The Day After

Yesterday, I was feeling very low because I broke up with the man I was dating. Last night, I went out to eat with two very close friends. They allowed me to dominate the conversation. I was able to say everything I wanted to say and process the whole experience. The result is that today I feel refreshed.

I love the way the process works. For this low spot, I used meditation, medication, and conversation.

In meditation before the break up when I was feeling particularly bad, I used visualization. I imagined myself actually vomiting up all the anxiety I was feeling. It was remarkably helpful, and I felt better. While I was feeling so low after the break up, I was able to imagine myself receiving light and positive energy. It helped.

I have an anti-anxiety medicine that I use as needed. With all the chaos at work the past month and with my doctor’s approval, I’ve been using it daily. It really helped during the break up, too.

I used conversation in therapy to help me know how best to manage the actual conversation of the break up, and last night, the conversation with two close friends really helped me get all the crap out. I’m so grateful to them.

All of this reinforces what I already knew. Get it out. Whatever is troubling me loses its power when I speak it. It really works. Speak it to a trusted person. That’s key.

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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.

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.