Very Little Progress

Today I was able to pick Angelica up from school without crying. That’s awesome, because there was only one day this week that I did pick up, and I turned into a crying mess. However, I fell asleep this morning until almost noon. I missed an appointment. I have gotten some exercise today, which is good. But I am afraid to leave the house to pick up our grocery order tonight. I feel like I am becoming a shut in.

This has to end soon, right? My anxiety has been high for a few months, and this past week or so I have hit the ceiling. This can’t last forever. None of my highs or my lows or anxieties ever have. It is still scary though, because some people do reach the point where they can’t leave the house. I am not special. That could be me. This week I can barely do it.

Necessary Gratefulness

Every day I am engaged in some level of battle with bipolar. Sometimes it is a quick skirmish and I win. Other times the battle is huge – and I lose – and the raping and pillaging of my life begins.

I am not quite at that point yet, but this is no easy skirmish either. This is a mental Gettysburg. Hopefully I am winning, but if I am it is at tremendous rates of loss.

I have not been doing well in a month and a half. Sometimes there’s a period late in the morning or early in the afternoon where I’m okay for a few hours. Not fantastic, not normal, but okay. I try to use that time to clean the house or to do something creative. Sometimes I get one hour, sometimes I get five or six. The rest of the time I feel a mess. Sometimes I can’t stop sleeping. Other times I can’t get to sleep because I’m so miserable. I have had mixed, Manic, and depressive states. I’m a rapid cycler so I’ve been through a lot in this period of time.

I feel exhausted in my soul. I need just a little lift. To that end, I need to make a fresh gratitude list. Sometimes that gives me a temporary relief. Sometimes it doesn’t. Either way it is good to count my blessings. So here are some randomized things I am grateful for.

  1. Dryer sheets. I don’t actually put them in the dryer, but they are great for creative projects.
  2. My husband’s clock. When he first bought it I was afraid the chiming would drive me crazy. Now it is actually kind of comforting and even useful. I did get past my initial annoyance. Now if I want to I can listen to it and appreciate the gorgeousness. It if I don’t want to hear it then chances are good I have it tuned out.
  3. Devotionals. I benefit from using devotionals, and I feel a little zing in my soul whenever I find a good one. So I love devotionals, and I have a profound appreciation for the people who write them and put them together.
  4. Online banking through a phone app. I’m just being basic here.
  5. Eating the extra cheese from the Velveeta packet. My daughter is always begging for Velveeta and when I make it I always hold a little bit of cheese back for Mom.
  6. Snow. It snows in May here. I love it.

These are completely random things to be grateful for, but I like to think of more than just the usual like appreciating my spouse and my child. Of course I do that and they’re always at the top of the list, but there is so much to be grateful for. From little things that make me happy to small conveniences that make life easier, I’m appreciative of it all.

This list has not helped me at all. I feel nothing. I am still glad though that I made it.

Not Leaving the House

I got Angelica’s speech and tutoring appointments rescheduled. I am not leaving the house. Worn out. Very tired. Depressed.

While I am at home I hope to revise some of my poetry and get it ready. I am trying to clear my head.

I am tired. I am depressed. I need to isolate even if just for 1 day. I will definitely be eating at home tonight, because I don’t feel up to doing so much as the Taco Bell drive through. The only way I am going out at all is if my husband needs me to bring him lunch at work.

Travel Mania

On the first day of our trip homeward I began to go manic. I wasn’t shocked. I heard a voice while on vacation. On the way home I began seeing illusory things. The second day of travel was full blown mania. I had to take my mania medication in the morning. I slept for awhile, and when I woke up I was still manic. I had to take another. Same the next day. It has been hard to bring myself down.

Mania is rough but it happens when I am under stress. I got by most of the trip by spending time alone in our various hotel rooms. Having a private place to go made travel much better. However, I just have a hard time with being away from home and all that entails. I got a bit depressed toward the end of the wonderful road trip we took last Fall. This time, after visiting family and friends, I went full blown manic.

Right now I just want to be calm and get into my weekly routine. I am flying a bit high, but the medicine is helping a lot. Keeps me tired though.

