Saturday, April 13, 2019

Overwhelmed - Visits in the Hospital

By my most recent count, I've now been hospitalized for mental health issues six times since 1998 – a little over once every 3.5 years.

I hate the hospital. It can be scary, the furniture is usually uncomfortable, and hospital staff checking on me every half hour during the night makes it difficult to sleep.

But the thing that really bothered kme in the hospital was the boredom. There are therapy sessions and activities, but during a lot of the day, nothing is scheduled. That means filling the time with conversation (which is hard to sustain with strangers whom the only thing you have in common is being in the hospital for mental illness, but I have had some good conversation with a few other patients), TV, reading, and games. After a few days in the hospital, all those things seem rather boring.

One thing I've been overwhelmed by is the amount of visitors I've had during my stays in the hospital. Friends and family have dropped by to hang out, bring me things to do and treats to eat, and just spend time with me. Phone calls were also a welcome break from the monotony.

I've been so blessed that I've rarely had to spend more than a couple of days in the hospital without company or a call from the outside world. Without that company, the hospital would have definitely been less bearable, and I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of support I’ve received while in the hospital.

So, thank you to all those who have visited or called me while I was in the hospital. It really helped.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Understanding and Support

I’ve received a lot of support when I’ve been hospitalized and in the immediate aftermath. In the past, leaving the hospital has been a challenge. Assimilating back into a regular routine and getting back to coping with the regular stressors that come with life are not always easy.

Besides that, I’ve felt embarrassed about going to the hospital both for being there and for how I was acting immediately before the hospital. When manic, I’ve done things and said things that I really wish I hadn’t, and it’s been hard to to tell myself those things were mostly out of my control due to my illness. I’ve also been embarrassed simply because of the fact that I’m bipolar, and didn’t want people to judge me, put me in a box, expect me to act a certain way, or be uncomfortable around me.

Thankfully, I’ve received a lot of support from friends and family when I’ve left the hospital. I wrote before about how I’ve appreciated people just spending time with me and not trying to pry into what happened or how I’m feeling, but there have also been times when people have said exactly what I needed hear.

After my first trip to the hospital because of a manic episode, I was really embarrassed upon leaving the hospital. I didn’t want to tell anyone I was bipolar or that I had to take medication. Soon after I was out of the hospital, however,  two friends said just the right things to make me feel better.

One friend and I were sitting in the cafeteria when for some reason I told her about how I had to take medication and wasn’t happy about it. “It’s OK,” she said. “I have to take medications too.” She went on to tell me about a medical condition she had. “Some people have to take medication,” she said. “It’s not a big deal.”

Later, I was talking to another friend. I don’t know how it came up, but I told her I was bipolar. “I don’t really want people to know,” I said. “I’m afraid they wouldn’t want to be my friends anymore or that they’d think of me differently.”

“If they’re your friends, why would they stop being your friends or think of you differently?” she said. “If they’re really your friends, they’ll keep being your friends.

It retrospect, both of my friends were simply sharing truths with me, but at the time my embarrassment kept me from seeing things clearly. I’ve been so blessed with support and understanding that leaving the hospital has become less of a burden.

Thanks for reading

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

An Unintentional Kindness

In my last post, I wrote about my anniversary of staying out of the hospital and mentioned the support I've received from friends and family. In my next few posts, I wanted to share some stories of kindness shown to me when I've been in and out of the hospital.

Back in college I was hospitalized for the third time in eight years. There were many factors leading up to my hospitalization, but suffice to say I had severe depression.

After around a week in the hospital, I was discharged. My future sister-in-law picked me up and took me out to lunch before dropping me off at my car, and it was nice to have some normal conversation and time not eating hospital food (which was actually decent, but repetitive).

I wasn't 100% better, but after a medication adjustment and some skills classes, I was well enough to return to college. I was nervous though. Unfortunately, I still felt the stigma of being hospitalized for mental illness, and I was embarrassed and ashamed. I didn't know what to tell people, or at least how much to tell people.

At school, I met a couple of friends for lunch. We ate and chatted a little bit, and they didn't ask me anything about my mental illness or hospitalization. I didn't want to talk about it, and I was grateful they didn't ask me.

A couple days later, I said to my friend, "Thank you for just sitting with me and eating lunch. I appreciated not having to talk about the hospital."

"Well," he said, "I think most of it was that we didn't know what to say."

There's wisdom in that. It's OK to not know what to say. There's comfort in silence and simply having company. Sometimes, just being with someone is enough.

So know that it's OK to just be with someone who's hurting, whether physically or emotionally. Let them initiate discussion. If you call, it's nice to hear, "I'm thinking about you. If there's anything I can do, please tell me.”

