Accidental Fudge

Updates Thursdays

Tag: depression (page 1 of 2)

Winter Blahs

I am having a very blah sort of week. I’m not sad, exactly. I just feel very unmotivated, and tired, and nothing sounds like very much fun or like anything I want to do. All I really want to do is hibernate.

It wasn’t until I was on my way to therapy on Monday that I realized that this is probably a weird instance of the depressive side of my Bipolar cycle sneaking up on me. Usually when I’m heading into a depressive episode, I can tell – I feel really down. But “down” doesn’t feel like the right word for this. It’s just…blah.

It was a struggle to get anything done at work last week. It was a struggle to write my song for songwriting class (and my goal was actually to write TWO songs last week). It was a struggle to get myself to show up for my volunteer shift and for the social things I’d committed to doing (even though all of those things ended up being fine). I had a minor breakdown last Thursday evening, because I got home at the end of a long day, and even though I’d made a plan and knew what I should get done, none of those things actually happened. I got things done, but none of them were things on my to do list, and I felt like an enormous failure.

Since I was able to identify this as depression on Monday, it’s been a little easier – if not to find motivation or give-a-damn, at least to sit quietly with the blah-ness of it all and recognize that this, too, shall pass. Yesterday the sun was out, and I had the same revelation I do every time we get through a cloudy spate of days and come out the other side into sunlight – I am incredibly affected by the weather. I should probably definitely be taking vitamin D.

In the meantime, I’m finding ways to cope. I’m listening to a lot of Dar Williams (even when I’m not listening to Dar Williams, my brain’s playing The Christians and the Pagans or The Babysitter’s Here or When I Was A Boy). I’m taking time to write down what I’m anxious about. I’m thinking a lot about the Starfinder game I’m going to start playing soon. I’m dreaming up new tattoos (even though I can’t afford a new tattoo right now). I’m celebrating the fact that I pushed my credit card debt down under the next $1000 since making a payment last week and getting a disputed charge taken care of. (I’m trying not to be disappointed that I haven’t gotten farther in the process of paying it off.) I’m trying to remind myself that while yes, I probably should be reading and knitting and writing more, the fact that I’m not doing it right now does not mean that this is what my life is going to be like forever. Once again: this, too, shall pass.

Brains Can Be Sneaky

Being Bipolar is an adventure.

Sometimes, I can feel the shifts in the cycle coming, like the ache in my joints when the weather changes, only the ache is in my brain and it feels less like an ache and more like an electrical current under my skull.

Other times, it jumps out from behind a corner, beats me up, takes my lunch money, and leaves me wondering what in the world happened to get me here.

This week has been an example of the latter. I have so many things to be excited about, and so much to work on to get there, and yet DepressedBrain has decided to come to visit. I’m so tired all the time, and I’m spending way more time than seems necessary feeling paralyzed by the sadness.

With DepressedBrain has come what feels like a particularly paranoid iteration of AnxietyBrain. My internal monologue seems to get stuck on an endless stream of worst-case scenarios if I let my mind wander. Which, as you might imagine, is a super fun time while waiting to find out if my insurance is going to cover this otherwise extraordinarily expensive surgery that’s now less than a month away.

Still, it does feel like things are falling into place, and I am tentatively hopeful that everything is going to work out.

Sweaters and Self-Care

Last month, I probably mentioned once or twice that I was working on a sweater, one that I hoped to have finished by the time I went on my camping trip.

Well, I finished it…but when I blocked it, it grew at least six inches in length, and didn’t gain the couple of inches in circumference that I needed, and long story short, it doesn’t fit at all.

I was so disappointed…I’d put so much effort into the sweater, and the finishing work (reinforcing the button band and sewing on the buttons) was spot-on. A lot of friends tried to give me suggestions of ways I could try fixing it, but…well, I’d have to remove the buttons and reinforcing ribbon from the button band to try any of them, and I really don’t think anything is going to make it fit the way I want it to.

