As a student researcher on mental illness stigma I was impressed to see an article about high functioning depression recently. Unfortunately in my opinion it fell a little flat of the full picture and per usual, unless I’m reading an empirical case study, I’m selfishly irritated with the pop-psych paragraph or two about the strong Suzie Superheroes that go to school and work full time and are still sad inside (but her peers just can’t tell!)
I’d prefer reading an article collaboration by a collection of highly functioning depressed adults that show the individual unique experiences as well as the common struggles. Where is the paragraph of Suzie Superheroes that talks about how the only time she feels relief from the physiological discomfort that rises from her anxiety and depression is when she’s laying in bed and can’t sleep and thinks about how tension relieving it must feel like to pop your teeth out one at a time? Are all Suzie Superheroes having that thought? Likely not, but it’s an accurate example portrayal of how everyone’s depression oppresses them differently, and how brutally gritty it can be.
Today I was ready to quit my job, hitchhike to New Zealand and sleep on a beach for the rest of my life. Like legit, sleeping beauty 100 years of ZzZ’s kind of sleep. That or hop into traffic. Of course I know better, so I went through the motions and have socially self isolated myself to deal with my emotional tetanus privately. THAT way, I don’t have to feel the associated guilt about being a pathetic mope whose no fun to be around. I merely just pine after and resent the lack of an out pour of love and hugs and verbal reassurance that I am special and loved. I know the lows get better eventually, they generally do, but the perpetual sadness even in a baseline state of being is no way to live.
Kleenex must make bank off of folks like me. Shit.
After 2 failed attempts at finding a new psychiatrist (one is booked for the next two months and the other is listed as taking my insurance then e-mailed to say, “just kidding! I don’t take any insurance; though for a small fee of $450 upfront in full I can give you 90 minutes of my time for an intake”.
My mixed bipolar episode of 2-3 weeks and counting (once I caught on that’s what was happening to me I had to go back in time to measure when symptoms started) has destroyed my bank account, led me to making a huge fool of myself, overwhelming numbers of grandiose projects started, absurd thoughts, lost sleep, crying before and after work (and at home, and driving to the grocery store…) and most recently the urge to drop dead (as well as an increase of run on sentences). It’s destroying me!
Today I felt as though I had reached rock bottom, then reminded myself that it’s a simple step to keep digging even if I don’t mean to and fall even further down the jagged path until I reach the center of the earth and burn to a crisp. Worry not though readers, I’m WAY too terrified of the idea of hell to off myself.
Oh yeah, the psychiatrist thing. I threw a metaphysical dart at the pdf file that Blue Cross sent; a list of doctors who take my insurance plan. Looks like I’m seeing some quack Monday morning. I did some snooping for reviews after I made the appointment which either said he was horrible and should take up a job cleaning up vomit or that he’s fabulous.
Regardless, I’m hoping for a medication adjustment and a STRONG anti depressant. CBT, mindfulness, gratitude journals, listing all the things I’m great at and why life is worth living can take you only so far. At the moment it’s all a bunch of ineffective or joke worthy garbage in my state of mind and Obi Wan-Kenobi (obviously a metaphor for expensive Western medicine) is my only hope.
I have popped my head out of the gopher hole and I leave you this. I will return after marathon mind has ended and I can focus once again.
There are times that I want to pull my wiring out so I can’t turn on. Now is one of those times and tomorrow is a day I would prefer to spend plugged into the Matrix, chowing down on tender, delicious, juicy steak.
Now it was last Tuesday evening that I received the news by electronic raven (dark wings, dark words) that he’s been seeing someone else and that’s really the only background info that’s necessary. I initially felt like the world had ended (This time, for ceetain) followed by self deprication. Then I got mad, then numb and I’ve caved and allowed my great talent for depression to weave its magic, binding my brittle emotions into one largely miserable one. Any other emotions are just tiny crumbs that shed off as the ball rolls around inside my body.
I had a stomach bug all weekend, the compact emotions have made me HIGHLY sensitive to constructive feedback at work and if you were to ask how I’m feeling right now I’d tell you to please put my responsibilities on freeze (as if they were a gym membership) and allow me time to recover. Not that you ever really recover from that kind of deep loss but scars do beat open wounds in these cases.
The Pacifica app is a new find with a bit of everything to track and treat your mental health on the go. There are some great aspects of this well rounded app and some things I’d like to see improved. If you want the condensed version, Yes. I would recommend this to a friend.
What you’ll see first is the “Mood” screen. You can log your mood between “great” and “awful”. If you’d like, you have the availability to write in details associated with the logged mood. From this page you can also quickly navigate to a journal/thought log which you can do a minimalist version of CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) which is recorded and can be referred back to.
This feature allows you to write a distressing thought, highlight the inaccurate or negative parts of the thought/feeling and recognize the cognitive distortions. What I appreciate about this bit of the app is that while it’s on my phone, I can conveniently plug in my negative or obsessive thoughts without having to scribble them down elsewhere and then transfer them to a journal I keep specifically for CBT. Seeing as how it’s usually too much of a hassle to keep my CBT logs together I don’t do them, this allows me to have them in some form. Cool, right? What I don’t like is that if you want to go back to edit the thought later, there is no option to.
There is also a Goals section. You can choose a long term goal (mine is “feel less stress or anxiety in social situations”) and choose daily goals. Write your own or pick from a large selection of pre-made challenges such as ‘sit in the front during class or a meeting’. There’s a tab that logs your completed challenges. Though this is nice in concept,
The Health section allows you to decide what goals you’d like to meet for yourself every day to stay well. Hours of sleep, minutes exercising, etc. If midnight rolls around and you forgot to check in, you can tap back a day and fill out the information (this feature is unavailable on the website). This is great for folks like me who tend to neglect remembering to fill it out until 12:02am and then have to back up.
