I Was Nominated for The Mystery Blogger Award!!

Thank you to Okoto Enigma for creating “The Mystery Blogger” award and connecting bloggers in a new and hilarious way.

And thank you to https://myloudbipolarwhispers.com for nominating me! I am honored and humbled by your random act of kindness.

She is another ~bipolar 1~ sista, so if you like my blog, I bet you will love hers!

Rules for the “Mystery Blogger Award”

  1. Name the creator of the award and link their blog. (check)
  2. Place the award logo or image within your blog post. (check)
  3. Thank the person who nominated you and link their blog in your post. (check)
  4. Tell your readers 3 things about yourself.
  5. Answer your nominator’s questions.
  6. Nominate 10-20 people.
  7. Ask your nominees 5 original questions of your choice.
  8. Share 5 links to your best blog posts.
  9. Notify each of your nominees by commenting on their blog.

Three Things about Myself:

  1. I work with kids with special needs, and it is my passion in life. I’ve known this since I was 16. My kids teach me daily how to speak louder, express stronger, fly higher, and love better. I want to be a doctor to continue helping my kids. (A bit ironically, I decided to become a doctor longggggg before I was diagnosed with bipolar.) I love my kids. If you want to know anything about me, want to try to understand me to my core, know this. My kids constantly remind me that my life is worth living, that hurt and pain will pass, that better days are to come. Better days with them are yet to come.
  2. I’m a perfectionist with a horrendously messy room. Doesn’t make sense, does it? Well to me, it does. I am a perfectionist in school, in extracurriculars, in friendships and relationships, even and especially in my “recovery” (I kind of hate that word). I am a perfectionist to a fault, and I hold extreme guilt and shame deep within me. In the midst of my striving for perfection, I must forfeit some things to remain on top in others. For me, my room pays the price. Clothes and towels and makeup strewn everywhere, turning my dorm into an environmental disaster. When I finally cannot stand it any longer (or my roommate finally cannot stand it any longer), I spend entire days perfectly arranging every. single. thing.
  3. I am in Zeta Tau Alpha sorority. This sounds really annoying and typical-sorority-betch to make this one of my top three things about me, but I can’t explain to you how important my “zistas” have been in my “recovery” (there it is again….). Not only do I receive “check ups” from different girls every week, but they all have literally saved my life. They carry me home when my depression and impulsivity horribly combine, and my brain tells me to drink until I can’t stand up any longer. They hold me through my tears and my panic attacks. But the best part is, they visited me in crazy people jail!! My last night in the hospital, I had 16 visitors come see me, love me, and tell me goodbye. I felt normal for two hours, for the first time since I could remember, and I so desperately needed that. My friends are imperative to my recovery and to my daily happiness. I hate having to lean on people, to be vulnerable, but if I have to experience the not-so good parts of life with anyone, I want to experience it with them.

My five questions to answer:

