It’s a little harder for us…

Things you stop taking for granted when you have mental illness:

  • Sleeping through the night
  • Showering regularly
  • Getting out of bed
  • Getting dressed
  • Leaving the house
  • Going to parties
  • Finding joy in your own hobbies
  • Talking on the phone
  • Being able to make your own appointments
  • Feeling loved
  • Remembering to eat
  • Caring if you don’t
  • Being mildly annoyed instead of severely agitated
  • Smiling
  • Going an entire day without bursting into tears

There are so many more, but having the attention span to read long lists would be one of mine. I’m not saying that people should consciously appreciate the things that we can’t do and they can, but I wanted to just take a short moment to say, “Hey, we get that this comes easy to you, but it’s really hard for us, and no we’re not just saying that to get attention.”

What’s one thing you used to take for granted that you now have trouble with?

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~

If we expected it, it wouldn’t be “the unexpected.”

It has been a few days since I’ve really felt able to string sentences together into coherent paragraphs. I am not sure I am really even there yet, but since this is part of being me, I figured “fuck it, let’s try.” It’s near 4:15am which is a normal time for me to be awake, or was, but my sleeping has decided that stress is now in charge of its schedule. My ideas on when I want to be awake or try to sleep have absolutely no standing.

Along with waiting for my Neurology appointment (which is about a month from now) for the brain pressure thing, I had my lithium changed because the medication I had been on affected the levels, so coming off it did as well. My psychiatrist is amazingly thorough and although it feels obnoxious to go through, he orders the necessary blood work to go along with my medication level tests. This means fasting – which SUCKS as a caffeine addict. It means that every time I need my lithium checked, I invariably need to plan for the withdrawal headache and thus need to plan my test for a time I can get there without worrying about spending extra hours in pain.

Usually there’s nothing of concern in the tests, so, honestly, I don’t expect phone calls first thing in the morning the day after my test from my psychiatrist’s office. Yesterday they called. Apparently one of the levels is high in the metabolic panel he did. If you take meds, you know some of them are going to strain your system, especially over time which is why these tests are so important. This particular test indicates my kidneys may not be happy with me.

I take over half a dozen different medications a day. The questions of how it might affect me in the long run have always been in the back of my mind but this is the first time they’re front and center. I had the results sent to my primary care doctor and I’m waiting on them to give me a call and let me know how we’re moving forward. I probably need another blood test. Not looking forward to another caffeine withdrawal morning but it’s worth it to find out what’s going on.

So, I have lots of questions and not enough information for answers yet. My mind and body gang up on me to respond to this with full on anxiety for hours while I’m awake and needing to go to sleep with no notice. I’d already started this when I knew I was getting pressure headaches again, the whole hyper-alert and passing out game is just now more insistent on my cooperation.

I think that’s something many people don’t always associate with anxiety, they think it’s intentional avoidance of issues or tasks. Sometimes, I don’t actually WANT to take a nap, I really want to try to get things done, especially when they freak me out. However, if I get overwhelmed, sometimes my eyes just start to close. I could down a full cup of coffee and still just pass out like I haven’t slept in days even if I only woke a couple hours before. It’s a defense mechanism, I think, my body trying to keep my mind safe, but it’s really frustrating when you need to take care of something even if it scares you.

For the past few days, I’ve been oscillating between the hyper-aware and passing out, so it hasn’t left me a lot of time to really focus on any one thing for long. Even just writing this has taken what feels like forever because my eyelids are starting to pull themselves down. People say ‘Expect the unexpected’ but we never can, we just have to hope that we’re prepared to cope with whatever the unexpected might be. I’ll work on figuring my new one out. I hope you continue to find ways to cope with yours.

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~

p.s. I don’t need or want “natural” remedy ideas for my illnesses. If I need to come off of medications, I will discuss all options with my doctors. If homeopathy worked for everything I had, I wouldn’t have gone back on medication a dozen years ago. I appreciate the efforts of people that try to offer these solutions but they are not for me.

When Life Hands You Lemons…

I always hated this because sometimes there just aren’t any other ingredients for your lemonade. Sometimes it’s just lemons. There’s no sugar or water. I don’t believe that every cloud has a silver lining. I don’t believe that it’s always possible to turn a situation around and make it positive.

This isn’t pessimism. This is life with mental illness and chronic pain. I may be stronger in some situations because of what I’ve had to endure, but what I endure makes me weaker as well. I can empathize with people who have panic attacks and crying fits. I can offer them ideas on how to cope with them. This may make some people think “See, you can help people with it!” While they’re not wrong, I also still have panic attacks and crying fits that I can’t cope with much more than existing through them.

