Friday, December 30, 2011

Improved mental health

I am hesitant to say it, as if saying it will somehow trap me in the "I don't need help" chategory when I will in fact need help. But I'm doing better. I no longer wish to be dead. I no longer pray for death. Etc. Etc. Instead, I ponder it. How come I don't want to be dead today? Huh, I don't know. Nothing much has changed, except, I suppose, the chemicals in my brain. Praise God for medication and/or whatever brought about this astounding change. It's amazing. The whole thing is. Wanting to die (duh, who wouldn't?) though my sister couldn't even immagine such a state of mind. Taking the thoughts for granted because they were around so often. It was just my life. I spent each day with the nobel and challenging goal of living until the next day, at which point the process would be repeated, and I'd live another day to get to the day after. Admittedly, it was exhausting. And now, just as wishing to be dead was just a part of life, not wishing it has now become a part of life. Now it's, duh, here I am and this is what's going on in my life.

Anyway, I saw my psychiatrist yesterday. Perhaps it helped that I'd already spent an hour earlier in the afternoon, part of which was spent trying to explain my current state of mind. I think I'm still mildly depressed, or some level that leaves me firmly outside the hospital with no immediate risk of landing in the psych ward. But I don't really know what normal is, and neither does my counselor. I guess there's this "normal is what you were before you were depressed" idea, but it doesn't work so well when my life has been weaving around depression and anxiety since I was a kid (not saying I was depressed all the time, but I don't know what "healthy" is supposed to feel like). Anyway, I explained to Mr. Psychiatrist that, since returning from Puerto Rico (location of my two "gap" school years between highschool and college), I've spent lots and lots of energy, first trying to go back to Puerto Rico, then trying to fight the mental illness stuff, especially the OCD, and then fighting to live each day. But now, I live each day automatically. I don't have to struggle so hard to get through each day. So I feel kind of empty. He suggested that I sit back and enjoy it for a bit. Which, of course, goes against my former beliefs that aren't completely former that rest and fun are potentially wrong. And he suggested that I keep working on my goals for my life (i.e., college classes for my Communication Disorders degree, or working on relationships that are important to me).

I think the OCD is still around, it's just learned to hide in the woodwork a little bit better, and it's being smart enough not to do something major like ruin my paperwork or stop me from doing  something I really care about. And, of course, Exposure Response Prevention is pretty intimmidating and uncomfortable as well, so as long as I think the ERP would cause more distress than it is worth, the OCD skates by relatively unchallanged. Actually, I also think that the OCD has moved from being a major issue to being a minor issue. And perhaps I've stopped the ERP too soon. Perhaps the OCD is causing more trouble than I realize. Let's ruminate over that for a while.... I wanted to say, just kidding, but I probbably will think about it for a while until I settle the question somehow.

I also told the psychiatrist that I was scared of going back, and he told me I was in good company. I now join the mass of people just out of a strong depression who are decidedly scared of falling back into the deep depression.

And so the Psychiatrist and the Counselor gave similar advice for different pieces of my life puzzle; keep doing the things that help me and bring me pleasure - like the dance exercises and the online college classes.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas is passed for another year. Last year I helped with the Christmas tree and enjoyed a day of cleaning house and watching a movie. This year... I avoided the tree, I went to church in the morning, and I pretended it wasn't Christmas in the afternoon, but still went to a movie. Sunday morning was hard, but I thought to myself, this is how it used to be every Sunday and now it's only some Sundays. That's progress.

The whole "Merry Christmas" wish still seems out of place for me this year. I can wish other people a Merry Christmas, but for them to wish it to me? Just not quite right. But they don't know that, so I'll try not to hold it against them. :) I came up with an alternative Christmas day wish for people with mental illness who have trouble with Christmas and for anybody who has trouble with Christmas. "May you have a day with as few moments of distress as possible and may you continue to tomorrow..." I was the only one who wished it to myself, though. I suppose that might be tacky.

I plan on keeping all my bone marrow, unless the doctor comes up with a sufficiently compelling reason to change my mind so that I will let them do the lab test. That gives me a slight bit more peace, but not much, since I still don't know how the doctor will respond or if I made the right decision (oh, hi, OCD).

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

a good day gone angry

The day started out pretty good. I got some good laughing time with my little kids. Then I got told of a "better" way to run my classroom, and my mood started sliding downhill. Then I did not volunteer to help with something. I feel guilty about it, but also angry. Angry that something is wanted from me that I am unwilling to give. Alas, my negative emotions are having a hey day. I'm trying to not get too riled up and to wait until I see my counselor tomorrow.

