Returning to Life After Quarantine: An Anxiety Story

Before COVID-19 I already had a tough time getting out of my house. I had been trying to be more social and do things with other humans that weren’t family or my boyfriend. But then COVID changed everything.

I was so excited that I got to stay home for 95% percent of my week. I have been working from home since late March so the anxiety of interacting with my coworkers has been tossed out the window. I haven’t had to put together a real outfit or do a full face of makeup in months.

Now that things are sort of going back to normal, I’m terrified. I have had multiple anxiety attacks thinking about returning to the office. Over the past week I’ve had trouble eating which is a big signal to me that I’m really, really anxious. I usually don’t lose my appetite or have trouble eating if I’m feeling ok or am slightly anxious.

Depression is setting in with anxiety at the reigns. For me, depression makes me exhausted and I have no energy or motivation to do anything besides lay in bed or zone out on the couch watching people decorate ice cream cakes on TikTok. I have been struggling to find joy in the things that usually make me happy.

I sit back and wonder why it feels like I’m the only one dreading for life to go back to the way it once was. I feel like all of the progress I had made earlier this year (ok it wasn’t that much progress but progress is progress especially in mental health) has disappeared. I may have taken two steps forward but now I’m gone back two miles.

I have no specific reason to be anxious other than that I hate change. My brain can’t handle big changes, it takes me a while to re-center and get back on course.

I knew all of this was temporary going in to it but now that that time is nearly here, I’m scared.

I was supposed to begin next week going into the office full-time but I asked if I could stay home for longer which my boss agreed to. I feel a sense of relief but also guilt for not doing what I was told initially.

They are letting me transition back which I think will help me cope better than I would have with diving head first into it. But on the other hand, sometimes I need to be pushed into the deep end. More often than not if I dip my toes in, it can make things worse.

The weight of my anxiety and the return to “business as usual” feels so heavy on my shoulders. Some days I just want to let it collapse on top of me so I can rest.

During this time I want to really prepare myself so that I can get through the transition to my former life. I want to have an anxiety first aid kit that will include things that make me happy or can calm me down in a panic. I’m not sure what this will all entail but I’ll figure something out.

Please leave what you have in your mental health first aid kit in the comments! I would love to know!

How have you been dealing with returning back to normal life post-quarantine? Has your mental health improved or gotten worse? For those who have returned, what has been the most helpful?

Please stay safe everyone! Please wear a mask for the safety of yourself and others.

Saving Myself Through Discomfort

“Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.” – Susan David – TED Talk “The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage”

This pandemic caught me at a really odd time in my life, an odd time that has been going on for at least two years and which was exacerbated by the death of my semi-estranged mother. The scenario: 50 years of work (amateur, semi-professional, professional) in a field which always put me in front of people as their entertainment; 17 overlapping years of teaching which always put me in front of people as their instructor and entertainment. These fields were not the only work I’ve done but they were the most consistent, to the point where over the last three-or-so years I’ve been fantasizing about getting out. But my skills and talents fall where they fall and so it has been easy to just continue down these paths, despite a growing desire (desperation) to get out.

The pandemic snatched my work – all of it – right out from under me. Consequently, I have been fortunate to actually be relieved by this situation, almost as though I’d been saved. Yes, my money left but my financial and home situations don’t really require that I make much money anymore (thank you, anal retentive tendency to throw money at my debt until it is all gone). At the same time, about a sixth of my work has been salvaged through the magic of video so I do get to make a little money and still feel released from bondage to my career.

I have every reason to be happy.

So why have I been in this combination of panic/frustration/despair right along with my relief?

I said before that this pandemic caught me at a really odd time in life. Yes, I’ve been at a crossroads but I’ve just been standing there, paralyzed, looking at all the street signs pointing in different directions and listing to myself all the reasons why none of those roads is a good choice, the problems with each one, and why I just can’t. Here are all my great reasons for staying paralyzed:

  1. In two years I’ve gone from a little inclined not to hang with others to downright unsocial. I prefer my family and I’m uncomfortable spending time with anyone else.
  2. After over 50 years of depression and anxiety, it is exhausting putting myself under the judgmental eyes of people who can probably see all that and I’m uncomfortable with what they’re probably thinking. (Performers know that the artist is one entity, the person is another.)
  3. I hate talking on the phone. I’m uncomfortable giving my very important time away to some voice that I probably don’t want to listen to and don’t want to tell anything.
  4. I already spent way enough time using my office and administrative skills. I’m uncomfortable being tied to a desk all day (although I’ve had a standing desk for years, so there is that).
  5. I’ve been completely self-employed for 17 years, partially self-employed for way longer than that. I’m uncomfortable with the idea of being an employee and having a boss again.
  6. I’m 60 years old. I’m uncomfortable with the idea of starting something entirely new, learning something entirely new.
  7. I’m uncomfortable doing the same old things I’ve been doing and using the same old skills I’ve always used.

