Walk of Hope

Two blogs in one night!!

I was already planning to do the blog I just posted, but I wanted to talk about this too. Last Sunday I did the Walk of Hope. For the last 30 years in the city of Raleigh they do a 5 K for charity. What cause is it you ask, mental illness. The company my Dad works for has been one of the sponsors for years. He said it never occurred to him to actually sign up before. My excuse is I didn’t know anything about it. This year he signed us both up.

It was held at a very popular restaurant here in Raleigh, North Carolina. The place has a lot of room for booths, games for kids, and food. The booths were different places like NAMI and psychiatric places. One was the places was where I go to get my medication. There was also a mental health man that is the creepiest superhero ever. He gave me a lollipop that I didn’t eat. People could eat and play games while they waited for the 5 K to start.

Exercise is not my thing, but I have always liked walking. It clears your head you know. It was two of my favorite things walking and hanging out with my Dad. We walked all 5 miles. I am so proud of us. They said we could turn back anytime we wanted to. There were cars that would pick people up. My Dad asked me a few times if I wanted to turn around, but I wanted to do the whole thing.

I put on my Walk for Hope t-shirt and proudly walked those 5 miles. It was for a good cause. One I truly believe doesn’t get enough attention. The money went to help people with mental illness and our walk was on the news. People saw us standing up and saying people with mental illness need help. No more shame and whispers! Let’s talk about mental illness. We are not helping anyone by not talking about it.

I swear my jaw dropped a couple of weeks ago. A former coworker of mine had gone on the news to talk about suicide because her husband committed suicide this past year. She wanted to talk about it so she could help other people. I only know that she did this because another coworker brought it up. “She wanted to talk about what happened to her husband.” Her words. One of the new girls asked what happened to him. I said he committed suicide. My coworker telling the story says ‘shh don’t talk about that’. Jaw drop. WTF! Is that not the point of you telling us this. She wants to talk about her husbands suicide to help others. Not talking about it doesn’t help anyone.

Not talking about it makes people feel ashamed. If they feel like they have something to be ashamed of they won’t go and get the help they need. We should talk about it. She had no idea her husband was suicidal because he didn’t talk to her about it. Her husband is gone and her daughter doesn’t have a Father because he didn’t feel like he could talk to someone about his pain.

The Walk of Hope is a good way for people to start to talk about it. This is 2018 we aren’t locking the mentally ill in attics, prisons, and horrible hospitals anymore. We have so much more knowledge then we used to. We have medications that work. What we don’t have is an open dialogue about it. We have people who need help, but don’t know how to get it. They can’t ask because we aren’t allowed to talk about it.

All the people who came for the Walk of Hope gave me hope that things are changing for the better.

Too young to be this mature…

There are people who circumstances in their lives have caused them to grow up faster then they should. Health issues like mental illness can be one of those circumstances. I know it was for me. Not that being mature at a young age is all bad. I’m glad I got to make decisions about my own life. I was talking to a coworker last night about a 9 year old girl diagnosed with Schizophrenia, and how horrible it was that this girl won’t get to have a childhood. Her life went from dolls & sleepovers to doctors & pills.

I was young when I started suffering from depression. I was diagnosed at 11, but I had been suffering for longer then that. There are a lot of things I feel like I missed out on. I also had to make decisions about my life and future that kids shouldn’t have to make.

I had friends that I spent time with for the most part. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I started pushing them away. There were normal kid things I couldn’t do. One example was sleepovers. My anxiety would never let me do sleepovers at someone else house. At first I would just be really anxious and not enjoy myself. Then I started calling my parents to come pick me up because I was feeling sick (from anxiety). Then I just stopped going. I feel like anxiety caused by depression kept me from enjoying a lot of things until the point were I just stopped doing them.

My sister has never really understood what I go through and most of the time doesn’t seem to care. One time she was giving me a ride home after a family event and the subject of having kids came up. This was one of the few times my sister would say she was proud of me in relation to anything I’ve done about my mental illness. You see when I was young I saw an episode of the show ‘ER’. On the show a one of the nurses had a Mother who was Bipolar. The Mother was played wonderfully by Sally Field. The nurse was talking about how hard her childhood was growing up with a Mother who was Bipolar. Sally’s character stopped taking her medication to have her two children and never went back on them. Which we all know happens a lot.

That really made me think. I asked my psychiatrist about it. He said doctors do not recommend women who are Bipolar to have children for that reason. After a lot of thinking I made the decision that I was not going to have children. I was only 15 years old at this time.

