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.

This was the right decision

I quit my job almost three weeks ago now. It’s amazing the change. My mental health is more stable, my stomach and intestinal problems have just about gone away, my hair has stopped falling out, and I’ve lost ten pounds.

But my mood… oh my God I had forgotten what it was like to feel this good. I actually called my shrink the other day because I thought I was getting a little hypomanic-y. He told me he didn’t think so – I’m just feeling “normal.” I’m still sleeping normally, eating normally, not talking fast, not starting any crazy new projects, not irritable, none of my normal signs. I just feel… good. It’s scary.

Which got me to thinking – how screwed up is that I don’t know what it feels like to truly feel good? As soon as my mood goes up, I immediately start to worry that we’re on the edge of a hypomanic (if not full out manic) episode. I’m well aware that my normal “baseline” mood is kind of apathetic. I go through the motions, not depressed, but just kind of plugging along. But as soon as my mood starts to shift up I start to panic. Why shouldn’t I be happy? Why would I not deserve to be happy? I think that’s the problem I’m really wrestling with.

At the end of the day, I feel like a failure. I know I’ve accomplished a lot in my life, I shouldn’t feel like it’s been a colossal disaster. I know that disease that’s inside my brain has warped my thinking to make me feel that way. I know that that’s not true, it’s not reality. But I can’t seem to convince my brain of that.

It’s still a war I’m fighting every day, even under the guise of “stability.” It’s a war that seems like it will never end. But all I can do is keep soldiering on, hoping that things will get better. But how do you win a war that’s being waged inside your own head?

I did it

I quit my job. God, I feel so liberated. The stress immediately melted off. My anxiety was reduced to almost nothing. My mental health almost immediately rebounded. I feel SO MUCH better.

Granted, things are going to be a little tight until I find a new one, but we decided that ultimately my mental health was more important than a paycheck. I think we both knew that I was on the verge of a breakdown. I had told my psychiatrist earlier in the week that my mood felt very brittle. I was soldering through and maintaining, but it wouldn’t have taken me much to break. And it was going to be a big break. Bigger than last year. And I couldn’t have told you which direction it was going to go.

So we talked, and I sent an email.

It’s done. And it feels. So. Good.

I had forgotten what it was like to be out from under all of that stress. I feel human again. I’m sleeping better, I’m eating better, I feel like a new person.

The last week has been filled with getting our ducks in a row, but starting tomorrow the job hunt begins full throttle.

Do you know where your llama is?

It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? I worked 26 days straight between the two jobs, and by yesterday I was dead. I was exhausted, had a low-grade fever, my stomach was acting up… I ended up calling off for the last day of that stretch. I just couldn’t do it. I ended up sleeping on the couch until 4 PM. Clearly, I needed it, because I don’t sleep like that unless I’m sick or dealing with an episode. All looks clear on the mental health front, so I’m guessing it was just due to overwork and my body finally said “hell no” to another day working. I ended up doing nothing the whole day, other than finally finishing Broadchurch and making some progress on The Crown, and it was glorious. I never got out of my pajamas, I ate leftover pizza and generally was a lump on the couch.

I was talking with a friend of mine about anxiety (she suffers, too), and about how it’s constantly the monkey on our back. I know personally, even when my bipolar is in control and I’m in a euthymic mood state, the anxiety is still there. It gnaws at me constantly, telling me how everything I do is wrong and how all I’m going to do is screw up everything in my life. It ends up with a lot of self-sabotage. For example, I almost walked out of my full-time job a few weeks ago. It was one of those nights where nothing was going right and we were getting killed, and I was convinced that I was going to be fired for some (probably) minor thing that in reality, I had no control over. My thought process was that it was better to do it myself rather than wait for the hammer to fall. And you know what? I didn’t get fired. Nothing really went all that wrong that night, but at the time, it felt like everything I did was the wrong thing. That niggling voice in my head convinced that this was it. The end of the line.

But it’s funny what anxiety can convince you of – you’re going to be fired, your husband is going to leave you, the house is going to be foreclosed on (ignoring the fact that you haven’t missed a payment), you’re never going to find a job in your field that pays enough, your friends don’t actually like you, and on and on and on. I know that none of these thoughts are rational, and I’ve spent a hell of a long time in therapy learning to identify these thoughts and brush them aside. But when you’re in the throes of it, it’s so damn hard to keep a clear head and remember the things that you’ve learned. That little, annoying voice gets louder and louder and louder until it blocks out any rational thought, and all your left with are these thoughts jumping around inside of your head that you know, on some level at least, are false. But you can’t make them shut up.

When you’re finally back to your rational mind you know that everything that your brain has been feeding you is false. But it all felt real. It sounded plausible. It made sense. And you feel like a crazy person for ever having believed it.

This is the monkey on my back. This is anxiety for me. And I wish I knew a way to make it shut the hell up once and for all.

