Setting the record straight

I’ve been talking a lot recently about my mood, and I’ve had a few people shoot me messages making sure that I’m ok.

Yes, I’m ok. In fact, I really think that I’m better and more stable than I have been in quite some time. And sometimes that feels weird to me.

I really do appreciate the concern, though.

At my therapy appointment last week we talked a lot about my mood and things that have been going on – both recently, and in the past. How events, situations, traumas, successes, hell even people, affect my mood and it’s natural fluctuations.

Every one has changes in their moods throughout the day. It’s normal. It’s expected. Those little peaks and valleys as you move through your day. What concerns me is when those peaks and valleys become mountains and abysses. Over the years I’ve become hyper aware of what my mood is and when and what might be causing it.

That holds true today.

But I have to admit – I don’t really know what true stability – euthymia, if you will – really feels like. I’ve had periods where I thought I was stable, and maybe I was for a short time. But to feel that stability, day in and day out, with the normal hills and valleys of mood changes throughout the day, I just don’t know.

Maybe it’s because I am so hyper aware. I’m constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, for one of those little changes to become a big change. For one wrong change to turn into an episode.

I hate mood disorders. I hate my mood disorder. I hate the fact that I have to deal with this day in, day out.

People have told me that dealing with this makes me a stronger person. I say fuck that. (I’m not entirely sure why, but I hate hearing that, but I do. If you want me to dive into that one day, I will. But know that anything that comes out of it will be weird and disjointed and probably not make a lot of sense.)

Honestly? I think at this point I just need to turn on my heated mattress pad, crawl under my weighted blanket and go to bed.

People are annoying

I had a guy today ask me if he could have a case of bags, as he works with a local charity and they could use them. I started to explain that no, sorry, I couldn’t just give them to him, that a protocol needs to be followed for donations, but he cut me off and stormed away. Fine. Well low and behold, he decides to come back and tell me that I need to work on my people skills and that I’m a miserable person.

Really? Just because I wouldn’t just give you something? Tough shit, bucco.

But that kind of put a damper on a relatively decent day.

Maybe I take things too personally. I always have. I’ve internalized every comment that’s been made about me within my earshot. Friends, teachers, family, employers, therapists, doctors, you name it. And it sucks.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my mental health and wellness recently. I think that for too long I’ve let the fact that I have bipolar disorder and anxiety define too much of who I am. Sure, it’s a part of me, it’s shaped me into who I am, but aren’t I more than my diagnoses? Am I not a person outside of them?

How much does this hold true for so many of us? Do we measure our worth based on our stability? Or things we’ve done while in an episode, good or bad? Are we constantly atoning for mistakes that we made years ago, especially when we we’re exactly ourselves when they happened? Are we unduly punishing ourselves for mistakes we’ve already paid for?

Ugh, sometimes I hate the space inside of my head.

I think I was…praised today?

You should have figured out by now that I started a new job a month ago. I finally made the transition into management.

I had two important conversations today – one with my boss/trainer, and one with a subordinate, I guess you’d call her. They both hit the same major points though. (I have the feeling that the subordinate already had that conversation with my boss, which is what prompted both of these conversations.)

Long story short, I was told that I have made an excellent transition into management. The employees like me, I’m friendly, very personable, but I also know when I have to be their boss, and that they respond well to that. I’m authoritative when I have to be, but I’m also compassionate. I work with a number of minors, and they all like me, but also respect me.

I was really taken aback by both of these conversations. I mean, I had thought I was doing okay, but I didn’t expect this. Don’t get me wrong, I’m trying my hardest, I just didn’t think that I was doing that well.

Last time we talked about my disordered thinking, and I think that this falls along the same lines. I’m so used to my mistakes being pointed out, by being told I’m wrong, or not good enough. To being passed over for a promotion, or even a lateral move between departments.

I’m so used to failure, disappointment, and upset that I have a hard time contemplating a world where I’m doing well at something. Actually, I have a hard time seeing myself succeed at anything. Most of the time I feel like a waste of space and air.

Chalk that up to another product of my screwed up brain.

But that’s my M.O., isn’t it? I always see the worst in any situation. I have a hard time envisioning things working out. You know how people say that you should picture the outcome that you want? Yeah, I can’t do that. I can never envision a future where I succeed, or even just break even. All I can see is failure, heartache, broken dreams.

I really need to learn how to have a little faith in myself, in my abilities. I need to reorder my fucked up brain and teach it how to think new things. How hard can that be?

