Category Archives: Health

Taking a Look Around

I did not go to the hospital for ECT this morning, for all the reasons given in yesterday’s post. I just don’t think the presence of suicidal thoughts that are part of my mind’s landscape on a normal day – given the lack of intent and concrete plans – warrants an ECT treatment. I’m not ruminating on suicide as I do when the pathology is present.

Today I’m taking a look around the landscape of my thoughts and feelings in this new and dazzling place of “somewhere in the middle.” What does it look like to have a sad thought but not be depressed??? I don’t know! But I had one today. What is it like to feel content and happy but not be euphoric and taking risks??? I don’t know! Yet I would use those words to describe my mood today: content, happy.

What else is going on in this mood state? I popped out of bed rather quickly this morning. I’m being more kind and helpful than ordinarily with grocery shopping and cooking and chores around the house. I made extra coffee just because instead of thinking I had no energy for extra anything.

I’m noticing that I have negative self-talk about myself and that I don’t believe the negative things any more. How weird is that? A coping skill since diagnosis over 8 years ago has been positive self-talk and changing negative self-images and thoughts to positive ones. I have found this skill elusive most of the time. I just don’t believe the positive stuff. But today! Today and this week so far, I have only positive things to tell myself. Even when I notice something negative, I’m quick to do a reality check and change what I’m telling myself. What is this new persona, that I tell myself positive things about my image and personality and worth as a human?

Holding Steady Or Hypomania?

It has been 4 days since my last ECT treatment. I’m not scheduled for another treatment for 2 more days. And my mood will probably hold steady as it has been  more or less during the last 4 days. Yesterday I was talking with someone at church about bipolar and moods and my mood was still stable and elevated even, but I had persistent thoughts of suicide, the way I used to get when I was living alone in Chicago-land. Something about church, or about opening up to people more at church, or something, brings suicide to the forefront of my mind. It hasn’t been this obvious in months maybe? So the mood is still elevated but the thoughts are disordered and considering suicide. I know my brain is lying, as it is wont to do, so I can talk myself out of any intent to follow through on the thoughts. But I am thinking about suicide more than I want to be. The thoughts are intrusive and annoying, and I can easily talk myself out of any intent. There’s a plan, but then there’s always a plan.

My mood is elevated enough that I’ve wondered about hypomania. Energy, ideas, motivation, good cheer – it adds up to possible hypomania. The good news is that I’m not depressed. Hooray! Can this be what a stable, middling mood is for me? If so, it’s higher than I would have expected. Huh.

While I’m getting ECT treatments, I’m not supposed to make big decisions. Nevertheless, I’m thinking big thoughts about my life and how I want to spend it.  A side effect of an elevated mood, that I want to spend my life – and do things that bring me joy?

I’ve been considering the options for where to live: staying in the family house, or moving to the next town, or back to Chicago with a roommate, or even to California where my soul lives (again with a roommate). My family has stepped up to be more supportive as I go through this last hospitalization and ECT.  I’m doing well and maybe that is because I have had all this extra support and therefore I need to accept the current living situation and embrace living in community with my family as I would if I had one or more roommates. I have more discretionary spending power that I could use to fulfill my dreams of travel. And since I’m doing well, I should be able to travel which means I can check out areas to live as well.

Following the travel bug, today I signed up for RewardStock.com that keeps track of all your airline, hotel, and travel miles/points/rewards and helps you put together trips using miles and points and paying next to nothing. So I also signed up for a ton of airline and hotel reward programs, and I applied for my first credit card that earns miles. Hope I get it!

It would be nice to think that maybe I could actually live in community as I have always wanted to, and do it with family and not have ruffled feathers with my family any more (long, long story). And I could travel each year, at least one big trip, or two little trips, and even do it with my mom, too, as a good travel partner.

Other Life Decisions I’ve Been Thinking About But Not Making Final Decisions On: 1. I have a half-full storage unit I pay on each month on the off chance I move out of this family house. Maybe I can have a storage-unit/garage sale or donate the stuff if I’m staying here? 2. I’ve put $3000 into car repairs this year. It’s a 17-year-old Honda Accord and it might be time to trade it in for a car that doesn’t need repairs?

