Daily Archives: April 23, 2016

6 Things Mental Health Recovery Has Taught Me

When I say that I’m in recovery, I mean it. It’s basically my part-time job.

My recent psychiatric hospitalization flipped my entire world upside-down. When I saw the aftermath of my breakdown, I knew it was time to confront my bipolar disorder and make a real commitment to my wellness.

So I went all in, taking advantage of every resource available to me (which I recognize is not the same for everyone).

Three days of the week, I am in intensive outpatient, which consists of mindfulness exercises, meetings with psychiatrists and social workers, group therapy, and skill-building.

Additional hours are spent in support groups around mental illness and sobriety, workshops on triggers and crisis management, reading every book on bipolar disorder that has ever existed, journaling to reflect on what I’ve been learning, and meeting with other folks in crisis to do some co-supporting and processing.

I couldn’t guarantee that I would never have another episode. But I could do everything in my power to make sure that I was ready for whatever this disorder threw at me.

Recovery has taught me more than I could possibly compile in a single list. But I did want to share just a handful of the things I’ve been reflecting upon lately as I start to emerge from the other side of this crisis.

Here are six things I’ve learned as I navigated my recovery:

 

1. Ignoring your illness doesn’t make it go away.

I can’t restate this enough. I spent the last two years evading the reality of my illness, which ultimately meant that I missed all the red flags as a major episode approached.

You can pretend that your mental illness doesn’t exist, and you can put it on the back burner if you’d like. But you can’t outrun it – it will always catch back up to you.

 

2. You are not helpless in the face of mental illness.

This can seem completely counter to everything our illnesses are telling us, especially if we’re feeling particularly hopeless.

But it is absolutely untrue that there’s nothing we can do to manage our illnesses. There are countless forms of therapy (both in human form and in the form of very accessible workbooks), coping strategies, self-care, and mindfulness practices that can help.

We can track our moods and sleep patterns, we can find communities of support, we can become aware of and minimize our triggers.

This is not to say that we control our illnesses. But we can certainly mitigate the kind of control that our illnesses have over us, and become aware of the warning signs that we need to prevent acute episodes as they approach.

 

3. Plant your feet firmly on the ground, in the here and now.

You can run on the hamster wheel of the past, overanalyzing what you could and should have done. You can ruminate on the future, and how seemingly impossible and overwhelming it really is.

Or, as they often tell us in recovery, you can take it one day at a time.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was in a support group, when I was rambling about how much remorse I felt about the way I had handled my breakdown, and everything I should have done differently.

Suddenly, someone interrupted and said to me, “Sam, is this helpful?”

I paused, taken aback. It wasn’t helpful at all.

And I highly recommend, when you find yourself ruminating on the past or panicking about the future, that you ask yourself who it serves. If it’s not helpful, opt for some good ol’ self-care instead.

 

4. Grief is an absolutely valid (and expected!) part of recovery.

I remember telling a social worker that I was worried that I was getting depressed again. I was having frequent spells of sadness and rumination, and I thought it might be an indication that things were taking a turn.

She asked if it was possible that I was experiencing grief instead, gently suggesting that instead of trying to push my sadness away, I should let it be.

“You’re used to fighting sadness,” she said to me. “With bipolar disorder, sadness always meant an impending crisis. But you seem perfectly stable to me. Maybe it’s time to get acquainted with sadness, with grief, instead of pushing it away.”

Grief is an expected part of recovery, especially if you’re coming off of a crisis. There’s so much to grieve – the loss of trust in yourself or your reality, a deep sense of vulnerability or even mortality, the shattering of your own security or feelings of normalcy, and any trauma that was endured.

When you’re mentally ill, you may be conditioned to fear sadness and grief – but it’s okay to sit with those feelings instead of resisting them, knowing they are simply a part of the recovery process, and that they are, in fact, transient.

 

5. Returning to your “normal life” is overrated. Build something better instead.

For the first two weeks of recovery, all I wanted was my “old life” back. I wanted to go back to work, I wanted to finish outpatient and go on my big East Coast trip, I wanted everyone to act as if it hadn’t happened.

