Bipolar Parent

Greetings friends, how are you doing in these wee hours of Friday morning?

Me? I’ve been both better and worse. Thursday had hours I enjoyed… then it crashed and burned as only the day of a parent can do.

When my three kids were young I had impressed even my ex-mother-in-law (let’s call her Kathy) with how well behaved and just good all around people my children were. Now, we are being stalked by rough and naked emotions that have always existed (that would be me, Bipolar parent) but are now beyond my own mind and have grabbed hold of my youngest.

I thought I was a good person growing up. I felt as though I were a likable person, yet I didn’t have many friends. I was lonely much of the time and kept my own company out on our small ranch with my horse, dogs, cats, chickens, pigs, cows and the occasional ducks.

I was a shit.

Seriously. I was a short, freckled shit. Today my mother and I can look years back and point to much of my careening and completely out of control behavior and emotions and say, “That, that right there!” And recognize it as full on Bipolar Disorder presenting before I even had my drivers license.

In short – I was angry all the time and blamed everyone one else for everything. My depression and anger were crushing me and the only name I could give it was – sin. I was a practicing Christian and all those “evil” emotions were clearly not of God… but that’s a topic for another time.

My youngest and his regular doctor decided that he does not have the highly genetic Bipolar brain that I’m still learning to embrace. Anxiety. Depression. Mania. Mood swings. Irrational behavior. That’s Scott, my “I’m a psych major. I already know how to deal with anger and anxiety.”

Scott is transitioning from my second daughter, Sydney, to my second son, Scott. (Incidentally my father’s name was Scott.) Scott is undergoing hormone treatment. He wasn’t always easy to talk to about things that he felt “attacked” him. Now he’s so much more difficult.

I despair.

He turns 21 this Saturday. He’s angry and bitter and is working so hard to make people not like him that I just want to sit down and breathe like I’m having a baby all the time. He and his wife are both psychology majors who it seems aren’t studying behavior.

Odd.

Scott sounds just like I did. If transitioning changes him into the sex his mind believes him to be, then I will continue to try to learn and gain deeper understanding. However, he’s a grown man (he says) and I expect him to at least respect me.

§ On Father’s Day Scott thanked me for being both his mom and his dad growing up. §

What I will not do is accept from him the same behavior at 21 that I had at 14. He has tools around him to teach him about what’s running loose in his little grey cells. Me – religion, animals, and hypnosis.

The weight of his relentless ill-will and violent anger crushed me at dinner. It was like fighting with my dad, but I was the reasoning one (yeah, no. My dad wasn’t good at being rational when angry either.)

Top the whole bloody mess off with a leaking red cherry on it and you have a self-entitled disrespecting second son.

I’m not having it anymore.

Being a parent with Bipolar is terrifying literally every second of that child’s life for me. With Scott acting like the individual (did I mention pressured speech?) that he clearly isn’t I have no clue how to even begin to help him to stop yelling into my face that I should shut up because I’m not listening.

Huh?

Parenting the twenty-something kid today is a massive challenge for this Bipolar mom. I have been charged with the crime of trying to build good family memories. I have felt despair and anger towards Scott. These are not the memories I want to build. We’re going to work this out, but I realize that I will very possibly react like I have Bipolar Disorder while we do it.

I can do this. I can figure out my part in healing our relationship. Be loving and kind… and forgiving.

However, Scott is a grown man and if he does not have Bipolar Disorder or some other explanation for his behavior, then he’d better watch out. I corralled the three of them through their teens by myself and while not properly medicated for my illness.

Respect me as your mom.

Respect my illness.

Respect yourself and get help if we just can’t talk it out.

I really wanted to go old school, like back to when I was a kid, and wash his mouth out with some nasty bar of soap like Dial or Lava and spank him with a wooden spoon. Two if the first one breaks.

Sigh….. parenting never ends, not really. My mom is still my mom. Who else would she be?

Scott, baby? YOU! It’s time for YOU to shut up and listen.

