mental health

The Intervention Letter Part 2

Lately, I’ve been feeling like a failure.  Like someone who is unsuccessful and doesn’t give back to the community.  Like someone who will never be a productive member of society.  Like my life is worthless.  Like I was a fraud for going to a Returned Peace Corps Volunteers event because I only completed 5 months of service.  I’ve felt hopeless, helpless, lonely, and ashamed.  You guys seemed to really like my last Intervention Letter, so I’ve decided to write another one for how I’m currently feeling.

The Intervention Letter
The quote on the right says, “We have done the impossible and that makes us mighty.”
-Captain Malcolm Reynolds

The Intervention Letter (Assignment from Park Ridge IOP)

“The script each person reads during a family intervention is called the intervention letter.  We are going to be writing an intervention letter to ourselves regarding our negative core beliefs.

Ideally, you want your letter to:

  1. Communicate genuine love and compassion for yourself, and to convey that you only want to see yourself get better
  2. Help yourself realize the severity of the impact of the core belief on daily life
  3. Help yourself to understand that your belief and its daily self-talk manifestations and behavioral impact cause hurt and pain
  4. Clearly express commitment to accept change through challenging negative core beliefs and living as if you believed new balanced beliefs about yourself/others/world
  5. Clearly express the consequences of not adjusting beliefs and living with old patterns of negative thinking”

 

Dear Catherine,
Look at you, out in the world doing things even though you’re depressed and all you want to do is stay in bed and watch Netflix all day every day!  You took two memoir writing classes, you’re taking a sewing class, you’ve gone bowling and out for tea and to numerous movies, even some where you had to sit by people you didn’t know.  You’ve somewhat kept up with your blog, you’re doing a podcast and blog with Joanne about mental health that is helping who knows how many people, and you try your very hardest to be there for your friends when they need you.  You submitted an essay you wrote to eleven different publications.  Even though you haven’t gotten published yet, you will one day.  You are courageous, strong, intelligent, and giving.  You write well and you take good care of River.  Even the vet said you’re a good dog mom.  You make a conscious choice every day to do Opposite Action- getting out of bed and going and doing things even though you want to hide away from the world and everyone in it.

Your core belief that you are a failure is affecting everything in your life.  It changes the way you view yourself, others, and the world around you.  You are constantly comparing yourself to other people’s success even though their definitions of success may be very different from what your definition of success needs to be right now because of your illness.  You are depressed.  You have been depressed for seven months.  You need to cut yourself some slack.  It is not feasible or realistic right now to expect yourself to have a job or own a home or buy a new car.  It is not fair to you to judge yourself based on where the lives of people you love are or are going.  You have different needs from them right now.

Your job is to keep getting out of the bed, day after day, until one day it doesn’t feel so monumental.  Your job is to try to keep showering as often as possible.  Your job is to take your medications as prescribed.  Your job is to go to therapy for your appointments.  Your job is to have active conversations with your psychiatrist about what the next step is.  Your job may or may not include ECT in the coming months, which I know is very scary for you.  Your job is to keep yourself alive.  1 in 3 people with Bipolar Disorder attempt suicide and 1 in 5 successfully complete suicide.  Your job is to not become one of those statistics.  In those respects, you are very much not a failure.  When you change your definition of success, which won’t happen overnight, you’ll see that you are accomplishing great things for where you are in your life and in light of the fact that you have Bipolar Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Panic Attacks.  You are alive after suffering from Bipolar Disorder for 3.5 years.  That in itself is a feat you should be proud of.

Your self-talk about you being a failure and your life being worthless has a horrible effect on your mood.  I know that it’s hard to change your self-talk, especially when you are depressed and feel like everything is horrible and going horribly wrong, but try to use your Thought Diary Worksheets to help you come up with better and healthier ways of thinking about yourself.  Telling yourself “I am worthless”, “I don’t deserve to go to RPCV functions”, “I’ll never amount to anything”, “I am not a productive citizen”, “I am incapable of helping others”, and all of the other self-talk you have been using lately is unhealthy.  It is demeaning and untrue.  It’s time to print out those worksheets and keep them with you in your purse.  It’s time to keep copies beside your bed.  It’s time to really use them because you know how well they can work to change negative thinking patterns.  It’s time to commit to different ways of thinking.  You must at least try, even if you don’t believe the “balanced thoughts” section at the end of the worksheet at first.  You must keep trying and trying until you start to belief in your worth as a person again.

