a creative journal for artists full of love and farts 🩷💨

*written by my 24-year-old self; edited at 31.

1. I made the choice to be transparent.

I read the exit papers from the University of Iowa Hospital, and my first concern was my resume. It sounds silly, ridiculous even. But a Bipolar diagnosis is something most people in most professions can hide: 

But I’m a writer. My resume is never alone. 

In fact, my resume plays second to whatever I’ve written. And what I write matters to me. Mental health matters to me. Which meant (dun, dun, dun), I’d be writing about it. 

If I am to defy my diagnosis — if I’m to process the new trauma: I knew I would not only be writing about it but performing, singing, and shouting about it — knowing anyone could read what happened to me.

2. During my second year of college, my mind just seemed to...pop.

On the other side, I see myself more clearly: the way my oscillation between depression and mania kept me separate and unable to connect with other people while projecting a happy, carefree woman. 

It was all too easy to deal with my emotions alone and take my smile into the world. 

The doctors said I was a special case. In solitary confinement, I was a wild animal (obviously, doc). Then days later, I seemed to be normal: quietly enjoying morning cartoons like a toddler who drinks coffee. 

When I left this hospital (my third), I finally went home. Turns out, Humpty Dumpty can be put back together again. (It took me a long time though…I still find pieces.)

3. I tried to do what the doctors told me (it didn't work).

I took their medication and answered their stupid questions, 

“Have you seen anything that isn’t there?” 

“Like what?” 

“Anything; giraffes, elephants, Jesus Christ.” 

Riddle me this: if I see giraffes, how do I know they’re not there? As though my delusions are so far outside of reality that I’d bring a giraffe into the Midwest.

If I’m going to see an animal that isn’t there, it will be a deer (but again, how would I know it’s not there?) 

  • The anti-paranoia meds gave me fits of fear.
  • The anti-anxiety pills sent me into bouts of tears.
  • The anti-psychotics made shadows bounce off the walls.
  • Lithium turned me into a stone cliff face, unable to feel or move. 

Byron said, “If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.”

Well, I have been mad and I had been writing. The medications that were life-saving at the hospital, made me mad outside of it. Moreover, I refused to accept the unfeeling shell deemed my safe range of emotion. To succumb would be to accept death, but I survived.

So despite the decree of the medical system and with support from my mom, I began to wean off all of the medication – until seven months later my brain was again my own. 

Editor’s Note: Medication is essential for many. I have not found any that work for me. This, too, is valid and worth sharing. THC and CBD are my most reliable medicinal tools. I rely on my support system to know my health non-negotiables and offer stern directions should I need it. 

4. I finished school.

When I left the hospital, everything was scary. Every adventure of leaving my house was a courageous leap in trusting the universe to see me through. I began by walking to my best friend's house. After a month, I took my first solo drive.

After a couple months, I trusted myself enough to take my dog, Buddy for a nature walk. It was a lovely day. I parked in the girl’s dorm parking lot — where I had lived and parked many times before — to access a nearby trail. 

After getting back to my truck, I felt the impulse to walk into Admissions. So I did. I returned to college less than five months after leaving the psych ward. Don't ask me how. I am in awe of that person just as much, if not more, than you are.

I am incredibly appreciative to the wild, beautiful version of me who said, “F**k this sh*t. I choose my future.”

5. I was enrolled in Physics while weaning off medication.

My school runs on a block system, allowing students to focus on one class each month. Physics is a required core class that many students flunk the first time and have to retake. It's famous for being the dreaded core class.

But I had a million writing classes I wanted to take — I was not taking Physics again. I only had to make it through four weeks. 

In the hospital, I was given a PSAT test to occupy my time. I remember staring at the page and saying, “It’s gone. The math is gone.” (I re-taught myself long-division a year later because it never came back.)

I was completely weaned off medication by the third week of Physics, and relatively confident I would get an A in class. I didn't just pass my first class back in school, I returned to being the engaged nerd I've always been.

It seems silly, ridiculous even. But I realized that I was still the same person, capable of learning more, creating more — writing more.

Which meant I could sing, too. Which meant I could learn to trust myself again. And there is nothing more punk rock than that.

You’ve successfully subscribed to Conner Carey
Welcome back! You’ve successfully signed in.
Great! You’ve successfully signed up.
Success! Your email is updated.
Your link has expired
Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.