Bipolar II disorder

Midnight musings of a bipolar mind

I sit here, tonight, exhausted and grieving the fact that what I thought was helping to alleviate the persistent depression, is, in fact, helping…just not the way I thought. It has triggered a mini-hypomanic phase. So, instead of the constant, slow, and steady oppression of “mid-level” depression, I’m now experiencing a continual hypomanic cycle, scaled down and dialed back to a flowing stream instead of a flooding river.

I’m exhausted…and not just from the lack of sleep and disrupted sleep, which may or may not be related to the new, supplemental, medication. My little girl has been going through a rough time lately, which is exacerbated and amplified by her high functioning, autistic brain. Quite frankly, I’m living with a verbally and physically abusive eight year old child. A couple of days ago she told me she wished I was dead. Screaming, I mean the “Is it live or is it Memorex?” kind of piercing scream,

is almost a daily thing. Hitting and kicking are among her repertoire of behaviors when expected to transition from a desired activity into an undesired one: Bed to getting ready for school, playing to taking a shower, being home to leaving to go to the store. You get the idea.

Now, I have to go through the search and hiring process of obtaining the services of another Personal Support Worker for her, primarily because her abusive and erratic behaviors burn people out. Probably because I have yet to figure out how to hire someone mentally and emotionally equipped to do the job who has actually been educated and trained to work with children on the autism spectrum. It’s difficult to find someone with that level of education and experience, much less someone who is willing to work for less than $15/hr, 71 hr/mo, for me, and still have to look for additional work, while trying to accommodate the schedule we need the most.

My heart is breaking at losing the current person who’s been working with us. It’s a selfish thing and probably illuminates just how much work I still need to do on boundary setting and codependency. They listen to me. They want to support me as the underlying value of being her PSW. Since they are the only person of any intelligence and emotional stability I deal with on a continual basis during the week, who isn’t a professional service provider of some kind or part of a structured group gathering in a faith community, I’ve become a bit too dependent. Meaning, I could very well be nearing the stage of emotional vampirism.

The night we informed my daughter of this pending change, she was rudely ecstatic. It hurts me to see how hurtful she is to others. That hurts more than the things she says and does to me. I shared my bewilderment and concern about how vitriolic her words and attitudes are. I expressed my overwhelm and sense that I’m not doing enough. Between the depression, bipolar, ptsd, hypothyroidism, diabetes, and fibromyalgia, some days, many days, the only reason I get out of bed is the fact I have to get her up, ready, and off to school. I can only see what I’m not doing and getting done.

They told me how they had agonized over this decision for a couple of weeks, even to the point that it had been the primary topic in their meetings with their support person. They told me that the one thing that gives them hope in this situation and for my daughter’s future is seeing how hard I work for her benefit.

The women I met with yesterday, her DDS (Developmental Disabilities Services) Service Coordinator and her state provided ABA Consultant (ABA is a form of behavior therapy for those on the autism spectrum), also expressed how hard they see me working. Again, all I can see are the things I haven’t gotten done, either due to overwhelm, fear, or forgetfulness.

I even went so far as to let her Service Coordinator know that I’m fully aware of her Mandatory Reporter status and that I will never let that knowledge prevent me from being honest, for two reasons:
1. If I feel it’s reportable, I’ll share it because I KNOW I need additional support.
2. If I don’t know it’s reportable, then it’s EVIDENCE that I need additional support.

The reality is that I ALWAYS need additional support. Especially with this whole bipolar/ptsd thing happening in my brain.

This past weekend I learned that there are two different kinds of bipolar mania: euphoric and dysphoric. I learned about the dysphoric during a breakout session at this past weekend’s 3rd Annual Regional Shattering Stigma with Stories: Shameless day conference. In the same breakout session I learned that the supplemental medication I was recently prescribed to address the persistent depression is one of the many that can trigger mania in the bipolar brain. I should have known something was up, when I started feeling “up” almost as soon as I started taking the med. But, it felt so good to actually feel good after over four months of unrelenting depression.

The question is do I keep on this medication regimen for a while to see if it’s at a managable level that I can use constructively or do I assume that it’s all bad, no matter the degree, and go off the med, back into depression? I don’t think it really is a choice. I have cognizance and awareness, based on the information about what this version of mania looks like and how it was triggered. As long as I’m honest with my therapist and my prescriber, as well as myself, I think it’s doable.

Of course that could be the mania talking.

It’s a terrible thing to not be able to trust your brain.

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Approximately Functional

My bloggy friend, Sara, from Laments and Lullabies, has graciously agreed to guest post today and share her story. Many thanks to this strong, talented, and spirited woman who so eloquently describes her journey from The Dark into hope. The details are different, but we share the same story, I just think she  tells it better. Thank you Sara.

