December Processing

It may not be the best time of the year to process the loss of my marriage (anniversary is in December) or the role bipolar has had in the huge blow up of my life and who I am (since December is a manic, mystical time for me and I miss leading congregations through them). Yet I process through art and speaking, even though I’m struggling with a delusion and suicidal thoughts. What I’m processing only adds to one or both of those feelings, but squashing the feelings and need to process only makes the feeling worse. They are coming out whether I process them or not. I guess I better process them.

bipolar sucksI’m angry about how the grandiosity of manic bipolar had a role in decisions I made through my life, including the ones I made about becoming superwife to make a broken marriage work over many years. I’m angry that I put up with a bunch of stuff because I thought I could fix it, or deep down I secretly deserved it because I wasn’t good enough to fix it.

I’m angry about how the grandiosity of manic bipolar and the doom and depression of bipolar had a role in decisions I made in working with committees and in preaching when I was a pastor. Was that even me? How much of who I was as pastor was me, and how much was sick me?

I forgive myself of what I did in all these situations when under the influence of bipolar. Forgiving is not forgetting, and feelings of remorse surface regularly about both realities. I have and continue to let go of what bipolar influenced me to do. But I made decisions out of youth or just me at that time, and they need forgiveness too. Hence, the artwork to express feelings and begin processing what led to those decisions in the first place.

What was so clear in artwork today was that I’m so angry, and one of the objects of my anger is the role bipolar has played in the decisions I made about my life, personal and professional. Even though I’ve released myself of responsibility for decisions made under the influence, I still live with consequences and grief. I can still be sad about it. And angry about it. I’m really angry, in case you hadn’t soothed that out yet.

9th Mood Shift in 5 Months

After my last post, I ended up in the hospital again with suicidal depression – mood shift #8 in 5 months. I’m so tired of having to go in the hospital. The reality is that my mood is shifting quickly. Perhaps since we found baseline in April, we are finally able to see how quickly my moods are changing. Perhaps I’m having a bad year. Others are having bad years too.

I got out of the hospital on Friday after Thanksgiving. The holiday in the hospital wasn’t the best, but the patients and staff made the best of it. We pulled tables together to eat as one group. We played games and watched a movie. The day’s schedule was that of a weekend, but there was a festive air. I had been stabilized by Wednesday and ready to go, but in consultation with my doctor, we decided to have me stay in the hospital for the holiday just in case not having anywhere to go would result in relapse. By Friday, I was ready to go and pushed the issue. And I got out. I had plenty to do over the weekend, and friends accommodated when needed. Thank you!!!

Then Sunday I felt a mood switch begin with moodiness and a slight mood dip, but then a delusion started and it grew. It was the one that I usually get at Christmas time, and this time it was 3 1/2 weeks early. I had premonitions of it for 1o days or so too. A mystical experience of the divine – God coming into the world and I had something big to do with it and a sense of euphoria and connection to everything. If you are religious, this might sound like a nice, healthy, or enviable experience. It Is Not! My brain tingles, my senses are heightened, and reality begins to break. The delusion can easily turn psychotic. And always, always, there is the crash afterwards into a depression, suicidal depression the last few years.

I called the next day – Monday – to get an appointment with my psychiatrist that day. By the time I saw her, it was an dysphoric mania (irritability, racing thoughts and so forth) with a growing delusion. When I saw her, she said we had a little time since I still knew my thoughts were a delusion. She boosted up my mood stabilizer and anti-psychotic, despite a history of not responding well to higher doses. We can always go down, “But,” she said, “We need to stop the mania.” I don’t think she’s seen me with a delusion as full blown as this one. Yay for me that it hasn’t been this bad in 3 1/2 years?

My therapist reminded me of the same things my psychiatrist said. Focus on good sleep, good food and exercise (hard exercise, from my therapist – more than I might otherwise do). And No Big Decisions. Get my friends on board with that one too, which I did.

