Daily Archives: May 6, 2013

Back on the Ketogenic Diet, Modified Atkins Variety

I’m disgusted with a lot of things: my meds, my perpetual brain fog (meds?), my recent 15 pound weight gain, which, on my 5 foot tall person, is a lot and is quite demoralizing, adding to the general feeling of gloom in my environment; my lack of energy, my lithium-induced tremors and muscle weakness, and I’m sure there’s more, if I could only think of it.  Oh yes, that’s it: word-finding difficulty.

At one point in my bipolar journey, nothing was working, med-wise, and my shrink planted an idea in my brain that had consequences I don’t think he intended.  There is a great deal of similarity between bipolar illness and seizure disorder: both share the phenomenon of kindling, where a little spark gets going and if it’s not stopped, it spreads until it causes generalized dysfunction.  In Bipolar-land we usually call that a trigger, but there is functional MRI evidence that demonstrates similar changes in brain metabolism during the moments leading up to a seizure, and the moments leading up to a bipolar decompensation.  So it should be no surprise that anti-epileptic drugs also treat bipolar symptoms.

When my son was a teen going through a bipolar meltdown, his psychiatrist told me, and showed me clinical papers to back his words up (which unfortunately I do not have and am not in the mood to dig up), that if, in the young brain, bipolar disorder could be suppressed for a two-year period without a breakthrough, it could be considered cured, just in the same way as epilepsy.  The theory is that in the growing brain, suppressing the kindling effect for that long gives the brain a chance to literally “grow out of it.”  My son, now 28, recently went through a battery of neuropsychiatric testing which showed that although he does have Major Depressive Disorder, he has no remaining features of Bipolar Disorder.  Bingo.

Back in the olden days before they had anti-seizure drugs like Depakene and Tegratol and Lamictal, there was very little in the anti-epilepsy arsenal.  The ancient Greek physycians noted that if you fasted a person with epilepsy, the seizures stopped.  Eventually, over a couple of thousand years, this observation led to development of the Ketogenic Diet.  If you look at the Wikipedia article under this link, it will tell you as much as or more than you ever wanted to know about the Ketogenic Diet.

The basic idea is that the brain can function on only two kinds of fuel: glucose, which is a product of sugar and carbohydrate (and in some cases protein) breakdown, and ketone bodies, which are small molecules that result from the breakdown of fat.  Ketone bodies also have the ability to regulate blood sugar, so if the balance of glucose and ketones is correct, the body literally shifts from a glucose based metabolism to a ketone based metabolism.  This has a wide range of effects.  The Atkins Diet  works on this principle: if you stop feeding the body carbohydrates, then it has to break down fat to get ketones to feed the brain and the rest of the body.

For reasons still unknown, ketone metabolism, or ketosis, suppresses kindling in the brain and controls seizures.  It can be a miraculous thing.  If you read through the Wikipedia article you’ll be astounded at the numbers.  I was, anyway.  The only problem is, it’s a very difficult diet to do.  You have to really be committed to it, and one little slip-up can set you back weeks.

So, at the time when meds were not working to suppress my bipolar fire, I was a little overweight anyway so I decided what the heck, I’ll try the Atkins diet, and do the most extreme version just for kicks and chuckles.  It was a bitch to do.  It’s a fat and protein based diet, so you have to pretty much live on eggs and cheese and (at that time I was not religiously observant) bacon, which was my staple food, cheeseburgers (God, I miss those), mayonnaise all over everything, heavy cream (for a treat, I would whip up a carton of heavy cream and eat it), cream cheese, and lots of leafy greens.  Oh man, it’s hard.  But: my BP symptoms stabilized, and I lost 30 pounds in the bargain.  I stayed on the diet for three years, then got religious and couldn’t eat bacon or cheeseburgers anymore, and started eating challah and kugels instead.  The thirty pounds came back, and my brain went wacko again.  Hmmm.

