Tag Archive: Insomnia


Itchy


*scratches madly at legs* I seem to have my first ever case of chigger bites. OMG. I thought fire ants were bad. Well, they are, but in a different way. And not nearly this itchy. Holy crap. According to the internet, I have another week or so of this. Oh joy. Nature’s gift to me for standing outside whacking limbs out of a tree gone crazy for two hours straight without any bug repellent. At dusk. In Central Texas. Not the brightest of my ideas. I think I’m misfiring in a number of ways this week, though.

Not the least of which is in the cranky department. Just because I get a bug up my butt about something doesn’t mean I get to be rude to people, least of all people I actually like. Not even if I’m right. I’m better about this than I used to be, but graceful debating skills don’t come easy to someone used to a more below-the-belt style of arguing. Which was often a with-the-belt style of arguing. Not nearly as much fun as just being in a bad mood and stepping on someone’s toes, which is much more easily fixed.

Note to self: Before I sit down to do my words each day, I need to read over the previous day’s words to make sure I’m not repeating myself.

This week’s big stress is the car, which recently rolled over 100,000 miles. Go Tethys! Tethys is the ancient Greek Titan of the sea. Before and bigger than Poseidon. Yeah. Anyway, all of our cars have been silver, green, or blue, so we started naming them Tethys. We’re on Tethys III at the moment. Well, Tethys needed a new pair of soles for her shoes (that’s new brakes in modern parlance), particularly since they were making a most horrible squealing noise. The report from the mechanic is always either much more or much less than you were expecting to spend. In this case, it was the former. Luckily we could split the work in half and take care of the rest later, but it still left us a little tight.

So what? We’d be totally screwed if I hadn’t actually been saving money for the last few paychecks for the express purpose of taking care of old car and old cat related emergencies, that’s what. And while I keep trying to get on myself for already depleting the savings account, the rest of me tries to remind the anxiety-ridden side that we’re using it for it’s intended purpose. That is the very definition of “emergency fund”. Well done! *pats head* And it didn’t take all that long to get it to where it was; it won’t take that long to get it back there again, either. I just need to hold off on any more emergencies for a little while.

Here at home, I still haven’t planted my ‘three sisters’ garden bed yet. I’m not sure what I’m waiting for, if not a convenient time window. If I were more of a morning person, I’d take care of these things then. Which is when one is *supposed* to garden here in Central Texas. Unless you *want* heatstroke. Actually, I am trying to be more of a morning person. My daughter loves it when I get up in the morning with she and her father, even if I’m mostly just a tea-drinking lump. On a more practical level, I should get up with the rest of the family so I can take our daughter to school instead of him: I have more time and don’t have to dodge rush hour traffic. I would also have a lot more time to do things that I’m always complaining about not having enough time to do.

I’d have to sacrifice my entire evening routine. That means no more late-night tv watching, or at least reserved for special evenings and my favorite shows. If I’m watching a series on Netflix, I’m going to have to set a weekly limit as to how many episodes I’m allowed to watch. Otherwise I’ll do what I did recently: watch all seven seasons of Star Trek: Voyager in just over a month. That’s 168 episodes over what was once seven years. That’s a lot of tv. I need to break the extraordinarily bad habit of falling asleep while watching the telly. Reading would be much better. Just turning the damn light off at a pre-appointed time would probably also help. I imagine it would mean several days of weird sleep while my body tried to adjust, but I would hope that my internal clocks would settle in after a time. Seeing as how it’s already 10:37pm, I don’t think the night to start that is going to be tonight.

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Hot Hot Hot


“I tried not to think about the words SEARING.FLESH.” – Fight Club

It has been blazingly hot lately.  On Tuesday, I measured a temperature of 110F on my back porch.  Some people get SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)  in the winter.  I get it in the summer.  After all, there’s not much going outside.  Not if you don’t want to spontaneously burst into flames.  And it’s depressing.  Everything is dead and brown.  I hate it.

Seriously though, I have taken up jogging with my friends.  We don’t go until the sun is nearly down, but I’m going.  This is remarkable for someone who used to laugh at joggers and runners for doing so without being chased.  And it does somehow make the heat more bearable, because it’s not going to rain for another month at least.  *cries*

On the plus side, my headmeat seems to have stabilized, but not until after a really unpleasant episode a couple of months ago during which I learned I really can’t fuck with my sleep.  That’s the trouble with having bipolar.  The only way to know your meds aren’t working is to feel like shit.  Ah well.  I have a small army of pharmacy bottles to take from each day, and a basket full of vitamins and supplements to counteract the side effects (mostly muscle twitches).  Two mood stabilizers, one antidepressant, one sleep aid, two antianxiety agents, and one thyroid med to counteract what one of the mood stabilizers does.

