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.

What’s Coming? I Hope It’s Not A Crash

What’s Coming? I Hope It’s Not A Crash

I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’ve been manic lately; I’ve been in a mixed episode more or less. Everything changes day by day; whether or not I’m able to get things done, how much energy I have, my emotional state, how much I reach out to others, if I can complete my goals, and how impulsive I am. These are my major signs that show what state I’m in; manic, depressive, or mixed. Since I had an ECT treatment yesterday, I generally slow down for at least a few days as my body recovers.

When I’m manic or mixed, I tend to get a lot of household responsibilities done. I can go all day without stopping. I make sure that I can complete every goal I set out for myself. I can’t stand not being able to cross off every item on my to-do list. I also usually reach out to others, both friends and family, when I’m manic or mixed. I withdraw as the depression sets in. I usually don’t have elated feelings to begin with during mania or mixed episodes; I still tend to feel bad about myself, unable to see the good things that I have done.

Every day, I see certain symptoms changing. For example, today I’m having a hard time getting things done. It is the day right after ECT, so I’m trying to give myself a break, but reaching out to others is also very hard. I’m also feeling the emotional depressive symptoms, wishing I wasn’t around is a common feeling for me. I’m not sure if there’s a crash coming, or if I’m just reacting to life’s circumstances. The worst part, in my opinion, is I keep gaining weight. It’s been happening for a few months now. I’m up 30 pounds, and I don’t have the will power to fight it. I have been wondering what’s coming for a little while now. Sometimes I think my episodes happen in waves; often never-ending and they don’t often last long enough to realize what’s happening, which is an improvement from before, now that I think about it.

If this is a crash coming, then it’s probably the easiest one I’ve gone through. Or maybe the new medication, Clozapine, is helping ease the fall a little bit. Other times, I have spent all my money, gained 80 pounds, or withdrawn completely from my loved ones. I’m still productive, no matter how difficult it is, and I’m working at keeping my relationships healthy, which is extremely difficult for me. I’m still trying, that’s what matters. Maybe I should just be grateful that I am still able to work at it. When my depression hits, it doesn’t matter how hard I try, I still don’t get things done like I want to.

Treatment-Resistant Bipolar Disorder

Treatment-Resistant Bipolar Disorder

Treatment-resistant bipolar, also known as med-resistant, is something that most of us know too much about. Sadly, it’s extremely common. Being diagnosed as treatment-resistant generally depends on the number of medications a person has tried during the phase that individual is in. Many individuals have been through all sorts of different medications without much success. And then of course, if a person finally finds a medication that helps even a little, it comes with side effects that are too much to handle. I have been considered treatment-resistant by my doctors many times throughout my diagnosis. I have taken so many medications that I’ve lost track of them all. I’ve even lost track of the horrible side effects. I know that for me, Abilify sends me into a huge manic episode, Depakote causes me to lose my hair, and I gained 80 pounds on Risperdal. Those are just a couple examples of medications that I couldn’t handle.

Treatment-resistant doesn’t mean that there’s no answer; there are several individuals that are treatment-resistant that have gone into ‘remission’ for multiple years. I am one of those individuals. Somehow, I was able to live a regular life, work a full-time job, and have a full-time social life. I don’t know what happened or what changed, but after a little more than 2 years, something changed. I was still taking my medication and seeing my doctors, but it was as if I was a ticking time bomb. Then I exploded into such a massive manic phase that I had to leave my job and go live with family. I haven’t been stable since that time, but I do know it’s possible. Sometimes I wonder if I can ever get back to the place in life that I was at before. Honestly, I don’t know if it will or will not happen, but I haven’t given up.

There is always hope, even for those that are treatment-resistant. New treatments and medications are always coming out that could help. Sometimes, a certain combination of medications or treatments is the key to remission. It’s not easy to be patient, or willing to try new treatments, but you never know when one of these new methods will be the key to our health. I am always willing to research and usually try new treatments and medications. I am doing ECTs, electroconvulsive therapy, every month (I’m doing the maintenance treatments at this point), and I am doing a rechallenge of the Clozapine medication. The ECTs helped me get out of a major depressive episode. The Clozapine is supposed to help take away my suicidal ideations; it’s too soon to tell how effective it will be. My conclusion regarding treatment-resistant bipolar is that you never know when some new treatment or medication is going to help; don’t give up before the miracle happens.

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.

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.

I Can’t Stop Moving

I Can’t Stop Moving

Last night I actually slept a combined total of 7 hours. For weeks now, I’ve only been getting 4 to 5 hours a night. So when I woke up this morning, I thought maybe I would feel more like myself. I was wrong. I know the signs of depression and the signs of mania. I generally experience one or the other, but I can tell now that I’m definitely in a mixed episode.

Mixed states of bipolar are when a person has both depressive and manic symptoms. My symptoms include a lack of sleep, talking faster and more often, being extremely active, increased anxiety/panic attacks, suicidal ideations, and hopelessness. Currently, my biggest issue is that I can’t stop moving, I can’t sit still. While this can be positive because I’m extremely productive, it also interferes with daily living. I’m completing all of my normal errands and tasks, and I’m adding in a bunch of new things to do. I’ve organized the closets and cabinets, cleaned the blinds, moved the furniture to clean underneath, took the vacuum apart to clean inside of it, leveled all of the framed pictures in the house, cleaned the hangers to remove all dust, and cleaned the ceiling fans. These are just some of the things I’ve done in the past 2 days in addition to my normal activities. It’s because I can’t sit still, mentally or physically.

Today, I went to a meeting to celebrate someone’s 2 years of sobriety. I was concerned how my body would react to sitting still for an hour. My right leg trembled uncontrollably for the entire hour. I kept telling myself that I could do it, don’t panic. My husband, sitting next to me, pressed on my leg trying to stop it from shaking; of course, this didn’t do a thing. Even now, as I type , I’m rocking back and forth. Sitting still is impossible. Even on Valium, I can’t relax how I should be able to. I think that maybe, if I’m active enough, I’ll be able to calm down. I don’t know what else to do.