Monday, January 30, 2012

Looking for the's That?...Oh, Right! Word!

Last summer, I started to put together a book proposal about my depression issues when I was pregnant with my third daughter.  I searched and searched when I was pregnant, and there were virtually no books or resources about depression or bipolar disorder during pregnancy, and it was horribly frustrating.  It was one of those experiences that even when I was going through such a sucky time, and I was miserable and psychotic and almost out of my mind, one of the few lucid thoughts I had was, "Somebody's gotta address this issue."  That's how this blog was born, in fact.

Anyway, I stopped working on the book proposal for a while (for non-writers, just so you know, writing a nonfiction book proposal is a pain in the butt -- there's very specific information that needs to be in it, it requires research, and it's pretty involved), and am just now getting back to it.  Which, by the way, I think is probably a good sign, but that's not why I'm talking about it.

Why I'm bringing it up is because this is the first brain-bending writing I've done in a long time (not counting this blog), and my brain is totally resisting it.  I don't know what the problem is, but it honestly is a huge effort just getting through a sentence.  I can't find the right words or the right phrases, and nothing seems to sound right.  It's really frustrating.

I know all writers go through tough times now and again; there are plenty of times I know I've sat, staring off into space, struggling for the right word or the right way to phrase something.  And trying to write with three kids needing this, that, and the other every 30 seconds doesn't help, either.  So I think it's a little premature to blame this brain struggle on my ECT treatments -- but I have to kind of wonder.  I mean, it's nothing that would keep me from writing, or that's crippling me, but I definitely feel a little foggier, a little denser, than I normally do.

Maybe I'm just out of practice; maybe it's the lingering depression I'm still fighting.  For now, I'm going to blame those things.  But if it keeps up, I'm going to have to start wondering if the ECT had more side effects than I originally thought.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Dr. Oz and His "Controversial" ECT Show

At the beginning of this week, a few thoughtful people alerted me to the fact that, on Wednesday of this week, Dr. Oz was doing a show about Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT). I was pretty excited, because Dr. Oz is about as mainstream as it gets, and to have ECT discussed on a mainstream show like that could be really helpful for a lot of people.

I think he did a pretty good job of talking about ECT in general; he had a couple of doctors (notably Dr. Keith Ablow, who used to have his own show, and is a fixture on "Fox and Friends"...hmmm), and also spoke to a few people who have had ECT. One, Julie Hersh (she writes about her experience with Dr. Oz here), is an author of the book Struck by Living: From Depression to Hope and also is a public advocate and speaker about mental health. The other patient Dr. Oz spoke to, Susan, was a "normal" person (i.e., no book, no speaking engagements, no websites -- just a woman who has had ECT treatments). He actually got her permission to film her having an ECT treatment, and showed it during the segment. You can get the videos of the segments from the show here, on Dr. Oz's website.

Dr. Oz started the show by saying it was one of the most "controversial" he'd ever done, but amusingly, there wasn't much controversial about it at all. In fact, it was kind of a glowing, enthusiastic commercial for ECT; I kind of wondered if he was getting a kickback from the ECT machine manufacturers (there was even a pretty obvious close-up of the machine in one clip). The doctors he talked to maintained that there were few, if any, side effects for most patients, that cost shouldn't be an issue for most patients because insurance usually pays for treatments, and that it was 80% effective in treating major depression, which was a much higher success rate than most antidepressants.

As he ended his discussion (which, I was disappointed to find out, only lasted half the show -- the other half was about being tired, or something), he said that he was just trying to "start a conversation" about this topic. He wanted to let people suffering from depression or other mental illnesses know that this option was available, and the treatment wasn't like what most people thought it was. I think he accomplished this.

