Bipolar Disorder |  When Stress Becomes Danger | 4 Hours Left

I’ve been meaning to sit down and talk to you about this but, you know how it is. Stress sidelines the DOING bit after the brain thinks of something to do. In my case (this time), I have an excruciating surgery tomorrow morning, and I’m not looking forward to it. I’m not looking forward to the pain. Being able to use my thumb without debilitating pain aim definitely look directly at it. You see, I had the same surgery done on my other thumb two years ago, and I know how horribly, terribly, and frightening that pain was.

Let me quickly bring you up to date. We’ve since discovered that I have the nasty illness commonly called Fibromyalgia. I refer to it as Fibro because that’s just too long. We think that the constant pressure of the cast sent the pain level of a routine harrowing hand surgery above the charts. And no, pain meds didn’t work.

Ah yes, what’s the surgery? I’m having something put between the bones in my thumb joint. I have Osteoarthritis; this disease eats away at the stuff that keeps your bones from grinding against each other and causing intense pain.

Since it is now 2:45 a.m. I’m going to move on quickly. Leading up to today, life has been chaotic, emotional, and expensive beyond our means to pay for.

Bailey, my Kelpie (She’s a cattle dog. Google Kelpie, they’re pretty great dogs.), has struggled with severe skin issues all spring and summer. Our regular vet is booked out for months. Covid hit, and all the vets disappeared. I’m completely serious. In this area, Puget Sound in Washington State, veterinarians have been scrambling to find staff. While we waited to get in, the problems worsened. This leads us to take her to a doggie dermatologist. This is all so expensive. This is also so stressful and is especially so because of my surgery being tomorrow today at 7:30 a.m. PST.

We have a radioactive cat. Maks has growths on his thyroid and had to have feline hyperthyroid radiation treatment. I think I got that right. Anyway, he’s on the mend and zooming around the house. He’s gaining weight, and I think he’ll do really well. While he’s healing, we have to put all the dirty litter in bags, and those bags have to go in buckets, and those buckets have to sit around for 80 before we can take them to the dump. Apparently, they don’t want radioactive waste in landfills.

All these things combined with life in general, Bipolar Disorder, ADHD, PTSD, RA, OA, and Fibromyalgia, and I’m a sitting duck for a generous helping of losing control. I’ve stopped saying that I’m super stressed out because these life events are painful emotionally and overwhelming financially. Marriages and partners break up because of money. Imagine me and my underemployed family (I’m on disability so I’m broke all the time.) We had to borrow money from my mother and charge the rest. She suggested that we put the animals down if we couldn’t afford to get them help. Seriously?

Anxiety, stress, anger… entering the danger zone. And now it’s 3:03 a.m. I think we should add fear to that little list.

I need to post this now. I’ve run out of time to catch you up. Stay tuned to see how this mentally ill woman deals with family members not too willing to stay with me for a while. I won’t be able to do so many things. This time it’s my very dominant hand. My left one thinks I’m dumb if I think it’s going to do right-hand stuff. Self-righteous little bugger. This is a team effort. That hand better get with the program.

I’m going to attempt to get on Twitter and tweet updates on how things are going since blogging are iffy for the time being. I’ve never used Twitter more than a tweet here and there, so this should be interesting. I hope you’ll follow along! Join in my mad life and all the fun and bonkers ways I manage, primarily, to live my Bipolar and highly complex life.  I need to learn to do voice-to-text. (I’m too tired to edit this, so I hope it makes sense.)

Follow me on Twitter @etiquetteofmad

See you on the other side.

Mental and Physical Pain – Mental Wellness

Last week I was feeling down, frustrated and I suppose a little angry. As in all of life, not one thing is contributing to these feelings. I know a major one is that my dog is sick. She’s in pain and, I can’t do anything more for her. Our veterinarian is short-staffed, so they’ve closed the urgent half of the clinic. A month ago, I made an appointment for her and it’s finally arrived. Its been agony watching something that has been consuming her and is growing worse every day. We don’t know what’s wrong, but we can see the results. She’s tearing her skin off. She itches so badly that she passes the pain from earlier scratching and digs deeper, trying to stop the itching. Next month, she’ll see a dog dermatologist. Thankfully I made this appointment with her regular vet. I’m hoping that they will give her something for the pain, reduce the itching, and help her heal. I don’t see any infection, but I’m not a vet. 

This is Bailey.

I think I know how she feels. In the past, sometimes my skin itched so badly I couldn’t resist the urge to itch it. I’ve woken up the night with blood on my fingers. The despair and anxiety that come with that are immense. (No, I don’t have OCD.)

