My Bipolar Self Care

spirit me purple

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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!

Have you tried? Do you think ___ caused it?

butterfly color

Butterfly, by w. holcombe

Hello.  My name is Wendy.  I just turned 53 years old and I have chronic illnesses, including Meniere’s Disease.  Unless something amazing happens, they are not going to go away.  Sometimes I feel I need to make this statement before anyone speaks to me.

Recently I was asked a few things about my health.  This was not by people who see me often, or have much knowledge about my illnesses.  This is how I handled a few of the questions, some of it was good, some not so good.

Have you tried yoga?  It can really help your balance.  I used to do yoga regularly until the Meniere’s Disease got so bad and I ended up on my face during a class.  It can only help your balance if you have some to start with!  After having a disease ruin your balance system, yoga isn’t possible.  (ok, this may have been a bit harsh, and some people with Meniere’s may get some help from yoga, I don’t know.  However, anyone as advanced as I am, who has been through Vestibular Therapy and still has balance issues all the time, cannot do yoga.  And if you have had a disease the compromises your balance for as long as I have, do you not think I would have heard about YOGA by now?)  

I heard about these positions you can get in that will make vertigo go away.  Why can’t you just do that?  There are maneuvers you can do to help certain types of vertigo.  However, there are numerous causes for vertigo and what causes mine can not be helped by those maneuvers. (do people think my doctors would just let me suffer  this much if it was so simple to “cure” my vertigo?)

Do you think this could have been caused by all the drugs back when you were younger?  Okay, this one caught me off guard.  I thought, what the heck is she talking about?  I may have experimented a little when I was younger, but she wouldn’t have known that.  I must have looked shocked and said, “nooooo?”  She then explained, “All those psychiatric drugs they put you on.”  I was shocked.  How could someone think that the treatment I received for my mental illness caused me to get chronically ill?  I’m sure I looked shocked when I answered, “No.”  “Well I was thinking….”  I stopped and said, “I know many people with Meniere’s disease and really we have nothing in common except some of us have relatives with the same disease.  They have no idea what causes this.”  “That’s good to hear, I’ve been so worried about it.”  “Well there is no need to worry about that.  The medication I’ve taken for my Bipolar did not cause me to get ill.”   AHHH!

This last question has continued to plague me.  Is this one of the reasons people do not seek help for their mental illness, they are afraid of what side effects the medications may cause?

I have Bipolar I disorder.  I take medication for it.  I also try to keep a good sleep schedule, eat well, keep my stress controlled, and see a therapist…there is a lot more to taking care of yourself  when you have a mental illness than just taking your medication.

I have never been afraid of taking my medication.  Each time my medication is changed my doctor and I talk about it.  We discuss exactly what it is supposed to do, any side effects, if it will react with any other medications I’m on at the time, and if the side effects are worth it.  I don’t just take a medication not knowing what it will do to me.  No one should do that.  If your doctor does not automatically discuss these things with you make sure you ask BEFORE you fill your prescription and start taking a medication you are not familiar with.  I also advise you to read the information the pharmacist gives you about your new medication just in case your doctor forgot something.  It happens, doctors are human too.

I have decided to take a medication even though I knew there was a chance it could cause damage to my thyroid.  It did.  I now have to be on medication for hypothyroidism.  Am I upset that the medication caused this side effect.  No.  I went into this with my eyes wide open.  At the time there were very few medications to treat Bipolar I and I decided the pay off from the drug was worth the side effect that it may cause.  I’m still happy I decided to take that medication and have those years as a stable person.  Truthfully, I would take it again today if that was the only medication that would keep me stable.

I would hate to think that people would not seek out treatment for any illness because they are afraid of the side effects of the medication they might be put on.  Become informed.  Know what the medications will do.  Know how it will help you and the side effects it may cause, you decide if it is the right medication for you.

Many of you may be thinking that there are times that a certain side effect is unknown.  You are right.  There are many stories of someone who took a medication and had a severe reaction.  There are stories of people taking a medication and years later they find out that it hurt them in ways they never knew it could.   These stories are not typical.  We simply can’t live in fear and not be treated because of the “what ifs”.

I can tell you, if I hadn’t been treated for my Bipolar for all these years, my life would be totally different, and not in a good way.  I can almost tell you for certainty that I would not be alive to write this post.  I will never regret taking the medications that helped save my life.

