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Over the past few weeks I’ve been dragging around for a few days wanting nothing but sleep but not giving in, then changing to feeling fine.  Another few days I’d have chest pain.  I’ve been having pain as if I have a bad gallbladder but that was taken out 7 years ago.  What gives?  I haven’t felt anxious, I only felt depressed 4 days in these past few weeks, no mixed moods.  For the most part, my moods have been stable/normal.

Recently, my internist put me on an allergy med and supplements–that’s when I ended up feeling worse.  I stopped the supplements and felt better.  I started them again and the sleepiness/fatigue kicked in again, my upper right abdomen started hurting more, etc.  I asked my internist/family doctor if these new supplements and allergy med would interact with the buproprion (wellbutrin), conazepam (Klonipin), seroquel for bipolar disorder.  I also asked about interactions with prazosin (alternate use med for PTSD nightmares). “No, no and no”.  So what’s going on.  Since taking psychiatric meds I’ve gained too much weight, my cholesterol has gone sky high (for which I have to take simvastatin), I have 2 heart valves  damaged, and a cardiologist thinks I may have had a TIA when I was in the hospital for spinal nerve impingements with excruciating pain–for that I was also given steroids, hydromorphone which made me deathly ill, changed to opioids, etc. while thy still had me on the psych meds.  It’s no wonder I had the TIA on the day I was supposed to be released–I suddenly couldn’t speak right, everything I said during my exit interview was garbled and the whole hospital floor was put on Stroke Alert.  Thankfully the incident passed without any residual effects.  I went home the following day.

So much has happened since I posted  over a year ago (November 2009) and I’ve finally learned how to live with my condition and live fully.  I am happier than I have been in my entire life.  It happened when I finally realized I had to take full responsibility for my treatment and learning to choose my reactions to my mood swings.  It was a wild ride and a lot of work but I couldn’t be happier with the results.  I am so much better for having gone through what follows.

It’s been a long journey and some of it wasn’t pretty.  There were many changes in medications and combinations of them.  Some did seem to help me through a whirlwind, weeklong family visit in mid-March-2010.  But soon after, my mood took a turn swinging up and down through various stages of depression.  It was awful.  My doctor tweaked my meds again and I became more depressed.  By June 3, 2010 I had sunk to the dregs of depression and by June 7th there was no light in my soul–I wanted to die.

I saw my psychiatrist on June 9th, 2010 and he sent me to a good hospital with a good mental health unit.  After a week, they decided they couldn’t help me.  They dropped all my medications, put me on Wellbutrin and sent me to another hospital’s mental health unit with the hope that giving me a series of ECT treatments would help.

I was in the second hospital for a week and had 3 ECTs.  I was released and over the following week I had 3 more.  It appeared they were helping but I couldn’t remember anything short term.  I remembered nothing of the week in the 1st hospital (still don’t), and little of my stay in the 2nd hospital.  All my memories after that was filled with blanks.  I had to keep lists for everything, for chores to do, to remind myself when I had to go shopping, everything.  I’d forget conversations with my husband shortly after having them.  It took many months to before my brain recovered and I could slowly begin to remember events from the days and eventually weeks before.

Three days after my last ECT, I hit bottom with a death wish again.  The next day I swung up into hypomania & mixed moods for three days, then down to normal for 5 days, then depression for over a week, then hypomania for three days, then depression.

I became angry that over the course of 2 1/2 years I had been through trials with all kinds of meds and combinations thereof, finally ending with ECTs which fried my brain, left me feeling stupid and made simple problem solving impossible.  Originally,  I had been told that my doctor and I would eventually find the right combination of meds to level me out.  During the one time that meds had leveled me out for a couple of weeks, what they actually did was remove my ability to feel–I couldn’t feel anything–no happiness, no sadness-NoTHING, except occasional anger.

By the end of June or the beginning of July 2010, I finally decided I would have to take control of my fate. I told my psychiatrist which meds I refused to take and which meds had to be reduced to lower doses.  I told him I had to feel the mood swings to some degree so I could learn to cope with them and learn to react to them in a healthy manner.  He protested–I persisted.  He was worried and I thought he might drop me as a patient, but to his credit, he stood by me.  We truly became a team.  Slowly we kept reducing the doses of the last few meds I was taking as I learned to live well with the mood swings.

