Check In

Every morning in the Partial Hospitalization Program we have a check in group where they go around, one person at a time and talk about the night before and where our moods and mental health are currently.  I feel like I can recite the whole page by heart now.

I find that when I wake up now, I almost automatically check how many hours of sleep I’ve had, and then start checking to see if that’s more or less than normal.  (Last night was a full 8 hours, which is more than normal, the 1/2 of an Ativan is working well, thank you for asking).

Then I do a check through my mood in the last 24 hours as well.  Depression (2/10), Mania (3/10), Anxiety (6/10, yesterday was pretty rough but not as bad as it’s gotten in the past), Irritability (4/10, but I was able to control it), Mood swings (6/10 but could have been due to being over tired yesterday).

I’ve love to see a chart for all of the moods while I’ve been in PHP, I wonder if that’s something they have.  I know that I’ve gone up and down over all of the scales but as a whole, I’m down quite a bit and far more stable.

But it’s scary because as of a week ago I wasn’t this stable at all, but I wasn’t quite as bad as I was when I started.  And who knows where I’ll be in less than 2 weeks when I discharge from this program and start another, less intense one.  The suicidal thoughts can come and get out of hand pretty quickly and it doesn’t seem to matter how stable I am when they show up, it just takes something knocking me sideways.

I could spend this time worried about the next time that happens, or I can enjoy the calm of stability and focus on learning more coping mechanisms and getting as much done as possible, resting as much as needed, gathering as many resources as I can in the next days or however long I have until the next storm that may or may not come.

I hope for the best, while planning for the worst.

And each morning I can keep checking in with myself to see if I ever catch a pattern, is there something that can give me a warning.

Falling Apart or Falling Together?

The last couple of days has been a special kind of hell.

The kind that doesn’t really feel like a true hell but at the same time it does.  I’m just kind of here.  I feel hypomanic, I rated my depression at a zero yesterday, but the depression crashed in hard as I realized I was way sleep deprived.

I went to PHP and left from lunch because I was too tired to stay awake, I was getting too pissy and irritable and I couldn’t even keep my eyes open.  I feel judged and at the same time I’m judging everyone, not just there but everywhere.  It’s a symptom of my mixed episodes, I’m withdrawing.  Next is the suicidal thoughts.  It happens this way every time.

I went to my free meeting with the trainer last night.  First strike was her insistence that with enough exercise and physical health I could get off psych meds.  “That’s not how this works.”

Then the fat and size shaming.  Which I retorted with, “I don’t want to be small like you.”  She didn’t like that, she doesn’t consider herself small, and really didn’t like it when I called her tiny.  Fuck her.

Later she said “I thought you said you were a widow, you’re dating?”

You know what . . . fuck you.

It could be because I’m oversensitive and feeling judged anyway, but holy shit, don’t do that.  I deserve happiness and I’m so glad I have Wonder Woman.  I can be a widow and in love again.

Being over sensitive like this sucks so so badly because I feel like everything and everyone is trying to attack me and I respond in kind.  It makes life harder than it has to be but it’s not like I can stop just because I know it’s happening.  It takes time to get back out of this mood and in the mean time I want to isolate which is the worst thing I can do for myself.

I went to bed early and managed to sleep for 10 hours.  I woke up feeling drugged because of the amount of sleep but it was so so needed.  Two – four hours of sleep night after night isn’t enough especially with super full and emotional days.

Today I just want to crawl into bed and sleep more, but instead I got up, fed the animals, and soon I’ll get dressed and head to therapy before a full day of PHP, maybe breakfast with my girl beforehand.  Tonight I’ll either NSO or at least sit there and spend time with my derby people who I miss being around.

I’m tired of this fight.  I’m so so tired of the fucking roller coaster.  Sometimes I just want to demolish the whole fucking amusement park and let someone else clean up the mess.

But Parker already did that to me, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to do that to someone else.

What Takes Courage?

