Daily Archives: June 29, 2015

my year of living bipolariously

I haven’t written about my manic depression since the end of May, and I’ve had the diagnosis for a year, so it’s time to update it all here, so I have stuff to look back on where necessary.

Hi, my name is blahpolar, I’m bipolar. It has been a year since my diagnosis, but my psychiatrist reckons that trauma activated it at around the age of five.


I’m not sure if that sounds more like a Catholic confession or an AA meeting. It doesn’t matter, it’s not something I announce irl. A little while ago, I wrote down the meds I’ve tried during the past year; here’s the list (in no particular order)…


Fun side effects: various rashes, headaches, vomiting, diarrhoea, head rushes, brain zaps, breathlessness, too much/too little sleep, restless leg syndrome.
Full diagnosis: continuous, rapid cycling bipolar I, with mixed and psychotic features.
Co-morbid (gotta love that word) disorders: c-ptsd, adhd, migraine.
In the remission-mission toolbox: regular sleep (mostly), regular healthy meals (uhm…), meds compliance (always), cbt (26 weeks as part of a trainee psychiatrist’s PhD thesis, weekly), excellent psychiatrist (monthly), regular exercise (mostly), support network (my dog, a friend 15kms away, two more 45kms friends over 1000kms away, nextofkin 6000 miles away, blog friends), fresh air (lots).


“How will I recognise euthymia?” I asked my psychiatrist. She said, “you won’t, but I’ll tell you.” I said, “I’ve fucked up half of my life during manic and mixed episodes, and I’ve spent the other half depressed.” She said, “don’t you feel better now, knowing that it was the disease, not you?” “Nope,” quoth I. Luckily she’d told me a few years before, that I must stop looking back, so I returned to my new ability to distract myself and quieten my mind. Books, embroidery, TV, walking, photographing the sky, occasional visits to game reserves. I started blogging again, and for a change I didn’t give a damn about visitor numbers. I researched bipolar obsessively, until the urge began to drift away and I began to mix normal posts into the manic depressive marathon. I made friends (and advisors).

And so here I am. I still haven’t tasted euthymia, and I don’t know whether I hate anhedonia or mixed episodes more. I’m in better shape than I was, but I still have no hope and no dreams. Also, the better shape, when looked at in the context of the past two and a half years, can be attributed to the two and a half years being those after the death of my mother. I don’t think there’s been much space for working out whether there’s been an improvement in the bipolar yet. At some point – and perhaps it’s now – I’ll be able to start trying to find the difference between bipolar and grief.

In retrospect and in terms of the good ole acceptance of the diagnosis, I’m calmer about it, but still pissed off (mostly by the unnecessary fecking delay in getting the sodding thing, and all of the curséd ramifications of that). Anyroad up…

Somewhere along the way, this post stopped being an AA intro or a confession, and shifted into a state of the nation address. Let me change gears and tell you the tale. And by that I mean tell myself the tale.

Once upon a time…


Once upon a shitty time, which surprised me by being even shittier than the shitty years before it, I started hearing things. Specifically, I heard songs, quiet as a subdued radio; they were good songs, my sort of music – but they never, ever stopped while I was awake. Low level songs all the fecking time and it scared me. It took two and a half months to get an appointment with my psychiatrist, because I hadn’t seen her for a couple of years. The brain-radio continued thus for a month, and then it went feral on me. I’d get a very few songs streaming 24/7 for a few days, a few days peace and then different songs. The click song stayed on repeat for four days – and I only know the first two lines of it. Interspersed with it all, were moments of the sound of footsteps on a floor above. There isn’t a floor above me, I’m not close enough to anything to hear anyone walking like that. Or any other way.


Time passed, the way time does (inexorably). The appointment came forward, by a week, I think. It was the day of my birthday, which last year, almost everyone (even nextofkin) forgot. Idgaf about my birthday usually, but it made the day a bit lonelier. I drove to a friend’s place, she drove me to the appointment – I knew I’d be in a rough state (even before I sort of crashed into her at her door, weeping, “and it’s my fucking birthday“. And thence to the shrink, where I was prescribed meds including seroquel. I don’t remember much about the appointment, except that I totally forgot to mention the in-brain sound system till I was on my way out. “That’s early psychosis,” she said and off I went, with a script and a hollow feeling. After that, I dunno. Life, pills, that sluroquel feeling and the video ‘psychosis is nothing like a badger’. I was fretful and not enjoying being on seroquel for the second time, and I emailed my shrink a lot.

