Tag 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

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

‘It’s my bipolar’ – ‘No, it’s not’….!

PICTURE

I have spent 21 years of my 47 years on this planet living with the label of being bipolar. My life has been seen through the veil, the threat, the symptoms of bipolar. My moods have been described and dismissed as being bipolar symptoms. My whole identity has been so intertwined with being a bipolar sufferer that I don’t at times know where it ends and I begin.

This new psychotherapy is playing havoc with my knowledge of myself.   I am having to re-evaluate things, episodes, events, what’s inside me and my reaction and interaction with people that for my whole life to date I have dismissed as being a ‘bipolar’ reaction. Now, I am very aware that the ‘illness’ of bipolar has no personality, but it feels like it has and it’s been grafted onto mine – or that my personality, my frustrations, my anger, my upset my emotions have been attributed to my bipoloar and not given legitimacy in their own right. My feelings have been dismissed and instead they have been commandeered/hijacked/usurped and labeled as a bipolar rant, a bipolar low, a bipolar anger, a bipolar anything and everything. I have spent a good majority of my life apologizing for my mood swings. I have spent a good majority of my life having my ‘upset’ and high emotions, my anger, my frustrations, attributed to my bipolar. I can’t talk about my life in any substantive way without mentioning himself. He’s been a part of it for the past 27 years. We are longer together than we were as separate individuals. I was diagnosed after I was married ; after my first son was born and he has lived my illness with me every step of the way.

But what happens to an individual whose very emotions are called into question and/or dismissed as illegitimate because of that illness. What happens when the person doing it is the one who has supported you every step of the way? Can illnesses like mine turn the very relationship that has been of vital importance all my life into a toxic one? And is it too easy to blame the illness!!

I have spent the majority of my life feeling lucky. I have felt lucky that I did a job I really enjoyed (most of the time), I had three lovely children whom I adored and still do (though they are almost fully grown now), and a husband who stood by me throughout my illness. That is how I describe him. He’s wonderful, he stood by me. He’s amazing, he stayed even though I was a raving lunatic at times. He’s so good to have put up with me all those years. But in putting him up on this pedestal, I threw myself down to the bottom. I became unworthy somehow. My illness became this ‘huge’ thing that no one else would put up with and boy isn’t he great because he did put up with it, how lucky am I.

Don’t get me wrong, I do actually love my hubby, but it’s not an equal relationship we have. And it’s not equal because of how I view myself and how I view him. I view myself as Damaged. Sick. Mentally ill. Broken. Not Worthy. It is those feelings of being inadequate that the psychologist is pulling away at. She’s pulled at a few strings and I can feel everything unravel, but it’s happening at a pace that is hard for me to adjust to – after all I have spent my life feeling this way. To be asked to address the root causes of those feelings is difficult to do. And to be honest I’m not sure whether I want to see the man behind the curtain, or whether I can just stay in Oz, running from the wicked witch of the west.

I don’t embrace change well. I don’t know if I can do this……

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Filed under anger, depressive episodes, family and relationships, Life and Health, relationships

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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I think, therefore I am: I can’t think, therefore I am sick?!

sick image

Sick: definition:
1. afflicted with ill health or disease; ailing.
2. affected with nausea; inclined to vomit.
3. deeply affected with some unpleasant feeling, as of sorrow, disgust, or boredom: sick at heart; to be sick of parties.
4. mentally, morally, or emotionally deranged, corrupt, or unsound:
a sick mind; wild statements that made him seem sick.

