I hate social media

Social media seems to have become a kind of necessary evil. If you don’t have Facebook, you miss out on plans being made, jokes being shared, events that only advertise on Facebook, you name it.

For about four months last year, I deleted my Facebook account, burned and salted the earth. In a lot of ways it was freeing. My phone wasn’t constantly dinging with stupid notifications. I had real conversations with people. But I missed out on a lot – there are a lot of events that are only advertised on Facebook, and while some friends would pass along, a lot I missed. I eventually caved and signed back up. To be fair, I still kept active on Twitter and Reddit, but only a select group of friends know my Twitter handle, and no one knows my Reddit handle except Mike.

But it got me thinking a lot about what we share on social media. We only put our best selves forward. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that everyone is leading a better life than you – they’re more successful, happier, have their shit together. But most people don’t broadcast their struggles, their battles with mental health, their failures. It’s easy to feel alone on social media.

For those of us with mental illness, feeling alone or inadequate can be a death knell. If you’re depressed it can easily push you further down the hole. And if you’re manic it can push you higher. Not to mention the bullying that goes on. I recently left a biopolar disorder support group on Facebook. At least half of the posts were people talking about going off of their meds (and other people encouraging them), and the rest, while they were about questions people had, or people looking for a place to share their successes, there was always in the comments people bullying other people for a myriad of reasons. While the original purpose of the group was laudable, there wasn’t enough policing by the mods. I remember one girl, in particular, was really struggling with depression. She reached out to the group because she was suicidal and just wanted someone to talk to, almost a third of the posts were people encouraging her to do it or bullying her for feeling the way that she did. She ultimately attempted suicide, but a smart group member figured out roughly where she lived and called the cops on her. It was horrifying to watch the whole thing unfold.

I hate social media. And I really wish I could delete my presence, at least on Facebook. But since I can’t, I’m going to do what I can to annoy my right-wing family. =D

Goals and an incident this week

Hello fair readers,

I’m trying hard to adhere to my goal of posting more often. Let’s hope this trend continues.

Anyway, on to an incident this week that made me realize that despite my apparent stability over the last five months I’m still walking a tightrope of emotions. I’m not sure if anyone heard about the CNN/Apple glitch this week that sent the same push alert multiple times. If by multiple times they mean almost 50 alerts in 20 minutes, then sure. Between my iPhone and my iWatch I got the same CNN news alert that the guy that had triggered the inbound missile alert was fired almost 50 times in 20 minutes. But at the time I didn’t know this was a glitch. I was at work and the two would not. stop. dinging. My coworker estimated that I was getting an alert every 8-20 seconds. Turning both the watch and the phone off didn’t help. By five minutes in, I could feel the rage building. By ten minutes I was practically shaking. That same noise repeated over and over and over again was pushing a button that hasn’t been pushed in a long time. I could feel the rage in my chest. My heart rate was increasing. I was starting to sweat. It was the beginnings of a massive panic attack that had a really pissed off component to it. I wanted to break my phone, my watch. I wanted to slam something off of the desk. I probably should have taken an Ativan and in the moment I did have that thought, but I was clear-headed enough to know that I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to go into that blissful fog. It was almost time to leave and I knew if I took one I might not be okay to drive home. So I breathed. I took off my watch and put it and my phone in a drawer. The alert sound was still there, but it was muffled. I could deal with that. At the end of the day I dealt with what could have been a big trigger, and I survived. Clearly, therapy and all of the tools that it put in my toolbox are working.

One important thing that my therapist and I talked about today was goals. I always set myself goals every year. I write them down in the back of the TARDIS notebook that I haul around with me everywhere so I have a reminder of them. But goals, when you have a mental illness, can present challenges. Some everyone who sets goals experiences, and some that might be more specific to those with mental illnesses.

Everyone procrastinates. It’s a normal part of life. But sometimes that procrastination isn’t really procrastination. How are you supposed to accomplish anything when getting out of bed and getting a shower are extreme challenges? Procrastination goes hand in hand with motivation. Sometimes you have to put your goals aside and ride through those times the best you can. It’s ok to say “I can’t do this right now” and set other things aside and focus on the small things – getting a shower, getting through a work day, eating regularly, having a conversation with someone.

