anorexia, Bipolar Disorder, Uncategorized

Side Effect: Weight Gain

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It’s been a week since we made further changes to my medication.  Increased the Vraylar (mood stabilizer) and stopped the use of the Wellbutrin (anti-depressant).  I am neither manic nor depressed, so I suppose I am in the sweet spot.  I feel a bit subdued though, not as happy as I had been in the weeks prior to today, but also not as mellow as I was three weeks ago when I was dealing with the depression.  This could be a happy medium, although, I would like to have just a little bit more sunshine in me, to be honest, but beggars cannot be choosers.

Speaking of beggars, one thing that has increased is my weight.  And this is always a very touchy topic for me.  Struggling off and on with Anorexia for the past 18 years leaves the subject of weight gain to be a big taboo topic.  I know that in time, as we age, most people gain weight.  I also know that different medications affect a person’s weight in diverse ways.  I know that I am not defined by what I weigh or what I look like.  I also know that my mental health is far more important than the number on the scale and what size clothes I wear on my body.

With all that being said, I am still struggling.  Over the last month, I have gained five pounds.  Which is not THAT bad, but considering that I have been much heavier in the last year, a gain of five pounds hits my fear center and I start to fret over whether I am going to gain back all the weight I lost previously.  And this scares the crap out of me.  I was finally getting used to my body, embracing where I had some curves and accepting the number that smiled back at me from the scale.

I tell my brain that I am fine, that I am beautifully, wonderfully and fearfully made.  That an extra five pounds will not be the end of the world.  I do believe that underneath the surface, is the issue that this weight gain is not within my control.  That this weight gain happened as a result of medication that I don’t want to take for a disorder that I don’t want to have.  All things that are not within my control.  And let me tell you, I like to be in control.  I like to know what is going to happen and when and by whom.  And when I don’t, I get super agitated.  So, having a mental illness that is defined by the variance between poles, makes being a person who likes to be in control, a touchy subject.

I go back to what I have learned from years and years of therapy: control what’s within your control.  I think on what IS within my control?

  • The way I mentally handle this weight gain.
  • How much I exercise and what I put in my body.
  • Ensuring I get adequate sleep
  • Resisting the temptation to weigh myself daily

There’s several things that I CAN do in this situation.  By changing my mindset and focusing on what I do have, instead of what I don’t have, this whole situation takes a different path.

  • Focus on how my mental health has improved since making this medication change
  • I have a healthy immune system and have not fallen ill despite all the various sicknesses that have been plaguing the masses
  • I am a role model to my daughter and want her to be body confident and have a positive body image, and she can learn this by me leading by example

I have always hoped that one day I would not be so incredibly critical of what I look like and how much I weigh.  As I have gotten older, I am doing a better job, but I still have room for improvement.  However, I will give myself credit for being rational and not stopping my medication due to the weight gain, and instead of turning back to a deadly eating disorder, I am responding with a rational mind.

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit:

https://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/healthy-eating/weight-gain-side-effects-that-affect-your-health.html

Bipolar Disorder, Uncategorized

Today is a New Day

IMG_1204Due to the mild winter that this region is having, I was able to go hiking again this morning.  Although I like to sleep in, I have been pushing myself to get up an hour earlier, so I can get out of the house and fit in some hiking before heading off to work.

Yesterday, I also went hiking, but the experience was very different from today.  Due to the mania, yesterday my brain was flooded with thoughts and my body burned with energy.  For portions of the hike, I ran, and I ran like someone was chasing me.  For those that don’t know me, I am no runner, not my thing, even if someone was chasing me, I would probably walk.  But I was brimming with so much fire, I felt like I had to do something to burn off the energy.  Although I was listening to music, I was thinking about all sorts of grandiose matters:  Shopping, painting, part time jobs, transitioning to being a full time student, increasing my hours at work, should I cut my hair, should I have bangs, what color should I dye my hair next…  It was relentless and was incredibly, incredibly distracting.