A little bit of everything – work, music, books, mood, and suicide

I don’t think I’ve ever been so busy in my life. Between the two jobs I’m working between 70 and 80 hours a week. The money is good and is definitely helping our financial situation. But good grief, I’m practically never home. I sleep there. Maybe spend an hour or two trying not to fall asleep before it’s time for bed so I can spend some time with Mike or getting caught up on email, or both at the same time.

We have made some time over the last few weeks to see a few concerts – The Wrecks (who if you’ve never heard of them go give them a listen) toured with The Stolen and The Orphan The Poet (who have both made it into the music rotation in the car and at work), and then Thirty Seconds To Mars toured with practically all of the big bands from Sirius’s AltNation. Both great shows. We first encountered The Wrecks about 18 months ago at a Nothing But Thieves show, and I’ve kept up with them since. They’ve easily become one of my favorite bands, and we dragged my brother and a few friends to the show. Good time was had by all. The Thirty Seconds to Mars show was just me and Mike, which was nice having some time that was just us. Despite a few annoyances due to the weather and a few of the people around us we had a really good time. Walk the Moon absolutely killed it; we’ll definitely go see them again if they come around again, headlining or opening.

Despite being busier than all shit and constantly on the move my mood and anxiety haven’t been that bad. There was some drama at my full-time job (I mentioned it last post) but that seems to be over. I got a nice big reprimand, but bottom line I can’t screw up again. I’ve decided between that and some other things that are going on I really need to make a point to find a new job and soon. I need to prioritize the job hunt and get that moving.

Anyway, yeah. My mood has overall been pretty good. I’m tired as hell, but I’m still getting a normal amount of sleep so it’s not like I’m sleep-deprived or not sleeping enough. But this constant motion means I don’t get a lot of downtime.

I need to get back to reading. I was blowing through books for a while there, and I seem to have stalled out on Undeniable by Bill Nye. It’s not that it’s not interesting, it is, I’m just not as engaged with it as I was Neil Degrasse Tyson’s Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. Maybe I need to take a break from the science books and read something a little more fun and one that doesn’t require as much active thinking. Between that and the Truman biography I’m reading, while both interesting, there’s not a lot of “getting lost in the story” kind of thing going on. It probably also doesn’t help that the Nye book isn’t written for people that have a four-year degree in the sciences. It’s written for more of a basic understanding.

I wasn’t going to bring it up, since they’ve been talked about ad nauseum, but someone recently asked me what I thought about the Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. They were horrible. It’s horrible when anyone feels that the only way out of their pain is to kill themselves. Whether it’s an 11-year-old who is being bullied of a 60-year-old fashion designer that seems to have everything. For days after both Facebook and Twitter were full of infographics with suicide statistics and numbers for suicide hotlines. But I know from personal experience that when you’re depressed it is literally the hardest thing in the world to reach out and ask for help. Last August when I was stuck in the pit of despair it took more effort that I knew I had in me at the time to reach out to my psychiatrist and to find a therapist. I had even called the local crisis network and the whole thing was exhausting. And then when it turned out that my psychiatrist was out of town for the next week I couldn’t handle it. Everywhere I reached out I wasn’t able to actually get any help. I wasn’t suicidal so checking myself into the hospital wasn’t an option (believe me, I asked), my shrink was out of town so an emergency appointment and possible med change was out of the question at least until he got back. And I had to wait to go even make an appointment with a therapist (I didn’t have one at the time) until I went through an intake interview. Only one person reached out during that month to see if I was ok. I had basically disappeared from everything, I went to work because I had to, but I did my job and didn’t say much and I found out later that everyone knew something was wrong but no one knew what. Fucking ask. Sometimes just having a person to just talk to can be the best thing in the world when you’re that low. Even if you don’t talk about what’s going on – talk about the latest Marvel movie or the newest episode of Chicago Med. Talk about the fucking weather. Just to have someone engage with you can lift your mood, even temporarily, and make it so you don’t feel like you’re the only person in the world and nobody cares. Just a connection, even for a momnt, to someone else.

I was greatly saddened by both Kate Spade’s and Anthony Bourdain’s passing. One of the things I had promised myself is that when I got a big girl job I was going to buy a Kate Spade bag with my first paycheck (or parts of it, two, and three). And while I wasn’t a religious follower of Anthony Bourdain’s shows, I did watch them when they were on and I wasn’t invested in anything else. But more than anything it makes me sad that a person can feel that much pain and despair.

I’ve heard a number of people say that suicide is the coward’s way out. But I really don’t agree with that. And I’m probably going to get a lot of flak for saying this, but I think that suicide is the act of someone desperate. Desperate to make the pain stop. Desperate for it to end. Not necessarily for their lives to end, but for the way that they feel to end. If you haven’t experienced that kind of soul-crushing depression you can’t understand why someone would see suicide as the only solution. I empathize with them, I sympathize with them, and I can completely understand why someone would think that that’s their only and best option.

It makes my heart hurt to think about someone suffering that much.

