Monday, April 29, 2013

I fear my posts are doomed to be boring...

I just don''t know what to write about personally in my life right now...I mean I'm doing well on my medications, I'm getting along with my husband, the kids are all doing good...that's not the stuff fascinating posts are made of.

So what do I do? I find articles about bipolar disorder and offer those up. I know eventually I'll cycle, I mean it's bound to happen, and then I'll have stories to share, but right now I feel stifled. There's so much in me that wants to come out, but I don't know how to get it out.

I guess it just takes time to get to the point where you know what to say, and how to say it well. I just need to find that spot...hopefully it'll be soon. :)

Thanks for everyone who sticks with me and keeps coming back to see what else I've added. Feel free to subscribe so you get regular update if you like my blog. And I love comments, so if you have something to share, I'd love to hear it! Who knows, maybe your comment could spark something in me to write about! So please, be an active participant here, that's what I ultimately want to see happen.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Stomping out stigma!

May is Mental Health Month, and I'm trying to do my part in helping stomp out stigma!


Sorting through my feelings...

I'm a bit down tonight, and haven't quite figured out why. Things at home are going well, the kids are healthy, the husband is healthy, and I'm stable. My blog and facebook page are exceeding my wildest dreams for interest and participation from people. And maybe that's what is tripping me up. I am terrified of failure, it's why I so rarely step out of my comfort zone and try new things...but I'm petrified of success as well, and if I manage to create a successful blog, then wow!, that would mean I can do things and be successful, and trying to believe that would be a huge paradigm shift for me.

How do I overcome these feelings of inadequacy? It's something I'm working on in therapy, but right now it's got me tripped up. I'm looking at my blog and thinking to myself, "This doesn't matter in the least to anyone, I'm not helping change the world view with my little blog." Hell, I'm not even on the radar for changing the world view and helping decrease the stigma of bipolar disorder. But, and this is what my therapist keeps challenging me with...what if I'm wrong? What if there are actually people reading this and coming away feeling more hope, more power, or more edified? If you are one of those people, least acknowledge it somewhere on my blog, lol. Rate a reaction, leave a comment, even become a subscriber because if I've impacted you, I'd love to know it.

Speaking of people who impact our lives, I think what's got me down today is one of my best friends lost her daughter earlier this week. I'm just devastated over the pain my friend is going through and the fact that I can't take it away. And she's so intricately tied to my advocacy role for mental illness, because this is the friend that pushed and finally convinced me that what I had to say WAS important, and that my story could help somebody, somewhere. She said I had the power in me to not only write a great book, but to become a public speaker for the mentally ill, that I could proudly be a face for bipolar disorder. She inspired me so much that I started going to the NAMI groups, joined the NAMI board in my county, and I started taking classes to become a certified NAMI instructor.

She did so much for me in just that year's time (we're both so busy, we only manage to get together a couple times a year), and now when she needs help the most, I cant give it to her. I hate feeling so impotent and weak when there should be *something* I can do. I feel trapped and helpless watching her go through this loss.

If you've stuck around to this point and are of a prayerful sort, send out a prayer to my dear friend Tomi, that she may be comforted during this time of trial in her life, and I think you'll be blessed for it.

I know this is my most rambling post yet, but I had some emotions I needed to sort through, and I want to share what I go through with the world so you too can see what the inner working of a bipolar patient's mind looks like at times. Hopefully you weren't bored to tears by this post, and hopefully I'll be over this writer's block soon and can start adding interesting posts again soon!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

So what, exactly, is mental illness?

What is mental illness?

A mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person's thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are medical conditions that often result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life.

Serious mental illnesses include major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder. The good news about mental illness is that recovery is possible.

Mental illnesses can affect persons of any age, race, religion or income. Mental illnesses are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing. Mental illnesses are treatable. Most people diagnosed with a serious mental illness can experience relief from their symptoms by actively participating in an individual treatment plan.

I think this definition sums it up nicely, don't you? Do you have a better definition? Please let us know in the comments!

What if I'm wrong?

That's the question my therapist challenged me with yesterday. What if all the assumptions and perceptions I have about myself are wrong? What if everything I see in a negative light is actually a positive and I've been to dense to see it? Just the thought of it fills me with this sick sense of dread and feelings of panic. It's almost as if some part of me deep, deep down knows she's right, which would mean everything I've dealt with and felt over the last 6 years has been a lie.

