Bad Spells, etc. (Pt. 2/?): How

Alright then, the “How”. Kind of.

First,  you drink a lot of tea. From your favorite mug. Herbal stuff, because of that caffeinatedanxiety thing. Or cocoa I suppose, if you’re one of those non-tea drinkers.

I say kind of because coping with shitty circumstances is never going to feel good: there is nothing that I know of that will take something that is a) hard and b) necessary and c) uncomfortable, and make you love doing it. And if you find it pretty please let me know?

I love to write–putting down my thoughts so that I can see them, read them and process them linearizes my thinking. Things aren’t this vast tangled web, and I can figure out what I’m actually thinking about and what I actually want, need, and feel. In fact when I’m manic there is almost nothing other than knitting and writing that actually helps me stay calm, or in one place. But writing this thesis: the first long writing piece I’ve had to write about the technical/mathematical craziness I love that is physics, has been hellish.

The other aspect to this that has taken a little while to understand and move past is that it truly knocked my confidence in my recovery. I thought I was a bad ass, honest, leave everything on the table, speak my feelings, recovery oriented ninja and then suddenly I was skipping meds, missing class, missing meetings with my advisor, neglecting myself, and my pets, and generally avoiding anyone who cared enough about me to question the mess that things were obviously becoming.

It turns out that the way I got things to start to come back around was the same way I’ve done so in nearly every other aspect of recovery: find people who I trusted to help me figure it out, spill my guts…

…(be incredibly grateful when they don’t judge me for avoiding everything and everyone and also for helping me come out of the panic attack that inevitably comes up)…

…make a plan, and execute with much communication and help.

For someone who tells those who honor me with their trust, and ask for my advice, that mental illness is physical illness: that it’s physical illness of the brain, and that they don’t need to feel ashamed for needing help, it was a bitter pill to swallow when I had to give the same talk to myself.

In my case this time, I was lucky enough to be at a small, liberal arts college where all the professors in the department know me, and know each other. My advisor reported concern, and I had to face up to the mess I’d been shoving under the rug all term. Since that happened, I’ve started making progress on my thesis again. It isn’t going to be what I wanted, or what it could have been, but that’s something for radical acceptance: I’m hanging onto what one of the lovely people told me when I asked for advice (they work for the college): “The best thesis is the thesis that is done.”

In the spirit of getting all the shit done, when everything is shit, please find below my attempt to distill my experiences here into some general to-do’s for the next time this happens.

And yes, if you know me in the real world please feel free to smack me upside the head with this if I pull a vanishing act on you.

  1. Find someone who you trust loves you enough to call you on your bullshit. Talk to them, tell them what is in your head, and then ask them to help you make a plan to get back above water.
  2. Spread your plan out, and make sure you’re not overloading yourself. It’s not going to do any good if you panic about your plan, and then feel shitty for not doing it “right”.
  3. Drink a cup of tea. Breath. 
  4. Ask your someone if you can check in with them, and if they don’t hear from you if they can check in with you. Feel that other people around you care, and that you aren’t alone in this.
  5. Get shit done. 

Treat yourself as kindly as you would treat anyone else who is feeling like you are. We’re all human here.

My thesis is due on the thirteenth, for better or for worse. A thesis that is the best I can do under the circumstances is better than a thesis that never appears. People are here for me. I’m not alone in my shit. You also, are not alone in whatever shit is going on in your life.

When mental illness rears back up it can really feel like it’s life interfering with the mental illness rather than the other way around. Remember in the midst of that, that you are a person with a mental illness and not reducible to it. We’re all here, dealing with our own shit, and rooting for you.

Until next time,

Kerry

On life, and my return to it.

So, its been a while.

Its a good thing–kind of–I promise.

The kind of is because after my last post I ended up back in the hospital for a couple of weeks.

The good part is that I am doing fucking amazing.

It’s really weird to say that, honestly. I didn’t think I would be able to–ever.

I don’t think I’m going to go into too much detail about exactly what brought me to the hospital, or exactly what went on there, but I’ll summarize it for you, and perhaps elaborate one day: I learned to take care of myself, and I figured out that I can actually do shit.

I met some amazing people, and faced a lot of my bullshit, and realized something: there is no way to get past mental illness other than going straight through it (yay, I’m full of clichés!). At some point, it really comes down to looking at your life and then asking yourself two questions: what changes you want to see, and are you willing to make those changes? If you aren’t, then at least you know where you stand, and don’t have to waste your time on something that won’t happen–you can move on. If you are, then what the fuck are you doing not doing those things?

