Dear Insomnia, I Hate You.

Dear Insomnia,

This is the 5th (6th?) night in a row we’ve hung out.

You dropped by completely unannounced expecting me to party these nights away with you…

Maybe you were really looking for Snooki and got lost on a detour that ended at my crib, I don’t know.

What I do know is that I like to swathe myself in my cozy comforter, a cumulus nimbus cloud of pillows and snore my way through dreams that star Will Ferrel and the cast of The Big Bang Theory.

And be jarred awake as my cheek starts to swim in the cold drool that’s formed the Great Lakes on my pillow.

I like to sleep. Soundly. Undisturbed.

In fact the only people allowed to disturb my slumber are my children…and that’s only because well…they’re my children. Someone has to feed them and change pee soaked diapers at o dark thirty in the morning…if I’m not awake to do that, they might wind up eating bath salts and start eating people while they throw feces all over my walls. We just cant have that.

I need to sleep so I can have energy when they come barreling full force into my room, so full of combustible energy they’re practically nuclear.

That’s why I need my sleep, Insomnia. Because I have nuclear missiles to raise. You can’t do that ish half-asleep-someone could get an eye poked out or start Armageddon….

And while I love Jesus, I gotta be honest and say I’m not ready to meet Him yet, not at 29. 79? Maybe. 109? Definitely.

But I digress….

Sleep. I need it because without it, I go skyrocketing off to another galaxy…one full of euphoric gas, rainbows, talking unicorns, million dollar gift cards to Target, and other glorious things one feels as they begin to tango with hypomania.

Without sleep, this over wired brain begins to short circuit….synapses, axons, dendrites, and other things I should’ve paid more attention to when my processor lectured on them in my Human Development class start to….misfire…yea I think that’s the term she used.

Anyway the point is without sleep my brain’s homeostasis is thrown outta wack and my bipolar comes out to play. Which is what you wanted in the first place and absolutely love because you two like to party together. Problem is after a few days of getting high, the twins Anxiety and Agitation show up to crash the party, bringing Depression and her dark, brooding thoughts with her.

As fun as the initial moments of hypomania are, I really prefer to be on the level side of things, so I’d really like you to leave. You’re dangerous…like playing with firecrackers dangerous, and I’d like to keep my body parts intact and spare my family a spin on the bipolar merry go round.

I’m sorry but staring off into the darkness while everyone else is knee deep in REM cycles isn’t my idea of fun. And again, neither is the crash that comes after the high.

You’re just too much of a trigger. I can’t have you around. You’ve gotta go.

So please free the Sandman from wherever you’re holding him hostage and hit the road. Bother someone who can actually make you work for them and not against ‘em.

Consider this a warning. If you fail to heed this warning, expect Ambien & Trazadone to pay you a visit. They’re like the Chuck Norris’ of sleep meds.

I’m not afraid to use them.

Signed,

Me

On Getting Mental Health Treatment at the VA & Your Psych Saying “It’s Time to Kick Your Bipolar in the Ass”

I really can’t complain about my psychiatrist. She’s really soft spoken but understanding, accommodating, knows her stuff, is thorough, listens to my sometimes disjointed explanations of my symptoms (this is where my mood chart helps, BIG TIME), and lets me barrage her with whatever questions pop up.

In fact, if I were to have any complaint at all, it wouldn’t really be with her. It would be with the VA hospital. I’m grateful that the Dept of Veteran Affairs has a major hospital in Philly I can go to for treatment. I just hate that it has the all too familiar “hurry up and wait” operational model like the military. It’s the epitome of bureaucracy. Their mental health clinic is fairly decent, but because they are understaffed (like much of the VA as a whole), each psych’s patient load is pretty heavy and they are always double booked. If you call and leave a message, it usually takes 2-4 days for your psych to get back to you, and their voicemails are always full.

When you come in for an appointment, the wait time can be torture, sometimes taking 2-3 hours. You arrive for your appointment, sit in the lobby with Vets from Vietnam to Iraq, listen to them argue and swap war & treatment stories, and strain your neck to see if your psych is the one walking through the double doors. Fatigued and bored, you practically leap to your feet when your name is called…if it’s your psych, you practically skip off to their office. If it’s the receptionist handing you the sheet that lists all your meds, you flop back down on your seat in disappointment. Lots of sighs and complaints punctuate the atmosphere.

