Daily Archives: May 29, 2016

Rebirth

thumb_SCOC0004_1024

It’s been almost two years since I wrote a blog post here. It seems both shorter and longer than that. I just re-read some of my posts and comments from the past and saw that in one comment I said I was just about to start with a new Psychiatrist. I did that, and man, has it made a difference! I was with my old one for about 12 years and in that time she almost never actually started a conversation with me. She was OK mostly, but she was an old school therapist and had the attitude that her silence was helpful. I didn’t find it that way and I finally got tired of it and quit seeing her. I’m so glad I did.

My new Psychiatrist is also a woman but she’s much younger and more in touch with the current thinking on Bipolar and meds and what to do about it all. I’ve got new diagnoses – Bipolar Type I (I’d been Type II for years, supposedly), PTSD and Dysthymia. Of course the DSM says you can’t be dx’d with both BP and Dysthymia, but who cares? They both fit me, as does the PTSD, tho I’m no soldier and my traumas are of a different type and order than combat shock. But they still haunt me and cause me significant distress.

I don’t want to talk about distress today tho. I want to talk about the fact that I’m actually in much better shape than I was 2 years ago when I started this new regimen. It’s taken some time, and some of that was awful. I tried new meds that landed me on the floor with horrific reactions. I often get that when I try new drugs. They usually make me crazy because I get too high a dose. As happened some of time until I got thru to her that I needed to start Real slow. So we started me on 75 mgs of Wellbutrin along with my Abilify, Klonopin, Buspar and Ritalin. We “very” slowly took me up to 450 and things never got crazy at all. In fact they even got better.

Wellbutrin is often known as the “Happy, Horny, Skinny” pill. Well, none of that has been that true for me, unfortunately. I could stand to lose a couple of pounds and my libido could definitely use some tickling since my Prostate cancer several years ago. But what I really wanted was the Happy part. In a way I’ve gotten that, and I’m not so suicidal so much these days. It’s still a threat but not too often and I can usually get out of it in time. I talk to Louie and he tells me I’m OK, and that he loves me, and boy does that help. He’s my personal savior at those times and I rely on him a lot to help keep me OK.

But mostly I have to do it myself, as do we all. I’ve learned so much in the last 20 some years since I was first diagnosed. My life is so much simpler than it has ever been. I live a quiet life with Louie in our home and garden, with a few friends and family to keep me socialized, along with some volunteer work. I have my rituals, like walking in the garden every morning to say Hi to the plants and get some blood flowing in my limbs and brain. (See my blog “Gardening in Greenwood” for more on the Gardens…) I also do some exercises and keep a good book on hand for when I can’t stop the negative thinking and need to go into some other person’s head for awhile. It works, when I can get myself to do it…

I still beat myself up too much but I keep trying to quit that. I use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy a lot to stop those thoughts that get away from me and start to ruin my day. It can happen so damn fast it floors me. So not everything is all rosy and perfect. It never will be and I know that. It’s a circular journey with BP and it alway comes around again despite whatever you do it seems. But still it’s not so bad when it comes screaming down the line at me now. I have chemicals in my brain that help offset the noise and fury. I guess they actually help, tho it’s been so long in coming I half don’t believe it. I’ve tried Soooo many drugs…

I’ve also realized that being happy might not be the best goal I can have for myself after all. I find contentment and peace far superior these days. It’s not that I’m unhappy that much, tho I am sometimes. But I look at life a bit differently now and try my best to stay in the present with my feelings and emotions and I think my Emotional IQ has gone up a few points over this last bit of time. I’ve always done a lot of education with myself on my illnesses and that’s been a great help to me. But being less invested in being happy all the time has allowed me to rest a bit in simple calmness.

I’m not usually that calm – who is when they have BP? But I try to stay chill, and it’s working often enough that I feel like I may actually be in some sort of recovery. I kind of feel uncomfortable saying that because of that mostly constant feeling of impending doom I still have, but I’ll risk it here and see how it goes. I know I can pass most of the time despite my illnesses and that’s good, for the most part. Sometimes I wish people could see what’s going on with me, but that doesn’t happen unless I lose it, and I try not to do that so it’s still hidden. That’s why I called this blog Naked Nerves of course. I may be better, but my next post may say what hell life is, because those nerves are still naked…. even in Rebirth.

And so it goes,

Steve


Filed under: Bipolar, Emotions, Invisible Illness, Medications, Mental Health, Peace Tagged: Bipolar, Change, invisible illnesses, Medications, mental-health

Feelings of Okay-ish-ness

capable

I think this is part of the human condition, rather than a function of mental illness (or wellness, for that matter).  We try so very hard to maintain a baseline, and sometimes it floats away from us, due to circumstances not within our control.

