Two steps back one foot forward

Thank you for being there for me, everyone. Your comments, likes and reads have helped me to hold on to dear life this past week. I truly think your thoughts and prayers got heard, and the mental health gods decided to spare me this time, again.

Motivation is coming back to me, slowly. I’m not as triggered by things and the dissociation went away. I’m so thankful that this depressive episode was just a short one.

Here is where I went wrong. I thought I was safe, and that my rapid cycling bipolar had stabilized because I had been more than OK for more than two months. But it humbled me again with another episode. I’m never safe. I’m never cured, even with the help of anything. It has to be managed. I think I put too much stress on myself by taking up full time classes and freelance jobs. They were great experiences, but I feel like I put those job related things before my mental health- and if I don’t want another episode in the future, that really needs to change. So, this month has been two steps back. We live and learn.

Having Mania/Hypomania- What We Don’t Talk About: Excessive Spending

Maybe it’s because it’s considered embarrassing if you can’t keep your finances straight as an adult, but like many of the manic/hypomanic behaviors e.g. hypersexuality, excessive or reckless spending is not talked about.

Due to hypomania, I became a shopaholic overnight. My mother was intrigued but concerned about my new nightly shopping behavior. It started out with new hiking boots that we’ve been talking about for our next springtime hikes, then more shoes, then minimalist earrings- I didn’t make the purchases yet, but every single day I would talk about buying something different. I’m usually not a big shopper. I’m considered to be a very frugal spender who saves a big chunk of her income. And it’s not like I like shopping in general. I like fashion as an art form but I prefer minimalist styles for myself, which usually helps with not liking going shopping. My mother didn’t think it was all bad news, because for once in so many months, I started to actually care about what I looked like, excessive shopping and spending aside. See, when I became depressed, I disliked shopping even more because I always got dissociated in stores and malls, and since I had no desire to look desirable, it meant that I saw no point in rummaging through the racks.

To be exact, I became a shopaholic not quite overnight, but after I started taking the pill that I have a love/hate relationship with- Abilify. Abilify makes me so happy and enthusiastic- it gets me going and it gets me motivated. But, it is not without a cost: It pushed me towards hypomania, almost mania, even at my adjusted levels of a mere 1mg. I wanted to try everything (read: rock climbing, bouldering especially), do everything (read: get a crazy haircut), and work on my art (read: two paintings a day). But most of all, I wanted to shop. I wanted to find the best deals and buy them before someone else did. Thanks to the prevalence of online shopping these days, (which I never got into until now) shopping got so much easier and faster, as well as the returns. When I woke up in the middle of the night, around 3 am, my body’s preferred time, much like a victim of a remote controlled human with the tin hat (see Wallace and Grommet), I opened my computer and I scrolled through the sales section of all the retailers I’ve heard of that are online, like it was Black Friday. At the time, what I was doing felt safe and legit. It’s only the clearance section! What could go wrong?

I talked to my mother about this- she knows me best (even better than I know myself, sometimes) and she felt like something was up. She was happy that I was jovial and excited about life again, but she wasn’t too keen on my new found addiction, late night online shopping. We talked about some solutions, laughed about my strange behavior (in an endearing kind of way), and came up with some rules. Some limits. It wasn’t just the shopaholism, but about other things, like signing up for more art classes than I can physically handle, decluttering my closet for hours, trying new sports, working out more than my body can handle without collapsing afterwards, like going to the extremes with the ones I used to enjoy, like running. Hypomania was making me feel so happy and it was clouding my judgement with too much positivity. Well, anyway, here is the list:

Some rules

  • Finances
    • Leaving my wallet with someone I trust before going to bed. (To not have access to credit cards)
    • Always discussing potential purchases with someone I trust, and buying after a 24 hour period
  • Activities
    • Always discussing long term commitments (like classes that are >1 month) before registering/accepting them
    • Creating a schedule and only doing the things on the schedule to not over scheduling myself
  • Sports
    • Setting a time and sticking to the allotted time in order not to overwork myself

Some of these are no brainers, but not overworking will always be something that I struggle with, so I have to have it front and centered here.

Six little pills

Six little pills a day

Keep the bad thoughts away

And supposedly make me a normal human again.

One orange and blue two-toned capsule to make me happy-

(When I should be.)

One itsy bitsy blue one to make me more active-

(When I should be.)

A white and three round pink ones to make me mellow, but not too mellow-

Mellow enough to forget that there ever was a choice besides life.

Six little pills a day

That remind me that life is just a chemical reaction

And free will? Just another dream.

