Normal is out there?

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TRIGGER WARNING – SUICIDAL THOUGHT CONTENT

 

I’m coming to the conclusion that, if Normal is indeed out there, I’m not destined to see it ever.

My search has always been to “get back” to Normal.  No more depression, no more anxiety.  No more suicidal thoughts, passive or active.  No more feeling like I’m letting down every single person that I know now or ever will know.  No more feeling like, no matter how hard I try, I will still, somehow, come up short.  No more skewed perspective either.  Is it me?  Is it them?  I really don’t know anymore.

If you read Hello again, you know that the major physical issues that I had at the beginning of the year have been masking my mental issues, but that things seem to have gotten worse.  Now, they are taking a dramatic turn for the worse.

I’ve been low all week.  I volunteer at a local resource center and Monday I went in for the food giveaway.  We got everything set up, no mean feat, and I was ready to stay for the giveaway.  But, I couldn’t do it.  My mind was done for the day.  It had already turned in for bed even though I was still walking around.  My mood was so low it was hard to remain standing.  I had to leave.  Of course, when things are like this I don’t see that as taking care of myself, I see it as skipping out on the poverty stricken who need help.

Sorry everyone…I’m too depressed.

It sounds horrible to me even now.

But, things have decidedly taken a turn for the worse.  My psychiatrist has changed my anti-depressant from Lexapro to Pristiq.  She’s trying really hard to keep my depression AND my anxiety in check without using much Klonopin.  We’ll see.  I have this lingering feeling that I’ve been on Pristiq before, but she didn’t see it in her records and the drug store can only look up the last two years (which is a whole other rant).  I’m trying really hard to take this with a good attitude, but my fears of awful side effects just won’t settle.  Probably because every switch brings a new side effect to mess with me.

Yesterday was the worst though.  Hubs and I go to my therapist together every couple weeks.  But, the last time was very tense and we got in a HUGE fight afterwards.  Yesterday the session was not too bad, but afterwards…I don’t know what happened.  The fight was huge.  I think it was mostly his fault, but I’m so depressed that maybe it was my fault.  I don’t even know anymore.  Here’s what I do know…

I threatened to kill myself.

I meant it, too.  I think I have enough Klonopin to do the job, but I have a ton of other meds, too.  It should be super easy.

Hubs loves me so much and he was very serious and believable that he didn’t want that.  And I know he doesn’t.  But I did.  Kind of still do.

It would be so easy.  Plenty of meds to do the job.  And then peace.  Hubs would suffer for a little while I suppose, but he has kids and grandkids and work to keep him busy.  The life insurance policy would enable him to pay off the house and all the bills, so he’d be set.  And I suspect his life would become a LOT easier.  I just want him to be happy, and I don’t believe that I’m making him happy.

I know all of this is really twisted.  I know it’s my mind messing with me.  But, I can’t make it stop.

I still have the willpower to let the Pristiq kick in and see if it works.

But, it better work.

 

Hello again

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It’s happening again.  That slow decline.  The passive suicidal thoughts start to emerge, start to bleed into my regular life.  I push back, try to make it go away.  So far, I’ve been unsuccessful.  My therapist and psychiatrist both know now.  I took that leap last week.  But, it’s getting worse.

I’ve had a really weird year.  For a long time I’ve really had nothing to say.  Then, in December, my grandmother passed away.  She was my last living grandparent, and considering I was 49 at the time, that was saying something.  She was my grandmother, my friend, my champion and I loved her dearly.

During my mourning I contracted the flu.  A real bad one.  Hubs took me to the hospital, I couldn’t stop throwing up and I could barely move under my own power.  My blood pressure when I got there was 177/144.  They chalked it up to being in the hospital and being that sick.  It turns out that while I was getting sick, I had forgotten a lot of things, the worst of which was that I was mentally ill and took a ton of meds to keep it under control.  The nurse at the hospital said to make sure I restarted them right away.   As the flu became a memory other symptoms ramped up.  I fell constantly.  My memory was in the toilet.  Hubs brought me my meds in the morning and in the evening and cajoled me into taking them.  But I was having a hard time following directions.  It was like I didn’t understand what the words meant anymore.  I ended up in the emergency room two more times, by ambulance, due to bad falls (one was in the bathtub) inability to follow directions, severe headaches and inability to use my right leg.  Every time they sent me home.  The fourth time, again by ambulance, and because this time I also lost consciousness, my husband refused to take me home.  By now I had four CAT scans and they all showed nothing.  This visit was no different.  Hubs said that they had to keep me.  He wasn’t taking me home.  The doctor made a fuss, but they kept me and the next morning I had an MRI.  That MRI showed, what they believed at the time, FIVE strokes.  My heart was fine, I had a bunch of tests, but my brain was FUBAR.