Today riding home in Uber I was doing what I always do and yapping away about my day, group therapy and mental health treatment in general.

He asks something along the lines of

“Do you think focusing on your problems helps?”

I explain about getting at the underlying emotions and figuring out what’s hiding in there.  About coping skills and how to distract yourself and that sometimes the focus is on living in the moment and not just in the future with upcoming worries or the past with the problems from then.

I mention that mental illness is just an illness like heart disease and that it takes medication and also symptom management and eating right, exercising, lots of different things to try and manage the illness.

And eventually the topic moves to suicide.

“That’s the cowards way out, if someone believes in a higher power, with enough faith . . . ”  etc, etc.

Well, my late wife was a Christian woman, she loved God, she also managed her illness to the best of her ability, and she still died by suicide.

“Your what . . Oh, I’m so so sorry, I wasn’t saying . . . ”

And the conversation continues.

“You know, it dawned on me, it takes a type of courage to complete that act.  Someone must be in a lot of pain to follow through with that.”

Eventually he asks how long she battled that illness.  I told him, I didn’t know exactly, I knew she had been a teen when it all started for her, but that I’ve been fighting them for at least 22 years, spending the greater part of most of those years fighting against my own brain to stay alive.

And he says . .

“Now, THAT takes courage, battling your own brain for years and years just to stay alive.”

When we got to my house he said.

“You know, you educated me today.  You’re just talking but you changed my mind about this, you educated me.”

When Parker died two years ago I remember sobbing as I typed out “her suicide will never be in vain” and it’s not.  She’s changing lives and changing minds as I speak up and speak out.  It’s hard for people to hear, I see the cringes when I drop the suicide widow bomb, but I also see the people I educate.

Speak your truth.  Let it educate people.

courage

Panic

Really real mental health post . . .

This was supposed to stop once the death date passed. I’m doing all of the right things, I’m going to PHP, I’m doing the work, I’m even going to the gym. I’m staying active, I’m staying busy, why is there a fucking elephant on my chest.

Why am I so fucking angry.

Why do I feel like I can’t fucking breathe.

Why can’t I fucking breathe.

I don’t know what’s worse, having a panic attack and not knowing, or having one, knowing, and still not being able to stop it.

Laying in bed and feeling my chest tighten, not wanting to fight against myself to breathe, knowing thats just going to make it worse, and at the same time feeling the need to fight.

It looks so peaceful on the outside but on the inside my brain is screaming. How many years did it take me to learn to stay calm through that?

The good news is, I’m learning to fight against my own instincts to fight. And by that I mean fighting in general. I’m not fighting myself, I’m not fighting the people around me, and I’m not fighting to breathe when my body panics. The bad thing is, my body is responding by making me panic.

More work to be done, more groups, more tears, more long days and exhausting nights, many many more panic attacks I’m sure.

This fucking sucks, but it’s still better than the alternative.

Never Enough

Another one of those really real widow posts.

Trigger warning with this one. Suicide mentioned, Completed suicide talked about pretty extensively, including questioning the thought process behind it and leading up to it.

Each day we end PHP with what ends up being, hopefully, “no, no, yes, yes” time.

Basically, they end that group by going around asking something to the point of:

“Are you having any suicidal thoughts?”
“Are you having any thoughts of hurting anyone else?”
“Can you be safe tonight?”
“Will you be here tomorrow?”

After the first couple of people, we sometimes just start going “No, No, Yes, Yes” when they get to us, unless one of the answers is different.

Today, I left a little early and they still did a short version of the questions.

I feel so much better, now, then I did just over a week ago when I entered the program. The new meds are helping considerably. Knowing I’m getting away for a few days is helping. Having the structure in a therapeutic environment is helping. Stepping back from pushing myself so hard towards working, full time, as soon as possible, is really, really helping.

And then riding home, this picture pops up. It’s part of the last set of pictures that were ever taken of Parker. On the post surgical visit for her leg. She barely looks like herself.

