Is It My Personality?

Is It My Personality?

I often wonder what I can do to help my mental health. For example, my therapist wants me to stand up for myself and say no more often. It has me thinking, isn’t it a part of my personality, of who I am, the fact that I have a hard time saying no? Is my bipolar disorder a part of my personality or vise versa? Am I supposed to change my personality to improve my mental health?

I know there are some things that need or needed change. Twelve years ago, I stopped drinking and using drugs, which was extremely difficult. That improved both my mental and physical health. It was my activities that I changed, not my personality. I suppose that it’s not so much what I do, but how I do and handle it. I’m not sure if any of this makes much sense, but they are the thoughts that are wandering around in my mind the past couple days.

How Did I Change?

How Did I Change?

I often think about how I was when I was younger. I was a happy child and I entertained myself easily with games and toys. My mom could and did bring me everywhere with her because I was so easy. I had my own desk supplies; I would tape and staple random papers together and then show my mom what I made. She says I was a simple child.

So what happened? I ask myself all of the time, where did that happy little girl go? I know what happened when I was a teenager, hormones. But what about the rest of the time? It seems like bipolar disorder took over my mind and body. I think that’s pretty accurate. I feel as if I’m the exact opposite of who I was when I was a child. I wish I could be that happy kid again. I know it’s not going to happen, but when I remember being that happy-go-lucky child, I can smile. That is a gift in itself.

Rapid Cycling

Rapid Cycling

Rapid cycling is described as a pattern in an individual’s bipolar disorder. The individual must experience at least four or more episodes in one year. These episodes can be either manic or depression, I’m not sure if mixed episodes count. My specific diagnosis is Bipolar 1, rapid cycling, with psychosis. Maybe, my previous post where I was wondering if I was crashing is just another part of my rapid cycling. That could be why it feels like my episodes come in waves; they happen so often I have a hard time keeping track of them all.

People who are rapid cyclers can still crash; I guess the crash just doesn’t last as long. However, rapid cycling is a diagnosis that is not necessarily permanent. It can change as time goes on. A person’s bipolar symptoms tend to change with time, generally based on their experiences and treatment. This makes it possible for the rapid cycling diagnosis to be temporary for most individuals, although the diagnosis can come and go.

I find rapid cycling difficult to manage. Just when it seems as if I’m getting a handle on current emotional status and its symptoms, my episode changes to something else. Lately, it’s changing slowing, which is nice, but it’s hard to keep up with. One day, I can be cleaning, getting stuff done, and reaching out to others, and then the next day I can’t get off the couch. It usually takes me a couple of days to mentally realize and accept my current state, and that is extremely difficult when things are always changing.

I have a couple of questions. Is it even possible to cycle daily or weekly? What I find tells me that rapid cyclers usually cycle at least four times a year. Are there any other individuals diagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar? Do mixed episodes count towards rapid cycling? It would be great if anyone wanted to tell me about their experiences; I would appreciate hearing from you and finding out how often you cycle and how you handle your cycles.

Bipolar Disorder Affects Our Friends and Family

Bipolar Disorder Affects Our Friends and Family

Personally, I mostly think of how much my bipolar disorder affects my life. Bipolar disorder causes my personality and capabilities to change over time. I can be happy one moment, and then suddenly I’m crying. It’s not always this extreme, but my moods do shift without having the power to control them or even know when they’re coming. I’m lucky to have family and a couple friends that are extremely supportive of me. However, no one is perfect. Sometimes one of them may say or do something that upsets me and my mind automatically thinks, ‘Don’t they know what I have to deal with? And they’re complaining because of how my disorder affects them?’ It takes me a little while, but then I realize that my disorder has a huge influence on those around me, especially those I’m close with.

I have to work very hard at remembering that I’m not the only person my bipolar disorder has an impact on. Even when my loved ones are educated, they’re still human, and some of my symptoms can be extremely difficult to live with. This is true especially when I’m in a manic or depressive episode. Recently, I was experiencing a mixed episode, some of my manic symptoms included constant fidgeting, increased talking, and was barely sleeping. It took me a while to realize that my symptoms were also affecting my family, especially those I live with. One family member recently said something that hurt my feelings. All I could think was how I didn’t have control over what I was doing, and I felt as if this person was blaming me for that. It took me a while, but now I realize that my family has to live with bipolar disorder as well.