Hypomania anyone?

 

Revisiting Moving

So I’m going to Chicago-land next week for a vacation. I’ll see a lot of friends and I thought I’d see some sites I never saw when I lived there and revisit some too. I also researched a bunch of apartments I could afford in areas close to friends. Which brings up the idea of moving back to an area where I have friends and like the place and weather better.

My therapist reminded me that when I have repeated thoughts – or any thoughts really – I can decide whether to think about them and give them attention, or not.  I’m still wondering if I should move, especially back to Chicago. Hence, I have been looking at apartments in my old area. And maybe I should find a roommate so I wouldn’t be living alone.

Pros of Moving: culture and weather I enjoy, better situation for my cat, lots of friends in my life, good care team including excellent hospital, value of independence lived out, not living with family

Pros of Staying: live with supportive mother, partner in healthy behaviors,  money available for travel, good psychiatrist and therapist

Cons of Moving: extra cost and stress on mental health of moving, extra cost per month (less of an issue if have a roommate), take care of health alone, daily responsibilities harder cuz alone (unless have roommate, then this is not an issue)

Cons of Staying: living with family, not best place for cat, hate culture and weather, little independence, bad hospitals if needed, few friends

Either way I am taking care of my health and have a good care team, except for a hospital if I stay in Texas. With a roommate in Chicago I would still have some money for travel. With moving I would be living out my value of independence, though I would be starting fresh again which is hard on my mental health (changes are hard!).

What do you think is best with these pros and cons??

In other news, my doctor is confident the Abilify injection I started this month will have a HUGE impact on my mood swings – fewer and less intense. That has been his experience with many, many patients. He said that if I didn’t experience success with this treatment, I’d be the first. Yay! There is some hope?

Mania or Depression or Ennui?

I’ve been thinking of going off my meds. Several people have discouraged me from doing it, citing deleterious side effects, including seizures and the inevitable crash. Several have insisted I do so only under a doctor’s supervision. One person reminded me of a med wash I did in the hospital a few years ago, when a doctor took me off all my meds in order to start me on new ones. That was miserable.

Somehow I still feel like I need to go off my meds. It IS something of a gut feeling with no rational logic to it (though my therapist says it is logical – see below). I know that there will be side effects initially. Yet I persist in this belief that it would be a good idea. I’m feeling agitated and frustrated and desperate for a change. I suppose I’m hoping that going off my meds will lead to a manic episode which would be different and life would be exciting again. I miss my old life. A lot.

I finally contacted my therapist, and he immediately called me back after a text. He said it DID sound logical, that in my quest to feel better – to feel like I used to – when I wasn’t on meds – I would rationally think Not being on meds made sense. So maybe I’m not crazy in my ideas? He encouraged me to call my psychiatrist. I explained that he didn’t know me yet after just one visit. He said it would still be a good idea.

So I called my psychiatrist finally. He thought I might be experiencing depression. I have been what I call “slightly depressed” – still functional, not in despair or suicidal, but still feeling lethargic, sad, unhappy with life. So maybe I am more depressed even with this agitation. I was thinking that maybe I was starting to experience some mania or dysphoric mania with the agitation. Or maybe ennui with my dissatisfaction with life and a need for more excitement (hence, inducing a manic episode). But maybe I’m just more depressed. Does it even matter what mood state I’m in?

Oh, and he insisted I stay on my meds. Right. As expected. Same as everyone.

My therapist helpfully returned me to my values and asked what action would be in line with them. This is a major tenet of ACT, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, something that works for me. In my previous post I outlined a few of them, including Health and Independence. For the life of me, I can’t decide which action is more healthy: going off my meds to bring back the more meaningful life I had, or staying on my meds to treat bipolar and keep the life I have, as someone in treatment for life. And which would give me more independence? Not being on meds?

I know you all are going to tell me to stay on my meds or only to go off them with my doctor’s supervision. That’s what I tell everyone too. Stay in treatment! Maybe my meds aren’t working anymore and I need new ones. Maybe I’m in a mood state and I need to remind myself that it is not permanent, none of them have been, and I’ll cycle out of it eventually. I’m choking down the meds right now. I don’t have to. The choice is mine. I don’t know what is in line with my values or even which I fear more, the side effects or staying the way I am.

