Daily Archives: December 12, 2014
Hi!/Asking for your WEGO Help (even if you already voted!)
Happy Friday everyone! I want to thank those of you who commented on my last post about my setbacks. Reading your responses made me feel so happy! I could honestly feel your encouragement through your words. I kept thinking how glad I … Continue reading
Posted in Read Along
This Old Couch
This is truly a nothing post. If you are looking for depth or meaning this is not your entry. Just happily scoot along to a poetry blog.
I told you all I’d probably talk about my couch …so this is it. However, this is not an actual picture of my sofa. Mine is too messy right now to post a pic up. I’d actually be embarrassed. The room around my couch is neat but the couch area is a mess.
So I have this couch and a nice table in front of it. It’s one of those coffee tables with a fake marble top. This couch and table is my “nest”. This is where I spend my days and a lot of my nights when I don’t feel good. I often have a dog or two with me and usually my black cat sleeps up on the back of it.
I’ve got a really nice, big TV to watch from the sofa. I don’t have it on unless I am watching a specific program. I don’t like the background noise. It gets on my nerves.
So let’s start with the actual sofa. What is on there? To keep it clean, I keep a big king sized quilt as a cover. This gets washed once a week. I keep three or so very soft bed pillows (the squishy kind) on there. Then another quilt on top to put over me. And a “flufflie” blanket to snuggle with.
I always have to have a blanket over me no matter what the weather. I have a fan going on me all the time. I need the fresh air to feel like I am breathing.
So what is on the floor around the sofa? (Here comes the mess.) A portable radio so I can listen to sports talk. (I’m a football fan.) A cloth carry bag with my devotional books and prayer beads as I try to use these every day. My laptop normally sits on the floor. My purse is there. Right now, there are a couple of Christmas gifts that came in the mail still sitting there. There’s an extra pillow and a set of headphones. And under the table is a basket where my tiniest dog sleeps. She’s too little to get up on the couch alone.
On to my messy table. There is usually (like now) cold coffee and a large glass of ice water. There’s my phone and a Christmas pin my husband said someone gave him for donating a dollar somewhere. There’s a gift book on prayer beads I got for a friend yesterday that I need to get over to her. A spiral notebook to jot down things and a book of 365 slow cooker recipes is on there. The fan remote sits there, as does the book for my book club on Tuesday. I’ve got a bin full of Advil, the TV remote, scissors, reading and computer glasses, lip balm, lens cleaner, and my huge pill minder floating around happily.
As you can see, I can live from my couch. And I do. Quite often.
My husband is going to his annual poker Christmas party tonight. I am glad he has these friends and gets out, but it is a long and lonely evening for me. My daughter is going on a date to an office party and my son will be home but immersed in his room with his computer games, and music making. I still don’t feel really solid being home alone for a long while. I get nervous about the voices.
I’m still struggling with the shower thing. I feel like I am disabled and I almost need a nurse or something to come over in the morning and get me up and in the shower. If I’m showered or took one the day before, I am willing to go out and go places.
I feel sort of sad and blah. Tomorrow I have to go to one of those warehouse stores and pick a few things up for the open house on Sunday. Then we have to hit the big liquor store for some wine and champagne. Then Sunday is the big fiesta. Believe it or not, I’m actually looking forward to our party. It gives me a little validation that I DO have friends and it will nice for everyone to see the tree. A friend is making a special cake for the event and I know it will look gorgeous. I’m only worried about what to wear so I don’t look super bad (fat)and if we’ll have enough food. My daughter announced she has about ten co-workers coming, so I think it is possible we could wind up with 60 people over the four hours or so. The good news is….we don’t have to invite anyone over for quite a while after this. It’s their turn:)
I think I know why I feel so lonely and sad. It’s my best friend. She’s out of state and working now and it’s a challenge to even chat with her. This is NOT her fault and my happiness is NOT her job. But there were times where we were really close. We traveled together and had a blast. We talked every day and knew what color lip gloss we were wearing. (Okay, it wasn’t that bad!). When I am feeling good lately and getting out and living life I don’t miss her and I do fine. I really don’t want or need any more friends here or things to do. I can’t keep up with the stuff and people I have. But when I feel sad, I miss my friend. I miss that closeness we had and how I could just call her and cry sometimes. It’s just a sad lonely feeling. It’s sort of missing that familiar place of unconditional love. I have a few tears as I write this. I need to get my act together.
