Daily Archives: February 20, 2015

Depression Comic 225 by Clay: Numbness

Laura P. Schulman, MD, MA:

It’s always a challenge for me to distinguish grief and sadness from depression. I have to ask myself: is this grief? Is this appropriate sadness for some loss? Or am I actually depressed, and should do something about it, if I can? Today I am very sad because I gave up doing something I really wanted to do, but I had to acknowledge that I can’t do it because of the arthritis in my neck and shoulder and hands, and the fact that the course I had signed up for begins at 8 am. In order to get up at 8 am I would have to take my meds at 6 pm, but that would mean missing the important evening practice sessions. I cancelled, and now I am overcome with sadness. I hope I can use the time I would have spent taking the course to go somewhere beautiful in my new camper van…but this comic of Clay’s describes me to a “T” most of the time. A lot of it comes from the combination of being depressed and the enormous amount of trauma I’ve endured both in my personal life, and in my role as a pediatric emergency physician, seeing and attending to so many tragedies…so many times when I had to tell parents and loved ones, “I’m sorry…we did everything we could do, but we couldn’t save your….” You have to become numb, or you’ll just go instantly crazy. I never cried one tear during those days and nights, but I was afraid to go to sleep because of the dreams…and my only friends were also doctors…sound familiar? Like war veterans. We were on the battle front of life and death, and the PTSD is just the same as war veterans. We are the wounded warriors, and we have to stay numb because if we start feeling, all those dreadful memories might come flooding back…but I’ve learned to distinguish sadness and grief from depression and PTSD, but I am still afraid to go to sleep…so I take four different drugs to cause unconsciousness, and they don’t wear off until 9 am, so no refresher acupuncture course for me. And I’m genuinely sad about that, and about the conditions that limit my abilities. As my grandfather, may he rest in peace, used to say: “If you have your health you have everything.” And he knew that by experience. He lived with depression his whole life, in the days when it was considered a shameful thing, so he never got treated and died a bitter old man. And he was numb to everything, or at least he never had a cheerful word about anything. But he did spin quarters for me, and bought me tiny loaves of bread, and slathered me with olive oil when we went to the beach. I can still remember the grit of sand in my mouth, and becoming more and more covered with sand as it stuck to my skin. But even then, I saw things as if from a distance, already numb at eight years old. I did not cry when he died.

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Pet Therapy

PictureJovi

Whether it’s a cat, a dog, or some other animal you love, pets can be a rewarding part of your life. This is true for most people, but especially so for those with Bipolar Disorder. When you have bipolar disorder, one of the most common and detrimental triggers is stress. Stress worsens most bipolar conditions and should be avoided at all costs.

Pets help reduce stress. One way that works is the act of petting your animal. Newlifeoutlook.com reports that petting actually releases a brain chemical called oxytocin. This reduces stress and increases emotional bonding. It also reduces blood pressure, and heart and respiratory rates. It’s healthy to own a pet. Pets keep you active. You play with them, groom them, bathe them and walk them (of course, depending on what type pet you own). Pets also help to keep your life to a schedule – another good care attribute for people with bipolar.

Pets love you unconditionally. They love you no matter what kind of mood you’re in. Because of this they can help build your self-worth and your confidence. If you walk a dog, that not only gives you exercise, but can also help you in social situations (when you come upon other walkers). These are all benefits to bipolar disorder.

A pet can be your best friend. They can keep you company and help you from feeling isolated and alone. You can talk to your pet – they keep great secrets. When you’re depressed, cuddling your cat or dog can surely give you comfort. If you have paranoia around being alone, a dog can provide protection.

Therapy dogs are brought many places these days. They are even brought to psychiatric wards at hospitals, and offer patients the opportunity to interact with the dogs. This is found to reduce anxiety in the patients. Even service dogs are now available for psychiatric care. These special dogs can be trained to retrieve medication, retrieve water, bring the telephone, prompt you to leave situations on cue and more.

I have a dog, an Irish Setter, and two cats. I’m usually in the house all day, alone, so my dog, Jovi, is my companion. She’s a lazy dog who loves to lounge on couches, but she usually does so in the room I’m in. I have to care for her by letting her out when she needs it. And, yes, I do talk to her. My two cats often sleep with me. George (the orange tabby) sleeps by my face, whereas Charlie, keeps my toes warm. I’ve had pets all my life and appreciate them now more than ever. I can’t imagine life without a furry friend.

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George & Charlie

cranial limescale

I’m just emptying my head again/more … blah blah whine blah pullyourself together blah blah blahhh …

Urghhhhh … that sorrow that bleeds into anger that bleeds into sorrow. I’ve never been any good at getting through that intact. The way I live means that at least I don’t do any collateral damage these days. I don’t know how to be stable through it though.

