Thoughts on life, writing, art, and health.
This month has been stressful. While I didn’t have many events going on, my mental health tanked and I struggled a lot with it. Normally, I have a baseline of struggle with managing mental illness, but this month, I was on the edge and needed to stop, sit down with myself, and assess what I was doing. I needed to make sure I knew how to be okay from now on, and that I wouldn’t sink as far down as I did this month.
📚 | Books I Read
I finally finished Dracula (Duke Classics audiobook) and absolutely adored it. Throughout the book, I visualized Bram Stoker’s 1992 film with Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder (amongst other actors), and the final scenes in the book were such a treat to see with that cast in my mind’s eye. I had no idea Dracula was so… tender? The men characters were so loving and kind, and now I understand why vampire stories are like this. I mean, Count Dracula was a piece of shit, but the themes in the book are wonderful. Definitely one of my faves.
I also read Peter Pan (Blackstone Publishing audiobook) and enjoyed it as well, but the racism really got to me. I skipped through a lot of scenes. There’s one part in the book where the narrator lists a whole bunch of adventures that Peter and the Darlings go on, and it sucked to know that the racism with Tiger Lily and the Indians was chosen to be the adventure we hear about. Barrie made the decision to literally call Peter Pan ‘White Father’ and I just 🤮 What a way to ruin a beautifully written children’s story.
I’ve also continued to read Inkdeath (Cornelia Funke paperback) since I switched to other books. I wanted to take a break from the multiple points of view and savour the end of the series, and now I’m back at it. I love Funke’s writing so much and I’ve been in that blissful combination of “enjoying the story as a reader” and “understanding the craft as a writer”: I’m enjoying the story and not being overly analytical, but I’m aware of the techniques that Funke used to make the writing so good.
🎶 | Music I Enjoyed
While working, I’ve enjoyed listening to the soundtracks for Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy VIII, and Wild Arms 2. These soundtracks bring me so much comfort, even if sometimes they really make me want to load up the games and play them for hours. Maybe for my upcoming staycation, I’ll play through Wild Arms 2 again. I want to be listening to more music for enjoyment and finding new artists, so we’ll see how May and June go.
🎮 | Games I Played
I don’t think I played any video games this month, other than the mainstays on my phone (Love Nikki: Dress-up Queen and Daily Logic Puzzles) and some newer apps. I restarted a file for Neko Atsume and downloaded an escape room-style game. When I’m not playing games, I know that I’m feeling worse, so this was a clear indicator that I’m not taking care of myself.
I recently got set up with more Fable games, but haven’t played yet. I even installed The Lost Chapters edition from my disc copy released in 2005 for some nostalgia. Yeah, I still have a disc drive. No, I haven’t tested to see if it installed properly on Windows 10, but we’ll see!
🧠 | Mental Health Check-in:
It has not been a good month! Wow, what a terrible, awful time I’ve had. My mental health disrupted my life a lot this month. I struggled with basic self-maintenance like eating, bathing, and sleeping. I also struggled immensely with work, which becomes quite stressful because I work from home and set my own schedule. It’s really easy to choose to take days off or to not show up, and so I’ve felt a lot of guilt from that and my finances have taken a hit as well.
1 out of 5 for April. I really need to make a change, and so I’ve been researching first-hand accounts and tactics from others with bipolar disorder, as well as general medical advice specifically for bipolar disorder, to get an idea for how to manage my mental health—and overall health—as I go forward. Since I decided to quit social media on April 23, I’ve had a really rough week as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if I actually did have a behavioural/process addiction to social media and I’ve gone through withdrawal because of it. But it’s for the best. I’ve been so surprised by the number of compulsions to open an app on my phone or create a new tab to go check social media platforms. Even time restriction and blocking websites wouldn’t stop that; now, I have literally zero reason to go to those sites.
I want to express some of the struggles, so the next section goes into some detail on what I’ve been going through. Please abide by the content warnings in case these topics trigger you. The “April Accomplishments & Highlights” section will not have any of this content, so feel free to skip to there!