Time to Move?

I’m struggling against my current living conditions. I’m living with family, supposedly to get more support for my mental illnesses. Instead, my cat is constantly yelled at for something natural to him or locked in a room of his own. I’m living on someone else’s schedule of rising, meals, housework, shopping, medical appointments. My family has a very different worldview, even to not watching the news and having the privilege of staying ignorant of the world. And it is impossible to live with a passive-aggressive parent who was emotionally abusive when I was growing up and now still is, though I ignore it.

I want to move away, possibly back to Chicago where I have a strong support system. Possibly I could move somewhere nearby. Possibly I could take this opportunity to move back to California where my soul abides. And I could see the ocean and forests regularly, something that feeds me.

I’m upset, and so I texted my therapist who told me to breathe, to remember my values, to make a list of pros and cons, and to blog. Thus, I am blogging my values and pros and cons. It helps me to write everything out, in case you couldn’t figure that out from the fact that I have a blog – about myself.

Values: Health, Expressing my compassion, Spirituality of some sort, Purposeful/Meaningful living, Active involvement in world working for justice and peace. I have a hard time coming up with them without the value cards in front of me, but you can really only focus on a few at a time. So having just a few is ok.

Pros of moving: Own space and schedule, Live out my values in my daily life, Take care of my cat in way he needs to be, Use and display my own things and not have them be in storage, Sense of independence (if not obvious from other pros), Can have visitors over and have space to do that

Pros of staying with family: Dinners cooked for me (I do cleaning), Some cleaning done for me, Some support for mental health, Less money every month

Cons of moving: Living solitarily and extra stress on mental health from that, Extra expense right now and every month, Stress of moving on mental health, Extra support needed from non-existent friends or not-local friends

Cons of staying with family: Not my schedule, Living with passive-aggressiveness, No appropriate space for guests, Mean to my cat, Suppressing natural living according to values, All the things important to me in storage

There might be more pros and cons. It’s a hard decision. My heart is pounding. It seems my mental health would be stressed initially, but would ultimately improve with independence? Staying with family is repressing myself but with some support. I don’t know which value is the one to follow. I can’t follow my gut instinct, partially cuz it’s to flee and partially because I can’t trust my brain or gut as discussed in the post “Bipolar Me.” https://suddenlybipolar.com/2018/08/08/bipolar-me

One parent wants to have a Big Family Discussion, with Compromise. Right. Some people are going to get everything they want. As usual. It might be better to move.

A Hopeful Few Days

Well, I’m still depressed. But the anxiety has a reason! I saw a new psychiatrist last night. His theory is that I get more anxious when my mood changes. And since I’ve had so many mood changes over the last many years, that would produce more anxiety. And the times that I went in to the hospital with anxiety that led to suicidal ideation, I was having mood changes. So, besides social anxiety over the past several days, I am in a mood change. Which I thought. I didn’t start feeling depressed until I had been anxious for a couple days. Then there was some suicidal thinking, but nothing to worry about. Just thoughts.

He also increased my antipsychotic, is thinking of increasing one of my anti-convulsants, and stopped my anti-depressant which will just add to my anxiety he said. I agree, but it seemed to be the drug that worked to make me stable the last month. He said it may have brought me out of a depression, but ultimately won’t work to keep me out of one. Since it costs so much any way, I’ll go with him. He also wants me to consider an injection of an antipsychotic that lasts a month at a time. It’s a drug I’ve been on before with disastrous weight gain and very little if any effect on my mood. But the injection is very different he said. The research I did seemed like it would still cause weight gain. Having just passed the 30 lbs lost mark, I don’t really want to make it Harder to lose weight! But I’ll think about it.

I left thinking there were treatment options and that he had my best self in mind. I can like and trust him with my mental health.

Today I saw a new spiritual director. I haven’t seen anyone formally in close to 10 years I think. A pastor acted as one informally but more as a spiritual friend, which technically is what a spiritual director is… I shared with her the torn identity I have between my ordination history and nurture, and the new place I am, which is not feeding me as well as I hoped. I talked. She listened. She heard that I very much wanted to act on the great compassion I felt for the world. She heard that I was searching for who I am. These are things that I have discussed with my therapist ad nauseaum, but not in those exact words. It’s great when the two people you share your innermost life with are on the same page!

