Mania 2

I’m manic. I’m typing very slowly, because I’m rather heavily sedated. I say rather, because I’m more sedated than I like. I took my morning medication and added the dose of Klonopin that I usually skip since it makes me feel drowsy, woozy, and zombie-like. I wrote about mania here in my entry entitled “Whee!” It’s a good description of what it’s like to be manic. I can’t write like that today, not with this combination of medication roiling my brain.

I’ve been manic now for weeks and reeling. I’ve spent money best saved to pay medical bills from staying in the hospital during the holidays for an abscessed tooth. Those bills are enormous for someone on a limited income. The spending isn’t really the issue for me. It’s the emotions attached to it. There’s a drive. The need to possess is fiery. (I’ve written about my brain being on fire here, too. I think the entry was titled “Brain on Fire” simply enough.) I remember when I was newly diagnosed I thought I needed a new sofa pillow. I went to the store for one and came home with about 20 or 30. Thankfully, I returned them all at the time.

I attended a very nice craft fair yesterday overflowing with local products and many pretty things. I wanted all the pretties. So many shiny objects called to me from their tables. I succumbed once. I bought a beautiful necklace with a leaf encased in gold. On leaving the booth, I turned to the lady, a complete stranger, and told her I loved her. I said it meaningfully. I professed my love to a stranger, and it startled me a bit.

Walking away, I realized that not only could I not control my spending, but my words were beyond me, too. My voice uttered anything the tongue thought necessary.

Once home, I knew I needed medication. I thought of hospitalization. The idea of taking all my pills flashed through my mind with the words, “What’s the use?”

My next thought was that I couldn’t kill myself, because I had too many pretty clothes to wear.

Saved by a gay gene. Ha!

I took the right doses of my medication last night, and I’ve done that this morning. It’s a sunny day today. I believe I’ll put on some nice clothes and go read in the park. I’m lying. I won’t go to the park, but it sounds nice. I will put on nice clothes, but I’ll stay home. With my sedated head, I don’t trust my driving. Perhaps I’ll sit in the sunny yard. That sounds like a goal that can be accomplished. It sounds attainable.

My Head is Spinning

This is just a quick note to report on a medication change. I take gabapentin as a mood stabilizer. The dose I was taking in the morning was making me very light-headed, so the nurse and I decided to reduce it. The result is mania. My mind is racing, and it’s not pleasant at all. I can’t focus. I can’t carry on a conversation. It’s horrid.

Well, I called the nurse practitioner, and we’ve decided to try increasing the dose I take at night to see if that will alleviate the mania while not adding to the light-headed-ness in the mornings.

Fingers crossed.

Stopping One and Starting Another

I had to stop the lamotrigine. It has some potentially fatal side effects, and I noticed the symptom of one of those within the first week of taking it. I called my prescribing nurse practitioner, and she agreed that I should stop it immediately. She then asked me how my mood was, and I lied saying I was fine. I lied.

I called her back this morning and took responsibility for my words and told her the truth. I’m still manic. I’ve lost my appetite completely. I’m sleeping very little. My mind is racing a mile a minute. I find it difficult to concentrate on anything. Taking care of myself has gone right out the window. I’m still spending money I shouldn’t.

I wanted to buy two shirts off eBay today, but luckily, the phone rang and I forgot about one until the auction was over. I let the other one pass as I engulfed myself in a project. Getting easily distracted can have benefits.

The nurse is prescribing a different mood stabilizer that has fewer side effects. I’ll start that as soon as I can rip myself away from all the distractions I have at home and can go to the store to pick it up.

Ah, euphoria. How I wish you didn’t feel so good and would simply leave me alone.

I Suffer from Bipolar Disorder Type 1

This is what the Mayo Clinic has to say about bipolar 1:

Bipolar 1 disorder. Mood swings with bipolar 1 cause significant difficulty in your job, school or relationships. Manic episodes can be severe and dangerous.

On their website, the Mayo Clinic lists the following symptoms for a manic phase of bipolar disorder:

  • Euphoria
  • Inflated self-esteem
  • Poor judgment
  • Rapid speech
  • Racing thoughts
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Agitation or irritation
  • Increased physical activity
  • Risky behavior
  • Spending sprees or unwise financial choices
  • Increased drive to perform or achieve goals
  • Increased sex drive
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Easily distracted
  • Careless or dangerous use of drugs or alcohol
  • Frequent absences from work or school
  • Delusions or a break from reality (psychosis)
  • Poor performance at work or school

For depressive episodes, they list the following:

  • Sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior
  • Anxiety
  • Guilt
  • Sleep problems
  • Low appetite or increased appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of interest in activities once considered enjoyable
  • Problems concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Chronic pain without a known cause
  • Frequent absences from work or school
  • Poor performance at work or school

Another sign of the disorder is

  • Psychosis. Severe episodes of either mania or depression may result in psychosis, a detachment from reality. Symptoms of psychosis may include false but strongly held beliefs (delusions) and hearing or seeing things that aren’t there (hallucinations).

