Monthly Archives: June 2014

How well are you?

How well are you feeling today?

No, really?

I’m trying to get my mind out of feeling myself so much…

So.

How are you feeling?


Filed under: Ranting

Insights from a Bipolar Bear

Effective immediately I have changed the name of this blog. It’s not nearly as dramatic as the last change I made just over a year ago. In fact, this time it’s not a change per se, but just a shortening of the title. Up until today the name was: Depression and Bipolar Disorder: Insights from […]

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IOP Concerns

Yesterday (Friday, June 27th) in IOP the therapist had us share our weekend plans. I'm trying to make up for lost time, so I have a lot of plans. Friday I had IOP from 10:30am to 2pm, met up with a friend for dinner at 4:30pm, saw Dave Chappelle with another friend at 8pm, then met another friend for drinks at 11:45pm. Today I'm going to Spike Lee's block party at noon, a Broadway play at 2:30pm, a Match.com dating meet up at 7pm, and a club at 10pm. And tomorrow I'm going to another Broadway play at 3pm.

Yes, it's a lot!

But after the year I had, I want to have fun. I have no responsibilities at the moment other than focusing on my recovery.

After I relayed my weekend plans, the therapist asked the group if anyone was concerned about me. Four out of twelve people raised their hands. The first person said they weren't really concerned, that they had more of an observation. She said that if she was new to the group she'd think that I was the therapist. This made me happy since I want to become a social worker. The next person said that it sounded like I was biting off more than I could chew and to be careful not to get overwhelmed. The group also had concerns about my shopping. I've charged about $3500 in three weeks.

I told them that I have no concerns. I told them that this is my 3rd depression, 3rd mania, 3rd hospitalization, 3rd IOP. I got this. I know how I behave when manic and depressed. I know my triggers. My warning signs. I know when to be concerned. I was concerned June 2nd, a few days before I went to the hospital. I'm not concerned anymore. Yes, I am still manic. But I'm coming down. I know that I'm coming down because the shopping has slowed down, I'm not posting as much to Facebook/Instagram/my blog. And I'm sleeping normally. I no longer take sleeping pills. Sleep is a huge marker! If I'm sleeping well on my own; I'm okay.

Two friends also relayed their concerns to me yesterday. One says that I shouldn't be dating right now. Says that I'll scare guys away since I'm still manic. And my other friend is worried about my shopping. I'm not worried about the shopping because I recently reworked my budget.  I'll be out of debt in 13 months. Moving back home with my mom was the best thing I could've done. Instead of paying $1375 in rent, I'm now putting $1000 per month on my credit card debt. I'm also saving a little over $400 per month.

I really do have this under control. I'm in IOP, I'm taking my medicine, I'm sleeping.

No need to worry.

Smart Schools Play Dumb About Mental Health

I just read Newsweek's February 11 article "How Colleges Flunk Mental Health.” I guess having been discriminated against by my former employer, I shouldn't be surprised to hear that many private colleges are sweeping ADA protections under the rug and actually penalizing students who ask for help with their mental disabilities.

The longest day

Today qualifies for that title. It’s been neverending. The uzi child got me up before 8. She started out on semi auto. Then she went to fill automatic and I am still digging verbal bullets out.

Spent the entire day waiting for my dad and his clan to deliver the bunk bed they bought her. Tick tock. Edge of anxiety. Their schedule is always more important than anything we have going on, including a heart transplant.

They brought the bed, which was so big it had to be disassembled to be fit in her room. Now she barely has room for a dresser. Geesh. Not to be ungrateful, but think before you do. I was thinking, oh cool, it’s gonna be one of those small bunks my sister and I had. WRONG. This thing is so big and clunky it would survive a termite infestation.

My mood held steady all day even if my nerves didn’t.

Finally, wine time came. We went to R’s house and drank with his wife. It wasn’t bad. Until his psychologist daughter showed up and started diagnosing her friends, him, everyone basically. I don’t dispute his diagnosis as it was made almost 20 years ago and fits. But the way that woman has to have the last word on everything, the way she has to diagnose everything and declare everything “behavioral”, including bipolar…pisses me the fuck off. Just because our upbringing made us defective doesn’t lessen the mental disorder that amounts to wonky brain chemicals.

Which is the problem with psychology versus psychiatry. One specialty thinks it’s all behavioral and needs therapy, while the other thinks it’s just chemical imbalance and needs medication.

Meanwhile those of us who suffer from mental illness are left confused and clueless.

Now we are home. Bex made awesome omelets. The uzi finally emptied her clip and went to sleep.

