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Triggered!

August 20, 2017

Just about the time I think I’m over all this bipolar business, something happens to remind me that my stability can evaporate very quickly if something goes seriously sideways in my life.

It almost did yesterday. While I won’t go into the reasons for the scare, I will say that my feeling of safety and security was majorly threatened, and I’m still shaken up even though things got better rapidly after all was said and done. I haven’t felt fear like this since 2014 when Will and I almost became homeless. I even had to pop a Klonopin to calm myself down, and I NEVER use it for anxiety, only sleep.

In the meantime, my thoughts were racing, my heart was pounding, and I felt as though I was tipping over into a mixed episode. My butt was glued to the park bench at my grandson’s birthday party, but my brain was on fire and I wanted to run as fast as my feet could fly (which admittedly isn’t very fast). I barely ate; my stomach was tied up in knots, and I was suddenly so irritable that it was all I could do not to yell at the kids who played nearby.

Some might say that my reaction to the stress was normal and completely  understandable given the circumstances, and they would be right. I’m talking about the feeling that I was spiraling out of control, which I haven’t encountered in nearly three years. I’d forgotten what that was like. I was so uncomfortable I even took my nighttime meds a little early, and I welcomed the calm that stole over me as they began to take effect.

Today, after a night filled with strange dreams, I feel like the worst is over. I’ve been assured that my place in the world is safe and I needn’t worry, although it’s going to be awhile before I can trust again. You know how it is when the scales fall from your eyes; there is no going back to innocence once a security breach has occurred. And although I know I’m loved, I have to remember that unconditional love is rare, and I will probably never experience it in the flesh again.

This afternoon, life is back to normal as if nothing ever happened. However, I rose up this morning on guard and more protective of my stability. I hope it won’t be threatened again for a long, long time (preferably never), but I’m not taking it for granted. I’ve worked too damned hard and too damned long for it. In spite of everything that’s happened in the past 13 months, I love my life and don’t wish it to be any different… except maybe for a bigger bedroom and my own bathroom. That’s supposed to happen when we move to Texas. Last night we all sat out on the deck talking about our future and making plans for the move, and it felt good to be part of that discussion.

I can’t wait. 🙂

 

Summer In The City

August 3, 2017

Whew, is it hot! In a part of the country where it struggles to get to 90 degrees during much of the summer, it was 107 yesterday and it’s expected to be just as warm today. Luckily I live in an air-conditioned house and am not suffering the effects of the heat; I went outside yesterday afternoon just for the hell of it and it was like walking into a blast furnace. I also got a lungful of smoke from the forest fires burning upstate, and it promptly sent me into an asthma attack. There’s a reason I lose my happy thoughts when it gets over about 95 degrees.

Otherwise, it’s been a perfect summer thus far. Temps consistently in the 80s, and no rain for almost two months. I love it. I could live under these conditions all year round. Which is why I wonder sometimes how Will and I could have ever left San Diego, although I have to admit I love the autumns here with all the beautiful trees that turn orange and red and gold.

My mood is good and I’m very, very stable. There is no hint whatsoever of either mania or depression, which makes it hard to write about bipolar, but I’m happy to be right where I am. I look back over past blog entries and am amazed at how much things have changed for the better; it’s been almost three years now since my last major episode, for which God be praised. Sure, there are the predictable hypomanic phases during the spring and mild depression in late fall and winter, but nothing I can’t handle. I’ll start using my light box in September to ward off the depression before it begins. Dr. Goodenough may not be Dr. Awesomesauce, but he knows his bipolar stuff and this suggestion was one of the best I’ve ever been given.

And of course there’s the trip in December to look forward to. We’re going to places where it’s summer all the time, which will be a much-needed vacation from the gloomy winter days here. I have developed a major fondness for Caribbean islands and wish I could live on one for the rest of my life (even though there are hurricanes). Then, there’s Orlando where Disney World is located, and that’s going to be so much fun! I can’t wait to see my son-in-law Clark with Mickey Mouse. He loves everything Disney and some of his anticipation has already rubbed off on me. Personally, I can’t imagine anything better than Disneyland in California (where I’ve been many times), so I think I’m in for a real treat.

I’m so happy I get to travel now. I never had the opportunity before. I love it that I’ve been to Honduras and Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Cozumel, and other amazing places. I’m also glad that I’ve lost enough weight to make these things possible. I still get tired fairly quickly, but I can stand and walk much better than I could 90 lbs. ago, and I’ll be able to go on rides at Disney for sure. I’m a long way from where I need to be, but I’m already at a weight I never dreamed I’d see again, and for now that is enough.

Happy Summer!

 

The Chicken Or The Egg?

July 20, 2017

Of all the things I’ve ever lost, I miss my mind the most.

Seriously. My short-term memory is virtually non-existent nowadays, and it’s supremely frustrating. I can quote you the lyrics from a song that came out in 1975, but I can’t remember what I ate for lunch this afternoon…or even if I ate lunch at all. I’ve had memory issues since I was in my early 40s, but I blamed them on perimenopause then; now I realize that they were probably due to bipolar. At any rate, STM loss is a pain in the ass and I hate it.

