almost all return.

This past weekend was the anniversary of a very painful time in my life two years ago. Today I’m so grateful and happy with where and who I am, but I cannot help but feel a searing pain when I look back.

I’ve held grudges. Some things I truly have forgiven myself and other people for. And other things, if I’m being honest with myself, I haven’t. It’s not because I don’t want to.

The most prominent memories entail embarrassment, frustration, confusion, rejection, and being out of my own control. At the time I felt like no one wanted to be associated with Laura Hogan, the girl who had lost it after her senior year of high school.

I kept hearing this message preached that “it’s okay to struggle, and life is going to be hard and you’re going to need to ask people for help so that they can walk through it with you.” But from these same types of people I found that my struggle was too much. You can hurt, but it needs to be an acceptable kind of hurting.

You can struggle, but it needs to be with gossiping too much, or being impatient with God’s plan, or being too selfish with your time, or not feeling His presence enough, or not getting asked to the dance.

It cannot be that you are battling a mental illness that you didn’t know you had. That’s what I learned from them. I’m not talking about one group of people, but a group at large. Do I think I’ve been there perfectly and every time for other people’s struggles? No I don’t think so.

But I was absolutely amazed by the lack of empathy I received from so many people back then. At the time I thought it might be deserved, but looking back I’m just angry. Not the kind of angry that makes someone want to be violent, but the kind that puts up walls and has given a lot of tears.

I’m still learning to let go.

 

“Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame” – Psalm 34:5

the number one treatment for the recovery of bipolar disorder

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Let me start by saying medication has been vital in my recovery, wellness, and maintenance. The arsenal of counseling and psychiatric services has also played a huge role. Without these things, my life would still be in shambles.

However, I’ve come to realize the magnitude of the treatment that helped me the most with bipolar type 1 disorder. It sounds cliche, and maybe it is, but this is what pulled me through and out of some of the deepest valleys of my life.

The best treatment I ever received was love.

The sentiment of love gets tossed around a lot as we know, and the meaning has become diluted.

But the love I experienced wasn’t an ephemeral love. It was a compassionate love that didn’t have conditions. I didn’t have to perform a certain way in order to receive it. I have felt loved by several people, but most notably over the years by the unwavering support system I have in my parents.

In times when mental illness gripped me the hardest and I felt like the world turned its back on me, and when the white noise was deafening, they claimed me. And even more so they were proud of me.

They put the condemning weight of my burdens on themselves and then some. They laughed and sobbed with me. They celebrated my small accomplishments. They held me with a death grip when I felt helpless. They encouraged me. They stood up for me. They loved me when I didn’t have love for myself.

I was more important to them than the appearance of our family. They didn’t run from the diagnosis, but instead educated themselves and are now educating others. They put their own schedules on hold to be near me and to bring their little girl back. They emulated the agape love that God has for me. They were never ashamed to call me their daughter.

I love you mom and dad. Thank you for sharing in both my sorrow and healing. I could never fully articulate how grateful I am that your reservoir of grace never runs dry for me.

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hope

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So I haven’t written in a while. I’ll be honest, I contemplated deleting my blog a few times, feeling like I had shared too much. But then I remembered the people who told me it had helped them, and decided to let it stick around (also, I couldn’t figure out how to delete it – haha).

I’m at a great place in my life right now and I can’t tell you how thankful I am for that.

If I’m being candid, the beginning of 2016 was not a walk in the park. It was difficult. But as the year went on, things got better again like they do. I’m happy to say this summer has been the best of my life so far.

I got engaged to Eric! I couldn’t ever explain how happy and overjoyed this makes me. I found someone who loves me for exactly who I am, which is something I never knew if I’d say or not. He’s an amazing man, and I’m beyond excited for the rest of our lives together.

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This post is really just to say that I’m glad I didn’t completely count myself out. In the hard times I’ve learned to love myself and to care less about what others think of me. I haven’t mastered it all – but I’ve gained ground and that’s all I’m going to ask of myself.

Speaking up for mental health and mental illness is still on my heart, and I plan to continue spreading light for it.

– Laura

 

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts.”

Romans 5:3-5

 

bipolar is and isn’t

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Bipolar disorder is a serious disease. It’s not fun, nor trendy.

Bipolar (for me at least) means consistent medication, dose changes, and getting adequate sleep to stay well.

Bipolar means periods of extremes. Mania and depression, then mania again, and so on. A cycle through the seasons. It doesn’t mean: Let me yell and pull my hair out, and then giggle uncontrollably thirty minutes later.

Mania is a state of the brain. It seems rather misunderstood as a whole. It’s important to know that being in mania doesn’t make someone a maniac. 

I took the liberty of looking up “mania” on dictionary.com. Here’s the super informative definition:

(1) excessive excitement or enthusiasm; craze: ex: The country has a mania for soccer.

Okay.. so in second place:

(2) Psychiatry. manic disorder

Mania. I had no idea what it was until I experienced it firsthand.

In my psych class at Clemson, I remember we breezed right through it. Which is fine, lots of material to cover-I get it Jorgensen.

I scribed in my notes something of the like: mania- affective disorder characterized by euphoric mood, excessive activity and impaired judgment. 

While this is true, I had no grasp on what this would entail in real life application. It was simply a multiple choice answer on a test.

It wasn’t until my nonchalantly jotted bullet point became my reality that I understood.

Bipolar disorder freaking sucks. It’s not something I can ignore and say, “Just..stay there, I’ll deal with you later.”

It’s really hard. But I have learned a few things.

It means living with haunting and embarrassing things I did or said in the past.

..But It doesn’t mean I have to dwell on them day in and day out…and I don’t (anymore).

It means I have a serious condition that needs to be addressed and managed.

..But It doesn’t mean I think of myself as some sub-human specimen who can’t do what everyone else can.

It has made me manic, but not a lunatic.

It has made me depressed, but not completely hopeless for eternity.

When someone has a physical condition, most of the time they don’t feel the need to confess it under their breath. Unfortunately, mental illness is a different story.

Even the word “bipolar” is so harsh sounding. If I tell someone out loud that I’m bipolar, I’m often greeted with a look of I can’t believe you just admitted that out loud. It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue…kind of like most things that are expected to be kept to ourselves.

The prenotions that come with the idea of bipolar are so strong.

Like I’ve mentioned in a post before, when in high school, I remember hearing random, uneducated slams against bipolar here and there…I thought semi subconsciously, I am so glad that I’ll never have to deal with something like that! I’m so normal. Bipolar people are weird. Bipolar people are psychos. 

Then it hit, and I was now the aforementioned “psycho.” But really, I was just ill.

I’ve also told of how a “well-intentioned” woman advised me to never share with anyone that I’m bipolar. To keep it a secret for my own good. That she was looking out for me.

So, thanks lady who I haven’t heard from since! Your recommendation is actually the reason I started this blog.

I’m doing the exact opposite of what you told me to do, because I think more highly of the human capability to understand than you do.

The truth is, my secret could’ve ultimately killed me- and my life is far more important than my pride or appearance.

 – Laura