2017 is done.
I’m sitting here pondering as I tend to in January the viability of my blogging life. I have long struggled with how honest to be about myself and the emptiness of this site speaks volumes to how little I’ve decided.
I’m a podcaster now, so there’s no shortage of me expressing myself available online. I am proud of the work we’re done on The NerdBliss Podcast. Keeping it up for 40 episodes is no small accomplishment. Chris, especially, works hard to edit and handle the technical aspects. I just talk into a microphone.
To tell the story of my year is to be honest about how 2017 became the year of working hard on myself. In March, I had a scary episode on the mental health front. A combination of factors lead to a week long run of insomnia. It’s hard to explain, but I didn’t notice the pattern until that Friday. I’d pushed through, getting up for work each day and writing off a bad night’s sleep as somewhat normal. For so many workers, a day off is not allowable without consequences and I thought I could hold on until the weekend.
Friday was bad. I hadn’t slept at all the night before, alternatively reading and meditating all night. I knew from my experience in 2010 where I’d been hospitalized for what they called brief reactive psychosis that my thinking was not normal. By lunchtime, I knew I had to go home. I hadn’t slept, but I was not tired. I was so frightened. Chris came to get me and we went directly to the ER. I fully expected to be admitted for psychiatric care. I feared losing touch with reality and kept talking with the idea that if I became incoherent at least those around me would know my thinking was off and be able to alert doctors. The ER doc took my admission to a low calorie diet and intermittent fasting as more of the cause than I believe it to be. I was sent home after a bag of fluids with recommendation to have a meal and some Tylenol PM. A few hours later, it became clear the Tylenol PM was not turning my brain off. At this point, I panicked. Words cannot express how thankful I am to Chris as well as my best friend Kate for calmly navigating me through this madness. I have described it as being as if the file cabinet of my brain was dumped out and I could only pick up one paper at a time, reading aloud what was on it. In the moment, I feared I was losing touch with reality and perhaps I did. I did not feel real. I insisted on having Chris call Kate on speaker phone so they could corroborate my very existence. Later the question became wither I could go to bed and sleep (which I desperately wanted) or if I had to go to the hospital. All this was filtered through my brain as a flow chart from hell. The details are fuzzy to me because even at the time there was no real logic to what my poor brain was spitting out. I tried to make sense of things and resolve the problem with a right sequence of actions on my part. I do remember when the EMTs showed up, I didn’t view them as real. I went with them willingly and did my best to cooperate. I am nothing if not compliant. It was a surreal game, but I felt safe inside it.
I slept in the ER that night after a dose of Ativan. I remember falling sleep in the bed with the florescent lights on overhead and Chris sitting across from me, trying to nod off in a chair. If I remember correctly, I told him I was okay and to go home to sleep. They did at least one more bag of IV fluids overnight. I woke up still groggy and with the IV in. Chris came while I was eating breakfast, probably more worse for wear than I. It was, I believe, a social worker who untimely came to talk to us and determined I was to be discharged. I didn’t feel like I needed inpatient care, but I was prepared for the possibly if that’s what the professionals recommended. It was a relief to go home even being uncertain about the next steps.
Ultimately, rest, therapy, journaling, a new job, medication (Zoloft, for both the depression and anxiety), and a support group all factor in to the place I am now where I can say “I’m alright.” I have continued my meditation practice, both read and listen to podcasts related to mindfulness, spiritual growth, mental health and trauma recovery. It has been important to open up a bit and share. I have focused on relationship building and vulnerability. I have asked for help and received such generosity from wonderful friends.
Instead of trying so hard to be perfect as a way to cope, I’ve practiced letting go of what I can’t control. Guess what? I can’t control much of anything. Even myself, in many ways. I can only make choices in the moment and those choices are based on a factors beyond my control plus the incomplete information available to me. It doesn’t sound revolutionary, but for me, being my own Atlas and trying to hold up the world was a way of life.
As difficult as it was for Chris to walk through all this with me, for me, it was instructive in proving to me that I’m not alone even at my worst. I’d always been open with him about my experience in 2010, but knowing he’s seen what can happen and knows how to handle it in such a loving and supportive way gives me a feeling of security I didn’t have before. The loving and supportive environment made all the difference in what could have been a traumatic event being helpful.
I walk into 2018 with no grand expectation. I have hesitated over publishing what I’ve written here but ultimately do not wish to have secrets. I have been working on it off and on for about six hours.
I am not ashamed. It is important to me to be viable and speak up about mental health. These problems are such a part of the human condition, not something that sets us apart. I could have cried uncle sooner, taken some time to rest, acknowledged I wasn’t where I needed to be. Sometimes, it’s easier to live like life is an endurance test. It would be hubris to say I’ve learned my lesson. I struggle daily to keep a balance of taking care of myself while managing the business of life.
My hope for myself and those who I care about is that we’ll be kind to ourselves and those around us. If you need to talk, I’m here.