Accidental Fudge

Updates Thursdays

Tag: bipolar adventures (page 1 of 5)

A Handful of Happy Thoughts

It’s been a week. Work is overwhelming (my first big project of my still-newish project management job launches into our live environment on Monday, and I’m scrambling to get the last-minute details nailed down). I feel like I’m barely keeping my head above water. In theory, things will lighten up next week, but that doesn’t really make me feel less overwhelmed right now. 

Still, the past week has brought with it some happy moments. A lot of what’s kept me relatively sane has been music. 

Last Thursday we saw Minnesota duo The Home Fires. It was a great show. 

Friday we saw another musical group hailing from Minnesota: The New Standards. My partner’s parents bought us tickets for my birthday, and it was so much fun!

Tuesday my partner and I set aside time to play music together. It was fun to work on some songs and start to get a feel for how our voices work together. 

I’m taking this session off from classes at the Old Town School of Folk Music, because I knew I’d have to miss the last couple of classes. In August, my partner and I are going to Song School, a week-long songwriting summer camp for adults out in Colorado. Knowing that trip is coming up is a large part of why I’m managing to hold it together at work. Just a month and a half until a creative vacation!

One of my short term goals is to start setting aside regular time each week to work on music. Particularly when other areas of my life feel unmanageable, music is a really great grounding activity. 

A Brain Full of Pollen and Bees

Spring has officially sprung and is out in full force in Chicago: there are fresh, bright green leaves on the trees, flowers everywhere, fearless bunnies in our courtyard…and pollen. Pollen, everywhere.

This is the glorious time of year when I want so badly to be outdoors, drinking in the signs of new life…but alas: I’m allergic to damn near everything outside. Trees, grass, flowers, weeds…if it can spew pollen into the air and over the sidewalks, it’s going to make me sneeze.

I’ve been walking around in a sort of pollen-induced haze for the past couple of weeks as a result. I’ve had a lot to get done at work, and I’m worried that I’m not doing enough of it, or that I’m forgetting important things because my brain is so foggy.

In the past couple of days, my brain has decided to up the ante: the pollen appears to have attracted bees.

I think I have mentioned on this blog before that ManicBrain feels a lot like having a head full of bees, and that is exactly what’s happening right now. Thoughts buzz around in my brain in so many directions that, at least half the time, I have no idea what I’m actually thinking about. So far, it’s mostly been the mental equivalent of bumblebees: busy, but generally harmless. I feel on edge, though, because my own personal hive mind tends to turn from bumblebees to wasps if the anxiety starts to spike, and if you’ve read the news or are even dimly aware of current events, you probably understand that there is no shortage of reasons to be anxious right now.

I’m working on expanding my repertoire of techniques for keeping myself grounded. After a couple of months’ hiatus, I’m getting back to incorporating tarot and meditation into my morning routine. I signed up for an introductory yoga class. I’m continuing to see my therapist even though a lot of the time I don’t have a clear vision of what I want to get out of therapy, because I find therapy a useful time to sort of check in with myself and a neutral third party about where my head is at. I’m trying to remember to breathe when I start to feel flustered. I’m listening to a lot of Deathmole.

Mostly, I’m just doing my best to dig in and hang on.

Happy Moments in Mania

My apologies for the slightly late post today, friends. I have been feeling under the weather, and forgot until late last night that today was Thursday and that I should have written and scheduled a blog post earlier in the day.

Despite the fact that I have a cold and am allergic to everything outside, and despite the fact that this, combined with the stress of the new job, has been making me feel very tired a lot of time, I seem to be on a bit of a manic upswing. In recent history, mania has often been marked by uncontrolled anxiety and has not been very fun, but this time around there have been some happy things happening. Here are a few of them:

  • I ordered a new octave mandolin. A few years ago, the octave mandolin that I had met a very sad end (my failure to properly humidify it combined with a too-long stint outside waiting for a bus doing a polar vortex = some major cracks in the top). I’ve missed having one around ever since, but a new one has been quite a ways out of my price range. I found one on eBay this last week by an American builder who’s known for his eccentric designs that are a bit rough around the edges but that sound very nice. So that should be coming sometime next week; I’m very excited!
  • I have a new musical guilty pleasure: the punk-pop band PWR BTTM. (Yes, that is pronounced the way you think it is. Yes, they are super gay and gender transgressive, and it’s wonderful.)
  • Last night, I joined my partner and one of our good friends at the recording of Greg Proops’s podcast, The Smartest Man in the World (AKA Proopcast). My partner and the friend we went with listen to the podcast regularly. I sometimes listen, but rarely to an entire episode (they’re long…funny, but long), and I wasn’t sure how I was going to do sitting through the recording of a whole show. I enjoy his humor and his social commentary, but I definitely tend to zone out after a while when listening to the podcast. The live show was super fun, though, and I stayed engaged the whole time. If you ever get an opportunity to go to one of Greg Proops’s shows, I’d recommend it.

Distracted

I almost didn’t have a blog for you today, folks. I worked from home yesterday, and it threw off my internal schedule enough that I forgot about blogging until I was about to pass out at the end of the day. 

I’ve been feeling distracted this week, which is a problem. I have so much to get done, work-wise, and not enough time to do it in to begin with. I can’t afford to lose time to lack of focus. 

I keep losing track of what day of the week it is, too, which isn’t helping. As I’m writing this on the bus on my way to work, I find I have to keep reminding myself that it is not, in fact, Friday. 

I’m just in a weird brainspace, and I’m not really sure what to do about it. Ordinarily my response in these situations is to just muscle through, but with this new job, it feels like the stakes are higher if I fail, and muscling through feels like an inadequate solution. 

So what do you do, friends, when you have a lot to get done and your brain doesn’t want to cooperate?

Coming Up For Air

Last month I mentioned that I got a promotion. I’m now project manager for my tiny IT department. Where I was primarily doing direct user support around our client database, I’m now responsible for taking our request list for changes and improvements to the database (a list which stretches back at least three or four years) and actually getting things checked off of it. And I’m still doing direct user support, because we don’t have a replacement for that position in the building yet.

It’s all very exciting, and I’m glad to be in a position where I can develop some skills and learn others. But it’s also rather overwhelming, because in the past couple of weeks I feel like my slow easing into the position has started to exponentially pick up speed. I was expecting this, for the most part, but it’s still been a bit of a wild ride.

I’ve been so, so tired this week. I’m mostly blaming allergies (which had plenty of time to wreak havoc before it snowed again), but that’s also made it difficult to do much outside of work. I haven’t been particularly productive. I’m trying to balance self-care and the rest of life, and it’s a constant juggling act that I haven’t quite mastered.

So this is me taking a brief break to come up for air and acknowledge the rest of the world outside of my windowless office. Everything I need to get done at work feels very pressing, very urgent and important, but as long as I can hang onto the perspective I gained when working at a hospital – that no one will die if I fuck something up – then I think I’ll be okay. Yes, my ability to do this job well will have a pretty big impact on a lot of the other employees in my organization, which is something I don’t take lightly (truly, it’s more than a little terrifying). But no one will die.

Taking Care

The people who know me best know that my brain never really stops racing.

This is still true, despite the fact that as of yesterday I’ve spent ten minutes a day meditating (using Headspace) for 27 days straight.

It remains true despite the fact that I am spending large swaths of my life feeling exhausted.

Last week, I mentioned that I was getting back into embroidery for the first time in about a decade. Last week, I embroidered the corners of nine handkerchiefs in six days:

I embroidered all of these between Monday and Sunday.

I embroidered all of these between Monday and Sunday.

It feels a little silly, and I have some complex feelings about indulging in a craft that doesn’t have a lot of practical application. When I knit, 99% of the time it’s something I am going to use, or give to someone else in the hopes that they use it. I knit beautiful things, but I knit beautiful things with a purpose – things that I will wear, or that my nephew will play with, or things to snuggle under. Embroidery doesn’t really make anything, it just makes existing things prettier. Which is, I recognize, a perfectly valid reason to do a thing, and my internal resistance to the idea of doing something that a part of me finds “frivolous” is likely largely rooted in misogyny and the devaluation of things deemed “women’s work” by society. So that’s my own bullshit to work through. And it’s (clearly) not stopping me from doing it.

