It’s like a switch in my head flipped and suddenly I’m okay. The pit in the bottom of my stomach is gone. The shaking in my hands is still there, but I don’t want to chant “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t” over and over anymore.
I feel invincible. I start making plans. Cleaning and decluttering is actually happening and not just something I think about. I bring out a writing project I’ve been planning on tackling for a YEAR and I actually get it done.
It’s also highly unsettling.
I feel good. Do I feel too good?
I wonder about hypomania. If you don’t know what that is, it’s basically the baby sister of the Mania someone with Bipolar Disorder experiences. It’s nowhere near as severe and doesn’t last as long (at least with me) but you get a taste of some of the feelings and impulsiveness.
Logically I know I’m not hypomanic. This just happens to me. The same way I wake up one day and feel horrible and anxious. No matter how much therapy and medication I take I’ll always have these swings. The treatment helps them tremendously, but it can’t take them away. My brain just doesn’t work like other people’s brains.
Today I feel great. I feel like I can take on the world, so I’m taking advantage of it. In the words of the great Jenny Lawson, I’m going to be “Furiously Happy”. I’m going to keep writing and outlining while the creativity holds. I’m going to clean and declutter while it’s not overwhelming. I’m going to go places and see people while those social situations don’t feel like being waterboarded.
Today is a good day.
Tomorrow might be a bad one.
But today is good.
Do you ever wake up and just feel good instead of bad? Do you like my new blog header?And more importantly, how awesome is Jenny Lawson?
This is possibly the most helpful thing my therapist has ever told me. She explained that the word “should” to the mentally ill mind is as offensive as certain four letter words. It tells us that we are failing in some way by not acting in a certain fashion.
For example, someone might say “I should be eating healthier”. The phrase immediately conjures up guilt at something you aren’t doing. What if you said “I WANT to be eating healthier”? Instead of shaming, it is a statement with a goal you can work towards. That make sense to you?
I try very hard to stop myself from making ‘should’ statements. I restructure them in my head and remind myself over and over how it is having a bad effect on me.
Unfortunately, one place that advice never made it to was my writing.
When I first joined Twitter, I was almost immediately enchanted. There were so many writers out there to interact and chat with, and they wanted to talk to me! It was so inspiring to share little tidbits of my process with people and read all about theirs.
At first, my writing was boosted. It was motivating to get my words written every day so I could share it with people. It was that tiny bit of accountability that I need. Until it started to do the opposite.
Like with everything else in the world, writers on Twitter have very forceful opinions. Most have the best of intentions, but that didn’t stop me from forgetting that everyone has to find their own way, and just because someone is more experienced about something than me it doesn’t mean they are right about everything.
It played up on my fear of publishing. I openly admit that I never plan on traditional publishing because I know my works isn’t “marketable”. Even though I write romance, I don’t fit into a narrow niche. (more on that subject in a future post) When I’m done with something, I plan on setting it loose in the world, whether or not anyone else reads it. Writing is something I have always done for me, not other people.
That’s all fine. Although there can be a stigma attached, lots of people self publish and are quite happy with their results. Naturally I was attracted to posts with tips and tricks in them.
I let people get in my head. I started worrying about making mistakes. I heard people who clearly have much harsher standards than I say that they would stop reading a book after finding a single typo (which listening to several podcasts by published authors recently reminded me was not something uncommon to traditionally published works too). I listened to people who talked about how you had to have this, and you had to have that before publishing, even if it cost more money than you could ever reasonably spend.
I believed them when they said you had to pay someone else to make your work the best it could possibly be.
My anxiety sent obsessive thoughts swirling around my head until I didn’t want to work on my novels anymore. Sure, I wrote little bits here and there, but whenever I thought about editing one of the many things I have first drafts of I would get that bad feeling in the pit of my stomach that said it would never be good enough.
I let the world psych me out. I forgot that I know what I want out of my writing, and it doesn’t involve perfection. I want to write the stories in my head down and edit them until they say what matters to me. Me, not the rest of the world. Would I like people to read and like them? Of course! But that cannot, nor do I want it to be my main goal.
