Brandi Fulton

@brandifulton | contributor
Brandi Fulton

Finding Self-Acceptance on the Road to Self-Love With Bipolar Disorder

I would love to love myself like those girls with bright, white teeth on the cover of self-help books that give you a formula for self-love in five easy steps, but I’m finding it a tad challenging. Loving and appreciating myself feels impossible but so did making it to 40 years old with bipolar disorder so I guess it’s worth a try. There are so many reasons that I don’t feel worthy of my own love but mostly it’s 25 years of the bipolar monster spewing its hateful words and me drowning as I gulp them down. It hijacks my mind and colors the way I see myself and the world around me, and it’s time to take some of that power back. There is a softer, quieter voice underneath that has been patiently waiting for me to shut up long enough to hear it. I’m not quite ready to love myself, but I figure if I can start to like myself, that’s a step in the right direction. I’ve come up with a list of five things I’m starting to accept about myself. I feel like an imposter and a liar but if I don’t commit myself to this loving journey then I’m not going to live the life I want. And for me, nothing is more dire. I’ve fought so hard to stay alive and I cannot have that fight mean nothing. So, here’s my acceptance list: … hmmm… OK, I’ve got this. 1. I’m coming to accept that my love will always feel like all or nothing. This often corresponds with my depression and hypomania. One minute I want to run and live by myself in the woods with a bunch of cats. and the next my husband feels like the only home I’ll ever want. It’s beyond challenging not to pack up my purple leggings and electric toothbrush when I start obsessing about whether he’ll leave because I’m so broken. I’m scared he’ll figure out he can do better and go find that better. 2. I’ll always need help when my brain stops working. I get stuck in the bathtub — well, not literally — and need someone to come in and help me figure out my next steps. I can’t wrangle my thoughts enough to piece together how to get from “wet in bathtub” to “dry in bed” with pajamas on. This may seem ridiculous but when my mind shuts down, it doesn’t leave any cookie crumbs back to knowing how to dress myself. 3. I can’t support myself financially. This may change in the future when I sell my next book for sweet, sweet “cabin on the lake money,” but right now I can barely work. Working part-time sent me to the psyche ward so staying stable is now my full-time job. I’m trying to see, though, what value I bring to my household without money. It’s still a work-in-progress. 4. I will always have hanging boobs and stretch marks on my, well, everything. I was super skinny when I was young but food became my way of coping with bipolar, so I have ballooned. As I get older, though, my concern becomes more about health and not how I look in a bathing suit. 5. I won’t get back all those years I hated myself. But I’m starting to create a gentler relationship with myself. I’m not sure if it’ll lead to love but you never really do at the start of a possible love affair. Do you love or at least like yourself?

Community Voices

The Voice of My Depression and My Warrior

This is what my #Depression and inner warrior want me to hear but I’m often too busy, distracted, or angry at my limitations to really hear it. When I gave them space this is what they told me.

I try so hard, but you need to be gentler with me. I often feel like I’m drowning and sometimes you don’t take care of me. Sometimes you get angry and resentful and can’t see all the small steps I’m trying to take to make life easier. I can’t explain to you how hard it is when you push me beyond my limits and then are surprised when you crash at the end of the day. I give you lots of hints that I just can’t anymore, and you ignore them. I make your breathing shallow, I clench your stomach so tight you can’t eat, and I slow down your thinking.

I need you to be patient with me when I’m barely holding on. Sometimes I’m coming undone and can’t hold myself together anymore and shut down to survive. It’s exhausting to try and keep the voices away while you want to come up with pithy lines to impress a potential editor.

I need you to listen to me. At night when I’m heavy and need to be released please let yourself sob and not distract yourself with Escape Room games on your phone. When I start to clench your fists and tense your shoulders let yourself hit a pillow or scream or dance it out. And when your body feels so heavy it takes effort to even breath let yourself lay down and rest.

I need you to see how far I’ve come. When you were younger, I could barely stop you from cutting yourself and taking all your pills but look at you now. Even when unwell you can still mostly function and that was damn hard to get to. Years of trying out different pills, therapy, honing coping skills, and learning to lean on others when you need help.

