Daily Archives: February 10, 2015

GAO Report on Mental Health

Today I received the following email from NAMI on the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report on Mental Health. I feel somewhat guilty for simply copying and pasting emails I receive, but my purpose is to educate and advocate more than…

Structure

When my husband or son stay home because they are ill, I lose the structure around which I organize my day and my self. I need the book ends of bringing my son to and from school, having my husband…

Monotasking – Oh my gosh, it’s so hard!

I was once talking to a woman who said she admired my ability to multitask so well.  She just didn't work this way.  She was only able to work on one thing at a time, focus on one thing at a time.

Many thoughts went through my mind as she said this:
 - What would it be like to just work on/think about one thing at a time? 
 - I wish I could think about just one thing at a time and shut my brain up a bit. 
 - I bet she could multitask if she worked at it; it's a skill just like anything else and can be learned.
 - How can she get anything done by working on just one thing at a time?

See?  Even in that second that followed her comment my brain was jumping around.

According to my Buddhist meditation DVD, that's called the monkey mind.  It's part of our nature.  And the way to peace is to learn to calm it.

So why is it so hard to focus on just one thing at a time?

I think a big part of it is that our society rewards multitasking.  Many of us struggle with I'm-busier-than-you syndrome.  I know I've bought into this way of thinking.  Busy is good.  Busy is productive.  Busy is something to be proud of and wave around like a flag of accomplishment.

How many times have you written a Facebook post that says "I have to do this and this and this" - which is partly complaining and partly bragging?  How many times have you been talking to someone and done the same thing?  How many times have you heard someone rattle off their list (in the same feigned griping way) and felt like you had to match or top it by complaining of your day?  Or felt like you couldn't talk about your day because you only did one thing or didn't have anything really to do that day?

Seriously, when did having a light schedule come to mean you were lazy?  When did a day of peaceful rest or strolling through the park or reading for hours become something to be ashamed of?  When did doing one thing instead of five things come to mean you were a slacker?  Why is chewing gum and walking considered more intelligent than just walking?

Studies have shown that monotasking is more efficient (but since I can't reference any of them I'm not going to talk about that anymore).

I'm going to talk about the value I see in doing one thing at a time.  Seriously think about it for a minute.  Just.  One.  Thing.

Now, if you're a reader you might do this already.  I know I can't do anything else while I read.  Except laundry.  Or the dishes.  Or run errands and then come back to it.  Each of these interruptions makes our reading less efficient.  It takes us a few minutes to get back into what we're reading.  We lose the cohesiveness of the content.  And if it's a story, we pull ourselves out of the moment the characters are having.  In my mind, that's a less enjoyable story.

All this is to say I believe monotasking is more efficient and more accurate (okay, so I'm going to talk about its efficiency a bit).  If we jump around from thing to thing to thing the power of focus on just that one thing is lost.  There's a rev up factor to most tasks.  If we have to rev up again and again because we did something else in between, it takes that much longer. 

And if we're giving something our full attention it will be more accurate.  Do you think your taxes will be more accurate if you're concentrating on that task alone or if you're having a conversation while you're working on them?  Is your driving safer when you concentrate on that task alone or when you're also texting or talking on the phone or arguing with someone in the car?  Would you like your surgeon to focus just on his task at hand while operating on you or would you like him to also be consulting on another case with another doctor as he cuts into your body?

I believe monotasking allows us to enjoy the full flavor of a moment.  If you glance at the sunset as you drive to the store and note how pretty it is, that's nice.  But if you pull over and take a few moments to just examine the sunset, the multiple shades of multiple colors, the wonder of the earth, the feeling it gives you, isn't that a different experience?  A better experience?  Imagine how this would change your experience at church.  At the temple.  With your spouse.

And that brings me to my next point.  Imagine what it does for the person you're with when you pay full attention to them.  When you're not also playing on whatever device is at hand.  When you're not checking text messages.  When you're not answering calls.  How do they feel when you are just with them, completely?

Imagine the stillness it can bring.  Not just physical stillness, although I would argue some of us need a bit more of that.  But the mental stillness.  The emotional stillness.  The spiritual stillness.  To just be in that moment.

