Sometimes…

I wonder how I’ll make it through life without actually killing myself. I’ve learned so much from about how to move through pain and still the pain of living through this bullshit is just too great…I am so tired of shaking and crying and screaming until my throat is raw and it fucking sucks so much fucking ass that I have to go to work today, try to put a smile on, kick assignments out, then do more work when I get home for 2 other projects and it’s all fucking art but my heart is fucking breaking how am I supposed to pull any good shit out of my soul to get any of this shit done this week I’m so fucking sick of being me and acting like balance is really a fucking option with a mind like this I’m so. Fucking. Over it.

This isn’t fucking worth it.

Why I Went To Peru To Drink Ayahuasca

About a month ago my friend Amy and I returned from Dreamglade, an Ayahuasca retreat in the Peruvian Amazon. This is actually the post I wanted to start this blog with, but since we’ve come back, life jumped full force into the holidays, into my birthday, then back to work, so it’s been pretty rough to get my bearings. Not sure if I’d recommend planning an ayahuasca integration for such a busy time but…I honestly didn’t realize how difficult it would be to come back to “reality.”

Still, I wouldn’t trade the experience for any amount of money in the world. It was way more valuable than I could have ever imagined…

I first heard about ayahuasca about two years ago at a lunch with coworkers. We were all sharing our experiences with Psychadelics when one of the girls said something like “Have you guys heard about ayahuasca? A friend of a friend just did it and I heard it completely changed her personality. She quit her job and claims that she’s a healer now. Her husband doesn’t know what to do with her. It’s some crazy shit.”

I was immediately intrigued but she didn’t know much more than that, so I got back to my desk and launched into a full force investigation about ayahuasca, watching every documentary and testimonial I could find. A sacred jungle plant medicine that has the ability to rewire your brain, cure anxiety, depression, and addictive behavior? YEAH SIGN ME UP!

I’m not going to go too much into the details of what exactly ayahuasca is, aside from that the brew is a mix of the ayahuasca vine (“Vine of the Soul” or “Vine of the Dead”) and this plant called “chacruna” which, when combined, activates DMT and allows you to go on a spirit quest with this “entity” or “goddess”… Mother Ayahuasca (Mother Nature). She gives you some pretty tough love, making you physically purge what is no longer serving you to make room for something better. Your “inner darkness” if you will… repressed memories, shit you hate about yourself… that kinda thing. Only then will you be rewarded with something good. At least in my experience 🙂

Here’s one of my favorite videos about Ayahuasca from Your Mate Tom, which happens to also be shot at Dreamglade. It’s where I first heard of it actually, so thanks Tom! He gives a really good intro into what Ayahuasca is, and his experience is really interesting.

And here’s a documentary that I highly recommended about the scientific benefits of ayahuasca and how it actually affects your brain. Basically what western medicine doesn’t want you to know 😉

Anyway, the reason I was so attracted to ayahuasca is because I had been depressed for my entire adult life and wasn’t really sure why. When I started dating Eddy (now my husband) about 5 years ago, he basically taught me how to communicate and a lot of repressed emotions came to the surface. Prior to that, I never really knew how to express what I was feeling or look deep within myself to question my actions, or values even. I was going through life blindly and felt broken without knowing why, and when Eddy made me start talking about my past it was like opening a Pandora’s Box of pain. For the sake of this post not turning into a novel, I’m going to let most of this unfold in my ceremony explanations and instead offer up an easy bulleted list of reasons why I decided to book that ticket to Iquitos.

  • My dad died 3 years ago and I felt like I was still holding onto grief that was preventing me from moving on in my life, so I wanted to somehow reconcile with that. I actually specifically booked the retreat so my final ceremony was on his death anniversary, December 14
  • I was diagnosed as bipolar in April of this year, tried going on meds and hated it, so I was looking for a way to naturally learn to balance my extreme highs and lows
  • During a manic period in my early 20s when I was trying hard to “make it” in the animation industry in Los Angeles, I barely got any sleep, partied all the time and made a lot of “surface friends,” but the lack of meaningful relationships and the exhaustion of being out all the time led to the worst crash of my life, where I isolated myself from the world and was never able to recover. Depression hit me like a brick in the face and got worse and worse to the point of completely forgetting myself and what it even meant to feel joy. I would jump from empty high to empty high to feel “happiness” but nothing ever felt real, which left me constantly wanting to kill myself
  • Anxiety that got so bad I couldn’t leave my desk at work and led to a phobia of people that I had no reason to be afraid of
  • I got married in August and my poor husband Eddy has been so patient with me this entire time but started to express that he didn’t know how much more of my behavior he could take. I finally saw how my mania, depression and anxiety had affected HIM for years and I was so self involved I didn’t even realize it, and it disgusted me. I knew that if we ever wanted to have kids (which we do), I had to do something serious about myself, especially because I was so often suicidal and had a huge fear of doing it someday soon.
  • I just turned 30 on January 6 and was just SO SICK of being ME I knew I had to resort to something drastic to finally start moving forward in my life. It was the best birthday present I could’ve ever gifted to myself 🙂 Perfect timing!
  • The idea of traveling to the Amazon to participate in a shamanic ceremony where you drink an ancient jungle brew that allows you to walk with gods is just too much for my adventurous spirit…something I never could have anticipated checking off a bucket list 🙂

