Tag Archives: sleep

steering my boat


This is as complete of a story as I can make of some things that I have either done or have had happen to me in the last couple of months since I last posted my rant about psychiatrists, medications, and mental health in America.  Since that post, it’s pretty easy to break time down into three main chunks: that last post until 7/11, 7/11-22, and 7/22 to now, 8/23.

Between my last post and 7/11, I basically ranted and raved on Twitter about the various mental health-related injustices of the world and researched that and related topics until I had circled back to The Icarus Project, the first serious alternative mental healthcare website I ever ran across.  They’re often classified as anti-psychiatry, but they’re just highly critical of psychiatry.  As am I now.  I need meds: I’m not stupid and I’m aware enough of my mental and emotional processes to understand that I need chemical help from time to time.  But not to the extent that Western psychiatry insists I do.  Nor should many of the thoughts and thought processes I have be dismissed as pathological.

Around the same time, a terrible old feeling set in, the sensation that “every day is exactly the same” that I had for at least four years, if not more.  I had been taking an antipsychotic fairly regularly for about 3 weeks, at first for sleep problems, then for anxiety, then just for basic mood maintenance.  That sucker kicked in and life ground to a halt, just like it had been the year before when I was taking meds I didn’t need.  After three days of joyless existence, I said, “Oh hell no, we’re not doing this shit again,” and I threw two meds in the trash after making sure I wasn’t taking a dose high enough to require tapering (I wasn’t).  Luckily I was using a mood tracker by then, so it was easy to quickly identify what was wrong.  I also shot off an email to my old acupuncturist in the hopes she could help.

Serendipitously, pretty much at the same time I decided to take a different approach to treating my mental illness, my oldest and best friend sent me a link on 7/11 to a regrettably now-deceased gentleman who had had a very similar experience to mine.  A couple of clicks later and I found myself at the ACISTE website: the American Center for the Integration of Spiritually Transformative Experiences.  That pretty much kicked a door wide open and I spent the next few days reading about things like spiritual crisis, spiritual emergence, spiritual awakening, kundalini awakening, and several related topics.  I looked at the list of bipolar/mania symptoms and compared it to the list of typical “awakening” symptoms, and there was no comparison.  A skeptical psychiatrist would accuse me of seeing what I want to see, obscured by faulty mental processes, but I’ve got a really strong reality check in the form of a well-rounded and intelligent yet open-minded husband who has no problem telling me if I’ve got a really wacky idea, and that’s not the feedback I was getting.

7/17 began like most days, but it was pretty clear by mid-morning that my mind had taken off on a journey of its own, though not like the one it went on in May.  I took note of it with more than a bit of alarm, but I felt pretty good and fairly grounded.  I sent an email to X letting him know what was going on upstairs with the admonition DO NOT CALL MY SHRINK.  I DO NOT NEED HIS HELP YET.  I did ask him to call the pharmacy and refill one of my scrips, though, just in case.

The details of the next five days are important, but I’m still sorting them out, and they’re very personal, so I’m not willing to share much from all that, except to say that I had a divine encounter, and no one can tell me otherwise.  Anyone who wants to argue with me needs to watch Contact and then we can talk.  Just be prepared for a lengthy discussion about Occam’s Razor.

I will say this, though: you know that scene in The Matrix where Tank plugs Neo in for the first time and teaches him ju-jitsu in five seconds?  That pained face followed by “holy shit I’ll have some more of that please”?  It was a lot like that.  While surfing.  Now I’m on shore emptying my head as fast as I can, and learning to accept that I will never, ever be able to chase every ball that my brain spits out.  As such, I’m learning to be selective about which balls to chase, knowing that if I let one go, if it’s really important I’ll circle back to it, or it to me.  It also means I’m glued to my phone most of the time, because at the moment I need access to one of my apps to record my thoughts, pictures, photos, etc., or just to listen to music or something else audio: my ambient environment has become exceedingly important to me after ignoring it for…I don’t know how long.

My little trip was over by 7/23, and I pretty much took the week off.  I didn’t tweet, I didn’t blog, and at the time I had not yet resumed the practice of keeping a daily document, something I began in June and promptly dropped around the same time as my last blog post, though I was tweeting madly at the time so there’s a record of my thoughts until 7/17.  I was reading, though, mostly topics I was once familiar with but had abandoned long ago: magick, witchcraft, and astrology, mostly, with a heaping helping of Hinduism and a dash of Buddhism, largely set in a Jungian structure that I shaped to my own purposes.  My spiritual framework is, um, eclectic and syncretic, to say the least.  There’s something to offend and/or please everyone in my world, depending on their viewpoint.  Monotheists?  Well, we need to talk about dualism, but sure.  Polytheists?  Ah, my people!  Agnostics? Would love to chat.  Atheists?  If you’re one of those dickhead atheists that is basically a fundamentalist without belief, then no, not unless you’re willing to talk about how you missed the point and wound up right back at dogma.  Good work.  Witches?  I’ll see you folks in October, it’s been too long.  Magicians?  See the witches, but if one of you can talk chaos, we need to sit down.  Did I miss anyone?