  1. What is your favorite sport? I LOVE basketball. I am a die hard Curry and Golden State Warriors fan, and I’m thrilled that they have almost their entire team back for the 2017-2018 year!!! I watched pretty much every playoff game this year (And no, not just the GSW games. I mean every game). I go to the University of Virginia, and my friends and I make a point of going to as many games as possible each spring. Malcolm Brogdon, one of our star players our first year in college, now plays for the Milwaukee Bucks, and he won NBA Rookie of the Year this year! I also watched almost every March Madness game. I swear I get post-basketball-season depression.
  2. What is your favorite NFL Football team and do you watch football every Sunday? Honestly I just looked up teams on Google to see if I knew any of them (oops). I’ll do anything for a good viewing party though. I’m just more into it for the people and food (especially the food) than I am for the games. 🙂 But I loved going to see my high school football team (does that count?!?), and I am always down for a tailgate at school. Hate to say it, but UVA does not have the best team, so usually my friends and I don’t make it past those tailgates. Best case scenario, we go watch them on TV at the bars. That’s enough support, right?
  3. Why do you write, and why did you decide to write a blog? A few of my therapists along the way suggested that I get a journal, since they weren’t having much luck trying to get me to talk in group and individual sessions. They told me I needed to start acknowledging my life, needed to pull out my repressed memories. I refused…..And then I didn’t. I wrote hundreds of pages on my laptop, but I only shared with my therapists what I wanted to share. But the blog was a particularly manic idea on a particularly manic day in the midst of a long-term manic episode. I thought blogs were stupid, were only there for people who wanted and needed attention…..And then I didn’t. And here I am, two months later, still blogging. Surprise!
  4. What is your favorite television show? Embarrassingly enough, I’ve watched 21 seasons of America’s Next Top Model since I’ve been home from school. I love me some sassy (and slightly trashy) reality TV. But my all time favorite shows are Criminal Minds and Law and Order: SVU. Unfortunately, I have watched every single episode of these TV shows as well. But that doesn’t discourage me! Right now I’m rewatching an episode of SVU (really freakily ironically, this one is about two women with bipolar disorder, Season 18, Episode 4–‘Heightened Emotions’). Can’t stop, won’t stop.
  5. Besides writing, what is your favorite hobby and/or talent? I have been a dancer for 16 years. Long before I knew about my bipolar, I used dance as a way to cope with my strange, seemingly unnatural thoughts and feelings. The first person who suggested I may have a “problem” with my mental health was my dance teacher, who is now a clinical psychologist. She noticed something important in me when I was only 14, when I was caught up in the whirlwind of puberty and boys and transitioning to boarding school. Thank you Ms. Melissa!

My five questions for you to answer:

  1. Who are you? Where do you come from? What are your key personality traits? What do you love the most about yourself? What makes different, makes you you?
  2. What is/was your favorite school subject? (English doesn’t count!!)
  3. Stealing the question I answered above:  Why do you write, and why did you decide to write a blog?
  4. Who’s your favorite singer/band/musician and why?
  5. Andddddd the classic (because I can’t think of anything else): You’re stuck on a stranded island. What three things/people would you want to have? This is a life or death situation, so I wouldn’t recommend asking for Kanye or a cell phone. Electronics wouldn’t work on a stranded island anyways….(and neither would Kanye, I assume)

My nominees for The Mystery Blog Award are: 

1. Sue, who was kind enough to let me guest blog on her page! https://scvincent.com/ “Echoes of Life, Love and Laughter”

2. Marje, who was also kind enough to let me guest blog on her page! https://mjmallon.com/ “Kyrosmagica Publishing: A magical shore of Books, Writing, Photography, Quotes, Haiku, and Inspiration”

3. Amelia, one of my real life in person friends!! https://coffeewithasideofcrohnsdisease.wordpress.com/ “Amelia and a thing called Crohn’s Disease”

4. Claire, who featured my blog on one of her ‘Inspiring Blogs’ posts! https://painpalsblog.wordpress.com/ “My family & friends living with me…..and chronic illness”

5. Michelle, who will be sharing her fascinating story with you on my page! https://unhingedandunenlightened.wordpress.com/ “A Polytheist Wiccan’s Thoughts on Mental Illness”

6. John/Luda, who will also be appearing here soon! https://fightingiseasy.wordpress.com/ “Life is Hard. Fighting is Easy”

 

7. Meet Katie at https://bipolarbrave.com/blog/ “Power, love and a sound mind”

8. Meet Sarah at https://girlanxietyblog.wordpress.com “A blog about letting go and letting God. Well, trying to.”

9. Meet Michelle (number 2!) at https://polarizedmindblog.wordpress.com “Welcome to my whimsical and wacky world”

10. Meet Mer at https://knockedoverbyafeather.wordpress.com “Knocked over by a feather…it was a big fucking feather…”

11. Meet Victoria B. at https://800recoveryhub.blog “Written by people in recovery for people in recovery”

12. Meet Jeanette at https://jeanettepurkis.wordpress.com “Thoughts on all things autism and mental health”

13. Meet Katy at https://katysrecovery.wordpress.com “A completely NSFW but lovely recovery blog.”

14. Meet Bethany at https://bethanykays.com “NOT MY SECRET…overcoming the shame of sexual abuse”

15. Meet Danny at https://dreambigdreamoften.co “A blog to inspire and challenge you!”

5 Links to my best blog posts

My first blog: https://highrisk1.wordpress.com/2017/05/15/high-risk/

My most recent blog: https://highrisk1.wordpress.com/2017/07/23/13-reasons-why-we-need-to-continue-the-mental-health-conversation/

