Late nights and downward slides.

I stayed up late last night.

Bad move.

I had a friend from college over and we talked until 10:45 or so. I went straight to bed when he left, but I’m paying for the late night now. A couple things always happen when I stay up late.

  1. Weird/upsetting dreams.  I had a dream that I started to have visual hallucinations and my old therapist was trying to help me but it wasn’t working. It was one of those dreams where you wake up feeling like you are still in the dream.
  2. I wake up feeling uncomfortable and exhausted and wanting to cry and wishing for a solid 24 hours where I don’t have to move. The stress is overwhelming.
  3. I get that feeling that everything that can go wrong today, will.

Today I have the added bonus of dreading work.  I have to work a 10 hour day.

I haven’t felt like this is a while. Things are starting to pile up and weigh heavy on me.  I’m not getting called back for a job that I really want. My job this time of year is really stressful. I’m having to fight with people to get my medicine because insurance doesn’t want to pay for it and the stupid patient assistance program suddenly decided that I can’t have it even though nothing has changed. Apparently they think I can afford medicine that is two thirds of my salary. It will get resolved, but not until I jump through hoops to make them happy.

On top of all this I have a sense of dread about my new therapist and psychiatrist.  Never mind they have done NOTHING to give me proof that they aren’t good, but my brain keeps manufacturing stuff to make me think otherwise.

I feel like I’m starting to have extreme emotional reactions to everything again–like I’ve lost my regulation.  I’m losing perspective on how I feel and at the end of the day I’m at a loss as to what mood to put down in my journal where I track everything.  So I simply don’t. My anxiety is spiking. Yesterday I got stuck thinking about suicide again. I feel scared. I’m toying with the idea of skipping meds.

Something isn’t right and I’m hoping I can blame it on staying up late. I’m hoping that tomorrow, after I sleep tonight, I’ll feel better. If I don’t, I think I’m in for the long haul and I’m going to have to fight..

 

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What if…

Ever since the new therapist essentially told me I was fine and suggested that the reason I feel like crap sometimes is because I expect to, I’ve had this inner struggle.  I’m full of what ifs.

What if the reason I’ve been so miserable for so long is because I wanted to be miserable?

What if I really had been making stuff up?

What if I convinced my old therapist that I was sicker than I actually was without knowing it?

What if I’m just lazy instead of depressed?

You get the idea. Yes, there has been 15+ years I’ve felt miserable.  But what if it was self- induced?

The whole idea is embarrassing. I’ve had so many people think I was fine over the years, what if they have been right and I just didn’t want to see it? I never thought of myself as an attention seeker, but what if I am? I have distinct memories of being miserable, but I feel like it was my fault I felt like that–I wanted the attention. The fact that I want to share this post with people I know looking for someone to tell me that I’m wrong for thinking all of these things means I’m making things up for attention.  Right?

That leads me to wonder about my meds.  Do I really need them?  I know the placebo effect can be powerful. I don’t know what they would do to me if I didn’t really need them, but if I am making shit up to begin with, I should be able to stop them, right?

I want to look to other people to confirm that I’m sick.  But if I’ve done such a good job convincing people, they can’t tell me the truth, just what I’ve led them to believe.

I’ve stopped reading things about bipolar, believing that I was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. The speculation that I had schizzoaffective disorder merely a result of me not wanting to let go of my symptoms.  And if I don’t have either of those things, I’m fine.

Part of me wants to say that this is just one giant symptom, but the bigger part of me says its true.

I’m fine.

 

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Here we go again

Me: *Looks at watch.  It’s 5:50pm* Did anyone else hear those church bells?

Friend: No

Me: *Looks at dad*

Dad: Nope

Me: I swear I heard them, but its strange that they would be at ten till six.

Friend: *Joking in complete and total innocence* Are you hearing voices now too?

Me: Heh.  No.

I glanced at my dad to see if he caught it, but he just laughed.  I’m not offended by the conversation, and I’m not upset. I’m just reminded that things I used to think were funny simply aren’t anymore. I’m reminded that I still have a secret to keep when it comes to most people.

Now, my dad has bad hearing and my friend could have simply been preoccupied, and there really were churchbells for whatever reason.  But I’ve never heard church bells in that location before, and it was a weird time.

