Searching for Balance

Sorry I haven’t been so active here on the Bipolar Writer as I normally am. My life has been so out of whack that I can’t seem to find balance.

I have been coping with this imbalance by binge eating/overeating on a regular basis. Once I open my mouth, I have no idea when I will reach my limit. For the past three days I have felt incredibly bloated because of it which, of course, makes me feel depressed and critical of myself.

Each day I get angry with myself, saying, “Why can’t you just stop, Megan!? You’re not hungry, why are you eating again?”

The stresses of life have been chipping away at my mental health. I get home from work and am immediately overwhelmed by everything that I have to do. The daily chores get done but I feel like I can never get to the random tasks like pulling weeds outside or finally organizing my closet.

There aren’t enough hours in the day to work full time and keep my house the way I want to. Because I go nonstop after I get home from work, I feel like I don’t get to enjoy any Megan time. I want to be able to write again, go to the gym, do yoga with my cats and not worry that I have chores to do.

My anxiety kicks into gear when I start thinking about this sort of stuff.

How do you find balance in life? If you have achieved balance, do you have any good tips?

The Unfettered Insanity of Unmedicated Bipolar Disorder

My wife says she can always tell when I go off my medication. She says I stop making sense, speak gibberish, and do and say things that are utterly irrational. I say she can tell because when I’m off my meds, I feel nonsensical, disconnected and irrational. I’m perfectly aware of the inane babble that comes out of me when I’m unmedicated – and yet I allow it to happen anyway.

I’m on four different antipsychotics and antidepressants to treat my disorder. I’ve been diagnosed with Bipolar Type 2, which is where you have very mild manic episodes alternating with extremely severe depression. The medications help to keep me on an even keel, even if I do still swing toward the depressive end of the spectrum more often than not, and when I’m consistently medicated I can function, hold normal conversations, feel motivation, and generally get through the day.

So why on earth would I trade that for what is, essentially, bouts of total insanity? I’ll give you an example: the other night we were preparing dinner, and I couldn’t wash and recycle a plastic container. I just … couldn’t. To an outside observer (i.e. to my family), it must have looked like I was batshit crazy – I babbled about how I couldn’t wash it, that the most I could do was throw it away, and then I started pacing the kitchen, turning around every two steps. I probably tore at my hair a little, and eventually ended up on the couch in the dark while my wife screamed at how lazy I was being.

Believe me, it wasn’t laziness.

There are a whole slew of reasons why I do this to myself. Ironically, none of them are because I think I’m better when I am medicated – even though that’s a commonly cited reason for patients to stop. The most common reason – and perhaps the least sensible – is that I’m afraid to run out.

That’s right – I stop taking my meds so that I don’t run out of my meds.

This is the kind of train of thought that probably makes perfect sense to a lot of you – and absolutely no sense to anyone whose never had to take psychiatric medications before. I mean, you wouldn’t stop taking your heart medicine for the same reason, would you? But for some reason it seems, in the moment, perfectly reasonable to skip a day or a week so that I don’t run out.

Sometimes there are more valid reasons to stop. Most recently, I stopped taking them for about two weeks because I couldn’t afford to renew the prescription. Now that’s kind of a shitty position to be in, but the truth is that I didn’t have the money to pay for the medications – partly because my most recent paycheck got screwed up, but also because I do sometimes spend money on things I don’t need (mostly coffee).

But wow – the difference between medication and going au naturel is itself insane. As in, within a few days in either direction I notice a huge difference. When I go off them, I start to feel anxious, unsettled, and completely disconnected from reality. Then the depression sinks in, and the despair … or sometimes the anger and rage. Sometimes I sit in a corner and cry; other times I rush around madly between tasks, unable to start or complete any of them. More often, I sleep, because it’s the only way I can escape the madness.

After a few days, I feel generally unsettled and disconnected; after a few weeks, I feel totally insane. After a month or more, I start to become suicidal.

And the difference when I go back on them … within a few days I feel stable, in control, and able to do most anything. I might still not want to do anything, but at least I can make myself do it.

I know that this constant cycle of going on and off my meds is really, really bad for me, but I just can’t seem to help it. I don’t ever mean to stop taking my meds; it just happens. And when it does, I feel so out of control that it’s hard to find the willpower to go back on them. Sometimes even the effort of taking the top off the pill bottle is just too much.

I hate feeling out of control, but I do it anyway. It’s damaging my brain, but I do it anyway. It’s a vicious cycle, and I honestly don’t know if it’s one I’ll ever get out of.

For now, I’ll just have to go and take my pills.

The Long Road to Betterment

As human beings, regardless of our backgrounds, we’ve become conditioned to evaluate our success in life based on the monetary value of our material possessions. The impact of this trending train of thought has become detrimental to our society, and is especially toxic for those of us who already struggle to find our sense of selves, our true value.

