Moods and Diversions

Yesterday I mentioned that I had forgotten my medicine on Saturday. To people that have not been in the state of a mental health crisis this can sound like a small thing. One day, can’t be that bad can it? The answer is, of course, that it can be devastating. I’ve been using all of the skills the hospital reminded me about to keep my mood from skyrocketing out of control. It’s actually kind of entertaining to me today that they have labelled me depressed type schizo affective disorder, but that’s what they were able to see. The anxious, quiet, brooding mood permeated my thoughts as I was trying to figure out how to finish my semester without interrupting anything. Now that I’m free to do what I want I’m everywhere with my thoughts, there are a hundred projects that need to be done and damn it if they won’t all be done in the next 10 minutes. I’m excited about them all, and most have no real importance except in my own head.

I’m really grateful that I’ve reached a point in my illness that I’m beginning to recognize this shift in mood, and even more grateful that this particular time I have had the sensibility to try and prevent the really big upswing. I am still finishing projects, getting things accomplished, and dealing with an increased sense of mania. The difference is I am forcing myself to slow down, listen to meditation videos, and take one project at a time. Once my mood slows down again, which I’m expecting to happen towards the end of the week, I am going to start really looking into yoga. I want to be able to do meditations on my own. I’ve read amazing things about the ability to slow not only thought processes, but also physical processes. Blood pressure can be lowered, heart rates can be slowed, the brain waves can actually be manipulated enough to show differently on an fMRI scan. I doubt I’ll be able to have that kind of control, the studies I read used Buddhist monks, but if I could attain even a fraction of that control I will be a better mother.

That stupid phrase “It’s no longer about you, you have to think of the BABY” drives me crazy. The people that say that are the ones that believe in being a helicopter parent treating their kids as if they can do no wrong. I don’t want to live for my child, I want to live for me and in turn give them a better shot at seeing what a whole person should look like. I remember my parents groping each other in the kitchen, it was gross. It’s still gross, but that is the kind of parent I want to be, one that doesn’t stop living their own life or experiencing their own love just because there is now another person in the house. I want to do the things that are right for me because they are right for me, and in turn I think a lot of that will end up right for my child. It will set a good example, and set up a positive sense of well-being.

Long weekend…

My husband and I did some baby shopping on Saturday. I love going shopping with him, but we were up so early. Two Mom2Mom sales, a huge thrift store grand opening sale, a Menards grand opening sale and we were ready to head home by 11:30 am. Yes, that says AM. On the weekends we aren’t normally out of bed before noon, although that will be changing soon because he got hired as loss prevention at the Menards we went to and the baby will be here soon.

On the way home there was a massive accident that closed one whole side of the interstate we use. By the time we got to that part of our journey there were two lanes open so we were able to pass, but I wish we hadn’t. All of the cars were gone, but the medical examiner’s van was there and the cops were half-heartedly covering the body of a 22 year old man. I saw his body laying there, his shoes are burned in my brain at this point. When we passed we assumed it was a horrific accident and he had been ejected, which is sad but somehow easier for me to deal with than the truth. Later on the news announced that the man had jumped from the bridge onto the road below. Alcohol may have been involved. Two people were trying to talk him down and the police were already on their way when he jumped. He landed and was hit by a car driving down the interstate that did their best to avoid him.

In order to explain how much this affected me I have to back up a little bit to Thursday night. Terry and I went to do (what else) a little baby shopping. On the way out the door there was a heated conversation between him and his parents about how much of our tax money we would be able to give them. At this point we had no idea he got the job at Menards and we have quite a few little things to pick up still for Baby Beastly, plus Pan needed a tooth extracted in addition to all of the bills we will have to cover. He gets unemployment, but that just barely covers our bills with no extra. Usually those conversations happen without me in the house because they really seriously affect my mental health, and about two weeks ago we were told to keep all of our tax money so we could get everything we needed for baby. I guess the bills came with shut off notices, which is extremely hard for me to handle because I can’t process bills being late. It’s been a really long journey to getting my bills on time and currently I have a 100% on time payment record. Every time this conversation happens and I hear it (usually every few months) it’s panicked, in hushed tones, and angry. Really angry. Mostly because the bills are so expensive. What this leads to is me being afraid to shower, use the toilet, eat anything, get a glass of water, do laundry…all of those little things that if you don’t do them in the hospital you end up having to stay longer because you are unable to care for yourself.