A calcium-magnesium-potassium supplement is crucial to stave off the muscle twitches, which aren’t nearly as bad as the ones trazodone gave me.  I don’t take that anymore, thank the gods: akathisia really, really sucks.  B-vitamins, fish oil, and a host of others.  Obviously, I found a headmeat doc (nurse, really) that does me a lot of good and is on tap via smartphone virtually any time.  Plus, he’s really funny.

Everything else I have allowed to sliiiiiiide.  I haven’t been to the Buddhist center in two months.  I haven’t done yoga in quite some time.  The only thing I’ve done is karate, which I will probably do more now that I know I don’t need that many more classes to get my next ranking.  I’ve gone to the gym more, though.  I have to adjust my diet, though, or those 20 pounds are never going to come off.

Obviously due to the heat wave, I’ve done no gardening.  It’s crispy out there.  I allowed my community garden plot to slide: who wants to put in community hours when it’s over 100 outside?  I hate the politics anyway.

Some things are good though, or at least better.  I’m enjoying things a little bit more.  I got the henna out for a friend last week and I was very pleased I haven’t lost my touch.  I haven’t had to lie to anyone about how I’m feeling, which also pleased me.  My memory is for shit, though, which my headmeat caretaker assures me will improve the happier I get.  I haven’t taken care of all that death paperwork to collect my grandmother’s ancient life insurance policy, but I actually want to, along with some remaining boxes that her friends in California were interested in.  I mean, it’s only been three years.  *sigh*

Other ways I know I’m better: I’m not murderously angry about the non-stop machinery I can hear from my house for the last, oh, year and a half?  I don’t feel like killing every asshat driver in South Austin (trust me, that’s remarkable, we have a high asshat density down here).  I’m a bit annoyed about the massive fence the neighbor behind us put up, but I haven’t thrown anything at it.  😀

There are other things that still need improving, but I’m hoping that they improve with more sleep and exercise and with an abatement of the heat.  It’s like a freakin’ blast furnace out there.

Fear, Doubt, Letting Go


I’ve been keeping to myself lately, from a virtual blogging aspect anyway.  Almost a month ago, I became gripped by a deep doubt about almost everything.  In particular, my writings here as well as my semi-private journal.  It was akin to suddenly feeling like the Emperor in his new clothes, as though I had been engaged in a massive and very public overshare.

I only barely managed to keep myself from outright deleting a number of posts, thanks to the urging of friends.  I still made several of them private, though.  I still can’t say exactly why, though I imagine it’s the same mindset that grips anyone who creates as a major part of their life.  Like a painter who suddenly decides something looks terrible and paints over the canvas.

I’m willing to bet it’s related to my still-faltering self-confidence and self-esteem, both of which took a major nose dive around the same time I decided that everything I had written for the last two months was utter and complete crap. When combined with the sense of nakedness and subsequent embarrassment at my self-perceived overshare, it’s unsurprising that I was so suddenly taken with the desire to virtually set my writing on fire.

However, the horses, as they say, have long ago left the barn.  While I shouldn’t really care what other people think of me in the first place, I should be comforted rather than fearful of the fact that, with a single exception, not a single person has removed themselves from my life nor have they said anything disparaging about my writing.  In fact, I’ve gotten a lot of very positive feedback and encouragement.  If a massive display of TMI was really something I had to worry about, I would have learned of it weeks ago.

Still, the feeling hasn’t gone away yet.  I wish I knew how to dispel these notions, because they’re keeping me from completing other major projects that have the potential to lift me out of the overall sense of uselessness I feel about my life.  Which is yet another attitude that should be filed under “patently absurd”, but I’ve yet to figure out how to truly convince myself of more positive things.

Part of the problem is having bipolar illness.  I’m still cycling, in the vernacular, and often whatever mental gains I make when I’m feeling up are completely undone while I’m feeling down, which is unfortunately the greater percentage of the two.  At least when I’m up, the most annoying things I have to deal with are insomnia and a greater than normal enthusiasm.  I’ll spare you the list of things I deal with when I’m down.

