Hospital? Trashcan.

Trying to start this entry out with a fun little Hot Rod joke because it’s going to be a weird one, I promised I’d keep you all posted on my experience at healthy brain school. You may have noticed me go quiet in text messages and social media because I was in an inpatient facility. It’s strange the circumstances that led me there, I typically make these truly terrible decisions and then ask for help, this time I asked for help before the crisis. So while it kind of seems like a setback in my treatment it also shows that I’m getting better at recognizing there’s a problem before there was a real problem. To be honest the psych ward is pretty boring, it’s mostly sitting around waiting on the next meal time, laughing, no phones, misery, Shasta ginger ale and slanted cut bathroom doors so you can’t hang yourself.

There are people I’ve met who are wonderful, supportive, and full of warmth and joy despite some insurmountable odds. There are also some truly bizarre stories, some super gross stories, and as usual some “ah this is quite the sanity check”.

The last few days have thrown me, changed me, and made me the most stable I’ve been in my life. I can’t pretend it was a good experience, it’s really hard to truly enjoy yourself with very little outside contact, no fresh air, and occasionally scary moments. However it kept me safe when I was not, and it made me look at myself in a different way, and I feel okay. These days I turn on a dime, so who knows if this is just excitement for getting to breathe the outside air or a serious turn of corner. I’m hoping that it’s the latter, I feel like it’s the latter. I have a long road ahead of me, and new more complicated paths to find my way through, but I feel like I can handle it.

I know I can handle it. I always bounce back no matter how long and hard the fall. In some ways I am a different person than two months ago, in others I am a person I used to know, one I liked, or at the worst tolerated instead of outright hated some of the time, and then a lot at a time. I know I go back and forth about being as honest as I am on this blog, sometimes I feel so vulnerable about it I have a panic attack before posting, other times I want to share my experience, to lessen the stigma. More often than not I feel like I am sharing too much of myself. Of course there are things that are just mine, but I hope that in some way this helps someone.

I am pretty willing to take on this challenge, it’s not as if I haven’t done so in the past, it’s just new. I think at this point there’s not much you can throw at me, even when I’m at my worst, that will shake me. Of course there are exceptions to every rule and I proved that this Friday. So it’s back to healthy brain school for a few more weeks and hopefully I will continue on this loopy unfortunately inconsistent path of recovery.

I thank you who listened to me this weekend, even if only for a quick chat, I thank you for getting this far, and I hope that you have a lot of hope in your life. It’s new to me, the light at the end of the tunnel that I have not seen for a very long time. It’s good to be here, it’s good to be out in the sun.

With love

-bri

Baby Steps: Art Meets Psychology

I’m back, well, I’m back to writing not to social media for a while, turns out cutting out Facebook is one of the best ideas I’ve had. I’ll start checking it once a day, since I think I’ll be writing again.

I’m the most anxious that I’ve ever been, I still can’t sleep, but the depression has lifted a bit and I’m starting to see a change in myself. I’m starting to have a little more hope that I can make a turn around. I’m going to talk about medication for a bit, because I’ve heard a lot of “don’t take pills” the last couple of days. Yes, there are side effects that are horrible, yes my antidepressant is working faster than my mood stableizer, so I’ve been bouncing between mixed, hypomanic, and just plain old super anxious. It’s uncomfortable, I feel like I’m crawling out of my skin half the time, and I haven’t truly slept in about a week. However, I’m not actively suicidal anymore, I want to do more with my life than I have in a long time. I’m learning to take care of myself in a way that I didn’t even realize was lacking. Despite all of the times I’ve said I don’t need them, I do. Maybe not forever, probably forever, but right now especially I need them.

There’s an overall litmus test I have for people in my life, both personally and politically, if they don’t believe that something that can save human life is worth it, they don’t belong in my life. Right now, the intensive work that I’m doing along with the medication is saving my life. For the first time in a long time I have some drive, I don’t know to what yet, but I know I have it, and I know a good portion of that is because the medication I’m taking is balancing out my intensely unbalanced brain.

