Current Mental Health – December 2019

Photo credit; Feggy Art on Visual hunt /CC BY-NC-ND

Volunteering at an animal rescue: I started volunteering with animals again, after years of merely contemplating it. I could never quite make that leap. I beat my anxiety about it, but I still doubt myself.

At first, I worked with the dogs (giving them outside time, cleaning their kennels, and so on), but since then I’ve been writing thank-you cards to donors pretty much each week. Because I don’t work directly with the dogs, I feel that I’m not as essential to the rescue and that somehow I am less than other volunteers. To be perfectly honest, I prefer thank-you writing because I’ve developed a slight fear of dogs, ever since the time a dog got really mouthy with me — she had my fingers in her mouth and brought her mouth too close to my face for comfort. I didn’t know what to do, and I never mentioned it to anyone. Other people didn’t have problems with her (as noted in the Facebook volunteer group) and she has long since been adopted. But my anxiety remains.

Depression: My depression has mostly remained in remission, although I hit a rough patch earlier this month. I began using my light box again, which nipped that in the bud. Showering is still sometimes a challenge, especially because it’s so cold in the bathroom! But I manage.

Hobbies: I took up knitting again! I don’t think I hold my hands properly, but the proper way is uncomfortable for me. I haven’t made anything yet because I need tons of practice. All of my practice swatches have holes in them, and I keep adding stitches lol! I’m trying to be patient. In case you’re wondering, I still crochet.

Holidays: My husband and I spent Christmas just the two of us and our dog and cat. (Our cat, Angelo, turned 19 in December!) We exchanged gifts and had a very nice meal that my husband cooked: corn and scallion salad, mashed potatoes with a bechamel cheese sauce, and roasted mushrooms with garlic (we’re vegetarians). And apple pie (not homemade) for dessert. Later in the evening we saw Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (link contains SPOILERS) for the second time in 5 days lol!

Happy New Year! I am looking forward to continued good mental health in the coming year; and now that I’m in my 50s, I’m looking forward to the new decade!

What are you looking forward to?

Working on Us, Week 8

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

On her blog, Beckie of Beckie’s Mental Mess has introduced a set of prompts that touches on mental illness. Each week she offers up 2 prompts for bloggers to use in a nonfiction, fiction, or poetry piece. You can respond to either prompt, or both. For more information, click here. This week, I am responding to Prompt 1.

It’s my pleasure to introduce this week’s topic for Week #8 “Working on Us” by

Success Stories of overcoming (an anxiety/panic attack, manic bipolar episode, whatever.)

Prompt #1  Write a narrative of what works for you when in the midst of a crisis, such as, anxiety/panic attack or a manic episode.  Please give an example of what happened, and how you broke free from it.

Example: Coping skills, talking to a family member or a friend, and/or therapy, mediations… (Just to name a few).

I’m getting better at not panicking or freaking out when something unexpected happens. For example, if I find a bug in the bathtub, and my husband isn’t home to deal with it, I just walk away without having an anxiety attack and, if not forget about it, put it in the back of my mind. Knowing that I was able to do that in a situation in which I would normally panic, I can handle it (provided that it’s a small bug, not some huge monster). I know this is a small example, but it’s what comes to mind at the moment. I can handle it.

This phrase is from the book, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, by Susan Jeffers. I’ve read it a couple of times because the beginning chapters give you plenty of strategies regarding fear. I’ve incorporated some of them in my life, like the 5 Truths About Fear:

  1. The fear will never go away as long as I continue to grow!

  2. The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and . . . do it!

  3. The only way to feel better about yourself is to go out and . . . do it!

  4. Not only are you afraid when facing the unknown, so is everyone else!

  5. Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the bigger underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness!

No, I don’t always think of these when something happens, but I’m trying. As difficult as it is to do, #3 helps a lot. Curiosity trumps anxiety, I guess. And #5 is a motivator, because I don’t want to feel helpless.








Public Transportation Anxiety

Waiting for the L
Photo credit: sniggie on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Part of what happens when I’m anxious about going somewhere is that I obsess about things that could go wrong. I can’t rid my mind of these thoughts. What if it’s crowded? What if there’s a delay? So I’ve learned to be prepared for the outing. My husband drives me everywhere because I can’t drive, so I don’t have to worry about taking public transportation to get where I’m going. However, it is one of the goals I’m working on in therapy.

Taking public transportation makes me anxious: the wait for the train or bus, wondering if they will be delayed which would then cause me to be late, wondering if it will be crowded. It’s a lot easier to ride the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) going home because there are no time constraints or anything like that. It could still be crowded though.