I was reading a book on bipolar disorder – it had an entire chapter on lifestyle changes – when I realized two things.

The first was that my “normal life” would never be the same, and that it wasn’t something I could return to.

But the second more important realization was that it wasn’t something I wanted to return to.

My recovery was now an opportunity to build a life that was better than the one I had before – with more mindfulness, more resilience, better coping strategies, a real commitment to sobriety, and better boundaries.

Instead of seeing recovery as the road back to “normal life,” I saw it as a chance to create something better for myself.

I think that has been an incredibly important realization for me.

 

6. You have never been in a better position to change your life.

When did I get so disgustingly optimistic? (Y’all, they put me on some really great medications…)

I know, I know. But listen, it’s true – there has never existed another moment in your life where you’ve had the same awareness, knowledge, and lived experience that you do now.

So really, in this moment, there has never been a better time for you to make a commitment to your own wellness and recovery.

Dive in. Read everything you can get your hands on. Watch as many videos on self-care and coping strategies as you possibly can. Get yourself a good shrink if you’re able to. Give yourself 90 days of sobriety. Seek out a support group, online or offline, and pour your heart out.

Check out your local community college and see what classes they offer; get in touch with your local NAMI chapter and see what resources are available to you. Study yourself, study your illness, delve into your history with complete conviction – study like it’s the last class before graduation and you need to ace the exam.

Recovery is not about going back to the way things were. Recovery is about shaping your life to resemble the way you want things to be.

And there’s never been a better moment to do that than the one we’re in, right now.


Blogjacked By A Dog

I received an email today, from a reader, I am assuming, though I didn’t recognize the name or email addy. It was to inform me a Facebook person was using one of my posts and claiming it as their own work. I moseyed on over to fuckfacebook and…The page is for a dog named Bella. And sadder still…I had to read halfway through (why oh why can’t I have an edit button to stop my rambling!) before I even recognized it as my own post.  I have no idea why a page told from the perspective of a dog would want a long rambling bipolar post but…Um…Okay. Cute dog.

Of course, after defiling my computer by visiting fuckfacebook I ran a virus scan and a malware scan. Cos I don’t trust anything Zuckerburg has to do with.

I shall digress.

My doctor appointment was a bigger disappointment than usual. He wouldn’t even discuss raising my prozac, but he agreed we could settle on 900mg lithium, a concession between extremes. He tossed out his usual, “I don’t want to change too many things and upset the balance. Let’s see in a few weeks if this dose of lithium is making you feel any better.”

Imagine my enthusiasm at another month of depressive misery because this guy is too conservative.

Frankly…Kind as he is…I question his quality of care. He said we could raise the lithium to 450mg twice a day, then he had to consult his smart phone to see what dosages it comes in, and asks me if I get tablets or capsules. HOW THE FUCK DO YOU HAVE A DEGREE IN PSYCHIATRY AND NOT KNOW SOMETHING AS BASIC AS THAT ABOUT THE LONGEST PRESCRIBED MOOD STABILIZER ON EARTH???

I tried to discuss my frustration at how the depression has become so much worse during spring rather than better, like my seasonal is going backwards. I voiced concern about how little quality sleep I get and how drained I always feel. I brought up the lithium nausea and thirst. I even asked him why I’m not losing even a pound in spite of my newfound water guzzling and becoming more physically active outdoors. He said I must be retaining water or eating too much because it can’t be the lithium putting weight on me or slowing my metabolism.

The proof, for me, is that every time I’ve gone off all my meds…I suddenly drop forty pounds, without changing diet or exercise norms.

I walked out of there feeling pretty disgusted. Hell, he even asked if I had an upcoming appointment and I told him, no, you canceled it cos you’re gonna be gone that week,that’s why Jill got me in today.  I guess he was under the impression I’d hit a panic button to get an appointment.

No, that would have been three weeks ago when I begged to be seen and all I got was a lithium increase.

GRRRRR.

