New Routines

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For a long time, my evening routine, such as it was, consisted of coming home exhausted, getting on the computer, and staying on it, even if I wasn’t doing anything at all, until I couldn’t keep my eyes open. At least when I’m working.

And when not working, even less than that. It would be a “good” night if I spent time exercising or cleaning or anything at all, really.

Lately, I find myself turning off the computer, putting on a new age station on Pandora and sitting on the porch as twilight turns to dark.

Sometimes, I simply sit.

Sometimes, I read – right now: You Are Here by Thich Naht Hanh.

Sometimes I write, either in my personal journal or working on The Desire Map or one of my other journaling/goal setting notebooks. A couple of times, I’ve taken my watercolors out there, too.

I think it started with the Mindfulness class I did at the VA Mental Health Clinic. I started meditating in silence, which I think I’ve mentioned was a little new to me. And I began to crave the quiet time.

And then Tuli came along.

She’s so different from Pumpkin.Image

She likes being outside (Pumpkin didn’t like open spaces).  But it’s dangerous around here, so I can’t really let her out to just explore.

As often as possible, I open up the sliding glass door to the porch and let her go out there.

Having the door open somehow makes me want to go out there more.

I’ve spent more time out there in the last month than I probably have in the 6 years I’ve lived here combined.

I keep wondering why I didn’t do this ages ago. It’s pleasant and relaxing. My allergies act up a little, but still, it’s nice.

Next step: work yoga into the routine, either in the mornings or evenings. I need more movement in my daily routines.

Withdrawing, again

I did enjoy my friend’s visit, but I have been pretty withdrawn surrounding everything else. It started before she came.

I have four paid-for readings that I have not finished – they were due more than a week ago.

I have been avoiding Facebook because I don’t want to talk to anyone, especially the people I owe readings to.

I have been sleeping in late every morning (until today) and feeling like I haven’t accomplished anything.

I have been feeling emotionally paralyzed.

I’m not deeply depressed, but I’m not doing well, either.

Physically, I feel like a slug – getting fatter (again), losing fitness. My back is starting to hurt again when I stand for too long – never a good sign.

I’m trying to break through that. Yesterday I went swimming.

That showed me how out of shape I am.

The first time I jumped in, I could only do three laps before I was out of breath. I took a break and went in twice more for 4 laps each.

I usually do laps using a pretty gentle side stroke, so being out of breath at that freaks me out.

This morning I woke up early and went for a walk. Only 1.63 miles by MapMyRun, but at least it was something.

I’m hoping that a little physical activity will help turn around this dead mood. I don’t really care about fat as much as being able to do what I want to do without struggling.

I mentioned in another forum something that maybe I should talk about here.

Several years ago, my therapist thought that I should be fully disabled.

I fought against it – fought hard.

I was in a group of other bipolar people once or twice a month, all of whom were on disability except me.

At that time, I kept thinking that I wasn’t as bad off as they were. I was better than that.

Right now, I’m not so sure about that.

I’ve had 18 months to complete some paperwork, and I never work on it for more than 5 minutes at a time.

For 18 months.

Obviously, I’m resistant to finishing it.

Whether this is my fear of success or resistance to completion or something else, I don’t know.

At the moment, I don’t care.

I’m just wondering if maybe it wouldn’t be better to apply for disability.

It’s been suggested that this may be the depression talking, and that is so, but maybe my therapist was right.

That’s an idea that scares me. I don’t want that.

But when I try to look at things objectively. .  . the money and opportunities that I’ve missed out on because there are times when I can’t pick up the phone or deal with paperwork in a timely way, the time I waste doing NOTHING and feeling exhausted. . . .  Wouldn’t it be better to have a steady income from disability to make sure the basic necessities can be paid?

*Sometimes* I’m competent, efficient, on the ball, capable.

But it seems to me that those times are fewer and far between, and they last less and less time.

Several people are suggesting that I use my disability rating to get a federal job.

They don’t understand.

I’ve looked at that before.

I even had the VA Voc Rehab people pay a place to help me with a federal resume.

I never returned their calls or filled out the paperwork they sent me.

And right now, hearing people suggest that again is making me break out in tears.

It’s too complicated. I can’t handle it right now.