A few weeks later, I had another appointment, I was panicky, I probably spent the whole month alternating between panic and sleep. Towards the end of the session, I asked for a diagnosis and got the B word applied. Bi-fucking-polar. I went home, sat on the couch and stared into space. Then I cried, those horrible, heaving sobs that hurt physically as well as emotionally. That was the start of my year of living bipolariously. It felt as though I sat in that couch for the rest of the year. The tale doesn’t have a happily ever after or an end. Well, it’ll end, but not yet. I’m not drawing any conclusions, apart from the fact that I hate this fucking disorder, there is no making friends with the fucker. So what’s next? Well, it’s time for another brain imaging journey.

Hypercortisolemia also has been shown to cause brain damage. This is seen in untreated or inadequately treated BD. It does not affect the brain globally. Rather it selectively damages parts of the frontal lobe (anterior cingulate) and the hippocampus. Both of these brain structures play a crucial role in regulating emotion. With significant and progressive damage, this leads to more severe BD symptoms. Also damage to the hippocampus can result in memory problems. Fortunately some bipolar medications can protect and help to repair some of this damage (especially in the hippocampus). The drugs that do this are: lithium, Tegretol, Depakote, Lamictal, and Seroquel. All of these drugs increase BDNF: a protective protein. source

It’ll be fine though.


Jodi Foreman: A Story of OCD, Bipolar Disorder & Addiction

Originally posted on my spanglish familia:

This is Jodi Foreman. She was diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder at age 10 and Bipolar Disorder Type 2 (rapid cycling) at age 27. She has what one would consider treatment-resistant mental illnesses. On June 16th, I visited her at her apartment in Toronto to discuss the details of her struggle with OCD, bipolar disorder and alcoholism.

It was a lovely, sunny morning. I don’t have air conditioning in my car so I passed by Tim Horton’s drive thru for an iced capp and quickly texted her,

           Morning. Do you want me to pick you up a coffee?

          No thanks, I’m off caffeine. Can you pick me up a yoghurt with granola if   they have? If not no worries.

She was in luck – one vanilla yoghurt with granola – on its way. I arrived at her door around 11:00 am. I remembered to bring my camera, but forgot…

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Still Exhausted, But Relaxing


Still exhausted, but on vacation in Waldport on the Central Oregon Coast. When we arrived in Portland, before we drove out to the coast, we stopped at the Willamette National Cemetery where my brother-in-law is buried. The cemetery is beautiful, surrounded by trees with a view of the Cascade mountains in the distance. We said goodbye to Don, held hands, and silently prayed. Don, we love you, we miss you. Thank you for your service to our country.


We are visiting my husband’s parents and have rented a small charming cottage, near their home. If I climb up on top of this cottage’s carport, I can see the waves in the distance through the power lines. The skies are overcast and air cool, clean, and damp – a far cry from the sunny, hot, dusty part of California we call home – a wonderful respite, actually, perfect for slowing down and taking a deep breath.

Cottage view from carport of street, cottages across the street, telephone and electrical wires, trees, and ocean in the distance

My son and I are recuperating from last week. On Friday, he underwent an endoscopy of his upper gastrointestinal tract (EGD). Both the procedure and the taking of biopsies have left my son with a sore esophagus, making it painful for him to swallow. Poor guy. Hopefully, his esophagus will heal soon, and his post-op pain will be short-lived. His pediatric gastroenterologist said that my son’s upper GI tract looked healthy and the photos he took looked good to me (pink and intact, no ulcers), which is reassuring since he has regularly thrown up his whole life, due to migraines, acid reflux, and gastrointestinal illnesses. For the last few years we have medicated him with omeprazole to reduce his acid reflux (GERD).

When we visited my son’s pediatric allergist/immunologist, we learned that her assistant misinformed me over the phone that my son’s lab work was negative (that his tests showed no immune deficiencies). In fact, his lab results indicated elevated lymphocytes, probably due to a viral sinus infection which the doctor is treating with nasal irrigation and antihistamine (azelastine) and corticosteroid (fluticasone propionate) nasal sprays.

Worse than the viral sinus infection, my son is deficient in all tests for pneumococcal antibodies, so he received a Prevnar-13 vaccine. Four weeks following his vaccination, he will get follow-up lab work done to see if he has built up antibodies to the 13 Streptococcus pneumoniae the vaccine targets. At that time, his pediatric immunologist also ordered the mono test panel which includes testing for the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and cytomegalovirus (CMV).

The lesson I learned here is not to simply and blindly listen (split infinitive purposefully used) to someone giving you a summary of lab results over the phone. See the results yourself and have them explained to you. My son’s lab results clearly showed problems – problems which we are now addressing.

Filed under: Family, Health, Parenting Tagged: Central Oregon Coast, EGD, endoscopy, gastrointestinal tract, GERD, Grief, immunological work-up, Oregon Coast, vacation, Willamette National Cemetery