Then I had a doctor's appointment. This doctor can be Doctor H, as in hemotologist. I think he's into oncology as well. Anyway, last time I saw him, he said I looked quite healthy and as long as my other blood counts were normal, they should be able to just watch me instead of needing to do a bone marrow test. So this time, I came confidently, thinking that he would deliver the great news that I was basically fine. Instead, I come in and am given a slip of stickers. I go to see the nurse, not quite sure why I'm getting more blood work done. "What are the tests?" I ask her. She replied that it was for blood tests and a bone marrow sample. "I haven't agreed to that," I said. I didn't care if she took my blood; that has happened many times and is relatively painless. But the other? They didn't even talk to me about that! So then I got to skip the labs and read my book. Fine. Then blah blah borring as they check my weight and all that normal you-just-entered-a-doctor's-office stuff. Then I read more. Then I gave in to my tiredness (I just got back yesterday evening from being two plane rides away, visiting my sister for a week) and started taking a nap. The door was open, so the medical people could see me when they walked by. I thought about closing it, but the doctor came first. I think that taking a nap in the exam room in a chair might possibly be a way to encourage the doctor to make time on this "not busy" day to talk to me for three minutes. Three minutes! Why do I have to wait twenty minutes so that the doctor can give me three minutes. And why do I have to pay thirty five dollars for a copay to have him talk to me for three minutes and say that since all the tests except for my hemaglobin count look great, so we better check the bone marrow to see if something dangerous is going on.

I did argue a little bit. And I for sure didn't agree. Anyway, I protested that he'd said that if everything else came back fine, then they could just watch me instead of checking my bone marrow. He said, "but I told you we might have to check your bone marrow" (he did, more or less, but he said if the other things were fine, I shouldn't need one). He wisely offered me the option of thinking about it. He didn't offer the option of fleeing to the ends of the earth and never returning. He wants me to have another appointment with the regular doctor whome he is covering for. In a month. He asked me if I wanted it sooner. I considered asking what my risk of serious need for fast medical action was, but I held my tongue (if I said that, it might imply that I agreed with him). So I settled for no sooner, just about a month. And then he dismissed me and I didn't even talk to the receptionist to pay my co-pay early before they sent me a bill. I did smile at her, though, since my mood wasn't her fault.

Just now I did a slight bit of internet research, but I ended up giving it up. I'm in too bad of a mood to be reseptive right now. And I still don't want them to test my bone marrow. I still feel lied to. I still think the stupid thing is ironic. Today he tells me that BECAUSE it all came back normal, now they have nothing to blame the anemia on, so he thinks I should be conserned enough to get this test. BECAUSE this time the tests showed that my blood wasn't eating itself as if it was a flu virus, now we should be concerned. I thought it would be more concerning if my blood was eating itself like a flu virus.

The moral of the story is.... I don't know. Oh, well. Surely my anger will not last forever.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


Today, I had trouble getting out of bed in the morning. I wondered, is that because of depression and anxiety, or am I using that as an excuse? I was kind of thinking it was both, and eventually made myself get up and eat breakfast.

Then I watched a movie. Once I got far enough in, it did distract me, but at first, the anxiety was still having a heyday. It was being really absurd. "You might not sew that right." And there I paused in indecision, which was rather ridiculous since I was determined to finish making this handbag, and I wasn't even demanding that it turn out perfect. Finally I just dove in. It is definitely not perfect. No worry there, but it is turning out fairly similar to how I intended (but a little bit smaller).

The upcoming travel involving my leaving my "safe" (-ish) home state where I have multiple friends and where I have my psychiatrist and therapist (well, they are technically in another state, but close by), this trip is getting great anticipatory anxiety ratings. I'm not usually this anxious. Well, I guess that's something to celebrate. The majority of my life without these stupid anxieties (replaced at times, by other, more logical fears, like what could happen to me from the invisible contaminants on the bar of soap in my family's bathroom). But really, I often haven't felt this concentration of random anxiety.

Yesterday, I saw my psychiatrist. We had a valuable conversation. I brought up my monetary worry, saying apparently I shouldn't have checked my credit card account. The thought that the problem was just because I'd actually looked at the information was somewhat amusing to me. And he said, well, you can still smile about it, so it must not be too bad. I replied, but I can smile in the psych ward, too. I really meant it. I did smile there. And it didn't mean I wasn't upset. Anyway, Mr. Psychiatrist replied, so I can't take your smile at face value, it isn't necessarily a good indicator of how you're feeling. Yes, I confirmed, I sometimes smile to cover up my distress. He asked, so how would your face look if you weren't smiling? Then I made a face, trying to think about that. He asked, Is that the face you would make? No, I replied, that's my thinking face. Actually, I still don't know what expression would really express how I feel about the state of said credit card account. I'm not sure I have one.