Many individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder at some point struggle to work. Personally, I went through a huge manic episode with psychosis that caused me to be unable to work at all. I have been on Social Security Disability since 2009. I still bring in some money thanks to SSDI, but I don’t make the money that I used to make. For many people, this type of situation often causes problems in families and couples. Our support systems often feel helpless because they can’t fix us, and they often can’t even understand us when we’re manic. But they’re not helpless. They can help to make sure we are taking our medication, help us come up with strategies to reduce stress, encourage us to contact our doctors, and if necessary they can contact our doctors if given permission when we have failed to do so. These are things that my family helps me with.

It’s a lot of work to be the support system for someone with bipolar disorder, or any mental health illness. Our loved ones can experience emotional and financial distress, they often have interruptions to their routines, they have to learn to handle our unusual and sometimes reckless behavior, and the stress they experience can often cause health problems. There are support groups and meetings for our loved ones, just as there are support groups that we can go to. It’s vital for our support system to receive support; otherwise, they won’t be able to be there for us. If we want someone to be patient with us, then we need to be patient with them. It’s much easier said than done.

How Much Longer…?

How Much Longer…?

Do you ever wonder if you can make it? Even if it’s just for one more day, can you handle life that much longer? It seems that no matter what you do, everything is working against you. If you’re anything like me, it’s a daily burden that you have to deal with. I’m constantly asking myself, ‘Am I okay? What if…?’ Sometimes, when I’m able to think positively, instead of asking myself, I tell myself, ‘ I’m okay. Everything is good.’ I say these things even when I know they’re not true; I guess I say them hoping to convince myself that they are true.

I constantly worry about pretty much any situation you could think of. I’ve had some people tell me, ‘Don’t worry, just relax’, and honestly, that makes me want to punch them in the face. Do they really think I would choose to live like this? Would I honestly decide to have anxiety attacks every day and almost never feel safe or secure? Nobody chooses this life; it’s not enjoyable or manageable. Living without control over your own moods is torture. These types of symptoms, the constant anxiety, not feeling safe, and questioning if life is worth it, tear apart a person’s life piece by piece. My support system is the reason I keep going, but it’s not easy. I just want to give up most days, but for some reason, I don’t, I never give up.

I compliment those individuals who are able to live with these symptoms and the other bipolar and/or PTSD symptoms and continue living their lives entirely. Individuals that can go to work, take care of their families, maintain a home, and manage their symptoms are impressive; I admire these people. That used to be me. I had a full-time job, a full-time social life, and I maintained my own home. I miss being able to do that. I’ve been on disability since 2009, and I wonder every day if I’ll ever have that type of life back. Even my therapist is unsure if that will happen; he said so himself. He says that I’m working on learning to deal with these issues better.

I hope I’m not the only one that feels this way; I feel lost enough already, I don’t want to be lost and alone. Although at the same time, I really don’t want anyone, even someone I don’t like, to experience these situations and emotions. All I can do is to stay positive, even if it’s fake, I just think positively. I pretend that things will be okay; if you think something enough, eventually it could come true.

Bipolar Extremes: Finding Balance

Bipolar Extremes: Finding Balance

I tend to be quite the extremist when it comes to my mood swings. I either have so much energy that I can’t stop cleaning or I can barely get off the couch to get anything done. I will admit that I somewhat enjoy the first few days of my manic episodes. I love the fact that I can get so much done; my house looks beautiful, dinner is always ready for my husband, I find it easier to run errands, I call my family and friends to catch up, I need less sleep, and some things are less anxiety provoking than usual. I love all of that; if only it would stay that way, but it never does. I run out of things to do, I start pacing and shaking, I make random and inappropriate phone calls, and I spend money more freely than I usually would; these are just a few examples of my bipolar mania. Often, when I’m manic, I still feel pathetic, worthless, and insignificant, as well as deal with suicidal ideations. I think that some of these episodes are considered mixed episodes because of how badly I feel about myself; mania generally has feelings of elation.

As my manic episodes come to an end, I tend to crash hard. All of the sudden, I’m sleeping way more than I need, I have a hard time getting out of bed or getting up to do just about anything, and my feelings of worthlessness and uselessness grow even deeper along with my suicidal ideations. I never get a break from feeling horrible about myself, no matter what type of episode I’m in. While I like the productivity aspect of the mania, there is not one part of the depression that I enjoy. I wish there was a way that I could feel okay and still be productive, but I haven’t found one yet.