Just thinking about it that way makes me want to keel over and wail with grief at all the things I missed out on over the last few years. I'm not doing that, but part of me wants to. So how do I start challenging these thoughts I have about myself? Of course the first step is asking myself 'What if I'm wrong?", but then what? Will it eventually turn to, "I'm not thinking this through rationally, I'm probably seeing things the wrong way?". All I know is right now I'm terrified to over analyze my beliefs about the world. .

I feel so unprotected and weak at the moment, I don't want one more thing to come out and knock me down and back into a depression. And I don't know why, but I feel like this could be the hardest challenge I've ever attempted, and it has the power to be so. Why this? Why not talking about all the abuse I went through as a child? Maybe THAT will be worse, my therapist says I haven't really dealt with any of that at all.

All I know right now is that all this psychoanalysis of Tricia is wearing me down. I leave therapy feeling exhausted from trying to think, and frustrated because I feel like I'm not making any progress. I get nervous before therapy because I'm unsure about what emotions are going to be dredged up. I worry about being pushed too far and ending back up in the hospital, and then I worry that maybe that would be best because there at least I'd be able to work on these issues even harder and maybe get more accomplished. I feel guilty even admitting that because no normal person wants to be in the hospital, right? I guess that makes me certifiably crazy then.

I learned another question that was good to ask in situations is "Will this hold up in a court of law?" The problem with that is I have a nagging in the back of my head screaming "Reasonable doubt! Reasonable doubt!", so it's hard to use that one with my life and wondering if I'm seeing things as they actually are.

So, the question of the day today (and probably for many tomorrows) is, "What if I'm wrong?" How would you feel if presented with this question. Please, leave your response in the comments below.

Monday, April 22, 2013

We're only as sick as our secrets...

I heard this a lot when I was in the hospital. The therapists there taught us that sharing the things we had hidden in the deepest recesses of our hearts could help us heal. I was super skeptical at first, but as I opened up and talked about the things in my past that had been buried away, I actually started to feel...different. I felt emotions again. Well...*one* emotion. And it sucked. I hated how sad I felt, and it was a crushing sadness. I had no idea how long it would last, but if that was what happened when you opened up to try and let the inner hurt out, well...I figured I could live without it, especially if it was going to leave me a crying mess all the time. And we were pushed to our limits to feel and acknowledge our emotions, and to open up, and to discuss things. I was no small source of frustration to one of the therapists because I simply couldn't open up and talk about things. She would push and push and try to make me feel, but I couldn't do it. Not in front of a group of people. If I was going to lose control, I'd do it in private, thank you very much.

As much as it sucked, it was incredibly therapeutic and I discovered that I had to be pushed into emotional turmoil if I were ever going to make any progress on 'fixing' me. And once I told the therapists, they did all they could to help keep me working hard on issues that were incredibly difficult to work through...because I was in a safe place, and if it triggered too much, I would be okay. I begged my outpatient therapist to push me just as hard, but she won't for liability reasons. She said she is willing to push me, but not like they did because she has to make sure I'm safe when I leave her office, whereas I wasn't going anywhere in the hospital and I could be pushed harder.

But here I am, nearly a month later, and the intensity of the sadness faded, and other emotions have been felt as well. I've felt excitement at going out with girlfriends for lunch, I've felt happiness at being with my husband, joy at watching my youngest learn to walk...there are still times when I feel sad, but it's not that deep dark sadness that I felt at first.

Letting out your secrets is a hard and painful thing to do. My therapist has me doing a lot of writing for her, and she also has me working out of a DBT workbook for bipolar patients. The last writing assignment she gave me was harder than I'd expected it to be. She wanted me to write a letter to my schemas, (for those of you who don't know, a schema is basically  belief that you have about the world that is severely skewed in a negative light, which affects your thoughts and actions; it's also called a life-trap) and explain how they made me felt. I know my top 6, and I wrote to all of them. It was a painful process.

My main schemas include mistrust/abuse, social isolation, defectiveness/shame, self-sacrifice, unrelenting standards, and insufficient self control. I won't go into what those all mean here, because I don't see any point to it. I don't like that I have these life traps which affect my thought processes and perceptions about the world. I'm especially frustrated that I don't know how to fix them myself and that I have to rely on my therapist to help me work through them.