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I have a touch of the crazies. Though no hard diagnosis of a chronic mental health concern has been made (bipolar II has been discussed but not confirmed, among others), what is for certain is I suffered a major depressive episode after the birth of my daughter more than three years ago. Essentially, fairly common (unfortunately) postpartum depression overstayed and squatted in my brain, stinking up the place and destroying  property. It brought its friend Crippling Anxiety along for the ride. I’ve always been prone to significant dips into The Dark, but in my life before marriage and children, it was easier to manage. I had developed coping skills that suited my lifestyle but transferred poorly to my new life. I could no longer hide in bed for a few days until it passed. Nor could I pick up and leave town to clear my head. I had a marriage and a tiny human to nurture, and I didn’t know how to do any of it.

Now, after a year and a half of cognitive behaviour therapy, a stint as an outpatient in something called “Day Hospital” (think day camp for people with enough crazy to function poorly, but not enough to be fully hospitalized or monitored), and a promiscuous stretch with a myriad of meds, I’m feeling more stable, more functional, more human again. I can do things like leave the house and bathe myself regularly, which, if you have any experience with depression and anxiety, are not things to be taken for granted.

The most remarkable sign that I am recovering well (do we ever fully recover, or do we, like former alcoholics, always have to work at it?) is how I’m facing stressful triggers. Everyone has stress in their life, but for people with depression and/or anxiety, even the smallest things can knock us down, activating all kinds of maladapted behaviour (my go-to is total withdrawal/shutting down/disassociation and dermatillomania). My family and I have dealt with some pretty serious stressors lately which include, but are not limited to; job losses, illness, financial insecurity, and custody battles. There was a time when all this would have nearly destroyed me.

My greatest triumph, as of late, is staying sane during these trials (more or less). Yes, I’ve had a few melt-downs, a few moments or days of hopelessness, anger, sadness, and debilitating panic, but they are not my constant companions. There has been a sea of change within me, and I owe it, for the most part, to three things: the availability of help when I needed it; my ability to accept help; and my support network, a.k.a. friends, family, and the scads of mental health professionals I’ve seen in the last couple years.

I’m extremely fortunate that, living in Canada, every service has been provided for free. Even my meds are heavily subsidized. Without this safety net, I don’t think I would be in such a good place now. More specifically, I have worked with cognitive behaviour therapy and my gifted social worker/counsellor to rewire by brain, altering destructive thought patterns and behaviours and learning new ways to handle capital “L” Life.

I was invited to guest post here to share how I’ve managed to deal with the poop/fan combo. Partly, I’ve undone things like catastrophic, black and white, and automatic thinking. In short, my habit was to jump to worst case scenario for EVERYTHING. My daughter didn’t eat her veggies? She’s going to suffer brain damage or possibly death by malnutrition. My husband and I had an argument? Our marriage is doomed and my whole life is a lie. You get the gist. For many people, this seems ludicrous. For people like me, this is normal . . . so normal that we don’t even realize that other people DON’T think this way. Dealing with this junk every minute of every day erodes the spirit and the mind. Being unshackled from it is more than liberating, it’s life changing. Now, when I catch the flu, I just eat more super food and ride it out. Thoughts of ebola and pandemics might float through but they are not The Truth anymore, and I can recognize that. I suppose that’s how I’m getting through life right now. I still argue with my husband sometimes, but I know that we are a strong couple, best friends, and a great team. We have survived worse, and for once in my life, I can imagine the other side, beyond the difficult present. They call it hope, and it’s new to me.

In fact, that might be the quintessential difference between coping and not. Hope is simply not available to those of us swallowed by The Dark. It is the ultimate cruelty of depression and anxiety. Retrieving hope, or discovering it for the first time perhaps, is how people keep moving forward. I reckon that destructive behaviours like addiction (booze, drugs, sex, gambling, food, bad relationships, etc.) don’t create hope, but they temporarily and artificially release us from the oppression of hopelessness. Nobody finds meaning in a bottle of vodka, but meaninglessness takes a short vacation. People like me need to learn, sometimes late in life, how to hope. Sadly, many don’t, and they cannot teach it to their children. Sometimes, we lose the hopeless souls forever.

Many things I neglect which would help me even more include doing more for myself, getting more exercise, making more art, and spending less time in front of a screen . . . I don’t have any definitive tips or tricks on how to go from “I can’t do this anymore” to “I’ll get through this.”  Certainly nothing that hasn’t been said. What I DO know is I’ve come from a place where the future was either impossible or horrible, to a present, where I’m pretty damned tired of the BS that keeps visiting me and my family, but I’m not giving up. It’s something I hope for all those who need it.

Hope doesn't solve my problems, but at least my problems won't win.

Hope doesn’t solve my problems, but at least my problems won’t win.