“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?

Ugh.

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!

I really don’t have anything to say today

I’m drawing a blank tonight. There’s nothing that springs to mind that I want to write about, or even to get off of my chest.

A girl I used to work with asked me to be a reference for her. That was kind of flattering. But I also realize that she can’t ask anyone she currently works with as that company has the bad habit of firing people that they hear are looking for a new job. I hope she gets it. She’s a good kid, and has worked hard.

A friend of mine had a baby recently, and she contacted me the other day about rehoming her 4 cats because she doesn’t have time for them and she’s scared to have them around the baby. Let’s be honest, it’s probably more of part B and less of part A. I’m trying really hard not to judge her. I’m sure it’s a tough spot to be in. But I’m a big believer that adopting a pet is just like getting married – for better or worse. You figure out a way to make it work when times get tough. You don’t just… give up. I’m trying so hard not to judge, but I’m disappointed. Very disappointed.

Mike surprised me with an early Christmas present and bought me a new Apple Watch. I had been rocking the series 2 for the last three and a half years, and it was on it’s last leg – didn’t hold a charge, I had to turn off all of the notifications to try to save what little battery I had. It pretty much told time, and that was it. When it had a charge, that is. I swear, it spent more time in Power Saving Mode than anything else. So he decided to use his bonus to upgrade me to a fancy, new Series 5. I feel so fancy. And all of my notifications are back. I’m excited.

I’ve… got nothing else.

I’m still just plugging along as best as I can. Is this stability?

The beauty of melatonin

My sleep sucks. There’s no other way to describe it. I wake up in the middle of the night, I sleep through my alarm to the very last second I can because I wake up exhausted, I have a hard time falling asleep, etc. I’ve had these melatonin gummies for months now, always scared to take them because I worry I won’t wake up on time in the morning.

I started taking them this week because I’m downright exhausted all day and my quality of sleep is absolutely awful.

I’m getting the best sleep I have in years. I’m falling asleep quickly, sleeping through the night, and actually waking up before my alarm goes off. I’m waking up a little groggy, but once I get going I feel much better than I have in a long time.

Makes me wonder why I waited so long to do this.

Oh yes. The fear and anxiety.

I think the key is going to be getting to bed early when I have to be up early (something I do any way) and really letting myself get a full 7-8 hours.

But I was thinking about it this morning – I was letting my anxiety keep me from a good night’s sleep. So my train of thought went to what else does my anxiety keep me from doing?

I have a list:

  1. going to parties
  2. going new places
  3. trying new things
  4. meeting new people
  5. starting a new job (I’m convinced that part of the reason it took so long for me to find a new job was unintentional self-sabotage – applying with the wrong resume, making mistakes on the resume, unintelligible cover letters, flubs on phone interviews, etc.)

I have a lot of anxiety about a lot of things. Really thinking about it, there’s not a lot of things that I don’t have anxiety about.

In my professional life my anxiety keeps telling me that I can’t do it, I’m not cut out for it, I’m going to fail. In my personal life it’s you have no friends, your relationships are going to fail, you’re going to be alone.

Reading that last paragraph I realized that I think and write about my anxiety as a separate part of me. Like it’s not really part of me, but rather someone or something else inside of my head.

But anyway, all of this anxiety eventually leads to depression. Which eventually kicks back to a mixed or hypomanic episode.

I hate mental illness. It’s like an unending game of Russian Roulette. Which chamber has the bullet? How many chambers are there – 2 or 15? What kind of bullet does the chamber have in it – anxiety, depression, mixed, hypomanic? Do I have to shoot myself in the head? Can I try it in foot, this time, maybe?

Ugh.

I hate that this is something that so many of us have to deal with. I hate that so much of our lives is spent monitoring our moods, feelings, thoughts, etc. just waiting for one errant thought or action to send the whole house of cards tumbling down. I hate that the space inside of my head is so disorderly that I can’t even imagine a way to organize it. The funny part of that is that I’m typically so hyperorganized and together.

Well, I’m going to go clean the oven because that’s something I can control.

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.

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?

A new addition and my first few days on the job. For real this time.

Picture taken from pexels.com

We adopted a new cat. We were not in the market to adopt a new cat, not by a long shot. I mean, we already have four. Five would just make us those people with all of the cats. But this little guy really tugged at my heart. He had been at the shelter I volunteer at for almost his whole life – about 1.5 years. He was originally brought in because he was feral, and someone saw a car clip him and took him in to make sure he was ok. He was, other than being shaken up and a little bruised, so they nursed him back to health, clipped his ear, and planned on setting him free again. It became clear very early that he was not going to survive being outside on his own. He didn’t know how to take care of his fur (it’s fairly long), and even while in the shelter began to get very matted. He was also incredibly shy and not assertive at all. Then they had to pull most of his teeth after he got an infection. So no releasing this dude to the wild.