I ended up at Mayo Clinic trying to get some answers.  It took two trips to Florida to find out, but I hadn’t had a stroke.  I had PRES.  Posterior Reversible Encephalopathy Syndrome.  Basically, my blood pressure had spiked extremely high (remember that 177/144?) and the vessels in my brain leaked blood onto my brain.  This mimics a stroke.  It can also cause a stroke or hide a stroke but that wasn’t my experience.  I’m still recovering from all of this and probably will be for awhile yet.

But here’s the thing.  My mental illnesses?  Gone.  I felt fine.  I felt mentally better then I had in years.  My neurologist (who has a dual degree in Psychology) was very curious about the phenomenon and we continue to talk about it.  Unfortunately, since I don’t have an MRI of my brain prior to the PRES, he can’t really study me to see what’s up.

But now, I know.  The blood hid my symptoms.  It hid my symptoms very very well, and I have had an enjoyable reprieve.  But as the blood recedes from my brain, my symptoms are coming back.  The depression has made it’s presence known on a few occasions.  And now I’m living with the constant weight of passive suicidal thoughts.    Again.

I thought I was cured.  I hoped I was cured.  I hoped that whatever misfires in my brain to cause the bipolar and all the rest had been somehow reversed by the trauma in my brain.

I was wrong.

The fight begins anew, although I’m beyond grateful for the break.

Things I Didn’t Know

Note To My White Self

Nine years ago, I began to slowly awaken to my racial prejudices and white privilege.  It was a rude awakening.  During the past three years, I’ve blogged about that journey from racial ignorance.  Recently, someone asked me what have been the biggest surprises along the way.  What do I know now that I didn’t know before?  What follows is a short list of some of my bigger epiphanies and the posts where I shared these revelations.

I didn’t know that for a short period after the Civil War black people made significant progress in political and economic terms.  I didn’t know we had black US Senators and Representatives, that many southern states had black legislatures, that black literacy rates skyrocketed and blacks make significant economic gains.  I didn’t know about the reign of terror necessary for whites to end this moment of possibility, murdering thousands of black men, women and…

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Gone so long

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It’s hard to believe how long it’s been since I last posted.  I’ve been inpatient for a week, outpatient for 5 or 6 weeks, on vacation for a week and down with a wretched case of bronchitis for the last three weeks.  I could have written while I was outpatient or while I was sick, but for some reason I couldn’t do it.  I had no ideas and no words would come trying to free write.  And it wasn’t for lack of stories.  I have plenty to talk about.

I think it was Fear.

A couple weeks into the Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) I realized two things.

First, I wasn’t bouncing back from this breakdown the way I used to.  I’ve had a Major Depressive Episode, or as I prefer to call them, Nervous Breakdown, three times already, this was my fourth.  I like the term nervous breakdown because, for me, it’s a much more accurate description of how I feel then Major Depressive Episode.  I usually don’t feel depressed when the episode rams into gear.  I feel lost and scared and jumpy as all hell.

I know that the point of going inpatient isn’t really to make us well.  It’s to make us stable.  Stable enough to go home and hang on until our next therapy and psychiatrist appointment.  You don’t get to leave the hospital until you have those appointments set.

Unless, you are going to IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) or a PHP (Partial Hospitalization Program).  I was sent to a facility that provided both.  Five weeks of PHP and one week of IOP had me ready to graduate.  Which, as nervous as I was about that, I was glad to be going home full time.

