Archive for July 2013

Why I'm Feeling Better

I’ve improved a lot over the past few weeks.  Some of it, I know, is due to changes in my medication.  And then some of it, I also know, is due to changes I’ve made.

I was crying multiple times a day and feeling suicidal when I last saw my psychiatrist.  It wasn’t a good place to be.  I felt hopeless and was pretty sure no changes in my medication would work.  I was a lost cause.

My psychiatrist did make some adjustments, however, and I started feeling better pretty quickly.  Maybe part of it was placebo.  I don’t care.  I just wanted to feel better.

I slowly started to make some changes on my own, as I felt better from the meds.

I started exercising.  I take long bike rides, go to karate, lift free weights, and take walks.  I’m not always super motivated to do it, but as soon as I do, I feel better.  Being outside more makes me feel better, too, getting some sun and fresh air.  Exercise is what makes me feel the best of anything I can do.  It releases endorphins and takes the place of drinking.  Plus there’s no hangover.

I’ve been eating better.  I still eat whatever I want, in moderation.  I’ve cut back on sugar, though, and I’m eating more vegetables and fruit.  I never used to eat breakfast, but I’ve been doing that because I have to take one of my morning medications with food.  I’ve also been taking vitamins.  We have a garden, and I love picking tomatoes.  I love the smell of a tomato garden.  It’s amazing.  It’s therapeutic to spend time there.  I eat the tomatoes straight from the garden, or I use them on salads or make salsa.  We have cherry and Roma tomatoes.  We grow other stuff in the garden, but the tomatoes are my favorite.

I also drink tea all day.  I am obsessed.  I drink black tea in the morning, and then green or herbal tea the rest of the day.  I have a million different flavors so I don’t get bored.  I try to drink a lot of water on its own, too, but that can get old.  So tea helps me stay hydrated.

Another thing I’ve done is quit the electronic cigarette.  I was using it 24/7 because I could, pumping my body full of nicotine all day long.  I also had severe insomnia, and I wanted to see if the e-cig had anything to do with it.  Now that it’s been about a month since I quit, I am sleeping at night without any sleep medication for the first time in years.  I think getting on somewhat of a schedule has helped with that, too.

I’ve been reading some positive psychology books, which has helped.  I’ve been setting some goals for myself.  I try to appreciate each moment as I play with my kids, and try to appreciate what I have and my surroundings.  My husband and I have been having some meaningful conversations, which I have to say, hasn’t happened in a long time - and that just makes every other aspect of our relationship so much better, at least for me…so that’s wonderful!

It’s a great feeling to feel good.  I haven’t felt this way since…I can’t remember…and part of me doesn’t want to talk about it for fear of jinxing it.  Hopefully that’ll go away with time.  And hopefully this good feeling lasts.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

In This Moment, I Feel Great

I had to see the sunrise.

As I stared at the clock, 6 a.m., I felt that I should get up and take my bike ride now, because something unnamed within me wanted, needed, to see the sunrise.

So instead of rolling over and going back to sleep, as I normally would if I’d woken that early, I jumped out of bed.  For some reason there was a sense of urgency within me, telling me to hurry.  I ran around and threw on some gym shorts and a tank top, piled my hair in a bun, and swallowed my morning medications.  Then – where were my headphones?  I always kept them in the same place; where were they?  I scrambled around, searching for them, becoming impatient.  I found a different pair and ran outside to get on my bike.

It was such a foreign feeling to be awake at this hour, and not because I was still awake from the night before.  The air was crisp and cool, the town was still asleep.  The sun had not yet risen.  It was that perfect part of the day, the quiet, still interval between night and day.

I felt the cool breeze on my skin as I rode through town, turning onto the same road I always do to head into the country.
Once I turned the corner, I could see in the distance the faint beginning of the sunrise, not quite yet visible, but getting ready to make its appearance.  For some reason, I felt a stirring of excitement, a tingling throughout my whole body.  Seeing this sunrise felt…meant to be.

Then I saw an orange glow surrounded by yellow and pink hues, peeking out beyond the horizon.  It was beautiful.  I parked my bike on the side of the road to take a picture.  It was breathtaking, with the rays of light shining upon the dewy grass, sparkling like diamonds.  All the crops were also dripping with morning dew, and the sun shone on them, making the landscape sparkle.  Everything was illuminated.

I stared at the entire scene a while, soaking it all in, loving the feeling of being completely alone with nature, yet feeling completely surrounded at the same time.

