Well, I rang in the new year in the ER with pulmonary embolisms in both lungs. Turns out the shortness of breath I had been experiencing for weeks was neither allergies nor bronchitis, but blood clots. The ER and hospital stay experiences were anxiety-provoking whether it was getting blood from the same veins over and over, or hearing that You Have Blood Clots in Your Lungs! (And no one knows how I got them.)
From the anxiety and the very little sleep one gets in the hospital, to being in the ER and hospital at all and thereby reminded of all my psych hospitalization experiences, my mind was all over the place, though my mood remained stable (hallelujah!). I did, however, have the opportunity to evaluate and appreciate the facts that (1) I did want to live and (2) my body was trying hard to live – the survival instinct was hard at work. There have been so many times in my life when I wanted that survival instinct to just stop, and this time, I was grateful for it. Hallelujah again for more mental progress!
In the last month, even as I dealt with the shortness of breath, I also moved about an hour away, gave away about a third of what little I owned, and have spent lots of time alone and with my girlfriend despite her busy work schedule. I am acting more independently again, and my mood is still stable! It’s a strange experience, this stability, even in the face of so much change this last month. I am still waiting for the other shoe to drop and become unstable again. But I’m weathering life ok, and that is both a surprise and very welcome.
I’ve got a lot on my mind – coming out, new committee work, suicidal thoughts and feelings, a new love interest maybe, a new tattoo and that it means I’m in control of my treatment and my body and who I tell what to, filling out end-of-life paperwork. All in all I’m overwhelmed with me, and a bit hypomanic from the mucinex, and together these things are causing me distress. And anxiety. Lots of anxiety. Just doing the paperwork reminded me that doing such things are a symptom of thinking death is near. And of course I’m having such intense and frequent thoughts of suicide, but in a more abstract way, not a concrete plan, thank goodness.
I just need a place I can be fully me, and be cared for, and share my piled-on thoughts with. Right now that place is church. I’m grateful for the people there that accept and care for me, as well as for the opportunity to do something (social justice team) that speaks to my heart’s burden to make the world a better place. It’s a process of becoming, isn’t it? Becoming a stable person with bipolar, becoming someone who loves in different ways, becoming a leader again. I’m generally someone who pays attention to process, and lets it unfold. But when it comes to me, I’m impatient!
That said, I’m hopeful about entering the process of EMDR to end the suicidal thoughts, and I know it could take a while. I’m hopeful about the person I’ll be and the opportunities I can take when I’m no longer regularly hospitalized and don’t have the terrible thoughts. So I suppose I am paying attention to process because I’m looking to the future and I Will allow it to unfold. And there Will Be a Future. I’m going to keep fighting.
I felt alone. It seemed everyone around me wanted me to continue with ECT. Yet it’s my decision. It’s my body. I live with the illness – and it’s consequences. I live with the treatments and the symptoms of anxiety they cause in me. Here is what I decided after several conversations with my therapist, my psychiatrist, the ECT team, and my mom. I even read medical journal articles.
I want my life back. I want the anxiety I’ve been living with to be back to reasonable levels that I know how to live with. My mood has been stable and my psychiatrist expects it to stay that way. I hope he is right! I’d like to learn how to live with a mood that experiences many emotions without dropping or accelerating into a mood state.
I decided NOT to do ECT anymore. I want to try medications again if my mood becomes depressed or manic again, or if I become suicidal. I have to get the port in my chest removed again since I no longer want to do ECT. (The port was used to access a vein so that nurses didn’t have to try multiple times per treatment to create an IV.) ECT has been helpful for getting my mood to baseline, and perhaps it would help in the future too. I’m just not sure, I don’t like the reaction I have to treatments (days of anxiety), and I’d rather work with pills. ECT had been a last resort when I started it last fall, and resumed it this spring and summer. I just don’t think it has to be my Go-To treatment method anymore.
I will be super vigilant about routine, schedule, taking meds, nutrition, exercise, coping skills, and sociability as I try to maintain a stable mood with these things that have Not proven to work before. But I will do what is personally in my power to care for my multiple mental illnesses. I will work with my psychiatrist for meds and therapist for coping and exploration as needed. I will reach out to others for support on a regular basis. So don’t be surprised if I contact YOU!
I’m taking my life back.
Hello, Dear Readers!
As promised, here is the link to the interview I did with Rachael of a5ylumpodcast.com. https://a5ylumpodcast.com/episodes/
On her site she says, “In our first episode, we take an in-depth look at Bipolar Disorder, addressing the myths and stereotypes, while discussing the diagnostic criteria, causes, risk factors, and treatments. We also get the opportunity to talk with Deborah Matthews about her personal experience living with Bipolar Disorder.”
