Monday, 2 February 2015

Life Goes On

It's been 9 months since I wrote my last blog. I don't know why I stopped. It certainly wasn't because I had nothing to say.....I always have something to say!! I just couldn't seem to get my thoughts on paper. So much has happened, so much is different yet life goes on just the same!! As far as Bipolar goes I've actually been reasonably "stable" for a while. By stable I mean I haven't been hypomanic since I started taking my meds again and I haven't been so depressed that I felt suicidal. Even with some pretty significant things that have happened I've managed to keep in reasonable control. I know 100% that it's partly due to medication and partly due to the fact that I am getting so much better at recognising problems before they get out of hand. For me that's the key. Before I was properly diagnosed I had no idea what was going on let alone what I could do to help myself. I know and accept that I need help from my GP and mental health services but I also realise that in order to stay well I have to take some responsibility. It's not easy. I have had some pretty down times but I sought help and managed to bring myself back up. As well as the Lithium I'm now taking a tiny dose of antidepressant. I wasn't sure as antidepressants can induce a manic episode in people with Bipolar, which is what happened to me before. My psychiatrist assured me that taking it alongside the Lithium, which is a mood stabiliser, would minimise the risk but would hopefully be enough to raise my mood. It works well and so far it's the best combination of meds I've had, with the least side effects.

 From an outsiders point of view I guess I have a cushy little life. I have my flat, my dog, no job responsibilities and enough money to live on. Don't get me wrong I'm very content with my lot but day to day life is not easy. Even when I'm stable the simplest of things can be such a huge deal. Every day is a challenge. Sometimes just getting dressed is a huge task. It's the little everyday things that take all my effort and energy. Normal everyday things seem harder to cope with nowadays. I find it hard to cope with too many things going on. I've been volunteering in a charity shop again and it's great but I still don't know if I could cope with a "proper" job yet. It's nothing to do with whether I'm able, it's whether I can be reliable. I can't say I'm really happy but I am sometimes. I'm sure I'm not mean't to be a miserable person and I try not to let people see when I'm unhappy. That's the hardest thing. My type of Bipolar means that I'm depressed more than high and it's hard work putting on a smile when I just want to cry. 
It's impossible to write about the last 9 months in one go. I can't. I think one of the things that's had the biggest impact on me was losing a really close friend. He took his own life. I miss him so much. I will write about it all one day but not yet. The most positive thing to happen was being reunited with my son. He's been drug free for 10 months. I will definitely be writing a blog about that. There is someone else who really got to me. More than I thought possible. I did write a blog but decided not to post it. I'm not sure I'll ever quite get my head around it but some things just happen and that's that.
I feel like I've drifted apart from a lot of people. It's my own fault. I tend to shut myself off and then time goes by and it's harder to do anything about it. I'm still really lucky to have my best friend and her family. I think I'd find things much more difficult without their support. 
I feel like I've drifted away from my own family a bit. I know I need to make more effort. 
I can't believe I've had Libby (my dog) for nearly a year now. She's the one constant in my life. She definitely keeps me going. I've made some really lovely friends because of her and that's been a huge bonus.
I've got things planned for this year and I'm determined not to miss out on any them. 
So, I guess life just goes on and things are ok really. 