Being sick in actual terms to most of us simply means being unwell. But for the purposes of this post, for me it means being cognitively impaired (unable to think!) in some fashion. As the title says: I can’t think, therefore I am sick!
Day to day I am able to function, but I find myself functioning ‘slower’ than I remember myself doing when I was younger. (I remember a vibrant, outspoken, cocky, self-assured, ‘I can take on the world’ 20 year old who thought she had the world at her feet, ready for the conquering.)
Now, I just seem to think slower, take longer to recall information, forget things/conversations/events/promises altogether, take longer to make a decision and just simply seem to operate slower altogether across all spheres of my life. I notice it, others might not. It annoys the hell out of me, especially the recalling of information. (Ever have the feeling that something is on the ‘tip of your tongue’, a word, phrase, an event… just out of reach of your working memory.. yep, that’s me too…)

The medical profession have, for years, understood that cognitive impairment goes hand in hand with psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s. It is only in the last few years that the idea of lasting cognitive impairment in those of us struggling with bipolar disorder is being given any weight.
We all know that during spells of mania or depression that cognitive impairment is part and parcel of our dysfunction/spell. But lasting cognitive impairment even in euthymic/stable individuals is a new train of thought for the medical profession. I don’t for the life of me see why it took so long for neurologists to even think this. As someone who struggles with bipolar I could have told you I had some sort of deficit.; but no one asked!!?

Unlike patients who are schizophrenic, those of us with bipolar do not have to deal with IQ deficits, but we do have to deal with difficulties in attention span as well as short and long term memory difficulties, – at least I do. I can recall events from twenty years ago with a crisp clarity, but ask me to recall an event that happened two months ago and I will ask you what month that was?

Bipolar disorder/illness is really the ‘poor relation’ among psychiatric illnesses. We are the ones whose ‘illness’ appears not to matter as much as others, whose symptoms are not worthy of being studied or not studied as much, and despite being on the WHO’s radar in sixth place in the top ten causes of disability worldwide in the 15 – 44 year age group, it is only now that neurological/psychiatric studies into the long term effect of bipolar illness on memory/cognitive functions are taking place.

There is no doubt that some of the medications from the myriad of meds out there can actually exacerbate the problem of memory loss/recall and perhaps it is for this reason that we have been left behind in the field of long-term studies. It’s been seen as a ‘med thing’ and not a ‘symptom thing’. Or perhaps it is because depression of any kind has for so many years been brushed under the carpet and ignored as were/are the people struggling with it. Any sort of medical treatment is expensive. Specialist treatment by expert professionals is even more so, so perhaps it is a matter of cost that hardly enough study has been conducted into the side effects/symptoms of long term depression. It has been ‘bean-counted’ and we have come up as disposable or not worth the risk – until now.

At least the sands appear to be shifting. At least now, more research is being done – it’s better late than never I suppose. And it’s not too late for me. I have a tendency to write myself off – hey, that’s a symptom of my bipolar, but I’m not dead yet and until that happens there is always hope – an anticipation that things will improve for those of us struggling with bipolar and an expectation that better medications will appear and more studies will be done so that one day, perhaps, we can be symptom free – completely- for the rest of our lives. Now wouldn’t that be wonderful?

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Living in Hope

Missing Poster
There are times I would feel quite at home putting up a poster with these words “Help wanted to find missing person”. Of course that missing person would be me, or at least the part of me that is, at that time, gone. During depressive episodes I feel the real ‘me’ the part of me that enjoys and embraces life is literally just gone, lost and forlorn. We all know the state, its where all hope has departed, where instead of positivity we have the other demons on our shoulders, hopelessness, desolation, anxiety, profound sadness and all their lovely cousins…
It’s a grim state, the depressive element of bipolar. I’m not entirely sure which part of being bipolar I hate the most; the highs or the lows. Each has their own fascinating and treacherous ‘side-effects’! I say fascinating because despite all our medical discoveries, we are no closer to a ‘cure’ now than we were a few hundred years ago. We have made breakthroughs and invented drugs to keep the symptoms of mental illness at bay, but a cure? – Nah! Not yet!

It is however fascinating to realize there is nothing more resilient than the human psyche. I have come back from the deep and come down from the pinnacle and while I can’t and won’t say ‘unscathed’, I have survived. The consequences of my illness mean I’ve lost friends, I’ve alienated those I love, I’ve done many things I wouldn’t even begin to write about. At the same time, I have an unquenchable desire to understand my actions, to comprehend my emotions, to recognize the pits and pendulums so that I can do better, be better.

