Mania? Or Finding Joy?

Finding joy.  This is not an easy thing to do when you suffer from bipolar depression.  For a while now I’ve been pretty down.  After I took my Kenzie to the vet and got the possible diagnosis for cancer, I didn’t know what to do with myself.  So I started moving.  I haven’t stopped moving since.  My entire day is doing yardwork or going and taking photos of dogs and humans, cleaning, playing Zelda (self care for the win!) and other random things.  I can’t stop.  Kenzie’s biopsy came back as a virus or bacteria; they said it wasn’t cancer but didn’t know what it was.  But she’s okay.  So now my world can start spinning again, but I’m spinning faster.  I’m not sure if this is mania, but it feels wonderful.  I am getting so much done outside in my 5 acres of woods.  I’m planting and weeding and doing things I’ve never done outside before.  I get up on my own at around 8:30 (I used to sleep in until after noon most days).  I want to move.  I want to do.  I am making trips into town almost every day to donate to thrift stores after going through a random drawer or closet.  There’s no stopping me right now.  Is this full blown mania, or is this what being stable and “normal” and healthy feels like?

One of my main things of joy is my learning of photography.  I think I’ve spoken of it on here before, but I’ve been taking a class to learn how to take beautiful pictures.  I started out not knowing a single friggen thing, but now I’m taking actual pictures that I’m proud of.  I decided that I wanted to join two things I love and added dogs and cats into the mix.  I am OBSESSED with taking pictures of dogs.  It’s the most fun thing.  I love dogs anyway, but then to be able to use my new skills and be able to capture the personality of the dogs that their owners love just means so much to me.  I’m also volunteering at one of my local SPCA’s to take pictures of the shelter dogs there.  This is so rewarding to me and I’m loving it.  It’s REALLY hard, since they aren’t trained even a little bit, but when I do get a great picture, it just makes me all warm and happy inside.

 

I’m hoping that the pictures that show the personality really help these sweet things get their homes found.  I’m passionate about adoption after my Kenzie found me, and I want to do whatever I can to help these dogs (and cats) find their places as well.  I’ve found a love and a joy in something I never thought I’d ever do.  This, folks, is why you push yourself out of your comfort zone as much as possible.  Which I generally don’t do.  I’m incredibly grateful that I have done so with both photography and with deciding to incorporate my love of animals into it.

Now to learn how to photograph horses…

Thunderstorms Brewing

While sitting on my porch as I so often do, I get that familiar pull to write.  What about, I have no idea.  It just itches the back of my brain, so I write single sentences in an unfamiliar pattern.  They don’t make sense and aren’t cohesive.  Nor are they about anything in particular.  Then I hear the rumbling of a coming thunderstorm.  It reminds me of my own emotions.  Bottled up noises that threaten a storm coming.  It gets louder and louder until suddenly the rain pours down.  It’s intense and powerful in an instant.  You can feel the electricity in the air, your arm hairs prickling.  The small leaves of the trees twinkle in the sun as the raindrops hit them.  It has an odd beauty to it, this deep intensity that disburses as quickly as it starts.  The dappled sunshine comes back.  Little beams of hope, the leaves sparkle now.  Fresh with the healing liquid.  They can now grow a little bit more.

I’ve been going through a lot of ups and downs the past week.  It’s been calm and then intense, just as this storm has.  I started off the week great, being able to take photos of my friend and see my family on Sunday.  Monday morning was lazy and slow.  Stumbling around, deciding what I was going to do with my day.  I decided that I’d take my Kenzie doggie to the vet.  She’s had this growth on her ear for the past week or so that wasn’t healing.  It was red and angry, so I figured it just needed to be cut off and she’d be good to go.   She also hasn’t been herself.  It’s been nagging at me, but I can’t put words to it.  She’s laying by my bed all the time.  Kenzie normally will play and eat her bones, she has no interest in anything right now.  It’s just been not right.  That feeling that something is wrong has been itching my brain, as it has done with my past couple of huge vet issues over the past year.

