Time vs Anxiety

Last night I tweeted this and thought I’d follow up:

My brother had a projection alarm clock many years ago, and I was always jealous of it. Cut to almost 15 years later (I’m a procrastinator, ok?), and I finally got around to getting one for myself.

I had a few worries, but they were unfounded:

  • I worried I wouldn’t be able to position it to display on the ceiling. (I didn’t want it on the wall.) I could!
  • I worried it would be hard to read. It’s not!
  • I worried it would be so bright it would be distracting for me or Steven. It isn’t!

So it’s pretty much everything I hoped it would be — and more!

As I said in the tweet, an unexpected benefit was that I’m less anxious at night. This is simply because I can very easily see what time it is. I do wear a sleeping mask, but I can push it out of the the way without moving much (or even sometimes just tilt back my head and peek out from under it). And the time is just THERE! Right in front of me!

I used to wake up in the middle of the night (several times a night) and wonder what time it was. Moving my arm in *just* the right way to trigger my FitBit to show me the time while also disentangling my arm from the blankets was a hassle-and-a-half. Steven’s bedside clock was too hard to see—I had to sit up to get a good view of it. (I didn’t have a bedside clock before this because I didn’t want to have to move to see it anyway—I sleep on my back.)

So sometimes I did the little song-and-dance I needed to do to see the time (which then woke me up enough that I couldn’t fall back to sleep easily). But much more often, I’d just continue to lie there and hope to fall back asleep…

That didn’t work either because I’d keep wondering what time it was and how much time I had left to sleep and was it so close to wake-up time that getting back to sleep would be a bad idea anyway and why can’t I stop thinking about this and just go back to sleep?

So anyway, that’s my latest one-weird-trick for slightly subduing my anxiety. Obviously, if always knowing what time it is *makes* you anxious, I don’t recommend this!

Also, it’s worth noting that the thing that’s been helping most with my anxiety is the doctor-prescribed medication I take. And I do not for a moment take for granted how lucky and privileged I am to be in a place (physically, mentally, financially) where I can access that.

So anyway, I guess the moral of the story is that help can be found in unexpected places, and it’s important to recognize and celebrate even the small wins!

Alarm Clocks Time Projection, New Clock Time on Ceiling Wall for Bedroom Decor, Digital Travel Clock with Colorful Backlight for Kids, Adjustable Brightness & Projector Focus, DC Adpator Included

Advertisements

HealthDay

I am currently sitting in bed, computer in my lap, surrounded by crackers and ginger ale and Pepto Bismol and a Booster Juice. Yep. That’s right. I’m home sick. But I’m not calling it a “sick day”. This, my friends, is a HealthDay.

I recently switched antidepressant medications, and the initial side effects are kicking my butt. I could probably handle a slow-paced day at work (with all these stomach-supports in tow), but I’m also feeling just…wrong in the head. If you’ve been through the delights* of getting-used-to-a-new-brain-medication, you may know what I’m talking about. There’s no good way to describe it—at least not that I’ve found anyhow. I just feel wrong.

The important thing is that all this current discomfort is in support of future, better health. There’s no guarantee the new drug will be effective. I’ve bounced between *many* over the last couple years, trying to find something that will work for me, and so far I’ve had little luck. But that’s not a surprise. Brains are complicated, and there’s a lot we don’t yet understand about the chemistry happening between our ears. I knew when I started this process that it could be long and would likely involve a lot of trial and error. (Boy howdy has it!)

Anyway, I post this random update in part to remind myself that it’s okay to take a HealthDay when I need it. (I still can’t shake a profound feeling of GUILT any time I miss a day of work.) I also hope that if you’re struggling with your own mental health that you remember you’re not alone. And even if it feels like you’re not getting anywhere, stick it out. Take a HealthDay if you’re able to. We can do this. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. We’ll get there.

 

*Not at all delightful.

Talking About Mental Health

I’ve talked about mental health on this blog quite a lot over the years. I haven’t done it as much over the last couple years, but then again, I haven’t talked about *much* on this blog over that time. The reason for that is, ironically, mental health. (Or the lack thereof, honestly.)

