Making Decisions

I know without a shadow of a doubt that I am not the only person in the world who has difficulty with decision making. This is not an issue that is limited to those with mental health difficulties and it affects many people in different ways. 

Some people who have to make huge decisions which impact the lives of many struggle with smaller everyday decisions – as if all their decision-making power was ‘used up’ in the process of their every day work. 

Others have a long process which they follow when making important decisions. Some have to write out pros and cons, deliberate over the facts they are faced with and do their own further research to support that decision. 

There are so many different kinds of decisions that any one person might make, and different ways of posing that question to ourselves. Take something as simple and getting dressed. What do I want to wear? What do I think other people might want me to wear? What does the weather suggest I ought to wear? Of course, different situations would call for different decisions and the importance of those decisions. 

If you’re planning on lounging around the house all day you can quite literally wear whatever you want. That dress you bought for your friend’s wedding and have only worn once, or those really comfy trousers that have seen better days but are great for curling up on the couch. 

If you’re going to a job interview, obviously – the opinions of others are something you want to take into consideration. Even then there are a number of questions I know I would be posing to myself. Growing up, my Father instilled a sense of ‘neatness’ in my appearance and I don’t see me going to a job interview in anything less than black trousers, a shirt and a blazer. What if this interview was more relaxed though? What if the interviewer is hoping to see some of my personality shine through in my clothing choices? Making human connections is important in most interactions we have with others, especially when it comes to work – and employment with people who we will potentially be spending most of our working week with. 

Decisions that I struggle with most are based around food. Am I hungry? What am I craving? Do I have any food in the house that I can cook easily? Do I want anything that I can cook right now? Where do I want to eat? Is this healthy? Should I buy this bar of chocolate when I know I’m just going to eat the whole thing in one go even though it’s the biggest bar of chocolate I’ve ever seen in my life, and don’t get me started on Jelly Tots. I can count the number of times that I have sealed a packet of Jelly Tots back up to save for later. 

Later, I will probably question many decisions that I’ve made. Today has been a relatively good day, food wise. I had a veggie breakfast with my Dad in the City for lunch and re-heated some leftovers from the weekend that a friend helped me cook for dinner. I’ve even got some Linda McCartney Sausage Rolls cooking for ‘snacks’ through the rest of the week. (If you haven’t tried them yet, I implore you. They are scrumptious, I promise! 

Now, at this moment the chemicals in my brain are in a state of flux. My GP & I (or, just me) made the decision to increase what dose of medication I’m on. That was two weeks ago, and anyone who has been on anti-depressants knows that it can take 6-8 weeks for the new dosage or drug to come to a therapeutic level. Before that I’d been experiencing long periods of low mood, and honestly – that’s just not who I am. So it made sense, of course – but in the mean time I just have to keep managing with this constant fluctuation. 

As a Law student, that isn’t really an option. Trying to justify my decisions isn’t easy, and the one point I really wanted to make with this post is that when you have a health condition (like Borderline, or depression and any number of other things) you really start to question those bigger decision. 

There are not enough fingers and toes on my body to count the number of times I have asked myself what feels like it should be a simple question. 

Why am I studying Law?

Two years ago, when I decided to undertake a Law degree it felt like a decision made on a whim. On reflection, there was a lot of thought and discussion involved in the process and if it hadn’t been for those conversations with other people – I’d be studying Social Policy instead. 

Low self-esteem, lack a self-belief, the mess of chemicals in my head, the difficulty of the work I’m being asked to do, the complexity of the cases and the need to be able to focus and apply laws are all reasons that flitter through my head when I ask myself this question. Who am I kidding? I’m never going to be able to achieve this HUGE goal so why am I bothering? 

It hurts that I think this. It hurts that despite the advice and support that has been offered around me, that my thoughts gravitate toward this way of thinking. I know I’m smart enough to do the work, I understand it well, and even I can see that there are cases I can remember the details of. Hell, half my friends have joked that they’re getting themselves a ‘free education’ from all the facts that keep rolling off my tongue. 

