Daily Archives: September 24, 2016

My Big Fat Bipolar Life

One thing about losing my husband, it’s made me reflective of the years we spent together. This coming Tuesday would have been our 36th wedding anniversary and I’m prepared to have a difficult day, although I don’t intend to wallow in it. I’m ever-so-slightly hypomanic now that one of my favorite times of the year has arrived, so it might not be as bad as I fear. I hope.

Having had a lot of time to look back over my life in recent months, I’ve also come to realize that despite not being diagnosed until age 53, I’ve had bipolar disorder for most, if not all of my life. I think it started with the night terrors, which came about after a traumatic family crisis when I was only five. They were so frequent that my parents took me to a child psychiatrist, who told them he thought there was something wrong with me; naturally they dismissed it and never took me back. Of course, doctors weren’t diagnosing little kids with what was called manic-depressive illness back then, and perhaps I didn’t have it at that point.

But something was definitely not right, and by age 10 I had developed full-blown depression. I distinctly remember feeling awful about myself and wanting my life to be over; what I don’t recall is how it was triggered, or even if it was triggered by life events. I used to sit out in the cold rain, hoping I’d catch pneumonia and die. Then when I was 13 and my wonderful grandmother died, I fell into a year-long depression that was resistant to all efforts to dispel it. I was trotted around to several doctors and nurse practitioners, who examined me for all sorts of medical problems and found nothing. However, I always came home with medications which I now believe were antidepressants. I remember being jerked around by the different drugs—the blue pills made me sleepy, the yellow ones made me throw up. the green ones made me crazy. Eventually, however, the depression went away on its own and I was back to being a “normal” teenager.

I’ve also realized that many, if not most of my “high” times—when I had abundant energy, felt FABULOUS and talked people’s ears off—were hypomania or mania. I can recall one whole summer when I did nothing but work because I was so keyed-up that I couldn’t relax, let alone sleep; and it seemed like I was always in trouble because my co-workers couldn’t deal with my constant chatter. One supervisor even sent me home for disrupting the workflow with nonstop tales of my childhood through my young-adult years, which is something I don’t remember doing. (It was probably one of my manic blackouts.)

Then there were the times I was so full of rage I made everyone’s lives miserable, including my own. I went after a couple of people who pissed me off with garden tools, and screamed at my husband and children for hours on end. I drank like a fish and behaved even worse when I was hammered. Obviously, I always felt guilty after these incidents, but I couldn’t seem to help myself…or stop.

Years later, when I actually had stopped and been sober for awhile, I happened to pick up a book at Costco that opened the door to the possibility that I might have something more serious than recurring bouts of depression and times of increased energy. It was Jane Pauley’s book Skywriting: A Life Out of the Blue, about her life as a newswoman and her experiences with bipolar 2. My sister was also leafing through a copy, then she looked over at me and said “I think you might have that”. I couldn’t disagree. But I promptly dismissed the idea because I didn’t want to take lithium, which was all I knew then about the treatment of bipolar disorder. I didn’t know anyone with the disease either, so I had no frame of reference.

It wasn’t until another 10 or 12 years after this that I was finally forced into a psych eval and received my initial bipolar diagnosis. And you know the rest.

 


Invisible Illness – Hemotomawhatsis?

My husband has a much more difficult time with his invisible illnesses than I do, mainly because his are less known and definitely more misunderstood. The one we are mostly dealing with at present is hemotomachrosis. The Mayo Clinic defines … Continue reading

Respite

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It’s odd, even at the beginning of a manic phase, when you are feeling like hell, everything is setting off your fight or flight response*, your emotions are off the charts, of course it is all fear driven and you are not functioning well at all, there are times, minutes, even hours, when you can function normally. I went to a Mehndi (the henna ceremony the day before the wedding) of one of my best friend’s daughters. Yes, there were moments of almost panic and tears, but I kept them at bay and talked and laughed for hours and DANCED for about three hours! I love dancing, I think if I could dance everyday, I would never be depressed and maybe not manicky either.

It was a lovely respite from the awful emotional fire and thunderstorms lately in my mind.

Tonight is the wedding, and the only problem I’m thinking about right now is how I’m going to dance with a sari on!

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* Fight or flight response is your body’s physiological response to life threatening situations, as in you are taking a walk and a lion, a band of machine gun toting guerrillas, or gorillas come up on you, or any other life threatening situation happens. Your fight or flight is activated, adrenalin surges through your body, your heart starts pounding, you are ready to fight or flee for your life. There are times when this is needed. However, when it keeps getting activated either because of mania or even depression or mixed phases, due to inconsequential things, basically everything becomes catastrophic, it is very, very difficult to deal with.


