Well That Didn’t End Well…

As you may already know, I tapered off medications in July to do IVF (which failed to work).  I was fairly stable until around the middle of March when I became depressed, but didn’t realize it (that’s common for me).  Looking back I can see I was, but didn’t connect the dots until I got hit with a mixed (mostly manic) episode on March 31st.  So how do I not know I am depressed you may ask?  Well depression is such a natural state for me that it doesn’t feel much different than everyday life.  I’ve spent the a lot of my life depressed on some level.  Usually it’s just mild depression, kind of going through the motions, somewhat apathetic and displaying a flat affect.  I am a very driven person so you won’t see me staying in bed and calling into work sick (haven’t taken a real sick day in almost two years) and if I do stay home, I’ll still work all day.  Ah, the life of a workaholic!  But I usually burn up the energy I do have working and if I am really in a depressive state, I have a hard time doing anything when I get home.  Sometimes it will take all I have just to cook and clean up afterwards.  It really freaking sucks and often causes problems in my marriage because my husband basically does all the heavy lifting at home during those times.

So this depressive episode looked like going to bed early, eating too many Girl Scout cookies, watching super depressing stuff on television, having weird aches and pains, experiencing sleep disturbances, feeling super weak especially in my hands, and feeling EXTREMELY irritable (my poor husband).  I had some work and personal drama going on and I was freaking STRESSED.  I kept trying to excuse it away, like “I’m not sleeping well because of the annoying foot cramps I’ve been getting at bedtime, and maybe the coffee I’ve been drinking is making me anxious, maybe my diet isn’t right.”  Then I worked seven hours one Saturday on something that required tons of concentration and by Sunday I could barely complete a task because my head was spinning and my emotions were jumping quickly from happy to sad, to irritable and angry.  One minute I was laughing, the next yelling then crying.  That’s when I knew something was up so I put myself on an antipsychotic/mood stabilizer and called my psychiatrist the following day.  I could have easily stopped sleeping and gone into psychosis at that point so I did what I HAD to do.

Much to my surprise, my doctor wanted to see me immediately and saw me on a day he doesn’t usually see patients.  He commended me for calling and was supportive during my appointment (I had a terrible doctor who made me feel like I couldn’t see her for months even while I was in the middle of an episode).  My doctor knew and I knew that no amount of exercise (exercise can sometimes increase mania), healthy eating, or fish oil was going to shut that shit down.  I needed medicinal help and I needed it quickly.  He started seeing me weekly and we started playing with my dosage.  Sometimes it takes a lot of trial and error to get it right.  In the midst of this, I had leave the country for vacation and I was nowhere near where I needed to be.  I struggled controlling my elevated mood while also dealing with random outbursts of tears (talk about embarrassing) throughout the trip.  When my head gets messed up so does my digestion so I dealt with IBS on vacation as well and eventually got really sick after a day in Cozumel.  I don’t know if it was the water or my IBS, but I spent a morning in my room with the runs and when I called the medic for something to help, they quarantined me to my room for the last day on the cruise ship just in case it was a virus.  I was ready for a quiet day to myself, but I wasn’t hoping for constant diarrhea.  We did get free room service that day so that was pretty rad.

It has been 11 weeks since I had to make the call to my doctor and I think we finally have my meds just about right.  I was on the highest dose of the antipsychotic/mood stabilizer at one point which made it difficult to do anything in the morning for at least an hour, sometimes longer.  It wasn’t really safe for me to be walking around.  I was very unsteady on my feet and I actually had to buy a slip resistant shower mat because I was so out of it in the shower.  I felt like a fucking zombie for half the day sometimes, but I somehow found the strength to get to work every day.  I filed for ADA Accommodations to make sure my job was covered when I was coming in sometimes a few hours late.  The HR department approved it and provided a monitor and keyboard so I could make up time at home.  What a relief that was!  The medication I was on was sort of pain in the ass because if I didn’t take it with dinner before 7:00 pm, I would struggle to function in the morning.  I work until 6:00 so having dinner on the table at 7:00 was challenging unless my husband prepared a simple meal for us.  My doctor added an anticonvulsant 5 weeks ago that works as a mood stabilizer and an antidepressant that makes me drowsy at night and those additions have helped immensely.  I recently tapered off the antipsychotic/mood stabilizer and switched to a new one to help with the grogginess that was pretty much debilitating in the morning.  I’ve been on the new med for about a week and it has helped my mornings, but I’m feeling a little irritable again.  Luckily I see my doctor this week and I’m hoping some exercise will help with the slight bitchiness.