Let’s face it…very little is within our control, and especially others’ behavior and inactions and lives — those are exquisitely beyond our control.  And that little fact can drive me a bit mad.  I have the tendency to want to loop my lasso over the horns of every bull and drag it to the ground, and this is simply insanity and I cannot sustain it over the long haul.  I can (and do) work on my own issues, but I cannot *fix* or even (in most cases) alter the path of others’ behavior.

I have been quiet for the past couple weeks, simply living life, and struggling to live it on the terms which are required of me.  There is so much suffering around me and I want to reach out and heal it, but when I do, I often leave myself with scars.  I cannot help you, without being affected myself, and I am not always in a position where I can afford to be affected by anything other than my own complicated existence.

In the past few weeks, my focus has been on living in the moment, general mindfulness, willingness, practicing opposite to emotion.  In other words, Rosa is doing some hard work right about now, and sometimes when I am doing that, I have to disappear a little bit.  Because words are hard to come by, and there have been other challenges that I haven’t wanted to put a spotlight on — very real, very concrete and physical challenges that I don’t know how to wrap my own tired mind around, nevertheless explain them to someone else.

I miss blogging when I don’t do it, but it is necessary for me to shut down, or maybe even reboot my brain every once in awhile.  I haven’t been talking about it, but in the past month I have been dealing with a new mental health diagnosis, the confirmation of a new chronic physical illness, a septic system that is no longer working, the death of an aunt, worries about family members, and with all the recent rain, a basement that is full of water and must be pumped every couple of hours (and the ruin of my HVAC system and hot water heater, with the first wave of rain).

A lot going on, yes, but I am managing because I am living in the moment and not allowing myself to think too far outside of where I am right now.  I also don’t want to feel like I am complaining, because I really do have a great deal to be thankful for.  The challenges keep pouring in on my head, but I continue to have hope and faith that things will work out for the best.  That fact, that I still have hope and faith even with the storms of drama around me, is near-miraculous, as my general tendency (once-upon-a-time) would be to catastrophize and live in panic.  I don’t want to do that anymore, and I actually refuse to do that anymore.

some days are betterwill write more about the new physical and mental health diagnoses at some point, and at another  point I might take a moment to complain about my failed septic/HVAC/basement disasters.  For today, though, I just want to be grateful for things like my LarBear, family, friends, and for my new-found sense of hope and ok-ish-ness.

 


Filed under: Collection of Thoughts Tagged: anxiety, Bipolar, death, depression, Family, health, living in the moment, mental health, mental illness, mental wellness, mindfulness, opposite-to-emotion, willingness

On not leaving the house

Especially with having thousands of dollars of new medical bills, I feel like I have to spend every waking moment looking for ways to make money. I feel guilty if I even leave for 30 minutes to go to the store or do anything that’s not absolutely necessary.

I’m not sure how much of it is being practical and how much of it is self-punishment. I feel like if I have trouble even paying all my bills, I don’t deserve to do anything that might be considered fun.

So Very Odd

100 Blessings

It just feels odd to be so creative and crazy at the same time. And yet… And yet, this is exactly who I am.  Somehow, I’ve come home to myself through the backdoor.  And it’s all okay.  More than okay, I’m at peace with the pain.  I can breathe through the hopelessness.  I find comfort during the hysteria.  I am living in a place of sufficiency even while the brain demons scream that I’m not.  And sorta loving that all this contradiction and friction seems to be making art.

My Blue Eyes

The Journey Continues


Do We Have the Right to Die?

Right to Die

Upon reading Try Harder with Your Mental Illness by Henrietta M Ross of The Triumphant Weed, I remembered a topic that has been on my mind lately—whether we have the right to die.

Though I preach hope and advocate that people try treatment instead of taking their lives, I wonder whether it is reasonable to decide to die when the pain is too great to bear and does not respond to any treatment.

I often feel disingenuous telling people that there is hope, for that is not always true. Some of us living with mental illness respond more effectively to medication, psychotherapy, support, exercise, good nutrition, meditation and so on. Some do not.

No one chooses to have “treatment resistant” mental illness. We cannot will mental illness away. Treatment does not always work. Still, sometimes there are options we have not considered, options supported by science, that just may work.

My friend Dyane Harwood chose ECT when medication failed her. ECT saved her life when she suffered deep bipolar depression. With the help of an astute psychiatrist, she eventually found that adding an “old school” MAOI to her medication mix helped.

I assume I will get some fire, and perhaps some concern, for this post.

