Category Archives: Support System

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.

One Week Done with DIY Residential

It’s been about a week of the DIY Residential Program. Following the strict schedule has been moderately easy. Dealing with suicidal thoughts has been HARD. As happened at my residential therapy experience in February, and is happening again – a rather normal reaction – I felt challenged by the material and resisted what my therapist and group therapy and classes presented. I’m resisting the ACT requirement of Committed Action toward your values, because I’m not at all sure I want to live or have a meaningful life. I think I’m just resisting and I’ll eventually break through, provided I don’t end up in the hospital first.

I looked up on the internet overdosing on my many medications, I called a suicide prevention hotline (1-800-273-TALK – they are amazing!). I keep a bag packed in the car in case I need to drive to the hospital. My support system has been life-saving, and I’m so sorry for dragging them through this horrible journey. Partly it’s because I don’t have residential staff to talk to about the terrible things I think about or see in my head, so I’m sharing them with my support system, local and national. Y’all have been great at encouraging me to keep moving forward and not follow through with the thoughts and visions. But as one of the images below says, I feel like I’m on a never-ending treadmill of suicidal voices and visions that I use defusion on every time they come up. Which is A LOT. In the middle of conversations, in the middle of reading, when I’m laughing at something someone said or at a funny show. Any time I’m alone, or with people. There they are, waiting for me to give in this time.

I started a new workbook that is specifically for using ACT with depression. I have high hopes for it. Until in one early chapter it makes the claim that depression is only a little bit biological and almost all about how we respond to situations – emotional avoidance or fusion with unhelpful thoughts. I’m still open to what it says, as clearly I need new ways of coping. But even though I’m depressed, I feel like I’m depressed more from the suicidal thoughts than I am in the traditional sense. I still get up and do everything I’m supposed to do as though I am following my values. But I still feel numb and separated from life, which is a feeling associated with depression. I’m avoiding feeling the emotional pain of suicidal thoughts? or what the suicidal thoughts are trying to tell me? (that I want things to be different? that I want to be strong again? that something needs to change?)

I also think I’m lying to myself in a couple different ways.

  1. I keep saying I want to die and need this life to be over. But I keep asking for help and I keep doing the positive things such as taking care of myself, exercising, socializing, going to the hospital to be safe, etc. Those are things that seem to say that I want to live and I want things to be different, not that I want to be dead. I really like the thought of being dead though. I’m very fused to that idea and I use a lot of defusion techniques with that one. So the lie is that I want to die, when my actions say I want to live. Which is what my therapist says too.
  2. I’ve started saying that I no longer have viable options for killing myself since the information I got about overdosing looks like I’d just end up waking up in the ER or ICU with heart and liver and other damage, or if I took enough I’d have seizures and a heart attack. Not the go to sleep forever image I have in my head. And I’ve mostly given up on slicing my arms or throat open after talking with people who have and still ended up waking up in the ER. So, the only plan that would really work involves a gun and I don’t have access to one, which everyone says is a great thing. It seems that I don’t have viable options. But I think I’m lying to myself, because maybe a heart attack from too many meds wouldn’t be so bad. I’m totally irrational on this lie. I really don’t think I’d do anything, I’d rather die from something that took my life and I didn’t have to do it. I just really want to be dead, which is the subject of Lie number 1 above.

With all of these lies and thoughts I’m continuously using skills to defuse from, to make room for them to just be, and just be words and just be pictures and not be imperatives I have to follow. I’m doing the right thing according to everyone in my care team (about 6 people, plus a bunch of auxiliary people when I’m in the hospital). I just still really want to be dead. And out of pain. It hurts a whole heck of a lot to feel like there is a black hole in the center that is slowly, tortuously sucking you dead into its center.

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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!

I Need Your Help

30 Day Plan

30 Day Plan

I was just discharged from an 11-day stay at my local psychiatric facility. My 29th hospitalization in a little more than 5 years. Kind of a lot. Up until 4pm yesterday, the plan was for me to do another 30 day residential program at a place in Chicago. The timing was even good so that by the time I started, it would take me through Christmas when I tend to get delusional, if you remember. Last year I was delusional the whole month. Fun, fun!

Anyway… at 4pm on a Friday, we heard that a Vice President where I would do residential had ruled that they would not send the “Opt Out of Medicare” letter to my secondary insurance so that the secondary insurance would pay at the in-network prices that they were contracted to abide by. No. Supposedly they had tried that before and not been paid. Therefore, I would have to be a self-pay client and possibly get a loan for a considerable amount of money. I’m guessing $25,000 is a conservative number.

clockSo, with some coaching from the staff at the hospital where I was staying, and the wisdom of family and friends, I have devised a detailed, hour-by-hour,  month-long home version of a residential experience. All the skill-building and expressive therapy (workbooks, books, art and music supplies), minus staff and supportive environment. I will still see my therapist and psychiatrist weekly, so there is some staff oversight.

