Category Archives: Counseling

Brain Scan

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brain This morning I’m going to the hospital for a brain scan. It’s for the facial tic I’ve been having forever and because I’ve been falling asleep suddenly and for no apparent reason. I did a sleep study last year and it came out normal so it isn’t sleep apnea. Between this stuff and my Bipolar, ADHD, PTSD, FM, anxiety, RA, OA, chronic pain and all that malarkey I can tell you with all honesty… I’m a bit MORE anxious than normal. I’ve been trying to get all the mental stuff undercontrol by staying on my meds, going to counseling, learning mindfullness and trying to learn to meditate, but it’s been slow going. Oh, and I’m too heavy for my knees. One has been replaced twice and the other one collapses without warning. I’m pretty sure that’s because of the weight and lack of muscle. I’ve been walking my dog Bailey all summer for 1-2 miles all summer 3-4 times a week and I’ve gained weight. Maybe it’s muscle, maybe not, but it’s more weight.

So I’m having my brain scanned. They have me coming in sleep deprived. That’s fun.

Well, I guess I should get ready to go. Wish me luck. May the force be with us all. ;0)

Bipolar – Secrets

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secretsIf I were to describe depression using a color, I would say it is black. Red would fit nicely with the mania and perhaps green or yellow might be anxiety. It would be nice if things were distinct like that so that I could easily identify how I’m doing. It might even be nice for those who are part of my support system to see those colors so they can know how I’m doing. It would be easier than trying to explain how I am when I can barely breathe.

Speaking of people in my support system, sometimes there are thoughts or moods or things I’ve done or thought about doing that I am afraid to speak of, things I think are better left never spoken of.

I try not to think about those things or those thoughts. They bring with them pain and even humiliation.

I would not want my family to know parts of the person I was during some of my manic times. They are not aware of some of the more horrific behaviors that I experienced.

As much as I don’t want to revisit these horrible moments in my past I can’t help but wonder if they now contribute to the over state of anxiety that lives with me each moment of my day.

The tick I developed as a result of medication(s) I was taking seems nearly gone with one major exception: whenever I am in anyway anxious it comes back and I can hardly talk. It seems to those I’m talking to to be a violent case of stuttering, only I know it isn’t. I feel embarrassed when it overwhelms me. No matter how much I try to relax when it starts, the only way I can stop it is to remove myself from the situation or to stop talking. Imagine yourself working with your physical therapist and trying to explain how your therapy at home has been going and suddenly not being able to talk.

Is it possible that dealing with some of the long-buried moments of horror might enable me to experience less overall anxiety? In my current state, I must say “no” because to deal with those secret things terrifies me far too much. I hope that I can use the tools I’m learning to deal with these hidden anxieties. I hope I can use them by myself to find healing from my past. If I can’t do it myself, I hope one day to be able to deal with them working with someone who can help me walk through them.

Today, that’s what I’m choosing to believe: I can deal with them myself. Just because I’ve got a mental illness or three doesn’t mean I must air all my dirty laundry. Some of it I must learn to deal with on my own.

Some secrets… I choose to remain as secrets.

Trying to Listen to My Counselor

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I saw my counselor this week. She’s been giving me things to do during the weeks I’m not seeing her. Honestly, I usually forget what to do as soon as I leave. If she gives me a handout I know she’s going to ask me about it the next time I see her. So, I save the handouts to remind me and look at them the day before I see her again. It doesn’t sound like I have a lot of confidence or enthusiasm where she’s concerned does it? I’ve actually asked myself that. Why am I going to see her if I’m not following through with what she’s trying to teach me?

I do try to engage and be present while we’re talking. She hears me say more than I think I’m saying and then she addresses it right them. That’s a good thing, I think. She consistently talks to me about the same things. I think… I can’t remember. That’s the trouble with counseling, I can’t remember what we talked about so while at the time I feel like I’m learning how to change my behavior or how I’m thinking about something for the better it doesn’t last. It’s like a chill pill. You take it and feel great, but when it wears off, it’s just gone.

