Blog for Mental Health 2013

blogformentalhealth20131

I pledge my commitment to the Blog For Mental Health 2013 Project.  I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others.  By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health.  I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.

It may be a bit late in the day, as the saying goes, but I am joining A Canvas of the Minds in their quest to educate readers about recovery from mental illness.

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 1 with psychotic features over eleven years ago, and nothing in my life has been the same. I have fears that are difficult to explain like driving through parking lots. At times I am quite brave however. I have experienced traumatic episodes of depression and euphoria. I hear you asking how euphoria can be traumatic. Well, the delusions of super powers really are painful and humiliating.

After many years of differing results to medication therapy and to talk therapy, I believe I am in a stable place. I have recently completed training by a government agency and am now a Certified Peer Specialist Intern in mental health. It is my life’s goal to educate all persons about mental illness and to enrich the lives of those who have been diagnosed with a mental illness by sharing the many therapeutic practices that have helped me recover.

I am pledging or inviting five of my fellow bloggers who have stood with me and have proven their mettle in my eyes as mental health bloggers. They are

Bipolar Journals

Bi[polar] Curious

Nectar Madness

RosieSmrtiePants

The War in my Brain

Working and writing together, we can show the world about recovery from mental illness.

Taking a Trip

I’m flying tomorrow, and I’m terrified. I saw my therapist today luckily, so we were able to talk it through. I was able to picture it one step at a time.

A friend will pick me up to take me to the airport. I’ll check in at the counter. I only have one carry-on bag since it’s a short stay. I’ll make my way through security.

Argh. Security. That raises fears in itself. I am only taking enough medication for the two days, and I’ve put them in one pill bottle. The little bottle is a mixture of medicine. If they open it, there will be some surprise, or maybe there won’t be any surprise. Perhaps, they’ve seen it all.

Perhaps, my fears of x-rays and beeping machines and being told to “stand over here, please” and hearing the question “Is this your bag?” are all nonsense. My magnificent magnifying mind fears being singled out, searched, and found wanting. I am simply afraid.

Interestingly, before my diagnosis, I flew a lot internationally. I had a high status on an airline’s frequent flier program, and I often sat in a class other than economy. I took everything in stride.

Then came 9/11 followed a year later by my breakdown and diagnosis. The world shattered, and my world shattered with it.

But I’ve done in this writing just what my therapist warned me against. I’ve lost my concentration on the next step. Breathe.

Ah, the next step, or as I hear often in the rooms of A.A., “the next right step.” So, I will make it through the security checks, I’m sure. My fears will prove unfounded, however real they feel now.

Next I’ll find a seat in the waiting area, board the plane, fly, arrive, go to my hotel, and find some dinner.

All will be well.

Mania 3

Sigh.

Here I sit at my computer in the middle of the night when I should be sleeping.

My mind is racing.

Everything I touch is magical, and colors have meaning.

The tapping of the typing speaks to me in secret code.

I’ve been pacing through the rooms of my very small house.

I’ve overeaten.

I sat in front of the TV long enough to run from the lowest channels to the highest.

And then I paced some more.

I’ve taken my medication.

I should be sleepy.

I’m groggy, but I feel agitated.

If you go to the right side of this blog and click the word “mania” in the tag cloud, you’ll find a lot of entries about this subject.

I want to sing. Shout. Dance. But not in a healthy way. I want to flail and thrash.

I had a change in my medication recently. I’ll be calling my psychiatric prescribing nurse practitioner in the morning to ask if it could trigger mania.

I know a lot of people with bipolar disorder who actually look forward to this high, but for me, it’s devastating. I spend money I don’t have. I act out sexually in unhealthy ways. I have delusions. I talk to trees.

I’m angry and anxious.

I feel vulnerable.

I feel sick.

Whee!

I’m a little bit manic. How are you? Fine, you say. Good. I’m glad to hear it. I’m going to win the lottery today. Yes, I am. I’ll start by buying a house with enormous closets to fill with beautiful clothes. I think I’ll eat another cinnamon roll. Ooo! I’ll go to the French bakery in town and buy their fresh croissants. I’ll eat those smeared with real butter and the most expensive strawberry jam I can find in town. It’s time to drive to the top of a mountain and do a dance. I’ll bring down the rain. Yes, I’ll do a rain dance, and then I’ll take off my clothes and dance in the rain. I’ll race down the mountain burning up my brakes and buy a new Audi when I get to the bottom. Purple. I’ll paint the walls purple with a green stripe about 3 or 4 feet up from the floor, and if paint drips on the carpet, well, never mind, it’s just a rental and the clouds in the sky are telling me stories about Native Americans of long ago and their secrets are whispering in my ears just below the point of hearing, while I pace around my little house and watch the trees outside swaying with the wind, and my curtains blow with the wind, and the mailman will be here soon with my invitation to the White House dinner all because of my birthday; then there’s ice cream to eat, and pots of boiling water to prepare for the spaghetti dinner that I’ve forgotten to invite anyone to and the table will be set just right, move the pumpkin now, but be careful, we’ll carve it into a jack-o-lantern soon and set it out to frighten away the ghouls and ghosts. Spell check is the best invention ever. There.

Yes.

There.

That’s my manic mind. That’s today.

It’s time for a pill and sleep and then a call to the psychiatrist and then a therapy session with the psychologist.

It’s also time for a good cry. If only I could. I wish I could.

Hold me.

