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Posts Tagged ‘challenges’

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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It is a given that having bipolar complicates relationships. We feel our emotions to the nth degree. We can leave our loved ones wondering why a simple disagreement can set us off to the extreme. Through it all my husband and I learned how to communicate and become stronger through all the ups and downs.

To have healthy lives and relationships we need to develop good communication skills sharing our thoughts, how we think and how we feel. Explaining what impacts us, what makes us feel bad or good, what disappoints us, what scares us, what disgusts us and why is necessary for us to be understood by our love ones. We need to share our experiences and what we have learned. We need to share about new people or doctors we have met, what impressions they made on us, how we feel about them and why.

It is important to share these feelings and not just the facts to help our loved ones connect in an empathetic way, strengthening our bonds. It’s okay to ask our partner to help us sort out our feelings if we are unsure of how we feel, feel confused or have mixed emotions. We need to make the effort to describe our feelings to the best of our ability and let them help us figure it out.

Sometimes topics that impact our relationships trigger fear of rejection or being abandoned or some other possible awful reactions from our loved ones. It is important to go deeper than just skimming the surface on these topics. Our partner or loved one needs to know how we feel about these things. It may have to do with health, behavior, finances, sex, other family members, etc., but no one can even try to understand how we feel about these things unless we describe our feelings.

Sometimes the issues or topics strike a sensitive chord and lead to rising anger or even a shutting down on our part or theirs. This is a symptom of deeper issues, which are imperative to resolve.   It helps if there is an agreed upon plan in place ahead of time to help a couple to get to the core of the issue in order to resolve it.

I call this plan Rules of Engagement. It helps partners get through the tough discussions and is something my husband and I have used. Here are the basics:

  • One person talks at a time
  • No interrupting while the other person is talking
  • Listen attentively
  • Respect each other’s opinions and feelings
  • Agree to disagree when something cannot be resolved

Having good relationships with our loved ones helps bring balance to our lives and nurtures our spirits and emotions. Healthy relationships are imperative to our living a healthy life.

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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’ve recently decided to undertake the mission of losing weight. I’m supposed to start today and already I’ve failed. I just don’t have the focus or willpower. Why? I’m battling feelings of wanting to die. Not suicidal, just the feelings of the need to escape life for a while.

I feel like there are two opposites of me in my body. The one is rational and logical; the other is feelings/emotionally driven. The rational me knows that the feelings and emotions are driven by a lie—I don’t really want to die.   The emotional me is trying to drag me down into a dark pit and tells me there is nothing worth living for, there’s no hope for a normal life and I don’t want to have to deal with people or my having to put on a normal face. It’s as though my bipolar brain is attempting to kill me with all these dark thoughts. But I’m not really depressed—just very tired. We had houseguests for 5 days and now that they’re gone I feel fairly spent. I know that the tiredness is behind all this negativity and I won’t let it take me down. I know how to deal with it and I’m remaining at a stable normal level mood-wise in spite of all of this.

I won’t burden myself with guilt over failing my mission to lose weight already. I’ll deal with getting rested and getting my thoughts and emotions in order. Once that’s done I’ll be in a good, strong frame of mind to tackle my eating habits.

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After fighting a deep depression for 1½ months, I finally came out and settled in at “normal”.   After a few days I should have been very pleased but I was frustrated. I felt bored. Totally and hopelessly bored and I didn’t know why or what to do with myself.

I had an appointment with my therapist. We talked about my sleep problems, I’d been getting only a couple of hours per night for a few weeks and by afternoon I would feel starved for sleep. We determined it was either my new meds causing it or a rebound effect from coming off the old meds if they helped me sleep.   It could also be a combination of both.

Finally, I told her how bored I felt. She asked me what I have been doing and I told her it was just the same routine stuff—nothing had changed. She said, “Oh, but it has.   How are you feeling?” “Normal.”, I said. And then she blew me away. She said that “normal” has left me with nothing to work hard at. When I’ve been at anything but normal, which is usually most of the time, I’ve had to work hard to continue to live a normal productive life.   It can be incredibly hard work but now I had nothing to work hard at, just routine chores or errands. She was right! It made perfect sense.

I’ve achieved 12 days of “normal”! And I feel free and content. Boredom fled when I realized the reason for it. This is bliss and I have to believe it will stay this way. I know in reality the odds are stacked that I’ll slide up or down again. But negative thinking brings me down. The work now is to stay positive, believe for the best outcome and live in the moment. That’s not very hard work at all.

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There is a great debate, and yes, even shouting, about the issue of medications vs. no medications for treating mental illnesses. And I am addressing bipolar in particular since that is what I am most familiar with.

I have an acquaintance who has tried the no medications s route by using the holistic methods touted by many and yet she is still suffering.   Early in my treatment, I convinced my doctor that I wanted to go med free because I had reached a point of stability and I was afraid of these powerful drugs and what they can do to our bodies over time. Of course, the rapid cycles started again in spite of having great coping skills and I went back to my psychiatrist for help. The drugs are what had helped slowed my cycles down enough to cope well, and those particular drugs never quite worked the same as before I had stopped them. I had messed up with my meds.

That led to an interesting conversation with my psychiatrist and a great revelation to me.  It was one that I had difficulty accepting.  My argument was the meds cause weight gain, increase the risk of diabetes, cardiac problems and a host of other problems besides the side effects associated with them.  I told him that I’ve already begun to have problems, pre-diabetes for one, and would most likely die younger never reaching truly old age.

My psychiatrist’s response was that I was suffering without my meds.  My cycles sped back up to ultra rapid cycling making coping and life difficult.  There is a high risk of suicide with my deepest depressions; it’s in my gene pool which is a great concern.  He stated that it’s a matter of choice as to whether I want a better quality of life or life with suffering, both of which have an impact not just on me, but on my family too—one positive and one negative. He led me to the conclusion that sometimes we have to give up quantity for quality, and quality is a better choice in this case.

I chose quality and haven’t looked back.  I’ll do all I can to live as healthy a life as possible and I’ll enjoy my family and friends while relieving them of any worry about my overall well being.  Life has been far better for all of us this way.

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I’ll be on my way to see a psychologist in a couple of hours. It’s someone new. I’ve seen a couple in the past few years and they helped a little with a couple of issues but I just didn’t feel I got support with my bipolar and social/relationship issues (my husband is not a problem). After a few visits I’d be told we’re done for now until you have another issue, but the above issues were not addressed fully. I hope this new woman will be up to working with me. I’m not a difficult person—I’ve been told so. But I do work hard to face up to and overcome my problems. I expect my therapist, who I am paying, to put in a good effort with me while I do the hard work.   But I expect honesty and forthrightness. I want her to be blunt, to challenge me. I don’t understand the messages behind gentleness, coddling or wishy-washy.

Some people like the laid back gentle approach and that’s okay—for them. I need straightforward, let’s get to the point, get to the heart of the matter now approach. If we need to dig deep, lets dig and peel away the layers. I don’t want to dance around them before processing them.

I’m an adult who is smart and capable and I want to be treated that way. I’m not broken.  I want to be whole and well and to continue growing as a person who has something to give to this world.

I hope this woman is up to the challenge. I’m sure there are many people like me out there who want to voice their expectations to their therapist.

My husband likes her and thinks she’ll be good for me. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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