Changes

Quick life update, folks. Tomorrow is actually kind of exciting because I'm starting volunteering with a local arts group doing murals. It's been months since I felt confident that it might actually be okay to put myself out there. In the real world. There is obviously a chance that a depressive episode will hit out of nowhere, but I'm pretty fucking tired of being docile to it, so what the hell.

I got my meds changed today, again. The lithium is good where it was, Ativan is PRN, but the Prozac is going up to 40 from 20mg because I'm clearly still depressed. Or as my psych puts it, I still have "residual depressive symptoms." She also did remind me that I'm on three psychiatric meds and she's not a pill pusher. So no more new meds, which I appreciate.

Rebuilding yourself is difficult. Forming new habits is the hardest part. Today I realized that I don't like the pop music I used to listen to, which was surprising. It's like my brain flipped a switch. It's not that I dislike the stuff I used to listen to, it's just that I don't really feel anything in my heart when I listen to it. For now I'm going back to classical (I was a classically trained violinist) because I can actually feel something when I listen to it.

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All the shades of depression

In the middle of a depressive episode, nothing you do looks good enough to yourself. Today I’m at the worst of it. Smack down in the middle of the depression/hypomanic cycle, in the depression part. All the things I enjoy on a “good day,” drawing, painting, writing on this blog even… It all becomes so draining, rather than fulfilling.  l used to make art every single day for a few months, mostly of drawings of animals, but now that has gotten harder to start (again, like the last episode). I used to feel so good about making art. I used to blog a lot more frequently, but I haven’t recently since I entered this phase. It’s the feeling of running dry- I’m not quite sure of what. Will to live? Motivation? Willingness? Creativity? Thoughts of death came back to my brain once again, but not the plans. That’s important. Not having plans. Death that is not personal, but general and removed.

I’m in this hamster wheel of recovery that I can’t get out of. I’m trying, I really am. I’m trying everything to sleep right, eat right, do the right things and think the right things. I’m using skills I learned from group. I’m in therapy every single day, Monday through Friday- both individual and group. I don’t miss my meds, ever. I’m going to start volunteering this week, and the week after that, and I’m going to step down from my day hospital soon, which everyone calls “the bubble” because it’s safe and secure from the big and cruel world. But the truth is, my meds are still not working for me during times like these. It isn’t not helping, but it’s not helping enough for me to be functioning normally. Because I’m trying to be more compassionate, so on behalf of myself I will say this: this isn’t laziness. When I’m feeling catatonic, making me to go for a walk in the park is like asking a pig to fly.

Someone in my group suggested this, though: I have to find something pleasurable at whatever level of depression I’m in. On an easier day, I can shoot for finishing a painting. But on a more difficult day, that won’t be possible- especially as a perfectionist- I’ll dread starting the paining because I will feel like a failure if I don’t finish, or paint as well as I would if I were feeling better. So instead, I’ll have to shoot for something easier when the depression gets bad. There are easier things I could do like, color part of a coloring book, instead of doing something that requires more work, more creativity. Read a book. Watch a movie. Crochet. I just have to keep myself moving.

My family and friends (who are still with me, I lost so many during the recovery process) are so encouraging and hopeful when I don’t see the hope. I feel like I’m like a professional patient and a lost cause (listen, it’s month 6 that I’ll be in some kind of a mental health facility), but my mother tells me that I’m going to have my life again soon, and that I will be able to have a normal job and friends, relationship etc… I would be so grateful if any one of those things became real at this point.

It’s been too many months to remember what I used to be, or what I aspired to be, but maybe that is for the better.

