Daily Archives: November 21, 2014

Struggling with OCD Habits

Lately my bipolar moods have been pretty under control. I’m fairly stable there.

But my OCD-habits are flared out of control. It is not the major things I first wrote about, like when I would have to check that my doors were locked three times, to ensure that I knew for sure it was locked.  These are minor things, but perhaps all the more annoying.

Number one of habits that is causing me trouble–I cannot stop picking at the skin on my fingers or the thin layer of skin on my lip. It is a nervous habit that I had been broken of, but due to stress (which triggers a lot of my habits and medical conditions), I have started again. I have not done it for a while, but recently it has been stirred up. This would be something I could deal with–except it is nearing winter. And I have a major problem with my skin cracking and bleeding in cold weather. So it further compounds the severity of this annoying habit that I just have to do, even though I know it is not good for my health.

Like right now, as I sit and write this blog, I am seriously struggling not to pick at the skin on my fingers or to peel at the layer of skin on my lower lip. It is not healthy and it makes it difficult to eat or drink, or cook (should I get any sauce or juice onto my hands it burns in the peeled off skin; and should I try drinking beverages without being careful, it hurts my lip), let alone considering how it makes me look when I cannot stop this habit as easily as a normal person.

I know logically it is the stress making me do this. Stress triggers my OCD in a major way, just like my bipolar becomes less manageable in stress. And my OCD habits stress me out further. And stress from all of this combined triggers my eczema. And the eczema makes me freak out and itch…which just further swings my OCD habits into extremes. All in all a vicious cycle–started and ended with my OCD nervous habits.

So right now I’m struggling to contain my nervous habits. It’s a struggle, one that some days I come out on top of, while other days I probably come out the worse. However, I can recognize that at least it was better than it used to be for me. That is a small win, even in the midst of all my stresses.

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Laura P. Schulman, MD, MA:

If only it were so simple….

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Lexapro Delight

lexapro

lexaproDoesn’t “Lexapro Delight” sound like some sort of casserole? Or maybe I am thinking of Thanksgiving and the meal preparation too much.

So the news on my nephew is not as good as it could be. His cancer is definitely stage 2 and he will need two courses of chemo. I don’t know how many visits a “course” is…I guess his oncologist will let him know on Wednesday. He may also need more surgery. (The next part is not for the faint…) I guess some of this surgery can cause problems with fertility, performance, and even cause reverse ejaculation. There’s been talk of sperm banking. But that sounds way expensive and let me guess, insurance won’t pay for it.

Understandably my sister-in-law and Jack were pretty down over all this news. I am even more determined to have a wonderful Thanksgiving for everyone. I have beefed up the table decorations a bit and the house will be extra clean. I plan on being a warm, welcoming, and friendly aunt. But not too weird or mentally ill. I am shooting for normal. But does anyone have normal aunts?

This week has been like shit for me. Just to review my med situation….I have gone off of perphenazine (that was for the voices) and have gone off Lexapro (for depression). So I’ve heard a few voices (just keeping it honest here) and I’ve felt some depression. The Lexapro I have gone off slowly a bit at a time but a few days ago I stopped it completely. Now if you are an intelligent reader (and I know you all are…) you might say, “Gee, Lily, you were feeling pretty good, why are you messing with your meds?” Well, here are the reasons: #1 My pdoc thinks I am on too many meds (duh!) #2 I am not waking up early enough in the morning to have a normal life #3 The doc wants to put me on some new med that will wake me up in the morning. (Something for night shift workers.)

Does this make sense to you or is it just me because I am ill? I feel pretty good but don’t get going till about ten. I hate to take a shower. I am on six meds. I hear some voices.

So we screw with my meds. I now am on four meds but still hearing voices, am too depressed to get going at all, am on the verge on taking new med #5,and still hate showering. I don’t see much improvement going on there. Things are sort of a mess.

So I have been on the couch all week. Oh, and this morning, without my doc’s knowledge, I started taking Lexapro again. I feel better. Much clearer and more cheerful. Able to probably get a shower.

I normally am really med compliant. My husband helps a lot with this. But he knows I am back on Lexapro and thinks it’s fine. I DO have to get through the holidays and frankly, I’d like them to be nice. For ME. I can be depressed in January.

Things are going good in my “outside” life, other than my nephew. My kids and husband are all doing well, even if my daughter is sort of snotty. Our bills are paid and there is money for Christmas. I have friends who are supportive. My house is pretty clean.

But my personal “personal” life is not exactly ambitious. I am spending a lot of the time on the couch. My weight is likely going up as I am not moving. I have not weighed in at my diet doctor’s office in like two months. I am eating too much but not terribly. But I will not win any awards. I am cooking dinner every night, but am eating too much of it.

