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.
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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It might be difficult right now with all that’s going on in the world, or maybe you’re not feeling the happiest right now in general, but I hope you find the time to try and smile, even if it’s hard, because you deserve the little mood-boost that comes along with it.
I’ve been trying to keep a gratitude journal, trying to listen to and repeat positive affirmations in the morning, trying to take the time to sit quietly and steady my breathing.
I feel very fortunate that I’m able to do such things in the first place; I know what it’s like to be so grossly depressed that doing any of that isn’t even a possibility. I also know what it’s like to be slightly less depressed than that, and doing all those healthy things, and not get anywhere with them because fuck my brain. So I don’t take the fact that I’m smiling as I’m sitting here, listening to Disney World area loop music and typing this post.
But my point is to smile if you can 🙂
I didn’t make the bed today. I did yesterday. And the day before. I’d made the bed pretty much every day since getting home from the mental hospital, since I discovered for the first time in fourteen years what it feels like to be unburdened, to be free from constant depression and anxiety and chaotic, crazy thoughts. It’s fuckin’ enjoyable, that freedom. And while I’m enjoying it, I’ve been making the bed because why not feel like I’ve really got it all together?
That’s not the only thing to happen since my discharge, though. I could list a few key things, but the most pressing is that basically the entire planet is in quarantine. Maybe you’ve heard?
I’ve felt like I’m in a movie montage, with the days blending together and time passing quickly but also inexplicably slowly, but I think it’s all come grinding to a halt. Maybe there was no grinding; I’ve been feeling the effects of the semi-isolated boredom grow steadily each day. But regardless, today is different: I didn’t make the bed.
I’m sitting here on a mess of blankets and pillows, my stuffed elephant sitting haphazardly where I left him this morning. I’m thinking: I was doing okay with this lockdown for the most part until recently, I think. And now, I just don’t know what to do with myself. It’s the lack of structure that’s getting to me. This beats being at work, there’s no doubt about that. I’m going stir-crazy, though, and I don’t know how to fight back against the boredom.
My only real defense is routine, so I try to stick to one in the morning as rigidly as possible (though I’m not really sure that’s the right thing to do). I wake up early, wash my face, take meds and drink water, get dressed, brush my teeth, make coffee, scroll Pinterest for motivation and ideas, record my moods and meds and sleep, write a journal entry, make a healthy breakfast, take my vitamins, go for a walk. That’s me doing what I can to make the most of this situation (since I’m lucky enough to not be affected by this in a more negative way).
I just want to feel productive and accomplished and proud of myself. That’s basically what I always want anyway. I want to feel like I’m doing things that are important. Like I matter.
Yeah, that’s a bit of a dramatic leap, I know. It makes sense in my head.
Before my hospitalization, boredom and emptiness seemed to be predominant in my life, so much so that it made me begin to question my identity. My therapist and I had spoken about how boredom was a sign that I wasn’t doing anything I felt was meaningful. In a journal from that week, I wrote that “being bored means I’m not being crazy, meaning I’m not in the middle of an episode, meaning I’m really not sure about anything.” That still seems dramatic. Existential. But put simply, boredom is a trigger. Too much time to think, too much time to be unsure. To combat it, I have to “find my why” and “work toward my purpose.” That obviously seems difficult. Do I even know what’s really meaningful to me?
I haven’t spent too much time working to figure it out because I’ve been trying to fill my days will as much good as possible in a more immediate way; while I certainly see the value in looking at the big picture, I’ve felt that throughout this period of uncertainty, it’s better not to zoom out too far.
I’ve had the topic of uncertainty on my mind for a while. Since I was in the mental hospital, actually. So maybe I’m at a particular advantage since I’m a step ahead of most people. Then again, maybe I’m at a disadvantage because I’m crazy enough to have been in a mental hospital (the way I write and speak about my mental illnesses applies only to me, by the mean, and I don’t mean to call anyone else crazy; I identify with it in a very positive way, but that’s just me). But my point is that I already knew I had to find a new normal. I didn’t want to go back to the life marked with such extreme mood fluctuations that I endured before. I couldn’t have gone back even if I wanted to (thanks to lots of new insight and a cocktail of meds that actually work for me). My mood has been stable, my anxiety has been minor if I have it at all. Things are different (and thankfully better!) and I have to start from here now. It’s like when I was recovering from anorexia in high school; I couldn’t return to my previous “normal,” so I had to find a new one.