You get the point by now, I’m sure. I’m uncomfortable with so many things that I have made myself unable to make any choice whatsoever as to what to do with this next chapter of my life. Go ahead, try to think of any field in which I might work without running into one of my discomfort zones.

You can’t do it. I haven’t been able to either.

So why haven’t I been happy? Why have I been in this combination of panic/frustration/despair right along with my relief?

Because I feel useless. Useless. Of no use. No use to me and, even worse, no use to the world. I have avoided discomfort in favor of being useless.

Today – actually before taking a much-needed long walk and listening to the Ted Talk quoted above – I signed up for COVID-19 contact tracer training. I said to myself, “I bet this is all on the phone. I hate the phone.” I said to myself, “I don’t even know if I’ll be able to get a job, so what’s the point?” I said to myself, “People are so angry and uncooperative right now. I’m afraid of dealing with them.” But I started the training (all online) because I had told my husband some time ago that I wanted to learn to do something I know not even a little bit about, from the ground up. (Direct contradiction to #6 above.) This meets that criteria. And I started the training because it most definitely is needed. I said to myself, “I’ll deal later with the fact that I probably won’t do anything with it because it’ll make me uncomfortable.

And then I went for the long walk and listened to the Ted Talk and that brilliant statement: “Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.” The speaker also said, in response to someone whom had told her all the things they didn’t want to feel, “So, you have dead people’s goals.” Wow. Dead people’s goals. She went on to explain that only the dead get to exist without feeling discomfort. Mind … blown.

I’m going to continue on with this contact tracer training. I love learning and even taking tests (yes, I’m a nerd). When I’m done, I will be very uncomfortable with how to proceed. But I will proceed. Because I’m tired of feeling useless. I’m tired of being paralyzed by discomfort; by feelings; by waiting, wishing, hoping for some magical scenario to materialize which will bring me some income and make me valuable to the world again all while making me feel like I’m wrapped in a warm blanket. It ain’t gonna happen that way.

I want to be of use to the world once more. I want to have a meaningful life. So I choose discomfort.

A Small but Certain Happiness

The other day I scrolling the internet (ok, I’ll be honest it was Weverse) when I came across a sentence that has stuck with me.

I’ll give some context. The author was talking about how lately he has been drinking plum juice, something his mother used to make him as a child.

He said, “I think plum juice is my small but certain happiness nowadays. If you feel bored just staying inside, maybe it’s a good idea to have a small but certain happiness.”

These words have been rolling around in my head and I really wanted to share them with you all.

During quarantine, I think my small but certain happiness has been practicing yoga nearly every morning. It has truly made a difference in the way I feel physically and gets me energized for the day. Instead of dreading leaving my bed, I am alright with it now.

Also taking the time to read a good book and write letters to my grandmother have been sources of small happiness.

My gram lives in a nursing home which has been on lock down for well over a month. She can’t leave the home or can’t have any visitors unless it’s an emergency. She is hard of hearing, like most people at 90 years old, but it’s 100 times worse when she’s on the phone. So I don’t have to shout into a phone, her and I have become penpals. I send her a letter plus an envelope and stamp so she has everything she needs to reply.

What is your small but certain happiness? If not, what is something that could be?

I hope everyone is staying healthy and is well! Please stay home when you can and when you go out please wear a mask. They are quite fashionable and you can feel like a k-pop idol so there’s a positive twist on it.

Isolation: A New Thing for Some

Isolation from society, especially since in most areas it is cold, there is an importance of knowing what to do in these situations. As with everything on this blog, these are my own things that have helped me and are nearly suggestions in these troubled times.