This shift in humanity, in my opinion, grew exponentially with the rise of the technological era. While it’s existed within us for several generations, it’s much more prominent in the last few. And while recently there has been a small faction bringing minimalist living to light, currently more than ever we have become obsessed with the idea of owning the best and newest things.

This has been a difficult post to write because of my own current struggles on the topic. Where is the line between valuing possessions over what really matters, and yearning for a sense of security you’ve never known? There’s obviously financial security in the way of assets, and then there’s having a stable life. Who’s to say when we’ve taken it too far, and how do we separate the wants from the true needs?

I was raised as a welfare baby, my mom on social security, section 8, food stamps, and I’ve had government provided health insurance for my entire life. My mom still survives on the programs, and now I’m raising my daughter on food stamps and free health care as well. It’s not a choice, because while my husband works, it’s not enough, and I can’t bring in enough money with my disabilities to make the pain they’d cause worth the while.

I’m sure my mother wasn’t proud to need all that assistance to raise me, and I’m certainly not proud either. We recently began trying to apply for home loans, as we’ve both lived under mostly slum lords for our entire lives and we want better for our daughter. Long and painfully disappointing story short, we got denied this week and it broke me.

This switch has gone off inside of me, making me feel guilt, inferiority, and judgment towards myself. I swore I’d never raise my child on welfare, but this was before I knew of my physical restraints. Despite my lack on control in the matter, there’s a certain self resentment that comes with that, a sense of worthlessness. I thought I’d found the perfect home for us, actually allowed myself to get excited for once, and now someone else’s family will fill the home.

It’s been an incredibly trying week, with tensions always escalating and tensions always rising due to our current crappy living situation, and I haven’t felt this defeated in a really long time. Especially for those of us with mental illness, stability is incredibly imperative to our success, and it’s my firm belief that if I can finally achieve stability, maybe I can finally begin my journey to betterment.

What I thought was one step closer turned out to be two steps back, but I must still press on. I have to believe that there’s more left in life for me than just the current chapter, that the book will have at least a relatively halpy ending. Here’s to everyone else who’s had a disappointing week or felt broken by something outside of your control. Life gave us lemons, so I guess we’re making lemonade, no matter how sweet or sour it tastes.

To Be(er), Or Not To Be(er)

“Please Drink Responsibly” is the phrase slapped across every product you must be twenty-one years of age to purchase in the United States. Alcohol has been, is, and always will be one of the most controversial matters in history for many reasons. Our grandfathers’ fathers made it hidden in the south eastern mountains to provide for their families in the most lucrative way they could. A tradition has been made out of its’ recipes and stories of bootlegging and prohibition. It’s the one thing that even the United States government couldn’t stop.

As with anything however, where there are pros, there are cons. As with anything, if enjoyed in excess there are many debilitating effects it can cause on your health and the health of others. Poor judgements and decisions are made which can impact many people for the rest of their lives. If you live just below the Bible belt as I do, don’t be surprised if some mega church preacher attempts to release you from the grasp of the Devils’ nectar as he lovingly embraces you while reaching for your wallet and groping every square inch of your wife with his eyes.

The point I am trying to make is that we live in a society that welcomes the use of alcohol like an old family friend. It’s as American as apple pie, baseball, McDonald’s, and this messed up obsession we all have over reality television. So if no one else seems to have a problem, and it all just is a natural part of life, do I really have as big of a problem as I think I do?

If you have followed me or my blog for any amount of time, you may have stumbled across my introduction or several works about alcohol and my battle with the bottle. Today I want to give you a little background about it, as the subject weighs heavily on my mind lately. I have been drinking since I was fourteen years old. It started out as simply as it typically would. Tall bottles of Smirnoff Ice which eventually led my curious tongue to tall cans of malt liquor. I drank A LOT of gut rot, gas station specials as an early teenager such as Steel Reserve 211 and the likes, until I finally calmed down into normal domestic beers.

At around the age of eighteen I began to indulge in liquor. Trying a little bit of anything I could get my hands on, I quickly discovered that vodka and gin were two of my least favorite liquors. As stereotypical as it will sound, I was a bourbon guy through and through just like my father. The smoky taste, the warm burn of eighty proof tingling down your throat, and that decadent smell of oak as it swirled around in my glass could make my mouth water with every sip. I had made it my mission to become a connoisseur of bottom shelf bourbon. Even when I moved out on my own, the only things I had to my name were a few pots and pans, a record player, a futon mattress, and most importantly… a bottle of rye whisky.

It wasn’t until last year in September that a panic attack made me really look at myself and question my life. Once I began my journey for better mental health, I realized I was using the alcohol to self medicate my anxieties and possibly even some of my bipolar tendencies when I look back in retrospect. I made a lot of changes to my lifestyle with help from my wife. I decided to not keep beer in the apartment we share and she agrees because she feels it’s a waste of money. We agree to only drink when we go to restaurants or concerts and I stopped buying liquor all together because if it’s in my reach, I will drink it.

