Thursday, November 29, 2012

Back in the saddle...

Way to go, Haley. Abandon the blog for a year, why don't you?

Well, since I haven't been here in a year, I should think a little reintroduction and perhaps a restatement of purpose is necessary. To be honest, I didn't even reread my orginal posts, and although I think I remember my original intent, I can't be sure and it's not what I want to do now anyway. So I think I'll just start over. I might delete my old posts, but most likely not. It's good to be able to look back...which is a huge reason why I'm doing this blog. But I'm getting ahead of myself. First, let me re-introduce myself and then backtrack and explain why I'm blogging, when there are millions of blogs and hundreds - if not thousands - of blogs like the one I want to do.

I'm Haley, I'm thirty...something. I live in a cute little house in a cute little subdivision in a cute litle suburb of a cute little midsized southern city. My cute little house is continually a disaster area. And I'm not using self-depreciating humor here (although I will - a lot.) My house really is a wreck all the time. It has every right to be, though, I have three kids under 7. My kids are...

                                                     Andy, age 7

                                                     Charlie, age 3

                                                    and Katie, 18 months.

When I force the people around me into allowing me a little spare time, I like to cook, read, write occasionally, hang out with the few friends I've been able to make and maintain, and make crafts. I actually really love making crafts, and it turns out I'm fairly good at it. I'm secretary of my son's PTA, I drive a minivan. I've actually also surprised myself by discovering that I really enjoy exercise. This is a completely foreign concept...I've spent the majority of my life sedentary. Now, though, I get up every morning at 5am and go to the gym, jogging (I'm starting week 5 of Couch-to-5k), and then taking a quick shower before I come home and start my day. I really feel better throughout the day, and now I can completely understand why so many people have been all about working out for so long.

I'm married to a wonderful man named Chris, who we'll talk about at length, I'm sure. He is tall, blond, handsome and a saint - despite the fact that he infuriates me beyond all reason sometimes. I was blessed beyond anything I ever deserved when he walked into the room I was in and my best friend introduced us a few years ago. I don't know where I would be without him. As much as I would like to punt him sometimes, he's just right for me.

All of this sounds deceptively normal, right? This just sounds like typical suburbia hausfrau dribble straight out of some dimestore novel, doesn't it? I could be any mom in any carpool line and you'd never be able to tell me apart. But there's one distinct difference between me and most other moms: I have bipolar disorder. I've had it for the vast majority of my life, I'm sure, although I was only diagnosed very shortly after Andy's birth. As a quick crash course for those who either don't know the term or have only heard it used incorrectly, Bipolar Disorder is characterized by instability of moods, particularly of extremely high and extremely low moods that frequently last for extended periods of time (opposing moods, two sides of the spectrum, opposite sides of the pole... bi-polar). Specifically, I have Bipolar II. Here's a link describing my particular illness. I have been hypomanic. I've been hypomanic and not realized it until afterwards. But mostly, I've struggled with awful, paralyzing depression. My periods of normalcy have been far fewer than my times of being unwell one way or another. But this is a brain disorder. It's not a choice. It's not something someone did to me. It's something that's off in my brain's chemistry. By taking my medications (which I do, faithfully), I ensure that I maintain most of my health. There are still times of depression, but I remain functional for the most part. I am still able to take care of my kids - even if I'm not able to be the life of the party. My moods rise and fall in cycles that should be predictible but aren't - at least not to me. My husband says they last about three months each. I only know how I feel at any given moment in time.

Depression and bipolar disorder are theives, liars and a bully. It would take me days to list all of the things that these two diseases have stolen from me and my family. Taking my family out of it, I've lost friendships, I've lost romantic relationships, I've lost jobs, I've lost opportunities, I've lost time with my family, I've lost time with my kids, I've lost possessions, I've lost money....there isn't much I haven't lost because of these two. There isn't much that these two haven't told me, whispering in my ear by way of negative self talk. "You're so ugly...""you're worthless....""everyone hates you....""life would be so much better if you weren't in it..." - these are all things that bipolar and depression cause me to say to myself via negative self-talk. And not just once in a while...all day, every day, for weeks on end. It ain't pretty, folks. It ain't pretty at all. But I want to lay it bare for you, and I want to try to do it with humor. Why? Well, here's why.

Despite my disorder, I live a relatively normal life. Despite the timbre of this particular post, I'm a pretty funny person and I intend to explore the funny side of life and galloping through depression. The reason is this...the stigma attached to mental illness is unbelievable. I'd like for you to take a moment and examine yourself. When you first read the words "bipolar disorder" back there, how did you react inside? What were your first thoughts? It's okay to be honest with yourself, nobody is going to judge you. The truth is, we've been conditioned to believe that mental health issues = crazy = either BAD or Laughable. And I want to try to do my part to change that. I forget the actual number, but I believe it was something like every 7 minutes, someone dies from suicide. Most of those people could be helped if they weren't afraid to reach out. I believe that if people see that someone with a serious mental illness lives a pretty normal life, and even lives it with humor, they might start to change thier minds about the stigma against mental illnesses. And then maybe, just maybe, people won't be so afraid to speak up and say "Hey, I think I might need help."

So this is my little way of helping. I really want to keep it up. It's not all going to be about mental health. As a matter of fact, it's probably going to be very little about that. I'm probably just going to talk about what comes to mind. I have lots of thoughts running around up there. Some of them are kinda smart, and I'd like to share them. And I swear I'll be more funny from here on out. I promise.

Fair warning - I have a tendency to use adult language, although I'll try not to be completely and utterly profane. I have a feeling my mom will read this, and I'd rather not answer to YaYa.