Friday, April 22, 2011

What I want back is what I was: deconstructing past career goals

What I want back is what I was

Before the bed, before the knife,

Before the brooch-pin and the salve

Fixed me in this parenthesis;

Horses fluent in the wind,

A place, a time gone out of mind.
-Sylvia Plath, "The Eyemote"
I've told the story before of how I almost went to Smith College (yes, Plath went there, but that wasn't the only reason I wanted to), so I will be brief about it now. But I was over at the Define Functioning site, which I love, and this thread about deconstructing and reconstructing your previous career goals, really got to me.
I almost went to a somewhat elite institution as a student above the "traditional age" when I was 24. And that was when I became psychotic. So, instead of getting to Northampton, I got into the Hannah Moore Homeless Shelter in Maryland. After my time at that shelter ran out, I ended up in my car, living. I was then offered a room in my online friend's former boyfriend's  condo, and I ended up living there for three years. When the three years ended, I wandered about, never able to keep a roof over my head.
I lost my dreams. I had been an English major. I had a professor, who I'm still friends with now, in 1996, tell me at my community college in Florida (the one I also go to now) that I was definitely smart enough to go to a better school. I didn't believe him. He said, "Did you ever take the SAT? I bet you would blow away the verbal section." I had never had parents who cared if I took the SAT or not, and so, I never had ended up doing that. In fact I skipped my last year of high school, and got a GED instead.  But after this professor encouraged me to do it, just to see how I'd do, I took the SAT. I got an  800 on the verbal section, which is the highest possible score. (I did not do so well on the math, though!). This actually amazed me, because it meant that I might have the requirements to go to a decent college after all, despite years battling depression, anorexia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Fibromyalgia Plus More.
Then I ended up moving to Maryland, (because I couldn't afford to live on my own and couldn't stay with my mother, so was given a roof over my head by my grandparents) where I met a professor who ran the honors program at the community college I attended there, and she convinced me to apply to Smith College, a school I had dreamed of going to, because I was a feminist and going to a women's college like that was something I thought would be an excellent experience. I had first learned of Smith by reading Plath as a depressed teenager, and  I was intrigued by the quality of the education there, not just by the fact that my favorite depressed poet went there. It's an excellent school, and  I could see myself blossoming there. They had five libraries. It was the place where I belonged.  I fell in love with the school when I visited it. I was beyond thrilled to get admitted. It was a real dream come true.
But my mind couldn't hack it. While I was supposed to be planning to go to that college, I was delusional, thinking that people had abused me and making a lot of accusations that got me estranged from most of my family, which is how I ended up homeless in a city where I have dozens of relatives. I was doing crazy, manic things and I was really out of it. Then it got worse, and worse, and worse, over the following few years, while I was terribly paranoid, acutely psychotic, and never getting any real help except for some brief hospital stays where I was never correctly diagnosed. I reverted to self-injury. I rarely ate. I ended up in a lot of bad situations. I was raped. I didn't have support. I didn't have friends except online, and then most of those friends got  sick of me and my problems, and told me so, then abruptly left my life.
The thing is, for the past few years, since 2005, I have had treatment and I have gotten progressively (to some degree) better. I have been able to return to the original community college, and get my AA degree. This was no small feat for me. It took years of work, tutoring, note takers from the office for students with disabilities, and it took a lot of time and effort. When I got that degree, I was really thrilled. But it still was not enough. I wanted a Master's degree. I still feel inadequate that I don't have a Master's degree. I still feel lost and empty because I'm not doing anything I really want to do in my life as far as work goes, and I don't think that I can.
Right now I'm at a crossroads. I could stay in the Bachelor's program I am in at the community college, or I could, if I am even accepted (which I may not be), go to a university. That would take a lot of work on managing money and transportation, but it might be possible. What I don't know is if my brain could manage it. I'd have to get accommodations, and I'd probably have to go through the disabilities office to get permission to attend college part-time there. Even if I did all this, and my car managed the drive and kept running (I recently put $1,000 into my pathetic car, and this university is an hour away), I don't know that I could do it.
My therapist suggested talking to a career counselor at the school. I work at the school, and I know who the career counselors are, and I don't want to talk to them about having a mental illness, and whether or not my brain can hack the degree I want. I don't think they would have any answers for me at all. I don't think anybody would. But I'm afraid I'm in a program for a degree that will never land me a job I really like, and what is the point of doing this if I can't do something I like in the end? I may never be able to work full time, or, on the other hand, I may mange it some day. But I know that what I need is a job I can enjoy at some level and have an income that would hopefully get me out of poverty. I'm not quite sure what to do.
I know that I only have this one life to live, and a lot of it has been lost to serious mental illness, so I want to make the most of what I have left, and not allow this illness to rule my life any more than it has to. I know that there were legitimate reasons to why I never went to Smith College, or any other great college, why I never got an advanced degree, why I do not go to college full time, why I cannot work full time right now, but I want, I want, I want so much more than this out of my life. I am so tired of feeling like a pathetic loser because of what I have done being so pale in comparison to what I meant to do. I am so tired of feeling like I cannot speak to people who have advanced degrees because they will look down on me. I am so tired of being unfulfilled.
But maybe I am doing the best I can, and maybe trying to do much more would be a total disaster.  I have gotten into a groove with the little job I have, the school I go to, the apartment I just moved into, the injections at the community mental health center every two weeks......Soon, I'll be losing the supports of my case manager and my therapist thanks to the crappy budget of the community mental health center. Soon, I'll have to be even more alert to my symptoms, on guard to them, carefully monitoring how the meds are doing because there will be no one else checking up on me. So I'm scared to make any major changes. I'm scared to try to go to the university. I'm very anxious, and have been for quite some time, about this.

