Daily Archives: February 16, 2015

Mania… Ain’t That a Bitch.

I always profess my love for my manias. I wholeheartedly believe that my mania has saved me twice. It's saved me from depression in 2007 and again in 2014. I was depressed for about two or three months in 2006. The depression ended because I became manic. At that time, I was not receiving treatment for the depression, neither psychotherapy nor psychiatric medications. I was depressed again in 2013-2014, but instead of lasting two or three months, it lasted eleven to twelve months. Thank God I wasn't suicidal. But my life was no cakewalk either. I felt incredibly empty. I had insomnia. The Seroquel had made me gain 52 pounds, so my normally 125-128 pound frame was now carrying 171 pounds. The weight made me feel sluggish and unattractive. I had no sex drive. During this depression, I was receiving treatment, both psychotherapy and meds. But the meds weren't working. And the only reason the depression ended was that I became manic. 

I was ecstatic to be manic again. I felt alive for the first time in a year. I felt more like myself. I had energy again. I started blogging. I vacationed. I saw multiple Broadway plays. I started dating and having sex again. Life was beautiful.

But I also started spending. And spending a lot. The mania lasted three months. Longer than my previous two manias. In 2007, I charged $10,000 when I was manic. During the summer of 2014, I charged $23,000 to my credit cards. I didn't realize it was this bad until I checked my online accounts and totaled my debt. I was crestfallen. In November I checked my credit report and unsurprisingly my score was poor. When just months before I had excellent credit.

The panic didn't really set in until I thought about what a poor credit score might mean for my plan to go back to graduate school. With poor credit, I probably wouldn't qualify for private student loans. I would still receive federal student loans, as these loans aren't tied to your creditworthiness. But federal loans alone are not enough to cover the total cost of attending school.

The good news is that I've been accepted to two graduate programs, I'm waiting to hear from the third school. Should have a decision within the next four weeks. And I just filed my FAFSA, so I should be getting my financial aid packages soon. So I'll know within the next few weeks what type of aid I'll receive.

Further good news is that I have made a dent in the credit card debt since the mania ended. I've managed to pay almost $10,000 towards the debt. Which is huge. I'm hoping it's enough to improve my credit score and to qualify for private student loans.

So yes, I still love the mania. I'm just not sure that the mania loves me.

Writing, “Head Space”, and Me

The Dalek of Cecil Court, London. Notoriously shy, but not very good at hiding.

The Dalek of Cecil Court, London. Notoriously shy, but not very good at hiding.

I can be incredibly thick when talking to people. Including, and especially, myself. Consider the following: “Oh no, Doctor Who doesn’t return to the Beeb til autumn! What am I going to do until then?”

Because those DVDs are just around to make the place look more cluttered, yes?

Telling the difference between (a) lazing about reading and/or watching telly and surfing the net because I need a bit of time out, versus (b) goofing off because I can’t be arsked to write, can be (c) tricky. (1)

Some writer friends and I had a conversation (2) recently around the concept of “head space”. My Tai Chi teacher referred to head space as “the chattering monkeys”. If you’re feeling reasonably well, you’ve probably experienced this as daydreaming. Or, perhaps, a sudden thought such as: “I wonder what’s for tea?” in the middle of, say, a university lecture, or team meeting. (3)

For some, the experience is less one of considering curry versus pasta, and more to do with nasty inner voices.

Whether we experience them as our overly critical selves, or as real people from our past, or present, such voices can be both greedy, and pushy. They can, if we become unwell, demand and grasp until they occupy virtually all our head space. Until our thoughts are filled with the most vicious of garbage:

“No one wants to know!”
“Who do you think you are?”
“No one loves you!”

On and on they go, into ever-nastier circles of fear and self-loathing, until we just want to run away, and hide.

But you can’t hide from the head space suckers. You can try. But odds are, you’ll be about as successful as my Dalek friend (photo at top).

A notebook, a pen, tea, cake and...what? Do I need anything else?

A notebook, a pen, tea, cake and…what? Do I need anything else?

