Daily Archives: February 19, 2017
Nearly a month ago I posted about my upcoming new job. I’ve been there for 3 weeks now. The first week I spent about 5 hours in orientation before going in the next day for the start of training. I ended up smiling for the entire 40-minute drive home, so pleased to have taken the […]
Daily Prompt – Blur We were moving my ex out of the house we shared. Finally, I was going to get all of my belongings, which would hopefully give me some closure. The only reason I offered to help was … Continue reading
Courtesy of montly hormones…the rage monster has emerged and it seriously hates everyone. Including me.
Prior to the process of pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum, I had ZERO concept of menstrual dysphoria, especially when mixed with bipolar depression. I always had painful grumpy shark weeks but after all the changes of spawning occurred…It has become a living hell every three weeks of my life. Thought distortion even bipolar can’t top.
In the last 4 days I have experienced pure undulterated rage, overflowing tear ducts no amount of self control can rein in, self pity, self loathing, loathing of others, paranoia, mistrust, and this morning an actual suicidal ideation because it hit me…I could win the lottery and be cured of bipolar tomorrow, get all my parts yanked and let the hormones settle down…But I am still going to hate what life in general has become.
Trump. NSA. Drones. Misogyny. Hatred.War. Famine. Mindless internet people who think stringing together three sentences concerning their diet and posting six times a day makes them a writer. (Yes, I am a nasty human being and I should die in a fire but I won’t because that would be merciful and I don’t deserve mercy.)
On a good day, a lot of that stuff slides off me like I have Teflon coating. May hate it. But I can cope.
Today my mind is in such dire straights with the hormonal distortions and cramps…I feel like death would be a relief. I deserve it for having such bad thoughts about otherwise good people. I mean, rage monstering just because I’ve spent almost 40 years cultivating my writing ability to a place where it’s almost passable only to be surpassed by either self important, needy, desperate, or otherwise interesting-as-watching-paint-dry people whose writing reads as rote as a technical manual?
Ah, and with rage monster comes the “I work my ass off to write and all these assholes get ten thousand followers by commenting on the shape of a turd they left in the toilet and posted on line thus making them writers of interest!” green eyed monster!
To say I am a loathsome human right now would be an understatement. In a day or two I won’t even remember half the shit pissing me off (except for inane three sentence posts that read like technical manuals, that shit irks me 24-7.)
I find I am even disconcerted with my child. She is a follower. She is a chameleon whose personality changes based on what people she is around. I bust my butt, get bullied and spit on, verbally abused, just fighting to be true to who I am…And I end up with a child who can’t really be anyone. She has no sense of true self. Am I a reliable judge right now? Hell no. But when something’s been gnawing at your mind for years…Likely it is how you feel, even if amplified and distorted.
And why it bothers me so much is…It’s like I don’t even know my own child, the way others describe her behavior around them. It makes me look and feel like I am not paying enough attention and simply don’t know her when I damn well DO know her. I just can’t control how she adapts to fit with whatever fold she is in at the time. I’ve never done that, never wanted to, and it leaves me at a loss.
Maybe in time she will find herself. I worry because I don’t think her donor ever did. He was constantly turning into a chameleon, trying to be what he thought was needed to keep the peace, all the while deluding himself into thinking he had a personality of his own.
Oh, judgmental bitch mode is in the house, YAY.
What do you do when you can’t stand yourself?
And what do you do when you realize that some of your friendships you thought were real have actually outgrown you, moved on, and left you holding onto the past, looking pathetic? Only because someone without the balls to tell you they’ve moved on won’t speak up. And you’re supposed to be all accepting and everyone is perfect just the way they are but their chickenshit behavior and secret keeping makes you feel hurt and spiteful and DO YOU REALLY DESERVE TO FEEL THAT WAY IN THE NAME OF A FRIENDSHIP THAT HAS JUST REALLY…MORPHED INTO…less than what it was, and certainly of less importance to another than it is to you.
Oh, self doubt walked in, LURRVE you…NOT, you cockweasel.
