Coco Densmore

@cocodensmore | contributor
Coco Densmore is an unremarkable single mature BBW. She writes about Embracing Her Single, the challenges of living with bipolar mental illness, being HSV-2+, and healing from the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. Her writing is posted on her blog. She has also authored a book about online dating now available on Amazon: Empowered Online Dating by Coco Densmore.
Community Voices

"God counts her tears." -Jewish Proverb

<p>"God counts her tears." -Jewish Proverb</p>
2 people are talking about this
Community Voices

"God counts her tears." -Jewish Proverb

<p>"God counts her tears." -Jewish Proverb</p>
2 people are talking about this
Coco Densmore

What Daily Life Is Like With Pain From Bipolar Depression

I fully awaken behind still closed eyes. How my cat senses this is a mystery. She was still and quiet, sprawled sleeping over my side. Now she wakes and begins climbing over me, back and forth, loudly demanding breakfast. I see what I will see when I open my eyes and then I open them. The room is filled with grey light from another grey day in this grey, rainy place that I hate so very much. My eyes rest on my curtains backlit by the grey. I trace the bucolic country scene, with cows and trees and men and women in 18th century garb who dance lightly and happily on my antique French toile curtains. I curl a smile, thinking how much I love those curtains. They were so expensive. Outrageously expensive. They remind me that once, when opulence wasn’t opulence, I saw them, and I wanted them and I bought them. I’m always thankful, so thankful I was able to do that and that I did that. A cloud passes over the grey and the room goes darker grey. Tears spring forth. I come to a full knowledge Pain is back. During the dark peace of my sleep, she patiently located the tiniest of cracks in the walls I’ve so carefully and diligently erected against her. She stealthily and cunningly infiltrated my mind and now pervades my every thought. She owns me. All of me. I’m defenseless. Pain begins to wrap me with her heavy cloak. I feel an ache traveling slowly from my head, down through my body, leaving a tight band around my chest, out my arms to my fingers, down my thighs and calves and then to my feet. This is the visceral ache no amount of aspirin can touch. I roll over and close my eyes and scrunch up my face to show Pain how angry I am she’s come back. My tears push through ferociously, sliding over my nose, down my cheeks onto the pillow. I sob. Tabitha jumps off the bed and saunters out of the room, knowing she will not get her breakfast anytime soon. I sob for a time and then I wail. I shout angrily to God, accusing him of yet another betrayal. He didn’t keep Pain out, again. But even as I scream at him, I know God doesn’t control Pain. She’s not birthed of free will either. She’s just there. Like a chronic illness of any other sort. Pain exists in the unraveled raveling’s of the chemistry of my brain. I didn’t create her. I didn’t choose her. Nobody put her there. She’s just there. So, I pull back to the silent tears, which still come fast and fierce. My nose fills and fluid runs out and joins with my tears, small thick rivulets that feed into a raging river of suffering. The pillow underneath is soaked with the fluid of my soul. After a while, only a short while it seems, I come back aware and find nearly an hour has passed. I roll over and get out of bed. Within seconds, I hear the paw patter of three cats rushing upstairs to greet me, circling me and filling my heavy head with a cacophony of frustrated protestations urging me to get on with it. As I move across the room, I watch them race down the stairs ahead. I smile a resigned smile as I carefully descend, reluctant yet absolutely determined to push through another day. I step through the morning routine. I feed the cats, change their water, open the curtains to let the grey flood in. Any light is better than none I suppose. At the foot of my mother’s bed, I shake her leg gently to wake her. I return to the living room and wait. I try to blank my mind, but Pain pervades. The tears return, quiet, steady and slow. When I hear my mother finally swing her legs over the side of the bed and put them on the floor I go to the kitchen and begin preparing her breakfast. My mother takes a very long time to orient, nearly an hour to get herself up and leaned back in her electric recliner. Only then can I carefully place the tray of tea and sausage and eggs on her lap. She methodically lifts a forkful of eggs from her plate to her mouth, staring straight ahead while she chews, willing herself fully conscious. I smile at her my sad smile. Sometimes she smiles back, but mostly she looks at me blankly while she attempts to blink away her stupor. After she’s settled, I settle to write. Pain sits very close, her arms draped around me, her head resting on my shoulder. She watches intently as the words from my innermost person turn to black on paper. Pain smiles, sometimes giggling gleefully, as I carefully assemble, pull apart, then reassemble the words and sentences and paragraphs that form the chapters that most best tell the story of her life. I embrace Pain. I honor Pain. Only when she is satisfied, I feel her and know her and accept her completely does she feel safe to take her leave. For a time. I don’t know where she goes, but she leaves my mind and my body, and I can rest and be real me without Pain. But only for a time. And then Pain comes back. But I can always take comfort in knowing she will leave again. For a time. Maybe only for a short time, but maybe, hopefully, a longer time next time. I Persevere. And life goes on.