I need you to stop writing this blog. You want to make it longer or more impressive, but I am exhausted, and I need you to put away the computer and just rest.

Community Voices
Brandi Fulton

Tools for Finding Motivation With Depression

I just spent the last three hours playing online cards and watching You Tube dance videos instead of working on a short story due this week. Months ago, I was driven to finish the tasks and deadlines I set for myself and now I’m lucky if I write at all. I used to follow a strict schedule that included yoga, meditation, cleaning, writing, eating, exercising, etc. and now I only do about half the tasks. It’s starting to occur to me that depression is moving back in. It can be hard to spot because it brings lots of baggage, but only unpacks one shirt at a time. By the time I notice its presence my drawers are overflowing and I’m stuck in the muck and not sure what to do. Sadly, life doesn’t stop because I’m not well. After years and years of this cycle I’ve created some coping skills to try and keep productive and engaged with life when depressed. It’s really difficult when my carpets are screaming for a hoover and my keyboard is covered in dust and all I want to do is lay in bed all day. So, here’s a few things I do to motivate myself when unwell: 1. Sit with it. Whenever I want to move through something, I sit in my body and feel it. Right now, the grief and anger that are hiding under my current depression are crushing my chest and making my body feel so heavy it seems impossible to move forward. I’m angry that I’m not working towards my goals and sad because when apathy takes over, I don’t care. It sucks to sit in the uncomfortable emotions but sometimes the only way through it, is through it. 2. Talk to someone. Sometimes I don’t realize I’ve become so unmotivated until I start talking to someone about how their life is going and I realize mine has been put on hold again. When I get depressed, I get so distracted by my own inner monsters that I forget there is a whole world out there accomplishing things. I find that if I talk to a loved one about my depression, and how I’m feeling useless and like a failure, I don’t have to carry around all that shame and I have more energy to be productive. 3. Create goals. I’m a goal-oriented person. I need to be working towards something or I get bored and lose all my creative juices. The goals don’t have to be opening a bakery or becoming a lawyer; it can be having a shower and eating a meal. Right now, my goal is to work on blogs an hour a day and stories for 30 minutes. These are easy goals because if I can’t accomplish them I just get angry with myself, become hopeless and go back to watching Jennifer Lopez convince me she “Ain’t Your Mama.” 4. Just start. Sometimes I have to start doing the tasks no matter how I feel and hope it gets easier. I find the hardest step is the first step. The good thing about starting is it can give me the motivation to keep going. That one shower makes me feel good enough to add on a meal. This path may be slow, but each step is one step closer towards my goals and farther from hours of online crib. I understand when really unwell this can be horribly difficult, so maybe giving yourself compassion and forgiveness can be the goal for that day. 5. Celebrate the good days and forgive yourself for the rest. Some days I can do yoga, exercise, eat three meals and write for three hours and the next I can barely have a shower and eat a single meal, but I keep trying. Honestly, I’m still working on this tool. I’m actually better at forgiveness than celebration, but giving myself high fives is starting to get easier. What are some tips you could share?

