Accidental Fudge

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Tag: ManicBrain

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.

Things I Have (Re)Discovered This Week

  1. Meditation is hard, especially when manic. I’ve always known that my brain is busy in my manic phases (I tell my partner that it’s like having a head full of bees), but nothing has ever made that so starkly apparent as making an effort to sit in stillness for ten minutes every morning for the past couple of weeks.
  2. Meditation, like many things, gets easier with practice. On Tuesday, for the first time, I had a few brief moments where I was really able to find that place of stillness inside my head, where I could sort let thoughts pass through my head without chasing them around. On Wednesday, it was harder again, but I do feel like I’m making at least a tiny bit of progress.
  3. Recognizing that I’m manic and actually preventing myself from acting out because of it are two different things. I’m not the best at financial stuff in general. I’m really, particularly bad at it when I’m manic. My biggest manic impulse is to spend money. I’ve gotten better at talking myself out of things, but sometimes I forget that the acknowledgement that I’m acting manic is not the same thing as reining myself in. I’ve not done anything particularly stupid this time around, but it’s felt a little harder than it’s been in a while.
  4. Music makes me happier than almost anything else. The Square Roots festival put on by the Old Town School of Folk Music happened this past weekend, and even though there were huge numbers of people there and that would normally feel overwhelming, there was music everywhere, and that made it fun. I ended up working the merch table for a series of shorter sets by several different bands, and I had a blast – every band had a totally different sound, and every one of them made my heart happy in a different way.
  5. Even if I sometimes feel like I’m not being very successful at adulting, I’ve come a really long way. We have friends coming into town this weekend, and even though we’re a bit behind on chores, we don’t need to do any marathon cleaning sessions to make the apartment presentable, because we keep things pretty well picked up these days. I never really thought I was capable of being that sort of person, but it turns out I actually like having a relatively tidy apartment. It feels like a major milestone, even if it would be something insignificant for a lot of people.

Anxiety Management

Some of you may have noticed that there was no Accidental Fudge post last week. I did not intend to take a hiatus – truth be told, I spent most of last Wednesday and Thursday more than half convinced it was Friday, and it was Thursday night before I realized I hadn’t posted anything, at which point I felt like I really didn’t have much to say. So I apologize for that.

July is a packed month for us this year – visits from family and friends, plus a music festival, all on different weekends. It’s a little overwhelming to look at it all at once, so I’m trying to stay focused on a week or so at a time.

I’ve been feeling pretty overwhelmed and distracted the past few weeks. ManicBrain has come and settled itself in with no indication of when it might vacate the premises. Which isn’t so bad, as long as I can remember that it’s the reason I’m overwhelmed and distracted. It’s when I get so distracted that I forget…that’s when problems happen. Thankfully, I’ve been managing to stay pretty on top of things.

One of the biggest things I’m working on right now is managing my anxiety. I deal with differing levels and types of anxiety depending on where I’m at in my Bipolar cycle, but it’s pretty omnipresent lately, and that’s no fun. For anyone who’s interested and/or looking for ways to do this themselves, here’s what I’ve done so far:

  • I quit drinking regular coffee. Cold turkey.
    • I will still indulge in some decaf cold brew from our favorite coffee shops (or that we make at home), but mostly, I’m just getting really into tea.
    • Caffeine in small amounts is okay…in coffee-sized amounts, it does seem to amplify my anxiety.
    • I’ve been drinking coffee since age 12, so this was a big step, but it wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be. Mostly, I was just really sleepy for a couple of weeks.
  • I cut waaaaaaaaay back on my access to social media on my phone. I didn’t go as far as the author of this article, but I used some of the ideas there.
    • I deleted a lot of apps, including all the retail apps I sometimes get into the bad habit of searching late at night (Amazon, eBay, and Etsy were the big ones).
    • I removed the shortcut to Facebook in my phone’s browser, and turned off the “frequently visited sites” feature. And I committed to logging out of Facebook whenever I’ve finished checking it.
    • I also disabled my phone’s ability to use the web browser over anything but WiFi, which further limits the time I spend compulsively checking my phone.
    • Maybe it just means I’m lazy, but the fact that I’m not a couple of taps away from my news feed means that I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve checked Facebook in the past ten days.
    • I left Instagram on my phone, because that’s my happy social media, which is way more carefully curated than my Facebook feed. Facebook has its uses, but it mostly just makes me sad/angry/stressed out.
  • I started developing a morning routine for myself.
    • I’m a creature of habit. As much as I sometimes like to be spontaneous and try new things, I am most comfortable in familiar places and patterns.
    • I was already kind of in a morning routine, but it mostly consisted of getupbrushteethgetdressedrunoutthedoor.
    • I’ve been pushing myself to get up earlier, so that I have time to do more calming things in my morning routine.
    • Now the routine regularly includes a quick tarot spread, a few minutes spent jotting down thoughts about the cards, and at least ten minutes of meditation. Which brings us to the last point…
  • I joined Headspace and started mediating in the morning.
    • This was unplanned. At the end of my company’s employee appreciation week last week, we were given a link and a code to get a free year of full access to the site. It sounded interesting, and since it wasn’t costing me anything, I figured I’d give it a try.
    • The little ten minute meditative sessions in the morning have been great, and I tend to feel a lot less stressed before work when I do them.
    • I do get distracted a lot, but the whole system is very low-pressure, which is really helpful for my scattered brain these days.

