Hello Ol’ Chap.

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.

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A budding clinical psychologist with Bipolar I & OCD

At the end of the day I’m an angry old man who has been through the ringer with Lyme Disease, Bipolar Disorder, OCD and a LOT of associated anxiety. Right now I’m at the end of my rope with my life, and while I’m resting at the bottom I’m spending my time balancing rage over the poorly run organization I work for, depression, and my physical health. I’m going to make some changes, and I think some of the changes I’m planning on making would be beneficial for other people in similar boats. (Mine is periwinkle blue though and really hard to keep clean).

At work I’m the rock for the 4 women I take care of with intellectual disability. I chuckle to myself that I can play mom and advocate for them, but I’m terrified when I get a phone call or even get a car wash. I’ve had my car for 5-6 years now and never gotten it washed. How ridiculous is that to admit? And why? Pfft, I can do that CBT exercise where you work backwards to find out why it’s so scary and at the end realize, oh I don’t want to look stupid in front of people even if they’re strangers I’ll never see again, but beyond that, periodic exposure therapy hasn’t been that much help.

That being said, my first change is that I’m going to start cutting out sugars. I did some research on the effects of the body and mind and my three major goals are to reduce Lyme symptoms by feeding the bacteria with sugars, increase my concentration naturally, and have more energy. (Sleeping all day when you’re depressed is also really easy, but not very healthy) I don’t like taking 5 hour naps on my days off and feeling like I need to battle to stay awake every single day. It’ll be a slow process. Cut out pops, juices, desserts, drink more water, eat more lean meats and avocados, blah blah. It’ll also help me lose the weight I’ve been working on dropping with exercise 3 days a week. (That’s a healthy choice I’ve already made).

For the emotional component, I’ve started praying on the daily. I’m a Catholic but I don’t often get to church (Maybe if I had more energy I would). Seriously though that has little to do with the point of this paragraph. The prayer has given me some empowerment over things I can’t control. A little peace of mind and spiritual balance.

Got an autistic sister who you’re horrified for because she won’t express anything to you and has poor sleeping and hygiene habits and you can’t do anything about it? BOOM prayer for her. Obsessive fear (I’ve had this for years) that your house is going to burn down and everything you own destroyed forever? Pray to prevent it. Hey, I know prayer isn’t for everybody, but some sort of ‘spiritual’ balance could be helpful, even if it’s just a peaceful mindfulness that can be practiced. Throw out your positive vibrations into the world you hippies. Do what you have to do. On top of the praying I’d like to find some good guided meditations and practice relaxing my body and speedy thoughts. In the past I’ve done guided meditation and been talking in my head the whole time. It ruins it. When I was in intensive outpatient therapy I used to secretly look forward to guided meditation days, and tried SO hard to make it through the whole half hour long process without messing it all up by thinking.

Lastly, and this is more or less just for me, I’m at that point where I feel like I’m ready to leave my job. I’ve talked a lot in this blog about the injustice that happens there, and how I’m pretty much not interested in being involved in a place run like that anymore. I’ll try to stay in contact with the women so I can always support them to the best of my ability, but I also will never be able to afford an adult life on $12/hour and am shortening my life with the amount of time I spend upset on the daily. In fact my direct supervisor who is a hard working genuinely caring woman is quitting for the same reason after working there a much longer time, getting out of working with the population entirely, taking a HUGE paycut and going to be making what I make. That says a lot when you want to get out THAT bad. And I understand that 100%.

I’m making a change to work at a hospital or clinic I think, working on my updated resume now. When I have the degree in hand in a few months I’ll be qualified for a lot better jobs and would like the clinical environment experience behind me to nudge me in front of the next guy, even though I already have a a year and a half of experience in “the field” now. Psychology, by the way. And when I apply to grad school, I’ll have a year and a half of (unrelated) empirical research on mental health stigma (in particular, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), to take with me.

I know the rest of you out there on the sea of troubles are all coming out of different ports, but if I pass on my pirate knowledge and experience maybe it’ll help you battle the next sea monster. That’s always my #1 hope while in this blogging community. I mean that’s why we go to group therapy too, right? 

Quit that Pickin’!

