I’m tired or am I depressed…

I’m tired. If I had a penny for all the times I have said that in my life. I would be able to pay my medical bills. Sometimes I say it when people ask if I’m okay and I don’t want to say I’m depressed. Sometimes I say it because I’m depressed and that makes me feel tired

It is always good to get to know the signs of depression. It’s especially important to know your signs of depression. For me I know that when I find myself saying I’m tired a lot that is a good sign I’m depressed.

I stop and assess myself. Really think about what I am feeling. Am I eating? Am I losing interest in normal things I like to do? Am I sleeping too much or not enough? Is the negative thinking worse then normal?

Once I know if I’m depressed I need to determine which kind of depression it is. Is it situational or chemical? If I know what type it is I will know the best way to handle it.

It may make me sound even crazier then I already am, but I find talking to myself helps when its chemical depression. When it is situational a funny movie or some kind of distraction helps. But with chemical depression there is not much you can do. Talking to myself helps.

What do I say? I remind myself that it is just a depression episode. It won’t last forever. It may feel like the end of the world, but it isn’t. I remind myself I have gone through this before and I was fine. If the thoughts go too dark and I start thinking I want to die (we have all been there) I remind myself that if I kill myself it will hurt the people I love. That it is selfish. It may end my pain, but everyone who loves me will be in pain. Guilt has always been a big motivator for me. (Family stuff I’m working on in therapy)

It’s not easy to do, but I listen to myself more then I listen to other people. I’m really stubborn and get defensive when people try to help me. That might be why I started talking myself down. Those are somethings that help me. What are somethings that help you when you are depressed?

Small rant…

I was on a social media site this morning and a girl posted how she finally told a doctor about her depression. I was so happy for her, until I read the rest of the post. She went to her Gynecologist and told her she gets depressed when on her period only. The GYNECOLOGIST gave her Zoloft to take every day.

One of the biggest things I get upset about is doctors who are not mental health physicians prescribing anti-depressants. If that girl really has a chemical imbalance then there is good chance Zoloft will help her. If it is hormones from her period and she takes that medicine every damn day it can cause suicidal thoughts.

Anti-depressants are for chemical imbalances only. Christopher Titus a comedian has a joke about Zoloft & Prozac causing suicidal thoughts. The joke is anti-depressants that make you want to kill yourselves. No, it’s doctors who aren’t mental health experts hearing their patient is sad and giving them anti-depressants.

A responsible physician would refer them to an expert. These medications are for correcting a imbalance with the chemicals in your brain. If that is not the reason you are sad then it can cause an imbalance. I would say these doctors should know that, but that isn’t the field of medicine they specialize in. Which is my point.

A psychiatrist has the education, experience, and knowledge to know if a person has a chemical imbalance or is just bummed about their sucky life. A person who is JUST sad needs therapy not medicine.

My Mother who has been officially diagnosed with depression by a psychiatrist goes to the PA at her primary care office for her medication. This woman isn’t a mental health expert. She is prescribing my Mom two anti-depressants and Xanax. If you look up the drug interactions with these three you will find they are not supposed to be taken together. It causes depression and memory loss. Which are two things my Mom is suffering with. She can’t figure out why. I have told her this by the way and she won’t listen to me. She thinks if she goes to psychiatrist they will make talk about her problems. She believes you don’t tell people stuff like that.

Please, if you or anyone you know has depression. Or you think maybe Bipolar, schizophrenic ,multiple personality disorder’s please go to a mental health expert. Primary care physicians or your gynecologist can’t give you the help you need. You wouldn’t go to an ENT for breast cancer.

When a loner feels lonely…

I have always perferred to be alone. Even as a kid even though I had friends I perferred most of the time to play alone in my room. As much as I enjoy spending time with friends, and maybe even one or two of my family members I just enjoy my own company more.

The thing I look most forward to on weekends is not being around people. So, why have I felt so lonely since I started cancer treatment? There is the fact I’m not around people at all when I am home between hospital visits. Most of the time I have to so I don’t catch someones germs. I have always said I could never work from home no matter how much I would love that because I would never see people again. I need that soical interaction to stay sane and keep up my barley there soical skills.