But there is this Ani Difranco song called, "Swan Dive", which I have loved for many years. These are some of the lyric

.......But I've had a lack of inhibition

I've had a loss of perspective

I've had a little bit to drink

And it's making me think

That I can jump ship and swim

That the ocean will hold me

That there's got to be more

Than this boat I'm in

They can call me crazy if I fail

All the chance that I need is one-in-a-million,

And they can call me brilliant if I succeed

Gravity is nothing to me

I'm moving at the speed of sound

I'm just gonna to get my feet wet until I drown

I teeter between tired

And really, really tired

I'm wiped and I'm wired

But I guess that's just as well

Cuz I've built my own empire

Out of car tires and chicken wire

And now I'm queen of my own compost heap

And I'm getting used to the smell


So what to do?
The title of this post is from "The EyeMote", and my first email address in the late 90's was

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Now is the time to write your representatives in Congress and in your state, about mental health budget cuts

We are in dire times, Americans. At the last NAMI Education meeting in my county, it was stated by a CEO of a community mental health agency that Florida is cutting its budget for mental health and substance abuse services by some $230 million, leaving nothing left, if this goes through, but some funding for a few crisis unit beds.

While this situation in Florida is horrible, it is not any different than what is happening in many other states.

Simultaneously, the GOP wants to slash funding for Social Security and Medicare: the very programs that many of us need to survive.

Left without the supports of community mental health centers, disability benefits to live on, and healthcare to get treatment, people are going to die. People are going to suffer. Even more than they are already suffering. There are going to be increases in suicides, homelessness, and arrests for petty misdemeanors by people forced to live on the streets because they have nowhere else to go.

 We need more help, not less!! I have written about this subject on this blog many times. I don't know how many of you write letters to your members of Congress, but I did get an email from one of you recently and she asked me, "who can I write to?" At the time, I didn't have an answer. She was talking about my post about how I'm not going to have case management or therapy for much longer. Well, the people really responsible for that, really the ones who could change that are legislators. And that is who you can write to. Write to Florida's legislators if you want to; that is where I will be affected. But write for yourself to your state's legislators too. Write to Congress about the federal budget. Write now. Write on behalf of your family and friends who live with mental illnesses. Write on behalf of those who have died. Write now. Call. Fax. Visit. Email. Write.

Contact Information:

Here are some tips on contacting your members of Congress. Letters are preferred and receive more attention than emails, but of course email is easier. There is a letter I wrote which I sent to my reps and Senator a while ago here.
What I wrote was not concise, so try to write something shorter than my email.

Whatever you do, please at least try to do something. If we act like bystanders in a democracy, we really can't blame everyone else when things like budget cut travesties occur. We have to voice our concerns, tell our stories, and change the way people think about mental health and treatment. We must make them understand treatment is necessary and deserved, and no country with a conscience should deny its citizens the right to mental health care. So send an email, fax a letter, or make a phone call, and please do it right away.

