A pinch of apps, a spoonful of mood tracking

The waters of life have set storms in my direction I haven’t until now experienced the past couple months and I ought to sing how grateful I am that I’ve stayed afloat and haven’t drowned by now, my initial ship is now a bit of a flat raft with a worn bed sheet as a sail, and so if you were to ask how I’m doing I’d say that I’m managing the heat stroke and paddling in the right direction. Managing my functionality is the name of the game.

From the ashes of some of my wrecked ship pieces has come the idea for a website which is currently under construction. I’m tremendously proud that I brought the idea to life and have finished one full page about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Aside from mental health it will also address Lyme Disease which I have over a decade of experience with. I will be having a blog for both topics on the site. Right now, it’s still a baby, but it’s what I’ve been up to (aside from working all the time and an increased rage associated with the companies professionalism).

Breathing and meditation are just not for me. It’s like coffee. Coffee ‘doesn’t work for me’. I can drink an iced coffee with 4 espresso shots and feel only a bit more energized for a short period of time. Breathing is good for grounding but not very soothing to me. Same with meditation. I’d rather talk aloud or hum to hear my voice and inner monologue what it feels like to be driving. I’ve been using an app called “VitalTones” and using their app for decreasing anxiety, I’ve done it daily for a couple weeks and haven’t seen a difference. I’m logging my moods on an app called “Mood Log” and making a note with every entry about what’s happening at the time I’m logging my number mood 1-10 (1 being worst mood 10 the best) and then transferring all the daily data to my journal, averaging mood and anxiety and then graphing it, and will bring to my doctor. Here’s a page from my journal:

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As you can see, I haven’t been feeling too great. As far as anxiety goes, 1 is lowest anxiety, 10 is highest. At the moment I’m writing this I’m about a 6.5. In an ideal world I’d log my mood every 10 minutes, but I don’t have the drive for that on a day off nor do I have the luxury on a work day. That would give the most accurate depiction. I feel like a lot of the time my 7-9 anxiety doesn’t get logged because I’m busy and then my averages look more like a 4 or 5 rather than what is more likely a 6 or 7. Logging my mood has made me feel as if I have more control in managing my functionality. I recommend it. I also recommend the whole breathing and meditation thing, but I also have to say do what works for you. What gets you through the day? The hour? The minute?

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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?

Bubbling Brain Bog

News coverage of the most recent big shooting poses more evidence to my research hypothesis on perceptions of mental illness based on media and pop culture exposure. Why is the young white male gunman the face of mental illness? Anyway…

The indent in my mattress I get pulled into has been ticking me off. I can’t even sleep right now because every time I start to fall into the slope I feel like punching the adjoining wall. Obviously not productive.

Waking up with obnoxious full body pains and hypersensitivity have made mornings headed to work hell and I’m even hypersensitive to smells. All of these things are daily occurrences and as I lay in my uneven bed right now smelling God knows what’s been reheated and wanting to jump out of my skin, I can genuinely report my current mood is 3 of ten with more anger and resentment at the world around me than depression. Though I may add if there was a theme for the day it was in fact, depression.

I’ve been trying to combat the heavy mental weights by jotting down minor events and accomplishments. Examples of this are that I test drove the car I want to buy and that I made great progress in the RPG I’m playing. Counting up the little things in written form has always helped raise morale and one day when I’m a certified therapist I will most definitely insist my clients do the same.

Being a small time hero and all around “good guy” at work has been rewarding. On the other hand my scumbag supervisor drove me up a wall so high last week that had I felt like screaming and crying. Thankfully I’ve trained myself to withhold (most) emotional reactive outbursts. (Makes me step back and note how I never stop growing and learning.) Only good people should be allowed to work as supervisors. It reminds me of a history course I took where I learned that the first “police” in early America were thugs, amongst other ugly things.

I’m taking an online course on bartending I purchased for 5 bucks on groupon just to do something out of the ordinary. I’m reading the Grimm fairy tale compilation in my journey to become a master folklorist. I’m considering taking a non credit acting class just for me. I miss Chris, whose isolating in his own depression…and making me feel uncomfortably disconnected with him. I plan on starting to take walks or do strength training at the gym. I just need to recreate the habit and get healthy. Starting is the hardest. These are things in my life.

Oh, bother.

When It’s Out of Your Hands, What Can You Do?

Decay. It’s a generally awful emotional and physically sour feeling that’s only offset by the new LED (color changing) tea candles I placed in glass holders I got from the dollar store yesterday that are illuminating my dark room. Since I started working full-time this has become a routine feeling on Sunday nights. Usually Sunday’s are when I sit down with myself and rage about the big depressing offenders in my life whether I want to think about these things or not.

Tonight’s reasons why I feel like I’m decaying are as follows:

1. Finances. Two weeks ago I slipped and sprained my spine and neck. I’m healing, though slowly, and I missed out on a week’s pay as well as gotten written up for poor attendance even though I had three doctor’s notes. You know 9/10 times a co-worker who sees something drop will not pick it up for me even if I’m wearing a back brace and knows I’m not allowed to bend? For example, a client in a walker’s hat fell to the floor. The co-teacher subbing for my regular partner saw this, and passed both of us by.

2. Work. I wish the state would make their yearly visit to check up on the facility I work at already and catch-all the sons of b’ches (TEACHERS! STAFF!) who are sitting around on their phones or leaving their assigned rooms to socialize in other rooms OR EVEN SLEEPING DURING CLASS TIMES and teach them a lesson. Also, I’d like them to see how in the lowest functioning room all of the activities are missing pieces or the pieces are all mixed up in different activities to sort which don’t belong together and the only reason those two things are occurring is because of the laziness of the staff. Even the fact that staff see marker’s are sitting there uncapped, they don’t even say anything to the capable clients to cap them OR to take matters into their own hands. When I had to sub for a half hour twice last week in that room I was so disgusted I felt like throwing a HUGE fit. But if I do? Nothing will happen. None of my concerns to my immediate supervisors/boss are addressed. If anything, I’m just set to be made to feel uncomfortable.

