I haven’t had blood work since I was in the hospital over three months ago. And it came to my attention last week how, umm, concerning that actually is. I’m on lithium, and I can go on about how I fucking LOVE that shit because I feel SO much less CRAZY than I have for yearsssss…but I also know that it’s a hell of a drug. And it shouldn’t be played with. Now, I’ve been taking it exactly as prescribed. Have not missed a single dose. Take it at the same time every day except for the one time my boyfriend and I were in the city until late at night. My psychiatrist wound up increasing it two weeks ago. I had been super irritable, and if you read my last post, you know I was worried about it. I told my psychiatrist at out appointment that day that I wanted to keep an eye on it. Make sure I was getting sleep and sticking with my routine and doing the right things. She responded by saying we’d rase my lithium. Mind you, this is without getting my blood levels. I remember that in the hospital, over three months ago, my level was like .57 (and I told her that). So she was like why suffer, just take more lithium. And I mean, it worked like a charm, I feel fucking NORMAL, and I can write novels about how amazing that is, but I should first write how I broke out into a terrible rash three days later, that lasted almost a week. And then when the steroids and antihistamines cleared that up, I was unconscious for like three days and when I was awake I felt drunk as fuck. Now, might it be unrelated? Yes. Would I have preferred to have blood work done prior to all this bullshit happening? Uh, yeah. I went to urgent care for the third time today because my psychiatrist isn’t returning my calls still. And yeah. I’ll hopefully have some answers tomorrow. Now sure what to think, but whatever.
It’s been three months since the psychiatric hospital. And it usually happens every three months. “It” being me losing my fucking mind. I feel it coming, just like I always do. I mean, I can handle it better now. I haven’t screamed, thrown myself into a wall, cut myself. But I’m too irritable to focus. And I was having trouble focusing to begin with so fuck me twice as hard, I guess. I think that’s also why I’m anxious, so maybe anxiety shouldn’t count as its own symptom here, but I still don’t like the feeling. I’m on a relatively low dose of lithium, a dose that’s better suited for borderlines than bipolars (did I ever explain that the hospital doctor refused to believe that I was bipolar?) so I think I need a higher dose. But I don’t really trust my current psychiatrist to listen to what I have to say and take it into consideration. I am handling my emotions better (ie: the not screaming, throwing myself into a wall, or cutting), but I feel them at the same level I would have on something other than lithium. I’m wondering if I should do the experiment, go without upping my lithium dose, see how manageable this round is, and go from there. But why torture myself? I mean, maybe it’s important to see, but I’d feel bitter if that’s the case. I spent WAY too much time (14 years) suffering as I figured my bipolar disorder out, with no assistance from any professional (though not for lack of trying), and I don’t want to play games with my life anymore. That isn’t fair. I want to move on and feel successful and accomplished and proud of myself. I want to make a difference. I have goals that go beyond “survive the raging mood episodes I’m cursed with.” Fuck.
The only light in the room was coming off the clock on the nightstand, which indicated that it was 4:02am by way of a dull blue glow. It was too fucking early. And too fucking dark. And cold. Fuck the cold.
Insomnia ravaged her. Again.
The grunting snores of her boyfriend, fast asleep next to her, sent her temper spiraling but she was comatose despite the succession of jittery shockwaves pulsing through her body. She didn’t get up. She didn’t move. No matter how hard she willed herself to, she didn’t so much as roll over.
She didn’t want to wait til dawn to break. She wanted it to come now. She needed it and needed it now, in this moment, because waiting is the worst and she didn’t have the patience for it. This sucked.
It was her fault, she hated to admit. She’d drugged herself to sleep (thank you sleeping pill, melatonin, and cbd oil) at 6:27 because she couldn’t stand the thought of being awake for a moment longer, staring blankly at the wall. No, her brain was too loud but it wouldn’t allow her to move and her stomach growled angrily but it couldn’t bear the heaviness of food and there were texts to answer but no words were available to her. No, fuck that. Time to fucking sleep.
At two in the morning she’d opened her eyes but forced them shut again. Forced her brain into a quasi sleep mode by having made up conversations in her head, half concentrating on them until she couldn’t any more and the fake attempt at batting away the longing for a friendly voice, a friendly presence, faded into unfulfilling sleep.
Two hour of tossing and turning and it brought her to her present wide-awake state. Fuck.
Get up and do something, she berated herself. Get to your headphones, blast some metal, or open your laptop, do some writing.
