Choosing Wisely When You Have a Mental Illness

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Two weeks ago my neurologist started me on a muscle relaxer for my migraines, and I haven’t been writing here about how it has been affecting me because I write in the mornings, and I’ve been too tired in the mornings to write.  So, that is how it has been affecting me.  I take it at night before bed, and I still feel exhausted come morning.

I am going to experiment with taking it earlier in the evening, like around 8pm rather than 10pm like I’ve been.  Also, since I have gone from taking 10mg of Adderall in the am and 10mg at noon to still 10mg in the am, but only 5mg at noon, I am going to add the 5mg I am not using at noon anymore to my morning routine to help fight off the fatigue from the muscle relaxers.  So, I will now be taking 15mg of Adderall in am and the regular 5mg at noon.

For the last two weeks, all I’ve felt like doing during the day is lying around in bed and sleeping.  It is not as bad on the weekends because my family is here.  I don’t feel depressed, just tired.

I feel tired from the medicine, tired from kid-stress, and tired from kid-activities, and tired from online shopping for myself and for Christmas presents.  I’ve been on my phone shopping so much that I am waking up at night with numb hands from carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms!

I started freaking out about the money I have been spending lately, and applied for a job at a retail store against my husband’s advice.  The manager called, and after talking to her, I decided I wouldn’t take the job because she needed someone to work more hours than I knew I could handle.

I stopped spending money on myself, even though it is very hard now that I have started.  I don’t even go on the app on my phone that I love to browse.

I am also saving money by switching to a new grocery store chain (Walmart.)  The reason I am switching is because I just found out they have a grocery pick up service.  This is an amazing, amazing service!

I order my groceries online, drive to the store, an app on my phone lets them know I am there, and they bring my groceries out to my car and load them in the trunk…for FREE!  (The service is free not the groceries ;))

My husband is really loving it because he does most of the shopping because I can’t handle it due to my anxiety.  Definitely check and see if they have it available in your area.

I take pictures for a hobby and I am good at it.  I could be a professional photographer.  People have told me so – even strangers have wanted me to take their pictures.  I’ve taken friends’ and family’s portraits rather than them going to a studio.  But, my social anxiety and fear of failing and the stress of dealing with potential customer problems keeps me from doing it professionally.

My husband said maybe when the kids are grown and I don’t have the stress of them and their activities going on that I will be able to handle the stresses of a job or of running my own photography business.  It’s not that I am unskilled or do not have talent.  It’s just that I am only capable of tolerating so much stress before a bipolar mood state is triggered.

I have to accept the reality of that fact no matter how much I dislike it.  I have to respect the limits my disorder places on my choices no matter how much I want to fight them.  It’s a matter of life or death.

I can choose to die by pushing myself too far past my stress threshold or I can choose to live healthily within the boundaries of my current capabilities.

At one point in my life, I ignored my limits and almost died because of it – overdose, hospital emergency room, inpatient stay, the whole bit.

Today, I choose the latter.  Today, I choose to live.

What do you choose?

 

 

I Will Do the Best That I Can

There’s a lot of confusion in my brain when it comes to my behaviors, because depending on my mood state my behaviors change considerably.  For example, right now, and for the last four days or so, I have been rather hyper and talkative and gossipy, opinionated, controlling, passive aggressive, and argumentative.  I’m normally somewhat controlling and I gossip sometimes, but not to this extreme.

I am working on Step 6 with one of my AA sponsees, and I thought maybe I should probably work it myself on some of the aforementioned character defects.  But, are they true character defects or are they symptoms of some hypomania?

It fucking drives me crazy trying to distinguish between the two.  I keep trying to tell myself to stop doing these things and then a minute later I am compelled to do them again.  It is like I can’t stop myself by sheer will power.

How can I improve my character if my character isn’t even the problem.  But, then again, what if it is?  Or is it my bipolar?  How do I know?

Just to be on the safe side, I’ve decided to reread a book I have, called The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.  It has some awesome communication tips that I think will make me feel a whole lot better if I am able to follow them.  (See #1 below.)