In my opinion, the more you can mentally prepare for this the better. I had done so much work trying to figure out what was wrong with me I just could NOT move forward, no matter how hard I tried. This was literally a “last resort” type deal, which is really sad considering I have a loving husband, dog, and awesome community of friends. I was just mentally in such a dark place for so long that I knew everything I SHOULD be doing to function in life, but couldn’t make myself do it, or feel it, and that numbness is a dangerous place to be. At one point I came across something that said if you make the decision to do ayahuasca, you have to be ready to die, and I couldn’t agree more.

Day 10: The Past is Always Bittersweet

“Life is like arriving late for a movie, having to figure out what was going on without bothering everybody with a lot of questions, and then being unexpectedly called away before you find out how it ends.” -Joseph Campbell

It’s been pretty good lately! Also busy. I feel like I’m always in some sort of transition period but… when I think about it, aren’t we all? Like, ALL the TIME? It’s pretty easy to get our ass handed to us by life, and I guess it’s not typical to just be super content and satisfied. As far as I can tell, everyone always is dealing with some kinda shit. I really do feel though that transitioning HAS been my main focus lately. Maybe it always was?

Anywho. Yesterday Eddy started work so we have to SERIOUSLY learn to stagger our schedules so that Han isn’t alone for too long. That means that if I have anything planned after work, I have to leave super early to get there on time. It’s amazing how little time there is after work, especially if you’re someone who gets up really early, like I’m trying to be. Sorry it’s just NOT THAT EASY TO GET TO BED BY 9PM.

Yesterday I saw my psychiatrist who I ended up lying to that I’m still on meds 😐 At least I have a new prescription in case something WERE to happen and I really needed them. I explained to her that I hated being on the meds because I never felt the same joy like I used to, and needed to constantly be high in order to feel anything really. I didn’t like that she told me to stop smoking weed, but when you think about it, psychiatrist and doctors, anyone who prescribes pharmaceutical meds really, of COURSE wouldn’t like weed cuz it’d be taking away their business! But in any case, as long as I’m not on my meds I feel fine and don’t need to be high all the time to get through my day.

Something she DID say though that was useful, is that rather than use weed to make me feel joy, I should try to do things that are fun and not “SECRET CHORES.” No one has ever told me that before… SECRET CHORES. I told her “oh yeah I’m getting back into meditation and yoga and that’s been fun” and she’s like “well those are still self care things to do… find something that’s not a secret chore.”

Dude she is SO RIGHT! Gonna make more time to have actual fun in the near future. It kinda sucks because I’m trying to do so much now… Oh gosh should I try to list what I’m attempting right now?  Maybe that would be healthy, who knows.

  1. Transitioning off my meds and learning to control the depression and mania on my own.
  2. Transitioning into dealing with my bipolar diagnosis in general.
  3. Waking up at 5am to walk Han, leave for work by 7, and leave work to come back home by 4pm.
  4. Eating a healthier mostly plant based diet.
  5. Getting in a consistent workout schedule, running MWF, weight training TTH, yoga daily.
  6. Working with April to create wooden signs for my wedding.
  7. Centerpiece art for wedding, trying to get them printed in time so I can ask for help to get them painted around Friday. Need to test how different paints will work on the transparencies before then.
  8. Video for the wedding
  9. Attempting to do personal doodles to at least work out these thoughts I’ve been having lately
  10. Trying to find someone for Han to stay when we get married, which involves multiple meet and greets
  11. Communicating with a hula instructor
  12. Trying to get to sleep by 9pm

It’s actually not as bad as I thought, because in my head I recognized that there are actually more things to DO, but I didn’t list them because they’re not my current priority and I need to finish these things before I even START thinking about those things. That’s progress, right?

Today I was talking to Bre about art… and art has been a sore subject for me for a while. I’ve been depressed about it for probably like 10 years now, but I finally feel like I’m making some mental progress in the art field. Today though talking to Bre a little bit of the bad feelings slipped through again and I think I need to talk about it.