 I want to be able to do it on my own because that's just who I am. I help other people with their problems, and I handle my own stuff myself. If I can't fix myself, then that must mean it was meant to stay broken. This is the attitude I had for the longest time, but it's recently began to change to where I can accept that if I've tried and tried to fix it, then maybe it's okay after all to ask for help. I just hate asking for help when I don't know what help I need.

So are we really only as sick as our secrets? I was a disbeliever at first, but now that I've started sharing my some of my 'secrets' with people I trust...(like my husband, my therapist, my church leader), I've noticed a difference. Some have been eye-opening in your face changes in me, and others have been more subtle. I think I can agree that we're only as sick as what we're hiding on the inside, and getting it out into the be laid bare for all to see, can be one of the best healing steps of all.

Friday, April 19, 2013

It's hard being a mom some's hard being ME some days...

So I'm reading this book that my neighbor let me borrow, and it's triggered a lot of feelings and emotions in me. I'm only half of the way through, but so far it's been mostly guilt over how crappy of a mom I am some days.

I'm reading it, and the main character talks about how she watches her mom have peppy days, and then dark days, and I empathize with her, a lot. Mainly because my kids have to suffer through my up and down days, and it's only been the last few weeks that they've had any semblance of what a normal mum should be. My kids had to deal with a mum that couldn't get out of bed, and if she did, it was only to go downstairs and collapse on the couch and sleep some more. That's what they put up with for weeks upon weeks before I was admitted this last time. I'm seeing my therapist twice a week at the moment, and she's constantly inquiring if I've taken my meds that day or not, and chewing on me hard if I haven't because that's what did me in this last time...I'd been off my meds for 4 months prior to going inpatient.

So back to this book and the feelings it evokes...I've been told that I am entirely too analytic for my own good, and that side of me gets in the way of me tapping into my emotions. Well, I don't know if I was doing much analyzing today as I was reading, because I felt lots of things. I feel so strongly for both the mum and the daughter because I relate to them both. I remember being a teenager and being so out of control and not having any idea what was wrong with me and why I couldn't control my emotions. I most definitely relate to being inpatient in the psych ward. But I also relate to being a bipolar mum, and my kids suffering because I'm the one raising them. I get the terrified feelings of panic, the despisal of self because you're lashing out at your kids and you don't want to, and you don't mean it, but the words or actions come out anyway. I understand the seemingly unendurable weight of depression, and the fog you're in, where nothing can spark interest in your life, and there's no meaning to your existence, so why keep going?

Maybe I'm being too hard on myself, I've also been told that I'm entirely too overcritical of myself, but I feel like I'm constantly failing my children. There's no empirical proof of this, (I think)...I mean they are fed, bathed, clothed, and hugged and loved on, but I'm not taking them to the park everyday, or I'm not consistently taking them to story time at the library. I don't sit and read books with them for hours at a time. I feel like I'm not doing a good job teaching them about our religion or about the Bible and those stories. There are so many ways I feel like I'm letting them down, and I can't get over the crushing guilt of that.

I hate myself when I'm having a dark day, as this author puts it. I hate it when my dark days spread into weeks, then into months, and then me ending up in the hospital for weeks at a time. It's a vicious cycle that I fear will never end. I just want to be that 'Leave it to Beaver' mother who has fresh baked cookies waiting for her kids when they get home from school, who participates in the PTA meetings, who can honestly have dinner on the table when Dad gets home from work, AND have the house looking spotless 99% of the time. But that's just not me.

I'm lucky if 2 out of 3 of the main rooms are clean, and I try to keep the living room presentable at all times. I despise cleaning and am currently decluttering my house so it's easier to keep clean. I'm also a terrible cook, so many nights it's either my husband grilling something up, or else it's something out of the freezer for the kids. I struggle with keeping up with laundry, I can't ever stay on top of it because I get bored, or overwhelmed, and it will simply sit, in piles waiting for someone to get to it. The dishes are probably my biggest nemesis, and thankfully that's a chore that's been handed over to the oldest.

I just feel like such a failure because I have let my kids down so many times. For example, during my last depressive episode my oldest wanted to go to the pet store. Just to look around for a little while. I couldn't do it. Every day she would come home because I'd promised to take her, and I'd have to let her down and tell her mommy was too sick to go that day, maybe later. We still haven't made it to the pet shop. My middle two seem to be the least fazed by my episodes right now, my 5 year old can control the TV, and anything she or her brother need, she'll get without any assistance from me. As I stated in my earlier post, the one who I feel suffered the most was my baby.

