Archive for the ‘Bipolar Disorder’ Category

The Mental Health Update

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Mental health diagnoses are not a definite, just an educated guess. Usually if the medication used to treat a decided diagnosis has positive effect, it is enough confirmation to assume that the guess is most likely correct. This was once explained to me by a medical professional. According to this formula, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. However, according to this same diagnostic tool, there is also a rather large margin of error than cannot be ignored.

A reader asked me to delve a little deeper into my mental health status after reading yesterday’s post. Understandable. I’ve been pretty quiet about how I’ve been doing for some time. Honestly, I haven’t been quite trusting of some folks who stalk my blog, which is why I haven’t said much, but I’m not going to let a few ugly seeds ruin something positive, so here it goes.

The Lithium I was on for about a year and a half seemed to be doing pretty well, I guess, but I actually had nothing to compare it to. I went from being on Prozac, which worked great in my post-partum and breastfeeding craziness phase, to popping Lithium without a break in between. The Prozac was working up until a few months after I stopped breastfeeding, but it appeared as though as soon as April was done with the boob, I went manic. I couldn’t sleep. I did crazy things. I almost got a divorce. Right then, I feel like it should have dawned on me (or at least one of my medical professionals) that perhaps with the hormone change, the mania was actually a result of the antidepressant doing its job a little too well.

In retrospect, I probably should have weaned off the Prozac before trying anything else. The Lithium did okay, but I had trouble with it. It got the mania under control, but I got depressed. The opposite effect. The Lithium did its job a little too well. So what made logical sense to a doctor? Treat the depression in addition to the mania. See where this is going? Oh, well, since I was showing signs of both mania and depression, I must be bipolar, right? Well, maybe. It’s possible that was a correct diagnosis. Except that the Lithium depressed me and half the medications used to treat the depression side of the bipolar disorder had horrible effects, and two almost killed me. My doc was puzzled because even on the lowest doses they would knock me out completely. Considering that sort of thing has to do with metabolism (which I have a very high one when it comes down to food and health), it looked like I had an incredibly sluggish one, which didn’t seem right to her.

The woman who was managing my medication happened to be one of the best in the state, if not the country. One very smart woman for sure. But something that I think was missed was that what if, what if, I was diagnosed incorrectly to begin with.

I found out in the fall that Ann (name changed) was retiring. She gave me a list of referrals. For months I stared at that list. Looked them up on the internet. Tried to figure out what I was going to do. There was something that was bothering me about the whole situation. I looked up everything I could about bipolar disorder, depression, mild psychosis, PPD, treatment, and reflected on my own postpartum and life-long situation. An acquaintance died. I had some shocking realizations hit me regarding dance, my situation, and why I was unhappy with my life. And I realized that although it appeared that I was on the “correct dose” of Lithium and Seroquel, I didn’t really feel happy, just blah most of the time. Going through the motions.

I’m smart enough to know that something wasn’t quite right, and so I started questioning my treatment. I also started making major changes. I decided to go back to school. I quit teaching. I ended running my Friday night event. James and I admitted that the world of dance had destroyed our marriage and our ability to function as a couple, so hit with the choice of divorcing or leaving the dance world, we decided that our life together was far more important. And then, two months ago, a few days before Thanksgiving, I had this horrible pain in my lower abdomen that was more excruciating than natural childbirth.

I wasn’t sick. No organs were failing. There appeared to be no source for the pain- just the horrible, crippling pain. I don’t ever go to the doctor for anything other than my regular med check ups. This wasn’t fake or a hypochondriac moment.

I decided then and there that the reason I hadn’t called someone on my doctor referral list because I felt that deep down, something wasn’t right about either my diagnosis, the medication, or both. One thing that rang true the entire time I have received treatment for a mental disorder was the fact that with the exception of handful of incorrect-drug-induced moments, I have always been able to think clearly and rationally. That’s not always indicative of truly having bipolar disorder. All of my worst “bipolar moments” actually happened ON medication. I have had ups and downs my entire life, but nothing compared to the moments of mental haze that were a direct result of medication gone horribly wrong.