I’ve been at this bipolar/hormonal thing long enough to know when I just need to ride it out and tune it out ( even though all the bad thoughts are coming at me through stacks of Marshall amps). The feelings, distorted or amplified, are just as real as any other emotion any other time. Whether it sticks around like an unwanted vagrant after the hormonal storm is the only question.
I want my half solid self back. The non teary non wimpy “zero fucks are given” self.
Put a man on the moon, give limp noodles an erection, create a microchip the size of a zit that holds a terabyte of data…
But no real treatment for life crippling menstrual dysphoria.
Now go click the unsubsribe button, gossip about what a horrible human I am, but just remember at the end of the day…At least I have the balls to be honest about who I truly am, even when I myself think I should just die already. That takes a courage few people will ever know.
Its true. I have a mental illness. To be exact: bipolar disorder. When we first met I was euphoric. Invincible. Insatiable. We ate. We drank. Drank some more. The sex was amazing. In the park. In an elevator. In the backseat. My entire high school and college career I never exhibited this kind of behavior. Maybe I had finally found myself. Maybe I had never been in love. Maybe I never realized I was manic. Actually, I didn’t know that was even a symptom.
I remember our first “fight.” You threw my keys down the street in frustration. I was drunk. Very drunk and emotional. Okay, distraught and out of control. You had to call the police, despite my tearful pleas. Only 4 months in, we were still getting to know each other. Im still shocked you visited me in the hospital. You must have chosen me at this point.
We found freedom and further love when they let me loose nearly two weeks later. Music festivals. Sleeping in your van by the ocean. You had no money to spare. Lucky for us I had a savings account. I gladly, so gladly, swiped my first ATM card. Lucky in love.
Time passed. My moods alternated from love to hate to pack your bags to move in. My red hair and freckles swayed you every time. Something about me made you choose me. I was loyal. Free spirited. Rather innocent. Quite adventurous.
But riddled with issues. Some in the forefront: bulimia and depression. Others later to be revealed: bipolar and anxiety. Still you chose me.
We’re married now. Sometimes I sink into the couch. Sometimes I roar from the rooftops. Sometimes you bring me extra clothes in the hospital. You carry me more than I carry you. I do my absolute best when I can. You are a torch. I’m sure I don’t say that enough. You are a torch. My tether. When it’s dark you are crawling to find me. Even when I don’t want to be found. You still choose me.
Truth be told I always chose you. You understood me like no one else. Had patience for me like no one else. Reached into me and saw beyond the “issues.” Sat patiently as they checked me out of rehab or out of the hospital. There you were, in the waiting room, choosing me.
Gosh, its only 18 years later. You didn’t waiver as my anxiety over a new job prospect reared its ugly head. Panic attacks. Nightmares. Bursts of tears. Or my intermittent friend insomnia. The loop of obsessions fueling my extreme self doubt and fear. You sat patiently and listened, reminding me I’ll be okay. It will all be okay.
We chose this life together. When we met, I had no idea I would later be diagnosed w bipolar disorder. Experience psychosis and have multiple hospitalizations. I didn’t know how much pain and fear I would cause you. I, we, didn’t know a lot things about a lot of things. But, somehow you knew you wanted to be with me. Through it all. You are still here. We are still here.
Some days I battle this illness alone. Withdrawn. Isolating. But always, you let me know you are still here. Willing to battle with me.
There are triggers and then there are trigger warnings. They’re two different things. Here’s a look at which is which.
Triggers are things that set off your symptoms. They are usually fairly common, everyday things that don’t seem to affect others negatively, but that set off a reaction of anxiety or depression in you.
I have bipolar 2 with anxiety. As such, I have spells of depression and anxiety that hit for no discernable reason – endogenous, meaning “from the inside.” They have no specific triggers except my own brain biochemistry. I don’t know how long they’ll last, and most of the time I don’t know what will relieve them, except self-care, meds, and the passage of time.
Obviously, since these feelings have no particular triggers, writing about them usually doesn’t need a trigger warning.
With exogenous depression and anxiety – those that come from the outside – there are more often triggers. After a while a person learns what those triggers are and how to avoid them.
