A Wonderful Change in My Bipolar Life

So much has happened since I posted a year ago (March 21, 2010).  The change in medications did seem to help me through the whirlwind family visit that week in mid-March-2010.  But after my post, my mood took a turn swinging up and down through various stages of depression.  It was awful.  My doctor tweaked my meds again and I became more depressed.  By June 3, 2010 I had sunk to the dregs of depression and by June 7th there was no light in my soul–I wanted to die.  I saw my psychiatrist on June 9th, 2010 and he sent me to a good hospital with a good mental health unit.  After a week, they decided they couldn’t help me.  They dropped all my medications, put me on Wellbutrin and sent me to another hospital’s mental health unit with the hope that giving me a series of ECT treatments would help.  I was in there for a week and had 3 ECTs.  I was released and over the next week I had 3 more.  It appeared they were helping but I couldn’t remember anything short term.  I remembered nothing of the week in the 1st hospital (still don’t), and little of my stay in the 2nd hospital.  Everything after that was filled with blanks.  I had to keep lists for everything, for chores to do, to remind myself when I had to go shopping, everything.  I’d forget conversations with my husband shortly after having them.  It took many months to before my brain recovered and I could slowly begin to remember events from the days before.   3 days after my last ECT, I hit bottom with a death wish again.  The next day I swung up into hypomania & mixed moods for 3 days, then down to normal for 5 days, then depression for over a week, then hypomania for 3 days, then depression.

I became angry that over the course of 2 1/2 years I had been through trials with all kinds of meds and combinations thereof, finally ending with ECTs which fried my brain, left me feeling stupid and made simple problem solving impossible.  Originally,  I had been told that we’d eventually find the right combination of meds to level me out.  During the one time that meds had leveled me out for a couple of weeks what they actually did was remove my ability to feel–I couldn’t feel anything–no happiness, no sadness-NoTHING, except occasional anger.

By the end of June or the beginning of July 2010, I finally decided I would have to take control of my fate.  I told my psychiatrist which meds I refused to take and which meds had to be reduced to lower doses.  I told him I had to feel the mood swings to some degree so I could learn to cope with them and learn to react to them in a healthy manner.  He protested–I persisted.  He was worried and I thought he might drop me as a patient, but to his credit, he stood by me.  We truly became a team.  Slowly we kept reducing the doses of the last few meds I was taking as I learned to live well with the mood swings.  It was tremendously hard work.  I had to deliberately keep my mind focused in the moment, in the NOW, all day, everyday so I could function well and the hypomania or depressions would eventually just become background “noise”.  As I grew more skilled in this, I developed more tools to help myself.  My doctor & I have finally reduced the doses of 3 meds to a minimal amount and I may drop one of them entirely very soon.  I have been living and functioning well, living a full and normal life.  My moods still swing approximately every 2 weeks.  I still feel the depression hit bottom sometimes BUT it is just background “noise”.  Depressions no longer disable me or slow me down.  I am aware of where the moods are but they no longer control me.  Rather, I control my reactions and choose to live well.  It has become engrained in me now so I don’t have to consciously think about the cycles and my choices all the time.

My doctor is amazed and happy for me.  He didn’t think my method would work.  He’s read theories written by other professionals stating that it could possibly be done, but my psychiatrist didn’t believe them.  But my mood chart, our talks and the records/chart he’s kept on my progress are proof of my success and he is both surprised and happy for me.

Along my journey for control and a better life, I have discovered there are others like me.  I found one blog in particular which intrigued me on http://www.psychcentral.com written by Tom Wootton.  I discovered he has also written books about his experiences and what he has learned.  He now gives workshops with a team of professionals about what he calls the Bipolar Advantage or getting Bipolar in Order (instead of disorder–get it?) You can find him at http://www.bipolaradvantage.com.  Reading his books has given me more to think about and discover about myself.  Through his books he’s given me a few more tools to help me realize that I can achieve even greater control than I already had.  I have finally reached a place where I truly believe I have a bright future ahead.  Mr. Wootton, my doctor and I are all realistic knowing that sometimes life can throw awful events in our paths which could possibly cause a setback.  But having learned so much and the fact that I have the tools to get back on track gives me confidence that I won’t lose heart and will recover quickly.

