Daily Archives: May 28, 2017

Angst, Anxiety, and other Anomalies. 

Anxiety

It is a flare up of highly intense emotions and panic in response to a negative event.  It is abject fear. It is thinking I can’t handle this. It is overthinking. It is thinking so much that thoughts start tripping over one another, until nothing makes sense. It is fear of what will happen next. It is the question of how will I deal with this catastrophe? It is a spike so sharp, it can slice you open. 

Then comes the quiet voice of reason, the abatement of these panicked emotions. Maybe I can handle this, maybe I can overcome this as well. 

Then you come back and calm starts to return. There is still a twinge of nauseous fear in the pit of your stomach, but it is subsiding. You are breathing, you are letting go of the fear. You are handling it. 

Sometimes, afterwards, you wonder what happened? Why so much panic and fear? Welcome to the world of anxiety disorders and to learning to recover from them. 


Emotions

We all know that dealing with mental illness is hard. That sometimes you have emotions and reactions that you don’t want to have. It isn’t something that we wouldn’t choose to change if we could, so we just do our best to manage it and do the least amount of damage. 

We walk through our days determining whether we have failed succeeded or ,a year a little of both. And it’s hard to explain to people what it’s like. There really aren’t any good analogies, but every once in a while I get close to describing what is going on inside me. I think the longer I am medicated, or maybe it’s the older I get, I start to see patterns. I start to know what I can handle and what is going to be tremendously hard. I know I am constantly trying to tell people what I can and can’t do and what will happen should certain events present themselves. 

I have always told my son, and am now starting with the younger two, that I don’t want to get a phone call saying he’s in the hospital when he was supposed to be somewhere else. It’s not that I wouldn’t be glad he’s alive. It’s that I don’t typically have the ability to handle spur of the moment change. And I know I would show up at the hospital spitting nails because that would be my first emotion. I HATE liars. I get that most people lie or omit things from time to time. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about when someone tells me one thing and then turns around and does the exact opposite. I don’t have time for that. And I don’t really have the time to try to figure out and, at least for me, I am so open minded that if you feel the need to lie to me it makes me wonder if you should even be in my life. I have listened to people tell me some outrageous things and I just look at them. Or I tell them I don’t agree but that it’s their life.  After all the things I believe and hold dear aren’t the same things that others do. 

Having said all that, the last month has been absolutely horrible. There have been too many things that have gone wrong. There have been several seperate situations where I have been lied to and overlooked. While I know that there’s nothing I can do and that ultimately others have to make their own mistakes and learn their own lessons. That doesn’t mean I’m not angry about it. And the thing is there have been several instances where I have said something over and over again and it’s like it was just ignored. While I know it likely is not a directed slight that’s what it feels like to me. I have also learned that it takes me a while, usually days, sometimes more to recover from those initial emotions and sadness and anger. In hose cases I find myself doing my best just to not say anything, or very little. Because if I start talking it could go really bad really fast. I don’t like that. I don’t like that I can’t be rational and appropriately emotional. The rational and logical part of me is always there. It’s like I can stand outside my body and say what I know I SHOULD say, but when I try to talk about it I just get more hurt and angry. When these issues come up your kids it’s that much harder. Because you don’t want to be mad. You know that they have to live their lives and make their own mistakes and figure out how to get themselves out if they make the choice. But that doesn’t really matter. Especially when you have consciously made decision about what you want your relationship to be like with them. When you are their friend and their greatest cheerleader and they do something to just crap all over it. And THEN they want to make it out like it’s your fault, or you aren’t loving enough, or you didn’t say the right thing. When they make bad choices and want to act like you shouldn’t care so much, or they are fine, or whatever. 

Well it’s become painfully obvious that all the time, thought, and attention I have paid to creating loving lasting relationships was in vain. Because now they have made their own choice and they never even stop to consider what you might feel like. And they definitely don’t take any time to sit down and talk to you and explain things. It doesn’t occur to them that they have hurt you. I often think about how my Mom must have felt at times. But first my Mom is very different from me. And second my Mom has been my best friend since I was like 16. I don’t necessarily talk about everything. But I don’t hold back either. I have told her my mistakes. I have asked her guidance and advice and I have followed that advice because I knew even if I didn’t feel like it, or it wasn’t what I wanted to do, that she was right. And just one time it would be nice if I was on the receiving end of that. Instead of kids that don’t ever think about me and even if they do, don’t have the strength to come talk to me. And then they wonder what MY problem is. Well, it’s not my job to chase you. It breaks my heart that you don’t place any time or value on what I have done or that fact that I have always been there and always been supportive. None of that matters because on this one issue I don’t agree and I let you know about it. I am tired. I’m tired of putting so much thought and energy into relationships that are obviously going to be vastly different than what I hoped they would be. I’m tired of being the one that is always there and always loving. It didn’t used to bother me so much because I just did my thing. But you can only be lied to and cast aside so many times before you just run out of caring. 

