Does Mental Illness Keep You from Enjoying Travel?

My first break was at the site of a small airport, so airport travel is always somewhat of a stressor as I tend to relive that trauma from time to time. (I was handcuffed and taken to the police station at this break because the authorities thought I was trying to bomb the plane….)

Regardless of or in addition to this airport-induced trauma, I still have major issues with traveling today. Here is a quick list of my mental health impacts to travel:

  1. I don’t change time zones easily so travel abroad or to the West Coast is particularly difficult.
  2. I have high anxiety about leaving the house and consistently think I have done something like leave the water running or the refrigerator open. I often will have to ask a friend to “check” on things at the house for me when we are traveling.
  3. I don’t do well when it comes to changes to routines. I am very much a creature of habit. Travel changes that. When traveling I tend to have to wake up earlier than usual and eat dinner later than usual. This change is very stressful for me.
  4. The enhanced contact with family members is enjoyable but also stressful. It is more difficult for me to be in a party of 12 to 15 than a party of 3 to 5 which is usual at my house.
  5. My reflexes and response time are not that great, so when we drive my husband does most if not all the driving. This is very stressful for him.
  6. During airport travel, I tend to get overly anxious with the loudspeaker announcements and lack of windows. The loudspeaker is somehow a trigger for me. Oddly, once I am in the plane I am fine. No worries mid-flight per say. My worries are in the airport itself.
  7. Over the years my hippocampus has been damaged by too much accelerated thoughts. This makes logistics while traveling difficult. I am not always great with a map or a GPS. I can easily get confused while making travel plans and following routes on the map or GPS.
  8. I am a checker. Even if staying with family, I tend to need to check things before leaving the house. My extended family has somewhat gotten used to this but it is still annoying.
  9. Back to the hippocampus: things like finding parking or locating the car when parked are difficult things for me to do. I have to make a mental note or a physical note as to what level in the parking lot we are in and where the parking space is relevant to the elevators.
  10. It takes everything I’ve got to go on a trip and not get really, really anxious. I tend to need more or much more downtime to function. People we are visiting generally do not.
  11. Before going on a trip I need to be sure my meds will cover me for the duration of the trip. Sometimes I have to use GoodRX coupons instead of insurance since my insurance company does not issue vacation overrides.
  12. I also tend to worry that the dog is OK while boarding. She has come back with kennel cough with one boarding.

All of this adds up to loads of stress while traveling. What if anything stresses you out while traveling? Or do you enjoy traveling locally or abroad?

Sleep: When is too much of a good thing or not?

When I was in the early stages of bipolar disorder, a gap of 2 nights sleep was a trigger that I might need to be hospitalized for bipolar disorder or go to my sister’s house for in-home care.

Some 25 years later, I find that sleep is also an indicator of how I am doing with the bipolar. If I have interrupted sleep or sleep less than 7 to 8 hours, the next day is a struggle and a warning sign for the next few days to come that things are fragile.

In semi-retirement and as an empty nester, I allow myself more sleep than I normally would. I go to bed around 9:30 or 10:00pm and wake up between 8:00 and 10:00am the next day after several interruptions in the night. I know some people might see this as a sign of depression. I actually don’t. I have come to rely on the good nights sleep with clozapine since 2008. And this sleep generally helps keep me feeling relaxed and less anxious through the day. It is not a cure-all for anxiety, but being well-rested does mean I am less likely to expect the worst in whatever situations cross my path that following day.

I am not tied to the schedule of ten to twelve hours per say. I do get up and go to early doctor’s appointments and the like. I just like being completely exhausted of the need to sleep. If I can put it that way.

Prior posts – pattern so far or not?

I have been looking at prior posts at Mental-Health-Is-Health.com over the last several months. I am exploring if there might be a pattern as to what folks enjoy liking or viewing at my site.

The list following are some of my posts that have either high likes (for me) and/or high views (for me). They are not in any particular order. The data however is somewhat skewed toward more recent posts since those more recent posts are viewed or liked among or within a larger base population than my earlier posts when I first started blogging and was not reaching such a large audience.

  1. Ways of reducing stigma and/or bipolar lessons learned and/or being part of the solution (3 posts)
  2. Specific coverage on depression and anxiety (3 plus posts)
  3. Understanding triggers and self-care /run in with my therapist/what a puppy can do to help living in the present (3 posts)
  4. CBD related posts (3 posts)
  5. Other health issues / brain tumor / stockpile/stockpiling meds / impacts to Civil Society (3 posts)
  6. Confronting specific mental health challenges for the day / what is beauty anyway / covid fatigue / low energy levels / some days / clothing and body image issues (several posts across these several categories grouped together here)

I am not sure at this time that I see a pattern for most viewed or most liked posts other than the summary above. Perhaps I need to regroup the responses at numbers 5 and 6? Not sure about this? Are there specific post topics that you would like to see covered more at this site or other sites you frequent? Or are there specific topics that you feel you no longer have the need to follow? Thanks in advance for your sharing your interests and your input.