I can’t decide if I want to go to sleep or shower then go to sleep. It was a long day that seemed to never end. Now that I have all this electrical wiring problem and can’t sleep in my own room because there’s no power…I’m at a loss. The wiring is even screwed up in the living room so we can’t listen to the stereo or watch tv.

And I am in paranoid zone where I’d rather gargle bleach than allow anyone into my inner sanctum lest they judge me and set off a whole mental downward spiral.

I’m leaning towards sleep.

As soon as I smoke the rest of this cigarette.

Everyday, I wake up thinking, today will be better.

It rarely is.

Where is my reward in hoping for the best when all that ever comes to fruition is ass trash negative?

I am flawed, I am mental, and I am dysfunctional. But I don’t know the sanest most well adjusted person could convince themselves all is hunky dory when in fact, everything is just a cycle of up, down, good, bad, even worse, and worse still.

Guess I am just deficient in my denial skills.


More Than The Blues

I’ve got to quit using the term “situational” to describe an episode of what is really illness.

I do that, of course, because I’d prefer not to acknowledge the fact that I am indeed ill. I don’t want to be ill. I want this to be nothing more than a case of the blues, touched off by some rotten life circumstances, and for it to go away on its own like everybody else’s. But it is more than that, and I’m not “everybody else”.

Fortunately, I don’t tolerate depression anywhere near as well as I do its opposite number, so I called Dr. Awesomesauce this morning. As always, he was kind and sympathetic, and he promptly reminded me that he’s seen me in this place before and I’ve never failed to make it out. He also said that it doesn’t really matter how “minor” I might think the events leading up to this depression may be…..it’s here, and it’s not merely situational. But it WILL pass.

I know this on one level, but somehow it’s different coming from someone who’s both an objective observer and an authority figure. Especially one who knows me as well as Dr. A does. He won’t let me minimize my feelings or blame myself for getting sick, and he doesn’t just prescribe something and leave it at that. What he did was give me a good 15 minutes of therapy over the phone, which was a balm to my aching soul and gave me hope that things really will get better.

But he was also very clear that I’ve got to give myself a break from beating myself up because I don’t know where I belong in the world anymore. I didn’t realize that was what I was doing, but it is my habit after all, and by the time “This is all so stupid, I don’t know why I have to make such a big deal out of it” came out of my mouth, it was obvious even to me.

Well, hell, no wonder I’m depressed and have been thinking some very, very bad thoughts. Although I haven’t done it today. I think knowing I was going to call made me feel slightly better, like you do when you’ve been throwing up for three days straight and you finally decide to go to the ER. There were no major med tweaks, but I was instructed to go back up to what’s become my normal Zyprexa dose—funny how all this coincided with the attempt to decrease it—and stay there.

It’ll be nice if that’s all it takes to make this go away, but of course if it doesn’t, I’m supposed to call back. I’m getting better about that. But I hope it won’t be necessary.

 


Enter The Black Dog

Normally I’m pretty good at cloaking my moods.  I’m trained in the art of dissembling.  One of the hidden maxims of medical training is, “Control your face.”  Don’t let the patient know that you’ve just found a….you’ve just done a……and barely got yourself out of it….your surgical assistant is the most beautiful thing in the world…you just farted.  Etc.

One thing it’s hard to conceal is The Black Dog’s visits: depression.  I’ve never been good at it.  I cry at the drop of a hat anyway.  So I’ve gotten good at noting which exam rooms are empty, so as to duck into one for a good bawl, and exit red-eyed.

“What’s wrong with your eyes?”

“Allergies.”

Yesterday I woke up feeling like somebody had clubbed me over the head.  I couldn’t tell where I was in time or space.  My brain felt like chocolate pudding, but not at all tasty.  Actually, I didn’t wake up at all.  If a friend hadn’t texted me at 1:45 pm, I would probably still be asleep.  Poor starving Noga lay next to my head, resolute.  If I had kept right on sleeping, I don’t think she would wake me up to feed her.  I don’t know if that’s good or bad.

I felt kind of like I felt when I took my bedtime medicines in the morning, except this was even worse.  I was hoping it would wear off as the day (what was left of it) wore on, but no.  At bedtime last night I resolved only to take those medications which if you do not take them you might get a seizure, which happened to be the same meds I go to sleep by.  How convenient.

