Thursday, July 16, 2020
Monday, June 22, 2020
It’s one of those days that's been a true roller coaster ride - jerky ups, steep downs, twists and turns and loops, and some boring straightaways. I fought with a company who misled me (and lost), contacted another company who charged me for something I didn’t receive (and won), filed for unemployment once again because they messed up at the unemployment office once again, had a huge fight with my daughter, was interviewed for an article about having a child who deals with mental illness, and did a few mundane chores.
Unfortunately, I don't have the choice of riding again. Most days include similar rides. Some are kiddie versions and some are the latest and greatest thrill rides, but for those who battle mental and physical illnesses as well as addictions, there are very few days with the option of not getting on at least one type of roller coaster.
Finding calm in the midst of these storms while riding that roller coaster is my goal. But how?
In every addiction recovery group, the importance of gratefulness is mentioned. It's also vital for those with mental illness... or who lean towards pessimism... or actually anyone breathing.
With everything I've gone through in my life, I thought I had justifiable reasons to be pessimistic. I use it as a safety measure - after all, if I've imagined and prepared for the worst thing that could happen, then I'd be ready for anything.
But it doesn't work that way. Looking for the bad in everything, consciously or unconsciously, takes its toll. I am a prime example that if you have that attitude long enough, it's extremely difficult to change.
Having several anxiety disorders doesn't help. In fact, they may be the cause. It's like the question of which came first - the chicken or the egg – but it really doesn't matter. It’s something that needs to be corrected.
My epiphany started with a phone call. It was pity-party time and my boyfriend mentioned that I should be grateful within my horrible situation. However, earlier in the conversation, he had his own pity-party about an issue he's having. I thought I was so clever when I turned the tables on him, telling him that he should also be grateful in his situation.
Then he said three words that floored me:
"You are right."
I was speechless. I wanted him to agree that us wallowing in pity was okay. I sat there and tried to think of a good counterargument.
There isn't one.
In both situations, if we each looked hard enough, we could find something to be thankful for, even though just a few moments prior we each thought that these obstacles were insurmountable.
I then thought about other circumstances in my life that have been highly anxiety-producing lately: my eyesight and unemployment benefit problems. Both are massive issues.
Every time I look around and can’t see something in the distance clearly, it produces anxiety. The doctors said that my eyes just need more time to completely heal after my cataract surgeries but there's always that little voice saying, "But what if they don't?"
I am currently getting unemployment benefits (PUA) because there is almost no work currently in my field. You might be thinking, "But she can't work anyway due to the cataract surgeries." I could do photography shoots if I had to (it's just harder with these vision issues) so I’m relying on those benefits until events start back. Since I don’t know how long that will be, the anxiety keeps increasing every day my unemployment problems aren’t solved.
Either issue could make even the most optimistic person worry… and I’m definitely not an optimist. Plus, I am dealing with both as well as several other small, but very burdensome, matters.
So how can I possibly be grateful? I can understand accepting them as "things I cannot change" (from "The Serenity Prayer"), but being grateful?
Using the skills I use to find the worst in a good situation - and flipping it around - I found ways to be grateful even in bad situations.
Concerning my eyesight... I don't have to dread the cataract surgeries anymore; because they were postponed to a time when I am out of work, I've been able to rest and heal easier; and even though I can't see clearly yet, my vision is much better without correction than I’ve ever experienced in my conscious memory.
Concerning unemployment... Freelancers typically can’t get unemployment, so receiving anything is a blessing; through working on these latest unemployment issues, I found a mistake in my favor; I discovered a useful app that auto-redials (the only way I could get a human in the unemployment office); and I was able to pass along what I’ve learned to others having similar problems.
Concerning today’s issues... Although I lost money over the misleading subscription practices, at least I noticed it before I lost even more; the fight with my daughter helped me realize some things about myself that I need to work through; and I was able to contact unemployment the third time I called (a new record!) and hopefully fixed one of the issues.
