I Need A Break From Myself

I Need A Break From Myself

I’m exhausted. I’m overwhelmed. I keep feeling like I won’t be able to make it through the day, but I continue to push myself. I’m just trying to get through each day, one hour at a time. Every moment that I make it through is a huge accomplishment.

I suppose that since my husband is struggling with his mother’s cancer diagnosis and he’s worried about his brother, I feel like I need to be stronger. I know that if I were to say this to my husband, he would disagree. I know he only wants what’s best for me, but I can’t help but feel this way.

I pretend to be stronger than I really am, but pretending can only take me so far. However, with every passing day, I feel as if I’m getting worse. Every day for the past month, at least, I’ve thought about going to a psych unit; however, I don’t end up going. I know that I’m not going to do anything, but the thoughts keep running through my mind. I wish I could take a break from my mind. If only that were possible.

Struggling

Struggling

I have difficulty with a lot of things. I have an extremely hard time saying no to people. I struggle to stand up for myself. Even when someone asks me what I want to do, I have a hard time answering them. I would rather do something I don’t want to do and be unhappy (without saying I’m unhappy, of course) that tell someone what I really want. Life feels like a giant problem, as if it’s an obstacle I may never complete, but I’m not giving up.

My ex, from before I got sober, was very abusive. I suppose that it just became second nature to do whatever he wanted. I would never dare to say no to him; I knew what the punishment would be if I didn’t behave properly. Even though he’s gone, I still react that way. I want to stop putting others before myself, but I haven’t been able to. Reacting the way I do is a force of habit. It has nothing to do with the people I’m with today, such as my husband, family, or friends; it has everything to do with me.

Long-Term Side Effects

Long-Term Side Effects

I have been taking medication for a long time at this point in my life; it’s been more than 17 years. Every now and then, depending on what medication I’m taking, I will have to deal with some side effects. Some of those side effects cause side effects of their own. It’s a very difficult and complicated issue that appears to have no end.

Right now, a couple of my medications are causing myoclonic twitches, and the twitches have been getting worse over the last few months. I’m still wondering exactly which medications are causing the twitching and I’m curious as to whether or no the twitching will continue to get worse or if it will continue to go away. I wonder the same thing with my nausea and heart burn; will it improve or get worse. What other side effects will I experience since I’m on long-term mental health medications? Are there some precautions I should be taking?

Anxiety Attacks Increasing

Anxiety Attacks Increasing

I’ve been having a lot of anxiety attacks lately, somewhere between 3 and 6 attacks a day, and I’m not sure why. I feel overwhelmed from everything that’s going on in life. These things are handling life’s day-to-day tasks, but some of those things are not so easy. I worry that I don’t make the right choices, that I’m going to miss something, and then everything will be messed up and it’s all my fault. It’s not just my life, but it’s also my husband’s life that I’m handling.

When my anxiety attacks happen, I can feel my heart pumping in my chest. My chest then feels tight and I struggle to breathe. The dizziness then comes on and my body starts to tremble. Sometimes I have no clue why I’m having an anxiety attack. Sometimes the only reason I know I’m having an attack is because I know my symptoms. My triggers still cause anxiety attacks, but they’re also happening at times that aren’t normally stressful. Does anyone experience this?

Another Day, Another Problem, Another Solution

Another Day, Another Problem, Another Solution

Today, someone is coming to fix the dishwasher. It’s been broken for almost a week, so I’m happy about the idea of having a dishwasher again. However, I do not like the idea of a strange guy in my house. My dog can look scary when he’s barking, but that will only last about one minute before he wants to play and be pet by this stranger. The dog’s no good for protection. Thank goodness my husband will be here. That makes me feel safe. I’m sure the guy coming to fix the dishwasher is a nice guy, but my mind always thinks about ‘what if’ situations.

I’m still feeling like a screw up. I wish I knew how to get rid of this feeling. I keep doing things that I’m good at, hoping to counteract this emotion, but the feeling is still there. It’s an irrational emotion, but it’s what’s going on with me lately. At least I know that this feeling won’t last forever. With my bipolar disorder, I know that no emotion will ever last forever. I will go up and down quite often. So all I need to do is hang on until this horrible feeling goes away.