I’ve known for a few months that I needed to find a way to stop other people from stealing my joy of writing. Amusingly, it’s only been during a very stressful family crisis that I have been able to sort through my feelings and come to a sort of solution.
The solution was basically to think a lot about writing, listen to some of my favorite writing podcasts, and sort through the negative thoughts and “shoulds” that my brain had been infected by. I found the nest, sprayed for pests, and with any luck I can keep the infestation under control from now on.
Writing this entry was half the battle. What better way to sort out thoughts and feelings for a writer? For the first time in a long time, I feel positive about my writing. I’m looking forward to sitting down at putting words to page.
I’ve stopped ‘should-ing on myself’. And it feels great.
Do you find yourself plagued by ‘shoulds’? Has it negatively impacted your life (writing or otherwise)? As always, I hope something I’ve said resounds with someone and makes their life just a little bit easier.
I have two basic types of anxiety: Obsessive Anxiety and Bad Feeling Anxiety.
People with Anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder both deal with obsessive thoughts. Your brain is constantly firing and nearly impossible to shut off. I often can’t fall asleep without television when I’m experiencing this type of anxiety. My brain is going so fast I need something to focus on to doze off.
I often don’t even realize I’m experiencing this type of anxiety, unless there’s a specific thing I’m obsessing about. Often I realize my anxiety level is rising when I start making more frequent google searches about various ailments, aches and pains, and problems I probably don’t have but could easily convince myself I do.
Everyone does this to a certain extent. Most of us have seen more than one meme about how they have either a headache or a brain tumor. How WebMD has diagnosed them as dead. Etc. We all do it, but when my Obsessive Anxiety comes out the searches get more and more frequent, until they’re happening multiple times a day and ever strange sensation is being investigated like it’s potential cancer. (Ironically, the one thing I’m NOT afraid of getting is cancer.)
“Bad Feeling” Anxiety
Bad Feeling Anxiety is much harder to explain. I can best describe it by first explaining the basic difference between an Anxiety Attack and a Panic Attack. An Anxiety attack has a trigger. Lost your keys, lost a dear relative, whatever it is it causes instant panic. A Panic Attack doesn’t have that trigger. You aren’t worrying about anything when it happens. There is no reason to be panicking, which is one of the things that makes it so scary.
I wake up one day breathing a little shorter, my heart beating a little faster. My hands shake and I have this indescribable feeling in my gut that something terrible is going to happen. It used to be terrifying. I was desperate to make the feeling go away. I would wrack my brain trying to figure out what caused it.
Then I realized there was no cause.
These days when I wake up with the Bad Feeling, it’s not so scary. It’s upsetting, and frustrating, but less scary. I know how it’s going to go. I know I’m going to feel bad, I know there’s nothing I can do about it, and I know how to handle it. (LINK TO BLOG ENTRY)
Of the two, I usually prefer the Obsessive Anxiety. When there’s a trigger, you can reason with your anxiety. It doesn’t always work, but there’s a purpose, something you can do to work on it. Distraction, getting out of the house, crafting, things like that are more likely to snap me out of it. Sometimes all it takes is a simple Klonopin.
Today, because of some tough family issues we are dealing with, I’m experiencing Obsessive Anxiety. It’s not terrible, just a noticeable increase in my normal anxiety levels. I can roll my eyes and joke about my obsessive googling. The biggest problem is that it’s so much easier for life to nudge me up to the breaking point.
Today, it wouldn’t be hard to make me cry. Speak sternly to me, a mean message on Twitter, losing a book I’m looking for, spilling a cup of coffee on the carpet. The ant I just had to kill on my keyboard that made this document disappear and I panicked thinking I’d lost everything I’d just written. (I didn’t cry, but I would have if it was all gone.)
Today, I’m just going to treat myself a little better, take things a little easier.
Do you find that your anxiety (or whatever else mental health issue you have) falls into 2 or more categories? Is there one you hate more or are they equally terrible?
