Tag Archives: depression

Crazy Train

I have been largely absent the last few months. I come back in fits and starts with goals and promises, but then I disappear. That is due to a few factors.

  1. I am busy AF. I work a day job, am a freelance editor, and am a writer with three books coming out this fall and another four next year.
  2. I have a kid, and while I love that (not so) tiny Alvie Bean, this year has not been easy. Not easy at all. I know I’m vague blogging, but Bean requests that I not include real updates on the blog anymore. Internet privacy for six-year olds is a real thing.
  3. I have had some significant mental health struggles. I want to say “I’ve been struggling the last couple months,” but in reality, I’ve been struggling the last six years, with periods of intermission. This is the real reason I’m here today. (Sorry – no fun gifs or writing facts today.)

In 2012, my father was diagnosed with cancer in January and died in March when I was 38 weeks pregnant. He never met his grandkid and Bean never got to geek out about trains with my father. After I went back to work, I slid into a deep, dark postpartum depression. It was bad. Fortunately, I was able to capitalize on that experience by writing and publishing an essay about it, for which I got paid actual cash money that was worth more than the envelope and stamp it took to mail it to me.

The next few years were nothing but ups and downs. Every time I went down, I didn’t get nearly as far up as I thought I should.

2016 – the year of me – was…interesting. I separated from my now ex-husband, moved out, got divorced, lost my job. I also got my own super cute house, started writing again, became very attached to an amazing man, and went to Iceland. In the midst of all of that, I was starting to come apart at the seams.

It took almost a full year for the total breakdown. There were periods when things were better than others. But overall, things were, to put it succinctly, bad.

I started eating less and less. (Funny thing about not being skinny – no one believes you when you tell them you’ve mostly just stopped eating solid food.) I got really good at hiding my lack of food intake, and the fact that my body hoarded every calorie it got causing me to gain weight helped with my game.

Even after I’d moved in with the aforementioned amazing man and got a new job, I still found myself skipping more meals than I was eating. (Turns out that behavior is terrible for your digestive system, overall health, energy levels, skin, hair, and brain function.)

I was still performing, though. I published three books in 2017 and started my fledgling freelance business. I started a new job, sent the Bean to kindergarten, and took a trip to Mexico. Everything looked fine. (Narrator voice: It was not fine.)

It didn’t take much – a couple minor stressors and one major one – and I lost hold of the thread I was barely hanging on to. The last six months have been hard. Hard for me. Hard for the beer guy. Hard for anyone who has to deal with me.

And now to the main crux of my post.

I have bipolar II. I don’t talk about it much, and for the longest time dismissed every professional who tried to tell me that’s what I had. But there’s really no way around it at this point. Most of my cycling in the past was mild depression to mild hypomania – easy to wait out.

This was…not. I was a hot mess. It took a while to find a mental health professional that was covered by insurance, was taking new patients, and had appointments this decade. It actually took a referral from the doctor I saw about my torn rotator cuff to get me into the system that I’m in now.

This round has had soul-searing depression compounded with over-the-top anxiety. There are some work environment issues which really exacerbate everything, too. (Open offices are the devil…omg please stop talking I can’t concentrate ever please for the love of all things holy.)

Being this depressed means having to actively search for a reason to keep going. It means not trusting that the people who say they care are sincere – after all, they’re just sticking around because they feel sorry for you. It means knowing that any light at the end of the tunnel is probably a train, and if it isn’t, it’s still not a way out, just a reflection of an outside that you’ll never find. It means constantly figuring out if there are any loose ends you don’t want to leave behind. It means weighing the benefits of staying against the benefits of not. Will it be better for the kid to have a mom or better for the kid to not have to deal with a crazy mom?

I don’t have a real five-year plan. I can’t look forward into the future and see anything. I can say I do, but it’s all academic. I can’t envision being present for my kid’s high school graduation. I’m good for one year at a time, tops. I’m bad at long-term planning because what’s the point?

I used to believe that this was something I would grow out of. That mental illness scurried on out like a bug with too many legs and venomous fangs when you turned 35. 40. Maybe 45.