 

Depression, it’s not just being sad.

Recently someone asked me to write a post on what I felt depression was like.  Funny thing, I had just read a post over at Bipolar BarbieQ that included that very thing, I think everyone could get a lot from her post I’m the Queen of Run-on’s it is an honest gut wrenching post and I wish all of you would read it.  (yes this is the second time I’ve shared this post, I really like it.)  She also had this really cool graph in her post, so I’m going to steal it.

depression graph

 

Most people think that Depression means you are Sad.  Even Webster’s Thesaurus will say that Depression and Sadness are synonyms.  Well yeah, you are sad when you are depressed, but there is so much more, so very much more.

When someone says they are depressed, that means they are sad, when someone says they have depression, this is a mental illness.  When you look up the definition of Depression you get both answers, “(1) :  a state of feeling sad :  (2) :  a psychoneurotic or psychotic disorder marked especially by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendencies” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

I think feelings of Depression can vary from person to person.  Profound Depression is all-consuming.  You don’t just feel sad, it consumes you.  You have difficulty doing anything else because your feelings are so torn up.  It spirals down to the depths of your soul and you are trying your best to claw your way out.  Depression can also have states of severe anxiety mixed in, feelings of paranoia, feelings of suicide.  When you are just sad, you don’t have all of these other emotions consuming you.  With depression you often just feel numb most of the time. Nothing can bring you out of that darkness.  You find joy in absolutely nothing.

The definition above mentions “difficulty in thinking and concentration”…yes we can click that off my list.  “A significant increase or decrease in appetite”…oh I eat, I want comfort food, or anything that might make it in my mouth sometimes. I’ve actually envied people who lose their appetite when they are depressed.  “Time spent sleeping”…now this one is tricky.  Sometimes I sleep a lot, sometimes I can’t sleep at all.  Normally, I have a very hard time sleeping when I’m very depressed. “Feelings of dejection and hopelessness”  YES!  That is the overwhelming feeling that I have, HOPELESSNESS.  “Sometimes suicidal tendencies”..this depends on just how deep my depression gets.  Normally I am not suicidal but I’ll wish I wouldn’t wake up.  I’m just so tired and hopeless, I don’t want to have to deal with it anymore.

Something they don’t mention, I cry, a lot.  I’m an emotional person anyway, but when I’m depressed I cry every day, many times a day.  Not just a few tears, I sob.

There are other feelings that get all mixed up when I feel depressed.  I feel very guilty. What right to I have to feel depressed when there are so many tragedies in the world?  What am I putting my husband and friends through when I’m like this?  Why does it keep coming back, it must be me?

I get angry.  Angry at me, angry at everything.  I try not to speak to people because the thoughts in my mind are so snide.  Why can’t they get it?  Why can’t they do things the way they should?  Yes, in my mind everything needs to go the way I think it should, then I’d be happier.  I want to control, everything.  I think that’s because I feel so out of control.  I lash out.  Some of this must be someone else’s fault, if I can find out who then I will have to feel better.  I feel so alone. I try to isolate myself from other people so I won’t hurt them, even though being alone is the worst thing I could do.  I never said I was being logical.

When depression takes hold of me I used to believe it would never end.  Now I know it will and that helps me get through it. It makes me seek help.  I keep telling myself, “This will end.  This will end.”

I do not just have Clinical Depression, I have Bipolar I disorder.  That means that, unless I’m stable, I will have severe manic states and depressive states.  As I said, I used to think when I was depressed that nothing could pull me out of it, but then I’d be okay for a while and couldn’t believe I ever thought that way.  Then I’d go manic and think that nothing could harm me.  After a manic swing, I couldn’t believe I ever felt that way.  I’m lucky that I’ve been mostly stable for a long time now.  I will have break through depression sometimes and need my medication adjusted.  My new psychiatrist told me that often when people get older they have fewer manic swings but battle depression more.  That’s why he prescribed a drug that is for Bipolar Depression, and it seems to be working well.

If you are having any symptoms of depression please seek out professional help.  It doesn’t just go away.  Psych Central lists the first steps to getting help, and a list of professionals in your area.  You can find this information here.  Where To Get Help For Depression.

If you are having suicidal thoughts please call

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1 (800) 273-8255

 

Update 5.10.2016

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It’s been a while since I’ve written a simple update about me.  Other than the migraine scenario.