Coco Densmore

The Inexplicable Sadness That Comes With Bipolar Depression

When people ask, “Why are you sad?” there is no answer. I shrug my shoulders. The reason is there is no reason. Bipolar depression is inexplicable — there is most often no trigger or cause. Sometimes an external event, or an internal epiphany, but not usually. Usually it is a sadness with no explanation or cause. Unless you’re bipolar, or struggle with depression, you forget this. I even forget this. I’ll become inexplicably sad, I mean sobbing wailing sad, inconsolable, and I will search and search for a reason, and there simply isn’t one. None. But that isn’t a good enough answer for my confused and troubled brain, so I’ll keep searching for a reason. What happened? Why am I crying? Why can’t I get out of bed? Why can’t I make the phone calls I need to make? Why can’t I get to my doctor’s appointments? There is literally nothing that happened that is different or unusual. There is no obvious trigger, not even a subtle one. When I am in one of these extreme depressive episodes, apart from the obvious emotional displays, I don’t always realize it. I’m my mother’s primary caregiver. I might be short with her and not even realize I’m being short. My writing will be incredibly dark, and rereading it after the sadness has lifted can trigger me back into that dark place. It is ugly and painful to read what goes on inside the mind of an extremely suicidally depressed person. So I get it that some of my friends don’t want to read my work, or even can’t read it, because it can be triggering. And not everyone has an interest in what goes on inside of a mentally ill person’s mind and life. Furthermore, not everyone is in the mood to read about the darker aspects of my existence. Sometimes, it’s a much better choice to watch a romcom on Netflix! I get that. The important piece, for me, is to get it down in writing and to get it out there. There will be people that suffer like me, that act out in the ways I act out, and they will find my writing. They will learn their feelings and behaviors are not out of the ordinary for someone struggling with bipolar mental illness. Decent people, and I believe the vast majority of us that struggle with mental illness are decent people — decent people don’t set out to harm themselves or others. It is a symptom of the disease. However, someone struggling with bipolar is responsible for getting the treatment they need to attain and maintain stability. Bipolar is a chronic illness, just like any other. It can be managed but never cured. It takes diligence and persistence to manage bipolar and achieve some degree of quality of life — and no one does it perfectly 100 percent of the time. However, it is an iterative process. Two steps forward, one step back. Two steps forward three steps back. It’s critical to realize it takes as long as it takes. Your process and your timeline towards wholeness is unique and especially designed by the universe for you and only you. Get hold of the fact wherever you are is right where you’re supposed to be. Once you get hold of that, self-condemnation falls away. You no longer have a need to measure yourself against others. And eventually, although it’s been a slow process for me, but eventually, you get to a place where what others think of you no longer has significance. I wouldn’t say I’m “there” yet, but I’m certainly closer than I was a year ago. Only what you think of you matters. Get hold of that, because that place is where peace of mind lives. It is my fervent hope my writing will allow others that struggle to realize you can do things that go completely against your truth and you needn’t condemn yourself. There is no one in the universe, no one that is standing around waiting for you to make a mistake so they can condemn you or hurt you or destroy you. There is no one that is waiting for you to fail so they can take pleasure in it or punish you for it. And even if there were, the only power others have over you is the power you allow them to have over you. You own that choice. Lastly, never assume the way you look at yourself is the way others see you. We are always harder on ourselves that we need to be. Give yourself grace. Always. Grace.

Community Voices

I'm 58. And I'm still here. And that's a miracle.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my father. I seem to have forgiven him.

