My Bipolar Brain is the Not the Typical Brain. Is Yours?

Mood swing in 6 minutes

Today began, as most days do, with the Anxiety Monster meeting me as I swung my feet off the bed. So far so good. So far so good, right? Looks sunny outside. Bonus!

I found Jessica eating oatmeal (barf) at the kitchen table, getting ready for work. Immediately I wanted to nag at her. I wanted to ask, beg her to do some of the “very important” things on my “anxiety” list. I started to do that. I wanted to try to “get” her to fix the anxiety-inducing things. Some things on the list are legit, really truly legit I tell you, and the kids (Jessica and Kyle) should do. In my incredibly stressed-out brain, I’m of the opinion that they ought to do them. They don’t.

I honestly don’t want, and I don’t mean, to send any of my kids off and into the world (You know what I mean. For example, going to work.)  after I’ve driven, their stress levels up. I don’t “want” to make them not want to spend time with me. {Maya, was that a double negative? That’s what I was shooting for.} It’s especially important because we actually live together. Like actually in the same house. On the same couch, sharing one bathroom, no personal space type living together. No problem. But still, it’s small enough that even what passes for a “normal” family would get on each other’s nerves. But that’s not my point. 

It is not, it is NOT normal to wake up with the Anxiety Monster sucking on my head, stimulating my brain, and switching on my flight… not fight… just flight response. 

Not normal. Not healthy. 

I have a med provider (a psychiatrist who prescribes my medications) and a counselor who works hard with me to help me be “myself.” In other words, we’re not trying to make me (gasp!) “normal” like everyone else. What we are doing is working every day, every single F’ing day, to help me attain my goals. 

Isn’t that weird? I’m not working to better or fit in with “normal” people. I’m working very hard, when I’m able, to put into place as many things stacked in my favor as I can so that I can meet MY GOALS and have a LIFE. Does that make any sense? 

My life needs to be MY life. Not what other people expect of me. This can be very hard when my thoughts are hammered constantly by emotions that are out of control. A stampede. That’s what it feels like. A stampede rushing at me as I run in circles around it winding myself up tighter and tighter with every uh… wind?  

So much of the time I’m paralyzed with anxiety, fear, depression, hopelessness, anger, etcetera. 

What then? How do I pull up before I smack into the fir trees across the street? Fir trees are very big trees and not something to be casually crashed into. Nope. Not good. So, what did (do) I do? Well, the first thing I did was take my meds. Then I had my ritual coffee with sugar, powdered creamer, and liquid French Vanilla Coffee-mate. 

Next, I ate breakfast – a banana and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with some water. I then headed for the shower. Bringing Bailey (my trusty dog) with me… okay, honestly, she’s just following me because I always give her a Greenie teeth cleaning bone while she’s waiting. Why? Because she’s my emotional support buddy. Also, I’d flip out if she barked and barked while I was in the shower. So, she comes with and gets her Greenie. 

I grabbed the last (ugg!) clean bath towel from the cupboard and threw it over the top of the shower curtain which immediately attacked me (mumble, mumble, mumble words I shouldn’t put in print). So…. Shower? I’m maybe 5’ 3” on a good day when the atmosphere is causing gravity to take it easy and let me stretch a bit. You know, be a little taller. That’s a thing, yeah? {Yes Robin it is a thing and that ¼” can make all of the difference some days! – Maya}

Small bathroom. Dog taking up most of the floor. Shower curtain everywhere but where it should be and… where’s my bathrobe? Not with me, that’s where. 

And then it was lunchtime. 

I can’t tell you that I’ve figured out how to have a better day or how to stop freaking out all the time. I will be honest and tell you that last week my counselor and I did that test thing that indicates loosely what my current emotional state is. You know, am I moody? Anxious? Depressed? 

I passed with flying colors!! Severely depressed and enough anxiety to make me barf. Literally. 

I have ADHD and I have Bipolar Disorder Type 1. We’ve decided that I’m stuck on being manic pretty much all the time. I mean that. I never stop. I might stop talking, sometimes, but my brain is screaming at me whether I’m talking or not. 

