Tag Archives: Blog for mental health 2014

Things I Won’t Apologize For…

I won’t apologize for being sarcastic.

This is my social coping mechanism. It is a part of my personality that has built up in layers over the years as a way to safely interact with a world that can be scary and hurtful.

I won’t apologize for laughing inappropriately.

It’s a reflex. It’s my escape hatch. It’s a way to throw people off of their game and get them to potentially laugh along with me. If they are laughing with me, the aren’t laughing at me.

I won’t apologize for spending my money.

I know I’m not good at saving money. The mania doesn’t help but it’s not a blanket excuse. I work hard. I am single. I have nobody to support other than myself. If that pretty patent leather purse or that trip to Morocco help me feel better,  then let me have them please.

I won’t apologize for not talking about my childhood.

It sucked. I’ve talked about it enough. I’d rather talk about the future and the things I can change, not those that I can’t. My past has made me who I am today, for better or worse. I prefer to leave it alone.

I won’t apologize for not having children.

Children, for many reasons, did not fit into my life story. I’m ok with that. You should be too. I refuse to buy into the misconception that this makes me any less of a woman or any less of a whole, successful person.

I won’t apologize for having to take meds.

I have to take them, I do not have a choice. No, I can’t “taper off of them over time” or “practice mindfulness instead”. They are a permanent fixture in my life whether I want to take them or not. And trust me, I hate it way more than you hate it for me.

I won’t apologize for my independence.

My independence was forced upon me. Not in a literal way but in a way to keep me from going over the edge. If I have built walls, they have been to keep me in, not to keep you out. Ok, maybe a little to keep you out, but only because letting you in scares me.

I won’t apologize for the way I look.

Yes I am a work in progress and yes I care about the way I look, but if I’m not up to doing my hair or wearing makeup today, it’s because I have a good reason. If I’m in inappropriately comfortable shoes it’s because I want to be appropriately comfortable, not because I don’t care about being feminine. If I hide behind what’s left of my extra weight, don’t take it personally. I’ll come out eventually.

I won’t apologize for being angry right now.

This post may read as defiant and defensive. I don’t let it out often but I’m learning that letting it out allows me to let some of it go. I’ve experienced what happens when anger is kept inside and it is not a healthy thing.

And most of all…I won’t apologize for my mental illness.

If I could wish it away, I would. But I’m stuck with it and it with me. Don’t let my “highly functioning” lifestyle fool you. I struggle daily. I struggle along with everyone else who has ever been judged or pre-judged by the label of their disorder. I struggle to get out of bed. I struggle through the work day. I struggle to maintain my close and not-so-close friendships, and I come home at night and struggle to fall asleep. Then I do it all over again the next day. We are all climbing our own mountain so let’s not push each other down. I will keep my illness a secret from you if I feel it is necessary. If you know about it, then you are a trusted confidant.

What I will apologize for is if any of the above traits have caused you pain or sadness.

I do not wish those on anyone, even the ones who have hurt me. At the end of it all, I’m just trying to get through the day and find what joy I can find out of life. And there is joy to be found, I have seen it.

62 Pounds – Yeah, I’ll take it, but what next?

So, it’s been 4.5 months since the weight loss surgery and I’m 62 pounds down. This is about average. I can see the number on the scale drop and most of my clothes look ridiculous (even the smaller ones I had saved “just in case”) but when I look in the mirror I still can’t see the difference. I wonder if there will ever be a time when my perception equals the reality of my new body. I still have a long way to go on the body part but that’s a breeze compared to the mental work I will need to do. Will I ever be able to look in the mirror and not see a fat person looking back? Is the constant berating from my childhood permanently affixed to my self-perception? Will I ever admit to myself that I’ve been hiding behind my fat suit in order to avoid intimacy? (OK, well I guess I just admitted that, so check one thing off the list)

What if people (men) start to notice me in “that way”? I’m not sure how I would react. I would probably be terrified or have a high school flashback and just assume they are mocking me. And what about…….lord help me……dating? Ugh it makes me nauseous to even think about it. But there’s another part of me that craves that elusive companionship and wonders what it’s really like to fall in love. I mean, I’m 44 and have never had a truly, mutually loving relationship. That’s messed up. I really don’t want to live the second half of my life never having experienced that feeling. It just seems so hollow to live this way, but I don’t know how to change it. It’s like I have the romantic relationship maturity of a 14 year old. My logic-brain gets it but logic-brain is easily usurped by low-self-esteem brain and gets it’s ass kicked regularly by set-in-my-ways brain.

I guess I’m just going to have to go with the flow on that one. My mom used to say “Every pot has a lid”. So, Mr. Lid, if you are out there, drop me a hint. And if I run away just grab my handle and hang on to it until I simmer down.