I’m trying hard to be patient, though I often feel that I’m failing at it.  It can take months or more than a year for someone to truly stabilize and achieve some sense of emotional equilibrium, and sometimes I just don’t feel that I’m up to the task.  At nearly 40 years of age, I feel a bit like Bilbo at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring: “….thin, like butter scraped over too much toast.”  A great part of me is like, “Really? *sigh* After everything else, do I really have to deal with this too?”

A great part of me is also very angry about the “everything else”, and it’s entitled.  Regrettably, there’s no one left to be angry at, and so in a very real sense I’m suffering the ill effects of a Buddhist parable – being angry at someone is like holding a hot coal with the intention of hurting them: you’re the one who gets burned.  Along with being patient, I’m also trying to cultivate “letting go”, even though it isn’t fair and I still bristle at some of the injustices in my life, mostly because I was never really given an opportunity to have my feelings be known.

I’ve never been someone who prayed, mostly because I didn’t feel I had anything to pray to, but that’s changing as I get a bit older.  Even if my prayers aren’t TO anyone or anything in particular, that doesn’t mean that sending out that energy and thought out into the Universe doesn’t do some good, even if it’s only inside me.  So my prayers of late have been that I might be better at letting go, better at acknowledging the good things that others see in me, and better at forgiveness.  I also pray for inner peace and an accepting, quiet mind.  Please, just a mind that will STFU every now and then.

the things that we’re concealing
will never let us grow
time will do its healing
you’ve got to let it go

Rush – Open Secrets on “Hold Your Fire”


It’s taken me four days just to start writing this post, though it’s had a title for that entire time.  My posts to date have been more upbeat, or at least introspective without being too depressing.  For whatever reason, I decided I needed to keep the truly depressing and frightening posts to myself or to a very select group of readers over at Livejournal, where I have kept a semi-private blog since 2001.  After unleashing a black spew over there this morning, I decided to edit it somewhat.  Submitted for your approval, then: a look into the bleaker corners of my mind.

Bleaker?!  Did she say bleaker?  Good gods, I better get my emo hipwaders on.

While there has been some improvement in my mood since I began the bipolar journey about 5 weeks ago, it has been with growing dismay that I’ve descended into some deep, dark holes of late.  Some are merely depressing.  Some are very angry.  And yet a few more are just downright destructive and filled with nothing but hate.  Illogical, unfocused, unfiltered hate for whatever and whomever is unlucky enough to tweak my brain’s nerve cells in just the wrong way at that particular moment.

I.hate.it.  Ihateitsomuch.  The irony of hating my hate is not lost on me, but we have gone way past the land where logic and reason are the rulers.  Here, they are just words.

It’s a weird state of mind that thinking about death puts people in. That book I now consider my bipolar bible, “An Unquiet Mind“, talks about it quite extensively. The author and a friend of hers, on a good night, made a deal with each other to call the other one and let them take them wherever for a week before they killed themselves, if they indeed still felt like doing so. Each was to give the other a week of reasons not to do it, to go back on their meds, to call their doctor, etc. Despite this deal, the author’s friend didn’t keep their end of the bargain, with predictable results. Neither did the author on several occasions that she was feeling suicidal. She admits that in those darkest of hours, the thought of calling anyone else just didn’t occur to her. Which doesn’t surprise me. Logic changes its rules in the mind of a suicidal person. What makes sense to everyone else doesn’t make sense to someone who wants to die, or is at least thinking it might be better.

I dislike having this kind of knowledge about humanity, and about myself. I don’t like knowing how the dark clock ticks in the minds of the disturbed. It has many hands and many chimes, most of them as loud as a klaxon horn, blaring one’s misery in cacophanous tones that are unignorable. Interspersed are the rings of guilt, which serve to amplify all of the others.

What’s wrong with you? How can you possibly feel this way? You’re broken. You’re bad. You should be punished for feeling this way because it doesn’t make any sense, you whiny fucking baby.

A hundred years ago, you’d find someone crouched in a corner with their hands over their ears screaming, “SHUTUP!” Today, you find them like me: parked in front of the television watching Doctor Who for as many hours as it takes to dull the sharp bite of a monster I *know* is meaningless and powerless. Then trying and failing to stay asleep as anxiety attacks set in *during* sleep, making me feel as though I’m suffocating. When sleep does come, it’s punctuated by very strange dreams that always involve swimming in dirty water and being at risk of being eaten by large industrial machinery, also underwater. Talk about waking up with the heebie fuckin’ jeebies. Let’s add a sprinkle of the constant doctor search anxiety, too, just for flavor.