Precursor to “Grandiose Thinking”

This is an addendum to a prior post. Please be advised that this post could be a trigger for escalating thoughts or grandiose thoughts.

I was often rewarded particularly by one professor in my school work in college for making connections between things that were not necessarily apparent. Seeing these “connections” was at the time part of my academic prowess and landed me graduation with honors. That professor indicated among other things that I had “preternatural abilities” in my observations.

As I look back on it now, I see these academic exercises as somewhat of a breeding ground to years later experiencing grandiose thinking. If making these connections meant I would get an A or an A+ on a paper in college, that was evidence (to me) that my connections between seemingly disparate concepts were “correct.” I am not really faulting the professor here which I might, but I am saying I got really good positive feedback for making these “connections” while in college. Perhaps if I had gotten C’s on these types of papers or assignments I would not have felt that my escalations of thought were well-grounded in reality nor laudable nor applaudable. Perhaps I would have been less inclined “to go there” in my thoughts.

At this day and age some 40 years later, I can usually see when I am escalating in my bipolar thoughts. This escalation does not bring me good grades nor a feeling of well-being or accomplishment or safety, but rather it creates difficulty in managing my bipolar thoughts and my bipolar disorder and might just be what has sent me to the hospital these several/many times over the years. Three cheers for being the B or C student?!?!

More on Safety and Bipolar Thoughts (updated)

Please note: This post may trigger people who escalate in thinking from a small manageable thought to large-scale or world-wide impacts and import or grandiosity. The post includes some discussion on the topic of grandiose thinking.

In my last post I talked a lot about anxiety and depression associated with bipolar illness. I concluded that safety is a number one issue for me. Safety that I did not experience as a child. Safety that I did not experience in college.

To be fully transparent about safe and unsafe, I have been exploring my thoughts around safety both physical and mental.

For me, I experience fear pretty readily for things impacting my body like fear of heights, fear of motorcycles, fear of downhill skiing. But my relationship with my own thoughts does not show such a clear division between safe and unsafe thoughts.

As a person with bipolar illness, I have very often “allowed” my thoughts to escalate from a very specific topic to world-wide impacts. I believe it is part of the bipolar disorder to escalate thinking at level 2 or 3 out of 10 up to 11 and beyond. What was an small observation about priorities or concepts at the local level quickly escalates to a topic of global import (in which I perceive I am involved). I believe that tendency is often present in a grandiose thought processes.

Today I want to talk about what those escalating thoughts do to me. While it is my nature to escalate because of the bipolar, I do not always feel safe in doing so and more often than not do not regularly want to escalate. In this post and later posts, I would like to explore my ability to “choose” the extent of escalation in my bipolar thoughts. Upcoming in other posts, I would like to talk about how it may be a choice to a certain extent to let thoughts escalate instead of practicing living in the here and now.

If I can see my pattern of escalation over the years, am I not armed with the ability to leave those initial thoughts alone at a “safe” level and not make everything about a crisis or drama on the worldwide stage?

This is all I have for now on the topic of safety. Will follow-up as this work-in-progress continues in the upcoming weeks.

Addendum: I was often rewarded particularly by one professor in my school work in college for making connections between things that were not necessarily apparent. Seeing these “connections” was at the time part of my academic prowess and landed me graduation with honors. That professor indicated among other things that I had “preternatural abilities” in my observations. As I look back on it now, I see these academic exercises as somewhat a breeding ground to years later experiencing grandiose thinking. If making these connections meant I would get an A or an A+ on a paper in college, that was evidence (to me) that my connections between seemingly disparate concepts were “correct.” I am not really faulting the professor here which I might, but I am saying I got really good positive feedback for making these “connections” while in college. Perhaps if I had gotten C’s on these types of papers or assignments I would not have felt that my escalations of thought were well-grounded in reality nor laudable nor applaudable. Perhaps I would have been less inclined “to go there” in my thoughts. At this day and age some 40 years later, I can usually see when I am escalating in my bipolar thoughts. This escalation does not bring me good grades nor a feeling of well-being or accomplishment or safety, but rather it creates difficulty in managing my bipolar thoughts and my bipolar disorder and might just be what has sent me to the hospital these several/many times over the years. Three cheers for being the B or C student?!?!

More on Bipolar Depression and Anxiety

It has been about three weeks since my husband and I dropped my daughter at college in New England. There was one day out of about 5 that I was extremely anxious on the border of being non-functional. I have bipolar illness and do not travel well and do not do so well outside my daily routine.