Again, how have I made it through this or any other day?  Firstly, I’ve been writing this all day. I set a timer for 15-20 minutes then dash around cleaning the house, doing the dishes, and housey kinds of things. I play a game or read a book (a page or so). Again, the timer is going. Then I write. Rinse. Repeat. Shake it out. Repeat. Do it all again. Kyle came home, and I took a break. Now I’m back at it. 

Am I depressed? Yes. Am I having stress that shouldn’t be found in a “normal” person? Yes. Am I still alive and able to carry on? Right now? Yes. Over the weekend the answer was no. That’s no with all caps: NO!

Some days it just doesn’t seem to matter what I try to tell my little grey cells. Just won’t listen. Reminds me of a kid of any age. Listening might not happen. 

I try to find a way to maintain, but I want more than to just exist. I want it all. Have I worked out how to have it all? It depends upon what I mean by “all” doesn’t it? And when. And what. And other stuff. Okay, it’s all relevant to whatever. I’m here. I’m pretty satisfied – for the moment. 

Viktor’s light is broken again. He’s staring at me. He’s shedding. Molting? No, that’s chickens. Anyway, life goes on. There are things I HAVE to do. The dog needs to toilet. The fish need to be fed. The cats, all four of them, have to eat. I have to eat.….. and so on…. And so forth. 

I can honestly tell you that for me to make it through the day I take it as it comes. Do what I must. Find something to do that I WANT to do. And goof off. Truly. Goofing off really helps. 

I also have taken my meds. That’s extremely important. TAKE MEDS. A few months ago, my psychiatrist told me to “utilize my chill pill.” I was shocked. The clinic has the policy to try to keep people from becoming addicted to benzos, so we’ve been trying to find ways for me to take fewer each month. Now, during these very additionally stressful times, she wants me to take it. I can take it every day. I do take it every day. Still, I struggle. 

If I can keep my eyes from trying to see what the opposite ear is doing, I’m a happy girl. 

What about you? How have you been doing? Can you identify with anything I’ve shared about my day? If you can, I want you to remember always that you are not alone. Never alone. I, we, others just like you and I, we understand. 

The wrap up:

Managed to shower without getting water everywhere! 

Fed animals and so on. 

Um… what else? (This is where I space out and have to reread everything for the eighty-second time.) Skip it. 

Sometimes it’s best to not worry about stuff and move on. So, I’m moving on and I’m sharing pics of Viktor hungry and Viktor’s dinner as it tried to make a break for it! It didn’t make it. Just sayin’. 

Hold on. Tomorrow will be here soon enough. Dang. I’m rambling. 

“Hey, Maya! Can you make this shorter or something?” (Maya is my awesome friend who thinks I’m funny. I’m not sure if that’s funny looking or funny as in laughing. Oh. I guess I might look funny too. I’ll just leave it as she thinks I’m funny but not funny looking. OMG! Just stop!!!)

{“Robin you have a funny looking brain that makes you HaHa funny, just to be clear. Then again mine is a bit funny looking too. hmmm…”}

I hope you have a safe and day and that I’ll talk with you again soon. Please feel free to leave a comment, go to the contact page and email me or share this post. I would love to hear from you.

Robin

Bipolar – Hypomania – What Can I Do?

A response to a question from a reader on my Facebook page: Bipolar 2.0.

­­I was recently asked a question over on my Facebook page (Bipolar 2.0) and thought I would share the answer here for anyone else who wonders the same thing. (This blog automatically posts on that page as well.)

Q: How do you cope with hypomania? I usually work out hard, take a nap, or watch TV. Usually I take a Klonopin any other medicine you have used to cope. Thanks

A: I can’t say anything as to medications, but I use Klonopin (also known as Clonazepam) as my “rescue” (chill pill) pill when I can’t cope anymore. This is in addition to my prescribed daily mood stabilizers. I would suggest that if you’re really struggling to maintain control that you visit your doctor again and make sure they really listen to your concerns. It’s important that things not get out of control, right?

I do think that your coping techniques are really good. You seem to know yourself well and have figured out what can help mitigate some of your symptoms. Do those activities work for you?

Right now, Klonopin is the only thing that makes me STOP. No amount of exercise, sleeping, writing, TV, gardening, walking the dog, playing with the dog, blah, blah…. Sometimes nothing works. My meds have been tweaked and tweaked for so many years… it’s painful just to think about it.

