Category Archives: Mental Illness

Fighting Stress is a Contradiction in Terms

Go Away - Ya bother me

Go Away – Ya bother me

Since I have several journals on the burner at any given time, I tend to stumble upon things I’ve written sometimes months or even years ago. I’m a bit disorganized with my notebooks. I had chuckle thinking about how I would come across to someone who decided to posthumously recreate my life through my memoirs. I’ll be journaling along and turn the page to come across notes I scribbled years ago. I turned the page yesterday morning to find something I wrote back in April of 2012 that must have been bugging me at the time.

The entry was just a one liner “Fighting Stress is a Contradiction in Terms.” Think about it for a second. Most stress is the result of being stuck in fight or flight mode to begin with. To fight stress just stresses you out more. Much better to let go, take a step back, disengage, and look at the big picture. With my bipolar brain I can easily manufacture stress out of nowhere. Waking up on the wrong side of the bed is familiar to me, especially after a night of weird or bad dreams. Since many of them involve Mr. Husband I’m frequently afraid to share them with him because I don’t want to hurt his feelings.

However I’ve found that if I do trust the Hubman with nightmares as well as my dreams I feel much better afterwards. It’s a huge trust issue for me. I’ve always felt that if you tell people what you’re afraid of it gives them ammunition to scare you at inopportune moments.

The nightmare scenario that happened a few days ago was that Hubman came and told me that his secretary and her husband lost their house somehow. The solution was that we were going to give them our house and move in with his mother. I love my mother-in-law like my own mother. However the same as with my own mother, I sure as hell don’t want to live with her.

In the nightmare I announced that I was not OK with this and declared that I was going to leave. Mr. Hubman snarled “OK fine!” and then took a trash bag, went in my bathroom and started scooping the contents of the medicine cabinet and drawers into said trash bag. Oh, that really pissed me off, and then I woke up, thank God.

I told him about the dream and he laughed. Grrrrr. I demand to be taken seriously, even when I’m acting silly! He told me that when he left for college he knew he was never going back to his parents’ house…ever. He had no desire to live with them again, then or now. I think the thing that upset me most about the dream was that he made a major life decision that affected us both without consulting with me first.

So back to stress. I read somewhere that one of our founding fathers, but I don’t remember which one, I think it was Benjamin Franklin, had a system for handling worry. He would write things he was worried about on a slip of paper and put them in a teapot he kept for that purpose. Then every Wednesday afternoon he would take down the teapot, read the papers and worry then if needed. Usually it was not needed and most of his worries had resolved themselves on their own, or he had distanced himself enough to think of a solution.

I like that system. Maybe I’ll try it 🙂

Painter’s Block – Writer’s Block – Same Difference

writers block3 weeks ago I finally began my long-awaited art class. We’re talking waiting 50 years here. It’s odd because as compulsive as I can be I still manage to procrastinate for decades and in this case an entire half a century.

I’m loving this class and my mind is percolating with a gazillion ideas that I want to commit to canvas. Have I started even one yet? (other than the one in class) Nope. Then it occurred to me. Is this painter’s block? Oh crap. What the hell is wrong with me?

So I’ve dedicated the last 3 or 4 days to stewing about it. Had a minor spat with the Hubman that almost derailed my contemplation, but in the end it actually helped. As much as I claim to not care what people think – I really do care. ***sigh*** The spat occurred because I was holding in something that I should have gone ahead and spit it out before it festered.

So I went and sat down at my easel and stared at the blank canvas, sort of brain yoga session. What is stopping me from picking up a brush I wondered? Many things actually. Will someone think what I paint is stupid or weird or childish or inane? Will they think it’s proof that I need to be in a padded cell for the foreseeable future. Being branded as mentally disordered, this is always a nagging fear although I manage to push it into the background most of the time. Maybe I need to drag it out in the back yard and beat it with a broom? Air it out and stop trying to hide that fear.

This is the same exact thing that stops me from writing sometimes. Will someone read what I wrote say something like “oh, that’s…uh….nice.” And then roll their eyes behind my back? It has never really occurred to me before now how much courage it takes to be creative, for me anyway. Creating something means you are doing something that hasn’t been done in the exact same way you are doing it …ever. It might be similar, but never the same. That’s a scary thought.

