Recovery

Recovery is an ongoing process. There is no end. It’s often day by day. At times, it can be hour to hour.

As outlined in my last two posts, I’ve been in a bit of a bad way. Bipolar disorder manifests in me in a seasonal way, and when the seasons change, I often get symptoms. These have been quite mild for years lasting only a few days. This time was different, and I think it was caused by all the changes happening at work that I’ve also written about.

I was hypomanic for a while, and then just simply unstable with various symptoms like rage, extreme irritability, hypersexuality, speedy thoughts, etc. I am lucky to have the job I do, and I was given time off, and then last week, I only worked half days. I am happy to say it worked. I’m back at work full-time today, and I feel normal. I don’t feel amped up or depressed. I just feel normal. I’m experiencing normal emotions today, and I’m extremely grateful for that.

Here’s what worked for me:

  • I meditated a lot while I was home not working. They were short bursts of time to clear my head from all the speedy thoughts.
  • I continued speed walking for exercise.
  • I used anti-anxiety medication daily at my doctor’s insistence that had been prescribed for use as needed. He decided this was a period when it was needed regularly. My doctor also increased the dosage of the main medication I take for the bipolar disorder.
  • I have increased my therapy to weekly, and last week, I was able to talk to my therapist by phone twice when I needed to quickly debrief about a situation.

Today, I feel like I’ve made it through the worst. I’m going to stick with weekly therapy for a bit, and I have a follow-up appointment with my psychiatrist this week to reassess where things stand. I am really grateful for all the tools I have to use when I need them.

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Pressure From Myself

As my last post mentioned, there are lots of changes at work, and it’s causing me a mood episode. I have been amped up for lack of a better term. I have also had greatly heightened emotional responses to minor events. I mean really extreme responses. Finally, I’ve had depressive thoughts and bouts of crying.

I took time off work for five days, and I’m only returning to work part-time for this week. At work, I’m feeling enormous self-generated pressure to be well now. I hear an internal voice to just get over it and work.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is internalized stigma. Society often tells people with mental illness that we should simply not be ill and that we should just get over it and get on with life. That is stigma, and we who live with mental illness internalize it and repeat it to ourselves. I am no different. I have it, too.

The voice inside my head that states my disease isn’t real and shouldn’t cause me to suffer is internalized stigma.

I am going to use meditation to make that unwanted voice quiet. It works for me in so many ways. I’m sure this will work too. I’m also going to take a nap this afternoon, and then I’ll go for a walk.

My therapist reminds me that this is like growing a garden. We start with seeds and give them a little water and keep the weeds away. It’s good to let the garden grow at its own pace. I’m going to let myself grow at my own pace for just a bit.

Changes

A few posts ago, I mentioned there are lots of changes going on where I work. My boss retired, and there are now 3 people covering his duties. In addition, there is a reorganization of the hierarchical structure where I work, so I am getting a new boss within the structure. This only sounds like two things, but they’re huge.

With a change in where I fit in the bureaucratic structure comes a change of location. It won’t be immediate, but at some point this year, my work station will change. I’ll be driving to work instead of taking the bus.

Big changes.

All of this is causing me stress. The first evidence of the stress is reduced sleep time. I’m getting about thirty minutes less sleep on work nights. It’s not debilitating, but it’s noticeable.

Today, my thoughts are speedy. They’re not actually racing, but they are definitely faster than normal. I noticed in meditation this morning that it was hard to concentrate. I just walked down to the cathedral and meditated for a few short minutes, which helped a great deal. Sitting at my desk right now, I can tell my thoughts are speedy.

All this reminds me of hypomania. In the past, I often had a mood change when winter changed to spring right around this time of year. I’m more frightened of a depressive episode that may follow than I am the hypomania.

So here’s the plan: I am going to return to weekly therapy appointments for the time being. I’m not planning any change to my medication routine, but I will call my psychiatrist at the first hint it’s needed. I’m still getting good exercise and will continue that. I will add meditation times as able. I will do what I need to to get good sleep. I’m going to greatly restrict my sugar intake for a while.

It’s a plan. It helps me feel better knowing I have steps to take to get me through this time.

Smoking

I am an ex-smoker. I quit about thirteen and a half years ago, and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. I don’t think about it very much, but I’m thinking about it more these days, because I’m talking about it at work. In meetings with my peers, I talk about quitting, hoping to spark interest in others who smoke.

