Category Archives: Support System

Turning a Corner

With my ever-wise therapist, I have decided to buy a plane ticket home. Two or three weeks out. It’s time to transition into my own space and my own rhythms and routines. 

This scares me to death. How much of my mood will destabilize? (Probably labile between 3 and 5 for 3-4 weeks. 5 seems to be my baseline.) How will I deal with all the anxiety? (I’ll probably get up to 8 and 9 which is dangerous/suicidal for me. Time to pull out the Ativan.) How will I deal with the fear that I can’t do this? (Repeating true things about myself that I believe: I am competent to take care of myself; I know when to ask for help.)

You can see all the work we did today. Homework is to buy the ticket. Set up time with friends now that there is a date to work with. Other things are bonus.

I’m still scared to death. And crying. Definitely crying.
Pic from time in Texas: 


My brother

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Progress and Regress

I’ve been tooling along with the stabilization plan here in Texas with family. I’m still getting up at the same time and going to bed at the same time (already good at that); eating regularly (new skill); exercising 2x/day (new that it’s twice and it’s everyday); making lunch and cooking dinner (new skill, still learning); using time to exercise my brain with reading, puzzles and art (re-starting an old skill).

I’m still going to church while I’m here – a Unitarian Universalist one actually since a friend from seminary is the pastor there. Shhh. Don’t tell my family. They already think it’s weird I go to church and Presbyterian is enough for them. They’d probably flip if I went Episcopal! But we have different worldviews.

One funny thing is that we have together found a floorplan we all like that would allow us all to live together. Unfortunately it’s in Texas since my brother is the only one gainfully employed and we’d have to stay close enough to his job. That takes me away from values of long-term relationships, which I’m in back in Illinois and living independently, which may be overrated since I’m doing so well mentally and physically living in community with my family. I’d have a suite with two bedrooms and my own bathroom so I could have a couch, tv, office in one and feel I could live independently within the community.

I’m going on and on about this (unrealistic?) plan because I have been doing well and getting better in the head and body while with my family. Yay! And I don’t have the same live-in community at home. I don’t have someone doing my laundry or cleaning my house (which are things I’m good at taking care of at home, making it easier to let that happen here. But I’m cooking and exercising my body and brain, and those are all things I needed to get better at. The social environment has helped. And I just can’t get the same level of social environment at home. Hence, the flirting with living altogether as a family (boyfriend welcome to live there too – but not with someone long enough for that to be an option, IF he wanted to move to Texas in the first place. IF I wanted to move to Texas in the first place.)
 

Stabilizing

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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.

Down the Same Road Again

Here I am again. Anxious and suicidal. I have been feeling this way for several days now. Twice now I’ve stayed overnight at a friend’s house because I didn’t feel safe alone. I’m scared I’ll end up in the hospital, but at least I feel safe there. There are no temptations to end it all.

I think this was brought on by a med change. I’m so frustrated by that because my doctor and I made them, and made them slowly so that I wouldn’t have that hangover feeling until mid-afternoon when I finally had energy to start the day. I often fall asleep in the morning a couple hours after I get up too. I hate feeling like a slug.

I think lowering one drug in particular brought on increased depression and anxiety, as well as increased suicidal thoughts with plans (which I always have, even when I’m not actively thinking about suicide, I have the thoughts WITH plans).

That drug has been increased for several days now, but I’m still feeling horrible. Anxiety is cycling with suicidal plans. Impulsivity is growing. I don’t have the means to carry out my primary plan at home so most of the time I feel “safe” – I’m less likely to do anything. Doesn’t mean the thoughts aren’t there or the plans or the impulsivity. Sadly, my main plan is one I can carry out at my friend’s house where I stay when I feel unsafe. I’m not alone until after I fall asleep, I sleep pretty hard and I wake up groggily when people come downstairs. So I’m mostly safe.

I’m so tired of the lost time I get in the hospital all these days and weeks I’ve spent in my 30+ times. I grieve for the time even though there is nothing else I can do to stay alive. I grieve for the burden I become on friends to take care of my cat or bring me clothes. I’m ashamed of my self for not trusting myself to keep myself safe or using skills strongly enough. I’m very hard on myself. I feel a hospitalization coming. I’ve been on the increased medication for several days now and I’m still just as bad. I don’t know if I can wait a full week to give it a shot, or for another week after that when we increase the first medication, which is likely.

I don’t know what to do. I feel horrible.

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!

