Knowledge is power…

One thing about me is I love to learn. Not really in school even though there were a couple of subjects I liked. I guess you can say I have learned a lot about myself mostly.

When I was 11 and was diagnosed with depression I didn’t know what to do with that information. Back then we lived in a small town in North Carolina. The library was a small building which it shared with the Mayor’s office I think. It was a room really, but my Dad would take me there because I loved to read. I would go the kids section and get a giant stack of books to take home. Even though he didn’t like carrying all those books my Dad encouraged it because even though I loved it I always had trouble reading. It took a long time for me to learn to read. But once I started I never stopped.

It was in that library I started a very important journey. When I was 11 we were in there for our usual trip to the library. At that point I was old enough to venture out of the kids section. I found a section on psychology. I looked at some of the titles and found some on depression. It wasn’t a large section, but I found a couple as a kid I could understand.

Research and knowledge became my new best friends. When I found out at 14 I was really Bipolar I hit the books again. Even though I have not had any new diagnoses in this area since I was 14 I have not stopped researching. I have found some great books. You will see some of these books are dog ear’d and highlighted. A former co-worker was taking a psych class and knowing I am Bipolar she asked if I could recommend one for a paper she had to write. I brought her my favorite. It was highlighted, and had notes in the margins. (The Bipolar Disorder Survival guide by David Miklowitz, Phd.) She said the book was helpful, but my notes helped the most. I didn’t even hesitate to hand over something so personal because this is a person who wants to learn the truth. She wanted to know what people with bipolar disorder really go through. I also trusted her.

These books didn’t just teach about bipolar disorder or depression they also had tools to help me learn to get through it. My favorite of all the doctors I saw Dr. Curry she gave me a book I treasure. When I was a teenager I wanted to become a psychologist, ( I didn’t become one.) but thought I couldn’t because I was Bipolar. She disagreed with me. She said I would make a great psychologist and she being Bipolar had nothing to do with it. She gave me a book written by Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison. She was a professor of Psychiatry at John Hopkins School of Medicine and one of the foremost authorities on Bipolar Disorder (back when it was still called Manic-depression). She is also Bipolar. In the book she writes about her life and struggle with the illness. The first time I ever heard about Lithium was in her book. She talks about not being able to have morning classes when in medical school because Lithium made her throw up so badly. This book (An unquiet mind) taught me my illness is not a weakness unless I let it make me weak. This book and Dr. Curry’s belief in me lit the fire that has kept me going for years. I was able to stay strong and fight after reading about how she did it.

When I was younger the internet was not as good as it is now. Now you can find all this stuff online. I find new articles all the time. Sometimes my Dad will see stuff and email it to me. Strength is what keeps me going, but knowledge makes me strong. If there are any books or articles that have helped you please share them.

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Know your medications…

One very important thing when you take medications for mental illness is to know as much as you can about that medication. The medications prescribed for mental illnesses are normally very dangerous if you mix them with the wrong things. The pharmacy and your doctor will tell you things like no alcohol or caffeine. The problem with these medications is that not all doctors outside of this particular field know a lot about these drugs.

Recently my neurologist gave me Cambia for my migraines. She gave me 3 samples to try, and told me she would prescribe it if they work. It did and she called it in. I went to pick it up and the pharmacist told me it can cause Lithium toxicity in the blood when taken with Lithium. Which I do. She knew what I was taking. Why did she not check that before giving it to me?

My primary care doctor was in a car accident and is out for a while. So, yesterday I went and saw someone else in the practice. I was there for a cough. She asked me if I could take Zyrtec. She asked which antibiotics I can’t take with the Lithium. I’m pretty sure that is her job to look that up.

Once when I was really sick on a weekend I went to the CVS minute clinic. The PA prescribed Z-pack. I went to pick it up from the pharmacy and they told me it interacted badly with the Lithium. They called the PA and told her that. She said it was ok. I took it and had a bad reaction to it. Luckily I was at work that day since I work at a doctors office.

After the Z-pack interaction the doctor at work who helped me told me to follow up with my doctor. I did and she said never take anything anyone other then her gives me with out checking it out first. She had me download an App where I can program my medications and then just type in the one I want to take to see if there is an interaction. I did at first. Then I stopped doing it, because I trusted doctors to check first. That was my mistake. She was right. I am responsible for my own health.

I strongly recommend you download one of these Apps. If you take Lithium like I do there are a lot of things you can’t take. I took Cambia 3 times and it could have killed me. I talked to the doctor and we figured out if I don’t take it often or close to when I take my Lithium I should be okay. I can only take it if my migraines are a 3 or more on the pain scale and at work. This really made me see what my doctor was saying.

