Mental Health App Review: Pacifica

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. Muscle Relaxation: (FREE) Tense up and release all over your body. One of the best ones.
  4. Mindful: Senses: (FREE) Grounding through the five senses. Guided attention from one sense to another. Good meditation.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Mindful: Body Scan: Grounding through attention to your body in it’s environment. Virtually the same as the sleep meditation.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Sleep: Focus on the body. Guided awareness of bodily sensations. I find muscle relaxation a superior meditation to achieve same end to sleep, personally.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.

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I’m the Queen of Run-on’s

As my depression has spiraled into the lowest point it’s been in quite some time my immune system has gone tumbling down with it. So, on top of feeling emotionally defeated, I have a scratchy throat, body aches and the sniffles. Totally how I want to spend my existence right now. You know, I’m being mindful just living in the moment and stuff. The achy, shitty moment where I can’t remember where I hit the Sleeping Beauty button that allows me to wait for things to get better.

Last night I spent having a very loud conversation with myself (in my thick head, where I spend most of my time since all of the things I feel like responding to socially are full of some kind of passive aggressive poison and that’s pretty counter productive, but so is being isolated from other people) full of rage for not being in control of huge chunky life situations I’ve recently encountered.  Though I know I’m not being realistic here feeling as though I should be able to control everything, I kind of wallowed in my swamp of an emotional state. Wondered if this life is hell. Pondered why anyone would have any sympathy for someone whose always depressed and has been depressed for an extended period of time. Recently (and by recently I mean two days ago) I had a friend I haven’t spoken with in a while ask me why I don’t go see a counselor in response to me saying I’m pretty depressed at the moment but happy with work (you know, small talk, “Hey Bipolar Barbie how are you?” “Fine” is the socially acceptable answer you should give by the way). At that moment in time I decided I was done responding to pretty much all messages and e-mails on a social level and don’t really care if I have any friends anymore. Rofl. Look at me using internet slang like “rofl” in my blog. Insanity.

depressionarmy:  There are still so many misconceptions about depression.:

I usually equate situations like this (though I haven’t personally had one of these in years) to how if someone were to say they were having a hard time in chemo or that they had a cancer relapse that the out-pour of support and community candle vigils would be epic. Mental illness? Well, just the term sounds bad in itself. Mental health issues? Sounds pretty pathetic too. Depression? An overused tossed around term for general sadness unless you’ve had or have it. So what do you do ey? I’ve been studying mental illness stigma for a year and a half now and honest to God even I find myself in the midst of it because that’s the culture I’ve grown up in and it’s hard to disassociate myself with it especially when being bipolar and being depressed and BEING ocd is guilt producing and announcing it in any way shape or form other than an anonymous public forum like this blog is just me “looking for attention” or a “cry for help” you know, that kind of garbage. I sound so pretentious to myself right now. As if I’m entitled to feelings and things like that.

Well, I’ve spent plenty of time finding activities to keep me busy and I cross off and list all of my daily accomplishments. I have a job where I help people that I’ve worked toward getting for years and I’m doing well at and am proud of myself. I run the CBT thought logs in my head and sometimes scribble them on paper and I use positive self talk when I don’t feel like I’m being carried upright by a steel pole that I can’t get any good posture with while it’s impaling me. I try to meditate and I keep a log of my mood and circumstances surrounding it as well as time stamp it. It’s just hard, existing that is, so that’s that.

Oh bother, I am a Barbie of very little brains.

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?

In My Head

How often are you ‘in your head’? If you like the color purple, prefer paper bags to plastic at the grocery store, and don’t like getting water in your ears, you, like me, are often in your head! (At least that’s what Buzzfeed would deduce). I’m so much so in my head, that it seemed a valid hypothesis of Chris’ as to why I never remember how to get anywhere we’ve been a thousand times. I’m not ‘paying attention’ as well as other absent-minded habits I have. I was so much in my head tonight, that I finally got out of bed and decided now was the time to blog for the week.

