Why we can’t have nice things: Fear and Mental Illness

I started writing this post back in June. Why didn’t I publish it? —

I don’t have the ‘official’ diagnosis for BPD or borderline personality disorder yet. However, from what little I’ve read it explains so much. More things keep ‘clicking’ and if I don’t end up with this diagnosis I’ll be asking the doctor what looks like BPD but isn’t.

Recently, I read this from Psychology Today. It’s about people with BPD fearing what their emotions will do. The article says it better. Then things just clicked. HOLY Fucking SHIT I keep getting answers. This article even potentially explains what happened when my physical health became worse.

I live in fear and I feel like very little is under my control.

Fear that something bad is going to happen. Fear that someone is going to think something bad of me. Fear that something bad is going to happen to a person close to me. Fear that I will upset someone. Fear I will overreact to something small and mundane and not be able to calm down. Fear that something physically is going to happen to me when I’m not at home and I won’t be prepared – like a sudden migraine or an allergic reaction. Fear of getting lost. Fear of what will happen if I end up upset and can’t control it and end up more upset. Fear of losing friends if they _____. Fear of harassment on the Internet. Fear of having to wait 30 minutes or more for a doctor appointment. Some of these fears I’ve been able to logically move past. Some of these fears I think I cope with by just not feeling.

I didn’t realize it was fear until after all my testing for personality disorders and after reading that article. This explains why I find compartmentalizing my emotions so dangerous. If I ‘save it up’ to feel later it will be so much worse, especially because I’m afraid of what will happen. And I’ll forget about it, until it comes back, like because something has triggered an emotion or memory.

Rereading this, most of it seems ridiculous. I’m not actively fearing for my life. I live in a relatively safe area. I isolate myself quite often and literally have less of a chance of being in a dangerous situation. But mental illness is ridiculous. Mental illness is illogical. It’s difficult. I’m going to go out on the metaphorical limb here and assume I was afraid to make these words public, despite the fact that in terms of the Internet in 2018 my blog basically doesn’t exist. Again, mental illness doesn’t make sense.

More logically, I didn’t post this because I’m still waiting to hear back from the doctor in charge of looking at all the testing I did for personality disorders. The initial information I received in early July is that I have depression and anxiety. That’s it. There was something about not exhibiting behavior for BPD. I still have so many questions. But that doesn’t explain so many things. I’ve realized a good chunk of my daily behavior is impulsive. From stress eating almost daily to suddenly getting up in the middle of a TV show because I decided to do something else like go play a game on my computer to deciding to clean out the closet. My impulsive behavior is collecting hundreds of kindle samples and thousands of knitting patterns. Or starting 8 different books before I decide to actually read one. Deciding I need a new pair of shoes today. Then there’s the mood swings and the times where I don’t remember what I did all day, even when I try. It’s not like when you can’t remember what you ate for dinner last night. It’s because there’s a dark hole in my mind instead of memories. I fear something happening that will remind me of a bad experience and then my emotions will stir up – like a sudden summer storm that might spawn a tornado.

And leaving the house. Oh. Leaving the house and being around people is exhausting. Conversations have so many rules to follow. Small talk is tedious. Avoiding people is easier. Driving somewhere is stressful. You can’t trust drivers around you. Most people drive distracted. If I get cut off or something else sudden happens I could spend hours shaking from the jump in my heart rate. Then there’s the physical problems like making sure I have snacks because it’s so hard to find something safe to eat outside of the house. It’s so much easier to stay home, inside, away from everything. Besides, home has netflix and our cats and a supply of chocolate.

Because of my health and my anxiety, I spend all day trying to keep my thoughts, emotions, and impulses under control. I can’t go shopping because I don’t have a job and we have a mortgage. I can’t just go for a walk because it’s summer in Texas and my body doesn’t tolerate heat over like 77 degrees (F). I can’t spend hours in the kitchen baking because I won’t be able to do anything after I’m done – and I don’t know if I’ll be able to clean up everything before it’s time for dinner. I’m jealous of people who can drink alcohol and eat whatever they want. I’ve started to impulsively “break” my diet. I’m gluten intolerant and it clearly still causes problems but I’ve started eating foods with gluten again. Thankfully I’ve been on a high dose of a mood stabilizer for years. I still have mood swings. I’m afraid of the mood swings now. Or something triggering me into feeling overwhelmed by emotion. I’m afraid because every time something happens that’s difficult, it’s harder to calm down afterwards. Harder and harder. And the migraines. Because some things are better I can see how stress triggers the migraines. Last time I had a migraine I lost 5 days. I don’t remember what I did.

