An Open Letter from Mentally Ill Woman, Leah Dick

A long time reader of mine recently pointed me towards a blog post written by an in recovery mentally ill woman. The reason she pointed it out to me is because the author, Leah Dick, touched on many of the points I regularly encourage and promote about what it means to recover, find wellness, function in a relationship with a mentally ill person, and thrive in life with a mental illness. With Leah’s permission, I am linking out to her post “An Open Letter from a Mentally Ill Woman to the Man Who Wants to Date Her”. I would encourage you to read her post either before or after reading this post. Much of what I will discuss in this post will be what I see in her writing and how it relates to the journey.

Before I dive into that, I’m assuming you’ll end up reading this post, Leah. Congratulations on your recovery, continued work at recovery, and four years of being clean! Never forget how far you’ve come when your mind grows dark. I know how hard it can be as someone who has walked similar paths.

About Communication

It is no secret that I love blunt, direct people and encourage more people to discuss what is on their minds. Why? Communication is essential to the success of any relationship. It is even MORE IMPORTANT when you are trying to be in a relationship involving mental illness. Case in point, I recently had a commenter tell me that she was offended that I would suggest a loved one be direct and tell their partner if the person was acting unstable. That commenter’s response was “I would be infuriated if they did that.”

And what good would that do? How is that person’s loved ones supposed to communicate that said commenter is unwell if she happens to miss it? No one gets self-management 100% perfect. Compare that to Leah’s demeanor and approach. In her post, she clearly states that she understands what she needs to do to manage and that she is at a point in her recovery process where a majority of the work is maintenance. There’s no hints at anger about her situation or rebelling against the idea that she is mentally ill, that it can have a drastic affect on her perception. Leah clearly states what pitfalls a potential suitor is going to experience by acknowledging and putting forward the challenges she faces.

In my experience, a person like Leah wouldn’t respond with anger at the suggestion. Her words suggest that she is at peace with her challenges and deals with them in a very direct way. On the other hand, if things were going poorly for someone who did have strong management practices, they may respond with anger at the suggestion because reactions while unwell aren’t always rational. But when Leah finds a partner she can trust, who she knows has a decent understanding of who she is, that person’s words can serve as another anchor to reality if she was drifting unwell without realizing it.

The aforementioned commenter is a victim to a very common pollutant in internet advocacy spaces. That is the idea that any suggestion of potential instability if a Bipolar person is angry or sad should be taken with offense. Assuming the loved ones involved are not toxic assholes themselves, they will come to understand the differences between unwellness and emotions if their mentally ill loved one helps them understand the difference. And if they are toxic assholes, then it doesn’t matter what you do or say to those people, they aren’t going to be a help. So the idea that “oh I should be angry if someone suggests I’m unwell” just makes it harder for a person like that commenter to utilize their support network.

About Idiocy

Leah’s open letter addresses quite a bit of the idiocy that surrounds romanticizing mental illness. From the presumably damaged man who thought that her former habit of “injecting opiates was ‘kind of hot’” to the misinformed notion that “better does not mean cured”. Leah rightfully points out that wellness and recovery are a lifetime commitment. It’s a work in progress. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Even though Leah acknowledges she still faces many problems relating to intimacy and security; she is fully aware of her hurdles and works to overcome them. It doesn’t mean getting them right 100% of the time. The fact that she can look at them objectively and identify them as problems gives her a significant edge in actually overcoming them.

And the buzzwords and well-intentioned ass-patting! I laughed when she pointed out that buzzwords like “brave” and “strong” come up when she is trying to discuss these things; and that she smiles and changes the subject.

I do a similar thing, except my strategy is to thank the person for their kind words and then ask the person about something that interests them. It quickly shifts their focus away from that line of thinking. (And works very well, Leah! Feel free to use it.)

I’m no better than anyone else. Never have been. Never will be. I’m using the hand I was dealt in a way that I feel makes the most of it. Plus, arrogance is a major hypomanic symptom for me. If I start getting too far up my own ass about myself, it’s a pretty solid indicator that I’m starting to escalate.

And then there is the statement that she hears, “Oh, but you’re not crazy. Don’t say that.” The version I usually get is “You don’t seem Bipolar.” Same thing, different words. My response is typically “How do Bipolar people seem?” or “What is crazy?” It’s funny to me how so many people have such solid opinions on concepts they can’t define. They have this intangible idea in their mind of what Bipolar Disorder or mental illness is supposed to be; but they don’t actually know how the medical industry defines it for the purpose of separating insanity from quirkiness.

A Powerful Phrase

A phrase that Leah bolded in her text is worth drawing attention to. Hell, I’ll even bold it too.

I want you to see me as a whole person, not just as my mental illness and not without it.”

I find myself telling people versions of this constantly. To the mentally ill struggling to find an identity without their mental illness and avoid it. To the loved ones of mentally ill people who don’t think it should ever affect them. To the point who think that they can isolate themselves, protecting those around them from any potential damage the mental illness can cause.

It’s part of us. It’s one facet of the entire picture. We must each find peace and a way to cope that makes sense to us as individuals. I am a loud and vocal proponent of working with the mental health professionals to find success. I feel this is an essential component of pursuing wellness, whether it is through therapy or medication. But still, there are nuances that are important to each of us as individuals.

Leah mentions that she got her tattoos in her more foolhardy days. I did not. My forearm pieces mean many things to me. At the deepest level, they are both there to remind me of the paths I’ve already walked and managed to survive. Even though I manage well today, Bipolar-Depression is a serious problem for me. As I get older, I am sure that I will end up warring with suicidal thoughts again. One serves as a reminder of the suicide attempts I am lucky to have come through. The other serves to remind me of my dedication to advocacy work; the people struggling to understand and find their own path.

The people I’ve discussed this with seem to think it’s a bit extreme. That there is no reason for me to broadcast I’m Bipolar or battled with depression that regularly took me into suicidal depths. In my mind, it’s no different than discussing what food I like to eat or being stoked for Fallout 4 being released tomorrow (yay!). These things are part of me.

The people who try to treat it like some minor piece of themselves that they can compartmentalize are setting back their own progress. No matter what we do, our mental illness will touch the people we care about, sooner or later. The best thing we can do is acknowledge it, plan for it, and educate our loved ones on how to handle it.

