Being Disabled

Being Disabled

Being on disability is not easy. I’m on it because of my bipolar disorder, PTSD, and borderline personality disorder. As most of you know, dealing with the effects of these mental health disorders is difficult and exhausting. I have so many doctor appointments to manage. Going anywhere new is extremely difficult for me. In fact, my husband has to come with me whenever I go somewhere for the first time because I’ll have a panic attack. I don’t do well dealing with new people, specifically physical contact, I think that is from the PTSD. My social life is small because it’s difficult for me to meet and connect with people. I also struggle to keep in contact with the friends I already have because of the depression.

I wish I could contribute more to our financial status, instead I contribute in other ways. I keep myself busy managing my life and my husband’s life. I don’t know if my bipolar disorder will ever be stable again. It hasn’t been stable since 2009. I don’t know what my future holds, but it doesn’t appear to be a mentally stable state.

The Dentist…

The Dentist…

I had a dentist appointment yesterday, which is one of my least favorite appointments to go to. Lying down in the dentist’s chair makes me feel so vulnerable. I can’t see who is walking up behind me and my reaction time is slowed because I’m lying down. These are some of my biggest fears. I have to use nitrous oxide to get through it without a panic attack lately. However, I think I want to try to do it without it next time. Maybe I can see how far I get before asking the hygienist to hook up the nitrous. It all depends on how I’m doing emotionally at the time of the next appointment.

This time, the hygienist asked me if I really needed it. I felt pathetic. He asked me if I needed it because of a bad dental experience. I told him no; he kept probing for answers. I told him it was PTSD from a bad relationship, not like it was really any of his business. He tried to give me tips on how to stay calm, but I cut him off. It’s not like I haven’t tried just about every trick in the book to deal with my anxiety/panic attacks. He wasn’t trying to be disrespectful, he was just trying to save me money; however, it wasn’t his place to say the things he said.

Martial Arts Helped Me In Many Ways

Martial Arts Helped Me In Many Ways

I’ve had trouble sleeping the past week or so, and when that happens my mind tends to wander. I tend to worry, and of course every noise my house makes freaks me out. I feel so vulnerable, it’s from my PTSD. I think about when I first got sober, the long-term rehab I was in required that we take martial arts, among many other activities. I loved it! I worked hard at it, and in just about a year’s time, I was able to graduate to from a white belt to a blue belt. I really miss it. It gave me more confidence, and most importantly, it helped me feel safe when I was alone.

I’ve been thinking about joining some type of martial arts or self-defense class. It might take me many months to actually do, but I started thinking about it. I even brought it up to my husband last night. He reminded me that the main reason I stopped doing martial arts was because of the pain in my knees and hips, which I completely forgot about thanks to ECT. This was before my knee surgery. I know it’s really hard on my body, but it may be worth a try. I think a self-defense class would be easier on me physically.

I might start researching the different places I could go to. A one-on-one self-defense class is probably the least anxiety-provoking and intimidating. I get extremely nervous in groups. If I feel comfortable down the road, I can always join a martial arts program. Who knows what will happen, anything’s possible.

 

Fireworks Fear

Fireworks Fear

The 4th of July is coming, and that means fireworks. I’m not a fan of fireworks because of the noises they make. In my neighborhood, people started setting off fireworks last night. They will do so every night and they will do more and more each night. They even set them off during the day. I’m not trying to be un-American; I’m just saying that fireworks scare me. Loud noises that come out from nowhere and happen over and over again terrify me. It’s a PTSD trigger.

My dog normally barks at fireworks and never stops barking, but last year I got him a ‘ThunderShirt’. The shirt is like a giant hug and is meant to help keep dogs calm. It works like magic. My dog may bark once, but then he goes and lays down. At least I don’t have to deal with my dog barking nonstop all night long from the fireworks.

The fireworks started last night. One really loud one went off, and I thought it was a gunshot. It’s not uncommon to hear gunshots in my neighborhood at night. My dog barked once and then went to bed. I wouldn’t mind the fireworks if they only happened one night, on the 4th of July. But instead, it’s at least 4 or 5 days of fireworks and loud noises.