I can give people metaphors as to what mental illness is like but that doesn’t actually make my mental illness any better. It’s not a silver lining, it’s simply a more positive side effect than the inability to sleep on any sort of normal schedule or the soreness in my neck and shoulders from the anxiety. People say things about those of us with mental health issues being more creative, and while some of us are – during our depressions, our creativity might be completely stifled leaving us only with frustration. In these times, it is not a silver lining, it is another cloud.

Something many people know (but often fail to consider long term) is that both mental and physical illness can leave you completely drained. You could be passed out for hours or stuck like glue to the couch trying to find the energy to even look for the remote to the TV. There’s no upside to this. We’re not “lucky” we don’t have to work, we’re not working because we’re unable to function on that level.

I hear people say it all the time. “You’re so lucky, I wish I didn’t have to work.” It’s a hard thing to hear as someone that has not been able to work in a dozen years. The first month or so is filled with some sense of relief as you’re finally tending to yourself. By six months in, I wanted to be able to work again. I wanted to be able to have some sense of accomplishment, to be “productive” by society’s standards and my own. In year twelve, I cry sometimes because I’m afraid I will never be “productive” by these standards. I am viewed as lazy. I am viewed by some that are physically disabled as less deserving of help because my main issue is mental health.

I have mentioned my high brain pressure a few times. This is a physical problem, one that I am working on fixing. Having daily headaches that may or may not disappear when I pass out and wake next is exhausting and frustrating. Not knowing when things will get worse or if I will have enough help by then is frightening. When I was first diagnosed, I joined a facebook group with others that had the same problem. After a while posting and reading in there, I saw a post saying that it wasn’t fair how people who “only have depression” could get disability but they were having trouble with theirs.

I wanted to scream, I wanted to throw things. I was absolutely livid. I was denied my disability at first. It took two years to get my appeal. I couldn’t work for those two years, I had no income. I could not provide for myself and yet this person was judging my disability to be less than hers. I left a ranting response and left the group. You can’t quantify pain in this way. It’s not fair to decide that your pain is more deserving of help than another person’s because you can’t feel their pain.

This isn’t a competition. My problems are no less valid than yours whether we’re discussing my brain pressure or my mental health. Your problems are no less valid than mine, whether they are physical, mental, or situational (like your boss is a complete dick). Pain and frustration vary from person to person and it is valid. This holds whether you’ve experienced the same issues or not.

None of us react the same to pain nor to mental illness nor even simply stressful situations, like arguing with a significant other. I won’t judge you for your reactions, coping skills, life choices or what you do with your lemons. I am holding onto my lemons so I can squirt people in the eye that judge me for my way of life. Feel free to finish the title your own way in the comments.

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~

The Inconsistencies of Sleep

I wake up every one or two hours, pretty consistently. I hate it. I often think I took sleep for granted when I was younger. It came every night, I woke every morning. Now it’s waking during dreams (decent, horrid or nightmares), on average, every 90 minutes.

I don’t like to say I’m an insomniac. I think this is an overused word when it comes to sleep disturbance. A friend of mine told me that I have “sleep maintaining insomnia” though I’ve never had a doctor formally diagnose me with any type. I do sleep. I can sleep. I sleep often. It’s just not when or how I wish it was. If I sleep around sunrise, I’ve learned I can get almost six hours of uninterrupted sleep. It’s just not a convenient time for me. My fiance leaves for work at around 2:30am most mornings. Sleeping at 6:00am means that I am sleeping alone most days. When he is off from work, I can still sleep those hours even if he is sleeping next to me so he is not what is waking me through the night.

I have tried stopping the coffee earlier, drinking less caffeine… These things seem to have no effect. I try to go to sleep at the same time every night. I have my rituals (make the bed, brush the teeth, pee, etc.) but it only means I can FALL asleep. I know when I have been stressed, I wake more. I know when I am depressed, I wake more. I know if I have had an emotionally draining day, I wake less.

I have tried melatonin and medications and sleepytime teas. I have tried meditating. I have tried so many suggestions that I have just accepted that I will hate this. I don’t know why it happens. I do know that time of day or night does play into it, so sometimes I do still wait til sunrise to sleep if I have woken too often, or from a nightmare.

So many offer advice and I often find myself saying, “No, that doesn’t work either,” but I appreciate their efforts. If you sleep like this as well, the only advice I have for you is when you find something that works, even if it means sleeping at what most people consider odd times, go for it.

Life is about choices. Make choices that work for you, even when it comes to something as simple as sleep. Your life is yours and if you can feel more rested by sleeping in four hours shifts, why not? Some may think it’s weird I pass out at sunrise sometimes, and that’s okay. Their opinions on sleep patterns aren’t my problem, nor yours. Stay strong, sleep well.

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~