Monday, March 24, 2014

Forgive Me the Moment

You raced, you chased -
Misguided your intention.

I flew, I fell
In your general direction.

Forgive me the moment,
Forgive me the moment - we shared.

In ecstasy,
We rolled without protection.

We swore, we prayed,
We killed our own creation.

Forgive me the moment,
Forgive me the moment - we shared.

I lost my soul,
Without an intervention.

You stole, depraved.
Articulate licention.

Forgive me the moment,
Forgive me the moment - we shared.

I tried to die,
You left quite an impression.

I lost my mind,
Forgetting just to mention -

Forgive me the moment,
Forgive me the moment - we shared.

- 03.24.14

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Technically Spring!

Okay, so I celebrated today in my heart - it's officially Spring. But this is just one of those years when Winter drags on long after it's welcome.  I'm kind of like, "Spring? Yep, I'll believe it when I see it."

I was reading some articles lately on how climate change is effecting mental health is general for the worse.  Now, I know, someone is reading this and thinking, "but doesn't this kind of Winter debunk global warming?"

Not a chance. Climate change is making our whole planet more desert-like. The extremes are all more extreme.  Just wait, 6 months from now we'll all be complaining it's too HOT to go outside!

But for now, I'm looking for the flowers to bloom.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Sober St. Patrick's Day

For those of us who need to stay clean and sober all the time, I know that this veritable "drinking holiday" can be a tough one to get through. And if you've got the Irish gene, like I do, alcoholism runs in your veins. I just want to say, that no matter what happens today, or what kind of peer presssure (or as we used to call it, "beer pressure") you feel, you can stay strong.

Here's my honest situation.  My interview for the volunteer gig at the animal shelter today got cancelled.  The person who was supposed to interview me is out due to a medical emergency. I got the call this morning. Now, maybe there's some reason why this was "lucky" after all. Only time will tell.  But if it weren't for all the people supporting me, I have a half a mind to get drunk and stay drunk until I get the word that they're ready to reschedule.

Why would I react like that? I'm fighting paranoia that they don't really want me there and staying inebriated tends to separate you from your thoughts.  Well, at least if you're as drunk and distracted as I would like to be.

But instead, I'm doing my best to take things at face value and relax about everything.  An interview for anything is nerve-wracking and I have to remember that I'm not alone in that feeling.  Also, I know by now that I'm stronger than that and really, anything can become an excuse to get wasted if you want one.

So, here's my blessing for a peaceful, joyful and sober St. Patrick's day for all of us who don't need to be drinking: may you never drink another drop, for one you start you may not stop!

Amen. And Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Long Overdue Review: "Silver Linings Playbook"

I actually saw "Silver Linings Playbook" last year and never got around to writing about it.  I think it's a very important movie.  I will try to write about it without spoiling anything in case you haven't seen it.

One of the reasons I so identify with the movie, especially the character of Tiffany, played by Jennifer Lawrence, who won an Oscar for her performance, is that the characters are so high-functioning, yet average.  Normally when you see mental illness in movies it's because it manifests in some spectacular way by people who are not living "normal lives."  I think about characters like Hannibal Lector, the infamous cannibal in "Silence of the Lambs" as your stereotypical "bad crazy person." And even in two of my favorite movies about mental illness, "A Beautiful Mind" and "Fight Club" the characters, who are both schizophrenic, are "larger than life" with a fine line drawn between brilliance and madness.

In SLP, the main characters, Pat and Tiffany (who are both bipolar in my estimation, although Tiffany's illness is never identified) are two things you don't normally see in films about mental illness: they are high-functioning and just just sort of everyday people.  True, their illnesses impact their lives in negative ways - they both act out in inappropriate ways at times, but they are aware that they are "out of bounds" and continue to struggle with everyday life.

In one of my favorite scenes (and I hope this doesn't spoil anything) Pat and Tiffany are talking about their experiences with different medications and their side-effects and it sounded like a conversation I've had so many times.  I mean, that's what you do when you're being treated for mental illness when you meet other people who are mentally ill - you talk about your treatment and what you're going through.  And I knew the names of the meds and the symptoms they discussed and thought, "That's right!"

In terms of being an inspiration, I found SLP's down-to-earth approach to be so refreshing.  And, I think, the actual "spectacularness" of the story is the way author Matthew Quick and writer / director David O. Russell actually pull together the whole romantic comedy around the characters without being stereotypical, but by keeping it real.   I would recommend this movie to anyone, especially if you want to see how while love can be "crazy" it can also help us find ourselves.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

mood swing whiplash

I will be the first to admit that I ride an emotional roller coaster.  It takes very little stress to drop me and very few happy thoughts to bounce me back up.  This is probably true to a certain extent for most people, but it's really like the difference between emotional hills and mountains.

