Social media, work, and being reachable online all the time

I deactivated my Facebook again, then reactivated and deactivated again. It’s not that I hate everything about social media, but some days I just don’t want anyone to contact me and I don’t want to know what other people are thinking or doing. I think I just miss the times in the past when you could turn it all off. If you came home from school, work, or a friend’s house, then you were able to move on and focus on other things. These days, I’m trying to do my work and Chrome is displaying Facebook notifications. Yes, I figured out how to turn that off, but it’s only a small part of the problem.

Here is the problem, essentially: I don’t want to be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I don’t want people to send me private messages and then get mad when I don’t respond right away. Sometimes, I don’t want to know every single though passing through everyone’s mind. I often wish I could just move to a cave in the woods for a while and experience something like peace and quiet and being left alone.

My work doesn’t help much, either because I’m a freelancer. I am constantly either working, or looking for more work, checking to see if anyone’s contacted me about work, etc. If I wake up in the middle of the night with a dry mouth, I check for work before getting a glass of water. I seem unable to get away from it. I often don’t leave the house because that could mean missing out on possible work.

I’ve been so stressed out that I’m once again having trouble doing things like opening my mail and making necessary phone calls, such as for doctor appointments. I could go back into therapy, but I am too pessimistic to do so. I don’t have any energy. I feel like if I go back, that’s just one more thing I will need to make time for, and that it will likely result in just going around in circles for years like it did last time. For now, I just want to take a break from communicating with people at all.

Why I made this blog

Over the years, I have read a lot of bipolar disorder (and other mental illness) related websites and blogs. I related to bits and pieces of them. What struck me was that a lot of them talked so much about health and wellness and living in harmony with their mental illnesses. That’s all well and good and I am not disrespecting them, but where were the ones who were not well, who were not living in harmony with anything at all? My guess is that they weren’t blogging much.

I have discussed this before, but I have been in and out of therapy for the past 25 years. I have tried dozens of medications. Nothing helped. Everything cost a lot of money. At great length I decided if I can’t find medications that make me feel better, and if therapy has not helped, then I will have to find a way to live with not feeling good, and in some sense, embrace the idea of not being well.

That’s why I am here, I think. I largely left Facebook because I couldn’t relate to anything on Facebook, not even in the mental illness-related groups. A lot of them seemed very anti-psychiatry, and I am not. I choose not to be on meds anymore, and I choose not to see therapists for the time being, but I am not against any of those things and I think people should try things that might help them. The rest of Facebook seems filled with positive-thinking memes and I’ve also discussed why I dislike those. Happiness is not a choice, and may not be attainable for everyone. Additionally, I think/hope there are things in life other than happiness to strive for.

But mainly, this is a place where I can say whatever I want. If you are reading this, it means you are on my turf and I don’t have to apologize for saying anything disturbing. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to read it. I always felt that everything I posted on Facebook was probably considered distasteful by 90% of the people reading it and I find Facebook to be, on the whole, a very unwelcoming and ugly place.

Another big reason I dislike Facebook is I feel it encourages you to post and repost garbage rather than anything with any sort of content, and it encourages people to press “like” rather than participate in any kind of discussion. I’d rather be here talking to myself than promote that sort of thing.

On the other hand, I liked livejournal a lot when people still used it (which is to say, before Facebook became popular). It had the lj-cut option for longer posts, you could add images and links in the things you wrote, and so on. I think that’s because it encouraged people to think about what they wrote, rather than posting nonsense every five minutes. I’m not saying I’m not guilty of that, too, but leaving Facebook would largely solve that problem. If I’m going to post here, it’s going to be in complete sentences and paragraphs, in any case.

All in the brain?

This article criticizes a TV program on mental illness hosted by Stephen Fry for making mental illness seem too physical, too brain-based, too much talk of “chemical imbalances.” It suggests, and rightly so, that many people are influenced by circumstances and trauma. Certainly, circumstances play a role or you wouldn’t have things like PTSD or situational depression.

What I found interesting here, though, was the idea that emphasizing the idea of a chemical imbalance somehow does a disservice to people with mental illnesses. I’m not sure I’ve heard that particular point of view before.

Additionally, I don’t see where he’s coming from by claiming that, just because people mention chemical imbalance, this somehow means conditions occur “out of the blue.” He then mentions genetic vulnerability, which seems likely since conditions often seem to run in families. But that still doesn’t mean they occur out of nowhere or have nothing to do with circumstances.

And again, I can’t comment on the television program because I haven’t seen it. If it shows up on YouTube or streaming services, I may try to watch it at some point in the future, though.

