Author Archives: Kitsy Stratton

The Morning After

I've been manic for about 6 or 7 days...until this morning.  I knew it was coming.  My brilliantly productive mania had slid into a chaotic, unfocused mania for a day or two.  Now I am sliding further into malaise and depression.

I hurt all over...particularly my joints and belly, identified as Fibromyalgia and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).  Unexpectedly, my tongue and jaw are still hyper-active (Tardive Dyskinesia) which I was suspecting was accompanying my mania.  Maybe not.  Maybe it is all the time now.

Always trying to make the best of things, I will look on this mood change as a welcomed time of rest.  My to-do list is still nearly a page long...it exhausts me to read it.  There are items that are still considered critical...pay bills, reconcile budget (what went wrong?), etc.  There are items that would benefit me...call Sue, read, go for a walk, do yoga, meditate, make a pot of tea, etc.  More than likely I will spend some time standing at the window, staring out.

I've been doing this long enough to know how this goes...it doesn't last for ever, I haven't died from it...yet, I can go with it a use it to my advantage.  I do some of my best thinking and writing when depressed.  I take the time to appreciate the work I accomplished when I was manic.  This is what is.

Breathe deep, move slow, this too shall pass.

Managing Mania

I'm a rapid cycler which means my mood extremes don't last for months or years but rather for days or weeks...or minutes.  I've been manic for the past 5 or 6 days.  At first it was great tackling things around that house that needed to be done, throwing out clutter, clearing my desk, organizing my closet,...even going for long fast walks,...

But the last few days have been compounded with confusion, distraction, ADHD-type behavior.  I do have some Adderall that was prescribed last Fall but not started...I had too much crazy $#!+ going on at the time with medications and side effects.  All that has calmed down to a distracting hum...head tremor, busy tongue and jaw (Tardive Dyskinesia), dry mouth.  Maybe I'll try the Adderall today if I don't settle down.

In the meantime, there are several activities I think I will try.  One, is this...writing...getting a grasp of what is going on.  Two...making a "to do" list to get all thoughts and intentions out of my head and onto paper...complete with priorities and the time it will take to do each one.  Three...meditation, yoga, exercise...or maybe all three, after all I have all day.

"Having all day..." is the mindset that gets me into trouble.  I start out in five directions, make a list two pages long, feel really bad when I only accomplish the first four items, ...

Of course, there is so much more to managing mania.  Some manias are not productive but destructive, angry, and chaotic.  Agitated mixed states can be dangerous, in fact.  That's when we use doctors, hospitals, and 911.  My son paces.  I write...and walk...and try to Not go shopping.

An Experiment

It was dumb, I'll admit.  But I had to try.  I was looking for courage and compassion.

Down through the years since my divorce (1990), I have joined several dating sites...and let them lapse.  Strange thing is these sites will continue to send me emails and flirts from men to entice me to join back up.  Considering my situation, these men are usually not suitable for me.  Well, yesterday, in a moment of boredom, loneliness, and secret optimism, I joined back up to one of these sites.  I not only did a search and indicated interest in half a dozen men, I updated my profile.  Here's the trick...I added that I was bipolar.

I don't know what I was thinking.  Maybe I was hoping for the benefit of the doubt.  I mean, the people I know don't shun me.  I'm not dangerous.  And I apologize when I have too many problems to complain about.  I don't drool...not since we lowered my lithium.  And I have sincere compassion for those who do.  I just wanted to be accepted as I am and not have to worry about when to tell.  Lay it out up front.  Well, I got what I was asking for...

One of the men I expressed interest in not only blocked me, he sent a message thanking me for my email but he "politely declined from further communication."  It was the first time I have ever received that kind of response.

Now, maybe I am jumping to conclusions.  Maybe he doesn't like blondes or didn't like what I said about NASCAR.  But my reaction was swift...I shut the browser window, shut the laptop, and put it away.  I felt blank and cold.  It was a while before I felt the sadness and isolation.  Perhaps I'll eventually feel anger.  Not now, though.  I just feel numb.

I have run across other bipolar blogs that deal with relationships...perhaps I need to read them.  Maybe there's a "Dating for the Mentally Ill" web site.  (Is that a little anger showing up?)  It takes love to live with a person with bipolar disorder...love, patience, acceptance, kindness, perseverance, faith, hope...  You can't expect that from a stranger.  They don't show up with love and commitment.  Faith takes time.

So what am I wanting to say here?  For those of us not in a 'significant other' relationship, perhaps we are enough.  We have to dig deeper or wider for compassion and hope.  I have friends who love me...children...pets.  That can be enough.  I will watch the sunrise, write, paint, take my meds, set goals, try to make my own little world a better place.

Sun's up...


