Tag Archives: insomnia

(Not So) Total Recall

Lately I’ve been wondering if my gaps in memory are because of bipolar disorder or something else (aging? genes? I don’t know…).

Over the weekend I triumphantly proved these memory hiccups I’ve been having existed to an audience of zero. That’s right, I only had myself around to say, “ah ha! I knew it!” -but it still felt slightly gratifying.

When I boarded the bus I looked up the name of the cross-streets I needed to get off on. Michigan and Marginal. Those were the streets.

I sat, repeating the names over and over again to myself at the bus trucked along. For maybe two or three stops I repeated the names over and over again in an attempt to remember the names of the streets.

Then, ten minutes later, I suddenly realized I couldn’t recall. Michigan and what? It started with the letter M… 

Try as I might, I couldn’t remember the name. I had to look it up all over again.

This was kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back. This sort of thing has been happening a lot lately, and when it happened on the bus I nearly screamed, “HA!” because it was like catching my brain in the act of forgetting.

The thing that makes me believe it might be bipolar related is that I’ve been struggling a lot lately with racing thoughts and spacing out. It is as if my mind is either overwhelmingly engaged in something lately, or it isn’t engaged in anything. When it is highly engaged, there is too much information flying around to be able to remember the name of a street that starts with M. And, when I space out, the opposite is true. It is like trying to hold thoughts in a sieve, everything just falls out through the holes in the bottom.

I have also recently taken up losing words again, where I am talking and have trouble finishing my sentence, or I lose the next word I am supposed to say.

“Looks like it is going to…” Rain. Say rain. Wait, what is the word? There was a word I wanted to say here… crap.

People have told me that lithium has had this effect on them, and I can’t exactly discredit that theory, but I’ve been taking lithium for a long time now and (like most things) this lame brain syndrome seems to come and go in something like waves. This wave lately has made it very difficult to hold conversations, write blog posts, remember where the heck I am going, and keep anything in my head for more than a minute or two at a time.

My other theory is that it could have to do with insomnia. I’ve been having one hell of a time trying to sleep lately, my anxiety has been so far out of control that I am too busy laying around at night with racing thoughts or spacing out to be able to sleep. This has resulted in a few really attractive tantrums by yours truly, as the act of not being able to sleep feels something akin to physical torture.

Realistically, I don’t know. The answer is as elusive as the name of street that started with the letter M. It is on the tip of my tongue, but there is nothing there but a blank spot.

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And as Everyone Knows; Waiting is the Hardest Part

Bipolar Disorder is a funny beast. The moods I find myself in always seem to be completely distinct from one another, and when in one, I’m blind to the others. This leaves it quite difficult to get a full overview at any given time.

A Visual Aid

The chart above is brought to you by moodscope.com, and rather than divulge most of the gory details about what has been going on lately I figured this simple red line could probably tell you all you need to know. It seems to have settled nicely around rock bottom.

So, it has returned. For real, this time. Depression. And as I took that rather steep plunge you can see on the graph around October 1st, I fell into a place I had forgotten. This has occurred enough times now that it goes beyond just an odd familiar feeling, it is like stepping into another version of the life I’m living. Time traveling to begin where the last depression left off, and everything else is a blur of intensely vague in-distinctiveness. The solution? Wait for the time travel to snap back again.

So it goes.

I am currently on a leave of absence from work, or at least I am in limbo -somewhere between a leave of absence and not until the proper paperwork is filled out.

This is new territory for me, the furthest I’ve made it before was asking for the leave of absence and having my HR representative say no. This time around there is a much greater possibility of stepping back into that other reality with a job, but my past experience tells me not to expect too much.

In  any case, I am still waiting things out until Monday when I am finally able to see my  psychiatrist. Though I have seen some slow improvement, the re-introduction of severe anxiety around the prospect of paperwork associated with work (and the leave of absence) has brought back some of the insomnia I had been having with a vengeance. In that way, my job is doing the opposite of what I need right now by not letting me step back from the stress entirely.

Until then at least, this, unless it decides to be cured by an intense bout of pumpkin carving.

Patience doesn’t feel like a virtue to ME…

Patience is… difficult for me, to say the least. Anxiety makes patience agonizing both physically and emotionally, and I’ve yet to find something (apart from being very distracted) that helps with it.

To let you in on what has been going on the last week; I applied for a job.

It wasn’t something I decided to do easily, in fact when one of my friends suggested I apply I said no. It wasn’t until the third or fourth time she confronted me about it that I finally gave in and said I’d apply, with no real expectations.