What I mostly found interesting was this fellow’s extreme emphasis on circumstances (“misfortunes,” as he puts it). While I don’t deny they can play a role, it goes against my own experience, I think. I feel like mental illnesses have largely caused my misfortunes in life, rather than misfortunes bringing on mental illnesses.

I also find it a bit baffling that someone would say that emphasizing the role that neurochemistry plays in mental illness would be doing a disservice to people with mental illnesses. I’ve used the diabetes comparison myself (namely, you wouldn’t tell a diabetic to just “be strong” and “deal with it;” you’d realize they have a problem with their pancreas producing insulin and require medication/insulin injections to remain healthy). Likewise, if a person is clinically depressed, it’s possible that no amount of “being strong” or “thinking positive thoughts” is going to fix it if it is a condition in their brain.

Patients’ dissatisfaction with an exclusively medical approach is well founded, because research has shown that this approach has been extraordinarily unsuccessful, despite what clinicians often assert.

I also can’t comment on the state of psychiatric care in Britain since I live in the US, but the quote above sounds like the way people (usually people with no history of mental illness) complain about psychiatric medications being over-prescribed. I’m sure that’s a legitimate problem in some cases, but people seem to extend this idea so far that they think no one is helped by medication, and that becomes a problem.

I saw something elsewhere today talking about how it’s “too easy” to get antidepressants. In the US, anyway, there are 2 problems with this: (1) when a person sees a doctor, they expect them to try to fix the problem, not send them to long-term therapy or to other specialists, except in extreme cases, and (2) some people can’t afford that long-term therapy or more specialists. That doctor appointment may be their only hope of doing anything about the problems they are having, at least in the immediate future. They want to feel like their doctors are doing something for them. It would be great if everyone had more time to spend with medical and mental health professionals for these discussions, but I don’t see it happening in the near future.

The more that ordinary people think of mental illness as a genetically-determined brain condition, and the less they recognise it to be a reaction to misfortune, the more they shun mental health patients.

I just find this bizarre. Why would something having a biological basis contribute to stigma? He even says earlier in the article that it’s a “predisposition,” which means the person isn’t “broken,” they are just predisposed to either having something go wrong with their mental health, or reacting badly to circumstances. But not all mental illness is a “reaction to misfortune,” that is just absurd. I may not be a professor of psychology like the author here, but from my own experience, I don’t feel like my mental illnesses are a “reaction to misfortune.” I feel like my mental illnesses, which I may well have been predisposed to genetically, have caused me misfortune.

Discussion of mental health problems

Regarding the content of this article: http://ideas.ted.com/how-should-we-talk-about-mental-health/:

I’ve been saying that about crime for a long time. While it’s true that some of the mass shootings have been done by people diagnosed with mental illness, the media seems to portray it as if any mentally ill person is going to shoot up the nearest school or theater if you give them enough time. Most people with mental illnesses are never going to go on a shooting rampage, but that doesn’t make a good headline so that is completely ignored. It’s no wonder people don’t want to talk about mental illness if people think that makes them dangerous and violent.

However, I completely disagree with the avoiding words like “crazy” and “psycho.” As with any word, it depends on usage. I agree with the Ruby Wax quote in the article. What matters is the idea being conveyed, not so much the words you use to convey it. If you’re belittling a person for being mentally ill, it doesn’t matter if you use the phrase “mentally ill” or “crazy;” what matters is that you’re being an asshole.

I’ve encountered a lot of people who refuse any sort of help with mental illness because it’s regarded more as a personal failing than a medical issue, and people should just “suck it up” and deal with it. It is not considered the same at all. If you have high blood pressure, you’re not considered a weak person for taking HBP medication; you’re considered to be a person taking care of their health. Not so with mental illnesses; if you take medications you’re considered to be “running away from your problems” or thinking that “popping pills can fix everything.” If you’re less depressed on your anti-depressants, then your happiness is false and not valid, also.

When I was young, my parents never told anyone that I was seeing therapists, had been hospitalized for mental illness, or was taking psychiatric medication because of the stigma. My mom even shushed me once as an adult because I said I’d been to the therapist earlier that day before going out for dinner with relatives. Apparently seeing a therapist is something so shameful you don’t talk about it. You’re supposed to lie and say you were seeing the optometrist or something. It is regarded as a personal failure and not a “real” health problem.

And this is why I think people need to talk about it more. The more people are exposed to the idea that “crazy people” aren’t necessarily going to kill them, the less stigma there will be. Another thing I’ve encountered with bipolar disorder is that people seem to say it’s somehow wrong for me to show emotions because they are used to me being in a depressed state, where I am very stoic and Vulcan-like, and they seem to try to discourage me from talking at all because this apparently makes them uncomfortable or clashes with their idea of what kind of a person I am. But again, that’s why I turn to blogging: it’s a monologue. I am able to express myself as long as there isn’t anyone else around to act like I’m making them uncomfortable or like they just wish I would shut up. I am not good at talking to people face to face.

