I think it’s time for some serious self reflection part 2

Let’s just get down to it, eh?

I think the most important issue to analyze is my education.

I went to college right out of high school because that’s what was expected of me. Due to some health problems I bounced in and out for a few years before ultimately dropping out.

I went back a few years later, again, because that’s what was expected. I graduated with a STEM degree. One reason was because I really enjoy science. The other was because all I heard was that it would be easy to get a job. Yeah. Not so much. My first job out of school paid less than 25k a year. But I plugged away, changed jobs twice, and finally was making a decent living.

But there was nowhere for my career to go. As it turned out, I really wasn’t a fan of bench work. So based on my education and skill set I had hit a ceiling in a career I really didn’t like. What to do, what to do.

So I went back to an online program and got my MBA. Again, everyone I talked to said I wouldn’t have a hard time finding a job at all with my education and skill set!

Yeah. 23 months later and no job.

I’m going to be honest, there were times that I weren’t as diligent as I should have been in looking for a job. A combination of depression and discouragement were big factors there.

But let’s get down to brass tacks.

I feel like every educational decision I made has been the wrong one. After I dropped out of my first undergrad program, I wanted to go to a trade school. Be a mechanic. But I felt like that wasn’t an option due to familial pressures. That just wasn’t an acceptable option for “someone of my intelligence.” And yes, that was actually said.

And after getting into my career, I felt the only option I had was more school.

I regret that too.

Looking back to 13 years ago when I went back to school, I wish I would have been strong enough to stand up to my family and did what I wanted to, rather than what was expected of me.

I’ve done a lot of thinking and soul searching over the past few weeks, and far too often I’ve done what other people expected of me rather than what I wanted to do.

I don’t think anyone, barring Mike, has any idea of how much I regret so many of the choices I’ve made in my life. At the very core I’m very unhappy with my life. But I don’t know how, at this point, to change things.

Maybe once I get a new job, and ten years down the line I’ll feel differently. But right now I have so many regrets, so many things that I wish I would have done differently. So many ways I wish I could have lived my life differently.

It’s hard to admit all of that. And for once I can’t even blame the bipolar or anxiety or mental health issues. This is all on me and my desire not to rock the boat and do what was expected. I feel like just about every decision I’ve ever made has been the wrong one for all of the wrong reasons. And I don’t see a way out of this. I just hope that I can find a new job soon and maybe try to turn some of this around.

I think it’s time for some serious self-reflection

So, so far this blog has been largely about my struggles with mental health. Looking back at past entries, I tend to do some stream-of-consciousness self reflection. That’s great. It’s helped me more than a few times to flesh out some things that are going on so I can better communicate things to my treatment team. I can’t begin to say how helpful that has been for all involved, and I encourage those of you that sometimes have a hard time putting things into words (like myself), to think about journaling or blogging just to get your thoughts out of your head and onto a medium where you can examine them. Sometimes just putting thoughts and feelings into words make things more clear.

Anyway. That was way off of the point. (But my advice stands.)

So what I’ve decided to do in the next kind of series of posts, is really dive down into my motivations for doing things, the results I expect (or expected), my current feelings on things, etc. I need to get to know myself. Somewhere over the last few years I seemed to have lost sight of myself and what really makes me tick. Why do I do the things that I do? Are the reasons for doing them good, or valid? Or are they just things that I happen to… do.

First up, since I just got done with a workout and things are fresh in my mind, is my motivation for changing my eating habits, getting healthy, and losing weight.

When I started watching what I was eating and was planning on starting to work out, I told every one that my main motivation was to get healthy. I was overweight, had a high risk for developing type 2 diabetes, my eating habits were awful, I didn’t exercise past what running around and lifting I did at work, and all I saw in my future was heart disease, diabetes, weight loss surgery, and on and on.

All of this is true.

But.

At the heart of it, I hated the way that I looked. While yes, all of the health issues are a concern, I hated that I was fat. At my last job, I worked a lot of overnights. What do you do when you’re bored and stuck at work at 3 AM? Yep. You eat. And you don’t sit there and eat a tangerine. You eat chips, cookies, soda, Sheetz breakfast sandwiches and snacks. Carbs, sugar, fat.

I’ve always had a very unhealthy relationship with food. As a kid I was a very picky eater. I later came to find it was because my family can’t cook themselves out of a paper bag and would only eat at the same 5 restaurants. Since meeting my (chef) husband, he has introduced me to the wonderful world of food. And once I realized that food is, for the most part, delicious I gained the confidence to get out on my own and try things without his guidance. I would eat until I was so full I could barely move. I would get so bloated that I looked like I was 7 months pregnant. And more than one person over the last few years asked when I was due. Yeah, that was awkward.

