Overload

I am basically overloaded lately. I can’t get through the evening without an anxiety attack that is crippling. It builds all day. So much light and color and things to do. I’m at the doctor now.

UPDATE

I had a full blown panic attack at the doctor’s office. They put me on oxygen and gave me an injection of something.

Something has me wound so tight. Meds maybe. Or just sensory overload, Asperger’s style. But I have anxiety every day. The doctor gave me a new prescription to take as well. He isn’t my psych, but he took care of things, which I needed.

Just praying for calm soon, and that the medicine will alleviate the problem when I need it to. Klonopin is a huge help, but by law quantities are limited. Lately the anxiety has been more than I can cover with my allotted Klonopin.

Grateful for My Resources

I have so many times where I honestly fear I am going to pull an Emily Dickinson and never leave the house again. Between bouts of depression that leave me too tired and withdrawn, and run ins with anxiety that leave me choked, I have reason for my lingering fears of extreme solitude.

Of course, I like at least a little interaction with friends and with the world. Sometimes the world inspires me. (Other times I wish it would disappear beyond my home and family.) Moreover I want to be a helpful helpmate to my husband, and that includes things like running to Target or going out to dinner. Beside that, I have a young child that needs me for doctor appointments, activities, and – starting this fall – rides to school each day. Becoming a recluse really isn’t an option, at least not now.

I feel tremendously grateful for the times I live in. I have online lectures and courses that allow me to learn from home. The internet lets me communicate with people far away. Books make me feel alive. It is humbling to think of how many people throughout history had no books to read, or the ability to read them. My home is comfortable, so on days like this where I can’t leave the house I have a spacious, relaxing place to be. There are paints at my disposal for some therapeutic color play.

I am grateful to God for all of this. There have been so many people like me who were born before these resources were available, or who live now in places where the comforts and opportunities I have don’t exist.

Today is hard. Recovering and bouncing back from the trip we just took to the coast to see family and friends has not been easy. It has been off and on. Today I had to reschedule my daughter’s tutoring because I can’t leave the house. Praying that tomorrow is a better day. Angelica has two different make up appointments in the morning. Hopefully, hunkering down today will mean better resiliency tomorrow.

Counting my blessings is vital to spiritual growth and happiness. Bipolar is hard. I had a manic episode last week, and now I am going the opposite direction. Anxiety is hard too. But my life is so good, and even shut in at home I have a wealth of good things.

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.

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.

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.

Constant Sleep

Thanks to an overly high level of Serotonin I have not been able to sleep much for the past couple of weeks. Since I have gradually weaned myself off that high level I’m having the opposite problem. I am just exhausted. Today I took Angelica to tutoring by myself while Craig slept in in preparation for his swing shift and then staying up late for his first mid of the cycle, which is tomorrow. When we got home from tutoring we ate lunch together. Craig was awake and he had picked up Little Caesars, which is my favorite. I like the bread sticks with buffalo ranch dip. And immediately after that I just crashed. I laid down for about three hours this afternoon. I was in the living room where anybody could get at me if they needed me. Our new sofa is extremely comfortable to sleep on so I was happy there. But I was just out of it for 3 hours. And all I did was take Angelica to tutoring.

I have tried to get a little bit done around the house tonight while Craig is working. When I woke up I took a shower, which I needed. When I am doing poorly it is hard to take showers. But I got showered and I took out some recycling and I set up the house so that the Roomba could go around and clean. I also ran some laundry. Angelica and I did some school before bed since I was sleeping for much of the afternoon.

I don’t think the new med combination I am on is the right one. It’s better than what I was on since that completely burnt out, but I don’t think I am where I should be. I am making incremental improvements, but everything feels so overwhelming and tiring that sometimes it’s one step forward and two steps back. The housework feels insurmountable.

Craig ended up running the newsletter for UMW by himself. I stayed home and slept off anxiety meds. I intended to go and do my job. Craig was going to be accompanying me to offer support. But my anxiety was so high that breathing was difficult. Craig told me to stay home. I feel so guilty that he did it himself.

The literary magazine that I do online is suffering from my mental state. I published no one until yesterday, and I couldn’t focus when I did. I ended up having a huge typo in a title. I have submissions to go through in the inbox that I just haven’t been clear headed enough to read. I don’t read submissions unless I am sharp enough to appreciate them. I haven’t been. Perhaps Craig will look things over. He is also editor. I just can’t wake up.