So, though life might be storming around me while I'm riding that dang roller coaster (aren't rides supposed to be shut down during storms?) gratefulness might be the ticket that leads to calm in its midst.
And on a side note… the storm that was whirling around me when I started this post has now stopped. There's blue sky peeking through the clouds. Birds are singing. The wind is barely blowing. It's really mild for a late June afternoon in the South.
I loved the ferociousness of the storm but also love this calm. I just need to keep reminding myself that being grateful for the positive aspects of each will help me enjoy wherever I am - calm or storm.
Monday, June 15, 2020
Monday, June 8, 2020
Wednesday, June 3, 2020
- Bank account balance
- Credit score
- Likes on a social media post
- Facebook friends
- Blood pressure
Those are just a few examples.
But have you ever gotten depressed over a number?
Sunday, May 24, 2020
First, the really good news... two months after I first filed for unemployment because of COVID-19 issues, I finally received it, including some (not all) of the weeks I filed in the past but didn't get anything. This has been an incredible stressor off of me, as even though I had a decent amount of money still out due to the way my clients pay me and I had a little bit saved up, I knew it wouldn't last forever. I tried not to worry, but I had a huge underlying stress every minute of every day during that time of uncertainty.
So, that's a big relief.
But medical issues... Ah, medical issues... Many years ago I wrote an article about the issue of not finding answers to my medical issues - or at least not ones that help. I updated it and posted it last year. If you go to https://www.spotlightonstigma.com/2019/09/on-merry-go-round-again.html and read it, you'll see more where I'm coming from.
The past couple of weeks I've been spinning again on that merry-go-round. I virtually saw my sleep specialist after the last failed attempt at using a BiPAP (similar to CPAP) machine for my truly horrible sleep apnea. I finally got to see a rheumatologist after suspecting I have fibromyalgia for many years. I also actually asked my primary doctor to prescribe something for the GERD (acid reflux) that she told me I have, but that taking an OTC acid reducer didn't help (hoping the prescription will help more). I also was finally able to reschedule my appointment for my cataract surgery after COVID-19 postponed the original one.
Second, the good news... I guess. My rheumatologist did confirm that I have fibro as well as an overarching syndrome called Joint Hypermobility Syndrome. Though hearing you have yet another lifelong, chronic condition isn't good news in and of itself, he does have a treatment that he uses that most rheumatologists don't.
In fact, that's why I decided to pursue a diagnosis - my daughter switched to him after already being diagnosed with really bad fibro but the doctor told her there was nothing she could do other than yoga or water aerobics to help the pain. Always before I had assumed that there was nothing that could be done about it, so why take the money and time to pursue that particular diagnosis?
The frustrating part about that good news is that there was a mix-up with calling in that wonderful prescription and I have no idea when I'll be able to get started on it. I'm hoping for one day later this week, but I just don't know.
At least the fibro diagnosis only had one frustrating part. The sleep apnea was an incredible debacle...
So, third - the pursing of an alternative to the BiPAP machine. I was originally diagnosed with both really bad Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) in 2007. RLS was able to be somewhat controlled through meds but I tried various types of CPAP machines and different masks and couldn't handle any of them. After trying and trying, I gave up. If I knew then what I know now, I would have saved myself a lot of time, trouble, and money. But there's nothing I can do about that now.
(Note... CPAP and BiPAP are two versions of the same type of OSA therapy. Throughout this I might use them interchangeably but they mean the same type of thing.)
Then around 2014-15 I decided I'd try again. I thought maybe the technology was better with the machines or there was another new therapy that would help. The same thing happened. No matter what I did, I couldn't sleep with the BiPAP going.
This time I took it a step further... I went to an ENT. He told me I had several issues that made me a horrible candidate for CPAP/BiPAP therapy - a severe overbite that put my lower jaw too far back, a deviated septum, and a large tongue (gross to think about). Surgery could fix the first two but jaw surgery is a big surgery with a long recovery period, so that was out. Because fixing the deviated septum alone didn't seem like it would help that much, I gave up again on this therapy.