If you keep going down this road, you will just become more and more depressed.  If you keep letting these thoughts control you, you could have to be hospitalized again.  If you don’t start trying for change, you’ll never know how much better you could feel.  I know it’s hard when depression has you in it’s grips.  I know it feels like this will never end and you will always feel this way, but you’ve come out of this before and you will come out of it again, even if it means increasing your medication by a bunch or doing Electro Convulsive Therapy.  You are so loved by so many people and you owe it to yourself and to them to do your best to get better.  So please, try the worksheets to help you overcome some of your “Stinkin’ Thinkin’.”

Love Always,
Catherine

 

 

Thought Diary 3- Resource for Negative Thinking

 

mental health

Posters and Masks

Someone recently said that someone else thought of me as the golden child or poster child for Bipolar Disorder.  While that is very touching and flattering, it isn’t really accurate because even with everything I do, I’m still not doing well.  I’ve been various levels of depressed since October, which was when I had my last real suicidal thoughts.  It wasn’t so much that I wanted to die as it was I wanted to not be living this life and experiencing this pain anymore.  I just wanted to go to sleep for a really really long time and wake up when the episode was over.  I just didn’t care about anything.  I was so apathetic.

I fight SO HARD every day to be okay, and most days I’m still not okay, not really.  I’ve just had fifteen years of practice of putting on my “okay” mask since I started struggling with depression and anxiety when I was 13.  It’s just been within the past year that I’ve started really feeling comfortable taking off that mask- at very specific times- when I’m behind a computer screen and typing for this blog or for www.illuminatedbyu.com or typing up journal entries.  If I was doing well or okay, my doctor and I wouldn’t still be talking about ECT (Electro Convulsive Therapy- shock therapy) and exhausting all other possible options first.  I wouldn’t have just taken a genetic test to try to see what meds might finally help me because nothing works for my depression (or works for long anyway).  (As a side note, since I’m struggling more with the depression side of things now, I really wish my doctor would take me off of some of the mania meds, I take a LOT of pills each day)

I do work my butt off.  I take my meds.  I go to therapy once a week and the psychiatrist about once a month.  I’ve done two different Intensive Outpatient Programs.  Sometimes I go to a support group.  I have an amazing support system.  My parents are a treasure to me and help me more than they could ever possibly know.  I have an immaculate Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP).  I have a living will and the forms for my parents to have Health Care Power of Attorney.  Basically, I’m prepared for my mental health to go even further downhill, but none of those things can stop that from actually happening.  In fact, I had most of this stuff in place before I had to be hospitalized last May for mania.  I’ve updated my WRAP and Health Care POA since then, but I was attending therapy and psychiatrist visits and taking my meds as prescribed then, too.

I am absolutely not in remission.  I use a scale where 0 is suicidally depressed and I need to go to the hospital and 10 is stable and happy.  Over the past month, there have been some days where I have been as high as a 7.  A 7 may be better than a 2 or 3, but it still isn’t stable and happy and whatever “normal” is.  Over the past week, there have been days when I have been as low as a 4.  There is a little bit of rhyme and reason to it as I do know what some of my larger triggers are, but overall, Bipolar Disorder is like a bulldozer that flattens out your life and leaves you standing there staring at the rubble wondering how to rebuild.

So please, don’t assume that I’m okay because I “don’t look sick” or because I’m laughing or smiling.  I can be depressed and still laugh and smile.  I am so exhausted and so sad and so over it, but I will keep fighting and I will keep telling you about it because helping to end the stigma is so SO important to me.  You know someone who has Bipolar Disorder and sometimes – often, lately – that person is just not okay.  I need help and I’m doing everything I know how to do to get it.  If you feel moved to do something, you can be a good listener or offer to sit with me or do an activity together you know I’ll enjoy.  We could have hot tea or a meal together or go for a walk or a hike or just sit on the back porch talking.  Text me and ask how I’m doing.  I may not respond right away, but it will mean a lot to know that someone cares enough to ask.  Offer hugs.  Invite me to things even if you think I’ll say no because I’ve said no 50 other times because I haven’t been feeling well.  Even if I say no a 51st time, I’ll appreciate the invitation.  Please don’t be offended if I’m being awful at keeping in touch.  I feel like a burden to everyone right now.

