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

Bootstraps

401628_700669492599_1736905561_nI bee-bop through life trying to deal with the things that come up.  I try and act like ordinary things do not bother me, that they are just no big deal, that I am able to dismiss them and move forward.  However, that is a bit of a lie.  I hold onto these things like they are earth shattering mistakes that will ruin the rest of my life.

I am stressed over the fact that I don’t feel like the servings of food last night for dinner were large enough.  That I question if the children received enough nutrients, were they deprived?  And at work, I yet again made another mistake with the accounting program and I fear that my boss will be frusturated with me, thinking I should be at a point where I am no longer making mistakes.  Then my brain goes to a communication I had with a friend.  “Is she mad at me?” comes to my head and I dwell on it.  The “I should have done this” and “should not have done that” races through my head, and guilt and insecurity fills me.  Did I happen to mention that this all occurred while I was driving?  In addition to the fears of being rear ended, side swiped and the stress that comes each time I see a red break light, I have all these thoughts crowding my brain.

I have an appointment with my psychiatrist this afternoon.  As usual, I wrote a summary document about what I have been experiencing over the last few weeks.  I provide her with this information so she can see what is going on and we can immediately get into discussing the events that have transpired, allowing more time for discussing any alterations to medication and coping mechanisms.

In addition to the normal anxiety that fills me, today I am anxious about this upcoming appointment.  Will there be a change in medication?  How will the change in doses affect my day to day activity?  Is exhaustion a side effect I can expect?  Is mania something I will need to contend with?  What about weight gain?  And, I don’t even know if we will do a change in medication, these are all what if’s, but what if’s are the story of my life it seems.

It is aggravating and somewhat depressing to know that this is Bipolar Disorder.  This is the ups and downs that are notorious of the disorder.  Is this what I can expect this point going forward.  Is maintaining stability for an extended amount of time even a possibility?  If I stay on my medication, and do what the doctors say, why am I still having issues?  Is this the best that it will get?  Do I just need to accept this as my new normal?

I practice my deep breathing.  I focus on the truths.  I trust my psychiatrist and know she will suggest only what is best for me and my condition.  I know I will get through this, don’t know exactly when, but I have always persevered and now is no exception.  These are the cards that I was dealt and I will make the best of what I have.  There is no option to fold.  I will pick myself up by my bootstraps and I will put one foot in front of the other and press on.

 

#bipolardisorder #anxiety #depression #OCD #bootstraps #psychiatrist

Bipolar Disorder, Uncategorized

Living in the Rearview Mirror

rear-view-mirrorI commute for my job.  It’s usually between a half hour to an hour, depending on time of day and the amount of traffic.  Not a big deal, right?  Well, it really isn’t a big deal, but when you have a history of panic attacks while driving, every minute you are in the car can be agonizing.

I have this incredible fear that I am going to be in a car accident.  That someone is going to come over in my lane and force me into another car.  Or that a car will rear end me and propel me into the car that is in front of me.  I fear that I will be hurt in the imaginary accident and suffer pain, both mentally and physically.  I always have a hawk’s eye on all traffic.  Evaluating if there is a car next to me and how close they are, if there is a car behind me and their following distance.  Plus, how close I am to the car in front of me and if I feel that I could stop in time before I would hit them, say that they quickly apply their breaks.  I try and anticipate the actions of all the cars around me and have all these proposed situations mapped out in my head, just in case.  The whole art of driving to and fro is a hell filled agony,

Today I was a bit mentally distracted and was zoning out.  I was still playing the “what if” game in my head, but everything was in a fog.  Numerous times I caught and forced myself to refocus my attention.  I kept checking my rearview mirror to make sure that there were not cars in my proximity.  I was focusing a bit of attention on what was behind me and in some ways neglecting what was in front of me.  And it hit me, is this how I view life?  Am I focusing too much attention on what’s behind me that I am not paying attention to what is in front of me?

How often do we allow the events in our past to crowd our vision and keep us from clearly seeing what is in our future?  With a history of abuse, I have many fears that affect me nearly every day.  But this morning, I felt empowered to let those things go.  I thought that if I stop accessing those memories perhaps they will shrivel up and die due to lack of attention.  This seemed probable.  If I allowed the old narratives to fizzle out, my mind would be more free and able to look at what is in front of me.  If I stop hiding and avoiding the things and people that I am afraid of, it is more likely that I will be able to move forward, move into the future, hell, just be in the present.

By focusing so much on my past, it is impossible to clearly see what is ahead of me.  Spending too much time in the past, takes my eyes off the road and increases my risk that I am going to run into something and cause an injury inducing accident.  Drawing a line in the sand, so to speak, and stating that today is the first day of living in the present and no longer dwelling in the past, will free me in ways nothing in the past every has.

