Bipolar, Musings, Personal, Stories

Head In The Clouds

This post is the story of my first mania. It is a continuation of the post called “First Signs”

First Signs….I feel sad for my younger self. These were many years of turmoil both internally for me and externally in my home life. This life continued until just after I graduated from high school, then something unexpected happened. It was like an epiphany, a revelation! A freedom that I had never felt or experienced. It was what I know now to be my first Manic episode.

My first mania had a subtle onset. It lulled me into a feeling of something bigger. I come from an island off the east coast of Canada called Newfoundland. It is quite isolated and I had just returned back from a summer program in a university in Nova Scotia. I had left the island all on my own and survived!

I was 17. When I arrived at the university my depression became worse. I was alone amongst people that I had never met! I had no self confidence, I had no clue if anybody really wanted to have anything to do with me and in my state of social anxiety and paranoia I was pretty sure I was just a bother. I made it through though, finally, just like I trudge through all of life’s mud with my oversized boots. I always get to the other side. On the other side was my home on the island. So where does this mania come into play here? Well, like I said, it started with a whisper. A feeling of something bigger.

Even though I fell apart on my own, once I returned home I felt proud of having left. Proud of my experiences. I am sure that having left, I was suddenly struck by the reality of a larger world than I had ever known and I had barely left the east coast of Canada. My mind started to wander. I started to look into other places, other ideas. I began to enjoy smashing the shackles of time and the expectations that are attached to it. You know, around 8am we wake, breakfast, noon is lunch, it is a work day, or a weekend, it is getting late we should probably sleep. The shackles, the preconceptions about what we ought to do and when. I began to switch it up. I would stay at the 24hr coffee shop and eat my breakfast muffin at 3am, “What is time anyway?”, I wondered. “Nothing!” I loved being out when everyone was sleeping. It was like the world was a free place, where nobody was about to let you know what you ought to be doing. No one there to look at you strangely if you walked in the middle of the street instead of on a sidewalk. Those invisible lines that we dare not cross increasingly did not exist for me. I began to really think that I could do anything. Go anywhere. Right now. There are no rules or constraints, those are all illusions! I began to feel brilliant. I didn’t need to sleep, I could stay out musing philosophically in a moonlit graveyard until 4am then get back to the regular peoples’ world, the working world by 5am. Oh the things I understood. So why was I getting flack? Why were people looking at me strangely, questioning me? Don’t they see it? The freedom? That there is really nothing? I understood.

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During this time, I had been in a relationship for about 2 years. I suppose we were “in love”. I don’t know. High school sweethearts and all that. We were meant to return to the same university that I had just left. He would play hockey, I was on the volleyball team. I had already rented an apartment with some girls that  I knew there from the summer time. We had a plan, and it was good. It was stable. It was normal. It was in my best interest. It made sense. It made sense to a level headed, non-maniacal mind. At this point however, my mind had hit the north pole and I was struck with a wanderlust that sat me for hours in front of my computer researching places unknown, far away. How would I get there. What would make sense? I needed to go. University! That was my out!

University was the best plan. I researched and researched all the universities I could find. Both nationally and internationally. It was exhilarating, I was thinking quickly now, I had to. With only weeks left before the start of the school year I had to think quick. Ha! No problem there! There were a lot of questions about why I would just take off like that. What happened? I didn’t have an answer. But what about the boy? Right, a long distance relationship. Problem solved. For me, not for him. He broke up with me, he didn’t get it. It didn’t slow me down. My coach from university called me when he heard I wasn’t coming back. Not enough to stop me. My roommates called. It was too late. I was already gone. I just hadn’t left yet. Until I did….

I left for the other side of the country, leaving everybody I have ever known and loved behind, a decision that was made on a whim and changed my life’s direction forever. I will continue this story in an upcoming post. Stay tuned!

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Epiphany

Yesterday I was feeling down. Then I realised that I have cold AND HOT running water and I was happy again. We are blessed. There are countless little things that we are blessed to have access to. We do not have a right to anything, we are just lucky to live where we do which allows us a standard of living that many are without. BE HAPPY! No matter how hard things are, or how bad you think you have it, at least you probably live somewhere where you have access to help for you problems. We are rich and we are blessed. We have everything we need and more. download (3)

Bipolar, Musings, Personal, Stories

First Signs

The first signs that I can piece together are memories of myself as a child being repeatedly told that  I was born difficult. That I came out of the womb strong willed and opinionated (however an infant can be opinionated). In fact, on one of my first t-shirts my mother had imprinted the words “no way” to display to the world the disposition of her little terror. I was reminded of this repeatedly as a child. For example, my parents, avid church goers, reminded me time and again about how a gentleman approached me to say “hi” after the Sunday service and I, in all my charm and poise as an 11 month old hauled off and slapped him across the face. Of course this was used as an example of how I was born with a difficult and somewhat rotten personality throughout my childhood. I believed it. It hurt.

