Monthly Archives: August 2013

Bipolar, Unemployed, and Lost 2013-08-29 01:02:58

I’m okay. A lot has been happening to me, and I have a wedding coming up.

So… if you don’t hear from me the WHOLE month of Sept, i’m not dead…I’m dealing.

 

Luck, love and sanity to you all.


Wondering

Wondering and waiting
Always anticipating
Something good is about to happen
Getting prepared
As if I’ve been dared
It’s time for something good
I know it, I should
I’ve been through enough
It’s no bluff
I’m ready to go
In my heart I know
It’s time for something more
That is for sure

Wednesday’s Quote: Carrie Fisher

 

File photograph of actress Carrie Fisher arriving for the premiere of her new film "Sorority Row" in Hollywood

“One of the things that baffles me (and there are quite a few) is how there can be so much lingering stigma with regards to mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. In my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls. Not unlike a tour of Afghanistan (though the bombs and bullets, in this case, come from the inside). At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of. They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication.

–  Carrie Fisher, Wishful Drinking

 

Scared & Scarred

Scared and scarred
I try so hard
It’s as if I’ve been barred
Happiness is elusive
My mind is abusive
I am ready for things to work out
So much I want to shout
I’m ready can’t you see
I’m ready to enjoy being me
I want to be free
Free from pain
There is no gain
It’s such a shame
Am I to blame?
Give me what I need
I need to succeed
I’ve fallen and lost my way
It’s as if I have no say
No say in how I play
I’m short a few necessities
It’s hard to put me at ease
It’s even hard for me to be pleased

Voices of Mental Illness: Joe and Jess Speak Out

Every Wednesday on Bipolar For Life we have a special feature: Breaking the Silence of Stigma.  It’s an interview and/or personal essay format guest appearance from one of our brothers or sisters who suffer with a mental illness.  In addition to talking about the mental illness itself, we talk about how the stigma of having a mental illness affects our lives.

Today’s guest appearance turned out to be so different, and so compelling, that I decided to change the whole thing.

I first met Joe through his powerful piece on his blog ManicMedic about the recent rash of public figures openly mouthing discriminatory epithets against people with mental illness.  I recommend you go and read it right now, if you haven’t already.

We got to chatting a bit through the comments, as the topic was at the top of my consciousness just then:  two of our fellow bloggers and I have been slowly but surely building a social media (and soon to have its own blog!) platform called Faces of Mental Illness, which is meant specifically to counter the horrible images that public figures, news anchors, and random others have been spewing all over the media.  Don’t worry, a post will follow which will clarify all the mysterious things I have just said.

At any rate, I asked Joe if he would be interested in doing a Breaking the Silence interview with me, and he said he’d be delighted; and by the way his girlfriend has a few DSM diagnoses herself, and would I be interested in interviewing her too?  Of course!  Says I, all unknowing that I was about to enter a world of passionate intensity that I haven’t felt since I started taking Seroquel.

They sent their interviews right away, and I sat there reading them with flies flying in and out of my open mouth.  Here are two people, each with their own brands of internal pain, doing it all together.  They support each other, they actively participate in each other’s lives, and they are clearly well-developed individuals who think and feel for themselves.

Having a mental illness is hard enough; having a relationship with a person who has a mental illness is hard enough; combining the two, and managing to not only stay right-side-up but to thrive, is a labor of love.

So without further ado, please allow me to introduce first Joe, because I met him first, and then Jess.  It’s a bit of a long read, but worth every word.

Joe

BSS: How long have you known that you are living with a mental illness?

Joe: Ever since I can remember as a child something was not right, especially during high school I would get so depressed. I would let my feelings out in my writings for English class. I would also get “inspired” a lot as I liked to call it and got involved in as much as possible at school.

BSS: Can you share with us your diagnosis/diagnoses?

Joe: I am currently “officially” diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder II, I also show signs of anxiety disorder, especially in social situations.

BSS: When were you diagnosed with these?

Joe: I was diagnosed as depressed during college, it wasn’t until much later.. around 2009 if I remember correct that I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.