Waiting for…

 

bone-white

The microwave to ding

The movie to start

A phone call

Relief

Me


The Scientific Tease

Fun doctor

I know the headlines and accompanying news stories are supposed to give us hope: New Treatments for Mentally Ill, Scientific Advances for PTSD Suffers, How Research Is Finding Causes – and Possible Cures – for Bipolar Disorder, Brain Science May Explain OCD.

But the reality is that those headlines are teasers. Once you read the story, you realize how little is new, how far from reality the science is, and how long it will be until the supposed cures make any difference.

I’ve written on the subject before (http://wp.me/p4e9Hv-7Z), and included a link to a short video that explains the scientific process, from original study up to the time when a new drug or treatment hits the market (http://www.vocativ.com/culture/junk-science/).

But drugs aren’t all the scientific world is offering for people with bipolar and other mental disorders. There are transcranial stimulators, magnets, fMRI, and other technologies that hold promise for at least understanding our illnesses and, in some cases, treating them. Studies of the human brain, DNA, epigenetics, neurotransmitters, precursor chemicals, and more are touted as ways to unravel the mysteries of why some people get mental illnesses and some don’t; why some medications work for some people and not for others; and how the medications that actually do work do what they do.

If you are buoyed by the hope these scientific articles and the advances they hold out, you may envision a world in which parents can tell when a baby is liable to depression and watch for early signs; a troubled teen can be diagnosed with bipolar 1, 2, or psychotic bipolar; which particular “cocktail” of drugs is the best fit for an individual; how a small machine can send signals to the brain that will ease the symptoms of, well, anything.

Unfortunately, that’s not true. Oh, there is scientific research going on – although there would be more if funding for mental health issues were taken more seriously. But not all that research will result in effective, practical treatments for mental illness – more closely targeted drugs, new understandings of various psychological models, new methods of diagnosis. A breakthrough, when it comes, may even be discovered as an unexpected side effect of something else entirely.

Besides, can you imagine these wonder drugs and diagnostic tools, and nanobot treatments (or whatever) making it to the vast majority of the mentally ill? Will psychologists be able to send clients to get an fMRI to pinpoint problems, and will the insurance pay for that? How would you convince a homeless schizophrenic to place his head in that clanking machine, hold still for half an hour, and answer question? How long will it take the FDA to study and approve a new drug, and will it cost $12,000 or more per year? And will insurance coverage even be available because it’s still considered “experimental”?

Frankly, I can’t see most of these heralded miracle treatments making their way down to the community mental health center level anytime soon, even once they’ve been developed, tested, proven, and put on the market. Like so much of medicine, I fear psychiatric advances will be available only to the rich or those with platinum-level insurance. And although one in four Americans will experience some form of mental illness in their lifetimes – and millions more friends, relatives, caregivers, and loved ones will be affected by it as well, psychiatric topics don’t draw government or university funding or charitable support the way other conditions like HIV, breast cancer, and heart disease do.

So forgive me if I see those uplifting headlines and think, “Pfft. More pie in the sky.” I do think progress is being made and will continue to be made, but I doubt whether it will be soon enough, or tested enough, or cheap enough, or available enough to benefit me. You younger folks, now – you may still reap the benefits of these remarkable advances. But in the meantime, while you’re waiting for that magic pill or Star Trek device, keep on taking the meds you’ve been prescribed, and talking to your psychotherapist, and building a support system, and taking care of yourself.

For now, let’s work with what we’ve got.


Filed under: Mental Health Tagged: bipolar disorder, depression, media and mental illness, mental illness in the news, news stories, psychotherapy, psychotropic drugs, public perception, reading

Funny how you feel better when you realize it’s your illness that is flaring up!

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Very odd, your mind is going a millions miles an hour, everything has become too difficult to handle, your are having crying jags, fighting with your siblings, what the hell is going on? Why are you feeling like this? Your son got his first job, and all you can think about are negative things in regard to this. Nothing looks good, anger, sadness, over thinking, all tumult, all overly emotional. And then it hits you, you are going into a manic phase or a mixed manic phase and all of a sudden you feel calm. You say: Oh my god, it’s the bipolar disorder acting up again! Now you know what’s going on, you can do something about it. Abandonment? Yes that is an issue in your psyche, BUT when all of a sudden you can’t get it out of your mind, and start feeling very sorry for yourself, then it is not the abandonment that is the issue, but your mood state.