I’m 58 years old. I say that a lot. It’s such a weird number. It’s such a big number. And it’s so close to 59, which is so close to 60, which is really old. I can’t believe I got here. I say that a lot. It’s a miracle, really. I say that a lot, too.

My father has been dead since I was twenty. So 38 years he’s been gone.

When I put myself back in that place, when I think about those episodes of abuse, it makes me nauseous. But then I just turn away. I don’t want to see that anymore, I really don’t. And I don’t need to. I looked too close for too long. It’s so far gone now, so far back.

I remember at the time, when I was young and the Southern Baptist doctrine was shoved down my throat and beaten into me, I distinctly remember knowing for sure I was going to go to hell because I couldn’t honor my father. And I believed that for a long time. Maybe until I was in my 40s? And by then, I had a whole new slew of reasons why I knew for sure I was going to hell. Failure to follow just one of God’s commands was a miniscule infraction. I’d failed to follow so many of God’s commands, I was black with sin. Ugly and black and doomed.

I don’t believe in hell anymore. It was a long time – that realization – forming and manifesting in my head. A long long time. Probably since my 40s. HA! It seems it was then I started replacing the lies with the truth.

The truth lives inside, did you know that? It lives inside and we just get it brainwashed out of us. It takes a long time for the truth to percolate back up into consciousness. For me, perhaps half a century! Fuck. Weird to say that. Half a century. I’m even 8 years beyond that. I can’t believe I got here. I say that a lot. It’s a miracle, really. I say that a lot, too.

So I was thinking about my father just now, like about ten minutes ago actually, and I thought I might post one of the abuse episodes. I’ve written so many of them out. And it was good. It was good for me to do that. Because when I wrote them out, I believed myself. I finally believed the things I knew to be true, that everyone told me I was exaggerating or even lying about. My father was sexually abusive. No doubt.

It was incredibly sad to write about the abuse. And it was incredibly sad to reread what I’d written. I shared it, and it made other people sad, too. But for some reason, I felt compelled to share. I wanted people to know. I wanted people to look at me and look at my life and know I have a story. A heartbreaking story. And in spite of all that, I got here. To 58. I want people to know you can get through and beyond, but never cured of mental illness. But there is hope, there is always hope. I want people to know if I can do it, anyone can.

As I was considering which of the abuse episodes to post, I heard in my head, “Nah. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to honor him, it’s just that I don’t want to dishonor him. Not right now. Not right today. Not at Christmas time.”

It dawned on me that not wanting to dishonor him was pretty close to honoring him. I mean, close enough. Not really but not not really. So that means I did, finally, at 58, kind of sort of follow that single one of God’s commands.

I have always believed God doesn’t grade on a curve. And he gives major points for effort. He doesn’t just give partial credit for getting the formula right but getting the answer wrong. He gives full credit. It’s easy to get good grades from God.

I did good. I did right. I’m making progress. I still cry a lot. A lot. But hell. I’m 58. And I’m still here. And that’s a miracle. There! Said it again! It’s because I’m kind of amazed I’m still here. So I say it a lot to remind myself what a victory that is. And I say it a lot to remind myself to just keep on putting one foot in front of the other.

I’ve come this far, to 58, I can push on through from here. No doubt.

I Persevere. And life goes on.
“Honor your father and your mother,

that your days may be long in the land

that the LORD your God is giving you.”

Exodus 20:12

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Community Voices

Bipolar on the Job

I moved from Washington State in April 2016 to take a prestigious management job with a major corporation headquartered in Louisville. Right away, things weren’t right. I found the organizational culture quite different than that of the companies I had worked for in the Pacific Northwest.

In the PNW, the organizations I had worked for tended to value collaboration above all else. Management consistently sought to empower employees. That meant allowing people to process through information and make decisions. And sometimes those decisions turned out to be sub-optimal, however the employee was encouraged to learn from the experience and move forward. People were generally respectful of one another’s differences. And there was a diversity I did not find in the South.

In the Louisville corporation, the focus was on the hierarchy of power. It sounds so odd to use this term – but it was obedience that was most highly valued. And there were strong repercussions for perceived “mistakes”. I was unable to be successful in that particular corporate environment.

