World Bipolar Day (A Late Post)

In honor of World Bipolar Day (woo-hoo!) I thought I’d fill out this questionnaire. And yes, I am two days late!

1. What does bipolar disorder mean to you?
Bipolar Disorder means living in a completely different way than everyone else I know…it means never ending therapy and medication. It means that the little things destroy me. It means struggling to find ways to cope. It means I am complex and I can’t expect anyone else to understand.

2. What was your life like before you were diagnosed with bipolar disorder?
Before I went “downhill”, my life was fairly “normal”. I had always been an emotional, sensitive, quiet child and I would never have described myself as “happy”…BP has always been there, really. It just took time for it to truly emerge.

3. How old were you when you were diagnosed?
12 (which is young, and I used to doubt my diagnosis often, but no longer do).

4. How do you manage your symptoms?
Good question. I should go to therapy more regularly. I still haven’t really found coping mechanisms for my day-to-day life. It’s sort of come naturally as I’ve aged and become more mature. Medication is a must, though I have yet to find the right one.

5. What is life like for you now?
Life right now is difficult. I’m very quickly approaching my date to graduate from community college after what feels like three very short years, and in that time I’ve grown a lot. I’m struggling to find a job, which puts a huge damper on things, as more financial difficulties keep popping up. I’m trying a new medication. I’m working on college applications and trying to deal with the huge changes coming up, such as leaving home for the first time. I’m terrified. It’s a scary time.

6. Has having bipolar disorder affected your friendships, personal life, or professional life?
I’m incredibly grateful to have very loyal, loving, empathetic friends, and I hope to keep them for life. They can’t understand but they can listen, and they do so willingly. I am truly grateful for them. As for my not-so-close friends, I’m not against sharing my diagnosis, but I know I will be stereotyped, and since I am bipolar type 2 and not type 1, there are huge differences that most people are completely unaware of. I’ve never been in a romantic relationship, but I have had people tell me that they can’t deal with my emotional and, well, dark nature, but who needs ’em? In the workplace, I continue to find it frustrating that I can’t exactly disclose my diagnoses to employers. Anxiety and BP make it extremely difficult to work more often than not, but I don’t feel as though it’s something I can share.

7. How do you think society treats people with a mental illness, especially bipolar disorder?
I think there is a huge stigma when it comes to mental illness, and bipolar disorder especially. It comes from a lack of understanding. Most people have experienced some sort of depression and anxiety, but bipolar disorder is different. There’s this uniforming picture people have painted in their minds of bipolar disorder – someone incapacitated for months, then the same person going skydiving suddenly. Bipolar is incredibly unique to each individual and I wish it were discussed more.

8. Have you ever felt discriminated against or looked poorly on because of bipolar disorder?
Thankfully no, but I think much of that comes from my privacy.

9. Do you have any words of advice for people in the world suffering with bipolar disorder, or other mental illness?
It may seem hopeless. It may seem hopeless more often than not. But it’s manageable. I know it’s a struggle. It’s beyond a struggle. But think of who you would be without it. Think of all the gifts it DOES give you. You are beautiful no matter what, and you are strong. You can do this. You. Can. Do. This.

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An Informal List Of Complaints

I was feeling particularly negative today so I started writing a list of complaints before my art history lecture began.

My hair gets greasy after one day.
I can’t find clothing suitable for how tall I am and how long my limbs are.
Concerts are too expensive and usually too far away.
Right now, I can’t even afford a cup of coffee.
My elbows are eternally dry but I can’t accept it.
I’m a terrible, terrible liar.
Living in NYS is way too expensive for anyone.
Unrequited affection. Always.
I can’t afford to get my best friend a birthday present this year.
I have very short eyelashes.
I’m a failing bisexual in that I don’t attract women and I don’t attract men.
My room is such a mess that I can’t even find the motivation to begin cleaning it.
Heartburn.
Waiting for prescriptions takes too long.
Also, the pharmacy I went to for years no longer exists and instead of being able to make small talk with Frank the Pharmacist, I have to interact with cookie-cutter girls who came straight out of college.
I. Gained. All. The. Weight. Back.
So, none of my pants fit anymore.
People keep reproducing.
My pillows are flat.
Headphones always break after a month. Always.
There aren’t any bananas in my house.
I don’t retain scientific or historical information, as much as I want to.
I will eventually need glasses.
I lost my most treasured piece of jewelry in a Target dressing room nearly three years ago and I’m still not over it.
I can’t just go out and buy shoes even when I need them because my feet surpass normal female shoe sizes.
I don’t look good in flannel, despite how much I try.
There is still snow on the ground.
Nothing helps a sore throat.
Checking my email makes me anxious.
My last name isn’t the original last name.
It costs money to renew your license.
Sunscreen doesn’t even work.
I don’t know a second language. Thanks, America.
When you get older, no one offers to make you soup when you’re sick or tuck you into bed or play with your hair or anything comforting.

– Z

Panic Marathon!

I really don’t know which is worse – debilitating anxiety or debilitating depressive episodes?