When The Psych Dr Won’t Help

I had a horrible week last week. My mood began to plunge badly. I called my Psychiatry office to see if they could prescribe me anything to hold me over until my appointment scheduled for two weeks from now. They said that they couldn’t do that. I finally went in for help. I went up to the office and asked if anybody could help me, even the back up doctor I saw before. I said I really wasn’t doing well. Then the girl at the front desk, and you can’t make this crap up, looked at me and said, “Well you look well put together so you’re fine.”

I kid you not. They have someone that ignorant and condescending working in a psychiatry office now. She’s a new girl. I’m going to be taking this up with the practice manager. I was doing pretty badly and I really needed help. She told me I looked fine, and then sent me away with nothing after giving me a lecture about how they have to do things the correct way, as she called it, and couldn’t give me any meds without me seeing my practitioner. Well, I know the correct way to jump off an overpass so would she rather I have done that? And it was a whole bunch of crap to be honest. I’ve been seeing psychiatrists for about 10 years now. If you’re a new patient, then yeah they can’t help you until they’ve seen you. But when they’ve been seeing you for a while and know about what you’ve been on and know your history, it is not uncommon at all if you call with a really bad problem for them to either get you in ASAP or if they can’t get you in maybe the next day, they call in something for you to get started on and see if it helps you. While my request was undoubtedly a pain in the ass for everybody involved, it was not uncommon or unheard of and I am not the only psych patient to make such requests. It’s pretty much the norm.

Finally I got a call from the nursing assistant saying that my provider would see me a week before my regular appointment by seeing me over her lunch break. That’s still left me with more than a week of medication that wasn’t working. I started off depressed and then for several days I was suicidal and could not function. And I was just left like that. The only reason I have perked up and become more productive in the middle of this week is because I have been doubling up on both my stabilizer and antidepressant. They don’t always like it when you mess with your drug dosages on your own, but the fact is they wouldn’t help me and I couldn’t get through another week in the terrible state that I was in. I couldn’t do it. It was absolutely beyond me. So until I see my practitioner next Monday I am doing what I can to keep myself functional and able to live a good life. Or at least able to live. Today was actually a pretty good day. I don’t know what tomorrow holds.

I was and am horrified by the girl at the front desk. And the weekend that ensued was an absolute nightmare. For me and for my husband. I was doing really badly. And to think that no one would help me is really upsetting. I am a Rapid Cycling Bipolar 1. Bipolar 1 means that you can go psychotically Manic and that you have as many manic episodes as you do depressed episodes. Rapid or ultradian cycling means that your mood changes much more quickly. For some people who are bipolar depression comes on gradually. They don’t get up one day without the will power to live anymore when they were okay the day before. It comes on more gradually, and although they certainly shouldn’t be blown off either they don’t tend to drop off the deep end in the blink of an eye. I’m a rapid cycler. I can go from good to bad very quickly and from bad to worse even quicker. For me, and for other patients who are in the same situation as me, it is not okay to say gee just wait another week and a half and we will get to you. That’s unacceptable. That’s a lot of days to commit suicide between now and then. I was definitely discouraged because I realized how alone I can be when I drop or if I go too manic. My doctor back home was really on top of things and if I called her with a problem she would either get me in right away, or she would call something in to help me. She would give me something to get through the night so to speak. She did not leave me hanging day after day, and her wonderful desk staff Bruce would never say something so stupid or condescending as what the desk staff had to say at this office here. Bruce was smart, compassionate, and kind.

Previously, I have liked my provider. She’s personable and she’s a good listener. But I have no way of making sure that my severe mood swings match up with a hole in her schedule. And her lack of availability and her rigidity really scare me. Right now taking those double doses of stabilizer and antidepressant are holding me up enough to do okay. I actually even had a good day today. But the truth is these drugs are wearing out badly and I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be able to string that along. On top of that I found out that my provider is only working one day a week now, although she is considering working two days a week. So she will have very little availability to make regular appointments, and on top of that I really don’t have a hope of help. She could have called in a prescription without being in the office, so her short working hours are not entirely to blame for her not helping me. But even if she was willing to get me in quicker to help me the reality is the woman works one day a week now apparently. So it’s going to be a week of waiting at least before I see her. I hate to give up a provider, and every time you switch to someone new it’s scary. But that’s just not enough availability.