I’m struggling and things are hard right now, but I haven’t given up on me, so please don’t you give up on me either.

mental health

Vulnerability and Courage

There are apparently a few things that need to be said before I get started.
1. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who reads my blog and is supportive of it.  Numbers 2-4 do not apply to you.
2. Blog posts are not me “going on and on and on on Facebook.”  A blog post is not the same thing as a Facebook post.  You have to go out of your way to click a link to get to the full content of the blog post.
3. No one is holding your face to the screen and forcing you to read my blog posts, so please, if you don’t want to read them, the simplest solution is to just not read them.
4. Please don’t complain to my grandmother about my blog posts.  See numbers 2 and 3.  When you complain to her, that results in me getting lectured about posts I have written that I know help people because people have reached out and said so.  It’s very frustrating to have someone invalidate one of the few things in my life that makes me feel like I have purpose.  Please don’t enable that.

Now on to what I really want to talk about today.

“Vulnerability is the courage to show up and be seen when you have zero control of the outcome.”  -Brené Brown

People often tell me how courageous and brave I am for the amount of vulnerability I show in writing about my mental illness, and I don’t quite know what to make of that or what to say to them aside from “thank you.”  At first, I felt very courageous for writing about my struggles.  When I wrote Coming Clean, I was terrified.  I had no idea that so many people would react with so much poise, grace, support, and love.  I was scared that people would be angry with me for lying about my diagnosis and that people would be uncomfortable with the amount that I shared, particularly when they learned that I had been hospitalized for mania, but you were all loving and supportive and absolutely brilliant and amazing.  You showed me that I had the strength to show up and keep showing up and share my story with the people who make their way to this blog, people I interact with online, people I meet in real life, and even the news, http://www.themighty.com (who I have submitted two stories to), and a man from webmd.com who is considering doing a video series on Bipolar Disorder and interviewed me on the phone for about an hour last week.

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve made connections with in real life because of my willingness to explain why I have a psychiatric service dog.  One time I was at a movie MeetUp and the movie was over and I was standing outside talking to one of the other girls from my group about our chemical imbalance issues and the fact that I am taking a memoir writing class and want to write a book about having Bipolar Disorder.  An employee of the place we were at happened to be sitting nearby and she turned around and said something to the effect of, “I’m sorry, I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, but I just wanted to thank you for writing about that.  I have Bipolar II and it’s so important for people to share their stories and I think you’re really brave.  Thank you.”  Now every time she is working we greet each other by name and share a smile.  This is all possible because of all of you and your support and because I feel as though it’s my duty to help other people.

I don’t feel courageous, but I do feel a willingness to be vulnerable.  I earned my B.S. in Psychology and my M.A.Ed. in School Counseling, volunteered at an orphanage in Kenya, and joined the Peace Corps.  Those aren’t things you do unless helping people is important to you.  There are limited ways that I can help people now.  On days like today when all I want to do is stay in my room on my bed and hide from the world, the only way I can help others is by reaching out through my keyboard.  My vulnerability is one of the very few things I have to offer to the world when I’m not doing well, which has been the case off and on for the past 6.5 months now.  So I do what I can.  I’m as honest as I feel comfortable being, which is pretty damn honest.  I tell you when I’m having a bad day.  I tell you when I’m having a good day.  I try to explain what it’s like in my head in hopes that other people with my illnesses will feel a little less alone and others without my illnesses will feel a little more educated and empathetic.