Isolation: What to Know for Those not in the Know

Photo by Keegan Houser on Unsplash

In our new reality of “stay at home” and “shelter in place,” many people are doing something they never thought they would do in their lifetime–isolate yourself from society.

Isolation comes with who I am as an introvert, and I feel I have been training for this for my entire life. I wondered how to go about writing this post. Isolation from society, especially since in most areas it is cold, there is an importance of knowing what to do in these situations. As with everything on this blog, these are my own things that have helped me and are nearly suggestions in these troubled times.

Isolation can be dangerous and so it is important to recognize certain signs that can lead to depression and even anxiety.

  • One of the most important things is to get sunlight. Just because you are asked to stay inside, don’t be afraid to go outside and enjoy a little bit of sun. I have found that one of the most essential things when isolating is to get plenty of sunshine, the lack of sun can lead to depression or even anxiety.

  •  Staying in Touch. I have heard stories of people getting online and having group discussions. There are plenty of sites out there that you can gather socially online. Just because we can’t gather with more than six people at a time in person, we are living in the most technologically advanced time. Reach out, especially to those that might be alone. Grandparents are a big group that may have no one. A phone call and an hour of your time could save someone from feeling total isolation.

  • Total Isolation is dangerous. If you live alone, no matter what age, this type of isolation can be dangerous. One of the things to avoid, no matter the situation, is to not stay in bed for too long. Yes, it is a comfortable place to work or go to school from home, but beds should be for sleeping. One of the things I learned over my experience of almost 13 years living the mental illness is to separate yourself from your bed when isolation from society is required. Create a work station or get a place outside of your bed to work and do things. Beds should be for sleeping.

  • Mental Health Days. I may slightly contradict myself, but another vital thing during these times when anxiety is at an all-time high is to take a mental health day. This could mean curling up with a good book and a blanket on the couch and maybe the bed. Mental health days suggest taking it easy and letting your batteries recharge. Perhaps it is working on a car, doing meditation, or yoga. Maybe its all these things that can be done at home. Take up knitting! Just know that all work and no downtime in isolation can be harmful. Just watch The Shinning–“All Work And No Play Makes Jack A Dull Boy.” Writing is my own form of getting through anything. Also listening to music.

  • Be kind to those who still have to go out and work. In these times of overbuying everything in sight, it is always important to remember that healthcare workers, ambulance drivers, police officers, firemen, people working in the grocery business, and pharmacies are already overcrowded. Be kind. If you have to be out in the world, be safe. Hand sanitizer is always good to have around. Thank the people if you have to come across them for having to still be out there with the risk of exposure because these people are essential. Be patient, and try to not be rude. I am sure plenty of these people would rather be anywhere but at work.

Right now that is all I have other than reach out if you need someone to talk to in these times. Stay safe. Isolation can be hard time but we can all get through it together.

Always Keep Fighting

James

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The Best of Me

“You gave me the best of me, so you’ll give you the best of you,” are the lyrics to “Magic Shop” by Korean pop group BTS. I have been listening to this song over and over because I keep thinking about these words.

Sure, it’s not the most eloquent phrasing but I think that they are on to something here.

For ages we have all been told to give everything our best whether it’s academics, athletics, music, art, relationships, etc. That if we give anything our best effort we have a higher likelihood of succeeding.

During the many times I have sat and contemplated these lyrics, I understand it as we so often give the best of ourselves to others but have a harder time giving the best for ourselves.

I try to give my best to my family, boyfriend, pets and friends but when it comes to giving my best for me, that’s a different story. I know that eating well, exercising and having human interaction is good for me but I don’t always put in the effort. If I had a paradigm shift, I would try harder to do the things that are good for me so I could be at my very best.

If I gave my best for myself, what would my life look like? This is a question I have been focusing on, digging deep into it to find a possible answer.

I still don’t have an answer but during these weird times of social distancing and staying home basically all the damn time, I have time to really think about it. I also have the time to focus on giving myself the very best of me.

What do you think of these lyrics? Do you have a similar interpretation or not? Do you think you give yourself the best of you?

Please everyone be smart and safe!

My No-Medication Journey to Emotional Health and Well-Being

Going on about 40 years ago, I was diagnosed as bipolar.  Today, I don’t know whether that diagnosis was correct or not because I’ve chosen to live my life the way I’m going to live it regardless.