The best advice to people who take these kinds of medications is research and check for drug interactions. Because not all doctors are experts in these kinds of drugs. You would hope they would look it up because it’s there job, but you can’t trust that they will.

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Darkest moment…

First let me say sorry for not blogging in a couple days. Work, stress, & hurricane prep.

Everyone has had their dark moments. Depression takes you to some pretty dark places. When people share their moments some may be darker then others. You have to remember to that person it seemed like the end. No ones lowest moment is worse then someone else. That being said I wanted to share with you guys the darkest moment that I can remember having.

Unfortunately people with depression and Bipolar disorder do commit suicide. That is a very sad fact. As many times in my life I wished I was dead I only attempted it once. I’m not even sure if I was doing it on purpose. I am the youngest of three girls. When I was in high school the middle sister JLC (we will call her) was in college. She had come home to visit. My parents were going to drive her back. They wanted to know if I wanted to come with them so I could see her apartment. Now my sister is smart, beautiful, friendly, and always seemed perfect. She is everything I never thought I was or could be. I always got her teachers and they were always disappointed I wasn’t as a good student like JLC. You could say I was jealous of my sister. I didn’t want to go see her college apartment. Basically I was being a brat.

My sister is also sensitive. For example when the oldest and I fought as kids the middle sister would cry. We wouldn’t get in trouble for fighting. We would get in trouble for making JLC cry. When I said I didn’t want to see her apartment it hurt her feelings. So my parents called me out on being a brat. My emotional state as a teen was a very unpredictable. I could be fine one minute and then just breakdown for no reason in the next. So, when my parents got upset with me I got VERY upset myself. I started crying. I couldn’t stop crying. Every jealous thought and insecurity just got bigger.

I thought my parents hated and loved JLC more. I was going over in my head all the things about me they could hate. All the things I hated about myself. I remember not being able to stop crying. The pain seemed endless. I just wanted to die. The pain was just so bad I never thought it would end. My life seemed hopeless. I remember thinking I want it out of my head. I wanted the pain to stop and it was coming from my brain. I started hitting my head on the wall. I just started banging away. The compulsion just came out of no where, but I couldn’t stop. I wanted to stop, but I couldn’t. It felt like something had taken over my body. I just wanted all the pain to stop.

So, I sat crying and banging my forehead against the wall for I don’t know how long.  I remember my parents came up at some point. I think it was my Mom, because my Dad can’t get up the stairs very well. I think they came to see what the banging sound was. Which ever parent it was pulled me away from the wall. In my mind at the time they seemed more mad at me then worried. I could be wrong, but at the time obviously I was feeling like they hated me. I had a bump on my forehead, and I want to say a little blood. I can’t remember if that is right or not.

When I think about that night all I can think about is the pain. Not from my forehead. From my brain/heart. As bad as my depression has gotten I have only ever had that much pain one other time. That was last month. When I was depressed last month the pain I was feeling reminded me so much of that night. That is what got my attention that something was wrong. I called my Mom and talked to her. I made her aware about how dark I was feeling. She called and texted to check on me for a few days. I went into work even though I know that was not a state I needed to be in at work. I just didn’t trust myself to be alone. A few of my co-workers picked up on it. One took me aside and let me cry it out.

That amount of pain is something I will never forget. When I look back at that time when I was in high school I can’t help but think that was a stupid reason to get upset. If I had killed myself I think that would be the dumbest reason ever. But at the time that overwhelming pain and sadness made me want to die. It seemed like there was no hope left for me. I was worthless and nobody loved me. I was ashamed to even talk about this for a long time. With the many therapist I have seen when they ask have you ever tried to kill yourself I said no to most of them. I have talked about this with very few people, because I didn’t think they would understand.

Sometimes it feels like there is no hope left, but there is. Please remember that.

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My emotional tool box…

When I was sixteen I started seeing a psychologist and she was great. She left the practice to be with her kids more and came back later. While she was gone I saw another great psychologist. They were both very important in the change that would be coming in my life. They taught me so much. One thing they had in common was what they called an emotional tool box. They taught me how to use mine.

I am Bipolar II, and as you might know that comes with worst episodes of depression then the manic episodes. That is why I wasn’t diagnosed with Bipolar disorder at first. My episodes of depression have always been worse. They have been my main focus for most of my life. They seem to consume everything. My emotional tool box helped me learn how to deal with them.

