Your Mind Matters Episode 13 – Coffee News, Identifying with Illness, Interactions at Work, and Worry

Your Mind Matters Episode 13 – Coffee News, Identifying with Illness, Interactions at Work, and Worry

Not sure what to disclose at work? In this week’s episode of the podcast, Christine shares some exciting news about coffee! We also answer questions from callers about how to manage feelings that arise when you identify with your mental illness, whether or not being anxious and uptight are the same thing, making disclosures at work, and coping with worries.

Introduction

Christine shares that she recently learned that coffee can count towards daily fluid intake. Previously she’d believed that the caffeine in coffee was dehydrating enough that it had a net negative effects but a friend told her about a study that found that coffee isn’t too bad from a dehydration perspective.

Chris and Christine also discuss insomnia and the fact that worrying about not sleeping can make it even harder to fall asleep. Christine tries to reassure Chris that although sleep is important, for both physical and mental health, it’s OK to go a day or two without great sleep and that you’ll be able to function. More about sleep hygiene is available here.

Question 1

I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and I am finally on a regimen of medications and feel pretty stable. What I’m asking about is that one of the ways I learned to cope with my diagnosis and and learning about that and getting better was to really embrace bipolar disorder as part of my identity. Now that I’m not necessarily dealing with as many or as intense ebbs and flows, I kind of feel like that part of myself is missing. To go a little bit further, whenever I do feel like I’m edging towards depression or edging towards mania, I start thinking that I’m making it up because I just I want to be unwell, or to kind of fulfill that part of my identity. I’m wondering if you can address what it’s like to identify as a person with a mental illness, even though you are stable, and that creeping self-doubt, and when to take emotional relapses seriously. Love the podcast. Thank you.

  • Christine notes how identifying with a mental illness can be a double edged sword. While it can feel empowering to have a label and better understanding for your struggles and challenges, it can also sometimes feel limiting in that you might tell yourself that there are some things you can or can’t do because you have that disorder.
  • Chris highlights the difference between HAVING a disorder and BEING a disorder. He describes the relief that he experienced when he got the social anxiety disorder diagnosis, but that he works to not set mental limits for himself based on his diagnosis and experience with social anxiety.
  • Christine talks about how with bipolar disorder sometimes patients stop taking their medications because feeling manic can be enjoyable in the sense that people have a lot of energy, don’t need sleep, etc.
  • Christine comments that she doesn’t believe that the caller is “making up” her symptoms when she has them, but rather that, like all people, she has ups and downs. She might want to talk to a therapist or family member or friend to decide on a specific threshold of when the symptoms have gotten to a point where someone should intervene (by contacting a provider, etc.). The caller and her therapist or psychiatrist could create a treatment contract that would outline that kind of agreement.
  • Chris encourages the caller to acknowledge the progress she’s made.
  • Christine also notes that it’s possible that the caller is feeling like she has taken on the role of “sick person” and if so, she could work on nurturing other aspects of her life, spending time on hobbies, work, family, etc, to direct some attention away from the illness piece.

Question 2

Recently my manager at work described me as “uptight” and the more I thought about it, I realized that that is a quality I’ve developed. But it set in at about the same time that I started developing a lot of anxiety issues. I was just wondering if the two were related and if so, if you know any ways that people are able to work on becoming less uptight and finding better ways to cope with their anxiety. Thank you.

  • Chris suggests that the caller be cautious of applying the label on herself just because her manager noted it. If she feels that she is uptight, and she wants to be different, that’s one thing, but he encourages her not to assume that the manager is correct in his description. He wonders if being anxious and uptight always go together, or if sometimes people who are anxious might be the opposite.
  • Christine suspects that anxiety and being “uptight” tend to go together.
  • Chris describes a number of ways that the caller can cope. Meditation, self-care, exercise, setting a time for scheduled “worry time”, and creating lists or notes.
  • Christine comments on whether or not it’s appropriate to describe an employee “uptight”. Chris and Christine agree that being “uptight” could be beneficial in a workplace and that being labeled that way isn’t necessarily helpful. They don’t feel that it’s the most useful feedback to receive.

Question 3

How can I control the paranoia that comes with depression? I have tried CBT exercises but once those thoughts come through they are impossible to shift and can send me into a spiral. Specifically, that my partner is seeking someone else or that a relapse is imminent and I will be severely depressed again.

  • Christine suggests that this person is probably dealing with worry rather than paranoia per se. Worry and depression and more likely to be co-morbid than depression and paranoia.
  • Christine validates the caller’s experience that CBT is challenging and doesn’t work for everyone, especially not right away. An acceptance-based approach might be more helpful. Noticing, acknowledging, and labeling the worry thoughts could be more valuable than spending time trying to change the thoughts.
  • Chris notes that the caller used the word “impossible” and speculates that often our beliefs about our abilities become self-fulfilling prophecies and that perhaps the caller shouldn’t draw the conclusion that what he or she is trying to do is “impossible.”
  • Christine speaks to the feeling that while someone “knows” that the thought isn’t true but still “feel” that way. She encouraged the caller to think about what they want to do with that thought. Once you notice and let go of the thought, you have the power to decide how to continue living your life in recovery from depression (or whatever it may be).  You can decide what is most helpful and and do those things.
  • Chris wonders whether it would be helpful to work with a therapist to help with the process of challenging thoughts and working through CBT. Christine agree that for some people it really can be helpful to have another person looking at your thoughts with you.

Grab Bag

I have PMDD and am on medication. I still have really bad symptoms the week before my period. I’ve started a new job and am wondering if I should tell my boss? He’s pretty nice but I’m scared he will think I’m crazy or lying.

  • Chris describes that he appreciates openness from employees and their sharing their feelings sooner rather than later. But he wonders whether it’s a good idea to share this information when you’ve just started a job and established a new relationship with your boss.
  • Christine says she wouldn’t share this information. Given that the caller has just started the position and is not sure what her symptoms will be like, she won’t want the management to blame any challenges that come up on the caller’s disorder. While stigma is still a problem and it’s important to push back against it, it’s not always realistic to share this kind of personal information in a workplace because discrimination can happen and can be hard to document.
  • Chris and Christine agree that ultimately it’s the caller’s decision. Stigma and consequences in the workplace are still very real, unfortunately.

Do you have questions about mental health for the podcast? Call and leave us a message: 415-855-0553.