I did do something yesterday outside my normal capability. But there was so little time between picking up my kid and going to the doc I didn’t see wasting gas coming home. So I took her to a park along the way and let her run riot until it was time to go to my appointment. It’d rained so everything was wet but she didn’t mind a damp booty at all. She ran riot and was happy.

0421161444-00The whole day, R blew up my phone. I uh…had an toxic lithium reaction. That’s what I came up with because, “Yeah, I’m paranoid and anxious and I can’t really pretend to be normal for your comfort right now” wouldn’t have gone over at all. Empathy about mental illness might well be the man’s biggest flaw and the one thing that’s not changed in 20 years. And I think it’s why I rail against him so often. He gets to keep all his shitty traits that he could well work on but he sees himself as perfectly normal and fine. Whereas I have a brain wiring problem and he cuts me zero slack during my struggles. Kind of feels like he deserves my wrath.

So to atone, I did four hours servitude today even though it took every ounce of strength I possessed to do so. I mean, I was out of smokes, and he did get me some, so I was compensated to a degree. Then again, when your anxiety is running riot, you smoke more, so it cost me as much as it got me. Still…As I told my father the other day when he snarked about me having more money if I didn’t smoke…I don’t buy my own cigarettes except that one pack of month. My smoking is supported by doing bits of part ordering and such for R. If I ever manage to quit smoking, he won’t have much lure for me. Well, after he fixes the death trap, anyway.

It was damn near impossible to get going this morning. He wanted me there at 9. I came back after dropping Spook off and set the alarm for 8:30…Nodded off. Hit snooze when it sounded. And continued to hit snooze until  ten til ten. Then I forced myself to haul ass, knowing I was in for a “you’re not reliable” lecture.  Well, duh, I’m under water here with the depression and the meds being wonky…I never claimed to be reliable. My body wants nothing but sleep these days. I don’t want ringing phones and doors opening and well, human contact. I need to drop out until my mental state solidifies.

Imagine my own surprise when Mrs R called to invite me and Spook for supper tomorrow night. And I agreed. Then remembered his middle daughter is there this weekend and while she’s fine to me…It’s that whole crowd thing. That’s gonna be seven people. Am I strong enough to do it? But I have dropped out so much from social stuff I guess I feel compelled to push myself. It’s a dinner and sitting outside while the kids play, no biggie, right? I am sure wine will be served.

Or maybe subconsciously I leapt at the invite because I know my mom will be calling to ask for a sleepover with her grandkid and Spook did NOT earn it this week (she lost four dollars of her five dollars allowance due to fits and screaming and mouthing off) but of course…my mom does not believe in discipline, at all, so I will be the bad guy keeping her from her grandbaby. This way, I can politely say “Bummer, but we already made plans.”

I am so sick of having to fib and use subterfuge. This mental health thing and its bullshit stigma and the general public’s ignorance…makes me nuts. Nuttier.

And I need a vacation from bipolar and anxiety because I watched a show tonight and they found alprazolam and scopalamine in the victim’s cabinet. They described xanax as a “sedative” then said scopalamine is for anxiety. UM? Yeah? I guess maybe in Canada that’s what y’all use it for but my info says scopalamine is for motion sickness and post surgical nausea.

Yeah, I am picking apart FICTION because I have lived this mental bullshit for so long I probably know as much about the medicine as the doctors. Or hell, more at this point, because I’ve never been giving lithium in anything but capsule form yet my doc asked if it’s tablets or capsules. Wtf.

I am gonna try to get up in the morning and hit a few yard sales. It kills time. It also wards off more time with all the kids in my yard. At one point tonight, there were six kids plus my own outside. Never ever have a swingset, it’s a kid magnet. But they behaved pretty well and it gave me time to recover from my dish trauma so…whatevs.

Now I am gonna curl up in bed, hope the melatonin kicks in soon, and hope I can get my butt out of bed tomorrow and hit a couple of yard sales. I need to get back to me, do me things. And Spook enjoys going, behaves fairly well, so it’s quality time for us together.

One day I hope when my kid asks me what we’re going to do tomorrow…I can commit to something rather than say, “We’ll have to see how I am feeling, I never know how I will on any given day.”

