Monday, February 20, 2017

Energy

There was a Facebook questionnaire that required you to ask your kids questions about yourself. I saw it and decided that I might ask my kids these questions. I had no plan to post their answers but I thought it might give me a laugh and see what my kids knew about me and what they thought about me.

“What does mommy like to do?” I asked my three daughters.
“Sleep,” they all answered in unison.
I continued to ask questions.
“What makes me sad?”
“Not getting enough sleep,” my nine year old answered.
“What is Mommies favorite hobby?”
“Writing and sleeping?” my five year old replies.

I laughed at their answers but it also gave me a moment of introspection. Do I really sleep that much? I knew that energy for me was a luxury item but I didn’t realize that it was that evident. I guess I wasn’t doing a good job hiding my exhaustion.
There are many days that I do not have the energy to do simple tasks. When anxiety hits and I begin to feel overwhelmed I sometimes end up sleeping and not accomplishing very much. That is also the case when I am depressed.
It’s not uncommon for those that suffer from anxiety disorder or depression can suffer from fatigue or exhaustion.  Anxiety affects the brain and when you have a prolonged case of anxiety your body and your brain may need time to reset and rest. Most likely, fatigue is caused simply as a result of your brain being overwhelmed with anxiety.
According to the Calm Clinic “anxiety actually affects your brain, your neurotransmitters, your hormones, your muscles, and even your nutrition. It's not unlikely that after severe anxiety, your mind wants to rest to recoup some of those changes.”

It is also the case, as I stated in previous posts, anxiety can also lead to not sleeping and compulsive behaviors.  Fighting your own brain for some form of normalcy can be exhausting. Trying to be “normal” when there Is chaos and anarchy in your head is laborious task. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Days

Today was one of those days.
The moment I opened my eyes this morning I knew that it would be one of those days.
 For most people there are good days and there are bad days. When you are living with a mental illness there are no good days or bad days. There are “I’m content” days and “I survived” days. I can’t speak for everyone with a mental illness but, in my world those are my options. I know it sounds bleak but bare with me.
On an “I’m content” days, I normally have a relatively peaceful day. If I can laugh, smile, go to sleep slightly hopeful about the next day…that’s a successful day. If I woke not dreading the day ahead, able to shower, cook breakfast without the tightness in my chest that anxiety brings…I’m content.
Today was not one of those days.
I awoke with unexplained anxiety that persisted as I walked my kids to school. It didn’t let up when I was dragged to the gym by my husband hoping that would lift my spirits. I knew that it wouldn’t. I knew it was one of those “I survived” days.

On those days, I am moody and slightly depressed. Nothing good that happens that day can alleviate the pressure from my chest. Life seems bleak and hopeless but I know that I have to make it through the day.
Today was one of those days.
My husband took me to breakfast. He wanted to cheer me up. It did…for about an hour. When we returned home I laid across the couch as he rubbed my back. I worked myself up so much that my stomach began to hurt and I couldn’t relax or rest.
Eventually my husband had to leave. It was going away on business and it would be and the girls for a couple of days. I knew that it would be up to me until he came home and I had to do more than just endure.
Yes. Today was one of those days. One of those “I survived” days.
I survived today. That’s all I did. I wasn’t productive and I barely was able to make dinner and get the kids in bed. Yet, I survived.
As I type this, I am hoping for a better day tomorrow. I would love to just be content and just be able to shower, drink a cup of coffee, go to the gym and just have a normal day without the cloud that likes to hang around.

I’m hopeful; tomorrow will be a better day. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Compulsive

Mop the floor.
Sweep the bathroom floor.
Vacuum the carpet.
Dust the shelves and picture frames.
Scrub the shower.
Clean the refrigerator.

My thoughts are hurried and fragmented and I am fighting for control. I can’t control the emotions and the feelings that have wreaking havoc inside so I must control my outward surroundings. The only thing that calms me when I am feeling out of control is cleaning.
I get irritable and irate when there is mess. I cannot control the mess that plagues me inside so I take it out on the dust sitting ever so gently on the top of the TV. I take it out on the candy wrappers that my daughters leave all over the house.
When my anxiety is flaring and my disorder is running a muck I develop a compulsion to cleaning. I don’t just have bipolar disorder, I also have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorder is a severe form of anxiety where worry and fear becomes severe and heightened to a point it can disrupt the everyday life of the sufferer.

Dust karate trophies.
Must clean.
Everything has to be clean.
No.
Not just clean but spotless.
Vacuum the rest of the house.


When my anxiety is at its peak I become compulsive about cleaning. Sometimes it mixes with bipolar hypomania and I will rip the house apart only to spend days putting it back the way it was in the first place.
When you have anxiety the scariest moment is the second when you feel like you’ve lost control.

Scrub the stove.
Clean the shower.
Mop the floor again.
Sweep out the garage.
Clean the bathtub.
Scrub the toilet.

