Throw a Bunch of Thoughts into the Pot

sunshine in three days

It has been a very up-and-down three days since I released from the residential crisis center.  To start with, the weather has been crap, or (to be more accurate) severe, and I am tired of rain, tired of thunder, and very tired of keeping up with two dogs who suffer from varying degrees of thunder and storm phobia.  I told my mom I was going to order them and myself a doggie thundershirt.  Yes, they really are driving me that crazy (ier???).

After reading a friend’s post about SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), I realized that some of my angst might be coming from a lack of sunlight, so I have my sunlamp blazing now, and I just pray it doesn’t throw me into a manic spiral.  It seems like the last month or so, I have experienced the true ick of rapid cycling, and to say it hasn’t been fun is an understatement.  Right now, this moment, I am desperate to feel just a little better, so in front of the sunlamp I will sit, until the bipolar devil on my left shoulder releases it’s talons from my flesh a bit.

I spoke with my peer mentor yesterday, and the conversation that I was worried about went just fine.  We are going to start meeting twice per week for 90 minutes each session, which is what I wanted.  She states that she never received any word that I was at the crisis house, including the Trust Quotes (9)voicemails I sent her and her unit secretary.  I don’t believe her.  I completely think she is lying, but it just shows that you can’t trust people.  Which is sad, because before all of that happened, I had been thinking about trusting her more than the average human being.  Now, I’m not so sure.  It isn’t easy for me to trust people in the first place, and my faith in people is easily lost.  What is different about me, is that I do give people many, many, many chances.  So, while I am not trusting her so much at the moment, she is going to get another chance.

Now that I have pushed through the suicidal ideation and self-harm thoughts of the past little while, I find I am stuck with huge spikes in my anxiety level.  I have spoken with a few people about it, and my therapist today even wanted me to go into the hospital.  I am not going into the hospital unless I am at a danger to harm myself, and I’m not, so therefore I will figure out the anxiety problem while I am living at home.

I’ve read a few interesting articles on evening anxiety, including this one because it talks directly about anxiety specifically in the evenings.  Every evening between four and five o’clock, I am having a very severe anxiety spike.  This has happened with regularity for over a week, since before I was in the crisis residence, and has happened at other times in my life as well.  I have a hard time when it gets dark outside, but its light at that time right now, although I do notice a further anxiety spike as the sun falls.  My mom and I jokingly have said for years that I have “sundowners,” which is a worsening of symptoms typical in Alzheimer’s patients at dusk.

Obviously I don’t have Alzheimer’s, but I have never been able to figure out why evenings are so difficult for me, other than maybe for trauma reasons.  I think it also has to do with my fear of the dark, which hasFear-of-the-Darkbecome more pronounced as I age for some reason.  Those little things that go “bump!” in the night…full body shiver.  I do believe all of that also relates to my issues with sleep and near-constant nightmares.  It is ALL related, I do believe.  I just have to figure out how to ease my unease.

 

image by listzblog.com

Remembering as a Way to Start NaBloPoMo 2014 — Be a Pepper

The following post is actually a page on my blog that describes my journey with Bipolar I, PTSD, and Eating Disorder NOS.  At the start of NaBloPoMo, November 1st, I want myself and anyone reading to be reminded that mental health recovery is a life-long process.  I am currently going through a very difficult time, as indicated in the posts prior to and after this one will show.  And lately I have given a lot of thought to giving up, and then I read this and was reminded how far I have come.

The Story and the Stigma

Throughout grade school, middle school, and high school, I earned top grades.  I wasn’t the valedictorian, but I gave the high school commencement address, and I rocked it.  People on the outside saw a high-achieving, confident person.  Inside, I was fighting bipolar disorder, crushing anxiety, and an eating disorder.  No one knew, and I didn’t tell them.  I was afraid of what people would think.

When I went off to college, I went somewhere small, about an hour away from home, with the unsaid statement that I couldn’t go far away and succed; not without support.  Not without trips home every weekend.  I accepted it, and as time went on, I learned they were right.