I am not exercising at all and doubt I ever will. I don’t even care if I die young. So what? I’ve done a lot. I’m not doing all of my devotionals or prayer beads. I am going to my women’s support and bipolar support group. I missed church last week but have been going. I missed my book club and it was a good book. I doubt I’ll ever make it. I can’t get a shower and get there by ten. I’ve cancelled a meeting with a bipolar friend. She has been incredibly nice about it. She understands.

We DID get a Christmas Angel adult. All she wanted was a gift certificate for boots. She is 48 and I am getting her other stuff too. It’s hard to know what to get but I am giving it a shot.

I feel like I am turning into an M and M. You know the chocolate inside with the shell part on the outside? My chocolate inside is all of the sugar I have been eating. The shell part is my feelings. I keep putting thin little layers of protection around my inside. It’s like I am having trouble with people understanding how big my small problems are to me. And no one really cares or ever asks. I have gotten very careful about asking people for support. I don’t want to “burden” people with my feelings. Even though most know I am bipolar, I think they expect my meds and doctors to do all the heavy lifting. And you know what? People don’t have time. They’re just busy. Even my “closest” friends are preoccupied with the day to day of life. No one wants to cover the gritty part. The part that hurts. Maybe it’s just too uncomfortable.

This post probably sounds a bit disjointed. Well, I am having weird shooting pains in my head so I probably am disjointed. It’s probably the Lexapro,…or the Topamax…or the Klonopin….or the Wellbutrin….or the Lamictal…or the……

Don’t know if I will make it back by Thanksgiving. I hope to but am not sure. So will think of all of you out there. Eat more turkey and less pie for me.

lily

Mystic Psychosis

Mystic Revelation

Binary numbers, Lorenz attractor plot, “Universal Man” by 13th century mystic Hildegard of Bingen

Binary Numbers

[A] binary number is a number expressed in the binary numeral system, or base-2 numeral system, which represents numeric values using two different symbols: typically 0 (zero) and 1 (one).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binary_number

Chaos Theory

The theory was summarized by Edward Lorenz as follows:

Chaos: When the present determines the future, but the approximate present does not approximately determine the future.

~ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaos_theory

Christian Mysticism

Christian mysticism refers to the development of mystical practices and theory within Christianity. It has often been connected to mystical theology, especially in the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions.

The attributes and means by which Christian mysticism is studied and practiced are varied and range from ecstatic visions of the soul’s mystical union with God to simple prayerful contemplation of Holy Scripture (i.e., Lectio Divina).

~ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_mysticism

Today’s post is about my psychotic break at the age of thirty and the mystic and religious thoughts racing through my mind in the midst of my breakdown. Flying through my mind at a speed that made it impossible for me to understand or process the content, I had simultaneous thoughts in binary, about Christian mystic saints, and about chaos theory. At the time, I had the ability to observe the thoughts and wonder as to their meaning. I remember thinking, “Wow, if only I could record these thoughts and try to decipher their meaning later when I’m able to think clearly. I’m no computer, so I have no idea what, if anything, the zeroes and ones mean.” I had the sensation that I was simply channeling knowledge, that somehow I had tapped into a vein of mystical wisdom, but had no way of knowing whether the thoughts were wise or whether they were nonsense. I was familiar with the Christian mystics, having studied them and identifying with their experiences. At only the most rudimentary level, I was also familiar with the work of physicists and theologians linking chaos theory with theology. I knew the ones and zeroes represented binary code, but had no way of reading or unlocking the code.


Filed under: About God, Bipolar Disorder, Mania, Mental Health, Mindfulness, Mysticism, Psychosis, Psychotic Thought Process, Theology Tagged: Binary numbers, Chaos Theory

Blogosphere Angels: Kitt O’Malley & Glenn Archibald

While brainstorming for today’s topic, I wanted to focus on something resoundingly positive to counter disturbing events that have occurred in my town this past week.  I’m posting today rather than my usual Monday so you can check out these positive resources sooner rather … Continue reading

Let’s Talk About Sex

If you Google symptoms of mania there’s one thing you’ll find on nearly every list – sex. For example, the Mayo Clinic website states “Increased sex drive” as a symptom of mania. Webmd goes a step further and says “more and sometimes promiscuous sex.” Despite this simple fact, rarely do I see writers openly post […]

The post Let’s Talk About Sex appeared first on Insights From A Bipolar Bear.

