Panic attacks back at work

“How are you doing?”  “oh, I’m doing well enough, thank you.”  Today was my second day back to work.  It did not go nearly as well as my first day.  I had my first (few) panic attacks in the afternoon.  My 3 avid readers will likely want to know what happened.

My first day back happened to be a snow day where the physical office was closed.  Everyone worked remotely so I was alone in the quiet and dark office.  It was the perfect way to slide into the office inconspicuously and begin getting everything unlocked and set back up.   When I first walked into the office and got to my cube, it was like I was stepping back in time.  The day before my accident I had just started to decorate for Halloween.  I had things scattered around my desk (like my notepads) from when I got out of my meeting and threw it on my desk and hurried home.  I had dead plants and dead flowers someone had gotten me.  One of my friends had printed out some affirmation statements (I am strong and courageous, things like that) and scattered and hid them all over the place.  That nearly made me cry, it was so thoughtful.  (Thank you Crispy!).

My first order of business was taking all my Halloween down and cleaning up everything.  Then I had to tackle getting in and going through emails.  Fun fact, after half a year, you can’t remember ANYTHING of passwords or where things are!   I got to use my entire morning going through 3000 emails.  That was interesting.  I then spent the later half of the day trying to get various systems unlocked.  I then moved on to looking through our information and re-familiarizing myself with everything.  I didn’t have to talk to anyone, see anyone or do anything.  Just get re-acclimated.  It was pretty great.

Today, was not as easy.  I spent the morning with one of my favorite coworkers who walked me through one of our processes again.  Not much has changed and I surprised myself with how much information and technical details I remembered.  Not too shabby Kayleigh.  You go girl.  Step 1, check.  I then moved on to doing our “entry level” process to get used to moving through and getting things done.  That wasn’t so bad either.  Because it wasn’t too much of a challenge, my brain started spinning and spinning.  I was wondering why people weren’t talking to me.  Why was I not getting messages saying hello?  I’ve been gone half a year, have I been forgotten after 5 years?  How do I step back into this?  Everything and nothing has changed.  I have no place there anymore.  I am not needed, they were able to survive without me for that long.  Who am I kidding to expect to come back and get work back and enjoy my job again?  What happens if I freak out again and do something stupid like drive off the road?  How do I make sure I take care of my own mental health, but still doing well at my job?  I’m not sure I know how to do both, my mental health always took the backseat.  I was depressed ALL.THE.TIME.  Not just a little depressed; no showers, no productivity, on and on.  I was miserable.  I can’t do that again, I won’t.

So now, I have to learn how to do both.  I have to learn how to balance my health and my career.  People who have bipolar do it every day.  I have to do it as well.  All it will take is some forgiveness and accepting of myself, as well as a lot of patience from my boss and coworkers.  Most of whom I don’t think know what really happened, I just disappeared for half a year and popped back up.  I guess I’m a magic show now.  For my next trick, I’ll stick out an entire day of work without a panic attack or tears!

 

Back to work after Bipolar

I go back to work on Monday.  This will be the first day working in 5 months.  I can’t believe it’s been that long.  I think because I’ve been so worried about it in the past month, I’ve not done much productive like I did the first 4 months of leave.  I haven’t done big projects like I had been doing.  I haven’t been writing like I was, even though it’s been bubbling to come out.  I don’t know what to do with myself most of the time.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m glad to see the people at work.  It will be nice to have structure to my days again.  I’m glad to feel of use again.  But man I’ll miss being home and being able to have the freedom to do little things like knitting group during the day.  I have no ability to go to physical therapy twice a week anymore.  I can’t take care of my house like I have been.  Or, I can, but I’ll go crazy again being manic and trying to fit everything in my day.  I don’t know how “normal” people do it all.

Well, I wanted this to be a beautiful post with flowering language and something that people want to read.  It has instead turned into a “train of thoughts” post.  How will I focus on writing when I will not have energy to do anything anymore?  My poor book is still stuck at 25 pages.  I can’t get myself to do it.  And that breaks my heart.  I had 5 months that I could have spent writing my book and I blew it.  Granted, I blew it on an average of 10 hours of therapy and 4 hours of physical therapy and countless other doctor’s visits.  But I didn’t spend down time writing, I blew it in myriad other ways.

I will miss this time alone.  I will yearn to be home with my dogs all day.  I will miss cuddling with them in the morning between 7:00 and 9:30 when I get up.  I will miss time to crochet and go to groups.  I will long for time to spend imagining my hairbrained ideas and not following through with them.   My desire for work overrides these things, but it’s amazing how comfortable it is being home.  I never thought I’d like the lack of structure.  I’d always imagined I’d be bored and not productive or want to ever do anything.