Lately I've been writing about my "search for socialization."  I've been getting command hallucinations telling me to kill myself for close to two months now, and the verdict from my therapist is that I need to get out of my own head and socialize more. I hadn't realized just how hard this is for me to do with new people until I put in an application to volunteer at a local animal shelter.  I didn't hear back from them yesterday like I was supposed to, so I completely freaked out and gave up on the idea completely.  I decided instead that I just needed some plain old group therapy.

So, today, I check my email and I'm being invited to interview at the shelter after all.  Yep, yesterday I said that I couldn't handle it no matter what happened, but instantly I started thinking about being able to help the animals and I was enthusiastic - a little bit hesitantly - but enthusiastic again.  I wrote back and set up an interview for St. Patrick's Day Monday for good luck.

Just for balance though, and in case it really doesn't work out at the shelter, I did go ahead and get my therapist to give me a referral to one of the support groups at the clinic.  I chose the LGBT group, because it's really just where I belong and I have a much easier time making connections within the queer community. I'm expecting to hear from the group coordinator at some point soon to get some more details.

And tonight?  I feel fine.  I've gone from the pit of despair to a kind of even keel.  I'm definitely not exuberant, but I am excited to now have two possibilities opening.  However, as my therapist pointed out today, I'm now more aware of how stressed I get when I move outside of my comfort zone and new people and situations definitely qualify.   We're not sure if the stress is going to exacerbate the psychosis, but since a healthy level of stress - of challenge - is a good thing and it may reduce my psychosis, I'm going to check these situations out.

Most of what goes on in psychiatry and psychology is experimental. It's hit and miss. No one knows enough how the brain works, let alone how an individual brain works, to be sure how to handle certain aspects of mood swings and psychosis.  This is another trial run.  We'll see what unfolds.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Okay, I Officially Can't Handle It

So, I've done some writing in the past week about how I applied to volunteer at a local animal shelter.
They have officially not contacted me by the time they said they would and I have to admit that this is just too stressful for me.  Even if I heard from them now, I'd have to turn them down because I can not do the lack of feedback / communication thing.  But I'm pretty sure that they took one look at my application and thought, "um, no."  And that was about it.

Now I'm not "giving up" on volunteering because one thing fell through, but I came to a realization that I was in over my head.  Maybe it was the stigma that did me in with the shelter and maybe it wasn't, but I have to admit to myself that I just need more interaction and less responsibility. Part of me thinks that I could have handled it - but this is what it is - and I can't.  So, that's that.

It's ironic because all the talk between me and my support network has always been that I was too high functioning to join the groups at the clinic where I go for therapy.  Intellect and emotional IQ, I find, are suddenly two very different things to me.  You might think I'm okay because I do this blog, but I'm just an experienced writer.  I can do this alone - it's my shout out to the world.  But when it comes to interacting with people directly, I need so much more support.

It took this fail to help me realize that I'm not beyond group therapy. In fact, I just may finally be ready for it again.  I used to go to groups, but I never really connected or opened up much.  I think that the next thing that I need to do is go back to my therapist and suggest that my much needed social interacting come from some extended group therapy.

Yes, I feel rejected, but I'm using this as a teachable moment.  My heart reads "handle with care."

Friday, March 7, 2014

Hints of Spring in the Air

The temperature got up into the mid-40's today and there is a lack of chill in the breeze.  I have my window cracked a bit and just feeling the outside air in the house is such a relief!

I know that it isn't quite over yet, but there seems to be some hope, finally, after a long and crappy winter.

I'm not sure if I have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) but I've definitely been depressed and fatigued and plagued by cabin fever.  Most people get at least a little down during the winter months.  Some of us get hit harder than others.  I think if you're already prone to depression, winter just sucks the life out of you.

But I'm looking at the forecast and seeing more temperatures over freezing, daylight savings starts tomorrow night and Spring is just around the corner.

So if you've been having a rough time of it, please hang in there with me - we're almost there!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

paranoid void

I'm not sure where to start writing about this because I'm paralyzed and distracted by fear.  Why? Because of what I don't know.  I wrote yesterday about applying for a volunteer position at a local animal shelter. I now realize just how brave I was to make that move.  I also think if it weren't for the animals I might not have gone through with it.  People scare me.

And what scares me the most about people is when I don't feel like I know what they're doing in relationship to or response to me.  I used to believe that I could read people's minds. It gave me a sense of security - like I always knew what was going on behind my back.  Since that ended, I found myself in an "information void" where I had to try to interact with people based with the information I was presented with my senses - what I saw them do, what I heard them say, etc. and I just have to say that with my paranoia, it's often not enough.  What I don't know for sure, my mind tends to make up and the more I care about something, the worse it gets.