A couple of years ago, I asked Dr. Awesomesauce if I might be developing dementia. I had trouble with word-finding, and sometimes would even forget what I was saying in mid-sentence. He was certain it wasn’t dementia, but possibly a combination of meds and brain damage from repeated bipolar episodes. Lamictal is notorious for this, and I take a crapload of it; I’ve also had many, many episodes of mania and depression throughout the course of my life. I still worry about early-onset Alzheimer’s, and I should get a second opinion from Dr. Goodenough, but I do wonder…which came first, the brain changes or the forgetfulness? And what, if anything, do meds have to do with it?

I mean, this is embarrassing. I’m apt to tell the same story to the same person at least twice; I try to read books but can’t remember the first part of a chapter by the time I get to the end of it; I can’t memorize phone numbers. This is one of the main reasons why I’m on disability, and why I lost my last job working with the state: I had to memorize large amounts of material, and I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t even learn the stupid computer program I was supposed to use. And while I’m confessing, here’s this: on my blog posts, I always have to scroll back up to see what I’ve written lest I repeat myself. Pathetic.

It’s becoming harder to cover my faux pas. Or maybe I just think it is because I notice it and I’m self-conscious about it. My son Ethan thinks it’s funny: “Mom, you’ve said that three times in the past two days. You sound like a broken record!” (Yes, he does know what a record is. That’s what happens when a kid grows up with older parents.) I also miss some things and have to be reminded several times. However, the fact that he doesn’t seem to be concerned about it makes me feel slightly better; he works with elderly patients and knows what dementia looks like.

I strongly believe that meds have a lot to do with it, even though it feels like a cop-out. I’ve been maxed out on Lamictal since my hospitalization in November 2014, and the doctors warned me that this would probably happen. That too is somewhat reassuring, but it doesn’t make life easier. I also seem to fall a lot; I’ve had two of them in the past two weeks and four in the past year. It’s like I forget to lift one foot high up enough and trip over myself. They also told me that lack of coordination and poor balance are other side effects of large doses. But what can I do? I obviously need the medication…

Anyway, that’s my complaint of the day. I’ll scroll back up to see if this post makes sense, and then tonight I’ll crush it on Jeopardy! because I can remember all sorts of trivia as long as it happened in the past. Haha!

Sigh of Relief

July 14, 2017
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I made it.

The year of firsts is finally over, and I got through it. The night of the 12th was the hardest, although yesterday was rough too. I cried a lot, lit a candle, and wished all the voice mails I’d saved hadn’t been lost when I got a new phone last weekend. I heard from all of the kids except my oldest son, who hasn’t adjusted well to the loss of his father and is doubtless deep in his own funk. Neither did I hear from my sister. But otherwise, I feel very much loved, and my mood has remained steady throughout…thank God for good drugs.

What a relief it is to be done with this year. It doesn’t mean that future anniversaries won’t be difficult—I’ve got our wedding anniversary coming up and I know it will be a difficult day—but maybe it’ll be just a little less difficult than the first one was. Or not. The key is, I’ve proven to myself that I can make it through these tough times and come out stronger. It’s what Will would have wanted, and I comfort myself with the idea that he’s watching over me and is proud of me.

I miss him so much. Sometimes when I wake up in the morning, I half-expect him to come in with a nice strong cup of coffee and a loving smile. He was an early-morning person and was always cheerful because he’d been up for hours; this caused some friction in the early days of our marriage because I am definitely NOT a morning person. But over the years I came to appreciate his sunny outlook and tried to emulate it (with very little success, I might add). This was only one of the countless ways he loved me, and he made me a better person. I will always be grateful to him for that.

 

A Blast From the Past

July 7, 2017
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Well, the “year of firsts” following the loss of my husband is about to come to an end.

The anniversary is next Thursday, July 13th, but it’s the night of the 12th that will haunt me forever. I remember, as if it happened yesterday, the horror of watching him writhe in pain and throw up frank blood, and knowing that this was it—there was no coming back from this active dying process. I remember the trip to the hospice house where he finally got relief from the pain, which allowed him to rest peacefully. And I remember being at his side when he reached out his hand to me and breathed his last.

I can’t believe it’s been a year already. You know, I never thought I could be strong; in fact, I used to joke that the kids would have to drop me off at the psych ward after the funeral. I was only half-kidding. But I am strong, and have stayed that way because being strong is the only choice I have. Just days before he died, Will made me promise three things: that I would stay sober, stay on my meds, and stay alive.

That has not been easy. I don’t think I’ve ever been so sorely tempted to drink as I have in this past year, and I admit that there have been times when I wished I could go to sleep and wake up in Heaven with him. I’ve also toyed with the idea of stopping meds because I’m tired of taking them and I haven’t had bipolar symptoms in quite some time. However, those thoughts are banished quickly and I move on to other things; there is no point in dwelling on it.