What I really want is to find some middle ground somewhere. I must have experienced it at some point during my life, but right now, I can’t remember any moment like that. Maybe it’s just because of my memory loss from ECT. I know that I have come out of a few major episodes before, but no matter how balanced I seem, there is always something going on in my head telling me how pathetic I am. I just have to trust that I have had balanced times in my life. This is where positive thinking comes into play. It’s not easy to be positive, but there are several techniques that I use to help me through these difficult times. None of these techniques are easy to do, but they are vital to our health.

Use these techniques to get past the bipolar extremes and find peace and balance in our lives:

  • Remember there is always hope; believe in that hope. If you can’t, having someone else believe for you can help. When I can’t, my husband and mother believe for me.
  • Reach out to your loved ones and caregivers.
  • Find a support group that you’re comfortable with.
  • Be 100% honest with your psychiatrist, otherwise they can’t help you.
  • Take your medication as directed, otherwise it won’t work properly.
  • Write down the different methods that help you feel better and worse so you know what to do and not to do in the future.

I Try To Be Honest

I Try To Be Honest

I almost always fake being okay. It’s not often that I actually feel well, but it’s so much easier to respond to people by simply saying ‘I’m good’ with a smile, than it is to tell people how life really is. Most of the time, I can’t even explain to myself how I’m feeling. The words are easier to say, but not easy; however, the smile can be extremely difficult, if not impossible at times. Usually, when people ask you how you’re doing, they’re doing it to be polite. So what’s wrong with a polite answer?

I was having trouble falling asleep last night, so I was watching TV and trying to figure out what was going on in my mind. Even though a big part of how I’m feeling is because of the Clozapine, some of it is my own mind, and it has really been bothering me. What I came to realize is that when I fake being okay to others, I’m actually lying to them; even if it’s just lying by omission. One of the few things I’ve truly been proud of over the years is my honesty, and now I’m unsure if I can even count that.

This doesn’t mean I have to tell strangers in passing about my life, but I should tell those that love and support me how I’m doing. However, I don’t know if I can do that. I haven’t even been able to be honest with myself regarding how I feel. It takes a lot of work to be able to honestly tell others how you’re feeling. I just assume that most people don’t really want to hear it. When you’re bipolar, how you’re doing can change from day-to-day and even moment-to-moment. I think the people who I need to be honest with are those closest to me. Sometimes I withhold information for a little while, but I always end up telling them at some point.

I used to think that I was an honest person; but I am wondering if I’m dishonest because I withhold information at times and fake how I’m feeling. No matter how much honesty comes out of my mouth, it’s still not all there. I can only think of a few people who really want to know, and I am always honest with these few individuals; my closest family, husband, best friend, and doctors, to the best of my ability. Maybe I can still think of myself as honest; I do my best to be honest with loved ones. Not one person is 100% honest; I guess this is where I cut myself some slack.

I Can’t Even Fake Okay

I Can’t Even Fake Okay

I couldn’t even fake being okay today. I tried, I seriously gave it my all, but between the emotional aspect and the physical side due to medication side effects, I was pretty much a wreck. There was a get-together at my mother-in-law’s house just because, basically to see our granddaughter. Technically, she’s my husband’s granddaughter, but I feel like she is mine as well, and step-granddaughter just sounds weird. She is 6 months old and absolutely beautiful. I wasn’t feeling very well today, I had a lot of physical weakness. I was too nervous to hold the baby because of the weakness; I didn’t want her to get hurt. I have dropped several things I was supposed to be holding, such as dinner bowls, I didn’t want her to be added to that list. So I didn’t have as much time with her as I wanted, and that breaks my heart.

I went to the family get-together in a difficult emotional state to begin with. Earlier in the day, someone seemed upset, so I asked if everything was okay. The response I got was that I ask too many questions and it can be frustrating. The way I took it is that I talk too much; my memory is horrible causing me to ask too many questions, and that I’m overall annoying. I’m sure it wasn’t meant like that, but this is where the bipolar kicks in; my mind always goes to the extremes. So I spent the rest of the day trying not to talk, which is extremely hard for me. My memory is horrible due to ECT and I talk so much and ask a lot of questions because of the bipolar mixed episode that I’ve been in. I guess I don’t take negative feedback very well.

I think it bothered me so much because I don’t feel like I have control over myself, my memory, how much I talk, or what I say. I tried my best to fake feeling happy. I would have tolerated being able to fake feeling okay, but I could barely even do that. I used to think that I could always fake being okay, but today proved that I’m wrong. I don’t want to annoy this person, but if today bothered them because of how much I was talking or asking questions, then I think it must bother them every day. All I can think is that I must annoy this person all the time. Every time I have started to open my mouth that was thought that went through my mind. So I’ve done my best to be quiet, although I know that’s not the best answer. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.

