Daily Archives: July 10, 2014

Crazy Day

I was fine earlier.
Suddenly, I find myself anxious, panicky, paranoid, and my brain is sending wacko messages that seem to have nothing to do with reality.
The muffler broke off the car again and needs fixed cos it is dragging and I think this may have acted as some sort of trigger.
Must stay home. Indoors. Don’t let the kid out to play, no company. Little noise as possible. Look over shoulder every 30 seconds. Expect more bad things.
I know it’s stupid. I know it makes me look insane.
It is what it is.
It will pass.
For now, I truly feel like the anxiety has driven me to the brink of sanity and is what feeds all this paranoia and distorted thought.
I went out in a decent mood, functional. Then something went wrong and now it needs fixed which I can’t do myself and must rely on someone else which means being at the mercy of their schedule.
And leads to paralyzing terror that letting my guard down and existing outside the paranoid terror stricken bubble will somehow be the catalyst for more going wrong and therefore more anxiety.
I am certain I don’t have triggers for the moods, they blow in like the wind, no rhyme or reason.
But this anxiety stuff…I can identity certain triggers.
It doesn’t make it stop or any less intense. Nothing does. Xanax simply turns the volume down.
The professionals tell me I have to take control of my mind back.
I apparently don’t have that kind of strength.
I am actually scared that it’s beyond the point of no return. It was never this bad, this distorted, this illogical prior to pregnancy. It’s like the whole experience just added to the crazy. And I had a shrink tell me the shock to the system might have actually canceled it out. Guess I got the other side of the spectrum. Crazy multiplied and amplified.
But of course, it’s all in my head, all under my control, all a matter of my weak character and inability to control my own mind.

Ass trash, massively so.
My skin is climbing off my bones, or it feels like. My mind is a cyclone of paranoid thoughts and fears. Nothing I do lessens it or clarifies it to the point where logic overwhelms the crazy.
I hate this, I hate these states my mind gets into.
It will pass.
Question always is, will it pass before I totally go insane and buy into one of my distorted thoughts and set the house on fire because my brain tells me the walls are out to get me.
Okay, so it’s not quite that insane but…
It’s enough of a distortion it makes me very, very wary.

Screw the lottery.
Let me win sanity.


Dissociation Came Back

What is Dissociation? Before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder I would experience dissociation on a regular basis. Not familiar with dissociation? To me it feels like I’m in a bubble or behind a shroud and watching the world going on around me. I’m not a part of it at all, just trapped there as […]

The post Dissociation Came Back appeared first on Insights From A Bipolar Bear.

The Un-Merry-Go-Round

I submitted this for a mental health anthology and swore that if it wasn’t selected, I would post it here. It wasn’t. so here it is.

 

Back when I was diagnosed with depression (unipolar) and anxiety, I secretly envied the manic-depressives (as we called them then). At least if I had a manic phase, I thought, I could get something done.

 

Then I met Kate, who was bipolar – and not well controlled on medication, to say the least. My envy lasted through her ambitious plans to make identical green velvet Christmas dresses for her three daughters. And vanished when I saw her tear them apart, recut them, start over, change her mind multiple times. You can write the ending to this one. There were no dresses, not by Christmas and not ever.

 

Kate was riding the roller coaster – perhaps the most common metaphor for bipolar disorder – the peaks and troughs, swooping crashes, anticipatory climbs, stomach-clenching vertigo, and, for some, an abrupt stop at the end.

 

Type 2 bipolar is not like that. Type 2 is what my new psychiatrist diagnosed. Except I seldom got the hypomanic mini-jags of ambition and purpose. Instead, it came out sideways, as anxiety.

 

The challenge for both my doctor and me was finding the right mix of drugs to get me functional and keep me functional, at least at some sort of reasonable level.

 

While supposedly unipolar, I had been through most of the different sorts of antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds, including, of course, Prozac. When the increasing side effects of each outweighed the diminishing relief, I went through a lengthening list of tricyclics, SSRIs, and so forth. I learned not to ask, “How do they work?” I couldn’t get an answer. The more basic question was, “Do they work?”