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

At a snails pace

As well as bipolar mood changes, one of the most difficult things to cope with are the changes in energy levels and sleep that run alongside. For months on end I've got by with hardly any sleep at all. Two to three hours a night, maybe four if I've been lucky....sometimes no sleep at all. I did feel a bit tired at times but not all the time. I'd think nothing of being up and "doing" at 3 o'clock in the morning. I was so much more active. I had energy to burn. I've been expecting things to change but I must admit I am struggling. For the last few nights I've slept solid. I've been ready for my bed at 10 o'clock and slept right through until the alarm goes off at seven. Nine hours without any disturbance. That's a huge difference. You'd think I'd feel better for it. Trouble is I don't . Physically I feel worse. I feel more tired than ever. I feel like someone has literally sucked every last bit of energy out of me. My whole body aches. By the time I've taken the dog out and tidied up a bit I'm ready to sleep again. Yesterday I sat down with a coffee at 9 am and must have nodded off. I woke up two hours later with Libby (my dog) nudging me to get up! I'm sure if it wasn't for her I'd sleep all day and night. Every little thing is a huge effort. It's so frustrating. I can't imagine how people manage to do everything. I can't imagine how I used to look after a child, a husband, a house and sometimes it takes such a huge effort just to get myself dressed. I feel about a hundred years old and I look like shit. I found myself crying because I needed to wash my hair and the effort just seemed too much. I find myself crying a lot. I don't really know why. I don't know that there's much I can do about it. I'm trying my hardest to keep going and that's all I can do. I went to my sisters over the weekend and it was a lovely day but by the time I got home I just felt so drained and overwhelmed by it all. I'm trying to keep doing the essential things. I know if I let my flat get in a mess, especially with the dog, I'll get in such a state over it I won't be able to do anything.  It's funny, I always think I've got good insight into my moods, yet it's only after the event I realise the full impact. Even though I was irritable and twitchy when I was "high", I think I'd rather be like that than how I am now......miserable, unmotivated and absolutely exhausted. Of course at the time I was wishing for calm. Now I'm doing everything at a snails pace and there's nothing I can do about it. My mind and body just won't let me go any quicker. What I really need is to be somewhere in between but it's not happening yet. It's so hard when it seems I go from one extreme to another with no real let up in between. I often feel like just giving up but I know I can't. I'm still hopeful that the meds will start working properly again soon. I've felt a lot worse than this before and that in itself gives me a reason not to give up. I might be slow but as long as I don't stop things will be ok eventually.

Pet Therapy

If you're depressed then you're depressed. It's got nothing to do with what your doing or not doing. I agree that having a routine and things to do helps. I agree that shutting yourself away can make things feel worse but depression is an illness. If you have sickness and diarrhoea, carrying on with your daily routine doesn't stop it. Yes you can help yourself by drinking plenty of water and resting but the illness has to take its course. Yes you can help yourself with depression but it's not as simple as just "keeping busy".  There's a big difference between being sad or lonely or bored even and being depressed. 
Whenever I've been "high" it's inevitable that a "low" period follows. The more I learn about bipolar and how it affects me the more I can try to do things to help myself. I think the medication is slowly kicking in again. I'm much less irritated. When I saw my psychiatrist, if he didn't tell me once he told me about 10 times to make sure I keep taking my medication! My GP was the same. Of course now I know that the consequences of no medication are not good I will stick with it. The Lithium at least. 
So, I decided to get a pet. I've never been much of a dog person but my son had the most beautiful Rottweiler and I loved her. My best friend has a puppy and he's brought her so much pleasure. Both my sisters have dogs. Nearly everyone I spoke to thought it would be a good idea. I live on my own and I have so much time on my hands. With my mood so unstable lately work hasn't been a option and it's been doubly hard to get into any sort of "normal" routine. I thought getting a dog would help give me a purpose again as well as some company. 
Well I've had her for just over a week and I have to say what a huge difference she has made to my life already. I just love her. I haven't found having her easy. In fact I have felt quite overwhelmed at times by taking on such a huge responsibility. I am petrified that I'll get really ill again and not be able to cope. I know from experience that I start something and it's all good but then my mood changes and it all goes haywire. I need a back up plan in case anything happens to me but I can't quite work it out yet. The thing is, I am coping now. I have to. I can't let her down. She is totally dependent on me. My mood is low but I am 100% certain that without my new little friend things would be worse. I have to get myself at least partly organised. She has given me a reason to get out of the house, a reason to keep going. Even when I've wanted to shut myself away I've had to do things. She seems to sense if I'm down and snuggles in on my lap and when I cry she snuggles in closer. She helps lift my mood just by being there. I've found myself laughing and smiling at her antics. She's such a clever little thing and each day as I teach her something new I get a huge sense of satisfaction. 
I'm still not sleeping properly but I am going to bed and getting some sleep, which is an improvement. I'm finding it hard to keep on top of everything that needs to be done and sometimes even the simplest thing seems like such huge deal. I get upset that I find life so fucking hard when to most people it seems like I have it easy. I get frustrated with myself for not being able to do everything I think I should be able to do. I have to keep telling myself that it's ok and that I am doing well. I know that it may take some time for my medication to reach its full effect. I also know that medication is only part of what I need to keep me well. I know I have done the right thing by getting my dog. She can't take away my symptoms. She can't "cure" me  anymore than medication can but she's definitely been great "therapy" so far. She's definitely playing a huge part in my recovery. She's definitely given me something to think about other than myself. She's definitely a friend already. 