My most popular blog: https://highrisk1.wordpress.com/2017/05/19/becoming-bipolar-surprise-im-depressed/

One of my personal favorite blogs: https://highrisk1.wordpress.com/2017/05/26/manic-attack/

Random blog I feel like sharing: https://highrisk1.wordpress.com/2017/06/05/my-first-psychiatric-institution/

Advertisements

’13 Reasons Why’ We Need to Continue the Mental Health Conversation

Just so you know, this article is more, well, jarring than mine usually are. The whole ‘13 Reasons Why’ debate lights a fire within me—the Netflix series is not dangerous, it is a wakeup call, so please stop attacking Selena—and I think I’ve channeled that energy into my writing.

 

If you were wondering: yes, I did purposefully wait to post this blog until after everyone and their mother expressed their opinions about Hannah Baker on social media.

I like to be original.

 

But then Chester Bennington died on Thursday.

Before that, Chris Cornell.

Carrie Fisher.

I remember hearing about Robin Williams’s suicide as if it was yesterday.

It wasn’t yesterday.

Or last month.

Or last year.

It was in 2014.

 

And I decided that the time is now. Time to let the fire burn, burn down to the ground, under the ground, to where too many loved ones lie. Time to talk; time to yell; time to scream; time to burst. Time to unleash the hurt. The pain. The rage.

It is time.

 

So here we go, I give you perhaps the most cliché title in the whole wide Internet:

 

’13 Reasons Why’ We Need to Continue the Mental Health Conversation

Dedicated to Chester Bennington

 

  1. Antidepressants don’t solve everything.

White and yellow and red and pink and purple drugs fill my medicine cabinet, looking as harmless as candy. But you should never take candy from a stranger, even if that stranger is your newest psychiatrist. I’m not saying don’t take your meds. Take your meds!!! I’m saying, learn, and learn lots. Don’t ignorantly take his word for it. Play an active role in your treatment.

For example: You see antidepressant commercials all over TV. You watch the sad person magically become happy. Like a snap of the fingers or a flick of a magic wand, one pill pop and up pops Happy Hannah. Who wouldn’t want such a quick fix for a lousy day?

But do you listen to how many side effects they rattle off? And that’s just for the drug advertised. You don’t ever hear about medications for bipolar disorder or schizophrenia or OCD or PTSD. Do you?

Well let me enlighten you: each and every drug has a little bit of a devil inside. The mentally ill never know if their newest medication will save them or eat them alive.

 

  1. There is no one “face” of mental illness.

I am told that I “don’t look like someone who has bipolar disorder.” And honestly, I take that as a compliment. Who wants to look like someone with a debilitating, lifelong mental illness?

But here’s the thing: “normal looking” people are bipolar. Girls are bipolar. Boys are bipolar. Moms and dads and daughters and sons and aunts and uncles and grandmothers and grandfathers are bipolar. Friends are bipolar. Lovers are bipolar. Famous people are bipolar.

I am bipolar.

Yes, the stereotypical “locked in a psych ward for the rest of eternity” people do exist. But if you don’t get to see their faces, if they are hidden from society, do they even really have a “face” at all?

 

  1. Psychiatric hospitals save lives.

Nice segue from my 2nd point: normal people enter psych wards. But psych wards are so stigmatized that when talked about, one speaks in a hushed tone. That girl was admitted. That man must be so crazy that they had to put him away. This stigmatization prevents too many people from getting help.