Today began simply – sad as hell and that ache you get in your throat when you can’t express it. I had a sensible day, like the one I had a couple of days back. I maintained the healthy routine, took the dog for a walk, did some chores, had coffee with a friend, swallowed my pills … yadda yadda. And my mind felt as though it splintered. Spikes of anger, followed by those unshed tears that build up till you have to grind your teeth to choke them back.

I have a couple of genuine reasons to be angry today. I wish I didn’t.

I spent a lot of time outside and I will again later tonight. Orion, the Southern Cross and the Milky Way are always there, constant. Sitting on my front steps staring at the sky is an irregular, but frequent habit. Today in the sunshine, I kept catching myself with my head in my hands, my hands holding on hard, rather like claws. Nobody plans to put their head in their hands, do they? It happens and at some point you notice it. It’s a fairly useful way to calibrate your misery.

I have a horde of reasons to be sad, but don’t we all?

Teeth alternatively gritted and grinding, I fought to get through the day. I was glad when I got an email notification from my shrink, then disappointed. For some unknown reason, my email refused to be displayed. I double checked it was plain text, took off the file I’d sent her and fired it off again. She will answer next week sometime, and at some stage, the practice will phone me and let me know when my appointment is. It’ll be in March, unless I get someone’s cancellation slot. She’ll give good advice in the meantime, just got to hold fast a little longer.

I have a good amount of things to be grateful for.

Nextofkin is still struggling  too, of course. We are both dealing with our own troubles, as well as the shared stuff. It’s natural, it’s logical and there’s no way around it. There are things, that unless you go through them, will dog you forever, nipping at your heels till you face it.

I have one reason to live, and one is enough.

Eh … I don’t have any other conclusions to reach, I just needed to write it all down.

I vented my spleen in an fb post to my very limited close friends list. I shouldn’t have. Too much snarling on my part. I’m gonna delete the mofo. They’ll all have read it and commented (I have truly beautiful friends), I just don’t want to see it anymore (the post, I mean).

I’m dizzy. I’m so tired of weeping alone. I’m tired.

Blah blah blah whatever. Que sera and c’est la vie and la la la la life goes on, innit?

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When There’s Nothing For It

Ah, Genetics

 ♦

There are days like today when there is nothing for it.  The darkness is real and thick.  The thoughts are alien and weird.  Nothing helps.  Nothing hurts.  It is a day for soft music and sleep.


Psychological Whiplash

After last night’s abrupt descent into the depressive abyss…I slept. I only woke up a couple of times, which is an improvement. But I think weeks of waking five, six times every night…May have brought on exhaustion and kept me asleep. Maybe if I just survive weeks on end on minimal sleep I can get the occasional good night’s sleep.
Somehow, that reasoning seems flawed.
Everyone thinks it’s so simple. If you can’t sleep, take a pill. Well, the ones the shrinks give me are coma inducers that pretty much guarantee a hangover the next day and render me useless dead weight.
The over the counter stuff doesn’t work.
And it’s too easy to become reliant on a quick sleep fix. I’d rather tough it out, but I think last night proved…We all hit a crash and burn point of exhaustion.

This morning…It was so cold, I hit snooze until ten after seven. I didn’t want to leave the warm blankets. But I did. While my kid got ready, we checked out some metal versions these guys on youtube do of pop songs. Must admit…The metal version of the Frozen theme my kid has held me hostage to for the last year…done metal…is not too putrid. Metal makes everything better. And the new Marilyn Manson…Absolutely rocks the casbah, it’s like he’s gone back to the original metal rather than the trancy pop stuff they did for awhile. And my kid is learning all the words to “Deep Six” because I have been exhausting myself on it.
Which means…I am mentally hypomanic. Gotta love the stability (ha) of cyclothymia. For months I have been very leery of music because it heightened my anxiety and I couldn’t enjoy it. Now I am enjoying it a bit and my mind is a funnel cloud of activity, both good and bad…Yes, manic.
It’s just a different kind of manic compared to solid bipolar one and two. I will run high for a few hours then bottom out. The patterns remain fairly consistent in their inconsistency.

Due to all the anti mental illness propaganda I have read this week (not by choice, it just seems to be there at every turn) I have looked back on old journals. I am talking six, ten years ago journals. Trying to identify what I might be doing to sabotage my own progress. If any personality quirks or habits contribute. Maybe it’s all emotional damage.
I can’t find anything.
If anything, the personality issues that so plagued me have really dissipated to a quiet background noise. Recently R’s wife said, “At your age, you’re not going to change much, you are who you are now.” And that irked me because I am constantly involving, improving as a person. Who I was just six years ago is drastically different today, in outlook, in determination, in a willingness to fight for my own evolution as a person.