This is my third full week at the women’s CILA (Community Integrated Living Arrangement). I work with 3 (soon to be 4) adult women of varying ages with developmental and intellectual disabilities. I fought for the position for months and finally got the main full-time position which has been the focal point of my life right now. This is after nearly a year working at the larger group home that houses 100 individuals with these disabilities at the workshop where we teach life skills.

If you follow the BBQ blog, you know how frustrated I was with the laziness and unjustness of the job, and Lord let me tell you how much better it is to be at the CILA. I’m good at my job, I care very much about the women, and I rock at paperwork. Most importantly I’ve lasered off the incompetence of the workshop staff, and finally feel like I have some control. I’ve been calling myself the “house-mother” because, well, I am! (We spent over an hour on our first big grocery shopping trip today and remembering I’m teaching people how to live and behave in the community from scratch can be pretty rough.)

If you were to ask me if I had kids I’d have to say yes my oldest is 58 and my youngest is going to be 3. Remember for 4 years I was a nanny before all this, and if I never have kids of my own I can say I’ve been able to put my motherly personality to work. I’m proud of that. I’ve always had a big heart and a lot of love to give. I’ve also for the longest time felt bad complimenting myself. It’s a tremendously rewarding job and equally as tremendously difficult. I’ve been keeping my spirits up through the rough spots, and the amount of love the girls give me makes me beam. Anyway, on the side I’m carving out my research for my last semester of my undergrad and trying to take care of the family and maintain some semblance of a social life. Take that 3 and a half years of severe agoraphobia that ruined my mid twenties! You can suck a ****. Look at me now! (No worries life, I’m still kinda miserable and that should be reason enough not to need to jinx me).

I’d have to say the hardest part of life right now is waking up. I feel all the little Lyme Disease critter bacteria I’ve been host to for 14+ years crawling under my skin and traveling to work to make me achy and tired and hypersensitive and itchy and all around miserable. Learning to live with chronic physical illness has been a long process but if I can learn to handle living with my chronic mental illnesses as eloquently, I’ll be in good shape to live out the many more decades I hope to be able to.

On that note, I’m at that point in my life where I need a new man…maybe a woman, I mean don’t judge me here…I’m desperate. I need someone kind and understanding who I can laugh with and most importantly who is a psychiatrist who can up my dosage of Luvox. My OCB’s (Obsessive Compulsive Behaviors) have been out of control and my intrusive thoughts have been throwing frat parties on the regular. My skin picking and fear of my house burning down in particular are REALLY bad right now. I’ve also been off of Ritalin way too long.

If I get one thing done tomorrow before my shift, I’m going to try to make it find a doctor who will take my insurance and my hours and get myself there ASAP. I can do this. I can do this…I can do this. Right?

If We Can Change the Lens…

This was passed on to me by someone near and dear who thought I would take interest in it. Now I’m passing it on to you. I thought it was fabulous, funny, smart and inspiring. Normally I lay around with the volume off on the computer. It took me over a week to get my lazy ears clicked into the e-mail this was linked to and actually watch the video. If nothing else, it’s a reminder that those of us with mental illness CAN change our brains, as well as the rest of the average folk who struggle daily too. Aside from being something I can personally relate to, it’s a perfect picture of the person I want to be while I’m speaking in the realm of academia one day after all the years of study I’ve put into my psychology major.

The best of luck to all of us who take the plunge to change,

Bipolar Barbie (Q)

A Whole Bunch of Really Crunchy Thoughts

My to-do list is like decomposing matter. Something that’s new on the list only just begins to decompose, while something that’s been on the list for a week is in a much later state of decomposition. Now imagine all of this matter neatly organized into a basket and left in your stomach. The stomach acids only add to the deconstruction of the matter and because the materials don’t agree, this poisonous gas and slimey ooze starts to fill up the cavity it’s in. When there’s nowhere else for it to go, it crawls through the rest of your body and makes you sick. The pain swelling inside of you makes it even harder to face your to-do list and finally you’re so sick that you want to cry. That’s pretty much been my situation the past couple of weeks. Tonight I can feel the noxious gasses stuck inside of me and trying to push their way out if it kills me.

On a positive note, getting a blog post out of the way will be a good removal of one of the old to-do list items, which should clear up some of the gunk in my system.