I eventually got back on my bike and started pedaling again as the sun slowly rose higher.  I didn’t stop watching it, appreciating what this bright orb did to everything its rays touched.
I had to stop and take another picture; the scenery just grabbed me again.  The sun was getting higher now.  I rode along some more and took one final picture.  It was just too dazzling not to.

I decided that would be the end of the pictures and I would take my bike ride.  I rode along, listening to my iPod, whizzing by the cornfields that surrounded me on both sides, loving how the sun continued to beautify everything it touched.  I was feeling invigorated, free, light – I wasn’t thinking about anything.  
And suddenly I noticed that.

I felt happy.  My mind felt blank.  I was just being.  I wasn’t doing or thinking.

I felt great.

And that is when my wonderful mind started thinking.  All the familiar thoughts began seeping in, and I started to feel weaker, my chest caving in, my stomach in knots – what always happens when these thoughts overtake me.  I really need to work on myself.  I care too much about what other people think.  What if no one likes my book?  What if I’m not a good writer?  What if I don’t get into school?

What if, what if, what if?

In the midst of my mental downward spiral, I looked at the sun, and realized it was following me.  It was getting brighter and brighter, higher and higher, bigger and bigger.  I kept riding along as I noticed this, when I was interrupted by another voice, stronger than mine.

What are you doing?!  You were just having an amazing, carefree moment.  Why are you ruining it?  You were happy.  These thoughts will be here later.  Right now, dismiss them, and enjoy this moment.

In this moment, you feel great.
In this moment, I do feel great, I told myself.  Why am I ruining it?!  

Although the negative thoughts kept coming, I watched them pass right in front of me and stopped entertaining them.  I kept looking at the sun, and it was as if  an entity outside of myself was telling me something.  

Something true.

I don’t know if it was God, or some sort of higher power, or nature, or the sun itself, but it really hit me.  I began to feel lighter again, the weight slowly lifting from my chest, the knots in my stomach unraveling. 

 My life is not meant to be wrapped up in negative thoughts.  
I turned around at my usual spot and began my bike ride home.
On the way home, I breathed deeply, inhaling the fresh air and feeling my lungs expand, not recalling the last time I felt this way.

I paid attention to my surroundings.  The vibrant purple wildflowers, the crops swaying in the breeze, the woods in the distance.  

I suddenly felt inspired.  Something I hadn’t felt in a long time.  I had all kinds of ideas in my head; I couldn’t wait to get home and pour them all out onto paper.  

In this moment, my passion for writing feels revived; I feel the spark again; I feel creative; I feel content.

In this moment, I feel great.

Mental Illness and Addiction in Movies

I always feel better when I find someone who understands.  

Understands what being bipolar means, understands what being an alcoholic means.  I’m not constantly depressed anymore, like I was a few weeks ago.  So I don’t necessarily need a lot of comfort and reassurance right now.  When I’m low, though, I need tons.

One thing I do when I’m really down and can’t bring myself to talk to anyone is listen to music that seems to understand me.  What helps me more is watching movies that seem to understand.  Even if what I’m watching is full of fictional characters, watching movies that portray bipolar disorder, depression, or alcoholism really helps me feel less alone and more “normal.”

There are countless movies that have been made that portray an array of mental illnesses and addictions.  I’ll just go into the ones that I most relate to, the ones I can watch over and over and they always have the same impact.

Prozac Nation is based upon the best-selling memoir by Elizabeth Wurtzel, and it depicts her struggle with clinical depression.  I read the book first, and related to it, and this was before I’d been diagnosed as bipolar.  By the time I saw the movie, I could completely identify with it.  Not everyone will be a fan of the book (or the movie), in part because sometimes it drags on and maybe becomes a bit tedious.  But that’s how depression is.  I like that it mirrors the disorder.

Girl, Interrupted  is another movie based upon a memoir, by Susanna Kaysen.  I also read this memoir before seeing the movie, and I love both.  In this movie, the main character has actually been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.  I can still relate.  Many of the symptoms of bipolar disorder overlap with symptoms of borderline traits.  I definitely exhibit some borderline traits, which is why I think I can relate to this movie so much.  In the film, Susanna (Winona Ryder) is sent to a mental institution where she learns a lot about herself and others.  If for nothing else, watch this for Angelina Jolie, who is luminous as a sociopath.

