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After a long week.

Bipolar – Tick Crisis!

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tics7089581_sThe last month has been a horror. I’ve developed my facial tick again and nothing we’ve done has slowed its march to make it so bad that I can’t have a conversation. In my classes at University I’m usually very outgoing and participate in class a lot. With this disability, and yes, that’s how I think of it, I can’t talk and participate with the others. It just kills me to just sit there. Sometimes I choose something short to say and I raise my hand and try to say it. My courage is met with stuttering, ticking and humiliation.

On the 10th I went to the ER because it was so bad that I couldn’t be understood when I talked. My eldest thankfully happened to have time to take me in. It was good because she had to translate for me at times. The doctors took me off my last added medication and prescribed me to take Lorazepam. The problem with that is I can’t take the Lorazepam if I plan on functioning. I have classes five days a week and two of those days are in the morning and in the afternoon so I couldn’t just come home and take it. So, it didn’t work. The ER wanted me to see my MD within 3 days of my visit to the ER. I tried, but my MD said that the ER always said that and that it wasn’t necessary. I disagreed. I was still ticking at a 7 out of 10 in intensity. It was a nightmare.

I finally got in to see him. He was of no help. He rudely informed me that it was probably permanent and was caused, he felt, by my Latuda, which I’ve been successfully taking for some time now. He also told me he wasn’t going to prescribe me anything new because he didn’t want me to go to the ER again for it because it would get him black listed at the hospital. I don’t know if he meant that there was a real black list, but he acted as though there was.

I asked to see a neurologist. After some maneuvering he agreed and picked a random one out of the directory and sent the referral through. I don’t think he thought that a neurologist would be of any help. Then he prescribed one of the medications I’d already tried for the tick. The problem with that is I’ve lost track of which medication caused which reaction or positive outcome.

I got ahold of the neurologist on my own and they could tell I was in crisis and tried to get me in earlier than the July dates that were for new patients right now. The helpful lady called me back the next day and sadly told me that they refer ticks to the mental health people and would I like their number? I told her I had it already. She was nice.

I had an appointment with my counselor this morning. Unfortunately, I locked myself out of my house and out of my car. I texted my eldest daughter and begged for help. She left class early and came to my rescue. I did happen to have some homework with me so I spent my time waiting for her doing that.

When I got back inside I called my counselor and got through! I asked her if we could do the appointment on the phone. She was great and agreed. My tick was at about a 5 for most of the visit although sometimes it got worse. She listened to what I’ve just recounted to you of my last few days and weeks and said I need to talk to my med provider ASAP. She put me on hold and went looking for her. Amazingly she found her and she was free so we stopped our conversation short and I waited for Sara, my med provider, to call me momentarily.

The call from Sara came right away. I went over all the stuff again and through asking questions about what new prescriptions I’ve started taking in the last month. I started a medication for restless legs (which worked!) and Lyrica. She has me discontinuing the Lyrica (which is funny because we’ve been fighting with my insurance for months to get it approved) and the last med that my MD had me start taking for the tick. Then she did some research and found out that indeed Lyrica can cause the tick and so can Latuda, which I’ve been taking for some time. Now were stopping the Latuda. I’ve just gone from 120mg to 80mg tonight. Last time we tried to lower my Latuda was during the Christmas holiday and it didn’t go well. Instead of being well medicated and under control, I began to have violent emotions and lashing out at my loving family. It didn’t feel great. But here we are, trying it again. I’m going to have to watch myself.

So now were taking action. I feel better about it. I see Sara on the 11th I think. We’ll reevaluate my condition at that time. She’s not happy with the way this has been handled. The ER should have referred me to my med provider, not my MD.  My MD couldn’t give a shit. I’m looking for a new one. Around here it’s really hard to find new ones. New patient appointments have waiting lists going out months. It’s frustrating.

I’m a communicator. It’s what I do. I am fully involved in all my classes. I can’t do that right now. It drives me crazy. Sometimes I raise my hand thinking I’m going to say something brief. Unfortunately, it turns into a long ordeal as I stutter and tick my way through what I want to say. Sometimes the friend I sit with tries to finish talking for me. It’s embarrassing. I know there’s nothing to be embarrass about. It isn’t my fault I can’t control my mouth. Thankfully I can control the content of what I want to say.