A large part of the reason why I keep making one tiny stitch after the other is the fact that embroidery requires focus. Not so much that it feels strenuous, but enough that it occupies a significant portion of my mind. I noticed pretty early on in the week that when I was carefully stitching away, following the lines of the patterns, that my brain slowed down. I didn’t stop worrying altogether. The anxiety was still there. But the cacophony of thoughts quieted down to a more manageable volume. It gave me a little space to process some of the ideas pinging around in my skull.

Of course, there’s the rest of my life that still needs living, and I can’t continue to let the time I take out to embroider consume the time I need to get things done around the house, get knitting projects with deadlines done, and otherwise take care of myself.

So this weekend, I have a massage scheduled for the first time since October (I haven’t been in since just before I had surgery!), and I have an appointment with my new therapist. Because embroidery is a great coping technique in its right (and is certainly a less expensive coping mechanism than some that I’ve used over the years), but it can’t be the only tool I have tucked into my belt. I want very badly to get involved in whatever forms of resistance I can, but I also need to be realistic about the fact that I’ve been finding it difficult to do much above and beyond my regularly scheduled activities. I can’t take care of the rest of the world if I’m not taking care of myself first.

The weekend won’t be without its own anxieties (I have a gig scheduled for Monday night, and I’m planning to play the songs I’ve written in the 8-week class that just ended yesterday, so I have a lot of polishing and practicing to do), but I am determined to do what I can to get my brain in a better place, both in the short-term and into the future, uncertain though it certainly is.

To Do Lists

I’ve been trying to get through each day by way of to do lists the past couple of weeks. Often, they go something like this:

  • Organize request list at work
  • Do songwriting homework
  • Look for new therapist to help with anxiety management
  • Remember to eat actual meals (like a normal person)
  • Breathe

I’m trying to stay on top of things at work (because I just accepted a promotion that takes me from direct user support into project management), and that’s a struggle. I’m also trying to stay on top of my social media engagement and news intake (because I don’t want to be paralyzed by the deluge of horror coming out of D.C. these days), and that’s a struggle, too. Self-care fits in there somewhere, which isn’t any easier than the rest of it.

I’m tired. This level of anxiety isn’t sustainable. I’m doing everything I know how to do in order to manage it, but I’ve never had such a prolonged, physical reaction to anxiety before.

And I’m not just anxious. I’m also increasingly angry. I have always had a strong, ingrained sense of justice and fair play (Hufflepuff FTW!), and this administration of rich white folks walking all over every marginalized group they can reach is maddening. I will never understand why it’s considered okay to sacrifice people in the name of profit. I will especially never understand the people who are supporting this and still claiming they have the moral high ground, but that’s perhaps a post for another day.

I would love to hear what all of you out there in the great wide world of the interwebs are doing to manage your own anxiety and anger, or even better, how you’re channeling it.

Juggling

I’m exhausted. It’s been less than two weeks since our new president was sworn into office, and the whole time has been a never-ending deluge of bad news. I don’t know how I’m going to get through the next handful of  years with this ever-present knot in my stomach (not to mention the knots in my neck and shoulders and elsewhere in my body).

I’m struggling to find balance. I want to stay informed, about the resistance and the things we’re resisting. And I want to help spread information around. But I feel like I’m so inundated with information every time I open Facebook or go pretty much anywhere else on the internet that I just end up paralyzed.

I feel guilty about this mental paralysis, too. Because I recognize that I have a lot of privilege, and the ability to take time to feel paralyzed and not act is, in itself, a privilege. Yes, I struggle with anxiety and I’m Bipolar and deal with chronic pain, and those all have an impact on my ability to react to things productively. But I wish I was doing a better job, and I know that wishing doesn’t count for much, really.

The sheer number of different destructive things this new administration is doing is, to put it mildly, overwhelming. I know that I’m only likely to be able to stay on top of two or three issues at once, but I care about all of them, dammit, and they’re all related, really, because they’re all human issues. Picking a place to focus feels like I’m letting down whatever group I didn’t pick, and there are few things that get under my skin like feeling as though I’m a disappointment.

I added this article to the end of last week’s post, but I feel like I need to keep rereading it to keep from going completely mad, so I’m sharing it with you all again: How to #StayOutraged Without Losing Your Mind.