That’s what all of us have to do now. We have to find a way to gain some sense of normalcy now. And if we can’t find normal, we have to create it. We have to determine how we’re going to survive this…and then survive. It’s scary to not know how, I know that. But I’ve been thinking about that, too (I guess I’m doing more than I think I’ve been doing, because processing feelings and ideas seems to be something I’ve done a lot of).
Fear of the unknown is a unique feature of people with anxiety. I’ve definitely wished that I had the power to know more things with certainty, but I’ve learned the hard way that that’s not how it works. Life wouldn’t be what it is if we had all the answers, anyway. Uncertainty, unpredictability, and doubt are not awful things.
But right now, during a worldwide pandemic, when the death count is rising and there’s still no vaccine, when our lives are disrupted and we’ve had to adjust to working or learning from home, when we’re concerned about our health, our loved ones, our financial status? It’s difficult to think otherwise. We’re living through a historic event. This is huge. And quite frankly it sucks.
I know I’m not alone in the panic-scrolling of my social media and news feeds. It feels like there’s nothing else to do. It feels like at least if I’m updated on what’s happening, I’m doing something. It affects my mental health, though.
And as it is, April has been a little been more varied in terms of my moods. The boredom from the quarantine is getting to me, which is normal, and to be expected. I don’t want to say I’m anxious because this by no means compares to the anxiety I’m unfortunately accustomed to, but there’s a definite increase in that “iffy” and uncomfortable feeling of “what the fuck do I do with myself?” I’m having this back and forth motivation. And when I’m not focused and motivated, I feel this vague sense of “what’s the point?” It’s like the ghost of my depression, something that’s recently become a thing of the past but that I still remember clearly enough to be like “yup, that’s it, that’s the ghost of it.”
It’s worse when I don’t take my ADHD medication (that’s become a complicated issue thanks to my new psychiatrist, who I saw virtually for the first time last week) but it makes sense that the Vyvanse helps my moods; ADHD makes everything more overwhelming and being overwhelmed makes everyone more emotional.
Other than that, my mood is low but it’s probably unrelated to bipolar disorder. It’s definitely normal to be mopier these days. It’s new territory for me to feel emotionally dull, or even sad, and not have it be a warning sign for a major depressive or mixed episode to come. But then again, I still have to keep at eye on things, keep track of my moods, do what’s best for my physical and mental health, and be proactive.
Right now I’m just doing what I can to get by. Like, I’m using technology to its fullest. I video call friends and family frequently. I go for virtual walks with my cousin every day, and I use FaceTime for my therapy sessions now. I’m trying to stay connected emotionally, even though we’re all physically apart. A video call does wonders to ease the loneliness that this situation is causing. I’d include texting in this, but I can’t focus on texting people lately. It’s weird. But I’m dealing with it.
I’m using Hulu to live stream the news (although I’m trying to limit the amount of news I consume because too much is just bad for my mental health). Sometimes I download to podcasts so I have something to listen to while I walk. They’re usually news-related, but I have some in other genres. I downloaded the CDC app too, which I scroll through every now and then for added info.
I use Google calendar to stay organized and track my writing deadlines, as well as plan out a schedule so I can have personal accountability. I’m continuing to track my moods, anxiety, meds, sleep, and habits on my phone, which is important with bipolar anyway, but it also makes me feel kind of like I accomplished something. I’m trying to stick with my goal of drinking enough water. I might as well work on it now, and crossing off the cups I’ve had is a definite happiness booster.