So, 9 mood changes in 5 months. I think I officially qualify as a Rapid-Cycling Bipolar Disorder, Type I. Have to say though… I want off this roller coaster! I want out of being in the hospital! I want to stay away from the poles of suicidality and psychosis!

Facebook Word Vomit

fbFor the last week or so I’ve been experiencing suicidal visions and anxiety again. Once I called my therapist who was able to remind me of some skills I have that I was losing sight of.

Mostly I’ve been reaching out to my friends, most of whom are on Facebook. I’ve had the habit of updating people on my condition, moods and thoughts on Facebook. It’s a good way to get support from my amazing friends who are very good at offering kind and hopeful words. Not everyone has that level of support online. My friends are primarily those people who I have met at different stops and chapters in my life, and we have found each other and kept up with each other on Facebook. Twitter for a while, but that has mostly gone by the wayside. Others of my friends on Facebook are those who were conversation partners and became friends through Twitter and then found each other on Facebook. These amazing people are a huge part of my support system.

It’s a hodgepodge of friends, and I trust them. So I share my moods with them during volatile times, besides the snarky insights on life and snarky memes I share no matter how I’m feeling. (I’m not a sappy inspirational meme kind of person.)

Recently I feel like I’m just sharing word vomit about my terrible thoughts and moods and desires. It’s not just that I’m doing it recently. It’s more that I feel I’ve been doing it for a long time. Granted, I’ve had a hard go of it for quite a long time. I try to be conscientious about saying how safe I am with or without horrible visions. And my friends call me on my safety and use of skills too. I think it’s a good support system – accountability included.

But I’m still feeling like it’s just word vomit and I don’t know where else to share my situation despite the program I’m in 3 days a week (not a lot of time for checking in about how horrible things are) or seeing my therapist once a week. I’m struggling, and I need support.

How do you access your support system’s help? What role does social media play in getting support?

Doing OK = Not Good or Bad

Fourteen days I’ve been out of the hospital. I lost count, but my MyFitnessPal app keeps track of how many days I’ve logged in, and since I log in every day…

okFourteen days I’ve been asked, “How are you doing?” or something of the same ilk. And I almost always answer, hesitantly, “I’m doing OK.” I hope my hesitation gives the impression that I am doing neither good nor bad, but somewhere in the middle. Something like, “I’m managing, but there are still symptoms.” I suppose it would be better not to assume people jump from, “I’m OK” to “I’m managing, but there are still symptoms.”

I’m not sure why I find it hard just to say the latter rather than risk someone thinking OK means Good. For some people I’d like to brush over the question, as I again assume that the person doesn’t really want to hear about all my symptoms. (I’m doing a lot of assuming!) <i’m doing=”” an=”” awful=”” lot=”” of=”” assuming!=””>It’s easier for me to let that person think I’m not in immediate danger and everything is alright. Again, I’m assuming people don’t want to hear how I’m really doing. Culturally we often ask each other, “How are you doing?” and expect the answer “Fine” or “Good.” Perhaps I’m leaning on that idiom and hope that my saying “OK” means “Not exactly good.”

Other people I’ll say “OK” to, and then expand on that. They are my circle of support. It’s important for me to be honest with them, no matter hard it is. I even still find it hard sometimes to be honest with my psychiatrist or therapist, the two people I need to be the most honest with, especially when it comes to my safety! And those times are the times when I find it the hardest to say I was rehearsing or I’m obsessing and I can’t handle it anymore.

And that’s the same information my support system needs in order for them to give me the wake-up call, “It’s time for a higher level of care.” Truth is that I still feel like a burden to these friends, having landed on their doorsteps and then promptly have a mental illness blow up in my face, complete with neediness of friends in the area since family is elsewhere. Guilt is a terrible feeling to add on top of truth about how I’m doing. Therefore, I try not to say, “I’m OK” to these people, and if I do, to follow it up immediately with some details – at least that symptoms are low or high or manageable.

Truth is hard.