As young as I can remember I remember feeling a heaviness. A tiredness and sadness that was unrelenting. As young as the third grade I remember constantly fighting the urge to cry, particularly if an adult, like a teacher for example, would talk nicely to me. It was like I was holding in so much pain and sadness that I was always about to explode. Unfortunately, it usually ended up releasing in anger and rage. I was ashamed to cry.

This continued right through high school. I was a high achiever in academics, athletics and music and I remember dragging myself to every single practice, day of school, event, everything! How did I do it!?

There was a lot of fighting every day in my home all throughout my childhood and I believe that might have sparked the illness that I was predisposed to. The depression started early in childhood, and became deeper and deeper as I got older. It became so deep and confusing that I never actually believed that I had friends. I was a very popular teen in high school, but somehow I just never felt like my friends actually liked me. I know better now that I am sorted out, but how strange looking back on it. A paranoid depression where  I believed that those closest to me were inviting me out and wanting to be with me just to make fun of me. It was truly delusional, I know now. I feel sad for my younger self. These were many years of turmoil both internally for me and externally in my home life. This life continued until just after I graduated from high school, then something unexpected happened. It was like an epiphany, a revelation! A freedom that I had never felt or experienced. It was what I know now to be my first Manic episode.

More about that in my next story….

Bipolar, Musings, Personal, Stories

Piecing it Together

Have you ever tried to think back and piece together how you came to that fateful time in your life where things had just become undeniable. There is, for certain something terribly wrong. Be it a first breakdown, hospitalization, or just you dragging your butt to a doctor throughout the surrounding wreckage of your life? That moment where you realize “wow, I always thought I was the problem.” “I always thought that there was a flaw in me, in my personality or self.” “I am not just a screw up for no other reason than that I am a miserable person?” “You mean there could be a reason for this, a medical one?”

This far from erases the guilt and shame that you have collected over the years for being so “difficult” being so “hard to get along with”, a “screw up”. However for me, it was a ray of light and a glimpse of blue sky after years of self hatred and abuse. To find out that this could be medical! I am not Jekyll and Hyde, I am not demon possessed, as some more religious members of my family had concluded, I am not EVIL! Really? Could it be? It took me years to fully believe that I genuinely had an illness that was not anything to do with whether or not I was a bad person. That glimpse of blue sky was my first conception that I might not be a bad person.

Over the years since, I think back to the time before that diagnosis. Through childhood, the rage, the confusion. I try to remember my first signs of mania. I think I’ve pinpointed those times of depression and mania in their earliest stages. The worst mania being the one after my first wrong diagnosis as unipolar depression. The antidepressants sent me into a god like ride that doesn’t’ exist on this earth. Having mostly only felt depression I thought I was acting normally, like a happy person. Um, nope.

In some of my upcoming posts I want to share my stories as I piece together the events that lead to my understanding and acceptance of this disease. Some are tragic, some are (now) hilarious, but I want to get them straight in my mind as a way for myself to piece things together and help me towards completeness, self understanding and acceptance.

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Me too!

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Oh The Meds

stock-footage-spiral-made-of-different-colorful-pills-spinning-in-circle-full-hdThe thing about Bipolar Disorder is that to maintain any sort of stability at all there is this complex dance between your meds and you. On an upswing, slight medication adjustment, downswing, another, feeling great so not too sure you need meds anymore, self diagnosis of cured and no meds at all, leading us to phase 1 catastrophe and restarting the dance to find the perfect doses, timing and schedule of the perfect medications. Problem is, none of them are perfect, particularly, none of them are perfect all of the time.

For the sake of openness, I am presently on Lamictal 200mg/day in the morning, Seroquel xr 50 mg/2x/day and 75 to 100 mg regular release at night, Abilify 10 mg, Clonazepam .5 mg/2x/day and Cipralex 10 mg 1x/day. My problem? The seroquel is making me fat and tired, and I suspect that the Abilify is making me restless, though I am still not sure about that. If you can imagine feeling exhausted and extremely restless at the same time. A horrible feeling! So off again to the psych doc again next week to discuss another change. I feel I am getting very close to a good regimen, although that is not that reassuring because with this disease they seem to have to be constantly adjusted. That is not the only thing that makes the whole thing not so great. These drugs have crazy side effects attached to them.

The most ridiculously obvious was with the seroquel. It both makes me crave sweets which I never have, and messes with my metabolism making it almost impossible to lose the weight that I am packing on because of the sugary cravings and the slow metabolism. One medication I was on completely thrashed my thyroid, I now have to take thyroid hormone. I have to say, from lethargy, extreme tiredness, weight gain, hair loss, and those are the non-life threatening ones, it is no picnic to manage this disease. This next doctor visit I will request a drug called topamax. It is the only mood stabilizer that I have heard actually helps with weight loss. The trade off? It makes you dumb, apparently, so I’ve heard.

Interestingly, most of the mood stabilizers that are used to treat bipolar disorder are actually anticonvulsants used for epilepsy, or antipsychotics, very powerful medications. I am hoping that with an improvement in my fitness that I will be able to keep my medications to a minimum through taking impeccable care of my body, mind and spirit.