bipolar disorder 2

Dear Insomnia, I Hate You.

Dear Insomnia, This is the 5th (6th?) night in a row we've hung out.

You dropped by completely unannounced expecting me to party these nights away with you...

Maybe you were really looking for Snooki and got lost on a detour that ended at my crib, I don't know.

What I do know is that I like to swathe myself in my cozy comforter, a cumulus nimbus cloud of pillows and snore my way through dreams that star Will Ferrel and the cast of The Big Bang Theory.

And be jarred awake as my cheek starts to swim in the cold drool that's formed the Great Lakes on my pillow.

I like to sleep. Soundly. Undisturbed.

In fact the only people allowed to disturb my slumber are my children...and that's only because well...they're my children. Someone has to feed them and change pee soaked diapers at o dark thirty in the morning...if I'm not awake to do that, they might wind up eating bath salts and start eating people while they throw feces all over my walls. We just cant have that.

I need to sleep so I can have energy when they come barreling full force into my room, so full of combustible energy they're practically nuclear.

That's why I need my sleep, Insomnia. Because I have nuclear missiles to raise. You can't do that ish half-asleep-someone could get an eye poked out or start Armageddon....

And while I love Jesus, I gotta be honest and say I'm not ready to meet Him yet, not at 29. 79? Maybe. 109? Definitely.

But I digress....

Sleep. I need it because without it, I go skyrocketing off to another galaxy...one full of euphoric gas, rainbows, talking unicorns, million dollar gift cards to Target, and other glorious things one feels as they begin to tango with hypomania.

Without sleep, this over wired brain begins to short circuit....synapses, axons, dendrites, and other things I should've paid more attention to when my processor lectured on them in my Human Development class start to....misfire...yea I think that's the term she used.

Anyway the point is without sleep my brain's homeostasis is thrown outta wack and my bipolar comes out to play. Which is what you wanted in the first place and absolutely love because you two like to party together. Problem is after a few days of getting high, the twins Anxiety and Agitation show up to crash the party, bringing Depression and her dark, brooding thoughts with her.

As fun as the initial moments of hypomania are, I really prefer to be on the level side of things, so I'd really like you to leave. You're dangerous...like playing with firecrackers dangerous, and I'd like to keep my body parts intact and spare my family a spin on the bipolar merry go round.

I'm sorry but staring off into the darkness while everyone else is knee deep in REM cycles isn't my idea of fun. And again, neither is the crash that comes after the high.

You're just too much of a trigger. I can't have you around. You've gotta go.

So please free the Sandman from wherever you're holding him hostage and hit the road. Bother someone who can actually make you work for them and not against 'em.

Consider this a warning. If you fail to heed this warning, expect Ambien & Trazadone to pay you a visit. They're like the Chuck Norris' of sleep meds.

I'm not afraid to use them.

Signed,

Me

On Getting Mental Health Treatment at the VA & Your Psych Saying "It's Time to Kick Your Bipolar in the Ass"

I really can't complain about my psychiatrist. She's really soft spoken but understanding, accommodating, knows her stuff, is thorough, listens to my sometimes disjointed explanations of my symptoms (this is where my mood chart helps, BIG TIME), and lets me barrage her with whatever questions pop up. In fact, if I were to have any complaint at all, it wouldn't really be with her. It would be with the VA hospital. I'm grateful that the Dept of Veteran Affairs has a major hospital in Philly I can go to for treatment. I just hate that it has the all too familiar "hurry up and wait" operational model like the military. It's the epitome of bureaucracy. Their mental health clinic is fairly decent, but because they are understaffed (like much of the VA as a whole), each psych's patient load is pretty heavy and they are always double booked. If you call and leave a message, it usually takes 2-4 days for your psych to get back to you, and their voicemails are always full.

When you come in for an appointment, the wait time can be torture, sometimes taking 2-3 hours. You arrive for your appointment, sit in the lobby with Vets from Vietnam to Iraq, listen to them argue and swap war & treatment stories, and strain your neck to see if your psych is the one walking through the double doors. Fatigued and bored, you practically leap to your feet when your name is called...if it's your psych, you practically skip off to their office. If it's the receptionist handing you the sheet that lists all your meds, you flop back down on your seat in disappointment. Lots of sighs and complaints punctuate the atmosphere.

While you're waiting for your psych to come rescue you from the chaos of the waiting room, two things ALWAYS happen.

  • A fight breaks out...usually between two Vets in their 70's. I've even seen two Vets in wheelchairs go at it. That one was both sad and hilarious to watch
  • A Vet with severe war trauma sits in a corner of the waiting room, quietly mumbling to himself...which doesn't seem out of the ordinary at all until he starts hallucinating. Suddenly he's carried off by memories of combat and everyone in the waiting room is either a comrade or an enemy. This usually throws the everyone in the waiting room into a frenzy of confusion, unease, and fear. Sometimes other Vets are triggered and this adds to the erupting chaos. "Code Red, Level 3 on Floor 7" blares over the loud speaker, security shows up, and doctors come rushing out from behind the double doors to help calm the melee.
I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm either in the hallway or the bathroom hiding when either of those two things happen, keeping an eye out for my psych.

When she does finally come to get me, escaping to her office is a welcome reprieve. She usually only gets to see me for 10-15 minutes because she has so many appointments to keep, but she does her best to take her time with me, asking about the kids, how I'm doing in school, how I'm dealing with things. Sometimes this pushes our time together to 30 minutes instead of 10, but she always reassures me it's ok-she'd rather take the time to make sure I have everything I need than rush me out.

That is why, like I said, I can't really complain about her. She rocks. She treats me like a person and not an object or a file number. I can tell she really cares about my well being and wants to see me get better. This is what keeps me from complaining about her taking 2-4 days to call me back when I'm struggling.

That's why when I called and left a message on her voicemail yesterday and she called me back 10 minutes later, I was in shock.

"Hi, A'Driane. I just got your message and wanted to take some time to call you back before I see my next patient. I've been wondering how you've been doing since we talked on Friday. How are you feeling?"

As I started blurting out the answer, telling her that I've gone from just being depressed to being both hypomanic and depressed, having ruminating, racing thoughts, and have seen my OCD symptoms starting to dominate my behavior, she listened quietly. When I was done, she was silent for about a minute before she spoke.

"You know, A'Driane, while I think the Lamictal has been helping you some,  I don't think it's enough anymore. After we spoke on Friday, I took a good look at your chart and my notes...and...I think it's time we get more aggressive in your treatment. The rapid cycling you've been experiencing is more difficult to treat, more complicated than I anticipated. I...I have to admit I'm going to need some help developing a more aggressive approach. We just got a team of manic depressive specialists on staff, and I think it would be a good idea to go ahead and set you up with a consult to see them. I'm also thinking some CBT will help you develop some better coping strategies, so I'm going to have you set up with one of our therapists, okay? I know it takes alot for you to get here, and you have the boys, but I think if you can get to these appointments they can help us start to really get this under control for you. I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's time to kick your Bipolar in the ass. Let's throw everything we can at this. I want to get you healthy. What do you think?"

Well first of all I'm shocked you just said "ass". Kinda awesome. Sounds good to me. I'm feeling pretty desperate so I'm game for anything at this point. I just want need relief. BAD.

"And that's what I'm going to try to get for you. So I'll set these consults up for you, and in the meantime, let's double your Lamictal dose now, and go up another 50mg in about 2 weeks. I'm also going to prescribe you an anti psychotic to help with the OCD and the thoughts you're having. Let's also try taking some Xanax to help calm you down until we get these meds to you. I'm ordering them now, you should have them before the week is out. Do you have enough to last you until then?"

Yes.

"Good. One more thing-promise me you'll go to the ER if suicidal thoughts kick in-promise?"

Promise.

"Ok. How did the end of the semester go? How are the boys?"

And that, people is why I love her.

So...I guess it's time to start fighting harder and kick some ass.

I'm ready.

Music That Moves: Rend Collective Experiment, Gungor, Switchfoot, & Newsboys

Five songs that are inspiring me today to push through.  It's hard to hold on to your faith when you're bouncing like a pinball between mania and depression on a daily basis; but being able to believe in something bigger than myself pulls me through the chaos that clamors in my emotions and mind...It's the only thing that anchors me to this life.