My Bunny

Almost every time my husband deploys, I adopt another family member. Last time Craig deployed, I adopted Parsnip. Craig is on a shore tour right now, so he hasn’t deployed in awhile, thank God. He only has to go away for a few days at a time. But on his last deployment, I drove from Moyock, NC to Newport News, VA to adopt baby Parsnip.

This morning Parsnip jumped up on the library sofa and went to Craig’s uniform. He was debating between snuggling on it and nibbling it. Then he saw me. He decided to hop off the sofa.

Parsnip is my little friend. It is a always so wonderful to wake up, go down stairs, and set Parsnip free. He is my little emotional support animal. Nothing totally spares me from my Bipolar symptoms. But before I hit the bottom of depression or the top of mania, my more mild symptoms can be partially alleviated by Parsnip’s company.

September Wasn’t Great

October was worse. I haven’t written in a month, or even read much. My mind hasn’t been clear. I’ve tried to edit massive amounts I’d already written and my mind was just dry.  It wasn’t a creative block. It was depression and mixed mania. Half the time I was too depressed to do much. I fell so behind on housework for a few weeks that I felt terrible when J came to clean. The house was a mess from floor to ceiling. We alternated between running on dirty laundry and getting dressed downstairs when the laundry was clean because I couldn’t muster the will to bring it upstairs and put it away. We went to get the car washed and I had so much anxiety waiting for it to be detailed that I tried to walk off and leave. Craig had to bring me back. At one point I lost my mind and engaged in some brief self harm.

Last Monday Angelica and I went to our first social event for the Peterson Wives Group, even though we’ve been here since the end of February. So many of them have nothing but strangers there and have tons of people going. I have so much anxiety that I can’t seem to get up the courage to go. But a nice girl I’ve talked to before hosted this event, so I decided to take the plunge. It was an adorable thing where the kids could paint little pumpkins. Angelica had a wonderful time and it was so good to see her get to play with other kids. She really hit it off with K, the hostess’s, son. We want to get them together again for a little playdate. The other women there were so nice and I enjoyed the conversation with all of them. And yet….toward the end I felt like  crying. When I got to the car and buckled in I did cry. I cried on the short drive home and I cried when I got in the house. I was no use the rest of the day. It was a wonderful event and the company was superb, but I just fell apart afterward.

Craig has had a hard time with me for awhile now. I just haven’t been good company. I’ve been so low that he has resorted to letting me watch Real Housewives even when he’s home and stuck in front of the TV. It’s a mercy thing to raise my mood. Usually I like scary shows, surreal stuff, and nature documentaries. But for some reason I love the Real Housewives franchise. I never put it on when Craig is home out of consideration, but it is mindless entertainment and can help me while away hours when I’m really not up to do anything else. Poor Craig. I have been living as much life as I’ve been able to, but it isn’t easy. The other day I wasted two hours of the babysitter being here so that I could sleep. 

For now, Trazadone is no longer part of my nightly med regimen. Last summer I was waking up early naturally. I’ve been sleeping later and later and it has just been adding to my misery.  Not only does my day suck and I accomplish very little, but I have even less chance of making something of myself and my day than I usually do because I’m asleep for half of it. I pulled myself off and I’ve started waking up early again like I like. I’ll keep it on backup for when I go to high to sleep. I also have some other medicine I can take if I go to manic. I haven’t had a full blown psychotic mania this season, which is odd. But I’m grateful.

Instead I’ve had those delightful things they call mixed states. That is where you are manic and depressed at the same time. So I’ve gone through periods of super high energy and agitation, combined with hopeless and suicidal feelings. These spells haven’t lasted long (otherwise my house might have been cleaner), but they’ve been miserable when they’ve happened. I’ve had to walk out of restaurants countless times. It isn’t constant. I’ve been able to eat out without trouble a few times. But it has been a regular issue. 

Hopefully I’m on the rise again. They have doubled my mood stabilizer and my antidepressant. I have had to go to the psychiatrist each week for weeks. I’m tired of waiting for table scraps of life – for just a few moments or hours here and there when I can be of use to my family or shop or hang with friends. I want to be able to write again, and have the focus to read. As I write I’m listening to music. I haven’t sat and just listened to music in weeks.