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Archive for the ‘Anxiety’ Category

What I am about to share is my perspective on life and how it helps me.  I’ve not shared this with you before but it’s had a big impact on me lately and I though I should share what is the core of what helps me with my bipolar life.

I’ve been reading a book with a friend called “Crazy Love” by Frances Chan. It’s about God’s great love for us. The book starts out showing us how infinitesimally small we are compared to the vast universe, that God created the universe and how small it is compared to Him. So now try to imagine how small we are compared to God yet he cares about us. He sent His Son, Jesus, to die for our sins so that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life with him after we die on this Earth. All He wants is my love and obedience, that I should worship Him instead of my stuff and accomplishments. My power to achieve is feeble compared to God’s. And it is He who gave me the abilities I have to accomplish anything. So who do I think I am when I get all proud and puffed up about my achievements and leave God out of the equation. In fact sometimes I forget about Him altogether.  I walk around planning where I am going to, how I will make a living, how  I will go about my business as though I am going to live forever with no thought about the possibility I could die tomorrow or even today. The Bible describes our life as a vapor, here now and gone in an instant.

A question posed in the book Is why do we get stressed and anxious. If we truly trust God is all-knowing and all-powerful then why do we get stressed and anxious. The answer is simple–I’m  still trying to control my life in my own power which is sorely lacking.  I need to get off of the throne of my heart and let God take His rightful place there. He will give me the order I need in my life. He will display His power in me and through my life.  The Bible tells us to be anxious for nothing. I have nothing to fear.

The major part of my anxiety is induced by my illness, bipolar disorder. It’s sort of a chemical short-circuit in my brain affecting my moods causing them to be extremely high or extremely low with anxiety thrown in as well. My doctor was able to help control the mood swings and anxiety with meds. Any anxiety I experience beyond that is my own making and I have to give it to God and trust Him to help me in every situation.  And He does.
Only His strength is sufficient for me, my own strength is feeble. I’m glad to have God as my rock and He has blessed me with so much. I have a faithful, loving and supportive husband, three wonderful sons, two wonderful daughters-in-law and two precious grandsons. I have a church family who loves me just the way I am. I know that I am truly blessed in a myriad of ways.
It’s been a long day. We left home at 10:00 am to go to church. After church we did some food shopping. We didn’t get home until almost 4:00 pm. The depression seems to be lifting. It’s been a good and productive day.

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At times, the anxiety was excruciating. It was a knot in my chest that grew along with the sense of impending doom as the anxiety deepened. Sometimes it came with depression. Most of the time it showed up all on its own. Often, it was connected to an upcoming event: a trip, a family or friend’s visit, going to church or other places with lots of people or anything else that makes this introvert uncomfortable.

There used to be a time that I would accept anything strange or new easily enough even though it might be a bit uncomfortable. Not so anymore. Over the last year or so, I was feeling a low level anxiety constantly, except for the times it became overwhelming. I was afraid to take the clonazapam (Klonapin) that my psychiatrist prescribed because I would have to be taking it everyday and I didn’t want to get addicted. I finally got tired of suffering and told my psychiatrist (Pdoc) what was happening. He had a solution—another medication (i mentioned this in last month’s post), which I was not thrilled about but I said I would try it. I was to take it three times a day (gradually working up to that amount.) Three times a day felt like overkill so I backed off to two times a day, at breakfast and before bed and it was enough. I started to feel a slight difference on the third day. It took about two weeks to fully kick in and it has been a lifesaver.

The constant low-level anxiety is gone. I sometimes feel a very mild anxiety over some upcoming event but it is tolerable. My Pdoc said I could take the clonazapam if I feel the anxiety is too uncomfortable but I am afraid to take them together. I ran my drug list for interactions on Drugs.com and it advised against taking the two together. It hasn’t been necessary anyway. If it became overwhelming, perhaps I would try it.

I’m a bit overly cautious about mixing meds because I almost OD-ed on pain meds due to a MD’s recommendations to take different pain meds together, ones that he prescribed for me along with a pain med a surgeon had prescribed for a week. I called the MD to get his advice about dropping his meds temporarily while I took the meds the surgeon prescribed. The MD said “no, don’t stop. Take them all together”. After a couple of days when the full effect of all those meds kicked in, I started to pass out. I fought it by keeping moving back and forth while hanging onto a door for dear life. I knew if I sat down, I’d pass out and I thought I was going to die if that happened. I had to keep moving and breathing. I vowed that would never happen again so now I research all my meds and the interactions.   Occasionally I also ask the pharmacist if he’s run a check when I get a new med.

