Accidental Fudge

Updates Thursdays

Tag: bipolar adventures (page 1 of 6)

Anxious Days

I’m having an anxious week, and I don’t really know why.

It might be the regular stress of the upcoming holidays.

It might be the minor (but still stressful) drama and health issues happening with my team at work.

It might also just be my brain.

In any case, my body decided yesterday that it was a great time to develop an eye twitch. And not just one eye, but both, sporadically, all day. Obviously I’m a huge fan of this development.

There have been bright spots this week, mostly revolving around music – a songwriting classmate’s concert, meeting new musician friends, having the new song I’d talked myself out of liking go over okay in class on Tuesday. Unfortunately, all of it has been underpinned by this frantic activity in my brain.

It’s not even that I’m anxious about some specific, concrete thing. (I guess that’s why they call it Generalized Anxiety Disorder.) I just can’t get my brain to shut off.

I’m also really, really tired. These two things are probably related.

I feel like I’ve been drinking excessive amounts of coffee – I’m jittery, my eyes are twitching, I feel wired and like I’m crashing simultaneously. Only, I drink decaf coffee these days. This appears to be entirely fabricated within the confines of my brain.

Making Mental Space

First, a quick mental health update: I am still wading my way through this latest depressive swing in my Bipolar cycle, but I feel like I’m starting to move out of it. I haven’t been feeling great physically this week, so it’s been a little hard to tell, but I seem to be reaching the point where I have more energy. Whether that’s due solely to the cyclical nature of my moods, or due in part to some other work I’ve been doing, I don’t know, but I’m feeling better overall than I was last week.

I mentioned last week that I’ve been trying to establish some new, healthier routines for myself. Over the past several months I’ve noticed I tend to go to bed pretty early and I still have trouble getting up in the morning. I’ve felt like I’m tired all the time, regardless of how much sleep I get. I’ve had to accept the fact that I am no longer really a night owl. As I’ve been examining this pattern, I’ve realized I actually want to become a morning person. This is the first time in my life that that’s been true. So I’ve been getting up at what I would formerly have referred to as an ungodly hour in the morning  (or “stupid o’clock”), writing my morning pages (I’m on week two of The Artist’s Way), and giving myself time to start the day off more slowly, rather than rolling out of bed twenty minutes before I need to leave and dragging myself out the door.

It’s been going…surprisingly well. I think it makes a difference knowing that the first thing I have to do when I get up is write, rather than get ready for work. Intentionally planning non-work things into my morning means that I don’t fight to stay in bed as long. I’ve actually gotten up at my first alarm every morning for the past ten days – prior to that, I was setting five, six, seven alarms at intervals in the morning, because I knew I’d turn off one or two in my sleep, and while I always had the thought of “well, maybe I’ll get up earlier,” when I knew I had an alarm letting me know that I could no longer stay in bed if I wanted to make it to work on time, I let myself off the hook too easily. The fact that I’ve managed to be awake and doing something within five minutes of my first (and only) alarm for over a week feels like a huge accomplishment. Granted, I write my morning pages sitting up in bed, so I’m not up and moving about, really, but I’m still awake!

My partner and I are continuing to do a weekly meal plan (which is getting easier by the week, because now we know how much time and effort we save plotting it all out at the beginning of the week rather than getting to each evening and playing the “I don’t know, what do you want to eat?” game), and we’re also getting better at keeping up on routine housework. I feel like our space has never looked as consistently nice as it has for the past couple of months. I’m really proud of us.

In the end, what I’m trying to do is give myself more mental space. My mind is busy all the time. I lay down to go to sleep, and my brain goes racing down rabbit holes, trying to make sense of something that happened today, or last week, or ten years ago. I wake up, and it’s doing the same thing. I get songs stuck in my head. I’m easily distracted. I am almost never not thinking. But if my physical space is clean/less visually cluttered, and I don’t have to worry about what’s for lunch or dinner, and I’ve taken time in the morning to dump some of my brain out onto paper…hopefully, in the end, I’ll find that my mind settles down more often. Ideally, I’d like to be at a point where racing thoughts are just ideas, not anxiety – where the routines I’ve established allow me to let go of some of the worry so I can focus on more interesting (and maybe even productive) things.

What about you, friends? What do you do to create mental space for yourself?

Down Days

It has, objectively, been a pretty good week I got to spend some quality time with friends, enjoy a comedy show, a theatre show, and a concert, and I’ve had some quality alone time, too. 

But because my Bipolar brain doesn’t always or only react to outside circumstances, the objective positivity of the week hasn’t translated to an equal level of emotional positivity. 

I’m in a bit of a depressed downswing, is what it comes down to. 

