Category Archives: Health

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.

My Story – A Summary

Hi! I’m Deb, and I blog at http://SuddenlyBipolar.Wordpress.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 with psychotic features 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 of Religion 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. It took Years to get the right meds and every time I went into the hospital we tried something 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.

Moving

New, and exciting? Depressing? Things afoot.

I need the support of my family to feel better and be more stable. So I’m moving from Chicago-land to Dallas area (where they currently live) to live with my brother and parents (who also live with him).

It’s rather sudden. I’ll be in IL for two weeks to see doctors and friends and to pack. My mom is coming with me, and my cat is returning with us. Now that will be an adventure!

Then two weeks later my brother will fly up and drive the moving truck and car trailer down to Texas. Before April I’ll be settled and a resident of Texas. ((((Ew, not a fan))))

A lot of friends will be involved in the moving. Thank you!!

And I will miss dearly all my friends and my mental health care team. It hurts.

It hurts too that I’m giving up my independence for my health, which, while probably the best decision, puts two strong values opposing one another.

I will probably move into my own apartment within six months about a mile away. I hope that physical closeness will provide support and independence.

So much is happening so quickly. My psychiatrist gave me haldol instead of Ativan to help with anxiety. It’s working. I’m in so much grief over losing relationships that just are not going to survive the physical distance. Don’t let it happen again.

Welp. Win Some, Lose Others

Good news! I haven’t been so suicidal that I haven’t had to go to the hospital! I’ve been increasingly suicidal the last week. But I’ve promised myself I won’t follow through, even when tempted to follow through.

My mom came back with me on Halloween for a few weeks, then extended to a month to help me adjust and get settled and give me moral support for the routines I need. I sadly got bronchitis so I haven’t been able to exercise, which would have helped my mood and my routines. I did adopt a cat! Charmer.

After a lovely Thanksgiving with my mom, she left and I was able to adjust for a time. Then my finances fell out from under me and my bank was not helpful. I was totally destabilized emotionally and mentally. I got help from my family and from my church and a friend’s church. One of the problems was an increase in intensity in one of my medical diagnosis and needed medical supplies and drugs.  And I would run out of food at the end of the month.

So, my family is taking me back to their house again, for a few weeks to stabilize emotionally and mentally. The rest of my life seems ok. Getting over bronchitis so I can exercise, making meals, finances stabilized. But I’m not.

I feel broken, inside and out. My mood was destabilized and it’s not righting itself. As my psychiatrist pointed out, this is a difficult time of year for me and getting family’s support would be helpful. She also wants me to practice self-forgiveness for all the financial mishaps. And self-compassion that I need help. She increased my anti-anxiety med too, since I feel more anxious too.

I feel like a failure for needing help. I feel like a failure that I let my finances blow it for me. Just when I was getting on my feet after my mom left. And now I’m going back. GRRRRR.

Stabilizing

Hey! Did you know Suddenly Bipolar has a Facebook Page? And I use my Twitter account to tweet out tidbits if you’d like to see them.

Find me on Facebook. Follow me on Twitter: @revdlm

Now that my shameless plugging is done…

I am doing an all-morning outpatient program Monday through Friday. Group therapy,  skills, expressive therapy – all working to put me back together again. Following the program, I’ll be going to Texas for a couple months to be with family for reestablishing healthy ADLs (Activities of Daily Living – hygiene, cooking, exercise, cleaning, etc.) that I can then use and not neglect when I return to my little apartment. One of my friends will board my cat for me while I’m gone – very generous!

An important revelation occurred to me in the last couple days. I’ve felt shame, ashamed of myself, since I was a very young child. Guilt is something you feel when you make a mistake. You can make restitution, ask for forgiveness, and change. Shame says “I am a mistake,” leaving very little room for fixing anything. I think this shame I’ve felt for so long may be fueling my suicidal ideation. If I’m not worth anything, then might as well take me out. It’s a wonder I only came across suicidal ideation after the fall of a high mania when I landed in the hospital with suicidal depression. The visions of me killing myself have plagued me since – almost 7 years now. And yes, I still feel shame. Not sure that will ever go away.