I do my best to manage my fears. It scares me a little less since I already know that the fireworks are coming. I can prepare myself for them. Some nights, like on July 4th, I will take a Valium, which will allow me to actually enjoy the fireworks and celebration. Do other people have this same fear and problem?

Trying To Work Through Abuse

Trying To Work Through Abuse

I was having a conversation with someone I know and get along with yesterday. He was saying that he tends to get overwhelmed with all sorts of situations in life and often explodes. He says it takes him a couple of hours to cool down. I told him that I have those same feelings, but I hold them all in, which is difficult to manage. I don’t allow myself to properly express my emotions. This guy asked me why I hold everything in; he said it’s not healthy to do that (neither is the way he manages his emotions, but there’s a middle ground somewhere). I knew right away why I hold in my emotions and why my anxiety and fears are so extreme. It’s because of my ex-boyfriend, Jared, but I didn’t want to get into it then, so I just shrugged off the question.

However, the inquiry has been with me all night. Jared was physically, mentally, and emotionally abusive. I was hooked in our relationship. He had me believing that everything that went wrong was my fault and I needed to be punished for the problems I caused. Over time, I stopped expressing myself. I don’t like standing up for myself anymore. It’s just a natural reaction for me now.  I automatically stuff my emotions down; however, one day they will all come out, and it won’t be pretty. I already liked to drink by the time I met this guy, but being a black out drunk became normal for me because I didn’t want to remember anything. There are some situations that I remember, even though I wish I could forget them. I’m sad to say that Jared is one of the reasons I act the way I do. He has nothing to do with my bipolar disorder, but everything to do with my PTSD, which was diagnosed in 2009.

I’m getting better with time. There was a couple of year period where I couldn’t be touched by anybody, not even a handshake or hug. That is no longer an issue. I have come a long way. It’s still difficult being in crowds, having people around me that I can’t see (such as standing in a line or shopping), talking to or being around strangers, and not knowing what is happening. I like to have control over situations; it makes me feel a little safer. This may sound weird, but I tend to blame myself for what happened with Jared. If I’m to blame, then I can do something about it. If it’s entirely his fault, then I have no control over the situation. One thing that helps is that he’s dead. He was killed several years ago during a drug deal. At first, that made it even harder for me to deal with because I had no closure, but now I’m okay with it for the most part.

I doubt I’ll ever get past all of this, but I have grown from it. As long as I continue to grow, then that’s okay.

Anxiety At The Gym

Anxiety At The Gym

My husband and I just finished working out at the gym. Thank goodness it wasn’t very busy, but my anxiety was still pretty high. My anxiety tends to sky-rocket every time I see someone, walk by someone, or see someone looking my way. So basically, that means my anxiety is high the entire time I’m there. My husband stays by me the whole time to help me feel a little more secure, but it doesn’t completely remove my anxiety. I can’t imagine how anxious I would be without having my husband there by my side. In fact, I don’t think I would even be able to go if I wasn’t with him.

Even when the gym is slow, like it was today, there are still more people to keep track of than possible. Knowing everything that’s going on around me is one of the things that helps reduce my anxiety. I start to panic when I can’t see everything that’s happening and everyone that’s around me. My husband is there to help keep me safe and as a second pair of eyes, but no one can see everything that’s happening in a gym at one time. I become very nervous, scared, and paranoid in public places. I wish I could get rid of all of this anxiety. It’s exhausting. I have Valium that helps, but I don’t want to take one every time we go to the gym. I guess I just have to suck it up and deal with it, although that doesn’t sound like something I want to do or can do. I’m sure it will get better over time; I just have to be patient.

 

Insomnia…

Insomnia…

I’ve probably mentioned before that I’m an insomniac. However, the Clozapine I take at night helps me fall asleep with 20 minutes, I just don’t stay asleep. I wake up at least twice every night. It would be nice to sleep through the night, but I don’t know if that will ever happen. My mind is always running extremely fast. It goes from one thought, to the next, and so on. I never catch a break; I never get a moment of peace from my own brain. This happens when I’m manic, depressed, and even when I’m not experiencing an episode.