Two of my triggers for anxiety are sudden loud noises and loud voices, which means that I will never in my life be able to work in or even visit a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant. Avoiding Chuck E. Cheese is one of my coping mechanisms.
Another is gesturing to let my husband know that his voice is getting loud when he gets angry about politics, for example. Or leaving the room on the pretext of getting a cup of tea when a group of people begin arguing.
My husband knows about these triggers and also helps me in coping with them. He warns me if there is likely to be a loud noise, such as hammering or using a power tool when working on a project. When there is a sudden noise, he reassures me afterward – “It’s okay, honey. I just dropped a plate.”
If I write about my personal triggers (which, of course, I just did), there is likely no need to post a trigger warning. The reader is not actually hearing the loud, sudden noise or the quarreling voices. Even if the reader has the same triggers, he or she is merely reading about them, not hearing them in real life.
The other kind of trigger is very different. It is something that causes a person to have an acute reaction to or flashback of a trauma – rape, sexual abuse, self-harm, suicidal thoughts or attempts, etc. At their worst, reading or hearing accounts of these types of incidents can cause a person to re-experience the trauma. The account triggers a painful memory, which can easily lead to a panic attack or even a total meltdown.
The trigger warning was invented to let a person know that a particularly sensitive subject is about to be discussed and the person may want to skip reading it or wait until she or he is in a safe space before doing so. It’s a little like putting ratings on movies or TV shows so that viewers can choose the level of sex, violence, or profanity they are willing to experience.
A trigger warning is just that – a warning that difficult content is coming – provided so that a person can choose when or whether to read it. To use the earlier example, I do not need a trigger warning at the beginning of an account of a visit to Chuck E. Cheese. I do need one for an account of self-harm.
A trigger warning is not an excuse to avoid a reading assignment or class work. It is not an attempt by a “special snowflake” to sanitize the world. It is a courtesy – a signal – intended to prevent people from experiencing crippling reactions to content that produces only mild discomfort or even no reaction in others. Using a trigger warning when none is needed dilutes the value of the serious, severe kind of trigger warning. I strongly advise against using trigger warnings too freely.
(P.S. There may be triggers for hypomania and mania as well, but I’m not familiar with them. If you are, please tell us about them in the Comments section.)
Filed under: Mental Health
Today I’m not well.
The swell in my chest the
catching of breath, an over-
whelming anxious death
each second rests for a
hair’s breadth of
distance. Each nerve
flares and bristles, neurons
whistling; I’m a taut
shivering muster of endings.
Today I’m a mess of systems,
a total failure at existence:
there’s a tide pulling me in
and a mass of moods, outwards.
By Jacob Devaney
Understanding the cocktail of chemicals that fuel our consciousness
As we dive into the complex and beautiful neurochemical cocktail that fuels our brains, serotonin is a bit of an enigma. Research shows that serotonin plays an important role in regulating mood, appetite, sleep, and dreaming. It can have both a sedating or stimulating effect and this is somehow related to the flow of thoughts through your mind. Though neuroscience is in its infancy, we can still gain a lot of personal insight through exploring research being conducted across a number of fields, and comparing it to what we have felt or experienced internally.
So what is serotonin? It is a neurotransmitter, which means its a type of chemical that relays brain signals from one area of the brain to another. Nearly every one of the 40 million brain cells we have, are influenced either directly or indirectly by serotonin. Many researchers believe an imbalance in serotonin levels leads to depression. If there are any biochemical glitches like a shortage of tryptophan, the chemical from which serotonin is made, or a lack of receptor sites able to receive serotonin, or serotonin is unable to reach the receptor sites, then researchers say this can cause depression, as well as Obsessive Compulsive Disorders, anxiety, panic and excess anger.