Brandi Fulton

I Feel I Deserve My Bipolar Symptoms Because I'm a 'Bad' Person

When I get depressed, my automatic thought is I have done something “bad” to deserve the symptoms that are reappearing. In my mind, adverse behavior is not a manifestation of depressive symptoms, but a fundamental failure in my character. For example, I believe I am unlovable because my anxiety and sadness get in the way of giving my partner the attention he deserves. Or, I’m useless because I can’t get out of bed until 3 p.m. It’s not the chemical imbalances in my brain that are causing the exhaustion and incessant crying, but that I’m an inherently broken person. Someone who is unable to keep steady employment, healthy relationships or a social life. A therapist once told me the consequences of bipolar disorder, such as being unable to keep a job, can be partially attributed to the genetic components of the disorder. I nodded like I understood. However, deep down, I was thinking, “Lady, you are full of shit. I have bipolar symptoms because I’m bad.” I get so angry with myself when these depressive symptoms reappear because I’m sure I have done something wrong to deserve them. The “something wrong” could be as insignificant as not folding the laundry when promised. Frustrated, I end up screaming, punching pillows and throwing books across the room. Depression is a horrid beast. My latest depression was magnified when I worked an extra-long day. I’m unable to work more than two short days a week because I get so overwhelmed with the external stimulation, long lists of to-dos and co-worker chatter. It’s hard making small talk when my brain is so foggy. Forgetting simple words, such as apple and desk, is really embarrassing. Not only is my mind exhausted, but so is my body. My muscles ache from tension, my ears ring from the constant noise and lights become too bright. Afterward, all I can do is lie alone in a dark, quiet room. Sometimes I spend the rest of the night crying because of how worn-out I feel. What is most heartbreaking about these depressive episodes is how I end up feeling so empty and alone. It physically hurts my heart thinking about how badly I crave love and acceptance. I want others to love me so I don’t feel so alone, and accept me so I no longer feel irreparably damaged. I have had many, many ( many) years of therapy, and still have not found a way to love and accept myself. Deep down, I truly believe I have a mental illness because I am a bad person. No matter how hard I’ve tried (and I’ve tried f*cking hard), I can’t seem to change this. Life will be much harder than it needs to be until I can separate my perception of who I am from the lies my depression fills my mind with. I need to be able to recognize it’s depression leading to these symptoms and not my personality or “bad” behavior. Hating myself makes everything in life, especially working, so much harder. Tears are rolling down my cheeks as I write this post. However, there is hope hidden within this endless, self-disparaging diatribe. Being aware of your thought processes and observing how your mind is distorting your self-image is crucial to halting this incessant self-ridicule. If you can calmly notice the hostile thoughts ricocheting throughout your mind, without emotionally attaching to them, you have curtailed some of depression’s power.

Brandi Fulton

Tools for Finding Motivation With Depression

I just spent the last three hours playing online cards and watching You Tube dance videos instead of working on a short story due this week. Months ago, I was driven to finish the tasks and deadlines I set for myself and now I’m lucky if I write at all. I used to follow a strict schedule that included yoga, meditation, cleaning, writing, eating, exercising, etc. and now I only do about half the tasks. It’s starting to occur to me that depression is moving back in. It can be hard to spot because it brings lots of baggage, but only unpacks one shirt at a time. By the time I notice its presence my drawers are overflowing and I’m stuck in the muck and not sure what to do. Sadly, life doesn’t stop because I’m not well. After years and years of this cycle I’ve created some coping skills to try and keep productive and engaged with life when depressed. It’s really difficult when my carpets are screaming for a hoover and my keyboard is covered in dust and all I want to do is lay in bed all day. So, here’s a few things I do to motivate myself when unwell: 1. Sit with it. Whenever I want to move through something, I sit in my body and feel it. Right now, the grief and anger that are hiding under my current depression are crushing my chest and making my body feel so heavy it seems impossible to move forward. I’m angry that I’m not working towards my goals and sad because when apathy takes over, I don’t care. It sucks to sit in the uncomfortable emotions but sometimes the only way through it, is through it. 2. Talk to someone. Sometimes I don’t realize I’ve become so unmotivated until I start talking to someone about how their life is going and I realize mine has been put on hold again. When I get depressed, I get so distracted by my own inner monsters that I forget there is a whole world out there accomplishing things. I find that if I talk to a loved one about my depression, and how I’m feeling useless and like a failure, I don’t have to carry around all that shame and I have more energy to be productive. 3. Create goals. I’m a goal-oriented person. I need to be working towards something or I get bored and lose all my creative juices. The goals don’t have to be opening a bakery or becoming a lawyer; it can be having a shower and eating a meal. Right now, my goal is to work on blogs an hour a day and stories for 30 minutes. These are easy goals because if I can’t accomplish them I just get angry with myself, become hopeless and go back to watching Jennifer Lopez convince me she “Ain’t Your Mama.” 4. Just start. Sometimes I have to start doing the tasks no matter how I feel and hope it gets easier. I find the hardest step is the first step. The good thing about starting is it can give me the motivation to keep going. That one shower makes me feel good enough to add on a meal. This path may be slow, but each step is one step closer towards my goals and farther from hours of online crib. I understand when really unwell this can be horribly difficult, so maybe giving yourself compassion and forgiveness can be the goal for that day. 5. Celebrate the good days and forgive yourself for the rest. Some days I can do yoga, exercise, eat three meals and write for three hours and the next I can barely have a shower and eat a single meal, but I keep trying. Honestly, I’m still working on this tool. I’m actually better at forgiveness than celebration, but giving myself high fives is starting to get easier. What are some tips you could share?