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I just got to get out of this mouth-running, ego trip, complaining, controlling, perfectionist, high and mighty state of mind.  It makes me feel guilty for talking about people in a negative manner.  It makes me feel shameful in front of the people with whom I am gossiping.  I beat myself up over it, often berating myself with negative internal dialogue, which I am not supposed to do.  My doctor warned it can trigger depression in me.  I feel remorse after I do it, too.  Guilt, shame, and remorse – not fun.

I’ve been having a hard time communicating properly with my family as well, being passive-aggressive or yelling aggressively.  Always apologizing, and again beating myself over it afterwards.  I think Agreement #3 will help me a lot in dealing with my family from here on out.

This all stops now.  If not the behaviors totally then the negative internally dialogue for sure.  I can use Agreement #4 as my mantra to combat the times I start to beat myself up for slipping.

Wish me luck.

 

Motherhood, Mental Illness and Codependency

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My teenage daughter is on medication and is in counseling for depression and anxiety.  She has been through a lot in the past year.  I’ve written about some of it here, here, and here.

Because of her mental illness and her overall highly sensitive and strong-willed nature, we (my husband and I) tend to have a hard time saying no to her.  We, of course, do not have a problem disciplining her when necessary, but she is a bit spoiled when it comes to materialistic things, and she is rarely kept from doing activities she wants to do even when it involves us driving her all over the place.  We will say no if it is excessive or too far or too late, however.

I have noticed that we do have an easier time saying no to her younger sibling with these things.  I don’t know if it is because we think she is less fragile or not as apt to become as agitated when refused.  I would give it about a twenty-five to seventy-five percent split between the two, respectively.

Overall, saying no to my daughter with the mental illnesses hasn’t been a problem for me until this past week.  I am starting to slide down into a bit of a depression.  As a result, I am having a hard time keeping up with her and her sister’s requests – things like going to the store for a school supply, Halloween costume shopping, stopping for lunch, attending sporting events, and the latest one, which really irritated me because she hounded me about it for two days, uploading some pictures for her from my camera to her email.

I just didn’t feel up to doing it because I like to edit them first and that takes time.  She said I didn’t have to edit them, but the perfectionist in me couldn’t bring myself to send them without editing them because I knew she’d be posting them on the internet.  Wow!  I really have some work to do on letting things go, my ego, and not worrying about what other people think, don’t I?

On the upside, I am learning to edit pretty well at top speed, which will help me if I ever become a professional photographer, which is my fantasy goal.  I think my migraines and mental illness will keep me from that goal for a long time.  Maybe someday it will happen long after the kids are out of the house.

But I digress…

Codependency has been described as “a pattern of behavior in which you find yourself dependent on approval from someone else for your self-worth and identity.”  I am afraid I do this with my role as a mom.  Since not being able to work outside the home anymore because of my mental illnesses, I have convinced myself that my purpose or “job” is to be mom, but in all reality if I was still working outside the home, I would still have to be mom too.

I know I definitely don’t feel like just Jessica.  I feel like “mom” or “wife” but not “me.”  The me I was before I go married was not one I liked.  I was very self-destructive and immoral.  The me I was before that me was the childhood me.  The me in recovery, the healthiest me, the me now, didn’t begin until I was well into motherhood.

How do I find out who the me is underneath the weight of this motherhood identity?  I need the answer to this question.  I think it may hold the key to much joy.

Me, the Bee, and the Art of Compromise

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I called the migraine doctor this week and come to find out that the doubled dosage I am on is NOT supposed to be helping my migraines yet, because he is still slowly titrating me up to a therapeutic dose.  Wow, I totally missed that supposed part of the conversation we had during our visit back in August.  Glad I didn’t keep waiting to see if the dose I was on would start working like I was considering doing.

On the up side, I have much hope again that soon I will be migraine-free or at least be suffering significantly less.  I have to stay on this new dose for four weeks before I can go up to the minimum therapeutic dose, and then we can still bump it up from there if need be.

I’ve been having these migraines for almost six years now and they have really ingrained a lot of fear in my life.  I’m afraid to do too much because stress is the biggest trigger for them.  I am also afraid to do too much because that triggers my anxiety.  My anxiety and migraines feed off of one another and sometimes I feel like they are the wardens of a prison I am living in.

