“Memory” 02.03.23

First artwork I purchased.

In case you have not noticed, for the past two Fridays, my articles have been published later than routinely scheduled. I have been throwing myself into preparations for my third book. I assure you that I am not creatively exhausted and have not been drained of words. My weeks have been flying by, and the truth is, I forgot! I sincerely apologize. I hope you will forgive me, not turn away, and continue to read my articles!

My memory defects are directly related to a few medications I am currently prescribed. It is a side effect I must endure, for the alternative would be detrimental. I think that many people choose the path of self-medicating, living in a state of denial, ashamed or terrified to admit that they may need help; among other reasons. I am completely onboard the train leading toward healing with medications and talk therapy. There are side-effects. Many rare side-effects beset my mind; most can be found in the fine print. My psychologist has said, “I love your brain,” and my psychiatrists have called me a “special case.”

When I was in the hospital in 2013, a last resort was performed. Electroconvulsive therapy. My body was hooked to many wires, so that while seizers were induced in my brain, my body would not seize during the process. I woke up from those procedures with confusion and enormous headaches. I do not know what damage this may have caused to my memory, or how much progress was made, but at that point, I did not recognize my parents. Needless to say, I have come a long way.

Though I have many issues related to my mind, memory is the most tragic loss. I cannot guarantee that all articles will arrive as scheduled, or will be forgotten, but I ask for your understanding. I hope this will not be a regular occurrence, but I have not forgotten YOU.

–SJB

“Relief” 01.28.23

When I was fifteen years old, I embarrassed myself. It was not my intention, but despite my efforts to fit in with the crowd, I did not. No one wished to be close to me. No one wished to date me. I had few friends, but that year, I behaved so strangely that I am not surprised. Though there are people in my life who love me unconditionally, they had trouble keeping up with me as I followed a dark, blinding path. They trod close behind me into deep, cold waters, and we faced much confusion. I was certain that there was something “wrong” with me, but the mania colored the waters a bright, sunny blue; the path full of light and life. It was dangerous, false happiness fueled by an incessant flow of high energy.

I do not recall most of my freshman year of high school. Broken pieces of memories flood my mind when I think about those days. I talked more than I walked. It never stopped. My mind spit out all of my thoughts, without a filter. My speech was slurred, and words tumbled over each other on their mission to escape my mouth. I spent money frivolously. Quicksand pulled me under, in the form of credit card debt. Free money!! No.

I stayed up late, believing that sleep was a waste of time. My handwriting became sloppy and scribbly. I was more creative, finished projects early, was never late, and had excellent grades. I overextended myself, made promises I could not keep. I was never hungry and didn’t have time in my day devoted to eating.

I knew something was “off,” but had no idea it could be fixed. I thought I was stuck this way forever. I appealed to my parents for help, and my dad drove me to a psychiatrist, where I was diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder. It was the greatest sense of relief I had ever felt in my life, even to this day. I could not be cured, but I could be treated. There was nothing to be ashamed about, no reason to be embarrassed, and I wasn’t alone! I will never forget that day, because it was the beginning of a story I would someday tell the world.

–SJB

“Lighthouse” 01.20.23

Living with a psychiatric disorder can be crippling. Some people find it difficult to hold a job, maintain relationships, to get out of bed. I have experienced first-hand the strain involved in faking a smile. Oft times I have wondered, “Why?” Why are people born with, or develop mental illness at some point in their lives? Answering my own question as best I can, it seems there is not a single person alive on this planet who does not have a psychiatric disorder of some kind. People are afraid to be diagnosed, to be labeled, to be treated differently than if they were “normal.” Many people are too proud to accept the fact that they need help, so they fail to seek aid. Mental illness makes waves we are not all equipped to surf. Believing there is no hope, no cure, and no support causes panic to rise and we drown in the idea that we are “stuck” like this forever. Follow the golden rays emitted from the lighthouse and know that you are not alone; there are ways to prevent a permanent collision.

Here are some methods of preventing that collision:

When I feel anxious, I curl up in my weighted blanket and experience security. I also take deep breaths to avoid panic attacks, which cannot always be prevented.

I avoid known triggers, such as food or drink that remind me of false happiness and send me spiraling. My food triggers are apple juice, and buttered brown sugar oatmeal. There are other triggers; listening to certain songs or reading particular memoirs upset my stomach. When I surround myself with too much information about psychiatric disorders, I sometimes feel revved up.

