A Prompt Response

 

One of the writing communities I’m a part of holds weekly write-ins via video conference. While I’ve been a member of this community since early last year, tonight was my first time participating in one as it was happening. By the time I joined the conference, everyone was reading their responses to the first prompt “When do you feel heard?”, and blowing. my. mind. like. WHOA.

We were given 30 minutes for our 2nd prompt and here’s what I finally word vomited after wanting to throw my paper, pen, and laptop out my back door. 

Prompt: “Show Me Your Brave”

I hold them in the palm of my hand never knowing if they’ll be enough to keep me through the next 24 hours. I stare at them intently, as if my gaze alone can make it so that they do. I tilt my head back, close my eyes, and pause as this unknowing whispers my own doubts back to me, louder than the why I must in spite of. It’s in this nanosecond of a moment that fear always roars its loudest, reminding me of what exists within, and its capacity for destruction. I feel the darkness, I smell the fire, I hear the frantic call of madness, the hollow wail of despair and I wonder if 150mg is enough for 24 more hours. My hands shake as I swallow each one and bring the cup to my lips to further assist them on their way down. 

It’s the only way to find out. 

 

*to learn more about The Story Unfolding & Story Sessions writing community, click here*

Side Effects of the Worm-Kind

Side Effects

*WARNING: There will be expletives…and a heavy dose of sarcasm* I’m sitting here staring at this little white pill. My hands are shaking….heart is pounding. Not the “oh I’m SO excited! I can’t contain it!” kind of pounding but the … Continue reading

The Waiting Game

So…

My new medication Neurontin isn’t here yet. The VA and the mailman aren’t showing me any love this week (laugh).

Well I do have to give the mailman some credit. He did bring me a little gift…

20120106-162830.jpg

No meds…but my hair will be brilliant shades of pink and blue, which will make me feel good and help me smile…

And despite the outrageous fatigue I’ve been gobbled up by today, I traded in some Wii games for a couple of Kinect games…

20120106-163134.jpg

So Operations Wear Myself Out With Activity and Quality Time with Rowdy Kiddos should get the feel good fuzzies flowing and help me sleep….

Alex goes with his dad tomorrow, leaving me with just one kiddo who can be occupied with an endless marathon of Power Rangers and Netflix movies if necessary…freeing me up to just veg out…read…sleep…lay low….

And just in case I dip too low, I removed every pill bottle, OTC medication, and sharp object from my apartment. (I’ve gone through enough med changes to open a CVS so I had to trash it all) Only pills left are my Abilify-I have to keep taking those. That way if the bad thoughts mutate and intensify, self-harm won’t be an option.

I have therapy tomorrow, it’s Self-Love Saturday, and I’ve asked my friends and my mom to check on me throughout the weekend….

My meds didn’t come, and the low is here….but for once I feel ready for the darkness in the storm. Here’s to riding it out, finding a danceable rhythm in each rain drop, and looking for the rainbow once the skies clear.

He promised He’d keep me through anything I may face…and He has. The low is here, but I’m not afraid….

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

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 ;)

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.

Cocktail Parties & Trying to Stay the Course

Nearly everyone experiences depression & anxiety at some point in their lives. For some it only lasts for a short time and it goes away. Some people develop great ways to manage & cope on their own or through some kind of therapy or counseling. Other people, like myself, experience depression, PTSD, anxiety or both combined & mixed up in a mutated mashup of hormones & chemical imbalances, and it doesn’t go away. Counseling helps. Possibly some form of therapy is beneficial. Exercise and eating well enhance the journey to recovery and support of loved ones & friends is crucial. But even with all of that, for some, part of the recovery process requires even more assistance in the form of medication.

I’m one of those people. I’ve come to finally accept that even if I work the other parts of “the plan” I STILL need medication to help the part of my being that is malfunctioning function. When I first started taking them back in July 2010, I struggled & wrestled with that decision for the next 12 months.  Some of my wrestling & unease stemmed from the regular stigmas that are associated with having to take medication for a mental illness. Taking meds for a physical illness is one thing-people encourage it.  Take it for a malfunction of your brain & body chemistry and all of a sudden folks start looking at you out of the corner of their eyes, or sizing you up, questioning everything they thought they knew about you. All of a sudden you’re less capable of executing sound judgement & making rational decisions. Start taking meds and you become…..different. At least to some people-I’m speaking in general terms here.