And then, I set about thinking about when I cover with a smile. Sometimes, I think it is meant to downplay my distress, to myself and/or to others. Sometimes I share things that are part of my normal life, and it bothers whoever I'm talking to (i.e., describing depressive thoughts to a person without depression). I want to smile to lighten it up a little, try to take off some of what weighs on them. Okay, so I might smile also when describing that to my therapist or my psychiatrist. I guess my face shows it more accurately when I cry.

Which I did when discussing the dear credit card account with my therapist, who decided to wave my copay altogether, which really bothered me, leaves me feeling incompetent. She tried to convince me to accept it (which I probably would have anyway, even though I was upset about it), by comparing it to how I care for my toddlers at work. By saying she's done it for other people, too. It seems that, though raised in a family that wasn't rich but that always had enough (though not always enough for icecream), I still judge myself by my financial status. I have easily stated my opposition to "prosperity gospels" - i.e., that if you were good and God was happy with you, you would have lots of money. I wasn't into being rich. I was quite content with how my family was when I grew up. And not until money started decreasing did I wonder if I was doing wrong and that was how God was judging me.

Wow, this past couple years have been just great at showing me my pride and judgementalness.

So now, I will speak to myself, but you can listen in if you'd like. (And now that I've said that, okay, I am talking to you, too.) God's oppinion of me does not necessarily correspond to the state of my finances. You know, in one way, I'd like for it to be, because then maybe I could do something to ensure I had more money. But the thing is, if I try to get points from God by doing what I should, I fall so ridiculously short that it's pretty crazy to seriously consider such a thing. It would be like approaching a hotel that cost a million dollars to enter and saying, "look, look! I have three pennies! Now won't you give me one of your better rooms?" So I guess I'll stick to wearing Jesus's goodness and entering on his ticket, not trying to buy my own with three pennies. And having said that, why, since I know that that is what I choose to believe, why do I still keep thinking I need to earn more pennies? Why?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

a bit of toddler handprinting and a bit of figuring out my life

Possibly, I should exercise, but I might not, because I have a cold. And such an excuse should be useful for something even though I'm still going to work.

I am perfecting my ability to make decoration handprints with toddlers' hands. Perhaps perfecting is the wrong word, considering how a few of them turned out. Note to teachers of one-year-olds: some one-year-olds may close their fingers with paint on them. If your hand print is just one color, it's not too much of a problem if you don't mind getting your hands painty when you open their hand up to print on the paper. Oh, then you have to be careful to keep your painty hands from adding prints to their paper. Or just buy "correction fluid" to cover it up (I did a very little bit of research and this appears to be the non-name-brand term). I think that's the best plan.
If, however, you are doing one of those cool, multicolored handprints that are supposed to look like something else, beware. I tried blue on the hand and red on the fingers. Remarkably enough, we soon had purple. I tried again. I had to do that one piece by piece, printing one color at a time. It didn't look quite the same as everybody else's..., but oh, well.

I was filling out paperwork to prepare for my appointment to see the hematologist (or rather, some doctor filling in for him who I assume is also a hematologist) about my mild anemia. They, of course, mailed the paperwork to my mom (where I used to live). She kindly dropped it off at work. My coworkers sent me down to see her. And I wondered, why didn't she just hand them the paperwork, or come up to see me? Apparently, they didn't invite her up. And as for my first question, the paperwork came in an envelope with the bold return address saying it was from the cancer center. I guess I didn't really want my coworkers to see that. Presumably, I don't have cancer, just another episode of mild anemia for me. But I do have an anxiety disorder. Actually, I'm pretty sure my anxiety disorder stayed out of it, because I have been pretty able to put the issue aside. But I'm still human. Anyway, I decided to prepare for the worst case scenario (in a yes or no type way). Supposing they said, yes, you have cancer, I would have wanted to have spent these last days of not knowing thinking that I was healthy. And so, I have determined to enjoy this week of health. I see them tomorrow, but they shouldn't know anything tomorrow; they should just decide which tests they want me to take next. Maybe they will say, nothing, and I will be able to set the whole anemia issue behind me. And stop taking those iron supplements. Iron supplements in combination with psych. meds... side effects! Oh, yay. Of course, I've been living with said side effect for months now, so it shouldn't be that big of a deal to keep living with them.

It's funny, as soon as I finish my college work for the semester (actually, just before I finish it), I start wondering what I'm gonna do with my time. Unfortunately, my depression or my value system (the secret one that doesn't like to conform with my intentionally chosen beliefs) leaves me not wanting this "dead" time. I mean, this time to relax and enjoy my life. Unfortunately, said secret value system thinks that relaxation and "me" fun time are not good at best and sinful at worst (as in, reading a for enjoyment novel or watching a movie for fun etc is probably wrong). Maybe we should blame the scrupulosity OCD for that. Or the secret value system. I bet you are supposed to attack secret value systems just like you are supposed to attack OCD; disobeying the thoughts you don't agree with.

