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?

Dual Diagnosis

Dual Diagnosis

Dual diagnosis is something that affects so many people. Dual diagnosis refers to a person that has a drug and/or alcohol addiction that also has a mood disorder, such as bipolar disorder, depression, and more. I am a recovering drug and alcohol addict. In 2004 I got help; I went to a year-long treatment center that treated both my addiction and my bipolar disorder, and it completely turned my life around. I am now 12 years sober and proud of it. I’m not sure if I’m still considered dual diagnosis since I’ve been sober. I know the addiction never goes away.

Mental health disorders often lead to individuals abusing drugs and/or alcohol. It’s considered self-medicating. Someone may use drugs and/or alcohol to help make themselves feel better, which it may for a very short period of time. However, the euphoria only lasts a short while before the horrible despair sets in. I did this to myself for years before getting help. The causes of my PTSD are from the times that I was actively in my addiction.


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.

Bipolar Risk Factors

Bipolar Risk Factors

I suppose that I’ve been in my head a lot lately. I’m trying to figure out the answers to some questions that probably can’t be answered. However, I’m going to try to find some sort of answer because that’s the kind of mood that I’m in right now. I want to know the answer to the question, “why me?” I think about this a lot, but I’ve never actually tried to really figure it all out. Bipolar disorder is not caused by any one single thing; it is instead caused by multiple factors.

The following is general information regarding bipolar causes and risk factors.  The information below is not advice, and should not be treated that way.

Family History and Genetics: Individuals that have bipolar disorder in their families are more likely to develop bipolar disorder themselves. This is especially true for individuals with a parent or sibling with bipolar. This doesn’t mean that people with a family history of bipolar will develop the disorder themselves. Also, individuals with certain genetics are also more likely to develop bipolar disorder.

I know that personally, there are mental health issues on my father’s side of the family. His sister and one of his brothers have known mental health diagnoses, but I’m not sure what they are. There is also someone on my mother’s side that struggles with depression. I know that there is no one diagnosed with bipolar disorder on my mother’s side. Neither of my parents has/had mental health issues.

Brain Structure: Individuals that are diagnosed with bipolar disorder often have physical changes to the structure of their brains. There is often a natural imbalance in the neurotransmitters in the brain of an individual who has bipolar disorder. I’m not sure if it would ever be possible, but it would be great if doctors could eventually find out which individuals are more prone to developing bipolar disorder. Maybe it’s already possible, I’m not exactly sure.

Common Issues: There are many types of issues that are known to trigger the first bipolar episode in individuals. These factors include but are not limited to high stress periods, drug and alcohol abuse, major life changes, and traumatic experiences.

I experienced all of these situations. My father was diagnosed with cancer; he lived for several years with the illness before dying. I used drugs and alcohol so I wouldn’t have to feel my emotions. Because of my drug abuse, I met a guy that ended up being very abusive towards me for about 18 months. They may have triggered an episode, but they didn’t cause my bipolar disorder. My bipolar was there to begin with, and these situations probably just helped it come out.

Co-Occurring Conditions: Many individuals that are diagnosed with bipolar disorder often have other conditions such as PTSD, ADHD, various anxiety disorders, drug and/or alcohol abuse, and physical health issues. Individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder are more likely to have both physical and mental health conditions.

I’m also diagnosed with PTSD, I’m 12 years sober from drugs and alcohol, and I have a variety of physical health issues.

There are many factors that contribute to individuals being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. However, just because some has one or even several of these causes/risk factors, doesn’t mean they have or will end up having bipolar disorder.

The Liebster Award

The Liebster Award

Decoding Bipolar nominated me for the Liebster Award. Thank you so much, I’m honored that you thought of me. I love reading your posts; you have so much passion in your writings.

The 2016 Liebster Award is an award that bloggers give to other bloggers; it exists only online. The Liebster Award began in 2011. The award supports the blogging community and brings bloggers together.

The updated rules for the 2016 award are as follows:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and include a link to their blog.
  2. Display the award on your blog.
  3. Write a 150-300 word post about your favorite blog that is not your own. Explain why you like the blog and provide links.
  4. Provide 10 random facts about yourself.
  5. Nominate 5 – 11 blogs that have less than 200 followers for the award.
  6. List the rules in your post.
  7. Inform your nominees that they have been nominated for the Liebster Award and provide a link for them.
  8. Create 11 questions for your nominees to answer.

I found the official updated rules at The Official Rules of the Liebster Award 2016.