I, in the last few days have experienced all this but now feel a lot better, simply because I suddenly realized: I’m not going crazy (haha) my bipolar disorder is acting up. Now I have increased my dose of lithium, and in a few days, I will feel much better. Once I realize that I am getting “sick” I can do something about it. I get the control back over my life. Instead of my emotions controlling me, I will soon be able to control them. Instead of every little thing becoming an insurmountable obstacle, I can navigate my world again.

Lithium, I love you. I am looking forward to not being the drama queen SOON!


Reblog – Something About Believing

Originally posted on The Tony Burgess Blog:
I believe in the creator of the heavens and our Earth. I believe in utopia. I believe in peace and tranquility. I believe in those who march to the beat of their own…

Avoiding Self-Sabotaging Behaviors in the Mindfield of Current Happiness

Things are good, y’all.  I mean, really, really good.  LarBear and I are all moved into a really nice new (to us) home, things are organized, tons of junk and clutter has been purged, it looks good, hell, it even smells good.  There is nothing I don’t absolutely love about this new house.

And other things are good, too.  I started a mini dose of an antidepressant two weeks ago, and have had no manic symptoms.  I am slowly weaning off another medication that my psychiatrist believes is leading to my mysterious weight gain.

Things are going great with LarBear, have actually never been better.  I am in the most stable and healthy romantic relationship of my life.  We are a team and we lean on each other and we care for each other and we just make each others’ lives so incredibly much better than they ever have been.

I haven’t heard word one from my ex-step-father or any of his side of the family, and I am superbly grateful for that, and believe that has also gone a long way in minimizing my anxiety and stress level.  Getting rid of all that toxic negativity, it just did me such good.

So really, the problem is that there ARE no problems.  I went to therapy this week, and the first thing my therapist asked me, was what was I going to do to not sabotage the happiness I am finding?  Because that is what I do, it is what I have always done.  Happiness or contentment or joy have always been so fleeting for me, and it is always me chasing them off my own porch with a broom.

The answer to that question lies in many things.  First of all, how am I going to KNOW that I am sabotaging my happiness?  Well, I can spout out a short little list of things from just today that I have done to sabotage my happiness that range from picking a really silly fight (very short lived) with the LarBear to deciding to experiment with my Klonopin (as in not taking it even though I know that I really, really need it) to not taking a shower and getting dressed this morning (daily hygiene fail) to letting myself get too worked up about other people’s problems.

How do I let myself feel, or how do I reassure myself that it really IS okay to be happy, to feel joy, contentment?  I’m still working on that.  What my head always tell me is the inevitable — that it won’t last, it never has before, and its not going to start now.  My head goes on to remind me that Fall is upon us, meaning Winter soon, and that always spells horrors for my stability.

Does it have to, though?  Is it possible that I could make it through Fall and Winter relatively unscathed?  That I could keep up with my daily tasks and my hygiene and meds and relationship-building and therapy and all of the other daily skills, and maybe slide just fine through to Spring?

Well sure, I suppose it’s possible.  I just have to avoid all of these tiny self-sabotaging behaviors that I engage in, and focus on the more positive, skill building behaviors that I have been concentrating on lately.

Gee, Rosa, is that all you ask from yourself?  You are such a loser.

You see, that voice is there, so loud and strong, criticizing my every move.  It will take massive determination on my part to ignore it, to turn the mind, to practice opposite to emotion.  But I think I can.  I’m pretty sure I can, anyway.  Or at least I’m going to try.

What self-sabotage pitfalls do you find yourself getting tripped up by?  How do you keep yourself on a more positive path?  Do share your secret cures for all that ails…

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Filed under: Life Worth Living Tagged: anxiety, avoidance, bipolar disorder, contentment, DBT, depression, happiness, medication, PTSD, sabotage, SAD, seasonal affective disorder, self sabotage, triggers

The Journey To Vibrant – Day 60

I haven’t done an update in awhile. Usually that would probably mean things weren’t going well; however, that isn’t totally the case here. In fact, it is because a lot of good has been happening in my life with only … Continue reading

Still Depressed

Went and got my hopes up again yesterday.  I woke up feeling just as crappy today as I have every other day but with less stress. I should feel happy about that at least but nope. I’m fucking miserable.

M I S E R A B L E

fuck.