Gone From This World

**warning: this post contains heavy,  potentially triggering topics such as mental illness and suicide. Continue reading at your own discretion.


The suicide rates for bipolar disorder are distinctly high. Researchers estimate that between 25% and 60% of bipolar patients attempt suicide at least once in their lives, and 4% to 19% will succeed.

In my head exists a delusion– or perhaps it is more of an omen, a prophecy. The narrative is as follows: Belicia, you will never live to experience old age. You will never live to see your children or grandchildren grow up. One of these days, you will end your own life. Maybe not today, tomorrow, or even years from now… but it will happen eventually. Because one day, the pain of living with bipolar will simply be too much to handle. That’s when you know it is time to end it. 

Dark, yes? But I just wanted to share with you guys the reality of living with bipolar. Sometimes, the perpetual ups and downs are just too much. Just when you feel that you’re doing better, the depression hits like a truck. It seems as if the universe is playing a cruel joke on you. I might just as well be dead, than experience these ups and downs any longer.

The following are a compilation of quotes from other people living with bipolar.

“The total body energy rushes, floating joy, brilliant confidence, sadistic sexual compulsions and delusions in euphoric mania… the total collapse/breakdown of mind and body in depression, when you feel like you’re dying, suddenly rocking, crying and shaking, muttering the same words over and over and over in a trance, begging God to kill you. This isn’t hyperbole, THIS is bipolar.”

Here’s a somewhat more optimistic description of the illness:

“I’m bipolar, and during my manic episodes I have gone more than 72 hours without sleep, my social skills are superior, I can solve complex tasks way faster, everything makes sense, information rearranges itself in your head and it’s there to serve you in the most precise useful way, creativity is unstoppable, I have ended up with ideas written all over my body from trying to stem that flow of ideas. During manic episode I can hit on any girl in the world, and I’m so confident that it works, every time, it’s like being on cocaine, you are sharp, enchanting, curious… it’s limitless. but depressive lows are so strong, and so hellish that it’s worth sacrificing the manic episodes in return of getting rid of the depressive lows through medication. It’s not an easy life to be bipolar, but it sure is a such more intense life. Because of this I sometimes consider my condition a blessing, I get to see a wider spectrum of life through a bipolar perception.”

Mania is not what it’s cut out to be:

“It’s a misconception that the high energy weeks are better than the depressive weeks. While you personally feel much better when you’re on highs, you can’t sleep and you’re so excited that your thoughts make your soul want to scream. I don’t know how to explain it other than that. It’s… interesting. But it’s a learning experience.”


So there’s a little insight into the sad reality of living with bipolar. I am in no ways posting this to elicit pity. I simply wish to educate others with hopes of destigmatizing this scary illness.

I wish I had the courage to live. I wish I had the mental strength to go on. I am in a happy place right now, but I do not know how long it will last. I know that, one of these days, I will fall back into the pits of depression. One day, I won’t be able to climb out of the trenches of hell. And that’s when things will end, and the sweet release of death will come.

Mental Health Update 1/13/20

Hi friends! It’s 12:03pm on this Monday afternoon. I’m sitting in the car, on my way to a buffet for lunch with my parents and grandmother. I just got back from the psychiatrist’s office and learned a lot about my bipolar disorder, so my mind is racing. Hence, I felt the need to write and share some of the things I’ve learned.

Well, the good news is, I do NOT have ADHD! The thing with ADHD and bipolar mania is that there’s much overlap in the presentation of both illnesses. The doctor explained it with a venn diagram. One circle represents ADHD, and the other bipolar mania/hypomania. In the middle is an overlap, where similar symptoms of both illnesses reside. The difference between ADHD and bipolar mania is that with ADHD, the restlessness and hyperactivity is persistent and long-term, not just a passing phase, like it is with bipolar mania.

So even though I’m currently experiencing symptoms that may present as ADHD, these symptoms are not something I’ve been experiencing long-term, and thus, are not representative of ADHD. Good. I was worried for a hot second that I’d have yet another mental illness to take care of. No need to take Adderall. The doctor simply increased my dosage of Lamictal (a mood stabilizer) as well as Abilify (an anti-psychotic). We’ll see how the updated regimen goes.

