Vocabulary Vixen

August 11, 2009

The good, the bad, and the in-between

I’ve been taking it easy, trying to slow down, relax, and figure out what makes me tick, vs. what turns me into a bomb.

Right now, I am positively bored out of my skull and my brain is actively gnawing on itself to keep occupied. This is an odd sensation, but one that I must confront and deal with, because life isn’t all about “The Next Thing.” It’s about living now. If I spend the rest of my life shooting for these goals of making X dollars per year, buying a house, having 2.3 children and a white picket fence, sure, that’s grand and all, but it’s not going to make me happy in the long run. Why am I so pessimistic on this one? I am 1.5 years post-grad in a college town that’s saturated with BA’s, and though I work damn near a 40 hour work week, it’s not in my career field, and, and, and, I guess that I just assumed when I got out of college, life would be better. I would make more money being a degreed individual, and I would make ends meet on a regular basis.

Hello, Reality.

Reality is something different. It’s been something that I’ve had to come face-to-face with over this past year and a half, and I’ve narrowed things down to a few basic ideas: Living for the future is great, but now is what’s important. It’s okay to have goals and strive for them, but losing myself in the process deflates these highs of achievement pretty quickly. I’ll achieve a large goal, say finish college or get promoted, and once the high of getting what I shot for wears off, I’m left with a gnawing, empty void. A gnawing, empty void that I’ve filled desperately in the past with 100 extracurricular activities, all in the name of “When I get X, I’ll have life on Easy Street, and I’ll be able to relax and have fun!” The truth of the matter is, I don’t relax. I haven’t “just relaxed” for awhile, unless my brain has forced me to do so in the form of a screaming, crying mess. I don’t know how to just relax, and the sad part is that I don’t know how to “just relax” and be happy while doing so. Hell, I don’t even know how to be happy at this point, but I sure as hell am trying!

I’ve really had to force my efforts inward, and what I’ve found is kind of disturbing. I’ve had to deal with these issues, behaviors, thoughts, and patterns and face them head-on. I am trying to figure out how to manage my illnesses and come out on top. I am taking an active stand against these crappy patterns and behaviors, and standing up for my right to be a happy, healthy, and functional individual.

Last night, I had to physically force my obsessions out of my head. I imagined a bulldozer clearing away the imaginary dirt, germs, bugs, and cat hair in order to give my brain a clean slate to work with. It took quite a bit of physical and mental effort to do this. But y’know what? It’s me taking a stand against these relentless obsessions and negativity in my life in the name of something better. It is a Herculean battle that I wage, but I’m stepping it up. I’m winning.

Part of winning is recognizing how bored my brain actually gets, and what the hell to do about it. What I’m going to do about it is something that I’m actively working on, day in and day out. I’m really trying to find the balance of what’s too much activity and what’s not enough. Obviously, I can’t constantly be burning the candle on both ends. That never works, and it always leads to a breakdown. I’m pretty well working full-time at the coffee shop, and that suits me just fine for the moment. I would prefer a little more income, but using that as my overriding motivation for EVERYTHING doesn’t really work, either.

When I do finally find the balance of mental health and wellness, I’ll be sure to let the world know. That will be the day that David kicks the shit out of Goliath.

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August 7, 2009

I kick some SERIOUS ass!

I’ve been on a mini-hiatus as I endured a 5-day stint of anxiety-driven insomnia. I was able to sleep maybe 1-2 hours at a crack, and I had to work my full-time job while attempting to remain stable.

I succeeded.

To give a little background on my sleeping habits: Insomnia for more than one day is completely new to me. I am normally an olympian sleeper. If there were Olympics for sleeping, I would win the gold medal. I’m not narcoleptic, but I do enjoy my nine hours of sleep per day/night. I’ve occasionally in my life had 1 day bouts of being unable to sleep, usually because I’m excited for some reason or another (Christmas when I was young, etc), and any longer than that, I *will* make up for it the next day by “Power Napping” (A 5-hour “Nap”, which, I know, is more of a Sleep, but oh well!). I have had periods where I will sleep too much and just still be tired. That is because I would rather sleep sometimes than deal with everyday life.

Let’s rewind to last Saturday. I’d sort of effed-up. I’d had two days off, and I stayed up much later than I should have playing video games (not that my husband complained in the LEAST!!!). I went to work at 8:00 AM. My god, the possibilities!! I stayed up until 4:00AM. Whoa!, and that shift was anxious all-around. I was working with people that aren’t slackers, but they’re just plain not quick, and when there is a huge line of guests going out the door, speed and efficiency is key! But, I figured that I would either take a nap or go to bed early within the next day or so. No big deal.

