I don’t even care

How long do down spells last when you’re on two antipsychotics and bipolar 2? I feel like I’ve been down for weeks now. I’m definitely not as down as I used to be; my depression depth has lessened. I’m still struggling with daily self care and doing anything but staying in bed and crocheting random squares. I can’t even care enough to make something useful.

I feel like every thing I do right now is such a huge effort. I have to force myself to leave the house, by joining a crochet/knitting group. I have one group therapy left, I have one more regular therapy appointment left and one more physical therapy appointment left.

I’m on the edge of a precipice and terrified of the jump back into my old life. I can see how I used to be and I’m terrified of going back. It’s driving me down in fear and loathing of my self and progress. Had I not learned so much on my recent journey to wellness, I’d likely jump right in the deep end. Now I’ve got my little swimmers on and want my daddy to catch me in the shallow end. I don’t know if I can do this.

In addition, I’m having dreams that I’m waking up actually crying. I have to cuddle with Connor for a minute because my brain is still in the dream and I can’t break myself lose from it.

This is hard. And excuse typos, I couldn’t even get the energy to go into my laptop and type; I am just using the app on my phone that I obsessively look at how many views I get a day and get knocked down that there are 3.

Intensive Outpatient Therapy

I was recently asked what it was about my group therapy that I loved so much and that I believed was the most helpful in group work.  That is a problematic answer for me, as there was such a huge benefit for me in so many different areas.  It took me from a shy, anxious, depressed and newly diagnosed wreck into a relatively stable and (dare I say it?) happy person.  Of course, it wasn’t all group, I did a lot of work myself, but I wouldn’t have known what work to do had I not gone.

I am in general a chatty person and don’t have issues making friends.  I do however have a hard time getting really close to people and opening up entirely.  I know that I am very naïve and only look at the good side of people, so I tend to not let myself get too close until I can see the true person, or finally see the negative in them that will harm me.  In group therapy, you’re encouraged to be completely open about things you would never tell strangers in a million years.  It taught me rapidly not to be trusting of everyone, but not to be afraid either.  I’m still my introverted self who needs to recharge alone, but when I’m out in public, I’m not quite as terrified to interact with people.  I’m not as ashamed and worried about what they will think of me.

In the beginning when you are admitted to what’s technically called “intensive outpatient therapy” you begin going 9 hours a week.  3 days of 3 hours.  That’s a LOT of time in a room with strangers and it was very intimidating.  It’s absolutely shocking how fast you get comfortable with doing it and disclosing your secrets and fears to these people.  There are people from all walks of life and different stages going through completely dissimilar issues.  Some I’d gone through and could offer suggestions to the others.  A lot of times people would be able to help me through things.  One thing that I see as bad and good, is they tease me about being a natural leader.  I will chime in and “take over” often and I will usually start the conversation because I know nobody else wants to.  Why wait, just get it over with, I have nothing to be afraid of now. Now I know my natural “bossy-ness” is a blessing and a curse.  I did not know I had that skill however, and would never have believed anyone who told me otherwise.

There is something about being in a room with the same 6 people for so long and getting to know them so deeply that what they say to you really does rock you to your core.  You believe them, and you know they mean it well.  It also helps yourself to be able to reach out and care for and guide other people through traumatic issues and bad days.  Being able to say that someone came into group in a terrible mood, and yet we walked out together laughing is quite a feat and happens most every day.

For most people, I believe the guided learning would be the best and most helpful.  Our therapists will pick a subject and teach us about it.  I have every worksheet we’ve ever done and will keep them to look at forever when I’m having either a hypomanic or depressive episode.  They’ve taught me so much on assertiveness, confidence, anxiety calming, and just countless other skills.  Because I have my psychology degree, I thought I knew a teeny bit about therapy and such.  Turns out, I know nothing (thanks Dunning-Kruger effect!).  Without these amazing therapists taking the theories I know and helping apply them to ourselves and our own problems, I would not have learned skills that I’m going to be using for the rest of my life.  Without them, I would still be a scared, timid, self-deprecating hot mess.  I’m grateful every day for the woman who suggested I go to group.  It has essentially saved my life.   It also isn’t a bad thing to have a set-aside time to color for a few hours.
🙂

