a frustrating week

It has been a very frustrating week for me. I still have not heard anything about my interview three weeks ago. The wheels of HR turn slowly at the Big Gas Co., but now this is bothering me. Just make a decision already. As Tom Petty once said, the waiting is the hardest part.

Another source of tension is the fact that my daughter won’t take steps to improve her mental health. I have been trying for months to get her to make an appointment with a psych. I tell her I will make the phone call and all she has to do is be there to say “yes, he can discuss this with you” (because of privacy), but she won’t do that. I’ve been so angry with her this week. I told my wife I’m not equipped to deal with this situation, and it’s pushing me too far.

My wife and I planned months ago to take a short 3-day trip to celebrate our 30th anniversary, but I don’t know if it will happen because of my daughter. She is tapering one medication because she is running out, and won’t see a psych. She has been stable with the lower dosage, but if she has a mental health emergency while we are gone, we will have to return immediately. I’m not sure we should go, but we will only be two hours away.

There are so many things that cause me stress and worry, and I can’t control any of them. I’m compiling a growing list of triggers for anxiety and obsessive thinking, and I must say the list is quite extensive. I went to therapy to try to learn how to reduce my stress, but thinking about this mindfulness crap is stressing me out even more.

On Tuesday I went for a drive to calm myself down and ended up mildly lost in Pennsylvania, but thanks to Google Maps I found my way back to the freeway. Usually driving takes the stress away, but not this time. I got more angry and tense as I got closer to home.

Enough for now. I’ll post again when I hear about the job.

mindfulness update: pop quiz

My next therapy appointment is looming, and I haven’t done my homework. He will ask me if I tried any mindfulness exercises, and I will:
a) lie;
b) tell him I think mindfulness is bunk; or
c) ask for a hall pass to the bathroom, then ditch the therapy session.

When I was searching for a copy of the book on Amazon, the first promoted suggestion was a book about crystal therapy for anxiety. I have approximately the same attitude toward crystal therapy as I do mindfulness, right wing ideology, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. My wife said it would be funny if I went into the session and placed crystals in a pattern around me on the floor before beginning.

I contacted the therapist because my anxiety was off the charts and I needed coping mechanisms in a hurry. I didn’t really get what I wanted, although it was helpful to talk through a few things. Now my anxiety is down to my normal background level – it is there, but it doesn’t scare me. I survived bipolar and anxiety without therapy since 2007, so maybe I don’t need it now.

Then again, I shouldn’t break up with him just yet. If I get this new job, my anxiety will increase, but I haven’t heard back from HR yet. My anxiety will definitely increase in my current job, because we continue to get more work without adding people to spread the new work around.

mindfulness update: opening the book

I finally read the introduction and first two chapters of the book, but I have not actually done any exercises yet. My library wants the book back, so I might buy a used copy of the book. Surely some relaxed, anxiety-free person on Ebay or Bookfinder has an old dog-eared copy they would let go for a few bucks.

Here are a few disjointed thoughts:

Quote from the introduction:
… [there are] three common patterns of responding to anxiety … reacting to the painful emotions of anxiety with … self-criticism and judgement; then trying to escape the anxiety mentally; and finally, when that doesn’t ease the discomfort, trying to avoid whatever triggers the anxiety.

That sounds like my behavior in stressful situations. I have learned how to avoid many things that cause me stress, however I also miss out on things that might be beneficial, such as opportunities for professional advancement or just for fun.

The authors claim that mindfulness is a method of dealing with anxiety that will help me overcome fears and will provide me with a sense of fulfillment.

It turns out there are audio exercises to go along with the text in the book (well of course there are), but the link led to a defunct website. After some googling, I found the exercises at the publisher’s website. There are some short exercises, then there are longer ones lasting up to 37 minutes. I cut my mother off at 30 minutes on a good day, so there’s no way I’m listening to someone drone on about relaxing my muscles for that long.

Another interesting quote: “… we might recommend particular coping strategies that seem counterintuitive or that don’t immediately strike you as likely to be effective for you. We know from our own experience that sometimes all of us prematurely judge and dismiss information that doesn’t fit with how we typically view ourselves and the world.” This describes exactly what I am thinking about mindfulness right now.

mindfulness update: the book

As I told you in a previous post, my therapist recommended a book about mindfulness. I picked up the book from the library, and it has sat on my table for over a week now, unopened. I had a therapy appointment scheduled for today, which I knew wasn’t going to go well, so last week I moved that appointment to sometime in August. Just in case I go to that one, I made a second appointment for September.