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Bipolar versus Life

Sunday was one of the most difficult days I've had in a long time. Even back on the meds I still can't sleep properly. My doctor agreed that Quetiapine is not right for me so prescribed Clonazepam instead. It's supposed to calm me and help me sleep. I did fall asleep quickly but woke at 3am and stayed awake. I feel very fragile. I feel panicky. I'm not hypomanic anymore. I feel so much calmer but I am tearful and scared about what may come. I know that whenever I've been hypomanic before it's usually followed by a crash. My mood plummets and before I know it I'm fighting depression. I couldn't go to my mums either because I couldn't trust myself to drive that far. I feel drained and I can't concentrate for that long. Short journeys are ok but even then it takes all my concentration. I'm trying to be positive but life just gets in the way. I feel like everyone is slowly abandoning me. Of course that's not true.
It's was also Mother's Day and yet again I never heard a word from my son. Not even a text. I haven't heard from him since his Birthday when he called me to ask if I was going to give him any birthday money. I knew he wanted it to buy heroin so I didn't give him any. We didn't fall out or argue over it but once I'd said no the conversation stopped. That was just over two months ago. I've tried to contact him since but he never answers his phone. If he can call when he wants something then why couldn't he have called on Sunday? I doubt I even crossed his mind and that really hurts. I read countless Mother's Day messages on Facebook and I wanted to be happy for people but I felt jealous and sad and devastated. Then I felt really guilty. The only comfort is the fact that I'm sure if he was in real trouble I would have heard somehow. I just wonder what goes through his mind. He must have known how upset I would be. Maybe he never gave me a thought. Maybe he's scared to contact me. Maybe he's ashamed. I worry that he's in such a mess that he just doesn't realise or care. I try to put him out of my mind but it's impossible.
I cried a lot but I do take comfort in the fact that I have such amazing support. It's the little things that people do that make such a huge difference . My best friend sent me a message with just kisses. Her son sent me a text saying he loved me. Another young friend texted me to say thankyou for being like a mother to her. Nothing can make up for the fact that my own son seems to have disappeared but knowing people genuinely care eases some of the pain.
I have to be sensible now and realise that it's going to take a bit of time to get myself back on a level. Meds don't work in an instant and having extra stress has a huge impact. I'm definitely better than I have been but I've got a fair way to go to get back into a "normal" routine. I'm trying to look on my experience of coming off meds as a positive thing. I tried and it didn't work but at least I now know I can't cope without and at least I have a better understanding of what moods and behaviours are caused by bipolar, what are the side effects of medication and what are just normal reactions to life. I think I would have inevitably done it at some point. I had the notion that maybe I'd turn out not to have bipolar at all but deep down knew that could never be possible. I think because of all the support I've had I'm getting through it without having done too much damage...I hope so anyway. I have bipolar disorder, I can't deny it and I have to manage it but at the end of the day I'm still me.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Hypomania ...the good, the bad and the bloody ridiculous

How I ended up being escorted to the doctors by my care coordinator and having to take medication in front of her to make sure I took it, to "calm me down", I don't know. Well, actually I do know and I'm feeling pretty stupid and pretty scared.  I guess I'm quite fortunate in that I have reasonable insight into my moods. That doesn't mean I can control what I'm feeling or always immediately do anything about it but at least I recognise when things aren't quite right. I think so anyway.