10 Random Facts about Me:

  1. I got sober at 19 years old and have been sober since then. I have 12 years of sobriety and very proud of my sobriety.
  2. I love learning. School was always fairly easy for me. However, it takes me a while to read because I tend to see a couple of letters and make up the rest of the word, and it’s usually wrong.
  3. I’m so hard on myself that I can’t even be proud of my 3.94 GPA that I earned for my bachelor’s degree, during a bipolar and PTSD breakdown.
  4. I’m extremely gullible. I pretty much believe anything I’m told. My husband likes to have fun with that.
  5. I played the piano (along with many other instruments). I miss playing and want to spend more time practicing.
  6. Family is the most important thing to me. Nothing comes above family.
  7. I married my best friend, who is 11 years older than me. I have 2 step-kids that are all grown and now I even have a granddaughter!
  8. I have a 10-year-old dog that is very well-trained. He is an 88 pound pit bull, dalmatian, english pointer mutt. His name is Cash, after Johnny Cash.
  9. I’m very organized, sometimes obsessively. Everything in my house is organized by color, shape, size, as well as alphabetically. The hangers in my closet are all 1 finger space apart.
  10. I grew up in a small country town in Connecticut with only 3,284 people. I often miss the small country town.

My favorite blog:

My favorite blog is called Story of My Life, it is written by a military man who deals with PTSD, depression, and attempted suicide. Dave, the author of the blog, displays honesty in his writings in a way that makes me feel as if I’m having a private conversation with him. I can relate so much to his struggles with PTSD. Even though the reason for our PTSD diagnoses are very different, I still feel as though I can relate to what he writes about his experiences and ideas. I think that is the best part about his blog, it makes me feel. He writes in a way that connects to my mind and my heart. It makes me feel more comfortable knowing that there is someone else out there that understands how I’m feeling and what I’m going through. A writer that can convey emotions to his or her readers is an extremely talented individual. If feels as if he writes the way he would speak, which also provides a level of comfort to the readers. Dave is also very open about his life experiences. I respect his blog and him as an individual. His honesty and openness have helped me to feel more comfortable in my own writing. He has made a huge difference in my own blog because of these characteristics.

I nominate the following bloggers for the 2016 Liebster Award:

Story of My Life
Bipolar is NOT who I am
My Bipolar Life
Life-Long Bipolar
Closer to the Middle
Tony Vega dot Net
Wallflower or Butterfly.

The questions I was asked and my answers are:

  1. Is there a negative experience in your life actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise? If so, what and why?
    I was an active drug addict and alcoholic, using any drug I could find. Around the time of my father’s death, I started smoking crack. This took me downhill very quickly. I wasn’t even at the hospital with my dad when he died because I was out getting high with my fiancé Chris. A couple of months later, Chris was killed. Everything in my life was falling apart. I couldn’t handle anything anymore. One day, I came home to my mom and said, ‘I hate my life, I want to go back into the hospital’. My mom told me that the hospital won’t change my life, but she had been looking at other places that could help. That’s when I agreed to go into a year-long residential drug rehab program. I honestly believe that I’m sober and alive today because I went to that rehab. My experiences while using and getting sober have made me who I am today.
  2. What is the one thing about yourself you want the world to know?
    I work hard at everything I do including every job I do and every relationship I have. I also follow through on all medical advice and requirements including appointments, medications, research, and tasks. I do my best to stay open to new ideas, even when they scare me.
  3. Underneath what you do, your diagnoses, and all of the clutter of life, who are you as a person? How do you see yourself?
    Underneath everything, I am a family member. I belong to two families, the family I grew up with and the family I inherited from my husband. I see myself as someone who is always there for their family and would go above and beyond to be there for them. I am a loving, caring, and considerate family member.
  4. Has your diagnosis (diagnoses) affected your life in a positive or negative way (or both)? Why? If you are the loved one of a person suffering from mental illness, how has their diagnosis affected your life in a positive or negative way (or both)?
    My diagnoses have affected my life negatively because I have withdrawn from all of my friends during depressive episodes. I have been unable to work for the past 7 years. I’m also terrified to do new things, which makes life very difficult. My diagnoses have affected my life positively because I made some strong connections with people through mental health support groups who have supported me through good and difficult times. My diagnoses have allowed me to relate to others, become more considerate of the needs of others, and help other people even when I don’t realize it.
  5. If you could live a life free of mental illness, would you? Why? If you are the loved one of a person suffering from mental illness, how would it affect your life if your loved one answered yes or no?
    Yes, if I could, I would live a life free of mental illness. I still would have gotten sober and met my husband. Without mental illness, I would not be on disability and I would be able to work, which I truly miss.
  6. What is your favorite non-physical thing about yourself? Why?
    My favorite non-physical thing about myself is that I love others fiercely. I take great pride in all my loved ones and I do my best to make sure they know how much I care about them. I’m also an excellent gift giver, and I love giving gifts to other people.
  7. What is your deepest fear? Why?
    I have a lot of fears, but my biggest fear is losing a family member, especially my mom. My mom is my best friend and I rely on her for so much. I don’t know what I would do without her. Even thinking about it now is terrifying.
  8. What is one thing you cannot live without?
    I don’t think I could live without pictures. I spend a lot of time looking at all of my photographs. I’m very nostalgic, plus, pictures also help me remember things that I have forgotten due to medication and treatments.
  9. What’s your favorite place and why?
    There is a single tree in a field a couple of towns over from my mom’s house in Connecticut. This tree is absolutely beautiful and helps me relax. It also brings back some wonderful family memories.
  10. You are given a time machine. You can go back and change one thing from your past. Would you do it? Why or why not? If yes, what would you do differently? Be sure to think of the potential effects it could have on any future events.
    I would like to think that I would go back and somehow save my dad from dying, but I don’t know if that would even be possible. However, if I did, then that would change so many things. Even though my life has been pretty tough, I still believe that I’m very lucky. I have a husband that loves me, a mom who is my best friend, and I’m 12 years sober. Despite the fact that I struggle daily with bipolar and PTSD, I’m lucky to have these things in my life. I miss my dad every moment of every day, but it would worry me to change the past because of the effects it could have on the future.
  11. If you could have any career and there were no obstacles to this, what would it be?
    If there were no obstacles and I could have any career, I would be a pharmacist. My grandfather and father were both pharmacists, and my aunt is still a pharmacist. When I was a child, I grew up always dreaming that I would follow in my family’s footsteps. I saw my grandfather, father, and aunt make a huge difference in many people’s lives, and I always dreamed of being like them and doing the same thing when I grew up.

