Taking the road not taken (before)

Another late night post, folks. (Because of the usual insomnia.)The move is technically complete, except for some important details:

  • I need to find a psychiatrist
  • I need a new therapist (!!!)
  • I need something to do to get a routine going
  • I need a plan

I’ve called to get an appointment but it looks like the numbers for psychiatrists aren’t exactly up to date on my insurance website or the web, so I just left messages at all the good hospitals around the area. As a chronic Spoonie, I have my 90 day refill with me so finding one right away isn’t the most dire thing. But still. No psychiatrist! AHHHHH!!!I’ve been told that Psychology Today is a good place to look for therapists, so I’ve taken a peek, and it was nice that everyone listed their modalities and specialties. It will take some time to find a good one as I meet with them to evaluate whether if they’re going to the best fit. My lovely therapist in Chicago sent me a card saying really sweet things about the improvements I made and it almost brought me to tears. We worked together for about a year on and off and she’s seen basically the darkest corners of my life, and it was sad to let that go and a bit scary to have to find a new person.Now, on what to do with my time here… in the short term, I’m still in treatment. Not in a sense I’m going to a treatment center a few times a week for group therapy, but I’m still staying away from returning to work for a bit longer. I’ve already decided the path I was on was not good for me when I started this blog, and I’m doing everything I can to not relapse, because I know how painful it can be to go through another hospitalization again for myself and those close to me. So instead I’m looking at classes I could take in the interim that I would enjoy. I was thinking art classes such as print making classes, which wouldn’t be hard to find in the city. Long term though, is a bit more complicated. There are so many options out there, with limitations as always, since I cannot take jobs that are very high stress or need certain educational backgrounds. My majors in college (math, statistics and economics) were right for the job market, but it certainly wasn’t right for me in hindsight. I did very well academically, but it prepared me for the typical high stress/ highly competitive jobs in the business world. Without having knowledge of the underlying chronic illness, I was not a good fit. I’m at a place where I could try again and see if another type of corporate job would be right for me, or I could switch paths completely. Health sciences are the most desirable field for me because as providers of the care I need, they would be understanding, and I wouldn’t have to hide myself from getting found out that I’m “mentally weak” or something ridiculous as you’d face in the corporate world. I’m hesitantly considering becoming a developer because I like programming but I’m hesitant because the hours they work are pretty long and stressful. Another option I’m considering is to join a monastery and become a Buddhist nun. No, not kidding. I don’t know how they would feel about pill popping nuns, because some of the traditionalists don’t approve of western medicine, but I’ve thought about going down that path since I was in college. My values and principles basically come from Buddhist roots, and I’m the most home when I’m at a temple. Everything fits the criteria, except the money aspect. It’s a very different lifestyle that these monks and nuns live, so I will have to do some more research before I dive in.

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Goals I set for myself

Recovery goals are always a moving target. And not a linear moving target, because recovery isn’t linear- sometimes you take 2 steps forward, other times you take 5 steps back. And it’s hard to accept that sometimes you have to do less than what you planned a week ago for that week because things just happened to go south. It’s seriously frustrating. So sometimes, oftentimes, you might find yourself biting more than you can chew, or reaching for low hanging fruit.

Two weeks ago, I thought I was at a place where I could start pushing myself with learning something and just do more in general. The weeks before, I was starting to do things that I enjoyed (like drawing), without getting prompted to do it- which I think was a huge step forward. (Sidenote: depression makes it very very hard to want to do the things you enjoy, or used to find enjoyable; or get out of bed to live… or live.)

Because I felt good about where this was going, I said yes to the NYC trip for the weekend, and I also said yes to many other social activities over the course of the two weeks. And by that I mean, meeting friends from my life-before-hospitalizations in the afternoons after I came back from group, which is more overwhelming that it should be because I’m vulnerable, I don’t know how to phrase things about what I’m doing, and I’m just usually tired all the time. To top it off, I’m mostly an introvert, so I burn a lot of energy by hanging out with people. I didn’t want to say no to these interactions because I value relationships and that’s more important than anything else right now because not only is it enjoyable, but it also gives me a sense of belonging with the rest of mankind.

That’s all really fine on its own, but I also did sign up for an online course (algorithms) that might be a good segue into a field I’m thinking of getting into, which turned out to be very time consuming and stressful. Clearly, not really something I can handle all that well. The material was very interesting and it was a great course on the subject matter, but experimenting with my meds, and all the social obligations with friends and family wore me out. I seriously felt bad about myself for a few days because I knew I couldn’t complete week 2 of the course because I didn’t have anything left, and I knew I couldn’t finish the problem set on time. I compared myself with my past self without the mental illness, and thought, well I could have done 4 of these at the same time back then! I hated that I committed to the course, but I know that I was feeling more confident two weeks ago about where I would be with my recovery. Unbeknownst to me, my recovery decided to take two steps back, and because of this, I was not at a capacity to do everything I signed up for. And I think I’m starting to be okay with that. I’m not going to let myself think I’m a failure, or that I can’t ever get into this field, or that my future is doomed (I’m not going to lie, I’ve already thought this, but now I’m pushing back).

Now I’m going to try to sleep again. Thoughts, comments are always appreciated!

