Jules’ Bipolar Diary
The day-to-day experiences of a Bipolar patient*
Bipolar Diary, 7 October 2016
Is it all that good or am I manic?
Dear Bipolar Friends,
If you have had bipolar disorder for awhile you may know what I mean. If you are new to this I hope this makes some sense because I want you to understand. I want you to have times when you are cautiously optimistic. That is why I keep this bipolar diary.
I have had a busy summer. I was able to travel to Hawaii, to spend a week with Mom at the Disney resort for our annual monther-daughter trip, to go on a road trip to the Monterey Jazz Festival where we met up with my parents. My dad’s brewery is the exclusive beer there and we are able to meet great people, hear great music, support a great cause, it’s all good. In fact, the summer was great.
The question is, when is the other shoe going to drop? I have come to learn that when it is all going well then it cannot last. When I feel this good then I must be manic. I have been learning a new language and writing a book but I haven’t stopped after a week. I am doing it and doing it.
When is the other shoe going to drop?
Almost 30 years and I still cannot trust that sometimes things are just good. I had years of stability and I still cannot trust that I just might be going into a sort of remission again. I am on the edge of this very comfortable seat waiting to fall off.
Is that what bipolar disorder does to us? Does bipolar disorder make us afraid to have a nice time? To trust a nice time? Why can’t I just go with the flow and enjoy that this is a good time right now?
Because I have bipolar disorder and I am sick of being bit in the ass.
Bipolar Diary, 9 June 2016
Too busy to get anything done
Hello, Dear Bipolar Diary!
Too busy to get anything done? What?
Have you ever wondered how you could have gotten so little done considering how busy you have felt? I do that all of the time. I feel like I have been really busy then I look back at the time that has gone by and wonder what the F**k I have done with myself. My first husband used to say that his sister was the busiest woman in the world in spite of the fact that she never got a thing done. I do not want to be that person.
So today when I realized I had not been here to write, I took stock, I took an inventory of what I have done. I was surprised. I expected to find that I hadn’t done as much as I should have for the amount of time I spend at this desk, but I realized that I have done quite a bit. Yay! I have been helping my mother-in-law who has alzheimer’s. I have been working on 2 consulting gigs, I have been taking care of my health, working hard on the foundation, and a few personal things.
I have been working with WEGO Health on a project. That got me thinking about when I was first diagnosed bipolar. I have tried not to think about that time since, well, since that time. I tried to run clear of it as quickly as I could so I could move on. As if getting past it made it not happen. That is sad. That person that I was was brave and strong to do what she did at that age. So I took some time to thank her and honor her. I went back to remember that time and how really jacked up it was. It makes today look so much better.
Don’t forget to look at those dark times now and again, they make today look pretty sweet.
Bipolar Diary, 12 April 2016
Getting Out Of My Own Way
Dear Bipolar Diary,
Getting out, no matter what.
Mornings at Starbucks smells heavenly. Today is my first day “at the office”. While I have been able to sit at a desk 3 days a week, it is getting harder and harder to stay productive on other days. That leads to anxiety, anxiety leads to depression. So, the new plan is “This”. Today is day one, so let’s see how long I can keep this up. I got up at the same time that hubby was leaving for the office.
I got up at the same time that hubby was leaving for the office. I fed the pups, showered, started a load of laundry, put on “work clothes”, and went to Starbucks. I am sitting here now. I have put up a couple of posts, I have done some research for my non-Chronically Awesome podcast, and am having my coffee. What I am not doing is sitting on the couch curled up in a ball of anxiety watching TV, drifting in and out of sleep. This has to work because I am getting rotten feelings.
I am sure that I am going to spend my life like that. Just a person on a couch until my days are over.
That is silly of course. I am not that person. I am a, generally speaking, very busy person. This is a dip, a depression. The depression has caused a pain flare. People don’t get that depression causes pain. I repeat: DEPRESSION CAUSES PAIN. EDS is a painful disease, and when set off by a depression it’s a nightmare. So, here I am at Starbucks getting something done, anything done. Getting this done.
What is the takeaway? Give yourself some time, but not enough time to let the thoughts come in that make you believe that you will live the rest of your life as a useless lump. Force yourself up and out. Even if it just to read a book at a coffee shop. Up and out. It may hurt. I have music blasting in my ears to keep the world out. I still cannot tolerate that noise, the people, but I am out.
Bipolar Diary, 18 March 2016
Dear Bipolar Diary,
I cannot believe that I have been bipolar for more years of my life than I haven’t been. That is eerie. That deserves a pause.