One question that my friends and I discussed was this: “What happens when the monkeys stop chattering?” Confronted with a head space which has been swept clean – or, more realistically, significantly tidied – of mental crap, what do you fill it with?

To quote one of my friends: “Whatever you like.”

Fortunately for me, one of the things I most like to fill mine with, is also one of my favourite, and best, tools for sweeping my head clean.

It’s writing.

Whether it’s this blog, a novel, or the short stories which make up “What! No Pudding?” or the upcoming collection, “Koi Carpe Diem“, it doesn’t seem to matter. Getting together with other writers, or interviewing them for the radio, is great. Writing is better, though.

Whatever helps clear your head, I wish you godspeed, and good journey. And whatever you find to fill it with, instead, have fun.

Happy head space, everyone!

Owl Bag, shown here taking time out during a holiday to select a good book.

Owl Bag, shown here taking time out during a holiday to select a good book.

(1) No, of course I can’t multi-task. Remembering to put the washer on before doing the washing up is about as good as it gets.

(2) Occasionally, I like to have conversations with other people. Not just myself, or fictional characters. Or Daleks. Which may well be fictional characters, but I’m not about to tell them.

(3) If your wits have a habit of wool-gathering during surgery, rocket science, or the like, I do not want to know.

Danger Zone

I’ve written before about how dangerous springtime is to me, and I can already feel some of it coming on.  I didn’t really want to blog today because I kind of feel like I have nothing helpful to say right now.  I know it doesn’t have to incapacitate me, and I know it, too, shall pass.  But the inbetween time is still difficult to get through day by day.

I think the line I hate hearing the most is that “You don’t have anything to be depressed about.”  And that’s true in a lot of ways.  I have a very good life.  I have family and a husband who love me, I have friends, I have a job, I have time to pursue my interests, etc.  At the same time, I have friends and family that are ill.  Both of my parents are disabled, and I worry about them.  My dad doesn’t like my husband, and that upsets me.  Just because I look fine on the outside doesn’t mean that nothing is going on inside.  But bipolar depression doesn’t always respond to outward circumstances.  It’s a brain disorder that needs medication in order to correct it.  And that medication comes with side effects that aren’t always pleasant.

I thought of two more contacts for possible job opportunities in creative writing, so I’m going to be trying to call them today.  Pray that I’ll get some direction soon so I can begin making plans for whatever God has in store for me.  Thanks for reading!


Mental Illness Paralysis and Self Justifications

I am better today compared to last night’s descent into the mood abyss. It was a night full of nodding off and waking abruptly. Over and over again. It’s frustrating beyond words when you can’t get solid sleep and the “meds” they want to give you turn you into a drooling zombie that is pretty much useless the next day. Semi comatose is not optimal for life, let alone life with a child.

Today I am…experiencing that “deer in the headlights” mental illness paralysis. There is much I could be doing. And part of me wants to be doing all these things. But every time I do one little thing, trying to push myself..I get overcome by the list of to do that I become overwhelmed and paralyzed. I sit and I flog myself mentally for not being able to snap out of it.
And the self loathing and frustration heighten the anxiety.

Sounds like a self justification for being lazy, I know. I don’t think people who aren’t mentally ill could ever grasp the mental paralysis because it does sound like a cop out. It is not. Much like a sleep paralysis dream, you fight to wake up and yet your entire body is leaden and you can’t move even though you are terrified and you know waking up would make it all better…But you’re in its clutches and battling it makes it worse.
That’s what mental illness paralysis is like.

I am to the point where I am pondering writing a letter to the shrink. The anxiety, lack of focus, irritability, the sheer exhaustion and lack of joy for life, not to mention the sleep disturbance…I am functioning but it’s limited and it’s…draining. I don’t feel like myself, at least not when the meds are working.
I justify it by saying, it’s the seasonal affect, ride it out, come spring you will bounce back and then some.
When you’re in this abyss…Five weeks for a season change seems like forever.