I’ve been doing a lot of research on the trope of the tortured artist, Hollywood, books, even history books tend to gloss over the fact that many of these artists ended up ending their lives before more art could be made. Van Gogh is the perfect example here, when he was in a hospital for a year he created 150 works, the most productive he had ever been, because he was being treated, and stable (for the most part). Psychology also tells us a different story, most research says that stability is essential to creation and to consistently creating. Stability and structure.

So I’m not worried about creating on medication, I was for a long time, and I think that is the reason I so resisted medication and treatment, (that and the constant moving over the past year and a half). I’d be off and on, or wouldn’t be completely compliant. A little knowledge goes a long way, in this case it was reading scholarly articles written by psychologists on artists and stability.

Here is where I give you the quick lowdown on partial hospitalization, because I said I would let you all know how this thing works in case anyone has to go through it, at least you’ll have some information. It’s intense, it’s a lot listening to the stories of everyone in the room, but it’s so nice to not feel alone, it’s so nice to see my feelings reflected so exactly in another person. It’s a lot of talking, and a lot of listening. We do a lot of worksheets, my friend helpfully calls it “Healthy Brain School” which is essentially what it is. Although I never had a school meditate so consistently. We even have a gym aspect in a weekly yoga class, and some nice hikes on the campus of the facility I’m in.

Overall I’m doing well, I’m frustrated with the constant anxiety and the not sleeping, but I’m assured that will come as well. I have more hope than I’ve had in years, and not crazed manic hope, actual hope that I might have learned my lesson this time.

As always, be kind to each other.

love,

bri

Pause

I’ve started this post about ten times, typically I plan out what I’m going to write on my drive to or from places, today I tried, but my mind is kind of blank. I’m having trouble remembering words, which is something that happens with depression, especially in the adjustment period of new meds. I’m riding out one hell of a storm right now, but there’s a cat on my lap and a small army of mighty and strong people behind me helping me try to weather it. Eloquence is lost on me, and I’m not sure when my brain will start firing on all cylinders again, so I’m frustrated. I’m climbing, I’m always climbing out of one hole or another, just waiting for some sort of harness to make it a little easier. It’s not easy, in fact it’s really fucking hard. This time, this time because I don’t have any other choice but to dive in it hurts to want to get better so badly. It’s a healing pain they say, but it’s still pain. It hurts to need to just focus on myself. It’s terrifying to open myself up like I have to in order to keep on this path of healing.

Trust takes a lot of time for me, and time is not something of which I have the luxury, so I’ve just got to let go and do it anyway. Time is moving in the strangest way, both too quickly and in slow motion, extremes are apparently my specialty. I spent all of Tuesday thinking it was Thursday. I wish I could find words to describe the exact feeling, I could try, somewhere in between having a steel cage around my heart, a wool blanket around my head and feeling everything so deeply it’s paralyzing.

I’ve never had to push the pause button on my life like this before, I’ve been working since I was fourteen, before that I babysat, after that I had projects and college and even when I was inpatient it didn’t take this much of my time and energy. I worry a lot about how often I’ll have to do this in my life, I spend a lot of time wondering if it gets worse from here what can I do? I spend a lot of time comparing myself to my peers and how successful I see them becoming, which is useless and infuriating because I’m not where I want to be.

However I can feel a little change in my mental energy, barely noticeable, but basic things that used to take all of my strength are a little easier, the big stuff is easier to talk about and think about. I still have no clue what even tomorrow will bring let alone a week or a year from now. I can’t imagine it so I might as well stay here, now, unfortunately and oddly, on pause. Like I’m back in high school except the stakes are much higher and I know a whole lot more, I don’t think I know a whole lot better though.

Anyway, I hope to emerge soon, I hope to be able to function somewhat normally after this, I still have hope.

love each other

bri

it's all about the work

It’s strange at this point in my life, I thought I’d be someone different, I thought I’d be something different. I could talk about potential or losing my twenties to mental illness and the neglect of that mental illness, I’m great to be on your team, but ask me to take my own medicine and it will almost always bite you in the ass. I could talk about the process of my first day, group, medication education, “music” therapy, lunch, group, meditation. Structure. I think all of those things are important, but I’m in the mood to lift myself up a little bit. This is hard. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. This is the sickest I’ve ever been, in a very different way than I’ve ever been sick.