However -- and it turns out that the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery agrees -- I think the discussion was a little one-sided. While there was passing mention of memory loss as a potential side effect, it was pretty much glossed over as a mere annoyance. I know a lot of people have had significant memory loss as a side effect of ECT, and that side effect shouldn't be ignored. There's also the time commitment of the treatments themselves, which wasn't discussed, and the risks associated with general anesthesia that are always present. And then, of course, there's the risk of spending a ton of time and money on treatments and having them not work, or work only as well as medication does. In addition, in their response to the show, the National Mental Health Coalition said that the claims of 80% effectiveness were "'vastly exaggerated.'"

It's kind of an interesting coincidence that this show aired this week, because this is the first time in six weeks I have not had an ECT treatment. And you know what? I've kind of had a shitty week. I've been up and down, but it seems like mostly down. And I've been extremely irritable and prone to angry outbursts. Perhaps the most concerning change that I've noticed this week was that my urge to self-injure has returned. It was almost like magic when I started ECT that my desire to cut just disappeared, and it pretty much stayed gone...until I stopped treatment.

I don't know what this means. Does it mean that I have to have ECT treatments the rest of my life? I was under the impression that ECT helped on a more permanent basis; it wasn't just effective right around the time I would be having treatments. But maybe I was wrong, I don't know. I know it's concerning. And I also know that no matter what Dr. Oz says, or how safe and wonderful a treatment it's supposed to be, it still kind of terrifies me, and I don't really want to do any more treatments any time soon if I don't have to.

Did anyone else see the show? Any thoughts?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Parenting is Hard, Bipolar or Not

Yesterday was a horrible day.

I had pushed myself too hard on the treadmill the night before (I'm in that awkward stage where I'm really too fat to run, but too impatient to walk), so I woke up with with bad abdominal pain from aggravating some existing hernia issues.  So, right there, things were bad.  Then my three year old woke up acting as if she had been possessed by a demon sometime during the night, which was bad enough, but she also decided she was going to take the five year old down with her by baiting her into her own screaming tantrums. Throw in the normal morning crap -- the baby not wanting to eat, bright blue yogurt on the beige carpet, not wanting to brush hair, etc. etc., and I was a crying, hysterical mess by 9:45 a.m.

My morning dose of Xanax helped a little, and my mother coming over helped a LOT, but all day long I had overwhelming guilt issues.  I should be able to handle this crap myself, shouldn't I?  I mean, all moms have bad mornings, but they don't go crawling to the Xanax bottle or Grandma to get through.  I hate that I can't grit my teeth and do my job (seeing as how being a full-time mom is my current job).  I just could not pull myself together; I was crying, cursing, angry, and irritable.  I hate my kids seeing me like that.  Not to mention I'm much more likely to snap or yell at them, which I really hate.  My five year old, especially, is very sensitive and gets very upset when she's yelled at.

And all day long, I kept thinking about this blog post I recently read from the website BlogHer (it's a blog directory that I can't exactly figure out the point of, but anyway) entitled No Excuses:  Parenting Isn't Hard, which made me roll my eyes so hard I thought I sprained them.  The author's point was that it's not "hard" to avoid yelling at your kids, grabbing them, getting in their faces when they do something wrong, and that people use the excuse that "parenting is hard" to explain yelling at and treating your kids poorly. 

The analogy she bases her argument on is that if you were in a fast food restaurant and saw a man yell at a woman for spilling her drink, grab her by the arm, and drag her out the door, you would be appalled and maybe even say something.  But if you see a mother do that to a kid, it's just "life as usual."  And while I agree with her that it's never okay to abuse a kid (if you consider that kind of behavior abuse, which I kind of think is up for debate), her point that it shouldn't be "hard" to not yell at your kids, to always treat them lovingly, not not lose your temper -- all because they are "small, dependant people" and we love them so much that (in her words) we should want to "snatch [them] up and squeeze [them] to bits in a fit of overly-emotional love-smush."

Uh.  What?