Now my brain isn’t wacko, really, thanks to Seroquel, but the problem is, with the Seroquel I just don’t feel anything.  I’d like to feel happy, or sad, or excited.  I was just walking by the river here which is just a couple of feet from flood stage, and in fact did flood last night, and I kept thinking, jeez, I should be feeling fear, this thing is so awesomely powerful and out of control.  But all I felt was, I should feel fear but I don’t.

So I decided to go back into the land of Ketosis, just to see what will happen.  At the very least maybe I’ll drop those two pants sizes I picked up over the winter, and if I’m lucky, my brain might start working better and I might be able to drop part or all of the Seroquel so I can feel things again.  Stay tuned!

Would You Believe It?!

For those of you who are visiting my blog for the first time in a while, or are a newcomer, please take a couple of minutes to read the previous edition of these musings by scrolling down  to the bottom of this week’s offering – this one will make a lot more sense if you read last week’s one first.


The day after posting last week’s edition I was riding up a hill which forks under a railway bridge.  It makes no odds which one I take – they both lead home.  I decided to take the right fork, and as I came out from under the darkness of the railway bridge….

The moment I realised what had finally happened, I smiled.  Yes, you read that right. Leaning over the handlebars at the traffic lights I squeezed on my flabby front tyre. It was as soft as over ripe fruit. I didn’t get off there and then, I did something that is not recommended and rode gingerly on to the metronome of sullen complaints from the front tyre.

I was still smiling when, nearly a mile on, I rode over a bumpy spot of tarmac and my whole frame shuddered. Time to dismount and walk the last mile home in the sunshine.

I was smiling with relief.  The thing that had been preying on my mind for weeks had finally happened. I was not stuck in the middle of the countryside, 9 miles from the nearest bike shop – as once happened. It was not pouring with rain. And best of all it was the front tyre (which is a whole lot easier to take off.) As I walked on, watching cyclists spin past me, I made a plan. My son, a victim of regular punctures, would be able to help. I didn’t want him to fix the puncture for me – just give me guidance and lend some moral support. Doing it myself would increase my confidence in fixing punctures, and thus decrease the anxiety about when it happened next time.

But that was when the true meaning of the puncture became clear. Having supervised me replacing the inner tube – the original tube that I had was ripped – my son pumped up the tyre. After pumping it up to what felt like me to the maximum, he kept pumping and a moment later there was a loud bang. The inner tube had burst from the excess pressure. He is used to pumping his tyres to a higher pressure than ones like mine. Enough to make me cry out in frustration? Much gnashing of teeth? No. While I was starting to feel somewhat deflated we noticed that there was a small rip in the tyre. Not right the way through, but enough to mean that had I not punctured I was risking a potentially dangerous blow out.

The next morning things took another surreal turn.  I took the wheel to my local bike shop to buy a new tyre and inner tube. I asked the guy to fit the tyre on. I figured I had done enough to restore my confidence in my own abilities the day before. He struggled for a few minutes and finally asked a colleague to help him. They explained that new tyres could be particularly difficult to put on the first time. Yeah, right. But this admission made me feel, well, relieved, happy, quite light – headed, in fact. It really is hard to replace a tyre sometimes. Sometimes I really do need help.

Last time I felt like I was writing ‘live’, reporting how I felt as I was writing. This time it’s the same. Looking back to how it felt that day as I reached over to feel the soft tyre between my fingers; the feeling of relief that what I had thought I had feared for so long had finally happened. It made me smile because I had worked out that my increasing anxiety about cycling over the past weeks wasn’t about a bike puncture at all.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim

Because it was grassy and wanted wear,

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I marked the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost (1874 – 1963)

So Much Anxiety…Over What?

In general, some days are better than others, but that’s true for everyone, right? Not just bipolar people.

Some days I really struggle with anxiety.  But it’s typically, anxiety over nothing specific.