I was quite sure that after a good day’s/night’s sleep, certainly whatever I had taken would have worn off, but no.  Well, it did, to some extent, but then I started feeling cross and weepy.  I yelled at my dog.  I’m very relieved that she seems to understand, and cuddled up with me for a lie-down-not-nap after I got from the grocery store.  I’m amazed that I got back, since I really, really should not be driving in this condition.

I still have not put away the groceries, six hours later.  I have not put away the enormous piles of laundry that I took to the laundromat the day before the day before.  And I just read an article about the habits of Brown Recluse spiders, that they sequester themselves in the fingers of your work gloves (!) and in piles of laundry left on the floor (!!).  Well, these are in black plastic bags, if that helps.  (The reason I was reading up on Brown Recluse spiders is that I found one uncomfortably close to where I sleep, the other day.)

Last night, the night between Days One and Two of the Feel-bads, I had one of my thankfully rare episodes of chest pain.  They occur sometime in the middle of the night, and are so intense that I can’t move.  Even if I thought it was a heart attack, I would not be able to move to call the ambulance.  So I have learned to have the attitude that if it’s my time to go, it’s my time to go, and I am a Do Not Resuscitate specimen anyway.  I toy with having that tattooed across my chest, but my religion specifically forbids tattooing.  I mean, come on, like 5,000 years ago there was a law against tattooing?  What, Moses was afraid we would all become, like, Goths?

Where was I.  Oh yes.  This episode of chest pain occurred between Days One an Two of the Feel-bads, and I was not at all sure I was going to wake up at all, but in fact my alarm did rouse me, as it hadn’t on the previous morning.  I rose, feeling hopeful, but a wave of nausea washed over me and I sat down on my bed again, uncertain, until I remembered that my mother had to go and have some tests at the hospital and I was supposed to go and sit with Dad so that the morning caregiver could go to his second job.

I managed to crawl out of the house at noon, after waking at nine.  Given that I don’t even have a shower to loiter in, which I would have done had I had one, I can’t account for the time at all.

My mother was at home already, triumphant that even though they had done the wrong test, it was negative and therefore she knows more than me.  But she needed tomatoes, so if I were going to the store, would I get her two?

I hadn’t really been planning to go anywhere, given my foggy mental condition, but I caved in to her request and got in my car, very slowly and carefully, and in that condition drove to the store, where I discovered that I needed at lot more than just her two tomatoes.

On my return to the P’s house I caught my wrist in the tailgate of the Outback as I was closing it, and my paper-like skin split over the back of my right wrist.  I didn’t notice the blood until I got home, though, which is what prompted yelling at the dog, because I was bleeding all over the place and she was blocking the passage between myself and the sink full of dishes, where I wanted to wash my wound and see how bad it was.  It could be that she knew something was up and was concerned about me.  That is probably the case.

As you see, I have diverted you from thinking about the fact that somehow or other, The Black Dog has made his way to my doorstep.  Ah, that was what Noga was bugging me about!  It was really as if it hit me right as I walked in the door: the wall of depression.  Smack.

I don’t know what triggered what, in the Feel-bads scenario.  Could have been either one, doesn’t matter.  This morning I took my meds as usual, and I think I did on The Lost Day before that.  If I don’t feel better tomorrow I’ll increase my Lamectil by 50 mg.  My shrink, who has been my shrink since 2001, he and I have protocols for everything.  Depressed?  Add more Lamectil.   Psychotic and/or manic?  Seroquel.  Anxiety?  Clonazepam or Lorazepam.  And so on.

But tomorrow is another day, and this one ain’t over yet.  My lie-down with Noga helped, and I know she’ll want to cuddle at bedtime–she always does.  She’s very predictable.  She runs on ritual, on routine.  And by default, she causes me to have a modicum of routine, which I would not otherwise have, being unemployed and an undisciplined writer.  She has just had her evening bit of obedience training–she demands this every evening at 8:30, not because she so much enjoys the training as she does the treats that accompany it.

And now it’s time for evening meds, brush the teeth etc., arrange the nighttime necessary things in the sleeping area: tissues in case of crying and its accompanying snot, bottle of seltzer (I really like my water to sparkle on the palate) bottle of Ouzo (I like a little Ouzo before sleep, if I don’t fall asleep from the meds before I have a chance to drink it), pee bottles (pee bottles?  Right.  I don’t have a toilet).  And one little fuzzy golden Lhasa Apso, who will no doubt jump up in the spot where my feet are supposed to go and give me the “Apso Look,” which is indescribable; if you have seen it you’ll know what I mean.  But what she means is: “Show me that you love me and haul my 13 pounds up to your face and give me kisses and hugs.”