Fabulous info about bipolar disorder in the first part of the podcast. I hope you’ll listen and maybe learn some about this disorder we live with. Stay tuned for my musings at the end of the podcast.
I’m living each day as it comes, whether it’s an ECT day (had a couple of those days) or a day trying to make it through the cognitive and mood fluctuations that come with living with bipolar. The great news is that suicidal ideation is infrequent and not intense. Depression symptoms are less and less, but I’m not feeling happy or uplifted as I did after ECT last fall. So, day by day, just a little better each day, and focusing on coping skills.
I have started some new endeavors. (1) I am clicker training my cat to do a few things: come reliably when called, sit, sit up, shake, high five, and we’ll see what else he wants to do. I found treats he LOVES so that’s the reward for the operant conditioning I’m doing with him. He’s responding well! (2) I’m walking in the pool with my mom several days a week, and might add some bike riding or treadmill walking. (3) I start an online class at my local community college next week, so I’m learning how to use the online class system. (4) I’m doing a lot of reading, for book club and for my reading challenge for the year. I’ve read 16 of the 35 books I want to read by the end of the year. With classes starting up, we’ll see if I still have as much time to read. Plus reading is still hard, accessing both the concentration needed and the memory.
In other news, I was interviewed as a blogger who talks about the daily life of living with bipolar by Rachael at https://a5ylumpodcast.com. I’ll be the first episode of the podcast coming out in a few days. I’ll post a link when it comes out! Meanwhile, show Rachael some love at her website!
“Bipolar is just one part of me.” “You are brave and courageous.” “You are feeling good! You can get to this place again.” These are the post-its I see several times a day as I take medication for many things, including bipolar disorder. I’ve been thinking for a few days what it means to live with bipolar disorder, and these three post-its are part of the deal of living with bipolar.
- I am many things – compassionate, smart, funny, passionate, nerdy – and bipolar. And though bipolar colors ALL of my existence, it is just one part of me. It is easy for me to say “I am bipolar” instead of the more socially acceptable “I have bipolar.” What my mood and thoughts are doing, and the routines I use to contain them, shapes my whole life. I cannot escape my bipolar brain. When I’m feeling well, like right now I can see how there are parts of me that would be there even if I didn’t have bipolar, like a snarky sense of humor or being passionate about social justice.
- I have to be persistent, routinized, and brave Every.Single.Day. Each day I wake up to thoughts that second-guess my mental well-being and my ability to even face a day without causing harm to myself. Courageously I choose to get up and start the routine that will get the day off to a better start. Courageously I take my meds, brush my teeth, drink my coffee and check my calendar. Eventually I can face the day, if it’s a good day. Some days I can only think of suicide and can only feel anxiety and fear. On those days I have still made the choice every minute to keep on living. “Nevertheless, she persisted,” applies not only to U.S. Senators who keep talking despite pressure to shut up and sit down, but also to my choosing life day after day, moment after fearful moment of thoughts of death that won’t stop. I am brave and courageous.
- I am living in a euthymic phase right now – a good, stable, middle point of my moods. And I can get there again if/when I become depressed or manic again. I need the reminder both that bipolar is cyclical and that I am in a good phase. It’s time to take a look around! Smell the flowers and trees and other pollens I am violently allergic to. Play with my cat. Sip coffee. Really discover what I am capable of when I am feeling well! It’s time to enjoy this time I have, and trust that it will come again.
What are some insights you have uncovered about living with bipolar, either from your own life, or from watching me live mine?
The last couple days have been thankfully, gratefully, blessed with lower anxiety. So even though I still have suicidal thoughts, they don’t hook into the anxiety and become obsessive. They float in as any thought does, and they float out, blessedly. It’s such a huge relief!
I’ve been busy doing nothing, and exercising occasionally, and moving forward with relearning some college algebra that should help when I start taking those science classes in the fall. I’ve been trying to read, but maybe I need to give up on this book. It’s just not getting anywhere. Or I can’t focus for very long, which is a feature I run into regularly. Maybe I’ll try another book for a while.
My mood is a little low, but still in the balanced arena, I think. As happens when I’m depressed, I’m fatigued for hours after I wake up, despite jolts from coffee. And I cancelled on some times to get together with people, another sign of depression for me. I’m not convinced either way that I’m depressed or not depressed. Time will tell?