I can’t handle anything at all right now.

I think my shrink thinks I’m doing much, much better than I really am.

I’ve asked him to get me in with a new therapist (the old one transferred about 4-5 years ago). He wants me to attend “Wellness Classes” about nutrition and sleep and meditation and biofeedback and other things I could likely teach.

That’s not where I’m at. That’s not what I need.

So, I’m writing him a letter to try to get this across to him.

Sort-of Vacay

It’s hard to take a vacation when you don’t have a day job.

One might say, “What do you need a vacation from if you don’t work?”

Answer: my life.

Despite spending too much time sleeping and/or sitting around doing nothing, I’m still often stressed.

There’s the huge list of, “I really should do” stuff.

And the messy apartment.

And ten thousand stupid things my head won’t shut up about.

For a few years, my local BFF would come over and make sure I got out of the house every week. The last couplefew years that hasn’t happened for various reasons for both of us. And that’s fine.

But I feel guilty anytime I spend money on anything that isn’t an absolute priority.

My car is starting to have problems and sometimes I don’t have any money for gas, much less maintenance on the car.

I have a lot of friends all over the country, but few locally.

And I spend waaaayyy to much time online, which doesn’t actually help me relax.

Me and C outside the old part of Crocker Art Museum

I haven’t traveled for a vacation in a long time, although I have gone to the Bay Area a few times in the last year or so.

So, when my HS BFF wanted to come out to celebrate my daughter’s graduation and get away from her husband and kids for a few days, I said, “Hell, yes! Come on out!” We met in 5th grade and by the middle of 6th grade, we were besties, all through school. We visited each other in England and Italy when she was in college and I was in the Navy. When I lived near her and C was little, she would sometimes “rent” my kid for the weekend before she and her husband had kids.

She knows my situation, both the mental health issues and the financial ones.

We went out to eat a few times, went swimming, met with my local BFF, went to the movies, grocery shopping, drove up to Sutter Creek and looked at some antique places. But mostly, we talked and talked and talked. That was fantastic. I’ve missed that. Chatting on FB is just not the same, you know?

I needed this time with her something fierce.

We talked about everything, including some of my current issues: work, money, motivation, career direction, what’s next for me.

She gave me a lot to think about.

In the meantime, though, I’ve put off doing some stuff I need to do.

I’m really behind in doing readings that people have paid for. I feel really bad about that, and I’ve got some thinking to do about that.

I’m good at doing the readings. But I don’t know if it’s really a good direction for me to build a business around.

Obviously, I haven’t done well with the Blogging Challenge, either.

Mental Health: Drama, Crisis & Friends

In this one forum I’m on regularly, there’s currently a discussion going on about mental illness.

One person feels s/he can no longer be friends with someone who has stopped taking medication.

I can actually understand that part.

The medication changes a person’s personality on some levels.

When I look at my life, I currently have very few friends in my life that knew me before I was medicated. That is my fault. I let most of those old friendships fall away.

During the discussion, other people have brought up moments of drama and crises that people in their lives have caused or lived through. One in particular mentioned that she had a family member with bipolar, and she will no longer deal with someone who admits they have the disease – whether or not they are medicated – because of all the drama.

People with problems create drama in their lives. I’m sure you’ve seen it. I’ve seen it, in others and in myself.

No one likes to be pulled into someone else’s drama.

Except. . . . what is life if not dramatic?

If your life doesn’t have a little drama in it, what are you doing? How do you spend your time to avoid all drama?

Pets cause drama, making changes to your life causes drama, being married or being a parent has it’s own drama, getting ahead is dramatic, LOVE is dramatic, EVERYTHING in life has drama.

So, when someone says, “I can’t deal with the X’s drama any more,” what they mean is, “X never learns from his/her mistakes,” or, “X’s stuff is too exhausting to deal with,” or, “X’s problems end up hurting me.”

All of these are legitimate reasons to minimize contact with someone – you have to protect your own mental health.

But I guess the term “drama” used in this way annoys me, much the same way people calling things “bipolar” or “schizophrenic” because they are mercurial. Or the latest one with every armchair shrink diagnosing people as having Asperger’s. *eyeroll* And yes, I know I’ve been guilty of that.