There were multiple other reasons for my failure in that position. But I did indeed fail, and I went down hard. Sensing I’d be let go, I applied for short term disability and got it. That’s how sick I’d become. I had no idea at the time losing that job was the beginning of what I now characterize as my “bipolar breakdown”.

I was on disability for only two weeks before I was able to secure another position in my area of expertise due to connections in the industry. My reputation had been stellar up until I moved to Louisville.

However, I was unable to be successful in that environment either, although it was a robust and healthy corporate culture. My memory began to fail me. I missed conference calls because I’d recorded them incorrectly in my calendar. I’d send emails with confidential information to the wrong clients. I produced documentation that was incomplete and inaccurate. I was flustered and anxious all the time. I was constantly triggered, by my own failing abilities, and because of that I was constantly in a manic panic. I’d stay up all night trying to complete a project. I was exhausted and desperate to succeed. I’d do anything to succeed. But the conditions I’d created for myself weren’t conducive to success. Despite all my desperate attempts, my work was consistently sub par. I believed my firing was imminent, so I left that position.

Again, I was able to secure work in my field through a connection with a former colleague. I was a contractor and most of my work was remote, however I did travel to the client site frequently.

I did well in that position. I was working on a user guide, and technical writing is an area in which I excel. I produced a quality guide and was consistently recognized for my hard work by client management. After the guide was complete, I returned home to continue working remote.

Once back home, I fell into a deep depression, and simply stopped putting in the hours. Although I continued to produce quality output, I had no motivation, and my output dropped each week.

In late June 2017, I did not sleep for five days. I began to have auditory hallucinations. I was scared. I called my manager and told her I was going into the hospital and I didn’t know for how long. I did not tell her why I was going or to which hospital I was going. She knew something was really wrong, however. How could she not? Because I was a contractor, there was no compelling reason to see me through what was clearly a difficult period. She wished me well and let me go.

I was in a psychiatric hospital for 11 days. When I was discharged in early July, I was without a job, without an income. That’s a whole other story – it’s coming I assure you!

I cannot say my experience with bipolar in the workplace parallels Colton’s, the man featured in the video. But his symptoms are my symptoms. He was incredibly blessed to be surrounded by the group of employees that not only understood his illness, but worked collaboratively through his manic and depressive episodes.

Understanding mental illness, educating yourself about bipolar when you work with someone that suffers with bipolar – that is the key to ensuring the ongoing success of the team.

Making the conscious choice to value diversity – not just in ethnicity, culture, and varying points of view – but also learning to understand and work with a variety of people that may suffer mental illness, actually any illness – that is the certain way to ensure quality workplace relationships and a win-win for all.

Community Voices

Lonely and Depressed

I struggle with if I should even post this. But I have a really hard time getting through each day. I feel very alone. I feel like this depression isn't getting any better. I feel like at my core, I shouldn't even be alive. I think something just broke inside of me awhile ago, and it's not repairable. I don't have anyone to check on me, and ask how I'm doing. I just feel like I would be better off dead. Apparently I'm not lovable, and am undeserving of being cared for. I don't make any progress in my life, despite my best efforts.