"God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains;  it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world." (C.S. Lewis)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCYgQWLO8vY]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SswMKsFaHWE]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OR7VOKQ0xJY]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_OTz-lpDjw]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypSz8WqRc_M]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHhzbWaAcgo]

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful... Hebrews 10:23

"ViSuAl dIsTuRbAnCeS" or "What to Do When Your Psych is More Focused on Your Rainbow Hair than YOU"

English: Close-up of 0.5mg tablets of the bran...

"Come along Ms. Dudley...yes, yes, this way, " sing-sang Dr. H as he led me down the hallway.

"Oh my, your hair....I truly love your hair. It's FUN-KAY," he says stopping and turning to me, his hand on my shoulder.

Um....eh...thank you.

We walk into his office....

I sit down across from his desk, he plops (yes PLOPS) down behind it and props his feet up on what looks like some kind of milking stool or seat.

"So you started on some new meds about 2-3 weeks ago is that right? Can you tell me what you're on? (points at his computer screen)

Lorazepam as needed for anxiety, half a tab of abilify, and neurontin....I trail off feeling like some kind of 5th grader.

"Hmmmm...so you've been seeing things? What kinds of things?"

Stationary objects...words...cups...plants...I've been seeing them move....(voice trails off and I shift uncomfortably in my chair. It squeaks)

"How are you sleeping?

Sleeping but tossing and turning during the night and waking up very early.

"And you're a full-time student? And a mother? How many kids?"

Yes. Two.

"Ages?"

5 in February and 22 months.

"So you deal with alot of stress. "

Duh, I mean, yes.

"And who else is home with you?"

No one. It's just me.

"I see. So are you seeing things beca-wait, did you do your hair yourself?  I mean, because there are people-wow even in the sunlight it just looks incredible, WOW-there are people who do stuff like that and it just looks horrendous, but you, man....that's pure art. Are you an artist?"

Wha-um. No. Not an artist.

"Well you have to be creative right? I mean to be able to  blend but yet separate the colors like tha-"

I guess. I'm creative, yea, I'm a writer. I write. But lately when I write or read I've been seeing the words MOVE.

"Right, you've been having visual disturbances. Hey can you move over just a little? You should really see how your hair looks in the sunlight, it's amazing."

*blank look*

*sinking feeling in stomach*

and then the disappointing BOOM: "Well, I say we just up the abilify and see if they stop, ya know?"

January 8, 2008 - Slim-Fast fashion show

I can't even continue to type out the details of my visit to the on call psych at the VA today because it's just going to cause the low I'm feeling to settle in deeper.  To summarize I've either been hallucinating because I'm super tired, super stressed, or the neurontin I'm on is playing tricks on my eyesight & brain. Either way, it hasn't been a fun couple of days and when I finally got the courage to go to the hospital, my pysch, Dr. C is busy and I have to settle for the on call psych who looks & dresses like Tim Gunn from Project Runway and gets memories of his old acid & LSD days from my hair!

Figures.

After stating that he's never heard of neurontin (gabapentin) causing "visual disturbances" , he CALLS me after I leave his office, on my cell phone, to tell me that he looked it up and it turns out in rare cases, seeing s--- move IS indeed a side effect.

What. The. French. Toast.

I love the VA. But I also HATE the VA. Because they have people like this Tim Gunn knockoff working for them and treating people. Or fondling themselves over their patient's rainbow hair. Whatever.

I'm calling Dr. C tomorrow and demanding to be put on Lamictal and something else. I'm done playing merry go round. F--ing clowns.  Says the chick with rainbow hair that looks fierce in the sunlight.

My Brain is Exploding...Into a Thousand Manic Pieces

I had to stop my anti-depressant a week ago. It was making me sick. Really sick. Stomach pains, nausea, the works. I saw my psych this week yet again, and we took another ride on the medicinal merry go round to see where it would take us next.

We landed on what she's calling a "mild mood stabilizer." Mild in terms of the severity of it's side effects. She's been trying to keep me off of Lithium, Depakote, Lamictal, and the other "big guns," as she calls them because she knows that severe side effects can render me incapable of taking care of the boys....but she's working overtime to get me on something that works and helps me maintain a healthy fluctuation of moods because anything too high or too low also renders me incapable of taking care of myself and the boys...and school...and life. Problem is, I haven't gotten this new med yet. It's in the mail. On it's way.

I apologize if my sentences are running on...or not making sense at the moment. I'm trying to be coherent, but that's a hard task when it feels like the world is spinning at 500mph-in your mind. My mind has been exploding with ideas and energy all day, scattering my attention into a thousand little pieces...

I stopped my anti a week ago, and by Monday when I went to fill out my mood chart, I noticed I was giddy. Too giddy. Laughing incessantly. Silly. Goofy. Fun. Overjoyed. Elated. Euphoric. Happy. Smiling. Busy. Productive. Feeling creative & optimistic. I was all the best parts of me multiplied by at least a thousand.

I had started my ascent into a manic episode.

Whether or not it's hypo, hyper, or full blown mania doesn't really seem to matter...what does matter is that for the first time I've learned enough about BP and myself the months following my diagnosis that I can recognize the signs & symptoms and understand the state that I'm in... which means I can take the necessary steps to take proper care of myself while I'm in it and run preventative maintenance before the inevitable low comes....

Because the low? It's going to come. But what I'm learning is that its severity depends on how well I take care of myself before it hits.

I'm at a stage with my BP that I'm coming to terms with it and understanding how it works; I've spent the past 6 months  identifying my triggers and paying attention to how I respond to what's going on in and around me. Mood charting has helped me start to see the pattern and frequency of my cycles. Learning to be "in the moment" has afforded me the ability to take a moment while my thoughts are racing to assess how I'm feeling-even if it's only for a split second. That split second? Makes all the difference.

When I first started reading about BP, I came across some statements from people who said they live for the highs. Living through this current episode, I can finally understand why, and I agree. Sure I can see how dangerous they can be, I'm not denying that. But I can honestly say that when placed in the confines of proper self-care, the highs are manageable. Livable. Like I said, I'm me, but I'm the best parts of me more of the time. I can take care of my boys, play with them, nurture them, read to them...My house is cleaner, my meals taste better, I have the energy to exercise, read, and interact with people....I can take better care of myself when I'm feeling manic...

But I can also understand when it's entering the not so safe zone...

Talking too much too fast...

Feeling "scattered" mentally...

On Energizer Bunny mode one minute...

Unmotivated the next....

Lack of concentration...

A little snappier than normal...

Indecisive....

Impulse control starts to diminish....

Feeling like I'm going 500mph...

Driving and just getting out the door to run an errand takes me 3 hours....

Yea...when I start to feel like that, I know I'm in trouble. So I have to find ways to make my world slow down, spin slower...allow the manic feelings to run their course, just in constructive ways.

Like getting fresh air...

Baking....lots of baking.

Dancing...

Sitting on the floor with the boys and watching them play...

Yoga....

I would say prayer, but I pray on the go these days or as I'm writing a letter to God in my journal. It's the only way I can focus my thoughts in these states. I think He's okay with that...

and writing. lots of writing.

That's why I wrote this today instead of what I planned on discussing.

And you know what? I'm feeling way more peaceful than I did before I forced myself to sit here and talk to you.

Now I feel like I can go bake 5 loaves of delish bread instead of 15. I don't have 15 neighbors so making that much would just be a waste. And we can't be wasteful, now can we?

 

 

 

Manic Monday: Side Effects

Confession: I'm typing this from my phone while I lay on my bathroom floor....and this isn't the topic I was going to write on today. Why, you ask? Well because it's the coldest floor in my apartment and my queasy stomach is more tolerable when my face is pressed into it....and getting my laptop to type out my original content is just impossible because that would require me to lift my head up and that only makes the room spin faster...so, the floor and from the phone it is.

I hate days like this, the ones where side effects from medications take the wheel and dictate where your body goes. In my case, for the past hour it's been to the floor. I started off in my living room....crawled to the kitchen to get the boys a snack....stuck Brennan on the XBox, stumbled to their room where I placed Alex in his crib with the iPad, and did the deadman's crawl across the hallway to the bathroom. Sounds dramatic, but I wish it were an exaggerated description of how I ended up here...

...on the floor ....sipping on ginger ale like it has healing power .....shaking ....begging Jesus to kill the medicated squirrel going ape in my tummy

Ahhh medication. Compliance. Side effects. It's not an easy tightrope to balance on. It's the nausea, headaches, tremors, fatigue and other side effects that make you question why you even decided to walk it in the first place.

Then you look back behind you and see your life without the meds, and you see THOSE side effects: the hypomania, the OCD, the anxiety, the irritability and edginess, the fatigue that comes from just forming a thought, the lack of focus and disoriented mental state....and you look at the line in front of you and keep walking, keep trying to balance...

At least I do. I have to. For me, life without medication isn't possible, at least not right now. And I'm okay with that, even of it means I have to spend some time here on the floor while my body adjusts to everything.

I may not like them, but I'll take the side effects of the meds that help me be ME over the ones that let the worst parts of me rage out of control.

So could you be a dear and pass me another bottle of ginger ale? I've got like a lifetime supply ;)

Manic Mondays (On Tuesdays): Hypersexuality, Faith, & Womanhood pt. 1

Confession: This is the probably the hardest series of posts I've ever written here on 'Confessions, because it deals with a personal and often 'taboo' subject in Christian culture. But I believe in the power of transparency, and I realize that this is part of owning my story and having honest dialogue with others, so that's why I'm writing about this particular subject. Not sure how many parts there will be  this series, but I hope that this proves to be a healthy exploration for myself and whoever finds themselves in reading these posts. Bipolar Disorder: When Sexuality Is in Overdrive - Bipolar Disorder Center - Everyday Health.

I read this article today while taking a break from doing my project on the book of Philemon. I'm in the middle of finals week and the end of the semester, (hence my absence from the blogging world) but I knew after reading this, I had to stop and write about it...

...or rather about my experience with hypersexuality as a woman trying to manage BP.  About being a Christian who struggles severely with this symptom of BP and what how I believe it impacts my walk with God...

About a year ago, I started noticing that I was having very sexual dreams, which was out of the norm for me. While sex isn't something I dream about normally, that's not what bothered me about the dreams. What bothered me was that I was constantly dreaming about having sex with women, which was definitely something I had NEVER done before. I also started noticing that I would have days (possibly a couple of weeks...or a month even) where all I would think about is having sex.

Now, let me say this. (Again, I'm being transparent here, so understand my disclosure serves a purpose) I lost my virginity at 16 and didn't have sex again until I was 20-when I met my next boyfriend. While I enjoy sex, I'm not the type to have "friends with benefits," one night stands, or even casual sex with strangers or people I don't know very well. I tried having a casual sex relationship once and I hated it. (and it didn't last very long). The only other person I "casually" had sex with was my ex...but I had known him for over a year. We were friends....and then we were dating...and the sex? It just happened. In other words, if I'm sharing my cookie jar with you, it's because I know you, I trust you, and we're in a monogamous relationship.... and even then, depending on how my spiritual health is, sex might not even happen under those circumstances.Sex and being intimate with someone I care about is awesome, but I've never been the type who felt like I had to have it regularly if I was single. I had more of a "take it or leave it" attitude concerning sex...if I was taking it, I thoroughly enjoyed it with my significant other...if I was single and leaving it, I was perfectly okay with that.

So while I enjoy it and I don't mind exploring my sexuality, I've never been a slave to it...or felt like I was at the mercy of my desires....until I started having dreams about trysts with women (and liking it) and found myself getting into these moods where it's all I seemed to think and fantasize about.

These moods would always catch me off guard because after having Alex and starting Zoloft, I had noticed that my sex drive or desire for it had dropped significantly, which is pretty normal after pushing a bowling ball-sized object out of your vagina and starting an anti-depressant. I would have days or even a couple of months where I wouldn't even think about it, or it didn't feel like a need that just had to be satisfied...and then I would find myself  waking up with my hands down my pajamas....dreaming about random sexual encounters with total strangers....and wanting to jump on top of my ex every time I thought of or saw him.

If you're reading this and you're a woman, I'm sure you know how um...aroused you can get as you draw closer to your period, right?  (yep, I went there and said the p-word-go ahead, you can squirm a little more, it's ok) Well imagine those feelings multiplied by, oh I don't know, maybe a thousand or so and you'll get a picture of how I would feel in these moods. They would totally consume me, I felt like some kind of pervert or sex addict. It was so bad sometimes that even my ex would look at me and be like, "uh...yea...NO!" and would ask if I was okay. You know it's bad when you're so overwhelmed with needing to have sex that it decreases your partner's desire for it.  Yea....ouch.

One of the frustrating things about feeling so sexual was that no matter how much I had, it never satisfied the need, it only intensified it. I even took to pleasing myself which while I've known other women who do it and it's not  a big deal, it was for me because it was something I had never done. These feelings weren't just about trying to explore my sexuality or what I "liked." It was literally like a wildfire just burning out of control. I tried everything to uh...satisfy it, squash it, ignore it. It literally became a highly agitating state to be in, and I didn't really understand what was going on....

The even more frustrating part about my hypersexual feelings was the fact that because I'm an unmarried Christian, I felt endless amounts of guilt about what I was experiencing. And the shame. Oh the shame that would consume me and still does at times was all encompassing. I felt...dirty. Full of lust. A lustful, sinful woman who just couldn't control herself. I didn't know how to talk to anyone about it, let alone God. I felt guilty for wanting sex as much as I did, guilty for having it as much as I was, guilty for pleasuring myself (masturbation is a no no in Christian culture, apparently), guilty for just any and everything about sex. It was awful and the guilt and shame I felt only fueled my depressive moods, tying me down in the gravity wells these moods placed me in.

During these states my mind would swirl with racing thoughts: Was I just consumed with lust? What was wrong with me? Was God disgusted with me? Angry with me? Did He understand? I would stand at the altar at the end of service, begging God to help me stop compromising, asking for forgiveness and desiring to be and do better. Then a few days would pass or maybe a week or two and I'd find myself right back in the same state: hot, bothered, and full of this urge I lacked the ability to control...

Since my diagnosis in July, I've learned so much about BP and its symptoms I feel less guilt and shame because I know (for the most part) what's causing it. Learning that it's a symptom of my disorder and not necessarily a reflection of my character has brought me to a place of acceptance about it. I still wrestle with what to do about these feelings when they arrive and become overwhelmingly intense, but I don't beat myself up over having them anymore...

My questions to God these days are more about management and how to maintain celibacy until marriage. I'm rather frank with Him about it and I believe He's far more understanding about it than I originally gave Him credit for.

Hear me: I'm not trying to justify my behavior, so Christians don't crucify me. I'm also not trying to use this symptom of my disorder as an excuse to just be all "A'Driane Gone Wild." But I am trying to manage, understand and walk this issue out in a way that is spiritually healthy and doesn't "taint" my relationship with God.

I'm also trying to be more open and honest about this issue, which is something I don't think enough of us Christians do...

I'll talk about this and more about my faith, hypersexuality and how they impact me next week. Until then....any thoughts? Feel free to share...

Manic Mondays: Training My Pet Dragon

You know those wild fires that burn out of control every year here in the U.S. ? They rage for days, possibly weeks, while firefighters and rangers work overtime to try and control the blaze, possibly contain it so it doesn't spread. They cost millions of dollars worth of damage and alter the lives of those affected forever.

That's what Bipolar Disorder is like.

Especially rapid cycling Bipolar Disorder type II.

It's a fire, full of unconstrained emotions and hormones that rage like a wildfire, consuming your entire being physically, mentally, and emotionally. Sometimes it's triggered by an external source, others it's something internal that ignites the spark.  Much like the wildfires that burn across the West, it's a fire that can burn out of control...it's takes finding the right combination of medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes to put the fire out or at a minimum help it die down to a manageable state. If it rages too long, it can cause damage to the person suffering from it and to those around them. It burns. It's painful. It's a hard battle to fight.

I've been referring to BP lately as a dragon. Ironically, I happen to LOVE the movie "How to Train Your Pet Dragon" and when I think about living with this disorder, that's what I envision: A roaring, raging, fire breathing, dragon that can thrash around and cause chaos and destruction in my life if I don't learn how to  do the following:

  • Find out what triggers her (yes, it's a she....cause I'm a she. Duh)
  • What stirs up the fire in her
  • What she likes/dislikes
  • What helps her stay content in her cave...asleep, dormant
Remember the scenes in the movie where Hiccup and his other Vikings in training are in the ring, trying to battle the baby dragons? Each trainee was expected to know everything about the dragon they were to face-it's strengths, weaknesses and how to defeat it.  Remember how when Hiccup befriended Toothless and learned what made him happy versus what freaked him out? Remember how Hiccup took what he learned and applied to the other dragons?  That's how we've gotta handle living with something like this. Learn everything you can about it, what triggers it, and adjust our lives accordingly. There are times when no matter what preventative maintenance we do, our dragons will rage and breath fire...but if we learn how to train them? They can stay in their cave more often.
I've been reading numerous posts, articles and even had a conversation with someone who gave me hope that  BP is NOT a death sentence. It may be something that we have to live with for the rest of our lives, but it doesn't have to destroy or even control every aspect of them. From what I've been reading and hearing, manageability is attainable-and for a person with BP, that's recovery. Finding what keeps it manageable and in the cave is tough, it's a battle. But once we do, and once we know what even causes it to rage,  we are then properly equipped to fight the battle....and WIN.
Bipolar Disorder doesnt' have to be a big, scary, fire breathing behemoth that rages out of control in our lives....and it's kinda like a "pet" we're stuck with.  Just gotta learn how to train it. 
**Manic Mondays is a new series here on 'Confessions where I hope to share more insight on what it's like living with Bipolar Disorder. The goal? Raise awareness, increase understanding and help erase the shame and stigma surrounding this form of mental illness. If you'd like to guest post or share your story, email me at bconfessions (at) gmail (dot) com

Confession: Falling Off & Getting Back On The Wagon

SO....I have some things to confess. I spent last week in a full blown episode of  (hypo?) mania & didn't even realize it until last night when I was laying in bed crying my eyes out, wondering why the heck I was feeling so low. I had felt so great earlier yesterday morning...but by midday the grey cloud of depression was hovering over my head, raining on my little euphoric parade.... Ahhhh euphoria. (Sigh) You know...I didn't even realize how high I had been until I had already crash landed back on Earth-or rather my couch...immobilized. Stuck. Heavy. Sleepy. Edgy. Here's the thing I've learned out being in a state of euphoria after this recent episode: it blinds you to the warning signs, the signals, the indicators that are flashing bright red, hoping you'll notice their warnings. And even if you're able to see the warnings, euphoria hits the mute button on the sounds of the sirens...they go from shrill to dull. Your inclination to care, your motivation to heed the signals loses it's edge, and before you know it you're rationalizing it away, allowing yourself to believe the lie that it's not happening-you're ok, it's no big deal, you're fine, you're just a little excited & happy & that's ok-you deserve to be happy for once don't you? Don't you?!

I should have paid attention. I should have fought harder to hold on to the edge I've gained the past 4-5 weeks. But I didn't. Instead I allowed myself to take a break from fighting.....

It started the week I was sick with the Plague. That's when I stopped fighting, mostly because I felt like pure hell & needed to get better. Problem is, I got better physically, but I started slipping in other areas. School took a hit-I missed some assignments & barely caught up. I started feeling anti-social & withdrew from people. My ex and I had an argument that led to him saying some things that crossed the line and hurt me deeply. He apologized the next day, but the damage was done-I spent last weekend struggling to cope-emotionally eating, drinking too much Moscato, & just trying to numb the hurt. Then last Monday when I got my refund from school, my excitement over being able to pay bills I was backed up on & buy some necessities for my apartment tipped me over the edge & into full blown euphoria.

Having money...getting paid...being able to pay bills, buy groceries, not having to worry about finances for a few weeks...it gives me a high I don't really get from other things. Now I will say this: I'm pretty responsible with money in the respect that I pay my bills, especially the ones that are necessary to live-rent, daycare, groceries, etc-but I'm very irresponsible with what I have left over. I can't save.  And unlike other people, I don't spend it on Gucci bags, expensive electronics, clothes for myself....I spend it on little things that add up to big amounts. Instead of spending $15o at the grocery store, I'll spend $300. Seeing my cabinets & fridge full, knowing that we have food to eat gives me a high.  A simple furniture purchase might be a necessity, but the exhilaration I feel is more than the normal person would feel. I don't spend just to spend most of the time. Getting my nails done to feel better, buying the boys clothes they may need, going out to eat or buying something for my apartment....those are the things that make my spending habits a problem. Going to Wal-mart or Target can be a major problem when I'm in a state of euphoria.  The compulsion to buy even necessities becomes too strong, my resistance to impulses is weakened...telling myself, "I don't need this," or "I can get this later," is something I've only recently been able to start doing. When I don't have money to spend, I'm fine. But when I have it, and my basic bills are paid? Forget it. My mind races with ways it can be spend-literally.  Saving? (sigh) It's a skill I used to be somewhat good at & now I just flat out suck.

So like I said, last week, having that money....I paid what I needed to, I followed my "how to spend my refund check" list to the tee. But once it was all over, I found myself wanting to keep feeding the high because it felt so good, I felt so good, I felt capable, not unworthy or unwanted like the argument with my ex & stress had me feeling.  The euphoria had me feeling fantastic, but underneath it was the ugly undercurrent of emotions that were pushing me further & further away from the progress I had worked so hard to gain. I skipped my meds a few days this week. Big mistake. Stupid mistake. I kept telling myself I'd take them & then I'd get so caught up in the boys, in midterm semester assignments, in catching up, in the euphoric bliss & forget.

I messed up. I fell off the wagon last week. And my crash back to reality began Saturday night. I passed out on my couch unexpectedly after getting my hair done. Sunday morning I still felt good, but the cloud was back...by midday it was hovering over me, darkening my mood & by evening I had fallen back into the gravity well of a depressive mood.  I cycled this past week. I cycled & didn't pay attention until it was too late to care or resist.

Here's the other thing I've learned about euphoria, cycling, & just living with this crazy beast: It's VITALLY important you have at least one person on the outside who can tell you (in love) what they see happening, what they see you doing. Someone who cares about you, but who is objective & can tell you the truth when you need it. For me, that person this past week was my ex. When I called him crying last night & feeling like crap, he confirmed for me what I had already started to realize: "Addy I've been so worried about you this week, because you've just seemed so high...and talkative....and....and a little manic...and then yesterday I could hear in your voice you were starting to dip...what happened? What are you feeling? What's wrong? Let's talk about it. I"m sorry...I think our fight helped trigger it, and I'm sorry for that. I'm sorry you've been struggling-talk to me. Have you been taking your meds? Have you been drinking too much?"

(Sigh) That's the kind of person you need in your life, and I'm glad I have him. We may not be together, we may fight, we may not see eye to eye, but I know that he cares about me and he wants me to be ok, because he can be that person for me when I really need it.  I'm also grateful for my neighbor who saw that I was upset late last night & stayed up talking to me, trying to help me smile & laugh. I need more people like that in my life.

I fell off the wagon. Today I'm trying to get back on. It's not easy. But I made a commitment to improving my mental health and despite this step back, I'm determined to regain the ground I lost. That's how recovery is sometimes: you take 2 steps forward & take one back. It sucks, but the point is to keep going in spite of the set backs. That's what I'm trying to do today.

I'm not perfect. I try but I fail sometimes ya'll. I have to do better, but I can admit when I don't. Writing this, and admitting these things were hard for me today...but I've gotta face the music.

So I'm off to go to the park & run. Gotta get back up & continue to streak my way back to the box. Here's to making it.

Strong Start Day 2011: How Postpartum Progress Saved My Life

As I write this, I'm laying  in bed, a feverish mess, trying to win the war against The Plague that has invaded my body: strep throat & tonsillitis. So far, it's had the advantage, but my atomic Penicillin bombs are starting to turn the tide my way.

So why take time to write a blog post in this condition? Why not just veg out watching TV or just lie here letting every medication known to man knock me out? The reason is simple:

It's Strong Start Day 2011. It's October 5, 2011, a day where more babies are born than any other day of the year, and Postpartum Progress is asking for our help. Who is Postpartum Progress? In official terms it's the most widely-read blog on postpartum depression and all other mental illnesses related to pregnancy and childbirth.  It's also a non-profit organization, Postpartum Progress Inc dedicated to raising awareness & improving support & services for women who suffer from PPD & other perinatal mood & anxiety disorders.

In my own unofficial terms, it's a safe haven founded by a woman with unbelievable compassion, Katherine Stone. It's a place that provides answers, insight, and a community of women & mothers just like you & me. It's a place where you can ditch perfection & be free of judgement....and the icy glares of stigmas.

For me, it was everything I mentioned above but far more. It was a lifeline for me. Here's my story:  In January and February of this year, I hit rock bottom. No, scratch that-I descended into the 7th circle of hell and was swallowed whole by despair. I didn't want to live. I hated myself. Hated the monster of a mother I had become. I had gotten to the end of my rope & realized I had nothing left. I didn't understand why I was feeling this way. I didn't understand why no matter how much I prayed, went to church, took my Zoloft, exercised or talked to my doctor, I wasn't....ME. I was me but I was the worst aspects of me I didn't know existed. I have battled depression since I was 13 and was diagnosed with generalized anxiety in my early 20's while in the military, but I had NEVER felt like this. I spent my pregnancy with Alex totally depressed-there were days I physically couldn't move. I was also experiencing anxiety but didn't recognize it as such-it was so severe there would be times all I could hear was my racing heart pounding in my ears. I was obsessed with cleaning & organizing things-if things were out of place, if a baseboard was dirty I couldn't rest until it was fixed. My ex told me I was obsessive-I told him I was "nesting" and to mind his business-this was all a perfectly normal part of pregnancy, wasn't it? Wasn't it?! When Alex was born, my first night in the hospital was a disaster, but I figured it was still normal-I had just spent the previous 5 days in active labor & had finally pushed him out of my body for Pete's sake.

I should have listened to my instincts-or my ex's observations about my behavior. Instead I watched as anxiety, uncontrollable rage, irritability, crying fits, and other symptoms of PPD & PPA take over my life for the next 10 months. I talked to my doctor and was put on Zoloft-but I was just told that it was all no big deal-once my hormones settled I'd be ok. I tried talking about it with people from church and even a couple of therapists paid for by my state insurance-I was told repeatedly that there was nothing wrong with me, that everything I was experiencing was a result of my being a single mother raising two kids, going to school, dealing with a tough relationship, blah blah blah. The Zoloft didn't help. Well, I'll put it this way: I wasn't sad. What I was instead was constantly swinging between anger, rage, & guilt. I was living on the edge, the slightest, most trivial thing making me want to scream or crawl out of my skin. But everyone kept telling me there was nothing wrong with me while my gut kept telling me there was. I was so confused....and tired.

Then in January of this year I finally started my deep descent into hell. Into not wanting to live. Into hating myself. Hating my kids. Resenting my ex. Into being swallowed alive by guilt, fear, loneliness, shame, more anger, disappointment, & hopelessness. By February I was thinking of ways to kill myself. I remember laying in bed one night feeling heavy. Heavy as in a two ton boulder was laying on my chest. I thought about my kids. What would happen to them if I overdosed on Zoloft or released the tension & pain I was feeling by cutting myself and couldn't stop. I picked up the phone and called my ex. Told him I wanted to die and I needed help. He made me promise to let him get me some help. I did. The next day we were both surfing the web & making calls. While I was surfing the web looking for postpartum depression treatment & resources, I came across Postpartum Progress. I cried and yelled and felt relief flooding my mind as I read the articles posted there, read the comments posted by women who were describing exactly what I had been feeling for the past year, year and a half. I read about the symptoms of PPD, PPA & other perinatal mood disorders in "Plain Mama English" and found my symptoms laid out in black & white on the screen in front of me. I learned that mamas who have a previous history of depression, anxiety or childhood trauma are more at risk for developing symptoms like mine during pregnancy & after giving birth. I found a place called the "Postpartum Stress Center" and called to set up an appointment. I posted a couple of comments on the site describing my emotional state & symptoms, asking for some kind of validation. Any kind. Katherine emailed me. Encouraged me. Empathized with me. Embraced me. Pushed me to seek help. That day and her emailed changed my life.

In the months that followed my symptoms worsened, but I was able to talk them out in therapy at the Center.There I received answers, encouragement, & coping strategies. I started pushing my doctors for answers, for better treatment options. I jumped back on Twitter and found #PPDChat, Lauren Hale, Jaime, Susan, Erica, Cristi, and an ARMY of other mamas who I could lean on, gain advice & insight from, & share my experiences with. I found blog after blog written by women who wrote about their experiences, their challenges and so much more. I found Kimberly whose post about her diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder 2 made me ask myself some hard questions, evaluate my worsening symptoms & finally gave me the courage to go to the hospital in July for more aggressive treatment & help....and I got a new diagnosis: rapid cycling Bipolar Disorder 2.

I shared all of that to say that in a nutshell, Postpartum Progress & Katherine Stone's advocacy saved my life. Saved Brennan & Alex's life. It opened my eyes to the reality of women's mental health and educated me in a way talking to my doctor never had. It helped me find the support I so desperately needed.

Today, this organization needs OUR help. They need help to achieve the work that mamas everywhere so desperately need. Every mom wants to be a good mom, and they need our help & support to ensure mothers everywhere have a Strong Start. Please donate. If you are unable to donate, please email your friends, family, co-workers & neighbors, facebook them, tweet them, whatever it takes, & ask them to donate and spread the word. Raise awareness. Reach out today and do something tangible for someone else.

Right now there's a mama out there who is just where I was at the beginning of this year. Right now, there's a mama out there who is either unaware that help is available or is struggling to find it because of insurance or financial reasons-like I was. Please take a moment and do what you can to support this cause.

It helped save our lives & helped me win the fight.

I know it can help save others.

Cocktail Parties & Trying to Stay the Course

Nearly everyone experiences depression & anxiety at some point in their lives. For some it only lasts for a short time and it goes away. Some people develop great ways to manage & cope on their own or through some kind of therapy or counseling. Other people, like myself, experience depression, PTSD, anxiety or both combined & mixed up in a mutated mashup of hormones & chemical imbalances, and it doesn't go away. Counseling helps. Possibly some form of therapy is beneficial. Exercise and eating well enhance the journey to recovery and support of loved ones & friends is crucial. But even with all of that, for some, part of the recovery process requires even more assistance in the form of medication. I'm one of those people. I've come to finally accept that even if I work the other parts of "the plan" I STILL need medication to help the part of my being that is malfunctioning function. When I first started taking them back in July 2010, I struggled & wrestled with that decision for the next 12 months.  Some of my wrestling & unease stemmed from the regular stigmas that are associated with having to take medication for a mental illness. Taking meds for a physical illness is one thing-people encourage it.  Take it for a malfunction of your brain & body chemistry and all of a sudden folks start looking at you out of the corner of their eyes, or sizing you up, questioning everything they thought they knew about you. All of a sudden you're less capable of executing sound judgement & making rational decisions. Start taking meds and you become.....different. At least to some people-I'm speaking in general terms here.

My rocky road to acceptance also came from grappling with my faith about it. I tried to pray it away-the depression & anxiety. Maybe I wasn't being "Christian" enough. Maybe I was too sinful.  I quoted Philippians 4:6, " Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;"  several times a day, especially when I would feel my body break out into a full sweat at the slightest trigger....Alex crying, bathtime, doctor's appointments, phone calls with my client, Brennan being a 4yr old, driving through a busy intersection or heavy traffice....Name the trigger I was fanning it with that verse. I laid myself on the altar on Sundays, even took the "just pull yourself up by your bootstraps" approach and you know what? I kept getting worse. So I stopped fighting it and realized back in July of this year that yes, I have to take medication. I just do. And I'm finally in a place where God's given me peace about it because I know He doesn't have an issue with it. Do I believe God will heal me and make my life with bipolar disorder type 2 manageable? Yes, yes I do. But I believe that adding meds to the recovery & management plan is part of how He's going to do it.

Descriptions of my meds & directions on how & when to take them

 

 

 

 

 

So. I take medication. I started with Zoloft....that didn't go so well. It took away some of the sadness, but did nothing to calm the rage, irritability, anxiety, & even suicidal thoughts & ideations I was having. My mood swings were beyond severe. I was switched to an anxiety med, Lexapro. Didn't really make a dent. By the time I took myself to the hospital in July I was afraid I was going to really end it because I was in such dire need of symptom relief.

I was put on Lamictal and given Clonezepam for immediate relief and boy was it immediate! When I saw my psychiatrist two weeks later, I felt like I was finding something that was going to work. She agreed, so I stayed on Clonezapem but was weaned off of the Lamictal, just to see how I managed. Next visit I explained that I was starting to feel edgy again and couldn't sleep before 2am-I was cycling through hypomania. We switched to Lorazepam, added a sleeping aid, and an anti-depressant, Fluvoxamine.

The sleeping pills worked well-as long as I went to bed very shortly after I took it. A month

later, I feel like on one hand the meds are working because my moods don't swing as much. The rage & irritability is gone. Anxiety is there,but it's bearable. But on the other hand I've been VERY tired. I've even noticed that I either feel overwhelmed or indifferent, almost apathetic. I've also been feeling sad & wanting to sleep constantly. So when I talked to my psych today, we both agreed that taking the anti-anxiety med as frequently as I had been was probably too much-and that the dosage for my anti-depressant was too little. So we knocked one down a bit and boosted the other.

Yesterday a friend of mine said, "I don't know how you do it. I wouldn't have the patience to sit through trying different ones to see what worked."  Hearing that made me realize two things: 1) For those of us who need it, taking meds is like going shopping. Whether you're buying clothes, shoes, a car, or a house, you often have to try on or test drive several before you find what fits, what feels comfortable. The search for the right place to call home can be a tedious and frustrating one, and it's the same with medication. Finding the cocktail that does the hokey pokey the best with your body chemistry isn't easy, but it takes time and necessitates some patience & commitment on your part.

Patience. Commitment. Discipline. Execution. Kindness. Forgiveness. All of these need to be a part of your thinking and habits when it comes to living with an illness that requires meds to help you function. At least that's what I'm learning, cause I don't know about you, but I want to function! I have a life to live man! Who has time to just exist and be overtaken by something? Life is hard enough on it's own without our bodies getting all wacky on us. So if you're on meds, give yourself a pat on the back, be proud, and hold your head high. Meds are just help. That's it. Don't we need all the help we can get in this life?

So my cocktail has been switched up again, but I'm determined to stick it out til I find what vibes best with my hormones...my brain...my body...ME. Oh and realization #2 I had? I'm so freakin proud of myself for having the patience, kindness, forgiveness, discipline & execution I have so far with this. So proud. It feels wonderful to listen to my body & to be aware of what's going on with it. My journey to recovery & manageability isn't perfect, but I'm still trekking along, picking up resources & nourishment along the way :)  Your journey to find the cocktail you need won't be perfect either, but I just wanted to share my story to encourage you to stay the course. You can do it. I'm living proof it's being done.

Be encouraged!

Table Talk Tuesday: College Mama pt 2

Last week I posted about my then upcoming Weekend of Welcome at my university & my concerns about how immersed I felt I could or should be because I'm older & a mama. Well, my ex agreed to stay at my place and watch both boys so I could attend all the festivities I wanted. (I know, even though he's my ex, he's awesome) So I attended various events last Thursday-Saturday. The mandatory ones were tedious & boring, my academic meeting was informative & gave me the dose of reality I needed (I'm going after a dual degree program), & some of the fun festivities were pretty rad.

Thursday night,  I wrestled over mattresses Steal the Bacon style with people 10 years my junior, got rained on repeatedly, & leap frogged the entire length of a soccer field during a crazy long relay race. My thighs started cussing me out halfway and were dead by the time I low-crawled over the finish line. (My team came in third place-GO BLUE! AUGUSTIVUS WOOOOHOOO! PBU! PBU!)

Friday there were more meetings and I was still barely able to move from the night before. When it came time to go home, I stayed home with the boys instead of going back out for that evening's social activities. Besides, Irene was on her way, so I had to prepare, grocery shop, you know, do Mama stuff.  Speaking of Irene, I should have listened to my gut Saturday morning when it told me to stay home instead of go to Philly with the rest of my incoming class. It was just a bad idea. Irene started pre-gaming in our area with lots of rain that left us all soaking wet....which pissed me off. Plus I've been to center city plenty enough this summer-I was less than enthused to be staring at the Liberty Bell & slogging my way to Reading Terminal dripping wet. The icing on the cake and perhaps the biggest indicator that I should have stayed home was the fact that I was in a reflective state of mind. Not really anti-social, but just withdrawn. I wanted to read & stew in my own thoughts....not really what I needed to be Socialite Sally for the day.

All in all I'm glad I was able to partake in pretty much everything. It gave me the chance to meet people & myself the chance to exercise some gut following. I automatically started to see what would work for me, what I could be involved in, & what I couldn't. I learned that when it comes to something like this, it's always best to follow your instincts-I know mine will tell me where to navigate to as I move forward this year.

Speaking of moving forward, let's skip over Irene & just stop at yesterday: my first day of classes. It was hectic, it was usual first day stuff, it was even surprising-some of the classes I thought would be heavy hitters & require hundreds of hours of writing this semester actually aren't. I was able to tie up loose ends around campus (like parking passes & financial aid)...but here's the thing. It all felt like a blur. Like it wasn't really happening. By the time I got home and fed the boys dinner, I couldn't even remember how I had managed to do so. It was only then that I realized my heart was pounding and that my thoughts were racing-had been all day. That I had been moving (and probably speaking at) the speed of light. The frantic pace and anticipation that came with the first day of classes had raised my anxiety to a certain level & I hadn't even realized it, because I felt so great the whole day. (Which, sound a tad like the euphoric feelings of mania, does it not?) And even though my body was tired, my mind was wired & in a very weird space, a little panicky, but I don't even think I can articulate it actually. I just know that I didn't feel right. I could also tell immediately that I wasn't going to be able to sleep. But that's just what I did. I put the boys to bed and then forced myself to sleep....at 6:30.

This morning I woke up and realized that I'm a little scared about what it's going to take to tackle this semester. It's going to take me being on my A game, and I know I'm not. Not mentally. I'm still trying to get there. Medication is starting to help, and I start therapy next Tuesday....but trying to manage college life, motherhood, life in general, AND trying to get a manageable hold on a mood disorder (meds, exercise, therapy, etc)? MAN. That's alot. And I didn't even mention blogging.....

Can I do it. I believe I can. But the question, is how? I think my therapist will be able to help me develop some strategies (she's a cognitive behavioral therapist), but do you have any suggestions on how I can approach this? How do you balance it all & stay afloat? Especially you readers who do or have battled a mental illness, how did you take care of everything but also manage to take care of yourself at the same time? Any advice you can offer a mama?

 

Pluses & Minuses

The Plus I read an article (click here) yesterday that lifted my spirits and hope significantly.

Although suffering from a mood disorder like Bipolar can be excruciating, even when being managed by medication & therapies, those who suffer from it have awesome traits & qualities to them that the illness seems to enhance rather than diminish. At least according to this study anyway.

I mean, do I think I'm less of a person now that I know what I've been and am suffering from? Well, if I'm to be totally honest, I was starting to think so. Starting to believe that despite what God or anyone else said, this illness made me ugly and undesirable. I mean, I'm just coming off of a break-up with someone who saw me at my worst for 2 years. I've seen myself at my worst for 2, 2 1/2 half years. And I think, when you get a diagnosis & you start researching & looking back at how you've been behaving....clarity & understanding come, but so do the party crashers Guilt & Shame.  And they play your life on a big huge, sky-sized projector in your mind, stirring up your emotions and telling you how awful you are. And you start to believe it because....well....look at you. They say hindsight is 20/20 but OUCH. Really?

So like I said, I've been feeling some type of way about myself the past weeks. Trying to keep a stiff upper lip and smile through the tears & fears, but hating myself on the inside, hating that I felt like this is what will be defining my life. But then I read about this study that essentially said, "Hey, being bipolar ain't so bad-you actually have some rad traits", and that allowed God to break through the fog I've been in, grab my face in His hands and say, "SEE?! I told you. Do you have to learn to deal with and manage this? Yes. But girl, I still made you. I still love you. And NOTHING can separate you from My love. Not a circumstance, a mistake you've made, and definitely not being bipolar. I know it's hard, but lean on me, take your meds, go to therapy, and stop letting this define you. Not like this. It doesn't have to. Take it, and use it for something positive. You may struggle with this, but you are not this."

(and just in case you're wondering, yes, God really does talk to me like this. I don't know how He finds a way to edge in between my racing thoughts sometimes but He does. And when I can quiet my mind long enough to listen? Man.)

Reading that article for me was a plus. I needed to read it. To remind myself of who A'Driane is. Not just bipolar A'Driane. But A'Driane in all her totality. The beautiful and the ugly.

Speaking of the ugly, that brings me to The Minus.

The article talks about how Bipolar folks tend to be highly creative individuals. For me, this is heartwarming because not only do I write, but I've always wanted to be a dancer. And to a degree I am. I'm not technically trained, but I am planning on taking some classes so I can become a dance movement therapist....but I'll touch more on that in another post. Anyway, when I hear music, especially a song that speaks to me, or chords & melodies that move me, I see movement, I see choreography. I can't always replicate the moves I see in my mind, but I try. And then there are times when I watch a video of a dance and it nails whatever I'm dealing with right on the head. When I saw the following video a couple of seasons back, I was moved by it because for me, it represented my struggle with depression. Now, watching it again today, it's a vivid representation of the relationship a sufferer has with any kind of disorder. If I could choreograph a piece that visually captured how it feels to be depressed & suffer from being Bipolar, especially a rapid cycling version of it,  this would be it.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_48OKZqYzHM]

The article I mentioned & linked to at the beginning of the post was posted on a Facebook page called Lithium & Lamictal. Feel free to "like" it and read the owners blog as well.

Clarity on Being Diagnosed with BPD2

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULrz-6CSmmM]

Clarity.

That's what I've had since I walked into the hospital 3 weeks ago and asked-no begged-for help. For relief.

Clarity.

Like a seed planted in the earth it began to grow roots in me as soon as the intake psych began to describe this thing called Bipolar Disorder 2. Each word he spoke, every word I've read about it since, every conversation I've had with my ex, every memory that's risen to the surface since has been like water & fertilizer nourishing it to grow & sprout, leaving me in a reflective state of mind.

Clarity.

It's amazing how liberating and terrifying validation can be. How hearing someone tell you that yes, what you've been experiencing is REAL and yes it's treatable. but being terrified about what it all means. Medication isn't a cure, but will I have to be on it for the rest of my life? How long will it take to find the right cocktail that keeps me off the roller coaster ride? Will the wrong one, the wrong dosage trigger a hypomanic phase or push me into the steep waters of mania? Yes. Finally. An answer. Yes, OMG this answer makes so much sense. But OMG in hindsight I see myself at 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, and now 28 exhibiting the symptoms I've read & been told so much about. OMG...I need help. Real help.

Clarity.

I look back 2 1/2 years ago and see now what triggered this latest bout with what my psych calls manic depression. At first I thought I was just dissatisfied with my life, my circumstances. And I was. But I just told myself to shake it off...but I couldn't. I was having trouble concentrating. So much so that I couldn't work. Didn't want to take care of my son. Couldn't think clearly. Couldn't make a decision. Hazy...I remember things being hazy when it started. Then my cousin died tragically on my mom's birthday, the only day in my life where I've ever seen her completely free from worry and consumed with happiness....and waking up to her sobs the next morning as she heard the news set a whole series of things in motion that deepened the depression. Thinking that it was somehow PMS related, I went to my OB. He suggested birth control, exercise, change my diet. I tried those things....when I had the energy. When I had the motivation or when my focus wasn't so hazy. It wasn't often.Most days I just wanted to sit perfectly still or lie curled up in a ball-alone. I sunk deeper into this gravity well, not knowing what was wrong but knowing I wasn't myself. I botched my semester of school that spring. I ended a relationship/friendship with someone I knew I wasn't going to be happy with, and I was tired of pretending to believe in "us."  A month after I went on a casual date, just to feel somewhat human again, and a month later I found out I was pregnant. Again. Which threw me right back into the gravity well I had been emerging from. I had moments of happiness or moments of "being ok" during my pregnancy. But for the majority of it I was in hell. Once I got over the guilt of having another child out of wedlock, the physical complications I experienced dragged me back down. I cycled between being depressed, immobilized on my couch to raging and screaming at my ex because I felt he was judging me for being this, this blob of a person...or didn't like what I made for dinner. Didn't matter. If we argued it usually involved me either walking away or exploding with rage I'd never felt before. Hot, boiling, seething, lava-like rage that left me wondering what kind of person I was turning into.  So I cycled between that, and working myself into a whirlwind frenzy, never able to sit still or sit down. I'd be amazingly productive, full of ideas & projects I wanted to start....and then would lose the energy to follow through. I'd clean. I mean clean, clean, clean. I called it nesting, my ex called it obsessive, we both agreed it might be a problem if it continued after the baby was born. It did. I obsessed. With everything. Alex had reflux the first 3 months of his life and I obsessed over & bought every product possible that might help him....and keep me from losing my sanity because I didn't know what to do to comfort him. Meet his needs. So I would snap, scream, yell, in my closet alone, or in front of Brennan when he spilled something or asked me the same question twice in a row. I felt detached from my baby. I was beyond fatigued. So I went back to the OB. He gave me Zoloft-said it would help with the depression, PPD symptoms I was having, help take the edge off. Well, it lifted the depression, but increased the intensity of the edginess. I'm talking INTENSE anxiety. I'd have a perfect day with my family. And be so angry come night time I wouldn't even be able to utter a word or explain why I felt so....so....like I could smash someone's face in. So the anxiety would trigger anger, which would trigger guilt, which would trigger depression and then out of nowhere I'd have a day or two where I was normal. Me. And then it would start all over again. Sometimes several times in one day. Some of it I blamed on the ambiguity & spiritual conflicts I was having with my relationship. Most of it though, I knew in my gut that something was wrong with me. But everyone I talked to about it,(therapists and pastors included) said it was normal. I was a single parent with an ambiguous relationship going to school full-time with two kids under the age of 5-IT WAS NORMAL.  So....I took that for awhile. I put on the "nothing's wrong with me, I just need to change my circumstances" t-shirt and tightened up my bootstraps.

Clarity.

But screaming at Brennan and feeling the urge to hit him when he spilled something on the floor wasn't normal. Hiding in the bathroom or in my closet because I was afraid of  the intensity of my emotions & my kids wasn't normal. Being resentful of my ex and my baby and even myself might have been normal to a degree but the anger and rage that came from it wasn't. In February my ex and I broke up for the 2nd time and I wanted to kill myself. Not just because of the torturous pain of the break up or because I wanted to actually die.I wanted to live. Just not like this. I just wanted relief. I hated myself. I hated the mother I was. I hated how I was treating myself and my sons. I hated how I had treated my ex, my best friend. I hated the lack of control I was feeling. Not being able to control certain things happening in your life is one thing. But not being able to control your own emotions, not understanding what's going on within you, but doing everything you could to address it-working out, taking meds, doing group therapy sessions, going to church, praying-and STILL not being able to find relief? STILL euphoric & amazingly on fire one day and then curled up in bed the next, physically unable to move, the only thing stirring you from your catatonic state the needs & demands of your children? I couldn't take it. I wanted out. I sat for many nights during February & March with my door closed and a knife in my hand after I had put the boys to bed, trying to find the courage somewhere to just do it. But thinking of my boys always kept me from it. Who would take care of them? I couldn't do that to them. So instead I would just scream into a pillow to stifle my anguish & rage so they wouldn't hear me.

