Depression

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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Eating Myself Sick (pt. 2)

Yesterday, I started writing about my most recent downward spiral into a binge eating episode. Now, for the rest of the story.

Two days ago was “Family Fun Friday” at my daughter’s school. Her dad decided he wanted to go and would pick us up, to go as a family, at 7:30 am. Every night my daughter doesn’t go to sleep before 10 pm, no matter how hard I try. Every morning, it’s a fight to get her awake, dressed, and out the door by 8:30 in time to catch her bus. It was very stressful knowing I not only had to have her up and ready an hour earlier, but, that I would also be in his presence, with his moodiness and anger over his current circumstances and belief that I’m to blame for the situation he’s in because I left the relationship nearly two years ago.

There was no time for a healthy or filling breakfast. So, I wound up eating two half pieces of pastry and half a muffin, along with a large cup of coffee with several creamers, while we were at the school. After we left and were on our way to where I volunteer weekly, less than two miles from his place, the arguing and criticism started. Then, he expected me to use his truck to go do my volunteering at the church. That way, I would go back with him when he picked our daughter up from school. No, thank you.

I wound up at his place, but, I didn’t take his truck. So, the angry texts started coming. Emotional manipulation and empty threats of a non-violent, but psychologically traumatizing nature started coming. Intellectually, I knew that the threats were empty, that his beliefs weren’t my truths, and that I’m not responsible for making him feel better. However, it didn’t stop the PTSD sensations of severe anxiety and overwhelm from taking over. I was jittery. My emotions were in turmoil. I couldn’t stop thinking of the “what if’s” and trying to formulate plans against them.

Anxiety at that level completely shuts down my ability and desire to eat anything. This effect results in a binge later. When I left the building and took the hour long transit trip home, I was okay. As I got off the bus and started approaching my home, I could feel the tension and anxiety rising. So, I decided that I was going to go do something else with safe people for the night, and left almost as soon as I got home. Then, something happened that triggered my sense of obligation, and my fatigue was so extreme, I just went back home.

I made a healthy-ish choice for eating, which sort of satisfied the nutritional hunger. Time to relax and self-soothe. Catch up on recorded shows and try to knit a scarf for my son’s birthday, three days away.

However, as the evening went on, both a physical and mental/emotional hunger grew. Unfortunately, I happend to have a little bit of cash. I checked the balance of my SNAP benefits. I could go get something to eat at the grocery store and make a healthier choice between Popeye’s and Safeway. I got dressed and went out the door. As I got closer to the bus stop to go to the grocery store, the aching in my thighs from all the walking I’d done this week and the overwhelming fatigue washed through me. Then I saw the bus go by.

I checked to see when the next one would come. Nine minutes. Not much time at all, but too long to sit and wait in the chilly night at the bus stop. Okay. Keep moving and walk to the next bus stop. Check the time. Five more minutes. Look up. A yellow, orange, and red beacon in the night – Popeye’s. It’s just a minute’s walk, then I can sit down. When I leave, I’ll still be close enough to walk home.

$6.99 special: Two tenders and four shrimp, a side, and a drink. Sounds good. Coke, please. Yes, honey for the biscuit! Do you have butter? Oh, it’s REAL? Even better. Cajun fries for the side. Thank you for the coupons.

Sit by myself, put my headphones on, and start watching a recorded show on my phone. A text from the ex. An update on our daughter and her complaining of a headache and upset tummy. More criticism for not updating him during the week or having her call him.

Mmmm. That honey and butter on that biscuit sure is good. The rest though, meh, but I eat it anyway.

In comes a group of women. Loud laughter and conversation. Friends having a night in on a food run. On the outside, looking in. Thoughts and emotions swirling on the inside. Calm and still on the outside. I look down and see the coupons I’ll never use.

“Do you guys eat here a lot?”

“Mmmhmm,” head nods.

“Do you want my coupons? I’ll never use them. Oh, sorry, they’re sticky from the honey.”

