So I’m thinking about that memoir I set aside and picking it back up again. Just for something to do. Maybe a way to put my mental health advocate hat on a little more firmly. I remember taking chapters of that initial draft to a writing critique group and thinking they didn’t understand the memoir genre. So I stopped going. Maybe time to look at those first couple chapters with new eyes? Develop a new plan and start writing?
I spent an hour and a half looking at what I had already written, and blog posts I had inserted to condense down later. Seems like I only got through the first 2 years out of the 7 I’ve lived with the diagnosis and the constant med changes. By looking through blog posts, I filled in the hospitalizations since January 2015 when I stopped the memoir, I guess. Turns out I have been hospitalized 40 times in 7 years. Good grief! I wish it would stop. I wish I wouldn’t feel guilty and embarrassed about the high number. I told my current psychiatrist that it was over 30. Guess I should update him.
So what do YOU think should be in the story of being Suddenly Bipolar? All suggestions welcome!
I’ve spent time with my former post that listed my coping skills. I went through each one and looked with curiosity about what it actually was, asked if it was helpful, and how I felt during it and afterward.
I noticed there were several I don’t use often and several I don’t do well. But I practice them.
Most of the healthy lifestyle ones I feel better when I do them, experiencing an enhanced quality of life. Except exercising. No matter how long or hard I exercise I feel no endorphins, my depression doesn’t lessen long term, and I don’t lose weight. Why do it? Just cuz it’s healthy? Is that part of my values, or just worshipping at the god of wellness? Hmmm… Health is one of my values. And I like to feel and appear strong. At my weight appearing strong is impossible. So I’m left with feeling strong. Which hardly happens with my current strength training plan. Oh well?? I’m a companion to my mom as she spends time in the pool. Basically my only motivation. Should I continue exercising?
Most of my coping skills seem about lessening pain. A few, such as acceptance without judgement of thoughts and emotions, defusing from unhelpful thoughts, and riding the wave of emotion, send me through pain to the other side. So in a way they lessen pain, yet it’s through pain, not avoiding it. Only the daily breathing meditation seems unhelpful. I’m bad at it even after years of practicing. Most people are, a small comfort. It keeps me company as I fall asleep, which the tv could do… I could do a shorter regular meditation at another time. I find those helpful at church. I think I’ll try something else with that one.
So I guess I’ll keep going with all but one coping skill. I’ll tough out the exercise since it keeps my mom company, and a it’s a good time to talk if needed. Theoretically I enjoy the water. I’m not right now. Probably the depression’s anhedonia. And I’m bored easily by it. I’ll change the breathing meditation at bedtime to a regular meditation at another time, and I’ll use the tv as company while I fall asleep.
At least the others I can do more consciously now, knowing they help. On with it!
With the limited amount of faith I have in myself (not much), I’m going to follow my therapist’s suggestion to restart my coping skills with curiosity about them and deciding as though from the beginning if they are working for me. I feel like I am doing Everything Possible to manage bipolar. And still functional depression is my baseline mood. I fluctuate from functional depression to regular depression regularly. In August or December or both, I may have a manic episode. Not every year, but with regularity enough to look out for signs of them. But depression is my regular existence.
I feel as though I have no control over my life. Bipolar moods dictate energy, mental ability, cognitive ability, and emotions. Medication has been able to stop the fluctuation among forms of depression, but never out of depression as the baseline. And I’ve had well over 50 med changes in the last 8 years since diagnosis. Medications have sent me spiraling into despair and soaring into mania, but stability has been elusive. I use coping skills and a healthy lifestyle because I am supposed to because they are “good for me,” yet I see no effect on my mood. Since I can’t influence my moods with skills and lifestyle, I don’t think I have control over my moods, and therefore my existence.
With the extremely little hope and faith that I can have an effect on my mood, tomorrow I will beg my new psychiatrist for help on the medication front. I will also follow my therapist’s advice to re-examine coping skills and restart them as though from the beginning. First, I need to list what those skills are. So many come naturally now that I hardly think of them. So a list to remind me.