Pretending to be feeling okay, when you’re not, is exhausting. I do this mostly around my in-laws. I don’t know why. They know about my bipolar disorder and are very supportive. I guess it’s just my comfort level. I’ll open up over time. I’m getting more and more comfortable around them. I think it’s just because we normally spend our time in large groups. I do better one on one.

Trying To Work Through Abuse

Trying To Work Through Abuse

I was having a conversation with someone I know and get along with yesterday. He was saying that he tends to get overwhelmed with all sorts of situations in life and often explodes. He says it takes him a couple of hours to cool down. I told him that I have those same feelings, but I hold them all in, which is difficult to manage. I don’t allow myself to properly express my emotions. This guy asked me why I hold everything in; he said it’s not healthy to do that (neither is the way he manages his emotions, but there’s a middle ground somewhere). I knew right away why I hold in my emotions and why my anxiety and fears are so extreme. It’s because of my ex-boyfriend, Jared, but I didn’t want to get into it then, so I just shrugged off the question.

However, the inquiry has been with me all night. Jared was physically, mentally, and emotionally abusive. I was hooked in our relationship. He had me believing that everything that went wrong was my fault and I needed to be punished for the problems I caused. Over time, I stopped expressing myself. I don’t like standing up for myself anymore. It’s just a natural reaction for me now.  I automatically stuff my emotions down; however, one day they will all come out, and it won’t be pretty. I already liked to drink by the time I met this guy, but being a black out drunk became normal for me because I didn’t want to remember anything. There are some situations that I remember, even though I wish I could forget them. I’m sad to say that Jared is one of the reasons I act the way I do. He has nothing to do with my bipolar disorder, but everything to do with my PTSD, which was diagnosed in 2009.

I’m getting better with time. There was a couple of year period where I couldn’t be touched by anybody, not even a handshake or hug. That is no longer an issue. I have come a long way. It’s still difficult being in crowds, having people around me that I can’t see (such as standing in a line or shopping), talking to or being around strangers, and not knowing what is happening. I like to have control over situations; it makes me feel a little safer. This may sound weird, but I tend to blame myself for what happened with Jared. If I’m to blame, then I can do something about it. If it’s entirely his fault, then I have no control over the situation. One thing that helps is that he’s dead. He was killed several years ago during a drug deal. At first, that made it even harder for me to deal with because I had no closure, but now I’m okay with it for the most part.

I doubt I’ll ever get past all of this, but I have grown from it. As long as I continue to grow, then that’s okay.

Side Effects or Underlying Issues?

Side Effects or Underlying Issues?

I have so many different struggles that it makes me wonder which difficulties have been there all along, and which ones are side effects of medication or ECT. Something has to change. Whatever it is, I really need to see some improvement. Hopefully I don’t have to wait too long. The three biggest struggles that come to my mind are memory loss, trouble finding the right words when talking (aphasia), and trouble making decisions. I mentioned these issues to my psychiatrist the other day. He told me that the aphasia is most likely caused by the Lithium. High levels of Lithium can cause aphasia in some individuals. Even though my Lithium level is low, it can still cause aphasia. I chose not to make any changes to my Lithium because we are already making a couple big changes such as increasing my Clozapine dose and stopping ECT treatments. It’s not a good idea to make too many changes at once. If something does happen (positive or negative), I wouldn’t know which medication change caused the new effect.

The memory loss is definitely from ECT. Since I have decided to stop doing ECT treatments, I’m wondering if my memory will get better and how long it will take for it to improve. Part of me is curious if my memory will get back to what it used to be; I’ve done 33 treatments and I’m not sure if there are any long-term side effects. Some of my medications, such as Lithium and Tegretol, can also cause memory loss. There is a possibility that some of my memory issues are from the medications, which means it’s possible that my memory won’t return to what it used to be. I guess I just have to wait and see about this issue. I hate waiting.

