And There’s More

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Today I set an appointment with Austin Community College’s Student Accessibility Services office to discuss my disability and what they can do for me, if anything. The perceived stress of school might be enough to trigger a notable setback in my progress. I’m hoping not, but I’ve noticed that really stressful times tend to be difficult for me even now.

So I have three outstanding appointments with school, one tomorrow to see my academic adviser, one next Tuesday to talk about my disability, and one on the 26th to officially introduce me to the Health Sciences program.

Three months ago, I would have probably lost it over so many changes to my status quo happening all at once. It still boggles the imagination to realize how far I’ve come in such a short period of time.

But this also reminds me of how bad things were for me at one point. When I moved back to Texas in 2012 I was not the best, but tolerable enough to be somewhat active in the SCA and somewhat social. Then things took a turn for the worse and sometime in 2014 I had a very steep decline in my condition. I almost refused to go out and do anything, I stopped driving unless I had to, I couldn’t go to the store, even with my wife with me. Things were bad and they stayed that way for several months, with only rare instances where I would step outside my comfort zone for anything.

I started to really turn the corner earlier this year, occasionally testing the waters to do things like go out to eat and go to the store with my wife for short trips. I didn’t have the annual dip in my activity level during the winter that I’d recorded the previous two years. I wasn’t really looking forward to change, but knew it was going to have to come soon, and I’d better be ready, so I pushed myself to try things again. And then I changed my anxiety medication. Once that happened, and once it had had a chance to build up in my system, I started making rapid progress.

I often attribute the change to the medication, but in reality I’d been working on this change for well over two years. The meds just changed my brain chemistry enough for it to suddenly be easier to do the things I was already doing, and without the biological obstacle in the way the behavioral progress sped up.

I still have bad days, but they’re few and far between now. They’re not really bad days anymore, more like bad moments in the day, suddenly there and gone just as quickly. It feels more like what I imagine “normal” is like.

And I’m kind of liking the difference.

NaBloPoMo Day 29: Old Tricks Aren’t Working

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My brain is a weird place, and sometimes I do not like how it works.

Early yesterday, I realized that on the 27th I broke a two month long streak in logging my vitals. I missed my evening blood pressure, the first time I had failed to log a reading since late September. I brushed that off like it was no big deal – just time to start a new streak.

Last night at about 11:40, I realized that I hadn’t blogged yet, nor had I done my learning exercises. I got the blog post done, I managed to complete my Duolingo, which actually tracks the number of consecutive days you meet your learning goal, but I failed to complete my three exercises in Elevate before midnight, and it reset my progress to start over with two done.

And as midnight started getting closer and closer, I started getting sloppy with my answers, as I was rushing through to meet this self-imposed deadline. When it became obvious I wasn’t going to make it in time, I became furious with myself, yelling and slamming my phone down on the couch (it’s fine). I finally got calmed down after my wife ran through the old centering exercise that I hadn’t needed in weeks. Satisfied, I went to bed.

I’d like to take a moment to stress that the most important parts of these activities were completed. I blogged in time to count for day 28, and my streak on Duolingo is still active.

Now, normally, sleeping will reset my brain and have me waking up thinking about fresh starts and optimism. Not this time.

I woke up furious with myself that I had lost my cool the night before and dove straight into an irrational argument with my wife over anything I could to demonize myself and turn myself into evil incarnate. Finally I got calmed down and we went to go brave the throng of shoppers at Bed Bath and Beyond to go pick up another set of cheap but effective filter cups for our Keurig. (Two of ours have broken through overuse. They’re reusable, but not quite permanent.)

Failure to reset after a night’s rest is a recent and disconcerting trend. used to be, there was nothing more effective at getting me to stop the downward spiral. Now it seems like I’m waking up remembering what an idiot I was the night before and it starts all over again, thoughts of fresh starts completely gone from my mind.

The impetus seems to be the belief that I’m in trouble, despite no one telling me that I am and nothing to outwardly show that I am. “I was such an asshole last night,” my brain seems to be telling me, “so of course I must be in trouble, because who could possibly forgive the outward manifestation of the symptoms of a chronic illness that I sometimes have little to no control over?” Even confirmation by my wife – the one I usually believe I’m in trouble with – that I’ve done nothing wrong doesn’t dissuade me from my errant belief. The more she tries to convince me, the harder and deeper I dig in my heels.

There are times that I really, really dislike having a mental illness. (I’m never crazy about it, but I mean a passionate hatred of my symptoms and how they affect me and those around me.) This morning was one of those times.

I’m doing better now, but even recanting that episode is putting the seeds of doubt in my head, that now that I’m TALKING about what happened, NOW I’ll be in trouble for sure. I’m fighting it as best as I can, but my evening is starting to go south and I’m not sure what I can do about it except go find a distraction.

NaBloPoMo Day 10: The First Year

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Today marks the one year anniversary of MWMISOSELF.com, and so today I thought I’d take a look back on the previous year. WordPress provides a very good dashboard that tracks a lot of statistics automatically, and so here’s what the numbers are telling me about the blog. As of this writing …

I’ve had 3,061 views from 1,788 visitors, for an average of 1.71 views per visitor.

