I think it’s time for some serious self-reflection

So, so far this blog has been largely about my struggles with mental health. Looking back at past entries, I tend to do some stream-of-consciousness self reflection. That’s great. It’s helped me more than a few times to flesh out some things that are going on so I can better communicate things to my treatment team. I can’t begin to say how helpful that has been for all involved, and I encourage those of you that sometimes have a hard time putting things into words (like myself), to think about journaling or blogging just to get your thoughts out of your head and onto a medium where you can examine them. Sometimes just putting thoughts and feelings into words make things more clear.

Anyway. That was way off of the point. (But my advice stands.)

So what I’ve decided to do in the next kind of series of posts, is really dive down into my motivations for doing things, the results I expect (or expected), my current feelings on things, etc. I need to get to know myself. Somewhere over the last few years I seemed to have lost sight of myself and what really makes me tick. Why do I do the things that I do? Are the reasons for doing them good, or valid? Or are they just things that I happen to… do.

First up, since I just got done with a workout and things are fresh in my mind, is my motivation for changing my eating habits, getting healthy, and losing weight.

When I started watching what I was eating and was planning on starting to work out, I told every one that my main motivation was to get healthy. I was overweight, had a high risk for developing type 2 diabetes, my eating habits were awful, I didn’t exercise past what running around and lifting I did at work, and all I saw in my future was heart disease, diabetes, weight loss surgery, and on and on.

All of this is true.

But.

At the heart of it, I hated the way that I looked. While yes, all of the health issues are a concern, I hated that I was fat. At my last job, I worked a lot of overnights. What do you do when you’re bored and stuck at work at 3 AM? Yep. You eat. And you don’t sit there and eat a tangerine. You eat chips, cookies, soda, Sheetz breakfast sandwiches and snacks. Carbs, sugar, fat.

I’ve always had a very unhealthy relationship with food. As a kid I was a very picky eater. I later came to find it was because my family can’t cook themselves out of a paper bag and would only eat at the same 5 restaurants. Since meeting my (chef) husband, he has introduced me to the wonderful world of food. And once I realized that food is, for the most part, delicious I gained the confidence to get out on my own and try things without his guidance. I would eat until I was so full I could barely move. I would get so bloated that I looked like I was 7 months pregnant. And more than one person over the last few years asked when I was due. Yeah, that was awkward.

So point 1 was learning portion control, healthy alternatives to some of my favorites, and learning that it’s okay to still eat crap once in awhile, but do it in moderation and don’t eat 1500 calories in one sitting.

Point 2 was getting active again. I bought the Body Boss Method program. I know it’s not the greatest program out there, but it gave me a regimented program that I knew that I could commit to.

Since February I’ve lost a little more than 20 pounds.

I have one chin again. And I feel better. I have more energy. And you know what? When I was teetering on the edge of an episode last month I was able to pull myself back and refocus.

But there’s still a lot to unpack here.

Yes, I want to look better. I want clothes to fit better. I want my husband to find me attractive. And yes, I’m going to say it. I want other people to find me attractive. I miss the way I looked when I was 26. I miss the way people reacted to me when I was 26.

There’s so many messages in the media about how you should look, and I’m going to admit that my mind can be very impressionable when it comes to these things. I’d see people on TV or in the movies or in ads, and then I’d look at myself in the mirror, and I would be disgusted by what I saw. (We’re going to come back to this in another entry, so keep it somewhere in the back of your head.) I hated everything about myself. We wouldn’t have sex unless the lights were low, if not off. I wore baggy clothes. I lived in hoodies this winter using the convenient excuse that I worked in retail, in a dirty job, and the store was cold. It shouldn’t come at as any big surprise at this point that I have incredibly low self-esteem. I see very few things in myself that are positive or even desirable. I don’t understand why people are friends with me. And all of the noise coming from the TV and computer screens were not helping at all.

But how do you turn that off? Truth is, you can’t. There will always be TVs, and movies, and Instagram. So you have to figure out a way to find your truth.

And you know what? I am feeling healthier, and fitter, but I’m also looking better. And while I’m still doing Body Boss (starting week 3 of my second time through pre-training before I tackle the “actual” program this week), I’m also going to slowly start training to run a 5k. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years, but I never felt like I could do it. I do now.

And while I’m still doing this from a physical standpoint, I also am enjoying the health benefits from it.

I really need to start planning out these entries rather than writing whatever comes into my head when it comes into my head. I’ll try to do better next time. =)

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 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.

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?

I disgust myself

Over the past number of years, because of the lithium, risperdal, poor eating habits, and just not going to the gym like I should, I’ve put on 40 pounds. As much as I’d love to blame the meds for all of it, I really can’t if I’m being honest with myself.

So it’s time to take some action.

I’ve been eating better over the last few weeks – cooking healthier lunches for work ahead of time, not stopping at Sheetz on the way home from work, etc. I have a gym membership, I just really don’t use it. (I’m paying for the thing, I really should get down there a few times a week and make use of it.) I definitely need to watch portion size – doesn’t do any good cooking healthy meals if I eat twice what I should.

But it’s time to really knuckle down and do something about it. I’m not going to run out and do some fad diet or the 21 Day Fix or some other trendy diet. Just good old fashioned eating better and hard work.

I know that the meds are going to make it hard to lose the weight, and honestly? If it’s really that bad I may ask to switch them to something that weight gain isn’t the most prominent side effect. It would be better for my physical and mental health to drop the 40 pounds on a different medication than to keep carrying it around.

So new trend starts today.