Archive | November, 2010

A speedbump

30 Nov

What do this girl:

And this guy:

have in common?

Can you come up with anything?

Yes! We did both paint this picture!

I did mine on a toaster, however. That was during my eccentric phase of 2006.

But anyways, besides being creative, what could Vincent van Gogh and I have in common?

If you are a really good guesser, then you are right again!

1. We both look good in hats.

2. we both have bipolar disorder.

Seeing as how this is a relatively new turn of events in my life (and also because I am totally stoked to have yet another thing in common with van Gogh), I want to write a little about what bipolar is all about, and what my life has been like this school year.

I’m normally not embarrassed about the things I post or write about on this blog. I usually have this brazen attitude; I’m proud of what I write, and I want the whole world to read it. I mean, I’m no William S. Burroughs, but I try hard not to censure or shy away from the message I’m trying to get across. Apparently, today is a new day. I find myself freezing up, revising every sentence, backspacing, all that jazz, because for once, I don’t want talk about this. For one, mental illness has this weird stigma around it. I mean typically, you would be like – oh. Bipolar disorder. Shouldn’t you be locked up in some padded room or institutionalized or something? That sounds serious! And for two, I do not like admitting that something is wrong. Seriously, if you asked me how I am at any one second, I would say that I was a-ok, things are smooth sailing, no cause for panic here. So this is where I get my rationale.

I want to: 1. Prove that, while I am crazy about animals (ps, I just officially changed my major to zoology!) and James Dean movies), I am not this kind of crazy, this kind, or this kind (this last one is kind of an inside joke I have with my mom – it’s from this insane movie called Mommy Dearest, and the lady totally freaks when she finds wire hangers in her closet. Every time I hang up my clothes or coat or whatever, I always quote this lovely film).

2. Describe a little of what I have been feeling like and dealing with recently, and, in doing so, hope to clear up some misconceptions about mental illness and the nature of this crazy little speedbump in my life. Speedbump. I like the sound of that. It sounds nice, mundane, gently rounded – not really realistic at all, but it kind of makes me feel better.

Ok. I hope you are ready for this. Because I don’t even think that I am completely.

Flashback to the start of this school year. That is when I started realizing that some of my behaviors were a little out of the norm. When this year started, I was ambitious. I was taking 18 credit hours, a full course load for UC. I had 3 upper level sociology classes, an honors English class, and my favorite, Diversity at the Zoo. I just moved into a big-girl house in the hood, and I did not have rowing to worry about. I was ready to seriously tackle my academic career in an unprecedented way – I even bought a cute orange planner, and for me, that is a big deal! I am more of a Post-it-Note-reminders-everywhere kind of gal. It sounds like the start of a really great, happy story, right?

Not so right. First of all, I made a big change in how I was taking care of my body. Gone were the days of alcohol (major depressant) and Red Bull (major stimulant) to stay going between parties and practice. At most, I would go wild and crazy with Coke Zero or Dr. Pepper. But even at the very beginning of the year, I noticed that I still fell into the desperately dark depression that used to overtake me after I partied, so much so that I was almost incapable of functioning. I could not focus. I dropped a class to compensate, but my procrastination and simple inability to do any work made the remaining 15 credit hours hard to handle.

Also, I feel like I should interject a disclaimer about the depression-y side of things. In the effort to “live my life honestly” (see this beautiful song), I will be up front with some things. Depression runs in my family big time (and so does bi-polar, as I have come to find out. Seriously, which Hieber or Robenalt of my ancestry ticked off a gypsy and incurred a curse? Look at my genetic joy). And ever since my sophomore year of high school, I have been treated for it off and on. I saw a counselor all summer to try to get to the bottom of this deal. I just have to face facts – it’s a chemical imbalance that I just have to rectify. So when this started happening with this intensity, I thought it was just a new turn in my previous diagnosis of clinical depression.

As it turns out, I was wrong again. During this drawn out time of awfulness, I also had these bizarre upswings. Everything felt fine again. In fact, everything felt way more than fine. I felt like a superhero. During these periods, I would do crazy productive things, like bake, write extensive papers, and paint, all things that I love doing (the paper part is DEFINITELY some gratuitous hyperbole). Except, there was yet another catch. I didn’t just bake – I would bake ridiculous amounts of cupcakes at one time. I would be in the kitchen for hours upon hours of my life. I didn’t just write a little – I wrote pages and pages past the expected length (5-6 was one assignment; the final product was 12 pages long). And I didn’t just paint. I spray painted and drew and colored and basically went CRAZY all over the walls in my room. And the best part was my inability to sleep. Seriously, days at a time. And, without copious amounts of caffeine in my blood to chemically keep my going, the fact that I was never tired during these rages was definitely unusual.