So in this post, I’m going to talk a little about my choices for medicating and not medicating.  I need to state up front that everybody’s situation with medication may be different.  Some people can’t live off of medication; it’s a life or death matter, the difference between being able to have a life or not, or have a life that’s undamaged or one that’s damaged.  So this post is not a comment on other people’s choices in any way, shape, or form nor is it a suggestion as to how other people should live or the choices they should make in any way, shape, or form.  I just want to say that clearly.  This is my journey, though there may be something in it that speaks to you.

I was diagnosed as bipolar, which is funny because years later I received – when I was in therapy, again – a book entitled Mood Swings.  The therapist told me to go home and read it.  I asked her, “Do you think this is what’s going on with me?”  She said, “No, I think it’s what’s going on with your mother.”  I’m not going to say anything more about that except to say that I have doubted my diagnosis of bipolar pretty much the entire time since I received it.  What I did believe myself to be was extremely depressed.  Yes, I get very, very active sometimes – it’s actually the way I live almost ALL of my life.  Energy is what I am; people comment on it all the time.  I used to have periods where I would stay up until the wee hours of the morning; I would be busy, I couldn’t sleep but I’ve never felt I was in a manic state.  I just thought I was avoiding laying down.  I didn’t sleep well.  In addition, my dreams and I are very attached; anything that’s bothering me comes out in my dreams and a LOT was bothering me, for YEARS.  (Over time, I have come to see my sleep avoidance as a bad habit and have dealt with it as such – the same way I dealt with the bad habit of smoking and too much wine; the result is that now it’s not a part of my life (well, I still like my wine!).  Staying up super late happens rarely now and when it does I’m quite annoyed by it and I knock it off quickly.)

I was never medicated as a result of the bipolar diagnosis but a few years later I found myself hospitalized for depression.  Sometime prior to that, I had been given two medications (I won’t say what they were), one for depression and one for anxiety. Those two medications drove me insane.  That’s the only way I can put it.  I went from being depressed to being suicidal.  I just couldn’t … I just couldn’t.  That’s all I can say.  I was also having other disturbing side effects from these medications.  I was told the side effects would pass as my body got used to them.  In addition I was going through something horrible.  I was very angry at medications and I developed the attitude, “Why should I be medicated because of what other people have done to me?!”  One day I decided, “You know what?  Instead of taking just one of these a day, I’ll just take them all today.”  I made the (life-saving) mistake of saying that to my therapist at the time and that’s when I learned an important truth about being committed:  commit yourself, leave when you think you’re well; get committed by a professional, leave when they think you’re well.  My situation was the latter.

That was the end of medication for me.

A few years later, perhaps five or so years after I was married I ended up hospitalized again.  This time I drove myself to the hospital because I was just having the worst day and I felt I couldn’t function and I went to an emergency room and tearfully told them, “I’m not safe.  I’m not okay.”  I took myself away from my husband and my children and I was in there for probably about a week.

When I came out of the hospital that time, I said, “Enough is enough.”  Now I’m not suggesting that I no longer dealt with depression anymore because I did.  I continued to have periods some might have called manic.  I don’t know.  I just wanted to stay up to avoid laying down and dealing with my dreams and thoughts and I can deal with it better when I’m up.  But I decided, “I just can’t do this anymore.”  I really paid attention to the materials I was given on my way out of the hospital, which discussed how to manage my life.

Around that time I had been seeing a commercial for a program called Attacking Anxiety and Depression.  Honestly, that program was somewhat expensive at the time; we didn’t have a lot of money early in our marriage.  I invested in it anyway and I actually did that program, the whole thing.  It was very involved.  It involved practically every moment of my every day for weeks and weeks.  I did the entire thing.  I wanted to get well.   I was desperate.  I don’t want to say it cured me because “cured” is such a subjective word; who the hell knows whether they’re cured.  The circumstances at the heart of my illness were still the same and therefore I still had to cope with the same things.  So I don’t know whether I was cured.  Like an alcoholic, I’m still a depressive – I’ll say in remission.  But what that program, and my dogged (almost crazed) devotion to it, did do was teach me to manage my life.  To this day, I fiercely – and I do mean fiercely – manage my life.

I talk to myself in certain ways.  I hear when I’m bad to myself and then I remember that I’m also pretty damn great.  After all, look at me surviving.