In Tennessee

We arrived in Tennessee last night for Craig to see his grandfather and Angelica to see her great grandfather. We had salad and pizza for dinner, and then hung around in the sunroom for awhile.

This morning I am relaxing at the hotel while everyone else has breakfast and hangs out at my grandfather inlaw’s house. I needed the extra sleep and the time to myself. I am so introverted that it is hard if I have no place to retreat to.

We drove for two days to get this far, and that was difficult. I spent a good portion of the ride to TN not speaking and/or with my head in my hands. It has been exhausting.

It’s always really frustrating whenever we travel to see my inlaws. While it is true that I have anxiety and mood swings regularly at home, people I see while I’m traveling usually get the worst of me. I don’t do well with travel, especially if that travel is combined with socializing or big cities. So on top of the craziness that I already have, my relatives see me even crazier because I’m not meeting up with them until I’ve been traveling for two or three days. We took a road trip back in the fall and even though there was no socializing in that and we stayed in very quiet areas almost the whole time, I felt like crap part of the way back and when we actually were in the city for a while I got anxiety. It was the trip of a lifetime and I absolutely loved it, but it was a very different sort of trip.

Basically, my relatives see the worst of me. Even when I traveled last summer across the country to see my own side of the family I had to spend hours by myself in the room that I lived in when I went to high school. Even among my own side of the family I could not deal with full days of socializing or going places.

Hopefully my stomach settles too, because alongside a sinking feeling in my chest and being so introverted that I feel like I’m crawling into my own body this morning, I’m nauseous too. Knock on wood it’ll pass soon. It might have been the breakfast that I ate cold.

It isn’t that I don’t look forward to seeing my in-laws. It’s just that it’s hard to travel and it’s hard to do a whole lot of concentrated socializing at once.

Tight feeling in my chest. Anxiety.

Genetic Testing

Today I got the results back of the genetic test I took via mouth swab last month. The test tells you a lot of things. The purpose is to help identify which psychiatric drugs will help you and which won’t and/or might be causing some of the bad side effects you have.

Found a few things out. Number one, 95% of the stuff I spent my twenties on doesn’t work on people with my genetics. That may explain why I was a basket case for about 10 years. In all seriousness though, almost every drug I’ve ever taken, and they do list the drugs individually on the genetic results, are listed as either not being compatible with me or having very little compatibility. The list of drugs that might actually work for me are very short. There is one category, and on that list is Lamictal and lithium (and a few others). I may have to go back on lithium. We’ll see. For now I’m doubling my Lamictal to see if that helps enough. And staying the course on certain antidepressants and anxiety meds.

The test showed other things as well. There is a chain of reactions necessary to use things like serotonin and dopamine in your brain. My brain is unable to use some of the materials it has because a receptor isn’t working right that allows the serotonin and dopamine to be used.

From this test I also learned why I feel so wimpy about pain and why I’m always asking for more or stronger painkillers every time I have a procedure or an injury. The receptors that deal with opioids are very weak. So it takes a lot more for me to get the same effect as someone else gets who has normal receptors. My practitioner encouraged me to do two things with these results. Number one, bring my genetic test results with me if I have to when I have procedures to show that I’m not making crap up when I say I need more painkiller. Number two, to not take painkiller for any long length of time unless absolutely necessary because people with weak receptors get addicted to the stuff much more easily than other people.

This test was fascinating. It also showed which drugs would have bad metabolic side effects on me, AKA weight gain. There were tons of drugs that were listed as being bad for my metabolism and I had been on pretty much all of them, usually more than one at a time, for the majority of my twenties. I’m not saying I’m fat only because of the drugs. I really like food, and thanks to the hole in my ankle bone all the exercise I used to do doesn’t happen anymore. But there were so many times over the past nine years that I have gained weight and could not figure out what it was. My eating habits were the same and my level of exercise were the same. But I would add higher doses of drugs or change drugs and my weight would go up like crazy. I have gained 10 pounds in a month before. Sometimes I’m able to lose some weight for a while if I really set my mind to it, but I have to hardly eat anything at all. A thousand calories a day or less. Usually less. And I really hate doing that. It makes me miss food. I’m pretty happy with myself at this point, and as of this moment I’m not worried about my weight. But there have been times where I was just so frustrated by it. I would feel like I was doing everything right, maybe not being a health freak but certainly keeping my calories within limits, and my weight would go up anyway. Or I would be on drugs that would make me so hungry that I would practically eat the kitchen sink. I have been on a second mood stabilizer on that list for awhile, and she’s cutting me back on it. I have been eating everything since being on that drug. I mean everything. If it was not tied down I have eaten it.

