Let’s Be Real For a Minute

Happy New Year, y’all! I still can’t believe 2014 is over and gone. That had to be the fastest year of my life. I reflected back on it as I wrote our family Christmas letter, and concluded that it was a fantastic year. And it was, truly. We went on trips, and rode our bikes, and finally sodded our backyard and enjoyed the heck out of that grass. The Mister got a new job, and Turbo turned two(!). I made a breakthrough in my writing, and read some terrific books.

Yes, 2014 was a great year.

But as my reflection continued through the last week, I’ve realized something else.

2014 was a hard year.

I’ve mentioned bouts of depression and my dark night of the soul last summer, but in reality, I spent most of the year depressed. See, I have bipolar disorder. I’d planned on making this clever video when I came out about my illness, in which I talked about my story–and I still will do that one day because I’m passionate about banishing the stigma around mental illness–but, I don’t know, it just feels like it’s time. And frankly, I’ve had a crap week and feel like being real with y’all.

I don’t sugarcoat my life to make it seem perfect. I feel I’ve been honest about other struggles, and my Facebook account is littered with pictures of my nowhere-near-pristine home, but I am very personal about some things (total INFJ here), and emotional struggle is one of those things. I have a hard time opening up about it to anyone, including my sisters and the Mister, the people I’m closest to in this big, crazy world. It’s hard for me to be vulnerable, but this year I’ve learned that’s one of the things holding my writing back.

So I’m finally opening up. It feels good.

Anyhow, so, I have bipolar disorder, yes, and I’ve been in a long depressive episode … actually, for most of Turbo’s life. (Not because of him, because he’s wonderful and gives me so much joy and peace, but parenthood is hard, and also, sleep is very very important for my mental health, and it’s not as consistent these days.) But especially this year, and that’s because of one thing: we have been trying to get pregnant. Actually, since September of 2013. And in order to do that, I had to go off my meds. So, other than a brief bout of hypomania last January and February, and a few days here and there, the name of the game has been depression. It was steadily getting worse, until early this fall when my dad sent me a multivitamin specially formulated for mental health. That was a game changer. I have felt much better since then. It’s not as effective as my meds, but it doesn’t have any of the negative side effects–a trade I’m more than happy with. But, I’ve still dealt with the depression through the fall, off and on, though not as bad.

And it’s been mitigated by the fact that I’m still not pregnant. It took us a year to get pregnant with Turbo, and now we’ve been trying for #2 for 15 months, and let me just tell you … it sucks. I hate trying to get pregnant, really and truly. I know I need to relax, that it will happen when it happens, but that’s easier said than done. Much easier. Every month, no matter what my mental state was prior, when I found out I wasn’t pregnant, I’d get launched into (or further into) depression for a few days. It feels like this sticky spider’s web that I can never be completely free of. I’ll get some distance from it sometimes, and think I’m in the clear, then I lose my footing and it snaps me back into its hold.

So when I look back on 2014, I see two sides. The bright side, filled with memories with my family and friends, of all the fun I’ve had and all that I’ve done. And the dark side, the times I’ve cried (and there have been more than a few), the days I’ve spent unwashed, clad in my bathrobe, managing to take care of my child and little else. It’s quite the dichotomy for 12 months.

I was looking over my resolutions, and I blew almost all of them … except two: devote nap time to writing and leave nights for cleaning and reading. I did a pretty good job with those last year, and because of that, I wrote 40k words and read 25 books. That doesn’t sound like a lot, and I know other people did way more than that, but I’m proud of it.

This post is getting really long, and I’m worried it’s starting to sound whiny (another reason I don’t like talking about my struggles too much–I’m naturally an optimistic person). I doubt anyone has read this far, but I needed to write it. I need to be more vulnerable. In fact, I promise from here on out, I will be open about what I’m going through.

I made a decision earlier this week. There are so many things that aren’t in my control. Getting pregnant, my mental health (somewhat yes and somewhat no), my child’s behavior, the weather, my hair … there are so few things actually in my control. But there are some things. Like whether or not I write. So I need to take a tip from Elsa and let go that which I can, and take charge of what little is left. I’ve long touted the 100 Words a Day Challenge, and I’ll continue to stick by it … this time, with no excuses. Yesterday I felt like crap, but I managed 142 words (after typing stuff like, “blah blah blah I need to write what should I write let’s see last time we met Sloane, she was …”). They weren’t good words, but they were words, and I felt better after. Much better.

I’m going to make the best of 2015, no matter what it throws at me. And if I have another year like 2014, another year of stark contrast, of great joy and terrible heartache? Well, I’ll survive. And I’ll do it, in part, by writing.

