Current Mood: Unknown

This week has been great.  I have worked many hours, completed student loan repayment applications, kept up with household chores, and generally felt well mentally.  This has all happened for the first time in months, and it leaves me wondering where my mood has been.  I feel good right now.  I can concentrate again, and life doesn’t seem so overwhelming.  I’m grateful for whatever shift has happened.

The one dark spot in this is that I have obviously been having mood issues without being aware of them.  I’m usually good at picking up on mood symptoms and dealing with them before things get bad.  The recent manic episode must have split what has been a months-long depressive episode.  That’s all I can think of.  Depression causes that soul-sucking overwhelm and inability to concentrate.  I didn’t particularly feel depressed, but apparently, my mind was acting in depressed mode.

Whatever it was, I’m just happy it has passed.  Does anyone else out there have mood episodes that you only see in hindsight?

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Talking of Bipolar Disorder

Into A Pearl by the esteemed Justin Currie reminds me of what it’s like to live with bipolar disorder.  It’s not likely the inspiration for his song, but it really struck me.  The aspect of a ‘stranger in your world’ that ‘only you can smother’ speaks to me.  Justin is by far my favourite singer.  The front man of Del Amitri (my favourite band), he has a flawless solo career.  I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him twice in concert and would follow him all over the world if I could.  I never tire of hearing him.  Anyway, give the song a listen.  You might just relate to it, as well.

Routine

Here in America, my home of late, we’re preparing for Thanksgiving.  I have loads to be thankful for.  My FOC, my cats, my good health.  All of that.  For a girl who grew up in a cult and nearly died escaping it, having a good life at all is miraculous.  Yet here I sit, typing away, confident in the knowledge that I am loved and wanted by a wonderful group of people (and wonderful cats).  Yes, I am thankful.

I am not, however, thankful for bipolar disorder.  It will be the unwelcome guest this holiday week.  I’ll miss my nightly chat with my best friend Tuesday and Thursday due to his family obligations.  My work schedule is different.  My adopted grandmother of sorts and I will spend a day cooking together (great, but still out of the ordinary).  And all the while, I’ll have to monitor my mood for shifts caused by the lack of routine.

If you have bipolar disorder, you know this dance.  Your mood is stable.  Friends and family arrive.  Your anxiety rises.  Partway through the new terrain that is this holiday week, your anxiety peaks just in time for everyone else to settle in.  Your thoughts start racing from the anxiety, and pretty soon you start to feel the deliciously dangerous tug of mania.  This is what a significant change in routine can do to me.

Self care is so important during these times.  If I feel my thoughts start to race, I just go to my room and write or breathe or meditate.  Whatever it takes.  I check in with my best friend via text just to say goodnight.  Even if we can’t actually chat, that brief connection makes a major difference.  I force myself to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning.  That part of my routine remains intact.  I used to think of this sort of care as selfish.  Now, I see it as necessary.  Without taking care of myself, I have nothing to give to others.

So this is my takeaway for all of you out there dealing with mental health issues this week: take care of yourself.  Your family, whether biological or just in the heart, wants to spend time with you.  Don’t let your disorder take your place.

Work

Like most adult humans, I have a job.  I’ve  had this job for almost ten years.  And I am burnt out.  My therapist pointed this out to me when I went to her with the problem of actually *doing* my job.  Getting through each shift is torturous.  The problem here is the job is perfect for me as a person with bipolar disorder.  And as a person who rarely likes to leave her house.  I telecommute.

Bipolar disorder dictates alot of things about my life.  I keep a regular sleep/wake routine, I keep appointments with my therapist and psychiatrist and I take my meds without fail.  My job allows me the flexibility of setting my own hours and taking days off as needed to cope with mania and depression.  It sounds like a dream job, and it really is a ‘sweet gig’ as they say here.

So why am I struggling with it?  Anybody care to answer that question?