BSS: How were they diagnosed?  Did you have any special testing?

Joe: It actually took a couple of hospitalizations to receive the bipolar diagnosis, no special testing… just observation of symptoms that I’ve reported and staff had seen on the unit during my hospitalizations.

BSS: Was your illness diagnosed correctly the first time, or did it take time before the right diagnosis was arrived at?  Do you feel that you do indeed have the correct diagnosis now?

Joe: No, as I mainly got depressed at the time of my initial diagnosis I was just simply diagnosed as “Depressed”. It wasn’t until after my second hospitalization in a month that I received the Bipolar diagnosis

BSS: Have you ever been hospitalized due to your illness?  How many times?  Do you think it helped?

Joe: If I remember correct I was hospitalized 7 times in 6 months, I wasn’t out of the hospital more than a month during that time. It helped me get to the diagnosis and treatment that is “somewhat” working now. I don’t think it will ever be 100% perfect.

BSS: Are you on medications for your illness?  Do they help?  What about side effects?

Joe: I am currently taking Abilify 15mg daily as well as Serquel XR 50mg as needed for sleep. With the Abilify I am currently experiencing muscle spasms, mainly at night when I’m in bed. I’m told they will most likely be perminate. As far as the Serquel, it takes me a little longer to get going in the morning when I take it the night before but other than that no issues.

BSS: Have you ever had ECT (Electroconvulsive therapy)?

Joe: No, I have not had ECT

BSS: What other things do you do to help with your illness?  Do you go to individual therapy?  Group? Other things?  What, if anything, seems to help?

Joe: I go to individual therapy once every two weeks as permitted by scheduling. I had been going to a peer support group but have lost track of them. Both somewhat helps.

BSS: How has your illness impacted your life (jobs, education, relationships, children, alcohol, drug abuse….._)

Joe: I have had to keep it from my jobs, I worked in the Emergency Medical Services field where we on a regular basis treated patients experiencing psychological emergencies. You would never believe how they are spoken about sometimes after they are dropped off at the hospital. I didn’t want people to think of me like that.

BSS: Have you ever felt discriminated against because of your illness, or had to deal with disparaging comments, denied a job or other opportunities?

Joe: I have recently lost my job, in my first job interview back searching I had mentioned my mental illness along with one of my weaknesses… it wasn’t planned, it kinda slipped out….. I don’t know if it mattered or not to them but I did not get the job.

BSS: If you could give advice to someone else struggling with mental illness, what would it be?

Joe: Don’t hide, get help!

BSS: Anything else you’d like to add?

Joe: Thank you for this opportunity!

Jess

BSS: How long have you known that you are living with a mental illness?

Jess: Really I have known since I was 13 when I started having suicidal thoughts. I kept it all to myself but would have days where I was moody and my parents thought I was just being a teenage girl. They sent me to a counselor where I lied and said what they wanted to hear because I was already dealing with epilepsy and refused to have another diagnoses.

BSS: Can you share with us your diagnosis/diagnoses?

Jess: Absolutely. I was originally diagnosed with depression and anxiety. As time went on I was diagnosed with bipolar, borderline personality disorder, PTSD, and anxiety. I also believe I have a social anxiety because I can’t be around a lot of people or else I have an anxiety attack.

BSS: When were you diagnosed with these?

Jess: I was originally diagnosed in February of 2010 but November of 2012 was when I got the updated diagnosis.

BSS: How were they diagnosed?  Did you have any special testing?

Jess: I was having suicidal thoughts and my fiancé Joe who also has bipolar said I needed to get to the hospital. Through a week of supervision and what seemed to be a year’s worth of questions regarding family history and such the hospital said I had major depression.

BSS: Was your illness diagnosed correctly the first time, or did it take time before the right diagnosis was arrived at?  Do you feel that you do indeed have the correct diagnosis now?

Jess: The original diagnoses was somewhat on the right track. After being in a group setting they figured out that my major depression was really the bipolar which I agree with and borderline personality disorder which I in all honesty am still trying to come to terms with. Is it a correct diagnosis? I believe with everything I am it is. Once the descriptions of each were read to me a lot of childhood memories came to mind and the “a-ha” moment came into play.

