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Archive for the ‘Gratefulness’ 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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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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Today is very special. It’s our anniversary. My husband and I have been married for 44 years. He stuck by my side through the best and worst of times. He’s a gem.

During the worst of times, when my bipolar was out of control, I didn’t feel I deserved him. I felt I was ruining his life. I wished I could die so he’d be rid of me and wouldn’t have to put up with my roller coaster moods anymore. During the worst depressions I would often think of ending my life. I figured that he would hurt for a while but then he’d realize that he was free from living through my hell with me. I tried to shield him from my moods but he could read me.

There were four occasions where I actually planned how to commit suicide and was ready to go through with it. I had promised my husband, that should that day come, I would tell him. I kept my word on each occurrence and he took me to the hospital for help. The last time was the charm—the doctor in that hospital put me on a combination of meds that nearly eliminated the cycling moods. The hypomanias have been eliminated completely. The depressions are now very few and shallow. They are pretty easy to control and keep from escalating. It’s been two years now and I’m still doing very well.

My husband fought this battle right beside me. He never gave up even when I wanted to. Communication was the key in our getting through it. He kept me talking and sharing what I was feeling and going through even when I didn’t want to but wanted to shut down. Those talks gave me the strength to dig deeper for tools to overcome and push through.

I know there are a lot of people out there with bipolar who feel alone, unlovable and that you will never know what it feels like to be well again. That is the greatest lie this disorder can tell us. It is the depression talking. It’s also the frustration talking. If you have a family member or close friend who you can talk to, share what you experience with him or her but initially do it when you are in a semi-controlled state if you can. You’ll be less emotional and make more sense. Our loved ones can’t help us if they don’t understand. The only way they can get a sense of what bipolar or depression is like is if we share and give them the information so they can learn. Direct them to websites that educate about bipolar. Let him or her come to an appointment with your psychiatrist for therapist so s/he can ask questions and learn. We need all the help we can get otherwise it’s a long and lonely journey.

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I am happy. For the first time in ages I actually feel happy. My mind is clearer, sharper. I’m not elated—not hypomanic. It’s like my mind has had a great weight lifted off of it and the fuzziness has diminished.   And the tremor when I write is gone. My beautiful handwriting is back.

I had a medication reduction. My psychiatrist agreed to decrease one of my meds 3 months ago by 5 mg. I found little relief so six days ago he agreed to reduce it by 5 mg more. That’s 10 mg total. It’s a powerful antipsychotic and you don’t need much to get results. I originally was on 20 mg. I couldn’t think clearly, had memory issues, fuzzy thinking and had a tremor in my hand when writing. Cooking was a major task because of having to multitask. Cooking dinner was a little easier today. God heard and answered my prayers.

It’s only been 6 days and I’ve had such good results. I’m wondering what another week will bring. Perhaps my mind will become even clearer. I can feel happiness again and that’s great. My emotions had been blunted for a very long time. I’m still holding a steady normal mood level so far. I just need to maintain it if I want to continue to enjoy these wonderful results.

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I’m different than I was 8 years ago. I had a sharp mind and a physically strong body. I moved around with great balance and my mind was creative, sharp as a tack. I felt things intensely, love, joy, pain and I laughed more. I found humor in life more. A couple of years of severe stress changed me. It triggered a severe depression and then bipolar swings. The hypomania presented as irritability at that time.

I miss the old me before the bipolar kicked in so strong. I don’t feel things the way I used to. My emotions are blunted and my mind isn’t nearly as creative and sharp as it was. I have memory problems.  I have to write everything down.  I know the bipolar is responsible for some of the changes as well as the medication I must take to help me remain in the state of wellness I’ve finally achieved. I know this but it is another thing to fully embrace it. It is hard for me to accept that I am less than I was, that I cannot do or feel as much as I did 8 years ago. My balance is a bit off physically.   I remember the old me and how capable I was. Now, multitasking is quite an undertaking. I no longer do it well.

I miss the old me. I am finding it hard to accept my new limitations. I know that the limitations are better than the alternative if I was unmedicated.  It’s just that I used to be able to work circles around people. I could achieve anything I put my mind to mentally and physically. I miss that freedom, the ability to create. I want it back.

