Category Archives: Celebration

My Story – A Summary

Hi! I’m Deb, and I blog at http://SuddenlyBipolar.com

I am an ordained Presbyterian minister. I like to think of myself as a Mental Health Advocate as my current calling, since I can’t pastor a church anymore because of how my Bipolar Type 1 manifests. I also have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which just exacerbates the Bipolar.

I’m a lover of movies, books, politics and sociology. I’d like to do a PhD in Sociology if my brain will let me. It’s hard to read, so we’ll see what’s in store for me in the next few years.

I recently moved back in with family to get extra support. Even with a strong support system, it wasn’t enough to keep me from being lonely where my thoughts and feelings would take over to make me suicidal and bouncing in and out of the hospital over 30 times in the last 7 years.

I was diagnosed in September 2010 after falling from a manic high (August being a common time for mania for me) into a suicidal depression, my first and definitely not my last. Among my therapist, psychiatrist and me, we figured out I had my first depressive episode at 13 when I had major back surgery for scoliosis. Manic delusions may have started as early as 9, however. I had hallucinations in 2 psychotic episodes my first year in college at age 17, a common time for bipolar to raise its ugly head.

I spent my young and middle adult years in primarily hypomania, some mania and fewer depressions. I had a vibrant spirituality that people thought was a gift, but was really mania. Oh, well.

As I said, I was diagnosed in 2010, a year into my first solo pastorate after years as an associate pastor or youth director. I loved and was good at my job. It’s been a huge loss and sore spot that I can’t pastor anymore. Over the next 7 years I had amazing care from my psychiatrists and therapists, and a strong support system. But I still bounced in and out of a psychiatric hospital over 30 times, for as few as 3 days, and as much as 2 months. I saw the darkest days, despite love and support. I’m still looking for the right medication cocktail after Years of trying. Every time I went into the hospital we tried something new or tweaked something. And my psychiatrist outside did too, though she was more conservative.

Finally, I spent 3 months at my family’s home relearning how to care for myself (cooking, cleaning, exercise) and getting concentrated support and love. Eventually, together, we concluded that I should move to Texas from Chicago-land to continue support, be around people, and at least temporarily live in community. I hope to live a mile away soon and still get the benefit of daily support but independent living again.

I’ve been with my family for two months now and we are slowly making our way into community. I don’t feel settled. I miss my old support system. I sobbed leaving my main psychiatrist. I’ve been in a day program and inpatient for a few days. But I’m looking forward now to beginning a new life with meaningful activities.

Early in my diagnosed life, I accepted the bipolar as something I would have to manage for the rest of my life. The bipolar and anxiety are just a part of me, though sometimes taking care of them seems to overwhelm me. I remind myself they are just a part of me. I have routines and schedules. I advocate for myself with providers, and I talk with my support system regularly, sometimes (ok, most of the time) daily. I use coping skills like Radical Acceptance, Mindfulness, Thought Defusion, and Committed Action toward My Values (from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy). I also use Dialectical Behavioral Therapy skills such as Mindfulness, Emotion Regulation, and Distress Tolerance. I also volunteer at various places, though it’s hard and I have a hard time holding even one for longer than a couple months. Maybe I haven’t found the right place for my passion yet.

I am open about my struggles and triumphs on social media. I educate about and offer resources on bipolar on social media (such as my page on Facebook, Suddenly Bipolar). Advocating for others seems as important as advocating for myself. My blog is one way I do that by sharing my thoughts, feelings and journey. People tell me that reading about these things is helpful, and I’m glad. But really it’s my journal. 🙂

I hope to meet you in the blogosphere or on Facebook or Twitter. Together we can end the stigma and support one another. Find your voice!

Cross posted on MyLoudBipolarWhispers.com as part of the “There’s Glory in Sharing Your Story” campaign.

NAMIwalks

I’m walking for the first time this year!

I’ll be walking for Stigma Busters in the NAMI Dallas walk.