I won't even get into why the analogy is faulty to begin with, or how ridiculous the phrase "love-smush" is.   I'll just deal with the general argument.  Now, I probably have more irritability issues than a normal person, but I think the idea that it's "easy" to not lose your temper with your kid just because you love them so much is a tad...freaking insane. 

Of course I love my kids.  Even on mornings like yesterday, I love them.  But I admit, I don't always like to be around them.  And yeah, I lose my temper and yell -- but it's not because I don't love them, it's because I can only take so much.  When I tell three year old to take her yogurt to the kitchen because the baby was going to get and spill it, leave the room, and two minutes later hear the five year old yelling that the baby spilled the yogurt because the three year old didn't move it, these children that I love are incredibly, unavoidably frustrating.  And, oh my God, parenting is the HARDEST job I have ever done.  No, it's not complicated;  no, it's not intellectually taxing (usually).  But it's intense, and it's exhausting, and it never ends. 

Am I crazy (well, crazier than I thought)?  Am I in the minority?  Do most people think that parenting isn't hard?  Is there something wrong with me that I'm not constantly overcome with the desire to "love-smush" my children?  Is this attitude another side effect of my bipolar disorder, and should I just crawl back to my mind-numbing meds?

Somehow, I suspect if you took an informal poll of moms, most of them would say that, at least at different times, being a parent is hard.  But maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe I'm the one who is flawed.  If so, I guess I'd better call and get my psychiatrist to up my Xanax dosage, because hard or not, parenting is one job you don't have the choice to resign from.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Goodbye, ECT, and Good Riddance

Wednesday was my tenth and last ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) appointment.  I am so very excited to be done with these treatments, I can barely contain myself.

Oh, the things I won't miss...not having to drive 45 minutes each way for every treatment...not having to wait in the inevitible backlogged queue for it to be my turn when I'm finally there and ready...not having that "lost time" feeling every time I wake up...not wanting to sleep for two entire days after the treatment.  (Well, if I'm honest, I'll still probably want to sleep, because that's just the way I work.  But at least it won't be a drug-induced, fall-into-bed-and-pass-out sleep.)

I also won't miss the random aches and pains I have after each treatment, especially in my right shoulder and back.  What is that about, anyway?  I think the pains are a result of my muscles clenching up during the seizure, but I get muscle relaxers, so that shouldn't be it. It's a mystery.

The only thing I'm concerned about is feeling worse.  For all the irritating parts of ECT, I really think it did help.  And I notice that the further I get from my last treatment, the more depressed and irritable I get.  This mood change could also be due to the fact that I have to stop taking my lithium 48 hours before each treatment.  For right now, I'm going to assume that the lack of lithium is the culprit, and not the lack of ECT.  I'm not sure what I'm going to do if it turns out I need ECT regularly to feel okay -- that would, frankly, suck.  I don't even know how or if that would work.  Hopefully I won't need to find out.

For now, I'm just going to bask in the glory of "graduating" from my treatments, and hope for the best.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

New Project & Old Whineyness

I looked back through my old posts to see if I'd written about what's on my mind recently enough that I shouldn't write about it again, and I couldn't find anything, so I'm going to go for it.

I've been in a serious funk lately, and I'm not sure why.  Post-Christmas crap, lovely Ohio weather, difficult children, drug side effects -- you name it, I probably am dealing with it.  What's hard for me is not to just throw my hands up and let myself slide down that slippery slope from feeling "funky" to being all-out depressed.

Because, let's face it, everyone has bad days, right? Even bad weeks.  Hell, bad months.  That doesn't mean they're on some sort of collision course with full-on depression.  It just means life isn't all that easy at the moment.  I have to try to remember that even though today may be a crappy day, tomorrow doesn't have to be. 

