Daily Archives: November 3, 2014

After The Storm

I feel…good today. Functional. My bills are paid. My errands are run. Cat boxes changed. It may not seem like much but for me…This is good.
Not good is when you have to speak your mind and hurt someone you love. Tough love, I guess it is called.
I’ve gotten a lot of it in my life. And while it hurt, sometimes it was the only catalyst to get me out of my panic stricken “deer in the headlights” state.
Building burned. No choice but to snap into action. Eviction. No time to hide. Being told by numerous people to stop wallowing and get off my ass or I’d be thrown out. Finding myself a single mom on a partial income. Time to grow up and get on with it.
Painful but necessary.
It’s still not a good feeling when the shoe is on the other foot. I like to let people do things in their own time but there comes a point when nothing’s been done in so long…You have to nudge, even if it means hurt feelings and guilt tripping yourself.

It’s strange how seeing your own behavior in others can bring an epiphany. You think, Is this how others perceive me and my behavior?
It’s hard to swallow when you’re forced to put your own flaws under a microscope. I figure most people aren’t self aware enough to draw a parallel between the actions of others and their own.
I’ve come to see it clearly.
While I may not agree entirely with others’ perception of me…I have to give it credence because while not entirely right…They’re not entirely wrong.
Many times last year during the depression from hell…I asked myself if my withdrawal into myself was hurting me more than it was helping. I rationalized and convinced myself I needed to step back, take some time, not let the pressure of others’ expectations push me into a much worse place. They just don’t get it, I’d tell myself.
And they don’t get it. They don’t even try.

This is where it becomes less about them and more about me and what I can do to help myself. So this year, in an effort to at least keep the depression from consuming me entirely…I am not going to retreat. I am not going to shut people out while I embrace my misery and hump its leg. I am going to take a day here or there when I truly need to step back, but I am not going to self isolate and give up living.
It is really sucky when you have to take a long hard look at yourself and see…You’re part of the problem as much as the mental dysfunction.
Maybe the people around me don’t get it. But, in their own fucked up way, they still care about me.
Even if my own needs aren’t being met entirely…I’m not all alone.
Shutting out those who give a damn isn’t the answer.
Denial isn’t the answer.

Wine is the answer.
Okay, I couldn’t resist a joke, it’s who I am.
I think the point of this post is to show that even after the storm of anger, of self pity, of agitation and hopelessness…
There is hope.
You have to allow yourself to feel, it though.
It is so easy to hold onto past habits, past behaviors. You think, nothing ever changes.
And it won’t if you don’t do things to bring it about.
I’ve spent so many years with this c’est la vie attitude about it all.

The mood swings will still keep swinging. The depression will still keep burying me. The anxiety will cut into my central nervous system. I have a mental illness and nothing I do can change that.
What is in my power is to change my reaction to it. Repeating the same old behaviors, no matter how comforting, no matter how much it helps the pain I am in…is just ensuring I stagnate in my misery.
Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome is the definition of insanity.

I may imbalanced but I am not insane.

Maybe some days I won’t be all “I am Niki, hear me roar.”
I am sure there will be the “fuck it, why bother days.”
And I will choose to vegetate sometimes so as to recharge my overtaxed mind.
I am coming to realize, though, it doesn’t have to become the status quo.
I have to keep going. Keep associating with people. Even if my desire is to say “screw this and screw them, I’m in no mood for it.”
i HAVE to do it for myself. For things to change, even the tiniest bit.

I have resented for a long time when people dared to speak up and tell me to snap out of it. It’s not easy. There is no snapping out of it.
What there is, is the choice to let it consume you or the choice to fight it.

In the 80’s there was a song by Nick Lowe, I think, called “Cruel To Be Kind.”

Maybe the cruelty I perceive is simply people trying to help, albeit insensitively, out of my paralysis.

It’s food for thought, even if instinct says, “Throw it back up, it’s hurtful, it’s wrong, it’s plain mean….”

Instead of wallowing…I think it’s time to face the truth about myself. The people I consider so mean…Gave me the shove I needed to get on with life. Cruel to be kind, indeed. And I am grateful because left to my own devices…I might have just stayed in denial and lost everything rather than rebounding and rebuilding what was lost.

The one thing people have always said about me, even my worst detractors, is “Niki is so strong.”

I want to keep being strong.
And I wish I could share that strength with others who struggle so much and I can’t help them no matter how much I want to. I can only be here for them, offer a hug, and let them know, I love them.

