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.

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Somehow it all came together

Well, I almost lost my cat at the airport.

The frightened little thing un-harnessed herself by backing out and tried to make a run for it when I took her out of her carrier during the security check. I caught her hind legs and didn’t dare let her go because I think it might have become news if she got lost at O’hare international.

To start, we woke up in the morning and brought the rental truck to load our stuff. The movers and driver came and they were on their way to New York. We got on the plane, all three of us, including the cat. This sounds really spoiled but we flew first class because I wanted more leg room for my cat. My cat ended up doing pretty well during the trip- I didn’t give her sedatives but she ended up dozing off. The whole time she meowed only once! The flight attendant was another cat lover so we chatted about that. She said doesn’t see so many cats flying on board so she was surprised.

We got home and after feeding Olivia, getting the litter box out, we crashed.

This morning, the movers who drove our truck was on their way to storage. And our car battery had died as my mother had been in Chicago for months, so we had to get some help from roadside assistance so we could get to the storage place. But since the ETA for the Chicago movers was unclear, the movers on the New York side didn’t know what to do when it came time for them to help because my truck wasn’t their yet! 90 bucks an hour for two people, wasted… but it did get there. So we were able to finish up. During all this chaos, one of us were working on a contract with the storage unit (after seeing twenty different sizes), and the other, telling the movers on both sides what to do. And the car battery died again, so I was again in the phone with roadside services.

I’m about to return the truck now, which had to be refueled before returning. I need sleep.

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Reflections: second last day in Chicago

Boxes, boxes everywhere. I’ve moved a lot in my life. Overseas, across the country, within the same city, within the same continent, you name it, I’ve done it. Yet it’s always a struggle. It’s more of a struggle for me this time than any of those times because my bipolar depression wasn’t in full bloom back then. I’m doing a lot better this month than I have since college, or forever really. When my psychiatrist asked in my last appointment when I last felt like myself, I had to pause and scratch my head a bit. Feeling like myself… huh… Did I ever feel that? Do I feel “normal” now? You learn to forget. How you feel becomes a new normal, then another new normal until you hit rock bottom. You can’t see the forest from the trees, and you can’t compare the gradual changes your brain goes through, as others can. Just like aging over time.

Chicago living has been pleasant, (sans bad experiences that could have happened anywhere else). The people are, as Midwesterners are known, nice. Places are more spacious for a lot cheaper, and people don’t give too much of a hoot about how they look (Not in a fashionable Parisian way, but in a utilitarian, it’s warm-it’s comfortable-and-I’m-going-to-wear-it way). It’s less cut throat. At least compared to the East Coast. The best words I can come up with are that I have grown here, but I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed my life here. There are still painful things that come up, like when someone I dated for a year broke my heart by breaking up with me at 2 am out of the blue, or the time my new boss told me that I was not learning quickly enough (during our first one-on-one), the time someone whom I considered as one of my best friends stopped talking to me during my worst time with my depression, the time I got hospitalized the first time, and the second time, and the time someone who meant a lot to me didn’t believe that my depression was very serious, or that I was trying to get better.

At the same time, there were small surprises here and there that made it all bearable. I found a group of friends that I really clicked with (read: found a book club with) from work who were kind, and saw my potential as a coworker/person. I adopted the most beautiful cat, who is my Emotional Support Animal. I have been in love and out of love, then in love again. I found the missing link to my life- the ultimate question, the truth about myself, “why was I so sad/guilty/depressed/down all the time?” (answer: I have an illness, and had it probably for awhile and it went untreated), complete strangers who wanted me to feel better while I was hospitalized/in treatment, the friends who visited me at the hospital, and most importantly, my parents who supported me through my struggles and stayed by my side.

Life is funny. When I got this job offer based in Chicago out of college two years ago, I had rejected the other ones closer to home, thinking that it was a good idea to move somewhere I’ve never been. Turns out, I didn’t know myself very well, or what I wanted. I wasn’t sure where home was, but I found myself telling my friends at my farewell brunch that “I’m going home.” So I guess, New York is home, then.

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Trying our best

I used to be one of those ignorant people before I got (clinically) depressed, so I know where they are coming from. But Andrew Tate’s twitter comment about depression not being real? Ignorance is so real.

Those of us with invisible mental illnesses…To society, we might look like failures. But in reality, we’ve worked as hard or harder than anyone else, just to survive another day. Recovery is more than a full time job, and an accomplishment in itself- getting my diagnosis of bipolar II and the depressive episodes related to it were definitely the hardest things that I’ve had to face in my twenty-something years.

We might not look like we’re trying our best on the outside from your perspective, but trust us, we are. Not everyone functions the same way. We don’t have the same f(x) = y, certain input of energy and determination does not equal certain amount of result.

It’s my personal belief that everyone is doing their best in their given situation. It may not seem like it if you put yourself in our shoes, but that just means that you don’t have all the information. How someone grew up with certain values, hopes and dreams. Traumas they hid from you. Chronic pain. Mental Condition. Physical ailments. External environment. Relationships. The list goes on. We’re complicated. If you did know everything, you would understand why we are doing certain things a certain way, and that we’re brave enough to have gone through it all.

So don’t tell us to just “suck it up,” or berate us for being depressed. While there is tremendous amount of effort needed to recover and manage our illness, “sucking it up” doesn’t cure us, since our illness is not something we cannot control, but a constant battle to be fought.

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What it’s like to not choose suicide

Note: Trigger warning. If you’re in the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. It’s taboo to be talking about suicide, first of all. Even among depression patients, people (even those among psychiatric patients) cover it up with vanilla statements as “I did a bad thing,” or “I tried to take away my own life.” It’s not too kosher to say that you tried to kill yourself outright to acquaintances or close friends, as if the thought was contagious or offensive.