These are the elements of a healthy lifestyle I practice:
- A regular bedtime, 8-9 hours of sleep and rising at the same time every day
- Healthy eating and regular mealtimes
- Exercise, 30+ minutes 4-5 days a week
- Social contact at least 2 times a week (could be better, but I have no friends in my current location yet)
These are the coping skills I regularly practice:
- A breathing meditation every day
- Deep breathing to manage flare-ups of anxiety and depression
- Examine recurring thoughts and feelings with curiosity and work to accept them as existing, no judgment
- Defuse from unhealthy recurring thoughts
- Ask myself if a course of action is in accord with my values, and take actions that are
- Distract from moods and anxiety with diversions such as reading, movies, tv and social interaction
- Distract from escalating emotions with grounding exercises such as paying keen attention to the moment, to sounds, to visual cues, with calming scents and with soothing things to touch
- Ride the wave of emotions
- Blog as journaling to help with introspection into what I’m thinking and feeling
- Spend time with my cat, petting, talking, playing
- Reach out for support or practical help from friends and family
I can’t find anywhere to volunteer that floats my boat, so to speak. One I’m still waiting for the background check. The rest? Who knows. I RSVP’d to another postcard-writing event for one of the political candidates I’m supporting. I have a blood drive to attend next weekend.
Not a whole lot to do except Wait, and Self-Improvement. So I’m basically a Lady of Leisure right now. I read. I watch HBO shows I’ve recorded or funny late night shows the day after they aired. I watch streaming shows like Orange Is the New Black’s new season. I read a lot more. I exercise. I go to spiritual direction, NAMI, and my therapist. Oh, and I have no money to spend, so it’s not like I’m at Starbucks (my ONLY local coffee place in 15 miles, WTF Texas!) or going shopping or ordering up meals from GrubHub to try some new places.
I guess I’m taking care of bipolar by self-improvement? The days run together though. I try to get outside the house everyday, but a day like today is a fail. I watched shows and read all day, except for the hour I exercised and took a shower. Oh, boy! The highlight of my day tomorrow is the color and cut at my new salon – waaaay cheaper than my last salon. I suppose that would be the highlight for most women though. Getting a fresh ‘do is always good self-care.
I would have thought spending my time in meaningful pursuits was a better way to use my time as a disabled person than simply doing things for myself. My mood is stable again, thank goodness! It would be a good time to make the world a better place, I thought. Instead I’m stymied in that department. So I’m stuck with leisure, and I’m making the best of it by exercising my brain with challenging subjects to read – nonfiction and controversial-contemporary fiction. And appointments that give insight to my current struggles.
I’m trying not to be bored – another reason to volunteer. But good grief! Without money to spend, I’m not liking the lady of leisure lifestyle very much. And even with money, how could I be so selfish as to spend so much on me? I’m a little ashamed that I have so much free time and not a lot worthwhile to say I did with the time. I know I can’t hold a job. I’ve tried. I’ve tried to hold volunteer jobs and failed miserably too. It’s hard when my moods have been so variable and hospitalizations have been so frequent. I hate calling in to say I can’t be there just because of a mental health reason that crops up more than a cold or flu might.
How I spend my time troubles me. That so much depends on my mood troubles me more.
I’m blogging because my therapist expects me to keep writing. It’s helping my anxiety to put in writing what I’m thinking. So, just another blog post about … nothing.
I’ve been doing some spiritual seeking this week with a new book from a friend of mine, Meredith Gould. It’s Desperately Seeking Spirituality: A Field Guide to Practice. Each chapter has questions at the end to delve deeper into each topic or practice. I’ve been journaling the answers instead of just answering them in my head. I’m not sure I’ll go back to the answers, but writing them out is helping me be more specific and targeted for getting at where I’m at spiritually these days. You’ve read about my struggles, and I feel I just have to start over. Hence, this book and its title were very on point.