I learned how to tell when I am depressed. Not always right away, but I do know the signs and can spot them. I learned to tell the difference between situational and chemical depression.  Once I knew which I was experiencing I knew which tools to use. If it was situational a funny movie or show to distract me. Listening to music. Talking to friends and family to work through what ever the problem was. Chemical is a lot harder and not as easy to get through. I am very lucky in the fact that I have always been a rational person. I’ve always been able to look at myself and see things how they are. This won’t work for everybody and it may only work for me. I remind myself that it is all in my head. That it is a episode that will pass. I just have to get through it. I remind myself when I think about wanting to die how selfish that is. That it will end my pain, but will cause my loved ones pain instead. I remind myself that I have lived through worse and I am still here. It is a constant dialogue in my head. It is kind of like talking someone down I guess, but you are doing it for yourself. I also share with someone what I am going through. It is normally one of my parents. I live alone so it is good to make someone aware I am in a bad place. They call and check on me. My Mom will stop by. I can’t stress enough how important it is to let someone in your life know that you are having a hard time.

These tools have helped me so much. I went from feeling helpless to feeling like I had some control in this mess. Those wonderful ladies gifted me with the tools that have gotten me through life. They are the ones to who taught me about this concept, but I’m the one who came up with the tools. They are all things I figured out on my own with guidance from them of course. Between these tools and the medication I was put on at the time I became me again. My personality was back. I was spending time with friends again, I started taking care of my neighbors kid after she got off the bus. She has become a great friend and a little sister to me. I started dating. I felt like I could breath again.

I had hope for the first time in so long. I want everyone to have that hope. To find themselves again. Start your tool box. Find the tools that will help you cope with your depression. Everyones tools are different. What works for me may not work for you. There is one thing I will tell you that you need most. Do not do it alone. You can do all the work, but let someone know you are suffering. A therapist, a friend, a spouse, or family member it doesn’t matter. Just don’t try to handle it all on your own. That is setting yourself up to fail, because being alone just makes the things in your head seem true.

Things I don’t want to remember…

In my late twenties maybe early thirties memories would just pop into my mind from my teenage years. Something would come up and all of a sudden I would remember. “Where did that come from?” Also friends and family would tell me things I didn’t remember ever happening. I talked to my therapist about it and she said she thinks my mind hid things from me I couldn’t handle. I guess I kind of suppressed memories from the hardest time of my life.

A little bit of background info will help you understand. My parents first started noticing weird behaviors when I was a kid. Especially after we moved to North Carolina when I was turning eight. One thing my Mom said they thought was weird was I would go sit in my closet in the dark and cry.  I would stay in there for hours. Sometimes I would bring a pillow and my teddy bear. Not normal at all. My mother has depression and my Dad was trying to help her through it. He read up a lot about depression and he started to notice these things sounded a lot like what I was going through. When I was eleven he took me to our family doctor. She agreed with him that it was depression and my journey began.

I struggled for a few years to find the right doctors and the right medication. When I was fourteen I started seeing a new psychiatrist. I felt comfortable enough with her to really open up. I told her things I never told the other doctors. After a session one day she had me sit in the waiting room and talked to my Dad alone. They brought me in to tell me I am Bipolar. Everything changed. I was on the worst medication for that. We were looking at everything in a whole new way. I also had to confess to my parents I wasn’t sleeping at night.

The hormones of puberty and Bipolar disorder don’t mix well. Those times are the ones my mind is trying to hide from me. At that time I had started high school. I also had learning disabilities and social anxiety. Freshman year was so hard that I had a breakdown. I just couldn’t function. It was the start of a downward spiral from there. The next year or so I couldn’t leave the house with out my Dad. If I did I would have a panic attack. Sometimes even with him there. Once my parents were buying new cars and we were there too long. I had a panic attack. It’s fuzzy but I think my Dad drove me home and then went back to the dealership.

These memories that I seem to be missing or just getting back all come from that time in my life. The one that upset me the most is one I still don’t remember at all. My sister tends to make up her own stories. One day she told me the reason my parents home schooled me those last 3 years was because Mom was afraid I might turn out like my uncle. He had a really hard time at school as well. That and some other emotional issues he turned to drugs and overdosed on his youngest sons 1st birthday. I thought my sister was making shit up again, so I asked my Mom. My Mom said my sister is nuts. When she told me the real reason it freaked me out. She said I came home one day from school and told my parents a senior had put me in a trash can. (I’m only 4’9). I was so upset and they were too. So, with everything that I was already struggling with they thought it best to home school me. I DO NOT remember any of this. I have searched and searched my brain. Nothing! How could I forget something like that?!

The brain is a funny thing. I’ve heard of people suppressing traumatic memories, but high school because it sucked. Never. Why that stuff? I tried to kill myself at 15 or 16, but I remember that clearly. It sometimes worries me not knowing what my brain is trying to protect me from. Maybe it’s best I don’t remember. So far the things that have come back or I have been told I have dealt with just fine.  I’m stronger then I was back then. Maybe that’s why they are starting to come back now. I don’t know, but whatever comes back I’m ready to handle it.