You do what you have to do

Ok, so. Yeah. I got that second job, which means I don’t have a ton of free time anymore (my next “day off” is the day of my brother’s graduation in two weeks. So not a real day off). But so far I’m doing pretty good. The 2nd job is (for me) very low stress. I’m literally just a cashier at a big box store. Honestly, if people think that this is stressful, they should come work at my primary job for a day.

My mood has been holding pretty steady. Only minor ups and downs. I don’t think I’m going to want to get off of the Zyprexa anytime soon, despite what my shrink might want. I don’t remember ever feeling this good that’s not part of an episode. I’m not hypomanic by any stretch of the imagination, I just can’t imagine people feeling this way without the help of pharmaceuticals.

My anxiety is ok. The second paycheck is helping greatly. I had a fuckup at work recently so I’m sure I’m going to be raked over the coals for that one, but I’m not in full panic mode over it. There’s literally nothing that I can do about it now. It’s done. I’ll take my punishment like a man and move on. Be more careful next time. Don’t fuck up again.

I hate to admit it but I haven’t had a whole lot of time to look for a job. I’m hoping I can get to do that a bit this weekend. I need to get back on that and not let that be the thing that falls through the cracks. Laundry, keeping the house presentable, even making sure there’s food in the house – those can all go by the wayside. These are things where Mike can pick up the slack. But looking for a job – that still has to be a high priority. So it’s time to make that happen this weekend.

So overall things are pretty good. At the end of the day this will all be a learning experience about money management, budgeting, and how to work as a team. As much as things suck right now, they’re really not all that bad compared to how things could be, and I think in some weird twisted way it’ll all be good for us and me.

A shift in perspective

So I’ve been on a bit of a reading tear this week. I think I’ve read three books in the last week? Maybe four. I’ve lost count at this point.

But one book really stuck out for me – The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson. I bought it on a whim a few months ago – it was on display at the front of Barnes and Noble, had a pretty orange cover, and I thought, ‘yeah, I could do with learning how to not give a fuck.’

But that’s not what this book is about. It’s about changing the way you think so there’s less negativity in your life. Instead of thinking ‘I hate my job,’ think ‘this might not be my ideal job but it’s a good job with a good salary and I do meaningful work.’ When I think about my job that way I feel less depressed. It also talks about how solving problems is where happiness comes from – the successes you have in life are what drives happiness. That kind of thinking makes sense to me. I’m not big on self-help books – most of them are pretentious in an ‘I know better than you’ kind of way and are not helpful at all. This was a quick read who freely admits that he doesn’t know it all and he doesn’t necessarily know better than you. I’m trying to shift my way of thinking and little by little it seems to help.

Tomorrow I start a second job. I’m not thrilled about this prospect, but we’re broke. And I work 4 on, 4 off. Working three of those four days off makes sense. So back to retail it is. When I left the retail job I worked in college I really thought, this is it. No more retail. Ever. But here we are. But I have to do what I have to do. Even though it’s not what I want. But it’s for the best. I’ll make do, I always do. And at least it’ll be hard to get stressed – my full-time job has taught me what real stress is.

We shifted my medication about a month ago – we lowered the dosage of the Zyprexa because I had gained almost 30 pounds in six months. I literally couldn’t stop eating. But on the flip side, I felt the best I had felt in years. I didn’t know it was possible to feel that good. Even on the lower dosage I still feel pretty damn good, but I’m no longer eating a planet five times a day. I mean by all rights I should be depressed. But I’m not. I’m soldiering on. Getting what I need to get done, done. There might be some signs of mild depression – not doing my hair and makeup like I normally do, sleeping a bit more, but it’s nothing that I would really consider a real depression, or even a mild one.

But at the end of the day I’m going to do what I do best – do the best thing I can for myself and my small little family, take care of my mental health, and the rest can go bugger off.

Cautious optimism

I’m not an optimistic person. At best, I’m a realist. At worst, I’m a pessimist. It depends on the day, really. Any optimism that I feel is cautious, at best, like I’m waiting for the shoe to drop. But I’m starting to feel the beginnings of that cautious optimism. I have an interview on Tuesday for a part-time job, and I had a recruiter contact me about a job at one of the local hospitals (which I have applied for and am hoping to hear something this week *fingers crossed*). After how many months of fighting to stay afloat, let alone on top, could the end be in sight?

I don’t know if it’s a product of the bipolar, or if it’s just how I am, but I never expect things to work out. No one was more shocked than me (well, I may have been the only one that was shocked) when Mike actually married me. I’m always surprised when things go the way they should – that I finished college, got married, got a good job, bought a house, finished my MBA… I’m always waiting for something to go wrong. And don’t get me wrong, things haven’t been totally smooth sailing, but things generally have gone well.

Maybe it’s a coping mechanism so I’m not disappointed when something doesn’t happen. Maybe I just expect things to go wrong because I feel like that’s what I deserve. Maybe that’s something to look more into in therapy.

In the meantime, fingers crossed, anxiety begone.