These questions are from Therapy Bits: Who asked to hear my experiences with bipolar symptoms, how I manage them, and how they effect my life.
I don’t remember most of my experiences due to the side effects of ECT. The biggest, most memorable experience was in 2009. My doctor tried taking me off my medication slowly, because he thought that it was possible that my mental health issues could have been caused by my drinking and using (I’m now sober 13 years). We found out the hard way that I really do have bipolar disorder.
I went into a major manic episode. It was so bad that I couldn’t work. I worked for home for a while, but even that got to be too much for me to handle. I was unable to handle my life due to my manic and then my depressive episodes. I moved in with my mom because I couldn’t manage my own life and I needed someone close to me to do that for me. I’m lucky that I had someone in my life that was willing to help me out.
My bipolar disorder turned my entire life upside-down. I’ve been on disability since 2009, and I can’t seem to get things back together. I continue to go through episodes and I have to deal with the side effects from the treatments I use. This biggest side effect is memory loss and confusion, which are from ECT. I have both short-term and long-term memory loss. I tried stopping the ECT treatments after I had been doing them for quite a while, however, once I stopped the treatments, my depressive episode came right back. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to stop ECT again; I’m too worried that I’ll end up going back into another manic or depressive episode.
I’ve been dealing with my bipolar disorder since I was 13 or 14 years old, and I know that it is something that I’ll be dealing with for the rest of my life. Going to a psychiatrist, a therapist, and taking medications is second nature for me. I actually take 13 different psych meds, which is a lot to manage. At this point, I go to ECT once every 2 weeks. I used to go to a bipolar support group once a week, but I stopped going a while ago. I still talk to and see some of my friends from that group, which really helps. This blog has also helped me manage my bipolar symptoms.
These questions are from bipolarsojourner
What are my successes and frustrations with ECT?
When I first started ECT, I did it for a while, probably about a year. I don’t remember it at all. But I decided to stop because I wasn’t sure if it was working or not. So I stopped for a while, about 6 months maybe. Then when I started back up I knew for certain that it was helping because it helped bring me out of a big depression. I now do ECT once every other week. It destroys my memory, but it helps my depression. I’m hoping that I can soon switch to doing a treatment once every four weeks. I honestly don’t remember much of anything. It even messes up my memories from before I started ECT, when I was a little kid. They said that is very unlikely, but it happened to me.
How does your husband support you? Is it effective?
My husband is very supportive. He was my best friend and knew all about my bipolar disorder before we started dating. He helps me recognize when I’m in an episode and helps me remember to take my medication. He’s very understanding when I’m not feeling up to doing something. For example, I had a hard time when our dog died this past April. He was ready to get a new dog before I was. He didn’t push me to get another dog, he let me wait until I was ready. My husband makes me feel safe and comfortable being myself, it is extremely effective.
What is your depression and mania like? Do you have benefits from your bipolar?
During my depressions, I always end up eating excessively and gaining weight. I tend to sleep a lot, I lose interest and often don’t care about things that I normally care about. I get angry easily and often feel worthless and suicidal. During my manic episodes, I generally go many days at a time without sleeping (my insomnia get really bad). I usually have racing thoughts, I get all jittery, I don’t make any sense, and I talk really fast (so much so that it sounds like I’m using drugs again, but I’m not). I also get suicidal during manic episodes. I used to self-harm during both depressive and main episodes, but it’s been many years since I’ve done that (although, to be honest, I think about it a lot). I prefer to be manic than depressed. At least when I’m manic I can get things done and I have the energy to workout. I can lose weight when I’m manic a lot easier, but when I’m depressed, I almost always gain weight.
Individuals with bipolar disorder can have either manic, depressed, or mixed episodes. I’m used to those; I’ve had each of those episodes many times. Right now, I feel like I’m somewhere in the middle of everything. I think I’m closer to depression at this time. My usual depressions include an inability to complete tasks such as cooking and cleaning, I sleep a lot, and I also fail to have good hygiene. I’m still having the suicidal ideations that go along with the depression and the lack of desire for almost anything, but none of the symptoms that I just listed. I’m not happy, but am I depressed? I know I don’t feel good, but I do feel better today than the last few days. Maybe it’s just going to pass by.
So where does that put me? I don’t think it’s a mixed episode, I’ve had plenty of those and none of them were like this. Maybe this is just me trying to get out of the depression I’ve been struggling in for about six months. I suppose I’ll find out on Wednesday when I go to see my psychiatrist.
Tomorrow would have been my next ECT treatment. Instead, I talked to my doctor a week or two ago and canceled the appointment. I’ve been wanting to stop these treatments for a while, and I finally did. Now, I’m nervous. I’ve been doing this for 15 months. Even though it’s hard on my mind and my body, it has become normal. All of the “what if’s” are going through my mind. What if ECT actually was helping? What if I slip into a huge manic episode? What if my depression gets worse? What if I have to re-start it, will I be willing to do that?