So, I’m suggesting you talk to your doctor and see what she thinks. Then, you dig in and dive down the rabbit hole and find more fantastically creative ways you can find to help yourself… in case they don’t have any answers you like, find alternatives that you can try that aren’t medications, but that might have good outcomes for you.

One day I started on YouTube looking for something on mediation and I found a whole world of different meditation, sounds, music, voices, stories, mindfulness, relaxation, and much more. I made an obsessive number of playlists. Ok, I lost my mind and made way too many, but I have narrowed it down to some playlists that I play every night on my iPad (I pay for YouTube Premium so there aren’t any ads).

And yes, I am manic. And, yes, I also have ADHD. So, I’ll stop… in a second.  

If you can keep yourself busy, not just busy, but productive. If you can set some goals and meet them. If you can use that energy to propel yourself to someplace you want to be or become someone you want to become, then use that energy to do that. Don’t let it burn you out or rob you of your life. Take hold of it. It’s hard and complicated and ridiculous that I’d say it can become a good thing I suppose, but it can be. I think it must be. At least… for me it does. My search goes on…

Therapy choice #1.

Bipolar – When We Fall

Falling Alone is Terrifying.

I never thought I’d have the great backyard that my yard is becoming. Two of my kids are making it into an amazing place to hang out. They’re constructing raised gardens and putting up a trellis for the climbing roses too! I’ve never had climbing roses. And there are lots of vegetables and colorful flowers. I was gone for a week, and they blew up the garden that was here when we moved in. Someone built a pergola by the garden, but here in WA when it rains, that’s not a load of help. We had a guy put fiberglass over the top of it so we can go out and use the previously ineffective and silly pergola in the rain. AAAnnnddd… of course, it leaks. A lot! A seriously, a stupid, moronic and gigantic leaking, leaked, and just damn leaky wet.

Last night the lawn was mowed and the weed eating all done. I was banned from doing any of the work because I’d tripped (as usual) fallen hard on my left knee and arm (my left shoulder has a rotator cuff tear). I couldn’t move my leg for a while. It sucked. I had images of the “Help! I’ve fallen and can’t get up.” commercial in my head. Later on, my eldest son said he had been thinking the same thing. We had a good laugh over it.

The next day Kyle, the same son, skipped work so he could come and walk with me. I was afraid I’d fall again. I’ve been knocking over things every day. Every single day. Coffee travel mug? Got it covered – all over the floor. Water bottle with lemonade? Yep, the hardwood floor is really clean except where I missed it. Now it’s just sticky in places and gathering dust. I guess I’ll be able to find those spots easily enough.

Today I made two messes. The second one was pretty spectacular. As I started crying, I noticed that my night pillbox had opened and three nights of pills spilled on the carpet. We have four cats and a dog, and I nearly freaked out. I had to leave. What if I missed some of them?

Why is this happening to me? Don’t I have enough to deal with without this silliness?

I see a neurologist like next month sometime. Originally it wasn’t for this dropping, knocking and generally blundering along with business, but I think that’s what we’ll have to talk about. Right now I have something else on my mind. Okay, I’m having all these weird issues. The question is what am I going to do now that I feel like I’m losing it?

Bipolar Disorder very often comes dancing along with another illness as you may already know. I do line dancing with ADHD and a few other dirtbags that are better left in a Looni Balloon (not to be confused with Looney Tunes) flick destined to be beaten with a gigantic red rubber hammer where no one will cry over the violence of the act. Sometimes the fear and panic provoke anger and even rage. It seems best to leave such emotions in

I have no spiffy answers for you, but I can tell you what I did to survive my day and end up where I promised I would be.

First, I called my daughter at work. It went to voice mail as I expected. Then I texted her “911” and dictated a message to my texting app. Next, I let her know that whatever my phone put in the message was not my fault because I wasn’t going to read it over for mistakes and that I was taking half a “chill pill.”

Second, I called my son that lives three minutes down the hill from us. He didn’t pick up either. I texted him as well.

The whole while I searched for help I kept trying to breathe. I’ve been practicing a breathing method? Is that what you’d call it? Anyway, I couldn’t get it right so I gave up and let myself just breathe.

