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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Bipolar Disorder

Salt in my Shaker: Lithium

salt-shaker-on-tableLithium is derived from the Greek word lithos which stands for stone.  We pronounce it as LITH-ee-em.  It is part of the group Alkali Metal on the periodic table of elements and holds the the atomic number three while bearing the symbol of “Li”.  Drugs.com defines Lithium as being a “component that affects the flow of sodium through nerve and muscle cells in the body.”   It started to be used in the field of psychiatry in 1949.  Lithium is used to treat the manic episodes of bipolar disorder, by preventing or lessening the intensity of manic episodes.

When I saw my doctor on Friday, we determined that increasing my Lithium would provide benefits to the anxiety that I was experiencing.  I was to start with an additional 150 mg that night, and remove the Wellbutrin that I usually take in the morning.  I was fine with the prescribed change, but worried about how it would affect me.  My body can be quite sensitive to medication and I usually experience numerous effects as my body is getting used to the change.

Per www.drugs.com, the following are common lithium side effects:

  • drowsiness;
  • tremors in your hands;
  • dry mouth, increased thirst or urination;
  • nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, stomach pain;
  • changes in your skin or hair;
  • cold feeling or discoloration in your fingers or toes;
  • feeling uneasy; or
  • impotence, loss of interest in sex.

Less Common Side effects include:

  • Confusion, poor memory, or lack of awareness
  • fainting
  • fast or slow heartbeat
  • frequent urination
  • increased thirst
  • irregular pulse
  • stiffness of the arms or legs
  • troubled breathing (especially during hard work or exercise)
  • unusual tiredness or weakness
  • weight gain

 

It is day three/four (third night, fourth day) and the nausea that I have had since Saturday is still lingering and getting worse after each time that I eat.  I am exhausted, regardless of the amount of sleep that I had the night prior.  Sunday afternoon after lunch I slept for three hours and still managed to sleep all night that evening.  The shaking in my right arm has increased, but thankfully it is only present when I am tired.  My head is pounding and I can’t think.  It took me 30 minutes this morning to remember a password for a site that I log into every few days.

I already have a problem with excessive hair loss from the last time we increased my Lithium, so I am hoping that does not get worse, or I may need to go all Britney Spears circa 2007 and shave my head.  It’s too early to tell if I will suffer from weight gain, but that seems to be something that I am more prone too as my past has shown me.

Driving this morning was not as bad, I left a little bit later so there would be less traffic on the road.  My heart did not speed up each time I saw a red brake light and I did not freak out when a car pulled up beside me.  I was listening to the newest Taylor Swift album, Revolution, so perhaps that was the key to my success, but most likely it was the effects of the Lithium increase.

Time will tell how this change in medication, the increase in Lithium and decrease in Wellbutrin, will affect me.  I am optimistically hoping that good changes will come.  That I will not sink into a depression from the lack of the Wellbutrin like I did the last time that we removed it, and that I will not gain weight as I did when we first started the treatment two years ago.

I trust that my doctor is making the best decisions for my health and overall well-being.  I will be patient and will persevere through the less than appealing side effects as my body becomes used to the changes in my body.  I will produce nurture and love to myself through words of affirmation and focusing on the positives in each and everyday while allowing myself to be slow to any emotion when it comes to dealing with others, as who knows what battle they are fighting at this time (as they do not know the battles that I am enduring myself).  I will succumb to my stubbornness and make some much needed changes to my diet and focus on the long term benefits and not the struggle that I am enduring to eliminate certain foods from my diet.

This too shall pass…

Bipolar Disorder

Girls Night Out

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Due to the busyness of the everyday lives that we live, we don’t often take the time to socialize with our friends.  When you have children, most of your focus is spent on your offspring and we tend to neglect our own personal needs.  I believe it is incredibly healthy to set time aside to spend quality time with those that are within our support system.

Girls Night Out often holds a negative stereotype of women dressed up in seductive outfits, letting their hair down physically and metaphorically, and engaging in risky behavior due to being “kept” for an extended period.  However, this is not always the case, at least in my own personal experience.

I planned a Girls Night Out for Saturday night as my partner would be out of town and I wanted to spend time with my friends.  Yes, we did put extra effort into what we wore, and there was elaborate planning that went into the event.  However, it was not a drunken, flirting, over the top event.

The night started out with bowling and I was in heaven.  The alley blasted great tunage from the 90’s and was a clean facility with amazing and attentive staff.  Following bowling was hopping between a couple of dance clubish bars.

I am not writing to tell you about my night out, there is a catch.  I was sick most of the night which put a major damper on things.  I was nauseous and sick to my stomach.  This was not the flu that has been going around or because I had too much to drink.  This was the result of an increase in medication following my psychiatry appointment on Friday.  To combat the nearly debilitating anxiety that I have been suffering while driving, we chose to increase my Lithium.  The new dose started Friday night and I began feeling the effects of the increase on Saturday.

