Category Archives: depression

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

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

Lemon-TreesAlbert Einstein is credited with saying that the definition of insanity is to do the same things over and over and expect different results. So I have been doing the same things over and over and yes, you’ve guessed it; expected a different set of results. I have let my bipolar disorder rule my life to such an extent I feel at times enslaved by it. I determined through pure strength of will that ‘the next time’ I would not be as bad on each up or down. But strength of will either deserted me altogether leaving me feeling morose, miserable and depressed or left me feeling so full of myself I became a bombastic, arrogant, verbose, pretentious, angry idiot: in other words I just repeated the same old cycle year after year. Expecting that with each ‘recovery’ some miraculous curing would happen and the next time round things would be different, but not actually doing anything other than wishing it, is I suppose the definition of insanity according to Einstein (or whoever!!). But I know I am not insane. Why then, has it taken me over half my life to decide that I can’t continue to do this? I can’t continue to expect different results but change nothing. It seems so simple. Change something, DO something else, try out something else. And yet, year after year, I continued to do the same old things and lamented the fact I was doomed to repeat the same old cycles, blaming it all on this “all encompassing” bipolar disorder.

If I am to be brutally honest, I don’t know what scares me more; trying something else and it not working, or trying something else and it actually working and then having to take ownership of the fact I left it so long to alter things. My new therapist said to me recently that in the small time we have been working together she has gathered from our conversations/sessions that I ‘pour myself’ into helping people when they are in need. I actually thought that was a very good way of describing it. I go into overdrive when people around me are in need. I do that for everyone except myself. With me, I surrender: I give up without putting up a fight. I am not okay with the fact I have bipolar disorder, my rhetoric will lead anyone to believe I fight against the onslaught of this illness, but when I am ambushed by its symptoms, I don’t do much to help myself because in that moment I can’t. In the ‘in between’, I haven’t done much to help myself either. I certainly educate myself and try to keep abreast of new treatments, but when I am feeling well, I am just that – feeling well. So I put all thoughts of doing other things on the back burner. I know that eventually a swing will come, but life has a way of taking over. My time is filled with other things, other people, places to go, people to see and lots of things to be done – shitloads of stuff to be done. Somehow, I end up way down the priority list.
emotional+intelligence
I would certainly say that life has given me a lemon. Bipolar disorder is a bitter, bitter illness that, if I let it, will rob me of everything that is unique and wonderful and special about me. But I can’t change that fact; ever! I have bipolar disorder, it is incurable, lifelong. For now. So I can continue to rage against this illness in word only, or I can try something different. This therapy is something different. Wonderwoman (nickname for Therapist) is of the opinion that emotional intelligence will stand me in really good stead for all of my life; for all of my dealings with everyone in my life. I happen to agree. Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to identify, use, understand, and manage emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges, and defuse conflict. I am learning to use emotional reasoning to deal with my anxiety levels. I am learning to come at an issue from the point of view of assertion rather than aggression. I am learning the practical differences between the two and how to cope with my own feelings rather than push them deep down inside of me. I cannot continue to be low on my priority list. Ultimately that is not helping anyone, least of all me.

Instead I am endeavoring to make lemonade with those lemons. I am attempting to do something different. Because staying the same isn’t an option any more.

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

An End in sight at last…..

end_of_the_road_SU13-500x300
When I started to answer these questions, I thought it would take me an hour or so, but here we are, days if not weeks later, and I am stillllll writing the answers. Of course, I haven’t just been doing this; life just seems to get in the way at the moment. In fact, I’m not sure how some of you on the blogosphere manage to write, read and comment on so many entries, your own as well as others: So many blogs, so little time eh!

But, I’m almost at the end so here goes the final push….

Question 26. How do you see your future beyond the state you are in currently?
This is really a loaded question. At times, it’s very difficult to see past my own depression, my own misery. My sister once told me she thinks depression is about the most selfish illness anyone could possibly have because in being ill, their illness is all about them. It is certainly a “way” to look at it, and at times, yes, I am selfish. I have to be selfish in order to heal. There are times when my world doesn’t just revolve around me, it has stopped spinning altogether and I can’t see beyond that. It is not a definite act, a decision I make to be selfish, in fact it is the antithesis of choice. If that is selfish, then perhaps I am. But part of my depression is not being able to see positivity, not being able to look into the future and be “bright eyed and bushy tailed” about it.  I am not where I was this time last year; of that there is no doubt. I can manage to get up out of bed and wash myself. I can do a lot of things that I found almost impossible last year, but recovery is never a straight road and regaining a state of normality does not come in simple steps. The last few days I’ve been finding it tough to hang on to any sort of positivity. I’m not sleeping and that certainly is not helping.  I get up out of bed without feeling like I had a nights sleep at all and that’s not a good place to be in. So I need to sleep and maybe then the answer to this question may be more positive.   For now, the answer is I will have survived and am surviving another low – day by day – and it is significant.

