Bipolar, Experiences, Mental Health, Musings

A Good Description of How Depression and Anxiety Feels… 

I thought this was on point… 

Bipolar, Information and Resources, Mental Health, Video

Watch “The Most Important Lesson Learned from 87,000 Brain Scans – Dr. Daniel Amen” on YouTube

This is really interesting…

Awareness, Bipolar, Information and Resources, Mental Health, Shared, Video

The struggle of mental health | Playlist | TED.com

The struggle of mental health | Playlist | TED.com.

Addiction, Bipolar, Blogging101, Musings, Personal, Stories, Video

Beautiful Ugly

This is the most personal post I have written. It may sound sappy to some. I hope not, because I am putting myself out there right now. I’m hoping somebody will connect.

Beautiful isn’t pretty.


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I don’t usually share this part of my life with anyone, well, ever. It is about addiction. This time I will because it is the only way I know how to share what followed. It took a long time and it is only by chance (or was it?) that I was given a glimpse of such beautiful ugly. I hope it will be for someone out there.


iStock_000009888591XSmallIt was a long road for me. Many years battling serious addiction. Cocaine, Pills, Heroin, anything really, but those were my drugs of choice. I am not sure why I am still alive, my present existence is an unlikely outcome. I have been homeless, I have ruined careers, lost possessions, and many other great possibilities were sacrificed for the lifestyle I became caught up in. It seemed like an impossible cycle. I was very low for a long time. I don’t remember a time when my reality was bearable enough to not desperately seek any sort of self medication I could find. The substances described above were those that I settled into after many years of trying anything to soften my waking life. I hear there is a correlation between bipolar and addiction. In case anyone is wondering, I was diagnosed Bipolar before my life of drugs. I’m sure the drugs worsened my condition, but they didn’t cause it. Needless to say my self-image was not in line with what those who loved me saw. Don’t get me wrong, I appeared to be functioning well. I achieved multiple degrees in university, awards, started careers, but I was a master at hiding it. The internal agony on the other hand was like being given a day pass from hell to carry out the image of a normal life, knowing that I didn’t live here and I was still always a citizen of hell.

When things were almost at their worst, I had spent everything on heroin and cocaine. While my fiancé worked away, I spent. When he came back and reality set in that there was no money, it was one of the
worse days of my life. I thought, “We’ve been through hell and back together, but this is the limit, and I cruised past that line with the top down, leaving nothing but a trail of dust.” As he stood there, left with nothing but a tumbleweed bouncing in my tailwind, he found the strength, and had the vision and optimism to forgive me, once I admitted what I had done. He didn’t hold it against me and continued to discuss what we were going to do and how we would deal with it. I had a new appreciation and confidence in the depth of his love for me, which he always expressed, but I couldn’t truly absorb. This is another one of the situations that we survived as a couple, but it gets worse. There was a new bottom to come.

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My world started crumbling down. Partly because of the drugs, the illness, and many months of extreme stress. Each making the other worse. At my worst I was using heavily every day, doing enough heroin and cocaine to kill a horse. I always mixed heroin, cocaine, benzos, not to mention all my bipolar medication. My fiancé told me that he thought I wasn’t going to wake up. He could never sleep because he kept getting up to make sure I was still breathing. My breathing would get so shallow from the heroin especially with the benzos. I never knew he did this. He said that he thought he would have to leave so many times, even though it would devastate him. He calls me his heart. His life. And he means it.

Things had become almost 100% better, thanks to quality medical and psychological care, including drug counselling and addiction professionals. However, one thing that I still hadn’t learned was how to love myself. I still didn’t have the tools to put that into action. I understood the concept, but was missing an essential component. I wasn’t sure what that was until recently, and that is the reason for this lengthy sharing. It is almost easy to lose sight of the depth of meaning when describing the beauty and wonder of life. It isn’t that anybody doesn’t believe it, or mean it, it is just easy to forget the unfathomable wonder and beauty that is being described. I thought I got it, and I did on a certain level. I even agreed. What I didn’t realize, though, was that beauty does not mean pretty. In fact, I have come to see that the true beauty in life is not pretty. Let me explain.

Something happened recently that allowed me the honor of a glimpse of life’s elusive beauty. Perhaps it is not elusive, just really hard to see clearly through our personal shit storms.

Just to fill you in, my fiancé calls me his heart, baby bird, squirrely bird, his life, tons of sappy pet names. (Don’t gag – it’s just so you will get the significance of something coming.)