Content warning: suicidal ideation, self-harm ideation (cutting), bipolar distress, medication
While I intended to return to my medication soon, one of the risks when starting this particular medication is suicide. I’ve had a lot of suicidal ideation and self-harm ideation, which are two of the factors that contributed to my struggles with taking care of myself. It’s really hard to prep food when there are potential harms nearby, so I’ve been dipping into the kitchen to grab crackers or put something ready-made in the toaster oven to limit my time near objects that trigger me (sharp ones in particular, but even things like tweezers). I’m pretty sure I’ve been in a mixed mood episode with my bipolar disorder, which for me is the most dangerous episode to stay in because my risk of suicide attempts is high. Combining that episode with medication that also increases risk of suicide? I got very concerned and decided to hold off. While medication can help address the suicidal ideation, I know that the mixed mood episode will end at some point. At that time, I’ll reconsider medication.
The worst part about self-harm is the impulsivity of it. The urge. The lack of thought that goes into it. My history of cutting myself was a way to ground back into reality during incredibly dissociative states. I know it works, but it isn’t good for me and there are healthy, valuable ways to ground myself instead of causing physical pain. So while it’s tempting any time I’m in the vicinity of triggering objects, I know that it isn’t worth it. I even need to avoid looking at my scares, because they also trigger the urge. “Why not add some more?” my brain says. It’s irritating. I’ve had to do cold water shocks to reset the urges and ground myself, since I haven’t been able to use calmer and safer methods to return to reality, like meditation or yoga.
My sleep has been horrible too, and as someone with bipolar disorder, dysregulated sleep has a worse domino effect compared to those without mental illness. Stay up late, wake up early, nap restlessly during the day—according to my Fitbit sleep stats, I averaged 5 hours and 17 minutes of sleep per day in April. That’s fewer hours than when I would wake up at 4am when working at Tim Hortons. My brain just won’t turn off at night and I’ve avoided going to sleep because of the fear of nightmares. I also continually feel the urge to stay awake and “get things done”, which is a really clear symptom of hypomania for me. Paired with the depressive thoughts and other depressive symptoms (not showering, avoiding eye contact), I’m more likely in a mixed mood than hypomania or depression. It’ll end at some point. I just have to survive to see it. I know I can get through this.
🏆 | April Accomplishments & Highlights
- Quit social media (with a few exceptions such as Pinterest, but on the whole, I’m not on social media anymore)
- Survived immensely poor mental illness
- Designed A5 inserts for my planner that match the bullet journal layouts I used to initially manage my mental illness from 2017 to 2019
📋 | May Plans
I am going to prioritize my mental health. I think I say that every month, but May really needs it. I truly need to take it seriously, and since I got my planner set up properly again (I wasn’t using it all through 2020 or the beginning of 2021), it should be easier. Or at least there won’t be any excuses. Other parts of my life are going to be disrupted by these efforts, but to be frank, those areas have been disrupted by my symptoms lately—and I think disruptions that focus on wellness are better than disruptions from feeling like crap.
Get onto a really detailed and rigid schedule
I mean the type of schedule where I do the same things at the same time each day. From the stories I read about bipolar and those who manage it, a consistent daily routine helps them to stay stable or at least predictable. But it isn’t like the schedules of “get up and brush teeth.” It’s a schedule that uses the same time for going to bed, waking up, getting out of bed, starting work, eating meals, and exercising—every single day. It might become monotonous, but I’ve convinced myself it’s the best way to get my episodes under control until I can revisit the option of medication. Besides, having a schedule to tell me when to do X and Y will take a lot of the decision-making fatigue and anxiety away from me. The indecision burdens me a lot, and I often lose track of time during the day and forget to eat. It’ll be easier to know that when it’s 7am and 1pm, I’ll have a meal, and at 10am and 3pm, I’ll have a snack; or that I’m working in one block of hours, and once the clock changes, I’m done for the day I don’t have to think about work anymore. I need to protect my time to protect myself.
Take a vacation
I think the last vacation I took was at the beginning of September 2020, and before that… I don’t quite remember? But I think at the end of this month, I’ll take a week off for a staycation—or if all goes well with Ontario’s vaccine roll-out, see what stuff I can get up to around Ottawa if things reopen. We’ll see. Regardless, I want a week to myself without thinking about logging in to work. When I left my Tim Hortons job at the end of 2020 to go full-time remote, I didn’t disconnect well or transition from one job to the next; it’s like I’ve constantly been on the clock since then. My room mates commented that I keep saying that, over and over: “I don’t think I took much of a break after leaving Tims.” Yesterday, one advised me to just do it. Just take a break so I can stop considering it or whether or not I had one.
Always a goal. Just keep going. No giving up.