My meds were changed by about 90%.  Lots of new stuff to take, lots of new side effects to try to shake off.  I’m back on Seroquel, which was not my choice, and the weight gain begins again.  I explained to the psychiatrist in the hospital that Seroquel has a major effect on my weight, but he told me that I couldn’t possibly be right because the packaging indicates a weight gain around 9 pounds  He didn’t believe me when I told him that the last time I gained nearly 60 pounds.  So Seroquel it is for now.  They took me off Trintellix, BECAUSE THEY DIDN’T HAVE IT.  Two days in, they told me to have hubby bring it from home.  He made a special trip and then they took me off it anyway.

PHP and IOP were a lot better.  Comfortable building, nice group therapy rooms, an on-staff psychiatrist, who was literally the best psychiatrist I have ever seen in my life.  Sadly, he doesn’t work in private practice and the only two psychiatrists he could recommend don’t take insurance.

Group therapy can be a dicey proposition.  It really comes down to the make up of the group and the facilitator.  For instance, I used to be really freaked out about cutting.  And during that tine, I was in a group with a cutter.  And it was very unsettling for me, so I didn’t get as much from the group as I might have otherwise.  Thankfully, my understanding of cutting is much better now, so when a woman who cut came to the PHP, it didn’t bother me.  I was extremely lucky to end up with a great group with wonderful people and excellent facilitators.  When I left, I was nervous, but I felt that I was re-armed by the coping skills I would need.

But, I digress.  Not only did I realize that I wasn’t bouncing back the same as I had previously, but I also realized that my life was never ever going to be the same again.  I felt my weakness.

See, I had always assumed, and worked towards this as much as possible, that my life would return to normal again.  I would feel good.  I would be able to work.  I would no longer end up in the psych ward or PHP or IOP.  Meds could be a thing of the past,

All I had to do was work hard enough.

But, it’s a lie.  And this is what terrifies me.

Day to day is a crapshoot as to how much I can get done.  There is an exhaustion that goes with where I am right now in my recovery, that I just can’t seem to escape.  I’m in bed by 8.  I generally don’t wake up till 7:30 or 8:00 am.  That’s a lot of sleep.  Sometimes I wake rested and sometimes I don’t.  I work my hardest to get things done by 2:00 because I usually start to crash around then.  Sometimes, I get a decent amount of stuff done, sometimes not.  But, when I don’t get much accomplished, I’m crippled with guilt about not getting more done.

And not having a job?  Oh my, that’s a bad one.  I’ve worked since I was a child, cleaning shelves in my Dad’s store.  I have worked ever since then.  I tied my identity to my Title Insurance work and have not been able to untie it yet.  The guilt of not working is intense and I think about it every day.  I talk about it in therapy more then I would like to have to.

Not bouncing back the way I used to and the feeling that I’m less then other people because I can’t work terrify me.  Is this a precursor of things to come?  Are things going to get worse?  If I end up inpatient again will it take even longer to bounce back?

I don’t know the answers to these questions.  No one does.  And I know many of you are struggling with one or both of these issues.  I know I’m not alone.  And that gives me some comfort.

Inpatient…again

If you read my last post,  you may have guessed that an inpatient stay was looming.  In fact, it ended up happening that very day.

I read my last post to my therapist.  It seemed the most efficient way of telling her how I felt.  But, the hysterics that went with it were unexpected from my end.  Bipolar sticking around for the rest of my life had me completely beside myself.  I ended up going to the hospital directly from therapy.  Hubby left work early and met me there, bless him.

Inpatient hospital stays are pretty standard wherever you go.  Group therapy, new meds, coloring and putting together puzzles are the usual activities, and this time was no different.

The big thing that I have realized that people don’t know, is that the hospital stay is not to make you well.  It is to make you stable.  It’s the outpatient programs that are designed to make you well enough to start up your own life again.  I’m part of a Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) that meets every day from 9-2.  It’s Monday through Friday group therapy, learning coping skills and getting my meds tweaked.  Today, I’m taking the day off so I can go to my regular therapist.  I like group therapy, it certainly has it’s pros, but I like one on one therapy better.  That whole hour is devoted to me and my issues, and I really need that.

Not a long post for today.  My brain still feels like it’s moving through sludge.  Hopefully, today will help with just Karen.  Tomorrow I will go back to PHP and learn what I can.

