Daily Archives: January 30, 2014

Bipolar, Depression, Drinking, Drugging

When I first stumbled upon this recent study, I had to laugh. I mean, another study that links mental illness with substance abuse? Really? Was there a need to spend

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Some people..

Some people..

One Bite At A Time

In my former life as an administrative nurse, I once worked for a man who used to advise me whenever I got flustered to ”eat the elephant one bite at a time”. In other words, don’t try to get too far ahead of yourself, and don’t freak out—it’s OK not to be able to do everything RIGHT NOW. I’ve never forgotten that, and never has it been more appropriate than it is nowadays.

Trying to figure my way around this new venture of mine is like peeling the layers of an onion: just about the time I think I’ve gotten to the essence of it, another layer just begs me to tug on it and see what lies beneath. My fellow newbie has already decided he’s bitten off more than he can chew and is leaving at the end of the week; but even though I’m a little discouraged myself at the complexity of what I’ve gotten myself into, I still have this idea that with time and a LOT more training, I just might be able to do this.

It didn’t seem like it on Monday when this first survey began, but already there is some logic to the process, and if I can see logic in something I seldom have trouble following it. Besides, everyone I’ve talked to says it takes at least 2-3 years to become confident in the surveyor role, so there’s no expectation that I’ll “get it” in only a few months. Which is a really good thing, because I haven’t been THIS green since I was a new grad RN almost two decades ago.

But as nervous as all of this still makes me, one thing continues to amaze me: I am having NO symptoms. Zip. Zilch. Nada. My sleep routine has been a little upset by the particulars of the job, but I simply adjust my bedtime to accommodate the need to be up earlier than usual, and so far it’s working. I think the key is getting enough sleep, and I’m doing that. The reward is increased flexibility AND a stable mood…..what could be better than that?

Honestly, as stressful as this whole business is (and will undoubtedly continue to be for some time), something has crossed over in me……a paradigm shift, if you will. It wasn’t so long ago that I was complaining about feeling diminished, as if I had nothing of value left to offer the world, and that my best days were in the rear-view mirror. Bipolar was taking over my life, costing me dearly in terms of self-worth and economic viability, and I was—I thought—powerless to stop it.

Now, most days I hardly even think about it, except when I take my meds and, of course, when I write a blog post. I’m too busy trying to learn and absorb new things to waste much time mulling over my condition, which I’ve researched and analyzed to death in the two years since I was diagnosed. And I think the structure Dr. Awesomesauce talked about so often before I went back to full-time work is EXACTLY what I needed to separate my self from what was going on in my head.

Don’t get me wrong—I know bipolar disorder is a part of me, and I ignore its existence at my own peril. I have no leeway whatsoever as far as missing meds or skimping on sleep are concerned; the correct medications and adequate rest are the very reasons I’ve been able to get my life back! It feels SO good to think like a ‘normal’ person again, to be able to remember a few things (without sticky notes!) and focus on what I’m doing without being quite so easily distracted. I still can’t manage a book, although I can stick with a fairly lengthy magazine article nowadays…..yes, even the ability to read is returning slowly.

Still, I do have my limits, and as long as I don’t push myself too far, things should be pretty good. As tempting as it is in this new job—and this new life—to try to gulp down everything at once, I have to choose each and every day to eat the elephant one bite at a time. Yummy!


Emily’s Story

Today we have the privilege of getting to know Emily, a busy mom who suffers from ADD, anxiety, depression as well as a binge eating disorder. Her positive outlook despite all this is inspiring- let’s get right to her story!