A quick aside about goals right now: So many people have these big plans to use this time to get in shape or start their dream business or begin some sort of tremendous undertaking. And that’s wonderful for those so inclined. But not everyone has the luxury of having that option. Some people have been impacted by the coronavirus more than others. Essential workers are busting their butts every day still. Some people have family who’ve caught coronavirus. Some people have gotten sick themselves. But even people not in those circumstances don’t need to feel guilty for just getting through this time however they can, even if it’s just struggling to stay entertained.
I made a list of how to entertain myself, way back when this thing started. I wanted to stay busy, since boredom has proven itself one of my triggers. So I listed as many things as I could think of, and I planned on referring back to it if the excessive free time started to get to me. There weren’t very many things on the list (read, play video games, puzzles, etc), but I found myself unable to do most of the things on it anyway. It was almost like a depression thing, when you want to do something but can’t bring yourself to do the thing. But either wat, I don’t know if my old method of frantically distracting myself to run from boredom and the eventual mood episode it brings is the right one to use. I need to find and keep a sense of balance. I need to let go of what I can’t control but work on what I can. I need to recharge. I want to recharge.
My plan to do that will involve setting guidelines. I only want to watch or read the news in the morning, and not for too long. It will involve doing things I haven’t been doing lately, any things, just to get myself a change. Maybe I’ll crochet some hats (even though it’s spring now). Because maybe it’ll help relax my brain, help me heal even more. Maybe I’ll be struck with brilliant inspiration while mindlessly crocheting. Basically, my plan is to do stuff that’s helpful and then enjoy the good feelings after.
Also, after writing this…I just decided to make my bed
So, I’ve been feeling really good since getting out of the hospital. I’ve had time to process a lot of the craziness that had happened, and the space needed for that processing to happen, and I’ve been enjoying what I’d certainly call stability (fucking finally!). I have not been taking it for granted. I mean, it’s just crazy how I felt so bad for so long, and now I feel like a normal human being (or what I assume normal feels like, because it’s definitely subjective and different for everyone, but you know what I mean). I’m not crying daily. I’m not even really consciously thinking about my moods and I’m not constantly readjusting them. That’s mind-blowing to me. I feel so lucky.
But I kinda freaked out a little yesterday, and I’ve been spending the morning trying not to overthink the whole thing.
This is my journal from last night which explains what happened
I saw my new psych yesterday (virtually). I haven’t seen a psychiatrist since I was in the hospital a month ago and I needed my meds. So yeah. I discussed everything with her. And she’s very much like my first psych where she doesn’t like to prescribe pills. Which is baffling to me. Like why are you a psychiatrist if you think medication isn’t a solution for mental illnsssed? I’m overgeneralizing but still. I hung up after the appt thinking I’d get all my same meds. Including my adhd stuff. Because I need to focus to write. Since that’s the literal crux of who I am as a human being and since writing is my only income at the moment. And I’ve done the experiment countless times: I don’t take the pill and I’m moodier and sad and it affects me very negatively. I understand her perspective on not over-prescribing. But I explained my case and she said and I quote “I’ll work with you on this one” and I go to pick up my meds and she never called in the Vyvanse. And now. When I’m home do the foreseeable future with nothing to do but write. I will have a much harder time doing so. Like it’s possible to concentrate without them but why put myself at an unfair disadvantage?! And it’s difficult because I hate that I’m dependent on the shit. I do. But WHY SHOULD I?! I don’t hate myself for having to take my Lithium or Prozac or Rexulti or Remeron or or or or…like why is it such a sin to have adhd? I understand it’s difficult with bipolar bc stimulants can trigger mania. I’m rather smart, and I’ve done the research, and I even brought it up to her. If there’s another solution to my concentration problem it should have been discussed with me at our appt. I shouldn’t have had to find out she never called on my Vyvanse at the fucking pharmacy. I gave her the benefit of the doubt when I called the office to leave a voicemail, saying she must have forgotten. But I sincerely doubt that bc she also said how she’s conservative about prescribing meds like Vyvanse and Klonopin (which I don’t need right now, I haven’t had a panic attack, thank GOD, but it’s just shitty to know if I did need it she wouldn’t give it to me). I’m also really annoyed because I took great care during our video call to be calm and polite. Idk. I just have to wait at this point. I’m fuming but like I wassssss in a blind bipolar rage and I toned it back so I’m proud of myself. Also, I’m pretty sure anger is normal in this situation. Being frustrated and upset is normal now, right? I was lied to and it affects my life and I’m mad. That’s gotta be normal.