I fiercely defend my privacy, my time as my own and not being owed to anyone.  This has alienated many people in my extended family because I’m from a family (two, actually) that feels like we should get together often but my family is also very critical of each other and being with them is not healthy.  Well, I have a family – I have a husband and sons and a granddaughter.  This is where I put my time.  I also fiercely defend my need to spend my time in places and situations that don’t stress me.  My extended family stresses the hell out of me and brings back all of the bad memories and they like to talk about these things and they’re a little bit bullying.  And so I very, very rarely spend time with them because I always end up having to defend myself around them.  Who the hell wants to be in that?  And so I don’t.  I am comfortable with my family and I devote my life and my time to them.  My home is peaceful.  Many people have commented on it upon entering and again upon leaving.  It’s a great compliment that fuels my dedication to sticking with it.

I have chosen work and hobbies that nurture me and that allow me to nurture others, activities that bring out and display the best in me.

I have no interest in anyone else’s “shoulds” about life.  I have examined my life thoroughly.  I know what it needs and that’s what I give it.  If things fall by the wayside, they fall by the wayside for a reason.  If I say no to things I say no for a reason.

Another big change that occurred – perhaps the biggest – is I learned to defend myself as if I were defending my best friend.  You know how we all jump up and just don’t allow anyone to say anything horrible about our best friend?  Well, I’ve learned that I have to treat myself like that.  I will not allow myself to be made a doormat.  I will not allow myself to be bullied.  Even if it’s coming from me. This has made me assertive – not aggressive.  It’s made me stand up for myself.  If someone tries to embarrass me, even in public, I will call it out tactfully, “I understood what you said.  I don’t know why you would say that in front of of all these people but let’s talk about it,” which invariably makes the person stop and leave me alone.  (I did this just recently with a family member.)  I’m not perfect and I get those times when I’m bad to myself because, hey, I will probably always have low self-esteem; it’s part of my fiber, it was built into me.  So sometimes, when I can’t talk myself out of it, I have had to learn to

Listen to my husband while he talks me out of it.  (And he defends me like a mama bear!) I’ve had to learn to listen to those people whom I know love me and admit that sometimes maybe they are right and I’m not horrible.  Then I can get myself back on track.

I stick to my regimens.  My regimens are my regimens.  I get up the way I get up everyday and do the things that are important to me everyday.  I end my day with time to myself everyday.  Whether I use it to think or to read or to write or to make something or to watch a show or to play a game, whatever the case may be, I end my day privately.  My husband respects that and appreciates it.  When he realizes that he is staying long and I’m staying up because he’s staying with me, he kindly acknowledges and says, “I’ll see you when you come up.”  I really appreciate his understanding that there are certain things I have to do to be okay; time with myself is one of them.

During these years of transition, I was having a horrible, horrible, horrible time with my mom.  If anything has been close to killing me, it has been my relationship with my mother.  I decided I was tired of being sick.  I had done all this work and yet still I was sick.  And so I went on over to an online platform called LiveJournal and I said, “I’m going to write this journal every, single day for 365 days and I’m going to find my way out of this.”  And I did.  Over 365 days I missed writing on only a handful of days.  At the end of 365 days I was very proud of myself because when I looked into my word cloud, I saw that I had developed gratitude and I was beginning to see great things about myself and my life.  (A sad side note:  my relationship with my mother did not survive this.  We became emotionally estranged, although we did see each other from time to time and were civil.)

I really started to be healthy after that and will even go so far as to say happy.  This is my current state and has been so for several years.  Again, I still deal with things; I still get sad; negative emotions still come in, I still have to deal with them.  But a real, substantive change happened after that.  I said, “Wow, my life is great!”  My life is great.

During all these years, I also developed a very strong, close relationship with God.  I know there are people who will ridicule that.  There’s nothing I can say to you.  If God is present in your life, you will know.  I worked hard but I did not do this alone.  It required a strength that I just don’t have.  I don’t care what people call it. It’s not blind faith because I have seen, for certain, His hand in my life.

I’m sorry I can’t put all these things together on a better timeline.  I just can’t because all of these things were happening over years at different times by themselves and they all became part of one closely-meshed fabric of health and well-being.  But all of these things became my method for living that protects me.