Here is the part where You, dear reader, come in. I need a supportive environment -people- who are willing to check on my progress using a google calendar, or do a google hangout/skype/facetime check-in and talk about anything, or go out to coffee, lunch, dinner or whatever with me (local peeps, natch). My goal is to have at least one social interaction a day for the 30 days I plan to do this.

If you can help, would you contact me via Facebook Private Message, Twitter Direct Message, Text or Email with what you might be willing to do and your email address? You can share the information in the comment section below, but then everyone will see your info – maybe not what you want to do.

I will make a group email to let you know how things are shaping up. You will need a gmail account to see the calendar or do a google hangout. You need an iPhone to do FaceTime. And it’s easy to sign up for Skype and then we friend each other.

Thank you for taking this journey with me! Let’s cross our fingers that this plan helps me feel less hopeless and worthless. And maybe I can stay out of the hospital for more than 6 months. Maybe years. It would be great not to feel suicidal for years, since I have the thoughts and visions every day. Le sigh.

September Is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

I received a note today that September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. And that awareness is something I need! September is such a volatile month for me with moods, and I’m currently suffering with more suicidal desires than I have been in months. Just talking about it makes it worse. It’s horrible.

Here are some resources for Suicide Prevention Awareness Month:

1. NAMI: National Alliance for Mental Illness: https://www.nami.org/Get-Involved/Raise-Awareness/Awareness-Events/Suicide-Prevention-Awareness-Month                     

This link includes

2. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: http://www.afsp.org

This link includes

 

THERE IS ALWAYS SOMEONE WAITING TO TALK WITH YOU!                        1-800-273-TALK

 

Suicidal Again, Oh, and Hypomanic

It’s the time of year for me to go at least hypomanic, but often manic. August is rough. But September is rougher. Because I’m likely to be manic at the beginning and then get depressed at the equinox right before or after my birthday. Clockwork since I was young.

Two days ago I noticed that I was beginning to feel hypomanic. I’m sure of it today. I hope it stops there and doesn’t turn manic. Then, when talking about my book based on this blog and all the emotional turmoil I’d have to put myself through to make it possibly publishable – with more stories and more feelings and taking people on the journey inside with all the darkness – I started feeling suicidal. Not just thoughts, which I get everyday, but suicidal, with the visions and plans I’m used to getting and the anxiety and the desire. Yesterday the feelings got very strong. I stayed with friends to not be alone.. I wondered about hospitalization again. I knew if I could just keep myself safe, I would probably feel better in the morning after a good rest.

Good morning! Yes, I am feeling better this morning and back on board with my “Not an option, never gonna happen” mantra. But the thoughts and visions are still there, with little desire. I want to live. Which would be my reason to go to the hospital if I don’t feel safe and want to feel safe again so I can go about my boring life again.

I don’t have a lot to look forward to. I do have a pretty boring life that I push myself through. I don’t even have writing the book anymore because it causes me such pain to re-live what I’ve gone through. Maybe I don’t have enough distance. I don’t have anything that really gives me meaning, except maybe my cats who don’t get along and I’m still training them to cohabitate. I would hate for them to have to go through another (and first) hospitalization.

Back to suicidal thoughts. If this process goes as it has in the past, I will start getting worse mid-afternoon with a peak in the evening where I’m most anxious and not sure I can bear the visions. Desire creeps in. So, in one sense, it doesn’t matter that I’m feeling ok right now. I get tired and forget my resolve in the face of darkness.

I don’t know if I should pack a bag to take with me to my therapist appointment today. I’m feeling ok now. I might not feel ok after we discuss all this in the session. That, and the mood switch. Because I’m hypomanic and possibly more impulsive along with the extra energy, I would have the energy to pull off an attempt on my life, or a completed suicide, more than if I was depressed and lethargic. So I’m worried.

Six Months Free!

Friday marked six months since being in a hospital or residential/restricted unit. Six months! I can’t say I’ve learned a lot, but I can say I survived. And sometimes that’s the best we get. I still suffer with suicidal thoughts and desires, some days worse than others. My mood still fluctuates with the moon and season changes, and usually just because. I can’t say I’m better. I have bipolar. And good days are all we get. Sometimes they stretch to weeks and months. And that is what I am celebrating. The last six months full of holidays, death, divorce and daily suicidal thinking didn’t send me to the hospital. It’s the longest stretch I’ve gone since diagnosis 5 years ago.

So, while everyone around me celebrates, I’m going to sit here in a corner with a wry smile, glad that I made it, and try not to be overcome by suicidal thoughts and anxiety. After all, I still have two cats who won’t get along and a divorce to settle (hopefully tomorrow). Stress is bad for bipolar. It can trigger an episode or mood shift and I really don’t know if I could stay out of the hospital if that happened right now. As I said, people around me are celebrating, but I still have a looming hospitalization hanging over my head, bigger than that shoe that everyone waits to drop. I’m not at all convinced that I can make it another six months. But the next section begins with one step at a time. And right now, I need to reach out to my network because the anxiety and thoughts are strong and I want to make it through my court date tomorrow before I collapse. Which could happen. Just saying. Just because I made it six months – and I give myself credit for that – doesn’t mean that I won’t fall down again when things are too much.