Almost 3 years ago I made the conscious decision to fully disappear from all Social Media. I had tried multiple times before but kept going back, but it was my dad’s death that made me stay off facebook because man… I had a lot to work on. Looking back, the person I was before my dad’s death seems sorta… unrecognizable to me. In a good way though. I’m learning to look back and not hate the me I used to be, but rather try and focus on the progress I’ve made along the way. And also be really happy that I’m not like that anymore.

Bre’s been sending me those talks between Dave Rapoza and Dan Warren, which are FANTASTIC. It’s really nice that they talk about real shit on there… it’s super relatable and man… totally sounds like what I’ve been going through for years. Bre told me that she wants to start trying to incorporate story into her art, and how she really wants to learn to gain more happiness from her art and share it with more people. She’s already such a fantastic artist, and I guess I couldn’t help but feel a pang of jealousy when she said that. Then I was like… wtf why do I feel JEALOUS. i should be happy for Bre because she’s really starting to come into her own and get into a rhythm blahdeeblahblah. And I AM happy for her, because I know she struggles with a lot of the same shit that I do… and maybe for that reason I can’t help but feel a bit bitter.

Months ago these feelings would have been WAY WORSE mind you. Something I just realized. What I just felt while writing the word “bitter” is only a sliver of how upset and jealous I used to get… which is a really good thing. I’m so happy to have recognized that progress 😀 And I think the reason why is because I know that EVENTUALLY I’ll get to that point where I can vomit out art and actually express how I feel, but for some reason something is still holding me back. And THAT’S where the bitterness comes from. I know that Bre spends a lot of time painting, and I think the jealousy also comes from knowing that she has time to do it. I mean… no one’s really got time, you have to make time, but I can’t help feeling a little bit stuck because of the wedding (again, ANOTHER feeling that ruled my life a couple months ago).

I’m feeling really RESTLESS, and I’m trying to tell myself “just a little more just a little more you’re almost done with the wedding” but at the same time I’m like “pssshhh whatever you can MAKE time even WITH the wedding” and then ALSO at the same time “BUT IF YOU DO THAT YOU’RE GONNA BE OVERLOADING YOURSELF AND SPIRAL INTO DARKNESS AGAIN NO DON’T DO IT”

Today I was telling Bre that I used to get on my ass so much about having wasted time, or regretting my past. But now I can tell I’m in a better place because I can see that as much as I feel that way, what I did in the past shaped who I am now. Listening to Dave talk about his past is also validation in a way. Today he was talking about working professionally and how over time you get used to it, care less and get more comfortable, which is totally the stage I’m in now. They were talking about how of course it would be impossible to balance your time when you’re still in that stage of getting used to working in the industry, and people should know to be a little easy on themselves during their early 20s/while they’re in that phase, because it’s almost EXPECTED of you to be shitty then. Because I’m now starting to feel that separation between personal/work life (partially due to the forceful influence of the wedding but also because I’m getting used to being at WB) I can relate to what he’s saying, but I’m still not at the point where I can feel ok about my art.

These conversations between Dave and Dan are great, but I can’t help thinking like… they’re already great artists though. They’re just looking back on their journey but… they’ve been able to achieve way more than I have artwise, and developed skills that I can’t really hope to develop now especially because I want kids. Yeah I related to what they were saying, but I guess maybe I’m not ready to listen to artists yet. To venture into that art world just yet. That part of me still exists where I can’t help but compare myself to their achievements, and although I told Bre that I can look back and not feel like I wasted time… I still feel BAD about it. Looking back, my early 20s seems like some VOID OF TIME that I can’t even REMEMBER. Like WTF WAS I DOING THAT WHOLE TIME!? I guess it was a whole lot of partying, going to gallery shows, meeting people, drinking, taking classes, and going to the Magic Castle. But I really hate that… I dunno I guess I can’t even remember gleaning much wisdom or knowledge from that time. When i get home from work, Han is spastic… just rushing at me with all this energy. Looking back I feel like I was more like that… just kinda LIVING and not really… soaking anything important in. :\ I am so glad I met Eddy and started on this path because… as jealous as I am of dogs just living, I see now (that I just wrote this) that eventually that type of “only living in the moment” lifestyle can only lead to depression. Come to think of it, I think I was probably manic for most of that… how else would I be able to do so much, drive from orange county to LA all the time, and still work, do homework and hang out with my bf? Ugh geez… no wonder I crashed into such a hard and long depression. Seriously until I started taking the Latuda and stopped feeling the symptoms of depression, I don’t think I even understood how BAD the depression was. I had already accepted it as a state of living, and couldn’t remember functioning any other way. Probably lasted around 7-8 years of being full on in it.

