Category Archives: Health

A Resolution – Finally

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.

An Interview

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.

Day By Day

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!

Living with Bipolar

“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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?

Grateful

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?

A Month of Me

Who am I in this new mental state? I really don’t know! I had my last ECT a month ago, a Month Ago! My mood is stable; my thoughts about death and suicide are not. They continue to come and go, intense sometimes, fleeting at others. I deal with them with some ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy ) coping skills my therapist has me using. Sometimes those work to bring down my anxiety and miserableness. And sometimes not so much. He likes that I report back on how much skills work or not. I just want the thoughts to stop! But they don’t.

Along with a mood that is in the middle – neither depressed nor manic – I have energy to get out of bed in the morning, and energy for each day. I’ve even somehow managed to stop waiting for the other shoe to drop, that I’ll end up in a suicidal depression again and end up in the hospital. I have optimism and hope for the future and hope that I can accomplish a goal set in the future. In a week I’m doing a training to be a facilitator for NAMI Connection support groups. Starting next week I will be the short-term facilitator of a small group I’m in. In May I’m going to walk in the NAMIWalks 5K, which means training and fundraising for the next 3 months. AND I applied to the community college near me to take a bunch of science classes I never got to take during my college years. The first class starts in June, and there are several things to do before then.

Besides these plans I’ve made, I’m also currently on vacation in Chicago and its polar vortex, visiting friends and my old stomping grounds. My mood has remained calm despite a change in my return flight, cancelled plans and the weird memories. Yup, weird memories. I lost most of the geography of this area in the ECT, but it started coming back after seeing the routes I used to take. Places I used to go don’t have very many personal memories. And where I live now has very few personal memories as well. I’m almost only living in the moment, like a cat. (Yay! A cat!)

What have I discovered about myself in this month of… competency, flexibility, stability? First, I’m learning to trust myself to hold a steady mood, despite thoughts that scare and annoy and aggravate. Second, I now know that part of the reason I’m doing better is because I have housemates. I know I can’t live alone. Where I will live or move is up in the air, but many wise people have advised that I spend some time adjusting to this new phase before making big changes. Third, I’m recognizing the traits and values that make me, me. Compassion, justice, volunteerism, friendship, for a start.

I hope, hope, hope that I stay stable. I’m a little scared thoughts will take over. I want to take this time to get to know myself as a stable person – limits, weaknesses, strengths. I haven’t felt this good – ever! I’ve been in a mood state, untreated. Now? I have possibilities!

Sick, But Well

I am still steady, stable, in the middle with my mood! I have more energy. I wake up ready for the day. I have hope that I can do things in my life, not just have energy for them now, but also not be interrupted by a hospitalization. I haven’t felt this good perhaps ever!

But.

But I continually have breakthrough bipolar symptoms. I have obsessive suicidal thoughts and visions of me killing myself in one of several ways. (Sorry to be graphic.) I get anxious over little stuff. I get overwhelmed with too much stimuli, like too much driving or being in line at the pharmacy with lots of people around. I wake up too early sometimes and can’t get back to sleep.

The most distressing of the symptoms remains the intrusive, suicidal thoughts that are accompanied by such unhelpful thoughts as the world would be better without me, I don’t add much to anyone’s existence in any kind of unique way, and I would rather just check out and find eternal unconscious sleep. See? Unhelpful accompanying thoughts, besides visions of killing myself.

Then today I heard the Matchbox 20 song “Unwell” on the radio, and I’m again realizing that I am sick. I have bipolar (and other medical and mental illnesses), and it doesn’t go away. I’m always making allowances for how my brain works, whether fighting against how hard it is to concentrate or remember, or fighting against intrusive or obsessive or earworm thoughts. Bipolar runs my life.

But…my mood is stable now, for however long I get to have one. So, am I sick, or am I well? How is it that I have an even, good mood that lets me hope for a good future AND I have obsessive suicidal thoughts? AND near constant anxiety that breaks through regularly? And other symptoms? Am I sick, or am I well?