“Manic-depression distorts moods and thoughts, incites dreadful behaviors, destroys the basis of rational thought, and too often erodes the desire and will to live. It is an illness that is biological in its origins, yet one that feels psychological in the experience of it, an illness that is unique in conferring advantage and pleasure, yet one that brings in its wake almost unendurable suffering and, not infrequently, suicide.”
~Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memior of Moods & Madness~ (Bipolar Quotes)
So, blogging about the weight loss part was easy, but now I don’t know what to write here. The issues aren’t as clear cut & fluffy, or as popular, as losing weight. Way more people can understand wanting to lose a few pounds than who have an idea of what is going on inside my head & how it impacts my life. It’s hard to make a bullet list of progress markers, but I shall do my best! This could also be a good place to let my story unfold, but I think today I’ll just stick with the bullet list & ease into my life story. Foremost, I want a place to be open & honest about what is going on in my life, one that might hopefully be of help to someone in a similar predicament.
I already mentioned I’m Bipolar 2 with severe & often lengthy depressive episodes. Currently I would say I am in a dysthymic mood & have been for some time now; sort a depression lite. I get up & get through the day, but I have no desire to deal with other people, often finding it panic or anger inducing, & mostly feel empty inside with few sources of pleasure. (I once forced myself to go to a WW meeting on a bad day, & ended up trembling on the verge of tears the entire time. I could feel everyone staring at me, feel the thoughts in their head about how pathetic I am. I managed to stay the whole meeting, but it was very difficult. I haven’t pushed myself to go since then, but I am really making my meetings a priority this year, so who knows.) Though, not being in full blow depression doesn’t stop me from wanting to die & trying to make that happen. My moods shift back & forth throughout the day; one of the hallmarks of BPD over Bipolar.
This is a big problem in my family, most of the people on one side have it. There are several suicides & attempts, plus more than our share of substance abuse & legal troubles. You can also imagine how those numbers are inversely proportionate to the number of functional, healthy, lasting relationships. There are so many divorces, I never bothered to get married in the first place, & at this point I don’t even date. The fact I can’t have kids has also serves to make getting hitched of even less importance. I did live with someone for a couple of years though. AT the moment though, physically I’m not comfortable enough with my body to be intimate with someone & emotionally I don’t feel like I have anything to offer another person.
Borderline Personality Disorder has been mentioned as well. After I was told about this & I read about BPD a light bulb of recognition went on inside my head, particularly the parts about self identity & relationships. In upcoming posts I would really like to visit specific issues associated with BPD because they do hit so close to home. This would be a great opportunity to explore certain issues further.
A lot of people don’t see what the problems are because, like many high functioning people with mental illness, I have become adept at wearing “the mask”. I don’t want to upset people, so I don’t talk about it when I can’t sleep at night for thinking about how I wish I could die. Anger wouldn’t seem to be one of my problems because I deal with that by staying away from people, just like the anxiety & paranoia. I spend a lot of time alone, but I like that because I find people exhausting, especially since I never feel like I can truly share who I am with them. The last thing I need is people thinking I’m weird of pitiful. I’m paranoid enough as it is. Living alone I had episodes of no longer feeling human, or like I even existed in reality. Sometimes I wondered if I was really alive, or if I had become one of those ghosts who doesn’t know yet they’ve died. I just generally feel weird & uncomfortable around other people.
For this year I have made a list of measurable goals I’d like to work toward. Those are what I’ll be going over here as my progress check. Getting control over my eating & sloth, & in return weight, is of course a priority. Other things I’m working on are self-care, being social, working on a new career path, reconnecting with the things I have enjoyed & find new pleasures, & challenging myself to go after my dreams even when they scare me. I have always loved writing, singing, & dancing. Years of depression have seen those slip away.
Before I get into my progress markers, I just wanted to discuss a little the idea of making progress on this disease. I will always have it. I’ve made my peace with that. But even when things are going well I’m waiting on the other shoe to drop. It’s all temporary, the good moods & the bad, & everybody has both, but I never know what I’m gonna get from moment to moment. I can be out with friends laughing & having a good time, when suddenly it all just drains away & I just want to find a corner to curl up alone & cry. & I’ve done this. I’ve even left the club to go curl up in the car till everyone else is ready to go (no, I didn’t tell them what I was doing, I just went). I can go days without being able to get out of bed or eat, & then suddenly at 2am spring up ready to go out driving around looking for something to do. It’s all so random & unpredictable. I no longer even trust my normal good moods, every moment, every feeling & thought, is scrutinized for signs of oncoming mania or depression. But if I can’t fix all that, I can work towards building routines, useful habits to give me an anchor regardless of my mood; especially helpful things that could help stave off such dramatic highs & lows.