When there are high-profile suicides, they go into one of two categories for me. “Oh, he was 22. Poor guy. The disease got him.” or “Fuck. They’re older than me. They aren’t struggling financially. This isn’t something you can level up out of. This is what I have left forever. There is no other way to exist. It is nothing but darkness.”

I have a meds doctor, and a therapist, and an amazing partner (who is probably not just having the weirdest extended pity-relationship ever), and a couple amazing friends. I take medication every day, and I have people who check on me. I have so much to live for: first and foremost, I don’t want to be brought back by the people who are still mad about the way I ended the last Eleanor Morgan book. I have the best kid in the whole world who’s gonna need a mama like whoa. I am blessed with the most patient, kind, and frankly, delightful partner.  I have twelve book covers that haven’t gone out into the world yet, and that’s just a waste if they’re not used.

This isn’t a cry for help. I would never do that. This is a glimpse into the head of someone who’s struggling.

I’ve spent a lot of time on Twitter in the last week having arguments about mental health. I can’t believe it’s 2018 and there are still people in the world who want to convince me that mental illness is all in my head (heh) and that maybe if I just got off my ass and had some sunshine and kombucha and TRIED REAL HARD to be happy, that I could be. According to these people, I am literally just not trying hard enough. And what I want them to know – what I want you to know – is that I am trying as hard as I can.

Everyone else out there who has mental illness is trying, too. But remember, it’s hard. It’s so hard. And sometimes people need a break. And when they do, it is sad and it is tragic, but it is not selfish. Until you live every day struggling to achieve the most basic of accomplishments, until you have to use every ounce of energy to shine a light in the smothering darkness, until you spend every day in a pain that’s every bit as real as the pain someone with an illness of the body rather than an illness of the mind feels, you don’t get to judge when someone’s reached their end.

In conclusion:

  1. Medication is good
  2. Medical care is good
  3. If I can be denied insurance due to preexisting conditions, I will be uninsurable due to my bipolar, even though medical care and medication are vital at this point to my continued well-being, so that’s fun
  4. There’s a lot to be said for exercise and healthy eating, but they should not replace medical care or medication
  5. It’s no one’s business but the person in question and their care team how it’s treated, and people who judge someone else’s treatment are douchebags.

If you have any questions or want to talk you can comment here, on my FB page, email me (amyrcissell at gmail) or FB message me. If you are my mother, you may text me, but I might ignore said text. I’m okay, or near enough to count, anyway.

Depression is a lying asscandle, but I know how hard it is to remember that. If you need a reminder, hit me up. I can be your stranger in the internet supporter. Because you 100% deserve that.

 

Motivation Monday

I haven’t been to work in just over four months. This is full of the crazy. There are just a couple problems –

  1.  I love it. I love not having a job. I am not bored. I’ve been writing and editing and blogging and doing more working out and baking and preserving and my house (until the rattening) was pretty clean. I would be a great housewife/writer. Except…
  2. I am out of money. I really thought I’d be back at work before now, but I’ve burned through all my savings that I had in place and now I am desperate. I’m hoping desperation counts for something!

I need to hustle. I need to apply for one hundred jobs a day (give or take). I’ve started edits on the second book in the series, but am really hoping to get the first back from the editor this week so I can finish that up and send it out into the world where people will mock me and judge me and subtly ignore its existence (but maybe after one-clicking it).

I need this weather to be normal weather so I can run (it’s an icy snowy mess out there and I have neither the gear nor the desire to become an icy snowy runner) and swim (power outage led to the pool closure).

I need my brain to stop spinning worst case scenarios which usually involve me dying destitute and alone in a large box under the Burnside Bridge.

I have some positive habits I’ve been trying to develop, and I’m doing a little better with some of the simple self-care ones, but I need to double-down on the movement and sitting under my SAD lamp and probably should delete the time wasters from my phone so I have fewer ways to procrastinate when I can’t jump over the despair hurdles in my brain that tell me everything is hopeless.

