Recovery for Introverts

I went on a business trip for 3 days to our corporate office in So. cal. I live in N. Cal. Thankfully a short and sweet plane ride. However, much longer working days than I’m used to as well as having to “perform” in a way. The role at my current job is a bit of a solo gig. Our office is quite small.
The office down south is much busier. A bustling HR department with lots of would be candidates for direct care staff coming and going. Interviews. Applications. Phones ringing off the hook. I can be quite bubbly and gregarious when I need to be. I know my game and can speak well when the time comes. I have over 20 years of experience in my field. I carry myself well. But, really. Truly. I’m an introvert. Perfectionist is also in my resume.
So each morning I arrived earlier than needed. Stayed longer than needed. Smiled bigger than needed. I can only work part time these days. 24 hours. My first day with travel was 12 hours and my last day with travel was 12 hours. The in between day was a solid 8 hours. I was buzzing. Running on adrenaline and expectation. On the inside. On the outside I wore my badge. Took notes. Shared information, both personal and professional. Smiled some more.
Today I am home. I slept fairly well last night. Got a great workout in. Cleaned the house a bit. But….about 3pm I crashed. I sent my husband off to a baseball game thinking I needed “me” time. But within me, myself and I, sometimes, is not the place to be. Racing thoughts I didnt present well. Intrusive thoughts of self harm. Some visions. Some voices.
Ya know. I ask myself if I’m trying to be more than I can be? Should I have known it would be too much? Was the trip truly too much? Maybe I just need more rest, less expectations for a few days. Recovery. Allow myself the idea of recovery.
Its okay. I know I did the best that I could. I may have even done better!



I Will Address This w Myself

My new gig is PT…24 hours…3 days a week. I used to work full time, probably more than full time. Its day 3. I’m done with my first week. I have friends who are my new bosses that support me. They set me up with a work area not heavily monitored by the cameras. At least they are not in my face and infiltrating my mind. What a blessing.
I feel quiet and distant. I guess just feeling out my role. I carved out this new position and expectation is high. Perhaps assumptions are high. Though I come to this agency with a lot of knowledge, Its still a new position. Which I think I can fulfill, eventually. Perfectionism casts a wide spell and I am certainly a sucker. I want to impress. I want to succeed. I want to be all things to all people. NOW. But, that gets me into trouble. EVERY! TIME!
So, I am trying really hard to take it slow. Ask foolish questions. Relax. Enjoy the ride.   That’s not easy for me.  I’m a need to know person. Need to know where I fit in. Need to know my role.  Need to know ahead of time what is expected of me.  Those things are not a given at a new job.  I brought my calendar into my supervisor’s office and tried to secure dates and times of things..anything.  I don’t think she is holding out on me. Rather I think she doesn’t know quite what to do with me. How to train me. Guide me.  We are getting to know each other in the process. Which is fun.

I see old habits already forming. Not leaving my desk for lunch. Not going on breaks. Not taking walks. I am aware. I will address this with myself. I will!

