What Stable Might Look Like

I’ve been out of the hospital for a month now. That is a milestone for this past year. Last time I was out for a significant period of time was last spring and summer for 6 months. I wasn’t happy, but I was out of the hospital. Not suicidal at all.

It was a mostly good time. I was doing important volunteer work, but it wasn’t feeding me. What was missing was something that seemed meaningful to me and used my skills that I still had from being a pastor. I wanted to speak and teach, two of my greatest strengths and what I imagined I would do in the future. Instead I was volunteering where I was mostly alone.

This time around I am putting together a presentation that I will share with churches. “Hear the story of the Rev. Deborah xxxx and her life with mental illness and how congregations can be involved in mental illness help in and outside their doors.” I’m offering it for free – there is no barrier for small churches with little or no budgets for adult education. I think this will help with reducing my own stigma about myself, as well as stigma in society. Congregations can be powerful actions for change. I can start somewhere.

I feel like I’m doing meaningful work and using the skills I love the best. I hope this keeps me out of the hospital for a very long time.

June at the Hospital

Well, I ended up in the hospital again after not making to my next dr appointment. And then 4 days after that discharge I ended up going in for suicidal and homicidal thoughts – something I’ve never experienced before. I had gone to NAMI’s Living Room where you are screened by a counselor, then talk with a peer specialist, then get screened again by a counselor. All of which ended up with an ambulance ride and then waiting for a transfer from the ER to my psych hospital.

Sigh.

At least that hospitalization was mercifully short – 3 days. There was a treatment team meeting about me and to be honest, I don’t think anything important came out of it. They think I’m too comfortable at the hospital and they want to make things uncomfortable to help my treatment. And they want no big med changes. And pointed out that the longer I am at the hospital, the more likely I am to get sicker. It’s not like I WANT to be at the hospital. Just that it’s a safe place when I’m not feeling safe.

In addition, while I was in my first June hospitalization I had extensive psych testing done, which came back yesterday. I talked with my psychiatrist about it yesterday and we agreed it was bunk. We know what we’re dealing with since we’ve been working with it for 5 years together now.

Sigh.

I’m still re-entering the real world from the long hospitalization, as well as the shorter ones. I’ve got people I’m checking in with, tasks to do each day. I’m taking it slow and giving myself lots of credit. I’m actually doing pretty well with this plan. Slowly I’ll add back in the gym and starting in my plan to talk about mental health in churches. But no rushing. Got to get back in the swing of things, gently.

Psychiatrist Says Overwhelmed

Understatement of the year. I shared how overwhelmed I felt doing very small tasks. And I shared my thoughts and feelings about suicide and my wish to die. And she wants me to stay with people, even while going home to handle little tasks. That’s when I feel safest – with people – even though I still want to die. I’m obsessing about ways again, the way I was in the hospital. I have an appointment with her again on Friday. I guess my goal is stay out of the hospital for the next 3 days. But it’s so painful – the feelings and wanting to die, as well as the struggle to stay out. Hour by hour I hurt and I have to tell myself “just thoughts” or “just feelings” or “just an obsession.”

I want to die.

Bipolar sucks.

Eighty Days In

My longest stay occurred from early March to late May. I was mostly confident I could discharge since I was going to a friends’ house to stay and daily spend some hours at home for a couple weeks.

2016-01-18 21.08.16I was overwhelmed with my first time back at home, even with friends there. And then again today when there alone. It’s filthy, with even just one cat living there alone. I guess she really does need staff to look after her. I called a cleaning service but they are booked out till the following week, which is probably the case for most places. So, I’m looking for teens who need spending money.:) I can’t do this alone. I’ve got to keep asking for help. I spent 80 days institutionalized. Living on the outside takes some time.

Some details about my time inside. My doctor increased my mood stabilizer and lowered my anti-depressant. That led to a depression that led to a suicide attempt. So we spent 6-8 weeks coming back up from depression. Then we tried a different mood stabilizer cocktail. That didn’t seem to help. Then we added an additional anti-depressant to help the one I was already on. That would take 4-6 weeks to kick in, and we figured I’d be out before it kicked in but ECT would speed up the process. So I tried one ECT again and called it quits. It’s just not for me. Never got results from it anyway. And as it turned out, I was in the hospital the 4-6 weeks needed for the second anti-depressant. Meanwhile I’m taking heavy duty prns to handle anxiety and agitation. Finally got a day of stabilization without having to take haldol or thorazine on a huge increase of mood stabilizer. I got sent home with haldol and accompanying drugs just in case.