I finished the sweater on a Wednesday. Thursday is knit night at our favorite local yarn store, and I decided that, rather than be totally demoralized (or, you know, work on any of the other three sweaters I have in progress…), I was going to buy yarn that I had used before (and therefore could predict how it would block out), and start a swatch for a new sweater.

I didn’t get started on the actual sweater itself until this past weekend, but I’ve already got one sleeve done, and have started on the second one. It’s a very basic pattern (the only particularly interesting feature is a couple of cables on the front panel, which I’m saving for last), so it’s been some very soothing knitting that I’ve been able to work on while reading and thinking (and, sometimes, just staring off into space).

Sometimes, self-care looks like mindless sweater knitting.

And sometimes, self-care is finally contacting the therapist whose business card you’ve been carrying around for two weeks, and making an appointment.

As of this past Monday, I am officially back in therapy. I’ve got some shit to work through, some major emotional processing that I’ve been avoiding for months. It’s a little overwhelming and scary, but I know in the end it’s exactly what needs to happen, both for my own sake and the sake of everyone I interact with.

Adjusting

I am going to be honest: I really want to write something happy this week, but I’m really not feeling it.

I have dealt with chronic pain for years, but have never brought it up to a medical professional (or much of anyone, really) before, for a variety of reasons. I went to the doctor on Saturday (luckily, my insurance card finally made it to me on Friday) with the intention of changing this, because it’s been getting steadily worse, and is starting to affect my quality of life in ways I’m not okay with.

Long story short, I spent three days waiting to hear back about lab results, wrestling with the fact that I’m probably looking at either rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia – in other words, a thing with pretty straightforward treatment options that will probably be increasingly debilitating as time goes on, or a thing that is super nebulous and hard to treat that’s debilitating in different ways.

I finally got the call from the nurse on my way home from work yesterday – these initial lab results were nothing definitive, but they weren’t normal and indicated the possibility of RA, which means I now need to schedule some further tests with a rheumatologist. And whether it’s the weather this week or the fact that I’ve been actually acknowledging that pain is happening recently, I’ve been in more noticeable amounts of pain all week. So now I am grouchy, and anxious, and generally struggling to focus on much of anything else, even though I realize there’s nothing I can really do about it right now.

Hopefully next week I’ll have more of an action plan together and will be up for writing something more profound or happy or, at least, less “woe is me”. For now, though, I’m going to give myself time to adjust to the fact that pursuing a diagnosis for whatever-this-is might illuminate the best way to deal with it, but it also means it’s real, and this is a reality I’ve been ignoring for a while.

Faulty Coping Mechanisms

Sometimes (and this should come as a surprise to no one)…I make mistakes.

I knew, all through last week and most of the week before, that I was starting to run low on my medications. I put off sending in the refill request, because my new insurance card hadn’t come in the mail yet. Last Thursday morning, I took the last pills I had. My insurance card still hadn’t come, but I didn’t really have a choice; I put in the refill request.

Unfortunately, my insurance card continued to not show up, and the pharmacy didn’t get going on the refill right away, and I was feeling very overwhelmed and low on spoons and doing a terrible job of expressing to my partner what was happening, and, long story short, I had no meds over the weekend.

I’ve been on the same duo of medications for six years. There have been times when I’ve run out of one or the other (never both at once), or missed a day, but neither of those things have happened often, and neither have happened at all in probably two years. I had no idea what to expect. I assumed that I had a day or two, at least, before it really started working its way out of my system, but beyond that? Not a clue.

I felt increasingly off as the weekend progressed. I finally told my partner what was happening on Sunday. Monday morning I overslept  (in part because it was stormy and so dark outside that I think my brain decided it couldn’t possibly be day, and I turned off all but my last alarm in my sleep), which meant that I was already not in the best place when I got to work. A few hours into my day, I realized I was feeling pretty shaky. I started sweating profusely. My head hurt. It gradually dawned on me that the withdrawal had finally hit.

I logged into my pharmacy’s online portal and saw that the one medication that was most likely causing the worst of the withdrawals had been filled, and my old insurance had covered it (I’d forgotten that I submitted a refill request when I got a reminder email from the pharmacy a month prior, then realized that, because I only take half a pill per day, I didn’t actually need it yet, and had never picked it up). I decided I’d head to the pharmacy after work and at least pick that one up.

