Fatigue

Torn between giving up and pushing myself

“Find a middle ground”

“Baby steps”

I’m tired of therapy.

Guessing my feelings hourly, listening-

As if listening to the unborn fetus in the womb.

Is it kicking yet? How about now?

 

Waiting.

Waiting for “it” to “pass”

Tired of affirmations,

But not suicidal enough to give up.

(Wait, am I waiting for the crazy to pass?)

The lithium gives me headaches

But it’s a price to pay for a peace of mind

Otherwise it would be so loud,

So violent.

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Are you avoiding?

It’s the standard go to line for therapists everywhere. And you know they’re always going to be right because if you say no, all the reasons you come up with become excuses.

But yes. I guess I was avoiding. Avoiding making decisions on what kind of job I’m going to take, and coming up with the worst case scenario and giving up now. Because that’s easy to put your hands up and give up and not try. My perfectionism always gets in the way, and I need to handle that better. I also need to stop avoiding my friends. I don’t remember how to interact with friends (outside friends who are not in therapy) anymore because it’s been a while.

Lost

It’s like I’m in an Amazonian jungle, lost for days- which turns into months. Some days are sunny, so the road is visible. Other days are just so rainy it’s impossible to see which way to go. It’s always so uncomfortably humid. The weather is so unpredictable, and it’s like there is no end to this jungle, like I’m trapped. Trapped in my bipolar world.

I realize the hospital was a place of respite. Now that I’m out there, I’m getting bombarded by questions. What are you going to do? Where are you going to live? What kind of life do you have in mind? When are you going to get another job/ go back to school?

My answer is: I have no clue. Honestly. I also have a chronic headache that stops me from making great decisions. I don’t know if I will be stable with my new meds. I don’t know what kind of income I will be bringing in from my future job, if there will be one. I don’t know if I will have a career. I don’t know if I will be able to live off of my salary without getting help from my parents. I just don’t know. And all this terrifies me.

Everyone I know who has bipolar II has either written a book, came out with having the illness as a celebrity, or has a blog. I know that I have very little prospect of becoming an actor or writer, so I need suggestions. What do you all do for a living?

It’s not always all good or all bad

I think there is always a flip side to everything, and I rarely talk about the upside of my mental illness or hospitalizations. Honestly, there isn’t much, but I try to find at least a few things to help me think positively about the experience.

1) I’ve gotten so much closer to my family: My family has been my rock through my recovery, especially my mother. She fed me when I rejected food. She was my cheerleader when I couldn’t get out of my negative spiraling thoughts before my meds were correct, and she literally held my hand at night when I had too many racing thoughts that gave me panic attacks. She visited me every day when I was in the hospital. My parents have been supportive about the possibility of my career change, and wants me to be happy. I honestly did not expect this from them and I cannot thank them enough for their love and support.

2) I know who my real friends are: I lost a few friends through this journey because it was hard enough as it was, and I could not sustain friendships with those who were not 100% supportive of my recovery. Real friends stand by you during your lowest, and I hit rock bottom. I wouldn’t have known who my real friends were without having gotten sick.

3) I understand life a little better: Life is not easy and it is certainly not linear. Things fall apart when you least expect it, but you have to carry on. Life is also much harder for someone with a chronic illness, like bipolar or anxiety. I struggled a lot in college, and now I understand why, thanks to my diagnosis.

4) I value seemingly mundane moments of serenity (up there): After I got on the Lithium, my mood stabilizer, the suicidal thoughts dissipated like magic. Before the meds, it was constantly popping up, and I wasn’t able to live my life because a small voice in the back of my mind was saying that I should just die. Life is so much better without that violent voice.

5) It’s made me stronger and less afraid: Now that my meds are starting to work (!!), I’m excited about what the future holds for me. I know that I have a long way to go, from finding a career path that I could feasibly work in, but if I made through two life threatening hospitalizations, I think I can handle a career change.

6) I know what my weaknesses are, and how to prevent recurrence: This is still a work in progress for me, as I learn new coping skills. I know I can’t work as much as I did before, and I need a lot of time for myself and really need to work on self care so that I don’t have another episode. I can also see an episode emerging before it’s in full force, so I feel like I’m going to be ready if it comes back.

7) The hospitalization forced me to stop living a toxic life I was not happy with: Let’s face it. I had a cushy job, but I was not satisfied or happy with it. The place was toxic to me, and I needed a change desperately, and it would have happened sooner or later. Thankfully, it was sooner.

8) I’ve gotten reconnected to my old hobbies and passions: Because I had a lot of time during my hospitalization, I picked up art again, and I’m writing and reading more.

Next time I’ll talk about some ideas about what to do with my career…

 

 

My mental health is my supreme goal

There are some people who come in to your life (via online or in real life) to be part of your mental health success story. I’m not jumping the gun here and calling mine a success story yet, but I survived my second depressive episode coupled with very bad withdrawals, and I’m still here. So I think I’ve managed to do something right (again) with the help of my treatment team and my friends and family.