Fear is another component. For me, at least, that fear is bourne of the thought “what if I don’t accomplish this?” Am I setting myself up for another failure? Can I handle this kind of failure? How will I feel about myself if the end of the year comes and I haven’t accomplished this? Am I willing to take the risk of trying and not succeeding? Fear goes hand in hand with doing things outside of your comfort zone. There’s always a fear of doing things outside your comfort zone, I don’t care who you are. There’s a reason that it’s called a comfort zone.

So here’s some of my goals for this year:

  1. Find a new job – this is the biggest and scariest thing on my list. I’ve been at my current job almost six years. I know how it runs, I know what to expect, it’s familiar. But I went back and got my MBA so I could move on to something new. I need to put aside my fear of the unknown, and the fear of changing careers, and get on with it. Someone told me recently that the first job is always the hardest to get. And I think that’s very true. I have the education, I just may not have as much experience as a new position might call for. It’s time to start small. Maybe apply for jobs that might be a step below what I actually should be doing, but instead focus on getting in with a company where there’s room to grow.
  2. Lose ten pounds – this isn’t going to be easy. One of the medications I’m on has a side effect of increased appetite. I definitely get that. At times I get ravenously hungry and eat everything in sight. So I need to work at making better food choices, and probably eating at least light snacks more often to curb that. I put on ten pounds in four months last year after I started it. We just bought an Instant Pot so I’ll be cooking more at home now that I can cook things a lot faster.
  3. Continue learning French – I started using Duolingo last year, and made great progress on it until the Great Depression of 2017. I kind of fell off using the app during that and never got back into it. Time to pick it back up. I at least want to make progress this year as the goal next year is to go to the Benelux countries. At least passable French would be helpful.
  4. Quit smoking – at the very least I want to get back to vaping rather than smoking. Baby steps.
  5. Read 35 books – I’m on book number 2 right now, so I’m a little behind. But I’m going to work on catching up over the next few weeks. Maybe I should start posting book reviews.

So that’s that for this week. What could have been a major setback turned into a small victory. And I’ve set some pretty lofty goals, but go big or go home, right?

So far so good and a bit of happiness

Over the last week, I’ve done what I can to get my life back in order, starting at home. The house has been in a perpetual state of clutter. I had fallen behind on everything. Sure, laundry got done and put away every week and so did the dishwasher, but there was always stuff piled on the kitchen counter, my closet and dresser were a mess of (too many) clothes. There was crap all over the living room.

But I took control this week. My work schedule is on a 4-on-4-off cycle. Normally my first day off I take it easy and recovery from the week. Not this week. I got up at a decent time, went grocery shopping, went to Sam’s Club, cleaned up the kitchen and living room, did the laundry, ran the dishwasher, started a new book. Yesterday more of the same – cleaned, put things away, cleaned out my closet and dresser and took 5 bags of stuff to Goodwill. Today I’ve been cooking for a good chunk of the day, making sure I have food (read: not a peanut butter sandwich) to take to work for lunch and Mike has food when he gets home and on his day off so we’re not constantly eating frozen pizza and cereal. I also went on Indeed and started searching for a job. I saved maybe 10-15 jobs to go back and apply for. All in all, so far it’s been a good week. I even got a nap in today.

This week I thought a lot about happiness. What is happiness? What makes other people happy? What makes me happy? I had a lot of questions and not a lot of answers.

The Ancient Greeks said that happiness is the joy that you feel when you’re striving after our own potential, and that you have to accept uncertainty. Ok, makes sense. But still pretty academic. Not really what I was looking for, but it’s a place to start.

The Ancient Greeks also said that there are two aspects of happiness – hedonia, or pleasure, and eudaimoniam or living a life well lived. Was I living a good life? Was I happy?

So I sat down and asked myself – what makes me happy? I wasn’t sure. Obviously my husband and my cats, but my work doesn’t make me happy, My friends make me happy, but due to the fact that most of my friends work with me in one department or another it’s practically impossible to coordinate schedules to do something or even just get lunch. So I asked a few of my friends – what makes you happy? I got all kinds of answers. And those answers made me think.

I got answers that hit all over the spectrum – great sex, puppies, raises, travel, friends, good conversations, success, strength, family, spouses, good food and wine, days off, good bras, coffee, and deep sea fishing to name just some of them.

Their answers really made me think – was I thinking too hard trying to find things that were deep and academic rather than looking around at the simple things.

So I sat down and rethought things. What makes me happy? My husband, my cats, my house, spending time with family and friends, spring, good food, good books, live music, baking, the smell of cookies in the oven, good TV shows, group watching TV shows and spending the next week discussing them via email, the smell of new books, kittens, purring cats, waking up after a good night’s sleep and not having to jump right out of bed.