The argumentative and negative piece of my brain comes up with the most ridiculous inner monologue. “You know this has been done before and better to boot. What makes you think you can do it? Why try to reinvent the wheel? Well, OK, Mr. Brain. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel here, I just want to paint a picture. It’s a HOBBY, meaning something done for pure relaxation and enjoyment. Why do I have to make things so friggin complicated?

 

Walking the Tightrope With Psych Meds

tightropeDealing with the need to take psych meds is like trying to walk a tightrope while juggling plates and playing an accordion. I hate having bipolar disorder, I really do. Yes, I know things could much worse, and I should be grateful. I could have some debilitating disease that had me bed ridden, in constant pain. But I don’t, I have what I have and I have to deal with it. I don’t always deal with it gracefully by a long shot.

All my evil little pill bottles have a warning on them “if you have forgotten to take your pill at a certain time, wait until it’s time to take the next dose, don’t take it now. OOOkkkKKK??!! #&^%(*@ But what do you do when you are freaking out NOW? I say “screw it!” and take them now. I’d rather get too sleepy and have to take a nap than go on a magic carpet ride of rage, depression, anxiety attacks, near catatonia and whatever the bipolar Bag 0’ Tricks has in store for me on any given day. I might be able to get away with riding it out if I had a storm bunker to lock myself in and hang a sign on the door saying “Warning! Bipolar cyclone raging within, enter at your own risk.” But I don’t and I don’t live alone and I have to leave the house occasionally. Being a hermit just depresses me more.

People who are not dealing with mood spectrum disorders tend to think “well hey, just take your meds and everything will be OK. What the hell is wrong with you anyway?” What is wrong with me??? Excuse me, but it doesn’t work that way. Taking meds “manages” a disorder; it is not a guarantee that you will never have a mood storm. It gives you a tool to fight with it. But meds can be a blunt instrument and it is extremely tricky finding a balance. Furthermore, just when you think you’ve found a balance your body decides to react differently to your meds, or worse, not respond to them at all. The balance is a moving target.

Sometimes I feel like Alice in Wonderland trying to figure out which side of the mushroom to nibble on. Too much and I blunder around in a stupor and do nothing but stare at the TV, unaware of what I’m even looking at. Not enough – I turn into a motor mouth and talk the ear off of anyone I can pin down, blissfully unaware that they are scrambling to get away from me. I also start eleventy seven projects at once and when I come to my senses I can’t figure out how to pick up where I left off.

I have those little days of the week pill cases that I fill up at the beginning of the week. They help, but sometimes it too much to face looking at an entire week’s worth of meds right under my nose. That’s when the thought creeps in “do I really need to be taking all this crap? Am I a drugged slave to big Pharma?” I have to be careful when asking these questions, because there is a never ending supply of people who are all too happy to inform me that I shouldn’t be taking meds at all, that I’m just weak or a dupe. I just need to meditate, do yoga, cut dairy out of my diet, dance naked under the full moon, etc.

That’s when I have to dig down deep and remember what it felt like when I was not taking meds. Oh sure I was “managing” it. Hanging on by my fingernails every day trying not to fall or jump into the abyss. I don’t want to live like that again. I guess it’s time to take my meds.

When You Have Gerbils in Your Brain

gerbilsBeing bipolar feels a lot like an extended family of gerbils moved into to your head, set up a condo and are having a non-stop party. There are some days that I can stay reasonable focused on one task at a time, but those days are few and far between. Most days I have the attention span of a gnat. “Oh look at the sky, I’m hungry, I want to go see X movie…right now, squirrel, need to do laundry, where did I leave my collection of paint brushes? And where the hell is that painting I’ve been working on? I have too many shoes again, where is that book I was just reading? Oh, the deposit slip I was using as a book mark is dated March 2011, so I guess I wasn’t just reading after all. I guess I’ll start over and read it from the beginning.

Get it? There is never ending bedlam going on in my head along with a running commentary on what I “should” be doing, or even what I should “want” to do. It takes practice and fortitude to come to grips with the fact that something I was absolutely obsessed with last week holds not even the slightest bit of interest to me today. I may go back to being obsessed with it next week or never be interested again, there’s just no telling how it’s going to play out.

I can go from crocheting granny squares for a blanket that will be complete in about 2025 to planning the rest of my life on an Excel spreadsheet in the blink of an eye. The good thing about both of these activities is that they are both works in progress and can sit and wait, happily ignored, for me to come back to them when I get around to it.