But you know, they have been jacking with my meds (saw my pdoc yesterday) and that could be causing the sadness. I’m hanging in there…I want this to be a good holiday for my husband and kids.
love to you all and a hug,
Bitching @ Bipolar
The good parts of mania are so, so good. Sometimes it’s like MDMA, sometimes coke. Love swells and fills your heart and then stretches its fingers to strum songs on your ribcage. Colours are more saturated, everything is … well, as Kurt Vonnegut said …
Yes, the dark side of mania is scary, dangerous, ridiculous and so no, it’s not worth hanging on to.
When/if it goes away for a long time, I will miss it. I always thought it was the universe paying a karmic debt, giving me all that love and shiny constellations and laughter. I’m damn glad I relished those good bits while they were good. I wouldn’t miss the bad bits at all, obviously. And the rest of it (depression and mixed episodes) can leave any time they like. The absolute pain … I don’t actually know how to describe it to anyone who hasn’t felt it.
Too often, we’ve been guilty of conceptualizing bipolar disorder only from the neck up. This is clearly a brain and body disorder.
This thing, this neurobiological, neurotoxic fuckup that some people blithely say shouldn’t be medicated, presents in so many sizes and shapes that it’s not possible to just wave a wand and cure it. I don’t know what works for less severe bipolar, because mine is apparently very severe, but nobody can convince me that a dab of essential oils on my neck will fix it all. The only natural treatment for bipolar that works (for some) is lithium.
I’d rather be realistic than float about with blinkers on. Bipolar shrinks your hippocampus, causes increased cortisol … the consequences can be quite hectic. And beyond brain damage, heart disease etc, there is always the bipolar depression that occurs in more cycles than MDD and the suicidality that grabs you by the jugular and doesn’t let go, no matter how long it has to wait. And if you don’t kill yourself, you have a shorter life span, heart disease and earlier onset of general geriatric decay to look forward to anyway. And more. I have to take the mofo seriously, it has already fucked up a lot of my life. But that’s what you get with a late diagnosis.
My own clinical experience has been very clear that the more episodes they have, the more cognitive impairment they have and the more difficult it is for them to get back to work and fulfill their roles and responsibilities.
(Source link further down)
Yes, I know that today is the first day of my life and so on … but sometimes I need a break from looking on the bright side (lol) and acting stoic. Sometimes I want to howl and bellow at … who? What? There isn’t even something to yell at.
Don’t comfort me, mkay? I promise I still know how fortunate I am. If you made it this far, tyvm for doing so. I feel better for it. Scroll for more from the transcript I’ve been quoting.
More excerpts from: The Evolving Understanding of Bipolar Depression Neurobiology and the Relation to Diagnosis (Roger S. McIntyre, MD, FRCPC)
… people with bipolar depression more often present with so-called atypical depression. That is, they have hyperphagia, hypersomnia, and so-called leaden paralysis — a significant terrible fatigue particularly accentuated in the winter, but not always. These individuals who have bipolar disorder very often report an early age of onset, often before 25 years of age; in fact, very often before 20 years of age.
The lion’s share, however, of individuals who have bipolar disorder do not in fact present with severe mania. They often present with an admixture of subsyndromal depressive symptoms as well as hypomanic symptoms. In fact, longitudinally the most common presentation is this composite of depressive and hypomanic symptoms, which often is mislabeled as anxious depression or agitated depression;
Now, in the brain there is white matter and gray matter, and there is reduction in cell counts seen in both, with more replicated evidence, frankly, in loss of white matter. So in other words, bipolar could be conceptualized as a white matter disease. And we also see a loss of what’s called neuropil, which is what I refer to as the connective tissue within the brain. Taken together, this loss of brain tissue may be more likely observed in those with more progressive illness. Speaking to the neurotoxicity of bipolar disorder, this is not only a disquieting observation, but it’s also really alerted us that at the brain level something’s changing. This may subserve the phenomenology we see, — the more recalcitrant bipolar over time, as well as observations of patients who may not be responding as well to the treatment after 10 or 15 episodes compared to those who’ve had 1 or 2 episodes.
