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.

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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.

Twenty Years

Today is a special day for me. I am celebrating twenty years of sobriety. I’m full of emotions. My stomach can’t decide if it’s excited or anxious.

I remember the days before sobriety. To say I was miserable is an understatement.

I remember those early days. I was so confused and in such a fog.

I remember those early years. My life was such a mess. A really awful mess.

If you’re newly sober or thinking about getting sober, I can tell you it’s worth it. I have peace today. My head is calm. I live with serenity. My life is not chaotic. It took time, but I have built a life that is good.

I don’t know how to put into words how good it is to simply say I have peace. Those few words carry so much weight. That’s really all I can say right now.

Getting Help

I left work early yesterday for two reasons. The first reason was that I called my psychologist and got an appointment that day to go talk to him about something troubling me. The second reason I left work early was because that thing troubling me grew too large in my head to effectively cope.

There are a lot of changes going on at my workplace, and I am using every tool in my toolbox to cope. The feelings I’m getting from the changes are helplessness and fear. The anxiety they give rise to is sometimes overwhelming. I took some days off work not too long ago due to all this change. It helped.

Yesterday, I had that anxiety again. I was faced with a new reality, and my insides rebelled. I’m really lucky. I work where we have adequate sick time, and I was able to use it.

At my therapy session, I gave vent to my anger at the situation, and I was able to speak directly to my psychologist and tell him emphatically that I don’t think he takes my level of anxiety seriously enough. He heard me. I was able to advocate for myself really well, and it felt good. The result was that I left feeling much better than when I arrived. I felt heard.

At home, I did a quick meditation, and that felt really good, too. Meditation is such an important tool for me. I just sit and breathe and imagine anxiety being pulled out of me. The visualization really helps me feel relief. The sitting and breathing is such a good way to give myself a calm center.

I slept well last night and woke up feeling good this morning. I took extra time in meditation this morning just to breathe. When I meditate, my mind wanders. I don’t fight it. I let it wander, and when I notice it, I calmly bring it back to the breath. I do this over and over. A wandering mind is not failure. Wandering is what the mind it supposed to do. That’s what it’s built for. I just recognize the wandering and calmly bring my attention back to my breathing.

I’m not trying to reach enlightenment. I’m just using a tool to help my overwrought brain gain some peace. It works. I recommend it.

Meditation isn’t hard. Sit comfortably. Relax, and breathe. When your mind wanders, bring your attention back to your breathing. Do this as many times as you want. That’s it. Just keep trying.

Healing

Healing takes time. Grief comes in waves. Work is not easy right now.

I’m sad about the break up, but I’m not in pain like I was the first time. This time was completely my decision, and it was amicable.

I went out with a man Friday night whom I’m interested in. I hesitate to call it a date, but we had a good time. And we’ve made plans to see each other again.

Yesterday, I was sad. I ran an errand in the morning, and then I stayed home all day. I tried listening to classical music, but the day just called for sad music, so I put that on. I lay on my bed and chatted with my best friend by text. I dozed for a while.

Then my best friend suggested I switch the music to some easy guitar, which I did. It was a good suggestion. My mood lightened.

I opened Tinder, which I hadn’t opened in many long months. There was a profile still on some page there that had evidently met the requirements to be some kind of match. It had sat there for months. I messaged him recognizing his picture from some of the gay dating apps.

I don’t know how Tinder works really well, so I went to the dating app and messaged him there. Some hours later in the afternoon, he replied. We had a good chat, and I’m sure we’ll chat again. He’s also very interested in meditation, so that’s a strong connection.

The other thing I did all day was read a new book of poetry from Walt Whitman: Live Oak, With Moss. It had new illustrations and was really very lovely. The cluster of poems as Whitman called them was about sexual love between men. It was very moving. Whitman never published this cluster as a separate group. He rearranged them and used them as part of the Catullus poems in Leaves of Grass. The illustrations, the poetry, and the included essay all made me feel very good.

I’ve been to therapy a few times since the break up, and I’m going again today.

I can see light at the end of the tunnel. I’m not sure how far away the light is, but it’s there.

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.