And Finally…

This letter will save you a lot of time if you show it to men who express interest in the future, Leah. In a dip of depression and feeling alone myself, I ended up signing up with an online dating site. I wrote a similar introduction for myself. That unwell thought process ran it’s course pretty quick, but I decided to leave it up just to see how things would go.

I read a few different profiles and it was very amusing to me how veiled most people tried to be with who they are as a person. My curiosity grew on what kind of people would respond to or want to see an introverted, overweight, openly Bipolar man with a broken smile, still working to build his life from the ashes, with a sense of style that falls somewhere around Tres Chic Hobo.

I ended up befriending three other Bipolar women and a handful of normal people who appreciated my bluntness in regards to who I am. It very effectively narrowed the pool to the kind of people I would want to be around on a regular basis. No inane conversations. No waste of money or time. Simple and brutally effective. Probably the most amusing part of that whole ordeal was a multi-page message of advice on “being too blunt and scaring people off”. Appreciated the time the person spent on the message. But in my mind, anyone that would be scared off by a few paragraphs of text probably isn’t going to handle being a part of difficult situations well.

Well, if you have not, I encourage you to head on over and check out Leah’s “An Open Letter from a Mentally Ill Woman to the Man Who Wants to Date Her” and her blog. She doesn’t appear to do a whole lot of writing on mental health, but more on fashion and related subjects. So if that’s your thing, maybe have a look around, give her a follow, or perhaps some warm wishes on her own journey.

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An Open Letter: The Guilt of an Unwell Cycle

Every once in awhile, I will sit down and write an Open Letter style post that a reader can hand off to a loved one who may be struggling. This one is on the crushing guilt that many of us feel after the unwell cycle ends and we are confronted with the devastation we unleashed on the lives of our loved ones.

To Whom It May Concern;

Hey there. My name is Dennis. I’m a 35 year old, Type 2 Bipolar with severe Bipolar-Depression and High-Functioning Autism. I spent 15 years undiagnosed and unmedicated, with all of the “fun” that goes along with that. About six years ago, I started working towards my recovery. A few years after that, I began my own advocacy efforts to help people such as you and your loved ones find your way through the confusion, chaos, and misery that often accompanies Bipolar Disorder.

If you’re reading this, which you clearly are or you wouldn’t know what I was saying, chances are pretty good that you’ve done damage to the people you love due to an unwell cycle and feel awful about it. Many of the people that reach out to me are the friends, family members, and loved ones of people such as yourself who are trying to figure out how they can help you.

I know, from personal experience, that their words aren’t going to cut through what you’re feeling. There are two potential reasons.

The first? Escalated cycles of Bipolar Disorder are often followed by a very severe depressive cycle when your brain finally crashes. As anyone with depression can attest, there isn’t a whole lot of light, hope, or positivity in that mental space.

The second? Pretty words don’t take the guilt away when a Bipolar person genuinely feels bad about how their unwell actions upended the lives of their loved ones. A severe unwell cycle can unleash devastation into the lives of the people you love with the magnitude of a hurricane.

You may blame yourself, but it is not your fault. Would you have done those things if you were not severely unwell? Probably not. The fact that you feel bad or guilty about it is actually a good thing. There are plenty of assholes and toxic people in this world who just don’t care how their actions affect the people around them. I hear from the loved ones of those people on a regular basis as well.

No amount of feeling bad or guilty is going to unmake your actions. The past is the past. It’s done, though it may not be over with. Bipolar Disorder is certainly the cause of many horrible actions, but the Disorder does not prevent you from rendering apologies, working to repair the damage that your mental illness was responsible for, and working to ensure it does not happen again.

Do you want to repair that damage? Start with an apology to the people you wounded, but never apologize for being Bipolar. This is a point that is often confused in advocacy circles a lot, particular on the internet. “You shouldn’t apologize for being you!” No, but you should apologize when you deal damage to the people you care about. Not because you’re sorry about being Bipolar, but to acknowledge that you understand you caused them hurt and want to make that better.

Do you want to make it up to the people you damaged? Commit yourself to making sure another severe unwell cycle cannot happen again. Bipolar Disorder can seem like a daunting, intangible beast. The big reason for that is how it strikes each person who lives with it in a slightly different way. What works for me won’t necessarily work for you and vice versa.

But you can learn to interpret the Disorder. You can learn how it affects you specifically. You can visit your doctor or a therapist to develop better skills in coping with it. You can go to a support group to be around and learn from other people who have already experienced problems similar to yours.

There are many things you can do to work towards controlling Bipolar Disorder instead of allowing it to destroy and destabilize your life over and over. It will if you let it. We can, however, learn to manage it and exert greater control over it.

You and your loved ones do not have to continue to be victims of Bipolar Disorder. You can fight it tooth and nail. You can build your body of knowledge on the Disorder and use it to fight for recovery.

It’s not an easy path. It’s really easy to get confused or lost along the way. It’s easy to get frustrated with the tedious nature of pursuing meaningful wellness. It’s not a fast process for most people. It takes time to see what works and what doesn’t. But when things start working? Well, just imagine if you had been able to intercept and head off just one of the severe unwell cycles you’ve experienced in your life. How different would things be? How much better could they be?

Bipolar Disorder is a severe mental illness. It’s not something you can just ignore and everything will work out okay. It’s a problem we need to commit ourselves to combating.

I did it. You can do it, too. You may not get it perfect. I sure as hell don’t. But you can pursue a higher quality of life and reduce the impact of your mental illness on the people you love.

The first step, whether you are new to the recovery process or simply stumbled on your path, is talking to a knowledgeable mental health professional. Find yourself a doctor or a therapist, tell them what happened, ask questions, and see what options are available to you for pursuing wellness. Whether it’s lifestyle changes, therapy, or medication; the only way to know what works for you is to start trying.

You don’t have to be a victim. Stand up. Fight. Fight for yourself. Fight for the people you love. Don’t spend too much time mourning the past, build yourself a better future.

Believe me when I tell you that you’re not the only one who has ever felt the pain and guilt that you feel. Many of us have done things that are just as bad and worse.