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Christmas last year made me want to throw up. When I was younger people used to talk about how dysfunctional their families were and I felt bad for them. Mine was great. I looked forward to holidays. Now thinking about getting together with my mom’s side of the family is something I dread. My cousins are SO different now than when we were growing up. We have hardly anything in common and pretty much talk only on Christmas these days. I’m going to make the effort to text them this week, try to spark conversation, and hopefully remedy some of that break in social tension. At least it’s tense for me. I hate the fact that all we do is exchange presents and watch each other bicker with our respected siblings. My Asperger’s sister got so wound up with me for some tiny thing I said that I can’t even remember that she pretty much said the only thing she said all night which was to bash me in a rage. After that everyone was silent, and we didn’t really pick up the mood because we had no games to play. I felt like crying. The only ‘good’ part of Christmas is the morning of that I spend with my immediate family. I’d best cherish this Christmas, for it’ll be my last as an undergraduate college student.

You read right. I’ll be graduating Fall 2015! It’s much later than I’ve wanted to have graduated, but having the fog of not knowing if there was anything I was missing lifted from my shoulders, I feel so much better about it. I spent the past year and a half avoiding talking to my adviser in the department. I was terrified to see him and it ended up being no big deal after all. In fact, it was a pleasure. I only need one more class to graduate, which will take one semester. The thing that’s pushing graduation two semesters instead of one is that I need to complete my Capstone project. Everyone in the department needs to complete one before graduating. There are a few options, but Dr. F (my adviser, and the only currently working clinical psychologist in the department), knowing my ‘condition’ and anxieties recommended me do the independent study. Not only do I get to work independently, but I get to work with Dr. F, who everyone wants to work with. He’s always booked with max students he can mentor for their projects. He’s doing me such an honor by taking me on and instead of making me wait until Fall to begin my project (which is when I’m officially in a time slot to work with him for) he’s having me start in the Spring which will prevent me from taking yet another semester to graduate. I’m thrilled. Because his field of study is abnormal psychology, I get to pick something in that realm I’m interested in. (Bipolar Disorder anyone!?) To make things all the more relieving, I don’t have to think about a project proposal until the Spring semester starts. I’m going to work my ass off to ace my one class, and impress the board with my independent study. That’s the official plan.

Announcing my excitement wasn’t the only thing I wanted to bring up in this post. Remember earlier in this post when I mentioned about throwing up? I did that two nights ago after going out with Chris (and meeting our friend and his date) who had free tickets to a concert. It urged me to pose the question to my fellow bipolar peers, how much can you drink? This is a more complicated question than it sounds and it started the year I was diagnosed. My boyfriend at the time said that an ex girlfriend of his was bipolar and could either out-drink anyone who came her way and not get drunk, or after a glass of wine be plastered. I feel like that’s the same for me. I had four shots of vodka, an IPA and a quarter of some wheat beer and didn’t feel a thing. No buzz, no loosening up, it was a waste of money and for that I’m glad that I didn’t pay for most of it, and I feel bad that I didn’t pay for most of it too in that regard. I never know what to expect when it comes to drinking anymore. I had an okay time, but was as I usually am, stuck in my head.

One of the things I was stuck in my head about was a very brief conversation piece I had with Chris on the way home. To make a long story short we have a very long history of dating, not dating, helping each other get through the mud of life, and right now he’s in no mood to be in a relationship with anyone. I’ve been in love with him for years, and see myself being alone if I don’t end up marrying him. If he were to get married I’d never speak with him again, to be frank. As long as I love him, he’ll be the only person I want to be with. I’m short-sighted I suppose you could say. I already can read your mind that you’ve been through this as well and I’ll be surprised to find someone else. No worries, I know it’s not an impossibility. I’m just speaking in the moment and the past several years of momentary feeling.

