The days that I tell stories about how well things are going, I feel well. The days I tell stories about how poorly things are going... how stressful they are... I don't feel well. This is not, as they say, rocket science.
But I often process things by talking them through. So when I am trying to figure out something stressful, just telling the story might cause more stress.
I saw a friend that I haven't seen in some time and I chose to tell her stories about how much I like my job instead of stories about how stressed out I am about other stuff that is happening. And then I feel less stressful.
But if I always avoid telling these stories... the stressful stories... I just end up putting them in a box somewhere and letting them ferment until they become some giant gloppy gooey mess of AAAARGH!!!!!
I invoked the services of my "negative communication factotum" last week. A F/friend had agreed to deal with difficult conversations for me. I even had fake little business cards made up with her number on them so I could hand them out to people...
"I really can't listen to what you have to say right now, but I can see that it is important to you. May I refer you to my factotum?"
I had the cards made up as a joke, but liked knowing that she was willing to advocate for me if I couldn't do so adequately myself.
And so after I had already tried (and failed) to get my point across with my not-too-subtle messages to back off, instead of spinning out (okay in ADDITION to spinning out) I enlisted my F/friend's help.
Here is the problem I have with negative communications: I was raised to be nice. To please people. To not make waves. To be a good girl.
So entering into conflict is dangerous territory. I don't do it well. I don't know how to be forceful and stick up for myself but not destroy the relationship. I am more inclined to just fold in on myself and disappear.
I have not wanted to post.
I have also been sick for the past week with a fever off and on. I have gurgling lungs right now. Hoping to fend off asthmatic bronchitis. Or walking pneumonia. That somehow sounds worse than regular pneumonia. Like it walks after you in zombie form, slowly catching you up and invading your lungs. The walking pneumonia.
I have spent a lot of time in bed "resting." But I can't tell how much of it is physical and how much of it is mental. Because I have been anxious/down surrounding the swirling stress of the negative communication. But I am also feverish/coughing and gurgly.
I have not been that great about remembering to take my meds. My schedule has been off.
I'm posting this because I haven't posted for a long time.
grateful crap: albuterol and factotums
meds (I think) 200mg lamotrigine
Once upon a time in May of 2013 I decided that I was tired of being mildly to moderately Depressed most of the time (whether taking anti-depressants or not) and decided that I would keep a public blog of my efforts.
The goal of the blog was twofold:
Then something happened.
In the course of receiving greater oversight of my medications and attempting to get my Depression under control, we discovered that I DID NOT, in fact, have Major Depressive Disorder.
I had Bipolar Disorder instead.
This is not the kind of thing where you can just trade in one Disorder for another. If you could I would have picked a much nicer one. Scratch that. I just looked up a list of Disorders and I really don't want any of them.
Right. So this NOT having Major Depressive Disorder messed things up in several ways.
First off, I had something of an identity crisis. For twenty years I had been open and honest with people about living with Depression. All of a sudden I was a liar.
Also, I realized that I had done a great job of destigmatizing Depression, but that I had HUGE stigma surrounding the condition of Bipolar Disorder. Great, I thought. Before I was just Depressed. Now I'm bona fide crazy! Which was not a helpful way to feel.
Finally, I had the problem of the blog. I no longer wished to be open and honest and fighting stigma. I didn't want people to know that I had Bipolar Disorder. It sounds much scarier than "unipolar" Depression.
I decided that if I were going to be open and honest with myself and the world, I had no choice but to continue the blog with a change in focus from "How I Finally Kicked Depression in the Ass" to "How I Manage My Fricken' Fracken' Bipolar Symtpoms."
There are several things that kind of suck about getting a bipolar diagnosis.
1. Nobody ever says, "I totally get that. I was really bipolar after my grandma died. I know how you feel."
2. Nobody ever says, "Don't worry. It's temporary. It can be treated. You'll pull through this and get over it.
Because it's not curable.
I don't wear a giant flashing sign on my chest that says, "Hi I'm Bipolar How Are You!" But sometimes I do run around spouting this information at everyone I see. I don't want to feel like I have to stay hidden, and so if I am blunt and open and honest it removes my ability to hide.
And I shouldn't have to hide. But I have an invisible disability (That's another difference I had to come to terms with: Bipolar Disorder is continued a disability protected by the ADA.) and I can pass... not really pass for normal because people who have known me for any length of time have never described me as particularly normal...
But strangers on the street cannot tell just by looking at me that I have a disability. Which sometimes seems not fair. Not fair that I can hide and many people cannot. I made myself a T-shirt that says, "I hate being bipolar it's awesome go away!" with lovely little spectrum of sad/smiley/angry faces. I wear it in public sometimes.