I had an impossibly rough and traumatizing pregnancy with her, coupled with severe postpartum depression. I never really 'snapped out of it' with that, and I longed to give the baby up for adoption. I had a hard time bonding with her....for 13 months I couldn't bond with my youngest. I cried a lot over having that fourth baby, it felt like such a burden to our family, and I felt it was all my fault for getting pregnant. Maybe one day I'll post about the struggles my kids dealt with while I was pregnant with her because I was a zombie. I was on and off bedrest, I had gestational diabetes, and I was unmedicated for my bipolar disorder. It was a perfect storm of traumas to leave anyone spent and exhausted.

So she is born and becomes daddy's little girl. I had no interest in her. I tended to her basic needs, but I didn't interact with her like she needed because I just couldn't find it in me to get worked up about her. I wish I'd sought help for this sooner, maybe then I wouldn't feel so guilty now, but it wasn't until I was in the hospital and had time to process things that I was able to come to terms with my emotions and ambivalence towards her. Now, nearly a month later, you'd never have known we had a difficult relationship. Fortunately for me I have very forgiving children and when I opened my heart up to her, she welcomed me with open arms into her heart as well. I was truly blessed to have that occur.

Now that I'm stable, I am doing more of the things I like with my kids. We go to the park, we play outside, we read Scriptures and have story time. I'm better about keeping the house picked up, and I'm better about being more loving with my kids. That's the part I feel they miss out on most. Consistently having a mother that shows her love for them in so many tender ways. Because I can't be that mother when I'm not stable. No matter how hard I try and how hard I want to be, being a great mother does not come easily when I'm in a depressed state. My manias are generally very short lived, so I can't really comment on my parenting during those times.

So that's some of what I feel when I contemplate being bipolar as well as being a mum. It's so difficult, but when I'm doing well, it's one of the most rewarding jobs I've ever done.

Monday, April 15, 2013

There are other bigger, better blogs out there...

And I'm okay with that.

I hope you are enjoying my ramblings as much as I'm enjoying sharing them. I have been researching how to keep my blog interesting enough that people keep coming back to it, and I discovered that 'Wow! I'm not the first person to write about being bipolar!' I came across some other really good blogs that I want to share with you guys, so that way if you're hungry for more reading, it's here.

This first one is from bipolar veteran John McManamy, who is the dean of bipolar bloggers. A mental-health journalist who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1999, at the age of 49, McManamy has maintained an encyclopedic website, McMan's Depression and Bipolar Web, for nearly a decade. He writes about everything from treatment options to research news. He also has his own blog  Knowledge Is Necessity, which provides a steady stream of funny and informative writing—and videos!—on mental health.

The second one of note is Amy, a 34-year-old mother of four who lives in Tennessee, who blogs at All About Bipolar under the handle “atorturedsoul".

The next is Liz Spikol, who is the executive editor of an alternative weekly newspaper in Philadelphia. She also happens to have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and dissociative disorder not otherwise specified. Her addictive blog, The Trouble With Spikol, grew out of an award-winning column of the same name that she writes for the Philadelphia Weekly.

And last, but certainly not least, is the entertaining online diary of a bipolar woman in England, who writes The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive. She is officially diagnosed with rapid-cycling bipolar I disorder and writes about her ups and downs in a lively, no-holds-barred style that will have you clicking the bookmark button for sure.

I know I'm super new on to the scene of things, but I hope to one day be as recognizable as these blogs are because although I'm writing for myself, I still have a strong desire to spread a message for the world too. I have no grand delusions of grandeur, lol, but I've always wanted to write, and to the biggest an audience I can reach. I know I can learn from these bloggers and gain more knowledge and expertise to help my own blog. 

I'm sharing them with you so you have more resources than what my lonely little blog provides at the moment. Give me a few months, and watch my blog come alive with information, stories, and resources, just like the ones above have :) 

Happy reading!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The friends you make...

So, when you spend time inpatient, you can get really close to the people you're in there with. The area I was in specifically encouraged us to be there for each other while on the unit. We were each other's most valuable support system while inpatient. I made some awesome sauce amazing friends this last time I was inpatient, and even though it's only been a few weeks since I last saw them, I miss them a lot tonight. We all made promises that we'd keep in touch, and that we'd be there for each other, but I wonder if we all secretly knew that it wouldn't happen.

