Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Putting the Needles Away for Now

Hi Bipolar Knitter fans,

I have decided to hang up the BPK needles for right now.  I'm not doing well keeping up with my posts, and I've kind of dropped out of lots of parts of my life at the moment.  I guess the ultimate problem with suffering from mental illness is that it kind of rules you sometimes, and even best-laid plans go astray.  I plan to pick this blog up again sometime, hopefully in the near-ish future.

In the meantime, check out for my other blog.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Update on New Year's Resolutions

Way back in January, I wrote a New Year's Resolution post about my one very small, seemingly easy resolution:  to stay out of the hospital.  Sadly, Monday I'll have to break that promise.

I managed to get through this last bout of anxiety and hypomania without having to go back into the hospital (it was touch-and-go, especially at the end of this week), but I have to go into the hospital Monday to get a lovely hernia taken care of.  Most hernia repairs are laproscopic and out-patient, but I get big hernias that take a team of people to fix (I don't really know that, but I know it's big and complicated) and will be in the hospital for at least a night, possibly up to three.

So send me good vibes and let's hope this is the last time I hear the word "hernia" in relation to me like, ever (I had another a couple of years ago which sucked).  When I'm back vertical I'll let you know how it went.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What Does Your Brain Tell You When You're Depressed?

One of the fun parts of hypomania for me (I use the word "fun" sarcastically) is that not only do I get depressed, anxious, and revved up at the same time, usually my depression and anxiety are the things that get revved up.  So my brain goes a mile a minute, but it's going a mile a minute about how horrible I am, what a bad person I am, and how I'm going to hell.  See?  Fun.

The hell thing is a recurring thought; every time I get hypomanic, that's what I tell myself, over and over again.  I'm  lousy person, a lousy parent, ugly, fat, and worthless, and my ultimate punishment (as if having these thoughts isn't punishment enough) is an eternity in hell -- whatever that is.  I know a lot of this can be chalked up to Catholic guilt, but I think it's more than that, too.

I think when you're depressed or anxious, your brain seizes on the most convenient negative thought possible and replays it and replays it like Elf on TBS at Christmas. I'm still working on how to get it to stop the replay; as far as I can tell, it's not as easy as pushing a button.

Does your brain tell you something over and over again when you're depressed?  Is there a thought on replay in your head?  Have you figured out how to turn it off?  If you have, more power to you.  If not, join the club.

Monday, March 12, 2012

But You Look So Good!

A while ago, I sat in a room listening to one woman tell another that even though she was depressed, she looked so beautiful and professional and "together."

I know this woman was trying to make the other feel better; I mean, who doesn't want to hear they're beautiful?  But having been on the receiving end of the same kinds of compliments (not recently -- recently I look like I've been beaten by the ugly stick), I know that when you feel ugly and crappy on the inside, usually the last thing you want to hear is that you look good on the outside.  I don't speak for everyone; I know there are people that this kind of compliment would make them feel better, and more power to them.  But for me, this kind of compliment is not helpful.

I think there's something about someone saying, "But you look so good!" when you're depressed that can minimize your internal suffering, at least in my experience.  It's like the complimenter (is that a word?) is saying, "But you look so good -- you can't feel that bad!"  Unfortunately, you can look beautiful and feel like complete shit on the inside.  Look at all the celebrities with eating disorders, drug and alcohol problems, and horrible relationship trouble.  Of course they look beautiful.  That's what they do.  But they probably don't feel beautiful.

I had a doctor's appointment this morning, my fourth in three weeks.  I actually considered putting on mascara this morning, and then a little voice told me not to, because, while I've been feeling somewhat better, I still don't feel great -- and I didn't want her to see mascara and think, "Oh, she must be better."  I would think I could expect more from a doctor, but you never know.