Something the ENT has stuck with me since that visit. He actually got mad... saying something like "These neurologists should never prescribe a CPAP without consulting an ENT who can sometimes automatically tell if the patient can use one or not." So all that time I fought with the machine was for nothing! I never would have been able to use it. But there's nothing I can do about that now.
After seeing the ENT and finding out about my jaw, my neurologist prescribed a custom-fitted mouthguard to bring my lower jaw forward. Getting that mouthguard was a huge mess in and of itself, which I won't go into. But I tried the mouthguard and even went back for another sleep study solely to see how much it helped. During the follow-up visit, my neurologist said that it wasn't a big improvement and since it was a pain to deal with, I also abandoned that treatment even though the mouth guard cost like $750 out of pocket. But there's nothing I can do about that now.
So... a few more years roll around and I had a routine visit with my cardiologist. He told me that there were was a brand new treatment for OSA that didn't have anything to do with tubes or mouthguards. It's a hypoglossal nerve stimulator (brand name "Inspire") which basically is similar to a pacemaker for your airway, keeping it open throughout the night.
I decided to look into this option. I got a new sleep specialist (who was the first one I really felt had my best interest at heart and didn't just want to push CPAP treatments). During our first visit, I explained my history and that I wanted to look into this new surgical option. She told me that because it was new, they were pretty strict on the criteria to qualify and at this time I wouldn't due to my high BMI (which, ironically, is probably at least partially so high BECAUSE of the apnea... sigh...)
She did, however, tell me that the technology once again had changed and would I again try the BiPAP? She also told me that the settings the last neurologist had used were way too high and it was no wonder that I couldn't stand it.
In addition, she asked why I was no longer using the mouthguard. I told her that the last doctor said it wasn't helping. She said that it was, just not enough to "cure" the apnea. This kind of ticked me off. I could have been using it that entire time and could have had a little better sleep. But there's nothing I can do about that now.
Against my better judgment, I gave in and decided to try the newest, latest BiPAP machine and ending up getting a mask that was hot off the press. I really thought this time it would work.
I was wrong.
Once again, I tried and tried. This time I also added in another mouthguard, but one I didn't have to see a dentist to get (you fit it yourself). I didn't really try the mouthguard much without the BiPAP, as I thought my jaw was part of the reason the BiPAP wasn't working. In hindsight, I should have at least kept using the mouthguard when the BiPAP therapy wasn't an option. But there's nothing I can do about that now.
I also had sinus surgery, as I knew my sinus issues were at least part of the reasons I couldn't use the BiPAP. The sinus surgery corrected one of the issues but didn't help enough for me to be able to use the machine.
Life got really busy and so I just put the machine in the closet and just prayed that I wouldn't have a heart attack due to the apnea (one of my biggest fears). I didn't want to follow-up because she acted like she had exhausted all of her options anyway, so why deal with one more doctor's appointment?
Then a couple of years passed. I thought that maybe by now they would have relaxed the qualifications on the nerve stimulator and I might qualify now. So I made an appointment with her to discuss it. It takes months to get in to see her and guess when my appointment hit? Yes, right as the COVID-19 restrictions made most doctor's offices close. But there's nothing I can do about that now.
I had to wait a couple more months for the appointment, but thankfully I was able to get in to see her virtually relatively quickly. I suggested trying the nerve stimulator and said that maybe the standards were less now. She checked with the ENT who does this procedure. (See? An ENT consult IS needed for sleep apnea issues!)
This is where it really got messed up. She told me that they require a recent sleep study - within 3 years. My last one was too old. I haven't yet mentioned this but I HATE sleep studies. I can't sleep; I have horrible anxiety; and I am more than miserable the entire time. I had said I would never do another one. But if it was required, what could I do? I agreed to do the sleep study appointment.
She also told me that they would have to do an Upper GI to see how my airway opens and closes in order to see if I was a candidate for that treatment. An Upper GI isn't fun, by any means, but it's much easier than a sleep study.