I also think it is because I feel vunerable. I need the support of other people. I need my family and work family. I need to gossip with my girls. I had dinner with some friends from work and I had the best time catching up on the gossip. We had so fun just chatting and I felt so much better then I did earlier in the day. I almost cancelled because I was feeling tired and achy again. But when I got there and spent time with my friends I forgot that I felt like crap.

I went into the office last week twice. The first to visit the next to pick up paperwork. My face hurt from smilling so much. In the three years of working there I’m sure they have never seen me smiling so much. It was just so nice to be out of the house and to talk to someone that wasn’t my dogs.

I even gladly hung out all day with my oldest sister. That is normally something we all try to avoid. But I was so desperate for company I watched her unpack boxes and put up shelf paper.

Cancer has turned me into a social butterfly? No. I’m still akward and uncomfortable around other human beings, but I just don’t want to be alone all the time right now. Maybe it’s just me learning to lean on others for support. I’m sure as soon as all of this is over I will go back to making excuses to not hang out with people again.

Being in the hospital is the place and time I feel the most lonely. I see nurses and nursing assistants all day, but are they really counted as company? We talk and get to know each other. They are very caring. I have made “friends” with them. My Dad tries to visit everyday. My Mom does her best, but has a strangr work schedule. My sisters each came once. The first round of chemo two coworkers came by. My friend Sam who I have known for almost a 11 years came by each time. She even brought hers kids by to visit me at home. Her husband who I’ve known just as long came too. Even though there was a 4 year old and a newborn there it felt like we were in our early 20’s again. The three of us hanging out and talking. The only difference was they weren’t drunk and I wasn’t laughing my ass off at them.

People keep saying they want to visit me in the hospital and I will tell to come on by. To message me and I will give them the room number. It is mostly a thing you say I think, because they never do. It is also hard for people with work and kids. I get that they have a life and sometimes I think would I visit them. Maybe if we went as a group. I don’t like driving.

There have been times in my life I would find myself thinking I wished I had someone to hang out with when I was home alone. Sometimes I would even put in the effort to find someone to hang out with. Mostly my Mom and sister because all my friends are married with kids. But for the first time I’m really lonely. My friend who set up the dinner said she was surprised when I just came out and said it. She asked if there was anything she could do for me. I said spend time with I’m lonely. My boss said to call her when I know I can safely go out to lunch. I jumped at the chance.

Having social anxiety makes you a loner, but when things get really tough even a loner needs to have people around them. I never even realized how many friends I had until I stopped seeing them everyday. When I left work the other day I was thinking to myself how can such anti-social person have so many people that care about her. How did I not know that I made these friends? I got so comfortable there after 3 years that I was just being me and they liked that. Some people broke out in tears when they found out. They follow my Facebook updates religiously.

I guess I’m not really alone, but it sure does feel that way.

lonely

How having cancer has changed me…

A lot of people have asked if having cancer has changed me in anyway. Even my Dad asked . Some people have even told me they have seen a change in me. I think it has and it is common I’m sure. I think some people see it as a near death experince and look at their life or themselves differently. For me it wasn’t about the chance I might die. For me it was a wake up call telling me I’m not doing what I wanted to do with my life.

All my life, even as a small child I have wanted to help people. There were times when I didn’t know how and went with a opportunity when it came along. There were people that would come into my life that I felt needed me and my help. I will be honest helping people is hard. Mostly emotionally. I’m a sensitive person and also have my own issues.

After getting hurt a lot from helping people and things in my own personal life I started to close myself off. I don’t think I noticed it at first. It started with me saying I’m done helping people who won’t help themselves. There was a guy I worked with that had depression and was away from his family. I also had a crush on him. After everything that went down with him and a huge fight with my best friend I was 100% done.

I think it was three years ago I told my therapist/counsler that I was starting to notice I wasn’t feeling empathy or even sympathy anymore. People at work would tell me about this horrible stuff in their lives and I would know how I should feel, but I didn’t feel it. In the past I would cry along with them and feel their pain. Now nothing. I had been seeing counsler for a couple of years at this point and had shared all the pain I had gone through in my life. She told me I had put up walls to keep all the pain out and that included feeling pain for other people.