Some more good news—based on my global distress scores, I am doing a lot better than I was several months ago when I first moved back to the Bay Area. Not quite as manic, and certainly not as depressed. Lately, though, there has been a surge in my moods, which may be indicative of another hypomanic episode. Not sure what the cause of it is this time around, but basically, I have many goals on my plate: work as a behavior technician treating kids with autism; study for the GRE; train for a dance competition in February; continue working as an SAT English tutor, and possibly teach SAT math as well; write on my blog and website; network with sports psychologists; the list continues. The psychiatrist told me that even though I am a talented, ambitious, capable individual (aww, thanks, doc!), it’s important for me to not pile on too many goals, lest I wish to trigger another manic episode. She described mania as a positive feedback loop. When you’re manic, one of the symptoms is grandiosity and unrealistic ambition. You set way too many goals and function at 100 mph, getting by with little to no sleep. All this can exacerbate the mania, which in turn increases your symptoms, and the cycle continues.

I need to be very conscientious of my moods and know the difference between happiness and mania, sadness versus depression. It’s a very fine line, and many people take years before they can fully distinguish between normal fluctuations in moods and manic/depressive episodes. I have my work cut out for me, but as I always like to say, God gives us challenges that He knows we can handle. I can combat my bipolar. I can be successful and make a positive impact on this world, whilst managing bipolar. I can live a happy and healthy bipolar life.

The psychiatrist also recommended a book called “Touched With Fire”, written by American psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison, who struggles with bipolar disorder herself. In the book, Jamison explores the potential correlation between artistic, creative minds and bipolar disorder, using case studies of famous figures in history who have suffered from bipolar (like Abraham Lincoln, for instance). Will definitely read the book and write a reflection once I finish it!

Speaking of bipolar in media and pop culture… there’s this new fictional Netflix show called “Spinning Out” that follows the life of a competitive figure skater. Funnily enough, this figure skater also struggles with bipolar disorder. Unlike her mother, who also suffers from the illness, the figure skater has been able to manage it. It is very interesting seeing the parallel lives of two closely-related people—one who is highly functional with bipolar, and the other who has let the illness consume her. It’s also interesting seeing the illness in the context of competitive sports. I can’t help but think this show was meant for me! So intrigued I am by it, I am taking close notes of dialogue that I find interesting, enlightening, or emotionally-striking. Will compile all of these quotations at the end and write a blog about it.

Alrighty, folks, time to go! Here’s to happiness, health, and in my case, stability.

 

 

 

XOXO,

Belicia

Discipline Will Set You Free

Controlled chaos. That was a term I coined in a previous blog post, used to describe the nature of bipolar disorder. It is a steady rhythm of ups and downs that beats to the heart of a touched spirit. But it is also a tempestuous, angry ocean with violent waves and a hair-trigger temper, its tides ready to strike at even the slightest shift of the moon.

But controlled chaos is not only a name for the condition– it is also the cure. Or rather, it is the key to keeping my mercurial moods from overtaking my life. What do I mean, then, by this funny, oxymoronic term?

My mind is at once my greatest super-power and worst enemy. It wields the strength to accomplish many great things. Left unchecked, however, my mind can turn on me. It can become a two-faced enemy, leaving me imprisoned and powerless. So how does one escape the shackles of bipolar and reap the gifts of this intoxicating, high-flying, yet crippling illness? How can one possibly live a happy and healthy bipolar life?

My solution: control the chaos. Innately, your mind cannot be trusted. It is a wild card, an unknown variable. How do you trick it into becoming your ally? 

Control the chaos. Whatever variable in your life there is that can be controlled, control it. Do what you can to keep the symptoms at bay. Know your triggers, and learn how to cope with them. Take your medications religiously. Surround yourself with a reliable support system. Never miss therapy appointments. Schedule every minute of every day to maintain the structure. Keep your room tidy. Live with order and discipline. For discipline is what will ultimately set your mind free from the chains of bipolar. Discipline will give you a semblance of control over your unpredictable moods. And once you’ve conquered your environment, so too, will you be able to conquer your mind.

To my dear friends who struggle with bipolar disorder: you are loved. You are worthy. You can absolutely live a happy, healthy, prosperous, successful life with bipolar. And no, that is not a paradox. The key is simply maintenance. Maintenance, maintenance, maintenance. Do what you can to control the symptoms. This is an art form that takes many people a lifetime to master. Heck, my journey towards control has only just begun. But once you know yourself well enough to get stable– that’s when the true potential of your mind can be unleashed. That, my friends, is when you are truly set free.