Tell them the services you use, and how your life would be affected if those services no longer existed. If you don't use services, tell them about someone you know who does. For example, I go to a community mental health center where I get  injections ever other week, see a psychiatric ARNP  who prescribes many medications, see a therapist, who helps me manage my life, and have a case manager who helps me keep getting the treatment I need, and advocates on my behalf when necessary. Because of the low budget that already exists I don't qualify for case management anymore, because I haven't been in a hospital in a few years. One of the reasons I haven't been in a hospital in years is that I had that case manager helping me. Because Medicare has strict rules and will no longer fund my therapy, I will no longer have my therapist in a couple of months. And this is also what has kept me going - therapy. And this is with the current budget. When that budget is totally slashed, which it is likely going to be, then these services won't be available for many, many people who need them. I used to be homeless, psychotic, suicidal, and alone. I have not been that way in years, because I have had help. Now the state and the federal governments want to take that help away from people like me. Please help me take a stand so this won't happen. So if you don't have a story of your own to tell, then please go ahead and tell my story.

Please read the below important information, and use it when you contact your representatives:
DENVER (AP) - State budget writers looking for cash to balance the books have stripped a cumulative $1.8 billion from mental health services over the last 2½ years, putting the public at risk as the mentally ill crowd emergency rooms and prisons, according to the nation's largest mental health advocacy group.

The Washington-based National Alliance on Mental Illness tallied state budget cuts to mental health services between 2008 and today and found that 32 states and Washington, D.C., cut funding just as economic stressors such as layoffs and home foreclosures boosted demand for services.

California slashed funding by more than $587 million, or 16 percent. Kentucky gutted its mental health budget by an astounding 47 percent over the last two years.
In many states, the picture is likely to get uglier for those relying on state mental services. Starting this summer, some $87 billion in federal stimulus money for Medicaid assistance to the states starts drying up. Because virtually all Medicaid-funded mental health services are optional, states projecting another couple years of budget deficits are likely to chop mental health services further.
"These are really dangerous times," warned Michael Fitzpatrick, NAMI's executive director. The group reviewed state mental health budget cuts in the wake of the January shooting in Arizona, in which six people died and 13 were injured, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The man charged with shooting them, Jared Loughner, showed signs of mental illness but was never referred for treatment.
"People really need to learn their lessons from Arizona and think about what we're doing to address mental illness," Fitzpatrick said.
Silverman, of Delray Beach, has struggled for decades with a complex mix of mental illnesses that was finally diagnosed as bipolar disease, depression and mood disorder. The problem renders her unable to work, at 55.

She takes numerous medications that she and her doctor settled upon after much experimentation. The pills keep her stable, avoiding crises that have sent her to emergency rooms at times.

The proposed cuts could alter state coverage for drugs and end virtually all outpatient mental health services for uninsured adults. Gone would be doctors, counseling and group homes. Under the Senate's $137 million of cuts, the state would cover only crisis treatment.

"I don't want to go back to the way I was. Please don't make that happen to me," Silverman said. "Is this honestly the way to try to cut costs? By driving people crazy, by making their lives miserable?"

-Copyright 2011 South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Seventy percent of emergency department administrators report that they hold mentally ill patients for 24 hours or longer, according to a 2010 survey by the Schumacher Group, a Louisiana firm that manages emergency departments across the country. Ten percent said they had boarded some patients for a week or more. Most administrators said delays compromise patient care in the ER, increasing waiting times for all patients and overcrowding.
States Cut Mental Health Budgets
The problem has worsened during the economic downturn. Since 2009, 32 states have cut their mental health budgets, largely from outpatient services that keep people healthy and out of the ER, according to a study by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a patient advocacy group. And since 2010, states have closed or are planning to close nearly 4,000 state psychiatric beds, about 8 percent of capacity, according to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors Research Institute.
"We're not cutting fat anymore," says Charles Ingoglia, vice president of public policy at the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, a membership organization for mental health organizations that treat the uninsured and underinsured. "We're at the bone. All of the easy cuts have already been made over the years."

At the same time, many Americans have lost their jobs and health insurance and are leaning on the state programs being cut. The need for such services has also grown as depression and anxiety have increased: a 2009 survey by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that mental illness is more prevalent among unemployed adults. Many wait until their illness reaches a breaking point and then seek care at the ER.
-Copyright KHN
  • From fact sheet, "Best Return on Investment (ROI): Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment":

 Tough economic times require legislators to maximize the use of taxpayer dollars. Funding behavioral health services is one of the most effective

investments of public dollars. Here’s why:

Treatment saves taxpayers money.

