Tag Archives: mental health

Better

I’ve spent the better part of the last decade in therapy and on meds. Going to therapy, takin’ my meds. Rescheduling therapy, adjusting my meds. Adding more therapy, adding more meds, then backing off a little on both. Though I’m still a habitual marijuana self-medicator, I’ve more or less stopped drinking over the past year. I definitely stopped that shit where I pick up a 6 pack on my way home and drink alone in my living room with my guitar before the sun even goes down. A bottle of gin in my house has a way longer shelf life these days. I been good. A model prisoner of my illness (or whatever poetics you wanna stamp onto this situation).

A week or so ago in therapy, my doctor commented on how much better I was doing. I’ve been on Depakote for like 5 months. No hair loss or anything! I’ve had some kinda funky depressions and at least one pretty awesome hypomanic episode, but overall things have been less sharp and less rough. I’ve been writing a lot. I’m working on a collection of poems and I’ve been writing some essays just for shits. I feel stupid and wordless a lot. Then I don’t. Sometimes I feel proud of myself. It’s real weird.

But my doc says I’ve been doing better. She has my chart. She’s been treating me for 8 and a half years. I told her I didn’t really believe her, but that she’s the expert. So here we are. I’m better. Yikes.

Part of me is upset by this prospect: better. It makes me wanna destroy myself a little and I certainly know how, but there’s a large part of me that feels I owe it to my psychiatrist – to all the hard work she’s done and all the shit she’s put up with from me – to stay better. Why don’t I feel beholden in the same way to myself?

Couple theories: Firstly, and most obviously, if I’m doing terribly, I probably can’t get a whole lot worse. There’s nowhere to fall from rock bottom. It’s paradoxically comforting to know there are no threads left to cradle you. You get to lie all the way down.

Secondly, I’ve had more experience with depression than…almost anything else over the past decade. I know how to navigate it. Sure, it hurts like hell, but it’s a hurt I’m used to. I can change all the dressings ‘n everything. I’ve been ill as a full time job for years and years. I’m getting fired or something. Additional metaphors relating to the unknown, etc.

But I think my biggest problem is: what now? My identity is kinda shifting away from simply Bipolar Laura to _______ Laura. Not sure how to fill in that blank. I mean, I’ll always have bipolar. I didn’t get here by magic, I worked toward this. I don’t think, though, I ever really thought concretely about what I was working toward, just that I needed to keep pushing in an upward direction. Now I have more time and energy (most days) and I don’t need to use those circumstances to patch myself up the same way. I can do things!

I told my doctor that I’ve arrived at the downside of up and she said, “Yup, that’s the downside.” She recognizes that the new imperative I’m facing to do something with my life is not an easy thing to tackle. Maybe it’s even complicated by the fact that there are like a hundred things I wanna do with my life. Basically, I’m having a Sylvia Plath problem:

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The Bell Jar

‘Cept I’m starving not just because I can’t decide, I’m starving ’cause even if I do decide, I can’t rely on my own self-motivation which has been directed entirely at my mental health for so long that I don’t really know how to use it for anything else. I just haven’t really had to, and though people keep telling me to be easier on myself, I still insist that I’m awfully lazy.

So let’s not confuse “better” with “cured.” I still have to take care of my illness, but the difference is that it’s not the sole thing I have to take care of right now. I still have mood swings and panic attacks and episodes. Like, that shit’s never going away entirely. Not unless I cloister myself in completely perfect behavior and probably take some stupefying meds that I don’t want. But that’s not a life. I’ve always been scared of the future for the same reason I’m now scared of being better. I don’t know precisely how to move around in it.

That’s basically where I’m at. And don’t think that I won’t stretch my indecision and cowardice and self-doubt into months and months of soul searching or some bullshit, ’cause I definitely will. Out of fear and hesitation. I have some thinking to do. It’s probably gonna be a minute.