Combine that angry conversation I overheard with the shoes I saw on the man who committed suicide, Sunday was really difficult. I couldn’t get his still body out of my head. Honestly, it will likely be months before I stop seeing it on a regular basis. I didn’t want to make my in-laws angry about the bills so I refused to use the bathroom. I had conversations with myself about how dangerous it would be for me to shower, even though it had been nearly 5 days since the last shower. I debated with myself about how much I should eat, and tried to think of alternatives for how I was going to wash Beastly’s things. Terry forced me to eat and my father in law told me that he could eat but I couldn’t. This is something he says a lot as a “joke” but it sounds serious to me every time. Immediately following I was informed by Terry that I needed to eat something and I snapped back “I said I’m fine, and your dad agrees with me.” That is the first time I’ve been that forward about my anger. It was 100% driven by that man and his shoes. I looked up the statistics on how many people commit suicide that way in my area. It’s a lot. Almost all are successful, not because of the fall, but because they are hit by cars driving 70+ miles an hour. It’s terrifying to me because now that will be in my head later when I’m not doing well again.

I’m working on processing all of this and improving my outlook. Terry told me yesterday to make sure I have the conversations I normally have with myself with him instead. It will take time and practice to be able to open up that way. I have 30 years of practice keeping that stuff in so people think I’m less crazy than I am, and it takes effort to remember there are people that won’t judge me. There’s other things I want to talk about this week too, namely tomorrow’s Anderson Live show that also made me very upset, but I will save that for later. For now I’m really focusing on having those internal conversations in an external forum with my husband. This is why support systems are so important.

Gratitude as a coping skill

Yesterday’s post was more than a little depressing. It ended on an ok note I guess, but not ok enough for me to write something equally heavy today. Today I want to talk about gratitude, because it seems like such a little thing but it can be so huge. There was a post in my April 2013 Babies group last night reminding everyone to thank their nurses. It was a repost of an article about how being a nurse can be thankless and difficult, so we should keep in mind how much they do for us as patients when we are elated as our newborns arrive. As always, some lady responds that they are “doing their job” and if they don’t like it they can find another line of work, no one needs to be thanked for that. Having worked customer service for many years I have experienced a ton of customers like that, and continue to laugh at the horrifying stories on websites like Not Always Right. People like that are angry, usually juvenile, have never worked a service job in their life, and desperately unhappy. Money and status over those that serve you is no way to become happy or better than someone else. Actually, I kind of wonder what makes them need to be better than someone else in the first place. Usually that comes from some sort of deficiency in their self-confidence.

The fact is that gratitude can go a really long way to boosting someone’s mood and self-confidence. I was going to quote scientific studies about this fact, but decided against it. The point of this blog is personal experience and inspiration. As a result, for those that want some pop culture sources I found this MedNet article on gratitude and help, this Christian Broadcast Network article on the same thing, and one more from Psychology Today. What I’m going to talk about this is how I learned to be thankful and express gratitude as an adult.

Going back probably 18 years ago or more, I can’t really remember, as a child I was really uncomfortable telling people thank you. I got red, stammered, became really embarrassed. My mom would have killed me if she realized how often I escaped cars after getting a ride from someone, or accepted gifts without a single word of thanks. I don’t know if I recognized as a kid that sometimes accepting help makes you seem weak, or if I seemed like an extrovert but was really an introvert, but I do know I have always been horribly awkward in social situations. I felt like a terrible person every time I did it. Frankly, that might be part of the reason I ended up cutting as a teen in the first place. I was so convinced that I didn’t deserve anything I had, my bed was too good for me, I didn’t deserve the roof over my head, I should be thrown on the streets and left to fend for myself. Feeling that way seems silly now, but it’s entirely possible that whole issue was one of gratitude. I was constantly telling myself I didn’t deserve things, and therefore felt strange thanking people for things I didn’t deserve.