It was going to be okay. Right?

OMG! I’m home alone. I need to go babysit my mother’s elderly dog. I’m trying not to freak out, how am I going to get there? It’s important. I have to go. My mom needs a social life. I HAVE to go.

I had my Bluetooth stuck in my ear by this time and was talking to Kyle. He was gently helping me back down. I knew today was his only day off, and I felt bad about bothering him, but he talked with me anyway.

Weird that I’d be thinking of how I was bothering my kids right?

Yes, I do have another son. This one is very hard to reach. He lives with his wife fifteen minutes from our house. Scott, well he’s not the topic of this post, so maybe another time he’ll come up.

I eventually arrived at my mom’s after listening to an audiobook all the way over here. It was a thriller. Maybe not the best choice for this drive, but there it was.

I explained to her what my week was like. At first, it was amusing because I’m always clumsy. Then I got to the point where I fell two days in a row and then escalated to dropping and knocking over more things more often and larger in size.

This is plain silly.

Peel away the story. Remove the falling and the dropping. Strike out everything, but the panic, the difficulty breathing, the 911 messages to my kids, the chill pill and you have my mind reaching out into my world and mixing stuff up. The important things to take away are that I had a system set up already that let me reach out for help. I also could have called my second son and my mother. Everyone knows the drill. Mom (Robin), 911 text – something is very wrong.

I strongly urge you to create your own emergency plan. Get some of your people in on it. You will quite possibly need to educate them about Bipolar Disorder and how it is with you. Tell them what kind of help you may need. If you feel that you just don’t have anyone to trust, and yes, you should be able to trust them. You may be putting your life in their hands so make sure this is the real deal and not just an acquaintance that you want to get to know better. That’s not the person I want you to enlist in your wellness plan.

We’ll talk later about what I like to think of as a wellness emergency plan.

  • Reached out to my people
  • Half a “chill pill”
  • Audiobook
  • Two ice cream bars
  • Talking with you

I feel much better now. Time to do some work.

All my best,

Robin

Bipolar/Colonoscopy/My Birthday

On the 3rd, I turned 55. On the 6th, my eldest child turned 26.20180203_183832

On the 8th I had a colonoscopy. I remembered to take my chill pill ahead of time so it was just mostly terrifying. The doctor came to talk to us after the nasty experience was over. Good news! I didn’t see anything. But, bad news, (despite all my crapping my pants) you weren’t clean enough for me too see far up and get a good look. We’ll have to… do… wait for it… AGAIN. Would you like to reschedule for tomorrow or come back another time? OMG! I just went through all that pain and mess and ruined clothes and bath mats and impromptu showers and crap! and you want me to do it AGAIN??? I just missed a whole week of classes – MIDTERMS – because everyone was so worried that the reason I was crapping all the time was that I had cancer. And now you say I wasn’t cleaned out enough? Reschedule. Oh hell no. This is happening tomorrow. I’m not taking more time away from school for this crap. (my chill pill seems to have failed me completely at this point) We rescheduled for the next day, Friday last week. They prescribed some special super duper pipe cleaner to empty things out to the max this time. I’ve had this stuff before. Makes you want to puke till you pass out. No lie. I was so sick. Did I finish it all off like they threaten you that you have to? Hell NO. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you what happened to me through this week. Thursday, when he said we had to reschedule, I crapped all over the bathroom floor before we left. I thought he said they’d do a couple enemas to try to clean things out. Huh. Wonder where the hell that all came from? Enema my ass.

So Jessica and I went back the next day after another 24 miserable hours of me needing to poop but never feeling that “urge” to go that they talked about. I just went. And went.

I was so, so stressed out. I was mad. I’d had it. I forgot to take my chill pill. When the little woman (yes, I’m still mad) finished my intake (vitals and junk) she took me to this huge room, all by myself (well, my anxiety was with me). It was freezing. How long am I going to be here? Should be 20 to 30 minutes, just depends on how things go. Excuse me?! It’s freezing in here. She brought me a single warmed blanket. A few minutes later she comes into the hall and puts another woman in the room next to mine and says it will just be a few minutes. As she was leaving the woman I said sort of loudly something like this:

“You realize they’re just putting us back here like airplanes in a waiting pattern circling an airport don’t you?”