 

I can’t remember all the combinations now. My memory has become Swiss cheese after the spectrum of chemicals I tried. (Actual conversation: “Doctor, I’ve been having some rather embarrassing memory lapses. I asked a friend how her father was doing, when he had been dead for three months.” “Yes, that medication will do that. Stop taking it.”) But in addition to (instead of?) the Prozac, I remember buspirone, Wellbutrin, imipramine. Desyrel, Lexapro? I think so. Effexor, Sinequan? Maybe. No MAOIs or lithium, though.

 

What I do remember all too well is when my brain broke. I don’t know what else to call it: nervous breakdown, decompensating, mental and emotional collapse. It wasn’t the first time this had happened, I later realized, but it was by far the most severe. That’s when I climbed on the merry-go-round.

 

It wasn’t a carousel. No painted ponies or dolphins or elephants or zebras with fantastical, bright bridles of flowers and whimsical saddles, steadily but gently leaping to the calliope music like the calming rhythm of waves.

 

This was a merry-go-round of the type that is no longer allowed on playgrounds because of the danger. A wooden platform, painted a color no longer identifiable, a metal pole speared through the center. Bent metal pipes dividing the surface into rough pie-wedges. No power to make it twirl but the force of children pushing and then jumping on, not to thrilling acceleration, but only to inevitable slowing. No lilting music; only creaks and rattles. No scents of popcorn and cotton candy; only playground dust and much-used sneakers.

 

The metaphoric merry-go-round would start rotating with each new pill or combo that promised (or at least proffered) “Better Living Through Chemistry.” I couldn’t handle the side effects of some – hideously vivid nightmares or the feeling of wanting to jump out of my skin. Others had side effects that I could live with, but little or no therapeutic effect. “There’s another drug I’d like to try” was the constant refrain.

 

The merry-go-round creaked on for years. Literally. With each new med, I had six weeks or so of slowly sliding back into the numbness and misery as my body sloughed off that chemical. Then six or so more weeks, waiting for the new one to work or not, prove tolerable or not, be any better than the last drug or not. Each new drug cycle amounted to a minimum of three months of hell. More, sometimes, as the doctor slowly, cautiously ramped up the dosage to gauge the effects, both intended and incidental. Lather, rinse, repeat.

 

Those years are mostly a blur to me now. I remember sleeping a lot. I remember sitting on the sofa watching “reality” shows so I could see people whose lives were train wrecks worse than mine. I recall not having the wherewithal to add water and nuke a cup of macaroni and cheese. Not bathing. Not feeding the pets. Not paying bills. Not reading. Not caring.

 

I know now how lucky I was to have a husband who lived the vow about “in sickness and in health” and took up the enormous quantity of slack required. He put up with a distant, unresponsive wife; frequent and apparently unprovoked bouts of sobbing; irrational panics; and all the other symptoms he knew by then he couldn’t fix. He didn’t know about the suicidal thoughts, or if he suspected, he never mentioned it. He often asked how he could help, but really, there was nothing else he could do.

 

Then came the day that my psychiatrist said we were just about out of options. He was thinking of recommending electroshock (or ECT, electroconvulsive therapy, its current version). As he talked about how it wasn’t like the bad old days and really showed quite good results in some people, his voice seemed to fade and I heard my inner voice screaming, “Fuck, NO! Keep away from my brain, you Nazi sadist!”

 

I had heard how in the 1950s electroshock was used as a way to punish or control unruly, uncooperative, nonconforming women. And of course everyone knew about the Cuckoo’s Nest. The Snake Pit. As far as I was concerned, electroshock was right up (or down) there with icepick lobotomy, the frighteningly efficient epitome of former psychiatric treatments.

 

Reeling, I made it to my car and immediately called a friend, a scientist, one of the most rational people I know, to talk me down. Her extremely sensible advice was to do some research. Research was something I knew about and remembered how to do.

 

I started digging. The Internet was little help. The opinions and experiences of people who had undergone electroshock ranged from “It was hideous” to “It was a miracle.” I kept looking and questioning and slogging through the research as well as the dense fog around me. I lost one friend, my long-time go-to guy for comparing our conditions and our meds, who said, “Do it immediately or I will kick your ass.” (Hint: Advice phrased as a threat of violence doesn’t help, or have the desired effect.)

