Thankful

As Thanksgiving arrives I am thankful for this little space to write about my thoughts and feelings through this journey of ups and downs. Although it has been rough for several months it is good to look around and remind myself of the good things I am thankful for.

First and foremost I am thankful for my family. My husband is fiercely supportive of me and whatever I need to get better. He is a great listener and gives me helpful suggestions and asks me questions to help me sort through all the mess in my head.

I have the best kids. My stepsons are there for me when I need their support. My son and daughter have been awesome when I am broken in front of them and we talk a lot about our feelings and how to be supportive of someone who needs it.

My parents have been so very supportive, checking on me and listening to me. My in laws are always there to help, whatever I need. I get sweet words from my brother and sister in law and so many extended family members. I am looking forward to seeing many of them during the holidays.

My friends have been reaching out to check on me and offer support. They tell me I matter and they love me. I have such a fabulous support system, so many caring people to reach out to whenever I need.

I’m so very thankful for all of the people in my life.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

I Rise

Lately when people ask me how I am doing I can honestly answer “better”. I’ve even said “good”. I would not have said either of those a few weeks ago.

The only way I can describe how I am feeling now is that it is like night and day. So very different, the opposite of what I was feeling. I was dark and now I’m lighter.

I finally feel more like myself.

I was talking to my parents and explaining that the past few months have been so awful, so scary but I finally feel like I am back. It was like I was taken over by something I couldn’t quite get a handle on, something that made everything worse, made all my emotions magnified and made my mind lie to me.

I thought I was worthless. I thought I was not worthy of love or happiness or friendship or help. I thought I was a burden to everyone. I thought that no one really liked me, no one cared.

Getting help when I was not so sure that it would make a difference was difficult. I didn’t know if I was going to get better, if I would find myself again. If it was worth fighting because I was so defeated and so tired.

Now that I am thinking clearly and feeling more normal, hindsight has kicked in and I can see the past few months for what they were.

I was sick. My mind was sick. I did not have control of whether I was sick or not, it just happened. Like a cold or flu. And I had to rely on help from others … family, friends, professionals … to be able to get well.

I don’t feel totally well, like I’ve got that persistent cough that lingers on after you feel better. I still have to take care of myself and be extra gentle with myself for a while. I don’t want to be sick again.

But for now I focus on healing. Improving each day. I finally believe I am worth it.

I am rising from the ashes.

Three Things

In working with my therapist we have determined that we need to work on my self esteem. I can’t say I’m surprised, honestly I have struggled with my self esteem for as long as I can remember.

I wonder if most people think I’m pretty confident. But that’s not at all true. I can be confident in certain things typically having to do with work; something tangible. But I really don’t have any confidence in myself at all. I never have.

My therapist asked me to say three things that I like about myself. I froze because I had no idea what to say.

I said that I’m smart. I think that is a safe bet, I can figure stuff out for the most part. And certainly others seem to think I’m smart.

I said that I am kind. She agreed based on things I’ve talked about thus far I assume. Honestly I really do try to be kind. I want to help people, make them happy.

Then I got stuck. I simply could not think of anything else.

She suggested that I’m funny and I said “Oh yeah! I’m hilarious!”. I found it odd that I forgot to name the one thing that I love to do, make people laugh.

Then she asked me to name three “external” things I like about myself. As we have discussed in our sessions, I have been very unhappy with my body and appearance for years. So obviously I had some trouble with this one.

I said I have good hair. I’ve colored my hair since I was a teen and it is healthy and nice after all of that. I can pretty much do anything I want with it. And somehow it started having curls which I always wanted growing up.

I said I like my eyes. I’ve never really wore makeup but if I did it was eyeliner because it would highlight my eyes. It’s really the only feature I’ve ever tried to emphasize.

Then I was stumped. I had nothing for the third choice.

It’s clear I need to work on this. My self esteem has always been in the shitter and my confidence is really only based on what I could see affecting others.

