Saturday, April 02, 2011

Take time to smell the flowers: Limiting the stress in my life

I'm gradually getting less stressed out, since having moved into my new apartment. I'm still stressed, but of course, everyone is stressed. I did take the advice of those of you who left comments on my last post, and listened to my best intuition about the situation of my family expecting me to fly to another state with my grandmother, in the midst of critical deadlines in my college class, a job where they won't want to let me off work for the several days that would be required, the symptoms that have been popping up lately such as hearing voices again, and the stress of moving which was just last I'm not taking the trip.

I know this isn't going to go over well with my grandmother. She doesn't really understand, and I don't think really would want to understand, about mental illness, so it is not something we discuss. She knows about it, but what she knows exactly I'm not sure of. She was told by my mother that I would accompany on this trip, so I left it to my mother to tell her I'm not, since I had not ever agreed to do this in the first place, and I really cannot do it right now. I wish that I could. I adore my grandmother, and being that she is quite elderly, of course I do not want to hurt her feelings or leave her to feel scared on an airplane. But now my uncle is going to be taking the whole trip with her, and she will not be alone. I am not sure if my uncle stepped in because he found out I wasn't going to do it, or not. It's possible he really wants to go to Disneyworld. Something my mom planned for us all to do without consulting me or my brother or sister first. My mom loves Disneyworld. Because it involves extensive walking in hot weather, which is really physically difficult for me, I do not love Disneyworld. And I have been there many times on family trips. I really could do without going there this month.

Sometimes, I'm sure in all of our lives, the issue comes up about how to explain our illness to others. How to, and when to say, "No, I really cannot do that right now". And when to say, "This is what I am dealing with right now, if you would like to know..." I have to say that I don't do that often with my family, because the majority of my family is wrapped up in their own problems, and they do not really express much interest in mine. I have to say I understand this, and this is not something that leads me to feel sorry for myself. I am used to things being the way they are. But sometimes, I do have to set a boundary, and explain my limitations, and usually, people don't understand. My mom was actually at my home tonight, and she was making fun of me for being tired, saying, "what is WRONG with you?? Are you ON some drug?? You look like your eyes are glazed over!!" Note: I have never been on illegal drugs or addicted to prescription drugs in my entire life. Then she snapped her fingers in front of my face like "wake up! wake up!" I really wanted her to leave.

I have an autoimmune disease called Sjogren's Syndrome (in case you didn't already know that), Fibromyalgia, associated arthritis and peripheral neuropathy, and I, of course, have Schizoaffective Disorder for which I take a boatload of medications every day. All of this does lead to me being tired, frequently, and more tired than the average person. I require a lot of rest. My mother doesn't. So she doesn't understand this about me. It would seem that after, oh about, 16 years of me having health problems, perhaps, by now, she would understand that I get tired. And I think sometimes she does understand. But only a little bit. We have been on trips to Disneyworld before where she looked at me and knew that I needed to sit down and not keep walking, because I really was going to pass out. And I think then, she understands. But when she's planning a trip where I am expected to, again, walk around Disneyworld, I don't think she considers the facts of my health. I'm not saying I can't go at all, but I really would rather not do that to my body or myself if I have a choice. Of course, in this case, the choice is to upset my mother, my grandmother, and look like I'm antisocial to my entire family. That is the way it would be viewed if I didn't go at all.

But I'm considering not going. If I do go, I am setting limits on what I will, and what I will not do. I will not push myself until I am ready to faint. I will not push myself so that I'll need three days in bed to recuperate afterwards. I'm not doing that again, not for anybody, not now, and not ever. I have learned from experience what I can and cannot do, and I will not attempt to do things my body simply isn't able to do.

I think it's healthy to set boundaries when necessary. We all need to do this, and perhaps you have been in similar experiences. I would be interested to hear how you've all dealt with such situations. I know it's harder for me to explain my mental health symptoms than my physical ones, but because I was so very psychotic for so long, my mental health symptoms are generally believed when I do explain them. So it's not like I am accused of pretending to hear voices. I've been accused of being possessed by demons, again, by my mother, but that's another issue. I've learned that I have to say, sometimes, I am really having too many symptoms right now to do this. And so, that is what I did about the  trip with my grandmother. I will not be taking that trip. I'm sorry if nobody understands why. But nobody else in my family has psychosis to the point that they hear voices and have delusional thoughts. So I don't totally expect them to understand. I do expect them to respect the fact that I have limitations. And if they can't expect that, well, that is their problem, not mine.

I am not going to push myself to the point that I have to go into a hospital again. I haven't been in a hospital for mental health reasons in three years, and that is a good thing for me. I have been stressed lately to the point that I was really afraid I'd get suicidal or totally psychotic, and have to be hospitalized. But that didn't happen. My stress of moving has lessened now that the moving part is done. I still have to unpack and decorate my entire new apartment, hang curtains and blinds, and things like that. But I am less stressed about it, overall. I saw my therapist yesterday, and she said I looked much more relaxed and my face was more animated than I had looked the week before.

I still have a lot of things I am worried about, but I am trying to take them on one at a time, and not worry about them all at once, which leads to me getting very overwhelmed and freezing in a panic where I feel incapacitated. I am trying not to get to that point. I decided I'll unpack at my own pace. Whenever it gets done, is when it will get done. If it takes me a month, so be it. I am in no rush. I sometimes want to do a million things. Like the other day, I went to four stores in one day, and then a mall, which is too much shopping for me. Way too much to do in one day. I was looking for curtains and blinds, and curtain rods, and things on sale. I bargain shop to get the best possible prices on things. But I have to watch it when I do things like that, because the next day, I could barely do anything, as I felt like I'd been run over by a truck.