So why do I feel like I haven’t made the right decisions? The difficulty I’m having to focus at the moment has impacted on a number of things. My ability to get to sleep, to go to lectures, to read for more than a paragraph and feel like I haven’t just been daydreaming about cats the entire time. Equally I’ve been having those kinds of dreams where I’m not sure if they really happened or not? Some things that happen are more obvious than others, but when you remember a news story and you can’t remember if you actually read it, or you read it in a dream – things can be complicated. Until earlier today, I had managed to convince myself that the next assignment we had been given was simply ‘Choose an area of law and explain it to me’, and have been having both awake, and ‘asleep’ thoughts about this. These are some of the only ways I’m really aware of the levels of anxiety I have, because it feels like all the other anxiety is just ‘normal’ for me now. 

I’m still looking for the right indicators that suggest I am right in standing by my decision to get a degree. Although a know, somewhere in the far reaches of my brain that this IS what I want, I am capable, and this wasn’t a bad decision – there is a haze of emotion that wants me to think otherwise. 

Worrying that all this ‘stuff’ going on at the moment is an elaborate form of self-sabotage is another thing that keeps me awake at night. 

It is my sincerest hope that by Christmas the chemicals in my brain will settle, that I will be able to get on with the work tasked to me and when the 17th January rolls around I’ll be ready and raring to go. 

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M e d i c a t i o n & Motivation

It’s one of those buzz words, isn’t it?

It used to be something I struggled to accept, that I was ‘reliant’ on a particular drug to get me through life. My Dad didn’t like the idea of me taking anti-depressants, my ex told me I was going to rattle, an old boss said that he didn’t think I needed to be on them at all. Being on medication became another one of those things that I constantly questioned about ‘myself’ and it wasn’t until I was well into my 20’s that I finally came to the conclusion that it really didn’t matter if I needed to take something so that I could function well through life. 

What I know since being diagnosed with Borderline has changed some of my thinking about the drugs I was given in the past, (but it is probably best to save my thoughts about co-morbidity for another time!) but I still stand strongly beside my opinion that sometimes individuals can need a particular drug in order to maintain a ‘steady’ attitude to life. Without that every day can be a struggle. I’m still never sure whether I will wake up on ‘x’ morning and feel ready for whatever I might have planned that day, but I know with more certainty that it is likely I will.  

Recently, after a long(er than usual) bout of low mood and general disinterest in practically anything I managed to get myself off to visit my GP. (Who took one look at how long I’d been on the previous dosage and said ‘yeah, I think an increase is a good idea’. Is it??? Why?? Whatever.)  I’d already decided that maybe an increase in the dosage would help me to feel more like ‘me’ again, but I’d completely and utterly forgotten what it feels like when you do actually take up a new drug or increase it. 

The last four days have seen me unable to sleep until well past midnight, and yet surprisingly alert and awake the following day despite getting less sleep than I’m used to. It seems strange then that I’m also having moments where my eyes are not focussed on whatever I’m looking at, and I have to shake myself to be able to do what it is I want to accomplish. My dreams have been memorable (unusual!) and weird

Other than that, I’m feeling positive about the difference. Feeling like you’re ‘you’ again after a time of self-doubt is a relief. Over the last four or five weeks I have questioned my decision to go to University and study Law, wondering whether it would be better for me to get a ‘proper’ job or find something else to do that has immediate rewards. Distancing myself from friends hasn’t been helpful, or easy actually. 

As of right now, in this minute as I sit here typing away (in a new and improved? wordpress document creator that doesn’t like spaces after words) I should be studying. In particular I should be reading about the principle of Parliamentary Sovereignty. I have my Public Law textbook at the ready, and I’ve even written this down as a task in a ‘new’ web-based app I’ve found that combines Kanban with the Pomodoro technique. 

I frequently look for new and better ways to motivate myself. Whether that’s finding another budgeting, studying, tracking, mindfulness app or hunting down the next ‘perfect’ notebook for writing a journal but right now (possibly thanks to the increase in meds???) this desire to find better things to ‘use’ on a daily basis feels like it has increased tenfold. 

Is this procrastination?! I hear you ask. Well, yes probably it is. When I do manage to actually fight the part of my brain that wants to sit and think about sorting all the cat pictures and gifs on my phone, or re-writing my budget for the millionth time but THIS TIME in an app that will calculate how much I should be spending, or posting some more pictures onto Instagram, or coming up with new blog posts, or thinking up more tasks that don’t actually need to be done or questioning whether there’s any point in getting on with anything because I have a groceries delivery in two hours…

The truth is, that no matter how many study aids you use, or however many apps you have on your phone you have to be able to switch off from everything else and actually get on with it. Easier said than done, I’m sure you agree. 