My View

I’ve just finished watching two hours of video on youTube.com about bipolar disorder. To be honest, I watched the first hour-long episode yesterday and the second today. The star was the famous British comedian Stephen Fry who has bipolar. (Here’s the link to the beginning portion: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXkmb5s8Igc) Those of you who’ve followed this blog for some time know what an achievement it is for me to sit and watch a television show, even if it is on the computer. You can search the archives for “I can’t watch TV” to read about my troubles in that arena.

The show aired five years ago, but I believe many of its ideas still ring true for today. It was autobiographical in many respects, and Fry talked about his own troubled past, which included being expelled from school, incarceration, and suicide attempts. He was finally diagnosed bipolar at the age of 37. I was 38 when I was diagnosed.

In the two episodes, Fry interviewed many people with bipolar and their families, experts in the field, psychiatrists, and therapists. Fry also points out that he has never taken medication for the disease. He meets other people who do take medication, some who have and have stopped, and others who take it at times and go off it at other times, and some like himself haven’t taken it at all. He and the other people not taking medication readily admitted to terrible depressions and exhilarating manias. It was frightening for me to watch that part actually.

It’s difficult to conceive of the seduction of the manias when the black depressions always follow. The reasoning is that it might be different this time, and it never ever is. In the middle of the mania, logical thought flies out the window. As one of the therapists interviewed said, there are no troubles in the whole world to the manic bipolar person.

I’ve been stable for a number of years now and have had no serious delusions for some time. The reason is plain and simple. My medications work. They do not numb me. They do not take away my personality. They do not disarm me.

On the contrary, they enliven me. I feel like I can accomplish daily tasks. When I’m depressed, I can’t even manage to brush my own teeth. When I’m manic, there’s no end to the glory that I can dream up for myself. Medication tempers those extremes and gives me a framework to live inside. It’s a comfortable range of emotions. I do not feel the black despair, and I’m spared the teetering highs.

I do not for the life of me understand the reluctance many bipolar people have to medication. I cannot comprehend the delusion that so many harbor about the drugs taking away one’s personality when there is so much experience to the contrary. The medication available in 2011 is so far advanced from what it was just a decade ago. It is light-years ahead of what was available 30 to 50 years ago.

I live with bipolar. I take medication. I’m not numb to life. No, I’m living it.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse

Since my panic attack, I’ve been very careful to take my clonazepam (generic for Klonopin). It helps keep me stable throughout the day and able to function. It helps me to sit and relax. I find that it helps me face the challenges of the day. There are simple challenges like washing the dishes, and there are mountainous ones like parking lots.

Last night I went to the theater, and on two separate occasions, I had to force myself to stay in my seat. If I hadn’t taken 0.5 mg of clonazepam in the afternoon, I’m certain I would have left. The anxiety and agitation would have been too much to handle. I’m glad I stayed, because I enjoyed the performance.

It was the drive home that produced the surprise. I was concentrating on the road in the dark, and my dead friend’s voice very clearly said, “I was sad there was no Shakespeare.” I took it in stride and thought to myself or to the voice, “You really would like to have seen a good soliloquy, wouldn’t you?” “Yes, I would,” came the instant reply again in my dead friend’s voice. I cut off the conversation and finished the drive home.

That night in my room, my head was full of sound. Actually, it was full of show tunes. “Getting to Know You” from The King and I ran over and over. I couldn’t make it quit.

Today, lying in bed to take a nap, I heard whispers.

My head is not my own. I feel broken.

Manic Spending

I just moved house. I moved from a one bedroom, dark, depressing apartment in a loud neighborhood to a charming two bedroom cottage that is light and airy on a quiet cul-de-sac. The old place never felt like home even though I lived there over two years.

The neighbors were constantly fighting, and I had to call the police on two separate occasions to report suspected child abuse. The last night I slept there, the police came to deal with a violently drunk man, and the firemen came to put out a kitchen fire. Needless to say, I don’t miss anything about the place.

In preparing for the move, I carefully measured the rooms of the new house to plan on how to best arrange the furniture. I spent hours imagining how I was going to hang my pictures on the walls. I fantasized about the peaceful nights and having friends come over for coffee and games and what-not.

In my preparations as well, I went shopping. Everyone knows that when you move you wipe out the kitchen cabinets and put down clean paper. So I bought shelf paper.

The carpet in the house is worn, and I wished to cover the worst parts. Rugs! In the entry. In the hall. In the living room. In my bedroom. I had to have rugs. Did I settle for the ones I found at the bargain store. Of course not. I went to all the furniture stores in town and found one at half price that was still double the discount store price.

Walking through an antique store, I found a really cool modern sculpture made of leucite. I immediately thought it would look lovely in my entry sitting below a painting my sister did for me years ago. It was only $75. Out came the credit card and up went my debt.

What haven’t I bought? New clothes for me. Oh, that’s not completely true. I bought a new hat, and I have my eye on a nice shirt that’s for sale on eBay.

I have a problem spending. I spend splendidly.

Shopping sprees are a symptom of bipolar disorder, and I remember vividly going to the store once for a new decorative cushion for the couch and coming home with over a dozen. I had gone with the intention of buying one, and I came home with bags and bags of pretty pillows.

I wish I could write that I have coping mechanisms for this behavior, but I honestly don’t. I buy things, and then I return them. I talk about it with my therapist. I sit on my hands when I look at items on eBay. I avoid the used book stores and instead haunt the library. Basically, I hold on to something solid when I think I need to spend.

I would not make a good rich person. I would simply spend all the money.