It's just another example of how we can't judge a book by its cover.  I think a lot of people still have the mental picture of depression and mental illness as a disturbed person on the streetcorner raving about academic fraud (a nod to my UD friends) or the end of the world, a person you cross the street to avoid.  That woman in the three-inch-heeled boots at Starbucks, the woman pushing her baby in an expensive, pristine stroller, the woman in the office next to you that always has her hair done so nicely, they may all be suffering from various forms of depression or mental illness.  Just because they "look good" doesn't mean they feel good.  It also doesn't mean they don't rant about the end of the world, but that's a different issue.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Unending Chain of Side Effects

I saw my psychiatrist today, as I have the last three Wednesdays.  Let me first say, that despite the fact I have to drive over an hour down and back for my twenty minute appointment, I really do like my doctor.  She seems really on top of things, and also seems to be interested in continually expanding her knowledge.  To a teacher, that's pretty much the best personality trait anyone can have.
The reason I'm seeing her so frequently is that I'm trying to change meds.  I was on a ton of Seroquel plus lithium, and we're trying to phase out the Seroquel and get me on another atypical antipsychotic.  Last week, she cut my Seroquel almost in half and prescribed Abilify, something I was on a long time ago but don't remember a lot about.

Turns out, the Abilify (like Geodon before it, another atypical antipsychotic) gives me akathasia.  Akathasia, in lay terms, is when you get really antsy and jittery and feel like you can't sit still.  It was worse on the Geodon, but it seems to be getting steadily more irritating the longer I'm on Abilify.  So to combat the akathasia, my doctor prescribed a drug called Propranalol that works by lowering your blood pressure and making you less antsy.

To make a long story shorter, it ends up I can't take the Propranalol because it gave me chest pains, made me a little shaky, and I have a level 1 AV block (a very minor heart condition) that isn't a big deal by itself, but could be an issue on the medication.  So now we have to change directions and move towards Depakote rather than Abilify.

The problem with Depakote?  It causes weight gain, which is one of the reasons I was trying to get off Seroquel in the first place.  So now I have to go to my primary care doctor and see about taking a drug for diabetes 2 called Metformin, which helps with weight loss. 

I talked a few days ago about the idea of getting off of meds completely; this whole side effect debacle makes me even more interested in the idea of getting off drugs.  I feel like we're getting to the point where we're managing side effects more than we're managing the underlying problems, my bipolar disorder.

Does anyone with chronic problems have this same issue?  The daunting task of managing side effects?  Of taking drugs to offest the drugs you're taking?  It's frustrating, and if I didn't have anxiety problems already, I'd definitely have them now. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The AM Crunch

I hate mornings.

Like, with a passion.  Detest them.  I hate them even worse on the weekends, when my husband, who knows I hate weekends, still won't get up on Saturdays to deal with them (in his defense, he usually does get up Sundays).

I hate waking up to a kid standing next to my bed, staring at me. I hate being exhausted, but having to drag myself up anyway.  I hate trying to go to the bathroom and get dressed while a mobile child stands whining that they want breakfast/want to watch TV/want to go to the zoo/whatever, while the baby lays in her bed, screaming to be changed/fed/whatever.  And then I hate having to hit the ground running, once I manage to pee and pull my hair back I have to practically move in super-speedy motion to get breakfast, change clothes, do hair, make beds, and all the rest.

So, yeah, like most moms, I hate mornings.

The last couple of weeks, courtesy of my therapist and a friend (thanks Robyn), I've been reading some books on trying to take control of your life and live more zen.  One of the suggestions made by my therapist, coming from the book The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, is to try to journal three full pages before I get out of bed.  Pretty much, I wake up, sit up, and start to journal.  The idea is to try to purge all the "to do" type stuff in your head before you get out of bed, and to try to start the day fresh and open.  Incidentally, The Way of the Happy Woman (the other book I'm reading) suggests, similarly, to get up early, before anyone else, and engage in some sort of ritual that will energize you for the day (like journaling or doing yoga). 

I'm happy to report that for the last few days, I have been taking this suggestion and journaling before I get out of bed.  The first day, it seemed to help; I felt a little more calm and mentally "clean."  Yesterday it also seemed to help; I got up, then my kids got up at separate times, and I even played some nice, relaxing ambient music in the kitchen to try to keep everyone calm.