 

So there I was, on a merry-go-round that had jolted to a sudden, sickening stop by the notion of electrical jolts surging through my brain. My precious brain, which had both sustained me and betrayed me throughout my life. The only part of my body I ever really loved.

 

What was I doing, considering altering that unique organ with electricity? But the brain in question kept pondering.

 

Electroshock caused memory lapses. I was already having those.

 

I would be allowing doctors to tinker with and alter the functioning – perhaps even the structure – of my brain. But really, hadn’t I been doing those very things with chemicals for years?

 

I went back to my psychiatrist, ready to tell him I was at least willing to talk to the doctor who did the shocking.

 

Then I got a surprise (at least as much as anything repeated for years can be a surprise). “There’s one more drug I’d like to try,” he said. “Lamictal. It’s an anti-seizure drug.”

 

“I don’t have seizures. How does it work?”

 

“We don’t really know.”

 

Oh, why the hell not try it? One more spin around the playground.

 

More misery. More weeks of weaning off and ramping up. More weeks of no change. The same-old same-old.

 

And then one day, something did change. It was such a clear sensation, physical as well as mental. I felt a sudden click in my head – an actual click, like someone throwing a switch located about two inches inside the back of my skull. I could hear my brain saying, “Oh, yeah. I remember this. This is how thinking and feeling are supposed to work.”

 

The click wasn’t a flick from a magic wand. I still had a long way to go, rebuilding the parts of me that I still could and still wanted to. Setbacks. More fiddling with the dosages. The creation of a crazy cocktail of drugs to keep the crazy at bay. But I was on my way back to functioning, with the help of anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, and anti-seizure drugs, plus a sleeping aid. And lots and lots of psychotherapy.

 

So what did I learn from this process? Not “There’s always hope.” I gave up hope lots of times, every time another med didn’t work. Not “Desperate times call for desperate measures.” I am infinitely glad I did not have electroshock. “It’s always darkest before the dawn”? Please. No truly depressed person believes that crap.

 

The lesson I took was “Stubbornness is a virtue.”  It saved our marriage countless times. It saved my father’s life for five times longer than the doctors gave him. And it saved my sanity.

 

“Stubbornness is a virtue” is different from “There’s always hope.” Even when you do give up hope, when you know it’s hopeless, when you realize the merry-go-round is grinding to its inevitable halt, you keep pushing it. Hopelessly, if you must, but stubbornly. As long as it takes.


Moose Tracks And Memories

What did I have for dinner?  Extreme Moose Tracks ice cream with caramel sauce.  TWO BOWLS!!  I am not the model of balance, ladies and gentlemen.  But GODDAMN is it good!!!!  I’ve been doing daily yoga and meditation because my little Pixie cousin sold me on it, saying it’s proven to help with depression.  Well I have to confess I didn’t do the yoga today :(  I hate going off my rhythm because I’m afraid I won’t gain it back.  Looks like I’ll either have to do it now, at 8:30pm, or I’ll have to forgive myself for missing a day.  I’ll need to think about that for a second.

Self-forgiveness is high on my list of things to do.  I have so many regrets about my life and how it has turned out and I really need to practice compassion and forgiveness with myself.  I think flogging myself for my past wrongs has become a bad habit that I need to let go of.  I have been tapping with the phrase “I deeply and completely forgive myself for all of my past wrongs.”  I need to clean the slate and allow myself to go forward with life.

I woke up the other morning thinking about these kids I used to take care of probably twenty years ago.  I know I took good care of them but I also know that sometimes my temper flared and that that was scary for them.  I went and looked them up on Facebook and was shocked to see that they’re all grown up.  I didn’t friend them, though, because I don’t know what kind of memories they have of me.  Again, I need to forgive myself.  I wasn’t perfect, but I really did love those kids.

These days I get to spend my Wednesdays with my niece and nephew and the time is golden to me.  I love them to pieces and recall explaining to them while we were in California what it was like to love someone so much that you knew you’d lay down your life for them.  That is how I feel about them.  I’m grateful to be able to experience such love.

