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The first day of classes was rainy, but it was a light rain, little wind, and I had an umbrella, so that was no problem.

My first class was British Literature. We’ll be reading Mrs Dalloway, Hard Times, Frankenstein, and several others (the teacher actually forgot to tell us about one, which means I’ll have to buy an additional ten-to-fifteen dollar book off Amazon), and we’ll get to be creative in addition to being analytical. My idea of a perfect class! I’d had the teacher before, a peppy blonde woman who’s very enthusiastic about literature, and I like her, and I also was surrounded by several English major friends of mine that I’d had in previous classes. We sat around and had a lively conversation, talking and joking, before class started. The great thing about English majors is that they’re always up for discussion -- you never feel stiff, intimidated, or bored in their presence.

My business class, Promotional Strategy, was a little different. No one spoke or raised their hand at all -- I was the only one who raised my hand with a question for the entire class period -- and there was this intimidating kind of silence that no one wanted to break. The teacher, an older woman, talked really fast and then suddenly shot questions at us -- I could barely keep up with her. But I did raise my hand, and I talked with her after class about what assignments I should do, and she asked for my name and recognized it from an email about textbooks I’d sent her over the summer. So I think I made a good first impression.

I had very little homework that night, and then came a Thursday and Friday (no-homework days), and on Friday I had no second Promotional Strategy class, and then came a three-day weekend! So I was feeling pretty optimistic after my first day.

My second day of classes was also good. Sunnier, and I had a longer amount of time to sit and eat breakfast before heading out for the day.

I had been a little nervous about my Shakespeare studies professor -- besides the fact that he was an expert in Shakespeare, he had also seemed intimidatingly strict and old-fashioned in his beginning emails. But what actually happened is kind of funny. He’d mistaken the classroom number so we had to go find him because he’d been wandering the halls, lost. Once he got in there he turned out to be a nice, sharply dressed little old man. There was one moment of nervousness -- we’d filled out information cards for him, and he kept reading excerpts from the cards for the class, which we hadn’t known he’d do. But he just asked me about where I was from. Called the place name “exotic.” He seems to like the word “exotic.” Everything that’s not an English major from the school’s general region is “exotic” to him.

I took the bus back home for lunch and an hour and a half relaxation at my place. Then I went back out for my Advanced Poetry class, which was with the same professor I’d taken Intermediate Poetry with last semester.

Still the same guy -- had an existentially fraught hip flask (it doesn’t know whether it contains vodka or water, and neither does anyone else), liked the building where no one ever went, lots of interesting stories, hated assigning grades. It was soothing being back in an intriguing, familiar environment again analyzing poetry, so I really enjoyed that class.

The students in that class are always funny, too. We were in the geology building, and there was a picture of the Mt St Helens eruption in the classroom, and someone said that was like putting a picture of Hiroshima in a classroom in Japan.

"The circumstances were a little different," another person pointed out in amusement. "More people were killed in Hiroshima. There's also the problem of Big Intention versus Natural Disaster."

I love English majors.

I always reward myself after making it to that class, though, because it’s always in the late afternoon after I’ve already gone home from school -- I always have to go back to campus just for that one class. So as my reward afterward, I go to Starbucks and get myself a delicious little coffee. I sat at Starbucks for a while, just letting my mind unwind.

Now I’m back at home, and guess what? No homework, a short day tomorrow, and then a three-day weekend! And tomorrow I might be getting some new pajamas!

It’s been a great start to the semester!
grimrose_eilwynn: (Default)
Our parents drove us up to college and hung around for a few days, but now, at last, they make their way back to their home.

As our last night, we had a fun night out. We had dinner at a classic Italian restaurant with old fashioned revolving doors and Al Capone art hung on the walls. I had garlic twists and cheese tortellini with alfredo sauce.

We went to see The Man From UNCLE in theaters. Henry Cavill is really hot. I appreciated their attempt at adding an interesting woman into the mix, even if I felt she fell a little flat. Bonus points, a lot of it was really funny. That scene where the two spies are debating what to do with the torture and interrogation specialist as he's burning up behind them? Henry Cavill eating a sandwich while Armie Hammer flies around in a speedboat? Priceless.

We took selfies with Mom and Dad -- silly and smiling both.

Negative: We were out so late we had no time to do the dishes.

Positive: Mom and Dad will be driving us to school tomorrow as a ceremonial farewell before leaving entirely. This means I get to wake up an hour later than usual.
grimrose_eilwynn: (Default)
Thought this was an interesting article:

http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/10/health/how-doctors-want-to-die/

It claims that most doctors, when they die, they don't die in a hospital undergoing aggressive treatment. Instead, they die peacefully at home.