I just read a good first-person account from someone who lives with bipolar disorder about why they smoke. They have one important reason: it gives them a break. Often times that person is able to spend some time alone while they smoke, and that time alone is valuable.

I smoked as a coping mechanism, believe it or not. I thought it helped me with my feelings. Of course, I was wrong, but that’s the truth. It wasn’t a good coping skill, but it was still a skill.

I quit several times. Finally, I quit and stayed quit. Since then I’ve learned that what happened to me is very typical. It’s usual to quit and restart and quit and restart several times. The trick is to keep trying. I kept trying, and finally it worked.

If you’re thinking of quitting, give it a shot. If it doesn’t work, don’t beat yourself up. Try again.

I found meditation to use as a better coping mechanism. Smoking is doing something for you, but it’s probably not a good way to do whatever that is. Search for something better to use instead. Give it a shot.

Honestly, I feel so much better not smoking.

Feeling Good

The transition at work I mentioned in my last post continues. I met my new supervisor, and there are lots of exciting changes going on. I’m going to like a lot of them, but it’s still a change. My bipolar brain doesn’t change on a dime. It takes time to adjust.

I had an incident in a parking lot with another driver last Saturday that upset me a great deal, and I’m only just today back to normal. I used meditation and medication the day it occurred to get over the tumult. I’ve used meditation to deal with the residual feelings since then. In this morning’s meditation, I think I released the last of the ill feelings.

I confronted a lot of fear in my meditation this morning. There’s the normal fears of having a relationship. Is this the right relationship? Is it going to last for a long time? Is our relationship healthy? I think they’re all normal questions, but I don’t react to ambiguity in completely health ways.

Another fear that came up has to do with finances. That’s a longstanding fear of mine. I’m OK. I can pay my bills.

The last fear was about work and all the changes happening. There’s so much going on. Lots of personnel changes are happening, and they affect me directly.

Meditation is such a wonderful tool. I’m so grateful for it. Truly grateful.

Yesterday, I walked away from a fight online. It feels so good to just let that go. Some idiots were spewing homophobic nonsense. I engaged for a bit but realized the futility of the situation. These people honestly don’t matter in my life at all. Not one iota, so I turned off the website and left it.

I’m doing extremely well for a person who lives with bipolar disorder. I am reminding myself of my triumphs as I type this post. I’m independent, I have good food in my cupboard, I’m dating a good man, I have a good job, my car is paid for, and I have a very nice apartment. I’m doing extremely well.

Work Stress

My boss retired today. He was a good boss. We weren’t close; there was no reason for us to be. It was simply a professional relationship, and he was always fair.

There are three people handling his responsibilities while there is a search to hire someone new. Searches of this nature take time for various reasons. I am answering to someone new, and the transition means that I have to start over with one project I was working on for a year. Yes, I have to start over. It might not be too bad. My new boss says she has ideas. I’m open to new ideas.

But there’s stress. There are rumors in the office, and they are interfering with my serenity. It really upsets me.

I have therapy today, so I’ll be able to talk about it and get some ideas of how to walk through this time of change. I’ve got antianxiety medication that I haven’t needed for a while, but I will start taking again. The weather has been cold, so I haven’t been going for my morning walks. I’m going to restart that in the morning. I’m still eating healthy food, so that’s good. My sleep has been affected detrimentally. I think the antianxiety medicine will help with that. I am using meditation a lot. I’ve even done some at my desk.

I’m not happy, but I have a plan to get through this period of change. I will walk through it. I’m walking through the stress.

Sleep Psychology Works!

I went to the sleep psychologist about a month ago, and I started keeping a sleep diary. I have gone from sleeping only about 6 hours to now getting a solid 7 hours of sleep the majority of nights. On some weekend nights, I sleep longer. I’m really happy about this.

Sleep is one of the pillars of my recovery, and getting adequate slumber time helps keep me stable.

One thing the psychologist did that gave me great relief was to teach me how to recognize anxiety by how I’m breathing. Without realizing it, I was breathing in my chest. She taught me that’s a sign of anxiety and to switch to belly breathing to relieve it. It worked!

We also did a worksheet based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy about a problem I had a work. Using the worksheet revealed to me that I have a unique set of requirements around my job, and that I should go easy on myself. This helped enormously. I was judging myself harshly about some trouble at work.

So I’m sleeping much better, and it’s making a marked improvement in my days.