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…

 

 

To the one I love…

When you, (you: healthy person without depression) compare my inability to get out of bed and do the few tasks I’ve written on my to do list for the day to you forcing yourself to do the dishes you don’t want to do at the end of a long day, I feel judged. It’s not like I want to stay in bed feel paralyzed because moving any of my limbs is somehow scary and those limbs feel like they are made of lead too heavy for me to lift… I don’t want to feel this way. And I hate that I am this way. “Just do it” mantra just doesn’t cut it. Because when I wasn’t sick, waking up was something I could do quite swiftly, without an alarm at 5:30 am. I’m not being lazy, I’m trying my best, but trying my best doesn’t mean I can actually accomplish that sometimes. I’m trying everything to get better. And I would be better if I could will myself to be, but it’s not how it works, apparently. If I had cancer, and I was doing chemotherapy and losing handfuls of hair, maybe you would have more sympathy for me, and be more understanding of my reason for taking off work. Believe me that this is a disease I’m fighting. I don’t choose to not have an appetite, or be up at night if I don’t take my sleeping pills, or cry at the smallest stupidest comments. I’m just fragile right now, and those are just the symptoms of depression.

Trust me, sometimes I feel like a phony too, when once in a blue moon I can do things easily, like wake up early and put my running shoes on and do my run. I feel so normal, like I’m myself again. But then I realize afterwards I’m physically and mentally done for the day, I realize that my capacity for doing things is not at the normal level. Those days when things feel normal, I make the mistake of overdoing it, then I go back to the cycle of crying uncontrollably over things I’m not sure about and feelings that come out of nowhere.

I need all the help I can get right now. I’m not trying to hoard attention here, or trying to prove that I’m special in someway. I agree that I am privileged enough to take some time off work until I feel better. But if I could continue to work, I would. If I could cook and feed myself, I would and my mother would not even be here. But rather than jumping back to work ASAP at the first sign of getting better, I’m taking this time for myself so that I can get to the root of my depression when I’m still young, so that the doesn’t reoccur in the future. A future that you might be a part of. I think I know what’s best for me, and I’m not sure why taking this time is such a crime.

Sometimes when you tell me that you don’t know what to say, I don’t know what to say to you either, because I don’t know how you feel. So I can’t make you feel better if you are feeling sad, disappointed, angry, frustrated, betrayed, tired, overwhelmed, crestfallen, or whatever else you might be feeling when we talk about where I am at the moment. We keep having the same discussion over and over again with the same conclusions. I bring it up, you sound confused and angry, we start raising our voices, then both of us are left feeling restless, unsupported and misunderstood. Afterwards, I feel like I have no right to feel what I’m feeling. I feel like you think I’m not trying hard enough– enough as you at life. I feel like I’m not enough. I feel upset that my existence is making you upset. I feel like I can’t confide in you.

All I’m asking from you is acceptance: acceptance for how I’m feeling right now and how I am the way I am- for whatever reason- is simply OK.

You know what, I don’t care if you think I’m lazy or not trying. I think I’m a strong person and that’s all it matters anyway.


Noch Noch does a wonderful job of listing the things one should avoid saying to a depressed person here.

Perfectly useless circular arguments

The last two days were quite peaceful, but I’m at another low again. I just aimlessly walked around my part of the city because I would have felt sadder if I stayed home.

Last night I was at a party for a friend who was turning 28 and moving to Germany. I met up with some people from our mutual friend group (from where he and I used to work) and some of his friends from rock climbing and some from his new company, which he was now leaving behind to pursue a new job without knowing any German. My boyfriend and I supposed it was his quarter life crisis.

Outings like these are a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because I get to pretend like I’m a normal human for at least a little bit, but at the same time, I notice the stark contrast between fully functional humans who have jobs and normal worries about career advancement v. myself. I also get the pleasure of getting asked the question, “so what do you do?”

I say that I’m taking a break. And the follow up question is, “what are you going to do next?” Then I’ll say I’m going back to school. And I feed them a glamorous outlook on my life that I’m imagining at the time. They don’t actually care that I’m doing something about it or not, or what the hell it is, I know that. They’re mostly drunk and making conversation to connect with someone else on things that you both have in common. But I do- it shouldn’t bother me, but it does- I care that I’m putting life on hold because I’m too depressed to do anything of value, towards my career, even if I wanted to. But it’s a party, so I try to smile and nod and sound normal.

The friend the party was for, came to talk to me and our mutual friends. I found out for the first time that he was also dealing with depression and anxiety, and seeing a therapist. He said he was taking Zoloft and Mirtazipine. I was quite surprised because we never talked about it before. Quite a lot of people around me had mental illnesses, I came to realize then.

The next morning, for whatever reason, I thought that maybe it was a good time to bring up what I’m going through in therapy with my boyfriend, about discovering OCPD, and how I’m doing. In retrospect it may have been dumb, because I know discussions like these always end up making me upset, and him silent, because he doesn’t know what he should say, and doesn’t want to upset me further. It becomes a very tense, one sided conversation with me lecturing him how he’s getting it wrong and it’s not actually my fault. Then I feel bad that I end up doing that again and there is more apologizing on my end for bringing it up. I was trying to explain to him OCPD and how I feel, but to him, perfectionism boiled down to someone “hating themselves because they hate themselves for being imperfect.”

Maybe I’m expecting too much from someone who has no experience with mental illnesses to understand how I feel, and I know that his intentions are noble, and not malicious. But I feel alienated from him when I try to explain anything that I’m going through that he can’t experience. It’s not just him, and it’s also my mom- she gets frustrated with me when I get sad for “no reason” and I can’t get out of bed and tells me to see it from her perspective and think how hard it must be for her too. If I could turn off being sad, I would. Really.

I tried not to make this a ramble/ vent about the people who are most dear to me, but it’s just another post about how lonely and frustrating I feel sometimes even with the support I have. I’m so tired of everything.