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Coco Densmore

I'm Not a Failure Because of How I Coped With Bipolar Mania

Last week, I was struggling to understand why I got involved with Jeff. After all this time, I still struggle with the belief I initiated the affair due to my own moral failing. This week, I am reading a book by Julie Fast and John Preston, “Taking Charge of Your Bipolar.” I’ve realized a lot of things. I’ve realized it wasn’t a moral failing. Before I moved to Louisville, I was working very high-profile, high-stress jobs, traveling a lot and operating at superstar level. I was addicted to that lifestyle. It fed my mania in a way that appeared on the outside to be positive. I was extremely  effective, with good follow-through and excellent output. I had it going on. I was at the top of my game, and I knew it. When I moved to Louisville, and began to fail at one job after another, I lacked that same stimulation. Along came Jeff. What people don’t realize is mania is triggered as often by positive stressors as negative stressors. So with Jeff, I was up and down and all over the place. When he was paying attention to me, I was up. When he wasn’t paying attention to me, I was up. I lived in a constant state of vigilance. I lived in a constant state of mania. Being manic is exhausting, which resulted in disturbed sleep patterns. I could not get on a regular sleep pattern, and instead was up all night and slept all day. The exhaustion and the shame of not being able to function “normally” resulted in profound depression. Add in the mania and you have what is referred to as “rapid cycling bipolar.” At one point in June 2017, having not slept for five days, I began having auditory hallucinations. I checked myself into a psychiatric hospital. My stay at the psych hospital was helpful. It was a full stop. It forced me to sit in my room and think and write for 11 days. It stopped the suicidal thinking, at least for a time. But my medications weren’t right, and that wasn’t resolved during my stay. In fact, I was prescribed more antidepressants, which I now know trigger mania for me. Some bipolar folks may respond well to antidepressants. I am not one of them. When I came out of the hospital, I had no income. That is terrifying in and of itself. I had failed at three jobs at that point. I failed due to issues with memory and cognition, which resulted in loss of productivity. In addition to not having an income, I didn’t know who I was anymore. Without my career, without my high income and my ability to problem solve and be effective, I felt I had no worth. Although it has taken me years, I now define my worth in very different ways. I was a mess. I tried every day to get myself turned around, to get my head above the mire of pain and uncertainty within which I was living. I failed, time and again. Now, looking back, I realize I did the very best I could, every day. Some days, my best just wasn’t very good. So, I got involved with Jeff for a very simple reason. I was mentally ill, with an addictive personality, and he supplied the intermittent rewards I craved, that I felt I could not live without. Together, we managed to make quite a mess of our lives. But the underlying cause had little to do with my moral code, and virtually nothing to do with him. It had everything to do with my mental illness. “I have two moods. One is Roy, rollicking Roy, the wild ride of a mood. And Pam, sediment Pam, who stands on the shore and sobs…. Sometimes the tide is in, sometimes it’s out.” — Carrie Fisher

Coco Densmore

Finding Perspective After Herpes Diagnosis When You Live With Bipolar

Today marks two weeks since I got my positive herpes diagnosis. It’s my herpesversary! I was talking to a friend about why I decided to write publicly about having herpes.”I shout I have bipolar from the rooftops,” I explained. “Compared to mental illness, herpes is like a mosquito bite versus being devoured by a fire-eating dragon,” I said. Yep. Pretty much sums it up. Pretty much puts things into perspective. I’m 58. I made it to 58. That’s a miracle. I struggle with mental illness every minute of my life. When I got that positive herpes diagnosis, it was like being thrown from a speeding train. It knocked the wind out of me. I couldn’t breathe. My chest was a band of metal tight, and I thought for sure the knowledge of it would kill me. But some hours passed, and then some days passed, and now two weeks have passed, and I’m alive. I have herpes. And I’m still alive. For many days after I read that positive herpes lab result on that online patient portal at 10:30 pm on a Friday night, immediately followed by my frantic attempts to reach the on-call doctor who took an hour and a half to get back to me, the on call doctor who was annoyed at my hysteria and… well… I’m getting a bit off track here. Because I am not a victim. He was just not all that helpful. Rephrase. For many days after I read that positive herpes lab result online, I spent a fair amount of time asking, “why me?” I just love me a victim mentality. In spite of my lifelong battle against going there, I seem to go there whenever I can. But I don’t like who I am as a victim. Because I am not a victim. I am always in control of my reaction to anything that happens. I choose how to frame it and I choose my response. I have agency. That being said, bipolar can really throw a wrench in that philosophy. But when it does, I recognize the lies my brain is screaming at me and I always get help. I call a friend, I call the hotline, I call the on-call doc, and if I need to go to the ER, I go to the ER. If I need to admit to the psych hospital, I admit to the psych hospital. So yes, I am always in control of my reaction to anything that happens, even the most terrifying things that happen in my own mind. I have agency. Back to the question at hand. Why did I get herpes? Well, there’s the obvious cause and effect, but it’s so much bigger than that. In many ways, I’m kind of glad it was me. That is so bizarre to say! It sounds like I think I deserve it. That’s not it at all. I don’t deserve it, of course I don’t. No one does. But it happens, and it happened to me, and I’m making that be OK. It’s OK for me to have herpes. It will not ruin my life and it will not get the best of me. I know adversity, I know pain, I know mental illness, I know lost love, I know what it feels like to believe I might die, and I know what it feels like to try to end my life. Many times I’ve tried to end my life. But I can write. I can write about all of that. And because I can write about the bad things, I can make good things come out of bad things. Time and again, in the look back of my life, I am struck by how the bad things made me better. And the miracle is, I can write about that, and just one person is going to read what I’ve written, and alter their perspective, ever so slightly, but with that minuscule shift, a bit of light will shine on something very dark and ugly. And in that one person, hope will be born. I’ve gotten hold of the fact nothing can overcome me. Nothing can overcome my spirit, my dignity and my unique value and place in this universe. I have fought every day for over half a century to achieve mental stability and to obtain and maintain a fulfilling quality of life. The only thing that can bring me down at this point is me. And I ain’t gonna let that happen! Not now. Not after I’ve fought this hard. Not after I’ve come this far. I’m 58. I made it to 58. That’s a miracle. Herpes Schmerpes.