My new favorite movie is Silver Linings Playbook.  From the first preview I saw, I knew I’d love it.  This movie centers around a male character (Bradley Cooper) with bipolar disorder and a female character (Jennifer Lawrence) with, I’m guessing, undiagnosed borderline personality disorder.  It’s the first movie I’ve seen in a long time that draws awareness to mental illness, and specifically bipolar disorder.  The characters are real.  The dialogue is believable.  When I first saw it, it wasn’t necessarily the ending I expected, but now I like it.  I can relate to this movie in various ways.  Fantastic.

28 Days is my favorite movie about alcoholism.  Sandra Bullock plays a character who is forced into rehab due to her drinking.  I see a lot of myself in this.  The stories aren’t completely the same, but the feelings, emotions – those are all there.  I watched this a few times right after I quit drinking.  It was like going to an AA meeting when there wasn’t one to go to.  I just felt less alone, and felt like I could do this.  It’s just a great movie.

Come Early Morning is another movie about alcoholism, and one that I could relate to.  It’s a fairly simple movie with a fairly simple storyline, but it is realistic.  The emotions expressed by the characters (played by Ashley Judd and Laura Prepon) feel genuine, and when it comes to addiction, that’s what really matters.  I just love any movie in which the characters undergo a transformation for the better.

An absolutely wonderful movie about alcoholism, starring Denzel Washington, is Flight.  I wasn’t sure what to think going into this, but I’m so glad I did.  I couldn’t relate to everything in this movie, as the storyline centers around an alcoholic pilot who crashes his plane, but I could definitely identify with parts of it.  It’s a must-see for any alcoholic.

This is an abridged list of movies, as I’ve always been interested in psychology and mental illness - and now addiction.  There are so many more educational and entertaining movies about mental illness and addiction out there if you’re interested in seeing them.  Just Google.  See if you can relate to any or if any remind you of someone you love.

The Heart of the Matter

I’ve been thinking…I know, scary.  I have a hard time letting go.  Okay, that’s an understatement.  I have a really hard time letting go.  I still miss our old house and feel violated by the people who live there now.  It’s been like two years, by the way.  And that’s nothing compared to how long it takes me to get over people.  Not necessarily ex-boyfriends, but friends.  Friends drift apart in life.  It apparently happens.  It just takes me a long time to come to terms with it.

I don’t like to think that I hold grudges…I mean, I don’t want to…but there are things that happened a long time ago that still upset me when I think about them.  I want to learn to move past stuff and let it go…let it be.  Forgive.  It’s hard for me.

I know logically that holding grudges and holding on to negative feelings is only hurting me, and doing nothing to the person who’s upset me.  I just need to make that logic take over my emotions and really understand it.  I envy people who can just “let things roll off their back.”  I only wish I were that way.

In doing some reading of positive psychology lately, I’m seeing that there are ways to change oneself.  Sometimes I wonder how much can be changed and how much are core personality traits.  
I think of the Serenity Prayer daily.  I know that helps me.  It makes so much sense.  I think this is something a lot of people struggle with…knowing what can be changed and what can’t.  I wish life came with an instruction manual.

I’m trying not to let things bother me…things beyond my control…other people’s behavior or opinions of me.  I want to be confident in my own skin.  I think I’m better than I used to be…but not where I want to be yet.

In order to achieve happiness, I have to learn to let go of the past…of the negative…of the actions of others that really say nothing about me and everything about them.  Does this come naturally to some people, or does everyone have to work on this?  For me, it comes down to the Don Henley song (I tend to like the India.Arie version, though.)  Anyway, it’s about forgiveness.  Forgiving others and forgiving yourself.  Maybe that’s the hardest part.
I know I rely on feedback too much.  If I’m not getting positive feedback, I always assume the worst.  I guess I need to adopt the adage that no news is good news.

I kind of thought by this age I’d know who I am.  Maybe it’s not about age.  I think some people can go their whole lives trying to figure themselves out.  My goal is to find the answer sooner rather than later.  I think if I can forgive myself for the bad things I’ve done, I might forgive others more easily, and discover myself beneath the layers of the past.  It’s about forgiveness.

I’m working on it.

About Me

I have an MA in literature from Eastern Michigan University and I write a couple of regular columns for The Delphos Herald. I am the mother of two young girls, and the wife of a firefighter. I am also bipolar (with generalized anxiety disorder) which somewhat accounts for my occupied mind. I rely on sarcasm the way others rely on oxygen.
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