After my periods of what I came to recognize as mania, I would crash. And burn. I would sink lower than I had been before the cycle. In the weeks before I actually made it to a doctor, I will venture to say that I was suicidally depressed. It got to the point where I honestly believed that all of these things were happening to me for a reason, that I deserved it, that I was doing something wrong. I will admit it – I gave up on prayer, because I was convinced that I was not even worthy of it. It was the lowest place I had ever been.

Luckily, just in time, I was able to get in with an area psychologist. And let me say something here about psychologists and counselors. They are amazing. I thoroughly believe every person should see one at some point. They are honest, enlightening people who just want you to obtain happiness. I went into my doctor’s office with a list of concerns, burst into tears of anguish and relief, and told her how happy I was to see here even though we had just met for the first time. I was at least slightly aware that something was indeed wrong with me, and I knew that she would help.

After haphazardly running through my list of worries, she immediately said, “Yes, you are definitely severely depressed, but there is something more going on here.” She said I was displaying bipolar symptoms, something that my hometown psychologist has just started to discuss with me before I went back to school, so she referred me to a psychiatrist, the guy with the MD and the ability to write prescriptions.

My amazing psychiatrist was the one that made the official diagnosis, and gave me a prescription to try to regulate and moderate the depression and the manic episodes. Currently, I am seeing both doctors on a weekly basis, and this involves a decent amount of hoofing it around the city! But finally (finally, finally, finally), things are looking better. I have realized that I really do not have a gypsy curse over my head, that I do not have bad karma, and that I did not earn or deserve this in any way. I’m happy to say that prayer is back in my life. I still have awful periods, and I still have superhero periods, but not with the same life-altering intensity.

Whew. Ok. That was rough.

So. This is my hypothesis as to how this happened. In my research about this disease, I have learned that certain genetic characteristics put you at risk for developing bi-polar. Two relatives on my paternal side of the fam have/had it, meaning that there is the strong likelihood that I inherited these characteristics. Also, stressful life events can cause it to manifest/intensify as life continues on. I think symptoms first started showing up in my sophomore year of high school, after the yucky summer after freshman year (mono, hopes of being an All-American track star and a national rank crushed in one fell swoop, courtesy of a massively swollen spleen, etc), and just hit me hardcore during my freshman year of college. I think the symptoms were masked by both substance abuse and rowing practice, which kept me sleeping 1-2 hours most nights for months. Annette received many late night text messages during this period for sure (“I. Need. Sleep. Practice in 1.5 hours!”). And now, without those factors, I think I was prone for a complete unraveling.

So where am I now? Nervous. Frustrated. Drowsy most of the time because of this rockin medicine. But also hopeful. Definitely more pessimistic and less beamingly idealist. But a tad but more hopeful. I know what is wrong. I have some things I can do to deal with it. I do know one thing for certain. I am really hoping that some person Googles “bi-polar” (or maybe van Gogh) looking for answers, or reassurance, or just a little insight, and I really hope that they magically stumble across this blog, because I have this final message.

Life, no matter how ridiculously hard it becomes, is still worth living. This is how it’s supposed to be. We are supposed to struggle. But because of this, we learn what we are supposed to. We learn to survive. We learn to live. We learn exactly what it means to be human – how to fall, but rise up time and again. And in this way, we learn what love is all about. Who is going to be there by your side, cheering for you and pulling you back onto level ground? Who is willing to accept your flaws, and love you all the same? Also – you need to never forget that you should be counted among this group of people.

I know it was probs a drag to get through this (who wants to read about some 19-year-old complain about her mental health drama?), but I hope this SUPER long post left you with something. A little more perspective, and ounce more of hope. Thanks for hearing me out.

Oh yeah! As a reward, here are some songs!

One

Two

Three

Four

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“I’d rather just sip chocolate with you.”