My rocky road to acceptance also came from grappling with my faith about it. I tried to pray it away-the depression & anxiety. Maybe I wasn’t being “Christian” enough. Maybe I was too sinful.  I quoted Philippians 4:6, “ Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;”  several times a day, especially when I would feel my body break out into a full sweat at the slightest trigger….Alex crying, bathtime, doctor’s appointments, phone calls with my client, Brennan being a 4yr old, driving through a busy intersection or heavy traffice….Name the trigger I was fanning it with that verse. I laid myself on the altar on Sundays, even took the “just pull yourself up by your bootstraps” approach and you know what? I kept getting worse. So I stopped fighting it and realized back in July of this year that yes, I have to take medication. I just do. And I’m finally in a place where God’s given me peace about it because I know He doesn’t have an issue with it. Do I believe God will heal me and make my life with bipolar disorder type 2 manageable? Yes, yes I do. But I believe that adding meds to the recovery & management plan is part of how He’s going to do it.

Descriptions of my meds & directions on how & when to take them

 

 

 

 

 

So. I take medication. I started with Zoloft….that didn’t go so well. It took away some of the sadness, but did nothing to calm the rage, irritability, anxiety, & even suicidal thoughts & ideations I was having. My mood swings were beyond severe. I was switched to an anxiety med, Lexapro. Didn’t really make a dent. By the time I took myself to the hospital in July I was afraid I was going to really end it because I was in such dire need of symptom relief.

I was put on Lamictal and given Clonezepam for immediate relief and boy was it immediate! When I saw my psychiatrist two weeks later, I felt like I was finding something that was going to work. She agreed, so I stayed on Clonezapem but was weaned off of the Lamictal, just to see how I managed. Next visit I explained that I was starting to feel edgy again and couldn’t sleep before 2am-I was cycling through hypomania. We switched to Lorazepam, added a sleeping aid, and an anti-depressant, Fluvoxamine.

The sleeping pills worked well-as long as I went to bed very shortly after I took it. A month

My cocktail...for now at least.

later, I feel like on one hand the meds are working because my moods don’t swing as much. The rage & irritability is gone. Anxiety is there,but it’s bearable. But on the other hand I’ve been VERY tired. I’ve even noticed that I either feel overwhelmed or indifferent, almost apathetic. I’ve also been feeling sad & wanting to sleep constantly. So when I talked to my psych today, we both agreed that taking the anti-anxiety med as frequently as I had been was probably too much-and that the dosage for my anti-depressant was too little. So we knocked one down a bit and boosted the other.

Yesterday a friend of mine said, “I don’t know how you do it. I wouldn’t have the patience to sit through trying different ones to see what worked.”  Hearing that made me realize two things: 1) For those of us who need it, taking meds is like going shopping. Whether you’re buying clothes, shoes, a car, or a house, you often have to try on or test drive several before you find what fits, what feels comfortable. The search for the right place to call home can be a tedious and frustrating one, and it’s the same with medication. Finding the cocktail that does the hokey pokey the best with your body chemistry isn’t easy, but it takes time and necessitates some patience & commitment on your part.

Patience. Commitment. Discipline. Execution. Kindness. Forgiveness. All of these need to be a part of your thinking and habits when it comes to living with an illness that requires meds to help you function. At least that’s what I’m learning, cause I don’t know about you, but I want to function! I have a life to live man! Who has time to just exist and be overtaken by something? Life is hard enough on it’s own without our bodies getting all wacky on us. So if you’re on meds, give yourself a pat on the back, be proud, and hold your head high. Meds are just help. That’s it. Don’t we need all the help we can get in this life?

So my cocktail has been switched up again, but I’m determined to stick it out til I find what vibes best with my hormones…my brain…my body…ME. Oh and realization #2 I had? I’m so freakin proud of myself for having the patience, kindness, forgiveness, discipline & execution I have so far with this. So proud. It feels wonderful to listen to my body & to be aware of what’s going on with it. My journey to recovery & manageability isn’t perfect, but I’m still trekking along, picking up resources & nourishment along the way :)  Your journey to find the cocktail you need won’t be perfect either, but I just wanted to share my story to encourage you to stay the course. You can do it. I’m living proof it’s being done.

Be encouraged!