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.

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.

Healing Anxiety

I live with a lot of anxiety. It’s coming to the surface now, because I’m uncovering it in therapy. It hurts now, but I know that it can be healed. I’ve healed other pain in therapy, so this can be healed, too.

Anxiety is a way of acknowledging that there is something amiss. It’s often telling us that we’re facing a lack of appropriate interaction with people who are close to us or who were close to us in the past. It can be a lack of stable love, abandonment of some kind, or actual abuse. When these things occurred to us as children, we don’t have the ability to cope well, so we create coping mechanisms that aren’t healthy in the long run. It can manifest in many ways like drinking or eating excessively, overworking, oversleeping, or so many more possibilities.

The unhealthy coping mechanisms may work for many years, but eventually they fail, and we have to find effective means to heal the underlying pain. I drank excessively for many years, but that stopped calming the pain after a while, and I had to face the pain and do the work to heal it.

As adults we can choose to heal the pain we have with healthy means. I use meditation and exercise. There are many more ways too. There are hobbies like gardening or knitting. Anything that can add serenity can work to help soothe the pain from the past.

I was very anxious yesterday about some things, and I did a good job of soothing myself. Writing that is one of the things I’m working on: acknowledging that I’m really doing a pretty good job at this thing called life. I have a nice apartment and car. I have a good job. Most importantly, I have a group of good friends, and I’m dating a good man.

Future Forward

Today feels good. I’m thinking about the future. That’s a really good sign. Instead of ruminating about issues that I’m experiencing today, I’m dreaming about good things I hope are coming. This is a change of perception for me.

I’m not fixated on any present problem. I have hope.

I don’t think this happened overnight. I think this is the result of many years of practicing some simple ways of making each day a little better.

Those things I practice are seeing my doctor regularly and taking the medicine he prescribes, meditating on a daily basis, talking openly about all areas of my life to a therapist, eating food that is good for me, getting good sleep, and exercising regularly.

To put it simply:

Medicine.

Meditation.

Therapy.

Diet.

Sleep.

Exercise.

I’ve paid attention to these things for many years, and the result is that I have fewer days when I don’t feel good due to mental health. I had a bad day Wednesday, but in the middle of it, I concentrated on the tools, because it’s become a habit. That habit saw me through, and Thursday I felt completely better. Today I’m back to dreaming about good things in the future.

My habits started with a desire to feel better. Years ago, I was depressed and often had suicidal thoughts. I searched for ways to rise from that malaise, and that led to habits that help me feel good about myself and my life. At the time I didn’t know I was forming good habits. It just happened on its own.

It Works!

With a sigh of relief, I can say the tools for getting back into a better frame of mind work. Yesterday, I was struggling, as I wrote. It was not a good day at all. I was stressed and not dealing with it well at all. I used the tools that I know work. I meditated early and went for a good speed walk to get my self moving. I went to the cathedral down the street for a break and for my lunch break. I was able to meditate very briefly once, but the rest of the time I just sat. I made an extra appointment to see my therapist, and luckily he had an opening in the late afternoon.

Before that session, I chatted with my best friend about my turmoil. I could easily say that I understood the cause of my discontent was in me. I knew it was. I’ve been doing all this too long to try to blame it on something around me. An AA text The 12 and 12 states it correctly: whenever we are disturbed no matter what the cause, the problem lies in us.

I really was disturbed. My negative self-talk was working overtime. The voice in my head was saying I’d ruined my life and I was worthless. I was feeling really bad.

A very important tool for me is chatting with my best friend. He’s smart about these things. I was able to tell him that I knew I was the source of all the discord inside, and he invited me to look at all the good ways I was using my tools to feel better. He was absolutely right. I was doing a lot of good for myself. I was doing a good job of taking care of myself, but I couldn’t seem to say it.

My therapist has been helping me see the exact same thing, and he is now helping me change some of the things I say to myself. Instead of saying that I’m nuts, I can say I’m feeling a lot of stress. I like this a lot more than saying happy things while looking at myself in the mirror. That never worked for me. I know it works for some people, but I couldn’t get it to stick for me. So I’m going to take the reality of the situation, but instead of using words that demean me, I’m going to rephrase it into truth that is not degrading.

Last night I took an antianxiety medicine that I have for situations just like this, and I got a good night’s sleep. My meditation this morning was really good. I got some good breaths in between the wandering thoughts, and I went for a good speed walk. On the bus this morning, I was able to chat briefly with the man I’m dating, who was my ex and now is not my ex. It felt good. It wasn’t important stuff, but the connection felt good.

There are many things we can use as tools to help us through our difficult times when we feel bad about ourselves and our lives and the world around us. These are some of the things that work for me. I hope you can find little activities that work for you.