So, today, I was ready for the phone to ring to hear something - anything about my application.  I finally called, just to make sure it got to the right person. I found out the it would be a few days before they got to the business of new volunteers.  Okay, fair enough.  That made me feel a little better.  But I really care about this opportunity and now I just feel like I have no idea what they'll think of my application.  What's going on there? Do they even need my help?  Will something I wrote have been "the wrong thing?"  I dunno.

I mean really, I found myself today thinking, this is exactly why I can't work.  I obsess over approval and I have a fear of rejection. I have an almost constant need for feedback. I need so much communication and emotional support.  I get to this point where if I don't get enough feedback I basically can't function.   And this is just a situation where I'm hoping to be "allowed" to help for free. That's how I see it.  If there were money involved and it had anything to do with my survival I'd be completely flipped out right now.

So, in writing this, I'm trying to get a grip.  I have to be patient. Personally, it helps me to say that it's in God's hands and whatever happens is meant to be.  I have to talk myself down over and over again. And I will, but it will be interesting to see if I can handle this at all.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Will the stigma matter?

I'm trying something new for the first time in 6 years - I'm applying for acceptance into something besides disability or medicaid or some kind of mental health program.  I'm applying for a volunteer position.  It might as well be as nerve-wracking as applying for a job, because, by doctors' orders, I can't work anymore. I just can't handle the stress.  At the same time, I get very little socialization outside my family.  So, my therapist has become adamant that I get involved in some kind of social organization.  I'm too high-functioning for the groups they have at my mental health clinic, but I also don't have any local friends. So, yes, I'm sitting here blogging again.

And that, according to my therapist, is a good thing, but she thinks my psychosis is being exacerbated by a degree of isolation.  In other words, I'm having command hallucinations because I'm too much inside my own head. You just plain need social interaction to stay emotionally well-balanced.  So, today I applied to be a volunteer at a local animal shelter.  I love animals - they're great therapy - and I'd immediately have a love of animals in common with the staff and other volunteers.

So, what's this stigma I'm worried about?  Well, partially it's THE stigma of mental illness, especially schizophrenia.  On the application I actually used the more accurate but less common diagnosis of "schizoaffective disorder" because I didn't want to write down bipolar disorder AND schizophrenia.  *shiver*  But I also have an internal distrust of my own abilities (my own stigma) because I lost several jobs due to my illness.

Tonight, I'm asking myself two things - will they take one look at my application and get freaked out (even though I have a lot of experience and related skills) and can I handle it?  My therapist says just try it out and if it doesn't work out then I just quit.  But will I even get a chance with my illness and a lack of regular availability?  And I don't want to have to quit. I'd really like to be involved in a community of like-minded individuals. But my psychosis does make interactions more complicated for me.

In any case, it's a big step.  There's a giant 6 year gap in my resume (if that even matters anymore). It gives me great "paws" for thought.  Sorry, had to go for the pun.  I'm so nervous.  Maybe I'm worried about nothing, but it doesn't feel like nothing. It feels like a whole lot of something new and potentially awesome and potentially scary.  So, we'll see what transpires.  I do feel brave for even turning in the application and I know that at this point, I should be really proud of that.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

the catch-22 of depression

Everybody gets down sometimes, and at those times, it can be no big deal to "turn the frown upside down." But clinical depression is caused by a neurochemical imbalance, so you need a neurochemical remedy.  That's why meds help. According to the Mayo Clinic, you can tell when depression has become clinical if you have the following symptoms:

Clinical depression symptoms may include:
  • Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most activities
  • Significant weight loss or gain
  • Sleeping too much or not being able to sleep nearly every day
  • Slowed thinking or movement that others can see
  • Fatigue or low energy nearly every day
  • Feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt
  • Loss of concentration or indecisiveness
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
By that check list I've been experiencing the symptoms of clinical depression for a while now. Lately the clinical depression is something I can feel.  I'm not just tired or down. My energy level feels like something sucked me dry.

The natural way to counteract these kinds of symptoms is to boost endorphins - the kind of feel-good chemicals that are released when you laugh, exercise, etc.  The problem is that, for example, when you're weeping, it can be hard to find a reason to laugh and when you're hiding in bed you probably don't feel like exercising.  The depression often keeps you stuck in a downward spiral.

I find that at times like these I have to force myself to try to break the cycle. Meds definitely help, but most of the time, in addition, I have to muster the mental strength to find a way to do something that increases endorphins.  I found a great, simple article on how to boost endorphins on wikiHow -  I know how hard it can be, but if you can manage to get yourself to do even one of these activities, it can help.

I'm not giving up on getting my mood back up.  I'm not being hard on myself, because I know I'm not "doing something wrong," but at the same time I really want to crawl out of this emotional hole I'm in. I've done it before, so many times, and I know if I keep trying I will feel better.