Daily Archives: December 30, 2013

Moving Up and Feeling Down

And so the weight gain continues (sigh).  To rehash my story, when I first started on this weight loss ordeal I weighed 303 pounds.  I couldn’t wear green clothes at the time because people would mistake me for Jabba the Hut.  I’d pretty much always been overweight, but once I got on bipolar meds my … Continue reading »

DBT Debrief: Emotion Regulation

The final module in DBT, Emotion Regulation, was the turning point at which I got with the program, because it …

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The End

Well, today was the day…..I am now officially retired from clinical nursing. As I passed my meds, performed the usual feeding-tube rituals and did treatments, I felt a bit wistful because I knew I was doing them for the last time; but honestly, my primary emotion is relief.

I should’ve done this a couple of years ago……and probably before that. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I was tapped out long before I made this last ill-fated attempt at floor nursing, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it forced me to understand that I really WAS done. As some of you may know, I’d toyed with the idea of leaving nursing for some time, but it wasn’t until this past summer that it became crystal clear that I had no choice anymore—it was time for me to go.
And I won’t be back. I hope and pray that this new job will be the one I stick with until full retirement age, but even if it’s not, I know I’ll find something else to do outside of the clinical arena. One of the more amazing things that’s happened in the past few months is learning that I can push myself beyond some of my limitations and take risks I was too afraid to take even a short while ago. However, that works only if those risks are calculated ones, and with a lot of help, I’ve come to recognize which are too dangerous to attempt.
Remaining in clinical nursing is one of them. Yesterday I almost committed a serious medication error when I got distracted by too much noise and activity in the hall. (Yes, that continues to be a problem, even though my concentration has improved somewhat now that I’m well again).  Every nurse makes mistakes now and again (and narrowly escapes making many more), but this was yet another time when only the grace of God and one more quick glance back at the med record sheet saved both my patient and me from disaster. Needless to say, the near-miss scared the daylights out of me, and it only reinforced the conviction that I’m doing the right thing by getting the hell out of direct care before my luck runs out.
It feels so weird to be hanging up my stethoscope after almost two decades in healthcare, but it’s good that this part of my career is over. I’ve no doubt that I’ll miss it—at least a little—but not enough to return for an encore, even if something were to go sideways during my second act.

While I have countless good memories of favorite patients and co-workers, I’ve paid dearly for the privilege of being a nurse. I’m far older than I should be on the inside, and my physical body is shot to hell from years of lifting, bending, transferring, pushing wheelchairs and heavy, occupied beds, and walking on hard surfaces. And we ALL know what it’s done to me mentally (even though I was never wrapped too tight anyway).  But nursing has also given me countless stories to tell about both the best and the worst of humanity, humbled me by allowing me to witness feats of incredible strength and acts of mercy, and proved to me that we human beings are truly “fearfully and wonderfully made”.

Yes, this is the end of my career as I know it and part of me will always long for the days when I had a passion for nursing; but as somebody once said, the last step of one stage of life is but the first step of another. It’s just that when you spend a good chunk of your life caring for your fellow man, you learn in the end that it was the other way around all the time.

A Tutorial on Bipolar

There is really no way to explain to a “normal” person what it’s like to have bipolar. I can describe it as it is for me, but it differs for everyone. Obviously it also differs just for myself as I vary between depressive, manic and neutral phases. As a part of my desire to reduce stigma and increase understanding, let me give you a colorful synopsis of my life with bipolar.

I am a rapid-cycling, highly functioning woman living with bipolar disorder. The diagnosis is still pretty new, but the symptoms are not. At age 19, I was diagnosed with clinical depression bordering on cyclothymia which is often a predecessor or offshoot of full blown bipolar disorder. I began taking antidepressants at that time and learning how to live my life a bit differently. Therapy and medications were the game plan after suffering for years. I’ve always been plagued with obsessive thoughts, low self esteem, sleep problems and negative self talk.  For me, I know when depression is creeping up. I just want to sleep, I binge eat, I have random aches and pains. I lose interest in the things I normally love and crying is pretty much all I do some days. Isolation during depression is very normal for me as I berate myself with negative self talk, sometimes self abuse through hitting or cutting myself and lapse in my self care and hygiene. During the depressive phase, I pretty much have to force myself to do anything- go to work, take care of the house. I have several amazing friends (and my sister) whom I reach out to when times are at their darkest. I am happy to say that, while I was self medicating on an unhealthy level with alcohol during my 20′s, I have essentially stopped drinking alcohol, save a glass of wine on special occasions. Blogging or writing can be difficult at this time, though I will post during the dark times to sort of send an S.O.S. out to the world for a little help.

The opposite of my depression is the manic phase. This phase has two subcategories, if you will. There’s hypomania, when I’m starting to get manic and I am very very effective at just about anything. This is the “addictive” mania because you feel so creative and efficient and alive. I get a lot of crafts and DIY’s done during hypomania and it’s the reason my house gets clean quickly. Hypomania for me is marked by rapid speech, fast moving ideas, the urge to create and clean, diminished need for sleep, hypersexuality, financial irresponsibility and abundant confidence. During hypomania, I love just about everyone and everything and it’s all just so FABULOUS!!!

Then, the nasty part of the manic phase – full blown mania. Also known as I go from creative Christian crafting coffee drinker to sociopathic bitch. I usually don’t refer to it as manic, I call it Green Mamba Time after the beautiful and deadly snake. Manic (or G.M.T.) is when I tear people down, look for fights and nearly destroy friendships and relationships. I am frighteningly aggressive and have practically no regard for my own personal safety. Anything and everything can set me off during G.M.T. and I continue to pay the consequences for things I’ve done during this phase. I vividly recall destroying several large cardboard boxes during a manic-fueled rage resulting in a swollen hand for two days. This phase is the one I feel people most associate bipolar with, and quite wrongly. It’s merely a part of the disorder that can be effectively managed.

If you’re a girl, you might understand if I say having bipolar is like having PMS every single day. You can go from crying to happy and then numb in practically hours. Also I work in a highly female-dominated environment, and let’s face it, women do a great job of tearing each other down (and yes, I’m guilty of that as well). Some days it’s all I can do to get home and decompress. However, I have a lot of hope that I will be able to live a productive and positive life despite the disorder. My faith in God has gotten me through so much, including several near-suicidal nights.My psychiatrist actually listens to me and lets me have the drivers seat as far as my treatment is concerned. I have wonderful friends who have stood by me despite the constant changing tide of my moods. Blogging about my bipolar has helped me to discover I am not alone in this, and I hope I help other people suffering from their own demons feel a bit more accepted and understood.

If you would like to share your story of struggle/triumph/etc or tips on how to live with mental illness or loving someone suffering from a mental illness, feel free to share in the comments or send me an email at latebloomlisa@gmail.com. I’d love to hear your stories and share them if you’d like your story to be heard!

Filed under: Wellness Warriors Tagged: antidepressants, bipolar, cyclothymia, mood stabilizers, positivity, stigma, therapy, understanding