BSS: Have you ever been hospitalized due to your illness?  How many times?  Do you think it helped?

Jess: I have been hospitalized many times. In the year I was diagnosed I was in the hospitals probably three times. The year after I think two maybe three times I was hospitalized. Last year I think was two times and this year once in the hospital. It helped when I worked it and when I didn’t have distractions. There was one stay where a girl would cause fights with everyone and we would be on eggshells so treatment wasn’t really there. There were two other stays where all I wanted was to go home so I told them whatever it took to get me out.

BSS: Are you on medications for your illness?  Do they help?  What about side effects?

Jess: Currently I am on Lexapro. It did work for the longest time but now my body has adapted to it and it’s like I am taking flinstone vitamins. My last hospital stay I said I needed a change and they said I am already on the highest dose so I am stuck with it. Which kind of pissed me off because I know for sure there are other meds that I could have been put on. I have an appointment with my regular doctor soon to discuss a change.

BSS: Have you ever had ECT (Electroconvulsive therapy)?  How did it affect you?  Did it help?

Jess: I am actually scared to try it. It has never been offered to me.

BSS: What other things do you do to help with your illness?  Do you go to individual therapy?  Group? Other things?  What, if anything, seems to help?

Jess: Right now because I was raped by a fellow group member last year I am not in treatment. I left and now because I have no job or insurance it is very hard for me to find help. However I like to do mad libs, word searches, coloring, drawing and call me crazy but my fiancé will find me playing board games by myself. I have a love for board games and when no one will play I just play on my own for a distraction. I have recently applied to volunteer at a farm to work with horses, dogs and cats. I am a HUGE animal lover and would rather be around animals then humans. Animals are none judgmental and comforting.

BSS: How has your illness impacted your life (jobs, education, relationships, children, alcohol, drug abuse….._)

Jess: Oh jeez where to start. As far as education, I was going to Kutztown University and started having the lack of energy bursts as I call them. I didn’t want to get out of bed, take the 35 minute drive and sit in a class and hear what I always heard “blah blah blah”. Other factors played into me dropping out but I just couldn’t concentrate anymore. I was able to get my associates degree in Criminal Justice from a community college before I even attended K.U. I also went to school for my EMT which was easier for me because it was hands on. However, I couldn’t keep a job for more than six months. I couldn’t and still can’t take criticism and that is all I got. If a stranger walked up to me and said “you’re ugly” I would break down and say I am a horrible person and can’t do anything right and I am better off not around.  Being in a relationship with someone who is also bipolar is not the easiest thing. But if I were in one with someone who didn’t have a mental illness I don’t think I would still be here. He saved my life because he knew what to look for and saw it in me. When I feel lost and unsure of myself he knows what needs to get done. We really are each other’s support. I think either one of us would be lost without the other. We become codependent at times but we work through it together.

BSS: Have you ever felt discriminated against because of your illness, or had to deal with disparaging comments, denied a job or other opportunities?

Jess: Every day!! On a broad stand point every time I hear that someone who can’t take responsibility for a crime they committed so they claim insanity, I feel hurt and in a way discriminated. I went to get a gun recently so I can start hunting or just for shooting like I did when I was younger and I was told since I had a mental illness I wasn’t allowed to buy it. People call me crazy all the time. I was working for a company that let me go because I had said I needed off one day to go to therapy.

BSS: If you could give advice to someone else struggling with mental illness, what would it be?

Jess: Never give up. It is hard when struggling and you feel like you hit rock bottom. It is hard to believe in yourself and believe that you can get through this. But the one thing I have always done was think of two people I could hurt if I hurt myself. Giving up is always one of the best options for us. But you have to believe that no matter what is going on you can get through it. The second you give up is when you end up in the hospital. Also, never stop your meds. A big thing I have done was stop taking my meds because I “felt better” when in reality it was the meds working. People claim doctors are poisoning you by filling you up with meds. These people I hate. These meds can take up to 6 weeks to start to work and sometimes they don’t work at all. So the med has to be switched. It took almost a year to get on the right med and now I know I need another med change. It isn’t poison. Rat poison is poison. Meds are to help you. Give it time and give yourself a chance. Remember meds aren’t the only thing you should be doing. There are three parts to you getting better; medication, therapy and the most important you! Use positive coping skills. Treat yourself every once in a while and if you need it do not be afraid to take a time out from your daily life and take a couple days to get you back on track.

