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Sunday, January 29, 2017

Having A Peanut Allergy Part 1: As A Homeless Person

So, I have two vastly different (and very similar) experiences with my peanut allergy. Today I am gonna write two posts about this thing in my life. One will be published today and one will be up in the morning. Today's part is going to cover what having a serious peanut allergy is like when you are homeless and unemployed.

When you have a peanut allergy everything you buy or consume has to be vetted before eating it. The big problem is that you can't even eat anything that was produced in a facility that also makes peanut products because of the risk of cross-contamination. Literally, any peanut residue can cause a reaction - which could mean death.

The problem here is that 90% of what you eat when you are homeless is donated to you from other humans, or at soup kitchens. Getting a "kick down" of a meal can be really, really exciting when it's from a restaurant or favorite grocer, but you have to ask that horrid question "does it have peanuts or peanut product in it?" You can get a lot of cross responses because too many, who do not have a food allergy, think you are being picky. If you get food from a grocer, then you have to check every single ingredient slip and make certain that there aren't any risks involved when you eat.

When I was homeless, my allergy caused me to forego a lot of meals that were given to me. One time, I had a retarded right-winger tell me that if I wouldn't eat what was donated to me, then I didn't deserve food handed out to me - even after I explained that my food allergy could kill me. The fact of the matter is - being homeless - the paramedic responses are less than quality when in an emergency - and I would have a better chance of being dead before getting genuine help.

Many times I have watched my friends eat and enjoy a dank looking meal, while I went without because it had peanuts or peanut products in it. Later on, I would end up with something I could eat - we made sure no one ever went without for too long.

Still, imagine having to turn away what could be the only meal offered to you that day because of the risk of an allergic reaction.

That is life for homeless people with food allergies.

Mandey T

Saturday, January 28, 2017

I Didn't Post Today - Again

Today was incredibly hard. I am still really upset that my bus to Oregon fell through. My roommate is still insane. Honestly, I struggle every single day to hide the symptoms of my illnesses, because they're not acceptable here, but - here's the thing, she makes me regret trying to function. There are frequent thoughts of just giving up and letting my illnesses take over, and they just don't let up. I mean, hell, I am staying up later than ever - and waking up earlier; I am crying more often than I have in over a year, and I am losing grip on my commitment to not self-harm. Everything about me is beginning to disintegrate here, and my whole self is miserable.

I promise, beloved readers, that I will resume posting my usual lists of advice, songs, stories, and ideas very soon. Right now, though, I am hurting deeply and really need to get back on my feet before I audition for The Voice, something I currently feel dreadfully unprepared to do. Mostly because this person in my life has a way of making me doubt everything good in who I am.

They leave me feeling empty of anything of quality. I am living in hell. But, only for one more week, and then it is over.

Until tomorrow, dear readers.
Peace, love, and bulletproof marshmallows,
Mandey T

Friday, January 27, 2017

Why I Still Identify As An Emo Kid

In my early teens, I hit that lovely Emo scene with all of my delightful weirdness. Dyed my hair, wore heavier makeup, listened to depressing music, defied authority whenever possible - you know, the works. But I used it to cover something up, something that was killing me more than anything else. I was in real pain.

My long, dark sleeves covered cuts that grew in number every single night. The dark makeup covered the weariness that would have shown through without it - while intentionally highlighting it. The wild hair took attention away from my problems and to my appearance. The dark music reassured me that I was not alone in the way that I felt. Everything had a place and a purpose.

I still think of myself as an Emo kid. Bands like Yellowcard, Relient K, Linkin Park, Breaking Benjamin, Green Day, Sum 41, and blink-182 are still heavy features in my music library. I still decorate myself in bright hair colors, heavy makeup, and dark themes. I am 3 months from the last time I hurt myself on purpose. This blog is living proof that my mental health is still weary and broken - but recovering. I am still an Emo kid. Not the stereotypical sensationalized version, but the authentic self-expressed and self-confessed Emo that lives forever in the hearts of every single one of those like me.

Being Emo, for me, represents using every part of my appearance and my world to express the stuff inside me. I try not to cut, and sometimes I fail to resist it. And, thing is, the rest of the ensemble really helps me get through it. Every part of who I am, and how I am, represents itself, or part of the internal me.

That is why I am still an Emo Kid.

Peace, love, and bulletproof marshmallows
Mandey T

Thursday, January 26, 2017

You Are Not My Doctor

Dear You,

You know exactly who you are, as you are reading this letter. It does not matter how much research you claim you have done. Nor does it matter if you took a few psychology classes when you were achieving your Bachelor's Depree so you could be a Peer Counselor for Drugs and Alcohol. You are neither my Behavioral Therapist nor my Neurologist, nor are you my Physician. You have not read the reports from the fMRI sessions to see if my brain is developed inside the norms for Autism (when my doctor wanted to be sure my symptoms were definitely PDD-NOS, and not something more serious), nor have you read any of the case notes from my Psychiatrist. You are not my doctor. Stop trying to un-diagnose me based on your under experienced, uneducated, irrelevant points of view. I know more about my brain, and how it functions, than you ever will because you don't bother to take the time to hear my story.

This is far from a comfortable thing to say to you. At one point I considered you an important player in my field. Unfortunately, now you are becoming a dangerous hindrance to my recovery and to my functionality. So I need you to read this, I need you to hear me out on the claims you made about me. When I told you I was clinically diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, you insisted that I lied so well to my psychiatrist - after a year of cognitive testing, medication attempts, and faltering - that they diagnosed me officially with a serious form of Depression. This did me nothing but harm. In fact, it fell in line as evidence that you have zero education on this disorder in any way shape or form. Insisting that I do not have the symptoms that you - not a doctor of any kind - would expect, proved was concrete evidence.

When you attacked my Autism, again from your point of view (while STILL not being a doctor), you attacked one of my greatest sources of insecurity. I am constantly anxious about going into public because I can only tolerate so much input before I turn into a puddle and start to cry and try to run away. That, by the way, is called Bolting. It's a last-ditch effort to avoid having a painful, terrifying, and embarrassing meltdown around people who will mock me, or call the police, or otherwise humiliate me even further. I would start cussing at you here because the way you treat me warrants it, but this is for my blog - so I won't. I am actively choosing not to regard your input as valid or important in any sense because you have made a case against your own self.