I have the feeling it’s going to be like squeezing blood from a stone.

*sigh*

When you’re striving perfection for all of the wrong reasons

As anyone that knows me will tell you, I’m a bit of a perfectionist. Well, not just a bit. I’m a major perfectionist. But sometimes I wonder if this trait isn’t due to the desire to be perfect, exactly, but more so because of two reasons.

  1. I have to be perfect to be loved.
  2. I have to be perfect to try to keep my life in control.

Neither of these are good reasons to strive for perfection.

As a kid, my family was very demanding in terms of school, hobbies, etc. Being the best was praised. Falling short was not. Don’t get me wrong, I was never hit or punished or anything, but the disappointment could sometimes be worse. Even if it wasn’t really disappointment, it was definitely perceived by me as such. Questions like “You only got a 90% on this exam? Why didn’t you do better?”

When I was a teenager I was really struggling with mental illness. I didn’t know at the time what it was, but looking back I can see it’s roots back to when I was a preteen. Part of that struggle was that I would take thoughts, situations, interactions, whatever, and twist them into the most negative thing that I could. I, obviously, didn’t mean to do this. I know know that this was the disorder’s doing. And I know that I still do this to this day.

But I have to say, I’m not one of these crazed Type A personalities. Don’t get me wrong, I tick a lot of the boxes. but one that I don’t is that I’m not super competitive. At least not with other people. I compete with my own expectations. I compete with myself, more than anything. So maybe in some way I am competitive.

So bottom line, I guess, is that my skewed thinking patterns originated when I was young, gained traction when I was a teen, were honed and refined in my 20s, and by my 30s were so deeply rooted that they’re impossible to get rid of. And that my perfectionist, Type A (ok, I admit it) personality was born (borne? not sure which one to use) of it.

One of my pieces of homework from therapy from last week was to really feel an emotion, not just identify it and let it pass, but really identify how I feel in that moment. Am I hot? Am I sweaty? Am I smiling? For the record, I hate every moment of this.

Another therapy appointment, another issue

*sigh*

I swear, we work through one issue and an even worse one takes its place. I guess in some respects that’s progress. It means we’ve dealt with or are dealing with the smaller ones and it’s time to start tackling bigger ones.

Today we talked about my constant state of borderline panic that’s tied to my job. My brain seems to be convinced that I’m going to screw something up and get fired. I’m terrified of letting my trainer down and screwing up something so badly that I get let go. I think it’s all rooted in my last lab job – I once inverted meaningless numbers in an email and got written up. I wish I were kidding. But that kind of thing has instilled this response in my head. Another piece of it is my fear of being not good enough or letting people down. So one part of this week’s homework is to being to acknowledge these thoughts, and come up with reasons why these thoughts are not valid or true. This is easier said than done – I typically try to push these thoughts far away, tamp them down into the back of my brain and try to ignore them.

I mentioned today that as an act of self-preservation, I kind of…. dissociated from my own mind. I tend to refer to it as something that resides outside of myself, rather than as a part of me. That way when it’s decided to throw a bipolar or anxiety wrench into things, I don’t have to blame myself.

So here comes to second part of the homework. We worked while ago about identifying feelings, giving them a name, and letting them be rather than shoving them down into my emotional dumpster where they were just building and building and building until they finally exploded out. This time, we’re going to identify those feelings, name them, and then take stock of how I feel physically, what I feel/touch/smell/taste. Then we’re going to name that feeling as either valid or invalid, if that makes sense.

Now, I’m not a feelings person. I had a therapist years ago that insisted on asking “how does that make you feel?” She refused to get the idea that asking me to identify feelings was not my bag. Since then, I have found that I respond much better to questions like “what do you think about that?”

It’s time to bring those two parts of my person back together. Maybe that will help stop the war that goes on in my head.

Getting back in the swing of things

I don’t know about you, but it seems like whenever I start a new job, I fall out of a number of my routines and it takes me a few weeks to get re-acclimated. Case in point – started the new job, really haven’t been working out, eating right (or well, for that matter), my skincare routine has fallen by the wayside.

You know what? I’ve written this post three times to decide that it’s crap. I’m giving up for the night. Clearly I have nothing to say.

In the meantime, I hope everyone has a Happy Halloween!

