Daily Archives: December 13, 2015

‘Tis the Season…

 

‘Tis the season for everyone in the family to get and stay sick, ha ha. With the four of us, and our eldest being in school, she is Queen Germ Vector. Which is to say, she got a cold. Then we got a cold. And then the baby got a cold. The problem with Littlerbit getting the cold is that’s atop teething, so we’ve all had a rough week in trying to help her feel better. The husband-fellow even worked from home on Friday to give me support, because damn, it was a rough week.

But you know what? I made it through. My resilience has gone through the roof since I cut my parents out of my life//came out acon. Having the bipolar diagnosed and treated gave me a solid foundation to rebuild myself on, and while some things continue to suck (chronic fatigue, holla), I’m able to do more with what little I have. Is good, yes yes.

Of course, and as I have said many times in the past, physical illnesses help distract from the mental ones. That I am still occasionally horking up lungbutter reminds me of this (sorry if that phrase squicks anyone out, ha ha). Well yeah, and feeling run down and not being completely sure what part of run down it is. At least I have my hobbies to keep my tired brain happy (and hopefully will get a blog post up there after here tonight). Well, and a very hard-working spouse who does more than his fair share, especially since I often sort of zone out and not notice life around me. Whups.

And as my focus seems to be wandering off, so too shall I. Hope everyone is well out there.

<3

There’s Snow In The Air, But Sun In My Heart

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Well it’s Colorado, so you know it’s gonna snow. Have I mentioned that winter is not my favorite season?  Yesterday morning when I woke to snow falling, all I could do is sit in front of my therapy light for a full hour (yes that might be therapy light abuse) and thought about Florida, Florida, FLORIDA!  One week as of yesterday until I am in Florida and away from this dreaded winter!!!  Since none of my current clothes are going with me to Florida, I went ahead and packed.  Oh it got me so excited, I nearly came!  I rode a wave of Sunticipation all day.   This has also fueled my workouts, which I am still managing to do once a day (that exercise pill will keep the SAD head above water, I promise you) thanks to my sister and her wife, who gifted me with three months of a health club membership for my Christmas present.  When Dr. Drugs said he’d never seen a more supportive family than mine, well, that fucker wasn’t even kidding.  I feel  very supported and VERY grateful for my health club membership.  On the shittiest days, I can still go sweat it out.  Even just getting really hot is good for SAD, I think.

Today I will shop for my Secret Santa gift. Our family has given up getting each other gifts in favor of each of us buying one Secret Santa gift, and then we have this all-out war of a gift exchange, where you pick a gift under the tree, but the person after you can steal it from you if they like it, and someone can steal it from them, etc.  It is super-mean yet super-fun and it motivates everyone to get a pretty slammin’ gift.  I am going to fill my Boy Scouts Limited Edition Denver Broncos Popcorn tin with all sorts of excellent Broncos paraphernalia.  It should be the hit of the day.  Hopefully people won’t come to blows over it.  Well, it could go either way.  It might be fun to see my brothers rolling around on the floor trying to pry that tin from each other’s hands.  Hey!  A little hair-pulling never hurt anyone.  And what are we modeling for the next generation?  The kids do their own Secret Santa exchange too.  Fortunately this will be on December 27.  I return the 26th.  So I get to miss Christmas, and any accompanying nastiness that may come with the traditional family holiday (always happens).  I will just swoop in for the fun.  GOD I am so proud of myself for figuring out how to do Christmas RIGHT this year!!!  I will be drunk on the beach Christmas day, while everyone here is eating ham and scalloped potatoes.  Which is totally overrated.

Now if I could just figure out something fun for New Year’s. I am tired of staying home to avoid the drunks on the road.  I have heard that Cards Against Humanity is the funnest and raunchiest game ever.  Not sure if my family could handle it though.  I am the funnest and raunchiest person in my family, by FAR!  Maybe I should just start a Meetup called “Fun and Raunchy People” and play the game there.  Now there’s a thought.  I don’t know though.  People might think it’s a Swingers group.  That might be awkward . . .

Ok people let’s make this a great week! Only TWELVE shopping days left until Christmas!  Me?  Don’t worry about lil’ ol’ me.  Just send cash. :)  Peaches!


Filed under: Bipolar, Psychology Shmyshmology Tagged: Bipolar, Bipolar Seasonal Affective Disorder, Hope, Humor, Mental Illness, Psychology, Reader

Is My Cat Bipolar?