No amount of internal urging seemed to be enough to summon the motivation to move.
She was just about to attempt to get another round of restless sleep in, but the thought of doing so was more exhausting than actually doing it. So she finally got up. Cold enveloped her.
She paced. She paused. She stood motionless like a confused zombie trying to get her thoughts together but it was a messy, tangled web up in her mind. Wires were twisted. None of them were plugged into the right connections.
Gravity amazingly pulled her to her desk, where her headphones thankfully sat on a pile of books, which thankfully was next to her laptop. A sweatshirt was thrown over the back of her chair, and she used what little energy she had to pull it over herself. It was a miracle that the setting was now one that allowed for a meager amount of productivity to take place.
A miracle. That’s what’s worth calling a miracle? How stupid. How pathetically stupid. But whatever.
Headphones on. Music loud. Laptop open. Document pulled up. Aaaaand, go!
“Going” took another few minutes of zoned-out staring, but somehow her fingers were brought to the keyboard and somehow they started moving and somehow the movements formed words that appeared on the too-bright screen in front of her.
Why is this happening again? Why did I let this happen again? Why did I make this happen again and why am I continuing to push myself father into it. Again. I’m guilty as charged. I hate myself.
It went on like that for a while. Her words chased themselves in circles. Negativity. Self-hate. Anger. It went on until she began to write fervently and passionately and quickly, so quickly, her fingers barely keeping up with the pace at which her brain threw thoughts into formation.
She shrugged her sweatshirt off. Rolled up her sleeves. Was it getting hotter, or was she becoming overheated like a computer that’s been on for too long? Did it even matter?
Her eyes flicked away from the computer for a fraction of a second.
Bad move. Losing the flow was always a bad move. She lost the momentum and let her thoughts wander and…fuck, no. Why did she let her thoughts wander?
But the tattoo on her left forearm shouted loudly from its type-written font: Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise!
Yet there was a pale light in the distance now. It fell through the window as if by accident but it stayed like it was comfortable in the bedroom. Morning had come. She shut her laptop.
She collapsed back into bed, weary from the exertion of being awake and alive.
But at least she got an hour and a half of sleep.
“If you have the courage to make it through a lonely night with nothing but your self destructive thoughts to keep you company, darling, you have the courage to make it through anything.”
[written December 2019]
I guess I had a decent day. I had a good morning, anyway. I claimed this week’s unemployment, I got some stuff done for a magazine I help out with by reviewing article submissions. But I dunno. I didn’t make the bed. I didn’t write as much as I wanted to. I feel unfocused. It’s stressful. Because I’m thinking waayyy too much about this fricken adhd meds thing. I never really thought about it before because I assumed I’d always be able to get meds for it. I still don’t fully understand why I can’t continue to take them. I looked it up after my last appointment and couldn’t find anything about adults not being able to take Vyvanse. I downloaded the ADDitude magazine to my phone and iPad, but I still haven’t read much of it. I should. I wanna become more educated about all this. But anyway, my point is that when I can’t focus like this, it makes me sad. Like. I feel sad right now. I mean, it’s not the crippling depression I’m accustomed to (thank god), but like. I’m using energy trying not to be too frustrated or panicky. Because like. I do have things to do that require me to use my fucking brain. Ughhhhh
But it was a decent day anyway I sat outside and enjoyed the weather and soaked in the vitamin D and I video chatted with my family, saw my nephew (who can wave now!!)…like, overall? Not terrible.
I’m telling myself not to give up. It’s was a yucky day. But tomorrow is a new one. It might be a “cut myself some slack” type of thing. I think.
I sat on the couch in my psychiatrist’s office with my arms crossed and steam billowing out of my ears.
“Are you on cocaine?” he asked without a hint of sarcasm.
“No,” I shot back, completely bewildered but appropriately defensive.
“Then you’re bipolar.”
Yup. That was how I was diagnosed. And to my memory, that was really the only major piece of information my psychiatrist gave me that day. There was no supplemental information given to me, no sort of enlightenment or introduction into the all-consuming project that would be managing my difficult and sometimes debilitating condition, and I left the office with what felt like a really random label and a higher dose of Abilify. I was nineteen years old, I was a chemistry major in college, I’d kicked the hell out of an eating disorder, and I was bipolar. The facts didn’t matter too much. Right?
