Saturday, November 17, 2012

Description of Two Day Depressive Episode 11/15 - 16/2012

How Depression Can Feel

Thursday morning I woke up sad and teary. I was not having negative though patterns. I did not feel hopeless. I just had very low energy (the moving through molasses feeling) and was uncontrollably teary. 

The kids were difficult that morning when I was getting them up and off to school. I had two hours between the kids leaving and getting to work. I did some computer work, then showered and left for my workplace. 

On my way to work tears kept running down my face. My husband called to see if I was all right. He could tell I was having a difficult morning earlier. This was very sweet and caring, but it seemed to make the crying worse. It's like the dam broke. I went in my office, closed the door, and kept unsuccessfully trying to get the crying under control. So I figured out how I could work at home, and took a sick day.

The following morning I was still having the same issues. I was not as teary, but still had low energy. I was able to go to work for a while, but, in the afternoon, again opted to work from home. 

11/19 & 20th: I had another dip in mood. Same type of thing, teary and slow. Then my period started on 11/20. That may explain a lot about this two-part, somewhat mild depressive episode. 

11/27: No more depression. Back to hypomania. No exercising enough. Gotta get back in that habit.


What May Have Triggered This Episode of Depression

This Wednesday, one of my days off, I went out with a group of friends during the day and hosted my in-laws for dinner that evening. Although on many workdays, I am in front of large groups of people for many hours, this day out and dinner was way more socializing than I usually do. I also took almost the entire day off. It is rare that I don't do at least some work every day. I also had not been reliably compliant with my daytime depression meds for the preceeding few days. Thinking about all of this, these are some of the possible triggers for this episode:
  • A change in my social behavior. I sometimes slip into depression when we have family visiting, with a steady stream of social activities. My head needs a certain amount of downtime to decompress.
  • Slowing down from my Type-A, high-efficiency get-things-done mode. I normally operate in a hypomanic state, and find when I slow down, depression often "catches up" with me.
  • Obviously not being consistent with some of my meds could have been, at the very least, partially responsible for this depressive episode.
  • Looks like menstrual cycle could have had a lot to do with this series of depressed days. Will see what happens pre-period in months to come.

How I Pulled Out of My Depressive Episode

A couple of things definitely contributed to my emergence from this brief bout of depression. I did start taking my meds as directed, but this would not have had an effect on my mood immediately. 
  • Taking a couple days with a lot of alone time definitely helped.
  • My secret weapon: I haven't been totally honest on is blog about how I manage my disorder. I used to take Ritalin to pull out of depression, but found that it made me way too jumpy and nervous. I found that cannabis, smoked in very low doses (leaves of female plant, not buds) nearly always propels me out of depression. It makes me a little jumpy, but no where near as much so as Ritalin or Zoloft did.  I haven't talked about this on the blog for a couple of reasons...the fact that use of cannabis is still illegal federally, and that marijuana is not necessarily a good treatment for other people with bipolar. Everyone reacts differently to cannabis, and it is difficult to precisely control the dose. I have found some scientific articles on cannabis use in bipolar, and plan to write a post on the findings, but overall cannibis use is associated with a history of psychosis and appears to be suggestive of poorer clinical prognosis, and I do not know how much cannabis the study subjects had used.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

What Does Major Depression Feel Like? A Bipolar Patient's Perspective

This post is going to be an ongoing project that I will add to over time, while in different states of mind and mood. I'll record my thoughts while depressed (inside depression) and while not depressed (outside depression). 

I hope this post will become a valuable resource to help people better understand how depression feels and what a person can do to avoid, minimize or pull out of a depressive episode.

WARNING! If you are currently depressed, or in an unstable mood, come back and read this later, not now. The description of depression could trigger you to feel more depressed. If you are currently depressed:
  • make sure you are taking your meds as directed.
  • if you are taking your medication as directed and are still depressed, contact your psychiatrist so he/she can evaluate and possibly adjust your medications.
  • go for a walk! (Even if you don't feel like it. It really will make you feel better.)
  • contact an upbeat friend who you are happy to be around.
  • if you feel like harming yourself, reach out for help. Contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-HELP.

Outside Depression
I don't spend a lot of time in a "neutral mood." When I am not depressed, I'm usually in some degree of hypomania. Maybe rushing around and being over scheduled is may way to avoid depression.

What hypomania feels like: I feel slightly (or a lot) agitated, propelled through my day. My thoughts rush. I have ideas for creating or doing things that come so fast and frequent that I sometimes don't even have time to write down my ideas before they fly away. I have pressured speech, meaning I talk really fast. I don't want to sleep, and wouldn't be able to without my Seroquel. The more manic I get, the more pronounced all of these symptoms become. When I am very manic, I can be irritable and short tempered as well. I will soon be creating a post with more details on what mania and hypomania feel like.

Wobbly Mood
Sometimes I experience "wobbly" mixed moods where I can be both depressed and hypomanic at the same time. In this state, my moods change rapidly and seem out of control. When I feel like this, I try to be extremely careful to avoid things that might trigger depression or mania. In this state, I can easily be "bumped" into depression, even by minor frustration or stress.

