PC: Jeanine Leblanc
My Three Toxic Best Friends
I don’t like PCOS. I don’t like that I tire out easily and that during some of my really bad flare ups I can’t make it around both the neighborhood and the school. That I have to wear a patch on my skin that leaves behind a sticky residue when it is gone. That I am stuck with the patch because I am some of the unlucky few who gets nauseous with all of the oral birth controls. That it caused me to lose some of my hair before we realized what was wrong with me. That I may never be able to have kids, and part of me is relieved at this and part of me is devastated. That I think the PCOS is leading to endometrioses and I am furious about that because it seems out of everything in this world my body is the one things I have the least amount of control over.
I don’t like bipolar disorder. I don’t like that my mood fluctuates from happy to sad faster than it takes me to decide on an outfit to wear and, I only wear 4 different outfits for each season. That I can want to cry and curl up in a ball for no reason at all. That I want to eat the whole entire bag of chocolates and never get up again even though I have plenty to get done. That it worries my mother as she sits and says “maybe I need to go to Valley” and I respond no because I don’t want to go to a mental hospital. That my bipolar gets worse at the end of semesters and has caused me to have to withdraw from school which causes me to feel like I am stupid and worthless.
I don’t like my anxiety. That I am afraid of things that are never going to happen, like me single -handedly causing the world to end. That I am afraid to drive my car because I might somehow cause harm to someone else. I could care less if I’m hurt or not my life isn’t important. That when I was at UGA I stopped eating because I was afraid the food would somehow go down the wrong pipe and I would die. That in the pictures of that time I’m so skinny I don’t even recognize myself. That it causes me to lose sleep and stare at the wall for hours on end as I toss and turn praying to whatever God is out there that I could have some peace. That I never enjoy anything because there is always something to be afraid of or something that I worry I should be doing.
I hate that nobody knew what was wrong for the longest time so they did test after test and pricked me with needle after needle, butterfly and quick gauge and you never know how much those butterfly needles can hurt until a nurse digs into your arm searching for a vein. That I had doctor after doctor tell me that I just needed to exercise more and that my own dad is a doctor and he failed to diagnosis me. That I suffered for years and was not diagnosed until I was 22. That there is no cure for any of my conditions. That I have to take pills and explain to people that I’m not crazy, but yes, I go to therapy. That I somehow have several conditions.
I don’t like being sick.
About The Author - Caroline Hood
Caroline Hood is studying English: Creative Writing at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and hopes to go on to obtain her MFA. She lives with PCOS, anxiety, and Bipolar Disorder. She enjoys writing about these topics to help raise awareness and reduce the stigma associated with them. She hopes that her writings can help her readers feel that they are not alone.
Documenting What It’s Like to be Bipolar (7 Days). Seven 8”x10” Silver Gelatin Prints with Handwritten Journal Entries. 2018
- by Baily Thompson-
Interview by Célia Schouteden
CS: For those who don't live with bipolar disorder or know someone who does, how would you describe it in a few words? What's bipolar disorder for you?
BT: Bipolar disorder can be extreme and intense but it isn't all bad. Some of my worst times have been amplified by the fact that I am bipolar but also some of my best times have been amplified by it as well. It is, in my opinion very misunderstood. To me, bipolar disorder isn't something that holds me backs or something that necessarily makes my life worse, it is just there and I have learned to accept that and it has made living with it a lot more manageable than I originally thought.
CS: When and how did you realize about your disorder? How did it make you feel to learn about it?
BT: I was 16 when it was first suspected and 18 when I was officially diagnosed, so I have been living with it for about 5 years. I originally was scared that my life was going to be so difficult and unmanageable, because thats what people tend to think. But after doing research and living though it I began to realize that despite having it, I can have a completely normal, functioning life. I'm not saying its not hard, because it can be unbearable at times, but people tend to view the diagnosis in a particularly negative view which doesn't always capture the whole truth in my opinion.
CS: What are your tools when mania/depression is kicking? Do you have any specific ritual or plan?
BT: When I am in a depressive state hot showers are my go to, especially when things get really bad. Something about the warm water really calms me down and makes me feel a lot better. I couldn't really explain why, I just noticed it is something that helps a lot. I dont really have anything in particular that helps with mania. It often takes me a while to realize I am in a manic state, sometimes even after I am out of it which makes it a lot harder for me to try to get a grasp on.
CS: What do you feel is important to be reminded of as a survivor? What would you like other people to know about it?
BT: It is important to realize that it doesn't make you a liability and it doesn't necessarily need to affect your quality of life. I wanted to make the project in the first place to show that normal looking people who you would never expect can suffer with these things. I don't want to romanticize bipolar disorder in any way, but I'm hoping to normalize it a little. I understand that there are different degrees to what each person goes through with it but it doesn't make me any less capable of achieving anything I want to and it doesn't make me that much different from anyone else. I just go through a little more than others emotionally, but that's all.
CS: How do you think art has affected your journey? Does it take a big part in your therapy? If yes, can you explain how?
BT: Art has affected my journey because finding something that I love to do helps me cope. When I am out taking photographs or producing work that I am proud of it really boosts my mood and really excites me for whats to come. There was a point in time where I couldn't really see a future for myself and by finding photography and finding art it made me excited for life. You always have to find those things that keep you going when you dont think you can and for me that's wanting to see what I can accomplish with my art in the future.
CS: As a college student, how does your mental health affect your studies? Do you have copying strategies to deal with college stress and bipolar distress?
BT: My bipolar definitely affects my studies. I have a really hard time concentrating and sitting still. Classes with lectures, readings, and essays (which are most general education classes) are hard because I often find it impossible to sit down and focus for long amounts of time. Being in depressive states often lower my ability and want to complete tasks, which can really affect my creativity at some points too.
CS: Any book/movie/music to recommend that helps you when you're down?
BT: Lorde's album "Melodrama" is an album I occasionally go back to because I find a lot of the songs to be super relatable, which I appreciate because I don't feel as alone. But music in general is a huge factor in my life. I never go a day without it.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
"Baily Thompson (1997) is a self portrait artist living and studying in Eugene, Oregon while pursuing a BA in art with a focus in photography at the University of Oregon's College of Design. Her main themes include flowers in relations to women, obscuring the idea of the gaze, and other aspects of her personal experience. She explores these ideas through analogue/darkroom photography, digital photography, and collage."
Her website here