Monthly Archives: November 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

For the last couple days I’ve been meaning to write this post, on Tuesday I went to bed with hundreds of ideas swirling in my head about what I was thankful for and what I wanted to write about. I woke up the next morning feeling entirely crotchety and not thankful for anything, so here I am today.

Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful for a real plethora of things when it comes to my mental health, my team, my support system, you blog readers… but I determined the thing I am most thankful for this thanksgiving is the change I have seen in our culture toward the concept of mental health.

I realize the change doesn’t seem huge, especially when you are someone having to deal with discriminating employers, the cost of having an illness like bipolar disorder, and the feelings of isolation that come with depression, but it really is getting better.

In the last few years I’ve seen numerous actors, professional sports players, and even politicians come forward to say that they have been living with bipolar disorder. Books have come out speculating the state of the mental health of many past American leaders. I’ve seen young, naive pop stars offend thousands of social media followers by using the word bipolar incorrectly, or using it as an insult.

On a more personal level, I’ve seen every person in my close personal life strive harder to learn more about bipolar disorder and depression and what we can all do to treat each other with more support and dignity.

In the short time of, say, the last five years, the ball has really been rolling. It is starting to pick up speed, and that fact makes me both feel incredibly thankful and hopeful that things will continue to get better. Cracks are showing in the stigma of mental illness, signs of weakness. All we have to do is keep moving forward.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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SSDI Update – Hearing Date Set

Friday was my 28th birthday. Last week was really a flurry of friends, family, food, walking through the streets of Seattle at sunset, and for many reasons, one of the best birthdays I think I’ve probably ever had.

Upon checking my mail on Friday I found a letter from my disability attorney. Excited, but skeptical, I opened the letter and found that my court hearing date has finally been set. February 13th, 2014.

This may have been the best birthday gift of all. After all, I applied last December, and ever since the game has been one of waiting and not knowing what would come next. Little did I know, I would be reminded of this important looming decision (one totally out of my hands) every time I saw a commercial for insurance. Every time I talked to a member of my family. Every time I sat down to write a blog post about having bipolar disorder.

This new news set my mind at ease, even if only for a month or two before the real anxiety of the hearing itself comes to fruition.

I know I didn’t have anything to do with this letter coming in the mail, but I feel inclined to pat myself on the back. After all, I made it this far. Happy birthday to me!

If You Don’t Have Anything Nice To Say…

This morning I woke up particularly irritable. After checking facebook (something I’ve fallen back into for some reason) and finding the first three stories wildly stigmatizing mental health I growled to myself and poised my fingers on my phone. What did I want? Retribution. I wanted these three ignorant posters to be told what for, and I wanted to do the telling.

Instead of laying into them with my I can’t believe you are so quick to alienate people with mental illness rant I scrolled down. The next post was from someone I know lives with mental health issues, and it was a rant about their depression.

There is an old saying that goes,

If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

This is the advice I have been trying to follow the last several weeks while experiencing gut-wrenching depression. When I am irritated (and I do get irritated) by everyone around me, my first reaction is to yell, kick, scream, and punch my way through the situation. Instead, this mental filter has left me sitting primarily in silence, but much less ashamed of my own actions.

After all, with the internet and social media these days (blogs included), how easy is it to use these platforms to purge yourself of the frustration, irritability, and depression we feel on a regular basis?

When we do, the not having something nice to say seems to apply, because these situations of emotional venting alienate people. Let’s face it, as much as we’d like to believe that greater society can handle people talking about their feelings to a greater audience, the internet does not always convey the vulnerability that comes with sharing these things. It isn’t uncommon for bullies (or people who simply say whatever is on their mind) to leave mean, hurtful comments in these situations. I mean, as many positive comments I’ve received on this blog, I’ve gotten the hurtful ones too. For someone who is feeling upset enough to be ranting about their feelings on the internet, these comments can be seemingly twice as poisonous.

What I’m not suggesting is this; if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. 