On “Nextness”

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Have you ever had that feeling of craving the next thing? I don’t know if it’s a person, or a place, or something I’m supposed to be doing but there is this giant hole in my life right now. I have great friends, a challenging and interesting job that I love, but I’m on empty. I’m generally ok with being alone and that may not even be the issue but something is just off.

I can’t quite put my finger on it but I’m deflated by this sudden onset of melancholy. I wouldn’t call it a depression, at least not yet, but I am stubborn and this situation will not get the better of me. Some people hug-it-out but I will write-it-out until I can pinpoint the nextness that I’m searching for.

So here I sit in my yellow chaise lounge (because when you are writing your way through an existential crisis you always need a yellow chaise lounge) and ponder as I type. I think in some ways I do miss actively dating and maybe that lack of human contact could finally be taking its toll.

This is not a singles ad… this is a thought process. How does the single woman sustain herself in a place of balance after a prolonged phase of well, nothingness? I mean, I can take care of myself, I always have. But you can’t independent your way out of a void, can you? Maybe my stubborn independence is what brought me here in the first place. I guess you get back what you put out into the world and what I’ve been putting out there is the fact that I don’t need anyone. So, what if I *want * someone? That’s normal, right? So why do I feel like wanting someone in my life makes me needy?

Also, what’s so terrible about being needy anyway? We are not here to be creatures of isolation, we are meant to interact, to help one another, even to love on occasion. This seems like the normal state of things so why does it scare me? And another thing, referring back to my first paragraph, it might not even be a person that I need. But it is definitely a change. I have no idea what that change might be or when it will happen, but I will embrace the anticipation of it.

Anyway, less whining, more taking action. I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge. Something is inevitably about to rock my world, I’ll make sure of it. In the absence of someone to share my life goals I will continue to set my own. I can do this. I can drag my lazy ass out of pouty town and do this thing. I’m all in

Let’s call this the beginning of a journey into nextness. This could even be fun.

 

Dr. Strangejob- or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Accept Change

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Whenever we have company-wide “all hands” team meetings at work (every 4 to 6 months), we kick them off with a few volunteers who do 7 minute presentations on a given assigned theme. It can be a personal story but must relate back to our work lives in some way. I have given a passing thought to volunteering on a few occasions but never followed through. However this meeting’s assigned theme screamed my name; “Reinvention”. A single concept that can have so many intertwined connotations.

I jumped right in while I had an hour between conference calls and started outlining the talk. This was an easy one for me as I have endless reinvention material. I decided to make my story about all of the short term, highly diverse jobs I had before I found my intended career. To be fair, I work in web-based software interface design and that wasn’t even close to being a mainstream career choice when I was starting out. so I made do with what opportunities came along.

The title of this talk is “Dr Strangejob….or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Accept (Career) Change” It helps if you’ve seen the movie and some of my audience is much younger than me, so some of the joke will be lost on them, but I hope the overall theme is universal enough to speak to them. What I was forced to hold back in this talk was the mental struggles that made this journey all the more challenging, especially previously undiagnosed ones.

Here’s a sneak peek: I will have 4 lessons learned for each job and how they can apply those lessons in their day to day work lives. I am now realizing this applies far beyond the professional realm into the fabric of how we all live, so I thought I’d share some tidbits from the presentation with all of you. I won’t bore you with the whole outline, just a few highlights.

Job 1: Waitress- Lesson learned: Never punch a brick wall, especially mid-shift. 

Translation: Try not to let your frustrations overpower you. You will only end up hurting yourself in the long run

Job 2: Furniture Sales- Lesson learned: It’s a dog eat dog world out there.

Translation: There are situations and people in this life in which you will not be cut any slack. People are competitive by nature and we can all get lost in that, but if we lose the egos and work together sometimes, we can accomplish amazing things.

Job 3: Apartment Property Manager: Lesson learned- Never let them know where you live, especially when your property has faulty piping.

Translation: Sometimes we are too close to the problem, so caught up in the midst of the drama, that we can’t focus clearly enough on the solution. Try to find a way to step back, tune out the noise, and find objective solutions.

Job 4: Software Project Manager- Lesson learned. Everyone always has an agenda (some of them are even valid)

Translation: Put yourself in someone else’s shoes, even if you 100% think they are wrong and a total asshat you never know what is motivating them unless you really listen. They may even have a point.

I then conclude by drawing the more literal connections to what I present to what we do for a living. I think there are 2 key universal points that apply to all of us.

1. Practice empathy every day. 

Empathy is a critical skill specifically to software design for end users, but more generally I think if we all made a daily habit of practicing it, we could change the world….end stigmas…stop bullies….help the abused (both human and animal). There are boundless possibilities.

2. Relax, we aren’t saving lives (unless of course you are actually saving lives to which I say….all due respect to you. You amaze me)

What I mean by this is that we all need a small butt-kicking in perspective readjustment at times. The world usually isn’t ending and lives usually are not at stake (unless of course….see above) so take a deep breath, be honest with yourself about the worst that can happen, and then put one foot in front of the other till you make it through.