I heard a podcast many years ago that has stuck with me.  It was a Quaker woman.  She talked about how the Quakers strive to devote each action to God.  When they are sweeping, they are only sweeping.  And they are doing it for God.

Maybe you have no intention of sweeping for God, but what if all you did was sweep?  What if your brain weren't running all over the place trying to solve the problems of your life?  What if you focused on that moment instead of just rushing through to get to the next chore?  What if you focused on the sound of the broom on the floor?  The feeling of the muscles in your arms and hands maneuvering the broom?  The sight of the cleanliness that emerges as you sweep?  What if you just swept in stillness?

I think even sweeping could be rejuvenating that way.

And that brings me to my final point.  I believe monotasking can be rejuvenating.  I believe it relieves our minds and bodies of the constant back and forth that is so draining.  I believe it lets our muscles relax a bit, both mental and physical.  I believe it's good for us.

And, yes, this was a long way to describe mindfulness.  A powerful way to live life (even just moments).  A way to soothe depression, anxiety, stress, high blood pressure, and many other struggles.  A way to feel more peace.

Because couldn't we all use a little more peace?

But just because I believe it's good for us doesn't mean I'm good at it.  I'm working on it.  I'm still often uncomfortable doing just one thing at a time.  I still find myself listening to an audiobook while cleaning the house.  I still find myself playing solitaire while watching something on Netflix.  I still have trouble calming my monkey mind.  But I'm trying.

20 Days of Valentines—Day 14

Makes Me Tired

Click the image to find more lethargic Lotharios on Etsy.


the black dog of fill in the blank

We are gathered here today to deconstruct the black dog of depression.
I figured that the black dog of deep dark misery might need more complex personification, allowing itself to be made into a sort of good-and-bad totem/spirit animal/symbol/whatever for whoever is interested. Sirius is the one (that I can remember) that is discretely* good or evil depending on where you are. You could choose negative or positive, or both, or a whole pack, or the whole pack. Remember that it is entirely possible to perceive any of them as both good and evil. You could kill it, tame it, offer it your fealty, dye it blue, or anything you can think of.

Please pretty please either comment on this post, or if you feel like posting it on your own blog, link to this post so that it’ll pinggg my blog, because I’d really like to reblog your post here. And you’re very welcome to tell me I’m talking crap, I will be fascinated and not remotely offended. Or ignore me, I promise to cry quietly.

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Alrighty! For the purposes of this exercise, ‘dog’ encompasses all canine, lupine etc beasts, because they are all related. Interestingly, Anubis was thought to be a jackal until recently, when sombody discovered that the only doglike entity in ancient Egypt was an African strain of grey wolf. Boo (as they say in the classics) ya! This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it did exhaust me, which I think is just as good. It’s also 02h00, I got up because my sleeping pill didn’t work and my eyeballs have been sandpapered by evil pixies. I am also interpreting the word ‘black’ rather loosely. Fenrir/Fenris, for example, is wolf coloured (grey/brown in Scandinavia), but usually portrayed as black in the fan art. And there was absolutely no way I was going to leave him out. I’m giving them each broadly defined attributes, so that some of them can be grouped together for ease of choice.

By the by, I would hate you to end up with ‘who let the dogs out’ as an earworm. *strolls away sniggering*

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“Cry Havoc and Let Slip the Dogs of war!” (Shakespeare)

Wolves were generally revered by tribes that survived by hunting, but were thought little of by those that survived through agriculture.

Positive
Sirius  (The dog star) – rainmaker, fertility
Nunamiut, Naskapi – teacher of hunting skills
Tanaina – guides and brothers
Chechen – mother, creation, pride, equality, freedom, loyalty, bravery
Plains Indians: the wolf represented the west
Pawnee: it represented the southeast, corn, bison
Turkic –
Asena – creation, mother, guide, spiritual powers
Mongol – good luck, healing
Boerte chino – creation
Japan – protection, fertility grain farmers once  Ainu – creation
Medeina – creation, hunting
Serbia – symbol of fearlessness