*headdesk*

I *am* getting things done today, though. I’ve already made a few necessary phone calls, and now I’m doing what is probably the most important task for the day: “write down analysis of moods for last 2-6 weeks, and further if possible“. Really I should analyze back to getting on lithium and trazodone, then back to quitting smoking, then back to getting rid of the IUD. These things all come to bear and I feel it’s crucial to figure out how and when and in what way they interact. For instance, obviously a hormonal IUD was doing some good stabilizing things to my mood, but wasn’t fixing the problem since I felt vaguely PMS-y pretty much constantly, and some of my worst episodes happened while I had it. So obviously that’s not the only issue. Then there’s the quitting smoking, which I feel had a much more deleterious effect on my mind than getting rid of the IUD. Indeed, on my bad mental days, I still feel a super strong urge to smoke that I feel is indicative of far more than a mind dumping nicotine receptors, and I have felt very unstable since I quit. Those who have been supportive of my effort to quit smoking really have no idea of the Herculean effort it has taken not to smoke again, because I know it will make me feel better mentally.  My mouth and brain ache with desire to smoke sometimes.

Then there’s the last 5 weeks, which is how long it’s been since I took myself to the psychiatric ER after the mother of all PMS episodes. According to my reading, it’s completely possible for one’s worst episodes to occur during PMS time, but for them not to be directly attributable to hormonal influences. Everything gets ranked in terms of primary, secondary, and tertiary effects. The PMS is just secondary for me, with the supposed bipolar disorder being primary (although I’m beginning to question if that’s really my problem, or if I’m on the right meds, or if I’m on *enough* of them). I definitely have some unaddressed symptoms, though, which I would very much like to go away right about now, thanks very fucking much. I do not enjoy having a head filled with suicidal and otherwise violent thoughts (which had gone away for a while but have returned). I do not enjoy having to construct my day so that I avoid certain kinds of stimulus, or else I’ll lose my temper. I do not enjoy not knowing which days these things will occur on. There’s a whole lot about this ride that I really don’t like, and if I had my druthers, I’d have a bottle of PRN Haldol sitting around for when I’m feeling just a wee too crazy. Or something like it. Let’s kick it old school with Thorazine! I’ll pass on the modern atypical antipsychotics that give you horrible weight gain, diabetes, or high cholesterol, though. No thanks.

I’ve been doing a shitload of reading, though. I may very well have bipolar disorder, but I’m pretty damn sure there are some others glommed on there too. PTSD from growing up in such a fucked up house and never, ever having a childhood, for starters. The two parents dead of suicide don’t help that one, either (you should have seen the looks people at the clinic gave me when I told them that). I’m not sure if my OCD-like tendencies are actual OCD or if that’s just how hypomania and mania manifest in my life, because it’s certainly not in the stereotypical “I’m awesome, let’s shop and fuck!” sort of way many manics manifest that phase. I would really like to be tested for adult ADD or plain old high-functioning autism given my complete inability to look at anyone in the eyes, along with some other behaviors (don’t move my shit. really, don’t move my shit). Hell, I’d even take the epic-length MMPI if it would figure out what’s wrong with my brainmeats. I took that once for a grad student friend who needed volunteers to finish her degree. My results were apparently……strange. She asked her professor what she would do with the results: “Hit her with a battery of tests.” Maybe it’s time for the battery, so to speak. I don’t care what the answer is, I just want to KNOW so I can take care of it.

*sigh* Some of the websites are nice enough to admit that it may be several weeks before anyone bothers to get back to me due to the high demand for psychiatrists (maybe *that’s* what I should major in at UT, if I ever go back: people are like cellophane to me, they’re so transparent – perhaps it’s my karmic duty to use this knowledge and ability to help other poor crazed individuals like myself). I’mma keep on callin’, though. *sigh* I should really get paid for this shit, it’s a lot harder than most people’s jobs, and it’s certainly a lot less enjoyable.

Today, though, hopefully my GP and/or his nurse will call back and either schedule an appointment for me or just call in something to help me feel less hostile and like breaking things. I love my family and I really do love the world, but right now it’s all buried under a burning pile of hate and dissatisfaction that doesn’t listen to logic or reason, it just wants to destroy and it’s on a very unpredictable hair trigger. My other option is going back to PES and going inpatient in a building that looks, sounds, smells, and feels like every hospital Mom ever stayed in. I don’t think that’s the right place for me. I think just being around that shade of green for more than a few hours would send me right over the edge.  The view is frightening enough, thanks: I don’t need to ride that merry-go-round.