-LB

Do, Do Doodoo

Good gravy, I disappeared for another goddamned month again. Nothing exciting has been happening. I’m on Depakote now and I’m paranoid that it’s giving me the stupids and making my vision blurry and if there’s something in my midst that can be crafted into a complaint, then it definitely, definitely will be.

Oh wait, my tendonitis. Or tendinitis. Both are correct spellings and that fucking bugs me what with my being a stickler about things like spelling and grammar (you guys, I’ve totally gone back and edited months-old posts for tiny errors like a me vs. my typo, even though probably no one will notice and also they’re really old posts. Just a testament to this particular neurosis). ANYway, I have tendonitis in my right ankle. It hurts. I have to wear a brace. The brace only fits in my Chucks. The worst: I can’t go to my MMA class on Sundays or work out the same way at home during the week. I won’t be able to return to class for about 3 months. I’m gonna get all out of shape and lose the awesome muscles I was developing and I miss the environment in general. The women in my class and the women who teach my class are great. I enjoy myself, I get to push myself. Good stuff. Also, all that shit about exercise being beneficial to mental health has been true so far in my case.

So I’ve been grousing about my ankle injury messing with my routine a whole lot more than I’ve been trying to come up with modifications or temporary solutions because griping is easy. Yesterday in therapy, I said to my doctor, “My laziness has ambitions.” Which is unfortunately true. I’m not a self-motivator. I have trouble sticking to routines when no one’s holding my feet to the fire. That’s partly why I joined a class rather than buy a gym membership, the latter of which would require me to decide when and how often I go, which would make for a very enthusiastic first week that’d quickly drop off into a money pit by the end of the month.

What now, then? I don’t have the time or energy to tackle this entirely right now, but in therapy this past week I decided I wanted to start setting some goals for myself in order to figure out what it is I really want from life (’cause I have very little idea), which would then inform my approach to treatment. I’ve jettisoned more than a handful of careers – and the sense of identity that accompanies them – over the past 10 years. I’ve been unmoored for a long time. I insisted to my therapist that second chances are inherently shittier than first chances and she disagreed so I said, “What’s your argument?” She said the second time around, I’d be more likely to understand what I want and don’t want. I’ll agree with that, but it gets messy when I remember how sure I was of what I wanted when I was 16, 17, 18, 19. K, granted, 16 year-olds don’t typically have a very clear picture of the future, and one has more latitude to dream big at that age, but I didn’t expect something as theoretically straightforward as knowing what I want from life to lose its shape so unrecognizably. I’m gonna get back to this ’cause it’s a problem for me that I haven’t been able to grip very firmly in the last few years. I’m…perturbed. About all of everything.

Today, I have more options than obligations. I think that’s what most people call a weekend. I have a very chill friend date tonight, so I won’t be cloistered in the house like some days. But I have about 5-6 hours to kill before then. What to do…I may never stop wondering.

-LB

Black Dot Campaign – Domestic Violence

Domestic violence victims are being encouraged to draw a simple black dot on the palm of their hands to alert others to their situation.

Source: Helping Domestic Violence Victims One Dot At A Time

I’m sharing this as a domestic abuse survivor in the hopes that someone who really needs it might see this and find the opportunity for help. I’ve been free of abuse for 10 years but I remember it a whole lot better than I wish I did. I also wish someone had told me that love shouldn’t hurt, because it took me so many years to realize that what I was going through was not normal and that it was wrong. Maybe you don’t completely understand what’s happening to you or your family, like I didn’t, but if you have to ask, “Am I being abused?” don’t just ask yourself that question. Ask someone who can help you answer it. ❤

-LB

Vanity V. Sanity, Part I

After fending it off for like maybe a year, I finally let my doctor prescribe me Depakote. I’m at that point again where I feel like I have no choice. My mood for the last 6ish days has been extremely unpredictable and varied. I’m ecstatic at 11 a.m., fiercely focused on a writing project at 3 p.m., then depressed and contemplating suicide by 6. (I’m not in any real danger right now, my husband is watching me like a hawk and my roommate has a keen eye for this shit. Oh yeah, and I’m doing my part too, that shouldn’t be discounted. Part of me not trying to kill myself is me trying not to kill myself.)

