Monthly Archives: August 2015

There is no such thing as recovery from bipolar disorder; only an acceptance of how your life has changed.


‘Recovery’ means a lot of different things to different people. It even has different meanings depending on the ailment or illness to which it refers. Recovery from a bout of the flu, for instance, will leave a person weakened, but ultimately there will be no lasting or long-term effects as a result of their short illness. Recovery from an operation can be a slow process (depending on the severity of the operation), but wellness can be fully restored, especially if it is something routine – in fact at times wellness can be enhanced as a result of the operation itself. Recovery for an alcoholic or drug addict means being able to stay away from the substance that had them addicted in the first place, so is all about personal willpower and overcoming those addictions rather than any lasting ‘recovery’ – hence the phrase a ‘recovering alcoholic/drug addict’. But there is no doubt that their lives are greatly enhanced (excuse the pun here) by the absence of those substances from it. Recovering from cancer means being in “remission” and having your fingers crossed that you won’t get a secondary cancer somewhere else or that the initial cancer won’t reappear five or ten years down the road. Recovery can be complete but most cancer survivors will tell you they never quite lose the fear of re-occurrence, even decades later.

Recovery in terms of mental illness, especially bipolar disorder, is a fallacy. There is no ‘recovery’. There is simply a reduction or decrease in the severity of symptoms from time to time and somewhere along the line, a loss of ourselves piece by piece, episode by episode, whether that be through the illness itself or indeed the ‘cure’. Irrespective of the severity of the symptoms, and that is such a subjective and inflammatory thing to say, because while there are ‘degrees’ of severity and degrees of symptoms, there are not ‘degrees’ of mental illness. No one ever says “Mr Smith down the road is a quarter mental”. You either struggle with mental illness or you don’t. Degrees don’t and shouldn’t come in to it – for any form of mental illness. That is so degrading on a personal level, but it also shows an ignorance for the illness of bipolar and its effects on the individual struggling with it. I can say this because at one time I felt this way. I felt my bipolar disorder wasn’t “as bad” as ‘a.n.others’, so why should I be feeling the way I was. I didn’t need to be hospitalized, therefore I wasn’t ‘as sick’ as someone else. I came to realize the error of my ways and also to realize it was the depressive side of my bipolar disorder making me feel so shitty about feeling depressed – but not depressed enough!

So, it is my belief that ‘recovery’ is never ‘fully’ achieved by someone struggling with bipolar disorder. Please don’t get me wrong, of course those of us struggling with mental illness can lead productive lives, have loving relationships with spouses/partners, family and children, keep and sometimes indeed excel in a fulfilling job, be strong independent proud people; but not with the label ‘recovered’ attached to us, we can’t. “I’m a recovered mental(ist)” is not something one would say at a job interview. If you go online and try to research up recovery + mental illness you will be showered with a plethora of articles some as asinine as espousing that the key factor that determines who recovers and who doesn’t most often is the willingness and ability of the person to engage in his or her own healing, and offering ways to become ‘stronger’ in order to do this. I don’t believe that, mainly because the problem with that hypothesis is when we are struggling, when we are either hypomanic or depressed, we don’t have either the willingness or the ability to engage in our own healing process. When I am well, I feel I don’t need it – I’m stable at that moment!

There are also very dangerous editorials (albeit few and far between thankfully) that say we should be medicine free to be completely recovered. They offer alternative treatments and ways to get ourselves medicine free and therefore ‘well’ and ‘recovered’ using light therapies, psychoanalysis, diet and exercise. This is an extremely irresponsible and reckless position to take for any form of mental illness. There is no doubt, all of these therapies work, but alongside medication, not instead of it.

I can only speak to my experiences. I can only speak to the veracity of what I am about to say as it pertains to my illness. With each ‘attack’, with each swing, with each episode, I feel like a piece of me gets lost. I don’t come back from the mania or depression as strong as before. I don’t come back as confident as I was before. I don’t feel as capable, as independent or as ‘bright’ as before. Somewhere along the line my brain has been enveloped by a fog that never leaves. It’s a fog that thickens when I am struggling badly, it stops me functioning almost completely on any full and real level with the world outside my home. It makes me withdraw further and further into myself because that is where it is safest. My thoughts, when I can form them are not coherent, not fluid; it’s like I have to wade through quicksand to get to what I want to say, to wrap my tongue around the words that at other times flow so freely. I used to be extremely quick witted. My significant other has witnessed and too readily comments on my ‘slowed’ pace these days. When I am balanced or going through a period of ‘wellness’, (lets call it that for want of a better phrase) the fog is simply like a haze, a mist. It is there but it is more indistinct. I suppose the best way to describe it is to say I feel slightly muffled instead of engulfed by it.   I know everyone changes with the years. I know that a persons’ personality does not stay as it was when they were in their teens. I know my character has changed, my personality has been weathered by the years, yes it has been altered by my experiences and also damaged by my mental illness.

