Monthly Archives: April 2013

Certainly Not Forgotten

This weekend I went camping, which took about a week of prep and only lasted about 24 hours. Even so, I was full of the blatant optimism described in my last post (Forget Me Not) and despite the work I was sure that even 24 hours of camping would be enough to allow me some relaxation.

Well… I was wrong.

Luckily the big orange ball of hate and hostility that came with the mixed episode landed hours after getting home, but it was a doozy.

The first warning sign I noticed was as I was laying on my bed looking up at the popcorn ceiling. Instead of random patterns of clusters and swirls it spelled out letters and words, phrases like, “call me” for no real apparent reason.

Sometimes this happens and I see cartoons on the ceiling, but the words and phrases thing is pretty normal (as in, it can happen independently of any other symptoms) for me… so I shrugged it off.

A couple hours later I was engulfed by such overwhelming obsessive racing thoughts that all I could do was burst into tears as Corey attempted to comfort me, completely unable to think of anything except one set of sentences over and over and over again.

I tried my usual tricks. Singing out loud (helps stop racing thoughts normally), focusing on images in my mind instead of words, deep breathing… and as none of them worked, I began to panic, parking myself in a place on the verge of a panic attack.

Next I was drawn into the racing statement trap. I began to believe it, which left me feeling angry and hurt and even more desperate.

It has been a while since I’ve had to take an antipsychotic (Risperidone) on top of the antipsychotic (Geodon) I already take, but last night it was warranted.

Even so I woke up still crying, unable to get out of bed this morning after having slept 14 hours. I definitely don’t feel well today, but at least I can bring my attention to a number of things instead of being forced to repeat the same thought over and over and over again.

What I’m really taking away from all this is that I am doing a pretty good job from day to day avoiding stress, because a blip this severe hasn’t happened in a while. I tend to believe it was triggered by the stress of the camping trip, which also leaves me considering that it doesn’t take much stress at this point to trigger an episode. It wasn’t as if the trip was particularly stressful, nothing stressful happened, but my mind seems to be able to create stress out of thin air sometimes.

Feeling fairly stable last week left me feeling confident about going out of my comfort zone (and taking a trip) and, to be honest, I didn’t expect a recoil this intense. As much as it seems like the Geodon is helping, it doesn’t seem to be helping as much in the stress resiliency area as my psychiatrist and I had hoped.

In any case, it will be nice to have something to report to my psychiatrist on my next visit, and I have no more qualms about increasing the dosage of Geodon next month.

Forget Me Not

Lately my mood has been curving up to a relatively normal place, which always reminds me of how tricky bipolar disorder can be.

It isn’t unusual in times of stability for the notion of bipolar disorder to fade into the background; to the extent that one might question its validity in the first place.

I feel fine now, one might think, so I am fine, right? 

No memories of past struggles or episodes linger, only an optimistic sense that feeling so normal means everything previous must have been some kind of horrible dream.

I know a lot of people who are effected by this, and it seems the same sort of thing can happen to people with severe depression, once they are out of it. It is a huge problem really, keeping many people from seeking help for symptoms (which may no longer be present at the moment, but are still waiting right below the surface for a moment of weakness to reappear) that are serious.

Not only does this keep people from seeking help in the first place, it can also cause people to start neglecting their current support systems, whether that is medication, therapy, supportive friends, doctors, or holistic practices. Why keep up with it all when you’ve been miraculously cured, right?

This may all sound a little bizarre, but in my experience bipolar disorder is something that tricks the mind into believing things that aren’t true. Negative things, positive things, emotions, and even for some, things like hallucinations trick senses like our ability to see or our sense of smell. I don’t consider it a coincidence to conveniently forget about all of this when I begin to feel the tiniest bit better.

I don’t consider myself to be a gullible person generally, but I guess I could be wrong!

I guess my point with all this is to remind you that if untreated, bipolar symptoms will often sleep, and then come back with a vengeance. The unfortunate thing is that even when treated, the story can be the same. When you find yourself working against yourself in a manic or depressed episode, it is expected, so don’t fall victim to working against yourself in a state of stability.

Don’t forget about the work you’ve done this far. Don’t forget about the struggles you’ve triumphed over. Take pride in feeling well, but don’t forget what you’ve worked through to get there.

Weather Roller Coaster

The sun is back, which means my productivity has increased about 200%.

Today I did some sewing, made 8 rope dealies for our camping gear, and took Luna for an hour long walk (that didn’t feel challenging at all).

I also thought I would mention that I’ve lost about 15 pounds by limiting my snackage and eating much healthier. This is a huge win because after two-ish years of lugging around a lot of extra Zyprexa weight I’ve finally began losing it. (Of course, I wish I could lose it at the same rate I gained it when I was taking the Zyprexa, but that is a little unrealistic!) At this point I’m just happy to be wearing some loose jeans.

I can also report that I somehow made it through our anniversary trip over the weekend without any major mood swings interrupting things, which felt like something of a miracle. Granted I normally get a little hypomanic when going on trips, but the most I felt this weekend was excited which was quite nice. I feel very lucky and appreciative of that fact.

This monday the forecast is continuing to call for sunshine all week, so the outlook (for weather and mood) is good.

Happy Monday!

What Bedside Manner?

I’ve been fuming all week after an incident earlier this week.

I can admit (entirely) that I am rather overly sensitive to one particular issue; and that is when people try to use the fact that I have bipolar disorder to discredit me in some way.

This happens most often with doctors (surprise!), and happened this time with a doctor and nurse in the dermatology department.

I was having side effects from the medication I had been given by them a month earlier (definitely not a surprise there) and as I had left the initial appointment, the doctor had looked at me and said,

now, if you have any side effects, please call my office!

This seemed like the smart thing to do when I started having wild amounts of stomach pain while taking the medication. I called the office and left my doctor a message.

Somehow, and I am not really sure about the details here, my message was twisted into something else entirely. I don’t know if the nurse who took my message was distracted, or if I was, unbeknownst to me at the time, running a little on the manic side and did not fully express what I wanted to say, but the conclusion was still the same.

The doctor called me back to say he had no idea what I was talking about, and that there was no possible way I could be having the side effects I listed.

When I asked what the note had said, it said things about insomnia and side effects I hadn’t said anything about. When I claimed I hadn’t said any of those things, the nurse yelled at me.

Ok, ok. Deep breaths, right? So I cleared my mind and gritted my teeth, explaining slowly with baited breath what it was I was trying to say.

The nurse simply repeated the information from before, and said that my doctor said there was no possible way I could be having those symptoms as side effects from the medication I was on.

The nurse wasn’t listening to me.

The doctor wasn’t listening to me.

And above almost all else, I cannot stand being called a liar. Even when it is by someone who doesn’t have any idea what they are talking about.

I have one doctor who is just about the greatest doctor ever. He is a human being, he tells it like it is, and he gives the greatest advice after truly listening to what I have to say.

I dumped my last dermatologist for not listening to me in exchange for the one that I called this week. Though I realize I am oversensitive about the issue of being called (or even suggested to be) a liar, that is ultimately not the issue that leaves me not wanting to see that doctor ever again. The real problem is the lack of listening between doctor and patient.

Even if I am totally and completely wrong about the side effects I’m having (I’m not, because I’ve stopped taking the medication for my skin and have already seen an improvement in my stomach pain) I don’t want to work with a doctor who looks through my chart, glossy eyed, and then turns to me and says I don’t know what I’m talking about.

The immediate reaction have, is that they’ve just skimmed the part about me having a mental illness, and that is why they are so quick to dismiss me.

I don’t know that that is what really happens, but it feels that way. And I don’t see doctors who make me feel bad about myself or my situation.

Maybe being unwilling to put up with the terrible bedside manner of most doctors makes me a difficult patient, but I am more than willing to give anyone my time who will treat me better than a piece of cheese.

The Aloof Truth

It has come to my attention over the last few months that I have been coming off as somewhat aloof. Distant. Uncaring. Not engaging in conversation the way people would expect.

After visiting a party yesterday, this morning my mind was awash with ideas of why that might be true.

As much as I have been open the last year about having bipolar disorder, I think the two are definitely connected. Being open means I can talk more about what I’m dealing with, but that doesn’t mean letting my emotions constantly erupt all over every situation. Yes, that means I am holding back. I feel the overwhelming need to field my first response to everything and then contemplate if it is appropriate for the situation.

In a sense, it is something like playing a game of poker 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I try not to let my true emotions seep through while I decide what to bet on my current hand.

I do this because I feel like it is necessary to protect myself and others, and particularly our relationships. I work hard to make sure I’m not hurting every person I come in contact with, which is admittedly both hard work and something I think most people take for granted. I value my relationships with people though, so I feel compelled to protect them.

This might all sound like I am doing a good job at hiding my true feelings; but the question I have is are the emotions I have tied to bipolar disorder really my true feelings? They might feel real and have an effect on my life, but I can assure you many of the things I feel are completely inconsistent with my more rational thoughts and feelings. Why would I want to offend or hurt someone I care about? Does it do me any good to throw a tantrum about something in front of a large group of people?

So now I’d like you to consider the aloof truth. Yes, I might be acting distant or uncaring, but that is because I am engrossed in a wildly complicated game of poker at the same time. Anyone who might judge me, I dare you to give it a try for yourself.

Seattle Weather, Again?

The joy I’m feeling because it is friday is a mild one; things have flip flopped and I am now in the middle of experiencing day 5 of depression.

I would say I have barely been functioning, meaning I am eating and sleeping but otherwise generally rolling around miserable, pouting and crying for no real apparent reason except that I feel crummy.

This change is pretty substantial (as I was experiencing mixed and manic rapid blips the week before) and I can’t help but wonder if the weather has something to do with it.

During the period of manic and mixed swings it was sunny (gasp) in Seattle. This week things have changed back to (you guessed it) rain, and my feelings of unmotivation were not far behind.

I’ve heard all kinds of people, doctors included, say that the weather can play a huge role on our moods. If that is even remotely true, I am probably living in the wrong part of the world for having some touchy bipolar disorder.

I mean, this is something I’ve given considerable thought to over and over again. Should I move? Would it give me an edge and allow me to thrive, rather than just survive? Seattle is quite nice three months out of the year, but if I’m spending the other nine miserable, that is a pretty big price to pay.

Anyway, just thinking out loud a little bit this morning, while I am staring at the clouds and scowling. Wishing you some better weather!

SSDI Update – Initial Rejection

After my recent rejection by social security it admittedly took me a few days to pull things together and call my disability advocate.

I have really extreme anxiety talking on the phone, and having to talk to someone about business over the phone really lends itself to that tenfold. Thankfully I left two messages over the course of last week before she called me back (in an excellent mood) and apparently social security forgot to send my rejection to my lawyer’s office. The advocate said she needed to send me some more paperwork to fill out.

So… the paperwork came last Wednesday. Just retrieving it from the mailbox felt stressful enough for one day. The next day I opened the envelope, but didn’t look inside. And the last few days, well, it has been sitting ominously on the windowsill staring at me, crying out “open me, open me!”

What I’m slowly figuring out is that my anxiety has something to do with expectations. Do I expect something to be painful? If so, the amount of dread associated with whatever it is has been completely crippling. Does somebody else have expectations of me? If so, the pressure is equally as crippling, but more in a deer-in-the-headlights kind of way.

This morning I woke up knowing full well that I needed to at least read what was inside the envelope before doing anything else. The last two days have been ones of mild depression where I can’t seem to get motivated to do anything more than sit on the couch and play video games.

Today, I decided, would be different. Even if I was going to be depressed today, I needed to pull it together enough to deal with this paperwork. And the sooner I get it done, the sooner I can go back to not thinking about it.

So I took the best route I know for dealing with unpleasant situations… I filled out the paperwork like ripping off a band-aid. RIGHT OFF!

The paperwork consisted of seven pages of questions asking if my disability has gotten any better (no), if I’ve been receiving treatment (yes), and if I’ve been working or going to school or anything since applying (nope). In the end it really wasn’t as painful as I was expecting.

Now I’ve mailed it, and I can wait for the uncomfortable feeling of disgust to evaporate.

And I know what might help that evaporation happen a bit faster.

(video games.)