I pledge to you – the all-seeing (not literally, I hope) internets – that as soon as I hit publish on this post, I will haul out the yoga mat and show my new catly roommates how to do a good down dog. I will drink a glass of water and then spend the next hour at my desk editing.

And tomorrow? Provided that the Bean is at daycare and not home (again – so many snow/ice days), I will yoga/write/edit/job hunt

And repeat. Next week, I’ll start running (weather providing) and swimming (pool temperature providing).

And I most certainly will not get bronchitis, even if it is my winter tradition. SOME TRADITIONS SUCK!

Whiny Wednesday

This could become a thing. Book Review Tuesday (or book reviewsday, if you’re being clever, and I always am), Whiny Wednesday, Three Things Thursday, and Fuck Off Friday (that might be a new invention).

I feel whiny and don’t feel like there’s really a good medium to serve as an outlet. I worry about overwhelming friends with my constant ACK, and a facebook group that I’d previously considered a safe place to vent no longer is for various and sundry reasons that I can’t share here, because this is even less of a safe space than a private facebook group.

But dammit! I’m whiny!

I feel paralyzed in a number of areas in my life, and the problem with the deep unhappiness that either caused or accompanied said paralysis is that I cannot find a way out of that unhappiness because, well, paralyzed!

I’m at least sleeping fairly decently most nights, although I think part of that is my body saying, “well we slept 3 hours last night, so let’s see if we can fall asleep on the couch at 8:30 tonight and then wake up absurdly early with no energy or motivation! yay!”

I’m almost done detoxing from my current prescription, and then I’ll be drug free! (Just Say No! Unless you need the drugs to regulate your mind/body/whatever, then say yes, of course.)

I haven’t done monthly goals in a while (I have my annual goals, and my #40before40 list), but sometimes I need to break things down. And yeah, it’s the middle of the month. Bite me.

Five goals for the next 30 days.

  1. Write work to-do list and cross off everything that’s feasible; procrastination is not a reasonable excuse
  2. 30-45 minutes walks every day/evening I don’t have my Bean. That means tonight, tomorrow night, Friday, Saturday, Sunday (I have him 7 nights of every 14, in a 5 on/5 off; 2 on/2 off schedule). Try to do something active on weekends when I do have Bean.
  3. Bed by 11 on school nights. No excuses. No watching Criminal Minds on the kid’s iPad in bed. That’s cheating and doesn’t help with the insomnia.
  4. Stop hitting snooze. Once you’re up with the alarm, start moving wake-up earlier.
  5. Start writing again. Today, I’m blogging. Tonight I’m writing an overdue book review. Tomorrow, maybe I can do some evening work on the book with a beer. There’s a bar I used to frequent occasionally that I really enjoyed writing at. Maybe I’ll just hop off the bus there on my way home from work and write for a couple of hours to get back in the habit. Familiar space might trigger some words.

These are good, reasonable goals, right? I kept thinking that once I moved into my own place, things would come together. Then I thought that once the divorce was final, things would come together. You know what? I think if I want things to come together, I might have to stop waiting for it to happen and make it happen myself.

she needed a hero

Running Down a Dream

I am an accidental drug addict. I was prescribed a drug (and for purposes of vagueness, I’m not going to tell you what it is) the end of June to help arrest the daily panic attacks and heart palpitations.

Speaking of – the first time you have a full-blown panic attack, you are pretty sure you’re having a heart attack and are going to be one of those people who drops dead before age 40 due to cardiac arrest. Also times 3-5. By the tenth time, you know what it is and can work on breathing and meditating through it. If I ever do have a heart attack, I’ll probably just try to meditate through it and die. AND PEOPLE WONDER WHY I’M ANXIOUS! What if this time it’s real????

ANYWAY – DRUGS. I went on a drug so I could function as a normal human being and it worked. I’ve had only a handful of panic attacks since then and most of them were in September, i.e. the month the shrink decreased my dose without warning me what might happen. (Sorry people in September!)

My fatigue has been ridiculous lately, yet I’ve been sleeping more than ever. I’ve also been on the drug, which is in a class of drugs considered relatively addictive, for almost 6 months. I decided – and got new shrink to agree – that I could stop taking them.