Depression by its very nature robs me of my abilities to form coherent thoughts, to think in a clear and concise fashion and to function well in society. Simply getting up out of bed is a big deal. Deciding to take a shower can seem a humongous task and actually doing it can take all my reserves for that day alone. My depression can sometimes be measured by my actual smelliness. But when my depression lifts and yet the fog remains, that is very difficult to deal with. I am acutely aware in a way I was not when depressed that my ‘abilities’ are limited, my memory patchy and my clear-headedness isn’t actually quite so clear after all.

Memory deficits as a result of the medication to alleviate the symptoms of bipolar disorder for me are significant. Of course I can form short -term memories. If you ask me what I did yesterday, of course I can recall it. But if you ask me what I did on a particular holiday a month or two or six months ago, and I can give you only generalized answers. I cannot recall specific details of day-to-day events even just a few weeks later. I cannot recall conversations I have had with my children, sometimes on issues of importance.  If I don’t write down appointments or events to take place in simply a few weeks time, I will forget them.   Learning to cope with this type of memory loss is tricky. Unfortunately because the medication is lifelong, so is the memory problem.

With each ‘episode’ of mania or depression I have survived, I believe a bit more of my mental acuity disappears. My memory becomes a bit worse, my brain becomes just ever so slightly more ‘fogged’. If you didn’t know me, you may not realize anything much is wrong with me; I look normal, I can shake your hand, discuss the weather and pass the time of day with you. But I feel ‘lessened’, I feel slower, I feel pickpocketed. Because this illness is a sly one. As with a thief who has pilfered your pockets, you shrug off the loss and move on, so it is with my bipolar disorder. I shrug off my loss, and learn to live with what is to come…..

Cognitive Impairment in Patients With Bipolar Disorder: Effect on Psychosocial Functioning | Psychiatric Times.


Filed under bipolar disorder

Depression/Bipolar Disorder makes you FAT!

Fat cat

Yeah – there is nothing like an over-sensationalized headline to grab the auld attention! But, despite my joviality, I am thoroughly depressed and completely rotund! Think Mrs. Clause corpulent and you probably have a good idea of what it is like to try to fit into my clothes, to look in my mirror and see me looking back and be so utterly disheartened that you can almost feel yourself giving up on the spot. Welcome to my world. Welcome to the world of where I am now. And how in high heaven did I end up here?

Depression makes you fat say some experts, while others say that the obesity comes first, then comes the depression. No, it’s the medications for depression say even more surveys. And then there are the experts who say that it is a combination of perhaps all three; you get depressed, then fat, then take meds and get even more fat! Yipee, what a wonderful merry-go-round we have.
Whatever the reason, obesity is not a good thing under normal circumstances for anyone. But combine that with the crippling low self-esteem that is part and parcel of bipolar disorder (or any depression) and you end up with a very bad cocktail altogether.
Does Depression Cause Weight Gain or Weight Loss? What’s the Depression/Weight Connection?.
Obesity, Genetics, Depression and Weight Loss | Psych Central.

I have never lost weight when I struggled with an ‘active’ phase of my bipolar, active here for the uninitiated means that I am actively depressed – or actively breathing. (To me, sometimes they are one and the same.) I’m not one of those people who can’t/don’t eat at all and can lose like 40 lbs in a month; but wow, what that would do for my self esteem!! For me it is almost the opposite; I can’t stop eating.

I comfort eat, I stuff biscuit after biscuit into my mouth and I don’t even taste them. It is a reflex – an urgent ‘need’ almost. I need carbs, and lots of them. Sometimes I can find myself eating without even remembering going to the press and getting the ‘food’ – now that is FUBAR. If it is not biscuits, it is crisps, or popcorn, or whatever is handy; crackers will do just as fine, or an open box of any type of breakfast cereal. It is the act of eating, not necessarily what I am eating, that is the big issue. Sometimes I do it in secret but I would do/will do it all day long. And then I become just enormous. There is no other way of saying it. Clothes get tighter and I will not quite waddle around the house, but I certainly don’t spring on light footsteps either. I am awkward, bulky and clumsy. I have to wear what I term ‘sloppy’ clothes because that is all that will fit and of course, they don’t do anything for that image in the mirror either. They are shapeless, predominantly black and sometimes just downright ‘ugly’.  And I hate myself for it. Of course then there is the shuddering-to-a standstill-libido as a result of the obesity/depression/medication/crushing-lack-of
–self-esteem, but no one seems to want to discuss that. So I will mention it in passing only and leave it at that. Except that it is a big deal – it is a big deal for me. Sex drive for all of us is natural. So when it gets up and leaves, it is a big deal. (‘nuff said….)
Depression: Effects on Your Sex Life and How to Increase Libido.