While you’re waiting for your psych to come rescue you from the chaos of the waiting room, two things ALWAYS happen.

  • A fight breaks out…usually between two Vets in their 70′s. I’ve even seen two Vets in wheelchairs go at it. That one was both sad and hilarious to watch
  • A Vet with severe war trauma sits in a corner of the waiting room, quietly mumbling to himself…which doesn’t seem out of the ordinary at all until he starts hallucinating. Suddenly he’s carried off by memories of combat and everyone in the waiting room is either a comrade or an enemy. This usually throws the everyone in the waiting room into a frenzy of confusion, unease, and fear. Sometimes other Vets are triggered and this adds to the erupting chaos. “Code Red, Level 3 on Floor 7″ blares over the loud speaker, security shows up, and doctors come rushing out from behind the double doors to help calm the melee.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m either in the hallway or the bathroom hiding when either of those two things happen, keeping an eye out for my psych.

When she does finally come to get me, escaping to her office is a welcome reprieve. She usually only gets to see me for 10-15 minutes because she has so many appointments to keep, but she does her best to take her time with me, asking about the kids, how I’m doing in school, how I’m dealing with things. Sometimes this pushes our time together to 30 minutes instead of 10, but she always reassures me it’s ok-she’d rather take the time to make sure I have everything I need than rush me out.

That is why, like I said, I can’t really complain about her. She rocks. She treats me like a person and not an object or a file number. I can tell she really cares about my well being and wants to see me get better. This is what keeps me from complaining about her taking 2-4 days to call me back when I’m struggling.

That’s why when I called and left a message on her voicemail yesterday and she called me back 10 minutes later, I was in shock.

“Hi, A’Driane. I just got your message and wanted to take some time to call you back before I see my next patient. I’ve been wondering how you’ve been doing since we talked on Friday. How are you feeling?”

As I started blurting out the answer, telling her that I’ve gone from just being depressed to being both hypomanic and depressed, having ruminating, racing thoughts, and have seen my OCD symptoms starting to dominate my behavior, she listened quietly. When I was done, she was silent for about a minute before she spoke.

“You know, A’Driane, while I think the Lamictal has been helping you some,  I don’t think it’s enough anymore. After we spoke on Friday, I took a good look at your chart and my notes…and…I think it’s time we get more aggressive in your treatment. The rapid cycling you’ve been experiencing is more difficult to treat, more complicated than I anticipated. I…I have to admit I’m going to need some help developing a more aggressive approach. We just got a team of manic depressive specialists on staff, and I think it would be a good idea to go ahead and set you up with a consult to see them. I’m also thinking some CBT will help you develop some better coping strategies, so I’m going to have you set up with one of our therapists, okay? I know it takes alot for you to get here, and you have the boys, but I think if you can get to these appointments they can help us start to really get this under control for you. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s time to kick your Bipolar in the ass. Let’s throw everything we can at this. I want to get you healthy. What do you think?”

Well first of all I’m shocked you just said “ass”. Kinda awesome. Sounds good to me. I’m feeling pretty desperate so I’m game for anything at this point. I just want need relief. BAD.

“And that’s what I’m going to try to get for you. So I’ll set these consults up for you, and in the meantime, let’s double your Lamictal dose now, and go up another 50mg in about 2 weeks. I’m also going to prescribe you an anti psychotic to help with the OCD and the thoughts you’re having. Let’s also try taking some Xanax to help calm you down until we get these meds to you. I’m ordering them now, you should have them before the week is out. Do you have enough to last you until then?”

Yes.

“Good. One more thing-promise me you’ll go to the ER if suicidal thoughts kick in-promise?”

Promise.

“Ok. How did the end of the semester go? How are the boys?”

And that, people is why I love her.

So…I guess it’s time to start fighting harder and kick some ass.

I’m ready.