Nowadays the medical profession prefer to use the term ‘mind’ instead of psyche. Mind, psyche, cognizance, perception they are pretty much the same when dealing with a ‘sick’ psyche (sorry -mind)!! My perception of things is askew because of an imbalance in hormones somewhere within my brain. It could even be a teeny tiny imbalance, the medical profession doesn’t quite know for sure yet! In the past, I’ve been vocal about the lack of understanding, research and treatment for people with mental illness irrespective of the category. But the treatments that have been available up to just quite recently (as cutting edge medicine!!!) were barbaric.

Mental illness was once mistaken as demonic possession. In an effort to ‘cure’ the infected, holes were cut in their heads to force the demon out! This was called trepanning or trepanation. What’s weird (or weirder perhaps) is that practice is alive and well today, I kid you not….demon pic

Trepanation is the practice of making a hole in the skull in order to improve the brain pulsations and hence the overall well being. A trepan is the instrument used for making a hole in the skull bone. It is sometimes spelled trephine. The idea is to pump up the brainbloodvolume. It’s known that one’s level of consciousness is directly related to the volume of blood in one’s brain. As a result, trepanners say, one feels happier and more energetic.

For more on this wonderful technique see http://www.trepanationguide.com

Hydrotherapy was also another wonderful treatment thought to ‘cure’ mental illness. Some patients were mummified in towels and soaked in freezing cold water for hours on end. Other patients were strahydrotherapypped into freezing cold baths (sometimes for days on end) and only allowed out to the toilet. If that wasn’t bad enough, patients who didn’t respond were subjected to hosing from high-powered jets! Needless to say, this type of treatment was discredited for lack of tangible results.

In the early 1900’s the purposeful infection of a patient with Malaria to induce a high fever to cure their illness was first used. The procedure was hypothesized and carried out by Austrian physician Julius Wagner von Jauregg (who incidentally was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1927).
After that came along came a young Polish neurophysiologist and neuropsychiatrist named Manfred J. Sakel. While an internist in the Lichterfelde Hospital for Mental Diseases, in Berlin, Germany, he provoked a superficial coma in a morphine-addicted woman, using an injection of insulin, and obtained a remarkable recovery of her mental faculties. He then embarked on a coma inducing rampage treating patients with this technique for years. Despite claims of a greater than 60% success rate, controlled studies showed that a long-term cure was not achieved and that improvements were many times temporary. But, since Sakel’s method was the gentler and less harmful of all somatic (affecting the body as opposed to the mind) techniques, it was still in use in many countries until recently.

Up next comes a Hungarian pathologist named Ladislas von Meduna who in 1933 reasoned that, because schizophrenia was rare in epileptics and because epileptics seemed much happier after seizures he hypothesised inducing seizures in schizophrenic patients with the use of drugs would make them calmer. So the drug Metrazol was pumped into patients at varying levels. Of course, inducing a seizure had side-effects including fractured bones and memory loss, so doctors soon turned away from this treatment.

And of course, lets not forget the Lobotomy! Destroying a persons’ frontal lobe is to me a bit like throwing out the baby with the bathwater!! According to Wikipaedia:lobotomy pic

“The procedure, controversial from its inception, was a mainstream procedure for more than two decades (prescribed for psychiatric and occasionally other conditions) despite general recognition of frequent and serious side effects. Whilst some patients experienced symptomatic improvement with the operation, this was achieved at the cost of creating other impairments, and this balance between benefits and risks contributed to the controversial nature of the procedure. The originator of the procedure, António Egas Moniz, shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine of 1949 for the “discovery of the therapeutic value of leucotomy in certain psychoses”, although the awarding of the prize has been subject to controversy. The use of the procedure increased dramatically in some countries from the early 1940s and into the 1950s; by 1951, almost 20,000 lobotomies had been performed in the United States. Following the introduction of antipsychotic medications in the mid-1950s, lobotomies underwent a gradual but definite decline.
Lucky us huh!!