It was tremendously hard work.  I had to deliberately keep my mind focused in the moment, in the NOW, all day, everyday so I could function well and the hypomania or depressions would eventually just become background “noise”.  As I grew more skilled in this, I developed more tools to help myself.  My doctor & I have finally reduced the doses of 3 meds to a minimal amount and I may drop one of them entirely very soon.  I have been living and functioning well, living a full and normal life.  My moods still swing approximately every 2 weeks.  I still feel the depression hit bottom sometimes BUT it is just background “noise”.  Depressions no longer disable me or slow me  down.  Deep depression might slow me just a little bit if it lasts more than 3 days but no one seems to notice. I am aware of where the moods are but they no longer control me.  Rather, I control my reactions and choose to live well.  It has become engrained in me now so I don’t have to consciously think about the cycles and my choices constantly.

My doctor is amazed and happy for me.  He didn’t think my method would work.  He’s read theories written by other professionals stating that living well with bipolar by learning how to choose one’s response to mood swings could possibly be done, but my psychiatrist didn’t believe them.  But my mood chart, our talks and the records/chart he’s kept on my progress are proof of my success and he is both surprised and happy for me.

Along my journey for control and a better life, I have discovered there are others like me.  I found one blog in particular which intrigued me on http://www.psychcentral.com written by Tom Wootton.  He has written three books about his experiences and what he has learned.  He now gives workshops with a team of professionals about what he calls the Bipolar Advantage or getting Bipolar in Order (instead of disorder–get it?)  You can find him at http://www.bipolaradvantage.com.  Reading his books has given me more to think about and discover about myself.  Through his books I gained a few more tools, which helped me realize that I could achieve even greater control than I already had.

I have finally reached a place where I truly believe I have a bright future ahead.  Mr. Wootton, my doctor and I are all realistic knowing that sometimes life can throw awful events in our paths which could possibly cause a setback.  But having learned so much and the fact that I have the tools to get back on track gives me confidence that I won’t lose heart and will recover quickly.

I hope someday to be meds free–and I also know that it might never happen but I’m happy anyway because my hard work has paid off.  And the fact that I’ve found others like me makes me feel my method and my struggle has been validated.

I know my method may not be the right fit for everyone, but I hope that what I have shared can at least instill some hope in people with bipolar or depression that there are some things that they can do to help themselves in addition to taking their meds.  What the doctors haven’t told us is that the meds are not a cure–they just cover up the symptoms to keep them in check so we won’t become overwhelmed.  Right now, there is no cure.  But there is HOPE for a better future and we all the potential to have more control than we have been led to believe.

My advice is, stay on your meds and talk with your doctor–get him to team up with you to help you learn what you yourself can do to work towards your wellness.  We are not all made from the same mold so each of us has to discover what tools work for us for ourselves.  We may not all achieve the same results but I do know each of us has the capacity to make life at least a little better.  It starts with baby steps and the desire to succeed at living.

I wish you peace, success and sunny days.

Godspeed,    J

Just a day at Home

Hubby putzed around the garden most of the morning.  Actually, he worked hard digging out dying shrubs.  I did the usual vacuuming, etc. around the house.

I don’t know why but I felt weepy and lonely all day.  I should be over losing our dog Gibson by now.  I’m not sure if he is the reason.  I don’t miss NY at all.  It may just be a quirky mood swing but I don’t think so and I’m way past that other female stuff.

Whatever it was, it’s gone now and I’m happy and looking forward to seeing Frankie, Shelli and our 2 little boys, our grandsons.  And if that isn’t enough, our son David is coming home to Frank & Shelli’s for Thanksgiving week as well.  I am already truly thankful.  Peter can’t make it this time but I know we’ll have a Skype session as a family to visit with him.  What a wonderful invention.  So really, we’ll all be together.  I can’t wait.

I have so much to be grateful for and I need to keep this in the forefront of my mind.  The thought of our family definitely softens the hurt of the hard times.

I am so blessed.

I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving and many sunny days to come.

Journey Upward

Well, here we are, fairly settled into our home.  Much of the painting and decorating is done and it finally feels like it is truly ours.  There’s a peace here now, finally.

A few weeks after we arrived here, there was little peace.  Then, on March 2oth, I had an appointment with a new psychiatrist (Pdoc).  I gave him all my records from my Pdoc in NY.  He reviewed them, interviewed me and told me flat out that I don’t have cyclothymia or major depression.  I have Bipolar Disorder coupled with anxiety.   I was blown away but everything he said made sense.  To prove it to me, he had me keep a chart of my daily mood swings following the directions on the chart’s scale.  What a revelation!   I didn’t realize how unstable my moods were.  My poor husband is a saint for loving me this way.

Until now, I have been very embarrassed about this whole Bipolar diagnosis.  It’s a mental illness.  Moods can swing from very high (manic) where one’s judgement can be impaired, all the way down to extremely deep depression where one may become a danger to him/herself.  I’ve been on both sides of the normal line, but the side I’ve experienced the most is the downside.  The worst was the deep depression.  Thank God it’s only been a few times.