I publish this blog publicly, and I am perfectly willing to talk to you about anything that you read here. And you are certainly under no obligation to read anything I write.
I make every effort NOT to use this blog as a way to communicate in some backhanded way. My goals still remain what they have been: track things for myself (how am I doing, what meds am I taking) and to fight stigma in the wider world.
I typically include at the end of each post a section on "Grateful Crap" which is my nod toward the whole gratitude journal thing, which I think is a good idea, but which seems very unlike me. I also have a section called "Equatorial Actions" in which I try to think of all the things (beyond just medication) that I am doing to stay balanced.
So, here goes...
Grateful Crap: finding a violin teacher for elder boy
slept okay (but starting to push the envelope on how late I am actually getting to sleep)
eating well (still doing "whole 30" through the end of October- which is not much of a change from the new normal for me except that I am not having added sugar and I am not having grains)
self-advocated. And when that didn't work, contacted a F/friend to advocate for me.
married well. Okay, so I did that more than 21 years ago. But I stand by my choice of Spouse as a key component in achieving balance. (hello, sweetie!)
meds: 200mg lamotrigine
I am super stressed out right now. Why? There is no because. It just is. Nameless creeping dread. I have been having unpleasant dreams that stay with me for only a few moments upon waking. Dreams of forgetting things or doing something poorly. Dreams that I am disappointing people around me.
I feel something on the weepy side. A bit Down. I wonder if stopping the lurasidone was a bad plan. I don't like the idea of medicating my moods. Hello! Because what I have is a mood disorder, I kind of am trying to medicate my moods.
In college I met someone who thought that you should do whatever you needed to do in order to be happy. If that meant taking drugs or whatever that meant that was the good and right thing to do. So is it supposed to be my goal? Medicate myself into happiness? I don't think so.
I found out that someone I know is in hospice right now. I do not know her well and she is surrounded by loving people who do know her well. She is connected to a caring family and community. I feel guilty that I am not more connected in real life to people. But the idea makes me panic. So, I'm sorry people.
Today in Quaker meeting I got all weepy as I was watching leaves fall off of the trees. I realized I was imagining myself as one of those leaves, dead and cast off from the tree.
Then I thought of myself as the tree instead. That I could let go of these things that I no longer need so that I can be ready for things to come.
I am feeling very nervous about being around people right now. Petrified at the thought of interacting with strangers. NOT a good time to talk to me about making plans to interact with people or meet people that I don't know. Except that it is also not a good time for me to self-advocate. Pressured to offer a reason for my refusal, I can't come up with a good enough excuse.
There is no because.
Like many or most people I know I am not a good patient. I am whiny and I don't necessarily want people to take care of me. And I don't particularly like following directions for how long I need to avoid doing whatever it is I need to avoid doing. Or start doing whatever it is that i need to start doing.
I am also a terrible caregiver when people are sick. I feel like saying, "Buck up!" and handing them a box of tissues or a few ibuprofen. Sometimes I will be uncharacteristically huggy of my sick children. But often I will just yell at them to get more rest and stop being so germy.
And when grown-up friends are falling apart and feeling sad and are super stressed out, I pretty much follow the same old "Buck up!" routine complete with tissues and ibuprofen.
Is this new? It feels new.
I remember when other people's problems would completely overwhelm me. I would get pulled down into their abyss. Now I stand back a ways from the edge and kind of wave at them. "Hey there. You doing okay? No? Would you like a kleenex?"
That feels more healthy. For me, I mean.
I still feel sympathy, mind you. And I listen well. This is another one of those things that probably looks the same on the outside, but from within my head is very very different.
So it's following the lifeguard rules. And the rules for those oxygen masks in the airplane. Make sure you are safe before you try to help anyone else. Don't become another victim. Because then someone else will have to rescue you. And that will suck.
And I try to remember what I like when I am a patient. When I am the one in the abyss. And I don't really want someone to be all syrupy and overly emotional. I really just want them to hand me the damn box of tissues and say, "Hey, that sucks. Can I get you some chocolate?"
P.S. I accidentally swore while giving a message in Quaker meeting and now I am overly concerned that someone is going to yell at me for this. If you are reading this and are going to chew me out, can you just assume that I have already eldered myself as appropriate and then some? Thanks.
Grateful Crap: Digital SLR
meds 150mg lamotrigine
walked in the out-of-doors
ate really good Indian food (although I missed having naan since I am not doing grain during October)
everything is happening in overlapping times today.
two things start at two pm.
two things start at 6 pm.
in between there will be other stuff.
one child is eating dry cereal: special k red berries.
i am oversteeping my tea: cinnamon sunset.
one child is wearing a tutu: turquoise.
i am wishing i could find the time to write: trashy romance.
one child is buying a present: birthday party.
in between are the raindrops.
the dishwasher makes the sweetest sounds.
but they cannot be recorded digitally.
perhaps this is a sign i slept too well last night.
my colleague thought the verb was properly dreamt.
