Who am I?

How do you define a person? By their actions? By their thoughts? By their afflictions? By the people that they associate with? People define themselves, and others, in different ways.

When I was in high school, 20 years ago now, my last semester of my senior year I took a creative writing class. Our last assignment was to write a piece entitled “Who Am I?”

I blew the assignment out of the water. It was one of the things that I was most proud of for quite some time. Sadly, it was lost in one of my many moves. But I find myself wondering what I would write about if I was tasked with this today.

So here we go.

I wish that I could say that my most defining characteristic wasn’t my mental illnesses. I wish that I could say that it was my dark eyes or witty humor. I have both of those things, too, but to me, my most defining characteristic is something that you can’t see, and most people don’t know about. But I have been tempered in the fires of it. It is one of the major reasons why I am who I am. It has colored decisions I’ve made. It has forced aspects of my personality to be stronger than others just to survive.

But there other parts of me that, while maybe not as important, do deserve some recognition.

But you know what? I really can’t think of anything significant. One could argue that I’m kind, I’m driven, funny, compassionate, a good friend. But do any of these things really define me? How sad is it that at 37 I don’t know who I am? God, that’s depressing.

Well this took a drastically different turn than I thought that would. Apparently at 17 I was more in tune with myself than I am now.

We’re not quarantined….yet

I don’t think I’ll survive it.

Me being in the grocery field, I don’t get to stay home from work or limit contact with people. We’re an essential business. We stay open. It is what it is. Everyone in the house is just waiting for it. We’re stocking up on things that we can freeze and non-perishables. We’re testing out shows on Netflix and Amazon to see what we can binge watch. I can tell you, though, that I’m not looking forward to being stuck in the house for two weeks, even if I am sick. Mike just built me an amazing raised bed garden, and I’ve got vegetable seeds started on the dining room table, and they’ll be ready to plant in a few weeks, if not sooner.

Let’s talk about life in the grocery store these days.

It is utter MADNESS. It’s starting to calm down a bit, but good grief. In many ways I’ve lost all faith in humanity over the last week. Between the stock piling of toilet paper, customers screaming at each other because someone took the last box of mac n cheese, customers screaming at employees because corporate has limited the number of certain items that you can buy or we’re plain old out of something, etc. I come home exhausted. Mentally, physically. Exhausted.

At this point, all I hope is that things calm down soon.

I’ve been working in another store all week giving them a hand, and I miss my small little “express” store. Even though my cashiers are dropping like flies taking leave of absences until all of this blows over. I get it, especially as one’s a senior citizen, but at the same time…. mother fucker. I put out feelers to see if we could hire some temporary help – people from other stores, even people from the food service industry that aren’t working since restaurants went to take-out only. I don’t care. I need bodies. And this is going to get worse before it gets better.

But through it all, despite changing the dosage of the Zyprexa and all of the stress I’m under, my mood is still holding steady.

And hey – at least I have a job.

I’m actually…. feeling pretty good

We started the lower dose of the Zyprexa on Monday night. Tuesday was rough with the migraine. Yesterday I felt better. Today…. I feel like a million bucks. I got a good, solid night’s sleep. I actually got up when my alarm went off. I woke up feeling restful and ready to face the day. I wasn’t running around like a lunatic trying to throw on clothes, throw food in my lunchbox, throw everything together, and probably forgetting to brush my teeth. I was super active at work today tackling a three pallet order and dealing with things that are actually normal in my day to day life, took the car to get inspected, had dinner with a friend. I came home got some laundry done, did the litter boxes, and then decided to pull the trigger and buy the stupid freezer for the basement so off to Lowe’s it was. Ended up standing in the parking lot for an hour talking to a friend of mine that still works there. Then home, finished the laundry, folded it and put it away, took a shower, etc., etc., etc., and now I’m sitting on the couch catching up on Seal Team with my beloved. And the cats.

But as always, I have to wonder – am I feeling too good? Am I swinging to the hypomanic side? I’m thinking no. Because, you know what? I’m tired. I’m looking forward to going to bed and going to sleep. I’m perfectly content to sit here with my feet up and relax.

I hate that I can’t feel good without wondering if it’s too good. Without being scared that it’s the start of another episode. I hate that I can’t have a good day and enjoy it without picking it apart, trying to find some sign that it’s all about to go wrong.

I hate it.

The paranoia is a real thing. I have to be careful that that alone doesn’t flip me into an episode. Paranoia. Anxiety. Constantly on edge. UGH.