I’m cycling again

I am cycling again.  We have lowered my dose of Lithium again to try to get rid of the tardive dyskinesia, dry mouth, metallic taste, and bitter tongue.  Those problems are better but not gone.  Problem is, I am cycling.  I have been manic for a few days...obsessively tackling the mess and clutter that has accumulated over the months and years of depression and denial.  Note, I think Abilify can make you feel like you are doing better than you really are.

So, I am manic, for now.  I am up at 5:30 am making my to-do list.  When I am going in four directions at once, the children make me sit and listen to music or do nothing for a while...which is painful because there is so much that needs to be done.

I have no life.  I am a human doing.  And depression will come soon enough.  I am overdrawn and it is only the 15th of the month.  The sewer has backed up into the basement.  My only joy is feeding the birds and I am out of seeds.

I am searching for new coping skills.  I have cleaned off my overflowing book shelf and isolated a dozen or more books of inspiration.  I have moved my chair over by the shelf and read random selections in the morning and at night.  I have downloaded a long series of stretching and strengthening exercises for my core and hips hoping that that will bolster my commitment to walk...and my dream to run.  And I watch the snow, waiting for Spring.

At least I am desperate to feel better.  A month or so ago I was considering the alternative.

A Rough Winter

A while back I posted (railed, actually) about an incredibly insensitive pharmacist who declared that bipolar women my age quite often committed suicide because their medications quit working.  Well, it seems that has come back to bite me...the 'quit working' part, anyway.  Last summer/fall I developed Parkinsonian symptoms...tremor, primarily, but also dizziness, confusion, memory loss, hesitation, etc.  My doctor suspected the Abilify so we tapered that off and increased the Lithium. I wasn't sleeping so I was prescribed Lunesta.  A short time after that I developed Tardive Dyskinesia...my tongue and jaw would not stay still.  It affected my speech and eating...not to mention my appearance...and eventually affected my ability to swallow.  Then came the bitter tongue, dry mouth, and metallic taste.  Blood tests revealed that my lithium level was 1.2...within published therapeutic range, but way too high for me.  We lowered my dose of lithium and that helped the metallic taste.  We lowered it some more and added Mirapex to help with the other symptoms.

Long story short, everything got better...for a while.  I stopped the Lunesta.  It had quit working and apparently caused the bitter tongue.  But everything is back...Parkinsonian symptoms, slightly improved, tongue/jaw movement, dry mouth...and because I am on a lowered dose of Lithium, I'm cycling.  Some days I can't sit still and build 2-full page to-do lists, cleaning house all day; Other days, I'm so uncomfortable and foggy headed I just stand in the middle of the room and stare into space.

That is when I start wondering, "What is my life?"  I feel miserable, I don't want to be around anybody, everything tastes bad,...  On 'good' days I devise plans of attack.  Because I have lost 15 lbs. from not eating much (everything tastes bad and eating is difficult) I have decided to continue the trend by walking and eventually running.  I have decided that I want to run before I die; If not now, when?  Well, one week into the 7-week training plan, I develop sciatica.  Have I mentioned that I also have Fibromyalgia?

Another area for attack is my house.  When I was happily on Abilify, I wasn't paying too much attention to the state of things.  Without the happy-filter, I see how much needs to be done...hence the two pages of to-do's ...and that's just to get started.

In unrelated matters, I had a molar filled and the dentist owned up to lacerating my gum and hyper-extending my jaw joint.  I have been on Ibuprofen for days, which increases my blood lithium levels, which exacerbates my adverse side effects.  To top it off, my sewer backed up into the basement and there is 10-inches of snow on the ground.  I'M READY FOR SPRING in oh, so many ways!!

Thoughts of suicide?  Oh, they have been there.  I know how I would do it and I have even told my doctor and therapist.  I really have nothing more to say about that.  I don't want to prove that pharmacist right nor do I want to devastate my children.  So I continue to work with my doctors, try to exercise and eat right, take the current collection of meds, meditate/nap, and read for inspiration...except when I stand in the middle of the room and stare into space.

This post is probably not going to help anybody beyond letting you know that I understand.  Let me know if you want to chat.

I Need Some Hope


I am getting very ‘in my head’ and need some distraction…but I cannot handle just anything. I have wrecked the car, Social Security is questioning my disability, the school is questioning my FAFSA, my medication is not working, and I have already had too much sleep. I need something to read. 99% of what I have stacked against my bedroom wall is too painful…too stressful. I cannot handle characters dying or battling disease. I cannot take slapstick either. What I need is something gentle but influencing…something like the lilacs in bloom outside my bedroom window.

Several years ago I clung to the Mitford series like it was fresh water. There were conflicts and even crises but the dark was never too dark and never as dark as my own mind. Living through the diabetic coma with Father Tim was a little discomforting, but survivable. Then more recently I have devoured Alexander McCall Smith’s The New No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. Mma Ramotswe is even ‘traditionally built.’ How satisfying is that! Her father’s ordeal in the mines was very difficult to get through and may have been a bit out of place but, again, the series as a whole was never too dark.