Brandi Fulton

Tools for Finding Motivation With Depression

I just spent the last three hours playing online cards and watching You Tube dance videos instead of working on a short story due this week. Months ago, I was driven to finish the tasks and deadlines I set for myself and now I’m lucky if I write at all. I used to follow a strict schedule that included yoga, meditation, cleaning, writing, eating, exercising, etc. and now I only do about half the tasks. It’s starting to occur to me that depression is moving back in. It can be hard to spot because it brings lots of baggage, but only unpacks one shirt at a time. By the time I notice its presence my drawers are overflowing and I’m stuck in the muck and not sure what to do. Sadly, life doesn’t stop because I’m not well. After years and years of this cycle I’ve created some coping skills to try and keep productive and engaged with life when depressed. It’s really difficult when my carpets are screaming for a hoover and my keyboard is covered in dust and all I want to do is lay in bed all day. So, here’s a few things I do to motivate myself when unwell: 1. Sit with it. Whenever I want to move through something, I sit in my body and feel it. Right now, the grief and anger that are hiding under my current depression are crushing my chest and making my body feel so heavy it seems impossible to move forward. I’m angry that I’m not working towards my goals and sad because when apathy takes over, I don’t care. It sucks to sit in the uncomfortable emotions but sometimes the only way through it, is through it. 2. Talk to someone. Sometimes I don’t realize I’ve become so unmotivated until I start talking to someone about how their life is going and I realize mine has been put on hold again. When I get depressed, I get so distracted by my own inner monsters that I forget there is a whole world out there accomplishing things. I find that if I talk to a loved one about my depression, and how I’m feeling useless and like a failure, I don’t have to carry around all that shame and I have more energy to be productive. 3. Create goals. I’m a goal-oriented person. I need to be working towards something or I get bored and lose all my creative juices. The goals don’t have to be opening a bakery or becoming a lawyer; it can be having a shower and eating a meal. Right now, my goal is to work on blogs an hour a day and stories for 30 minutes. These are easy goals because if I can’t accomplish them I just get angry with myself, become hopeless and go back to watching Jennifer Lopez convince me she “Ain’t Your Mama.” 4. Just start. Sometimes I have to start doing the tasks no matter how I feel and hope it gets easier. I find the hardest step is the first step. The good thing about starting is it can give me the motivation to keep going. That one shower makes me feel good enough to add on a meal. This path may be slow, but each step is one step closer towards my goals and farther from hours of online crib. I understand when really unwell this can be horribly difficult, so maybe giving yourself compassion and forgiveness can be the goal for that day. 5. Celebrate the good days and forgive yourself for the rest. Some days I can do yoga, exercise, eat three meals and write for three hours and the next I can barely have a shower and eat a single meal, but I keep trying. Honestly, I’m still working on this tool. I’m actually better at forgiveness than celebration, but giving myself high fives is starting to get easier. What are some tips you could share?

