Dreams Going Forward

I recently have reduced my prescription of clozapine from 450mg to 400mg a day under the care of my doctor. My dreams have been much more vivid throughout this process probably due to being less sedated and thereby remembering things. I am keeping a log of my dreams and their potential interpretations. This is something I did in my twenties and thirties but haven’t done since. A lot of the dreams include my being pregnant which according to writings shared with me by my therapist may mean a new chapter in my life is beginning. We will see….

I may or may not share my dream work depending on how intense things get.

Feeling Guilty, Feeling Inadequate

My elderly Mom (a Senior) has recently been in the hospital for several days. She has had a close friend/comrade staying with her during the night in the ER and then each night she was in a hospital room.

If this were to happen again and this comrade were not available, I would have a hard time sleeping in the ER and sleeping in the chair by the bedside once my Mom moved into a room.

For my own health, I need to be in bed by 10:00pm and up around 9:00/10:00am. If my Mom were to be readmitted to the hospital, I would need to put my own health first which means taking meds at regular hours and getting a very full night’s sleep.

I feel guilty and inadequate about not being able to care for her as I would prefer. But like the saying goes on the airplane safety drill, put your oxygen on yourself first and then others.

I know the right thing is to accept what I can do for my Mom and maintain my health. It is just that my wishes are that I could be with her round-the-clock if needed.

Taking Care of a Senior when You Have a Mental Health Diagnosis

My Mom has been in the hospital for the last five days. She has a good friend who has done the heavy lifting of staying overnight with her in the ER and in her room once assigned. She is home now.

I have been going to the hospital several hours a day with my husband to visit her. Anywhere from 4 to 7 hours or more. I have been able to sleep at home and largely keep my health maintenance routine in tact.

I am wondering how those with a mental health diagnosis manage when their elderly mother or father is ill. It would have been extremely difficult for me to spend the night in the hospital one night much less five. I am very grateful to my Mom’s friend that he stepped up to be her care provider at this juncture.

Does anybody else have stories of having to manage through your own illness while taking care of someone else like an aging parent or a sibling?

The Dog Trainer We Go to

The dog trainer we go to has unlimited class options once you pay the base fee. Today we have gone on a Field Trip walk around an area park. We got a lot of free advice for how to do things better. We will try going on these Field Trips on a regular basis as well as attend an Introductory Agility Training class.

Our pup is very smart because she’s part poodle and she means to please because she’s part lab. Together it makes for a lively combination and she always keeps us on our toes…!

Substituting Behavior to Change Behavior

This is a brief note about Parsnip’s training. She has a tendency to lunge at small dogs, larger dogs, sometimes joggers and crowds of kids. I am learning a new way to manage this behavior. Instead of trying to stop the unwanted behavior, I am substituting a behavior that is acceptable for one that is not. When we see a dog on the street, we move to the opposite side of the street and engage in a ritual. I tell her to “leave it” then “come” then “sit.” I then reward her several times until the other dog has passed our field of vision.

I find that substituting this new behavior is largely helpful 75% or more of the time.

I have found out from the dog trainer that this is the preferred approach except for one mistake. I should be pausing the dog with her back toward the stimulus rather than facing it.

This reminds me of my own need to change unwanted behaviors. It is easier to introduce a substitute behavior than it is to stop an unwanted behavior “cold turkey.”

Does Having a Puppy Help Keep You in the Present? (reposted from 12/21)

A week and a day ago, we adopted a puppy whose name is Parsnip. Our old dog had cancer and we had to put him down a little under a year ago . We have had rescue dogs for twenty years so getting a puppy is a new phenomenon in our household.

True confession: I have never been that great at living in the present. I have tended to dwell in the past – would’ve, could’ve, should’ve territory. Or in the future – what on the horizon for next week should I worry about – did I get a holiday card out? What should I worry about next month – will schools go virtual again due to Omicron? What should I worry about about six to eight months from now when my daughter goes to college?