While at the shelter he often slunk to the back, too shy to come out and say hello. As such, no one wanted to adopt him. Everyone wants that cat that comes right out to them to get pet and purr. So he got passed over time and time again for adoption. But in my time there he became very comfortable with me. I’d come in and he’d immediately come out and say hello and ask for pets. In talking to the staff I learned that he wasn’t doing well in the shelter. His shyness was putting him at the bottom of the pecking order and he was just suffering. So we decided to bring him home. So far, so good. We still have some bridges to cross, but we’re all doing okay.

On to other things.

I’ve been at the new job and actually at the new job, and not in classroom training for a few days. So far it’s going well. My trainer and I had a real talk today, as there are two other women in training with me, and she told me that she’d be spending the most amount of time with me of the three of us as I have the least amount of actual management experience. Read: none.

That made me feel a lot better about the situation as both other women keep trying to push themselves forward. I get it, I really do. But when there are three of us training together, and we all come from different backgrounds, sometimes you have to step back and let someone else have her time. I feel better though – she knows I’m going to need the most “hands on” training, and she also commended me for jumping in when something needs to be done (that I can do), and I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty.

So far, all good things.

I’ve got a long road ahead, and today was a hard day, but so far I really like it. I think that in the long term this is going to be a good thing.

My mental health has been pretty good, actually. I think finally having the first step of my career sorted and started has been a big boost. Some of my anxiety about the new job is subsiding, although what my shrink calls a “healthy” amount still remains. As he said, if I was feeling no anxiety at all then it would mean I’m too much medication.

It’s a hard realization that having some anxiety about certain things is normal, even healthy. I’ve been carrying around so much anxiety with me for so many years that it’s weird to not be on the brink. My bipolar and depression seems to be under control. I feel like I’m finally in a good place.

Now I feel like it’s time for the other shoe to drop. Things typically don’t go well in my life for very long.

Myths and legends

I think it’s always important to review some of the myths about things, especially if it’s something important that affects you directly. So I found online a number of myths about mental health, and I’m going to address each one.

1/ Mental health problems don’t affect me.

I think by now that most of us at the very least know someone that’s had at least a run-in with mental illness. I think it’s something like 20% of American adults have, at least once in their life, experienced a mental health issue. This might be depression after a major trauma that eventually resolves itself, anxiety during a specific period of their life where they were under a lot of stress, or maybe a chronic illness that requires life-long treatment.

If you really honestly believe that you know no one that’s dealt with a mental health illness then you are either entirely unperceptive, not trusted with this information by those close to you, or living in a cave somewhere. I think that most of the people that I know have dealt with this in some form or another, either with themselves or someone that they love.

2/ Children don’t experience mental health problems.

When I was in college I volunteered with a lot of community medical programs and support groups. In a lot of these groups were parents with a child struggling with mental illness – anxiety, OCD, depression, eating disorders, etc. and they were there to learn how to support their kid through it, or looking for resources, or maybe just looking for someone in the same shoes as them – someone that gets it.

I know from personal experience that my battle began when I was in my mid-teens. It wasn’t diagnosed until I was almost 20, but knowing what I do now, a lot of my behavior and thought patterns were definitely a product of mental illness. I think I wasn’t diagnosed earlier because back in the late-90s, people just didn’t know what to look for. It wasn’t diagnosed in teens as much, and back then people really did have a completely different view of things. Luckily my parents learned from the experience, and when my (very much younger) brother started exhibiting signs when he was a pre-teen, they immediately got him into treatment.

3/ People with mental health problems are violent and unpredictable.

How often do we still deal with this stereotype? We’re not murders, or rapists. We don’t assault random people walking down the street. In fact, people with mental illness are greatly more likely to be victims of crime, especially violent than psycho-typical people. I have to wonder if it’s because so many people with mental illness are still are still marginalized by society and forced into situations that aren’t safe – living on the streets, being stuck in an abusive relationship, and so forth.

4/ People with mental health problems, even those who are managing their illness, cannot tolerate the stress of holding down a job.

It’s true that sometimes we need to take a break from work to manage an episode, get our feet back under us, etc. But by and large, most people with mental illness are productive members of society that hold jobs of all sorts, volunteer in their community, and have families. I remember when I was first diagnosed my mom crying to my stepdad that no one could know – my life would be ruined if people knew.