Are you living in your rear view mirror? Is it time that you refocus your attention on the road in front of you?

 

#abuse #past #panicattacks #anxiety #depression #bipolardisorder #fear #lettinggo #driving #caraccident

Bipolar Disorder

If you are happy and know it…

happy and know it

I am going to go out on a ledge and proclaim that it is a universal goal to be happy.  Or that more often than naught, people would prefer to be happy over being sad, angry, disappointed, and many other negatively charged emotions.  I know that I prefer to be happy versus being sad.  I aspire to have contentment in my life and a general positive well being.

However, for me, when I am happy, I pull out my microscope and I dissect my happiness piece by piece.  Why am I happy?  Is it a normal level of happiness, or is it an unusually high and elevated mood?  Did I take my medication each day without missing a dose?  How is this happiness different from mania happiness?  Is there a difference?  Holy crap, am I manic?  Am I exhibiting other symptoms of mania?  Where’s that mania check list?  I need to see how many signs I am currently exhibiting!

All these thoughts zoom through my head.  Sadly, I can’t be happy that I am happy.  Oh no, we need to think that it is the start to a manic episode and we need to batten down the hatches.  Let’s make sure that I have Klonopin in my cabinet incase I skyrocket and need to come down.  Set a non-negotiable time to go to bed and wake up to ensure I am getting eight hours of sleep.  Pondering if I should take a sleeping pill to ensure that I am getting enough sleep.  Everyone knows that a decrease in sleep can push a person into mania.  Let me analyze the amount of caffeine I am ingesting, is it within reason?  Should I cut back?  Have I taken on too much due to this place of heightened positivity that has soaked into my bones?  Was it the busy month of December, and subsequent holidays that pushed me out of the “safe zone”?

It is incredibly frustrating to worry over being happy.  To wonder why I am happy.  To be afraid of what it could lead to.  To be in a place where when you start to experience feelings and emotions and that scares you.  Have I been in a place of numbness and too perfect stability that this minor change is going to rock my socks?  Have I forgotten that it is “normal” to have good days and bad days?  To have some days when you are in a good mood, happy and excitable and then it is as equally acceptable to have a day or two when you are more down, solace and perhaps negative?

I have found that since I was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 nearly two years ago, I constantly dissect my mood.  I can’t accept any mood outside of one that is bland… like my world is supposed to always be beige.  If I am not surrounded by beige, I jump to the conclusion that my medication must have stopped working and instability is on the horizon.  I miss the days when I just went with the flow of things, when I was not so incredibly driven by fear and anxiety.  When a good day was just a good day, and that a dreadful day would end the moment I fell asleep.

Is this how it will always be?  Will I get past this way of thinking?  Will the day come when I can have a string of good days and not wonder if below the surface something evil is in the making?  Is this just the way that it will be for all my days to come?  Is this the way others with Bipolar feel?  Is this “normal”?

 

#bipolardisorder #mania #manic #stability #happy #fear #anxiety #depression #OCD #normal #isthisnormal? #beige #sleep #medication #moodstablizer #antidepressant #emotions

Bipolar Disorder

Wide Angle Perspective

RWXVvyDA wide-angle lens is used primarily in photography and cinematography.  It refers to a lens whose focal length is substantially smaller than the focal length of a normal lens.  A wide-angle lens allows there to be more scene in the picture.

Although I have dabbled in photography for years and own two DSLR Nikon cameras, I do not own a wide-angle lens.  It’s an expensive investment that I am not quite ready to make.  I have several lenses, some short and some long, and depending on the lens and how much I either zoom in or zoom out, what I capture with my camera can change, at times looking nothing like the other images that were obtained.

With a regular lens, the view is limited, but not as constrictive as when you maximize the zoom.  In the same light, when you zoom out, you capture more of the environment.  With a wide-angle lens, you can capture even more.  It changes the perspective of what you see depending on how you look at it, or with what devices you use.

I became very aware of the wide-angle lens through my therapy sessions.  I tend to be narrow minded and I don’t allow myself to look past what is directly in front of me.  This can be a major problem when you suffer from an illness, either chronic or mental, as I believe that half the battle with chronic conditions is how you conquer each day mentally.

My therapist suggested that I change my lens to a wide-angle lens and increase my perspective.  Instead of looking at the Bipolar diagnosis as the end all of everything, look at it as a medical condition that can be managed with medication and several types of therapy.  When depressed, instead of focusing on how daunting life feels at that given moment, take a few steps back and see that there IS a light at the end of the tunnel and acknowledge that the depression is only temporary.