Bipolar – Danger Signs

solar-flare-1Now that I’m taking 120mg of Latuda again I can consider the signs I was having that I was going into a crisis. I believe it’s important for me, for everyone, to know what happens before we reach a full-blown disaster so we can take precautions and get help early. That said, I recognize that it is often difficult if not impossible to tell when we’re slipping. It’s like standing on a beach when the tide is out. You’re talking to a friend or looking at the beautiful water or a sunset. You’re not paying any attention to your feet, which is unfortunate, because your feet have been slowly sinking into the sand. Now, when you try to move, your feet stick and you fall on your face because you didn’t realize what had been happening while you weren’t paying attention.

The biggest sign that I’m crashing is that I lose my temper violently and in an instant. Most of my life I have been consumed with anger and ill temper. It has kept me from getting to know my family. My father, who is gone now, was as bad tempered and mean with me as I was with him. We reacted to each other like lighter fluid on a bonfire. I believe that he also suffered from Bipolar Disorder.

In addition to a catastrophically hellish temper I was angry all the time. I don’t mean mad. I mean angry like I wanted to hurt someone. My adrenaline was (and is) on all the time. To this day my muscles are hard as rock, cocked as if to lunge into flight or fight. Even after a massage my musculature remains as solid as steel. I never relax.

Over the years I’ve taken medications that cause my face, my jaw in particular, to violently jerk and I can’t talk. I look like I’ve got a massive tick in my face and I sound like I’m hiccupping. Now, when I’m stressed, the tick comes back. As a matter of fact, I’ve been having it happen daily now even during Christmas vacation when I don’t have the pressures of school work. It really frustrates me. It’s so remarkable that people stop talking and stare at my face. It stops conversation dead.

So this time, when my temper soared uncontrollably and I saw my family react to my words as though they’d been slapped, I realized I was in trouble. I thought I was just feeling my temper returning. I felt like I was keeping it under control. I didn’t realize others noticed it until we were celebrating Christmas Day at my brother’s house and I was talking to my daughter and her fiancée when suddenly Sydney stopped short and looked at me as though I’d just stabbed her. I shut my mouth fast. I knew I was in trouble. I had to stop myself from talking the rest of the day unless I was paying attention to what I was saying and how I was saying it.

My med provider and I had a backup plan in place incase reducing my Latuda to 80mg didn’t work. I was to return to the 120mg dosage immediately. So that’s what I did. I couldn’t wait until I was able to get back in to see her in three more weeks. I’m feeling much less volatile now.

I know it is rarely as easy a fix as returning to a medication that I already know works for me. It’s never that easy. This time was an exception for which I am grateful.

We, you and I, impact those around us. Our behavior doesn’t happen in a vacuum. We have a responsibility to control our behavior for our own health and for our family and friends. It’s funny that I say we need to control ourselves because that’s exactly what I’ve never been able to do. Not till I got well medicated.

The take away – be vigilant for signs of crashing. Then take action swiftly.

Bipolar – Never Far Away

I reached a stasis point, a time of going to neither depressed nor manic poles. I thought I was emotionally cramped or stunted. So, as I’ve said, my med provider and I decided to lower my Latuda to 80mg. It’s been about three weeks now and I can say without a doubt that I’m swinging again and in a bad way. I just called one of my daughters (I asked my family to watch me) and she said she’d noticed something had changed too and was wondering if that’s what was up.

Of course, I denied it. I realize now (30 minutes later) that I was protecting myself. I’ve worked for so hard for so long to be stable I didn’t want to admit that I’d have to up my medication again. I wanted to believe I could do this, be normal on my own.

I guess I feel like if I can’t be “normal” I won’t have really lived, I won’t really have given to my world or amounted to anything. I think those thoughts and feelings are always beneath the “calm” exterior of my well medicated self. It’s frustrating.

I’ve gone back to school so I can get a job. I’m 54 and I’m just going to school for a career now. It makes me so sad. See, the depression is coming like a vengeful lover, rough and dark.