Because that’s all I have ever wanted from people.


I Don’t Want To Be a Survivor

“I don’t want to be thought of as a survivor because you have to continue getting involved in difficult situations to show off that particular gift, and I’m not interested in doing that anymore.” – Carrie Fisher Something I learned over ten years ago is that getting sober is hard. Harder than I imagined. Harder […]

The post I Don’t Want To Be a Survivor appeared first on Insights From A Bipolar Bear.

Maybe Another Manic Monday

The great Abilify experiment continues. I’m still roller-coastering, which is “normal” for me, but I really can’t tell whether the drug is affecting the ups and downs.

The highs and lows do seem to be higher and lower (respectively). I am dubious about this being a Good Thing. For several days I was so thoroughly depressed that I was ready to call Dr. R. and tell him I need to stop taking the drug. Then I leveled out to my usual place on the continuum – functioning, but not spectacularly well or consistently.

Now I think I’m starting to get manicky. One way I can tell is that I actually had fun, laughing and playing with my husband the other night and exulting in getting an old friend to walk straight into an awful joke. (Me: Have you heard the new Ebola joke going around. Him: No, what is it? Me: Eh, you probably won’t get it. Him: No, c’mon, try me. Me: That WAS the joke. Him (in evident pain): Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!)

But the real clue that the upswing may be swinging more than it should. I’m thinking about starting more blogs.

I already have two – this one and a general purpose blog called Et Cetera, etc. (janetcobur.wordpress.com, if you’re interested). For over six months I met my goal of posting something in both of them once a week.

Then the big low hit me. But I’m back on track now, after several weeks’ absence.

The thing is, I have ideas for two other blogs. I just don’t know if I could handle them.

One would be Cats, Etc. – stories and anecdotes about life with cats, cat care and health, and so forth. We have three cats right now (Louise, Garcia, and Dushenka), plus many former fur-family members, so there would be no shortage of material.

The other idea is Books, Etc. I’m an avid reader, and though the bipolar has sapped my concentration so much that it varies between 20 minutes to two hours at a time, I’m starting to see some progress. And I find myself wanting to write about what I’m reading – maybe book reviews, maybe lists or quotations, maybe even some lit crit (my original background).

But could I maintain them? And not have them drain off the limited energy that I should use to do the freelance work that pays the bills.

I think it is a sign that I’m still fairly well anchored that I haven’t rushed off and started them already. But the yearning to do more reading and writing keeps getting stronger. Maybe I could keep my current two at once a week, and do the others on alternate weeks. But that would still mean three blog posts per week, plus the freelance. Frankly, I don’t know if I could handle it. I keep asking myself, should I try? Or should I wait to see if my moods level out on the Abilify and it becomes clear whether they are Good or Bad Ideas, or even possible.

Words – both reading and writing them – have sustained me for most of my life. It was a sign of my most profound depression when I found myself unable to maintain enough focus to read. Now that I can again read and write to some extent, do I dare to push myself, push the boundaries? Can I? Should I?

Good thing I see my psychotherapist today.


Taking “Wellness” for granted

I’ve been thinking a lot about the times in my life when I had a prolonged period of ‘wellness’. We were looking for some holiday photos that I really thought I had transferred to CD’s so I went through all … Continue reading

Bald and Bloated

Bloated

F*ck, I’m losing my hair! For a while now my son has been complaining that I’m losing my hair, that he’s finding my hair all over the place, including in his lunch which I make (disgusting!). Is it menopause? Is it stress? Is it medication side effects? Is it due to nutritional deficiencies? I actually think it’s primarily due to menopause, but as to nutritional deficiencies, read on.

Back in the spring I had my first colonoscopy. (Remember once you turn 50, get a colonoscopy to screen for colorectal cancer.) The gastroenterologist had me take a hydrogen breath test, took a biopsy, and diagnosed me as having SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). The treatment regimen included going on a low FODMAP (Fermentable, Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides and Polyols) carbohydrate diet and taking ciprofloxacin antibiotic. He recommended going off the low FODMAP diet after a few weeks and then periodically take ciprofloxacin to control the bacterial overgrowth. Since I do not want to regularly take a broad spectrum antibiotic, I’ve been trying to follow the low FODMAP diet. It is very restrictive, but keeps my gut healthier. I won’t go into details, but I notice a difference when I eat high FODMAP foods. Halloween I ate all of the Tootsie Rolls, as well as other candies chock full of high fructose corn syrup. My intestines are not happy. Bloated, running to the restroom, not a pleasant price to pay for the indulgence.