But today, well today was different.  There was not the feeling of hummingbirds welling up inside of me.  There was a calm in my body.  I was not shaking like a small dog.  I had some peace.  Mind you, I am a little hungover from an increase in the Vraylar, but it was not too terrible, just a bit tired, but not exhausted.  The morning was overcast with some amounts of rain sprinkles.  The cloud cover was ominous, a little scary and amazing.  Very few people were on the trail and I prefer this, I am not all about interacting with people while hiking.  It’s my alone time.  And today it was just that.  I was alone, on the hike, in my mind and in my body.  It was such a gift.  I thought about all the things that I was thankful for and how I was blessed.

I shared with my friend about my positives for today including that I evaluated my credits remaining and I will be able to graduate by May of 2019.  I have been in and out of college for nearing 16 years.  Starting and stopping so many times I lost count due to mental illness.  So, finally getting my Bachelors degree is kind of a huge deal to me.  After I shared, she said “that’s all?” and this made me go into thinking mode… after I got to the top of the mountain I was climbing, I had a list and I sent her a text with the following:

“I didn’t run out of gas on the way here.  I live in a place where the sun shines nearly every-day.  I have medication that can help bring me down off a manic high so I don’t have to suffer.  I have an incredible support group including family, friends, doctors and co-workers.  I am stubborn.  I have drive and perseverance.  I’m forever looking to improve myself for the better.”

When I was young, my mom shared the Bible verse Philippians 4:8 (NIV) that states: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

And this is what I do.  Everyday.  It is a new day.  A day that has provided me with clarity and peace, a little grogginess and just a tad bit of zombieness, but it’s a glorious day and I am blessed.

Bipolar Disorder, Uncategorized

Zero to Sixty

IMG_1182After removing Wellbutrin from my cocktail of medications due to the debilitating anxiety I was suffering with, about a week in, I started to feel the throws of depression starting to suck me under.  It was a little bit more than gradual, a little sluggish, then harder to concentrate, and then it took everything in me to do the littlest tasks.  I reached out for help as soon as I realized this was more than just a few bad days.  I will admit that I was quite frustrated that although I had received relief from the anxiety that now I was dealing with depression.  I was like, “really?”

After speaking with my doctor, we decided to bring back the Wellbutrin and hope that the increase in Lithium that was implemented previously will combat the anxiety and prevent it from coming back.

Within just a few days, the sun broke through the clouds and the birds started chirping.  However, there’s a catch (there’s always a catch, it seems) … I went from down to a little up, to rocket launching Elon Musk’s car in space.  And that’s when I said, “oh shit!”  I tried to convince myself that it was just from having coffee, or the anticipation for the Girl’s Night In I was hosting, but after I cleaned (I mean cleaned) nearly my whole house within just a few hours, I knew that it was more than a little caffeine high.  I had gone from zero to sixty, depression to mania.  And that’s when I nearly cried.

My house is spotless, which is a rarity, just ask my mother.  I had a phenomenal gathering at my house where I was able to teach my friends how to decorate cupcakes with all the gadgets that I own.  And then we painted, we painted for hours… I cranked out I think four pieces of art, all that I like, which is not the norm.  I could’ve kept painting or decorating cupcakes, but it was getting late and I ran out of cake and frosting.  Nearing midnight, I was sitting on the couch and I was so wide awake deep in my bones.  There was excitement that was dancing within me.  My mind was in overdrive.

With assistance of a sleep aid, I did get a full night’s sleep.  And woke to attend a hot yoga class.  It did not totally kick my bum, but it was close.  I forced myself post class to listen to a guided meditation, or seven, in attempts to get the humming birds to go away.  Hummingbirds is the way I describe the mania that I experience.  Hummingbirds are constantly moving and fluttering their little tiny wings, always jetting here and there, constantly busy, and alas that is what I am like when manic.

The meditation did not work.  I finally put away two months’ worth of clean clothes, reorganized my bathroom cabinets and did all the laundry for our family of five.  I am attending another yoga class this evening and will probably run errands to prepare for making supper.  Sitting still is posing to be a problem.

