My Bipolar Self Care

spirit me purple

self portrait

After Saturday’s bout with bipolar rage and my continued mood fluctuations I’m reminding myself about self care. Eating right, getting enough sleep, getting some form of exercise, keeping a routine, abstaining from caffeine, alcohol, watching or reading anything that is upsetting, or anything that may alter my mood, ……these are a must when dealing with my bipolar disorder.
I’m paying very close attention to my moods and trying to step back and refocus before things get out of control. (yes, I’ve had a few moments of quick anger, but I took a step back, cleared my mind and took a deep breath. I’m happy to say it’s been working well, it’s just hard to stay on top of)
I’m trying hard to stay in the moment. Worrying about what has happened, or what may happen will only make things worse. That worry could be a trigger.
 
I’m attempting to meditate more. Meditation helps to calm my racing thoughts, but I have to realize it’s okay to have those racing thoughts while I’m meditating, I just note them and come back to my breath without judgement. That’s the big thing. No judgement. Beating myself up doesn’t help matters, it will only cause me more anxiety. Being gentle with myself.
 
I have Stuart watching me too. I know sometimes my moods will shift and I don’t realize I’m overreacting. We realized that if he said I was overreacting I might get really angry, instead, when he sees that I’m not acting like myself, he hugs me.  So far, it’s worked.  I was started to get worked up and angry, and Stuart came over and just held me and I melted.  I know there are times that I would not respond well to this, but after talking about everything this was the best option we could come up with, and it’s working…so far.  Another huge thing I’m making sure I’m doing: talking with my husband.  We are working hard to make sure the lines of communication are open.
I saw my psych doc yesterday.  We are adding another mood stabilizer to the mix that helps more with the anger aspects of bipolar.  After I’m on it for a while, we will probably reduce the other one I’m on and hopefully get rid of it, and let the new one take over.  Funny to say “new one”, I think it’s the oldest bipolar med.  I’m going back on lithium.  Wish me luck!
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I made him cry. Bipolar Rage

Saturday was a day that I will always remember, some very good, some very, very bad.

We started the day running fun errands.  Going to the library, and then to Michaels.  I got a lovely gift card for my birthday.  Can we say…YARN!  🙂  Then we had a fabulous lunch at a restaurant that we’ve been wanting to try.  They focus on sustainable seafood.  I had grilled fish over greens with fresh pickled vegetables.  Then we shared homemade gelato for desert.  It was a divine meal to top off a lovely morning.

Then we got home.  Stuart was doing laundry (something I can’t do) and I noticed that he hadn’t treated a shirt that I asked him to.  I saw RED!  I flew into him.  I was so angry!!  I told him exactly where I was putting 2 shirts that needed to be treated and he was just disregarding what I asked and was going to ruin my clothes…..I have no idea all of the things I said.

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self portrait – w. holcombe

After HOURS of arguing, of me closing myself in the bedroom, then getting mad that he didn’t come after me…..over and over.  It was so bad.  I look  back on it and it is a whirlwind.  However, at the time I could not see that I was out of control.  I felt completely justified in how I behaved.  When for a moment I thought I was overreacting about a silly shirt.  (Both of these shirts are shirts I only wear around the house and to bed.  They could be stained, who would care.  However, even if it had been a $200 shirt, it would not have excused the way I acted.)  I blew up about the fact that I can’t do laundry.  How if I was doing laundry and he told me to treat something I wouldn’t have forgotten (yes, I was suddenly perfect!)  He just didn’t pay attention because he didn’t want to do it…..ect, ect.

Finally, it was 10pm and Stuart was trying to go to bed, but I wasn’t finished.   I was still all upset.  It would appear I was calming down now and then throughout all of this, but then it would come back full force.  That’s what happened at bed time.  I was getting ready for bed, then I fell apart, and started yelling again.  I then left him to the bed and said I would see him the next day.  Soon he came out and wanted to talk.  Fine.  Talk.  He was so confused.  He wanted to know what had changed.  He told me that I have been very defensive for the past few weeks.  I’ll be fine one moment then snapping at him for no reason.  He said I’ve been taking much of what he says in a negative way.  I just sat there and fumed.   He then broke down.  He wanted to know if he had changed, had he caused this change in me?   I made my husband cry.  At that moment, the rage lifted, I still felt it’s presence but I took a deep breath, calmed myself and came back to center.  Suddenly I felt relief.  Then I thought: “What have I done?”