I hope someday to be meds free–and I also know that it might never happen, but I’m happy anyway because my hard work paid off, and I’ve found others like me which makes me feel my method and my struggle has been validated.

I know my method may not be the right fit for everyone, but I hope that what I have shared can at least instill some hope in people with bipolar or depression that there are some things that they can do to help themselves in addition to taking their meds.  What the doctors haven’t told us is that the meds are not a cure–they just cover up the symptoms to keep them in check.  Right now, there is no cure.  But there is HOPE for a better future and we all have more control than we have been led to believe.

My advice is, stay on your meds and talk with your doctor–get him to team up with you to help you learn what you yourself can do to work towards your wellness.  We are not all made from the same mold so each of us has to find what tools work for us.  We may not all achieve the same results, but I do know each of us has the capacity to make life at least a little better.  It starts with baby steps and the desire to succeed at living.

I wish you peace and success.

Godspeed,    J

Published in: on March 7, 2011 at 1:45 AM  Leave a Comment  

Fun – Weights & Measures

We had family come from quite a distance to spend 8 days vacationing with us.  It was a wonderful time to reconnect and to learn a bit more of the family history.

It is amazing to me what people call enjoyment or fun.  We got up at 6 AM everyday, had breakfast by 7 AM and then hit the road for a theme park.  We returned at some time between 12:30 AM and 1:00 AM and didn’t get to sleep until 1:30 or 2:00 AM.  Then, again, we were up by 6:00 AM and so on for 6 days.  They left yesterday.

I love them dearly, but for me this was torture not fun.  By the last day I was ready to crack.  I did stay back at a central location and sent them on their way to enjoy a ride or attraction occasionally but I froze outside and the people, lights and noise still played havoc with my senses.

They’ve gone home now and one day later and I still feel like the room is making a slow spin under me sometimes.

Everyone knows I have bipolar disorder.  This visiting family unit has another member with bipolar. One family member is in the medical field.  Everyone trusted I would manage and deal with it.  I had a very hard time managing and barely dealt with it.  One or two more days and I would have cracked.  It was brutal.

Although they all say they understand how important routine and sleep, etc. are to someone bipolar, I don’t believe they have a clue.  And I don’t blame them. And I still love them dearly.  They just can’t fully grasp all the facets to bipolar disorder and how it affects each individual differently. No one can grasp it unless they have lived it.

WE ARE THE ONLY ONES WHO CAN CARE FOR AND PROTECT OURSELVES:

1) Sleep is critical to anyone with a mood disorder; go to bed the same time and arise the same time daily.

2) Patterns or schedules are very important.  It helps a person stay oriented in his day and stay on task.  I keep a calendar with a little weekly task schedule attached near me all day long just in case I have a memory lapse or the meds are playing with my head.  If I need to check the calendar and it’s been misplaced I get upset until I find it again.  That 10 or 15 minutes of upset is potential fuel for a mood swing.  Mood swings must be prevented at all costs.

3) Noise is a trigger!  Avoid triggering a mood swing!

4) Flickering, strobing, fast playing lights play with the senses and can trigger a mood swing!

5) Fighting crowds, throngs of people to arrive at a destination is very stressful.  Again, this has the potential to set off a mood swing.

How then did I avoid a major mood swing?  A week before our relatives came, my psychiatrist changed two of my medications because they had been ineffective.  Had he not done that, I’m sure I would have had a major mood swing and would have had to be brought home.  I think we’re getting close to a nearly perfect mix because  I stayed within a safe range and I feel better than with the old meds.

I plan to be much more careful about how I approach our summer activities this year.  I hope you do to.