Music That Moves: Rend Collective Experiment, Gungor, Switchfoot, & Newsboys

Five songs that are inspiring me today to push through.  It’s hard to hold on to your faith when you’re bouncing like a pinball between mania and depression on a daily basis; but being able to believe in something bigger than myself pulls me through the chaos that clamors in my emotions and mind…It’s the only thing that anchors me to this life.

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains;  it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” (C.S. Lewis)

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful… Hebrews 10:23

“ViSuAl dIsTuRbAnCeS” or “What to Do When Your Psych is More Focused on Your Rainbow Hair than YOU”

English: Close-up of 0.5mg tablets of the bran...

“Come along Ms. Dudley…yes, yes, this way, ” sing-sang Dr. H as he led me down the hallway.

“Oh my, your hair….I truly love your hair. It’s FUN-KAY,” he says stopping and turning to me, his hand on my shoulder.

Um….eh…thank you.

We walk into his office….

I sit down across from his desk, he plops (yes PLOPS) down behind it and props his feet up on what looks like some kind of milking stool or seat.

“So you started on some new meds about 2-3 weeks ago is that right? Can you tell me what you’re on? (points at his computer screen)

Lorazepam as needed for anxiety, half a tab of abilify, and neurontin….I trail off feeling like some kind of 5th grader.

“Hmmmm…so you’ve been seeing things? What kinds of things?”

Stationary objects…words…cups…plants…I’ve been seeing them move….(voice trails off and I shift uncomfortably in my chair. It squeaks)

“How are you sleeping?

Sleeping but tossing and turning during the night and waking up very early.

“And you’re a full-time student? And a mother? How many kids?”

Yes. Two.

“Ages?”

5 in February and 22 months.

“So you deal with alot of stress. “

Duh, I mean, yes.

“And who else is home with you?”

No one. It’s just me.

“I see. So are you seeing things beca-wait, did you do your hair yourself?  I mean, because there are people-wow even in the sunlight it just looks incredible, WOW-there are people who do stuff like that and it just looks horrendous, but you, man….that’s pure art. Are you an artist?”

Wha-um. No. Not an artist.

“Well you have to be creative right? I mean to be able to  blend but yet separate the colors like tha-”

I guess. I’m creative, yea, I’m a writer. I write. But lately when I write or read I’ve been seeing the words MOVE.

“Right, you’ve been having visual disturbances. Hey can you move over just a little? You should really see how your hair looks in the sunlight, it’s amazing.”

*blank look*

*sinking feeling in stomach*

and then the disappointing BOOM: “Well, I say we just up the abilify and see if they stop, ya know?”

January 8, 2008 - Slim-Fast fashion show

I can’t even continue to type out the details of my visit to the on call psych at the VA today because it’s just going to cause the low I’m feeling to settle in deeper.  To summarize I’ve either been hallucinating because I’m super tired, super stressed, or the neurontin I’m on is playing tricks on my eyesight & brain. Either way, it hasn’t been a fun couple of days and when I finally got the courage to go to the hospital, my pysch, Dr. C is busy and I have to settle for the on call psych who looks & dresses like Tim Gunn from Project Runway and gets memories of his old acid & LSD days from my hair!

Figures.

After stating that he’s never heard of neurontin (gabapentin) causing “visual disturbances” , he CALLS me after I leave his office, on my cell phone, to tell me that he looked it up and it turns out in rare cases, seeing s— move IS indeed a side effect.

What. The. French. Toast.

I love the VA. But I also HATE the VA. Because they have people like this Tim Gunn knockoff working for them and treating people. Or fondling themselves over their patient’s rainbow hair. Whatever.

I’m calling Dr. C tomorrow and demanding to be put on Lamictal and something else. I’m done playing merry go round. F–ing clowns.  Says the chick with rainbow hair that looks fierce in the sunlight.

My Brain is Exploding…Into a Thousand Manic Pieces

I had to stop my anti-depressant a week ago. It was making me sick. Really sick. Stomach pains, nausea, the works.

I saw my psych this week yet again, and we took another ride on the medicinal merry go round to see where it would take us next.