I’ve been using my situation to really make sure that what I want to say will really be helpful or ask a really good question.

My kids have been good about it. They laugh at me when it gets really bad. I’m glad. I can’t take it too seriously (though god knows it is). They help me keep my chin up. And, thankfully, they translate for me. Seriously. Even when I’m just talking to them they have to finish my sentences for me (when I’m at a 7 or higher). I’m thankful for my kids, my mom and my brother for their patience in waiting for me to struggle through a conversation.

So, maybe the next few days will be better. I’m not going to class tomorrow. I’m going to work on calming down. I need the time to rebound and relax. I have a ton of homework to do so I’m going to give myself the time to do it. Lowering my stress can only help my situation.

If you find yourself in a similar situation remember that freaking out doesn’t help. Well, doesn’t help much. Sometimes you get like I did and can’t talk at all and they take you seriously. But, in general, it’s best to persevere and keep bugging people, doing research, calling anyone you can think of till you find the right person to talk to. Now, I hope it works.

Tonight, as with the last two nights, I’m up late with back problems. It’s like all the nerves in my lower back are firing at the same time. I can only describe it as sever lower back pain. I take Oxycodone for that. You’d think that would help my tick and the stress associated with it. Nope. Nada. Zilch.

Sighing…. This tick seems like such a waste of time. I was thinking of getting a summer job, but that will never happen with this tick.

I’ll let you know what happens next. I’m afraid of myself. I’m afraid my Bipolar is going to come raging back like it was in the past and torment me. Hopefully I can use the tools I’ve learned since my last crash to keep me from going into crisis but you know, if it’s going to come, it’s going to come. I can’t stop it. But I can combat it.

So here we go, on my first day with my Lyrica gone and my Latuda going down. I have to admit, I’m more than a little scared. What if I flip out? What happens if the tick becomes permanent? What if? What if? What if? What if I get better?

My back is feeling better now. I’ve sat on ice and now the heating pad. Time to try to go to sleep again. Good night my friends. May you be able to speak your mind wisely and with confidence.

Bipolar – My Best Friend

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90e0b3c0b78324323204c14bdfffde84  I have three kids ages 25, 22 and 19. My eldest, Jessica and I drove across the country back in last August from Tampa, where she was stationed in the Air Force, to Washington State. She and her two cats and I took 11 days to make the trip. I have to admit that I was worried about how I and my Bipolar were going to behave on the trip. I can tell you in all honesty, it went far better than I expected it possibly could go.

Jessica and I have great relationship. We’re very close. We’re both going to college, different ones though. We don’t live together, but we often cook and eat meals together and we study for school together. One of my favorite things to do with her is to go for walks. We take my Kelpie/Australian cattle dog Bailey (she’s 3) for a walk around the neighborhoods around my house. We talk the whole time. We talk about everything from family and school to politics and science. We like a lot of the same TV shows too. Sometimes we watch them together, other times we watch from our respective homes and we might be messaging each other about them. Needless to say, she’s my best friend.

Jessica also suffers from depression and anxiety. While she was in the Air Force she was receiving counseling for it but couldn’t take any medications for it because she was an air traffic controller and they can’t take most drugs. Now that she’s out, she’s seeing a counselor and a med provider. She’s taking something for anxiety and is finally feeling some relief.

It was hard watching her suffer while she was still in the military. Talking about it wasn’t enough to help her. I was worried that she’d be against going to be seen for her anxiety and depression because she watched me do it her whole growing up life. I didn’t need to worry. She knew she needed help and knew how to get it.

When we talk about it we understand how each other feels. Although my moods are much more violent and farther reaching than hers are (thankfully she doesn’t have Bipolar), she still understands me.

More than just being someone to talk to she challenges me to try to be better, to push myself to go further.