Question 27. What do you see as the most important thing in your treatment regime, and why?
Taking my medication religiously. Why? Because it is the best thing I have right now and while it’s not perfect, it is better than not taking the medication at all, or taking it sporadically. I used to do that. I’d take the medication for a few months, feel great, so think I was cured and then stop taking them. Of course the crash would come as it always did. In the early years, the trial and error it took to get me stable played havoc with my whole system. So, now that I have a regime that “works”, I take the medications religiously. To do otherwise is just pure folly.

Question 28. To what extent do you tell people that you’re bipolar, and why?
I don’t normally just volunteer the information. I don’t just slip it into conversation, like “It’s a lovely day today and oh, I have bipolar disorder.” I was however very open about my illness in the past. I would have had no problem discussing it with anyone who wanted to know about it. But, I’ve been ‘disappointed’ at the reaction of a few people in my recent past and so I have decided to be less forthright in the future. If I need to tell someone I will, but I won’t be volunteering that information in the same easy fashion that I have done. It’s complicated. It’s private. I’m complicated. It’s no-one else’s business at the end of the day.

Question 29. Of all the famous people (dead and alive) who are allegedly bipolar, who would you pick as your favourite, and why?
Oh, no brainer – Stephen Fry. Just because! He’s my hero, he’s super intelligent, wounded, flawed, fantastic and I just find him fascinating. Wit and intelligence (of a certain kind) does that to me though!!

Question 30. What meds are you on now? Have you found your ‘magic cocktail’?
1500mgs of Tegretol (carbamazepine)
60mgs Mirtazapine
15mgs Zimaclone (Zolpidem tartrate) sleeping tablets.
I don’t really believe there is such a thing as a ‘magic cocktail’. It’s as good as I have for now, so that has to be good enough.

Question 31. Have you attempted suicide? What, when, why, how and what did you learn?
No. I’ve planned it, I’ve mentally said my goodbyes, but I always chickened out.   Thankfully.

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Regret is such a toxic thing.


a-i-regret-nothing-dog-and-cat

(pic courtesy of dumpaday.com)

There are a lot of things in my life that I regret. I regret not being a more patient parent, I regret not being nicer to people I had dealings with both personally or professionally. I regret lots of different things but when all is said and done they are not very important things, so the ‘regret’ is more a feeling of general disappointment. But when ‘regret’ is a distress, a grief almost, it can be toxic. I don’t have many of those, but I do have a few.

I have had few real friends in my life. I find it difficult to let people really in. I have a difficulty with boundaries, with what I say and when to say it. So I tend to not let people in at all. But when I do let people in, you have me – you have my loyalty, my love, my admiration – all of it. And when that is betrayed – when I am betrayed, its not just a slight, it wounds me deeply.

I had a best friend for over twenty years. We went to school together, went to discos together, got our hairs ‘permed’ together, dated together and then when we met our husbands, we started our families around the same time. Our children were born only months apart from each other. We shared everything. She was my confidant, the yin to my yang. And then she betrayed me. The circumstances of that betrayal are not that important, not really. Unfortunately, that act took place in front of my hubby. For a long time, hubby had been of the opinion that she used my illness, my frailty, my vulnerability against me. So this for him was a ‘final straw’. For me, her betrayal crushed me. My hurt was fuelled by hubbys outrage. And so our friendship fell apart. Trust was gone for me. She didn’t want to apologise, she felt she was not at fault, and within four months, in the face of her continuing obduracy I stopped seeing her. I mourned the loss of her. I grieved as if I had lost one of my own sisters. I suffered for a long time; her absence from my life was deep, profound. It hurt, more than I ever realized it could.

I was lonely. For a long time, our lives had been so aligned we hadn’t really needed anyone else – either of us. We did everything together, to the detriment of every other relationship (except our own family’s) in our lives. And so, when she was gone from my life, my world shrunk very quickly. I had no other real friends. For a long time, she had been it. Very, very slowly, I met a few other women. I met them through the Parents Association of my childrens’ school. Two in particular became good pals of mine – over time.

It took me a while to let them in, but when I commit, I commit. I’m not really a ‘half measures’ kind of gal and I think that scares off some people. But we became friends. Our friendship survived long after our kids had left their primary school and moved on to different secondary (high) schools.   Then in November 2013, my depression hit. And I withdrew from the world for a year and a half.   In 2014, I saw these two pals twice. They made no effort to see me, to keep contact up at all. (They live close to me, one in the same estate; they are on fb and twitter as am I, and I have a phone and mobile.. they used none of that. They really simply abandoned me at a time when I could have used their friendship and support the most.) I met one of my ‘pals’ while out walking with hubby a few weeks back. She jogged past me with a “hiya, can’t stop, have to keep going”, and with that she was just gone… and I was left with my mouth open. They both see each other regularly. But I’ve been left behind. I regret that, I regret not being important enough to them for them to make any sort of an effort. Do I mourn their loss, no! Not like I mourned my best mate.