She brought me another blanket. I’d been banging my legs on the huge exam chair I was sitting on. I thought I was going to freeze my butt to it. I can’t even imagine what that room is used for. The stupid woman had asked me if I was or could be pregnant. I had a D&C years ago. That has always been enough information for the person asking to understand that I meant – no, can’t happen, no way. This woman (and I’ve been alone since 1999) insisted that I could be pregnant in one of my tubes. I nearly bitch slapped her.

Okay, I’m still mad.

Yesterday in one of my classes we’re working in groups. Well hell, all my classes are working in groups. Anyway, this young bossy, know it all boy, who is maybe, maybe 22, informs me that I can’t say that I’m handing out postcards to people on campus and say to my potential backers that we’re hoping it will be given to a student who is stressed.

I can’t say what? You can’t say you hope they’re stressed. You can’t imply that people are stressed. Are you insane? This is basic marketing. You develop your event. You target your audience. Then you market to that audience. Most college students are stressed. Chances are if I give one of them a postcard about our event (to reduce STRESS if you can believe that) on stress… well, I could go on and on. The professor had to come to the back of the room and get us to stop “yelling” at each other 4 times.

The stupid boy would freaking lie to her. He’d tell me to my face that I couldn’t say stuff. Then I’d say exactly what he said to the prof. Then he’d lie and say he didn’t say it.

Then, the little toenail lint roll had the gall to say that he was going to be the first one up to introduce our topic and talk about how much terrible stress he’d been in and missed three weeks of school because of it. I asked him if he was going to try to get the audience to empathize with him so they would be on board with our pitch. He said no way, he wasn’t going to be personal. What the hell? I’m over this boy.

The wonderful professor reminded me that I’ve had a really rough quarter. I really, really have. My last experience last quarter with a group was a disaster too. This time I promised myself I wouldn’t let anyone walk all over me. So, every time he opens his mouth he’s telling someone to do something. I’m probably older than your mother you child. You want to talk about stress? I’ll tell you about stress and when I’m done… you’re gonna feel stress!

I dunno. I’ve got one quarter left. I need to pass this science class. I’ve not been doing the homework since my poop apocalypse.

I’m really feeling my brain coming together in a good way with what I want to do when I graduate. I’ll need a part-time job while I finish setting up the websites and get the book re-typeset and printed. So exciting! Then there’s the resource center for people with mental health difficulties – cutting the crap – people like me who have Bipolar and PTSD and chronic pain and ADHD and anxiety and a very short fuse.

Wow. It’s been a long week right? I feel like things are teetering on spinning out of control. Jessica and I are getting Blue Apron meals three times a week. We both eat like crap… okay… translation… we don’t eat anything. So now we’re eating and cooking together which is super good for both of us and then we do homework together. I tend to fall asleep. She likes to wake me up. Good match.

Well, I’ve talked and talked at you. I’m sure it’s enough. Oh, wait! Two women I’ve met at school, within a week of each other, told me they wanted to be divorced but needed an income first. Both are super stressed. Both are not handling the stress well. One laughs when she’s stressed. I sent her to a new primary care doc so she would feel freer to talk without feeling weird talking to her husband’s doctor. This doc is giving her a chill pill and sending her to counseling. Excellent. The other woman is already taking a chill pill. I recommended going in and telling them how it isn’t working. She spent most of yesterday barfing from the stress.

What is it that there is so much stress and debilitating anxiety around? It scares me. And what is it with young people today telling me I can’t say that anyone is something specific, even though they are that way and they admit that they are… I still can’t say it. What the heck?

I did get a nice letter in the mail for Valentine’s Day. It’s from the Gastro people. I don’t have cancer. Really, you couldn’t have just called? A letter? A damn letter?

People we need each other. We need to shake hands so that we can physically touch someone without being arrested. We need to say thank you to customer service people. We need to take the concerns of other people seriously. We need to respect our elders (you little lint roll). We need to find healthy ways to reduce our anxieties. If I can’t control mine better the next time I might not just argue with the boy loudly. I might yell. Wouldn’t that be awful?