In other words, I have a feeling that one I had gotten past the postpartum depression, the very medication that was supposed make me “sane” was the thing making me unhealthy. And I was concerned that my abdominal pain attack was a result of a buildup of medication in my system.

Right after the horrible pain in my abdomen, I started backing off the Seroquel one pill at a time, slowly. When I reached a certain dose, I stayed there for at least a week. When I was down to one small pill, I began backing off of the Lithium a tiny bit at a time. Not too long ago, I took my last Lithium. Not once did James or I notice my sanity starting to shake. In fact, I have felt quite “normal” for a change, except now I have energy again, I can wake up the moment my alarm goes off, and I feel like I can summon up some emotion again.

And before anyone chastises me for weaning off meds without doctor supervision, rest assured I DID go see a doctor about both the stabbing pain in my abdomen and made her aware of my choice to stop all prescription drugs. In addition to her, I went to see a doctor and make an appointment to start neurofeedback. She is also aware of my situation and has doctors to recommend should I start showing signs of needing to be back on some kind of medicaiton.

I’m no idiot. I am fully aware that just because I feel better off medication does not mean that it will always be the best decision. However, because I’m not an idiot, I also have realized that medication may not have been the best route for me once I was done with the Prozac. My depression was possibly situational rather than due to some horrible chemical imbalance, and massive changes in my life have proved so far that it is likely I can live a balanced life with normal ups and downs in a healthy manner seeking treatment other than Lithium and other drugs.

The years of therapy and medication helped. But I am not of the mindset that they are the best route for someone who is otherwise healthy. It appeared as though it reached a point where the drugs were becoming the problem rather than the solution. There may be a point again where they become necessary, but for now I am relieved to feel like my old self and happy to be living a life according to what I want rather than taking care of everyone else’s needs and wants first.

My blog has been published only since the PPD hit, thus my readers have only known me on medication. Of course I probably seem crazy to the public. You have nothing to compare me to. But the people who have known me would most likely tell you that while I’ve definitely struggled with depression, I actually have a good head on my shoulders. In other words, one of your favorite crazy bloggers is quite possibly, in fact, surprisingly sane.

Current Mood:Cool emoticon Cool

Challenge Day 1- Titles of my Future Book

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Prompt: Titles of my Future Book. Say you’re writing a book about your life, community, condition, or Health Activism. Come up with five working titles and a book jacket synopsis.

I think I would hate to write a book centered around myself, ironically. But it would have to be directly attached to being horribly, psychotically bipolar because sadly, that is who I am. I am not particularly schooled in the world of Health Activism (donuts, anyone?), nor my community (I live in da’ hood! Drop to the floor, y’all! Gunshots!), so I think I’m going to (blah) stick with imagining a book about my life and condition.

Here we go. The titles.

  • “Confessions of a Perfect Persona.” This might make sense if you met me. I usually seem like I have it all together, being a typical over-achiever oldest child, and I’m usually fairly well put-together. It’s only until you stumble across my blog or spend time getting to know me that the truth comes barfing out like bad Chinese food.
  • “The Truth About Wife and Mommy.” This title made me shudder. I hate the truth, yet there’s nothing I can do about it.
  • Sarcastic Wit: A Bipolar Survivor’s Guide.” Self explanatory. You all know me well enough by now to get this.
  • “Bipolar Ain’t Got Nothing on Me.” This is somewhat of a lie. It has everything to do with everything in my life. But I try to escape it constantly.
  • “Into the Great Wide Open.” I imagine this would focus on those moments where the mania or the depression begins to let go and I feel like I can breathe again. Getting reacquainted with the world is always both elating and a little sad.

So those are the off-the-top-of-my-head book names without actually including my best ones, only because they’re books in progress and I’m not going to spill the beans before they’re finished… and that could take years!