28 Nov

The music starts around 35 seconds

It is officially the Christmas Season.  I have been a sort of scrooge in years past…Christmas is actually not my favorite holiday.  I really love Thanksgiving the best (and I even like the 4th of July better than Christmas), so usually I am a little bummed that Thanksgiving is over and then people start playing Christmas music non stop and I start to lose it a little.  Things get colder.  School gets harder.  Stores are always, endlessly, annoyingly trying to sell you things.  I mean…I love going home and seeing my family.  I love the giving part of the whole deal (although I do think we should always be in a giving mood). But other than that, I am not really a fan, and the time between thanksgiving and going home usually drives me NUTS.  I don’t particularly get into decorating for Christmas.  I bake a lot of pumpkin things and not a lot of peppermint or gingerbready things…as a subtle form of protest.

This chunk of year is shaping up a little differently for me this time around however.  I am still not THE most spirited one.  Don’t expect me to go out and buy a Christmas tree anytime soon…but I am not grumpy about Thanksgiving being over. I am not rolling my eyes at all the gingerbread coming my way already.  And I know why!

It’s because of this guy. 

Because…he really likes Christmas time.  And freezing weather doesn’t feel so cold when he is around (sure…read into that however you want).  He makes me not so stressed about school–and still I am getting better grades than other semesters.  He has incredible taste in clothing and I actually don’t mind shopping with him (which is a MUCH bigger deal than you may realize because I traditionally really dislike shopping.)  I don’t feel like I am just enduring things until I can get to my family because he feels like family.  Especially when he dances in the car with Megan.  When he helps my Tally with Chemistry.  When he hangs out with Grandma and Grandpa Healey.  When he laughs and jokes with my Aunt Kristen. When he explains something just like my Dad would, down to the hand gestures. When he gets absolutely giddy during card games at his uncle’s house.  When he rolls up the sleeves of his dress shirt and washes dishes.

So, bring it on next three weeks. I am just gonna be happy and content no matter how many times I have to hear Angels We Have Heard on High.  No matter how slushy the snow gets.  No matter what these looming term papers and final exams threaten to do. I  just can’t help it.

 

No Pain no Gain

22 Nov

Today was the Sabbath.  And my body is sore because of all the hard work I did.  Before you label me a sinner, let me explain.

 

My throat is sore from singing for 2 hours at the nursing home.

My abs are sore from laughing too hard with roommates I hadn’t bonded with before.

My neck is sore from holding the phone against my shoulder while talking to Elisabeth and coloring at the same time.

My brain is sore from trying to understand my home teachers explanations of why BYU Sports are going independent because when they asked if there was anything I needed, I said I needed an understanding of that particular bit of news.

My hands are frozen from playing in the first snow of the year.

My eyes are tired from reading a book for my little sister.

My biceps are sore from directing the Ward Choir for 30 minutes and then being taught how to direct Ward Choir for 20 minutes after (seems a little backwards…but I can’t just wing it forever!)

My fingers are sore from writing for hours in my new journal with empty pages that seemed to be begging to be filled with all my daily doings and poetic musings.

My legs are sore from balancing precariously on every surface in my room while Mart and I hung up our Christmas lights.

My heart is a little bit sore from the realization that I can and should be doing better at a lot of things.  And my determination is getting sore from being revved up again at full speed without a proper warm up.

 

Sometimes I feel like Sundays are just full of meetings, walking to meetings, and waiting for meetings to start when you factor in church, Home Teachers, Visiting Teachers, Committee Meetings, Ward Prayer, Tithing Settlement, Interviews, and everything in between.  I liked this Sunday though because I had time to sit and think and notice and most importantly, work.  Work on things I have been neglecting but things that, now completed have left me feeling edified and confident that life is good no matter what happens.

and so it goes

20 Nov

I was listening to this as I wrote this post. You should listen while you read it.

Today as I was sitting at a desk, working on a million things at once I caught my reflection in the screen of my blank computer screen.

And for a brief moment I didn’t recognize myself.  I looked so grown up, and I don’t know when or how it happened.

I probably don’t really look different.  I am sure my friends, roommates and co-workers didn’t think when they saw me “Dang! Annette looks so much older and grown up today!”

I think what changed is how I think of myself, and it really seems to have happened THAT abruptly.  Yesterday I felt like a 19 year old college student.  Today I feel like something more.

I have grown up worries like paychecks, passports, job applications.  I have grown up happiness like being a role model, buying my own clothes, budgeting successfully.