Which brings me to my regret. Did I walk away too easily? Did I allow my very real and very deep hurt to completely cloud my judgment and make a decision in anger and pain? My trust was gone. She was not apologetic at all and could I have moved past that – could we have moved past it, considering she didn’t think she did anything wrong? I don’t think so – but I’m not sure. And that is my deep regret. Hubbys anger was also an issue. He didn’t want me seeing her – so in effect he couldn’t and wouldn’t move past it either. But it wasn’t about him. It was about me. And I walked away. To this day, when I think of her, I get a lump in my throat. I still get upset when I sit quietly and think of her. That regret is substantial, deep and very, very real. It will forever be the “what if”, I can’t answer. And it is one of the things I wish I could change. And that is what makes it toxic.

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How to get side-tracked on a sunny day!

Buddah
It’s a beautiful warm sunny day here and I am out my back garden, dividing my time between staring at all the plants I have and staring at the screen of my laptop. I feel a sense of pride in my garden, because I planted every single shrub, plant and herb in it. I picked out the little statues; one of Buddah (placed in the very corner of my garden, on a black slate, surrounded by white stones,) and one of a white lady holding an urn (she is standing atop a tree stump which is covered in dead moss) and a small solar powered little owl (placed among the flower beds – whose eyes are supposed to light up, but never worked). I still like the owl, despite his brokenness.  He’s not quite ‘fit for purpose’, but then again, I haven’t been lately either, so there’s solidarity there between him and me – if even in my head alone!   My garden is a bit like me at the moment; it has the foundations to be truly spectacular. I’m not saying I can be truly spectacular (mind you sometimes I do think I’m pretty wonderful when I’m manic of course!!),  but more that I have the basics within me and in my life to be better than I am, more than I am.

I have a good psychiatrist that has seen me through the last decade. I have a regime of medications while not perfect, are mostly effective. I have a strong family foundation; my parents live close, my children and my other half are supportive and I have a strong, if small, network of friends. I’ve started CBT/Talk therapy sessions and while they are ardous, they are going really well. I finally feel like I am making some progress within myself. Dealing with painful issues is not easy, but it has to be done.   So, like my garden, I feel like I have great potential. I have the potential to help myself get better and that can’t be a bad thing at all.main garden 2

Back to the 31 questions on bipolar: I’m almost two thirds of the way through them, so here we go….

Question 20. Do you consider yourself creative? How do you express that? What piece of work (or whatever is applicable) are you most proud of?  
Creativity can come in all shapes, sizes and forms. I believe within each of us is the ability to do many things, to be creative in many spheres of life. Some people reach their full potential and are very prominent in the world, others don’t find that prominence, but are no less creative as a result. Am I creative, sure! But then, I believe everyone on the planet is, in some form or another.   Those who innovate in the business world are no less creative than those who excel at the arts. The innovation and creativity is just expressed in a different medium, that’s all.

I love to write poetry. I filled heaps of copies with my scribblings years ago, when all I could write about was my dreams of the prince charming that was going to sweep me off my feet. When I got a little older (and a lot more wiser), I started to write about what was affecting my life, and that is when I started to take great pride in what I produced. I sent off some of my work to a poetry publisher who while turning me down, did it in the nicest fashion. I still have the compliment slip that arrived with my returned manuscript. “don’t stop writing” was on the bottom of the note. And I didn’t. I have so much stuff I could wallpaper a room with it. Some of it is “ouch-worthy”, some of it is not. But over the years, my style changed, instead of being serious I started to, as we Irish call it, ‘take the piss’ out of my siblings in poetry format. They make us all laugh, so I enjoy their laughter just as much as I enjoyed writing/reading the poems to them. I don’t have a piece of work I can point to and say “that, there is what I am most proud of’. But I did do something that I am to this day, still proud of. One of my best mates was killed when he was three weeks away from his 21st birthday. We shared a love of the lyric and after he died, I went to his room and took all his poems away. I typed them all up, had them copied and bound and gave every one of his family and friends a copy; to keep forever. I filled the pages with his words, his photos and his smile danced off those sheets for everyone to cherish.   I did that for his parents, his friends, for him and also for me. I could rage against the futility of him dying on a back road on the 6th of November 1989, covered in rain and grime from the truck that hit is motorcycle and I could turn that into something productive and I did.   The black book, which I still have today is embossed in gold lettering. It’s called ‘Thanks for the memories’, which is the title of the first poem on the first page. And it said it all. That is what I am most proud of. It’s not my work. And while that poem isn’t particularly great, it’s his!

Thanks for the Memories
By Adrian Young, {aged 16}

Thanks for the memories of the past
Togetherness though it didn’t last
Memories of my broken heart
When you stopped loving me.

Thanks for the good times, the singing
Of songs, even when the time wasn’t long.
For all the memories that won’t be lost
Because I loved you so.

I will never forget the time we have spent
under the sun, but that time was lent
And now the sun is behind the cloud,
Pretty soon, it’ll be going down.