From this point onward, your input will be rejected as faulty, and not medically prompted. I will no longer consider your evaluations of me as valid in any form until you admit that you are not a doctor of any kind, and never will be. In particular - you will never be my doctor, and so you have absolutely no diagnostic validity in my medical care. Get over it. This is how it is going to be from now on.

Peace, Love, and Bulletproof Marshmallows,
Mandey T

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Another Personal Day Post

I don't have any advice for you lovelies today. Really, my goal today is just to share how blessed I am in this moment. My son and I had the morning to ourselves and we took advantage of that opportunity by jet-setting into our neighborhood for an adventure. I found one of my audition shirts for The Voice. I am aiming to get into the alternative rock genre, so my options are delightfully broad for In-Genre clothing. He stayed by my side and pointed out a couple of outfits he thought would look good on me. He was right once.

Then we got his hair cut at a local Barbershop. He was jovial and friendly with the Barber and sat nice and still - despite being only three years of age. The Barber was skilled and efficient, with an easy hand and gentle touch. Xander really enjoyed that visit, and he got to pay the Barber afterward before getting a lolly. We really had a great visit.

Finally, we walked down to a classic style Diner where we shared a breakfast plate and he got ice cream. I was really impressed with the service. The waitresses never failed to keep my coffee nice and full, with enough creamer at hand to keep it to my liking. The food was great, the experience was even better, and overall we enjoyed that stop. I taught Xander about tipping by having him tip the waitress an extra $4 on top of the 40-something percent tip that came by telling her I didn't want any change from my $10 for a $6 meal. He really took pride in being kind to her, and he really made his mama proud.

In the wake of our disaster of an Election, I am striving more than ever to teach my son fundamental concepts such as kindness, generosity, community building, and empathy. Even if he doesn't stay my well-behaved kiddo, I want him to value these above all. Someone who would destroy Sacred land for profit, mock and gag those who disagree with their values, and punish their opposition is our current President, and my children will be raised as Revolutionaries who are willing to fight to their last breaths to stop evil like this from succeeding.

Right now, my son is well on the right track.

I am blessed.

Peace, Love, and Bulletproof Marshmallows

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Why I Will Not Be Staying in Boise Anymore

So last night I had a meltdown. This is a thing that happens when you have a Sensory Processing Disorder. It is usually preventable by controlling stimuli and can be managed easily if managed correctly. My roommate officially proved to me that she will never be qualified to offer the support and care that I need from the people in my life. Here is how the meltdown happened, how she responded, and what she should have done. I hope that her failures will help other people who live with Autistics to do the right thing,

When I originally became agitated:
What it looked like was me becoming sullen and distant.
What she did was accuse me of laziness, and try to cause me to feel guilt for it (and accuse me of being willing to do ANYTHING to get out of doing work).
The correct response would have been to notice that I was agitated and leave me to the dishes, not start pushing harder on me to do things her way.

When I became visibly upset:
What it looked like: Defensive yelling, some name-calling, an effort to make her want to leave me alone.
What she did: Scream at me, force me into the cold weather for periods of time as a punishment for being visibly upset. Tell me "you can get on a bus back to Oregon tomorrow" - which I am now doing because I cannot live like this.
The correct response: I see that you are overstimulated and are upset, do you need to be left alone right now?

When I was unable to stop being upset:
What it looked like: Yelling, crying, shaking, inability to focus, aggressive posturing, avoidant behavior, pushing, shutting down.

The correct course of action was to try to avoid the unstoppable meltdown, but once it was reached she should have left me alone and actually let me calm down. Instead, when she was not threatening or yelling at me, she was on the phone with family members telling them how horrible and out-of-control I was - INSIDE OF EARSHOT.

If this person, who I will not publicly post my actual connection to online, cannot understand that I am legitimately unable to turn off my Autism, or any of my mental illnesses, then she does not qualify to be in or involved in my life. That is an unfortunate fact, but still a fact of life.

So now my bags are packed, the bus is paid for, and I want nothing to do with this person in any way, ever again. They have proven that they are not worth my time, or my pain and suffering, to try to form any relationship with. I do not need their level of ignorance in my day-to-day life.

Peace, Love and Bulletproof Marshmallows
Mandey T

A Breakdown of My Recent Meltdown

Meltdowns are painful, terrifying and embarrassing. I had one recently and thought I would break down what happened and how it worked to what it became.

These episodes happen when my information or stimulation input becomes so intensely overwhelming that I am completely unable to function or interact with anyone. Again, they are painful, scary, isolating, and sometimes dangerous. But, they are not something I do intentionally, or for attention. I hate them as much as you do. I just wish some people would make an effort to understand it.

2 days prior

  • My child wet the bed. 
  • I was not heard when expressing an issue
  • I was told something that invalidated one of my serious issues.
The Day Before
  • My child threw several loud fits during the day
  • I went shopping and had a lot of new input
  • My child cried for two hours over pain in his teeth
The Day Of

  • I overslept and did not keep my routine
  • I didn't manage to eat early
  • Didn't get my chore done, and could not get the energy to do it.
  • Live-in person verbally triggered guilt over the unfinished chore
  • An argument
  • And then the meltdown
Here are the symptoms displayed leading up to the explosive episode, that must be noted.

Two Days Prior
  • Mild stress communicated
  • Less physically functional
  • Increase in irritability.
The Day Before
  • More difficulty functioning
  • Somewhat more irritable
  • Distant from everyone
The Day Of
- before the "Rumblings" really started -
  • Depressed behavior (bedlock, sullenness, tiredness, distraction)
  • Lack of interest in group activities
  • Mild frustration with environment.
- during the rumblings - 
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Vocal agitation
  • Difficulty staying on task
- when the alarm behaviors started - 
  • Hands held close to my person, twitching.
  • Pacing around the house
  • Angry vocalizing
  • Defensive behavior
- During the actual meltdown -
  • Yelling
  • Crying
  • Escaping
  • Demanding
  • Hardcore stimming (rocking, touching my arms, pulling my hair)
  • Seriously aggressive behavior
  • Repetitive language
  • Showy aggressive activity
This is what happened and how I got to the Meltdown level in my Autism.

