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!

 

 

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Starting over once again

Hi. My name is Rhonda and I’m an alcoholic. I’m also diagnosed with bipolar I w psychotic features. I’ve played medication roulette for years. Had several hospitalizations in the last 3.5 yrs when I had to face my demons and truly get help. I relapsed last night. In a big ugly way. I so desperately wanted an escape from the madness of my mind. I could no longer handle the anxiety and suicidal chatter that was plaguing me. I have a full time job that is testing my ability to stay sane. A few days ago I was in tears at 8am as I sat at my desk and surveyed the scene. By 4pm I felt invincible and of master importance. Being thrown around the roller coaster is exhausting. Holding all the stress, anxiety, overwhelm, uncertainty and fear behind my mask becomes too much. The burden that is me becomes too heavy.
Instead of picking up the phone, going for a walk, or jumping on the treadmill I drove straight to the liquor store. As he put the bottle in the black plastic bag I knew I was digging my grave. Thoughts of washing all my medications down with this forbidden poison flooded me. Ashamed of making such a purchase, knowingly and willingl giving up sobriety, I barely looked at the man behind the counter. I wonder what he thought of me.
The voices in my head were rumbling. My head was pounding. I took my first sip and almost gagged. But, the rest went down a little too smoothly. I am not a dainty drinker. Much like everything there is an underlying frenzy to how I move in the world. Swiftly I filled my body with what I was certain was medicine. It was going to help me calm down, relax, want to be in my shoes. The talk of a true alcoholic. The misguided thought process of a desperate soul seeking peace. Respite. Escape from the doldrums of mental illness.
The reality is I do not handle alcohol well. It’s like a chemical reaction. An explosion of pain, hate, and anger erupts. I point fingers. I yell, scream and stomp around. You would probably never believe what kind of monster I become. The words I spew are evil. I don’t find peace. I don’t find respite. I create a storm swirling around me so powerful things go flying in the air. My poor husband an innocent bystander and receiver of the evil words. It’s not pretty. Soon enough I am on the floor sobbing. Begging for forgiveness. Trying to explain I need an escape.
When will I ever learn? Alcohol is my enemy. It can never be my friend. It can never “help” a situation. I know others who have 20+ years of sobriety and some of the same issues I do. They manage to stay sober. I know it’s possible. People do it everyday. I’ve done it and I’ll do it again.
So here I sit. Starting over once again.

Better than the Best

It doesn’t take long for me to search my memory bank and remember myself pre-diagnosis of bipolar. There is a small window of time that I felt I had reached my best self. I had overcome bulimia and sought treatment for my alcoholism. In my new found sobriety my teeny tiny world began to open up. I was no longer consumed with secrets and lies. I could wake up in the morning. I could remember what I did and or said the night before. I dove into exercise and my job. I picked up my long lost tennis racket and began to play competitively. My marriage was no longer on the rocks. Life was a breeze. I had forgotten the depression that plagued me throughout my teenage years as I really didn’t have a name for it back then. I had forgotten the suicidal thoughts I experienced in college. I forgot about my now husband, then boyfriend, hospitalizing me within months of knowing me. I simply believed I was a new and different person. Probably. Most likely. Cured.
So, I either didn’t see or refused to see the depression coming for me within 3 years of my new found lust for life. I pushed that much harder at my job, in my obsession for tennis, and in my physical training. Meanwhile I had to pull over to the side of the road often to allow for panic, anxiety and all out sobbing. I hid from my husband and people who really knew me. I could fake it at work and around the court. Until I couldn’t.
I will never forget the collapse in my mind. A good friend started stalking me, in a good way, and I fessed up. Amongst other things, she told me to get some Vitamin B12. I didn’t know why at the time, but that snippet of advice was all I heard. Dutifully, I stopped at Walgreens to get my vitamins but somehow emerged w vodka as well. My drink of choice. I sat in my car and cried uncontrollably as I downed this liquid nightmare. In a moment of pure desperation I called my husband and told him where I was and I didn’t want to be doing what I was doing. He called my friend.
When I arrived home all I could do was cry. I was stunned. I couldn’t explain my behavior, my thinking, my pain. All I knew is I could not be a depressed alcoholic again. In another most desperate moment, I locked myself in the bathroom and nearly ended my life.
I don’t have to tell you what followed. Emergency room visit. Hospitalization. Leave of absence from work. I but a shell of my best self. I chased that best self for many years. Riddled in shame and sometimes disgust at myself because I couldn’t get there. Seemingly couldn’t get there.
I would say just in this last two weeks I had a breakthrough. Instead of chasing, i’m adapting. It’s okay I can no longer get up for 5:30am bootcamp. I can go at 5:30pm. It doesn’t make me less of a person. It’s okay I sometimes miss my hiking group because I can’t muster the energy, or my anxiety is high. I am trying. Sincerely trying.
My best self is ever changing, like the tides. Some days I am stronger than others. Some days I can dance and forget my “troubles.” And other days the best I got is getting from the bed to the couch. I no longer need to compare myself to yesterday. The current is going forward and I’m going with it. Best is relative. In fact, I think I’m going to practice being myself, whatever that means in the moment, and always strive for better, whatever that means in the moment.