I wonder, would she have been able to answer “No, No, Yes, Yes” if someone had asked her those questions at the time when I took this picture.

Would she have been able to answer “No, No, Yes, Yes” a week later?

At what point did the answer change for her in her head?

It’s one of those many things I’ll never know the answer to, and even if I did, I’d just have more questions about other things. Suicide just leaves so many questions.

I’m glad I have this picture, but it just reminds me that we never know when a picture will be the last. I’m glad that I’m still taking pictures of me, but I’ve stopped taking as many pictures of those around me. Stopped taking as many pictures of Wonder Woman and I, and my animals, and my friends. One day there will be a last picture of each of those and that’s scary because there are never enough pictures.

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Birthday Cake

I heard a thing today that had me bawling.

Not that I haven’t cried at PHP. Those who know me know that crying is not an issue for me.

I can drop the most traumatizing story like it’s a piece of birthday cake but cry when someone blows out the candles.

Because I want to carefully walk the line between sharing my personal journey and not stepping over the line into trampling on others rights to own their own stories, I’m not gonna quote or bring up specifics but damn….

Grief comes in so many different forms. Grief isn’t only about the loss of people or animals or being left. Grief and identity are so so closely linked.

And the link between grief and mental health and drugs and alcohol is profound.

We need to do better as a society. The conversation I’m having needs to be had.

Grieving is important for so many reasons.

And getting rid of the fucking stigma behind all of this shit is so so fucking important.

The Pink Girl

Really real mental health post . . . also, will touch on what a day is like in the partial hospitalization program (php) that I’m in, because a few people have asked.

I have distinct periods in my life where I can put my emotions, or the feeling in my head, my mental health, with that period in my life.

The time period right I got disability, 4 years ago, was one of those times, that super low depression that wouldn’t go away. The void that never ended. I wasn’t sad, there was nothing.

And then there was this time last year, leading up to the 1 year anniversary of her death. So much was happening. I was focusing on all I had accomplished. Trying to push myself to keep going and to make it. Trying to pull myself out of the depression that had happened at the 1st of the year. Hypomania bordering on mania was happening . . those are the times that I say I feel crazy because my brain can’t keep up with my thoughts.

But what makes those times worse is that more than anything I want to be understood. The thoughts are going so so quick, and I’m making connections that seem perfectly valid (and may or may not be). And I feel like I can’t make anyone see things the way I see them.

And when I’m trying to explain my needs to people, trying to explain my illness in that moment, that’s even harder. Last year I knew that I needed stability, I knew that sudden movements and sudden changes felt like they hurt my soul.

I felt crazy inside and it came out in a jumbled mess. I needed gentle, and unfortunately, what ended up happening is that for whatever reason, the whole situation profoundly changed my relationship with someone and it has ended up feeling like another loss for me to grieve. I can’t decide if this one is my fault, or if I did the right thing by saying what I needed or if it just doesn’t matter, because, it is what it is anyway.

I’m glad that the new medications are slowing down my thoughts and helping me feel less crazy but php is still hard, hard work. It’s back to back 30-60 minute long groups with a 10-ish minute break between each one, and a 45-60 minute lunch in the middle of the day. There are about 20 of us in the program, split into 2 teams who mostly stick together.

The groups are everything from how did you sleep last night, and rate your pain/depression/mania/anxiety, when we first come in, to “what are your weekend plans” so that we have a plan set up before we leave on fridays, to traditional group therapy, and things like relapse prevention, medication education, illness education, etc. There’s also a bipolar/depression support alliance meeting, dual diagnoses meeting and a ton of other stuff I’m forgetting.

Great place, but I come home exhausted and still have a lot to do around the house and in real life.

Also, I went in yesterday and someone commented “You’re wearing purple, what’s going on?”

Fuck, less than a week and I’m already the pink girl.

Someone find me a new color!!!!