So point 1 was learning portion control, healthy alternatives to some of my favorites, and learning that it’s okay to still eat crap once in awhile, but do it in moderation and don’t eat 1500 calories in one sitting.

Point 2 was getting active again. I bought the Body Boss Method program. I know it’s not the greatest program out there, but it gave me a regimented program that I knew that I could commit to.

Since February I’ve lost a little more than 20 pounds.

I have one chin again. And I feel better. I have more energy. And you know what? When I was teetering on the edge of an episode last month I was able to pull myself back and refocus.

But there’s still a lot to unpack here.

Yes, I want to look better. I want clothes to fit better. I want my husband to find me attractive. And yes, I’m going to say it. I want other people to find me attractive. I miss the way I looked when I was 26. I miss the way people reacted to me when I was 26.

There’s so many messages in the media about how you should look, and I’m going to admit that my mind can be very impressionable when it comes to these things. I’d see people on TV or in the movies or in ads, and then I’d look at myself in the mirror, and I would be disgusted by what I saw. (We’re going to come back to this in another entry, so keep it somewhere in the back of your head.) I hated everything about myself. We wouldn’t have sex unless the lights were low, if not off. I wore baggy clothes. I lived in hoodies this winter using the convenient excuse that I worked in retail, in a dirty job, and the store was cold. It shouldn’t come at as any big surprise at this point that I have incredibly low self-esteem. I see very few things in myself that are positive or even desirable. I don’t understand why people are friends with me. And all of the noise coming from the TV and computer screens were not helping at all.

But how do you turn that off? Truth is, you can’t. There will always be TVs, and movies, and Instagram. So you have to figure out a way to find your truth.

And you know what? I am feeling healthier, and fitter, but I’m also looking better. And while I’m still doing Body Boss (starting week 3 of my second time through pre-training before I tackle the “actual” program this week), I’m also going to slowly start training to run a 5k. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years, but I never felt like I could do it. I do now.

And while I’m still doing this from a physical standpoint, I also am enjoying the health benefits from it.

I really need to start planning out these entries rather than writing whatever comes into my head when it comes into my head. I’ll try to do better next time. =)

So I ran into an old friend…

Was at my crappy retail job this weekend, and I ran into a girl I went to college with. At the time, we were very close, but when she was accepted into grad school she fell off the face of the earth. As much as I liked her, she could be very… snotty, for lack of a better word. She looked down on everything and everyone that didn’t fit into her perfect world view.

But running into her got me thinking.

Why does life seem to work out so perfectly for some people, while other people face obstacle after roadblock after set back despite their best efforts. I know those of us with mental illness really face our own set of difficulties, but seeing people that everything just seems to work out for can be absolutely infuriating, especially when your own world is falling apart despite doing everything that you’re supposed to.

I know personally, it seems like everything I do ends up having the opposite effect that I had intended. Got a bachelors degree, took me 4 years to find a job that paid more than 35k/year despite being in a supposedly “hot” field. Decided to get a graduate degree? No job almost two years later despite doing everything I was told to.

It’s so hard to watch people do the bare minimum and get everything they ever wanted while I bust my ass day in, day out and just… nothing ever seems to go my way.

I regret everything and I’m at the point where I honestly just want to give up. I try to tell myself that everything will work out, but what if it doesn’t? It’s really hard to not be negative about what will come, at this point. 

But, I guess I’ll continue to soldier on and hope that things will be different. Despite everything in me screaming just to give up.

A little of this, a little of that

Last night I almost deleted this blog. I had it archived, and was ready to hit delete. Ultimately I decided against it, at least for now. I may eventually move over to a different domain name as this blog started out as one thing, and has morphed into something completely different.

The one thing that stopped me is that it’s really cathartic to get all of these thoughts out of my head. It helps me identify them, organize them, and better able to communicate them to not only my treatment team, but also my husband, who really is the majority of my support system.

I don’t tell my parents what’s going on. My mother would worry herself to death, and she’s got enough on her plate between her own health problems, and everything that’s going on with her, my dad, and my brother, I don’t need to pile something else on her plate that she can’t do anything about. Some of my friends know bits and pieces about what’s going on, but I’m a very private person. I don’t like people in my business or knowing my business. Especially when it comes to my mental health. For example, the last depressive episode I had in August of 2017, people thought things were a little off, but no one other than Mike knew I was suicidally depressed. I can hold things together really well in public, at work, and with family. And then at home I fall apart.