Yet with all the suffering, something wonderful has begun to happen: I’m remembering more and more of the good times Will and I had. Sometimes a little snippet of our past randomly wanders into my head, and I find myself laughing spontaneously at these memories. Like when the kids were little and he playfully allowed our daughters to put ribbons and bows in his hair. Or when we had the snowball fight of the century and he threw one clear over the roof of the house, which smacked my sister right on the top of the head. (She was not amused, but we certainly were!) Or the times we went to the grocery store, making jokes and laughing until people must’ve thought we were crazy.

This is not to say I’m over it, because I will NEVER get over it. I will miss Will every day for the rest of my life. And I’m frankly dreading this upcoming week. But as the year has passed and the grief has lessened somewhat, I’ve discovered some truths about myself and my place in the world—even as a widow on Social Security Disability who can’t live alone, I belong here and I have value to others. I’ve also learned that I’m not the only one who’s experienced a profound loss; my kids are still struggling with their Dad’s death, and while none of them really wants to talk about it, they know I’m available to listen and help them process it.

Still, I know I’ll feel better when I wake up in the morning next Friday, because I will have made it through this rough passage. See you on the other side of the 13th, my friends.

 

The Top 100

June 29, 2017
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I just found out today that bpnurse has been named as one of the top 100 bipolar blogs on the Internet. In fact, my blog is ranked #63, and I’m in the same great company as my idol Natasha Tracy (who writes Bipolar Burble, as well as a couple of other blogs for Healthline), Psych Central, and Kitt O’Malley to name a few.

To say that I’m flattered would be the understatement of the month. Even though I don’t post as often as I should, my readership is loyal and you’ve elevated this blog to heights I never envisioned when I started it back in June of 2013. I have readers from around the globe, which would never have been possible before the advent of the World Wide Web. I have Facebook friends and followers who read me regularly, most of whom aren’t even bipolar. I like to think that I’m educating people who don’t know a lot about mental illness but are willing to learn, as well as advocating for others who do suffer.

As always, I want to give you credit where credit is due. Thank you for putting me on that Top 100 list! I’ll do my best to continue providing you with perspectives on living with bipolar disorder, information, and even the occasional bit of humor.

You rock!!

 

Loose Lips

June 9, 2017

…sink ships. Or do they?

Had a visit with Dr. Goodenough the other day, and for some reason I got to talking and couldn’t shut up. I mean, I SPILLED. MY. GUTS. I talked about my recent bout of hypomania. I admitted having tried to give myself a “drug holiday” and the chaos that resulted. I discussed my marriage and how much I miss my husband. I even confessed that I’m having almost constant thoughts (and dreams) about sex and feeling terribly guilty about it.

I was amazed to discover that I trust Dr. G more than I thought. These were things I never even told Dr. Awesomesauce in all the years I was with him, and you all know how much I trusted him. I don’t know why I didn’t share them with him; maybe it was because I didn’t want him to be disappointed in me. He wouldn’t have been, of course, because he’s a psychiatrist and they aren’t supposed to judge their patients. I know he never judged me. But he was almost more of a friend than a clinician, while Dr. G is very kind but has strict boundaries that are so evident they don’t need to be discussed—I just know. I’ve been with him for eight months now and I have no idea if he has a family, what he likes to do in his spare time, where he’s traveled. But I get the feeling that’s the way doctor-patient relationships are supposed to be, and I have to respect him for it.

Anyway, this discussion was most productive, even though our sessions are only 30 minutes and Dr. G could hardly get a word in edgewise. I kept saying “I can’t believe I’m telling you this!” but I couldn’t help feeling that it was the right thing to do. It was good to be able to get it all out in the open. He took advantage of the rare times when I stopped talking long enough to take a breath, and encouraged me to be gentle with myself (he’s figured out that I’m harder on myself than anyone else could ever be).

“You’re a human being, remember that,” he said. “You need to start treating yourself like one.”

That was the same thing Dr. A always used to tell me. Damn it, why can’t I get this simple concept through my head? And look, there I go again…I really DO need to be easier on myself.

In the meantime, we are not changing meds anytime soon because they work, even though I’ve been a little high lately. I’m also supposed to try the amber glasses we talked about last fall in order to block blue light in the evening hours and thus tamp down any budding mania. The only problem with this is that they don’t fit over my bifocals, and I’m blind as a bat without them. I even looked on Amazon for the clip-on type that Dr. G recommended, and I couldn’t find any. So either I spend the hours from 6 PM till the time I go to bed unable to watch TV or work on the computer, or I continue to rely strictly on meds. Since I only seem to become hypo/manic in the spring and early fall—and I’ve already had my “spring fling”—it’s going to be the latter. I’d rather take my chances than be bored out of my skull for a full half of my day/night.

Next on the agenda: short-term memory loss. I wanted to talk about it on Wednesday but I forgot. Haha!