This test has really taught me a lot and I hope to use it in the future. It gives me scientifically backed ideas of what to try. My doctor and I will still have to work out which particular drugs on the good list will work best for me and in what doses and combinations, but it gives us more than a starting point. And by giving me a long list of different receptors that aren’t working or are not working well enough, it really shows the bipolar in a neatly laid out and scientific way. Truly fascinating.

Quick Manic

Yesterday I had a quick manic episode. I have only been brought down by a heavy dose of medicine designed to quelch mania. It made me sleep most of the day. I don’t know whether I will be manic again or not when I come out of this haze.

I heard the frost on the trees. They were French. My spirit left my body. I drove across town writing erotic poetry in various parking lots. There was a lot of random stuff.

I exhaust myself.

Sudden Drop

I have had so many creative ideas percolating in my mind today. So much physical and digital art I want to start, fiction I want to write, poetry I want to write etc. I dropped Craig off today to go on a work trip for a couple of days and of course that’s always hard. He won’t be gone long but I miss him just the same. Nonetheless I’ve been having a really good day. This evening I went up to take a nice, long hot shower and then relax with a SodaStream soda. The grape one is the best. The grape and the orange.

Anyway I am dried off and settled in now and I just have this feeling of malaise and depression. I hate how suddenly I drop and how I drop without warning. I had so many creative plans for tonight and now I just feel like part of my spirit is missing. I’m really trying to get my verv back. The weather has been lovely and Angelica and I spent some time relaxing in the backyard. I’m considering revamping an old project that used to work on. There’s just so much I want to do and all of a sudden it feels kind of hard to breathe. I had a pretty bad panic attack last night and I’m hoping tonight goes a lot better since of course I don’t have Craig here to help me.

I think I’m going to try to push through with reading a creative magazine and see if it sparks anything in me. And I’m going to take my medication early in the hopes that it will help me. At the very least if it doesn’t help me I want to get it in my system soon enough that I’m able to get up in the morning for Angelica’s rather early occupational therapy evaluation.

This is just part of the struggle with bipolar disorder. This is not even an especially bad night. I’m relaxing. As of right now at least I’m not having a panic attack. I’ve gotten the housework done that I need to get done today. I’ve got laundry in the dryer. I took a shower. This really isn’t a bad night and technically isn’t something to complain about. But yet here I am with free time and energy and so many things I want to accomplish and I feel like a deflated balloon. Not because anything is wrong in my life or anything has happened. Just because my brain doesn’t work. With bipolar you can be brought to heights of joy that other people do not experience. You can touch the sublime. But it can also seal you off from even the simple pleasures that other people around you have. It’s a constant seesaw.

Hello Latuda

I saw a new psych doctor 50 miles away from home. The trip itself went badly. I was a nervous wreck driving that far by myself (Craig had a swing shift and couldn’t take me), and on top of that our poor babysitter was sick and I had to bring Angelica with me. I had major anxiety the whole way there, even though Craig found me a route that kept me off the highway. Staying off the highway is better for me anxiety wise.

I cried during the 1 hour drive home. By the time I pulled into the garage I was screaming so loudly that I frightened myself. It was as though I could hear hell welling up from the depths of my screams.

The actual appointment was alright. She didn’t seem up to date and I am not sure we clicked, but she gave me refill prescriptions of the drugs I am on, and since those haven’t been enough she added a second mood stabilizer. Latuda. It has been years since I was on Latuda. I really hope that in combination with my other stabilizer it makes a big difference. I love winter as a season, but winter of 18/19 has been a really hard one overall.

I am hopeful and trying to stay positive. I need this combination to work. I have also added Buspar to lower my overall anxiety levels. Lately the anxiety has been so bad that I am using Clonopin more than I would prefer. Buspar does nothing for panic attacks, so it is not a substitute for benzodiazepines. However, by lowering your overall anxiety levels it can decrease the number of times a week that you reach the point of panic.