What has not changed are the constant cycles with the cyclothymia, depressions, and anxiety. I found a journal entry from when my grandfather died. I was manic and people thought I was happy he was dead. Which was the furthest thing from the truth, but how you behave on the outside is how people base their opinion.
Then there was an entry from 2008 where everything was going well, I pretty much felt stable and there was less stress…And I babbled on and on about the futility of life and how it felt like I had a ship anchor weighing me down every day.
Outside triggers seem to mean nothing with this disorder.It can definitely contribute to the anxiety, but as far as the moods go…It’s whiplash.

Yesterday, I was kind of down and of course, the bug crawling on my skin anxiety was in full force. R asked me to do him one favor and it totally escaped my memory…He got irked and said, “I asked you to do one thing and you couldn’t even get it right, moron.”
Most people would get angry or sad that a friend would say such a thing.
It’s so common in my life, it slid right off my surface.
Because I know I can be a flake. It’s not by choice. I don’t make an effort to be ditzy or forgetful. Most days, I feel like my brain is tapioca. I forget things ten seconds after they are said (mostly with numbers.) I seem to have some sort of numerical dyslexia where even as the numbers are recited or written, I get them garbled. I sometimes garble my sentences and say or write the opposite of what was meant.
I will agree to do something Monday on Friday, then Friday comes and I am a basketcase so once again, I am letting people down.
I accept my flakiness. I don’t like it, and I try hard to fight it…But it doesn’t change a thing.
Sometimes I think that Nardil interaction that landed me in the hospital gave me brain damage.
Other times, I wonder if it’s not all the psych drugs that turned my brain into scrambled eggs.

Psychological whiplash. Yeah, that’s pretty apt a description.
I am still here, still trying. Even if it seems like I am getting nowhere. And I partially blame my doctors. They are so busy being conservative, I don’t feel I get proper treatment in the five minute med checks. I am supposed to fill it in with counseling but honestly, after 20 years of it…Most of my major issues have been hashed out.
Except the bipolar, anxiety, and seasonal affect and there is not a thing a therapist can do for that.
It’s medical and for that, I need adequate mental care.
Unfortunately, I am forced to go where the insurance will pay.

For weeks (months even) I have toyed with the idea of puffing myself up with courage to go to the psych doc and lay it all on the line. How I feel I am not receiving the best treatment and how his dismissal of my worst problems is a hindrance and a disservice. I am trying so hard and still…
Feeling helpless and at the mercy of others is not something that sits well with me.

They say take charge of your own care.
I try. But I can only do so much with doctors who don’t want to venture outside their own comfort zone as far as treatment goes. And I am expected to defer to their expertise when in fact, the only one who is an expert on my illness is me. I live with it 24-7-365.
Funny how living it doesn’t qualify you as having an expert opinion.

Now…my stomach is twisted in knots and my brain is racing and I need to go find one of those funky collars they give whiplash victims. Do they make those for the mind? And if so, I really hope it’ available in black.
Yeah, sarcastic humor.
I must be cured.
Except I haven’t bathed in two days, skipped a bra, can’t be bothered to feed myself, and can’t even work on my vampire novel because my brain is speeding too fast.
One step forward, two steps back.
I babble therefore I am.


“I’m Not A Mess” (Except When I’m A Mess)

    “I’m Not A Mess” by Dyane Trigger Warning: A touch of profanity and silly, embarrassing neck movements    Last Friday I was inspired by the writing of Dr. Walker Karraa, founder of Stigmama.com and author of the bestselling … Continue reading

Rooted in Anger

Many therapists feel that depression is anger turned inward.  Here’s an example of when I acknowledged my anger after Hurricane Katrina hit Mississippi, for all the good that did me at the time .  It’s called “The Past Remembered”

The Past Remembered

 

I hate you, Katrina.

You drove me from my home

To live with strangers

You made me jump at every sound

Freeze at every turn.

I hate you, Katrina

 

I hate you, Katrina

You stole my life away

Everything I had

Is gone with nothing

Left behind to replace it

I hate you, Katrina

 

I hate you, Katrina

So many others

Who suffered worse

Than me but seem

To be making it all right

But I still hate you, Katrina

 

You owe me my world

I’ve mentioned before that we were not as impacted by Katrina as many were; we didn’t lose our home or livelihoods as so many people did.  But it did kick off my major depressive episode that led to my psychotic break,  So the feelings of anger at the storm were still there.  Just a note to explain.