I am so thankful for Jessica. Before she came home I was so lonely. I know that we’ll only have time like this until she transfers to school in Seattle in a couple of years, but until then, I will enjoy her companionship and try to learn as much as I can from her. She teaches me how to be better, to be stronger, to believe in myself more. She has no patience for my well-practiced pity parties.

Ours is a very unusual and unique relationship. I never thought I’d have someone I love like this as a part of my daily life who wasn’t my partner.

My two other kids know how close Jessica and I are. I try to spend as much time with them as I can. I also try to get them to spend time here when Jessica is here. They’ve grown apart during the years she was gone. Now that they’re all adults they’re getting to know each other really for the first time. I try to encourage that.

My other daughter and my son also understand about my Bipolar. They are also part of my support system. I depend on all three of them to help me when I’m in a bad place or when I’m struggling with being stable. Each one has a unique role to play. I’m so thankful for the three of them. I don’t know what I’d do without them.

Bipolar –  Mrs. Sherlock Holmes

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6357405020812055051488693726_anxiety-charlie-brown“A single electric bulb looped down from the uneven ceiling. It sparked hot white. A man with dark features stepped into the bright circle below it, which lit up a scar near his left eye.” Mrs. Sherlock Homes, by Brad Ricca

I was looking for something to read at Barnes & Noble today while I was waiting for my dog Bailey to be groomed today when I found the book I just mentioned. I read the first sentence and I was hooked. “A single electric bulb looped down from the uneven ceiling.” In some way, it struck a chord with me and I was hooked. I had to read the rest of the book. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m planning on it. I just have my daughter’s wedding rehearsal tonight at 6:00, counseling tomorrow at 1:00 and the wedding itself Saturday at 1:00. School doesn’t start till Monday. I should have time to at least get started on it.

Then I remember that I’m taking two literature classes this quarter and I realize buying more to read right now might not have been the best idea. But still, I love that sentence…

I’m going to school to learn how to be a writer. That sentence is the kind of sentence I’d like to be able to write. I don’t know, maybe I can already. But, I don’t know, maybe I can’t.

I’m afraid. I’m afraid to try. I’m afraid to try to do something I’ve been studying since high school. I feel inadequate. My anxiety turns my brain to dough and I don’t believe in myself… so I don’t try.

One of the benefits of having gone back to college (and one of the biggest challenges) is that I’m tasked with writing on a regular basis. Last quarter I had Creative Nonfiction in which I had to write creative nonfiction essays. I started out not knowing what one even was. Now, I’ve written three and I passed the class with an A. This quarter I’m taking Introduction to Fiction where I imagine I’ll get the chance to try my hand at writing fiction. I’m paranoid. I don’t know if I can tell a story. What if I can’t think up anything to write?

That first sentence really spoke to me and inspired me to read further and to try my hand at writing my own fiction. But, I’m so afraid…

Classes start Monday. I’m going to have buck up and face my fear. What if I can’t do it?

I got a great grade in Creative Nonfiction. I can do this. I just have to try.

What if I can’t do this? What if I quit? Then I won’t have to expose myself to possible failure. No. Stop.

I’m going to keep going. I’m going to do this.

I can carry on.

Bipolar – Happiness

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97726fe8f02ba122e9436eb80a28fb2aHappiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being defined by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. Happy mental states may also reflect judgements by a person about their overall well-being” Wikipedia

As a person who struggles with mental illness daily I can attest to the fact that many days I’m not a happy person. I would love to be happy all the time. I wish that there was a happy pill. Not a pill like I take for my mental health, because they’re only somewhat effective, but a real, magical happy pill. But there isn’t one. No… I change my mind. I want to be able to be happy on my own. I want to experience organic happiness. Then it would come from inside me on its own be real and I wouldn’t have to depend on a pill, something manmade, for it.

Scientists say that “positive emotions affect us over and above what negative emotions do.” I hope that’s true. I don’t feel like it is, but I hope that it is. I’m going to choose to act as though I believe that it’s true because if I do, I give those positive emotions the chance to blossom and grow.

The effects of stress build up in our brain. It is thought that positive emotions “short circuit the effects of negative emotions,” like stress. That’s an amazing thing to think.