I didn’t sleep terribly well that night, and when I did, I had a terrible, vivid dream about cockroaches coming to invade my domain, and when I found them, I sprayed stuff on them, but there was a little orange kitten in the way that got sprayed by the insecticide and got really sick. I was ashamed of myself for not checking more thoroughly for any other kitties that might have been in the vents (in the back play room of the house I grew up in). And then the cockroaches were super-cockroaches so I had to upgrade the spray, but I had to take care of the kitty-cat that I’d just gassed, and it was horrible! I woke up that day very anxious, and I had to concentrate on keeping medicated. I could feel the blackness welling up on me and getting ready to suck me in. I had that panicky, heart-thumping, shaky feeling I can only describe as headed downhill into a serious anxiety attack.

So the next night, I wasn’t really able to sleep either. By Sunday, it still wasn’t really that big of a deal. I was tired, but hey, I’ve gone through worse. I just figured that I’d sleep later that day or that night. I got home from work, relaxed awhile, and then tried to lay down and take a nap. I wasn’t able to do it. I laid in bed for two hours. I might have slept very, very lightly, but not enough. My mind was racing, and it kept going back to weird Obsessive-Compulsive La-La Land. I think I forgot my meds that day. I can usually feel it when I forget them, and I definitely felt that I was hanging on by a thread, and that that thread was fraying. I didn’t have a mental meltdown by any means, but I still felt dark, panicky, and anxious.

I should mention the experiment that I’ve been performing on myself. I have been looking to see exactly what it’s like when I’m focusing on nothing but one job, and I don’t have fifty other extracurriculars going on. For a long time, I used all of these extra activities to run away from my disease. It is much more comforting for me to be WAY TOO BUSY, because then I don’t have time to deal with all of this painful stuff that I’ve been going through lately and writing about. This has been part of it: to slow the hell down and figure out what makes me happy vs. what doesn’t make me happy.

I can say that this experiment has definitely proven to me that I do indeed have a *very* active mind! My brain moves through so much information on any given day that it’s ridiculous. So remaining completely unoccupied outside of my one job is probably not going to be the most beneficial for me. That is why I’ve decided to take on a few activities, like reading, writing, and drawing, to sort of get what’s going on in my brain out.

So basically, to continue the story about my week: I progressed further and further without sleep. I would lay down for a nap or to sleep for the night, and I was UNABLE TO DO IT. This went on for several days. Five, to be exact, and I knew it was dangerous territory. My sole mission for this week was to avoid a meltdown. My hand still kind of hurts from the last one. I also knew that the lack of sleep was beginning to take its toll as I was falling deeper and deeper into the darkness.

I started with that terrible cockroach dream. This was not the first dream that I’ve had of cockroaches lately, and I’ve noticed that it’s been a recurring theme. Combine that with a lack of sleep, a lack of meds, and this panicky anxiety, and I realized that I was diving headfirst into my next obsessive-compulsive manifestation. They change over time, really. But, to this day, I have a hard time really being outside in the wilderness, which is something that I love, and the last time I went camping, I basically had to drink myself into laying face-down drunk in the grass to make it through the night. So, this new obsessive-compulsive thing IS NOT COOL. I found myself contemplating whether or not I should inspect every nook, cranny, and crevice for potential entrance points and basically dust my kitchen with Boric Acid.

This is not a good idea for three reasons:

#1, Boric Acid must be used carefully, it’s NOT good for pets, and although relatively benign for humans, it’s only *relatively* benign. There is still a danger involved. Its a poison.
#2, I realized that if I started there, where would it end? My experience in dealing with obsessive-compulsive disorder for ten years is that once I start acting on those compulsions, it is merely a temporary solution for anxiety relief. The thought will repeat itself, and I will have to repeat the cycle.
#3, While handy to at least give a visual look-over for cockroach evidence, the time involved in dealing with an obsession and then compulsion is utterly ridiculous.

Still, though, my thoughts kept straying back to the little asshats. And back to them. And again.

Finally, I had to sit myself down and tell myself:

“Hey, there is ABSOLUTELY NO RATIONAL REASON FOR THIS!!! I haven’t seen any cockroaches at work for several months now, due to persistent visits from “The Man”, and although I live in an apartment complex, I am WELL familiar with what they look like and what evidence they leave in their wake, and I have literally SEEN NOTHING whatsoever to indicate that they have taken up residence in my apartment. Yes, there are a few stray crumbs, but I have cleaned them up, and there is just no plausible, rational reason for this!!! WHAT THE FUCK GIVES?!?!!!!”