Inside Depression
I plan to be adding to and developing this section during bouts of depression as they occur. I was wobbly and heading toward depression two days ago, so I can provide a bit of insight to start things off. In my recent wobbly mood I was teary and felt on the verge of crying throughout the day. My thought cycles were negative...I can't, I should, I didn't, I suck...kind of thoughts.

What major depression feels like: When I am in a depressive episode it is extremely physical, not just a mood or mental experience. Moving my body is difficult. I feel like both my body and my mind are moving through molasses when depressed. Doing even the simplest things takes a tremendous amount of effort. Crying bouts are frequent. Thoughts are confused and mostly negative, such as...what's the point of living when I will just die and be forgotten anyway, I suck as a mother, my business will never be successful...kind of thoughts.

Here is a growing list of links to descriptions of depressive episodes I have experienced:

Avoiding and Pulling Out of Depression
Although it is not always possible for me to avoid a depressive episode, I have been bipolar long enough (20+ years) to have learned a few things about controlling my mood.  When I feel depression coming on, it helps to:
  • make sure I am taking my meds, as directed.
  • seek out social situations, rather than isolating myself.
  • get some exercise / go outside.
  • have obligations that prevent me from laying in bed all day sleeping and crying.
  • remember that the depression is temporary. It always eventually goes away.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Bipolar Disorder Patient's Depression Art

I just recently realized that a couple of art pieces in my home really remind me of my "shadow" side, the depression in me. I didn't create these pieces, but I really feel a connection with them. 

The first picture is a ceramic sculpture of a faceless girl holding a jar. This was my mother's. She collected quite a bit of art, and when this piece was in her home, it always bothered my, kind of creeped me out. After my mother died, I kept some of her art pieces and sold others. When I was considering what to do with this one, I stared at it for a long time, and suddenly it looked beautiful and sad to me. Now it hangs in my living room. 

This second photo is of a painting I purchased while on vacation last year in Northern California. It's titled "Grace" by artist Yarrow Summers. As soon as I saw it, I had to have it. The way the woman in blue is staring off into the unknown seemed very melancholy to me. I looks like I feel when I am sad and still.

Do you have, or know of, any pieces of art that really relate to your depression of mania? Leave a comment.

Click here to see my post on Bipolar Art. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Bipolar Disorder: Qualifying for Disabilty Benefits & Income Support

Although more mentally ill people are qualifying for disability benefits than ever before, only a fraction of applicants get approved.

There are numerous ads on mental health sites (including mine) in which law firms offer their assistance to those seeking income support for mental health disability. These ads piqued my interest, and I began to wonder, would I qualify? What's involved in the application process? Do you need a lawyer to get approval? 

The main thing that I learned through my research is that getting disability benefits for mental illness is a complicated and often unsuccessful process. I still have more investigating to do, but, at this point, my recommendation to others is: 1. learn as much as possible through your own research, 2. get a free consultation from lawyer (or 2) who specializes in disability benefits. 

The following is a summary of what I learned, as well as several helpful links to additional information.

Mental Illness, Work and Income Support Programs 
That's the title of a 2009 study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry. Although the study is more than three years old, it did provide some interesting info, and is worth reading (Click here for the full article). 

In 1978, less than 2% of new disability awards were for mental illness. By 2005, 30% of new awards went to the mentally ill. That more recent statistic may sound promising, but still only a fraction of those who apply for benefits are approved. The application screening process is involved and requires substantial documentation to support the existence of disability. The study described three main types of assistance available: 

For help understanding the difference the difference between SSDI and SSI, see:

The following sites have useful information on what is involved in the screening process to qualify for social security disability income:
Do you have experience with disability benefits for your bipolar disorder? Please share your experience so that we can learn from each other!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Depression vs. Sunshine & Fresh Air: Get Outdoors and Get Happy!

Went to the big lake today! It was windy and beautiful, with crashing whitecaps close to shore for the kids to jump.

Although there's a good deal of stressful stuff going on for me, and our entire family, right now, a day outside, in a beautiful place, did a lot to make everyone feel better. It was a bargain too, costing only the gas to get there and the nominal beach parking fee. The grandparents even came along, so it was a multi-generational fun-fest. Going to the beach with little ones is a lot of work, but it makes memories that are well worth it!
If you don't have a lake near you, just get outside and have fun! We have a great nature center nearby. They have a hiking program where you buy a walking stick and earn metal badges to add to your stick after completing certain sets of hiking trails. The badge program motivates the kids to participate, which is very helpful. Fresh air encourages deep, restful sleep, and a day away from all the stress goes a long way to put life's difficulties in perspective. 

I worry about everything, sometimes to the point that I have problems with anxiety and obsessive negative/worrying thoughts. Physical exertion outside is  one of those handy valves that releases stress and worry, and helps me get the deep, restful sleep that anyone with bipolar disorder really needs.

Enjoy summer while it lasts!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Bipolar Disorder, Metal Pin Art & Creative Release

Had a bad day today. Lots of stressful stuff going on in my life right now. Feeling very depressed and unstable. Still, I was able to get out and do things. I was gone from home most of the day actually, and even got my workout in, but had that dull, wooden feeling all day.