An epiphany. I remember things when I have an epiphany. Unfortunately, epiphanies don’t usually happen when I’m working with my counselor. Truth be told, they don’t appear often at all.

When I’m getting ready to write my latest blog post I start looking for inspiration, something that I can write about that will encourage and maybe make things better for my reader. What I really need is that elusive epiphany.

I’m sad. I’m sad because I don’t know how to create an epiphany.

Bipolar – Anxiety Rising

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(Sept. 04) I’ve been sitting here trying to think of how to begin writing this and I’ve been getting nowhere. School is coming and I’m stressed out about that.

I have tremendous back pain and I go to a pain management doctor for my pain medication. The doctor that I’ve been seeing for like two years has stopped working in pain management and has opened a family practice. She was great. She really worked with me and worked to manage my pain knowing that I have Bipolar Disorder, PTSD, GAD, ADHD and so on. She was the one who prescribed my chill pill (medication anxiety) that I started taking during the school year last year when I had an anxiety meltdown.

The new pain management doctor started out by accusing me of selling my oxycodone and refused to refill my chill pill. I had a prescription of Oxycodone at the pharmacy to pick up which she didn’t take into account. I didn’t do anything wrong. I don’t like her. I don’t trust her with my health. My next visit to her she accused me of breaking my pain management contract by not bringing in the second pain medication I’m on. I was never told to bring the bottle in with me. Oxycodone yes, the other stuff, no.

My back has been bothering me.

My facial tick is back. It comes with anxiety like snow falls in the mountains… when the cold and precipitation is sufficient, the snow comes. Actually the vicious tick came with my beginning to take Gabapentin gain instead of Lyrica (Gabapentin can also be used for anxiety as well as for FM, which is why I tried taking it again).

FAST FORWARD TO TODAY Sept 28

I’ve been taking my chill pill daily. I survived my first day of classes because of the pill. I usually wake up in a cold sweat whenever anything remotely stressful is going to happen during the day. Like, for instance, going back to school.

Anxiety is such a huge part of my being right now that although I’ve lived in my new house for about two months I haven’t been to the grocery store by myself even once. I needed to buy some poetry books from the bookstore about 20 minutes from my house and instead of just going and getting them I called my eldest daughter and bribed her (I’d buy her a book if she’d come with me) to come with me. I just find it stressful to do things alone. I do not have a rational reason. I’ve done all the thinking and reasoning about my anxiety that my counselor and I have come up with and the anxiety does nothing but get worse.

I stopped taking the Gabapentin and the facial tick immediately started going away. When I’m stressed it comes back. I hope it isn’t permanent.

I see my med. Provider (the gal who manages my mental health medications) Sara in the morning. I’m asking her for something to treat the sever anxiety on a long term basis. The chill pill is great but it’s for a crisis and not meant for long-term consumption.

I get so wigged out about things that earlier tonight I already mapped out in my head the route that I would take to get to see Sara and then called my daughter to make sure that I could get to the grocery store from where I was coming from. I’m planning on going to get some milk on my way home in the morning. I need to do it on my own. I think if I have the chill pill I can.

It’s amazing. I wish I could take it all the time. I’ve been having to use it to go to sleep at night. When I don’t take it I’m awake until after 2 or 3 in the morning. Then I wake up sweating. I’ve even resorted to listening to relaxing meditative music/waves on YouTube all night. I found a channel on my TV provider to listen to that works as well called Soundscapes.

The struggle I’m having with anxiety is so severe that I’ve not been willing to blog and that makes me sad. My counselor has put forth the idea that perhaps my mania is manifesting as anxiety and that It’s really part of my Bipolar Disorder. I sort of hope that’s the case. If it is, I’m confident we can deal with it.

Why haven’t I been in to see my med. Provider sooner? She’s been booked. It’s been over a month since I last saw her. I’ve talked to her on the phone and my counselor talked to her on my behalf too.

