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

Less Stress is Best – For Everyone

In my last post, I shared a laundry list of things I felt were related to times of extended and elevated stress. As a person who has Bipolar 1, I’m acutely sensitive to stress in my environment, my social life, my home life… Well, you get the idea… in my head. You might say, “Robin, everyone experiences stress and might have cause junk to happen to them.” Fair enough.

I can only speak to my own experiences and circumstances as I interpret them. And it isn’t just that. I have to notice them too. Sometimes I get so preoccupied with something that I just don’t see what’s right in front of me.

Let me give you a quick example. I have battled IBS-d since I was married way back in 1989. Of course, it wasn’t a “thing” then. In fact, I never mentioned it to my doctor. There wasn’t a commercial on TV alerting me to the notion that I might have this thing, this real thing, called IBS-d.

Bipolar Disorder is supposed to be a “mood disorder.” Taking that at face value, let’s assume that stress is going to make managing my symptoms (the rolly-polly moods) incredibly more difficult. Let’s also assume that the stress and resulting crushing weight of experiencing increasingly intense stress (wow, too many words!).

Listen, in my experience as a person with Bipolar 1, ADHD and PTSD I can tell you with certainty (you know, because I experienced it and that makes it true) that stress caused me to have IBS-d. How do I know that and didn’t I notice myself making fun of myself just one sentence ago? Sure, I noticed. We’re talking about subjective emotions though. Think of it like that pain chart they use in the ER at any hospital in the US. “Rate your pain. Which smiley face??”

Seriously? You’re going to treat me based upon what I think my smiley face ought to be?

How are you feeling today Robin?
“My anxiety feels like it’s crushing me. I can’t sleep or think. I’ve started waking up violently angry. I’ve started yelling again and throwing things. I just can’t get it all to stop!”
Have you been able to focus?

Excuse me?

I graduated in June of last year (2018) and within two months of that time, my “IBS-d” disappeared. Creepy right? I know! Like aliens…

Alien, nigthmare, spirit...
Creepy… I think that guy might have had some comet!

Seriously though, haven’t had a blackout or eaten Comet since then. Well, I think there was one more blackout… but my memory can be sketchy at times so yes? No? Beats me.

We’re talking about emotions.

Emotions are NOT measured by drug tests.
Emotions cannot be quantified by subjective human talk therapy.
I can’t even relate to you my emotions so that you’ll understand what I mean.
In every single college class I’ve been in when the professor asks for opinions or invites discussion, no one ever agrees with everyone (sometimes anyone) across the board. Nope. Nadda.

Does this seem like a jumble? Am I talking about IBS-d or how to describe emotions? Actually, what am I talking about? Have I lost focus?

No, I haven’t. Not this time.

I no longer have any symptoms of IBS-d.

Is everything else better? Oh hell no! But, I’ll take this victory and I’ll hold onto it because I’m not locked in my house 24/7 every day anymore.

At least… not right now.

Bipolar – Verbal Dump

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I have Bipolar Disorder and ADHD. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder over twenty years ago. At least, that’s about when my brain says it remembers it happening – I’m super reliable when it comes to the passing of time. Umm, no way! Don’t let me tell you otherwise. I was diagnosed as having ADHD only a few years ago.

The other day my mom told me she’d had a major breakthrough in her thinking about ADHD. Apparently, she’d talked to her realtor and she had told him that I have it. I know she shares stuff about my brain (problems) to people in the town/city we live in and with Rhett (the fellow I just mentioned who sells property) who lives in another one.

That’s two.

Back to the breakdown.

I know my mom loves me. She expresses it in a sort of micro-managing way, but she loves me nonetheless.

I’d hate to have had a child like me. How did she not accidentally roll over me in the family car? I would have had a daycare person come take me away. A nanny. Anyway, Rhett told her that he has ADHD too. {Deep sigh coming from my side of the conversation.}

You know how we can look up literally ANYTHING online? I really don’t think she understands that she can Google Bipolar Disorder and ADHD and not have to rely upon the information she can glean from a single person. There are many fantastic sites to visit that contains a lot of very good information on both BD and ADHD.

But, you know what, the idea that she can talk to someone about me, without asking me first, and telling him my very personal business is just bad.

My mom thinks of Rhett as another son. (I have a brother.) She knows more about him than she does about me. Sometimes I discover I have feelings of resentment and anger toward the nice guy. I don’t like feeling that way.

I guess accepting and understanding something about Bipolar Disorder have to continue to wait.

I believe, that if she understood a little about Bipolar Disorder and how I present, we would get along better. We might even want to spend more time together. Maybe she’d trust me more. Forgive me more. I admit, there is much I want to be forgiven for. I think she’s better at letting things go than I am so maybe she doesn’t need to be able to forgive me once she understands I don’t really control myself sometimes.

My experience with Bipolar Disorder is that about 80% of the time I’m manic. All the time I’ve been alive, I’ve been either straight up manic, or in a mixed state featuring the bits that tend to “intensify” my emotions. I’m confused, being depressed while manic.

My most blatantly obvious symptom… I never, ever stop talking. When the rare moment does happen, my friends ask me if I’m okay. I think that even Bailey notices. (Bailey is my support dog. She’s wonderful.)