When I regularly rode the CTA, I tried to make sure that when possible, I would travel at non-peak times, as in before or after rush hour. During rush hour the trains and buses get so crowded it’s like a pack of sardines (sorry for the cliché). But even before I’ve left my house, I’ve made sure there’s money on my fare card and I’ve checked a public transportation app to see what time the next bus/train will arrive.

When possible, do one or more dry runs of the route, days before the meeting. Take the train/bus to your destination. Bring a friend for support if you can, so you won’t have to do it alone. Practice.

On the day of the appointment, when I get to the train station, if there’s a line at the turnstile where people pay, I try to move swiftly. Before I even get to the station, I have my fare card in my hand, ready to pay my fare; no fumbling in my wallet. Yes, it could get stuck in the slot where you insert it, but that doesn’t seem likely. And if it does? What’s the worst that can happen? You’re late to your appointment through no fault of your own. And if the people you’re seeing aren’t understanding, you may want to rethink whether or not you want them in your life. Or is that too harsh lol?

These are the things I did when I took public transportation. Since I’ve been unable to leave my house by myself, I have yet to take my own advice.

How do you get around?

Current Mental Health – June 2019

Depressed Symptoms on Name Tags
Photo by VisualHunt

Hi, everyone! It’s been about a year (14 months!) since I was discharged from my second hospitalization last year. I worked hard to strengthen my mental health in that time — went to a partial hospitalization program (even though I quit); kept taking my meds; trying to get out as much as I can (with my husband; I still haven’t overcome my fear of leaving the house by myself). Also, my psychiatrist added lithium to my cocktail, which helped tremendously. I’ve been “fine” for about a year.

However, sleep is still a problem, although now I only wake up once in the middle of the night rather than 3 or 4 times. Usually, I can fall back asleep right away instead of tossing and turning like I used to. At least I’m waking up in bed instead of the couch, where I sometimes move to at some point in the night. However, I was only averaging 3 – 4 hours of sleep, and that’s not enough. (Now I sleep for 5-1/2 – 6 hours.) My doctor and I decided to try Ambien, which I’m not sure worked. I only took it twice so I couldn’t tell, but afterwards, I started having depressive symptoms again.

I imagine that many of you know what depression is like, and that it’s different for everybody. For me, I stopped showering, which is the first clue that I’m depressed. Then I stopped changing out of my pajamas and brushing my teeth. I didn’t go out, even with my husband; I isolated. My mood was really down, and sometimes I felt like crying for no reason. I was tired all the time.

Then we went to Vegas for my niece’s 1st birthday earlier this month, and stayed for a few days. We did a lot of touristy stuff — it was fun! But when I returned, my mood took a dive again. It’s not as bad as before the trip, but I’m on alert. This is what I’m going through right now, fighting the demons that convince me not to shower, brush my teeth, etc.

Fortunately, I still have some energy, which has helped me go out with my husband and do stuff, even if it’s just a trip to the store. I hope this goes away.

How do you know that you’re starting to become depressed? Or does it hit you all at once?


Pitch Black Restroom

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

My husband and I went to write at a coffee shop one afternoon. The place we went to wasn’t part of a chain and it was new to us. I was thrilled to see Thai Iced Coffee on the menu, because I’ve only ever seen it on Thai restaurant menus. Of course I ordered it. I was looking forward to the cream and sugar taste of Thai Iced Coffee, but it tasted more like a melted, cold vanilla latte! And I’m not fond of vanilla lattes. So that was interesting.

Another interesting thing is something that frightened me and nearly started an anxiety attack. I went to use the restroom, which was a room for one person to use at a time instead of a roomful of stalls and sinks. After I shut and locked the door, the lights went out and it was pitch. BLACK. I began to panic.

The first thought that went through my head was, “What do I do?!?!” The choices I came up with were to bang on the door and yell for help, or attempt to find the switch. I was near the door, which was near the light switch so I patted the wall next to it, looking for the switch. I got lucky. I found it and turned the lights on.

After a few tries, I figured out that the lights shut off every 15 seconds or so. And that there was nothing unusual about the light switch, like you didn’t have to press it down or anything to keep the lights on longer. This was annoying, because the lights went out while I was using the toilet! 😭 Before I remembered that I could still pull my pants up in spite of the darkness, I began to panic, which for me includes a racing pulse and rapid breathing. Then I noticed that the switch had a small blinking light. So you could see it if it’s super dark because the lights shut off automatically!

Arrrrrrggggggghhhhhh!! I congratulated myself for making it out alive lol!

Has anything interesting ever happened to you while using a public restroom?