We landed on what she’s calling a “mild mood stabilizer.” Mild in terms of the severity of it’s side effects. She’s been trying to keep me off of Lithium, Depakote, Lamictal, and the other “big guns,” as she calls them because she knows that severe side effects can render me incapable of taking care of the boys….but she’s working overtime to get me on something that works and helps me maintain a healthy fluctuation of moods because anything too high or too low also renders me incapable of taking care of myself and the boys…and school…and life. Problem is, I haven’t gotten this new med yet. It’s in the mail. On it’s way.

I apologize if my sentences are running on…or not making sense at the moment. I’m trying to be coherent, but that’s a hard task when it feels like the world is spinning at 500mph-in your mind. My mind has been exploding with ideas and energy all day, scattering my attention into a thousand little pieces…

I stopped my anti a week ago, and by Monday when I went to fill out my mood chart, I noticed I was giddy. Too giddy. Laughing incessantly. Silly. Goofy. Fun. Overjoyed. Elated. Euphoric. Happy. Smiling. Busy. Productive. Feeling creative & optimistic. I was all the best parts of me multiplied by at least a thousand.

I had started my ascent into a manic episode.

Whether or not it’s hypo, hyper, or full blown mania doesn’t really seem to matter…what does matter is that for the first time I’ve learned enough about BP and myself the months following my diagnosis that I can recognize the signs & symptoms and understand the state that I’m in… which means I can take the necessary steps to take proper care of myself while I’m in it and run preventative maintenance before the inevitable low comes….

Because the low? It’s going to come. But what I’m learning is that its severity depends on how well I take care of myself before it hits.

I’m at a stage with my BP that I’m coming to terms with it and understanding how it works; I’ve spent the past 6 months  identifying my triggers and paying attention to how I respond to what’s going on in and around me. Mood charting has helped me start to see the pattern and frequency of my cycles. Learning to be “in the moment” has afforded me the ability to take a moment while my thoughts are racing to assess how I’m feeling-even if it’s only for a split second. That split second? Makes all the difference.

When I first started reading about BP, I came across some statements from people who said they live for the highs. Living through this current episode, I can finally understand why, and I agree. Sure I can see how dangerous they can be, I’m not denying that. But I can honestly say that when placed in the confines of proper self-care, the highs are manageable. Livable. Like I said, I’m me, but I’m the best parts of me more of the time. I can take care of my boys, play with them, nurture them, read to them…My house is cleaner, my meals taste better, I have the energy to exercise, read, and interact with people….I can take better care of myself when I’m feeling manic…

But I can also understand when it’s entering the not so safe zone…

Talking too much too fast…

Feeling “scattered” mentally…

On Energizer Bunny mode one minute…

Unmotivated the next….

Lack of concentration…

A little snappier than normal…

Indecisive….

Impulse control starts to diminish….

Feeling like I’m going 500mph…

Driving and just getting out the door to run an errand takes me 3 hours….

Yea…when I start to feel like that, I know I’m in trouble. So I have to find ways to make my world slow down, spin slower…allow the manic feelings to run their course, just in constructive ways.

Like getting fresh air…

Baking….lots of baking.

Dancing…

Sitting on the floor with the boys and watching them play…

Yoga….

I would say prayer, but I pray on the go these days or as I’m writing a letter to God in my journal. It’s the only way I can focus my thoughts in these states. I think He’s okay with that…

and writing. lots of writing.

That’s why I wrote this today instead of what I planned on discussing.

And you know what? I’m feeling way more peaceful than I did before I forced myself to sit here and talk to you.

Now I feel like I can go bake 5 loaves of delish bread instead of 15. I don’t have 15 neighbors so making that much would just be a waste. And we can’t be wasteful, now can we?

 

 

 

Manic Monday: Side Effects

Confession: I’m typing this from my phone while I lay on my bathroom floor….and this isn’t the topic I was going to write on today.

Why, you ask? Well because it’s the coldest floor in my apartment and my queasy stomach is more tolerable when my face is pressed into it….and getting my laptop to type out my original content is just impossible because that would require me to lift my head up and that only makes the room spin faster…so, the floor and from the phone it is.

