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Posts Tagged ‘hope’

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’ve heard of physician-assisted suicide also called euthanasia. In the U.S. the procedure is reserved for those people who are terminally ill as well as in a great deal of pain. It is legal in Vermont, Washington (state), and Oregon. It is allowable in Montana only by a court ruling. In the U.S. the procedure is reserved for those who are terminally ill as well as in a great deal of pain. It has come to my attention that overseas the procedure has been taken to another level.

In the Netherlands and Belgium, doctors are also allowed to assist with suicide for people with non-terminal cases of severe distress including psychological cases. Some of the people approved for doctor-assisted suicide suffered from manic depression (bipolar), anorexia, autism, chronic fatigue syndrome, partial paralysis and Alzheimer’s. This list is just a sampling of how far a reach this now approved procedure has.

I find this very disturbing because severe distress and psychological issues can change for the better over time. I have been in that terrible pit of depression. It was so deep and mentally an emotionally painful it tore at my soul. I wanted to die because I didn’t think I could endure it anymore. At that point I could no longer see any light or hope. I couldn’t believe it would ever be over. I felt it would never end.   Many people with severe depression experience this in addition to any other unique ways their minds torture them. But whether we believe it or not, it is a temporary state and there is always hope that our doctors will find the right drug(s) to alleviate or even rid us of the depressions in the future. After 6 years my doctor finally found a combination that works for me and life is good again.

It is my fear that in the not so far off future the laws in many U.S. states will relax and follow the lead set by the Netherlands and Belgium. People who are afraid of trying to commit suicide themselves for whatever reason will find a doctor to do it for them without any chance of failure. What kind of world are we living in where we can just dispose of people who have a chance of living well? Euthanasia for the terminally ill frightens me but this new twist alarms me.

Had I killed myself, I would have missed being well again. I’d have missed out on a future with my husband and our family. I wouldn’t hear my grandsons laugh again. I’d miss all the beautiful sunrises and sunsets. I am grateful to be alive with a promising future ahead of me. I have found joy after severe bipolar depression.

I pray you hold on. There is definitely hope.

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One of the first coping skills I learned about after my bipolar diagnosis was that meditation is important to our well-being. It’s a time to quiet down our racing thoughts, emotions and negative thinking. It relaxes the mind and body. I’ve heard some people say they feel rejuvenated after spending awhile meditating.

Some people like to sit and use a particular scent that is pleasing and focus quietly on that. Others like to hold and feel a textured item that is pleasing to focus on. Some focus on something in their minds. Some people like to use prayer as meditation. While focusing on whatever one chooses, it is important to breathe deeply.

Although I pray often, that is not usually my form of meditation. Mine is to go to a special place in my mind. I wrote about it and I want to share it with you. See if you can picture yourself there.

River Peace

Stresses peel away while I listen
Dark, murky water
Lazily follows a ribbon pathway
Gurgling, lapping at the shoreline.
Trees shield the forest floor from afternoon sun
Grateful, I find rest in the cool shade.
Rustling leaves, quiet songs of nature,
Soothing, comforting,
Reassuring that all is right in my world
God is in control.

I sit here for the solitude
Yet life teems all around.
Spiders spin, ants gather food,
Birds chirrup in the green ceiling above me.
Dragonflies flit to and fro above the cool water
Prism wings of purple, green, red-violet.
I belong here, joining God’s creation
Celebrating life’s pure joy in being, simplicity.
I wait to hear His voice.

© Jeanette Chiapperino 9/21/2000

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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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Two weeks ago, after spending 5 days following my psychiatrist’s directions to do absolutely nothing but relax, sleep and rest, my depression continued to rage and grow worse.  It’s never been that deep, dark and severely painful for so long.   It was now becoming dangerous.  I was exhausted and my coping skills were breaking down.  I wanted life to end and started noting what we had in the house to do so.  That’s when I knew I had to do something fast.  Something my husband and I had learned two years ago during a depression nearly as bad.

 The Benefits of a Safety Plan and a Pact

After the experience in 2012, my husband and I knew that, because of my being bipolar, a depression of this magnitude could happen again.  We remembered the anxiety he felt when he had to leave the house and I was alone. I remembered the fear of losing control as well as the fear of being hospitalized.  We had been exhausted and afraid because we didn’t have anything to guide us along.

 We put together a plan, a safety net:

  1. I chose a hospital that has a satellite recovery center (treats psychiatric disorders as well as alcoholics and addicts).      I checked it out on the Internet and printed out the web page with their address and phone number.  I also made a second choice and printed it out just in case the first one is full.
  2. I made a pact with my husband and psychiatrist that I would inform my husband when suicidal thoughts start becoming intense and could become impulses.
  3. I made list of phone numbers that my husband would have to call (my psychiatrist’s office, my supervisor where I volunteer).
  4. I tacked my little packet to my bulletin board so it could be easily found.

 Time to Go

Two and a half weeks ago, I kept my promise and told my husband that my skills were disintegrating and the suicidal thoughts were becoming dangerously close to impulses.  I didn’t want to go to the recovery center, but I knew we needed the assurance that I’d be safe.  My husband can’t, and shouldn’t have to, stand guard over me every minute of the day.  When would he sleep?   All it would take is one weak moment in that horrible suicidal depression to do irreversible damage.

I packed a couple of sets of clothes and we headed off to the hospital without anxiety.  We had all the information we needed at our fingertips to get to our destination.  My husband had the phone numbers he needed when he got back home.

Since it was necessary for me to go, I made up my mind that I was going to learn as much as I could for however long I had to stay instead of lamenting over the situation.  I would treat it as an education about bipolar disorder and myself.  Everyone experiences it differently.  This was an opportunity to pick the doctors’ brains.  Luckily, I had 2 psychiatrists who loved to educate patients who asked questions and wanted to learn.  And since I was learning from the doctors, I now have more information to empower me to ride the waves of bipolar.

Just Another Coping Skill – the last resort

I discovered that my Safety Plan was a coping skill of last resort, but a coping skill nonetheless.  It guided us through the emotional confusion when choices for my safety had to be made.  I was in a safe place of my choice with professionals who truly cared.  I received the treatment I needed to help relieve the depression.  My husband’s mind was put at ease.  The Safety Plan worked beautifully.  

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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


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