So yeah, it’s serious. Serious enough that I feel like this outlet is something I need even though it makes me feel incredibly vulnerable. Especially with the occasional deafening silence my dear readers. Don’t worry, you’re not getting the dirty details, those are mine and mine only.

I can now say that I’m doing everything in my power to get myself better, or at least better enough to start functioning normally in society, because despite the convincing face I am not. I feel empowered by this, that I’ve finally taken control and taken responsibility I never want to feel this way again. Every other time I’ve been to treatment I went in with a chip on my shoulder, now I will try anything. I’m more open minded, I’m quicker to anger, but I’m more open minded to treatment.

I may not be the someone that I thought I was going to be, but I am becoming something better. I am determined to go back to making more work because I crave it. The reason I am doing this terrifying, statistically not even close to a permanent fix, exhausting thing is because I can’t stand not to make and show my work.

Of course there are other more complicated reasons for needing to get well. My friends and family for example, as it is not their job to hold me up always. Of course there are goals, like being able to stand up for myself in a situation which feels unsafe and uncomfortable. The work though, that’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I can shovel through the pain easily, It’s different but I’ve done this before, I’m ready for the pain, the healing pain. The reward is the work.

I will keep saying the words until they are ingrained in my heart. I deserve to get better. I deserve to live a relatively pain free life.

These posts might be like this for a while, if it’s not your thing I understand.

As always

reach out to your friends

normalize mental illness

normalize its treatment

love each other

-bri

Process 7: Crisis Management

So I’ve been writing a lot about process lately, and at this very moment in my life I’m going through the process of a kind of scary, healing path. I think what I’m going to write about for the next few weeks is the actual process of what is happening as I navigate this particular part of the mental health system because I wish I had someone to explain it to me piece by piece. This gives me some separation from you my dear reader, and it might help someone if they ever need to go through this process.

I’m going to be talking about some potentially triggering stuff here so proceed with caution.

So first things first, I started out this process a very long time ago, the first time I had to navigate it myself I was in my very early twenties. I was hospitalized three times that year, all because of ER visits, once because I tried to kill myself. When it was voluntary the hospital was not terrible, it created some structure, it kept me safe, and it stabilized me. When it was not voluntary it was incredibly traumatizing, with threats from the staff to send us to “state” if there was misbehavior. When you get to the hospital they do an intake, you speak with a psychologist, a MD, a social worker, and you get the run down. You are also stripped searched, your phone and any clothing with strings are taken out or away, and depending on what you are there for you get a babysitter to make sure you don’t do anything to yourself. Then your observation slowly goes down as you start showing signs of improvement. Everything is the same every day, you wake up at the same time, you go to sleep at the same time, you eat at the same time. Bringing some structure to the chaos.

Then they discharge you once you are stable enough to function mostly in society, they give you a psychologist and a therapist (if you want one) and send you on your way.

At the beginning of this whole situation I was looking for just an appointment, I called place after place after place and at first the earliest appointment was November. That would have been too late for more than one reason. Then I managed to get one for the 14th, which was also too late for multiple reasons, but it was better. Finally I decided on a partial program which could get me in almost immediately (tomorrow). This is a huge relief. I will talk about the process of partial as I learn about it.

All of this took a lot of phone calls, a lot of energy that I don’t have, and a lot of stress. Here’s where I talk about heathcare, because I wouldn’t have had to do nearly as much work (and there will be more blogs about this later) if the system were not so broken. I am a person in crisis right now and at one point my only option was hospitalization, there has to be a better way of getting someone help immediately without requiring expensive and time consuming hospitalization. Not everyone has the incredible support system that I have, not everyone is able to have someone advocate for them.

We need to fix this, because speaking only of mental health these past few weeks have been life or death for me almost every moment. I don’t say that lightly, and I don’t say that to make you feel bad for me, I say that because if it were easier and more affordable it would not get that bad for most people.