I figured it out. I know what gives. It’s me diving headfirst into obsessive-compulsive la-la land. This is a familiar pattern. I dealt with this ten years ago when I first dove into the OCD deep-end with the head lice issue. Once I realized this, I decided right then and there that I am NOT doing this. There is no rational, logical reason behind it, and I am NOT going down this road again. I am making an active decision to separate myself from my disorder, realize that it’s my disorder talking, and move on. Once I spiral out of control into this OCD nightmare, it’s hella difficult to bring me back. What I *can* control is my med levels, and knowing that I am headed into mental WELLNESS, NOT more mental illness. And I REFUSE, REFUSE, REFUSE to fall prey to my disease again. I am exuding EVERY bit of effort that I’ve got toward living a life that is not chained down by the wholly fear and dread in my brain.

So I made that decision, I regulated my meds, and I feel a whole lot better. It still took me two or three days to accomplish all of this, and I was only finally able to sleep once I took care of one of my friends. That was a weird experience. But the important thing is that I took a STAND against my problem, and I FUCKING WON!!!

Once I realized what I’d actually accomplished, I also realized something else: I kick some SERIOUS ass! In a hardcore way. I took my problem, recognized it, and then beat the shit out of it by using rational thought and recognition.

I also realized that this is definitely something that I should feel really, really good about. I’m winning. I’m winning the battle. And I am one seriously determined woman. The sights have been set. I am going to beat this. All-around, I am going to win. Hardcore.

July 30, 2009

In Pursuit of the all-elusive Happiness…

I’m still here, I am still writing, and I am still living, breathing, and being human. My god! What?! Moi!? HUMAN?!

Last week was kind of tough, but I made it through that one. I think that I used to think that once I’d make it through a breakdown, I’d be stronger and that I’d never have a breakdown again. I’d never cut myself again. I’d always make a vow that I would do it better next time, and that I wouldn’t crumble under the load again. This is in my nature. The whole denial of reality thing is in my nature as well. Plausible denial. But, as life goes, something would happen, and I would crumble again under the pressure, and keep going up and down, down and up, around and abound, until I found myself completely and utterly lost over a year ago.

(more…)

July 27, 2009

Oh my god…for real

Since my most recent breakdown last week that involved smashing my own hand several times with a blunt (and not-so-heavy) object, I’ve been fighting to get back to a normal train of thought and existence. I’ve been fighting it, and I’m exhausted. The black vortex has been trying to suck me in to the bad, nasty thought patterns that are so common and prevalent with depression. I’ve been working double-triple-quadruple-overtime to get my brain back on track. I’ve been talking myself up: “Hey, I love myself! There’s NO reason WHATSOEVER to be feeling this way! Enjoy the sunshine! Enjoy life!” …Only to be met by the darkening cloud coming in to suck my soul away.

I’ve been trying to just relax, do fun things, watch my weekly rounds of internet TV, hang out on Facebook, read a book (though I read it already. Now that I’ve got regular access to my memory, this can be compared to keeping a cat entertained: “But I already saw this one two weeks ago and I flung it under the refrigerator! You’ve GOT to be kidding me! How about the little red bug? I never seem to catch that thing!”), write in my journal, distract myself from thinking these thoughts, or just try to get them to go away in general in a vain attempt to actually FEEL GOOD. Because now I know what it’s like, and like the cracked-out addict in the corner, I want more. I want more happiness. I want more love. I want more function. I want to be healthy. I want to be creative and productive.

…Since last week’s freak-out (nervous breakdown), I’ve been trying to recover and restore myself to a healthy balance. I’m working on it, but it’s slooooow going, and after still feeling the black void sucking me in today, I’m thinking “Geez! How much longer?” I’ve been eating lighter to counteract my non-activity over the weekend. I’ve been trying to eat healthy. Fruits, veggies, vitamins, etc. I increased my meds, I added Lexapro back into the mix. Although it turned down the intensity of the void, and I could feel the blackness shaking, I’ve had a HELL of a time trying to release it completely! I’ve been fighting it all weekend, and quite frankly, I’m exhausted. The internal banter is relentless. It’s two epic, HUGE, LOUD opposing forces in my brain, each screaming at each other at the top of their lungs, hoping that one will scream louder than the other and get the other to just shut the fuck up. …Not that I’m actually hearing them, it’s the feeling of wanting to be well, happy, and healthy vs. this black vortex trying to suck me in.

I sometimes feel like I’m fighting a losing battle. My husband says this, but he’s not me. Not that his plight isn’t valid, but I’m the epicenter of all the chaos. Anditblows. It blows fainting pygmy goats. I’ve had this “losing battle” feeling all weekend, and today, perhaps it’s a little bit of sleep deprivation with a teeny bit of stress creeping back in, but I’m going “Really?! For real? STILL!?!!?!!! GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY HEAD!!”

