mind

What is possible…

I’ve always found TED talks inspirational. The last one I looked at said that if you want to be successful to surround yourself with successful people. In theory I’ve recovered from the worst elements of my psychosis and bipolar only to deal with anxiety. I think a lot of it is attitude. What I’m wondering if is I’ve absorbed some maladaptive traits from those around me who aren’t as focused on recovery.

It’s so easy to slip into I can’t especially when those around you are saying I can’t. There’s no shame, you’ve got a terrible illness after all. I’ve gained 20 pounds in the last two years and while I know my meds cause weight gain I was fighting it more effectively before. What if I surrounded myself with fit people who might judge me rather than those who have already gained and continue to gain.

Is it defeatist attitude that’s currently causing my problems? I can’t drive far because it’s making me nervous. I can’t work in my field due in part to a mouse allergy and in part to cognitive issues. But what of those that get better who change their brains and heal. It’s like I’m telling myself I’m no longer smart enough to do whatever I want and achieve my dreams. In fact I’ve even stopped dreaming. Those big wonderful save the world kind of dreams have gone.

Am I being realistic or am I giving up too easily? I can’t has morphed into I don’t want to or I don’t need to which makes it OK in my mind. I’m not giving up I simply don’t want it all anymore. It’s the final phase of giving up.

This is why I’m lacking motivation…there is nothing further I want or think I can achieve at some inner core level of thought. Why not put crazy back on the table. What do I really want to be? What path will get me there, perhaps there are intermediate steps needed that will get me making enough pay to support my passion.

I already know that in my dream world I’d be an artist, one who paints gardens. It’s highly impractical so it may be a second job for a while. What if I put more time into my art and more resources, workshops online programs etc. What if the IT skills I’m training for will just be my day job a way to fuel my true passions. Something tolerable if not earth shattering. Workshops in art, photography etc would be a great way to travel.

Time to make a dream board of who I want to be eventually but also how I’ll get there. That includes some of the baby steps I’m doing now, driving, retraining for a decent job. But why give up on my passion? There is no motivation other than habit once you give up on your dreams.

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mind

Anxiety rears it’s head again…

I don’t know what’s going on but I’m not responding well to the structure of this anxiety desensitization. It seems the only reward for driving is having to drive farther in the future. That’s not working well. I went from having minimal anxiety about driving to the store to now being worried for the entire day before having to drive tomorrow. I know that driving a mile is not a big deal and I can cognitive restructure all I want but I’m not having thoughts that aren’t true. I need a different reward structure like if I drive all week I can have my weekend free to relax. I swear my therapist must get so frustrated, I’m always changing the homework. I think the problem is that the caveman part of my brain already knows I’ve reached the lowest possible state of anxiety and doesn’t want to do anything to increase it at all. Rationally I know it’s not sustainable but that caveman part just isn’t rational. So I’m gonna have a lot to talk about with T next time.

mind

Amazon knows…

So today I realized that amazon knows more about my mental health than most people. I just ordered a book on agoraphobia my latest diagnosis along with GAD, social anxiety and bipolar. The list keeps growing. I mean the basics are that I’ll always have some type of anxiety along with bipolar.

Apparently not wanting to drive longer distances than to the grocery has to do with this as much as anything. I mentioned to the doc I never have issues driving home and this lead to the fact that I’m afraid of what will happen if I get too far from home. It’s not like I can’t leave the house at all otherwise I wouldn’t have beautiful pictures to show you but usually I have a friend along. That mitigates things. In fact using a support person is a recommended part of therapy.

The other part of all this is just kinda leaving into the anxiety and dealing. I was kinda surprised by this. The first part of anxiety the butterflies 🦋 are beyond modern psychology…they are a remnant of our days in caves and can’t be effectively treated. The part where that spirals though can.

So the book I bought on amazon is from Claire Weekes called agoraphobia. I bought it because of an excerpt from a later book of hers in the anxiety and phobia workbook my therapist uses. The idea is to again kinda realize that it’s going to sting for a bit but it won’t last forever. Anxiety isn’t the best feeling but it’s not permanent so you can ride it out and continue your activity. It’s kinda like pulling off a band aid.

Thing is there are some tricks that let you ride it out a little easier. The first is breathing slowly and into your belly. Then changing your thoughts so they don’t spiral. There’s a whole section of calming thoughts in the anxiety and phobia workbook.

Here are a few of my favorites…

I can be anxious and still deal with this situation.

This isn’t an emergency. It’s okay to think slowly about what I need to do.

I don’t need these thoughts —I can choose to think differently.

At least one of these is going to be taped on the dashboard of my car for my driving adventures.

mind

Sean Brock sparks a memory

When I started this blog, I wanted it to be about flowers but also about the mind. It seems the flowers have dominated. For me living with bipolar has mean that I’ve had to hold myself back on occasion. I’m the kind of person to push myself to the limits, or I used to be, at least academically.

When I saw Sean Brock on Netflix, Chefs Table I remembered both what I was and what I am still. I used to work on my research nonstop, in fact, that’s the norm or expectation in science. Once you’ve gotten a PhD there is no sliding backwards. People always expect you to be that smart and that dedicated within the field.

So why is it we have people like John Nash, of “a beautiful mind” fame who crashed when things got tough in academia. The most successful people I know both work and play hard. Are their brains just built differently? Is it the work life balance itself an answer?

All I know is that for me things got too intense at work and I experienced a type of meltdown known as psychosis. It only lasted a month but I lost control, I heard voices and had delusions. They were mostly harmless but they terrify me still, the what if’s?

That brings me back to Sean Brock. He has an illness too, but a neurological one. He’s one of the top chefs in the country and yet he can’t work as hard as he used to because like psychosis, his myasthenia gravis is stress based. The thing is he has adjusted well to this change, his life seems even more beautiful. He’s picked up the farming mentality where things seem to flow with life with the seasons.

Because of the way science is there a tendency to push and get the most out of any one person, it will always wreak havoc with my mind. Because of this I made the decision to leave benchwork behind a year ago. I thought perhaps teaching would be better, but while rewarding, teaching fell into the same oh you have a PhD trap. Not only would one have to continue doing benchwork, but also teach three classes on top of it.

It seems the door of science are now closed to me ironically because I have a PhD. Yet, I look forward to finding beauty in life that I have not seen. While my work life is in shambles, I have friends and relationships unlike I ever had before. There is a beauty in that. A beauty that won’t pay the bills but I’m retraining to get there. I hope I figure out how to learn to live at a slower pace, to find that same beauty I saw in Sean Brock.

mind

Pinpointing the problem

So I met with my cognitive rehab doctor…apparently the key to rehab is identifying the problem in your brain at a very detailed level. This used to be used to identify brain tumors before we had medical imaging. It’s just that detailed.

Once the problem is found work arounds can be devised. A simple example would be reading slower. Hopefully there is more to it than that because I’ve tried that and while it worked initially it no longer works, there’s just too big a gap between how fast I read and what I comprehend.

We also discussed neuplasticity and brain regrowth after an injury and basically the jury is still out with major work in journals like nature having conflicting outcomes.