Monthly Archives: May 2014

The curse of the psychologist’s brain

I have a degree in psychology. I have no idea what the hell I am going to do with it, but I have it; and I got it because I really enjoy psychology. My brain just naturally thinks in those terms (aka, I naturally “shrink” people, it’s just what I do). Which is all well and good, until it causes problems. Namely, I also naturally shrink myself. 

This means that I second guess every thought, every action, every decision…and then triple, quadruple, and whatever the hell comes next, guess it. 

See the problem now? 

I am so tired of never really knowing if I feel or think what I do because that’s genuinely how I think/feel, or because of some insane psychological “cause” my brain has created. 

Do I like a certain band because my parents dislike it? Because my friends like it? Or do I like it because like it? Am I attracted to someone because they remind me of someone else? Or am I just attracted? Am I afraid of water because something happened to me, that I have repressed memories of, to cause that? Or does it just freak me out? Do I feel a certain way because it’s how I feel? Or because I am running away from an unhappy marriage? Am I inventing feelings in my head because of some Freudian issue deep down? Or is that actually how I feel? 

It’s a curse, I tell you. 

I just want to feel something, and for once not question it. Not try to come up with some issue straight out of a Psychology 101 textbook that explains exactly why I am experiencing said feeling. Not subconsciously try to explain it away or rationalize it. 

I just want Freud, Maslow, Jung, Erikson, and all their friends, out of my head! 

Don’t mind me…just feeling a little crazy tonight. Welcome to my brain, it’s sooo much fun here, isn’t it? :/ 

 

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Friendship and romance

“It’s bullshit to think of friendship and romance as being different. They’re not. They’re just variations of the same love. Variations of the same desire to be close.” Rachel Cohn

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May 15, 2014 · 3:22 pm

Inquiring minds want to know :]

A member of my family sent me a link recently and I thought it was interesting. It was an article containing a list of some of the responses received when the question “what is the most valuable lesson you’ve ever learned from a break up?” was asked on Reddit/HuffPost Divorce’s facebook and twitter. 

Here is the list:

1. “A relationship involves two people. I used to put all the responsibility on myself whenever something would go wrong. When her actions would hurt me, I’d think about myself and what I could have done better. In the end, I stayed in that relationship way too long.”

2. “I learned to always keep my money separate and to have a backup plan.”

3. “Never settle. Love is a verb. People are who they are. Don’t expect them to change.”

4. “Your happiness and validation come from within. Relying on one person in order to feel happy is unhealthy for both parties involved.”

5. “I learned to cultivate me — my interests, my hobbies — and let the hobbies and interests I once shared with my ex fall to the wayside. I learned my own strength.”

6. “I learned that loving someone and loving the idea of being with someone are two very different things.”

7. “It’s a big ocean with many fish. You’ll find someone else. The heart is resilient.”

8. “Once you’ve broken up, cut all ties with that person. Delete them from Facebook, delete their phone number and send their email and text to a spam folder. Stay away from them and you’ll move on quicker.”

9. “Always read the signs and be aware of the red flags. They are there flashing and waving if you just pay attention.”

10. “I am worth more than what I accepted from the person I loved. I can make myself happy.”

11. “Don’t even think about falling in love again if your self-esteem is zapped post-split. Heal and love yourself first, then look for love again.”

12. “Being unattached is way better than being in an unhappy or unfulfilling relationship.”

13. “Get your stuff before you break up.”

14. “Your wellness is more important than the relationship.”

15. “The pain does go away even though it seems so hard to believe in the beginning.

 

Some of these things I knew already (at least cognitively, whether I put them to practical use or not is another story!), some of them I had not thought about before, and several of them I have learned/am currently learning from my divorce. 

I would have to say the major ones my divorce has taught me are:

2. “I learned to always keep my money separate and to have a backup plan.” –I have thanked my lucky stars a million times through this divorce process that my husband and I preferred to keep our money separate, and that we hadn’t been married for very long so our legal lives were not completely entwined yet…it has made things much easier than they could have been! Now I know, and will remember this for all future relationships! Also I always had a backup plan, I guess it’s in my nature; I’m a planner and the type of person who always expects the worst…it came in handy this time and I will not forget it!  