No excuses.

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10 thoughts on “Let’s Be Real For a Minute

  1. la.girl says:

    So this is Kristi from Converse. And while I’m not bipolar, I have pretty fierce OCD (like, life-impairing but not the wash-my-hands-20-times kind), nearly debilitating anxiety, and depression that is extremely medication-resistant, to the tune of me taking a DNA test to see if there are any medications that WOULD work for me.

    So I tell you this for two things:

    1. You aren’t alone. And it is hard, so damn hard to write when I feel like this, but I’m trying, too, and it feels good to know that someone else might be struggling and trying through this kind of crap when everyone else makes it look so easy. I understand the depression better than I ever wanted to, so if you want to hit someone up that has first-hand experience when it’s hard to talk to your people (it’s pretty hard to talk to my people about it, too) let me know. <3 kristib44@gmail.
    2. Please, oh please, tell me more of this vitamin.

    Oh, one more: you are brave, and fierce, and awesome, for saying all these things.

    • Kris Atkins says:

      Hi Kristi! Thanks for commenting. :) I’ve got some gnarly OCD symptoms and anxiety too. It’s always nice to know who else is in the trenches.

      I’ll email you about the vitamin. It’s helped me so much, and others I know. I hope it can be the answer for you!

  2. angelicarjackson says:

    I struggled with depression a lot in 2014, too, and also spoke out about it for the first time. For me, I think it was Robin Williams’s suicide that made me reach out–to help break the stigma, hopefully. Also last year, my stepdad got diagnosed with dementia, and it was so sad to see my mom struggle with it completely on her own because she felt such shame about it. I know some of that is a generational thing, but it was so frustrating to feel like the only thing in the way of her reaching out for support from those around her, who love her, was her own prejudices and fears. So I decided all I could do was not make that same decision for myself, and to reach out when I need help, as you have done. Brava to you for doing so!

    • Kris Atkins says:

      I got really outspoken on Facebook after Robin Williams’s death. I’m sorry to hear about your mom and stepdad. That’s so sad and heartbreaking. I do think there’s a generational thing there that we don’t have to deal with … as much. But by speaking out, and showing that just because we have mental illness we’re not “crazy,” we can change that! Thanks for the note, Angelica!

  3. crystalschubert says:

    Aw, man. Conceiving. It’s so so hard. We took a long time to get pregnant, too, and it was one of the darkest times of my life. Seeing others getting pregnant made me horrifically bitter and angry, especially if it was accidental, and even after it did work I hated the fact that it was so hard, that I couldn’t have a carefree pregnancy due to prior losses, and that I had to have a freaking surgery in order for it to happen. Those emotions aren’t pretty and they are part of the reason we are considering stopping with one child.

    I have pretty severe anxiety issues, but my closest friend is bipolar and so I know that what I deal with is nothing compared. The two combined—trying to conceive with bipolar—has got to be rough. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with all that.

    I don’t really have any advice or words of wisdom, as much as I want to pretend I do, but I really just wanted to lend some words of support. You aren’t alone and you will get through it.

    • Kris Atkins says:

      Thanks, Crystal, for your support! My infertility issues are nothing compared to yours–and I don’t even know if I can call them that. So I guess we’re flip flopped on those two spectrums. I’m so sorry what you had to go through; I can only imagine how hard and trying that must’ve been. Now you’ve got your little squishy and I’m so happy for you! And I don’t blame you for considering stopping at one. I’ve always wanted three or four, but two (if we even get there) may have to be enough. I guess I’m not saying a whole lot either beyond offering you support too. :)

  4. Kate Scott says:

    Kris, thank you for sharing all of this. I’m not bi-polar, and I’ve known you are for most of the time I’ve known you. But your words still touched me. Everyone has struggles in life and you are dealing with a lot, gracefully.

    Knowing what to share and how to share it is always hard. I feel like this post was beautifully written. You kept private some truly private parts of your life, but still managed to honestly share your emotional state. This post is testament to your skill as an author, and one of the many things you should be proud of.

    I hope 2015 has just as many happy times as 2014, and I also hope you are able to find balance and stability through vitamins, writing, or any other outlet available. Happy New Year!

  5. Miss Cole says:

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. I really admire your strength and openness. I really hope it’ll help you find your way this year. Please don’t feel like you can’t reach out to others. You *deserve* support, especially when there are so many people in your life who love you. Also, you’re an incredibly eloquent and talented writer! Basically, you’re an all-round lovely person, and I am hoping for the absolute best for you.

    I’ll keep you in my thoughts, and I hope 2015 is a good year for you <3

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