It’s hard to describe what I’ve been through over these last few months.  Staying sane during a mixed episode with rapid cycling has been freaking HAARRDD!  I can function ok when I am depressed, but mania is a completely different animal.  If I didn’t start back on meds when I did, it could have turned into a really terrible situation.  I could have destroyed relationships, I could have lost my job, I could have gone so far into psychosis that it would have taken possibly a year or more to recover or I could have even lost my life.  People can poo poo meds all they want, but I am so incredibly grateful for them.  They have legit saved my life several times.  I’ve learned during this episode that I never want to purposely stop medication ever again.  The risk is just too great and I am no longer willing to take it.  Yeah, maybe the meds will eventually destroy my liver and kidneys, but I’d rather have a good quality life so that’s the risk I am willing to take.

 

Life Without Meds

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So it has been almost eight months since I stopped psychotropic meds.  I took a huge leap of faith tapering off medications under my psychiatrist’s supervision before we did IVF in July 2018.  I worried about withdrawals, sleep disturbances, and mood regulation.  After all I had been on them consistently for over five years.  I thought they were my lifeline and couldn’t imagine functioning without them.  Surprisingly, the process of stopping meds was a piece of cake and the past several months have been an eye-opening experience.  In fact, it seems like a lot of the symptoms I was experiencing while taking these medications were actually induced by those same medications. Like seriously, WTF?

For instance, that nagging need to spend tons of money on shit I don’t need has virtually vanished.  That my friends makes the hubs incredibly happy and helps the checking account balance substantially. Whoo hoo!  It’s freeing not to need to run to the store to boost my endorphins and saves a lot of time as well.  I recently Marie Kondo’d my closet and it blew my mind seeing clothes with the tags still attached that didn’t even match my style.  Like bright green capris with a tropical green and blue shirt.  I was obviously manic when I bought that shit.

And sleep, beautiful sleep!  I haven’t slept this great in years.  For years, I would have to adjust my work schedule a few times a month because I couldn’t get to sleep because I was anxious.  Not worrying about anything in particular, just a experiencing a buzzing feeling in my body that was difficult to ignore.  Often I had to take a Klonopin to calm my mind and body down to fall asleep.  It was super frustrating to say the least.  If I didn’t go into work late, I’d struggle to function through the day and wouldn’t accomplish anything when I got home.  I’m happy to report I haven’t had one of those nights since.  I now fall asleep easily and wake up not feeling zombified, relying on stimulants to feel alert.

And the panic, the dreadful panic that would show up out of nowhere and last for months that would make me feel stressed and in turn cause me to overwork myself and eventually burn out.  It was a sneaky little shit though and somehow I didn’t even realize it was happening until it was over and I felt relief.  It made me short-tempered and exhausted and it is no way to go through life.  I was actually on the verge of going on disability last January because I just couldn’t go through another episode.

I still meet with my psychiatrist monthly and we’ve agreed to ride this out for as long as it lasts (fingers crossed).  It’s important I check in with him often because I am not always aware when I start having a manic or depressive episode.  My symptoms usually come on fast and often skew my perception of what’s really going on inside.  I’m very good at faking it which complicates things.  It’s a natural defense mechanism of mine and a very dangerous one.  So I keep up with my appointment schedule and I take exceptional care of myself.  I fuel my body with the best nutrition with some cheat days thrown in to keep me fulfilled and I abstain from alcohol.  It has kept me grounded while my husband and I have dealt with an incredibly stressful life event these past two months.  The fact that I’ve made it through without medical assistance is quite extraordinary and I am grateful.