Kenzie has terrible car-sickness, so after I went to work for Connor for a few hours on Monday, I went to give her the motion sickness medicine and took her to the vet.  The vet was much more alarmed with the growth on her ear than I had been.  She immediately thought it was a mast cell tumor and needed a bunch of tests (of course) to make sure.  She had to be given some anxiety medicine, as she’s so scared of everything, she wouldn’t sit still for the x-ray.  After being sedated, they got it and saw she had an enlarged spleen (another sign of cancer).  They then took a biopsy of the growth and sewed it back together with a few stitches.  They told me it could be either a mast cell tumor, melanoma or squamous cell carcinoma.  There is also a small chance it could be benign, even though it’s spread to her leg.  This of course, is catastrophic to me.  Kenzie is a staple of my life.  She’s been there for me through years and losses of other dogs.  She’s seen me at my worst and my best.  She’s my angel doggie.  She is perfect in every way except having car sickness.  I’d have her by my side at all times if she could ride in the car with me without being miserable.  She loves everyone and everything; babies, dogs, people, cats, walks by my side without pulling.  She’s perfect.  And now she may be leaving me soon.  This is devastating to me.  I’ve only told three or four people until now.  I don’t know how to process this.

On the day I heard, I was in shock.  I didn’t know what to think.  I just kind of shut down.  The day after, I completely shut down.  I slept all day and didn’t do anything but cuddle and think of my little tootsie-roll (she looks like a tootsie-roll on stilts).  How do I do this?  How do I go on without knowing what’s going on yet?  Today I took this nervous anxiety and turned it into constant moving.  I got up early and showered (odd for me to do in depression).  Then went to the grocery store and steam cleaned my carpets.  All done before noon.  I then sat on my deck to rest and the cleansing storm came through.  There is hope in the sunshine.  Maybe it’s benign and everything will be okay.  I’ll get to keep her for years to come after they just cut it out of her ear.  I can keep going.  I’ll just keep swimming for now.

 

 

All In My Feels

I’m drowning.  It’s been one week since I left my job tomorrow.  Today marks the 2 year anniversary of my 12 year old doggie running away.,  I feel so unsupported, and so unwanted right now, for absolutely no reason.  I know if I reach out to any of my tribe, they will be right there to help me through this.  How can one person feel so much all at one time.  I feel afraid, hopeless, regretful and shame at having to quit my job and go on disability.  I couldn’t even do the one thing that every other person does.,  I couldn’t keep the job that I’ve had for five years.  I couldn’t keep myself together long enough to really get back into work and integrate with my team again.

When I went back to work, it was always awkward on my side.  I felt like everyone was either ignoring me or treating me with kid gloves.  It was of course all in my head, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t real.  Sometimes I feel like that attack of whatever it was that made me go back on disability was the best thing that could have happened. The next minute I feel like I made the biggest mistake of my life and should have just worked through whatever was going on with me and my medication.

I feel hopeless and on a precipice.  I don’t know how or what to feel or what to do with all of these emotions.  I spent five months in intense therapy learning how to deal with these emotions and it’s like none of it ever happened.  I can’t think long enough to even remember anything that I learned and worked on during this time.  I have nobody that can truly understand what’s going on in my head and it’s making me feel isolated and alone.  I feel like even Connor has distanced himself from me because of my rapidly changing moods.  And that paralyzes me.  I’m terrified of him not caring anymore.

My impulsivity is also going on overdrive.  I can’t manage to go grocery shopping without buying stupid things I don’t need, like a new hummingbird feeder.   This is a problem because I have a lot of debt to pay from being out of work for so long.  I have thousands of dollars to pay, and no disability payments coming until my doctors send in my case files.  If they don’t, I have nothing.  I’m essentially just an unemployed, pathetic person who can’t fit in anywhere.