There is a commercial I have seen on T.V. a few times that talks about the people who “have things” and the people who “do things.”  They show those who have things in these extravagant homes lying around by the pool, but bored out of their minds.  Then they show the “doers” having all types of adventures like water skiing, hiking, dancing, zip lining, winning at the casino, and having the time of their lives.  The advertiser obviously assumes that everyone would rather be a “doer,” but not me.

Because of the fear my anxiety and migraines create, I would rather be in the group that has things.  I would rather being at home where it is safe and quiet and familiar.  However, I do think my life would be more fulfilling and satisfying if I got out a bit more and took a few chances.  So, this week I went to a park by myself to do some mindfulness meditation like I talked about in a recent post.

I couldn’t bring myself to get out of the safety of my car, but I was glad to be out of the house and doing something new and different for a change.  I kept the doors locked and the windows just cracked because I am paranoid about people assaulting me or opening the door and stealing my purse or something crazy like that even though I was in a very safe area next to a police station even!  However, it was a beautiful day out and I kept thinking about how nice it would be and how much more I would be able to enjoy the sounds if I would just roll my windows down.

So, I faced my fears and put them down, the whole way.  Not even one minute later a bee started hovering outside of the passenger side window.  I quickly roll them back up and started laughing out loud, I’m sure looking silly to anyone who might have seen me.

Thinking of taking chances and being adventurous, I tried talking myself into rolling the windows back down and taking my chances with the bee.  What is the worst thing that can happen, I thought.  I get stung?  So what?  Then the catastrophizing started: What if I’ve developed a bee allergy in my adulthood and I get stung and go into anaphylactic shock right here in my car and die alone in this park?

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That decided it.  The windows stayed up.  I finished my meditation, then the bee and I went our separate ways.

Anyone without a mental illness can see by reading this, the mental struggle someone with an anxiety disorder goes through just to do something as simple as go to the park.  I had to talk myself into going, but kept myself locked in the car.  I talked myself into rolling down the windows, but quickly rolled them back up.  Simple tasks are not so simple when you have mental illness.

Overall, I am glad I went.  Going, but not getting out of the car, was a good compromise for me.  I try to do that when I am having trouble doing something because of my mental illnesses – compromise.  It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.  Balance is success.

Me vs. Anxiety

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When I am in physical pain, my thoughts are jumbled, negative, and scattered.  As I reread my last post, I cringed a bit.  I am feeling better today.  The migraine is finally gone.  However, the fear of another one coming on is always there, hovering over me like a dark rain cloud ready to burst at any moment.  I have no control over it.

There are many things I have been told to do over the course of my mental illness that are supposed to control the severity of my symptoms.  I suppose they work, but only up to a certain point.  I take my medicines as prescribed, never missing a dose.  I see my doctor, never missing an appointment.  I’ve gone to counseling, I use DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) and CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) skills, pray, meditate, do yoga, exercise, eat healthy, rest, get plenty of sleep, and ask for help.

Still my moods cycle and I get six or seven migraines a month, and now, I am having stress-related lower GI issues several times a week.  I’m not quite sure what else to do about these physical ailments except to talk to my doctors about them; let them do their job and figure it out, because I have tried, and can’t come up with any solutions to make them go away.

I am grateful that I have doctors to see, insurance to pay for them, medicine that helps me, a supportive family, and financial stability.  In times like these when I get to feeling discouraged, I try to remember all of the things I have to be grateful for.  I have to or else I will fall into despair and that is a horrible place to be.

I just wish I could wave a magic wand over myself and eradicate the anxiety.  I try so hard to stay in the moment; to not think about the future, the negative ‘what ifs;’ to not worry about all of the things on my to do list; to not stress about the social engagements coming up or about having to leave the house for this and that.

I always think, “Ok, once I get this task done, I’ll feel better” or “Once that event is over and I am back home, I will be fine,” but I never am because there is always something else to do after that.  It is never-ending.  So is life.  Things are never done.  How do I deal with things to do and places to go that never end?

By writing this, I see how the anxiety is making it difficult for me to persevere.  It takes a lot of energy for me to go through daily activities; a lot more than a person without mental illness.  Does this mean I am doing more than I am capable of?  All of the time?