By the end of that week, I was back to “okay, I must write some of this stuff down before I forget it” and resumed daily writing on August 1, Lughnasadh.  I’ve managed to write something, sometimes a lot, almost every day since then.  I have a lot of mental energy in the morning, so I get up, usually with X around 7am, make coffee, listen to music and fiddle with my phone while I wait for it, sit outside and smoke and either think or fiddle with my phone some more, and until this past Monday, then I went back upstairs and sat in bed and worked all morning until lunch, ate, then did less mentally strenuous stuff in the afternoon unless my brain was on a roll I couldn’t stop, a common situation I’m working to address.  I also try not to “work” in the evenings, again, unless my brain just will not shut up, in which case I’ve gotten used to watching/not-watching a movie or show while I take notes and do stuff on my phone.

I had already undertaken the task of creating a timeline using Facebook, Twitter, emails, and blog posts to reconstruct, as best as I could, my mental state since October of last year, which was when I first posted after months of silence, but before I had stopped taking the most offending meds.  I had also begun the daunting but fascinating task of looking at the astrological transits for certain important dates.  That would turn out to be a very eye-opening exercise.  Let’s just say I no longer doubt the validity of astrology, though I’m willing to bet I don’t use it the way most astrologers do, not entirely.  That’s another post, though.

After a few days of sorting, collating, collecting, and condensing data from various sources, I had enough information to spit out a bullet list of important points.  I showed it to X and he was like, “hmmm, that needs fleshing out”.  Right.  I kept at it, being slightly desperate to share my experience with someone, as I had been fairly tight-lipped about the inner goings-on of my head.  At the same time, I was anticipating my next shrink appointment and wondering what in the hell to tell him.  I couldn’t figure that out until I ran it all by X, so one day I did my best to give him the Reader’s Digest version of the previous 2.5 months: seven pages came out.  I waited for his response with a bit of trepidation, really hoping I didn’t get, “honey, we need to talk about your medication”.

I didn’t.  I got, basically, “that’s really beautiful and wonderful and I hope you chase as many balls as you can because that’s great stuff, and you shouldn’t tell ANY of it to your shrink, because he doesn’t care about that and he’ll take it the wrong way”.  Ah, validation two ways.  With that, I was able to silence the ongoing anticipatory argument I kept having in my head with my shrink.

Everything has just kind of shifted and clicked into place since then, and shifts and clicks again every time I get a new tool, or make a new connection, or rediscover something old I left behind for whatever reason.  I sort of feel like part of me has been keeping an eye on myself for a really long time, and whenever I dropped something important, it would pick it back up and tuck it into my subconscious for safekeeping, knowing I’d need it one day.  When I need something, I don’t have to look too hard for it, if at all (with the exception of my truck title, but that’s another story).  Typically I’ve already encountered it and just need to remember it, or it’s something I’m already using and need to look at in a different way.  Sometimes it’s a book.  Sometimes it’s a movie.

Sometimes it’s a person.

At some point during the last couple of weeks and doing my best to record the not-always-predictable stream of thoughts in my head, I was like, “okay, I have to find someone to talk to about this stuff”.  I started wondering about local therapists that wouldn’t immediately throw me out of their office and send me back to my shrink, and one of my old therapists from when I went to the local sliding scale clinic popped into my head, and not for the first time since I stopped seeing him five years ago.  “THAT GUY” I said.  Okay.  So I sent an email with the hopes that he would remember me, and he did.  He also had biweekly appointments available on Wednesday mornings.  Perfect.  I’ll save my first visit for a separate post, but I feel fairly confident in saying that I have found the right person to be my guide for the time being, something that just about every awakening forum on the internet says you should do.  He seems to speak all my languages, and that’s a really tall order right now.