She was my roommate at the psych ward. At a first glance, I knew that she was going to play a pivotal role in my recovery. Her name was W. W was about to get discharged when I was checking into the ER. She was around sixty, and had lived through her life with an unclear diagnosis, but as long as she could remember, she had depression, anxiety and an eating disorder. She only very recently found out that she was bipolar, but all her life, she had only taken just an antidepressant for her depression. We got close very quickly because of our love for our cats and reading. She had such a great appreciation for life and incredible inner strength, it was immediately infectious. Seeing someone with the same diagnosis as me live a normal life gave me so much hope. I asked her how she’s made it so far (which she was very proud of), and she shared with me how she coped, and she brought up what she learned in Dr. Low’s Recovery International program. W mentioned that Dr. Low came up with this program to help the sickest of the sick- I found it easy to understand and to accept some of these mantras she told me about. I wrote the following on my arm with a pen the whole time I was inpatient, so that I could access it when my depressed mind could not. I truly think these ideas saved me.

  • feelings lie to us, feelings are not facts
  • you can’t change feelings, they have to run their course
  • thoughts can be changed and redirected
  • feelings rise and fall
  • worry with reflective calm
  • when something bad happens, think of it as triviality of daily life, “these things happen in daily life”
  • expect to be disappointed and you won’t be
  • leave your standards, your performance rises
  • comfort is a want and not a need
  • you cannot expect comfort in an uncomfortable place/situation
  • move your muscles, your muscles will re-educate the brain (in other words, exercise)
  • do the things you fear and hate to do
  • no such things as a hopeless case
  • my mental health is my supreme goal
  • a decision brings a calming effect- you can also decide to not decide
  • everyone has choices
  • do not over-exaggerate your sense of responsibility (in the world)
  • wait with patience
  • to stop a panic – use objectivity
  • state the facts without temper
  • stay in the present, do not go too far in the past nor too far in the future
  • every act of self control brings self respect
  • everyday life is a business – make it the business of getting well
  • outer environment is rude, crude and indifferent
  • phasic not basic (it’s just a phase, not where you will be forever)
  • endorse for the effect not the result
  • temper begets temper, calm begets calm

I’ve bolded the ones I wrote on my arm to help me get through the suicidal thoughts without acting on them when I was in the hospital. I hope this resonates with you too. I’m so grateful for people for taking the time out of their lives to help me recover. Thanks to W, I believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Hospitalization #2 Bipolar II

I’m back.

So the last two weeks were a little hectic. I went into my interview appointment with my new psychiatrist thinking that nothing different was going to come out of it, but I ended up getting a new diagnosis, (bipolar II, aka soft bipolar) which meant that I was getting on new meds (lithium), and on top of all that she recommended that I go inpatient. I felt suicidal most days, so I agreed that I probably should be locked up until I felt better.

Hypo-mania turned out to be very different from what I thought it was. It’s not as extreme as mania, where you can’t control what you’re doing and end up regretting the thing you did. It’s a lot more subtle. It could be as feeling slightly irritable for 3-4 days or more joyous than usual. First I had a hard time believing my diagnosis, and accepting it, but because my medication is working, I decided that my doctor was probably right.

And so it began, hospitalization number 2. Just like the last hospitalization, things with strings were not allowed, or my phone.  I had my book (The Noonday Demon), and my sketchbook and some pens. There were some people who were just depressed, and there were some who were in the deeper end. The quiet ones were most likely there from suicidal thoughts, and the involuntary admits were the loud ones- they were there for something a bit more functionally debilitating, like schizophrenia. The people who had their wits about them were nice, but others who couldn’t help themselves were not so nice. One lady compulsively lied and made up stories about where she worked, or how people were out to get her (via scams), and one kid probably a teenager would try to manipulate others, had a fierce temper and didn’t think it was hurtful when she was honestly assessing her behavior.

But modern psychiatry has come a long way. I saw some people who would in layman’s terms be described as, “insane” and out of control get turned into soft spoken, kind people right before my eyes. Of course, this process took days sometimes for their medication to kick in, but when they were ready to get discharged I saw smiles on these people’s faces where I couldn’t fathom one blossoming a few days ago.

As for me, in hindsight, over the ten days, my symptoms of depression changed dramatically. I got started on lithium right away, and within five or six days, the bad thoughts, the suicidal ones, were gone. I couldn’t imagine how I could have thought of suicide in the first place, if you ask me now.

Other than the time I spent in group, assigned by my nurses, I spent most of my days drawing animals in ink, and planning my future. Not knowing if my condition will be a disability in the future, I’m carefully weighing my options because I know I can’t go back to my stressful job I used have. Or any stressful job. I need something low stress. I don’t mind going back to school for a while, and I should be able to get some recommendations from my college professors since it hasn’t been too long. But this is of course a long way away. In the next few months I’m going to get in shape, and sign up for Outward Bound and go back packing.