Monthly Archives: December 2013

Sick for the Holidays

I’ve been sick the last couple weeks (flu), but I am finally starting to do better.

The hardest part about being physically ill (for me) is that it can also trigger bipolar symptoms.

I had one very lovely night that I spent mostly hysterical with psychosis after running a low fever most of the day. At the time I didn’t know if I could take a second antipsychotic (I usually take Risperidone) with the new medication (Latuda) I’ve been taking, so the whole night was a frantic mess. The next day I contacted my doctor (who said I could double up) but the psychosis hasn’t been an issue since (thankfully).

By some miracle, my anxiety wasn’t all that bad about spending time with relatives for the holiday. In fact, the biggest issue this year was listening to the radio in the car on the way to their houses. The first of my two rounds of holiday travel I spent with the radio on (only to drown out the negative thoughts cropping up) but the plan backfired when the station played four or five depressing songs in a row and I wound up having a panic attack and crying uncontrollably on the way home.

As I said, being sick really makes me much more susceptible to things triggering my bipolar symptoms, so I combatted this on the second trip by listening to The Essential Clash (one of my favorite compilations) which proved to keep the whole experience incident-free.

Now, on the precipice of the new year I have been thinking about 2013, and the fact that I spent this entire year unemployed, waiting for my SSDI hearing. It seems weird to think about, since this year went by so quickly. I’m hoping 2014 turns out to be somewhat lucky, in that respect.

Ah the Latuda. The Latuda, the Latuda. Is it working? Well it isn’t stopping the mood swings. The racing negative thoughts have been getting worse the last few days, but I haven’t had any suicidal ideation (just nightmares) so maybe that’s an improvement? Really all I can do is wait and see, so… we’ll see.

Five Ways to Support Someone With Mental Illness During the Holidays

The holiday season can be stressful for the best of us, and for those (like myself) living with mental illness it can be extremely challenging. I feel like one of the questions I hear most is, “how can I be supportive of my friend or family member with mental illness during the holidays?” Here are five great places to start!

5. Invite them over

Many of the people I know who are struggling this time of year don’t get along well with their families, and therefore have no place to go during the holidays. If you can invite them over for Christmas dinner with your family that would be swell, but even just inviting them over to spend time together one on one or in a small group around that time can be incredibly uplifting when it can be hard to get out of the house. That said,

4. Don’t take it personally if they don’t make it over

Many times, just the invitation of having someplace to go is nice, but sometimes this prospect can be overwhelming or our current mental state isn’t exactly polished enough to feel comfortable in a large social setting. Our discomfort often arises from our moods, anxiety, or medications, not the person kind enough to invite us over. If you’ve invited someone over to your party, gathering, or other social event, please remember that if we say no, it isn’t a reflection on you.

3. Encourage them to arrive late, leave early, or take a breather from the party

I know I’ve often felt pressure from folks at parties when I expressed that I needed to leave early (often because of mood swings or side effects from medications) and being encouraging of your friend or family member during a social gathering to arrive or leave when they need to, or even to take a breather outside to get out of the crowd can be extremely helpful. When I know people are grateful that I came to an event, even if just for a little while, I’m much more likely to feel comfortable enough to go again.

2. Try to avoid the pressure of gift-giving

While many people with mental illness do perfectly fine for themselves monetarily, there are also many of us who can’t work because of our situation. Though it is always nice to receive a gift, it can feel very stressful knowing you don’t have anything to give in return. My family has done something this year that has really, really helped me with this; they’ve expressed they’re more interested in spending time with me than receiving gifts. Putting focus on being able to spend time with someone that you love or care about instead of the gift-giving aspect of the holidays can be a big stress relief.

1. Let them know how much they mean to you

Maybe the person you want to feel supported is someone you see regularly, and it is easy to tell them how much they mean to you. If not, a phone call is a great option, or even sending a card with a note inside in the mail. Personally, I shy away from messages through electronic means (email, text, and facebook) as I find they feel more impersonal and actually make me feel more isolated and depressed. If you’re sending a message of love, why not make it feel as personal as possible!