I hate days like this, the ones where side effects from medications take the wheel and dictate where your body goes. In my case, for the past hour it’s been to the floor. I started off in my living room….crawled to the kitchen to get the boys a snack….stuck Brennan on the XBox, stumbled to their room where I placed Alex in his crib with the iPad, and did the deadman’s crawl across the hallway to the bathroom. Sounds dramatic, but I wish it were an exaggerated description of how I ended up here…

…on the floor
….sipping on ginger ale like it has healing power
…..shaking
….begging Jesus to kill the medicated squirrel going ape in my tummy

Ahhh medication. Compliance. Side effects. It’s not an easy tightrope to balance on. It’s the nausea, headaches, tremors, fatigue and other side effects that make you question why you even decided to walk it in the first place.

Then you look back behind you and see your life without the meds, and you see THOSE side effects: the hypomania, the OCD, the anxiety, the irritability and edginess, the fatigue that comes from just forming a thought, the lack of focus and disoriented mental state….and you look at the line in front of you and keep walking, keep trying to balance…

At least I do. I have to. For me, life without medication isn’t possible, at least not right now. And I’m okay with that, even of it means I have to spend some time here on the floor while my body adjusts to everything.

I may not like them, but I’ll take the side effects of the meds that help me be ME over the ones that let the worst parts of me rage out of control.

So could you be a dear and pass me another bottle of ginger ale? I’ve got like a lifetime supply ;)

Manic Mondays (On Tuesdays): Hypersexuality, Faith, & Womanhood pt. 1

Confession: This is the probably the hardest series of posts I’ve ever written here on ‘Confessions, because it deals with a personal and often ‘taboo’ subject in Christian culture. But I believe in the power of transparency, and I realize that this is part of owning my story and having honest dialogue with others, so that’s why I’m writing about this particular subject. Not sure how many parts there will be  this series, but I hope that this proves to be a healthy exploration for myself and whoever finds themselves in reading these posts.

Bipolar Disorder: When Sexuality Is in Overdrive – Bipolar Disorder Center – Everyday Health.

I read this article today while taking a break from doing my project on the book of Philemon. I’m in the middle of finals week and the end of the semester, (hence my absence from the blogging world) but I knew after reading this, I had to stop and write about it…

…or rather about my experience with hypersexuality as a woman trying to manage BP.  About being a Christian who struggles severely with this symptom of BP and what how I believe it impacts my walk with God…

About a year ago, I started noticing that I was having very sexual dreams, which was out of the norm for me. While sex isn’t something I dream about normally, that’s not what bothered me about the dreams. What bothered me was that I was constantly dreaming about having sex with women, which was definitely something I had NEVER done before. I also started noticing that I would have days (possibly a couple of weeks…or a month even) where all I would think about is having sex.

Now, let me say this. (Again, I’m being transparent here, so understand my disclosure serves a purpose) I lost my virginity at 16 and didn’t have sex again until I was 20-when I met my next boyfriend. While I enjoy sex, I’m not the type to have “friends with benefits,” one night stands, or even casual sex with strangers or people I don’t know very well. I tried having a casual sex relationship once and I hated it. (and it didn’t last very long). The only other person I “casually” had sex with was my ex…but I had known him for over a year. We were friends….and then we were dating…and the sex? It just happened. In other words, if I’m sharing my cookie jar with you, it’s because I know you, I trust you, and we’re in a monogamous relationship…. and even then, depending on how my spiritual health is, sex might not even happen under those circumstances.Sex and being intimate with someone I care about is awesome, but I’ve never been the type who felt like I had to have it regularly if I was single. I had more of a “take it or leave it” attitude concerning sex…if I was taking it, I thoroughly enjoyed it with my significant other…if I was single and leaving it, I was perfectly okay with that.

So while I enjoy it and I don’t mind exploring my sexuality, I’ve never been a slave to it…or felt like I was at the mercy of my desires….until I started having dreams about trysts with women (and liking it) and found myself getting into these moods where it’s all I seemed to think and fantasize about.

These moods would always catch me off guard because after having Alex and starting Zoloft, I had noticed that my sex drive or desire for it had dropped significantly, which is pretty normal after pushing a bowling ball-sized object out of your vagina and starting an anti-depressant. I would have days or even a couple of months where I wouldn’t even think about it, or it didn’t feel like a need that just had to be satisfied…and then I would find myself  waking up with my hands down my pajamas….dreaming about random sexual encounters with total strangers….and wanting to jump on top of my ex every time I thought of or saw him.