Since my husband and I have returned from this trip I have felt depression kicking in and replacing some of my chronic anxiety. I have talked to my therapist about it and am currently exploring whatever linkages there may be causal or correlative between my depression and my anxiety.

Depression has a certain feel. Anxiety has a certain feel as well. I can tell the depression is coming on due to a generalized feeling of dread and a physical expression of being low energy or down in my mood. It is like a wet blanket all over everything. This feeling of depression is very different from my generalized anxiety. With the anxiety there is always something specific that I am worried about. The source of the anxiety has a specific source in mind: Did my daughter find out how to print her assignments? Is my daughter eating well and eating enough? Is she isolating or making friends? Are her finances for groceries in order?

However with the depression there is not such a direct connection to current events that are on-going in my daughter’s collegiate life. Instead, the depression appears to be me re-living my experiences and hardships in college and projecting them onto my daughter. The depression is not so much about what is going on presently and how can I fix it by being a helicopter Mom (stated objective is to move from this helicopter to supportive Mom) as it is a replay or reminder of events from my past that were not fun at all at the time I was in college.

My depression is all about me resurrecting or reliving past experiences that occurred to me and with me in college. During college was when my bipolar started so that may help to explain things.

The depression is a general malaise. The anxiety is tied to specific details of my life or my daughter’s life.

What does this indicate about the relationship between my anxiety and my depression? I have largely been somewhat anxious since I began treatment with clozapine in 2008. I have not really experienced a depressive state since that I can recall at this time. My current struggles from depression have really just started since we got home from dropping my daughter at college.

If the anxiety is generally topic specific, the depression and malaise are generally not so much so. The anxiety is hard to contain and hard not to push onto other people in my life including my husband and my daughter – as if this impacts my boundaries with each of them. The depression for the most part is not so invasive to boundaries as it is something I sit with while those around me continue with their lives.

I keep asking myself which is better and which is worse? If I am imposing my anxiety on others, that feels like a worse way of managing my health than experiencing my depression and allowing those feelings to occur so that feelings and emotions are not so much being projected on those around me. My depression like it or not is mine while the anxiety I experience is a state I extend to others in my life while not meaning to.

So what is the connection if anything between my anxiety and my depression? Is it possible that underlying all those anxious thoughts about school schedules, meal routines, printer access, train trips at Thanksgiving is a generalized experience of depression that is difficult to distance myself from because the depression echoes experiences of depression or uneasiness when I was in college. If I confront my demons about my own college experience more fully, will I be able to stop experiencing and therefore projecting that experience on my daughter in terms of anxiety checklists?

Can I learn to allow my own college experiences to flow through or wash through my emotional registrars and stand up and say: This was not a good time in my life (for reasons explored in other posts) and I do not wish this on anyone including my college aged daughter. If I can release these depressive experiences as I relive them on my daughter’s college timeline, can I be less likely to project my specific anxieties on my daughter? Is the depression the root cause of the anxieties? Or do they just co-occur? If I finally came to terms with what happened to me during my college years, would I be less likely to project worries upon my daughter or to extend checking behaviors to her.

Bottom line is that I did not feel safe when I was in college (for a variety of reasons outlined in other posts). Now some 40 years later can I just own the fact that I felt unsafe and that I currently do feel safe more or less. If I can recognize that safety is an issue of the past and not so much of the present, will there be less room for that litany of anxious thoughts about this and that specific thing to occur?

Does Your Blood Pressure Vary Due to Anxiety?

I am in the process of adjusting my blood pressure medicine. This has been on-going since about February of this year. I have been tracking my readings for about 7 to 8 months.

The trouble is my blood pressure varies widely over the course of the day I think due to the stress and anxiety and erratic nature of my bipolar illness. Also if I go to an appointment that is stressful like the dentist or for a mammogram, my stress level soars and my blood pressure climbs.

My dental hygienist indicated yesterday there is something called “white coat syndrome” where your blood pressure rises upon seeing someone in the medical establishment (doctor or dentist or someone in that profession) wearing a “white coat.” When I first arrived for my dental cleaning yesterday, my blood pressure levels were very high. I asked again at the end of the appointment whether my levels could be checked again — and they were normal.

Does anyone else have volatile blood pressure readings? That might be tied to anxiety levels? Or suffer from high blood pressure readings when stress is high?

This is a work in progress regarding depression and anxiety

In this post, I am exploring the relationship between anxiety and depression. I originally thought that most people either experience anxiety OR depression, but I have been corrected that this is not always the case. A large percentage of people with depression also experience anxiety.

My therapist has told me in her opinion anxiety and depression are often two sides of the same coin. I am using this post to explore that concept. This post is a work in progress.

Since becoming an empty nester in the last several weeks, I find my old friend depression to be creeping in. I have been wondering how this depression relates to chronic anxiety. As an FYI, I manage bipolar illness and have for more than half of my life.