Surely there must be something the doctor can tweak to make me at least…beyond minimally functional. There is this misconception that if you are up and going through the routine motions of daily life, then you are not depressed.
I don’t want to be depressed. There are moments when I am quite content. Usually interrupted when others permeate my brain with their “Don’t you want to do better for your child?”
Of course I do.
But at the moment…This is what I am dealing with, what I am able to deal with. My kid gets everything she needs and then some.
It’s not a self justification.

No, those are spared for my drinking habits. I don’t believe I am an alcoholic but I am well aware that when I get to the point of panxiety, I feel so helpless and I know the way to unlock the prison bars is a drink away…I cave. Because I deserve it, I live my life in knots, I need to unwind.
That is a self justification.
And I feel guilty and shitty and weak for it.
I see the same behavior in others (though they usually take it to a seven days a week extreme I can’t even begin to keep up with) and I can identify their justifications and unwillingness to make changes and learn better coping skills.
I need to shine that spotlight on myself.

My mom told me the other day that people who drink are not good people.
I wanted to slap her.
Her son in law has a house full of potheads smoking dope at any given time and that’s ok. Alcohol is evil and condemns you to being a bad person. Which is hysterical, given in her younger days she used to get drunk so often she once threw up her dentures into a toilet and flushed them.
My mother is an enigma to me, but she knows how to make you feel an inch tall.

I need to get my social anxiety, and generalized anxiety, under control. The drinking thing goes away once I can get into a content pocket of controlled anxiety.
But the current med regime isn’t doing it.
I think I need to talk to the doctor.
Will I?
It’s hard to open up to some dude on a TV screen who spends five minutes with you. Hell, I’ve spent more time waiting for food in a drive thru and gotten charged less.
I’ve just come to the realization that following the whole pregnancy bit…I haven’t been the same. Things have gotten worse. And the doctors never wanted to address that except to dismiss it as post partum. I honestly think my brain chemistry was altered. Joy for life, hope for the future…It’s not even a glimmer for me most days. That’s not right. I was never that solidly depressed for this long.

But again, that mental paralysis kicks in and I have no idea what to do with myself.

So I do nothing. And feel shitty about it. And my stomach churns with anxiety.

Everything feels so fucked up. Like it is beyond repair. Like I can never get back my zest for life and I can never be free of this constant irritability that hinders so many aspects of my life.

I feel trapped and my mind is the prison.


NAMI Provider Education – Week Three

Saturday I attended the third class of NAMI’s Provider Education. Here I summarize, paraphrase, and quote the handouts from the NAMI Provider Education Course Participant Manual 2013. In the third week course we learned about the cascade of secondary traumas which…

linkdump: symptoms, research, weed & being.

Interesting articles for us and them – no need to be bipolar to find some of these relevant.

He’s also “not jumping on tables in the nude or anything…it just bubbles away inside of me and I know where I’m at and what I need to do to keep it in balance.”
The depression has obviously given him a more authentic emotional range, but it’s his candour and compassion which impresses the most.
Channel 7’s Winter star Matt Nable says the secret to his showbiz success is bipolar

I don’t know whether his meds are working very well, or his bipolar is at the milder end of the spectrum.  I think the next article, despite a glaring typo, is spot on and that both sufferers and muggles should read it.

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Keep in mind that recognizing these symptoms correctly is important to reveal the real nature of a bipolar disease. Improper diagnosis can lead to prolong or lifetime suffering. Bipolar patients often seek advice from professionals when depression attacks them without disclosing their manic behaviors on the other end of things.  The impact is that they often do not get an accurate diagnosis and abandon medications as well during manic episodes. The patient often links their manic episodes with normalcy or happiness.
The importance of recognising bipolar symptoms

When it is more than depression – recognising bipolar symptoms in youth.

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Bipolar and schizophrenia are both neurotoxic disorders.