Now here is my reasoning behind this. First off I would have to go off my medication. I don’t want to go off my medication. It makes me better. Then if I’m off my medication I’m going to be depressed and manic plus pregnancy hormones. Pregnancy hormones make women crazy enough I’m pretty sure you would have to lock up one who was already crazy before the hormones. If you don’t get back on your meds then what kind of parent can you really be.

Even if you are able to think clearly enough to say hey I want back on my medication now there was still one thing I know that would kill me. Passing this shit down to my kids and grandkids. My parents had to watch me suffer and I had to watch them suffer too. Think about it, the reason I have gone through the Hell I have gone through is because of them. My Father has Bipolar disorder on his side of the family and my Mother has depression on hers. I get my crazy from them. They had to watch me be tortured by my own mind since I was 7 years old and not be able to do anything to stop it. They couldn’t stop it and it came from them. When you love someone as much as a parent loves their child it is excruciating to know that you had something to do with their pain.

I know it’s not there fault. But how can you not blame yourself. I know that I would blame myself. Just thinking about the possibility of passing it down to my child breaks my heart. I don’t want another child to go through this especially my own. There is a GOOD chance my child would have some mental illness. I worry everyday about my nieces and nephew.

As far as I know on my Father’s side of the family his grandmother and aunt were Bipolar. My Dad has been diagnosed by one doctor with Bipolar disorder, but told it’s just depression by another. My mother has depression. I think her mother had something most likely depression. Her brother had depression, learning disabilities, & substance abuse problems. He died of an overdose on his youngest sons 1st birthday. Her other brother joined a cult and is weird. I’m not sure if he has a mental illness, but I wouldn’t be surprised. His cult doesn’t believe in that stuff so we will never know. My oldest sister has anxiety. (She claims that’s why she is a bitch.)

So, the percentage is pretty high that the next generation will be crazy. I think I made the right call. Back to the story I was telling about my sister. She said she was proud of me for making such a tough decision when I was so young.

When I was 23 years old and was told I couldn’t have kids because of my PCOS I was okay with that because I already made that decision. At 36 years old I cry every time someone I know has a baby. I mean on the bathroom floor ugly cry. Even though I made the right decision it was my choice. My choice got taken away from me and that is what hurts. At least when it was my decision I felt strong, but now I just feel broken. God apparently agreed with me about the whole kid thing. I still want to be a Mom. I hope someday I will have enough money to adopt a child or two. They will be loved. I will also be on my medication, so my crazy will be toned down a lot. I’m not perfect I will be still a little crazy, but in that embarrassing Mom way. Like mine.

I didn’t want to grow up that fast, but I did. It took a lot of strength to be that mature at such a young age. It takes a lot of strength to still be that mature.

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Mentally healthy or physically healthy

Why is that something anyone should have make a choice about? I have asked myself that many times over the years. I have had this conversation with more than one psychiatrist/psychologist. The medications we take have harmful side effects. Some are simple ones like body acne or dry mouth. But there are some that can cause some serious stuff.

I was on Depakote from 16 yrs old to 23 yrs old. My doctor gave me all the normal warnings about side effects. I got lab work done on a regular basis for my liver and kidneys. They do a lot of studies on medications. Some big and some small. Sometimes doctors don’t always know if they should mention some of them when prescribing these medications. When I was 23 I went to my regular doctor about red marks I had all over my body. The nurse asked the normal questions. When was your last period? 4 months ago. My doctor who has known me since middle school comes in and says “Did you tell the nurse you haven’t had a period in 4 months?” She knows I wasn’t sexually active so obviously that was something she was concerned about. I just thought it was awesome not to have a period for 4 months. She did blood work that told a very interesting story.

My thyroid levels were so low it was barely working. My Progesterone levels were almost nonexistent. The red marks were internal bruises caused from my white blood cells attacking my platelets and making them burst. I now have a hyperimmune system. The Depakote was causing my Endocrine system to shutdown. It also caused Polycystic ovary syndrome. My Dad came with me to talk to my psychiatrist about it because my primary doctor thought it was the Depakote. When we told him what was happening to me he said there was one small study done where when Depakote was given to teenage girls that this happened. I started Depakote at 16 yrs old.

I took Thyroid medication for years and now that is under control. It is always low normal, but it is normal. When ever I am stressed or am exposed to a lot of germs my immune system will over react and start attacking me instead of germs. I also can’t have kids. It was a small study and years later they did a bigger study. My Dad had a coworker whose 16 yr daughter was Bipolar. They put her on Depakote. My Dad told this man to have them also check her hormone levels after what happened to me. Sure enough after only a few months on it her hormones levels started to drop just like mine.