***I’ve had success without meds, but that does not mean you should stop medications on your own.  You should only do so while working with a medical professional.***

Master of Routine

clocks-1098080_1920My illness has totally turned me into a creature of habit.  Studies have shown that routines can ease Bipolar and I have found that to be true as well.  I typically eat at the same time every day (5 times a day) which helps keep my blood sugar stable and in turn regulates my moods and energy.  I try my best to go to sleep every night and wake every morning at the same time also.  I’ve found planning my meals and snacks and having good sleep hygiene to be keys to managing my illness.  If you aren’t on a good eating and sleeping routine, I suggest you work on that first and foremost.  I also try to plan my work days by scheduling tasks on my calendar.  I get what’s most important done first thing in the morning before my territory gets going and I also schedule weekly and monthly responsibilities to make sure I stay on track.

My mind likes life to be predictable and I always feel the need to be in control so when change happens it often leaves my head spinning.   For instance, I recently had two full days of meetings at work and team activities after work.  It completely threw me for a loop and gave me some pretty intense anxiety.  I had to be at work an hour and a half earlier than normal which I found to be stressful.  That is a big change for someone who is on a strict schedule.  I had to take medicine to put myself to sleep earlier to ensure I got enough rest.  This would be probably be no big deal for a lot of people, but I was experiencing a bout of Irritable Bowel Syndrome also during this time so the thought of not having control over when and what I ate as well as being stuck in a room for hours on end really freaked me out.  So I decided to take some of my control back by bringing my own food for breakfast and lunch.  I left the room during lunch to eat my own food in peace and be close to a bathroom in case my stomach acted up.  This helped ease my anxious mind.

I find traveling work to be challenging as well, but I am getting better at managing it.  The first time I travelled for work, I had my first and only panic attack.  I was not medicated at the time and not doing so well mentally when I was asked to drive to Illinois and Wisconsin with a co-worker.  The first day we spent at a job site watching an installation of one of our stormwater quality units followed by lunch with a sales person then a visit to one of our supplier’s warehouses.  Something I ate during lunch upset my stomach and when we got the supplier I found myself getting sick in the bathroom while everyone was waiting on me to go on a plant tour.  I tried to pull myself together and go on the tour, but i became worried about having an accident as I wandered around the huge warehouse not knowing where the closest bathroom was.  My heart started pounding and I found it difficult to breathe and I high tailed it to the car where I sat for the rest of the visit.  I was completely panicked and mortified.

That first work trip made me terrified to travel for work again and I did everything I could to avoid it.  It almost became a phobia of sorts.  So when my boss called me into his office a little over three years ago and told me I was getting promoted and I had to fly to Oregon and present in front of over 100 of my co-workers, I freaking flipped.  I have little experience presenting and public speaking is my number one fear.  That combined with my fear of traveling for work threw me into a Bipolar episode that lasted for months.  I ended up traveling to the meetings, but I made sure my flight times fit into my normal daily schedule and I did not present.  I did it on my terms and I survived.  Each time I have travelled since, it has gotten a little easier and my last work trip was even my idea.  I refuse to take super early flights so my sleep routine is not disturbed and I also book the shortest travel time (even if that means flying into LAX or traveling on a weekend, ugh).  I bring snacks with me so my blood sugar doesn’t get too low and I try to set my own schedule, always.

This might sound like a boring way to live, but my routines help keep me stable.  The consistency they provide in my life make them worthwhile to me.  If you are struggling to stabilize your moods, I highly suggest you try to your best to stick to a schedule.  It could be exactly what you are missing.

The Dreaded “T” Word

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I recently broke up with my therapist of 3 1/2 years.  Well she doesn’t know it yet, but I’m not going back.  For one thing, her office is now way out of the way since we moved.  For another, I feel like it has been a waste of my time for over two years.  We basically just chat about a few things that are going on in my life and I often run out of things to say and constantly glance at the clock.  I’ve been seeing her every 3-4 weeks just to check in and make sure I’m ok.  Sometimes I’m not the best judge of how I’m doing and I’m really good at faking it and covering up ally shit.  I also tend to be fairly quiet so Chad isn’t always clued in either. I’ve been pretty stable since the spring of 2015 and I am tired of throwing twenty-five dollars away each month so I’ve decided to cut the cord.  I need to give her a call and explain.  I’m sure she will understand.