I feel like I won’t have a place in my team anymore.  They’ve had so much time to bond and work without me, what will I do there now?  They don’t need my work now, they’ve gone so long without it.  They’ve likely taught themselves everything that I previously brought to the table.  I will have been replaced.  And that’s what they should have done.  But now I’m coming back, I have to carve out my place again.  And that’s utterly terrifying.

I don’t even care

How long do down spells last when you’re on two antipsychotics and bipolar 2? I feel like I’ve been down for weeks now. I’m definitely not as down as I used to be; my depression depth has lessened. I’m still struggling with daily self care and doing anything but staying in bed and crocheting random squares. I can’t even care enough to make something useful.

I feel like every thing I do right now is such a huge effort. I have to force myself to leave the house, by joining a crochet/knitting group. I have one group therapy left, I have one more regular therapy appointment left and one more physical therapy appointment left.

I’m on the edge of a precipice and terrified of the jump back into my old life. I can see how I used to be and I’m terrified of going back. It’s driving me down in fear and loathing of my self and progress. Had I not learned so much on my recent journey to wellness, I’d likely jump right in the deep end. Now I’ve got my little swimmers on and want my daddy to catch me in the shallow end. I don’t know if I can do this.

In addition, I’m having dreams that I’m waking up actually crying. I have to cuddle with Connor for a minute because my brain is still in the dream and I can’t break myself lose from it.

This is hard. And excuse typos, I couldn’t even get the energy to go into my laptop and type; I am just using the app on my phone that I obsessively look at how many views I get a day and get knocked down that there are 3.

Intensive Outpatient Therapy

I was recently asked what it was about my group therapy that I loved so much and that I believed was the most helpful in group work.  That is a problematic answer for me, as there was such a huge benefit for me in so many different areas.  It took me from a shy, anxious, depressed and newly diagnosed wreck into a relatively stable and (dare I say it?) happy person.  Of course, it wasn’t all group, I did a lot of work myself, but I wouldn’t have known what work to do had I not gone.

I am in general a chatty person and don’t have issues making friends.  I do however have a hard time getting really close to people and opening up entirely.  I know that I am very naïve and only look at the good side of people, so I tend to not let myself get too close until I can see the true person, or finally see the negative in them that will harm me.  In group therapy, you’re encouraged to be completely open about things you would never tell strangers in a million years.  It taught me rapidly not to be trusting of everyone, but not to be afraid either.  I’m still my introverted self who needs to recharge alone, but when I’m out in public, I’m not quite as terrified to interact with people.  I’m not as ashamed and worried about what they will think of me.

In the beginning when you are admitted to what’s technically called “intensive outpatient therapy” you begin going 9 hours a week.  3 days of 3 hours.  That’s a LOT of time in a room with strangers and it was very intimidating.  It’s absolutely shocking how fast you get comfortable with doing it and disclosing your secrets and fears to these people.  There are people from all walks of life and different stages going through completely dissimilar issues.  Some I’d gone through and could offer suggestions to the others.  A lot of times people would be able to help me through things.  One thing that I see as bad and good, is they tease me about being a natural leader.  I will chime in and “take over” often and I will usually start the conversation because I know nobody else wants to.  Why wait, just get it over with, I have nothing to be afraid of now. Now I know my natural “bossy-ness” is a blessing and a curse.  I did not know I had that skill however, and would never have believed anyone who told me otherwise.

There is something about being in a room with the same 6 people for so long and getting to know them so deeply that what they say to you really does rock you to your core.  You believe them, and you know they mean it well.  It also helps yourself to be able to reach out and care for and guide other people through traumatic issues and bad days.  Being able to say that someone came into group in a terrible mood, and yet we walked out together laughing is quite a feat and happens most every day.

For most people, I believe the guided learning would be the best and most helpful.  Our therapists will pick a subject and teach us about it.  I have every worksheet we’ve ever done and will keep them to look at forever when I’m having either a hypomanic or depressive episode.  They’ve taught me so much on assertiveness, confidence, anxiety calming, and just countless other skills.  Because I have my psychology degree, I thought I knew a teeny bit about therapy and such.  Turns out, I know nothing (thanks Dunning-Kruger effect!).  Without these amazing therapists taking the theories I know and helping apply them to ourselves and our own problems, I would not have learned skills that I’m going to be using for the rest of my life.  Without them, I would still be a scared, timid, self-deprecating hot mess.  I’m grateful every day for the woman who suggested I go to group.  It has essentially saved my life.   It also isn’t a bad thing to have a set-aside time to color for a few hours.
🙂