BSS: Anything else you’d like to add?

Jess: I must say up until now, I have fought back tears while going through this interview. Many people would never take the time to get to know someone with mental illness. I have been really lost because I push a lot of people including friends and family away. Are they disrespectful to me? No, I just feel the less people in my life, the less I hurt. Because of that I bottle stuff up and this interview has gotten me to open up about how I feel.  I am 26 years old, with a college degree, an EMT license and sadly on social security disability. I hate that I have to say that but I know I need it because I can’t work due to my illness right now. I get tossed in the system as I am told I am and then not eligible for Medicaid due to how much I make on ssd which is only $920 a month. I currently am fighting with the state to get something so I can get into treatment. Everywhere requires at least Medicaid or is $100 a visit. That alone is $400 a month. I have rent, phone, car insurance, a car payment and loads of bills. And truthfully if I could afford $100 a pop I really don’t think I would have issues right now.  At the moment I feel like giving up. I have felt that way for a while. If you aren’t suicidal you don’t get help. I think that is messed up. There is no way right now for me to get the help I need and am begging for and it bugs me that I know of people who caused their illnesses i.e. drug addicts and alcoholics who are in treatment and get right out and use again and don’t work the program. I didn’t cause this and I want treatment. They don’t make it easy for us to get the help we need. That is why most of us DO give up. Why should we care if no else cares enough to help us? But, this interview made me think that someone actually cared and that is why I now have tears. For the first time in a year someone other than my fiancé and family, I actually feel like someone cares enough to really get to know what it is like to suffer from these illnesses and for that I thank you greatly!

Jess can be reached through her blog, The Flip Flop Girl

Thank you to Joe and Jess, from the bottom of my heart, for your candor and openness.  I have a feeling your generosity in sharing yourselves here is going to help a lot of people!


God Sings

I have been a follower of Jesus my entire life.  The definition of what this means has changed numerous times as I have changed as a person and as He has changed me spiritually.  We’ve had our ups and downs, as any relationship does. Anyone who reads my blogs — this one and my second […]

Freaky things abound

CYMBALTA WITHDRAWAL IS HELL ON EARTH.

Brain zaps, constantly. Feeling sleepy and lethargic, yet completely buzzing with anxiety. Disoriented, upset stomach, no focus, mood swings, yelling, snapping, I am barely coherent.

Today was pretty bad. Yesterday was worse, but it all sucks. This makes Effexor withdrawal seem minor league.

On top of it is the Lithium and all that it brings. My levels are normal. But I am living in a perpetual state of nausea, always feeling like I could throw up. If I don’t eat a morsel of some sort of food every hour or so, the nausea swoops down and I almost pray for death. Not even sick with food poisoning or the flu have I felt that kind of nausea. They say it’s not the medicine that puts weight on you, it’s the increased appetite.

 

Okay, I feel hungry more often than I did.

Thing is, NOTHING SOUNDS GOOD OR TASTES GOOD, THE FOOD MAKES ME WANT TO THROW UP.

My cat Azazel, I was told by witnesses, got hit by a car and hobbled off. He has not been seen since. I can only assume he is dead. And it is depressing and sooo sad and yet…Not so much as a teardrop. Just deadness inside.

I did not go to the shop today.  They are doing sewer work and have the entire block near there closed off. I didn’t feel like battling for a way in and where to park. Mostly, with the brain zaps affecting my ability to think clearly and be coordinated and of course, making me scream over the tiniest things…I can’t say I want to be near people right now. Withdrawal is bad enough without an audience of people who can’t grasp the concept that coming off an anti depressant could be that bad.

