About Seasonal Affective Disorder

What about it? It sucks. A lot. But anyways. I decided to collect some data from a few links on SAD into one place. Some of this is straight copy and paste but all the sources are listed at the bottom.

There seems to be some disagreement on what actually causes SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Sources do agree that it’s something wrong with melatonin production. Personally I think too much melatonin makes the most sense.

You’re more at risk for SAD if you’re a woman, younger, live further from the equator, or have family members who have depression or a mood disorder. People with seasonal depression have been found to have 5% higher levels of a transporter protein that whisks serotonin away from the space between neurons and moves serotonin back into the presynaptic neuron, which can lead to depression.

Sunlight in the summer stops this process from happening, but when winter approaches, less sunlight can mean more serotonin ends up hibernating in your neurons, causing seasonal depression. People with SAD may also have issues in the winter with overproducing melatonin, a hormone released in response to darkness and causes sleepiness.

And a few more sources

Most researchers believe decreased access to sunlight plays a role in seasonal affective disorder. Light affects our circadian rhythms, and UV rays can also change how the body processes vital minerals and other nutrients. For example, inadequate sunlight exposure is linked to low Vitamin D, which, in turn, has been linked to depression and other physical and mental health woes. So the effects of darkness on the body—not just darkness itself—might be partially to blame.

A recent study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, bolstered the connection between SAD and inadequate sunlight. It found that weather and climate—including rain and pollution levels—don’t appear to alter mood. But access to sunlight is a major predictor of mental health. In the study, people who lived in regions with shorter, darker days were more likely to experience poor mental health.

Your brain makes melatonin which it needs for adjusting your physical responses to light and dark. Even in this highly techno world, your brain still is reacting to natural light. Your eyes are the window into response to the rhythm of light and dark. When the world starts to darken into shorter days, if your brain is not manufacturing sufficient melatonin, getting drowsy and waking up becomes a challenge. Too drowsy and not energetic are the hallmarks of SAD. If you have a brain that does not make enough melatonin or that does not respond easily to the circadian rhythm you may have the biology that creates SAD.

There’s also reduced vitamin D production.

Risks

Levels of stress – like a history of stressful holiday events with family, trauma, age – younger people are more at risk, sex – women are more at risk, having a close family member with SAD or a personal history of depression, and living farther away from the equator all increase your chances of developing SAD.

Symptoms

Most people’s symptoms occur and resolve at the same time every year. Also, it can happen in the summer.

Personally I find that SAD has all my own depression symptoms with a few additions, like excessive sleep.

People with SAD often experience depressive symptoms which are less severe than those associated with major depressive disorders. Though suicidal thoughts can and do occur—particularly if SAD is left untreated—these thoughts are less common. Some common symptoms include:

  1. Low energy, feelings of grogginess, or excessive sleep. People with summer SAD may experience insomnia.
  2. Changes in appetite. People with SAD are vulnerable to weight gain. SAD sometimes causes carbohydrate cravings, because carbs offer a temporary energy boost.
  3. Irritability and anger.
  4. Changes in your relationships with others: People with SAD often feel lonely and rejected.
  5. Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities.
  6. Feelings of guilt.
  7. Dread or uncertainty about the future.
  8. Loss of motivation.
  9. Anxiety.
  10. Feelings of sadness.

And a few more:

  • restless activity, such as pacing
  • crying, often with no apparent trigger
  • feelings of fatigue, even after a full night’s sleep
  • sleeping for too long
  • increased appetite
  • social withdrawal and a reduced interest in activities that once provided pleasure
  • difficulty concentrating
  • overeating and possible weight gain
  • suicidal ideation

Treatment

Personally I think treatment is going to vary by person. There’s less disagreement on treatment than there is on causes.

Treatment for major depression can also prove effective at treating SAD. Those treatment options include:

  • Psychotherapy to help you talk through your feelings, identify problematic thought patterns, and more effectively cope with your depression. If depression causes relationship problems, therapy may also help improve your relationships. Your therapist can also talk with you about lifestyle changes—diet, exercise, activities—that may complement your treatment and help to alleviate your depression.
  • Antidepressants: Depression alters chemicals in your brain. Sometimes lifestyle remedies are inadequate to get things back on track. Antidepressants can be effective and often need only to be taken for a short period.

If you don’t want to get the medicine route, there’s a few more options.

