Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Tag: mental illness

Issues with AEP and Progress

(This post was moved to this site on 19 November 2018)

For those of you who found this site through the link on my main site, you’ve probably noticed the issues I’ve been having with it this week, beginning with being hacked by some dirtbag. I’ve spent most of the past week since then trying to figure out a way into my site to recover it. Yes, I contacted my web host. Yes, they provided answers. No, I haven’t been able to implement them because of my anxiety. Suffice it to say, it’s been a major stress for me, so I’ve not gotten a lot done. Some writing, but that was pure escape. No reading of stalled WIPs.

But!

I did manage to finish reading through a couple-three more projects over the past week or so before this mess came down on my main site. Honestly, I’m still pretty much decided on Unwritten Letters as a definite project to work on. I’ve gone over the list in my earlier post and counted what I’ve read, and it’s actually all the way down through “Pipperelle 1” at this point. That leaves five, I think, excluding BEBK, which I read near the end of last month. Completely doable in the next two weeks.

So, as it stands, UL is a definite project. I’ll be picking 3 others, one to take UL’s place when I’m done with it.

Day of Depression

Title says it all. I woke up depressed, spent most of the day in bed. Daz came around toward the evening with sushi, donuts, and soda to cheer me up, and we played some Chicken Rummy, which all cheered me up. He’s such a gem. I’ll have to figure out something for him. After he left, I showered and tried to make a dice pouch with too little fabric. LOL

Anxiety

I’ve mentioned my bipolar before. I may have mentioned my unspecified anxiety disorder as well. Though I am on medication for the bipolar, and I have mindfulness and theraputic methods I can use to control the anxiety without medication, these both affect my life adversely, and neither has proven completely conquerable.

Most of the time, thanks to my medications, my bipolar remains relatively stable. I can’t recall if my bipolar is considered to be rapid or slow cycling, but it is consistently mixed-state, meaning I present and endure symptoms of both hypomania and depression at the same time. Only occasionally do I notice one, the other, or, sometimes, both become more prominent.

The unspecified anxiety is a bit more difficult to endure. I can’t predict what will trigger it and have known anything from filling in forms, to cooking something, to meeting new people to come with a palpitating heart and inability to perform the challenge I face. Last week, I quit the coffee-and-donuts hour following the church service after eating my donut and drinking my juice because I couldn’t find the courage and confidence necessary for approaching any of the groups of people I saw at a few of the tables through my anxiety. Most of the people seemed to be in family groups, and that intimidated me to the point where I couldn’t even force myself to ask if I could share their table, never mind talk to them.

To be honest, facing people has long been a major difficulty for me, and socializing with people I don’t know or haven’t yet met is one of my demons. Sometimes I can do this with ease, and I’ll strike up an unimportant conversation with someone at the grocery store; generally speaking, the fewer people I have to talk to, the more confident I am, the more capable I feel, and the easier it is for me to convince myself to approach someone. It also helps, particularly when I’m meeting a group, if we all have some sort of activity, besides holding conversations, to do. When I first joined the square dance club I’m secretary for, I found it easy to get involved because we spent most of the evening learning to dance, and I felt reasonably confident that I wasn’t required to socialize between tips, so I felt free to go sit by myself until the next lesson.

I don’t tend to reach pure panic-attack heights with my anxiety, which I’m glad for. However, I have noticed that the more social stress—that’s purely just social (without other activities) stress—that I experience, the greater my anxiety becomes. I tend to avoid parties. I have been known to have to retreat to bed after intensive social interaction with people I know, never mind people I don’t know well or at all. Usually, spending a little time laying in bed, listening to a favorite song on repeat, with my eyes closed in a state similar to meditation sets me right again, because sometimes, after interacting with people, if I come home and try to do other stuff, even though I’m now alone again, I have difficulty concentrating and thinking clearly. I don’t feel calm unless I take the time to lay down, close my eyes, and let music flow into my brain for a while.

My anxiety is also the primary reason why I wear headphones almost all the time outside. I have to have some sort of upbeat song going when I’m out most of the time in order to distract myself from my nervousness. Silence is another thing that tends to drive up my anxiety, unless I’m about ready to drop off to sleep, so I usually have music playing all the time when I’m up (unless there’s a thunderstorm or heavy rain on the windows), and when I first go to bed. I even play music when I shower—which, oddly, tends to drive my anxiety up into greater heights if all I hear is the water, and no, I can’t explain why this is necessary; it’s just one of my little anxiety tics.