Can anxious and depressed people be happy? I suffer from them both, can I be happy? Scientists say yes.

I choose to believe it’s true… it gives me hope.

My Daughter is Getting Married in 9 Days

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My daughter is marrying her fiancée in 9 days. I still haven’t picked up my outfit from the tailor or got my hair cut. Today I’m having an apple tree removed from the back yard so it won’t happen today either. This stresses me.

I don’t have any stress that my daughter is marrying a woman. It is hard to think of my daughter as old enough to get married. She’s my baby. She’s also the only one in a relationship. They’ve been together about two years I think. They were going to get married when they graduate from college in two years, but they’re afraid they’ll lose the right to marry in the current political climate.

I’m very happy for them. I really am. I’m also feeling a little scared. After all, she’s my baby as I said. She’s dealing with something very personal and very intense and I’m trying to support her. I’m learning, but some days it’s hard. (It has nothing to do with being gay.)

I asked her yesterday what she wants for a wedding gift. After thinking about it for a few hours she said they didn’t need anything, but she would like to feel like an adult and have a bottle of wine. (She’s 19 and her fiancée is 20.) She tried some wine I’d bought for my other daughter to drink sometimes when she’s at my house and she liked it. That’s what she wants. (Her sister has since decided she doesn’t like wine.) So, okay, wine it is. I’d love to help her feel like an adult. I know that they don’t usually drink and if they drink it responsibly, I’m okay with it.

I thought she was going to ask for something that cost more than I could afford. Wine. Who would a thought?

You know what I’m very thankful for? She doesn’t have Bipolar Disorder like her mom. It’s such a relief!

Bipolar –  Rumination… Not Right Now

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I try to do things that keep me from always digging into my own brain. Introspection is best done in measured doses. If I spend too much time and effort thinking about how wrong my brain is, it becomes worse. So, I try to occupy myself with other things that might be helpful to me whether it is learning something or it is something that I do for the simple pleasure of doing it. I’d put going for a walk or reading a book or watching TV or even spending time with family and friends in this category.

Reading can be especially challenging when I’m manic and can’t settle my mind long enough to concentrate on just doing one thing. When I’m depressed, I just don’t read. It’s one of the major indicators I notice about myself when I’m first starting to become more depressed.

I like to listen to audio books while I’m driving about town and to school and back. I find that in just a few weeks I can listen to quite a long book without listening to it at home, although I do also sometimes listen to them while I use my elliptical, which I need to spend more time doing. Currently I’m listening to A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn. It’s book one in her series A Veronica Speedwell Mystery. I just finished listening to book two, now I’m working on the first one. I know, I got them in completely the wrong order. Not sure how I managed that, but regardless, I’m listening to book one now.

The series takes place in 1887 London and is about a Victorian adventuress and her friend Stoker who is a reclusive natural historian. The book is a historical mystery and adventure story. Unlike so many books today, it is not a romance… I’m thankful for this. I’m enjoying the story of a woman and a man in a real relationship that is meaningful and exciting and doesn’t need to use sex to keep the story going. I’m also thankful for that because I’m not in a relationship like that and reading about them can make me sad. So, I sometimes like to avoid them.

Another thing I do is to study to improve myself and to increase my knowledge. Well, and for pure entertainment too. I’m going to college and that keeps my brain very busy.

What’s my point? Surely I’m not trying to get you to read or listen to this series I’m into. If that’s what you think, you’d be right. I want to convey to you that we need to stretch our minds beyond what they insist upon thinking about. We ruminate about terrible things all the time. It’s part of the nature of Bipolar Disorder. We get stuck thinking about how horrible things are or let ourselves get caught up in anxiety that won’t stop.

My main way to distract myself has been to watch TV. It keeps my attention, but I don’t feel any better after I turn it off. What I want, is the strength to engage in something else, something beyond my moods and dark thoughts.

