My boyfriend and I were laying in bed by six last night and long story short, I slept for like fourteen hours. Granted I hadn’t slept much the night before, but I hate uncontrollable sleep. Or I guess I hate when my pattern isn’t consistent (how many times does it need to be proven to me that sleep hygiene is crucial with bipolar).

Woke up discombobulated. But whatever. Had time to get coffee before my morning session of class, which was boring.

Then I went to target and got this awesome and festive $3 coloring book (hashtag mindlessness, am I right?). I am currently absorbed in it, while drinking this lovely hot chocolate concoction without any guilt (not really, anyway). It’s sugar-free hot chocolate with skim milk, and almond milk whipped cream, and a bunch of cinnamon.

I had a talk with my therapist yesterday about my body image lately and how my having chronically harmed my poor little body via eating disorders might have something to do with my rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis. It’s something I have to think about.

But like, when I’m thinking about all that? I think about how I’m happy with where I am emotionally right now. That’s worth a lot, this stability I’ve found. This stability that’s so new to me (after suffering the chaos of my brain on my own for half my fucking life). I dunno, I just want to be self-aware and informed about what I’m doing, I want to keep my therapist in the loop and make her proud (’cause she’s awesome), and I truly do want to get my weight under control.

It’s like with the sleeping…if it’s out of control (or if it feels out of control, because sleeping longer one night after not sleeping the previous one is NOT “out of control”), it upsets my stability.

Anyway, I think before the second session of class I’m gonna work on a story or something creative. After I finish coloring, that is!

like flashes of lightning

I really have to work on dealing with those moments I get knifed in the stomach with random but intense anxiety. They usually come when I let my guard down. Or as I’ve been saying a lot lately, when I’m not “frantically trying to distract myself.” It’s weird. It’s terrible and scary, but the whole thing is weird. I pause for a brief second and I just feel like…panicked. I’ve felt that a few times today and I’ve forcefully shoved the scariness out. And maybe I should be proud of myself for feeling them but only letting the feeling stay momentarily because sometimes it escalates and ruins my day, but like. Why does the anxiety come like that? Like flashes of lightning, they rip through the background that is my mind with shocking electricity. Whyyyyyyy.

It seems I can’t let my mind rest. And I’m just wondering if it’s bad that I don’t let it.

So I write. Frantically. I read. Frantically. I fill the time, the spaces, the gaps. Frantically.

I wonder if there’s anything I can distract myself with that isn’t quite as brain-consuming as writing or reading. Maybe that’d be better.

I guess I do have things like that, though. Like coloring. God knows I have enough coloring books. My favorite is a unicorn one, it’s fun and cute and it makes me happy just looking at it. Or sudoku or math drills, which I like to do. Those require a good amount of thought while still letting my mind roam a little more freely, I think?

I guess those are like stepping stones in the right direction. Allowing my thoughts a little more freedom to wiggle around might ultimately help me be able to loosen the reigns even more.

Mindfulness and meditation are gonna be crucial at some point. I know the benefits of those are probably written everywhere that talks about mental health. But still, there’s definite merit to them. Not that I haven’t tried them. I have guided meditations in my iTunes library, even one specifically for bipolars. I have this app that gives guided meditations but there’s cursing…it’s hard to explain but it says stuff like “exhale the bullshit” and my fave, “you don’t have to pay attention to every ranch hand at the fuckup farm.” But my point is that it’s still hard. Dunno if it’s an attention-span thing or just the issue I’m actually talking about, not being able to sit with the thoughts.

There are other DBT skills that I know could be useful (dialectical behavioral therapy teaches that there are more gray areas in life than black or white and that integrating opposites is healthy, and as a general rule is awesome…it’s hard to explain why that thought-process is helpful, but I’ll probably make a separate DBT post later). Like distress tolerance. That’s a big one. It’s so connected to my anxiety because the first second I become uncomfortable is legit scary. Why can’t I just sit with the distress for half a second? And ways to tolerate distress, it says, can be like, self-soothing or just radically accepting that the current moment might suck and you can’t change it and that’s kinda okay.

Anyway. I saw a post going around on Instagram and Pinterest and wherever else that said “feeling the need to stay busy all the time is a trauma response and fear-based distraction from what you’d be forced to acknowledge and feel if you slowed down.”

I talked about this with my therapist a while back (naturally). She said even she prefers staying busy. And we often talk about how boredom is tremendously triggering for me. That might have to do with the ADHD, like, if I feel like I can’t sit down and focus on something I enjoy, it kills me.

It’s confusing, though, because if I had to choose, I think I’d rather be at home with the OPTION to “do nothing.” I’d obviously much prefer that than being at work. (Although, and I’m just gonna toot my own horn and say it, writing is my work…yay). So why is it such an issue for me? Does that make sense?

I’m gonna end this long and somewhat rant-like post here. I haven’t come to any actual conclusions (do I ever? lol), but at least the thoughts are out of my head, into the ether of the internet. Hopeeeefully that’ll let me process this shitshow better.