Now, this is nowhere near the worst I’ve felt, and I know that eventually I’ll be fine. But it’s still a struggle. 

At the same time that this downswing has been happening, I’ve been working really hard to establish more routine in my life. My partner and I have started meal planning over the weekend for the whole upcoming week. I’m getting back into the habit of using my planner and writing down my to do lists instead of trying to keep it all in my head. And I started working through The Artist’s Way this week, so I’m getting up early to do morning pages (three pages written longhand as a brain dump first thing in the morning) every day.

Establishing new routines is a challenge at the best of times, but it’s especially hard when depression hits and leaves you with no motivation. 

Still, I’m managing okay. I’ve done a better job than I was expecting myself to do. And I think it’s helping. Having a routine and a schedule to stick to saves energy, because I’m not wasting time figuring out what I need to be doing in the moment. 

So life doesn’t feel especially easy right now, but I think I can say that I’m doing okay. 

Grateful, Centered

My first thought when I sat down to write this week’s blog was to whine, at length, about the horrible day I had on Tuesday trying to get to and from jury duty in the suburbs without a car. But I am trying to be a more grateful, centered person, so I’m not going to do that.

I’ve been feeling…a little off, lately. Not grateful or centered. I’ve been feeling frazzled about work, questioning if this is really where I want to be, or if I’m just staying here because of the good boss and good health insurance, and whether that actually matters. I’ve been having a lot of complicated feelings about gender and identity and privilege and what that all means (I regret none of the decisions I have made, but living in a world married to the concept of binary gender is frustrating). I’m trying to balance long-term planning (I’ve charted out how to pay off my credit card by 2020) and living in the moment. To be stable and flexible. And I feel like I’m not doing a very good job of any of it, like I’m just hanging on as the world spins, desperately wishing it would stop for a few minutes (or days) and let me catch my breath and figure out where I am and where I’m going.

I guess I’m in the midst of a minor existential crisis?

How irritating.

But back to the original point I think I was trying to make…I want to be a more grateful, centered person. I’m not doing a great job of it. But I do feel like the Universe is gently nudging me in the direction, despite the fact that I’ve felt like a cranky mess for the past few weeks. From my no-longer-daily-but-I’m-trying tarot meditations to sweet messages from friends to cute pictures of puppies on the internet, I run into reminders pretty regularly that really, I am okay. Even if I feel off-kilter, even if my allergies are driving me crazy and fogging my brain, even if I feel overwhelmed by a lot of things, even if I don’t know what (or possibly who) I want to be when I grow up, even if there’s plenty in the world at large to be terrified of right now, right now, in this moment, I am okay. And that’s really all I can ask for.

 

Getting Organized

I’m still struggling a bit to get back into the swing of things post-vacation, but I’m finding that I’m in an organizing sort of mood. Back in the spring I definitely felt a strong spring cleaning urge (which has not always been the case in past years), but I’m feeling a similar urge now that fall is approaching. Which is probably a good thing, because there’s a lot of junk (both physically and mentally) that can build up in half a year.

Personally, I find the changing of the seasons at the solstices and equinoxes good times to check in with myself about how the year is going. We’re not quite at the autumn equinox yet, but it’s fast approaching, and I’m thinking about how I want to get my life in order heading into the cooler months.

One of the classes I took at Song School was about time management for creative people. I need to pull my notes back out and find other ways to integrate what I learned, but a couple of the big takeaways were to use a physical, paper planner (which I was sort of doing, but inconsistently), and color-coding it (which I had not tried before, and which I think will be a big improvement). I’m still going to be using my Google calendar, too (I would often be lost without those reminders coming up on my phone), but the physical act of writing things in my planner by hand means that they stick in my head a lot better.

Another thing that was stressed in that class was the importance of scheduling creative time. I have never been great at this, and it’s something I want to get better at. Next week I start a new guitar class at the Old Town School of Folk Music, so sometime this weekend I want to sit down and figure out a practice schedule for that, as well as slotting in some time for writing. I’m resistant to structure, but I know in the end it’s better for me.

I’m also starting to think more about knitting projects, after not knitting much all summer (which is pretty normal for me). I have a few sweater and vest projects lined up, and I’m starting to look at my yarn stash with a more critical eye. I have a lot of yarn, much of which was inherited from a friend who passed away a handful of years ago, so it has a lot of sentimental value…but I’m aware of the fact that the yarn I have doesn’t often line up with the projects I want to knit. So that’s something I’m going to need to deal with soon, too.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to spend a fair amount of time in the next few weeks getting my mental space in order, which will set me up to get my physical space in order, as well. I am finally in a place where I feel like I can start making some plans for what I want my life to look like in three to five years, instead of focusing so hard on the next handful of months.

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.

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