Self-harm

(trigger warning)
This is one of those topics that people don’t like to talk about much, or hear about much. But it’s very much a reality for a lot of people. Self-harm is also known as self-injury and is the act of physically hurting oneself, on purpose, without the intent of suicide. Clinically speaking, self-harm is not a symptom of bipolar disorder, and is more commonly associated with young people, but self-harm is linked to a number of psychiatric conditions. People suffering from bipolar disorder (especially when depressed) have been known to self-harm. Impulsiveness, anger and anxiety are connected to self-harming.

Self-injury includes cutting, burning, hitting, punching, biting and more, with cutting probably being the most well known. Why do people self-harm? It’s generally one of two reasons: either to relieve emotional pain by causing physical pain, or to cause physical pain in the face of no emotional feelings at all (like feeling numb). When wanting to relieve emotional pain the person is likely in a state of anxiety or trauma with intense, over-whelming emotional feelings. Most self-injury is done to the arms, legs and front torso. This is because these areas are easily hidden. Self-injury not only causes physical scars but also leaves emotional ones as well. The act of injuring may well relieve pain in the short-term but causes more pain in the long-term, such as shame, embarrassment, fear or guilt. Self-harming is not for the purpose of getting attention. It is a means of relieving inner pain. People are often shocked and judgemental when they see the physical scars, which is why those who self-harm go to great lengths to cover their scars.

I had never thought of self-harming. Never until one day I was in extreme crisis. The trauma was so great, the anxiety so high, the pain was so intense that I had to do it. I cut. I took my anger out on myself. I used my sharpest fingernail and carved five lines into my left wrist. Each of them about two inches in length. They bled, they scabbed, they bruised. They scarred. I was surprised at how much it didn’t hurt and by how much it made me feel better. It was like they said – a release. But it didn’t last. Afterwards I felt embarrassed and afraid. Afraid of what people might think. It was May, but I wore long sleeves for almost two months. No one noticed. The scars are healed now – the physical ones at least. I hope I never feel that desperate again.


(references: WebMD.com, bipolar.about.com, timberlineknolls.com)

Once again I am a slacker

Things have been crazy!! I’ve been dealing with a medical issue(not life threatening), just annoying and resulting in not enough sleep. Not a good thing. I go to a different doctor Tuesday and hopefully they will have a definitive answer and I can get back to normal.

Anyway, this has actually kind of been a test. I’m not absolutely positive but under the circumstances I’m pretty sure I have handled this better than I would have, even six months ago. For that I am grateful. I heArd something yesterday that stuck straight to my heart. God has the ability to use anything for good. And there’s some beautiful and amazing reason even for the seemingly negative things in our life. I wish I knew a better way to express what I am saying. I think, in a way, it’s like this, God has so much love for me that He allowed me to be bipolar so that I can use it to help people and glorify Him. It is simply an amazing thought. I can get bogged down and lost in the negatives but when I look at it from a different perspective there is always a positive. Would I choose this given a choice?

That’s a tough question and one I choose not to spend to much time pondering. At the end of the day I have this and I can use it for good or I can sit back and let it destroy me and all the good things in my life. I choose I believe that my journey has value and that there is a greater purpose for the sometimes painful and annoying issues that come with bipolar.

Of course everyday isn’t easy, and some days staying in bed seems like a good idea. But overall I am healthy, I have an amazing family, a job I love, and a husband that has gone above and beyond and has been absolutely amazing. I am so looking forward to what the end of this year and next year being because I know it’s going to be amazing. I also know that I have been given a unique and beautiful perspective about illness and life and I couldn’t be more excited to share it. It’s up to me how I deal with this condition. It’s up to me whether I am happy and healthy or in pain and myserable. That’s the beauty when your brain starts working right. I can make a decision or have a thought and actually be able to act on it. My medical issue has set back my quitting smoking a little bit. But I am holding at about half a pack a day. Hopefully finding some answers will let me get back in track with quitting.

I know this is kind of all over the place. Im not usually up at this time. But I’m still trying and working. And for the most part I still feel great and am excited for te future and the time I get to spend with my family and children and husband. I will try to write something more substantive in the near future.

Be blessed and remember that your mind is an amazing thing. And when you find the right answer and right treatment it does get better. And being able to look at and evaluate yourself is the first step in the process of healing and being whole and healthy

Until next time. Be blessed and have a blessed thanksgiving. I hope everyone has somewhere to go to be with friends and family and I share the beauty of the season.


The Controversy of ECT

brainshock

Electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, is a tricky topic. There seems to be a split between the small percentage of people who have experienced it (or have seen their loved ones through it) and swear by it, and the vast majority of people who think it is barbaric and unnecessary.