It’s been a long time, I didn’t even recognize the signs.

Bipolar Rage

 

All this mess with my medication, well it appears I’m not on the right mix yet.

But do I blame all of this on medication?  Why did I not realize I was being more confrontational then usual?   Normally, I’m very aware of changes in my behavior.  I know when things are off,  I’m very proactive about it.  This time, I was blind sided.  All of my coping strategies out the window.  How can you incorporate coping strategies when you don’t see anything is wrong?

I’m much more aware now.   I’m doing a lot of deep breathing exercises and trying to meditate more.  Exercise would be good, but I’m not allowed to do that until my back gets better.  (I haven’t mentioned I hurt my back yet?  I’ll try and write that up soon)  I’m trying to stay in this moment and not beat myself up over what happened on Saturday, or what has been happening over the past few weeks.   Remembering to be gentle with myself.  And I’m pampering my husband as much as I can.  He needs to know that it isn’t him.  He needs to know that no matter how bad I act, I still love him and would NEVER hurt him on purpose.

 

Read more about Bipolar Rage:

Bipolar & Anger: Getting Control of Irritability and Outburst

Bipolar Disorder and Anger: Stuck on the Rage Road.

Bipolar Disorder Symptoms and Triggers  this gives a rundown of all the symptoms associated with Bipolar Disorder.  It’s not just mania and depression.

My Story – Being Bipolar

wendy hairOn this the last day of Mental Health Awareness Month I’ve decided to tell a little about me.  I have a story.  I feel it needs to be told.  If for no one else, this is for me.  (This is the very condensed  PG version.)

Something was wrong.  I didn’t know what it was, but I was wrong.  I was wrong inside.  I didn’t react to things the way other people did.   I knew it.  I could see how other people were different.  I was always told to be myself.  But I just wanted to be like everyone else, I didn’t understand what it meant be  “myself”.  I spent days in tears feeling like I had this black cloud over me.  At a very young age I longed for my life to end.   Other days I was flying high.  I could not control my thoughts from going everywhere, I could not control my actions, I could only follow them.  This wall all considered a natural part of growing up.  I was just a moody child, then a hormonal pre-teen, a troubled teen….  I look back and don’t know how I, or the people closest to me, survived.  There are many stories from this time that are very hard to tell.  They may come out at a different time.

My ups and downs carried on for years, and years, and years…. the older I got the worse it was.  After all when you get older your actions have many more consequences.  However, when the moods were swinging to either end, those consequences simply didn’t exist in my mind.   On the down swings I was fighting for my life, literally.  On the up swings I couldn’t rationalize things.  I couldn’t see beyond the emotions.

After a failed suicide attempt at 25, I finally started getting some mental health treatment.  I was told I suffered from Manic Depression, and was put on Lithium and an antidepressant and started seeing a therapist.  Maybe if I had just been able to stay the course that I was originally put on life would have been different, but things changed.

I was re-diagnosed a number of times.  Things changed so much over the next few years it was a constant battle of up and down trying so hard to get a grasp on reality.  The biggest mistake that was made, I was told that I did not have a mental illness, I had hypoglycemia and the fluctuating blood sugar levels were causing my mood swings. I was so relieved that I didn’t have a mental illness.  I was normal like everyone else.  I simply had to watch my diet and everything would be alright. I believed this for years and tried so hard to control everything with my diet.  If things got out of control, I would beat myself up for not following my diet strictly enough.