Miscarriages

I’ve had this request to do this certain topic for weeks now, but never really knew how to write it.  It’s not something I’ve directly experienced, so I can’t speak for myself and so had to do a lot of research on the topic.  However, one of my close friends just disclosed that it has happened to her and her partner, so I thought today was finally time to write.  Miscarriages.  They happen to so many women, so often, and yet are not talked about.  Understandably, for some, it’s such a devastating thing that they don’t want to mention it, let alone think about it.  Yet, for others, it’s a relief and that’s okay too.  Here is a brief summary of what I learned while researching about losing a pregnancy.

You are absolutely allowed to feel however you do.  There is no set way or required way to feel.  If you feel hopeless and lost and devastated, take all the time you need.  But if it was not the right time for you to bring a baby into the world and you’re a little relieved, that’s just as valid.  There is no one set way you’re supposed to feel about losing your pregnancy.  If you are beyond depressed and overwhelmed, let yourself feel it.  Go through and work through your emotions.  That’s healthy and okay, you’re grieving a child.  There is nothing wrong with grief, as hard as it is to experience.

There is NOTHING you could have done.  Miscarriages happen for so very many reasons, and many of them are not the woman’s fault.  This is not 1569.  It is not a woman’s fault alone for not bearing children.  It could have been a chromosomal defect in the child.  It can be so many small things that we don’t even understand.  It does not mean it’s you or that you’re broken or can’t have children ever.  I recently had a close friend have a beautiful baby girl after years of trying and IVF.  Even if you have a hard time carrying children to term, there are other ways to become a mother.  It’s okay to not be fertile myrtle.  There’s nothing wrong with that, you’re not defective or less of a woman.

Did you know that 10-25% of pregnancies that are recognized clinically will end in miscarriages?  That means ones that doctors actually KNOW about, not ones that women don’t even know they’re pregnant before they miscarry.  It’s statistically so difficult to get pregnant and then keep it.  If you do suffer a miscarriage, you’re NOT the only one and you are absolutely not alone.  With everything in a woman’s reproductive system trying to kill off the sperm, and then all the things wrong with some sperm, it’s a miracle we can reproduce at all really.  But, it’s possible.  And it happens every day.  Even if you’ve suffered a loss before.  You can try again when you’re ready.  There is no rush.

You don’t have to hide the fact you had a miscarriage, and yet you are under no obligation to share that information either.  It’s completely up to you and your partner to decide what you would like to share.  Remember that he/she will have emotions about the loss as well, so keep that in mind.  You may be hurting, but they may have different thoughts about the whole thing.  They are just as entitled as you, even if it’s an opposite feeling than you have.  That is where communication between partners will have to come in.  Perhaps it would be a good idea to have a conversation about what and/or how much to share with those around you.  That way you’re both on the same page about it all.

I sincerely apologize if this hurts anyone that is reading it.  I mean only to help and don’t want to cause more pain.  I can empathize with the burning desire to have children, as that is all I want in the whole world.  I can’t fathom the pain that some may go through who lose a child.  For those who are sufferering, here is a list of support organizations that may help you through your pain.

https://www.verywellfamily.com/miscarriage-support-organizations-2371339

To my friends with the recent loss:  I’m so very sorry.  Those are the only words I can think to say to express my pain for you right now.  I’m sure I’ll see you soon and will give you a huge hug each.   I love you both.

Bipolar and Pregnancy

I have had this idea for something to write for a long time.  But I’ve been dreading it.  It scares me to be so open and raw.  I’ve been trying to and learning to do so, but this particular topic is really hard for me to admit and to be open about.

I’m terrified of having a child, especially after my diagnosis.  Because there is a genetic component to bipolar, what kind of mother would I be to give my child the same kind of issues that I’ve dealt with my whole life?  How is that fair to them?  It’s already hard enough to be alive.  This would, or could, just make everything harder.

While it’s not as extreme, it kind of feels like someone with Huntington’s or some other disorder that is genetically inherited.  They struggle with knowing whether to have a child as well.  But for these disorders, or some of them, there are tests in vitro that can be taken.  They don’t know enough about the brain to be able to test for something like bipolar.  I have family history of mental disorders that I’m just really finding out about, so there is some kind of genetic issue going on with me.  Do I just ignore it all because of my deep and burning desire to be a mother?  Can I reconcile with the fact that I will know what I’m seeing if my child does show signs of bipolar?  Or will I overreact like I have with my step-kids and make a mountain out of a molehill?  So far, I’ve been able to notice issues with my step-kids before the doctors do, but that doesn’t mean I’m good or it’s safe for me to notice and point them out to their parents.  I could be wrong and start things that shouldn’t be there.