Can Bipolar be over now?

I’ve had it.  I’m tired of it.  I don’t want to deal with it anymore.

I want to wake up in the morning feeling rested and motivated, instead of tired and anxious.

I want to look forward to upcoming events on my calendar, instead of dreading the possibility that I won’t feel like participating.

I want to remember what my husband told me this morning while we talked.

I want to take fewer pills each day.

I want to plan fun things to do instead of being too tired to bother.

I want to talk with my family and not see the wheels turning in their heads about what they feel I’m capable of handling.

I want to work at a job that is useful to people, the way I used to.

I want to be done with endless doctor appointments.

I want to go out in the world, instead of hiding in my home to avoid all those people out there.

I’m tired of feeling tired.

I’m sick of feeling sick.

I’m tired of depression.

I’m tired of the constant struggle to give a shit.

I’m tired of worrying that all this worrying is going to put me back on the mental ward.

I’m tired of the constant anxiety.  The constant feeling that I’m standing on the edge of a cliff just praying the dirt doesn’t give out beneath my feet.

I try to pretend.  I try to put on a good show of feeling fine.  But, it’s hard work, all this pretending.  It’s exhausting.  It’s probably part of the reason I’m always so tired.  But, I can’t make myself stop pretending.  I feel a responsibility to not let my family suffer through my bipolar anymore then I have to.  But, I’m tired of watching myself fail in that attempt.  I see hubby hang his head or roll his eyes when things are going rough with me.  He doesn’t mean anything by it, but it’s extremely distressing for me.

Right now, I hate my life.  It was never supposed to be like this.  I had plans for my life, plans for my career.  And all those plans have gone to the trash bin now.  But, I miss those plans, those goals and I can’t get past the memory of them enough to make new ones.

I want to be one of those bipolars for whom the meds work great.  I want to get stablilized like they have and go back to work and feel fulfilled in my life.  I want to look forward to upcoming events with gusto not dread them in fear.

I want bipolar to be over now.

 

Down Day

So, it would figure that 2 days after I tell my pdoc I feel ok and I think the meds are working, I would take an emotional dive.

Yesterday was awful.  But, it made me think about the different ways that depression manifests.

For instance, yesterday hubby was the only person whose voice I could stand.  Listening to anyone else, in person or on the phone, was sheer torture that made me skin crawl.  I had a million things to do but the only thing I could actually handle was laying in bed or sitting in the sun.  I opted for sitting in the sun as it looks better to those around me than laying in bed.  Sadness, lack of energy and irritation were all present and accounted for.  I did get a shower in the morning, as I hoped it would make me feel better, but it didn’t, and it took a lot of energy away from me.

But, there are a lot more ways that depression can manifest.  Feelings of emptiness, total lack of energy, irritation, rage, despondency, crying and much much more.

I’m glad that I didn’t go any lower than I did.  I’m feeling a little better this morning and I have therapy today, which is usually pretty helpful.

The thing is though, I really thought the meds were going to keep this away from now on.  They’ve been working pretty well for awhile and that’s very scary to me.  Being treatment-resistant means that at some point, these meds are probably going to stop working.  I’m hoping against hope that I’m not getting a preview of this current batch of medications failing.

Whatever, the case, I have no option to just sit tight and wait to see what happens.  I guess that’s the boat that we’re all in.

Joey

On Sunday, my cousin died.

He had a hard life and in a way I’m thinking that at least he’s not suffering anymore.  But, the shock is starting to wear off and now I’m thinking that I just really miss him.

He was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 2 years old.  I’m not sure that it was ever totally in control.  But, he was a “bright side of life” kind of guy for the most part.

My grandmother had a last wish when she passed, and it was that the family stay connected.  But, my Aunt (Joey’s mother) did some things not 24 hours after Mommom passed that made honoring that wish impossible.  But all 6 of us cousins did our best.  Unfortunately our best wasn’t really good enough, but I did keep in contact with Joey, mostly through his efforts.

He did have a kidney transplant years ago, but the medications they gave him for anti-rejection pushed his brain right into bipolar.  Mania highs, major depressive lows.  So, he stopped the meds and subsequently rejected the kidney.  From then on, he suffered dialysis.