But one day, the clouds might go
And I will have my chance to show
My love for you
Which I hold so dear.

Still miss you man!

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Brainstorming on Bipolar: questions 11 – 20 of the Bipolar quiz!

brain-mind-spirituality-p0p1bv-27j2t4iSo much of what really happens to us depends on the family/friends/connections we have in our lives. Do we have a strong family unit behind us, do we have good friends, do we have a supportive partner, do we have any endless number of things?   I love George Elliots’ book ‘Silas Marner’. I had to study it for my Final Year English exam (oh, way too far back to even admit) and I think I read the book so many times I almost memorized it word for word. One of the questions about the book in the exam was “No man is an island”,– discuss!  I found the transformation of Silas throughout the book to be wondrous, miraculous even.  That 18 year old me felt that love could conquer all. I believed in Karma, the second protagonist in the book denounced his child and she ended up literally saving Silas Marners life while he ended up in a childless marriage. I believed in love and redemption. I still do, but it is tempered with a whole heap of realism and I suppose cynicism to a degree. But in drawing parallels to my own life, I do wholeheartedly believe that our journey through this life can be either helped or hindered by those around us and sometimes that is more fortuitous than we would like to believe. Add into the mix a life lived struggling with mental illness and you can end up with a pretty messy crapshoot altogether.
Discuss………….!

Back to the questions:
What resources do you recommend and why? (Books, documentaries, websites etc … anything at all.) Answering this question really depends on what type of information you want. If you want factual information about the illness, then I find http://www.webmd a good site. There are always links to other articles/information and the information given here is medical based and sound. I’ve watched dozens of documentaries on bipolar disorder. Again, if you want information, the videos of Dr Patrick McKeon on YouTube explain in detail what exactly the condition is and how it effects individuals. They are over an hour long so offer a very good “overall” view of BP. If you want to know what it’s like from the point of view of someone struggling with the illness, then watch Stephen Frys’ programme ‘the secret life of the manic depressive.’ (I just love this guy – if only he was straight or I was gay!!) Again this can be found on Youtube as can many others.
The first book I ever read on my condition was a book called ‘Coping with Depression and Elation’ by Dr Patrick McKeon (he’s Irish, so am I – see a pattern here….). A good read is ‘Sunbathing in the Rain’, by Gwyneth Lewis. It’s her story of surviving one the deepest depressions she has ever had. (It did leave me wanting to be married to her husband however!!) gosh, there is just a plethora of good books, videos, articles all on line these days. The web is your oyster as far as information is concerned.
If you want more anecdotal evidence, then blogs by others struggling with bipolar disorder are great and they can be found everywhere on the blogosphere; wordpress, blogroll, pinterest, tumblr.

Who was/is your favourite doctor (any kind) and why?  That’s an easy one…….Patch Adams.  Do I really need to answer why? – Just because I love Robin Williams, because the character he played of the same name was the epitome of what a good doctor should be and should do. Because he is full of humanity, modesty and a genuine love of his profession and of people. Because he founded the ‘Geshundeit institute’ (ya gotta love him for that alone!!) and because he is a real person. Hunter Doherty “Patch” Adams exists and does all the wonderful things that Williams depicted in the movie.

Who was your least favourite doctor and why?  
Despite being an expert in his field, one of my least favourite doctors was my first ever psychiatrist. We didn’t bond, I had no trust in him and for that he is one of my least favourite docs only because of that. My early experiences of this illness are coloured by that fact. It is in no way an indication of his skills as a doctor; and more to do with his ‘relationship’ with me as a psychiatric patient. I was young, inexperienced and going through one of the worst periods of my life. We didn’t relate; and doctors, especially our head doctors have to relate to us, have a trusting relationship with us.
Oh, and Dr Death of course…. Aribert Ferdinand Heim, SS Officer. I think he is the definition of pure evil.

What would you say to your younger self if you could?   How long have I got and how honest do you want me to be?? 1. Do more to help yourself. 2. Go easier on yourself. 3. Don’t be a wimp, stand up for yourself. 4. Go and get psychotherapy alongside your psych sessions – NOW. 5. Find self help groups and join one. 6. Get more of a support group around you.

What would you ask your future self if you could?
How does it all end? Why the hell didn’t you follow my advice?? Are you happy?

If you could plan the best possible treatment strategy for your bipolar self, what would it look like?
What I would want and what is available are two completely separate things. I would love to have a magic pill that would cure me of bipolar forever. It’s not going to happen any time soon, so in light of that and based on what is available, what I would plan for myself is regular psychology (or talk therapy) sessions, pills that work, 8 hours of good quality sleep every night, a personal trainer, a live-in chef to cook health promoting meals and the winning ticket in the lottery so that I could afford all that! Failing that, I do the best I can with what I have at the time and that has to be good enough.

If bipolar was a real thing or being, what would it look, sound and behave like?
An evil, soul destroying, joy sucking, perverse, torturous prick with no heart.