This is my 164th post. On average, I’ve posted something every 2.23 days.

The most popular post I’ve ever written was called Surrender, written on February 20, 2015. It has 68 views currently.

February 20th was also the single most popular day I had on my blog. I had 57 views that day.

February 20th was ALSO the last day I posted for over two months, posting again on May 6th. I had a similar dry spell between August 7th and September 21st. Both of these periods coincide with periods I wasn’t properly medicated, so it’s a good bet to say that if you don’t see me writing every few days or so, I’ve likely gone off my meds – not by choice, but by circumstance.

The most popular day to read my blog is Monday, with 24% of views coming that day.

The most popular time to read my blog is in the 4:00 pm hour. I presume that’s local to me. I’m in the Central US time zone, so that makes it the 10:00 pm hour UTC/GMT. Eleven percent of my views have come during that hour.

By far the most visitors to my site have been from the United States, but I’ve also been viewed in 33 other countries: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Mexico, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Réunion, Romania, Russia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam. (I have personally met people who live in Australia, Canada, Thailand, and the United Kingdom, so that leaves 29 countries in there that I don’t know a soul.)

To be fair, I know that these numbers are almost certainly padded by bots accessing my website, but I like to think that the majority of these numbers are from actual people sitting in front of an actual screen reading my actual words. I’d like to hope that hidden somewhere in the jumble of my thoughts over the last year I’ve given someone the inspiration to keep fighting and the knowledge that they aren’t alone.

YOU aren’t alone, if you suffer from mental illness.

Know that if you need someone to talk to, all you need to do is let me know in the comments and I’ll figure something out. I’ll be happy to listen. I won’t judge, I won’t give unsolicited advice, and I won’t tell anyone about your experiences, even under the guise of “this guy told me …”

This past year hasn’t been easy for me, and I wrote a whole blog post about this yesterday, but I want to thank you all again for reading this blog. Just as I hope I’ve inspired you, you’ve helped to give me the strength to keep fighting. Thank you for that.

It’s Not Just Me

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I might have mentioned in passing that both my wife and I suffer from mental illness, and many of our diagnoses are similar: borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders (while we both suffer from generalized anxiety disorder, I have PTSD as well). I wanted to give you an idea of what it’s like being a spouse of someone who suffers from mental illness.

First off, proper introductions. I’ve never mentioned my wife’s name in this blog, because I could make do with the occasional mentions of her as “my wife” up until this point. But since the limelight is on her this time, I asked permission to use her name, which she gave.

Everyone, meet Stacy.

In some ways, she’s got it better than I do, in that she can function and hold down a job, whereas I’m on disability currently until my condition improves. However, she’s currently unmedicated and not seeing a therapist, which means she’s basically on her own to fight illnesses that are frankly not that much better than mine. I do the best I can to be a support mechanism for her, but there are days that all I can do is just love her unconditionally.

For example, this morning she described herself as feeling “off.” She couldn’t really go into further detail, just that she was in a lot of pain. Knowing she didn’t feel well, I made her a bowl of cereal for breakfast before heading back into the kitchen to make my own breakfast.

From the living room, there came a telltale sniff.

I came back out of the kitchen and saw her crying. I asked her what was going on and she managed to get out “you didn’t have to do that for me” and kept crying. I knelt on one knee next to her on the couch and just held her close. I told her that I knew she didn’t feel up to doing much, and that I wanted to be nice to her, and she reiterated, a little more tentatively, that I didn’t have to make her breakfast. I just held her some more and reassured her that I love her and that I was happy to make her life easier.

When she has a bad time of things, she tends to have the same M.O. – her brain tells her that everyone’s mad or, worse, disappointed in her, that she has to do everything for everyone in order to keep them happy, and that if she in any way fails to be perfectly attentive to their needs, that person will just simply go away.

Even – sometimes especially – if that person is me.

She has nightmares a lot, and often they deal with me being angry at her. This, to me, is proof that her subconscious is terrified of losing me, though we’ve never discussed this in detail with any therapist.

When she’s going through a rough spot, my attempts to help her sometimes work and sometimes don’t – in fact, they can even make it worse. But I don’t stop telling her I love her and that she’s worthy of that love no matter what.

It’s not easy sometimes, as I imagine that it’s not easy for her to deal with me when I’m at my worst. The difference with our individual irrationalities is that mine tells me to push everyone away and hers tells her they’re leaving of their own accord.

At times like that, the best thing for me to do is love her harder than ever, just like she does with me.

That’s the easiest thing to do, though. I love her more than there are stars, and will do so until they go out.

Crashing to the Ground

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I haven’t had a rational thought in a day and a half. I’ve barely gotten out of bed. I’ve given up on almost everything. And I can’t stop myself from metaphorically hitting myself while I’m down. Everything I feed to myself is self-hatred, everything I hear is negative, anything positive is a lie.

I can’t stop the cycle of self-punishment for something I did wrong to someone, somewhere, sometime, I don’t even know.

All I know is pain, all I feel is suffering. I just want it to end. And I can’t do anything but perpetuate it.