Peace, Love, and Bulletproof Marshmallows
Mandey T

Monday, January 23, 2017

Why You Shouldn't Believe That I Am "Letting" My Depression Win

When I told you that, for me, I couldn't just make the choice to not be physically, mentally, and emotionally depressed - you told me I was letting it win. That is simply not true. The true fact is, I am actually currently losing a battle with three interlocked illnesses that are sometimes terminal. General Anxiety Disorder, PTSD, and Major Depressive Disorder are my particular demons in this case, and they are often bigger, meaner and stronger than I am.

I want you to read this story the way you would if it were about Cancer, or Diabetes, or Alzheimer's. Take every word just as seriously regarding the symptoms, the progressive nature, and the way it impacts my whole life. The reason this is important is because you need to separate the word Mental from the word Illness in order to really grasp what is happening here. I am ill.

First off. Sometimes I just can't get out of bed.
There are days when my body feels so heavy that getting out of bed is like trying to get out of quicksand when you've already sunk down to your neck. Atop that, once that feeling has set in I begin to panic about what my family will think if I cannot keep up with them today. My mind starts to race in circles until I am literally not physically able to force myself up and out of bed. Nothing about me is able to push any harder, and my mind is already abusing me for it.

Second; suggesting that I am choosing to suffer this way could be fatal.
I already doubt the legitimacy of my own illnesses, and I mean constantly. My mind twists my symptoms around so much that I sometimes believe that I am just doing this to myself. That makes everything just that much worse because I begin to think of myself as a monster for doing all of this to you. When you tell me, in that matter-of-fact tone that I am just choosing to hurt like I am, then you enforce the thoughts I am already struggling with. These are the same thoughts and feelings that drive me to feel suicidal. I've attempted before because of these thoughts, and I am fighting daily to not ever get that low again.

Third; I need you to understand, validate, and advocate for me.
When you see me losing this fight, you are watching my chances of survival dwindle more, and more. If this was not a mental illness, but rather something physical, you'd be talking with my care providers, and advocating on my behalf. I desperately need you to take every last symptom as something that is as sinister as the loss of appetite in a cancer patient, or severe confusion in an Alzheimer's patient - because it could be.

Fourth; my illnesses play with one another - and not nicely.
Seriously, my anxiety bullies my depression, which triggers my PTSD and leaves me sweating, crying, and hiding from everyone I have ever cared for. When you cannot look at me as a sick person, who is fighting legitimate illnesses, you make all of this that much worse. You are contributing to the view of the world that my illnesses create. The world - to me - is a terrifying, and unwelcoming place wherein I could be seriously hurt just for existing as I do.

You have to look at my illnesses as real illnesses, or you will never be able to help me. Worse, you may just lose me to them. Every pill I take, every appointment I force myself to get to, every new treatment tried, that is me actively fighting for my life. If you cannot get behind me and be my advocate, I may have to ask you not to be involved in my life anymore. I don't want to die, I just want to stop being like this.

Peace, Love, and Bulletproof Marshmallows
Mandey T

Sunday, January 22, 2017

This is Not Laziness

One of the bigger problems that come with being chronically depressed is that people often describe me as being lazy. With my illness comes a definite struggle to be anywhere but my bed. I am saddeningly sedentary. It's not something I enjoy, by any means, and it certainly is not laziness. For me, it is a manifestation of my Depression in the form of chronic fatigue. My body hurts, all the time, and moving around is more of a chore than a regular task.

So here are the things that are really happening when my loved ones see something else.

1. When I don't get out of bed before noon,.
The thing that is happening here is fatigue. My body feels so heavy, tired and sore that moving around is incredibly difficult - almost akin to swimming in quicksand.

2. When I am "argumentative" or "defiant".
You have to understand something here: I have a mental illness. Being constantly exhausted and incredibly sore from absolutely nothing tends to make me - or most people - more irritable and irresponsive. I don't mean to be this way, and I certainly do not enjoy it. Sometimes, too much interaction with others just overwhelms me and leaves me too exhausted for functionality.

3. When I am unwilling to do all of the chores asked of me.
I would absolutely love to get up and do the basic chores, they aren't literally hard - I know this. It's just that I get locked into my exhaustion and the day runs out of hours before I can get the motivation I need. There's nothing about me that is self motivated and those accusations really hurt.

4. When I don't want to go out.
More than anything in the world, I want to go with you. The thought of being with my family, enjoying the festivity of your adventures - is a dream. It's just that I do not have the physical, nor the emotional energy to do this.

In summation, please stop making my struggle - my symptoms - into something that they are not. It doesn't help anyone, and it gets us nowhere. Actually, it does more harm to my recovery thank it will ever do good. It only causes me to recede further into my depression; constantly doubting the legitimacy of my symptoms, and applying your logic to my very real illness. The only ending for this is worsening symptoms. So, please, just stop, seriously.

Peace, Love, and Bulletproof Marshmallows
Mandey T

Saturday, January 21, 2017

What Post-Abuse PTSD Feels Like In A Good Relationship

Healing is hard. Healing from an abusive marriage is just as hard. My ex-husband was not physically abusive. He was emotionally and mentally abusive. It seemed as if he took joy and pleasure in demoralizing me, and in leaving me suicidal and confused. Worse, I didn't leave until he became physical the first time, so I endured nearly 2 years of this hell. He was amazing until he realized that I wasn't kidding or playing up my mental issues. I am chronically depressed and severely riddled with anxiety, and many times my mental health bars me from the way I want to be. Many times, when I was at my lowest, he would become sullen and resentful. When I expressed feeling suicidal - he would tell me to just do it.