See? There are things that make me happy. Maybe I was just thinking too hard. Maybe this exercise was good – it got me to stop and take stock of all of the good things around me that I take for granted.

It’s time to start taking my own advice

For years, through hardships and bouts of mental illness, through both bad times and good, my unofficial motto has always been “keep moving forward.”

I haven’t been following that. At all.

I’ve let my anxiety cripple me in a number of ways. I haven’t applied for a job in months – there’s always some excuse. My cover letter needs work, I’m not happy with my resume, it’s the holidays and no one is really hiring. There’s always an excuse. A reason not to do it.

I’m worried that I won’t find something. I’m worried that I spent all of this money and time on a degree that I’m never going to be able to use for one reason or another. Now it’s to the point where I’ve worked myself up so much about the whole thing that I’m literally crippled with fear about the whole process.

What if I’m not good enough? What if all of the work that I’ve done, all of the sacrifices I’ve made, leave me with nothing but huge student loan bills? What if I let my husband down? What if I do get a job and I’m really not cut out for it? What if, for the past three years, I’ve made nothing but bad decisions?

At this point, I don’t know what’s worse – failing at everything and letting everyone down, or facing my fear and actually succeeding. Because succeeding means facing all of my fears and powering through them. And that’s a terrifying thought.

It’s times like this I really hate mental illness and the fact that I’ve been burdened to carry the load. Sometimes I think I’m not strong enough to handle it. Sometimes I want to curl up in bed and wish the world away. But I don’t have that luxury. I manage to keep up with everything that needs to be done, but for whatever reason, I have a really hard time facing this.

But I have to face it. It’s time to stop letting the fear run my life. It’s time to take the reins again. It’s time to keep moving forward.

Happy New Year!

I’ve been severely neglecting this blog recently. I resolve to post more often. I’m paying for the domain, I might as well use it, right?

To catch up from the last few months, the new meds are working great. I’ve got some breakthrough anxiety, which I’ll address with my doctor this week, but generally speaking things, mood-wise at least, are going well.

Holidays are an especially anxiety-ridden time for me. Time with my family, time with the in-laws (although due to the weather we didn’t head across the state this morning. I think we’re shooting for February at this point once I’m off weekends again), Christmas parties with friends, Christmas party for work, and we had a wedding to go to in the middle of things. The bottle of Ativan came everywhere with me. I shouldn’t have to carry benzos with me to social functions just so I can get through the night without totally panicking. Luckily I only had to take one twice, and at the wedding, we left before that feeling of panic got too bad. So yeah, that’s an issue that needs to be dealt with. But in terms of bi-polar mood, things are going pretty good.

I still haven’t found a job. Granted, with the holidays I haven’t put much effort into looking. Between being busy and I know most places don’t really hire right around Christmas. I’ve spent some time retooling my resume and my cover letter, and have gotten help from Career Services on both, so I hope they’re ready. I need a new job sooner rather than later. Finances are one reason, I go back to nights in February is another (I’d like to be gone before that happens, although that’s probably a pipe dream), and to be honest I just don’t like my job anymore. I have a lot of mixed feelings about the company I work for; unfortunately, nothing I can get into here, but I have a hard time going to work every day.

I need to get moving on that front.

So that’s it for an update. Nothing major, just a lot of little stuff. But sometimes that little stuff adds up and the combination of them all can be a problem.

An update… of sorts

I’ve been pretty lax about updating recently. Things have been busy. I feel like my days off fill up before they even get started anymore. Which really sucks because I haven’t had a whole lot of downtime. Part of the reason is Mike and I have actually had some days off together, so things get put aside so we can spend some time together. It’s been nice. But nice doesn’t help get shit done.

I haven’t really applied for many jobs lately. Part of the reason is that it’s been so disheartening to have not found anything yet. But I’m making a promise to myself that I’ll set aside some time this weekend and really hit the job boards hard. Something has to shake out eventually, right? I’m about two weeks away from getting a part-time job at Sheetz just to pay my student loans.

I’m tired. Physically and mentally. Like I said, my days off have been go go go for so long and it doesn’t seem like that’s going to change at all anywhere in the near future. Ugh.

All I want for Christmas is a normal job, with normal hours, and a pay bump. Is that too much to ask?