In the meantime, the book on mindfulness still sits on my table, mocking me and my overactive brain. I picked it up once or twice in the past week, looked at the cover, thought “I’m feeling too anxious to concentrate right now,” then put it back down. I’ll probably renew the book so I have longer to worry about how futile it would be to try mindfulness.

mind over ice cream

I don’t know if I am on the same page as my therapist. Yesterday was an awkward appointment. I had very little to say and didn’t want to be there, and he seemed like he was stumped, trying to find something to talk about. Neither one of us seemed prepared. Granted, I’m the one asking for help, so I guess I should be the one with questions. I would have been fine if he had let me go home early.

After flailing for a few minutes, he started talking about mindfulness as a tool for reducing anxiety. He described what mindfulness is, and I was having trouble concentrating … as he’s telling me how to concentrate on acknowledging distractions then coming back to the moment. My brain was tired but bouncing all day yesterday, so it was a particularly poor time to have to listen to someone talk.

I have to admit I don’t get the mindfulness thing. I thought it was more about doing something to distract you from everything in your brain, allowing you to have a little reset. I know how to be totally present in the moment, like while listening to my favorite music for the 100th time, or when being by myself in the woods, or reclining with a purring cat. But either I get distracted by something or someone, the moment is gone, and I start thinking about all the things I took a break from.

I asked him if mindfulness was blocking everything out and just clearing your mind for a few minutes, and apparently that was incorrect, because he was trying to convince me that something like eating ice cream or the act of standing up can be the object of a mindfulness exercise. (Really? Does pooping count?) I asked him what did that solve, and I never really got an answer. He said he wrote a dissertation about the subject, so I decided not to tell him I didn’t get the point.

Then he started talking about Buddhists and India, and honestly he lost me at that point. Nothing against Buddhism, but I just need something I can understand. However he did refer me to a book on mindfulness for anxiety, so I’ll get that from the library and see what I think. He also told me about some guy’s videos, but I told him I can barely sit through an episode of a TV show on Netflix. My brain moves way too fast to listen to some dude drone on for an hour about how to enjoy ice cream.

I don’t know if mindfulness exercises are going to work for me, but I guess I will give it a good faith effort to see if I can get something useful out of this. If anyone has any tips or references for helping me understand this, I’m willing to listen. Comment or email me if you have something that might help.

news of the world

A quick update post, then I’ll write something more substantial later.

My anxiety has had a few moderate spikes, but overall has been decreasing slowly since I discontinued the Wellbutrin and resumed taking Abilify. The twitchiness comes and goes with the anxiety, but the OCD ritualistic behaviors remain.

My therapist has talked about using CBT for my OCD. To prepare for that, he asked me to observe and document the behaviors I’m doing (no problem) without being judgmental (very difficult). I am also supposed to learn a little about specific CBT techniques for OCD. I see him again tomorrow.

At work, every time I complete a project, I get two new ones, adding to my anxiety. I actually let fly a bitchy rant during a video staff meeting this week. The department manager was on the call, and I was inspired. This is very uncharacteristic of me, and I guess a few people were surprised. I’m so bad at speaking to others though, so I just read parts of a bitchy email I had written a few weeks ago. Point was made, however.

I’m taking Friday off and spending this weekend hiking and communing with nature at Black Moshannon in Pennsylvania. I was supposed to do this when my anxiety was higher, but that was when my daughter was in the hospital. I still want to do this for myself, though. Weather is iffy but not too cold, so I’m going for it. I’ll post a few pics.

We’re waiting for my son to get his 2nd vaccine shot, then we will have a family barbecue somewhere. It’s been a long time. We have made the effort to keep my in-laws from getting too lonely, but it’s been difficult for them.

Finally, Genesis will be at the Q in Cleveland on November 30th, and we’ll be there. Phil can’t play drums and can just barely walk, and in fact he will be sitting for much of the show, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to see them one last time. I know they’ll play mostly the pop-rock songs rather than the old prog-rock stuff, but I’m okay with that, as long as they don’t play Whodunnit. Having said that, I wish I had seen them in 2007 instead.

I guess this wasn’t so quick after all.

behind

I’m playing catch-up this week. I’m way behind on work projects, on reading blogs, on writing, on projects at home, on planning for the future, blah blah blah, yada yada. I made some progress on work stuff this week, so I feel a little better about that.