It’s true that I tend to create crises, over and over.

I know it, and I’m working on it.

But it seems as though I perform better in a crisis, at least I get much more done. I don’t know why, and I don’t like it. It is very stressful, I don’t like it and a large part of what I’ve been working on this year has been trying to stop doing this.

I haven’t been completely successful, but I think I’m making some progress.

It’s also true that being my friend can be exhausting.

I know it.

That’s one reason I withdraw during hard times. I don’t WANT to draw everyone else into the pit with me.

What’s my point today?

I don’t know.

I guess I’m beating a dead drum of wanting people to be precise when they speak. Or to be more understanding of mental illness. Or something.

I’m tired of my own drama, too, and want it to end. Maybe the friend that was referenced above feels the same way?

What direction now?

The last week has been rough for a couple/few reasons.

1. There was a heatwave for the last 7 days. I don’t do well in hot to begin with, and 105+ degrees (Fahrenheit) doesn’t help.
2. The air conditioning in my apartment is still broken. I’ve been having trouble with it for about a year and a half now. No one knows what is wrong. They’ve replaced everything except the lines. Tuesday they thought everything was fine, but it was over 85 degrees inside at 10pm. The expert can’t get out there until Friday (the 5th).
3. The brake lights on my car are doing this weird thing where one of them isn’t going out. So, I had a dead battery. I needed to replace the battery, but didn’t have the money and had to borrow that.
4. I’ve been staying at friends’ homes while waiting for the a/c expert.
5. All last weekend, I slept about 4-6 hours, broken sleep, not good sleep. Losing sleep is very bad for my mood state.

I feel disconnected from everything, even though I spent most of the day yesterday getting caught up on sleep. I thought I’d feel better after I slept, but I don’t.

I’m doing various things right now to bring in money, and even though there’s a lull right now, things will pick up a bit in August.

But my energy is scattered because I can’t concentrate on any of the things.

I’m trying to turn the blog into a business, and in some ways it’s starting to move. I’ve made a couple hundred dollars each month since I started doing the Tarot readings, a little more each month. My FB page now has just under 150 “likes”. On FB, people respond and we’ve gotten a few good conversations going. Those are good things. When I pay attention to it and post regularly, stuff happens.

I’ve been trying to think of what my next step with this business is.

If I want the blog and business to concentrate on the Tarot and Oracle card readings, the next step would be to start writing up a series of “how to” posts, and then eventually package them as an ebook or an online class.

Except. . . .

I started selling the readings so that I had something to sell, so I could get started right away. And I like doing them, and it’s going well. But I never intended for my blog and/or business to concentrate only on those things.

Whenever I start thinking about writing up training stuff, I just think. . . . There’s already so.fucking.much. out there. There are literally hundreds of books written on the topic, and I don’t know how to even count how many websites doing it.

I guess I feel like it’s not that difficult, like anyone can do it if they want to.

But is that true? Or is it just my mood state making me feel inadequate? After all, I’ve been reading on and off for about 25 years. Maybe there’s something in my head that could help people?

Just pick up a couple/few books and start practicing on people you know. Meditate on a new card every day. Keep a notebook and write up what comes up for you in the meditation. Practice, practice, practice. Make sure you read several books and get different perspectives. Maybe play with a little numerology or look into how the cards correspond with various aspects of the Kabbalah’s Tree of Life. . . .

I think part of me feels that if I start down that road, I won’t be able to change later, but as I write that sentence, I realize that is a silly fear – I’m in charge, I can always change direction or add to it.

So, I’m asking – Would any of my readers be interested in that?

I started writing up how I was learning a new oracle deck on FB in the “notes” section, but that didn’t garner any responses at all.

If you’re NOT interested in that, what would you be interested in?

Instructions on meditating, with things like email reminders to get you to take a few minutes to clear your head? Guided meditations?

More posts on how to get through hard times?

More posts on mental illness?

Feeling better about yourself?

Looking for some ideas here, if you’ve got anything, comment here or on the FB page.

Mental Health: How society treats Mental Illness

I started writing this on April 19, around the time of the Boston Marathon bombing.