On motivational quotes and mental illnesses

control1
While there is nothing inherently wrong with attempting to be positive, I do have a big problem with the way a lot of “motivational” images seem to imply that all you need to do is think positive thoughts and your life will be hunky-dory. Maybe it could help someone who is simply having a bad day to focus on being grateful for things or think happy thoughts, but it becomes a problem when you figure in mental illness. It seems to be blaming people for things like depression or anxiety. My mom used to be this way about my anxiety, she acted like my panic attacks were some kind of attention-seeking behavior and I should just chill and snap out of it. You can’t just “snap out of” mental illnesses though, and having a crappy day isn’t the same as being clinically depressed. So when I see things telling me to “focus on the positive” and that I am only as happy as I allow myself to be, sometimes I get irritated.
nature
The same goes for the ones saying pets and nature are better than any therapist. I don’t dispute that spending time with animals or outdoors can be great and even therapeutic; but I do dispute the implication that these things are a replacement for therapy or better than therapy. No reason you can’t have both, but some people are helped by therapy, and talking to your dog is not quite the same as talking to a licensed professional in the mental health field. It minimizes the struggles of the mentally ill and says they’d be ok if they just took their dogs for more walks in the woods. While I can understand the idea that many people are stressed out from their jobs and perhaps being stuck indoors a lot, not all problems are solved by a little sunshine and fresh air.

On a semi-related note, I also dislike seeing the ones saying all you need is love and companionship, or that those things are the only things that matter in life. I sure hope those aren’t the only things that matter in life, or nothing much matters in my life, because I seem to be unable to form close relationships with people as a result of my mental illnesses. I’m not denying that many people have reason to enjoy these memes saying love is what matters in life; I’m just saying that these ideas make me feel very alienated.

rupaul

Additionally, as much as adore RuPaul, I also feel alienated when she closes her shows saying “if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?” Maybe the answer really is, “you’re not,” but it isn’t very motivational for those of us who don’t have relationships and have trouble loving ourselves. I’m not saying people should be expected to never say or post something like this or the other love-related ones, I am just stating how I feel when I look at them.

The idea of applying for disability

I think another main reason I quit therapy is because my therapist kept telling me I should reapply for disability. Again, no offense to those on it, but I feel like the hope which I cling to that I might someday pay off my student loans and own things and so on is what gets me out of bed in the morning. It is gives me hope of a sense of self-worth. If I gave that up I don’t know if I could get out of bed in the morning. I don’t know what I would look forward to in life. And I’d already said to him a million times I didn’t really want to reapply, but he kept bringing it up. And I’m sure he meant well, I just mean that every time it was brought up I felt defensive and like my entire existence was being pulled out from under my feet. The urgent need to make money is my driving force in life.

Character Armor

hat’s exactly why I was unable to talk to my therapist at all. I have extreme difficulty saying anything of an emotional nature to anyone, especially concerning myself. So I was literally unable to discuss any issues bothering me with my therapist because I thought that “self pity” didn’t match my manufactured macho image of myself that has no feelings and laughs at death, and so on.

And then also because people tell me it’s unlike me to feel self pity, then I feel even worse if I have anything resembling an emotion because apparently I am not allowed to; it doesn’t fit my image. So then I clam up and become the most fucked up, sexually repressed, emotionally constipated person I’ve ever encountered, and they’ll be all like “you can talk to me.” No, I fucking cannot. Apparently, I can’t talk to anyone. All I can I do is deny and repress to keep up my image. (The author Sam Keen called this “character armor,” if I recall correctly, and seemed to think it only applied to men.)

What I have concluded is that no one at all even gives a fuck about me or cares whether I live or die.

Everyone ignores me unless I complain or seem unhappy, and then I just get the message everyone wants me to shut the fuck up and not bother them.

Random thoughts on this town and mental illness

I’m still having significant difficulty with eating food. Mostly living on Gatorade. I managed to eat a plum today though. Interested in what will happen when I see my doctor again. I have a dentist appointment next week also, hoping that won’t cost too much because I also need to get a yearly checkup and shots for the dogs. My anxiety is worse than it has been but still manageable. I hate to sound like an anti-psych drug person, but I simply do not want to be on more drugs. I’m already more pharmaceutical than human, last I checked. I have some cheese. i will eat it later. It’s mostly just that the desire to eat is totally absent.