I hate the thought of this being true because it means I would have to cut out doing things with my children and I don’t think I could bring myself to sacrifice that, especially since I am not one hundred percent convinced it would relieve my physical symptoms.

I think most of the things I do give me anxiety, but I have really never asked myself why they give me anxiety.  A great counselor taught me there is a reason for each feeling we have.  Maybe if I understand where this anxiety is coming from, look for some patterns, I can get a better handle on it.

I realize that I am, once again, trying to control it, but I have to do something about it.  It is disrupting my health and my life, and I just refuse to sit by and do nothing.

 

Homecoming Triggers PTSD

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My daughter has her first “official” date this weekend as it is her high school homecoming.  I had a very stressful high school career due to growing up in an alcoholic family.  I was a extremely shy yet self-destructive teenager.  Those years looked fun on the outside, but on the inside it was the most painful experience ever.  Well, not ever, because I have experienced painful things that have equaled it since then.  I have experienced many painful situations and emotional states lasting for days, weeks and months on end.  My life in general is pain-filled; right now, physically as well.  My migraines are out of control, and the increase in medication this month I was hopeful would work is not.  I’ll have to call the doctor on Monday.  I am very depressed about the pain I have from the migraines.  It makes me think of killing myself to escape the pain.

Back to homecoming…my anxiety is through the roof because of it, but not because I am worried about her.  Well, I am worried about her, but the PTSD anxiety is there because the homecoming brings back so many horrible memories for me.  Years ago this happened when my kids went to a sports clinic put on by the high school when they were still in elementary school.  When I walked them into that gymnasium, I almost threw up from panic.  My therapist at the time said I just needed to acknowledge the feelings.  She said they will always somewhat be there.  The key was to integrate them.  I forget what she meant by that now.  Wish I could remember because it is obviously what I need to currently do.

I was up at 5am baking.  It is what I seem to do when I am stressed.  I am trying to stay in the moment and I am praying and doing my chores and taking care of my children.  I did my daughter’s pedicure, I’ll take her to get her hair done tomorrow and to the park for pictures with her friends and date.  I am functioning; going through the motions; not totally faking it, but not one hundred percent there either.  I am in pain, physically and anxiety wise, but I can still live.  It is not an either or proposition.  It never was, is, or will be.  My disease likes to tell me otherwise.  I have to be wary of that.  If you have mental illness, you might want to watch out for it, too.

Stress Triggers Hypomania

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Something is not right.  I am obsessively working on projects.  When I do that I am either becoming hypomanic or overly anxious.  I sort of think I am dealing with a bit of hypomania because I can’t seem to keep my mind still and I feel like my cells are vibrating on some sort of low-level frequency.  I’ve also been seeing the world in techno-color, and I mean full-on mega saturation and contrast, damn near HDR quality, which I’ve been blaming on too much photo editing time on the computer, but now I am thinking maybe not.  Maybe hypomania is to blame.  Weird because I have never experienced this visual symptom before.  It is really freaky – almost like hallucinating.

I don’t like hypomania.  It makes me feel edgy and uncomfortable, like having an itch that I can’t scratch.  I want to nap, but I can’t.  I want to relax my muscles, but I can’t.  I think I will try some stretches.  Maybe some meditation.  It will be difficult since the end result will not be something tangible, something I can see, hold, touch, observe, like my photos, this blog post, the cookies I baked the other day, the new hairstyle I did yesterday, the pedicure I gave myself over the weekend, etc. etc.  So project oriented…good ol’ hypomania.

Funny thing is that just the other day I was writing my last post worrying about becoming depressed because of my prolonged anxiety.  It just goes to show you how unpredictable bipolar disorder really is, and how hellish it can be to have it.

On the up side, I know from experience these moods don’t last very long for me because I am what they call a rapid cycler.  This hypomania may last a few days or a week or two at the most.  What comes afterwards is anyone’s guess.  I’m bummed about that.

I am tired but wired; being pulled in opposite directions; literally bipolar.  Those of you who have it, too, please know you are not alone.  I feel your pain.