That being said, it brings us to our conversation. I told him something I was thinking about for months now. If he and I aren’t together as a couple or married by the time I’m 36 I’d like him to donate his sperm to me so I can be artificially inseminated with it and have the baby I’d love to have. He thinks I’m crazy and he won’t do it. I don’t blame him, but still it hurts to hear. It wouldn’t be the same having some stranger’s baby I pick out of a book. My mom was 37 when she had me. I always thought that was old and made me sad because I felt like my peers would all have more time with their mothers who had them when they were younger. That I’d be shorted precious time, but that’s pretty much a realistic cut off age if I want children. I can live without them, but I’m such a mom at heart truly. I mean I’m also a six-year-old at heart, but I guess that’s the goofy balance I’m meant to have. I love and adore the children I nanny for and wish I had my own children to spoil and teach and watch grow. It’s selfish as well I know. For me, I wouldn’t care if Chris wanted any parental responsibility and he’d have no reason to assist financially, but in the end its half his child. Oh well, it’s just something that’s been chewing on my heart for a bit.

Ahh, hopefully now I can sleep. Tomorrow I need to do my job search, pick up my thyroid medication and reply to blog responses from last week. I promise to do my best to accomplish all of those things! I always feel vastly accomplished when I do manage to complete the tasks for the day no matter how menial they are. I recommend making a check list mentally or physically for the day and crossing things off as you go. It’s helped me a lot.

You’d all best be doing fantastically today WordPress family, or I’ll come looking for ya!

Carve Your Heart Out Yourself

My dad was vacuuming the stairs when I told him I wanted to switch majors from marketing to psychology. He made a joke of it at the time and I felt miserable. Now I wonder of its the worst decision I’ve ever made in my life.

This isn’t the first night I’ve lost sleep over how long it’s taken me to finish my undergraduate degree, but it is the first which I’ve posed that particular thought. I spent the past five-ish years just destroying my life, not doing well in school because of ADHD or Bipolar episodes or that HORRIBLE year long agoraphobia which kicked it all off. I basked in hiding and avoiding and got really good at it. When it came out that I completely SCREWED myself no one was happy, but I was forgiven by my immediate family (The extended family is still wondering wtf my problem is). Watching my GPA fall for no good goddamn reason other than I’m a complete mentally ill screw-up (Chris likes to point out how bad I am at life which doesn’t help my self-hatred) the past few years has been heartbreaking.

I just worked up the courage to do something I’ve been avoiding for nearly a year: e-mailing my school councilor in the department to see if I can make an appointment and see what I have left to graduate. I did it a couple times over a year ago and then ended up getting too terrified to go to those appointments. I’m PRETTY SURE it’s just the Capstone project and the senior lab class…but they both give me insane anxiety. Firstly, I wasn’t properly trained for the SPSS program that gets used in the lab class and I’m terrified it’ll screw me over and secondly I have no idea what the hell I’m going to do for my Capstone. I looked into what classes I would need to finish my undergrad in Anthropology (my minor) or Marketing, but I seem to have several classes left to complete for either. Shit, I was amazing at History in community college, I should have gone into that. I wouldn’t have a Capstone to complete in any of those fields. This fucking Capstone is eating at my insides. Just the IDEA of it has been haunting me the past couple years.

I spent this semester off looking for a job. Well, I’m still unemployed. I have a phone interview coming up for a position as a Behavioral Therapist at an entry level which is INSANELY AWESOME but I’m so run down from being shot down from all the jobs I’ve had interviews with that I feel like there’s no reason to get my hopes up. It won’t stop me from doing my best to get the job though. Being a therapist for autistic children or troubled youth has been something I’ve felt would be rewarding and I’ve been trying to get into. I figured with my degree I’d work my way into being a high school psychologist.

I think maybe I should be able to sleep now getting all that out. All I want to do is win the lottery and never have to think about all this pressure to graduate and make a legitimate living for myself as soon as possible. Some days it feels like I just want to be dead so I don’t have those problems, but I’ve learned that I really don’t want to die, so by default I’m screwed…