Has this happened to anyone else?

Let’s not talk about it…

I was talking to a co-worker today and the subject of not being able to tell people about being mentally ill came up. Which is funny because that was what I was going to post about today anyway. In this world being mentally ill is viewed as something to ashamed of. Something you shouldn’t talk about. It makes people uncomfortable. Well, guess what being Bipolar makes me uncomfortable.

When I was a preteen/teenager I did my best to hide what I was going through. It wasn’t because I thought it was none of anyones business. It was because the first thing someone thinks of when you say Bipolar is a crazy person. They think of the way it is portrayed in the media. I know I did when I was diagnosed. I hid what I was going through so I wouldn’t be judged. My life was falling apart and no one knew what I was going through. Even my friends and family didn’t know how to handle it. I put on my mask and went to school everyday. After failing 9th grade my parents home schooled me for the rest of high school. To this day I believe that if I could have put the energy into getting better instead of putting on a good face I don’t think I would have had that breakdown.

Once I confided in my manager about being Bipolar. Sometime later I found out from two friends/co-workers that when they were hired she told them to not get on my bad side because I have Bipolar mood swings. They told me this because we were talking about first impressions. They said they were scared of me at first because she told them this. My co-workers thought it was funny because I’m such a nice person. I was so mad I couldn’t think straight. Not only was that offensive and a lie, but it is also illegal to tell other employees my medical history. I have stated in my other blogs I am non confrontational, but I felt I had to stand up for myself. I reported her to the district manager. Nothing happened. She cried and they promoted her.

I am NOT ashamed of who I am or that I have Bipolar disorder. I am a survivor and I have no problem telling people who want know my story. I have fought a long hard war with my sanity. It is a war you can’t win, but you can win some of the battles. I have won so many battles. There are so many times I wanted and wished to die. I even tried once, but I am still here. I am not ashamed of that. I want people to know how strong I am. If someone wants to hear my story I will gladly tell it.

Mental illness is horrible and people suffer everyday with things some people can’t even imagine. Do not make it worse for them by making them feel they have to hide behind a mask. If we meet and you tell me you have an illness of any kind I will sit and get to know you for who you are. No judgement unless you are an asshole.

Do you ever feel like you can’t tell people you are Bipolar?

The just do it people…

I’m sure we have all encountered these people in our lives. Some are family and some are friends even. I call them ‘The Just Do It’ people. When your anxiety is keeping you from doing something these people will look at you and say ‘just do it’. When you are depressed they say ‘stop being sad’. They are the people who think Bipolar disorder and anxiety is a choice. It is just something you can turn off.

The thing that has always bugged me the most about these people is they would never say that to someone with any other kind of illness. Just make your heart start working again. Tolerate sugar better. Stop dying of cancer. Bipolar disorder is an illness just like heart disease , cancer, or diabetes. We can’t stop being sick just like they can’t. But people do think mental illness is something you can just stop.

‘Be more positive.’ That is something I hear a lot. ‘If you were more positive you wouldn’t be depressed.’ Yes, I choose to look at the darker side of life to the point where I want to die. That is something I CHOOSE to do. If I could think happy thoughts don’t you think I would. Trust me I want to stop obsessing over all the miserable things about my life. I don’t enjoy being so depressed that I can’t even get up to feed myself or use the bathroom. I have never understood how people could think we are doing this on purpose. Like we could be all better if we wanted to.

I have two older sisters. The oldest has always been the biggest ‘Just do it’ person in my life. She has said on more then one occasion I don’t understand why you don’t just do it. It’s one thing to not understand, but she has never even tried. I had a conversation the other day with her and she doesn’t even know what type of Bipolar disorder I have. Or that there is more then one. I offered to give a book once that had stuff highlighted and notes about what I go through. She never got around to reading it. My other sister never talked to me about it until I was in my thirties. Her friend at work told her about his wife who is Bipolar. They were having a really hard time. I was at her house babysitting her kids and she started asking me questions. It was a really good talk. I felt really good about it when I went home. I feel like she understands me a little better now.

There are always going to be people who don’t understand. It is going to be frustrating and sad. As many times as I have thought I wish they could walk a mile in my shoes I have stopped myself. I would never want even a person I hate to suffer through what I have. I don’t wish that on anyone. I’m sorry they don’t understand, but I do. Other people out there do. You are not alone. Never let those people make you feel like your problems are a quick and easy fix you just won’t fix. Don’t listen to the ‘Just do it’ people of this world.

Do you have people like that in your life?Anxiety-and-Depression-900x719.jpg