It's just that -- and this sounds really negative, but it's true -- for people suffering with mood disorders, I think if today is a crappy day, it may be a little more likely that tomorrow will be one, too, or maybe even crappier.  I'm honestly not sure how I'm supposed to tell the difference between a legitimately disintegrating mood and a bad day. It seems like, in the past, I've gotten stuck with my pants down, so to speak; I've thought that maybe I was just in a funk for a while, then all of a sudden I realize that my mood, usually depression, has gotten pretty far out of hand -- and that has meant, at least recently, hello hospital.  I would like to avoid that at all costs, since my one goal for 2012 was to stay out of the hospital.

So, in an attempt to keep my mood under control, I've started working on a few projects that may help.  For one, I've started to run again.  Okay, I've started to jog.  Okay, I've started to shuffle.  I am the world's slowest, ugliest, sweatiest, floppiest runner, but luckily we have a treadmill, so nobody really has to see me. 

I've also decided to try some craftherapy.  I got the bright idea to try to build a dollhouse with my girls.  I've been reading a lot about recycled crafts, so I've been wanting to try some different projects, and a dollhouse seemed like a good idea -- especially since we have a ton of old moving boxes just sitting in the basement crying out to be re-purposed.  And of course I have my knitting projects I started working on this weekend that I talked about yesterday, so those should keep me busy.   

Here's to hoping my different coping mechanisms will help my mood stay above the "danger" line...and if they don't, maybe my last ECT treatment tomorrow will.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Knitting on a Sunday Morning

The other day I talked about how I'm not really interested in anything much at the moment, that I'm just kind of apathetic and miserable.  Well, I decided yesterday I'd try to get out of the house and find some activity to capture my interest, at least a little bit.

Rozetti Tundra Self-Ruffling Yarn
I decided to go look for this funky, self-ruffling yarn I keep seeing online.  It was all the rage around Christmas time, presumably so you could buy it and make a scarf for a gift.  Well, as usual, I'm late to the party, so I'm past gift time but I thought I'd still try to make a scarf with it.  I went to a little local yarn store not too far away (it's called Fiberworks -- sadly, locally owned yarn shops are getting harder and harder to find these days), and they had one hank left -- enough to make a scarf.  So I snapped it up.

Skip stitch scarf pattern with Tundra yarn
I started the scarf when I got home, and man, it's a pain in the rear.  It knits up reeeeeaaaaally slowly, and to make the ruffle happen, you're pretty much knitting into one edge of the yarn that is nothing but thread.  On the up side, the finished portion is pretty.  This is one pattern for a scarf using the yarn; I sort of made up my own that isn't a skip stitch pattern.  I don't know if that's making it slower to knit up or not. 

On another note, though, I'm really excited about this book I got at the store.  I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but I'm a knitting (actually, arts/crafts in general) book junkie, and I'm especially a sucker for knitting books with really beautiful, artsy photos.  For example, Teva Durham's books are beautiful -- she was an editor at Vogue Knitting and has really cool designs (check out Loop-d-Loop:  More than 40 Novel Designs for Knitters), and I also love Knitting Over the Edge and all the related books in that series.  I don't know that I've ever actually completed any projects in either of those books, but I just like looking through them.

Anyway, I found a book at the store called Knit Noro Accessories:  30 Colorful Little Knits.  All the designs use some incarnation of Noro yarn, which pretty much means they're going to be beautiful no matter what -- I think Noro has such pretty, tactile-ly pleasing yarn.  But there are some seriously cool scarves and other random patterns in there (a tea cozy! -  but it sure ain't like your grandma's tea cozy) and I want to dig right in.  I even thought about trying to do a "Julie and Julia" thing and do each one of the patterns in order, but I don't think my bank account would hold out -- one little catch about Noro yarn, is that it can be pricey (especially if you're practically buying it in bulk, which I would have to do to make every pattern in the book).  So I thought I'd just start with one and go from there. 

Long story short, my quest to find something to interest me has paid off, at least for the time being.  I'm kind of in a place where I feel like everything I touch turns to crap, so it may be a little bit dangerous starting some sort of new project, but I gotta try something.  I'll keep you posted.

