Author Archives: Sheri

Cautiously peeking around the corner

It is appropriate that my mind has come out of its detox fog for the last week of the year. Last night I had to clarify that I did not feel well physically, since I have a cold. I’m so used to saying I feel like crap (meaning mentally), I felt that a qualifier was necessary. My mind is clear, and I am neither depressed nor manic. Feeling optimistic is something with which I am not comfortable, however that is exactly how I feel.

Two appointments with my mental health team are scheduled for the first two weeks of the new year. This will be the first time that I will bring up the question of the validity of a mental illness diagnosis. I have a great deal of apprehension about these forthcoming discussions. After several conversations with a person who has done a great deal of research on Asperger’s Syndrome/Autism Spectrum Disorder in adults, it has become evident that I need to bring up this possibility with my psychiatrist and therapist. This could be an explanation as to why no medication has ever worked for me.  Unfortunately, this is somewhat disconcerting since mental illness has been a major part of my identity for so long.

On the other hand, it’s also possible I may just be experiencing a period of stability which tricks so many people with a mental illness into a false sense of well-being. I am not medicated, I happen to feel stable, therefore I do not need medication. I find myself getting into a circuit of overthinking this subject, and at times it has become overwhelming. I feel ridiculous when I imagine the beginnings of the conversations I will have, as well as the judgmental looks and responses I expect to receive.

  • I have had numerous conversations with a non-professional which make me believe my initial diagnosis is wrong.
  • I have taken several online tests which seem to make it evident that I have Asperger’s Syndrome.
  • Could it be possible that you made a mistake in your diagnosis?
  • Perhaps I agree with the definition of bipolar disorder simply because it somehow fits, in retrospect (but then could the same be said for the Asperger’s Syndrome diagnosis?).

So you see, while feeling optimistic I am simultaneously uneasy.

Tagged: Asperger’s Syndrome, Autism Spectrum Disorder, diagnosis, medications-psychiatric, mental health

Promises

2015-12-20-07.30.57.jpg.jpegOver the years, in various phrasings and in a variety of ceremonies, words have been said with which we promise our unconditional love to our life-partners. “…for better or for worse, in sickness and in health….” How many of us have paused before we say “I will” to think of the responsibility of those two phrases? Do we even seriously think about what this promise entails? In the first blush of love, during the nervousness and excitement of the ceremony, when do we take the time to consider the possibility that the person we love will have a life changing illness?

During the first 50 years of my life, the people one would assume would demonstrate unconditional love were mostly non-existent. Then almost eight years ago I met an amazing man. No, he’s not perfect. He’s human. Showing unconditional love does not have to be an act of perfection, but it is an act of humanity. It comes from someone who is patient, kind, understanding, and willing to learn and change.

Unconditional love is arms tightly held around me, and the words “I’ve got you,” whispered in my ear. It’s not remembering the last time he “…saw my tattoos,” but not berating me for not being the wife I should be (the concept I was taught before I met him). It’s bringing home my comfort foods without being asked. It’s doing the dishes, cooking meals, cleaning, and doing the laundry without complaint. It’s watching his wife being torn to pieces by an invisible illness, being screamed at, thwarting suicide, drying seemingly unending tears, and then saying “I love you.”

Unconditional love is all of those things and so much more. To me, my husband is the epitome of unconditional love.

Tagged: bipolar disorder, marriage, mental illness, unconditional love

Detox Diary Addendum

canstock31973415About a week has passed since I took my last dosage of psych meds (Detox Diary), and I’ve just noticed an interesting phenomenon. My brain seems to be reverting to an old coping mechanism from my abuse days – shut down, feel nothing. I’ve only noticed it in retrospect, as in “That was an odd reaction to that situation.” Feelings of depression or anxiety will start to overwhelm me, then all of a sudden I’ll feel nothing. After that, I become very sleepy. Then today I participated in something that “normally” would have been the sort of thing during which I’d be crying “happy” tears (or at least sniffling), yet I felt nothing…again. This blunted affect is just as disturbing as uncontrolled mania or depression. It’s unexpected, and I don’t like that. I was prepared for the extremes, I had a plan; I was not prepared for my brain bizarrely taking over.

I’ve written that last paragraph over and over, and I cannot come up with a satisfying way of stating what I’m experiencing. That’s another thing…not being able to express myself in an articulate manner. My brain is flying all over the place, too much stimuli to cope with, too many racing thoughts, too many “feels.” There, that explains it…too much brain crap leads to brain shut down (how’s that for a concise psychological explanation?).

As a matter of fact, now that I analyze it, quite a bit of my past behavior from being abused is surfacing. While I’ve always had problems with self-doubt and negative thinking, it’s been particularly overwhelming. The quantity and quality of trash talking I’ve been doing to myself is horrific. If I heard someone speaking this way to another person, I’d probably yell at them to knock it off. Everything I do is wrong, everything I say is wrong, everything I think is wrong, everything I write is wrong. I was at the point of cancelling my trip next week because I was absolutely certain my daughter and grandchildren did not want to see me. I mean, really, why would they want to spend time with a blithering idiot? I’m sure my daughter has enough stress in her life without having to deal with me for six days. Not to mention my grandsons…Greg is the fun one, not me. Ugh, see what I mean? STFU, Sheri!