I once had a conversation with Elisabeth about all the big things happening in my life, all the big things happening in her life, and all the big things that could happen in our futures.  I asked her how she felt about one of my life extrapolations and she said something like “It used to totally scare me, but now I realize it just means we are growing up.  And we have to grow up. ”

On the way home from the temple a while back, Mary Ann and I were talking about this whole growing up thing.  We talked about how we feel like we have grown more in our short time at college than all through middle and high school.  I said I wished I knew when I was going to be all the way grown up so I could be ready to do the big things of life. I wanted to know in how long exactly it would take before I was officially all the way mature.

Mary Ann turned to me and said something like “I don’t think we are ever going to stop growing up Annette.  There will always be something else to learn about ourselves.”

17 Nov

I super apologize for the lack of posting and original ideas! But, with Annette very kindly demanding something new (“I demand a blog post from you young lady.”) I decided to finally force myself to put SOMETHING.  This is keeping me from making macaroni, and I am starving. You are welcome!

 

Well. I have not done a musical post in quite a long time. So I came up with a plan. The following songs that I have recently come across seem to describe how my life has been going recently pretty accurately. So. Here they are.

 

I really wish I had more stories or more life changing perspectives to share, but recently, things have been pretty mundane and normal! No life crushing angst here. I am happy, well-adjusted, and just ready to take on my future. No really. I am.

 

If you can’t tell, I was being a little sarcastic.

 

1. Twilight Galaxy – Metric

 

2. Oh My God – Ida Maria

 

3. La Di Da – Asher Roth

 

4. Little Girl – Robert Francis

 

5. Cameras – Matt and Kim

 

6. Fader – The Temper Trap

 

And you know what else I think I should add? This lovely PSA by halfofus.com. Halfofus is a great website dedicated to helping students find help and support when dealing with mental illness and stress. I have found it incredibly helpful in recent months. Seriously, if you are going through anything that makes you feel like less than the amazing human being that you are, please reach out to someone. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness – it is just necessary!

 

Humans were not meant to suffer through life alone. You can reach out to a counselor; I promise that they are not scary at all. Halfofus has a directory dedicated to locating mental health professionals on college campuses. You can reach out to your friends. They are your friends for a reason! You have characteristics about you that make other people love you! They will want to help you. And, if all else fails, you can reach out to me! I bet you that I at least know a little about what you are going through. Send me an email – hieberem@uc.mail.edu. I’m completely serious –  nothing is worth it to simply suffer in silence. It sucks feeling like that.

 

But I digress. Click here to see the PSA.

I am almost too embarrassed to post this. However, I will always day this: No regrets!!

On feeling slightly out of my element.

12 Nov

Right now I am at a Birthing Conference.

Yes you read that right. Birthing.

No, I am not pregnant. (It’s ok Mom and Dad, it hasn’t been THAT long since I last called).

I am just helping out since I volunteer for Women’s Services and Resources.  I am liking this conference A LOT.  I am learning so many things I knew nothing about before-like what exactly is in pre-natal vitamins, how a mid-wife gets certified, and how to deal with morning sickness.  Also…did you know that way back in the day Mid-Wifery was a church calling, women were sent back east to school, and were even given a certain amount of what the presenter called “priesthood responsibility.”  That sounds like something awesome to research if you ask me.  And I REALLY like how rather humorous things are being said like “I just…freaking love placentas.”

Anyway, like I said, I am liking this a lot more than I thought I would.  I think it is pretty much awesome.  You should all go to it next year.

As I have been sitting here all morning, I have been thinking about a funny thing that happened to me a while back, and I will share it with you now.

So there I was. I was going with dear Evan to his mission reunion over conference weekend.  It was only moderately awkward, I liked seeing Evan in a situation I had never seen him in before, and there was a lot of really good food. After the socializing part was over everyone migrated to the chapel for a little devotional type thing.  Evan (of course) led the opening hymn and I am pretty sure I got a wink between the second and third verse.  After the devotional, there was a rush on the bathrooms.

This is where the funny happened.

I got there first (probably because every other girl there was pregnant), and so I was at the sink washing my hands as most others were in line.  All of the women were so very nice.  They let me into their conversation for a while, and then it turned to their pregnancies.  There was an exchange of how far along they were. “25 weeks” “17 weeks” “30 weeks” and “35 weeks…*groan*”  I joined in with everyone as we groaned along with her, and nodded as words of encouragement were given.  Then, all eyes turned on me and.  “Oh Annette! (I had introduced myself sometime between the washing my hands and drying them).  You are looking sooo good! I remember that I was so small for my first pregnancy too! How far along are you?”