I got a couple blood draws yesterday to check my liver and thyroid – but especially my liver ’cause Depakote can apparently trash your liver. Because with bipolar it seems – or at least with my bipolar – relief never comes without strings attached. I can have a healthy mind or a healthy liver, but the combination of both is not guaranteed me. Lithium lifers know this one all too well. After I left the walk-in diagnostic center at the hospital, I went to get my prescription filled immediately so I could start the Depakote last night, before I had the chance to scare the shit out of myself by reading too much about it and its side effects on the Internet. Before I had the chance to talk myself out of piling another mood stabilizer on top of my current cocktail ’cause, as of right now, I’m not swapping out the Depakote for any other drug. That’ll probably happen sometime in the near future, but for right now, we’re just adding. I hate that. I really do. The fucking pharmacy was out of Depakote. They told me to come back Friday after noon. I just wanted to pull the damned trigger. I didn’t used to be such a wuss when it came to meds, but Depakote will be the 18th psych med I’ve tried in just under 8 years. I’ve had a few bad reactions, both instantaneous and longterm. I’ve had the side effects of otherwise helpful medication make my life shittier than it needs to be. Sometimes it just seems easier to suffer and to force my loved ones to deal with my contagious suffering than to wander through territory that’s both new and old at the same time.

But the thing that scares me the most is the possibility of contracting the stupids. Depakote is an anti-epileptic. I’ve tried 2 other drugs in this class before and they both made me dumb as a sack of doorknobs. One of them was really uncomfortable to wean off of. I couldn’t find the words I was looking for. I couldn’t concentrate easily or read properly. If this blog goes silent, it might be because I’m doing really well on Depakote and my vocabulary has shrunk to that of a 4 year-old’s.

So I’m being a little hyperbolic here. But I’m apprehensive and I’m scared, Ok? This is why I wanted to just start taking the damned pills yesterday evening so I wouldn’t have time to let this shit marinate. I’m pretty fragile already. I’ve been struggling with a pretty bad depressive episode since the end of May. I don’t feel like I can do very much well, but at least I can read and write better than most people. I dance like a snake handler and I can’t drive a car for shit. I know what I’m bad at and it’s almost everything, but the things I’m actually good at require a certain level of mental acuity that, when compromised PISSES ME THE FUCK OFF. Nobody wants to feel useless, especially those of us who’ve been fighting off feelings of uselessness for 3 and a half months.

Ok. Silver lining: Depakote prevents migraines. I mean, I might still have hair loss and double vision which is just fucking GREAT ’cause my vision is already garbage. I joked to a woman in my husband’s eye doctor’s office yesterday that my right eye is primarily ornamental. It’s barely a joke. THIS. THIS PARAGRAPH RIGHT HERE. This is why I didn’t wanna give myself time to overthink this ’cause I insist upon fixating on the potential negative side effects and ignore the fact that I’m taking this medication to make me better. But I look at the future and see a bald, blind idiot who is nothing else but not dead.

In my calmer moments, I’ve written about quality of life issues regarding medication and treatment and trying to find a workable balance between the necessary goods and the inescapable bads, and I think I did so with deliberation and some degree of restraint. This is not one of those moments. This is a fuck everything I hate my life I’mma put my fist through a wall I know how to do that now moment. I think I should be allowed these occasionally so that when I finally get my hands on those damned pills, I might’ve worked some of the resentment at my lot out of my system. Here’s hoping.

So, maybe some of you who are taking or have taken Depakote will read this and be like, “Laura. Chill, dude. It’s not the nightmare you’re envisioning. It might actually help and you won’t become a drooling, hairless crone devoid of human-like cognitive faculties.” To which I say: I love you, but shut up.