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I had a random thought pop into my had and I was thinking about it. And I know there are countless ways to dive into this topic and that there’s so much under the umbrella of mental health management because mental health is made up of so many different things. But I think, for me, there are three components to staying on top of it. Even typing that feels weird because the number three doesn’t capture how hugely important mental health is. But at it’s most basic level, at this point in time with my current train of thought, it comes down to:
- What goes into my body. My meds, obviously. And vitamins and supplements, which I take because there’s no harm in doing so. Food. Water. You get the point.
- The things that I do. How I use my body and brain. My daily routines, the habits I’ve formed (and have tried to keep healthy). Journaling. Tracking my moods and anxiety and sleep. Going to therapy.
- The thoughts in my mind. What I focus on. How often I renew my motivation. My internal monologue and self-talk.
I need the most work in the category of thoughts. I am consistent with what I take in terms of meds (finally) and supplements, and I’ve been making more effort to drink enough water, and now that I’m saner (thanks, lithium) I’m not struggling with eating as much. I’m pretty good with my structured routines, even though this period of time is difficult and different, with the quarantine and whatnot.
But now I have to be careful about what I do with my mind and my thoughts.
I think a key thing I can do to make sure I’m thinking positively is to work on only consuming content that makes me feel good. I’ve been bored (obviously), so I’ve been spending too much time on YouTube. Which is fine, but I have to really put in the effort to process how I feel about it. I enjoy it (mostly) but also feel guilty about enjoying it (since I’m mindlessly consuming what other people create instead of creating myself, I guess!) and compare myself to these random influencers (which I honestly rarely do in real life).
I’d love to rattle off some statistics about how much content the average person consumes every day, but I also don’t wanna do that so suffice it to say it’s an overwhelming amount. YouTube videos, news websites, blogs, social media, apps, music, podcasts, shows, books, movies…so much going into our brains ahhhhh. It totally makes sense that I’m thinking about how to make sure it’s mostly positive and helpful (because what goes into my brain influences how my life is). Anything to keep me in a good frame of mind, with THIS EXACT level of sanity (I spent far too long fighting with myself and my moods and my brain and my disorder, and now that I’m okay let’s fuckin’ keep it that way, shall we?), and every little bit helps.
The renewing the motivation thing is also important for me. I have this desperate desire to be productive because it is somehow linked to my worth (I know, I know, I’m working on fixing that). But I’m not always productive. I have ADHD and my moods get in the way sometimes and oh yeah I’m a human being haha, and that’s just how humans are. But I think it’s a matter of getting back on the horse when I’m unfocused or can’t seem to do what I want/need to do. Not getting discouraged or thinking it’s the end of the world.
While this post might seem totally pointless, I just want to say that I love writingggggg because I can start with some random thought I had a few hours ago and make sense of it (sort of) and it makes me happy!
I was listening to a meditation podcast in my car this morning and I made a mental note of something it said that I thought was important. “Balance is a moving target.” It depends on so many different factors that all change all the time. Balancing it all requires different things at different times. It was funny because speaking of targets, I was on my way home from Target (everyone’s favorite store, am I right?). I had to get out of my house, we needed some groceries, so it worked. Once I got home, I wrote the quote in an actual note (mental notes aren’t as helpful to me lol) and thought about how it related to what I said yesterday, about how motivation needs to be renewed continually, and how that’s okay.
All that is super applicable to me today. I woke up at 5:30 this morning because my cousin texted me. It was way too early and I was still mostly asleep haha, but I didn’t mind because I prefer to be up early than sleep late. I did my morning stuff. Ya know. Washed my face and took my meds and brushed my teeth and cleaned up a little and stretched a little and recorded my moods and meds and related info for yesterday (oh hey bipolar coping skills).
I said yesterday that I was gonna make fancier coffees to keep things at least slightly more entertaining this week. And I’m happy to announce that I did (I put cocoa powder and vanilla extract into the french press along with the coffee, frothed my oat milk, and then topped it with cinnamon). Let me tell you something, it was delicious. So yay for that, but by 8:30 (after I’d been awake for 3 hours already), I was bored as shit and my mood was going down. Ugh. It’s annoying because I’m not crazy like I normally would be this time of year (my typical disclaimer that I call myself crazy because I relate to the word myself, and I’m not looking to insult anyone with mental health issues who don’t identify with it). I’m not DEPRESSED. I’m just overrrrr the fact that I’m in this slump and don’t know how to get out of it.
That was when I went to Target, narrowly avoiding the first bad mood of the day. Came home. Made myself a healthy breakfast (yogurt, almond butter, and some pumpkin all mixed up, so good btw). And then? Boom. Bad, yucky, annoyed mood.