I’ve discovered photography and it felt wonderful.  I’m currently in a class to learn how to take beautiful pictures from a photographer that I’ve idolized for years.  She actually has taken pictures of my wedding, my family and just of myself as a present for Valentine’s day for Connor.  She’s incredible.  But now my head is getting in the way and I’m scared to even get my camera out.  My pictures aren’t good.  They aren’t as good as the other girls in the class.  I see what I want my camera to do but can’t get it to do it.  I’m used to catching onto things really quickly, but I’m just not satisfied with my progress.  And it’s probably normal and fine with where I am, I don’t know.  Just one more place I don’t feel like I fit in.

Since I quit my job, I haven’t left my house much other than to run errands like signing a release form for the doctor to send my case files to the insurance company and groceries.  Where I again mess up and buy two flowers for outside on my steps,  I’m doing a ton of yardwork which tears up my back and makes it scream in pain.  I do it because it makes me not think.  I am only thinking of the weeds and cleaning and getting things to look good.  And I want and expect Connor to make comments about how good it looks and don’t get them.  He isn’t one to care what the yard looks like unless the lawn is mowed.  Just another thing I’m not good enough at.  I’m entering in my spiral and I know it.  I just don’t know how to get out of it again.  I wait and wait for text messages from friends, so I feel loved and wanted.  Yet I won’t reach out to anyone telling them I’m in pain.  This writing is the only way I know how.  And I feel it’s not even good enough either.  It’s just me rambling, it has no beautiful language.  It’s just word vomit.  Another thing to fail at.  Here is to another 4 viewers reading my pathetic rambling blog.  Thank you 4 readers.

Quitting My Job

This week has been one that has torn me apart and then scotch taped me back together in separate parts.  I have had a lot of swings and things that I’d rather not even remember.  But of course, I need to write about them as it’s cathartic to me.  Even if nobody else reads them, I need it out of my system.

Tuesday started as a regular day at work.  I got in and started working through my flow and doing my thing.  All of a sudden, around 11, my eyes started crossing.  I began to see 4 of everything.  No matter what I did, I could not focus on anything.  I tried to send a message to my boss saying I had to go lay down as well as panicked and messaged my sister telling her what was happening to me.  Both of these messages ended up gibberish, as I couldn’t see what I was saying, nor could I think.  Somehow, I made it into the wellness room at work, (a breastfeeding room which I use to stretch my back daily).  I lied down on the couch and passed out.  I was dead to the world for an hour.  I woke up still dizzy and floppy-like with only seeing 3 of everything.  I went out to my car and sat there for a while to try and get situated.  Eventually my eyes cleared up and I could go back to work.

My boss, knowing me very well after 5 years, grabbed me and pulled me into the office.  I was sure I was going to get fired.  Instead he was very worried about me and wondered what had happened.  As I told him, we both kind of realized that it was time for me to not work anymore.  What would have happened if this episode, whatever it was, had happened while I was driving?  What if I couldn’t have made it to the wellness room in time and passed out on the floor?  It was a very dangerous situation and not something that I can be doing at work.  So, yesterday, we met again and set up a last day for me and I tendered my official resignation.  My last day will be in 3 weeks.  This is an extremely difficult thing for me to do.  As terrified as I was of coming back (partly because of fear of this type of thing), it’s been my home for 5 years.  I’ve made friends here and gotten close to a lot of people.  You get close to people you spend 8 hours with, no matter what you do.  I truly love and care about those I work with.  There are so many things I’ll miss doing at work that I thoroughly enjoy on a daily basis.  It’s going to be a very hard transition for me to go from working my butt off at work, to working my butt off at home doing…..something.  I’ll have to keep myself busy somehow or I’ll go stir crazy, but it’s still a very terrifying prospect.

The other thing that made this week hell was that I got more shots in my neck.  We are on the way to do an ablation (where you burn the nerves) in my neck.  Insurance requires 3 nerve blocks to be sure it works I guess.  So I got 4 shots in my neck on Tuesday.  Thankfully, I asked for two washcloths to hold on to and squeeze when the pain got too much.  I was also assertive enough to ask for double the sedation, as the previous amounts weren’t enough to keep me from panicking.  This one, while painful, wasn’t NEAR as bad as the cortisone shots though.  THANK GOODNESS.  I couldn’t have handled the electricity going down my arm like before on a week like this.