Of course we all facebook friended each other the minute we got out, but that's about as much as has happened. I miss these girls a lot, but there are others that I miss too, and they are the ones I'm really thinking about tonight. They were people that I specifically knew I would never be seeing again. How do people handle that? How can you knowingly get close to someone you will only know for a short while, and start to care for them, only to never see them again?

I don't understand how I was able to make friends so easily in the hospital, because I certainly can't do that out here in the real world. Maybe when you're in the hospital, you are the 'real' you, and others are the 'real' them because there, well, there's no one to impress, no social appearances needing to be kept up, no facades to hide behind. Your dirtiest secrets are laid out in therapy (if you're open enough to share them) and for some reason, it bonds you all closer.

But there were other things that bonded us too, the dumb jokes we had, our escape route plans, our teasing of the other units; all these were times that were actually pretty fun between all the intensive therapy we were doing. I mean, not to get all super teary eyed nostalgic, but we had some enjoyable times. Times I never want to forget, for sure.

I mean, there was the time we went to gym and practiced our dance moves, and I swore I wouldn't dance because we had a black tech and I was entirely too white to be embarrassing myself in front of her. Which we all ultimately ended up doing of course, and had a blast doing it. Then there were the techs who would joke around with us, and the time one did my hair because 'I obviously had never done hair before'...which is true, I'm definitely not girly!

And then there was the night that one of the boys from another unit started mentioning how he would love some chocolate chip cookies. And he got louder and louder until the whole cafeteria could hear. So, me being me, I spoke up and said, "Man, some chocolate chip cookies would be delicious." And he took off with it, and we bantered back and forth for a few minutes about how delicious chocolate chip cookies would be. It culminated in him going and standing by the cooks while we were talking and discussing how delicious those cookies sounded. He actually won out, because the next day he talked to the cafeteria staff and asked if they'd make some for dessert one day. And they did! Our unit lost out because by the time we got down to lunch, those boys had nearly eaten them all gone! He got the nickname Chocolate Chip from that first night on, and we were friends from the next day on when he came over to our table to introduce himself.

I made friends with a few of the boys on his unit, and they made my day so much brighter because of their presence. I knew once I left I'd never be seeing them again, but we made memorable moments. There was one boy who was listening to me talk about how rough therapy was going that day who gave me some invaluable advice...when shit gets rough and you can't handle it anymore...think of a T-rex, trying to make his bed. And it helped turn my day around. One of the other boys, he would do ballerina moves to make us laugh and one of the girls on my unit got a huge crush on him. I told him after she discharged, and he always inquired after his stalker when I would see him.

And those were just casual friendships made. I made especially good friends with a girl in there, who I'll call Sandra, and we were like peas and carrots. We're both bipolar, and we just fit together. We both were admitted the same day, which was a Thursday, so we called ourselves Thursday's child, and always joked that we 'had far to go'. There's an old poem that talks about children born on days of the week, and that's where it came from. We would go out in the prison yard (as I called it), which was a tiny cinder blocked area for you to get some fresh air, and we'd joke about how we could make it over the fence and be on our way to freedom. We also had some good talks, and we learned to call each other out if we felt we weren't being honest. I probably miss her the most, and talk to her the least :(

Then there was a girl who had a bright pink jacket, and an episode where the tech with us opened the door to let us to our unit, and someone else opened the door to freedom at the same time, and I joked we should make a run for it...but if we did, I was tripping her for her shoes because she'd be the first one down anyway due to her noticeable jacket. She was so much fun, the stories she'd tell, and the expressions she'd make were priceless. I also befriended another girl in there, who I'll call Sue...she was so super extreme that it just kept us in constant laughter. We were given journals to use while inpatient, and were encouraged to decorate them as expressions of ourselves. Well, Sue turned hers into a porn star advertisement and claimed it was going to be her newest 'little black book'...which she did purely for the shock value that it would put on our therapist. We got a lot of laughs out of her book, and we got a lot of sweetness from her too. She was the one who would lend out her make-up to help us feel prettier while in there. She's also the only one who successfully lied through her teeth to get discharged a mere 2 days after arriving. I know she had a little remorse for not dealing with her shit when she had the chance, but she's doing what she needs to make it on the outside now. I wish I knew how well my other friends were doing too.

I also wonder about the other girls I wasn't as close to. There were a couple of older women in there who I cared about, and I wonder how reality is treating them. There was a girl my age who had been there nearly a month by the time I left, and I wonder about her too.