I also got my second vaccine shot, so I am fully juiced and ready to go. I’m ready to lick door handles and have someone cough on my airline food as I travel to a crowded city. Okay, maybe not, but I do feel more at ease knowing I have a little protection. I can see the possibility of everyone requiring a booster sometime in the next 12 months (I guess Pfizer has already indicated this). I was sore at the injection site until yesterday, and I was tired and achy for about 48 hours after the shot, which was about what I expected. Nothing serious, and I didn’t miss work.

I also saw my psychiatrist this week. I printed out part of this post and let him read it, and he said it was textbook OCD. (I also told him his “How are you doing” forms are crooked on the paper, and it mildly bothers me.) He said we can work on the anxiety first, and then see if the OCD symptoms need more attention. I agree with that, since the OCD gets worse with higher anxiety. In addition, he said I was much more stable when I was taking Abilify, so maybe we should go back to that. I had the same thought previously, so I told him that was fine. I’ll just have to eat better and get more exercise somehow. I’m also going to quit the Wellbutrin, since it can cause instability and maybe anxiety.

Last week I met with the therapist for the first time (same office as my p-doc). We got to know each other a little, and he was interested by some of my problems (social anxiety, lack of self-esteem, avoidant tendencies, inability to deal with stress, etc.) He said something that bothered me though: when I was explaining about being overwhelmed at work, he didn’t seem to accept the reality that I absolutely cannot take a week or more off work for my mental health right now – maybe an occasional day or two, but not an extended period. I also don’t feel like I can ask to have some work shifted to other people, because everyone I work with is swamped and unhappy and drowning in projects. The day after he suggested I ask for less work, I received two more projects. Yay. We’ll see what he has to say on Monday.

The weather is cool but nice, so I am going outside to enjoy some nature and not think about life for a while. But first, I need Second Breakfast (the best meal of the day).

a busy week ahead

I have felt a little better this week. I am not as anxious during the weekend because I can stop thinking about work. I still have issues at home I am not dealing with very well, and I’m not getting any help to solve the problems.

I’m glad to have a short week. Next week will be short also, as I am taking a vacation day to make a 3-day weekend. I’m going to the highlands of central Pennsylvania to do some longer day hikes. I’m hoping there will be only a few people there so I can feel like I have the forest to myself. I’ll post a few photos if they turn out well.

I’m going alone, although I wish my wife could go too, but she’s working hard as usual. She only gets one week of vacation this year, and we’ve already scheduled a camping trip in August. However, we couldn’t leave our daughter alone for an entire long weekend, and she wouldn’t want to go with us as she hates traveling.

In other news, I have my first appointment with a therapist Monday. I’m going to see if he can give me some better coping tools for stress and anxiety and feeling overwhelmed by everything. What I’m doing now isn’t working very well. I’ve been in therapy in the past, and it wasn’t really successful, but I’m willing to try again. I know one appointment won’t solve everything, but I’m hoping to gain something from talking things out and getting feedback from someone more knowledgeable than me.

worries

I’m not doing well. My anxiety was not as bad this week, but I still feel unstable. I’m not doing my work adequately. I’m not taking care of the little tasks that need to be done at home. My brain is foggy sometimes, and I just mentally check out for a while. I’m having trouble focusing on anything more than my immediate needs, but there are so many things besides myself that I need to worry about.

My daughter is really struggling with her mental health. Her psychiatrist moved away, and I’ve been trying to get her to make an appointment with another one. She has severe phone anxiety, and she sits in her room and cries about it rather than making a call. She will run out of medicine soon and that will be very bad for her. In addition she has something physically wrong where she feels constant nausea and vomits nearly every day. She knows she needs to take action, but she is so emotionally fragile that she gets upset and turns into a “fussy baby” (her words). For me, it’s like having a special needs child who needs help doing everything, and I’m not dealing with it very well at the moment.

One positive thing: I got my first vaccine shot a few days ago, with no side effects other than a little muscle soreness at the injection point. I’m hearing that the second shot makes you feel ill for a day or two, but I’m not worried about that. I’m just glad we are taking steps to eventually get back to a normal life. At the same time, I feel bad for all the people who have died and all the families affected.

running to stand still

Up. Down. Sideways.

Hopelessness. Defiance. Acceptance.

Spinning wheels, hit the brakes, stuck in first gear.

Restlessness. Depression. Mania. Fear. Anxiety. Psych meds with a whiskey chaser.