Hopefully tomorrow I can communicate clearly how absolutely painful this anxiety is. My counselor is supposed to go to that meeting with me. I hope she can actually make it. It would give Sara a clearer picture of what’s going on with me.

Now, I’m going to listen to Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” then I’m going to go to bed. I might read for a few minutes. Maybe one or two. Seriously, that’s as long as I’ll read.

I have high expectations for my visit with Sara and Rebecca (my counselor) in the morning. We got this. I have to believe, we got this.

Bipolar – Dealing with Emotional Pain

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There are any number of examples I could talk about concerning dealing with emotional pain. I’ve been going through a lot the last year and a half. This last week was one of the worst weeks that I hope I have for a long time.

I had to put one of my cats to sleep. She had advanced and wide spread cancer and was voiding all over the basement carpet. I was moving to a new home in a week and it just became necessary to quit avoiding it and stop putting off the issue and take responsibility for what I needed to do.

Her name was Siberia and she was our family pet for about 12 years. That’s a long time to bond with anyone, animal or human.

I was expecting to be sad, to cry, and to be upset. I was all of that. Now it’s been more than a week and I was up late last night crying hysterically and saying to my other cat how sorry I was and that I’d killed his friend. It was horrible. I eventually had to take a chill pill because I couldn’t stop myself.

Anyone who has not had a pet won’t understand the loss of a loved companion, but if you have you know what I’m talking about.

Feelings of guilt, denial, anger and depression have plagued me and I’ve wondered if I’m going over the top and am heading for an episode. The truth is, for me right now, I think I’m experiencing normal emotions. It’s hard to tell the difference though isn’t it?

When are my uncontrollable feelings of depression and anger caused by my Bipolar Disorder and when is it just from normal feelings that come after great loss?

I think that it’s hard to tell. It’s new right now so I’m inclined to think I’m feeling normal feelings, but a little deeper than maybe my children are.

I have just moved a few days ago and the stress from that is immense. I’m making sure to take my meds and using my chill pills when I need them. I haven’t been out walking because I’m kind of scared in my new neighborhood and it’s so very hot. Next week I see my counselor. It will be good to talk to her about what I’ve been feeling.

In the meantime, it’s time to try to go to bed. It’s only 81F in here now. At least I’ve stopped sweating for a little while.

Good night Siberia. I love you. I will honor your memory and play with Maks (the other cat) more than I had been doing. I miss you.

Bipolar Stress and a Tick

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Some days I feel like I’m walking aroud with panties on my head too.

I’ve stated ticking again. Last year I had a facial tick so bad that often I couldn’t be understood. When my kids were around they would sometimes have to interpret for me. It was horrible. We thought at first that it was one of my medications (I take a lot), but we ruled them out.

Eventually I discovered that it was stress causing it. I don’t know what changed, but after reaching a super intense point, it started to go away. One day I realized it was gone.

I decided to take this quarter off from school so we could look for house and because of family matters so I expected my stress level to be lower, so I was surprised when I started ticking again.

I’m afraid that it will worsen. The thought of it terrifies me.

I’ve spent hours upon hours learning about myself and my various illnesses so it frustrating me to have this happen. I thought I was doing better than this.

What to do? I need to stop this before it gets out of control. Besides the changes I’ve just mentioned I have a new counselor too and that causes me stress.

I am often feeling on the edge of anger and depression.

I asked myself what I can do to stop my stress from getting out of control. Here’s my plan.

Ask myself what’s bothering me and why it’s bothering me.

Talk to my counselor for guidance.

Keep taking my chill pills.

Try to do mindfulness and/or meditation.

This last one is key I think.

Perhaps confessing my struggle here will turn out to be cathartic.

I’m going to go back to the basics and evaluate the different areas of my life to see if I can determine if something I’m ignoring is what’s bothering me.

I suspect that adding all the stressors in my life up will show that they are all the problem together and I need to fight back. On my own I’m going to exercise and work my dog more and give mindfulness another try… or maybe meditation a try.