I first started seeing a therapist in 2005 when I was 27.  She was a hippie that didn’t believe in medication unless it was absolutely necessary.  She believed I learned to be depressed by seeing others in my family depressed, said I was an alcoholic and love addict, recommended self-help books along with some crazy bovine liver supplements from her chiropractor and told me to go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for support.  I was nearly suicidal at the time, thinking of garages I could park my car in and end the pain easily.  She dragged up the past during every visit and I left feeling worse than when we started.  I basically cried the entire visit.  She had me doing mirror work and affirmations to improve my self-esteem.  I repeated “I am enough” while staring at myself in the mirror.  None of these approaches worked for me.  If she were a responsible therapist she would have recommended I see a psychiatrist first.  As I look back now, I can see it was very dangerous not to do so.

I saw another therapist in my late twenties for a few visits that thought I had Bipolar Disorder and wanted to me to see a psychiatrist so I could get on a mood stabilizer, specifically Depakote.  I can’t remember what happened there, but I don’t think I liked what she had to say and the psychiatrist she wanted me to see was not taking new patients so I missed my opportunity to get my diagnosis earlier.  In my early thirties I saw another one for a few months.  Again, the visits made me feel worse than I normally did and I didn’t get anything out of it.  After the psychotic episode in 2010, I saw a therapist that my nurse practitioner referred me to.  She was really aggressive and I was so doped up on an antipsychotic the first visit that she couldn’t get anywhere with me because I could hardly answer her questions.  I just kept saying I don’t know.  I went back a couple more times and she was really pushing me to work on myself, but I was still recovering from psychosis and not thinking clearly so we didn’t accomplish much.

I decided when I started seeing my most recent therapist that we would not discuss the past and I would not let her try to figure out why I am the way I am.  I was upfront about that on my first visit.  I wanted to focus on the present.  I wanted her to help me determine if my mind was healthy, a monthly check-in to make sure I was on the right track.  We both followed that protocol and I found that it was a much better way for me personally.  What a freaking relief.  I believe I am the way I am because I have a chemical imbalance.  I inherited it from my family (I have it on both sides).  Digging around in my past trying to find some reason for it is absurd to me.  I have no history of trauma or abuse.  I was raised by parents who love me and would do anything for me.  We had our issues like all families do, but my environment did not trigger this illness.  So please for the love of God, don’t try to psychoanalyze me.  So I’m closing the book on therapy for now and if things work out they way I have planned, I will not be opening it anytime soon.

The Big 4-0

IMG_12672018 has been a little bit of a rollercoaster so far.  I started it off sick with a sinus infection which was annoying.  I felt pretty rotten, but Chad would not let me cancel the little 40th birthday party he had planned.  He is so freaking stubborn.  I returned to work after 12 days off and it was quiet for a change.  I was busy, but it wasn’t crazy hectic like it normally is.  We had some bitterly cold days that had me wanting to stay in bed the whole day, but I didn’t.  I never do. No matter how I am feeling, I get up and “get my day going” as Chad likes to say.  For one thing Chad WILL NOT let me stay in bed.  No way.  Really though, even when I’ve been incredibly depressed, I have always pushed through.  I always got up.  I always went to work.  I have a strong will, sometimes too strong.  I have pushed through and continued on with things when I should have been taking care of myself.  That’s what caused me to go into psychosis at work 8 years ago. I am getting much better at it, but I still rarely take a sick day.  If I stay home sick, I still work basically all day.  Anyway…I’ve been having a midlife crisis of sorts.  Turning 40 triggered something in me.  It has me reevaluating everything in my life.  I mean EVERYTHING.  It also triggered a mini Bipolar episode.  I say mini because I caught it before it got out of control.

Turning 40 without children has been fucking hard.  I am not going to lie.  This is not the life I pictured for myself when I was younger.  I am really good a faking it, having this facade that life is good and fun all the time and I’ve got my shit together, but that number started to make my head spin.  I started putting all this pressure on myself.  OK, this is it.  This is your last year to try to have a baby.  You’ve gotta figure this out right now!      Then the fear kicked in.  You can’t give birth to a healthy child with this illness.  You can’t raise a child and work full time with this illness.  How can you take care of another human when there are times when you can barely take care of yourself?  I’ve been conflicted about starting a family for years.  I have a lot of fears.  That’s probably part of the reason why I haven’t been able to conceive even with the assistance of fertility treatments.  I haven’t had the right energy around having a baby.  I’m fully aware of that.