Being on medication effects my everyday life.  Last night it was glaringly obvious that my life is affected due to my medication and the mental illness of Bipolar Disorder.  I have had to make changes to my life as result of the diagnosis and the medication that I am on.  I have been stubborn with making some suggested changes due to my refusal to give up all the things that I love.  However, there are times when my body makes it incredibly clear that it does and doesn’t want certain things.

I must remind myself that I need to listen to my body and when necessary make changes based on what my body says.  Being a hard-headed person in general, I have lived with the mentality of I will do what I want when I want and how I want, with no regard to whether this is good for my overall wellbeing.  It is a new year and I am in a different place than I was this time last year, or even a month ago.  I can not change the fact that I have Bipolar Disorder and that I need to be on medication to maintain stability.  I do have the control over the choices that I make.  I was disappointed that I was not feeling well last night and did not have the over the top time that I was expecting to have.  But, I still had a good time, enjoyed getting dressed up and socializing with my friends.

There is room for a socially fulfilling life with Bipolar Disorder, but it may have to be adjusted and slightly massaged to meet the new “normal” of my life.  Today, I start the process of accepting this and to relent in my fighting against it.

 

Bipolar Disorder

Day In, Day Out

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A large part of treatment for Bipolar Disorder is the use of medication to regulate and stabilize moods.  Many people who are in treatment for the condition take a “cocktail” of medication including mood stabilizers, antidepressants and at times anti-consultants (which happen to work very well for people with the disorder).  It is also quite common for people to go off their medication due to side effects and the cost associated with treatment.

Taking the cocktail that is prescribed to me is part of my routine.  I have a dose at night and one in the morning.  In the evening, I retreat from the living room and grab my refilled water bottle.  In my bathroom I set down the bottle on the counter, crowded with an array of makeup and hair product containers.  I open the medicine cabinet, while taking a quick glance in the mirror.  I look at the bottles, all standing in a row and tell myself, “I need to take these.  These help me stay stable.  My life is better when I am stable.  This is non-negotiable!”  I open each of the four pill bottles and take the prescribed dose.  When finished, I brush my teeth, then wash my face and get into bed.

When I wake in the morning, I remove my CPAP machine mask and take a deep breath.  As I get out of bed, I am again thinking about my medication.  I go back to that same mirrored cabinet and open it.  I look at the third shelf that contains my morning medications and I take a deep breath.  I say to myself, “I need to take these.  These help me stay stable.  My life is better when I am stable.  This is non-negotiable!”  I swallow the two pills and look in the mirror.  I remind myself again that my life is better on medication.  That my brain does not operate as efficiently as it should, and the medication helps it to do so.

I leave the bathroom and head to the kitchen with my boy cat leading the way (I often think that he thinks I may get lost if he did not guide me to my destination).  I pour a hot cup of coffee and grab creamer from the refrigerator.  I carefully walk from the coffee pot over to the chair that is on the right side of the table, the one with the broken ties that is always falling off the chair.  I sit and scrunch my legs up under me and sip the amazing, light brown concoction.  I check my emails, social media accounts and text messages, responding to those that require a timely response.

Over the next hour, I am ready to head to work listening to an audio book or singing along to music.  The commute is between 30-45 minutes depending on traffic.  Most days have similar components, while others are more filled with spontaneity.  At 4 PM I get in my car and commute back home.

I arrive home, put down my things, greet my cats, my children and remove my shoes.  Before you know it, it’s time to make dinner.  Dinner leads to family time, then to bedtime and we start things all over again.

Recently, I have felt like I am on autopilot.  The same things happen every day.  It gets monotonous and my brain gets dull.  Prior to being medicated, each day was unpredictable.  I would be fine one day and a hysterical mess another.  I would be happy in the morning and then so incredibly pissed off I could punch a hole in a brick wall.  I was nothing close to routine.  There was not predicting what each day would bring, and which Michelle would be present.

Much like the self-talk that I engage in when I take my medication, I still need to remind myself that having a routine life is a good thing.  That when I was pinging between depression and mania, that those were times of sickness.  And that my goal is to maintain my stability and with stability comes normalcy.

Am I considering going off my medication? No, it is working, and I have far too much to lose if I make a drastic decision like that.  But, I am looking for ways to change things up, so I don’t self-sabotage.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my life, I love the people in my life, but when you spend most of your life be bopping along to the beat of your own Bipolar drum, when you achieve recovery, it can feel unnatural and uncomfortable.

I am a better me right now.  But, there are times, when you get to romanticizing about the past and it is hard not to long for the way it used to be.

Being in recovery with any mental illness has its drawbacks.  For those that do not personally suffer, but have family or friends that do, it seems like the most logical choice is to choose stability, but it is far more complicated than that for us.  Be patient with us.  Speak positives to us.  Let us share how we are feeling.  Try to understand that at times we can not process things as rationally as others can.  Love us for who we are.

 

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