Maybe after working on this I’ll end up with many more than three things.

Feeling

As I seem to be “leveling off” (for lack of a better term) after being so all over the place and everything being so over the top and exaggerated, I think I am starting to feel more “real” stuff. I’m not sure if that makes any sense.

It’s hard to explain.

For the last several months, this episode I’ve been going through has felt so scary and unfamiliar. Everything was the end of the world and everything hurt. I’ve really never been so confused and afraid of my own thoughts and feelings.

But now I’m starting to recognize my thoughts and feeling again. They make a little more sense to me, are a little more understandable and better reflect the reality of what is going on around me.

My emotions are still heightened, still exaggerated but not quite a much as before. At least so far.

I’m hoping that everything I have been doing to help myself is finally making a difference. I hope that I am finally getting better.

I have even had a few good days.

IMG_8748

A New Hope

Yesterday was a good day and so far today has been good as well. I’m cautiously optimistic.

I had an appointment with my doctor and because I was feeling so all over the place we decided to be a bit more aggressive in trying to get me out of this depressive episode. We added another medication and increased one I was on. All the medications make be a bit uneasy as I am notorious for experiencing all the side effects but desperate times call for desperate measures.

After adding the newest medication I felt a difference. I felt hopeful that this was finally going to help. I felt more normal.

I have desperately missed feeling normal.

Assuming this new treatment plan works out it likely means a slightly different diagnosis and frankly, one that makes a lot of sense to me.

I could mean that I have Bipolar Disorder.

It was probably 2010 the first time a doctor suggested that might be the case but since I would either be fighting anxiety or depression and never really had any real manic episodes, we just kept on with the typical SSRI kinds of medicines for treatment.

But this time has been so very different than all my other episodes. I have felt low, high, both at the same time (smiling and laughing and crying hysterically), and I have felt so very, very lost. It has been like nothing I’ve experienced before but with hindsight I can look back and see some possible foreshadowing over the years.

Regardless of what diagnosis sticks, it seems clear I needed a new treatment approach and seems that the mood stabilizers are a key piece of that plan. I am very thankful we tried something new.

So hopefully things continue to improve. I have all my fingers and toes crossed.

Great Expectations

I wrote a post with the exact same name on my old blog about 7 years ago. At the time, I focused on how my expectations regarding being a mom had not manifested as I hoped. When I was a kid, all I ever wanted was to be a mom. To stay home and teach and guide them. That was what I assumed my purpose was.

When my kids came along and I tried to be home it just didn’t work out for a variety of reasons. It was incredibly disappointing to have my dream not come to fruition like I thought it should and I had to work through all my feelings there.

Now I find myself circling back to unmet expectations. This time I’m thinking more broadly. Wherever I look, I see myself having expectations that are feeding my negative self-image because I believe those unmet expectations are my fault or a reflection of me somehow.

OK, my therapist helped me see this and once again I realize how every time I go to therapy I rediscover something I already knew but somehow forgot.

I have expectations for myself that I most certainly never live up to. I have expectations for those around me that they are not even privy to much less able to achieve. I have expectations for situations and events because I have played out in my head what I believe are all the possibilities yet real life is never what my brain thought.

I focus on all those unmet expectations and disappointments and totally miss all of the positive around me.

My therapist wants me to note positives throughout the day and work on acknowledging what I perceive as negative and then letting it go or shelving it somehow for later. That’s what I’m trying to do now. I’m keeping a list of daily positives.

I’m trying to release everyone and everything (including myself) from the impossible expectations. Sounds simple, but really difficult for me.

Meet people where they are. Accept situations for what they are. Accept and love myself. Not everything is my fault.

 

Returning

As the latest medication changes start to affect my system, I am happy that the panic attacks and increased anxiety have improved. But the sadness is returning.

It should improve over time but I guess I have to go down again before up. The roller coaster I prefer to never ride.

Last Friday my MIL and I took the kids to a dairy farm to get ice cream, see the cows and feed the calves. We got there early and asked what we should do and were told when to head up to the calf barn.