Books and more

I’m still on the major reading kick, but I’ve slowed down a bit. Dan Brown’s new book The Origin sapped a lot out of me. While I like the early Dan Brown books (both his Langdon series and the stand-alones), I’ve become tired with his style and formulaic approach. I ended up skimming the second half of the book and then turning it over to Mike to read as he still really enjoys them. To each their own. He doesn’t denigrate my literary choices, and I don’t his.

I’ve literally had no time to look for a new job the past few weeks, which has been depressing. It’s just such a process to sit down and search, and then edit cover letters and resumes to try and tailor it to that position. Apply. Wait. Rinse. Repeat. I did get a line on a website to pick up some part-time hours doing proofreading and editing, so I’m going to look into that more thoroughly this week. We definitely need the added cash flow. We’re barely breaking even, if we are at all at this point. Fucking student loans.

My therapist claims that I’ve just about reached the point where we can say I’ve “graduated” from therapy. He’s been impressed with how I’ve jumped into using the techniques he’s been teaching me with both feet. To be fair though, a lot of this I already knew. It just seems like after the episode on August that I lost that skill and had to rebuild from almost scratch. The one thing I don’t like about the place where I get therapy is that a lot of the therapists have religious training of some sort, and reference God and whatnot. So far mine hadn’t done that, until this week. Being an atheist, I was trying really hard to roll my eyes, but I was unsure how to approach it say, ‘yeah, that doesn’t work for me’ without being rude. Then again, he technically works for me, so maybe it’s worth revisiting when I see him in a few weeks. Just a friendly reminder that I don’t buy in to that, and while I appreciate where he’s coming from it’s just not helpful. Maybe it’s better to let sleeping dogs lie, especially if I’m almost done with him barring a quick check in here or there. But their connection with Christian religion made me somewhat wary about being seen there in the first place. Something to think about.

I’ve had some interesting conversations with a few people this week that have confided in me that they suffer from mental illness. One in particular is insisting on treating her depression “holistically” under the treatment of a “healer” (whatever that is). She’s modified her diet to some diet she read about on the internet, is taking St. John’s Wort and Vitamin D, but she’s refusing to do any kind of therapy because she’s convinced herself that they’ll force her onto meds. Now, I have no problem with integrating diet and vitamins into treatment plans (hell, I take vitamin D every night during the winter and when I’m on night shift), but she is far from stable. And I’m not sure the diagnosis of just depression is completely accurate. But I’m not her, I gave my opinion when she asked me, and that’s that. She can do whatever she feels is right for her. I don’t have to agree with it. But I hate watching someone spiral out of control because they eschew psychiatric medicine or treatment. I’m aware that I’m one of those people that need the psych meds and probably always will. I don’t think everyone is in that same boat, but I also believe that there are times that forgoing treatment for is just an exercise in futility and that you’re more likely to watch your life crash and burn. I don’t know. I just hate watching people struggle when they don’t have to.

 

Anxiety, reading, and progress

I’ve been a reading fool the past few weeks. Now that things have settled down some, and my mood is back where it should be, I’ve dived into all the books that I’ve wanted to read for quite some time. One example is the Midnight, Texas series by Charlaine Harris. I really enjoyed the Sookie Stackhouse books, so after watching the Midnight, Texas show on NBC I figured I’d check them out. There’s three books in the series, and they’re easy reads that lets you dip your toes slightly back into that supernatural world. I read all three of the Robert Galbraith books, a few that I’ve been eying for a few months (namely Startup by Dorree Shafrir, and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid). Startup was… ok. I enjoyed it and the glimpse into startup culture (which I’m sure was highly fictionalized for the book), but the plot didn’t really get moving until the end, and then the story just… ended with some loose threads dangling. Wasn’t a big fan of that. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was also quite good, although not what I expected, admittedly. All the same I blew through both books in about a day and a half each.

Reading is very much my favorite way to unwind. If the book is good and well-written, it’s easy to get transported into another world for a short period of time. (Being that I’ve read 29 books this year, most of those since June, I’d say its one of my favorite ways to pass the time.) One of the issues I have with the Midnight, Texas books vs. show is that the character descriptions don’t match between the book and the show. Since I saw the show first that’s who I would picture while I was reading. But some of those characterizations were way off. I would have to consciously think, “no, that’s not what he’s supposed to look like” while reading that would jolt me out of the world.