I excelled at this small college, changing my major from pre-med to psychology after a horrific first semester in science classes that I couldn’t wrap my mind around.  I was depressed.  I had stopped taking my medication.  I think everyone knew that, and that summer, Mom tried to get me help again.

Every summer, actually, Mom would try to get me help again.  I would always participate, but then go off my meds as soon as I came back to school.  It was an ugly cycle, and it pains me to this day that I went through it.  But I didn’t want anyone to know what I was going through.  No one knew I had bipolar disorder, outside of my aunt who worked in the counseling center and my academic advisor, who was more like a surrogate mother.

My senior year, I was applying for Ph.D. programs that combined psychology and the law.  Forensic psychology, it was called.  I went on interviews.  Costly interviews.  They bore no fruit because I acted absolutely crazy when I went to these colleges.  They saw through me and saw that I was very ill.

After college and after failing to get into any kind of graduate program, I started working as a mental health technician on an Eating Disorders Unit (EDU) at a local hospital.  As a person living with bulimia, this was a bad choice.  I wasn’t on medication, I was drinking a lot, and I started to gain weight.  I was also working PRN at another hospital as a mental health tech.

I became manic.  Several days a week, I would work 7:30-4 at the EDU and then 5-12 at the other hospital.  A lot of the reason I did this was to stay away from Joe, my abusive boyfriend that I was living with.  All that working didn’t keep his hands off my body, or his reigns of terror on my psyche absent.  I became suicidal.

I moved out of Joe’s house and into my own apartment.  I picked up a boyfriend, almost literally off the streets, and continued to drink heavily and work many  hours.  Eventually, I completely cracked.  I quit drinking and I started seeing a psychiatrist.  When things didn’t level out quickly enough, my parents brought me back to live with them in the little city.

After a few months, I had a job and I moved back out.  I was working as a case manager with the mentally ill.  My caseload was loaded with the sickest of the sick.  It was a very stressful job and I didn’t fare well.  I was written up numerous times for poor attendance and tardiness.  I eventually left that job, three  years later, on FMLA because I had really lost it and couldn’t work.

I did an intensive outpatient program and started to feel better.  After about a year, I was hired at the local prison to work with the mentally ill on things like obtaining disability and getting services set up in the community.  Here, I was constantly being written up and warned about my attendance and lack of punctuality.  I was very depressed, I was very manic, I was very anxious.  I was always very something.  I did good work, though, and even won awards.  My boss liked to say that I’d outwork anybody, as long as I came in that day.

Eventually pressure built up again and I was very ill.  I went on FMLA and had to resign because there was no way I could come back to work.  My mom saw a pattern in my work and educational history, and talked with my doctors and therapist about filing for SSDI.

I couldn’t see a life without work, but I filed anyway.  We applied April of 2012 and it was awarded June or July of the same year.  This quick answer, with no questions or rebuttals, confirmed to me that, while I might feel like I could work, the powers that be disagreed.  SSA, my parents, my doctors, my therapist all concurred — Rose can’t manage full-time employment.

So here I stand, at the bait shop.  SSDI checks coming in and working about 20 hours per week at an extremely low-stress job, so that I can function on a daily basis.  I moved from high-achieving college student, pursuing a Ph.D., to a cashier and bait slinger.  How far we fall, right?

What I can say now, however, is that I’m happy.  I am truly, genuinely living a life worth living.  It’s not always easy and there are many bad days.  Not enough sunlight or getting my sleep schedule thrown off can put me in a tailspin.  If I stick to my structure, to my routine, use my DBT skills, and employ my support system, I do pretty well.  I even like my job in the bait store, slinging bait, ringing people up, and keeping track of files and paperwork.

People who knew me way back when may not recognize or understand who I am now.  I generally don’t give them that luxury, either.  There is a very difficult stigma surrounding mental illness, and additionally surrounding young people being on SSDI.  I tell only those I trust, and only those who I think will have an either neutral or positive response.

What you see isn’t always what you get.  There is more to me than bipolar and depression and anxiety.  If I had high blood pressure and diabetes, you wouldn’t shame me, now would you?  The unfortunate truth is that you will likely never know who I am and what I go through.  I would rather you not know me than be shamed for having illnesses that came to me through no fault of my own.