I’m so grateful for where I’m at right now.

That being said, back to art. Especially after realizing that about depression… I guess I should be easy on myself (like Dave said) because I had this mental illness the whole time that I didn’t realize that I had, and RECOGNIZE that I couldn’t have possibly achieved balance with art because I was unconsciously dealing with that. I’m still jealous though that some people are able to work THROUGH their depression and create something great. I never learned how to express myself through art, because I was so focused on getting a job in animation that I just tried (and failed) to make things pretty or fit in to the animation standard. I guess it worked ok since I’m now actually working at a union studio thank god, but I really do feel like most people I know have drawn so much more than I ever have in my entire life. I was just so goddamn distracted all the time, first by people, then by my depression, that I wasn’t ever really able to attain a strong skillset like basically EVERYONE I know. And now that I’m already at this stage in life where I’m getting married and planning to have kids, it makes me sad knowing that I (see I wanna use the word WASTED here) use up all my best years of exploration and experimentation on shallow pursuits that ultimately mean NOTHING now.

But UGH ELORA. REMEMBER THAT ALL OF THAT WAS LEADING YOU HERE. I guess that’s not so bad. Through that butterly effect/6 degrees of separation thing I suppose everyone in my life now who I love is a result of all that past I’ve lived, and I need to just learn to own it and get over it.

UGH WITH ART THOUGH!!! I can’t GET OVER that I wasn’t able to express going through my darkest times with ART. I LOVE how you can see artists progress over time, change styles, deal with various issues… like someone’s story is shown THROUGH THEIR ART. There’s such a huge chunk of STORY in my life that I WISH i could show through art… but backtracking now just wouldn’t be the same. I feel like this will always be one of my regrets… but I need to learn to get over it someday. I don’t WANT it to be a regret.

Maybe I need to stop wanting to ARCHIVE EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME while I’m at not making that a regret. I fucking HATE that human need to archive everything because we’re fucking MORTALS. I take a gazillionbillion photos and never even DO ANYTHING WITH THEM and all it does is create some dumb pressure that I need to do something with them eventually but it all just ends up piling up and up and up and…. that’s what I’m doing with my art too. I keep writing down little notes everywhere, on post its, etc… but gosh when I look back on them to finally do something with it, I feel like that moment has passed and the magic is gone.

Just like this page of shit I wrote when I was driving super high to Karen’s house and attempting to scribble down my thoughts… I remember feeling SOOOO great like “I JUST WANNA DRAW RIGHT NOW I WISH I WASN’T DRIVING. AWWWW IT’S OK ILL JUST DO IT LATER” but then I NEVER FUCKING DID IT and now… geez just LOOK at this page. SO UNINTELLIGIBLE I CAN BARELY EVEN MAKE OUT WHAT I WROTE! Such a bummer man.

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HOW DOES ANYONE DEAL WITH ALL THESE THOUGHTS?!?!! Mortality is so goddamn fleeting I wish we were just given a fucking manual sometimes and been told what to look out for and when so we don’t feel like such failures or always wanna kill ourselves >:0

It’s ok. I’m learning how to be positive. I swear. 😐

Day 4: I FEEL TERRIBLE.

Mood Diary: -2

 Lol I’m quickly going into the depression spiral, but trying my best to keep my head above the water. I guess that’s what this blog is for though… to get these thoughts out when I have them. So here we go.

Yesterday was pretty bad, and I thought today would be better but it’s really… not? But part of me is wondering if I’m doing it to myself. Almost like I was “expecting” it to happen, or I’m like… FEEDING the beast rather than just chillin with it.

I’m doing this experiment to make observations and provide a control variable to me on meds, but today I’m starting to see like… HOW DIFFICULT THAT IS because of how strongly the emotions pull me along. It’s super difficult to step back and just look at them, which I feel like I was able to do on the Latuda, and it was a refreshing change.

So why can’t I do it now?

Some patterns I observed today:

  1. Less motivated to do things
  2. Looking at myself in the mirror is absolutely awful… I swear I see myself differently now and think “piece of shit” more than “hey it’s coming along…”
  3. The old habit of dreading any social interaction but being totally ok with it when it actually happens is coming back. An old coworker brought in his daughter today because she’s like the biggest fan of the show we’re working on, and it REALLY brightened up my day for like an hour. It reminded me of why I’m working in animation in the first place, how much cartoons can make a difference in people’s lives, and how meaningful they are to especially children. Omg even just typing this is bringing a smile to my face 🙂 MAYBE THIS IS EASIER THAN I THOUGHT?!
  4. EATING BAD FOOD I JUST ATE A BURGER AND FRIES TO FEEL BETTER! From an expensive not so great food truck no less! SIGH.
  5. Focusing too much on the negative and feeling like if I bring up the positive, I’m lying to myself
  6. Getting notes on an assignment and feeling like the world is over and I’m gonna get fired
  7. Getting too distracted to finish work at a reasonable time OH NO

I need to stop writing and finish my work.