In spite of all this, there’s a tiny and weak little voice trying to be heard above the din of negativity “You can do this, I know you can.”

 

Tagged: bipolar disorder, detox, medications-psychiatric, PTSD

Unfixed

depressed woman with cat“Failure” was the original title. My previous posts about strength now seem trite. Failure, only applied to myself, implies weakness. Weakness implies lack of strength.

If I switch strength to determination, then a new set of antonyms exist: fear, hesitation, wavering, and unfixed are a few. I especially like the latter, as it can have more than one meaning.

Perhaps what I will tell myself is “I have permission to waver, to fear the unknown, and to recognize that I remain unfixed.”

If I am unfixed, then I have not failed. If I have determination, then I do not need strength.

Tagged: depression, fear, mental health, mental illness, motivation, strength

As always, self-doubt

unstoppablePlease note, I am not advocating that people go off their meds, and I do not plan to be off them for long. To reiterate – in my case, I’ve been on ineffective medications for so long that I felt that at this point they were either masking or worsening my symptoms. This is the only way my psychiatrist and I know how to figure that out. This is being done with the guidance and approval of my psychiatrist.

Tonight is my last dosage of psychiatric medication until mid-January. Confidence and fear stumble over each other, fighting for power. I’ve put a great deal of thought into my self-care planning; but I keep second-guessing myself – will it be enough? Deep down, I believe it will be. There is no choice other than the clear-cut one of the necessity for it to be so. I want my life to be better and refuse to allow this lifelong battle to have a bad ending, or to end this soon for that matter. I have set up my Healing Touch treatments, registered for yoga classes, discussed when-all-else-fails plans that are not medication related.

It has taken me years to learn to recognize a manic episode creeping up on me; although sometimes they’re just plain sneaky and are disguised as a burst of energy. On the other hand, depression seems to be more difficult for me to recognize in the beginning, especially during a mixed episode (note: according to this link, the term “mixed episode” is no longer commonly used in the psychiatric world…really?). Depression reminds me of waking up to a foggy morning, but the sun never comes out and the fog never goes away. It seems to slowly creep in, and envelope my brain. But I have figured out these signs, I’m ever watchful for them.

The physiological effects of the detox will probably go on for another five days after I take this last dose (at least that’s what my psych says). If I keep that in mind, when I feel physically crappy I can remind myself it’s temporary. Then a week after that’s over, I’ll be with my daughter and grandsons for a week. By the time I get home, my most triggering three months of the year will be just about over and it will be a little over two weeks before my next psych visit. Breaking it down into these smaller spans of time makes it all easier to cope with. Baby steps got me to this point…one month at a time, one week at a time, one day at a time, one hour at a time…one second at a time. Yes, I will get through this.

Tagged: bipolar disorder, depression, medications-psychiatric, self-doubt, strength

Alternative Modalities

grounded

Integrative medicine, holistic health, aromatherapy, accupuncture, energy healing, Reiki, meditation, mindfulness, biofeedback – these are some alternative modalities effectively used in both physical and mental health. When asked on both Thursday and Friday, by my therapist and psychiatrist what medication had been most helpful to me over the past 40 years, I had to say none of them. The absolutely most helpful thing I ever did was when I had Healing Touch treatments from Jill Zimmerman at Alpha Healing Arts. The funny thing is, when I met her I outright told her that if it wasn’t scientifically or logically provable, then I felt she was wasting both her time and mine (or something to that effect). Besides, I was in such bad shape, and absolutely nothing had worked, why would something a skeptic atheist couldn’t even fathom be helpful?

Jill took me up on the challenge, and I was absolutely blown away. During the time I was receiving these treatments, I learned so much that when I was no longer able to continue I knew enough to help myself. But aye, there’s the rub…I don’t know about you, but when I’m severely depressed self-care is at the bottom of my to-do list. I kept it up for a while, and over the few years (has it been that long?) since I stopped going, she has kindly helped me from a distance (yes, that works too). Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough. I’m the kind of person that needs someone to poke me on a regular basis and say “Hey, did you do this today/this week/this month?” Or I need someone to whom I can take my lazy ass, who will sit with me and remind me what I need to do. And I need this now, badly.

Fortunately, I have a wonderful psychiatrist who actually listens to me. He recognizes that I’m one of “those” people for whom medication may not be the complete answer. It’s possible that something on a very low dose or on an as-needed basis will be utilized, but I need to get through December (almost done!) as well as this detox before we make any decisions. My psychiatrist agrees that now, more than ever, I need to get back into regular exercise of my mind as well as my body.

In a previous post, I mentioned I was looking for the secret to bliss. One of my followers, Mike Evans (who has opened my eyes to other ways of looking at my illness), brought to mind what I was telling my mental health team. I know I already said this, but it’s worth repeating – I was at my best when I was holistically taking care of myself. In a week I’m going to a yoga workshop with Explorer Yoga, but meanwhile I need to focus on self-care (and get to the pharmacy today to pick up my estrogen…that’s all I need, to run out of estrogen!).