When someone has lost control or fear that they have they would do whatever it takes to get that control back.
Me. I clean to get that control. It may not seem so bad that I clean when I am at my worst, but some nights I don’t get any sleep because I am mopping or dusting or folding and washing clothes. Because I don’t get any sleep I can barely make it through the next day.

Yet with medication I can control the anxiety and eventually I could control the compulsion. However, when it sparks up again it’s usually when the house needs a deep cleaning anyway. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Bottom

It’s a long way to the bottom. Yes, it is a long way down, but if you continue to do all the wrong things right…you’re get there.
It took me 28 years to reach the bottom.
It wasn’t easy. I spent my time living through rage and depression. I wasn’t authentic with the people around me and I worked hard to convince myself I didn’t need those people anyway.
I suffered alone and I continued to suffer alone. I began to spiral downward unable to stop my free fall to the bottom. Along that fall was suicidal thoughts, bouts of depression and cutting myself. I never felt like anyone understood or would ever understand me. I began to loathe those closest to me. They couldn’t see that I was drowning? They never stopped in to see if I needed help.
Why does she sleep all day?
Why does she stay in her room all alone all day?
Why does she listen to such depressing music?
Questions that were asked but no one stayed long enough to hear the answers.
I’m depressed and I have no reason to be awake. Sleep is the only time when I stop falling…just for a minute.
So for 28 years I continued to fall to the bottom without help or even a rope to catch along the way.
Then my mother died.
My journey to the bottom sped up. I fell at a faster rate and had no control and no idea how to stop. Before I was alone and I could fall and fall without worry of anyone else. I had a boyfriend and then a husband but…he was an adult.
He really didn’t need me anyway.
If I reached the bottom and it all ended he would be fine, right?
But when my mother died I couldn’t settle for just falling. I had three girls that needed me. How could I leave them like my mother left me? I just knew I wanted…needed an end to this madness.
Four years ago, I hit bottom.
I slammed face first into my own self pity, dejection and insecurities. I came face to face with my mental illness. Battered and bruised I picked myself up but this time I didn’t do it alone. I sought help. The help included therapy, support from those around me and medication. I was on my way back to the top. Once you hit the bottom there is no place to go but up.
Lingering in my mind always is a deeply rooted fear, however. A fear that causes me anxiety and insomnia every night.

I fear that inevitable falling again…

Monday, February 6, 2017

Anarchy

Anarchy is a state of disorder due to absence of authority. It is the perfect word to describe my brain when I am manic and in the midst of a panic attack.
The bipolar brain is difficult to understand if you do not suffer from the disorder. I have Bipolar II disorder and sometimes it is not easy for me to explain to people what it’s like having this condition. How do you explain to someone that when you are manic your mind is complete anarchy?
My mind races and I can barely think straight. I feel high sometimes and other times I feel like I am completely losing control.  As I write this blog post I am having trouble completely explaining my emotions to you.
Thank goodness I found a way to illustrate this situation. A good example came when I was watching cartoons with my kids. My poor brain reminds me of this episode of Spongebob Squarepants.
In this episode, Spongebob wanted to be the best waiter he could be. He was told he needed to forget everything he knew and focus on learning what it would take to be a waiter.  So he studied and studied.
In the meantime they showed inside his brain these little people that were trashing file cabinets full of information. They were taking files and burning them and shredding them. Apparently these cabinets held all of his memories and knowledge. They were destroying to make room for the “how to be a great waiter” knowledge.
“Do we need to know our birthday?”  One of the little people would ask.
“Nah!” another would reply.
Everything was going great. He was serving the guests with ease. Everyone was enjoying themselves…until someone asked him his name.
Suddenly inside his brain there was anarchy. The place was burning and all the little people were running around searching for a file. They needed to remember the name!

Anarchy.
That episode resonated with me not only because it was hilarious, but because it reminded me of my brain when I am going through a bipolar episode. I always felt like there were little people running my brain. When I am stable everything is managed smoothly. Everyone is doing their job and life is great.
Yet sometimes when I am manic I don’t get that high intense happy feeling.  I feel chaos and anarchy flowing through my veins. I have trouble remembering things, I have trouble breathing and my heart rate increases. Anxiety sets in and I get irritable.
The place is burning down and the medication I take is the only extinguish to the flames.
Just think. It only took a cartoon to explain. 