I think, sometimes, to some small extent, my bipolar disorder drives my anxiety. Usually at times when I’m feeling more manic, I’ll suffer stronger anxiety, and that tends to drive me to retreat. I avoid going out, I talk to only a few select people on the phone, I lay down daily to recover from the stress of socializing online. Going out can aggravate the moody, bitchy temperament I develop when my mania is up (I’m not a bipolar person graced with the happy, confident, I-can-do-ANYTHING manic phases, which I’m actually kind of grateful for; I can only imagine what stupid crap I’d do with that kind of mania influencing me), and that in turn can drive my anxiety up, because not only am I dealing with general being-out-among-people anxiety, I’m also suffering I-don’t-want-them-all-to-realize-I’m-a-bitch-right-now anxiety.

And, there’s even times I’ll get anxious just reading a book. And I don’t mean the average anxiety everyone feels for the character. I have known myself to put down a book when it reaches an intense situation, or one which I fear is dangerous for the MC, and not pick the book up again for up to several months, because the thought of reading through that situation or danger frightens me so much. I think I do this because, unlike with watching a movie, I’m able to more deeply immerse myself in a book, so I tend to “feel” the danger or intensity more deeply than I do when watching a movie. I have to mentally prepare myself for such depth of intensity.

Overall, I consider myself pretty lucky. I may have some anxiety, but it’s not severe. It’s manageable without medication, and there are so many others who aren’t so blessed. Though it may not be predictable, it’s also not so debilitating that I’m unable to come back to something that previously caused anxiety and do it again later. A little mindfulness about my anxiety and what’s causing it and some meditation and self-coaching generally take care of my anxiety.

On Mental Illness and Being Honest About It.

Mental illness carries with it a number of challenges, especially when the sufferer is young. When I was a teen, I had incredible social anxiety, exacerbated by beliefs that I was unworthy of friendship, I was ugly, and that nobody really cared about me. That nobody could care about me. I believed I was inherently unlovable and undeserving of being loved.

My mother was at a total loss as to what to do with me—until she saw an article in the newspaper about a local Star Trek club. Now, I’d been a fan of Star Trek: the Next Generation since I discovered it in 1989. I adored that show, and I’d been writing fanfic based on it pretty much since beginning ninth grade. So, Mom did what she thought was best and dropped me off at the library for one of their monthly meetings one Saturday afternoon. I briefly considered hanging out in the main section of the library for the duration of the Star Trek meeting, but ultimately decided to at least check things out, in part because I didn’t want to have to lie to Mom about having gone.

The little library’s main meeting room was already set up for the meeting, with a long table with chairs facing the room at the front, and rows of chairs facing that setup in the rest of the room. Two more long tables stood at the right, already bearing snacks and 2-liters of sodas and cups. A few of the regular club members were present, but I didn’t approach them. I sidled into a chair in the middle of the last row set up and huddled there. I can’t remember if it was Dawn or Milo or someone else, but one of those already present came over and introduced themselves, asked my name, and pointed everybody else out with their names when I admitted I didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of talking to anyone.

I spent the entire meeting in that chair, and scurried out without partaking of any of the snacks when it was over, though everyone else stayed to socialize. I’d had enough, I felt stressed, and I wanted to go back to my bedroom at home and hide with my writing. Mom picked me up. On the way home, she asked me how things went, and I told her a little of what had gone on, then, to my own surprise (and probably hers, too), I admitted I wanted to go to the next meeting.

I gradually grew comfortable enough to chat with everyone after the meetings, but my first Christmas party with them, at one member’s home, proved to be a little too much. In the middle of our Secret Santa gift exchange, I retreated to an empty, dark bedroom to spend some time alone. I needed to recover from what was for me intensive socialization. It was either Kim or Dawn who followed me to ask what was wrong, and I, in my innocence, was completely honest with her when I replied. I explained I needed a break from the social activity because it was starting to stress me out, and I was getting edgy enough to start snapping at people for no reason, and I didn’t want to do that, so I needed some time to recover. She nodded and told me to take all the time I needed, that she’d tell everyone else what was going on and that I wasn’t upset or hurt or anything, then left.

I didn’t know it then—I wasn’t as self-aware and mindful as I am now—but I taught myself a valuable lesson. I learned that day it was important for me to be honest about my mental health with my friends. I didn’t realize it, but by telling Kim/Dawn why I’d retreated into isolation as I had, I’d given my friends a precious opportunity to be supportive and caring.

I realize now how big a thing that is. Up to that point, I’d fiercely guarded my mental health status, even after my inpatient visit to a local hospital’s mental ward. I didn’t tell anyone except my therapist and psych doc about my mental status. I didn’t realize, even when I told Kim/Dawn how I was doing mentally during that Christmas party, how imperative it was to be honest about my mental health.