Brandi Fulton

Tools for Finding Motivation With Depression

I just spent the last three hours playing online cards and watching You Tube dance videos instead of working on a short story due this week. Months ago, I was driven to finish the tasks and deadlines I set for myself and now I’m lucky if I write at all. I used to follow a strict schedule that included yoga, meditation, cleaning, writing, eating, exercising, etc. and now I only do about half the tasks. It’s starting to occur to me that depression is moving back in. It can be hard to spot because it brings lots of baggage, but only unpacks one shirt at a time. By the time I notice its presence my drawers are overflowing and I’m stuck in the muck and not sure what to do. Sadly, life doesn’t stop because I’m not well. After years and years of this cycle I’ve created some coping skills to try and keep productive and engaged with life when depressed. It’s really difficult when my carpets are screaming for a hoover and my keyboard is covered in dust and all I want to do is lay in bed all day. So, here’s a few things I do to motivate myself when unwell: 1. Sit with it. Whenever I want to move through something, I sit in my body and feel it. Right now, the grief and anger that are hiding under my current depression are crushing my chest and making my body feel so heavy it seems impossible to move forward. I’m angry that I’m not working towards my goals and sad because when apathy takes over, I don’t care. It sucks to sit in the uncomfortable emotions but sometimes the only way through it, is through it. 2. Talk to someone. Sometimes I don’t realize I’ve become so unmotivated until I start talking to someone about how their life is going and I realize mine has been put on hold again. When I get depressed, I get so distracted by my own inner monsters that I forget there is a whole world out there accomplishing things. I find that if I talk to a loved one about my depression, and how I’m feeling useless and like a failure, I don’t have to carry around all that shame and I have more energy to be productive. 3. Create goals. I’m a goal-oriented person. I need to be working towards something or I get bored and lose all my creative juices. The goals don’t have to be opening a bakery or becoming a lawyer; it can be having a shower and eating a meal. Right now, my goal is to work on blogs an hour a day and stories for 30 minutes. These are easy goals because if I can’t accomplish them I just get angry with myself, become hopeless and go back to watching Jennifer Lopez convince me she “Ain’t Your Mama.” 4. Just start. Sometimes I have to start doing the tasks no matter how I feel and hope it gets easier. I find the hardest step is the first step. The good thing about starting is it can give me the motivation to keep going. That one shower makes me feel good enough to add on a meal. This path may be slow, but each step is one step closer towards my goals and farther from hours of online crib. I understand when really unwell this can be horribly difficult, so maybe giving yourself compassion and forgiveness can be the goal for that day. 5. Celebrate the good days and forgive yourself for the rest. Some days I can do yoga, exercise, eat three meals and write for three hours and the next I can barely have a shower and eat a single meal, but I keep trying. Honestly, I’m still working on this tool. I’m actually better at forgiveness than celebration, but giving myself high fives is starting to get easier. What are some tips you could share?

Brandi Fulton

Tools for Finding Motivation With Depression

I just spent the last three hours playing online cards and watching You Tube dance videos instead of working on a short story due this week. Months ago, I was driven to finish the tasks and deadlines I set for myself and now I’m lucky if I write at all. I used to follow a strict schedule that included yoga, meditation, cleaning, writing, eating, exercising, etc. and now I only do about half the tasks. It’s starting to occur to me that depression is moving back in. It can be hard to spot because it brings lots of baggage, but only unpacks one shirt at a time. By the time I notice its presence my drawers are overflowing and I’m stuck in the muck and not sure what to do. Sadly, life doesn’t stop because I’m not well. After years and years of this cycle I’ve created some coping skills to try and keep productive and engaged with life when depressed. It’s really difficult when my carpets are screaming for a hoover and my keyboard is covered in dust and all I want to do is lay in bed all day. So, here’s a few things I do to motivate myself when unwell: 1. Sit with it. Whenever I want to move through something, I sit in my body and feel it. Right now, the grief and anger that are hiding under my current depression are crushing my chest and making my body feel so heavy it seems impossible to move forward. I’m angry that I’m not working towards my goals and sad because when apathy takes over, I don’t care. It sucks to sit in the uncomfortable emotions but sometimes the only way through it, is through it. 2. Talk to someone. Sometimes I don’t realize I’ve become so unmotivated until I start talking to someone about how their life is going and I realize mine has been put on hold again. When I get depressed, I get so distracted by my own inner monsters that I forget there is a whole world out there accomplishing things. I find that if I talk to a loved one about my depression, and how I’m feeling useless and like a failure, I don’t have to carry around all that shame and I have more energy to be productive. 3. Create goals. I’m a goal-oriented person. I need to be working towards something or I get bored and lose all my creative juices. The goals don’t have to be opening a bakery or becoming a lawyer; it can be having a shower and eating a meal. Right now, my goal is to work on blogs an hour a day and stories for 30 minutes. These are easy goals because if I can’t accomplish them I just get angry with myself, become hopeless and go back to watching Jennifer Lopez convince me she “Ain’t Your Mama.” 4. Just start. Sometimes I have to start doing the tasks no matter how I feel and hope it gets easier. I find the hardest step is the first step. The good thing about starting is it can give me the motivation to keep going. That one shower makes me feel good enough to add on a meal. This path may be slow, but each step is one step closer towards my goals and farther from hours of online crib. I understand when really unwell this can be horribly difficult, so maybe giving yourself compassion and forgiveness can be the goal for that day. 5. Celebrate the good days and forgive yourself for the rest. Some days I can do yoga, exercise, eat three meals and write for three hours and the next I can barely have a shower and eat a single meal, but I keep trying. Honestly, I’m still working on this tool. I’m actually better at forgiveness than celebration, but giving myself high fives is starting to get easier. What are some tips you could share?