3. “Never settle. Love is a verb. People are who they are. Don’t expect them to change.” — I used to get mad when people told me I was settling, that I deserved better than him, and I still don’t think it’s true…that implies that he is not good enough, or bad, and he is most definitely not those things. “Love is a verb” however, sticks with me. My husband used to say it a hundred times a day, “I love you” “I love you” over and over again…and I loved it! I thought “how sweet! I’m so lucky!” Little did I realize, that it takes more than just saying it…he could say it a million times a day, and it would never make up for his lack of showing it. And seriously, don’t expect them to change. I used to say I didn’t expect him to change who he was, but I was fooling myself. I totally expected him to change. Were they good changes, that he should make for himself anyway? YES. But change is change, and it’s not fair to put that on to someone…they are who they are, love them, ALL of them, or move on. 

9. “Always read the signs and be aware of the red flags. They are there flashing and waving if you just pay attention.” — and DON’T ignore them! I can’t believe, looking back now, how many red flashing warning signs there were…and I KNEW they were there! I saw them! Yet I chose to walk right by them, look the other way, and pretend that they would just go away…because I loved him. But I have learned from this experience, that above all else you have to love yourself more than anyone else, and by ignoring warning signs you are most definitely NOT loving yourself more. You are just setting yourself up for more pain and heartache. 

14. “Your wellness is more important than the relationship.” — again, you have to love yourself above anyone else. Really, really hard for me to do…but I’m trying. 

 

 

So this leaves me wondering…we’ve all had breakups, of some sort, at some point in our lives…what would you add to the list? How would you answer the question? 

“What is the most valuable lesson you’ve ever learned from a break up?”

 

Link to the aforementioned article:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/12/breakup-_n_5311650.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000063

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Downhill?

To understand this post you have to understand my history with “downhill”…it has happened to me quite a few times over the years that I have been sick where for whatever reason I go suddenly and severely downhill. I used to call them “flares” when my diagnosis was fibromyalgia, now with lyme I have no idea what to call them anymore…still “flares”?

I also used to go to my doctor and tell her “I’m flaring” and I would walk out with a prescription for steroids, painkillers, or whatever else she thought would help “pull me out of it”. Sometimes it helped, sometimes it didn’t.

No two “downhills” were ever the same either; sometimes it was pain, sometimes fatigue or other symptoms…and sometimes it was much worse than other times. Once, my senior year in high school, downhill meant 2 months in a wheelchair in massive amounts of pain and so much brain fog that I don’t remember most of that period of time. The most recent downhill meant so much pain I ended up on daily oxycontin and was still so miserable I couldn’t function; it meant months of barely functioning, barely getting out of bed, every single symptom intensifying a LOT, and getting to the lowest point mentally that I have ever been…I was convinced that by now (5 months later) I would be housebound and applying for disability. All of that in spite of the massive doses of steroids my doctor threw at me, and the highest pain killer I have ever been on. (now I know the steroids probably made things much worse, too bad I didn’t know that then :/ )

So now maybe you will have a little bit of an idea of what I mean when I say this…

I feel like I am going downhill.

I know, I know…”It’s probably a herx”. (Please don’t say that to me right now)

Not everything is a herx, and herx just doesn’t make sense in this situation. Not to mention my instincts say this is downhill, and they are usually right.

It sucks. It’s like standing at the edge of a cliff blindfolded, knowing someone is about to push you off, but not having any idea of how far you have to fall or what is at the bottom. Yeah, told you it sucks.

I can’t sleep, can’t breathe, can’t move; I feel like I need to cry or throw up or both. My body feels like I did 300 squats and then someone beat the crap out of me. I’m laying in bed and the entire room is spinning around me and I think my head may explode. I managed to take a shower without collapsing tonight, but just barely and it was old-lady-style…thank goodness for shower chairs and bars to hold on to! I feel so miserable I just want to scream, but I definitely don’t have the energy for that! I barely have the energy to type, it’s wearing me out so much, so this post is almost over for sure.

Yes, if this continues I will be calling my LLMD, so relax.

I hate that this is my life, going from downhill to downhill, and spending the time in between waiting for and worrying about when the next one will strike.

Lyme disease freaking sucks.

Crap. The bathroom is entirely way too far away. :[

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Off the bandwagon…again…

Ever since my marriage (and world) fell apart, and I essentially moved out of our apartment, going “home” causes quite an array of emotions. Some times when I go home I immediately feel as though I don’t belong there, like I am detached from that life, and am anxious to leave. Other times it hurts so intensely that all I can do is lay down in “our” bed and sob. 