I took care of a very, very old problem last week.  One that I had been avoiding for about 15 years.  I finally went to a psychiatrist after spending what must have been nearly two months trying to keep a lid on rising, chronic anxiety and agitation that I am fully convinced is related to having quit smoking (nicotine is a seriously deviant neurochemical).  Really, it’s been years that I’ve kept a lid on those things, but this time they were lasting longer than they had before and I was starting to frighten myself a bit, so I went to get some help.

I had avoided doing so for so long for a lot of reasons.  I had a fear and distrust of the psychiatric community in general after spending the first seventeen years of my life watching my mother go in and out of hospitals and take virtually every type of medication available, to no avail.  That probably wasn’t psychiatry’s fault, it was probably Mom’s.  Drugs don’t make psychiatric disorders disappear, they just make them easier to manage and if someone wants to be truly better, they still have to do a lot of personal work.  Personal work that Mom was never willing to do.  She was just too selfish, or too deep in her own denial, or something.

I also had a fear of the medication dance that so many who suffer from psychiatric disorders seem to have to do, as well as the myriad side effects that those medications often saddle their takers with.  Weight gain is often a primary side effect of many psychiatric drugs for some reason, and as someone who has always struggled with their weight, I was reluctant to even entertain taking something that would make me even heavier potentially.  Also, for many years I feared the sexual side effects that often come with psychiatric medications, but over the years, my illness itself along with leftover trauma from childhood sexual abuse has conspired to essentially make me mostly dead from the waist down anyway, so I didn’t really have anything to lose in that department.

Perhaps most importantly, I had to get over my own pride and individuality.  Everyone tells themselves they want to be different from their parents.  It’s how progress is made over the generations.  In a healthy family, people are different in action but not in fundamentals, because they had loving families that bonded together.  Unhealthy families don’t bond like that because there’s nothing desirable to mimic.  Over the years, in my efforts to be different from people who were unhealthy, I set myself up for a game of denial when it came to my own mental health.  Sure, there are some aspects of it that are the result of the environment that I grew up in and can be corrected with therapy.  The rest, though, that’s all genetics.  I can escape that no more than I can escape my family’s cardiovascular health history.

Hopefully it’s easy to see how something no less medical in nature than, say, diabetes can easily become horribly stigmatized if you’ve made a lifelong effort not to be that way.  I told myself that it was something I could deal with on my own.  That combined with my distrust of Western medicine in general led to fifteen years of essentially self-treatment using herbs, meditation, yoga, exercise, and karate.  Which actually are fairly effective, but they require hypermanagement of one’s lifestyle that is nearly untenable in modern society if you’re doing anything more than going to school or holding down a stress-free job (is there any such thing?).

Fortunately, I was going to school for a while, and when I wasn’t, I didn’t have to work, so it was easy for me to live a life that avoided triggering unpleasant episodes or allowed me to hermit when they did.  Then I had a baby and whatever control I had over my life disappeared.  I hadn’t realized how carefully managed my life was until my daughter was born and I could no longer do things the way I had been.  I quickly slipped into a deep postpartum depression, one that was practically prepared for me by a nearly 48-hour labor and delivery that ended in a C-section and failed anesthesia.

About a year and a half after Zoe was born, I had a serious mental crash when we had too many stressors all at once in the form of unrelated medical issues and a car wreck that very easily could have killed both my husband as well as Zoe.  At that point I was put on Zoloft, Buspar, and Ambien.  I was in a depressed state so it was assumed antidepressants would help me.  They didn’t and I wound up on two more drugs, Seroquel and Valium, to try and address untreated symptoms.  I did that for about a year and a half and then stopped.  I’m glad I have pictures of that period of time or else I wouldn’t really remember it.

Finally, I stopped breastfeeding Zoe when she was about 3 and miraculously my mental health as well as my metabolism improved greatly.  I felt better and started losing that baby weight, finally!  I hear that breastfeeding is supposed to make mothers feel happy and help them lose weight, but in retrospect, for my own health, I should have stopped nursing Zoe when she was no more than a year old.  It obviously did bad things for my neurochemistry, for whatever reason.