Before my recent hospitalisation, and even as a graduate psychology student, I was firmly in the “against” ECT camp. To me, anything that involved a general anaesthetic and the induction of grand mal seizures felt extreme, slightly terrifying, and yes, barbaric. In fact, I will admit that for a long time I thought it was a practice that wasn’t conducted anymore. It was one of those “Terrible Historical Moments of Medicine”. ECT was merely an entry in a dusty history book, alongside Thalidomide, heroin cough syrup for kids, and consumption of the honey coated cadaver, (yes, you read that right. I do not joke about honey coated cadavers), only useful these days for mockery by pre-med students and the occasional pub quiz victory.

I was wrong.

When I was hospitalised after the arrival of Master D I was offered ECT. I remember being completely horrified and telling my doctor, in no uncertain terms , that there was no way in hell that I’d be signing up for that kind of treatment. She held up her hands, told me no one was forcing me, but that ECT is very safe and has been proven to really help with my sort of problems. I told her no. She put me on Lithium. I recovered. And that was pretty much the last time I thought about ECT for a while.

Then I was hospitalised again. Now medication, with the exception of Lithium, has always kind of been a sore point for me, in that it rarely actually seems to, you know, work. Anti-depressants made me suicidal. Anti-psychotics were GREAT for spending the day in some half sleep haze and stacking on a load of weight, but they never actually stopped “the voices” I had in my head. I often have bad reactions to medication. Random side effects. My body gets hooked to stuff easily so once I am on a medication it is a complete nightmare to come off it. Lithium works. The rest, quite frankly, I could do without.

Anyway, my body’s general reaction to medication was further complicated by the tiny matter of me spending most of my time vomiting and/or running to the toilet, thanks to the good old Oesinophilic Gastroentoritis. The medication I was on wasn’t even getting the chance to make it into my bloodstream. I was seeing people who didn’t exist, dangerously suicidal, I had been in hospital for months, and was, quite frankly, a menace on the ward. Something needed to be done.

You know, I don’t remember discussing ECT with my doctor and family. I don’t’ remember signing the paperwork. I don’t remember anything about it. I have no idea how they got me into the “ECT suite” (which by the way is not a suite. It’s a scary looking operating room). I can only assume that the doctor offered ECT, I accepted telling him “Do what you want to me, nothing else has worked. Clearly I’m doomed.” And my family went along with it because no one knew what to do with me.

So I had ECT.

First unilaterally. Then, because that wasn’t working, bilaterally. And then – and this is quite amazing - I felt better. The voices stopped. The depression stopped. I felt, mentally speaking, okay. Within two weeks. Five months later I still feel better. Well, mentally anyway, physically things are still pretty crap house.

Of course ECT didn’t come without its problems. I suffered major memory loss for an extensive period of time to an abnormal degree. After ten sessions, my family made the executive decision to stop treatment.

“She is supposed to be doing a PhD,” my husband told the doctor “She is supposed to be doing a PhD and she can’t even remember the word for “carrot. This can’t go on”.” And everyone agreed with that. So we stopped treatment.

ECTmemory

I know my family hated seeing me go through ECT. They described me as looking like a “stunned mullet”, as I came out of the suite, one or two nurses holding me up as I staggered to the ward. Then I’d be all “Where am I? What’s happening?” Every other day they would have to sit down with me and patiently tell me the story again, where I was, what had happened. I would sit there in amazement. Asking question after question. “What do you MEAN I Have been in hospital for four months?!” It was like a bad dream. Soon my family learned not to tell me anything upsetting, as I would forget it within 48 hours when I had the next dose of ECT, and then have to go through the trauma yet again. We would ALL have to go through the trauma again.

Even now I’m not quite sure what my stance of ECT is. I no longer see it as barbaric or dangerous. In fact. I have learned a lot. Quite honestly, I feel I was safer having ECT in the short term than polluting my body with the seventeen or so medications in the long term. I certainly see the value in ECT, particularly for extreme cases, or for people where medication isn’t working. It worked. For me. It also had consequences. For me.

But you know what. I’d do it again.

Certainly not for a minor blip in my mood. I would have to be pretty damn unwell to start considering ECT again. But I feel comfort in knowing that there is a tried and tested treatment out there should worst come to worst. Something that works, and works quickly  If it meant I was able to come out of hospital sooner, be with my family sooner, and avoid side effects and interactions and all the trouble you have when you are on a tonne of medication. If it meant that I would never have to go through, and put my family through, the hell that has been this year. Yeah I’d do it.

I hope I never have to. But I’d do it.

How do you feel about ECT? Hate it? See it’s value? Did it work for you or your loved ones?