That isn’t to say that I’m closed off about my illness, quite the opposite actually. It started when I was in college, I advocated for a better system for students dealing with mental health issues. There was an instance where a girl attempted suicide. Rather than trying to get her the help she needed, she was expelled. Not send home for the semester to work on herself so that she could be welcomed back when she was ready. Expelled. I was hopping mad. So I did something about it. I’m very open about my diagnosis, but sometimes I wonder if my propensity for holding it all together doesn’t do more harm than good. I mean, if I always seem like everything is fine, do people get the wrong idea about my diagnosis? And then what happens when I collapse? I feel like people are more shocked than they might otherwise be.

I don’t know.

Anyway, I had my appointment with my therapist earlier this week. He informed me that despite my feelings otherwise, I was not crazy. As he put it, crazy people don’t seek out help. Ok, I’ll give you that. While he did agree that there was some worrisome behavior going on, none of it, at least to this point, was destructive. Being inside of my mind was a messy, weird place to be, but I wasn’t what he would consider to be “at risk” of escalating. Thankfully I seem to be on the tail end of this weirdness and cycling. I’ve felt more stable this week. I adulted the shit out of Monday and Tuesday. I got a lot of things squared away and a lot of problems either solved or on the road to being solved.

I felt good this week. Maybe not entirely back to normal, but at least on the way to being normal.

I hate the bullshit that my brain puts me through. I mean, this lump of matter has control over everything about you. But what happens when you’re not control of it? I absolutely hate that feeling. That, more than anything, makes me feel crazy.

Let’s talk about intrusive and obsessive thoughts. Also, a touch of rapid cycling for good measure.

My therapist thinks they’re the same thing, but I don’t agree. Intrusive thoughts are negative. Obsessive thoughts don’t have to be.

To get down to it, intrusive thoughts are ones that come like “I wonder what would happen if I drove off of this bridge” or “I could totally slit my wrist right now.” They’re the thoughts that make you stop and think what the fuck, brain? I get these more frequently than I’d like to admit. But that’s what this blog is for, isn’t it? To admit to all of the cracked out things my brain puts me through?

Anyway, my therapist claims that everyone gets these, and I will submit that that’s probably correct, but my dark bipolar brain takes things to a whole new level. It’s not so much what if I slit my wrist, but more of “if I take this razor blade and start scraping away the skin, how far can I dissect my wrist, avoiding tendons, arteries, veins, etc. before I either pass out or die.” Down to the point where I can picture what my wrist would look like, skin gone, and down to base anatomy. I dream about this image. It pops up randomly during the week. I need to stress something – I have no intention of actually doing this. The thought makes my stomach turn. But, there it is. At least once a week.

The driving off a bridge thought – it isn’t just a random thought. I can see my car going through the barrier, in midair, hitting the water. I can see the car filling with water. I can see myself injured and drowning. Or it can go another way – the car hits the barrier and doesn’t go through. The airbags go off, my neck breaks.

I asked my husband, and he says he gets these thoughts occasionally, but not nearly in the amount of detail that I do. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just because my brain is really such a dark and vivid place. I don’t know what to think. People keep claiming this is normal, but some of these thoughts and images are scary as hell.

Ok, obsessive thoughts. In my opinion these don’t have to necessarily be negative. They can be positive, or even just totally innocuous. Things like music – spending time curating the “perfect” playlist. Or… Ok, now that I’m thinking about it I have nothing that could really be positive or even neutral. Sometimes though I latch onto an idea, or a thing, or even a person. My mind runs through a thousand scenarios, I research things to no end, I’ll have ten tabs on my phone’s browser opened to different variations of the same thing. I read into things more than I should. Not in the the universe has a special message for me, kind of way, but just… I don’t know how to explain it.

Now that I’m putting this all down, this is starting to sound a little like mania.

Son of a bitch.

This actually leads well into the next topic.

So the change from winter to spring, and the change from summer to fall tend to be rough times for me. I rapid cycle between mild depression and what I call baby hypomania day to day, sometimes from one to the other in the course of the day. My shrink and therapist both know this, and I generally just have to ride it out unless things progress from mild into the Houston we have a problem territory.

I see my shrink next week. I think we’re going to have a lot to talk about.

There are times that I wish I could be neurotypical. This is definitely one of those times.

What am I even doing?

I honestly don’t know anymore. I had thought that getting an MBA would solve all of my problems. I could get out of the medical field, which I was starting to hate, I could find a new job quickly making more money…

Yeah. That hasn’t happened. We’re struggling financially, and it’s all my fault. Everything is my fault. I tried to do something that would put us in a better position. And here we are in a worse one. Once again, I fucked up. I’m the Queen of Fuck Ups. I do things with good intentions, and things never work out. I don’t know why I even bother anymore.