Bipolar – Being There for My Kids and Real Anxiety

We did something amazing today, something we haven’t done in a very long time, my three kids and I all made dinner and ate it together around our family dining room table. We did it alone, without their girlfriends and significant others. It was nice. It was unfiltered. It was honest.

My son and our cars were some of the topics of conversation. My car is doing really well, solid, for being over 200,000 miles. My son, wants out of his relationship with his live in girlfriend. She (girlfriend), is not doing as well as my car.

She’s a bit on the mad side and I do mean both mad-angry and mad-bonkers. He’s concerned she might do something to him if he breaks up with her. I hate to see him going through that fear, that pain. I was in a similar situation myself many years ago and things did not go well. Today the digital actions of the other person would be illegal. I don’t think this girl has the resources or the wherewithal to try to make his life hell like I experienced.

I must tell you one thing I think is particularly amusing that she does every week. I thought I was being nice when I was moving and going through my cookbooks, when I let her pick some out to take for her own. I shouldn’t have let her have the one on Herbs. It goes through all the major cooking herbs and talks about how they are used. So, being the incredibly wise girl that she is, she is going through the book and making a dish around one herb at a time.

Unfortunately, she isn’t a cook. She sees her herb of the day and then Googles it and picks the top recipe and decides to make it for dinner. For example, they had mint the other day. The recipe called for dry mint in a certain amount. She sent my son to the store for fresh mint. Then she added the fresh mint to the recipe in the same amount that it called for as DRY. Yeah. He’s been getting sick a lot. She also has no concept of cleanliness in the kitchen and uses knives and forks for raw meat and other foods at the same time without washing them. It’s no wonder he’s losing weight. It’s a wonder he’s alive. Her lack of common sense with cleanliness in the kitchen really troubles me.

Without going into the grimy details let me say that he’s smart enough to know that he’s made a mistake and that he needs to disengage himself from her asap. I’m gratified that he knows I meant it when I said any of my three kids could home if they ever need to. I don’t have any fear that he’s scared to live with me. There was a time when that might have been true.

My anxiety is going up and down but is mostly manageable especially now that I’ve seen my med provider Sara and she’s standing with me. She sees the stress the pain management doctor is putting me through and is concerned about the affect it is having on me.

I’m feeling supported tonight. I reached out to a friend tonight that I haven’t talked to in a while and she was there and open to chatting even though she’s feeling lousy. It feels good to be able to do stuff with people. I still have homework to do tomorrow, but I’ll do that tomorrow. That, and watch the Seahawks!

My well of anxiety is still open and active, but I’ve taken steps to try to control it. For the short term it seems to be working. It isn’t a forever fix, but at least I made it through the first week of classes and am almost ready for the second week. (I attend school at one of the University of Washington campuses.)

I made a major accomplishment this first week of classes: I went to two movies and had the kids over to dinner which are all time consuming activities. Last year I couldn’t have done that. It isn’t that I’m not afraid I won’t have things done on time or good enough, it’s just that I have to listen to my family when they remind me of what my GPA is and that people work full-time and go to school full-time and spend less time studying than I do. Okay, it’s that and meditative music all night. Well, that and my doctor sanctioned chill pills. I can take them when I need one and not feel guilty.

It makes a whole huge difference to have the support and two-way trust with my doctor. I tell her the truth about how I’m doing and what I’m taking and she doesn’t abandon me and tell me to just talk it out with my counselor. Sometimes counseling and medications have to go hand in hand. At least, that’s what I’ve found is true. All areas of my life have to work in concert to make me function.

I picked one thing at a time and as fast as I could I got the pieces working for me. I failed a lot and still have a lot of setbacks, but right now, I feel 60% pretty good. I’ll take that all day.

I started trying to deal with the extreme anxiety by talking with my counselor who immediately went to find my med provider knowing it would take more than thinking to help me. Then I listened to meditative music and “talk downs” I found on YouTube. I searched for something like “meditation sleep music”. Try it. I recommend it. Now I listen to “Soundscapes” on my local cable provider all night. And I’m exercising every few days, playing with my dog and training her and keeping up with my house cleaning chores.

Monday I have classes and then seen the pain management doctor… that worries me. Ok, now I’m needing to chill again. I’m so silly.