what stay well strategies do you employ to deal with the craziness of your life? You’ve got a lot on your plate! 
1.  Most importantly, I take my meds.  I have backups at work in case I forget to take my morning dose.  I force myself to wake up and take them if I fall asleep at night without taking my evening dose.  Med management is so important.  If I forget to take a few doses in a row, sometimes even one, I feel a little depression and anxiety creeping in and very quickly can go back to square one.
2.  I go to weekly therapy.   I’ve finally found a great therapist and it’s been good to work on my issues (finding myself unlovable, eating disorder/MI management, putting myself last, etc) with the same person every week, instead of seeing someone here and there.  She pushes me a little and doesn’t let me whine for too long.
3.  I have girlfriends who serve as part of my support network.  My husband is wonderful, but having a few good friends is really important.
4.   I have been going to a weekly 12 step group for several years now  I don’t feel the need/urge to use drugs or alcohol anymore, which I used to numb the depression/anxiety.  At the meeting, I learn a way to live that is based on “doing the next right thing”.  The members there are also a part of my support group.
5.  At home, I like to have music playing in the house.  It makes me happy inside.  Seems like a tiny, simple thing, but I’ve found it makes me feel better most of the time.  I also love that my children are being raised in a home with music.
6.  During the warmer months I love to garden.  Digging in the dirt really helps me feel connected to the earth.  Cheesy, but true!  I’m sure it’s also therapeutic because it’s a bit of a physical workout at times.
 do you feel that the depression and anxiety feed into your ADD or eating disorder?
The depression and the ED feed off each other, for sure.  I have Binge Eating Disorder, which for me is a terrible cycle of feeling like shit about myself and how I look, then eating for comfort, then feeling like shit because I binged, then hating myself, then eating…. and on and on.  My depression is a part of me at baseline, but when you add a huge issue like body image in, it magnifies.
When I’m feeling particularly depressed, I feel bad about myself BECAUSE I have these illnesses.  I can really get into a “poor me” mindset… “Why do I have to have these things wrong with me, why is my life so hard, can’t I cut a break anywhere”.  As you can imagine, it’s a pretty bad place to be.
 Being a mom is tough enough, let alone being a mom with ADD, anxiety, depression and an eating disorder. Do you get help from family and friends? What, if anything, do your children know about your diagnoses?
My kids are 5 and 7 and these issues have never come up in conversation with them.  They know I have “Dr appointments” and go to “my meeting” but in very general ways.  If they ever ask questions about my mental health or MI in general, I certainly will talk to them about it in an age-appropriate way.  I don’t want to hide the fact that I have these parts of myself, and I’d try to put a “life is hard sometimes, but I never give up” spin on it.
I try very, very hard to be as “normal” as possible in front of my kids.  My daughter has asked me what I’m looking at a few times when I stare off/zone out (which is part of my ADD).  There was a stretch when my anxiety was so bad that I let them sit in front of the TV for hours every evening because I couldn’t handle them (the usual rule is no TV on weeknights, so they probably LOVED this).  But 90% of the time I either feel normal or can make myself seem normal, if only for their sake.
 what advice do you have for other moms facing similar situations ?

1.  A support network is absolutely critical.  Nurture your friendships.  My husband is wonderful, but personally, I need women friends too!  (Husband is supportive of me but doesn’t truly “understand” MI and is a little bewildered by it all)

2.  Take/make time for yourself.  Your kids are amazing and adorable and smart and creative but get away from them every once in a while.  Get out of the house.  Go to a coffee shop.  Go on a drive.  Do something that makes YOU happy.
3.  Use a Calendar.  Having a schedule helps me feel way more in control, esp with kids activities and stuff.  We use one that we can both update from our smartphones, it’s helped us out a ton.
4. Take it easy on yourself.  You’re going to mess up/yell at your kids/etc every once in a while.  You’re human. It’s allowed.  Learn from your mistakes and move on.5.  Watch the self talk.  I tend to say things to myself that I would NEVER say to anyone else.  Most of my self talk is body related – “I’m so ugly”, “how did I let myself get this fat”, etc.  It’s so damaging to yourself.  Lately I’ve been trying to challenge that self talk.

Emily brings up a great point in challenging the negative self talk, which is a problem for so many women, regardless of whether they suffer from mental illness or not. Her simple yet effective routines for managing what could be an overwhelming life are as easily utilized by a “normal” mom as well as one suffering from mental illness. I want to thank her for being so starkly honest and yet positive!
Are you in a similar situation? Tell us your coping strategies and advice in the comments.

Filed under: Wellness Warriors Tagged: add, anxiety, binge eating, depression, eating disorder, mental illness, therapy, wellness

Static Medications…Am I Normal?

I’m currently on medication for bipolar II and OCD. I’m lucky in that I only take 1 medication for each. I take 150mg of topiramate (Topamax is the brand name) and 10mg of escitalopram (Lexapro) per day. Topiramate for bipolar and escitalopram for OCD, which is I guess kind of obvious.

Now, topiramate was an interesting choice that my doctor suggested for me. I know that it isn’t a standard bipolar drug to try…at least not as a first pass. But, I’ve had issues with anti-depressants when my doctors and I were trying to manage my “clinical depression”, and all those failed. So my new doctor decided to try me on something rather unorthodox. Topiramate may not be the typical bipolar treatment, but it was what she suggested for me. I started off on a very low dose, and worked my way up to 100mg. I was on that for about 10 months, until some major stress led to us agreeing to move my dosage up to 150mg, which is helping me manage my bipolar better than the 100mg was.