Until next time, the blogs might be a little different for a while, but I’m ever changing of course.

peace

-bri

Community: Falcon Ridge Folk Festival

So I’ve managed to keep the blog up another month, which I’m grateful for because I’ve got a lot to say right now, I just got back from Falcon Ridge Folk Festival and I had a lot of time for reflection, a lot of time for thinking about where I want and need my life to go. Falcon Ridge is my favorite place on earth, so I use it for some tough stuff, I am safe there. I am safe with the people there. The beauty and community brings me up. I’ve been trying to keep this blog a little less personal intentionally lately, but right now I think I need to share what’s going on in my life, and relate it to my experience over the week, so if that’s not your thing you can click off now. I’m going to try to make the least amount of bummer that I can.

I’m taking a leave of absence from my job because my bipolar has reached a point where I cannot work, this is scary for me, I’ve never not worked. The only times I took off due to mental health issues was hospitalizations, and I’m trying to avoid that at all costs. So I’m checking myself in to an outpatient program to get myself some help, and I’m leaning pretty heavily on my support system right now. I am afraid. I am also having trouble reaching out. Here’s where I ask for some good vibes or maybe a text message or phone call every now and then, if I do not answer I am not ignoring you, I am very tired.

So that’s the thing, it is my reality, it has been my reality for a long time, and I’m getting better at dealing with it, now back to Falcon Ridge, if I dreamed up the perfect group of people to be surrounded by when I’m in crisis the dream people would not be nearly as good as the people who love me on that hill. My family at the Budgiedome gets it, they get how important community and love is. Arguably the whole festival has that vibe. The fact that despite the wild disassociation that happened on Thursday night I was still able to feel safe, if not scared, with loving hands on mine I was able to come almost all the way back and then go to sleep. It is not only about the music there, I mean it is, we are all there because of the music, but what connects us is so much deeper than that. We protect each other and hold each other up.

What I think is hard to explain is the intense processing and healing that happens over the weekend, its never all wonderful and happy for me, but it is so important to use that release of both good and bad energy, it’s important to be reminded to ask for the things you need because people cannot read minds, but they are almost always willing to help.

If we implemented the mentality at Falcon Ridge in the rest of the world it would be a better place. Love your neighbor, give them food or water when they need it, listen to each other, be willing to learn. Welcome them home.

Anyway,

I’m going into town for 51 weeks, I’ll be back soon

-bri

Process 6: Reader

Reader,

This is a weird one for me, and it might be a little stream of consciousness because I don’t know how to write about the process of this one. A year ago I would have told you what was happening in my life but I finally feel like I need to in a different way than this type of writing piece. I will talk a little about it briefly for transparency sake, but being mentally ill really sucks, and it hurts. Treat each other kindly.

Also thank you.

That’s all you get, because there are parts of myself that I don’t feel the need to share in this medium, I think I inadvertently give most of myself away in my work, but this one is kind of black and white.

So once again I’m at this question of what do we as artists owe our audience. I suppose owe isn’t the right word, we owe you nothing, if you think we do you are delusional. Maybe my question is what kind of artist I want to be. Am I someone who is willing to open my world up to you? Am I someone who wants to turn it around completely and let you know nothing? Am I someone who is willing to make myself into a character and share my life that way?

Up until now I’ve been a bit of everything, probably leaning towards the first one, but part of me wants to turn it around and find a way around ever sharing another personal fact about myself. I think what I’m saying to you reader, is I am afraid of you either way. As an artist I want nothing more to make something just for me but I have to think of you a little bit. Or the part of me that wants to be recognized wants to be seen, because we cannot pretend that going into the arts is not a need for recognition for your talent. Some things do better with the world than others.

I know I am not the type of person that will never share another personal thing about myself, because I think honesty is really important. I also have repeatedly said this in blog posts, conversations, and I think one or two episodes of my short lived podcast (that I’m working on bringing back) that artists are liars. In my more personal and vulnerable posts, I am crafting a narrative that suits the purpose of this project, and it is very intentional. I am as truthful as I can be without it affecting my health. Sometimes I make mistakes, but usually I’m pretty on top of it.

However, a lot of those of the narratives that I’ve created have been a lot of me, and I’m not sure if I want that obvious vulnerable “hey it’s Bri” out there.