The past couple of days have been rough.  I messed up my medication on Saturday by taking my evening meds in the morning.  Then I had to take a two hour nap (that felt like it only lasted a few seconds), then took my stimulant late, then couldn’t re-take my antipsychotic at night, then couldn’t fall asleep so I had to take extra Ambien.  The result of all of this is that yesterday (and perhaps still today because I think it takes a couple of days to get back into your system properly), I haven’t had the correct dosage of antipsychotic in my system.  I have felt low.  I’m unsure if that’s all because of the medication or if it’s also because my family recently received some disheartening and very sad news about a family member’s battle with cancer.  I’m going to go see her next weekend, but that also means that I will see a family member who is not always the most kind to me (or to other specific family members, for that matter).  In the words of Anne Lamott, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”  But in the words of Glennon Doyle Melton, “Write from scars, not open wounds,” so I’ll say nothing more on the matter at this time.

All of this is to say, I don’t feel particularly well and I want to be really open and honest about that.  I’ve been at about a 6 or a 7 on my new scale, but yesterday I was probably at about a 4 and was really spacey all day and today I may be at around a 5.  That, of course, is the scale where 0 is suicidally depressed and I need to go to the hospital and 10 is happy and stable.  There will be a different scale for mania, but I haven’t experienced it in a while so I haven’t made that scale up yet.  I feel sure I will feel better in a few days, or at the very least a few days after I get back home from being out of town.

To everyone who calls me courageous and brave for sharing my stories, thank you, but it is you who I should be thanking.  You inspire me every day to keep going by encouraging me and letting me know that I’m really helping to make a difference.

mental health

4/10

You last got an ode to Catherine.  This, by comparison, is going to sound like a total Whine Fest.  It’s also going to be very honest, which some people like but others don’t, so proceed accordingly.

I’m not doing well.  I’m not doing well and I’ve been trying to hide it for months, which has resulted in me just being plain old exhausted.  I’ve been varying levels of depressed since October.  Nothing specific happened then, that’s just when this part of the cycle started.  This long, seemingly endless, helpless part of the cycle.  On a scale of 0 to 10 where 0 is suicidally depressed and I need to be in the hospital and 10 is I’m doing great, I’m at about a 4.  A 4 is not that terrible though because yesterday I was at a 3.  Someone recently told me that using a scale helps other people understand how I’m really doing, since “not well” two days in a row could mean the same as yesterday or better than yesterday but still bad or much worse than yesterday.  I’m doing everything “they” tell you to try to feel better.  In my Intensive Outpatient Program (where I did group therapy 3 days a week for 3 hours a day) we talked about acting opposite to how you’re feeling and I’ve definitely been doing that.  I feel like sleeping all the time and never getting out of my bed or showering, but instead I’ve been making plans and doing things.  I feel like wallowing in self-pity, but instead I’m trying to be optimistic and plan things for the future.

In my IOP, we talked about negative self-talk and interrupting negative thinking patterns and I’ve been doing my best to do that.  I’m not hungry like I usually am, but that could be the Vyvanse, a medication I started because I either have Binge Eating Disorder or the side effects of the medication have caused me to gain 60 pounds.  I personally think it’s probably a combination of the two.  At any rate, I’m now unwilling to try any new medications that have the side effect of weight gain.  At least the Vyvanse, as a stimulant, gives me some energy.  I think it’s the only reason I’m able to get out of bed at all.  Everything seems like it takes a great deal of effort, even things that used to be easy to me like writing or reading.  I have four partially finished books that I am sort of reading right now.  I keep starting them and at first I can read them and like them, but even though I don’t lose interest exactly, I put them down and can’t seem to pick them back up.  All of them are good and deserve to be finished, but I just can’t read for long enough to finish a book, which is extra bad because reading is one of my very favorite activities.

I joined a Meetup group for Movie Geeks in their 20s and 30s, which is mostly great and the people are super nice, but sometimes I think that no one there likes me and that the group would be better off if I wasn’t there to annoy everyone.  I realize that it’s unlikely that “nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I’m so annoying,”  but that’s what my self-talk is often when I’m around other people.  Maybe that’s just social anxiety, but I think it’s depression, too.  I keep thinking about death, also.  Every time I leave the house or my parents leave the house, I become sort of obsessed with “I love you” being the last thing we say to each other because I’m terrified that something will happen to either them or to me and our last words to each other will have been something stupid.  I keep worrying about something happening to River and I keep getting upset thinking about her death even though it is likely 10-11 years away.  I feel guilty for not playing with her enough or taking her on walks, even though my back then my ankle have sort of prohibited that for a while, which is out of my control.  Also, when I try to play with her in the back yard, she just wants to play keep away, and I can’t really keep up with my air splint on my ankle.