Friday, May 27, 2016

Outside the Lines

Every once in a while you get those moments when you get hit by something small yet powerful. They change your outlook on life and give you the opportunity to hit refresh and do things better. You want to be better.
That something small for me often happens to be my youngest daughter. At 5 years old she packs a lot of wisdom.
For example…
A few days ago my family and I spent time in Santa Cruz, CA. My husband had to be there for work and we all decided, due to spring break, we would go with him. He worked and we relaxed. He enjoyed having us with him on this trip. He hates being away from us for too long.
We decided to go to dinner on our first night there.  At dinner, my younger daughters were given a child’s menu. These menus (for anyone that has never seen them) have things to color, games, puzzles and mazes for the kids. They always give crayons with these menus. They are great because my girls get easily bored and when they are bored they can be quite…annoying? No…irritating? No, I want to nicer. Extremely talkative and full of question…that works.
Anyway, my daughter was coloring. I watched her for a second and saw she was kinda making a mess of the picture.
“Dee, try to color inside the lines.” I said to her.
It was nothing new for me to tell her this. She will be starting kindergarten in the fall and I want her to be prepared. She knows this but on occasion I remind her. This day was different. She looked at me and put on the saddest face.
“Awwww…I wanted to color outside the lines today.”
My husband and my other two daughters laughed. I laughed too. I wasn’t sure if she was really sad or if she was being sarcastic with me. You never know with this kid. After dinner we went back to the hotel for a late night swim. As I watched my family play I realized my mind was focused on the words my daughter said to me.
“…I wanted to color outside the lines today.”
I remember when I was a kid and how scary those words would have been for me.
We are always told not to color outside the lines. That is how I lived my life. I always did what I was told and I wanted to be seen as the good and obedient child. I never fully understood why. I guessed I just never wanted to disappoint my parents. I was the kid they didn’t have to worry about. I never skipped school or missed a day. I went to school in blizzards.
I wanted to be good because I felt so bad and dirty inside. I felt ashamed that I was dark skinned. I was scared and afraid I was being a terrible kid and going to hell for being bisexual.
I spent a good deal of my life being ashamed of myself and feeling out of place. Because of that I invented a new me. I invented a person that would be a suitable member to any group. If they wanted me to be nicer, funnier, smarter, quieter…I was that. But only for so long. All that fake emotion builds up and what I truly felt always bubbled up to the service. .
I always tried to color inside the lines. I thought it would make me happier and make people like me more. I cared what others thought about me…think about me though I do not care to admit this. I feel I have been denying who I truly am for so long that I did not truly know who I was. I had lost track of what was real and what I had invented.
After our little vacation was over we came home and settled back into our normal routine, yet those thoughts plagued me. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I dreamed about it looking for some answers. Then I realized. The problem was that I was thinking too much and worrying too much. I was spending my life surviving and not living.
A few days later I went to see my therapist.  We gave the usual greeting and she began as always does,
“How are you doing?”
I sighed and rubbed my hands over my eyes.
“What’s going on?” she asked.
I looked up at her.

“I’m ready to color outside the lines.”

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Hopelessness


If you know anything about classical Greek mythology, then you have heard the story of Pandora. Pandora was the first woman created by the gods. Created by Hephaestus at the request of Zeus, Pandora was given gifts from the gods and goddesses. One gift she received was a canister that we know today as “Pandora’s Box”. Hidden away in Pandora’s box were all the evils of the world.
Looking out at the world today it’s hard to feel very hopeful. Read the news online or go on social media and the stories are bleak. Recently there was a mass random shooting spree in Kalamazoo Michigan. That was very frightening for me because I have a good portion of my family living in Michigan and some who even live in Kalamazoo. These types of events have become commonplace lately. Mass shootings on top of police brutality, an abundance of guns and an increase in racism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia give the impression that all hope is lost.
It is no wonder that the country is at war with itself. Those on the right are marching further and further to the right. Those on the left are marching further and further and further to the left. That is why idealistic political candidates and opportunity candidates like Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders are popular. The people in both parties seem to feel that the sky is falling. Hopelessness and fear has brought about an epidemic of panic that has been exploited.
I admit, I have felt the deep-seated despair rising inside of me. How could you not when you see so many people homeless, suffering, poor, in pain, being killed in movie theaters, being shot for no reason other than the color of their skin, pro-choice, of a different religion, or because someone with mental illness has access to a gun.
Hopelessness
It’s so easy to fall into it.
When Pandora opened her box, she released a plague on humanity. Exiting the box was famine, death, fear and because she closed the box before all could exit… Hope was trapped. With all the ugly and evil released onto the world we had no hope. We were deprived of that and if you listen to the politicians now you would feel the hopelessness.
Yet, as I approach my 32nd birthday, I realize that despite it all I do have hope for the future. It sounds weird to me because as most people know, I am a pessimist. Yet I have to have hope. I don’t get a choice. I have to have hope that the future will be a place worth living and that the world will get better from here. Every time I look at my three amazing and beautiful daughters I have hope that through them the world become a better place. Even on days when I lose my faith in humanity, they show me just how amazing they can be.

So despite it all, we must not let hopelessness consume us. There is darkness in the world but we must overcome that darkness with light. The more light we shine the closer we are to a better future.