About SIBO:

About the low FODMAP diet:

What does FODMAP stand for?

Fermentable

The process through which gut bacteria degrade undigested carbohydrate to produce gases (hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide)

Oligo-saccharides

  • Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) found in; wheat, rye, onions and garlic
  • Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) found in ; legumes/pulses

Disaccharides

Lactose found in; milk, soft cheese, yoghurts

Mono-saccharide

Fructose (in excess of glucose) found in honey, apples, high fructose corn syrups

Polyols

Sugar polyols (eg. sorbitol, mannitol) found in some fruit and vegetables and used as artificial sweeteners

http://www.med.monash.edu/cecs/gastro/fodmap/description.html


Filed under: Health, Medication, Mental Health Tagged: bacterial overgrowth, FODMAP diet, hair loss, hydrogen breath test, Low FODMAP diet, SIBO

Patch Girl

Every once in a while I have homework to do for my Intensive Psychiatric Rehabilitation program (IPR).  Last week I gave a little presentation about someone famous who suffers from my brand of mental illness (Stephen Fry, of course), and showed part of his documentary “The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive.”  Stephen is one of my heroes, so it was fun to share him with others.

Now, I’m tasked with writing my Life History.  Groan.  If I had not done this a million times before in a million different ways for a plethora of mental health professionals, I might not mind mucking around in all that sour, spilt milk.  So, I tried a different approach—inspired, no doubt, by watching three seasons of Once Upon a Time in four days.  I offer you the results.

♦ ◊ ♦

Patch Girl

a Life History Fairy Tale

The Voice

Once upon a time, in a land of Patchwork People, a baby girl was born.

“Oh, no!” Mother cried, pushing the baby away.  “She is missing a patch—a huge patch!”  She narrowed her eyes at Father.  “This is your fault.  Go at once to the doctor and make sure we have no more of these disappointments.”

“Yes, dear,” Father said, because his only wish in life was to make Mother happy.

“Get that thing out of my sight,” Mother said to Sister.

“Gladly!” Sister cried.  “She will be my dolly.  I will dress her so no one sees the missing patch.”

“Good,” said Mother.

“Humph,” muttered Brother behind his book.

But as the Patch Girl grew, she tired of the clothes Sister made her wear.  They were too tight, too scratchy, and much, much too heavy.  One day she stripped them off and stood in her natural patchy-ness.

“Stop!” Sister yelled.  “You are my dolly, and I will dress you however I like!”

“I am not a dolly.  I am Patch Girl,” the young one said.

“Humph!” Sister sniffed, pointing.  “A Patch Girl with a big, ugly hole where a patch should be!”

Patch Girl looked down and, sure enough, there was big, ugly hole where a patch was meant to be.  “Give me my patch!” she yelled at Sister.

“Ha!  I don’t have it, stupid child!  Go away and find it.  You’re not my dolly any more.”

Patch Girl ran from the farmhouse with glee.  If I find my patch, Mother will love me, she reasoned.  If I find my patch, Father will protect me.

She climbed over fences and danced around trees.  If I find my patch, Sister will play games with me, and Brother will come out from behind his book!  If I find my patch, we will live happily ever after!  

She ran first to the barn to look for her missing patch.  Esmerelda the Cow swayed in her stanchion, chewing her cud.  The mouse family scurried across the cement floor to their homey-hole.  Hay dust drifted in the sunlight like golden snow, and the air smelled green.

“Oh,” Patch Girl whispered.  “What a magical place.  Surely my missing patch is here.”

She touched Esmerelda’s wet nose and felt the breath huff out her nostrils.  “Do you have my patch?”

The cow blinked her soft brown eyes and swallowed.  “Ask the Cat,” she lowed.

Patch Girl tip-toed further into the barn to a warm, dark nest behind the bales of hay.  Mother Cat lay on her side with three kittens suckling.  Patch Girl saw their tiny paws kneading Mother Cat’s white fur, their perfect little claws flexing in and out.

“Oh,” Patch Girl sighed, feeling full and whole.  She touched one finger to the calico kitten’s head.  “This must be my patch.”

“No, dear,” Mother Cat said.  “You already have that patch.  See?”

Patch Girl looked down and saw one of the patches next to her hole glowing with golden light.