There’s a lot of reasons why I’m terrified of another episode. The biggest one is that I’ve worked so damn hard to put my life back together, build it, find some modicum of success. I don’t want to watch that crumble to dust out from under me.

Fuck that. I am not going to let my life be ruled by this disease. I am not going to let it ruin my life.

A love letter to migraines

I was in a car accident when I was 17. Had severe whiplash, a lot of nerve and muscle damage. I had a migraine for three years until surgery. Since then, every now and then it rears its ugly head.

I think this one was caused by a number of factors – little sleep last night and disordered sleeping for the last week, changing the dose of the Zyprexa, less caffeine today than normal, it’s Tuesday… who knows.

Needless to say, I’m miserable. I went to the gym after work and realized that I just couldn’t do it today, and turned around and came home. I hate this. The constant pressure, that when I get a respite from, only lasts 10-15 minutes. Tried coffee, Advil, meditation, food, a nap…. I only get small windows of relief. I don’t know how I’m going to get through work tomorrow. (I just read that Zyprexa can me used in headache treatment to lower severity. WTF.) In addition to the headache, I’m also nauseous, which is just liking adding another turd to an already shit sandwich.

Other than that, day two of the lower Zyprexa seems to be going well. Mood still stable, anxiety still under control.

I’m going to go watch The Magicians and try to relax. And then probably go to bed.

I hope your day is going better than mine.

“Sleep, those little slices of death — how I loathe them.” ― Edgar Allan Poe

My sleep is seriously fucked up. About half the time I fall asleep quickly, but when I don’t I toss and I turn and I get up to pee and then I have to get a drink and when I finally fall asleep it’s fitful. I get up at least three times during the night, one more than one occasion I’ve gone sleep-walking around the house (all of the doors require a key to get out so there’s no danger to me getting outside and playing in traffic). And then waking up. I. Cannot. Wake. Up. I sleep through 15 (no joke) alarms. Most of the time I wake up exhausted, and because I’ve missed so many alarms I’m generally running around like a mad woman trying to get to wherever I have to be.

I blame the dose of Zyprexa that I’m on.

I’ve read that there’s evidence that it’s beneficial to sleep, but I’ve read a lot of user reviews that have the same complaint that I do. It sucks. I’m always tired (and hungry, but that’s a whole other post entirely), I never feel rested. I dread going to bed a lot of nights because I never know what the morning is going to look like.

I emailed my doc tonight; we were going to lower the dosage when I see him in May, but I think that that needs to happen now. I think the benefits outweigh the potential downsides, but I feel like I’m in a good place stability wise and can handle halving the dosage. I’m very lucky in that my doc and I have open conversations about my meds, and he takes what I have to say heavily into consideration. He understands that I know my body and I know my mood best. He doesn’t force medication or his opinion on me, which I really appreciate as I’ve had doctors do both. Those ended up being the times that I was non-compliant. I lucked out when I found him.

The hardest part about reducing the dosage is seeing what my anxiety does. Every time we’ve increased it, it’s been because of anxiety. We’d drop down the dosage, and a few months later I’d find my anxiety singing an aria in Carnegie Hall and we’d have to increase to dosage back up. I think my whole relationship with this drug is going to be a series of ups and downs. Like, lithium is my constant. My dosage hasn’t changed in 12 years, I think? It’s my stalwart friend. The constant. If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it, right?


A quick check in

Just a quick check in. Everything still going along swimmingly. Had some good conversations with higher ups at work, made some tough calls, made some social plans, donated plasma, been going to the gym… so yeah. All good things.

But. There’s always a but. My mood has been kind of blah. I mean, things are going well, the weather is getting better (even though it was never really all that bad this winter), cats are happy, husband is happy, roommate will be hopefully moving out soon. And yet? Blaaaaaaaaah. Well, maybe that isn’t entirely accurate. I feel pretty good, generally. But I don’t feel like I’m at my best. I hate the change of seasons. Summer to fall and winter to spring are always my worst times. Which is funny considering those are my favorite times of year. I’d like to blame the time change, but it hasn’t happened yet. Something in the air, maybe. I don’t know. I had my labs done last week and everything looks good. My lithium serum levels are right where they should be.