Bipolar is so fucking tedious.


Blogjacked By A Dog

I received an email today, from a reader, I am assuming, though I didn’t recognize the name or email addy. It was to inform me a Facebook person was using one of my posts and claiming it as their own work. I moseyed on over to fuckfacebook and…The page is for a dog named Bella. And sadder still…I had to read halfway through (why oh why can’t I have an edit button to stop my rambling!) before I even recognized it as my own post.  I have no idea why a page told from the perspective of a dog would want a long rambling bipolar post but…Um…Okay. Cute dog.

Of course, after defiling my computer by visiting fuckfacebook I ran a virus scan and a malware scan. Cos I don’t trust anything Zuckerburg has to do with.

I shall digress.

My doctor appointment was a bigger disappointment than usual. He wouldn’t even discuss raising my prozac, but he agreed we could settle on 900mg lithium, a concession between extremes. He tossed out his usual, “I don’t want to change too many things and upset the balance. Let’s see in a few weeks if this dose of lithium is making you feel any better.”

Imagine my enthusiasm at another month of depressive misery because this guy is too conservative.

Frankly…Kind as he is…I question his quality of care. He said we could raise the lithium to 450mg twice a day, then he had to consult his smart phone to see what dosages it comes in, and asks me if I get tablets or capsules. HOW THE FUCK DO YOU HAVE A DEGREE IN PSYCHIATRY AND NOT KNOW SOMETHING AS BASIC AS THAT ABOUT THE LONGEST PRESCRIBED MOOD STABILIZER ON EARTH???

I tried to discuss my frustration at how the depression has become so much worse during spring rather than better, like my seasonal is going backwards. I voiced concern about how little quality sleep I get and how drained I always feel. I brought up the lithium nausea and thirst. I even asked him why I’m not losing even a pound in spite of my newfound water guzzling and becoming more physically active outdoors. He said I must be retaining water or eating too much because it can’t be the lithium putting weight on me or slowing my metabolism.

The proof, for me, is that every time I’ve gone off all my meds…I suddenly drop forty pounds, without changing diet or exercise norms.

I walked out of there feeling pretty disgusted. Hell, he even asked if I had an upcoming appointment and I told him, no, you canceled it cos you’re gonna be gone that week,that’s why Jill got me in today.  I guess he was under the impression I’d hit a panic button to get an appointment.

No, that would have been three weeks ago when I begged to be seen and all I got was a lithium increase.

GRRRRR.

I did do something yesterday outside my normal capability. But there was so little time between picking up my kid and going to the doc I didn’t see wasting gas coming home. So I took her to a park along the way and let her run riot until it was time to go to my appointment. It’d rained so everything was wet but she didn’t mind a damp booty at all. She ran riot and was happy.

0421161444-00The whole day, R blew up my phone. I uh…had an toxic lithium reaction. That’s what I came up with because, “Yeah, I’m paranoid and anxious and I can’t really pretend to be normal for your comfort right now” wouldn’t have gone over at all. Empathy about mental illness might well be the man’s biggest flaw and the one thing that’s not changed in 20 years. And I think it’s why I rail against him so often. He gets to keep all his shitty traits that he could well work on but he sees himself as perfectly normal and fine. Whereas I have a brain wiring problem and he cuts me zero slack during my struggles. Kind of feels like he deserves my wrath.

So to atone, I did four hours servitude today even though it took every ounce of strength I possessed to do so. I mean, I was out of smokes, and he did get me some, so I was compensated to a degree. Then again, when your anxiety is running riot, you smoke more, so it cost me as much as it got me. Still…As I told my father the other day when he snarked about me having more money if I didn’t smoke…I don’t buy my own cigarettes except that one pack of month. My smoking is supported by doing bits of part ordering and such for R. If I ever manage to quit smoking, he won’t have much lure for me. Well, after he fixes the death trap, anyway.