Today I went home for 5 minutes and the resulting emotions were sadness and disappointment. I walked in the room and instantly saw it, the plastic shopping bag full of empty cans sitting in the middle of my bed…He is drinking again, and if he is drinking again that means he is most likely getting high again too…

I don’t know what to say about that, I don’t know what to feel about it. I’m not going to lie, I am surprised he lasted this long (4 months)…but I am also so incredibly sad that he made the choice to start again. As much as I kept telling myself not to, I was holding out just a little bit of hope that losing me and his entire world falling apart would be enough to make him realize that he needs to fix himself. 

I knew better, I knew better, I knew better. 

And yet here I am, disappointed again. I can’t tell you how many times I have felt like this. I’m sick of it. 

I’m sick of being hurt and disappointed. Sick of sitting around waiting for him to screw up again. Sick.

I guess it’s just more proof that I made the right decision; I told myself when I left that just because he was sober then did not mean he would stay that way, and lo and behold, I was right! I did sort of need an “oh yeah, THIS is why I left” reminder this week…I guess I got it…

I love him, and I genuinely want him to make himself better, for HIM. It doesn’t affect me anymore, his life is his own to screw up, but I just really don’t want him to screw it up. 

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You can’t outrun insanity..

 I watched a show last night, actually I’ve been watching a lot of shows lately since my brain apparently doesn’t like to sleep until around 3:30am. This was a new show, however, just debuted on ABC, called Black Box. It’s very House, M.D.-esque. Brilliant neuroscientist who saves lives and fixes people, all the while being more than a little bit crazy and secretive…you get the picture.

I’ll go ahead and spoil the first episode for you, she’s Bipolar. Like me.

Her mind runs a million miles an hour, every second of the day, she sleeps with strange men (hypersexuality), runs down the street singing and laughing maniacally, talks a million miles an hour, stays up all night, struggles with the urge to jump off a balcony, and flushes her medication on a whim because it “slows down her mind”.  (All of this in the first episode!)

Part of me hates when shows portray characters as having mental illnesses; while the exposure is great I feel like they often over dramatize things to make the show more interesting. However, all of these symptoms are typical of bipolar…they just sometimes seem to be to the extreme and dramatic. Ok, off my soapbox now…

 

So I was watching, and thinking about my pre-medication days.

While my mental illness is not nearly as…drastic…as the woman on the show’s is, there were definitely times where I acted and felt much like she does. I used to stay up all night, go running at 3am because I had more nervous energy in me than I thought my body could stand, drive really fast, make questionable (to say the least!) decisions regarding men and sex, talk really fast without making much sense, and literally not give a shit about the consequences of any of my actions. It was kind of fun (sometimes). However, there are 2 problems with this, one being that there actually ARE consequences for every decision; the other being that for every high, every rush, there was an opposite (and often more extreme) depression or dark place.

I spent countless nights in bed crying, wanting to die and not understanding why; endless nights without sleep writing incredibly dark and sad poems, and sitting in the bathroom with a razor blade. I got so angry that I punched anything in sight. My favorite? Concrete telephone poles. I did a number on the knuckles of my hands many times, and went to school the next day with them swollen and bruised.  I found every way I could think of to hurt myself, because somehow that helped make some sense of the many emotions coursing through me. Many, many times I resisted the urge (sometimes just barely) to drive my car off the road, or to grab the nearest bottle of pills and down it…until one day I didn’t resist well enough.

I opened my computer, and googled “effects of aspirin overdose”, I read the wikipedia details. Then I locked my door, sat on my bed, and consciously counted out how many pills were in the bottle. I downed them 2 by 2, with each set I said “after this maybe I’ll stop, it’s not enough to hurt me, just make me not feel like this anymore”, yet each time down another 2 pills went. 22 in all. I don’t know why I never stopped, hell, I don’t know why I started in the first place. It was like someone else was inside my brain telling me what to do, over-riding my brain’s automatic self-preservation instincts. Like I was possessed.

As I sat in the pediatric psychiatric unit of my local hospital and cried (for what felt like an eternity…but was actually only like 2 days), I replayed that afternoon in my head over and over again. What scared me, and still scares me, was the consciousness with which I did it. I mean who sits down and researches how to kill themselves, reads and understands exactly what will happen to their body, and then goes and does it?!