We snacked and walked around and headed up to the right place at the right time but it was full of people. We hadn’t seen a ton of cars or anything so these folks must have dropped out of the sky and stood in front of every baby cow.

I realized we weren’t going to get to feed the calves and immediately started crying.

It was embarrassing and frustrating, a grown woman crying over not feeding calves.

I was disappointed, sure, but nothing I needed to cry over. We walked outside with the kids asking what’s wrong and me having to explain that my emotions were magnified but that I would be ok.

We headed back in after seeing the baby chicks and my MIL pointed out that many of the littler kids lined up wouldn’t be able to wrangle the calves and so we could still have a chance to feed them. She had said the same before we left the barn but I was too upset to listen.

So we pet all the calves we could, talked to them and it was fun and full of cow slobber.

And, of course, my MIL was right and the little kids couldn’t keep hold of the bottles (they were huge!) so we did get to take turns feeding the calves. I even made sure that a quiet couple next to us got a chance too, they weren’t as quick to jump in when someone was clearly about to give up and walk away.

So all in all we had a good time, did what we went there to do and even helped some others have a fun experience.

Nothing at all to be sad about, right?

I don’t want to feel like this. I don’t want to cry over what really isn’t the end of the world when I don’t even know what the outcome will be.

I don’t want to assume the worst scenario will play out and stop enjoying things because of worry nothing will work out.

It’s so tiring.

I just want to be like an excited baby cow getting its milk and assuming that the milk will never end and this is the best thing ever! Live in the moment like a baby cow!

IMG_8673.jpg

That Dark Day

This is hard to share. I’ve been talking and writing about how I am working through my current battle with my mental state because it helps me to sort through all my thoughts and feelings. It helps me to think that someone might stumble upon my words out here and not feel alone. It helps me to think I might help someone else.

That’s why it has been important to me that I find a way to share my lowest point. But I’ve been afraid to because I fear people will think differently of me. They will not want to be around me anymore. They will decide I’m too much to deal with. I fear I will lose people I care about.

But I have to take that chance if I really want to lessen the shame and stigma of mental illness.

This was a day in early August that I believe I have enough perspective on to finally share. I’ve worked on enough to know I’m in a better place than I was then.


Trigger warning: Suicidal talk

The morning was frustrating. Not really any more than other days. The kids weren’t all that cooperative about getting ready for camp. We were running late. The usual.

I felt annoyed and angry. I felt sad. I dropped them off and headed towards work.

My mind began to go over the morning, go over and over everything. Go over the past. Revisiting and rethinking and reevaluating whatever floats into my brain.

I was just merging onto the highway when I realized the magnitude of what I was thinking.

I wouldn’t want my family to find me. That would be terrible for them. They wouldn’t be able to forget the scene.

I would have to go somewhere else. A park maybe. Somewhere I would be found but not by my family. Somewhere I wouldn’t be lost for long so they wouldn’t have to wonder what happened.

I couldn’t really handle a lot of pain or blood. I don’t know if I could rig some kind of hanging.

It would have to be pills. Something where I went to sleep and never woke up. I don’t know what pills but I could find out. It can’t be that hard to get my hands on something.

Panic.

I’m planning. How did I get to here? How am I planning my suicide?

I begin sobbing. I’m scared. This can’t be happening. I can’t be planning.

I call my husband.

“Can you talk to me?” I utter through sobs. He sounds concerned and he says he can. “What’s wrong?”

I explain where my mind is, how scared I am, I say I need to talk, I need to not be alone.

He listens, he asks questions, he’s there. He’s helping as best as a frightened husband of a wife talking about suicide can be when only connected at the time by phone.

I get to the parking lot at work and I sob and we talk for a while more. I feel as if I have to go in, to start the day, to go into what’s normal to move through and past what just happened in my mind.

It’s a rough day to get through. But I feel I need to be around people even if I don’t really want to be around people.