We as clinicians, and the literature certainly supports what we’ve observed, have noticed that many patients with bipolar disorder pursue what appears to be a progressive course. In other words, episodes become more frequent over time, and become longer in duration. The well intervals become shorter and shorter, and the symptoms become more severe. As I was saying moments ago, patients often complain of, or evince cognitive deficits. And the treatment interventions, whether pharmacotherapy, psychosocial interventions, and maybe even neuromodulator treatments such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), may not be as robust after 15 or 20 episodes when compared to the first 2 or 3 episodes.
Bipolar exists above and below the neck, and in fact, it is the metabolic complications of bipolar disorder, in part related to medicine and in part to biology and other factors, that leads to not only a decreased likelihood of recovery and a more unfavorable course of illness, but also accelerates premature mortality, with heart disease the most common cause of mortality in this population.
Posted in Read Along
I love my husband, he is warm, funny and handsome man who puts up with all my shit. In the mornings though I want to strangle him. His alarm wakes me up several times as he hits snooze. Then as he leaves he wakes me again to ask how he looks. I always have a problem going back to sleep but then he goes down and talks to his mom for 20 mins while he plays on the computer. I can hear them talking it gets my paranoia going like crazy.
It’s like this most weekday mornings and today I just blew up at him because of it. I hate weaking up before my body wants me too, it makes me cranky for the whole day and I get so hurt he doesn’t stay and talk to me.
I know it is completely irrational. That doesn’t stop it from happening though. I feel sorry for the poor guy. I’m glad he tolerates me. Living with a bipolar is a really hard job. I don’t know that if it were reversed I would be so damn good natured about everything.
I’m a lucky woman.
Posted in Read Along
The Next Year
We went on for a year like that. Very, very gradually he started easing up on the check-ins and monitoring where I went. We endured the funeral of his grandmother during this time. I obsessed less and less—all it took was remembering how hurt Bob was over it to stop them in their tracks now. I continued therapy and worked even harder on my issues. Bob simply had to have time to heal from it all; we had long discussions about where our relationship was going and what we could do to make it better. Thankfully, we survived the entire ordeal and celebrated our twentieth wedding anniversary in 2013.
Sadly, obsessions of this nature are part and parcel of bipolar disorder. Sexual adventuring is a hallmark symptom of the disease. I knew what I was feeling wasn’t real in the sense that it wasn’t love or any other sane emotion. It was simply an obsession—a trick of my mind. Being aware of this truth saved my marriage in that I fought the obsessions with all I had even though I did slip that one time. I know that in God’s eyes I was committing adultery against Bob by obsessing like this. But I’ve been forgiven and was finally saved from it by the grace of God.
To forestall it happening again, I’ve started being very careful at how I interact with men. I try not to be in conversation with a man without Bob being around as well. I don’t want to give something a chance to start, and I don’t want to give anyone a reason to be suspicious at how I interacted with people. I do have a very few long-term male friends I stay in contact with, mostly over Facebook–a few from college and one from my writing days. Bob knows them and trusts me with them. I’m also very careful with students, making sure that I don’t interact with the guys in my class in anything resembling an inappropriate way. And I keep a watch on my mind, making sure it’s Bob I’m thinking about and caring for with all my heart.
I don’t know if the pastor from my church that resigned has any of these deep-seated psychological issues But his situation led me to share my story in hopes that other bipolar people who struggle with these kinds of issues know that they can fight them and not give in to acting on them in any irreversible way. The feelings can be a threat to a marriage, but with proper treatment, the obsessions can be controlled to a degree.
Breakthrough Workshop at Caron.
This sounds amazing! I am seriously thinking about going there for their 5.5 Day Workshop for Personal Growth. The most important thing for me is Emotional Manageability on a Daily Basis. Sounds really wonderful! I wonder if this works for people with bipolar d/o. We certainly need emotional manageability. Do any of my blogging friends (Dyane?) know about this program? The picture is the mansion in Caron PA where the workshops and groups are held!
About Breakthrough Workshop
One Week Can Change Your Life
Life is full of ups and downs and most of us want to flourish and improve our lives and the lives of those we love. Breakthrough at Caron is a groundbreaking residential, 5-day program specifically designed for adults seeking a higher level of happiness and satisfaction.
Breakthrough at Caron has helped over 40,000 adults overcome obstacles that may have previously blocked their efforts towards developing healthier relationships, positive connections and emotional stability. One year follow-up studies conducted by Rutgers University have shown that this innovative program can promote change and maintain results leading to a healthier more rewarding life.