The important thing right now is that I no longer suffer with anxiety. The new med is not meant to use long term so I am wondering when would be a good time to wean off. Probably when I don’t have any events coming up for several months. Perhaps the cycle of constant anxiety has been broken so I’d be able to deal with the occasional bout of it again while just use clonazapam if it becomes a bit overwhelming as I used to do.  I’ll talk with my Pdoc about this in a couple of weeks when I see him again.

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On March 28th, 2017, I was prescribed a new medication, Buspirone, to treat anxiety. This is in addition to other medications I take for Bipolar disorder. I have only been on it for 2½ weeks but I feel a significant difference already. I started at 15 mg and am now up to 45 mg ( 15 mg 3 x a day). I haven’t had any significant negative side effects except on the first dose 20 Minutes after my first dose my hands, feet, face and tongue felt tingly but that disappeared after a few hours and never returned. My nose runs a bit more often than usual. I do feel energized, clear minded and happy. It has also heightened my libido a bit, which had been low. I take it that the constant low-level anxiety with frequent bouts of moderate anxiety were sapping my strength and dulling my mood and mind. I will be careful to stay aware just in case the med causes me to become hypomanic. I experienced a slight elevation in mood for about 3 days. I believe that was a reaction to the sudden absence of anxiety. Right now everything is at a safe, normal, level. It feels strange to not be able to worry about anything but it is, most of all, a relief. I can think about upcoming responsibilities or events and what should happen and what could go wrong and there is absolutely no tension or anxiety. I can process the thoughts with a clear mind. It’s amazing.  I am very thankful.

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I’ve been well for two years now with just 2 or 3 slight dips in mood. I handled the dips well and they didn’t escalate into desperately depressed episodes. What I am desperate for is something to do since I am retired, have too much time on my hands and I don’t think I can handle the stresses of a full or regular part-time job.

Before my last deep, dark episode 2 years ago, I was volunteering for Hospice doing data entry for 4 hours once a week and I liked my job. I did it very well. While I was sick in the hospital, my husband called in for me telling my supervisor I was ill and I wouldn’t be back. I didn’t have any interaction with people there but I liked my work. My husband and therapist felt that having no interaction wasn’t healthy and maybe they were right. But now that I’m doing so well, I am desperate for something productive to do. I have too much time on my hands.

I tried volunteering at the Sheriff’s office doing fingerprinting. I had a 4-hour shift one day a week. The problem was that only one or two people came in to be fingerprinted during my shifts. Sometimes no one showed up. I would have to sit there doing crossword puzzles since they didn’t have any other work for me to do. I was bored out of my skull. I quit after only a few months.

I also tried helping out at our church office one morning a week answering the phone and doing some copying. I thought it would be fun but it was boring—no people interaction since I was covering for staff while they were in a meeting every week. I stopped signing up for hours (there were a few ladies who volunteered).

For a while I would go to the church café on Friday mornings and help six or seven older ladies stuff bulletins for the coming Sunday’s service. I was bored. The ladies were (and are) very nice people but the work was boring and the interaction didn’t grab my attention.

A number of years ago, I tried working at the animal shelter socializing the cats. The dander bothered me so I had to quit that.

My husband and former therapist felt I should sign up for classes at Joanne’s Fabric Store.   They have classes to make jewelry, knitting, decorative painting, crocheting and sewing. They even give occasional classes on cake decorating. The classes are one or two sessions long, are for beginners, which I would be one, but once you’ve taken the class where is the support to improve your skills at your newfound hobby?   Learning to knit hats and scarves in Florida is not practical. A sweater would be but you’d need an advanced class to learn the skills to do that and they aren’t offered. You need to pay for these classes plus the tools and materials. I don’t see the point in shelling out the money when the classes are so limited and I can’t completely learn a skill. Decorative painting sounds nice but you have to buy the items you want to paint plus the various brushes, the paint and the varnish/sealer. It’s expensive and I don’t have room in my house for clutter—I have everything I need—I live simply. You can only make so many gifts for people before it becomes clutter for them too.