This is not a foolproof plan, and I’m still dealing with anxiety. But I feel like I’m building up a good selection of resources and healthier coping mechanisms for dealing with it.

How about you, friends? How are you managing anxiety these days?

Feelings

It’s been a week of feelings.

I’ve been in a manic headspace for a couple of weeks now, which usually means I’m in a pretty good mood…except when it means that I’m just super anxious about everything and nothing, which is what it’s been this week in particular.

Sunday was Mother’s Day. I had to excuse myself from social media halfway through the day, because I was blindsided by a lot of emotions (none of them particularly nice) as I saw post after post from people who have lovely relationships with their mothers. I’m happy for those people. I really am. But…well, there was a time in my life, back toward the beginning of college, when I had a pretty good relationship with my mother. Then I came out as queer, and our relationship was strained, but we tried to make it work. I started dating my partner, and he came out as trans, and my mother didn’t know how to handle that. Hurtful things were done, and the strained relationship started to fracture. Then I came out as trans, and I tried to pretend I didn’t care when she consistently misgendered me and called me by my old name, but eventually, I couldn’t do it anymore. I don’t currently have a relationship with my mother, and I can’t currently imagine a world in which she accepts me as her son. And I thought I’d worked through most of those feelings in the year it’s been since I cut off contact with my family of origin, but then Mother’s Day rolled through like a sucker punch to the gut, and I was thrown into the weird space that is SadManicBrain, which is sort of like DepressedBrain, except that I still have some energy and feel all the things, instead of almost none of the things.

Tuesday morning I was supposed to have my consultation appointment for top surgery. Monday morning I got a call from the very apologetic scheduling person at the surgeon’s office, saying they had to reschedule me to next week due to an emergency surgery. I spent much of the rest of Monday feeling miserable and fighting off anxiety attacks.

The week is getting progressively better, but I’m kind of exhausted from the number of different feelings that have been rocketing around in my ManicBrain in the past five days. I’m getting better at just kind of letting them come, though. As with everything else, this too shall pass.

Five Happy Things

This week has been relatively drama-free (woohoo!), so I think it’s time for a positive post, don’t you?

  1. I’m finally getting away from DepressedBrain. Cyclical highs and lows are just part of life for me, but this latest low spot lasted longer than any I’d had in at least six months. While ManicBrain has its disadvantages as well, it at least comes with the feeling that I have enough energy to sometimes be a productive human being.
  2. With the extra energy, I’m finding a renewed passion to create. It’s hard to focus on any one project for any length of time, but at least I want to try.
  3. I officially have a new job title: I’ve gone from being an Administrative Aide to an IT Support Specialist, which sounds a lot more like what I’ve been doing for the past year. It also comes with more money. Yay!
  4. Over the course of the past week or so, I’ve been making a little bit of time each day to meditate. This has been really helpful and centering for me. My brain is constantly working on numerous levels, and I’m not always paying much attention to what’s going on beneath the surface. Meditation (even when it only lasts about ten minutes) is helping me to get back in touch with those deeper thought processes.
  5. Next weekend, my partner and I are taking a road trip to Minnesota. Planned highlights include seeing my nephew, going up north and getting away from the city for a day, getting a massage, and seeing Paul McCartney in concert. Admittedly, it is very hard to focus on the present with so much fun in the imminent future!

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