I Put My Hand in Yours

I kid myself. I set myself up with an art project and put on a favorite record. What could be more soothing, right? Connection. Connection with another human being. My curtains are drawn. Doors locked tight. I’m alone. And lonely. Isolation is dangerous. I can keep writing. I can wipe away the tears. I can take the razor blade to my wrist and numb out for awhile. But the fact remains my world is too small.
I went back to work yesterday after 2 weeks of outpatient treatment. I felt a flood of panic and overwhelm. I fought back tears in the restroom. At lunch I called my husband and the tears ran loose. I fear I can’t do this job anymore. I fear I have known that for some time and just keep pushing myself to the brink. What would it mean if I can’t work? I’m weak? I’m pathetic? I texted a friend who is distant but have some issues like me. He suggested I talk to a friend about it. While that’s what I thought I was doing by reaching out to him, it was yet a reminder I have no friends. My world is too small.
I’m entertaining changing jobs. It’s still in social services, which is all I know. But this would be part time. A good friend of mine left my agency and she is recruiting me. Truth is I already work with this agency as they are a vendor. So, there is some comfort in already knowing people. Plus my friend knows of my mental health issues.
Trust in myself is a big concern right now. I don’t trust I know how to make a decision. I don’t trust it’s not just the depression talking when I think I no longer can handle my current job. But, history speaks and I go out on leave about every 5 months and the trigger is often work stress. The trouble is I think it’s my own fault. I get in my own way. I care too much about my job performance. I have too high of expectations for myself. I don’t allow myself mental health days. It’s almost as if I push harder to prove I’m still good enough despite a mental illness. Funny thing though, almost no one at work knows of my diagnosis. So, who am I proving it to?
The constant chaos and chatter in my mind is overwhelming. I can’t collect my thoughts. There is “safety” in my job now in that I have been there for 16 yrs and have quite a bit of seniority. They have worked w me over the last 3 years since my bipolar diagnosis. My longest leave of absence was 3 months. It can’t be easy for an employer. But more often I feel like I’m hanging on by a thread. Would this feeling exist even if I didn’t have a job? Are the symptoms solely because of bipolar or exacerbated by work stress? How do I find the answer?
Uncertainty then fuels my anxiety. What an uncomfortable existence. Sometimes I think I want to run away. Pack a bag and drive. Sometimes I think I want to jump off a cliff into the ocean never to be found. Yet here I am trudging through the mud trying to figure out what’s best for me. If I do a face plant, my husband will help me up. He is my world. Something else I got to work on.
One step at a time with his hand in mine we are going to figure this out. He promises. If I can’t trust myself, maybe I can put my trust in him.

Breathe and Just Be

My short term memory is beyond horrible.  I think this is due to both bipolar disorder itself and to medication.  Either way it’s a blessing and a curse. I found this quote this morning, approximately 5.5 hours ago, I cannot remember where I got it from. I also did not write down the name of the person to give credit to, not out of disrespect, but maybe forgetfulness. I’m not sure really.  In any case, its basic and to the point, which makes it even more poignant. “Accept what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be.”

I read it before I went to work this morning. I also read Angel cards. I used to do this everyday when I was living in a recovery house for 30 days. I’m an alcoholic if you didn’t already know. The two cards I pulled were Power and Body Care.  This was a lot of food for thought on a Monday.  As I was driving my whopping 13 minute commute, I could feel tears falling down my cheek.  I was trying to pinpoint exactly why this was happening. I had a good night’s sleep. I had a good weekend. My house was still a mess, but when isn’t it.  Really no reason for the waterworks.

I decided to dig a little deeper. What was I daydreaming about? What was I worried about? I am only facing a 4 hour workday. That doesn’t feel very powerful. I’m going to ask my pdoc to change my work status for full time in 2 weeks. I can do more. I can be more. That feels powerful. I seem to always define myself by my job. If I’m back working full time that means I am well/recovered/better/not ill.  I can almost hear my doc’s response. Let’s make sure you are all those things first, THEN insert more hours.  I see her point. But, I think my point is valid too.

I feel more productive, more useful, more important when I check in somewhere for 8 hours and have tasks to be done.  Its when I have hours of idle time I begin to feel depressed, useless, powerless. I am not so good at implementing my own structure.  I am not so good at giving myself permission to take my sweet time getting back to “normal.” Truth is, I don’t really want to.  My husband does the books at our house. He is an awesome money manager. He insists if it takes the entire month of January for me to recover, and that means only working part time, he will find a way to make it work.  In essence, I can work from 8-12 and eat bon bons til he gets home and its okay.  Well, that may be extreme.  The only real expectation would be to get myself to and from work, and of course pay my personal bills.  Why can’t I just accept that offer?  It really allows me to ensure success on all fronts.

My perfectionism pounces on that line of thinking.  I can’t be doing a good job at only half time. I am needed in the late afternoons (umm…typically, not really).  Here is an opportunity to let go of what was with grace.  I am not the same worker I used to be.  I can’t remember things, my focus, concentration and processing skills are much slower. They just are.  I’m still somewhat quick witted in the humor department.  But, if you are going to tell me something and I need to remember it, I must write it down on a piece of paper.  I literally will lose information between my supervisor’s office and mine..all of 10 feet.

