BringChange2Mind

February 25, 2011

Slow and Steady

Filed under: Story — Tags: , , , , — Linea @ 8:47 pm

I’m sitting here today, having remembered last week’s post about returning and taking care of yourself, and I am realizing that I should probably follow my own advice. I have indeed started to come back into the world, weary, afraid, and hesitant, but in doing so I did it at full speed.

After deciding to finally return to my life and work I managed to quickly race back into the life I had been living when I was my healthiest. The first thing I did in my blind hurry was present at a conference in another state followed quickly by a presentation, in front of all my friends and family, at a talk prior to Seattle’s showing of the Tony Award Winning Next to Normal.

I didn’t take it slow and easy. I didn’t do it gently knowing that I was fragile. I didn’t do anything I said in my last blog. Instead I did it as if everything was better. I forgot this was a process. So, do you know what happened after I was finished with my whirlwind tour? It’s easy to guess, I crashed. I was a disaster and quickly returned to my early state of panic attacks and food restriction.

It is not an all or nothing process. There is in fact a middle ground between lying on your bed crying and traveling to conferences presenting about mental health while maintaining the “I’m better now” face. But it took me until yesterday to realize this.

I am a very stubborn person. I don’t like to say no to things I have already said yes to. I follow through. But sometimes my body has to remind me that this can’t always be the case. Following my Next to Normal speech I had two more nights of talks. And while my stubborn side was saying “I have to do them”, my tired body and emotional mind were telling me otherwise.

So, after countless back and forths I realized that I did want to get better. And getting better meant taking it slow. Getting better, to use my past analogy, meant not just running out of the cave like everything is fine, but coming out gradually and letting yourself adjust.

And today I did just that. Today, at the last minute, a time when I feel the worst backing out, I said no. I said that I couldn’t do it. For my health I had to turn this one down. And it’s so hard! I do feel like I’m letting people down, I do feel like a slacker, I do have all these nasty words and thoughts creeping up to tell me that I’m doing the wrong thing. But I’m right. It is necessary to take things slow. It is necessary to take life one second at a time and listen to one’s body. Hopefully this time I will remember to read and listen to my own posts!

Best,

Linea

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February 18, 2011

Returning

Filed under: Story — Tags: , , , , , , — Linea @ 6:12 pm

The topic of today’s blog is about returning. Many of you may have noticed that I have disappeared from the world of computers, Facebook, and blogs. For health reasons I have needed to step back and take care of myself. But now I am back. Now it is time to talk about that very tricky act of returning after a mental health leave.

The act of returning is a mixed feeling, one of excitement, one of hesitation, one of “am I ready?” and sometimes one of pride. Returning to the world, whether it is the world of work or the world of friends is something fragile, scary, and intimidating. Though sharing our story of ill health after this leave may not be necessary, taking our time and energy to reemerge  into a past existence and those necessary life responsibilities is many times essential

So how do we do this you ask? How do we re-enter the world after it has crumbled at our feet? Do you tell your story or not? Co-workers, families, and friends may have missed you, become worried, become mad. How do you take care of yourself when you are so far behind in your responsibilities but have to catch up? I don’t have the universal answer to these questions but I do have my own experience. Perhaps sharing some of my own story will inspire you to reconnect yourself. Perhaps some of it will spark your own ideas about returning that you will hopefully share in our comments section.

So here is my path…I have disappeared for almost three months due to a severe depression and eating disorder. These are things that I’ve dealt with before but still remain difficult. This disclosure is not something that everyone should have to share and when asked, a mere, “I was dealing with some health issues that I would rather not discuss, but I am slowly getting better” will suffice. This has often times been my answer, but with close family and friends it is different. For them I tell the truth. However, even your closest friends may not fully grasp your struggles. For them I simply ask for support of my decisions. They may not agree, but it is my struggle and if they care they will stand beside my choices and intelligent attempt to seek what’s best for me.

The second struggle I am experiencing is getting back to my old responsibilities and work load while simultaneously taking care of my needs. This is something I have yet to master. How do I reemerge into such a busy life? How do I step back into relationships? Even the small things, like using Facebook feel overwhelming and exhausting. This is something I have to take one step at a time. I remember years ago when I was really sick for the first time someone told me to take things one step at a time. My wise grandma clarified however, saying some days you have to take minute by minute, but some days you have to take second by second. When getting out of bed in the morning feels like a second by second job, Facebook becomes minute by minute.

I am taking my time. Returning takes a lot of breaks and lots of time to breathe, sit and meditate. Re-emerging is like stepping out of a cave into the sun. Stunning yet blinding. But slowly I am adjusting, slowing I am emerging.

How do you return after a health crisis? What tricks have you or a loved one learned?