Hazy Memories, Please

I was going to do today’s Daily Prompt about memories, but I decided I needed to take a rest and just put my feet up for a bit first.  When I came home after work today, I felt tired and just really out-of-sorts.  We have all been working really hard the past few weeks and it’s starting to take it’s toll.  I almost never nap, but today was different.

As soon as I came home, the first things I did were to get more water and to play with the Kizzer dog for a good half hour.  I then sat, smoking, staring at my computer screen.  I didn’t have the energy to catch up on blog reading and I didn’t feel like writing.  I just felt like laying down.  So I did, expecting that the amazingness I felt as soon as I did would linger but that I would stay awake.

In the five years since I received my CPAP, it has come to the point where I literally can’t fall asleep without it.  And haven’t.  Until today.  I woke up two hours later and felt refreshed.  At least a little less pissy.  And I started to think about memories.

I had a dream about DSB just before I woke up.  In the dream, I was crying my heart out and begging him to stay.  He said nothing.  I cried some more.  He left.  I woke up with this strong tug in my heart and then I realized, “oh yeah, I’m not missing him.”  And I’m not.  I’m not really even missing the good times, because I see them so clearly now for what they are.

Memories.  The Daily Prompt wants to know if “vivid and recent” or “those that time has covered in a sweet haze” are better.  I really don’t think I have a clear answer to that.  The memories I prefer are the good ones — and it doesn’t matter if they’re 10 minutes or 30 years old.  You can have a really good memory that is old and vivid, just as you can have a new memory that is sweetly hazy.

Bipolar disorder does something to your memory and I know Goddess of Mindfulness has explained it, several pdocs have, and I’ve looked it up.  In the midst of an episode, you might not retain memories well, and you might not be able to retrieve already existing memories well.  I don’t remember the science of it, but that’s the gist.

I am thankful every morning that I wake up, and don’t have a trauma-based nightmare.  I think of these nightmares as those traumatic memories coming alive while I’m sleeping.  They can eat your shit up.  Fast.  When I start to have them, I know something is awry, and I do something about it.  Fast.

I have memories from two to three years ago that are bathed in the haze of mania, and I’m glad those memories aren’t vivid.  I did some seriously stupid shit during that time.  Just as I have memories bathed in a haze of depression for other, more, many times in my life.  I don’t like most of those memories, because when you’re depressed, you tend to only remember the bad stuff.

So, Mr. Daily Prompt — I prefer my memories to be of any age, but I would prefer the hazed version.  Life day to day in my world is vivid enough — I don’t need them racing around in my head, replaying all day and night.

 

Life in Waves

I didn’t publish anything last night for the first time in awhile because, I dunno, I wanted to not think about anything.  Kizzie and I watched the new episode of Grimm and then I went to bed for a fitful night’s sleep.  I just can’t stop thinking.

Life is coming in waves right now.  I feel sad and confused.  I feel angry and resentful.  I feel relieved and happy.  I feel like I’m feeling too much sometimes.  I don’t miss drinking, but part of me wishes I still did so I could just blot out the next few weeks or so while I get used to being alone.

I started the day on a rough note.  French vanilla creamer in hot coffee.  It’s gotta go.  It reminds me too much of our coffee mornings, back when we actually had them.  When things felt okay.  I think I’ll go back to doing it like I did before, and drink it cold.  I always did like it that way and it’s appropriate with oncoming Summer.

I wrote a list today that I emailed to my therapist.  It is basically a list of all the good things, the positive differences that come about with DSB gone.  It’s four pages single-spaced.  You’d think that if I could come up with four full pages of why it’s better to be alone than to be with him, that I wouldn’t be having any problems.  I guess that’s not the case.

The night is the hardest.  And the morning.  And around lunchtime.  It’s all hard, who I am kidding?  Even though I know he didn’t treat me well for the most part, my predictable life is gone.  I can do what I want now, and I am doing what I want.  I stayed out tonight ’till dark, and DSB would never have allowed that.  It worries me a little that I might mess up my sleep schedule, but I don’t know who I’m kidding with that one since I’m not sleeping anyway.