Main stabilizer and antidepressant are the same for now.

Hopefully this spring things will be on the rise. There is so much I want and need to do.

No Longer Editor

I feel terrible about it, but a couple of weeks ago I let the lady who is the president of the UMW know that I can no longer be the editor of The Torch. I felt tremendously guilty when I sent the email, and I still do. But after really searching my heart and doing my best to use some common sense, and after talking about it to my therapist, I realized it was the right thing to do.

As much as I hate to let them down, the reality is that I am a rapid cycler. Anyone who is bipolar experiences ups and downs that can make functioning and staying committed to a monthly job like that difficult. As rapidly as I cycle I don’t even have a way to predict whether I will be manic, hypomanic, okay, mildly depressed, or severely depressed when the 4th week of the month comes. And I sure as hell never knoe how the anxiety will be. That sounds ludicrous and maybe it is but that’s how my life is. They need someone reliable. Almost every month of the year they have a meeting on the 4th Friday. They need someone to get the issue out a couple of days after that.

Last spring I signed up to do the job. They were looking for volunteers and had it in the church program one Sunday morning. At the time I was on a medication combination that actually worked for me. It was the only time in my life that I was on a med combination that truly worked. A med combination that kept me fully stable. And it didn’t just leave me feeling okay and functional, not that I’m ungrateful for the days that I feel okay and functional, but it left me feeling truly good. Truly good and truly normal. I had hopes, as did my psych doctor, that we had found the magic combination and that this was it. So I volunteered for the job. It was in line with my skill set and interests oh, and I had been looking for a way to serve in the church.

A few months later my hopes were dashed. Don’t you love a good cliche? But I digress. The medicine wore off and I had to start trying new combinations that put me back where I was. I was beyond frustrated, and now I had a monthly responsibility to collect every article and edit it, format in publisher, get a master printed of each page, and then go down to the church and make over 200 copies and put them through the folder. None of that is necessarily difficult work or work that I am not happy to do. But to do the part with Publisher you have to have patience and focus and really throw your mind into it. As badly as I was doing at the end of January I couldn’t pull that off. Craig had to do the publisher work for me. I had been trying to do it and I was botching it like crazy. I was leaving things out and not correcting mistakes Etc. My anxiety was taller than me. I was supposed to at least go up to the church and take care of running the copies and getting them folded and ready to mail. Craig ended up doing that by himself as well. He was super nice about it and offered to do it, but I was in the kind of condition where getting myself across town to church and taking care of all that and dealing with the machines and everything else just wasn’t going to happen.

That’s when I really realized that I had a dilemma. Craig did not sign up to do the job first of all. He never minded helping me or complained about it, but he is not the one who made the commitment. And although this was the first time that I was completely unable to do the issue myself oh, there have been a few months just out of the time I have been doing this where I would have struggled to do the job myself. Where I really needed him to go to the church with me and help do it. Or to check me in Publisher or something like that. Until now that’s always been okay. He’s happy to help. So when I needed help he was there and the issue got done. And on the months that I didn’t need help, obviously the issue got done. But the only reason Craig has been able to help me with this it’s because he has an unusual work schedule that cycles and usually he has a little time off on Tuesday or Wednesday to get it run. Soon, possibly very soon, he will be transitioning to a new position at work and will be working a five-day-a-week job during the day. If I am too frazzled or depressed or anything else to get the issue out, there simply won’t be an issue. The mailers will try to get in touch with me or the president will and I simply won’t have anything to tell them or anything to give them. I will be on my own.