I am currently sitting outside watching my cats lounge in the warm sun, while listening to soft classical music fill the air and I feel refreshed.  I also feel like I am going to run around the yard in about 30 seconds and hope that no one sees me because I MUST move.

I see my doctor tomorrow and I am quite interested to see what the next plan of action will be.

So yeah, this is Bipolar, this is what it is.  I am along for this ride, the ups and the downs and all the in between.  This is my life.  It is the only one I have, so I make the best of it.  It’s not always ideal, but it I embrace it.  I focus on what is within my control and the positives that are in my life.

Bipolar Disorder

This is depression

IMG_1146It’s that feeling, the one where everything starts to move in slow motion.  While moving in slow motion, you feel everything more intensely.  Every touch, every feeling, every sensation, it’s like it is turned up to max.  There’s no motivation to do much of anything and all you want to be is home, your safe haven.  The house is a disaster and you are ok with that.  You have as many piles of dirty clothes as you have baskets full of folded clean clothes that have just not quite made it to the dresser or closet.  You are snippy and witchy.  You have no tolerance or patience.  You hear a sad song on the radio and you start to cry while you are driving.  You look forward to bed time each night and dread waking up each morning.  As you are lying in bed you tell yourself that you must get out of bed.  Propelling yourself out of bed, walk down the hallway and pour yourself some coffee.  Interact with your family, be human.

When everyone is gone and its time for a shower, you stare at the shower and tell yourself, you must shower, that is non-negotiable.  It is something that must be done every day.  Post shower the getting ready part is treacherous.  Let’s put forth the best foot and pick out something business casual as opposed to jeans and a flannel because you know you will feel better if you step up your wardrobe… don’t forget the makeup and styling the hair.

You get out the door and start your commute.  All the while driving to work, the self-talk is in motion.  Telling yourself that you will be productive at work, you will have a good attitude, you will make the most of the day.  Once you arrive, you take a deep breath, tell yourself that you’ve got this and open the car door and put your feet on the ground.  You keep telling yourself, “you can do this”, “you’ve got this”, “it’s a mere 7-hour day”, “you can handle this”.

As the day progresses, you can’t concentrate.  Your mind goes between blank and over crowded.  Your memory is not at all what it used to be.  Staring at your monitor you will your brain to remember why you made that entry.  While on the phone with your boss, you look down in attempts to concentrate on what he is saying and to be able to think hard enough to summon up an answer, a correct answer, an answer that is not, “I don’t know”.

After triumphantly making it through the day, the trek home is stressful and is dreaded as much as you dread waking up in the morning.  You arrive home and tell yourself, yet again, that “you’ve got this”, “you can do this”, “this will pass”.  Greeted by the children, you feel a lightness.  You realize how lucky you are to have them in your life.  But as the night progresses, you neglect chores and schoolwork to literally walk in circles or sit and stare at the wall.  After you make dinner, you settle in and just wait for 9 PM to come along so you can go and crawl into bed and wander into no man’s land for nine hours.

This is depression.  This has been my life.  This is getting real old.  This must stop.  This is temporary.  This too shall pass.  I’ve got this.  I can persevere.  I will press on.  This will not defeat me.  I will fight this.  I am beautifully and wonderfully made.

Bipolar Disorder

What does mental illness look like?

faces of mental illnessDepression.  Is depression only depicted as a person who cannot get out of bed or who cries continuously?

Anxiety. Does anxiety look like a person who is shaking and hyperventilating?

Bipolar Disorder.  Are those with Bipolar Disorder raging, elated, nymphomaniacs that bounce from store to store liquidating the store’s stock?

 

When I look in the mirror, I don’t see what is described above.  I see a woman in a black pencil skirt, black polka dotted shirt, hair in a neat bun, moderate makeup adorning my face and kitten pump heels on my feet.  Most days I see a smiling face, with light and glimmers of sun sparkles in my eyes.  I see a person who is not only a person living with mental illness but a partner, step mom and employee.  And you know, some days, I take a second take, because I swear I see Wonder Woman in my reflection and I think, what’s up good lookin’?