I got worse, and worse, and worse over the course of our relationship; culminating in us fighting so fiercely that violence became a thing. Once it had happened, my family bowed to my mental health's classic stigma, telling me that it was my fault that he'd been "pushed far enough to hit". Even though this was a man who frequently mocked me, degraded me, bullied me, and insulted who I was. From calling me crazy or stupid to hitting me in my most vulnerable place - calling me a failure as a mother, and telling me that my children will always hate me. This is a man who spent the better part of 2 years tearing me down one part at a time, taking the time to make himself look like the poor pathetic victim of my mental health.

When I did leave him, I did not know who I was as a person. Finding the right path seemed impossible, and I was unsure if I even knew how to survive on my own. But, in time, I did grow and heal a bit. Then, a few months into my freedom, I fell in love again. I didn't mean to, nor did I want to. He just happened. Soft, and concerned, he stepped into my world - and knew my broken places. This was a person who'd been around me a lot after I left my ex, and had heard me cry in fear, and rage, and hatred; and he knew where I was vulnerable. The excellent thing is - he set about healing me, instead of using me. Our romance was, and remains, not without tribulations. I, not only, had already existing Depression and Anxiety, but also a newly developed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Some of the frequent nuances of our blossoming relationship were frustrating for both him and for myself.

"Are you angry with me?"
I am pretty sure this man could go on about how often this question was asked. He was rarely ever cross with me, nor was he really ever cross at all. He just had this very neutral expression that could be mistaken for anger in the mind of someone recovering from being abused. This question falls in the same lines as "have I done something wrong?", "Are we okay right now?", and "do you want me to leave?" These were all questions I have asked him over the course of our courtship.

"Is that for me?"
 This is one of the truly sad statements from this relationship. He would often bring me a perfectly made cup of coffee - something we would kinda compete to do for one another - or my favorite candy. I mean, he made a point to do these little things for me, just to love on me - to make me feel important. It took more than a month for me to stop thinking he was treating someone else before he would treat me. Even then, I still felt that twinge of surprise whenever he would do something kind for me.

"I'm sorry."
Both he and I are recovering from our abusers. When he grew tired of my endless apologetics, he would start counting the "mistakes" he made through the day, that other lovers would have abused him over. So we kinda made a game of it. This opened the door for me to express the things that my ex had left me insecure about. Not making the coffee before he was out of bed, not making his dinner every single night, spending my own money on myself, wanting things, having my menstrual cycle, not being in "the mood" when he wanted it; these were all things that I could count as mistakes my ex had actually bullied me over. Even with this, I was often apologizing for my faults - even when my partner did not see a fault in them.

"He hates me."
I told this one, exclusively, to myself. All to often, I would read his neutral mannerisms as resentfulness and anger. Instead of confronting him, or leaving, I would simply ask if he was angry with me. The continuous "no" responses often soothed and settled my anxiety and gave me rest.

This could go on for a dozen, or more, pages before I ran out of statements. These four are the big ones for me. It is a constantly changing battlefield - learning to love again and to be loved again. Understanding what it feels like to be loved; but, not just loved, wanted, valued, treasured, adored, and supported. I am still exploring the feeling of having someone completely accept my problems as part of the whole package. Through this adventure, I am healing.

Thanks for reading.
Peace, Love, and Bulletproof Marshmallows.
Mandey T

Friday, January 20, 2017

What My Mental Illnesses Feel Like At 3 AM

“You’re so useless.”
“You got nothing done today”
“Could you be a worse friend?”
“Call them. Tell them to leave you. They deserve better.”

I am sitting in my bed, the couch I have been sleeping on since I moved to Boise; the voices of my anxiety and my depression are getting loud again. Sad music has been turned on to try to drown my own thoughts out. Usually, it helps. Feelings of uselessness and despair are completely overwhelming me as I struggle to find rest. Nothing eases it. Every attempt is met with still more self-loathing. Two days now. I have felt so sapped by my depression that I have gotten almost nothing done. My mother is growing impatient with me – as usual. She is blaming it on me being “inherently lazy”, calling up memories of me before I really got any help at all and I was so much worse than I am not. At least now I 

“They are never going to hear you.”“You are never going to be okay again.”“They are only going to assume it is your fault.”“There is no hope. You are always going to be like this”
The noise just keeps flooding my thoughts. I know that if I fail, again, to be a productive member of this family; one who always validates the other members, and never disappoints them… that I will always be judged as wrong. I had once hoped that my sister’s struggle with Depression and Anxiety would have helped them understand that I am not lazy, or unwilling – but that I am sick. It is the same as any physical illness. I am so numb that it hurts. It hurts my muscles, nerves, bones, eyes, nose, teeth, mind, soul, relationships, and anything it can bring suffering to. It’s almost kindred to being clasped in on by a massive breaker at the ocean’s edge, only, instead of being able to roll with the blow and float back to shore – I am chained and cemented to the very place I am standing. I am bearing the full brunt of every pound of force the wave has to exert on me… and I am feeble.
“Just give up.”“Run away from all this.”“You are not worthy of them
My skin is clammy, and I have adjusted the thermostat a dozen times in an effort to find comfort. All of my hair is standing on end because I keep pulling it and running fingers through it. I desperately wish I had someone to curl up against and to cry on and to tell all of this to. Yet here I am, telling it to you. Telling you all of my pitiful thoughts. In a mere 3 hours, I will have been awake for a full day’s time and I am nowhere near tired. Instead, I am wide awake, panicked and miserable. 
“What were you thinking? You’ll never fit in here…”“You are literally failing at everything.”“Nothing about you warrants compassion or affection.”
And there I am again, twisting in my own sweat. Hating every part of this illness, and of myself. I believe my gamily when they berate me for laziness and slacking off. Those thoughts embed themselves in my mind and echo until I can hear nothing else but them. It is literal torture. And what’s worse, no one seems to care when I am in this headspace. I know that they do. It is just a fact. Yet, all I can feel is them hating me for being so chronically ill, with diseases that don’t seem to have any physical symptoms or valid inputs. Genuinely, this feels as if having the distinction on my Illness as being “Mental” instead of “Physical” means that I am not valid in having it.
In case you were wondering, this is what my illnesses are like at 3 in the morning.
Peace, love and bulletproof marshmallows
Mandey T

Thursday, January 19, 2017

What You'll See When You Look At Me - A Mentally Ill Person

We see a lot of stories and articles that tell you what it feels like to be the mentally ill person, or how to help them, or what getting help looks like - but here is what I am like when you really know me. I struggle with Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Personality Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified. The NOS diagnoses mean that, while I am on that spectrum, and display the symptoms of some of the disorders inside them - I don't fit a particular diagnosis. The symptoms I display are a bit... well, odd. But, I am not really abnormal for mental health patients. At least, that's how my psych puts it. This is what you will see if you ever find yourself living with me.