Spent some time with my oldest daughter at our city's Institute of Arts, and created this metal pin art "ode to depression" in their interactive room. Felt much better after I expressed my trapped, sad feeling.

I'll be be adding this pic to my previous post "Bipolar Art: Creations of the Manic Depressive".

On the way home from the museum, we stopped at Hobby Lobby and got some modeling clay and sculpting tools. I love sculpture. It's one of the art forms that I really connect with. It seems so passionate and emotional. So thought I'd try my hand at sculpting to see if it might function as a release valve to get the depression or mania out of me when I am feeling extreme. 

Do you have an artistic hobby or passion? Leave a comment and share your crazy creative side!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Monday, July 16, 2012

Losing Weight & Getting Fit (Again) - A Bipolar Woman's Fitness Plan

Bipolar Disorder and Physical Fitness
In a recent post on "Bipolar Disorder and Physical Fitness" I confessed to having become sedentary over the past year, while working long hours on an internet project (i.e. sitting in front of the computer for hours on end), and vowed to get back to my fitness level of one year ago--the most ripped I've ever been. Well here is the post where I am going to track my progress and share workout and diet tips on what's working for me.

Bipolar and Fighting Weight Gain
So today I weighed, measured, took some photos and said OMG! While I have retained a bit of the muscle tone and core strength that I worked so hard on last year, there is a big ole layer of fat covering everything! So, while my abdomen does have some muscle tone, it can't be seen. And my arms! So sad. They had been pretty muscular and defined. Now, in that photo of my upper arm, I see hanging skin, not triceps :(.

I have been working out regularly for the past few weeks, so I thought I would look a little better, and maybe I do, compared to when I started. I am sure that I lost weight over the past two weeks, based on how my clothes fit, but when I stepped on the scale and saw the unhappy number, it made we wonder how much I weighed two weeks ago! I guess I will consider today Day 1, and go from here with some solid data to track from. 

I take Seroquel as one of my bipolar meds, and the drug has a reputation for contributing to weight gain. I haven't necessarily seen a relationship between my taking Seroquel and gaining weight.  My weight gain is from eating too much of the wrong stuff and not being active.

I will weigh and measure myself every week on Monday, and post the numbers, as well as info on my exercise and eating habits. I am 5'3" tall, so a little bit of weight gain (or loss) makes a big difference. I am not just doing this to lose weight. I want to be more physically fit so that I can keep up with my kids, feel better, and look better as I age.

Day 1 - 7/16/2012

Weight: 137.8#, Bust: 37 1/2", Waist: 32 3/4", Hips: 39", Thigh: 22 1/2"

Worked out at gym today. It's only been cool enough to exercise outside during the early morning. I usually go to the three times a week, and then engage in other physical activities on other days (gardening, riding scooters with kids, bicycling, running).

At the gym, I currently do:
- elliptical for 30 minutes (15 forwards, 15 backwards) on the interval setting, alternating between incline and resistance of 4 and incline and resistance 6 or 7
- resistance training 30 minutes on nautilus machines for upper body strength

When home, in addition to various activities listed above, I also currently try to do 60 pushups,60 dips and 100 crunches everyday. 

Music helps motivate me to put more effort into my exercise. I will put my main workout playlist in the left margin soon. It really keeps me moving. 

I have made a point to stock up on a lot of fresh fruits and veggies, and to have them washed and handy. I keep a bowl of cherries, grapes, apples or clementines on the counter for a healthy snack, and eat almonds, string cheese or a Kashi bar when I need a little protein in my snack.

I need to get better at eating a filling breakfast with balanced carbs proteins and fats. I did this when i was fit. Eating a good breakfast does help a person eat less throughout the rest of the day. I like to make my own ez egg sandwich with a toasted English muffin, scrambled egg microwaved in a small bowl (to make it the same shape as the muffin), low-fat sliced cheese, fresh spinach and spicy mustard. Much lower cal than a McMuffin.

I'll update this post next week. 

Week 1 - 7/23/2012

Weight: 136.6#, Bust: 38", Waist: 33", Hips: 38", Thigh: 22"
Lost 1.2#

Have been working out most days, and on days when I don't work out at the gym or run/walk 5K, I try to do something active around the house, like ride bikes or scooters with the kids or garden. I know that I am building muscle mass working out now, so not disturbed about only losing a pound. As long as the numbers keep going down, file with me. 
An doing a lot of resistance work to build my muscle mass back up. Muscle burns calories, white fat (all that excess baggage) doesn't. So it is easier to lose weight over the long-term if you develop more and bigger muscle cells. It is also nice to have defined muscle and look fit.
Need to stick with getting my push ups, dips and crunches done at home every day. Have not been consistent with that.
Still been eating too many sweets. Not a lot, but less would help me lose faster.  Am eating a lot of fresh veggies and fruits, and mostly healthy stuff overall. But my portion size is still to large. Will pick up some weight watchers frozen dinners this week to have now, and then. Easy way to control portion size.