Further Thoughts on the Issue…

People With Mental Illness Deserve To Die With Dignity Too, Arthur Gallant, Mental-health advocate

Assisted Suicide for Mental Illness Gaining Ground, Nancy A. Melville

“A first-of-its-kind report offers insights into the characteristics and outcomes of requests for euthanasia on the grounds of suffering related to psychiatric illness in Belgium, where it is legal in that country.”

“We found that when considering patients’ demands seriously, most do find a way to continue with their life,” Dr Thienpont said.

Euthanasia requests, procedures and outcomes for 100 Belgian patients suffering from psychiatric disorders: a retrospective, descriptive study (Thienpont, 2015, BMJ Open 2015;5:e007454 doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2014-007454)

“In Europe, psychological suffering stemming from either a somatic or mental disorder is acknowledged as a valid legal basis for euthanasia only in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.”


Filed under: Disability, Mental Health, Mental Illness Tagged: death with dignity, euthanasia, pain, right to die, suffering, treatment resistant mental illness

How I Learned a Few Social Skills

I thought my social skills were bad until I encountered a woman who asked me, “Do you have mental problems?” (She recognized me from our mutual psychiatrist’s waiting room, but still….)

expression

With practice, however, I have been able to improve my casual conversation skills, at least enough to get by in some situations, as long as they don’t last more than an hour. Here are my secrets. They do take practice. I have been fortunate to have had people to practice with – friends, coworkers, and of course my husband.

Introductions. Actually, I taught this one to my husband. Often when we met someone that he knew, he would fail to introduce me, leaving me standing there like the proverbial bump on a log. He claimed that the problem was that usually he couldn’t remember the person’s name. “Just point to me and say, ‘This is my wife, Janet.'” Then I will stick out my hand to shake and say, “And you are?” That way we both learn the person’s name. It works like a charm, every time.

Very Brief Conversations. Conversation with strangers – just a sentence or two – is also relatively easy to learn. The trick is the innocuous comment and there are two ways to go about it. The first is to make the comment yourself – “Those are great shoes! They make your feet look really small.” “What a lovely handbag. My mother had one that was similar.” Make an observation and then a related remark, usually complimentary. They don’t even have to be true technically. If you can’t think of anything else to say, a comment on the color of an outfit is usually good. There’s hardly any way someone can take offense at “That’s a great shade of blue on you.”

The other side of the equation is to get someone else to make a comment to you. This requires a prop most of the time. I used to carry a purse shaped like an armadillo, and that proved a great conversation starter. I memorized several responses that I could use when the other person said, “Oh, what an unusual purse!” I could say, “My mother gave it to me for Christmas one year” or “A friend found it in some catalog.” The purse went over  big, especially if there were children present.

Longer Conversations. These require more practice. Luckily at one of the jobs I had, there were a couple of people that I could invite out to lunch and practice conversation with. (I suspect that they knew what I was doing, but they never mentioned it. In effect, they played along.) Mary, for example, had two adopted children, and questions about them we’re always good for a few minutes of interesting listening. They also had a cat and a snake. Pets and children make good topics.

Sometimes it’s best to steer clear of work-related subjects, but if the person is really understanding, you may be able to vent. You should also be able to listen to the other person too. The secret to that is not to try to fix the problem. Simply listen and validate the person’s feelings. “That sounds awful! Does she do that all the time?”

Formal Settings. Mary also provided me with the opportunity to learn about a sometimes-necessary but difficult situation – funerals. Mary and a few other people invited me to go with them to the viewing of a person that I knew only slightly in a work context, so the stakes were low. From watching Mary and her friends, I learned that the proper procedure is to stand briefly at the coffin looking solemn, then go to the bereaved, shake hands or hug (depending on whether they proffer a hand or two arms), and say, “I’m sorry for your loss” or “My deepest sympathy” and at least one remark about the departed. It can be as simple as “He was a pleasure to work with” or “Everyone at work is going to miss her.”

Not Melting Down. Another important social skill is not having a major meltdown in front of other people. When I first visited my husband’s family, I became very uncomfortable quite often because everyone seemed to be yelling at each other. Loud, angry voices tend to upset me, especially if they continue for any length of time. The technique I developed was to go into the other room and make a cup of tea. Making tea is socially acceptable. (If you’re in the kitchen, go to the bathroom or step outside for fresh air.)

Much later I learned that my husband didn’t realize that his family reacted to even minor questions with argumentative responses in loud voices. To him, and to them, this was simply the normal style of conversation. It wasn’t what was normal in my family, and it triggered my aversion to confrontation. I guess whatever you grow with grow up with seems normal to you.