Miscarriages

I’ve had this request to do this certain topic for weeks now, but never really knew how to write it.  It’s not something I’ve directly experienced, so I can’t speak for myself and so had to do a lot of research on the topic.  However, one of my close friends just disclosed that it has happened to her and her partner, so I thought today was finally time to write.  Miscarriages.  They happen to so many women, so often, and yet are not talked about.  Understandably, for some, it’s such a devastating thing that they don’t want to mention it, let alone think about it.  Yet, for others, it’s a relief and that’s okay too.  Here is a brief summary of what I learned while researching about losing a pregnancy.

You are absolutely allowed to feel however you do.  There is no set way or required way to feel.  If you feel hopeless and lost and devastated, take all the time you need.  But if it was not the right time for you to bring a baby into the world and you’re a little relieved, that’s just as valid.  There is no one set way you’re supposed to feel about losing your pregnancy.  If you are beyond depressed and overwhelmed, let yourself feel it.  Go through and work through your emotions.  That’s healthy and okay, you’re grieving a child.  There is nothing wrong with grief, as hard as it is to experience.

There is NOTHING you could have done.  Miscarriages happen for so very many reasons, and many of them are not the woman’s fault.  This is not 1569.  It is not a woman’s fault alone for not bearing children.  It could have been a chromosomal defect in the child.  It can be so many small things that we don’t even understand.  It does not mean it’s you or that you’re broken or can’t have children ever.  I recently had a close friend have a beautiful baby girl after years of trying and IVF.  Even if you have a hard time carrying children to term, there are other ways to become a mother.  It’s okay to not be fertile myrtle.  There’s nothing wrong with that, you’re not defective or less of a woman.

Did you know that 10-25% of pregnancies that are recognized clinically will end in miscarriages?  That means ones that doctors actually KNOW about, not ones that women don’t even know they’re pregnant before they miscarry.  It’s statistically so difficult to get pregnant and then keep it.  If you do suffer a miscarriage, you’re NOT the only one and you are absolutely not alone.  With everything in a woman’s reproductive system trying to kill off the sperm, and then all the things wrong with some sperm, it’s a miracle we can reproduce at all really.  But, it’s possible.  And it happens every day.  Even if you’ve suffered a loss before.  You can try again when you’re ready.  There is no rush.

You don’t have to hide the fact you had a miscarriage, and yet you are under no obligation to share that information either.  It’s completely up to you and your partner to decide what you would like to share.  Remember that he/she will have emotions about the loss as well, so keep that in mind.  You may be hurting, but they may have different thoughts about the whole thing.  They are just as entitled as you, even if it’s an opposite feeling than you have.  That is where communication between partners will have to come in.  Perhaps it would be a good idea to have a conversation about what and/or how much to share with those around you.  That way you’re both on the same page about it all.

I sincerely apologize if this hurts anyone that is reading it.  I mean only to help and don’t want to cause more pain.  I can empathize with the burning desire to have children, as that is all I want in the whole world.  I can’t fathom the pain that some may go through who lose a child.  For those who are sufferering, here is a list of support organizations that may help you through your pain.

https://www.verywellfamily.com/miscarriage-support-organizations-2371339

To my friends with the recent loss:  I’m so very sorry.  Those are the only words I can think to say to express my pain for you right now.  I’m sure I’ll see you soon and will give you a huge hug each.   I love you both.

Bipolar and Pregnancy

I have had this idea for something to write for a long time.  But I’ve been dreading it.  It scares me to be so open and raw.  I’ve been trying to and learning to do so, but this particular topic is really hard for me to admit and to be open about.

I’m terrified of having a child, especially after my diagnosis.  Because there is a genetic component to bipolar, what kind of mother would I be to give my child the same kind of issues that I’ve dealt with my whole life?  How is that fair to them?  It’s already hard enough to be alive.  This would, or could, just make everything harder.