Treatment/ No Treatment

  • Average crisis stabilization bed cost per day: $292
Average Florida emergency room cost per visit: $2,887
  •  Average detox cost per day: $205

Average hospital cost per day: $2,000
  • Average annual substance abuse treatment cost for an adult: $2,400
 Average prison cost for a drug offender: $55,000
  • Average annual mental health treatment cost for an adult: $1,551
Average state hospital cost: $112,000

Treatment works.

 It is estimated that the economic benefits of expanded diagnosis and treatment of depression has a ROI of $7 for every $1 invested.

 $1 invested in treatment for alcohol and other drug-related problems saves taxpayers $7.14 in future costs.

 93% of offenders who complete community drug treatment do not re-offend. One percent change equals $8 million over three years.

 Prevention and treatment result in safer communities. Orange County’s mental health diversion program has saved law enforcement $2.2 million over seven years by reducing or eliminating time spent at emergency rooms.

Treatment supports jobs and local economies.

 Community mental health and substance abuse agencies provide over 50,000 private sector jobs.

 Treatment gets people back to work – 69% of adults are employed post treatment.

 Over 1,490 vendors supply community treatment companies.

 The economic impact in Florida of alcohol and drug abuse is $43.7 billion each year. (The Price Florida Pays for Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 2009)

 Untreated and mistreated mental illness costs the United States $105 billion in lost productivity and $8 billion in crime and welfare expenditures each year. A 5.5% increase in spending by businesses and government on mental health treatment could cut these costs by half. (National Mental Health Association, 2001)

 Treatment success rates for such disorders as schizophrenia (60%), depression (80% percent) and substance abuse disorders (60%) surpass those of other medical conditions such as heart disease (45-50%) and other chronic illnesses. (National Institute of Mental Health, 2004)

 Individuals with mental illnesses are four times more likely to die from treatable illnesses than other individuals and 58 times more likely to die before the age of 50 (Disability Rights Commission, 2005)

 For every $1 invested in mental health treatment, $3.68 is saved in reduced criminal activity and hospitalizations. (The “SCOPE” Mental Health Study Group Report)

 One study in Texas found that providing substance abuse treatment would give the state a ROI of $2.26. The most interesting statistic was a projection about cuts made in the last decade. “If the state had stuck to its 2000 budget for mental health and substance abuse treatment, Texas would be earning a 170% ROI on the money or netting $32.76 today for every dollar spent. (Peter Earley, 2010)

 Sixteen percent of people in jails and prisons suffer from a serious mental illness. (NIMH, 2008)

 Between 50% and 75% of youth in juvenile justice facilities suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder and frequently do not receive counseling, treatment or support. (NIMH, 2008)

 It is estimated that at least 25% of homeless people suffer from serious mental illness. (NIMH, 2008)

 Twenty-three percent (23%) of parents and caregivers of children with mental illness were forced by state regulations to consider relinquishing custody of their child in order to access mental health services and 20% actually did so. (NIMH, 2008)

 Of adults using homeless services, 31% report having a mental illness and/or a substance abuse condition. (Burt, 2001)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Getting mad at the world: I'm a little irritable right now and possibly hypomanic

First off, I am sorry this post is so long, and if you do not have time to read it all, or don't want to, I totally understand that.

I am feeling really irritable right now. I'm not usually like this. I feel on edge, anxious, and ready to smack somebody if they come near me. I'm not a violent person; I wouldn't actually smack anyone. I'm just really annoyed with life and I think part of the reason I'm feeling like this is that my Lamictal dose was doubled, up to 50 mgs, starting last night. I'm sure there is a correlation.

Yesterday, I went to see my psychiatric ARNP and she wasn't there; she had her own doctor's appt. So I saw another doctor, who actually was my first doctor the very first time I ever went to the community mental health center here, back about 14 years ago. He thought he remembered me. He is now the medical director, and no longer usually sees patients. I like him a lot; he seems sharp, intelligent, and on the ball. He immediately stated that I'm on an awful lot of medication, which I know is true. I also know how I feel when I am not on this medication, and it really sucks to be me then, so at the same time I am reluctant to say, "Hey, yeah! Let's take me off some!". But I DO want to go off Seroquel forever, because it caused me the biggest weight gain. So he further decreased my Seroquel, and soon I won't be on it hardly at all.

He also decreased my Wellbutrin, because for some time now I've been on 450 mgs, which is the most they usually would ever prescribe for anybody. I knew that before he told me that, and I was fine with reducing that antidepressant since Lamictal is supposed to be helping me with the depression now.