I just need to air out my insecurities.

But seriously, I still love you.

I’m just not at my most rational right now, which, all things considered in this post, should bug me a lot. But I’ve kinda worked myself into a small tantrum. I gave myself stomach knots and I wouldn’t mind a solid cry right now. It’s ok. It’ll pass. I’ll be fine. I got pills for this shit.

-LB

Obecalp

About 2 weeks ago, my doc upped my Welbutrin dose from 300mgs to 450mgs because we’re trying to stay on top of my depression and this was the only compromise medication-wise that I’d make because I didn’t wanna change any of my other meds or add new ones.

Welbutrin (bupropion) is kind of a neat drug. It tends to give me a little extra energy and it prevents me from smoking (mostly). Other people sometimes find it helpful for issues like weight management and sexual dysfunction. I think John Oliver once referred to it as the “happy, horny, skinny drug,” though he was mostly lampooning its off-label overuse. Including my dad before he died, all of my immediate family members have been on Welbutrin at one time or another, all for different reasons related to depression. I know I mentioned in the LBD that antidepressants are usually ineffective in treating bipolar depression and can even have some hazardous effects, but that’s not always the case. Partly ’cause everyone responds to meds a little differently and partly because, at least in my case, combining Welbutrin with a mood stabilizer and anxiety meds seems to be a workable balance. The Welbutrin handles the grogginess I experience with my other meds and my other meds seem to keep the Welbutrin from making me hypomanic. (It’s more nuanced than that, but I’m not getting into it.)

So when my doc offered to increase my Welbutrin as a means of handling my worsening depression, I went for it because I wasn’t comfortable with my other medication options. Increasing my olanzapine makes me really tired and I oversleep. I was not keen on introducing Depakote – an anti-seizure med which also works as a mood stabilizer – either because the last couple of times I took anti-seizure meds, they made me stupid. That’s really my biggest fear. Some medications make you a little slow. One of the notable side effects of many psych meds is having difficulty finding the word you’re looking for when you’re speaking or writing. This is a really big deal to me because I’m not good at most things. Language is kind of all I have and there’s an easily roused part of me that would rather be sick than stupid.

Last week, during therapy, after I’d been on the increased dose for about 5 days, my doctor mentioned that a newly documented side effect of Welbutrin is that hard to find words thing. I asked her if it was one of those side effects that tend to go away as you adjust or if it’s just part of the nature of the drug. She said it was likely the latter and I told her I wished she hadn’t shared that with me ’cause now I’m hyperaware of everything I say and write, constantly checking things to make sure my vocabulary didn’t shrink.

The annoying thing about this situation is that it doesn’t matter if my lingual capabilities are taking a hit or not, I just assume they are. It’s this reverse placebo type thing…or just the power of suggestion and and I’m suggestible. We bipolar folk are notoriously hard to medicate and it’s not just for one reason. This is a complicated illness.

I think a lot of us have this warped notion of losing ourselves to wellness. At least for me, I see such a radical difference between myself as I am untreated vs. myself with a fairly controlled mental illness, I naturally assume that getting from the former to the latter requires a deep sacrifice on a fundamental level. Instinctively, I always assume the thing I’m sacrificing is of value, I almost never think of this shit as shedding symptoms of my illness via modern medicine. I also cling to fears that are irrational because the idea that everything is gonna be OK consistently strikes me as entirely ludicrous.

There are some parts of my life that are a bit too black and white. If I can’t do something I deem important perfectly, I’d rather not do it at all. I take the adage, “anything worth doing is worth doing well” and stretch into a preposterous shape. I’ve been like that since I was a kid. I understand that I’m frequently my own roadblock. I contemplate this nonsense as I’m constructing yet more roadblocks. If I can’t write good songs, I shouldn’t even play instruments. If I can’t write good stories, I should turn off my computer. I also have a very strained relationship with mascara ’cause my eyelashes are like a foot long so if I accidentally clump my enviable fringes, I wash that eye off and start over. I will do this even if I’m running late. These things are a shitty combination of obsession and self-defeatism. It’s gross. I hate it.