I remember that time in the hospital in snap shots. Being wheeled on a stretcher to the ambulance, with my neighbors watching because there was an ambulance, a fire truck, and 2 police cars in my quiet suburb neighborhood. Staring out the back window of the ambulance at my dad following us in his car, and realizing the pain in his face. Laying in the hospital bed not understanding why the doctor kept asking me exactly how many pills I took and how many milligrams, then pulling out his calculator and looking so worried. Drinking charcoal and being sick to my stomach all night long. Listening to the doctor explain to my dad what a Baker Act is. Sitting on a couch in the psych unit for hours just crying and crying. The abandonment I felt when it was “parent visitation night”, and no one came to see me. The people I met there; a 16 year old girl who woke up one day (her 16th birthday) hearing voices telling her that her parents hated her, the 8 year old boy brought in by the police for threatening to punch another kid in the throat at school, the 12 year old girl who was pregnant, the 14 year old girl with arms covered in scars who knew exactly how many there were and the stories behind them, including the time she barricaded herself in her room with a dresser and cut herself 72 times until she passed out in a pool of blood for her parents to find later, the nice girl who had been there for 6 weeks and as she was leaving was only concerned with how she would explain to her little sister where she had been without telling her the truth and hurting/scaring her. The isolation. The fear. The feeling of being insane, and yet not belonging there with those people. The denial, the “but I’m not like THEM”. The elation I felt when I was told I could leave.

After about 2 days in the hospital, a couple of meetings with the psychiatrist, an anger management class, a music therapy class, a class that involved “drawing our feelings”, some sort of strange in-hospital school class, and a harsh talking to from a nurse to “quit my crying or they would never let me out of here”, I managed to convince the doctor that I had ZERO intention of trying that again (totally true, by the way) and she let me go home. The resulting diagnosis? Rapid cycling bipolar, of the depressive type.

(This means that a. my moods cycle very quickly, like over the course of an hour or two sometimes, verses the couple of weeks most people experience and b. that I spend the majority of my time in a depressive state, rather than a manic one)

This began my long journey to finding mental health…I say long, which was really like 3 years, but that’s a long time to feel like I felt. It took 2 psychiatrists, 2 therapists, at least 4 different mood stabilizers and antidepressants, some permanent side drug side effects, a ton of weight gain, and multiple times of stopping meds cold turkey (we all know what happens when you try that, right?) before I finally found what works for me. Luckily I am stable now, remarkably stable for someone with bipolar disorder, actually. I found a medication that works for me, and works really well. I have no side effects from it, and NO desire to stop taking it, EVER…finally feel like I know who I am. I like my psychiatrist, he’s a nice guy; I like my therapist, the same guy I saw 2 days after being discharged from the hospital 7 years ago, who I still see for periods of time when I feel like I need a “mental health booster shot”, as he calls it. And I like my life. I can’t imagine ever wanting to end it again. I have learned to recognize, for the most part, what is “me” and what is my “crazy”…so even when I do have the occasional mood swing, or manic urge, I remind myself that it is just chemicals in my brain, and not who I am.

And yes, I do still have mood swings. Not often, and not to the extremes that I used to experience, but it happens. I still sometimes find myself with the urge to drive realllyyyy fast, with the windows down, and scream at the top of my lungs…or make really stupid decisions regarding men. I still have dark nights; I no longer hurt myself or want to die, but the darkness that invades my mind sometimes is really dark. I have days where I feel as though I am experiencing every single emotion possible, at the exact same time; as though I am being crushed by all of the emotion and the energy and the darkness all at the same time. I still get so angry I can’t contain it. But I am strong. I am no longer a lost, hurting, scared little soul begging for help. My mind is clear now, I know who I am and who I’m not; i know which thoughts are mine and which belong to the disease. I am me now.

I don’t talk about these experiences much; I am completely open with anyone about the fact that I have a mental illness, but I try really hard to block the memories of those times from my mind, most likely as an act of self-preservation. I spent days trying to form this post in my mind, and hours writing it. It’s made me rather uncomfortable to write about; I feel raw inside now, naked and vulnerable…

But in the end it’s my truth, and I am owning it.

“Bipolar robs you of that which is you. It can take from you the very core of your being and replace it with something that is completely opposite of who and what you truly are. Because my bipolar went untreated for so long, I spent many years looking in the mirror and seeing a person I did not recognize or understand. Not only did bipolar rob me of my sanity, but it robbed me of my ability to see beyond the space it dictated me to look. I no longer could tell reality from fantasy, and I walked in a world no longer my own.” 
― Alyssa ReyansLetters from a Bipolar Mother

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