  • Get natural light
  • watch what you eat and take vitamins to help your mood
  • Exercise and be social

And a little more on light therapy. This article is great because it gives you advice on how to use light therapy. It’s not as easy as just plugging in a light and turning it on. Light therapy lamps come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Personally, I find “forcing” myself to do things helps some. Fatigue from SAD or depression is different than fatigue from being tired from not enough sleep or a long day of activity. Natural light definitely helps me, even filtered sun on a day where it’s partly cloudy is better than nothing. Today isn’t so nice because it’s windy and cloudy with a glare. Not enough sun!

Sources

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/10306.php

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/urban-survival/201601/10-ways-get-the-most-out-light-therapy

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/depression-management-techniques/201411/seasonal-affective-disorder-tips-overcome-the-disorder

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/when-your-adult-child-breaks-your-heart/201411/winter-blues-it-could-be-seasonal-affective

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/when-your-adult-child-breaks-your-heart/201611/seasonal-affective-disorder-what-you-need-know

Writing for Preptober 2019

Since I haven’t been in the mood to write I’m going to try writing here. Following the prompts from here I’m going to do the first three days in one go. Here it goes.

All about you

Hmm. How detailed to get? I’m 39 (holy shit) and from the Northeast US but now I live in Texas. I was adopted and have complicated thoughts about family. I have two college degrees, including a Master of Science in Applied Sociology but I don’t work because of my mental and physical health problems. Physical health problems include multiple sclerosis so I have chronic pain too. My easier to talk about mental health problems include anxiety and depression. I see doctors/medical professionals a lot. I’ve been married for (uh, counts) 11 years. My husband and I have 4 cats and a house. (Easier to have 4 cats in a house than an apartment.) Yes, 4 cats can be a lot of work but (usually) it’s worth it.

What else? Hobbies? Right, hobbies. Computer games, knitting, reading. (Mostly comics and fantasy. With some nonfiction.) Does watching Netflix count? I’m a Supernatural fan (the show). Since I have 2 tattoos at least in part inspired by Supernatural I guess I’m a pretty big fan. (No anti-possession tattoos here.) I don’t get out a lot, partly because of my health, partly because of the time required to get anywhere around the terrible urban sprawl that surrounds Dallas.

Let’s move onto “why you write” shall we? This is where it gets messy.

I write because I need something since I can’t work. And because I have the time. Writing fulfills having my brain work and analyze. I love the actual process of writing. I loved writing in grad school – except when I didn’t. The worst part about writing is that I don’t get new ideas often. My brain is too busy doing other unnecessary things or dealing with chronic pain to be that creative that regularly. That’s why my blog doesn’t see new content regularly. Beyond that, what really resonates with me is writing the book you want to read. There are certain things I wish there was more of in fiction. One such thing is more characters with mental illness who are getting on just fine despite their mental illness. (Like this one.) Another is characters who are women who contribute to the story and drive the story. Women with agency. There’s more of such books available now though. (Like this series.)

I’m getting off track. I write because I love words. Words have a power that not everyone recognizes. I write because it uses my brain. That’s closer to the truth. I write so I can create. And I think probably I keep writing, or trying to write, because it’s painful. When I’m writing I’m winning out over my mental illnesses; I’m showing depression I can see through its games and lies. And I write because. because. Because it’s amazing to create something out of nothing. Because I can. Someday I’ll actually write words and scenes and finish a story.

On that note… my goals.

I’ve never done Preptober seriously before, not with enough planning or logical goal setting. (“I’m going to write.” is not a goal.) I’m hesitant to make any specific goals for October beyond my (new) standard of 900 minutes or 15 hours because of my doctor appointments. No wait, not hesitant. Scared. This year is the most prepared I’ve ever been since I my first NaNoWriMo in 2012. I wrote utter trash in 2012 that doesn’t need to see the light of day ever again, but it was great practice. This is also the first year I’m part of an (online) writing group for November NaNo. I’ve been developing this story for almost a year. It’s improved quite a bit in that last year but I have invested a lot of energy and I won’t start writing words that turn into scenes that make a story until November 1.

Right now I’m working on a synopsis that can be the framework for an outline but it’s illustrating where I have holes in my story development. So my goal for October is to get as much of that synopsis completed as possible. However, I also know that’s not a good goal. It’s not specific enough. So I think my goal is to push through the fear and keep writing. Yea, that’s my goal!