Coco Densmore

How Childhood Trauma Has Affected My Romantic Relationships

Many of us have experienced some type of emotional or physical trauma, as children and as adults. Trauma triggers the fight-or-flight response. Emotional abuse triggers the same chemical response as physical abuse. The brain, especially a child’s brain, can’t assess the level of danger it’s dealing with. Having a parent scream at you is going to evoke the same chemical response as having a parent knock you across the room. The brain interprets both scenarios as life threatening. I remember visiting a girlfriend’s house and watching her interact with her father when he came home from work. They were thrilled to see one another. As soon as the door opened, she ran to him and he lifted her high into the air, both of them laughing infectiously. That wasn’t what it was like at my house. At my house, we avoided being anywhere near the front door when my father came home. He either came home quiet and sullen, or he came home and immediately began hurling insults and accusations at my mother. Or me. I got used to that. I was never entirely desensitized to it, but I got used to it. I accepted it, as best I could, and formulated strategies for getting the hell out of a very unhappy home. My primary strategy was to do well in school so I could go to college. I spent most of my time in my room studying. I recognized escaping poverty was one way I could change the dynamics in my own life. There are some lifelong patterns I’ve developed as a result of childhood trauma. When you experience a frequent fight-or-flight response, your brain gets used to it, expects it and after a while, it can actually change your neurobiology. I’m well into middle age, and I’ve noticed if I sense things are going too well for too long, I begin to wonder when the other shoe is going to drop. And when it doesn’t, I create drama, in my life and the lives of those I love, so I can get my fight-or-flight high. This is not a conscious process, it’s not something I do intentionally. My particular bipolar brain is always cooking up something potentially self-sabotaging that I’m not generally aware of. That’s why I’m in therapy! I’m learning to see the places my own brain works against me and arrest those processes before the damage is done. Generally, though, it’s only in the look back I see what I’ve done. And it’s not pretty. I’m always ready to make amends, and much of the time I receive much undeserved grace. However, apologies and forgiveness may mitigate, but they don’t ever completely undo the damage I’ve inflicted on others. But for me, the absolute most destructive result of childhood trauma has manifested in my continually seeking out men who make me feel the same way my father made me feel — like crap. I’ve been involved in a number of abusive relationships going back to high school. Some physically abusive, but my particular preference was for severe emotional abuse. Slowly and steadily, through therapy, through my writing and through the support of loving friends, I’m breaking that pattern. I am still unhealthily attracted to emotionally unavailable men. I see it, now, I see the snake coiled in front of me before I step, but sometimes I step anyway. I hate that about myself. But self-loathing solves nothing. I must embrace all of who I am, the good the bad and everything in-between, to effect positive change and growth in my life. So, what am I trying to say here? Well, I’m trying to say trauma can change your brain and your thinking and your values to such a degree you seek out abusive relationships because that’s your “normal.” And it’s not normal, and it feels like crap to feel like crap all the time. If your friends aren’t liking your choices, if they observe and point out the ways in which you’re being abused by your partner, and you’re getting that message consistently from multiple people who have your best interests at heart, and you feel stuck with no way out, see a therapist. Do the work. Your life may well depend on it.