What’s going on right this second?  My head hurts!  Yes I’m still fighting migraines.  I’m also having vertigo again, every day for the past week.  Yesterday I had it all day long!  It would go absolutely crazy, then it would slow to just barely moving, then it would go crazy again.  This went on for 12 hours.  I’m starting a regimen of steroids.  I don’t like being on steroids because they think that may be what caused the Avascular Necrosis in my hip, but I’m desperate.  My headache speicalist and my ear doctor both agree that steroids is the best thing to stop this cycle.  So here we go again.

I finished my Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy.  It was a great experience.  I hope it did a lot of good.  I say hope because I wasn’t having much vertigo when I was going through therapy.  I was amazed at how well I progressed through the exercises.  On the last day, I had a vertigo attack start right there in the exercise room.  All I could do was hold on to Stuart and my therapist and squeak out, “I want to go home.”  A wonderful way to close out an otherwise great experience.  Since that last appointment I haven’t been able to do any of the exercises without falling.  I’m sad and pissed.

I’ve decided not to do the gentimicin injections.  There are so many risk.  When I’m at my worst I will think I don’t care about the risk, I’m willing to try anything, but I just went through a month of very little vertigo.  If I have the gentimicin injections I may never have good days.  I might not be able to learn how to balance without my ears.  And it does nothing to stop the vertigo caused by migraines.  What if most of my vertigo is migraine related?  I would still have vertigo and have to fight having no balance system in my ears.

My new ear doctor is thinking about trying steroid injections in my ears to see if it helps. (one ear at a time) But we will wait until I’m really bad again.  (If things keep up like this past week, we’ll be talking about this fairly soon.)  Steroid injections don’t carry the risk that gentimicin does.  It wears off, so if it works it often has to be repeated every 3 months. Since they think my Menerie’s is autoimmune, this is a good diagnostic tool, and if it makes me feel better, great.  Therefore, this is a good thing to try before deciding on gentimicin.  My new doctor is not a fan of gentimicin, but did not say he wouldn’t rule it out as a very last resort.

I’m sad right now.  Things aren’t going well.  Too many times I feel I’m saying, “I’m having a bad day.”  There have been days I’ve been so angry I felt like I didn’t know myself.  For the first time in a long time, I feel handicapped.  I hope all of this is part of my health not doing well, added stress and maybe menopause.  Not my bipolar medication taking a nose dive.  We’ll have to wait and see.

I have a couple of questions for those of you who have seen a naturopath or holistic doctor; Did seeing one help you?  How did you chose which one to go to?  I’ve been thinking about seeing one to try to get my over all health better, but I have no idea how to figure out who to pick.

As always thank you for supporting and caring about me.

 

Out Of The Darkness

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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.

Mindfulness Quotes

Mindfulness practice has helped me get through some of the roughest patches of my life.  I haven’t been practicing as much as I want and would like to resume, I thought a good way to start would be to post a few of my favorite quotes on mindfulness.  I hope you enjoy them too.  (all photos were taken either by me or Stuart)

“Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different;

enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will);

being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).” ~James Baraz

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“In the end, just three things matter:

How well we have lived.

How well we have loved.

How well we have learned to let go” ~Jack Kornfield

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“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” ~Dalai Lama

“Realize that this very body, with its aches and its pleasures,

is exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, fully alive.” – Pema Chodron

road runner porch palm springs

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.

If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” ~Dalai Lama

“Be happy in the moment, that’s enough.

Each moment is all we need, not more.” ~ Mother Teresa

** One reason I haven’t been keeping up my mindfulness practice like I used to is that the depression side of my Bipolar Disorder has been taking over my desire to do many things.  I started seeing a new psychiatrist on Monday.  It was a very in-depth appointment.  I took a lot of psychiatric tests before I saw him.  They mainly showed that I have a bit of a hard time concentrating.  Two of them weren’t really fair because they are exactly like a “game” on Luminostity that I play a lot, if I hadn’t been playing that for a while I would never have been able to do as well on those tests.  We discussed my past treatments, what’s going on, all kinds of stuff.  He is adjusting some of my medications, and referring me to a therapist he thinks would be good for me to see.  I will go back in a month.  I’m feeling better just knowing that I am much more comfortable with my care provider and think this is a very positive move.