The Breakthrough program is held in a beautiful restored mansion in the hills of Eastern Pennsylvania. Unlike other programs, our program is offered every week of the year and staffed by a team of full-time therapists. Our focus is helping adults, 18 and older, who believe that life could be better and would like to gain the momentum or direction necessary to create the lasting change they want and need. Breakthrough utilizes a unique and time tested process of experiential group therapy where groups of 10, facilitated by 2 skilled full-time therapists, work together to identify previously unidentified and ineffective patterns and to develop healthier and more effective responses towards achieving personal goals.
All aspects of the program are designed to create a “real time” experience of changing unwanted patterns that interfere with healthy attachment. Using an individualized approach, methods include mindfulness training and psychodrama along with exercises to address complex grief and shame which may be inhibiting desired growth. Regardless of previous experience in a group, Breakthrough clients are able to expand their own comfort zone and take risks that they never dreamed were possible.
Today may be the day your change begins.
Come to Breakthrough if you want to:
- Bring out the best in yourself, allowing your strengths to guide you
- Flourish and grow rather than just cope
- Be the best parent, partner and spouse you can be
- Have emotional manageability on a daily basis – regardless of the ups and downs around you
- Experience happiness and joy as a way of life
- Increase the closeness and intimacy in your relationships
- Feel productive and purposeful in your work
- Be able to accept the people and things you cannot change
- Center your life around your values and the people you love
Although a referral from a therapist is not required, this program is intended as an addition to private therapy or outpatient counseling where individuals may accelerate their personal growth by examining and modifying long-standing patterns that interfere with their quality of life. At the conclusion of the program, Breakthrough staff provides each participant with direction for follow-up care and a referral to a therapist for individuals who do not yet have one.
Even When Your Not In The Mood
I write my blog every day but I don’t always feel like it. Sometimes I stumble over what to say or my day has been so vanilla that there has been nothing interesting emotionally to write about. Yet it is the one promise that I keep to myself. Trust me I’ve made tons.
I’ve started diets and failed multiple times and exercise programs. Cleaning the house or myself. Wearing makeup or doing my hair. None of these things have I ever done for this amount of time.
So I’m writing, I’m here today and I will be tomorrow. The only reason I won’t write will be because something horrific has happened. Just not wanting to is not enough of a reason not to do it.
Next year I will be doing more than writing, probably photos and stories as well as my moods, but for now this is what it is.. enjoy
Posted in Read Along
The “Self-Help” Genre Has a Big Problem with Depression
Self-help articles are great. In this day and age, the internet is one of the largest sources of self-help content — and as someone who loves to uplift others and be uplifted, this is a genre that I have a strong affinity for.
But I’ve noticed this really unfortunate trend as of late – namely, articles that suggest that in order to be happier, we need to avoid the habits of “chronically unhappy people,” or remove “negative people” from our lives altogether.
Is someone bringing you down? Just get rid of them! Don’t want to be a downer? Fix yourself!
This all seems to be code for, “depressed people are shitty, and here’s how to avoid them and avoid being like them.”
This is basically saying that folks who are suffering from depression – because that’s what it means, right, let’s call a spade a spade – are not worthy of our patience, love, and support.
Further, we should aspire to be the exact opposite of them, as there is nothing redeeming about them. Let’s observe their struggles, and from that extract all the “what not to do’s.” I think that’s a really problematic response to have to someone who has depression.
When we treat people with depression as though they’re a burden or plague, it perpetuates the stigma that comes with depression, and encourages people to ostracize those who suffer from depression.
Further, mainstream self-help articles push this dichotomy of happy versus unhappy people, oversimplifying the complexities of real people. Moods, and even mood disorders, do not define the entirety of a person.
If it were just one article, I wouldn’t be as concerned. But there are many articles that continually make these vague, and sometimes not so vague, references to people who very well may suffer from depression – treating them as undesirable, broken, and negative forces that need to be eliminated from our lives. They are dehumanized and reduced to their illness, rather than seen as whole, worthwhile, complete people.
If someone in your life is depressed or going through a difficult time, it can be tempting to run for the hills. And of course, I’ll never undermine the importance of self-care. We are responsible to our friends, but never for our friends. But there’s a consistent problem in our society with ignoring depression when we see it, or worse yet, expecting folks with this struggle to fix it themselves, and not “burden” others with what they’re going through.