Starting Latuda

Well, I’ve officially been taking Latuda (a new atypical antipsychotic recently approved for Bipolar type 1 depression) for ten days now.

I started out taking 20 mg each night for a week and I immediately experienced stomach cramping, a piercing headache in the brow of my head, and some fairly intense nausea that I combatted with several tums. These symptoms happened both after I took the medication each night, but also in the evening around the time I expected to take it (and hadn’t yet). Each day the side effects (with the exception of the nausea upon taking the dosage) decreased in severity.

I also immediately saw an improvement in my bipolar mood symptoms, but the improvement only lasted the first four days of taking the Latuda. By day five I was back to my old habits (or worse?) having crying fits, hysteria, and suicidal depression.

The next logical step was to move the dosage up to 40 mg, which I did on day 8. I was expecting at least a minor improvement, and though I have been feeling fewer urges of suicidality, homicidality, and self harm I have still managed to have at least one good (I say “good” but I mean significant) mood swing (downward) each day since the increase.

In the last 11 days I have gained 2 lbs, which I might attribute to holiday cheer… however I discovered on day 9 that if I take the latuda with a brownie and some milk the nausea and stomach cramps don’t happen (heh). “What’s that? I better eat some more brownies? Ok…”

I’m trying to be careful though, because on Zyprexa I gained 40 lbs in two months, and it took me two years to lose it again. I don’t want another repeat of that situation.

So, as of this moment, I don’t have a huge amount to report. The side effects have been a nuisance, if anything, really child’s play compared to the side effects of many other medications I’ve tried at this point, which makes it easy to continue taking it. I think my biggest fear is that instead of helping this medication will somehow make my mood swings worse, or bring on agitation or psychosis (which isn’t uncommon for me while trying new medications). It can be very difficult to tell (when taking a new medication) if worsening symptoms are simply a product of my situation and worsening depression or if they are being brought on by a medication. I want to try to avoid jumping to any conclusions until I know if anything is happening either way.

In addition to all of this, I have been having a very difficult last couple of weeks. I am extremely susceptible to most forms of stress, and there has been a lot of that coming my way. I’ve been spending a lot of time outside of my apartment (good, but stressful) which has left me little time to relax or consider what to write. All in all, I feel guilty for not writing more (which my therapist would ultimately say is just a product of my anxiety) because I know there are many of you who are out there struggling the way I have been this holiday season.

In any case, things are moving right along, and like most things this holiday season will pass. Until then I am simply gritting my teeth and attempting to enjoy myself any little way I can.

Coping With Imaginary Rejection

This most recent bout of depression has been manifesting itself though several bouts of imaginary rejection. That isn’t to say this is something new, unfortunately this is something that comes and goes for me, especially when I am in a relationship.

Imaginary rejection (as I call it) is one part delusion, one part paranoia, one part anxiety, and maybe two parts depression. The situation occurs when one begins having some kind of expectation that friends, family, or anyone else doesn’t know about. By not meeting these potentially new, unspoken expectations, the one doing the expecting feels a sense of rejection, possibly to the point where one begins to feel everyone around them is somehow out to hurt them.

Complicated? A little. Let me give you an example.

Let’s say my boyfriend is going to the grocery store to pick up some things for our lunch. He gets ready to go, and as he turns to say goodbye I am suddenly extremely alarmed that he didn’t ask me to go with him. 

Realistically, I know he never even thought about that. His goal was to get the groceries as fast as possible to please me. 

Now, I know this is something people without bipolar disorder have to deal with too. It is all about communication and whatnot, letting the people around you know what you need.

The problem for me is that this only comes on when I am symptomatic and feeling at least slightly paranoid and when depression has leveled my social skills to virtually nada. The depression is whispering in my ear that nobody likes me, and I find myself suddenly (delusional) seeing evidence of this “rejection” in every aspect of my life.

This is one of depression’s dirty little tricks that I have been chasing around for years but not really pinned down until this week. I found myself in a battle of wits with myself, my mind telling me,

“see, your boyfriend really doesn’t love you.”

to which I replied,

“are you sure, because he did say three times I could come with him after all. Would he have said that if he didn’t mean it?”

