mental health

When Anxiety Makes You Plan Your Own Funeral

I know that title probably made you go “wait, what?”, but hang with me for a minute.  People sometimes say they can’t tell that I’m mentally ill from talking to me.  While I get that, it’s not as though I usually go around discussing delusions, hallucinations, causes of anxiety, or other symptoms with people I’m not particularly close to.  While I thankfully haven’t experienced any delusions or hallucinations lately, my anxiety has been increasingly bad since before Christmas in spite of being almost nonexistent for several months prior to that.

I recently went to a funeral where a lot of preaching and not much actual talking about the person who passed away happened and left thinking “hmm, I don’t want that when I die.”  I also had a general sense of impending doom even before our carbon monoxide detectors went off a few times this week.  (The heater is getting fixed as I type this, so don’t worry- I won’t actually die from carbon monoxide poisoning, but that wasn’t very comforting in the middle of the night two nights in a row when the alarm went off).  The sense of impending doom is honestly just part of suffering from anxiety.  It isn’t that out of the ordinary for me.

So last week and this week (or a few weeks ago by the time I publish this and you read it), I spent time painstakingly planning the details of my funeral service, selecting readings from some of my favorite books, writing my own obituary, making my own funeral programs (complete with book recommendations on the back), and making a slideshow of photos and videos from throughout my life.  In the past, I have seen how difficult it is for close family to do all of these things following a death and I don’t want the people I love to have to worry about those details when I am gone.  Hopefully that’s a really long time from now and I get to add tons of photos and videos to the slideshow and change the age on the obituary by many many years, but either way it is done now and on a flashdrive where we keep our important documents.

I know this may seem kind of morbid, so I want to assure you that I did talk with my therapist about it and she seemed to think it was a fairly reasonable response to my anxiety.  It’s something productive I could use my anxiety for instead of stressing and losing sleep and obsessing about what my funeral would be like.  When I die (again hopefully a long time from now), I want my funeral to be a celebration of my life and the ones and activities I loved.  Planning it myself was a small way to hopefully ensure that will happen.  Obviously, once I’m gone I’ll have no control over what anyone actually does, but my wishes are very clearly spelled out in black and white and most of the work is already done.

Anxiety is a tricky thing because it can keep you up all night and there often is little you can do to make it go away.  Coming up with creative solutions to lessen my anxiety is something I hope to do more of in the future.  Would you ever consider planning your own funeral?  Let me know in the comments!

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mental health

We’re All Mad Here Part 1/7

This is a seven part series. A new part will be released every Wednesday until all 7 are out.

https://accioadventure.com/2019/01/30/were-all-mad-here-part-1/

https://accioadventure.com/2019/02/06/were-all-mad-here-part-2/

https://accioadventure.com/2019/02/13/were-all-mad-here-part-3/

https://accioadventure.com/2019/02/20/were-all-mad-here-part-4/

https://accioadventure.com/2019/02/27/were-all-mad-here-part-5/

https://accioadventure.com/2019/03/06/were-all-mad-here-part-6/

Disclaimer: As some of you may know, I took a Memoir Writing class in 2017.  For that class, I wrote a lengthy (22 page) story about my first time going inpatient in a mental health facility back in May of 2015.  I utilized a “journal” or sorts that I kept while in the hospital. It was really just a yellow legal pad with notes scribbled all over it each day. I was hesitant to share it here because it’s very frank and may contain details of thoughts I had that some people may find disturbing, but I also feel it’s an important look at what being in a mixed episode can feel like.  In a mixed episode, you experience symptoms of both mania and depression.  So you may have a ton of energy and engage in risk taking behaviors but your self talk may be incredibly negative and scary.  At any rate, I’m now going to share that story with you weekly in several parts.  I’m not sure how many parts yet, but I don’t want to make each post so long that no one wants to read it.  Some parts of this story contain strong language not suitable for children.  I know some of the stuff I have written and write in this part are really off the wall and bizarre, but they are the honest thoughts that I had at the time.