It sure seems like it. She lies around all day, barely moving. Then at any given time she races through the house pursuing nothing at all. Afterward she lies back down, immobilized again. It looks an awful lot like rapid cycling.

I’m not going to get into the debate here of whether animals have emotions or humans are simply anthropomorphizing. Of course animals have emotions, and act on them. Our cat Maggie could snub you so you really knew you’d been snubbed. Another cat, Shaker, was mortally offended if you stuck a whisker on the top of her head and made “beep beep” noises. Our dog Bridget has deep anxiety around strangers, both human and canine. She has been known to wet herself, or my husband’s shoe. Polar bears can experience boredom. I have it on good authority that sheep can hold a grudge.

But can animals experience mental illness? Recently the BBC examined the question in an article by Shreya Dasgupta.(http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150909-many-animals-can-become-mentally-ill)

The article is long and rather technical, citing genetic studies I’m not capable of summarizing and using words like “telomere.” But the Beeb’s resounding answer to the question is yes. Not only can animals feel emotion, they can suffer from mental disorders. The report says:

To our eyes, many animals seem to suffer from forms of mental illness. Whether they are pets, or animals kept in ill-managed zoos and circuses, they can become excessively sad, anxious, or even traumatised….There is growing evidence that many animals can suffer from mental health disorders similar to those seen in humans.

It was decades ago that I first heard about polar bears on Prozac, due to their pacing obsessively or swimming repetitively back and forth. (I did wonder how the vets calculated the dosage – by body weight or brain size.) Of course, rather than psychotropics, what the bears really needed was more appropriate-sized enclosures.

Stress and social deprivation seem to be two of the factors that can bring on mental illness – particularly depression or PTSD – in animals. Dogs that serve in combat zones have been known to have trouble adjusting to civilian life. And the death of an animal’s relative or beloved human companion has been anecdotally linked to profound grief and even death.

The BBC notes that all the evidence we have for animal mental illness comes from pets, captive animals, and research specimens:

That probably reflects our own preferences for certain animals. “It’s the animals that we find very charismatic, like elephants or chimpanzees, or animals that we share our homes with, like dogs,” that command our attention, says animal behaviour expert Marc Bekoff.

But do wild animals really suffer from mental disorders? It’s practically impossible to tell.

For one thing, wild animals cannot bare their souls to therapists. For many reclusive wild animals, we know so little of what is normal behavior that we would be hard pressed to identify abnormal responses to environmental stressors.

Still, the experts say, even invertebrates like octopi and honeybees seem to suffer from, if not what we would call mental illness, at least maladaptive reactions to trauma.

Severe psychiatric illnesses like schizophrenia seem to go with higher intelligence. (Octopi are actually quite smart.) But again, how can you tell whether a dolphin is hallucinating? It may be that animals with extreme mental illness are weeded out by evolution, as their erratic behavior may lead to early death and loss of the ability to pass on their genes.

Is this true for humans as well? Are mental illness and intelligence correlated? As yet, there is little consensus. Sometimes the debate boils down to chicken-and-egg levels. Do people with lower intelligence experience more depressed because they are unable to accomplish what they want to do? Or does depression make it more unlikely that they will accomplish what they wish for? (Most of the studies seem to relate to depression.)

As the BBC report says, “Mental disorders seem to be the price animals pay for their intelligence. The same genes that made us smart also predisposed us to madness. There’s nothing shameful in that.”

Except, of course, that in humans there is stigma. Cats, now – they can get away with acting as crazy as they want. We’ll just call it adorbz and post it on YouTube.


Filed under: Mental Health Tagged: cats, depression, emotions in animals, mental illness, mental illness and intelligence, mental illness in animals, mental illness in the news, news stories

nor do i

I keep starting sentences and then feeling wordless. That song isn’t part of any message either, it just came up on shuffle and made me go ahhh what a great cover. I’m seeing shrink one tomorrow, shrink two on Wednesday. I’m intellectually pleased about it, but I have zero hopes. I’ve even done some housework … Continue reading nor do i

Mushrooms and paper clips

Last Sunday we thought Curly Jones had eaten part of a mushroom in the back yard.  Mary found remnants of a mushroom that looked like it had been chewed up.  So we were pretty sure he had at least put it in his mouth and those fragments did not make an entire mushroom.  As I was trying to follow Curly Jones around I happened to step on the pieces so that made it much more difficult trying to identify it later.  Cut to the chase, he's fine and never got sick.

