Cracking the Safe

As a person in recovery who’s also diagnosed bipolar II and ADHD, finding the right balance in life often feels like I’m cracking a safe. One notch in the wrong direction can lock me into depression for days.

It sounds so simple, but I’ve only recently discovered how important sleep is to my sanity. I always believed I was functional with 6 hours a night or less. Oh how wrong I was! I easily require 8-9 hours, lest the dial slips in the wrong direction.

Over the weekend, my husband’s band played a gig, meaning I didn’t become one with my pillow until 3:30am. 3 days later and I’m still feeling the effects. My mood’s been stable for several months, but today was a steep nose-dive into depression and irritability.

I’ve learned so much these past 2 years about myself, yet I still do stupid things now and again. This old gal just can’t party until the wee hours of the morning anymore. How did I ever do that, plus alcohol? I can’t even remember anymore.

On a positive note, it’s easier to climb out of a depression pit when I understand what got me here and what I need to do to get out. So, whether my misfiring mind likes it or not, I will force myself to sleep early tonight, hit the gym early tomorrow, and remember to take shit one day at a time.

I am a Mental Rollercoaster

The mental rollercoaster that is bipolar II doesn’t stop. For the first time, I understand the diagnosis. I’ve spent my adult life drunk, unable and unwilling to bear witness to any real feelings. After a year of sobriety, I am finally connecting the dots.

I’m sinking into depression after several months of consistently feeling good. I was motivated to eat well, be social and physically active. I truly thought that I was witnessing a evolution of myself. Why not? I’ve gone through a lot of changes this past year. Was it so unreasonable to believe I was finally becoming a happy, motivated person?

Today, I realize that it was simply a manic episode. For me, mania manifests itself in the best possible ways. Simply put: I feel good. So here I am, on the downswing of bipolar and I’m longing for the feelings of the past few months, much like a person longing to relive a memorable vacation.

Life Changes Every 24 Hours in Sobriety

FitFatFood‘s (“Blogging to Stay Sober”) recent post “Time for Me” perfectly expresses the internal struggle between needing self-care and the concern about how to find the time for it. If you haven’t already, please take the time to visit her blog.

Around the 7 month sober mark, I began to build a resentment around my sober process. I  have been working full-time throughout this incredible journey that is changing every piece of myself. I was raised to put work first, to make my job my identity. When your value is based on your success at work, it is impossible to consider scaling back for self-care. That is simply a selfish, lazy thought. Or so I thought until recently.

This sober journey is changing how I define myself. I had a very frank conversation with my boss yesterday and asked to reduce my hours to part-time for a 10 week period. I had my script in my head, but when I saw that she was not understanding my intentions, I threw out the script and went rogue.

She knows that I have issues with alcohol; I had to expose that truth to her 15 months ago (although I still didn’t get sober for another 5 months after that humiliating conversation). SInce then, we haven’t talked about my “issues” (that was as far as I was willing to admit 15 months ago). I gave her one hell of a big update yesterday.

– I’m in AA and I’m coming up on 1 year sober.

– I put an unbelievable amount of time into changing my life during 2013 and I need to take a little time to continue that work without being overwhelmed.

– Part of the work I’m doing is to take control of my mental health as well. I’ve been diagnosed with ADHD and am on medication to increase focus. I’m also in therapy and developing tools to further take control.

– In sum, I’m in a very positive place today and everything I worked so hard on in 2013 is to benefit me personally and professionally. I see the improvements in my work routine that are a direct result of this journey.

The meeting ended on a positive note, with my boss agreeing to all of my requests. I think that once I spilled the truth about alcoholism and mental illness, she probably couldn’t say no. It certainly wasn’t my intention to manipulate her into agreeing to the reduction in hours, but I now see that may be what happened. My intent was to help her understand why I am asking to scale back temporarily. It is not that I’m looking for another job, it is purely that I need to take charge of my health (physical, mental and spiritual).

It’s been another life-changing 24 hours. I’ve peacefully come to terms with the fact that maybe I’m not supposed to be a workaholic who can do everything that is asked of me. It’s time to be honest with myself and the people around me. I’m taking control of my life, but it takes a little more effort for me to maintain control than it does for others. I have some elements within me that require extra attention: bipolar II, ADHD, alcoholism, and a lifetime of self-hate because these elements have run rampant within me for 37 years.

So maybe I’m not someone who can work 40 hours a week. Maybe I’m someone who achieves greater success working 4 days a week and having the extra time to be active in AA, attend therapy, get more physical activity, and generally be selfish. I no longer see the word “selfish” as negative in this context. I cannot be a productive, happy person without control over the elements within me.

When I got back to my desk after my meeting yesterday, I had a mild wave of panic. “What have I done? Why did I tell her all of that? I look so weak to her now. I need to fix this and take it all back.” It was a fleeting wave. I grabbed hold of the thoughts and talked myself through them: this is what I need. I have changed my life for the better today. I am confident in that truth.

Surrendering

I’m in a funk and I need to get out of it. The trouble is that I don’t even know where to start. My head is swirling with too many thoughts to count and I can’t grab hold of one long enough to give it proper attention. I’m overwhelmed by feelings and I’m having trouble separating reality from what’s potentially just a creation of my own self-loathing mind.