I’m not a doctor. I’m not one of your normal friends or loved ones trying to comfort you. I am a Type 2 Bipolar with a history that includes one active and six passive suicide attempts, homelessness, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, two broken engagements, multiple broken relationships, multiple lost jobs, and more. As someone who has lived a path similar to yours, I am telling you that things can get better if you work to make them better.

Sincerely,

-Dennis

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The War Against Mental Health Stigma

There are many days where a circumstance causes me to question if I’m nuts or if it’s everyone else. The war against stigma is one of those subjects. I would say that at least 50% of the discussion I read or hear on it is completely unreasonable with impossible goals. And what’s worse is that unreasonable, impossible discussions make it harder for other people to come to reasonable conclusions about us. Walk with me as I rant about this further. And allow me to infuriate some readers almost immediately!

Is Stigma Ever Fair or Reasonable?

Yes. It is. Google defines stigma as a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.”

But Dennis, how can that ever be fair or reasonable? I can’t help what I am!”

Since I launched my website and started engaging in regular advocacy work, I have found that many of the people that harbor the worst feelings about Bipolar people and Bipolar Disorder had good reason to feel that way. They had Bipolar parents who abused and tormented them. They married a Bipolar person who cleaned them out and destroyed their lives. Their adult Bipolar child was toxic and refused to do anything to help themselves, burning them out and draining them of emotional and financial resources.

To suggest that these people would not, should not be fearful of Bipolar people is stupid. If you’re walking down an alleyway, someone jumps out of a door way, robs you, and stabs you; you’re going to develop a wariness and discomfort of cutting down alleyways with easy places for people to hide. Right? And that’s a pretty quick exchange in general. Imagine someone who suffered for decades at the hands of a toxic Bipolar person. Are they going to be running around with open arms to other Bipolar people? Hell no. They’re going to be wary, angry, and fearful.

And they have every right to be.

Bipolar Disorder Should Be Addressed with Respectful Fear

Do you respect Bipolar Disorder? Do you fear it? If you don’t, you need to at least a little. Deaths. Abuse. Gaslighting. All it takes is a single severe unwell cycle to do some shit that you can never take back. Maybe you’ve never had a severe unwell cycle before. Many unwell cycles do not always reach such extremes that we are a threat to ourselves or other people. However, each and every one of us has the potential to land in such a cycle. It can be stress in your life. It can be a bad reaction to medication. It can be anything that, for whatever reason, sends a Bipolar mind into destructive unwell cycle.

I’ve been through a lot in my life. There isn’t a whole lot that makes me genuinely afraid. What does? What goes in my brain when I have a Mixed Cycle. I’ve had three in my life and I remember each of them distinctly because of how awful I felt and how hateful they made me. My last one was so bad it was the reason I sought psychiatric help after contemplating murdering a bunch of people and killing myself. That wasn’t that shocking. I had thoughts like that off and on through the years. What was terrifying is how good of an idea I thought it was and that I had the capability to carry it out. That was enough to get me in for a psychiatric evaluation once I was jarred out of those thoughts.

My respect and fear for what is in my brain is what helps me stay compliant when I really don’t want to. When I’m sick of dealing with meds and doctors and all other other crap that goes along with trying to stay mentally well. I cannot lose to that Monster in my mind because if I do, the end will not be pretty.

And what if you’ve never had that experience? Well hey, Bipolar Disorder gets worse with age, not better. Tomorrow or five years from now you could have an unwell cycle that an intensity that you’ve never experienced before. You have to be prepared for that. The people that we love and that love us do too.

Much Stigma is Rooted in Irrational Fear

Do you want to meaningfully combat stigma? Then you have to come to terms with Bipolar Disorder and what it means to others. You need to put yourself in the shoes of the people who have suffered at the hands of other Bipolar people. Even if you’re not toxic, if you’d never dream of hurting or wounding another person in such a severe way, the fact that you’re Bipolar is going to instill fear in those people. And no, it’s not rational and it’s not fair. But it’s also not fair that others are victimized by toxic people of all kinds. Having compassion for those people takes nothing away from your own position and place in the world. Compassion takes nothing away from your own struggles or difficulties in life.

And it is a way to meaningfully combat stigma. To be able to listen, hear what they have to say, and be able to show them that a Bipolar person can care about their suffering as opposed to inflicting it.

All of the sugar-coated, flowery poetic bullshit that so many people peddle about Bipolar Disorder just drives those people further away. They KNOW how awful we have the potential to be because they experienced it first hand. Of course they aren’t going to respond well to that. Of course they’re going to think we’re lying manipulators touting that garbage.

I view other mentally ill people as my brothers and sisters in this war for well-being and peace of mind. I want us all to be treated humanely. Note that I used the word humanely, not kindly. Some of us cannot be treated kindly because some of us are toxic, abusive, whirlwinds of destruction who would be completely terrible people even if they weren’t mentally ill. Like it or not, we have to do our part to combat the shit these people put into the world and treat their victims with the same compassion that we would want for ourselves. Their pain and struggles are no less important than ours.

That is, for those of us that are able to. I am well aware that not everyone has the desire or ability to engage in these struggles. That’s okay, too. Staying well, sane, and balanced should always be our priority.

To combat irrational fear, we must introduce rational knowledge. And in my mind, that means not glossing over the severe damage that we have the capability of inflicting on the people around us.

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Bipolar Disorder: A Tirade on Internet Non-Information

So I had originally planned a different blog post for today, but after someone showed me the included image graphic and “study,” I decided it would be a better idea to post my thoughts on it instead. I feel it is an excellent example of non-information – or information that isn’t actually useful information – about mental illness on the internet.

First, you’ll need to take a look at this link on ‘What Patients Say Works for Bipolar Disorder’ (original is Bipolar Managed Best Without Drugs: 227 Patients Respond) that a recently diagnosed Bipolar person shared with me. Said person is looking for information on how to manage the Disorder and get it under control. Like many people, that person turned to the internet for information.

Second, the rest of this post will consist of my tirade about these posts.

1. Might as well start at the beginning. Click-bait title for the first, a misleading title for the second.

2. The domains they appear on. Blogs on .com websites are not viable resources. What are? Links from some news sites, acknowledged online journals, .gov, and .edu sites. How do I know this? Because as a marketer, I did a lot of writing for law blogs that would be reviewed by the owner of the blog (the lawyers) to ensure it would pass scrutiny, including if they were dragged before a legal board to explain anything presented in it. Some news websites, acknowledged online journals, .gov, and .edu sites are MOST LIKELY (not always) to be accepted as viable resources. Nothing else, INCLUDING several news websites.