How does one reconcile the need to be a mom, since I was but three years old, with the desire and love for an unborn child to not hurt?  Because I already have extraordinary issues with my back, it’s already going to be very difficult for me to carry a child before and after birth.  That I can handle.  But what about my medication during the pregnancy?  I’ve already talked to my psychiatrist about it and she’s helped many bipolar women through pregnancy and had a healthy child after.  I know it’s possible.  But it’s also terrifying to be taking such powerful medicine when you’re not even supposed to have Tylenol or soft cheese during pregnancy.

Now family that is reading this.  This does not mean I will not have a baby, as you all know it’s my one goal in life.  I’m just voicing my fears.  This is all supposed to be coming up soon, so it has been on my mind a lot.  I have so much support and know I’ll be able to get through it.  It’s just terrifying.

 

 

(As an afterthought.  If you’ve noticed my writing has been shorter, I’m trying something out.  I was told that my writing is too extensive and people don’t have time to read the posts.  So, maybe if I write less but more often, I can reach more people.  I’ve just got to learn to be less verbose and more to the point)

Bipolar Medication

I joined two bipolar support groups on the ol’ Facebook recently.  I was kicked out for sharing information about my blog, in both groups.  How ironic is that?  But, while I was still in them, I noticed something that just got under my skin.  There was not much support other than asking for information on medicine.  That was the biggest question, over and over.  “What meds are you on, why those, what do they do for you, should I do this,” on and on and on.  It made me feel so lucky to have a personal pharmacist as well as two psychiatrists that are amazing (finally found them after much trial and error).  My personal pharmacist is invaluable to me in countless ways, but with my diagnosis, she just added another reason.

So, with this being said, I’m going to be all out there and talk about my medication for those people that are curious as to what has worked for me.  I’ve been through a bunch of changes, and these few finally have me relatively stable.  What did look like an earthquake seismogram now looks more like the aftershocks.  Calm with small blips every once in a while.  MUCH better than the hell my brain has gone through for years.

I am currently on Abilify 2mg, Cymbalta 60mg, Lamictal 200mg and then Zanaflex 4mg (for sleep) for my bipolar.  I have more medication as well, but those are all for my back and don’t really count for this information.  I have Propranolol (it’s a beta blocker) in case I’m feeling anxious and have the heart palpitations.  I haven’t used it in a long time though, I haven’t needed to (thank goodness!).  Now, I’ve been on a lot of other things, but they just didn’t work for me in the long term.  I remember the first few days after I got put on a mood stabilizer though.  It was as if the clouds and heavy wool blanket over my days and nights were suddenly lifted.  I could see the sun again.  I could see hope and love and gratitude.  It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced.  It didn’t last long, as that particular medicine (Seroquel) made me over sleep and eat like I was famished (I gained 20 lbs in about 2 weeks).  I will always remember how it felt to have those clouds lifted though.

I’ve tried so many medications throughout the years, when my doctors all just assumed I had anxiety and depression.  None of them worked of course, I needed a bit more umph.  And these mood stabilizers in this combination finally provide it.  I do still go up and down, but not NEAR what I was before.  It’s night and day.  I can smile and laugh and cry now.  I couldn’t do those things before.  I feel like a new child learning how to feel for the first time.  One of my psychiatrists after not seeing me in a while said it looked like I was just lighter and floating.  I feel that way now sometimes.  It’s scary and exciting all at once.

 

Bipolar is Hard

Guys.  Bipolar is hard.  It’s a lot easier now that I have a diagnosis and have been tracking everything.  But when my mood changes, I notice more of everything.  Everything matters now with how I take care of myself; I can see a huge change with small things like getting up on time and how that affects me.  A few weeks ago I was in a mixed episode, I’m sure.  This week I’m down.  Not as far down as I used to be, but I’m what I call “quiet.”  Which is often pensive and reflective.  I just woke up from a nightmare about my step-kids.  Nightmares always freak me out, as I usually do not dream.  Now I’ve got that on my mind and likely won’t be able to sleep the rest of the night.  And I struggle to sleep now without more on my mind.

Last week I was terrible about remembering to take my meds.  That REALLY caused a downswing and also made me not feel great.  Turns out SNRI’s really suck to stop taking for 2 days.  After talking to group, we found a way for me remember at a consistent time.  They’re right next to my bed and when I take out my retainer, I take my meds.  Much easier in general to be medication compliant.