The first week, when I decreased my dosage by 25%, had some pretty bad days. Anxiety, panic, paranoia, mood swings, temperature swings, depression, etc. But the fatigue seems a bit better. I decrease another increment starting tonight, and was warned that nights 2 and 3 after decreasing might be a little…insomniacish.

My personal medical professional (doesn’t everyone have one?) recommended combatting the depression with exhaustion. As I’m currently trying to not be fatigued, that seemed a bit counter-intuitive, but she’s the medical expert and I just work in a hospital where knowledge does not flow into my brain via osmosis or my strong psychic powers.

I’m hoping that exhaustion will help combat the depression and the fatigue. I also read today – and I didn’t do extensive research, so who knows if it’s true – that this class of drug can interrupt REM sleep, which is one of the reasons that those of us who are taking this drug can sleep a lot but still experience fatigue. It would also explain why I almost never dream anymore. I’ve got three more weeks of weaning off the drug – and hopefully the withdrawal symptoms will end shortly after that.

In the meantime, in the spirit of making it through a drug withdrawal and getting a head start on my 2016 goals, today, I went for a run.

2015-12-30 09.26.59

It was a bit chilly. And muddy. But four miles to end the year is pretty damn good.

Aggressive Happiness: The Sequel

Three years ago when I was sinking quickly – what seemed at the time to be irrevocably – into the abyss of post partum depression and anxiety, I got serious about happiness. I read books on happiness. I watched videos on happiness. I got really depressed because I could not force myself to be happy.

If I hadn’t had a small person dependent on me for food and shelter and diaper changes, I don’t know if I’d have been able to pull myself up by my bootstraps (my boots do not actually have straps) and take care of myself.

But I did, and a sweet wee creature was he (today’s memory from three years ago):

I had to stay strong for that little face.

I had to stay strong for that little face.

When looking at pics from this time three years ago, I notice that there is a distinct dearth of Amy pics. Yeah. ANY WAY.

At that time, I also devised a brilliant plan to stay sane. I called it Aggressive Happiness (TM).

I made rules.

Amy’s Aggressive HappinessTM Rules

  1. Be Amy
  2. Relax
  3. OTC = AOK (seriously take an Advil)
  4. A little is better than none
  5. Sleep more
  6. Read daily
  7. Spend less
  8. Kiss the architect & Alvie Bean every day
  9. Lay off the internet already
  10. Move every day
  11. Let yourself off the hook
  12. Only say yes if you really want to
  13. Be comfortable!
  14. Assume positive intent

And – just to finish – things that make me happy for days I need a pick-up.

  1. Trashy paranormal romances
  2. Early morning coffee
  3. A clean house
  4. Lush garden
  5. Feeding people
  6. Watching the Bean giggle
  7. Trail running
  8. Swimming
  9. Camping
  10. Watching the sun rise

Those rules are not bad.

I’ve tried other things – I did a #100happydays instagram project last year and I’m currently well into my 2015 #365happydays project. (I’ve missed less than a handful of days, and looking back it seems that what primarily makes me happy is Bean, coffee, booze, gardens, and writing. I’ll take it.)

I’ve done star charts for self-care. I’ve tried a lot of things that are complicated and require spreadsheets with automatically updating formulas.

This September, I am keeping it simple.

I took off the fitbit.

Seriously.  I put away my elaborate (and automatically updating) fitness spreadsheet. No peeking until October. I’ll still write down my activities, but I won’t obsess over daily step counts and activity and how many flights I’ve climbed.

I put away the scale for the month.

I added a medication reminder to my phone so that I’ll actually take my anti-cray(fish) drugs.

I’m back off the sauce (until New Orleans, when I will empty that fair city of its supply of hurricanes, unless hurricanes are tequila or whiskey based, and then I will drink some other natural disaster).

My only goals are to not have goals and to take care of me.

And maybe get a unicorn.

IMG_0314

 

What do you do for self-care when everything seems to be moving faster than you can handle?