Hi, friends. My meds are being tweaked again. It had me thinking this morning. Thinking about what is different about getting a diagnosis today versus when I was 18, back in 1988.
Along with my diagnosis of Bipolar disorder, I was put on medications that were typical of the day: lithium and some antidepressant. I am surprised that I do not remember which antidepressant it was. I suppose it is because I have been on many more antidepressants than mood stabilizers.
I was young and pretty dumb. The diagnosis of a mental illness was interesting to me. When my hands started shaking from the lithium or I became nauseated because I had not eaten enough with my meds, I had no problem flat out telling someone, “Oh, it’s just the lithium.” This pronouncement was long before having a mental illness was anything close to being okay. I didn’t want the attention; I just didn’t care.
Since that time I have been on almost every antidepressant ever produced, and every mood stabilizer prescribed both “on-label” and “off-label.” There were, at the time, very few medications specifically called “mood stabilizers.” Anticonvulsants were all that we had on the menu.
I have nearly died once; that was from lithium toxicity. This post is the first time I have admitted to anyone just how sick I got. That was the result of a careless a psych ward of all places. Unlike the dumb kid in 1988, this was a different scared. My brain fascinates me when it comes to what I choose to share and what I keep secret. There was the liver damage from Depakote. Then the summer I spent vomiting and staring into space from the tricyclic drug Tofranil, they call it the original tricyclic. I call it nonsense. I have never taken an MAOI.
It takes awhile to get the cocktail right. The research has come a long way. If you are wondering where the antidepressant is, they don’t hand those out at the beginning of treatment anymore. In 2002, the APA changed the guidelines for treating Bipolar disorder. The two approved mood stabilizers became lithium and Lamictal. I take Lamictal. You are prescribed an antidepressant after you have been stabilized on your mood stabilizer (that sounded funny, sorry) IF you have treatment resistant depression that does not respond to the Lamictal or Lithium.
When this research came out, I marched into my new psychiatrist’s office and demanded to be taken off of my antidepressant. Whoo Hoo, one less pill! Why take it if it wasn’t doing anything. It wasn’t doing anything but mess up my sex life.
This new tweak has more to do with comorbidities. Until I can get a very expensive medication approved that I need for another illness I have, we are using Welbutrin to treat fatigue.
While you are waiting for things to stabilize, I can only tell you a few things: Be patient. Get a good therapist. Write every day. Meditate.
Bipolar Diary, 12 March 2016
Dear Bipolar Diary, One of the most important weapons in the battle against bipolar is organization. If I do not remain organized, I can become either manic or depressed depending upon the situation.
If I do not keep my bills and finances organized, and the bill collectors start ringing at all hours I will be anxious which will lead to depression. If I do not keep all of my tasks organized, I will go skittering about my computer like a virus attacking my files leaving little bits of incomplete work here and there in an ADHD (un)pattern, building into the inevitable. Finally, what has to get done gets ignored and I find myself working on something brand new and so far afield of anything I was doing, or have any business doing that my mania is apparent to even the casual observer.
I go from posting on the Foundation Facebook page to creating an entirely new website for a new branch of the Foundation that is going to _____ (fill in the blank with something that could NEVER happen).
Do you ever get so many things started that you get confused about where to turn next? At the moment, I have too much to do. I know I have overcommitted myself, but everything I committed myself to was a necessity nor did I commit myself to anything that anyone else was going to get done for me. It all has a deadline of yesterday.
Does that sound familiar?
It puts me in a mood. An agitated, not very nice, mood.
I have to stop and ask myself, “Are these real tasks or are these ideas I have cooked up because I a manic?”
This agitation prompts me to make a list. On the list, I am careful only to add the ideas that I believe to be currently on my plate. I cannot add anything new that pops into my head at the moment of list-making. Upon completion of the list, I put a star next to those things that are in someone else’s critical path, meaning, someone else is waiting for me to finish those things so that they can do something.
After I prioritize the critical path items, I put an X next to the elements that should get done soon. Those things can wait. That leaves me with the next list of priorities.
- Critical Path
- My priorities
- Odds and ends that should get done soon
I have a prospective customer waiting for a quote for marketing services. Not only is he waiting, but, if he accepts the bid, I will make money. I would say that the item is in both of our critical paths. I should do that first. And so on.
If this gets rid of that agitated feeling inside of me that tells me that I am completely overwhelmed with more tasks than an office full of people could handle, then I would be eternally grateful to myself. I will be grateful for not triggering a full-blown mania.