I was very happy on Depakote. I pulled my life together and accomplished so much. It is a great drug for treating Bipolar disorder. There were a lot of benefits from it. When I tell this story people ask if I think it was worth going through all of this just for the benefits I got for 7 yrs. Yes. Yes, I do. There was a very bright light at the end of the tunnel for 7 yrs. I grew as a person. The mental anguish I had suffered with for so long had lessened. My friends were seeing my face again for the first time in so long. I got a job, made new friends, and got my drivers license. I felt human again. Life didn’t seem impossible anymore.

Lithium has pretty crappy sided effects. Also you can’t do or take anything. But it helps me in more ways then anything I have taken. I can’t go out in the sun or do anything that could cause me to get overheated. Including drinking a hot beverage. No more really hot showers. No caffeine or alcohol. The only thing I can take for pain is Tylenol. Every doctor I go to thinks I’m difficult to prescribe medication for. The list of things you can take with Lithium is shorter then the list of things you can’t take. But do I think it is worth it? Yes.

I made a decision a long time ago that I would rather be mentally healthy then physically healthy. Why? Because if you are physically healthy, but can’t enjoy it then what is the point? To me being of healthy mind is more important then a healthy body. If I can’t have both I choose healthy mind.

The things these medications do to us suck,  but when I am on them I have a lot more days where I don’t want to kill myself.

Now I just want to say that even though I don’t regret going on the Depakote, I don’t recommend any teenage girls going on it. My experience also helped someone else. My Dad’s coworkers daughter would have gone through all of this if I hadn’t already gone through and my Dad was able to warn them. The new studies prove that this happens a lot. There is a link between teenage girls taking Depakote and PCOS.  I don’t regret it, but I don’t recommend it. Depakote is a great medication, just not if you are a teenage girl.

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A great support system..

Everyone needs a great support system. I am very lucky that my parents have always been supportive. Mental illness runs in my family unfortunately for all of us. My Mother suffers from depression. I’m not sure when she started having symptoms, but from things we have talked about it seems like we were around the same age. My Dad thinks she suffered postpartum depression. She disagrees, but that is not important. Because of his concerns he started reading up on depression. In trying to help my Mom he also helped me. When he was reading about depression he started to realize that I was suffering from it as well.

Both of my parents are very supportive, but I have to say I don’t think I would be where I am in life if it wasn’t for my Dad. He never gave up. As hard and time consuming as it was he never stopped trying to help me. The most important thing was he always listened to me. If I didn’t feel comfortable or didn’t like one of the doctors we would find another. I went to a lot of different doctors until I found one that worked best for me. We both loved her.

My Dad made sure I took my medication. We even tried different natural treatments he read about. By the way St. John’s Wart smells like a dirty fish tank and doesn’t help with depression. When one medication didn’t work we were ready to try the next.

There was this one doctor I saw I don’t remember his name, but my Dad I and both thought he looked like Nikita Khrushchev with a beard. (I was homeschooled and we were studying Russia.) I didn’t feel like he listened to me when I was talking. Also he picked his nose during a session (Gross!). I stopped seeing him, but had not found another doctor yet. I was taking Effexor at the time and it ran out. My Dad asked for a refill and he said no. It is a big mistake to tell a parent that you are going to let their child run out of medication which will put their health in jeopardy. Especially my Dad who is super protective and has a brother who is a malpractice attorney. He gave me a refill.

Since I was having a lot of trouble finding a psychologist I liked, when we decided to try the one my psychiatrist recommended my Dad went to the first appointment alone. He wanted to meet her first and get a feel of what she is like. I remember her telling me once she remembers that appointment very well. LOL! My Dad is hard to forget. He was the perfect combination of support. He gave me space to do it my self, but would step in when I needed him. He still does.

In some ways my Dad is my super hero. It is hard to fight alone, but I’m lucky because I know he will always fight with me. Our relationship isn’t perfect, but no parent/child relationship is. One thing I do know is that my Dad loves me. I know that he will always support me and is proud of me. My parents are my biggest support system. I am thankful for them everyday. Even at 35 years old when I feel like having a melt down I know I can call one of them and they will help me get through it.

One of the things I want to accomplish with this blog is to help people that don’t have support system. I want to help people find one. With me or with each other. I don’t want anyone to go through this alone.

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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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