The walls are white painted cinderblocks.  The floors are white linoleum.  The air is cold and sterile and it smells like disinfectant.  In the room, my room now, there is a wooden desk with the drawers nailed shut, a chair, a made-up bed that’s bolted to the floor, a small open locker to place my things in, and a window overlooking the roof of the hospital that has a fairly wide sill on it for me to place books and belongings on.  The door doesn’t lock and there’s a smaller door inside the larger one that can be opened from the outside.  There’s a shower, a toilet, and a sink, but a shower curtain is all that separates them from the rest of my room.  Lying on my bed, I wonder if anyone has ever killed themselves in my room before and if so, how?  They couldn’t jump out the window.  There are bars over it and it’s locked.  They couldn’t jump off the roof because they couldn’t get out of the window.  They couldn’t hang themselves with the sheets because they have made sure there is nothing to hang them on except for the shower curtain rod, which isn’t strong enough to hold the weight of a body.  I conclude that the only way a person could kill him or herself in my room would be by drowning themselves in the toilet, which is just disgusting and doesn’t sound like an appealing or dignified way to go out at all.  I don’t want to kill myself.  I’m just curious and, being manic, my thoughts are racing a mile a minute in all sorts of weird directions.  I’ve only been here for a few hours and the place is still strange and foreign to me, but I know I will adjust.  I’m behaving very out of character.  I’m spending a lot of money.  I’m not really sleeping.  I have a ton of energy.  I can’t seem to stop moving.  My thoughts are racing so fast I can barely nail one down to focus on it.  All of these things are classic symptoms of mania.  I’m also feeling ashamed and embarrassed, two feelings that don’t typically happen for me until the end of a manic episode.  That coupled with the obsession about how someone would kill themselves here makes me suspect that this may actually be a mixed episode.

I finally came to the ER last night after trying to get in touch with my psychiatric nurse practitioner all day.  It has been her pattern for weeks that I will call to say I’m manic and desperately need help and she will refuse to call me back.  I was amped up and couldn’t stop pacing and moving and talking, even after extra Ativan.  The ER sent me home but told me to call in the morning to see about getting into the hospital’s Intensive Outpatient Program.  That’s a program where you do group therapy for three hours a day three days a week.  I found out I can’t do it right now because you have to commit for 4-6 weeks and I’m supposed to go on vacation with my family to Destin, Florida in a week and a day.

It’s Friday, May 27th, 2016 and I am at Park Ridge Hospital sitting patiently with my parents waiting for a volunteer to walk us up to the locked psych ward.  I look up at the clock on the wall and it’s a little past 3:30pm.  I’ve just signed the paperwork to voluntarily check myself into the Women’s Hope Unit for “as long as their doctors deem medically necessary.”  Now that’s a scary concept.  I’ve been in a mixed episode for a couple of months at the very least now and my psychiatric nurse practitioner has just kept insisting that I’m experiencing anxiety as opposed to mania.  She is being negligent and I know better.  I’ve been having tactile, auditory, and visual hallucinations.  I feel like bugs are crawling all over me, I’ve heard a non-existent man’s voice twice now, and I’m seeing moving shadows out of the corners of my eyes.  I’ve also racked up a lot of credit card debt.  Out of control spending is a symptom that doesn’t get talked about much because it’s so embarassing, but it sure does happen.

It’s our turn to go up now.  We step into the cold steel elevator and the volunteer asks, “how are you doing?” in a cheerful voice as she pushes the button for the second floor, as if my life isn’t ending as she speaks.  I think it’s a really stupid question since she knows I’m headed for the mental health ward.   I’m so scared.  I’ve seen Return to Oz, Girl Interrupted, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  I have very specific ideas about what the mental health unit will be like and those ideas are terrifying.  We exit the elevator to the right and continue down the hall to two doors on our left.  The volunteer knocks on the first door and a nurse walks out and takes my bag from me.   “Nothing with strings or wires,” the nurse on the phone had said this morning.  “What am I supposed to do about bras?”  I asked desperately.  No wires would be a bit of a hindrance for me.  “We’re very strict about the wire and string rule.  It’s for your safety and the safety of other women on the unit.  Maybe try sports bras” she had said.  Great.  Even my sports bras have underwire.  “Bring a couple of changes of clothes and some comfy pajamas, but you’re not allowed to bring any electronics.”  “Not even my Nook?!” I asked incredulously.  “Am I at least allowed to bring books?”  “A book is okay, but no electronics at all.  Electronics are contraband,” she replied.  My mom had to go out shopping for sports bras for me while I packed the few things I was allowed to take with me into a suitcase.  She was able to find two that fit me and one that did not.