Godspeed,              J

Published in: on March 21, 2010 at 8:19 PM  Comments (1)  
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Dealing With Change

For most people, a bit of change is welcome.  It’s revitalizing.  However, for someone with bipolar disorder, it can stop one in one’s tracks.  It can immobilize you.  You can be doing fine for 1 or even 2 hours preparing for a houseful of company, family actually.  Then the mood change triggers, in this case 2 of them being change and overstimulation, immobilizes you.  Then the fear of not being prepared on time triggers a deeper mood change.  Depression starts to eat away at the edges of your day and so the cycle snowballs.

I haven’t figured out how to help myself through this one yet.  The best I can  do is to let it happen and not fight it.  I give in and distract myself with something else I can do.  If I can’t do anything then I’ll check email or do a puzzle.  You get the idea.  I give myself some breathing room.

Our family is coming whether I’m ready or not.  I’ll know I gave it my very best.  It’s all I can do.

Whatever your situation, give it your best.  Then your opinion is the only one that counts.  That relieves a lot of pressure.

Godspeed,        J

Published in: on March 11, 2010 at 9:22 PM  Comments (1)  

Nature’s Remedy, A Beautiful Day

80* and sunshine. It felt great! I had a mood change rumbling around and I needed a change of scenery or some kind of relief. I had been working hard all morning trying to prepare for company (4 people) coming for a 9-day stay. I went out on our deck and sat in the sun for about 30 minutes. It’s amazing how much difference some fresh air and sunshine can make. Plus a bit of a rest.

I rate sunshine and fresh air as my #2 remedy. Surprised?
What’s #1? REST.

Godspeed, J

Published in: on March 10, 2010 at 8:28 PM  Leave a Comment  

I Want to Live

Oh, the exhaustion after fighting life-sucking depression that wants you to die.  Then, the next morning you say, “I’m alive and I want to live!”

My cycles are that fast.  One day I’m in the throes of depression–crashed.  The next I might still be there or, more likely than not, I’ll be back up halfway to “normal” or almost normal.  I never get to what the Psychiatrist  or I deem “normal”.  Oh, but he has my manic/hypomanic moods just where he wants them: 0  And that’s good.

But I am glad to be alive with my hubby and knowing I will see my sons, daughter-in-law and grandkids again.

I want to see their faces smile when we’re all together again.  I  want to hear the little ones say, “Gamma, look at this I made.  Will you play trains with me?”

My hubby and I are supposed to be having the time of our lives right now.  We’re both retired and should be having fun with friends and exploring everything Florida has to see and do.

And my Dad.  I want to spend as much time as I can with him while I still can.  He’s a stubborn old Scotsman and has survived much longer than the doctors expected.  He’s still hanging on to prove them wrong, as he would put it.

There is so much of life to live.  I don’t know how my thoughts, moods and mind come together to self destruct because deep, deep inside that’s not what I want to do.

I shared with hubby about my dangerous suicidal thoughts.  I even told him the method.  It was very hard to do.  I was sure he would be angry or think less of me.  I thought something in our relationship would be ruined.  That wasn’t the case at all!  He was glad I shared.   He want’s me to keep him informed of when these horrible moods are moving in so he can help me get through it.  He understands it’s not my choosing to go through this.  He’s not going to smother me by not letting out of his sight either.  He’ll help me while we’re together and if it comes on while he’s away, he says to call him and he’ll come home immediately.

He’s my man.  I love him.

Let’s live life with enthusiasm one day at a time.

Godspeed,         J

Published in: on March 9, 2010 at 8:23 PM  Comments (1)  
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Good Day to Die

// // Today  was a beautiful day outdoors, 71*, soft breeze, blue sky and sunshine.

Inside I was feeling like thick mud that is impossible to walk through when it’s chest high.  And it kept inching higher.  I had quickly gone from feeling great yesterday to badly depressed today.  By this afternoon I wanted to die.  And I had a couple of ideas as to how.  I struggled to push through doing laundry, going outside to remove dead patches from our bushes, but it was still tough.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been through this scenario.  There has to be a better way than suicide but when I get this low I consider it.  When I hit bottom, there are no other options.  My remedy: Go to bed and hubby must keep a careful eye on me ’til the mood passes.