Neuroanatomical commonalities are evident among patients with schizophrenia-spectrum disorders and BD-I with working memory deficits. Reduced inferior frontal lobe volume may mediate cognitive deficits shared across the psychosis-mood spectrum.
source

People who call psychiatry pseudo science need to read the above research paper and then explain why they’re bleating that we ought not to be on them turrible psych meds …. well, muggles, we’d prefer to stop bits of our brains shrinking, neurotransmitters being decimated and the very real effects we can expect otherwise.

And this one, Cognitive impairments in psychotic disorders: common mechanisms and measurement.

Those two links are yet more proof that telling people like me to think positive and pull myself together, when I am already doing everything I can, is offensively absurd.

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A look at better clinical trials – http://m.chronicle.com/article/A-Modern-Clinical-Trial-7/151355/?Src=longreads

On the same subject, Stanford is currently recruiting healthy control participants for the following bipolar studies:
Early Intervention Using Family Focused Therapy for Youth at Risk for Bipolar Disorder
Brain Connectivity and Mindfulness Training in Youth with Bipolar Disorder NOS
Effects of Group Cognitive Behavioral Intervention on Stress-Induced Inflammatory Response in Youth at High Risk for Bipolar Disorder?
Therapy for Teens with Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Neurobiologic and Immunologic Markers in Youth with Pediatric Acute-Onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS)
Resilience in Offspring of Parents with Mood Disorders

There is also a list of current and past research, which no longer require participants. Loads more info, requirements and contact details on the site.

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cannabis might make you bipolar – or trigger existing genetic predisposition, or exacerbate symptoms.

I fail to see why there’s gender specificity in the next one.

Women reported negative illness consequences relating to stigma, loss of self-determination and changes to relationships. They employed various strategies in order to cope with illness. Barriers to strategy use and clinical recommendations are presented.
psychosis & bipolar in women

Bipolar opposites: his driving and my fasting
See Change ambassador Sarah Bredin writes about how inaccurate representation of bipolar disorder can make it much more challenging to be open

Multi-Tasking is not my Style

I swore I wasn’t going to abandon this blog and I meant it, however, I haven’t posted anything in nearly two weeks. Does this mean I’m not sticking by my word? Nope. I’m just having difficulty adapting to the changes in my life. As usual, I’m having difficulty with my time management. As my regular […]

The post Multi-Tasking is not my Style appeared first on Insights From A Bipolar Bear.

Ah… Tragedy Strikes Again.

Steve Montador

http://nypost.com/2015/02/15/nhls-steve-montador-dead-at-35-was-depressed-after-concussion/

Steve Montador was 35 years old, he was a defenseman in the NHL and had played for the Buffalo Sabres as a defenseman. He last played in the NHL during the  2011/2012 season. He missed the 2012/2013 season due to a concussion. He spoke openly about having depression as a direct result of the concussion. He was only 35 years old. Much too young to go. I assume he was getting help, but obviously not enough. I don’t know what happened and why he lost the battle against depression. I am beyond sad and I hope his family is ok and of course my heart goes out to them. Ah every time we lose one more precious life to this blasted mental illness, it makes me literally sick to my stomach. He didn’t have to go, someone could have helped him. This is all we are left with, conditional verbs and tears.


Goodbye Aquarius

An addendum of sorts to my previous post. I’d been doing quite well on risperdal until recently, and the doctor is switching me to another medication. I’m oddly sad about leaving the risperdal behind. It’s like the scene in Apollo 13, where they are going back into the shuttle after having been in the other part of the ship for so long and Tom Hanks looks back and releases it and says “Goodbye Aquarius. You served us well.” Yeah… it’s like that.

JAN03000

Goodbye Risperdal. You served me well.

Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: bipolar disorder, medication, risperdal, therapy change

Another Good Day

it’s nice to have more than one day in a row where my feelings are up.

I spent another nice day with hubby watching anime, playing diablo on the PS4 and watching the walking dead.

Watching anime with hubby right now and it makes me feel very warm and happy. I’d forgotten how much I really enjoy it.

I don’t know it is the pristiq or if my mood has just shifted. Only time will really tell.

I’ll post a picture of my ring after I get it sized.

1 week 5 days until we move into our home. eeeeeee so exciting.