Focus is a problem.  I’m not sure whether that’s a bipolar thing or just me having trouble forcing myself to do something that is causing me problems right now.  There’s a certain lack of confidence in myself in doing a job I’ve done for years now.  No idea where that is coming from.  This has left me financially in a mess, and even that doesn’t seem to be a motivator.  I have no idea what it’s going to take to set me right again.  I’m scaring myself, and that is saying something.  But my bipolar-addled, attention-deficient brain doesn’t care about my fear.  It just wants to stare in to space and think of other things.

All Mixed Up

I’ve been cycling.  As a matter of fact, I’m still on the downswing.  It started with hypomania that I didn’t even recognise.  My therapist pointed it out to me.  This went on for roughly two weeks (which is why I haven’t posted).  My thoughts raced madly, and I wanted everyone to shut it so I could keep talking.  *Nothing* moved fast enough.

From there, the mixed state set in.  The latest DSM did away with mixed episodes.  The disorder, on the other hand, did not.  This is the dangerous stage for me.  All the despair and suicidal ideation of depression with all the energy of mania.  I had racing dark thoughts.  I didn’t want to talk anymore because I didn’t want anyone to get in my head.  My paranoia shot up.  *Everything* was dangerous.

Now I’ve fallen in to a light depression.  It’s inconvenient and uncomfortable, but I feel I can cope with it safely.  If not, I’ll definitely phone up my therapist.  This completes my cycle, though. A couple of weeks of mania, followed by a week or so mixed, followed by sometimes months of depression.  Here’s hoping this stage passes as quickly and as easily as possible.

New Directions

It occurs to me that, since I have started blogging again, this blog will likely take on a new direction.  I’m not the same person I was when I first started the blog, and I haven’t got the same concerns.  Back then, life was all about finishing graduate school and coping with the recently-divulged secret of my multiplicity.  Now, grad school is a distant accomplishment, and I am fully integrated.  Life has definitely changed.  Looking back at old posts, even the tone of my writing has changed.  Frightening and exciting all at once.

So what am I doing now?  Glad you asked.  Now, my life focuses primarily on bipolar disorder– something that can’t be resolved via therapy– and veganism/animal rights.  As well, I am proudly Wiccan and involve many Pagan practices in my daily life.  These are the pieces of me that remain post-integration.  I still deal with trauma flashbacks and will likely write about that subject from time to time.  It’s no longer a daily focus, though.  Now, my life is about using my beliefs to walk as gently as possible on the Earth.  I feel whole in my mind and spirit, so my focus is sharper on the causes I support.

That’s the funny thing about change– it’s ok!  We all change as life progresses, but we never lose our value.  Thanks for following along with this new leg in my journey, dear readers.  I hope you continue to share parts of your journey, as well.

Crashing Down

I’ve been in a bipolar depressive episode for five weeks with about two days’ reprieve.  Things are black.  The sun doesn’t even look bright.  I’m so tired of feeling like this.  My doctor is trying me on an anti-depressant with the thought that the potential for a manic episode is not worth letting the depressive episode carry on like this.  In the meantime, *everything* is falling apart.  I got in trouble at work, gained weight I’d lost, and just generally stopped caring enough to take care of myself.

This lands me where I am today.  I feel disgusting inside and out.  My disordered eating patterns are back.  The self-injurious behaviour is back.  I just generally don’t care what happens to my body right now.  My mind is too far from settled to give it thought.

I stay around for those I love and those who love me back.  I stay for my cats who are my little furry children.  I stay for my family-of-choice who I couldn’t hurt the way being a survivor of suicide does.  I’m just tired of staying right now.

Here

I came home unexpectedly today.  A few nights ago, I woke up unexpectedly in hospital after having taken what I thought was a fatal overdose.  The combination of a lengthy depressive episode and a bad living situation that I can’t escape got to be too much for me, and I attempted to end my life.  Yet now I’m here, typing a blog post I never thought I’d write on a day I never thought I’d see.