Brandi Fulton

Tools for Finding Motivation With Depression

I just spent the last three hours playing online cards and watching You Tube dance videos instead of working on a short story due this week. Months ago, I was driven to finish the tasks and deadlines I set for myself and now I’m lucky if I write at all. I used to follow a strict schedule that included yoga, meditation, cleaning, writing, eating, exercising, etc. and now I only do about half the tasks. It’s starting to occur to me that depression is moving back in. It can be hard to spot because it brings lots of baggage, but only unpacks one shirt at a time. By the time I notice its presence my drawers are overflowing and I’m stuck in the muck and not sure what to do. Sadly, life doesn’t stop because I’m not well. After years and years of this cycle I’ve created some coping skills to try and keep productive and engaged with life when depressed. It’s really difficult when my carpets are screaming for a hoover and my keyboard is covered in dust and all I want to do is lay in bed all day. So, here’s a few things I do to motivate myself when unwell: 1. Sit with it. Whenever I want to move through something, I sit in my body and feel it. Right now, the grief and anger that are hiding under my current depression are crushing my chest and making my body feel so heavy it seems impossible to move forward. I’m angry that I’m not working towards my goals and sad because when apathy takes over, I don’t care. It sucks to sit in the uncomfortable emotions but sometimes the only way through it, is through it. 2. Talk to someone. Sometimes I don’t realize I’ve become so unmotivated until I start talking to someone about how their life is going and I realize mine has been put on hold again. When I get depressed, I get so distracted by my own inner monsters that I forget there is a whole world out there accomplishing things. I find that if I talk to a loved one about my depression, and how I’m feeling useless and like a failure, I don’t have to carry around all that shame and I have more energy to be productive. 3. Create goals. I’m a goal-oriented person. I need to be working towards something or I get bored and lose all my creative juices. The goals don’t have to be opening a bakery or becoming a lawyer; it can be having a shower and eating a meal. Right now, my goal is to work on blogs an hour a day and stories for 30 minutes. These are easy goals because if I can’t accomplish them I just get angry with myself, become hopeless and go back to watching Jennifer Lopez convince me she “Ain’t Your Mama.” 4. Just start. Sometimes I have to start doing the tasks no matter how I feel and hope it gets easier. I find the hardest step is the first step. The good thing about starting is it can give me the motivation to keep going. That one shower makes me feel good enough to add on a meal. This path may be slow, but each step is one step closer towards my goals and farther from hours of online crib. I understand when really unwell this can be horribly difficult, so maybe giving yourself compassion and forgiveness can be the goal for that day. 5. Celebrate the good days and forgive yourself for the rest. Some days I can do yoga, exercise, eat three meals and write for three hours and the next I can barely have a shower and eat a single meal, but I keep trying. Honestly, I’m still working on this tool. I’m actually better at forgiveness than celebration, but giving myself high fives is starting to get easier. What are some tips you could share?