So here I am left to puzzle over a conversation that I guarantee you that everyone else has already forgotten. Was I hearing things? It’s entirely possible.  I’ve had about a month or so of quiet (which has been glorious by the way).  However, in the past week or so I’ve had that internal voice pop up a couple times, which I’ve been doing my best to shut it up with sheer will power.  If I don’t give it space its not as loud. I’m trying to go through a series of interviews for a job I want and I REFUSE to sit through an interview battling that voice in the back of my head and the knowledge that my thinking is broken.

And here’s the other thing.  I’m starting to think that some of my friends don’t like me. I can’t decide if I’m starting to make shit up again, or if there is some validity to it.  That’s never a good sign.

And last but not least, I feel myself fighting a little harder to keep my brain in check and I’m irritable. I’ve had a few moments where I wanted to cry because I feel overwhelmed by the fighting I’m doing in my head.  I don’t want to let myself have quiet time, because it feels like I’ll be taken over by the symptoms if I don’t keep myself busy.

So I may not have been certain at the beginning of this post that I am sliding downward.  But I am now. All signs point to it. I know all the skills I need to fight this, but it is really, really hard. And sometimes I can’t.  Though I can’t get it out of my head that the new therapist said that sometimes my mood swings are self-induced because I expect them to happen. (I also probably should ask for a new therapist, but that is a whole other blog post.)

All I know is that I’m going to have to fight like hell again. I wish sheer willpower was enough, but its not.

 

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Good Things

Things are happening in my life.  Good things. Things I’ve been waiting for, but were never sure if they would ever come. Right now they are all maybes…but if they are all maybes, something has to come true, right?

I’m terrified. What if they don’t come true?  What if they come true, but my brain throws a fit and I end up shooting myself in the foot? What if I’ve already shot myself in the foot?

I’m trying to locate the positive thinking in my brain and hold on to it when I catch a glimpse of it. I’m trying to not doubt my abilities. But its so hard.

I have three days to get my act together.  Three days.

I can do this.

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Well this is new….or not

Now that I’ve calmed down after the intensity of rapidly changing to psychiatrists and therapists who somewhat challenged what I believed about my mental health, something weird has happened.

I feel OK.  I don’t see myself as “sick.” I’m not trying to hold onto the bipolar diagnosis, and I’m brushing off the speculation (because that is all it is) that I have schizoaffective disorder.

This new therapist only wants to see me once a month; she says that I’ve already got all the coping skills and am managing quite nicely.  At first, I was upset because, well, that’s kind of a shock after coming from having to see a therapist every week. Now that I’m feeling better and more in control, I’m a little peeved that I may have been stuck in a holding pattern with my old therapist.  Yes, she tremendously helped me, but was she (unintentionally) keeping me in a bad place? I don’t know. I’m still sorting that one out.

Regardless, I feel fine. I do have that feeling that I don’t have a mental illness creeping in, which is dangerous. I start to question whether my symptoms are really symptoms.  Was I ever really sick in the first place? When I look back on my tracker, I see that I’ve only felt good for about a week, but it feels like forever.  I’m trying to not get carried away with myself, and I’m hoping that this isn’t just part of another mood swing (which, because I’m doubting that they ever actually happened means it probably is).

Maybe this isn’t as new as I thought.  Maybe I’ve been through this before, though I don’t remember doubting the bipolar diagnosis.

I just hope that this is the real thing, and that I really am OK.

 

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Yup, I’m angry. 

I am angry.

My Facebook friends have started posting all kinds of articles about mental illness.

Anxiety. Depression. Postpartum depression. Totally legit and accurate articles.

But it makes me angry.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s good that people are talking about these things. But all it does is make me feel alone. I don’t have one of the “common” mental illnesses.  Yes I have aspects of it, but I can’t relate to 99% of those articles, whether it’s because I am high-functioning, I don’t have the warm fuzzy lessons from it, or simply because my brain does weird shit sometimes. Or some other reason.

All of this, plus the doubt I even have bipolar feels like it has stripped me of my right to relate to people. I don’t get to listen to someone’s story and say “me too” any more.  Taking away the name I had to describe this takes away what grounds me that there is something actually wrong. And I’m seriously starting to doubt that I even have a mental illness. Even though I know my symptoms, it’s like that knowledge is fading into the background, and my days of feeling suicidal and all that fun stuff never really happened. Which is a symptom in and of itself. I’m doing everything I can to hold onto that, but it’s hard.