It is easy to recognize that I am not manic because by 6:00 pm I can hardly keep my eyes open. I have just enough energy to cook dinner. Were I manic I would just keep going like the Energizer Bunny!
I need to schedule a nap into my list of priorities. I have to remember that Bipolar is not my only diagnosis. I have to take care of the whole of me. Chronic pain, Arthritis, EDS and all,
Bipolar Diary, 9 March 2016
Dear Bipolar Diary, I have so much to tell you, my Bipolar friend. If you are newly diagnosed or at any point along your mental health journey, I hope that my diary can help you. I have a long history with this illness. It has become like an appendage to me, something that I have gotten so used to that I hardly remember a life without the tagline “bipolar” after my name.
There have been days, weeks, months, and yes, even years that I have been able to set condition aside to the point that it has been only the tiniest devil on my shoulder. Bound and gagged by a cocktail of medications so perfectly balanced that I was able to forget about it, almost. There is always an almost. And, just because I thought it was not there for awhile, it does not mean that those around me forgot it was there. Hypomania can be, to me at least, just in a good mood, but to my friends and family a “something”.
After I get a few things off of my chest here, as this is a new diary for me, I am going to start at the very beginning, keep going until the end, and then I will stop. (I love Alice in Wonderland).
We can walk this path together. But first, some news, and then some advice.
Today I was honored when WEGO Health announced that I was one of seven “Bipolar Depression Patient Leaders You Need To Know”. I am honored and amazed to be placed amongst such incredible company.
For as long as Chronically Awesome has been around I have promised everyone involved that I would be creating a peer education program. I have always wanted to give newly diagnosed patients an opportunity to get information from those of us that have been living with our chronic condition for years.
In 1988, a rather apathetic doctor handed me a diagnosis of Bipolar II. I had just turned 18. All I had was a brochure and my college textbooks. She ran me through a maze of tests: Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) (v.1),and The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) . The psychiatrist did not even refer me to a therapist. If there had been a robust Internet around at that time, Chronically Awesome would have come around much sooner. This all took days. I was exhausted, confused, sad, and afraid. The only people I had to talk to were my friends at school who were studying psych with me. It was only my minor but it gave me access to information I would not have had otherwise.
So, here is my first post to you, if you are a newly diagnosed Bipolar patient. If you are afraid, that is okay. Go to your room, put your face under the covers and scream. Scream as many times as you need to, that is okay. You have been feeling awful, and now someone has told you that you have Bipolar disorder.There is relief in that, but you are also opening a door to a new life. A diagnosis is not an end, it is a beginning. A diagnosis is not a sentence of doom, it is an answer to all of those questions you were afraid to ask yourself.
You are freaked out. But, I am here, along with thousands of others like us. Not just like us, but like us. We are not all alike, and that is why there is no one book, one pamphlet that will resonate with you exactly. There is not one doctor is going to “get you” on the first try. We will have to talk about that in one whole post.
I will tell you how I am feeling today. Let me know if you have ever felt like this. I am in an agitated mania. I am crawling out of my skin. I want to get a million things done, but everything is so hard. I managed to get the entire Bipolar Resource portion of this site finished TODAY (along with our Tech Director, Scott). I got a little confused about something and lost my mind. Then I spun out. My stomach twisted into an angry knot and my vision blurred. I began talking to people like they were all stupid. Then I saw my mistake. I felt stupid.
I have had about twenty-five years to figure out how to stop this in its tracks. I have many tools to nip this before it gets any worse than it got today. And, I stopped it. I still feel a little tense. But, I know that when every sound starts to bother me, every person bugs the crap out of me, and everything I am trying to accomplish is going wrong, and the problems are “someone else’s fault” it is time to get up and walk away. Just walk away. And, most importantly, leave the phone behind.
Everyone has this idea that mania is wonderful. I even wrote a blog once on glorifying mania.(I have to find it, I lost it in the move). It makes me angry that so many people WANT mania. This is an illness, not something to wish for or joke about. This agitation is the downside of mania: you do not always get that euphoria. And, if you are Bipolar 2, which many of us are, you will often get hypomanic. Hypomanic is a lower level “sort of manic” that is not always the thrill ride that is “manic”. You may have already felt the difference. You may have traveled a long road to get to your diagnosis.
*This information is a personal blog/journal and is not the advice of a medical professional. Please call your doctor for medical questions or 911 in the event of an emergency.