Those horrible emotions appear in various places in life. When my Fibromyalgia flares up and my Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis flare simultaneously, they invoke those same horrible feelings in my soul. I want to withdraw and lay in my bed until I feel better. But, sadly, that’s the worst thing I can do. (One of our cats just went to the bathroom, and I think I’m going to die. Be right back.) I’ve been learning about Fibromyalgia, and one of the first and most important things I MUST do is be active. Physical activity is one of the major and only things it seems that I can do to help me, hopefully, have less pain. 

Pain, this is what I want to mention today. Mental and emotional pain can easily be as crippling as physical pain. I might believe I just can’t get out of bed, but I must. I must move around and not stop. Not doing so can let the anguish take hold and cripple me further. 

I’m also learning that Fybromyalgia causes something referred to as “brain fog.” Let me just say that I have strategies that I’m trying to use to fight my already beat-up brain from Bipolar Disorder and ADHD. (Thanks brain.) The treatments for those two things are in direct conflict, so we had to choose one to address with medication, the other I try to work within other ways. I’ve chosen my Bipolar because adding a stimulant for ADHD would make the mania so much worse. I’m already so manic that I easily drive my family bonkers; I just don’t need more stimulation. And I’m aware now, that Fibromyalgia also makes things messier.

So, where does that leave me? I’m not exactly sure. So far, it seems that brain fog is a mysterious thing. None of my doctors have offered me a solution or even a way to cope with it. I don’t hold this against them. This illness is very debilitating and, like Bipolar, it is lifelong and I must find ways that work for me to cope. Cope. I hope I can thrive, not simply cope. 

I want you to know these things about me because life sometimes sucks for each of us. I can’t possibly understand your frustrations anymore than you can understand mine. Pain, mental and physical is unique to us all. We know that already.

However, let me assure you that I am not alone and, neither are you. As people, as humans, we all struggle with unique things every day. This, as you can imagine, makes the advice that we can give each other very hit and miss, and it misses more than it hits. Why? Because we are as unique as our illnesses or combination of illnesses are. 

They say that our uniqueness makes us special; I believe this is true. We each grow with our individual strengths and weaknesses and these things make us special, unique and wonderful. I choose to believe that these thing are true.

Saying that we’re special always makes me feel a bit frustrated. When I’m feeling crushed beneath the weight of life I don’t feel special. I do feel unique in that sometimes I think that no one understands, and no one can help me. 

Do you ever experience these things? I’d bet all my money that you do. Okay, I have no money, so that’s not a real bet, but I think you understand. We may have illness(es), and sometimes they make us feel crazy. At least, sometimes I do. But, thankfully, I’m not crazy. And honestly, what does being crazy mean?

I can say that I understand depression, anxiety, frustration, anger, physical and mental pain, and the struggle to think straight or think at all. Those things I can promise I know about. You’re not alone in your struggles. 

You are not alone. Not ever. We all feel crazy sometimes. 

Be well, 

Robin

Everyday Life and Bipolar Disorder – How to Thrive

I’ve been lying. I’ve tried to stay very close to talking about mental illnesses, like Bipolar Disorder, without going into all the rest of the messiness that is me. I’ve felt that if I talked about other things in my life (other health issues or family stresses for example) you might focus on me and those other things and, god forbid, feel pity for me. I don’t want that.

Together we stand… or sleep.
Apart we flounder.

I want to always be BETTER. Always Better!

I want this for you as well.

You and I working to always be better.

I believe that we can.

I also believe that it’s time I share with you how I navigate my brain in the actual world and honestly tell you how that does, or doesn’t, work out.

I’ve always been honest with you, but now I want us to walk together and learn about what happens when things are painful and when things are wonderful.

Life is very messy. Mental health is challenging. Let’s walk and learn how to be better together.

My goal is to strive to be vulnerable with YOU.

Life is strange. It challenges me to sit on my brain and figure out how to not only survive but to THRIVE.

I Want Always… to Be BETTER. Always better.

My desire is to teach, through examples from my life, how to be MORE. I want always to be more than my struggle with my mental health challenges, don’t you?

I have decided to talk to you about mental health, from my perspective and experiences, in the context of real life. What this means is that you can expect to see:

Successes
Stories
Ideas
Musings
Failures
Whims
Challenges
Knowledge
Understanding
Humor

You can still expect the same me, only I’m going to bring it all. ALL of me and my actual life. I hope you’re ready. Things are going to be wide and varied just like our lives are. As I like to say, “I’m Un-Niche-Able.” I bet that you are too.