I’m not antisocial.  I’m very extroverted; however, that has shifted also.  I’m extroverted when I’m around people but I really prefer not to be around people.  I’m an introvert who is just really good with people when I get out there.  (Sometimes.  Other times I feel like I totally make an ass and a fool of myself but I know that a lot of people feel like that at times.)  When I want to be with people, I’m with people; when I don’t, I’m not.  It’s important to note that my work is a mashup of teaching and entertainment so I am always doing both and people are my livelihood.  So when I say “I don’t feel like it,” I’m talking about my non-work time.

It all comes down to making choices that benefit my health, my well-being.  I just turned 60.  At some point in your life, you have to say, “This is my life.  I have to live it my way with my priorities.”  At that point, you have to start really taking a good and honest look at the things around you that work contrary to you living your life and living it in a healthy way.

Are you trying to live someone else’s life?  Are you living according to someone else’s priorities?  Are you living in a way that benefits your own well-being or someone else’s?

This is not selfishness, especially if you are a significant other or a parent.  Because if you can’t be healthy, how can your relationships be healthy?  Sometimes we say, “Yeah, but he/she just loves me and has my best interests at heart.”  Nobody knows what’s best for you but you – and I would hazard to say God.  Come to know yourself.  Come to know God.  (I’m not going to go any deeper into that because I don’t want to get into religion.  I can’t stand religion.)  I’ll just say learn to pray.  Get out of yourself, take an honest chance and pray.  Pray for guidance.  If you don’t believe, fine.  Prove that you’re right.  Just give a few, deep, heartfelt prayers, deep from your soul.  Pray for guidance to know yourself.  I could have done nothing without this.  It’s where I got the strength to continue because it was hard.  I didn’t mean to go off on that but it’s impossible for me to separate out.

So again, a list of where my journey to emotional and mental health has brought me:

  • Fierce protection and defense of myself as I would my best friend, husband and children
  • Fierce protection and defense of my time, priorities, and need for quiet solitude
  • Listening to people who truly love me when they stand up for me, not fighting against them
  • Remembering to ask God for help and especially to thank God for all the riches I do have, to be grateful

These are the little pills I take to protect my health and well-being.  I hope there’s something in there that will help you.

Peace

“You Can Talk to Us”: Social Anxiety at Work

Social anxiety presents itself in a variety of forms for different people and can be perceived by others in a lot of negative ways. Last week I got called out by a coworker for rarely speaking to the employees on the first floor.

My desk is in the basement along with 3 other workspaces that occupy two part-time employees and one is there twice a week. Most days I am downstairs by myself.

The fridge and microwave are on the first floor so when I arrive in the morning I put my lunch away and come back up a few hours later to get it. In those few moments I am upstairs I try not to make eye contact or speak with anyone else.

bts-v-shy-02
What I look like walking down the hallway at work.

Last week I was walking back to the basement after heating up my lunch when my coworker said, “you know you can talk to us.”

I was dumbfounded. I felt exposed as if she pulled back the curtain to see socially anxious little me hugging my favorite teddy bear.

My anxiety has always told me that nobody wants to talk to me or cares what I have to say. It has made me believe that it is best for me to keep to myself so I don’t bother others.

My response was, “Oh, I can? I thought you were all really busy most of the time.”

She said they aren’t then we proceeded to casually chat for a few minutes.

Over the years, I have shut myself off socially at work.

At my last job I kept to myself except for talking to my supervisor. Most of my other coworkers weren’t friendly so I didn’t speak to them unless necessary.

Nobody has called me out on my social anxiety (except my therapist) so it has become a normal way of living for me. It has definitely given me some perspective on how others view me at work. Something to certainly think about.

Do you have social anxiety? If so, how do you cope with it at work/school?

Also what is your current coping method when you’re struggling with your mental illness?

As you can see from the featured image, my current coping mechanism is BTS. Whether it’s watching their incredible dancing in their music videos or reading along with the translated lyrics, BTS makes me happy in all ways. It also helps that they are all super cute. (If you’re a fellow Army, I love Jin, V and RM most.)

What warms my heart is their lyrics in “Love Yourself” that say, “even the scars that were formed from my mistakes are my very own constellations.” These words are powerful for me because of my history with self-harm.

Exploding With Emotion.