Onto the bipolar-y goodness. Things have actually been pretty ok. Maybe even good. My moods are stable (my mood tracker shows me floating around in the “balanced mood” numbers). My anxiety is, at least to a degree, better under control, although still a concern. My biggest source of anxiety at this point is people and being around them. For me, being around a lot of people, people I don’t know, people that are drunk, being touched by people, is incredibly draining and anxiety-ridden for me. Mike and I went to a concert last weekend with a few of his friends. When the headliner came on stage people just absolutely crushed forward. After about three songs I told Mike I couldn’t do it and I’d be hanging out on the edge of the crowd where I didn’t feel like I was going to lose my mind surrounded by all those people.

One of the things that I’m working on with my therapist is training my rational mind to be more dominant and not let the emotional mind govern so much. Easier said than done. When I have one of these irrational thoughts, and I know this is going to sound weird, but I picture Leonard Nemoy as Spock, dressed as a crossing guard holding a stop sign and saying, “that is illogical” or “that is irrational” depending on what the thought it. As bizarre as this sounds, it helps to a degree. The thing that really sucks is I used to be able to do all of this, without even really thinking about it. But since that damned depressive episode in August I apparently lost this skill. It’s frustrating.

Things that make me deliriously happy

Every once in awhile I find it helpful to actually sit down and remind myself of all of the things that make me happy. This is one of those times.

  1. My husband
  2. My cats. I have a favorite of the four, but I’ll never divulge who it is.
  3. Sunrise when I’m coming home from my last night shift of the week.
  4. Apple pie
  5. Hockey
  6. Spending time with friends
  7. Fresh laundry (even though I hate doing it and folding it. The end product is worth it. Especially since I discovered Downey Unstoppables – they keep the laundry smelling fresh a lot longer)
  8. Lazy mornings in bed where I don’t have to get out immediately and can enjoy the comfort and warmth
  9. Reading and allowing myself to be transported to another world
  10. When things work out. Every once in awhile the universe aligns and everything just seems to fall into place.
  11. I just discovered that the keyboard on my laptop has a backlight that I can turn on
  12. Music
  13. Good meaningful conversations. I hate small talk, so being able to have a real meaningful conversation about whatever is rewarding
  14. When Newton curls up against my hip and watches TV with me just because he wants to cuddle
  15. Being able to relax because my to-do list is done
  16. Good food
  17. Doctor Who

This list is (I’m sure) far from complete, but this is what I was able to come up with in ten minutes. Sometimes it’s just good to have a little reminder, especially when a month and a half ago everything seemed so bleak.

Finally got the official anxiety diagnosis

My shrink for years has been wary of adding an “official” anxiety diagnosis. He believed that it was really a minor problem that reared its head only now and then. But I think the depressive episode that was literally brought on by anxiety opened his eyes a little bit. Not that in the grand scheme of things it matters, but on some level, it’s almost nice to know that it’s a recognized thing and not just a minor annoyance. My team recognizes that it’s actually a problem. Just having it acknowledged makes me feel less like I’m making something out of nothing. If that makes sense.

The Zyprexa has been a godsend. We upped the dosage a little bit at the last appointment, to 7.5 mg as I’m still getting what I call flashes of mood aberrations. Hours where I’m irritable to the point that I retreat back to the house and try not to interact with anyone as little as possible /(including the cats – yes, I can get irritable with them). Or maybe half a day of mild depression where the negative thoughts start to creep in. I’m able to beat them back for the most part, but the underlying feeling is still there. So we decided to increase the dosage by 50% to try and even that out.

Something happened recently that put my life in stark relief. Last year a friend of our’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma. She’s spent the last year in treatment, but at this point, she’s literally dying. The cancer has spread to the point where there’s nothing that can be done. It would give her a few more months at most. So she’s decided to stop treatment and just treat the pain. Part of me feels like such an asshole, thinking about all of the things that I’ve been worried and fretting about over the past few months. Money, jobs, all of the normal things that people worry about. But our friend is about to face the reality that he’s going to lose his wife. I know that people’s pain is an individual thing, we can’t quantify how much we love or how much pain we feel based on other people and their experiences. But I feel like my problems are so trivial compared to theirs. I feel guilty for being depressed for four weeks over nothing compared to what they’re going through. I know I really shouldn’t, but I do. I feel like despite all of our problems and worries, I still have a husband that loves me who I’d move the moon for, a nice little house, four great cats, supportive families, I don’t know. I feel like I don’t have the right to be depressed.