This process piece is the reason I started this series, because I am trying to find a balance that keeps me safe and also educates about things I am passionate about. I want to start a dialog, I want to be able to speak openly and honestly about all parts of myself. I also don’t know if I want that responsibility, it takes a lot of energy to be me, a really stupid amount of energy, or maybe I’ve just got none. Who knows. My point is, why add to it.

Reader, some of you have been responsive, the majority of you have not, and I don’t know if some of those pieces were worth the amount of energy I had to expend to share them. As artists the work that we do is already undervalued, so sometimes it’s extra hard to feel like we are shouting into the void. Remember we (artists) are all looking for some recognition, whether it’s by our peers or the world, we are looking for recognition. I think in order for this artist to keep peeling back my armor in public I need to find some energy in this work.

I do not have that now, maybe with more work I will get some. I am an introvert so any interaction except significant conversation drains me. So tonight the thing that I wrote about in my little grey book is mine only, and the feelings are only mine and my close friends and family.

So I will continue to write about process, maybe switching it sometimes to process of creating other media as my artistic practice is finally expanding after a very long stand sill. I will continue to break my own rules and share with you Reader, but I think for a bit I’m going to continue to do it less, because I need to conserve what I’ve got, and at the moment it’s not much.

I hope we start saying more, maybe we’d understand each other a little better.

Anyway,

be kind

bri

Process 5: Vulnerability

Last night I sat down and wrote about feeling extraordinarily vulnerable at the moment with everything that I create, even if it’s something that doesn’t have any significant emotional heft. There have been times when I’ve been very confident in my work, the last two years or so are not those times. Pride is different than confidence I think, and I always feel a sense of pride when I finish something or when it gets good feedback, but I don’t really feel confident in what I’m making.

I have written about this before, probably more than a few times in different iterations, and odds are I will write about this again many times because it feels like the big question in my work. I spend an inordinate amount of time wondering what is too much and what is not enough. I fear people not connecting to what I do, I also fear leaving too much of myself out there, both are really prevalent fears in my personal life as well. I am not afraid of a lot of things but anxiety and a healthy imagination about other people’s perception of me have given me those two big ones in excess.

That’s what these process writings are supposed to answer for me eventually, where is my balance, why am I so frozen all the time, and when I’m going to really do something about it. I am realizing that luckily I am not low on ideas, I am low on energy. Honestly, I don’t know which one is harder to fix.

Anyway, there are no answers today, and to be honest I could close my eyes right now and go to sleep at 8:36 pm. I won’t, I’m going to paint for a bit, but I could.

Until next time

bri

If You Build It

I had a shit week last week, just truly awful. There are external things that happened that probably encouraged it, but often a shit week is kind of out of my control brain wise, that spiral is hard to stop once it starts. There are often a lot of mysteries when it comes to my brain, but how I handle the situation is in my control. This time it went better than it usually does, a little bit because I’ve become less stubborn and more attached to my life recently, but mostly because I have a small army of people who don’t look away when it gets really ugly, who answer the phone, who make sure I eat, who check up on me when I disappear. For that I am beyond grateful. For that I am still here.

I say all this because I have been thinking intensely about community since I moved into the Pronoia House, for those of you who don’t know, that is where I am living now, a community of people who are very different from each other, but who also care deeply and fiercely about each other. Of course it’s not just the housemates, it seems to be everyone who passes through here. I’m not going to pretend any of it is easy, with five different personalities and all of their friends it is sometimes really really hard, but the overall consensus is that we really love each other.

Sunday was our first house concert, and I’m still kind of on top of the world, and I’m going to break some tradition here at my blog and just talk about the day. It was probably one of the most rewarding things I have done in my life, and the idea that I can do it again has renewed some of my long forgotten energy. Afra Loskor opened, and she was really wonderful, I am so excited to see what she does next, she’s so talented. Carolann Solebello and Joe Iandaza were the main act, the amount of respect that I have for the two of them is special. They get it, they get why it’s important to have a space like this, and they know how powerful community is. I could probably write a novel on the kindness and generosity that we were shown, but I’m going to spare you that sappy piece, maybe in my memoir. After the show the housemates and our guests jammed for hours. Josh put on a fire spinning performance, Nick led the band, people got up to sing and play. Friends who I hadn’t seen in a long time came together, new friends met old friends.