He asked me why I was on an injection (Risperdal Consta), and I explained that, years ago when I was first put on injections, it was in the hospital after I had been psychotic for years and never stayed on pills even when they were finally prescribed. Then, I stayed on injections because they work for me, and every time I go off the Risperdal shots, the psychosis returns.

I'm not sure he totally understood my history in this brief visit, because he started to say that I seem more Bipolar than Schizophrenic, as of course Schizoaffective is a mix of the two, and he seem to be thinking perhaps I actually am Bipolar. I know I'm not Bipolar. I know my history, and I know my life. Psychosis has been a big part of my life for twelve years. It happens when I'm not depressed. I don't get manic; if I get hypomanic, which I actually may be right now (not sure), it is not a severe thing and I haven't actually been manic as far as I know since around 2003-2004.

In any event, I don't think it could hurt to have a second opinion on the medications I'm taking, so I was pleased when this doctor said he wanted me to come back for him to do a whole psychiatric evaluation on me. My therapist said he might not understand why I need so much medication, because I seem to have "absorption problems" as she calls it where my stomach doesn't take in the stuff enough for it to work. I've been checked for Celiac Disease and told I don't have that, but it seems like it takes a lot of meds for me to feel any effects. I didn't explain this to this doctor, because I honesty didn't think of it at the time. My therapist thinks it's really important that he understand this and that I need to make this really clear to every doctor I ever see. Since she sees a lot of clients with digestive problems, she has a theory that many people have absorption issues and that's why their meds don't work well enough for them. I don't want to get into a disgusting topic of how people have digestive problems, but you probably understand what I'm saying.

Anyway, since he doesn't see patients usually, it's unlikely this doctor will take over my case, but having his input might help. I found out from him that there is a new antipsychotic drug that's only been used for about three months now, and it does not cause weight gain. I forget the name of it, but it starts with "L". I am very interested in trying this new drug, because the Risperdal shots also contributed to my weight gain, and I would really love to be on something that does not slow down my metabolism or make me hungry all the time. That would be such a wonderful change!
I'm not sure if Lamictal generally causes anxiety or irritability, but things and people are really getting on my nerves right now. I have this constant problem of worrying about my family members, who have a lot of problems to worry a person. They: my mom, and the brother and sister who I'm closest too, all have major money problems. My mom goes in and out of jobs every couple of months and she can't pay her bills because of it, since her Bipolar Disorder has never been under control well enough for her to function for long enough at a job even though she is intelligent and capable. And so there is this weight on my shoulders, getting these phone calls about how my mom can't pay her water bill and she doesn't expect me to pay it for her, but she tends to blame other people for her problems, and often times, I am that other person.

Then tonight I went out to a movie with the only friend I have who I ever go to movies with (I do not have a lot of friends), and she was, once again, getting on my last nerve. She is very self-involved and never stops complaining about her money problems. I don't talk about my money problems with her so she seems to assume I have these riches she doesn't have, even though I have pointed out to her on several occasions that my income is no higher than hers is. She is on disability, but she gets a check twice the size of mine, and she doesn't have to work to pay her bills, so she doesn't work. She never gets psychotic, and yet she complains to me about how hard her life is all the time, as if it was soooo much more difficult than my life when I'm trying to manage a job and school, and she's sleeping until 5 PM every day despite having no physical health problems.

Then there is the difference in personalities. We really are not that much alike. She thinks it's funny to throw popcorn at me in a movie theater, or purposely irritate people by smoking near them when they are obviously annoyed with her smoking, and stuff like that which is really juvenile, and I don't get it since she is older than my mother. She acts like she's five years old, but to her this is very amusing. To me, it's really annoying. We're in the movies and she's loudly laughing and talking and I'm just thinking of how embarrassing this is because nobody else is being this loud. Then she's coughing non-stop without covering her mouth which really boggles my mind because most people know it's very rude to cough and cough when you're sitting inches away from someone, and not cover your mouth to prevent spreading your germs. Then there's the fact that she flirts with strangers every time we go anywhere and they are generally thirty years younger than her and not exactly interested. I don't understand that behavior, or the illogical thinking that would lead one to believe a 22 year old will want to flirt with you when you are 56.

Do I sound annoyed yet?

I'm really not a picky person. I'm not usually the type of person to point out everything I don't like in a friend of mine. I really don't do that. It's just that I wish I had other friends to go places with, and the reason I don't is that I have very poor social skills and a lack of ability to make friends. And I guess that's irritating too. Because if I'm going to take the effort to spend time with a person and talk to them frequently on the phone, I want to be able to have that person actually care about my life and not just use me as their sounding board to tell me all their problems without caring at all about my problems. Is that too much to ask?