If you’re reading this and you’re a woman, I’m sure you know how um…aroused you can get as you draw closer to your period, right?  (yep, I went there and said the p-word-go ahead, you can squirm a little more, it’s ok) Well imagine those feelings multiplied by, oh I don’t know, maybe a thousand or so and you’ll get a picture of how I would feel in these moods. They would totally consume me, I felt like some kind of pervert or sex addict. It was so bad sometimes that even my ex would look at me and be like, “uh…yea…NO!” and would ask if I was okay. You know it’s bad when you’re so overwhelmed with needing to have sex that it decreases your partner’s desire for it.  Yea….ouch.

One of the frustrating things about feeling so sexual was that no matter how much I had, it never satisfied the need, it only intensified it. I even took to pleasing myself which while I’ve known other women who do it and it’s not  a big deal, it was for me because it was something I had never done. These feelings weren’t just about trying to explore my sexuality or what I “liked.” It was literally like a wildfire just burning out of control. I tried everything to uh…satisfy it, squash it, ignore it. It literally became a highly agitating state to be in, and I didn’t really understand what was going on….

The even more frustrating part about my hypersexual feelings was the fact that because I’m an unmarried Christian, I felt endless amounts of guilt about what I was experiencing. And the shame. Oh the shame that would consume me and still does at times was all encompassing. I felt…dirty. Full of lust. A lustful, sinful woman who just couldn’t control herself. I didn’t know how to talk to anyone about it, let alone God. I felt guilty for wanting sex as much as I did, guilty for having it as much as I was, guilty for pleasuring myself (masturbation is a no no in Christian culture, apparently), guilty for just any and everything about sex. It was awful and the guilt and shame I felt only fueled my depressive moods, tying me down in the gravity wells these moods placed me in.

During these states my mind would swirl with racing thoughts: Was I just consumed with lust? What was wrong with me? Was God disgusted with me? Angry with me? Did He understand? I would stand at the altar at the end of service, begging God to help me stop compromising, asking for forgiveness and desiring to be and do better. Then a few days would pass or maybe a week or two and I’d find myself right back in the same state: hot, bothered, and full of this urge I lacked the ability to control…

Since my diagnosis in July, I’ve learned so much about BP and its symptoms I feel less guilt and shame because I know (for the most part) what’s causing it. Learning that it’s a symptom of my disorder and not necessarily a reflection of my character has brought me to a place of acceptance about it. I still wrestle with what to do about these feelings when they arrive and become overwhelmingly intense, but I don’t beat myself up over having them anymore…

My questions to God these days are more about management and how to maintain celibacy until marriage. I’m rather frank with Him about it and I believe He’s far more understanding about it than I originally gave Him credit for.

Hear me: I’m not trying to justify my behavior, so Christians don’t crucify me. I’m also not trying to use this symptom of my disorder as an excuse to just be all “A’Driane Gone Wild.” But I am trying to manage, understand and walk this issue out in a way that is spiritually healthy and doesn’t “taint” my relationship with God.

I’m also trying to be more open and honest about this issue, which is something I don’t think enough of us Christians do…

I’ll talk about this and more about my faith, hypersexuality and how they impact me next week. Until then….any thoughts? Feel free to share…

Manic Mondays: Training My Pet Dragon

You know those wild fires that burn out of control every year here in the U.S. ? They rage for days, possibly weeks, while firefighters and rangers work overtime to try and control the blaze, possibly contain it so it doesn’t spread. They cost millions of dollars worth of damage and alter the lives of those affected forever.

That’s what Bipolar Disorder is like.

Especially rapid cycling Bipolar Disorder type II.

It’s a fire, full of unconstrained emotions and hormones that rage like a wildfire, consuming your entire being physically, mentally, and emotionally. Sometimes it’s triggered by an external source, others it’s something internal that ignites the spark.  Much like the wildfires that burn across the West, it’s a fire that can burn out of control…it’s takes finding the right combination of medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes to put the fire out or at a minimum help it die down to a manageable state. If it rages too long, it can cause damage to the person suffering from it and to those around them. It burns. It’s painful. It’s a hard battle to fight.