At the moment, I’m trying not to get lost in the details or burden myself with too many tools.  “Keep it simple” really is my motto right now, and if I’m trying to organize something and it’s in groups of more than four, I know I need to scale it back.  I try to start with two.  Too much?  Fine, just use one.  Once I can handle two of something, I move onto three.  Then four.  Those are pretty much my instructions from the Universe, for lack of a better term, for the foreseeable future, which really grates against a couple of parts of me, but there’s that whole “trust the process” thing, so I’m just going with it.  Most of my anxiety and impatience comes from a practical perspective.  X has been the main breadwinner for a damn long time, and since I began slowly checking out one psyche aspect at a time beginning ???, he has slowly done his best to take over the running of the house and caring of the family.  It’s high time he had some help, especially if we have any hope of having a decent retirement and not working ourselves into the grave.  But that’s way, way in the future and I’m not supposed to think that far ahead, so I just have to pull back sometimes and go back to contemplating things and putting them together.  My head is working on something.  I don’t know what it is yet, but I know what it’s made of, so I’m pretty sure the result will be pretty interesting, and it will come along at the right time.  Somewhere down the line, maybe sooner than I need but probably longer than I want, everything unfolds.

Until then, I start each day with either passive or active excitement for what the day might bring.  Sometimes I have a plan and wake up all ready to go, or even before I’m ready to go, like yesterday when I woke up at 2:30am for no good reason despite being dog-tired.  Other days I’m just open to whatever comes.

At the moment, I see my internal thoughtstream like a river flowing through a forested mountain range.  Each day I get up and hop into my mental boat and push off.  Some days I have an idea of where I’d like to go, but I don’t always wind up there.  Rarely, in fact.  So often that I have largely abandoned that mindset and just start paddling.  I make notes and observations as I go.  Some days the trip is fairly placid and occasionally even boring, but not usually.  Sometimes the river is merely a passive vehicle and my job is to observe the scenery.  Other days the river is turbulent and I have to pay more attention to it than what’s around me if I don’t want to capsize.  Some days are like today: the river is very slow and wide with a lot of eddies along the banks to get stuck in: those are frustrating days.  Sometimes I’m in unfamiliar territory I don’t recognize.  And sometimes I can’t find a safe place on the shore to park my boat for the night so I can get some sleep, so I stay there.  I don’t like sitting still so I usually just keep paddling.  Those are the nights I wake up early, if I ever went to sleep, and just think, surf, read, take notes, watch YouTube, and generally follow my desires.  A potentially bad time is when the river is flowing so swiftly I can’t reach the bank, and I just have to ride it until the current slows and hope the rapids aren’t too bad and the rocks are few.  And it always does eventually.  If it doesn’t, I have “dams” up and downstream to control the waterflow, with meditation and other tools, and block it if utterly necessary with drugs.  Most of the time, though, I am happy to hop into my mental boat, even excited on occasion.

Every now and then I’m like, “Fuck it, I’m not getting on the river today,” and that is totally fine.  I may be under the guidance of divine influences, but I’m the one in control of this ride (mostly), and if I don’t want to ride that day, most of the time I don’t have to.  Sometimes, though, my psyche is like, “Ok, come on, let’s go, we’re going on a trip. Nope, not telling you where we’re going, just sit down, shut up, and hang on.  And pay attention, there’ll be a quiz.”  I just sigh internally, reach down and tighten the laces on the combat boots my inner self is still wearing from 1995, and get in.

Working on myself is fun, but it’s hard.  There’s a lot of locks to pick in here.  And secret passageways.  And the occasional booby trap, though since I’m the one that made them, they can’t really hurt me.  All they do is slam the door shut and send me back to where I was.  It just means I’m not ready to look there yet.  It’s all good, everything circles back around eventually.  For now, my psyche has a torch, a key, and a dog, and that’s pretty much all I need.  She wanders, I observe and take notes, and at some point we get together and see what we have.  Right now I’ve got an assload of really interesting data that doesn’t pull together to really go anywhere solid, but I have total faith that a pattern will emerge.  Scientists laughed at pilots for two decades before admitting the existence of the jet stream.  Just because I see something others don’t doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

I leave you with my favorite quote for the week from Matrix: Reloaded

We can never see past the choices we don’t understand. – The Oracle

Patterns


My good friend B has been helping me with my memoir.  She was telling me that I need to make it more personal in places, and suggested there needs to be a section where I talk about myself and how I deal with the world: what my patterns are that help me cope with things.

Well, I have a pattern of retreating when things get too intense.  I had too much input when I was growing up, and now I just can’t tolerate too much of it.  I don’t do well in large crowds unless it’s something I’m really into, like a Rush show or a fireworks display.  Even then I might need pharmaceutical assistance to deal with the intensity of it all.  If life in general is stressing me out, bed is my retreat.  I’ll head there as soon as I can to read or watch television, and have a hard time getting out of it in the morning.