There are many aspects in life that affect my ability to sleep. These aspects include keeping a routine, medications, my anxiety level, and my honesty. Keeping a routine is important, but it’s something that I’m not very good at. I almost never go to bed at the same time every night. I pretty much go to sleep whenever I feel like it, so that isn’t very helpful. Several of my medications, including Lithium and Tegretol XR, can cause insomnia in patients. I’m sure this worsens my ability to sleep. My anxiety level is high quite often. Even when it’s not high, I deal with anxiety on a regular basis, especially when I’m outside of my home. For me, it’s important to remain honesty. I have a hard time living with myself if I’m not honest. I truly believe that honesty is the best policy; it’s important that when we interact with others, you should treat them the way you want to be treated.

There are many reasons why I could struggle with insomnia. I wonder if this is something I’ll have to deal with for the rest of my life. When I was a young child, I would fall asleep anywhere. Now, I have to force myself to fall asleep. And to make matters even worse, I tend to have nightmares when I finally do fall asleep. My husband says that he can tell when I’m having a bad dream because I talk very loudly in my sleep and I’m constantly tossing and turning. When I wake up, I don’t always remember my dream/nightmare, but I do remember feeling terrified. I wonder if there’s anything I can do to help get rid of these nightmares.

I Did Well… For A While – My Life: Part 5

I Did Well… For A While – My Life: Part 5

After working at the rehab for 9 months, I decided I wanted to move forward with my life. I applied for many jobs in Phoenix. I got a job as a receptionist for a legal compliance and ethics e-learning company. I found an apartment in Phoenix and moved there with a guy I was dating from the rehab, but that relationship didn’t last. I don’t know when our relationship ended, but I think we lived together for about a year. I adopted a dog and named him Cash (after Johnny Cash). He was awfully energetic and liked to chew on everything. I learned how to train him, and he started to behave properly. Cash came with me to AA camping events, which was a blast. At some point, I found a great AA club where I would go to the same meeting every day at 6pm. I don’t like change, so moving was scary. I like to keep a regular schedule. I made a lot of friends at the meeting, but I would only go to that one meeting every day. One of the guys I met was Brandon, who became my best friend. He had the same sarcastic attitude that I have and we got along wonderfully.

I was doing really well at this time in my life. I got a promotion at work, I was able to live on my own, make friends, and maintain my sobriety and my mental health. I took my medication and saw my doctors regularly. I was seeing the psychiatrist that was treating me while I was in rehab. Brandon asked me to workout with him. I told him no for months, and then I ultimately caved and decided to go with him. I was terrified because it was something new, but Brandon made me feel safe. After working out with him once, I was hooked. I loved it. We started working out together 5 days a week. It helped me get through my days at work. I would go to work, then workout with Brandon, and then go to my meeting (often with Brandon). I was happy with this new schedule; it was working well for me.

In the beginning, I wasn’t open about my mental health when it came to my AA meetings. My close friends knew, but that was all. Eventually, I ended up talking about my bipolar disorder in a meeting. I felt as if it wasn’t accepted. Several times, I was told that I didn’t have a mental health problem. It was just an issue to work on through step work. That was a problem for me. I didn’t feel accepted. My mental health was a huge part of my life. Even when I’m doing well, it’s still a large piece of my life. I was stable for years. That had never happened to me before.

My psychiatrist decided to wean me off my meds slowly because I had been stable for such a long period. It was possible that my mental health issues were drug related, so we thought it was worth a try to get off medication. I was down to two medications, and then she took me off the Seroquel. About 4 months later, I started to fall apart. I thought it would be a good idea to go to therapy again because I started to remember things that I hadn’t previously remembered. These memories triggered what was eventually diagnosed as PTSD. With the PTSD coming up and the med changes occurring, it was like the perfect storm. I started having hallucinations and was shaking uncontrollably. My psychiatrist put me on Abilify, but that made it worse. I barely slept for 3 weeks.

My job let me work from home, but after a little while, I couldn’t even manage that any more. I went on short-term disability, which then turned into long-term disability. There were times that I struggled to feed the dog. My mom came out to stay with me for a little while, but she couldn’t be there all the time. I decided to move back to Connecticut because I couldn’t be on my own anymore. I’m lucky that she was able and willing to let me and my dog move in with her. My long-term disability turned in to Social Security Disability.