Like so many other facets of bipolar disorder, I’m trapped in a situation where I am receiving information from several sources (my brain, what is happening around me, the people around me) that doesn’t match up. The problem truly comes in not knowing which source to believe.

When faced with the sensation of imaginary rejection it seems the best defense is remembering the fact that we are in a situation of uncertainty. Simply taking a moment to remind oneself that I don’t know what source to trust right now can take the wind out of depression’s sails. Just one moment of hesitation before believing when our minds tell us we’re unloved, or unwanted, or unworthy can be enough to step back before getting swept up in it all. 

Waking Up Woken Up

The last few days have been a torrent of horror. I couldn’t write anything here for fear of spewing unending mantras of hate and agitation and depression. I’ve been running up and down the streets of Seattle (too dark to wear my normal, depression-hiding sunglasses) crying openly without caring.

Everything was twisted. I couldn’t go much longer than minutes without seeing what I call future flashes, or screwed up delusions of what my mind was trying to trick me into doing next.

“I’m sorry brain, but I still have enough frame of mind to keep myself from putting my hand in a hot frying pan, or trying to use a pen as a weapon, or walking out in front of a car.”

These moments leave me hanging on each and every move I make, second guessing everything, reacting slowly, sometimes not responding at all to questions or things around me. Holding on so tightly takes an enormous amount of energy, and when in doubt, it seems all I can do to combat these absurd urges is to do nothing. 

Being afraid of yourself means that many other things no longer illicit fear. I told Corey I was going to make a double batch of Top Ramen, mixing the “oriental” and “pork” flavors.

“Aren’t you afraid?” He replied.

I laughed. How could I be afraid of noodle bowl flavors when I was so hung up on my own safety and sanity?

Coming out of this place of fear is almost as jarring as being it it. I woke up this morning, feeling like I’d drank too much caffeine. Wide awake, like my skin was about to crawl off. Now that it is mid morning I am feeling the energy subside a bit, but I never expected to be waking up woken up.

A Light At the End of the Tunnel

Even if I wanted to, I don’t think I could accurately describe the ridiculousness that has been this week. An intense roller coaster of good and bad news filling my skull with an intensity that made me think it might explode. It was the sort of week where the alternating periods of important information and total isolation left my thoughts spinning through an odd emotional centrifuge.

Monday and Tuesday brought on a near mental breakdown. Seeing my therapist at the end of Tuesday was what really saved me on that one, and I spent Wednesday with my sister feeling slightly less agitated.

By Thursday my mood had already dipped down and then back up before I realized it has almost been a month since I applied for the Latuda patient assistance program.

In a brief moment of clarity I called their hotline to check on my application. It turns out I have been accepted and the medication should reach my doctor by Monday.

Suddenly, I remembered that this is what has really shlepped me through this month of exaggerated mood swings with a particularly grim outlook. This new, free medication sitting in a truck somewhere driving toward Seattle has the potential to change things. I realize my track record with medications isn’t a particularly hopeful one (we’re at 14-0 for helpfulness here) but somehow, despite crotchety depression and erratic irritability, I am hopeful again.

Canadians Denied Entry Into US Due to Mental Illness

Apparently, on several occasions, US border patrol has denied entry into the United States to Canadian citizens who have a history of mental illness. 

It really surprised me to learn that these Canadians weren’t trying to move to the US or anything, they were simply trying to cross the border for a vacation! 

Canadian medical records are supposed to be confidential, but the database Canadian authorities use to keep police records are shared with the border patrols. In one instance of this discrimination, a woman had a record of police entering her home when her significant other called 911 when she attempted suicide years earlier. Though she attempted to to cross the border after several years of therapy and with much improvement in her depression, she was denied access to the US. 

US border patrol are allowed to deny border access to anyone “deemed a threat to themselves, others, or their property” but to assume anyone with a history of mental illness is considered a threat is extremely ignorant.

You can read more on this topic here through the CBC:
Canadian Woman Refused US Entry Because of Depression
Canadians with Mental Illness Denied US Entry