While it’s not as extreme, it kind of feels like someone with Huntington’s or some other disorder that is genetically inherited.  They struggle with knowing whether to have a child as well.  But for these disorders, or some of them, there are tests in vitro that can be taken.  They don’t know enough about the brain to be able to test for something like bipolar.  I have family history of mental disorders that I’m just really finding out about, so there is some kind of genetic issue going on with me.  Do I just ignore it all because of my deep and burning desire to be a mother?  Can I reconcile with the fact that I will know what I’m seeing if my child does show signs of bipolar?  Or will I overreact like I have with my step-kids and make a mountain out of a molehill?  So far, I’ve been able to notice issues with my step-kids before the doctors do, but that doesn’t mean I’m good or it’s safe for me to notice and point them out to their parents.  I could be wrong and start things that shouldn’t be there.

How does one reconcile the need to be a mom, since I was but three years old, with the desire and love for an unborn child to not hurt?  Because I already have extraordinary issues with my back, it’s already going to be very difficult for me to carry a child before and after birth.  That I can handle.  But what about my medication during the pregnancy?  I’ve already talked to my psychiatrist about it and she’s helped many bipolar women through pregnancy and had a healthy child after.  I know it’s possible.  But it’s also terrifying to be taking such powerful medicine when you’re not even supposed to have Tylenol or soft cheese during pregnancy.

Now family that is reading this.  This does not mean I will not have a baby, as you all know it’s my one goal in life.  I’m just voicing my fears.  This is all supposed to be coming up soon, so it has been on my mind a lot.  I have so much support and know I’ll be able to get through it.  It’s just terrifying.

 

 

(As an afterthought.  If you’ve noticed my writing has been shorter, I’m trying something out.  I was told that my writing is too extensive and people don’t have time to read the posts.  So, maybe if I write less but more often, I can reach more people.  I’ve just got to learn to be less verbose and more to the point)

Bipolar Medication

I joined two bipolar support groups on the ol’ Facebook recently.  I was kicked out for sharing information about my blog, in both groups.  How ironic is that?  But, while I was still in them, I noticed something that just got under my skin.  There was not much support other than asking for information on medicine.  That was the biggest question, over and over.  “What meds are you on, why those, what do they do for you, should I do this,” on and on and on.  It made me feel so lucky to have a personal pharmacist as well as two psychiatrists that are amazing (finally found them after much trial and error).  My personal pharmacist is invaluable to me in countless ways, but with my diagnosis, she just added another reason.

So, with this being said, I’m going to be all out there and talk about my medication for those people that are curious as to what has worked for me.  I’ve been through a bunch of changes, and these few finally have me relatively stable.  What did look like an earthquake seismogram now looks more like the aftershocks.  Calm with small blips every once in a while.  MUCH better than the hell my brain has gone through for years.

I am currently on Abilify 2mg, Cymbalta 60mg, Lamictal 200mg and then Zanaflex 4mg (for sleep) for my bipolar.  I have more medication as well, but those are all for my back and don’t really count for this information.  I have Propranolol (it’s a beta blocker) in case I’m feeling anxious and have the heart palpitations.  I haven’t used it in a long time though, I haven’t needed to (thank goodness!).  Now, I’ve been on a lot of other things, but they just didn’t work for me in the long term.  I remember the first few days after I got put on a mood stabilizer though.  It was as if the clouds and heavy wool blanket over my days and nights were suddenly lifted.  I could see the sun again.  I could see hope and love and gratitude.  It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced.  It didn’t last long, as that particular medicine (Seroquel) made me over sleep and eat like I was famished (I gained 20 lbs in about 2 weeks).  I will always remember how it felt to have those clouds lifted though.

I’ve tried so many medications throughout the years, when my doctors all just assumed I had anxiety and depression.  None of them worked of course, I needed a bit more umph.  And these mood stabilizers in this combination finally provide it.  I do still go up and down, but not NEAR what I was before.  It’s night and day.  I can smile and laugh and cry now.  I couldn’t do those things before.  I feel like a new child learning how to feel for the first time.  One of my psychiatrists after not seeing me in a while said it looked like I was just lighter and floating.  I feel that way now sometimes.  It’s scary and exciting all at once.