So…along with this pressure and fear came some depression.  I started to feel very apathetic which is not like me at all.  I usually care too much.  I started to lose hope and I started to feel trapped.  I began to want to isolate.  I felt like I was alone in the world.  I started to focus on all the things that make me feel separate from the rest of the world.  I no longer drink alcohol (I’ve given it up for good this time, 6 weeks alcohol free!) and sometimes that makes me feel like an alien at social events.  That and not having children to talk about with other women my age frequently makes me feel like I’m from another planet in social situations.  I live in a small suburban town in Ohio.  Literally everyone around me has kids and drinks on the weekends (at least).  The depression lasted about a week then the mania kicked in.  I was rapid cycling (going from depression to mania quickly).  The mania showed up as wanting to spend money on shit I didn’t need, obsessively cleaning out my closet and wanting to get rid of half my clothes, having zero appetite, and insomnia.  I barely sat down or ate anything last Sunday. When I had trouble sleeping that night and felt like my head was in the clouds on Monday, I knew I had to do something.

I called my psychiatrist and had him increase my antipsychotic to stabilize my mood.  The higher dose put the smack down on the mania instantly.  Praise Jesus for atypical antipsychotics!  It could have been a lot worse if I let it continue and didn’t call my doctor.  While we are on the topics of meds, I want to clear something up.  Sometimes people are surprised when I tell them I take medication because I am so focused on having a clean lifestyle.  I have been on medication consistently for the last 5 years.  It has greatly improved my quality of life.  I’ve tried in the past to go without meds and it has not worked for me.  I went to the Cleveland Clinic and saw a Functional Medicine doctor for the sole purpose of stopping meds.  Functional Medicine looks that the root cause of illness.  I had a shit ton of tests done to see if there was some underlying problem causing my illness, they found nothing and the doctor advised me to stay on a mood stabilizer for the rest of my life.  She told me even if I ate perfect organic paleo meals, I would still need to be on meds.  Now don’t get me wrong, cleaning up your diet and lifestyle helps a ton, but it may not always keep you sane.  That is not a risk I am willing to take right now. Due to my history of psychosis, I have chosen to stay on meds.

So…I am just taking it day by day now.  I’m doing much better than I was a week ago and I am grateful for that. I am blessed to have family and friends that support me and a doctor who actually listens and cares.  I thank God that we have excellent health insurance and can afford everything I need to take care of myself.  I have so much to be thankful for.  I realize that I have it easy compared to others that struggle with mental health issues.  My prayer is that one day everyone will have access to to the medical care they need.  I also pray that my words help people feel less alone and give them courage to speak up about mental illness instead of being ashamed.  That is what it is all about friends.

Bipolar and Infertility: Haven’t I been given enough already?

shutterstock_427218448During the first five years of marriage, starting a family was kind of off the table.  I was struggling so terribly with depression and anxiety that I couldn’t handle even the thought of trying to take care of a child.  I could hardly take care of myself at times.  The fatigue was so bad that it took everything I had to get out of bed and finish a day of work.  I was so exhausted by the time I got home that often I could not prepare dinner and do the dishes.  I was having serious trouble sleeping and just functioning on a daily basis.  When I thought about trying to get pregnant, I had so many fears.  How would I be able to function if I was getting up with a baby at night?  Not to mention my anxiety about trying to stop meds to have a healthy baby in the first place.  And what about postpartum depression?  Having bipolar puts me in a higher risk category.  What if I had another serious episode and had to be hospitalized?  What if I became psychotic while I was alone with the baby?  It all just seemed too risky for me.