If big pharma was actually listening, what would you say about bipolar meds?
Get your goddamn finger out and get us some meds that work……

What don’t people without bipolar understand about people with it?
It’s not our fault. We can’t snap out of it. Your understanding is vital.

If religion and/or spirituality is a part of your mental health regime: what, how and why?
It’s not. I am an Irish failed catholic. I do however believe in the inherent goodness of most people. I believe as best I can, in surrounding myself with people who love/like me as a person because I am for the most part a decent human being. I believe in showing respect and basic human kindness and in doing so, you will get it back. I believe in not judging people because of their colour, creed or sexual orientation. I believe in giving people second and third and even fourth ‘chances’, because we are all flawed and will fall down from time to time. I believe in the strength of family, the sanctity of marriage and the power of a parents love. I believe all this because I suffer with a mental illness and need those chances/love/support and respect of those around me more than they realize.

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On the Couch: questions 5 – 10

aunty acid 3

Answering these 31 questions on Bipolar (piecemeal as it is) does get me thinking about my ‘condition’ as a separate entity. For so long I have viewed it as almost an extension of myself. Hi, my name is Edel and I am bipolar. One of my favourite bloggers said this recently at the top of her entry. She likened it to a support meeting where you stand up, bare your soul and take ownership of your illness. Not so long ago, I was asked why those of us struggling with bipolar are given a ‘pass’ for their bad behavior when those struggling with alcohol abuse had to take ownership of and make amends for their misdeeds while drunk. Interesting thought that! I did answer the question. I’m not sure I liked the answer myself. I said it wasn’t my fault. My misdeeds, misspoken words, my behavior was all the fault of my illness. But so are the misdeeds of those struggling with alcohol addiction except they have a choice to drink and I don’t have any choice on being ill.   If we view alcoholism as an illness however, that argument doesn’t hold water. So where is my accountability then? I’m still musing over that one…….

But back to the questions at hand.

What treatment, therapy etc do you do?

I go to a psychiatrist once a month and have a session with her. I normally spend around an hour with her, where we go over the previous month and we talk through any issues I have had or anything I am worried about. She takes extensive notes and recalls everything; she questions me on anything I raised the previous month. Depending on my ‘wellness’ or ‘stability’, these appointments get longer between visits or stay the same. She determines that.

At the moment I am also undergoing CBT and talk therapy with a psychologist linked to the practice. This is harrowing but at the same time rewarding. It is forcing me to face issues I have not wanted to face and delve deep to find out the reasons I do things, and the reasons I let other people treat me the way they do and the reasons I repeat the same behavior towards others over and over again. I am being invited to take bipolar out of the equation and question what is left. Very interesting.

What do you wish you’d known when you were diagnosed?

For me now, what is most important is I wish I had known that just because I have bipolar, it does not mean that my feelings, my anger, my annoyance, my upset are all invalidated. I still have/had the right to be annoyed, I still have/had the right to be upset, I still have/had the right to be angry. I had the right to go through my life without thinking that everything negative was as a result of my bipolar and was in some way invalid as a result. This suffocated me. I spent a considerable amount of my life thinking I was at fault all the time, I apologized all the time, irrespective of the situation, I apologized even when I knew in my heart that I was not to blame. It was easier to do that than hold my ground because after all wasn’t I not aware of my own reactions and whether they were valid or not? I think that a lot of things could have been so different had my illness/disorder/shitstorm been explained to me. I wish (and this is not really in answer to the above but it is one of my greatest regrets) that my significant other had learned more about my illness from day one. I wish he had been interested in reading the books I read, watching the videos I watched, understanding the illness and therefore me better himself. That I think would have been much better for all of us.

What are the worst things someone can say to somebody who is bipolar?

Snap out of it. Pull yourself together. Get over it. Smile for fuck sake. You’re in control of how you feel so you’re the one deciding to feel like shit. Move on. Get lost. I don’t think I want to know you because you’re not right in the head. You’re a bad mother. Relax for fuck sake. Cheer up. Etc, etc, etc…..ad nauseum.

What do you dislike most about the disorder?

I dislike the uncertainty of things. I dislike the fact that there doesn’t appear to be any triggers to avoid so that I don’t start cycling all over the goddamn place. I dislike the fact that there is no cure. I hate the fact the meds stop working and have to be switched sometimes. I am petrified by the fact that after so many years on medications I could become drug resistant altogether. I abhor the fact that it makes me feel so shit about myself. I dislike my reaction to my swings sometimes. I hate the fact I can’t control the mania. I don’t like who I am when I’m a raving mad lunatic. I dislike the fact I regularly refer to myself as a raving lunatic. I am not mad, I am not broken, I am suffering with a brain disorder/chemical imbalance and it is not within my control. I dislike the fact I don’t always get that. I dislike the fact I comfort eat. The last few things are not really about the disorder itself, but my reactions to it, but hey, who says I’m perfect!!

Are there any benefits to bipolar for you?