Before the end of the night someone asked me if I played music, and I said no, and the follow up was so you create a space for people to get to just be? I answered yes, and to be honest it’s one of the more flattering things ever said to me. I think part of that is being a photographer and writer, I think my art directly influences that fact. I really like to watch people. Mostly I really like to watch people loving what they are doing. Nothing brings me more satisfaction than photographing or writing about genuine emotion, and why not have that emotion be joy? I am not the happiest person on this earth, nor am I the most positive, in fact I usually have a pretty bleak outlook on society as a whole and more than usually I have a pretty bleak outlook on myself. I’m working pretty hard on the latter, society has to earn it back though.

Despite the fact that I’m kind of a grouch, I have been shown the power of community over and over and over again. I have been shown how important it is to be able to make a phone call or show up at your parents place somewhat unannounced or receive a text that brings a little clarity to a very foggy mind. I think trying to bring all of that into something with the potential for so much more growth and adjustment is where I should be. While I’m never sure of where I’m going to land or how my brain might be treating me a year from now or even a week from now, I can be sure that what we are building here is something so much bigger than we can anticipate.

It is special and scary, and of course I don’t trust it, but I think that’s mostly the grouch talking.

until next time,
bri

untitled

There have been times where I’ve been called cold and unapproachable, where an effort of protection was made into this steely exterior that made me hard. I was good at isolation because I was a good liar, people believed me because I have an honest face and I’m good with words. It’s only recently I’ve started being truly vulnerable with other people in my life and it is a lot. My energy level is pretty low in comparison to other people my age, and that’s fine. I’m starting to learn that people aren’t going to run from me, at least the people I have in my life now. I can get really really scary and still know that the people who love me will still love me. This has been important this week, and I’m breaking my process mold for this piece because I think it’s important. I had one of the best weeks of my life being injured, I made so much art, I experienced so much community that I feel refreshed and renewed and hopeful that someday I’ll be able to put that much time into making work again. Yet, I had some scary dark moments this week, that didn’t make sense with what was going on externally. but it still happened. It taught me I could handle them, it taught me that I can write about them, and it taught me that I have people in my life I trust enough not to run when it gets scary with me. I have more trust in my life than I have ever before and its equally terrifying and exhilarating. I’m going to try to keep trusting, and learning more from the beautiful people around me. It’s been a wild scary ride this time around. but it taught me some important lessons.

Process 4

What a weird freedom not having to work for a few days, I’ve made more art than I have in a long time. I think I have more of an idea of what I want. It’s strange to know that a little forced vacation can turn a whole process on its head. For one thing I’m genuinely interested in being social, and therefore making work has become more of a social experience, even creating alone with community around you makes a huge difference. I’ve been making decisions without thinking for these watercolor pieces I’m doing, just grabbing what I instinctually go towards, I like the challenge, I like the lack of control. I do so many things with such exactness and purpose, why not experiment with something a little looser, a little less controlled.

Writing on the other hand has me stumped, I am in a weird place, as my life on the outside is good, but I’ve got a little dark cloud following me around. Much of it is pushed away through talking or writing or making art but it is exhausting. I think part of it is knowing I won’t be as productive once I go back to being full time. I love making things, and I want the energy to make things no matter what I’ve been up to. This house has some of that, I think I need to feel it a little bit more. Spend a bit more time sitting in the quiet.

I go back to work soon, I am sore and bruised but okay, here’s to never doing this again!

-bri

most days

some days i feel the weight of myself
a burden to be lifted from those i love
most days, days like today, when the rain
brings the green out so overwhelmingly
the clouds protect my paper skin
from the sun, the breeze protects my
easily overheated body from its rays
it’s days like these that are made for me
when i’m reminded that I’m hurt
but no longer hurting
reminding me that the world bends towards me sometimes
or the world bends away from me
and i can catch up
some days i wish the weight of myself
was not too much, but somedays it is
most days i am grateful for being a little too much