Off the Hook

I feel so broken. So disconnected. So ineffective. It bleeds into my career, my personal life, my person. I have lost my footing. My confidence shattered. My last episode really frightened me to my core. I am not the same.  I am so very afraid. Afraid of making the wrong food choice, picking the wrong TV show, looking you in the eye, drafting an email at work. It’s multidimensional. From minutiae to global.
It feels too painful to stay alive and pretend to be participating in the world. I’m a bystander. A wallflower at best walking around in a haze. I can’t pinpoint how I feel. I feel everything and nothing.  The music is too loud, yet not loud enough. The voices are a bully, yet keep me company. I have a desire to die, but can’t pull the trigger. I envision myself just walking away from my life, like on a movie set when the hero walks away from the final blow up scene.  Walk into the distance and never look back. Yet, I can barely leave my house.  If I’m walking anywhere it’s in circles.
I’ve returned to work on a part time basis. I didn’t realize just how off my game I would be. I can’t remember anything my supervisor says, can’t follow when she gives me directions to complete a task, quickly become disorganized in my head and get overwhelmed. I’m a bundle of professionalism. I arrived late today after I had a meltdown in my bathroom.  I refused to call in sick. I demanded I get myself together for my 4 hour day. 4 fucking hours, that’s all.  She came to my office and asked a question. I had been there for about 5 minutes tops.  I in turn went to her office to discuss a project, her first question to me was whether I needed to go home. My temperature rose, and shame filled my body. I asked her if I looked like hell?
She gently responded she could tell by my eyes I was struggling. She was trying to do me a favor, let me off the hook.
Just 2 months ago I didn’t need a hook. Well, maybe I did to reel me in. I was moving fast, and in charge of several projects. Now. Now I feel useless and no longer capable. She has taken over my projects. I find that very frustrating. My husband reminded me I am still recovering.  If I just had pneumonia I probably wouldn’t be trying to run. I’d be recovering.  Yeah. Yeah. I hate analogies sometimes!  They are so easy to throw out when you are not going through it.  He is also trying to do me a favor, let me off the hook.
So, it’s all me. What is it going to take to give myself a break. Extend myself some self compassion while I “recover.”  Always, always it goes back to acceptance.  Gee Fanatic you have bipolar disorder. This is not your first rodeo. This is not your first return to work experience.  I’ve been thrown off the horse before and will again.  It’s probably best to start gathering tools now. If I want to be my best self, I have to help myself first.

Keep fighting

321….BLAST OFF!   I am back. Just like a flip of the switch.  Last Tuesday I was planning my demise. I was distraught, hopeless.  The outpatient program I attend was threatening to call the police based on an email I sent. I reluctantly wandered to an evening process group and that’s when it all changed.  I was so shut down, unable to identify what my feelings were much less communicate them.  Lost in my head I was believing the lies.  Spiraling down further into the darkness I thought my only escape was  suicide.  But, my magical psychologist opened me up.  I could hear his words.  His words of forgiveness, self compassion seeped into me.  So much so, the very next day I had a bit of a skip in my step.

Suddenly I could listen to Christmas Carols and enjoy them. I wanted to wrap the few gifts I got my family.  I could feel myself laughing unconsciously. I looked at my husband and actually saw him.  That’s how Bipolar is for me..swoops in and knocks me down for a long time, then one day goes about its merry way.  But always, always hiding in the wings.

I am back in the trenches, as they say.  I returned to work. I am only part time for the month of January. It will be challenging for me to adhere to the only 20 hours per week my pdoc has recommended. My job is fast paced, deadline driven, and sometimes pressure filled.  If you add my perfectionism to the top of the work sundae it will eventually collapse. Its far too heavy and far too big.  But, I have a new philosophy which I have written about in the past. Before it was just an idea, a thought.  Its now time to put my money where my mouth is. I have a whole new approach towards work. The basic headline is:  throw yourself in, do the best you can, log your 8 hours and DONE.  I need to back away and think of it as just a job, not who I am. That doesn’t mean I don’t care, because I do tremendously. It just means its only a part of me, and it takes up only a part of my life. No more round the clock rumination about work. No more allowing mistakes to become bigger than they are.  I would just like to be mindful with every step I take.

