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.
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!
I’m juggling stress again. It’s like meat skewers or kabobs that I’m juggling. And the juggling is actual items tossed in the air, as well as just plain managing the stress that is tying up the ability I have to manage at all. Stress kabobs!
I went to the Office of Disability Services at the community college to get signed up for extra time on tests and help with notes and absence leniency as needed for hospitalizations or bad days. So talking with that staff member about what accommodations I could get was making school more real to me as well as programming new tasks to do to ask for the accommodations at the beginning of each semester.
I tried to look up classes for the spring to take, and I couldn’t find a way to register. Stress! I tried to log in to my online profile and school email and make some edits. I tried to learn how to use the online system for taking an online class. Which kinda makes sense but I’m sure I won’t remember all the details. Stress!
I’m wondering how many little things I need to remember and how to do things to just take one class at a time. Plus the cognitive challenges from ECT and from bipolar that will make those things hard. Stress! So I’m struggling with (1) changes coming up and (2-3) school adaptations in general and for disability and (4) maybe learning some new things. I’m stressed out by all this and it’s making my anxiety worse and mood stability harder. Juggling is one way to deal with it so it’s a little less overwhelming. Help!
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.
Happy Pi Day! (March 14, 3/14 for 3.14, the decimal approximation of the mathematical concept of pi)
OK, now that I’ve displayed my nerdiness for the day…
I’ve written before about how I have valued living independently very highly among my values. Learning to live with family has been hard, and deciding several times in the past year to continue to do so has been even harder. I’m still learning to live with family, especially sharing my schedule of outside activities. I want a sense of independence. And being able to follow my own whims and schedule is part of what I value about independence. How much independence do I have to give up by living with family?
I am reading a book about the needs and desires of people as they age, Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. At one point today I read these sentences about the two meanings of autonomy: “One [meaning] is autonomy as free action – living completely independently, free of coercion and limitation,” and “Whatever the limits and travails we face, we want to retain the autonomy – the freedom – to be the authors of our lives.”
I believe I have been thinking about living independently in the first sense of autonomy described in the book. I want to live alone, keeping my own household, because I believe that kind of independence shows that I am adult and have learned to live with my limitations. But, as many people have discovered as they age or as part of disability or even as part of enlightenment, we humans live dependently with one another, sometimes with personal and/or household needs taken up by others, sometimes with emotional cares shared with others, sometimes just sharing the rent with another person for financial needs to be met. Over this past year I have come to realize that I am a better human being? or my best self? when I am living with other people. I think I have always been that way, even though I consider myself an introvert who enjoys time in the company of others A Lot. During this year, I realized that I will never be able to live alone anymore, whether with family or with a housemate.
What does not living alone mean for my value “independence”? I still want to follow my own whims and schedules. I’m having a hard time sharing that info or part of myself with others. I still want autonomy, but perhaps I’m thinking about it now in the second sense above: I want to be the author of my life, even as household, financial and emotional needs are met to some degree by housemates. I’m having an epiphany, or becoming enlightened, about the dependent nature of my very human self, which includes living with bipolar and its needs. I no longer feel the need to live alone to show my adultness or ability to manage my limitations. But I do still feel the need to be the author of my life, to make decisions about how I spend my time to enrichen my life. That is what I value about independence.
“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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
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?