“But, I must find my patch,” she told Mother Cat, unhooking the calico kitten’s claws from her patchy body.

“Go see Grandmother,” Mother Cat suggested.  “She may have your missing patch.”

Patch Girl hurried from the sweet-smelling barn and followed a grassy path through the apple orchard.  At the end of the path, through a flowery trellis, she found a white cottage ringed by violets and dandelions.  Patch Girl rounded the cottage and spotted an old woman digging in her flowerbed.

“Hello,” said Patch Girl.  “Are you Grandmother?”

“Oh, I’m much more than that,” the old woman smiled.  “What is that flower there?”

Patch Girl bent to where Grandmother pointed.  A delicate face looked up at her—fuchsia veined with purple.  Patch Girl sniffed the flower, and the petals were so delicate they went up her nose and tickled.

“It’s a petunia!” she laughed.

“Exactly!” Grandmother laughed with her.  “And that is what I shall call you—My Little Petunia.”

“Is this my missing patch,” the young one asked hopefully, the flower’s tangy scent still in her nose.

“No, dear.  You already have that patch.  See?”

Patch Girl looked down and another patch around her hole glowed like a fire opal.  “Do you have my missing patch, Grandmother?” she asked, tears wetting her cheeks for she already guessed the answer.

Grandmother brushed the dirt from her fingers.  “Come with me, Little Petunia.  We have work to do.”

“Work?” Patch Girl jumped up, forgetting for a moment about her missing patch.  “What kind of work, Grandmother?”

“Why, we have lace to tat and embroidery to stitch.”

She stepped into the cottage and rummaged through a wooden chest full of baubles and trinkets.

“Oh,” Patch Girl breathed, picking up a tiny porcelain tea cup, then a brass Chinese dog with smoke drifting from its mouth.

“Or…” Grandmother’s muffled voice came from the bottom of the chest where she was digging.  “…should we start with the watercolors?  Wait! I know!”

She pulled herself out of the trunk, a little flushed from being head-side down.  She held up a paper tablet in triumph.  The bright red cover displayed the noble profile of an Indian Warrior.

“Stories!”  Grandmother said, placing the tablet in Patch Girl’s outstretched hands.  From her silver curls, she plucked a sturdy pencil with a fine eraser.  “Write me a story, Little Petunia.”

Patch Girl smelled the wood of the pencil, the dusty magic of the paper.  Once Upon A Time she wrote on the first line of the first page.

“Oh, Grandmother,” she sighed, feeling full and whole, “surely this is my missing patch.”

“No, dear,” Grandmother said.  “You already have all these patches.  See?”

Patch Girl looked down and, sure enough, a patch next to her hole glowed amber like the lights in the library.  Another glimmered azure blue like the little square in the watercolor palette.  And still another gleamed like a tapestry with rosy stitching.

Patch Girl burst into tears, for while her patches were wondrous and beautiful, the hole of her missing patch had grown deeper and more painful.

“If I find my missing patch,” she sobbed, “Mother will love me, Father will protect me, Sister will play with me, and Brother will come out from behind his book.  I must find my patch, Grandmother.  Then, we will live happy every after.”

“Oh, dear,” Grandmother worried.  “I don’t have your missing patch, my Little Petunia.  Perhaps The Mage has it.”

She pulled out her sewing box and sorted through the scraps.  “It is a long journey, and you need something to hide that hole.”

“Sister stuffed me in doll clothes,” Patch Girl sniffed.  “I didn’t like that.”

“Ah, try this.”  Grandmother’s blue eyes twinkled.  She fastened a scrap over Patch Girl’s hole by safety-pinning it to the surrounding patches.  “You are a clever, clever girl.  Your cleverness will keep those pins strong and in place.  No one need ever know about your hole.”

“But, I can still feel it, Grandmother.  And it hurts.”

Grandmother smoothed the make-shift patch with her big hands, then dug in the pocket of her apron.  “Have a cookie, dear.  It will help.”

She led Patch Girl out of the cottage where a sliver moon smiled in the night sky.

“Listen to the stars, My Little Petunia, they will guide you,” Grandmother said, waving her onto the road.   “Good-bye.”

“Good-Bye, Grandmother,” Patch Girl replied, nibbling the cookie (it did help dull the pain of her missing patch).

She travelled long and far.  Night became Day.  Days became Years.  Sometimes Patch Girl forgot why she was on the road, and then the hole of her missing patch ached, and she remembered to look for The Mage.

