Category Archives: mental health

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

More answers to some Questions: Bipolar Disorder 101

aunty acid 6

Starting and then finishing anything these days takes a huge effort. My mind wanders and goes off on little journeys all its own, flitting from topic to topic as others either talk to me or I simply sit quietly on my own. Following any ‘train of thought’ to a conclusion is challenging and the harder I try to concentrate, the more I appear to meander. So lets see if I can manage to answer the next five questions without heading off on a tangent all my own!!!!

 Question 21; Are you content with it being called bipolar affective disorder, or rather revert to manic depression or rename it completely? Why?
‘Manic depression’ has, in Ireland anyway, a very negative history. Those who struggled with bipolar disorder (formerly known as manic depression)(think prince!!) in this country were historically horribly mistreated, placed in asylums with very little medication and lots of cruelty.   While things have changed drastically in terms of services and treatments, the name still holds negative associations to this day. At the end of the day, it is what I suffer from – I have a manic depressive disorder. The fact that there is still so little really understood about the illness, still so much stigma attached to the condition for those of us who suffer from it and so much discrimination and prejudice shown to those of us with mental illness (and also accepted by us) is a disgraceful indictment of a modern society. The label won’t matter as long as those prejudices remain. The label doesn’t matter as long as medications to counteract the symptoms remain expensive and access to mental health services continue to be inadequate or elitist. I am lucky I can afford both the medications and the specialist psychiatry care. On average a months worth of meds and a doctors visit costs about $300 dollars or 3,500 South African Rand, with the medications costing more than half of that figure. Every month. I could attend a public clinic, but would get less care, less often. All things being equal, I don’t care what it’s called. I just wish lots of things were different – the name is not really one of them.

Questions 22. What meds gave you the worst side effects, how did/do you treat it/them, and do you still get any side effects now?
When I was first diagnosed, I was prescribed a drug called Fluanxol. It is a thioxanthene medicine, diagnosed for both schizophrenia and those of us suffering from depression. I was on this for about five years and I developed a shaking and weakness of the hands which was fairly difficult to deal with. I also had restless legs and would unconsciously move my legs all the time. I didn’t quite rock back and forth, but I wasn’t far off it. My doctor at the time, weaned me off fluanxol after about five years as he said that there had been cases of patients being left with face tics after prolonged use. I was put on tegretol which is a carbamazepine medication. The side effect of this was to give me what I called a ‘cotton wool’ tongue. It made my brain fuzzy, it made me feel like I had a swollen tongue and I was ‘tripping over it’. Sounds strange – how can you trip over your own tongue, but that is the closest description I can think of. It wasn’t until I was put on tegretol retard that this symptom mostly went away. Presently I take 1500mgs of this daily (just before bed actually). I was also put on Lexapro (an SSRI) about ten years ago and 18 months ago, that was changed to 60mgs of mirtazapine.

One of the greatest side effects of these medications for me is weight gain. I have over the last ten years put on a significant amount of weight, which I find extremely difficult to shift. I comfort eat as part of the depression itself, so of course this doesn’t help. Because my brain won’t ‘shut off’ I also take 15mgs of Zolpidem every night. But I don’t sleep well, even taking two tablets every night, my sleep is fairly disturbed – certainly not what I would call ‘restive’.  I deal with the symptoms/side effects as best I can.  That’s all I can do; it’s not ideal, but it is what it is.

Question 23: Why do I blog about bipolar?
I blog to quiet and clear my thoughts, to make sense of what I am thinking, how I am feeling and try and sort things out for myself. I write to have a record of my ups and downs so that I can track how I am actually doing. Sometimes it is difficult to gauge that for myself. I also blog to share with others who struggle and suffer as I do. There is strength in numbers and great support on the blogosphere. I like to feel that, to feel that I am part of a bigger group, to feel I am understood completely without having to explain myself.

Question 24. How much of your life has been stable/euthymic, depressed and hypo/manic?
Well that’s a tough question… to which I actually don’t know the answer.   I am a rapid cycler. I have distinctive high and low episodes regularly.   But I’ve also had a stressful life.  I had three children under the age of four, a fairly stressful business to run, a home to run, and a husband who is a workaholic and an alpha male. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be all things to all people because I am also a bit of a perfectionist. I worry about things more than I should and find it extremely difficult to delegate. Of the last 20 years, I can say that probably half of it has been somewhat balanced, while the rest has been cycling either up or down. That is as exact as I can be.

Question 25. What state are you in right now, when did it start and what are your goals and hopes about it?
I was diagnosed as clinically depressed in March of 2014. My doc said that it was not related to my bipolar disorder.   I had spent about five months before that wanting to put my car under a truck so that I could just “stop” everything. When I almost did it one morning on the way to work, I knew I was in trouble. Since March of last year, I’ve been battling to get out of that ‘valley of shadows’. The medications have been tweeked and upped until I felt at least I wasn’t getting any worse. I feel like I’m coming back to myself now. But anxiety has become a factor for me. Doc says it is like I am having a bit of a crisis, that life is just a bit difficult for me at the moment. When I feel too much stress, I get panic attacks, anxiety attacks and I shut down. But I’ve come a good way already . When I look back on how I was this time last year, I know there is a huge improvement. I just have to make sure that I keep that up, that I get control of the anxiety and I can have somewhat of a normal (or at least what passes for normal) existence. That’s all I can aim for – more good than bad days. I’d settle for that.

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Filed under bipolar disorder, depressive episodes, mental health

31 Questions on Bipolar. Question 1 – 4

brain image

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