 

I’ve wanted to have a family for as long as I can remember.  If you would have asked me what I wanted to be when I was younger, I would have told you I wanted to be a mother.  I had no interest in a career.  I just wanted to stay home and raise babies.  My mother worked as a preschool teacher at daycare centers and later ran a center out of our home.  I loved being around kids.  I would often visit her at the daycare after school and I would go straight to the baby room to fawn over them.  When I got older I became very close with my nephew.  I spent as much time as I could with him in my twenties.  He would spend weekends at my apartment.  I took him on trips to see my mom and stepdad in Florida.  I took him to Disney World.  I took him everywhere with me.  He was the most important person in my life.  He did not have a relationship with my brother and something in me told me I needed to be there for him no matter what.  I made sure he knew his other side of the family.  I spoiled him with affection, toys, clothes, anything he wanted.  I mothered him in a way.  When his parents decided he should move to Maryland with my brother, I cried my eyes out.  He brought so much joy to my life during some of my most darkest days.

 

In 2012, Chad and I decided I would stop meds to try to have a baby.  I tapered off for a couple weeks, one day on and one day off, which was sometimes excruciating.  I had terrible withdrawals from the antipsychotic.  On the nights I didn’t take it, I would barely sleep, waking up every hour with anxiety.  I had horrible dreams and night sweats.  It was rough.  Eventually it got easier and I functioned pretty well for five months before relapsing with a fairly intense episode of anxiety.  I promptly went back on meds and felt defeated.  That’s when my friend found a naturopath in the area that treated mental illness with high doses of vitamins.  I started the therapy and eight months later I tried stopping meds again.  This time I started with the antidepressant since I had such a terrible time with the antipsychotic.  Three months later I was struggling with depression and anxiety.  I was having trouble working so I went back on.  The vitamin regimen was tough.  I took up to 65 pills a day.  I had to take them at specific times so I always had a bag of pills with me and set alarms on my phone.  Sometimes I had to take powders mixed with juice and one in particular made me vomit as soon as I took it so I had to take like 15 pills instead.  For the entire 15 months I was on them, I had to avoid processed carbohydrates or I would have terrible diarrhea. Often I would have intestinal upset even if I didn’t have the processed carbs.  I was fed up so I stop seeing that doctor and resigned to my regular medication.  

 

A couple months later Chad and I saw a perinatal specialist to see if it would be safe for me to stay on meds during pregnancy.  She went over the risks and decided since I had a history of psychosis that the benefits outweighed the risks. I still had concerns because both meds I was on are pregnancy category C which means they don’t really know because there is not enough research since scientists can’t ethically perform drug testing on pregnant women.  I struggled a lot with the decision, but Chad wanted to go for it and after a lot of thought and prayers I decided that I couldn’t keep living in fear.  I decided that I only have one life and I didn’t want to regret not trying.  We started trying right away.  After a year I saw my gynecologist to see if anything was wrong.  I went through the tests he recommended.  They checked Chad and he was better than normal (super sperm).  The hysterosalpingogram checked to see if my tubes were open and they were.  The post coital test checked how the sperm interacted with me and it was normal.  I also had surgery to check for endometriosis.  The doctor said I was as pretty on the inside as I was on the outside which made me smile (my doc is the sweetest).  We kept trying for a while since they didn’t find anything wrong, but then took a break for six months because I had another bipolar episode which was heartbreaking.

 

In January of 2017, we decided to see a fertility specialist.  They did blood work and checked my tubes again.  Everything came back normal.  We tried a cycle of the fertility drug Clomid and intrauterine insemination, but didn’t get the positive pregnancy test we were expecting.  The doctor said my uterine lining was too thin so we tried another drug called Femara and IUI again.  Again I didn’t get knocked up.  It was beyond frustrating.  I had a cyst the following month so I could not take any fertility meds then we took a vacation and I had to travel for work so we missed three months of treatments.  We then decided to try a bigger practice in Cincinnati that was recommended by a friend.  We chose to try the drug Femara again with injections to improve our chances.  Chad had to give me shots in my stomach seven times and we did IUI again.  I started my period the day before the start of vacation which was hard to take.  Currently I am trying the Whole30 diet (some have had success with it ) for a while before we do another IUI or decide on IVF.  We haven’t made up our minds about IVF because of the cost and the doctors think I might not be getting good quality eggs.  So if the egg isn’t healthy, IVF will not work.  My age doesn’t help things.  They have suggested donor eggs, but that is super expensive and neither of us want to have someone else’s child.  We’ve discussed adoption, but Chad is not too keen on it and I don’t know if they would consider me to be a good parent because of my mental illness.

