Gratitude

Watercolor of my cat, Olivia

Thankful that I didn’t have an episode today when I almost could have at the store. Thankful that I have a roof over my head and food in the fridge. Thankful that I laughed more than once today at something stupid. Thankful that I have family that understands and supports. Thankful that there are people who can differentiate me from the illness. Thankful for modern medicine and drugs. Thankful for my curious and silly cat. Thankful for being healthy enough to be able to help others. Thankful for being able to hope. Thankful for today, despite what yesterday was and tomorrow might be.

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Managing chronic dissociation

I’ve been gone for a while, in a few different ways. I came off of social media and my blog for a while because of my anxiety and the negative self-talk that comes with depression. I been also feeling like I wasn’t in my body. When it got bad, the thoughts went to wanting to not exist, whatever that took. I’m not sure if “fantasized” is the correct word here, but I would imagine day after day hoping the pain would go away, and how it could go away, how it could just all end. The awful thoughts that hurt me somehow kept persevering- “you’re not worth it,” “you don’t belong anywhere,” “you’re useless,” “you have not future” etc. Mindfulness exercises were not enough to overcome the noise in my head, and distraction was the only way to keep myself safe. I finally came off of the Ativan I was taking it at night for sleep and anxiety, and the anxiety came back like it was always within me. It made me shiver and shake when I was in bed from the physical sensation of anxiety- I couldn’t trace back to what I was anxious about. It was like ants crawling over my body from toe to head on my back.

Through it all, I dissociated. Well, I’m actually dissociating now as I write. I’ve dissociated for a straight month. I should point out, I don’t have Dissociative Identity Disorder or Borderline Personality Disorder, for which dissociation is a common symptom. No one has figured out exactly why I dissociate. My therapist thinks it’s because of the trauma of becoming diagnosed with bipolar and the aftermath of getting used to the condition. My doctors thinks it was the Ativan I was taking or the level of Lithium I was on. My mother thought it was from the big move. It could be because of many things. Whatever the reason was, I kept dissociating.

Being asleep makes the reality more “real” because you’re actually supposed to feel a bit foggy and dream-like while you’re asleep. So it’s not strange to say that reality is more authentic in one’s dreams for someone who dissociates. When I’m awake, everything is so dull, colorless, not reactive. People passing by seem fake, like puppets placed in the fake world you’re supposed to interact in. You don’t feel like you’re in your own body or that you have any agency. You constantly feel confused by where you are and who you are. You feel invisible because you think you’re actually watching a movie instead of what is happening as a reality. Sounds uncomfortable? You bet. This is your whole day, from when you open your eyes, until you fall asleep. There are some things that I’ve done to cope with feeling dissociated all the time. I can’t say they cured it, but it helps with managing it.

  • Fake it: Emotions will not be automatic in this numb and dull state. So when you are prompted to show an emotional response to others, give them what they want. This will be easier than trying to explain what you’re feeling (like the above). Read their facial cues for clues and reiterate what they said, even if you don’t actually have an emotional response. Laugh when jokes are made, empathize when necessary. Be careful to not get worn out, because it takes energy to do this. Take breaks when needed.
  • Get exercise: This might be difficult when the anxiety is high, so in that case, it’s best to do it in a secluded place by yourself. I tried to walk in the park but I would jump every time a stranger passed by. Go wherever you feel safe. It could be a gym machine, or in my case, I walked up and down the emergency stairway in my building multiple times because it was usually empty. All in all, endorphins always help at least just a little bit.
  • Help someone else: This is another distraction skill coupled with opposite action. Focus on someone else’s problem’s for awhile to make yours disappear temporarily. Take care of a pet, do the chores for another family member, volunteer.
  • Get busy: Take up a hobby to keep your mind off of yourself and your situation. I picked up embroidery to feel productive.
  • Pretend that you’re playing a video game from the first person perspective: Accept that the dissociation will be there. Accept that your reality is “fake”. Tell yourself you’re playing “you” in a video game- pretend to play a role of “yourself” when you weren’t dissociating. Ask close friends and family to check if you sound like yourself. So far, it seems like even if you don’t “feel like yourself,” or if you’re having an out of body experience, everyone else won’t notice that you’re dissociating.

That’s all I’ve got. Hope everyone had a good weekend.

