Daily Archives: April 6, 2013

Gutter time

When I got up this morning, my mood was neither up nor down. I was just here.

Decided to hit a couple of the first yard sales of the season. I love finding great deals and odds and ends that way. My kid had her own purse and money and we shopped together and it was fun.

The flipside to the neutral mood was the anxiety blasting my nerve endings out from under my skin. Traffic, the cats, the kid not listening to a word I say, the financial considerations over ever nickel I spend…It just became this deafening cacophony in my head and I wanted to scream. I didn’t. I walked away to another part of the room when we got back. I tried to sit my kid down and talk to her calmly and logically. Of course, she’s like adhd toddler and before I could get my sentence out it’s “Oh,look a bunny…why do bunnies have ears…what’s that noise outside….I want this…Give me your stuff…NO!NO!NO!”

And I start envisioning a sturdy rafter and a fucking noose.

After lunch the toddler war has continued.

My mood has crashed down into the gutter. I’ve got her calmed down for the moment and I have just been sitting here, no music, no tv, nothing, just staring off into space and listening to the heavy gusts of wind whipping at everything. I feel blank. I could fold laundry, I could clean closets, I could read a book…

But like I am frozen, I am just sitting here staring off into space, too mentally scattered to string two thoughts together.

Thus I thought I’d post, because these gutter times are the bucket of suck from hell. Bad moods, fine. Good moods fine. Restless moods, fine. This low for no reason off in space mood…

I don’t know how to cope.

Scumbag brain says liquor will help. At least numb me to the anxiety.

Logical brain points out it costs money, it solves nothing, and will inevitably make me sleepy and sluggish.

The two brains need to get on the same fucking page.

That sounds nutsy kookoo doesn’t it? Like I name my brain and it has two personalities or some shit.

It’s not like that, would be much simpler if everything were separate and compartmentalized.

It’s just…like my brain is in a constant war with itself, and there is never a peaceful accord, locked in a catch 22 from hell that never ends. And it just came from out of nowhere, the abrupt shift into gutter mood. Nothing bad happened. I didn’t drink or take pills. I didn’t get hurt.

It happens like that, constantly.

Which has always been the largest stumbling block in trying to work. It’s like having some sort of disease where your bones break suddenly and without much cause. Hard to commit to ya know, typing up a 60 page report if your finger got broken while brushing your teeth. Hard to help unload a truck if you stubbed your toe and broke three bones in your foot. (Okay, not the greatest example but you get the gist.)

Cyclothymia is similar. I have lamented here numerous times on how I make a commitment on Monday and by Thursday my mental space has changed so much, having plans feels like an albatross around my neck.

It’s damn near impossible to promote yourself and your abilities and reliability when the very nature of your disorder is the opposite of reliable. I don’t know how I am going to feel two minutes from now, let alone overnight and or in a week or a month.

Everyone thinks it’s so damn easy, oh,look, you’re out of bed and functioning, you must be all better and work will do you good, get to it.

Yet as these posts prove, I am so all over the map mentally, I can barely keep up with my basic hygiene a times. How I raise a kid is beyond me, unless it was the parental programming which had me raising my sister from age 11 and I just go on autopilot lest I get a verbal assault by mom. Programming goes deep.

But the rest…And even how good I am at autopilot like parenting, caring for house and cats, et al…It’s all subject to the roller coaster ride that never ends. It’s rarely a constant. I can clean the house magnificently on Monday, do the exact same thing on  Friday in a different mindspace, and it looks like Stevie Wonder did it ‘cos everything is tidy but still not clean.

No consistency. None.

And during the gutter moods, I am pretty much useless and limited to dull monosyllabic responses and functioning. Viva bipolar.


The Dark Before Times (or Why I Won’t Go Off My Meds Willy-Nilly)

Originally posted at http://kazza.id.au/2006/10/train-wreck.html

Once upon a time, I was a kid, just like everyone else was once upon a time. I had a fairly happy childhood in spite of the constant upheaval of moving, being the person both of my parents bitched about the other parent to, and all the other joys that come of growing up poor in America. I managed to hold it together pretty well, until I started high school.

I’m not sure what the scientific term is, but everything went to hell. My physical health and stamina evaporated, I was awash in depression and the constant reminder that I was a failure on some level or another, and I’m still not sure how I made it out of there alive. Add in all the hell of being considered the weirdest person in an art school, full-time employ, and rampant perfectionism, and I repeat that question — how the hell did I make it out of there alive?

And yet, saying that, I still feel faint twinges of people thinking I’m a drama queen for having slogged through those years feeling oh-so-alone. My parents were then, and still are, not the sort of people to engage in frank discussion about emotions. Oh, they tried to chivvy my feelings out of me as a pre-teen, but it backfired so severely that I became quite skilled at not speaking for hours… and couldn’t actually express emotions in words until my 20s. My friends were similar in their responses; if someone brought up something ‘painful’, lo, the jokes came out and the subject was rapidly changed. I still do my best to not be bitter or accusative, because those things are soul poison. And then, I just masked the severe pain of existence with whatever substances I could get my hands on (within the range I permitted myself; I wasn’t about to become a cokehead or start abusing needle drugs).

