Fun Times with Mental Illness

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Generally I make no secret about my stance on mental health issues and the role it plays in my own life. I am bipolar ii; I don’t have it, I have not been diagnosed with it. It is who I am, as intrinsic to my makeup as being a writer or a redhead or a liberal. There is no separating it from me.

And, just like writing, gingerness, and liberal justice, I have to remember how to function in a world not necessarily suited to that. I have to learn what flaws I have, created by these facts, and work on improving them or at least finding ways around them to still be functional.

(Let’s be real. There’s no improving red hair. It’s already the best there is. #ScienceFact.)

The stupidest, stupidest, stupidest thing about having spent more than half of my life with this mental situation undiagnosed is that the depression, the hypomania, the crush and the freefall and the speed-lined soaring all feel like a normal person’s existence. The ways they impact my day-to-day, month-to-month, year-to-year functioning feel normal.

Take today, for instance. My mimi called. While we talked, she casually mentioned financial stuff–not in any sort of negative way, mind you, nor in any “well if you need money” capacity. But just thinking about all the debt heaped on my head and starting to avalanche is enough immediately to make me want to crawl into bed and never even bother going to work again.

Realistically, this doesn’t help anything. But the inevitability of failure and the stress of doing my best are so much that my bipolar ass immediately responds with, “Let’s hide. That ALWAYS makes things better. Clears it right up.”

I needed to go to the library today to do some hardback research for an article due tomorrow. Now, in all fairness, I should’ve kept better track of time as well as doing little bits of it here or there in the past month. I procrastinated. I saved up trouble and am cashing it in today.

So of course then things didn’t work like clockwork today, and now I don’t get to go when I want. So what did I do? I curled up on the bed. Because obviously hiding on my phone and doing my best not to angstpost on social media is the most surefire way to get this project done.

(Believe me. Unfortunately, my angstpost game is strong.)

Thing is, I recognise that my knee-jerk reaction is as much learned behavior as it is anything else. It’s a habit I’ve built for myself since the age of 11. When things are bad, hide. Eventually the worst will pass (outside, inside, it’s all the same), and then you can clean up the mess.

Don’t try to prevent the mess. Just clean it up. That’s what I’ve programmed myself to do.

Unfortunately, that’s not really how adulting works, is it? I get the feeling it isn’t, anyhow.

Logically, I understand that doing what I can to prevent setting myself up for failure is what will work best, re: suspending that depressive spiral back into bed. I get that doing my best to prevent the mess will A.) make it easier to clean up and 2.) emotionally easier to deal with.

So it comes back around to all that unlearning I need to do. Which is the shittiest part of learning how to improve yourself when mental illness has insinuated itself so fluidly into the cracks of your shortcomings. The thought-habits are second nature. They have gotten you this far in life, why should they change?

Didn’t get that bill paid? I’m sorry, I was really depressed and our finances are tight. I lost track. It doesn’t matter. I’ll always be in debt anyway.

Didn’t get the kitchen cleaned? What’s the point? Someone else will dirty it up and not clean it. If I just stop, maybe someone else will pick up the slack. If they don’t, who cares? It’s never going to improve.

People stressing you out at work? Fuck it. If I call in enough, they’ll fire me, and then I won’t have to work with them anymore.

Rinse, repeat.

So yeah. Mindfulness. Breaking the habitual thought of blaming everything on my disease. I’m learning how to do that. Honestly, that’s what’s got me sitting here writing this blog post rather than still hiding in bed. If I can talk my way through it, maybe I can talk myself to success.

How? How can I do this? How tf do I break this cycle? Literally a real-time trip through my psyche as I write this:

  1. Recognize the stressor. Today, it was mainly the library thing. I procrastinated and then when things didn’t work, I blamed the world.
  2. Accept your emotional response as valid, but don’t beat yourself upYes, I wanted to cry. I felt angry. This is just what happens when things don’t work the way we want them to and we’re stressed out. It certainly doesn’t help that getting this article submitted means more money, which is vital right now, since financial stress is a be-all end-all trigger at the moment. It doesn’t mean I’m a terrible person or that things will never improve, or whatever else. I can work through this.
  3. Figure out a way to short-circuit the emotions before they steamroll your ass. Well, if I don’t do something, I will literally lay in this bed all night. That ain’t gonna get shit done. Maybe if I walk into the kitchen, plug up the computer, and write a blog post about it, but do it constructivelyI can process some of this without shutting down. No whining about how hard life is and how terrible the world is. Write about what it means and how I can improve. I mean, at least I’m writing a blog post, which is productive-ish?
  4. Sort out a game plan when you can. So, okay. I can’t go to the library this afternoon. Will I have time to do it after I pick the heathen up from school? I’ve got a smallish window of time between then and going to work tonight. Maybe I can hit up the library, then stay until I go straight to work? And if I need more time, maybe I can go first thing tomorrow when I wake up? If I split the work in half, will it be less stressful? Then I can write a polite email to the editor and beg for an extra day or so to get it turned in. That’s the best I can do.
  5. Accept the possibility that you might fail, and consider how best to mitigate the consequences. Okay, so if I get nothing done at the library and/or if the editor won’t allow me the extension, it’s gonna suck. That’s $100 I’m missing out on, which is going to make it harder to pay off a hugemongous bill coming up in June. That’s the real problem. So if that happens, I just have to scrape harder. Failure to pay that bill is the bottom line, and where I will not accept defeat.
  6. Remember that game plan? Give yourself a tiny, tiny, tiny window between now and starting it. Not a whole lot. Just enough to reset. I had to go pick up the heathen. This gave me about 15 minutes of just sitting and waiting in the car when I wasn’t driving. I couldn’t get the work done, but I could catch up on a fic I’ve been wanting to read. It’s a good one. Now that I’m home, though, I can get going in the right direction. (Ironically, it helps that the fic is totally about people needing to get shit done in order to survive, lol. IF JOHN WATSON CAN FIGHT OFF ZOMBIES IN POST-APOCALYPTIC LONDON, I CAN WRITE A GODDAMN ARTICLE!)
  7. Do the damn thing. I’m home now. I can pass care of Heathen along to Husban and then go kick ass.

 

So, okay. Here I go. Wish me luck. ❤

 

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2 thoughts on “Fun Times with Mental Illness

  1. A timely post for me, as I struggle to figure out “Am I (procrastinating/isolating/hibernating, choose your non-adventure) this way because I’m depressed, or is a habit I formed while depressed?” And, regardless of the answer, what can I do to actually get sh1t done?

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    1. This so much! It’s a question I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, too. It’s been a process of rigorous self-inspection, which sucks. No one wants to admit that “it’s not the world’s fault I was lazy and didn’t do the damn research ages ago!” (or whatever, lol). I think one of my other huge hang-ups has been learning now how to not just lean on “I’m sorry, it’s the depression” as an excuse for shortcomings. That one has been HARD. It’s one of those few convenient things about depression, and one nobody really prods. But it begets its own vicious cycle.

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