This phrase can work as a guideline to remind me not to spew my feelings everywhere, but I completely disagree that one shouldn’t say anything at all. 

A bit over ten years ago when I began having bipolar symptoms, I poured many of my feelings of frustration and depression into a blog. While this alleviated some of pressure that was building inside of me, none of the people who read the blog knew what to do about my quickly unraveling mental health. It often felt like I was reaching out, putting myself out there, being vulnerable, almost asking for help, but nobody helped me. No mystical internet fairy came to my aid, and even though I was sharing with people, they weren’t the people that could actually help me.

I think it is very important that if you feel depressed or angry or frustrated, you express it in some healthy way. Don’t say nothing at all. The key is expressing it in a healthy way. Express it to someone who can listen and give you support in return, because though comments from the internet can be supportive, they can also be a real bitch.

Talk to a family member, a friend, a therapist, a doctor, a teacher, a co-worker, someone else you know with bipolar disorder, anyone you feel like you can trust. If you don’t feel like there is anyone in your life that can give you that support, call a hotline -I promise there will be a supportive, active listener on the other end that will treat you with the respect you deserve.

You could email these people, sure, but it wont have the impact sharing would have if you talked to someone. Actually talk, with your mouth. Typing these thoughts and feelings out without any supportive feedback could potentially set them on a loop in your head. By saying them out loud to someone, it is very likely you will recognize just how little some of these thoughts brought on by depression make sense.

While it has been helpful to me to share less of those unfriendly feelings with the world, I think the real lesson is that if you are having thoughts and feelings brought on by depression or mixed episodes, if you feel the need to share them, share them with someone you trust.

In Lieu Of…

To be honest, I find it extremely difficult to write when under the cloud of severe depression, and the little moments where I am able to come up for air don’t offer a lot of time to do things (writing here included).

Most of all, it is important to me to stay positive despite these thoughts, so writing here when they are present is a pretty big no-no.

In any case, I read a blog post a few days ago by New Zealand blogger Bipolar Bear that really resonated with me that I’d like to share with you in lieu of my own jumbled thoughts called Myth: intelligent people don’t commit suicide. Please check it out, I hope you like it as much as I did!

Onto the Latuda Frontier

Yesterday I met with my psychiatrist. Though I’ve tried fourteen different medications in the last two years, I haven’t tried anything new the last couple months after having to stop taking Geodon (due to developing the side effect of muscle spasms in my jaw).

The truth of the matter is I’ve tried most of the drugs that are readily available to one with bipolar disorder, and none of them have worked out (for one reason or another).

Needless to say, I was very excited when I heard that the FDA approved Latuda for Bipolar Type 1 Depression. Thankfully, new medications have been coming out for bipolar disorder fairly frequently (or at least, frequently enough for me to not lose hope entirely).

I showed up at my psychiatrist appointment yesterday with ten printed pages (the application for the Sunovion Support program for Latuda and a copy of last years taxes), where he praised me for doing my homework and gladly filled out the prescriber’s portion of of the application.

Single people with no insurance and an annual income below $34,470 qualify to receive the medication for free, as well as couples below $46,530, and so on (see the website for more details). Seeing as how I’ve made nothing this year, the application process was pretty straight forward.

After the paperwork was faxed to the number provided, all I have left to do now is wait. It might be a number of weeks before I hear anything back, but my psychiatrist said he knows someone with treatment resistant bipolar disorder who has been helped a lot by taking Latuda. I’m trying not to get my hopes up, but I do feel a little more optimistic knowing I’ve got something to try again coming up. It makes the depression of the last few weeks feel more bearable, to be sure!

Don’t Step On A Crack…

So I’ve been somewhat m.i.a. after hurting my back late last week. I’ve only ever hurt my back once before (trying to pick up a five gallon glass carboy full of fermenting homebrew wine a year or two ago) and that time I immediately knew the error of my ways.

This time all I was doing was washing my hair and all hell broke loose. The funny thing was that I began having spasms on one side of my back, but they stopped after a few minutes. Then, hours later, they began again on the other side, twice as intense.