Including me, for a while.

And when I couldn’t take it any longer, when I went in for good, I was just going through a tough time. That’s what one says when one wants to be kind about another’s insanity.

Not all hospitals are created equal, of course. My 1st hospital (one whispers) was set up like a house, with a living room and a kitchen and even a gym. Nice and quiet and quaint, besides the eyes always watching you and the doors locking you in indefinitely.

My 2nd hospital was exactly how you imagine an institution: bright walls and fluorescent lighting and a pill counter and real-life criminals. But this 2nd psych ward was the one that saved my life, not the comfy cozy house. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder there. Finally.

I had to face the humiliation of being admitted in order to survive.

I am so thankful I was admitted.

Twice.

 

  1. Disorders can be (and too often are) perceived as personality traits.

Many of my symptoms of bipolar mania mimic my natural, eccentric, extroverted personality. Just an exaggerated version of myself. Before I was diagnosed, my impulsivity was blown off as immature teenage decision-making. My grandiosity and euphoria seemed to be byproducts of my high self-esteem. My racing thoughts proved my intelligence. This manic life was all I’d ever known, all anyone had ever known. And thus manic was my normal.

This is the reason I went through 12 therapists, 5 psychiatrists, and 2 hospitals before being correctly diagnosed. No one knew my “natural” traits were symptoms of a life-threatening disorder until it was almost too late.

 

  1. Most people with mental illnesses aren’t dumb, don’t “cry disability” for taxpayers’ money, and won’t rely on their diagnoses to get what they want.

Having a mental illness costs a lot of money. My psychiatrist costs me $100. With insurance. For a 15-minute meeting. Therapists cost hundreds of dollars each visit. Mental illness treatment isn’t an option for too many people. Medicare and Medicaid certainly don’t cover it, and most other insurance companies pick and choose what they accept, without rhyme or reason. The insurance-less too often live without any help.

And no, they can’t and won’t “just get over it.”

 

  1. People with mental illnesses can live (somewhat) normal lives.

However, the people (like me) lucky enough to pay for the top treatment can learn to control their mental illnesses (most of the time). I am a bipolar person at a prestigious university. I know bipolar people who hold highly competitive and demanding jobs. I know bipolar people who are married, who have children. And who knows how many people I have met but have no clue what they struggle with, because they don’t let it interfere with their aspirations. It is possible. And it is so desperately desired.

 

  1. One in five

Thanks to NAMI, we know that one in five American adults suffer from mental illness each year. Think of your five best friends, and then imagine watching one of them crumple up in a terrifying fit of depression. Or a panic attack. Or a suicide attempt.

1% of the population has bipolar disorder. That sounds like a miniscule amount compared to one in five. But that one person out of 100 matters too. Out of 323 million Americans, 3 million have bipolar disorder. Still a decent chunk of the population.

 

  1. Men have mental illnesses TOO!

Boys endure constant social pressure to “become men.” We all know it, all see it, and probably all partake in it, to some extent. After a certain age, boys are expected to stay strong, to not cry, to be unemotional, the jock, the future money-makers in their typical American home.

Like they are silent about every other feeling, men tend to keep their mental health to themselves. Back to the NIH: 21.2% of women are diagnosed with a mental illness, versus 14.3% of men. Is this due to gender differences; are women more prone to mental illnesses than men?

Perhaps.

Or perhaps men are less willing to admit they have a problem, any problem, but especially a problem with their mental health?

Or perhaps it is a little bit of both.

Vulnerability means weakness, and men can never be weak. Right?

Wrong.

Vulnerability actually means strength, means actively working to fix the problem. And that’s what men are supposed to do, fix the problems. Right?

This time, they’re just fixing their own problem. And that is okay, too.

 

  1. Early attention, early prevention

Soon after puberty, a child becomes a teenager, and that teenager becomes depressed. Right before high school graduation, a teenager develops schizophrenia. And during college, a young adult experiences the onset of her bipolar disorder.