I think at my next appointment we’re going to try to lower my dose of Zyprexa. We raised it due to stress and a number of other things bringing my anxiety to the forefront and making it almost unmanageable. But by the time I see the doc in May all of the major stressors (for the most part) will be gone, contained, dealt with, etc. The side effects suck, and I definitely don’t suffer nearly as much at the lower dosage. The main concern is the weight gain/increased appetite. It’s making it really hard to lose weight in the first place, and then I just want to eat ALL OF THE THINGS. Seriously. I ate an entire jar of salsa (twice) in one sitting. I have tremors, I occasionally stutter, and I have memory issues. I can’t stress enough how much I’m looking forward to halving the dosage.

So in February I read Don’t Panic: Douglas Adams & The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Sandman Slim, and Sword and Pen. I’ve been a big Douglas Adams fan since I was a teenager, so reading a bio of both Adams and the series was really interesting. It was written by Neil Gaiman and I love his style of writing. Sandman Slim was a recommendation from our roommate, and while I didn’t hate it, Mike Carey and his Felix Castor Series. Lastly was Sword and Pen, the last of the Great Library of Alexandria books. It was worth the wait. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole series, and while at points slow, it was a good wrap up to the series. There was a lot to tie up, and I’m happy with the way that things ended.

That’s it for tonight, kids. I’m headed off to try and get some sleep (which is still crappy, I’m thinking again because of the Zyprexa, so more reasons to look forward to a dose change). I hope everyone has a great weekend!

“Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”

I don’t know about you, but one way my anxiety manifests itself is by replaying moments in my life that I would have handled differently, that I thought I handled poorly, whatever. Events, that to the people that were involved, don’t matter anymore. I hate my brain. It hangs on to the most ridiculous things versus things it actually should hang on to.

I donated plasma today. Sometimes afterwards I feel great. Today was not one of those days. People ask me often why I donate so often. I have a rarer blood type, AB+, which is the universal plasma donor. Plasma is always high in demand. It’s not that I feel like I have to, but I kind of do. I mean, I kind of feel like it’s my duty. I can help people, so why shouldn’t I?

At work I have this kid working for me. He just started. He is habitually late, doesn’t show because he “doesn’t know his schedule,” etc. The decision was made with his next write up we were just going to fire him. I presented a verbal warning to him the other night about his attendance. During which he promised he’d try harder, he’d do better, I showed him how to get his schedule online so he never didn’t know when he was supposed to be at work, etc. My boss called me a soft heart. And she’s not wrong. I tend to give chances to people that don’t deserve them. I tend to be very empathetic to people’s problems. Hell, the ASPCA commercials get me all teary.

In talking with Mike, he thinks, and I agree, that my disorders have made me overly empathetic. I try to see the good in people more than anything. I give people a lot of chances. Sometimes I think it’s because of all of the chances I was given when I was in the throws of destroying my life. There was a lot of people that gave me the benefit of the doubt, and without those people I’d wouldn’t be where I am today.

I don’t know. Sometimes I feel like I need to harden myself, but at the same time, this is who I am. I don’t think I want to change that part of me. I kind of run with the assumption that at some point that’s going to come back and bite me in the ass, but until then? I’m going to keep on like I always do.

“Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”

Some of my favorite times of the week is when I get to hang out with Mike. Doesn’t matter if we’re going grocery shopping, cleaning the house, or even just sitting on the couch watching TV (even if one of us is doing something other than watching what’s on). I just enjoy being around him. And I’d like to think that he feel the same.

But times haven’t always been rosy. He’s stuck by my side through a number of episodes, a lot of mini-episodes/”blips,” and just some straight sucky times, mentally speaking.

I’m very lucky.

Not to change the subject… (ok, I do mean to change the subject).

I came to the realization this week that very little of my time is my own. I schedule myself to the teeth between work, things that need to be done, time with friends… but there’s very little time just for me to sit on the couch and read a book, especially with no one else around.

Instead, I blog, I crochet, I cook, I clean, I study. I need to learn to take a break. But I really don’t know how to do that.

I’ve been stuck on Go since I was young. I’ve always been over-involved, over-scheduled, over-burdened. I think part of the reason why was so I always kept myself busy, the bad thoughts and feelings didn’t come in when I exhausted myself every day to the point of passing out. It was a form of self-medication in a very unhealthy way. That’s a scary thought to have.

Ugh. I hate my brain. I hate being inside of my brain.

I need a vacation. (I say that now, but if I actually had a vacation it’d be chock full of stuff to do and not at all relaxing.)