Right now, and for the last several weeks, I give up. I don’t care what you do. I’m not going to chase you to try to make you understand how much I love you. And how much I want you in my life in an open and honest way. I’m angry, like blood boiling angry, and so far days and weeks haven’t really helped to make it receded to back where it belongs. I can only conclude from that that I need to make a change. That I have to start doing something different because obviously being the loving, come to me for anything Mom clearly isn’t working. I have had completely outrageous thoughts that for most people I know would seem like totally off script. But you know what?? If what I say and do doesn’t matter to those people then I really have no need for them. My husband loves me and even when we don’t like each other he is still there. We figure it out, we work it out. There was a time when that wasn’t always true. So I will hold onto and cherish that. I will be thankful that even when we fight I know that HE cares about me enough to be concerned with how I feel and what I need. And I think I will make the decision to leave my children right where they are. They aren’t my friends. They don’t need me. So they can come to me. And if they only come on holidays and family events that’s how it’s supposed to work anyway. People see their family when they have to and they pretend and be nice and never really get any deeper into anything. Maybe it’s easier that way. That way I don’t have this anger, resentment, and hurt to carry around with me. Because I never thought it would be there in the first place. 

That’s where emotions get tough. I literally do not have the ability to reason with myself once the emotions have started. And when I am surprised out of no where with life changing information it’s even worse. I would love to be able to force my emotions to fall in line with my logic. But sometimes that’s literally not possible. I tell myself all the logical and rational thoughts about a specific situation and then as soon as I open my mouth the anger and hurt want to come out. Currently I am on about a month of feelings this way. I have to learn to do better so that I can take care of myself and make sure that I don’t go off the deep end. I’m not doing so hot with that right now. But having made some decisions about how I will act and what I will say in the future has made me feel a little better. I don’t have to be there for people who don’t want me, or worse never even gave me a thought in the first place. So here’s to changing things up and taking care of myself. It’s been long long overdo. 
Thanks for reading!! Have a blessed day!! And remember all those who have given their life to protect us and the greatest country in the world!! Gone but not forgotten!!


Put the coffee down, and walk away…

I live in the coffee capital of Australia… maybe even of the world.  We have more coffee shops in Melbourne than in any other state – and our Baristas are  known for their world class coffee.

I still find it amazing that up until the age of 32, I’d never tasted coffee.  By that I mean real coffee. I had tried a sip of Mum’s cheap instant coffee when I was 17 – and promptly spit it out into the sink.

Since my first taste of real coffee, I’ve slowly become hooked on my “morning cuppa”.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a morning person.  It’s not helped by the medication I take each night which leaves me a bit groggy.  But my morning cuppa clears my head and leaves me ready to face the day.

Lately, I’ve been noticing my morning cuppa being followed by a midday coffee and sometimes even a sneaky afternoon coffee.  Add to that a few more cups of black tea and soon my stress hormone, called cortisol, is surging.

So what’s the problem with coffee causing raised cortisol levels?  And is this something we should be concerned as women with Bipolar?

A quick scan of the internet tells me that raised cortisol levels can not only leave you feeling anxious, fearful and angry – they can also lead to feelings of depression, lower your immune systems and increase fat in the stomach area.

Now, I’m not someone who should be lecturing on health issues, but none of these things sound appealing.  Goodness knows I spend enough time dealing with anxiety and depression.  The last thing I need is to be adding to the problem with my new love affair with coffee.

Earlier this week, I convinced myself to at least check out the herbal teas in the supermarket, telling myself they were just as satisfying as a freshly brewed coffee.  I was staggered to find dozens of different herbal teas.

As I write, I have my fingers wrapped around a steaming cup of lemon and ginger tea.  No caffeine.  No worry about insomnia or surging cortisol levels.  A truly guilt free cuppa.

I don’t think I can give up my beloved morning coffee. Or a cup of milky tea in the afternoon.  But that’s it.  The rest have to go.  And with it, all those side effects that make life as a Bipolar Mum even more difficult.

Do you find coffee gives you any side-effects?  Or are you one of those people who can drink copious amounts and still sleep like a log?  Leave your comments below.