My students are struggling with inference, tone and mood. How do you figure out what the author is trying to convey? How do you know what the author feels about what they are writing about? And what if the multiple choices provided to you don't include your mood as you read the piece?
I've discovered that I also struggle with inference, tone and mood. Daily. In all the little communications come at me from all directions in electronic form. Telegraphic messages where less is more... a few words intended to convey full paragraphs of meaning.
I get emails or texts from people and I infer all sorts of communications that may or may not be there. If I'm up, up, up... I may not read overly much into ambiguous messages. But those very same messages when I am down, down down... contain devastating subtext.
Intended by the author? Probably not. Who knows. It is all in the interpretation.
And as I have realized many times... and will realize many times again... the onus is not on the sender, but on the receiver of the message to not imbue the words with imaginary footnotes.
The problem is, there usually are imaginary footnotes. I'm just not very good at determining what they are so I make up a bunch of stupid ones that might be loosely related to whatever the person was trying to say.
Most commonly, I assume that something I have said has caused stress or pain or anger and I worry about how I can respond in a way that will fix this problem. I'm working on this.
So that when someone says, "Are you free on Saturday" I don't assume that they are saying, "You haven't managed to make any space for me in your very busy schedule and I'm not even sure if you care about me anymore. This question is a litmus test for our relationship and if you decline to meet with me on Saturday I will sever all ties with you. Have a nice day."
Maybe they are thinking these things. Maybe they really are just idly wondering if I am free on Saturday. Maybe they feel bad for not seeing me more often and not the other way around. But I don't think of these things. I look at the texts through puke-colored glasses and instantly put the worst possible spin on them.
I need to have multiple choice answers to identify the tone of the author's text.
Choose between the following... The writer's tone is:
I am now going to go back to breathing deeply and not creating whole worlds out of a few simple phrases.
Grateful Crap: helpful children
good food. made salmon and avocado/tomato salad along with wild rice and roasted potatoes
not too much panic
meds: 150mg lamotrigine, 20mg lurasidone
I haven't heard back from Psych NP about lurasidone. I will call her tomorrow and leave a message. I'm kinda wanting to stop taking it rather than pick up a prescription for something new. And oh crap I still didn't try to schedule with her. Well, regardless it isn't one of the medications that it is hugely problematic to stop taking. It isn't even necessary to taper on and off. The most important med so far has been the lamotrigine which I will definitely not stop taking.
I'm practicing singing backup for myself. Got a little recorder, have a little voice, sing a little background vocals to elaborate on my foreground vocals.
The problem is, I am then HYPERCRITICAL of the results and there is always some note or other that is sharp or flat. Or one of me breathes at the wrong time.
It is really difficult to make eye contact with yourself to gauge timing when yourself is only an audio recording.
Thought I was going to practice tonight with other folks, but since that didn't pan out, I rehearsed the songs by myself. I would really like to like them well enough to share them with you, but that is certainly not the case yet. I am just learning how to record. And how to sing into a microphone. And how to edit multiple tracks together. Give me time.
I had several annoyingly bad dreams in the past two days.
In one of them, Spouse had decided to divorce me. Which he did not share with me until he had already purchased a house for himself and was moving out. I think he needed more moving boxes which is why he mentioned it to me.
When I told this to Spouse he told me I had stupid dreams. Or something equally reassuring.
My other bad dream was about meeting some art-guy (lined up by a friend at Quaker meeting) who wanted to look at my beadwork. Of course, no one told me that I was going to meet with him or why so I didn't have anything with me except two pins that I wanted to throw away because I didn't like how they had turned out.
He looked at them and said, "You really can't do art. Some people are born with the gift and they can't help it. They must make art. But you are not one of these people. You should never try to sell your work."
I asked if he had seen my website... because it had better samples of my work.
He told me that he had looked at my website and seen the entirety of my beadwork and he could categorically say that it was unsaleable. I should really be just giving it away.
Spouse pointed out that he was a mean and imaginary guy so I didn't need to listen to him. But even now I feel all discouraged and weird about my beadwork. Probably because I have been neglecting it lately for two reasons:
I do not have a show lined up (and I'm not sure I like shows anyway) AND I have been writing a lot.
The writing thing is good. And awesome. I now have 74,000 some words (up from 64,000 last draft) on my first trashy romance novel. I was able to incorporate the suggestions made by the reader at Harlequin Historicals and I think the finished(ish) product is much stronger. A good rejection letter is a fine thing.
