Light Therapy Box and Updates

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It’s been an interesting and exhausting month around here. At the start of October, I was struggling with my goal of quitting smoking, which has been back on track for the last three weeks. I was also adjusting to some medication changes since I was rapid cycling.

Currently, I am experiencing a downshift in my mood, which has me craving cigarettes again, which shows me that I really use them as a coping mechanism when my moods are unstable. I didn’t realize the connection to my mood instability and my cravings until I just wrote that last sentence, which goes to show you how beneficial and insightful journaling can be! Like I say, “Write into the light!”

I am sure I am not the only one who uses unhealthy coping mechanisms when their moods are haywire. On the upside, I use a lot of healthy ones as well, such as getting proper rest, talking with others, asking for help, exercising, taking my meds regularly and on time, keeping up on self-care and household routines, and improving my spiritual life. Are there any others that you can suggest? Two more that I can think of are eating healthier and participating in leisure activities or creative hobbies on a more regular basis, which includes this blog.

In an effort to do the latter, I have decided to not go back to bed after the kids go to school and sleep half the day away everyday. To help boost my energy levels, I have started using my light therapy box again for the first time all year.

For years, I used it everyday, even through the summer months. So, when I no longer needed it last winter I was thrilled, thinking on some level, “I’m partially cured!” Dragging it out again this week was disheartening because it reminded me that there is no cure for mental illness. It is chronic and, more often than not, its symptoms are recurring. However, having the tools to deal with them can make all the difference in the world.

I’m sitting in front of my light box as I write this post, and I am awake, feeling good, productive and motivated for the first time all week. That’s something, and I’ll take it!

A Letter to My Borderline Self

I came across this letter I wrote to myself while in DBT counseling for Borderline Personality Disorder several years ago. I hope it might help someone who is struggling today.

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By the time you were in high school you began to experience age-appropriate stuff, but through your parents’ eyes: friends betrayed you, boys used you, guilt was an effective form of manipulation, and you believed you were not worth protecting.

It was not normal for the adults in your life to behave like they did, and the adult world you observed as a child was now becoming your reality. You were no longer a bystander, but a participant. You no longer assessed how it felt by witnessing your parents’ chaos; you were now experiencing it first hand. You believed this was the world’s reality and thus, never entertained the idea that it would ever be any different for you. And your 40-something year old parents were way worse off than you.

The horror of each present moment and the shock of truly believing that life would only get more confusing, dangerous, and insane was so overwhelming and terrifying that you could hardly bear to open your eyes. So, you drank – a lot – which, of course, put you with unhealthy people in unhealthy places that merely reinforced your view of life.

You were not protected. You were raised in an unsafe and scary home, family, and community. Not one adult sheltered you. Not one aunt, grandma, cousin, family friend, teacher, or mentor. Not one. And I am so very sorry that you had to go through that. It wasn’t your fault. You deserved a safe, supportive childhood. You were worth it. You didn’t have to earn it or even ask for it. However, it wasn’t your choice to give. It was your parents’ choice, and like you in high school, they never even entertained the idea of doing things differently.

And the rest of what I just wrote can be written exactly again for them, starting with “the horror of each present moment…they could hardly bear to open their eyes. So, they drank – A LOT – which put them with unhealthy people in unhealthy places,” thereby exposing their children to a terrifying side of life, not thinking to show them the other side of life – the safe, supportive, sane, unconditional loving side. They didn’t think to tell me about it because they didn’t know about it; their parents didn’t tell them about it either. As much as it sucked for me, it did for them, too. Maybe even more.

Now, I believe that I am absolutely worthy of being loved and protected because God has proven this to me by leading me to a stable, safe, and supportive life, where the world need not be terrifying; where I can trust other women to not betray me. To make mistakes? Of course, but not to abandon me. And I can trust men to not use me (my husband proved that to me a long time ago.) I also know now that guilt is not a healthy tool to use on people and it is especially unnecessary around mature adults.

Finally, I am worthy of protection, and I will honor this worth and protect myself by: limiting my contact with unhealthy people; seeking out healthier friendships; focusing on positive self-talk rather than tearing myself down; sharing more openly and lovingly with those whom I trust; and avoiding conflicts unless it is necessary to protect myself or my children. From now on, it is not my job or my business to protect any other able individual, institution, group, organization, idea or belief or to convince anyone of anything if the price is my peace of mind.

When Outside Factors Affect Our Mental Health

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I’m usually an even-keeled kind of person. Properly medicated, I’m a laid-back gal. There are, however, a few things that will get me riled. The major one is witnessing someone being bullied or being bullied myself.

Last night, at a meeting I was bullied by a controlling woman who is known for doing what she wants when she wants regardless of what the rest of the group says or needs. I stood up to her, we had words, she cut me off mid-argument and refused to talk it out with me, stating that she was “setting a boundary” when I think she was merely, once again, taking full power over the situation. I was left reeling with overwhelming anger, hurt, and frustration, not to mention embarrassment from the witnesses who were present.

Looking back, I was not in a good state of mind when I went to the meeting. I have been anxious about the kids returning to school today, as this major change in my daily schedule usually brings about some level of depression in me each year.

Also, like many, I have been negatively affected by the suicide of Robin Williams. It has been on my mind; has made me cry; has reignited a immense fear of my own illness, and has sent me to my knees in prayer for his family, for those who die everyday from suicide that we don’t hear about and their families, and for myself and for all who live with mental illness.

I was extremely tired and had also skipped dinner before I went. (What was I thinking?!) Before the meeting even started and she bullied me, I was irritated about something else as well.