I Choose a Clozaril Rechallenge

I Choose a Clozaril Rechallenge

Two weeks ago today, I say my psychiatrist, and we discussed my options for the next treatment method that we would use. This was not the first time we had this discussion. The topic began in November 2015. I kept putting off the actual decision making. My options began as IV Ketamine, MAOIs, or a Clozaril rechallenge. First, I wanted to do some research and then I wanted to discuss it with my mother and husband. Then we decided to do genetic testing and I wanted to wait for the results of that test. The genetic testing showed that I was unable to process folic acid, so I started Deplin, a prescription for L-methylfolate, which allows me to process folic acid. Deplin is known to increase the benefits received from other psychiatric medications. It takes 4 – 6 weeks to see the full effects of Deplin, so I wanted to wait to see how effective it would be for me. Today is the end of the sixth week. While I can see some improvements, such as my productivity, other aspects have had no improvement, like my auditory hallucinations, suicidal ideations, paranoia, and worthlessness to name a few.

I decided that I do need to try another form of treatment because what I’m currently using is not working well enough. I chose to do a Clozaril rechallenge. I am aware of the risks, but I feel comfortable because of the safety measures in place such as the weekly blood work. The first time I tried Clozaril, I lasted approximately 2 weeks before I got a fever and had to stop. I will pay close attention to any possible symptoms including but not limited to dizziness, sedation, blurred vision, increased sweating, nausea, flu-like symptoms, and a fever. I will contact my doctor daily to let him know how I’m doing, especially as I slowly increase my dosage. I am hopeful for this medication to help me.

If Clozaril does not work for me again, then I will have to try IV Ketamine since I am personally against taking MAOIs. I am prepared for just about any situation. I know that I need to have my blood drawn before I begin the medication. Every week I will get blood work done; it will be sent to my psychiatrist and pharmacy. I cannot get the prescription without having blood work done. This will be another adventure; I’m interested to see how it works out.

Knowing Your Symptoms – Staying Ahead of the Episodes

Knowing Your Symptoms – Staying Ahead of the Episodes

I decide to look up from my screen this morning and I see the beautiful image of a sunrise. Without even realizing it, I stayed awake all night long. This was not done on purpose. In fact, I took all of my nighttime prescriptions and supplements like I always do. I’m not sleeping as well as I normally do, but at least I’m usually sleeping. Last night, however, I hope was an anomaly. I finally fell asleep around 8:15am and woke up at 10:00am. Something was off and I’d like to know what it was so I can avoid it in the future. Was last night a symptom or just a bad night? Everyone has bad nights on occasion.

My mind wanders constantly, I don’t need/want as much sleep as I’m used to, my energy is greatly increased, I’m dealing with auditory hallucinations, and I feel a bit more restless than normal. These all appear to be manic symptoms. However, I also have increased anxiety/panic, I’m indecisive, I feel worthless and pathetic, and I’ve had ongoing suicidal ideations. These seem to be depressive symptoms. I have learned over the years, through both manic and depressive episodes, to pay attention to my symptoms. It’s important to be able to tell your psychiatrist what symptoms you are experiencing, when they began, and how severe they are. I have currently been dealing with most of these symptoms for months, but the restlessness, wandering mind, and increased energy are new within the past couple weeks.

Knowing and keeping track of your symptoms can help you stay ahead of the episodes; at least that’s my experience. Sometimes I’m not aware of my own symptoms, so my husband or the rest of my family tell me what they see. Since my sleep has been so terrible lately, especially last night, I am concerned that it will enhance my other symptoms. All I can do to stay proactive is to be aware and then report the changes to my doctor. I can’t control the symptoms, but it’s important to bring them to the attention of my doctor. However, almost every time a new symptom happens, I tend to wait weeks or months before saying something, thinking that I can handle it on my own. I don’t like going through medication changes and new treatments. I already know that I’m coming up on a medication change next week. I have to decide between Clozaril and IV Ketamine by Tuesday, so my mind says, ‘What’s the point in saying anything if I’m already facing a med change?’ This is not a logical thought, but it is what goes through my mind. It’s possible these symptoms are brought on by the stress of choosing a new form of treatment and/or the loss of an old friend. I know the right thing to do, but I tend to procrastinate. My doctor already knows everything except how bad the sleep has really become. I can commit now that I will update him by Tuesday at the latest when I give him my answer regarding the new treatment.