Now? I’m moving to a new job into a management position, I volunteer, I have a family. I keep the house running. Sure, there’s stress, but I manage it effectively through the help of pharmaceuticals and therapy. I’m a contributing member of society, and personally? I think that I’m doing a damn fine job.

5/ Personality weakness or character flaws cause mental problems, and people with mental illness can snap out if it if they try hard enough.

Of all of the myths on this list, this one pisses me off the most. I know a number of weak-willed people that don’t suffer from mental illness. In fact, some of the strongest people that I know have dealt with mental illness for at least a time in their life, if not chronically. We deal with it day in and day out and choose to keep going.

“Maybe if you exercise and get some sun you’ll feel better.” I just want to punch these people in the face. Gee! Why didn’t I think of that? Why am I wasting all of this money on meds and therapy and appointments with my shrink when this was the answer all along! /s Ugh. I hate these people.

6/ There is no hope for people with mental health problems. There is no hope of recovery.

Sure, there may not be “recovery” for a lot of us, and we’ll be dealing with these problems for the rest of our lives, but they can be managed and allow us to lead productive lives. See #4.

7/ Therapy and self-help area waste of time. Why bother when you can just take a pill?

For most of us those pills are the Holy Grail. I admit that freely. But these pills allow us to be able to tackle the issues that we deal with in therapy. So yeah, the pill helps. But the journey to wellness is really through therapy.

So yeah. Myths and my responses. Your mileage my vary, as always, with my thoughts, but I feel like addressing these kinds of myths and fighting back against them is, in a way, our duty.

I think I may have done it

Both interviews today went really well. The one this morning was the big one – the final interview for a position I’ve been interviewing for for two months. Ultimately, we decided (mutually), that the position I was interviewing for wasn’t a good fit yet. I needed some experience at a slightly lower level and then I’d be ready. So she verbally offered the job, pending a background check. After that’s done, they can send an official offer letter. All of the interviewing is done. Now it’s just paperwork.

I think this is a good thing. I had really questioned the sanity of putting me in a position, after completing two years of training, mind, with little to no experience. Jumping straight into a store manager role, to me, makes no sense. There’s a lot of experience and learning opportunities I’d miss out on if that was what was going to happen. She agreed. So we’re starting a step lower than that. I’m perfectly happy with that as over the last few weeks I thought about how much stress it would put me under, even in a training program, to jump right into the deep end. I have no doubt I could do it, but I feel that this is a much better turn of events. I’m happy, my parents are happy, the few friends I’ve told are happy… everyone is happy.

I did the second interview, just to keep my options open. And I have to say, I’ve gotten really good at answering the question when they ask why, after a degree and almost a decade in science I went back to get my MBA. I’ll come back to this in a minute, but I felt as though it was important to do this interview – what if something at the first company fell through? What if I needed another option? I don’t want to close a door before it even opens. Besides, doing another interview would continue to hone my skills.

This position is definitely not a good fit. 85% travel or more. The money would be good, but it’s a high stress job that would require me to do a lot of sales work from cold calling, which is something I really don’t want to do. But I’m keeping it in my back pocket if I need it.

Let’s chat for a minute about why I left science.

I love science. I still read up on new research and developments. As it turns out, I really hate bench work. The work is monotonous, at my last job we worked in teams of 2 in a basement with no windows. Especially at night you had no concept of time or the night passing. If no one came into the lab and you were too busy to get out to the other department that was there at night, unless someone came in you literally saw no one other than the one person that you were working with. There was little to no room for a career advancement. To make matters worse, where I worked was at the top of the pay scale for tech jobs. I was never going to go anywhere and make even 80% of what I was making there. I was up against a wall.

To make matters worse, my mental health really suffered there. My anxiety was constantly ramped up due to the culture of “make a mistake, lose your job.” They expected robots, both in and out of work. You were expected to sacrifice your family life and quality of life for them. To be honest, the whole experience really soured me on working in a lab and even in certain sections of healthcare. Which stinks, because I really like the field. Maybe some day I’ll use that part of my MBA, but at least as of right now, I have no desire to.

Anyway, because of the anxiety I was always on the edge of an episode. I can think of three mixed episodes and four depressive episodes off of the top of my head over the six years I was there. There was probably even more minor blips, but that’s seven in six years. That’s not stable. That’s always on the edge.

It is so not worth it to work in a toxic environment like that. The price that you pay is far from worth it. I don’t care if it’s in science, retail, healthcare, sales, culinary – it flat out isn’t worth it if you’re miserable all of the time.