Mental Illness Labels : Alphabet Soup Poem

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Yesterday I commented on a post by blogger Myloudbipolarwhispers about mental illness labels. In the comment, I explained how one of my foster kids once had a therapist who talked about the dangers of “alphabet soup”, which is when people start collecting so many labels (ADHD, ADD, ASD, PTSD, SAD, OCD, DID, BPD, RAD, and so on and so on) that they lose sense of themselves as a person or even worse, those treating them lose sight of their humanity and just see them as a list of diagnoses.

I shared in the comment that I even wrote a short poem about “alphabet soup”, which ended up in my book about foster care (From Both Sides). Myloudbipolarwhispers mentioned that she would like to see the poem, so I figured I would just share it in a post here, since it definitely fits the themes of this blog:

Alphabet Soup
By: Maranda Russell

Some good old-fashioned RAD,
a touch of PTSD,
just a hint of OCD,
a generous helping of ADHD
and a pinch of ODD
to taste.

Add it all together
and what do you get?

Alphabet soup…

and a kid
made entirely
of labels.

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A Bipolar Self Image

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Just like with my thoughts and feelings, my self image changes so wildly with my mood. A good example of this is my view of my looks and/or attractiveness. Most days I think I look average when I look in a mirror. I’m not delusional, thinking I am some kind of supermodel or show-stopping beauty, but I also don’t feel like I am a troll or a goblin.

Once in a while, when I am slightly or fully hypomanic, I look in the mirror and think I am beautiful. I will never be gorgeous in the artificial Hollywood kind of way, but when my mood is just right I can see a kind of classic or wholesome beauty in myself that I like.

But then there are days, like one I had recently, when I feel as if I am sitting in the rock bottom level of despair and gloom. On days like these, I may accidentally catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror (because I wouldn’t intentionally look), and upon viewing my reflection, I feel down to my very soul that I must be the ugliest thing in existence.

Bipolar and other mood disorders can skew our view of reality so much, sometimes I feel like I am living in different realities from day to day. Today isn’t too good, but it ain’t too bad either, so I guess average wins out again.

What is Your Great Work?

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Recently I was reading a book about glamour magic. I read a lot of books about paganism and mystical spiritual paths, because even though I consider myself an agnostic, I also believe there are many, many things we don’t understand and I enjoy delving into the mysteries and deeper meanings found in spirituality and mythology.

Overall, the book was a bit of a letdown, it seemed fairly shallow in some ways, but I guess I should have guessed that since glamour magic itself is generally about surface level changes. However, there was one meditative exercise in the book that I did find meaningful. This part of the book emphasized the importance of figuring out what your great work will be.

As the book went on to explain, in order to get anywhere in life, you have to know what you are aiming for. You have to know what is most important to you in terms of achievement and meaning. You have to figure out where your energy, passion, and hard work should be directed. So, I meditated on this subject for a while and here are the three things I came up with that I currently would consider my own “great work” in this life:

  1. My writing/blog. Guess what? You guys are all a BIG part of my great work! I write because my soul cries out to share my experiences, feelings, hopes, and dreams. Having people who actually want to read about those things is truly a magical gift in itself!
  2. My art. I often feel insecure in my artistic abilities. I feel like there are so many artists out there that are far more talented and definitely better trained than myself, but I LOVE art and sometimes I genuinely love the stuff I make. My art may not be top of the line, but I do think many of my creations are unique artworks that only I could make.
  3. Advocating for others like me. This kind of ties into #1 and #2, since I often use my art and my writing to advocate for others who have autism, mental illness, or chronic pain/illness. People like me are often marginalized, ignored, looked down upon, and mistreated. I want to help stop that. I want to help the world to become a kinder, more empathetic place for those who struggle.

Now that I have shared my own great works in life, why don’t you spend a little time figuring out your own? You can pick just one, or you can have several like I did. Think deeply about it and question your purpose in life. If you would like to share what you come up with in the comments on this post, I would love to hear it!

Psychiatrist Visit Update: I Hate Feeling Vulnerable!

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I figured I would do a short follow up post about my psychiatrist visit a couple days ago. It went ok I guess. Instead of switching me off the Prozac, he decided to try upping it one more time to see if that would do the trick, but promised me that if that didn’t make me feel better we would try something new next time. He did mention Wellbutrin as a possibility, which I have never taken. If anyone has experience with that drug, please let me know your thoughts on it!