 

 

 

Yet ANOTHER Mental Health Diagnosis?!

Hello, dear friends! Hope you are all doing well today. It’s currently 12:26pm on this Thursday afternoon. I am sitting in my room, both bored and antsy out of my mind… so I decided to write this post!

So. As you can tell by the title of today’s blog, it seems that I have been diagnosed, yet again, with ANOTHER mental health condition. Anxiety, depression, bipolar. What else can there possibly be? Well, let me give you a rundown of the symptoms I’ve been experiencing and see if you can guess which condition it is.

The past few weeks, I’ve been completely restless beyond belief. It’s different from acute or prolonged anxiety and worry precipitated by a big life event. It’s not mania, as my environment is the stablest its been in a while, and I’m taking my medications as prescribed.

It’s an inability to focus on even the simplest of daily tasks. My mind is going at 100 miles a minute, almost every second of the day. Tuesday morning is a case in point. I woke up at 5:00am, eager to get the day started. I drove to the nearest Starbucks to get some writing done for my website. 20 minutes into writing my article, my mind wanders elsewhere, to looking for jobs. I open another tab on my computer screen and start my Linkedin dive. Apply to one job. Decide that’s enough for a day. Jump back to my website and continue writing. Then, I remember that I plan on taking my GRE in March. Gotta start studying! So I whip out my GRE test prep book and begin reading the overview of the exam. Can barely get through the first chapter when my mind circles back to the article I was writing 30 minutes earlier. At the end of the day, despite my best efforts, my restless mind hinders me from getting work done. So many goals, but no longer do I have the follow-through, which is strange, considering how disciplined I’ve been my whole life.

At first, I thought this inability to focus was simply me slacking off. So I tried my best to gain back my discipline, scheduling each minute of the day with some task or another. Again, my efforts were futile. What worried me most, though, was when I couldn’t even sit down long enough to watch a 50-minute episode of the new Netflix series, “Spinning Out”. I am super intrigued by the series, which centers around the world of competitive figure skating. Despite my enthusiasm, I could barely bring myself to watch 10 minutes of the episode before getting distracted by something else.

I contacted my psychiatrist after the symptoms persisted for a couple weeks. She replied my message, saying that a pharmacist would reach out to me to discuss the possibility of putting me on Adderall. Today, I spoke on the phone with the pharmacist, who told me that my symptoms could be a sign of ADHD. However, I must meet with my psychiatrist before starting a new medication regimen, as she has the final say on mental health diagnoses.

So, friends… what is it, then? Anxiety, depression, bipolar I/II, or ADHD? Mental health is super tricky, as there’s so much gray area and overlap between different disorders. At this point, I’m not even surprised that I may potentially have ADHD. I’ve had some people in my life suspect that I have this condition, but have yet to have a mental health professional confirm it. I simply wonder how I got through K-12 and sped through college if I had such a condition. Anyway, I am looking forward to speaking with my psychiatrist about this topic. I’ll be seeing her next Monday morning, after which I’ll have more answers.

Stay tuned for more, dear readers!

 

 

Best,

Belicia

 

An Open Letter to My First Ex

You were my first love. In all my 21 years of life I had never opened my heart like that to anyone. I had never felt anything so deeply or profoundly before. Before you, I had relinquished any faint hope of finding a good guy. All the guys I met in college were complete immature assholes. But then you entered my life, and it was like my eyes were finally opened to a whole other world… the world of love. In the beginning, it was like magic. Out of all the guys I’d met in my life, you were the first to see me for what I was worth. You saw me beyond the physical. You valued my intelligence, my character, my heart. You made me feel like a queen.

But a flame that burns so brightly is bound to flicker out. We went too fast. Neither of us were ready to be in a relationship. When we met, we were both in the middle of big life transitions. Yet, we dove headfirst into it, only to come crashing down to the bitter reality. And this was the reality. Co-dependency. Instability. Infidelity. Emotional manipulation. Intensity. Ultimatums. Heartbreak.

I wish it didn’t have to end this way. We both made mistakes in the relationship. Some mistakes, however, are irreconcilable. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors. I hope you find peace, health, and happiness with someone else. I hold no hostility, anger, or resentment towards you. Only sadness that these past five months– volatile as they may have been– have come to an end. Because even though the bad times were terrible, the good times were… perfect.