So did bad life stressors.  That year I let my brother and his wife stay here while they had their baby and found a place to live.  I’ll spare you the gory details, but it turned out very badly.  What was supposed to be three months turned into eight.  It was miserably hot that summer, everyone was out of work, and there were four adults and two children living in a house of less than a thousand square feet.  In a strange quirk of fate, my brother and his family moved out and my husband got a job all within five days of each other.  Suddenly, for the first time since my daughter had been born, it was just the two of us.  My husband had worked from home for her entire life to date, and now he had to take a job out of the house.  Not long after everyone left the house, I had myself a little breakdown.

I tried to get help, but by then the health insurance industry had made it nearly impossible to get treated for anything mental unless you were actively suicidal, and then they would only pay for whatever the bare minimum was to get you back at home.  So unless I wanted to kill myself, my insurance wouldn’t cover a psychiatrist or even a GP visit if it was mentally related.  It was going to be cheaper to make the four hour drive to Mexico and buy drugs there than it was going to be to actually get the help that I needed.  I decided it was easier to just hunker down and wait until the mental storm had passed.  It was a crime that I had to do that.  I and my entire family suffered needlessly because of it.

It was then that I decided that I was probably bipolar and not just depressive.  I had checked out some books from the library about women, anger, mental illness, and other topics, including a couple of books by Kay Redfield Jamison, author of An Unquiet Mind.  She’s a psychologist and she details her own experiences with bipolar illness.  Her descriptions of her own mental states resonated strongly with me.  Still, I was too traumatized by trying to get help and by the possibility of it taking a long time to figure out what was wrong and how to treat it, so I continued to just wait.

I got better, that time anyway, and tried to manage my moods as best as I could.  Yoga helped in that regard immensely, and yoga will remain a part of what I do to make myself feel better, even if I do require medication for the rest of my life.  Karate also helped a great deal.  It requires a focus that is soothing, calming, and quieting to my mind.  I tried meditation, but I found it to be even more agitating than just my normal mindset.  I would figure out why later.

Last year I had to go mucking with my hormones, and I immediately began to feel worse than I had in several years.  I had always had trouble with bad PMS, and it was returning, despite my doctor’s insistence that the pills I was on were essentially identical to what I had been doing.  A couple of months after that, I quit smoking, which meant that I could try other kinds of pills (birth control pills are dangerous for smokers over thirty-five) to try and alleviate the PMS and other symptoms I was experiencing.

That was three weeks ago.  Over the next two weeks, while I felt better in some ways, I felt much, much worse in others.  I hadn’t felt this unstable since I found myself with an empty house save for a 3-year-old a few years before.  A week and a half ago, I tried to get a doctor’s appointment because I was feeling dangerously agitated, but the office I had gotten my new pills from wouldn’t let me speak to the doctor: they just made an appointment for the following Monday, four days later.  O_o  I was too agitated to sit in an ER: that would have made me worse.  So I called upon the people who never fail to come to my aid: my friends.  They brought me what I needed to get through the weekend, which included a summer camp fair for work which I doubt I could have tolerated, given the size and noise level of the room I was in.

I avoided as much stimulus as possible over the weekend, and stopped taking the offending pills.  On Monday, after taking my aging cat to the vet, I went back to the doctor and began a day that involved a lot of kleenex, two doctor’s offices, and at least four different healthcare workers of varying flavors.  Not to mention a busted car fender due to an elderly neighbor who shouldn’t be driving anymore.  I will spare you the day’s details, but suffice it to say that the fine people at Austin’s emergency psychiatric office must have agreed that I needed assistance because I made it through all of their hurdles in less than four hours.  In case you didn’t know, that’s nearly unheard of.

To make an already long story a little shorter, I have been indeed diagnosed as bipolar, type I.  The nice Indian doctor prescribed me some lithium to stabilize my moods and some trazodone so I can sleep.  He told me to read up about bipolar disorder, which I didn’t really have to after so long of trying to convince myself I didn’t have it.

“I’m not listening, I’m not listening!” – Gollum, The Two Towers

Near as I can tell, I’m one of those unlucky people who gets to enjoy mixed episodes: up and down at the same time.  It’s about as crazy as it sounds and feels worse.  I also suspect I’m a rapid cycler, or even ultra-rapid: more than one cycle a year, perhaps more than one in a day.  I try to avoid contact with humans on those days.  Not much has really changed.  I just have names and labels for what’s wrong sometimes, and I don’t have to beat myself up over feeling or behaving a certain way.  I can just identify it, remedy it, and move on, or stay in my room if that’s necessary.  I’m sure I have more than a few friends whom upon hearing my diagnosis have gone, “Aaahh, so that’s what’s wrong with her sometimes.”