Well this looks like a long enough and boring enough update, so I’ll leave it here.  April 19th, here I come.  I’m conflicted on being happy or sad about you, that’s for sure.

 

No Day But Today

Today I’m listening to one of my favorite musicals ever, RENT.  When I was a tween, all the women in my family took my sister and me to go see it.  At the time I didn’t understand the absolute profoundness of the music and point of the entire play.  As I grew, I learned that one of the things is to take advantage of every day you have here on earth; with friends, family and everyone you come into contact with or encounter.

When you’re bipolar, this is especially hard to do.  It can be so difficult to just get out of bed in the morning and brush your teeth or hair.  In a manic phase, you want to do anything and everything.  It makes it so hard to appreciate the moments you’re in and be thankful for those people and loved ones that do support you.

I’ve recently had so much support from my extended family that I cannot be more grateful for or lucky to have.  My whole family has taken my diagnosis in stride and has been so incredibly supportive.  My dad talked to me for hours about it, and my sister makes sure that my medication is good and safe for me to take.  They all visited me in the psych ward, which most of the patients didn’t have.

Today I’m so grateful for my husband putting me first and being such a steady rock for me.  He has been amazing and works so hard to understand and my new diagnosis.  He’s been taking care of me and working hard to get me a truck that I love and he believes is good enough for me.  He starts my car in the morning for me when he’s up.  He’s cooked dinner for the past week.  He’s spent countless money on me when I mess up my finances from my impulsive spending.  He’s been an angel and I’m so glad I found someone that what’s wrong with me fits what’s wrong with him.  It’s been wonderful to grow together through this difficult time in my life.  I don’t know where I’d be without my wonderful family supporting me.  It breaks my heart that I know that I’m one of the few people with such a huge diagnosis that has such a great support system.  I know not everyone has the same blessing.

How to help impulsivity

Impulsivity.  This is the bane of my existence.  It’s what drives so many of my decisions, even the smallest ones.  I can’t seem to go at least once a day without doing something impulsive.  Shopping at 3 AM is my most destructive.  I’ll also drink too much when I do drink.  I just can’t stop myself, so it’s a good thing it’s a rare thing that I do drink.  When Connor and I went to go get a new mattress, I decided I had to have this bedframe they had.  Even though it doesn’t match a single thing in our bedroom.  Thankfully we could cancel it before it came.  I’ll be doing something important like writing or some work for one of the board of directors I’m on and get the impulse to do something else.  I’ll be cleaning one thing and stop and remember I have this other thing to clean.  I can’t finish something all the way through without changing halfway.  It’s a problem.  I get really excited when I’m talking to someone and will very often break in and interrupt.  This is something I feel the worst about. My last therapy session with the intensive outpatient group, we went over some ways to help my impulsivity.  I also researched a few other articles, which I’ll post at the end of the post for you to look at.

The first one I was taught is mindfulness.  If you realize your mood and what you’re doing, your much more easily going to recognize when you’re doing something impulsive.  You have to be aware of your mood as well as triggers that make you want to do something that is spur of the moment.  If you’re able to recognize these feelings, this will bring you to the next step.

When you recognize you’re in danger of being impulsive, step back a minute.  Start counting down to 10 if you can.  Try and get up to a minute of not doing the thing.  Then eventually get to 5 minutes.  Eventually you’ll be able to make it an entire day.  I know with shopping, I will add things to my cart and then turn off the site.  I won’t go back.  Then I get the thrill of “buying” but then my wallet doesn’t hurt.  At night is my dangerous time, so I also have a game I love on my phone that I’ll play instead of going on amazon.  It’s saved me hundreds of dollars in things I don’t need at all.