My doctor asked me to give it about a month before I make any decisions about changing my medication dosage. So that’s like, a little over 2 more weeks. I don’t get dizzy anymore. I’m starting to adjust. It’s easier. But I’m still paranoid. I’ve been reading over some of my older posts and thinking, “Why don’t I write like that anymore?” when there’s no real discernible difference between the talents I had last October and the ones I have now (’cause they’re the fucking same, Laura).

Even if I operate a little differently at the moment, my first assumption is that my meds are messing with me, not the more likely scenario that it’s super fucking hard to do things when you’re depressed. Why is that? Why am I like that? Why do I have such a complicated relationship with help?

So, fine, I’ll stick out out mistrustfully for the next ~2 weeks. If I’m still in this big, dumb depression, if it stays the same or gets bigger and dumber, then I’m gonna have to revisit this Welbutrin thing with my doc. No sense in being sad and stupid.

-LB

Settle In

Why do I feel like this? 

‘Cause you forgot that you’re actually depressed right now.

Right now?

Yeah. Right now.

So, I should go play guitar.

Nope. You’ll just hate yourself for not playing better.

Then I should write a poem or a story or something.

You’re gonna delete most of it and feel worse for having tried at all.

What if I write in my blog. Like, I should express myself, right?

You hate this post. You’re embarrassed by it.

Damnit, I do. And I am.

Yeah. And your hair looks like shit today.

Dude. Who’s fucking side are you on?

Yours. That’s the problem.

Well, my hair will look better when it grows out a little more. It’s an unflattering length.

You’re still gonna hate it.

Whatever, it’s just hair.

No it’s not. It’s everything. You hate all your clothes too. And that’s just the outside shit.

I do hate all my clothes. 

Right. But, like I said, outside shit.

Yeah, but if I’m not pretty, life will be harder.

Yup.

And it’s already hard.

Yup.

But it could be worse.

So could anything. You’re missing the point.

So, what then? More pills?

I mean, that’s what you usually do.

And drugs?

You have nothing to do today. Get as high as you want.

I have nothing to do today. Goddamnit.

Right?

I should call my sister.

Gambit. If she’s busy, you’ll feel more alone.

She’s almost always busy.

Yeah. She does shit with her free time. Like, outside of the house.

Now you’re just taunting me.

You’re taunting yourself, idiot.

Remember that night I gave up one of my longest held ambitions?

Yeah. You were OK with it. That’s the part that freaked you out.

I don’t have any remaining ambitions. They got all eroded and shit.

‘Cause you’re depressed.

am depressed. 

Not even a little either.

This is gonna suck so bad.

Really bad. You’re gonna hate yourself. For a while.

I kinda already do.

Settle in.

You gonna stick around?

Yeah, I got nothing to do either. Hey, don’t forget to eat or your tits’ll shrink.

Outside shit, man.

Yeah. Outside shit.

-LB

Look At All This Optimism I Made!

So, yes, this is an illness and, yes, much of the time it sucks so hard. But my bipolar isn’t going anywhere and, recently, I kind of decided that it might do me some good to look a little harder for the silver lining when I’m confronted with something that’s potentially shitty, because I do a lot of complaining and I don’t want to have spent more of my life complaining about things I can’t change rather than appreciating them, assuming there’s something to appreciate. With bipolar disorder, there is actually kind of a lot to appreciate. Such as…

– I have greater confidence in my marriage because my husband has seen me do some fucked up shit and is 100% not scared of me (but sometimes he’s scared for me, which is a good thing). I was hospitalized for some super not fun suicide-y shit 3 months after Husband and I started dating and he handled it better than my own mother did (which actually isn’t a compliment, really, because my mom is terrible at being emotionally supportive. She’s good at other stuff, though). But Then-Boyfriend-Now-Husband never saw me as melodramatic, too much to handle, or crazy; he understood that I needed help, so he helped me.