Month 1 - 8/13/2012

Weight: 137.8#, Bust: 37", Waist: 33", Hips: 39", Thigh: 22 1/2"

I have been exercising at least 5 days a week with 30 minutes cardio followed by strength training. Am disappointed that my weight and measurements have not changed at all. But I can tell that my body is in better shape and more muscular. I don't feel like I am dragging my body around but am starting to propel it, and being more fit feels good. Need to up aerobic exercise to 40 minutes and reduce the number of calories that I am taking in.

Am still mainly eating healthy food, but too much food in general. Also too much alcohol, sweets, fancy coffee and movie popcorn (no fake butter or extra salt, but still loaded with calories). Now that I am on the right track as far as exercise goes, I need to really focus on food intake. 

I will post my progress again in one month, and my goal is to be below 130#.

Month 2 - 9/17/2012
Weight: 137.4#

Exercising regularly, and in much better shape now, but weight still not budging. I know that I am more fit. I ran 5K yesterday for the first time in over a year, and it took me a lot of walk/runs to increase my endurance to that point. I also feel sexier, more body confident.

Am still mainly eating healthy food, but still too much food in general, alcohol, and sweets. I need to focus on food and booze intake if I want my weight to decrease. 

I will post my progress again in one month, and am keeping the same goal, to get below 130#.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Avoiding Cold & Depression by Getting Enough Sleep

Relationship Between Physical Illnesss and Mental HealthSo at least one, but typically most, of my family have been sick with an upper respiratory infection for the past month. This happened last summer about the same time--our summer cold.  

My kids have asthma and allergies, so experience respiratory infections more severely (more frequent and longer) than most other kids, so someone is usually sick around here. Well, last night, my youngest, who has been sick the longest, and was just starting to get better, began showing cold symptoms; snot flowing nonstop from her nose. Then I started feeling it late in the evening, and had a horrible headache this morning.

For me, getting sick with a cold or the flu often precipitates an episode of depression. Physical illness and depression go together, and lack of sleep makes it worse. My husband got up with our sick daughter last night at around 2am. Then, later, when we both got up around 8am, and I started staggering around with a headache and general icky feeling, he said, "Why don't you go back to bed?" So I did, and it made all the difference. I woke up at noon (noon!) and felt pretty good.

So one more experience showing how important getting enough sleep is in battling bipolar depression, particularly when ill (and also illustrating how awesome my husband is about helping me take care of myself...Thank you!)

Are you also prone to depression when you get ill? Leave a comment and share!

Bipolar Stats:

  • Level of Mania (on scale of 1 - 10, with 1=none, 10=practically levitating): 0
  • Level of Depression (on a scale of 1 - 10, with 1=none, 10=can't get out of bed): 1
  • Medication Compliance (0 = not taking, 5=taking some, 10=taking all): 5 forgetting daytime med, Wellbutrin
I am recording my mania and depression bipolar data separately because I often have mixed episodes where manic and depressive symptoms occur at the same time.

This blog is for informational purposes only, it is not intended to be used for the treatment of mental illness. If you are having emotional troubles, please see a mental health professional, not a computer. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Bipolar Depression Triggers: A Patient's Example

Things That Trigger Bipolar Depression
Today hasn't been a stellar day for my mental health. The morning flipped my switch from relatively normal mood to depression, crying and negative thought cycles. I have pulled out of it for the most part. Just feel a little down. But I thought that I would record the experience here, while it's fresh in my mind.

In this post, I will be honestly describing my negative thoughts, and sometimes that type of description can trigger depressed thoughts in others prone to depression. I don't want to flip your switch. So if you are currently struggling with depression, or are triggered into depression by other peoples negativity, best not read the rest of this post for now.

A Typical Morning
There was nothing unusual about how the day started. I felt a little disappointed in myself when I woke up because I hadn't abstained from alcohol (2 beers, 2 glasses red wine) the previous night. I even felt a little run down from the alcohol consumption. But I wasn't beating myself up over it.

My husband suggested that the family go hiking in the morning, while the temperature was cool, and we all got ready. But right before leaving, our youngest started up a tantrum--decided she didn't want to go with us after she and her brother had a minor squabble.

The Tantrum Heard Round the World
Both youngest kids are prone to illness and are currently sick and on meds that impact their behavior, making them less patient and more teary. With both sick, there have been a lot of tantrums lately.

After my husband and I each tried to talk to our daughter about going hiking, and the fun we would have, my husband finally picked her up and put her in the car. She was not going to dictate everyone's morning. In the car she wouldn't buckle up, or stop screaming, crying and trying to get out of the car (thank goodness for the lock setting inside the door of cars). It got so bad that my husband did finally turn the car around. We gave her another chance to shape up, she wouldn't comply, and we went home. 

She got balled out on the way home by both of us, but one of the things I said set her off again and my husband immediately said to me, "That was not helpful," which was also not helpful. I very often don't think before I speak, say the wrong thing, put my foot in my mouth...all of that.