People couldn’t see just how bad I was because I was still able to hold down a job, even if I changed jobs frequently, I seemed normal, I was just “moody”.  I went through friends like water.  Friends I made when I was manic, couldn’t stand the depressive side, and friends I made when I was depressed, didn’t understand the up me.  Friends I made when I was in my normal state couldn’t understand my swings and they simply disappeared.

I had a job, but I also had a lot of debt.  I lost days.  There are huge gaps in my memory.  I’ve met people while I was in a normal state and had no recollection of meeting them before.  I didn’t remember men I obviously knew very well.  I did drugs.  I stayed up for days.  Risky behavior?  There were no thoughts of the risk.  Nothing could hurt me.  And if it did, so what?  In both states there was not much thought about my own safety.

Then the day came when the depression took hold so tightly I held a razor to my wrist and started to slice.  I just made the most cursory of cuts, deciding exactly the way I should do this, how deep did I have to go, how much would it hurt, how long would it take….then suddenly I thought….The Mess.  There will be such a mess and my roommate will find it. Someone will have to clean up the mess.  That thought saved my life.  That thought gave me enough pause to call a suicide hotline.  I would not tell them where I lived but I promised to go to the out patient center of the mental health department and talk.  I drove there, and when I got there I talked and told what happened that night.  I could not promise I would not harm myself if I left.  I honestly don’t know if I could have or not, but I knew I needed someone to help me.  I needed to know for sure that I could get through the next day.  I knew if I said I would not be a threat to myself or others then I would not get the help I desperately needed.

Since I was not able to say I would not harm myself I was not allowed to leave, I was told I as going to be admitted to a mental health facility.  I admit I actually felt a relief.  I suddenly felt safe, at least for the night.

The police came and took me to the hospital.  I was entered as a non-voluntary admission.  That is the only way my insurance would pay for this, but I had insurance now, this was what got me into this facility instead of the state hospital.  I had no idea the amount of debt I was about to get into.  I needed help, that is all I thought about.  I no longer cared what people thought of me, I no longer cared if this would follow me forever, I only wanted to lie down and never wake up.  I knew these thoughts had to stop, I knew if something didn’t change I would end my life, soon.

(If you would like to know more about my stay in the mental hospital please see my post: Inequality in the Mental Health System.)  The stay in the mental hospital changed my life forever.  I was there longer than I thought I would be.  The little overnight stay turned into two weeks,  but when I left I was in the mental health care system.  I had group sessions set up, I had an appointment with a new psychiatrist and therapist.  I had a new lease on life.  With another wrong diagnosis, Borderline Personality Disorder.

Soon after starting to see my new psychiatrist it was then determined that I do indeed have Bipolar I disorder.  I started being treated with Lithium and other medications again and things finally started to get on track.

It took some time to get the medication just right.  It took a lot of time in therapy.  It takes a lot of work to get things right and get better.  It takes a lot of work to keep struggling through the system.  It takes a lot of work to help yourself when there doesn’t seem to be an out.

I’m a lucky one.  I was able to find help.  I was able to get a correct diagnosis.  I was able to get a treatment plant that worked.  I’m still able to get the help I need, when I need it.  So may people are not as lucky as I am.

There are many obstacles in getting mental health care.  I fought hard to get where I am today.  I still fight hard to ensure my mental health is a priority.  I will never give up.

Too many people are fighting for mental health care and have so many obstacles in their way.  If you are one of these people, please don’t give up.  Reach out. In my experience, things don’t always go smoothly, but getting help meant my life is so much better than my life was before.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline    If you are in crisis please call.  1-800-273-TALK (8255)

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Mental Health Alliance (This site has a lot of useful information, including help getting care without health insurance.)
National Institute of Mental Health
Seeking Mental Health Care: Taking the First, Scary Step (this is a very useful article from Psych Central)

Mental Health Care Awareness Month is closing, but we should always be aware and working to obtain equal and affordable mental health care for everyone without stigma.