If I’m already behaving “mean” towards my daughter and feeling depressed and like I’m about to have a fight I guess I’m not ready to be on a lower dose of my Latuda. So, it’s either go back up or change to something else. I’ll need to call the nurses line tomorrow and see if I can talk to my med provider as soon as I can. This isn’t the kind of thing that I should just wait until my next visit to handle.

Tomorrow I also see my counselor. We definitely have something to talk about.

Today I saw my pain management specialist. She ordered an MRI of my lower back. For some reason no one has ever had one done. I would have thought that having me on pain medications as long as I’ve been on them that someone would have had one done, but I can’t find it if they did.

Well, my new reality and I are going to read for a few minutes and then go to bed.

Be safe my friends.

Bipolar – Learning How to Behave

Learning how to behave… I know that title might seem a bit odd or offensive, but hear me out. I grew up manifesting symptoms of Bipolar Disorder. My father may have been an undiagnosed bipolar person. Whatever he was he had the temper and anger of a demon. Between myself and with my father as an example I learned how to behave very badly. Somehow my Mom managed to teach me some good manners and I could put my polite hat on when I needed to, but much of the time I was just angry and depressed and it came out in my behavior and my attitude.

I behaved badly especially at home. In high school I wanted to be included in things but was too scared to. In college I got involved an everything I could. I’m not sure where that came from. I went to a Bible College and I behaved like I belonged there. When I graduated and left, the façade faded away and again I was that violently angry person inside. Unfortunately, I wasn’t polite or respectful especially to my family.

Now that I’m well medicated, am pretty healthy and have been in therapy for years I can look at myself and my current behavior and be more or less objective and honest with myself about my behavior. I’ve learned that I sometimes still struggle with in being courteous, being tactful, using the correct tone of voice, smiling, and having the appropriate facial expressions. Strange list, don’t you think? When I thought about what to write today I realized that these are things that directly impact how my Mom and I get along. She’s coming over today to help me pack my things for my move. I always try to prepare myself and think about how I’m going to act when I’m spending time with family because they are the ones I tend to act the most inappropriately with.

Courtesy – Dictionary.com begins its definitions of courtesy with the following two entries:

  1. excellence of manners or social conduct; polite behavior
  2. a courteous, respectful, or considerate act or expression.

Courtesy is nothing more than controlling my selfishness in all situations. It is respecting other people’s feelings. It is not, as I was prone to do, blurting out what I feel in my bipolar moments. It requires self-control. It is not always easy, especially when I am angry. Courtesy also requires self-awareness. It becomes more possible the more I have a positive attitude and it reflects quality of my goals and passions. The more I devote myself to those the more my behavior moves in line with their essential quality.

Tact – There is a right time for everything and a wrong time for everything. In this case I’m talking about my historical behavior of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Today I will be testing myself on whether or not I’m able to be courteous and speak with tact while spending time with my long-suffering Mom. I have been known to speak out of turn, speak in antagonistic tones, and interrupt her when she is speaking. I have been known to regularly question the soundness of her opinions and comment on any mistake she might make in texting or speaking.

While I am doing well I have no excuse to continue to behave in this manner. I’ve put in a lot of work on myself and this is a simple test for how good I’m doing. Can I keep my mouth shut unless I’m going to say something nice to her today?

Tone of Voice – There is something that we use to express our personality every time we speak and that is our tone of voice. If we say one thing, but our tone of voice says something different, we will be conveying something other than what we might intend to say. When I speak with my mother and I’m behaving badly my tone of voice is the first place it is evident. If I say something to her in a disrespectful tone of voice, but say something I think is respectful you can bet she won’t think I’m being respectful. She’ll probably be hurt that her daughter is speaking to her in such an unloving manner. Bipolar Disorder is not naturally conducive to good behavior.

Smiling – Smiling is much the same as tone of voice. In fact, if you are smiling when you say something it will be heard in what you say. When I’m feeling stressed out and angry it is very difficult to smile. But smiling is something I can control and I can do even when I don’t feel like I can say anything polite. My objective with my Mom today is to smile and be respectful and thankful that she’s taking time to help me. I don’t deserve the help. She’s doing it because she loves me. She still loves me after all the long years of bad behavior on my part.