It’s time to say goodbye to my parents.  “Y’all should go home and watch Girl, Interrupted, that way you’ll know what I’m up to,” I say. “That’s not funny,” my mom says with a frown.  I know my parents are just as scared as I am.  I hug them each and hold on a little longer than I normally would.  I’m close with both of them because I’ve lived at home with them off and on ever since Mom got breast cancer in 2011.  I moved out for five months to join the Peace Corps, but I moved back in as soon as I got home because that’s when I developed the Bipolar Disorder.  A buzzer sounds and I walk through the second door on the left.

Books

My Favorite Books

If you know me in real life, you know that I love reading at least as much as I love writing. Having mental health struggles can sometimes make it difficult to immerse myself fully into a story and read a book. Depression and mania both make it difficult to concentrate while anxiety tells my brain that there are other things I should be doing. In spite of the difficulty I sometimes have with reading, I love it and love to share book recommendations.

Here are 25 books/series that I really love and recommend, along with links to where they may be purchased through Amazon. Just click the title to be taken to Amazon (It will open in a new tab). I suggest also checking Thriftbooks.com and Ebay.com to see if you can find a better price!

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle
Daring Greatly by Brené Brown
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher
Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
The Charlotte Holmes Series by Brittany Cavallaro
The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Very Good Lives by J.K. Rowling
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Adventure

The Career of a Lifetime

If all jobs paid the same, what would you choose to do?

-The Hemingway Deck by Best Self Co.

Throughout my life, I have wanted to be many things: a bumblebee so I could sting my big brother, a veterinarian, a ranch owner, a criminal profiler, and a school counselor to name some of the bigger ones.  What I think I have always really wanted to be, though, is a writer.  I’ve enjoyed writing for as long as I can remember and I have always loved reading books, even long before I could read them myself.  It simply never occurred to me when I was younger that I could be a writer as a career.

If all jobs paid the same, I would write on this blog about my experiences with life and with mental illness and I would write books.  Possibly a memoir to start as I’ve already done a lot of the research for that, but my real passion has always been YA literature.  It’s my favorite to read and would, I think, be my favorite to write.  I used to think I had to be manic to be creative enough to write a novel, but I know now that with the right medications, I can be both stable and creative.

Sometimes ideas for novels come to me in my dreams and I take notes on as much as I can remember as soon as I wake up.  Sometimes they come to me randomly during the day or as I’m trying to fall asleep.  I haven’t started writing any of them because I haven’t had the confidence necessary to do so.  I have trouble believing that I could write anything fictional that is creative enough and engaging enough for other people to actually want to pay money to read it.  I struggle with the idea that I could actually create worthwhile content that people enjoy.

It occurs to me that I’m sharing my biggest wish and deepest hope with all of you right now and that it may never come to fruition.  That idea is embarassing and makes me feel ashamed.  What if I’ve put this out into the universe and am never able to write or publish a book?  What if people who read my blog start asking me about what else I’m writing?  I think it requires a little bit of courage to say to the world “this is what I really want.”

The past five years have been incredibly rough for me.  You would think that while I haven’t been working would have been the perfect time to work on a book, but the truth is that my brain has been really unkind to me and I’ve spent the majority of the last several years depressed, with a few manic episodes thrown in for spice.

The reality is that I will soon have to get a full-time job.  I don’t know if my re-evaluation is in March or May, but whenever it happens, as long as nothing substantial has changed with my life or my mood, I should be cleared to go back to work.  FINALLY.  The idea of going back to work used to terrify me, partially because I knew I wasn’t ready for that big of a change.  Now, I feel hopeful.  I probably won’t be able to find a job writing, but I can find a job that pays well that I don’t hate and continue to write in my free time.  Maybe I could take a grant writing course at AB-TECH and apply for grant writing jobs.

This is me, putting something scary that I really really want out into the universe.  Thank you for caring enough to read this and I hope I don’t disappoint with whatever else I end up writing.