I was angry about the diagnosis because I had always been more than capable and fiercely independent.  I could run rings around coworkers in every job I had.  This is not lofty Bipolar thinking on my part–I have job evaluations to prove it.   But about a year before our move, something started happening that was sapping my strength, my memory, and my ability to work at the intensity and pace that I was accustomed to.

This demon finally had a name and is incurable and I was mad as h***!  The Pdoc did say we would work together to get it under control–that was hopeful.  The downside was that it has gone untreated in me for about 40 yrs and had just recently gone totally out of control–multiple full cycles in 1 day.  Because of how intense my cycles were, he said there is a good chance we may never get it under full control but he and I would work as a team to do the best we could.  At least he was honest.  He has kept his promise and we’re making progress–SLOW, but it’s progress.

My mood crashed on Oct. 1 this year.  I mean bottomed out so that I didn’t want to stick around anymore.  Hubby & I knew I needed help badly.  Pdoc told him to take me to the hospital.

It was the strangest experience I ever had.  I always had visions that a psych hospital was a scary place and full of weird, strange people, thanks to old TV movies and even some not so old movies.  The folks there were, for the most part, caring.  They made sure no one was cold & got you a cotton blanket if you were.  One poor fellow would start to nod out over his dinner plate.  Any one of us would catch him and wake him up before he drowned in his soup or potatoes.  Yes, all of them had mental issues, most less severe so you’d never know if you worked with them.

So what’s the point of this.  I spent 1 week with  these folks and I have to say it is the best thing that ever happened to me.  I am one of them and we are just like anyone else, just people looking to get our medical issues under control so we can go on with our daily lives.  One of us could be your neighbor and you would never know it.

I discovered that I’m still a whole person, I just have a condition called Bipolar Disorder.  I’m not ashamed of it anymore.  I  can talk about it now.  I am healing, slowly, but it’s happening.  Now I want to get on and serve others.

Did I mention NAMI?  It’s the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.  They have chapters all over the country.  My chapter has support meetings for people with mental illness as well as support meetings for family members.  What a blessing this NAMI group has been for me and also my hubby.  We’ve learned a lot there.  I’m hoping that perhaps I’d be allowed to serve there.

Time will tell where God will put me.

It’s day 5 after moving into our new home.  I still feel like we are on vacation in Florida and should be going back to NY in another week.  The only thing that helps the finality of our being here is the mountain of boxes in our garage that I still have to unpack.  I’m about 1/3 through them.

It’s hard work unpacking, washing everything, finding a place for everything and remembering where I put things.  But I love setting up house so it’s not so bad.  My rule for the kitchen is store everything at the “point of use” or as close to it as possible.  That helps to make for an efficient kitchen and also helps me remember where most of my kitchen stuff is stored.

Moving is hard on relationships.  Thankfully Hubby and I both realize this and try to express how we feel vs the reality of what was actually done or said.  Perception is one’s own reality despite what the other person actually did or said so we both try to listen to each other and allow each other to explain our personal perceptions.  So far it’s been working and neither of us stays upset for very long.

Our dog is already trained not to walk into rooms having carpet.  We gave him his own little rug to lay on in the tiled area and he has a dog bed to sleep on at night.  So far-so good.  We accidently left him in the garage for about 15 minutes before we realized he was missing.  I guess he got stressed out because he left a puddle in there which he normally wouldn’t do.  Poor baby.  Yes, Dog Whisperer, I call him my baby–it’s a pet name ’cause he’s my Furry Buddy and he’s smallish (13 pounds).  If he was a Great Dane, I’d probably nick-name him my Soft Big Brute, and still call him a poor baby when he was hurt or sad.  I love him, Hubby loves him and our dog doesn’t care where his is as long as we’re with him.  He’s a great traveler–he adapts to anything.  I guess because we understand how he communicates his needs.  When we’re not sure we ask, “do you need water?”   “do you want food–eat?”  “do you need to tinkle?”, etc.  The italicized words are his cues for response.  When we hit upon the one he wants he wiggles or gives a little hop.  My husband chuckles when I say our dog talks to me but its true and hubby is beginning to realize its true when you watch for the clues given above.

It’s late and has been a very long day.  I worked from about 8:30 am until 3:30 pm with about a 1/2 hour break for lunch.  Then we met friends for dinner and went to an evening church service.

We’re still looking for a church.  I hope we find one soon where we’ll feel at home.

It’s so late and I still feel wound up like I could empty our about another 6 or 7 boxes.  I know it sounds odd but I don’t feel at all tired.

Gonna call it quits on writing for now.

Wishing everyone sunny days,  Journey.