I feel helpless because I know I’m running out of options for treating my illness.  I’ve tried most of the medications available and, as previously stated, I’m not willing to try any new ones that could cause more weight gain, which is most of the medications that I haven’t tried yet.  I don’t feel hopeless yet, which is the good news.  This is primarily because I know there are still options.  One I have been considering recently is ECT.  I haven’t yet talked with my doctor about this, but I talked with my therapist about it yesterday and she thought it was worth talking with my doctor about when I see him next week.  I had blood work done last week to check my Depakote levels and I’m hoping that those are merely off and my dosage can be adjusted, but if not, ECT isn’t “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” scary anymore.

They give you a muscle relaxant, put you under general anesthesia,  place two electrodes either on the right side of your head or on either side of your head, put you on oxygen, then induce a seizure for about one minute.  At first they do this three times a week, then treatments become more spaced out until eventually you just have maintenance treatments.  If you had asked me when I was first diagnosed if I would ever consider ECT, the answer would have been an emphatic “hell no!”  It even used to be in my Wellness Recovery Action Plan under “List the treatments you want to avoid:”  but I have been worn down and trampled on by this illness.

The only break I’ve had from symptoms since September of 2013 was September 2015-March 2016 when I was dealing with a large blood clot and a small pulmonary embolism.  And even then I was free from mood symptoms but not from crippling anxiety.  I’m grateful for those 7 months because I don’t know what I would have done if I was trying to grapple with my mood and the blood clot at the same time, but it just feels so unfair that the only break I’ve had was when I couldn’t even fully enjoy it.  Plus, the entire time I kept having chest pains and thinking I was having another pulmonary embolism even though it was just anxiety and panic attacks.

While I was in the hospital and since I’ve gotten out, I’ve kept a journal, thinking that I could turn it and some of my blog posts into a memoir.  I think now that I may have to change the format and possibly write it as a novel instead for legal purposes, but my point is actually that the last time that I wrote was February 6th and the last time before that was January 26th and the last time before that was January 20th.  I can’t write every day anymore, no matter how badly I want to.  It’s like the words just won’t come.  It’s a small miracle that I’ve been able to semi-coherently draft this post.

Check on your friends that have mental health stuff.  Just because they seem okay doesn’t mean they are actually okay.  Let them know it’s okay for them to be honest with you and that they have a safe place to talk.  Often, we feel like we have to hide how we are doing to protect the people we love from their worry about us.  Someone recently told me, “no one asked you to protect them” and that is so important.  It’s one of the reasons I’m sharing my feelings with you now.  One of the most important things I have been told recently was “Your truth is a gift that I treasure.”  You have no idea how much those words may mean to someone.  Be kind.  Love each other.  That’s all for today.

mental health

The Start of Something Old

I didn’t even realize that I wasn’t doing that well until I decided I wanted to post a blog and started thinking about what I would say, but River can tell I don’t feel well.  A few minutes ago, she lay down on top of me and wouldn’t stop giving me kisses.  I know that sentence sounds awkward, but I googled the past tense of lie down and that’s what Writer’s Digest told me it was. My 7th grade English teacher, Mrs. Shope, would know, but she wasn’t available to ask and I wouldn’t want to bother her about such things.

I don’t feel like writing anything today.  I don’t feel like getting out of bed.  So I’m writing this from my bed in hopes that maybe it will help someone else feel a little less alone.  I’m not depressed yet, exactly, but I know that’s the direction I’m headed.  I don’t feel sad or hopeless or helpless yet, but I have barely left my room since Wednesday afternoon, all I want to do is binge watch Homeland and be left alone, I haven’t showered since Wednesday morning (gross, I know, but I’m just trying to be honest and I imagine I’m not the only person in that particular boat right now), and I feel apathetic again.  I wrote something yesterday to post on a bad day, but it wasn’t super long or anything and it doesn’t feel appropriate for how I’m feeling today.  I’m saving it for a self-loathing sort of day and today is just a blah sort of day.  I also shared a thing I wrote for the Peace Corps about my service, but that’s all I’ve really done besides binge watching Homeland in the past two days.

