I don’t want to write this

Because I don’t want it to have happened and need to be written about.

I work at an agency that deals with many organizations and other agencies and people. One of the reasons I was picked for my position is because I am a person who lives with a mental illness. I have experience of mental health from inside the system.

There is an organization in town that used to have a lot of contracts with my agency, but all those contracts were canceled during the recession of 2008/09 and have not yet been reinstated. The leader of that organization has been nursing a deep grudge against my agency ever since. He picked an individual to focus his vitriol on who had to take steps to protect himself. Since I started this job almost four years ago, that organization’s leader has switched his focus to me. He even physically assaulted me in public once.

Yesterday, I opened my email to find an angry message from him and a message from his number two that attacked me as a human being.

The first thing that happened was that old behavior took over, and I shut down emotionally. I became numb. A colleague who was copied on the emails asked me if I was OK, and I truthfully stated that I was not. Becoming numb was a coping mechanism I learned as a child and adolescent in the face of relentless bullying from family, church, and others.

The second thing that happened was the return of old voices telling me I’m worthless. I’m happy to say those voices didn’t have a lot of weight behind them. It makes me angry that those old voices were triggered at all. They’ve been quiet for a long time, and I didn’t need the experience of them popping in ever again.

I took immediate action by forwarding the abusive emails to my supervisor and her boss. My supervisor was unavailable, but I met with her boss. I was able to tell her about the past assault and continued abuse. Her immediate answer was that she will contact the organization’s leader and have all his messages sent directly to her. This gave me great relief, and it was a good solution. I will not have to be on the brunt end of that man’s abuse any more.

The real danger of an event like this for me is it can trigger a mood episode. I’m just coming off a seasonal mood episode that was heightened by all the turmoil happening at work. I’m really frightened this will cause me to plummet into major depression. I’m taking steps to see that doesn’t happen, and I will know in a few days to a week if I’ve dodged the bullet.

Luckily, I had therapy last night, and that helped enormously. I was able to really talk about what I was feeling.

This morning, I feel OK. There’s one thing that puzzles me: I don’t really feel anything about the event yesterday. I’m blank. I’m not empty. I’m just blank in regards to that man and his number two. I really don’t understand it. I guess it’s a good thing. I could be furious. I could be really sad. I’m not. I’m blank. Maybe I worked it all out in therapy last night.

I’m not ready to say I’m in the clear, but for today, I’m OK.

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Frustration

I broke up with the man I was dating last month, as regular readers know. I didn’t call him my boyfriend, because I hardly saw him. He had no time for me since he worked long hours every day of the week. It was an amicable break up.

There was another man that I met first who was very interesting. I wanted to date him when I met him, but he wasn’t interested in dating anyone, so we just became friends. Recently, he’s said he is thinking of starting to date. At the same time, he’s made it plain to me that he’s not interested in dating me. I’ve been friend-zoned.

All this hurts. Now I have to get back into the scene and start meeting men and experiencing all the rejection that goes with that experience. Sigh. There’s no other way around it, though. I dread it. I’ve been rejected for living with a mental illness in the past, and getting back into the scene means having to disclose that fact all over again to each man I meet. It sucks. There’s so much misinformation and stigma in the world. Bipolar disorder is so little understood by the average man.

All this has affected my mood. I’m sad. Really sad at times. This morning, I was despondent. Thankfully, I have a best friend who talked to me. My therapist was full, so no available time for a session, but he took time for a phone call, which I was very grateful for.

When I started this blog nine years ago, I was single and not really capable of having a relationship. Over the ensuing years, I’ve done tremendous work and got to a place in my recovery where I feel like I am worthy of a good relationship. Saying “I am worthy” and meaning it is light-years ahead of where I used to be. I don’t think it’s easy to say how important that realization is: I am worthy of a good relationship.

I’m also ready for one, so it’s back into the scene I go. Wish me luck.

Rocking and Rolling

I’m going through what can best be described as rocking and rolling. No, I’m not starting a band. I’m up and down.

Sometimes I feel really weirdly optimistic. I suppose “weird” is a loaded word. There’s a thought behind it that I somehow shouldn’t be optimistic. When I look at my life, however, I don’t see any reason that pessimism is called for. I’m doing OK.

I’m doing OK today. Yesterday I was struggling. That’s the down side of being up and down.

There is so much stress at work. There are multiple things all happening at once. On paper, it doesn’t look like a lot, but in my head, it occupies a large amount of space.

I had a session with my psychologist yesterday, and he reminded me that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. I have successfully managed to get to a very good place in my recovery from bipolar disorder by handling one difficulty after another with rest in between. That’s the key. I am a success. When I feel overwhelmed at work, I have to remind myself that I only have to do one thing at a time, and furthermore, I have a very good track record of accomplishments when I only do one thing at a time.

I also have to rest in between. Meditation helps a lot in these situations, because it gives me a little rest right in the middle of the day.

I realized two days ago that I was not resting. In fact, I’ve been struggling. I notice this most easily when I look at self-care. I am normally a tidy person. I was neglecting my house and myself. My kitchen got to be a mess, and I was struggling with basic hygiene like brushing my teeth.

What scared me when I realized I was struggling was that I had been denying the struggle. I was telling myself I was fine. I was telling everyone around me I was fine. I wasn’t.

Just giving voice to the realization helped enormously. It has proven true over and over that when I say a fear out loud, it loses its power. Every time. All I have to do is say it to another person, and the effect is immediate. I feel better.

Here’s what I’m remembering today: one thing at a time and the best predictor of the future is the past. In the past, when I concentrated on one thing at a time, I was successful. If I keep doing just one thing at a time, I can be successful now.

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.

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.

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.