 

 


Why I Didn’t Get Depressed When I Got a F**k Off Letter

Brenda was a friend to my husband and me for many long years. We partied with her, and talked with her, and grieved with her and supported her when her marriage ended.

I became closer to her than Dan had, although he had met her first. Then we grew apart. Then I heard that she had given up on me. I wrote, asking for one more chance.

Recently, she sent me a three-page letter. When a mutual friend asked what it said, I replied, “Basically, ‘fuck off.'”

I’ve written before about the friends I’ve lost due to my bipolar disorder (http://wp.me/p4e9Hv-2W) – the pain and loss I sometimes still feel, my unsuccessful attempts to apologize or rebuild the relationships, the continuing rejection, the knowledge that those important people are gone from my life forever.

But this time, the rejection didn’t seem to bother me as much.

Why? I wondered.

I know that people sometimes do drift apart, and there was an element of that in the death of the relationship.

I knew that I had refused many invitations and stood her up many times. But apparently, when I did show up, I brought along an extra person, “my misery.” It seems like a trap: don’t accept an invitation, or be unwelcome when I do because of my constant companion, which I was unable to just leave at home. In those days, and sometimes still, the Black Dog was always with me. But Brenda saw it as something she couldn’t compete with, something that was always more important to me than she was.

In a sense that was true, though I didn’t see it as a competition. It wasn’t like I valued my disorder more than I valued her. Feeling miserable was important to me, in the sense that it seemed ever-present, but it was important to me in a bad way – the thing that dragged me down, the thing I fought against, the thing that did make my life a misery. But it was a misery I could not put down, much as I wanted to, even for people I cared about. At the depth of my depression, it was simply a part of me. I am sometimes amazed that I came through it with any friends left. But I have.

To be fair, Brenda also blamed her own misery after her divorce as a contributing factor to our parting. Then there would be four of us present – two people and two miseries – and evidently it was too much.

Most perplexing to me, though, was Brenda’s contention that her growing religious fervor and burgeoning political conservatism contributed to her decision to cut ties. I freely admit to being a liberal and to disliking organized religion, but I have friends who feel otherwise and yet remain my friends. There’s lots we agree to disagree on or simply choose not to talk about. Even my mother and I had profound differences but never gave up on each other.

According to Brenda, her religious and political leanings required “personal responsibility” – including responsibility for one’s moods. As she put it, despite her reactive depression, her happiness was a choice. One that she made and I didn’t.

She compared mental illness with high blood pressure and diabetes – conditions that one must take personal responsibility for treating and trying to control. The fact is, I was trying to control my disorder, with therapy, with medication, and once almost with electroshock. I know she knew this, as once we went to the same therapist.

And that’s why I said, “eh” when I got the letter. By Brenda’s own criteria I was doing my best. And that’s all anyone can do. I couldn’t go back and change my misery, or try harder to find relief. And I couldn’t simply choose to be happy, which I don’t believe is possible for most people like me. If you can manage it, more power to you, and to Brenda.

I think what bothered me most about the letter is that Brenda has a degree in psychology and is teaching psychology in college now. I wonder what her students are learning from her.

 

 


Filed under: Mental Health Tagged: bipolar disorder, depression, friends, mental health, mental illness, my experiences, public perception, social skills

Day Three

I am learning how simply  I can live,  I packed four bags for this trip–one for bedding, and with cleaning supplies, and two with clothes and shoes.  I have my computer, clock, cellphone, and schedule on my desk; my jumpdrive, my credit card,  checkbook, cash, and pens and paper in my purse. My world is bound by Hastings-SImmons, Painter, and Cochran Halls with a straight-line sight path between them all.

I wake up without an alarm with the sun in my face in this small room with a bed, a desk, a bathroom, and a closet. I go to take my meds and grab a Dr. Pepper out of the tiny fridge and a Pop-Tart pack out of the cabinet in my kitchenette before going to the desk and starting my writing,  I write first on my blog then do my one hundred words on my new manuscript.  I fill the time staring into space or out the window at the bright sunlight  across the center of campus.  Checking Facebook and  email occasionally for messages.  Continually amazed at how easily amused I am.

Class will soon begin at 9:30 a.m. We read and critique each other’s works, saying only what is uplifting and striking about each piece. Yesterday we ran out of time talking about my piece, but that’s okay.  Another time will come.

Lunch is brought to us magically.  I bought and paid for it but did not have to shop, prepare, and cook for it so that is magic enough for me.  We sit and talk about writerly things–books, movies, and TV shows, analyzing them all the time why they are so good.  Then it’s back to class to e instructed on how to be a writer –build literary community, spread knowledge, and yes–how to pay the bills.All

Three months’ pay went into my being able to be here to attend this class.  But such concerns seem far away now that I am here.