To get out of THAT one, I did the thing where I set a timer and told myself to get to work. It was semi-helpful. I set a timer for 20 minutes (I used an app called Study Bunny, actually…it’s similar to the Flora one I sometimes use and that I’ve written about, but you can use your phone so there’s less pressure, aaaand you can feed a cute bunny rabbit!) and lit a candle, actually put a facemask on, did a tiny bit of work, and then washed the mask off when I was done.
Okay, felt good, got some stuff done right? Uh no, didn’t enjoy feeling accomplished because focus is so COMPLICATED for me. I didn’t wanna rant again about my ADHD and medication issue again, but I’ll update this blog for anyone out there who cares haha. I’ll just say first that when I can’t focus, it puts me in a bad mood. It doesn’t make me irritable or bipolar-angry or depressed. It just makes everything so much more difficult because I struggle to manage my emotions to begin with, like in general, and when I can’t focus on doing that, I’m at a worse disadvantage.
Last I said here, my new psychiatrist wouldn’t give me my Vyvanse to help me focus. I wasn’t really given a reason, but I was obviously upset, and it impacted how my month went. I had another virtual appointment last week and after I explained that it was a struggle, she said it was kind of a misunderstanding, and she gave it to me this month, but she said don’t take it every day because it’s bad for my heart. And she said something about it being bad for adults, but I still have more questions as to why. Because after that appointment, I’ve done research and asked around and talked to my therapist about it. I don’t wanna type anything specific here since I don’t have all the facts yet, but long story short, I feel guilty whenever I need to take my pill.
And today, after fighting with myself, I finally took my Vyvanse. I guess it could be placebo, but I feel so much better now. I just typed all this out in ten minutes, didn’t I?
Yesterday I thought making a better plan would help me manage my days a little better and be a little happier by the end of them. Today, I’m thinking that too much planning only puts pressure on myself and breeds more guilt, soooooo that’s probably not a good idea. Maybe it’s just a matter of trial and error, process of elimination, figuring things out as I go. Noneeeee of us have ever had to deal with something like this coronavirus quarantine thing. It’s been said before but there’s value in cutting ourselves some slack.
What am I trying to say… Basically? Today is not a lost cause. And furthermore, it’s never too late to restart the day.
I took this selfie on the 1st, found a mental health sticker for it, & I wanted to post it but couldn’t think of a perfect caption for it. Because I wanted it to be about something important. Because mental health is HEALTH, not something separate but a portion of the whole piece. The conversation about mental health is for all of us, just not those of us with mental illness, although I guess sometimes the term “mental health” is used to mean the absence of illness, which I don’t love.
But I do think if you have issues it’s more apparent that you have to focus on mental health since your life revolves around it & you weren’t given a choice in the matter. Basically, mental health is “cognitive, behavioral, & emotional well-being.” Health in how we think, act, & feel.
I’ve been thinking about what that random sticker I found says. It’s good advice, but what does it mean to ❝make your mental health a priority.❞
Here’s a brain-dump I came up with:
↳ ᴅᴏ ᴅɪғғɪᴄᴜʟᴛ ᴡᴏʀᴋ
-think about things you have to process
-get things done when they need to be done
-ask for help when you need it
↳ ʟᴏᴏᴋ ᴏɴ ᴛʜᴇ ʙʀɪɢʜᴛ sɪᴅᴇ
-part of doing difficult work
-try to find the good thing even during bad times
-be grateful for those good things
↳ ғɪɴᴅ ʏᴏᴜʀ ʜᴀᴘᴘʏ
-and hold onto it during the craziness we call life
-do more of what makes you feel good ⠀⠀⠀
↳ ᴄᴜᴛ ʏᴏᴜʀsᴇʟғ sᴏᴍᴇ sʟᴀᴄᴋ
-be gentle with yourself
-take a break
-it’s okay to make mistakes
-you’re only human⠀⠀
-don’t feel guilty for needing to rest
-you’re trying your best
I think it was like a few years ago, in early January, I heard about people picking a “word of the year” instead of making New Year resolutions. And this year a blog post by blessingmanifesting reminded me of it. She said to choose a word that embodies how you want to be and think and feel and do, “something you can apply in little ways throughout your life instead of a concrete goal that involves either failure or success.” I chose three words this January, and as I was just looking through my current journal, I found myself thinking about them again. The first word I wrote down was “continue,” because shit was hard a few months ago and I wanted to keep going, keep moving forward, and not let anything stop me in doing that. Which is why word numero two was “unstoppable.” Can’t let things get in my way. My third was “unbothered,” and by that I meant I didn’t wanna let was customers upset me, not let the insignificant action of others influence my mood. And that’s the one that really got me connecting the words I wrote down five months ago to this present moment. I’m not at that shitty job, so letting morons bother me is n out an issue, but I’m not really letting any random nonsense bother me. Like minor mood fluctuations that would have sent me spiraling (for obvious reasons, after having uncontrolled bipolar for yearsss). Alsooo, I sure as fuck continued in spite of difficulties. So check those boxes too. I haven’t written in my physical journal too often lately (I switch between digital journaling and physical journaling, best of both worlds alwayssss) but I’m glad I found these three little words and the pretty butterfly I glued next to it (I’m gonna stop writing before I go offfff about how symbolic a butterfly is in relation to continuing…it is right? or is it just me who feels that way lol)