 

 

If it’s wrong, then it’s wrong

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month.  This year the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) is asking everyone to take the pledge to stop the stigma surrounding Mental Illness.  You can do that officially here: Stigma Free. (#stigmafree)

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I think the stigma around mental illness has gotten better over the years, but there is a long way to go.  I saw this great article talking about phrases you shouldn’t say, I think it’s worth the check out.  9 Phrases You Shouldn’t Say During Mental Health Awareness Month.

Here, I want to talk about how differently we treat and think about people with mental illness compared to other illnesses.  For example cancer.  Why cancer?  Because you’d never make fun of someone who has it, you’d never blame them for having it, if the treatment doesn’t work you’d never say they aren’t doing enough, and you’d treat them with respect and compassion.   It is wrong to treat a person with a mental illness differently than you would treat a person with cancer.

A few facts you may not know.

Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year. (Oct. 23, 2015)  – See more at:on the NAMI site.  Learn More Mental Health by the Numbers. 

 

Think about that, when you meet 5 people, chances are one of them has a diagnosable mental illness.  That’s huge!

There are many reasons someone may not get help, one of them is the stigma behind mental illness.  Because of the stigma, they are afraid of how people may react, they are afraid they may lose their jobs, respect from others….   This barrier for treatment has to stop.  People cannot feel embarrassed to go for help.  They cannot be made to feel they need to tough it out, to pull themselves together, to stop being so dramatic…..  We need to acknowledge when someone is having difficulty and let them know you support them.  We must also realize that, just like people with cancer, people with a mental illness may not realize it, they may be afraid of the diagnosis, they may not want to face it…  If we noticed someone we care about feeling or looking sick a lot we would encourage them to see a doctor.   We need to do the same when we see someone who we care about struggling with mental illness.  We need to let everyone know they are cared about and supported.

There are many reasons why people do not get help that have nothing to do with not wanting it or searching for it.  Often people  do not get the care they need because they simply can’t get it.  They don’t have insurance.  They can’t afford it, even with their insurance.  (there are a lot of barriers within the insurance system that keep people from having access to health care, I could write a whole post on just this crisis).  We often think there are public places people can go, “the mental health system will help”.  This is far from true.  There are a lot of hoops one has to go through to get be seen by someone in the system.  Often someone with a mental health issue gets way too overwhelmed to be able to do all of this.  Even when someone is in dire need of help they often have to wait months to see a professional through the mental health system.  Unless a person is “a threat to themselves or others”, it is almost impossible to get in to the mental health system in a timely manner.

These barriers are signs of stigma within the system.  Many people need and want help, but can’t get it because of the barriers.  We have to break down these barriers.  We must break down the stigma that people with mental health deserve less then people who have any other type of illness.

Please take the time to take the pledge to stay Stigma Free.

Read more about Mental Health Awareness Month and find more ways to contribute through the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

 

#WorldBipolarDay 2016

#WorldBipolarDay is celebrated on Vincent VanGogh’s Birthday, who is believed to have had #bipolar disorder.

stary night

This year’s #WorldBipolarDay “theme is “More Than A Diagnosis”, as we want to show the public that individuals who live with bipolar disorder are more than their diagnosis; they are capable of living full, successful lives, despite and in spite of their diagnosis.” – See more at: http://ibpf.org/wbdresources#sthash.TlZ5dveb.dpuf

I have bipolar disorder, formerly known as Manic Depression.  It is characterized by periods of extreme highs and lows that interfere with some or all aspects of a persons life.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health there are an estimated 5.7 million people 18 and over and and 750,000 children in the US affected by this disorder.

The lows include extreme depression.  Sadness most of the time, changes in sleep paterns, appetite and possibly weight. There is a feeling of worthlessness and guilt and an inability to find enjoyment.  A person often has thoughts of death or suicide.

The highs, or manic part of the cycle, include increased levels of self esteem and grandiosity.  The person seeks out pleasurable and risk taking experiences often to the point of danger, including  sexual prowess,  drug and alcohol abuse and shopping sprees.  Mania can also include sudden outburst of violent and unpredictable behavior.

Bipolar Disorder can be treated most often with mood stabilization medications and psychotherapy.