Home again. Anxious again. Minor relationonal skirmish. Isolation. Knit and watch t.v.

Knock, knock, knock. “Come in.”

“Here. I ordered late night pizza,” two slices of pizza and a hunk of cheese filled bread in a small, long Domino’s box.

Gone.

5:00 a.m. nausea.

When self-soothing turns into self-abuse, it’s time to admit there’s a problem…again.

“Hi. My name is Lillian. I’m a food addict.”

Now, to figure out how to unravel and disconnect the eating from the PTSD and my relationships before I kill myself with food.

Eating myself sick (pt. 1)

I guess it’s time to get back to recovery basics, when it comes to my eating.

Yesterday was hard. It was the perfect storm of hormonal cycles, PTSD triggers, and physical exhaustion. Truthfully, the eating spiral started while I was working on my food plan and trying to figure out how to make it work.

The rationalizations and justifications of, “I’m starting tomorrow, so I’ll enjoy this bacon, egg, potato burrito with country gravy and a Coke for breakfast, now,” and, “After all, you’re not supposed to go shopping on an empty stomach, right?” were the first steps on the slippery slope of my binge eating disorder.

Eating has been my consistent “go to” for self-soothing/self-medicating ever since I was a pre-adolescent. It started after I told my mom about my step-dad having molested me for the previous two years and we wound up going and living with my grandmother.

Dolly Madison Donut Gems in the morning for breakfast before school. Extra chocolate milk at school for lunch. Burger King on the way home from school with my mom. Snack or dinner while visiting grandma at the cafeteria she worked evenings at, during her lunch break. KFC when grandma got home after 9 p.m. from her job. Neither mom or grandma knew how much or how often I was eating. It was offered and I accepted. It replaced the “love and affection” I’d lost when my step-dad stopped paying attention to me  – which was the whole, warped reason I told my mom in the first place.

Getting fed was the way I felt like I was cared about and mattered…at home. At school, it was definitely self-soothing to drink that second chocolate milk. We’d moved several times during that year and I wound up in an inner city school in Houston. There was a large Latino population, a slightly smaller Black population, and a small White population. I didn’t fit into any of them. I talked White, was obviously a “half-breed” Latina, and obviously not Black. it was 1980, in Texas. Mixing races was very much frowned upon. Add into it that I was the “new kid” in sixth grade. I was either ignored or shunned, depending on which group of students I tried to interact with. So, I ate alone. That second chocolate milk and seconds on food, if it was available, filled in the interminable time between the end of one class and the beginning of the next, otherwise known as lunch and recess.

If I focused on how good the food tasted and how it filled me up, then I didn’t have to pay attention to the taunting or the isolation.

After school, mom would meet me in front and we would walk home, just talking about our days. These are vague memories, at best. However, I know that I enjoyed that time with her. Whenever, she could, she’d take me to the Burger King that was between the school and the apartment we shared with my grandma. Sitting there and eating my Whopper Jr. with fries and soda, extended my time with her. Time that was easy and uncomplicated. Time when I felt like she saw me and that I was loved.

Snack/dinner at Picadilly Cafeteria, where grandma worked, was usually an obligation kind of thing. Mom didn’t want grandma to know she’d fed me at BK. So, on those days, I’d have a snack – usally fried okra. I love the taste and texture of fried okra done right. Other days, when we hadn’t stopped at BK, I’d get a full meal. Mom and grandma, sitting with me while I ate, having quiet and easy conversation. Those were our family time meals.

Grandma LOVED Kentucky Fried Chicken, Original Recipe! My memory tells me she came home with a bucket nearly every night. My adult reasoning says it couldn’t have been nearly that often. Anyway, I was usually still awake, despite it being close to 10 p.m. If I was awake, the smell of the chicken was so good and grandma was so sure I hadn’t had enough to eat. So, I would eat…again.