I know all the things I should be doing… I know that I should eat healthily, take plenty of exercise, play with my pet, cut down on carbs, fat and sugars, oh, and stop drinking caffine (well, now that is never going to happen!!), get enough sunlight, (I can’t control the sun, or the seasons, or the lack of sunlight when it’s supposed to be summer – but I could get a light box!), make time for relaxation, do something creative just for me, take time for myself, all the stuff I about and haven’t fitted into my days. I don’t do things just for me (except this blog; that is just for me).   I only have a three legged cat, so she’s a bit limited on the walk end of things and anyway, I can’t really take a cat out for a walk – but if I could that would get me my fresh air and my playtime with a pet in one go.
But I could do lots of other things to help myself – I just need to get myself motivated…. Which brings me right back to almost square one…. Depression robs me of that, before I take my first step out of my bed every morning…………

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Filed under bipolar disorder, depression, depressive episodes, family and relationships, Life and Health, mental health

I don’t have time for this.

node-imageDoctors, therapists, self help books all say the same thing: “make time for yourself”, “treat yourself”. What?? I don’t have time for that.

Life for the most part is too busy, money is too scarce to flash, and I am just too damned tired and uninspired to think of something that doesn’t either need lots of time, or lots of cash.

What do they even mean when they say make time for yourself.

Time for me used to mean 15 minutes locked in the toilet where my little ones couldn’t get to me. They could however knock on the door over and over… so it kinda defeated the purpose of getting some peace… How I came to hate the word “Mam” at one point in my life… but that is just being selfish.

Time for me then became a half hour when I would go into my bedroom and lie on the bed and take some ‘time’ to myself; before the onslaught of dinners and homework, after my days work that is. It would be half an hour to chill, to try and put away the stresses of my job and calm my mind so that I had space in there for the kids and their day, and their homework and anything else that came along. When you have three dyslexics at home, homework takes a long time…

Time for me then became the calm before the storm – the journey home in the car from work. When I would walked through my front door, that was when my twadults (my nickname for my teen- adults) would either assault me with their grievances, their problems, their arguments or simply just their bad humour. (Oh, and there was a hell of a lot of that – still is sometimes…)

Time then became endless as my ability to work, to function stopped. The black dog came to stay at my house two years ago, and time wasn’t an issue at all. I had lots of time, and nothing I could do with it. Nothing..

But I don’t have time for that! I don’t have time to be where I am. I don’t have time to be me, not this me; I don’t have the exuberance of youth, I don’t have any appreciation for who I see in the mirror, I don’t have any damn energy! But by the same token, I don’t have time not to have any time….

I need to make time for me, I need to encourage my brain back to normal activity, I need to take exercise, I need to do something just for me. That is probably the most important thing: I NEED to do something just for me. My life can not always be about other people, because if it is, then I won’t be a happy bunny – and I say that without prejudice!!

But by not making any time, I am not allowing myself to be important in my own life. And that really is the crux isn’t it. My sense of value! My sense of my own value!! And therein lies the rub; (or as Hamlet would say ‘there lies the rub’)!

So, yes, its over to me. It’s over to me to make time for myself, to make me important in my own life, to increase my sense of worth, to give myself a good kick up the arse and tell myself to get a move on…. Life is ticking by, I need to banish the black dog from my house and lift myself up, give myself time and and all will be right with the world, my world!! Oh, were it that simple eh?

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I’m here but seriously lacking in abilities right now…

Hello??…..  Anybody in there…..????

I stare at my screen and have absolutely nothing to say.  (Scratch that, – I have plenty to say, but just no words at present.)  I always have lots to say, but it’s mostly for myself.  It’s my rhetoric, my ramblings, my screechings and my whimperings.

But for the most part, the last few weeks I’ve been dry.  Dry as a bone – except when I get inspiration from other peoples posts.  I think, “hey, why didn’t I write that?”  or “Yeah, I feel that way too but what that blogger has said is just so eloquent I can’t pen my own scratchings on that subject! it would just be inadequate”.

Oh, the devil of comparison.

We’re riding that beast again are we?

And we’re reaching the top of the rollercoaster oh, so, slowly….

The knot in the pit of my stomach is the wrench before I am pulled over.  Yeah, I been here before – on this particular ride..

How utterly wonderful to know that is what this is, how desperately dreadful to know what’s ahead…

I just wish for once, someone would change the ride and give me a surprise.  Now that would be nice…!!

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Filed under bipolar disorder