Final thought though… Maybe I really do focus too much on this internal landscape rather than what’s happening in the real world. Maybe I’d be happier if I did that? I dunno… I seem to hate surfacey things but… most of the world that’s like all they talk about. How am I possibly supposed to fit in?!

Amy just told me that what I am right now isn’t me, it’s “Demonic Elora”… basically the beast is taking over… it’s no longer a friendly beastie. But I CAN tame it. That’s what the whole point is right? I just told her like.. it’s so strange because I think the biggest difference of my mind on the meds is that, when I’m on them it’s SO much easier to distance myself from the emotions. I might feel it a little bit, but then I can just step back and be like “nope!” then go on with my life. And it’s SO FRUSTRATING TO ME that I can’t do that right now! WHY?! Why is it so easy to let this take over?! And if this is always taking over my life, then I’ll always be obsessing over it… and if I keep obsessing over this… how can I ever like be a functioning normal human and have anything relevant to say in any conversation?!

Everything that happens in our days are reactions… and right now I feel like there are so many tiny triggers happening in my day that are just throwing me down the spiral… for some odd reason. If only I could identify those triggers–is it even worth it though?! Is this just me putting too much stock in these evil emotions? The line is so blurred I can’t tell what’s right from wrong anymore…

“Imagine your 14 year old self crying to you  about whatever was important at the time and you felt it SO STRONGLY then. It’s the same now. Yeah it’s hard to figure out how to get yourself out of these ruts, but it’s not that bad if we just stop feeling shitty about it first.” – Amy Chen

Day 1: Hi I’m Elora and I’m Off My Meds!

It’s ironic that I’m starting this blog on Father’s Day because I’m pretty sure I got my bipolar tendencies from my Dad. I wish I could talk to him about it, but he passed away in December 2015, and I just found out that I’m OFFICIALLY bipolar about a month ago, May 10. I should’ve started this then, but I guess at the time I wasn’t sure how much it would impact my life to get this diagnosis. Turns out quite a lot. Now this first post will be super crazy long so I can write all this down before I forget! Hopefully from now on I can be consistent, because more and more I’m realizing how quickly things can change. I’m also realizing the quicker things go, the more I want to hold on to the memories as they pass… but I digress.

My UNofficial diagnosis was on April 9 when I went into the doctor for a bad cough I’d had since March, hoping for some antibiotics to finally get rid of it. That day there was a random depression screening, which apparently is something going around because I had to fill out the SAME screening at the gynecologist last week. Maybe the mass shootings of our generation are pushing doctors to care more about checking their patient’s mental health. But anyway, it turns out from this initial depression screening that I was pretty damn depressed haha. Actually, looking back at this screening now, I feel like I’m in a MUCH better place at my current state. However, seeing my answers to these questions reminds me of where I was then… and I can feel it so clearly. It’s nice to know that at least some progress has been made.

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Dr. Ribaudo was pretty concerned about the findings of this thing and had a serious conversation with me. This resulted in me coming to understand that joking about suicide is bad, normal people are supposed to feel a lot more stable than I do, and that my condition was a LOT worse than I thought. She said she wanted to prescribe me medicine for my depression, I said I wasn’t comfortable with it. She asked if I had mental health issues in my family history, and I said I knew my dad had something because my mom always said he was crazy and he had to go to the mental hospital after he jumped on our car when my mom threatened to leave. But she never told me what was actually wrong with him. She looked at me with pity and made me take ANOTHER screening.

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I don’t think I’ll ever forget the look on her face when I brought this into her office. She looked at me like I had cancer or something and said “This is not good. I can’t prescribe you any medication because this is serious–you need to see a psychiatrist right away. There’s a good chance you’re bipolar. It’s also genetic.” I wasn’t sure how to respond, so I just stared and said “Ok…” She continued. “There will be a number for you to call on the referral. PLEASE call that number. They can hook you up with a psychiatrist. And I’m also prescribing you with some nasal spray and antibiotics for your cough.” “Oh good. Ok” I said.