When I joined the Air Force, I had to continue in the same sort of vein. It’s not exactly a caring organization, per se, and it was ever my understanding one cannot have mental health issues and a security clearance. It was ‘fine’ to a point — boozing is an accepted part of military culture. Having said that, I was drinking myself into a stupor with sleeping pills because shift work has absolutely no respect for human body clocks. I developed severe sleep paralysis, and insomnia. The forced exercise regimes robbed me of my appetite atop severe non-stop nausea (which meant a good decade of my life hearing ‘You’re pregnant!’ jokes near-daily. Top tip? DO NOT THINK THIS A JOKE THAT IS OKAY TO MAKE). I was in a town I hated with people I didn’t particularly like who, like in high school, labelled me terminally weird and left it at that. I don’t mind owning up to my weirdness, mind, but the isolation was kind of crap.

When I ‘met’ my husband, it was as if a haze lifted. I’m one of those people who weighs things up and overthinks everything (like most of my bipolar compatriots!), so when I am sure about something, I am very sure about something. So it was from the first time my husband messaged me, ‘Hi <3.’ As my mother put it, I was happy for the first time in my life, and it was true. And it enabled me to sober up in a reasonable amount of time. It came with a job that didn’t have office drama, because I married into a family business (though I do have any number of anxiety trigger issues with my father-in-law… but I won’t go into that right now). My life was, for the first time ever, ideal.

Of course, that meant that all those emotions and brain fuckeries that I’d been covering up to get by came to the fore.

I continued to ignore it for a few years, even if it ended up with me taking swathes of the year where I’d hide at home and go to work. My physical state was still terrible due to probable endometriosis, and it got to the point where we opted for what my mother calls ‘the cure’ — getting pregnant. That happened readily, and we had a gorgeous little girl promptly nine months later.

Which is, of course, where it fell apart that bit worse.

Because, of course, I went from where I could try to ignore it and get by to realizing that I really needed to get my house in order. Having a kid isn’t like having a cat — the cat will just give you a flat look if you start screaming and raging; a kid will join in and probably start the therapy bill from birth. Trying to take care of myself, something that I should have probably tried to find the strength to do sooner, was something I had to do for the sake of my family. It took a couple of years of bullshit before I managed to get my diagnosis confirmed (which I might write out again sometime, if I can’t find an old post about it), but having something definitive, and some medicine chucked at it, was a lot like throwing open the blinds and actually getting some blah blah bright shiny light.

Now, I had my reservations about starting meds, just like pretty much everyone else. I was afraid I was going to lose myself, and I was so prideful of having survived the rapids for that long. It seemed to me those rapids were a part of who I was, and how different would I be if they went away? It turns out I’m a lot happier. It turns out I’m not flipping out at everyone in my line of sight over nothing. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to heal the years of damage being constantly in a state of fight-or-flight, but I can hope that I can salvage some relationships, and hopefully not lose too many more as Bipolar II does its bit with the recurrent depressive episodes to destroy my social functioning. It’s more useful than not in the past year; I started attending my Stitch ‘n Bitch group after starting meds, and they all seem to believe me to be a cheerful, even (albeit quirky) person. Normality achieved? Close enough in this instance!

So yes, I can thank my Seroquel for evening me out; I used to be a rapid cycler of the ultradian sort, dontcha know. If you want to know just how poignantly miserable that is, I recommend checking out this blog; she explains it very well, and why having meds that work is a godsend (she doesn’t, even though she knows what works. I still hope her doctors get over their misconceptions and help her out). I was in a constant state of fight-or-flight, and frequently had bad insomnia (it still springs up a bit in spite of the Seroquel, but not as much). I did as much as I could to manage on my own, and it was not enough. I did it with as much cheer as I could muster (which shot me in the foot, ’cause if I’m smiling I must be okay? Bullshit), but in the end I had to admit that I needed assistance. And having had it, having had all those years of unmanaged hell… even when I hit ‘Yay I feel okay!’, I just have to think about to all those years of pain, and the urge to go off meds evaporates.

That isn’t to say I’m against people who choose to not take meds; if self-managing is working for you, then kudos! Maybe that will be me some day down the line, but for now… I’m grateful for the stability it gives me, because it enables me to work on me a bit better.

Also, hi to the new people coming by — welcome aboard! And old or new, kudos on reaching the bottom of this much longer than intended post. ;D

<3

The post The Dark Before Times (or Why I Won’t Go Off My Meds Willy-Nilly) appeared first on The Scarlet B.

A-Z Challenge; E is for Effortless Earning of (insert whatever you want here) Mental Moment

E is for Effortless Earning of… We are on the letter E on the A-Z April Blogging Challenge and nearly through the first week.  A day to regroup will be […]

The varying states of mind that comprise cyclothymic disorder

They are called “mood disorders”. While technically accurate, I also think it trivializes what is not at all trivial. To call it a “mood” problem denies the severity of mental illness and its legitimacy. I am not trying to reinvent the wheel and proposing better terminology. But I have come to the point where having something that impacts every aspect of my existence almost on an hour by hour basis in spite of being fully medicated trivialized makes me want to staunchly draw attention to and shine some light on it.