Not only was I not helping people anymore I couldn’t even feel bad for them. What had become of me. She also told me that is why I’m not in a realtionship and wouldn’t be able to be in one until I fixed it. At the time I was on the fence about if I wanted to fix that. If I don’t get close to people I will be hurt a lot less.

Not to long before I was diagnosed with cancer I started seeing someone new to prescribe my Lithium and other meds. I was telling her my history. Telling her about my life. We went over our time because of it. At the end she looked at me and asked if I ever thought about writing a book about my experinces to help other people going through it or who have loved ones who are. I told her I had tried, but can’t organize my thoughts well. She is the one who suggested this blog.

I started this blog as a first step into getting back to my calling and true love. Helping people. Soon after I found out I had cancer. I truly believe this is a sign I’m getting back on track with what God wants. People keep asking me if I was afraid I was going to die. No, because God would not have put me on this path if he was going to take my life. He put me in a place where I am needed.

The talks I have had with a few people here at the hospital I talked about in one of my other blogs firmly cemented this belief in my mind. A friend I have known since I was 15 said to me a couple of weeks ago that I seem more open. I told him that I’m not putting up walls anymore. I’m going to let people in again. It’s time to stop hiding. There are people out there that need help and I want to try to help in any way I can. I don’t want to hide from pain I want to help people with theirs.

Having cancer has put me back on my path and no matter what horrible things my body has been subjected to I believe it was worth it. I have learned so much about what people in the USA who have illnesses have to go through. I already knew about how people with mental illness are treated. Now I know it’s not just us. Anyone with any type of illness in this country is treated so unfairly. People are sick and could die and the laws in this country don’t help them. The laws help to save big companies money. Charities do the best they can to help, but they are limited.

This is a stessful time for so many reasons. Sometimes it helps to talk especially if the person has gone through it too. I have even picked up a few things that might help. My Dad works in the HR department at the company he works for, so he has helped me a lot with FMLA, short term disability, and insurance issues. I can pass that along to people who aren’t lucky enough to know someone like that. There are a lot of things about the hospital and treatment I’ve learned.

Cancer has given me new tools to add the the ones I already have to help. Everything I have gone through in the last few months sucks, but I can’t bring myself to wish it never happened.

people-helping-people

Emotional roller coaster…

The last few days have been an emotional roller coaster. It has been good news and now some bad news kind of a week. I guess that can be expected with cancer. It started off with my boss calling and telling me now that my FMLA is up I am losing my insurance with them. I panicked at first called the marketplace and got insurance temorarily. I will get my insurance back as soon as I go back to work. I was excited that the new plan was better then my old one.

More bad news the hospital were I’m being treated doesn’t have a contract with the plan. I will have to file myself. Then my PET scan results come back and my cancer is gone. The doctor said even though I am in remission I still have to finish all the rounds of chemo. That is great news!

The nurse tries to access my port and not only fails to do so she pokes it several times. Then another nurse tries and she misses. She puts saline under my skin. Ouch! They bring in the IV nurses to try they can’t find the access point since it is now swollen. They have to put an IV in my arm. I have horrible veins. That is why they gave me the port. Last time they tried to do anything through the veins in my arms they blew my veins. So, to say I was upset was an understatement. The whole time the nurse was putting it in I was crying. I don’t mean a tear and a sniff. I mean tears running down my face the whole time. I was biting my lip to keep from sobbing out loud. Then I got good news from the insurance lady at the hospital. They can fill out paperwork and send an apllication to my insurance so I can be seen here. She is 98% sure they will approve it since I am currently being treated and I had no other choice for insurance.

I was stressing all night about the port not working. There was no way I was letting them near my veins again. This morning the lab lady came in I said to my nurse is ‘she here to take blood from my arm’. They said yes and I said no. I told her I have one good vein and there is a IV in it right now. You can not get blood from any other vein. She asked can I at least look. No! I shut that down fast. After what I went through in November and then December at two different hospitals I was not going to even let her try.

When I was a kid I was terrified of needles because I got tested for stuff a lot. Which means blood tests. I have small veins that roll. I have this memory from when I was kid where the nurse kept trying to get blood and couldn’t. She stuck me so many times I was crying and screaming. I remember my Dad yelling at her to stop. My fear of needles had gotten better. As you most know a lot of the medications you take for bipolar disorder or any mental health issue you need to get regular bloodwork done. So I have to go get bloodwork done every three months. When I was a teenager my doctors office got this wonderful phlebotomist named Dixie. She was the first to get blood from me with out any problems.