Well, at least I got the antibiotics. 😐

Even though when I left, my doctor has said she couldn’t prescribe me medicine, it turned out she’d done it anyway! I went to pick up my nasal spray and antibiotics, and sure enough they also gave me Bupropion, a generic form of Wellbutrin. I told the guy at Walgreens I didn’t want that one, just the nasal spray and antibiotics. And he said “Well we made it so you should just take it.” I took this as a sign from the universe that maybe I should give meds a try, as much as they scared me. “Alright” I said, taking it anyway. “You’re cool,” he said, “You fed a giraffe.” My wallet has a sticker that says that, and that guy ALWAYS brings it up every time he sees me. He’s pretty cool. Sign taken, universe.

I decided to try taking the bupropion and hold off on the psychiatrist. To be honest, psychiatrists and pharmaceutical medicines freaked me out. From a young age, my mom had villainized my dad to me, saying he was “crazy”, or “he’s a little off today” or “I don’t know what’s wrong with your dad, the medicine isn’t good for him.” She would spit out the word “psychiatrist” with such hatred, really perpetuating the mental health stigma for my impressionable young ears. I feel sorry that my mom was such a harsh critic for my dad, even though I know she cared for him and actually WAS supportive, he probably didn’t feel that way when he was going through the dark times. I was terrified to see a psychiatrist, but I decided to call the number anyway. Dr. Ribaudo’s serious face was no joke, as much as I tried to convince myself that it was.

Calling this number was not what I expected. It was almost like… a suicide hotline. I guess maybe they deal with pretty bad cases where people are on their last leg of sanity because I got this really nice kid on the phone who kept telling me things would be okay. I went along with it, and told him about my mood swings, my depression, and how I could go nights without sleeping and afterward I’d always want to kill myself. And how it got so bad last year that I actually looked up ways to do it, and my fiance got REALLY mad at me. He told me that even though I haven’t had an official diagnosis yet, being bipolar isn’t so bad. He told me that instead of focusing on how bad it makes me feel, to focus on the good. He told me to read “An Unquiet Mind” and “Touched With Fire” by Kay Redfield Jamison, because she was a creative just like me, but she learned to make the most of her disorder.

Disorder. Do I have a disorder now? I remember thinking. Am I one of THOSE people? Those crazies? This guy on the phone doesn’t even know me but he sounds so concerned, and he’s also pretty helpful. How did I get here? Is this bad? Is this good? Is this what dad had? Am I really that bad? Mom always said I’m just like Dad…

So many questions flooded my mind during that conversation, and I decided that maybe this was a good thing to happen after all. What that really nice kid on the phone said about choosing to see the positives really stuck with me. I immersed myself in learning about bipolar disorder, watching tons of documentaries and bipolar people talking on youtube. I listened to reviews of whatever she had prescribed me, bupropion, and decided… yeah all of this sounds EXACTLY what I’ve experienced my whole life. I’m probably bipolar after all, and maybe this can help.

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I brought this up to my Aunt Laramee, my dad’s sister. I figured she would tell me the truth, and sure enough I told her about my bipolar and she said my dad had a long history of it. We ended up meeting at the Getty for a really great day of checking out Greek/Egyptian fusion and talking about my dad. His bipolar apparently progressed to schizophrenia at a pretty young age, and it was pretty bad. My aunt said that at one point he was running around the neighborhood naked, screaming in the streets. And once when he got arrested he called and lied to her about seeing someone getting murdered right in front of him. My aunt thinks that an LSD trip he had at a young age did it. Considering I want to do ayahuasca and everyone tells me that it can make bipolar worse or trigger it, I’m assuming LSD could possibly have a similar effect to adolescent or unprepared minds. 

Or maybe it always WAS just his brain chemistry. Who knows, but something pretty cool and hippyish I also learned about my dad is that he lived in a VW van with an older woman who had a kid, taking drugs in the jungles of Mexico. My Aunt Laramee says that my dad always had to experience things, which is also totally how I feel. I’m pretty sure he was an INFP, type 5 enneagram… very feeling and intuitive. That’s where I get it. Although my mom’s superstitious filipino side may lend itself to the intuition as well. Going to the Getty, my aunt brought it up that I’m a fusion just like the exhibit we saw. As I get older, I can’t help but pay more attention to what traits I got from my mom and which ones I got from my dad. Children really are the combination of both… which can be dangerous but also balance out the bad. 

ANYWAY.

My aunt was so glad I told her about my diagnosis, and happy that I did the screenings and was honest about my depression. She convinced me to try the meds, and made me feel better about the whole thing in general. She told me that even my GRANDPA had it. Of course the artists in the family would. But yeah… I remember taking the bupropion for like 2 weeks. I felt like it made me happier like the first 2 days I took it, then I couldn’t really feel it doing anything after that so I eventually just stopped taking it and waited to see the psychiatrist. It wasn’t until May 10 that I was able to get an appointment, and sure enough I was diagnosed as bipolar.

