Things were getting pretty scary for me yesterday. I'd had two nights of hardly any sleep. I kept waking up every 1.5-2 hours with a racing heart and racing, nonsensical thoughts. It was extreme anxiety in response to some nightmares stemming from PTSD. It wasn't fun.
I tried so many of my skills. I listened to three meditation CDs. I used self-talk. I took my anxiety medication. It became clear that this episode would be a doozy and not as responsive to previous self-care measures as other episodes had been. I needed to radically accept that this episode would, evidently, need to ride out its course.
I left messages for my psychiatrist and therapist at the clinic. After some discussion, we decided that going back to IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) for a little while would be a good idea. I had a couple of good days after I graduated from the program on Monday, but then my symptoms flared up with a vengeance, even strong than before I'd first entered the program. It became clear that I need additional support right now, and that's okay.
Part of the issue -- the way my symptoms are manifesting -- is through mood swings and instability of emotions. I go from feeling fine to very tearful over little things. I go from feeling confident and in control to meek and childlike. It's mostly PTSD induced, but having Borderline Personality Disorder is also hugely contributing.
Over the past couple of years, I have become very skillful in using DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) to help with issues of moodiness and emotional instability. On rare occasions, such as this, when I've exhausted the skills that I know to be helpful and still find myself in great distress, I know it's time to reach out for additional help from the outside.
I'll be honest. I was feeling very angry and frustrated yesterday. I was crying and getting upset about having a mental illness to begin with. I was angry that I was having a repeat episode of suffering that I had so recently thought I'd conquered.
Mental illness is so complex that we can't always explain why our nervous systems and minds react and respond in the way that they do. We can know that, even if we can't identify a cause, there always is one, be it psychological or physiological. I do find some comfort in knowing that in some quirky way, there is a method to my nervous system's seemingly mad way of sorting things out.
One suggestion that my therapist had was to get out of the house. I hadn't in a few days, and according to her, your mind can start playing tricks on you when you're cooped up, isolated, and focusing on the symptoms your experiencing and recalling details of nightmares.
I took her up on the challenge and took a drive out to the ocean.
I snapped this pic to share with you. It's of happy California cows. Through my tired eyes and hazy, moody mind, I smiled at them. I wondered what it would be like to be a dairy cow that gets to live free outside and graze on the grass while looking out at the ocean (that's the beautiful Pacific Ocean out in the distance.)
I also went and picked up some food and walked around in a couple of stores. I bought really inexpensive things, mostly to justify my long lingering up and down the isles. (I know I didn't have to, but I felt more comfortable doing so.)
Did any of this help with my moods and emotions? YES.
Just getting out of the house and breathing some fresh air helped. The drive helped. My mind was racing on anxious thoughts on the way out there, but I noticed it was a lot calmer on the way back.
When I was in the stores, I initiated friendly conversations and engaged with others. I felt less lonely and isolated.
When I saw the cows and the ocean, I remembered that my situation is part of a much bigger system of life, that it would pass, and that I can tolerate the distress. It may not be fun, and I certainly wouldn't choose it for myself, but I know brighter days are coming, so I'm doing everything I can to soothe in the meantime.
If you're feeling moody or unstable, please take extra good care of yourself, and reach out for help from the outside.
What do you do to help when feeling moody or emotionally unstable?