Another part of retreating is getting angry, because it pushes people away, increasing the space around me.  Sometimes that’s the only way to get the space I need.  I suffer from the strange dichotomy of being a lovable hermit, which means people like me and want to be around me a lot, but I don’t necessarily reciprocate the feeling.  Not as often as they do, anyway.  I can tell my nine-year-old daughter that I need space to myself, but since she’s nine, she’s self-centered and doesn’t always listen.  Sometimes the only way I can get what I need is to get angry with her when she’s not respecting my boundaries.

Another pattern I have is being controlling of my environment.  I need things to be particular ways in order to feel comfortable and happy.  Things need to be in certain places.  Things need to be organized in specific ways.  Calendars have to be kept certain ways.  I have my systems, and they must be followed.  It’s the only way I feel like I have some sort of control over my world, even if that control is an illusion.

That’s another coping pattern: I’m totally willing to submit to a fantasy or an illusion to maintain my sanity.  I may know intellectually that what I’m doing is ridiculous or pointless, but if it’s serving some purpose in the moment and isn’t hurting anyone, I’m down with it.

Perhaps my biggest coping pattern, or tool, is music.  I would have gone insane long ago without music.  I cannot work in silence, and if forced to do so will quickly get wired up into a ball so tense I can’t do anything.  Every tiny tic of noise will stand out in my ears, distracting me from my work.  Music can distract me from any mood I’m in except for the very darkest, which nothing will quell.

There are other patterns I would like to instill into my life that would make me a happier person.  Exercise is one.  Exercise and sleep are the two things a bipolar sufferer can do that will do the most to mitigate their illness without the use of medication.  I’ll always need the latter, but it won’t be as effective without the first two things.  Fortunately, better exercise leads to better sleep, so I really only need to work on one of those things.  Like most people, though, I find it extraordinarily difficult to get any kind of exercise routine going.  I enjoy it (mostly) while I’m doing it, but making the time to do it seems to be a huge problem I can never get around.  If I knew why, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing about it and would be making millions of dollars getting lazy Americans off their asses.

I have to figure out a way, though.  I’m at the end of where pharmaceuticals will help my disease.  If I want it to get any better, and it still needs help, I have to get it the rest of the way myself.

Meditation is another pattern that would do me a world of good, although the thought of sitting alone with my thoughts makes me want to crawl out of my skin.  That doesn’t sound peaceful or calming at all.  I keep getting it from all sides, though: meditate and you’ll feel better.  There must be some truth to it, too, because my mind resists meditating more than it resists exercising.  Anything I resist must be good for me, it seems.

The third pattern I’d like to instill is yoga.  It’s a combination of exercise and meditation, and I suppose if I were to pick just one thing to work on, it would be this since it encompasses everything.  Yoga doesn’t give me hard exercise, though, and that’s what I need: an hour or more of breathing hard and sweating hard.  There are types of yoga that will give me that, but I’m not balanced or coordinated enough for them yet.  Still, a good yoga practice would be awesome.  The times that I’ve managed to go to yoga even twice a week have been peaceful times in my life.  I can’t imagine how I’d feel if I went every day.

If I imagined my ideal life, it would be like this.  I’d get up at 6:30 every day with my family and get my daughter off to school, and then I’d spend the first part of the morning in meditation and enjoying tea.  Afterwards I’d either exercise or do yoga, then get myself cleaned up for the day.  The middle part of the day would be spent working, either at my job at the dojo, or at home on my book or other project.  In the afternoon, I’d pick up my daughter from school, then prep for dinner while she did her homework.

Here’s where the day gets tricky and always gets screwed up.  Both of our karate classes are in the late afternoon and early evening, but that’s smack in the middle of dinnertime.  The only way I can think of to work things is for me to prep dinner things, take us to class while my husband makes dinner, and then have him come to pick up our daughter from class so I can go to mine.  That means the two of us have to eat a snack or drink smoothies before our classes.  It also means they don’t eat until at least 7pm and I don’t eat until at least 8pm, which I suppose is fine as long as everyone has had a snack beforehand to prevent The Crankies, which will ruin a nice day faster than anything.

After dinner would have to be kitchen cleanup, which is another area where we always fail.  We both detest washing dishes, and we don’t have a dishwasher so it all has to be done by hand.  No one wants to do chores after dinner, either, so it sits there until the next day, ruining the next day’s dinnertime because we can’t cook in our tiny, dirty kitchen.  So we eat out, which ruins the budget.  All of these little things connect to one another to either make a well-run machine, or a freaking mess.  So far, we’re a freaking mess, and I can’t seem to get the well-run machine going.

I worry about this not just because of my own life, but because we’re teaching our daughter to be an undisciplined slob.  She has no routines of her own and I know it’s our fault: she has none to emulate.