I ended up leaving work around lunchtime, because I realized that the withdrawal symptoms were only going to get worse, and headed straight to the pharmacy, feeling increasingly desperate.

As it turned out, even though I didn’t have my new insurance information, I was able to use a clinic discount to get my other medication at a reasonable price as well. I tried not to beat myself up too much as I headed home with the medications I probably could have picked up over the weekend, before things got out of hand.

Thankfully, in the midst of getting my brain back on track, I’ve had plenty of folks around to help me keep moving. A friend invited me to join a weekly roleplaying game, which meant I got to spend a good chunk of Monday and Tuesday coming up with character ideas. Tuesday evening was the game, and there’s nothing quite like several hours of collaborative storytelling to get you out of your own head. Work has been especially busy, which has been challenging, but has also provided a really good gauge of how quickly my mental state is improving – I felt so much more capable of focusing and getting work done yesterday than I did on Monday, which was encouraging.

I’m still waiting for my insurance card to show up, but now HR is aware that there’s a problem and is working on rectifying it. I’m making myself a list of appointments I need to schedule when it finally gets here (and I’m hoping it comes before the appointment I have scheduled for this weekend). Finding a therapist to help me work through some of the underlying emotional things that are siphoning off my supply of spoons is at the top of the list. I am not letting myself get back into the position I was in at the beginning of the week every again, if I can help it.

Here’s to finding new and more reliably effective coping mechanisms.

Drifting

I’m writing this Wednesday evening, and it’s already been a long week. Between humidity (and who knows what else) causing pain and multiple items of unexpected (and not particularly happy) news causing anxiety and an unusually high level of work drama causing frustration, I’m not in the best place right now.

On top of (and, maybe, because of) it all, I’ve been really struggling to focus. I feel like I’m drifting aimlessly through my universe right now. It’s not so much that I feel lacking in purpose…I just don’t have the energy to devote to moving in any particular direction right now.

I’ve been thinking more lately about belief, spirituality, and ethics. In some ways, I feel like I’m having a super understated existential crisis…there’s nothing particularly earth-shattering going through my brain, and I’m not panicking. There’s something immensely comforting about being able to articulate the basics of one’s beliefs in an organized manner, and that’s something that I feel like I’m currently missing. What I want to do is make a concentrated effort to work through and be super conscious of the belief system that’s shaping how I live my life. Because I’m so low-energy these days, that’s a challenge, but I’m gathering resources and thinking a lot about it, which seems like the place to start. Several years ago I gave myself permission to ask questions; now, I think I need to give myself permission to find answers. I’m not at all interested in organized religion, but I’m slowly identifying which pieces of religious life I miss and feel a need to recreate on my own terms. There aren’t many of them, but they’re there. Meditation and ritual are two things I am finding mean a lot to me and to my mental health, and I’ve been working toward finding ways of reincorporating them into my life, but so far it’s been pretty freeform, and (as much as I hate to admit it) I think I need a bit more structure there.

Balance

Having an internet presence is a constant balancing act.

I love having this blog. I love that it makes me slow down long enough to write every week, often about things I might not otherwise take the time to think about.

But it’s always a balancing act. How much do I put out into the vast expanse of the internet? How much of my life am I willing to share with friends and strangers? When can I let myself vent about specific people or situations, and to what extent, and when do I need to just keep quiet?

I’ve been dealing with some pretty major emotional stuff lately, and I haven’t known how much to share here. But I think I need to say something, because I have a feeling it’ll come up on its own sooner rather than later, and I want to give some context before it does.

I haven’t spoken to my family of origin since March.

I just wrote 1000 words of explanation, but I am not going to post them, because this is part of the balancing act: I do not want to contribute to further drama. Suffice it to say that right when things seemed to be getting a little better, they turned around and got a whole lot worse, and I had to cut ties in order to maintain my sanity.