Serotonin has been in the spotlight for its potential role in combatting conditions such as anxiety and depression, which affect many people. Prescription medications like Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft are in a class of drugs called selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs). The theory is that these drugs are able to modify the extracellular level of serotonin in the brain by limiting its reabsorption. It is believed that by increasing the level of serotonin surrounding the presynaptic cell the symptoms of depression will be erased. However, there is much research that now refutes this theory; claiming that anti-depressants are glorified and expensive placebos. We know that serotonin plays some role in moods (and mood disorders including depression) but we are not exactly sure how, to what degree, and why.
A study from the laboratory of long-time depression researcher Eva Redei, presented at the Neuroscience 2009 conference appears to topple two strongly held beliefs about depression. One is that stressful life events are a major cause of depression. The other is that an imbalance in neurotransmitters in the brain triggers depressive symptoms. – Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
LSD has been in the news lately due to the release of recent brain scans of people under its influence. It doesn’t take a research laboratory to tell that LSD has a profound effect on peoples’ mood, and perceptions. Just take a look at the numerous artists, like the Beatles, Steve Jobs, Alex Grey, or Dock Ellis who have pitched a no-hitter on LSD. The enhanced focus and hallucinatory, dream-like experiences on this substance are attributed to the fact that LSD suppresses the serotonin system. The result is an induced dream-state while wide awake. MDMA (ecstasy) is another psychedelic that influences mood, by causing the brain to become flooded with serotonin.
Ecstacy and serotonin receptor
Our bodies produces endogenous DMT (dymethyltryptamine), which is a structural analog of both serotonin and melatonin. DMT attaches to serotonin receptor sites which exist in high concentrations on nerve cells in brain areas. Occurring naturally in the plant kingdom and in mammals, DMT is the psychoactive component of Ayahuasca, the visionary Amazonian brew. Not surprisingly, many have attested to the ability of Ayahuasca to cure depression.
“…the brain is where DMT exerts its most interesting effects. There, sites rich in these DMT-sensitive serotonin receptors are involved in mood, perception, and thought. Although the brain denies access to most drugs and chemicals, it takes a particular and remarkable fancy to DMT. It is not stretching the truth to suggest that the brain “hungers” for it.” – DMT: The Spirit Molecule by Rick Strassman, M.D. (2001)
Dreaming and sleep
High levels of serotonin are associated with wakefulness, and low levels are associated with sleep. Therefore it comes as no surprise that the REM sleep cycle (during which most of our dreams occur) happens when the serotonin system shuts off during sleep. Melatonin plays a supporting role to serotonin in this function because it prepares the body for darkness and sleep, regulating our circadian rhythm. As you can see, sleep disorders, moods, ability to focus, alertness, and dreams are quite entwined with the level of serotonin in our brains.
Sleep disorderSerotonin levels are related to sleep disorders
The Brain-Gut Connection
Believe it or not, much of the serotonin in our bodies (up to 95%) resides within our gut. The brain and gut communicate back and forth through the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal tract. Serotonin functions as a key neurotransmitter at both ends of this network. An amino acid, tryptophan, is converted into 5-HTP in the small intestine. 5-HTP is then converted to serotonin that is later converted into melatonin. (See tryptophan-rich foods listed below)
Gut brain connectionThe brain and gut communicate
So, the question most people are probably asking is: can I increase my serotonin levels, and if so how?
If you have ever experienced a gut feeling then you may have been tuning in to what researchers call the second brain which is the enteric nervous system. This part of the gut consists of sheaths of neurons embedded in the walls of the long tube of our alimentary canal, which runs from our throat to our anus. Not surprisingly, much of our brain processes are affected by mood which are a direct result of our gut health.
Serotonin is a bit of a mystery because excess levels of it in the gut are also associated with diseases like irritable bowel syndrome. A recent Nature Medicine Study done with rats using a drug that inhibited serotonin in the gut appears to have cured osteoporosis. There also seems to be a link to autism yet the research is still in its early stages. People who take SSRI’s (anti depressants that inhibit serotonin) often have digestion issues as a result. So keep eating sauerkraut, and other live cultures like jun or kombucha to keep healthy flora in your digestive tract. The irony is that so many of us focus on our thoughts, meditation, etc. when the issue may be rooted in our digestion.