My friends would tell me I need to stop telling myself what I ‘should’ be doing and go a little easier on myself. Take a deep breath, take a step back, turn off Fun! Hospital and read. Even if it is only for 25 minutes (you can do this). 

Medication

You know, I just really needed somewhere to get my thoughts out.

This Tuesday, I had a far more successful appointment with my Psychiatrist. The first is another story entirely that I don’t feel comfortable going through just yet.

The psychiatrist and I talked about a lot of things, and there were a fair few of them that really surprised me. I thought it was a little strange that he asked me what age my parents were, and whether or not they were married, and what they did for work. Weirder still, he was very intent on getting a thorough history of where I’d been on my travels the previous year.

I talked a lot, and as is the case for me a lot of the time at the moment – I questioned the diagnosis of BPD. It’s silly, really. In one breath I feel like I relate to the diagnosis completely and utterly. Thinking about the relief it gave me, and the clarity that it provided when I looked back on the rest of my life meant that to me it just made sense and from that moment on I felt suddenly incredibly empowered to keep moving forward.

Thankfully, the psych was kind enough to take a moment to let me know that if the diagnosis had done all this for me, and still explained so many of my behaviours then I probably needed to accept it. I do. I wish I did all the time, but there are moments when I’m reading about other people who also have BPD, and listening to other people’s stories that I feel like somehow I am cheating them out of their diagnosis. Like there has to be something else that I should be identifying with.

That thought alone is enough to make me angry with myself. Everyone’s story is their own personal timeline. I tell myself, and others quite often that even identical twins have different thoughts, feelings, wants, needs and issues. This is the same for everyone.

Also, during my meeting – we discussed the other thing.

Depression is something I know I’ve also suffered with, and I’m beginning to wonder whether the onset of it was something completely removed from BPD. My memories of childhood don’t stretch back far enough to determine whether borderline has affected my life far before my teenage years, but I could certainly say that I displayed plenty of traits I recognised now well before I was depressed.

By the end of the session, I’d not only had my fears sated, and my concerns discussed – but there was something else hanging between us that I almost didn’t want to have to hear.

Going back on medication is a decision I promised myself I wouldn’t make lightly, and I don’t think for one minute that either myself, or the psychiatrist would even think about it if it didn’t make sense.

It’s scary though. For so many reasons and some of them not as obvious as the others.

I’m worried about my ‘self’. The person I have learned to accept in the last year is more often than not, peppy and upbeat. I get excited about the most ridiculous things and act so often like I know there are other people watching but I just don’t care. I’m happy not caring, and I’m concerned that I’ll lose that part of me I’ve grown to accept and love.

I’m scared of the vivid dreams I haven’t had since last October. I’m scared of appetite changes, sleeping pattern shifts. I’m scared of suicidal thoughts and depressive thinking. I’m scared that they will make me feel sick, and worse – I’m afraid that I’ll stop being able to feel.

To me, feelings and emotions play such a huge role in my every day life. I love life. I smile at buildings, for no reason other than I’m happy.

Knowing that there is another side to me sometimes doesn’t feel like it’s enough to justify potentially changing this attitude.

“Depressed Ollie” is not pleasant. For me, or for anyone else around me. I dislike her, and I know that sometimes that’s not the best attitude to have when you’re trying to overcome living with a part of yourself but I cannot help but question whether some of the things that I have become used to are simply down to the fact that I am depressed. Will going on medication change me so drastically that suddenly I’ll be able to accomplish the things that have felt too difficult or scary?

Will I find the strength, without those underlying thoughts and feelings, to do things I don’t feel capable of yet?

Has this last year been an exercise in ‘mastering’ my understanding of my life with Borderline, and now I need to work on Depression as a whole… other thing that impact so much of what I do, and try to do.

Personality is such an unbalanced concept for me at the moment anyway, and there’s a defeatist part of myself that wants to lean back and let it happen. After all, my traits and habits and thoughts seem to change depending on the weather anyway. Why shouldn’t I just throw caution to the wind and try this? Give it a go, what’s the worst that can happen?

I have a feeling that I’ll go ahead with this decision. It felt right on Tuesday morning, and I know in my heart that things aren’t ‘right’. It still doesn’t stop me from feeling uneasy about it.