No. I’m not of the mind where I feel that my mania has resulted in fabulous talents that I wouldn’t have without the bipolar. Sorry, I’m not getting on that wagon. No-sir-e…. Nope….   Nada…… No fricking way.  I am who I am in spite of my struggle with this illness and yes, because of it, but not in any beneficial way.

Do you tell people you’re bipolar? Why/why not?

I told the world and ‘everyone in it’ at one time because I believe and still do to this day that there is nothing to be ashamed of.   But I wore my bipolar like a badge. I told work colleagues so they could understand the mood swings and the rapid talk, the sight of me going around the office like an energizer bunny, the bad temperament, the explosive laughter, all the ‘good’ stuff that comes with being bipolar. I have however become more reticent about coming forward in the last few years, except on the blogosphere (ain’t anonymity grand), because the reactions are not always what I expect of people and that leaves me genuinely hurt. Those I would have been sure would take my diagnosis well didn’t, so I’ve been stunned/flabbergasted when that happened. I’ve been ‘dropped’ by people I would have called ‘developing’ friends. I’ve been ignored by people I genuinely called ‘friends’ already and dropped like a hot potato/pile of shit/leper (no offense to lepers!) when I really needed them the most.  I’ve learned my lesson; keep quiet until my hand is either ‘forced’ or I make the choice to ‘out’ myself. It takes longer nowadays than it did before. I’m not as much the advocate I perhaps should be and at one time professed myself to be. But I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. Not for me because it is not for me right now. But things change.

And so endth the session on the couch today….. Lets take this up tomorrow!

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31 Questions on Bipolar. Question 1 – 4

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I’ve only come across the 31 questions to be answered if you are bipolar that is doing the rounds on the blogosphere recently. “Where have you been,” the voices in my head ask?   “I’ve been gone, gone, gone,” I answer, to the rhythm of the song of the same name by Phillip Phillips. (I kid you not!) – and yes, I had to look that one up!!

I’ve decided to answer the questions too, in ‘bite’ sizes. I have to think back a good few years for some of the answers and so I am approaching this the way I am approaching everything these days, with absolute honesty, otherwise what’s the point?
Question 1. What flavour of bipolar are you? What does your diagnosis mean to you?

My ‘flavour’ of bipolar is a Rapid Cycler Bipolar 1, with mixed states thrown in for good measure. I am a frequent, persistent rapid cycler, with way more than four distinct episodes per year, certainly in the beginning and again in the last few years.  What does my diagnosis mean:  its shit!  I feel like I’m damaged, broken somehow – not whole – not trustworthy.  Not trustworthy!!
Question 2. What is your baseline mood/state? How does that impact your life?

My baseline mood/state? I had to think about that one. That seems like a stupid statement, but I haven’t been baseline for at least 26 months and I forget. I forget what it’s like to feel ‘normal’. Looking back on my life though I have been successful, for the most part, in my working life. I have been mostly successful at rearing a family. I worry about the long-term effects of having an individual struggling with bipolar as a mother on my children, but for the most part, they seem to have come out of childhood relatively unscathed. I have been in a relationship with the same man for the past 27 years (married for 23 of those years) and he’s still here so that is something. We have had our ups and lots of downs, so whether it is a ‘successful’ relationship I’m still trying to work that one out. For a long time I viewed myself as ‘broken’ and was amazed at the fact that he stayed in the relationship. I had to count myself lucky that he was still here. Lets face it, who else would be able to love me, or put up with me, or put up with my moods, my anger, my depression. So the fact he stayed was ‘yah’ for him and a relief for me. So, back to baseline: I think my baseline allowed me to be high functioning, possibly more on the manic side of normal than the depressive side. The last two/two and a half years, that graph seems to have flipped and I have been on the very low depressive side of normal. In fact I’ve been so below normal, I scared myself sometimes.

How did that impact my life? Well I suppose I answered that with some of the above. I was high functioning. I worked hard in a full time job, I mothered three kids, I ran a home, I was a wife. When my children were diagnosed with dyslexia one after the other, I did what I do, I went into overdrive, learned about the condition, got them help, helped them myself, became the epitome of a pushy mum at their school and pushed and pulled them through their schooling fighting for them every step of their way.

I had few friends though and I mean in the ‘real’ sense of the word. I had two friends during the time my children were really small. Relationships were and are still not easy for me. Now, acquaintances and ‘casual connections’ they were easy. They didn’t really ‘know’ me, or have to get to know me and all my issues, so they were easy; kept at arms length. Despite being in an industry where I had to talk to people regularly, I kept myself and my personality wrapped tightly, protected, away from others.

How does it affect my life now?

The fact the graph has swung down to the depressive side is harder. It’s harder to fight off slight depression than to cope with slight mania. My default seems to be pessimism, ineffectiveness, lack of energy, lack of any sort of motivation. My get up and go has got up and gone! So that’s hard. It’s actually really hard. And it’s really hard on family relationships and dynamics.