I have all these symptoms at one time or another. Thankfully, they don’t come all at once, but they do come. My doctors tell me at times I am psychotic. In other words, I have a break with reality.

In other places on this blog, I have gone into great detail about my personal struggle with this disease. Please, explore and read. The disease is real and devastating. I live on disability payments from the government. The process to receive that distinction is long and arduous often requiring two or three attempts. I won on the first try. Even the government noted the severity of my case.

This blog is my safe place. I will not defend myself here. All comments in which my status or my experience are belittled will continue to be deleted. If you think mental illness is not real, go somewhere else. Leave this blog.

This blog is also meant to be a resource of others with mental illness. I want them to know they are not alone. Others experience the horrors of delusions. I once thought I could cure AIDS with eight apples and a plastic water bottle. I only had to breathe on the apples and write magic words on the bottle, and a person with terminal AIDS would be cured. It took six months of concerted effort to convince myself that delusion was false.

I have hallucinations. I hear voices that are not there, telling me secrets or just speaking gibberish. I have seen people who were not present.

The euphoria of mania is luscious. I am invincible at those times. I have a cracked tooth from trying to walk through a wall; another delusion.

The rapid speech baffles those around me.

The racing thoughts are scary. My mind careens out of control and often the only thought I can cling to is death.

My risky behavior has put me in places where I could lose my physical health, my freedom, and my home.

The depression is akin to being a the bottom of a black pit so deep that not even a pinprick of light shines through. I have sat on the side of the tub with a utility knife ready to commit suicide and was saved only by the chance ringing of the phone. I have been hospitalized twice for suicide attempts.

I have experienced everything in the list for depression.

It is demeaning that I am having to defend myself on this blog. Walk in my shoes. Spend a minute inside my head. If you can stand the horror, then I will count myself less a person.

I feel alone.

Adding a New Medication

I saw my prescribing nurse practitioner, and she’s added a mood stabilizer to my regimen of medication. It’s called lamotrigine. I don’t know what the non-generic name is. It seems that the past two times I’ve seen her I’ve been manic. It’s a concern, because I make rash decisions when I’m manic. I can’t think things through in a calm way. I rush headlong into projects and take on more than I can handle.

I noticed that I’ve spent a lot of money buying books on Amazon lately. It’s money that I shouldn’t have spent that way, but it’s done now. Spending sprees is an unfortunate symptom of bipolar disorder. The upside is I have a lot to entertain myself with for quite some time.

I continue to be surprised at the way readers discover this little blog. Most people find it through Google searches, and the one search I see often is a bipolar sufferer’s inability to watch television. I am amazed that this symptom is not talked about by researchers.

I can’t watch television, and it seems I’m far from alone. I’m allergic to it. When I try to sit down and relax in front of the TV, I last for five minutes at most. I start to squirm during those minutes, too. If I manage to keep the TV set on, then I start to pace around the room. Finally, I’ll end up turning it off.

Many people I’ve explained this to laugh and say I’m better off for it, but they’re missing the point. I can’t watch TV. It’s physically impossible. My mind won’t be still. The racing thoughts come like an itch at the back of my head that spreads like ants making me jittery. I miss out on shows that I would honestly like to see. Many of my friends watched “Downton Abbey” regularly, and I wanted to join. My brain won’t let me. Their discussions about characters and plot twists are lost on me. It’s a real loss.

I have trouble reading, too. I can only do it in short spurts. Gone are the days when I could sit and lavishly lose myself for hours in the pages of great writing. I complained about that for years to my psychiatrist and then to the nurse practitioner. Nothing seems to help. I’ll just have to take my time working my way through the stack of books from Amazon.

I almost forgot to mention I’ve had two panic attacks in the past month. What joy!

Keeping busy

If there’s one thing that helps this bipolar person, it is keeping busy. I stay out of my head and stay in the here and now. I’ve been trying to keep busy the past several weeks since I wrote last.

My visit to my prescribing psychiatric nurse practitioner went well, and she gave me some samples of a new medication to add just for the time being, just until the mania passes. It’s called Geodon. I took it for a while many years ago, and it had some serious side-effects. One of them was drowsiness. I couldn’t stay awake. I’m glad to say I’m not having that reaction this time around. I do have to take it with food, though, since it gives me a bit of indigestion otherwise. It is having one possible side-effect that I don’t like, and I’ll get to that later.