For some reason the thought of mindfulness stresses me. This proves how logical mental illness is. I don’t know much about PTSD but both counsellors think I have it. Perhaps I should look into it too.

I just realized that my son decided to move out about 2 months ago and moved out about three weeks ago. The stress of him moving out is probably impacting me more than I realizing. I have only lived on my own for six months once in the 80s.

Maybe I’m scared of being alone.

Late breaking news – another destabilization – my chronic pain management doctor is moving and handing me off to an associate. There are a lot of deep emotions that go along with chronic pain. The idea that my treatment might change terrifies me.

New counselor, new pain management specialist, living alone. Great.

I can do this.

As always any input or ideas are welcome. I love getting email from you. This would be an especially good time to hear from you my friends.

New Counselor – Full Disclosure

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This picture is of Barney, one of my companions growing up. He is clearly focused on what he’s doing.

I met my new counselor today. She seems nice. I said “full disclosure” in the title of this post. By this I mean that she will be reading my posts so she’ll know what’s going on with me. I will have to choose to be confident and not self-edit. I don’t want to only say things that I think will make her think I’m doing well or minimize problems I might have. I offered to my last counselor the chance to read my blog but she didn’t do it. Now that I have someone I’m pretty sure will read it I find myself thinking, “Huh…”

I guess this is like beginning a new chapter in my growth. I hope so. I choose to make it so. She’s going to be giving me homework that I think she’s going to expect me to complete. I’m never good at doing that. I have great grades at school but for work from my counselors never seems to happen. I don’t know why.

My first impression is that she’s smart and seems to listen well and is observant. I think she expects me to respond to our work together with growth and that seems reasonable and desirable to me. I want to grow.

I want to join ancestry.com. I want to have my genes tested and see where my people come from. When I ask my mother and her eldest sister they always say, “Canada.” I’m like but where before that? People came to Canada from someplace else. Oh well. Maybe later.

I’m feeling scattered. I can’t seem to focus my thoughts on what I want to say. I want to work on my book but I as I say, I can’t seem to focus. Oh, I just took my second Ritalin of the day. I should give myself a few minutes don’t you agree? It really makes a difference but it isn’t magic. I like the idea of it magically tightening my mental labor into a focused thingie. But nah, the kind of focus I want is only achieved through effort, determination, and through concentration. I could add a few more words but you get the idea.

Sigh.

I think Barney had the right idea. Time to chill and let my brain reset. Maybe I should work on being mindful again. I’ve done it some in the past and it helped. I don’t know why I stop doing things that are beneficial, but I do.

Focus Robin.

Why Do We See Therapists?

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Lucy Therapist

In my experience therapists and counselors are working there to work with me to help me get through the day, the month, and even the year especially in the midst of a depressive episode. They are there to try to teach me how to handle my episodes. They meet with me to teach me how to work with medicines for treatment, to use self-management methods to deal with mood cycles that always plague me, and to teach me how to function better in both work, family, and other real world settings.

Therapists help me learn what to do when I’m depressed, which is difficult to do when I’m depressed. It’s so hard to be objective about whether my medications are working when I feel like I need more of everything or something new when what I really need is a little tweak in dosage or patience to let a new medication have a chance to work.

They try to help me see myself for who I am beyond my illness and to work with me when I’m manic and have delusions of grandeur. I admit it’s hard for me to listen to them when I know I’m right about everything. I have a friend that also suffers from severe mental illness, she has found the same problem that I have found, that when we’re manic it is difficult to find a therapist that you respect enough to listen to.

For the last year I’ve been lucky enough to have a therapist that I respected me and I think knew me fairly well. She was always supportive and encouraged me to believe in myself. She never let me bamboozle my way through when I was trying to get away with acting badly.

She just retired so I start with a new one in a few weeks. I’m hoping that I’m humble enough to believe that she has something to offer me. Otherwise I’ll go and sit there for an hour and think about how dumb she is while were talking. Has anyone else experienced anything like this?

