Just as the winter depression began lifting (with the help of pharmaceuticals), and anxiety seemed less (because of using fewer pharmaceuticals), covid-19 and quarantines kicked in. I’ve been limiting my excursions to grocery stores and mental health appointments for two weeks now. I am not ok. With each passing day I am more and more anxious about going out at all, even for a walk in my apartment complex. And depression is returning.
I realized I am feeling overly responsible NOT to spread the virus. With my lungs newly treated for pulmonary embolisms of unknown origins, plus asthma, being prone to bronchitis, and a few other conditions, I am at higher risk for complications when (not if) I get the virus. I figure it’s just a matter of time that I get it, but I’m Much More concerned about unknowingly spreading it before I know I have it. I have loved ones I don’t see in person anymore to prevent spreading it to them. And I am self-isolating as much as I can.
Yet the anxiety persists and grows. I know I’m not the only anxious person, though the solidarity isn’t helping my symptoms. I cry and cry. My stomach aches. My heart races. I have no reasons to give my loved ones or providers for why I feel this way. I’m crawling into myself to hibernate, depressed as I am, and in a desperate attempt to lessen the anxiety by lessening inputs. Hence, avoiding the outside world?
Depression DID kick in after the pulmonary embolisms of New Year’s fame. I’m told that is normal after major heart/lung issues, and so I’m not too concerned. This depression is a little easier than others – no hints of a hospitalization looming! Suicidal thoughts are present, but they are less frequent and less insistent. Plus, I’m so Very Clear that I want to live, as a response to the blood clots that could have done more serious damage. I’m still afraid of dying, and apparently I came close (well, was on the path?), and I don’t want to, despite the lying suicidal thoughts that persist. But I persist harder.
That is my mantra, ever since it was said of Elizabeth Warren, “Nevertheless, she persisted.” I persist. That’s what I do. Call it strength, call it bravery; those are not what I feel. I persist. I wake up everyday into a depressed reality with little to no sense of purpose, and I make a day of it: I do errands. I bill insurance or go to the doctor. I do housework. I watch too much tv. Sometimes I’m crafty or arty these days, as I watch tv. I cuddle my sweetheart. Then I go to bed into broken sleep, despite sleep meds. I wake up the next day to do it again. I persist.
I wish I could do more. I don’t have mental energy for more, even when my body wishes for it. Yet I persist in the belief that I will be capable for more someday. Some days I try. Some days I’m able to add something to errands and do something fun. Or I can go for a short walk to satisfy the itch in my body to move more (This happens infrequently as I live with severe chronic pain after a long spinal fusion as a child).
So even though I’m depressed, I persist. And there is some small glimmer of hope that persisting will lead to something more, someday. Persisting is boring, fwiw. But I’m alive.
Anxiety is kicking my butt. So is EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing – read more here: https://www.healthline.com/health/emdr-therapy). I’m concerned that I need additional meds to deal with the constant high anxiety since coping skills and current meds are not keeping my distress at bay. But I have been in a stable mood state for the last couple of months! I’m at baseline again for the third time in a year – the most stable I’ve been since diagnosis in 2010. I’m amazed, and astonished, and grateful.
Instead of the ups and downs of mania and depression, I am plagued with high levels of anxiety right now. A great deal I can attribute to EMDR. There is anticipatory anxiety the day or two before my weekly session. There is the anxiety brought up in the session itself, deliberately, in fact. Then there is the anxiety for days afterwards as I process old memories that connect to current relationships and feelings and suicidal thoughts. The goal is reduction of the suicidal thoughts, and in order to get there I have to go Through the memories to reprocess them. So, anxiety arises. Which sucks.
There are so many racing thoughts and then feelings that are causing anxiety in addition to EMDR. One major thing is the upcoming transition in living situation from a family home to a significant other’s home. Besides changing address everywhere (I made a list!), there are community resources that will change too since the new location is an hour away. Picking up and moving is so damn hard! Changing communities is anxiety-provoking! But I’m going to a healthier place for me, where I can be myself All the time. The price is additional anxiety about breaking up interdependencies and about creating community again.
Throughout each day I’m dealing with higher generalized anxiety plus these recurrent larger anxieties. There are normal jitters about a newer relationship, and normal jitters about owning a car again. There are abnormal jitters about a tendency for delusions and mania in December. Just life itself and making it through each day and night is causing jittery anxiety. And one of my major coping skills and time fillers – reading – is still on hiatus. The letters and sentences jump around and I can’t focus enough to make sense of them. One time when this happened during this bipolar time, it took two years!!! to get back to reading. It’s so bad that I can barely read Facebook or Insta posts. And I can’t even read this post to check for readability and typos. The lack of reading is causing anxiety too. Great.
I’m living with bipolar fallout, those symptoms that occur after extending yourself too much. I had two road trips in a week, followed by normal running around and then EMDR started in earnest. That was intense! I had fantastic trips. Then EMDR started all sorts of mental memories percolating and feelings being processed. Afterward I just needed a hug.
