Category Archives: Moods

Self Care – Hospital and ECT

I was in the hospital the first three weeks of April after my last post. I took care of myself by going in the hospital to be kept safe from my suicidal impulses and to start ECT again. As a common meme says, “It’s ok to ask for help. It’s ok to start again. It’s ok to say no. It’s ok to rest. It’s ok to let go. It’s ok not to be ok.” Going in the hospital and starting ECT again was telling myself it’s ok not to be ok, and it’s ok to rest and to start over again. Having had success with ECT at the end of 2018, my psychiatrist recommended a course of it again including maintenance to hopefully prevent a mood crash again after only a couple months of stability.

Now I am out of the hospital, adjusting to life without suicidal thoughts, and have had 13 treatments. My mood is holding steady between treatments and suicidal thoughts are drastically reduced. I can’t say I’m feeling as good as I had been after the last course of ECT. But I did just go from ECT 3x/week to ECT 2x/week. I’m staying the course by keeping up treatments even though I don’t really want to do ECT. Something about it just weirds me out. But I really want the experience of feeling good for an extended period of time, and ECT seems to be the main treatment that leads there.

I continue talking with my therapist over the phone on Fridays. And my mom is my companion for ECT, driving into the city and then keeping watch over me as I recover. I’m able to reach out to these thick branches of my support system, as well as some smaller limbs too, as I try to feel not alone. I wish I felt good and strong and happy again, but at this point I at least have hope that it will happen again as ECT continues.

Clearing Out Storage

As many of you know, I moved from Chicago to Dallas a little over a year ago in order to live with family instead of alone. It tore me up inside to leave all the people who cared for me (psychiatrist, therapists, pastor), all the friends who loved me, all the sites and people who were part of my adopted hometown (Chicago was longest I lived in one metro area as an adult), and even my hair stylist. I ended up in a partial day program to help regulate my life and schedule and emotions, which ended up in a horrible hospitalization, as I tried to settle in to my new home.

Now for the last month I’ve been making my room more my own with stuff from my storage unit. I kept everything from a couch and bed to kitchen supplies and decor for a one-bedroom apartment or for sharing a house. For the first six months of being in Dallas, I expected I would move out of the family’s house. For the next 3 months I was focused on another hospitalization and then ECT. For the last 3 months I have been coming to terms with the newly-realized fact that I cannot live alone. I need to live with family, or at least a housemate. (I am lucky with all that is handled for me right now living with family! Things like sharing cleaning and cooking so that I’m doing much, much less than when living alone.)

The next step, after being ok with not ever living alone again, is deciding where I should live. Do I look for a place to live AND a housemate? If so, back in Chicago, out in CA (where I feel at home, having lived my first 30 years there), or even in the Pacific Northwest, so that maybe I’d have a support system or not move again if I’m in a place I want to settle? Or do I stay near family, but in my own place with a housemate? Or stay With family, as I am now? I have defaulted to living With family and trying to notice the plus sides and mitigate the downsides. The worst part is that we have very different values, such that we cannot even mention or talk about religion, politics or other things that are important to us.

So, I’ve kind of decided to live with family and make the best of it. This is really hard, because even if I didn’t live with them, I would want to share my life changes and activities with them. Though I could still move out to a place I’d rather live than <anywhere in Texas>, I am throwing my lot in with family and where they live so that I can have the trade-offs. OMG. What am I thinking? This is a huge decision that I can’t really get my mind around. But I’m acting As If I’ve made the decision, as various therapies tell you to do, to keep from being frozen. I’m moving into the future.

So, the next step is what to do about all my stuff in storage. There are more things I could unpack and take to the house to personalize my living space and update my kitchen supplies. So I’m doing that. And the rest? (1) There is stuff such as keepsakes and pictures (before the digital age, kids) that, of course, I need to store somewhere. My family has turned one room into storage for all of our stuff, so I’m schlepping stuff upstairs every time I go up. (2) There is stuff that I would use for my life in an apartment or house shared with someone else. With a great deal of effort I could unpack, photograph it and put on an app to sell it. OR, I could donate the mostly really nice stuff for the kitchen and the used furniture I got from thrift stores myself (and kept in good condition!). I have decided to donate everything, even the really good kitchen stuff. It’s a way to make room for the future by getting rid of the past, I think.


All of this has been happening in the last couple weeks as the spring equinox and related seasonal changes have been wreaking havoc on my mood. So even if my mood is stabilizing a little bit now, my emotions are All.Over.The.Place. There is specific grief over items I am saying goodbye to. There is general grief about deciding to stay in TX and to live with family. There is fear about an unknown and uncomfortable future that I’m walking into, and that I’m letting other people have some control over. Sadness. Relief. Anxiety. Hopefulness. Resignation.

I think the gamut of feelings cycling through my body, as well as the thoughts about everything in my life circling without stopping on one, is contributing to my suicidality. I almost did something yesterday a couple times, but I moved forward and made a different decision. I’m both happy and mad about not doing anything. Just writing about the feelings is causing pain in my chest, labored breathing, heart palpitations – anxiety. And the desire to die and put an end to all of it becomes strong. It’s as though it is the first coping skill that comes up. It’s not a good coping skill, but it’s the strongest and longest-lasting. I have people to talk to, including my psychiatrist and therapist, and I have all the crisis numbers too.