I thought writing my story would help my memory, and it has; but it has also become difficult for me. There’s a lot that I struggle to remember, and a lot of other things I wish I didn’t remember. I think I’m going to take a break from writing my story for a little while.

A Great Day

A Great Day

I did well today; better than I thought I would do. I got some things done around the house to help out. In the afternoon, I went to see my grandma and I had a great visit. Her health is declining and I tend to worry. We had several conversations; I love the fact that I can be open with her about my bipolar disorder and PTSD. There were several things she didn’t understand at first, but she listened to me explain various aspects of the disorders. She even repeated things back to me in her own words showing that she did grasp the concepts. I was able to explain to her how my moods can change suddenly; sometimes I am unable to laugh, sometimes all I can do is cry, and sometimes I feel nothing at all. She even tried to understand how my thoughts can take over my mind; how for the past many months, I have had suicidal ideations in the back of my mind. She asked how my ECT treatments are going and how I’m managing my medications. Even though she may not remember all of these things, she still cared enough to listen to my explanations and try to understand the disorders. Bipolar disorder and PTSD were not things that were considered ‘real’ when she was growing up. The fact that she can see them as real and care about my mental health means so much to me.

Then I was able to spend the evening with my mom. We went to dinner and a movie; we saw a chick flick, Mother’s Day. It was a good movie; not great, but not horrible. The best part of it all is that I got to spend time with my mom. I can talk to her about anything, and I’m not exaggerating. The two of us are happy doing anything, as long as we are together. Tomorrow, we are going to the Science Center to see a Leonardo da Vinci exhibit. I can’t wait to see it; the exhibit brings to life 40 of his inventions. I’m excited to have the opportunity to spend time with my mom; it’s a blessing that I’m extremely grateful for.

The best part of the day is that I didn’t take any Valium. There were probably a couple of times that it would have been beneficial, but I pushed through and did okay. I only want to take that medication when I absolutely need it. If I take it too often, then I build up a tolerance to it, and it doesn’t work as well. Today, I was able to get through my day without any Valium at all. That is a big deal for me. I’ve had other days that I didn’t take any, but I usually didn’t leave the house on those days. Today, I was out and about quite a bit, and I was able to manage it on my own.

Anxiety While Shopping

Anxiety While Shopping

Running errands is a difficult task for me, and it always seems as if the errands are never ending. I’m comfortable in my own home for the most part, but when I leave my house, all of my fears start to take over. One of my biggest fears is having someone I don’t know come up behind me. My anxiety kicks in when I’m in public. I constantly look from side to side and front to back to make sure I’m aware of everything that’s going on around me.

There are certain stores that I hate going into on my own or at all. These stores have bright and fluorescent lighting, narrow aisles, and large display cases right at the entrance. These aspects cause anxiety and make me feel trapped and uncomfortable. I would prefer to go to a store that ends up costing me more money, than go to a store that brings out my anxiety. Even the regular store that I go to can sometimes cause anxiety; it all depends on how many people are there. It’s important for me to plan when I go shopping to avoid the crowds.

I also hate standing in line when it’s time to check out. There always seems to be someone behind me that doesn’t know what personal space means. This isn’t just at grocery stores; it happened to me the other day when I went to buy dog food. I despise going to the mall. I’ve actually only been once in the past year. I wasn’t alone, and despite that, I was still freaking out on the inside. These are some of the reasons why I try to buy as much as I can online.

There are so many things that I struggle to do, inside and outside of my home, which is why it’s important that I have a support system. My husband is great when it comes to helping me feel safe while we’re out. He will walk behind me so I know that he is the only person directly behind me. This especially helps while standing in lines. When I feel trapped in an aisle, I normally freeze, but he helps guide me through the store. He will put his arm around me, hold my hand, or hold onto my belt loop, making me feel more secure and ensuring that I don’t get lost. I can also go in on my own if absolutely necessary as long as I’ve taken Valium. I have progressed over time with the different activities that I’m capable of doing. Hopefully, over time, some of the regular errands I run will become easier for me to do.