I’m worried I’m too old to instill new patterns into my life.  I’m worried I’ll be stuck in these unsatisfying patterns for the rest of my life, or that it will take something potentially life-threatening to make me change them.  Of course, I worry about a lot of things these days.  That would probably be the best pattern of all to instill into my life: stop worrying so much.

Up Yours, Universe


I’m really not enjoying life right now.  Around the time that the cat died two weeks ago, I started having a recurrence of a strange breathing issue I have from time to time.  It basically keeps me from being able to take a deep breath whenever I want to.  It has its origins partially in my allergies, and partially in anxiety.  I start having trouble because of the allergies, which makes me anxious, which makes the problem worse.  I haven’t figured out how to make it go away yet.  It just happens spontaneously.

Consequently, I’m getting really shitty sleep right now since I pretty much can’t lay down to sleep.  Whatever this fuckuppery my lungs likes to play on me gets worse when I’m reclining.  I’ve largely slept either in a recliner or on the couch the last two nights.

I don’t imagine the anxiety component is made any better by the fact that I’m on deathwatch with yet another cat.  This time it’s YinYang’s mother, Babalon.  Obviously, she’s a bit older than he was when he died a couple of weeks ago.  She also looks much worse.  She’s been sick for at least two years, is nothing but fur and bones, and looks like she has at least two paws in the grave.  Her condition has grown much worse in the past few days and I’m fairly certain I’ll be sending another pet on its way to the Great Catnip Field in the Sky sooner rather than later.  Because what I really need right now is to dig another hole in my back yard.

So between the dead and dying cats, my allergies, and my anxiety, my sleep is suffering.  I believe the appropriate word to use to describe my current demeanor would be “punchy”.  I really want nothing more than 8-12 hours of uninterrupted sleep.  I would particularly like it to be uninterrupted by the need to suddenly sit upright to alleviate the sensation of suffocating.  I’d love to induce sleep pharmaceutically, but my supply of appropriate meds is quite low due to the last dying cat incident and due to my psych nurse adjusting my scrip down without really discussing it with me (which is the first time he’s done something to annoy me).

All of which will be discussed at my appointment later today, along with the apparent necessity that I take a drug that costs $13 a pill (just my fucking luck: dozens of psychiatric medications at my disposal, and the one that works is the most recent in a new string of horribly expensive drugs that unfortunately do their job really well).  I’ll be spending some time delving into the world of online pharmacies.

So no, I’m really not enjoying life at the moment.  I want my cat back, and I want to breathe properly.

Itchy


*scratches madly at legs* I seem to have my first ever case of chigger bites. OMG. I thought fire ants were bad. Well, they are, but in a different way. And not nearly this itchy. Holy crap. According to the internet, I have another week or so of this. Oh joy. Nature’s gift to me for standing outside whacking limbs out of a tree gone crazy for two hours straight without any bug repellent. At dusk. In Central Texas. Not the brightest of my ideas. I think I’m misfiring in a number of ways this week, though.

Not the least of which is in the cranky department. Just because I get a bug up my butt about something doesn’t mean I get to be rude to people, least of all people I actually like. Not even if I’m right. I’m better about this than I used to be, but graceful debating skills don’t come easy to someone used to a more below-the-belt style of arguing. Which was often a with-the-belt style of arguing. Not nearly as much fun as just being in a bad mood and stepping on someone’s toes, which is much more easily fixed.

Note to self: Before I sit down to do my words each day, I need to read over the previous day’s words to make sure I’m not repeating myself.

This week’s big stress is the car, which recently rolled over 100,000 miles. Go Tethys! Tethys is the ancient Greek Titan of the sea. Before and bigger than Poseidon. Yeah. Anyway, all of our cars have been silver, green, or blue, so we started naming them Tethys. We’re on Tethys III at the moment. Well, Tethys needed a new pair of soles for her shoes (that’s new brakes in modern parlance), particularly since they were making a most horrible squealing noise. The report from the mechanic is always either much more or much less than you were expecting to spend. In this case, it was the former. Luckily we could split the work in half and take care of the rest later, but it still left us a little tight.

So what? We’d be totally screwed if I hadn’t actually been saving money for the last few paychecks for the express purpose of taking care of old car and old cat related emergencies, that’s what. And while I keep trying to get on myself for already depleting the savings account, the rest of me tries to remind the anxiety-ridden side that we’re using it for it’s intended purpose. That is the very definition of “emergency fund”. Well done! *pats head* And it didn’t take all that long to get it to where it was; it won’t take that long to get it back there again, either. I just need to hold off on any more emergencies for a little while.

