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.


The never ending story

So I took a break from driving yesterday because I got overwhelmed. I picked it up again today, again to the grocery. This is supposed to continue until I get bored with it. I think I might have gotten the first inklings of boring today despite there being more traffic than usual and one jerk who felt the need to try to pass on the right. I’d say it’s the city but there are people like that everywhere. Anyway I’m not sure if I’ll drive tomorrow but I drove today and that’s something. I’m honestly not sure my motivation is high enough for returning to driving. I don’t have a burning fire inside but then fires don’t burn so hot anymore now that the bipolar is under control. Maybe lack of motivation is the true issue?


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.


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.


The inner voice

So I was reading the power of self talk on make it ultra psychology this morning. Most of us have an inner voice and it can be helpful or a trouble maker needing cbt to sort it out. But what on earth is the inner voice and how does it relate to things like anxiety and even psychosis.

Here is an article that explains how the inner voice works in terms of psychosis. Basically if you hear a voice without having activity in the supplementary motor area (sma) your mind will interpret it as external and thus a hallucination. One wonders if instead of dulling everything by inhibiting dopamine to inhibit psychosis if somehow stimulating the sma towards more sensitivity might be key to alternative treatments.

Anxiety is a little different because we don’t think of the inner voice as pathological. Sure some inner voices can be negative but we don’t try to blot them out entirely as we do hallucinations. Frankly I’m not sure it can be done or if it might not come at an additional cost. Mostly we use cbt to combat a negative inner voice.

So one example I remember was throwing something plastic in the trash and my inner voice wanted to recycle. Normally I’m kind of a weak recycler. If something is mostly clean I’ll recycle it ♻️. Now on the other hand if it’s got sticky gross food in it then I’m usually too lazy to clean it and in the trash it goes. This happened to be during my psychosis so the inner voice was loud and insistent that I recycle provoking anxiety that something terrible would happen if I didn’t recycle. So I pulled the container from the trash and proceeded to clean it.

So doing what the voice wants is one solution but I swear so often the inner voice is working against me. Oh something terrible will happen if you drive or go out or have fun or whatever. In these cases one begins a dialog with the voice. This voice responds well to data, especially pie charts. Start with a pie chart that gives odds that something terrible will happen or not. Now not recycling a yogurt container probably won’t destroy the world right away so we can say that there’s a 99% probability that everything will be ok even if I don’t recycle every piece of plastic. So instead of cleaning the plastic and recycling it, I can begin by telling the voice that yes there is a 1% chance that something terrible might happen but it’s not very likely. It’s reframing the threat.

For me with psychosis I adopted a rule that said if it’s not harmful just go ahead and do it. So occasionally I will find myself wanting something sort of childish. At one point I wanted starlite the horse from rainbow brite a cartoon from my childhood. Well I can solve that one for $30 on eBay. As long as I can afford it why not? Sure starlite is hiding out in my closet but I know and the inner voice knows that I have her now.

I think I came to this through psychosis because the inner voice said I never listen to it which is true. If I listened I would never leave the house but that doesn’t mean that I can’t acknowledge my inner voice as a valid part of me and to occasionally treat it to cartoon stuffed horses. Or to respect it enough to show it a pie chart of why it happens to be wrong this particular time.

I’m still not sure of exactly what the inner voice is…some of it is me and my consciousness as there is complex inner speech but part is more primitive and seems to see patterns especially patterns of danger. It has a primitive consciousness of its own. Both inner voices are me so I need to respect and not simply ignore them. Besides pushing past and ignoring seems to increase anxiety.

So I have to wonder, what is your inner voice like? Do you engage with it or ignore it?


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.


Rediscovering the 4 R’s of Mindfulness

Some time ago I was in therapy for my bipolar and one of the techniques I learned was mindfulness. I was cleaning out old paintings to be stashed forever under the bed and found this card that had been bent and deformed from many a ride in my pocket.

The first R is replacement. Replace negative thoughts with kind and forgiving thoughts. Basically if someone speeds past and cuts you off instead of negative cursing you can think perhaps they are late for work or have to be at the hospital or perhaps they are just having a bad day. It keeps you from feeling rage at their actions.

The second R is reflection. Do you really want to be the kind of person who thinks this way. Without even realizing, I did this the other day in Who do I want to be?. I guess that despite forgetting this sheets even existed I must have learned something that sprung from a deep recess of my mind. Do you want to be a negative person or a positive person. While we all have our times of feeling down or negative, I truly believe that the negativity hurts us compounding the initial problem. That’s not to say I’m eternally full of sunshine, however it helps to be optimistic.

The third R is redirection. This is a simple one, find something else to get your mind off the problem. Do something fun or work or clean or whatever fills your mind.

The final R is reconstruction. This is about assessing the original thought and whether it’s valid in its entirety. A lot of times we tack on additional thoughts that make the original thought worse than it actually is. This is about seeing reality in an unbiased manner, not making things more or less negative/positive than they actually are.

Hopefully you’ve found something you can use in this article. I know I’ve found something even if it is just a crumpled card with four R’s on it.