Tuesday I start one on one conferences with the faculty.  Each one is at 3 p.m. so I can have maximum time to rest and  recoup before the night activities,  WIth Dunkelberg I plan to talk about the arc of the program, why I am taking so long, and what I will take next.  With Miller, I will talk about my newest project, the 46ReasonsWhyNot blog and discuss the possibilities with her.  With Lee I will ask him about my fiction and nonfiction that he has read this residency in workshop and see where he think I can improve and what I am doing right.

DInner is also magically prepared in the congenial atmosphere of the local restaurants around town in a congenial atmosphere. All of life should be this simple, I think.  Mexican one might, Thai the next, barbeque one, Italian the other.   After dinner are readings of each others’ work aloud in Cochran Hall.  It’s funny how amateurish our efforts sound against the work of the published writers.  But that’s why we are here, to learn.

I resolve to enjoy this magical time for as long as I can.

 

 


Paging Dr. Van Winkle

When was the last time you woke up and realized you’d been a drugged zombie for 17 years?

That happened to me.  This month: May, 2017, I went through what is, I hope, my last withdrawal from psychiatric drugs.  (I remain on lithium, which is killing my kidneys slowly, but I need it, at least for now.)

And now I’m me again.  But who the hell is “me,” and what am I supposed to do?  Having been disabled by my various chronic conditions, multiplied by the even more profound disability of the drugs that were supposed to help me function, yet enveloped me in such a cloud of grey fuzz that I was insulated from both my environment and myself, I awake to find a gulf spread out between myself now and myself in the past, with no way to possibly bridge it.  17 years.

If it had not been for the drugs themselves doing what drugs do (side effects and adverse reactions), I’d still be moving about in a sea of brain fuzz.  I had no notion of stopping them on my own.  The opposite!  I was convinced that it was only those drugs that prevented me from the inevitability of suicide.  But even before I began getting serious side effects that contraindicated the antipsychotics and antiepileptics, I had started to sow the seeds for what would serendipitously become the replacement for not just one, but seven, psychoactive drugs, plus a prescription antiinflammatory.

I started taking cannabinoids as pain medicine.  Following a protocol hybridized from several in use, I began a scheduled dosage of cannabidiol (CBD), along with microdoses of THC.   I started this in the fall of 2016, and the pain relief has been superior to anything else, with minimal negative side effects and a whole load of positive ones.

When my antipsychotics began to cause extreme muscle twitching and movement disorder, I thought for sure I was doomed, because I really had benefited from their help.   The combination of brain without quetiapine and brain in withdrawal from same really did haul me to the brink.  And that was before I ever thought of cannabis.

Fortunately I had plenty of benzos to blunt the crash, but I’ve always been very careful not to get hooked on the benzos….and actually didn’t, despite being on them nightly since 1989.  More about benzos shortly.

The next to go was my darling lamotrigine.  Now, modern neuroscience tells us that bipolar disorder shares features with seizure disorders: there is a type of “kindling” that begins as a misfiring somewhere in the brain, which can then spread to other parts and finally, if that process is not interrupted somehow, involves the entire brain, causing an acute episode.  Medication and other treatments can stop this from happening, or at least blunt the reaction (note: CBD is shaping up to be a very effective antiseizure medicine, as proven in study after study).  Since antiepileptics help in bipolar disorder, that adds weight to the hypothesis that bipolar shares features with epilepsy.  Clearly, I did not want to stop my lamotrigine; but I developed the most feared side effect: toxic epidermal necrolysis.  This causes the layers of one’s skin and mucous membranes to separate and slough off, like a second degree burn.  It is incredibly painful and can be life threatening.  Fortunately mine didn’t get that far, but it was terrifying.  Bye-bye, lamotrigine!

I waited for the backlash after quitting lamotrigine, but none came.  By that time I was slamming the CBD every four hours, for a nasty episode of spine arthritis pain.  Either I had suddenly stopped needing antiseizure meds, or…wait….I was taking them–just a different one, for which my body has actual receptors: CBD, which activates CB1 receptors in the brain.

The winter wore on, and I found it necessary to have my injured left wrist operated on for the 4th time.  Even though that’s not a huge surgery, there would be pain afterwards, and if I hoped to receive any opioid pain medication, the benzos might have to go.  I decided to taper over six weeks, which is very rapid for benzodiazepines.  These drugs, which have helped me and many others immensely, are very hard to get off of.  Our bodies love what they do.