Suicidality

I am not suicidal and I have all the hotlines on speed dial.

But there are guns in the house I live in. They are locked up, and I don’t even know where the safes are. I only have access to a few days’ worth of my meds, and the rest are hidden away until Saturdays when I refill my pill boxes. But other people’s meds are out in the house where I could have access to them. Knives and sharps are not locked up.

All these facts go through my head as I try to convince myself I am in control, and suicide is just a thought.

But it’s not just a thought. It’s also the feeling of wanting death and nothingness and unconsciousness, not just so the pain will stop but also because it seems like the time has come for my life to end. Suicidal feelings are Munch’s “The Scream” – silent, yet horrific, as they tear through the deepest part of you. You are a bottomless pit of dark, dark, dark feelings that spiral down, a corkscrew that drives deeper and deeper into the center of you.

Suicidality includes the impulses to use various items against myself that roll through me like ocean waves, or that jolt me like electricity. The impulses usually include visions of me hurting and killing myself in multiple ways.

I’m ashamed of having these feelings, impulses and thoughts. When I’m not consumed by them. In the moment, they take over and are the only things I experience. Sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touches, thoughts do not exist, only suicidal thoughts, feelings, and impulses. As these become less intense – and they do! – I begin to feel shame and guilt, as though I want these suicidal experiences.

And then, if I am able to feel something else, I start to feel fear, and anxiety ramps up. So, from being overwhelmed by suicide’s thoughts and feelings, I first feel shame, guilt, fear and anxiety. How awful! And from this head- and feeling-space I then question myself: Who am I, that I seem to be consumed by thoughts of death and of killing myself? Who am I, that I come under suicide’s power and don’t even take in other stimuli? And why do I think/feel constantly that my life will end early, most likely at my own hand too?

Suicidality as I experience it is this horrible, horrible, awful experience that pulses through my every day. Some days the experience is less overwhelming and only lasts a few seconds and then passes. Most days the waves of feelings last for several minutes each hour. How can I keep living this way? Why is there no treatment for suicidality?

The Other Shoe Dropped

I hate to say “I told you so,” but I did tell you that stability wouldn’t last. Over the last week-plus, I slipped into depression, with fatigue, hopelessness, sadness, guilt, tearfulness, and the agony of suicidal impulses and visions. What seems different this time is that I am hopeful that it will pass and that I can find stability again. That hope is a HUGE difference! I still fall into utter hopelessness and think life will always feel as horrible as I feel now (and then I often pass into thinking of death as the only way to end such suffering).

I finally told my mom on Sunday how I was feeling, and she insisted I try to get in to see my psychiatrist on Monday. (I had already been texting with my therapist.) He was actually able to squeeze me in! He started me on a med that I tried last year that ended with a hospitalization. He thinks I was already feeling bad and was getting worse anyway, and that the drug didn’t have anything to do with the hospitalization. So, I’ll try again, under my family’s watchful eye, with my doctor on speed dial. He suggested a sun lamp too, first thing in the morning, as well as calling to get in to get some maintenance ECT. (UGH! ECT is NOT what I want to do, though apparently now it works for me…so I guess I should follow my doctor’s advice.) He thought the schedule of an IOP or PHP program might be helpful, but that I didn’t really need to go over coping skills again.

Both my psychiatrist and my therapist agreed that the time of year – the equinox – has something to do with what’s going on for me. As my doctor put it, “Spring is a fragile time,” and “The last 100 patients have had the same problem as you.” He said both spring and fall are the most fragile times (I’m sensitive to the solstices too – Gr-e-e-a-a-t), because it is the circadian rhythms changing. It’s nice to be believed about the time of the year being hard for me! Not everyone at my hospital in Illinois believed me, though the most important people in my life did. So, if any of you are having trouble at this time of year, rest assured that you are NOT alone!

All of this description and action plan just to tell you, dear reader, that I feel Horrible, from the pit deep in my solar plexus and spirit, and Empty and Ugly and Worthless. Leading to hopelessness and deep sadness. Right now, at least, I don’t feel suicidal. I’d like to think I could avoid a hospitalization this time.

Mixed Up Feelings

I’m all over the place with my feelings. Not even sure if my mood is shifting too, or just feel down because of so many feelings. I was in a minor car accident this week, with just enough damage to the car to not be driveable. It’s an 18-year-old car, so after a year of constant fixing of things, I decided it’s time to sell or donate for a couple hundred dollars at most, instead of even paying a deductible more for her.

My therapist reminded me that this is a loss, and a sudden one at that. I’ve had the car since its third mile, and for 18 years. I guess it’s natural to get emotional over cleaning out personal items. Not sad, but shaky, like after a rush of adrenaline drains out. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to drive with how shaky I was! But it lessened a bit over the next hour until I had to drive to my therapist.

Now, instead of getting a new-to-me used car, I’m adopting my parents’ car, and all of us will share it. They use it more than they think, but still not very much. So if we coordinate our appointments with a google calendar or something (recommendations accepted!), we should be able to share it. In a year or two, we’ll get a newer car, since this one is pretty old too (17-years-old, but very low mileage).