This is definitely something I'd want for myself. Say I got cancer. Sure, I'd try to treat it at first. But if things seemed pretty terminal, and I wasn't going to make it, I'd stop undergoing treatment options. I would just let myself die, peaceful and feeling good, at home. I wouldn't want lots of pain that might prolong my life, and I wouldn't want to be kept alive by machines. And if I found out I was dying, I'd like to do some cool things before I went -- maybe go skydiving or take a trip to Europe. I'd like to see the world before I was gone.

I am not terribly afraid of death. Obviously, the idea makes me nervous, but it's the kind of nervous I felt before going onstage at my first choir concert. It's just a process. It's dying that's painful, death is inherently not. Death is peaceful.

And when I do die, I'd like my organs to stay in my body and I'd like to be cremated. Don't cut me open, don't let me rot in the ground. Just let me go quietly in a hail of fire. I'd like my ashes transferred to a little urn and I'd like to go on cool and interesting trips with beloved family members.

As for funerals, I don't have much use for them, to be honest. They make me uncomfortable. If I die, I'd like people to throw me a death party. With lots of music and dancing. Maybe a standup comedian. I'd like people to be happy and celebrate -- not be all gloomy and try to put out a bunch of false words about how great I was.
grimrose_eilwynn: (Default)
Sleep is one of the most important things a mentally ill person can have. It's critical to keeping healthy and feeling better. But there are strict rules -- it is ideal to sleep eight or nine hours a day. No more, no less.

The problem is, for mentally ill people sleeping can often be a struggle. Especially if you're bipolar, both mania and depression can trigger insomnia. (Mania creates excitement and energy that makes it hard to get to sleep, depression can make it hard to sleep just because you're so damned miserable all the time.) Then, especially if you're depressed and lack energy, or if you've stayed up all night, you can have trouble waking up again.

With that said, here are some tips I've found for getting to sleep and waking up:

- Meditation. This is one of the most vital tips. I meditate every night before bed. I switch what I listen to from night to night. Sometimes I listen to ASMR videos, other times I listen to guided meditation podcasts, self hypnosis sessions, or visual relaxation audios (which describe a beautiful place to you in a soothing voice and ask you to imagine yourself there). Basically, I just need something to listen to in order to wind down and help me get to sleep.

- Music. Some people check their Facebook or Twitter right before bed. I try not to do this, because it will only keep me awake. Instead, I listen to the radio. Music is much more relaxing and requires much less thought than an article on Facebook or Twitter. I also have a sound maker that does something similar, playing soothing sounds of waves crashing and seagulls calling to help me sleep. Use sound to your advantage -- it's one of the most powerful psychological forces we have.

- Warm drink. Sometimes I warm up a mug of milk, other times I make myself some non caffeinated herbal tea. This is a little something to look forward to each night before I go to bed, that helps me power down.

- Bath. I always take baths and showers at night, instead of during the day. It helps me wind down, feel nice and clean again, and get into "sleep mode."

- I take medications at night that make me sleepy. This is vital. I used to have major problems with insomnia, so I talked to my psychiatrist about them. Now I take a nightly medication that suppresses delusions and hallucinations, but also helps me relax and feel sleepy. And if you do have a medication like this, and you're taking it during the morning instead, why are you making this so hard on yourself? Just take it every twenty-four hours at night instead. Use the sleepiness to your advantage.

- I know when I feel tired, and I don't try to push myself. The average person feels tired at about ten or eleven o'clock at night, even if they don't realize it. Take the time to listen to your body. Don't start reading a bunch of articles or embark on some major project. Listen to some music, watch some TV (that is not the news), and then go to bed.

- When you want to wake up the next morning, set your alarm for a time before you actually want to get up. This will give you some time to wake up and force your way out of bed. And when you finally do, voila! It'll be at the time you wanted to wake up anyway.

- Have something to wake up for. This is important, too. Especially if you're depressed, schedule something to wake up and look forward to each morning. For me, it's having a cup of coffee and going for my morning walk. If you have nothing to do, you'll probably just stay in bed all day.

These are just some sleep hygiene tips I've found. I'll let you know if I come upon any more. Stay healthy!
grimrose_eilwynn: (Default)
I have not had an episode in over a year. So I'm sharing something with you today. These are the things I do to keep from swinging into episodes:

- I take my meds.

I cannot emphasize this enough. I TAKE MY MEDS. I went through a lot of different medication regimens before I found one that worked for me. Relentlessly, every single time I felt an unacceptable side effect, I informed my psychiatrist at once. In this way, I weeded out the unlikelies and finally found a medication regimen I could accept taking every single day. And I do. I have an exact time to take my meds that I've worked into my schedule each day; I even have an alarm on my phone to remind me to take my meds every night.