They grow up in the blink of an eye. They get taller, bigger, hairier, more mature, more independent. And maybe mentally ill. In fact, NAMI (again) says that half of mental illnesses develop by age 14.

My mental illness developed by age 14.

I lived undiagnosed until I was 20.

The earlier you realize it, the better their chances of controlling it.

 

  1. Can you accurately define and explain bipolar disorder? Schizophrenia?

(FYI: “A severe mental disorder” is not a good enough answer.)

 

  1. Suicide is kind of a big deal.

According to the CDC, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.

According to the NIH, there were 52 million dollars dedicated to suicide research in 2016.

But there were almost twice as many dollars spent on heart disease. 10x more spent on cancer.

If you cannot be bothered to donate a few million dollars to the cause, you can still save lives. And you can perhaps save them more effectively. How?

By talking. To your friends, family, blogs, social media, what have you. By letting one person know that he is not alone. By sharing your own story. By your willingness to learn more. Up to ½ of suicide attempts and deaths in the US are by people who are bipolar. It is imperative that you, that we, take action.

 

  1. Free-sources

Free resources. Get it?

How does someone get help if he doesn’t know where to look for it?

Know them, share them, save a life.

CALL 911 if there is any possibility of you or someone you know is hurting or will hurt anyone.

Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-TALK for 24-hour crisis support

Online National Suicide Prevention chat at chat.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Text NAMI to 741741 and connect with a professional crisis counselor

Online mental health screening at mentalhealthscreening.org (does not substitute for a professional diagnosis)

Check out ok2talk.org to read about other people’s mental health journeys and submit your own

Find support for suicide loss survivors at allianceofhope.org

Find over 30 hotline numbers specific to your crisis at:

https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-referral-resources/

 

  1. We. Can’t. Help. It. (But you can help us)

It seems like every freakin bipolar resource I read compares my mental illness to type 1 diabetes. But that’s because it proves a point. People can’t prevent bipolar, and people can’t prevent diabetes. Doctors can’t cure bipolar, and doctors can’t cure diabetes. So people can only try to try to manage bipolar, and people can only try to manage diabetes.

Sometimes things go wrong, like a medicated bipolar person slips into a hypomanic phase, or a diabetic with an insulin pump slips into a hypoglycemic phase. Dangerous, potentially deadly consequences for something neither of them can control.

For something neither of them can control.

Get it? Got it? Good.

 

If you agree with me, or disagree with me (especially if you disagree with me), please like, comment, share, whatever you please. Whisper it or gossip it or cry it from the rooftops. Do what you need to do. Talk. It all benefits me.

Rest in peace Chester.

And too many others.

Lions and Tigers and Guest Posts, oh my!

Hello my loves! I have written a new guest blog to explain bipolar and mental illnesses in general using some insightful, famous quotes. Please check it out and let me know what you think by commenting either on this post or on Marje’s!

https://mjmallon.com/…/guest-post-cat-davis-four-quotes-to…/

Also, don’t forget to look at my other guest post on learning the 9 warning signs of mania. Same thing goes for commenting here or on Sue Vincent’s page!!

https://scvincent.com/…/guest-writer-cat-davis-against-st…/…

Also check out worthliving.co if you haven’t already. This cover photo is of me wearing a WL shirt and showing that my life is worth living and I don’t want to kill myself anymore etc. etc. Always a good thing to feel.

Let’s talk business: I am (a bit desperately) looking for guest posters!!!! If you want to guest post here, pleaseeeee hit me up. I’ll check out your stuff and see if it’s appropriate for my audience. But I’m not going to be strict; I am beggingggggg you. I just started summer school (Chemistry, gross) and my time (and will) to write has significantly decreased.

And if you’re feeling extra nice, you can pick one of my articles here to post on yours to help me out. :))))

 

PS: New blog coming out soon, and I’m trying to stir shit up, so it should be interesting. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Yay stigma!