For me, anxiety can start out as a nagging feeling, just a feeling that something’s not quite right. Then, it likes to rear it’s freakin’ ugly head and try to take over in my thoughts and emotions. Once the anxious feeling is nice and strong in my brain, I start to think about things in my day to day life to worry about and nit-pick.

hello anxiety blue

Then, sometimes the anxiety turns into catastrophic thinking. Catastrophic thinking is where I think everything is already, or is going to turn into a catastrophe. I will imagine the most outlandish, ridiculous scenarios in my head and worry that they’ll happen. I mean, I know bad things happen to everyone, but it’s not like I need to make up things to worry about.

Today is one of those days. I’m worried about everything. And nothing.

Do you ever do that?

Anxious for Nothing,

Mrs Bipolarity


I was sleepy when I went to bed last night.Scumbag brain had other plans. I despise taking sleeping pills. I actually have like four bottles of Trazadone because the doctor keeps insisting I need it but it gives me such bizarre dreams and hangovers I can’t handle it more than the rare desperate occasion. So I count backwards by odds from 100o. Every single night. On a good night, I will count backwards 1.5 times before I manage to ward off the panicky thoughts and stampeding brain. On bad nights, I count backwards over and over for hours. Last night was one of those nights.

Insidious little thoughts kept creeping in. I tried to dismiss them, obliterate them, but there they still were, running around in my head in an obsessive compulsive fashion. You’re being used, no one cares about your well being, least of all R. He is taking advantage of you and won’t hesitate to throw you under the bus the instant that business fails. He favors Kenny over you. Think about it. He is always giving Kenny money. Letting Kenny stay at the shop, use his power, his cable, his net, his water…Yet you freeze during the winter because he won’t turn the heat up for you. You are at the bottom of this food chain, Niki. You deserve better. You should tell them all to fuck off. You don’t need this. It’s The Donor all over again, your gut is telling you something is off, but you’re ignoring it in favor of the lies R tells you. You’ve caught him in so many, he tells Kenny one thing, tells you another. He plays you off each and against each other like little puppets. RUN. RUN. RUN. Does he ever even call, visit or talk to you about anything but the shop or his own problems? Think about it, Niki. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome makes you an idiot….

God, I wanted to stab my brain with a bbq skewer to make it stop. I came close to Trazzy D but I just kept deep breathing and counting, and eventually I slept. But the obsessiveness of the thoughts and the sheer force of them scared me.

I got two texts at 3 am, one from R’s daughter and one from him, something about his car but since my phone won’t download the attachment and neither of them replied to my messages, I have no idea what. And with my cell service, the texts could have been set days ago and just come in. So there was another panic attack, because contrary to my own distorted thoughts of how little R gives a damn about my well being…I care about his. And my first thought was that with his penchant for drinking and driving maybe he wrecked that little two seater car. Over and over these thoughts trounced in my brain until five a.m. when I mercifully drifted off.

Got up at 6:30 am. Now I am jumpy and pissy. Teeth grinding in spite of Xanax. I have cramps and the pms-y venom is there, making this day potentially bridge burning and nasty. Because I am not inclined to hold back when the hormones are surging. Now my kid is whining at me because I won’t bend to her will in spite of letting her little friends come over three straight days and essentially make my weekend living hell.

I see the sunshine spewer at 9 am. I needed her last week and the week before. Yet when I see her…I’ve calmed down and I just…I am either in an up mood, neutral, or completely apathetic. It seems so pointless. To get the true picture of me and what I am dealing with, I’d need a counselor on call 24-7 so they could intercept my meltdowns and witness them first hand. Like that could ever happen. Just like the doctor thinking my cyclothymia is mild and I am dramatizing the mood swings because “it is impossible for anyone to cycle that rapidly.”

She should ask the people who have lived with me. The Donor likened it to walking on egg shells because one minute I am smiling and the next I am angry or crying. In all fairness, he wasn’t wrong. It wasn’t until I was pregnant with Spook that I found something to compare the bipolar to. Those hormonal surges dictating every mood swing. Crying, screaming, sobbing, angry, all for no reason. Yeah, that’s cyclothymia. It’s like being pregnant every single day of your life. Only unlike pregnancy, this never fucking ends. I have always felt sorry for those who have had to live with me because I know it’s tough. Especially for people too weak to learn about it and try to understand. I pity them. I understand, but their weakness is not my fault. If I were that weak, I’d have killed myself when I was fifteen.