 He and I were shopping a few days ago. Nothing special, just an average day, then a song came on. I had heard it before and liked it, but I didn’t personalize it. I had only heard it a couple of times. Then my partner walked up to me and said,
“This is the song that I would always sing in my head when I thought of you when you were really bad.”

“What do you mean?” I asked. He answered…

41ZQA0SKFGL“When I thought you were going to die, or that I was going to have to leave you to save you. I would never sleep, I checked your breathing every couple of hours I was so scared that you weren’t going to wake up. I really thought you were going to die. I would see you nodding off and losing consciousness while watching TV, or at the computer. I was getting ready to lose you. This is the song that played constantly in my head, and when I hear it now I remember that time and how lucky we are to still have each other. I would have died without my heart. You are my life, my heart, I love you more than you will ever know. How could I live without my Baby Bird? I felt so sad for you, a sadness I have never felt before.”
The Song
 
I almost cried in the store thinking about what he was going through during that time. I had no idea. I was seeing things through my eyes. Never truly knowing how to feel loved by myself or anybody else. I was so lonely.

I lived what he was talking about, I was there, but as myself. Even though it wasn’t his intention, he gave me the rare gift of really seeing myself through the eyes of someone who truly, selflessly, loves and adores me. I haven’t thought about myself the same way since. I felt sadness for myself in a way that you can only feel out of love for someone. It is no news to anyone that knows me that I have never held myself in high esteem. Trying to understand how to love myself was entirely lost on me. I didn’t know how.  His telling me about what that song meant to him showed me beauty. Beauty exists in love, and pain, true and selfless pain, exists only in love. My eyes opened to one of life’s moments of true beauty, and it was too beautiful to be pretty.

Soon things started to change before my eyes.

My rare glimpse of beauty began to show me not only myself through the eyes of love, but I saw others through eyes of love in a way I never have. Could this be what it means to not be able to love others until you love yourself? I was shown the beauty that existed out of my ugly. Beauty that could have only come into existencetumblr_nf1nbhqQIf1s8tfl8o1_500 because of my ugly. I consider this one of the defining moments in my life’s journey. Now, where I would have only ever seen ugly. The ugly of the person I only knew how to hate and blame. The ugly that I took personally, resented, hated, cursed, and worst of all, the ugly for which I had no ability to see with sympathy, empathy or love. Now I see. I first see the ugly, but now I am not fooled. The ugly, the illusion, is not the person, it is the manifestation of their pain. To see through the ugly, to the pain is where lies the window to the true person, to true beauty.

The rarest, most breathtaking beauty is that which is seen through the ugly. When you are loved at your worst. When you hate yourself. When someone loves unconditionally, never losing sight of your beauty. To experience that dimension and depth of love, and to be given a glimpse of yourself through the eyes of someone who sees only your beauty, when it is almost impossible to see anything but the ugly, is a gift. Those loving eyes cannot see the ugly as being a part of you, of who you are. Love sees through the ugly, understands it is the disguise of pain, and sees through to the true beauty behind. It is a special love to see that authentic beautiful ugly. The long-suffering and devotion of one who loves another through those open eyes, comes from the inability to give up hope that the one they love will one day get a glimpse of themselves through open eyes. To see their beautiful self the way they have always looked to the one who loves them unconditionally.
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I will never forget the first time I got a glimpse of myself through such loving eyes. I don’t think it is something you can give yourself, I think it has to be given. Stay aware lest the moment pass before your eyes, because if you are given a glimpse, life stops and you get lost in a beautiful moment of the infinite now.

Blogging101, Day1: Introduce Yourself to the World

About Me And Why I Am Here At Blogging 101

I am Amy and I was diagnosed about 7 years ago with Bipolar Disorder. I haven’t shared it with many people. Recently it seems that I am hearing about mental health and mental illness everywhere. I have been afraid for employers, friends and family to find out. I imagined their impression of me would change immediately. I am doing well at the moment. It really is an intense illness, and many people suffer horribly. Then there is the shame because of the stigma associated with people diagnosed with severe mental illnesses. I am blogging as an outlet to clear my mind, as well as to be another voice speaking openly about my illness. I will provide information and support for those with mental health issues as well. (Not there yet). I am hoping to learn valuable tools and tips that I won’t get fumbling along alone, as well as to connect with the community.