Even though the attempt didn’t work, I hurt a great deal of people.  Most of all, I hurt my FOC.  These are the people who taught me family and who expect me to be there for them.  I let them down, and I’ll have to live with that.  How do you apologise enough?  How do you win back the trust of those who never deserved to be put in this situation?  How do you learn to live with the guilt?  I’m wrestling with these questions now.  Nothing I can do will make up for what I put people through, but I’ll do my best.

There’s also therapy– loads of it.  I’m having daily sessions, at least by phone, and working hard at setting things right.  It will take a while; I’m not completely happy to be here yet.  I can, however, say that I’m not a danger to myself.  My therapist told me to hold on to the feeling of pain brought on by putting my FOC through this, and that is a great motivator for staying alive.  In the past, it’s always been enough to see me through.  This time, however, my current situation won out.  My FOC do *not* deserve this.

I’m not sure how to move forward from here.  Slowly, of course, but the path is unclear.  I’ve given my word to two of the most important people in my FOC for the first time, and I keep my word.  Suicide is no longer an option.  In a strange sense, that leaves me feeling helpless.  What can I do if things get to be too much again? That question might well go unanswered for a bit.  Much therapy yet to come.

So I’m here.  And I’m working on it.  For now, that’s all I can do.

Obstacles

Since my mood episode has passed, we’re back working on grief issues.  Specifically, we’re working with my sister’s death.  I asked the therapist if she found this repetitive, as we do keep returning time and again to this one loss, but she said we deal with another aspect of it every time we discuss it.  This time, we’re dealing with the extremes.

I have a tendency to bottle emotions (gasp from crowd).  As it turns out, merely intellectualising my feelings or stating them as fact does not count as actually expressing them and processing.  My therapist told me that I’m merely doing circles about them and will have to open them up in order to heal them.  Then, we discussed obstacles to that.

Obstacle one is easy to understand:  culture.  The stereotypical English stiff upper lip isn’t as stereotypical as some might think.  I’m not accustomed to overly emotional displays.  I’m more accustomed to the quick acknowledgement and subsequent containing of strong feelings.  This is separate from abuse issues or any kind of disorder.  This is simply culture.  Overcoming it is probably a question of pride and modesty.

Obstacle two *is* the trauma issues.  I grew up in a cult where people were literally killed for showing emotion sometimes.  Funnily enough, I have trouble with that now.  Then, Dr Freud, there’s the abuse my mother handed down.  On the day of my sister’s funeral, she was kind enough to remind me that, since it wasn’t my daughter, I had no right to be upset.  When I was a child, she taunted or hit my sister and me for showing emotion.  Again, small reason I have trouble with that.  Overcoming this is my biggest challenge.  No idea where to start.

Obstacle three is something I’d never considered: bipolar disorder.  My therapist pointed out that, given bipolar disorder is a condition of extremes, we spend some time attempting to keep me from giving in to strong emotions.  My emotions can’t always be trusted; some result from psychosis or other bipolar symptoms.  To overcome this, I guess we’ll just have to be overly cautious about the pace at which we attack the pesky little emotions.

There’s a danger in opening this box.  Sometimes, I follow down the path of wanting to be with my sister and follow her lead.  I don’t think that is a problem now, though, as I seem to have got a decent amount of control over the suicidal feelings.  Self-injury is the more likely problem, but I’ll deal with that when/if it happens.  It’s time, regardless of how much my mind fights against it, to at least begin the raw work of true mourning.

Crawling Out

I spent most of September in the haze of mania and depression, sometimes mixing the two.  In fact, a great deal of the month is a blur.  What stands out clearly is the fear, darkness, and complete overwhelm that followed me through rapid cycling and a meds change.  Now, thankfully, I’m pulling out.  I still feel somewhat timid and afraid, worried that the next step will take me back down *that* path.  I’m also very easily triggered right now and trying to be careful in those terms.  It’s hard when the world is filled with such bad news, though.  I’m grasping at straws, albeit with more ease, at the moment and crawling out one more time.  Hopefully, that means I’ll blog with more regularity again.  Thanks to my devoted readers who keep coming back, even when there’s very little to see.