Yesterday, my husband and I catalogued and bundled five or six huge garbage bags of my daughter’s old clothes. Going through them and bundling them for GoodWill felt both depressing and productive at the same time. The process reminded me of going through belongings after my father died. It was a time of great loss and also a time to look forward to a better day as he had been ill for quite some time.

I suppose getting my daughter’s items together for GoodWill meant that a part of my relationship with her was going away forever. That is the Mom role taking care of all the details for my daughter. There is loss associated with letting go of the hovering Mom even though I am 100% sure it is the healthy thing for me to do as well as what is healthy for her. She is soon to be 19 and very able to manage things in her life that I used to (and still do at times) worry about.

The idea that all these sweaters, and pants and shirts and skirts will have a second life at GoodWill once purchased by a new owner is a reminder to me that my daughter also is embarking on a new chapter in her life. As her belongings move to new owners, so too is her life migrating to a new phase where she and I will continue to relate but relate differently. I will not manage her life so much as support her emotionally and financially. I am learning to do this but am not a pro at it yet (at all). Perhaps as I experience the loss, there will be more room for experiencing the joy of her moving forward in her life with this critical milestone.

The depression I feel is that I am losing the child I have worked so hard to raise. There is sadness in letting go. There is anxiety in letting go. I need to let myself experience the sadness and the sorrow and the anxiety of her moving from one phase in her life – childhood – to another phase in her life – young adulthood.

Clearly there are related joys and moments of extreme happiness that also accompany this transition. My daughter is embarking on a journey of higher education, deliberate self-management and self-initiated problem solving as she maneuvers these first several weeks and months in college. My husband and I are in effect setting her free.

However, I am not quite feeling celebratory yet. I am still in the remembering and experiencing the loss phase of things.

I think perhaps loss can be attributed to a child leaving home for the first time. There is a kind of loss that is similar to loss when someone dies though not so dire and not so extreme. I believe that if I can learn to grieve that loss, I will be more able to embrace the positive developments and positives sides of this lifetime transition. There is also this issue of abandonment. I suffer abandonment issues as a child of divorce. I have bent over backwards so my daughter will not experience abandonment issues – if anything I have overdone it with my hovering Mom role.

So how does all this relate to my chronic anxiety? Is it possible that the anxiety is a symptom or manifestation of the depression I feel in letting go of my daughter’s life details? If I am able to let myself experience the sadness associated with this change, will that allow me to free up or tackle some of my anxious thoughts and give room to feelings of joy, pride, love and support for my daughter and her pending journey of self discovery?

Finally, does anyone else experience depression and anxiety as being related? Do you believe that if you allow yourself to mourn the loss of a prior mode of relationship that that will free you up to embrace the new phase or mode of that relationship? Or might this give less room to feelings of anxiety?

Sorry to ramble on. I am clearly still exploring and processing these thoughts and feelings.

When Depression Creeps in Where Does Anxiety Go?

Soon after becoming an empty nester I have begun to experience some feelings of depression. This is understood as I have bipolar illness. But the depression phases of my bipolar history are fewer and less extreme than the mania phases. Since 2008 while prescribed clozapine, I have been experiencing mixed states that manifest themselves in acute anxiety.

In addition to just becoming an empty nester, there have been two recent deaths (in the past two weeks or so) in my social/family circles (both expected) and my Psyche doctor is experiencing severe back issues and lack of feeling in his feet.

So my question today is where does that long-standing anxiety go when feelings of depression are accepted as part of life’s challenges and puzzles? Is the depression the root cause of the anxiety? Have I been experiencing loads of anxiety because I have not been able to process sadness, pain, separation and depression?

I don’t have the answers to these questions right now. But it seems to me if I am going to come out of this series of mixed states, it is important to acknowledge the depression and allow it to pass. Perhaps then the anxiety will be less so. Any thoughts?

What Does It Look Like When Civil Society Is Threatened as Perceived by a Person with Mental Illness?

1. Politics is more a question of love versus hate instead of an identification of ideological differences.

2. A peaceful transition of power is shunned or completely denied by leadership.

3. Rights that were once attainable or available become threatened.

4. Leaders are noted and supported for their charisma more than their actual accomplishments.

5. Behavior at the national level looks more like kindergarteners hoarding the ball to take home rather than leaders with their heads in the game.

6. Communication about other people is reduced to name-calling and slurs on character.

7. Hate is a regular feature in communications and positioning that is generally directed at people who “are not like me.” This hate is often extended beyond words to actions.

8. Gun ownership and gun violence are condoned or encouraged as a means of protecting civil liberties.

9. Political differences between family members are so extreme that family relationships may become strained or damaged.

10. People are not willing to curb their actions even when political mechanisms are faltering or threatened.