Category Archives: Health

Stabilizing

Hey! Did you know Suddenly Bipolar has a Facebook Page? And I use my Twitter account to tweet out tidbits if you’d like to see them.

Find me on Facebook. Follow me on Twitter: @revdlm

Now that my shameless plugging is done…

I am doing an all-morning outpatient program Monday through Friday. Group therapy,  skills, expressive therapy – all working to put me back together again. Following the program, I’ll be going to Texas for a couple months to be with family for reestablishing healthy ADLs (Activities of Daily Living – hygiene, cooking, exercise, cleaning, etc.) that I can then use and not neglect when I return to my little apartment. One of my friends will board my cat for me while I’m gone – very generous!

An important revelation occurred to me in the last couple days. I’ve felt shame, ashamed of myself, since I was a very young child. Guilt is something you feel when you make a mistake. You can make restitution, ask for forgiveness, and change. Shame says “I am a mistake,” leaving very little room for fixing anything. I think this shame I’ve felt for so long may be fueling my suicidal ideation. If I’m not worth anything, then might as well take me out. It’s a wonder I only came across suicidal ideation after the fall of a high mania when I landed in the hospital with suicidal depression. The visions of me killing myself have plagued me since – almost 7 years now. And yes, I still feel shame. Not sure that will ever go away.

Spring Dating

I’ve been doing a fair amount of dating the last couple months. Most breakups were weird, whether it was I who did the breaking up or he. I feel like a teenager or college student with some of the drama or figuring out what to do. I’ve been doing online dating which makes the intensity of relationships hard to figure out.  Do I stop talking to others once I’ve hit it off with someone when we meet in person? That’s my M.O. I only want to date one person at a time so I tell others I’m interested in online that a casual relationship has turned more serious and I don’t want to lead them on. A response that makes it weird when it hasn’t worked out and I go back to getting to know people, and I want to restart relationships. Normal guys understand. Drama-laden guys freak out. The whole dating thing has so much drama. Sigh. But I’m glad that I feel stable enough to offer myself in relationships.

I’m dating someone now that probably has some more staying power than others. We are really compatible, like each other and taking the relationship slowly. An interesting bipolar moment… I usually wait a few dates before explaining that my brain disorder is bipolar disorder and how it affects me. With this man, I needed to tell him on the first date (!!) since he had been married to someone who was bipolar and didn’t take her meds. I wanted to be clear that I’m a good patient, take my meds, have a good support system. Turns out it wasn’t a big deal for him, no matter how nervous I was about putting it out in the open so early. I’m stable right now, which is easier to deal with I’m sure. It’s the summer manias and fall depressions that we’ll have to deal with together. I hope I weather them ok – for my sake more than for his. But it would be good to see how he responds if I do get unstable or hospitalized. Important to know for longevity of the relationship. I need someone who can be caring and supportive and not freak out, withdraw or get really anxious. We’ll see!

Mood and Life Choices Intersecting

asMid January through early February I spent in the hospital. Yes. Again. My psychiatrist was adamant we need to find another way than bouncing in and out of the hospital. I agree! The changes we agreed upon were staying with friends if I didn’t feel safe. That would allow me to ride the wave of emotions longer without using the hospital before I need it. And it would provide a chance for me to trust myself to keep myself safe. These things seem basic and “Why didn’t you try them before?” We have, but not with the same rigorous energy to keep me out of the hospital. The bouncing this time was ridiculous.

In other news, I’m still in physical therapy after shoulder surgery in early December. It still hurts, and the exercises seem to make it hurt even more. This pain has kept me from getting back into the pool for water aerobics. I’m too concerned about damaging the progress we’ve made. I could go to the gym and focus on the lower body. I’d be moving and re-establishing the habit of going to the gym. The water aerobics classes that are best for me are in the evening. But going to the gym in the afternoon and evening uses up any available energy. I’m a better morning exerciser.

A real factor in the exercise department is that I’m depressed and low energy from the depression. Any extra energy anywhere is like pulling teeth. So even though there is concern about hurting my shoulder in the pool exercises, the going-to-the-gym option seems less of an option because I am depressed. I already feel bad about myself. Now I can have guilt for not exercising added to that. Another real factor is that my drugs keep me hungover for most of the day too. And yet another real factor is that I made the decision I’d rather be healthy than skinny. That doesn’t help motivation to get back to the gym. I do still want to work out, but I’m less concerned with weight loss. Might be a mistake, but my mood affects the decisions too. I’m still trying to manage the mood. How am I supposed to manage pain and weight loss too, when my energy is zapped and I feel horrible about myself anyway?

One foot in front of the other in a boring life right now.

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.

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?

 

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.

Day 3 – DIY Residential Program

Well, I’ve made it to the third day of my strict schedule of workbooks, expressive therapies, meals, gym time and free time. I’ve had a FaceTime meet up with one of my supportive friends, dinner with another, and now lunch with another today. I’m still feeling pinched for time and tired a lot. I think I would feel that at an official residential program, because it takes a few days to acclimate. And that’s what I’m doing in the DIY program. Still acclimating to the schedule. The highly detailed google schedule is a life saver. I just have to look there to see what I’m doing, for how long, and with whom. And I’m logging whether I’ve done it so my supportive network can keep an eye on me. And they are! Thank you!

I’m noticing that I wish there were staff to process stuff with. I miss that daily check-in and extra work with a therapist to work on issues as they come up. I’m journaling, but mostly as notes for what I’m learning and not thoughts on what I’m learning. I do miss the staff portion of a residential program.

The topics I’ve studied so far have been self-worth (from a Cognitive Behavior Therapy workbook on Self-Esteem that I had from my therapist to review), and Thought Delusion (from an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy book, The Happiness Trap, which is the therapy I’m focusing on). The self-worth brought up tons of stuff, naturally, since I feel worthless much of the time which leads to feeling like throwing it all up in the air and exiting stage left.

However, the ACT topic of Thought Defusion, which I know and practice not as much as I should, reminded me that just exchanging negative thoughts with positive ones doesn’t work. And don’t we all know that. Better – stop being fused to them and believing them and following their commands. Instead, notice them as part of the thoughts that the brain churns out regularly and move forward with your life anyway. You can’t stop the thoughts from coming, but you CAN let them be and move on. And when you find yourself believing them, you can defuse from them with various techniques like saying to yourself, “I notice that I’m having the thought that…” or singing the thought to Happy Birthday or Jingle Bells, or saying them in a funny voice or thanking the mind nicely for offering its opinion. It takes the power away from the thoughts. You can use these with images and emotions too.

I had the opportunity to use Thought Delusion a lot yesterday as the old story of letting go of life via suicide reared its ugly head. I was defusing like mad. Eventually the emotion waned, as they do, and the thoughts were left with little power. But the anxiety and desire were hard to get through. You don’t use the skill to get rid of the thoughts, feelings or images, but to move past them by just noticing them and doing something else.

Here’s to the next topic!