You see, I have a degree in fashion design, and though it is something I have been able to excel at, the fashion industry has proven to be not only the cold hearted bitch everyone said it would be, but also that it is not able to withstand the shattering of the American economy. Six months after school I was working in the industry, and within two years of that, everything collapsed. Needless to say, the scrambling that happened with the collapse made for a rather intense atmosphere, and it wasn’t particularly fun.

I had come to the conclusion a long time ago that I didn’t really want to work for another big fashion company, but the accounts I’ve been getting from the inside of this particular company have really defied everything I’ve come to know within the industry. This place could be different, it could be an oasis among a stilettoed desert, but that is yet to be seen.

When nothing happened for almost two weeks after applying, I shrugged the whole thing off and was attempting to move on with my life when I was contacted for an interview. 24 hours later I found myself in what was actually more like three interviews, and then I heard nothing on Friday leaving me with a long weekend of anxiety and “patience”.

Last night I had a nightmare that I didn’t get the job. I woke up, shook it off, and went back to sleep -only to have a nightmare that I did get the job. Either way in my dreams I lost, both held enormous consequences, with awkward repercussions.

This morning I’ve found out I have a final interview tomorrow, so by the end of the week I should have some kind of conclusion either way. The conflicting feelings I was having last week continue as my mind spins with notions of what I am actually capable of, if I can handle something big like this again, and how long I could potentially last before having a big breakdown.

Essentially, this is a carrot the size of a city, and I already feel like I’ve made up my mind to hold onto it -because how often does one come across a carrot the size of a city? It has been four years since I’ve seen one, and at this point it seems essential to eat away a house for myself in the middle of that carrot and at least live there until the thing begins to rot.

I don’t feel like I have much to lose right now, and the list of things to gain (including medical benefits) is a long one. There may be some big changes up ahead, and I haven’t really been able to think through (entirely) what that would mean for this blog, for my free time, and my dog. Corey has been very supportive, however, and has expressed that he is willing to make whatever changes necessary to help make this a good transition for me if it is what I want to do.

Consequently; I don’t really know anything right now, and that’s what is so difficult. Hopefully I can distract myself with Swedish meatballs and videogames.

A Fear Filter

I didn’t really begin feeling too overwhelmed (or overwhelmed enough to freak out) until last night. The possibilities of a starkly different future were playing out in my head on repeat, and that conflicted feeling when my diagnosis came up last week reappeared.

Feelings surging on all fronts, yes feelings, no feelings, what ifsmaybes, sometimeses, all fighting for attention.

When I look into the crystal ball of the future, this is what happens. Too many variables, can not compute, my brain about explodes trying to see an outcome, to make an accurate prediction of what lies ahead.

Obviously, I can’t see the future. I know that. I am a regular human being (though, I have had a dream or two that seemed to contain elements that occurred shortly after upon waking) who has grown out of the notion that I can predict what is coming.

My therapist says that me trying to see what is coming is pretty much just me trying to prepare myself for potential disaster. Catastrophizing, they call it. Looking into a possible future to imagine the outcome, and then preparing for it in real life.

Doesn’t sound that harmful, right? I mean, couldn’t I just keep on doing that and feeling prepared (although, doomed)?

Maybe not.

For me, anxiety thrusts me into those crystal balls sometimes whether I want to or not, and when I see that future I have an emotional response. Suddenly, my mind racing so quickly that I am sucked back into reality in an instant, I am thrust into another future possibility, and then another, and then another. It is pretty much like the worst type of time travel there ever was.

The feelings from these linger, sometimes completely oppositional emotions or thoughts, and the overwhelming part comes from not being able to shake them off and no longer being able to process which of those feelings is valid and which are a product of a completely made up future.

Yeah, I know. Effing weird, right? For me, if “going crazy” were a tangible feeling, this is one of the ones that I have that I would say it must feel like. Feeling a handful of conflicting things at once and being unable to discern which one to follow can be a nightmare. To me, it isn’t quite unlike losing my sense of self entirely -sitting in a crowded room of people talking and being at a loss for what to do next.

I have been listening a lot to the Mental Illness Happy Hour podcast (which I would highly recommend, even though I already have a couple times) and a lot of people spend time talking about fear. Some people make decisions based on fear, or admit to not having lived a full life because of fear, and one of the things that scares me is the prospect of being old and looking back at my life, thinking, “WOW, I sure spent a lot of time afraid for no good reason! Too bad I didn’t get to do any of the things I wanted to because I was mortified.”

Unfortunately, there is no “off switch” for fear (as I learned the hard way when I had that panic attack at the top of the space needle), but we can chip at it, and I am hoping that after long enough, I can be all… you know, zen or something.