Mindfulness Practices and Self-care Routines (aka: how I’m learning to chill the fuck out)

 

I’m not usually too keen on buzzwords.  Probably because I’ve never been one to go along with the mainstream’s idea of what the cool thing to do is.  And I certainly believe that “mindfulness” is a buzzword, along with the now-cliche term “self-care.” These are popular partially because society says they should be: they’re a trendy thing to be into, a fashionable thing to discuss.  It’s fun for people to spout on about how “zen” and “present” they are. And there are ways to be mindful and practice self-care that are more trendy and more fashionable than others (I’m picturing instagrammable stuff like meditation altars and bath bomb aesthetics and facemasks and candles etc etc etc).  But, I that I think mindfulness and self-care actually important. I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t necessarily think it’s great to follow the masses, but that this time, the masses have it right. Being in tune with your mind and putting yourself and your needs first sometimes? Never a bad thing.

Maybe it’s the mental illness that impacts basically every aspect of my life, but I’m really into psychology and the brain/the mind and biochemistry (actually I was into it all long before my foray into mental illness…I do recall drawing blobs on papers to randomly ask people what they looked like in my own makeshift Rorschach test as a child).  And my point in saying that is to explain how you can’t research this stuff without stumbling into the realm of mindfulness and self-care. You can’t follow psych accounts or inspirational quote accounts on IG without coming across information about them. No matter what you’re into, actually, I’m certain you’ve already heard about them. So yeah. Growth in this trend.  I think by now you catch my drift (I definitely didn’t need to beat it to death, but alas I have).

I’ve been in therapy for like, nine months now, and a huge portion of what I’ve learned so far is in regards to mindfulness.  I’ve literally gotta slow down, name my emotions, and feel them without letting them control me. On a related note, apparently I have a tendency to use adjectives and be very descriptive in terms of emotions, and apparently doing the alternative to that is something I should try to implement.

A great deal of being mindful has to do with anxiety relief.  For me, at least. Like remembering that I can think myself out of a panicked frenzy instead of running head-first into one.  Or actually using one of my many anxiety-reducing apps downloaded to my phone. Or even just being honest about why I’m anxious and putting words to it so I can really internalize the fact that I have power over it, I’m in control of my thoughts and attitudes and therefore my emotions.

Meditation is genuinely hella useful.  It helps people navigate through the stressful periods of their lives and manage things that are in-the-moment anxiety-producing.  As in, being in the present moment and consciously breathing can interrupt the fight-or-flight response (“shut the fuck up, amygdala!”), not to mention steady a person’s racing heart.  Meditating frequently, practicing it as a skill, can help this happen naturally. Mindfulness can improve focus by helping to quiet external bullshit and extraneous thoughts, allowing a person to be centered on one specific thing at a time and to enjoy their lives right here and now no matter what.  It therefore follows to say that it combats the rumination of negative thoughts that plague so many people with and without mental health issues.

I’m a testament to this.  It’s been brought to my attention (quite a few times) that when I get worked up about something or when I allow my racing thoughts to take over while I desperately try to get every last word out of my mouth before they evaporate into thin air and leave me to distractedly try to remember them…I forget to breathe.  I just don’t inhale and exhale like humans are supposed to. It’s obviously rather problematic. But I’ve been working on it for a few months now. Maybe three? When I’m at work and my anxiety and heart rate are rising because I’m feeling feelings too intensely while attempting to do my damn job, I consciously tell myself to breathe, in and out.  When I’m driving and getting irritable because some moron in front of me is going too goddamn fucking slow for literally no reason, I steady my breathing and focus on the intake and release of air from my lungs. Even when I’m sitting here writing, just doing my own thing, and it occurs to me that I should bring my attention to my breath, I do so. And the resulting changes have been small but still noticeable: my heart rate is overall more controlled, I’m able to keep it together at annoyances or stressors at least slightly better, and I feel proud of myself for attempting to do my very best for myself.

As for self-care, I’ve tried the bubble bath with candles, facemask, lavender-infused type.  And my own personal spa days are definitely enjoyable and rejuvenating. But I’ve come to understand that taking care of my mind and body involves more than just those types of activities.  Sometimes it involves sitting down and writing, sometimes it involves stretching or moving my body. I guess it’s doing whatever fills my cup and reenergizes me so I can keep trying to live my best life.

I want to continue learning and practicing and improving.  I plan on doing so by continuing to read up on it all, analyzing and absorbing the information to the best of my ability, and actually putting what I learn into practice and incorporating it into my daily life.  I want to start setting a timer and just sitting with my thoughts. Maybe like, five minutes in the morning and ten at night. I also have a fuckton of guided meditations, so I need to start utilizing them. Oh, and walking meditations.  So I can get my energy out and enjoy some physical activity while simultaneously centering myself and attracting good thoughts.

I have a solid plan.  I’m excited to get on with it, and to see where it takes me.