Clarity.

Things got better for awhile. And by things I mean my circumstances.I started therapy sessions at the Postpartum Stress Center, which helped me learn some ways to cope with my lack of enjoyment with motherhood. I found out I could graduate. I got accepted to the school I wanted. I realized I loved social media but helping others is what I was really passionate about so I switched my major. My ex and I got back together. We started making plans.I started running again. Lost 15 pounds but gained it back. I started having some health issues with my rambunctious ovaries and wacky thyroid. But ultimately, even though things were going well my anxiety was sky high. Sweats. Difficulty swallowing. Fatigue.  Edginess. Irritability. But then euphoric feelings of accomplishment on days I accomplished my to-do lists with a flourish. And then back to the edginess.Irritability. The screaming. Only I was more aware of it now. More focused on trying to control it. More self-aware. But I still couldn't grasp ahold of it like I needed to. I had to stop therapy. I graduated. I set out to have an enjoyable summer with my boys. But I couldn't shake the days of feeling on top of the world and then feeling like I was in the darkness of hell. I couldn't quiet the thoughts that raced through my mind nonstop and often spilled out at a rapid pace when I talked to people, namely my ex. My mind couldn't be quiet and hadn't for months. Concentration? Forget it. I went back to my doc who put me on Lexapro for the anxiety.

Clarity.

3 weeks ago the thoughts became worse. The racing, frantic pace of them. The hopelessness. The feeling like I just couldn't handle it anymore. The sinking feeling in my gut that told me if I kept going I was going to end up losing myself to the madness. Losing my kids. And then there were the thoughts again. Of killing myself. Because I was tired of suffering and I wasn't sure if God was hearing me beg for relief.

Clarity.

I got it when I walked into the hospital and sat down at the desk in the behavioral health clinic. Reading and being told what my symptoms mean has opened a flood gate of memories from the past 10 years,helping me to understand that after going through what I went through as a child, and after suffering from depression, and dealing with that and anxiety after my last pregnancy, a diagnosis like this only makes sense. Finding out that taking an antidepressant can trigger a rapid cycling of BPD2 symptoms has helped me make sense of the past 9 mos, cause that's what it's been. Swinging from one mood to the other, often without rhyme or reason.

Clarity.

It's helped me understand that despite whatever regular relationship issues we've had, my illness the past 2 years has taken a toll on my ex and he just can't be with me. He can be my friend. But he can't be my partner. My husband. It's taken too much out of him, and I don't blame him. It hurts like hell, don't get it twisted and I feel abandoned in a sense, but I get it. I don't want to be with me either.

Clarity.

This has changed my perspective on a lot of things-my faith, my relationships with people, my kids, myself as a Mama, ME. I don't have all the answers but just getting this one has set me on the path to finding them. To learning more about myself. To learning more about God and what it means to be bipolar & a Christian.

Clarity.

I'm glad I grabbed ahold of it before it was too late.

An Initial Diagnosis

"A'Driane, what is it that you fear the most? If you could name one fear that you have, right now, that brought you here, what would that be? Can you name it?"

In my mind I screamed "SHUT UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!" at the thoughts that are never quiet and always racing these days. I wanted to answer the question honestly and give my full attention to it, but I needed at least 30 seconds of silence in my brain to accomplish that. Surprisingly my rambunctious, bouncing thoughts obeyed long enough for me to formulate an answer:

"My fear?" I swallowed slowly, feeling my mouth going dry & sweat trickling down the back of my legs, making my decision to wear jeans a regrettable one. "Fear....I'm scared that I'm just going to check out, you know, mentally. You know, just become this zombie who functions on the surface, but (more swallowing & sweating) who isn't emotionally available for my kids or able to nurture them. I'm just scared that I'm going to give up on life."

Tears, a flood of them, started making their way down my face as I looked at the social worker/psychologist. Through blurry eyes I could see his gaze was fixed on mine even though his hands were scribbling notes at a furious rate. On my lap he placed a box of tissues.

"Give up on life...Do you think about hurting yourself or have you made any plans to hurt yourself?"

"It's crossed my mind, but not because I don't want to live. I want to live...I just....I just need relief, need a break from this....this constant wackiness, this feeling like I'm losing my grip, this fine one minute, a total wreck the next existence I've been living. I'm tired. So no, I haven't made any plans to hurt myself, and besides I wouldn't do that any way-I couldn't do that to my kids. I have to take care of them . I want to take care of them. And myself. And enjoy my life....but....I can't function like this anymore. I can't start school next month like this-I won't make it."

More notes. More questions. Some advice. More notes. More questions. A squeeze of my hand and a gaze that told me he got "it".  Minutes later I had an appointment set up with the doctor who would be my new psychiatrist & was in another room, trying to keep Alex calm while the intake psychiatrist asked me another round of questions.

"Do your thoughts race?" OMG yes. Constantly. All the time. Nonstop. Sometimes I can't even pray because my mind is all over the place, in so many different directions, my concentration really sucks sometimes.

"Do you find yourself talking faster than usual?" Yes. I am, after all trying to keep up with the frantic pace of my thoughts.

"Do you ever have days where you feel super energetic, full of ideas & feel more impulsive than usual?"  Yea I have like 1-2 days where I'm ripping & running, on the go, being productive, knocking out things I have to do for work, school, home, etc & then I'll have 1-2 days after that where I don't want to do anything at all. Like. NOTHING. Feel totally demotivated, the only thing I can do is just take care of the kids-like feed them, naps, you know, mama stuff. If I didn't have any kids, I'd be in the bed during those times, sleeping, zombied out. Impulsive? I pay my bills and I don't go on shopping sprees, but I do find it hard alot of times to resist the urge to buy things. Like, Target & Wal-Mart can be a problem, even if I'm buying stuff I actually need. I've gone overboard sometimes, definitely.

Silence. Some more questions, Alex goes into toddler meltdown mode, I break out into more sweats, I answer the psych's questions. Silence. Then....his initial diagnosis: Bipolar Disorder 2 triggered by my pregnancy, depression & anxiety following said pregnancy & taking Zoloft, which it turns out is something he said is pretty common these days. Given my childhood & history of depression, he said I most likely already had the uh, "bipolar biology" (his words)-me being in my 20's and battling PPD/PPA just "brought it out."

The anger. irritability. moods swinging without even given a reason to. the anxiety. the lack of focus & concentration. the depression. the "I just don't feel like myself" feelings. the " I was just laughing, why I do I want to cry" sensation. You mean I'm not crazy? Like I feel like I am, but I'm not? I'm not losing my mind? This is treatable? I can feel "normal" again? I can get off this rollercoaster & be able to cope with life again? Wow.

As he answered my questions & discussed treatment options & next steps all I could feel was relief-sweeping me over like a wave. And then more tears. But this time, instead of tears of desperation, they released the exhale I was slowly letting out.

I don't know why I hadn't thought of going to the VA hospital's behavioral/mental health clinic before this week. I guess I just thought I wasn't doing enough to manage on my own. I guess I thought it might take too much to get an appointment. And what would I do with the kids?  How would I get over there, cause I hate driving in Philly? I guess I thought I wasn't being strong enough, or "Christian" enough, or something along those lines. I guess I thought I was imagining it all, even though my instincts & my body were telling me I wasn't. I don't know why I didn't utilize this resource before today, but I'm glad I put myself on the 42 bus & went, Brennan at home with a friend, & Alex Moby-wrapped to my body. I'm glad I didn't lose my nerve & leave when I walked the halls or spoke to the receptionist. I'm glad I didn't tell anyone about it or talk myself out of it, like I have other treatment options. I just went. And the relief I'm feeling knowing I'm doing something to improve my quality of life & mental health (as well as that of my kids) is my reward.

I start this new mood stabilizer tonight. I know meds aren't a cure, but the psych said it should bring me the relief I need so I can do things that ARE a cure-like self-care, exercise, read, spending time with my boys without being distracted, PRAY.....you know, things that make me ME. I see my new psych in two weeks & meet my therapist then too.

My goal: To be in a much better space mentally & emotionally by the time the semester starts. With all of this in place & God's help-I know it can happen ;)

Also, It pays to serve your country. Thank you VA.