I’ve been depressed. I’m working myself to the max in school and at work to do the best job I can do. At work I now have the complication of being treated like crap, because of the whole reporting mistreatment incident. That gives me anxiety while I’m there that I brush off the best I can, but it effects me. Taking care of people for a living effects me too. Every day I go out there, mask my depression or irritation and make sure I’m tending to everyone in the classroom and encouraging them to challenge themselves whilst helping them face those challenges and praising their good work. I sat with one of our clients whose two decades older than I am on Friday and helped him get through word problems on a math sheet. I was SO PROUD of him and he was so proud of himself. It feels good, that’s what gets you through the day, making a difference. A lot of our clients call me mommy. Most all of them are considerably older than me. I feel like Wendy to the Lost Boys some days. But everybody needs a mother.

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After work, if there’s school I need to mask my mood further to interact with my peers, particularly the ones on my research team. Then I go home, and do a few things to help out (laundry, garbage, putting non perishable groceries that have been sitting out away, etc.). Finally by the time I’m showered and in bed I just want to cuddle up with my stuffed Pusheen, play a few casual games on my tablet, and knock out. I probably won’t even get 8 hours of sleep. I’ll remind myself that I’m getting a B in my class, and for how hard I’m working, it breaks my heart and makes me want to hibernate forever. So does the fact that I have no time or energy to go to the gym and shed some pounds. My relationship though is going really amazingly at the moment, and I’m terrified to say that and jinx it, but that’s one of the few happy thoughts that helps me fly.

There are other tender situations. The other night I was already in bed when I heard my dad and sister get home. He had brought her home from school and my mom got up to help make her dinner. I heard their soft voices in the kitchen, everyone calm. We’re a family who takes care of each other. My parents are getting older, and they still baby my Asperger’s sister, which is fine I suppose, but what’s going to happen when they can’t do it anymore? (i.e. when they pass away). Already there’s two things that make me want to throw up at this thought.

First, I can’t deal with the idea of my parents dying. I don’t deal well with change. I don’t even deal well with having an abnormal schedule. I’m not as bad as the clients we have at work who will completely become hulk versions of themselves, but I crumble easy. Even the loss of one of my parents. God. It makes me sick to think about. And when they do pass who will take care of my sister? She literally does not know how to function as an adult in the world. I don’t even know what kind of job she could get. Will it fall to me to support her? Will she let me? She’s insistent she’s normal and can do x, y and z but I don’t think it’s hit her yet that life is going to be a lot harder when she doesn’t have that overflow of support and help to sail through it.

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Fear. Fear is getting to me. I’m having obsessions about these sorts of things on a daily basis. Getting a medication change might help a little. I haven’t had my medicine adjusted in over a year. I need a new doctor though. My GP can keep the refills coming, but can’t adjust any milligrams. Therapy would help too. But can I afford that? Can I afford the TIME even? I need to do something though to assist my mental health, because though I’m functioning well enough, I’m a wreck on the inside and it’s wasting precious seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks and MONTHS of my life. And for what?

I began reading a book called Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. There are some serious laugh out loud moments, and also some very real passages about what it’s like to deal with depression. I’m not finished with it, but I recommend what I’ve so far read of it. Sometimes I get real angry that I didn’t write a charming and funny book about my life yet and get jealous someone else did, but this one I enjoy without the resentment.

On page 132, there was a particular passage that struck home, and I thought I’d share it with you.

“And that’s the most frustrating thing about depression. It isn’t always something you can fight back against with hope. It isn’t even something–it’s nothing. And you can’t combat nothing. You can’t fill it up. You can’t cover it. It’s just there, pulling the meaning out of everything. That being the case, all the hopeful, proactive solutions start to sound completely insane in contrast to the scope of the problem.

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It would be like having a bunch of dead fish, but no one around you will acknowledge that the fish are dead. Instead, they offer to help you look for the fish or try to help you figure out why they disappeared.

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The problem might not even HAVE a solution. But you aren’t necessarily looking for solutions. You’re maybe just looking for someone to say ‘Sorry about how dead your fish are,’ or ‘Wow, those are super dead. I still like you, though.’”

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In conclusion, I’m struggling right now. And to all of you out there who are reading this and struggling too, I’m sorry about how dead your fish are.