When I feel depressed, it is a huge ordeal to leave my cozy bed, my feet refusing to carry my weight. It takes much energy to fake a smile. My therapist says that on days like those I am not lazy, I am not “in the mood.” My mood disorder prevents me from being productive when I feel so low. It is especially difficult to find time returning library books or focusing on many other menial tasks. Anxiety can trigger depression. Depression can cause anxiety. My husband and I often have goofy photo shoots, just the two of us making silly faces. I print them and whenever we feel low or grumpy, we pull out that album and laugh until our stomachs ache, tears threatening to spill. Works every time.

I hope this is helpful. If you want more information, look back at some of my previous articles for more details.

I apologize for the delay in publishing this article! Have a great weekend!

—SJB

“Friday the 13th” 01.13.23

Once upon a time…

On the 13th of January, 1988, in the late hours of night and the wee hours of morning, a child was born without breath. To my knowledge, a trauma such as this can trigger the onset of psychiatric disorders in a child’s future. Her mother was a nurse and worked in the neonatal intensive care unit for a few years prior. She knew that a baby’s first breath comes out of a confused, disoriented scream. This outburst did not occur immediately after her child’s birth. The baby and her father were rushed to a room where the fluid in her lungs was extracted. Dad reached through the crowd of doctors surrounding his daughter and squeezed her tiny hand. She breathed. Thirty-five years later, she still breathes (it’s my birthday).

—SJB

“Listen” 01.06.23

One can hear, and not absorb the contents of the substance meeting their ears. To hear is not to listen. We are all guilty of growing bored of a conversation and “checking out.” Our eyes glaze over, napping while awake, pretending to listen. Some people have the gift of selective hearing. Words stream into one ear and out the other; we capture enough bits and pieces to carry on a conversation without remaining truly present. When we hear a story often, our minds fade into the background; we reach for the next moment, a chance to break away. There are people to avoid, opportunities to avert our attention elsewhere. I believe that every voice strives to be heard; but when we hear voices, others often pay them no mind. They are invisible, yet they are certainly present. Without hard proof, many people do not acknowledge the “super natural.” Some cannot hear, and choose not to listen to those most in need of an ear or a shoulder. Hearing is not listening, which leads to the wide gap between knowing and understanding.

Society has grown more tolerant, sensitive, knowledgeable about psychiatric disorders, but the stigma remains. We teeter on the edge of acceptance and denial. Knowing facts and studying areas of psychiatry is a step in the positive direction, but there is much to learn, and sufficient room for growth. Knowing all the facts, or nearly everything the textbooks provide, does not scratch the surface of understanding. Hearing is the first step, but let the words settle. Let them in. Listen, and embrace the struggling with open arms.

–SJB

In Memory of “Reader One” 12.30.22

In 1995, when phones were attached to walls and the internet was young, reading was much greater fun than watching television. During the course of my early education, I was an avid reader. I didn’t have a tablet or an iPhone. I read books. Remember that? My school had a competition between students who read the most books within a certain time period. My rival, Derrick Dendy, was always rising higher to the top as I trailed close behind. Very close behind. Today would have been Derrick’s 35th birthday. One could not deny that he was the fastest reader in the fifth grade. He always read thick, detailed, tiny print books. I have to admit that I read a lot of books, but did not hold a candle to Derrick Dendy. He had his nose stuck so far into his books; I am quite surprised they didn’t swallow him. He was relentless. I imagine he read books in his sleep. Those are my excuses for not ever catching up to him, not for lack of trying. After a while, I referred to him as “Reader One,” since I was always “Reader One2,” NOT “Reader Two.” Years later, I looked him up and found out about his critical heart disease. I sent him a message to ask him how many books he had read that summer, and he said, “Six.” “UGH!” I thought, having only read five. I know he is in an enormous library I plan to visit in my future, smiling down at me, having forever achieved the status of “Reader One.”

Happy birthday, old friend.

–SJB

“Absence of Cheer” 12.16.22

The holidays are happy times for many people. However; they are also a terrible pain for others. Falling on hard times financially. Sickness. Loss of loved ones. It is one of the seasons that takes the most lives. Here is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, in case you or someone you love is even thinking about this idea. NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) has more information and aid. There is plenty of help when/if you need it.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

800-273-8255

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – Call 800-273-TALK (8255)
If you or someone you know is in crisis—whether they are considering suicide or not—please call the toll-free Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) to speak with a trained crisis counselor 24/7

The NAMI HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m., ET.
1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or [email protected]

“What’s Next?” 12.09.22

What’s next? Are you a Mary or a Martha? Within the pages of the Bible, there is a passage about two women who welcomed Jesus into their home. This is my interpretation: While Mary visited with Jesus and listened to His teachings, Martha prepared the meal, cleaned the house last minute, and bustled around trying to plan for the situation at hand. Did they have enough food and drink? Was there a place for Jesus to rest his head? While she was focused on the details, she missed the moment. Looking to the future, the present alluded her and she did not hear the message. Martha heard the untidy house calling for perfection. Expectations, obligations and choices guide our lives. Martha chose the kitchen. Mary chose the floor beneath the feet of Jesus.