3. The use of language in the articles. You’ll note that they use words like “study,” “research,” and “research findings.” The author also uses what are called “weasel words” that remove them from legal obligation. “These findings SEEM to suggest.” Any qualifier like that renders the argument invalid as an actual resource because it leaves a legal loophole to escape from. “Oh, we didn’t say it was the ONLY way or it was the truth, we just said it SEEMED that way. It’s not our fault our readers have poor comprehension.” No, that is not an insult to anyone that overlooked it. That is the argument that would be used if they were dragged before a court on their bullshit. In the same way that it is not libel or slander if I suggest that the creators of this “study” MAY POSSIBLY be manipulative shitheads. I am not asserting that as truth, I am only implying it.

4. I see a lot of insinuation style “professional speak”. What I don’t see is a “Dr.” anywhere. So where are the doctors associated with this “study” that was conducted? Well, let me just dig a little bit through the links and…

5. Oh, neat. It’s actually an aggregation of a RANDOM ONLINE QUIZ of what various respondents answered on the quiz. So it’s not actually a study or research at all. There’s no control or doctors. The original site posted a random quiz, pulled information from it, plotted it on a chart, and called it a “study.” I’m just going to launch into a bullet-point list here to expand this thought process…

– No verification if the respondents are actually Bipolar or suffer from any other mental illness that could have skewed results. Most Bipolar people I know have multiple mental illnesses.

– No control on what other substances the respondents are putting into their body. Other meds, drugs, alcohol, and shitloads of other things can affect one’s balance.

– No quality of life control. So “Bipolar Managed Best Without Drugs”, eh? How is the “study” defining success? How is the “study” defining a meaningful, productive quality of life? Does the person who wrote the text for the “study” even understand what the hell that means?

– No identification of specifics relating to the DIFFERENT TYPES OF BIPOLAR DISORDER. Oh hey – Type 1s, Type 2s, Cyclothemic, and NOS diagnoses don’t all present the same. Therefore, each and every single person with a different diagnosis, and every person within that diagnosis is going to require a UNIQUE approach to find THEIR OWN wellness. Why? Because your brain chemistry is complex and unique to you. One size CANNOT fit all in pushing towards wellness.

– No qualifiers or control on what said “treatment” or “management” is actually meant to manage. Let’s look at the most “positive” result for managing Bipolar Disorder, according to this “study.” Exercise. How many people are aware that too much exercise can throw a Bipolar person into an escalated cycle or make it worse? Theorycrafting here; I suspect it is similar to the Fight or Flight mechanism in that the body is tricking itself into an escalated cycle. There are physiological processes that overlap that essentially trick the brain into believing it is escalated, so it escalates. Or if the person already is escalated, they may decide to hit the gym for 4-8 hours to try and work off some energy, only succeeding in further destabilizing themselves. I’ve known three different Bipolar “health nuts” who have done this to themselves – one of which ended in a successful suicide.

Exercise is absolutely healthy and helpful. It can absolutely help reduce depression and make it more manageable. But what about for a Bipolar person that is mostly functional with a high-functioning baseline? Too much exercise could throw them into an escalated cycle, torpedo their stability, or aggravate other physical health problems.

6. The ONLY thing that this link is useful for is to grab a list of common ways people try to deal with the Disorder to SPEAK WITH YOUR PROFESSIONAL ABOUT. It speaks nothing to the viability of those treatments. It says nothing of the respondents, their quality of life, or other factors that could be contributing to instability. It does not quantify whether or not respondents actually took their medication as directed, as opposed to how they thought they should. It’s just a random list of information that lets the reader fill in whatever blanks they want for themselves.

Do you want to get well? Do you want to manage the Disorder? Go to your doctor, therapist, or relevant professional and talk to them. Communicate. Explore options. If you want to try “natural management” first, great. Do it with the help of a therapist or doctor, not with the help of the “original author” Alexandra Carmichael, who, by the way, is most likely a fictitious person that they post their information under so they can just “fire/disappear” that writer if anything splashes back on the website. Which is a standard operating procedure for blogs like this, which again, I know because I’ve worked alongside of the people who do this shit.

Bipolar Disorder is a serious, severe mental illness. The ONLY way you can know what will or won’t work for YOU is by trying things the way they are meant to be tried. And if it doesn’t work, you talk to your doctor and amend your approach. You know, so you have a knowledgeable ally involved if your brain is screaming into insanity.

Mental illness is a complex medical problem where you NEED a knowledgeable person involved in some way to pursue wellness; or at least to warn you when you’re about to do something stupid that could potentially kill you.

This tirade has been brought to you by Dennis, a random Bipolar man with zero credentials. You know, a fact that the “alleged” assclowns that created this “study” failed to publicly acknowledge themselves. Alleged shitheads.

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Depression: I Should Have Felt Something…

Addition: I originally wrote this blog post in a pretty dark swing. I felt it was a good idea to demonstrate that even if you have a decent control, there are still times of struggle. So I went ahead and just wrote this while I was dark so you all could see that side of things and how I work to manage it. I’m level and fine now, for anyone concerned.

****************************

Depression robs a person of experiences and feelings. Everything is just pulled into a flat, gray place where there is little to feel. Case in point – the release of my eBook. I knew I would ramp hypomanic, and I did so. I knew I would crash back out of it relatively quickly, and I did so. What I was not counting on was my brain settling back into moderate Bipolar-Depression AFTER the depressive crash.

So once again, I’m reminded of all of the things that I should have felt – happiness, pride, a sense of accomplishment – fucking anything. I did for a bit, but I know that was all a product of the escalation. Is it possible that I’m still in the midst of a depressive crash? No. That feels like my brain is downshifting from 10th gear all the way down to neutral. It’s been a couple of days and my crashes don’t last that long. It’s definitely a depressive cycle.

And that bitter gray flavor of emotion is just a call back to the many other times in my life I should have felt something but could not because of my piece of shit brain. I remember asking my second exfiancee to marry me, her response being tears. I recall feeling so flat and wondering why she was crying. I adored that woman. A moment that should have been filled with emotion, warmth, and joy when she accepted – I felt so numb.