I reread The 5 People You Meet in Heaven  while in there, and part of it really stayed with me, and relates to this whole post. Everyone's stories are connected...some stories interchange with another's, some lay on top of another's, and some stories are side by side to each others. Every person that I met there was part of my story in someway, somehow, and they all changed and shaped me, from the dear friends I made, to the staff, and to the patients on other units. I have a whole lot to say about the staff there and how they affected me, but that's a post for another time and another day.

So the thing I guess I learned the most about all these friends and acquaintances is to just accept them into your life for the time they are there. Practice mindfulness. Enjoy the moments you have with people, and don't rehash the past out when you're with them, nor stress about the future worrying about not being with them. Just enjoy that time you have because you'll never get it back. I'm new to this whole mindfulness thing, having never heard of it before my stay there (it's a big part of DBT, among other things) and I tried to practice it and just simply be in the moment with the people there. Of course, that doesn't stop me from missing them now, but I'm not dwelling in self pity over them no longer being in my life. I'm simply acknowledging that I feel nostalgic, and am doing something about it. Several somethings in fact, lol. I messaged several of them tonight to see how they were doing, and of course, here I am blogging about it too.

This mindfulness thing is something I'm striving to do with all my relationships now. I am trying to live in the moment with each one, because each moment is really all we have. We don't know if we'll have another moment to follow, so we need to appreciate the here and now, and be grateful for is called the present after all.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Being inpatient...and again...and again...and finally finding the right place to be...

I recently spent close to 3 weeks inpatient psych after 2 suicide attempts. 20 days away from my 4 kids. On one hand it sucked terribly, on the other, I suddenly was forced into discovering ME, and figuring out who Tricia was when she wasn't being a mommy or a wife. Not that this was my first venture into a psych ward, I had severe postpartum depression after my last child was born and spent 2 weeks inpatient then. I also spent many weeks in the psych ward after a mental breakdown in my early twenties. Not to mention the in and out stays during my teen years. So, back to my most recent visits...

I actually had two forays into inpatient stay, one lasted 8 days, and the other lasting 11. The worst stay was those first 8 days I was gone...I had a terrible doctor who refused to put me on the right medication, instead she opted to put me on Haldol (an older antipsychotic used in the treatment of schizophrenia and acute psychotic states and delirium) which did me no good at all. She refused to prescribe my Concerta, yet continued my Suboxone, and refused any anti-anxiety medication at all, choosing to let Haldol replace any benzodiazepines.  It did such little good because it caused such extreme sedation that I was practically a zombie. I gained no valuable experience from that stay, being unable to attend therapy or groups and whatnot. So after 8 days of no good at all, I was released because I was considered to "no longer be a threat to myself". This clearly wasn't true because not even a week later I had a much more serious suicide attempt, thus landing me in a different hospital further away from home and family. 

As much as I resented it at first, this actually proved to be a godsend. I had a doctor who actually 'got' me, because he understood bipolar disorder. He immediately put me back on the medicinal regimen I had been on  6 months prior to my inpatient stays. He listened to me, he didn't hide things from me, he was honest with me, and I felt I could be honest with him as well. He respected the fact that I knew my body best and was educated enough about my disorder to know what was effective and what wasn't. I was back on my Welbutrin, Abilify, Xanax, Concerta and Ambien that day. (After my experience at the previous hospital, I quit the Suboxone and swore off all narcotics for good.) Now that I was in a controlled environment, I discovered that Xanax wasn't the best anti-anxiety med for me, given it's short half life, and my extreme anxiety.  My doctor and I made the decision to try Klonopin instead, even though I had not had good results with it in the past, because I was willing to trust him and try it again. Miraculously enough it worked wonders for my anxiety this time, and it lasted much longer than the Xanax. 

So with my meds fixed, I should have been good to go home after a few days right? Wrong! This hospital had several different psychiatric units, and I was on a unit exclusively for women who had suffered trauma or abuse at some point in their life. We had a very rigid schedule from 7 AM until around 4 PM, which is when we could finally have some downtime. We spent at least 6 hours a day either in therapy or in classes; learning valuable new skills and learning new coping skills and gaining new insights and perspectives on our lives. The therapy groups were very DBT based, and I'll never forget some of the practices that were taught. We were given schema diaries, and had to discover our 'life traps', which are  negative beliefs about the world that affected how we behave.  I had done the schema diaries before, but never took it seriously until now. This time I was given a starter kit, if you will, on how to proceed with life going forward once I left the hospital. 