I’m feeling reasonably well right now. I’m taking advantage of it by watching interesting documentary videos on that new streaming video service called Curiosity Stream. I’m checking out the first month that’s for free to see if it has documentaries that I’ll find interesting… stuff that will take my brain in other directions than it normally does. I’m trying to watch TV that isn’t just drama too. I’ve been watching shows with my daughter like The Incredible Dr. Pol that is about a rural veterinarian. I dvr it and then we have dinner together and watch the show. Not only am I watching something other than a drama or sitcom, I’m doing it with someone I enjoy spending time with.

Again, what’s my point? I realize that I’m healthier when I think diverse thoughts… when I break out of the cycle of rumination and allow my brain to play. Whether I’m talking with someone, watching TV or a video, reading a book or listening to an audio book, the more I embrace a variety of interesting things, the better I feel.

Sometimes I can watch a whole documentary. Sometimes I can read a whole book. Sometimes I can only read a single page. You know what? That’s alright. Even one page – that’s a success.

Find something new to occupy your brain with. Try out watching something on YouTube you’ve never watched before. You can find so many things to watch and listen to on YouTube. Sometimes I like to be inspired by watching a TED Talk or Tony Robbins (he’s a success guru). Other times I’m in the mood for music you don’t normally hear on the radio like that from Two Steps from Hell or I might want to watch Lindsey Stirling who is a violinist, dancer and performance artist.

The point is that when our brains are cooperating enough for us to expand beyond our illness we need to seize the opportunity and embrace it. We will be better because of it and our lives will be richer for it.

Bipolar – Urges – So Hard to Repress

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I first recall having these urges when I was a teenager and I was babysitting some kids in my neighborhood. The house was beautiful. One whole wall was glass and was above an embankment leading down to the woods far below. I was sitting in a chair facing the glass. Suddenly, I had an overwhelming urge to throw myself through the windows and down the embankment. Confusion and fear overwhelmed me. To resist, I held onto the arms of the chair I was sitting in. The urge was terrifying. I continued to have similar urges through the years.

Later, when I was in Bible college, I remember clearly standing in line for lunch and having the same terrifying urge. I tried not to whimper as I struggled not to act on my urges. I felt like I had to scream and run around knocking people over and throwing their food trays. I couldn’t understand what was happening to me. It was so frightening.

What made it so much more difficult to understand was that two professors at the school had been trying to cast demons out of me. I didn’t think of the urges as having anything to do with spiritual things (more about this another day) and I still don’t.

Through the years the violent urges continued to occur to me with frightening fury. They didn’t stop after college. Sometimes I gave into the dark urges. I would throw things and break them to pieces. I screamed and yelled and threw more things.

Eventually I had three children. I was divorced and raising my kids on my own. The kids were often terrified. Sometimes I did snap and the urges would overwhelm me in public. I frightened some people and made others angry. My brother’s partner wouldn’t talk to me for years because once at their business (they own the family business) I lost my temper and the urge to strike out won. I picked up the lunch room table and threw it across the room while screaming and raging.

The violent urges are still with me. Lately they’ve been growing in intensity again. Just yesterday at school I had to restrain myself from screaming at people and shoving them violently.

I was petrified. What if I couldn’t control myself again?

Last night I was thinking about what I was feeling and I realized that I’ve never told any of my counselors or psychologists about it. I’ve decided to keep track of these disturbing impulses and explain what happens to my counselor. I hope I can get across just how disturbing and powerful these urges are.

Does anyone else experience these kinds of urges? How do you deal with them?

Bipolar depression: Sad or mad?

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When you’re watching for emerging symptoms of bipolar depression, make sure “irritability” is on the list. You’re just as likely to be unusually crabby, intolerant, and easily annoyed during a depressive episode as to be apathetic or despondent.

More research has been done on irritability in major depressive disorder than in bipolar disorder, but results from both groups indicate that from 40 percent to 60 percent report depressive episodes marked by irritability.

“Irritable depression” (that’s a description, not a diagnostic term) is associated with more severe depressive episodes, more frequently recurring episodes, and co-existing anxiety.

