I started this blog with the intention of connecting with others that have been diagnosed with BPD and bipolar disorder, making friends, and having at least one person who could understand what it is like to battle with yourself everyday. After my last two posts, I froze up with my insecurities. I thought this blog was a dumb idea, nobody was going to see it, and I didn’t have a clue what I was going to write next. I thought about just deleting the whole thing, but I also wanted to wait until I talked to my therapist. I am so glad I did. I didn’t read my blog to Heather, or give her the address, but she was proud that I had started it in the first place, proud that I had taken the initiative to put myself out there, and meet new people. I told her about my doubts and she told me to write it out like I would one of my journal entries. So, that’s what I have decided to do, just write about whatever is on my mind whether it is bad or good. Which is why I waited a week before making this post.
It is exhausting trying to maneuver the minefield that my mind puts me through on a daily basis. What is even more exhausting, and some days is an impossibility, is trying to deal with all of that when you have physical ailments as well. For the last year I have experienced, what I thought was, heartburn or acid reflux. In the last two months, things have escalated. Almost every time I eat or drink something, I would get the same pain in my chest and another pain in my stomach. These attacks would last hours, make me vomit acid, and nothing I could do would relieve the pain. My mother made me realize that it might be my gallbladder, and made me make an appointment with my primary care physician. After blood work, lab tests, and an ultrasound, it was determined to be my gallbladder. They referred me to a general surgeon, who I just saw today. He said that I have gallstones and that I will need to have my gallbladder removed, but it would be risky because of my weight and suggested gastric bypass surgery.
I was appalled for several reasons. The number one reason was because I couldn’t believe I had let myself get in this kind of shape. I’ve never been thin, but have always been fit, even after the births of my two oldest kids. I wanted to blame my mental illnesses, but my brain is telling me that I let myself go, out of sheer laziness. The second reason I was upset is, because I knew that taking away my physical pain was not going to be any time soon or easy. I told the doctor that I would do my best to try to lose weight, that I would do the research on the gastric bypass surgery, but I would want to talk to the actual surgeon before I made any decisions on the surgery.
At this point in the appointment, I had a sharp pain on the left side. I told him that was where I usually hurt, and he decided to check my abdomen. He poked and prodded around both sides, until I was in so much pain that I was holding on to the wall, as I laid down on the table. His brow creased two or three times, before I pleaded for him to stop. He said that if my problems were just from the gallbladder, I wouldn’t be hurting this much on my left side. He said that my ultrasound showed an enlarged spleen and pancreas, but that just could be from being overweight. He looked concerned, and after a few more questions, decided to order a CAT scan to be sure there was nothing else going on.
If I thought my head was spinning before, it was spinning and doing backwards somersaults now. I had a whole new situation to ponder, obsess, panic and worry about now. My psychiatrist says that I like to play the “What If?” game whenever a situation arises that I can’t control or have no knowledge about. I have had a long-standing affair with panic and worry for 20 something years, because it is my go-to thought process.
This is called cognitive distortions. Distortions are negative, and often automatic, thoughts that we have about ourselves, others, or a situation. It is a learned behavior that only therapy can help. As Heather says, we have to retrain my brain. It sounds easy, but it is like trying to break a habit that you have been doing for decades. I tell people, that I have perceived as being disappointed in me, that Nobody is hard on me, like I am to myself. We use the “What If?” game, should statements, and black-or-white thinking as punishments toward ourselves. Telling ourselves things “should” be the way we expect or hope.
By the time I left the office, and got back into my vehicle, I was almost in tears. I was berating myself for being stupid, ugly, fat, and that I should be embarrassed to be seen by anyone. I have been planning a diet and exercise routine for a month now, but I used the excuse of my stomach pain to delay getting started. I came to the realization on the ride home that I have been so fixated on getting my mental health under control, that I have neglected my physical health, but I can’t do that anymore.
I love my family very much, and I’ve always had the mindset that I wasn’t going to change anyone’s routines just for me. After the realization, that it’s crunch time, I talked with my husband and children. I told them that we were going to start eating healthier meals, and I told them about my exercise plans. (Which they are excited about doing with me) I am going to put my plan in action, first thing in the morning. I knew that if I wanted peace tonight that I was going to have to write out my thoughts and feelings.
That’s the main reason for this post. I figured that people needed to understand that when we are in physical pain, and we deal with all our cognitive distortions, we are not easy to help. Since everyone has gotten back home, ate supper, showered, and gotten ready for tomorrow, I have been busy with my go-to coping mechanism. It used to be listening to dark, angry or sorrowful music while staring at the wall. But now, I use easy, uplifting music (but still rock) and then color, write, work on school, or whatever project I can find. For me, with my mind going in so many different directions, it is easier for me to see the rational, logical side of things. But, until I get to that level, I’m easily irritated. I get extremely focused on whatever I am doing that when I get interrupted, I usually bark at whoever is doing the interrupting, unfortunately. I know this is hurtful to my family, I know they want to help in any way they can, but sometimes it is better to leave us alone to figure things out on our own.
I’ll leave with this: When things happen in our lives, we sometimes beat ourselves up with negative automatic thoughts. These thoughts don’t help, and most of the time, they make us feel worse. Therapy helps you with paying attention to these thoughts and changing them. Your therapist will challenge you to get specific and accurate in your language which defuses the negativity in the thought and changes how it feels entirely. It’s not about denying the facts of the situation, nor is it about positive thinking. You don’t have to pretend that things are all good all the time. That’s not true, but neither is it true that things are all bad all the time. And when you can clear your thoughts of emotional noise, you give yourself a break to get on with things!
THINK BETTER, FEEL BETTER!