Sitting at my desk wading through 350 emails I made the conscious choice to breathe through the process.  So much had changed with the projects I oversee. After 3 months it makes sense that I would be completely out of the loop. I often feel like I am fighting my own mind and this is a prime example. I was fighting thoughts that I was too sick, bipolar has made me too sick, to essentially get caught up to speed. I am no longer capable to do this job.

But, my coworkers reminded me why I work there.  They are such great people. I got a few hugs. Lots of smiles. Lots of welcome back. It wasn’t terribly awkward. I do have one coworker who is in recovery and has a brother with mental illness.  When she expressed concern for me and that she hoped all was okay, I felt comfortable sharing my “secret.”  I closed her office door and said the words, I have pretty severe bipolar disorder.  When it comes, it really takes me out.  I didn’t get into details. She was understanding and shared some things about her brother and that she has another friend who is a professor.  I thought, wow a Professor.  I think I have my own stigma around bipolar disorder sometimes.  Why not a professor?  Why not me?

In just a short week I got myself together and was able to return to work on the target date. I honestly didn’t think I could do it.  I was still lost in the depths of depression and the thought of being around coworkers and facing expectations and deadlines seemed impossible. But, I made.  I really made it. Granted its only been a few days and its quiet with the holidays, but its important for me to acknowledge perseverance and the willingness to fight.

Gratitude

I noticed the beauty and glory of Autumn today. Driving down the road of all places.  The battery in my Ipod died, so I sat in silence as I drove to my outpatient program. I think I was even breathing. I tend to hold my breath a lot. I noticed an even, unforced cadence to my breath. I felt myself nonchalantly enjoying the essence of fall leaves glistening in the sun, the collision of red, orange and gold being supported by roots deep below the ground. Taking it all in as I sat side by side with strangers on a long road. Perhaps the folks I was sharing space with were also in recovery. Perhaps not.  Perhaps just trying to make it through the day as I do so much of the time. Rhythmic breaths are coming easily as I moved patiently through the commute.

The morning air felt fresh, slightly crisp on my face. November in Northern California right now is grandiose. The sunsets blazing the open sky inviting awe and wonder from all who take notice. The promise of frost to grace the tips of the lavender or forgotten blades of grass yet only moisture on your windshield is found.  Threats of rain, which would actually be a gift, are empty.  There is still time to sip  coffee or tea on the patio in mid afternoon. I forget how lucky I am to live in this valley. I forget how lucky I am to experience emotion, though sometimes painful.  I forget how I can set myself free sharing the truth of my struggle.

I do not wish to walk in fear. One more time for good measure..I do not wish to walk in fear.  Each morning I awaken in darkness. I throw back the covers and attempt to cherish the day. I can only hope I am filled with strength to handle whatever comes my way. For me, hallucinations are unpredictable.  Morning, midday, midnight. I could be in a constant state of terror, awaiting their arrival. I am choosing to carry on with my day as if I were symptom free.  I think I can maintain this attitude because there truly are days I am free.  However, there are also days where the voices are demanding and crucifying my character. Days where I see destruction before my eyes as if a prisoner being made to watch atrocities. I never know which day it will be when I wake. Unpredictability leaves me feeling thrust upon the roller coaster without permission.  I do not enjoy this aspect of bipolar disorder. I would consider myself a go with the flow kinda girl, except in this arena.

As I felt the murmur of my car, I wondered when was the last time I considered what I can be grateful for?  My husband has been suggesting to me the longer I allow myself to get lost in a hallucination the more power I give away.  If I really set an intention to gratitude, can I change the trajectory of my episode. Right now I feel I am running in circles. Some improvement yes, but not enough to warrant going back to work or exiting the program. I’m chasing medication as the miracle for what ails me at this point in time.  I am being told that is the best course by those who deal drugs for a living. I have to trust they know best. I am on my knees and holding my hands open to receive. I concede I cannot control this on my own, though I try.  Diet, exercise, acupuncture, therapy, writing, and honest communication are my tools. They do not hold the fire to where my illness is taking me.  As I acknowledge that fact, I also want to acknowledge I am doing the best I can. If only for me. I am going to introduce gratitude into my arsenal. Really give it some credence. Allow it to have a place in my recovery. I am grateful the looming and blooming fall colors caught my eye today and led me to where I needed to go.