For right now, I feel that I have to really make taking care of myself a priority. The voices are a sign that I'm under too much stress. They don't tend to start happening again for no reason. I know that. I have been under too much stress, and I have to limit the stress. I have no other option unless I want to end up in complete psychosis again.

The voices scare me, but they are a warning. They serve to alert me that, "Hey, something's not going well here!" and I have to listen to that and adjust my life, and sometimes my medications, accordingly. I have to respect the signs my body and mind are sending me that I'm too stressed out, and make the necessary changes. Hopefully, with these changes, and careful watching of the stressors, I can avoid prolonged trouble with the voices. I might not be successful at this, but I have to try.

 Thank you, readers, for the comments you left on my previous post. They really did help me.

When I was a little girl, I had this beautiful yellow wood desk, with flowers on it, that I loved. It was painted by a woman we knew. It said on it, in red letters, "Take time to smell the flowers". I've always thought this was a good motto for living. Sometimes I just forget.


  1. Jen- I say ditch the trip to Disney ( you can only have so much of Mickey Mouse ) and if you were already going to take that time off, go to a nice peaceful resort/ lodge or whatever and just take a break, put your feet up etc.

    I don't want to be mean about your family but the casual attitude they have about your health, especially since you suffer from Schizoaffective disorder is rather...weird. Then again it's funny how people who have been blessed with good health seem to take it forgranted and just don't understand why everyone is not like them.

    I have Depression and GAD plus a neurological illness, this seems to do nothing but annoy the majority of my family. The worst part is they think that I am lazy Only my mother was understanding, it's so weird why people are like that. Bottom line is you take care of yourself before anything, you've come to far to suffer a setback now because of stress.

    Good on you for saying no to plane trip- it sounds like your Granny landed up in good hands:)

  2. You have to do whatever you have to do to preserve yourself and your health. You are absolutely right when you say that if other people do not understand, then that is their problem and not yours. I think you are doing the right thing by not going. If your mom doesn't get it, well... then she just doesn't. These things happen and it doesn't make you a bad person and it does not make you incapable. Good decisions preserve you in order to make you MORE capable. I understand, even if your family does not. I'm sure many who read your post will understand as well. Take care of YOU. You have to do that. Like they say on the airlines -- put your own oxygen mask on FIRST. Without it, you can do nothing for anyone. I hope you will never forget that or feel the need to apologize for it.

  3. Your blog deeply touches me! My hubby has a diagnosis of Bipolar I and many of his symptoms are "severe". We've been through a lot in our marriage because of it. It has been tough, but after 11.5 years we're still together, by the grace of God! My desire is to write a book sharing our story, from my perspective (as the "well" spouse) and how my faith carried me through our worst moments. I could tell stories!!!

    I love the compassionate voice that I hear in your blog, and the passion you have for erasing stigma and fear. And it is very insightful to me to hear, in a sense, my husband's issues as reflected through another voice. It helps me gain understanding of him. Thank you. I will look forward to reading more of your blog!

  4. Sometimes you have to think of yourself first. I am just learning to do this now.

  5. My family completely ignored both mine and my brothers bipolar disorder - till he'd committed suicide and others in the family came began to get diagnosed. A majority still ignore it. I don't recall anyone admitting that Brian killed himself because of it, rather because he was upset about his life at the time.

    I find people exhausting. Too much socialisation drives my to bed. I just can't deal with them .The only person in this whole world I can relax with is my husband. He accepts this in me. He tells his family that when they visit us in Dubai (which is way to exhausting - a whole week of socialising) then they have to accept I'll be going to bed early and won't go with them unless my husband can join us too.

    I used to feel ashamed or guilty about this need, and still do at times. But they should know by now its my illness - I'm not randomly being rude or insulting. But they ask stupid questions like 'Why can't you relax with me like you can with David?' Or 'Why won't you come out with us when David's at work?' I tell them it's just too much for me - then its 'But why is it too much for you - what does that mean?' I find those probing questions stifling and rude.

    Good on you for the Disney refusal. Well done for standing up for yourself and having the good sense to preserve your physical and mental energy. You hear voices and I get visions when ill. You know you have to put yourself in as calm an environment as possible for a while. Personal time-out. If they don't get it - do what what I'm considering - give them a book on your illness and tell them to take and interest and learn for themselves. :D Shah .X

  6. @ Stephi-Thanks for your advice, and I would love to go to a resort if I could afford it! I'm sorry you are dealing with a neurological illness, and I totally understand about your family's lack of awareness and how frustrating that can be.

    @Ethereal Highway, I think you're right, and I told my mother the same yesterday, that if I cannot take care of myself I will be no help to my grandmother anyway. My mother doesn't get it, but there is nothing I can do about that.

    @Mining for Diamonds, Welcome to my blog! I'm glad you're here, and I hope you do return. I hope that I can help in some way for you to understand your husband's illness. Things like that are what makes writing this blog worthwhile.

    @Jen, I know, sometimes it is hard to do that, but is necessary anyway.

    @Shah, Thanks for your comments. I am sorry your family (or your husband's family) is not more understanding. I know that nobody in my family would bother reading such a book because the hav e their own problems (some have their own mental health problems) and wouldn't bother with that. But I do think it is a good idea if the people would read the book.

    I'm sor sorry to hear that your brother committed suicide. That must be a terrible wound to life with. If I lost my a brother or sisiter that way it would destroy me, I think.

    I've never understood the way people deny the truth when someone commits suicide, or when they blame the person as if the person did ot ahave a serious illness that led to it.

  7. Hi Jen,

    I live in Australia and I've suffered with episodes of bipolar schizoaffective disorder and alcoholism on and off for almost 30 years. I too am on Risperdal. I also take Epilim.

    I am glad I found your blog. I've enjoyed reading it and been moved by it. I'll continue to follow your blog and I wish you well.



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