Now, a couple days later, I’m mentally and physically exhausted, with tons of anxiety despite meds. My thoughts are racing, clouding my ability to think and make decisions. My mood is still stable, thank goodness, but I’m living in fear it won’t be. I’m worried that the exhaustion and anxiety and racing thoughts will trigger a mood state. I usually pace myself for energy-exerting activities to avoid this kind of fallout that leads to fear and worry like I’m experiencing.
I’m just needing to veg out, I think, and practice breathing and grounding skills for the anxiety. But even doing that is tiring. I’m fried. Not even coffee is helping! Spending time alone away from family and the new puppy and then spending time with my girlfriend Is Helping. But I’m still recovering even after a few days away. I hoped that writing about it would help, yet I’m not sure this blog post even makes much sense.
I’ve got a lot on my mind – coming out, new committee work, suicidal thoughts and feelings, a new love interest maybe, a new tattoo and that it means I’m in control of my treatment and my body and who I tell what to, filling out end-of-life paperwork. All in all I’m overwhelmed with me, and a bit hypomanic from the mucinex, and together these things are causing me distress. And anxiety. Lots of anxiety. Just doing the paperwork reminded me that doing such things are a symptom of thinking death is near. And of course I’m having such intense and frequent thoughts of suicide, but in a more abstract way, not a concrete plan, thank goodness.
I just need a place I can be fully me, and be cared for, and share my piled-on thoughts with. Right now that place is church. I’m grateful for the people there that accept and care for me, as well as for the opportunity to do something (social justice team) that speaks to my heart’s burden to make the world a better place. It’s a process of becoming, isn’t it? Becoming a stable person with bipolar, becoming someone who loves in different ways, becoming a leader again. I’m generally someone who pays attention to process, and lets it unfold. But when it comes to me, I’m impatient!
That said, I’m hopeful about entering the process of EMDR to end the suicidal thoughts, and I know it could take a while. I’m hopeful about the person I’ll be and the opportunities I can take when I’m no longer regularly hospitalized and don’t have the terrible thoughts. So I suppose I am paying attention to process because I’m looking to the future and I Will allow it to unfold. And there Will Be a Future. I’m going to keep fighting.
I’m relying heavily on coping skills such as distraction or grounding myself. But I really want to die. If I can hang on, the mixed mood will pass, which will make the suicidal images less intense (they never go away completely). My psychiatrist increased my antipsychotic med drastically a few days ago. And my therapist is checking in on me daily. There’s a bed waiting for me at the hospital if I need it, but everyone is rooting for me to hang on and cope through this bad spell at home.
Except I really, really want to hurt myself. I don’t have a good plan, and my access to any means has been extremely limited. But the various ways keep pounding through my brain relentlessly. I want something to work – a way out of life or a way to make the feelings and images stop. I’m still just trying to hold on, grasping on the ledge with my fingernails, despite coping skills.
My thoughts are singular. My access to any means is gone. I don’t want to live this way. I don’t want to live at all. And people telling me they care isn’t enough of a reason to stay on this earth. I believe my brain’s lies. I’m not in my right mind. I’m not ok.
So I’m still struggling with suicidal ideation. I found a recent medical journal article that described what I go through EXactly. “Intrusive Suicidal Imagery” that is unbidden and unwanted, yet can lead to suicidal behaviors just to try to stop the imagery that by being so intrusive leads to hopelessness and then desire to kill oneself. It’s an endless, eternal circle and cycle that I live with. Here’s the article: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5551152/ The first third describes what I go through Every.Stinking.Day. The rest is about possible treatment…
What??? There might be treatment for chronic suicidal thoughts? Yes, EMDR as described in the above article has been successfully used for PTSD and trauma for about 30 years. In the last 10 it has been used successfully with other mental disorders and now finally with bipolar and with chronic suicidal ideation. Something to think about, research more, and see if insurance will cover.
This idea of possible EMDR is one of the really helpful things my therapist told me about last visit. The other is that by even trying just a little bit, just one teensy step, I Am Not Failing. Part of me thinks I fail every time I DON’T go through with suicide – too chicken maybe, since the suffering is so ridiculously unpleasant that I ought to have ended it already, having already gone through every.treatment.possible. Part of me believes doing so many coping skills all the time is failure because surely one of them ought to have worked by now – same with medications and other treatments. I must be doing something wrong.
I complained to my therapist that my brain is trying to kill me. He thinks it is just afraid, and again, that I am not failing. I continue to try: to live, to combat the thoughts or at least try to detach from them. And that struggle has made me who I am. And he thinks that’s a pretty awesome person. Meanwhile, I’m still over here planning my death, but I AM still trying to live. Aren’t there better ways to make someone an awesome person? Asking for a friend…