I will always remember you as my first love. You will always hold a special place in my heart.

 

 

 

Love,

Belicia

New Year’s Resolutions 2020

Happy second day of the new year, my dear readers! It’s currently 12:09pm on this Thursday afternoon. I am at my grandmother’s apartment right now. Two of my friends spent the night last night, which is why we moved our party out of the main house, since 8 people is definitely a crowd. Friends left early this morning– one to work, the other back to Orange County. So here I am, alone in the one bedroom apartment, typing away.

Woke up feeling energized for the new year, eager to tackle my myriad of goals. But I am careful to keep the motivation and passion in check, for there is a fine line between inspiration and mania. Sometimes I wish I could be a calmer, more level-headed person. Slow and steady wins the race, as they say. My life is just one big sinusoidal pattern of high-flying ups and crippling downs. When I’m manic, I feel as if I can do anything. I can whip out a 3,000 word article in less than 30 minutes. Conversely, when I inevitably come crashing back down to the depths of depression, I can’t even get myself out of bed. It’s not fun, living life like this. But I must learn to manage.

Now, onto the heart of today’s post– my New Year’s Resolutions! In the past, come every new year, I’d find myself setting hundreds of long-term and short-term goals, expecting myself to achieve all of them throughout the course of the year. I’ve since given myself a hard reality check. I realize that, while it’s important to set concrete goals for yourself to maintain that personal growth, what works better for me is to have an overarching theme for the year, which your goals revolve around. This year, my theme is “FEARLESS”. Living life on the edge, beyond my comfort zone. Saying “yes” to new and exciting opportunities, scared as I may be. I’m tired of living my life as if I’m walking on eggshells. Eager to please, scared of making mistakes and embarrassing myself. That, to me, is a prison. I no longer want to be a prisoner of my own mind. My mind… oh, how I wish I could trust it. I know I am capable of many things. My mind is my at once my greatest superpower and Achille’s Heel. I must learn to control it first, before I can unleash my true potential.

But I digress. This year, in accordance with my theme of fearlessness, I wish to face my fears, head on. Kick that fear of driving. Expose myself to more social situations so I can finally feel completely comfortable in my own skin when interacting with other people. I want to try new hobbies that challenge me– fitness classes, new styles of dance and writing, maybe even get back into piano. I want to commit myself to Toastmasters so I can become a great public speaker. It’s my “Year of YES”. Say yes to opportunities. Don’t let fear of failure get in my way of growth.

Other important goals include making money to support myself financially, write my book, continue blogging and writing feature articles about athletes. Okay, I see a pattern emerging, lol! Look at me, setting way too many goals, once more. Chill out, Belicia. Focus on the most important one, which is taking care of my mental and physical health. Attending therapy regularly, staying on my medications, going to acupuncture twice a week, exercising on a daily basis, cutting out unhealthy lifestyle choices, committing myself to my creative passions. Hopefully, if I do all of these things, I will be able to stabilize my mind and be happier, healthier, and more capable of achieving everything I set out to do.

Alrighty, folks! Time for me to head home and eat lunch. I will talk to you guys later, and again, I wish you a happy new year!

 

 

XOXO,

Belicia

Living in Fear

Good (early) morning, folks! It is currently 3:55am on this Sunday morning. Sleep is not coming easy tonight, for many different reasons. So I figured I’d occupy my time with doing what I do best– write. As 2019 is coming to a close, I wanted to conclude the year with a reflective piece.

A lot has been on my mind as of late. Ever since I graduated college, I feel as though I’ve regressed tremendously in terms of living life outside my comfort zone. One of my greatest life mottos has been to live fearlessly, take risks, challenge yourself every single day. Unfortunately, I have not been practicing what I preach.

Upon moving home, I’ve since been spending most of my days indoors, somewhat isolated from the outside world. As a person who has (and continues) to struggle with social anxiety, it is absolutely adamant that I find ways to challenge the anxiety each and every day, so I can kick social anxiety’s ass and build greater social confidence. Sadly, these past four months, I haven’t been doing so. As a result, I’ve found the anxiety creeping back, little by little. I find myself living in state of constant fear and worry. Worry about what others think of me. Afraid of social challenges. I feel as though I’ve lost my voice, and in turn, I’ve grown less empowered, my life completely overtaken by fear.