December 6, 2010

Refocusing Your Goals

Filed under: Story, Youth — Tags: , , , , , , — Linea @ 12:00 pm

As many of you know from my last post, Food and Coping, I have been having some issues with an eating disorder. The anxiety induced through my bipolar has decided to take it out on my body leading me to stop eating and start focusing my perfectionism on something dangerous and very un-Linea, weight. I have always had severe and painful perfectionism. The kind that no matter how much you accomplish and how much you change it leads you back to the thought, “I’m not good enough”. This pattern is very harmful and has in the past led me to take it out on myself physically or to punish myself mentally. Along with my bipolar disorder this has been one of the most painful and exhausting parts of my personality.

There are, of course, good things about perfectionism. The drive to work hard and accomplish your dreams. The endurance to do your best. But there are, of course, so many painful things. The most important thing that I have developed in all of this however, is the realization that this, like my bipolar, is something that I have to come to terms with and live with. I know that I get obsessive. I know that I can get overly hard on myself. I know that I like to do a lot of high-level tasks. So, I realized that when this eating disorder reappeared that I was using the pounds lost as a way to feel and see that I was “accomplishing” my “goal”. I had, and at this point still have, the idea that I can finally scientifically see that I am reaching my goal because it is demonstrated by concrete numbers on the scale. I am not having to go off of other people’s abstract compliments or comments of “good job” or “you are doing so great”. I have, in a very bad way, convinced myself that I am accomplishing something.

This is of course a lie, because although I can make numbers decrease, I am actually increasing health risks. I am far less than perfect when it comes to taking care of my body. Starving yourself is not achieving perfection, but rather denying it. And I know what everyone will say, there is no perfect.  I know this, but I try to get as close to it as I can, in spite of the fact that there is no top to the mountain I am climbing.

Now that I have realized that my goals have become the dangerous focus on numbers I am going to try working against it as I work to get healthy. Here is one way that I am going to try to accomplish this: I know that I like to run. I love to run and it soothes me and lets out the excessive anxiety that I usually feel. However, I cannot run without anything in my stomach. It is dangerous to run when your body feels faint with no calories. So, I have convinced myself that I want to run again. And to run I need to eat. Each day I have to eat at least three meals, with snacks, before I can run. And I’m starting to do this. Because the anxiety that comes from not running is worse than the hunger of not eating

I know that my mind and body like to have a goal to work towards, so I have decided to try to refocus my goal from loss of pounds to increase in miles run. There is a half-marathon in June and I would really like to get to the point where I can run in it. To start I will have to eat. And when I have accomplished eating rather than weight loss I can start to run. From there I can focus that need for proof through numbers towards miles and food consumed. I don’t know that it will work, but I know that I am a person who needs a goal. I can’t always seem to make a goal out of taking care of myself, so this is at least a way to trick myself into doing it. I will let you know how it goes and hopefully my ability to understand and know myself will help me move to safety and on towards healthy goals and accomplishments.

November 22, 2010

Food and Coping

Filed under: Story — Tags: , , , , , , — Linea @ 6:10 pm

photo by Linea JohnsonCoping with a mental illness is hard. Living with the thought that this is a life-long thing is painful. And sometimes, even when we are happy and “stable” we find ourselves trying to cope with this fact.

I am about to admit something big. I, as many of you readers know, am very open and honest with the public and even strangers, but this one is very hard for me. In my past I didn’t know what a mania was. In the depths of that hurricane, when everything was whirling around me I tried to find my own ways to cope. I found that my doctors kept giving me the wrong medications leading me to get sick or manic and I decided I would find ways to soothe it myself. So I tried alcohol. I tried drugs. I tried self-harm. And eventually I altered my relationship with food to an unhealthy place thinking that it made me feel better.

That was five years ago. But today, this month, I find myself struggling again. As you know from my last post I have hit a bump in this bipolar ride. I have at this point finally found a way out of the hurricane, but my coping habits have yet to return to normal. Today I once again find myself struggling on the line between disordered eating and an eating disorder.

Why is this the hardest thing for me to admit? Why do I hold such a stigma to this and not to my other symptoms and diagnoses? When I was young I didn’t understand eating disorders. I didn’t know that they were deeper and different things than vanity and our culture’s influence. Though these may play a part in my relationship with food it is something stronger. It is, as many people who are well-versed in ED know, much about control. Control of the changing climates of bipolar. It is also, for me, about punishment and anger. Punishment from an extreme perfectionist for not being able to “fix it” and anger for not being able to control my mood swings.

I find it very important to address eating disorders because I find these very misunderstood in our society. I feel that I am even hesitant to write about it because I still don’t fully understand the jargon, the reasons, and the power they hold. But I do find it crucial for us to have a conversation about healthy coping skills.

So here is what I am doing to try to find my way back to health: I am trying to take life one step at a time. I am trying to eat at least three meals  a day and sit with the anxiety that comes with this process. I find that even eating a slice of an apple is painful. I am trying to make a healthy schedule for my life so I can balance work and play. I am being open and honest with my family, my friends, and my medical team. I am using Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) with positive self-talk and challenging the negative and illogical thoughts in my head. I am trying to breathe.

What healthy skills do you use when you feel your life is out of control? How do you take care of yourself when life is not treating you kindly?

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