When Mary got poison control on the phone, operator said that it would be better if he got sick within a few hours.  That means it was less poisonous.  The really bad ones make you sick 24-48 hours later.  What kind of messed up situation is that... to hope your child gets sick sooner rather than later?  I freaked out in typical fashion by shutting down and wanting to just sleep.  Total denial that anything was going to go wrong.  Of course, to outside parties this does not really look like "freaking out", but I just tend to not deal well with emergency with situations as they are happening.  Mary spent about twelve hours on Google trying to figure out what kind of mushroom it was.  Turns out that even mushroom experts can have a difficult time with this as even the same mushroom species can be different colors based on variants of that mushroom and how old it is.

Then this Friday, Curly Jones's aide was sure he had swallowed a paper clip.  This meant Mary had to take him down to urgent care to get an X-ray.  Cut to the chase on this episode, he did not actually swallow a paper clip.  Not so sure about this aide.  She seems to not be fully on board with what it means to monitor Curly Jones.  A not so funny aside, when you get an X-ray for Curly Jones, it means that you stand next to him trying to hold him still while wearing a lead apron.  Good times.

Finding balance with Bipolar Disorder

Embracing balance, I think, is a difficult task for most people. We’re bombarded by messages about living a healthy and balanced lifestyle. We need to eat well, sleep well, and exercise often. We need to find a work-life balance. However, for those of us with a mental illness, particularly bipolar disorder, finding balance can take […]

A Daily Dose of Gratitude

Probably about 6 months back, Sadie encouraged me to keep a gratitude journal.  I was not feeling motivated to do it, and told her I would manage to write something positive in my regular journal each day, but not keep a separate one just for gratitude.  This lasted about two days.  Months later, she brought […]

What does it feel like to be bipolar?

Originally posted on Lola Bipola:
I’ve never actually been asked this question, but that’s probably because I haven’t really been out and about socialising and broadcasting my diagnosis to all…

Ten Things of Thankful: Coping Skills Edition

sparrow

 

Through living most of the last twenty years of my life with Bipolar Disorder and PTSD, I have picked up a trick or an idea or a method that works to help calm the pain inside my addled head.  Much of it is learned from DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), a lot of it is common sense, and so much more came to me through the process of trial and error.

Captain Jack is right — it is often how you think about a problem, and your attitude toward a “problem,” that is the issue.  While I don’t often think of these skills after the storm has passed, when I am in the thick, I am really thankful for the ten random things listed below that help me get through:

  1.  An extreme attempt to change body temperature.  From going and standing out in the winter air in shorts and a t-shirt, to a cold compress to the back of the neck, this is my number one go-to coping method.  It also works in the form of a super-hot shower, a super-cold shower, frozen bag of peas behind the knees.  I don’t know the science, but the temperature change trick almost always snaps me out of hysteria.
  2. Coloring or doodling.  I have several “adult” coloring books and a seriously large collection of markers, pens, colored pencils, crayons.  This is becoming a more popular choice among many anxious people, and has even turned into a big of a “fad.”  The thing about this “fad” is that is REALLY works.  If you can get yourself coloring or doodling, you will find that you can turn your mind over much more easily than if you are just sitting and angsting.
  3. Phone a friend.  Not just for “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?”, this coping strategy works especially if you have one person in your life that can talk to you for five minutes and bring you outside yourself.  For me, this person is usually my dad and sometimes my mom.  They both know me well, and often five minutes after picking up the phone, I am mostly calmed down, or at least I have a plan to calm down.
  4. Get a hug.  A hug, or really any physical contact, can be helpful.  LarBear knows that if I am really upset and he rubs my neck or my back, that I can start to calm down.  There is something reassuring about human touch, something that makes us not feel so alone.  Sometimes I can calm down if LarBear simply sits and holds my hand for awhile, even if he says nothing.
  5. Get up and move.  Of course, this is easier said than done.  In the midst of hysterics, its tough to get up and do anything, but I find that if I can even get up and do a little pacing, or, even better, find a small area of the house to organize (like a drawer or a shelf…think small!), I can calm myself.
  6. Five senses meditation.  This is a great grounding exercise and it is exactly what it sounds like.  Out loud, name five things you can see, five things you can touch, five things you can taste, five things you can smell, five things you can hear, five things you can feel.
  7. Get it in writing.  Blogging is great for anxiety, but journaling or even free-writing can be helpful.  I have numerous written pages, where I have been extremely anxious, and have put pen to paper for a set amount of time (usually five minutes) and written down things as they flew through my brain.  It is an excellent way of letting thoughts go on down the road.
  8. Mind your breath.  After the temperature-change exercise, the thing I do most to calm down is to focus on my breath.  There are many ways to do it, but my favorite is to do a breath in to the count of five and a breath out to the count of seven.  You might have to play with it to see what works for you, but if you can put all attention on your breath, you may be able to calm yourself that way.
  9. Hug a tree.  No, seriously, I mean it.  Go outside and hug a tree.  Panicked, anxious, sobbing your eyes out?  Go hug a tree.  This is a very grounding exercise, and, similarly, sitting or laying in the grass can be almost as helpful.  Concentrate on the textures and feelings through your hands or on  your legs.
  10. PRN medication.  As an opportunity of last resort, after I have tried all of these things, or if I have tried several and none are working, I will take a teensy dose of Klonopin.  I don’t do it everyday anymore, or even every other day.  It is meant for short-term, very occasional use, and I really don’t think there is anything wrong with using that tool in my toolbox, as long as I am not abusing it.