It does mean that I now have the label of “chronic illness”.  I must take my medication: there is no alternative, just as a diabetic has to take their insulin or they can die.  Diabetes is actually my favorite non-mental chronic illness to compare to, because diabetics can exhibit some seriously aberrant and even violent behavior if their insulin and blood sugar levels get too wonky.  No one thinks diabetics are “crazy”: they just have to maintain their blood sugar properly.  I feel the same way about most mental illness that can be treated with medication.  Mother Nature forgot to wire our brains quite right so humankind has to fill in.  The only thing to be ashamed about is when I fail to do what I need to do to stay healthy, which is a lot.

It is now super-important for me to keep regular, healthy routines.  Now is the time that I should make a super effort to get that meditation practice going, especially now that I’m taking something that will shut off the hamsterwheel in my head that has always made meditation so frustrating for me.  Everyone gets the hamsterwheel when they meditate, but mine never, ever goes away.  Consequently, I just don’t meditate, or I haven’t been anyway.  Now it will be easier and that will help more than anything else in alleviating what is still an ongoing anxiety and inability to truly relax.  It’s getting better, I can tell, even after only a week on a relatively low dose of lithium.  I hope it continues to improve, because I would give anything to just be able to sit and relax and not feel like I have to get up and do something.  Yay, mania.  *sigh*  I also have to make sure I eat and not let my blood sugar get too low, which will also disaffect my mood.  Same with sleep.  Everything has to be kept in equilibrium, an ironic task for someone medically diagnosed as being out of equilibrium.

I’m trying to take an attitude of permissiveness rather than dictatorship.  After all, I’ve essentially been given permission to do as much yoga, karate, and meditation and communing with nature as I can possibly get.  Doctor’s orders!  😀  This is also a huge red flag for me to really work on incorporating Buddhism into as much of my life as possible.  Only a whole lot of acceptance, love, compassion, understanding, and metta is going to get me through the rest of my life.  I do admit, and had to admit to the doctors, that while I am not actively suicidal, I am sometimes filled with the sense that I shouldn’t be here, that I’m a mistake, that I shouldn’t have been born, and I don’t know if that’s the result of my disease or the result of the terrible environment that I had to grow up in.  Whatever the case, I’m going to have to make friends with those thoughts and figure out how to banish them, or make them ineffective, because they get worse the older I get.  Seems like a lot of love is the way to go on that one, and the only place I feel that love from is my family, and my friends, and the Buddha.

I was so grateful for my friends and family the day I was at the doctor all day.  Thanks to modern technology, I had my Android phone with me so I was able to stay in touch via Facebook and Twitter and email all day long, which was incredibly helpful to me.  All day long, I had little messages of love and support from everyone and it meant so much to me.  I have something that my mother never had, which is unconditional acceptance and support from a fairly large circle of friends and a husband who really loves and cares about me.  I would be just as lost and crazy as she was without these people in my life.  That’s far more powerful than any bottle of medication.

Insomnia


I hate insomnia.  It’s one of those perks I get as a woman with bad PMS which is probably bad enough to qualify as PMDD (premenstrual dysphoria disorder: not just irritable at “that time of the month”, downright psychotic on occasion).  Hence the fairly dour tone of my post.  Move along if you’re not in the mood.  I know I’m not.

Actually, I’ve had trouble sleeping since I was a child.  I remember asking my mother when I was about six who I needed to write to to add more hours to the day.  Too bad it’s not that easy.  Now, if I could figure out who to write to to just move the Sun about 8 hours, that would be fabulous.  Because I also have delayed sleep phase disorder.  Which is Western medicine‘s fancy term for a night owl who really can’t help it.  Really, I function best on a schedule that lets me go to sleep around 2-3am and get up around 10-11am.  It doesn’t matter if I get those same 8 hours of sleep at another time of day or night, I don’t feel as rested or feel like I have as much useful time during the day.  Such is my life.

Unfortunately, our world doesn’t work on this schedule, and is fairly harsh to anyone who can’t adopt the standard 8-5 routine that our culture and society demands of us.  When I had a child in 2003, it became painfully evident how out of sync I am with the rest of the world.  If you have a baby, every activity you can take the tot to happens at 9am, almost without fail.  Certainly not after lunchtime, when you should be putting your baby down for a nap like a good mama.  I’m sorry, did I drip some sarcasm on your shoes there?  My apologies, let me clean that up.