I halted for a moment. Blinked a couple times.  Tried to figure out how to answer this without making them feel bad.

“Uh…well…I….uh…I would say I am at 0 weeks.  Just….0”

And with that I probably said something about eating more cookies and made my escape.  As I left I heard the hushed whispers “oh my gosh…I think she is just a girlfriend.”

I found Evan waiting by the food, with a plate of cookies and cup of water all ready for me, and told him what happened between bursts of laughter.

And then we went home.

Fin.

 

 

That is kind of how I am feeling now, since I would say I am the only one here not pregnant (other than the dudes here…but they are mostly here with their pregnant wives and I think that pretty much counts as them being pregnant too).

*looks around*

Yep…I’m the only one.  Awesome.

“Life is not fair–get used to it” –Someone very pessimistic

11 Nov

My astronomy test just made me feel like I got beat up and had my lunch money stolen.

It is just not fair.  I have never done anything of the sort to astronomy! I read it and study it and go out into the cold cold night to freaking look at it!

I think our relationship is going to be unable to recover. Sorry Astronomy–I tried but you are just not for me.

Also unfair is what I think is very aptly illustrated with the following image:

I came to this conclusion as I was coloring with Megan and Jessica last night (you can read about it right here).  No one’s hair really flows like that!

It has been on my mind.

4 Nov

Good ‘ole Cecil said this in his opening address at the beginning of this semester.

“I worry particularly about demeaning comments made about the career or major choices of women or men either diectly or about members of the BYU community generally.  We must remember that personal agency is a fundamental principle and  that none of us has the right or option to criticize the lawful choices of another.  Please read “The Family: a Proclamation to the World” carefully and be sure that you are not misinterpreting or misrepresenting the words of the prophets or injecting your own bias or preferences”   http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=1914

I knew there was a reason I liked President Samuelson so much. bravo Cecil. Bravo.

“Personal agency is a fundamental principle and…none of us has the right or option to criticize the lawful choices of another.”

Everyone has different things they are supposed to do, and different ways to do them.  We should not, and according to President Samuelson, do not even have the ‘option’ to look down on people for the choices they make in their lives.  For some men and women the right thing to do is stay at home with their children.  For some men and women, the right thing to do is to achieve a steady and successful career.  There is no “one-size-fits-all” role for any of us.  It is important that we prayerfully ask and find out what will be the best thing for US.  For ourselves and our families.  Understand that what is best for you may not be the same thing that is best for the people around you.  But don’t let that stop you.

A friend who I respect and admire more than I can even explain has shared some of their own thoughts about the subject with me in an e-mail conversation.  I particularly appreciate discussing such things with them because they know that their future should be very different from what I think mine will be, and that is ok.  It means a lot to both of us that “we can treat each other as equals and recognize that we can go two different ways from the same really spiritual ideas.”  We know that “motherhood is more than folding laundry and making fishsticks (and I add here that fatherhood is more than going to work from 8-5 and mowing the lawn) and anyone that thinks it can only be done in one, single way has important things to work on.”

Look around you.  There are infinite ways to be successful in life.

I am grateful that the people in my life right now are teaching me how to find that right life for me.  They let me know that it is my choice.  Not what the BYU norm is, not what I am expected to do,  and not even what I always thought my life was going to be.  My life plans are changing…and fast.  But it is ok, because I have a roommate who wakes me up for school, a best friend who sends me journals because she knows that my sanity is directly related to my possession of blank pages to fill, TOM party companions who give me nothing but support, laughter and chocolate, and an Evan who looks at me with the same look he has when he is singing or directing music…except even better.

“Y’know you inspired me, doing what you did, going off on your own like that”–Max from Penelope

1 Nov

Holy Cow.

I don’t think I will ever know why exactly I love the movie Penelope so much.  I watch it ALL THE TIME.  And it makes me tear up every time.

There is no other movie that comes even close to the same level for me.  This one time I watched it, and then started it over and watched it again.

The most relaxing, stress relieving, and comforting activity for me is to curl up in bed with my laptop, crank up the electric blanket, and watch all 98 glorious minutes of the movie–which I did today since Mary Ann was gone FOREVER, thus being unavailable to hang out/sleep/make pizza/talk about life and Evan was being all responsible and doing homework, thus being unavailable to snuggle/watch a movie/go on a walk/help me with my astronomy projects.

 

One of the many amazing songs on the soundtrack:

 

And don’t even try to tell me this is not the best movie kiss you have ever seen: