Monthly Archives: September 2013

Government Shutdown and Social Security Disability

So it is all over the news right now, a potential government shutdown (something this country hasn’t seen since the 90’s) may be imminent. When I heard that the government would be operating on a very trimmed down version of itself, I was a little nervous. After all, I have been waiting for my social security disability hearing date for months, would this affect my application?

Here are a couple of the big questions (and answers) I found while trolling the internet.

In a government shutdown, are Social Security Disability payments affected? No, for those who have been awarded social security disability,  checks should be sent out on time.

What happens to my Social Security Disability hearing if the government shuts down? From what I read, hearings will most likely continue but staff will be trimmed down, ultimately causing delays in scheduling and decision making.

(Great, more delays, just what I need!)

If the government shuts down, what happens to my Social Security Disability application? The answer here is a little more unclear, during the last government shutdown the employee cuts made it difficult for processing new applications, so there very well could be delays in this arena as well.

Overall, if you already receive Social Security Disability benefits, you shouldn’t run into any problems. For those of us who have applied and are waiting (or are about to apply) there could be more waiting involved in what is already a very long process.

For more, visit one of these websites.

Back in Business

Well, the 19 day stretch of stability I had been experiencing has come to a screeching halt.

By the time Corey got home I was yelling at David Tutera on My Fair Wedding on tv, throwing the remote down and, with gritted teeth, growling, “I can’t watch this anymore!”

(Irritability. Usually I gobble that crap up.)

But hey, those 19 days were pretty spectacular. It wasn’t like I didn’t do anything too far out of my comfort zone, and it wasn’t that I got a lot done (though I did clean my particularly messy bathroom) but I felt relaxed and at ease for all 19 of those days. To me, the stretch felt a lot longer than it really was, though possibly because this was the longest stretch of stability I’ve experienced in over two years.

My anxiety has made a pretty intense comeback as well, I’ve been doing a lot of “catching up” with my breathing (what feels like I’m not getting enough air, and having to take a long deep breath to catch up).

It looks like it may be time to start up with the medication trials again. More to come on that front.

It’s Officially Fall!

Last week I stopped in one of Seattle’s hundreds of Starbucks to grab a treat on my way to therapy and found the barista attempting to make small talk around the topic on everyone’s mind lately: fall.

“Fall is my favorite season,” I replied to his comment, cheerfully.

“Why?” he said, Stepford wife smile plastered on his face.

“Uhhhh…” I hadn’t expected the conversation to last this long, so I said the first thing I could think of. “I like pumpkin flavored everything?”

“Pumpkin flavoring? That’s why you like fall the best out of all of the seasons?” The barista was still smiling but was now berating me a little.

I didn’t quite know what to do. My grin was getting more intense by the minute as I tried to understand why I hadn’t got what I ordered yet so I could just leave. I hate small talk, and I fidgeted a second before just replying, “yeah.”

The truth is, there are a lot of reasons why fall is my favorite season. I like the storms, I like getting to break out a cute jacket and layering, I like that fall is officially boot season in the fashion world, and to top it off, I like what my mood does in fall.

Many people with depression or bipolar disorder see a seasonal element to their mood shifts. Here in Seattle, it isn’t uncommon for people to have a plunge in mood in fall and winter, but what I experience is usually an elevated mood in fall and a depressed mood in spring.

Small bits and pieces of my mood symptoms have already began to change. I’m staying awake hours later and sleeping in instead of rising with the sun and going to bed when it goes down. Now that it is somewhat dark and dreary all day, the sun isn’t putting constraints on when I should (or shouldn’t) be awake.

I’m waking up with surges of energy which is another sign of the change.

October is usually the classic time of year for me to start a big project or do something impulsive but we’ll have to wait and see what this year brings.

All I know is it is finally fall, and I couldn’t be more excited about it!

Bipolar Men more often Manic, Women more often Depressed?

In a recent study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders researchers found that men with bipolar disorder leaned toward the manic end of the spectrum, while women with bipolar disorder tended to lean toward the depressive end of the spectrum.

This difference in symptoms was most widely reflected in patient’s first episodes (predominantly mania for men and depression for women), and is suggested to be why women usually take longer to reach a bipolar diagnosis and are at a greater risk of suicide.

The study, led by psychiatrist Dr. Jean-Michel Azorin (associated with Sainte Marguerite Hospital, Marseille, France) also suggested men and women differed in respect to comorbid conditions as well. Men were shown to have a higher rate of bipolar comorbidity (sharing bipolar and another condition) with substance abuse, while women had a higher rate of bipolar comorbidity with eating disorders.

The study went on to speculate that these gender specific comorbidities may be why men were also shown to experience more neurologic conditions and cancer, while women experienced more metabolic disorders.

For more information, you can find an article here, or you can find the website for the Journal of Affective Disorders here.

She’s Got The Look

Today I’m going to write about something which may be totally specific to me (I’m not sure) but it is something that popped up last night and I’ve been thinking about it in the hours since.

When I was a kid, there were several times where I remember my mom looking at me and feeling absolutely terrified for my life. There was some kind of look she gave me that made me want to throw blankets over my head and cry, but the odd part is that it wasn’t the sort of look you’d expect.

It was never the you’d better shape up or you’re getting a whooping look (that was a separate entity), but this terror look often happened when I was in bed after saying good night when she’d be standing in the doorway looking back at me as if to say “good night, you’re safe!”

Somehow the message my brain always got from this look was, “the last thing you are is safe.”

This phenomenon puzzles me, because even though it is not uncommon for me to misplace the wrong sort of feelings to the reactions of people around me (hello bipolar disorder) this was a long time before most of that started cropping up. Could it be I was having childhood delusions, or could it be attributed to anxiety in some way, or even still -was it all just a product of an overactive imagination?

For the most part I think everyone chalked it up to the overactive imagination, but now I find myself wondering if it could have been more. After all, this phenomenon (feeling threatened, in general, for no apparent reason) has been pretty common for me the last few years.

Let’s not forget the exboyfriend I was convinced was going to kill me. Or the time I was certain Corey was attempting to strangle me (it was intended to be a hug) or even the time I thought the newscaster on the television was being particularly threatening and panicked until it was turned off.

Well, out of all of this, I’ve never had happen what happened last night. I thought the tv thing was a little weird, but this was a doozy.

Corey has been out of town for work the last few days, which means it has just been me and Luna (the dog). So far things had been pretty good, no outrageous paranoia (but I have been keeping pretty much all the lights on) but then around 8 pm something rather odd happened.

She got the look.

Luna!

Now, can you seriously tell me that this little thing looks threatening?

Aren't I ferocious?

Aren’t I ferocious?

But for some odd reason, sitting at the other end of the couch it was as if her giant eyes were piercing my soul, uttering

you will burn in hell for all eternity!

After I jumped, rather alarmed, from the couch and ran to the bathroom I came back a few minutes later to find regular, snoozing Luna.

So I suppose that even though I’m not cycling right now, I am experiencing weird little blips of psychosis here and there.

Thankfully Corey will be coming home tonight. What a trippy experience!

To Stir The Pot or Not?

It seems that bipolar disorder has two modes; on and off. I’m certain that most people, when thinking of this disorder, think of it in its on mode (widely known as cycling). While cycling moods act as something of a roller coaster, with easily triggered mood swings in all directions and even long strings of swings that seem to go on independently of triggers or situations.

For the last two and a half years, I have been cycling.

Before that, though, the bipolar shifts would come and go. There were periods of weeks, if not months at a time, where I felt perfectly fine. Times when it felt like bipolar disorder had suddenly turned off. 

Most of the people I’ve talked to that are experiencing these periods of rest seem to be the ones who are still learning about the “whole bipolar thing” and whose symptoms have only begun appearing recently(ish). Of course, this is kind of just speculation on my end, because I really don’t know… is this something everyone experiences, or if it is more of a random occurrence?

Anyway, this off phase has its good and bad qualities. In the realm of good, it allows people a much needed break from the roller coaster of emotions that bipolar disorder has to offer, and it can mean something of a return to normalcy. On the other hand, it isn’t uncommon for people who experience this to suddenly drop their doctors and medications because of the seemingly miraculous healing that has suddenly taken place. Sometimes symptoms are forgotten about completely before the on switch flips on and mood swings return again.

In my life the most common response to this off switch is one of paranoia.

When will my symptoms start again?

Will doing action x trigger it all to come back again?

The last two weeks or so I’ve fallen into one of these periods of stability. My bipolar symptoms are in off mode. Though the whole thing has been quite nice (the first period of stability in two and a half years) I find myself, as I said, a little paranoid about what might bring it all crashing back.

My doctor wants me to try new medications despite feeling good, and I’m somewhat terrified doing so will “unstick” my stability. Stir the pot, if you will.

To be fair, there are a lot of other things I am doing (or not doing) to avoid stirring the pot as well. I haven’t had any alcohol. I’ve been (actually) exercising (with like… weights).

If I think of all the things I do to try to sway an elevated or depressed mood one way or another, it is sort of the same ballpark. Just trying not to sway things one way or another.

Overall, I don’t know what will happen. I don’t know how long this will last (and winter is coming). I feel compelled to take advantage of the time I feel more like myself than any other time. I take my life one day at a time, and these days have been something like a time warp to a time like three or four years ago.

In a sense it is like taking a vacation from myself (or the self of the last three years, anyway). To stir the pot or not? I can’t. With these moments so few and far between I feel compelled to stick a lid on that pot and (mindfully) let it simmer.

When Triggers are People

It is common for bipolar mood swings to be triggered by one thing or another, ranging anywhere from physical pain to stressful situations to a particularly uncomfortable television program.

But what happens when our triggers are people?

I know that I’ve found there are certain people in my life who can trigger my mood based on whatever mood they are experiencing. When they come to me in depression, I often walk away feeling depressed. When they come to me excited, I find my walk to the bus to have an extra pep in its step. These are people who often feel things deeply (not unlike myself) and they’re people I can connect to on a very deep level. Unfortunately, being around them is like rolling the dice, because I never know what mood we’ll be in by the end of our encounter.

I admit, sometimes this phenomenon will leave me leaning toward being more antisocial than anything else, but most of the time the visit is worth the risk.

The other sort of human trigger I find most often is the person who gets under my skin. It could be someone who agitates me or pushes my buttons, the most common sort of trigger I have when I am working. The more stress that is added to the situation, the more agitating the person becomes until I become entirely frustrated and overwhelmed.

This sort of trigger person is the most frustrating to me, because in times of great stress it can be practically anyone (family, friend, co-worker, even a stranger). It is like my perception around a person changes, and all I can focus on is how irritated the person makes me feel.

The best remedy I’ve found for this sort of trigger person is distance. Less time together, less phone calls, and less opportunity to drive me bananas. This has generally worked for me, though not particularly in the workplace because in a cubicle situation, asking for distance means asking a lot.

In my experience, people act as triggers for bipolar swings just as often as other external triggers do, which can be hard when you’ve got the added pressure of your trigger’s feelings to deal with (something you don’t have to consider when triggered by the weather or a television program or stress).

It can be difficult to remember that your trigger is a person too, and acting gracefully around someone who irritates the crap out of you can be extremely taxing. When in doubt; get the hell out! Try creating a little distance, hopefully that will help keep your sanity and the peace.