Chocolate Rivers & Gumdrop Smiles = how I DON’T feel in the morning.


Very good meeting with the new marriage therapist today. She is a good style for us. Not too quiet, not too talkative, asking the right probing questions at the right times.

I was anxious though, and made a couple wrong turns getting there. I could feel my mind slipping, wanting to escape the situation on the say there. I told myself very sternly that I WAS NOT LEAVING THE SITUATION. That I was staying present, and was going to be an active contributor.

I should probably add that I was looking horrible for this meeting. I had planned to shower before leaving, but my toddler decided to break the child proof handle off his door and skip nap time. So I couldn’t shower…and I couldn’t get my sleepy ass off the couch to finish cleaning before the sitter arrived. By the time she arrived, I was still in my PJs, needing to leave, and “couldn’t find anything to wear”. Yeah, Im a woman.

So all of that just started me on a bad foot. Pillars could see I was tense in the waiting room and he gave me a nice neck massage. That always calms me.

Our session started with the “why are we here”. Our answer: sex and intimacy problems. Then we moved on to talking about what has been going on in our life…since we were married 7 years ago.

She picked out a lot of sore areas. Im fine addressing them…they need to be addressed. Many times I got teary eyed and had to move my gaze to my lap. I considered not restraining it, but decided I had already made a poor enough impression with my outfit, greasy hair, uptight anxious attitude, and general look of confusion.

We will be visiting her every other week. I look forward to it. Kinda. I do…I know that our marriage will be stronger because of it. I know that all the work we are putting in now will pay off.

Now if only I could feel that way about my brain.
Honestly, Im still tracking my moods and symptoms right now, but I am not taking serious stock into it because I know my sleep habits have caused a great deal of stress, and that’s all changing starting tonight. I have 9 minutes until my scheduled pill taking time (which includes ambien), followed by immediate sleep 🙂

Im thinking that 8 hrs of sleep a night should be sufficient. Better than 5, at least. We will see, and make adjustments if needed.

Me, the future Olympian.


I’m blogging this while walking on the treadmill at the gym. Clearly, I am not a future Olympian. Besides the obvious dedication issue, I’m much too old for that shit.

I was testing out my energy. I am proud to say that I have no manic energy. That’s not to say it won’t surface tomorrow, or in a couple days. I’m such a pessimist.

Of note, my Husband had offered to let me go back to bed after he woke up this morning. That’s nothing out of the ordinary, he’s awesome like that. But when he woke up, I was still awake. I didn’t jump back into bed. That is unusual. And even now, after 2.75 miles here, I am not looking for a corner to curl up in. Weird.

It’s the energy. It’s trying to resurface. I guess I’ll just give up my fight and let my body do what it’s going to do. I can be mindful. I can communicate. But hating what’s happening won’t stop it.

An Old Journal Entry & Seaneen


My husband stumbled across my first journal I started keeping for my therapist 3.5 yrs ago. I had been looking for it ever since my diagnosis, certain that it would shine some sort of light or make something click. I don’t know.  

It didn’t really do either, but it does feel like a treasured piece of history. Something to put in the list of “things to grab when the house is on fire and you aren’t coming back for anything”. My husbands cat isn’t on that list. She’s such a bitch.

I thought I might share some (or all…who knows) entries with you. So, to set you up, the following entry is 3 months after I found out about my dad’s death and buried him. I had turned into a dysfunctional ball of goo who couldn’t even open a jar of peanut butter.

June 14th 2009

Wanted to sleep more, considered cancelling appointment.
Slight anxiety both in & out of the house.
Came home, took both kids out for a couple hrs. to give J time for school work.
Still anxiety – thinking about making sure we don’t drop anything, keeping the kids quiet, nothing bad or stressful happening.
Things sitting around are making me anxious (like the weed eater, clutter on shelves, food on counter).
Laundry is all dirty.
If I start to do anything, my anxiety rises. I’ll feel like I can’t do it fast enough & it will never get done. So, I avoid doing anything, & things keep building up.