I remember the psychiatrist not being bad at ALL. The office looked normal enough, nothing like the dark, dank brownness of my dad’s psychiatry office I visited as a kid. I’m sure that place was normal enough, but I think it’s been forever corrupted in my mind. The psychiatrist herself was cool… she was just a person who seemed like she wanted to help. I remember talking REALLY fast at the time. After my unofficial diagnosis I became much more aware of my moods, and by the time I saw my psychiatrist I recognized that I was in a full on manic state. She saw it too, and prescribed me an antipsychotic called “Latuda” to hopefully “stabilize” me before I crashed into the typical depression. I was having my bachelorette party that next weekend and was afraid of what the medicine would do to me and if I wouldn’t be myself at the party. She told me to take it anyway. I got the meds the Monday after (the 14th) and went for it.

The medicine BLEW MY MIND but in a different way than marijuana, acid or shrooms. It made me think “is this what my mind is SUPPOSED to be like?” I found my whole perception of time shifting, especially when I took it for the first time at work. Time seemed to move slower, so I didn’t feel as much stress or urgency when trying to finish my assignments. I didn’t feel like the day slipped away from me like I always did, and I felt like I could talk to people without worrying about what they were thinking of me. My anxiety was considerably lowered, I was able to focus, and my negative thoughts were kept at bay. Actually, whenever I HAD a negative thought, it wouldn’t stay around for long because a rational thought would pop up and kick it away. I didn’t even know it was POSSIBLE for my mind to do that! Oh man… those first days of taking Latuda were AMAZING. I remember checking in with Dr Ribaudo too during this first week and she told me I seemed so much more relaxed. “REALLY!?” I said. Maybe this medicine WAS for me!

Being on the Latuda, I was able to be aware of my emotions and separate myself from them enough to take a good look at myself. I started seeing myself as a friend, rather than the “me” that was a failure. For the first time, I felt like I could think good things about myself, as though I was someone I admired. Again… NEVER THOUGHT THIS WAS POSSIBLE FOR MY MIND TO DO. It was amazing! Was this what it felt like to be stable? Normal? My psychiatrist says yes, that most people live in a little box of emotions basically, with their highs and lows being relatively constrained. Whereas bipolar people have CRAZY highs and lows, WAY outside the box! Taking 40mg of the Latuda was perfect, keeping me I feel slightly out of the box, but not by much so I was more stable than I’d ever been! After trying to take 60mg, I experienced that “zombie” feeling of not caring enough about anything to make life just not worth living for me. Eddy said that most people live life more in that state, including him, but man… I just can’t do it. I NEED to care, NEED to FEEL!! Which is why 40mg seemed okay.

But that brings us to today. There are a lot of reasons I stopped taking my meds, but the main one being I just can’t see myself strapped into this rigid schedule of taking my meds with a late late dinner (350 calories at least) and knocking out right after. It just feels so unnatural to me, defies my regular eating patterns, and overall makes me feel trapped. What about those days when I’m out with a friend and need to drive home after dinner? It’s not like I want to wait to take my meds when I get home and eat ANOTHER meal… geez. The food thing really gave me anxiety, and there were some days where I had to cheat and say that I hoped my dinner still soaked up my meds even though it was like 3 hours ago. I just can’t be tied to taking a pill everyday…especially with a certain amount of food.

I also realized that the meds weren’t as mindblowing as when they first were, but if I tried taking a higher dose I would zombie out. I came to understand that even though there are good things about the meds, like getting me on a good sleep schedule for example, maybe it’d be better to try getting those same effects without. I’ve been so observant of my inner landscape this past month that I want to try a little experiment… try to achieve these same mental effects without taking the latuda.

I would much rather live a life where I’m able to control my mood myself rather than relying on drugs for it. As time went on, I also noticed that if I didn’t simultaneously get high during the day, even on 40mg I would basically zombie out and not care about anything. I found this out just 2 days ago when I brought my vape to work but it wasn’t working so I had to go without. WHAT A HORRIBLE DAY! I felt like I could focus, but ultimately that nothing even mattered because I was numb to the world and couldn’t FEEL anything. I thought… do I really need to take this medicine AND get high for THE REST OF MY LIFE to feel ok? NO! I DON’T WANT THAT! I don’t want to feel like the world is meaningless if I forget my vape or run out of my cartridge. Those effects of zombification even bled into yesterday, where I went to a friend’s party and just didn’t care about ANYTHING. I felt like “why am I even here?” and during conversations think “oh.. Well this will at least pass the time so it seems like i’ve been here a while.” I typically ENJOY conversations and hearing people’s stories, which is what makes the world colorful for me on a normal basis. It was so upsetting to just…drift through life.