Last night, people started posting pictures of an ice skater I like with this girl who is supposedly his former skating partner and girlfriend. Naturally, everyone was having a giant hissy fit and freaking out. Completely overreacting considering it was just a picture and no one knows a thing.
I wasn’t upset. I really wasn’t. I was more concerned that other people were that upset. I found myself reading all over Twitter instead of just quickly checking my favorite hashtags like I’d planned. People were melodramatically announcing they were going into seclusion and never watching them skate again, crazy stuff like that.
So naturally, my anxiety decided that I must feel so much more upset than I do.
Last day of Nanowrimo, Anxiety whispers.
You’ve been feeling really good.
I told you something would happen to ruin it.
You’ll never make it through tomorrow.
See how awake you feel right now? That’s because you’re really upset.
You won’t sleep.
It’s really late. Why aren’t you sleeping?
See, you’re super upset about this.
Everyone’s going to laugh at you because you’re upset.
Just wait until people find out you let a random famous person dating a person you don’t want them to send you spiraling into a mental health crisis.
You’re never going to write all those words tomorrow.
And then when I woke up in the night for a few minutes:
See, you’re so upset you can’t even sleep through the night.
You’ll never fall back asleep.
You’re going to feel terrible in the morning.
You’re so stupid for liking these people so much.
You’ll never enjoy figure skating again.
And again when I woke up this morning:
Don’t feel good, do you? That’s anxiety. Remember anxiety, you hate it. You’re going to feel like that forever now. Or at least so long that it will mess up your life. Everyone’s going to think you’re stupid.
And you will never finish your novel for Nanowrimo. It’s all ruined. The fun is over. You’re a failure and you always wuss out.
I know all these things are a lie. I know it’s just Anxiety messing with my brain. I know it’s my own head spiraling and turning one tiny thing into a huge thing inside of my brain.
This morning I woke up with tingling and cold arms. Which tells me something else that Anxiety doesn’t want me to know: this is merely a poorly timed set of withdrawel symptoms. I lowered my dose last weekend. I was due a day or two of feeling crappy and/or anxious. It has nothing to do with my self worth or how much of a life I have.
It’s just Anxiety on a power trip, poking it’s ugly little head up when it spots a weakness, a crack in the wall I’m building.
But you can’t fool me, Anxiety. You can say all those things, you can make me feel sick and shaky and horrible, but I know you’re wrong. I am not a terrible person. I don’t choose to feel like this.
And I am going to write the hell out of today. When I see the numbers read 50,000 words I am going to remind you just how wrong you were.
Take that, Anxiety.
This was written first thing in the morning on November 30th. I never intended to post it, I just wanted to get some words out of my head so I could get back to my novel. I came across it when re-reading my Nanowrimo novel and was surprised by how coherent and strong my words were.
How could I not share this with the world?
Normally, I would have given myself a day off. But this was the very last day of Nanowrimo and I’d worked SO HARD. I wrote almost 25,000 words in the last three days. I think I had 8,000 I needed for the final day.
I did it. I fought though Anxiety and reached my goal.
I started keeping a mood chart in the back of my planner three years ago and I love being able to look back at the entire year and see many good (and bad) days I’ve had. Anyway, this year orange is the color for an anxious day and February was completely devoid of orange. Instead it was filled with turquoise (for a ‘meh’ day) and blue (a happy day!).
I’ve been feeling disturbingly good mental health-wise the past few months. Disturbing because some days it just feels weird and suspicious. Unnatural even.
For the first time in, probably a decade, I feel like I’ve really got my life on track. I can finally focus on my physical health more. For so long I had to put my mental health at the front of the line because if I didn’t have good mental health, my physical health didn’t really matter. But now I’m at a point where I can focus on eating more nourishing foods and getting more movement.
I’m having fun.
It’s always scary when I start to feel this way because I know it won’t last. I could wake up tomorrow and have a bad day. I could have a series of Bad Days. With Anxiety and Depression there is just no way to know.