Dear Future Me (Written 12/13/16)

I wrote this letter to myself seven months ago while at my first hospital. I just received it in the mail, and I cannot believe how much I’ve changed since then. This letter reminds me how lost I was, how lost I am, but how okay that is. I hope you find something in this letter that resonates with you, something that makes you feel something new. Thank you for reading.

PS: This photo was taken yesterday, and it also shows me how much I’ve changed. I remember how to smile! And smile often and smile big. xox

 

Dear Future Me,

 

You are a light. You are a flame that will never burn out. You are weightless, carried though life in the present tense. You are not in the past or future; you just are. But I want to remind you who you were and how you became more of you. I want you to take pride in your past, and let yourself notice your growth. I don’t expect you to be perfect. But you are nonetheless. Because you find happiness in your worst days, and happiness in your best. You find happiness in others, but most importantly, you find happiness within yourself. I am so proud of you!

Right now I am 19 years old. It is Tuesday, December 13th, 2016 at 2:35pm. I am on my 6th day at the hospital’s crisis unit. And I am surrounded by so much love, hard work, and growing happiness. And I encompass all of these qualities right now, too. And I know you do, too. A flame that will never burn out.

 

Daily journaling:

  1. Three gratitudes about your life
  2. A positive experience from your day
  3. Did you exercise today?
  4. Did you meditate today?
  5. A random act of kindness you did (even if it was just a random act of kindness for yourself!)

 

When you don’t feel perfectly content, start with your Daily Maintenance Plan. Self care is not a choice anymore; it is imperative to your beautiful existence. Then, put happiness first using the five steps I just gave you. Use your Wellness Toolbox. And be kind, to others and to yourself. You are so loved. I cannot wait to see who you become. But, repeat after me, “happiness is the key to success.” So if you’re drowning in anxiety, you will fail. And that is okay. You are learning everyday.

When you are ready, I want you to look at your struggles. I want you to thank them for helping you to seek help. I want you to notice how they, like everything else, improve. You must work to get what you want, and what you want is happiness. Just like what I want right now is happiness.

Please keep positive, mutually beneficial relationships in your life. Let go of the toxic ones. You are a flower that grows from your own strength, but not without the sun, sky, air, rain, and even the storms. But they too shall pass.

As you have hopefully continued to realize, you cannot control anything, except for your happiness. You cannot control others, so accept them as they are. Do not assume anything. Just feel, and feel everything. Eventually the urge to control will stop. But you will have to work hard for your happiness, harder than you worked to get into UVA or on your Intro Biology exams or even to grow and strengthen your relationships with those you love. But the payoff will be tremendous.

Putting all of your energy into each moment of each day is the first step to happiness. It will be hard, and you will feel sad or angry or all other uncomfortable emotions. But you will not be sad or angry. You will not be your diagnosis. Never.

I love you so much, future me. You have come so far and have so far yet to grow. Find peace in prayer when you need inhuman strength and guidance.

You are never too busy to be happy.

 

Many love you, including you.

Cat

Lots of New Mental Health Articles For You!! 7/5/17

I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry.

I know I abandoned you, the followers who keep me going. I am so grateful for all of you and your support, and I promise I’m going to keep posting more regularly, like I did in the beginning.

Let me tell you about what all has changed in the past few weeks.

Most importantly, I made the decision to go back to college! This is huge. I didn’t think I could do it; I didn’t think I could do it; I didn’t think I could do it; and then I knew I could.

Why?

My second change (okay this one is probably actually the most important): I stabilized 7 weeks ago for the first time.

My meds work!

I didn’t believe how well the correct mood stabilizers can work until it happened to me. After my antidepressant downfall, I was quite the skeptic. I figured meds could only get me so far.

Meds got me so, so far.

Third, even though I haven’t been writing here, I’ve been writing my heart out guest posting. Right now my newest post is live at scvincent.com. It’s called “Against Stigma.” It explains the 9 warning signs of mania, and is one of my favorite articles so far! I appreciate Sue for letting me write for her, and am thrilled to expand my audience!