I suspect? Assume? I fear?  Probably fear. That when I finally hear back from the doctor who is in charge of the neuro-psychological testing I completed in the end of June and being of July he’s going to tell me I don’t have BPD at the current time because I don’t have the extreme behavior – because I limit and control myself via anxiety and fear. And then that means I’ll have mental illness symptoms that doctors can’t explain on top of my long list of physical symptoms that doctors cannot explain when all I want is help to straighten out my mental health so that maybe just maybe my physical symptoms will calm down too. I’m afraid this doctor does not truly understand what living with chronic illness and chronic pain means.

*scrolls back up*

So I guess I didn’t publish that post because I knew I had a lot more to say and I didn’t want to face it. (And if you read the entirety of this blog post hopefully it wasn’t as painful as I imagine it to be. You deserve a cookie, or a strong drink, or some ice cream. (Also, I’m afraid to reread this for edits or I might not publish it.))

My mind is a place I don’t want to be and I don’t know what to do about it. I think that means I don’t know who I am either. 

And not remembering how I feel at home when I can’t bear to leave the house when I do actually leave the house to see doctors isn’t helping.


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Tips on How to go to the Doctor Part 2

This is a follow up. Anyways. Here’s part 1. This list is a little more in depth and possibly for people who go to the doctor more often and (probably) take more medicines than ‘normal’ or ‘average’. This list also covers points that I can almost guarantee will make your appointments less stressful.

11. When calling your doctor’s office: If you are making a new appointment, say something like this: “Hi, I am an existing patient and I would like to make an appointment.” If you have a question: “I am an existing patient and have a question (blah blah blah). Same goes for new doctors/being a new patient. “I would like to make a new patient appointment.” If you have a specific doctor in mind or see a doctor in a large practice, mention/ask for that doctor.

12. Keep a neat list of all of your medicines. By neat I mean everything is spelled correctly and it’s legible. It’s best if you can type and print out the list, but if that’s not an option, then hand write it. This includes everything you swallow, apply, and sometimes use. I would suggest a total of three to four lists.

  • prescription medicines you take daily – maintenance medicines
  • over the counter (OTC) medicines/supplements you take daily – again, maintenance
  • medicines you take/use as needed – this may or may not also need to be split into OTC and prescription

13. Keep a record of all your allergies. Drug, food, chemical, etc. Tell your doctor all of them. Let your pharmacy know. Artificial colors are especially tricksie hobbitses.

14. Keep a record of your health history. This is where comorbidity comes into play. People are kind of like soup. When you have different health problems then medicines might not work as the doctor expects. The more ingredients, the more complicated the soup’s flavor. Make this list as extensive as you need it to be. It’s also to help you remember. This sort of leads into number 15.

15. Keep a list of your doctors. This is probably more useful for your own sanity. My own list is doctor’s name, type of doctor, practice name (if relevant) and office phone number. I give the list with new patient paperwork but otherwise it helps me out.

16. You are allowed to ask questions. Ask questions. Keep your questions relevant to the appointment.  If you are seeing a doctor for specific acute symptoms, try to limit your conversation to just those problems/symptoms. For example, if you (think you) have a sinus infection, your sore elbow isn’t relevant.  This leads us to number 17.

17. If necessary have a list of questions or points you want to make sure are covered during the appointment. This helps you remember and could also help your anxiety. Make sure your questions are to the point. This is easier to say than it is to actually do, believe me, I know! Sometimes I give the tech./assistant/nurse the list of my questions and sometimes I keep it to refer to once the doctor shows up. It depends on the doctor and my comfort level.