Whirlwind, right?

All the while I’m in daily group therapy with a very good therapist. And we uncovered the shame and anger and embarrassment of being in the hospital again, of having and living with bipolar and having to ask for help. Lots to talk with my regular therapist about.

For about 9 weeks I felt like this:

Death is not. It is nothing

I am not. I am nothing.

I don’t want to die. I want to die.

Make it end. Make the thoughts of hurting myself end.

Make the emotional pain end – anger sadness.

I am less than human because of them – thoughts, feelings.

I am pain, a hemorrhage of negativity.

No one understands unless they know this darkness.

Black hole, sucked into nothingness from images of gruesome death.

 

Am I romanticizing it, or speaking truthfully from a hurting being?

I am not thinking of others.

Their pan will be deep and unending.

I will not be in pain anymore.

Whose pain is worse?

Do I deserve to be less human because others will have pain?

 

Short Hospitalization

Bipolar Disorder is a biological brain disease that often has environmental triggers. I ended up in the hospital for suicidal plans and intent again this week, though only for a few days (yay! a short one!). My psychiatrist thinks the anxiety I was holding about my mom’s breast cancer surgery a few weeks ago had a chance to come out as well as the fear, and that destabilized my mood. Sounds about right to me.

Even though I was doing pretty well, pretty stable, two weeks ago I started feeling suicidal again due to the environmental trigger. I am grateful for a short time in the hospital, yet worry that I will end up in again as has often happened after short hospitalizations.

Bipolar sucks.

I have to say that having an environmental trigger took the stigma and shame away from a hospitalization for me. Usually I feel embarrassed to be back in the hospital, even though the staff is generous and welcoming. But this felt like a tune-up instead of a personal failure. But I guess that’s a whole other post, that shame of being in the hospital for the twenty-somethingth time.

When Do You Tell Someone You Have Bipolar?

I’ve recently re-entered the dating world after a divorce last summer and then an unstable mood fall. So I gave myself until after Valentine’s Day to be stable and then start online dating. I could have started earlier, but I didn’t want to be perceived as THAT girl looking for a V-Day date.:)

The question arises, since I still live with symptoms, when to tell a date that I’m bipolar. It’s kind of a big part of my life since I don’t work because of it. It’s hard to answer the “What do you do?” question that comes up in online chatting, and even in your profile. I say I’m a professional volunteer and mental health advocate.

When I was volunteering at a few places I could still say brain disorder and I could call off if I wasn’t feeling well. I could tell them I’m on disability.

Now, I don’t necessarily want to tell dates that I’m on disability or have bipolar, even though they structure my days. It’s a lot to process and a lot to take on as a potential partner. I like to think I’m a lot more than bipolar and being on disability and should have more to talk about. So the question remains, when do I tell people? It is still a big part of who I am, and the main reason I’m a mental health blogger and advocate. All the good literature and blogs say you tell when you feel comfortable telling. That’s not the most helpful advice.

Mostly Stable

balance       It’s been well over two months since hospitalization, but I had such a difficult time around Christmas that I feel like stability started with the first of the year. I feel mostly stable – mood pretty solid and thoughts of suicide everyday (my baseline) with varying intensity. I’ve had a cold which kept me down a few weeks, still recovering from that. At its height I had fewer suicidal thoughts, which my doctor expected. “Your brain isn’t thinking well and shuts down.” Hallelujah for sick brain! Got a few days off from thinking I need to die.

I haven’t been volunteering (or exercising – sick), so my schedule revolves around television and being social. I’m starting to get an itch again to volunteer – the first I’ve felt in several months. I want it to be in mental health though, which has been my dream for a few years. Sharing my story or teaching a class. Office work. I have to be out of the hospital for at least 6 months for one main place that is the obvious place to volunteer as a speaker. I’ve found a few places in the local area worth a phone call. Maybe there is something I haven’t thought of in the depths of google.