That’s something I’ve learned over time, this honesty about my mental health. As friendships fluctuate, grow more distant and close again as they are wont to do with me, I’ve learned the value of being completely honest with my friends how I feel at any given time. If I’m upset or depressed, I tell them with complete honesty and as tactfully as I am able. This may be over the phone, or in an email, and is frequently done with them in person. I need to keep giving my friends the opportunity to understand me, particularly when I feel upset with, or angry at, or jealous of them for some reason. I’ve found that when I give my friends the opportunity to address my mental illness and its effects on me, my friendship with them strengthens.

This, I believe, is why I’m now able to pick up a friendship previously dropped or “forgotten” over the course of time when things get busy for myself or one of my friends. Not only am I honest with them about myself, but my honesty allows them to feel comfortable being honest with me, and confident I won’t get upset with them for life getting in between us. That’s what I mean about strengthening the friendship. It doesn’t matter how many months or even years fall between us from one conversation to another; what does matter is that we’re able to pick up where we left off because we both are honest with each other about what got in the way.

But I have to give my friends the opportunity to be honest, and compassionate, and caring. If I don’t do that, they won’t know I’ll welcome them back no matter what’s separated us.

Day vs. Night

(Considering my current condition, this will probably meander a bit.)

I’m in another of my fun bipolar swings. I’m mixed-state bipolar. In case I haven’t explained this before (and for any new readers), this basically means, I’m always, all the time, every day, experiencing some symptoms of the depressive side of the disorder while at the exact same time experiencing some symptoms of the manic (or, more precisely in my case, hypomanic) end of the disorder. This, I’m sure you realize, makes some of my days pretty interesting. One particular symptom which can be a characteristic of either end of the spectrum, is poor sleep habit.

My circadian rhythm is so screwed up right now, it’s unbelievable. A mentally healthy person could not do what I’ve been doing for the past few weeks. For example, I spent Saturday, from about noon, to Sunday, until about midnight awake. Part of this was probably because I forgot to take my night meds on time, and when I did remember to, my mind was in hypomanic mode, which even my very good psych med regimen can knock out under “normal” circumstances. However, I have not been sleeping at night for the past three or four weeks. I’ve been rising between noon and three in the afternoon and staying up until five to seven in the morning.

No, it’s not daylight that’s interfering. It’s the bipolar. It decided it wanted me up at night, so it fights the psych meds, no matter when I take them. It’s worse if I try to take them on time for a sleep at night, because I’ve got my energetic, still quite alert, natural wakefulness momentum going, and when I’m in this state, my mind gets more active when the sun sets, so even if I take my meds like I should for that night of sleep I want so very much, I still spend most of the night lying awake, getting more and more frustrated as each hour passes, which only fuels the bipolar urge to be awake at night. If I take the medications “on time” for a day sleep, which is around midnight to one in the morning, I’ll probably drop off to sleep sometime around six in the morning.

If I forget to take my meds then?

I typically don’t realize I have until I’m still wide awake at 0600 and think to check my little daily pill-dose box thingie to discover my night meds still quite unswallowed. At that point, if I take them, it won’t do me any good at all. I’ll be totally useless. Unable to sleep, because I’m in bipolar second wind, but unable to gather the mental capacity to do anything useful. Even feed myself. I have before done this and literally spend all day at my computer with barely enough mind left to surf the net, never mind pay attention to what I’m seeing when I do.

So, I spent all Saturday night and Sunday-to-midnight awake. Slept sound, got up Monday . . . and did it again. Was up at noon fifteen Monday. I’m still going strong at half past five Tuesday evening. I’m not sure when—or even if—tonight’s dose of night meds will knock me out at all. Sunday night, when I was still up three hours after taking my night meds, I took half a dose of NyQuil. That, like it usually does, knocked me out at last. I’ll probably be doing the same tonight.

The worst thing about this—well two things—are that this circadian rhythm switch is unpredictable with regards to beginning and ending, as well as duration. I have no warning whatsoever before this switch happens. It just happens. One night, I sleep all the way through, the next night I’m wide awake until six the next morning even after taking my meds. Not even nightly doses of NyQuil can prevent this switch—and trying to only makes me irritable and even more unlikely to sleep during night hours. And I’ve already been like this for two or three weeks . . . and it could continue for months, or, horrors, years-again.

This is one of the Gotta Live With It aspects of my particular flavor of bipolar disorder. Whether another mixed-state bipolar person goes through this is a total crapshoot, and I’m miserable enough like this I don’t care to search to find out if I’m the only one. I know “misery loves company” but I really have no wish to learn somebody else shares this particular misery.

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