Since I have applied this way of thinking to my life, I have been less overwhelmed with the events that happen each day.  For example, I have very fair skin (I am mostly Irish) and most recently, I had three moles removed and one did come back as precancerous.  When I processed this with a narrow lens, this news was so incredibly frustrating to me.  I jumped right into the “why is there always something wrong with me and why do I have so many health issues?” But, when I use the wide-angle lens, I can focus on the fact that I am being proactive and that the doctor took a large enough sample that I did receive clean margins and I don’t have to have a punch biopsy.

Training our brains to challenge the way it thinks isn’t an easy task.  However, the rewards that are in store for those that can accomplish this are astronomical.  Much like when we take a picture, if we zoom in on the chair that sits in the dining room, that is all that we see.  But, if we start to zoom out, we begin to see the table that it is sitting under and the fat orange cat that is breaking the rules and napping on top of the table, basking in the sunlight that is pouring through the backdoor and creating a quite entertaining shadow.

If you realigned your perspective and started to use more of a wide-angle lens perspective, how would this improve your life?  Would it enable you to work through intrusive thoughts and be able to successfully challenge and squash anxiety that rises from the great unknown?

#wideanglelens #wideangleperspective #forestthroughthetrees #steppingback #bipolardisorder #depression #anxiety #OCD #intrusivethoughts #photography #cinematography #lens #psychology #psychologist #psychiatrist #psychiatry #narrowminded #openminded

Bipolar Disorder

Check Engine Light

CR-Cars-Hero-What-Does-Check-Engine-Light-Mean-04-16Wouldn’t it be nice if our bodies had check engine lights in the same fashion that our cars do?  If we would be notified when something is wrong, perhaps that our fluids are running low or we are slightly unbalanced?  With a “check engine light” we would be better able to get to a doctor proactively, hook us up to an obd2 scanner and we would be told exactly what was wrong with us.

I imagine that there is such a device, but that most people are not able to afford access to such amazing tools.  But goodness, if we did, how amazing would that tool be?  I bet people would be as excited about it as they were when the mercury thermometer was first invented in 1714.

I have a feeling that although we do not have a light that comes on in our body, we are given clues when something is not functioning as optimally as it could be.  For instance, for three days now my right eye has been twitching.  A WebMD search indicated that a twitching eye is referred to as blepharospasm.  Doctors don’t know what causes this, but they believe that it can be linked to fatigue, stress and caffeine.

My eye is telling me that I am tired (which I have been), that I am stressed (which I am) and perhaps I am ingesting too much caffeine because of me being fatigued due to stress?  Well, isn’t that a dirty peach?  My body is telling me I need to make some changes.  Over the last month, I have worked more and had more stress at work due to the holidays and co-workers taking much needed time off work.  Thank goodness, I finished up my fall semester the beginning of December before everything started to go balls to the wall at work.  When I am stressed, I don’t sleep as well at night because the stress increases my anxiety and when my anxiety is heightened my brain races and I think all sorts of wonderous, glorious, disturbing and intrusive thoughts eluding sleep.  With the change in sleep, I drink more coffee (morning and afternoon) to try and make it through the day.  With the increase in stress, lack of sleep, increase of caffeine and problematic anxiety, I must increase my Lexapro which in turn bumps me higher and I tip toe into mania.  It’s like a whole domino effect.

Our bodies do tell us when something is off or wrong, we just need to listen.  My body is telling me that I need to reduce my stress, rebalance my sleep and cut back on caffeine.  The increase in anxiety attacks and this damn twitching of my eye are clearly trying to reach out to me to tell me something’s gotta give.

Over the last week I have started back on a work out regime.  In addition, I have enrolled in a class to become certified in meditation and mindfulness.  Reducing responsibilities at work, the addition of exercise and modest changes to my diet should help to naturally relieve the symptoms that I have been experiencing.  Maintaining a positive mindset and focusing on positivity will be the icing on the cake.

I am amazed at how our bodies do reach out to us and let us know when we need to make a modification to what we are doing so we can function more optimally.  I encourage you to listen to your body, analyze what it is saying and make the appropriate changes to better your life.

#checkenginelight #bipolar #anxiety #depression #ocd #intrusivethoughts #twitchingeye #stress #overwhelmed #workingout #meditation #mindfulness #obd2scanner #anxietyattack

Bipolar Disorder

Day In, Day Out

Thinkstock_rf_photo_of_woman_taking_pill_in_mirror

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.

 

#bipolardisorder #bipolar #depression #anxiety #ocd #mania #medication #treatment #psychiatry #psychology #counseling #routine #life #mentalillness #patience #love #positivity #autopilot