Which, of course, I will be delighted to do, at the peril of soaking portions of her fur with my tears.


Stranger Danger

I finally got a call from my Case Management Agency, and they set me up a meeting with my new case manager. I still am unsure of exactly how these meetings are going to go, or exactly how they’re going to help me, or really about anything. The lady sounded nice enough on the phone, actually sounded like somebody I would hang out with, until all of a sudden the conversation certainly started to take a turn.

She was asking directions to my house.

These meetings are going to happen at my house.

I don’t let anyone in my house.

This is a whole new ballgame now.

My anxiety was triggered into overdrive. I let my house go this s*** because at least I know I can close the door and control who comes in. My apartment is my nemesis. It taunts me. I suppose it haunts me a little too. And now someone I’ve never met has to come into my house, and obviously will be required to make some sort of judgement about how I am able to live my life.

This is kind of my worst nightmare. But hey, my therapist keeps telling me that I have to face and accept my fears. At least it forced me to get up off the couch and throw out all the rotten food in the fridge. It took 4 huge bags and 2 trips to the dumpster. I feel like I was forced over a hurdle in a sense. But I’ve never been one for running, let alone while jumping obstacles.

Doesn’t make the whole situation any less tertifying, overwhelming,  or anxiety inducing though.

Baby steps.

Seriously though they should give the poor woman a fucking office. If I was able to entertain guests with clipboards at the drop of a hat I wouldn’t need their help in the first place.

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Silver Linings, Sugar Skulls and Symbolism

Last week I finally watched the movie Silver Linings Playbook. I have to say I loved it and the message that you can overcome hardships by keeping a positive attitude. Plus my football team the Philadelphia Eagles were featured, always a good thing. I tend to be more on the depressed side with my bipolar versus manic, so maintaining a positive outlook can be hard, but I always maintain hope. Hope or faith, whichever you prefer, keeping a positive outlook and looking for the silver lining in a crummy situation has been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. It doesn’t mean sticking your head in the sand and ignoring how bad things are. It means acknowledging that things are bad, but that they aren’t totally bad- there is always some good to be found, I feel.

What good can be found in being bipolar? A lot, actually. It’s taught me to be more in tune to my own needs, to take better care of myself. I’m learning to tune out the garbage other people might say and to honor my own voice. I also remind myself that it’s only bipolar, which obviously one will still live after being diagnosed with. I’ve met and come in contact with some amazing people who suffer from mental illness and I learned something from all of them. 

I admit that I allow what other people say and do to affect me far too much. From family and  friends to fellow bloggers to coworkers to random strangers, I let their opinions get in the way. It clouds my own judgement and I wind up feeling disappointed, silly or “less than”. I’m slowly learning that my own voice, my own opinion is the only one I really and truly need to listen to. This new found realization, long in the making, came from a strange source: Mexican Sugar Skulls and home decoration.

My friend was visiting my condo the other day and I was showing her the sugar skull artwork I was going to be purchasing. I had heard an opinion that decorating my bedroom with skulls was a bit odd, but this friend really liked the idea and when she explained why, I was even more convinced I was honoring my own opinion. Mexican sugar skulls are sugar candies shaped like skulls and decorated in a festive manner, believed to ward off evil spirits on Halloween. The skulls are also used to honor loved ones who had passed away and to generally make death seem less scary. My friend and I looked over the artwork and color scheme I had chosen and she said that for me, the sugar skulls made sense- that to her, they represented my bipolar. She said that through my life (and my blog) I was taking something scary and turning it into something else, something good. Much like a brightly decorated skull, I was changing the outlook on my bipolar by approaching it with light and humor. I was really glad someone was seeing things as I was seeing them and acknowledging my own efforts towards keeping positive, to boot!

So whether it’s always looking for the silver lining or finding your own sugar skull symbol, mental illness or whatever hardship you are facing- it doesn’t have to be scary. Being diagnosed with a disease or facing financial problems can overwhelm anyone. The trick is to listen to your own voice and looking at the situation positively rather than catastrophically. Trust and have faith in God, Allah, whomever you worship.  Is there a rough situation or scary experience that you overcame with positivity? Please share your story in the comments!

Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: bipolar, hardship, humor, mental illness, mexican sugar skulls, positive, Silver Linings Playbook, symbolism

Is Weight Loss Possible For The Mentally Ill?

The Barriers to Weight Loss Are you having trouble losing weight? I’ve made it no secret that I am. I blog an update of my weight loss journey every week. If you are struggling with weight you are not alone. Over 80 percent of people with serious mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and […]

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