This brings me to my next thing.  I know my risk is shopping at night.  Well, that’s the biggest issue for a lot of reasons.  So, you need to know what your issue is and be able to work through it.  You can’t prevent impulsivity if you don’t know what it is you’re doing.  You have to pay close attention to your habits and your activities in order to find what you do.  Once you know what you do, you need to find out what causes these; what are the risky behaviors that cause your impulsivity.  I know if I drink more than 2 glasses of wine, I will have a really hard time stopping.  You then have to plan for this risky behavior.  For drinking, I try and only drink wine at dinner and around Connor, since he keeps me in line by reminding me I don’t want to get sloshed.  Because I don’t.  I’m a sloppy, icky drunk.

These are the main things I learned through therapy.  I encourage you to look through these articles if it’s something you struggle with.  Perhaps you can get a few ideas to help you through it.

What are your impulses you struggle with?  What do you do about them?

Don’t forget to share the blog, maybe others struggle from the same issue; it’s very common!

 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/do-the-right-thing/201005/six-principles-best-manage-impulses-maximize-life-satisfaction-and

https://psychcentral.com/blog/adhd-in-adults-5-tips-for-taming-impulsivity/

https://themighty.com/2018/06/how-to-not-act-impulsively/

Making big decisions

People have to make big decisions all the time.  It’s part of life.  Often these decisions can be so monumental that they will completely change your life path.  They’re beyond terrifying.  Do I start this new business?  Do I quit my job?  Do I marry this person?  Should I have children?  Do I want to sell my house? Should I go to the doctor for this (pick a thing)? Anything can be a big decision if it’s important to you and scares you in some way.  How do we get through these looming decisions without having regret for the rest of your life?  Because I’m impulsive, I generally don’t give things too much thought.  I’m not one to write down a pros and cons list.  I just go with my gut.  I have no regrets though, which I’m extraordinarily thankful for.  This isn’t something most people can say.  I don’t believe in the “everything happens for a reason” thing, but I do know that if one thing didn’t happen in my life, I’d be on an entirely different path.  If I hadn’t have walked into that building that one day, I wouldn’t be married now.  I wouldn’t have the rock and steady presence that my cluttered mind needs.

All of this said, I researched some ways that people use to make big decisions.  I wish I could say I use them, but we all know I just go immediately and figure things out later.  This, money wise, is a detriment for sure.

  1. Know that it is hard to make some decisions.  Some are weightier than others.
  2. Slow your brain down for just a moment. This is where you make better decisions.
  3. When thinking of options, stick to ones that align with your values and morals.
  4. Try and chose simplicity rather than chaos, it will be better for you in the end.
  5. Keep in mind, some decisions have equal pros and cons and each option may be “right”
  6. Once you make your decision, breathe. Things will work out.
  7. Just go along with what happens. It’s going to happen now, the decision has been made.  Don’t try and fight it.
  8. Trust yourself, your intelligence and your gut decisions. As Bob Marley says, “Every little thing is gonna be alright.”

 

I hope these help those of you who are going through some decisions.  I know it’s not the typical “step one, do a list” kind of help.  This is more of a mental help for those that struggle with making decisions.  Do you have any other suggestions on what to do in order to work through brain blocks and decisions?

Going off of medication?

I want to talk about medicine for a bit today.  Not that I have ANY qualifications as to the effectiveness or any information regarding them other than my own experience.  Please, if you have any questions or issues with your medication, talk to your pharmacist or doctor about it.

My side effects recently have been more intense than they usually are.  I don’t know why or how this is, but it’s what I’m noticing.  I have to take my thirty thousand pills right when I wake up.  If I happen to forget them, around noon or so, I start to get withdrawal symptoms.  I feel an immediate flu-like state.  I get the cold sweats, woozy, dizzy and sick to my stomach.  It’s absolutely horrid.  I don’t know which meds make me so sick, but it really sucks.  I now have a single day pill box that I keep filled in my purse, just in case I forget (which happens more than I want to admit.)  A couple weeks ago I forgot and got sick and immediately started to have the thoughts that I wanted to wean myself off of all my medicine.  I hate the fact that I HAVE to take them and am now dependent on them.  It makes me feel…dependent.  After a bit though, of course I admitted that I need them.  I remember what I’m like when I’m off of them and it’s a terrible place to be.  It would ruin my marriage as well as myself since I get so dang depressed.  It’s really bad news bears.