The fact that these people bitched about how bad it was to live with my every shifting moods but not one of them would go to the shrink and back me up on it says all I need to know about the people who supposedly love/loved me. To quote Evanescence: “Don’t want your hand this time, I’ll save myself…” I may fail but at least I am trying instead of sitting around complaining then running off like a twonk.

Yep, I am in a mood. And I swear if Kenny is at the shop all day, I am leaving. Even if I have to get bitten by an ebola carrying monkey to escape that know it all jerk and R’s spineless machinations to pit us against each other. He’s probably not even smart enough to know he does it. Just too fucking spineless to stand up to Kenny or be honest with me.

Or is my thought process distorted again? Is it ever not distorted? How much of this is real? The professionals called it paranoia.

I have bought that too many times and paid the price. Usually if your gut is telling you something is off, it is right. But with the damn mood swings and panic distorting everything…

What I really need is a punching bag to take all this stuff out on.

Or a brain transplant. Of course, with my luck, it’d be a sociopath brain donor and I’d be worse than I already am.

Frick frack fuckity fuck.

Sunshine and Lollipops

I tend to blog more when I’m upset, but I don’t want y’all to think that everything is always doom …

Continue reading »

The Mantle of Depression (+1)

Happy Bank Holiday Monday for those of y’all on my island. To everyone else… um… hooray, Monday? Or something.

The anxiety is slowly receding, though I can still feel it occasionally jagging. But on the whole, it is less than it was a few weeks ago. On the other hand, I can feel the depression settling in (as I said it would). I can taste it on my tongue, I can feel it on my shoulders. It wearies me, the mass of it weighing down my heart. I’m emphatically not sad — one does not have to be sad to be depressed, or vice versa. No, I’m lethargically, weary, wary — I don’t know what’s going to sneak up on me, but I can take… comfort? Comfort that something will eventually. If it is somehow comforting for bad things to happen to a person, which it’s really not.

I choose to take some hope from this. While I’m certainly not okay, I can potentially get through this week. If the anxiety has receded enough, I should be able to handle social without too many problems (though I’m relieved that the chain of events this week ends with me at the psychiatrist). The thought of driving doesn’t leave me in quite as blind a panic as before, for example, and knowing that I’ll be having the visitors on my own turf is the best thing that can happen, considering.

Still, I’m not sure it means I’m okay enough to really deal with things. I’d like to go to work tomorrow, especially if we’re going to the office. It would enable me to go pick up some fat quarters to line purses with at the Singer shop in town. But my eyes widen and my heart flutters at the thought of entering Mundania, so I’m not really sure that it’s worth the risk. I’ll have to think on it tomorrow, and keeping taking the days as they come.

Little Purse

Crafting — the anti-depressionator!

And, at the very least, I can take comfort in the fact that I’ve managed to do a wee bit of crafting. I’ve got to finish making the strap and attach the buttons on the side for it, but I think that this will be something that my kiddo will appreciate having for playing with… eventually. She’s not so good at buttons yet, but it’s not like that’ll be the case for much longer. I’m not sure what I’m going to make next, but I think I will make something — if I can keep crafting, it certainly helps keep the mind empty of negative and/or intrusive thoughts. Plus, yanno, you end up having awesome things that you made with your own two hands around the house, and that’s always a nice thing.

Hope everyone out there is doing well.


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Trying to keep it together….

Which is very hard to do when it is 3am, 28 Days Later is on, and sleep has been eluding me for over 2 days now. I have run out of all medications except Cymbalta and Clonazapam. I will call the Dr tomorrow to get more samples of my antipsychotic. On the plus side I have been able to see the beautiful night sky and that is a good thing. I will post more later just know that for now I am well but very apprehensive until I am able to afford my meds again.