Mood Disorders, Sunshine and Me

Have I been fighting all these years against SAD? Depressed? Missunderstood? Reeling in the darkness? Or have I just been an ass?
Well…. Take your pick. Everyday is a new day.

I’ve heard for years about how some people suffer from fall and winter depression and I’ve accepted it as a matter of fact. I had never paid any attention to my moods as the seasons of the year toddled on by. Every year someone seems to ask me if I became “worse” in the “dark” seasons. I’ve never had an answer. Why would I? I thought I always felt the same – enraged, depressed, angry, bitter, anxious, sinful, doomed, damned, unliked, manic…. out of control Bipolar. Then I went to a Bible college, got married, had kids, showed postpartum depression which lead years later to my diagnosis: Bipolar Disorder Type 1.

This year I seem to be at a place in my life where I’m able to…. scratch that. I’ve been noticing that I’m not as “normal”* as usual. I’m happier. I think I’m funnier. That alone is awesome. And I don’t even care if my friends laugh when I think I’m being funny and my kids don’t. HA! HA!

*When I say “normal” what I mean is that I’ve been in a couple of months long consistently better place. I know, that doesn’t mean anything either but who cares. I’m happy right now and I’m happy that I’m happy.

Dark seasons. Do I? Beats the heck out of me. I’m just glad that my years of feeling rage and horror 99.5% of the time are over. I hope they’re over. One can never tell with things like this (Bipolar).

At my home today the weather is beautiful. It’s going to be about 71F which is warmer than normal here. The rest of the week it should be in the ’80s! Of course, much higher than normal here in the Greater Puget Sound area. It’s nice to accidentally plan a family BBQ (Thursday) when the weather will be so wonderful.

Am I happier in spring and summer? Well, it rains less and I can go outside and get sunburned in 10 minutes, my dog can play ball and only get wet when I spray her with the hose. Hell yeah! Give me spring! Give me summer!

Go ahead! Burn this Irish skin. Do your best sun. I’ve got all the rest of the year to fade back to my spotted white.

Let’s burn, this time with the sun. Not with rage and hate.

Bipolar and Back in the Saddle

My dad, the best cowboy I ever met.

In no uncertain terms my dad used to tell me to get my butt back up and do it again! It didn’t matter if it was a horse I’d fallen off of, which happened more than I’d have prefered, or if it was a friend I felt treated me wrongly. Do it again. Don’t stop.

I’m so exhausted. I’ve done so much thinking and writing notes and making Google docs from my iPad in the middle of night… I think you get the idea. The engine starts to turn over but it just never does.

Pressured speech – Bipolar, yeah, I do that.

Know what scares me more though? What keeps me tied so very tight under that horse I’m not going to fall off with chains, in the mountains, in the cold. What scares me more?

Racing thoughts paralize me.

I’ve been trying to slow my mind. Meditation. Exhaustion. Yelling. Denial. I don’t know. My attempts to do this have been weird.

My dad, the cowboy, is gone from this world. I can’t hold his hand or ask him if he thinks something is dumb. I miss the smell of … whatever the newest hobby he was into smelled like. Woodturning for example. Loads of smelling to be had. Fishing, drag racing, raising and training horses, woodturning (did I say that already?), stained glass. Smells. A dad smell.

I wonder sometimes if he looked at life in a way that I need to emulate. Look, he got mad, sure. He threw things, yelled, swore, threw more things, swore some more, made really horribly scary angry faces at us… But he developed time alone and away from everyone when he did these hobbies. I think going out in the RV and making stained glass were the only things he shared with my mom. Oh sure, we all rode horses and shoveled… you know. But I wonder if he could reset during those times.

Did he have racing thoughts too?

He once told me “You’re smart and you think faster than other people do. You’ll be done thinking about things before they start. You’re just going to have to deal with it.” (This is totally true, he said this. Okay, something like it.)

I mention this because I wonder if he saw this particular difficulty in me at that young age? I did show signs of Bipolar at a young age and, I admit, I was a shit to live with, but did he know? I don’t know how my mom didn’t send my dad leave me in the mountains somewhere.

I just never can slow my mind down. Unless… unless it doesn’t work at all. Chained, under the damn horse, in the mountains.

I took a video workshop on ADHD earlier this year. 10 weeks: 3 days in group for an hour and some time with an accountability group the other days. I learned a lot about – I learned that I don’t understand time. If I’ve mentioned this before, please hang in there. I’m just about done.

I am trying to build an editorial calendar where I can put ideas and things I feel strongly about. I can set them in boxes, and then I can move on. And when I’m stuck, silent and chained, I can see the boxes and what I’ve placed in some of them, and I feel hope. I force myself to put something, anything in at least one, little, short, 15 minute box – no – five minute box. Let’s settle with one minute. Then I can be done. I can do that. One minute at a time.

Tonight I’m in a brain fog. It feels like today has just slid on and on. Well, now I’m going to put on my cowboy hat and sit down. I’m gonna push back my cowboy daddy’s recliner (which I insisted on having I have despite the fact that, well, you’ll hear that in a second) I’m going to have to give it an extra shove and scoot my butt all the way back – and then I’m gonna swear. I’m gonna swear because the remote or my iPad or my book or my coffee or the kitten or whatever is way too far for me to reach.