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Negative
Anubis, Cerberus, Garmr – guardians of gates of the underworld
Grim – bad omen, guardian of the gates of the underworld
Sirius – bad news
Fenrir/Fenris – Ragnarök (end times), attack, terror
Warg (Lord of the Rings) – transport, attack, terror
Shucks – omen of death, terror
Barghest – ditto
Kludde – attack
El Kadeejo – attack
Gwyllgi – attack
Keelut – ditto
Mauthe Dhoog – ditto
Big Bad Wolf,  – attack, terror
Aziwugum – attack
The Morrigan – battle, strife, sovereignty (shapeshifter)
Werewolf – shapeshifter, attack, terror
Hellhounds – soul taker

Panxiety Strikes Back

Oh, yes. The paranoia and anxiety are out in full force this morning.Which is weird because when I got up, I was okay. In spite of sleeping in my kid’s bed because she was having nightmares and the bedhog made sure I slept on half an inch of mattress and mostly wooden bedframe. Forget water boarding, you want to torture someone, let ‘em sleep with Spook. She just kept waking up so often, I thought it’d be easier to stay by her side to comfort her. Not so sure easier was worth splinters in my back and side. (Okay, slight exaggeration but it really was uncomfortable, made the protruding springs on my mattress seem comfy.)

Anyway…Shark week arrived. Damn it. It does however explain why I was miffed over every tiny thing last week. Perhaps I overshare, but the hormonal imbalances do play a role in making the bipolar issues worse so it’s relevant. It explains why I’ll go off on some tangent on Monday and yet forget why I even had a problem with it by Friday. It’s not so much being mercurial as it is just having all this imbalance going on within.

So I am uncomfortable, I did not sleep well, and the panxiety is kicking my ass. I just have this uneasy feeling, call it bad vibes, bad juju. I can’t explain it. After the snafu with my meds, I just keep thinking, oh what will I screw up next…Or what catastrophic thing can life throw at me next.
I am told it’s negativity.
The trepidation and anxiety are very real to me, so I don’t agree it’s mere attitude. You can spew sunshine and rainbows all you want, it doesn’t change a thing. You feel how you feel. Fighting it can prove beneficial or detrimental. I get to a point where if fighting it has just left me feeling like a failure beating my head against a wall…I’m done, I will embrace my misery and ride it out.

Geesh. One of the cats just jumped down with a thud and I jumped. Every tiny sound is setting me off in spite of the Xanax. I must admit, this has been a bizarre time for me, the anxiety going so off the charts that the Xanax barely makes a dent. Been a few years since it was this bad.
I just remind myself, I can do this, I have done it many times before. I’ve done it without Xanax, and insane with pregnancy hormones. I CAN do this.
Doesn’t make it any easier.

Riding the storm out. Much as I don’t like REO Speedwagon, that song seems to be fitting at the moment.

And because my TNOS (topic not otherwise specified) post seemed to get a positive response…I give you this link.
That is my random blog where I just spout off about anything and everything. It’s disjointed, it lacks segues, it’s…beautifully crazily random. Very me. And I don’t discuss my mental illness like it’s the center of the universe.


What is Within Your Power?

Sometimes we feel trapped in circumstances that seem beyond redemption—a soul-draining job, a troubled marriage, a difficult pregnancy, or an uncomfortable family situation.  You wonder what you can do about your circumstances and fix whatever problems are bedeviling you.

Remember that God promises not to give his children more than they can bear—he gives us strength and grace to endure through any circumstance.  However, that doesn’t mean we have to feel victimized by anyone in the situation we’re in—God, our demanding boss, or our impossible sister-in-law.

After I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I felt as if the rug had been pulled out from under my life.  I was externally successful, having a successful freelance career and having just completed a first novel, but my symptoms soon became overwhelming and I was hospitalized for suicidal ideation.  I had to take medicine to regulate my moods and thoughts; I felt the stigma of being diagnosed with a mental illness; I wondered what I had done to bring this circumstance on myself.

But I didn’t stay in that place for long.  I followed my doctor’s orders and felt a great deal more stable on medication.  I bought every useful book I could find on bipolar disorder and devoured them, reading about this condition and absorbing all the information they contained about treatment and therapy.  I talked to people about what I was going through.  And I prayed for understanding and deliverance from the situation. Afterwards, I was still suffering from the same disease, but I was no longer the same person who had been diagnosed two months earlier.   I had information, medical treatment, therapy options, and the power of prayer by my side.