And finding out about my son. A time when I should felt anything at fucking all. Fear, pride, trepidation, love, curiosity – ANYTHING. But there was only the numbness, the flat gray place where everything is muted and nonexistent.

The point that many people fail to realize about Depression in general is that it doesn’t just quash the positive things. I’ve felt just as flat, pointless, and absolutely gray on hard or difficult shit that I should have cared about. Girlfriend wants to break up? Whatever. Lost job number whatever? Figures. Blah blah blah. Same bullshit, different fucking day. It pretty much just merges several days into a single long, gray day.

So I do what I’ve been doing for 20 years, what many other mentally ill people do. Plaster on a smile, thank people for the congratulations and kind words, and pretend my emotions are functioning correctly. But then there is arguably the most important point, the one that will matter to you. How to deal with it?

This is why I don’t place great stock in how I feel about various things. It doesn’t matter that I feel pretty much nothing about meeting this goal. Regardless of how I feel, it’s still out there, it will still hopefully help some people better understand the Disorder, the shit that surrounds it, and the subject matter it covers. How I feel is irrelevant – which is a phrase many people have heard me say on numerous occasions though I know most of them don’t exactly “get it”. Much of the time I feel nothing, and if I allow myself to live in that mental space I’ll never get anything accomplished.

Emotions stemming from Bipolar unwell cycles may have some root in reality, but they are not our true emotions. They are a figment of the mental illness. It’s best to set aside decisions about important things until after those feelings are back under control. If more of us could learn to do that, I think we could remove a lot of the general instability and chaos of our lives. Most decisions don’t require us to make them RIGHT NOW, but we do because our brain is screaming at us we fucking need to or our brains are overloaded with incorrect, irrational emotions.

And that’s exactly why I’ve already started working on my second eBook on maintaining friendships and relationships involving Bipolar Disorder. I know my brain is being a pile of shit at the moment and I’m not going to allow that to dictate what I am going to accomplish. Even if I feel numb and gray, it will still be out there benefiting others. Once my brain swings back into place, I’ll be pleased with that.

How I feel is irrelevant.

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Focus: Another Facet of Wellness

I spend a lot of time talking about the infrastructure and medical sides of pursuing wellness. I do my best to produce work that anyone can pick up and find something useful in. To that end, I don’t think I’ve been giving due consideration to the other aspects that significantly contribute to finding wellness. These include points like spirituality and perspective. By spirituality, I do not mean religious. I mean things that help people feel good about themselves, their lives, and push towards inner peace.

There are many routes for accomplishing these goals. Whatever works for you is great. I’m going to share some things that have helped me just to provide a place to start looking.

On Calming Fears and Controlling Intangibles

I’m often asked about the specifics on the way I address stresses in life. I’ve commented on it regularly, trying to articulate my point of view in an understandable way. But then, I read “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius and realized that someone already said what I was saying a couple thousand years ago. Aurelius is considered the father of Stoicism, which is a Westernized version of many concepts found in Zen-Buddhism. (Note: “Meditations” is a classic, historical text so it is available for free in many locations. Here is a website copy and here is a PDF copy.)

A concept I use on a regular basis involves the principle of Focus. In regards to mood disorders like anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, and depression; external stresses can cause the person to throw themselves into an unwell state or make an unwell state worse. The focus tenet essentially states to put your attention on what is before you, most important, and work passionately to accomplish that task. When that task is completed, shift your focus to the next and do the same. Break down large tasks into their basic components and focus passionately on accomplishing each of them.

You’ve probably heard many variants of this principle before.

Example 1:

Jack has bills stacking up and needs money. Therefore, his the overall goal is to find a source of income. The most obvious choice is to find a job of some kind. How do you get a job? Application and follow up. Jack is facing a lot of stresses. What’s going to happen if he can’t find a job? Where’s he going to be in a month, two months, six months? Who is going to hire him? How can find a job more effectively? What options does he have?

A lot of that bloat is unessential for his primary goal of finding a job. He needs to get applications out there to start being considered. So instead of worrying about the deluge of stresses, he focuses on finding the places to apply to and getting those applications in. It doesn’t matter how many applications he puts in. It doesn’t matter how many times he is rejected. What does matter is that he needs an income, a job, and applications are the way to accomplish that. Sooner or later, something will break loose and he will accomplish that goal.

Example 2:

Mary finally realizes that her mental illness is the root of many problems in her life. She decides to apply for Disability. Upon further research, she finds a mass of information on the system being unfair, how other people have gotten screwed, how people abuse the system, and tons of opinions on what people should do or not do. It is very easy to get caught up in those details and opinions because there are an unending amount of them. Ultimately, none of those things really matter for Mary and her path. Instead of looking at all of the other surrounding information, she should simply sit down and fill out the application to the best of her ability. All of those other opinions and extra information is unimportant, because it does not get Mary any closer to an approval or rejection. An application does.

I am not suggesting that anyone totally ignore the looming problems. They absolutely need thought about and preparations made, but there must be a limit. I cannot count the number of people with mood disorders I’ve known to make themselves unwell with continued and incessant worry over things they have no control over. Think about it, devise a course of action, and then force it out of your mind.

Assigning specific times for thought is a good idea as well. “Alright, I’m going to think about and look for a solution to X problem from 6 to 7 PM.” Do so, and then force it from your mind. There comes a point when thinking about the problem is no longer providing any benefit. It is only feeding into potential unwellness by dwelling on shit we have no control over.

No, this is not easy to do. Yes, it takes a lot of practice. And I can hear it now, “easier said than done!” Yes, everything is easier said than done. I’m not even sure why that is a saying, but whatever.

A Bipolar person can also use this to help minimize the impact of an unwell cycle once they have identified they have triggered. It’s pretty common for Bipolar people to continue to dwell and stress about the trigger they experience, which just helps propel them to a further extreme by focusing on that and all the ‘what if’s’ and intangibles that go along with it. Learning to stay in the present can help turn a potentially major unwell cycle into a minor one. Practice, practice, practice.