It was damn near impossible to get going this morning. He wanted me there at 9. I came back after dropping Spook off and set the alarm for 8:30…Nodded off. Hit snooze when it sounded. And continued to hit snooze until  ten til ten. Then I forced myself to haul ass, knowing I was in for a “you’re not reliable” lecture.  Well, duh, I’m under water here with the depression and the meds being wonky…I never claimed to be reliable. My body wants nothing but sleep these days. I don’t want ringing phones and doors opening and well, human contact. I need to drop out until my mental state solidifies.

Imagine my own surprise when Mrs R called to invite me and Spook for supper tomorrow night. And I agreed. Then remembered his middle daughter is there this weekend and while she’s fine to me…It’s that whole crowd thing. That’s gonna be seven people. Am I strong enough to do it? But I have dropped out so much from social stuff I guess I feel compelled to push myself. It’s a dinner and sitting outside while the kids play, no biggie, right? I am sure wine will be served.

Or maybe subconsciously I leapt at the invite because I know my mom will be calling to ask for a sleepover with her grandkid and Spook did NOT earn it this week (she lost four dollars of her five dollars allowance due to fits and screaming and mouthing off) but of course…my mom does not believe in discipline, at all, so I will be the bad guy keeping her from her grandbaby. This way, I can politely say “Bummer, but we already made plans.”

I am so sick of having to fib and use subterfuge. This mental health thing and its bullshit stigma and the general public’s ignorance…makes me nuts. Nuttier.

And I need a vacation from bipolar and anxiety because I watched a show tonight and they found alprazolam and scopalamine in the victim’s cabinet. They described xanax as a “sedative” then said scopalamine is for anxiety. UM? Yeah? I guess maybe in Canada that’s what y’all use it for but my info says scopalamine is for motion sickness and post surgical nausea.

Yeah, I am picking apart FICTION because I have lived this mental bullshit for so long I probably know as much about the medicine as the doctors. Or hell, more at this point, because I’ve never been giving lithium in anything but capsule form yet my doc asked if it’s tablets or capsules. Wtf.

I am gonna try to get up in the morning and hit a few yard sales. It kills time. It also wards off more time with all the kids in my yard. At one point tonight, there were six kids plus my own outside. Never ever have a swingset, it’s a kid magnet. But they behaved pretty well and it gave me time to recover from my dish trauma so…whatevs.

Now I am gonna curl up in bed, hope the melatonin kicks in soon, and hope I can get my butt out of bed tomorrow and hit a couple of yard sales. I need to get back to me, do me things. And Spook enjoys going, behaves fairly well, so it’s quality time for us together.

One day I hope when my kid asks me what we’re going to do tomorrow…I can commit to something rather than say, “We’ll have to see how I am feeling, I never know how I will on any given day.”

Bipolar is so fucking tedious.


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30,000 views! Pretty Amazing!


3 Reasons Why Complaining Rarely Gets You What You Want

Not amused

Not Amused


Ugh, I totally been guilty of complaining and negative thoughts. I’ve been complaining to my cast mates that I don’t wNt to be in the play. I’ve been complaining to my friends. I’ve been grumbling to myself about it. I said yes to being in this play and more than anything else, I wish I had said NO. I have awful amounts of anxiety, never used to have it, was always rip roaring to go play my part. My stomach churns when I think about how much I don’t want to be in this play. I’m memorizing lines and my head is kicking me in the shins for taking on this role. I am done with plays. I don’t want to do them anymore. I get too anxious now. I had promised myself last time I was in one that I wouldn’t take another role, not ever again. That had been a very unpleasant experience.  And then when this role was offered to me I said yes! Hello, anybody home in my head? Why would I do such a thing? Anyway, the play is going on eight days, so there is nothing to do now except for learn my lines, finish the play and never, and I mean NEVER, accept another part ever again. And stop complaining. Someone tell me it’s not that bad, please!

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/smashing-the-brainblocks/201604/3-reasons-why-complaining-rarely-gets-you-what-you-wantThere are many reasons why complaining is a bad habit: It puts you in a bad mood. It keeps you focused on flaws and problems. It makes you sound suspicious and distrustful. It annoys the people who have to listen, or makes them feel that they are incompetent and unhelpful. Overall, complaining makes life feel like an ordeal instead of a gift, for both givers and receivers.