You know that in my three-month review I was told that because I told my co-workers we couldn’t go through a client’s bag without their permission because it was against client rights that I have to work on my communication skills with them? No ******* joke. It’s going down in my file as a mark against me. I’m SO glad to be working with “A” in the class I’m in right now. She’s like a trustworthy aunt who shares my work ethic. We’re about to lose some staff when the small group homes open and we’re starting two new male staff in the coming weeks. We had one new female staff start when I was out that week with my spinal injury and my impression of her thus far is that she’ll fit right in. That being said there is nothing positive I have to say about her. Get a job prostitution is my suggestion to more than half the staff. They already suck **** at their jobs. These are intellectually and developmentally DISABLED people that we, the staff are RESPONSIBLE for. It’s unfair.

3. General Health. Following up on the fact that my back still hurts, I also feel that centipedes under your skin hypersensitivity that only Lyme Disease can give you and I’m just straight up physically uncomfortable in my own skin. My sleep is poor and my fatigue is out of control. I’ll likely need a change of…

4. Medication. I need to call the community mental health center and get an intake appointment scheduled. I’m scared about doing it, but I need a psychiatrist I can see at only hours that they can provide. I likely need a little medication tweaking, as well as I’d like to get back on ADD meds which I could benefit from so much right now, and my thyroid may be the source of my fatigue which gives me anxiety because finding an endocrinologist I can see at convenient hours will also be difficult. Especially one that takes public aid.

5. Travel and Punctuality. It’s nearing the 10 days in which I get to dogsit and though I’m THRILLED for the little mini-vacation, I’m going to be doing a LOT of driving to and from work and the apartment, then to school, all places that aren’t very close to each other. The driving doesn’t concern me, but the “Oh god I hope I get there on time.” dread is already getting to me. The days I won’t need to travel and stalk the city streets for parking will be welcomed with open arms.

School. After finding out that my adviser was going to be leaving the university he passed me off to two candidates he felt would be able to help me get my independent study underway. One said she’d be taking a leave of absence in the fall and wouldn’t be able to help me either, the other passed me off to someone else who pretty much stopped communicating altogether and very obviously did not want any part of it. So I sent an e-mail earlier today to the original advisor, letting him know that now I’m an extra semester behind in doing the last thing I need to do so I can graduate. It’s not my job to know exactly what I’m supposed to do without any guidance. If it was, and I did know, I’d be done yesterday. I feel like ALL my confidence I had at the beginning of the semester has been pulverized, and even the anxiety I wasn’t feeling at the beginning of my lab class is catching up with me.

So yeah. By the end of every day since we’ve last spoke WordPress, I’ve pretty much felt pretty hopeless. I hope all of you guys out there are staying strong and kicking ass. I’ll catch up with you folk shortly.

Sorry for the absence

I haven’t had a pain free day in coming in on 12 years this August. I never went into remission from Lyme Disease, so I get flare ups during my Post Lyme Syndrome. That’s what they call where I’m at now. Did the heavy antibiotic treatment for a couple years, did the pills and the PICC line, graduated high school a year after all my peers, and suffered from debilitating anxiety ever since. You’d never have guessed I was a budding actress with theater, film and television training. I was a different person, someone I just don’t think it’s realistic I can ever be again.

Tonight I ache enough to keep me up and kick off my writing again. On a scale of one to ten since the diagnosis graduated from Lyme to Post Lyme, my daily pain usually stays a solid four or five. On flare up nights like tonight the pain ranges full body 7 to 8.

The past week the pain has been creeping up on me. The first fear that runs through my mind is that it means I’m officially diabetic. Diabetes killed grandpa, and in recent years it’s been a budding concern. Even if I was, with the way my insurance is now I can barely afford a doctor’s visit every three or four months let alone pay for insulin. I’m already on Metformin, but that’s thankfully affordable.

Second fear is that I’m lactose intolerant, a much lesser concern. Or maybe it’s because I’m in constant contact with my phone and it’s radiation poisoning.

In the end, due to my paranoia I googled “chronic muscle pain.” You figure when you have your Lyme under control 90 percent of the time that very painful ten percent has to be because of something else, but even the article I read said this,

” Sometimes chronic Lyme disease can be the cause of constant body aches. With symptoms such as marked fatigue, severe headache, widespread musculoskeletal pain, tender points in characteristic locations, pain and stiffness in many joints, impairment of sensation, difficulty with concentration, memory loss, and sleep disturbances, it is remarkably similar to that of fibromyalgia and CFS.”

Back when I was diagnosed nobody talked about Lyme Disease. At least now there’s some attention drawn to it. It was a doozy to diagnose.

The paragraph made me smile sadly reminding me about why I can’t concentrate, retain memories, and have terrible sleep. How am I supposed to hit the gym in so much discomfort?

Aside from my physical difficulties I’ve been isolated emotionally dealing with some depression. Chris, whose back in the picture, and my immediate family are the only people I’ve paid much attention to the past month. The guilt of virtually ignoring everyone else is overwhelming and feeds the urge to isolate further to avoid confrontation after my absence. I even fell away from you, WordPress family, and that guilt has gotten me too.

But hey, life really isn’t that bad. I could be a lot worse off. Just have to take it a minute at a time, and hope for the best.