1. I watch funny videos, a lot.
I am obsessed with laughing and finding sunshine in my world. When you spend a lot of time around me, you're gonna see a lot of giggling and interwebbing. It's just how I am. I'm often too exhausted/depressed/anxious to get out of bed, so I spend a lot of the time I am at least awake, finding things that put a smile on my face and a good thing in my day.

2. I am actually pretty friendly.
I don't make friends easily. A part of being depressed and anxious most of the time is that making new friendships happen can be impossible. Those who are close to me know that I am actually a really friendly person. Making good times happen when my loved ones spend time with me - that is a favorite pastime of mine. Things like good movies, fun music, stories, bonfires in the front yard, reading books to each other; those are what makes my life good.

3. I eat like a person - when I do eat.
Pizza, cookies, cake, veggies, different meats, those are all things I enjoy. There have been a few people that, once hearing of my being mentally ill and developmentally delayed, think that I eat some incredibly different diet. They seem to not know what to get when getting snacks for a hang-out where I will be involved. Making it even worse: it surprises them when I enjoy normal foods.

4. I am passionate.
This is the thing that confuses me the most is when people assume that - because I am depressed - I cannot be passionate about things. I am fiercely passionate about a few things, music, writing, activism, and homeless rights advocacy are among my greatest passions.

Overall, hanging out or living with me, you will find someone who laughs at what is funny, loves the people in her life, eats normal food, and likes to do things. My depression simply causes me to really struggle to do all of these things anywhere but in my bed - and sometimes not even then. It's true, I will get broody and sullen - a lot - and I am not always able to engage with people. But, please, stop assuming that just because I am depressed and anxious that you won't ever see the shavings of a somewhat normal person in me.

There's a real person in here, and it hurts when I am only seen for my bad days.

Peace, Love, and Bulletproof Marshmallows
Mandey T

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Illness That I Don't Talk About

Over the last month, I have discussed a lot about Depression, Anxiety, and some about Autism. However, I also live with one disorder that isn't so prevalent in my life anymore. Anorexia Nervosa. 
At 14, after a serious psychotic episode, I found myself in a psych ward. Upon admission I was measured and weighed. I was 5'9" and weighed in at 90 pounds flat - with a BMI of only 13, which is severely underweight. I was obsessed with control, and terrified of ending up like my other family members; all my elders were overweight. I wanted to rise above them and prove to them that I would never be the unpleasant, judgmental, and angry people that they were.

I spent weeks on fasting, and walking long distances on hills. Every new, lower, number I got on my weight felt like a huge victory. But, it spiraled out of control.

The good news? Being hospitalized did me a ton of good. While there I worked hard to recover from all of my issues. They measured brain waves, took pictures of my brain, gave me hours of psychotherapy, and finally, gave me medications to balance things out. 

Something miraculous happened.

I got better. I left the hospital with a BMI of 17, which is in the athletic range. At a weight of 115, never had my body looked better. The medications worked and supported my recovery, and sooner than later, hope was visible. 

Today I am 187 pounds, and technically overweight. In the last 4 years, I have had 2 children - and my body has changed a lot. Now, I am back in the gym, and losing weight again - and it is terrifying. Part of me worries about that old feeling creeping back in. What if I start to obsess about the weight I need to lose? What if I lose control? Now, I am aiming only for 170 pounds as my target. That is safely inside the healthy semi-athletic range for body mass. But, the thought of losing control terrifies me. I am blessed that, while my other disorders are still not under control, this one has been. This one has stayed quiet and left me alone. I do not want it to come back. 

Here's hoping.
Peace, Love, and Bulletproof Marshmallows
Mandey T

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

When The Road Has a Voice

Go ahead and hit play on this video before reading. It'll enhance the experience.
Okay, I've told y'all that I am always stricken with a desire to run, to run far and hard, away from the world I live in. This is a world that just won't have me. Night before last, my mother and I fought because I am different. My symptoms reared their ugly head and it was the "best" she could do to patronize me and attack me... not to see that I was in pain and anxiety. She failed, in every way, to read what was going on, and assumed - as so many normies do - that I was doing what I was doing on purpose. I almost grabbed my bag and walked out without a word.

The pavement had a voice. It really called out for me to find out just how far it stretches. Maybe, back to Oregon, back to my safe place in Eugene - maybe anywhere else. I want - so freaking badly - to escape the family that demands I just stop being the way I am... it is doing me no favors.

Not gonna wrap this blog post up. I am still angry. I am still hurt. But, I am here.

Peace, Love, and Bulletproof Marshmallows
Mandey T

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Sleepless Nights, Happy Mornings

I hate losing sleep. Last night I didn't finally pass out until around 4 in the morning. Nothing is worse than that, at least not in my book, because I take care of my son in the mornings now. My mother - his adoptive mom - volunteers at a food pantry every morning from about 8 to around noon. Believe me, I love this part of my life. When the state took my son from me at just 3 months old, I thought that days like what I have now would never be reality. 

But I am exhausted and depressed today. My alarm went off at 8:15, as usual, and I went back to sleep for a few. Then my mother woke me to take the boy from her. After that, coffee was poured - and yes, I know, caffeine agitates Autism - and food was had. Now, the boy is playing happily with his toys and I am writing a blog post and watching "Me Before You" and loving it. 

Truth be told, I am exceedingly blessed by a child who is normally quiet and self-contained. He's 3, so he does require some looking after, but usually he can be counted on to play and enjoy himself. It really is a blessing. I just wish I had better energy to be able to play the way that he deserves to be playing. 

In the end, I am tired, I am depressed - but, I am eternally blessed.