I don’t regret the decision to establish some distance. (Boundaries are a thing I’ve always struggled with, and it’s become very clear that I came by that honestly.) But it hasn’t been easy.

I’ve also recently realized that I’ve been avoiding dealing with how I relate to my body. Dysphoria, for me, has mostly manifested in me being very detached from my body…of course, once I realized this, remaining detached got harder, and now I’m painfully aware of my discomfort with my body.

Starting next month, I’ll be on an insurance plan that will make it a lot easier for me to see a therapist, so that’s my plan at this point, because I have a lot of feelings about family and about my body that I need to process, and my partner shouldn’t have to be the only person in the world to listen to me blather as I try to work through those things.

So that’s where I’m at: seeking balance. Whether I achieve it is still hit or miss, but I think I’m getting there. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

 

Going to Ground

I’m not sure whether it’s a factor of turning another year older, or Mercury in retrograde, or wonky weather messing with the barometer, or just my brain, but it’s been a challenging week so far. I’m on my way up into another manic phase, and thanks to one, some, or all of the aforementioned factors, the mania is manifesting itself as some pretty intense and occasionally paralyzing anxiety. This is particularly frustrating in light of the fact that my ManicBrain wants to DO ALL THE THINGS, but AnxietyBrain is too overwhelmed.

Tuesday morning during my meditative time I was thinking a lot about the need to ground myself amidst the mental chaos. A friend suggested I go through one or more of my tarot decks and pull out a card or two that helped me to feel grounded that I could carry with myself during the day. The cards I have tattooed on my arm actually do a pretty good job of that, but I wanted something else. Which was about the time that I saw, in front of a pile of things my partner had set out to sort, a bag full of rocks I picked up at some point on a trip to Lake Superior…and I thought, if it’s grounding I need, why not carry a literal piece of ground with me?

I am a person of Earth. My roots wind deep into my little daily rituals and my most closely held convictions. I grow in seasons, my greatest sense of purpose comes from providing shelter and shade from life’s storms, and I contain vast capacities for both strength and vulnerability. Much as I love the convenience of living in the city, my soul sings at the sight of trees and wild spaces. Earth is an integral part of who I am.

But sometimes I need an extra little bit of Earth. And that’s when I turn inward, and go to ground, and look for tangible little reminders to stop and breathe and dig in deeply when I feel my brain trying to fly off in a hundred different directions at once – tarot card on my arm, a little river rock in my pocket.

Before you think I’ve gone totally “woo” on you, never fear – there are plenty of other things I do to manage my anxiety, from my regular medications to deep breathing to cutting back on sodium and caffeine so my heart has fewer excuses to race. I try to stick to a schedule, to get enough sleep, and to avoid situations where I know I will feel overstimulated. These are the logical steps to anxiety management.

The trouble is that anxiety so rarely has any sort of connection to logic. It’s visceral. It comes out of the most primal part of the brain.

And when all of my logical options have been exhausted and I still feel like screaming and crying and curling into a ball under my desk, it’s comforting to look down at my arm and be reminded that my body is the home that I have built for myself, or to reach into my pocket and touch that solid little bit of stone.

So when I look at the forecast and see storms predicted every. single. day, instead of caving to the impulse to break down, I’m going to stop, and breathe, and dig my roots into the Earth of my life, and know that somehow, I am going to weather the week.

Introspection

The past couple of months have felt pretty chaotic – I’ve had places to be four out of five weeknights for the past eight weeks, we’ve already started plotting out our summer (which seems unreal, as it’s approximately 37°F outside as I write this), we’re in the midst of a major purge of the things that have piled up in our apartment, and last weekend we had a friend staying with us.

This is my last week of the four-weeknights-out madness (at least for a while), and as that winds down, it feels like a good time to take a step back and look inward. When life is busy and noisy and full of things to do, I sometimes forget that it’s important to let myself just be sometimes, too.