How to Increase your Serotonin
It is not so simple to determine the perfect amount of serotonin needed because it appears that too much and too little can each have both beneficial and detrimental effects. It does however seem that increasing ones serotonin levels will help with focus, energy, and mood if you are feeling low. Eating foods rich in tryptophan helps the body synthesise 5-HTP, which can then be turned into serotonin. These foods include but are not limited to: nuts, seeds, tofu, cheese, red meat, chicken, turkey, fish, oats, beans, lentils, and eggs. There are 5-HTP supplements available but it is preferable to source nutrients from whole and organic foods.
TryptophanFoods rich in tryptophan
Research shows that serotonin production is a two-way street with mood. By doing things that elevate your mood, you will increase serotonin production which will get you in an even better mood as the cycle feeds on itself. Yoga and exercise have proven to be beneficial in mood elevation, especially when combined with being outdoors. There is evidence which suggests that exposure to bright light increases serotonin, and people often employ full-spectrum lights in the winter to keep from acquiring SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).
Exercise and sunlightExercise and sunlight have been linked with increased serotonin production
We humans have inherited quite an awesome and complex physiology. Serotonin is perhaps one of the most mysterious and important of all neurotransmitters and being more aware of its interactions will hopefully bring about improvements in your moods and dreams.
Sometimes I fear that I’m a mental health elitist. I fully comprehend that this is a bitchy kind of person to be, so I’m working on it. I wonder if any of y’all struggle with this, though? Can I get a “me too”?
I noticed my elitism when my future sister-in-law posted something to facebook about high-functioning anxiety. It was a video about how hard it is to live with this condition and how we should all feel bad for her because she has it. The video said things such as, “high functioning anxiety means worrying about if people like you or not” and “it’s staying busy and struggling with perfectionism.” To me this simply sounds like being a human.
What really got me is when the video said, “it’s silent panic attacks while you’re calm and smiling.”
Ummmm…. I’m no psychiatrist, so I am in no position to say that’s not legit. HOWEVER – I am finding it very difficult to dig up sympathy for this girl for her silent panic attacks. She says we should all feel bad for her for having this terrible disorder, but I wan’t to say, “Hi, yeah. It’s me, Hazel, over here posting jokes and cat videos. Sorry to interrupt your pity party, but I was wondering: have you ever had a panic attack where you asked someone to call 911 because you thought you were dying right that second? Have you ever hyperventilated until you puked? If you’ve ever experienced the sheer terror that comes with a true panic attack, then I’m sorry – you were not CALM AND SMILING.”
But that’s me being elitist, because maybe there are silent panic attacks. If there are, I’m sure they suck. I simply have a hard time feeling bad for her because, straight up? I feel like I’m a lot worse off than her when it comes to mental health, and I’m annoyed with people when they want sympathy from me about it. It’s like someone with strep throat going up to someone with throat cancer and being all, “Yeah, these throat problems…they really suck, amirite?” Yes, they do…but you’re annoying and please go away.
I have friends with mental illnesses who can’t keep jobs…who can’t get out of bed in the morning…who have been hospitalized multiple times…who take on every day as a challenge to keep living. I have so much respect for them and for the mountains they climb every single day, and I hate to see it cheapened by people who post to social media about needing sympathy for things that seem so-not-an-issue compared to what these people face.
I really have to get better about this. Any sort of mental problems are awful, and I should feel compassion on anyone struggling. I know this. We’re all on the same team here, we’re just varying degrees of invested. It’s like sports fans – some bought tickets off Criagslist the night before the game, and some have season passes, painted their faces, and decorated their houses in the team colors. Despite how deep into fandom we are, we’re all on the same team. RAH RAH! WE HATE MENTAL ILLNESS! RAH! *cheerleader cartwheel*
Mental illness, no matter the severity, always sucks. There are people who have it better than me, and there are people who have it worse. It’s not my job to decide if they deserve my sympathy or not. Sometimes it’s tough to feel bad for someone when I would trade brain function with them in a second, but I need to do it anyway. If they need help and compassion, it is not my job to hand out judgement.
Anyone else ever struggled with this?