Bailey is my emergency brake. When I’m frustrated, angry or yelling, she finds me and sits directly facing me, very close, toes to paws, and with her beautiful sad brown eyes and waits for the noise to stop. Honestly, she won’t budge even if I tell her I need to pee. No mercy from my faithful pup.

My chart at the mental health place I go to says that I say I think I’m smarter than they are. My current counselor asked me if I really believe that. Without a pause, I said, “YES.” I reminded him of how they let my stress / anger / mania / and anxiety cause all the suffering I experienced while I was going to school. over the last year, my symptoms intensified, and I broke.

Have you heard the axiom do no harm or through inaction to cause harm?

So, the reality is that they watched and did not intervene. They listened and didn’t reach out to catch me while I fell and fell farther and farther down. If you think about it like that, like what role they played in my unwilling self-destruction, then YES, I think they’re morons and I really am so much smarter than they are. My counselor asked me if I thought I was smarter than he was. I grinned and told him, “that remains to be seen.”

Delusional? Grandiose thoughts? Delusions of grandeur? Or brilliant or very smart? And who’s to judge which is which?

ADHD, Bipolar… Let’s figure it out. I promise I’ll own it.

You have just been exposed to an often irritating and yet integral bit of my brain in all its glory. It’s what I call, “a verbal dump.” My kids prefer saying I barf words. Wait, maybe it was that I vomit words. Well, in any case, it’s not great.

Please write to me or leave a comment. I love hearing from you.

Be well,

Robin / Un-niche-able Me

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}

Bipolar – The Diagnosis

This week a situation came up in which I was able to ask each member of my family if any of them have ever tried to learn anything about Bipolar Disorder. Every one of them said, no. I have always been the source of the storms in my family group: parents, brother, and kids. I was always angry or striking out at them (verbally) while in a devastating tsunami of rage. I was unstoppable, and I was very ill. I was a bad child. I constantly fought with my father who had anger demons of his own.

I don’t actually know if learning about BD will enable them to understand me, and even to help me when I’m helpless.

There’s just one problem – Not a single soul on this blue world completely understands Bipolar Disorder. Not one. Even those doctors who are afflicted with the illness do not know precisely how it works or what it is. And the meds I take, almost all of the fine print says it is used for things like seizures and a variety of other things, but not for BD.

Meds for BD are prescribed because the medical community has discovered that in general, some medications seem to help control the symptoms.

Symptoms. This means that the meds are not fixing Bipolar Disorder itself. The meds are just meant to enable us to coexist with other humans.

The fact is that no one understands Bipolar Disorder, not the doctors, researchers, interested persons, or those of us who live with it. You can take a little quiz online that will tell you whether or not you have it (OMG – burn all these quizzes. What? They’re digital? I guess we’ll have to be creative and figure it out.

The reason I’m so irritated and upset about this is because my much younger cousin has been spending gobs more time with my mother than I am. She keeps telling my mom that she has all these mental illnesses. My mother responds with compassion and encouragement. She tries to help her. She spends time with her. A lot of time.

I pointed this out to my mother and she didn’t say anything. The problem is that it’s true. They really haven’t done ANYTHING to try to understand, to keep track of how I’m doing, to be compassionate to ME. It really hurts.

Have you ever experienced something like this?

There are thousands of websites, books, and experts available to people so that they CAN learn about BD, so that they CAN love me despite my extra quirks and behavior that makes them not want to be around me. (This has gotten better, but let’s face it, the BD brain isn’t exactly reliable or dependable.)

I wish, that they would watch a four-minute video or read a nice and short informational page on a website.

I wish.

My mom knows someone better than she knows me. She’s embraced her and is compassionate and supportive of her. She makes excuses for her. She never has done any of that for me. She says that when I was a kid they didn’t know anything about BD so she didn’t know what to do.

“But what about now? 

“Family, I’m 55. Have you ever tried to learn about my illnesses? Ever?”

“No. Well, they didn’t know anything about it back then.”

“Mom, what about now? Today? I still have it. You know I still suffer from it. Why don’t you just Google it or search for a book on Amazon about it?”

I try to ignore the emotional pain that this lack of real love causes me (that’s how it seems to me). The daughter that lives with me has had to learn a little about it because if she didn’t she would have gone crazy. I admit that I’m not the easiest person to live with.

I can only put myself out there hoping that they will demonstrate to me that they love me with the kind of love that refuses to let me go and will do anything it takes to help me. Am I being selfish? Maybe, but I believe that love, well, love does… I don’t know how to say it.

If you have a grasp on how to describe the kind of love I’m trying to explain, please post it in the comments section. I’d love to hear what you have to say about it.

For now, I’m going to go to sleep. Tomorrow is a new day and another day I can work to keep my mental difficulties (read: demons) at bay. I enjoy my work. Once I get going I can work for hours and become completely engrossed in it. But depression has been kicking my legs out from under me this whole week and I have to say that I’d like for it to take a hike now because I’m exhausted and frankly, would rather be manic.

So good night dear Reader. Sleep well.