Affirmations

If you are feeling bad about yourself the first suggestion of therapists (and people in general) is usually positive affirmations. When I first started seeing my current therapist and she suggested it, I inwardly groaned a little bit but said OK. I’ll try it.

I dutifully reported back the next session that its hard and I don’t know what to use. So we talked about it and she sent me on my way again. Still couldn’t do it, and in the twisted world of my brain it made me feel a little worse.

So she backed up a bit and wanted to help me break things down far enough in order to come up with something. To start small. I don’t even remember what she asked me (this was months ago), but what I do remember is getting a strong “Nope” from my brain. I did not want to – could not – talk about it, whatever “it” was. I told her it was too much, that I can’t do this.

I was waiting for the response I always get: how affirmations help, how I’ll feel better, how “easy” it is. How I just need to try again and try harder. But I didn’t, not this time. She simply said OK, we’ll try something else.  It’s OK if I don’t want to talk about it now, we can talk about it later when I’m ready, or not at all.  Then she moved on. So simple. That’s happened a couple times since then. Sometimes we go back and talk about parts of it a few weeks later, sometimes we don’t.

Moral of the story? Affirmations are hard, and not something I can do right now.  And thats OK.

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Mania

In the 5 years since I’ve been diagnosed with bipolar, absolutely no one (therapists, doctors, or otherwise) has ever gone “hey you are showing signs of mania”.  I’ve told therapists and psychiatrists that I don’t understand my mood swings.  Yes, I understand what my depression looks like, but I struggle with what “ok” looks like and I have no freaking clue what mania looks like for me.

I’ve told them multiple times that sometimes things feel off, I don’t understand, and I’m worried about it. I’ll tell them I have excess energy, get hyper-fixated on things, I’m agitated and there is this impulsive sense of urgency. All that they do is ask if I’m going on spending sprees or have super risky behavior. I tell them no, but I have these periods of time where I will obsessively make things with these elaborate plans to sell them all the while unintentionally ignoring everything else in my life.  And then it all just vanishes. But it doesn’t matter.  I’m not sleeping with someone new every night and maxing out my credit cards so I’m fine. I just have a “cool new hobby”. Or even better, I’ll ask what it all is and I won’t get any sort of answer at all.

This all brings me to this morning when I saw my current (new-ish) therapist. I told her that it felt like my mood is shifting and I didn’t know what was happening. The conversation pretty much went like this:

Me: *explains whats going on*

Therapist: “Have you ever experienced mania before?”

Me: “I don’t know. No one has ever talked to me about it even though I’ve asked”

Therapist: “OK, we’ll figure out what it looks like for you and we’ll keep an eye on it.”

Then she told me I don’t have to exhibit the stereotypical outlandish or extreme behavior of mania, and mine could possibly come out in mostly “socially acceptable” ways even though it may still mess things up for me.

Now, was that really so hard? Why has it taken 5 freaking years to have that conversation?

 

 

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Going back to work.

I got the call a few days ago that I’ll be expected to return to work in about 2 weeks or so, assuming all goes as planned with our area slowly (and legally) opening back up.

So many different emotions.

  • Excited that I’ll have something to do and interact with people other than my family.
  • Terrified that we are opening up too early and everything will fall apart.
  • Relieved that I can get back into a routine with getting a regular paycheck instead of worrying that unemployment is going to run out. Or that I won’t have a job to go back to.
  • Thankful I even have a job to go back to. If I wouldn’t have switched fields last year when I got a new job, there would have been an incredibly high chance that I would have lost my job for good.
  • Flattered that out of everyone that was laid off (they had the core staff work remotely), I’m the first one they are calling back.  It’s nice to feel needed.

I’m also excited that I put back my stimulus check and tax refund (I’m one of the fortunate people that could manage to pay my bills without it – didn’t have money to do much else, but I could pay my bills).  I told myself that if I made it through this, I was buying myself something fancy and grown up.

I really thought that when I got called to go back, I would have an anxiety fueled meltdown. Maybe I still will when I get a return date.  But right now, the things I’m excited about (namely going out of the house and talking to people) outweigh the fear of going back to soon.

 

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Abuse

People have told me for years that I was in an abusive situation, both while I was in it and after I got out. Parents.  Friends. Therapists.  Everyone in partial. I kinda knew it was dysfunctional, but wasn’t able to name it as abusive. I would nod and say “I know” when people said it was wrong, but I never really saw it. I mean, I caused it, right?