I’m 5′ 3″ on a stool. When my butt scoots back in the seat my feet fly up off the ground and it seems I always wiggle them around like a very young kid. It never fails to amuse me that this was my dad’s chair. When I’m leaning back and can’t reach anything, and no one is around for me to ask nicely or hollar at or beg to get whatever I’m reaching at for me, I claw my way to the right side of the chair and start swing my arm around. I can’t feel anything so I keep at it. I can see myself in my mind’s eye and I know why the kids don’t help me – it is too damn funny to make me suffer! Little legs wagging up and down, swearing and muttering. Yeah, that’s funny, when it’s me.

My dad was a cowboy. What have I learned from him? Well, I have my eyes closed right now and I’m listening to the wind roll over all the plants and trees and bushes and in my front door and the open windows
(it is always windy here)…. and now I hear the bass of the moron driving up the hill in front of the house… and now I hear the wind.

Breathe. In 5 hold – count to 6 – exhale for 8. Do it again Robin. Do it again. Hear the wind. The wind here is the same as it is in the mountains or on the ranch? Daddy, he was the same wherever he was too. Oh we believe he had Bipolar 1 like I do, but I think he found better ways to manage it than I do.

When I feel I’m stuck under the horse I also feel broken. I feel like I can never be mended or fixed… or useful. Never mind that. First thing is first. Racing thoughts or frozen ones. Ouch. I think… I think that I’ve decided I’m not broken.

I believe that belief is everything. Yes, I acknowledge that I have an illness. Or do I? That’s a whole other train of thought so lets run quickly away from that. I have decided. Here and now. Maybe not tomorrow or tomorrow night. But today, now, I don’t believe I’m broken and can’t be fixed. I’m just stunned.

Stunned.

Fall off. Stunned. Get back on and go again.

I don’t want to be trapped in my own head. Time. Use the calendar Robin. It’s a better idea than you think. Stop being subborn. You’re not a jackass. Do it. It will make the chains loose.

When the sun sets it all ends with me. Counselors are left in their offices. Partners are in their own heads. Hopefully. Kids are in bed? I’m left with me. I take the drugs. I go to therapy. I try to act normal. But I am stunned.

I’m going to fill in one box before I go to my room to hopefully sleep for the night.

I’m closing my eyes and listening for the wind. If you’re indoors and can’t actually hear it, then make believe that you do. Remember, believe is everything. Hear the wind. Let it take you away.

“Daddy? It feels like I’ve been stunned for a very long while. I feel… and I think… that it’s time to be a cowboy.

Saddle up

Please, as always, leave a comment if you are so inclined.

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.

Drugs – Niche-Me…

Doctor messes up.

I’m… well… very angry. If I could get this guy fired and reported to some agency to keep him from prescribing medications, I would. Darn straight! 

This “doctor” (He’s a PA-C. I don’t even know what that is. I know what a PA is. What’s the “C”? Crackpot?) Okay, back to why I’m so angry. 

Last time I saw this guy, let’s call him JH, he was reciting out loud what medications he was sending electronically to the pharmacy for a refill. As he was reading them, he said, “Lamotrigine–” To which I said, quite firmly, “No, that’s not one you fill. You’ve never filled that. S fills that.”

The guy’s never ordered this for me. Why would he? This is my mental health person’s job. He’s NEVER filled this for me. (I know I’m repeating myself. I’m hoping the Universe or something will smack him.) He does Oxycodone, Lyrica, and the one for restless legs. He’s my pain mgmt prescriber. (This should be scaring you.)

“Do NOT fill that drug.”

I was so mad. The pharmacy told me to call his office and inform them of the mistake. So, I did. No one would talk to me. I was sent to his PA’s voice mail. No one ever called back. 

I also called my mental health clinic and left another message, this time for them. I wanted them to be aware of the problem. A floater nurse called me back pretty quickly. We were on the phone about 18 minutes. She had no idea what the heck was going on. Eventually, about 2 minutes before I needed to leave to go to her actual building to see my counselor, she let me go. 

You know what the result of that conversation was? She concluded that my regular MP (med provider) had been weening me off Ritalin and that now I should have stopped taking it completely. 

I responded the only way I could – “Yeeeeessss?” I mean, what if she found out that I was still taking them? I was already getting paranoid at this point so I didn’t know what to say. I’m really am supposed to be taking it. My counselor (L) and I had just decided that I needed to ask to have it increased!

When I got to see L, he told me that he’d already gotten the email telling him what had happened. I told him about the Ritalin issue. He looked at my chart and immediately said that it was clear that I was was supposed to be on it. In fact, I was supposed to be taking the two pills. 

Sigh. So, now I have too much Lamotrigine and no Ritilan. I’m angry. 

This morning we took my Emotional Support doggie to the vet. She vomited blood right after vomiting on my bed. Thankfully, she’s going to be okay!

I’m stressed and weary. 