Part of Bipolar Disorder is the hypomania and the mania, where I’m irritable and agitated, everything feels awesome and totally doable/in my power, I feel like I don’t need sleep,  I hear voices and music, I feel like there are bugs crawling all over me, I see bugs and shadows out of the corners of my eyes, I spend a lot of money, I take risks and act out of character, I talk really fast, I can’t stop moving, I have racing thoughts, I have so many ideas I can’t keep them straight, or I start new big projects to name just parts of what can happen while hypomanic or manic.  The other part is the crippling depression that can get so bad that I feel completely hopeless and helpless and don’t want to live anymore.

This is how that starts.  And this is how it will continue for a while until it gets to the bad part or until my medication is changed.  Sometimes it just stays like this for a really long time, sometimes months, and I don’t get to the deep dark bad part, but this part is bad too since I don’t feel like doing anything or seeing anyone and it can last so long if left untreated.  I was supposed to meet up with a friend on Thursday and a different friend yesterday, but they both had to cancel and I was honestly so relieved.  (Sorry/Thanks ladies!) I see my psychiatrist on Tuesday, but I’ve otherwise been doing okay, so he may want me to ride this out and see where it goes.

I’ll do something different today from the past two days.  I’m going to get up, take a shower, get dressed, and go see a movie with my parents, our friends, and River.  In the Intensive Outpatient Program we called it Opposite Action- acting opposite to how you feel like acting.  It’s usually a pretty helpful tool for me.  It doesn’t always work right away, but it’s a good way to gauge when you’re feeling better because you’ll start to notice you’re enjoying things again, which you can’t notice if you aren’t trying any of the things that usually bring you joy or pleasure.  I’m not particularly enjoying things right now.  I’m really just watching Homeland because it’s something to do besides just lie in my bed and I started it and I’m on Season 4 and I feel like I have to finish it.  That happens with me and TV shows.  If I start them I feel like I have to finish them, for the most part.  Book series, too, except sometimes I hold out on reading the last book because I don’t want the series to be over.

So that’s a little update on me.  I hope this lets up soon and it’s possible that it will.  I would normally have just written this type of stuff in my journal, but people seem to be really responsive to the posts I make on here about my mental health and I’ve gotten some feedback that some of my blog posts have been really helpful to people, so you may be hearing from me more frequently than you have been.

mental health

One Good Day

Today was such a good day.  I slept in until noon because I stayed up too late last night, but lately that has become the exception rather than the rule.  For the past several months, I’ve been going to sleep around midnight and waking up around 1PM.  Since I started a new medication, I’ve been going to sleep by 11 or 12 and waking up between 8 and 10.  I think some people who don’t have mental illnesses don’t realize how fortunate they are.  Today was a good day because I’m sleeping well, my thoughts are clear, I’m not having to nap during the day, I’m writing more, I feel productive, I have more energy to play with River, and I don’t feel hopeless or useless or suicidal.  I also don’t feel like I’m slipping into mania.  My speech is normal, my spending is normal, I’m not having any delusions or hallucinations, and I’m able to focus.  I don’t have a million thoughts competing for attention at lightning speed in my head.  I don’t feel like there are bugs crawling all over me.  I am cautiously optimistic that we have finally finally FINALLY found a medication combination that will work for me.  For the time being at least.  I never anticipated that that medication combination would include a stimulant, but here we are.  I had a whole day without breakthrough bipolar symptoms and that is definitely something to celebrate about since it hasn’t happened in about nine months.  If you are mentally healthy, please be grateful.  If you are physically healthy, please be grateful.  I am very aware that a few good days do not a well person make, but I have a kind of fragile hope that this is at least a good sign.  Even if I wake up tomorrow and have symptoms, I can be grateful that I had this one good day.