In terms of bipolar, there is bipolar one (more ups than downs) then bipolar two (more downs than  ups.) According to who you speak to, cyclothymia, my form, is either bipolar three or a form of bipolar two. I don’t really care what the professionals want to call it. IT SUCKS no matter what label you slap on it.

And this notion that cyclothymia is somehow lesser than other forms of bipolar is laughable. It’s haunted me every moment of every day since I was 12 years old and would have abrupt highs, deep lows, a period of in betweens. And all the while a neverending series of various other “moods” that never seemed to stabilize for more than a few hours. Which of course a lot of doctors say isn’t possible, and yet here I am, a walking, talking case study with a file as thick as a collegiate dictionary to prove.

Professionals, for all their training and experience, actually know fuck all about mental illness. Because most of them spend ten minutes pushing meds, without ever knowing their patient. So pardon me if I don’t bow down to their education and skillset and experience. I’m the one living in this mind, living with this shit, and since I walk in these shoes, I’m going to define it my way.

I don’t buy that cyclothymia bipolar three, the bastard cousin of “serious” bipolar forms like one and two.

I believe cyclothymia is part of bipolar two. I have lived the long periods of depression over and over and over. I have sailed high on the sea of mania over and over and over.

I have heard oh so many times from so called friends who met me during an up phase or manic spell and they say, “I didn’t know you were this depressing, you seemed so fun, I can’t hang out with you anymore.”

Yep. Just a little mood glitch, no big deal.

NOT.

If anything, cyclothymia the worse form of bipolar because it isn’t taken seriously and there are a lot of people who probably could be diagnosed bipolar but they’re on the cusp, not too high for too long, not too low for too long. I had a shrink who classified it that way and gave me the wrong meds and well, made me worse than I was to begin with. It may not be an easy diagnosis to make, but those who do experience the cycles of rapid changing states of mind are being done a disservice being labeled as simply depressed and treated with anti depressants. I’ve been there and it was why I never got better for more than a couple of months before crashing and burning. Because anti depressants don’t stabilize, they can actually cause manic mood shifts.

It took over 13 years for me to get the right diagnosis and right direction with meds.

As for the “lesser” label slapped on cyclothymia, supposedly because there are no six month or year long constant depressions or manias, well, there are times I would gladly accept six months or a year of mania or depression because it would beat never being able to get off the damn roller coaster. There are days I have six mood swings, sometimes minor shifts like tripping, sometimes like falling down a flight of stairs. There are days between my mood and panic, I feel utterly fragile and as scared as a six year old kid. Some days, my mood shoots up and I feel boisterous and joking and invincible.

On those same days, I will inevitably shoot up in mood or crash down.

Thus I don’t consider them “moods” as much as states of mind. Because if you’re in a state of mind where you’re too scared to make a phone call and too borderline depressed to bother bathing, then six hours later you’re bouncing off the walls…It really is like being in a totally different mental space. Sometimes, the shifts are so abrupt and severe, I almost feel like I am in someone else’s head because I can’t reconcile feeling like jumping off a bridge then three hours later wanting to tell the world I love everyone and they should give me hugs and…

Fully medicated, still rapid cycling, that is not lesser. That is a neverending hindrance to a meaningful life. It breeds frustration and contempt and self loathing. It makes you feel useless, especially when people say “oh, it’s just a bad mood, snap out of it.”

None of us would be shoveling in the costly pills and making the pharma companies rich if we could snap out of it, for fuck’s sake.

Yesterday at the shop…I was literally feeling like I was crawling out of my skin. I was just uncomfortable, out of sorts, I even “forgot” to make some calls….Until afternoon when suddenly my mood shifted upward and rather than feeling scared and vulnerable, I felt strong and capable. I was afraid to do something yesterday because the panic had combined with the mental state and I just couldn’t make myself budge.

Today, I went in and did it without a second thought. Different mental space.

States of mind.

So calling them mood disorders really is insulting. Manic highs are like being on six different drugs at once, you are invincible, the world  is a beautiful unflawed place and there’s nothing you can’t do.

Depressions are like having all but a pint of blood drained from your body. You’re too weak and fragile and incapable of basic functioning for long stretches.

Stable periods promise normalcy, lure you into a false sense of complacency, then kick you in the skull.

Now…mix all of those up into each and every day, varying in number of occurrences and speed of the shifts.

THAT is cyclothymia, day after day after day.

With everyone telling you that it’s your personality, you’re a bad person, blah blah blah.

I am NOT my disorder.

And my disorder is not lesser.

I can’t plan ahead for my state of mind could go wonky.

I can’t make promises  because I may not be in any condition to keep them.

I don’t meet new people often because inevitably due to the ever cycling moods, inevitably someone is disappointed that I am not happy fun ball as I am when manic.

I avoid dating because the few times I have tried to have marriages, et al, my disorder has devoured it all. “I can’t handle your mood swings” will be etched into my fucking gravestone.

So while not denying bipolar one and two are serious…

Cyclothymia isn’t really something to make jokes about.

And if we’re gonna be honest…

It all sucks.