After I got home, I realized that I might not qualify because of the way my airway opens and closes (I assumed that if my BMI was still a rule-out, I would find that out early on). So I called the ENT's office and asked if I could do the Upper GI first. If it showed I was still a candidate, then I would do the updated sleep study. After all, I had two sleep studies that showed I had it and it doesn't cure itself, so I definitely still had OSA. The scheduler supposedly asked the doctor and said that I had to have the sleep study first.
Well, the day came for the sleep study. My anxiety rose all day even though I tried really hard to keep myself calm. One thing I comforted myself with was that I didn't have to have the RLS leads, which I hate more than all the other leads combined (except the nasal cannula - it's #1).
I got to the clinic and when the tech came in to hook up the leads, she reached down to my legs. This wasn't my first rodeo so I knew what she was doing and I objected. I won't go into that whole story, but let's just say I lost and had to have them. If I had thought about it ahead of time and specifically asked my doctor to mention not to do that part of the test, I probably wouldn't have had to do it. But there's nothing I can do about that now.
I'm also not going to go into the details about the sleep study. It was just as bad as I remembered... no, it was worse. The ONLY thing that was good was that I was exhausted so I was able to sleep a little on the front end of the night. I knew from past experience that an hour or so of data is enough so I knew I had enough by the wee hours of the morning. I was able to leave at 3:00am, which was wonderful (though I was messed up from the anxiety and lack of decent sleep for a couple days afterward).
But I was glad it was done. Now I should be able to at least get to step two towards the nerve stimulator treatment, right? WRONG!
My follow-up with the ENT was two days after the sleep study. Once more, I won't go into all the ENT said, but the main point was that the nerve stimulator wasn't an option because of my BMI. WHAT?! So I went through that sleep study for nothing?!
He gave me some other options, none of which are really good options - soft palate surgery (which is mentioned twice is really painful), jaw surgery, which I already knew was major surgery with a long recovery time, and a tracheostomy, which "wouldn't be that bad because I could plug it up during the day." WHAT?! A trach?! Jaw surgery that takes literally months to heal? Soft palate surgery that is really painful (and doctors never admit that something is going to be painful so it must be really bad).
I got home and spent the day extremely depressed. That horrible sleep study (and the huge copay) may have been for nothing. As of right now, I did go on and make the appointment for the Upper GI test, just to know my options - exactly which of the procedures I would need to get done. However, I might cancel it. I already know I would need the jaw surgery and that's the one that has the longest recovery time. I just can't be off work that long. However, I might cancel the appointment and just keep praying that the apnea won't cause something like a heart attack. After all, there's nothing I can do about that now (or at least nothing I feel I'm willing to do about that now.)
And last, the cataract surgery. This blog is already way too long but I wanted to mention it. Right now the first one is four days away and the one on the other eye is two weeks after that. I'm again really nervous. Everyone I talk to says it's not a big deal but it seems like no medical procedure is simple for me. But hopefully both surgeries will go well and for the first time since I was a preschooler (or maybe earlier), I will be able to see clearly without glasses or contacts.
Tuesday, May 19, 2020
Thursday, May 7, 2020
Wednesday, May 6, 2020
She did so much to become all she could as she was growing up... All those years of trotting around to lessons and sporting events and after-school activities... All those years of Science fair projects and research papers and practicing math facts... All those years of teaching manners and work ethic and compassion for others... Sometimes I feel like all of that was for nothing because of the diseases and conditions and syndromes that my almost 21-year-old has to deal with.
Last semester her physical and mental health issues caused her to have to drop out of college and take incompletes for 3 of her classes (she was able to finish 2 through a lot of pushing through). She now has about a week to make up the work that she missed in those classes in order to change the incompletes to credits or they will turn into F's.
She worked so very hard last semester to try to get everything done but her own body and mind became her worst enemy. It just wasn't possible to push through and do everything needed in time.
