Tag Archives: therapy

Self Care: The canary in the coal mine of crazy

22 Feb

I didn’t brush my teeth last night.

It’s been two days since I showered (but new underwear/socks today).

I haven’t had breakfast or lunch since Wednesday.

Why am I sharing these (some would say too) personal details?  Because one of the first things they teach you in rehab and recovery programs is to start with the basics; start taking care of yourself, really taking care of yourself – daily showers, changing clothes, eating three semi-healthy meals – and the rest will follow.

In my experience, it works.

I’ve also found a corollary to this approach; that signs of self care neglect should be seen as an early warning system, a canary in the coal mine of your mind. I’ve had my own experiences, and heard many more at church, when a harsh slide in mood – or substance relapse – follows on the heels of letting even a few self care habits slide.

At least I’m in new clothes today.  And I’m seeing a baby tomorrow so I’ve got to shower before then.

The need for speed…amphetamines for beginners

5 Feb

After two B2C* days in a row, I’ve got a new sense of purpose and vigor this morning. It’s not because of an early walk or a healthy breakfast, nor from any coping strategy to get my mind into gear for the day.  I did none of these things…but I did take my amphetamines.

In addition to my longstanding battles with depression and anxiety, I was diagnosed a couple years ago with adult ADHD.  My wife was the first to be convinced of it, before my psychiatric team even explored the diagnosis, but it would take some time for me to come around.  I had a problem with confidence and drive, not with my attention span.  Besides, ADHD is a disorder for kids, not adults, right?

Only because of my wife’s persistence did I eventually and reluctantly accept the diagnosis.  Along the way she introduced me to great resources like TotallyADD.com and held my hand through several self-diagnosis tests like those from Psychology Today, Psych Central and Totally ADD.  In the end, my symptoms matched up so closely that in hindsight the ADHD diagnosis was a no-brainer.

Just accepting the diagnosis, knowing that much more about how my mind operates, brought a wave of relief.  With a new mental battle front I learned about a whole new set of tools and coping strategies – making lists, setting attainable goals, establishing routines, etc. – to manage my ADHD.  My psychiatrist added a medication to the mix that would prove to be a silver bullet: Vyvanse.

Being a stimulant I expected it would make me anxious and jittery.  I already felt there wasn’t enough time in the day and I was sure that Vyvanse would only speed up.  It turned out to be the opposite; from the first day I took it, time slowed down for me and gave me room to breath.  I was no longer in a mad panic to solve all my life’s problems in a day.  I could see pathways to completing intimidating tasks that until then seemed impossible.  I actually started checking things off my to-do list instead of eternally adding to it.

In short, it worked.

It sounds crazy (of course it does) but I’m actually of two minds on Vyvanse and my success with it.  On the one hand, I see it as an effective medication and part of my overall daily treatment for a clinical disorder.  But for whatever reason, there are other times when I see it as yet another addiction, my daily fix of amphetamines.  I know this is what I do (beat myself up unnecessarily) but feeling guilty about taking medication that works is, well…crazy.

* Note: (B2C above refers to “bed to couch,” where I spent Monday and Tuesday)

Quick confession before church

27 Jan

I’m on my way to church – that’s my new code for my weekly group therapy – and I’m sharing a quick confession or two so I can at least report some work-oriented progress to the group.

My confession is that since my last post I’ve done virtually nothing on the job front; still no application, no networking emails or calls. Not even making the amends I feared would be a distraction from the job hunt.

No, instead I worried myself into a tailspin of familiar habits; smoking pot, watching TV, playing the boy’s Xbox, and dreading my wife’s return from work out of shame for having obviously done so very little.

As I write this, I can already see a way out of this week’s rut, or at least the way I’m thinking about it. And if nothing else, I’ve got a familiar tale to tell the church crowd tonight.

Manufacturing Discontent: The destructive power of perfect mental obstacles

21 Jan

In his groundbreaking 1998 book Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of Mass Media, Noam Chomsky famously shed light on the counterintuitive role news media play in propping up existing political and power structures; not in holding them accountable.

In a similar vein, I’ve found the crazy among us tend to manufacture seemingly productive mental obstacles to reaching our more important goals; before accomplishing goal A, I need to tackle issue B. Before I submit my first job application in months, for example, I need to update my profiles on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Sounds logical in theory, but in practice these issues can quickly become dangerously counterproductive, especially when…

…they initially appear necessary to achieving the more important goal, but reveal themselves to be trivial or even irrelevant.

…they are truly manufactured, really existing only in our minds, as a means to procrastinate or avoid altogether the more important goal.

…we become focused on tackling the small issues to perfection, at the expense of accomplishing the important goal on time or even getting to it at all.

My social media example is guilty on all three fronts. Right now, my first job application is more important for going through the process and getting the first one out of the way than for getting the job itself.

I know for a fact that the hiring manager isn’t going to put any weight into social media profiles, if he even checks them. I’m certain that I’m the only one who’ll notice my changed profiles. And yet I’ve spent more time in recent days trying to perfect them than even looking at the more important job application.

Suffice to say I now feel, before I can play around with social media updates, I need to accomplish the more important goal of applying for a job.

Now the trick will be avoiding the same pitfalls with my résumé and cover letter, not letting perfection be the enemy of completion, not inventing tangential obstacles and just getting it done.

Thank you therapy

16 Jan

In what seems to be a recurring theme, I’m starting today’s post with another tale of yesterday’s failures…and small victories.

It was about this time yesterday that I was tallying my accomplishments up against my expectations for the day. I had been more productive and kept myself busier than any day in weeks – almost no television, putting together a real, immediate plan for my job hunt, even daring to rough out a cover letter for the job I want to apply for by the end of the week – and yet I was dangerously close to chalking up the day as a failure.

Why? Because I didn’t think I’d get to my new daily blogging. I’d set manageable expectations for the day, and did far more than I set out to do, but one relatively minor task left undone threatened to ruin my entire day’s work (or at least my feelings towards it).

I’m often torn about the value of certain therapies – like my weekly group therapy or “going to church” as I sometimes call it – but this week its worth was obvious.

For starters, I was reminded yet again of how irrational and vicious my inner critic can be. With yesterday as a perfect example, I was *this* close to writing off the day of major accomplishments because of a single, minor missed expectation…one only I would ever notice at that.

After hearing the group’s reaction to my thinking, and seeing it now in writing, it’s obvious that my self-criticism was ridiculously harsh and shame inducing. As you’ll soon learn, this is a lesson that’s taking me some time to learn.

The other benefit the group provided was the reassurance that, while I’m crazy on many fronts, I’m certainly not alone. There’s always one person who’s having a day as shitty as mine, and that company feels good. I wonder how many of my church friends – all juggling substance, mental health and interpersonal issues – find the same solace in my misery.

Funny…that was a comfort I used to find at my favourite watering hole, when alcohol was my anxiety and depression medication of choice. Even as I drowned my sorrows and avoided my own demons, I was able to look at my drinking buddies with a sense of pity, empathizing with their pain while temporarily numb to my own.

Suffice to say, group therapy’s working a whole lot better than drinking ever did.

Today was another productive day, similar to yesterday in that I didn’t do everything on my to do list, but I did much more that wasn’t. With luck and yesterday’s therapy reminders, I’ll end this day a success.

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