The questions for my nominees are:

  1. What have you found to be the most surprising or unexpected benefit of blogging and why?
  2. What positive character trait do you have that you wish you could share with others?
  3. What is the newest activity or most recent learning experience you have had in your life?
  4. What aspect of your life would you most like to bring into balance? Why?
  5. What form(s) of art are you most attracted to or moved by?
  6. If you could travel anywhere in the world without worry, where would you go? Why?
  7. What is your favorite saying or quote?
  8. What individual inspires you the most and why?
  9. Describe a situation where you reached out to someone and it helped you feel good.
  10. What brings you the most joy?
  11. What decision or action has had the most impact on helping you through a bipolar or mental health episode?


Bipolar and Addiction: There Is Hope

Bipolar and Addiction: There Is Hope

There are various statistics, but it seems that more than 50% of people diagnosed with bipolar disorder also struggle with addiction in some form, such as drugs or alcohol. When a person is diagnosed with bipolar disorder or another mood disorder, and also has a problem with drugs and/or alcohol, it is called dual diagnosis. I was diagnosed with dual diagnosis when I was 14 years old. My drug of choice was crack, but I would do whatever I could find; I also had a problem with alcohol. If anyone is thinking about a rehab, it’s important to research each treatment center you are looking at for yourself or your loved ones to make sure it can properly treat both your mental health disorder and your drug/alcohol addiction.

Dual diagnosis can make it more difficult to treat either disorder, but it’s not impossible. I’ve heard some people say that drugs and alcohol can bring on mental health episodes; and mental health episodes often lead individuals towards drug/alcohol use; both are true based on my own experience.

I know it’s possible to recover from dual diagnosis. I am 11 years sober, which is something I never thought I could say. On April 29, 2004, I went willingly to a yearlong rehab that also helped treat my bipolar disorder, and I have been sober ever since. I even worked there for 9 months after I completed the program. There is always hope, recovery from addiction is always possible. There is no single way to recover from addiction, every person is different. I got sober through the help of a 12 step program. What worked for me may not work for another person.

I feel the same way about treating bipolar disorder. I have tried so many different medications but I have not found the right combination of meds that works for this episode. Even though the meds may have previously worked, or are currently working for many others, it doesn’t mean they will definitely work for me. It’s basically a trial and error situation when treating mental health. That is really hard for me to accept, especially since I’ve been through so many meds. I want a fix, I want to feel better again; I’m not sure how much more patience I have. However, if I could recover from a severe drug and alcohol addiction at 19 years old, then I can hold on to hope for bipolar ‘remission’. I’ve had times in my life when I was not manic, depressed, hypomanic, or mixed. If it’s happened before, it can happen again. Anything is possible.