It’s day 2 on the road and I sit now in a motel feeling a bit lonely.  Hubby and my dog are both asleep.  I am contemplating the idea that tomorrow we will arrive at our home in Florida.  New York is no longer home for us.  We are now Floridians by choice.  I can’t shake the feeling that we are just on another vacation.  We retired just days ago.  We’ve thrown out and packed up 36 years worth of stuff over the past few weeks preparing for this day.  Now its here and my mind just can’t take it in.

I’m looking forward to having the time to actually sort through boxes of pictures and putting them in some kind of order.  Creating scrapbook pages for special milestones in our family members lives, sewing curtains, placemats and decorative items for our home.  I also see myself getting involved with a new church when we finally find one to call our church home.  I’d like to find a cause that ignites passion in me and volunteer my time.

I hope to find a new purpose for my life in this chapter of my life.  I know my husband has similar feelings.  My psychiatrist (pdoc) gave me a homework assignment for when we arrived in our new home–read “The Purpose Driven Life”.  He told me, “You do have a purpose to fulfill now and you will find it.  Spend time in God’s word and in prayer.”  This is my intention so I will grow spiritually and do things that will matter for eternity, even if no one ever knows about my efforts.  It helps to stay unnoticed–there is less to interfere with one’s focus.

Right now, I need to focus on getting settled in.  I intend to enjoy this chapter of life full throttle.  I want to get past Social Phobia and truly enjoy people in any type of setting and not care about any criticism or whether or not they think I’m slightly odd.  I am who and what I am and I am learning to like myself with all my quirks.  I read a story once that a cracked pot can unintentionally water the ground surrounding it helping it’s portion of the Earth to grow beautiful flowers and green grass.  I want to be like that.  I have a medical issue that has changed me and I must constantly work hard to overcome it.  I could hate it but yet, because of it, I have learned life lessons that are invaluable.  So I embrace it as a blessing, hard won lessons that have permanently changed my outlook and me.  It has made me more sensitive to people facing serious physical and mental challenges in all areas of life.

I hope and pray that I can serve in some way to ease people’s fears and give them hope that they too can overcome their life challenges.  I want to inspire and motivate them to work at it because anything worthwhile requires an investment of time and energy–and each person IS worth it.  I want them to believe in themselves and in their abilities again.  And, if I can help them know God in the process, that would be the greatest gift of all


It’s day 2 on the road and I sit now in a motel feeling a bit lonely.  Hubby and my dog are both asleep.  I am contemplating the idea that tomorrow we will arrive at our home in Florida.  New York is no longer home for us.  We are now Floridians by choice.  I can’t shake the feeling that we are just on another vacation.  We retired just days ago.  We’ve thrown out and packed up 36 years worth of stuff over the past few weeks preparing for this day.  Now its here and my mind just can’t take it in. 

I’m looking forward to having the time to actually sort through boxes of pictures and putting them in some kind of order.  Creating scrapbook pages for special milestones in our family members lives, sewing curtains, placemats and decorative items for our home.  I also see myself getting involved with a new church when we finally find one to call our church home.  I’d like to find a cause that ignites passion in me and volunteer my time.  I hope to find a new purpose for my life in this chapter of my life.  I know my husband has similar feelings.  My pdoc gave me a homework assignment for when we arrived in our new home–read “The Purpose Driven Life”.  He told me, “You do have a purpose to fulfill now and you will find it.  Spend time in God’s word and in prayer.”  This is my intention and I intend to grow spiritually and do things that will matter for eternity even if no one ever knows about my efforts.  It helps to stay unnoticed–there is less to interfere with one’s focus. 

Right now, I need to focus on getting settled in.  I intend to enjoy this chapter of life full throttle.  I want to get past Social Phobia and truly enjoy people in any type of setting and not care about any criticism or whether or not they think I’m slightly odd.  I am who and what I am and I am learning to like myself with all my quirks.  A cracked pot can unintentionally water the ground surrounding it helping it’s portion of the Earth to grow beautiful flowers and green grass.  I want to be like that.  I have a medical issue that has changed me and I must constantly work hard to overcome it.  I could hate it but yet, because of it, I have learned life lessons that are invaluable.  So I embrace it as a blessing, hard won lessons which have permanently changed me and my outlook.  It has made me more sensitive to people facing serious physical and mental challenges in all areas of life.  I hope and pray that I can serve in some way to ease people’s fears and give them hope that they too can overcome.  I want to inspire and motivate them to work at it because anything worthwhile requires their investment of time and energy–and each of them IS worth it.  I want them to believe in themselves and in their abilities again.  And, if I can help them know God in the process, that would be the greatest gift of all.

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