It’s been so long since I’ve been at baseline or, “normal,” that I actually forgot what it’s like to be myself. I lost my sense of self in the heavy blanket of depression, and I know this because recently, I came to the realization that I’m not depressed. That the lithium is working. I was surprised because I hadn’t felt this way in so long.
I definitely feel different. The heaviness is gone, I have more energy, I’m more active, my mood is better. However, I don’t feel happy. I’m not unhappy. But I always thought the opposite of “depression” is “happiness.” It’s not in my case. I feel sort of neutral. I feel content. Maybe that’s how I’m supposed to feel.
Also, it seems that I don’t have anything to discuss with my therapist. There are gaps in our conversations because I’m at a loss for words, until she asks a question. I have nothing that I need to process, and I guess that’s a good thing.
How do you feel after coming out of a depressive episode?
As of yesterday, I am officially done with the partial hospitalization program/intensive outpatient program (PHP/IOP) I went to for approximately 7 weeks. Though I completed all of the paperwork, I wasn’t actually discharged — I discharged myself.
I made the decision to discontinue going to Group about a week ago, though I’d been wanting to leave since May. I couldn’t stand the format, and I felt that I was being badgered by the therapists. If I missed a day, for example, they would call me — sometimes several times — to persuade me to come in. It was intrusive. I just wanted them to leave me alone. Even after I told them (via phone) that I was leaving the program, they urged me to go to Group several times.
I won’t deny that I got better while in PHP (and my one week of IOP). It kept me busy. I had someplace to go every day, even if I didn’t like it. And I did learn skills that will help me during times of distress. It was just a bad fit.
Now that I’ve got all this free time, I have to find other things to do so I don’t sit around at home all day. To start, I’m thinking a yoga class on Mondays and martial arts on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I’m terrified of going to these classes, but I have to for my well-being.
I remember kneading rehab putty in my left hand for exercise when I went to physical therapy last fall. I’ve always liked putty, and play with the mini-tins at my psychiatrist’s office. When my husband and I were in Michigan, I bought a tin of Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty. No, they aren’t paying me to write this. Although the kind of Thinking Putties my doctor has have cool colors, that’s it — they’re pretty, but they don’t do anything else.
The type I bought, which is called Foxfire under the Phantoms effects, is luminescent. You can write on or draw designs with a UV light that’s included and the writing glows in the dark! I wish the picture below wasn’t so blurry, but that’s all my camera would allow me to take. Oh, and Thinking Putty bounces! I play with it from time to time when I’m feeling particularly anxious.
Putty is better than the stress ball, not just for the special effects, but because you can pull it, twist it, mold it into different shapes, or simply knead it. On the other hand, when I’m away from home, I can’t just pull out my tin and start playing with it. So my stress ball goes with me everywhere lol!
Do you use a stress ball, putty, or other object when you’re anxious?
Okay, I haven’t done very well in terms of my sugar addiction. I still eat candy every day, but at least I’ve cut down on the amount. I don’t think I’m going to be able to do this cold turkey, and have no idea how I did it last time. BUT, I’m not going to lecture myself about how I’m not trying hard enough. I’m not going to beat myself up, either.
On the other hand, I have good news: I showered yesterday and today for the first time in 2-1/2 weeks, and I’m so happy! My husband didn’t have to wash my hair, either, like he did during the “no shower” interims. I didn’t even have to push myself.
Getting up by 6:45 AM instead of 8:00 AM like I did before my recent hypomanic episode, helps. During the depressive episode, I didn’t have the energy or will to shower. The lethargy was like a heavy blanket covering me. I always felt behind on my morning routine, so in my head, it was too late in the day to shower. Besides, I had other things to do, like read blogs and write a post! Depressed or not, I’m determined to write daily.
Also, for the past few nights in a row, I’ve slept through the night. My sleep hygiene still needs improvement, but I hope this continues, despite using the light box for 1 hour and 15 minutes daily. I took my psychiatrist’s advice and increased the amount of time I use it by 15 minutes each week. Though I’ve used light therapy for years, I was never really sure if it worked for me, but now I know it does. Between my “happy light” and the increased dose of Prozac, things are turning around.