Because I’m on disability I have very few choices on where I can go for treatment. I think, I hope, I’m going to the better of my two choices. Unfortunately I’ve gone through four therapists and am soon to see my fifth at this place. Two retired, one went into private practice and I fired the other. Sometimes you have to take drastic measures like firing the therapist to make sure I get the help I need. The reason I did was that she was really new to the job and she kept reading to me from her computer and printing out things for me to take home to read. We didn’t have any dialogue. I made the hard call and asked for a new therapist. I’ve never had the courage to do that before.

My new therapist’s name is Rebecca. I’m already working on my attitude and trying to prepare myself to be open to her being able to help me. I’ve committed myself to not judge her before I even meet her. I need to give her and I a chance to get to know each other and see if she can help me survive and even thrive.

I welcome you to leave your opinion. Do you find that you experience the same things? Or have your experiences been vastly different? I hope to hear from you.

If you’re interested in the books that I refer to the most visit my books page.

Bipolar: Possessed by Demons?

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I’ve sat around on disability for years now. I raised my kids working very little because of my mental health issues. My behavior let’s just say wasn’t conducive to working with other people. Aside from melting from stress during the time I was attending college (I’m still planning on going back in the fall.) I’ve been pretty stable for the last year or so. I feel like I’m ready to move forward. I also feel like it’s risky to try to do something. What if I explode like I did when I had my business? During one of my manic phases I was inspired to start a small company that took off really fast. I did a good job. I was making money. Then I had an episode and exploded the business. I think it’s time to start over. I hope.

Time to focus for a sustained period of time and control myself and start a new business. I’ve got the company figured out and a loose business plan. Now I just have to supply the product. That’s what’s going to take the most time.

Speaking of which, did you know that if you have been diagnosed by a mental health professional with bipolar disorder you’re not possessed by demons? (Just my opinion.) It’s true. For years I thought I had demons or at the very least I was committing sin after sin. I couldn’t stop being angry and doing all the things that go with anger and rage. I felt so guilty.

I attended Bible College in the 80’s. While here I sought help for my demons of rage and anger and other unhealthy sins. I underwent sessions where professors would lay hands on me and “speak” to the demons. They would demand that the demons respond. I couldn’t very well not have anything happen so I started saying the first thing that I thought of. I didn’t want to look like a failure and not have any demons. Unfortunately, I never got better.

Many, many years later (like this year) I learned that bipolar disorder is actually an “abnormal functioning of brain circuits involving neurotransmitters such as dopamine.”

Now I’m not saying only mental health professionals can diagnosis a person with bipolar disorder, but it is the best way to get an accurate diagnosis.

If you have bipolar disorder you do not have brain damage. You are not a condemned lump of flesh that has no hope of having a normal or productive life.

You, just like everyone else, has the opportunity to be successful and reach your dreams.

I am going to put my life out there and see if I can be successful. Thus far I’ve had a lot of very tiny little starts towards my goals, but I’ve fallen off my path every time. I believe I have the knowledge and determination this time to not only set goals, but to reach them.

I know stress affects how my brain functions so one of my main missions is to live a balanced life and that includes not setting myself up to be trapped in extended stressful situations. I can do that. I know what my triggers are.

My goal: Reach complete financial independence in one year, by April 17, 2017. I have other goals too, but that is definitely the most important and easiest to measure.

Time to get busy working on my plan and putting it into play.

Remember, if you have a mental illness you do not have it because of an unknown influence upon your brain. You are not helpless, hopeless and unable to deal with your symptoms for good. Work with your mental health professionals and actually expend effort to be less depressed and control your mania.

I believe there is hope for each of us. Whether you believe you are being helped by a higher power, God, medication and/or psychology it is possible you can live a productive and fulfilling life.

(Note: If your faith says that your mental state is because of a spiritual battle I’m sorry, but I disagree. After chasing God for over 25 years I turned to science for answers and finally started changing my behavior and my thoughts. My advice is that you follow your heart and your intelligence. You may disagree with me about what causes bipolar disorder, but you can still learn about goal setting and being a successful person. They are not mutually exclusive.)