Here is a small example of one of the things I might talk about:

My arthritis causes me pain. It sometimes limits my ability to do things I want/need to do. Sometimes the pain is too much. All this “non-Bipolar” stuff greatly affects my emotions. There are times when I’m driven to despair. It is exhausting to constantly fight against chronic pain.

How do I deal with pain? How does it impact me and my emotions? Do my emotions, my moods, dictate how I deal with severe pain?

It turns out that I’m not a big fan of pain.

Things change. I change. I deal differently with myself all the time. As I learn new things I can apply to myself and make me a better person I put into use right away. Why?

I believe that I can BE BETTER. I believe that I can DO BETTER.

And I know that I can easily stumble and face-plant. Then, when I can collect myself, I’ll figure out how to get back up, no matter how awkwardly, and decide what to do next.

A topic that I feel passionately about is that I believe that who I am as a person, my character and core beliefs directly impact everything I do while I’m Bipolar… which is all the time. Every day.

I’ll be exploring all these ideas and much more in the coming days. I do hope you’ll feel welcome to drop bye for a visit.

I’m working on a way that we can chat with each other and find fellowship, acceptance, positive talk and even funny stories. My goal is to have a safe space for us to hangout. I’m not considering Facebook because too many people go to some of the mental health groups intending on dumping or unloading on the other people in the group. Some give terrible advice while others belittle those who ask honest questions that need answers. They don’t deserve to be chastised and compared to others.

Build up. Encourage. Fellowship. Laugh. Silly stories. Ideas for survival and SUCCESS.

When I find a place that I’m comfortable with I’ll invite those of you who are interested to join in. It will be a closed group and people will have to ask permission to be a part of the group. More will come on that as I continue to develop it.

Be well my friend.

Robin

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Bipolar Carnage – The Aftermath

Since I posted on the third, my brain has imploded. You know how it is. Imagine being on the top bunk of a three-bed bunk bed, in a tree fort, playing on the ladder against the house, running up the giant stack of bales of hay, climbing on the dirt dad just had delivered for the front lawn, you know, fun stuff, and then falling off straight away and landing on your face, the top of your head and your feet all at the same moment. Then, when you get around to it, you open your eyes only to discover that someone is standing on your face while they’re attempting to ascertain if you’re alright because you’re so dirty that they can’t tell which way your face should go. That is what my brain has been doing with all its time.

Fun.

I won’t give you a messy laundry list of my troubles because I don’t think that’s necessary. I do believe it is essential to share a couple of really critical truths that we must all remember even when the you-know-what goes sideways when it hits the fan.

  1. Life rolls along for everyone like the surface of the ocean with ups and downs all the time. Sometimes, those peaks and valleys thrash about much higher and lower for some of us. That is OKAY. We don’t need to punish ourselves for that. We’re not bad people when we become angry or depressed or talk a lot. We are not mean, we are not evil, we are not trying to hurt anyone.
  2. We often are not able to (or equipt to) deal with our emotions and situations that cause them to intensify so when they grow and grow, they eventually reach critical mass and we implode. (Which was my case this time.) What have I learned? Stop punishing myself and blaming others for not rescuing me. It happens. Stuff happens. Reset. Get rest. Recreate. Hit go and begin again. Oh, and maybe cry and scream and barfing might help too. And throw something. But only break things that are yours and don’t cost anything. Seriously.
  3. I realized some time ago that at the top end of mania is anger and then rage. Deep below that dwells depression and anger and then the rage. Why always the rage? That’s how it is for me. I’ve asked several counselors and they seem to see that as well. Have you found that too? When you’re very depressed to you rage at the world because it has abandoned you? Has your world collapsed and left you to die? Tell me. Do you feel the rage too? It’s okay to feel the rage. Would you know it if you’re feeling it? Words. Do you know the words to express it?

I realize that’s only a couple things to think about, but this isn’t a book and a couple things to think about is plenty when your brain is Bipolar. Just considering the idea that I’ve been blaming myself for the way my illness makes me feel has been a bizarre thing to think about. I mean… what the heck am I supposed to do with that? If I were a public speaker, I’d wave at the screen behind me and say something wise like, “Now let’s unpack that…” Sure. I’ll have to think about it longer. That’s the best I can do. I’m still picking my face up.