– I usually dress kind of conservatively (as in understated neutrals, not IFB fundie-style modesty), so, when I’m feeling a little hypomanic, the over-confident impulse purchases I make tend to give my wardrobe a little more character.

– When I talk to other bipolar people about our illness, we kind of speak in our own special shorthand. It feels really nice, because, sometimes, I’m the only bipolar person in the room, but when I’m around other people who share my disorder, I feel kinship. It’s pretty neat.

– Sometimes I have these intense deluges of creativity and I get to make stuff with my brain and be really proud of it.

– I know what complete despair feels like. Not everybody does. Despair is its own special flavor of horrible, but it’s part of life and there are times when I literally can’t not despair, try as I might. So as long as I’m stuck savoring this dumb flavor, it helps to keep in mind that being capable of hopelessness is uniquely human. Corny sentiment, maybe, but when you feel like you have nothing left to live for, corny can be plenty effective.

– Sub-point on the despair thing: being pathologically sad has afforded me countless opportunities to cultivate compassion. People in my life who lack compassion and empathy get filed under “Strangers”. At some point, I resurface from periodic, soul-flattening depression and I have to do a little restructuring. It strikes me as incredibly wasteful and impractical to have spent so much time and energy being sad and then refuse to learn anything from it. Like how to be there for someone who’s going through their own episode. Like how listening is usually more important than talking. Like being able to tell when someone needs my company because it’s unsafe for them to be alone. And lots more.

– It’s really, really hard to freak me out. I will buy you a drink if you manage it.

– Sometimes hypomania feels really good. I’ve had episodes that were basically a vacation from self-consciousness. Feeling infallible and invincible is not a pragmatic way to go through life, but being able to feel those things from time to time is undeniably great. Waking up one day to find that you’re smarter, quicker, prettier, more capable, more creative, more productive, and more energetic than you were yesterday is cool as hell. Arguably worth the subsequent massive letdown. Arguably…

– I don’t have a ton of shame left. I think I used up the bulk of it during my childhood.

– Sometimes we get the fun meds. Most of my meds suck in terms of maintenance and side-effects. But some of my meds list “euphoria” as a side-effect. Killer.

– After years of therapy and a hyperbolic myriad of different meds, I’m actually pretty high-functioning. It wasn’t easy for me to get here and things still go really wrong sometimes, but the cool thing is that it’s 2015 and not 1950, so I’ve been able to develop life skills and learn to handle my illness in the real world, whereas, 50 or 60 years ago, I could have been staring down an involuntary lifelong internment in a mental hospital after my very first episode.

– I get high on exercise. I don’t actually know if that’s a bipolar thing or a Laura thing, but after intense physical activity, my brain is fully lit up and I feel like I could pull a freighter with my teeth.

– It’s easier for me to weed undesirable people out of my life. Individuals who interpret “bipolar” as “crazy” are pretty detectable to me at this point. Prejudice and intolerance are two of the most useless things human beings lay on each other. Those who decide to do so can find some other blindingly gorgeous and undeniably captivating woman with a 1,000 point IQ to hang out with.

– I’m almost never bored. Not with this brain.

– Oh yeah, I get to write this blog. I like this blog. A bunch.

So, it should be fairly obvious that I’m in a decent mood today and I recognize that, while I’m feeling good, it’s not especially hard to make a list like the one above. But, just like I don’t want to waste my sadness, I don’t want to waste my happiness either. So when I inevitably get slammed into another big, dumb depression, I’m probably gonna be pretty glad that I flipped on the switch at the light at the end of the tunnel preemptively, so I don’t forget (like I usually do) that the tunnel, does, in fact end. So, show off your own optimism in the comments. I bet you have some and I’m totally stoked to read about it.

-LB