Docs, please find something to help us soon.

I hope to have some interesting sites to share with you soon.

Godspeed,               J

Published in: on March 8, 2010 at 6:02 PM  Comments (4)  
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Observations

I find it interesting that my head is clear and I can carry on intelligent conversations.  I am trying to figure out which medication robbed me of that ability.  If this new one, Depakote does it at least I’ll who the culprit is

I’m so thankful that my kids are grown and out on their own while I am going through this.

I can truly enjoy the blue sky and warm breeze today.  I’m thankful to see budding flowers and the palms starting to green after a long hard winter.  I was so worried we would lose them.   I am bound and determined to learn the names of every plant on our property plus what grows in our region.  That shouldn’t be too difficult.  What do you think?

Godspeed,     J

Published in: on March 7, 2010 at 6:13 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Changes to Medications & I Love to Fly

Did I mention that when I saw my psychiatrist on Wednesday he made some major changes in my medications?

He took me off Abilify and Lamictal (tapering off).

He’s keeping me on Lithium 300 mg and starting on Depakote 100mg (and ramping up).  I will continue on 1mg of Ativan in the AM until my next appointment.

I now know why he wants me on the ativan in the AM–he’s afraid I’ll fly off this planet!  This morning I woke up and my feet hit the floor running.  I drove all over town doing errands and talked with people as comfortably as if we knew each other for quite awhile.  I then prepared a lovely dinner for my hubby’s birthday today.  This is a total 180* turn for me.  I’ve been so depressed I couldn’t go anywhere without my poor hubby.  I didn’t want to see anyone or go anywhere.  It was awful.

I love the new me.  I hope I can maintain at least part of this joy once I’m all ramped up on the depakote.

I’ll keep you posted.

Godspeed,           J

Bipolar Bites

Yesterday, I went to see my psychiatrist.  I chart my moods daily for him with occasional comments to let him know what I’m feeling.  He saw how long I’ve been depressed and having mixed moods and decided I’ve suffered too long.  He’s weaning me off Lamictal and stopped the Abilify.  He’s gradually starting me  on Depokote.  He said something about another med maybe next visit but I can’t worry about that now.

The bipolar depression has been very stubborn.  It’s Major Depression with a little kick to it, mood swings.  It tortures with ups and downs days apart or, as in my case, sometimes in the same day.  That said, it never goes away.  The bite is to the bone and won’t let go.  It has jaws like a vise and inflicts terrible pain.

I’m looking forward to the day when we find the right mix of meds and blow this life sucker up!

Godspeed,       J

I thank God my doctor is wise.  He told my husband while looking at the chart I gave him, “No one should have to suffer like this for so long.”  That’s when we started making changes.  He asked me what seems to work and what doesn’t.

Right now I’m on Depakote, Lithium, Prozasin, Klonapin and Ativan

Life With Bipolar

Bipolar is a Wild Ride.

I had just moved to Florida on March 1st last year.  I had an appointment on March 20th with my new psychiatrist.  That appointment changed my life forever.  He reviewed my former psychiatrist’s report plus some test reports.  My new doctor asked me a few questions and announced “You have Bipolar Disorder.”

My former psychiatrist was diligently trying to get to the root of my problem for a year, God bless him.  My new psychiatrist knew the first day I saw him and is an expert in mood disorders, primarily bipolar disorder.

I now had new information with a name to begin putting the puzzle pieces of my life together.  Things finally made sense.

There was a new issue forming.  My psychiatrist was new to me and I had to trust him with my life and allow him to help me over the hurdles I now faced. I had to accept and believe the new medications he was giving me were good and right for me.  So far, he’s done a good job and liens to my concerns about how I feel.  He also considers my input about what meds I think are working and which might not be.

I feel that we are a team by now and he’s included my husband as well.  My husband comes in for every session and is allowed to ask questions and is totally part of the process.  It helps both of us to deal with the disorder.  My Doc is very cool.


Published in: on March 3, 2010 at 11:42 PM  Leave a Comment  
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