Deciding to adopt this car into my life was a hard change. It’s connected to the constant debate I have about whether I want to stay in my family’s house or get a housemate and house/apartment of my own. And if I move, do I stay near family, or go back to Chicago, or to California or Oregon, where my roots are? Adopting a family car seems like saying I’m staying in the family house and really making a commitment to live communally with people I have very little in common with. Which if true, begs the question of why keep a storage unit of stuff to populate an apartment.

Do you see my dilemma? I know that no decision is permanent but it feels that way, saying goodbye to my car at all, sharing a car which is hard if not in the same house. My feelings are all over the place! Sad, shaky, out-of-place.

So I presented to my therapist my goal this year of feeling more comfortable with family and with my new stable (I hope) self, and my housing dilemma. He noted that it’s not a specific goal, and I clarified that I’m waiting for a feeling of home and belonging. I still feel like I’m borrowing the guest room, plus the discomfort of being in a car I would Not have chosen.

We narrowed down that I can’t find that feeling until I make the room my own (and the car…) and get more stuff out of storage. With more of my stuff around me, I can see if I can find some of that comfort. And maybe along the way I’ll find more comfort being with these people? That’s part of the belonging too – space AND people. Maybe my feelings will even out a bit in this process too.

Not Just Grieving or Angry

I still have near constant suicidal thoughts as discussed in my last post. I’ve researched some possibilities to carry it out, and come to the same conclusion that my primary method is the best for me, AND I cannot do it because several methods are hidden from me by my family.

So there. I’m safe. Just miserable and wanting to end the misery. And the best way to end the misery seems to be to follow the thoughts’ plan.

My thoughts seem to say “I’m not fleeting. I’m persistent. Do it. Here’s a scenario.” Sometimes this repeats ad nauseum. Sometimes I can look with the self and notice that they are thoughts, and see that they are not coming from the Self. But even when I can create distance in this way, I do not know from whence the thoughts cometh. Arguably, from bipolar. The diseased part of the brain. Yet that is part of me. I can’t yet see bipolar as Other-Than-Me, when it comes from MY brain. How can I even distinguish diseased-brain from me-brain? My cognitive abilities are so hampered, even when my mood is in the middle, neither depressed nor manic. So much of ME is taken up by diseased-brain with all the cognitive jumble and lack of function I live with. It’s amazing I can even drive.

My thoughts also seem to say, “I hate this limping life. This is not the life we signed up for. I expected some good things, such as lasting relationships, an interesting career, and a developing/ed intellectual self. What is this hobbling along day-by-day, hour-by-shuffling-hour business?”

I’m grieving – Still! – the life I had and thought would continue. But it’s more than grief. I’m angry at being robbed of this life, but it’s more than anger. I’ve sat with these emotions and phases Multiple Times. Sometimes, like a few posts ago when I was signing up for college classes, I seem to have accepted, or at least embraced this limping, hobbling life bipolar has left for me, and made some good fortune happen.

When all is said and done, and I’m alone with my bipolar and suicidal thoughts, I Have Not Accepted that this is my life. I think that’s one reason why I want to end it. What else do you see in this mess? Help me.

Suicidal Ideation

A clawing, gnawing at the inside of my breastbone. Tears behind my eyes, but not released. Anxiety creases in the forehead. A fluttering heartbeat to my left, blankness and emptiness of the soul to the right. I see how I will do it in my head, over and over and over.

I’m noticing everything in this moment. This is what I experience in my body Every.Bloody.Time I have suicidal ideation. Which is minimally every couple hours, and right now intensely every other minute. It interrupts reading, watching tv, even doing algebra this afternoon, and while in conversations.

I watched youtube videos of Steven Hays giving ted talks about psychological flexibility and putting the mental brakes on thoughts. He is one of the founders of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acceptance_and_commitment_therapy) which is the therapy that finally worked for me. I’ve been practicing it for years now. The reminders in the videos helped me a bit. Hours later I’m still using tips.

I tried something, and stopped because it hurt more than planned. I’m not going to do anything, yet I’m plagued by the sensations and thoughts I described. It’s miserable and horrible.

I don’t want to go to the hospital, nor do I think it would help. My mom, though not currently in a position to help, has hidden things I could use to hurt myself. This is as safe an environment as it could be, I guess.

I don’t think more ECT would help, though my mood feels like it dipped, and I find it easy to fall into old thought patterns besides the suicidal ideation. I had a long and emotional Friday and Saturday getting certified as a NAMI support group facilitator, something I’ve wanted to do for years! But it wore me out mentally and emotionally. Which could lead to a natural mood dip, which is why I think ECT would be overkill since the depression should lift after more rest (my hunch).

Several doctors and several therapists have come to independent ideas that I just have suicidal ideations as obsessive thoughts (OCD) and there isn’t anything that will stop them. If I didn’t have the anxiety of whether my life was threatened or the bodily sensations I described, it would be a little easier. How do I live with this terrible debate and these sensations with no way to rid myself of them, to fight them, to welcome or accept them?