Today on Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat it’s #BellLetsTalk day. I’ve mentioned this before because it’s important to me. I chose to move to Canada almost five years ago, and finding there’s a very public day devoted to mental health awareness surprised and pleased me. (Every tweet/RT/post/etc. including “#BellLetsTalk” means another 5 cents donated to mental health initiatives in Canada.)

I will give my usual caveat that EVERY DAY should be a day for talking about mental health. Ending the stigma around mental illness is a job for more than one day, but the more money we can tweet into this effort, the more resources organizations will have to put toward this all year round, so I hope you’ll all get out there and use the hashtag–you don’t even have to be in Canada! (I think there’s a way to participate via text messages and calling too.)

So once again, I’m here to do my little part and tell my own story. I hope hearing me talk about my own struggle will help others know they’re not alone. Because you’re not. I suffer from mental illness, and I am not ashamed. (Or at least I try really hard not to be. It’s still difficult to get past the stigma sometimes, but I think I’ve come a long way.) So on with the show…


A couple years ago I realized I really needed some help. It had been many years since I’d been on medication, but I was struggling mightily—missing work, lacking joy in even the things I love the most (podcasting, of course), so I did what I always tell other people to do—talk to someone. For me, that someone was my doctor. (I am so lucky and pleased to have a doctor I like and trust and who trusts *me* to know my own mind and body and make decisions for myself.) We tried a variety of different medications to help address my depression and anxiety. I think over the course of one year I tried five or six different meds. Some of them didn’t work. Some of them worked but had debilitating side effects. I got discouraged and kinda gave up.

So for a while I stepped away from regular medication, in part to let my body and brain re-set after all that bouncing around from med to med. (Though I still had [and have] some as-needed meds for anxiety.) I managed to get by for about a year this way, but it was really just “getting by”. And then eventually that “getting by” started to slip to not-quite-getting-by.

I went back to my doctor.

Now I’m on some new meds that seem to be working (and without super-awful side effects! yay!). It’s early yet, but I’m hopeful.

[Note: The writing of this blog post was literally just interrupted by my reminder to take my Cipralex. LOL at timing!]

Anyway, my mental health is the number one factor in determining when I have the energy to write outside of my day job. I would love to promise more regular content here, but I don’t know how my mental health will hold up. But as I said, I’m hopeful, and I have a few things I wrote for podcasts that I might be able to re-purpose for blog posts, just to keep things moving while I work up to fulfilling the last of my Patreon reward posts.

So once again, I’ll just say to anyone out there that’s struggling: you are not alone. I hope you’ll reach out and find some help.

And to everyone, whether you’re struggling or not, please take a moment today to use the #BellLetsTalk hashtag. Each time I see it come through my feed, my heart lifts a little bit. I have to imagine it’s doing the same for others. Seems like a pretty easy way to spread joy while raising money for a worthy cause.

Finally, mega-thanks to my spouse Steven and all my friends, family, and internet pals who have stuck with me through all this and provided constant understanding and support. I love you all so very very much.

Just Work Through It

Okay, so that’s not always good advice. It’s often impossible to just work through it—whatever “it” may be. But occasionally, for me, it not only keeps life on track—it actually helps.

These last *mumble mumble* months (years?) have been pretty rough in the brain chemistry department. And as I work with doctors and lifestyle changes to try to sort things out, it can be quite a roller-coaster of non-productivity and keeping-afloat and oh-my-god-I-let-everything-slide-now-I’m-screwed.

I’m trying to get better at remembering that there’s a weird limbo-area where I am most certainly not feeling well, but I can still Get Things Done. And when I lean into that (instead of leaning into the couch, as is my wont), my mental health actually improves. (Marginally, but I’ll take any little bit of improvement.)

It’s not easy to remember that, so this is a very public reminder to myself. At the risk of going all corporate:

Just do it.

Baseline: No

I suck at turning things down. Things are fun! Especially when those fun things involve fun people. And most of the people I know are fun people. And they do many fun things. Sometimes they invite me to do fun things along with them. I often say yes!

