Last Thursday, I had a therapy session with Arlene. I go once every three months for med refills and counseling. Sometimes I go in between if there’s something heavy weighing on my mind. I try to get through the issue on my own though.
I’m always surprised how quickly time moves when we talk. As I might have said before, I believe everyone should have a therapist and a trainer. Arlene probably wouldn’t like me using the should word. She calls me out on it when I use it when we talk.
Arlene is a lovely person, inside and out. I love we are in the same age range. Definitely more relatable.
The only downside about our arrangement is I self-pay. She reports to my psychiatrist on occasion, but also she is independent of him. She counsels her own people. If I went to him, Medicare would cover it.
I might rather die before I would do that — ha ha funny. Like many psychiatrists, he’s a tad unhinged. So, I’m happy to see Arlene and be self-pay. She’s that good.
A note about this psychiatrist: he’s no dummy. He read Tolstoy’s War and Peace in its original Russian, with some French and German. After some time, he read it again in English.
When it comes to psychiatric pharmacology, he’s brilliant. One of the tricks to treating mental illness is getting the right drugs for your system. Unfortunately, this comes by trial and error and can take time. Once you make it though, the feeling is splendid.
What to talk about?
I had in mind a few things I wanted to go over with Arlene: age creep, blogging, exercise, and drugs.
I tell Arlene I am not thrilled with this aging business. She said none of us are. We all feel pretty much the same way. She said aging is about perspectives and priorities. I am not alone she says.
For example, I rarely wear make-up anymore. Never would I have believed I could leave the house without my face on.
If something special or important comes up, I might spruce up my eyebrows and add a dab of lipstick, but those times are infrequent. If Paul is okay with my look, that’s all I care about.
Another thing is clothing. I used to be a clotheshorse while I was working. Talbot’s was my favorite clothing store. It is ridiculous I shopped there. Overpriced, but I loved the clothes and they fit well.
It’s unusual for me to buy clothes anymore. I don’t need any. I have plenty if I would wear just what I have. Having three closets from which to choose, surely I can find something.
The only clothing I have purchased in awhile is a long grey and black sweater which doesn’t even look like something I’d wear. I’m experimenting. I’ve had it over a year and haven’t worn it. I bought a pair of Christmas leggings in December.
Got both at CVS. That’s the best place to get leggings for gym workouts or if you just like wearing them. Arlene says, ”CVS has clothing?” Not an extensive collection. It works for my limited needs.
Same goes for hair. Five to seven minutes tops. It’s out of control. I go to a barbershop every fifth Thursday for a short cut. Thursdays a senior can get a cut for $20 – I’m there.
My appearance is no longer as important as it once was. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t consider myself a ragamuffin! It’s just a low priority.
I told Arlene I have a draft post in the works. It’s been that way for several months now and I’m stalled. It’s about my last psychiatric hospitalization. I told her I didn’t think I had shared my diagnosis on the blog.
I’m not comfortable writing all around it yet not saying what it is. It doesn’t feel equitable — like it’s some state secret I’m keeping.
I believe as an advocate for stigma-busting of mental illness, I want and need to share. I have Bipolar 2, with a bit of OCD, and a dose of anxiety tossed in just for fun. I take four pills a day.
There I said it. It is not uncommon and many people live worthwhile lives with it. I do. Nice to get that off my chest. It’s as though I have come out from behind a curtain where I have been hiding.
Mine is not a serious case comparatively speaking, but serious enough to pay attention to see how things roll. When I was in rehab, it broke my heart to see some of the conditions people were suffering through.
This was not a drug rehab facility. We were all mentally askew. A lot of times people with mental illness also have a substance abuse issue. This is not true with me.
It’s okay if I have a problem with brain circuitry.
I was introduced to exercise in 9th Grade at the new school. Physical Education was a required class. It was frustrating getting ready for school in the morning and then having PE at 8:30, getting hot and sweaty so early in the day.
We exercised a lot. Volleyball. Kickball. Track.
The most important exercise was running the 600 at least twice a year. Oh mercy, do I remember being anxious when that time rolled around. I don’t even know how far “600” is. It was just referred to as ”The 600.”
I always came in last. Someone has to. The only reason we did it was because the school participated in President Kennedy’s Council on Fitness. I think this was the end of my exercise until after graduation.
I took adult ballet. Tried to jog in hot and humid Tampa. Later, I started jogging for real. I played tennis. I did Richard Simmons’ Dancin’ to the Oldies videos. Loved those. Did a little roller skating.
Then came walking, yoga, and strength training. My latest new exercise is a mini-trampoline a/k/a a rebounder.
So now since I have been active most of my life, I believe I have earned the right to retire from exercise. Don’t you think this makes sense?
Arlene says this is not unusual. It comes with aging. A lot of people feel this way she says. Oh, there’s that word again. Younger readers: “cover your ears.”
I’m slowly accepting my activity level is waning partly because mentally I am drained of motivation. Partly because I just don’ have as much uumph as I used to. That’s normal and okay Arlene says.
She also advises I need to continue. Exercise is imperative for a healthy state of physical and mental wellness especially now that I’m older.
I was at the gym the other day. Lisa was in ”life coach” mode. She’s firm without being obnoxious about all the positives that come with exercise.
She says that if for no other reason, I need to keep moving for my health. I’m not aiming to deadlift 50 pounds or have a six-pack.
Like Arlene, she says how important it is for anxiety and other health issues, like sleeping, diet, and mental clarity. The best thing about exercise is how good you feel afterwards. Can’t argue with any of this. Lisa wins again.
Without a doubt, if I didn’t exercise, I would be snuggled up in bed with Ellie, watching TV, eating junk food, reading, and playing Wordle and Spelling Bee. Ah, that sounds nice.
This session, though, I mainly wanted to talk about my meds. I have been taking them so long I have wondered where I as a human leave off and at what point I become the drugs. The proverbial ”Who am I?”
I don’t think Arlene and I had really discussed it much before. I would tell her I wanted to taper off the drugs so I could be myself and not the drugs. Her response would be, ”If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”
She is right. As long as I am running smoothly, why chance derailment. This is aggravating though because it still leaves the question on the table.
This time when I brought up tapering off the drugs, I finally understood. The drugs are not me. The drugs allow me to be me. Arlene gave the example of a diabetic needing to keep their insulin balanced.
So, for better or worse, through good times and bad, the person showing up actually was me all along and not the drugs — once I got my drug cocktail figured out.
So last Thursday, I found myself. I consider it a breakthrough. The stigma no longer shames me. I stigmatized myself. Stigmas are common. People will make judgments.
The younger generations are more in tune with it, not such a big deal. It’s slow, but progress is being made.
It’s all a matter of balance. If I wasn’t being treated for this disorder, no telling what things would be like. Raging mood swings. Maniacal and depressive episodes. Escalations of anger. Other possibilities.
So . . .
As I feel about many things, I’m thankful and grateful. I receive and have access to good care. It’s important to maintain that balance to live a peaceful existence.
It’s those who are untreated or undiagnosed who I think of and who may be suffering. That was me at one time. They need compassion, support, and understanding.
I hope the world turns in their favors so they may begin the healing process and live in peace. Thoughts and prayers for them.
Glory to Ukraine
Answers to previous post brain teasers: (1) glass; (2) board.
Thank you for reading. It is very much appreciated. Please feel free to leave a comment, text, or email — maybe someone you know is looking for some answers.