 

This experience has not been easy.  It keeps me up at night (a lot).  I carry a lot of guilt for not being able to give Chad a child.  I feel like my illness has taken a lot from us, years of our life, the wedding we had planned, and now possibly our chance to have children.  If we would have started earlier, we would have had better chances.  All I can do now is have faith that God has this.  I am not in control.  Maybe he has a different plan.  Maybe I couldn’t handle it with my illness.  Maybe he is protecting me.  He works in mysterious ways and for now I am just trying to stay positive and keep believing in miracles.

 

Book Introduction

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I am about 1/3 of the way done with my first book.  Hoping to complete by December 2017.  Just decided on the title…Bipolar is a Bitch: One chick’s journey from Crazyville to kick ass mental wellness.

I found out about my Bipolar Type II diagnosis from a piece of paper.  I had been off meds for about 5 months when I starting having severe anxiety and difficulty sleeping.  I was only sleeping a couple hours a night and was having extreme highs and lows.  One minute I thought I had the solution to all of my problems and the next I felt like I wanted to die.  I was completely freaked out and tried desperately to get in to see my psychiatrist.  Problem is she has too many patients so she is always overbooked.  It took about a week to get in to see her.  I had written down everything that I had been experiencing for the past week and read it to my doctor.  She told me to take a week off work to let the meds get into my system.  As I was leaving I looked down and saw Bipolar II on my visit report.  It was like someone stabbed a knife in my chest.  What?!?  I have Bipolar?  I immediately got defensive.  I don’t have Bipolar!  That doctor is a quack!  For years I had been trying to find excuses for my mental issues.  When my head started to slow down, the diagnosis began to sink in.  As I looked back at my life, I could see the cycles.  It made sense.  It felt so final.  This is it.  I am stuck with this for the rest of my life.  It made me feel separate, different, and even more alone.

From that day on, I have been on a mission to find ways to manage my illness other than just popping pills and praying they work.  By the time I received the diagnosis, I had tried a litany of medications (I could start a side business with the leftovers).  I was even prescribed GHB for sleep (Yes, the date rape drug.  It didn’t help).  I spent a couple years in psychoanalysis which proved to cause more harm than good.   I’ve experimented with alternative therapies as well.  Cranial sacral therapy, reiki, and yoga. All of which did provide some relief.  I was determined to get off meds at one point to start a family so I donated ten grand to a naturopath that promised to cure my illness with high doses of amino acids.  Instead of relieving my symptoms permanently, it gave me nausea and diarrhea for months while I took up to 65 pills a day.  Ain’t nobody got time for that, especially when the runs hit you in the middle of a work meeting.  Good times.  I’ve tried gluten-free, sugar-free, paleo, and veganism.  Cleanses are not my friends.  I once eliminated all gluten, sugar, dairy, meat, caffeine, and alcohol.  I became so depressed after three weeks that only a cheeseburger and milkshake could ease the pain.  These restrictive diets caused even more symptoms.  I’ve learned that changing my diet so drastically affects my mood and energy in a big, not so great way.

My search for alternative therapies led me to the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.  I took their year long health coach certification training.  The program taught me ways to bring more balance into my life like focusing on what they call primary foods; healthy relationships, physical activity, a fulfilling career, and a spirituality practice.  I learned over 100 dietary theories and studied with the world’s top health and wellness experts.  I gained a wealth of knowledge from this program and it gave me something positive to focus on during a time when I had almost lost hope.  The program helped me discover that listening to my intuition and eating in a more balanced way provides more positive shifts in my health.  It also taught me how to coach others using a holistic approach to health and wellness.

I’ve learned a lot on this journey and my hope for this book is the show others they are not alone and there are better ways to manage symptoms than the standard protocol of most doctors and therapists.  I’ll take you through the ups and downs, the good and the ugly, the road into madness, and the path to recovery.  I spent many years feeling completely alone with my illness and trying desperately to cover it up.  I’ve found that owning it and sharing my story with others gave me my power back and put me back into control of my life.  Shedding light on mental illness, fighting stigma, and showing others how to recover has become my passion and I truly believe it is my purpose in life.  If you are struggling with any mental health condition, I believe you will find my story comforting and helpful in your recovery, and hopefully a little humorous.