But then I go to therapy, and my therapist keeps telling me that these thoughts aren’t real. While they may hold some water, everything is not entirely my fault. I try to internalize that like I internalize the negativity, but it just doesn’t stick. The negativity still comes back, time after time. And honest to God, it’s only by the grace of my meds and years of therapy that I haven’t slipped into another catastrophic depression. I’m trying to hold on to hope, but what no one tells you is that it’s so hard to hang on to that sliver of light when all of your thoughts are so dark. The darkness overtakes any light that tries to shine.

I’m trying to beat back the darkness; trying to hold on to that little glimmer of light. But it’s just so damn hard. I so badly want to give up.

New year, new me?

I’m normally not one that’s big on New Year’s resolutions. But I need to make some changes in my life, and New Year’s seemed like as good a time as any.

So I quit smoking. I did switch to vaping, but my intention is by the end of the year to be off of that too. I started at a lower nicotine level than I probably should have, but so far so good. Haven’t had a cigarette since the first. Go me. I know some people will say that that’s not really quitting blah blah blah. But I quit this way before when every other method I tried failed miserably. My doc and my shrink on board, it’s time to do it. It helps that Mike and I are doing it together.

I need to lose weight. I’m overweight, and I carry all of it between my middle and my knees. I feel like I’m waving a welcome sign for type 2 diabetes. So grocery shopping today wasn’t buying the crap we normally consume. I bought salmon, a butt load of chicken breast, avocados, a ton of fruit and vegetables, whole grains. I’m going to do this. I’m not getting any younger (as the turn of the year made me realize I’ll be 37 this year), and I realized I don’t want to be like my family. I love them all dearly, but they’re all overweight with a ton of medical problems. I need to get this in hand. Now.

I finally took my shrink’s advice and started CBD oil to try and help with my anxiety. I went with the vaping route since I was doing that anyway, and also the research I did said you get a higher bioavailability if you vape it versus using it as a tincture.

I need to get healthy, I need to get my shit in order, and I need to get a new job. I need to make a concerted effort to do all of these things. No more screwing around. Time to get serious about my health, mental health, and physical well-being. I am the first to admit that since the depressive episode in 2017 my mood has been much more stable. I feel more grounded. The bipolar tendencies are mostly under control. For the first time in a long time, I actually feel stable. I think quitting that toxic job has a lot to do with it, as well as finally being on medication that actually works. But my anxiety, I recently told Mike that’s become like an old friend I take everywhere with me. I always have a low level of anxiety simmering in the background. And then it spikes. And I want to crawl in a corner and die.

I did email my therapist. I haven’t seen him in a few months, but I think now is as good as time as ever to get back into it. I think everyone assumed that when I quit my job my anxiety would magically disappear. To a degree it did, but in other ways, it’s worse. It’s almost like my body and my brain don’t know what to do now that they’re not under constant stress, so the anxiety just simmers in the background like it’s waiting to be called on.

I need to change. This is my commitment for the year. New year, new me. I’m done screwing around.

I normally hate the holidays and this time of year

Hello, readers. I’ve been meaning to post for a few weeks, at least. I have a lot I want to say, but haven’t really been able to find the words to say it all. So bear with me while I do my best.

This time of year is normally hell for me. My mood is in the tank, I’m grumpy, the song “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” should be my theme song. This year, it’s like I’m a different person. I’m in a good mood, I’m sleeping well. I’m not dreading Christmas (in fact, I’m having a ton of fun – convinced my family to do an ugly sweater competition, had a good time picking out gifts for everyone, and while we didn’t put up a tree I enjoyed putting up the rest of the decorations). I attribute the change to a few things – first, I started taking melatonin again, a different kind this time. Despite the fact that it had never really worked before. But it’s working now. I’m sleeping through the night, and it’s a better quality sleep than I’ve gotten in years. Second, my shrink convinced me to start using a light box. Despite the fact that I was ready to call it bunk, my mom told me they had one that my brother never used and I was welcome to it. I figured hey, what the hell. We’ll give it a shot. Thank you, Vitamin D. Also helps that the weather has been really dreary the last few weeks and getting a dose of “sunlight” has been beneficial. On the upside, the days are now getting longer again, so I made it through the worst of it. And lastly, I don’t have that hellacious excuse for a job hanging over my head causing constant anxiety and stress. So, all in all, I’m having a pretty good winter so far. I’m actually, *gasp* enjoying the holiday season.

On to something that’s been on my mind.

I read a thing on either Facebook or Instagram recently that if someone’s opinion of you is better than yours is of you, you should trust their’s over yours.