I’d started writing something about that weeks ago, and I never got around to finishing it, but I reread it just now and remembered where I was going with it. I’m hoping to finish it later tonight, but here’s what I have at this point:
Finding A New Normal
Things are chaotic and uncertain in the world right now. The global spread of coronavirus has affected all of us. The number of people diagnosed is still climbing, and with that, fear and anxiety are climbing as well. We’re worried about our friends and family, especially those who are immunocompromised. We’re uncertain about the future. We want answers, or at least a time frame to work with, but leaders and experts simply can’t give that to us. We’re doing what we can and being responsible (meaning we’re practicing physical distancing and self-quarantining), but to be honest, it’s hard. Our regular routines have been interrupted and we’ve had to figure out how to try and adapt in a very short period of time. And throughout all of that, we’re still trying to live our lives and manage our mental health.
I don’t know what that looks like for you, but for me, it’s a bit of a mess:
With more downtime and a burning desire for information and connection, I panic-scroll through social media and news headlines. It becomes particularly stressful when I know I should put my phone down or close my laptop, but I just can’t. I’m overconsuming information, but I’m still understimulated. Or put simpler, I’m super bored. Which, of course, leads me to be less productive than I want to be. Or less productive than I think I “should” be. So I beat myself up.
I’m lucky enough to be making some money remotely, but it’s an adjustment having my boyfriend home to distract me. I’m not alone with that adjustment –it makes my head spin just thinking about how many people are trying to get work done with distractions around them. And not everyone is in a job that allows them to work remotely, so I’m counting my blessings.
I am trying to do what I can to counteract the negative effects of being thrown into these changes, though. I wake up at a fairly regular time every morning and go about my routine as I would any other day. I get dressed in something that’s comfortable but isn’t pajamas. I have coffee. I even make the bed. It all makes me feel like I’ve begun my day, like something has happened even though not much has.
I think clinging to some sort of routine is my desperate attempt at making things feel more “normal” in the middle of this period of difficulty, whatever normal may mean.
I’ve been thinking about what normal is for a while, actually. I don’t mean it as in “conforming to the standard.” I’m talking more about it as it applies to us individually, or as a sense of familiarity we strive to have in our lives. Last month, I was hospitalized at a psychiatric facility in order for me to gain control over a bipolar depression and my mental health in general. All normalcy was obviously shattered as I spent over two weeks in an unfamiliar place trying to win the fight against my brain for my life. When I was discharged, I found that I couldn’t even return to my previous sense of normal; things had changed, so my definition of it had to change, too. It was best summarized by a quote I found on Tumblr that said: “we can’t return to normal because the normal we had was precisely the problem.”
So I’ve been trying to find a new definition of it. I’ve been asking myself what I want my version of normal to be, what I want my life to look like. Figuring it out is something that would be hard enough to do after a hospitalization, but during a global outbreak of a deadly virus? It’s even more complicated. And are those questions even helpful in my quest for normalcy?
But I’m starting with what I know for certain. Prior to the pandemic, and before I was hospitalized, my life was marked with extreme mood fluctuations and incredible instability. It was the only normal I knew, but I certainly don’t want to go back to living that way. I want that to simply be my “before,” something to look back on and be glad I’m not experiencing anymore.
Since then, I’ve gotten better at navigating these less-structured days and I’ve had a few where I’ve felt really proud of myself by the end. It’s a work in progress. And I think it’s an exercise in resilience (isn’t life in general an exercise in resilience?). But anyway, yayy for thinking positively!