But, he recently got news that the doctors weren’t using the same anti-rejection medications, which meant that he could get back on the transplant list.

But, a second transplant wasn’t to be.  A couple weeks ago he suffered a major heart attack, a major stroke and a bunch of mini strokes.  He ended up in the hospital, on a ventilator and constant dialysis.  Valve replacement surgery (what our grandmother died from) was recommended, but Joey was never stable enough to have it done.

I’m told it was peaceful.  I’m told that his last words were ‘I feel better’.  Was his body rallying before death, as so often happens, or was he seeing heaven?  We’ll never know for sure, but I like to believe he was seeing heaven just a little bit.

There’s to be no funeral, which I couldn’t go to anyway because of my Aunt.  It would be rude of me to impose on the funeral of her son because we don’t like each other.  And, after all, he’s her son.

I’ll miss you Joey.  It’s much to early to have to say goodbye to you.

Medications and feeling “better”

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The “In Case of Emergency” information on my phone is HUGE!  I list my emergency contact and my blood type and my allergies, but I also list all of my medications.  It’s  a lengthy and daunting list and 95% of it is for bipolar disorder.

Lithium 300mg 3x/day – for Bipolar Disorder

Deplin 15 mg 1/day – Activated Folic Acid for depression

Gabapentin 600 3/day – Originally prescribed for Restless Leg Syndrome but pdoc upped the dose because “off-label” it’s good for stopping mania.

Trazadone 150mg at bedtime – For Sleep.  Getting proper sleep with bipolar disorder is almost more important than anything else.

Klonopin 1 mg 3/day – Anti-Anxiety med

Trintellix 5mg 1/day – Antidepressant.  We actually tried to up the dose on this awhile back and I started having bouts of hypomania.

Dicyclomine – Anti-diahreaheal.  Nice little side effect of so much anxiety

I also take Amitriptyline for pain, a cholesterol medication, an allergy medication and a vitamin.

All this, and I still don’t feel great.   I feel better than I did which is wonderful, and I’m grateful.  But, I always thought that when I got the right cocktail of meds I would feel normal.

And I don’t.

My moods aren’t swinging around as much anymore, but I’m stuck in this “kind of down” place.  It’s not full depression, but it’s probably a little depression.

On top of all this I go to therapy twice a week.  I love my therapist, she’s very good at what she does.

I don’t want to succumb to this mood.  I don’t want this to be the way I live my life.  My husband is beside himself at the number of medications I take and I’m still not “normal”.  ‘Why all these meds?’ he asks every so often (usually when my mood takes a dip).

The only answer that I have for him is that at the very least these meds have kept the mania away for years.

That’s the best explanation I can give him.  But, he’s never seen the mania, he’s seen the depression and I just can’t seem to kick that, no matter how many meds I take.

Befuddled and Bemused

Oh writer’s block.  This isn’t going to be one of my normal posts that flows nicely and makes sense (at least to me).  This is me trying to bust writer’s block and make sense of all the things that have gone on recently.

Jr. moved out.  Hallelujah, right?  Except that I don’t think he made the right decision.  He’s thinking more with his little head then his big head.  But, regardless, he moved out.  And, yes, a lot of that is very helpful to me.  I no longer have him taking up my entire living room, doing nothing to help with the running of the house he’s living in for free.  I no longer have the stress of having him here.  But, I’m conflicted, because as I said, I really don’t think that he made the right decision.

I had surgery on my right elbow and am finally out of the cast.  I can function in the house properly now.

My aunt, by marriage, is sick.  Definitely pneumonia, but possibly cancer judging from some of the first tests.

My cousin died on Sunday.  He was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 2 and his life was hell.  But, he was a cool guy and now he’s gone.  I’m still in shock.  I haven’t cried or had any emotion whatsoever yet about losing him.

Tomorrow is the pdoc appointment.  The only thing that I have to tell her is that I’m not really happy.  I’m not depressed or hypomanic, although I am anxious all the time (what else is new).  But, even for not being depressed or hypo, I’m still not happy, and there is no pill for that.

So that’s what’s happening around here.  I really want to get back to writing more often.  I miss it.  A lot.  Maybe this purge will help with the writer’s block.