When I got to college I decided I was not going to be the same person anymore. I was no longer going to be embarrassed by sexual innuendo and I was going to suck it up and participate in things that made me uncomfortable. It worked. I now not only am capable of making most people blush about sexual discussions before I even raise an eyebrow, but I also no longer stammer when I tell people thank you. I met some amazing people my first round of undergrad and I am still close to a handful (maybe more!) of them. I attribute this to slowly learning how to express gratitude and focus on something other than myself. It’s not perfect, but it works. I’m grateful for my friends, I respect them and I love them. I count their love as a huge blessing, not one that I deserve, but one that I receive. I can do nothing but thank them for that, there is no way for me to express to them how much it means to me. My attitude has completely changed from one of despair, knowing that I will never be able to repay them for their love and kindness, to one of pure joy that someone feels I am worth that sort of time and effort. It’s made a drastic change in my outlook on life. In fact, over the last few months I have done nothing but fret over the horror that is my baby shower. It doesn’t feel like my party. My mother-in-law is being super secretive about it, even to the point of not really sharing anything with my mom, I hate surprises. I hate opening gifts in front of people. I hate formal parties that are directed towards me. About a week ago I realized the shower is at capacity for the room she booked. There will be nearly as many people celebrating my new baby as my wedding. These people are not coming for the shower because let’s be honest, no one likes a formal baby shower, they are coming to celebrate with me and Terry. As much as I’m not excited about the rest of it, I am so grateful that people love us enough to celebrate this new life with us. There are a number of people that are supplying us with hand-me-downs, and shopping at local thrift stores for outfits. I guess a decent amount of books have shown up with notes to my child, which is what I asked people to send. I actually have found some peace in that sentiment, and that is creating some excitement for me.

So now, how does one go about making that change from desperately undeserving to grateful? I started with people I didn’t know. Restaurant servers, drive-thru workers, nurses, retail employees, all of these people deserve to be thanked when they treat you with kindness and respect. It was easier for me to begin with people I would never see again. If I turned red and stammered not only did they not care, I did’t have to explain myself to them ever. This developed a habit for me of saying thank you and being gracious and grateful for people’s kindness. Just like self-injury is a learned habit, gratitude as a coping skill is also learned. It shouldn’t be reserved for the holiday seasons, people deserve to be recognized and respected all the time. There are a lot of “30 day challenges” that can be used for making this type of coping skill a habit too. I just did a Google search and came up with this site, this Pinterest board, this list, and this blog. If you are struggling with your own happiness give gratitude a try. Every time I thank someone for something it makes me feel more deserving, even if they are “just doing their job”. I’ve found that my gratitude for others has also created a desire in me to do things for others, which is also a huge self-confidence booster. Helping others is still something I’m working on, I do really great at little things, and helping people I know. My husband is an amazing inspiration for helping others. He automatically does things like holding open doors, helping an old man carry his McDonald’s tray to a table, lifting a kid up so they can reach something. It really is the little things that matter the most.

The Power of Touch

***Originally posted on Blogger, 31 Dec, 2011***

 

With the last year being so ridiculously horrible in regards to work my mental health deteriorated steadily through the year as well. I started this year with extremely high hopes, and great grades to show for it. My company helped me pay for my education and as part of their “help” to get me where I wanted to be my life got turned upside-down more than it would have just through school. I took great risks with my medication, which has lead to more and more serious episodes of mania, depression, and paranoia. The worst of this was the paranoia that has continued, albeit less severe than when I was at work being tormented by ever changing rules.

Which leads me to the subject of this blog post. Many people believe in the power of touch, this is apparent with massage therapy, acupuncture, acupressure, and countless other therapies that have made a comeback in our medical profession. My preferred reading lately has been dystopian societies or books about sex. The interesting juxtaposition of these types of books really tells two things about touch. Humans crave touch the same way we need water or food. The first book of the Hunger Games shows Katniss reaching out to whoever she can for help, for contact, for comfort. The other side is shown in Jenna Jameson’s memoir, where she tries so hard to be accepted that she ends up putting herself in a compromising position as a teen and touch does nothing but hurt.

Having experienced both sides of the spectrum I can say for sure that touch can both heal and hurt. The healing aspect of touch is way more effective than the way that touch can hurt. I spend my nights laying awake in bed, scared that someone is going to break into my apartment. Terrified that my job is going to find something they deem to justify their actions, and that a judge is going to agree. Horrified at the possibility of being murdered in my bed while I’m asleep. This paranoia doesn’t subside ever, it’s always present at low levels. Until last night. Last night as I fell asleep I was super uncomfortable and at the same time more at peace than I have been nearly all year. My head resting on his shoulder, the most comforting touch came from his hand on my shoulder. He was sleeping, and every time I needed comfort his hand squeezed my shoulder a little.

All it took was that little touch and I slept more soundly than I have in months. I hope 2012 brings more peaceful nights, and a more peaceful mind.