I felt myself getting more and more hyped up over a few days. It's difficult to describe. I know I was hypomanic. I know all the signs. I know I was building up to it.  A lot of people think of hypomania as being happy and full of energy and creativity and a good state to be in. Not so for me. Yes at times I felt happier than I have done for months, elevated, excited even but not always appropriate for the situation. The twitching, the irritability, the nervous energy, the thoughts and ideas scrambling about in my head, the frustration. It was bloody hard work. Yes, I did find myself being more creative. I've been doing some drawing, something I've wanted to do for months but whenever I tried it just turned out crap. Even that, though enjoyable was born out of a sense of urgency. I felt that once I'd decided to do it I had no choice. I produced some really good pictures. I even wrote some poems. I never write bloody poems! I've never even wanted to but again the ideas popped into my head and I just had to do it.
I bought a guitar. I've often thought about learning to play an instrument. Well there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. What was wrong was the fact that I've no idea why I thought I needed a guitar....yes  "needed" a guitar. I had an uncontrollable urge to buy it. Even though I haven't got a spare £100 to spend I couldn't rest until I'd bought one. I don't really know what on earth I thought would have happened if I didn't buy it but I just had to have it.
I found being on my own more difficult than normal and wanted to be near people yet when I was with anyone it was such hard work to try and curb my behaviour. As soon as I got near anyone I couldn't seem to contain my excitement and I couldn't keep still, or shut up. I'm lucky that I've got people who know me and don't judge me. When I went to visit my mum in hospital I had to use every ounce of strength to try and keep calm. Whenever I left someone and was driving home I just seemed to flip. The music was blaring, I put my foot down and every other driver was a wanker. I felt almost ecstatic to be racing as fast as I could. When I visited my best friend, by the time she opened the door I was laughing and crying at the same time. I had no idea what the fuck was going on. I couldn't tell you if I was happy or sad, just a bit frightened and confused at that point. 
I found myself staying up all night. I didn't even try to get to sleep. I don't really know what I was doing all night. Day and night just seemed to mingle into one.
I got it into my head that I could command things to happen. I'm too embarrassed to say what but I spent hours commanding this and that to happen. I really believed it and when it didn't work I got really upset. I spent hours reading stuff online about the power of thought and mind over matter. Ordinarily I think it's a load of cobblers. 
Sex is another thing. I have no safety net now.  I found myself thinking about a certain person almost constantly. I knew it wasn't right. I'm not taking to being celibate very well, especially while I'm in this frame of mind. All I can do is keep myself away from situations where I might end up doing something I shouldn't. I'm craving physical contact but I just don't think it will ever be the same with anyone else. I don't want casual sex with just anybody. Frustrated is an understatement. I daren't go online and I daren't go anywhere where I might meet men.
Flipping from happy and excited and full of big ideas to angry and frustrated and irritable is not a great place to be. As for "real life", looking for a job, getting into a routine, sorting out my finances, eating properly, keeping fit, it all seems to have gone out of the window.