Having a puppy in the house again challenges that past/future orientation. I find myself in the present whether I am comfortable there or not. I am preoccupied with puppy pees and puppy poops and with learning to reward positive puppy behavior and ignore negative puppy behavior. I am also trying to redirect behaviors like nipping with playing with a toy. It is a constant lesson in cognitive behavioral therapy that has taken me by surprise – emphasis on behavioral – for me and the pup. Somewhat LOL and somewhat really true about CBT.

All in all puppies are a joy but a load of work. For me for now, that work keeps me focused on the present day maybe even the present hour. I am extremely exhausted by it but it does seem to keep me in the now.

To all of you who have beloved pups and other beloved pets, do you find the act of taking care of that pet helps keep you in the present? And avoid the terrible would’ve, could’ve, should’ves or that projected anxiety into and onto the future’s horizon?

This is a Brief Introduction to Our Pup Parsnip

I am writing a new blog featuring our pup Parsnip. We adopted her a little over a year ago. Here she is at six months. The idea behind the blog is that owning a pup (or other pet) helps to keep you in the moment and is good for your mental health. In addition, walking the pup multiple times a week is also good for general health and well-being.

I will be posting blogs in the upcoming weeks featuring Parsnip and how she is doing in her training. I would like her to be able to participate in a program where dogs visit patients in the hospital. Some day. But we are a far ways away from that right now. 🙂

Thanks in advance for your interest in our pup and her progress!

Thoughts and Prayers

We have lost a dear friend in the mental health blogging community in the last several months. I have stepped away from blogging for a while to reflect. This has impacted me very much and I have been struggling with the proper response to take. That said — here’s wishing you and yours good health and a heart-felt holiday season. Thank you.

Update – The first time I met this blogger online I had just started blogging and had made some comments about stigma being half or more than half of the battle with mental illness. This blogger invited me to guest blog on her post about debunking the stigma around mental health. I was very happy to be asked to do that. While I am not certain what words to use now to pay respects I would go so far as to suggest to those reading that to do some reflection or some expression of how to limit stigma among those with mental health concerns would mean a great deal. I think she would have liked that.

Sensitive to Light and Shorter or Longer Days? What about the Holidays?

I have never been diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder. But from most of the people I have talked to who have a mental health diagnosis, there is some fluctuation in symptoms (maybe just minor or maybe not) that follows the seasons and/or the time of the year. At least that’s what I think is so.

For me now, the most impacting seasonal symptoms occur during the shorter days of fall and winter. We are coming up on that time. I am a person who likes the daylight. When daylight is scarce, I am more inclined to have bipolar symptoms. My therapist talks about how spring/summer months are another time to experience symptoms seasonally and that this time may be more prone to mania or hypomania or mood sensitivity.

For me in the past when I was first diagnosed with bipolar 35 years ago and getting used to taking meds on a regular basis, I routinely had mini-breaks or break-throughs around the time of the seasonal changes. Once during the fall season and once during the spring season. This pattern lasted about 5 to 6 years.

More recently in the last 15 years, I have not observed the spring/summer highs to the extreme as much as the fall/winter lows oftentimes accompanied by anxiety. This was worse for me when I was in New England for college and 8 years after that. The shorter days did a number on me. I did notice when I moved back South that I did feel better in the longer days even in winter. (As a note – I did experience heightened anxiety this summer with regard to taking my daughter to college but I consider that anxiety as situational and not so much seasonal.)

This dislike for shorter days goes along with not liking the cold much. I am much more prone to keeping with my daily walk-the-dog-for-two-miles-routine if it is not freezing cold out. The regular exercise is really great for my mental health (obviously).

It could also be that winter is more difficult for me in that that’s when the holidays occur. The extra stress of being out of routine and being immersed in family matters may play a large part in my fall/winter moods and anxiety.

Do you feel your moods or behaviors are impacted by the amount of daylight in the day? Are shorter days and longer days something you watch throughout the course of the year? Are your symptoms harder to manage during the holidays and family visits and travel? Does this all feel like a bundle of triggers and symptoms that are sometimes difficult to sort out and manage?