So, food was how I knew I was loved. Food was how I received comfort and suffered through rejection and isolation. Eating was a deception and obligation for emotional safety. It was never about nourishment or health. It was always about emotion and relationships.

I suppose not much has changed on that front. On Thursday night, despite having eaten two very healthy and sustaining meals, one of which I stopped eating when I was satiated, that good ‘ole Southern comfort food got brought into my Trauma Recovery and Empowerment Model group and I filled my plate. I overfilled it! Homemade mac ‘n cheese, homemade potato salad, greens & ham, and fried fish were irristable.

This was the fourth time I’d been in this room with these women, many of whom are African American, all of whom have experienced significant DV trauma. Some are recovering from substance addictions. None of whom did I feel a connection to. I was always uncomfortable in this room, with these women. All I could see was why I didn’t fit with them and the reasons why they wouldn’t feel like I should be there with them. I guess I was mentally back in that sixth-grade school yard in Houston.

But, that food! It was common ground. I was sitting at a table with a Latina and a White girl, surrounded by Black women. All of these women are so strong and so inspiring and I’d been so intimidated and unsure that I could be accepted by them. I ate, everything, after stating I’d gotten way too much and that I probably couldn’t finish it all.

Well, I finished it after a particular topic came up while we were eating and I got triggered into sharing a very painful memory of loss from five and a half years ago. Then, I ate a piece of homemade apple pie for desert.

Sorry this is so long. If you’re still reading, thanks for hanging in there. To be continued tomorrow.

Making Healthy Changes: Why should I care about myself?

Last Monday I had blood work done and on Tuesday I got the news that my A1C blood sugar was back in the diabetic range at 7.3 and that my secondary thyroid hormone was out of balance with the primary thyroid hormone. The doc wanted to start me on Metformin and increase the thyroid medication I’ve been on for about a year and a half that has already been increased once. My weight is also back up to nearly 280 lbs.

Not interested. Why?

Well, first off, I’m pretty sure that the reason for the blood sugar increase, the worsening thyroid imbalance, and the weight gain is because I haven’t really taken care of myself, or felt the desire to take care of myself, for a long time, especially since March of this year, probably earlier, but, I can pinpoint a significant event in March that still brings tears to my eyes.

In my past writings on this blog, I would have gone into excruciating detail about what happened in March and what’s happened since then. However, I don’t want to operate that way anymore, for several reasons:

  • First, I hurt people I care about with my public airing of our relationship issues and interactions. I don’t want to hurt the ones I love.
  • Second, I have learned that the reliving of my traumatic experiences, even in writing, is a symptom of the PTSD and the more I stay focused on what is traumatizing and upsetting, the more I feed the anxiety and depression.
  • Third, I have limited amounts of time and energy. I can use it all up by retelling all that went before (an impossible and impractical task) or I can get forward focused and solution oriented.

This change is not an easy one, since it’s been my modus operandi most of my adult life. However, just as changing my eating and lifestyle habits are necessary for my wellbeing, it is an absolute must.

So, here I am, depressed, overwhelmed, and not really giving a crap about whether I get healthy and live a quality life for as long as possible…at least not because of any positive feelings or hope I have for myself. Instead, the best reason is that my six-year-old, who experiences High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder and has a lot of behavioral issues related to that, needs me healthier and stronger so I can better meet her needs. Secondary motivations are being a positive and interactive grandmother for my two grand babies, who are now almost 20 & 8 months old, and being an example of hope for the future for their momma, my oldest daughter, who is 22, overwhelmed, and struggling with her own self-esteem/self-care issues.

My research indicates that nutrition is the biggest co-factor for just about everything I’m experiencing. More to the point, the way I eat is slowly killing my mind and my body. This means it’s also affecting my relationships and my ability to parent, be a good friend, and member of society. Basically, I feel like my physical & mental health, as well as most of my relationships, are on a negative, cascading, downward spiral.

Now, I’m faced with a decision: Do I commit to necessary changes, no matter what, OR do I allow the apathy, discouragement, depression, anxiety, fear, and tangible obstacles keep me on this slow roll to self-destruction?