So, how have I made progress so far?
- I finished my first novel. It is still in the editing stages, but just having finally completed one is a fantastic accomplishment!
- I have started singing again. I bought some karaoke mp3s & was practicing. That kind of slipped over the holidays when I was working on gifts, but my mind is still on it.
- I have been working on my crochet & crafting, & am building up a business. There aren’t many things that push you into dealing with other people like marketing & sales – even online (though I am also working in the local market).
- Have been eating a more balanced diet. On or off program with Weight Watchers, I have for the most part been more mindful of my eating, even if it was while eating/drinking something I knew wasn’t the best choice for me.
- Being more active. I haven’t quite gotten back into the exercise swing yet, but I have been doing more around the house than sitting & sucking up the internet. Plus, I start beginner’s tennis next week & I’m so excited about it!
- Getting out more. I have made at least monthly social calls on friends & leave the house many days, even if it is just to run to the post office or out for lunch. For me, this is progress!
- Going back to school. Okay, it’s just for a tennis class, but even better I’m trying a new activity. Plus, my goal has always been to be ready to move off disability when my review comes up in three years, & to that end I need to learn some new skills to find something less stressful for me than what I was doing – which required a lot of high stress dealing with people & helped push me into the very dark place I am still climbing out of.
Things I need to work on this year (& probably forever):
- Self-care. This is embarrassing to admit, but pretty common with depression, but I don’t have the hygiene I would like to. It seems like it would be a pretty easy fix, but sometimes I think I must have a little Wicked Witch in me, because the idea of being surrounded with all that water can be a deal breaker. I don’t know what it is, but sometimes even when I feel crusty & smelly, I just can’t get myself to take a shower. I’m pretty good at brushing my teeth though, thank goodness. I can also stay in my pajamas for days if I don’t leave the house. I’m not so bad now, but at my worst I have gone weeks without a shower & days without even brushing my teeth. This is a lot easier when you live alone, but living with another person I still manage to keep to myself & probably wouldn’t listen if they did say something. Though mostly I think people don’t know what to do with me usually. So, at this point I would be pleased to just be dragging my ass into the shower twice a week. Three times would be better, but two is about where I’m at now, just need to be more regular with it. Again, embarrassing to say I have a goal of regularly taking two showers in a week, but I don’t think my issue is an unheard of one among people dealing with depression.
- Do more housework. This place is old & falling apart around us. Not only do I need to do a better job of cleaning it, but needed minor repairs, as well as harping about getting the bigger things done. Do I look like an electrician? A big part of that is finally getting my old bedroom move-in ready. I currently live in the living room, so it is full of my stuff & it’s a big ol’ crowded mess. The hold up on my room is 1) it was converted to storage by my dad’s ex while I was away at college (thanks) & there is no other place for the stuff in there to go, & 2) the water heater is in there & it seems to have developed a slow leak that no one knew about for a very, very long time till the water heater burned out. We’ve already replaced the water heater & cleaned out the stuff that was ruined, but there is still that matter of a damaged floor to deal with; but this will be done soon. We’ve gotten a lot done in there actually, just need to get the floors finished, then a good general cleaning & I’m ready to go. Alas, all cleaning assignments fall to me to do alone & I’ve been having trouble getting motivated for it. I have a schedule made up where every room has a day, plus Sunday I get out all the garbage & sweep. This week I did Sunday & a good deal in the kitchen on Monday, but have been running around doing this & that the rest of the week, so haven’t done anything else.
- Be more social. I need to not just get out of the house more, but visit people more, including talking on the phone. This week I’m going to make a social call & call at least one person to say hello. Do I sound pathetic yet? Yeah, I thought so.
- Keep up with this blog. But try not to let it become another something I should do, so it becomes an overwhelming source of anxiety. Though if you notice I’m not posting, feel free to leave a prompt in the comments! It might be nice to know someone actually cares:-)
There are other big things I need to do, but I’m not ready to get into that yet. Maybe I’ll talk some about it next week. I would say I am a very self-aware person & I know what I need to be doing, it’s just a matter of doing it – like losing weight… But I have a lot of faith in this year & in the work I’ve done already. I’ve somehow managed to stay alive this long, & every day I do is a new opportunity for change & growth. If I keep working at maybe someday I’ll even feel worth loving. I might even start dating again…
(Okay, reading over & over & over this, regardless of any tweaking I do, I don’t feel like I have expressed the issues very well, but I think this is the best it’s going to get for now. Maybe it’s just the writer’s ever critical eye, or the feeling I don’t write as well as I used to before I went so far off the deep end. Hopefully time & trial will see things improve.)