Depression, the new cat, and other things

You know, I find it odd, and slightly macabre-ly amusing that in this day and age people refuse to see the signs of depression in someone and how fast they are to write them off as symptoms of something else. Case in point – we spent the weekend with my in-laws. Our nephew is exhibiting what we both recognize as signs of depression. But everyone else wants to call it symptoms of a concussion he had a few months ago. I won’t count that out as a possible reason, but this kid practically screams I’m depressed from his actions and behaviors during the brief time we spent with him, and what everyone else has told us. Luckily, he’s already in counselling for something unrelated. I just hope that he gets the help that he needs. And I really hope that people start calling a spade a spade.

It’s such a shame that even today people refuse to acknowledge mental illness – even if it’s fleeting and not something lifelong like what I deal with. There’s still so much stigma attached, especially when dealing with teenagers. I’ve seen it with friends and family both. Oh, they’re just hormonal. Oh, it’s typical teenage angst. My kid isn’t depressed, they’re stronger than that.

Fucking stigma.

How many people – again, teenagers especially – suffer needlessly because of this? How long did I suffer in the late 90s before something was done for these same reasons?

New cat is settling in nicely. Very little drama now that the pecking order as been worked out. Namely the fact that Rosie is at the top and you better not forget it.

My mood is mostly stable. Thursday I was feeling a little manicky in terms of everything that I had to get done that day before we left. A few days before I was feeling a little down. Nothing major, and nothing that lasted. Just goes to show that while my meds are working, they’re not perfect. There’s still some slip-through. But these little moments didn’t last more than a few hours, and I was able to pull myself out of them eventually.

So that’s the Sunday round-up.

More to come later in the week.

A life well lived and what do you do when you’re scared of your own mind?

“A life well-lived is a precious gift
of hope and strength and grace
from someone who has made our world
a brighter, better place.
It’s filled with moments sweet and sad,
with smiles and sometimes tears,
with friendships formed and good times shared
and laughter through the years.
A life well-lived is a legacy of joy and pride and pleasure,
A loving, lasting memory our grateful hearts will
treasure”.

This poem is often read at funerals. It’s called “A Life Well Lived.” But I think that it’s a good reminder for all of us sometimes. That it’s not about how much stuff we have of what kind of car we drive. It’s about the relationships we have and the impact we have on other people’s lives.

I had a conversation with my mom tonight that made me think of this poem. She told me that I make her laugh, and that I had always made her laugh. That’s a good legacy to have. But it makes me think about how I assume other people perceive me. I’m not confident. I’m uncertain and overly self-critical. I assume that people don’t like me. My brain automatically goes to the thought that people don’t really like me, that they just tolerate me or put up with me.

This leads into another point – I’m constantly on edge that I’m going to lose my job, my husband, my friends, and everything else that means anything to me. Someone made a mistake at work? Automatically my fault and I’m going to get fired – even if I had nothing to do with it.

I hate my brain. Sometimes my mind honestly scares me. It goes off on these negative tangents that I can’t control. It goes right to the most negative outcome of any and every situation. I’ve joked and told people that it’s self-preservation – if I assume the worst and that doesn’t happen then I’m pleasantly surprised. If it does, at least I’m prepared.

So what do you do when your own mind scares you? It’s not like you can cut it out or even shut it up.

Maybe right now I feel like things are going too well and I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. But if I really believe in karma, or universal payback/retribution, doesn’t the last year of hardship mean that I have some good things coming?

I don’t even know anymore.

Let’s talk about the here and now

From http://pexels.com

A number of my recent posts have been very retrospective. But let’s talk about what’s going on recently.

Two of my recent moronic moves involve books. The first is a Goodreads giveaway. I use the site to track what I read, give me a number of what I’ve read this year, etc. I used to be super involved in a few groups, but over the last two years I’ve left the groups and culled my friends list down to almost nothing. I use it now more for my own personal use. Maybe someday I’ll get back into the groups as some of them were really quite fun. But back to the topic. Goodreads does giveaways of books. They send you emails of giveaways going on based on your lists on the site. A few weeks ago I entered a giveaway for a Diana Gabaldon book in the Outlander series. I’ve read the first book, the giveaway was for the third. I figured, hey, I’ll never win but let’s give it a go. I won. So now I have this brick of a book that I can’t read because I haven’t read the second one yet. (Side note: I actually just entered another giveaway for the 8th book in the series. I really need to stop.) The second involves the Stormlight Archives by Brandon Sanderson. I really want to read this series. I’ve been meaning to start it for years. I had a coupon for 15% off a purchase at Barnes and Noble on Monday and I was in the area, so I figured what the hell – let’s go pick it up. (I decided to ignore the 15 books on my nightstand to read, as well as all of the library ebooks I have, not to mention all of the ebooks that I’ve purchased but haven’t read.) Thanks to my rushing to get in and get out since I was meeting my uncle for lunch, I grabbed book 3 in the series. If I had access to the facepalm emoji I would use it. So another book I can’t read! Ugh.