I will push through the fear, anxiety, and second guessing and keep writing. Keep moving forward. And maybe someday learn to shut up that “inner critic” because I can’t figure out what I like best for my story if I don’t write it down first. I should write that down somewhere so I don’t forget it.

August writing workflow notes

I didn’t manage as much writing time in August compared to July. I think Camp NaNoWriMo was extra motivation. A big part of all of this tracking is to find what I can succeed at despite the aspec

I increased my goal past what I did in July, to 1320 minutes or about 43 minutes a day. I finished my July goal of 1080 minutes.

For August I worked for 920 minutes for the month. Few things interfered, like my birthday and some PTSD stuff. I worked on writing for 900 minutes in April so I feel like 900 is a reasonable minimum.

For tracking I made note of the estimated time I worked, the estimated total minutes I worked, and where I worked. I went to Starbucks 6 times in the month of August and 9 times in the month of July – when I wrote more.

I suspect I need to clean up clutter at home more and I’ll be less distracted when working at home.

As far as content is concerned? August was definitely a success with more details down on paper for my plot embryo and working through more of Janice Hardy’s Planning your Novel.

I continued to track what I worked on every day I wrote separate from the number/time tracking and I think that works well. I make note of what I made progress on with a + and make note of what I think I need to work on next with a bullet point. This is especially helpful when looking back on old notes.

Overall, August was still a success.

For September I’m going to make my goal 900 minutes – or 15 hours. At the current time I have ten doctor/medical appointments, including starting emdr therapy, in the month of September. This is up from August (6) so I’m not going to try increasing my goal yet.

I think, thanks to experimenting during Camp NaNoWriMo that I finally found something that helps me feel like I’m making progress in my writing, especially since I’m not actively writing and still developing and brainstorming.

I definitely recommend working on time goals in Camp NaNoWriMo if you’re trying to build a routine for writing. Appointments on a digital calendar on your phone help too.



Depression’s weakness

Image by Inspirobot - reads "Revelations are kind of a turn on" with what I think is the picture of a tall building in the background.

The other day I found myself looking at a book I was super excited about and received as a winter holidays gift some years ago. I’ve never read that book. There’s so many other books we own I haven’t read either. Why you ask? I realize now, with the work of done with a new therapist and a new psychiatrist that it’s because of depression. I always thought it was so many other things.

Staring at that book on the shelf surrounded by other books I haven’t read I decided the worst thing about depression is when you’re actually excited about the potential of something but you’ve never able to follow through. Depression taunts you with the potential of all the things you could be doing if you had the focus, energy, enthusiasm, and motivation. (That list is probably near endless. I’m trying to generalize.) You’d probably have more energy too if you weren’t looking at all the things you should or could be doing that are impossible because depression. Depression steals your action, your follow through, your doing.

It’s like a book sitting on your shelf, taunting you. Why haven’t you read me yet? Why? Why? Why?

Depression is sneaky and knows how to protect itself so it lies. It tells you there’s other answers to the questions of why. When you have depression, the answer is depression… except depression tells you it’s because you aren’t good enough, or it’s your illness (and therefore nothing you can do about it), or you’re afraid, or it’s the actions of another person, or, or, or, or….. There’s so many other answers to that question that aren’t true. (And yes, some that are, but we aren’t focusing on that right now!)

That’s depression’s weakness. You can do something about depression.

You can reach out and talk to people (even though it sounds impossible), take medicine, work with a therapist or counselor, read about techniques like cognitive behavior therapy, take different medicine (because the first one didn’t work), exercise, journal or write, eat chocolate, and … something that works for you that I haven’t thought of … It’s a long list. You might have to find what works but I promise something does.

Important note: I assume you have access to healthcare which also means you can also afford healthcare.

Doing something about depression is work. But it’s work worth doing because you can get back to doing life instead of just wishing you could do life.

One more important note. The details and feelings of depression are different for different people so maybe this doesn’t apply to you. (Like I have chronic illnesses and other mental illnesses so my depression is different.) Also, I’m not talking about being glum or sad or down for a few weeks or having bad days. I’m talking about being diagnosed with depression (or needing diagnosed with depression). If you want definitions, go here.

National Suicide Prevention Life Line

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Trans Lifeline

I am a survivor

I am the sum of all my parts. Even the broken bits and the parts I don’t like. The cracks are proof that I’m still alive.