Obviously, committing to making changes to improve my health and relationships is the preferred. However, the big question is how do I push through the physiological, biological, neurological, and psychological realities of depression, PTSD, and 46 years of physical, auditory, visual, kinetic, and mental self-destructive habits that feed off of each other?

I have taken a set of first steps. I’ve opened up to a few closed/secret groups on Facebook that have people I trust and people who are on similar journeys of health and significant life change, about what is going on with me and what I’m trying to do. Now, I’m also doing so here. I’ve reached out directly to a couple of people who are farther along in their journeys and asked them for their mentorship and support. I’ve also started working on researching why certain eating plans might help with certain conditions and have a general plan of action in place.

I’m starting with Whole30 as the foundation. I found Whole30 free downloads that cover the basics of the plan and a variety of specifics, including shopping lists for omnivores, vegetarians, egg & nightshade free, low-histamine, and low-FODMAP diets. I’m combining the last three because the multiple health issues I have and their symptoms could indicate Histamine Intolerance, IBS/GI issues exacerbated by FODMAP foods, and (unscientifically reported) symptoms of reactions to nightshade foods (more about nightshades, here). It’s entirely possible that none of these conditions are scientifically provable conditions. However, I need to do something besides let the doctors put me on lots of medications I have trouble remembering to take and that have a host of side effects of their own. So, this is what I’m going to do.

Essentially, I’m going sugar-free, grain free, dairy free, citrus/acidic free, and simple starch free . . . all foods that make up the majority of what my six-year-old and I now eat. I told her about this last week and she cried. I’m trying not to. Eat to live, not live to eat, right? If this way of eating will reduce the brain fog, fatigue, chronic pain, insomnia, depression and host of other issues I’m struggling with, surely it will be worth it?

Next post, I’ll provide a list of foods which remain open to me and see what recipes I can find that will make them palatable.

Desolation’s Lament

When passion has turned to ash,

Motivation has withered,

Desire overtaken by death,

Where is there hope to be seen . . .

When the darkness inside has slithered out,

Grasping, squeezing, choking,

The spark of life extinguished

Where is the glimmer of light . . .

When time has been lost,

Minutes, hours, days

Melting away into empty weeks and months

Where is the strength . . .

When the atrophy of apathy

Fatigues the very soul,

Draining all that is left,

Where is the being . . .

In the resurrection of the One

Who sacrificed mortality for Love

That none shall remain in darkness

Lives hope, light, strength, and being.


(c) LEM 10/27/2015

The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church

You are invited to The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church, a one-day event designed to encourage individuals living with mental illness, educate family members, and equip church leaders to provide effective and compassionate care to any faced with the challenges of mental illness.

I found out about this event a couple of days ago and the thought of it both excites and scares me. It scares me because I have had very counterproductive conversations with people of faith over the years regarding the depression I have experienced throughout my life. Even people who have been healed of depression through their faith, perhaps even especialy them, have spoken to me in ways which were more hurtful than helpful, at least to the way my brain and perceptions were at the time. It excites me because it gives me hope that mental illnesses and disorders are being lifted up and examined within the context of faith and this is a huge opportunity for people of faith, professionals and laity alike, to educate themselves, examine how the way things have been done do more harm than good, and begin exploring new ways of relating and reaching out to people experiencing mental health issues.

This is a very important conversation. If you live in the Orange County, California area and can take Friday, March 28th off to spend the day attending this, low-cost event, please consider doing so. If you don’t have the $20, the website states scholarships are available. If you cannot physically attend, they will be live streaming the event. Even if you can only attend or view part of the event, I have a feeling it will be worth your time.

Find out more information at http://mentalhealthandthechurch.com/

Blog For Mental Health 2014

Life update and seeking a sense of safety

It’s hard to believe it’s only 15 days into 2014. I feel as if it’s already been three months, so much has happened in such a short period of time. I feel a need to decompress. This means it’s time to just write about the stuff that’s been going on for me in my life.