Make the choice to live above your circumstances, working to change them daily as far as it is in your power to do so.  If all you can do is pray, by all means do that and let God do his work in your life—which may change you far more than it changes the circumstance.   No situation is ever beyond hope.


Methods of Treatment

I’ve been battling migraines and bipolar disorder for most of my life. Despite this, I’ve never truly considered myself “disabled”. I mean,I can still walk, still work, still participate in activities, still contribute. But when I stop to think about the impact both of these conditions have on my life, I realize they have, at least in part, disabled me. I have no social life to speak of any longer, mostly due to my anxiety and my chronic migraines. I keep having to cancel plans, and eventually, people stop asking you to do things. Also, I can no longer perform my job at the level I am accustomed to. I no longer run or exercise regularly due to the pain. I’m at a loss right now as to where to go.

Part of the problem stems from the fact that I have been treating my bipolar disorder the same way I treat my migraines: take a pill and hope it goes away. That doesn’t exactly work for a serious mental illness. There’s a lot more work that is needed to live successfully with bipolar. Regular therapy visits are crucial, as is self care. Self care meaning setting a routine for myself, trying to exercise or at least move, getting enough sleep, removing myself from stressful situations. Yes, taking medication helps, but so does taking time to talk to a friend, getting fresh air and recognizing how far I have come instead of bemoaning how far I have yet to go.

I don’t know why it’s so hard to take our mental health as seriously as our physical health. I am sure it has to do with stigma, with accessibility. For me, I am a health care worker, I am not the patient. I push myself to work through the pain, to fight the mental fog that seems to hover around me so much of late. I brush off all the symptoms I’ve been noticing, I ignore the signs that I’m slipping. Then it all blows up in my face. I am too hard on myself and I always have been. I do not know how to stop being like this.

I feel like I am right back at the beginning, that it’s the day I was told I have bipolar disorder all over again. And again, I realize it’s because you can’t treat a migraine and bipolar the same way. You cannot push through the pain of bipolar, you cannot escape it by taking a nap, you cannot get an IV medication or put an ice pack on your head. The bipolar will still be there. You have to accept it’s permanence and seriousness. I have not yet accepted either and that is where I am failing in my treatment. I bought into the stigma around mental illness, that it’s a character flaw, rather than the biological flaw that it is. I keep thinking it’s something I can get rid of, rather than actively living with it.

So I am telling myself this: You are sick, but it’s OK. It is not your fault. You are still worthy of love, worthy of respect. You still have much to contribute, to accomplish. You are strong and you are brave. Forgive yourself and find what makes you happy.

Filed under: Self Discovery, Wellness Warriors Tagged: bipolar disorder, chronic illness, migraine, pain, spoonie

the merry perspiring flogger award

You know how I feel about rules.

Display the award on your blog. Will do.
Link back to the person who nominated you. Thanks Stephieopolis!

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State 7 things about yourself. Alright.
Nominate 15 bloggers, link to them, and notify them about their nominations. Piss off bossy blog award. I nominate all my readers because they’re all awesome. Except I won’t nomimate anyone who doesn’t want to do it – you’re still awesome.

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1. When I was a nipper, I won a medal for dancing the Highland Fling.
2. I am not Scottish.
3. I am in fact, of northern English and Irish descent (Galway).
4. My favourite European city is Prague.
5. I put my shirts on inside out frequently. Once I put a pair of jeans on inside out. Socks? Fahgeddaboutit. I am safe with hats and shoes.
6. My favourite way to wake is slowly, sitting on a step, looking at a good view. Well actually my favourite way is sex, but since I haven’t got any, the view will do.
7. I have eaten shark, croc, loads of different antelope, warthog, bushpig and zebra.

Blog for Mental Health/ More Calling of Light

More Calling of Light is up for those reading.

I came across this Blog for Mental Health 2015 Project. As most of you know, this is definitely a blog dealing with mental health. As I am diagnosed bipolar II with psychotic features, my blog is filled with the ups and downs of mental health, but also the hope of living in recovery. I do hope that any of my writing will reduce stigma in some way.

“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2015 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”

For the life of me, I am still struggling with links. Hit my Pinterest button to the left to get on it.

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