Beyond Honored

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This blog started out as a journal for me. It was a way for me to get through my day. In the last eight months, it has evolved into something bigger. Going back, it is like watching a baby learning how to walk. There was a lot of stumbling before I managed to catch my balance. Honestly, I am still trying to get there. I have discovered that a blogging voice doesn’t just happens. It evolves. It grows into that resonating sound your followers come back for. And even at the risk of losing some you have to continue with that growth.

I think the biggest surprise of this short journey is the change in myself.  I just want to take a minute to applaud every single blogger out there. It takes a special kind of bravery to put your thoughts and feeling out into the internet. I knew the more that I shared, the more of a risk I was taking. Mental Illness is still a closeted subject.  But you can’t move forward if you aren’t willing to let go of what is behind you. I decided to let go and let people into my world. I took a risk and it indeed paid off.

I have been nominated by someone for the WEGO Health Activist Award under the category of Rookie of the Year. I can’t even describe how incredibly humbled and honored I am. For someone to take notice is something beyond all of my imagination. I am still in such shock. I am stumbling on how to put my feelings into words that truly describe how I feel. To be honest, when I first found out I cried. I thought it wasn’t real. Like some kind of a trick my mind was playing on me. I am friends with many bloggers. Bloggers who are established and really going places. I often feel like the little tag along sister amongst them. I never felt as I was in the same realm or caliber as them. Between this nomination and the conference, I feel like I am definitely headed in the right direction.

What is a WEGO Health Activist?

WEGO Health Activist Awards celebrate leaders in online health communities. Health activists are influencers, organizers, connectors, leaders and contributors who are passionate about helping others lead healthier lives.

WEGO Health is a different kind of social media company – our mission is to empower the top 10% of online health social media contributors to connect with each other and with health care companies. We call these passionate people Health Activists – they’re community leaders, bloggers, on Facebook, on Twitter, leading online forums, and usually “all of the above.

What does Rookie of the Year mean?

The Rookie of the Year Award is for the Health Activist who has just recently (this year) began blogging, sharing, posting, or tweeting, but who, in your opinion, is already the epitome of an advocate.

So now the hard part. I am asking you to please take the time and vote for me. All you have to do is click on the purple box that says “Endorse Lauren Kocher”. You just need your name and email address. That is all. In return you will receive my eternal gratitude. Please click on the picture below and help me make it to the finals!

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Braver on Paper

Believe in youSo I am still coming down from the high of being at The MomCon. There really is no true way of explaining the feeling that you get from being in a room full of powerful female bloggers and entrepreneurs whom also happen to be mothers. It is truly inspiring to know that I am not alone in my style of parenting and my thought process. I was even bold enough to tweet my goal of one day having a TED talk about motherhood and bipolar disorder. Like I said, I was on a high. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to keep my anxieties at bay. I am honestly braver on paper.

On my 1 1/2hr drive down, I imagined all the connections and new friendships I would form. I was really going to put myself out there. This public function was going to be different this time. Something I tell myself pretty much every time. Yet, I could feel the anxiety creeping up on me before I had even pulled into the parking lot. It was triggered by the fact that I was almost 45minutes late getting there. Meet and Greet was at 8:30 am and I pulled into the parking lot at 9:05a. By the time I found a spot and made it to the conference room, it was 9:15am. I honestly hate, nothing in the world more than being late. I think it stems back from being in school. That overwhelming awkwardness of walking into class late. All of your peers staring at you waiting for you to take your seat. The teacher standing at the front of the class with the look of annoyance. I am starting to sweat just thinking about it.

While my being late wasn’t that truly dramatic. They had already started with introductions and everyone was seated at the tables. So I had to stand in the doorway waiting for the right moment to find a seat. I find it incredibly rude to move around when someone is speaking. So this led to even more unneeded anxiety. So I finally saw my chance and dashed my way over to a table that had an open spot. After listening to a few speakers, I started to feel better. I realized that I was in the right place. I thought to myself,” I can do this”. I can mingle and get to know people and the whole shebang.