This creates a culture that is particularly hostile to those with mental illnesses. Criticizing them for feeling victimized, for being unhappy, and for not meeting your criteria for “trying hard enough” or “problem-solving,” all uphold awful stereotypes about the disorder and about people who suffer from it.
Personally, I’d like to create a culture in which folks who are unhappy can find support — and that we don’t ignore or opt out the moment we realize they might not be all sunshine and rainbows.
There’s also this terrible habit in self-help to look down on this idea of “victimhood,” without being critical of where those perspectives come from. If someone is conditioned to expect that their life will be difficult, perhaps it’s not an issue with attitude, and maybe, just maybe, a problem with the culture and society at large. If someone expects that their life will be difficult, maybe that isn’t an attitude problem and instead, their lived reality.
I suspect that if you’re looking down on folks who see life as primarily a struggle, you might be some combination of white, able-bodied, heterosexual, cisgender, middle or upper class, and more generally not feeling the full gravity of systematic oppression. When we write these articles, we need to ensure we are being intersectional, and being mindful of our privilege. Invalidating victims is not self-help — it’s oppressive.
The self-help genre could benefit from taking into account that diverse life experiences condition us to form different expectations and attitudes – ones that you may not have experienced before. Instead of placing the blame on the victim, maybe we should be pointing at the system that victimizes us every day.
The reality is, depression is hard. Mental illness is hard. And it’s not something that can be fixed over night with an attitude change. We’ve been saying this for decades – this isn’t our fault, and if we could make it better, don’t you think we would’ve already done that?
Yet, at times, self-help as a genre has been completely out of touch with the lived experiences of those with mental illness, as well as other marginalized groups, like folks of color and those in poverty.
There are certainly unhealthy habits that we could all afford to kick, but placing this in the framework of chronic unhappiness and depression is the wrong way to go. It does a huge disservice to people who are genuinely doing their best to cope with these illnesses. It creates bigger obstacles for people whose lives are devastated by depression.
There are better ways to offer advice and perspective in ways that aren’t ableist, and don’t kick folks while they’re down. Regardless of our good intentions, we must consider the impact of our work when it reaches a broader audience of people.
Perhaps most importantly, people with depression do not exist to teach you life lessons. And if you have someone in your life who is “chronically unhappy,” instead of taking notes for your next article like you’re on some mentally ill safari, maybe reaching out to them and checking in is the more appropriate response.
Self-help is a genre with a lot of potential to do good in the world. But if it only seeks to empower some while upholding the struggles of others, it is doing more harm than good. There needs to be accountability to our audiences, starting with those who are struggling the most.
Creating a greater stigma around depression, rather than dismantling that stigma, is the exact opposite of what self-help should be doing.
This genre could really benefit from a reality check. And maybe, just maybe, it could start by realizing that there are better ways to approach the “chronically unhappy” and depressed – starting with a little compassion.
Posted in Read Along
Tagged bipolar, mental health
It’s A Wonderful Life After All
Yes, I know, that’s a big turnaround in a very short time. But it’s not incipient mania that’s making me feel a bit like George Bailey these days; it’s finding out how much I really am loved. There has been such an outpouring of support from so many different people and places that I’m overwhelmed! I never dreamed I’d touched so many lives, even though my friends list is fairly long and I have followers both here and at the nursing website I frequent. But when my friend, “K”, spread the word that Will and I were in dire straits, the response was tremendous and continues as I write this.
Now I think I know what this struggle was designed to teach me. When Will and I were doing all right financially, we spent money casually and seldom thought about the less fortunate—a $20 bill tossed in the collection basket at church on Sundays and a few cans of soup for the annual food drive were pretty much it. We wanted only to forget our own humble beginnings, and it never occurred to either of us that we might need help again someday.
How arrogant we were in our big house on the hill. And how wrong.
Well, that day has arrived, and my friends and family have come to the rescue in more ways than one. We haven’t found a place to live yet, and there’ll still be a lot of misery to be endured before we’ll have anything resembling a normal life. My moods are dependent on what’s happening on a day-to-day basis, and my baseline is still somewhat depressed. But I’m rediscovering my faith in God and humanity; and even though there’ll be no presents for Christmas, just knowing that people care is a gift all unto itself…..one that won’t wear out or be forgotten after the holidays are over.