Angry. Stressed. Weary. Sigh

Idiots

My Millennials help me now. I have three. They help monitor my meds. The one that lives with me fills my medication box thingies. The second one lives down the street and comes by to visit and help out pretty often. The youngest is married and about to graduate from the same university that I did. 

I will not be killed by people who value my life so little that they cannot take the time, or get help, to read my chart properly or return my phone calls. 

I have managed all the stress from raising kids. I have not killed myself. I won’t be killed by these morons. I will protect myself. I will stand and not let stupid people sneak up on me. I fight with myself every day and I survive. I will survive these people too. 

Mel Robbins (I think it’s her) says that at the end of the day there will be no White Knight riding in to save you. No one is going to rescue you. You have to do it yourself.

There are frequent times when I can’t do this for myself, but today, this week, this moment, I can. I’m protecting myself. I’m going to do what I can to make certain that the people responsible for these screw-ups, won’t be able to do it so easily again. 

I’m pissed off. I haven’t killed myself. I’m not about to let incompetent medical professionals kill me. 

This is MY day. I will live it MY way. I will not let ANYONE take it from me. Not ever. 

Frankenstein – Bipolar & ADHD

Frankenstein-tumblr_ovgh5egVdd1wzx3t8o1_1280 I’m aware, that when given the chance, I will, without question, talk until the air has been sucked out of the general area and everyone has passed out. So normal.

Anxiety – After I graduated, and a few weeks had passed I could tell I was under stress from that. My anxiety has gone down. It did get better, for a while. I got to the point where I didn’t quite feel like my brain has been stuffed full of raging bees. Awesome!

ADHD – I was under the assumption that I was taking Ritalin to help me focus my attention so I could do well in my classes. I was always confused when my med provider asked me if I felt the Ritalin she was prescribing was helping me to focus better. I always said, and continue to say, “Um… I guess so.” I’m manic! What does she want me to say? I work very hard when I meet with her to sit, shut up, and answer her questions honestly. She terrifies me. What if I answer wrong and she changes my meds again? I’ll say something than think, “Crap! Why did I say that?” I always say that I guess it was working well. I suppose. Now I think that I was wrong.

More ADHD – I accepted the diagnosis of having ADHD because it was about not being able to focus on one thing at a time and I knew I couldn’t do that. But, being Bipolar was always the main objective of both my counseling sessions and appointment with the med woman.

Bipolar 1 – I assumed that my Bipolar was worse (or more dangerous to me) than ADHD could be. Wasn’t it?

You know how a doctor will sometimes leave a small tube that goes through an incision so that the area can drain and heal properly?

Yeah, I don’t know where I was going with that—

Switch – I have some ideas that I think are pretty good. I’ve done one or two or three big projects that have come out great. The other 45 ideas that are going around in my mind appeared to be stuck in orbit. I remember the video I watched on YouTube yesterday about ADHD and I was shocked. Frankenstein!

FRANKENSTEIN – I’ve come to think of Bipolar/ADHD as a Frankenstein type of symbiotic relationship. I can’t imagine why my diagnoses has always focused upon Bipolar Disorder. In counseling I talk faster and faster and cover an impressive variety of topics.

Pressured Speech (Bipolar) – Thought very little about ADHD or how to deal successfully with it. I’ve been taking medication for it for three years. In that time no one has talked to me taught me to handle it. Why not?

FRANKENSTEIN – Why hasn’t anyone explained how the two disorders interact, and how the medications for each may also affect each other. (“Do you think that the Ritalin is making your mania worse?”)

I have been primarily a mixed state, high functioning, Bipolar type 1 for years now. I always thought that my constant mental zooming about was just my amazingly stunning mania. (While I mostly talk about my being manic lately, let me just say that depression has played a big part in my mental health too.)

My daughter went with me to my last counseling appointment. We talked about my inability to stick with one thing and see it through to completion and how it was impacting her. Basically, I’m driving her bonkers. These are some of the things that I do: TALK CONSTANTLY NO MATTER WHAT WE ARE DOING, change topics as fast as I talk, pick up a pile of laundry in the living room to put it away, stopping to talk to our beta fish (Victor and Batman) and feed them a few dried wormy things and set down the laundry, forget that I had a mission with the laundry, see that the dog/cats water bowls are empty and fill them, read 1.75 pages in a book. What was I doing? Let the dog out to do her business. Hours later I discover the laundry next to the fish… you get the idea.

My new counselor, my daughter and I decided that I need to focus on being able to focus. Yes, my Bipolar mania hops it up like jet fuel in a race car, but with knowledge and tools to help me with my ADHD and settle on one thing, even for an hour, I might just begin to get a handle on my anxiety/stress and even mania.

Maybe. This is stressing me out. Bothering my daughter this bad is building an anxiety that is part of everyday life. Sigh…

Who knew that pressured speech and mania aren’t the same thing as ADHD? I really don’t understand what the hell is going on. I feel like my brain has been sewn together with blue and green colored twine and slip knots.

One final thing: It has taken me three days and four hours to type this. Just kidding. Two days. Honestly, I have no idea. I need a time-out.