So, when my care coordinator came to visit me, straight away she said she was concerned about how "high" I was. I was trying to explain to her but I found myself switching from one subject to another. I knew for my own sake I needed to tell her what was going on. I knew I needed her help but I couldn't stop laughing even though I was trying to be serious. When she asked if she could call my GP and the psychiatrist I remember thinking "whatever".  Even when she drove me to the surgery and we were put in a room (not the public waiting room) to wait for my doctor I found it difficult to take in. When my GP came in he told me he'd spoken to my psychiatrist and that they'd agreed that I was hypomanic and heading towards mania and that I needed to go back on the Quetiapine. I think I told him to fuck off and that I was never going back on it again. Part of me could sense the seriousness of the situation but another part of me found it all so funny. I was sitting in a swivel chair and it was really distracting me. He told me that if I didn't take the meds I'd most probably end up in hospital and then I would have no choice. It seemed like we were there for ages. I felt like a child being told what to do.  I got what he was saying. I know he was right. It was just difficult to organise myself and my thoughts. I think I agreed to take a small dose for a week.....mostly to shut them up. My care coordinator persuaded me to take it then and there.
I find it hard to believe but within a couple of hours I'd nodded off in the chair and slept for 2 hours solid. I slept that night too and the next. On the third day I felt so miserable I couldn't stop crying. I couldn't stop eating too. I was ravenous. I know it was the Quetiapine. I decided not to take anymore. I figured I'd calmed down enough and that hopefully the Lithium would kick and stop me from getting too high again. I feel reasonably ok now. What scares me more than anything is the thought of crashing into depression. I've never experienced full blown mania. My episodes tend to be mixed followed by depression. I feel like an idiot at the moment and I feel like I'm to blame. When I see my doctor I need to try and explain that yes I realise I can't manage without medication but that I'm not prepared to go back on a medication that just doesn't suit me. Lithium is fine but Quetiapine is not for me. I want to be compliant. I don't want to get really ill again but there must be alternatives. I can't go back to feeling how I did when I was on Quetiapine. I can't put up with the shitty side effects and I can't spend the whole time worrying that it could contribute to another heart attack. Now that I feel a little bit more in control I hope I can discuss it with him sensibly. 

Sunday, 16 March 2014

I can't keep still!

The last few days have been getting more and more difficult. My Mum is in hospital and I'm really worried about her. I know that the stress is not helping my mood. I've only been back on the Lithium for a few days so I doubt it's doing anything yet. At times I feel exhausted yet I seem to have so much nervous energy. I feel restless and I'm finding it hard to keep still. If I try to keep still it's worse. I find myself jumping out of the chair or kicking my legs about.  It's like I just can't relax. I find myself grinding my teeth. I'm swearing a lot too. I feel like I want to scream. I just don't really know what to do with myself. I have bursts of energy where I get stuff done but I'm not very organised and get distracted. I'm not really doing the things I'm supposed to be doing. Sleep is getting less and less. I'm flitting from one thing to another. My mind is just crammed with "stuff" at the moment. I've been writing and drawing a bit, which channels some of it but that's pretty sporadic. I've got so many thoughts and ideas I can't keep up with myself. When I'm on my own at the moment I feel pretty stir crazy.  This is when I miss having someone around.  I want to talk and I crave physical contact.
I've spoken to a few people about it and I'm thinking of getting a dog. I need something to love and look after. I know I'm always having mad ideas but I think a dog might just help me settle a bit. I know it's a huge responsibility but it could be just what I need. I have so much time on my hands and it certainly won't be short of attention. I'm sure having something that depends on me will help me to get back into some routine. I've read countless stories of how having a pet can help with mental health. 
 When I first got ill I developed a "twitch" in my right thigh. The muscle was almost continually contracting and I had no control over it. I saw a movement disorder specialist in London and she diagnosed idiopathic myoclonus. Basically she couldn't say for definite why I'd developed it but it was most likely psychogenic ....originates from the mind. I find that really hard to get my head round. How can something that is so obviously physical be caused by what goes on in my mind? I convinced myself that it was yet another side effect of medication or that I'd developed some awful neurological condition. I tried my hardest to stop it but that just made it worse. The more I was conscious of it the more intense it became. I became so self conscious about it. It was noticeable to other people, especially my husband at night. He used to get really cross because I couldn't keep still. He often ended up sleeping in the other room. Sometimes my leg was twitching so hard it was painful. No amount of trying to consciously control it made any difference. Unless I was concentrating hard or fully engrossed in something it was there. I couldn't keep still and I felt restless and agitated.  It was always there and always worse at night. I was given a Botox injection in the muscle every few months, which really helped. It almost immediately eased the severity of the muscle jerking. Eventually it disappeared and the treatment stopped. If I think back it was at its worst when my bipolar wasn't under control. Now it's come back with a vengeance and if I'm honest it has to be because I'm not really well at the moment. I don't know if it's a side effect of coming off meds.  I don't know if it's very common for people with bipolar to develop movement disorders. There doesn't seem to be much information about it. I know psychomotor agitation is a symptom of hypomania or mania. What I also know is it's embarrassing and it's starting to get me down. I was at a friends last night and it was so hard to settle. I felt like I'd got ants in my pants! I'm just hoping things will settle as the meds get back into my system.