This is not to say that it is not a serious matter, or should be taken lightly or presented to strangers in a straightforward way. But we need to talk about it so that people who need the help can reach out easily and get it. Most people going through suicide ideation need your help so that they don’t choose the permanent solution to a temporary problem.

For me it came during a time of severe psychological anguish. I am not a scientist, but I know that something went wrong in my brain due to pent up stress and traumas causing some kind of a serotonin imbalance, and my brain deemed it reasonable for me that dying was the easiest way out of this mess. To the outside onlooker, I looked like a successful 24 year old with a high paying job which I was having some trouble with. I’m usually a problem solver and a logical thinker. I’m also good at doing things I don’t like to do, if I’m responsible for something or someone. The thought of suicide was an alien thing, alien from the rest of my thoughts that loved and cared for my parents, my friends and those who were close to me. This alien voice that I found to be mine told me that I had no future, and that everyone was out to get me, that I didn’t deserve to live, or deserve the things I was given. The voice told me that I was dumb and I didn’t belong in the world. This voice was coming from me, but I would have never wanted to say that to a good friend, never mind myself. But at the time it was impossible to not hear what it wanted to say because it was so loud.

Look, it’s not supposed to make sense. People with these thoughts (like me at the time) have thoughts they can’t control because they’re sick. They need help. We need help.

What stopped me from going through the plan (which I won’t describe, because that probably won’t help anyone) was when I wrote down my will. For my family and my close friends. Apologizing and saying that this was the best for everyone. My logical brain read what I wrote (I was checking for errors) and said, “huh?” That stopped what I was doing that night.

But that was just the first time when I had suicidal thoughts. I’ve fought through several now, too many to count. It’s a lot easier to fight them when you’re on the correct medication and a good support system, I found.

Now, fast forward a few more months- months and months of inpatient hospitalizations, medication trial and error, and therapy, and lots of DBT training, I infrequently have thoughts like the above that leads to thoughts of suicide. But even today, I’m recovering, and as a safety net, I have a suicide prevention number saved on my phone in my favorites. They say that the likelihood of those thoughts recurring is higher for someone who has tried, so you never know.

Everyone has their demons. And this one is mine- it’s impulsive, and somewhat random, and not something I wished for. But I’m getting a better handle on it because I look for warning signs. I track my mood daily using an app (eMoods, if you’re interested) to see how my depression, anxiety, irritability, elevated feeling, and moods are doing, and I can easily see if I’m falling in my depression cycle. Moods below 3 are alarming, and must be address to my therapist, or my support system. Nowadays, I don’t let it get there. Days when my depression is high, I scale back on the things I’m doing that day, if I can. I also track how much I sleep, which is correlated with my depression and anxiety, and I never ever forget my meds. It’s frightening to realize after you’ve gone through a failed suicide attempt, that you do have the ability to commit something so terrible, something that will ruin lives, and that it is not impossible. It’s not an easy thought to live with, but you learn to manage.

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Time to go

It’s hard to know when you have “recovered enough” for the next thing. Often that is decided by insurance, other people in your life, your guardians and so on. It almost sounds like, are you cured enough to be useful in the world? Or did they fix you yet? I don’t really know, but not really? I can’t work for more than 2 hours a day, I noticed from my volunteering days. And again, will I ever be fully cured? No one knows, really.

A lot has happened in the last few days. I decided that it’s time to move back to NYC from Chicago- which is one of the places I call “home” because part of my family is situated there at the moment. It seems like a no brainer that since I quit my job here, and the job was the reason why I came here in the first place, I should move back home (where I don’t have to pay extra rent and also, why would I stay where I have experienced a lot of trauma), but it wasn’t. My situation is more complicated because my family doesn’t just live in the US, so I can pretty much go live wherever I want, but at the same time it’s simpler because of my apathy towards my life/future/what happens next, thanks to the depression. I just don’t really care where I end up, sadly.

Also, moving is super scary because of my lingering depression.

So I gave it some thought. Pros and Cons, short term and long term. Pros of moving would be not paying rent, feeling like a fresh start, NYC is a bigger city with more opportunities and more things to do in general, and that I will be closer to home. Cons is the fact that I have to move and find a new psych, therapist, and that NYC is bigger and more crowded (anxiety provoking). I actually like my psych right now, and that took a lot of trial and error to find her, so it’s a bummer that I have to find a new one I like. Also I have a great relationship with my therapist, so rebuilding another one from scratch and rehashing traumas is a bit daunting.

What’s really pulling me back is my friends, but as young people, some of my friends have moved out of Chicago, and some are planning to also. I think that if we do want to stay as long distance friends, we’ll keep in touch the usual way- texting, instagram, visiting etc. And I will somehow meet new people over in NY.

I’m not too sure how I feel about all this- it’s definitely a lot of different things. Overwhelmed is one. I feel good because it feels like a step in the right direction, where as the past 7 months, I was basically standing still or, taking many steps back and many steps forward resulting in no change, suffering in the same spot. Recovery is, as they say, a marathon. Volunteering has done me some good, but it really isn’t as grounding for me in my opinion, because on the days I got depressed, I couldn’t make myself go, and whatever I did, I felt too tired for days to do anything else. The program at the day hospital is slowly coming to and end for me, which I’ve been going to since late May,  and I need to do something else that will ground me.

There is an lcd soundsystem song called North American Scum that goes “New York’s the greatest if you get someone to pay the rent.” I kind of want to believe it?

 

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