I have one vein that she found always gave blood and didn’t move. She also used a butterfly needle. She told me if anyone other then her ever took my blood to tell them to use a butterfly needle and use that vein. My fear got better over the years. Once Dixie pointed out I was actually watching her do it and was calm as I could be. She said she was so proud of me.

I even volunteered at a local technical college for a phlebotomist student to do her practice stick on me. She even tried the left and missed the vein. I was calm and felt just fine. After everything that happened the last two months the idea of a needle coming anywhere near my arms or hands scares the Hell out of me. I will start crying. I can’t even help it. Everyone is like it’s alright take deep breathes. That makes me sob more.

My Dad texted me earlier today to check on me. He asked how I was doing. I said honestly I am depressed. For the first time since this all started I am depressed. After I found out my cancer is gone. All it took was them telling me they were going to have to put an IV in my arm. All these wonderful people I have gotten to know here at the hospital have been coming in to see me and to celebrate the good news. And I’m acting like a sad sack. I’m like freaking Eyore. I feel bad, but I just can’t bring myself to be more joyful.

The good news is that my oncologist nurse was following my chart from the cancer center next door. She saw they were having problems with my port. She sent over Ms. Pat the queen of ports. She popped that needle right in and now I have started my third round of chemo.

All these highs and lows have made me emotionally exhausted.

butterfly needle

Being Bipolar with Cancer pt 2…

Sorry this had to be a part two. I had a friend coming over.

A week after the surgery I checked back into the hospital for my first round of chemo. It wasn’t the normal hospital admit I was use to, but we rolled with it. The nurse was nice and went over everything with us. Dr. K wasn’t the doctor I saw when in the hospital. It was Dr. D this time. It’s the oncologist on call at the time. Dr. D came in and went over what I was getting and how we were going to do it. She asked if I had questions. No, the one thing I was most concerned about was side effects. You hear all the time about people having all these horrible side effects from chemo. I am the biggest wimp when it comes to throwing up. She told me with this type of chemo most people don’t have a lot of side effects.

Also now that doctors know all the bad side effects chemo has on people they know what could happen. So they give you what they call pre meds. I can see the good in this. I really can, but you just made take an entire pharmacy for side effects I MIGHT have. One of the ones I had to stand up for myself and refuse to take was stool softener. I won’t go into detail. But I wanted to bring up to tell you this. They give it to us because chemo might cause constipation or diarrhea. What if it’s diarrhea and they are giving you stool softeners?

The chemo wasn’t suppose to start until the next day. They give fluids before you start just in case you don’t eat and drink enough. Also an issue that came up later we had to fix. Anyway, the night before the chemo was to start and everything calmed down I was alone in my room. No family. No nurses. Just me. I think it was 10 pm. I picked up the cancer info book they gave me and started to look through it. When I was done I sat it on my tray table and cried. I would like to say this is when it hit me that all this was real, but no. I was crying because I was scared the doctor was wrong and I would throw up. I cried for a few minutes and posted my fears on Facebook. Then I turned out the light and tried to sleep. Anyone who has spent a night in a hospital knows they don’t let you sleep.

For the most part I was a model patient this time. I even made friends with the housekeeping staff. I am mobile and can use the real bathroom with out help. Really I don’t need the nurses for much. I only call them when the alarm on my IV goes off. My chemo meds are in an IV bag. This kind gets a lot of air bubbles. The nurse has to come and flick the line to get them out. It’s really annoying.

There was one thing I was and still am a butt about. You see they like you to get up and move around so you don’t get blood clots or fluid in your lungs. I get up and move around. I promise I do. But they want me to walk the halls. No. I won’t do that. I know this is because of my bipolar disorder. I was very clear with them that I knew that it was. I am a private person. I freak out if people touch my stuff or look through it. I don’t have anything bad they could find, but I get panicked like I do. I don’t have any problem talking to people about what I am going through, but walking down that hall makes me feel so exposed. I feel like my journey is mine and mine alone when I am there. I don’t want to share it with anyone else. As soon as they bring it up my hackles rise and I get ready for a fight. I will not do it. I think I feel more vulnerable at the hospital.