The friend who stayed with us last weekend is someone we love dearly, but by the end of the weekend, my partner and I were exhausted. It was when I took a step back after they left and realized that they are one of our few extroverted friends that we finally understood why we were so tired when they seemed like they could have kept going forever. It got me thinking about how I have always been an introvert, but how that has manifested differently at different times – and how those different manifestations are often major indicators of the rest of my mental health. I am a different sort of introvert than my partner is, at least some of the time – I need my quiet time at home, away from people in general, but I crave total solitude less frequently than he does. When I am tending toward total isolation, it is often an indication that I am not at my best – that I am trying very hard to hold it together, and it is easier for me to do that if I don’t have to fake it in front of anyone but myself. There is a point at the lower levels of mania where I am much more likely to be intentional about being social, because I actually have the energy to spare for it, but if I’m not careful and my ManicBrain hits a fever pitch, I shut myself away to avoid melting down from the overstimulation of public spaces (and to avoid spending everything in my bank account and beyond).

Because I have been recovering the energy I spent this weekend, and particularly since the weather turned a bit colder this week, I have been trying to be gentle with myself, to let myself be more of a hermit than I might otherwise be. I’m finding that I am drawn more than usual to meditation and quiet, and that has been refreshing. I’ve found myself doodling absently (or resisting the urge to do so in meetings), which is a creative outlet I haven’t explored much lately. I think, much like the rest of the world, I am in a tender place here at the changing of the seasons, and I am trying to learn as much as I can from this place of openness and vulnerability.

March Mayhem

I am, at the core, a homebody. Given the choice, I could spend days on end in my house, curled up with books, movies, and knitting (although if I’m forced to stay in my house due to illness, injury, or inclement weather, I do go a little stir crazy). There are a number of other personality traits at play here – I am an introvert, and have a tendency toward laziness. But mostly, I just really love being in my own space.

This aspect of who I am is often at war with another part of me – the one that wants to do ALL THE THINGS. This month, this latter part appears to be winning.

As of this week, aside from my usual 37.5 hours of work, I will have, on a weekly basis:

  • Guitar classes Monday evenings, and an approximate 10:45pm return home,
  • Songwriting classes Tuesday evenings, arriving home around 11pm,
  • My volunteer gig at the Old Town School of Folk Music‘s Resource Center Wednesday evenings, arriving home around 10:30pm, and
  • Knit Night at Windy Knitty Thursday evenings, arriving home anywhere between 9:15 and 10pm.

On top of all of this, I decided this week to start getting up at 5:30am each morning and attempt to do some sort of home workout – Pilates, weights, stretches, that sort of thing. I fully believe that “health” is a pretty nebulous concept, and it’s absolutely not my goal to hit some arbitrary numeric value that a doctor will deem “healthy”. However, I am increasingly frustrated with how quickly I tire out, how hard it is for me to keep up with people, and how frequently my back goes out due to a lack of core strength. I also know from past experience that being more physically active is better for my mental health. So, I’m easing into increased activity.

I also need to work practicing guitar and writing a song into each week. Plus the things that need to get done around the house.

I will be honest: last week I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it, in light of the battle I was having with DepressedBrain. I ended up needing to leave the office early on Friday to avoid having a total meltdown at work. Thankfully, Friday evening brought with it the arrival of a new binder, which helped to mitigate some of the dysphoria that was making a significant contribution to DepressedBrain. (The binder, by the way, was ordered from these guys and is amazing – equivalent binding power to an Underworks 997, but replacing the fear of permanent ribcage damage (which was the reason I had to switch to the much less effective 982 a while back) with something so comfortable I almost forget I’m wearing it – and may warrant an extra blog post for a review at some point in the near future.)

I was feeling rather better Monday morning, but I have to admit, I still didn’t really believe I was going to be able to handle this schedule until shortly before I started writing this post yesterday afternoon. I was absolutely exhausted by the time I got home Monday and Tuesday, and yesterday I had a hell of a time getting myself out of bed. As the day wore on, I was pretty sleepy, but I think I hit the point where I started to remember how to work through the fatigue. I am convinced that, eventually, being more active will mean that I will have more energy. I just need to stick with it long enough.

Part of me continues to wonder what on earth I’ve gotten myself into. But mostly, I’m feeling optimistic. And that’s a nice change from the past few weeks.

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