So she took the incompletes, knowing that a couple of months to focus on her health and it would be no problem to finish these 3 classes when she was already so close... right???
Just as she was starting to recover from all of the trauma and stress of last semester and was again able to focus on getting into various specialists (which always takes a while), the world stopped. She had made several appointments but then she only got into one before doctors' offices closed for anything except for emergencies or COVID related cases.
Even without the doctors' appointments and treatments being done, at least she could go on and get in touch with her professors and start her work, right? NOPE! About the time she planned to do that, the college shut down. The professors were scrambling to switch to online learning for their current students so she felt bad about bothering them to help her get started on her classes.
At this point, she had plenty of time to finish so it wasn't a big deal. But as the deadline loomed closer and closer, stress about finishing set in and exacerbated her symptoms. This was heightened by stress about COVID-19, both because she is high risk and because she can't work.
As a parent of a child with an invisible illness, I often get "advice" on how I should be pulling back and letting her take care of her life on her own. "She's smart and she's 20 years old now," they would say, having no idea how hard it can be just for her to get out of bed each day or take a shower without almost passing out. They see her on good days and so, for them, she should be able to be doing these kinds of things on her own by now.
But what the advice-givers don't understand is that ongoing struggle. They haven't seen her cry because it hurt to get dressed. They haven't seen her try to study (and she really is smart) where she would read the same paragraph over and over and not be able to retain the information.
So this is my dilemma in all of this... How much do I push her to finish? How much do I let her do it on her own, knowing that the consequences could be failing those classes and ultimately not finishing school (because she's already struggling so much, any issue like having to make up these classes, could be too much)?
I've been walking this tightrope for a few weeks now and finally really talked to her about it last week. She said she did want to finish and I and some of her friends said they would help her in any way we could.
So I had hope that at least this chapter of her life would be okay... until she was in so much pain that she again missed a virtual voice lesson earlier this week. I was devastated... and so mad.
Your first thought might be that I was upset and mad at her. I'm not. I'm so f'n mad at these diseases that are robbing my beautiful, talented, smart daughter out of living the life she should be able to that sometimes I can't see straight.
I don't know what to do with these feelings. It's not going to change. She has been able to see a couple more doctors virtually the past couple of weeks, as offices are switching to that format, but there are still no answers. The more I learn about her conditions, the more I realize that she will probably have to deal with chronic pain and mental health issues her entire life. There are no cures. There isn't even an effective treatment for most of the issues she deals with.
The best we can hope for is a reduction in pain, a reduction in depression and anxiety, a reduction in the symptoms that keep her from living life.
Now she's at less than a week. I'm worried she won't finish, but I can't do it for her. Once again, it's time for the Serenity Prayer...
"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."
Wednesday, April 15, 2020
I'm still thankful... it looks like he's going to have a relatively mild case. He's had no breathing issues and his fever never got that high (it's been about like a seasonal flu in his case). He hasn't had to stay in bed all day, every day. He was able to "attend" our family's virtual Easter get-together and he seemed to be fine (even though we all knew he wasn't).
That said, it's still been difficult. He was over at our house to eat supper with us the same evening he started showing symptoms. My 82-year-old parents and I have now definitely been exposed. So it's the waiting game the whole world has been playing... waiting to see if we get it; waiting to see if we are the lucky ones that have it mildly; waiting to see if we may have infected someone else... but now the game's on hyperdrive.
My anxiety and depression have been constant companions during the quarantine but now they are also on hyperdrive. At least they've taken turns fighting for which one is in charge each day. Anxiety took the lead and pulled way ahead after we first realized my brother was symptomatic. Then Anxiety went into cruise mode and wasn't doing anything remarkable - just still there, holding his own by steadily whispering random thoughts and worries straight into my ear...
"What will we do if he gets sicker? He lives alone - are you guys going to just let him fight this out himself or will you go help him, though that would be risking your own lives? What will we do if one of us gets sick? What will you do if you've infected someone else you love? How are you going to be able to live with that guilt?" (I did see my boyfriend and daughter over the weekend because I thought I might lose it if I didn't see some friendly faces.)