I had a lot of things to say about why I wasn’t doing what I had to do:

“It’s hard–you can’t imagine how hard it is, it’s impossible.”

“No one understands but me, I can’t do it.”

“I’m too weak. Other people are stronger, so they don’t get it.”

But here’s the thing: you are literally the only person (I hope) who decides what you physically do. No matter how hard it is to do something, unless it’s physically impossible you are the one who does or does not, who makes that choice.

So I made a different choice.

Not eating? Not an option.

Cutting? Burning? Killing self? Nope. Not anymore.

I’m a pretty stubborn person–and as much as the therapists, and people who essentially have kept me from destroying my life are skeptical, I’m feeling pretty finite about those self imposed limits.

So I’ve been actually doing life for my months of absence, which has resulted in less of a focus on keeping you all informed. And life is pretty great it turns out, even when it fucking sucks.

I’ve been working, and going to school, and going out with friends, and my boyfriend, and when shit comes up I think about my options: I could relapse, and lose everything again, or I could take what I can do and do it, despite how much it sucks.

I’m not doing perfectly–I’ll be the first to tell you that. But I ate part of a fucking calzone, I haven’t self harmed in months, and I want to stay alive. My slip ups aren’t a divine signal that I’m not worthy of life anymore–they’re a sign that I need to try something new.

People are still skeptical–and I don’t blame them. But I’m earning back the right to be trusted with myself, and while a difficult process, I can tell from what I’ve gained that it’s fucking worth it.

And I’m not going to lose everything, again, for a life of misery and self-hate.

“…I have to do what?” Or: on faking discipline.

This begins as a very ironic post, as I’m writing it when I’m actually not doing what I have to do, my homework. But I read a quote the other day that’s really been stuck in my mind, about discipline. It came, again ironically, because I have a lot of things lined up that I do while procrastinating: I clean, I plan for the upcoming days, I watch Cosmos and feel tiny, I sleep sometimes, and I google how to make myself do what I should be doing. This lead to a tumblr search on discipline which brought up something that I actually liked:

tumblr_mrhz61j1GF1rleh0yo1_1280(theangryviolinist.tumblr.com)

So, I’m not going to quote the post directly because I’m not sure if I’d have to register my blog as rated M or something, but motivation’s being “fickle and unreliable”  hit home for me.

I’ve been at the intensive outpatient program that I’m in for about a year and a half, and here was why, summed up by an apparently irate violinist. Or, you could put it in the words of my lovely therapist who pointed out when we were arguing about something that I only was doing things when I felt like it–when it suited me. When I felt like making the grand ol’ leap and recovering, I would do so, only to freak myself the fuck out and back off, relapsing again. If I wanted something done, she pointed out, I would make sure that it got done. Evidently, at that point actually recovering wasn’t a priority.

I’m doing the same thing right now with my homework: I came up to do homework at 6PM. The plan was to do the homework, study, make a list of places I have to call tomorrow, and go to bed. And here I am writing to you all at 1:08 on a Monday morning. I feel like this isn’t an unusual college student experience, the whole pulling all-nighters thing. So here I am wishing for motivation to write a few paragraphs about what is in my opinion the least interesting part of Modern Dance history, when what I need to find is discipline.

I feel like I used to be good at discipline. Discipline seems like it plays a big part of many peoples’ eating disorders. It takes a lot to be starving, throw your food away and go run a few miles. But what I’m realizing now is that eating disorders like mine was at that time magically turn motivation into discipline by making weight loss the only goal, and giving you hell until you start working for it. In other words, eating disorders motivate you into eating disordered behavior by making your mind miserable until you give in. Same goes for self harm, at least in my case. Something inside your head is there, motivating you towards a behavior that you deep down don’t really want to do, giving you hell until you give in, then rewarding you by making you feel better.

So anyway, it seems like there might be a way to hack the system: find something as annoying and pervasive as “intrusive thinking” (if you want to go all psychology terminology) that motivates you towards positive things instead of self destructive behavior, and maybe you can fake discipline (or find discipline depending on your point of view) until you get into the habit of doing something that you might not always want to do.

I’m going to have to go to bed soon, and do the rest of my homework in the morning this time, but I’m going to be thinking about this and keeping you guys updated. In the spirit of my experimental psych and neuro class, I’m feeling an experiment on discipline coming up. Let me know if you have any ideas in the comments or by messaging me on Facebook–I promise I don’t bite.

As always, I’m always here if you need me–on Facebook, or on WordPress, or by email. I’ll always listen.

Thanks for reading!