Monday, October 18, 2010

I Might Not Be In Class, But I'm Learning

This is a good one:
Mental illnesses are serious medical illnesses. They cannot be overcome through "will power" and are not related to a person's "character" or intelligence. Mental illness falls along a continuum of severity. Even though mental illness is widespread in the population, the main burden of illness is concentrated in a much smaller proportion-about 6 percent, or 1 in 17 Americans-who live with a serious mental illness. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that One in four adults-approximately 57.7 million Americans-experience a mental health disorder in a given year.*

Today was another good day!  I decided to stay home from work because I kept waking up during the night thinking I might actually die from a coughing fit (apparently this is how my great-grandfather died).  There were several times when I just could not stop coughing!  Here's my theory: I get totally grossed out when I'm out somewhere and there is someone there just hacking and coughing all over the place.  It doesn't matter if they cover their mouth because I figure they'll just end up touching things with their germy fingers that I might have to also touch.  I really don't want to be that guy.  I don't want to give this to anyone else, especially my boss who has a 6 month-old at home and she's already got enough on her plate without having to add a sick baby to it!  I am trying to use this theory to prevent myself from feeling guilty about not going in, and it's mostly working.  See, this way, I'm sort of doing my part to save the world!

I also rescheduled my therapy appointment this afternoon because I didn't want to sit there flinging my germs all over my shrink's office.  She understood.

I was able to get some things done today that I've been putting off and putting off, like some laundry, and I changed my sheets (to winter-colored purple instead of summer-colored purple, of course) and hung my duvet cover outside to de-germify it a little.  I opened my window and let some fresh air in, and now it feels a little less disgusting in here.  It's important for my room to be a place I want to be, and I think I'm going to start making an extra effort to keep it cleaned up, just for my own sanity.  My room is my haven, and my bed is my "safe place" where nothing bad can happen to me, even though it sometimes still does.  I go to my bed to get out of my head, to be vegetative and non-reflective.  Mostly that's how it is.

Anyway, I had promised Jonas and Jamie I'd go over to their house for dinner tonight, and so that's what I did!  We all took our pups to the dog park beforehand, even though it was cold and rainy, but I thought it would be a nice treat for Phoenix to get to go run around and socialize some more.  Jamie made gumbo, which was absolutely delicious, and we sat down and played Risk for like 3 hours.  I got my ass handed to me, but it was really fun, plus very nice to get out of the house and get out of my head for awhile.  They're just such good, genuinely nice people.  Everyone should have a Jonas and Jamie.

So now I'm back home, without having spent too much time just thinking today and that feels good.  I did still cough and hack all stupid day, and my sinuses are still trying to get in on the action, but I'm really hoping it's lessening it's horrendous affect on my body.  So I'm sort of pre-gaming before bed, I took Nyquil, a couple hits of albuterol, and I'm drinking hot coffee with pumpkin-spice creamer to soothe my throat.  I feel pretty relaxed, mostly. 

I submitted an application to Good Samaritan Hospital a few weeks ago to volunteer there, hoping that they'd let me sort of do an internship-type thing where I would get to work in the ER with my EMT skills, but do it as a volunteer so they didn't have to pay me, and I could still get the experience.  The volunteer coordinator called me after I turned in my application but she told me that as a volunteer, I couldn't do anything hands-on, so I sort of just dismissed the whole thing.  However, she called again this morning to set up an interview for me to start volunteering, and I'm having a really hard time deciding whether or not I should attempt to make that commitment.  A couple of girls in my EMT class were volunteers at Good Sam's during EMT school, and as far as I know they're both doing EMT work already, so I think this would be a good way to get my foot in the door, but at the same time I'm not sure I can stick to that type of commitment at this time.  If I were to make a list of pro's and con's, there wouldn't be many con's to volunteering, except the part about not being paid.  If the being there and helping out would get my foot in the door, I'd eventually be able to get a job where I could get paid.  So I think it might even out.  This is something I'll have to continue to give some thought. 

One of the worst things about depression is not being able to make decisions without enormous effort.  I'm already someone who really likes to weigh the good things and the bad things before I make a decision.  But because of the mistakes I've made in my past, I really have trouble being sure enough to cleanly decide on anything, and I consistently seek out the opinions of the people around me to help me choose.  I don't think that's always the best thing.  Eventually I know that there will be decisions I will have to make on my own, alone in every way, and when that time comes (and I've been extremely fortunate I haven't had to face these decisions yet in my life), I want to be able to do it without subjecting myself to the excruciating process that I go through with even the simplest choices.

Choices are something that they focus on in one of the more successful treatments of BPD, called Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, or DBT.  They emphasize that the choices we make dictate the things that happen to us; this in turn affects our moods, so if we learn to make the right choices, we can be successful in overcoming the symptoms of the illness.  I have a lot of trouble with this, and I've consciously chosen not to participate in DBT because I don't like the group-setting that it's almost always held in.  So I'm sort of forced to learn my own way how to make the right choices every day.  It's not just choosing whether or not to take a job or to which classes to take at school, but the most minute decisions that literally run our everyday lives.  Do I wake up right when my alarm goes off or sleep an extra ten minutes and be forced to rush around and risk being late to work?  Do I sit and watch TV instead of starting dinner or unloading the dishwasher just because I don't feel like doing those things?  Do I do something now instead of putting it off until later if I can?  I know deep down that I need to start making different choices, which include maybe trying to get more organized or working on paperwork for the lawsuit in which I'm a plaintiff (more about that later, but yes, it's true) instead of taking a nap after work for a couple of hours.  These tiny choices build up and should eventually change who I am, turning me into who I want to be.  It's just a matter of making the right choices, and that's where I struggle the most.  So perhaps I'll put that on the growing list of things I'd like to work on for myself in the coming year.

Okay, time for bed.  I had really hoped to turn in earlier tonight than usual, but I was having a wonderful time over that The J's and I'd originally thought I'd have nothing to write about tonight, and it turns out I was wrong!  It's all okay, though.  I made more of the right choices I'd like to see myself make today than usual and that's something to be very proud of.

*"NAMI | About Mental Illness." NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness - Mental Health Support, Education and Advocacy. 2010. Web. 18 Oct. 2010. <>.

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