Buddhism has helped me somewhat in the acceptance department.  I can either bellyache continually about being off sync with the society I was born into, or I can try to accept it and do as much as I can about it myself.  I’d rather not take sleeping pills continually, mostly because, well, I like them too damn much.  I’m also just as likely to wander around my house finding ridiculous projects to work on in an OCD haze under the influence of things like Ambien as I am to do what I’m supposed to do, which is lay down and try to calm myself.  A love of mind-altering chemicals is one of those things I regrettably inherited from my parents and I learned long ago, and blessedly without becoming addicted to anything other than cigarettes, that I should just stay away from certain things.

Besides, long-term, they don’t work.  Not for me anyway.  Not just sleeping pills, but any kind of psychiatric medication.  I suffered from fairly severe postpartum depression after my daughter was born, for about three years.  The last year and a half of that I spent heavily medicated, largely as a result of trying to counteract the various side effects I had from the various drugs.  First it was Zoloft, which did indeed lend some “loft” to my mood and helped me lose some weight, but kept me from sleeping.  It also did nothing to address my anxiety.  Enter Buspar, which is marketed as a “safe” tranquilizer/sedative but which fucked me up far more than any benzodiazepine I had ever taken.  It took me two years to realize that it was the Buspar that prevented me from driving for a year and a half, not the other suspect: Seroquel.

Now, Seroquel is for psychotic manic depressives and schizophrenics/schizotypals.  Why on Earth my idiotic GP decided that was a good antidote to what was bothering me with the Zoloft, I will never know, though I suspect it had a lot to do with Seroquel being a new drug that its maker really wanted the doctors to ferret out to their patients (don’t get me going on the evils of our disease care system, I’ll set your ears on fire).  Seroquel turned me into a zombified eating machine.  Sure, I could sleep, but I was utterly compelled to eat in the evenings.  I literally could not stop myself from going into the kitchen and engaging in the worst kind of munchies possible, switching between sweet and salty until I finally passed out for the evening.  I put on 40 pounds in a month on that horrible stuff.  I’d probably kill myself before taking that drug again.

The worst part?  I lost a year and a half of my life while I was taking Zoloft, Buspar, Seroquel, Ambien, and Valium (the last two tacked on to address lingering anxiety and sleep issues).  A year and a half of my baby’s life.  It’s all a blur that makes me incredibly sad when I think about it too much and I’m really grateful that I was at least taking pictures of that time of her life.  Otherwise, I might not remember a goddamned thing about her from the time she was 18 months old to the time she was 3.  Yay for Western medicine!  *eyeroll*

So, yeah, homegirl’s not too hip on the Western brain meds anymore, not between my own experiences and watching doctors try to treat my mother’s mental illness to no avail.  Hence my deep and abiding interest in Buddhism, Buddhist psychology, mindfulness, meditation, and the other things I’ve taken up in the last three or four years to counteract my lifelong headmeat troubles, which thankfully pale in comparison to those of my parents’.  I still believe that awareness is the most powerful tool available to anyone suffering from mental difficulties (though I certainly don’t condone going off one’s meds without some deep introspection and guidance from a qualified health practitioner, nor do I believe that meds are unnecessary for everyone).  I’ve also come to appreciate the places that my brain will take me when it’s insomniac and too tired for its own good.  It’s almost trancelike in its quality, and if I just follow the meandering path that it’s on, I’ll usually learn something very interesting.

For the other bad spots my life hits from time to time, I’ve learned the value of a good cry and just being with my feelings.

Hey there, anger, how’s it going?  Not well, I can see.  What pissed you off?  Can you fix it?  Work on that tomorrow.  Or just accept that you can’t.  Let’s just sit here and feel how much this sucks for a little while.  And remember, this moment sucks, NOT you.

And when I do that, it doesn’t last nearly as long as it does when I try to put on my bravest face and just pluck through life the way we’re taught we’re supposed to.

See?  Insomnia takes me strange places.  Now it is 3am and I should really go and sit on a pillow and stare at a candle or something until I get tired enough to fall asleep.  Mother Nature will turn my cycle soon enough and I’ll be able to slumber normally.  And think normally.  Mostly.  🙂

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