I am not an outwardly emotional person. Behind closed doors, I spill it all. If you asked my mom or friends, they would never describe me as boy crazy. I had plenty of crushes but I just am very mindful of how I present myself. I think this is why, when I get into the room with my mental health provider, I am a puddle. I explode with what I can only describe as relief. I feel like I spend my days trying to control my feelings for fear that I am going to push someone too far. When I finally let the emotions flow, so do the tears. I am passionate, hopeful, empathetic. I am all of these things to the extreme. I try to help people who didn’t ask for my help. I cling to people who just want to walk away. I bet everything on a maybe.

That burst of tears that I feel when I go to my appointments, the one where I just feel relieved and heard? I feel that here. I feel that with every post that is written and I can relate to. I feel that with every comment shared on my own writing. I feel heard, I feel understood. I imagine this is how people who run feel (ugh running amirite?). I have heard people describe it as cathartic and how they love leaving everything and just being in the quiet with themselves.

I leave it all on the page. I am sure that I can’t be the only one who “journals”. My journals are just lists, scribbles that don’t mean much, a to do list, a grocery list, a goal, a dream I had last night. I don’t intentionally journal. I don’t even write full sentences or dates. I just release my thoughts onto a page in whatever format or stage they might be in. Sometimes, all I have done is budget. It feels good to see it on paper. One day, when I am gone and my kids clean out my things, they will realize how insane I really am. I have stacks of notebooks with scribbles in them. The same way a child might color random pages in a coloring book with half of them never completed.

Thank you for being the only real “Journal” I have ever had. Thank you for consistently making me feel understood and sane, even when I know that I am not at times. Thank you for encouraging me to come back and carry on.

Stepping Out.

I have never made told anyone my New Years resolutions. I just think putting that kind of pressure on something is setting yourself up for failure. I wish I could say that I haven’t made superficial false promises to myself to change my eating habits, lose a particular amount of weight, quit a bad habit, find a new love, or win a million dollars. I have, and I have failed. I think these goals are too specific and that was my issue. Over the past ten years, I have lost myself.

Lost myself in relationships, both platonic and otherwise.

Lost myself in other’s expectations.

Lost myself in my own expectations.

My biggest sadness for others is watching them be hard on themselves because they aren’t keeping up with someone else’s success. You don’t have to be at the same point in life as someone else.

I still have incredibly practical goals. I want to pay off some debt that I have been tip toeing around. I want to finish grad school. I want to advance in my career.

This year, I resolve to be me. Whoever that is… I want to be impulsive in ways that I have not allowed myself before. I want to move out of my comfort zone. I want to find my playful and adventurous side again.

I dyed my hair purple. I have always wanted to but didn’t for fear of what others would think. I was most concerned that my job wouldn’t allow it. But apparently this job doesn’t care, so I just did it.

I feel like I am stable emotionally on my medication and now I can breathe. I can know that these big exciting decisions and adventures are me finding myself and not mania.

Reflecting.

Mental illness can be exhausting. I feel that this past two years have been a whirlwind of emotion and change. Both fast and slow at the same time. Depressive episodes have made the days drag and falling into the pits of despair made them almost unbearable. Stable moods made days of adventure seem like flashes of happiness rather than long days of fun.

I hated this past year.

I feel like my mental health management consumed me. The constant ups and downs were exhausting and I felt as though it would be the end of me. I really didn’t think I would make it. I lost my humor and silliness. I did not dance in my kitchen, I did not play silly pranks on my sister who has come to adore them, I did not go out with friends more than a handful of times, and I did not love myself. I am an extrovert through and through, but this past year I was a shut in.

2019

4 doctors.

2 states.

4 jobs.

2 moves.

4 lapses in medications.

5 lapses in health insurance.

6 medication changes.

This is not my ideal year. I have let bipolar run my life. It has humbled me. Sometimes, when I am feeling under control, I let doubt creep in and think that maybe I am completely fine. Maybe I don’t need medication and I am just one of those people that needs and excuse to behave badly or skirt responsibilities.

I am in fact, not that person. I am completely, without a doubt 100%, mentally ill. And in 2020 I will, for the first time in my life, be making a resolution. I will consistently manage my illness.

2020

Choose a new doctor (mine quit)

continuously take my meds

blog twice per month (because I made a commitment that I never kept)

finish my graduate degree

be okay with being okay.