I will also have a post live at worthliving.co this week. This will be my second article for Worth Living; the first was “Mental Illness and Humility,” which can be found about 20 blogs down on the link above. And I promise I’ll let you know when the second comes out! “Who Am I If I’m Not Manic” explains how my friends, family, therapists, and psychiatrists all believed my mania was my normal, which led to my misdiagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder.

I also have two articles on iam1in4.com: https://iam1in4.com/2017/06/ “The First Psychiatry Meeting” and https://iam1in4.com/2017/06/ “The First Therapy Meeting.”

Besides that, hit me up on social media! Comment somewhere that you found me from my blog, and I will follow back!

Instagram: @highrisk1

Tumblr: @highrisk1

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/highrisk1cat/

Twitter: @highrisk1cat

StumbleUpon: @highrisk1cat

And I will have a real post for you this week!! Hopefully a few.

I love you all xox

My First Mania Rash

I’m sorry for ditching y’all for a bit; I’ve been all over the place trying to write as much as I can while making sure I don’t give too much away on here!! So I have a new post today; it is a ~throwback~ to my first year in college during my first ever finals week. I hope you enjoy lovelies; I haven’t forgotten about you! xoxox

 

December 2015

One year earlier, age 18

University

 

Today is the first day of final exams. I ride the bus from the 24-hour library to my freshman dorm. I am one of only four riders, and everyone except me slumps over in their seats with naked exhaustion. Though it is 1:30am, I feel wired, and I know I won’t fall asleep for a while. I have a psychology exam in the morning, in only 7.5 hours, and even though I feel confident, my body twitches with increasing anxiety. Because there are always the what ifs. What if I fail? What if I didn’t try hard enough? What if I’m not as good as everyone else? What if this happens, what if that screws me over? My mind swirls, wide awake, while my body deteriorates with fatigue.

I get to my room and take off my sweater and look in my mirror to make sure I haven’t gained weight and…Oh. Oh no. What happened to my skin? My chest is polka-dotted with splotchy red patches. The skin of my throat burns hot to the touch. I poke my ribcage and watch my fingerprints dissolve. A cherry flood rushes to consume me whole, to gnaw straight through me, straight into my rapidly beating heart.

But it’s not just my chest. I touch each of my biceps, and they are being eaten alive too. I lift up my tank top and find a crimson stomach. My back looks diseased. Even my thighs turned fluorescent since the last time I looked at myself.

Lastly, and most horrifyingly, I reach my hands to my face. It too is metabolizing itself.

My skin is a Jackson Pollock painting of scarlet red and translucent white. I am simultaneously fascinated and disgusted. I fan myself with my hands—maybe I’m just overheated—but I cannot get my body temperature down. I place my hands on my hips and contemplate my next move.

I want to share this scientific mystery with someone, anyone else. I open my door and run straight into my hall’s sweet, docile, overreacting Resident Assistant. Before I can say “But isn’t this cool?” she has a rescue squad on the phone, coming “as fast as we can, ma’am.”

She does not think this is cool.

The rescue squad appears in an ambulance, lights flashing and sirens blaring, too quickly for me to completely assess the situation. I don’t have time to put my sweater back on, so here I am, in 40-degree weather, wearing a tank top and jean skirt. But I am Still. So. Burning. Hot.

A police officer shows up too, for good measure. He looks at my driver’s license, takes a minute to figure out how to work it (there are like three other people at my school from Arkansas), and leads me to the back of the ambulance. I try to sit on a bench with the EMTs, but they insist on me lying on the stretcher in the middle. I reluctantly comply, not in the mood to fight. “I have a test in the morning”, I keep reminding them, but no one seems to hear me. “I need to sleep. I do not function without sleep.” Nothing.