I know someone is probably thinking, “Well change your meds.” I’ve tried everything out there and nothing worked until this combination I’m taking now. It’s a matter of acceptance and I have a hard time doing less than I used to be capable of. It makes me feel that I am less than the person I used to be. It’s something I struggle with when I think about it. I know I’m not less of a human being. I know I should feel good about having gone through the fires of bipolar and overcoming even if it is with the help of meds. I do feel some satisfaction in that. It’s changed me.   I guess if I lost my hearing or lost a leg it would change me too. My life would be changed and limited by what I could no longer do without helps like sign language and a prosthetic leg. I would still be able to do things but not in the exact same way. But life goes on. I guess what I am rebelling against is the loss of mental acuity.   Our minds are who we are. I know we are always changing physically as we age. I can accept that. But to lose mental acuity, cognitive abilities, for those to diminish is like losing a part of myself.

Please forgive my rant. I’m tired and sick with a respiratory infection today so I’m more vulnerable to succumbing to being a little irrational. I know I must accept myself the way I am and make the best of it. I know I have a lot to be thankful for and truly I am grateful. Things cannot go back the way they were—I must keep moving forward and try to do everything to the best of my ability the way I am now.   If I don’t work my brain and body, they will just get stale, inflexible. So I will just keep plugging along and be the best me I can be.

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I read a post by Charlotte Wessels, http://www.charlottewessels.wordpress.com, about who she feels she really is putting bipolar and meds aside. It sparked my thinking. Can I really separate myself from the disorder? I know who I am when in a normal phase, but I still have to monitor myself staying aware of any shifts in mood or triggers so I can take appropriate action to ward off any mood swings. Awareness is the key and I have to constantly be aware.   When I am in a normal stable phase, I am a calm and naturally thoughtful person. When I in a hypomanic or depressed swing I have to work very hard to function as normally as possible and remain thoughtful.

Prior to being diagnosed at age 57, I can see where I had some mild symptoms from time to time for most of my life, but for the most part I was a calm, thoughtful, quick minded and creative person. Full-blown Bipolar in my 50s changed me. I could be creative during hypomania until it went to far and I couldn’t focus on one thing anymore. The depressions left me hopeless and at times suicidal. Before I learned how to take care of and help myself, I was lost to the disorder. Coping skills helped me attain a sense of normalcy.

Now that I’m on meds and we finally found the right ones, I’ve been stable/normal for one and a half years. Due to the medications my thinking is slowed and not as sharp but I am the calm, content and grounded person I used to be. I’ve accepted what the meds do to my mind because my life is so much better now. I get frustrated with my mind being a bit slowed sometimes but I’m grateful to have my life back, the real me as I know it, the real me that I and my family are comfortable with. I am calm, thoughtful, wiser and somewhat creative again and my coping skills along with my meds help keep me that way. I thank God for helping me get the help I needed.

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It’s been nearly 9 months and I have maintained a normal mood state. I am very grateful. I didn’t realize the amount of energy it took to keep myself functioning at as regular a level as possible while dealing with bipolar mood swings. It’s wonderful to live on an even keel without an enormous effort. Of course it’s not just the skills I’ve learned that keeps me so steady now but finally getting the right mix of meds too.

The dilemma I find myself in now is how much do I give up to maintain this wonderful state. There are side affects to these medications. I have fine tremors in my hands which make writing difficult. My beautiful handwriting is gone. My kidney function is down a bit – not at all enough to worry yet but enough that my primary doctor wants to run tests every 3 months to monitor whether or not it progresses. Then there’s the problem of me losing my voice. It started after taking these meds. It is a known side affect though not as common as the others. My primary doctor wants me to see an ear, nose and throat doctor (ENT) to find out if it’s due to another reason. It could be and I hope it’s reversible. It’s sad because I can’t sing anymore. Sometimes I can barely talk. I am constantly hoarse. If I drop and change any of these meds, I am risking upsetting this balance I’ve finally achieved after 6 years of trying different mixes of them. I am reluctantly willing to sacrifice my handwriting and have a slight tremor. I am willing to live with a very slight decrease in kidney function as long as my primary doctor keeps monitoring it. But losing my voice, if it is due to the meds, is difficult to accept. I need my voice to communicate with the world. It’s tiring to try to speak up when you are hoarse. People ask what’s wrong with my voice. If I tell them it’s my meds they’ll wonder why I just don’t stop them. How do I explain?

But then I look back and realize I need to keep everything in perspective. I suffered severe depressions far more often than hypomania and a few of those depressions were dangerous. I don’t want to go back to that so I can understand why my psychiatrist is against changing anything. He weighs what I have to give up against finally achieving balance and normalcy after so many years. He doesn’t want to put me at risk again. Giving up my voice is a tough one, though.

 

But in spite of the difficulties, I am very grateful for a normal life. Finally.

 

I’ll let you know what the ENT discovers.

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Rev. Shane L. Bishop

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