When you’re battling and surviving but not living

Back in knee deep depression- isolating myself, feeling hopeless and numbed out, dissociating. I feel like I’m sitting in the backseat and someone whom I trust is a reliable replica of me takes charge. She’s doing well, playing the part. I’m trying (she’s trying), still- going to classes, finishing chores, eating what I’m supposed to eat. But there is this strong feeling that the world will still be fine without me. The recurring memories of pain seem pointless but ceaseless. Remembering days of hypomania, I feel so much lower in comparison, as always. At this point, reading about other success stories of recovery that I got so much strength from a week ago doesn’t help me because they don’t have exactly what I have and we’re different people in different environments. No hope. But wait, didn’t I say that there is always hope? Nope, no hope. I wonder if it will be worth it. No, I already know the answer, but I’m feeling too bitter, resentful and hopeless to change that. I’ve just been fighting for so long, in the dark, and my tiredness is tired. Trying hard to not listen to the thought that “I’d accomplish more dead than living the rest of my life.” Trying hard to not trust thoughts and feelings because they almost always lie. Feeling barely alive. My dad says my skin looks great, over the video call from the other side of the world where it is daytime, and not night. Oh, how brutal invisibleness of invisible illness can be.

Let go of those who are already gone

Let go of those who are already gone. Because-

Loneliness is felt most deeply in absence.

From a depression, or a marking of what used to be.

Comparison of one state to another from another time and space.

What can be more cruel?

Berating oneself for not being the best version of oneself during the worst possible moment.

Drawing naked people

The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality, says Andrew Solomon in his book on depression, Noonday Demon. I kind of interpreted that as there being the vitality level and then the happiness level, the next. I am starting to get vitality back, and I felt quite happy today for a little while. It was only for a moment, but I felt it, like the smallest glimmer of sunbeam during monsoon season. It was during an open sketch session with a live model- I have difficulty getting the proportions right sometimes, but during a 20 minute quick sketch, I was able to correct it with some new techniques I picked up from other students the other day. I could see that I was becoming faster and more accurate every pose I drew, and also that there was still a very long way to go. All those things combined made me happy- the progress, and even the part about how much there still was to learn. And I would share my work, but they’re all figure drawings of nudes and I’m not sure if people are going to be cool with it, on a supposedly PG-ish blog.

I think part of my annoying subconscious would give me a lot of crap for going back to the arts and not learning something more “productive.” Like new skills that could help me get a job when I feel better, for instance. But I’ve already decided that this year, or at least a part of this year, I’m going to go after joy, and what I want to do, instead of what I have to do. I’ve done what I’ve had to do full time for the past 24 years, and (I speculate,) it landed me in the psych ward. (It also doesn’t help that I’m a perfectionist with OCPD tendencies, but you get my point.) People take mental health days; mine will just have to be a mental health year.

I turned 25

Immature confidence: bravely (but ignorantly) just going for it because you don’t know what could go wrong and how badly.

Mature confidence: brazenly going for it even though you can count a million ways that it could go wrong and how badly (from experience.)Did I get that right? Sort of?

After a flurry of events, like Christmas, my birthday, New Years, as well as actual flurries outside my window, I’ve had a few moments to breathe finally. This year I’m not doing any special resolutions because my resolution/goal remains the same as the thing I wanted since around the same time last year: recovery. Mostly meaning, getting my life back.I will say though, that I’m much better right now than I was last year around this time. For a few reasons- first, I know what to call the thing that I have (and had), second, I know what my limitations are (however crappy it is to be this way), third, I kind of know what to do with myself now in order to not fall off the wagon (except those times when things just collapse). And all this took about a little less than a year. Considering most bipolar diagnoses take an average 10 years to get right, I can’t be more thankful that it only took a few months to correct my diagnosis from major depression last summer, and that I’ve only a handful number of medication changes to date. Of course, I’ll never know how many more changes I will have to go through for the rest of my life, or how many blood tests are in order (to check on my lithium level), but so far in my journey, things have been better than average for the most part. So I’m just going to call it a small win. With things looking more and more stable with more consistency, the next step in my recovery for me is to set up a routine that will make me feel somewhat productive without overwhelming myself. Stress, hunger and fatigue are real triggers for me, I find, so I have to be careful with what I sign myself up for. I’ve always been interested in art and art history before I went all corporate, so I’m taking some art classes in the city, which are fantastic. The class is for anatomical drawing, which should give me more practice with drawing humans. I am much more familiar with drawing animals from pictures, so this is helping me stretch my comfort zone. Yesterday I sketched live models for three and a half hours, and I loved every minute of it. The people are great and there were so many talented students in the room. Everyone was also so nice and helpful to the newbies. I felt like I just belonged. This is for the future, but I hope to become skillful enough to draw and paint what I go through emotionally on the canvas someday. I don’t know what that will look like exactly but I have snippets of visions of it sometimes with not enough skills to actually render it.Hope. That’s not a word I’ve used recently. It’s good to see it again.