I work best under pressure. My best essay writing in university always happened in the middle of the night, close to when the paper was due.
My mind has been racing as of late. I have been in this mostly hypomanic state for more than a month, full of nervous energy, skipping meals, forgetting a pill here and there, staying up really late and not sleeping enough. My ability to concentrate remains limited.
Of course, sitting down to write this post was a struggle. Last night my mom asked me, “Don’t you have a blog post due?”
And I said, “Yeah, but I can’t decide what to write about.”
So she said, “Why don’t you write about being indecisive?”
That got me thinking. I have a whole list of topics or ideas I would like to write about. I had a conversation with my doctor a couple of weeks ago, and expressed my frustration about being hyper, unable to focus, and being stressed – you know, one of those conversations where you end up sobbing uncontrollably because someone is really listening to you and they care. She asked me if I was doing anything for myself. She ran through a list of things I could do that might help:
- mindfulness meditation CDs
- take time off work
- writing for pleasure
- self-help books (e.g. Feeling Good/The Feeling Good Handbook by David Burns)
I told her that I go for massages when I can (I have chronic neck and back pain from a car accident 11 years ago), I listen to relaxation tracks on my iPod so I can fall asleep, I am writing this blog every other week and that was about it. I went to the gym once. I have a yoga mat I am doing nothing with. She highly recommended purchasing Feeling Good by David Burns. Of course I did, and purchased David Burns’ other book, When Panic Attacks, as well from the Indigo website. The books arrived and what did I do with them? Added them to my collection of things to put away in my office.
I must have 50 self-help books. I can’t say I have actually read any of them, maybe flipped through some of them. I have books by Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, Dr. Wayne Dyer, Jon Kabat-Zinn…and now Dr. David Burns. Am I actually going to read these books? Maybe….
Do self-help books actually help? Maybe they give us a feeling of being included, or a feeling that we can help ourselves, thinking, “I can do this on my own”. I think I just like some of the titles of the books and that’s why I buy them.
I was flipping through Feeling Good and the page I opened to was from the chapter, “Do Nothingism- How To Beat It”:
“Procrastinating and self-defeating behaviour can seem funny, frustrating, puzzling, infuriating, or pathetic, depending on your perspective. I find it a very human trait, so widespread that we all bump into it nearly every day.”
The chapter goes on to list types of mindsets that are associated with procrastination and do-nothingism:
- Overwhelming Yourself
- Jumping to Conclusions
- Undervaluing the Rewards
- Fear of Failure
- Fear of Success
- Fear of Disapproval or Criticism
- Coercion or Resentment
- Low Frustration Tolerance
- Guilt and Self-Blame
I am sure many of us are familiar with these mindsets and perhaps some of them are harder to overcome than others. The ones I struggle the most with are #3, #4, #5, #7, #10, #12, #13….okay, fine, all of them!!! I blame myself for my perfectionism, I resent myself for doing nothing and procrastinating, I aim to please, and so on and so forth.
But can I help myself? Yes. I am capable. When I am in the right frame of mind. I just need to be reminded. Here are a couple examples where I have realized I have the tools to help myself, even though I don’t think I do.
I go to a dietitian at a Diabetes prevention clinic because it’s prevalent in my family and because I want to be healthy. I am not an active person but I want to look good and feel good. I am always hard on myself and critical when I go. The dietitian always says we should focus on what I am doing right. We take inventory of this and instead of creating many goals at once, we aim for one at a time, such as remembering to eat breakfast. She actually has a particular interest in working with patients who have Bipolar Disorder and other mental illnesses so she is very understanding when I come in and am agitated! Last time I said that I was convinced I had gained weight, but countered that maybe I shrunk my jeans in the dryer, and she smiled and responded that it does happen.
After my car accident, which was about 5 months after I developed my Anxiety disorders in 2003, I struggled with both pain and Depression, panic attacks etc. One of my mom’s friends, who is like an aunt to me, is a master hypnotherapist and I decided to try hypnosis sometime in 2004. At first I was skeptical but I wanted to learn how to calm my mind and how to combat the anxiety in other ways. This was before I had been introduced to Rivotril (Clonazepam) and Ativan (Lorazepam). I attended hypnotherapy for many years, on and off, and find hypnosis tracks on my iPod helpful when I am anxious. What I learned from hypnosis were techniques to (hopefully) calm myself down quickly when I am anxious. At the time that I started, I was commuting to university by subway and this was difficult for me. I was taught visualization techniques and I still use them today. I can calm myself down by counting down from 25 to 1, picturing each number being written on a blackboard and being erased before the next one is written. Or by picturing myself walking down a set of stairs, counting down as I take each step.
One thing I know about anxiety, at least for me, is that if I distract my mind, I can calm down. I also used to call or text my fiance and ask him to tell me something funny, if he wasn’t with me at the time. Humour helps.
I believe we are all capable of more than we think we are. We just have to find the “will” within ourselves and find the desire to help ourselves. It has to come from you, and not from someone else’s urging.
About Melanie Luxenberg
My name is Melanie Luxenberg and I am finally ready to live openly with mental illness. I was first diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder in 2003, which I still experience. At the same time, I was diagnosed with Social Anxiety (which I also still experience), and then briefly experienced Agoraphobia. I have had depression on and off since I was 13 years old. In July 2010 I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder II. Shortly after it was realized that I experienced rapid cycling. I can experience multiple cycles in a week. Despite my diagnosis, I completed a university degree and then a college program. I have always held stable employment, regularly taken my medication and regularly attended my doctor’s appointments. There have been times of hopelessness, but I have always found support from my family, husband and 3 dogs. I am a law clerk, social media/content writer and of course, mental health advocate. My Twitter feed is full of mental health advocacy messages. I hope one day to see the end of stigma towards mental illness, because stigma has to stop!