Adventure

5 Songs That Move Me Right Now

This doesn’t come from the Hemingway Deck, but music is and always has been a huge part of my life. If I’m in the car, I’m listening to music. If I’m in the shower, I’m listening to music. If I’m in my room writing, I’m listening to music. Here are some of the songs that have really affected me lately.

You Say by Lauren Daigle

I realize this song was probably written about a romantic partner, but honestly it just reminds me of my Mom and the way she is always supporting me and telling me how loved and special I am. It says, in part:

“You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
You say I am held when I am falling short
When I don’t belong, oh You say that I am Yours
And I believe, oh I believe
What You say of me.”

Strip by Little Mix ft. Sharaya J

This song is the reason I haven’t stepped on a scale outside of a doctor’s office or worn makeup in months. While there are likely people who think that’s a bad thing, I don’t think it’s negative to finally FINALLY start to be able to love myself as I am instead of as I wish I was. The lyrics say:

“Take off all my make-up ’cause I love what’s under it
Rub off all your words, don’t give a uh, I’m over it.
Strip!
Jiggle all this weight, yeah, you know I love all of this.
Finally love me naked, sexiest when I’m confident.”
and
“I’m a woman, don’t test me.
Baby, I’m growing, my stretch-marks are sexy.
I don’t owe you nothin’.
Nah, I don’t give a uh, no, not anymore.”



More Than Words by Little Mix ft. Kamille

This is another one that was probably written about a romantic partner, but it makes me think about my best friend, Tiffany, because the lyrics say:

“I need you more than words can say. Oh you’ve shaped me in ways that I can’t explain. Always been there for me, now I’ll do the same. Oh I need you more than words can say.”

Perfect to Me by Anne-Marie

This song started out as “Perfect” by Anne-Marie on her debut album Speak Your Mind (Original audio can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vzLH36L68A) It’s another one that has really helped me with body image and loving myself. The chorus goes:

“Don’t feel like putting makeup on my cheeks
Do what I wanna
Love every single part of my body
Top to the bottom
I’m not a supermodel from a magazine, mmm-mmm
I’m okay with not being perfect
‘Cause that’s perfect to me
‘Cause that’s perfect to me
‘Cause that’s perfect to me”

Mean by Taylor Swift

There are a few specific people that this brings to mind that I won’t name for obvious reasons, but the realization that someone who is mean to you is doing it because of them and not because of you is a huge and important one. It’s a lesson that it took me decades to learn, but the truth is that people who have been hurting you for a long time are unlikely to change, so it’s best if you can change your perspective about them.

“Some day, I’ll be living in a big old city and all you’re ever gonna’ be is mean. Some day, I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me and all you’re ever gonna’ be is mean. Why you gotta’ be so mean?”
“All you are is mean, and a liar, and pathetic, and alone in life, and mean.”

Adventure, Random Life Things

2019

As I wrote about in my post about writing, I got myself The Hemingway Deck by Best Self Co. as a tool against writer’s block. This year, I will attempt to make my way through at least part of the deck on my blog.

What do you need to do by the end of the year to make this year meaningful?

-Hemingway Deck By Best Self Co.

By the end of 2019, I would like to have a stable full-time job with benefits (specifically health care). I will travel to Scotland, spend time with the people I care about, and love on my dog. A job won’t directly make this year meaningful, but getting a job means that I am and can expect to continue to be mentally stable, and that would be very meaningful indeed. By the end of the year, I hope I have not been hospitalized for my mental health (or for any other reason)! I hope I have made new friends and nurtured old friendships. I hope I have volunteered my time to causes I am passionate about.

In trying to figure out what would make 2019 meaningful, I find myself reflecting on 2018 and all of the amazing moments I have had with the people I care about. From lobbying for Amnesty International with River in Washington, D.C. to screaming at the top of my lungs at the Taylor Swift concert with Monica to thinking, for a few minutes (and until I saw his teeth in the photo I had taken), that we had just met Ed Sheeran with Tiffany, 2018 has had some really amazing moments. I got to spend a week with my family at the beach, got to spend a weekend at the beautiful Lake Fontana with my parents and brother, saw SO MANY concerts, went to NYC with my best friend, had Breakfast at Tiffany’s, had tea at The Plaza, was there for a live recording of The Daily Show on election night and saw Michelle and Barack Obama speak in Washington, DC. I got to spend time with my cousins, parents, brother, best friend, and friends. I started babysitting for three children who I enjoy spending time with. The year may have started a little rough, but by May, things started looking up, at least for my mental health and my social calendar.