How I Distract Myself from Unproductive Thoughts

I have a few go to tactics that I use to distract myself from unproductive thought processes. I love stand up comedy, so I will toss on someone’s stand up special or listen to some on Youtube. I also enjoy reading and learning about things relating to financial industries, history, and archaeology. All of these subjects require undivided attention to really process and retain. If I’m focusing on understanding some economic principle, then I’m not thinking about whatever stressful thought is hanging over my head. And the last major one is Sudoku puzzles. They are logic puzzles that require active thinking to solve.

The unifying thread is that the distracting medium should requires me to actively think about the subject. In doing so, I keep my brain from just wandering back onto the subject that is currently threatening to spin me out into an unwell cycle.

The same principle is true for anxiety management. As anyone with anxiety can verify, it’s always way worse in the brain than what we will actually experience in the world. Utilizing strong self-management can help keep minor anxiety-provoking thought processes from exploding into severe ones.

These principles are also very common ones to learn from a therapist. You just have to ask.

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Bipolar Disorder and Depression: Should I Apply For Disability?

There is a lot of misinformation and relative stupidity surrounding Disability and Social Services in general. I’ve met people that view it as anything from a question of weakness and pride to validation of their being screwed up. And all of it is ridiculous to the point of stupidity.

So what is Disability? A quick Google Definition reveals the following:

any government system that provides monetary assistance to people with an inadequate or no income.

– (in the US) a federal insurance program that provides benefits to retired people and those who are unemployed or disabled.

And what is the government definition of Disabled? For that, let’s turn to the U.S. Department of Labor:

The term “disability” is defined by the federal government in various ways, depending on the context. For the purposes of federal disability nondiscrimination laws (such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Section 188 of the Workforce Investment Act), the definition of a person with a disability is typically defined as someone who (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more “major life activities,” (2) has a record of such an impairment, or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment.

For purposes of Social Security disability benefits, a person with a disability must have a severe disability (or combination of disabilities) that has lasted, or is expected to last, at least 12 months or result in death, and which prevents working at a “substantial gainful activity” level. State vocational rehabilitation (VR) offices define a person with a disability to be eligible for VR services if he or she has a physical or mental impairment that constitutes or results in a “substantial impediment” to employment for the applicant.

So what does that mean?

Simply put, if a recurring physical or mental problem prevents “substantial gainful activity”, such as gainful employment since we all need to do it, you fall under the government definition of “disabled”. All people with Bipolar Disorder fall under this umbrella. All. Now, does that mean that you are eligible for benefits? No. It does mean you can invoke rights afforded to you by the Americans with Disabilities Act and other legislation dealing with people with disabilities.

Approval for benefits comes down to proving that your disability interferes with your ability to conduct at least one major activity, usually working. A recent discussion I had featured the common sentiment of “I’m too sick to work, but not sick enough for disability.” Wrong. If you are too sick to work due to a chronic or recurring condition, then you are “sick enough” for disability! What matters after that point is proving it to the SSA.

But my doctor, family, spouse, whoever tells me I’m not!

Let me again point you back to the legal definition of disabled – (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more “major life activities,” (2) has a record of such an impairment, or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment. In addition to for purposes of Social Security disability benefits, a person with a disability must have a severe disability (or combination of disabilities) that has lasted, or is expected to last, at least 12 months or result in death, and which prevents working at a “substantial gainful activity” level.

Does your impairment meet these criteria? Do you swing up, work a job for a few weeks or a few months before your downswing destroys it all? Does your depression make it impossible for you to hold down a full-time job? Does your mental illness prevent you from interacting and participating in full-time employment? Does anxiety crush your ability to deal with the public or coworkers? Then you likely meet the legal criteria for being disabled and may have a case to make for disability benefits.

Here’s a good rule of thumb; before you take advice on a matter, have the person define what you’re asking about. If they can’t even tell you what the subject matter is, then how are they providing you meaningful, knowledgeable advice?

I know because I took the time to research it, talk to my attorney, and even spent time bullshitting with a Social Security employee to pick their brain on this subject.

Now, the matter of the doctor that says, “you don’t need it”, which is something I hear about on a regular basis. Simply put – do they actually know what they’re talking about? Remember, their opinions are based off of the information you’ve given them over the handful of hours you’ve interacted with them on a regular basis. They’re not with you 24-7 to see how your mental illness affects you specifically. Their opinions are based on the limited amount of information they have about your life, functionality, and their own knowledge and biases that may not be founded in your reality.

Furthermore, they’re operating off of the information that you give them. Are you giving them all of the right information for them to understand? Do you know every detail and nuance of what you experience to be able to relate it to your doctor?

I had two psychiatrists tell me I didn’t need Disability; even after explaining to them fucking up college and the 24+ jobs I’ve had since I graduated high school, being briefly homeless, and the chaos that was my personal life. You know who disagreed? The Judge that heard my case and approved my claim; which gave me the resources to get my shit together. I have no idea why those two psychs claimed that I couldn’t maintain gainful employment even though I had a 15 year history of not being able to maintain gainful employment.

Doctors aren’t lawyers. Their testimony isn’t the sole lynch-pin in approval or rejection. Their insight and input is one piece of the entire puzzle. It will not make or break your claim.

The Most Important Word

Proof. I bolded and italicized it for a reason. You need to prove that your medical condition prevents substantial gainful activity. Testimony is not proof. It is an opinion. A lot of the information you will provide to the SSA in the application process does not necessarily prove your claim. The more information that you can provide lends more weight to proving the claim. Disability is a government program and is wrapped up in just as much bullshit and red tape as any other government program. This is exactly why you should not listen to your doctor, parents, spouse, whoever.

My advice? Get a local disability lawyer. There are a lot of “national” chains that advertise on television and around the internet. Ignore that crap. You want someone close by who’s office you can actually go to if need be. They work on contingency, meaning they only get paid if you win your claim. Their fees will be a portion of whatever back award you are given. They should lay out how payment works before accepting you as a client.

There is, literally, nothing to lose by talking to a Disability attorney; other than back award money that you may not have been awarded to you without their help.

I spent 4 years in the system, with a mostly blank claim, for some reason, before I finally got smart and secured an attorney. I was too depressed and did not think I would ever get approved, so I did not advocate for myself. Most people will not take that long to get through the process. Average time is about a year at the moment.

Should You Apply For Social Security Disability?

Does your mental illness prevent you from maintaining long-term, consistent, full-time employment?