Like all illnesses following a wellness routine is essential.  Stay mindful of your moment to moment experience and recognize the signs of mood swings early.  Be sure to get enough rest, eat well, exercise, take your medications as prescribed, and develop a strong support network.  Often these steps are very hard to do, but it is essential that we take care of ourselves the best we can.

I have never hidden my diagnosis.  I know there are many people who feel they can’t share their diagnosis due to prejudice against the mentally ill.  We should all fight to stop the stigma surrounding Mental Illness.

Always remember we are #MoreThanADiagnosis.  I am a friend, wife, artist, blogger and more.  I am creative, intelligent, loving, compassionate and much more.

The people at the International Bipolar Association “…encourage people who live with bipolar disorder to remember that they can accomplish great things even though they have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and to remind them that there is a very supportive community out there for them to reach out to.”

#WorldBipolarDay, all day.

Happy Birthday Vincent!

 

 

Out Of The Darkness

abstract 2 (1)

In the Swirl, by w. holcombe

I have Bipolar I, that means that I have the highs (mania) and the lows (depression) that go with Bipolar.  I’ve been mostly stable for the past 20 years.  However, for over 2 years I’ve been fighting depression pretty hard.  I’ve been on different medications, but I was not feeling better.  I kept thinking it was everything that was happening in my life.  Having vertigo almost every day, losing more of my independence, moving so hubby could have a job after being laid off for over a year, having to have my hip replaced due to Avascular Necrosis, well you get the picture.

I saw a new psychiatrist last month, he took me off of one antidepressant that obviously wasn’t working and put me on another medication.  It is like a veil lifted from over me, the darkness has given way to light.  I no longer cry every day.  I’m feeling hopeful. I feel like me.  OK, now I’m going to cry, from from relief and happiness.

My new psychiatrist told me something interesting, he said that often later in life a person with Bipolar I doesn’t have as many highs they have more depression. (I’m 52, I’ve shown signs of Bipolar since I was a child.)  So he so he decided to put me on a drug that is for Bipolar Depression.  The drug is is “a psychiatric medication that belongs to the class of drugs called atypical antipsychotics. It works by helping to restore the balance of certain natural substances in the brain.”  It has been a month and I’m amazed at how much better I feel.  Even when things have happened that would have upset me, I’ve handled it with ease.  How cool is that?

I’m so very grateful that someone and something was able to help.

I haven’t mentioned the names of any of the drugs because I don’t want anyone to think I’m advertising for it.  If you want to know, I’ll be happy to tell you in a comment.

today is a good day.

one moment at a time.

Crisis over the Holidays

Oh no!  What a time for a medication mess up!

I was loading up my pill-box for the week and only had 3 of my mood stabilizer…..hmmm, that’s not right?

So, I asked Stuart if there was a refill that hadn’t made it in my case.  (I have a case where I keep all of my medications, then I load up my pill organizer every week, if there are not enough pills in the bottle to fill the organizer the next week then we order a refill….easy, peasy….medication is always kept up to date.)   Stuart didn’t have any refills for me….uh oh.  He said he’d look into it.

We are not using a mail order pharmacy.  A new thing with our new insurance.  If you have a prescription that is maintenance you have to get it from the mail order pharmacy.  So, he goes on-line and it’s right there, with refills so he orders it, should be here within 2 days, no problem.  Great!

Big Problem.  7 days later I realized the medication hadn’t come.  How did I realize this?  I was crying uncontrollably for no reason and let’s just say my moods were going crazy.  My head hurt so much I thought I was going have to go to the ER.  What was wrong with me???  Wait?  “Stuart?  Did my medication come in?”,  “No?” That means I hadn’t been taking my mood stabilizer for 4 days.  Rut Row!!ICONATOR_4e0b548ea7c2830faf155644ee69298f

Stuart calls the pharmacy.  Yes, the prescription had refills, 3 to be precise, but it was written as 3 one month prescriptions.  They needed it to be one prescription for 3 months.  So they had a call in to the doctor to change it.  Oh my gosh!  Did they think to call the patient to see if they needed the medication sooner than they would be able to get it to me by doing things this way?  NO!  Stuart told them that I needed the medication NOW, so they put ONE month worth in the mail and I got it the next day, that meant I was off of my mood stabilizer for FIVE days!