I'll never forget the staff there, ever. I've never been inpatient anywhere where there was so much true compassion and genuine caring for the patients in the staff's care. From the head nurse to the therapists, to even the cafeteria staff, these people cared about us and we could feel it. It gave me the courage to actually reach out and allow myself to be vulnerable, and to open up about issues that had never seen the light of day. I actually did the homework assignments, I actually did the workbook assignments, and I actually discovered who I used to be, and who I could be again. It was liberating, and yet terrifying at the same time. I'd spent so many years suppressing my emotions, I had no idea how to handle them now that I was allowing them to surface out. I was in a great place to learn how to cope with them in a safe manner. I also finally had a clear game plan for therapy out in the real world. I knew what direction I wanted to take, and what I needed to work through. I went into that hospital as a broken woman, and left with a sense of purpose and hope that I'd never felt before upon any other discharge. My husband swears that if I ever relapse again, I'll go back to this hospital because they did me the most good that he'd ever seen.

So how did I end up spending all this time in the hospital anyway? I mean, after going so long on the outside without needing to be admitted? You see, I had quit taking all my meds a few months prior, for a multitude of reasons... which did me no good at all, but for some reason seemed like an excellent idea at the time. I lasted about 5 months without any meds; five miserable months in which I had a few days of functioning, and then many days where I simply couldn't even get out of bed to properly care for my family. It was a rough time and I feel horrid about how it affected everyone around me, especially my kids. I know they suffered the most by not having mommy totally there. Thanks be to God that I have a wonderful husband who was able to be there too and pick up all the pieces of the mess I was making.

It all really started spiraling downward when my cousin hung herself and left her family behind. I'd been having suicidal thoughts for awhile but couldn't bring myself to do anything about it because I had my family to think of, right? Yet suddenly here was someone who was able to overcome that and leave it all behind, and if she could do it, why couldn't I? Not very rational thinking I'll admit, but what bipolar person thinks rationally when they've been off their meds for awhile? No justification there, just an observation. I got more and more depressed, I started fighting with my husband more and more, and there were more and more days that I couldn't get out of bed and function. 

The one who bore the brunt of this, to my shame, was my youngest, who I felt was to blame for all my woes. She suffered the most because she was the most helpless of my kids, the least independent and the one who needed her parents the most. She could sense my disinterest and clung to her dad all the more tightly, distancing our relationship even further, even to the point where I felt giving her up for adoption would be in her best interests because I felt I was doing irreparable damage to her, simply by being her mother. Fortunately, small children are quick to forgive, and also quick to give their love to those willing to receive it and much of the damage I had done has been repaired since I was released this last time. I'm so grateful to have been given a second chance with her and that she has responded so well to my new attitude and sudden interest in her. My other children don't seem to have suffered as much, they were very happy to have mommy back home, and wanted a lot of snuggles at first, and I made sure they got them. I still make sure they get their snuggles now, in fact.

What was the point of this rambling post? I'm not sure really. Maybe someone will come across it and find some hope in that there is quality treatment out there, that there are good hospitals out there, or maybe someone will feel like trying therapy again, or maybe going to their doctor to try yet another medication again, or whatever positiveness that can be found here. I hope someone can find some positiveness in my little ramblings here because I found hope through what I went through, and I want to share that with the world.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

What I want to accomplish here...


My blog will start with random pieces of information that come to mind as I'm typing.

Thoughts that come to mind about different aspects of my life, with stories that surround that aspect, different events and the emotions that come with happy moments, traumatizing moments, depressing moments,  the mania emotions, the down emotions and everything in between. The necessary evils of medications and the emotions that come with them. Emotions from having to take meds, frustrations in taking meds not working, and the emotions from when they actually do work.

I'll ask questions, I'll answer questions, I'll talk about my experiences from being inpatient and outpatient, how therapy is going, what it's like raising kids and being bipolar, stories from my life that can relate to those topics and who knows what else.

And I'll try to blog lots. It takes 28 days to make or break a habit, and well, I really want this thing to become a habit.

I'm kind of winging this. I want more people to understand what it's like to be bipolar, and spread the word to break the stigma surrounding mental illness. Knowledge is power, right?