The hard thing is that I really feel bad quitting, and I don’t know when they’re going to be able to find someone else. I let them know what the very beginning of the month so hopefully they can find somebody in time. I offered to train the next person. And to give them any materials I have as well as the files. This is just a commitment I can’t keep. Reliability is important. It’s not that I will never have a month where I would be perfectly able to take care of the editing and printing of the monthly letter. There are certainly going to be months where I would certainly be able to get that done. The problem is there will also be months where I am not able to do it, and I don’t know which month is going to be what. Even now as we sit in the middle of February I debate emailing the president to let her know that if she hasn’t found anybody I can do the February issue. But I know that I do not have Craigs help at the end of February, and right now I’m really up in the air. Today I was great. I had some anxiety and had to take klonopin while I was out on my Valentine’s Day date with Craig, but I was still able to stay out all day on a date and then go grocery shopping at the commissary and I did just fine. If I had needed to run the newsletter today I could have done it. By myself from beginning to end. No problem. But I have no idea what I’m going to look like on February 25th or 26th. Not a clue. I am seeing a new psych doctor this week. I’ll see how it goes. Hopefully they aren’t useless. But as of right now I’m on a medication combination that is a really mixed bag. I definitely have times I’m doing pretty okay. The past week has not been awful minus the dental pain that I started out with. But overall for the past couple of weeks it’s been kind of crazy, and I’m coming off the month of January which was extremely difficult. Right now I’m trying not to go hypomanic. My brain is fighting sleep and sometimes my head is going too fast. I am just as likely to be full-blown manic or severely depressed at the very end of February as I am to be okay. So even as I sit here with my email open wondering if I should write the lady and let her know that I’ll at least tie them over for this month, I hesitate. It’s bad enough that I am having to back out on the job. It would be worse to offer to float them for a month and then back out of that. And with Craig’s schedule he definitely cannot help me this month.

I feel sad. I genuinely wanted to help. I hope that the time I was able to give was useful. But I feel like since I know I’ve reached a point where I’m not reliable it’s better to tell them sooner rather than later that it isn’t going to work. I am so afraid that they’ll need an issue to go out and I won’t be able to do it. And then there’s the issue where if I am able to get through it and do a good issue, at what cost? Sometimes you have those in-between stages. If you’re bipolar or have anxiety, or probably if you have most other serious mental illnesses, you might know what I mean. Those times were you really aren’t doing well but you can do just enough to get by. You don’t have enough energy and strength for the whole day and to do everything, but you can prioritize and do the big things and that’s what counts. The problem is I have a young child to take care of and to educate. If I’m having a week where I am having to prioritize that much and can only get a couple of things done, I need to save the energy for Angelica and forgetting her and I to our respective appointments. I don’t have anything left to give. If I put out an issue when I’m doing badly I’m not going to have enough left over to do what I need to do at home. That might sound utterly stupid but I have found it to be true over the years. I’ve only got so much life or gumption or potential on any given day. I have to choose what to do with it. I have to be very careful in how I choose to spend my time and what I do with my energy. It’s not that there aren’t a lot of things and people that I care about. I just can’t do it all. So if I’m in one of those time periods where my brain is really squeezed tight, and I go ahead and do an issue and really struggle with it but I pull it off, I’m going to come home with no energy for Angelica. If she needs to go to an appointment she might be out of luck. My anxiety will be too high and I won’t be able to get her across town. If we haven’t done school yet for the day we probably won’t get to it. I’ll need to sit in a corner and just close my eyes for a while. My energy will be shot for the rest of the day. So basically my months are divided into three groups for the fourth week of the month. There will be times where I am perfectly okay and able to do an issue. There will be other times where I am able to do an issue but I will have to shortchange my family to do it. And then there will be times I can’t do it at all. That won’t work. They need someone they can count on.

If you have never heard of it, look up Spoon Theory and mental illness. I don’t think it’s a perfect analogy but it’s pretty interesting and it is useful. I only have so many spoons each day. And sometimes the end of the month might roll around and I might not have any spoons left. Sometimes you do end up with zero spoons.

Guilt hurts. I truly feel sorrowful and regretful. The UMW Torch is something I care about and under better circumstances there is no way I would quit. I have just learned that my mental health issues make me unable to make Big, regular commitments like that. And as much as I hated to send that email on the first telling the president that I wouldn’t be doing it anymore and needed to pass the torch to someone else, I’d rather tell her a month in advance that I can’t do it than send her an email hours before the issue should be run to tell her that it might not happen or that it’s going to happen way too late. There’s a very small window of time that you have to get that issue out. There’s really not much flexibility. I think I did the right thing. I hope I did the right thing.