So, by wanting to rewrite my doctor’s plan am I “having faith in what will be?” This is always the hard part for me..walking in faith.  I don’t think I’m a control freak.  I can admit I do have anxiety over what’s going to happen next. For example, sometimes during a weekend or vacation, first thing in the morning I will ask my husband to break down the day for me.  I THINK I do this in an effort to see what he has in mind, maybe something I didn’t know about, and to calculate the hours.  That sounds so crazy. Let’s see, I like to know how the plans in my head jive with the plans in his head.  This way I know how much of a window I have to workout, play on the computer, shower..etc. I hope that makes a little sense.  This doesn’t mean I can’t go with the flow. My preference is to know where I stand in terms of planning the day.

Hmmmm…walking in faith feels much bigger than a day.  I can get all wrapped up in this stuff.  Its like stringy confetti and I just get entangled.  Probably when I don’t need to.  Maybe I can relate this in terms of friendships.  I tend to stay disconnected and long for connection.  I thought about sending an email to a girlfriend I have letting her know I plan to try harder to keep a connection going. But, then I worried about hurt & rejection. Maybe its better to play it safe and just wait for her to call me.  Now, wouldn’t walking in faith be just putting my intention out there by calling more often and planning get togethers more often. Doing the actual work and seeing what the outcome is.  The caveat being having no expectations of that outcome. Oh boy, another doozy.

Quite the rambler I seem to be today. If you are still with me, and you understand any of it, bless you. I could just try to stay in today and see how that goes. I think I need to keep things simpler.  I try to take a look at myself and then just feel bombarded. I can’t separate things out on my own, at least not yet. I can get myself worked up even in the best of intentions.  For now, I am just going to breathe and just be.

Relationship 101

Why are relationships so hard? I feel so very confused much of the time. What is my place? Where do I fit in the scheme of the relationship? Do I really matter? Do I have too many expectations? What is my role in the madness?  How long do I stay?  Am I just being a coward?  Am I actually standing up for myself.  Should I let more things go?

I am not a person who has a large social network. Rather, it is quite non-existent.  The circle has always been small by design, but now It’s hardly a circle. I feel safer and less confused this way. But oh so terribly lonely as well.  My husband is great. He’s my best friend. But there are times I need someone else to talk to, spend time with.  I joined a kickboxing class as a social activity. I suppose it can be labeled as such because there are several people involved, none of which I actually talk to. I may smile in acknowledgement, here we are again.  No lasting relationships will come out of my participating. I am  torching some calories, so that is a plus.  Also, its an hour I actually find I am out of my head. Jumping around to techno music for an hour, trying to follow moves and hear the instructor over the blaring volume is humorous.  I’m no slouch, I give it my all. I came to play.

Two relationships in my life are precarious right now. I don’t know if that’s my fault or anyone’s fault. Maybe it just is.  But, once again I do not understand why.  One fellow was a part of my Depression in Sobriety meeting and probably the first person I totally and completely opened up to after my diagnosis of bipolar disorder. I dropped heavy bombs of emotion, suicidal plans, paranoia, psychosis, hospitalizations in a rather short time. He took it. He held it. He held me.  I could say anything to him and he would not flinch.  He would be there with me and remind me to breath. There were other times I would sit at his house for hours crying not able to say a word. Not one word. I was so distraught and bowled over.  He just let me be.  He never once tried to change me.  During a most recent mixed manic episode I took off to the beach. I was feeling quite depressed and suicidal.  I swore to my husband I was not going to hurt myself.  He begrudgingly “let” me go.  Before I would not tell a soul and once I arrived let you know.  I had made progress.

