Let’s kick off the new year with another self-check on my mental and physical health, shall we?
Short answer: I’m doing quite well.
Longer answer…is much longer:
Last spring, I went off my anti-depressant. Even with my usual summer depression, I’m feeling better not taking it. I’ve heard people complain that anti-depressants have dulled their emotions, and while I never felt that way when I was on it, since I went off the med, I’ve been more emotional, mostly in good ways. It’s not that I’m moodier (I think my mood stabilizer and therapeutic techniques are still handling my cyclothymic mood swings well), just that I feel emotions and express them more fully. And that’s a good thing.
When it comes to my frequent difficulty falling asleep and sleeping through the night (due to a combination of general anxiety and my natural sleep cycle not fitting with a full-time, 8-5 job), I used benadryl for a number of years. Until this past summer, when I suddenly realized that while benadryl makes me dopey and knocks me out, it also makes me kind of wired. I would get emotionally cranky and physically restless while I was falling asleep and I usually woke up feeling tired, as if I wasn’t actually getting enough sleep. I talked to my doctor and we agreed to me switching my usage of Xanax, taking it at night before I go to bed, instead of taking it in a smaller dose in the morning and again in the afternoon. With Xanax, I fall asleep more gently and wake up feeling better rested and calmer. And I haven’t felt the need to take it during the day since I switched it up, which I like a lot. (I have to give credit for that to therapeutic techniques I’ve learned as well as switching when I take the Xanax.)
Wait, that’s not entirely true. I continue to have bad anxiety days, although I don’t think as much as I used to, and on those days when I feel anxious enough to need a sick day, I’ll take Xanax to help calm me down, which usually involves me falling asleep and napping during the day. But I’m a big fan of naps, so, okay then. I’ve also noticed that if I don’t get enough sleep two or more nights in a row, my moods can get severely fucked up. Even one night of too little sleep can make the following day messy for me. But getting enough sleep on the regular makes my days much easier and more fun to go through.
I’ve practiced meditation for years, but with many stops and restarts. In November, I read Hannah Hart‘s memoirs, Buffering, and based on her recommendation in the book, I tried a guided meditation app, Headspace. I didn’t use it every day, but I did more consistently than I have in the past. The guided meditations were a lot of help, and I loved that I could sync it with the Google Fit app and track whether or not I was meditating regularly, but after the free month trial, I didn’t want to pay to keep using it. so I switched to a more minimal app, Calm, that also syncs with Google Fit. (And I continue to use a lot of what I learned from Headspace.) I’ve gotten much better at meditating at least 10 minutes every day and I can feel it, physically and mentally, and getting more consistent with it has boosted my self-esteem. I’ve also gotten better at hitting my Google Fit daily goal of 30 minutes of walking exercise, at least on work days. On my days off, not so much, although I have done more walking to and from my local coffee shop on my days off. Not enough and not regularly, but I’m working on that. In general, though, I’m feeling healthier and I think this is part of the reason my anxiety has been better.
I feel like I’m on the right track, not beating myself up for not hitting goals, but taking note and striving to hit those goals. I feel good about the meds I’m on and the tools I’m using to handle my mental health. Despite 2016 being a flaming pus bucket of a year, one that sent me into too many bouts of melancholy and anxiousness, I’m in a good place.