Monthly Archives: March 2013

Like Sands Through the Hourglass

Lately I’ve been somewhere between overwhelmed and relatively ok (with a few mixed sprinkles thrown in). That place that isn’t quite depressed, but isn’t quite free of depression either. The closer I am of breaking free from the feelings of depression, the more I can take on.

Let’s say my life is like an hourglass, and the sand within it denotes all of the activities I am trying to accomplish in my daily living. Cooking. Cleaning. Feeding the dog. Shaving my legs. All of those things I tend to stop doing when I am depressed.

After depression I find the bottom of the hourglass completely empty, and as time begins to progress, I add one grain of sand at a time. First I’ll add cooking. Next, feeding the dog. So on and so forth, until I can easily do those things again and again.

Once that is moving forward I can add other things. Eating healthy. Exercising. The sorts of things that are more challenging to do, but helpful to the human experience. These bits of sand also pass through the hourglass.

And once that is moving smoothly I find even more things to add to the experience. Working. Volunteering. Clubs. Commissioned work. The bits of life that take a steady hand and an even keel come in, and pass through the hourglass.

Then, quite abruptly, two things take place.

First, the sand runs out. Immediately, I can’t seem to do the activities I was doing before. There is nothing but emptiness with a weird echo that resounds in the hourglass. No more work, no more healthy eating, and no more cleaning. On one hand it is as if those things never existed.

On the other, down in the bottom of the hourglass, I am drowning in sand. So overwhelmed by the amount of sand that has built up that I can’t hold the weight of it. There isn’t room for any more of that sand, and I couldn’t seem to do another activity if life depended on it.

This is what the process of having mood swings feels like to me. Even the short ones, the sprinkles, the little blips move in the same way; letting things around me accelerate until I can’t function, and then am totally overwhelmed by the feelings that occur.

Another reason I resonate with the hourglass is the fact that to get it to start up again, you have to turn the whole thing upside down. Bipolar mood swings do  turn my life upside down, and they often take me to a place where white is black and black is white and nothing really makes any sense for a while until things calm down and the sand begins to trickle down again.

Then I cook. And I clean. And I feed the dog. The whole thing continues over again.

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Ambien Addiction

A week or two ago I found myself faced with with a rather serious question; had I become addicted to Ambien?

I first started taking the sleep aid when I started taking Geodon several months ago, the Geodon often left me energetic and even manic, to the point where sleep by natural means seemed impossible. After countless nights laying awake for hours as my mind raced and I flopped around I gave in, taking 5 mg of Ambien each night thereafter to knock me out, usually in 60 minutes or less.

Ambien does come with a warning, and my doctor did say not to take it every night or else there was a chance I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I stopped taking it.

Even so, I tried alternating nights, taking it one night and attempting to skip it the next, only to find myself lying awake for hours (thanks to the Geodon). Once I became frustrated, I would give up, storming into the bathroom and taking the Ambien I had tried to skip taking. And so the cycle continued.

Then the time came when Corey was gone. And, though I am a little ashamed to admit it, my mood somehow twisted Ambien into something that would alleviate my sorrows. If I’m not awake, how can I keep feeling miserable? Suddenly I wanted to take it all the time to escape the pain I was in… and that was the time I had to look at taking Ambien and say,

Woah. Ok, clearly I should not be taking this.

I don’t know how things progressed, transforming from a simple sleep aid to a drug but it was time that it stopped.

I took an antidepressant once that not only flung me into mania, it also gave me withdrawals at the hospital, leaving me feeling the worst I ever have in my entire life. Before that I didn’t know medications could hold such a strong sway over someone’s body, and I’ve been terrified ever since that it could happen again.

After a couple months of taking Ambien almost every night, I was mortified. How horrible was stopping going to feel? Would I ever sleep again? Would I ultimately have to trade one sleep aid for another with my doctor? I simply didn’t feel like I could go back to staying awake for hours at a time each night, alone, with nothing to do but feel crummy.

But I gave it a try.

The first night I stayed awake 3 hours after getting in bed, but the second night I only stayed awake for one. By the third night I fell asleep the instant my head hit the pillow, without a sleep aid at all.

It wasn’t that bad. Not really a big deal, it turns out, but I had become so dependent on being able to sleep whenever I wanted (or needed) to escape that it was my expectations that needed the makeover, not my ability to sleep apparently.

I don’t like the idea of being addicted to anything, and I’m glad I had the guts to break the cycle a little bit. As it turns out, I can sleep just fine on my own now (at least until the next manic period) and being able to do so without the aid of a medication makes me feel stronger, less hesitant, and afraid. You can believe that when a sleepless night comes I will still take an ambien here or there, but I do it with the knowledge that I’m doing it because I choose to, not because I feel like I have to.

SSDI Update – Contact From the SSDI Office

Shortly after writing last week’s update on the phone call I got from social security (about my SSDI application) I received my first rejection letter.

Again, I must say I wasn’t very phased by this, because I understand that I will probably get two rejections before a potential acceptance.

I can see how a rejection letter could shake the very foundation of one’s being though. Reading the letter was like having needles poking into my stomach. I think it is human nature to feel sick when you’ve struggled and someone denies you acknowledgment of that.

I am in the process of contacting my advocate to get the ball rolling on the next step (the appeal), as I have 60 days from the date of receiving the rejection letter to request an appeal. Shouldn’t be a problem, and I’d like to do it much sooner to get things moving again.

That way I can hurry up and wait.

First Day of Spring

Another winter over without a hospitalization. I consider this something of a feat, when compared to some of my winters of the past. Spring is usually a little rough for me as well, but things are relatively ok right now… which gives me hope.

It is a little funny to me though, no matter how good I’m feeling or how smoothly things seem to be going, there is always this moment that is something like waking up, where I realize my mood actually has been influenced over the last x amount of days or weeks.

Today with my battle cry of making it through winter I opened up my mood charting book. It has developed a layer of dust on top, and as I flipped through the pages my  heart sank.

I am really quite behind.

I haven’t put anything in there since January, and despite my feelings of success about making it through winter in one piece, I still was extremely disappointed with the fact that I wasn’t able to stay on top of things.

There is something sinister about the feeling of being behind, the overwhelming aura that whatever project it is emits leaves me feeling so disappointed in myself. Just noticing that I am behind is enough to wreck my mood entirely.

In this moment of waking up, I realized that I needed to take what little victory I could. I have made it this far, which is something to be grateful of.

SSDI Update – Application Acknowledged

Something finally happened. No verdict has been reached in my social security disability case, but at least my case has been acknowledged.

I am someone who has a very difficult time talking on the phone to people I don’t know. I get really severe anxiety in many situations, anything from calling my workplace (in the past), to making a doctor’s appointment, to even ordering a pizza. I don’t know what it is, but that anxiety has left me having panic attacks (both about the prospect of talking on the phone as well as talking on the phone itself) on more than one occasion.

That said, I think you can understand that if I knew someone from the social security office was going to call me, I would have been a mess. I suppose at that rate, not knowing was a little bit helpful, but I was totally and completely thrown off when I got the call.

Then came the actual talking. The man on the other end of the receiver had questions about my condition. He wanted me to recount why I had lost my last job, how severe my symptoms were, and then (to my surprise) he asked about chronic headaches -something he was reading about in my medical files.

The bits about bipolar disorder I really think I can understand for the most part. Reflecting on being off my rocker in October is much less embarrassing now that I’ve had some time to really think it over, and I’ve had this blog to help me piece it all together.

The chronic headaches I have, however, are a different story entirely. I found myself at a loss for words, really unable to describe what neither myself (nor the doctors) understand. My head hurts, is really all I can tell you, and it hurts every day. Some days I can’t function because of it, other days I just push through. Subjective, yes, I know.

I don’t know if it was my anxiety or the man I had the conversation with or if I was just blanking out sporadically, but I have a vague recollection that I only answered half of the questions he asked. He was talking fast, my responses were slow, and I recall not having answered many of the questions before me moved on to the next.

That fact left my stomach in a series of painful knots as soon as I hung up the phone, and I spent the next two days fretting over what had taken place. Was I helpful to my case? Had I hurt my chances by not talking faster and answering more? I didn’t even know someone was going to call me! If I had known I could have prepared!

But… maybe they don’t want people too prepared. That could be part of it.

This whole thing has been very elusive and tricky and, at times, difficult to understand. Who are these people who decide who is disabled enough to warrant federal aid? I’d like to believe they are fresh, bright people with a substantial desire to help others… but I’m sure that is just brazen optimism on my part.

It is hard to willingly put yourself in a position where people are judging you without having mixed emotions I think. Feeling hopeful but defensive really leaves one open to having their feelings hurt.

In any case, I decided to stop thinking about it because the initial denial rate for SSDI is so high (and I certainly expect to be denied initially) that my awkward phone conversation couldn’t have really hurt me in the long run.

I know there is still a long way to go on this thing, but the best I can do is move forward and not allow it to drive me (entirely) crazy.

A Curious Switch

So things have been a little rough, and I’ve been losing track of time because Corey has been out of town.

I think I’ve finally nailed down the problem with this situation, and that is that I immediately feel very depressed and desperate within 24 hours of being alone. Something about him leaving (even though I know he is coming back) hurtles me into a place of depression.

What is even more confusing is that the last two days or so I’ve shot right up into hypomania, feeling pretty much the exact opposite of desperate and depressed. Confident, motivated, and energetic. Over the last few days I’ve walked something like 10 miles, a feat considering only days prior I was curled up in the fetal position rolling around in mental agony.

For me, hypomania is not the most common occurrence… at least not anymore. When I was in school is was the reigning mood state, now things only switch over if I am rather lucky.

I say “lucky” very loosely here, because as nice as it has been to be banging out projects very quickly and feeling inclined to exercise nonstop, I also can’t sleep -and no amount of ambien last night was going to convince me otherwise.

Out of all of this I find myself wondering, why now? 

I guess I am near the crest of the loop, could that be why? I also had that uncomfortable depression earlier this week, did I pull a switch? (Switching, for those that aren’t familiar, is going from one mood state into the opposite suddenly, without any time in-between.)

It is certainly true that hypomania is the last thing I expected while Corey is out of town, I wouldn’t be surprised if the reason for it lies somewhere outside my own understanding.

In any case, I will probably continue to text every person in my phone book, walk over the bridge to the next neighborhood over and back again, and continue spreading sewing projects across my living room floor until hypomania fades, leaving me wondering where all that energy and vitality has gone to.

WEGO Health Activist Awards

Ok, so I am not someone who generally likes to toot their own horn, but I do believe in giving thanks where thanks are due.

The Bipolar Curious blog has been nominated, and now chosen as a finalist for the 2012 WEGO Health Activist Paperboy Award.

I don’t know who made the nomination, but I wanted to send out a quick thanks to all you readers for supporting this blog and, well, me. 

You can check out the line up of finalists for the Paperboy Award here, and RSVP for an interactive awards event Thursday March 28th featuring this (and several other Health Activist awards) by going here.

Thanks again folks. You rock.