One thing that confuses me is how lonely I feel. Normally when I am not at work I stay home alone. I rarely socialize anymore. When people would ask me what I am doing on the weekend I am happy to say stay at home alone. But since all of this started I feel really lonely. Maybe because before at least I was working and there for around people. Now it’s either all day at home alone or all day at the hospital alone. I have a nurse coming in to do things like check blood return, give me pills, draw labs, and change out my chemo bags. I also have a nurses aid to check my vitals. But that is not the same. My Dad tries to visit as much as he can, but I feel bad because he really is burning the candle at both ends. He works all day and then comes to visit me. He has MS and it is just too much for him. My Mom comes a couple of times when I am there. She bring me stuff if I ask her.

I don’t know if she doesn’t visit much because her work or because this is just so hard for her. I am the baby of the family. When I told my Mom I had cancer she burst into tears. My Mom isn’t an emotional person. She has depression and keeps things bottled up. Her feelings are not for show. When her parents died I don’t remember her crying. I’m her baby.

My sisters were sick the first time I was in there so they didn’t come, but they dropped by the second time. A few friends dropped in the first time. My friend Sam who I have known for almost 11 years came both times. She has been great. Most days I sit by myself trying to keep from being bored. Being lonely is depressing, but still not actual depression.

They were worried about how the chemo would interact with my bipolar meds, but so far I haven’t gotten depressed or manic. I feel like people are watching me waiting for my breakdown. I’m not going to lie I have gotten sad. Having cancer is sad. There have been some tears. Like the day it hit me that this was all real. I had really had cancer. It’s not just some weird dream.

That would be not to long before my second round of chemo. That was when my hair started to fall out. At first it was a little bit. I made a few jokes about it on Facebook. Then it was big handfuls. Brushes full. Then one day in the shower I felt I tickle on my back. It came out a lot in the shower, but this day I reached around and felt all the wet hair sticking to me. I was covered in hair. I had really thick hair to start with, so there was enough hair to make someone else a wig. I blow dried my hair after and when I was done I turned around and looked at my bathroom everything was covered in hair. I looked at how thin my hair now was and I broke down and cried. That is when it hit me that this was really happening to me.

So, I cried and then I called my Dad to tell him it was time to shave it. Hair was getting everywhere and it was getting on my nerves. My Dad came and picked me up. We went to a place that he found that sold wigs for cancers patients. He paid for it. It looks very real. Then we went to his house and he shaved my head. I picked myself up and brushed that hair off. Alright now that this is out of the way it is time to check back into the hospital and I had stuff to do.

People keep telling me they are inspired by how well I’m handling it. In my mind, a bipolar mind  how else am I suppose to handle it. Am I suppose to wallow in self pity? Am I suppose to get all depressed? Fuck that! I am a fighter. I always have been. If I can fight my own mind every day I can fight cancer. I having been fighting to survive my whole life. This time it’s my body not my mind.

Being bipolar has prepared for this. It had taught me to be strong. It has taught to fight for my life. It has taught me to pick myself up and keep going. ‘My story isn’t over yet’ has a new meaning. I’m not going down with out a fight.

I don’t know if you believe in God, but I do. I’m not here to preach. I am here to share my story. I believe God has a purpose for me. He always has. It is to help people. There has been a lot of ways I have done this in my life. I got hurt a lot trying to help people. So I stopped and put up emotional walls. I had just started trying again with this blog when I got diagnosed with cancer. I believe this is God’s purpose for me. Not only can I help people with mental illness, now I can people with cancer. Sharing my own personal experience. Talking to someone who has never been through it is helpful, but talking to someone who has gone through it is better. To try to explain how you feel to someone who has never felt it. I always think about the time I tried to explain to my psychologist what a manic episode felt like and compare it to the time I talked someone bipolar about what it felt like. Big difference! There have already been a few people I feel like I have been a able to help in at least a small way.