Peace, Love, and Bulletproof Marshmallows
Mandey T

You can follow me more closely on my Personal Facebook Page and you can read some of my more formatted stories on The Mighty, at my Contributor Page. New to my blogsphere - I am on Instagram

Friday, January 13, 2017

Secrets I Don't Want To Tell Anyone About My Depression

Last month I submitted - to you, my readers - ten secrets I did not tell about my depression before then. To be honest, I had told them before - but only to my psychiatrist and my counselor. They were not my only secrets. Far, far from it. I've been doing a lot of work in therapy over the phone lately, and it's time for another Secrets story.

Secrets I don't want to tell anyone - even my mental health team.

1. Sometimes it actually is comfortable.
Don't get me wrong. I hate that my depression locks me into my bed, lost in being totally exhausted and feeling entirely worthless and useless. It's painful and embarrassing, and causes me to think - daily - of ending everything. However, there are brief, and often terrifying, moments wherein it is also comfortable. Somewhere between that last nap, the soft bedding, the slow and easy music playing, and chamomile tea - it gets easier to handle. My family doesn't usually bother me much on a bad day, and sometimes the quiet and the still is kinda nice. I hate that I sometimes feel this way, and I have barely even told my psychiatrist about this sensation.

2. Sometimes I don't want it to go away.
I do not know where this comes from. The probable reason is that it has become my "normal" and - on occasion - the idea of learning to live without this uninvited house guest is terrifying. I really, truly, want to be free from this illness and move on with my life. I look forward to the days when I can play with my family and love on them all day long; I want to work, and rent a home of my own, and perform on stage again. Still, admissions must be made that - from time to time - I am still scared of what life without Depression looks like.

3. Sometimes I hate you more than I hate it.
Every time I do make an effort to hide how badly my depression is affecting me, and you - my love ones - try to force normalcy of your variety on me... I secretly hate you more than I hate my depression. I am counting on you to be the closest people to me, and yet again, you failed me. It gets so frustrating - I mean, endlessly infuriating - to try to be okay around you. When I do snap or get upset, you demand that I "wrangle myself in" or just "calm myself down", and that makes me hurt and angry.

These aren't things that I like, or want to talk about. I am afraid that they will proliferate the stigma that people already have around Depression and other mental illnesses. There's nothing worse, in my opinion, than having contradicting  symptoms. It is painful and confusing.

Please, tell me I am not alone here?

Peace, Love, and Bulletproof Marshmallows
Mandey T

Thursday, January 12, 2017

When Depression Hits You

It was coming on again last night. You knew this, you felt it coming. As you dressed yourself for bed, the sensation of heaviness started in on you - so you rushed to sleep. Heavy sleep befell you, something akin to the way that warm water feels once your muscles relax - only cold at the core of it.

Flash forward.

You woke up this morning, and it was sleeping in your bed with you. Black, overwhelming, and jealous of your loved ones; this creature has become a demon in your once perfect home. It is simultaneously entirely weightless and overwhelmingly heavy. Everything you are is irreversibly intertwined into its web of lies and helplessness.

It seems impossible to move with the weight pressing in on you, and this demonic beast growling and whispering in your ear. The voice given off by your unwanted bedmate press you further into your mattress and into its grip.

"You can't do anything right..."
"They don't need you..."
"Dear God! You can't even get up with your alarm."
"Nothing about you is valuable..."

This voice echoes endlessly. Soon, all too soon, you see that half the day has passed between pseudo-sleeping and pressing the pillows to your ears in a helpless act of defiance. The harder you try to escape it - the harder the demon grips you.

The day feels like - both - an eternity and a moment. You cannot believe the sun is now setting. It is now time to go to sleep. Pills are taken. A bit of writing is done. You sleep restlessly, then heavily, then restlessly again, until you repeat this day again tomorrow.

Peace, Love, and Bulletproof Marshmallows
Mandey T

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A Message About Something Else

I am sitting in my living room, trying to watch "Miracles from Heaven", which should turn out to be a great film about miracles and such. Thing is, first they show the little girl getting sick to the point that her mother refuses to leave a hospital until she knows how sick her child is. Though I have never been in those specific shoes - I did have a baby spend her first month of life in the Hospital.

My daughter Geneva was born 7 weeks premature. She was sick, and small, when she was born - and I was sick too. She struggled at first to get stable. She breathed on her own from the start - only on oxygen for less than a day, the first time. A few days later, she stopped breathing in her sleep. They added oxygen again to help her not fall "too deep" into sleep. They told us, on day 7, that she was doing really well and could have visitors. We almost announced, but chose to give it a day.

That was a good choice, because our little victory did not last as long as we would hope. We returned to the hospital the next morning to find that she had been put into an isolette under UV lights. She'd developed Jaundice and was, again, not healthy enough for visitors. I only got to hold her for an hour at a time, once - maybe twice - a day. I was pumping breastmilk for her like crazy, and got my supply up to 8-10 oz with both breasts per pump session. I was vying to give her the best chance.

During this, I barely slept. The doctors worried that she was too small for her gestation point, and that she didn't move as much as others her age. I felt as though I were failing her. More days, than not, I felt helpless, confused, and powerless to help her grow. It was Day 19 when she finally improved enough to get more visitors. A few friends came by and adored her. She was learning to breastfeed and had finally lost her nasogastric tube, and learned to eat by mouth.

On Day 28, we went home. It was over, kinda. I was still supposed to be pregnant at that point. I took her to all of her Doctor's Appointments and we discovered that she - in all her smallness - had Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), something usually attributed to much earlier preemie babies. Essentially the retinas of her eyes were growing abnormal blood vessels; those were at risk of bleeding and causing scar tissue on the retina - which would cause blindness.

We kept our little one blindfolded from sun up to sun down - trying to keep the light away from her eyes, which would strain them. Extreme care was taken, and more breastmilk was made. She ate often and plenty. At 8 months old, she was cleared. One small scar that will leave her with a minuscule blind spot.

At one year old, she had caught up with her termie counterparts in all the physical areas, and was not far behind them in her development. Our battle was over, and now we get to just watch her grow into the young lady we hope she'll be.