There are some things that have to be dealt with.  Like the big project boat sitting out in my backyard.  I’m tired of looking at it; get a big ol’ pang in my chest when I see it everyday.  I tried to tell Mom and the Big Dawg that it was killing the grass, but Mom cut straight to the chase.  She knows why I want that boat gone.

Kind of like all the welding projects he had in the works for people.  They’re all sitting up in my garage.  I can hardly stand to go in there.  I don’t know how those people are gonna get their stuff, half-finished, that they have already paid for part of.  I don’t have their contact information and I doubt DSB is doing anything about it.  It makes me feel a little sick to my stomach, but the Big Dawg said he would take care of any issues.  I’m supposed to just send people down to the bait shop.  He is saving me there, but that’s not unusual.  He saves me on a daily basis.

What I can’t seem to get over is why I was treated so badly, when I tried so very hard to make him happy.  I did everything around the house, cooked his favorite meals, brought him his dinner, refilled his glass, did all the grocery shopping, stopped almost every day and picked up (and paid for) something to drink, to eat, to have.  I rarely got more than a thank you, and I often got nothing.

Mom had Rock, our main employee and the son they’ve never had, over tonight when I was there.  We’ve always been acquaintances, never really talked about anything.  But you know, the things he said, he wants to help me anyway he can and he really does care.  It’s nice to have people who care and it makes one wonder why sticking to someone who obviously didn’t care for so long happened.

I was feeling really crappy toward the end of the evening and he came inside and ate dinner with me while QoB and the Big Dawg sat out on the deck, and we had a really good, meaningful conversation.  I felt a million times better after talking to him, and I know that was his aim.  He is going through something similar with his girlfriend, and we can just relate to each other.  I can see that in time I might start feeling like he’s my brother, too.  I don’t blame Mom and the Big Dawg for wanting to adopt him, at all.  He’s just that good of a kid.

It’s just nice to feel like people care, is all I’m saying.  I spent a long time feeling like the main person in my life didn’t care, no matter how much I did for him.  That is a bad and empty and hollow feeling.

I don’t want to feel that way anymore.

 

Now when  I’m feeling spunkier, this is the song I’d like to dedicate to DSB.  I’ll probably listen a few dozen times and then try and get some sleep.

 

Music Lesson Learned

Forgive me, my friends, but my head is in a dark place.

I heard the song posted below for the first time when I had made up my mind that  I was going to sing in my parents’ friend’s band, The Lounge Lizards.  I was out of my damn mind.  This is what happens when a manic 20-something gets told she’s a great singer for some goofing off around the campfire.

Thank God I’m not that manic 20-something, but this song still speaks to me.  About how it feels like you’re always fucking it up, even when you know better.  About how luck isn’t on your side.  The video — going to a dirt race track with an abusive boyfriend, eating sushi from the grocery store as you watch the cars go by, knowing by the way he’s drinking beer just what is going to be in store for you in the evening.  Feeling like no one in the world understands and you may as well give up trying to make yourself understood.

My Apologies for the Disorganization Contained Within

Here recently, I have done a lot of reading of other blogs.  I’ve read some beautiful, horrible, raw, fascinating, plagiarized, well-written, and under-developed posts.  Underneath all of that, however, there is always a story that is being told.  It isn’t up to me to judge, but I can choose to “like” the post.  I can choose to comment.  I can choose to follow that blogger.  With two weeks worth of nothing-ness at work, I have followed a lot of new bloggers.  And by new, I don’t necessarily mean new, just new-to-me.  My goal for this period in which I have a great deal of time to read and ponder, was to comment whenever I could.

Now lemme tell ya, there are many bloggers that I have been following, some for months, some longer, that I absolutely love but never comment on.  It may sound silly, but when I type out a comment, I look at it and think that it’s: a) poorly written, b) not witty enough to keep up with the rest of the commenters or the person who posted, c) just plain dumb.  So, many times, I don’t comment.  Well in these past two weeks, I have been a commenting fool.  I have said what is in my heart, what a particular post makes me feel, a thank-you to the author, trying for originality, and, watch out world, Rosa is commenting.  Fiercely.