I am surrounded by idiots.

But hey, the exhaust on my car is fixed and R has pointed out multiple times how grateful I should be to him and his stepdad for spending three hours fixing it. Well, I am grateful and I would totally pay them if I ya know, had two nickels to rub together. If either of them ever need a kidney and ‘m a match, I’m down with it.  Cripes, I just despise having to have people help me. Because no matter how grateful you are it’s never enough. You’re basically at the mercy of “I did this for you, you owe me” for life.

I got that wifi card in my desktop. Un fortunately, the distance from the router is so that  I am getting a barely detectable signal. Plus, the media player won’t play ANY of my videos.

It’s been in the 90′s all week, which has been pretty miserable.

I just wish something would go right for a chance. I am like a vortex of suck, get near me and bad things happen to you,too.

Now I am exhausted. Of course, it means I lay down, all sleepy and bone weary and SCUMBAG BRAIN MUST SPIN AND CHURN AND DRIVE ME INSANE.

I took a Trazadone the other day. Thrown on the withdrawal lethargy it was like sleepwalking the next day. Suckage.

I need to take my Lithium and I should take it with food. But all food has taken on a nasty flavor and makes me feel sick.

Ever wonder if the side effects are really less than the benefits? Not seeming that way to me right now.

 


Diversity & Civility

Over the past few days, I have gone through Towson orientation. I’ve found out where my classes are, participated in convocation, discovered where to eat on campus, and met with my academic advisor. But the most important lesson I learned was in diversity and civility.
300 of us sat in plastic chairs, chatting to avoid betraying our nervousness. We knew the names of a few people, but we were still uncomfortable. We obsessed over our insecurities and secrets. We lacked perspective.
Perspective came to us in the form of a minimalistic powerpoint. The presentation was a silent game. A question would appear on the screen that took the form of, “Who in the room …?” If the question applied to you, you stood up. We began with, “Who in the room was born and raised in Maryland?” Next came, “Who in the room was born and raised on the East Coast?”, “Who in the room was born and raised on the West Coast?”, and “Who in the room was born and raised outside of the United States?”
I saw other students with international backgrounds like me stand, and even though we were a minority, I felt comforted. To at least one other person in the room, America also seemed a little foreign. 
Next came questions of race and income level. We stood up to show our gender, sexual orientation, whether or not we had experienced violence, alcoholism, and drug abuse in our homes, whether or not we had a disability, and many other parts of our lives that have profoundly affected who we are, but that might not often be shared.
As we were led through the slides, I noticed people I knew from my graduating class back home stand up, revealing parts of their lives I didn’t know. One of the people who stood up was a person I had  judged back in high school. A wave of humility washed over me, soaking me from head to foot. This was a person I had made assumptions about, when truly I knew nothing.
At the conclusion of the exercise, we were told to discuss for a minute how we felt with the person sitting next to us. I felt myself choke up. How could I explain the mixture of comfort, shame, relief, and community that I was experiencing in only 60 seconds?
That’s why I decided to blog about this topic today. I need more than 60 seconds.
I need to highlight the importance of this lesson, especially for those of us who live with disabilities such as mental illness. From the outside, no one can tell what we’ve been through. No one knows about the sleepless nights, the pills, and the heartbreak. No one, that is, unless you let them.
I would encourage you to share your experiences with others. There are others who understand what you’ve experienced, and there are even more who want to understand. You don’t have to share more than you feel comfortable with, but let me emphasize how good it feels to release your secret. Sharing with others helps them feel comfortable sharing with you. Be a listener, not a judger. When we share our secrets, they shed their status and become simply “truths.” They are stated plainly instead of whispered. The community is enriched. Everyone is welcomed to an environment where they can thrive.
Diversity consists of the qualities that separate us from some and unite us with others, and civility is accepting these qualities and using them to make positive change. This how I learned to incorporate both into my life. I hope you do, too!