Question 3: How old were you at the onset? How old were you at diagnosis? How were you given the diagnosis and are you satisfied with the way it was handled?

Well, now, how old was I at the onset? – That is what I am actually still trying to figure out? I was ‘diagnosed’ at 26. I went to my doctor nine months after my son was born thinking I had post natal depression and he’d give me Prozac and everything would be fine in a few weeks! He listened to me and said ‘Weeelll, its not only pnd, so I need to send you to a specialist, which he did. I got an appointment fairly quickly and went (as a private patient) to a psychiatrist who at the time (unbeknownst to me) was one of the foremost specialists in Bipolar disorder in the country. He diagnosed me within one session with a ‘rapidly cycling mood disorder’, and that as they say is that; I was 26 years old – petrified, unsure of what it really meant and what would happen from here.   Despite being a foremost specialist, my psychiatrist never really explained what the diagnosis meant, what it would mean for me, for my life and where we (or I) should go from here. I went off and on my meds like a yo-yo in the early years thinking I was cured and was not really aware of what would happen if I did this. I did research, read up on the condition, but never really associated what I read with myself and lied like a trooper to my psych whom I couldn’t for some reason bond with. Was I happy with the way things were handled back then? Absolutely not. First and foremost I would have loved more information, more knowledge, more everything. Now, having been with another psychiatrist since 2003, I have come to realize that I had ‘events’ in my life way before the diagnosis in 1995, when I was 26, as far back as my mid teens. Does it really matter at this point ‘when’ it started? Not to me. Not at this point. Too much living has happened in between.
Question 4: How do you feel about people who diagnose themselves online and then treat themselves for bipolar?

One word: Idiots

Seek professional help. Get a proper diagnosis. Get a medical plan. Get support. Just don’t go on online diagnostic tests. They will have you having everything from cancer to brain tumors. They are not reliable!!!!

Okay, I’m exhausted. I think those four answers are enough for today’s ‘session’.  I’m leaving the couch now!!  Be back soon though……

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Filed under depression, depressive episodes, family and relationships, hypomania, Life and Health, Mania, mental health

It’s been a while………..

aunty-17 It’s a while since I picked up a pen, or danced my fingers across the keyboard to do anything other than check my bank balance (depressing) or see who sent me emails I don’t need/want/require/or are of any benefit. Although I probably could do with the diet pills, I certainly don’t need a penile enlargement, to find out if my partner is cheating on me, a Russian bride, to claim the lottery prizes (of which there are quite a few) that I have won (but never entered!!) or any of the other asinine stuff that comes to my inbox every day.

Digression over, it’s been a while….

It’s been a while since I had any time to myself. It’s been a while since I felt able to string a coherent set of thoughts together. It’s been a while since I have had any sort of peace within myself. And it’s been a while since I simply felt like putting down on paper/screen/(out of my head) my thoughts; because once I do that I have to confront what is there before me. And that’s the difficult part….. The thing with bipolar is I never really trust my own feelings. Are they real? Is my anger justified? Why am I really sad, or frustrated, or discouraged, or upset? Is what I am feeling real at all? I have started sessions with a psychologist and she’ll be teaching me the techniques of cbt, but before any of the good stuff that will actually help is talked about, she’s brought me back to places I’m not sure I want to revisit. She’s brought me back to a time in my life I wanted to just forget, wipe from my memory as if I can just ignore its very existence. She is making me dredge up things I either wanted to ignore, or forgot about in some sort of self-protection approach. She’s a lovely psychologist, but I have left the last three sessions with her in tears by the end. And then I’m upset for the week. I’m facing issues about myself and others around me that I don’t particularly want to face. Because facing issues like that means that action must then be taken. Without some sort of action, this will all be pointless.

I don’t know why I was reluctant to undergo this type of therapy. Strike that, I think I do. – My psych told me at my last two sessions with her that my recent ‘issues’ were not bipolar related – that she feels I am instead having a bit of a crisis and an inability to deal with the stresses of life – for which she cannot prescribe any medication because I’m at the highest limit for my particular meds (we just recently changed the anti-depressant anyway – but she says its not related to my recent anxieties!!); hence the psychology sessions!! The first time she said it, I passed it off as her having a bad day, because surely I can’t be “not able” to cope with “life”. That sounded ridiculous to me. I’ve coped with bp for so long, how can it now be that ‘life’ is getting in the way… how can it be that it is simply the stresses and anxieties of life that is now making me feel this wretched. The second time she said it however, I had to take notice. She suggested the psychology sessions and organized them fairly promptly which brings me to the last month. It’s so easy to label everything that goes wrong in my life as ‘bipolar related’. It’s easy to pass off feelings of insecurity, anger, despair as being the symptoms of the illness I have for so long shouldered. In labeling them that way, then it becomes easy to avoid doing anything about them because the root cause is not of my making, well not really – it’s in my head – its only my ‘illness’ talking. Except sometimes it’s not in my head. That is what this psychologist is making me face. She is making me face myself and my decisions and my actions or inactions in a very cool, calm way – but its wreaking havoc on me. I come out of there a snotty mess. For the last few weeks she’s shook my hand and said it will get better. But before that happens we have to go back….. Go back and dig up stuff I don’t want to. Go forward and deal with stuff I’d rather label as bipolar related, go and look myself in the mirror and say ‘yeah, but how do you really feel’..

