I’m Still Here! Let’s Bitch About American Healthcare!

Hi guys! I’m alive!

I’ve had a few weird moments, definitely a little up and down, but I have not relapsed. I’ve been hiding because I didn’t think I could trust myself going through med changes, but I’m not going to wait around any more. I’ve been nervous thinking the shit is going to hit the fan at any time, but I know that’s no way to live. I need to enjoy the good days and be grateful that I’m doing so well despite all the shit I’ve been through. 

Whew. It’s good to be back.

Now I need a moment to complain about the American healthcare system. While dealing with my mental health issues, I have also been dealing with physical issues. I’ve had knee pain for months. Some days are better than others, but it always hurts. 

After a few doctor’s appointments, I was referred to physical therapy even though we really didn’t know what was wrong. My health insurance made me go through several weeks of physical therapy before they would pay for an MRI. It was really painful. 

Three weeks ago I finally got the MRI and there are several things wrong with my knee including a meniscus tear. It felt like physical therapy made my problems worse and I was really angry that I had to jump through hoops just to get an MRI – to finally get answers. It just all felt unnecessary. Had my insurance covered an MRI earlier, I could have been feeling better by now. 

I have an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon on the 26th.

Dealing with insurance companies is absolute shit, and it’s not just my insurance company, my doctor said any insurance company would have made me go through the same thing. 

Are you up for a bitch fest? Tell me your American healthcare horror stories. I’m injured, I’m broke, I’m running out of patience, and I know I’m not alone. 

Medication Changes: A Rock and a Hard Place

I need to write this post while I’m still feeling good and have my wits about me.

I have schizoaffective disorder, and last summer, lithium, a medication that I had taken for nearly seventeen years, may have caused or contributed to kidney failure. I’m okay, but I had to stop taking the medication. When I quit taking lithium, I had a horrible relapse and it took me quite a while to recover.

My doctor put me on a new medication to replace the lithium. I have only been on it for about six months but I recently learned that it might be negatively affecting my liver enzymes, and now I have to stop taking this medication as well. I am currently weaning off of it.

If I relapse again, my husband and I feel a little more prepared this time, and thankfully I have a very understanding employer. I just wanted to let you all know what’s going on in case I disappear for a while or say something weird.

My blog is very important to me and I will post when I can. Medication changes can be really difficult when you have a mental illness. I just have to remind myself that this is temporary.

Sensory Overload: Why is the world so loud? (plus some fun news)

Thanksgiving was hard. I meditated and tried to get my head in a good place before leaving to go see family, but once we arrived I found it very difficult to be around a larger group of people. The noise and overlapping conversations were so overwhelming that my anxiety shot through the roof. My hands were shaking so badly that food was falling off my fork. When I finally finished eating I retreated to another, quieter room fighting back tears. It was rough but I don’t think anyone noticed. 

As I’ve mentioned before I get overwhelmed pretty easily. I do have ways to cope with it – usually with meditation or by taking a break from the situation – but I felt this instance was particularly difficult. Maybe it was because it was the first time I was around a large group of people since my relapse and starting a new medication.

I’ve always been sensitive to noise. I don’t know why but my coworkers are really loud. When we have all-staff meetings or get-togethers it becomes very boisterous and I find myself in the same situation I was in at Thanksgiving – overwhelmed and fighting back tears.

Does anyone else feel this way? Why does everyone have to be so loud?

This has prompted me to try a new way to cope. I ordered a pair of earplugs that buffer sound instead of blocking it out. I want to find a way to not be overwhelmed while also not completely disengaging. I think in certain situations they might be helpful although I am a little worried about offending people. Maybe with my messy, curly hair, no one will notice that I’m wearing them.

Does anyone have any other suggestions? Do you deal with any sensory sensitivity? How do you cope?

Now my fun news: I found a local shop to sell my artwork. I am taking my flower paintings there after the holidays when they decorate their showroom for spring. I’m really excited about it! It’s always nerve-racking to put yourself out there but at the same time, I’m proud of my work. I’m trying not to get my hopes up but a little extra money would be nice. 

Fellow artists, tell me what you’re up to!

Would you rather feel happy or feel deeply?

It’s easy for me to write this post right now because, at the moment, I feel pretty good. 

Would you rather feel happy or feel deeply? Is one more important than the other?

Happy would be the easy choice, but at times, wouldn’t you want to experience all life has to offer? Good, bad, and painful?

Would intensity matter? Like happiness just wouldn’t be as happy if you didn’t also feel darkness and despair sometimes?

I often get a sort of “high” at work. I love my job. Many days I feel truly happy there and I don’t want that feeling to end. It’s a very welcome feeling in my life right now since I’ve struggled so much in the past few months. During my recent relapse, I even wondered if I would ever work again, but here I am, truly enjoying my job. It’s so wonderful.