Ironically, Anxiety wasn't worried about keeping the lead in the race, so Depression (which usually doesn't care about winning - it's all she can do to enter the race and just get started) zoomed ahead into first place. She caused me to feel numb and not care, after Anxiety had made me care too much. She kept that first-place pace for a while and her whispers were more like yelling...
"Why even try?! What good will it do?! If your brother can get sick when he was so careful and interacted with almost no-one, then what kind of chance do you and your parents have when you guys are high risk and he isn't?! You are never going to get the things done you wanted to do during this time, so why even work on them?! You might as well give up on addiction recovery, too, while we are at it! You'll never see any real progress there, especially with the food addiction! It's just too hard! You can't do it!"
Then there was the late entry from the twins... Insomnia and Exhaustion. They must be drinking major energy drinks, because they found the reserves somewhere to recently speed past Anxiety and even overtake Depression. Maybe it's because they work together and can take turns driving and also because they are focusing on driving instead of talking to me, but it doesn't matter why - they are definitely in the lead at this point.
When I am able to fight off the monologues by Anxiety and Depression and try to get something done, Insomnia and Exhausted make that work time much shorter than I'd like. Exhaustion makes me fall asleep at my desk; fall asleep in the tub; fall asleep when eating meals... then his twin, Insomnia, jumps in so that the only time I don't fall asleep and stay asleep is at night, in bed.
Somehow I've got to learn to withdraw from this particular race because I know that there's no way I - Tracy - can win when these opponents are so strong.
Maybe withdrawing isn't the answer, though. Maybe I need a yellow flag - and resign myself to last place for the duration of the race (pandemic quarantine). If Exhaustion is in the lead, I need to take a nap without guilt. If Insomnia, then a middle-of-the-night cleaning binge or other similar work is okay. If Anxiety is whispering constantly, instead of fighting the thoughts, I need to make a plan, knowing that I can change it if needed. If Depression is yelling, then to quiet her down, I can answer with things I am thankful for and that are going okay, if not "great."
If I recognize that they have superior cars, pit crews, and probably cheat a lot, and try not to win this particular race, just maybe it will be enough to keep going with life until life gets back to whatever normal is.
Thursday, April 9, 2020
I haven't been at home all day every day during that time. At first, I did go to a few places where I stayed away from crowds but still got out of my house. But the majority of the days I have stayed home. There were a few days that I thought I was coming down with COVID-19 and, to keep my family safe, I stayed in my suite (which thankfully has a bathroom.)
I am a freelancer/gig worker. I'll do just about anything legal to make money but my jobs boil down to basically 4 things - photographer, Uber/Lyft driver, mystery shopper, and writer with writing being the thing I did the least of... until this month.
Now writing has kept me going as it's not safe to do any of the other jobs since both I and my family are all high risk to catch COVID-19. The only problem with it is that I only have had a few articles that I have been able to write, as I'm just a new writer and don't have a lot of contacts at this point.
But it really hasn't mattered as I've had MAJOR computer issues that started not long before all this happened. I have spent 5-6 hours a day many days of the quarantine working on trying to fix these issues. I still haven't gotten them all fixed but I do have enough fixed that now I can generally work doing more than troubleshooting issues.
It's been frustrating, to say the least. When I first heard about staying home, there was a tiny part of me (NOT the financial part) that was excited that I "had" to stay home. I have so many projects that I had been putting off because I just haven't had the time that I hoped to get done.
Then the tech issues got worse and couldn't be ignored. So my focus had to shift to fixing them. Each day I would cross only one thing off my list, if that. The only thing that had been keeping up my morale was that I could get that original list accomplished before life got back to normal and that wasn't happening.
I went into a deep depression but the determination to win over these stupid computer issues kept me from staying in bed all day like I wanted to. I kept heading to the computer each morning, trying new things or trying old things again but hoping they would work this time.