But I’m angry. At the system, at my sudden lack of a concrete diagnosis. I’m angry that the new therapist dismissed some of my symptoms as normal.  I’m angry that I don’t have my old therapist.

And I’m angry at those damn articles that remind me of all this.

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Labels Matter

In the whole 3 days since I was told I may have schizoaffective disorder, I’ve put in some long, hard thought about labels and diagnosis. Everyone except one person has told me that labels don’t matter, and it doesn’t matter what I am diagnosed as. I get what they are saying–they mean that I haven’t changed any to them. I’m still the same person to them regardless what is going on in my head. All that is important is that I feel better. I get that and I appreciate that.

In spite of that, a label and diagnosis matter.

A diagnosis and label indicate a medical illness.  Something in my brain is broken and medicine helps improve it. And just like any other illness, it tells us what medicine I should be taking in the first place.

A diagnosis and label mean doctor’s know how to treat my illness.  It gives them a head start in understanding me without me having to explain the last 15 years of my life. Granted, there are a handful that will just mentally label you crazy, but that is when I get to fire them.

A diagnosis and label mean I have a way of understanding my brain. It points me in the direction of resources and support that can help me. It helps me find other people that experience the same thing.

A diagnosis and label help me know what to avoid and when to be cautious without having to go through the stress of trial and error.

Yes, I know these labels can upset people. They can create cause to be judged.  I’m pretty sure if word got out, suddenly it would be very hard for me to have the career that I want. I’ll even acknowledge that people within the mental health profession will judge me.

Maybe labels shouldn’t matter.  Maybe they should.  The moral of the story is that they do matter, and probably always will.  I need a name and explanation for the hell my brain puts me through, and a starting point for doctor’s to help me.

 

 

 

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The name game and firing your psychiatrist.

Every single psychologist, therapist, and psychiatrist I’ve seen has had a different opinion as to what is going on with my brain. Including the psychiatrist I saw yesterday. The running list so far:

  1. Anxiety
  2. Depression
  3. Nothing (this one makes me laugh)
  4. generic mood disorder
  5. Borderline Personality Disorder
  6. Bipolar Disorder

    And the latest….

  7. Schizoaffective disorder.

To which I say…

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD MAKE UP YOUR DAMN MIND.

 

In all seriousness though, it doesn’t matter much what they call it.  I’m finally starting to believe that. This time around the the possible new diagnosis doesn’t change the meds, and I’ve already learned a slew of things to help me manage it.  So there. Not to say I didn’t have a meltdown immediately following my appointment, because I totally did.

On a somewhat related note, I “fired” my psychiatrist after meeting her for ten minutes.  (Really I just called the office and requested a new one, but “fired” sounds so much better and more dramatic.)  When the nurse practitioner brought the psychiatrist in to meet me, the lady glanced at me, didn’t say hello (which isn’t that the first thing they teach you to do in how-to-be-a-human school?) and proceeded to talk about me with the nurse like I wasn’t in the room.

Nope.  Not happening. Not playing this game. At least say “Hi nice to meet you” before you ignore me.

And I’m proud of myself for being able to do this.  It was hard. This kind of stress dredges up all kinds of self-doubt and paranoia for me. I’ll be telling the part of my brain that tells me I overreacted or made shit up to shove it for the next 2 months.

But I did it.

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Mental Gymnastics

Every now and then I get it in my head that I’m not really bipolar…that I don’t really have a mental illness.  There’s two way this manifests itself.

  1. I don’t believe I need therapy anymore.  I believe my symptoms went away and I was simply exaggerating before. I tell myself that I have it under control. I feel happy and productive. I think about what to make for dinner, and gee, I’m going to clean my apartment because I can’t see the floor anymore.  I think of projects for work and I find my motivation again. I look forward to things. BUT, I think all these things because I feel that I’m finally “better,” not because I’m having a good spell and learned how to manage my symptoms.

    Before I used to run with this.  I would make big plans and be all philosophical about where I was and where I thought I ended up. Now I’m cautiously optimistic.  Yes things are going well, but my trusty tracker notebook tells me that I was in a bad place just days ago.  My trusty tracker notebook also tells me that this usually only lasts days. I also, and this is the part I’m proud of because it means I learned something in the past two years of therapy, am able to remember the facts without the notebook.  Yes I feel good now, but I can remember that I was suicidal not long ago, and that I spent a good, solid two weeks crying. I might not remember how it felt, but I can remember that it happened.  I automatically counter these invincible thoughts and can bring myself back down to earth.  Eventually I can use logic to tell these invincible thoughts to shove it and remind myself that the only reason I can do this is because of therapy. And most importantly, I can remind myself that the only reason I’m in this place is because yes, I do have a mental illness.  My proof is that I wouldn’t have to do these mental gymnastics to make myself stay in touch with reality if I didn’t have to put up with this.