Kindness, whether intentional or not, makes a difference. There have been many times when I've been in a hard place emotionally, and a kind word or action lifts me up. Don't let not knowing what to say or do stop you from sharing kindness.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Hospital Anniversary

This year my anniversary of staying out of the hospital came and went without much of a notice from me.  In fact, it is actually my two year and one month anniversary. My one-year anniversary seemed like a bigger milestone, but while it doesn't feel like as big of a deal this year, it's still a good feeling to have been healthy enough to stay out of the hospital.

I've had a couple episodes of mild to moderate mania and depression in the past year, but none of them has been severe and none of them have lasted too long.

I've been fortunate to be on medications that work, and other than sleeping more than I'd like and having a bigger appetite than I'd like, the side effects haven't been too bad.

I'd like to thank all my friends and family who've been supportive of me through my highs and lows. The support of loved ones has definitely made it easier to cope with bipolar symptoms and has helped me continue to stay well.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Racing Post PR

In a previous post, I wrote about the tough transition I'm having now that my days of personal records at most distances are behind me. Because I'm not going to be setting new PRs, I've got a couple of things that will help me stay motivated while racing this season.

First of all, there's age-group placing at most races. I'll be able to look at where I placed in my age group, and compare that place to where I placed in my new age group. Though I won't be as fast, the others in my age group will be slowing down as well, so seeing my age-group places as compared to years past will help me see how I'm doing at maintaining my fitness as I get older.

The other thing that will help me is the age-grade calculator. This tool takes a time and an age and gives it a grade along with an equivalent time based on age. The age grade changes depending on the length of the race, so it won't give me an exact idea of my fitness compared to years past, but it will at least give me an idea. Here's a link to Runner's World calculator: Age Grade Calculator.

As I move closer to racing, I'm starting to feel better about the idea of racing as best as I can and still achieving slower times. I like to race, and even though my racing is not going to be as fast, running the best times I can for my age and fitness is starting to feel more motivating for me.

Run well.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Setting Up Training

I'm back with another running post. March is when I plan to start training for a 50K in July. In my last post, I wrote about how I've been feeling kind of bummed that most PRs are behind me, but I honestly think, even with logging fewer miles, that I could still set a PR in the 50K.

It’s going to be interesting planning out my training because I’m going to be helping with a high school track team. What this will basically mean is that I’ll be doing workouts with track athletes during the week, and planning my own thing on the weekend.

Really, I think it’ll work out well. I can run the easier runs with the fastest group of runners, then do the workouts with either the fastest group (or at least try) or the middle group depending on how I’m feeling,

So that leaves January and February to train on my own before track season. Here’s what I’m planning before I officially start training:

Keep a reasonable mileage of thirty-five to forty-five miles per week 
Even if I only run four days in a week, I can still get two longish runs in on the weekend, meaning I’ll only need to run five to eight miles on each of my weekday runs.

Alternate tempo-type efforts and interval efforts each week 
One week I’ll do a tempo run or tempo intervals, and the next week I’ll do a faster interval workout. This should keep in shape, but not be so much quality that I’ll peak too early.

After spending some time feeling a little bummed out, I’m feeling more optimistic about this running season. I’m not planning on running real high mileage (for me), but I do plan to stay injury-free, which should help my consistency this year. While I won’t be setting many PRs, I hope to race well and maybe have some good finishes in my age group.

Run well.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Tough Transition

As of late, this blog has had a heavy focus on mental health. While I enjoy writing about mental health and mental health hygiene, I feel I’ve neglected writing about running. Many of my readers started reading this blog for the running content, so I hope I haven’t left too many of them behind.

For years my running was mostly defined by pushing limits--more weekly, monthly, and yearly mileage. Faster times, higher age group finishes. And I must admit: I liked it. I liked setting new personal records. I liked pushing the limit for how many miles I could accumulate. It kept me motivated and always left me wanting to do more.

Pushing the limit left me with a feeling of never being satisfied--in a good way. Ran a new PR? Great. Now run even faster. Finished 12th in my age group? Great. Now finish even higher.

Last year was a tough change for me. I spent a lot of the year--all of the winter and some of the spring--injured, and I raced my slowest marathon ever in May. In the past when I've coached track and cross country, I've always been able to run with most of the faster runners. The past two seasons the only time I could run with them was on easy runs.

It's been hard not to get down on myself. I can't help that age will naturally slow me down, and I can't help that I have less time to train now that we have a kiddo, but it's still hard to know that PRs at most distances and pushing the envelope for how far I run in a given week, month, or year, are behind me.

It's definitely made training harder. Without a possible PR in sight, it's harder to be motivated. Before, I could tell myself: if you don't get out the door for this run, you're jeopardizing your chance at setting a PR. Now, when I'm feeling unmotivated, all I have is telling myself: it's good for you.

I wish I had more motivation to run for health reasons. I know running is good for both my physical and mental health, but those reasons are harder sells for me than getting faster.

What about you? I'd love to hear from people who have had to find new reasons to stay committed to an activity. How was the transition? What got you motivated?