All is all, I ignored 3 out of the 4 rules of H.A.L.T. -

Never get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.

I always add an S. to the end of this for Stressed and Sick as well…and in my case Smoking because I am trying to quit and going through nicotine withdrawals.

Hmmmm…come to think of it, that woman’s lucky I didn’t slug her! ;)

Weekend Mental Health Writing Prompt – Afraid To Fail

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We are afraid to fail so instead we don’t try. How many things do you not try because you are afraid of failing?

Right now I am trying to stop smoking, and while a part of me feels like it is a lost cause because I have tried to quit several times in the past unsuccessfully, another part of me thinks, “But what if this is the time it works?”

Write about something you have tried and failed at, and then write about something you have tried and succeeded at, realizing that in life there are both failures and successes. The important thing is that we always try.

Make sure to link back to this post or comment below to share your response with others.

Weekend Mental Health Writing Prompt – Fathers

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In honor of Father’s Day, the writing prompt this weekend is none other than – fathers! Write about your father or grandfather or someone who was or is like a father to you. How did he shape you into the person you are today? In what ways, both positive and/or negative, does he affect your mental health? What is a good memory you have of him? What else would you like to write about him?

Link your response back to this post so others can find it or feel free to comment below. And Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there!

Social Anxiety Strikes

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I’m not sure how many of you out there have more than one mental illness to deal with. I have several including bipolar depression, anxiety disorder, and borderline personality traits. It seems as the symptoms from one disorder subside the ones from another become more noticeable at times. Currently, my bipolar symptoms are stable and my emotions are fairly regulated, however, my social anxiety levels are glaring!

I have always been a shy person, but never considered myself to have “social anxiety.” I always labeled myself as an “introvert.” Maybe that was just me trying to be positive, because lately what I have been experiencing would definitely be considered social anxiety.

For example, last night I was sitting next to a woman in a meeting and she was reading something to the group. So all eyes were on her, but because I was sitting right next to her I was extremely uncomfortable with the fact that everyone was looking my way. My heart was racing, my breathing was rapid and I remember thinking to myself, “This is so painful.”

I also realized lately that when I get together with friends, I only really feel comfortable when there are 3-4 total in the group. Any more is too many and any less is not enough. Visiting one-on-one with someone is so anxiety-producing for me because I have to participate in the conversation too much. When there is three or four of us, I can sit back and be more of an observer. Weird, huh? I just had this realization as I was reflecting on all of this this morning.

Also, when there is only me and one other person I feel trapped like if I wanted to leave I wouldn’t be able to very easily. My daughter’s friends’ moms will drop them off at my house for play dates and stay to chat for what seems like forever (30 minutes or more) and I am always feeling this way (trapped). After my weekly meeting, I’ll stay after to talk to some of the women and one in particular keeps me there talking until everyone else has left. I am a great listener and obviously people love talking to me! :) I just wish I enjoyed it more.

This makes me wonder why I don’t enjoy it more. Do I not care about what these people have to say? Do I not want to listen? I don’t think that is it. I think it is the exact opposite. I think that they wouldn’t care to hear what I have to say. I think that my stories, my life, and my thoughts aren’t anything anyone would be interested in, which is probably why I get so nervous when I do end up talking because I am worried about what the other person is thinking about what I am saying. So, a lot of the time I don’t even think to say anything. I just listen and comment on what they say. I have a hard time sharing stuff about myself.

So, how do I fix this? Is it a self-esteem issue? If I think more highly of myself, then will I have more self-confidence and be more comfortable (i.e., less anxious) when speaking to others? Would I be more open to sharing myself with others?

On the other hand, maybe it isn’t a self-esteem issue. I am fairly confident in my beliefs and values. Maybe it is because I barely have any drama in my life (thankfully!) My life is pretty low-key, actually boring at times. I have a wonderful, healthy marriage, well-adjusted kids, no job, no extended family stress. Other than my mental illnesses, I don’t have anything to complain about, which seems to be a lot of what people do when they talk these days.

Maybe there in lies the reason I am not sharing myself with others – I can’t talk about my mental illness issues with them. They wouldn’t get it, they wouldn’t understand, and it would alienate me from them. Damn stigma!!! Although, I do have my husband and one friend with whom I can be completely open about my mental health issues, so that is better than nothing.

So, I am not sure what to do about this social anxiety thing. It definitely limits my activities. It was making it hard for me to leave the house to run errands, but my DBT skills have helped with that which I wrote about here. I will continue to work those skills to deal with my social interactions with others to see if it helps with those, too.

In the meantime, I have also ordered a couple of books on social anxiety. If anyone has any book suggestions let me know. Also, tell me how you have dealt with social anxiety in your life. Thanks for reading. I’ll keep you updated.

Photo credit: Mari Z. / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Weekend Mental Health Writings Prompt – Worry

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Are you a worrier? Is there a particular worry you can’t shake? How do you cope with worry? Write about it and feel free to share it here or on your blog if you have one, and then link it in the comments below.

Weekend Mental Health Writing Prompt – Soothing Senses

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For this weekend’s mental health writing, list 1 or 2 things that are soothing to each of your 5 senses – sights, smells, sounds, textures, and tastes. Write about any memories associated with these soothing stimuli.

I hope you are having a lovely weekend!

Journaling for Mental Health Guest Post Announcement

I wrote in a frenzy anything that came to mind. The pen ripped through parts of the pages, my hand started to cramp, and I couldn’t see the words through my tears, but I kept writing until I could breathe again…

Read more as I guest post today at www.depressionandbipolardisorder.com