One of my nurses was telling me her daughter is bipolar. She was telling something her daughter was trying to explain to her about how she feels. The nurse said her daughter had too many voice talking to her at once. I said do you mean thoughts or voices. Big difference it what this poor girl has. It did turn out she meant racing thoughts. I explained that when you are manic that sometimes you have so many different thoughts at one time you can’t pick one train of thought. They are all going so fast and you can’t make them stop. I asked if her daughter ever talked so fast she thought she might pass out. She said all the time when she was a teenager. I told her she was manic. We talk so fast because we are trying to talk as fast as these thoughts are coming. We can’t keep up with them, but we feel we have to try. We talked about a few other things and she walked away understanding her daughter better. That is what I want to do with my life. That is my purpose.

I am a warrior. I am a survivor. If I can I’m not letting bipolar disorder take me down, then I’m sure not letting cancer.

1st Bald  2nd W/ the wig

 

Being Bipolar with Cancer…

My last blog was about finding out I have cancer a couple of months ago. I promised this one would be the more emotional side of it.

A lot of people my nurse navigator especially were worried about how I was going to handle this since I am bipolar. And everyone was very surprised that I’m just fine. I told my friend/boss last week that all the shit I have had to deal with in my life has prepared me for this. For once in my life being bipolar is a strength not a weakness.

When I first found out about the heart stuff I burst into tears and had a melt down. So, I got that out of the way before I found out the heart stuff was because I had cancer. I have always believed a good cry is important. So, when stuff falls apart I try to get it out of the way so I can move on and deal with it. When I got the call telling me I have lymphoma I cried a little then picked up the phone and made calls to my family. Also to my boss telling I wasn’t coming into work the next day. I think it’s understandable to not want to work the day after you find out you have cancer. Especially if the call came at 7 pm. That is not enough time to process that information before having to put on a smile and check people in at a doctors office.

So, I shed some tears when I called my family. The next day was really weird. I posted the news on Facebook and had people saying they were praying for me. All day it was like I was either numb or crying. I just didn’t feel real. My good friend Clare texted me. She can always make me laugh. After texting with her a bit I felt like me again. I went to work the next day. People were surprised by that. I had taken a lot of time off and had no PTO left. I needed to work. Big hospital bills were in my future.

Most people when they find out they have cancer I think what they are most afraid of is dying. I’m not afraid of death. I never have been. What I am most afraid of is losing everything I own because I can’t pay my medical bills. Before cancer I couldn’t pay my medicals bills. There is all this FMLA stuff for work. Short term disability and long term. Losing insurance at work and getting new insurance when I have cancer. All this stuff scared me more then dying. Our health care system in the USA makes dying a cheaper option then treating an illness.

At first my brain was on appointments and getting stuff done. Everything was moving so fast. They had to get me on chemo right away. It was literally life or death. I was talking to one of the nurses at work who had breast cancer a few years ago. I asked her when does it start to feel real. She said it is different for everyone. There were a few times it would start to feel that way, but then I would snap back into let’s just get this done.

At first I was distracted by complaining about how miserable I was after my surgery to put in the port and do a biopsy. I had a chest tube because they had to deflate my lung to get to the tumor. It hurt. I was a fall risk. I had to use the potty seat in the middle of the room with a nurse at my side. I have serve potty issues. I can’t pee if I think someone can hear me. It has gotten a little better in public restrooms, but it still takes a lot to get started if you know what I mean. I have issues with peeing in a cup. I once had a panic attack when I was a teen because they wanted me to pee in a cup. So, sitting in the middle of the room were anyone could walk in and a nurse at my side DID NOT GO WELL. They also kept waking me up to go pee after I took my Lithium. I don’t know if any of you have this problem, but if I take my Lithium and wake up too soon after I will throw up. So every time they woke me and sat me on the potty chair I would throw up and not pee. The nurse was getting upset that I wouldn’t pee and kept calling the doctor. She ended up doing an in and out catheter. I freaked the fuck out. Also, side note I was on Morphine. I was a on heavy drugs and tired. That’s when the crazy came out.

I was sobbing and begging her not to do it. When she said it was a done deal I told her I wasn’t doing it alone. So at 3 am I called my Dad to come to the hospital to hold my hand when they did an in and out catheter. I was so mean to that nurse because I was pissed. I never had problem peeing after surgery. If she had let me sleep I would have gotten up and peed just fine. I was so busy being drugged up and mad that I didn’t think about starting chemo the next week. I did learn Morphine and I don’t mix. Never again!

I will post more later…