This is not a drug you just go cold turkey on.  You don’t just stop taking it and not notice.  There is reason you ramp up and off of these kind of drugs.  Of course, this had to happen just a few days before Christmas…..as in, I got my new pills on Christmas Eve.  Can you imagine the hell I have been going through?  How have I managed this without going absolutely crazy?  Well, I am crazy we know this…..hehehe  (yes that is one way I deal with things like this….I try to keep a sense of humor…sometimes it works.)   First, I knew how I felt was all because of this medication mess up.  My feelings were not me.  What was going on in my head was not me.  Yes, this is very hard.  I am lucky that I have a good friend who understands a lot of this and I emailed her a lot and she was wonderful.  I’m also lucky that my husband listens and doesn’t get mad when I’m very unreasonable at times like this, he understands it is the medication.  Yes, sometimes he does forget then we both look at each other and take a deep breath and say…..things will be better when the medication gets ramped back up.

Oh yes, that’s another thing, I have to ramp back up on this medication.  I couldn’t just jump back on at the dose I was taking, I could have gotten very sick.  So still, I’m not quite the Wendy I usually am.  I won’t be for another week an a half.  You have to ramp up on this medication slowly or you can get a very bad rash that is not a good thing.

little Wendy at Chirstmas.

little Wendy at Chirstmas.

I’m also dealing with this by trying to be mindful….yep there’s that word again.  I’m trying to just focus on this moment.  That has been VERY hard to do.  I have gotten all caught up in the Holiday Hype, in my mind.  Everywhere I looked people are telling you that you are supposed to be spending time with family and friends.  Really, does the TV not make you feel like something is wrong with you if you don’t have a big family and a whole lot of friends to spend the holidays with?   Oh I got so depressed.  My family?  Well let’s just say, I am so not a part of all of that now, but my mind goes to Christmases past when at times like these.  Now that my medication is starting to work I’m just fine with how things are, I think it’s a good thing.  But when it was all going on I was hurt, and sad and just feeling like my life was so not what it should be.  We have no friends here so we were all alone, and I was thinking about how we were cheated out of not having children and well just everything……see where my mind can go when medication is not working???

Deep Breath here huh?

The past is the past.

I can’t change those things.

The only thing I have any control over is today.

Breathe.   Just Breathe.

and this is how I live my life most of the time.

This is how I see things most of the time.

This is why I stay on my medication!   *wouldn’t you?*

 

I have some good news!!

I’ve been off of the steroids for a good bit now and no bad vertigo!  Yay!!  I’m so thrilled!  I have to say, I was a bit scared.  I tried not to be, but I it was there….fear that the vertigo would start right back up as soon as the steroids came out of my system.   So glad the fear was unfounded….see why we should live in the now and not try to predict the future?

I have started Aqua-therapy for my back/hip and I did great in the pool.  The physical therapy in the pool is so much easier.  I am really hoping it will help.  I see the back doctor next week, we’ll see what he has to say.  I have been very discouraged about my progress so far, but after just 2 sessions in the pool, I’m hopeful this will help.   yay!!

Good news is, in just a short time, I’ll be starting the New Year all stable again.
I haven’t had a full-blown vertigo attack in a couple of weeks.
The aqua-therapy is going well,
and I’m going to making some plans to change a few things around here……so Picnic with Ants is going to have changes….they will happen slowly I’m sure as I’m not able to do things very fast….but we’ll see how it goes.

 

Here’s to a New Year!

May we all great it with love, laughter, and much good luck!

 

Tomorrow is my mother’s birthday.

I will be celebrating her life.

I’m very thankful for the 64 years she spent with us on this earth, especially the almost 30 she spent with me.

Christeen....my mom

Christeen….my mom