Before therapy today, I’d been trying to wrap my head around intellectually WHY I’m feeling this way. Because that’s what I do. I find comfort in looking for the reason “why”. Usually, if I find a concrete reason to go with, I feel better. So, I’ve been asking: Are my meds off? Well, I’m better medicated, and if I up the dosage any more, it will be akin to taking a blunderbuss to a grapefruit and ALL thought will be wiped off the face of Vixen’s brain… I ran yesterday to get the endorphines pumping and flowing to just feel good. I felt okay for awhile, but it was temporary. I’ve felt sort of wobbly, sick, and that “I’m going to vomit” feeling from just being nervous, anxious, and miserable.

I’ve been forced to cling onto the few things that I’ve earned and worked VERY, VERY HARD FOR over the past year in therapy. I’ve had to sit myself down and realize, at least intellectually, that I *AM* smart, funny, caring, loving, etc. …Even though there’s that tiny little critter in the back of my brain saying “WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU KIDDING?! YOU’RE ABSOLUTELY USELESS! WHY GO ON?!” That little critter that’s been lying in wait, waiting for a moment of vulnerability to come out to play again and grab hold of my soul in icy blackness. I say “NO.” I’ve been saying “NO!” all weekend, but it’s been starting to border on just plain irritating. I’ve been wondering why I can’t shake this, I’ve been going into anxiety overload because of it. It sucks.

It’s been wearing on me. It’s intrusive. I came up with a theory that it could be something to do with the OCD. There are obsessions about unwanted or intrusive thoughts creeping in the ol’e noggin. I’ve certainly had my share of those. They should have dissipated with the up in meds, though, not just merely dampened.

I’ve been desperately trying to analyze WHY I’m doing this. Intellectually, I *know* shouldn’t be doing this. It’s the height of summer, the weather’s beautiful, I’m not doing anything in particular but working and (supposedly) “enjoying” life, WHY AM I FEELING THIS WAY, DAMMIT!? I’VE BEEN TRYING TO GET BETTER! WHY AM I DOING THIS?!?!?!!!

I like to analyze and assess why I do things. I’ve really spent over a year doing this intensively, and I’ve worked very hard for the small semblance of sanity that I’ve found, even if it’s fleeting. It’s still oscillating, and it’s oscillating in my direction more and more. I want to hang on to that, so when my analysis of why I’m doing this vortex thing wasn’t going anywhere, I get effing frustrated.

My (brilliant) therapist pointed out today something very important. She gave me another piece of the puzzle by mentioning when I told her about ALL of this that: In essence, my emotions are also NOT me. Sometimes they will get unruly, but they do NOT define me as a person. Just as my mental illness does NOT define me.

…And that made all the difference. Being able to draw the line in the sand and differentiate between myself and these unruly emotions was the most enormously helpful thing ANYBODY could have helped me do today. And it helped me let go. My anxiety level dropped, I relaxed, and the skies parted and I was wrapped in a feeling of serene relaxation.

This thing had really been bugging me. So much so, in fact, that I was on a hair-trigger for *anything* today, and I really feel that I was going to be a walking Anxiety Attack. “Hi, I’m Anxiety. That annoying guy at the party that WON’T SHUT UP.” My heart was buzzing out of my chest with every phone call I received, every wayward glance, and it was starting to really stress me out. And I couldn’t get rid of the dark and evil because I was *too fixated* on getting rid of it (sounds a wee bit familiar… scratchy-scratch the head lice, anyone?).

But once my therapist pointed out that key differentiation between myself and my emotions, my whole body relaxed. I really thought I was GOING CRAZY FOR FINALLY AND FOREVER. And that I wouldn’t be able to fight this much longer, and that eventually, I’d have to be locked up in the padded room, in a straight jacket because I wouldn’t be able to function without injury. Yet, intellectually, I knew I had *something* to hang on to. I can’t let my poor brain and my talents go to waste! I SPENT A YEAR LOOKING FOR THEM! That is what kept me hanging on, by the barest, thinnest thread. I know that I’ve got intelligence, talent, and a lot on my side, instead of nothing. That’s why I couldn’t fall into the abyss. It was stressful. And tiring.

I’m *so* glad that she pointed that key bit for me today.

I’ve had a WONDERFUL day since then. It’s been relaxed, fun, and just general thought going on in the back of my brain since that conversation. I feel human. I feel like a real, live human being functioning on earth. I DON’T feel like I’m going to be sucked into this black, dark void that’s creeping in like fog. I feel pretty good. I feel stable. THIS is what I’ve been working on all week(end).

I’ll bet I sleep like a baby tonight. 🙂

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