What would it be like to have that feeling all the time?

My husband is usually a very calm person, but boy, does he get fired up about politics. I absolutely love that compassionate, do good-er side of him that wants to make the world a better place. What would it be like to never get fired up? Doesn’t it give us a purpose? What if there was nothing to get fired up about?

It’s probably pretty obvious that I feel deeply and tend to be a more complicated person. On my worst days, I yearn for a simpler life, although I’m sure many people can relate to that feeling. Do you ever feel that way?

Most days I would rather feel deeply, although some days I would choose happy because some days are so painful you just want relief. I wonder why I would ever want to feel such pain. 

Are you happy? Do you feel deeply? Is one more important than the other? Is it necessary to feel deeply to truly feel happy? Is it important to have something to get “fired up” about? Do you think about these things or do I just need more to do?

Detachment: Anger vs. Empathy

I have some big questions on my mind.

How do you move past anger when someone has mistreated you? When you realize the people who hurt you are hurting themselves how do you let the anger go and show empathy?

How do you detach yourself from unhealthy situations? I discovered that distance from unhealthy people in my life has done my recovery wonders, but it hasn’t erased the anger – even though I realize the people who mistreated me need help themselves. 

It has been so important for me to focus on my own mental health to be able to be a good mom and help others. I feel detachment and distance are necessary not to derail that crucial self-care. 

But at the same time, how do you encourage others to focus on self-care? I still care about the people who wronged me. I wouldn’t be so angry if I didn’t care, but I wish I could just move on. 

Sometimes my anger tells me I want revenge, but really I just want relief.

I know this is kind of vague, but can you relate? Can you show anger and empathy at the same time? Is detachment necessary or just avoiding the problem? Is a resolution always needed to move on?

(Also, I am currently in therapy to address these and other issues. Even though my blog is an excellent outlet for me, I really recommend therapy for anyone. It really helps to have a sounding board, learn coping techniques, and get an objective viewpoint. If you are considering it, do it.)

Do you have vivid dreams? Do you remember them?

For the past few weeks, I have been having very vivid dreams – several a night even. I wake up in between dreams. It’s leaving me a little disoriented in the morning and gives me an unsettling feeling when I think about it during the day. 

I assume this is due to recent med changes. This isn’t the first time psychotropic medications have disturbed my sleep and dreams. Side effects like this make me feel like my medications are mysterious. I mean really, how do they do that?

My emotions in my dreams are so strong. I often dream of dead relatives. Sometimes I dream about things I really want to say to people – my anger tends to break through sometimes. Other dreams are just random and strange. Sometimes I wake up confused. Did that really happen? Was it really a dream?

I have had mental health issues and med changes that have caused nightmares before. Thankfully, my recent experiences aren’t like that. 

My husband is encouraging me to write my dreams down. I used to keep a dream journal to use as inspiration, but I don’t like the way these dreams are making me feel. Plus sometimes I don’t remember the details. I’m just left with the unsettling feeling of knowing I had a weird dream.

Have you ever experienced this? Do you have vivid dreams? Do you remember your dreams? What are they like?

I’m getting ready for bed at the moment and I’m a little nervous to lie down. 

Good night, FtB. Wish me luck.

What do you do when you feel overwhelmed?

Yesterday was supposed to be a pretty busy day for me – work, a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon, a playdate with my daughter and her best friend, and finally a writing workshop later at night. 

But I just crumbled. I ended up spending most of the day at home.

I have always been easily overwhelmed. I don’t know if my mental illness is to blame, or maybe it’s just my temperament, but you can see how it gets in the way of my life.

I try my best to stay organized, thinking it will ease my worries. I carry an old-school planner everywhere I go and write everything down. For some reason, things feel more concrete and official to me if I write them down instead of putting them on my phone. Also, it feels pretty good to write a little checkmark next to the tasks as you complete them, but on the other hand, it feels pretty shitty to look at a packed and cluttered planner knowing you didn’t do anything all day. 

Why does it feel like ambition and anxiety go hand-in-hand? There’s so much I want to do but sometimes it’s pretty clear that I can’t handle it all. Even what some would consider a “normal day” can be too much. 

To be honest, it’s easy to place blame on my mental illness. But whether you have a diagnosis or not, you have to work with what you’ve got, and oh, how I wish I could turn a broken brain into a superpower. I’ve always been ambitious, and I don’t want to just get by or pass for “normal”. I want to stand out but in a good way. How do I harness this nervous energy for good?

When I actually get through a day completing all of my tasks, it’s a huge confidence booster. I still don’t feel 100 percent since my relapse – I’m still sometimes up and down – but I don’t always know when to give myself gentleness and grace or a kick in the butt.