People tell people with chronic illnesses to not let their illness define their identity. People say are you sure you want that ‘label’ in relation to being diagnosed with mental illness(es).

Well. Chronic illness makes you feel all kinds of things. I’ve come to believe that people without chronic illnesses don’t understand how it’s part of your identity and always will be. Every time I leave the house I have to account for a list of things a ‘normal and healthy’ person doesn’t. That’s part of who I am.

The same goes for mental illness. I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression over a decade again. In the past 5(?) years I started to wonder that there was something else. There were other things about my brain that made life hard to cope with, and they weren’t anxiety or depression. There’s been so many times I felt broken. Because I couldn’t remember something (from yesterday, this morning, or three years ago) or confused because I forgot where I was going when I was halfway there. I often feel disconnected – from everything – including myself. My therapist at the time dismissed these concerns. More than once. Hindsight says why didn’t I go elsewhere? But logically, I know it’s because I was too busy trying not to drown. (Now I know what a shitty therapist is like.)

Before now I was scared to learn more about my traumatic first five years of life and how that trauma effects me as an adult. Neglect and abandonment are just the traumas I know of for sure. In fact I have focused on my physical health until the last year or so. I wanted to be “normal” so I could go back to work. In that time my mental health suffered more. Probably. And I’ve survived too much stuff to be “normal” – but that’s the thing. I was strong enough to survive.

Last year I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and PTSD. (It’s probably cPTSD but I haven’t remembered to ask my doctor.) So I have more labels. But the labels are important because now I can get the treatment I need.

Now I understand much about the effects of trauma on the body, how these effects stick around, and what I can do to heal. I’m working on it and I still feel broken but now more importantly I realize I’m a survivor. Understanding trauma has given me some answers but theres so answers I’ll never have.

I’m broken and sometimes I feel like a mess but I’m still whole. I’m sick but that doesn’t make me less. I’m strong and I’ve always been stronger than I realize. I’m a survivor.

…. This post has sat as a draft for a long time. I’ve edited it a few times. I’m not sure the point, but I still feel I should publish it instead of deleting it.

Mental illness and the medical industry

inspirobot meme: Words say "Friendship is life itself. Life itself is friendship."

I really have no idea how to title this post, let alone start it, past picking an image from inspirobot. But here it goes —

As I learn more and more about my PTSD I realize more and more about how ignorant medical professionals and staff are (seemingly willfully at times) about mental illness. The people I expect to have some kind of awareness or understanding seem to have none. Initially I found this shocking, at this point, it’s unsurprising and tiring. I also realize experiences similar to mine – and worse – are not uncommon. I’m referring only to my personal experiences here.

Recently FB memories reminded me that in January 2014 I was basically assaulted and abused by ER staff. Part of the experience included me blacking out, I only know because my husband was present. Through my entire time there, when I was desperate to receive care when my migraines – which had just started to become severe – things continued to be handled badly. (There’s a thing known as patient’s rights – I’m not sure they respected any of them). I didn’t report any of the hospital staff’s behavior because it was too traumatic and I was too new to the going to an ER for a migraine experience. I tried to move on. I thought moving on would be better, safer, easier. It took at least 3 years to stop feeling like I was there when I remembered anything from that night. When I remember it now, it’s closer to a regular memory.

The FB post that triggered quite a few memories:

Reading the memory and posting about it triggered other memories including parts of an interaction with my previous counselor. I can remember talking about having flashbacks to being in the ER, and being confused and scared. I was questioning if they were flashbacks, questioning if it was a sign of PTSD. I was probably in some kind of crisis. She said yes, it’s post traumatic but no it’s definitely not PTSD. Denied that I had any further problems, just was having isolated problems with a difficult experience. Dismissed my emotions.

Not once, in the 4-5 years, with a visit every month on average, that I met with this woman did she ever consider that maybe she should send me to another professional, like a psychologist or psychiatrist. I have come to realize that she denied any chance of me having anything more than anxiety or depression – continually. Almost regularly. I must have started seeing her in 2012 or 2013, well before January 2014 when the shit happened in the ER. She offered me bandaids, and occasional realizations like a few sips of a cool drink, but nothing to actually help me understand my behavior.

I’ve come to learn that her behavior was at least in part, because of the stigma in the medical/healthcare industry that people with mental illness will try to collect more mental illness diagnoses. Sure, some might feel that it’s helpful to do this. I’m not judging them. But not all of us do. When I finally sought testing – an idea she resisted – after learning I might/probably/do have borderline personality disorder, she still resisted this idea and disagreed – but never elaborated on why.