When I started with my current therapist a couple months ago, I told her that the situation messed with me – haunted me. She named it for what it was and then let it go until I brought it up again. She didn’t press. A couple times it came up and I told her I didn’t want to talk about it – she said that’s fine and we moved on.

Yesterday we talked about it.

She kept pointing out that this woman was abusive and did things that were wrong. She explained how abusive relationships play out and what the ultimate goal of working on this is. And it sunk in.

Guys, I was in an abusive relationship.

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Allergies, Anxiety, or the Plague

I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but I have been playing a lot of games and doing a lot of puzzles to kill time. There’s another one that I don’t like: “Allergies, Anxiety, or the Plague”. I’m sure I’m not the only one playing that one.  It sucks.  It’s the one that lasts the longest.  It’s also one where you may not even know you are playing it (I’m looking at you – asymptomatic plague)

I’m ready to play a new game.

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Positive People

There are three types of positive people in this world.

  1. Toxic Positivity – Depressed? Go walk outside. Anxious? Think happy thoughts. Sad? There’s always a silver lining! Just think happy thoughts and you will attract happy things!
  2. Guilty/Comparative Positivity – When you guilt yourself into being positive. Take for instance the current crisis.  It’s that, “other people have it worse so I need to be positive and grateful about what I have” and not letting yourself be sad when you have every right to be.
  3. Realistic positivity – Yes you’re sad. Yes you are depressed. There are ways we can deal with it, and even though they seem simple, it’s OK that they are hard. Attempting to make these positive changes does not invalidate every negative thing that has happened. This is NOT “It will get better, I promise!” Because let’s be real, no one can really promise that.

The first 2 I can’t handle, and the 3rd I struggle with.  Luckily, my therapist can pick up the slack. Any therapist I’ve had in the past (that hasn’t been an idiot, and there have been quite a few idiots) has tried the realistic positivity thing with me.  I’ve never bought into it. I don’t know if it was their presentation or my inability to accept it despite wanting to, but it was always lost on me and it the whole concept just irritated me.

This time it’s starting to stick, and I’m inclined to say it’s the approach (and probably the fact that I’m ready to hear it). Something about her flat out saying that this is hard, and this is what is making it hard, and that’s OK. She explains why we are talking about what we are talking about. She explains the psychology behind why things work, or don’t work. 

I don’t have it all figured out yet, but some realistic positivity is better than thinking everything is shot to hell, so I’ll take it.

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Crocheting and Sanity

I’ve picked up a lot of miscellaneous crafting hobbies over the last 5 years. Some out of boredom, some as a result of a craft making frenzy that may or may not have been the result of hypomania. There were even a few of those “I’ve always wanted to learn how to do this so now I will” things.  I’ve amassed quite a significant craft supply over the years. All of these things went into the “when I need something to distract myself” pile. (or what some people like to call “the coping toolbox”). For a long time creativity has been my saving grace.

When I realized I was faced with indefinite unemployment and no paycheck for at least a month I was all “OK, I got this, I have all kinds of things I can make, and enough supplies to do it.” My craft supply hoarding was going to pay off!

Except it didn’t. My “distress” (I don’t even know what to call it) was significant enough that I couldn’t motivate myself to do anything. I’m still struggling. Along with the rest of the world. But last week I found something.  (Well, not found, I’ve been doing it since I learned when I was 7 and never really stopped).

Crochet. That familiar thing that I have used since college to distract and entertain myself. Whether intentional or unintentional, once I find the right pattern there’s a small sense of relief. I’ve since learned to knit and have made quite a few things, but it’s not the same.

The health benefits of knitting and crocheting are no secret. The tactile and rhythmic components are soothing for a lot of reasons once you get the hang of it. That’s a big part of it for me, but really, its comforting.  It is familiar. I know I can do it, and I know what I like to make.

I’ve even found that looking at the finished product helps.  I have a massive blanket that I made with a lot of colors and textures. I finally put it on the back of my couch, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised with what its done for me. I’ll sit there and stare at it and I remember that I enjoyed making it.  I learned a lot making it so there is that sense of accomplishment. I can get lost in the colors. (I remember being a little kid and getting absorbed into a crocheted scrap blanket that my granny made for my mom a long time ago.)

I dug out an old mandala pattern that I enjoyed making for someone that I cared about, and pulled out left over yarn from the giant blanket. It helps. It is also the only thing I’ve actually wanted to do since I’ve been home, so I’ve been bribing myself with it. If I load the dishwasher I can work on it.  If I clean the shower I can work on it.