What do you do when you feel overwhelmed? Do you sometimes shut down like me? What do you do to get your motivation back?

Do you genuinely connect with others?

Anxiety has been a constant undercurrent my whole life and I’ve always found social interaction exhausting. It really doesn’t matter how many people I’m around; I’m most likely going to be the queen of awkwardness. I’m a bit of a loner but I’m okay with that. 

However, sometimes I crave deeper, meaningful conversations, but my husband is the only person I feel really comfortable talking to. Sometimes my blog satisfies my craving, but it’s different to connect with someone face-to-face.

I really don’t know if it’s just my personality or if my mental illness is to blame for the way I feel about interacting with others. I don’t think the way I feel is wrong, I just think life would be a little easier and more enjoyable if I was able to really connect with others.

I’m sure I’ve said it here before, but I have the best job in the world. I facilitate art and writing groups for people in recovery from mental illness and/or addiction. Last week I had a group where only one person was able to attend, but that’s okay. It doesn’t matter if it’s one person or twenty, I love making art and I’m going to proceed with our projects.

The one person who came is a participant who comes to almost every group. They have a very positive attitude and a gift of being uplifting and encouraging to others. It was a writing group, but we wrote very little. We just sat and talked and it was the best conversation I’ve had in a very long time. It was just them and me and I was able to really let my guard down. 

It felt very special and meaningful to me. I wish I could connect with others like that on a more regular basis. 

Can anyone relate? Are you a loner or a people person? Do you genuinely connect with others or does anxiety get in the way? Do you have your guard up? Have often are you able to have meaningful conversations with the people in your life? Do you crave it?

Thoughts on Fear

What makes something truly frightening?

Last night I was really scared. This post isn’t just for Halloween, but considering it happened last night it seemed fitting.

I have shared with you some of the strange beliefs I had when I was younger and struggling with psychosis. Sometimes I was just afraid of the dark and had to have every light in the house on. Other times it was a little more bizarre such as thinking the vacuum cleaner angered my hallucinations or that a man stood next to the piano as I practiced for my lessons. 

(If you are new to my blog, I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder in my 20s and have been on medication for nearly twenty years now. Psychotic symptoms have not impacted my life for a very long time.)

One belief I had was that ghosts would become active in my house at 3:48am, so I always had to be asleep by then. (Again, this was a very long time ago.)

Fast forward to last night. I have a habit of waking up once or twice at night to get a drink of water and use the bathroom. Well, last night I woke up at 3:38am thirsty and panicked. I was awake and it was almost that time. It was like the last twenty years of recovery never happened.

After a few seconds, I realized I was half-asleep but safe. However, a few doubts tend to linger after experiences like this so after getting a drink of water and using the bathroom, I went back to bed, covered my head with the blanket leaving a small hole to breathe, and tried to get back to sleep as fast as possible. You know, just in case. 

Obviously, I was fine in the morning but that fear hit me like a ton of bricks. I was really scared. 

I had this fear based on past experiences. Psychosis was frightening and confusing. I spent every day thinking my hallucinations were real.

So what makes something scary? Is it uncertainty? Is it the possibility that it could be real?

I’m sure fear is very personal, but what makes people scared? I always seem to be a little confused at Halloween as to why people want to be scared. How does that somehow become fun?

Last night surprised me because in the last few years, I’ve developed a fascination with the paranormal despite my experiences years ago. 

But Halloween doesn’t feel like a fascination. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of fun dressing up and trick-or-treating with my daughter, but I just don’t understand wanting to be scared. Scary movies fall into this category as well.


What do you think? Do you like scary things? Explain it to me.

Do you harden with age?

I know I’ve asked a similar question before, but this is weighing on my mind.

I’m not saying I’m a good person or bad person; like everyone else, I am both. I think my worst quality is that I’m a very anxious person and oftentimes my anxiety manifests as anger. I am aware of it and I try so hard to control it, but it just comes out – especially in the grocery store or other crowded spaces.

But I think my best quality is that I’m empathetic. I’m an intense person and feel very deeply, and that often helps me connect with others. It’s a good attribute to have as an artist and writer.

One thing I’ve really noticed is how I’ve changed from a very positive, upbeat person to someone a little more negative. I’ve been hurt in the past making me more than cautious.

Was it just the naivety of youth that made me upbeat? Does the world harden you as you age? How do I return to the positive person I once was? Is that even possible? I don’t have a time machine and it’s impossible to erase trauma and negative experiences. It really does add up.

Still, even though I am asking these questions, lately I’ve considered myself more optimistic than pessimistic. I’ve been through a lot of shit recently, but I am hanging on because I truly believe things can get better.

Is anyone else asking these questions? How have you changed with age? I would love to hear your best and worst qualities.