Problems making decisions is another issue I’m dealing with at this time. This is known to be a difficulty with depression. The only problem is that I still have the same issue when I’m manic or even hypomanic. The problem isn’t going away. I have difficulty making small and large decisions. Sometimes I can’t even figure out what to eat when I’m in my own house. My husband will ask if I want to go do something, like go bowling. I don’t know what I want to do, so I just tell him that I’ll do whatever he wants to do. I think that’s frustrating for him, at least I imagine it would be frustrating. Sometimes, he will ask me if I want something. For example, he will ask if I want ice cream. I respond to him by saying that I don’t need any. Then he tells me that he didn’t ask if I needed any, he asked if I want any. I don’t know how to answer that because I don’t know what I want. I wish this was less difficult to deal with, maybe one day it will get easier.

Physically And Mentally

Physically And Mentally

My body is just as screwed up as my brain. I had my first surgery when I was 16 years old; it was a cardiac ablation. My heart rate would randomly jump from normal up to 200 or more, and I would pass out. A year later, I had a tonsillectomy. In 2009, I had surgery on both of my knees. A year after that, I had a tubal ligation, which I will explain. I had a total hysterectomy in 2014.

The tonsillectomy is pretty much self-explanatory. I chose to have my tubes tied in 2009 when I was living in Connecticut. This was after my total breakdown. My psychiatrist had to write a letter explaining that I knew what I was doing and was making a sound decision. I decided that I have a hard enough time managing my life. I’ve had ups and downs; no matter how hard I try, I can’t always take care of myself. I’ve seen many people struggle with being a parent; it weighed on them so heavily. I didn’t want that to happen to me or my child. I decided it was better for me not to have a child. For me, this was the right decision, but it has been really hard. It’s been extremely difficult for me to not be able to have children. I often cry uncontrollably because of that fact. A year later, I ended up having to have a total hysterectomy because of severe endometriosis.

I pretend to be okay with the fact that I can’t have kids of my own. I’m a 31 year old grandma, who has never been a mother. Of course I wish I could have kids, but if I had to do it all over again, I would still make the same choice. I made the decision because it was the right thing to do for me, not because it was easy.

Right now, the most difficult problem I deal with physically is the interstitial cystitis. I currently get treatments every week; sometimes I can stretch it out to as much as every 3 weeks. The treatment involves getting catheterized so the doctor can put medicine directly into my bladder. This problem has been getting worse over time. I also have chronic bronchitis and pneumonia among other conditions, but luckily that’s not acting up as well.

I know that I’m luckier than many people, but I’m also worse off than a lot of others. Why do I have to have both physical and mental health problems? Why are all my problems chronic? Living with and managing physical pain as well as mental health is exhausting.

The Beginning Of It All – My Life: Part 2

The Beginning Of It All – My Life: Part 2

Trigger Warning: The following talks about drug and alcohol abuse, cutting, and suicidal gestures.

I believe that I started to change when I was in 7th or 8th grade. The friends I chose were different from before and I became a sad and angry person on the inside. Many kids go through changes around this age, but I took it a bit too far. Then, one day, I was told that my dad was diagnosed with multiple myeloma (bone marrow cancer). I was devastated. My whole life was turned upside down. The day after I found out about my father’s diagnosis, I remember walking into town and feeling very upset. As I was walking, one of my new “friends” saw me and asked what was wrong. I told him about my father and how upset I was. He gave me cocaine and told me it would make me feel better. That was the start of a treacherous journey over the next many years. Cocaine made me forget how horrible I felt, although it caused so many other problems.

My dad’s diagnosis was a trigger for me, but if it hadn’t been that, it would have been something else.  My drug and alcohol use as well as my mental health problems were not my father’s fault; in fact, they were no one’s fault. It’s just a part of my story. I couldn’t believe I was losing my father and I didn’t know how to handle it. My parents had me go to therapy, but it wasn’t helpful because I wasn’t honest with the therapist. Over the next six or seven years, I tried just about every drug except for meth, and that’s only because it wasn’t available where I lived. The beginning of my drug use was the beginning of my downfall, mentally and emotionally. I also started cutting around the same time that I started using drugs and alcohol. Cutting caused physical pain, which replaced the emotional pain. It was another outlet that caused more harm than good.