Tired
Muscle tension
Nauseous
Mind feels busy
Anxiety
Mind moving fast
Frustrated
Irritable

**
Looking back, with the knowledge that 3.5 yrs of therapy provides, I know that I felt so out of control with my life that I was trying very hard to control every little detail to make me feel better. Safer. More secure. Like there was no chance a random phone call could change my world.

But it did. I didn’t know it then, but I had a very long road of self discovery to travel.

The phrase my Granny threw at me over the phone “I was manic-depressive, and your Daddy was too”, sent me on my first ever mental health Google search. The first page I went to, and the one I felt was most helpful, was Seaneen’s (and her other blog).  I ended up contacting her and telling her about my Dad, and that her page has helped me understand very much. And then 3 years later I get to contact her again and tell her how my life ended up being so tumultuous and that I too had been diagnosed.  She’s kinda famous, but has always been sweet enough to message me back – and she is always sincere. And beautiful.

Triggers. The things that fire guns.


Triggers: the things that fire guns. Or the things that can spur episodes, which can be just as dangerous as a firearm.

Hey, Im a firearm fan. Just not a suicide/risky sexual behavior/alcohol and drug abuse fan.

I’ve been thinking about my triggers lately, as any good bipolar person would. Some things I’ve noticed that propel me in the direction of an episode are:

– overstimulation/noise

– not ALL noise bothers me. In fact, some noise soothes me. The hum of the city is calming to me. But for instance, this laptop is right next to the train table, at which all 3 children are playing right now. Happily, but loudly, with an occasional shout for “MAMA!”. So when I try to think about what I’m writing, and then respond to them or break up a fight, my muscles get tight, my jaw clenches, and I freeze. I have trouble figuring out what to do next.

– lack of sleep

– Just knowing that I won’t be getting enough sleep is enough to put me into a rotten mood and keep me there until I receive my necessary amount of rest. The only thing that can bring me out of that mood is sleep.

– change of routine

– I don’t know why it makes me a little nervous, sometimes a lot, and I just freeze sometimes. I’m lucky I have my husband in these freezing situations. Otherwise, I wouldn’t get very far. Sometimes, he has to make my decisions for me. As simple as what soda to order.

 – excessive stress

– I’ll just describe this past week for me: father-in-law was in the ICU, husband remembered being raped as a child, once again we don’t have enough money to pay bills, and I’m working 8 days straight. That’s enough to drive someone mad. Sometimes I wonder if my Bipolar isn’t purely situational, and maybe if I didn’t have 3 children under 4 and a financial trouble, I wouldn’t have Bipolar either.

 – financial trouble

– So stressful I don’t even want to talk about it.

 – family get togethers (BAHAHAHAHA I just slipped this in for a little joke…maybe…)

– holidays

– Always traveling, planning, stress, financial crap, seeing family, lack of sleep…so this one is rough. It’s like the hybrid of triggers.

 –  family fights

– This isn’t any old fight, but mainly fights between my Mom and my Brother. Which pretty much happens whenever they get together. Some weird flashback to 15 years ago when we all still lived together and life was a suburban hell. Otherwise, I quite enjoy fighting. Like at work. Two servers brawling over a bread basket = awesome.

I know this list will expand over time. But this list is mine.

I’d be interested in hearing your triggers!

Living without fear.


I had my latest appointment with my therapist yesterday (I’ve been going weekly for 3 months now…). She made me come close to crying. In the 3 years I’ve been seeing her I haven’t cried yet. I think it’s a good sign really.

Either way. She had me list my symptoms of my hypomanic episode that lasted from the end of December 2011 through April 2012. As I was listing them out loud and on paper, it was another one of those moments when I realized how sick I was. I try not too think too often or too long about how I felt then. It disturbs me.

So after listing them, I had to put in order as to what came first.  My list looks like this (although is constantly being rearranged and added to):

1 – lack of sleep (or lack of need)
2 – over active (excess energy)
3 – mean and irritable
4 – inflated self esteem
5 – pressured speech
6 – hilarious and witty

She told me to make a little check list and every day check off what I recognized that day. If I have a few days where I’m seeing a pattern, I’ll know something is wrong.