- I've become very self aware.

Funny thing. I think you'll find, if you really try to keep track of how you're feeling each day, usually the answer is "I don't know how I'm feeling." Unless you're in some extreme state, like exhaustion, usually you really won't know how you're feeling. You're in "neutral." But what bipolar people have to do is tease apart their feelings even when they're in "neutral." The minute moodiness hits, they have to take steps to minimize it: through medication changes and self management techniques. The minute I start to feel depressed or anxious, I do something about it.

- I have a great support system.

I let my family read about my disorder, and inform them every time I start to feel high or low. They try to talk me through it, and advise me on things like medication changes and self management techniques. I also know that if I get really bad, they'll be there to help me, and that can be very comforting.

- I do self management techniques.

I've been through lots of different kinds of therapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy. I have gotten many techniques from this to be used at my disposal. I know how to stop, analyze, and then distract any stray depressive thoughts. I know how to relax after a lot of stress or depression. I know what to do and what not to do to make myself feel better. I understand that I have to do things like stay away from drugs and alcohol, and I need to get plenty of sleep. Self management techniques can be incredibly invaluable.

- I know how well I've done, and I never let bipolar disorder hold me back from doing what I want.

I've accepted my illness. (That alone is critical.) But no away am I letting it get me down! I'm still going to get my bachelor's degree, I'm still going to get a job. I can still fall in love, travel, and do all the things I would otherwise do. And every so often, I congratulate myself on how far I've gotten already. I try to concentrate on the good things instead of the bad.

- I don't sweat the small stuff.

I try not to let little, everyday stress get the best of me. An argument. A bunch of phone calls and emails. I try to remain calm in all situations, and I make sure to have good things scheduled into my day along with the bad. Life isn't perfect and we shouldn't expect it to be. But it's up to us to make it as good as we possibly can.
grimrose_eilwynn: (Default)
My aunt, who has the same disorder I have, was feeling pretty low and depressed. So my sister and I went over to her house to keep her company, cheer her up, and make her feel better.

We walked in the house and immediately the dogs descended upon us. They have a really fat miniature dachshund, and a corgi named Angus who likes to play fetch. I threw the ball for him for a few minutes. Angus was so funny. He always toddled over, all proud of himself, each time he brought the ball back.

They also have a Beta fish in a fish tank. Beta fish originate from Japan; they can survive unusually long without water, because their ancestors used to jump between the rice paddies to find water.

They have a pool, so we decided to go swimming. We all slathered on sunscreen, put on bathing suits, and headed on out. I was wearing my favorite swimsuit, a cute little backless one-piece, pink with a blue bird pattern.

We got in the pool and put on some music. (By the Killers, I think.) Anxiety chose that moment to strike. It always comes at the most inconvenient times; last time, it was at the mall. Anxiety is one of those wonderful little gifts I get for being a woman, ranking right up there along with Menstruation and Under-eating on my list of Favorite Things About Being A Girl.

I started getting scared I'd drown. The fear was completely irrational; I've swum in the ocean and across river rapids. I could make it across a pool. But anxiety follows no logic but its own.

My aunt talked me through it. Once I was feeling a little better, I tried doing simple things: making it up and down across the shallow end, doing a few laps around the pool by clinging to the edge and going hand over hand, relaxing in a floaty toy.

After the pool, we all took showers, with mango scented shampoo. Our auntie baked cookies and made coffee; we had snacks and watched an X Men movie and read comics.

Eventually, I got a little tired of being in an unfamiliar environment. That can be pretty nerve wracking for someone with my disorder. So instead of hiding in the dark back room and playing The Weirdo, I said I was a little tired and asked to go home.

On the plus side, our aunt seemed much happier after our visit. Sometimes I think it's just nice to know that somebody cares.

Sunburn

Jul. 12th, 2015 07:31 pm
grimrose_eilwynn: (Default)
I walked about three miles today, just for the exercise, not including the walk I took to get lunch at Wendy's. You couldn't keep me inside. I was out, exercising vigorously and enjoying the sunshine. I walked so fast my shoelaces kept coming untied.

Unfortunately, I forgot I was wearing an open-necked shirt today. So now I have a sunburn on my chest. Oops?

On the plus side, I took some great pictures of the beautiful blooming rosebushes and pomegranate tree in front of my house! And that more than makes up for any itching or pain. :)

Exercise is a great tonic for any depression or anxiety. Getting out and moving around is good for the Brainstuff Chemicals. Additionally, I use lavender body wash and perfume, which is also very relaxing. So a good idea would be to take a walk and then a lavender bath.
grimrose_eilwynn: (Default)
I thought I'd share this photo series:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/07/06/christian-hopkins-depression-photography_n_7714426.html

It's one woman's effort to show through art what depression is like. She's a photographer and she uses these photographs as a form of catharsis and a way of communicating her feelings. The article points out that many people have no idea what clinical depression is like, so this could be good even for people who aren't depressed.