mental health

If Only I Had An Enemy Bigger Than My Apathy

As some of you know, I see a therapist each week.  Last Thursday, she challenged me to write about the hopelessness and apathy I’ve been feeling.  I’ve struggled with writing over the past couple of months as the words seem to crawl into my brain slowly, I forget them quickly, and my hand doesn’t want to put them to paper.  Those symptoms, the hopelessness, and the apathy are all pretty classic indicators of depression.  I’m 27, this is not where I thought I would be in my life, and it feels so unfair sometimes.  I feel hopeless about several things, but the big ones are wellness, future success, financial independence, and competence.

If I’m this ill when on medications (I have taken my meds as prescribed since I was diagnosed in 2013 and still had to be hospitalized at the end of May), I can’t even imagine how bad off I would be without meds.  I don’t see a light at the end of this endless tunnel and that’s frustrating.  I don’t feel like doing anything besides binge watching tv shows alone in my room and I’m not getting enjoyment from things I would usually enjoy.  Anhedonia is the word used to describe the inability to feel pleasure, and I’ve definitely got some degree of that going on.

Because I’m not enjoying things and I can’t write much or well right now, progress on my memoir is going much much slower than I thought it would.  It makes me feel like I’ll never finish the book, let alone find an agent or publisher that are willing to work with me and put my book out into the world.  At my core, I just want to make a difference and help other people.  I think the book would be a good way to do that as it would help normalize thoughts, feelings, and behavior for people with Bipolar Disorder, help friends and family members of people with Bipolar Disorder understand the illness a bit better, and offer education for others who read it.  I am also currently feeling like it will never get finished or see the light of day, which is frustrating and makes me feel sad and incompetent.

I’m the type of person who always had a plan for what was happening next in my life, and now I have no idea what that will be.  I have a huge fear of the unknown, which is why I used to plan things so meticulously.  I picked out all of my classes for high school freshmen year.  I declared my college major at orientation.  I knew I was going to grad school a long time before I finished college.  I applied for the Peace Corps a year before I finished graduate school.  Now, life is primarily a large question mark and that is terrifying for me.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would be 27 living at home with bipolar disorder.  I never anticipated that one day I would have legitimate need of a service dog and a daily regimen of medication that includes taking multiple medications three times a day.  This just isn’t where I thought I would be.

In terms of financial independence, I can barely afford everything now living at home and having a car that my parents graciously gave me when I was 17, let alone trying to rent an apartment or house and having a car payment.  It just doesn’t seem like there will ever be a time when I can live on my own and pay for everything I need to pay for.  I can save up some money each year, but it isn’t enough to live on and I usually use it for travel because travel feeds my soul in a way nothing else does.  Some people probably think that’s irresponsible and stupid and a mistake, but traveling makes me really come alive.  Last year, I had alternated between a mixed state and a depressive episode for months when I left for London.  I got to London and the next day started my longest period of stability to date since my diagnosis.  8 months of stability that are at least partially attributable to spending 2.5 weeks in the UK with one of my very best friends.

I used to feel super competent.  I could set goals and accomplish them.  I loved making lists and checking things off.  Now, it’s hard to get one or two things done a day, so forget about a whole list.  I just don’t have enough spoons to do everything I was able to do before the Bipolar Disorder.  Aside from the exhaustion, anhedonia, apathy, and hopelessness, I have a definite pattern of negative thinking going on that’s keeping me down.  It goes something like “I am not _______ enough.  I am too ________.  I am incompetent.  I am stupid.  I am fat.  I will never be ________ again.”  This isn’t how I want to live my life, but I’m having trouble figuring out how I can live boldly, courageously, and authentically while using as little extra energy as possible.  I can’t currently work.  I’m not good at social interactions with people I don’t know well.  My memoir and my children’s book about River the Wonderdale the service dog are promising, but I’m having so much trouble working on them currently that it’s very disheartening.

I know logically that it will be better in the future.  Historically, that has been true.  But my brain and heart aren’t connecting on that at this particular moment and it’s really hard to live my life feeling this way.  I feel so unfulfilled and incompetent and down and apathetic.