Wait! I had two very specific moments that set me off into Never Never Land and I was trying to do the same thing both times. It was that CPAP thing. I don’t like things covering my face, blah, blah, so on and so forth…. I just couldn’t do it. I literally ripped it off my face and became hysterical. The first time (I practiced watching TV trying to get used to it) I managed a panicked 20 minutes. The second time I made my kids try it first (they didn’t mind it) and I lasted something like 0 minutes before I ripped it off with the same hysterical glee as the first time. Nope. Not gonna happen. “And I am unanimous in my decision.” (See Are You Being Served, A British comedy show that I think is sooooo funny. You can find it on Amazon Prime via BritBox)

I’m up because my kidneys are suffering a bit from the medication I take for my RA. I can’t take Advil or anything like that because it makes it worse. So, in my infinite wisdom, to get rid of the headache I was giving myself because I was getting myself all wound up, again, I took some Excedrine Migraine (has caffeine) because I really didn’t want to throw up. That’s what that particular sort of headache does to me. The headache goes away, but I’d like to bang my head until I’m asleep before that happens. I mean, we have five or so ice packs and I’ll have them all up and down my back, neck, and head and the headache will still be there. Then heat, gentle stretching, gentle exercise, moving around, walking, etc. Uhhhh. Anyway… (Thinking Carol Burnett at the end of her show… wow, brain, slllooooowww down!!!) (See Taylor Swift’s new song, “You Need To Calm Down.”) Holy cow Batman!!! Someone, take my laptop away!!!

Remember me? Manic … uh …. Mommy??? Lol That’s a Hard Stop. Hard NO. Full Stop. (Did I get any of those right?)

Good morning people. I’ll be sharing the playlist I made to help myself stay afloat during my “time” (honestly, what DO you call it?) with you tomorrow. I think I finally have it the way I want to share it. I’m picky you know. Sometimes. Here, I’m talking with you. Conversation. Not so pucky… picky. ;0) Anyway, I’ll put the link up here tomorrow. It’s already publish under my name on YouTube. (shhh… so is a bunch of junk playlists…) I bet you can’t figure out which one it is.

I promise, it will be here later today… I really should learn not to say things like that.

What My Med Provider Means to Me

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I’ve complained about my med providers and their apparent inability to comprehend the word ANXIETY for over a year now. You could assume that I don’t like med providers… that I don’t trust them, that I think they’re stupid. Well, umm, yes, that’s basically how I’ve been feeling. I’ve been living a nightmare that has been driving me downward toward my old companions: anger and rage. It makes me feel like they’re getting out of prison and are moving into the house next to mine. I’ve been really scared that I was about to lose control of my emotions again, and eventually, my mind. It has happened before.

I last week I spoke with my counselor (Lee) before my visit with my med provider (Susan) this week. He thought the Ritalin obviously wasn’t working and that my ADHD was out of control. I allowed myself to interact with him the way I do at home with Jessica. My inability to control things like how fast, how much, and how many topics I covered while speaking certainly indicated that this was true.

<OMG! Alexa is playing music from the 1950’s for me. I LOVE THIS MUSIC!>

I was stunned. ADHD? If he was right, this could change everything about the way I approached my brain. I was told I had ADHD just a few years ago and had never taken the time to learn anything about it. Wow, that wasn’t like me at all. I love research! Following rabbit holes is my favorite pastime!

Anyway, I assumed Susan would look at my chart to see what notes Lee would have put in it before she saw me. Doing that would give her knowledge she should have used to help her understand where I was at and she would have seen what Lee was concerned about. It was an assumption I shouldn’t have made. Apparently, things don’t actually work that way.

Every time I see Susan 12 times a year. Yikes! So many times. One of the first things she asks me is if I feel like… if I FEEL like the Ritalin {1} is helping me focus? Focus? What does that mean? How can I tell it’s working? I can pay attention in class. Is that what she means? My attention is crap at home. I can’t ever do just one thing at a time. I have to leave the commercials in when I watch from the DVR (DISH) so that I can read or research stuff online that they just talked about. Is it working? I suppose so? I always replied that I guessed it did. I guess that was silly of me. I would say that because I had no idea what else to say. If I was a little boy, I could probably mean that I’d slow down and stop bouncing off the walls and maybe stay in my seat. But as an adult… I had no idea what that looked like. If I said the wrong thing, she might mess with my meds and right then, they were treating me okay. I wasn’t raging at anyone that day and I didn’t feel depressed.