 

Hey, it’s me. In my personal hell

It’s been thirteen days since I moved to my home in New York. But to me it might as well have been a day, or a week, or even a month. I slept most of the days. My dad was here briefly before he went back to work abroad, but I don’t think I’ve done anything meaningful while he was here. My anxiety keeps me caged in this small apartment I share with my mother, and my dissociation makes me lose track of time and place. My new therapist asked if I was dissociating intentionally, and I said to my knowledge, no. It’s not a good feeling to feel like you have no control of what you’re doing, first of all, and second, with added anxiety you feel like someone is going to pounce on you the next minute. My usual grounding techniques (breathing, meditation etc) haven’t worked, so if anyone knows a way out of this state, please let me know.

She’s great, my new therapist. Hardcore Jungian, believes that dreams can help you figure out your unconscious. A year ago I might have scoffed, but stranger things have worked to cure me a little. So I said why not.

It’s raining today, and it’s currently noon. I thought about what I would genuinely want… To be in nature where there is no one else around. Play with a bunch of puppies. Not have to eat for the rest of my life. Become invisible.

It’s hard to know when my anxiety ends and I begin. Everything is terrifying. I constantly shake my leg to get the nervous energy out. Watching horror films have calmed me down in a twisted way because it’s self reinforcing all my terrified thoughts. It’s also probably not good for me.

 

 

Unsettled

Really struggling today.

I get anxious about everything outside of the house. I’m the least anxious under the covers. I escape reality by oversleeping.

Usually drawing or writing grounds me, but it’s not working.

I’ve lost a lot of weight because we don’t have snacks around the house and mostly

because I don’t have an appetite.

Sleeping is difficult because I wake up every two hours. I started taking a higher dose my doctor prescribed PRN.

I’m trying to stay grounded, and trying to stay present. Trying to distract myself from bad thoughts and see thoughts and thoughts and nothing more. Meditating helps a little bit, but I feel so flat it’s hard to get in touch with myself. So I continue to distract, hoping that I’m not avoiding by doing so. My family has intervened, and started taking me out to mandatory walks in the park to get exercise. Like a frightened puppy. I close my eyes when we drive there because the roads here are so narrow and the drivers honk at every chance they get. Then I see myself slowly caving in, getting further from myself and others into a black hole where I can’t feel anything and I’m not aware of my surroundings.

I know I can get better. I’ve been better. I’ve been optimistic, and happy about who I was. I smiled when I walked down the street and I was confident. I’ve felt good and good about myself and I know it will come with time.

Feeling overwhelmed

I would like my appetite back please. The sink clogged and it’s the day before my move/flight. I’ve tried the vinegar and baking soda method (two things I haven’t packed for some reason), but no luck. Oh well. I dissociated today after a disagreement with my mover who kept pushing for more money to drive our van for the same distance. I haven’t dissociated in a while, so it was hard to get my bearings straight. It felt most like being very very drunk and nothing was real, except you don’t feel good at all, and you feel tense, anxious and frightened.

I’m so very stressed about tomorrow. I’ve never flown with a cat before and I’m moving on the same day as the flight. Also we are picking up the moving van in the morning. Oh. Plus the car in NY probably need to get jumped. I’m feeling super overwhelmed by the avalanche of events that are about to happen.

Nighttime anxiety

It’s not rooted in thought or event; it just is. The tingling in the limbs and shivers down the back. The worry that I’m missing something, not doing something I haven’t done, guilty but not knowing what I’m guilty about… at night things are more intense. Both the depression and the anxiety. It makes sense why I’m a morning person.

Ohh, shoot. Just realized I didn’t take my Ativan. No wonder…

OK. I’m back, medicated.

Because of the move next week, I probably won’t blog much until I get to NYC (sorry!). I have some fun posts that I need to write soon, but I’d like to do a good job, not as frazzled, so stay tuned.

Real talk. Moving sucks. Packing sucks. Arranging movers and storage sucks. Why do I have so much stuff? Most of all, leaving friends behind sucks. But I am leaving this damned place I’ve been through hell in, so for that I can be thankful. Nothing against Chicago, it’s a beautiful place to live, it’s mostly just the association I have with it now. I’ve had some unfortunate experiences here. If somehow my cat doesn’t throw a fit going through security at the airport, then we should be golden.