Post-Mortem on Fall Hospitalizations

I’ve spent 4 of the last 6 weeks in the hospital. Makes it hard to keep up a blog! But I wrote for the Suddenly Bipolar book project while in the hospital. I also had to deal with a toxic patient. I’ve been with a lot of difficult patients. but this one was the worse. For several days my doctor and I couldn’t figure out how much of my anxiety was illness and how much was environment. I’m not entirely happy with the way the staff handled it, but the situation is water under the bridge now.

I think we have my meds stable to keep hypomania and mania under control, the mood states I’m likely to be in from now until Christmas. I had extra depression thrown in as reactions to drugs pushing my mood down too far. And suicidality resulted, which ended up in increased anxiety. And once the anxiety-suicidality link has been established, we have to focus on lowering anxiety to get rid of suicidality. The two are deeply connected. In my daily life, suicidality goes up when I get too anxious about anything. It’s hard to live with <said deadpan with as much sarcasm and snark as possible>.

Another hard thing I live with… Mood Changes. In the last 3 months, I’ve had 6 mood changes. I’ve learned how bad my moods are in the mid- to late-summer. And then had med reactions to prolong the process of getting stable into the fall. I also learned that the full moon and new moon also effect my energy. I’m more likely to be anxious or relaxed, but still have more energy at those times. So, I have issues with the moon and the position of the earth as it goes around the sun. Gre-e-e-a-a-a-t.

I guess the good news is we learned a lot about my illness. And I survived more hospitalizations. And my cats got mad at me for being gone. And my friends took care of me (and my cats!) during the whole thing.

I really hope I can have a couple months of stability before the next mood change in my usual pattern (depression sometime after Christmas). I feel like there’s a slight chance we can adjust meds in time to avoid hospitalization. But I’m so concerned about anxiety being a break-through manic symptom for me that it will be hard the whole time too.

Will this ever be easier?

Possible Beginning to My Book Suddenly Bipolar

bookDuring this 2 week hospitalization I did some writing that would make being in the hospital sound fresh instead of only based on memories. Enjoy!

 

The nurse feeds me my evening cup of “Skittles,” brightly-colored psychiatric medications, while down the hall waft sounds of a small group of patients singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” It will be Lights Out in 12 minutes. I will lie in my six-inch foam mattress bed with thoughts of ending myself racing through my slowly-sedating brain. The eerie light of the hallway won’t allow the darkness to envelope me in sleep. Nor will the shadows be chased away enough to feel safe.

“Deborah, I have meds for you!” It’s the next memory I have. The nurse calls cheerfully as she wheels the cart next to my bed for my morning “Skittles,” more brightly-colored psychiatric medications. Dutifully I swallow and offer a prayer to the bipolar gods that I’ll feel sane and confident this day. And discharge from the hospital may be only a day away instead of weeks. Slowly it dawns on me that my first waking thoughts were of offing myself instead of the usual joy I would feel that it is my birthday. My prayer now feels like a distant hope I’ll never realize.

That was the first night of my umpteenth or twenty-somethingth psychiatric hospitalization in the four years since I was diagnosed with Type I Bipolar Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and a bonus of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder because my suicidal thoughts take on obsessive tendencies. And I’m Bipolar Type I because I’ve had at least one psychotic break – two that I remember from years – eons it feels – before diagnosis, but happenings just the same, perfect emblems that Bipolar has followed me my entire adult life, and not only the last four years since diagnosis.

This is the story of being Suddenly Bipolar and of the slow coming to terms with what Bipolar and Anxiety now mean for my future and how they made sense of my past.

Come with me and explore a sudden diagnosis and its slower cousin, Acceptance. Join me on a journey toward an ever-cycling life of moods, schedules, routines, and the intense beauty of a support system that held faith for me.

Set Free – Chained to Cycles

I’m so tired of being right.
It’s a full moon. No wonder I’m feeling good. I went in the hospital at the new moon.

Equinoxes and solstices affect my mood states. And so do lunar phases for energy (tho I no longer cycle as women do).
An Equinox with a new moon? I was doomed. Of course it took until the full moon to feel good enough to be released.