After I mentioned what Lee and I had talked about and that he was very concerned she took a minute to read his notes. Suddenly she made a whole new treatment plan. I had been on Lithium when I was first diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder (BD). The first book I read on it was: “An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness” by Kay Redfield Jamison. I was deeply touched. I felt like I understood what she was talking about, like we were kindred spirits, linked through the ether by BD. Jamison was very sick when she was diagnosed.

Let me attempt to generally get right to the point for once. Jamison was placed on Lithium to treat her BD and it worked. So, that’s what I asked to be given. My personal doctor (MD), was the one who initially treated me. He said that Lithium has been around for many years and there is a lot of evidence that it works.

The Lithium worked.

Susan felt that since the Ritalin was obviously not helping me focus. I guess that made her rethink her strategy. She finally agreed that my brain was hopping along on two of four legs. She told me that does think I have ADHD she now believes that I’m far more manic, which was making me act like that bouncy ball they teach kids to sing songs with. Do you know what I mean? It might be too old for some of you. They wanted to teach kids songs so a character on a film or on TV would get you to sing along as it had a bouncing ball hop around on the lyrics so we could see the lyrics while we sang. It was great fun! than anything else. Sure I talk incessantly to Jessica, but my brain was exploding with ideas. It was time to help me continue to be creative, but to control my mania so that I could be productive.

The plan: no more Clonazepam, no more Ritalin. Start Lithium.
*The reason I went off Lithium was that my PC (Primary Care) had been highlighting the dangers of being on Lithium more than he was the benefits of it. It was because of these side effects, that I requested I be put on something else that didn’t have the same drawbacks. Lithium toxicity can occur even at a low dose. While on Lithium, the user has to be closely monitored so that the dose can be adjusted as needed. The symptoms of Lithium toxicity are numerous and I already have several of them for other random reasons. This website lists the long lists of side effects. In addition to these potential problems the user (remember this is me) has to carefully watch their intake of salt, caffeine, and alcohol. And get this… some of the other medications that may interfere with Lithium and increase the risk of toxicity are ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and naproxen (Aleve). Oh, and I can’t leave out this one: acetaminophen (Tylenol). So… yeah. I had a lot of scary reasons to ask to be taken off the drug that was helping me but was also kind of terrifying too. 

Susan believes that this change in medications should make my extreme moods in control much better.

Excuse me? As long as I’ve been seeing the professionals in this clinic, I’ve never had anyone decide to try Lithium again. All this time… lost. Years of feeling my little grey cells melting, running out of my ears. But then again, Lithium toxicity…

I want to be a writer when I grow up. I once heard that writers go through life with their head cocked a bit to the side. I showed Susan a piece of paper that was covered with writing on both sides. It was filled with websites, blogs, and email addresses that I’d created. She studied it for a while. I asked her if I was stupid and delusional to think that I could do all these things and believe that they were not just good ideas, they were great ideas. They were creative ideas. Is my mind actually existing in a consistent state of delusions of grandeur?

Delusions of grandeur. I’ve always been afraid that people would remember that part of the list of symptoms for BD and dismiss me as a kook. Am I brilliant? Or am I bonkers and deluded? I’ve always believed my ideas were great. Yeah. Delusions of grandeur?

She said no. It wasn’t that. Yes, my thoughts are crazy fast, but I am very creative and smart.

Me – creative and smart. OMG!

Of course, now I respect her. She believes in me. She agrees with me that I’m smart and creative. No one has really said that to me. No one has said, “Robin, you’re not delusional. You’re smart. You’re creative. You have good ideas… cleaver… innovative. Don’t worry about being crazy. We just need to slow you down so you can get things done.

Since then, I’ve discovered additional information that indicates that one aspect of BD is the tendency to be super goal oriented. Yep, that’s me. Why haven’t I’ve seen that before?

Watch out! Corner coming!

What are the good things about having BD? I’ll have to think on that for a while.

Go ahead, get mad when the medical professionals don’t seem to be listening. Pester them until they hear you. Then, you listen to them. Work together. Hope that things will finally start to workout. Now that Susan and I are communicating, now that she hears me, we have a new plan. Maybe my mind won’t keep leaving the scene without me.

Yes, it really has done that. We’ve called professional trackers to find it a few times now. It-is-very-embarrassing when your mind is so exposed, so naked.

New plan. New hope.

Bring it! I’m ready.

I’m more than ready –

{1 – Concerta and Ritalin are stimulant medications used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). They’re both different brand-name versions of the same drug, called methylphenidate hydrochloride.  https://www.healthline.com/health/adhd/concerta-ritalin}