I was also taking Zolpidem, a sleeping pill that works on similar receptors to benzos.  In effect, I was taking two different benzos!  That had to stop.  And if that weren’t enough, I had a third benzo that I took when my PTSD broke through: clonazepam.  Three different types of benzodiazepines.

It wasn’t as hard as I expected.  The CBD stepped right in behind the benzos, and now that’s what I use.  The benzos didn’t make me stop having PTSD.  They helped me sleep and function a bit better in everyday life.  CBD does that too, and I feel like I’ve walked out of a wall of fog.

Along the way I got rid of the gabapentin (prescribed for neuropathic pain: THC works much better), and the celecoxib, which is supposed to be for pain/inflammation, but CBD/THC combinations work worlds better and cost much less.

Yes, medical marijuana is costing me much less than the copays for my prescription drugs, which at one point were close to $500 a month– with Medicare!  My oils, tinctures, and herbs are now costing me less than $200/mo.  Soon I hope to grow my own, which will cost even less and I’ll be able to grow organically.  I’ve substituted one botanical for eight pharmaceuticals.  Hmm, no wonder Big Pharma is all about patenting those cannabinoid analog drugs and suppressing the medical marijuana movement!

I feel like someone who has been sucked up by a vacuum and plopped down somewhere entirely different.  I can see where I was at the beginning, and I see where I am now; but the ground I have traveled is invisible.  It is a chasm.  I am no longer who I was then, and no longer who I was along the journey.

Fine, you say.  Congratulations!  But it’s not so simple.

You see, I became disabled from working at any job whatsoever on 4/4/2000.  Since that day I have maintained my medical license and all its requirements.  I tried to go back to work a couple of years after my breakdown, only to find that the system has quirks in it that do not include doctors with bipolar disorder.  I was trapped being sick.

I did do a few miscellaneous things with my time, but between my physical illness and my brain and its special disabling brain-drugs, I was trapped into being a sick person.

I have always felt that the brain part was the limiting part, since people manage to continue to work with all manner of disabilities, up to the point where the body simply puts on the brakes– like, for instance, the years I have spent on the toilet.  Or the years without use of my hands, due to joints falling apart and needing surgery.  Or the vexing problem of not being able to look up, down, left, or right, due to neck arthritis.

With my head out of the fog, I’m looking into the future.  It looks awfully scary.  I used to not care about the future, because I was certain of dying from one thing or another before I got there.  Now I’m not so sure, given the salutary response to cannabinoid therapy, that I won’t have a shot at another decade or so.

Problem is, I won’t be able to afford to live.  I have private disability insurance that will (if they don’t find a way to screw me out of it) continue till age 65, which is another year and a half.  After that, it’s Social Security, if there still is such a thing by then.  And although I’ve saved aggressively, I don’t have enough to even remotely get by.  And, lamentably, I don’t think I will be magically all better by then.  My skeleton will still be a wreck, and my guts will likely still be a-bleedin’.  I won’t be able to work at Wal-Mart, unless they have a back office with a bathroom.  

It’s a great grief to look back over that 17 year chasm, back to myself doing my doctor thing, the life I loved.  Now I’m just an aging sick person, soon to be an aged sick person living in poverty.  This was not what I requisitioned.  I did not work three jobs to put myself through The University of Chicago, to end up as one of the underhoused/homeless seniors I meet on the road.  I did not work my way through medical school and graduate school so that I could live the rest of my life disabled.  I did not work 120+ hours/week for three years of residency, only to become a patient myself, with nothing to show for my passion.

It’s tempting to throw in the towel, seeing what a colossal waste my life has turned out to be.  But not yet: I have time.  There’s always death waiting.  I want to see what’s out there, at least until my next surgery.  A joint replacement, and I don’t mean that kind of joint!

At least maybe then I’ll be able to play my banjo.  That really was the last straw with the “god” thing: taking away my hands.  If that very god looked upon me as I played, clinging to that banjo for very life during the hard times–since the moment I first picked up a banjo at age 19, it has been my comfort, my solace, and my joy where there was none before.  And my prayer, my meditation, my chant.  So if then there was some god watching as I played, and it decided to afflict my hands and take my one direct line to joy away, then I say….shame!  For tormenting the tormented.  

At least if I get a new wrist and can make it work, then I can sit and play and people will throw money.  I’ll be grateful.


Violet Has Dual Citizenship!

As I mentioned in my last post, I haven’t had the time or energy to write much lately, what with the move, the fact that I am still recovering from my surgery, and my brain is shrouded in Fibro Fog. … Continue reading