From afar, it is perceived that I am fine.  Dictionary.com describes the word “fine” as an adjective that means of high quality.  And I guess I portray the image of high quality.  But, still waters run deep.  I have been in varying stages of recovery for the Bipolar that I was diagnosed with two years ago.  Most recently, I have far more good days than bad days.  However, I have had some hiccups along the way.

I had a medication change last week due to debilitating anxiety that is far worse when I am driving.  The change in medication has caused numerous side effects that have been hard to temper.  The splitting headache and nausea are getting the best of me.  As the last week has progressed I have noticed that each day I lack desire to perform normal tasks.  I am not performing as well at work, choosing to stare at my computer screen rather than diving into tasks and working towards completion.  When I arrive home, I am tired and don’t want to do much more than to stare at the wall.  I have fallen behind in my college classwork and now am rushing to meet a Friday deadline for a paper that I have had two weeks to work on.

But, I post selfies on Facebook and Instagram and I look happy, so I must be happy, right?  Is it perceived that I am doing well because I am showing up to my job, making dinner each night and being attentive to my family?  Am I just suffering from side effects of the medication change?  Is this depression?  Can I mentally talk myself out of this fog I am currently existing in?  Is what I am going through the real face of Bipolar Disorder?

At every point in my life where I have been on this rollercoaster, where I am experiencing a variety of highs and lows, I pull myself up from my boot straps and I press on.  I persevere through the yuck and the muck knowing that what I am experiencing is only temporarily.  I hold my head up high and march forward.  But some days it is really, really hard.  The depression has taken grasp of my ankles and I feel like I am pulling it along with my every step as if I had a toddler holding onto my legs while they are kicking and screaming about a toy I refuse to buy them while at the store.  I refuse to give in or up.

I cried in the car yesterday because I was so frustrated with the recent events that have taken place.  But when I reached the location for my meeting, I wiped my eyes and stood tall.  I was on point for the meeting and the result was the successful completion of several lingering tasks.

With the weekend approaching, I have much planned, exercise and crafting, two things that I really enjoy doing and activities that bring me happiness and that warmness deep in my soul.  I know I will not want to do all that I have planned, but I hope to hold myself accountable and attend all activities.

If you are struggling, don’t give up.  Remember that this is temporary, and it too shall pass.  You are strong enough to conquer this!

Bipolar Disorder

Boiling Pots

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Psychologist. Psychiatrist. Primary Care Physician. Gynecologist. Dentist. Orthodontist…

I was updating the calendar that I share with my boss (I am an executive assistant and it’s pertinent that I keep the calendars up to date), and I was adding in all the appointments that I have scheduled so far for the month of February.

First Week of February

  • 5th – Child Doctor Appointment in the morning
  • 7th – Therapy Session with Psychologist in the afternoon
  • 9th – Nerve Blocks at PCP office in the morning

Second Week of February

  • 14th – Sleep Institute Follow Up Check In in the morning
  • 14th – Psychiatrist follow up appointment in the afternoon
  • 15th – Ultrasound with Gynecologist in the morning
  • 16th – Orthodontist appointment for child in the morning

Third Week of February

  • 21st – Therapy Session with Psychologist in the afternoon
  • 22nd – Dentist Appointment for child in the afternoon

Today I am feeling quite overwhelmed with what is scheduled as every week, at least once a week, I will be at a doctor appointment at one point during the week.  This means I will be taking time off work to accommodate the doctor appointments and will increase the amount of time I am driving as the locations for my doctor appointments and the office where I am currently working at on the opposite side of town.

Not only is it a grand investment in time and energy to have so many appointments, but it is financially draining.  I recently filed my taxes for this year and my medical costs for 2017 were 45% of my total income.  This is heart wrenching for me.  Nearly half of my salary goes to my health, whether it is co pays, office visit costs or prescriptions.  I have major debt because of medical expenses and past years spent overspending due to mania fueled shopping sprees.  I feel like I am drowning in debt with no light at the end of the tunnel.  I work part time because of my schedule and what I can handle mentally and physically, which means I make less than I have in previous years, only compounding the financial stress.