Social aspects of the app include Groups (“Groups are private chats centered around peer support”), and Community, which is more of a forum than a chat room. Again these are great concepts. I feel that Groups lacks the depth it could have. With hundreds of members in a 1 section chat room it’s hard to lose focus or let everyone have a turn like you can in a forum setting. However, in Community, which offers some more of that depth, it lacks in the availability of mental health support groups. I love that it has forum space for things like books and general community, but I would prefer to be in a forum about Bipolar Disorder (and OCD) rather than a chat room about it with people that tend to dominate the conversation and a lack of back to back chatter that makes a chat room a great place to communicate (you’ll see people responding every few hours or so instead of seconds).
For $3.99 a month you can unlock all of the meditations (“Relax Now”). There are 15 altogether. You get the first 4 free. I took the bait and gave them my money for a month and was able to review all of the meditations for you guys. I mean the only way to tell if they’re worth it for you personally is to try it, and I believe that they ought to give you a one month free trial option to begin with. I also think that one thing that would make a subscription worth it is if they were to give a different meditation every month or two. Even if they switched it out and gave a different one to replace it, I feel like I’d be on board for that subscription. For all the searching I’ve done for guided meditations, I find these pretty good. They’ve made fitting 5-20 minutes of meditation a day into my routine very easy. 1-5 a day is my goal, but the meditations don’t drag and are to the point which allows for the option of multiple before bedtime.
Breathing is largely practiced across all meditations. Each meditation also has the opportunity to have either “No Soundscape” or any of these options to accompany the meditation: Ocean Waves, Thunderstorm, Summer Night, Rooftop Rain, Forest Morning, Bach Cello Suite #1, Underwater, White Noise. When the meditation is finished you can “return” or continue sounds. Minor interrupts are noticeable in some soundscapes when sound loop ends. They are most noticeable in the “unguided meditation” which I’ve found soothing to fall asleep to.
- Deep Breathing: (FREE) Text tells you when to inhale/exhale. There’s a visual that also widens/becomes smaller as inhaling and exhaling is prompted. You have the option to ‘play breathing sounds’. You can pick your breath length as well in 1 second increments (between 5-25 seconds – holy lord if you can do 25 second inhale/exhales).
- Unguided Meditation: (FREE) Just soundscapes here. Length between 5 and 30 minutes, increments of 1 minute. I tend to throw on 15 minutes of Ocean Waves and go to bed without anxiety of having not turned off the sounds. I love the timer option.
- Muscle Relaxation: (FREE) Tense up and release all over your body. One of the best ones.
- Mindful: Senses: (FREE) Grounding through the five senses. Guided attention from one sense to another. Good meditation.
- Mindful: Breathe: Awareness of body sensations while breathing. Attention to the fact your mind may wander and that it’s okay. What I like about THIS meditation in particular is that at the end you get some closure. It says when you’re ready to return to the space around you. They need this in more of them. The lack of ‘closure’ in some of these meditations is a big turn off for me.
- Mindful: Observe: Find a small physical object to hold in your hand during meditation. Focus on this item, guided examination of it, an open and closed eyes exercise. This would be a good soothing meditation in a public place with headphones if you were anxious.
- Mindful: Body Scan: Grounding through attention to your body in it’s environment. Virtually the same as the sleep meditation.
- Anxiety Emergency: Whereas other meditations start with breathing, this jumps first to tell you you’re going to be okay and these are just sensations that are real. “Trust you’re getting all the air you need in this moment.” Grounding using 5 senses. Good meditation. Then affirmations putting logic and control over anxious thoughts/sensations. I’m not a huge fan of all affirmations such as, “I am safe”. I mean I get it, but what if you’re not?! I think something like, “These thoughts can’t hurt me” would be better.
- Visualization: Pick your breath length before you start. It’s hard to navigate if you want to record your own mantra with the lack of instructions. They do have ones to choose from though if you’d prefer like, “This too shall pass” and, “I love myself”. Personally, not a fan of this one.
- Sleep: Focus on the body. Guided awareness of bodily sensations. I find muscle relaxation a superior meditation to achieve same end to sleep, personally.
- Gratitude: Focus on something you’re grateful for. ‘Analyze’ the goodness. Affirmations after. More generalizable than ‘cheesy’ self compassion mantras in later listed meditation. Nice relaxing exercise.
- Becoming the Tree: Visualize a tree you’re seen before with some significance. Attention to the environment that has an affect on the tree and how it stands strong regardless of environment. Tree goes through changes, so do you, blah blah blah. It’s decent.
- Difficult Experience: Visualize experience that brought up difficult emotions. Examples to help. Allow yourself not to suppress details and physical sensations. Label what you feel. Make it a physical item. I like this one a LOT, but the ending of it doesn’t make me feel super awesome. Perhaps I need more practice.
- Self Compassion: Environmental and inner state mindfulness. There’s a prompt to bring to mind something you’re self-critical about and bring attention to sensations in your body triggered by these thoughts then compassionate mantras.
- Intense Emotions: Focus’ on bringing attention to thoughts and feeling and to label them as being just that, while stressing that it’s okay to feel what you’re feeling. For someone feeling intense emotions, I’d recommend the anxiety or difficult experience meditations before this one, but it’s still a good listen.
Thanks for reading folks. Go on now, give it a try.