Today, well, was a different story.  I calmly wrote in my journal, but then my baby started hollering, so I had to deal with her.  After I got her out of bed and then dressed, my three year old immediately got up, doing this irritating cry/whine/shriek thing that she sometimes does.  The sound is the audio equivalent of someone sticking an ice pick in my eyeball.  Then my five year old got up, demanding to watch "The Octonauts." (seriously, is anyone else's kids totally addicted to this show?  I don't get it.)  The whole time, I could feel the calm I'd established like a nice, warm blanket draped over my brain.  By the time I got the baby her food, the blanket was on fire and I was bitching at my kids like a snapping shrimp (sorry, too much "Octonauts").

The one good thing I'll say about today is that I think it did take me longer to get to my tipping point with my kids than on normal mornings, so I think I was still getting benefits from journaling and trying to create a calm start to the day.  But nothing will stand up to my three year old's shriek noise, so I should just give it up.

I'll keep journaling before everyone gets up, and maybe the benefits will accrue.  Even better, after I journal, maybe I'll leave the house and go get coffee and stay away for about an hour.  I think THAT would create the best calm I can think of.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Hey, I'm Back -- And Large and in Charge (Sorta)

Finally, an update.

I've had a rough few weeks, and couple that with the fact that even if I'm in a good mood, using my computer usually makes me want to break something, I've just kind of avoided any serious computer stuff altogether.  Which isn't an excuse, but it is a reason.

So, like I said, I've been having some rough times the last few weeks.  What am I doing about it?  Well, I'm glad you asked.

I've been trying -- albeit somewhat half-heartedly -- to take some control of my life.  A while ago I wrote about a blog post on that discussed how many people may be able to get off antidepressants and help their moods themselves through exercise, eating, and the like.  When I wrote about it, I kind of scoffed at the idea, and pointed out that sometimes, medication can be empowering, rather than disempowering. 

The thing is, ever since I wrote about that blog post, I haven't been able to forget it.  It kind of lodged in my brain and won't leave.  I still don't know if I buy all of what she's selling, but I know I'm sure tired of feeling like crap.  I'd also like to avoid further ECT treatments, and further hospitalizations (both options that have  been discussed the last week or so).

I've taken a few steps to try to help myself out.  I said before that it was "half-heartedly," because I don't really have the energy to do much of anything full-throttle, and of course, if I fail, I can say that I only half-assed it, so that's why I failed (nothing like setting yourself up for failure, eh?).  So this is what I've done:
  • Stopped drinking Diet Coke, and all soda.  I've read so much about how bad diet pop is for your body, and how it makes you fatter, plus I know there are bad chemicals in there
  • Thought about going all vegan/organic, and stopped eating meat.  I am approaching this in stages; first, the meat, then all the animal or not-cruelty-free products.  I'd like to move my family over to this kind of eating as well, and I found an interesting food blog called that has an associated cookbook.  All the food is family-friendly and vegan.  Again, I'm doing this because I'm tired of thinking about the chemicals, hormones, and other icky stuff that is in our food -- and, even more so, in my kid's food
  • Started journalling again
  • Got a new therapist, and have actually kept my appointments with her
  • Tried to do more yoga, on a more regular basis.  I had to give up the treadmill because of my wonderful hernia (which I'll have fixed in about three weeks), but yoga doesn't bother me
  • Have been getting out of the house more.  Rather than sleeping whenever I have a babysitter, I've been trying, at least for a little while, to go run some errands or even just drive around in order to get out of the house.  There are days when I really, truly, detest my house -- I want to bash the walls with a baseball bat.  I think that's a sign that I need to get out
That's about it.  Remember, as I said, I haven't been doing any of these things  super consistently or anything, and I still feel like crap (though I do feel better than I did).  I'll keep you posted on my life-improvement quest.