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.
Anxiety is kicking my butt. So is EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing – read more here: https://www.healthline.com/health/emdr-therapy). I’m concerned that I need additional meds to deal with the constant high anxiety since coping skills and current meds are not keeping my distress at bay. But I have been in a stable mood state for the last couple of months! I’m at baseline again for the third time in a year – the most stable I’ve been since diagnosis in 2010. I’m amazed, and astonished, and grateful.
Instead of the ups and downs of mania and depression, I am plagued with high levels of anxiety right now. A great deal I can attribute to EMDR. There is anticipatory anxiety the day or two before my weekly session. There is the anxiety brought up in the session itself, deliberately, in fact. Then there is the anxiety for days afterwards as I process old memories that connect to current relationships and feelings and suicidal thoughts. The goal is reduction of the suicidal thoughts, and in order to get there I have to go Through the memories to reprocess them. So, anxiety arises. Which sucks.
There are so many racing thoughts and then feelings that are causing anxiety in addition to EMDR. One major thing is the upcoming transition in living situation from a family home to a significant other’s home. Besides changing address everywhere (I made a list!), there are community resources that will change too since the new location is an hour away. Picking up and moving is so damn hard! Changing communities is anxiety-provoking! But I’m going to a healthier place for me, where I can be myself All the time. The price is additional anxiety about breaking up interdependencies and about creating community again.
Throughout each day I’m dealing with higher generalized anxiety plus these recurrent larger anxieties. There are normal jitters about a newer relationship, and normal jitters about owning a car again. There are abnormal jitters about a tendency for delusions and mania in December. Just life itself and making it through each day and night is causing jittery anxiety. And one of my major coping skills and time fillers – reading – is still on hiatus. The letters and sentences jump around and I can’t focus enough to make sense of them. One time when this happened during this bipolar time, it took two years!!! to get back to reading. It’s so bad that I can barely read Facebook or Insta posts. And I can’t even read this post to check for readability and typos. The lack of reading is causing anxiety too. Great.
I’m living with bipolar fallout, those symptoms that occur after extending yourself too much. I had two road trips in a week, followed by normal running around and then EMDR started in earnest. That was intense! I had fantastic trips. Then EMDR started all sorts of mental memories percolating and feelings being processed. Afterward I just needed a hug.
Now, a couple days later, I’m mentally and physically exhausted, with tons of anxiety despite meds. My thoughts are racing, clouding my ability to think and make decisions. My mood is still stable, thank goodness, but I’m living in fear it won’t be. I’m worried that the exhaustion and anxiety and racing thoughts will trigger a mood state. I usually pace myself for energy-exerting activities to avoid this kind of fallout that leads to fear and worry like I’m experiencing.
I’m just needing to veg out, I think, and practice breathing and grounding skills for the anxiety. But even doing that is tiring. I’m fried. Not even coffee is helping! Spending time alone away from family and the new puppy and then spending time with my girlfriend Is Helping. But I’m still recovering even after a few days away. I hoped that writing about it would help, yet I’m not sure this blog post even makes much sense.
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.
So I’m still struggling with suicidal ideation. I found a recent medical journal article that described what I go through EXactly. “Intrusive Suicidal Imagery” that is unbidden and unwanted, yet can lead to suicidal behaviors just to try to stop the imagery that by being so intrusive leads to hopelessness and then desire to kill oneself. It’s an endless, eternal circle and cycle that I live with. Here’s the article: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5551152/ The first third describes what I go through Every.Stinking.Day. The rest is about possible treatment…
What??? There might be treatment for chronic suicidal thoughts? Yes, EMDR as described in the above article has been successfully used for PTSD and trauma for about 30 years. In the last 10 it has been used successfully with other mental disorders and now finally with bipolar and with chronic suicidal ideation. Something to think about, research more, and see if insurance will cover.
This idea of possible EMDR is one of the really helpful things my therapist told me about last visit. The other is that by even trying just a little bit, just one teensy step, I Am Not Failing. Part of me thinks I fail every time I DON’T go through with suicide – too chicken maybe, since the suffering is so ridiculously unpleasant that I ought to have ended it already, having already gone through every.treatment.possible. Part of me believes doing so many coping skills all the time is failure because surely one of them ought to have worked by now – same with medications and other treatments. I must be doing something wrong.
I complained to my therapist that my brain is trying to kill me. He thinks it is just afraid, and again, that I am not failing. I continue to try: to live, to combat the thoughts or at least try to detach from them. And that struggle has made me who I am. And he thinks that’s a pretty awesome person. Meanwhile, I’m still over here planning my death, but I AM still trying to live. Aren’t there better ways to make someone an awesome person? Asking for a friend…
I feel… Balanced. Emotional. In the middle of the two poles, yet still experiencing polar emotions, such as highs where my thoughts zoom and my feelings soar and influence decisions, as well as lows where I again contemplate suicide though never with intent. But I’m never high enough or low enough or there long enough for it to be a mood state.
I haven’t had anything to “talk” about here with my mood so stable. I even had nothing to talk about at my last therapist appointment. Cool changes are going on in my life – new nutritious eating, trying some additional exercise, a new organization membership. All good things, and nothing too particularly about bipolar to write about.
Except maybe this? I’ve talked with a couple people in academia about what I could expect as a PhD student and adjunct or tenured professor so I can decide if I can expect it of myself with this limited brain. I know that “limited brain” sounds like negative self-talk, but in this case it’s self-care because I am learning to accept my limitations and have realistic expectations of myself. A couple of the limitations I have now are that I don’t remember what I read very well (fiction is easier than non-fiction!), and that in conversations or when asked a question I have a hard time coming up with an answer or sorting my thoughts out to sound coherent or finding the right word. So I have a lot to think about to decide if I can do PhD work.
Let’s just enjoy my normal and hope it lasts a while!
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.