I know how to do these things, I know who to ask for help, I can do this.

Tagged: alternative medicine, alternative therapies, energy healing, healing touch, holistic medicine, meditation, mindfulness, self-care

Medless Mutterings

angryAs my psych meds clear out of my system, I’m noticing an unsurprising phenomenon. What used to be physically uncomfortable agitated mania has become simply anger. The automatic suppression of anger by medication has been replaced by a need for self-censorship. I find myself stopping after speaking just a couple words, or erasing a potentially offensive online diatribe. My soapbox is getting heavy; and I’m tired of putting it down, only to whisk it away at the last minute before hurtful vitriol comes pouring out of my mouth.

That’s a good thing, right? I’m “feeling” again as well as self-regulating. But at what cost? Am I becoming that stereotypical crazy woman? “Just ignore her, she’s off her meds, poor thing.”

Where’s the line between sanity and insanity? Where’s that Goldilocks middle ground of “just right?” And if it does exist how does one find it – medically, holistically, spiritually? Who has the fucking formula for bliss?

I’m angry that I don’t have, nor will I ever have, the answer. I’m angry that I’m angry.

Tagged: agitated mania, anger, medications-psychiatric

Metamorphosis

kafkaSleep now eludes me. Words and images have become my enemies, lumbering in and out of the dark places of my brain which only exist during the quiet of the night. The images are Kafkaesque, not the images one usually associates with metamorphosis. I am becoming someone I vaguely remember from long ago before medication and before I knew what was wrong, when my mental illness was scarier and more unpredictable. I’m a little concerned that my posts may not be good for my stigma-busting; but because I am nothing but open and honest about my mental illness, I refuse to edit my experience. Perhaps it will show the dire need for affordable mental health care, because that is one of the reasons I’m doing this. A correct diagnosis is vital (as accurate as one can get in this field); and as I’ve mentioned previously, I’m concerned all the different types of meds may be have been masking or even causing symptoms. The truly helpful meds are so expensive, even a very old generic medication is barely covered by my insurance simply because it is rarely used anymore. Our local newspaper just ran an investigative series on the appalling lack of good mental health care. The state of this issue in many parts of the world that one would think of as advanced is frightening.

It’s been over 25 years (since my last pregnancy), that I have not been medicated in some form (self-medicated or prescribed) at night. It’s been about 40 years (except for my pregnancies and a few other brief periods) when I haven’t been medicated at all. My brain is not happy. I’m questioning my reality – do I feel this way because that is what I’m expecting?  That’s what makes sense because I’m not even a week into the detox process.

The last time I did this I was in the hospital for four weeks. Two weeks detox, one week clear, one day of testing, one week with a new medication. I wish I could afford to do that now. I know my marriage will survive, my husband is unbelievably understanding and supportive. I have to rein in the feelings of guilt – why would he want to live with Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde? I feel so unlovable; but if I can think of it in the terms of the fact that he wouldn’t leave me if I had any other disease, I should be able to get a grip on those unreasonable fears.

It’s all in my head, right?

(image credit to octothorpopus on flickr)

 

Tagged: bipolar disorder, depression, insomnia, medications-psychiatric, mental illness, psychiatry

A pleasant diversion

thanksIn the midst of the chaos which is my life right now, I received a pleasant diversion of another award. Although after the feedback I received when attempting to pass on the last award, I’ve decided that I’d rather be an award-free blog.

Jenny from Peace From Panic has kindly given me the Versatile Blogger Award. Jenny writes a heartwarming and informating informative (I don’t know, I kind of like that first word) blog about dealing with her own anxiety while raising a family which includes a daughter with anxiety as well. I can tell you from experience, it’s difficult enough to try to raise a family when you have a mental illness; but when one or more of your children has one as well, it’s even worse.

So thank you Jenny, and any one else who may think of me. Knowing there’s someone out there reading my important informating, as well as receiving amazing comments is enough for me.

Tagged: awards

Hope-WTF

Hope: to want something to happen or be true and think that it could happen or be true; archaic: trust

Did I really produce this picture? Did this actually come out of my brain? Because I cannot remember the last time I actually felt hopeful. Does that make me hopeless?

My therapist recently asked me “What do you hope for?” My answer was “Nothing.” She looked at me oddly, “Do you mean you have no hope?” “Exactly.”

For many years during my lifetime I hoped for something from myself, employers, family, friends, lovers, life. The majority of the time, what I hoped for didn’t happen…so I stopped hoping. It’s interesting that the archaic definition is “trust.” Trust in whom? Trust in what? Nope, don’t have much of that either.

There are a multitude of positive and uplifting quotes to be found all over the interwebs (I typed “hope” into my search engine: “About 1,790,000,000 results.” My timeline is inundated daily with hopeful memes. Sometimes I just want to scream at the computer “Lies!” Sometimes I cry and sometimes hope tries to wheedle it’s way in to my brain.

There are times when I catch myself feeling hopeful, then I think “Oh yeah, that again. Sorry but no, not today.”

Tagged: depression, hopeless, mental illness