Come support mental illness research, support and education! I am walking with Stigma Busters! The local chapter of NAMI in my new location. Donate as little as a $1 or much more! Every dollar helps!

My current goal is $150, and already have over $100!

Come see my fundraising page:

https://www.namiwalks.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.participant&participantID=152791

It’s World Bipolar Day!

One of the best ways I take care of my bipolar (and anxiety) is listening to and following the advice of my care team and all of those who care about me.

Yes, I’ve had a volatile 7+ years since diagnosis with over 30 hospitalizations for suicidal urges. And hours, days, of fear and psychological and emotional pain.

But by following advice I’ve learned a Ton of coping skills I use regularly. Some of those are as basic as keeping a sleep routine and eating healthy. Another piece of advice has to do with exercise. I don’t get endorphins from exercise, but I do better emotionally when I exercise regularly.

The biggest advice I got was spending time with my family in another state to relearn basics of taking care of myself. And two more shorter stays after that, and my care team, good friends, and people who care about me agreed that I was doing better with my family, leading to moving in with them this past month.

I really wanted people to tell me that I could continue to live alone and rely on my usual supports. But there was overwhelming consensus. And I live in Texas now. Not my pick, but that’s where my family lives right now.

I’m having a hard time adjusting and settling, more than others of the many moves I’ve made. It will get better. And I’m following good advice.

Mostly Stable

balance       It’s been well over two months since hospitalization, but I had such a difficult time around Christmas that I feel like stability started with the first of the year. I feel mostly stable – mood pretty solid and thoughts of suicide everyday (my baseline) with varying intensity. I’ve had a cold which kept me down a few weeks, still recovering from that. At its height I had fewer suicidal thoughts, which my doctor expected. “Your brain isn’t thinking well and shuts down.” Hallelujah for sick brain! Got a few days off from thinking I need to die.

I haven’t been volunteering (or exercising – sick), so my schedule revolves around television and being social. I’m starting to get an itch again to volunteer – the first I’ve felt in several months. I want it to be in mental health though, which has been my dream for a few years. Sharing my story or teaching a class. Office work. I have to be out of the hospital for at least 6 months for one main place that is the obvious place to volunteer as a speaker. I’ve found a few places in the local area worth a phone call. Maybe there is something I haven’t thought of in the depths of google.

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.

In Cinnamon’s Honor

I loved my cat Cinnamon, as you can tell from my previous post. I had no intention of adopting another cat for some time. But Samantha-cat’s need for a companion and my running into a cat with the right personality on the right weekend when adoptions were half off, resulted in the addition of Ellie, a 2-year-old (below). So far they get along ok with some hissing and growling but less each day. Food and being surprised are the main culprits. They can be close to each other, but prefer several feet distance. I hope it is the beginning of a beautiful friendship for Samantha’s senior years (she is 15 but acts much younger).

I wasn’t sure I was ready to adopt again so soon. I reminded myself that people who do adopt again, especially soon, do it in honor of their beloved pet. I loved her so much, I’d do it again. Fall in love, spend a life, have to say goodbye. I still cry about Cinnamon. And my heart is big enough to begin to love a new little one.

Welcome, Ellie!

Welcome, Ellie!

Empathy Cards for Serious Illnesses

Update: Emily appeared on Good Morning America on May 21. Yay Emily!

You’ll never guess what I found! The perfect cards that all our family and friends can send us when they find out we have a mental illness, or are having a flare-up of a mental illness. Empathy Cards by Emily McDowell.
No more icky promises that it will all work out. No more friends and family disappearing because they don’t know what to do or say. Just send us a funny card that says you know this sucks and you’re here and not leaving. And you won’t tell us about some new internet potion that will make it magically go away.

Let’s make Emily’s cards go viral! All sorts of long-term, invisible, serious and/or horrible diseases are out there that need EMPATHY not saccharine.

 

didn't know what to say

 

Happens for a reason