The situation is this…when we are spiraling down, caught in the squirrel cage of our minds, or mired in the dark muck and in need of comfort, there may not be anyone there to bring us a cup of tea…or a cutting from the lilac. We may know we need some hope but not know where to find it. These are just some thoughts I had.

Disability

Who decides if I am disabled?  The Social Security Administration thinks it does.  If I work too much, then I am no longer disabled...or so they say.  Bull $#+!.  Just because I took too many shifts at Chicos, against my better judgement, does not mean I am not disabled.  As far as my doctor is concerned, I shouldn't be working at all.  The idea that one's condition is decided and defined by bureaucratic convention is ludicrous. 

 As much as I am loath to say it, I am disabled...not able.  Not able to cope.   Not able to function normally.   I feel guilty saying it because there are times when I feel ok...but something happens and I get confused, disoriented, shaky, and forgetful.  I need lots of sleep and down time.  I need structure and simple tasks.  During a rather memorable manic phase in my forties, I was able to multitask on several webpages, projects, reports, and tasks...brilliantly.  Not any more.  I'm tired, burned out, my circuits are fried.

Does the SSA ask me about that?  No.  They just see that I earned $50 more than the allowed amount one month and decide that I am no longer disabled.  They cut off my benefits and say I owe them $8466.05 in back pay.  I don't have that.  I'm struggling to make it...which doesn't help my stress level.  Do they care what they've done to my life? Of course not.

I have since quit Chicos and work two days a week addressing envelopes at a financial investment firm.  It has been eight months since the SSA cut off my benefits.  I have applied for reinstatement.  In the mean time, they are accepting small payments towards what they say I owe them.  I call weekly to ask the status of my request for reinstatement and I'm told the agent is "working the case."  I used to work for the Federal Government and resent derogatory remarks about the bureaucracy...but I must admit, this is ridiculous.

So the struggle continues...who decides whether or not I am disabled.  The SSA may decide if I am entitled to benefits or not but the fact remains, I am unable to deal with the normal stresses of an everyday life.  I can't do it.  I am not able.  I am disabled.

Neurotic

It has not escaped my attention...in fact, I noticed a long time ago...that the 'friend' I have been corresponding with has stopped asking me questions, nor is he prompting me for discussion.  Why is this?  Is he so self-absorbed that he is only interested in his comments...his life?  Or is it a strategy to slowly end our conversation? And if so, what do I do about it?

Are all bipolars neurotic?  I don't know.  I sure am.  I can see how a history of social stress can make you so.  My history of social blunders and super sensitivity cause me to be extra cautious and ...well, neurotic.  Which leads me back to what I do about it.  I can expose my neurosis and inform him of my observation.  I can stop emailing entirely and see what happens.  Or, I can continue to email as usual and feel a little hurt each time I receive his self-centered reply.

What do yo recommend?

Inappropriate Relationships


I am corresponding with a man whom I knew 32 years ago. He was a kid, 19. I was 25. Looking back on it now, I was probably using him. I have had to confess that to him now and I am ashamed. At 25, I was just beginning to manifest full blown bipolar behavior. I'm not sure what it is about bipolar behavior that causes us to have inappropriate relationships...to use people. Is it because we are impulsive when we are manic? Is it the sex drive? Is it being needy when we are depressed? All I know is we often do not take the time to think things through. For me, my boundaries were blurred. Impulsive acts of intimacy were common in my youth. Today, I am relatively stable...and alone. Have I played all my cards? Burned all my bridges? Ruined one too many relationships?

The man has been wondering what happened 32 years ago. I have had to tell him. What I thought was going to be a new friendship may simply be a healing...a coming to terms with impulsive behavior...my payback. Being bipolar has its costs. The pain of inappropriate relationships is one.

Who is the Real Me?

I remember sitting with a priest shortly after I was diagnosed and put on lithium. As tears dripped down my cheeks, I asked her, “who is the real me? Am I me covered up with moods that will finally be removed? Or will the real me be silenced by the lithium? Where is my soul in all of this, my spirit?” As I recall, she had nothing of consequence to say…so few people are equipped to handle such questions. But the questions persist.

I’ve had friends suggest that I not take the medications so as to not interfere with my soul’s work. There are counselors and therapists who believe depression is useful. But at the time I had no choice…I was drowning. My children were not being well taken care of. My professional life was littered with inappropriate relationships, broken promises, and incomplete projects. And I was very, very sick.

Julian of Norwich said, "It is a lofty understanding inwardly to see and to know that God, who is our maker, dwells in our soul, and it is a still loftier and greater understanding inwardly to see and to know that our soul, which is created, dwells in God's substance. From this substance we are what we are, by God." I believe that that which stands rooted in God is not uprooted by medication. My soul work has simply changed.