Here at home, I still haven’t planted my ‘three sisters’ garden bed yet. I’m not sure what I’m waiting for, if not a convenient time window. If I were more of a morning person, I’d take care of these things then. Which is when one is *supposed* to garden here in Central Texas. Unless you *want* heatstroke. Actually, I am trying to be more of a morning person. My daughter loves it when I get up in the morning with she and her father, even if I’m mostly just a tea-drinking lump. On a more practical level, I should get up with the rest of the family so I can take our daughter to school instead of him: I have more time and don’t have to dodge rush hour traffic. I would also have a lot more time to do things that I’m always complaining about not having enough time to do.

I’d have to sacrifice my entire evening routine. That means no more late-night tv watching, or at least reserved for special evenings and my favorite shows. If I’m watching a series on Netflix, I’m going to have to set a weekly limit as to how many episodes I’m allowed to watch. Otherwise I’ll do what I did recently: watch all seven seasons of Star Trek: Voyager in just over a month. That’s 168 episodes over what was once seven years. That’s a lot of tv. I need to break the extraordinarily bad habit of falling asleep while watching the telly. Reading would be much better. Just turning the damn light off at a pre-appointed time would probably also help. I imagine it would mean several days of weird sleep while my body tried to adjust, but I would hope that my internal clocks would settle in after a time. Seeing as how it’s already 10:37pm, I don’t think the night to start that is going to be tonight.

Hot Hot Hot


“I tried not to think about the words SEARING.FLESH.” – Fight Club

It has been blazingly hot lately.  On Tuesday, I measured a temperature of 110F on my back porch.  Some people get SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)  in the winter.  I get it in the summer.  After all, there’s not much going outside.  Not if you don’t want to spontaneously burst into flames.  And it’s depressing.  Everything is dead and brown.  I hate it.

Seriously though, I have taken up jogging with my friends.  We don’t go until the sun is nearly down, but I’m going.  This is remarkable for someone who used to laugh at joggers and runners for doing so without being chased.  And it does somehow make the heat more bearable, because it’s not going to rain for another month at least.  *cries*

On the plus side, my headmeat seems to have stabilized, but not until after a really unpleasant episode a couple of months ago during which I learned I really can’t fuck with my sleep.  That’s the trouble with having bipolar.  The only way to know your meds aren’t working is to feel like shit.  Ah well.  I have a small army of pharmacy bottles to take from each day, and a basket full of vitamins and supplements to counteract the side effects (mostly muscle twitches).  Two mood stabilizers, one antidepressant, one sleep aid, two antianxiety agents, and one thyroid med to counteract what one of the mood stabilizers does.

A calcium-magnesium-potassium supplement is crucial to stave off the muscle twitches, which aren’t nearly as bad as the ones trazodone gave me.  I don’t take that anymore, thank the gods: akathisia really, really sucks.  B-vitamins, fish oil, and a host of others.  Obviously, I found a headmeat doc (nurse, really) that does me a lot of good and is on tap via smartphone virtually any time.  Plus, he’s really funny.

Everything else I have allowed to sliiiiiiide.  I haven’t been to the Buddhist center in two months.  I haven’t done yoga in quite some time.  The only thing I’ve done is karate, which I will probably do more now that I know I don’t need that many more classes to get my next ranking.  I’ve gone to the gym more, though.  I have to adjust my diet, though, or those 20 pounds are never going to come off.

Obviously due to the heat wave, I’ve done no gardening.  It’s crispy out there.  I allowed my community garden plot to slide: who wants to put in community hours when it’s over 100 outside?  I hate the politics anyway.

Some things are good though, or at least better.  I’m enjoying things a little bit more.  I got the henna out for a friend last week and I was very pleased I haven’t lost my touch.  I haven’t had to lie to anyone about how I’m feeling, which also pleased me.  My memory is for shit, though, which my headmeat caretaker assures me will improve the happier I get.  I haven’t taken care of all that death paperwork to collect my grandmother’s ancient life insurance policy, but I actually want to, along with some remaining boxes that her friends in California were interested in.  I mean, it’s only been three years.  *sigh*

Other ways I know I’m better: I’m not murderously angry about the non-stop machinery I can hear from my house for the last, oh, year and a half?  I don’t feel like killing every asshat driver in South Austin (trust me, that’s remarkable, we have a high asshat density down here).  I’m a bit annoyed about the massive fence the neighbor behind us put up, but I haven’t thrown anything at it.  😀

There are other things that still need improving, but I’m hoping that they improve with more sleep and exercise and with an abatement of the heat.  It’s like a freakin’ blast furnace out there.