Five minutes. Five minutes into the first break, I realized I had no idea what I was doing. It took five minutes for me to go from,” I can do this” to “What the hell was I thinking?!?!?”As I sit here typing this, I am angry with myself. I squandered so much opportunity. I can’t even give you a valid excuse to why, except I didn’t want to throw up. I remember sitting in the room thinking how natural it seems to come to other people. Then I would get frustrated with myself because I couldn’t understand why the body does this to me. I just wanted to scream. I know that it probably wasn’t easy for some people and it just looked that way. But I can’t even manage to fake it. I got the nerve to talk to a speaker. I waited in the line. Finally, when I got to her, I started to ramble and sputter. I honest to God told her that I was horrible at talking to people. It just blurted out because I couldn’t get any other words to come out. I may as well told her I like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. At the end of the day, I honestly wanted to just cry. I balled the whole was from Cranberry to home.

I was so embarrassed I didn’t want to talk about my anxiety mishaps. So when husband asked how it went I talked about the speakers. As I spoke about their words my feelings about the day started to change. I remembered that I shared my dream with my 144 twitter followers. My one tweet was then retweeted by another account which has 356 followers. Also I managed to speak with Rachel Martin of Finding Joy, who was one of the speakers that day, about my dream. She was the one who originally inspired me to make the tweet in the first place. She was thrilled and wanted to make a connection to help see that through. I also spoke with an aspiring blogger and gave her some advice. I think that was the highlight of my day. I had finally come to the point where I could give others advice.

You see that day wasn’t a complete loss. I just couldn’t see it. I couldn’t see past the monster of anxiety. I couldn’t see past the lie I tricked myself to believe. I convinced myself that I wasn’t the women I was on paper. She was merely the shadow the person I would hope to someday be. Yet how could she be on paper if she didn’t already exist. She is in there hiding begging to come out. As much I would love to have a Hulk transformation. Just imagine it. I am just sitting at my laptop when suddenly I am able to rip all my anxieties right off. Through them onto the floor and what stands before you is a manifestation of the voice behind this blog. Excuse me while I swoon at the idea. However, it doesn’t usually work that way for me. And you know what that is ok. Why?

Because I continue to make small steps. This blog was the first one. I have used this as a way to really develop that woman inside. Prior to this The Bipolar Mama was just a quiet squeak of my psyche. She has now developed into something that is going to do things.

The problem with having a mental illness isn’t always the illness itself. It is the frame of mind, we are often put in. There is a lot of negativity surrounding mental illness. Unfortunately, we tend to feed on it. So much we fight with every single day from stigma to being lost in the health care system. All the negativity tends to wear on a person and change their perspective. So I am going to take a minute and name 5 positives about my mental illness:

1) It is why I am a creative person.
2) It has taught me to not judge others based on their situation.
3) I have made connections with some amazing people
4) Being different isn’t a bad thing.
5) I have come to appreciate the preciousness of life.

Can you name 5 positive things?

Hospitalization: Is is worth the stigma?

Disclaimer: The purpose of this post is to portray the inner struggle someone may go through when considering hospitalization. It is to get the conversation started. If you having thoughts of suicide or self-harm, please seek help. If you feel like hospitalization is your best option please go.

I will be honest, I am pretty good about being able to put on a front. There are days where I would love nothing more than to fall to pieces. Therapy and medication, as much as I would like to be, are just not in the cards. The problem with being a highly functional is that I am functional. Therefore, I do not qualify for medical assistance. A prime example about how the system is broken. But that is another post for another day. I often feel like I can’t do it anymore. Sometimes I consider checking myself into the local ‘green roof inn” as it is referred to by the locals. Taking a break and getting myself into a good place. Then I remembered the last time I was hospitalized and I chose to trudge on.

The day I was discharged from the local psychiatric facility. October  2002

The day I was discharged from the local psychiatric facility. October 2002

I was hospitalized once when I was 16. Honestly, some days I miss that week in my life. I was around people who understood what I was going through for the first time. It also puts into perspective while my life had some baggage it wasn’t as deep as others. I could freely talk about my down periods without judgment. The biggest bonus of it all: No Stress! It was amazing. My problems of the real world do not exist in institutional life. No toxic friendships you didn’t know how to avoid. No parents fighting. No pressures of grades. Not having to deal with bullies. It was amazing. It wasn’t real, but amazing. I mean as crappy as things can be without them you can’t measure the good things. It is a balance of living. When you are in an institution you can’t really live.