Bipolar, Musings, Personal, Stories

My Bittersweet Bipolar

It is difficult to live with Bipolar Disorder. It has taken many years since my diagnosis to find the proper medical care, treatment and medication to finally get a handle on it. At least I can now recognize and manage what I see happening, unlike never knowing what is going on with me, living an unmedicated nightmare. However, I have come to see Bipolar as an opportunity to gain wisdom and perspective. This, at a cost of course.

images (73)While Bipolar Disorder presents unique challenges and difficulties because of the extremes of emotions experienced. On the other hand, by allowing us to experience extreme depth and hight of human emotion with an intensity that, if one can make it through and learn to embrace the ride, provides us with a unique and profound perspective. I don’t say “if one can make it through and learn to embrace the ride” lightly. Many make it through, but get stuck in an incessant loop of hopeless depression to frantic mania never seeming to find that middle ground for long. Never stopping to look around, look from where they’ve come and appreciate the shift, to contemplate and use the experience.

57568dec938a7c6e68298dc179c543e8I believe that this thing, brain disorder, mental illness, whatever it will be called, is not for the faint of heart. It is a bitter-sweet gift. It is a tragic path to wisdom if we keep our eyes open and our heads up (when we can). Through understanding there is nobody that we can’t help through a difficult time, because we have been to the depths. While mania is considered to be a negative symptom, we experience feelings and emotions, even ecstasy that we could never otherwise have experienced. I understand that these “gifts” come at a cost; Wisdom is gained through suffering…perspective through experience. If we keep our eyes open we will recognise how profound what we have just suffered while in a depression was, and be grateful for the shift. When we are feeling good, or great, or on that fine line between happy and hypo-manic, we should open our eyes and be grateful for what our suffering has led us to understand. With experience we will learn to recognize the fine lines between tired and depressed, happy and hypo, sad and sick…

It is the fine line between happiness and illness that I have found to be one of the most difficult challenges. It can seem to ruin happiness. Never being sure if it is true happiness or the illness. Having to monitor yourself once you feel good in case you start to feel too good and then have to adjust medication to take away your long lost joy. With experience, though, true joy and happiness become more apparent, and it will not be so difficult to decipher what side of that fine line we are on. As I get older and the longer I have
this illness the more clearly I understand what true happiness feels like, and the larger the distinction between healthy happiness and illness has become.

downloadHappiness is pure. It is contentment itself, depending on nothing for its existence. Happiness is calm. Feeling happy does not have to equal (and usually doesn’t) fast, frantic and energetic all the time. Happiness is peace with just being. That is how I know the true happy moments. When happy, I do not have the urge or feel a pressure to do anything in particular. I just am. When I can feel well while simply being, then I know that I am on that beautiful side of the fine line.

The longer I have this illness, the more I feel a sort of deranged gratitude for the experiences that have allowed me to gain a unique perspective. I have experienced human emotion above and below what seemed survivable. There is a beauty and a wisdom that comes from surviving anguish and pain. Wisdom is a gift. I greatly value what I have learned and how living with Bipolar has shaped me. At times I might have said otherwise, but when I am healthy, I would never give up what I have gained through living with Bipolar, it is worth it.  Would you?

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Bipolar

Social Media & Bipolar Disorder | Can Social Media Activity Predict Depressive Or Manic Episodes?

images (71)In the past few days I have been able to come out from under the covers. Visiting family, taking walks, eating, bathing regularly, you know, the things that I take for granted when I am not sick. It feels good to see some light. Literally though, it has brightened up in terms of weather in the past two days which doesn’t hurt the progress.

During the last month or so I have really struggled with the lower end of this illness as evidenced by my intermittent to non-existent Blog posts, Tweets and Facebook activity. This got me thinking. Could social media play some role in predicting or somehow catching an episode whether it be an early stage depression or early hypo-mania? Of course, when I start to wonder things like this I go straight to Google and interestingly enough, I am not the only one that has noticed this.

I know that when I get depressed I have incredible anxiety. I get physically sick to my stomach when the phone rings, if I need to take care of some paperwork, pay rent, interact with people….Opening my computer to write, communicate on Twitter or Facebook becomes unbearable to think about. Emails feel like little attacks of more things that I am going to have to take care of. Then I start to get even more depressed and anxious because I am not keeping up with all of these things and I worry that I am missing some appointment or some important email. I worry about not keeping up on social media, hell, I am worried about who has been calling and what I am missing or what problems I might be causing myself because of the missed calls. It is irrational, I know. I can’t explain it. I know it sounds like a simple fix. Just suck it up and do it. One email at a time, just pick up the phone, it is probably just a friend, just look to see who it is that is calling before you answer. I can’t explain it, I can only share it. If you haven’t felt it, that knife in the gut feeling and then the guilt from not doing whatever that knife in the gut feeling images (69)stopped you from doing, you cannot understand. If you haven’t curled up into the fetal position and audibly moaned with agony from the butterflies on speed in your stomach, you can’t get it. It is not your fault, it just cannot be gotten. But I have gotten off track.