Monday, 10 March 2014

I told you so

Sometimes it doesn't matter what anyone says. You don't believe it until find out for yourself.
I know I'm not very well. It's all starting again. I've had a really hard time this week. I feel like I don't know if I'm coming or going.  I'm constantly worrying about what I've done or not done, what I've said or shouldn't have said. When I first came off meds I felt so much better for a while. I lost that "numb" feeling. I felt more alive. I convinced myself that medication was to blame for everything and that maybe it was all a huge mistake and I'd eventually go back to "normal".  I've realised that I've got to do certain things to keep well but that at the moment I just can't. It's not a case of failing or being weak. It's all happening again. I find myself thinking and doing things which I know aren't quite right. I can't help what goes on in my head. I've been doing things that I know won't help me yet I can't seem to stop it. I know I need to eat. It's a basic thing but at the moment I'm just not able to eat properly. I don't know why. I don't know if it's because I've lost weight and I'm scared I'll put it back on again. I don't know if it's because I'm just not hungry. I'm really trying but I just seem to have a mental block. When I did make myself eat a proper meal I felt so bad I went straight into the bathroom and made myself sick. 
I know I need to sleep but I haven't even got into bed for the last three nights. I'm tired, I must be, yet I've got so much nervous energy. I can't how does that make sense?
I hardly ever drink but the other night I got myself so drunk. I was on a mission to drown everything out. I haven't got a clue what I was doing. All I achieved was a massive hangover and more worry. 
I'm trying not to drive far. Last time I drove home I was driving dangerously. I know I was doing it. I didn't care that if I got caught doing over 100 mph I'd be in trouble. The thought of crashing didn't bother me. I just wanted to get home as quickly as possible.
My mood is so all over the place. It's a horrible combination of everything. Mixed up and not making much sense one minute then thinking I've got it all sussed the next. I feel agitated and twitchy. I can't keep up with everything I think I need to do. I'm not depressed and I'm not manic. I know that. I'm not sure what I am. My best friend picked up on it. She said if I didn't go to the doctors she would have to ring herself. I trust what she tells me and I want to talk to her about stuff but I find myself thinking that I must be pissing her off. I find myself thinking about dying. I find myself thinking about how I'd end it all. Those thoughts really scare me. The thing is they come and go so quickly. I feel great one minute because I think I have all the answers to everything then I find myself sobbing uncontrollably because I have no idea what to do. I pretty much had a melt down in the doctors. He said he had no joy in telling me I told you so but that I had to realise that I had a serious mental illness and that by refusing to take my meds I was making myself ill. He said he was worried I could end up being in hospital again and then I'd have no choice. He was so worried that he called the mental health crisis team. 
They sent someone to see me and it did help.  He made me realise that while my reasons were valid I probably stopped my medication in the worst possible way...abruptly and because I was feeling shit. He made me realise that if I don't get my mood balanced enough to be able to do what I need to do to stay well then things can only get worse. He said that medication wasn't going to cure everything but maybe that I should see it as a tool. He said that maybe some of my problems were medication related but not all. Maybe I just wasn't on the right combination or dose. The thought of going back on meds really frightens me. He suggested that I just try the Lithium again and if that stabilised my mood enough maybe I could try again without at a later date and in a more controlled way. I know what he said made sense. 
There was a period when I came out of hospital and I felt really well. I was happy to be on meds then. I think I've been in denial. I guess I have to face up to what everyone's telling me. Maybe I needed to prove to myself that the diagnosis is not wrong. I have bipolar and I have to take responsibility. It's about coping and feeling well, not trying to make it disappear. If I need meds to help me do that then so be it. It's been a hard decision to make but I'm going to restart the Lithium at least. A good friend of mine pointed out to me that when I stopped my medication I was adamant that if it all went tits up I'd start taking it again. Best take my own advice.