So, along with probably hundreds of other ‘treatments’ (I use that term flippantly) tried out on us mental patients over the last three hundred years or so, the above gives a glimpse of what our predecessors had to endure for a cure. There is no doubt that casting a glance backward and seeing how modern treatments were developed, it makes me feel extremely lucky to be alive at this time. Medicine is not perfect, but it’s better than the above. Necessity is the mother of invention. With so many of us struggling with all sorts of ailments, some environmental, some psychological, some physiological, perhaps now the ‘necessity’ for something more lasting and complete than medication will finally come along. One can always live in hope……

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Reaching the sunset of 2014…..

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This has been a hell of a year. In fact, this year has just been hell. I have had such a deep depression this year, it is a wonder I am still here. There was a point, half way through the year, I didn’t think I’d make it to the end, because thoughts of ending it all came almost daily. The thought of the peace that would come from such an act was very seductive, but still here I sit, tapping away at the keys. It is only with the support and strength of those around me that I made it through this year. In my darkest moments I know I caused real concern as himself didn’t have a clue what to do or how to help. He doesn’t even realize that just by saying ‘don’t worry about anything – I’ll take over’, he helped more than he has yet to comprehend.
My folks, who live just around the corner, don’t realize that by visiting or phoning every day, (even when they got a “hrrumpphh’ as an answer to their queries) they kept me grounded at times when I really felt I would just be swallowed by a veil of sadness.
My sisters’ emails gave me a reason to open my computer every day and it was the blogosphere where I poured out my pain and was greeted by those who truly understood. For you all I say thank you so much. To my sister, were she here I would envelop her in my arms and not let go till next year! She knows how I feel about her.
My children: my beautiful, growing up children don’t realize they are the ones that kept me anchored to this world, when all I had were thoughts of leaving because this was just too hard a year.
And my ‘shrink’, my wonderful doctor who doesn’t allow monosyllabic answers, doesn’t allow the short cuts I used to get away with – who pushes and pushes for how exactly I feel so she can treat me properly, to her I owe a debt that no money can repay. And while I tell her thank you after every visit – I have never written it down and sent it to her. Shame on me for that.
To my best friend who I treated terribly this year, I will have to say “I’m sorry and I love and value your friendship every day”. She already knows this, but it is wonderful to hear it said however. She hounded me, dragged me out for coffee, which made me at least wash some days and even when I didn’t want to talk, the knowledge was there at the back of my mind that she was there.
There are some very special people who have helped me more than they realise (they don’t even know it) this year – I will find a way to tell them and repay them.

I walked through a valley of shadows this year. I nearly didn’t make it out. But I did. I didn’t and couldn’t do it alone. I don’t know what next year will bring, but the fact I am looking forward to it at all, if even just to be out of this year, is a blessing I will take. I will do anything not to relive the experiences of the last twelve months. I’m sure that’s a statement many would nod their heads in agreement with. But I am here and this year is nearly ending……
I have a framed verse: ‘Footprints in the Sand’, where a man looking back on his life at the moment of death, talks to God and admonishes him for leaving at the worst moments of his life. God answers that at those moments, it was the time he carried the man, not left him…. I looked at that almost daily. I know that many people carried me this year; my family, my long suffering husband, my children, my friends: and I am still here. I’ve been carried through what has been the worst year of my life on many shoulders. Maybe it takes a lot of people to do that, so that we all come out unscathed at the other end. I am so lucky and I know that. It’s strange to sit here and think of all that has gone on last year and be able to elucidate clearly. Above all I am grateful I am still here and 2014 is nearly over. So I can turn the page and start again. Ain’t life wonderful that way…. Roll on 2015………………………….

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Bipolar among the top ten most disabling disorders in the world!

In Ireland the term ‘soft day’, means it’s raining, but not the lashing rain we sometimes get. It’s not quite a mist either – its somewhere in between, what we’d term a drizzle or ‘soft day’ and it goes on and on and on!
Sometimes that is what my depression feels like – not quite bad enough to have me well, depressed, (despondent, sad, melancholy, disheartened, down) but not quite gone/under control either. It’s like an itch I can’t scratch. It just is there, saturating how I feel (let’s keep the rain metaphore going here!!)