I’ve been referring to BP lately as a dragon. Ironically, I happen to LOVE the movie “How to Train Your Pet Dragon” and when I think about living with this disorder, that’s what I envision: A roaring, raging, fire breathing, dragon that can thrash around and cause chaos and destruction in my life if I don’t learn how to  do the following:

  • Find out what triggers her (yes, it’s a she….cause I’m a she. Duh)
  • What stirs up the fire in her
  • What she likes/dislikes
  • What helps her stay content in her cave…asleep, dormant
Remember the scenes in the movie where Hiccup and his other Vikings in training are in the ring, trying to battle the baby dragons? Each trainee was expected to know everything about the dragon they were to face-it’s strengths, weaknesses and how to defeat it.  Remember how when Hiccup befriended Toothless and learned what made him happy versus what freaked him out? Remember how Hiccup took what he learned and applied to the other dragons?  That’s how we’ve gotta handle living with something like this. Learn everything you can about it, what triggers it, and adjust our lives accordingly. There are times when no matter what preventative maintenance we do, our dragons will rage and breath fire…but if we learn how to train them? They can stay in their cave more often.
I’ve been reading numerous posts, articles and even had a conversation with someone who gave me hope that  BP is NOT a death sentence. It may be something that we have to live with for the rest of our lives, but it doesn’t have to destroy or even control every aspect of them. From what I’ve been reading and hearing, manageability is attainable-and for a person with BP, that’s recovery. Finding what keeps it manageable and in the cave is tough, it’s a battle. But once we do, and once we know what even causes it to rage,  we are then properly equipped to fight the battle….and WIN.
Bipolar Disorder doesnt’ have to be a big, scary, fire breathing behemoth that rages out of control in our lives….and it’s kinda like a “pet” we’re stuck with.  Just gotta learn how to train it. 
**Manic Mondays is a new series here on ‘Confessions where I hope to share more insight on what it’s like living with Bipolar Disorder. The goal? Raise awareness, increase understanding and help erase the shame and stigma surrounding this form of mental illness. If you’d like to guest post or share your story, email me at bconfessions (at) gmail (dot) com

Confession: Falling Off & Getting Back On The Wagon

SO….I have some things to confess. I spent last week in a full blown episode of  (hypo?) mania & didn’t even realize it until last night when I was laying in bed crying my eyes out, wondering why the heck I was feeling so low. I had felt so great earlier yesterday morning…but by midday the grey cloud of depression was hovering over my head, raining on my little euphoric parade….

Ahhhh euphoria. (Sigh) You know…I didn’t even realize how high I had been until I had already crash landed back on Earth-or rather my couch…immobilized. Stuck. Heavy. Sleepy. Edgy. Here’s the thing I’ve learned out being in a state of euphoria after this recent episode: it blinds you to the warning signs, the signals, the indicators that are flashing bright red, hoping you’ll notice their warnings. And even if you’re able to see the warnings, euphoria hits the mute button on the sounds of the sirens…they go from shrill to dull. Your inclination to care, your motivation to heed the signals loses it’s edge, and before you know it you’re rationalizing it away, allowing yourself to believe the lie that it’s not happening-you’re ok, it’s no big deal, you’re fine, you’re just a little excited & happy & that’s ok-you deserve to be happy for once don’t you? Don’t you?!

I should have paid attention. I should have fought harder to hold on to the edge I’ve gained the past 4-5 weeks. But I didn’t. Instead I allowed myself to take a break from fighting…..

It started the week I was sick with the Plague. That’s when I stopped fighting, mostly because I felt like pure hell & needed to get better. Problem is, I got better physically, but I started slipping in other areas. School took a hit-I missed some assignments & barely caught up. I started feeling anti-social & withdrew from people. My ex and I had an argument that led to him saying some things that crossed the line and hurt me deeply. He apologized the next day, but the damage was done-I spent last weekend struggling to cope-emotionally eating, drinking too much Moscato, & just trying to numb the hurt. Then last Monday when I got my refund from school, my excitement over being able to pay bills I was backed up on & buy some necessities for my apartment tipped me over the edge & into full blown euphoria.

