Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Don't rush me!
For most people making decisions comes fairly easily. They can look at a situation, assess it and factor in the pros and cons relatively quickly and move on it. I used to think that I was capable of that and tried to move along as quickly as the people around me. Sometimes it worked but most of the time the result was anxiety, stress, panic attacks and poor decisions.
The problem is that I did not yet know that I had an illness that changed my brain and the way that it functions during different parts of my hormonal cycle. I didn't know that Dysphoria had ahold of me. I had not yet learned that for 2 to 3 weeks of every month the thoughts and feelings were not really mine and could not be trusted. I would try to 'power through it' which just triggers the symptoms even more. A lot of times I would just give up out of frustration and go home in almost tears after standing in the video store trying to pick a rental movie or drive around for hours looking at restaurants, weak from hunger and low blood sugar, unable to pick somewhere to eat. After the trigger is flipped then the social anxiety and paranoia kick in, making it almost impossible to ask anyone for help or even go inside once a decision is made. Many, many nights were spent eating cereal in the dark, angry at myself for not being able to even go find food for myself.
I can't always take more than one cycle to make a decision, especially not when food is involved! So I keep a lot of small, healthy snacks available at all times so hunger can never throw me into a tailspin. I try and plan meals that are easy and keep them on hand for the bad weeks. I freeze my leftovers so I can reheat them when I am incapable of making any choices at all and in no shape to try and leave the house. That is normally just during the 'migraine days', the 3 to 5 days a month I try to pretend I do not have an alien hatching in my brain and trying to claw it's way out. Oh, and there are no video stores anymore so that one kind of solved itself.
For big decisions, like anything having to do with finances, automobiles, housing, medical procedures, I normally have to take a minimum of three months to ensure that I know I definitely wanted the same outcome during my best days of each cycle. During that 6 to 14 days of freedom from the beast I know who I am, what I want and my thoughts are my own. There is no anxiousness, no worry that everyone hates me and is plotting against me, no fear that every word I say is going to offend someone and cause problems, no rage and urge for violence threatening to take over, no dark thoughts of ending things. Beautiful, quiet, peacefulness in my mind and body. But 6 to 14 days (I average 10) is not long enough to make a serious decision that could affect my life for years to come. I forbid myself from thinking about it during the bad days because it serves no purpose but to make me second guess myself and be confused and upset.
How I handle it:
The first week of contemplation I make notes on my ideas and research. Then I wait. Sometimes I will do more research during the bad weeks but only to print it or write notes for later. Mostly I wait. The second week of contemplation I compare all the notes and make a plan for making a final decision. I weight my options and make notes of how they rank. I make a plan for every contingency, all the 'if then's have to be covered. Then I wait. By the time the third week of contemplation rolls around it has been three months. If any sales people or agents are involved in my decision making process they are often fed up with me at this point and usually losing patience. When I walk in with my decision made their reaction is the last thing that can sway me from making the deal. Any rudeness or treatment that I perceive to be based on my needing time to make a decision and I will walk out the door and start over. Somewhere else. I cannot work with someone that cannot gracefully handle the way that I have to do things whether they know it is to accommodate my illness or not. And I am damn sure not going to give them my money.
I've gotten accustomed to the way I need to do things in order keep my stress levels to a minimum. The hardest thing to deal with is people who criticize me or try and push me. Friends say 'Just do it! It's no big deal.' or worse 'So what? Get over it already.' This is pretty much the same thing as telling someone in a wheelchair to 'Get over it already' and walk. It is very hurtful. I don't want to have a chronic illness that impacts every part of my daily life. I didn't choose to be mentally ill for half of my adult life in a rotating schedule. This ride is not optional, trust me I have tried. If it were possible to 'get over' the way your brain was wired and how you produce and react to hormones and chemicals within the brain I would be the first in line to do it. No such luck.
What I do have are coping skills, tools I have learned over the years to help avoid triggers, lessen the impact of stress and communicate my needs. I also have a strong connection with nature and the Divine, call it what you will, and that allows me to get through this daily struggle with a smile on my face and a spring in my step. Experience has taught me that if I stick to my routine, set my boundaries wisely and take my time, I can lessen the impact of the illness and live a relatively normal life. I have been sticking to this plan for four years now and it is the best I have felt since the early 90's. Don't get me wrong I still have my episodes now and again, I still have my down times but I do believe there is proof enough that I am doing something right and should keep chugging along...