I’m hoping that by commenting, I will work my way back into posting more regularly.  I have always written for myself, but there is still a piece of me that says, “Good gawd, Rosa!  That’s a piece of crappy drivel…you can’t publish that!”  Because I don’t want to embarrass myself, you know.  I know I’m far from being a great writer, but I’m not a terrible one, either.  I read these fascinating, well-written posts by talented, but seemingly-human bloggers, who appear to be able to churn out one hand-clapping-worthy post a day, and then I look at the draft I am writing, and I vow not to publish such crap into existence.

Part of the whole problema that is Rosa is that I am much too hard on myself.  I am sharper and meaner with myself than my worst critic could ever be.  This is why I am saying three daily loving-kindness meditations, why I am doing one kind thing for a stranger every day, for a loved one every day, and (am supposed to be doing) one for myself.  Every day.  It was a therapy assignment.  I am most stellar at saying my loving-kindness meditations, as I always have been, because I can so fully feel the community and the connectedness in my heart when I do.  Unlike I am able to at any other time.  Amazing.  It is easy to do one kind thing for a stranger and a loved one every day.  I think I was probably doing that before, just not as mindfully or with such intent.

And the third therapy assignment is the topic of my next blog post:  How do I start being nice to myself?  It’s the next blog post because this one’s already getting a bit long, and also because I will have to do some deep introspection.  I’m not really that good at being kind to myself, but I’m all about growing together.

 

Understanding the Severity of the Issue

I have been giving some thought to my most recent slip-slide toward depression, and have come up with again the article I referenced yesterday.  I want to expound a bit more upon it.  An excerpt from “The Biggest Lesson I’ve Learned From Managing My Bipolar Disorder,” by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. is as follows:

“The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to take bipolar disorder very seriously,” said Julie A. Fast, a bestselling author of books on bipolar disorder and professional coach who works with loved ones of people with the illness. Fast was diagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar disorder II in 1995.

“It’s not like other illnesses. It’s sneaky and dangerous if you don’t watch it all of the time.” She compared it to type I diabetes. “People with diabetes one can’t mess around – ever. I can’t either.”

You can’t  mess around with bipolar disorder.  I hear that, I get that, and I forget it.  I get off my schedule, I stay up too late, socialize too much, put too many or not enough things on my to-do list, skip taking some meds, use my sunlamp too much or too little, and I am left picking up the pieces of what was once a really well held-together Rose.

I’ve been doing all of the above lately.   I need more down-time, and I know that’s a lot to ask around the holidays.  I need more time to just read or watch TV and decompress.  All of the social activity of the season drains me.  Just thinking of the two different Christmas celebrations that DSB and I will be going to makes me feel a bit faint of heart.  Do I want to go, yes.  Will I go, yes.  Will it take a Klonopin or three to get me there, probably.

Over the last few days, I have had to take Klonopin because of insurmountable anxiety.  When things are going well, I take a PRN maybe once a week, every other week.  When the anxiety bears down, it can be an everyday thing, until it’s not.  I know that I have that medication available to me to use when I need it, and I don’t feel that I use it when I don’t need it, but it still bothers me to have to regulate my emotions with a pill.  You would think I had become used to that over the years.  I sometimes see it as a personal failure that I am looking for my Klonopin bottle.

As the article references above, comparing bipolar to Type I Diabetes, you have to stay in constant check with it.  That is hard to do, and it’s even harder when you’re feeling better.  You want to forget that things were ever bad, or that they could head back that direction at the drop of a hat.  The desire to stay well has to be constantly pushed into action, by checking up on oneself.

Have I taken my meds correctly today?  Do I need to be kinder to myself?  Do I need more down time?  Am I getting enough sleep and eating properly?  These are all questions I should ask myself on a day-to-day basis, and I don’t.

Just like so many out there, I take the good times for granted and forget that things were ever bad.  It is only while quietly slipping into ambivalence and then apathy and then depression, that these things come up again.  And then we just hope it’s not too late.