So now I am going back through the whole thing and finding a bunch of mistakes and THEN I will have volunteer readers go through it for mistakes and suggestions (given that this was a substantial edit) and THEN I will send out another round of queries to agents and publishers.
I want to read the whole thing through on my kindle just for storyline consistency, but I am being so persnickity with word choice and weird typos and grammar-os that its not working for me. I will either need to read it through on my computer (which is what I have just done during the re-write) OR have a print copy made that I can scribble in.
Grateful Crap: Bad dreams that are just dreams.
Doing the Whole 30 eating thing for the month of October to get me off the sugar thing. It had gotten a wee bit out of hand. All sugar all the time.
meds: 150mg lamotrigine, 20mg lurasidone
Need to speak with Psych NP. She was going to make sure my prescription for lurasidone is set up properly. Otherwise I will run out this week. Which maybe I don't need to stay on. Because it could maybe just be an "as needed" medication when Depression creeps in. But I'd rather not take myself off of any meds since that is a Bad Plan and not on my List of Things to Do.
Met with the big boss this week and disclosed my disability and requested workplace accommodation. The talk went quite well, although the morning leading up to it I felt like my brain straight up DID NOT WORK and I had a really hard time thinking through routine tasks. A sign of the stress that having the conversation brought.
Big boss was very understanding (as I anticipated), displaying an awareness of mental illness, personal connections with people living with bipolar and a willingness to work with me on accommodations to deal with my workplace anxiety surrounding the issue of formal observations.
What was really awesome about the talk was that while I didn't get the outcome I was specifically requesting, I got an accommodation that I think will serve both parties very well.
If I am being oblique it is because I've been asked NOT to broadcast to my coworkers what specific accommodations I am receiving so there is not some weird climate of "How come SHE gets special treatment?" and an atmosphere of perceived unfairness.
On the one hand I get that. But on the other hand if the accommodations are deemed necessary for reasons of disability... why the need for secrecy? I am not CHEATING. it is not UNFAIR. Not any more than offering accessible parking or an elevator is cheating.
Although mental illnesses are different, I realize. Perhaps because I have an invisible disability, it protects me in a way to have my accommodations invisible as well.
Well, suffice it to say the upshot of the conversation with the big boss:
I also gave a copy of my bipolar disorder cheat sheet with information that I pulled together from the Job Accommodations Network to my immediate supervisor. Who I also outed myself to. All three of my co-teachers know, both of my direct supervisors know... several people I eat lunch with know. I'd say I'm officially out of the closet.
THIS IS A GREAT RELIEF
Even just coming out as bipolar... without requesting or being given any workplace accommodations... would have made a huge difference in my day-to-day teaching life. Not that my bipolar has strong impact on my day-to-day teaching life.
However, if I fall apart at a meeting unexpectedly, or if my brain is not so worky... I would like to be able to tell people not to worry. That I might just be having a bad brain minute and things would return to the regularly scheduled program soon.
Also. Being out serves my overall general mission of anti-stigma and self-advocacy.
Credit for the above title goes to a fifth grader who said, "...could you tell us more stories from your pathetic life?" So here is one for the books...
We do a complicated game of "find my car" in which a single car family with two parents needs to be in three places at once. So every morning, Spouse drives me to work, then drops the children at their bus stop, then drops the car at my work, then buses to school. Then every afternoon I drive to pick up the children and he buses home.
A workable system... and one we will be employing for the next 13 years or so.
EXCEPT. When. I. Forget. My. Keys.
Yes, that's right. I managed to make it through the whole day in blissful ignorance, assuming that my car/house keys were waiting for me in my bag. But no. Come 3:30 when I need to RACE out of work to meet the kids at the bus stop-- I found that there were NO KEYS.
I didn't have time to panic because panic would mean that I could not beat the bus to the bus stop.
Luckily, a nice shiny new coworker said he could give me a ride.
You can give me a ride?
To my kids' bus stop?
And then pick up my kids?
And drop us somewhere else? Where? I don't know?
Nevermind-- no time to convince you this is a ridiculously kind thing for you to do--we have to go.
Yup. Coworker picked up my kids with me and dropped us at a library where we waited until Spouse was able to collect the car from the parking lot (after arriving home and realizing Doh! and running from our house to my school) to retrieve us.
And we all lived happily ever after.
I am going to have a spare set of keys made to keep in my desk.
Grateful Crap: Coworker
meds: 20mg lurasidone, 200mg lamotrigine
P.S. a week after quitting the band, I have agreed to sing with them for the FNVW craft sale. But that is different from being involved every week for a number of hours for an indefinite period of time in order to perform in a way that makes me uncomfortable. I'm totally down with playing for an event.
Quaker, teacher, parent,