I have had two friends like this the past few years, and they are the only friends who ever call me, and both of them drive me nuts. The other one is a drug addict and I want nothing to do with her anymore because I'm sick of watching her destroy her life and getting her phone calls where she makes it obvious she wants to borrow money from me, as if I have any money to lend her. I have cut her, for the most part, out of my life for my own sanity and peace of mind.

And that leaves me with no friends around here. I know people in a women' organization I belong to and NAMI but I'm not friends with any of them, really. I would like to be friends with some of the women in the women's organization, but I doubt they would want to be friends with me. Most of them are twice my age and have had careers and hold Bachelor's or Master's Degrees or even PhD's, and they intimidate me. I doubt that I could hold up a conversation long enough for them to be interested in what I have to say. There is one exception to this, as one woman has taken the time to have lunch with me and she was very kind to me and seemed to have an interest in the conversation. It probably helps that she is a therapist! I have shared my diagnosis with her, and some of my history, and she has not seemed judgmental about it at all. I really appreciate that. It would be nice if we had more in common and could be friends, but I just don't know how to make that connection.

All my life, I have had trouble making friends. Always. I have had friends, even close friends, but for the past 13 years, those have mostly been online. I had a group of friends I've mentioned here before who I was very close too, but when my illness was at its worst, all but one of them cut me out of their lives. The one who didn't do that is still a wonderful friend to me, and I care about her and really appreciate her a great deal. But we have never met in person.

I guess my life is just not flowing well right now, and I'm not sure how much of this has to do with medication changes, as my Seroquel has been decreased over the past month, and the Lamictal is still new to me, and just recently increased. I don't know if the irritation I'm feeling is due to that alone, or if life factors are also in play here. If it is my life that is the problem, the fact that I don't know what I'll do if my car needs more expensive repairs since I can't get around without a car, is weighing heavily on my mind, and my problems with college and not being sure what to do about my degree and future is really making me nervous.

I feel like I need tranquilizers and the funny thing is, I'm taking Ambien and Klonopin and Valerian Root and Melatonin and still having trouble sleeping!! Talk about craziness. If I am hypomanic that would explain this.

I  just wish that I could wake up in the morning and feel energetic, which I never do because of my health problems, or feel clear about my goals, which I'm not right now, and this inability to have the energy and the clarity that I need to function well is really getting in my way. I wish I could meditate, but it's something I've never been able to do because I have a lot of trouble quieting my mind and relaxing. It just does not work for me. If I was physically able to do yoga, I'd try that, but I'm not physically able to do it (have tried before).

I know that one thing I need to do is get back into a regular exercise regimen, which I have not been doing for many months, and to make that a priority in my life. I also need to unpack all my belongings that are still in boxes, hang all my pictures, and get my apartment set up properly.

I've been buying discount curtains and other decor to make it look better than the old one looked, and I do enjoy that. I have a lot of trouble making decisions, though, so when I go to buy something I end up going to five or six stores and on five or six websites comparing prices before I make a purchase, which takes up a lot of time and energy, and leads to exhaustion and physical pain from Fibromyalgia. This is something I've done way too much of lately, and I need to stop it. If I cannot make up my mind about things, and don't have the money needed to buy the things, then it is not time to go shopping. Especially not shopping all day long without buying anything!

Well, this has turned into a long, windy post, and I'm not sure it will be clear to anyone what the point of it was, so I apologize for that. I don't feel up to writing anything much better at the moment, so this is what it is. Thank you for stopping  by, and I do deeply appreciate all the people who take the time to write comments. Also, I'm sorry if I sound like a witch with the way I talked about my friend, but that is the frame of mind I'm in at the moment. My friend asked me if something was wrong with me because I seemed angry. This is not the way I normally am at all. She really is a good person at heart, and I would never want to make her feel badly just because her behavior drives me up the wall. And also, I know that not everyone would find me a pleasant person to be around, and I'm sure many people are annoyed by me on a regular basis.

I would like to know a way to determine if one is experiencing hypomania or not, or if I am in a mixed state. I am not sure how to determine this. If you have any opinions on it after reading this post, I would love to hear them. I am wondering if the Lamictal could have thrown me into hypomania or a mixed state of depression and hypomania, or if I've been in hypomania for months and that is why I can't sleep. But I really do not feel manic, in the usual sense of the word. Mental health can be so confusing at times.

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.