As far as a book jacket comes to mind, I immediately imagined a fog-pale blue theme, and a woman sitting with her knees to her chest, back to us, on a wooden dock facing some great unknown. Probably water, but unseen because of the fog. The woman is naked with a small, draping sheet wrapped around her hips. Everything is that monochromatic pale fog blue, even the woman, except for her bare skin, which is covered in thinly etched light red writing… words that describe the person on the inside. Her dark hair is wet, her hands bracing her head in distress.

I have a feeling this wouldn’t start out incredibly uplifting, but i hope that by the end it would be.

This post was written as part of NHBPM – 30 healthposts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J

Current Mood:Playful emoticon Playful

Cautiously Optimistic

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Welcome to my life.

Pills Come Cheaper By The Dozen

Did you ever look at your life and wonder how the hell you got where you’re at, how the heck you became such a pushover/doormat when you used to be so strong, how you could be so mentally unsound when you’re so damn smart? Yeah, me too.

We’ve been trying for the better part of a year to find a second drug to accompany the Lithium in my daily pill dose. Everything I’ve tried has caused some kind of (major) negative reaction. Stupidly, my body is just ridiculously sensitive to medication. I mean, I’m the person who takes half the dose of any over-the-counter medication because the full dose knocks me out. Imagine what it feels like to have your brains turned into scrambled eggs and your body gone manic for a couple days while you desperately back off the dose of some powerful drug and have wait for the remnants to leave your system. It’s a nightmare.

If I could take the 1200mg of the Lithium, I would probably be better off, but unfortunately, every time I’ve upped the dose I’ve run into Lithium poisoning, which is just one of the most disgusting feelings I’ve ever encountered. If I could sum up my life in a list of pills, it’d go something like this: Fluoxetine (Prozac), Wellbutrin, Lithium, Resperidone, Abilify, Seroquel, Geodon, Oxcarbazepine, am I missing one or five? Probably.

My psychiatrist has explained that while the mania (my primary symptom of the bipolar disorder) is, for the most part, under control, the Lithium isn’t targeting the depression enough, or perhaps it isn’t getting rid of the mania enough to keep my mind from falling hard into the trap of depression- it’s impossible to really know. Where there is either mania or depression in my psyche, its counterpart will always breakthrough with a vengeance eventually. Lithium does wonders, but it’s limited, especially since my body cannot handle the most therapeutic dose.

I’ve been through the whole round of atypical antipsychotics used to combat bipolar depression (the same drugs used to fight major depressive disorder and- ugh- schizophrenia) and moved onto the world of anti-convulsants, drugs sometimes used in addition to Lithium to control mania. The last drug I tried a few weeks ago was one of those. It did its job a little too well because before I knew it, James was threatening me with the crisis center and calling the psychiatrist extremely concerned for my well-being. I couldn’t even see it really, but I plummeted into horrible depression that stuck even after I stopped taking the Oxcarbazepine.

Enter “try Seroquel again”. Round two. I think, unfortunately, it was kind of a desperate situation in the worst kind of way. Being suicidal doesn’t mean you’re planning it. I just means you’re a ticking time bomb. I’m starting to understand that.

Seroquel almost killed me the first time around. Nope. Not exaggerating. The dose was far too high, and it got to the point where James was staying home from work while he tried to wake me up. It was too sedating and was extended release, which built up in my system and left me unable to wake or respond. Another day or two on that dose and I assume I never would have woken up. One my sister’s extended family members died that way, so it was a pretty scary realization when I unknowingly overdosed under a physician’s care. However, the first day after I had started the drug I was in good spirits. Drowsy, but doing a bit better than I had been doing. By day three I was too drugged up to do anything but smile. Clearly, some positive effect was seen amidst the inability to wake up or talk.