The thing is, in college, I had so many opportunities each day to challenge myself socially. In lectures, the act of raising my hand in a room filled with hundreds of students was daunting, but it was something I forced myself to do, so I could get the most out of class. That was one way I challenged my anxiety. Another way was through leading weekly dance workshops for my dance club, Bruin Burlesque. It’s a challenge standing up in front of a group and teaching choreography! Finally, even the simple act of attending parties and social gatherings on a weekly basis was a good way to practice social interactions. Towards the end of my third year of college, I found myself becoming much more confident not only socially, but in general, as well.

Then, I graduated from UCLA. All that momentum I was building in the fight against the anxiety seemed to stop all of the sudden. I grew very depressed. I isolated myself from the world, holed up in my room all day, devoid of all human contact. It’s unnerving how quickly one can regress in, well, anything. Without constant practice, you lose your skills. Use it or lose it, they say.

I enrolled myself in a social anxiety group through Kaiser. The group has taught me some great Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) skills, whereby you change the way you think, which then causes behavioral changes. The group itself has been a great social challenge. It’s pretty anxiety-provoking, attending group therapy every Thursday afternoons. There, we basically put our anxiety under a microscope. There’s no way you can possibly hide your social anxiety, which I oftentimes do in real-life situations. That alone is a reason I feel uncomfortable attending group. But I think that’s all the more reason why I should go– to tackle my fears head on. Sadly, the group only lasts two months, after which you are expected to carry out the tools you’ve learned into the real world. As I am nearing the end of my two-month cycle, I am growing a little apprehensive of what’s to come, without the weekly support. See what I mean by living in fear? I’ve grown to feel incredibly self-conscious in so many situations. I fear that I’ll bother or hurt others, the same way I’ve done in the past, when I was manic. I fear others will judge me negatively, so much so that I generally avoid situations where others can scrutinize me (meeting new people, social gatherings, etc.).

My fears are not only social in nature. Everything remotely challenging seems to scare me. Driving. Trying new dance and fitness classes. Challenging myself physically with the goal of getting back into shape. Even getting back into dancing and performing. All these things and more are challenges, and lately, I’ve seemed to shy away from anything outside my comfort zone. A lot of it is my generalized anxiety talking. My mind seems to jump to the worst case scenario. Socially, I worry I will choke in social situations, and that people will see right through my facade and recognize that I have social anxiety, which is a source of great shame. With driving, I worry I’ll get into a car accident and get injured, or even worse, die. In terms of working out and getting back my pre-college body, I’m afraid to push myself, not out of laziness, but fear of physical pain. Hah. Funny, coming from a former competitive athlete, right? Same goes for dancing. I know my technique has regressed tremendously, and it scares me to scrape off the rust and push myself to get back to the level I used to be. A far cry from the fearless fighter I’ve identified as throughout my life thus far. I used to be the girl who’d accost neurosurgeons on the street, go up to the UCLA gymnastics coach, follow an oncologist guest speaker to his car after lecture, grilling him with questions about the field of medicine. In all these cases, I was unfazed by the possibility of rejection and judgment from other people. Granted, I was manic in most of these situations, which completely elevated my self confidence and gave me an artificial sense of fearlessness. But a part of me wonders… what if those acts of bravery and lack of inhibition were signs of true confidence? Not just me being manic? I need to learn to give myself credit where credit is due. And I hang on to the thin shred of hope that one day, I will be able to build up my confidence once more, back to the level I used to be at in college.

As for identity… I feel like I don’t know who I am any more. I thought I was fearless. I thought I could serve as a role model to other people. I thought I had finally found my voice. Everything seems to be falling apart. All the progress I previously made… all gone down the drain. I’ve lost faith and trust in my unquiet mind.

Anyway, those are my thoughts that keep me awake on this Sunday morning. My anxious mind cannot rest. I am neither manic nor depressed, which is one of the only positives I seem to have in my life right now.

I will talk to you guys later. As always, the act of writing has helped me get a lot of pressure off my chest. I feel better. Hopefully I’ll be able to squeeze in a little bit of shut-eye. Love you all, my loyal readers, and I wish you all a happy new year!

 

 

XOXO,

Belicia