I’ve been on escitalopram before, as a strict anti-depressant. It failed as an anti-depressant for me. However, once my bipolar was under control, my doctor and I agreed to start a medication to help manage the anxieties that my OCD causes. So I’ve been on the 10mg of that for 9 months now. It helps mellow out my anxieties and allows me to calm myself and regain control of myself. So something that failed as an anti-depressant works well as a treatment for my OCD.

Now, as to my title post here, “static medications”.

My family has a history of being treatment resistant to medications for mental disorders. Granted, it’s always been depression, but still. I went through I think 9 different anti-depressants, all different classes and none worked. So I’ve told my doctor that I’m worried about this. After all, I’m on the original medications that we started me on over a year ago/9 months ago. Given the history in my family, my own personal history with medications…I am worried about what will happen. I know that, according to my doctor, most bipolar patients have to go through several types of medications to find one that works, along with other strategies to cope with the disorder. Same with OCD.

I mean “static” in the sense not of dosages, but of actual types. See, being on the original medications that I was given after my diagnosis and learning what I really had, that isn’t really what I was given to expect. So I wonder how normal it is. I mean, how many people can say that they haven’t had to, 1.25 years in, had to tweak even something? And given my history of medication failures, I’m not sure how at ease I am with this. I don’t want to bother trouble for myself in worrying too much, but I am aware of what the risks are. And switching medications is not going to be pleasant (should it happen), because I know how much time that’s going to take, and what I’m likely to go through.

It’s just not what I was led to expect at all. Medication is supposed to be a finicky beast that requires constant tinkering and monitoring. (Not that I don’t monitor it, my doctor and I are constantly monitoring my medication) It’s supposed to be difficult to find something that works. Or at least, that’s what I thought would happen. I’m just not sure how usual it is to be able to have a steady, mostly stable self on the very first medications that one is given.

Let it all burn

Sometimes…Well, way too often, actually, things just reach fever pitch of suckiness…And my warped little brain will pervert the beauty of the song “Hurricane” by 30 Seconds To Mars. Because it’s sung beautifully and yet in my mind, it’s just resigned anger and frustration waving the white flag.

“Crash, crash burn….let it all burn.”

That’s where I am. Nothing means anything and even if it did,my brain isn’t grasping it so what’s the point in going on? Let it all fucking burn. Hell, let me set it on fire. Oh, wait, it’s arson even if you burn your own shit. Life doesn’t let you have any fun stress relief. I think setting everything on fire and walking away would be cathartic.

Sadly, the one thing that needs to burn in order for anything to change…is me. Or at least my brain. It’s betraying me in a way that is unfathomable and I hate it. This goes so far beyond being down or stressed or sad. This is…mental consumption.

I am not coping well with life. Tiny things send me into a tailspin. I paste on the happy face and pray no one notices me ranting under my breath and swearing when deviations occur and my little brain can’t cope. I am hanging on for dear life and yet…

I.want.to.let.it.all.BURN. Guess the Papa Roach song “Burn” would certainly apply here. I sound like a pyro. If only I were. Life would be more fun.

First thing to go would be that piece of shit car R talked me into buying. I don’t care that it’s newer and sporty and shiny. I hate it. It’s not me. It runs like crap. I hate it. I would love to watch it burn.

Yeah, it’s been that kind of day. Started out bad, went wrong went more wrong, and I can’t escape my own mind so its just ass trashery.

I’m getting to the point where I am wondering if this isn’t more than one more winter depression. What if this is a delayed response to the donor walking out and it’;s taken 2 years for me to crumble under the strain?

Worse…Nothing’s been the same since I had my kid. What if the whole pregnancy experience altered my chemicals and I’m quasi psychotic now and that’s why nothing helps? Maybe I need an anti psychotic.

Grrrrr. I would love to write something happy, something hopeful, soimething good. Why can;t I just get well?





Bottling It Up

I can’t seem to get myself together this week.  Lots of stress, depression, and paranoia.  Sometimes I wish I had never attached my real name and face to this blog; that way I could write about what’s really bothering me. But anyway.  Hopefully I will feel better soon.  I just want to cry my eyes out I’m so burnt out on everything. But if I start I may never stop.  So, here’s to bottles!