Over the years, I’ve developed a routine of sorts. When those Bad Days come (and they will), I know what to do. And that makes them just a little less terrible. For me, I know nothing but time will make that terrible feeling go away. I just have to survive each day at a time until it runs it’s course. Having a routine makes those days a little less scary and reminds me that it will end, just like it did the last time it happened.
Here is how I cope on the days when I wake up and know instantly that things are not all right:
I use television as a coping mechanism a lot of the time. I find the background noise comforting while I do other things. When I am anxious, the distraction becomes even more important.
I have two main shows that I use on Very Bad days: Psych and Castle. Both are light hearted shows that always make me smile, even when I don’t want to. They are well written (at least the early seasons) and the characters are like good friends that keep me company when I’m sad.
On days that are a little less bad, I have others I add into the mix: The Mentalist, Bones, Rizzoli and Isles, Elementary. You’ll notice these are all police procedurals. I find the predictable format reassuring and they all have clever and quirky characters that keep things from getting too serious. (I love Criminal Minds, but that one has to wait until I’m much more emotionally sound!)
When I’m a little anxious, I might eat a pint of Ben n Jerry’s to cheer myself up. But when I’m a lot anxious, I’m too nauseated and sick to eat. However, I also know that if I don’t keep something in my stomach I will only get sicker feeling as my blood sugar gets low.
So what do you grab when you’re nauseous? Ginger Ale and crackers. Sipping Ginger Ale (Canada Dry being my preferred brand) and nibbling on crackers doesn’t make me feel more sick and it keeps me from feeling worse because of not eating anything. There have been weeks where I drank nothing but Ginger Ale because it was a simple comfort to cling to and remind myself that things were going to be okay.
I even have a specific type of cracker for the occasion. My current ones are Tollhouse Foccacia crackers in Rosemary and Olive oil flavor. I buy them in bulk and always have a box on hand. Over time, I’ve come to associate these crackers with the comfort they provide. Not to mention they are delicious.
This can be a tricky one. I need something complex enough to keep my brain engaged but also fairly simple. (TV isn’t enough, I need something to do with my hands.) Bad Days bring brain fog, which makes it hard to focus or concentrate, which is why reading doesn’t make the cut. I also shake, especially my hands, and find that I’m more clumsy and prone to dropping things.
Very basic knitting projects have made the list. One year I joked that you could tell the status of my mental health by how many dishcloths I had knitted. (I made a lot that year) The kind of project I usually find tedious and boring is all I can manage on Bad Days.
One year when a medication change left me really messed up for a couple months, I sorted buttons. My mom who is a professional seamstress, has always had huge jars of loose buttons. As a kid I remember playing with them. That year, I spent the better part of those two months sorting buttons by color and type, stringing like ones together on pieces of yarn. Was it a useful project? Eh, that’s debatable. But the act of sorting and organizing was a simple job that kept my mind occupied.
More recently I’ve added puzzles to the mix. I buy mostly 500 piece puzzles from the dollar store (and thrift shops too) that are small enough to assemble in the top of a copier box. That way I can sit on the couch while I do the puzzles. I buy colorful ones and sort the various colors into special puzzle sorting containers before I begin assembling the pieces. (Any small plastic container work just as well. I used them until I decided to treat myself to the “fancy” version.) For me, the sorting is just as enjoyable as actually putting the puzzle together.
Phone apps cycle in and out of this routine as well. I don’t like anything timed, nothing stressful. Solitaire is always a favorite. (I did grow up in the 90’s with a bulky desktop that only had solitaire and minesweeper on it after all.) Other puzzle games cycle in and out depending on the day.
Those are the three things that I primarily use as coping mechanisms on Bad Days. I’m sure other’s look different, especially people who don’t have the ability to stay home as much as possible when those terrible days come. In many ways I know I’m very blessed, although staying at home has it’s own disadvantages.
What do you do on those days that nothing is going to make the darkness better? How do you power through to the other side? I’d love to hear from each and every one of you.