The nurse also increased one of the other medications I’m taking. It’s called Depakote, and it has a horrible side-effect of increasing a person’s appetite. There’s a lot of weight gain associated with it. I can tell you for a fact they’re not kidding. I swear I could eat nothing but grilled chicken breast for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and I’d still gain weight. I hate it. My regular doctor hates it, and there’s nothing that can be done about it except stop taking it.

There’s my medication in a nutshell at the moment, but I promised to talk about one possible side-effect to the medication Geodon. It’s a sexual one, and it’s not pretty. While I can still get an erection, I can’t ejaculate, which is not only embarrassing, it’s downright painful. Thankfully, the Geodon is temporary, so the problem should be the same. If it’s not, all my health care advocates are going to hear about it loudly and strongly.

Keeping busy shouldn’t seem like a problem to a manic person. The difficulty lies in keeping busy doing things that will be healthy in all ways. I’ve spent some time hunting for sex. That’s a common occurrence during mania. This time I was sure to keep it safe and enjoyable, even if one attempt did end or not in the way it was supposed to. I spent time reading a play that I’m going to direct. It’s a Christmas play, and I’m very excited about directing for the first time. I’m relieved that it’s short and should be a lot of fun for all involved.

I’m also keeping busy with my kids’ busy schedules. It seems like they all have to be somewhere at the same time, but it’s a joy to help out. I’m very lucky to have people in my life who need help.

If you’re reading this and you think you have nothing to do, I can recommend what I do. I have volunteered at the library. They need help even if it’s just dusting the books. I read. I study about bipolar disorder online. I read other blogs written by people with the illness. I write to friends. I go to A.A. meetings, which may or may not be an issue for you. I meditate. I daydream.

But I try not to think too much. That’s never been helpful for me.

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.

Manic cleaning

There was an episode of the television show “Gilligan’s Island” when Mrs. Howell eats beets grown from radiated seeds. She goes on only what I can describe as a manic cleaning spree. I’ve been through the same thing the past two days.

I stayed up late one night going through some very old files, dumping extraneous junk that I’ve kept for no good reason at all. Earlier that day, my caseworker came by and helped me with some paperwork for the IRS. The next day, I filled out paperwork all on my own for the two different government agencies.

I don’t know where I got the energy from, but it was wonderful. When I took the accumulated papers to the trash, I yelled hooray, and when I mailed the paperwork to the different places it needed to go, I did a little dance. They were small steps, but some of that paperwork was old. It was a real accomplishment to get it done.

I often get stuck and can’t seem to find my way out of a paper bag. For two days at least, I’ve been able to really accomplish things. What’s more, I don’t think I’m done.

Next: the dross under the bed!

Trusting Caregivers

I’m lucky to have people in my life who care about me. Some are friends, and some are professionals. I have not always been the best friend I could have been. It’s strange, but I’m almost more trusting of the professional caregivers in my life than the others. Do I give more weight to the fact that the professionals have credentials? I’m not sure of the answer to that.

When I was first diagnosed bipolar ten years ago, I was in a terrible state. I had an awful time of it for quite a few months, and I had one caseworker for that initial period who was a godsend. He helped me get the necessary paperwork filled out for medical help where I live. He listened to my concerns and fears and reassured me. He helped me obtain food assistance and other charities. He got me plugged into the system, and he got me help that I needed to live.

My current caseworker is also a hard worker who listens when I need to talk. He helps me keep my priorities straight about some of the mundane things in my life. He helps me order my life in such a way that I know what to take care of when. I listen to him. He looks out for me.

I know for sure that I treat my psychiatric prescribing nurse with respect, because she has a great deal of knowledge about the medicine that keeps me stable. I can’t imagine where I’d be without medication. I don’t take a lot of different things. I have in the past had to take many kinds of pills, but it’s narrowed down to four at present. The nurse is my doorkeeper to what is working and what’s not. I report to her what’s going on with me, and she evaluates it according to the criteria that she’s devoted long hours to studying.

I can’t talk about caregivers without talking about my therapist. I’ve been her patient since 1997. She’s guided me through coming to terms with my alcoholism, my homosexuality, and my mental illness. She’s helped me see my issues by allowing me the time to develop the ideas on my own. Over the years, she’s seen me laugh and cry, get angry and be calm, and a myriad other emotions. She’s been a rock when I’ve been desperately depressed. She’s been a help when I’ve been over the top with mania. She’s a close ally in all ways.

I have a few friends who know everything about me and stay close. Those friends I hold dear to my heart. Some are close at hand, and some are far away. I try to keep in touch with all of them as best I can. It’s more difficult to say how friends have affected me and my mental illness. They have often simply been present when I’ve needed an ear to hear whatever it is I have to say. Most importantly, the close ones give me nonjudgmental love. It’s like breathing. They are that important.