TLDR: I saw a new psychiatrist on Friday and after giving my history and talking, I explained that I’ve been taking meds for ADHD since I was 20 and that those pills are crucial for my concentration and subsequent mood management, but she didn’t send those pills to the pharmacy for me, I assume because she said she’s conservative with prescribing meds
I’m NOT gonna beat myself up over normal emotions. And even if I did overreact (which I admit is likely), I’m not gonna beat myself up over THAT either. I was able to bring it in and calm myself down, and I NEVER would have been able to do that a month and a half ago. Progress is progress, and I’m giving myself credit where credit is due.
I’m mad that some lady I don’t know has just damned me to a bitter with my concentration (and again, writing is who I am on a fundamental level and if I can’t concentrate enough to do it, it feels like a fuckin’ crisis for me). How dare she, ya know?
But I’m moving on. I’ll figure it out. Maybe it was just a mistake on her part and this can be fixed. If not, I’ll find a new doctor, whatever.
And just like with my whole mood situation as a whole, maybe time some and space to think about it all will be helpful. I dunno.
We shall see.
Bipolars! We have a day, apparently! And it’s today! I feel like I might have known that. But I definitely forgot. And this is certainly the first Bipolar Day where I haven’t been fucking out of my mindddd. My google photo memories actually just reminded of me last year’s major depression (the second out of four for last year, I think?) by showing me all the depression memes I saved and the occasional crazy-eyed selfie lmao. Needless to say I’m in love with my lithium, I want to shout it from a mountaintop, and honorable mention to all the other meds I take too, of course. I don’t know about all of you, but I’m celebrating today by rereading some books/memoirs about bipolar (once I get my writing done, there’s not much else to do since we’re quarantined here).
I miss my little man so much. I didn’t actually write a lot while I was down there (I definitely prioritized my nephew over my writing, and I’m glad I did!), but I’m so glad I got to spend time with him, and with my sister and brother-in-law. It was amazing. In lots of ways. I was thinking a lot (while playing with my munchkin!) and it’s funny because the last time I was happy for as long as I’ve been happy now was when he was born in July. (Not that I’d call myself an unhappy person, which is weird bc my life is a constant battle against depression, and I definitely battled it from July to February). I was down there a few times back in July, and I remember working on an essay about stability. I wrote that it’s alluded me for quite some time and that mental healthiness is different than mental stability. You can be doing the self-care, mental health thing, and be doing it well, and still be unstable. Whiiiiich I was. But I think this time I’m actually stable. Stable. It’s fucking weird to even say. I use my Daylio and eMoods apps to track my symptoms and meds and moods, and it’s insanely bizarre to see straight lines and consistency. It’s almost annoying lol. That’s probably because I’m definitely a little “flat,” a little dull. I’m definitely experiencing the reason why so many bipolar people go off their meds. But I’m not gonna do that bc I’ll take this over being depressed one half of the time ANY day. Bc like…I was able to focus on my nephew/family. And unfortunately I wouldn’t have been able to do that while unstable. Idk what I wanted this post to be about, really. I think I just wanted to talk about my main little man lol. But have some bipolar wisdom too
If I’m remembering correctly, people used you to stabilize their moods before they even realized you were the gold standard for doing so. Something to do with lithium mineral springs being used as treatment for “melancholia” by ancient Greeks/Romans. That’s pretty badass. I know I was worried about you at first (the word “lithium” has always seemed very intense, it’s heavy-duty shit and I think most people know that) but I’m not afraid anymore. Because in the short time we’ve known each other, you’ve given me the opportunity to continue to do, well, everything. To continue working on my mental health, for starters…figuring out my brain and finding alternate routes around the pathways I don’t wanna be dragged into again. But also to continue breathing and laughing and doing. I’m scared to say “I feel better than I have in a while” because I don’t want to jinx it and because it’s definitely been hard to keep track of my moods for the last…half of my life. But I really do feel what I’ll venture to call normal. I feel hopeful again. And I couldn’t have typed that sentence if not for you. The modern medicine of psychotropic drugs is incredible, and I’m thankful to be experiencing it twice a day. There’s no resentment laced within that comment, either. I say it unironically. I’m glad I can swallow some pills twice a day and feel like I can function. Maybe it’s because I just experienced YEARS where I struggled to function, but I do not take it for granted. So thanks. And by the way, I’m pretty badass too.