Last night I was hanging out with my brother. We did a little coke and then I fixed myself a drink. Everything was peachy. Halfway through my second drink, though, I had terrible heartburn (not uncommon for me) but was also very, very nauseous (thanks, Lithium), so I stopped drinking. I dozed off while we were watching Breaking Bad, then when the episode ended I got up to pee, then got settled back in to go to sleep. I was out for maybe twenty minutes when I woke up totally alarmed and panicked.

I didn’t know what to do. If I tried to listen to music, it made me more uncomfortable. I couldn’t even look at my phone so I knew turning on the TV wouldn’t help. I just laid there, trying and trying to fall asleep, doing deep breathing, but to no avail. I did consider waking my brother up (he asked me today why I didn’t) but I didn’t want to have to explain I was having a panic attack because that tends to make one panic more.

So for about four hours I was having a panic attack. I eventually got my heart rate and breathing slowed a bit, but I literally thought I was going to die or have a psychotic break and had to repeatedly remind myself it would pass, which was frustrating considering the insane length of time this panic attack took place in. I tossed and turned on the couch for hours, just desperately wanting to go to sleep. I made a note of how I was feeling at one point, since writing down how you feel usually helps me a bit when I’m panicking.

I’m panicking. I’m not entirely sure why. I need to stop what I’m doing, but Jesus, I just want to feel better. I can’t enjoy anything. I can’t even close my eyes. I just want to sleep. It feels like my skin is crawling and my chest is so tight and I might cry but it’s not coming. I feel like I’m going to die. But I’m not. I’m riding this out. I just wish it would end soon. It feels like it never will. Sleep would help me. God damn it. Sleep. Just need sleep. Please. Please. Please. Let it stop.

Now obviously doing cocaine is not a good choice for anyone, but I’ve never had this problem with it before. It also really bothers me that I couldn’t even finish two drinks because the side effect of nausea. I can live without cocaine, but alcohol…that’s overkill (the nausea will probably subside once I’m more adapted to the Lithium, but still). I think this panic attack was a combination of blow, booze, and stress, but what baffles me is why it happened so suddenly and out of nowhere, literally. One second I’m asleep and the next I’m having a full-blown panic attack. It’s really scary, and I feel helpless.

To add to this, I had a job interview at a doggy daycare place today (I LOVE animals and I’ve exhausted my search for doggy daycares – I REALLY want to work with animals, seriously). After answering a question about a specific time at work when I felt frustrated and what I did to fix it (I talked about a change in the computer system at one of my old jobs and how I like to get things right the first time though having someone around who can help you out is always a good thing because learning new things takes time) I was promptly told, “Based on that response, this isn’t the job for you”. Uh…okay? “This job isn’t for people who get frustrated easily”. Okay, point taken, except…don’t most people? Also, working with dogs is exponentially different than working with technology. The real killer was the very plain statement of, “I’m not going to hire you”. Okay, dude, thanks? Appreciate it.

It’s been a rough day. I’m doing all I can right now, but Jesus Christ, I just really want to be better.

– Z

Another Post About Medication

“Stop taking lithium and call your doctor at once if you have any of these serious side efects: weakness, fever, feeling restless or confused…restless muscle movements…pain, cold feeling or discoloration in your fingers or toes…feeling light-headed…early signs of lithium toxicity, such as nausea, vomiting…drowsiness…muscle weakness, lack of coordination, blurred vision…Less serious side effects may include: mild tremor of the hands…weakness, lack of coordination, mild nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, stomach pain…”.

Okay…so…which is it? Are the side effects I have serious or “less serious”?

I guess if my instinct is to call my doctor, I probably should. The soonest I can get in is the 31st. Tonight I only took 300mg of Lithium, half my dosage, because I am quite concerned about the nausea I’ve been experiencing and very concerned about the terribly uncomfortable tingling in my hands, feet, and face.

Side effects of medications are something I frequently have a hard time picking up on. I tend to either have adverse side effects or no noticeable side effects. But I’m sitting here wondering, Is this serious or not?

I’m frustrated with the mystery of all of this. Is this the Lithium? Is it from my recent weaning off the Tegretol? Is it a combination of the Lithium and Klonopin? I have no idea. I’m not a psychiatrist.

I’m also frustrated with my current state of anxiety. The aggravation that comes along with not being able to fall asleep without music in my ears (and thus having interrupted, restless sleep) or attempting to fall asleep without it, my heart rate dropping in preparation of sleep, and then my mind going into panic mode because my mind is not in sync with my body and waking up in a state of anxiety.

Anxiety is so difficult for me to deal with. I’ve always dealt with it, but for the past two (nearly three, oh god) years it’s become increasingly worse. In the past year it’s gotten a bit better, but not much, considering how bad it still is. My anxiety worsened due to a drug-induced experience (my advice to anyone: don’t ever smoke synthetic marijuana. Ever.), so I’m not sure what I can do in my day-to-day life to help myself, therapeutically speaking, since there’s not really anything to “work” on. And there’s not a stronger drug I can be given.

I just want to feel like I’m not about to die all the time. A simple request, really.

– Z

State Of Fear

I feel obligated to make a post since I haven’t in a few days, though I don’t really have any news to report.