This past Monday I finally got most of the issues fixed. I'm still dealing with some of them, but I'm taking them slowly because they aren't integral to day-to-day computer tasks.
My mood has been better because now I can actually see some progress on the things I wanted to get done. It's still not great, though, because I'm exhausted from all of that effort plus anxiety over what's going on in the world.
But, for today, I'm thankful I can use my computer without too many issues and no-one I love is sick. And that's good enough.
Saturday, March 28, 2020
Sunday, March 22, 2020
However, I'm getting to the "there's nothing I want to do" stage of this COVID-19 social isolation quarantine. I pushed through this past week and even was able to do some of the things I didn't want to do. This was mixed in with things at least didn't mind doing or at least items I wanted to check off my list so badly that I got them done.
But you know how there are things on your to-do list that are overwhelming for one reason or another... those things you tend to procrastinate with much more than everything else? I'm at that stage of my "what to do during the quarantine" list.
The next points on my list are either difficult, for little reward, or just plain ol' not fun. My anxiety is at a level where I'm kind of shaky from nerves no matter what I do. My depression is at a level where my motivation is almost nonexistent.
One of the major characteristics of depression is that you don't want to do activities that you previously enjoyed doing. One characteristic of anxiety is having trouble concentrating due to the racing thoughts you just can't get rid of. This makes any task extra hard to do.
Take, for example, watching TV. There isn't a TV show, Youtube video, or Netflix movie on that will overcome the racing thoughts I'm dealing with as well as the nervous feeling that makes it hard to stay still. (It's hard enough sitting here at my desk to do this, but at least my mind and fingers are busy.) My go-to when I can't find anything else to watch is usually a comedian. Nothing is funny right now. I'm not crying at everything so that's a step in the right direction, but laughter feels very, very far away.
Another example is Candy Crush. I would almost consider myself a Candy Crush addict, as there are times I want to quit but I keep finding myself saying, "Just one more game," until I run out of lives, even if that means another hour has passed. I still play but purely because it's a habit. I don't find it enjoyable. Before all this happened, I only had a limited amount of time I could play, just because I was so busy. Now, however, I keep reaching for my phone to play when I know I have more lives, but it's just not fun. It's kinda stressful, in fact.
I love organization and I've been cleaning out stuff, trying to find things that I can sell to help pay bills while photography sessions, rideshare, and mystery shopping jobs are almost non-existent. That gets really old too, due to the depression symptom: "things I used to find enjoyable no longer being fun."
It's a task... something to do to be productive... something to do to be proactive and keep from going crazy worrying about finances. However, almost nothing I've listed is selling. I'm sure others are worried about finances too so I didn't expect lots of sales. Out of listing lots of stuff, I've only sold one item.
It makes it harder and harder to list each new thing because in the back of mind I hear a voice telling me I'm wasting my time. There's also a voice that seems to get louder the longer I do this that says, "You might need this one day so you shouldn't get rid of it." The voices are unrelenting and wear me down over time.
Decisions, even small ones, are always difficult for me. My anxiety tells me I'm making the wrong choice so I research and research to at least up the odds in the favor of making the "right decision." When I'm in this state, it's so much worse. Culling photos, which is something I could do 24/7 for a week and still not get through all of them, is hard; editing photos, of which includes a multitude of decisions for each image, is darn near impossible. Making a decision on something important, like which ideas I should try to pitch to the newspaper I work for, makes my head hurt to think about.
Then there is my go-to when I'm anxious or bored or depressed... food. I'm trying to use the principles of my eating disorder 12-Step group and I'm working on not compulsively grabbing food when I'm in this state. But food calms me down. Depending on the food and the moment, it can be a physical rush with an instant peace that comes over me. I haven't been working that program long enough to know how to deal with times when I feel like this. I think it's very similar to someone addicted to drugs or alcohol - there's literally nothing that gives you the same feeling - so it's very hard to come up with alternatives.