Movies that feature sick babies or kids - just eat me up. They hurt my heart for the (yes, fictional) parents and for the kids.
Good movie though. Very cool.

Peace, Love, and Bulletproof Marshmallows
Mandey T

Monday, January 9, 2017

4 Things I Wish My Family Understood About My Autism

My mother and I really haven’t spent much of the last year of our lives together. I have been busy with my life, she with hers. It’s how life tends to go. She was getting my son – who she adopted when he was a baby – ready for an outing to a play place. I was meticulously preparing my own bag for an outing to a new place. There was an argument after I told her “If these headphones go on, please don’t bother me until I take them off…” She did not seem to understand how vital that one directive could be. She thought I was making a huge deal out of it. There are a few things I wish she could have understood this morning. 1. Going somewhere new IS a big deal.
When I go to a new place, anywhere unfamiliar, it is important that I have my Autism Bag with me. It is also important that I am allowed to USE my toolkit. Without it I have meltdowns more often, and become – quickly – less functional. 2. I don’t really have a choice. If I do become too stimulated, it can be disastrous. Meltdowns are ugly. I get angry, defensive and I have even become violent. They are terrifying, for me and everyone else; and they are painful. When I can’t stop them, it is embarrassing. My toolkit allows me to deprive the senses that are become overloaded, and to calm down efficiently. For me it is a HUGE part of being functional in a society that doesn’t welcome people like me easily. 3. I wish it was different. It’s easier to believe that this is how I want to be. I know this. I have thought this before. Many, many times I have wished that it could be different, that I could just make it stop. That, my lovely, isn’t possible for me. I am going to live with this my whole life. 4. It’s never going to be different. I would love to tell you that – with enough time and hard work – I will one day assimilate perfectly into your world; that I will be able to think, act, and respond like everyone else does. Truth is, that’s a beautiful pipe dream… but it is still a pipe dream. My senses are always going to be tender, and it will always be hard to come back smoothly when they become overloaded. There is not a thing in the world I would not give to change this. I would surrender everything I know and have to be neurotypical. I just can’t. Peace, Love, and Bulletproof Marshmallows Mandey T

Sunday, January 8, 2017

6 Ways That Moving To The City is Good For Me

Just less than a week ago I moved from a small country town and into a bustling city. Since then I have set about expanding my small circle and making friends. So, here are the 6 things that my move into the city environment has done for me:
1. A More Controllable Environment
With more streets, more cafeterias, and more options in things to do, I can really control my level of stimulation, and interaction that deal with on a daily basis. I am happier, more relaxed, and I am enjoying my life more than I was in the country town I moved from.
2. A Wider Variety of Potential Friends More people means more choices. In my old town, I really did not have a lot of choices in who to socialize with. With this comes the ability to find friends who won’t reject me later due to my illnesses, and who will be more support than critique.
3. More Variance in Culture
I love culture. It is, for me, something that lets me find the place I want to be in the moment. From day to day I enjoy finding new spots that are unfamiliar to me. Be it a new Chinese diner, or a German bar, I find comfort in traveling through local culture. This helps my depression and my anxiety in phenomenal ways.
4. Better Medical Options
In a bigger place, I get more choices regarding medical providers. Though I adore the team I had in Oregon, I feel that I have more viable choices in who and how I am treated. It also opens the door to treatments that may not have come up before, which might be the right step towards stronger recovery.
5. Sweet, Sweet Freedom
Again, this move has given me one – very important – thing for my personal recovery. It has given me freedom. In Oregon I was pretty much locked into my home unless I convinced someone to lend me their vehicle, or got a ride. Here, I can catch a bus and go anywhere. This is so much help for my illnesses because I can change my surroundings whenever I need to.
6. Quiet
I am aware that most people associate the city with being loud and busy. It is. But it is also quiet and secluded. No one has time to pry into who you are and why. It allows me to find awesome places where I am left alone and the quiet is amazing.
There you have it, lovelies, the move is good for me, and I for it. Peace, Love, and Bulletproof Marshmallows Mandey T

Saturday, January 7, 2017

3 Ways I Hide My Depression

Everyone has their ways of going undetected. Having a mental illness is still something we cannot have without being stigmatized and isolated from society. It is scary, and dangerous, to let the nature of our illnesses show around those who just would not understand it. So we find ways to appear normal. Here are mine: 1. Baking Cookies I get out of bed, wander into my kitchen, draw out ingredients and get baking. Sometimes - if she is in the mood - my daughter joins me from her high chair. I make 4 or 5 dozen cookies, and then I deliver them to the local homeless support. I have to borrow a rig from my family, in turn they tell everyone that I am doing things for the homeless community. 2. Great Makeup Depression and Anxiety bring havoc on our faces. Dark bags under our eyes, discolored skin, dehydration, and skin irritations make us look disheveled and tired. My way of coping with this is to put on a full face of makeup. Portraying an even skin tone, and clear complexion can do a lot to help me blend in. 3. Making Music I am a singer-songwriter. I put together lyrics and melodies, record them endlessly, and show off a little. This shows my loved ones that I am still working on things that I am passionate about. I am still doing things that I am interested in. Honestly, I have been re-working the same songs for too long now, and I am not making anything new. But, they see me being okay.
Peace, Love, and Bulletproof Marshmallows Mandey T