The first few minutes of our visit, we talked about Netflix and the shows I have been binge watching recently (Black Mirror, Atypical, Stranger Things, American Horror Story). Then he asked how therapy was going, and I felt like at that time I needed to admit how bad my depression had gotten and that my therapist was actually worried about how low I was feeling.

My psychiatrist asked me why I didn’t bring that up immediately when our session started and he kind of jumped to the conclusion that I was trying to be “a good patient and not complain”, but I had to explain to him that his assumption was wrong. I wasn’t trying to make things easier for him, it is just simply hard for me to talk to anyone in person about how bad I really feel when at my lowest. It makes me feel vulnerable and exposed, and I hate that.

I know that last sentence may seem weird, considering the fact that I am so open and bluntly honest in my blog writing about how low and horrible I feel sometimes, but it is just easier for some reason to write that all out to a blank page and post it to the ether of the internet. Being in front of a living, breathing human, it is so much harder to peel the layers away and let my real self be seen.

Gratitude and Positivity Only!

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Aren’t these “namaste/praying” skeleton and black cat figurines I found at Michael’s cute? They had an entire line of both skeletons and black cats doing various yoga poses and I had to pick up a couple of them. I picked these two because I love how this pose represents gratitude and a peaceful heart. Some people might think the skeleton one is kind of creepy (which makes sense considering these were part of a Halloween display), but I think there is something beautiful about the simplicity of a human skeleton doing yoga.

I used these figures on my altar the other night while I was doing a gratitude ritual. I decided to do an impromptu meditation/prayer session, focusing ONLY on feeling and expressing gratitude and thankfulness for anything I could think of which makes my life (or the world in general) better. I specifically chose to NOT ask for anything, request divine help, or focus on any problems or pains I am currently wrestling with. ONLY GRATITUDE. ONLY POSITIVITY.

So, how did it go? Well, it definitely improved my frame of mind and sense of well-being that night. No, it didn’t cure the deep depression I have been fighting with, and it didn’t open the floodgates to riches or worldly success (at least not yet!), but it did make me feel good at the time, and it is something I would recommend to anyone (including myself) who tends to become weighed down with negativity and pessimism.

Not in a Good Place Right Now

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I’m not in a good place right now. I wish I was, but I’m not. For the past couple months, I have been struggling off and on with what almost feels like a new low level of depression. Half the time I can’t stop crying, and half the time I feel almost absolutely nothing. I swing between numbness and despair, with a few almost decent days thrown in here and there. This may sound strange, but I am even too depressed to entertain suicidal thoughts. I just can’t think that far ahead right now or drum up the energy to make a decision like that.

There seems to be no rhyme or reason. For several days I may be weepy and lethargic, skipping meals without even meaning to, and only finding comfort from burrowing in a pile of heavy blankets or laying on our swing outside. Then out of the blue, I might have a decent day where I can get myself showered, dressed, and actually get a few chores done or do a little shopping…but the very next day, I’m likely to be right back huddled up on the bed or the couch.

I guess the only good news is that today is my appointment with my psychiatrist, and I am praying he takes me off the Prozac and can get me onto an antidepressant that will actually work again, because the current cocktail of medications doesn’t seem to be cutting it anymore.

Meditating with a Crystal Healing Grid

As you guys might know if you have read my blog for long, I have an interest in spirituality and new age stuff. Recently I discovered “crystal healing grids”, which are a simple tool for meditation and other metaphysical purposes. I decided to try them out, so I bought this raven/crow (I’m not positive which one it is supposed to be) themed one.

The official name of this grid pattern is “See Past the Darkness”, which I thought worked well with my issues overcoming my own kind of darkness (depression). It came in a little kit with the grid, the crystals, and instructions (although I tend to disregard instructions and do things my own way). In case you are into gemstones, the crystals used are amethyst (in the center), with clear quartz and Snowflake Obsidian alternating around the edges. These happen to be three of my favorite crystals, which is a bonus. I think it makes a pretty little decoration too:

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To be honest, I don’t know if meditating with stuff like this genuinely helps my depression or not, but I think that having something to concentrate on that represents positive thoughts and energy certainly can’t hurt!

If you guys are interested in trying out one of these grids for yourself, Ebay is where I have found them most easily, usually be just typing “healing crystal grid” into the search bar. You can find complete kits like the one I got, or just pick up a grid and use your own stones (or whatever else you wish to use). Happy hunting!