On New Year’s Day, I was alone again the way I had been on Christmas Day. I also wound up being under attack from the toxic texting that tends to happen when Keith is on his roller coaster of emotions from the way things have gone and his feelings about the choices and decisions I have made regarding our relationship and us living together. It’s hard for him to see and understand that although I still love him and that I do recognize and understand he has made efforts to grow and change, the reality is for me and for our daughter at least, the way things were between the two of us, was dysfunctional and having negative impacts on our mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health.

I do not place fault or blame solely on him, his anger, or the critical atmosphere which he grew up internalizing. It’s only half the story. The other half of the story is my depression and my seeming inability to develop, maintin, and grow in self-esteem and doing the things I need to do for my self-care when I am in relationship with him in the midst of the tension, conflict, anger, and criticism. I have a complete lack of self-will and self-determination to do anything other than to enable him in his anger and emotional dysfunction and that depth of codependency is mine and much like the impact of an alcoholic who cannot function and drink at the same time, to the point that he sacrifices all else in life, in my codependent state and relationship with Keith, I have sacrificed everything on the altar of his dysfunction. I am powerless over it when we are living together, which is something that others in our lives cannot understand, accept, condone, or approve of because it means they are not treated well by either Keith or myself and has caused them harm, whether we intended harm or not.

Hand in hand with the codependency is my habitual self-harm behavior using food. Both the codependency and the food have been ways for me to distract, detract, numb out, and avoid dealing with the unresolved emotional and psychological traumas I’ve experienced in my life. Things which I have accepted in my life and thought accepting was enough to deal with them. However, true acceptance doesn’t happen if there are false beliefs attached to the acceptance. So, the acceptance of the childhood abuse, neglect, and abandonment which led to three years of domestic violence abuse by my son’s father in my late adolescence, all was predicated on the false belief that I was responsible in one way or another for any and all of those things or that I somehow deserved or that I wasn’t worthy of having experienced anything other than what I had.

Monday of this week my son showed up unexpectedly and unannounced. After having spent the previous week sick with the flu and having just come from being in the home with Keith during his weekend time with Luna because I was too sick to go anywhere else and it was his time to be in this space with Luna, there had been some predictable negative interactions and I was feeling raw and emotionally vulnerable. So, I really wasn’t prepared to interact with my son, especially since the last communication from him toward me was to announce on Facebook in response to a comment I’d made on his sister’s status update that I had given up my right to have an opinion or some such thing then unfriend me a little over a month ago, after the precipitating incident that caused LaLa and her SpiritLove to move out and me to leave three days later. I just really didn’t know how emotionally and psychologically safe we would be with each other once I opened the door and allowed him to come inside. But, I love him and I’m committed to being able to have a relationship with him, so I took the risk and opened the door anyway. I’m glad I did.

He shared with me something that another family member of ours, my younger cousin who is about 2-3 years older than he is, had told him. She’d let him know that when she was growing up and going through the things she was experiencing, I had been her safe person and given her a safe place to come to in her childhood when she didn’t have any other place to go to and feel a sense of safety. It was the first time he’d ever encountered anyone having that kind of perspective on me and the kind of person I have been. It was certainly not the way he has experienced me in his life and not like anything he remembers from his childhood. Apparently, it made him consider me in a different light and he was able to come to the realization that I attempted to give him and his sister safety and be a safe person for them as much as I ever had attempted it for our cousin. It was such a relief to hear him tell me that.

It also triggered more grief and realization inside of myself because I now understand that I never had a safe person or a safe place while growing up and I have carried that lack of safety with me the entirety of my adult life. Even when I am in safe places with safe people, I do not experience a sense of safety. I think that sense of safety is that sense of homecoming I’ve only ever experienced with one other human being and I think that lack of sense of safety is one of my biggest barriers in my relationship with God, myself, and others.