And I’m terrified.

I’m terrified of what I will see.

I’m terrified what I will find out about myself

I’m terrified of what I will have to then do about it.

I’m not sure if I have used my bipolar as a crutch my whole life or as an excuse, or as a shield. Perhaps it’s a bit of all three, perhaps its none of those; I really don’t know. And that’s the terrifying part. That and what’s now going to happen.

Shit, I hate the unfamiliarity of all this….

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Crapshoot, Fate and Genetics!

A few months back, I wrote a piece about having children and the genetics of bipolar. I had my children before I fully realized what my ‘illness’ was and how it would affect me, and those around me. I was almost 27 when I was diagnosed, my firstborn son was nine months old. It started as postpartum depression that just never went away. I have to say I am lucky (if you can put bipolar and luck in the same sentence and not hysterically laugh), but I am lucky that I was diagnosed quickly. I didn’t have to wait years for a definitive answer; I didn’t have to flounder my way from doctor to doctor or specialist to specialist either. I didn’t go through the torment of broken relationships, self imposed and/or inflicted isolation from friends and family, hospital admissions and misdiagnoses galore. I went to my family GP, who sent me to a specialist who diagnosed a ‘rapidly cycling bipolar disorder’ as soon as our first session was over. The fact that he was head of the main Psychiatric Hospital in Dublin at the time probably helped – that and the fact I had a healthy medical insurance plan! It was however, to be a further five years before I actually had a psychiatrist I trusted. (Just because someone is recommended doesn’t mean you have to stay with them. I finally learned this and sought a referral to another psychiatrist from my family GP and have been with the same Psych ever since.)

There is a long and somewhat ‘dark’ history of mental illness on the maternal side of my family. It’s all a bit deep and mysterious! For sure schizophrenia is in there, for sure so is depression. As I am sure happened the world over, bygone members of my family were locked away in what was then termed ‘lunatic’ asylums, (a more offensive name than lunatic would have been difficult to come up with) to while away their sorry existence doped up to their eyeballs. This at the time was cutting edge treatment. So mental instability is inherent in my genes. I didn’t quite comprehend all this before my own diagnosis. The subject never really ‘came up’ and my uncles’ illnesses were spoken of in hushed tones. I certainly didn’t understand the gravity of my own diagnosis – not for years really.

So I had three children. Three wonderful, relatively well adjusted children. And all was well in our household.

But last year, wasn’t the best of years, not for me and not for my eldest, who turns 21 this year. At the tail end of last year, my son came to me and told me he was in trouble. What comes to mind when a son says that to his mother is all sorts of random things; pregnancy, drugs, problems with girlfriends (or boyfriends) or pals, anything but mental illness. He went on to explain that for the past few months he had considered jumping off a bridge he has to cross every day. (He both crosses the bridge every day, and every day he thought of jumping off.) The fact that he came to me and admitted he needed help was a minor miracle all its own. He tends to internalize things, like most young men do, but over the years I have talked to them all about my ‘condition’ and made them promise if they felt they needed help they would ask. And he did.

It’s very hard to explain how I felt when he opened up to me. There was a part of me that was extremely grateful that he had come to me and not done something stupid, that goes without saying. There was another, a much bigger part of me that was filled with pure white terror. Of course Mammy mode went into overdrive, so I arranged an appointment with the family doctor, sent him there (because he’s an adult and no matter how much I would have wanted to bring him I couldn’t) made him tell me word for word what the doctor said and then phoned the doctor afterwards (yep – that mammy thing again) because a referral to a specialist was necessary. I think this is as much to do with my family history as anything else. So I arranged for my son to attend the clinic of my psychiatrist. I trust her therefore he gets the best. Luckily, luckily, my son is only depressed. (That almost makes me laugh to write that!!) What I mean by that is he is not bipolar!

Terror = fear, horror, dread, fright, shock, panic

I don’t know how I would have felt if he was diagnosed as bipolar? Its genetic, therefore it would have been my fault. I would have been responsible for this person, who I love more than life itself, having to take a much more difficult path through life. I suppose my own experience could have helped him, but I know that ultimately, you are alone with your head and in your own head a lot of the time. While others can support you, they can’t really help you.

Fate = providence, destiny.

Don’t tempt fate = believing that events are predetermined and can be changed/altered negatively by the mere mention of them.

It hasn’t altered my opinion of whether to have children or not. It’s all a crap-shoot in the end, the odds are just slightly more weighted. But I don’t think I would have been as blasé about that decision as I think I was, if it even factored at all.

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