We’ve had a ton of snow in Chicago the past several days, and although it’s been mostly gray, it’s lighter out for a longer period of time. I think this is helping, too.
I’m still going to make my decision after this weekend as to whether or not I’ll undergo ECT, but signs point to no!
Has it been light out for a little longer where you live? Have you noticed any changes in your mood?
Not counting Psychiatrist #s 1 & 2, I’ve had 4 therapists in the last 24 years. Psychiatrist #2 kept telling me to enroll into a rehab program, even though I’m not an addict — however, I did abuse and self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, pre-diagnosis — so I finally went just to shut her up!
It’s a good thing I did because that’s where I met Therapist #1, who is my current therapist. I started seeing her in 1994, when I was 25, so she’s practically seen me grow up! Except for the 4 years that I saw other therapists, she’s been a part of my life for almost half of it! That’s how much we connect.
In 1999, I moved to Ohio from Illinois for school, so I had to stop seeing Therapist #1. The university offers student behavioral health services, and I was assigned to Therapist #2. Luckily, we hit it off. She even introduced me to a professor who is also bipolar, and who would meet me for coffee just to talk.
Of course I preferred my regular therapist, who continued to see me when I was home on school breaks. I only saw Therapist #2 for 2 years — until I moved back home and saw Therapist #1 again.
At one point, Therapist #1 switched careers to become a high school guidance counselor. I began seeing Therapist #3. She was really weird. Her practice was located in a suite that had 3 offices and a waiting area. There was also a bathroom.
This woman would not allow clients to use that bathroom. That would’ve been fine if the public restrooms were clean. They weren’t. They literally smelled like a sewer.
But it wasn’t just that. She didn’t have the warm and friendly demeanor that Therapist #s 1 & 2 had. She was all business. She gave me a book to read, called Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns, MD.
Now. This particular book has evidently helped many people, but it didn’t work for me. One part of it tells you to get rid of black-and-white thinking, and yet the book itself was black-and-white. For example, Burns kept saying that if you didn’t do the prescribed exercises or whatever, then you’re not ready to get better.
But that wasn’t true — of course I was ready to get better! I just found some of the exercises overwhelming. As I continued reading, instead of helping, the book made me feel guilty and confused, like maybe I didn’t want to get better.
By that point in my recovery, I knew I didn’t have to stay with Therapist #3, that I could have found a therapist I actually liked. But I didn’t look for someone else. I think part of it was that her office had a parking lot (depending on the neighborhood, street parking in Chicago can be a nightmare), and it was close to home. I may have been going through an anxiety phase about driving then, and her office was easy to drive to. About 2 years later, Therapist #1 decided to practice again! Yay!
I recommenced seeing Therapist #1. She moved offices at one point, and was often late to my appointments. As in, she hadn’t even arrived by the time I had. She let me bring my dog to therapy, but if she wasn’t there yet, Rudy and I would sit on the floor in the narrow corridor waiting for her. Awkward.
So I switched therapists without telling her why. I saw Therapist #4 just once, because I found the courage to tell Therapist #1 that her tardiness bothered me, and waiting in the hallway made me anxious. It was a good thing that I did, because we worked things out, and now she’s always there when I arrive. It was a good lesson — I learned that I could talk to her about anything, even our therapeutic relationship. And I continued seeing her again, and still do.
I’ve also learned that it’s important to have a therapist who’s a good fit. Otherwise, it’s pointless to even go. I did exactly that for the 2 years I saw Therapist #3, and therapy didn’t help me at all — and I even knew I could have switched therapists!
It wasn’t totally pointless though, because years later, I learned that you should be able to speak to your therapist if there’s any part of your therapy you’re unhappy with. If Therapist #1 had reacted defensively when I brought up her tardiness, I definitely would have found someone else. But thank goodness she was cool, because Therapist #1 remains number one in my book!
Do you click with your therapist, or did you have to visit several to find one you liked?