I didn’t work out at all last week. I felt guilty at the time, yet now I’m glad for the break. I’m starting back up, and hope to get into the pool now that it’s closer to 90 than over 100 this week. Maybe that will help the water feel less like a bacteria-infested bathtub. Ugh. I’m not sure knowing the salt water keeps it clean is enough for me if the water is so warm. Might as well be a warm hot tub instead of a hot hot tub, if you know what I mean.
I tried yet another place to volunteer today, this time a place that gives mental health services for the community. Sounds perfect, right? Not only is there nothing available right now to volunteer to do, both email addresses I was given to contact the volunteer coordinator didn’t work. Good grief, can I get any other doors blocking my way to give back to the community and to do something meaningful with my time! I don’t really like/can’t do food service, standing on my feet for longer than a few minutes, or schlepping things from place to place. So soup kitchens and thrift stores and construction are out. My heart just isn’t in it, especially if my back can’t be in it either.
I feel like I’m getting compassion fatigue and I’m not even doing anything but staying aware of all the issues plaguing our state, nation and world right now. I don’t know how to help anything other than stay aware and I guess ready to act once one of the volunteer places opens up. I’m still politically active, if that’s a thing. I wrote up postcards for a candidate on Friday night. So that’s something.
Last day of writing to see what I’m thinking! I’m sure you’re bored of my drivel every day… I would be!
My mood is still stable though I’m feeling irritable today. Could be a shift in mood, or just an off day with normal fluctuations of feelings. I think the irritability has been slowly growing, mostly because I’m not doing enough to satisfy my values. I would be volunteering more, yet I can’t seem to get a call back from any of the 3 places I called. Hmmm.
What I’ve learned from two weeks of daily blogging: my mind might be empty instead of racing; I can string a thought into a paragraph with enough effort; and I’m searching for ways to fill my time that fit with my values. I could say that I have jumbled thoughts since I go from random topic to random topic. I think I am prompting thoughts though. The thoughts are more about things that happened in the day because I’m prompting myself with a probe about what I did in the last 24 hours.
I’ve got a NAMI meeting tonight. I don’t have anything to talk about since my mood is so stable right now. So glad for that!
Almost there! Just today and tomorrow in the quest to see what I’m thinking in this either very full, racing brain, or a very-empty-until-I-put-in-a-prompt brain.
My mood is still stable, thank goodness. I’m loving my new cocktail! I’m actually happy most of the time. I’m pretty sure that one of my meds is overkill though. I hope the next psychiatrist nixes it.
I drove on a lot of unfamiliar roads today to get my parents’ cat to an imaging center for a radioactive thyroid scan. The scan is a precursor to next week’s radioactive treatment to cure hyperthyroidism. He doesn’t take the medicine well, chasing him all over just to rub his ear for 10 seconds, twice a day, even with a reward of fresh baked chicken each time. So my family is paying a lot to get the treatment. He’s old at 14, but in ok health. Might have an inflamed bowel that is causing his vomiting instead of the thyroid. Treatment for that??? You guessed it! Daily medicine. Sigh. I hate being recruited to help grab him, since my family can’t give my cat another hoot. And that cat doesn’t like me anyway.
I finally called again at the refugee agency where I want to volunteer. I had to leave another message. I hope this time I get a call back.
I did some art therapy today. This time it was a picture of my inner and outer life. My inner life is full of desire and want – a busy life, meaningful activities, a relationship. My outer life is like calm waters – a calm demeanor, the appearance of nothing going on – compared to the large, rough waves of my inner life. I think it’s an accurate depiction. How do you draw desire though? I tried.
I finished Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World And Me. Very excellent book. So much about how black people’s bodies are so vulnerable because of people who like to think of themselves as white’s culture that is built on the bodies of black Americans – ghettos, redlined housing districts, police brutality, just to name a few. I knew about this, and Coates explained in a clear way. This racist’s eyes are more open again. How can I help change the culture?
The Handmaid’s Tale is also finished, with a good cliffhanger at the end. I won’t spoil the ending in case you are watching it. The last episode dropped today, and now there won’t be any until when? Anybody know? Is it a summer series?