The Post of Revelations

credit:bloomberg.com

credit:bloomberg.com

I have a whole lot of hope packed into these little capsules…

If you’ve followed my blog at all (or just stalked the same posts over and over) you know I battle a mood disorder.  My last two therapists were leaning heavily towards diagnosing me with Borderline Personality Disorder, and it was a diagnosis I could live with. I felt it wasn’t as severe as bipolar, schizophrenia or whatever. Today I saw my new psychiatrist, or I should say my first. He gave me the news I’ve been fearing for years: I have bipolar disorder.

I’m experiencing a mixture of feelings: relief, shame, anger, sorrow, clarity. At least we now know what is going on and what to do from here to get me feeling better. But it’s truly the diagnosis I never wanted to hear. I vividly recall asking my ex fiancee if he thought I had bipolar and him not really giving an answer. I guess I felt the official diagnosis would make me feel horrible, and don’t get me wrong, I’m not exactly ecstatic. But I choose to applaud myself for not stopping until I got to an answer and for choosing to deal with said answer.

I do feel empowered knowing I have a game plan drawn out. I have loving and supportive friends and family. I have clarity and hope for relief. I have my renewed faith in Jesus and while it might sound crazy to say, I thank Him for this diagnosis. It ends years of questions, it points me to what I need to do now. I feel hope growing rather than dreading the continuous cycle of uncertainty and misery. I know it’s not going to be an easy battle, but knowing I’m making progress, no matter how small, means much more.

I also feel shame and anger when I look back and see what this disease has cost me: my ex fiancee, a job, friendships, financial security, Knowing I hurt people because I could not control my emotions. Letting people have so much power over me. I would never wish this upon my worst enemy, the battle you fight with yourself is beyond exhausting and unless you suffer from it, there’s no way to make people understand that.

I am not happy with the stigma bipolar disease has, which I myself fell victim to. I’m disappointed I’ve been tagged with the “crazy ex girlfriend” title. I am not well, but it doesn’t mean I don’t have feelings, that I’m not a good person.  Why is it ok to improve your looks, your physical health, but ignore your mind and spirit? Why is it ok to belittle people who are mentally ill, but trying their damnedest to live a good life? 1 in 3 people suffer from mental illness, I’m just one who decided to fight to get her life back.

So, this is my revelation: I am ill, but I am not giving up. I want to thank my interwebs soul sister Julia at feedmedaily.blogspot.com for being so amazing and supporting me, despite fighting her own battles. I also want to thank God and Jesus for reminding me that I am loved, loveable and worthy of much more.

 

Filed under: Self Discovery, Wellness Warriors Tagged: bipolar disorder, Mental Health, mood disorder, self care, wellness

Bummed out Again at Weigh-In

Last Saturday past I lost exactly one pound.  It might not sound like much but it broke a six week cycle of weight gains.  I was happy to see my losing streak was over…that was until this most recent Saturday weigh in.  I gained three pounds.

It wasn’t surprising.  I knew I was going to see a gain.  I had been depressed and I didn’t get much exercise in and my eating habits were not conducive to healthy living.  But, I didn’t think it was going to be as much as three pounds.  How did I react?  Triumphantly actually.  I licked my wounds and became more adamant that I’d seen the last gain for a long while.  Throughout the day Saturday and all day Sunday I did great.  I got exercise and I ate well.  I didn’t starve myself in the least.  I ate foods I enjoyed and ate to fullness without feeling bloated.  Then came Monday.

Yesterday was not so good.  I got no exercise whatsoever except running up and down the stairs a bit while doing laundry.  My food intake was like watching Lucy and Ethel at the candy factory.  This time, however, I didn’t feel depressed.  I believe it was anxiety.  Today is the first day of the Fall semester.  I’m only taking one class, but I feel there is so much on the line for me regarding grades.  I did so poorly when I first came back to school that I’m still feeling the effects.  If I’m going to qualify for any student grants I need to get my grades up.  I plan to be in school full time by next fall so it’s going to be very important to get those grants.

I’m working on not beating myself up over yesterdays slip up, and I think I’m doing a pretty good job of it.  I’ve got the rest of the week ahead to make up for yesterday and by this afternoon I will have passed my first day back at school and everything should be a little easier.