I was inspired by her to talk a little bit about depression myself.

Depression is not sadness, sadness is not depression, they are not the same thing. Depression is a kind of numbness. It's a creeping feeling of overwhelmed exhaustion, even when things are going well. Depressed people don't like doing things, don't like talking to or meeting people, and frankly don't really particularly like anything. They feel guilty, often for no reason, and worthless, almost always for no reason. They feel like their life is going horribly and will never get better. Good events are diminished in their mind and bad events are magnified -- it's like living in a surrealist painting. (The same thing happens with delusions -- things that support the delusion are magnified and things that go against it are diminished.)

Depression can be triggered by stressful events, but -- and I can't emphasize this enough -- it can also happen in a perfectly happy person's life.

I would also add that depression is a chemical illness. The person has no control over how they feel, what they think, or even really how they act. Thus, depressed people are not "selfish." Depression is a not a personality trait. It's a disease, like diabetes or the flu, only it happens in the brain. Often, the only reason depressed people stave off suicide for as long as they do is because they don't want to hurt the people around them. For others, depression creates the thought that their loved ones would be better off without them.

I could go on and on, but who wants to hear something morbid like that? Instead, I choose to talk about what I do when I feel down to make myself feel up again. Here's a list of some things to try:

- Take a warm bath.

- Meditate. Mindfulness meditation is particularly useful.

- Have a cup of relaxing chamomile tea.

- Go for a walk, or try some yoga. Do something that gets you out exercising without being overly stressful. Exercise releases relaxing endorphins through the brain.

- Do something very small, like answer an email or make a phone call, that makes you feel productive and like you've achieved something.

- Try going out and having fun with others, even if you don't want to. I usually go to the movies or go swing dancing. You'll feel better after you've forced yourself to get out there and try it.

- Take a break from your usual stressors and watch something you like on Netflix.

- Cry. This may seem counterproductive, but crying as a way of recognizing and releasing our emotions can actually make us feel better. Acknowledge the pain.

- Find a way to express your depression -- write, paint, or music out your feelings. They may become clearer to you afterward.

If the down feeling doesn't go away after these steps:

- Go see your therapist.

- Make an appointment with your psychiatrist.

Things NOT to do when you're depressed:

- Don't change your medications without checking with your psychiatrist.

- Don't drink.

- Don't do drugs.

- Don't try to eat your problems away.

- Don't try to sex your problems away.

- Don't sleep all day -- too much sleep can create depression/make it worse. Mentally ill people are also more prone, in my experience, to experiencing night terrors (hallucinations, sleep paralysis, nightmares) than mentally healthy people.

ABOVE ALL:

- Give yourself a break. You're doing just fine. Sometimes we all need that little reminder.

ASMR

Jul. 7th, 2015 01:42 pm
grimrose_eilwynn: (Default)
I listen to guided meditation and self hypnosis sessions. This is a bit like that. It's very relaxing and helps me fall asleep.

The whole point of this YouTube channel is to help the person listening achieve ASMR. ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. It is a state in which a person receives soothing sensory stimuli, and then feels tingling in their head, scalp, or back in response. ASMR is definitely a thing some people experience, but there's not really any science behind it -- no one knows how or why it happens.

I've been experiencing ASMR all my life. Story time was my favorite when I was a little kid, because listening to people tell stories made my head feel all tingly. Years later, I was on Twitter and I saw someone talking about ASMR. I was like, "What the hell is this?" So I looked it up... and discovered a treasure trove of tingly goodness. I had no idea this was a thing! I had no idea I could get this feeling whenever I wanted it!

I get ASMR from listening to guided meditations, from listening to self hypnosis sessions... and also from listening to videos like this. When people say they put you in a "trance", what they mean is that they're helping you experience ASMR. Not everyone can achieve ASMR -- any good hypnotist will tell you that. But even if you can't achieve ASMR, listening to soft soothing voices take you to an inner world can still be very beneficial for lowering blood pressure and inducing sleepiness.

This may all sound like a bunch of bull, but I encourage you to try it. I find that sessions like these are great for relaxation -- even if you can't explain why, they just feel good.



PS: If you're looking for guided meditation and self hypnosis podcasts, some people to try are Nigel Hetherington, Tracks to Relax, and Lita Stone.

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Hopeless Dreamer

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