Bought this mug at Target yesterday bc reckless spending is how us bipolars cope right? But yeah, “morning vibes” at 3 in the fucking afternoon. Bc I’ve only just pulled it together. Other vibes to get honorable mentions: the “I got 4 hours of sleep last night bc I was sobbing too hard to calm down” vibe, the “should I try for the 4th time to voluntarily commit myself in the hopes that they’ll drug me into a coma until I have some semblance of sanity again” vibe, &the ever popular “I finally stopped crying over the fact that my coffee is medium roast as opposed to light so maybe I’ll have the energy to keep it together for an entire consecutive hour” vibe. I usually write during these episodes. I mean, I’m literally always writing, it’s basically all I do. But when I try to go back and read the last month’s worth of shit, it’s just…it’s just that, it’s just shit. (Not written in a shitty way, I’m fucking talented, it’s just SHIT because this feels like shit). I’m finding it useless to keep writing through this. There’s no use making sense of it. There’s no reason for this suffering. (Cue the positive voice I’ve rang out with so many times before: “well then FIND the meaning, CREATE the meaning!” Shut the fuck up, dumbass positive Laura). I am really grappling with the fact that nothing matters and everything is pointless. And holy shit, writing thing long ass negative post is not helping. I’m just trying to say that it’s 3 in the afternoon, I have a cup of coffee that tastes pretty good, in a mug I think is really adorable, and I have no special way to wrap this bullshit up. I see my doctor tomorrow and if she doesn’t immediately send me somewhere where that “wait it out while in a coma” thing is an actual option, maybe a *significantly* higher dose of *quite a few* more drugs will start to help…eventually. I have people I know IRL who follow me on this account so no one go freaking out yet. This is life. I’m dealing w it. I’m just complaining about it. So writer in me is dyingggg to find a way to tie together all the seemingly unrelated points I’ve made in this cry-for-attention post. Help me out and find one for me. Please.
The looming storm.
Impending doom, though it’ll never really reach you. Will it?
Forever in the distance,
But close enough to drench you,
Gray, no –black.
Devoid of everything but full, too full, of everything at the same time.
Dull, but as a painful sort of sensation.
Jagged edges, not quite like a razor, not enough to frighten most people
But when applied continuously, persistently,
Do enough damage, do more damage.
(Although the edges get sharper as time stretches on,
How is that possible?)
With the patience of death lurking around the corner from certain catastrophe,
Hits like a hurricane touching down on the coastline,
Like a tornado touching down,
Shredding everything in its path with the force of pure chaos on its side.
It comes. It destroys.
And then it leaves.
It leaves. Eventually.
You are left among the wreckage,
Life and all that it holds strewn about,
Tossed around like garbage. (It adds insult to injury)
The tattered pieces,
The frayed connections that tie who you were to who you now are,
They’re barely even present anymore.
But you. You…
You are tasked with putting it all together again.
Making sense of it,
But not the same sense it had before.
Put the puzzle together but arrange the shards of it differently.
How very disturbing that you’re in this place, again,
But the reworking, the rebuilding, the reconnecting…
Creates a mosaic. It’s the best you can do.
It’s beautiful, especially from a distance.
Especially from this safe distance.
You’ve removed yourself from it…for protective purposes.
Meanwhile, you make an emergency plan, map out your escape route,
Hoping to hell you’ll never have to use it.
You hide the sticks of dynamite, may they never be found
By the looming storm, the approaching apocalypse,
That is still, STILL in the distance.