Triggers for Today's Downward Spiral
All of this stress presented the perfect depression trigger trifecta:
- incessantly screaming kid
- saying the wrong thing, yet again
- husband criticizing me

And, I suppose, there were actually two more factors, last nights drinking, and my oldest daughter leaving. She is probably going to go live with her dad. She has some spectacular opportunities out where he lives (1/2 way across the country), and she really seems to want to go. But it hurts. I love her and don't want to only see here a few times a year. Plus all of the legal garbage that we will, yet again, have to wade through to make the arrangement official.

Back to the car, and the screaming kid...This is when my intense downward spiral of negative thoughts began: "I always say the stupidest things. I am a social idiot. My husband is a much better parent than I am. I'm a drag on the family. They'd be better off without me. I want to die. I can't die; it would hurt my kids. So I'll be alive, and just suck at being a parent." I quietly cried on the way home, while my kids loudly cried. 

When we got out of the car, my husband was defensive about my reaction. I just said, "My head is not right. I can't talk now," and withdrew to do some cleaning in the basement.

The Zombie Numb Catatonia
When I get emotionally overwhelmed like today, a couple of things can happen. I can slip into debilitating depression and spend the day in bed, or I can function, but I get kind of numb and wooden; where feel like I am removed from the world, kind of looking out from inside my head. I plod along and stare a lot, but at least I can get things done. The latter is what happened. 

After a while, my husband came downstairs to talk to me and hug me. He told me that I was a great parent, and we each have our own strengths that work together. It was very sweet. I was still out of it, not really engaging, but his reaching out to me helped bring me back.

Once I feel a little emotionally stronger (like I did after the hug), I can sometimes think my way out of a negative spiral, recognize the thoughts as being unbalanced and not helpful, and start thinking about positive things in my life. That's what I did, and now I'm okay.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Bipolar Alcoholic: I Need To Stop Drinking

Bipolar Disorder and Drinking Alcohol
My husband is out of town for a couple of days. He is the consistent one with routines. When he is here, my behavior is more consistent too. For example, the kitchen gets cleaned every night, counters and all. The kids get put to bed at the same time, with the same bedtime routine.

A Change in Routine
There is an upside to him being gone. The kids get to be part of the "lets have fun and be irresponsible" side of my personality. Like a treat...something fun to have every once in a while, but not all the time. The big downside, when on my own is that I always drink more. And that was the case last night.

It's not as though I don't drink when my husband is here. I do. I drink every single night, a bottle of wine or more, except when I am sick with a cold or some other infection. But when he is out of town, I stay up later, drinking longer and more.

How Alcoholism Impacts My Immediate Physical Health
The entire family is getting over a respiratory infection right now. I am just about better, but still have a bit of a gunky cough. When I started drinking last night (2 beers), I felt fine. Then I switched to red wine, in a little glass intended to slow my consumption, but I filled it up about a bazillion times.

Even after drinking quite a lot, I didn't feel drunk. I imagine that with so much regular alcohol consumption, my tolerance is very high. Although I didn't feel drunk, I could feel the impact of the alcohol in my immediate health. My ears began getting plugged and popping, my throat started hurting. My cold symptoms got worse because my body was working so hard to deal with the alcohol, making my immune system too busy to fight the cold. 

How Alcoholism Impacts My Mental Health
Alcohol can also interfere with the action of bipolar medications. And even the immediate effect of being intoxicated causes a person to be less inhibited, and more of a risk taker. My mind was unhinging last night. I could feel the "crazy" coming and it reminded me of when I needed day hospitalization. Bottom line, I know that alcohol has a very negative impact on my mental health.

How Alcoholism Impacts My Family
In addition to the dangerous impairment of judgement that happens when a person drinks, I just hate to have my kids see me with a drink in my hand all night, every night. It is a horrible example. The little kids aren't old enough to entirely understand, but my teen is getting a very clear message, that consuming large amounts of alcohol is okay. I don't want to keep sending that message.

Long-term Effects of Alcohol Use on Health
I worry about my liver, and sometimes take ibuprofen or acetaminophen pain killers at night, which taxes the liver even more. Alcohol is a toxin, and alcoholism worsens health in numerous ways. When the body is busy eliminating alcohol from the system, it can't devote as much effort to the normal tasks of running the body. In addition to cirrhosis of the liver, chronic alcohol consumption leaves the body vulnerable to numerous infections and certain types of cancer. And like smoking cigarettes, it makes you look older sooner. In short, it disables the body.

So What's My Plan?
I want to stop consuming alcohol, and I understand that, like making good dietary choices, I need to move through this one choice at a time, and try my best to make choices that are good for my body and my family. I wanted to put this all on the blog so that I am accountable to readers, and hopefully more likely to stick to my objective of eliminating alcohol from my life. I quit smoking cigarettes. I can do this too.

Wish me luck! Leave me some good advice, if you have any.

Evening 7/8: I had my first alcohol-related test and failed, but just a little. My youngest kids and I are staying at a hotel with a pool, just for fun tonight. The hotel restaurant is a sports bar. It was a little too tempting, and I ordered a 22 oz beer. But then I drank about 8 oz of it and began feeling yucky and I stopped drinking it. So not too bad. I was able to stop. I'm still shooting for no alcohol consumption, and will keep working at it, choice by choice. Another benefit...think of all those calories I won't be taking in by avoiding glass after glass of wine every night!