 

Bipolar is Hard

Guys.  Bipolar is hard.  It’s a lot easier now that I have a diagnosis and have been tracking everything.  But when my mood changes, I notice more of everything.  Everything matters now with how I take care of myself; I can see a huge change with small things like getting up on time and how that affects me.  A few weeks ago I was in a mixed episode, I’m sure.  This week I’m down.  Not as far down as I used to be, but I’m what I call “quiet.”  Which is often pensive and reflective.  I just woke up from a nightmare about my step-kids.  Nightmares always freak me out, as I usually do not dream.  Now I’ve got that on my mind and likely won’t be able to sleep the rest of the night.  And I struggle to sleep now without more on my mind.

Last week I was terrible about remembering to take my meds.  That REALLY caused a downswing and also made me not feel great.  Turns out SNRI’s really suck to stop taking for 2 days.  After talking to group, we found a way for me remember at a consistent time.  They’re right next to my bed and when I take out my retainer, I take my meds.  Much easier in general to be medication compliant.

Then why am I down?  I’m staying productive for the most part, which is a huge trigger for me.  I’m doing my one productive thing a day at least.  Still nothing.  Do I just wait it out?  How long until I go back up?  I know this is all much easier and won’t last as long as it would have been unmedicated.  But going through your first few swings after being much more stable is a bit disconcerting.  At least before my diagnosis, I knew when I went down, I was going WAY down for a long time.  Now it’s all unknown.

It also doesn’t help that I’ve been hyper-analzying my blog.  Seeing what happens if I don’t write but once a week.  Changing wording and format and titles to see what changes in patters of views.  All I can see is that when I post, I get about 20 people reading for 2 days, then it goes down to 3.  This has been hard for me to swallow.  I have a hard time separating myself from my writing, so I’ve been taking it personally and questioning myself.  Things are running through my head similar to “why even do this, am I helping anyone now?  Am I not good enough at writing?  Am I on the wrong topic, since I know no other bipolar people other than in group?  Should I not do this anymore?”  Yay for rumination!

SHARE MY BLOG!  IT’S VITAL TO MY HEALTH!  🙂

Intrusive Thoughts

Intrusive thoughts are something that I used to deal with extensively.  Mine would manifest mostly as a suicidal ideation.  I would constantly think about what would happen were I to drive off the road and no longer live.  I wouldn’t PLAN on driving off the road, nor did I have intentions of doing so.  I would think about the repercussions of it as well as what it would feel like.  This would happen a lot during this previous summer when I was on my way to or from work, as my drive is 45 minutes.  I didn’t plan on doing it, until I did do it.  My therapist suggested to me that my suicidal ideation (at least before it went away, as I no longer have this issue) may just be a form of intrusive thoughts that a lot of people have.  Intrusive thoughts are unwanted thoughts, images, or ideas that come across your mind and you can’t necessarily stop.  They may come out of nowhere or be a constant companion that doesn’t quite make sense.  Things like driving off the road or wanting to punch someone that isn’t even irritating you.  Dropping a plate you’re holding, putting your hand on a hot stove, jumping off of a bridge you’re walking across, hurting yourself etc.  There is a long range of intrusive thoughts that anyone and everyone can have.  Thankfully, it’s super common, so you don’t have to worry if you’re crazy (for this reason anyway).

They aren’t exactly easy to stop; I had to get diagnosed as bipolar and go through intensive therapy and medication changes for mine to stop, but it is possible to do.  While I do not have mine anymore, I am hypervigilant now while driving, so mine went the other way.  I’m not thinking of driving off the road anymore, I’m terrified of someone making me have a car wreck, so I’m very vigilant and anxious when driving, thinking someone will pull in front of me or something and cause me to crash.  Alas the pendulum swings.  I looked up some common intrusive thoughts, perhaps you may have some of these too.  There were quite a few that I had as well.  I’ll link the article, so you can see the full list as well.