So this is my dilemma: what do I do with my spare time? I can only clean my house so much. Once it’s clean it’s clean. There are only 2 of us so it doesn’t get too mussed up or dirty. I need something fairly stress free since stress is a trigger for anxiety which is a trigger for a mood swing.

Does anyone have any suggestions?

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I’ve done quite a bit of traveling and visiting with family in the past month and a half. One trip to Kentucky to visit a son, a 3 day getaway with our oldest son, our daughter-in-law and our two grandsons, and a 7 day cruise to the eastern Caribbean. There were 6400 people on that ship although it didn’t seem like it, but I did have contact with a lot of strangers.

Among many of the recommendations for living well with bipolar disorder are keeping a consistent sleep schedule, having routines and structure for daily life, taking ones meds, using your coping skills and limiting stress. Travel requires disrupting one’s routine, a loss of structure, a change in sleep schedule, possibly a change in time zones, a strange environment, the noise and confusion of airports, ship terminals, customs and dealing with people—both loved ones and strangers. It all can be quite stressful and was. I tried to set up a morning routine and bedtime routine in each location so I wouldn’t forget to take my meds. I have to say I had to deal with a lot of anxiety but I coped with it all successfully and didn’t have any mood swing episodes in spite of there only being 1 ½ weeks between the first and second trips and two weeks between the second and third trips. I had just about recovered from one trip and off we were on another. I don’t think I’ll let us book that many trips so close together again. I have to say that it wasn’t very long ago that I couldn’t have dealt very well with that amount of travel in such a short span of time. I’ve come a long way.

But it was all good. We got to see most of our family and that time was precious. And the cruise was a special time set aside for my husband and me and we enjoyed ourselves. We met some truly nice people and even a few celebrities on the ship who were very down to earth.

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How do I cope with bipolar, depression and anxiety? One way is through writing. Through writing I can examine m feelings, symptoms, my successes and failures. I can keep a running record of my mental health journey by keeping a journal. It helps me in three ways:

  1. I am able to vent my feelings
  2. It provides a record of how my condition is affected by my inner and outer world
  3. It helps me to recognize my triggers.

My journal serves as a mirror of my progress as I navigate life. I notice what triggers a depressive or hypomanic episode. Sickness often triggers a depressive episode.   Sleep deprivation can trigger either way but for me it’s usually depression so I go to bed and wake up the same time everyday.  Too many social events or traveling too often in a short span of time can trigger anxiety. And that’s where I have to be careful—anxiety can trigger a depressive episode. My meds don’t let me experience hypomania anymore in this past year. I’ve recorded coping skills, what works and what doesn’t. I keep a daily mood graph for my psychiatrist where I chart not only my moods but also sleep, activities and meds changes. It gives a truly well rounded view of my progress and triggers.

Both the writing and mood charting help keep me self-aware. I try to always be aware of any changes in my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual being, both positive and negative. The sooner I am aware of a negative change the sooner I am able to able to deal with it to ward off a full blown mood swing. If my thinking is becoming negative I consciously begin to think positively. I’ll avoid situations that cause me excessive stress or anxiety when possible. Meditation and prayer are a big positive factor for me. I find solace in reading the Bible. Music often lifts my spirit. Talking with my husband will often help me maintain a positive perspective.

Keeping a positive outlook and living intentionally go a long way to helping me manage my mental health.

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Noise. It’s all around us, some pleasant and soothing, and some that grates severely on our nerves.

 I’ve talked with several people who are bipolar and they all agreed that loud noise, harsh sounds, loud TVs or music, even movies or concerts, can actually become a trigger. They are sound sensitive.

 This is a major issue for me too. I avoid places that bombard my senses.  But I can’t avoid my home.  My husband loves action shoot-em-up movies, war movies, crime shows and he would always turn the volume up so he could hear all the details (he’s a bit hard of hearing). It drove me up the walls. I felt assaulted by the sounds. I would close myself up in another room and I could still hear it. A few hours of this would often set off some irritability (understandably normal), which could lead to a mood swing. I explained all this to my husband and, thoughtful man that he is, he decided there had to be a remedy so we could both be happy and entertained in the same room together.

 Headphones! My husband did some investigating and found quality wireless headphones, which allow him to hear everything even better.   And I don’t hear a thing so I can sit across from him and read in peace and quiet. We’re both happy with the solution.

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