Evening 7/9: Failed to abstain my second night as well. But at least I kept track of my alcohol consumption, rather than drinking from a bottomless wine glass all night long. I also paid attention to how I felt when I drank. The two light beers I had in the early evening made me only the tiniest bit buzzed, and gave me a headache. Throat started hurting 1/2 way into first beer, but kept going anyway. Late in the evening, after the kids were in bed, I sat down to watch a movie and had two glasses of red wine. The trigger to drink in the evening is so strong, but at least I am keeping track and drinking less. I won't stop trying to kick the booze.

Evening 7/10: This is hard! Husband asked if I wanted to have wine with dinner and I said yes. (He doesn't know I am trying to stop drinking. I know I should tell him, but he was not supportive when I tried to stop smoking, and I don't want to fail at this with him looking on.) I had a glass before dinner, and then two more. It's good at least, that I am paying attention to how much I'm drinking and am able to stop before late evening, and switch to tea. I'll keep trying.

Afternoon 7/11: We went to a beer garden for lunch and I drank only water. Good choice!

Evening 7/18: Still having about 3 drinks per night, and want to reduce that, but still don't seem to have enough willpower once evening rolls around. But have not reverted to the bottomless wine glass. Am finishing one drink before starting another, so can keep track of exactly what I am drinking. Also starting to drink later in the evening and switching from alcohol to hot tea earlier at end of night.

Any more updates on my struggle to quit drinking will be posted as tweets, in the Big Fat Bipolar Tweets section of the sidebar.

Bipolar Stats:

  • Level of Mania (on scale of 1 - 10, with 1=none, 10=practically levitating): 1
  • Level of Depression (on a scale of 1 - 10, with 1=none, 10=can't get out of bed):
  • Medication Compliance (0 = not taking, 5=taking some, 10=taking all): 10
I am recording my mania and depression bipolar data separately because I often have mixed episodes where manic and depressive symptoms occur at the same time.

This blog is for informational purposes only, it is not intended to be used for the treatment of mental illness. If you are having emotional troubles, please see a mental health professional, not a computer. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Bipolar and Reluctantly Aging

Bipolar and Aging
The title should actually be "Bipolar Me Totally Freaking Out About Getting Old." I don't think about it all the time, obsessively, but seeing all of these changes accumulating is hard...need to get bifocals (this is the hardest one), eyebrows going from bushy and unmanageable to sparse enough to need penciling in,  wrinkles, skin and body parts starting to sag.. I know that this, and many posts on this blog seem very, "MeMeMecentric, but it's a blog largely about my experience with bipolar, so that's kind of unavoidable.

Getting "Work" Done
Back to the subject of getting old. I have gotten Restylane injections once, in the depressions between the corner of my mouth and nose. It really did help, but is temporary. I think mine lasted for quite some time, between 6mos and a year, but it's very expensive, and money is tight. No more Restylane for now.

Getting and Staying Fit
I am now on track for getting back into shape. Being fit again will give me a big fountain of youth injection. Last year I was running 5 & 10Ks. I was in the best shape of my life. Then I stopped working out altogether. I've started back up again, and my next post will be about what I am doing to get back in shape. I even think that I will track my weight in that post (gak!). Any of you who are game, and have doctors okay on getting fit, can join me. I don't necessarily want to run races again, but if I don't get and stay in shape, my body is going to just continue well as the small problem of all the preventable diseases that people can develop especially when not fit (heart disease, diabetes, and, for me at least, depression), understanding that genetics certainly plays a role too.

Sticking to a Beauty Regimen
As far as physical appearance, I also need to get back into the habit of washing my face at night and using nighttime lotion. Using the right products can help even skin tone, and hopefully reduce wrinkles. 

Stay Hydrated!
I also need to drink more water. That is the best way to hydrate, from inside out. I usually start the day with coffee, then have a diet coke, then have some water in the middle of the day, then drink wine at night, quite a dehydrating batch of drinks. 

I understand that my personal appearance worries are a bit superficial, but I do want to look the best I can for my age. I know I'll never be 20 again (and as stupid as I was in my youth, thank goodness). And aging is definitely better than the alternative!

How are you coping with aging? What has helped you feel better about yourself as you age? Leave a comment!

Evening 7/7: At most ages, even when I was a young adult, I had some features I had that I didn't like...knock knees, nose too thin, hair too curly. I've always critical of my appearance, at every age. I think many girls and women are. Today I'm as young as I'll ever be, so I'd better make a point to enjoy it.

Bipolar Stats:

  • Level of Mania (on scale of 1 - 10, with 1=none, 10=practically levitating): 2
  • Level of Depression (on a scale of 1 - 10, with 1=none, 10=can't get out of bed):
  • Medication Compliance (0 = not taking, 5=taking some, 10=taking all): 10
I am recording my mania and depression bipolar data separately because I often have mixed episodes where manic and depressive symptoms occur at the same time.