My friend texted me and wanted to know where I was.  At that moment, no joke, my phone froze. I couldn’t send a text message out. I tried several times, so several minutes went by. Once I turned it completely off for a few minutes it seemed to come back to its senses.  So, I sent the text of my location as I was not hiding from him.  He was upset with me it took me so long to get back to him. He told me it made him uncomfortable that he asked a question and I took my time to answer.  I got angry at this point. My yelling text replied, I did fucking tell you!  My texts would not go through. Its not my fault. I think some other words were exchanged until he halted communication.   That was 2 months ago.  The next thing I know I am getting a text from him letting me know our friend hung himself. No conversation around it. Just passing on information I guess.  I don’t know what to think. Maybe he’s processing. Maybe he felt obligated to let me know and wants to leave it at that. I don’t know.  Here I am confused. How do these friendships work? I don’t want to try too hard. I don’t want to seem like I care all that much. I had resigned myself that I needed to move on.  But, the truth is: of course I fucking care.  I have shared so many intimate moments with this man.  Plus, I just fucking care! Period.

He reached out this morning to say hello and ask how I am doing, just like old times.  He used to do that everyday.  I feel like the incident at the beach changed things.  Maybe that was the moment he no longer had patience.  The moment he decided I am too much.  The moment he decided the friendship wasn’t serving him anymore.  I don’t know if I will ever know as I am afraid to ask. I don’t want to upset an already upset apple cart.  But. My heart hurts. There is a hole he used to fill. For better or worse.  We bonded. We shared secrets.  We shared pain. We shared triumph no matter how big or small.  We shared space in a way I have never felt before.  Knowing it was difficult to express myself verbally, he encouraged me to write. I began writing for his blog a few years ago. It really gave me a voice and an outlet as I am quite an emotional being.  Then all the sudden, he stopped posting what I sent him. I obliged and stopped sending what I wrote. Eventually I started my own blog.  He is now asking for the address.  For some reason I am hesitant to give it to him. I’m not sure I want him to see that far into me anymore.  We are like driftwood in a slow moving river, occasionally bumping into each other, which then just sets us further apart.  He is asking.  But, why is he asking? I shared something I wrote about our friend that committed suicide a few days ago.  That sparked his desire to see the blog for some reason.  I am not ashamed, I can say that.  What I can’t label is whether its vulnerability, anger or wanting to protect myself.

My other friend can become a ghost as well.  She has drifted out of my life for years at a time. Her initial disappearance was upsetting, as I believed her to be a close friend.  But, I would settle into life without her.  It was almost to the point where she was never really a part of my life. Then poof she would reappear. She would find a way to come back into our lives. She is a woman of many moving parts.  She is intellectual. She is spiritual. She loves to laugh. She loves to dance.  She tries to honor the present moment.  She too can hold your emotion.  She can hold some of the darkness I carry. She professes to have darkness of her own and therein an inherent understanding is born.  She can be Jekyll and hyde. She can accuse you of not being spontaneous enough.  She is afraid to mark things on her calendar too far in advance.  I get the feeling she is afraid of missing out on other opportunities, so likes to “keep it open.”  What is subtle at first is her selfishness.  Trying to make plans for dinner, I may suggest a place I think would be great, only to be trumped by somewhere she rather go.  If I say let’s go east, she will say nah, how about west. One day she is fun loving and full of positive energy. The next day she is shrouded in the mire of her own mind and can barely come down to earth to be with you.  I don’t fault her for that, as I can easily be the same way.

We are 40 years old.  We are in a time of taking responsibility for self.  She doesn’t always seem to do that.  If I am rude or act out inappropriately, I have to own that.  Even if under the guise of bipolar disorder, those were my actions.  Events over the course of the last few weeks have left me feeling like she doesn’t truly think of others.  She arrives, takes off her jacket in dramatic fashion, and then the night begins.  No matter the night had already begun by all intents and purposes.

Maybe I do have expectations. Maybe I’m not allowing her to be who she is.  But, what if that, the supposed being who she is, is infringing upon who I am? Are you confused, because I am.  The tough part is when she mosey’s back into my life for a short time, I begin to like having her there.  I begin to trust again. I believe she is in it for us, as friends.  Ultimately I am left disappointed.  Sometimes, I don’t think she sees an “us”, more a her and them.   Is being a them okay with me?  Should I just roll with that premise, knowing it will probably change at some point.