(The quote is from: “The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide: What you and Your Family Need to Know,” by David j. Miklowitz, PhD)

Am I ready to Resist the Depression Monster?

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I have bipolar disorder type 1 and I experience mixed states and rapid cycling. When I’m having a full blown episode it’s a nightmare. I’m feeling on the edge right now. I also have PTSD, ADHD, Osteoarthritis, Rheumatology Arthritis, Anxiety and a bad temper. I take a lot of medications to remain stable.

I am afraid. I’m 53 years old and besides when I was away at college I’ve only lived on my own for less than a year. Less than one year. I have three kids ages daughter 24, son 21 and daughter 18. My eldest daughter is in the Air Force and has two more years to serve. She’s across the country. The youngest lives with her fiancée. Now my son is moving in with his girlfriend this weekend.

When Jessica, the eldest, went to basic I was not doing well overall and I had your basic breakdown. I was hysterical for days. She enlisted for six years. She’s my best friend.

My youngest daughter, Sydney, suddenly decided to move out and two weeks before her 18th birthday and suddenly she was just gone. I couldn’t get her to wait the two short weeks till after her birthday.

She had been lying to me for years. We had two rules in our house that I expected her to follow. First, no dating till you are 18 (the other two had no problems with this rule) and second, never lie to mom. Ever. I kept asking her, are you and Toni dating.  “No.” Always, the answer was no. I chose to believe her because my part of the not lying deal to mom meant I had to trust them. So I chose to believe her. They had been dating for month and months when she suddenly decided to move out into a single room in the back of a house a stranger’s house. Had I been asked I would not approved of the situation and in fact the move turned out to be less than successful.

Today, less than a year after Sydney moved out, Kyle, my boy, is moving out too. At least I had a month notice with him. He’s moving in with his girlfriend Melanie in town today.

So now both of the younger kids live in town, about 30 minutes away.

I now live with my emotional support/training dog in service Bailey and my cats Maks and Siberia. I have no clue how I’m going to keep Bailey out of the cat food and litter box when I move. Did I mention we put an offer down on a house in town? It is 5 minutes from where Sydney will be living.

I have found a tiny house in town very near where Sydney is moving (her third move in one year) into her new apartment next week. We have put an offer in on it and now we wait. The bank owns it and we have to wait till they choose which offer to accept in ten days. I’m hoping that with the large down payment we’re making we’ll be the make our offer the most attractive offer and we’ll get the house.

It is 10:32 Saturday morning and I’ve already teared up after Kyle left to go get my brother’s work van to use for moving. I’m planning on working hard today on work stuff and not doing moving prep stuff. I need to have a break from moving stuff.

I have a huge box of Magic the Gathering cards that I’m trying to sell to a friend of the family. I’m pissed because he didn’t shown up last night to get them like we arranged. The stack of boxes is taller than I am (5’3”). They’re just in the middle of the living room and frustrating me every time I look at them (every time I look up) and every time I have to walk around them (every time I go into the kitchen). When they’re gone I think I’ll feel like I’ve done some work throwing things out at least.

To help me move Kyle has agreed to come out on one of his days off (Fridays) to help me do dump runs and other things I can’t do.

Besides using the technique of using a positive mental attitude (which I’m making a huge effort to follow from now on) I’m hoping not to fall completely apart and go through the hysterics again. It’s exhausting. And wouldn’t  you know it but my counselor has just retired so I have no counselor.

Besides being exhausting when I’m having a breakdown, it also wastes a lot of time. I don’t want to lose time anymore. I’ve lost too many years to my bipolar already. So, I’ve set my goals and I’m on my way to fulfilling them. I refuse to give in to the depression that thinks I’m going to let move in and take Kyle’s place. I’m staying on my meds and sticking with my daily routine and not isolating myself.

If I get the house one of the first goals I’ll have is teaching Bailey not to eat the cat food and poop. I’m a worrier. What can I say?

My son is moving out and I’m distracting myself by thinking about poop.