Work is going well. I’m through most of the base level training in terms of cashier, the head cashier-like position, and the service desk. We’re digging down into some of the management functions and the reports that have to be run and what to do with them. I really like it, but I feel like I’ve been stalled the last week or so. There’s three of us training right now, and one is on a shortened schedule so she’s getting most of our trainer’s attention. That’s fine, that makes total sense. But I want to do more. I want to learn more. I really need to learn how to be an advocate for myself and put myself forward and tell my trainer this. But this has always been a hard thing for me, to step up and ask for what I want. As much as it surprises people, I’m can be very not assertive.

A lot of that stems from my anxiety. I have a hard time standing up for myself. Sometimes I have a hard time pulling myself from the shadows I tend to fall into. Actually, now that I think about it that’s also a product of years of dealing with depression. You forget how to advocate for yourself. You want to slink into the background and be left alone. You don’t want to put yourself out there. And that’s something I really need to learn, and quickly.

I’ve been living with mental illness for the majority of my life, and sometimes I’m smacked in the face by how it has shaped me, my personality, and my life. There are behaviors that are learned that are very hard to unlearn. Behaviors that were learned during dark times, during hard times. Behaviors learned for self-preservation. Things that I do to protect myself from let down and disappointment, from getting close to people for fear that I’m just going to end up being hurt, from moving my life forward into the unknown.

I need to find a way to stop.

Anyone have any tips on unlearning negative behaviors? I’m open to suggestions. This is just another one of those mental battles that I have to fight. The number that I’ve fought this year is kind of unreal. But now that I’m relatively stable, it’s time to do it.

The evolution of a life

Don’t worry, I’m not going to deep-dive into my childhood, here, but I was thinking recently about how different my life is versus what I thought it would be 2, 5, 10 years ago. The friends I had that I thought would be in my life forever I haven’t talked to in a year.

It’s interesting to trace back the last even six months and the decisions you’ve made and how those choices shaped where you are now. I decided in the middle of the interview process that I didn’t want to get a Ph.D. and I turned down offers of acceptance to some of the best research schools in the country. I realized that I didn’t want to spend the next six years in school, doing more classes, doing research, and making next to nothing all while my student loans accrued interest. We wouldn’t be able to travel, afford more than a small apartment, or probably get home to see either of our families often since most of the schools were out of state and not at all close to either group.

At the places I’ve worked, I’ve made friends. Some I’ve kept in touch with after I’ve left there, some I haven’t. Some I’ve prioritized over others, for any number of reasons. Some our interests diverged and without that common denominator of work, we had nothing in common. Some got married and moved away. Some had kids and their priorities shifted. (Note: I have nothing against people having kids, but in my experience, when people do, they spend more time with family and make their friends less of a priority, especially when the kid is young. That’s fine, but when your friends become zero priority and you lose your whole life outside of your kid, I see that as a problem. End rant.) Some? We just grew apart. Nothing wrong with that, and it was no one’s fault. I had friends even a few years ago that I would have thought we’d be friends until we were old and gray. Now? Some of them I barely even talk to.

I honestly thought we would have left <home city> by now. I’m from here, and while Mike isn’t, I always assumed that we would have left by now. There’s nothing wrong with this city, I actually quite like it, but I’d like to experience living elsewhere. I have no problem still being here, I just thought we would have left by now.

I can’t talk about the past and how it has shaped my present and future without mentioning my mental illnesses. Looking back it’s amazing how much having bipolar and anxiety has shaped my life. The decisions I did or didn’t make. The decisions that were colored by the influence of the disorders. Not doing something or going somewhere because I was depressed, making a stupid decision because I was manic or mixed. Not wanting to do something because my anxiety was flaring and I could barely leave the house without needing an Ativan.

I know I’ve talked about the road not traveled before, but recently I really haven’t thought about that or wondered. Maybe that means I’m actually content with the life that I’m living? Maybe I’m actually… stable?