Thursday began a dance of two steps forward, one step back… lying in weird positions, surrounding myself with pillows, hot packs, cold packs, and eating a lot of cookies.

This might not have been such a big deal, but Corey was working on a film competition so he wasn’t home.

Out of all of this, the pain was pretty bad. Not being able to sleep was even worse, but what scared me the most was what effect this situation might have on my mood.

Up to the point of wrenching my back, I had been experiencing some pretty significant depression with massive negative thoughts and urges. By some miraculous twist of fate, the first two or three days my back was out of whack my mood was… well, fine. Even being alone didn’t seem like a big deal, which was unusual for me.

Then, Saturday night happened. I had barely slept in days, and beyond my pain and exhaustion crept an increasingly intense feeling of paranoia. By the time I was able to get into bed (a generally safe feeling place) I was met with audible hallucinations.

I admit, I was expecting some sort of rebound depression from the pain I was in the and from the sleep I wasn’t getting, but I wasn’t exactly expecting full-on psychosis.

My back is doing quite a bit better (though sitting in this chair typing is a bit uncomfortable) and my mood has switched back to an alternating I’m fine / now I’m desperate and crying on the bus pattern. Laughing one minute, crying the next.

This week I’m meeting with my psychiatrist, so I’ll keep  you posted on what happens (though I’m pretty certain of what course of action I want to take at this point).

Distraction is the Name of the Game

Sometimes thoughts of self harm, suicidal or homicidal ideation can be combatted by psychiatric medications. These medications don’t work the same for every patient though, and it isn’t uncommon for folks with these persistent thoughts to have to face them with sheer willpower alone.

My therapist told me the best thing I can do is try to keep myself from lingering on these thoughts. Don’t let them convince you to do what they want you to do. 

The theory sounds simple enough; think of something else… but for anyone who has experienced all consuming thoughts of suicide or self harm, this is easier said than done.

Today I thought I would share a few of the things I have been doing to try and keep my mind occupied and off these harmful topics. Truth be told, it takes quite a bit of energy to continuously have to shift one’s focus, but it is a strategy that has worked for me both in times of impulsiveness and also in longer-term chunks of depression.

1. Listen to Music

This is something I’ve suggested before, and I find it most helpful if I not only listen to music but sing along as well. When my brain is busy trying to follow along with the lyrics, it doesn’t have time to think of anything else.

2. Listen to a Podcast or Audiobook

I do this most often when I am on the bus or walking around downtown. The content should be interesting enough that it keeps your attention… and free content can be found at your local library or on itunes. There are podcasts on an infinite number of subjects out there, including some involving mental illness (though I found those to be a little less helpful at distracting me from, well, mental illness!) I prefer interview podcasts or ones hosted by comedians. Audiobooks are great because I find that I can actively listen with less effort than trying to read (and sitting around reading the same page over and over again).

3. Watch a marathon

A movie or television series marathon, that is! I find it the most helpful to watch something I haven’t seen before (to keep my interest) but sometimes the questionable content of a new show can leave you back in the thought loop you’re trying to escape. In those situations I put on Friends or Seinfeld because I never get tired of them and I can watch them randomly or in order.

4. Try to solve a puzzle

Working on something like a crossword puzzle, sudoku, or even a jigsaw puzzle can keep your mind busy with minimal effort elsewhere.

5. Bake

Ok, this isn’t exactly the most healthy method of getting your mind off things (because I normally eat everything I’ve made after baking it) but baking is a lot like working on a puzzle. Having complete one step after the next leaves little room for thinking about other things.

6. Play a game

Games are a lot like puzzles, they  tend to keep my attention for a long period of time and help time to pass quickly.

I think the real trouble comes at the end of the day when I feel exhausted from diverting my attention and being worn down by the constant thoughts when I can’t focus my attention elsewhere. I find that if I feel like no longer being present, the best thing I can do is go to sleep. It isn’t uncommon for me to feel refreshed when I wake up the next morning.