The main goal behind this is so that I can live without fear. Because right now I’m fearful. I didn’t tell her this, so it must have been obvious. I don’t like getting excited. I don’t listen to certain songs. I try not to talk to much. I get nervous when people find me funny. Ultimately, I’m constantly scared that I’m in an episode and just don’t know, or worse, don’t realize it.

I know I can’t live forever like this. But Im still *new* at this,  and Im hoping that over time Ill become more comfortable and I wont need to do any serious mind bending in order to get there. I’m tired if that shit.

She specifically wants me to push my boundaries. She said exactly that. To which I replied, “Oh I can’t do that. That makes me really uncomfortable.” She wants me to do all those things I don’t like doing… laugh a lot, make other people laugh, get excited, listen to my music loud, etc.

She wants me to educate myself about my illness. I told her, Dear Woman, I have been doing nothing but educating myself since my diagnosis. Ask Mr. bRaving. He’s complained about all my bipolar research. Then I promptly displayed my fact finding skills and told her that my fear is not for lack of knowledge.

I told her that I think I don’t want to accept my illness. Its not a conscious thought. Rather, its more of a feeling I get when I think about it. I can SAY  I’m bipolar all day long, but my thinking process is hitting a brick wall and negating that statement. Then, naturally, my mind goes to my affairs and reasons that if I’m not bipolar then, that I did that stuff in my own accord – which I know not to be true. Then I say, I’m certainly bipolar. Then something inside disagrees, and around and around we go.

Shit. I’ve got more mind bending to do.

My black moods


I thought maybe it was time to address the other side of my bipolar. I’ve seemed to forget it recently, as I think I may be in my longest stretch ever without it. But depression has plagued me nearly my whole adult life.

Depression has just always been with me. Like a purse. I just carry it around. Keep all my things in it. Freak out if I lose it.

I’ll recall my most recent depression. Mostly because it was my most severe, but also because Im not sure I would be able to remember the others very well. I always wrote them off. I knew what they were, I’ve felt then on and off (mostly on) for at least 10 years.

My last depression started in April of 2010. I can tell you the second it started. It was the second I read my positive pregnancy test.

I had worked my butt off and lost 50 lbs. Granted, it was during a suspected hypomanic episode, that had followed another serious depression…

I was learning to be happy with my body. We had just bought our first home. We had just made the decision to leave the marine corps. I had just figured out how to effectively manage 2 children (then ages 2.5 and 17 months). It was unplanned. Yeah, I was on birth control – but it was the mini pill that only worked when you’re nursing, and (!!!) I had stopped nursing 4 months prior. Whoops. I forgot I wasn’t taking the “regular” pill.

And Im not kidding when I say it took me at least 10 months to figure out how I got pregnant while on birth control.

I spent the next 9 months loathing life, more and more every day. Im certain that part of my depression was due to my fear of developing the same health problems I had with my first two pregnancies (pre-eclampsia). Both of my babies had ended up in the NICU and I was certain that this third one would too.

I would think:
-Im hurting this baby by having it.
-Im going to get little to no sleep. Again.
-My life is over.
-My body is going to stretch out. Again.
-This baby is going to be sick, and its my fault.
-I don’t want this baby.

I actually found myself hoping for a miscarriage. I had no emotional connection to the baby. I started becoming concerned that I wouldn’t have a connection with the baby when it came out, or that it could feel my hostility towards it and would be an angry little person.
My sex drive changed. I had less and less of one every month, and by the time the baby was born, I really didn’t want to have sex.

I had a lot of anxiety, and a lot of trouble sleeping. Even with my ambien. There were many nights when I had to take 2 to go to sleep (20mg).

At my lowest point in the pregnancy, I was laying in bed, angry that I was pregnant and couldn’t sleep. I imagined going into the baby’s room and stabbing myself im the uterus (That’s right. Not just the belly) and then coming back to our bedroom and throwing myself out of our window (2 stories up). Whoa.

I never took any steps toward this. Only daydreamed about it.

Another scary point is that for about 9 months after he was born, every time I would drive over a bridge with my kids in the car, I would daydream about driving off if it.