To be fair, 2018 certainly had it’s challenges as well. Politically, it’s been a rough year. It’s been a tough year to be a woman. It’s been a rough year to be a survivor of sexual assault. I’ve had to avoid the news as much as possible while still remaining as informed as I can with print media. I struggled with depression and anxiety and gained back almost all of the weight I had lost from 2017-2018. I had trouble falling asleep and staying asleep and found myself not wanting to leave the comfort of my bed. I let things get so bad in my room that it looks like a bomb went off in here. I spent more money I didn’t really have to spend on things I didn’t really need to own that I’ll just end up getting rid of in 2019 when I hopefully get my act together and declutter my room.

I hope to travel to new places and smile more and dislike myself less. I hope to fear less, love more, and stop being so afraid of life that I miss how magnificent it can be. I hope to stop judging myself about every single tiny thing I think I do wrong and start having faith in myself that I can succeed and do hard things. I hope to grow in my friendships and my relationships with my family members. I hope to be more patient and to stop absorbing every mean thing people say to or about me. I hope to remember, all the time, that there are many people who love me and want to see me succeed. I hope to maintain the fragile mental stability I have seen since starting to see a new psychiatric nurse practitioner in May. I hope to grow by leaps and bounds in therapy and learn more about myself and the person I’d like to become. I hope to talk to myself the way I talk to people I love and treat myself like I’d treat a friend.

I think that for 2019 to be meaningful, I need to pay attention to the small moments. I need to learn to love and appreciate myself as I am instead of as I wish I was. I need to revel in the laughter of my friends, the smiles of my parents, the barks of my dog, and the look on my brother’s face when he steps into Scotland for the first time. I want to read more poetry, read more novels, write more blog posts and articles, spend time playing board games and going to movies and smiling with friends, take River on walks, bake new things, and practice gratitude for the many overwhelmingly wonderful moments in my life.

Adventure

The Importance of Writing

Last night on Twitter, I lamented the fact that if my resolution for 2019 had been to write every day, I would have already failed. Thankfully, I’m not big into resolutions, but I would like to be more active on my blog this year. I got a set of writing prompt cards called The Hemingway Deck that I think will help with that.

I also tweeted out asking for writing prompts for me to use today. I got two suggestions and loved the idea of writing about why writing is important to me. The other suggestion was something I didn’t quite understand anyway.

Writing is important to me because it is the most effective way for me to communicate. When speaking, I often stumble over my words or say the wrong thing or put my foot in my mouth somehow. With writing, I can take the time to carefully go back through and read what I’m trying to say to see if it makes sense and truly communicates what I am trying to say.

Writing is also important to me because it’s a way to share my story and what I have been through with others, hopefully helping people in some small way. I feel that being open and honest about my Bipolar Disorder is the best thing I can do to help reduce stigma and raise awareness because it helps people understand that Bipolar Disorder is something I have, not something I am. It also shows people I know that someone they know and care about experiences the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder and isn’t the stereotype the media would have you believe about people with mental illness.

To me, writing is an outlet. It’s a way to express myself and my feelings in a safe way. It’s easy for me to put things out here on my blog because I know that people are only reading it if they want to- no one is forcing them. Sometimes when I talk about my mental health with people in person, I feel like they wish they could get out of the conversation or that I would talk about something else.

If I could get paid to write, I would do little else. I started working on a memoir a few years ago (and by started working on I mean I started gathering blog posts and journal entries to include), but that sort of fizzled out when I wasn’t doing well because I wasn’t writing many blog posts and stopped keeping a journal. I would like to be better about writing more often and journaling so that I have records to reflect on since my memory is so terrible.

So in 2019, hopefully you will be hearing from me more frequently, even if the posts are shorter than they have been in the past.