I say yes too much.

I also plan my own fun things. Sometimes too much.

For example, this past weekend was a super-fun thing! Steven and I went to Calgary for a couple of nights and watched the Oilers play the Flames (ok, so the fact that we lost was less-than-fun, but it was fun overall), did some shopping, drove through Alberta’s badlands, and went to the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller to look at dinosaurs. We even took time to watch some Doctor Who and record a podcast. All fun!

But hoo boy, does fun take its toll. Stress is stress whether it’s because of good things or bad things. When I planned that trip, I had no idea how wrecked I’d be at the end of last week. (Answer: Very Wrecked) So my fun weekend was less fun than it would have been and pretty much depleted even my reserve tanks of coherence and energy.

If I do my usual thing over the next couple weeks, those tanks will never refill. I know this, but I rarely act on it. I’m trying to treat myself better these days, so:

Dear world full of fun and interesting people,

No.

No, I will not join you for your fun and interesting thing. (Not unless it can wait a couple of weeks.)

Love,

Me

***

The one exception I did make was to schedule a short recording session for Beginner’s Puck because A) that probably should have been on the calendar anyway, so it’s pseudo-grandfathered in, and B) I have So Much hockey stuff to talk about! I went to an Oilers Game Day Live! And the Oilers game (in Calgary)! And holy buttons, that recent EBUG story! EBUGs are our thing!

So yeah. That’s a reasonable excuse, but for all other items, I’m gonna heed Nancy Reagan and “just say no.”

Dear Self

This post is for me, but I suspect I have a few friends/readers out there who might find it helpful, so I’m sharing it publically. 

Dear Self,

It’s ok to be sick. It’s ok to be anxious. It’s ok to be sad.

And when you’ve been these things for weeks and weeks on end, it’s ok to stop for a little while. Taking a break or a sick day is not an admission of failure. It does not mean you’re weak. It’s doing what is required in order to get through and move forward.

Even when you feel like you could do just one more thing, or go into work for just a few hours (which, let’s face it, will turn into the whole day), it’s still important to stop and rest. If you push yourself and keep going, you’re just borrowing that energy and that productivity from tomorrow or the next day.

Yeah, it sucks, and yeah it feels like you’re letting everyone down, but guess what? You’re not. That’s your dumb brain lying to you. Anyone who cares about you or relies on you in any way doesn’t want you to help them out right now if it’s ultimately not healthy for you.

You’re important, but you’re not that important.

So take a chill pill (literally if you have to) and lie down and read that book you’ve been wanting to read Just For Fun. Watch another episode of a TV show you are not watching for a podcast. If your head stops hurting, go see that movie you’ve been wanting to see for weeks.

Rest. Recharge. Recuperate. Get better.

You deserve it.

Yes, really.  You do.

March? Already? And New Things!

Many many things about 2017 thus far have sucked royally. (Not the least of which was last week’s death of a good friend from back in Madison.) But I’m getting through it, in part, by noticing how it’s whipping by. I cannot believe February is almost over.

I’ve also been trying really hard (amid doing my part to #resist) to focus on positives. Positives like my last post about Gally. Positives like my new sous vide cooker. (If you have recipes, do send them my way!) Positives like constant reminders that I live with the best partner anyone could ask for, in a country that (while it does have its problems) has prioritized inclusiveness and care for its residents.

I’m also gathering additional happy things. I’ve started communicating more regularly with some distant friends. The simple act of staying in touch with good, kind, smart, creative, vibrant people has done wonders for my mental health and outlook.

Also, I’m working on an exciting new podcast project! I suspect it won’t appeal to many of the people who already follow my doings, but that’s kinda the point. I’m working on this because it’s something I love and am interested in. The act of working toward creating something new feels like a tiny act of resistance in and of itself. Especially since this will be aimed at a marginalized/under-served audience.

I’ll say no more for now, because I want to wait until things are a little closer to fruition before announcing anything. Consider this a tantalizing teaser. And a recommendation to get out and create something if you’re able. It truly can help.