Anhedonia


Cover of "The Wall"
Cover of The Wall

From the Greek ‘an-‘ meaning against or not, and ‘-hedone’, meaning pleasure.  Therefore, a lack of pleasure.  One of the hallmarks of depression.  Not to mention something I’ve been suffering from to one degree or another for months (years?) now.  Really, I can’t tell how long anymore.  When was the last time I was truly happy and enjoying my life?  I don’t know.

I define happiness as an overall contentment that makes a person pleased when they wake up in the morning and eager to get out of bed to meet the day’s challenges, whatever they may be.  Those challenges are not met with anxiety but with fervor and gusto.  Episodes of unhappiness or down feelings are fleeting and do not last long, unless something big like a death has occurred.  A happy person has things that they work on that make them feel fulfilled, whether it’s their job or their home or doing the New York Times crossword puzzle for the day.  It doesn’t matter what it is.

I’m missing these things, and I can’t tell anymore if it’s because of my brain chemistry or because the inherent elements of my life are no longer fulfilling or pleasing.  Worse, it’s entirely possible that my brain chemistry causes me to think that the inherent elements of my life are no longer fulfilling or pleasing.  Like a horrible trick is being played on me from inside my head.

Then the shoulds come marching in, like Pink Floyd’s hammers in The Wall.  I understand that double-album so intimately now, from end to end.  I get it in a way I really wish I didn’t.  But there they are, those hammer-like shoulds.  You should be happy because you have a beautiful family.  You should be happy because you live in a great city.  You should be happy because you have great friends.  You should be happy because you have so much freedom.  You should be happy because your husband takes such good care of you and makes sure you have what you need.  You should be happy for a billion reasons that you must be ignoring or else you’d be happy, and therefore you should feel bad because you are not happy.

The shoulds spiral around in an ever-tightening circle that inevitably leads back to me, laying the blame of everything in my life that should make me happy but doesn’t at my weary mental feet.  Guilt, shame, and blame: the staunch guardians left over from a childhood of watching the hammers beat down the other people surrounding me.

I would give anything to want to get up in the morning and to greet the day with enthusiasm about what it may bring, rather than weariness or fear.
I would give anything to go through my day with ease and contentment, addressing each task in a relaxed way that did not tense my body and mind.
I would give anything to deal with my family with a serenity that did not treat every problem as though it may be earth-shattering.
I would give anything to lay my head upon my pillow each night feeling good about the day, knowing that there was another one on the other side of my dreams.

I would give anything to be freed of this demon that has followed me for so many years and has only relented when I’ve been able to travel, have been in school, or have been in a position to have goals, dreams, and hopes bigger than myself.  Perhaps I have these things and I just can’t see them for whatever reason, and need to clean those shit-colored glasses I seem to find myself wearing so often.  Is this one of those places where it’s difficult to tell where I stop and where my illness begins?  If so, I truly hope the answer is found soon, as my tolerance for the medication dance is already wearing thin.  “Nope, that didn’t work, let’s try another one!”  This can go on for years for some people.  I’m not sure if I have the stamina for that.

In the meantime, I wait and tell the appropriate people when I’m feeling particular ways and try not to do too much damage along the way, to myself or anyone else.  And hope that I am bigger, stronger, and more patient than anhedonia.

The Observed and the Observer


Part of me feels I should apologize for my last blog post.  However, it’s my blog and no one’s being forced to read it, and I’m trying to figure out something really complicated, so I’m not going to worry about it too much.

Incidentally, I feel much better at the moment than I did over the weekend.  Almost spookily so.  Enough to joltingly remind me of the nature of what’s wrong with my brainmeats.  Enough to feel silly when I finally got a doctor’s appointment to review some of my more unpleasant behaviors and thought patterns.  Something tells me that’s the hallmark of being bipolar: the neverending sensation that whatever it was that you recently experienced must not have been real, or might not have been as severe or debilitating or frightening as it really was.  I imagine it’s this same sensation that makes a lot of bipolars go off their meds.  I have firsthand experience how terrible this is for the people around them: my mother went off her various meds many, many times while I was growing up.  If I have any wishes for myself, not to mention my family, it’s that I entirely skip my mother’s madness of stopping her meds and finding another doctor who would tell her something completely different because they weren’t hip to her bullshit yet.

Meanwhile, everything around her, the family included, would crumble to bits and the only sane person in the house (me) would be heavily leaned upon to maintain the family structure.  I wonder how much of having to put up with that has to do with what’s up with me today.  I hope it’s a lot, because it means my daughter has a much lower chance of having a brain that short circuits on her in her late teens or early twenties.  I along with my husband have somehow managed to (largely) provide an environment that has produced a pretty goddamned normal almost 8-year-old.  I look at her and think how I’m really looking at the person *I* should have been at that age.  Even at her tender age, she has a really good bead on who she is and where she’s going.