This blog is for informational purposes only, it is not intended to be used for the treatment of mental illness. If you are having emotional troubles, please see a mental health professional, not a computer. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

How to Reduce Bipolar Disorder Mood Swings

Art Created by Bipolar Patient
In a recent post, I described certain behaviors that help stabilize my moods. I thought that this was important enough information to feature in a distinct post, so here it is.

Get On and Stay On Effective Meds
Getting diagnosed and on the right medication is the single most important thing that someone with bipolar disorder can do to stabilize mood. Getting on the right meds is easier said than done, but well worth the effort. Click here for information on the bipolar meds I'm currently on.

Still meds aren't magic. Although they can reduce the severity of mood swings, they don't typically make mood swings completely disappear. A patient's behavior can also influence mood. I know, from experience, that some of my mood swings are impacted by my response, once I feel the swing coming. 

Behaviors That Impact Depression
If I feel depression approaching, I know that there are thought processes and behaviors I can engage in that make depression more likely, such as...
  • Sleeping a lot
  • Isolating myself/withdrawing
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Focusing on negative thoughts and memories 
  • Not reliably taking my meds for depression (Wellbutrin) well as thought processes and behaviors that can help me avoid or reduce a plummet in mood:
  • Pull my butt out of bed and do something enjoyable (for me, that's usually gardening). I know that when depressed, everything is less enjoyable. But making an effort helps.
  • Socialize or at least reach out to one friend 
  • Reduce alcohol consumption
  • Spend a little time every day thinking about all the things I am grateful for
  • Take bipolar meds exactly as directed

Behaviors That Impact Mania & Hypomania
The same is true with mania. The following behaviors will very often trigger or worsen my hypomanic symptoms:
  • Lack of sleep
  • Being over-sheduled
  • Stress from being over-scheduled
  • Too much caffeine
  • Not taking my meds for managing mania (Seroquel)
While the opposite behaviors will often help me head off mania:
  • Get enough sleep  
  • Eliminate non-essential tasks from to-do list
  • Drink decaf or 1/2 caf coffee or sometimes tea if I feel I need to reduce my caffeine levels. Black tea has about 1/2 the caf as regular coffee. Green and white tea have very little caffeine.
  • Take bipolar meds exactly as directed
Taking these measures doesn't always work, but usually has some degree of impact on where my mood is headed. Getting physical exercise is also very helpful for managing all aspects of bipolar, both the ups and downs.

Oops! I better take my Wellbutrin right now :)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Difficulty Accepting Criticism: A Bipolar Patient's Opinion

I don't know if it has anything to do with my mood disorder, but I have always been somewhat reactive and sullen when criticized. Sometimes critical remarks are just a case of haters entertaining themselves. But some criticisms can be valid and learned from. 
Communication With My Husband
Marriage takes hard work. My husband and I don't communicate all that well, but it's something we're trying to improve on. To encourage conversations about our relationship, and to help prevent our exchanges from feeling like personal attacks, we are trying to have a regular sit down, at a scheduled time, to discuss anything on our mind.

When we've tried to open up communication in the past, it usually consists of me doing most of the talking, and him getting defensive, and then me getting angry, and him getting angry...You get the picture. Not a constructive exchange. But yesterday we did much better than usual, and it wasn't just me talking. He also contributed to the exchange, including a couple of criticisms of my behavior. Even though I agreed with his observations, it was still hard to swallow.

Valid Criticisms of Me
When I think about what I don't do well, or what I can improve upon in my behavior and relationship with others, there are certain things about myself that I recognize to be true. I can be difficult to deal with, since my mood is not always so stable. My meds usually help eliminate big, destructive bipolar swings between mania and depression, but I'm still moody. Other things that I recognize about myself: I drink too much. I need to socialize more. I need to develop better work/life balance...just to name a few. But my husband had some new ones for me. 

As we discussed parenting, he pointed out that I don't consistently follow up on getting the kids to do things or on discipline. That's absolutely true. I'll say, "Clean your room", and then never check to see if it gets done. Or I'll start a "Healthy Eating Chart" for the kids, and, over time, stop tracking their progress. I know consistent behavior is one of my challenges, and being reminded of that is not a bad thing. My husband is getting sick of always being the "heavy" with the kids. He needs me to share some of the work.

He also made an observation that completely took me by surprise. He said that I get very short tempered and difficult just before my period. I always thought that my mood was just all over the place, never relating some of it to menstruation. He's very observant, so I tend to think there may be something to this. I'll keep a closer eye on my mood as my period approached each month.

How do you react to criticism? Do you share any of the same challenges that I need to work on? Leave a comment and share!

Bipolar Stats:

  • Level of Mania (on scale of 1 - 10, with 1=none, 10=practically levitating): 0
  • Level of Depression (on a scale of 1 - 10, with 1=none, 10=can't get out of bed):
  • Feel pretty good today!
  • Medication Compliance (0 = not taking, 5=taking some, 10=taking all): 5 (not compliant with Wellbutrin for past few days)
I am recording my mania and depression bipolar data separately because I often have mixed episodes where manic and depressive symptoms occur at the same time.

