The unexpected can easily threaten one’s stability and well-being when you are mentally ill. For the better part of January, I have been largely quiet on my blog. The reason is due to an unexpected circumstance that threatened an unwell cycle. Thanks to medication, practices I learned in therapy, and the knowledge I have built about how my mental illness affects me specifically, I was able to keep that stress from exploding into a full-blown unwell cycle.
The benefit of psych medication, for me, is that it prevents Bipolar Disorder from pulling my mind out into extremes. There are times when I feel like my brain is trying to escalate or crash into depression but it just hits a metaphorical wall and won’t go any further than that. But it does still like to hang out in those more troublesome areas where greater volatility can further threaten my stability.
And that’s where practices I learned in therapy and on my own come into play.
I think most people can agree that the more you dwell on a matter, the greater power you give it to affect you. In dealing with a mood disorder, dwelling on stresses, emotions, and other troubling circumstances not only fans the flames, but throws more fuel on them so they just burn brighter.
I strive to limit the amount of attention I give to circumstances that are beyond my control. In this case, I was unenrolled from a program that was paying my Medicare premiums about three months ago, but they did not actually adjust what I was receiving from Disability. I received no notification that this was happening, for whatever reason. I found this out when the government reclaimed those funds through a deduction that cut January’s payment by 2/3rds.
Shit situation? Absolutely. Anything I can do about it? Not according to Social Security.
It’s important to confront problems head on. The longer they fester, the worse off they will get. Ignoring them is the worst thing you can do. But, it’s really easy for anxiety, depression, or Bipolar Disorder to make everything feel overwhelming. We need to attempt to strike a middle ground. I do that by dedicating a certain amount of time to working on that problem and then forcing my brain onto different subject matter. This is not something that is easy to do initially! It’s a skill you need to work on. It does get easier with time and effort.
In this case, I allotted two hours to researching what happened and looking for a solution (not counting the time I spent on hold!) That culminated in a handful of phone calls to various offices and discovering there was nothing I could do to affect the situation. From there, any additional thoughts or energy dedicated to it would simply be wasted. It’s just potential fuel for the fires of unwellness to ignite and burn.
Whenever I find myself dwelling on what happened, I redirect my thoughts onto something else that requires greater focus. The more complex, the more I get immersed, the less energy I’m giving to thoughts that could spiral out of control.
This also works pretty well in trying to support a loved one who is being hit with unwell or anxiety-driven thoughts. If I know what the person’s interests are, I will ask them what their favorite thing about that interest is. As I get them talking about it, I’ll just keep asking questions about various details about the hobby or thing until I can tell they are calming down. If I don’t know, I’ll just ask them what their favorite thing is and start unwinding from there. It can take a few minutes, but it’s a really good way to derail anxiety or unwell thoughts.
I would like to close off this post by thanking the several people who sent me, “are you okay?” messages. I do appreciate them. I am okay, just dealing with my mental illness.