Then why am I down?  I’m staying productive for the most part, which is a huge trigger for me.  I’m doing my one productive thing a day at least.  Still nothing.  Do I just wait it out?  How long until I go back up?  I know this is all much easier and won’t last as long as it would have been unmedicated.  But going through your first few swings after being much more stable is a bit disconcerting.  At least before my diagnosis, I knew when I went down, I was going WAY down for a long time.  Now it’s all unknown.

It also doesn’t help that I’ve been hyper-analzying my blog.  Seeing what happens if I don’t write but once a week.  Changing wording and format and titles to see what changes in patters of views.  All I can see is that when I post, I get about 20 people reading for 2 days, then it goes down to 3.  This has been hard for me to swallow.  I have a hard time separating myself from my writing, so I’ve been taking it personally and questioning myself.  Things are running through my head similar to “why even do this, am I helping anyone now?  Am I not good enough at writing?  Am I on the wrong topic, since I know no other bipolar people other than in group?  Should I not do this anymore?”  Yay for rumination!

SHARE MY BLOG!  IT’S VITAL TO MY HEALTH!  🙂

Intrusive Thoughts

Intrusive thoughts are something that I used to deal with extensively.  Mine would manifest mostly as a suicidal ideation.  I would constantly think about what would happen were I to drive off the road and no longer live.  I wouldn’t PLAN on driving off the road, nor did I have intentions of doing so.  I would think about the repercussions of it as well as what it would feel like.  This would happen a lot during this previous summer when I was on my way to or from work, as my drive is 45 minutes.  I didn’t plan on doing it, until I did do it.  My therapist suggested to me that my suicidal ideation (at least before it went away, as I no longer have this issue) may just be a form of intrusive thoughts that a lot of people have.  Intrusive thoughts are unwanted thoughts, images, or ideas that come across your mind and you can’t necessarily stop.  They may come out of nowhere or be a constant companion that doesn’t quite make sense.  Things like driving off the road or wanting to punch someone that isn’t even irritating you.  Dropping a plate you’re holding, putting your hand on a hot stove, jumping off of a bridge you’re walking across, hurting yourself etc.  There is a long range of intrusive thoughts that anyone and everyone can have.  Thankfully, it’s super common, so you don’t have to worry if you’re crazy (for this reason anyway).

They aren’t exactly easy to stop; I had to get diagnosed as bipolar and go through intensive therapy and medication changes for mine to stop, but it is possible to do.  While I do not have mine anymore, I am hypervigilant now while driving, so mine went the other way.  I’m not thinking of driving off the road anymore, I’m terrified of someone making me have a car wreck, so I’m very vigilant and anxious when driving, thinking someone will pull in front of me or something and cause me to crash.  Alas the pendulum swings.  I looked up some common intrusive thoughts, perhaps you may have some of these too.  There were quite a few that I had as well.  I’ll link the article, so you can see the full list as well.

  1. People are looking at you and laughing at you
  2. You are a burden on people
  3. Something bad is about to happen
  4. Hurting yourself or others
  5. Violent thoughts
  6. You don’t love your significant other
  7. Family would be better off without you
  8. Committing murder
  9. Contracting a disease
  10. You’re not good enough or thin enough
  11. You’re ugly and fat
  12. Jumping off a bridge or onto a subway rail
  13. That you have done something terribly wrong
  14. Things happening to those you love
  15. Nobody loves you

 

There are endless variations of these basic thoughts.  They are intrusive and so by nature they like to stick around and go around the hamster wheel in your mind.  The only way I’ve found to help me get over/through them is to ground myself.  I will also rub on my worry stones I have strategically placed in my car, beside my bed and in my purse.  In order to ground yourself, they taught us to pick one each of smell, sight, taste, sound and touch and apply it to yourself in that moment.  If you’re in the car in the rain, pick the smell of the rain, the view of the road, the sound of the radio, the feel of cold air running through your hair, the taste of the soda you have next to you.  Place yourself back into that exact moment.  Ground yourself to where you currently are as opposed to the “what if” thoughts that are going through your mind.  This technique I use quite frequently to get through panic as well as get rid of any nasty thoughts.  We practiced this in some of my first group therapy classes using our favorite senses as well.  That way, when we are in the throes of a panic attack, we can mentally picture our favorite senses and try and ground ourselves when we can’t focus on anything but the panic.
What intrusive thoughts do you have?  How do you get through them and get your mind back on track?

 

https://themighty.com/2017/02/intrusive-bad-violent-thoughts-ocd/