This time, I started at 50mg instead of the 150mg that I started on the first time. James said he saw the effects immediately, though after three days it was clear it was still too high of a dose. I could wake up, but I was slurring my words and struggled to get out of bed for a good hour or two. He was staying home in the mornings while I slept, unable to shake the drowsiness. After three days of that dose and positive effects in my mood, my doc phoned in the lowest dose of the drug- 25mg- and said I could even cut those in half if necessary.

It’s been a few days on the 25mg, and guess what?

For the first time in my entire life, including my childhood for as long as I can remember, I have fallen asleep quickly and slept soundly and have woken up feeling rested and- holy shit- thinking “I can do this today.”

It’s like I’m taking a sleeping pill except it also clears the depression fog from my immediate view. No more insomnia. I’ve slept solid every night since partway through last week. HOLY SHIT WORLD, ARE YOU HEARING THIS? I’VE ACTUALLY BEEN SLEEPING!

I’m not sure how evident this has been because I don’t talk about it much, but we’ve found that my sanity is directly related to the amount of sleep I get. I have struggled with insomnia- severe insomnia- my entire life. I have NEVER been able to get a good amount of sleep or fall asleep quickly for more than two nights in a row at any give point in my life. I remember in eighth grade the night I actually got eight hours of sleep for the first time since I started noticing hours back in second grade- I couldn’t believe how good I felt. I have always struggled with falling asleep, frequently taking several hours for that illusive darkness to take over just before needing to get up for the day. The more exhausted I get, the more panicky I feel, and the more I struggle to fall asleep or wake up at odd stressed hours of the early morning. It’s a vicious cycle.

Well, the Seroquel is indeed a sedative, so I take it at night along with my Lithium.

penis pills

Yup, the horse balls are the Lithium, and Seroquel is the penis, since, you know, dick feels good when used correctly.

I am not out of the woods yet. It’ll be a little while before we know if this is the right mix of drugs and the right dosages, but at least I’ve been sleeping and being alive has not been unbearable the last few days.

Cautiously Optimistic.

Funeral Procession

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

I saw what appeared to be a massive funeral procession driving south on I-5 on my way home from downtown this afternoon. Perhaps it was something else, but cops on motorcycles with flashing lights chaperoning a slew of vehicles generally equals funeral, right? Except it wasn’t a procession of cars… it was one of what looked like four charter buses and a just a few cars.

I drove alongside them for several miles, and thanks to my new glasses, I didn’t accidentally run into them or any other cars while I was busy casually gawking and trying to peer into the dark windows. Just a bunch of people wearing suits and other dark attire. Yeah, probably a funeral.

Which made me wonder.

When my life is over, will there be a huge funeral celebrating the end of a miserable, unhappy life, or sadness of a pathetic life gone passing? Will people show up wearing modest black clothing, eyes teary, will they pull out their most uncomfortable heels and dress shoes to accompany their suits and dresses? Will people actually have warm or funny things to say about my charming personality, and will most people be clueless of my mental hardships and illness that dictates every second of my every miserable waking moment?

When I was a kid I was terrified of death, but not for the reasons most are. I was petrified that once I died my soul would continue to exist forever just as God promises. I didn’t want that. I wanted to die and cease to exist. Yes, as a child. Dying wasn’t the scary part. It was the knowledge that most likely some kind of continuation exists, and I didn’t want that.

I worry about my kids and I feel sorry for my husband. Sometimes I wonder who the hell he pissed off in another life to get stuck with a wife like me. I am such a horrible human being. And no, this is no pity party, just the truth. I absolutely cannot imagine what it must be like to be in love with someone who’s life is a mental black hole. I’m fine one moment, and a switch flips the next and I’m blankly staring into space and sweeping the mess off the kitchen counter onto the floor. The screams and yelling about calling a crisis center because “I’ve lost it again” are enough to snap me out of the trance enough for me to realize, shamefully, that my illness is once again in control.