It is sometimes hard to explain how I feel. Inside my own head, I know there is something wrong, my thought processes are not right, my ‘feelings’ about things are not right. They are off, but not quite discernable to others. So when my behavior is viewed as something other than what it is, me having a bad day, then problems can start.
I wish everyone could just know what it feels like to be suffering from bipolar for a week. I wish someone else could experience a swing, the highs and lows that tear your mind apart for a while. I wish everyone else could really and truly understand what it is like being ill. Because by going through it, then perhaps there can be more understanding for what we go through.

I didn’t know this, but bipolar disorder is ranked by the World Health Organization among the top 10 most disabling disorders in the world. It was the subject of a study by Javier Ballester, MD, and colleagues.
The study concluded that “BP, particularly during acute episodes, is associated with increased self-reported verbal and physical aggression, anger, and hostility. These results provide further evidence of the need for treatments to prevent mood recurrences and prompt treatment of acute mood episodes in subjects with BP.”

Well, tell us something we don’t know then!!!!!

I didn’t know about the ranking, although I can understand why. But why isn’t this stuff more widely discussed, more widely publicized, more widely understood.

If it was, then those of us who struggle may be less (mis)judged, misunderstood and less alone in our struggles at times.
No matter the support, I really feel we go through this alone. There is no one inside our heads to help. It is a lonely illness this bi-polar.

Lonely and disabling! The WHO says so!!

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Taking “Wellness” for granted

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the times in my life when I had a prolonged period of ‘wellness’. We were looking for some holiday photos that I really thought I had transferred to CD’s so I went through all the unlabeled CD’s I had in my case. And I came across a little treasure trove of family movies from when the kids were young.   I sat for hours and watched movie after movie. The picture is pretty shaky, the colours not so great, but I can see how balanced I was at that time. It’s a little snapshot back to the past. And I can see how I took that wellness for granted. I squandered it – I wasted the ‘normality’ of it all. I didn’t realize that relapses can happen – to the degree that it did recently- where I feel my life is in pieces and I can’t quite seem to pick them all up at the same time and put them back together…..

If I concentrate on one area, something else gets broken or left behind – when I make an effort to concentrate on that, then something else gets abandoned. I am at the stage where I am in awe of the fact that at one point I did it all; raised young children, worked, ran a house, was a wife, mother, sister, friend and everything else to everyone else in my life. I am in awe of people who do this every day without a second thought to how fabulous it is to be able to do that, without even thinking it is something special.

I am under no illusion that life is stressful and I am sure at some points I was under stress; lets face it, everyone is; sick or not, but the way in which we cope with stress is now actually fascinating to me. We have made this life so stressful for ourselves. We fill it with ‘stuff’, with work, with the pursuit of money, with things that sometimes don’t matter at all. But when the acquisition of stuff, or doing those things that are not important become more important than actually living life to the full and being happy while doing it, that’s not good at all. Because how can we enjoy the simple happiness, and the balance and normality of it all if we are too busy. That I think is what I am lamenting here. That I filled my life with ‘things’ without realizing how special it was to be well, to be able to do all those things and be all things to all people and not even have to think about the cost to my wellness. I was just able to manage it without ever having to think about it too much.

Some of my happiest memories are of me and the kids just messing around in the back garden, or in the house, but where we are engaged with each other; where we are covered in paint from arts and crafts, where we are laughing ourselves silly from jokes they are telling in the hopes of outdoing each other. And all this is caught on tape and I love it.

I love the fact that their childhood was happy, that I can see I am balanced, that I made them happy, that I was engaged with them and that we have it caught on tape for us all to watch and remember together.

When I have put all the pieces back together this time, I will not take my wellness or my lack of symptoms for granted. I promise to treasure every day, every conversation, every thing I do because it is a special thing to be well and balanced. And its something not to be taken lightly or for granted.

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