Sure, there are semi-relationships. You have a sort of camaraderie. A common ground, but it isn’t real. Now before someone starts freaking out by that give me a minute to explain. There is a lot of control in a place like that. So bonds easily form because you don’t have outside stressors coming into play. Plus relationships are the smallest ounce of normalcy you can hold onto. I mean at home there isn’t bed checks, med passes or strict routines. It doesn’t take long for you to fall into the routine and lose yourself. Relationships are like the anchor to reality. Plus at least in my case, I was so desperate for a real friendship, I would have made friendships with lamp post if I knew we would be bff’s forever. But in the end, it’s all not real. Life is not simple and neat. There are no routine med passes with nurses making sure you swallowed your pills. There isn’t an orderly checking on you every so often to make sure that you haven’t attempted to kill yourself. There is no one to tell you how to manage your day.

The stigma of your disorder is real. Your problems are real. And in most cases your outside relationships are real. They don’t disappear while you are hospitalized. It is almost like your life is on pause until you to step out those front doors. Then the universe hits play. It is horribly jarring. I think it is why most people fail at their post-discharge treatment. When you are in the hospital you can work on getting well enough so you can be sent back out. Back into the world that put you in there in the first place. I think that we need a transitioning program in place for those leaving hospitalization. A halfway house of sorts. A place where they can adjust to the stresses of the real world at a slower pace. Really learn how to adjust and properly take care of themselves before flying on their own. I mean this is asking for a lot. Hell, I can’t get help just to see a therapist. Once cannot properly describe the feeling you have when you feel like you finally have it together and you are then greeted with shame. I think honestly with being hospitalized for any mental illness is the mother of all stigmas.

Hospitalization it just a mar on your record that most people can’t get past. If I went into the hospital now, it wouldn’t be, “Oh, she got herself the help she needed.” It would be,”Oh, how could she be so selfish and abandon her children and husband.” People can see past you having a mental illness. People can brush off something like depression. But to put yourself into a hospital or worse be put there by a doctor. Well, you may as well just tell people you are a hooker. It is sad. All you hear about is how “us” people need to get help. It is available to us. But why even take it, if we are only going to be ostracized further. It is like borrowing money from a loan shark. Sure, it will help but at a price. And in this world that bitch is steep. I remember that my mom would only tell those who were not close family that I was sick and in the hospital. Never specific to what illness I had or where I was in the hospital. I had that I was a minor to my advantage. If my parent’s didn’t give the hospital permission to give whoever called an update they ccouldn’t. If I wanted to tell my friends, I had the choice.

I am still grateful for her making that decision. I was picked on as it was in school, I didn’t need any further fuel. Besides my own ‘friends” decided that I only did it for the attention. I was emotional as it was from the whole experience, only to have it completely dismissed by my peers. Sure, I could blame it on the fact that they were seniors in high school but I know better. I know that I would have been treated the same whether I was a teen or an adult. I was bitter for a very long time about it. I fought with my mother to take my meds because of what people thought. I was tired of being judged and talked about. I was tired of my feelings being negated as a mood swing. I was sick of being introduced as being the “crazy’ friend. And the public can’t imagine why we avoid hospitalization like Ebola. (Too soon?)

I would sooner slowly implode on myself than go back to the hospital. Maybe if I become seriously desperate. However, as long as I have my blog to use at least as an outlet, I am staying put. I will wake up every morning going into battle. It is better than people thinking less of me. I am sure there are people who say it should matter what the outside world think. But that is a load of BS. We aren’t designed that way. Approval from our peers is just in our nature. It is a part of who we are. Maybe the next time you come across someone who is on their last leg, let them know that you will stand by them after they get out. You will help them until they are steady on their feet. Show them it doesn’t matter as long as they are doing what is best for them.

Have you ever avoided hospitalization because of the fear of stigma? Or have you felt the stigma after being hospitalized?