If the answer to that question is “yes”, then scoot on over to SSA.gov, make yourself an account, and start the application process. You will need your work history and medical history information; as well as names and phone numbers of facilities and medical professionals that have treated you.

If you get rejected, APPEAL. Always, always, always appeal until you are out of appeals. There’s like six levels of appeal, the final being going before a Judge to discuss your conditions and how it affects your life. That is the most likely time for a person with a mental illness to be approved because the step involves you actually discussing your life with someone instead of a person or committee analyzing the information you submitted.

It is MUCH harder to prove how a mental illness negatively affects your daily life through documentation; unlike something like a spinal injury which is clear. But you still want to build your case by providing every ounce of documentation relating to your diagnosis, treatment, and how it affects your life.

Your Life Does Not End With Disability

Disability is a resource. Some people need it for the rest of their lives, some people do not. In my case, I’m very much looking forward to transitioning off of it, hopefully within the next year or so. I’ve used the resources being approved for Disability opened up to me – additional funds and insurance – and worked to get my mental illness manageable.

People that are able to recover may be able to utilize government programs for rehabilitation to go to college or a trade school to actually have a career. Vocational Rehab may pay your way through school, assuming you meet the criteria for it. And if you get unwell in the future? Your prior approval basically lets you skate through the re-application process. You don’t have to go through all that again if you relapse.

Disability isn’t necessarily an end. It may be the beginning of a well, recovered life for you.

Don’t overlook it because some people don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about.

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Martyrs of Mental Illness, Here’s Your Cookie

There are quite a few things about the circumstances surrounding mental illness that irritate me to no end. Today, I’m going to be complaining about the “martyrs” of mental illness!

Let me be clear, I do NOT think less of people that decide to stay in a difficult situation with a Bipolar or mentally ill person. I am fully aware that there was a point when that person was probably a wonderful or great person, that you would like to see them recover. You are absolutely entitled to vent, rage, be sad; whatever. What I have a problem with is the following…

Allow me to paraphrase the complaint I hear on a regular basis.

“People play the victim card too much. “Oh, I have ‘Bipolar Disorder/Other Serious Mental Illness’ and I can’t be held responsible for my actions.” What about me? What about everything I’ve been through? My loved one has been abusive and shitty to me in the years we’ve been together. But society says ‘oh you’re Bipolar’ so it’s okay.”

Yeah, it’s society’s fault that the person chose to stay in an abusive, terrible relationship for decades. Being mentally ill is just a bucket of blowjobs! That’s why we have high suicide rates, rates of homelessness, and dysfunctional lives. I can totally do whatever I want and absolutely won’t end up in jail or homeless as a result!

No, society didn’t make it permissible. The enabling partner in that relationship made it permissible. That shit is just weak reasoning to justify their own poor choices. You don’t want to divorce an abusive person that has zero desire to get better because that’s “just not what we were raised to do”? That’s not society’s fault, that’s your fault. Marriage is a contract – to love, honor, and respect one’s partner. An abusive party breaches their part of their contract. No one should feel obligated to stay in an abusive relationship because of what they think their God or other people will think.

Who gives a rat’s ass if the intangible concept of “society” doesn’t like what you do? They aren’t living your life! And please kill the “God put this into my life as a test” garbage. Yeah, your God created you for the sole purpose of being here to suffer another person’s abuses. If that were true, then your God must have created the abusive partner solely to be here to treat you like shit – which is a little fucked up.

And guess what? Putting up with that shit, enabling that person to act that way by not holding them responsible when appropriate, makes it harder for them to actually recover. You continuously demonstrate that “hey, it’s perfectly okay for you to treat me like complete shit and I will keep coming back for more!” Why in the fuck would they ever think they NEED to change? That they cannot continue to conduct their life as they are?

That’s not society’s fault. That’s not society’s choice. That’s the enabler’s choice. So don’t play the victim card after decrying the use of the victim card. You have no one to blame but yourself if you choose to stay in that situation.

Does that mean we blindly act without compassion? No. My rule of thumb is simple. If the person is actively trying and just failing horribly, then I’m on their side. It’s that simple. Is the person trying? Or are they just coasting and dragging you through their shittiness? I have and will continue to go through a lot of shit for people that are genuinely trying to better themselves.

And I get accused of “not being on the side of mentally ill people” on a fairly regular basis as well. You’re right, I’m not! I’m on the side of what is fair. It is unreasonable to expect a “free pass” on shit behavior when you’re not willing to visit a therapist or doc, take the meds, and work to be well. It is unreasonable to expect ANYONE to have a bottomless well of patience, kindness, and understanding when you don’t do anything to better your situation.

A major goal in my advocacy work is to help mentally ill people preserve and improve the lives they have; to keep that well from drying up completely and that relationship from dying. To do so, we MUST acknowledge the suffering we inflict on our loved ones as just as important, just as severe as our own – because it fucking is.

Life isn’t fair or “balanced”. Stop acting like it is, like you’re absolutely powerless to do anything because of what “society” deems or what you “feel”. Just because you love someone doesn’t mean they are any good for you. You always have a choice. It’s just not always a good one.

The situation is not special or unique. Millions of other people around the world have gone through or go through similar. Acting like you don’t have a choice, then blaming intangible entities and concepts is playing the victim card just as much the person who blames their mental illness and does nothing to help themselves.

Spent decades in a terrible, abusive relationship with a toxic mentally ill person? Have a cookie. Now quit blaming everyone else for your choices and do something about it.

I sincerely hope that comes off as condescending as I think it sounds…

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Generic Medications Are Not “Knock Offs”

A couple of weeks ago, I posted this list of generic meds I compiled in a public place. One of the very first comments I received was to the tune of “You shouldn’t be recommending drugs, let alone knock off drugs to people. You’re not a doctor.”

1. They are correct. I am not a doctor. And you will note that I have never claimed to be, nor will ever claim to be. Because I am not. I am an eloquent mental patient. Nothing more.

2. Did I recommend any drugs? No. I compiled a list of $4 generic psych medications out of public information freely available from your local Big Box retailer. I said “if affordability is an issue, you can discuss these with your doctor to see if any is a good fit for you”. That is not recommending a treatment. That is recommending that YOU TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT YOUR TREATMENT.