Friday, January 6, 2017

A Letter to My Depression

Hi there, I would tell you, yet again, to leave me alone - but I know you won't listen to me. You are a rude, and intolerable, houseguest and I am doing everything in my power to remove you from my home, my heart, and my life. I am pretty sure that you are well aware of what you have taken away from me - and why I want you to leave. As a kid, you took away my normal childhood. Becoming my house-mate when I was only 5 or 6, you began sucking the life out of my reality. I was already pretty well into the development of my Autism and I really didn't need to also become depressed and angry. My parents could not get me to finish testing for my developmental delays, so I was never diagnosed. With my frustrations and confusions mounting up on me, it was so easy for you to find your way into me and into everything I did. While I was maturing - so were you. I became more, and more unstable - socially inept. Between a lack of productive therapy, serious developmental delays - and you... I was helpless but to become an almost completely unmanageable child, an angry and out-of-control teen, and a very lost and confused adult. I was twenty before I found someone I could trust - who had the answers I needed. By then you, and your bedmates, had moved in and made your nest in my soul. I no longer remembered how it felt to not be completely locked inside myself. You made me feel heavy, and sick - I felt totally useless and unwanted. Anxiety had moved in as well, and I was so scared of the world that I had trouble finding a therapist or any kind of help. Then the state took my one good thing - the one thing making me start to get well again - my newborn son. I lost it. You, and your friends, embraced me ever more tightly than before. I became totally paranoid of anyone who asked me to sign a release to share information about me. I blew out of therapists faster than ever before, I began to cut myself more regularly than ever before, I turned to drinking and smoking pot to numb everything I was going through. No matter how hard I tried to drown you - you wouldn't shut up. There seemed no way out of the black hole that you - and your friends - created. I was too afraid of the world to seek help reliably, too depressed to handle most basic tasks, and so lost in a sensory overload that I collapsed within myself and became someone I couldn't recognise as me. Finally, I got help, real help. I was 23 years old. I had gotten divorced and had another child not living with me anymore - this time with her father. It was a kind heart that pushed me in the right direction. I fell in love and it was - and still is - amazing. I had someone driving hard on my behalf, advocating for me and helping me get going again. He didn't care that I was broken - only that I had the tools to get better. So, after ten years and two dozen therapists, I was getting good healing help. I am getting stronger now and - most days - you do not sleep in my bed anymore. You still take a lot away from me, and your bedmates still get to me on occasion; but I am in the process of making you leave me alone for once. I am aware that this is a long and hard road. But, it is my road, and I will walk it. Peace, Love, and Bulletproof Marshmallows Mandey T

Thursday, January 5, 2017

A Fantastic Beasts Fan Theory

Okay, bear with me here, because I am about to commit the crime of writing a “Fan Theory” about a Potter-world film. Also: I have included a large-ish photo to be placed right here for the sake of preventing unintentional reading of Spoilers!

Backtracking firstly, to the story of Harry Potter. This theory, and why it effects me personally, includes Dementors. Dementors are defined as “a gliding, wraith-like dark creature (considered one of the foulest to inhabit the world) employed by the British Ministry of Magic as the guard of Azkaban Prison, and the main antagonist in both the novel and film versions of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The Dementors feed upon human happiness, and thus cause depression and despair to anyone near them. They can also consume a person’s soul, leaving their victims in a permanent vegetative state, and thus are often referred to as “soul-sucking fiends“. They are known to leave a person as an ’empty-shell’.” 
J.K. Rowling has said that Dementors don’t breed, but grow like fungi where there is decay; and are functionally immortal in terms of age.
J. K. Rowling has revealed that the inspiration for Dementors came from her bout with severe depression before her phenomenal success. She described the feeling as an “absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad.”
So it can be pretty easily assumed that in translation from the world of Harry Potter to the world of you and I that a Dementor is equivalent to Major Depression. Now, if you have yet to see Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, and do not  want to read any spoilers, do not read beyond here.

(sources for below: Obscurials Wikia ; Obscurus Wikia)
In Fantastic Beasts the “big” problem on hand is something known as an Obscurial/Obscurus. According to the Harry Potter Wiki, Obscurials are explained as “a young wizard or witch who developed a dark parasitical magical force, known as an Obscurus, as a result of their magic being suppressed through psychological or physical abuse.” – Now, as the movie describes it – more in depth than the Wikia; Obscurials are children of, usually younger than 10 years old, who over the course of extremely targeted and abusive caregivers or environments are forced to suppress their magic so completely that it becomes unstable and violent within them.
This dangerous and unstable magic becomes the parasitic creature known as the Obscurus. The Obscurus is defined – along the same lines as – “a “dark” and “parasitic” force, an Obscurus is created when the child in question is forced to repress their talent through physical or psychological abuse. This energy can manifest itself as a separate entity that can erupt in violent, destructive fury.”

Okay, so, here’s where I get personal (now that you have all of the necessary information that I had when I formed this theory).
From personal experience with all of my disorders from Depression to Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (a form of Autism), I can say that it is often easier to suppress and restrict my illnesses than to be at all open with them. I often find myself in situations that leave me distressed and sometimes even traumatized because I have to hide my disorders at any costs. This makes them get worse – without failure – every time. They grow and become, often, insurmountable for me within a day or two of the situation. 
Now, we know that Dementors grow “like a fungus, wherever there is decay”, and what better decay for growing the literal embodiment of Depression than in the heart of a child being forced at extreme measures to suppress the very core of who they are? It can be seen in Fantastic Beasts that the Obscurial that features in the film is a chronically traumatized and depressed young adult (and an exception to the general rule that Obscurials die from their parasitic energy before age ten) who is growing more and more aggressively unstable. He begins lashing out in extremely destructive and violent ways – at those who abuse him in any way. He kills his adoptive mother, and a rising politician in quick and frightening ways. 

Lastly, in the film, when the Obscurial is killed by the ruling wizards it is shown that just a little bit of the creature – or possibly the host as well – has survived and disappears into the wind.
My theory is that the Obscurus is a major breeding ground for Dementors, if not the most effective and powerful of such grounds. The death of the Obscurial causes enough decay and death that the Dementor has more than enough of its “food” of sorts to grow deadly and powerful. 
In simplification here’s the theory:
A lifetime of pain and suffering for the Obscurial causes so much decay inside the child that it breeds, not only an Obscurus, but also gives life to one or more Dementors.
In real life terms regarding mental illness: A long time suffering depression/anxiety/autism/etc and being forced to hide it causes – over time – severe and clinical Depression.
Get in touch with me on my dedicated Facebook page with any questions or comments regarding this theory.
Peace, Love, and Bulletproof Marshmallows
Mandey T

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

From Tomorrow on Out - Get Me On Patreon

Okay, beloved followers!
Day after tomorrow, January 6th, I will post my blog post on Patreon first. Click here to go to Patreon
I have a lot of posts in the works, and will be writing for this whole month on my conditions.
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