OK, so. There’s a lot to unpack here.

On the surface, this sounds great – the people you’re close to, the people that you associate with, are more likely to have a positive opinion of you – see all of the things that you’ve accomplished, see all of the good that you do, see and appreciate your hard work, etc. What their opinion doesn’t take into account is all of the negatives that you see yourself – the things that you haven’t accomplished, the time that you’ve wasted, the things you want to do better. And that’s not a bad thing. You should be proud of yourself, and be able to view yourself in a positive light. But when you have anxiety and mental illness that’s often easier said than done. The negative things get pushed to the surface.

So how do we reconcile the good with the bad to really get a good picture of ourselves? I don’t know. Whenever I think about it, every positive I come up with doesn’t get balanced by the negative, it gets overshadowed by it. Outweighed by it.

I don’t know. Because of all of this my sense of self and self-confidence is shot.

We’ve got new insurance. It might be time to see if my therapist is covered and go back and see him.

Linearity

Most people assume that their life will progress on a linear track – go to the right school, marry the right person, get the right job, have kids, get promoted a few times, retire. But for a lot of us, especially those of us with mental illness, our lives are full of starts and stops, jumps, regressions. Breaks for self-care. Times when taking a lower paying job was a necessity. Times when taking a step back from life becomes life-saving.

But I think that sometimes that’s a hard thing to process. Sometimes you need to take a step back, reassess your priorities, and take a new path. But what new path?

I’m going to be honest, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing with my life. I don’t know where to go or what to do. I’m spinning my wheels and I just don’t know what’s next. I look at job postings and think ‘yeah, ok, maybe,’ but nothing really makes me say yes, that’s the job that I want. I guess that my next job doesn’t have to be The Job, but I’d like to have some direction in my life. Or at least feel like I have some direction in my life.

This whole state of affairs is not really great for my mental health situation. I’m stressed, I feel like a failure, I feel like I’ve let everyone that’s supported me down.

I had Mike hang up my diploma in a place where I see it every day to remind myself that you did it, you have an MBA, now it’s time to use it. To remind me of my accomplishment.

I don’t know. I honestly don’t anymore.

Anxiety lies

There’s been a lot of posts on Facebook and Instagram recently (at least on the pages that I follow, which to be fair there’s more than a few about mental health) about anxiety and how it doesn’t look like a lot of people expect it to. Even when I first got the “official” anxiety diagnosis a year or so, I didn’t realize that a lot of the things that I was experiencing could be attributed to anxiety. Headaches, upset stomach and digestion problems, irritability, insomnia, jumpiness, anticipating the worst (I honestly thought that this was a bipolar thing, which it very well might be, but I personally think it’s the anxiety).

But how can you trust yourself when your brain is constantly lying to you? Telling you that you’re not good enough, making up scenarios with absolutely no evidence and then convincing you to believe them (things like your husband is cheating on you while you’re at work, that everyone is just pretending to be your friend and they really can’t stand you, and on and on and on), making you reinterpret things that happened into something totally different.

My anxiety, at least, gives me these really dark, fucked up thoughts. These are not rooted in any kind of reality, but these are the things that my brain has convinced me are legitimate fears, no matter how times I’m told these are not going to happen.

***This is going to get a little graphic, so feel free to skip this paragraph if you have a weak stomach.***

We have an alarm system on the house. Not because we’re worried about things getting stolen, but because I’m convinced that someone is going to break into the house and mutilate, maim, and disembowel the cats and hang their bodies on the wall. I know, this is totally fucked up and has no root in reality, but this is one of my greatest fears. Not many people know about this, but the ones that do all agree that this is one of the most fucked up things that they’ve ever heard and very not likely to actually happen.

I know that. I know this is irrational. But I can’t make it go away.

***It’s safe to start reading again***

I’ve talked about these dark thoughts in therapy (and believe me, this isn’t the only one, but probably the most common for me), and the best solution we’ve come up with is to acknowledge them, understand that this is not reality, and try to move on.

Yeah, easier said than done.

What people don’t realize is that when your own brain is the one that’s lying to you, it becomes really hard to differentiate what is real and what isn’t. Mike and I have played the Real or Not Real game a few times when I really need help sorting through these thoughts. Sometimes they get so bad that I really can’t make sense of things.

I wish that there was a better course of action other than the “acknowledge, understand, move on” bullshit, because I have to tell you, sometimes this is almost impossible. Please don’t take this as bragging, but I’d like to think that I’m a fairly intelligent person. Which makes not being able to trust myself that much harder. I hate it all. I don’t wish this on anyone.

Anxiety lies, and she is also a cruel mistress.