One other piece of advice: Don’t attempt flirting unless you have a coach. It’s really tricky and possibly dangerous. Not for the novice (especially not the kind of novice who wears a habit).

 


Filed under: Mental Health, Uncategorized Tagged: anxiety, being overwhelmed, bipolar disorder, coping mechanisms, husband, mental health, my experiences, social skills, support systems

The All Singing, All Dancing, Dos & Don’ts Post-Surgery Blog

Do have cake! Floristry at Lord Hurst's, Doncaster

Do have cake! Floristry at Lord Hurst’s, Doncaster

Mash yourself a cuppa – it’s early, after all – grab a biscuit – yes, I know it’s early, but so what? – and off we go! Because reading my post-surgery pearls of wisdom is high up your to do list, approximately three points behind clearing the lint trap in your dryer. (1)

And we’re off! Starting, as is the weary old custom, at No. 1:

(1) Never, ever, try and clean your pet rat’s cage by yourself, two or three days after surgery, especially if you have a partner, other relative, or lodger in the house. And especially if you had a lymph node biopsy (so, surgery under the same arm as where they chopped into your breast). You will regret it.

Don't look at me, says Charles de Rat. I didn't tell her to do it!

Don’t look at me, I didn’t tell her to do it.

(2) Never whack your poorly boob into a kitchen cabinet: not even if you’re just walking, & not running. It won’t thank you for it, not one whit.

(3) If you want a momento of how lovely and blue your poorly boob is, ask your partner / trusted friend (2) to take it sooner, rather than later. Because that dye will fade.

(4) FYI, whilst the blue dye will fade, it won’t disappear overnight. So if your favourite colour isn’t blue, but turquoise, just wait a little longer. But not too long.

(5) People will feel sorry for you, so do take advantage of that: eg, fetching you tea, buying you cake, mopping the floor, etc.

(6) Don’t push it, though. Otherwise, you may end up spending years mashing everyone else’s tea, buying them all buns, & mopping more floors than you’ve had hot baths.

Bathtime in Narnia

Bathtime in Narnia

(7) Yes, white surgical stockings are a pain to take off, put on, wash, & wear, and they make even 22-year-olds look like they’re 105. They are preferable to having thrombosis, though.

(8) Do not, if you can possibly help it, return to work three days after surgery. You will be tired; you will regret it.

(9) You will also be extremely cranky.

(1o) If your cat comes to the kitchen door making a really weird noise, don’t open that door. Just don’t. Because he probably has a rodent in his gob, and you may end up picking up small feet off the carpet for the next few weeks.

"And all because there's rat for tea ..."

“And all because there’s rat for tea …”

(11) No, I don’t suppose this ^ has anything to do with early stage breast cancer surgery per se, but you’ll have enough on your plate without having to deal with the more yucky aspects of having a cat around the house.

(12) Try not to fret too much about your results. No, I haven’t had mine yet. I am trying to put them out of mind. I am trying. Very trying, some say.

(13) If you’re one of those poor fools who went to work too soon after surgery – see (8) above – keep in mind that even after you’ve been back a week or more, you’ll probably reach a point where you look at your desk, and think, “I could just go to sleep on my desk now.”

(14) Don’t go to sleep on your desk. Nothing to do with surgery, mate: but you’ll probably get the sack.

(15) Do join a union, just in case.

(16) No more questions? Then I’m off to make pancakes.

Time and tide and buttered pancakes wait for no (wo)man.

Time and tide and buttered pancakes wait for no (wo)man.

(1) No, I don’t own a dryer, being entirely too environmentally friendly/financially challenged to do so. There’s one at work, though.
(2) As in, trusted not to post pictures of your blue booby on the internet.

Tagged: breast cancer, cake, Cancer, cats, Floristry at Lord Hurst’s, list, pancakes, pets, post surgery dos and don’ts, rats, surgery

Faith-Full Sunday – “Diamonds”

It has been almost a week since my last post and in a way, that is a “stumble” because I have been faithful in my writing for awhile now. I have been busy with my new business venture, fighting both … Continue reading

Life

I always believed that when I was all grown up I would never want for anything. I could eat anything that I wanted. I could go into the stores and request any item of any price and it would be mine.

Little did I know that there would be days where I was hungry. Times when all I could do of was dream of having the simplistic comforts.

At this point in my life, things are better and I have what a lot of people call first world problems. Took me a long time to reach this point but honestly I think life is better than I could have ever imagined. Even on days like today where I am feeling like shit I know that I want for nothing but maybe a little peace of mind.