I don’t have a center right now. I can’t find balance. My brain is all over the place.

My doctor called me back tonight, and he is going to try a couple of things. My faith is wearing thin.

Work piling up, waiting for me to stop feeling overwhelmed and make my brain work properly. The forecast doesn’t look good for that at the moment.

I’m also calling a therapist tomorrow. Without help, I’m a train wreck waiting to happen, and I can’t crash right now. Actually I can’t ever, but that’s another discussion for later.

panic! at the home office

So Friday afternoon I may have had a little panic attack. Apparently I posted something here and then trashed it immediately. Then I started drinking.

I was trying to email a request form to someone for a project, but I didn’t know just what to say. But I got stuck thinking about it, and it never got sent. Then the 10 am department meeting happened, and the department manager started demanding more output than we have been producing lately. Just what I needed to hear. After the meeting, I froze up again.

I took a long lunch, thinking I would take a break and calm down, then get back to work. The getting back to work never happened, and instead of producing more, suddenly I’m producing less. Thinking about this made me start freaking out, and I gave up around 2 pm. I literally got into bed and covered up hoping I could calm down, but it just got worse. I briefly thought about calling my psychiatrist, but I don’t think I could have made it through the phone call, and I didn’t want to get sent to the hospital involuntarily.

So when my shift ended at 3:30, I poured a glass full of scotch whiskey and started drinking with the intent of knocking myself out as quickly as possible. After an hour I was successful, and I slept until about 8 pm.


I fear the manic episode from January has permanently damaged something in my already defective brain. I can’t organize tasks, I can’t follow through, I can’t regulate my mood, I can’t control the anxiety. I can’t stop thinking that I will no longer be able to do my job, and that I will have to find something less stressful for much less pay and worse benefits.

Before the manic episode I was relatively unhappy at work but I was able to cope with the stress and managed to produce work in a timely manner. Now I am completely unable to deal with my mental state. I have no coping skills; I have nothing in the toolbox that I can use to improve my situation. My fight-or-flight instinct has been engaged, but I have nothing to fight with. The urge to flee is overwhelming.

The only thing that helps me relax is when I am doing something new, like yesterday when I drove new roads for a few hours and walked at a park for over an hour. But there are only so many roads within a reasonable distance, and I can’t do that every day. Eventually I have to come back home to my life, and start thinking about everything again.

I will call my doctor on Monday when I am relatively calm and explain the situation, and see if he can recommend something.

money or sanity

Fuck it, I’m going to post it anyway.

There have been many changes in the past two years at work. First there was an incident where a big pipeline exploded (thankfully no one was injured or killed). There were changes in business and construction practices resulting from the explosion. There were changes in management, and employee losses through an early retirement offer to dozens of people. Then the pandemic forced almost everyone in my building to work at home.

Through it all, we just keep working, drawing construction plans, lining up contractors, and getting jobs constructed. We are well paid, we have good benefits, and we are fortunate to have continued working when many others were laid off or had their jobs simply disappear.

But I’m fucking miserable. I hate it. I want to leave.

We get more and more responsibility and workload without the hope of additional people to help. We get new requirements that make projects harder to complete, but we are expected to meet target dates. I can just barely do my shift because I am so stressed out and angry. I don’t enjoy what I am doing. I don’t like getting up in the morning and turning on the computer. I think about work when I’m trying to relax. I dream about unfinished jobs and missed deadlines. My anxiety is off the chart right now.

I looked online at different jobs on the internet this week, but that was rather discouraging. Any opportunities that exist right now would cost me as much as one-third of my current take-home pay, and would have a smaller benefit package. There’s nothing out there that is close to being as good as what I have right now, and there is no situation where I would be able to manage my mental health issues the way I am at the moment.

I talked to a friend from work Friday, and it turned out he is having the exact same conversation with himself. He feels the same way, but had a little insight for me on how to help my attitude and not get myself in a frenzy over it. He reminded me what I would be giving up by leaving this job behind without a better opportunity. He talked me down from the ledge a little, and I felt a little better about things.

Then yesterday and today happened, and I’m freaking out again.

I have zero confidence in my ability to do my job and stay sane at the same time. My supervisor is understanding, and he tells me it’s okay to talk to him when I’m feeling stressed. But of course he doesn’t know the whole story about my mental health, and I didn’t tell him I’m ready to leave no matter what it costs me.

Then there is my wife, who understands my feelings and does know the whole story. But she also told me to consider what we would be giving up, and would any other opportunities be any less stressful?