Why do we stumble about, planning for a future so clouded one can expect surprises? Why do we hasten between now and then, ignoring our present? Now is all we have.

I am guilty of looking to the future, planning my next move, anticipating one holiday after another. Here comes Christmas! My birthday follows shortly after. Often, my husband and I vacation. I wait anxiously for what comes next, and prepare for those events. I admit, I am mostly a Martha.

Enjoy, laugh, live a life full of empathy and joy. Help others in need. Take care because you can, not because it is expected of you. Access your Martha side. There is a fork in the road, but it turns out to be a loop. Mary is within you as well. In this situation, there is no right or wrong. You choose a path forged specifically for you. Are you a Mary, Martha, or a little of both?

–SJB

“Resources” 12.02.22

Learn Burm

*Pictured above is “Berman,” my personification of mental illness.

I recently met a woman who has a daughter with schizophrenia. The meeting was short notice, so I scrambled around my house for resources to discuss and prepared to explain and comfort her during the complicated journey of a concerned parent. As I reached for reference books and other helpful tools, I realized how little I know about this piece of my illness. During the meeting; however, I discovered that I knew more about schizophrenia and psychiatric disorders than I had previously thought!

When I was first introduced to bipolar I disorder, I scoured book stores and picked apart the internet for information concerning this topic. I wanted to know everything so that I could help myself and those who love me. One of the most helpful books I read was the “Bipolar Disorder for Dummies.” This is not a joke. Those books contain a wealth of information on every topic imaginable. Over the course of several years, I learned and experienced bipolar I disorder. During the meeting with a troubled parent, I wondered why it has taken me so long to research the other half of my illness. Rest assured; “Schizophrenia for Dummies” is on its way to my address as we speak. I have made it my mission to learn everything possible so that I can provide useful knowledge to those most in need. Also, I love to learn. would like to share a few pointers I have picked up along my mental health journey:

*Weighted blankets (gravity blankets) are a tremendous aid for subduing anxiety.

*Surround yourself with familiar people and tell your story as often as needed to help heal trauma. Many people have heard my story several times.

*Keep a journal and track your moods.

*Create a cozy atmosphere, find a comfortable place to feel at peace. Spend some time alone to become familiar with yourself (but not too much time alone, which can lead to depression).

*Laughter is the best medicine. Watch a funny show, spend time with friends, Read a funny book. I recommend “Hyperbole and a Half,” and “Solutions and other Problems.” by Allie Brosh.

*Exercise increases serotonin and gives you a happy feeling you can find no other way. It helps secure a deep sleep later. I walk my dog in the morning, and hike with my dad once a week.

*Gardening: Getting dirty on purpose and soaking in Vitamin D is refreshing.

*Track your water and food intake. Keep a food log (not to lose weight; feed your body the healthy fuel it needs). In order to stay hydrated and regular, a person must drink half their body weight in fluid ounces each day. I weigh a little under 120 lbs, so I am supposed to drink 60 fluid ounces each day. I admit that I often do not reach my target. I track both of these on my watch, because I have trouble remembering. It doesn’t have to be an expensive watch. There are many which serve the same purpose.

*Talk therapists (counselors) provide someone to listen and keep conversations confidential.

*Psychiatrists (in some cases) prescribe medication. I recommend following that regimen because I have fallen subject to the consequences of abstaining and sorely regretting it. However; that is not the only route and every body has its own system. In case you are prescribed medication, take your meds! Also, taking them with food helps your body absorb them.

*Accept the support of family, friends, and loved ones (sadly, not available to all).

*Emotional support animals if necessary/affordable (I have a small dog) are comforting.

*Sleep! (I have a lot of trouble with this one).

*Meditation and focusing breath can relax and ground a person. It can help with anxiety, irritability and frustration.”

–SJB

*I am not a licensed professional. I cannot diagnose, or prescribe medication.

These are my personal helpful suggestions.