Above all else, I feel completely alone. Is that real or is it a manifestation of my warped mind? For a brief moment, I was feeling as though I had people around me that I could open up to. That’s gone. I’ve realized that no one wants to hear from me – I have nothing to offer. It’s what I’ve suspected for years, and what has made me the closed person I am today, but I foolishly allowed myself to briefly believe otherwise.  I’ve slowly, over the past 6 months, been trying to create a more open relationship with my husband. I would compare our relationship to that of roommates. We don’t talk about anything below the surface. “How was your day?”; “Did you see that thing on the news?”; and “What are your plans for the weekend?” are as deep as we go and I feel completely alone because of it.

I’ve been trying to slowly open the door. I developed a rash last week as a reaction to a new medication – it’s one of the side-effects of this drug that they tell you to seek medical attention for because it could be a symptom of something more serious. His question to me: “are you sure you’re not just creating a problem by itching?”. It immediately fed into what I’ve been fearing lately: that there’s nothing wrong with me and I’m just a whiny, needy bitch.  I’m ready to give up on medication. Nothing is helping, which is a pretty sure sign that there really isn’t anything wrong with me. A pill can correct a chemical imbalance in the brain, but it won’t correct whiny, poor-me self-pity. That’s all it is.

So how do I get back from here? How do I surrender and accept that there is nothing medically wrong with me and somehow become a tolerable person?

Taking the Driver’s Seat

Doctor Note

I had a big wake up call this week, reminding me that I cannot continue to be passive in the treatment of bipolar.

When it comes to treating alcoholism, I’ve been an active participant, going to therapy and getting involved in AA.  However, when it comes to depression, I’ve just sat back and let the doctors throw pills at me.  Don’t get me wrong, I need pills, but not the ones I’m currently on.

I saw a psychiatrist last month for an evaluation.  He’s provided my GP with his notes, but because of my GP’s vacation schedule, I haven’t seen her since the notes were sent.  I have an appointment with her at the end of this week.

On my therapist’s request, I asked for a copy of the psych notes.  I never would have thought to do this – I wouldn’t have thought it was something that could be done.  Granted, all of my medical knowledge comes from TV, so my perception of doctors notes is limited to Elaine’s experience on Seinfeld.  I thought doctors notes were meant for doctors’ eyes only.  “What are you writing?  Don’t write that down!”

Reading the psychiatrists’ notes, my therapist and I realized that the medication he recommends for me is not what I’m taking.  I don’t know where the error happened, whether it was him who meant to prescribe drug A, but wrote drug B on the prescription, or if it was the pharmacy that misread and dispensed the wrong drug.  Either way, it’s an error and I’m taking the wrong drug.

Granted, both drugs are in the same universe.  It’s not as though I’m taking meds for gout.  However, I have felt like shit this past month.  I’m ridiculously tired and my depression is running rampant, with suicidal thoughts swirling around in a big bad way.

This is a wake up call for me to become active in the bipolar treatment.  Until now I’ve simply just nodded my head and taken whatever is prescribed.  Yes, the doctors probably know best but they’re human too, and just as prone to error as anyone else.

Assessing My Inner Narcissus

At times it’s difficult to discern which aspect of my mental defectiveness is causing a current mood.  Am I diving head-first into a new project that I will likely lose interest in before it’s done, thus disappointing many people because of bipolar II mania or because of ADHD?  Am I feeling hopeless and alone because of the depressive side of bipolar II or am I just a self-absorb moody twit?

I suppose in the end, it doesn’t matter why I’m feeling or behaving the way I am.  What matters is how I reign in the unhealthy bits and capitalize on the positive.

I’m in medication limbo right now because it’s a near chimera to get two doctors to communicate regarding one patient.  Husband says this is a good sign, that perhaps the psychiatrist doesn’t think “there’s anything wrong with me.”  Well that’s not helpful.  My ridiculously revving mind starts spinning around the possibility that there’s nothing wrong with my brain and I’m simply just a narcissistic, attention-seeking, grumpy bitch.

Selfie CartoonI’ve been batting that ball of yarn around in my head lately: the idea that I’m completely self-absorbed.  My mother has often said that people without children become selfish people because they’ve never put themselves second to care for another.  She hasn’t said it to me as often in recent years, as she’s realizing I’m quickly approaching the no-turning-back age of childlessness.  But it gets me thinking and makes me concerned for my ego and how it must spill over into the worlds of the people around me in a most irritating way.

I think about recent conversations; did I steer the conversation towards the other person enough?  Did I monopolize the time with tedious stories about myself and my experiences?  I hope not.

A friend of mine (also childless) has recently transformed herself.  I see the eye rolls when people talk about her Facebook posts, which are frequent, self-absorbed and riddled with selfies.  (God I hate that word, almost as much as actual selfies)  I don’t want to be that person.

So here I am, in my public space, created by me for me, talking about me, wondering if I’m narcissistic.  Nah, couldn’t be.  (I saw that eye roll!)