I’m a good faker. In public, I just reach for the outskirts to avoid the conversation and dizzying triggers surrounding me. At dance competitions the amount of stimulation is so overwhelming that I usually end up drinking to dull the pounding in my heart. It’s a race: me against the bipolar beast. Except we are one of the same, always, and running from myself is pointless because I will always be right there, in the moment, beside myself.

Being home alone or with the kids is the hardest part. Working is when I come alive, and not just the illness. Without the distraction of being held accountable by a multitude of adults, my illness leaves me feeling worthless and unable to reach out to find a way to pull myself back into reality.

When I die, I think I will feel sadness if I’m with it enough to actually feel. Sadness for the fact that I was a life full of promise at the beginning, but fell prisoner to an illness gone rampant without any real way to control it. Sadly, Bipolar I isn’t curable or even controllable. It can be muted by powerful drugs, but the mania and bipolar depression will always break through. Your body can only handle certain levels of medications like lithium, so while with a higher dose you could function as “almost normal”, your body stops you short of trying to achieve that.

Some days, if not most, I pity the people in my life who have to live with my illness more than I feel bad for myself. I know how much I hurt on the inside and just how much I would prefer to either live without my head screwed on backwards or to just finally rest in peace from the mental turmoil and strife, and I cannot imagine just how bad it is for my husband and kids to watch me struggle constantly. It’s a miracle they haven’t left me yet with all the horrible things I’ve done and said.

Some days, I wish that procession on the freeway was mine. Today is just one of those. But here I am. Alive. Sick. But here.

Current Mood:Sad emoticon Sad

Crazy Life and The Breakthrough Mania

Monday, August 8th, 2011

I am trying very hard to stay grounded. Upon getting home from our fabulous camping trip, we pretty much had to hit the ground running, and right now I’m in the middle of a double or triple triathlon at full speed with little end in sight and no possibility of failure. Success has to be the only option. Period. Too many people are counting on me.

I’ve always struggled with that- success, feeling success, severe fear of failure. That’s a big part of why dance competition- and any competition- has been so difficult for me my entire life. My family didn’t encourage any kind of team sports or team anything, I was taught that non-comformity was superior (not directly, of course, but by example), and that we were better off doing it by ourselves. Completely, utterly, and pathetically alone. Luckily, I managed to pull off the skill of communication completely by the Grace of God because I certainly wasn’t taught the ins and outs of making friends or handling situations in a more diplomatic sense. It took trial and error, and I still have difficulty sometimes, but in general I am pretty confident with my communication skills.

And with communication skills has come the ability to find a way to succeed no matter how difficult the situation. Thank goodness.

Right now, I need that. Not only has my private lesson filled up to the max, but I’m booked to deejay five dances between last and this week, teach group classes, workshops, and run our own dance (wow!) indefinitely on Friday nights. I also have four dance competitions scheduled- three out of state, and I am on staff for the one coming up in town (which means I am teaching and deejaying at a freaking national convention- holy amazeballs Batman!), and that’s just during the end of summer and fall. That’s not even covering my life outside of dance, which is just as busy with family visiting, college interviewing, my daughter starting kindergarten at a private school (Cha-CHING!), another awesome camping getaway in a couple weeks, and like 40 other things that I can’t think to mention off the top of my head.

Yes, I am busy. But more importantly, I am constantly on the brink of having a heart attack due to that fear of failure. The possibility sucks. And then at the same time, I have moments like this where I can stop and breathe and look at the words on my virtual page and realize that regardless of how crazy my life looks from the outside and sometimes feels on the inside, there are moments every day where I can put my feet up or spend time scrubbing the mold off my bathroom walls and remember that I am, in fact, only human and that if success fails in one small arena, it’s hardly an indication of what kind of successful life I live, and there will always be that reality of taking care of my family and home to which I come back.

Perhaps in some ways, my illness is a blessing. Without the breakthrough mania despite the Lithium’s best efforts, I’m not sure I could get from one day to the next when my life gets a little out of hand.

Current Mood:Alarmed emoticon Alarmed & Happy emoticon Happy