Back to my observation about my social media activity during this time of depression. I can actually track my activity on all platforms and watch it decline. My posts, tweets and Facebook messages become fewer and farther between as the depression continued. That made me wonder if the opposite might be true. I thought back to my last manic episode. It started early last summer and continued through most of the summer months. It was before this blog however, but during this time I had 5 Twitter accounts, I was dabbling in a couple of blogs, one is still active, 3 Facebook accounts for different causes that I had become involved in. I was even contacted by a radio host who wanted to do an interview because of my other blog and its cause. My posts were 2,3,4,5 am then 9am again. I was constantly monitoring my computer and my social accounts. I was obsessed. I couldn’t be stopped! A member of my family mentioned something to me about the strange hours that I was posting on Facebook, but that is all I heard about it. So I know that in my case, my activity on social media could quite likely be used to predict an episode, either depression or mania.

With a little searching, I found that this is being studied right now. Facebook in particular has been popular for researchers in terms of what is normal and what is out of the ordinary for the individual it is monitoring.

Here is an article about one such study: Facebook posts of Bipolar patients to be studied to monitor signs of relapse in world first study:

A world-first study will use Facebook as an early intervention tool to help prevent people with Bipolar from lapsing into manic episodes.

The Facebook use in Affective Disorders study will analyse the changes in social media use by an individual before and during a bipolar relapse.

If the first part of the trial proves that the Facebook monitoring helps to avert people from experiencing relapses then an application will be designed for users to download. ~ By Leesa Smith | Mail Online

Roisin Kiberd in, How Facebook Can Be Used to Predict a Manic Episode gives an example of some out-of-character Facebook use that he has noticed.

Recently a friend of mine began to post excessively on Facebook every day, usually between 5 AM and 8 AM. One day I used wordcounter.net to add up 9734 words in total; another day, 6288. His page became an archive of racing thoughts, manifested in aggressive, disturbing updates that friends found difficult to read.

Readers will remember a similar, very public series of tweets made by actor Amanda Bynes in the run-up to her eventual hospitalization, along with countless other examples both in public and private. ~ Raisin Kiberd

…it goes on the explain the method behind how researchers are planning to study what is normal Facebook use for an individual, and how that can be used as an indicator of a shift activity and perhaps mood.

The Facebook use in Affective Disord​ers (FAD) Study is currently underway in Melbourne, Australia; it’s a collaboration between researchers from the Monash Alfred Psychiatry Centre and computer scientists from the School of Intelligent Systems at RMIT University. It tracks the Facebook activity and mood of participants with bipolar disorder to work out what “normal” is for them, with the hope of alerting subjects when they begin to stray from their usual patterns towards a potential relapse. ~ Raisin Kiberd

In my research I even found a researcher from Michigan who is testing a phone app that would predict Manic episodes in Bipolar patients by monitoring the user’s voice. The app would record the user’s voice picking up changes in speech patterns, intonations and speed to predict a manic episode. The data would be sent to the user’s doctor for monitoring so that the doctor could be aware of the patient’s possible oncoming episode. You can read more about it hereApp May Help Predict Manic Episodes in Bipolar Disorder

I suppose then, that I am not the only person to have noticed that there might just be a link here. I’m not sure how soon we will have access to any of these apps or on-line tools to monitor our social media activity, or that anybody would want them to, but I do think that it is a good tool that we can use ourselves. I find it particularly helpful in a hypo-manic stage. If I am depressed, it doesn’t take the guilt of not keeping up my on-line presence to let me know that I am depressed, but when I feel good, that is when I might need to pay more attention.

There is a fine line between happiness and illness with this disorder. It is actually one of the things I find most frustrating. I am never quite sure if I am doing well and am happy or if I am becoming manic and need to monitor myself after I finally feel great. Is it happy or is it hypo mania? It is extremely disappointing to discover that it is the latter, and that it is now time to medicate away the enthusiasm. I think with experience we get closer to understanding on what side of that fine line we are on, and if it is travelling in one direction or the other. I believe that happiness is feeling good without needing to do, or be or go, or have anything. It is quiet, contentment, without the busy, racing sun storm. There you go, I think I am getting closer to recognising that line after all.

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