This blog is for informational purposes only, it is not intended to be used for the treatment of mental illness. If you are having emotional troubles, please see a mental health professional, not a computer. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Cool Looking Pill Case Container for Medication: A Bipolar Patient's Opinion

Pill Shaped Case for Medication in Closed PositionMedication compliance (taking meds as directed) is typically a big challenge for those with bipolar disorder. Actually consistent behavior in general is not easy for us. Well, for me, I am pretty consistent with my addictions, nicotine gum and alcohol :/.Pill Shaped Medication Case in Open Position

To make remembering my meds a little easier, I always carry a pill case with my daytime medication (Wellbutrin). While in Chicago last year we went to the Museum of Contemporary Art Store and I found this adorable metal pill case that looks like, and opens like, a capsule. It's small, about a couple of inches long and easy to throw in a purse or a backpack. I don't see this pillbox on the MCA Store website, but do see it on the Exit9 website, under "capsule pill container".

Even with the pill box, I still sometimes manage to miss my day meds, because I don't take the pill as soon an I remember and eventually forget again. But the case certainly does help me more often take my medication as directed.

Bipolar Stats:

  • Level of Mania (on scale of 1 - 10, with 1=none, 10=practically levitating): 0
  • Level of Depression (on a scale of 1 - 10, with 1=none, 10=can't get out of bed):
  • Stable right now, but mood feels wobbly.
  • Medication Compliance (0 = not taking, 5=taking some, 10=taking all): 5 (not compliant with Wellbutrin for past few days)
I am recording my mania and depression bipolar data separately because I often have mixed episodes where manic and depressive symptoms occur at the same time.

This blog is for informational purposes only, it is not intended to be used for the treatment of mental illness. If you are having emotional troubles, please see a mental health professional, not a computer. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Bipolar Disorder & Happiness: Read Book "Happier"

How to Be Happier with Bipolar Disorder
There's definitely a plague of self-help books available these days, many written by entirely unqualified people. My mom didn't write a book (she could have), but one of her jems was "Smile more. It will make you happier", advice that I found rather insulting as a person with a mood disorder. Really mom, it's that easy? Poof! I'm still waiting for the scientific article, "Major depression vanquished by more frequent smiling."

In one of my least favorite self-help books,  Simplify Your Life, by Elaine St. James, the author recommends that readers throw out all medication other than aspirin. Honestly? That's some dangerous advice. I hope she has some hefty liability insurance.

Happier by Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar
Anyway, I have finally found a self-help book that appears to be different. It's called Happier. Ben-Shahar is a Harvard professor who teaches the most popular class ever offered at Harvard, Positive Psychology (PSY 1504). I have just started the book, which needs to be completed as a workbook, not just a magical thing you read that suddenly makes you happier. Since it requires an investment of time, I plan to complete it over the summer when I am done with school. I'll add updates to this post as I work through the book, to let you know what I find useful.

Why Is Happier Better Than Your Average Self-help Book?
Dr. Ben-Shahar has spent his life studying happiness, and what people can do to make themselves happier. He is not just pulling platitudes out of his bum. He is combining scientific info on the topic with his knowledge as a psychologist, as well as drawing on his experiences with disappointment after reaching various goals throughout his life and then finding that the good feelings associated with his achievements were fleeting. What he thought should be making him happy wasn't. In his book, he describes how to form habits associated with becoming a happier person. Then the reader does the hard work.

Habits Can Change a Person's Mood
I know, from experience, that some of my mood swings are influenced by my response once I see the swing coming. If I feel depression approaching, I know that there are thought processes and behaviors I can engage in that make depression more likely, such as...
  • sleeping a lot
  • isolating myself/withdrawing
  • drinking alcohol
  • focusing on negative thoughts and memories 
  • not reliably taking my meds for depression (Wellbutrin) well as thought processes and behaviors that can help me avoid or reduce the plummet in mood (the opposite of those I've listed). 

Same with mania...
  • lack of sleep
  • being over-sheduled
  • stress from being over-scheduled
  • too much caffeine
  • not taking my meds for managing mania (Seroquel)
These behaviors encourage my hypomania, while the opposite behaviors will often help me head it off.

Give Happier a Try and Share What You Think
So, with this guys credentials, and the fact that the book is about developing habits (the daily practices that define how we live our lives), I think that it probably has something substantial to offer. 

If you feel so inclined, give Happier a read and post a comment on what you think. Perhaps this book could be especially useful for those of us with mood disorders. Let's find out!

Bipolar Stats:

  • Level of Mania (on scale of 1 - 10, with 1=none, 10=practically levitating): 3
  • Level of Depression (on a scale of 1 - 10, with 1=none, 10=can't get out of bed): 3
  • Medication Compliance (0 = not taking, 5=taking some, 10=taking all): 5 (not compliant with Wellbutrin for past few days)
I am recording my mania and depression bipolar data separately because I often have mixed episodes where manic and depressive symptoms occur at the same time.

This blog is for informational purposes only, it is not intended to be used for the treatment of mental illness. If you are having emotional troubles, please see a mental health professional, not a computer.