A study published in the International Journal of Bipolar Disorders in December 2016 found that participants with irritable depression also tend to take longer to recover from an episode and had more “unfavorable illness characteristics,” such as higher rates of substance use and more suicidality.

All of which means it’s even more important to take preventive measures when your irritability meter ticks upward.

bp Magazine’s columnist and blogger, Julie Fast uses the terms “weepy depression” and “angry depression” to describe the different ways she can experience bipolar downshifts. Weepy depression comes with what you might call stereotypical symptoms: feeling sad and hopeless, crying a lot, shutting down socially, becoming physically lethargic and

having trouble concentrating.

With angry depression, she writes, you feel “pissed off at everyone and everything. Kittens and puppies make you mad.” You focus on the negative, finding “garbage in the gutter when there is a rainbow in the sky.”

[THIS WAS THE CONTENT OF bp’s NEWSLETTER DATED 2/16/17. You can find bp magazine’s presence at: http://www.bphope.com/ ]

I’ve passed this along to you because I suffer from angry depression and have since I was very young. It defined me for most of my life. Today, it is one of the leading indicators that alerts me to how I’m doing. For example, if I’ve been doing reasonably well and suddenly I’m bitchy with my mom for no reason, I’d better take a look at myself and see if I’m sliding down the sheer walls of the well of depression. For me, it might also indicate that I’m manic. I don’t think it only happens to me when I’m depressed. If I’m unreasonably angry and I’m aware of it, I can examine myself and see where things are going wrong. When I’m in the midst of an episode it can be hard to recognize that things are going badly. Sometimes the anger is a wake-up call alerting me that something is amiss. Sometimes I become aware of that anger by seeing what it does to those I love.

Real Madness? Or A Good Story-part 1

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Periodically I go to the bookstore and see what the popular press is selling in the local Barns & Noble bookstore on Bipolar Disorder and other related issues. This last time I got a few books that I wouldn’t normally get. I don’t usually use workbooks when I buy them, so I bought a workbook calling itself a handbook this time. It’s a handbook for happiness and surprisingly, I’m actually going through it and doing the exercises. My stack also included a memoir on the life of a woman who suffers from Bipolar Disorder (BPD).

The memoir on BPD has definitely captured my attention. I got all the way to page 101 before I had to stop and breathe. The woman’s story was crushing. It is a vivid exposé exactly spelling out the symptoms of sever BPD. If you’ve never been able to express how you feel at your worst, this book could do it for you.

Although I’m actually taking the time to read this book, I’m not going to tell you the name of the book or the author. Usually I can’t pay attention to a book long enough to get through it all the way much less half of it. The first memoir I ever read changed my life. It forced me to admit I was sick and that there was help for me. That was The Unquiet Mind by Kay Jamison.

I’ve stopped reading this unnamed memoir because I’m questioning its truthfulness. If I went through all the massive amounts of prescribed medications, alcohol use and bizarre behavior. She suffers through alcohol poisoning, doses of prescribed medications that defy explanation, no sleep and sleeping with different men almost as fast as she can meet them. She’s petite woman and has suffered from eating disorders before being diagnosed with BPD. This is her second memoir. Her first was on her eating disorders and she was publicizing it when she was only 23. (If you know who I’m talking about please don’t say who it is in the comments.)

I want to understand why this woman isn’t dead. How can you never sleep, over medicate and drink more than four bottles of alcohol a day for years and still survive? Was this a New York Times bestseller because of the truth of it? Or the sensationalism?

I will finish this book. I owe it to the author before I decide what’s really going on. I have started researching her online but so far have only found her website, her on Wikipedia, and a couple of interviews about her first book on her eating disorder struggles. I would like to be able to contact the author and ask her directly about how she’s survived.

She paints a picture in the 101 pages I’ve read so far that shows the worst of how BPD is. If I’m certain that this book is authentic, I’ll be happy to recommend it to you. It might be a good book to show that no matter how sick you are there is still hope. But then, it may make you feel like you should just give up because you’re not as strong as the author is.

Until then, I’ll try to suspend my disbelief so that I can read it fairly and be open to its veracity.

Have you ever come across anything like this? What did you do?