For the past 8 years or so, I had an incredible fear that, if I ever were to *not* be in a depressive episode again, that is, if I were to either be manic or in some vaguely normal state, that everything I ever refused to deal with would sort of hit me over the head at once. All sorts of denial, repression, and just refusal to think about shit, and that all of this would sort of incapacitate me in some way. I feel like I’ve failed as a human being. But as it is, it sorts of trickles into my consciousness slowly, here and there. Life still seems nightmarish but in a very different way. I sort of went from a tendency toward being apathetic and sober to being very energetic and volatile and that clashes so much with my self-image that I still am unable to integrate into human society in any sort of meaningful way that doesn’t seem nightmarish to me. And it’s probably true to an extent that I avoid people because I don’t like seeing happy, well-adjusted people because that hurts me, and I am not exactly sure how to improve my situation. Also, because I take a stupid amount of pride in attempting to be an island and to withdraw from all human contact.

I am not around people I don’t know. I don’t really have any IRL friends left because depression and medications have caused me to stop talking to them/doing stuff with them to the point where they just don’t talk to me anymore.

So I’d say the solution is for me to calm my tits, get a second job and/or work more, and maybe someday I can afford a car and afford to move out of this shithole town.

When I was still in therapy, I sometimes complained about not having emotions, and I’d say that certain things are objectively shitty in my life and I should feel sad. He told me I shouldn’t complain about NOT feeling bad. I still completely fucking disagree. Feeling awful and going to bed crying every night is 100x better than how I was before. It was just complete emptiness and not caring about anything, not caring if I was alive or dead, and that fucking terrified me because it bore absolutely no resemblance to being alive.

Still having trouble sleeping and eating and spend most of my waking hours (and there a lot of them) struggling in one way or another. And because I have this bottle of 151 I started drinking before 8:00 this morning, which I think counts as an ill-advised attempt at self-medication. But as I said, it’s better than before. At least I feel like I’m alive. I’m sure my old self-discipline will come back to me eventually and I’ll level off a bit.

Mostly it just seems like I am in hell. Part of this hell is of my own making, and the rest is due to circumstances beyond my control. And part of it is I was in such a severe depression for 8 years that I accomplished pretty much nothing at all. I don’t see many good things in my future, certainly not in the near future. Also, fuck my life.

Someone assumed I was depressed and I had to tell him I am not; I am most definitely extremely manic. I’m just not in the mildly psychotic euphoric mania state that I was in when this all began. But as I said, bipolar depression can apparently have a lot of differences from regular depression. Personally anyway, when in a legitimate depressed state, I do not and cannot feel sad, I do not cry, etc.; I’m just very apathetic and rather grim. In a dysphoric manic state (which, so far as I can recall, is the state in which I’ve lived most of my life) everything just seems rather sad and nightmarish, but in kind of a beautiful way. Also obvious signs I’m still manic: still can barely eat or sleep, still have headphones on 20 hours a day, still making idiotic purchases on ebay, crying myself to sleep for no particular reason, obsessively exercising to get rid of excess energy, racing thoughts, and so on.

I’m extremely resistant to treatment while manic

I’m extremely resistant to treatment and/or any suggestions on ways to regulate myself while manic. I enjoy it too much to want to do anything about it. I am so resistant that I left a message on my therapist’s voicemail saying I was never coming back, lol. Nah, none of the meds have done anything for me except give me a rash and/or diarrhea, talk therapy doesn’t do anything for me because I tend to resist talking about myself while there.

I find it helpful to write about here and elsewhere though. I mean to say, I feel better if I am able to express what’s going on with me and attempt to organize my thoughts. I also feel, even though I don’t think I would benefit much from further therapy at this time, that I have benefited from therapy somewhat in the past, if only in getting diagnoses and being able to research these things further.

Well, I spoke too soon. Stomach is still a bit picky. I went to my grandparents and they gave me a “hard root beer” which is like hard lemonade, but root beer. Then their neighbor came over with chocolate chip cookies and I ate one. Rushed home, spent quite some time in the bathroom feeling like I was dying.

Before that I was in a good mood though, and bouncing around the grandparents’ house cleaning and getting stuff for them.

I did also manage to stop at the dollar store, where I got more Gatorade and Powerade. and a cute little dancing skeleton.

On quitting therapy

I’ve been seeing this therapist for over a year now. If indeed there is anything I would benefit from discussing with him, I have trouble verbalizing those things. I have trouble talking about myself. The avoidance of talking about myself is more pleasant than any potential perceived benefits that may come from talking about myself. So I sometimes wonder if I should just stop seeing him and save the ~$100 or so in copays I pay him a month. On the other hand, I feel like one day I may have a breakthrough and be able to talk about myself in a serious way. I also rely on him somewhat to reassure me that I can more or less “pass” as a human.

[Please, no “you can talk to me”s in response to this. No, I can’t. That was my entire point.]