18. Politely ask someone at the doctor’s office to make a copy of your information and ask to keep your original. They won’t have a problem. Printer ink is expensive!

19. Expect to review your current medications at every appointment. If you are not prompted for the information, then report all changes in your medication.

19. Remember that your doctors are a team and you are part of that team. Teams work best when everyone is working together towards the same common goal.

20. Optional: Have a copy of your latest lab results. You never know when you might want to refer to them. It also helps to know how long it’s been since the last time you had blood work.

21. It’s ok to be nervous and also remember doctors are people too. But get help if your fear or anxiety is interfering with your life and or your ability to go to the doctor. I used to get panic attacks driving to doctor appointments.  But now, for the most part, new patient appointments are a lot like the first day of school. I went through 18 years of school and every single semester I still had first day of school jitters up to my last semester of grad. school. It’s also okay to be afraid –like if you’ve had bad experiences with doctors but your fear shouldn’t be incapacitating. Maybe ask a friend or family member to go with you to the appointment, especially for new doctors.) Personally, I’m afraid of any new ER because of a horrible experience I had at an ER a few years ago. This trauma still affects me and makes me nervous at any ER visit. Also, I know multiple people who have PTSD because of experiences with medical professionals. If you cannot develop a relationship of trust with any doctor, it’s okay to let that doctor go but, remember, get help for your anxiety and fear if it’s interfering with your ability to even make appointments to go to the doctor.

If you apply any of these points to your doctor appointments then your appointments should be less stressful and less traumatic. Doing these things should help you to feel more in control at your doctor appointments and this helps anxiety.

Chronically sick and grieving

Apparently, I’ve been grieving for awhile. I didn’t get the memo.

Grief can occur in many different situations. It’s not something that happens only when you lose someone whether it be death or the end of a relationship.  Grief also occurs when being diagnosed with a life changing disease, the death of a pet, the loss of a job. A lot of people probably understand grief as something that occurs in stages. Culture is full of such references. Those five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. However, there is also thinking that grief does not occur in stages but rather in a cycle.  Here’s a great explanation of grief with possible causes, the stages, and how it can also be described as a roller coaster. I like the roller coaster idea better than a cycle. Regardless of which you prefer, I like “cycle” or “roller coaster” better because they are more fluid and have more motion than what you get from the word “stage”.

Where am I going with all this? Because of the counseling I’ve been doing for the last few months, I’ve realized I have a lot of grief in my life. I’ve lost access to foods, social events, hobbies and other fun activities, as well as easily completely tasks or chores because of my health. There’s a list of things I can no longer do because of all of my different health problems. I don’t want to go into listing all of them here. There’s also a list of things I’m grasping onto because I don’t want to lose them – like reading books regularly. My cognitive problems make reading harder than it used to be. One such example would be learning – the “hard way” – that I cannot complete light yard work without having something to protect myself from dust, pollen, irritants beyond antihistamines. This is on top of the restrictions I already need to deal with like not being able to work outside when it’s warm.

This realization that I’ve been grieving over the things I’ve lost in my life makes me think I’ve been self-absorbed these past few months. I understand, at least on a logical level, that this is because I’ve been doing a lot of internal processing. That kind of thing takes time and energy. Especially since I’ve been sick on top of my regular chronic sick life. I’m writing this on my fourth day of taking 50 mg of benadryl every 6 hours. (That includes setting alarms the last two nights to continue at the 6 hour intervals.

I don’t know how to cope with this realization that grief has invaded my life other than thinking I need to do something more than what I’m already doing. I knit almost daily and that helps me. At this point I think knitting is a form of meditation that works for me. To add something else for coping and processing makes me think that writing will help. I enjoy the act of writing. I liked writing papers in school, even though I hated starting writing said papers. This blog seems like a great way to start but I’m not sure of the details yet. I’d like to post about things beyond my health, emotions, or random crap. More book reviews perhaps? Writing prompts? I don’t know.

So far, I only know this. I feel like I’ve lost control of my overall life and that this is causing me to feel grief, anxiety, anger, and fear. This emotional stress is also hurting my physical health. I need to do something about it.