Then again, what happens if I have a meltdown and can’t work at all? Who’s paying for psychiatrist appointments and medication for myself and my daughter if I’m having a breakdown? So many questions, no answers, and another fun day of work on tap for tomorrow.

The whole house of crazy cards is teetering and ready to fall.

manic wanna-be architect

I’ll preface this by saying I might be having a little manic episode, but it’s nothing to worry about, right? I’m not out of control or in any danger, I’m just riding the wave for a while. I’m mildly amused at my condition right now, but I hope I don’t have a crash in the next few days.

I haven’t slept a lot during the night for the past several days, yet I have fallen asleep at random times during the day and evening. My anxiety has been high due to work issues and problems with my daughter. I’ve had tension headaches which turned into a migraine on Thursday. I’m writing a lot, and trying to keep from posting it all. I went looking for a difficult word search, and ended up downloading and printing 40 different ones I need to stay off Fakebook and stay away from Amazon … or the car dealership.

Yesterday I got up at 7:30 on an off day, I was awake all day, and I went to bed at my typical 9:00 to 9:30. Then I woke up from dreaming at about 1:00 and couldn’t get back to sleep. It was not a weird dream, but I remembered it very clearly when I woke up. I was in a different house, and I was designing it in my dream, arranging rooms and hallways.

I was laying there, completely awake, and I decided to get up and capture my dream house on paper. So I got up, got my graph paper, a scale, and my mechanical pencil (because geeks have those items handy in the middle of the night), and started drawing my house.

My daughter (whose sleep schedule is often backwards) comes upstairs and asks why I’m up, so I explain to her. Then we talked for a while, but the whole time I’m thinking about my house. Finally she went back to bed, and I started drawing again.

I realize I’ve lost track of time when my wife gets up at 5:30. I explain to her that I might be a little manic, and I spent most of the night designing a house. She said, “That’s not bad. At least there aren’t computer parts all over.” [That’s another story to tell someday.]

Here is the final sketch I came up with during the night:

I didn’t finish obviously. I still need to do a lot of details, and I might put it in Autocad today and work on it this week. Or I might do it online in Sketchup, since I don’t have architecture blocks for my Autocad installation. In fact, I have no architectural anything, because I don’t know how to design houses. I’ll post something when it is done.

mortality

I’ve been preoccupied with death lately. More specifically, my own mortality has been on my mind. I think about it during the day, and I dream about it at night. I worry about dying from COVID if I were to catch it, but there are many other ways to die: car crashes, falling trees, stepping in front of a bus, falling awkwardly and cracking your head on the pavement, falling off high places, having a heart attack or a stroke. I think of these things every day, and it has become tiring and unhealthy and obsessive.

There is so much to do before I die: wills, lists, preparing finances, helping secure my family’s future without me, and more. I feel like a squirrel with winter approaching, with so many nuts to gather and ever-dwindling time. I want to survive for many years still, despite the difficulty of life inside my brain, but I don’t know how long I can last.

I have been feeling pretty good mentally for the past few weeks, but this line of thought is trying to bring me down into another depressive spiral. Sometimes it is that easy for me to get sucked into a mood swing. I want to be free of bipolar depression and anxiety, but I believe that is an unattainable dream. I’ll settle for just eliminating this obsessive thinking pattern.

they’re writing about me

There was a recent article about increasing depression and suicidal thoughts related to the coronavirus pandemic. The article suggested ways to spot people who are suffering from depression, loneliness, and mental fatigue by asking the following questions:

  • Are they getting up and taking a shower?
  • Are they brushing their teeth?
  • Are they changing their clothes?
  • Are they keeping their place clean?
  • Is their refrigerator filled with food or is it not?
  • Are they ignoring phone calls and text messages?
  • Are they not posting on social media as frequently as they used to?
  • Are they declining invitations to virtual holiday celebrations?

The article goes on to say these are people who might need help coping, and that you can show compassion and understanding by talking to people who are depressed and may be having suicidal thoughts.

Ummm, this sounds like me most of the time. I believe it is more from bipolar depression than being COVID-related, but anxiety over current events and the pandemic doesn’t help. I don’t have suicidal thoughts anymore, but sometimes it feels like life is too tiring to keep going. I don’t feel that way very often; usually it is more like a feeling of constant struggle to go on living.

Some days, I feel good, and it is worth the effort to keep living. I try to remember that feeling when I am at my worst.