I’ve lost a sense of my contemplative side and of who I am and want to be in the world. I’m running in different directions trying to find places to volunteer only to have doors and windows slammed in my face, all saying not now. I guess it’s time to figure out who I am. I’ve made drastic choices to get help by moving here. By not having to think about some aspects of living because I don’t live alone, I have the opportunity to figure out who I am, even if I’m not stable. And I’m not. I’m depressed again. At least I know the feeling. I can summon some energy to act human.

Trusting Myself

In this time of mood stability – a month now! – I’ve been trying to observe what being in between mood states is like. I haven’t been doing a very good job of observing. I keep anticipating the next mood shift to depression or to mania (August is the time of year for a manic episode), instead of focusing on what is happening now, what this mood state in the middle is like. I’m not at a pole; I’m not even trending toward a pole. I’m feeling a range of feelings. In fact I felt depression for a couple days earlier this week, and it passed quickly. I feel anxious now with all the social anxiety of trying to meet new people. The anxiety brought on racing thoughts, which are not a symptom of mania for me, but of anxiety, something I live with every day.

My wise therapist – I have a knack for picking them that way; I’m lucky! – asked me why I haven’t blogged about acceptance of this stable mood state, what it is like, what I’m feeling. He also asked how much uncomfortability I could tolerate to accept it and examine it so that we would know what it was like when I switch, eventually, to another mood state. He also asked me how much I trust myself.

The last time I fully trusted myself was in college, lo! these 25 years ago. I was in the throes of bipolar coming on with mania, hypomania, psychosis and a little depression. No one saw it and thought I should get treatment. I wasn’t in an environment that saw mental illness or sometimes even disbelieved in it entirely. It was a spiritual problem, if recognized as a problem, and all that meant was that a person needed to get right with God, confess sins, and do the right thing. Not a helpful response to a serious mental illness. But I digress.

I was in the throes of bipolar onset in those tender years of 17-20 when I was in college. I ran headlong into jobs, changes in majors, a new life direction, a new worldview, relationships and friendships, and political and religious shifts toward the progressive. I was behaving all the ways young, naïve, energy-driven, immortal people behave. I just had a mental illness on top of it. But I trusted myself. I didn’t second guess what I wanted. I mooned over guys. I debated with friends, knowing my position well. I yearned for the future I was working toward. I made decisions with little thought of consequences. I trusted myself to make good decisions. I didn’t second-guess myself.

That all changed after I got engaged, married, went to seminary, had an internship and then worked as a youth director. I was a pastor that second-guessed all my decisions, from the smallest to the biggest. I felt an imposter in my whole adult life.

I didn’t trust myself during my protracted illness for the last 8 years. I learned – and practiced! – coping skills. I built-in a rhythm and routines into my life. I always took my medication, even when I was severely depressed and suicidal, or when I was manic (and didn’t know it, cuz that’s how mania works…). I went to the hospital when I was suicidal. I expected a lot in return for the efforts I made to change my life for bipolar. I expected to find stability, somewhere in the middle where I felt good and could take on the driving forces to DO something again. Because I was trying so hard, I was disappointed every day that nothing changed. I was at one pole or another, never in the middle experiencing a range of emotions and life experiences.

Now my mood is in the middle, because of medications, or because of the routines and rhythms, or because I expect less of myself (e.g., work, volunteer jobs, socialization). A combination of all three probably, though being on the right cocktail is probably the most effective since I’ve been doing the others For Years! I’m at a place where I should trust myself because I have done all the right things to take care of myself. I can trust myself to continue doing the right things.

But it’s a 25-year-old problem of not trusting myself to make the right decisions. The second guessing I’m doing is that I will slip back into a mood pole for no reason, and there won’t be anything I can do to bring it back. This middle place is so unfamiliar. How do I enjoy it without questioning it every morning when I wake up? How do I find it again if (when???) I slip back into a mood pole?

Join me the next week as I try to unravel what this stability is like and how I can enjoy it, not pressing too hard to take advantage of it, but to lean into it and enjoy it.