Facial Expressions – Smiling is obviously one of the facial expressions I’ll want to use if I want to improve my relations with my Mom and other people. I can’t count how many times I’ve gotten into fights because of someone’s facial expression and what I perceive as their tone of voice. I react to facial expressions even if words are absent. Worse, I don’t control my own facial expressions.

If I really appreciate my Mom’s help today, my smile should reach to my eyes and be evident in my tone of voice. I should be tactful and not insult her if we don’t understand what the other is saying. I should be polite and respectful.

Sometimes I have to take a step back and examine my behavior to see if it lines up with who I’m trying to make myself to be or if it is more along the lines of the behavior I’ve tried so hard to leave behind.

I have no delusions that I will behave appropriately in all situations. I’m still human and I still have a mood disorder. It can be hard or impossible to smile when you are really on the down side of darkness. It’s okay.

Do the things you need to do to be healthly and stable again. When you cycle back up you will still have this knowledge you have gained about yourself and how to interact with your world. Take your meds as prescribed, go see your counselor when you’re supposed to, see your doctor if you need to, reach out to others who know who you are and you can trust to support you, exercise and eat healthy meals. If it seems like you’re just going through the motions that’s okay. Those motions may just bring you back to a happier place sooner and bring joy to your life.

Today, I will behave.

{Later} It was a good day. I only snarled once.

Bipolar and Adaptation

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From today through about August 18th I need to be able to be my best self. That means I will have to be super vigilant and sensitive towards my Bipolar Disorder symptoms. Theoretically, that’s how I’m supposed to be all the time, but right now it’s really evident that I have to pay attention. The stress of looking for a house has rolled over to moving and that will roll over into flying out to Florida to meet my daughter and driving across the country with her two cats to bring her home.

I must prepare myself physically, mentally for what’s next. I tend to react to situations and my moods swing without my even being aware of what’s happening, that is, until I’m done reacting.

This is going to be a good experience for me to practice adapting myself quickly to changing situations and emergencies without losing my temper like I’ve done in the past. My usual reactions are an abrupt swinging of mood, or panic and then the mood swing.

This skill, the skill of flexibility and adaptability, is an important skill to have while coping with our mental illness. Each new skill I learn builds upon the base of my positive mental attitude, my chief definite aim, or my passion in life. (I tend to think of the three things as different ways of saying the same thing.)

Having a flexible disposition means I must be able to quickly adapt to my environment. When I say “environment” I mean not only the physical situation, but also dealing with the people involved in the situation. It means that I can harmonize with my environment in a flexible way.

I’m not suggesting that I ignore my principles or altering my goals. I’m simply suggesting that I recognize my mental attitude towards the situation and determine if the situation is a disaster or a windfall. If it is a disaster I have the opportunity to change things and make them better. Because I use positive mental attitude, I have an even better opportunity to change the disaster into a boon.

I think that part of being adaptable means that in every situation with every person I try to understand their needs and demands. An example would be my Mother calling me a couple times a day and telling me something else I need to do to prepare to move. Yesterday it was that I should go to the Loews and Home Depot on Meridian to purchase boxes, start packing, have the kids (my son, 21 and youngest daughter, 19) come over and help me go through things, and to get rid of the piano. Being sensitive to her and to protective of myself I suggested that she make a list. We’ll see if she can do it. I eventually did go to those stores and bought boxes, but not the ones on Meridian. I hate driving on that street. It’s too busy and too long and too slow.

My plan includes to getting up at the same time every day, feed the animals and take my meds, eat healthy foods, exercise (I walk down the highway with Bailey), give my brain a break by reading or watching TV or listening to an audio book while walking, planning and making lists, keeping appointments or doing errands, spending time learning about how to be successful, spend time doing reactional activities, and so on. I need to keep things fairly structured. When I just watch TV all day it usually takes me another day or more to get back on track.

I’m going choosing to daily be flexible, adaptable, and let me just add: I’m going to be kind to others. (Ellen DeGeneres)