  2. I seriously start to doubt myself.  I know how to reign it in when I simply want to believe that I am better.  The doubt I’m talking about is that little nagging part of you that slowly drags you down and makes you feel guilty. It is the thought that I exaggerated my past and should feel guilty that I’ve put so many people through what I suddenly feel I am making up. I lose touch with how I feel, and the little check boxes in my tracker stay empty with a note saying I have no idea what is going on. I get anxious and don’t know how to hold conversations or deal with people. I feel bad about myself and if I can’t catch myself, it almost certainly ends up in suicidal depression.

I guess the fact that I’m able to identify this is a step in the right direction, and something that I’ve learned in therapy.  I’ve always had some degree of self-awareness which masked the bipolar for the longest time. Therapy has improved the self-awareness. I’m able to separate myself from my symptoms.  Most of the time anyways.

Maybe I can take a hiatus from therapy.  Not because I’m better, but because I’ve learned enough skills to keep me on track. Maybe.

 

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Damn Worksheets

I’m doing that fun thing where you have to get to know a brand new therapist. I’m proud of myself for being able to sit down and be up front and honest about my symptoms without putting it off or trying to convince myself that I should probably tell this lady. This is huge for me. One of the last things that my old therapist said to me was to not wait until the last minute in a session to tell her things.

I *know* that I have to get certain things across to this lady, especially because right now it looks like I’ll only see her twice a month because of my stupid work schedule.  And by stupid work schedule I mean the fact that I actually have a work schedule. There are no evening or weekend hours at this place. When my schedule changes to M-F that means I will need a THREE HOUR window to go to therapy because I live 35 minutes away and they make you get there a half an hour before your appointment. How the hell am I supposed to pull that off? I refuse to tell my boss that I need to rearrange my schedule because I have to go to therapy. I’m just not willing to do that.

I’m unsure of this woman. There is no small talk to make you feel comfortable. I get the feeling that she doesn’t get my sense of humor. Which, if that is true, could very well be a deal breaker.  I’m sarcastic. I cope by making bad jokes.  If I stop, that means you need to worry.  My old therapist was able to roll with this. Her jokes were as bad as mine. Laughing helps me get through the rough patches.

And the worksheets.  Half way through the session she turns around and prints out one of those stupid worksheets that have a list of distorted thinking patterns.  I inwardly groaned.  I know what is on that page.  I know where I fall on that page.  I know how far I’ve come on that page.  And I know how to outsmart the damn page.  Those pages are impersonal. It reduces things that are potentially debilitating to me to little check boxes that you can tick off. I hate the worksheets. Talk to me.  That is why I’m here. That is why I need to be here. Find out if those worksheets will work for me before you sit there and print them off. Because, frankly, you are wasting paper. I know what answers you want to hear and either A) I will feed you what what you want to hear or B) I will fall into the rabbit hole of obsessive, paranoid, negative thinking. I will nod and smile, but I will not do them the way they are intended. (did I mention she started telling me about how she decided to use a green highlighter on that page because it symbolizes growth? I don’t have the stomach for that kind of thing.)

And please, please, don’t tell me about how you use the same approach with everyone.  I’m not everyone. You can’t listen to me talk for 10 minutes, hear the word anxiety and latch onto it.  I told you I was here because the depression was bad.  Anxiety I’ve got mostly under control.  Maybe I wasn’t clear.

The more I think about this lady, the more apprehensive I am about her. I will give her one more try. But I’m not feeling optimistic at the moment.

I desperately want to talk to my old therapist about this. I know her opinion on worksheets.  I told her someone tried those with me before and she rolled her eyes and said, “Ya, I can’t see that working with you.” Not to mention she thinks they are dumb.

The worst part is I have to wait until the middle of October to see this new lady again, so I get to sit here and stew about it for three weeks.

I know I’ve ranted a lot.  And I know a big chunk of that is because I want my old therapist back.

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