  1. People are looking at you and laughing at you
  2. You are a burden on people
  3. Something bad is about to happen
  4. Hurting yourself or others
  5. Violent thoughts
  6. You don’t love your significant other
  7. Family would be better off without you
  8. Committing murder
  9. Contracting a disease
  10. You’re not good enough or thin enough
  11. You’re ugly and fat
  12. Jumping off a bridge or onto a subway rail
  13. That you have done something terribly wrong
  14. Things happening to those you love
  15. Nobody loves you

 

There are endless variations of these basic thoughts.  They are intrusive and so by nature they like to stick around and go around the hamster wheel in your mind.  The only way I’ve found to help me get over/through them is to ground myself.  I will also rub on my worry stones I have strategically placed in my car, beside my bed and in my purse.  In order to ground yourself, they taught us to pick one each of smell, sight, taste, sound and touch and apply it to yourself in that moment.  If you’re in the car in the rain, pick the smell of the rain, the view of the road, the sound of the radio, the feel of cold air running through your hair, the taste of the soda you have next to you.  Place yourself back into that exact moment.  Ground yourself to where you currently are as opposed to the “what if” thoughts that are going through your mind.  This technique I use quite frequently to get through panic as well as get rid of any nasty thoughts.  We practiced this in some of my first group therapy classes using our favorite senses as well.  That way, when we are in the throes of a panic attack, we can mentally picture our favorite senses and try and ground ourselves when we can’t focus on anything but the panic.
What intrusive thoughts do you have?  How do you get through them and get your mind back on track?

 

https://themighty.com/2017/02/intrusive-bad-violent-thoughts-ocd/

Seasons of Love

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles
In laughter, in strife

In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure a year in the life

How about love?
How about love?
How about love?
Measure in love
Seasons of love
Seasons of love

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Journeys to plan
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure the life
Of a woman or a man?

In truths that she learned
Or in times that he cried
In bridges he burned
Or the way that she died

It’s time now to sing out
Tho’ the story never ends
Let’s celebrate
Remember a year in the life of friends

Remember the love
Remember the love
Remember the love
Measure in love
Measure, measure your life in love

Seasons of love

This song has been going through my head all day, as it is New Year’s Day.  This song always makes me reflect on my year and what’s happened and how I would measure it.  It is from the Musical, RENT, which has been my favorite since I saw it with my aunts, mother and grandmother as a young teen.  I think this is a great way to reflect back on 2018 and see what a tough year it was, but also how much growth I’ve accomplished during that time.

The first six months of 2018 I barely remember.  I was just chugging along, going to my doctor’s appointments and trying to get a handle on my depression and anxiety.  I knew I was sick, but thought it was just that.  Smaller things.  I was spread too thin, working really hard at my job and doing well at it.  I worked my ass of on some projects that changed the way my team worked.  At home, I was trying my best to be the best wife I could while holding onto resentment and irritability at Connor.  I came home and napped for 2 hours every night and then on nights when Connor was out in the garage, I’d play Zelda and just escape for a few hours.  I wasn’t LIVING, but I was going through the motions.

Then my kitty got sick and almost died.  Then I started struggling at work.  Then the car ran through Connor’s business.  Then I had more issues with my step-kids.  It all came down at once.  My suicidal ideations became stronger and I just wanted to drive my car off the road.  Then I did and ended up in the psych ward thinking I’d driven myself off the road (turns out I didn’t).  Now, everything is different.  I have hope.  I have life.  I’m doing a lot better and I’m not just going through the motions.

I can stop my car on the side of the road and really enjoy a stunning sunset with the dark silhouettes of guardian trees.  Cups of coffee can be savored next to snoring dogs and purring cats.  Every inch is harder, but sharper and more beautiful when viewed through the rearview mirror.  There is more laughter.  More strife.  There is more love.  I’ve learned more truths in the last six months than most of my life.  I’ve burned the bridges of the dark thoughts I’d had before.  I can celebrate and love my life and my friends.  My life is full of love now.  There is hope.

