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.

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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.

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.

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.

Work Stress

My boss retired today. He was a good boss. We weren’t close; there was no reason for us to be. It was simply a professional relationship, and he was always fair.

There are three people handling his responsibilities while there is a search to hire someone new. Searches of this nature take time for various reasons. I am answering to someone new, and the transition means that I have to start over with one project I was working on for a year. Yes, I have to start over. It might not be too bad. My new boss says she has ideas. I’m open to new ideas.

But there’s stress. There are rumors in the office, and they are interfering with my serenity. It really upsets me.

I have therapy today, so I’ll be able to talk about it and get some ideas of how to walk through this time of change. I’ve got antianxiety medication that I haven’t needed for a while, but I will start taking again. The weather has been cold, so I haven’t been going for my morning walks. I’m going to restart that in the morning. I’m still eating healthy food, so that’s good. My sleep has been affected detrimentally. I think the antianxiety medicine will help with that. I am using meditation a lot. I’ve even done some at my desk.

I’m not happy, but I have a plan to get through this period of change. I will walk through it. I’m walking through the stress.

Sleep Psychology Works!

I went to the sleep psychologist about a month ago, and I started keeping a sleep diary. I have gone from sleeping only about 6 hours to now getting a solid 7 hours of sleep the majority of nights. On some weekend nights, I sleep longer. I’m really happy about this.

Sleep is one of the pillars of my recovery, and getting adequate slumber time helps keep me stable.

One thing the psychologist did that gave me great relief was to teach me how to recognize anxiety by how I’m breathing. Without realizing it, I was breathing in my chest. She taught me that’s a sign of anxiety and to switch to belly breathing to relieve it. It worked!

We also did a worksheet based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy about a problem I had a work. Using the worksheet revealed to me that I have a unique set of requirements around my job, and that I should go easy on myself. This helped enormously. I was judging myself harshly about some trouble at work.

So I’m sleeping much better, and it’s making a marked improvement in my days.