 

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Spoonie

Hello everyone! Sorry that I haven’t posted in a while. There hasn’t been anything unusual that happened in my life that thwarted me from the usual blogging schedule, but I’ve been kind of just feeling rather… small. Insignificant. At a loss (for words). Not worthless, that would be too strong of a word, but I have been just feeling a bit invisible in the past couple weeks. It’s very subtle how it manifests itself, this feeling of insignificance: there is a slight shift in my behavior at first. I start to not reach out to friends as much because my mind automatically thinks, “what’s the point of sending them a picture of this cute dog/cat? It’ll probably just waste their time and they’ll think that’s all I’m doing all day,” and the picture will not be sent. Same with text messages. The negative self talk will shoot down a text that was composed before it gets sent. Same with emails. Phone calls. I will also reject all invitations from friends. It’s not social anxiety that causes it, but it’s just the terrible feeling in the gut that says I probably shouldn’t go because I’m going to have a bad time. I’m going to be tired if I go. I’m going to have to talk to people who are going to judge. I’m going to have to lie about what I’m doing with my life to avoid awkwardness. If it’s close friends I’ve known since pre-hospitalization, I feel like there isn’t anything worth talking about in my life that they can relate to since I’m in therapy or napping most of the day (my friends in therapy get this, of course). For blogging, or talking to people, I guess I’m having a hard time because I feel like I’m not interesting and because the energy or motivation needed for doing it isn’t there. If you like spoon theory, I just have very few spoons per day because of the fatigue that comes with anything I do. Interacting (emoting, speaking, gesturing etc) with people takes everything out of me. Keeping my feelings and negative thoughts at bay takes away majority of the spoons on a regular day.

I think at this point you’re thinking: it’s avoidance coming from the depression, duh! And I don’t feel great that I recognized it and couldn’t do anything about it, but I don’t want to make myself feel worse than I already am. I’m hoping this blog post will my first step towards not avoiding.

 

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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!

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Trying to make progress on my progress

I often don’t know when too much effort is too much (for my own good). Sometimes I don’t want to know, so I ignore it and keep going. That’s how I got here in the first place, I suppose. My therapists have called it my “lack of self awareness.”

I feel like I’ve come a long way in my recovery, and I can usually use skills to not feel this way, but today my thoughts automatically go to: am I resting on my laurels for too long? Am I doing enough? This feeling (the same one that has been there since the beginning, before the hospitalizations) keeps telling me that I need to do more. More towards my recovery. If I take beginner level yoga, then I need to take a more difficult Viniyasa class. If I’ve done 30 minutes of my online course today, I need to do an hour the next. More efficiently. Harder, better, faster, stronger. According to the thoughts, I should have thoughts like, “the next job I’m going to get will better be higher paying/better/more suitable to me than my last one.” I realize that it’s insatiable, this beast (or logical mind, for DBTers out there), and it’s impossible to please. It also doesn’t give a shit about how I feel about any of this. It’s greed, and no longer a healthy amount of ambition. It’s obsessive perfectionism- no meds can make it go away, just pure will power.

Being happy isn’t my default and I’m trying my hardest to feel satisfied and not be anxious about being pleased with my progress. I’m letting myself be satisfied with my satisfaction.

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Saying no

Saying no to a job that made me miserable seven days a week.

Saying no to an identity created to appease everyone else but me.

Saying no to thought patterns that made me unhappy.

Saying no to projections of the future that brought me fear.

Saying no to toxic people.

Saying no to relationships which no longer serve me.

Saying no to unhelpful help.

Saying no to alcohol and yes to meds that help me function.

Saying no to coffee, the anxiety starter.

Saying no to recurring thoughts of trauma.

Saying no to thoughts of inadequacy.

Saying no to all these things, every single day, to be in the here and now.

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Accepting my diagnosis

It’s 5 am and I’m up again. I’ve been feeling tired throughout the days and I’m not sure why- could be the lithium or it could be because of my cat jumping in my bed.

I’ve been working on fully accepting my bipolar II diagnosis. It’s important that I do this for myself because I don’t want to feel ashamed about myself because of something that happened to me that I didn’t want. One could call this a loss: a loss of possibilities, a loss of a certain freedom, a loss of an idea of myself, more invincible. I need to take time to actually mourn what I have lost, even if they are merely ideas.

It’s a process. And this is in no way easy. It’s especially hard because I’m still on my way to recovery, still trying to feel more stable. I’m still physically very weak, but feeling mentally easier thanks to the meds. It would be easier once I’ve reached the latter stages of recovery when I have more stable footing to look back and say, I’ve come this far. Alas but no, I’ve only just fallen and I’m still in the stages of crawling out of the mud.

As always, your thoughts and feedback are always appreciated!

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