So, speaking of side effects.  My current ones are getting weird and more noticeable.  When I take my meds in the morning, about 20 minutes later I get INTENSE dry mouth.  No amount of water or coffee keeps my mouth wet.  It’s not the worst thing in the world, it’s just super annoying.  Another thing I’m getting now, is when I get to work, it’s hard to make my eyeballs focus.  I go out of focus and see double.  My glasses or contacts don’t help it either.  It’s like my eyes are tired and can’t go where they’re supposed to.  My most annoying and worst side effect is my night sweats.  I get cold at night, so I can’t sleep without a blanket.  But with the blanket on, I sweat so much, my sheets are soaked and I’m miserable.  It wakes me up in the middle of the night.  I now have 3 waterproof mattress covers to be sure I don’t ruin my nice new bed.  It’s horrible.  I can’t cuddle with Connor.  When my cat comes to cuddle and lay on me, I get even sweatier right there.  I hate it so much.  The only way I can figure out how to lessen it is to wear pants and a long sleeve shirt.  I guess that way I get more protection and the clothes get wet as opposed to my bed.  It’s so frustrating, I miss cuddling, as that is part of our intimacy together and a way to re-connect after being apart all day.  Of course, because of my Abilify, I still cannot sleep without help.  I have muscle relaxers that put me to sleep for about 3-4 hours, so I’m absolutely dependent on these.  I will wake up every day about 1:00 and not be able to sleep until the meds hit me again.  I can then sleep for a few more hours until I get up for work at 6.  Maybe this one is the worst, more so than sweating.  Maybe the relaxer is affecting my eye muscles and making them relax too much.   That’s an UN-educated guess that I’m going with.

My final thing I’m noticing, which may have nothing to do with my medication, is my paranoia is up.  It’s not super bad, nothing to write home about.  But I keep thinking that people are watching me.  I feel like I have a neon sign above me that flashes “bipolar, stay away.”  I’m afraid that people are following me in my car.  Every time I pass a cop, it is going to turn and follow me (that’s actually happened though).  I’m not quite sure how to handle this, other than going to therapy and having these insane thoughts challenged.

Another Rant

I need to rant again.  I saw this meme posted on one of the bipolar pages I follow, which usually posts pretty good content.  Content meant to lift and create positive vibes.  This one however, I feel is misrepresenting what bipolar is to the thousands of people who will see the image.

bipolar

“I am bipolar, change my mind.” “I changed my mind.”  Just a few simple words, but there are so many issues with them.  First off, I am not bipolar, I HAVE bipolar.  For those that have other disorders like MS, do we say they ARE multiple sclerosis?  No, we don’t.  What makes mine any different?  That it’s in my brain?  It’s still an organ and can get sick.  It’s no different than a liver or pancreas.  I am much more than my disorder, as are those that have MS.  Yes, it is a part of me, but with my medication, nobody would ever know about it.  Of course, Connor will, as he sees everything I do and is alert for changing behavior, but that is the only person.  I don’t have a neon sign above my head screaming in bright wavelengths that “I am bipolar.”  It just feels like I do to me.

The second issue I have with the picture is the view and stereotype that someone with bipolar will rapidly change their mind and can’t stick with one decision.  Their moods will flip flop on a dime and you can never tell what is going to happen.  If someone is in a mood, saying “you’re so bipolar” is so infuriating.  If someone has the shakes, we don’t say, “You’re so Parkinson’s.”  It’s ridiculous and annoying.  I have a mood disorder where I go from a deep depression for months into something that looks like a mild ADD.  I’m a somewhat “normal” feeling person that can be productive.  I can play and be silly and laugh.  This is really hard to do when I’m “down.”  This does not mean it happens every minute, day, week or month.  Most people’s bipolar swings happen a few times a year.  Not a day.  NOT A DAY.  We are not changing moment by moment, so stop treating us like we are.  Stop spreading this ridiculous stereotype.  It’s infuriating and insulting to us.