Well my lease is up on my apartment at the end of August and I won’t be renewing it.  I HATE the idea of moving again, and really what I’m contemplating is putting my stuff in storage and going South for the winter.  Seeing as the last two winters I’ve ended up in the looney bin, I’d like to try a new approach for my Seasonal Affective Disorder (just a little enhancement to go on top of the Bipolar Depression that puts me completely over the edge).  Would the slightly longer days, coupled with warmer weather and the chance to spend time at the beach keep me sane?  I think I’m willing to experiment.  Something’s gotta give here.

I think I’ll go watch some more Cops (another guilty pleasure).  There’s something about watching these dumb fucks getting in trouble, and thinking “That could be me!” – but it’s not.  And I’m glad.  I guess that’s my cheap thrill for the day.  Hope your Hump Day includes a good hump, if you’re into that sort of thing :D  Peach out!


Filed under: Bipolar, Bipolar Depressed, Bipolar Disorder, Psychology Shmyshmology Tagged: Bipolar, Extreme Moose Tracks, Hope, Mental Illness, Psychology, Reader, Self-forgiveness, Tapping

Vacation

Hello dear readers! I apologize for my absence, but I just returned from a vacation. I got to see my sister and it was relaxing and fabulous. One thing that holds true for everyone as far as vacation goes is that it breaks us out of our routines. Mostly this is a good thing, but for those of us with a mental illness who rely on routine to stay well, it could be quite bad.

I’m happy to say I was able to vacation with a few alterations to my set routine and it worked out well. There were no manic episodes, no depressive periods and while my diet wasn’t what it was at home, it wasn’t at binge eating proportions- I prefer to call it “vacation portions”. I cut way back on my coffee consumption (though I did check out some small local coffee shops I adored) but definitely was lacking on getting the same amount of veggies I usually eat.

I was able to go to sleep and wake up about the same time every day, save one evening my sister and I went out and enjoyed ourselves (only one drink though!). I’ve noticed sleeping the same amount of hours (usually 9) every day is key to keeping my mood in check. I was still physically active, walking a lot as well as going on a hike.

Obviously I took my medications with me and made sure to bring my anti-anxiety medication, which I needed on the extra turbulent flight home. I also made sure I had time to myself here and there and took my journal to jot down any thoughts or feelings I had along the way.

So if you are suffering from a mental illness but want to take a trip that won’t send you into a spin, here’s a list of guidelines I followed-feel free to adjust to your own personal preference!

  • Make sure you have all your information sorted out- airlines, hotels, rental cars, etc. Knowing what time you need to be at the airport reduces a lot of stress, obviously. I found that having everything settled ahead of time as far as lodging and transportation were concerned reduced a lot of anxiety and also helped me budget ahead of time.
  • Plan activities, but don’t be too stern with them. Meaning, if you decide you’d really rather relax poolside than see the museum, don’t beat yourself up for it and say you’re being lazy. You also don’t need to do everything in one day. Vacation is all about enjoying yourself! 
  • Bring your medication! I don’t think I need to go into why with this one
  • Get enough sleep. Maybe you can stay up a little later than you usually would, but definitely get enough sleep so you don’t have a manic episode or worse.
  • Put the smartphone away! This applies to everyone, not just those of us suffering from mental illness. I only used my phone as a camera during my vacation,I wasn’t Facebooking or checking emails every hour. I also slept in one room and charged my phone in another room. I wound up sleeping deeply every single night.
  • If you’re traveling with someone, get some solo time. My sister is not much of an outdoorsy girl, and I love nature. So she was in the city while I hiked on a trail. We both appreciated the quiet time and then had stories to share when we were done! 
  • General travel tip: find out if there is a farmer’s market in the city you’re visiting. It’s a great way to shop local, get good food and really get the feel of the town. There are vendors offering everything from food to arts and crafts and the prices are pretty low!

If you have any other tips on traveling/enjoying family activities as a mentally ill person, please feel free to share them in the comments! 

Filed under: Wellness Warriors Tagged: bipolar, mental illness, travel, vacation, wellness