I wish I could say the same for myself, at the age of 39.  I’ve spent the better part of my life trying to figure out who I am.  I’m certainly not where I thought I would be at this age, but I was also the victim of our culture’s mandate that one have their entire life planned out by the age of 18, much to the detriment of my self-esteem as that plan failed to unfold.  Now I have an entirely new set of identity crises to deal with.  Namely, how do I know which of my moods are really “mine” and which ones are products of being bipolar?  When should I stop having a good time laughing and start being concerned that I’m being too funny?  When should I stop moping and start worrying that I’m in a serious depression?  Just what exactly should I define as “normal” or “happy” or “sad”?  Or should I define moods by what they are not? I know it’s unhealthy to have suicidal, hostile, or violent thoughts: does that mean that any bad or sad mood that doesn’t include those qualities should be deemed “normal” or “healthy”?

It’s such a strange thing to have to self-analyze in this way.  Fortunately, I’m really good at analyzing things in general.  To a degree sometimes that I wish I could stop, because I understand the world in a way that most others do not, and that all by itself makes me a little nutty sometimes.  I feel pompous and conceited when I feel this way.  I mean, who wants to talk with someone who claims to really understand things like how far it is to the Moon and back?  That’s not an abstraction to me the way it is for a lot of people who gaze up into the night sky at the white orb that keeps our planet in perfect 23.5 degree balance.  That’s 350,000 kilometers, roughly.  And I grok every single one of them.  In fact, I’ve made a concerted effort to grok things like that.  Partly because feeling small and tiny is one of the things that feels comforting to me here on Earth.  That makes some people feel frightened, but not me.  Feeling puny in relation to the rest of the Universe gives me hope and comfort that the beauty of the Universe will continue on, no matter how many Neocons get elected to office or how few rich people really control the world or how many dogs and cats are unnecessarily euthanized.  In that way, the Universe, everything in it, and the way it all operates is my God.

Whoops, little segue there.  It’s things like that paragraph that make me curious: which part is me, and which part is the bipolar?  Are the separable?  If they are, which parts should I keep?  Of course, these are largely questions of philosophy, not psychology, or at the very least, live in the DMZ between the two.  I do know this: there are no hard lines in the Universe.  Absolutely none.  There is no place and no philosophy where a person can point and KNOW that This is where This ends and This is where This begins.  There is overlap everywhere.  I think our little blue marble 93 million miles from the Sun would function a lot better if people could figure that out.

And this is where my brain is today: on a good day, wondering how long it will last and when my mood will take a downturn to something merely melancholy or hatefully hostile.  I’m still doing a lot of reading about bipolar, and from what I’ve read, it can take months to recover from a full-blown up, down, or mixed episode.  I’ve had several of all three in the last couple of months.  I wonder what the fuck THAT means.  Again, is that the illness?  Or is that just ME?

I essentially have to treat my life as an experiment with rigid conditions in which there are very few uncontrolled variables.  If screwy sleep patterns set me off, then I have to establish rigid sleeping schedules and actually stick to them, regardless of how tired I am (allowing for naps when possible: the schedule is what’s important).  If low blood sugar sets me off, then I have to establish rigid eating habits and keep things around that I’ll actually want to eat.  If reading the news on Facebook sets me off, then I have to cut out what I shouldn’t read.  If a lack of exercise leads to weight gain and depression, then I have to make sure that I exercise every day, and give myself several options in case I don’t feel like doing one of them that day.  I am the scientist AND the rat in this maze!  Only by keeping that degree of control over certain things can I know how my moods interact with my life, and vice versa.

I also have to do something else that has heretofore been extremely difficult and the lack of which has led to a bit of surprise on the part of people who’ve known me for many years upon finding out the kind of trouble I’ve had since my late teens.  I have to talk to people and open up to them.  I have to ask them to let me know if I’m “off”.  Maybe that is the best way of all to answer the existential questions that I have.  Who am I?  The people who’ve been around me for the last 15-20 years ought to be able to tell me, or at the very least give their impressions.  And I know most of them love and care for me enough that I’m pretty sure they’d tell me if I wasn’t being “myself”.

I imagine there will be no small amount of adjustment and transition as I slowly figure out things like when I’m just being happy and in a good humor and when I’m being too funny or too happy or too depressed (and make no mistake, I AM a somewhat morbid and morose person with a very dark sense of humor, and I can only hope it’s obvious when I’ve switched from being amusing to being disturbing).  I hope the psychiatric nurse I’m seeing next week can help me answer some of these questions, or some of the books that I’ve been reading.  And I must leave the possibility open that there are no answers to those questions, because perhaps only I can answer “who am I?”