Trying to Travel

For people with bipolar disorder especially, travel can be very destabilizing. Time changes, schedule and routine changes, new activities and people – all work to change one’s life enough that a mood change might commence. 

I’m visiting my family several states away, but in the same time zone. I haven’t seen them in over five years. We are celebrating Thanksgiving together since we haven’t done that in 25 years. The visit sounds great, right? My schedules and routines and stamina are different. Being with family is being around some kind of strangers since I hardly ever see them. We have different views on politics and religion so we don’t talk about them – my idea. We’ve done some kind of activity every day. So I’ve needed to have stamina for all the driving (they live in the boonies) and the activity itself. 

I discharged from the hospital the Saturday before I traveled on Tuesday. My mood really was stable. Starting yesterday I’m feeling a dip in mood toward depression with suicidal thoughts and plans. I would say I’ve been managing anxiety well – one day, one hour at a time. But anxiety, I think, is triggering this potential mood change, as often happens for me. Some environmental factor triggers anxiety which leads to suicidal thoughts, and I feel depressed that I’m feeling suicidal. 

My therapist thinks I get suicidal when I don’t feel perfect, my too high expectations aren’t met. Maybe in this case, I wanted to feel relaxed around my family. And when that didn’t happen – which should have been obvious from the beginning – I become anxious, then suicidal, then depressed. 

And that’s where I am now. I can probably make it til I get back home. I just don’t want to spiral as I do into needing the safety of a hospital. 

Religious Euphoria and Mania

adventToday begins the ban on contact with religious anything for Advent and Christmas. Since childhood, and worse in the last 23 years of bipolar expression, I’ve had a religious euphoria where I get delusional around Christmas. The experience usually culminates on Christmas Eve. But the mystery and mysticism that many churches infuse in their Advent celebrations has been known to trigger the delusion earlier than the week of Christmas. Last year, for instance, I had the delusion for the whole month of December.

It is common for bipolar mania to be religious in nature. Mine happens to take the form of a heightened sense of spiritual and physical unity with all of the world – people, animals, nature. That’s the euphoria part. The delusion is that somehow I personally – not Mary – am bringing salvation into the world by bringing Christ into the world, and I have a mission to help everyone experience the mystical unity with Christ and with all of the world in order to make the world a more peaceful place. This experience is long ingrained into my experience of Christmas, and I don’t know that it will ever go away.

I have had the euphoria experience many, many times, each an expression of bipolar mania, and not a rich spiritual life as spiritual directors and other pastoral colleagues I’ve confided in have thought. Each euphoria, when it reaches its peak, has a piece of the delusion in it. I am to save the world with my actions using the power of Christ. During one manic experience, the mania before my first suicidal depression, I was inviting strangers into my home for movie discussions about the efficacy of religion. Fortunately, no one showed up for the series. I was convinced at the same time that my religious experiences were pushing me to become a Benedictine Oblate. I was flying so high in my euphoria that I was blogging about the breathless unity and clarity of vision and the visions I was having. I even started preaching about them (I was the solo pastor at a church at that time). That was the highest mania I have had, and it crashed hard into a suicidal depression that I have been dealing with off and on for over 5 years. It was the first time I felt suicidal. It is common for manias to be followed by an equal descent into depression. The higher you fly, the lower you crash.

Back to today. In order to prevent or lessen the euphoria and delusion that I’ve had at Christmastime since I was a child, I do not participate in anything religious about this time of year. It’s hard to give up what was my favorite season and holiday, but it was my favorite because of the manic expression and delusional euphoria I experienced. It felt good to fly so high and have a purpose for my life! It will still be years until I might be able to tolerate or celebrate Advent or Christmas again. Maybe it’s the way it’s celebrated in mainline churches that makes this time of year so hard for me. I find it hard to tell because I started attending mainline churches at the same time as my bipolar flowered and my mood cycles kicked in.

I’m having an especially hard time this fall, and now it is likely to get worse as the euphoria and delusion will probably kick in. I’m acutely aware of the community I’m missing by not attending church or fellowship. Even people I only know by sight. I’m losing a significant piece of my support system.

I will return to church after Jesus’ Baptism Sunday (baptism and communion as sacraments are hard for me too – a little too mystical and could trigger some euphoria). So sometime in January I can go back to church – until Holy Week and Easter, another banned time for me because of my tendency toward religious euphoria during mystical or special times in the church year.

I ❤ bipolar.