If I have to re-start ECT, then I don’t get to pick up where I left off. I would have to re-start by going three times a week for a month. Then once a week for four weeks, then every other week for eight sessions, and then finally back to once a month. I can’t do that again. I think I would rather try the IV Ketamine, and that terrifies me. Treatment resistant bipolar depression sucks. I wish I could take a vacation from it. Sometimes I feel like giving up. I know I’m not going to, but I want to. I wish I could be the person that didn’t always do the right thing.
Just before I turned 17, I met a guy and was immediately attracted to him. Jared had a personality that was appealing to many. He made friends with people easily, but he only let them see the side of his personality that he wanted them to see. For the first couple months of our relationship, he only let me see positive traits. Once we moved in together, everything changed. He became physically and emotionally abusive. He would tell me when I could see my friends. I had to have dinner on the table when he got home, or else. We did a lot of drugs together. I fell for every trick he played and didn’t stand up for myself at all. He had me convinced that I was lucky to have him; he made me believe that no one else would want me. The worst part of it all is that he broke up with me. He said I wasn’t happy anymore. I remember telling him he would regret it. I was devastated. I don’t know why I was so hung up on a guy that treated me like crap, but I was.
At a party, I met a guy who was so sweet. Chris was the exact opposite of Jared, except for the drug use. I started smoking crack when I met Chris. Jared tried to get back together with me, but I finally stood up for myself and told him no. Jared started stalking me at that point, so I became terrified for my safety even more than I already was. Chris and I dated for several months. He kept talking about getting sober, but I wasn’t ready for that. I was completely addicted to crack that it came before everything. I was even with Chris getting high instead of being at the hospital when my dad died. That is one of the biggest regrets I have. Chris ended up getting killed only a few months after we met.
The loss of my father was exceedingly difficult, even though I knew for years that it was coming. He had been sick for many years with cancer and kidney failure. He ended up dying from an infection on October 10th, 2003. He was in the ICU for a while before his death. I miss my father and think of him every day. Losing him was like losing a part of myself. I wish I had been there to support my family, but I was too far into my addiction. I wish he could have seen me get sober.
My drug use was insane, I was almost always drunk or high on something. All of this made my mental health even worse. I was dealing with rapid cycling; I was either manic or depressed at all times. I didn’t want to spend much time with my friends, the few that I had left. All I wanted to do was die. This was probably my lowest point in life. I finally decided I wanted to quit drinking and using, but I couldn’t do it. I wished I was dead every day. I had lost so much in life, but the worst thing I lost was my self-respect.
One day, I had finally had enough. I went to my mom and told her I couldn’t take it anymore. I told her I needed to go back into the hospital. She told me that a behavioral health hospital would not fix things. I needed more than that; I needed to get sober. Apparently, she had already been looking at places to send me. She showed me some of the places she found. I was interested in this one place in Arizona; it was a year-long in-patient treatment center. It treated drug and alcohol abuse as well as mental health. I actually became excited; I finally felt a glimmer of hope. I was scared, but so enthused about the possibility of feeling better, that it actually lessened the fear. Most people don’t go to rehab willingly. I went not only willingly, but eagerly. I was also terrified; the thought of something new scared me, but the depression was so horrible that I felt my only other option was death.
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.
I’m trying to plan ahead, trying to get ready to go away again for 8 days. I always try to pack for any situation; you never know what you’ll need while you’re away. I’m even going to a different climate, making it even more difficult to pack. I have to go through my closets to find some long sleeve shirts in case it gets cold. I also have to find my suitcase that is somewhere in my garage. I’ve written out the list of everything I need to pack including toiletries, clothes, shoes, medicine, and extras. My plan is to lay everything out on the guest bed and check things off as I pack them in my suitcase.
I still have errands to run. My weekly prescription went through yesterday without any problems, which is the first time that happened problem free. I have to go grocery shopping and pick up my script today. I also want to go shopping for some clothes, mainly pants, if I have the time. All of that has to be done by the end of today. Tomorrow, I’m spending a good portion of the day with my in-laws; it’s my stepdaughter’s first Mother’s Day, and I won’t be available on Mother’s Day to be with any in-laws. I don’t like leaving things to the last minute. Tuesday morning I have to leave for the airport; I will need to be completely packed by Monday night and have my clothes for the day left out on the dresser. I plan on having everything laid out on the bed by the end of the day, and then simply packing everything by the end of the day tomorrow. A few things will be left out that I need in the morning; otherwise I will be ready to go.
While it’s important that I pack everything I could possible need, I also have to make sure I set my husband up so that he has everything he could need. I don’t have to do these things for my husband, but since he works and I don’t, I feel that I should do these things for him. I like to make sure my husband has all the food that he’ll need. I also have a couple of bills to take care of before I leave.
I’ve been told that I plan too much, but I don’t think that’s possible. I’ve been told that some things you can’t plan for, which is probably right, but there’s no harm in trying to plan. The way I plan is by making lists. I’m a very visual person and if it’s written down then it will get done. I try to think of every situation, like going out somewhere fancy and bringing back birthday/holiday gifts, to make sure I will have everything I need. I always believe it’s better to have something and not need it than need something and not have it.