I don’t want to think about a lot of the stuff that’s gone on this week, on the large scale (Boston, Texas, Waterton, etc) and on a personal one (Monterrey and tires – I’ll relate it soon).

And then I read this:

And that really didn’t make anything better.

For some reason, it reminded me of one of the (actually very few) negative reactions I’ve had when I disclosed my Bipolar.

I was in school, pretty early on, maybe my second semester at the university, so 2005? 2006? I was in a history class. The teacher was very strict on counting attendance as part of the grade. I was struggling with a bout of depression. One of my classmates, a young woman, was struggling with debilitating migraines.

We were commiserating about this and I talked about being bipolar. I also talked about about my daughter who was in third or fourth grade at the time.

The young woman said, “They haven’t taken her away?” or maybe it was, “Why haven’t they taken her away?”

I was shocked, stunned.

I’m ill, so “they” should take her away from me? More importantly, “they” should take me away from her?

My response to the young woman was, “Why should they take her away? She’s clean, fed, bright, does well in school, has clothes, etc.”

I wasn’t taking care of myself very well at that point, but SHE was taken care of. That’s where the majority of my energy went.

I don’t know if that reaction is better or worse than some of the other reactions I’ve had. The best is when someone starts to relate about about someone in their lives that has the illness or another big psych issue.

But others are like, “Aren’t we all a little bipolar?” I loved the nurse that tried to tell me to get off my meds and everything would be fine, that was good. There’s a great list of “things to not say” here.

Not sure I have a real point today, except I’m fairly frustrated at the way we as a society treat mental illness.

This came up for me again recently.

The new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders, version V, came out this month.

The director of the National Institute of Mental Health, Thomas Insel,  “rejected” the new version as not scientific enough.

 Indeed, symptom-based diagnosis, once common in other areas of medicine, has been largely replaced in the past half century as we have understood that symptoms alone rarely indicate the best choice of treatment. Patients with mental disorders deserve better.

 I agree that we need better ways of determining mental illness.

Wouldn’t it be great to point to a blood test or a brain scan to say, “THIS is what’s wrong”?

But those tests don’t exist yet. There is research going on, but it’s not yet at a level where we can do that.

NIMH does not deal directly with patients, they fund research, so this won’t affect patients directly.

NIMH is apparently going to use their own criteria called Research Domain Criteria. NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) on the other hand has a more rational approach, along the lines of my feeling – It’s not perfect, but it’s what we have right now.

While we are better than mental hospitals of 50 years ago, we still have a long way to go treating mental illness, and those who suffer with it so that it’s on parity with “physical” illnesses.

Mental Health Month: Bipolar – the Manic Side

Depression and the depressed side of bipolar get a lot of attention, in the media and in society. Many people know someone that has battled depression at some point in their lives.

Most people don’t know anything about the manic side. They are told that it is the “up” side of bipolar, the creative side. And it is.

But it is also can be just as destructive as the depressed side.

Symptoms of mania include three or more of the following (when not caused by drugs):

  • inflated self-esteem or grandiosity
  • decreased need for sleep (such as feeling rested after only 3-4 hours of sleep)
  • more talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking
  • flight of ideas or subjective experience that thoughts are racing
  • distractibility (attention too easily drawn to unimportant or irrelevant external stimuli)
  • increase in goal-directed activity (either socially, at work or school, or sexually) or psychomotor agitation.
  • excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences (such as unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments)
Full mania can also lead to psychosis and hallucinations. Hypomania (“little” mania) of the bipolar II has all the same symptoms, but lack psychosis and supposedly aren’t severe enough to interfere with daily life.
A couple of years ago, on another internet forum, someone postulated that he would simply love to have bipolar instead of unipolar depression, because at least then there is an upside.
We had quite the argument where I was trying to explain that “upside” really wasn’t. I don’t know if I was successful. 
It seems as though an increase in “goal-directed activity” should be a good thing, and it can be, to a point. The creative people with bipolar tend to create in this state. But, there’s a passage in An Unquiet Mind where Kay Redfield Jamison describes mania:

“There is a particular kind of pain, elation, loneliness, and terror involved in this kind of madness. When you’re high it’s tremendous. The ideas and feelings are fast and frequent like shooting stars, and you follow them until you find better and brighter ones. Shyness goes, the right words and gestures are suddenly there, the power to captivate others a felt certainty. There are interests found in uninteresting people. Sensuality is pervasive and the desire to seduce and be seduced irresistible. Feelings of ease, intensity, power, well-being, financial omnipotence, and euphoria pervade one’s marrow. But, somewhere, this changes. The fast ideas are far too fast, and there are far too many; overwhelming confusion replaces clarity. Memory goes. Humor and absorption on friends’ faces are replaced by fear and concern. Everything previously moving with the grain is now against– you are irritable, angry, frightened, uncontrollable, and enmeshed totally in the blackest caves of the mind. You never knew those caves were there. It will never end, for madness carves its own reality.” 

photo from Unprofound.com
This is what my thoughts feel like at times –
going by so fast I can’t capture one –
blurs out everything

When I look back at certain periods of my life, I can clearly see now that I was manic then.

In particular, my promiscuity screams loud and clear about being hypomanic. I know I lost a couple of good guys because of it, but for the most part, I didn’t see my one night stands as people. I assumed that men were always out for sex and I took advantage of that. Having to explain to a perfectly nice guy that you really were only using him for sex is not the most fun thing in the world. So I started sleeping with guys I didn’t like. Now, how fucked up is THAT? I haven’t dated at all since my diagnoses in Dec. 1999, so I’m certainly over that. 😛

But some other symptoms. . .

In 1991, I received about $4000 worth of back pay. It was the most money I’ve ever had at one time, and I almost couldn’t wrap my brain around having that much. In the next few weeks, I managed to spend $7000. I know SOME of what I spent it on: a stereo, a small tv, VCR, some CDs, some clothes, rented a car, luggage. Other than that? Not a clue. And now I was in debt, having written bad checks to the Exchange and to the US Government. It lead to me losing a prime assignment in the military.

While I’ve never spent to that extent again, I do sometimes still. . .  lose track of how much I’ve spent. I have bought some “fun” things (books, yarn, etc) before paying bills. When I’m thinking clearly, I don’t do that; I can budget damn well. But at times, my judgment is off.

Talking. Gods, the talking.

Recently, C told me that one of the parents at TKD commented that I tell everybody everything (i.e. too much) about my life.

The thing is, I know I do it. I know people don’t want to hear this shit. But I can’t STOP. If I’m feeling social, I talk and talk and talk and talk. I take over conversations. I get the “teacher voice” and sound like an authority on everything. Hell, I think I AM an authority on everything.

And I can hear myself doing it.

And I can’t stop.

I talk so fast people don’t understand what I’m saying. I have been somewhat successful in consciously slowing down my speech at times, but if I don’t concentrate very hard, I lose that. And LOUD. My voice will carry across a room.

That may seem like a small thing, talking too much. But it can be socially devastating. Who wants to be around the loudmouth that takes over all the conversations and/or makes them all about her? Who wants to be around the parent who does that?

I’m not like that all the time, but when I’m not, social interactions are . . .  difficult. For one thing, I’m embarrassed about how I act when hypo-manic. I’ve become more and more withdrawn over the years.

There was a day last week where I was awake for approximately 41 hours. I dozed for about 10-15 minutes at a time at various times, but never really reached sleep. And it took medication to get me to sleep even after that. By the time I took the meds, I could not concentrate on anything for more than 2-3 minutes. I felt. .  . floaty, disconnected from my body, light-headed. Luckily, I have medication to do this (with my doctor’s knowledge and blessing). If I was still unaware that this is a danger sign or didn’t have the medication, it could have lead to some bad stuff.

Oh, my home would probably be a little cleaner, and maybe I would have a few more things written, but one thing about mania that I think doesn’t get enough press is irritability.

I have a very short fuse when manic. C is good about pointing out to me, “Why are you shouting at me?” when I don’t even realize I’m shouting. I can be very grumpy while at the same time feeling free enough to do whatever the hell I please.

It’s a love/hate relationship with the mania. I *do* get more accomplished. I do start things when in this phase. I get a lot of great ideas. This is also the time when I say, “Fuck it!” and take chances, do new things, go places I’ve never been and so on.

It can be fun. But it can also be just as destructive as the depressive side.