Prevent and Treat Childhood Trauma #1000Speak for Compassion

Childhood trauma isn’t something you just get over as you grow up. Pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris explains that the repeated stress of abuse, neglect and parents struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues has real, tangible effects on the…

Seeing my blog in the WordPress Reader is REALLY cool!

blog reader

When I go to WordPress.com, a page called the Reader page comes up, on it are all the posts of all the blogs that I subscribe to, they alternate. This includes my own blog. When one of my posts is on the Reader page, it is SOO cool. I created that post! Before I put the words down, it did not exist. That is just an amazing concept: I am a creator. I put my pen to paper (so to speak) and create a story or a poem or a post that didn’t exist until I gave it existence. Very powerful! I can create. I have the choice to create positive or negative things. Most of the time I choose, I try to choose positivity. Sometimes the negativity sneaks in. Those posts, be they all positive or not all positive, are like my babies haha. I chose each word carefully when I write. I try to make my meaning crystal clear, no ambiguity, I think that comes from the scientist in me. Writing this blog is a joy much of the time. The very first few posts, from August 2014, helped me get all the suffering and pain and shell shock out of my system. Then I started writing descriptive, hopefully helpful blog posts. Then in the last couple of weeks, I felt like I didn’t have much more to say, but now words are spilling out again as fast as I can type them. I will make this blog about positivity, compassion and information. That is my intent. And I’m sure I’ll be thrilled every time I see one of my posts featured in the Reader, my heart will skip a beat, in a happy way.


Struggling with Compassion

A while back I was invited to participate in the 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion blogging event, #1000Speak.  I quickly agreed.  I'm a nice person.  I believe in showing compassion to those around me.  My heart reaches out, yearning for my fellow man to learn to be more kind to each other.

And then reality hit.

I've known about this for a month or two and haven't written a thing.  First off, it was way out there in the future and I had more urgent things to do.  Second off, I couldn't think of any way to write about compassion that didn't leave me feeling like a hypocrite.

You see, being kind isn't that tough.  It's like being polite.  It's something I can do without truly feeling it in my heart.  But kindness isn't the same thing as compassion, although I believe true compassion does lead to kindness.

Kindness is an act.  It's the way we treat someone.
Compassion is a feeling.  It's the motivation behind the way we treat someone.

Except when it's not.

You see, I can look kind.  Act kind.  Do kind.  Without feeling compassion.  So all that looking, acting, and doing kind is just hollow.  But it looks good.

I don't usually do it just to put on a good show, so others will think I'm a good person.  "See how kind I am?"  But sometimes I do.

I don't always do it unwillingly.  "You're making me crazy and I really don't want to have anything more to do with you but I'm sure it's the right thing to do and it's what I should do so I'll grit my teeth and just get it done."  But sometimes it's like that.

Sometimes I really struggle with compassion.

I'm really good at feeling compassion for people who are struck with illness or difficulty that was beyond their control - those situations when life just happens.  Or when someone else's actions hurt them.  I have no trouble feeling compassion for people in those situations.

But when someone is struggling because of their own stupidity or immaturity, it's tougher for me.  There's some judging that happens here.  I find myself with a bit of a you-got-yourself-into-this-you-earned-it attitude.  Definitely not compassion.

And when nature does its damage, destroys a home or ravages a body with disease, my heart aches with compassion for that person.  I want to help and I try.

But when that damage interferes with the life I had planned for myself, when it inconveniences me, I'm not as caring.  Not as giving with my time.  Even though I know the other person is suffering much more than me in that moment, I still find myself throwing a self-pity party.  And getting irritated that this person is messing up my life.

Because I think compassion is easier from a distance.  Compassion up close can be difficult, especially if it's needed for a long time.  If it's an ongoing situation.  That shows no signs of ending and which will be a part of my life for an extended period of time.  Compassion under those circumstances can be hard.

And this is the part of the post where I expected to spell out all the ways to be compassionate anyway.  This is where I planned to set goals to work harder and be better, to look beyond myself.

But that's not what I'm going to do.  Because all of a sudden I am feeling compassion.  I am feeling compassion for myself.  (Which has been an uncommon feeling for me.)

Sometimes we experience compassion burn out.  Sometimes we have to stop focusing on others and focus on ourselves a bit.  We need to sit down.  We need to eat a good meal.  We need to get some sleep.  And sometimes that means letting our hearts worry about our own hearts instead of everyone else's.

There are many people in my life who are having severe difficulties.  I am frequently called on to help them in some way, even if it's just listening for an hour or two while they try to process their thoughts.  And I do.

But sometimes it's okay to say I can't.  Because I need to have compassion for me, too.