I wanted to get a second job, because I wanted to get paid for a second job. For reasons obvious to my financial records (since, of course, said records in paper or electronic equipment have brains of their own). But my counselor wasted no time in telling me that I should not do that. Really, I meant a second job. I hope she understood that. It would just be a few more (12 - 20 more) hours of work. I could take part of that time out of reading my for fun novels (since those might be sinful anyway). My counselor didn't see it that way. (She tends not to agree with my overly ambitious plans unless they are set far in the future and don't involve the amount of college work and paying work I'm doing. She also tends to disagree with my scrupulosity. You'd think she was a licensed counselor or something.) She said that my reading time was needed relaxation time. Four hours in a day? I asked. Apparently, the "wastefully" large time - I mean, "self-helpingly" large time - I spent didn't change her opinion.

So I was relieved and upset. Relieved because I don't have to go looking for another job. Upset because this annoying and disturbing mental illness stuff is preventing me from being Super WorkerandStudent. There was a time when I would have tried. Like just before I talked to my counselor. And like a few years back, before I knew how thoroughly I could be affected by ongoing depression. I have the smartness for speedy studying. After all, OCD tends to come with that. (And this is why I had trouble with some lecture about how we want to raise our students' IQ. What for? I thought. So that they can have depression, OCD, and/or some other psychiatric disorder and experience a few days in the psychiatric unit at the hospital?) But back to my scholastic intelligence... if it was solely dependant on that, I could do Super Student work. But then we add in things like OCD fears of accidental plagiarism (an oxymoron to some people who are not "enlightened" with the right kind of OCD). We add in work. We add in the stress of living with a mental illness (and hey, I'm talking about one that isn't that bad). And suddenly, I'm back to being a normal human. Subnormal for what I expect of myself.

Would you believe it? The spellchecker noticed the words I created using conventional English patterns (i.e. self-helpingly).

Thursday, December 1, 2011

a bit random

To the person who asked in a comment on someone else's blog about exercise; I like to exercise enough that the doctors and therapists and well-meaning people can't blame my depression on lack of exercise. I'm pretty sure it helps me feel better, especially when it is exercise that I enjoy. But even if it doesn't change how I feel, it rules out a possible cause of my depression, which is enough of a reason to keep me trying to exercise. (And yes, I still do usually fall short of my exercise goals for the week, despite my good intentions.)

To myself, how come I end up writing blog posts when I'm hungry enough to be distracted by it?

To whoever wants to read my blog...

My driving exposures aren't doing so well. I have trouble standing up to my ocd feelings of danger. I'm hoping not to worry too much about it, though, because I can gather myself up for another attack on the ocd later.

I'm getting ready to go on a real, true vacation. I'm going to see one of my sisters. The trip involves missing 6 days of work, traveling through airports and on airplanes, and messing up my carefully constructed "normal" life that has been designed to minimize depression and mental health issues. Today my counselor had lots of good advice. One thing she said was that it could be good for me to know ahead of time (like I do) that if I ran into too deep depression trouble, there is a hospital in my sister's area where I could go (where my Psychiatrist here used to work many years ago - an extra connection that makes me feel better). Of course, neither I nor my counselor wants me to end up there, but there is always that option should things get too bad, just as there is that option here where I live.

She also encouraged me to make lists. (I don't have a particular list-making OCD problem, so this isn't adding to a compulsion for me.) What am I going to bring? She encouraged me to think of things that work for me here that I can bring there or that I can copy or immitate there. Which made me remember my cereal. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, and an important part of my wake-up routine.

So I'm trying to think of my "security blanket" -type things. My word-search book (yes, I keep working through those and replacing them with new dollar store buys). My chapstick. My alarm clock used to be important, but I haven't used it in a long time, so I think I'll just use my cell phone this time.

I am making (i.e. decorating and modifying a cheap simple bag into) a purse special for the flying. My purse now has no zipper, just one snap, so things fall out. I'm trying to make one that zips closed. I picked the bag color and the ribbon I'm decorating it with... It should hold emotional as well as practical value. Actually, it does already.

And I'll probably bring my lullabye music. I was thinking about that recently, how it sounds kind of silly. "Grown-up" though I am, I use (dollar store!) lullabye music prepared for toddlers. It works so well at child care centers to relax the kids - and the teachers. So naturally, I use it for myself, too, when sleep is a bit hard to transition into.