Eyes eager and hearts craving to put their training to the test, the EMTs don’t attempt to hide their enthusiasm at my…predicament. I stare back at each of them in turn and realize how young they look. They are probably my classmates, not much older than me, if not my age. This does not make me feel better. I hear a voice in the distance, but I cannot turn my head towards it. The stretcher holds my body perfectly supine, facing the ambulance doors, and the EMTs have left my line of vision. The voice tells me that she is about to put a needle in my arm, that we need to pump Benadryl into my system as quickly as possible, that we cannot wait a second longer. And ding! I realize why everyone is so concerned with my rash. They think I’m having an allergic reaction! The EMTs probably want it to be an allergic reaction. That’s a good story to tell back at the station. Anaphylaxis! Pass the Epi Pen! She barely made it; I’m serious!

The high and sudden dose of the antihistamine drags my existence down to the bottom of the deepest ocean. I’m woozy; I’m swaying; I’m light as a bird; I’m heavy as a boulder. Everything, everyone is a blur. I don’t remember how to move my arms, my legs, not even my head for that matter. Luckily this little white bed I’m on in this little metal room is comfortable. I sink deeper into the cot and smile lazily at the human blobs.

I somehow, out of pure stubbornness, manage to stay awake. Though I see and hear little—everything is so murky—I remain conscious. Just barely. We get to the hospital. They insist on rolling me in on the stretcher. I argue with them against rolling me in on the stretcher. I try my best not to slur my words as I try to convince them that I’m fine, I can walk, the stretcher is unnecessary. I don’t have allergies. I’m not dying. I’m just very sleepy, and I have a test in the morning. In my very nicest voice, I ask them to please just take me home.

They refuse to listen to me. I succumb to silence.

The hospital, my school’s hospital, the hospital I want to work at one day, is scarily quiet. The patients must be sleeping, I think to myself. So I lie back and watch the hospital glide past me, like pressing fast forward on a TV. Who knew a stretcher could move 100 miles per hour?

The nurses tell the EMTs, my new best friends (not), that there are no rooms available. They casually roll me against a wall in the hallway, and then they leave me. I am okay with this because now I can watch the nurses. They move so quickly, and I move so slowly. My eyelids droop, but I swear I’m still here. I’m still awake, you better not forget about me. I strain my ears to listen to every word they say, and I’m positive they don’t catch on to my ruse. Mostly they sound confused about my being here, about what’s wrong with me. I’m glad I’m not the only one.

The doctor is decently attractive, so I smile and comply with everything he says. After he rules out anaphylaxis—much to the dismay of my EMT pals, I’m sure—he sets me up with an EKG, draws a few vials of my blood, and checks my heart rate over and over again, though I don’t know why. The EKG shows nothing of interest, thank goodness. My dad has a pacemaker, and I know how much of a pain it is to deal with a faulty heart. No abnormal thyroid levels, and I silently thank my mom for not transferring that over to me. But my stupid heart won’t stop racing, apparently, so the doctor makes me stay on my little stretcher in the middle of the little hallway long after my little rash disappears. I ask him to let me go, please, reminding him that I still “have a test in the morning”, and at 5:30am he agrees to discharge me. My heart is still racing, apparently, but he gives up and I am grateful for his lack of determination.

I sleep for three hours, the Benadryl has really kicked in, and I don’t know how I make it to my final. I don’t remember waking up. I don’t remember walking. I have no recollection of taking my test; I just want it to be over as quickly as possible. I sleep for the rest of the day, ignoring any other studying I should probably do. The History and Civilization of Classical India will have to wait.

Darkness. I sleep deeply forever and ever.

 

*****

 

I will later find out that this rash is my first physical sign of my bipolar disorder. I will call it my mania rash after I am diagnosed because it only happens when I’m manic, whether it’s my happy, confident manic or my anxious, stressed manic. My mania also explains why my heart raced for hours. My body goes on high alert when I’m manic, and it takes more effort than I am usually able to muster to calm it down. But for that night, it was just a huge, unexplainable pain in the ass.

 

PS: I got exactly enough points on the test to get an 89.6% in the class, which, hell yes, was an A! Round of applause for me! Barely scraping by in college; still alive but barely breathing. That’s how to do it. 🙂