A Trip

I took a trip. I had a lot of fun visiting my children who all live far from me.

I’m not afraid of flying, but I don’t enjoy the small seats and cramped leg room in planes. For some reason I can’t explain, I was nervous before this trip. I used some deep breathing to help. (Inhale through the nose and exhale though the mouth.) It honestly helped on more than one occasion.

One child and I rented a car to drive to where another child was. That was interesting. I had to drive far on routes I had never driven on before. When we returned from that trip, I had to drive on very busy city streets. This is something that would have really caused me enormous anxiety in the past. I did it! I drove in a very big city, and I only got angry once because I missed a turn. I really managed the whole thing very well. I’m really pleased with myself.

Then I had to fly to where the other child lives to meet my granddaughter. That meant negotiating airports and sitting in small seats again, but I did fine. I was so excited to meet my granddaughter. She’s 8 months old and is honestly a good baby. She only fusses when she’s hungry. Otherwise, she was very cheerful. It was wonderful to see my son again. I haven’t seen him for two years.

I do have to do one important thing for self-care when I travel like this. I have to fly home one day before the end of my vacation to give myself a buffer of time to readjust back to my regular life. I’m happy to report that this worked well for me. I was able to unpack and do laundry and buy groceries before having to return to work today.

I’m really pleased with myself. I went on a ten-day trip, and I stayed stable.

Emotions

Emotions are funny things. They constantly change.

I feel weird today. I’m sad, but I’m not depressed. That’s an odd combination for me. Sadness is always accompanied by the overarching gloom of depression. Today, it’s just simple, genuine sadness.

I know what it’s about. It’s just life stuff. It’s a simple combination of living with a chronic mental illness, being part of a sexual-orientation minority, lots of change in my life in the past four or five months (new bosses at work, dating partners come and gone, new therapist, new thoughts about old wounds, etc.), and being single for a long time. None of that has an easy fix.

At least today, I’m not looking for an easy fix. I’m kind of walking through it. One step at a time.

This will pass. Emotions aren’t permanent. I’ll be fine.

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.

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.

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.