I’ve had some terrible bouts of extreme depression in the past few weeks. This weekend was very rough. The need for some sort of intoxication is overwhelming, but I don’t have anything at my disposal. What’s bothering me the most, however, is how my anxiety has been pretty full-on the past couple weeks. I’m somewhat used to being in a constant state of anxiety and teetering on the edge of a panic attack, but it’s been particularly uncomfortable recently. Whenever I feel this way, I just really want it to STOP.

I’ve been having a lot of trouble sleeping. Part of this comes from me throwing off my sleep schedule completely (going to bed past 3am a few nights in a row…) but most of this is just the usual I-think-too-much-about-terrible-things-and-can’t-fall-asleep nonsense. I usually have to listen to music to fall asleep, but this results in waking up numerous times throughout the night and thus a bad night’s sleep.

For some reason my face has been tingling quite a bit the past week or so. I’m wondering if it’s a result of recently starting Lithium, although I can’t find a whole lot about other people experiencing tingling in the face on the internet.

My current heart rate is 108 beats per minute, which is actually where it should be, but I feel as if my heart has expanded in my chest. You know, that panicky, nervous feeling. I’m also typing very quickly and erratically and tapping my foot much faster than normal. My thoughts are sporadic and there is now a tingling in my left hand.

I do need to refill my prescription of Clonopin, another thing to worry about.

I forgot what I was just going to Google.

– Z

Turn It Off

As I’m sure you know by now if you’ve read even one of my blog posts, I’m having a very hard time lately in terms of my mental health.

A few nights ago I was in my garage – I retreat there to smoke if it’s cold outside, which it still is – and I was very depressed and crying a little. Now, let me say this: in recent years, I’ve become more and more accepting of my bipolar disorder. If I didn’t have it, I wouldn’t be the person I am. I wouldn’t be a writer. The thought of that is incomprehensible, actually. However, on this night, I just thought to myself, I wish I didn’t have it.

The hard truth is that I, nor anyone else, can ever take a break from their mental illness.
The other night I was at a diner with my friend B and our waitress, a very naive and sweet (yet often times so sweet she leaves a bad taste in my mouth) young woman, told us, “Don’t be depressed.” Ah, if only it were that simple! Whenever people make comments like this, they usually mean nothing by it, but the older I’ve gotten, the more obnoxious I’ve come to find it. This circles back to the ignorance many people have with regard to mental illness. They don’t understand that it’s not a lightswitch – I can’t just turn it off, as much as I wish I could.

I would much rather be able to get up when my alarm goes off than lie in bed in exhausted agony every morning. I’d rather be in a stable state of mind than in a swing of deep depression. Living in a state of panic and fear isn’t pleasant and I’d much prefer to not feel as if a complete psychotic break is right around the corner. I’d like to be able to not feel the overwhelming desire to go back to bed an hour after I start my day. But these things are my reality. Mental illness doesn’t waver.

I know I am taking steps in the right direction, as I always am, because if I don’t, I will crumble. I also know I need to do more, such as get back into exercising regularly and eating a proper diet, since both things contribute to mental health as much as they do physical health. This lack of motivation and resistance to even getting started all goes back to the depression I’ve been experiencing. When I feel bad, everything else goes to shit. I didn’t even notice my eating habits had faltered so terribly until I looked in the mirror and realized I had gained back all the weight I had lost over the summer. It’s hard not to feel like a failure when you see so much progress (physical appearance, nutrition, mental health, etc.) has faded away. It’s like I have to start all over again and I find that incredibly discouraging, and I just beat myself up over it and practice the bad habits in an endless cycle instead of attempting to fix anything.

We all wish mental illness would just leave us alone for a while. It halts so many productive, healthy things we know we should be doing but just can’t bring ourselves to. But it doesn’t take a break. All we can do is try.

– Z

My Evening

I get home and don’t want to talk about the new job I was abruptly handed. I go upstairs to my room, jerk around on the internet, grow bored, feel the desire to talk to someone but no one is available.

I’m very hungry but I’m also very tired and cooking is the last thing I want to do. I know I should also finish my homework, but I don’t want to do that either.

I go downstairs and my dad asks about my new job. I’m morose and answer in short, mumbled sentences. He tells me how I don’t sound very excited. I say it’s hard to be excited, I don’t feel very well. He asks about the Lithium.

I go into the basement to check on my laundry. It’s not done yet. I go sit in the chair, out of place yet still coherent with all of the random boxes, papers strewn about, knick-knacks, and childhood toys. I start to cry slowly and silently. I hear my father start to come down the stairs and I quickly grab a tissue. He asks, though knowing the answer, if I’m feeling down. What’s new? is my response. He asks if I want a hug. I shake my head no.

I go outside, melted icicle dripping onto my head, and light a cigarette, but it’s menthol and I hate menthol so I only finish half of it. I decide I really do need to eat so I put on a pot of water for linguine, which I hate, but it’s there, so whatever. I start to do homework. I realize I do not want linguine so I take the pot of water and dump it down the sink.

Back in the basement, I start putting my laundry into the dryer and realize I forgot to use laundry detergent.

– Z