Fighting to Focus

It’s been an anxious week. I got some good news on a personal front (that isn’t official enough to fully announce here yet, sorry), but the time leading up to that news was extraordinarily stressful. And the actions of the Dorito-in-Chief in his first week in office have been nothing short of horrifying.

I’m struggling to balance my intake and output of news-related information on social media, as well as the effect of that input and output on my mental health and general ability to function in my daily life. As a white dude, I have immense amounts of privilege that I want to leverage for good. To do that, I need to stay informed, and use my voice in the hope that I can help to inform other people. However, I also deal with chronic pain, anxiety, and the joys of being Bipolar, which means that the deluge of horrible news can be particularly paralyzing.

I don’t have answers for this yet, but I’m looking for them. I’m taking steps to get my life more organized, and am trying to exercise other methods of anxiety mitigation as well. Despite the fact that the last week has been more than a bit of a political dumpster fire, I’m determined to do what I can to make 2017 a year of forming better habits and breaking out of unhealthy patterns. I’ve struggled in the past to do this for my own sake, but I’m  hoping the sense of urgency I feel now to reach out and create change in the world around me helps to propel me on to greater success.

There’s no point in lying and saying I’m super hopeful, because I’m not. I’m struggling with some pretty crushing despair and questioning where we’ll be as a nation in four years, or if we’ll be anywhere at all. But I’m clinging desperately to the hope that this is a wake-up call for a lot of people, not just for me, and to the belief that We The People are stronger than any attempt at autocracy.

Hang in there, folks. And stay alive. Sometimes that’s the greatest revolutionary act we’re capable of.

Edited to add: my partner pointed me to this article yesterday that is related to all of this and was really helpful to me. I hope you also find it useful: How to #StayOutraged Without Losing Your Mind.

All the Feelings

In the week since my last post, I feel like I’ve been on a bit of an emotional roller coaster.

Our time in Minnesota went really well. Hamilton was the soundtrack of the weekend, which I didn’t warm up to immediately (despite REALLY wanting to love it), but now I’m pretty totally sold on it.

The drive up was rough – it usually takes about eight hours, but it took ten, six of which were getting to the halfway point, driving about 40 mph for a large stretch due to snow and slick roads. Once we arrived, though, we had a good time.

We saw my family the morning of Christmas Eve. I got to see my dog (she’s an old lady at almost fifteen, but still feisty, and was happy to see me and very tolerant of how affectionate I was being), and my nephew (who was hilarious and chatty, bringing out all of his toys and then all of the dog’s toys to show us), along with my parents, brother, and sister-in-law. It went well.

That evening we hung out with my partner’s dad’s family. Christmas Day was very relaxed; we spent the evening with my partner’s mom’s family. It was late nights all around, but fun to spend time with family. And Monday morning, we got breakfast with one of our dearest friends in Minnesota, which was lovely.

The drive home Monday was, thankfully, totally uneventful compared to the drive there. It was windy, but otherwise was pretty easy going.

Tuesday, I headed back to work. That was hard enough, but then about halfway through the day, we got the news that Carrie Fisher had died. It took me all day to process enough to put coherent thoughts together about it, and I’m still reeling a bit. This is what I wrote about it on Facebook:

I was raised on Star Wars and Disney movies. As much as I love Disney movies, Princess Leia was my first real role model for how a woman could be a kick-ass leader who takes no shit from men (or anyone else). As a young girl, she meant the world to me.

Now, as a Bipolar adult, I still appreciate Princess Leia (and her later iteration as General Organa), but more than that…I appreciate Carrie Fisher. She dealt with her mental illness with a delightful blend of irreverence and grace. She actively fought the stigma against mental illness. She stood up for herself when held to the impossible standards to which we hold female celebrities. She was open about her struggles and her triumphs, even though the public did little to deserve that openness (we just demanded it).

She was witty. She was funny as hell. And I am struggling to accept that she’s gone. I usually feel pretty detached from celebrity deaths (aside from being distantly sad at the loss of life in general). This feels more personal. Still, I am comforted to some degree by the thought that at least in the end, it wasn’t her Bipolar brain that killed her.

Rest In Peace, Carrie Fisher. The world is less bright without you in it. Thank you for everything you were.

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