Having money…getting paid…being able to pay bills, buy groceries, not having to worry about finances for a few weeks…it gives me a high I don’t really get from other things. Now I will say this: I’m pretty responsible with money in the respect that I pay my bills, especially the ones that are necessary to live-rent, daycare, groceries, etc-but I’m very irresponsible with what I have left over. I can’t save.  And unlike other people, I don’t spend it on Gucci bags, expensive electronics, clothes for myself….I spend it on little things that add up to big amounts. Instead of spending $15o at the grocery store, I’ll spend $300. Seeing my cabinets & fridge full, knowing that we have food to eat gives me a high.  A simple furniture purchase might be a necessity, but the exhilaration I feel is more than the normal person would feel. I don’t spend just to spend most of the time. Getting my nails done to feel better, buying the boys clothes they may need, going out to eat or buying something for my apartment….those are the things that make my spending habits a problem. Going to Wal-mart or Target can be a major problem when I’m in a state of euphoria.  The compulsion to buy even necessities becomes too strong, my resistance to impulses is weakened…telling myself, “I don’t need this,” or “I can get this later,” is something I’ve only recently been able to start doing. When I don’t have money to spend, I’m fine. But when I have it, and my basic bills are paid? Forget it. My mind races with ways it can be spend-literally.  Saving? (sigh) It’s a skill I used to be somewhat good at & now I just flat out suck.

So like I said, last week, having that money….I paid what I needed to, I followed my “how to spend my refund check” list to the tee. But once it was all over, I found myself wanting to keep feeding the high because it felt so good, I felt so good, I felt capable, not unworthy or unwanted like the argument with my ex & stress had me feeling.  The euphoria had me feeling fantastic, but underneath it was the ugly undercurrent of emotions that were pushing me further & further away from the progress I had worked so hard to gain. I skipped my meds a few days this week. Big mistake. Stupid mistake. I kept telling myself I’d take them & then I’d get so caught up in the boys, in midterm semester assignments, in catching up, in the euphoric bliss & forget.

I messed up. I fell off the wagon last week. And my crash back to reality began Saturday night. I passed out on my couch unexpectedly after getting my hair done. Sunday morning I still felt good, but the cloud was back…by midday it was hovering over me, darkening my mood & by evening I had fallen back into the gravity well of a depressive mood.  I cycled this past week. I cycled & didn’t pay attention until it was too late to care or resist.

Here’s the other thing I’ve learned about euphoria, cycling, & just living with this crazy beast: It’s VITALLY important you have at least one person on the outside who can tell you (in love) what they see happening, what they see you doing. Someone who cares about you, but who is objective & can tell you the truth when you need it. For me, that person this past week was my ex. When I called him crying last night & feeling like crap, he confirmed for me what I had already started to realize: “Addy I’ve been so worried about you this week, because you’ve just seemed so high…and talkative….and….and a little manic…and then yesterday I could hear in your voice you were starting to dip…what happened? What are you feeling? What’s wrong? Let’s talk about it. I”m sorry…I think our fight helped trigger it, and I’m sorry for that. I’m sorry you’ve been struggling-talk to me. Have you been taking your meds? Have you been drinking too much?”

(Sigh) That’s the kind of person you need in your life, and I’m glad I have him. We may not be together, we may fight, we may not see eye to eye, but I know that he cares about me and he wants me to be ok, because he can be that person for me when I really need it.  I’m also grateful for my neighbor who saw that I was upset late last night & stayed up talking to me, trying to help me smile & laugh. I need more people like that in my life.

I fell off the wagon. Today I’m trying to get back on. It’s not easy. But I made a commitment to improving my mental health and despite this step back, I’m determined to regain the ground I lost. That’s how recovery is sometimes: you take 2 steps forward & take one back. It sucks, but the point is to keep going in spite of the set backs. That’s what I’m trying to do today.

I’m not perfect. I try but I fail sometimes ya’ll. I have to do better, but I can admit when I don’t. Writing this, and admitting these things were hard for me today…but I’ve gotta face the music.

So I’m off to go to the park & run. Gotta get back up & continue to streak my way back to the box. Here’s to making it.