It’s not uncommon for me to become my own worst enemy. I am my worst critic, my worst judge of character, and the last person I ever want to have to confront. Lately if I’m out somewhere and decide to have a beer, I look at myself in shame and feel regret over my decision. I feel as though I’m letting myself down and even you down. Even though I don’t drink for the same reason anymore, enjoying one beer throws so many questions into my mind, it almost makes me wonder if it’s worth it. On the other hand, I’m not drinking for the same reason anymore. I enjoy beer as a craft and a beverage. Taking barley and hops and creating a flavorful masterpiece is a skill I am honestly envious of. There are so many good things about beer that go far beyond alcohol content.

Everyone has a story. Everyone has a situation that is different. I am not writing this to sway someone who is struggling with addiction to drink. If you are someone who is on the fence, I encourage you to please take the plunge and reach out to your local alcoholics anonymous program or outpatient rehabilitation center. What I am writing this for is to tell my story and to pose a question to my friends, the readers.

With the habits I continue to follow, I find myself wondering if I really have as big of a problem as I think I do. Am I more in control than I realize? Am I blowing this entirely out of proportion? If no one else seems to have an issue, then what is my problem? I am fine with not buying liquor, but am I wrong if I buy beer from time to time? What are your thoughts, and do you struggle this as well?

Easier said than done? Work-life balance

I want to begin by thanking those who participated in the poll that I posted last week. I got a lot of great insight on topics y’all would like to see in the coming weeks. 19.15% of y’all voted for “work-life balance,” which I will be discussing today.

What is work-life balance?

There’s no doubt that work-life balance has an influence on our mental health. For those who suffer from mental health disorders, having work-life balance is even more crucial. Work-life balance is defined as having the time to perform employment, family, social, and community tasks in a manner that results in some sort of equilibrium.

Whether your “work” is school, maintaining a household, or holding down a 9-5 job, you need time outside of your work to recharge, to engage with hobbies and passions, and to socialize with non-work people. Being able to have a personal life while fulfilling the work/school/etc. duties is the tricky part and will vary from person-to-person.

In this post, I won’t go into detail about what can happen when you aren’t mindful of work-life balance but you can read a post I wrote on the topic of burnout. 

How can I improve my work-life balance?

You can begin by asking yourself: “What different roles do I have outside of work?” Are you a parent, friend, spouse, sibling, church member, volunteer, etc.? How are you tending to your various roles? Do you know how to delegate your time?

It is likely that we all found some areas for improvement as we pondered the above questions. With that being said, here are some ideas to help improve your work-life balance now:

  1. Make changes: If possible, adjust work hours to be more conducive to your other life roles. Eat better, exercise more, sleep more, and develop your coping skills for when work is more demanding (unbalance from time-to-time is inevitable). These changes and self-care tasks will help you to be better prepared for juggling multiple responsibilities and roles in your life.
  2. Unplug: The devices we surround ourselves with make it difficult to disconnect from work once we’ve punched out for the day. I suggest limiting or eliminating work-based email and work-related phone communications when you’re outside of work hours. Research supports that tending to things like work emails when you’re off the clock increases the chance of burnout. I personally choose not have work email on my phone. I also give coworkers and clients a google voice number that is different than my personal number. This allows me to unplug and follow up on calls and texts when I am in the office.
  3. Take breaks: I’ve noticed that a lot of people don’t take a lunch break on a regular basis. I even read that many people fail to use their allotted vacation time. These activities are crucial to preventing burnout. Breaks help you to recharge during the day before returning to work. It will likely make you more productive when you return if you allow yourself to step out of work mode. When taking a break, it is important to get out of your work setting if possible and do something to relax; ie, watch youtube, read a book, listen to music. Avoid spending the whole time on social media, as it tends to drain more than rejuvenate. Schedule vacations once or twice a year (or more!) and don’t bring work on those vacations. The world will not end if you can’t be reached and you will be better off after stepping away for a bit.
  4. List your non-negotiables: What are the non-work things that you refuse to miss? List them out and make sure you schedule it around your work obligations. For me, my weekly non-negotiables are writing at least one mental health blog, going to the gym at least 5 days, getting at least 8 hours of sleep nightly, and having a designated date night with my wife.

Conclusion

Having a work-life balance is easier said than done. We live in a competitive world and often fear we won’t be able to keep up unless we sacrifice. It all comes down to where your priorities are and what you’re willing to do to make them happen. I hope that this has been helpful. Feel free to comment with your thoughts on work-life balance.

You can find me at perfectlyimperfect92.wordpress.com

As always, thanks for reading!

Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/presence-mind/201509/hows-your-work-life-balance

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-love-and-war/201510/10-ways-increase-work-life-balance

Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com

Stabilize

I sat in the waiting room clutching papers in my hand. For two weeks I had prepared to tell my doctor that I finally began seeing a therapist and that the diagnosis from her standpoint was leaning towards bipolar disorder. Awkwardly I gathered my things together once my name was called and followed the nurse for blood pressure and weight checks. Weighing in at 210 pounds threw me off guard at first, but I suppose that’s what happens when you stop drinking every day.

The nurse handed me the same GAD checklist that gets filled out each visit. I hadn’t seen my doctor in a little over a month so my numbers were up higher than in previous visits. As I would fill out “More than half the days”, I could feel that I was getting beside myself again. I should’ve been better than this. I should’ve been normal.

The doctor came in the room almost as quickly as the nurse left it. Before I could even allow the “hello” to escape her lips, the paperwork was extended in her direction and I told her I had gone to a therapist. “We think I may have bipolar disorder. I’m not throwing chairs or anything like that but after reading off the symptoms, a lot of things make a lot of sense. The high sex drive, the huge interest in hobbies only to drop them within a week or so, the days of not being able to make myself get off of the couch, my lack of focus and excess of indecision, it’s all here and then some.”, I said while pointing at the bipolar information sheet.

“Well I had my suspicions, but getting a second opinion from a therapist definitely solidifies a treatment option. Let’s try weaning off of one of your antidepressants and adding a mood stabilizer.”, she said.

I want to be clear by saying that I’m not glad that I am on another medication, but I am glad that I may be one step closer to finding a way to live life without my life getting in the way of… Well… My life. The problem I have with my mental health is that I wake up with either no motivation to get anything done, or so much motivation that I run errands and still not get anything done. I can have a great day until a derogatory comment is made to either me or a friend, and it sends my mood into a sullen, sarcastic, and depressing cloud for either hours or the rest of the day. I feel as though I have never had any control over my sensitivity or emotions, even as a child.

It has been four days since I have begun the process to stabilize. The new medicine I am trying is called Topiramate and if it’s anything like my Lexapro, it probably is something that will take time for my body to chemically register before a difference is noticed. Honestly, the biggest side effects I feel today are lethargy and extreme dizziness. It is as if I have hit the bottle hard enough to have woken up drunk and held onto it. This medicine is also used to treat seizures as well as migraines, so I feel that it plays with a different part of the mind than I am used to, so hopefully a change will come soon. According to other articles, it takes around five to six days for the side effects to dissipate.

This is only the beginning of this journey, and I write to keep you in the loop about this process in case any of you ever go through the same thing. If you feel as though you need help with mental health please reach out to someone. You are never alone. I am available for contact via social media if anyone ever needs an ear to listen. You can find my contact information as well as my other blog posts at www.outtodry.blog.

Take care everyone!

My Thoughts on a New Semester

This is a blog post about my life.

I am looking to work on my mental health this month. I am trying to lessen the amount of stress in my life, and right in the middle of what’s going to be a rough semester.

It’s always hard to start yet another semester on this journey to get my degree. It’s crazy the amount of work I will have over the next eight weeks. I will always have my doubts until I find myself at some point in the semester.

I am going to stress its a given, but I have to find balance this time around. I have a ton of reading and work in each of my classes. it could mean working at the school for eight hours. I am also near the first draft of my memoir and every day I want to edit at least one chapter a day. I would love to write 3-4 new chapters a week. It means fitting in writing when I can including blogging.

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The key this semester will be finding the right balance in my life when it comes to school work, writing my memoir, and blogging. I don’t want to let any of these things go because they are all important things.

If you want something bad enough, you have to find the balance in your life. So this week will be a measuring stick to see if I understand where I am with all three aspects of my life.

The other part of is I wanted to read more and try to read a book a week. So far I got through half long book in the last week. Its Stephen Kings IT, and I figure if I finish it this week then I realize that’s book a week right now might be impossible. A book every two weeks could be more manageable.

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I knew right away on Sunday that I would struggle a bit to jumpstart my statistics class. Once I got back to it, I remembered my past math classes. As an English major, I only have to take one math class for my degree. I have been good at math in the past, but it’s not for me anymore. Its good my teacher does a good job prepping us for each quiz with amazing breakdowns.

My other class this semester will be easy, its a basic literature class. I have taken so many high-level literature classes that a LIT 100 class should be a class I will enjoy. My last literature class was an American literature class which was fun. Being that this a basic literature class I am sure the assignments will be easy to get through.

It felt so great two days ago to say I am so close the end of my bachelor’s degree journey. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. If I can find the right groove that gets me to the end of this semester, well it will be worth it.

That’s where I am at. Back on the grind. School. Blogging. And memoir writing will be my life over the next eight weeks. I am sure it will go fast, it always does.

J.E. Skye

Photo Credit:

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unsplash-logoJazmin Quaynor