Add having mental health issues... in my case, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and various anxiety disorders to the mix... I wonder sometimes if there is anyone else with my combo of mental health issues and addictions who successfully recovered. If so, how?
I haven't given up... yet. I am still trying to do my food plan and trying to not act out. (By the way, I'm successful at one but miserably failing at the other - from what I said above you can probably guess which is which.) I need something to cope with this stressful time. I know food isn't the answer... but what is?
Tuesday, March 17, 2020
The timing has been weird on this one. I'm about to have cataract surgery and due to a test I need to have before the surgery, I had to go without contacts for a week. Given the nature of my businesses, wearing my old glasses has made it very difficult to do some of my jobs and impossible to do others.
I have known this for a few weeks and have been preparing for the loss of income and work. I was very proactive by making a list of things that I've been putting off for a long time that needed to be done. I knew this would keep me busy and not feeling so bad about the loss of income. I actually wasn't anxious during the beginning of the news about COVID-19, maybe because I was already mentally prepared for downtime.
Then COVID-19 hit my immediate area, one of the last states in the country to really be impacted. When I was just missing work due to wearing my glasses and recovery from the surgery, I could still make money a few other ways, just not as much. However, because I live with my parents who are very high risk, it's safer for me to stay home. COVID-19 killed that potential for "not as much" work that I was still hoping for during this time.
Add to that, I hit a down cycle in my bipolar disorder and have been extremely depressed. Several other things have happened personally and with some of those I love that have been hard to deal with. The support groups I rely on have had to cancel (though we were able to pull off a phone conference for one last night).
The biggest issues I'm dealing with right now that are so hard are the lack of control and uncertainty. I'll talk about each of those separately.
Control... Everyone loves to be in control. World Wars have been fought over control. Marriages have been lost over control. Businesses have fallen apart because of control.
But control is a defining characteristic of an addict. Trying to control others and the environment and failing is one thing that leads to addictive behavior. Not being able to control the addictive behavior leads to shame and a feeling of worthlessness.
So I'm an addict who has major depression and anxiety issues and is a freelancer who can't work for who knows how long. In this environment, there is so little I can control. I'm not doing well.
Uncertainty... I think we are all programmed to know that we can deal with just about anything for a specified amount of time. When I was still in college, I remember thinking that I could deal with any subject or any professor for just a quarter. If I know that I'm going to have a medical procedure or if I'm sick, I have an idea of how long it will be until I can get back "to normal."
Not knowing how long this will last, what will happen before it's over, and what will be the aftermath is a huge problem for me. I have lived through some horrible times in my 50+ years and there was always an end. So intellectually I know there will be an end to COVID-19. But the biggest issue is what my life will be like when it's over.
For several years now I have been building a photography business - specializing in event photography. I was just starting to build up some momentum in my business. Big events have obviously been canceled left and right. It's scary to not know if the businesses will still remember me when it's over.
Of course, I'm also worried about my parents. I'm worried that they will get sick... and I'm worried that if I leave my house it'll be my fault. Both my boyfriend and my daughter are high risk so there's a little worry about them getting sick.
Surprisingly, I'm not worried at all about me getting sick. For myself, I'm worried about being inconvenienced... specifically with my cataract surgery. Wearing glasses for this week has been truly horrible. If the test is canceled at the last minute, then all that misery will have been for nothing. If the surgery is put off, then it's that much longer before I can get back to work full-time after recovery.
I know I'm whining... I know that I'm one of the many dealing with all of these issues... I know that there are many others who have it worse off than I do... In this case, though, knowing I'm not alone in how I feel doesn't matter one bit to help me feel better.
The only thing that has made me feel better in this time has been to help others. Setting up the phone support group last night was one of the better times I've had the last week. Knowing I was doing something for others kept me out of my head for just a few minutes. It didn't lift the overwhelming depression I'm feeling but did keep me going for a little longer while I'm in the midst of it.
There is no better time to recite the Serenity Prayer... and really try to live it. "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."