The biggest problem with complaining is that it doesn’t always get to the heart of the matter. In fact, it may distract you from what you really need to be thinking about. Instead, it keeps you busy ruminating about how horrible your life is, blaming others for it, and shutting down any hope for a different future.
Complaining is the verbal expression of negativity, a pervasive, self-imposed, unfavorable view of the world. Complaints fall into three categories—self-pity, judging, and warning. What determines the type of complaining we do depends on whether our negative narrative is focused on ourselves, on other people, or on our fears about the future.
Self-pity. Self-pity involves bemoaning. This type of complaining focuses on how tough, unfair, and unforgiving life has been. Favorite topics for discussion include how disappointed you may be in yourself, how little appreciation and recognition you get for your efforts, and how unlucky you are with anything you try. Feeling misunderstood, unappreciated, and unloved often could put you in a chronically bad mood. Self-pity aims to get you sympathy and validation.
Judging. This type of complaining focuses on criticizing and condemning others and revealing their flaws and shortcomings. Favorite topics include talking about how incompetent, dumb, arrogant, or flaky other people are. Anyone who doesn’t meet your arbitrary standards of excellence could become a target of scorn and ridicule. Sometimes, you deliver your judgments indirectly, as jokes, sarcasm, or even constructive feedback. Negativity, however, is negativity, regardless of how you serve it. Criticizers like agreement. If anyone doesn’t agree with you, there must be something wrong with them.

Warning. This type of complaining involves catastrophizing—reacting excessively to normal events. You are constantly worried about consequences. You tend to make negative predictions. Where other people see safety, you see risk and danger, and you make it your mission to warn and protect them from what they can’t see: Beware! The economy is tanking! Unemployment is soaring! Crime is on the rise! Politicians are corrupt! The most likely reason for engaging in this type of complaining is to find someone to share gloomy prophecies with and be scared together.

The truth is we have all tasted and served all three varieties of negativity. We have all complained in the past and we will do it again in the future. Complaining is robust. It has survived time. And while it is not a good predictor of success, there is one big advantage to complaining.

Whether we complain about ourselves or others, whether the negativity manifests as self-pity, criticism of others, or ominous predictions about the future, the reason why people complain is always the same: We complain when we are not getting what we want. Behind every complaint, then, lies an unfulfilled goal—and that is the key to undoing complaining.
Some people find complaining cathartic. They may enjoy venting about the things that bother them. Nevertheless, when all they do is complain, they have only done half the work. Complaining alone does not change anyone’s life. You have to do something more about it.
Complaining is the beginning of the problem-solving process. It moves the spotlight on the pain points. It prompts you to explore and discover the reason behind the incessant rant. It makes you become aware of your unmet needs, your unfulfilled desires, and your goals that remain unaccomplished.
How can you make complaining work for you? To start, every time you complain about something, ask yourself three questions:
What am I complaining about?
What do I want that I am not getting?

How can I get what I want?

The answers to these questions will give you relief from complaining. They will also help you shift your focus from wallowing in negativity to creating meaningful goals that you can work toward, so you can get what you want. Begin to notice the things that you complain about the most. Discover what the unfulfilled desire behind the complaining might be. What are the things you want and are not getting? And lastly, what can you do to acquire or achieve them?

To learn more about how dreamers become achievers, check out Brainblocks: Overcoming the 7 Hidden Barriers to Success (Penguin, 2015).
If you don’t have time to read an entire book but still want to know how the brainblocks prevent dreamers from becoming achievers, check this out.
And if procrastination is getting in the way of doing either, get a free copy of my ebook Getting Things Done SOONERR™!


BpHope Post #4

Ready. Set. Sail! I’ve seriously been up to my ears in shit to do so give me a break. I’ll update everyone on my personal status sometime Monday. I hope that things are going well for all of you. Sorry I’ve been so MIA. Please leave me your status updates in the comments below!! I… More BpHope Post #4