After our appointment this morning, both my son and I were discussing how we just wanted to go home, even though it was just nearing the lunch hour.  We were spent.  Attending appointments is not only time consuming and are financially a burden, but they wear you out mentally and physically.  Sitting, waiting, answering questions, receiving feedback all leads to processing what is transpiring and that can take a lot out of a person.  It also forces you to come to terms with the reality of situations and that can be hard to do.  We live each day knowing that we have obstacles to overcome, but somehow it is different when you are facing them head on and really being in the moment discussing your ailment.

I am taxed in many ways each and everyday dealing with my illnesses.  The Bipolar disorder takes center stage, but I also suffer from chronic pain, Fibromyalgia, Sleep Apnea, Hormone Imbalance as result of a Hysterectomy and a few other mental illnesses.  Much like a person who has multiple pots boiling on the stove, once you get one pot simmered, another pot starts to boil uncontrollably.  This is my life.  Jumping from one boiling pot to another.  Making small progress, but still being overwhelmed by the whole picture as to what is going on.

I tell myself that I will persevere, and I will press on.  That I have never given up and don’t plan to ever.  That this sense of being overwhelmed will pass.  That I can look back over the last handful of years and see how far I have indeed progressed and am in a far better place than I have been in the past.  I am not sure if I will ever conquer this, but I will not allow it to make me feel like a failure or ever be too much for me to handle.  I’ve got this!

Bipolar Disorder

Double Whammy

Stock-Boxing-Gloves.jpgAt times, we must deal with several changes all at once.  In my case I was due for a “recharge” of hormones and had a change to my medication within a few days of one another.

The debilitating anxiety that I was experiencing, triggered my Psychiatrist to eliminate the Wellbutrin that I was taking every morning.  In addition, we increased the Lithium dose that I take in the evening.  This change took place the end of last week.  On Monday, I received a renewal of my hormone replacement therapy (HRT).  This “recharge” as I like to call it, we injected two estrogen pellets and one testosterone pellet.  It was a higher dosage than we have done in the past, as it was made very clear that I suffer when my levels are too low.  I suffer from depression and major anxiety if my estrogen is too low, and other less than desirable side effects when the testosterone drops.

So far, I have noticed that an increase in Lithium has seemed to cause an increase in dry skin, especially on my hands.  It’s as if my hands are made of crocodile skin, they are dry and flaky, course enough that they could sand a course surface.

The most notable side effects that I have been experiencing is dull, pounding headaches that last much of the day.  Taking over the counter pain killers are doing nothing to combat the symptoms.  I also have been dealing with nausea that is wrecking my world.  I’ve never been pregnant, but I believe, from the research I have done, that I am experiencing symptoms that are similar to morning sickness.  An increase in my appetite, is driving me to feel like I am eating non-stop and therefore triggering eating disorder thoughts.  The related weight gain, is not helping with the anorexia demons that have come and gone in my life over the last some fifteen years.

I find it to be quite frustrating not knowing what change is causing which side effect.  Is it the Lithium that is causing the headaches and nausea, or is that from the hormones?  Is the weight gain and appetite increase from the Lithium, or the hormones?  I have spent an immense amount time trying to pin point what is going on and I am just lost.

I uttered the words that should never come out of my mouth last night… I said, “I think I will stop taking my meds!”  I know that this is not a rational thought, and it is not something I acted on, but I am so incredibly tired of feeling like crap every day.  Mind you, I don’t feel horrible everyday all day, yesterday I have a few hours of relief and I was able to spend quality time with my son and we had a blast.  But, more time than naught is spent with me feeling like a nail is being drilled into my skull and the fear that I may heave my supper.

I see my Psychiatrist again in a week and plan to report all that I have been experiencing.  I will maintain the mindset that this too shall pass and that I will persevere and overcome this obstacle.  As this is the way I have always approached my mental health issues.

For the others that may be going through a challenging time right now, don’t give up.  Focus on the positives in each moment of your day, every day.  Know that what you are experiencing will pass, in time.  And always remember to keep your doctor advised of all the things that you are encountering so they have all the information and are better able to assist you.

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