That’s pretty much it….my rough draft of 7 minutes of attempted levity and education. And just remember what the picture says “You can’t fight in here, this is the war room”

Here Goes….

Well, for what it’s worth the surgery is done. After a 3 day puke fest and an additional 3 days of gut wrenching pain, I am now at home and healing and feeling surprisingly good. I’m off to a respectable start with 18 pounds gone already. I’m titrating down from the Depakote after showing my psychiatrist my latest liver blood work. (it was almost 3 times high normal). The good news about this is that I know the Depakote would have slowed my progress with the weight loss. The bad news is that I’m going back to 2 out of 3 of my past medications; Lamictal and Abilify. Abilify also causes weight gain but it shouldn’t be as bad as the Depakote and hopefully the surgery will override these effects. It also has a bit of a tranquilizing effect that always made me feel a little underwater. Add to that I know *something* was eating at my stomach before but I never could prove a link to the drugs. Since I’ve pretty much been through the entire list of possible medications in the past 10 years I’m going to have to pick from the lesser of all evils.

So, it seems I’ll still be doing the mind/body balance dance. I guess I always will be. Neither will ever be perfect and that’s ok, I just want to be the healthiest I can be. I’m a little surprised how hungry I still get knowing how small my stomach is right now (4-6 ounces). One of the supposed advantages to this surgery is that they remove the part of your stomach that generates some hunger hormones so I guess I was expecting not to struggle with that feeling. I guess it could be mental, or my hormones rebalancing themselves, but I hope it levels out soon. I have to be super careful to measure out the little bits of food I can eat or I know I could easily consume far beyond my capacity, making myself sick and stretching out my new stomach. I will ask about this at my followup appointment next week.

In the meantime I’m off of work until at least next Thursday. Other than the growing boredom and the underlying guilt about not being at work, I think the downtime is good for me. The last year and especially the last 4 months have been a pretty intense and hectic experience. I’m seeing this 3 weeks as my hitting of the reset button mentally and physically. And watch out, Spring, I plan to emerge from my cocoon reinvented and renewed and ready to take on the world.

The mind/body infinite loop

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So, there are only 2 things that I’ve always struggled with, my mind and my body. Weight has always been a struggle to keep in check, for both mental and physical reasons. When I was finally correctly diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 1 (rapid cycling) back in 2005 I started taking all sorts of drugs. My brain began to slowly stabilize but my body grew. Since I was taking a complex cocktail it was hard to pinpoint the source of the accelerated weight gain. That plus the unhealthy 100% travel lifestyle I was living at the time made it even harder to figure out. Even though I stabilized mentally, I was never happy with the drugs I was on. I always felt foggy and underwater and I knew they were contributing at some level to the weight. Years later they also started to eat through my stomach so I decided a medical overhaul was due. I took a bit of a sabbatical from the drugs, let my insides heal, and moved on to a new job, a new city, and a new psychiatrist. She was convinced that Depakote was *the* drug for me….the best for rapid cycling. When I began taking it I felt great, as if my brain was working properly for the first time ever. I was no longer under water or foggy. The thing was, the weight gain was insane. When I finally bothered to look it up (I know, I should have done that first) I realized that of all these drugs, Depakote was the most notorious of them all. Most of the bloggers I have read have tried and abandoned it for that reason.

I had a hard, unfair decision to make. Do I choose a healthy mind or a healthy body? So for the past year I chose my mind. It’s been a great year professionally but my body reached that tipping point, more like a domino effect, where I was in serious danger. My liver blood work was dangerously bad which can ironically be caused by either or both obesity and Depakote. I won’t list the trail of ailments that have plagued me the last year but let’s just say when I flipped the coin on mind vs body I may have made the wrong call. I have to do something fast. So, I’m having surgery next month…a sleeve gastrectomy (for weight loss) ,gall bladder removal (already have a huge stone and the majority of the people who have the sleeve end up losing the gall bladder anyway later on). They will also biopsy a lesion on my liver (likely unrelated but they’re right there so why not go for the organ trifecta?)

I’m hoping with this quick weight loss I will undo some of the damage I have done to my body recently. I don’t know if the Depakote will hinder my progress and whether or not it’s the culprit on my liver enzymes. I’ve dragged my feet on a drug change since my brain is so highly functioning right now but I guess a badass brain doesn’t do you much good if you are dead.

My point being, should we have to choose between mind and body? It hardly seems a fair choice, I mean, we kinda need both. Maybe I’ll get lucky post surgery and everything will fall into place. If not, I guess I will have to find a part of me to compromise….literally and figuratively. I wonder, given that choice, what the correct mind/body ratio is. Sort of makes you think. With me luck on Feb 11!