Sometimes I worry that living basically in the lap of luxury is one cause of my lack of focus. There is nothing that I must do or else…have no water to drink, no food, no shelter, children to care for, etc. Mr. Husband makes a decent living and pays the bills. I can pretty much do exactly as I please any time of the day or night. I found myself being rather embarrassed lately when a friend asked me how much our electricity was every month and I had to admit that I didn’t know. Hubman takes care of all that and I never even see the bills. He talks to me about the family business and seems to value my advice, so I’m sort of an impromptu consultant, but that is the extent of my participation

God Lord, am I living in my own private funny farm? That’s a scary thought. Will I end up sitting around all day weaving baskets and gluing macaroni to paper plates? Am I turning into some kind of sheltered old biddy who doesn’t even know how to gas up her own car? It’s something to think about.

I Slipped and Got Stuck In My Head

In gaining a deeper understanding of madness, we gain a deeper understanding of the core existential dilemmas with which we all must struggle, arriving at the unsettling realization of just how thin the boundary really is between madness and sanity.  Rethinking Madness – Towards a Paradigm Shift in Our Understanding and Treatment of Psychosis. Paris Williams Ph.D.

rethinking madnessWell this blog went dark for a week or so because of traumatic dealings with my daughter who is mentally ill and addicted to drugs. I sort of ran out of things to say and was starting to feel and sound unhinged, even to myself. As a result I went into hibernation mode. For a couple of days I was depressed and stayed in bed all day watching the entire 2 ½ seasons of Titus High Performance, a show that was on the Fox network years ago.

It’s a show starring Christopher Titus a stand-up comedian, and is loosely based on his life. He was raised by an alcoholic father and a manic-depressive, schizophrenic mother. He married a girl who also came from a dysfunctional family of Irish catholic alcoholics, the brother a burglar and a drug user, the sister constantly having babies by different men without being married, the younger sister selling drugs….you get my drift. One episode is a thanksgiving dinner that turns into in a food fight and escalates to a brawl and shootout and the entire family ends up in the emergency room covered with food, burns, a dislocated shoulder for Titus, bumps and bruises.

So anyway I watched this show to “ground” myself, as in I’m not the only one with an insane family of origin. Then the next day I started percolating into a rage of “I’m sick of this shit, I can’t take anymore.” I was so angry that I was shaking. I ended up screaming at the dishes in the dishwasher. “When all the dishes are clean there is no place to put anything!!!! We have too God damned many coffee cups!” Mr. Husband caught the tail end of this when he walked into the kitchen and I turned to him and yelled “STOP BUYING COFFEE CUPS!!!!” That just made his day, lemme tell ya. All he had really done was to cook a wonderful 4th of July dinner. So sorry Hubman, really I am.

In this down time I read a bunch of books about dysfunctional families, substance abuse, etc. There are many different perspectives on these issues. Then main thing I take away is that I’m not alone in this struggle and I don’t have to put up with unacceptable behavior from anyone, including from my children.

When I get extremely stressed out I tend to turn in on myself and get quiet and hide. Fortunately for those around me, I don’t turn actively psychotic and start throwing rocks at the neighbors or burn down the house. But inside my head there is all kinds of freaking and shrieking going on. I get stuck in a loop of repetitive thoughts. Things like what I’m going to say to my daughter next time she calls, and blah blah blah. It’s absolutely crazy making and exhausting.

The thing I realized is that when this happens I become physically and emotionally paralyzed and just sit there staring into to space or at the TV. Being a writer and budding artist I decided to sit down and try to get this out of my head and onto paper. That was an interesting development. I tried to draw a sort of combination infinity sign or yin yang. What I discovered was that I was having trouble making the 2 sides connect, how odd. But then I started writing in all the things going on in my head versus all things going on physically. When I was done I had a graphical representation of what was going on in my head. The revelation was that the mental side of the drawing had tons of stuff in it…fear, guilt, anger, frustration, apathy, boredom, while the physical side had not much of anything except ills such as a headache, stomach ache, neck pain and so on.

That’s when it hit me. God grief, I’m stuck in my head! I need to get out of here and start living in the physical world again. I need to get moving around and doing things again. I hate when I get stuck in my head. It’s like mental plumbing trouble. I wonder if there is such a thing as a laxative for my brain.

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