There are a lot of things floating around on the internet that are like “Use this time to learn a new skill and deep clean your house!”

No. Just no.  Use this time to do something that will save your sanity.  If its something new, great.  But if its something old, that’s great too. My goal is to come out on the other side of this alive and have the ability to go back to work without losing my mind. If that means my living room stays messy and I end up with is an assortment of crocheted projects, so be it.

 

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Delete Key

This is not a deep, philosophical post.  This is not some sort of analogy about how I want a delete button for part of my life.  This is literally about the delete key on my Mac.

Seriously.  That key that lets you erase all sorts of things.

Now you see, I’ve been a PC user all of my life, if for no other reason that I’m too poor to drop the amount of money a Mac requires. I really don’t have it now (I’m looking at you COVID-19 and unemployment).  I was given this one.  Don’t worry, it’s not new.  It’s not even kinda new. Luckily Macs last a long time.

But I digress. Back to the Delete Key.

For those of you who don’t already know, Backspace on a PC = Delete on a Mac. There is no “traditional” delete key on a Mac.  You have one option to erase things.

And man, is it annoying.  I didn’t realize how often I used the PC delete key. The absence of one on this computer is driving me nuts.  I keep erasing things I don’t want to erase. It may be redundant, but why can’t I have both?

TL;DR – Mac’s don’t have the equivalent of a PC delete key and its annoying.

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Now that it has been cleared up…..

Ever since I was diagnosed with bipolar 5 years ago there’s always been a piece of me that’s like “Are you sure? Have you ever really been manic or hypomanic?”  There have always been signs there but I always doubted them.

Now that I’m on week two of being laid off and stuck at home because of everything, I started digging through the boxes of stuff from my childhood in my garage. At the bottom of a box filled with (some cringeworthy) CDs I found an old journal. This one I haven’t seen for something like 8 years or so, probably even longer.

The handful of entries spread out over my high school years are full of the usual angst-y teenage stuff. There were a couple that made me stop.  Over a period of a couple months, immediately following the epic breakdown I had in 9th grade, I started talking about how I know things and see things in a way that no one else does.  How I think way beyond how a 15 year old should think and no one understands me or can keep up with me.  How I’m way more insightful and enlightened than my handful of friends.

Well then.

That combined with the horrid reaction to antidepressants I had while in grad school, the hellish breakdown spawning out of a mixed episode that lasted more than a year, the deep ugly depressions that followed me everywhere, rapid mood swings that followed me around in high school and then later……..

I don’t know, I guess that journal solidified it for me.  Not that I don’t have record of that kind of thinking elsewhere, because I do, it’s just that it kinda drove the idea home. And there were other things too.  Parts of that journal mirrored so closely the way I think about myself now. It’s like I could have written it yesterday – word for word.  I don’t think I’ve seen that in my journals before. It’s eery.

 

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More difficult than I thought

I wrote a couple days ago about how I wanted to get back into my old field. I truly do miss it. I proofread a couple papers for an organization and it was fine, entertaining even. I agreed to help with another project.  I got the info on Friday and sat down this morning to start on it.

Man, does it hurt.

The person who I’m helping out has the exact same education as me. Like I helped her decide to go to the same grad school as me. Her job now is almost exactly like the one I left. Hell, her freaking job title is the same as mine was only with a different organization. My old boss who tormented me knows her from when she was little and LOVED her.

And all I can see is that I failed. It’s a constant battle in my head between what I should know is true and everything that happened with my boss in my old job. She’s winning, and I find myself defending her.

The first time I met with this new therapist she told me I was having trauma responses after talking to me for 20 minutes. Now, before seeing her I did my due diligence and googled her and I knew one of her main things she works with is trauma. So in the moment I was like “yeah sure, you are seeing what you want to see”, but I liked her so I agreed to go back.

I thought about it though, did a little research, and now I’m inclined to say she’s right. I’ve met with her again and she explained how it works and it just makes sense. I have avoided so much since I quit that job; seemingly inconsequential things take me right back there. I was watching a new TV show and a character was wearing something that resembled what I used to wear for work.  It made me so uncomfortable I had to turn it off. Stupid little things at my current job would send me into a panic. A professionally worded e-mail makes me feel like a horrible human being.

And now this project. Her e-mail, her writing style, the memory that my old boss likes her. It all dredges up all kinds of horrible things. I’m sucked into the past and her e-mail signature makes me want to cry. (and all it has is her name and job title). Even writing this post, I have to continually ground myself.

I still have fight left in me, but this is going to be incredibly difficult.

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