She searched in churches and universities, for surely Wise Men labored there.  She took jobs and quit them again when no Mage appeared.  She befriended other travelers who adored her for her wondrous patches, but Patch Girl never let them too close for fear they might discover her safety pins and the secret behind them.

Once, she met a Scribe who looked up from his book long enough to smile.  He reminded her of someone, but she couldn’t remember who.

“Marry me,” she told the Scribe.  “Protect me.”

“Humph,” he answered, returning to his book.  “If you like.”

But the Scribe could neither protect her nor come out from behind his book for long.  So, Patch Girl continued her search.

One day, a Black Imp danced out from behind a tree.

“Halloo, Patch Girl.  I understand you seek a Mage.”

“Yes,” she answered.  “Do you know him?”

“Know him?”  The Imp cavorted around her and made her laugh.  “I am him!”

“You?”  Patch Girl eyed him skeptically, but she was weary from traveling.  She had lost many of the safety pins Grandmother had given her, and just wanted the search to be over.

“I see your hole, Patch Girl.”  The Imp leered at her.  “I have just the thing to fill it.  Let me fill it and you need never search again.”

The Imp’s promises were so appealing, Patch Girl didn’t even cry.  She knew at once that he wasn’t The Mage, but she no longer cared.

Mother will never love me now.  Father will never protect me.  Sister will never play with me again.  And Brother will never come out from behind his books.  This is what I deserve.

The Black Imp dragged Patch Girl to his hut where he cast a powerful spell upon her and threw her into a cage.  He filled her hole with all manner of vile things, but none of them was her patch.  The Imp shared her with his minions, who promised to protect her and help her find her patch, but they never did.

One night, as Patch Girl cried herself to sleep in her cage, Grandmother appeared to her in a dream.

“Where is My Little Petunia?” Grandmother wondered.  “Where is my clever, clever girl?”

“Here I am,” Patch Girl cried.  “Right in front of you!”

“So you are,” Grandmother said.  “Leave this horrible place at once!”

“How, Grandmother?  I’m locked in.”

“You’re a clever girl,” Grandmother winked.  “You’ll find a way.”

Patch Girl woke with a start.  She could hear the Black Imp and his minions snoring nearby.  Creeping to the door of her cage, she felt for the lock.  Then, she took her last safety pin, straightened it out, fit it to the lock, and pushed the door open.  As she ran from the hut, the covering Grandmother had placed over her hole so long ago fluttered into the mud—lost forever.

Patch Girl ran as far and as fast as her weak legs could go.  The hole from her missing patch gaped wide.  The surrounding patches, once so strong and beautiful, sagged pale and limp.  Those who met her on the road cried out in terror and in pity.

“Try this elixir, “ they said.

“Take this potion.”

“Stand out in the rain and let the lightening strike.”

Patch Girl tried everything every Wise Woman and Fool suggested, but nothing patched her correctly.  She stood under the night sky and wept.  She no longer wanted to search for her missing patch.  She no longer wanted to live at all.  It was too hard, too painful, and much much too heavy.  So Patch Girl left the road and laid in the soft grass to wait for Death.

While she waited, and it did seem to be taking Death a long time to find her, Patch Girl gazed up at the stars.  She heard their quiet song as they trembled like jewels in their velvet setting.  She smiled, remembering Grandmother’s instructions, and rested in the stars’ serenade.  She reached into her now-silver curls and found a pencil with a sturdy eraser.  She smelled petunias nearby.  In her pocket, she fingered the brass Chinese dog and many cookie crumbs.

Near the road, something rustled in the tall grass, but Patch Girl wasn’t afraid.  As she watched, Mother Cat stepped into the starlight with her three kittens trailing behind her.

“Hello, Patch Girl,” Mother Cat said.  “Did you ever find your missing patch?”

“There never was a patch,” Patch Girl answered.  “I was born as the night sky was born—full of wondrous lights that can only be seen because of the dark that surrounds them.”

“And what of your happy ever after?” Mother Cat asked, climbing up on the jeweled light that radiated from Patch Girl’s wondrous patches.

“Oh, Mother Cat,” Patch Girl chuckled.  “That’s just a fairy tale.”

“Ah,” Mother Cat purred, arranging her kittens.  “You finally did find The Mage.”

“Yes.”  Patch Girl smiled up at the singing stars, her fingers tickling the kittens.  “Yes, I surely did.”

The End