After all,

“Fear leads to anger
Anger leads to hate
And hate leads to suffering.”

Or so the good Master Yoda teaches us.

Last night as I lay in bed for several hours without sleep, distraught, with a million things going through my mind at the speed of light and those conflicting emotions pouring down on me I wondered what things inside my head would look like if I put a filter on them, filtering out all of the emotional responses and thoughts that were coming from a place of fear. 

I pulled out my mental microscope:

Added a (filter) – No Fear

And after the lens focused, there I was at a strawberry farm buying a couple flats of rather delicious strawberries. It was sunny, and I laughed.

And palm trees swayed in the breeze, with ukuleles playing in the distance, and unicorns jumping over rainbows.

(Maybe I made that last line up, but that’s how good it felt).

Oh, I thought to myself, it feels awfully nice without all of those other assholes bossing me around and making me feel confused. 

Then I promptly fell asleep.

That whole world of fear and anxiety is a weird one, and it has a way of creeping into my life when I’m seriously distracted by stress or big events or responsibility. Before I know it I am in that crowded room with no recollection of how I got there and seemingly no recallable knowledge of how to go about leaving.

How long will it be before I turn into Leonard Shelby from Memento? Because tattooing myself with exit strategies seems like a normal solution here. Who would mind a thigh covered in words of encouragement though, I mean really? Is there a better way to remind myself to use that filter?

That’s the notion I am working on exploring next.

To be continued…

The last 24 hours has been bananas, but not in a bad way. Just a hefty dose of stress and anxiety, and so far I have been surprised that I haven’t seen any noticeable mood symptoms, minus a little insomnia.

Right now I am on a very tight deadline, so I am planning on talking quite a bit more about this when I am at liberty to do so. Until then I am doing my best to breathe deeply, relax, and smile, and we’ll see what happens.

Thanks for stopping by, I’ll be back tomorrow!

Wrapping Up the Week

This was a bit of a down and out week. My mood chart’s numbers have been lower than they’ve been in months, and I’ve taken an antipsychotic four times within the last week (I take them as needed). That number is ridiculous, considering the last time I took one was a random occurrence, and the time before that being at least a couple months ago.

I feel justified in saying that something isn’t right, and I was already suspicious of the medication I just started (trileptal) before this morning’s 3 am slightly psychotic episode. After that I feel like my hunch has grown into something larger, and I’m not sure what to name it. Perhaps I am having a mega-hunch.

Yes, I have still been taking the trileptal. Funny story, I emailed my doctor as described in Looking into the Trileptal Mineshaft earlier this week, but what I didn’t really mention after that is that he wasn’t there. I received a response from  another doctor (whom I don’t know and doesn’t know me) who said mine was out for the week and it would just be best if I keep taking my current dosage of trileptal until he gets back.

Frankly, this email made me stomp my feet, cry, and gnash my teeth a bit. I disrupted my boyfriend at work with an impulsive phone call because I was so upset about receiving this advice.

What frustrated me the most was that this doctor, who knows nothing about my situation and intense sensitivity to most psychiatric medications, also added non-chelantly in the email that he didn’t think mood stabilizers ever had any negative effect on people’s mood, which is why I should just keep taking the medication I was given.

On my end, that sort of remark easily gets interpreted as,

“honey, you just cray-cray. That’s why you really oughta just keep taking these pills!”

As a consumer, I can see this as a possible side effect printed clearly on the leaflet I was given. Not to mention, I’ve had these sorts of rare side effects before from other medications.

I really wasn’t sure what to do, and I went back and forth about whether or not I would comply at least three times each day since then. It may be easy to say, “just stop taking it,” but as with the Lamictal situation -I am really trying to take this on as seriously as possible. I need to evaluate every move I make with caution and thought, because the decisions I make about taking something or not taking something could literally change my life. 

Isn’t that terrifying? It is a large burden to bear.

I really hoped that seeing my therapist on wednesday would help clarify things for me, but I got a call before my appointment to find out that she too was out of the office.

I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so abandoned by my mental support team before, and it seems as if the planets had to of aligned just right in order for both my psychiatrist and therapist to be out of their respective offices the entire week unexpectedly and at the same time. At that point, all I can say is thank goodness I have a sense of humor or I might’ve taken it a tad personally.

I mentioned earlier in the week that I believed trileptal was causing me to feel desperation, which I found to be quite upsetting and a good reason to stop taking it. Many days later, that desperation has begun to morph into something much larger and darker, suicidality and self-harm ideation have began popping up at unexpected times in unexpected places. Agitation that is accompanied by surges of energy that leave me feeling like my chest is about to explode. Garnishes of intense paranoia that render me feeling entirely powerless. Completely distressing nightmares.