He was going to drive me home but I believe I’m ok to do it myself. But I was wrong and I am wondering where the parks are as I drive and cry.

I get home and I know I have to get more help.

I have never been like this before. I’ve never begun planning. I’m scared.

But I keep going. One day at a time. I have to get better. This is not how my story ends.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

A Love Hate Relationship

Since my migraines started over 20 years ago, I have been on so many medications I have completely lost count. I’m at the point where someone can name a medication and it is more often than not one that I have been on over the years.

Many medications for preventing migraines are used “off label” or basically because they were prescribed for one reason and over time it became known for migraine prevention as well.

I have been or more than my share of typical mental health related medications because the impact on serotonin and other neurotransmitters for migraine tends to coincide with the impact on mental health issues. And since I’ve also struggled with anxiety and depression for many years (and more so since having kids), the chance of killing two birds with one treatment is very appealing.

Alas, I am ridiculously sensitive to medications. Especially these classes of meds probably because my body has seen so many of them and it just responds with “are you kidding me?!?” whenever another enters my bloodstream.

When I do happen to find something that helps any of my issues, it is one I use for as long as it will hold out because using myself as a medication guinea pig to find a new one just plain sucks.

I was already on a medication for anxiety and depression when I hit my lowest low in early August. When I didn’t start to improve after I few weeks I felt I needed something more.

My doctor and I increased my dosage a bit and the hopelessness and sadness was a little better. But then I fell completely apart.

I was overwhelmed by everything. All the feelings were so magnified and I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t move, I just couldn’t handle anything.

I thought I was just getting worse because of everything going on at the time. I got some upsetting news and I was stressed at work and just a lot of things. School had just started and things were just rough and changing all around me. All things that would typically hit me pretty hard so I just focused on putting one foot in front of the other.

I was broken. I still am very broken. I stopped caring about a lot of things. My chest is always knotted up. This has been me every day multiple times a day.

IMG_8618

It only occurred to me 2 days ago that maybe the medication adjustment is contributing to how much worse I am feeling. Thank goodness I had another appointment with my doctor today.

We decided to go back to my old dosage which, if history is to repeat itself, will no longer be as effective as it was before. This will in all likelihood leave me at least as bad off as I was 2 months ago but possibly worse.

What then? A second medication I have never heard of or taken before to the rescue to create a nice little cocktail that will hopefully level me out so I can focus on getting better.

What are the chances this will work out for me?

I hate battling with my heart and my mind and then adding a battle with the medications intended to help me. I’m always fighting.

Always.

Some battles I win, some I lose only to fight again another day.

 

Some Progress

Maybe there is something to this therapy thing after all.

I’m used to hearing about how negative I am about myself. I hold myself up to impossible standards that are different than those I have for others.

Others can fail and be supported and comforted. Not me.

Others don’t have be perfect. I do.

Others can focus on themselves. I can’t.

My therapist pointed out my negative belief system regarding myself and how I expect that I always make the perfect decision and do the most correct thing or I consider it a failure.

I talk about how I feel the need to control the outcome even when I logically know that I don’t have any control. I always feel like there is something I could have done better. Something I should have known to make a difference.

And then she pointed out that there are little ways to take back some control over a situation that I am overlooking.

It’s a subtle difference, absolute control over what will happen and foreseeing every possible outcome and being prepared for or influencing it vs a little bit of control over a piece that I can actually take some comfort in.

Basically focusing on a real decision I can make, however small, in a situation and recognizing that as a positive choice that I can control.

My therapist is big on breaking things down into smaller pieces to deal with and this is like breaking down a big monster I can’t control into a little piece that I can and then think positively about.

I must admit this has never come up in therapy before. Or maybe it has but I wasn’t in a position to hear or understand it.

I don’t know how much this little nuance will help me but I felt more hopeful after this conversation and I haven’t felt hopeful in months.

I am going to hold onto this and work with it and maybe make a little progress to get better.