Shoulds and Anxiety

 

adult alone black and white dark

Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

Fair warning ahead.  This post will have a lot of “should” spoken throughout.  I know I’ll be “shoulding on myself” but it’s kind of the point of what’s going on.  I want to talk about the lack of motivation and how it contributes to my guilt issue.  There are a ton of things that anyone may think they should be doing.  How they should look, how they should eat, how they should feel, what they should do in certain situations.  On and on and on.  I don’t know how anyone would not feel like they should all over themselves.  However, I feel that some/most people may not have such an issue with the shoulds as those with depression (side note, my spellcheck hates shoulds).

When I’m in the throes of depression, or what I think I’m entering now, my mixed state, my motivation to do things goes close to zero.  My shoulds go off the charts.  Right now, I have about a month before I go back to work.  So I should be doing the rest of my list of things I wanted to get done around the house, because I won’t have the time or energy to do them.  Am I doing or starting any of them?  Nope.  Nada.  I should be though.  I know I just deep cleaned my house last week, but I should do a room a day in order to keep it this clean; nope, not happening.  I still have things on my last list I wanted to do, like clean my fridge and organize my utility closet.  Still dirty and a disaster.  It’s almost time to get the Christmas decorations down that I don’t even particularly care for generally, and I’m dreading it.  I should read the 8 books on my nightstand and can’t even get myself to do that, and I LOVE to read.  I should give my dogs a bath.  I should get a craft table downstairs.  I should learn more about my new craft toy so I can play with it.  I should finish decorating my step-daughter’s room.  On and on and on; you get the point.

My point is, that with all these things on my theoretical plate, I have even less motivation to do any of them.  I feel overwhelmed and that makes me shut down and not able to do any of it.  I could have done something small today as I had about an hour alone.  What did I do?  Color.  Maybe I needed it.  I have been really anxious recently, mostly about going to work and my lack of sleep.  How will I get up at 6am when I wake up at 2 every single day?  I’m not even going to get into all of my anxiety about going back to work, they are crushing me too.  I will have the day tomorrow to myself to get some things done, so I may do one.  I do have a rule that I have to do one productive thing a day.  Perhaps since my washer is still broken, I can put away the three clean baskets I do have ready and clean.  They’ve been sitting for weeks, perhaps it’s about time.  Maybe because I’ve got so little motivation I should pick something smaller and more digestible to do.  Pick a thing, any thing.  I’ve been crocheting random scarves with this pretty green wool yarn, but I have a billion scarves and have no need of it, so what’s the point?  To keep my hands going and moving to deal with being anxious, and not using my phone to do it.  Coping?

The other part I’m dealing with is clearly my mind is going at top speed.  You can tell if you look up at my shoulds.  There is so much there that is spiraling around and doesn’t stop.  It hasn’t been that way for a while.  It’s only done this for about 3 days, so I cannot really confirm I’m in a mixed state, but I’m assuming this is what it feels like.  I spent an hour when I woke up pretend shopping so that I don’t impulsively spend money on amazon.  I just shop and find things I want and add them to my cart.  I’ll then hit “save for later” or add to a shopping list.  That way I still FEEL like I’m shopping, but don’t spend my money.  I do that on a lot of websites, it’s the only way I could find to stop my random compulsive nighttime shopping.  And it’s worked for the most part.  There are a few things I messed up on, but that I decided I NEEDED to have.  And one of them, I had in my cart for a week.  I want a retractable baby gate at the top of my stairs.  My dogs have been good about not going downstairs if I’m not there with them, but if I go down, I can’t keep them upstairs.  Downstairs is where the good kitty surprises are as well as cat food and pieces of wood to chew up (which I still haven’t cleaned from the other day).

So with all of this swirling around in my head, how do I pick one out and do it, so I don’t go down into full depression?  When I’m in full depression I feel worthless when I don’t do anything, and that just triggers a whirlpool of worsening despair.  What am I going to do when I go back to work and don’t have the time nor energy to do any of this?  When I work, I get home and am just mentally exhausted and can only take care of the minimum of chores, like feed everyone, make dinner and clean up.  By then, it’s 8 pm and I can’t/won’t do any more.  Weekends are for adventures and seeing the kids.  I’ll have to continue to do the next right thing and just pick something and force myself to do it.  And hopefully I can get out of this mixed state somehow.  Though I don’t have any clue how or when that can happen.