Since I’ve found out I’m bipolar, I feel like it’s been such a long journey. It’s only been about 2 months and I feel like my growing awareness of how my mind operates has already increased so greatly. But even still, I’m at this point where I already feel like I can’t be on my meds. What about people who have known they were bipolar since they were children? I can’t imagine living my whole life taking these things. I need to see this as an opportunity to stop while I still can, and that’s what I’m doing. Being on Latuda has taught me so much about myself, but I can see there’s SO MUCH MORE to learn. I love the idea of exploring this landscape of my mind in a pure form, and now knowing what my weaknesses are, I can be on the lookout for patterns I’ve always succumbed to in the past.

Finding out that I’m bipolar has changed my life completely, but in the best way possible. In the past year, I’ve been introduced to the in depth analysis of personality tests like the Enneagram and Myers Briggs which have both taught me so much about myself (Type 7/ENFP). After extensive reading on those personality types, being told I’m bipolar doesn’t surprise me much. It also offers me a more refined personality profile. I’m now able to research this disorder to further understand myself in addition to the personality types. However, I know to not use it as a label. Something my psychiatrist says is that she addresses SYMPTOMS in her patients, not the disorder, because everyone is different. I feel fortunate to have been diagnosed at a later age, where I’ve had time to delve into my personality already and don’t need to cling to a label to create an identity based on mental illness. Where I’m at in life, I can only use this information for good 🙂

Ever since I was a kid I’ve been impulsive, enthusiastic, scatterbrained, moody, and very extreme. I’ve wasted tons of money on useless shit and spent years of my life feeling like a failure, so much so that those negative ideas crippled me for what felt like eternity. After essentially isolating myself from the world after my dad died, I’m grateful for those who have stuck by my side and seen my progression over the years. In fact, lately many of my friends have been expressing to me how much better I’ve gotten recently, not even truly knowing the changes I’ve undergone to get here. I always take it as a compliment, but sometimes I think “Wow, was I really that bad?” I especially appreciate my fiance Eddy, and how he literally translated my unintelligible thoughts for me as I was learning to communicate like a functioning human being, with my WORDS rather than grunts, whimpers and whines that represented my feelings.

Being told that I’m bipolar feels like the biggest relief of my LIFE. I feel like a missing puzzle piece has been put in place, and now my personal core struggle has been identified. We all have one, and sometimes if we aren’t sure what it is, we can be left feeling empty… like we need to be moving on some sort of path we can’t see. We as human beings long for balance, but without identifying what needs to be worked on, we’re basically blind. So many things that happen to us as children manifest in mental walls that only solidify with age, and the older you get the stronger you need to become to take down those walls. Since I’ve started dating Eddy, he’s made me really look at myself for what I am. That was over 4 years ago, and now the anger and hate have turned into the need for love and understanding.

I’ve always felt like there’s a beast within me, as many people probably do. I used to feel like darkness was spilling out of my ears, that this beast was setting me on fire, or possessing me to do or think bad things to make me kill myself. It was out of control for SURE, sometimes even making me throw physical tantrums resulting in getting pinned to the ground, throwing things across the room, or screaming at the top of my lungs so that Eddy would worry someone would call the cops. Since I’ve been on the path of self discovery, the beast has become increasingly more and more domesticated, and now I see that all it wants is love.

Something really important that I’ve discovered is that, just like our puppy Han Solo, my inner beast needs to be taken on walks. It needs to be treated with patience as it learns, and be spoken to kindly and lovingly rather than shouted at with disgust. All I was doing before was hating on it, punishing it, screaming at it… I even wanted to KILL it! However, it was all because I felt like it wanted to kill ME. I felt broken for the longest time, different from everyone else, making me lonely and ashamed of being such a failure… but now I know that other people experience this also, and that it’s because of my brain chemistry that I’m like this. I can’t BLAME myself for it. If anything, I finally have to learn how to LOVE myself… and strangely enough i actually feel like that’s happening.

I’m hoping that this blog will serve as an archive of walks with my bipolar beastie. Over time, I’m sure more patterns will emerge to teach me more and more about the lil troublemaker. For the first time in my life I’m learning to embrace it rather than attack or run away screaming. Here’s to embracing your lil beastie as well 😉

Happy Father’s Day, dad. I’m gonna befriend my beastie for the both of us.