“Sometimes weak and wan, sometimes strong and full of light. The moon understands what it means to be human.”

from Pexels.com

Oh the irritability today. I was stuck in a meeting all day and was totally bored and annoyed and out of sorts. This one kind in particular got my irritability kicking something fierce. You know the type – total asskisser, tries REAL hard to be the best but never actually is, just generally one of those people. When it became clear that everyone was about over it he tried be to funny by being sarcastic, badly. I wanted to kick him in the teeth. I think most of the other people there did too.

My irritation is a ball and chain that I carry around with me everywhere. Most of the time I can keep it contained, but every so often… it rears its ugly head, and I have to do my damnedest to keep it under control. But it’s like a simmering beast inside of me, raging to get out. I hate it. It can be so hard to quiet it down, soothe it until it calms down.

I would have to say that it is my predominant symptom of my bipolar disorder. Well, that and anxiety. And I hate them both.

I’d ask why there can’t be any positives to mental illness, but upon further thinking, I think there is. I mean, I’m a stronger person for it. I’m resilient. I have a better command of my emotional state than the average person. I’m more empathetic. I’m incredibly organized.

So… I guess there are some upsides. But they don’t make up for all of the downsides. And there are a lot of downsides.

I guess for what you get, you have to give.

“Be yourself and people will like you”

From pexel.com

I still haven’t decided the fate of this blog, but I don’t want to quit just due to inertia. If I’m going to hang it up, I want there to be an actual decision rather than one day realizing, “oh, I haven’t blogged in awhile. Oh well.” If there’s going to be an end, I want it to be definite. And I want to make that decision, one way or another.

So I had lunch with an old, good friend today. We don’t get to see each other often as our schedules rarely mesh. It’s been so long since we’ve gotten together that she actually asked me if was pregnant. =D No, not pregnant, thank you.

It was nice to see her. We used to work for the same company so she was filling me in on all of the gossip and news. We’re both cat enthusiasts so we spent a long time talking about our respective clowders. A good time was had.

But it got me thinking today – for as much as I say I have 4 friends, I really do have more than that. Sometimes life keeps us apart, but they’re still there in the background, the friendship just as strong as it’s always been. This particular friend has always been there when I needed someone – and I mean always. Sometimes she sends me random cards or candy for a holiday, or sometimes just because she saw something she thought I’d enjoy.

It was nice to see her and catch up.

Saturday I managed to stave off a major panic attack. I’m quite proud of myself for this. I was driving on the highway and all of a sudden my engine light came on, along with another light. I felt the panic rising. What was wrong? And more importantly how much was this going to cost me? We have some savings, but not a ton. I managed to hold it together and call the nearest dealership and made an appointment today. Luckily all of the issues were pretty minor – a brake sensor, a valve, the button that I push to start the car. All told under $500. Unfortunately they didn’t have the one part I needed so it had to be ordered. I go back Friday to get the last fix.

BUT. I managed to stave off the panic attack. I kept my head and was able to think clearly. Thinking about the potential cost I managed to keep myself calm, and not slip into the depression that was lurking just around the corner. I’m so immensely proud of myself for holding it all together.

I’ve found that most people assume that something big has to happen to trigger an episode – a death, a major financial problem, a lost job, etc. But I’ve found, at least with me, that most of the time it’s something little – or a lot of something littles. I tend to manage to hold things together through the big stuff. But the little stuff that sneaks up on you? Those are the things that seem to cause the most problems. The things that you’d assume you’d be able to deal with, no problem. Stub my toe? I’m irritable for the next four days. One of the cats knocks something off of the counter and it breaks (and I mean something insignificant), I’m depressed for a week. Mike plays video games instead of doing the laundry? Uncontrollable rage (he knows I’m irritated, but doesn’t realize the rage that’s boiling inside). Seriously. My reactions to things are completely out of proportion, but most of the time these things just marinate in my brain and people don’t realize what’s actually going on, if they even have a clue in the first place. What the shit, brain?

When my grandfather died, I cried once. I was closer to him than almost anyone else. And I cried once. I remember when I came back to work after the bereavement allowance ended my boss actually said to me, “I didn’t expect to see you at all this week. Are you doing ok?” I just shrugged and told her that I was fine. And I was.

It’s bizarre.

But, I guess that’s how I am. Maybe something to explore in therapy when I eventually go back. I’m still dodging that deductible. I should probably make an appointment. Maybe next week. Yeah. Next week……