The way in which these symptoms are happening are almost identical to the first time I had an adverse reaction to fluvoxamine (the first medication I was ever given, pre-bipolar diagnosis). The waves of psychosis began getting worse and worse (I don’t experience psychosis much on a regular basis, usually) and the cycling became so fast that things became unintelligible. became unintelligible. And the idea of that happening again scares the bajeezus out of me.

I genuinely wondered if I kept taking trileptal if I would start to follow the same sort of path of when my moods were so destabilized by a medication before. I realize trileptal is supposed to be for mood stabilization (and my past medication sinkhole was with an antidepressant) but my body acts in mysterious ways. The only time I took Klonapin (for anxiety) I had an enormous, un-provoked panic attack. It is as if my body works with these chemicals totally backwards. 

After taking trileptal several days after I would have liked to have stopped, I can very clearly see things heading in that direction. There are all the signs of awfulness there, and there is no way in my mind continuing in this direction is a good idea.

I’ll email my doctor on Monday, but I’m stopping trileptal today. And I’ll fade into the woods tonight, the trees will cocoon me, and perhaps by the time I come home from camping on Sunday some little portion of this will be undone.

Hypomanic Menagerie

I’ve been having general symptoms of hypomania for the last week or so, insomnia, momentum, ideas, but my mood and energy both felt like they were in a normal/stable place. I wrote it off to a mini-episode, something I call a “point 5” (as in, it only registered as a .5 on my 0-5 mania rating scale), basically half a hypomanic episode.

Then yesterday, the hypomania broke through the flat dirt road of my stable mood and energy level, sprouting into a crazy tree of twirly branches and colorful birds.

I updated the blog. Read through 7 costuming books. Created 2 garment patterns. Spent a little time on online research. Then it was time for lunch.

I find myself constantly thinking of ways to describe what this feels like, when really I could just say,

“I find myself constantly thinking of ways to describe what this feels like”

Those moments of thinking long and hard about something are duplicated until there are 15 of those moments occurring at once, every once in a while I turn my attention to one of the topics to give a thumbs up or a thumbs down. I am the CEO sitting at the head of a round table of creatives busting their asses to make me happy.

And whenever this happens, I feel genuinely amazed. I mean, almost an awe. How did I ever live without this? Slow and inefficient? Having one idea at a time? Barely making a decision on my own?

(I can’t help but feel like anyone who scoffs at the idea of mania/hypomania addiction hasn’t experienced it, because when it happens, all other functioning feels insufficient.)

Meanwhile, all of this increased brain activity is coupled with a physical feeling in my chest. Something akin to eating a large bowl of pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) at my favorite restaurant and feeling warm to my absolute core. It says (very much like the pho), “bring on the rain Seattle because I am warm, I can take it!

(If you haven’t had pho, I would highly recommend it, especially in cold weather!)

That warmth radiates from the hum of a chainsaw, the energy pulsing through that rotating chain just aching to fell some trees. To tackle an obstacle hundreds of feet high. If I listen hard I can hear the hum as it pulses to my fingertips. My nose. My toes.

Needless to say, it is quite nice. This is where things become confusing for those of us that have felt this. I couldn’t call this experience evil (at least, not at these levels), and it feels life-altering. Right, even. It is hard to understand that, though people abuse various substances to try to achieve something similar, we are given substances that tend to erase it. Very tricky, and -as I said, confusing for folks.

Why can’t I keep, “quite nice”?

Anyway, those 15 creatives sitting around my board room table can get cranky at the end of the day if I don’t feed them enough bagels and good quality coffee. They start to slack off and text everyone they know instead of working. Or work too hard until they become obsessed. Or put on a slide show that contains repeated images of different types of drawstrings.

“Arrrrrg!”

I cried last night,

“Drawstrings! Drawstrings! Too many drawstrings!”

(I wish I was joking. If you want your boyfriend to think you are crazy, start ranting about drawstrings.)

Monkeys start jumping on the boardroom table. The copier breaks, blank paper shoots across the room.

By 9pm last night, my board room had become a menagerie. I wouldn’t exactly call it “quite nice” anymore. Maybe “not quite so nice”.

As I woke up this morning, the hypomania was just breaking through the flat dirt road of my stable mood and energy level, sprouting into a crazy tree of twirly branches and colorful birds.

A warmth begins. A chainsaw hums. And my group of creatives gather around the board room table, swept clean by the overnight crew.