So that’s four years of worsening symptoms – flashbacks, blackouts, dissociating for sometimes days, severe mood swings, and severe migraines triggered by psychological stresses – that maybe I could have had help with sooner. Because I wasn’t educated enough and because this (older) woman was so stuck in her ways of thinking, including her mental health stigmatization, I continued at many times, to not do much better than survive.

I think I have to continue to try to “move on” from all of this. Writing out this jumble might help. Since then I’ve started seeing a new counselor, further trained, and therefore prepared to help me understand my behavior. The new counselor has been a fresh and new experience. I wish that I had sought out testing and “fresh eyes” much sooner than I did but for so many reasons I didn’t. I wish I had “fired” her sooner. Sometimes I debate one more appointment with her to ask why she disagrees with my BPD and PTSD diagnoses/symptoms/presentations. But that’s a $50 question.

I think it’s also important to note that I have found it necessary to only tell some of my doctors that I was diagnosed with PTSD and Borderline Personality Disorder – because of the stigma, especially of Borderline Personality Disorder – thanks in a large part to TV.

Navigating the (American) healthcare system is difficult in general, and an especially exhausting and stressful ordeal if you are trying to get help for your mental health – assuming you can even afford to do so. Everyone’s experiences with mental illness are different, and everyone’s experiences with medical professionals are different too. Also remember, medical professionals are humans too. Unfortunately, sometimes I think some of them need reminded.

So my point. If you have mental illness and you are trying to get help, keep at it. It’s difficult and scary but worth it in the long run. It took me from July 2018 to November 2018 to finish psychological testing, get all the results, find a new counselor and find a psychiatrist. Now I have a counselor I appreciate and trust who’s warm and friendly. The psychiatrist I found (on the second try) seems to be really laid back and competent.

And if you know someone with mental illness – even if you have mental illness – offer them empathy. Educate yourself. Keep an open mind. Ask them how you can help. Don’t tell them what to do – which is hard when you see people in pain. Sadly, some people will also be in denial all their lives too – but that’s their choice because everyone has to seek care at their own pace.

Remember, you aren’t alone.

What mind am I in today?

Here’s a poem (?) I wrote sometime in the past few months when I decided to do some writing about mental health and my mental illness symptoms.  I don’t remember writing it. It sorta sounds like me but doesn’t all at the same time. I can’t tell if it still needs an ending/if it’s complete. I’ll leave the interpretation up to the reader.

Some days I don’t like living in my mind

The weather is always changing.
Nothing is where I remember leaving it.
Doors that were open yesterday are locked today.
Stairs and routes from rooms to rooms change, often overnight.
Windows don’t work right, they won’t shut or they won’t open. The blinds will get stuck too.
Sometimes I wish it was brighter so it would be easier to find my memories.
Other times I wish I had more rugs.
You can sweep things under rugs but eventually the rugs stop laying flat and you trip.
There’s no way to forecast the weather, it can change stormy in a breath –
Or be calm and quiet in a breath.
Days and days everything will be as I expect
But then
Something happens. Someone happens. Time passes.
And the rules.
My mind has so many rules to keep track of too.
Rules for talking to people, feeling, being alone. Rules that have nothing to do with my body.
Some days everything is stress. Everything is bad.
Sometimes I can’t leave the house. I can’t deal with anyone.

Why I Hate Breaking in New Doctors

A memory is a winning strategy. Like human sacrifice.I could title this all kinds of different things, like Why the US Healthcare System Fails People with Chronic Illness, or Please Will More Doctors be Honest with their Patients. Or something about how chronic illnesses and mental illnesses together make doctors afraid of you.

I saw a new psychiatrist today. I haven’t seen a psychiatrist in over a decade, partly because of all the other doctors I see or have seen. I mention that because I’ve gone through what feels like a thousand new patient appointments with new doctors. Lately they all go pretty much the same. If I’m lucky they’ll have a tidbit of insight or confirm something and agree with someone else. I’ve had good and bad experiences with new doctors. You can feel anywhere from validated to broken.

It’s probably worth noting that when I fill out the paperwork that doctors request their new patients fill out, I include my own lists for my medication, health history (or diagnoses), and allergies. The preferred (better) response to this is appreciate for the clear and thorough information. The not preferred response is shock and awe.