I remember that I got caught smoking one day. My parents confronted me about it and I lied to them, which is what they were more upset about. Instead of grounding me, I was allowed to do whatever I wanted, but I had to be with one of my parents at all times. My mom said that I lost their trust. The punishment lasted several months, which felt like forever, until I could prove that I was trustworthy again. I didn’t understand then, but I get it now. Trust is something that’s earned; it’s not a right for anyone.

When I was 14, I made a suicidal gesture. I took a lot of a medication, but I took just less than what would kill me. I knew exactly what I was doing; it was a cry for help. This was my first hospitalization. I met my first psychiatrist at this hospital; he treated me while I was admitted and I kept seeing him after. I was diagnosed with bipolar 1 and borderline personality disorder. I think the only reason I was diagnosed as borderline was because of the self-harm. I still think about cutting, but I haven’t done it in well over a decade. My family was very supportive and caring. I even remember at one point, my mom and sister completed the Family to Family course offered by NAMI so they could better understand me.

I tried just about every medication and med combo available, but nothing really worked. They probably didn’t work because I was also self-medicating with all sorts of drugs and alcohol. I actually told my psychiatrist about the drugs I was using. I often went to our appointments high. He did nothing about it except ask me not to do that again. Of course I didn’t listen to him. There were also some medications that caused me to gain weight. One med caused an 80 pound weight gain, yet he never mentioned that it was an issue at any of our appointments. Now, as an adult, I’m surprised and disappointed that he never informed my parents about my drug use or the side effects such as weight gain. It never seemed as if that psychiatrist at that time cared about my well-being.

I left high school after my sophomore year and went to college at the age of 16. The college was meant for “younger scholars”. I did meet some great friends there who I’m still friends with now, but I also started using more drugs. The actual school part was not a problem. I still did well in my classes, but I stopped caring about school in general. I only lasted one year at that school before dropping out. School was interfering with my drug use, and my mental health was a huge endeavor. I couldn’t do it all, so I left college and eventually got my GED, since I left high school before graduating.

I think that the biggest reason that every attempt to stabilize my mental health didn’t work when I was younger was because of my drug and alcohol abuse. I don’t know how to use anything in moderation. I could never have a drink, I would have a bottle. I couldn’t take just one hit; I had to smoke the whole thing. Even if I was doing well, the drug use would screw me up completely. I also didn’t work very hard on my mental health, I didn’t care very much. Now that I know how much of a difference I can make on my own mental health, I take responsibility for my teenage years being mostly a disaster.

Knowing Your Diagnosis

Knowing Your Diagnosis

Understanding your own mental health is extremely important. Even though most of us have some type of support system, knowing your own illness is the best way to take care of ourselves. I know that I am diagnosed with Bipolar 1. I have manic, depressive, and mixed episodes. While others may be able to see some of my symptoms, I try to be the first person that can see them. I am aware of the symptoms I exhibit for each type of episode. Knowing my symptoms helps me to catch my episodes before they get too far. Those that I’m close with, such as my husband, family, and best friend are also able to see my symptoms when they start to appear. I can ask these individuals for help to better maintain my mental health.

Hopefully, by paying attention, I will be the first to notice when I’m not sleeping, if I become obsessive, if I have racing thoughts, if I spend too much money, or become overly talkative. These are all signs that I’m becoming manic. I also hope to be the first to notice if I’m sleeping too much, if I feel pathetic or empty, if I cannot find pleasure in activities, if I gain weight, or if I start planning a suicide. These are all signs that a depression is coming. A mixture of these symptoms can mean a mixed episode is starting. I want to be the first to notice my symptoms so that I can get a jump-start on treating the symptoms and episode.

It’s not easy to know and understand your own mental health. Every person’s bipolar disorder is different. Each person has different symptoms occur, and each person has different ways they have found that treat their symptoms. Knowing your symptoms also allows the individual to contact their doctor so he/she can alter medication as necessary. Some of our episodes come from medication changes, from stressful events, from medical changes, or even from out of the blue. The sooner we begin to treat our episodes, and allow our doctors to treat us, the better off we will be. Success comes from knowledge of our own diagnoses.