Do you have any coping skills that you use, that I haven’t mentioned?  I would love to hear from you and have a blog post full of what works for everyone!  In the meantime, as a PLUS-1, maybe take a few minutes and put a Ten Things of Thankful list on your own blog.  ‘Till next time!

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Filed under: Gratitude, Ten Things of Thankful Tagged: anxiety, anxiety attack, coping skills, DBT, dialectical behavior therapy, emotions, gratitude, mental illness, mental-health, panic, panic attack, stress, stress relief, Ten Things of Thankful

“Survivor”: a Poetic Blog

Photo with toast racks standing in for the lovely bloke who gave them to me (1)

Photo with toast racks standing in for the lovely bloke who gave them to me (1)

Women aren’t from Venus, and men aren’t from Mars. Unless of course the woman in question really is from the planet Venus, and the chap is from Mars. In which case, that’s got the potential for one hell of a mixed marriage.

Move over, a certain half-human…

My Mugs & Hard Times (2)

“My Mugs & Hard Time”s (2)

Young love is great. But older love, the kind that’s been that’s been put through the fire, then set on fire, again and again, by one of the participants, well, it’s what I believe the saga authors like to call “gritty”.

I am that fire starter, with the extra flammability of a temper, and bipolar disorder. It makes for what I shall call “lively times”.

The love & support of a good wo/man (3) is amazing, especially if your mental health is a frail and uncertain thing. However, in my experience, this is what it doesn’t do: get my arse  out of bed when I wake up feeling bloody awful; wash my hair; get me to work, or a friend’s party, or help me make an effort when I feel like a right fat ‘n frumpy, unfestive old cow.

"Further Mugs for Our Times" (3)

“Further Mugs for Our Times” (4)

We’ve not got kids, so there’s no one to post a photo online with a caption like: “My Mum and Dad on their xxth anniversary, never a cross word between them”. If we did have kids, they’d know that 1) their dad doesn’t like having his picture online, and 2) that would be a complete lie.

Because, hey, even my dad admits that “never a cross word in 30/40/whatever years” probably translates as “not said anything more than ‘pass the salt’ for at least the last 20”.

Here’s a poem from a few years ago. It was written smack dab (6) in the middle of my ongoing mental health hell, and after 20+ years of marriage. True then, true now.

Survivor

Foam swirls.
I scrub phal
from the plate
with the green trim,
one of a set you purchased
over two decades ago, and
one of the few
not to have met
the crockery equivalent
of an accident at sea.

Last night we ate curry
from the Palace, watched ‘Buffy’
on a fat-screen TV
in the shabby front room
with the carpet which bears witness
to two generations of cats,
and over two decades
of my indifferent housekeeping.

Behind you, on the wall,
we shine: young and new-made,
in a picture which was snapped
on our wedding day.

I touch your shoulder.

You turn,
extend your hand,
and smile,
so bright,
so unchanged.

A winter sky as blue as your eyes

A winter sky as blue as your eyes

(1) “And the winner of longest ever caption to appear on WordPress is …”
(2) Thurber fan, anyone?
(3) Mine happens to be a bloke: just being inclusive
(4) Yeah, yeah, mug, singular, not mugs, plural. Whatever. (5)
(5) I am sooooo down with da kids.
(6) See? ^