As you probably guessed, the doctor I saw today was shocked and in awe. Her eyes widened at least three times. She couldn’t believe my list of allergies or medicines, and stumbled over my medical history. I think her jaw dropped once? More than once she asked a question that would be answered by reading 6 to 10 more words of the paperwork she was already reading. She picked out the medicine she doesn’t prescribe because it’s “very old” as well as commenting how I’m on “so many” sedating medications. (I don’t think she read the word “as needed”.) She commented on my xanax prescription, probably because she doesn’t prescribe it, but offered no alternatives.

All of this happened while she was firing questions at me. She moved quickly but didn’t specifically rush me. She was very nice but also clearly overwhelmed. She was even surprised at the number of doctors I have – which shouldn’t be a surprise in the US healthcare system after you see the number of diagnoses a person has received. She also assumed I wanted more medicine since she told me that considering the medicines I’m already on, she doesn’t want to give me more medicines. (If I had a nickel for every time…..)

And one I haven’t heard before….   she didn’t want to get in the way of any of my other doctors. Psychiatry is very specific the last time I checked, if she’s willing to send records to other doctors then she’s working with them, not interfering.

Probably the most interesting? successful? useful? part of the entire experience? Within 5 minutes of talking to me and looking at my paperwork, she asked if I was ever diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. This means that I’ve had a doctor at Mayo Clinic, psychological testing, and a random psychiatrist all have the same “opinion” – that I do have Borderline Personality Disorder. But no one wants to make recommendations on medications.

She had very little to say about the problems I described with my memory, including lost time, and how through working with my new therapist I’ve come to learn I probably/likely/definitely have PTSD.

She clearly felt I was beyond her capabilities but never actually said this. Really good doctors say this! Great doctors explain why!

In fact, I even felt like she wanted to run away. As she was leading me back out of her office towards the front desk she was walking fast enough to disappear behind the turns in the hall. I’m accustomed to people waiting for you or giving you directions. Logically I know that this was probably the way my brain interpreted the situation – and probably not what happened – but I still feel like subconsciously she was trying to get rid of me/get away from me. It’s super weird to hold both those thoughts at the same time.

No, I’m not expecting a new doctor to have answers –  but the more people involved in a problem, the more likely you are of finding some kind of help. If you can’t help me, refer me to another doctor, please! Or if you aren’t sure how you can help, tell me. This appointment wasn’t bad or terrible, but it wasn’t productive or pleasant either.

Ultimately, she referred me to another place to receive this thing called TMS that’s supposed to help treat depression. I have an appointment tomorrow for a “cost free consult” so we’ll see. Not holding my breath. Insurance, time, and money all figure in.

I’ll need to try another psychiatrist but it’ll likely be a few weeks. Finding a new psychiatrist is difficult on my mental health. Especially with my other doctor appointments and trying to build a relationship with a new therapist. The first psychiatrist I tried never returned  my calls (2 left over 3 days with a message that calls are returned same business day!). So I guess this was a slight improvement. Maybe the third try will be a success.

*image courtesy of inspiro bot. Seemed appropriate based on the various blank spots of various sizes that I have in my memory.

Fitbit heart rate tracking illustrating stress

I find it fascinating to see the effects of physical and psychological stress evident because of tracking sleep, heart rate, and activity level via my fitbit. Because of my personal physical and mental illnesses I overreact to stress at like a biological level.

Here’s some screenshots of my heart rate history…..

This first picture shows my week at Mayo Clinic. The highlighted day, May 25, was a Friday and the last day I had an appointment. I went home May 26. This was one of the most stressful experiences of my life.

Now for the next screenshot. This one is slightly different. It shows the first day I felt better after getting sick after getting home from my trip to Mayo.

Third one shows an instance where I wasn’t as stressed as I thought while still being super stressed and upset… I had a number of distressing or anxious experiences. One triggered a 1.5 day migraine that I think was followed by a dissociative episode lasting 4? days. July 13 was the day after I received my first round of neuro/psych testing results and was extremely frustrated by the news.

And the last picture. This is the day after I had my appointment about all of my neuro/psych testing. This time I finally had a doctor ask me the right questions and confirm there’s something else different about my mental health and identity something I can do to make my life easier. It’ll take work but maybe I can spend less time on a roller coaster.

This post brought to you by early morning insomnia.

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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