My relationships right now are fucked up.  But, I’m fucked up too.  So, shouldn’t I fit into the equation somehow.  Doesn’t A+B=C.  I don’t remember having this hard a time with friendships as a young adult. Maybe it was easier because we were all partying and living it up.  The real stuff, the shit storm of life, wasn’t upon us yet.  I don’t know where I belong. If I belong. If I want to belong.  I do know I am lonely. My house is cold and lonely.  The big bad world is cold and lonely.  The road I have travelled, my journey, has been traumatic as of late. A good friend would not only lighten my load, but allow me to  get out of my own head and be there for them as well.

Maybe I need to redefine my definition of friend.  Maybe I need more than people can give.  Maybe I don’t deserve to be here.  Maybe I’m the selfish one. So many maybe’s just fuel the confusion.


On the Job

I’ve really had to take a look at myself over the last 2 months. Started about 3 weeks prior to a hospitalization if I’m honest.  I know I was having symptoms, I just did not want to acknowledge that fact. I can see it all fairly clearly now…AFTER.  The stress at work was piling up. I was ALLOWING the stress at work to pile up. While being an independent worker is good, and we all used to put it on our resume as an attribute, I think it depends on which definition you are using. My definition means take on all tasks at full boar, do not ask for help and always GO!  Go above and beyond. Set your mission and embark. If the boss suggests you don’t have to do it all “independently” she is not being sincere. This is what she truly wants. This is the office culture. This is the only way I know how to do it. Sure, I am a team player as well. I mean I think I am. I play well with others, I really do. I can hold group discussions, set agendas, meet deadlines. I just compare myself to those in my group. If they are already on task #2, despite the fact I already have tasks prior to these new tasks they don’t have, then I must not be pulling my weight.  Exit the lunch break. No time for a break. I do eat lunch. Believe me you don’t want to see me without food in my system. I just do it while doing 2-100 other things I absolutely must do.

In a nutshell, I am a perfectionist and it often times gets in my way. I think it can be a good quality, if under control. I’m typically not under control.  Panic in the mornings over my to do list. Paralysis when writing my to do list. Silent tears in the bathroom stall. Inability to sleep. Inability to turn my work brain off.  These are all signs I was unwilling to admit to…even to myself.  Throw a trip to visit my incredibly dysfunctional in laws in the mix and I was sure to fall apart sooner or later.

I have been off work for just about 2 months steeped in psychosis, depression and suicidal impulses. I still get up at the same time. I actually might even get up earlier. I am really trying to workout consistently. I attend an outpatient group 5 days a week, but for only half the day.

With this break in work, and time to reflect, I feel I know how I need to approach it once I return. I really am not anywhere near stable enough to show my face. Week after week I fax over a work extension to my HR department. Week after week I kindly text my supervisor letting her know I won’t be in on the date we discussed.  I do want to return. I really do. I just need it to be successful. I need to feel good about something right about now. I need to feel I can handle the stress of the job in a healthy way. The intense stress just sets off a firestorm of bipolar symptoms.

So, what’s the fancy plan I keep alluding to?

  • Take all breaks OUTSIDE my office
  • Dial down the expectations of perfection
  • DO NOT take things personally
  • DO NOT check work email after 5
  • Write a to do list for the following day at the end of the day (to eliminate rumination)
  • Perform one task at a time

It’s a job. Of course I want to do well. I want to feel good about myself. But, setting myself up for a lovely stay at the psych hospital is no longer an option.  This is going to be a challenge. Somethings I can implement right away, somethings will take time.  But, I do feel like I can implement them. I truly see how my behavior affects my stress level.  Don’t get me wrong the job is stressful, as are most, I think I just add 50 lb weights to the process and I can’t sustain that pressure. I look forward to the opportunity to slow down and enjoy my job a little more.  Really appreciate the reasons I took it in the first place. Get back to basics. Going in Stable is key. Maintaining that stability is paramount. It all begins with me.