In my purely unprofessional opinion and what I’ve personally witnessed, it may cause MORE damage to have someone go on a psych med for a few months and then need to come off of it because they cannot afford it. Bipolar Disorder is for life. You need to plan for long-term management. Can you afford $100 a month for prescriptions? Most people I know cannot. Therefore, $4 generic equivalents are a better alternative.

3. Generic medications are NOT knock offs. People wrongly assume that the medication industry is driven by the standard supply and demand model, like much of retail. It is not. A company patents a formula, researches it, and is allowed to attempt to recoup costs of development and profit from it in the time remaining on the patent – which is 20 years from the establishment thereof. They essentially set their own price point.

Medications that fall OUTSIDE of that patent period can be produced by any other company. Many times, they are produced by the original company and put out as “generic equivalents”. They are the same chemically. The only difference is that they are now outside of this patent period, so the company does not have free reign to put whatever price point they want on the drug. This is why new medications cost so much.

4. Doctors are not pharmacists. Doctors are not the financial wing of whatever entity they work through. They do not price shop for you. Their job is to treat whatever problem you are bringing to the table. YOU need to tell your doctor if price matters or you do not have insurance that covers prescriptions.

I take two generic meds – lithium carbonate and citalopram. I pay $8 a month for both of my prescriptions. The lithium works great; but I’ve always had a hard time with antidepressants. Is that the fault of the citalopram? No. Chemically, it is Celexa.

So long as I’m not ordering my psych meds from a sketchy, internet pharmacy based out of El Salvador; there is not going to be a difference between putting name brand Celexa in my body instead of citalopram. The only difference is the bureaucracy surrounding it.

This is not new or “secret” information. It is all publicly available if you look into how medications are developed.

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A Rant On Josh Duggar And Useless People

When I started my Bipolar Manifesto about three years ago now, my intention was to try and reach other Bipolar and Depressed people. I figured these were the people I would aim try to help out if I could. What actually ended up happening was different. Maybe 20% of the people that reach out to me are Bipolar or Depressed. Probably 60% or so are loved ones of those people trying to figure out what’s going on. The remaining 20% is a mix of “other”. People of many different backgrounds, with different mental illnesses and life experiences.

Many of the people that reach out to me feel alienated from the system, either afraid or badly treated by it. Many of these people are just looking for a friend, just someone they can talk to who won’t minimize their problems or make them feel worse about them.

I’ve heard a lot of shit as a result. And I’ve listened to – fuck, I have no idea how many – people pour out their guts about the horrific shit done to them as children. And in almost every single one of those stories, there is at least one person who knew in some way. Either, the child told them trying to get help or they saw something. I don’t mean the people that “suspected”. I mean people that fucking knew in some way that could not be disputed.

Here’s what I don’t fucking understand. I’m fine with the concept of evil. I get that. There is genuine good and evil in the world. I’ve seen both in my life. I can understand that there are people so broken, so fucked up that victimizing people is right to them.

What I can’t understand is the fucking apathy. How can anyone be okay with letting that shit happen?

Years ago, I thought that evil was the worst part of humanity. But it’s not. No, it’s the fucking apathy. A majority of people are fucking useless and wouldn’t piss on you to put out a fire. They would break out their cell phones and record it though!

Even though we would never choose to go through something so terrible, each one of our family members drew closer to God.” – Duggars – I don’t even give a shit which one.

I would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions,” Josh shares. “I sought forgiveness from those I had wronged and asked Christ to forgive me and come into my life. In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy and redemption.”

On behalf of the LGBT people this piece of shit vilified as “endangering the well-being of children” because of their sexuality, of the people who have shared some of their darkest memories with me, of my two ex-gfs with PTSD and night terrors decades after their abuse, of the people who suffer in silence because their ability to trust has been destroyed, of the people who will suffer for the rest of their lives because of actions like this, who feel they have no voice and are unable to speak up for themselves – Fuck. You. Get fucked with a pineapple soaked in tabasco.

Fuck you, to you worthless pieces of shit who do nothing. Fuck you, to the fucking politicians sliming out of the woodwork to defend a CHILD MOLESTER. And fuck you to a three year statute of limitations.

Why in the hell is the statute of limitations on “inappropriate contact with a minor” three fucking years? Can anyone explain that to me? Why is it that a crime that can fuck up the rest of a person’s life, destroy their ability to have relationships, to trust, to have peace of mind; three fucking years?

Well, maybe it has something to do with the politicians coming forward to defend their little buddy!

What the fuck, Huckabee? My first thought on that shit is – why do you feel the need to stand up for a sexual predator, exactly? What the fuck are you doing behind closed doors?

Yeah, Jesus “cured” you, Josh. Fuck you.

But that does bring up an interesting question. If there is a Heaven and Hell, and all you have to do is ask for forgiveness to be accepted into God’s graces; I wonder how it goes when repentant rapists, child molesters, and murderers meet their victims in Heaven? Awwwwwwwwkwaaaaaaaaaaaaard.

Frankly, I would rather burn in Hell with honest evil. At least, I know what I’m dealing with then. And please, spare me the shit about “not my God, he wouldn’t just forgive that!” Read your Bible. There’s no fucking clauses for that shit.

“We prolly in hell already. Our dumbasses not knowin’, everyone kissin’ ass to get to heaven ain’t goin’. Put my soul on it..” – Tupac Shakur

Forgive? The only thing this piece of shit is sorry about is getting outed. And the worst part is, as his statements seem to imply, he’ll just continue to spin it as a “test from God”. Yeah, God and Jesus gave you the urge to molest children as a test to see if you would give into molesting children. I can see no flaws in that logic at all!

And if you are reading this and are knowledgeable about someone having inappropriate contact with a child, whether it’s full on fucking or some minor petting, you are FUCKING WORSE than the piece of shit doing it. Because you’re a fucking coward who won’t do the right thing and help that child. Get off your worthless ass and call the cops. Not your fucking religious authorities, not your head coach, not your family so it all gets neatly swept under the rug and the victim fucking forgotten about.

Or maybe they’ll be like ol’ Josh here and get a stern-talking to from a cop who is now serving a 56 year sentence for possession of child pornography!

Fuck me. Sigh.

Anyone know where I put my lithium?

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