Eventually, my beautiful baby boy was born. I couldn’t get out of that no matter how hard I daydreamed. I fell in love the moment I saw him. I never got sick. This made me love him even more. He was the baby that proved to me that my body could function properly.

I’ve had a different kind of relationship with him than the others. I guess because he’s the baby . And he very well might be the last.

So even though I loved him when he came out (thank God), my depression continued with poor sleep, extreme loss of patience, increased irritability, disgust with sex.

Eventually my husband tired of it and insisted I start taking my zoloft again (I had gone off of it early in the pregnancy). I did, and a few short weeks later I spun into my worst hypomanic episode to date.

I didn’t take my depressions very seriously. Maybe because I’d grown so used to them. Maybe because they’d never posed a real threat to my life. I can guarantee you now that I will. I know I don’t have to live that way. That’s fixable. Its not something I just have to put up with.

And I had a valid concern when I was diagnosed: if that was my lowest low yet, and the hypomanic episode that nearly cost me my marriage was my highest high…what happens next? I was (and still am to a degree) genuinely concerned that the next depression I have would lead to self harm.

I don’t think it will anymore. I’m working really hard on being observant, seeing my therapist too much, and am medicated. Plus, I’ve got the best possible teammate working with me to keep me healthy 😉

The importance of sleep to Bipolar people


I found an interesting article highlighting the importance of sleep to us BP. It’s no surprise to me. Sleep has always been very very important to my daily functioning. Just the same as I always felt my emotions ran deeper than “normal”, I also felt that my relationship with sleep was also a little different than most. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had trouble falling asleep, and I’ve always had trouble waking up before my body was ready to. Seriously, those who have tried to pull me out of bed before I was ready can agree to this. I’m more than just a grouchy girl.

As much as I don’t like my diagnosis, it really is nice to continue getting affirmations that throughout my life, when I have felt different, I really was. It always evokes tears from me. It’s not something I should be happy about, but it brings so much relief. 

http://www.depressionforums.org/bipolar/2389-bipolar-disorder-severity-worsened-by-poor-sleep-quality

Burning.


I finished “An Unquiet Mind” by Kay Redfield Jamison today. I loved it, and it’s helped me find a little more peace in life right now. I found many passages that touched me, and I’ll eventually share them all. There is one that I found in the last few pages today that has changed the way I view my illness now, and I wanted that to be the first one I share:

“I have seen the breadth and depth and width of my mind and heart and seen how frail they both are, and how ultimately unknowable they both are. Depressed, I have crawled on my hands and knees in order to get across a room and have done it for month after month. But, normal or manic, I have run faster, thought faster, and loved faster than most I know. And I think much of this is related to my illness – the intensity it gives to things and the perspective it forces on me.”

I personally have always felt like I feel everything, be it good or bad, to the extreme. I always passed it off as me being an emotional nut case of a woman. I mean, we’re all emotional right?

I have been viewing bipolar (or manic-depressive if you prefer) in a totally negative way. True, it can be destructive. And, it’s been destructive in my life recently. But it’s also to blame for the intense GOOD feelings I have. It’s why my mom has always called me a perfectionist and why I always pushed for perfection in everything I did growing up. I kinda liked that label until the last several years, when I felt like my internal drive for perfection was interrupting how much enjoyment I was getting out of life. I was too concentrated on making sure everything I was doing was RIGHT instead of enjoying the moment and enjoying what I was doing.

It’s why I feel a burning passion for so many things: music, children, running, art, sleep (HAHA). I sincerely mean a “burning” passion. I thought everyone felt that burn, and it’s those people who don’t feel any passion that are “wrong”. But it turns out that there’s a more normal side to passion, and while I am on one extreme the feeling, those that don’t feel the burn are on the other. And if their extreme is wrong, then so is mine. Needless to say, I no longer thing they’re wrong for not feeling a burn. God gave all their burn to me.

It’s why I can sit outside, anywhere, and be brought to tears from the sound of the wind and the smell of the grass.

In short, I can’t hate this illness. It’s made me who I am. It made me a good musician, an artist, a lover, a hater, a runner, an eater, a worker…a feeler.