Oh, and I FINALLY finished that book I'd been reading for like, three weeks.  It was good.  I'd recommend it -- The Leftovers, by Tom Perrotta

Thursday, January 12, 2012

This is Me...This is My Brain on Psychiatric Drugs...Any Questions?

I think a big question that plagues many people who take antidepressants, antipsychotics, and other types of psychiatric drugs is, how much do these drugs change your personality?  And, how much does that matter?

Obviously, if you're taking some sort of mood-altering drug, it's because your mood is interfering with your life, presumably in a negative way.  You're depressed, psychotic, anxious, or have some other undesirable problem that you've sought treatment for.  The only problem is, often times, the drugs you get to help you through the original issue cause other undesirable issues that may or may not be worse than the original problem.  For example, I wrote a few weeks ago about the mountains of Seroquel I'm taking and how they make me blunted and tired.  Add that to my ECT treatment from yesterday, and I've slept the better part of the last day and a half.  I'm lucky I have a babysitter so that I can sleep as much as I need, but I still feel like the world's laziest person.

Another issue I've noticed being on a higher dose of Seroquel in addition to ECT treatments is that I just kind of feel stupid.  My reaction times are slower, I can't think of words or phrases as quickly as I usually do; I can't flesh out ideas like I usually can.  While I don't think I'm a particularly great artist or crafter, I feel like my normal pool of creativity is definitely shallower than it used to be.  When it comes down to it, those things are small prices to pay to be a functioning member of my family and society.  It's more irritating than anything, to have a half-formed idea hanging in your brain and lack the ability to give it structure and substance, but it's irritating, nonetheless.

One last complaint (let's face it, this is just one big rant) I have is that I just don't care about most things.  My weight, cleaning the house, getting out and doing stuff, setting up fun, structured activities for the kids -- I just can't be bothered.  It's as if my mantra is, "Whatever." I did manage to get my girls signed up for ballet and theater classes, and I made the giant step in managing my weight of buying a bunch of Lean Cuisines.  Maybe just the fact that they're in my freezer will rub off on my other food and make all of it low-cal, tasteless and cardboardlike.  I can only hope, because that's about as far as I've got.

Even entertainment-type stuff has less appeal.  I can hardly sit through a whole television show anymore; I just don't care.  I've been reading the same book for three weeks.  And it's a good book!  I just can't get that interested.  Even knitting and crocheting hold less appeal for me; I feel like just about everything I do turns out crappy and I just can't get excited about anything.  I flip through lists of projects in my head and nothing grabs me.  It's so frustrating.

So, to sum up, I'm going through that unavoidable existential crisis that most people who are on mood-altering drugs go through at some point.  If I think, therefore I am, what am I if I think slower, or less sharply?   If I think differently, or less?  If I think, but I just don't care?

Monday, January 9, 2012

More About Health Insurance and Mental Health Care

On Friday I discussed the article in The Dayton Daily News to close Greene Memorial Hospital's psychiatric facilities.  Today there is another health care related article in the DDN, this time about a nonprofit organization from San Fransisco's efforts to push value-based health-care reform for the state's Medicaid program.

The Dayton Daily News isn't exactly a bastion of stellar journalism, so it took me a little bit of interpreting to figure out exactly what this means.  As near as I can tell, "value-based health-care reform" means shifting the bulk of the state's Medicaid contract payments to managed care providers who can prove that they're effectively treating their patients.  So, rather than blindly handing out money, providers will have to be able to prove that they are "adding value" -- i.e., they actually are providing services that are making their patients healthier.

Could it be that this is actually a good idea?  It kind of sounds like it, at least to me.  This article from 2009 in the New England Journal of Medicine  discusses value-based health care system as an effective strategy for health care reform, and makes a pretty good case as to why it's the best way to look at reforming the system.  The author says, and this makes perfect sense, that true financial savings in health care reform are really only achieved in health care reform if it's savings through good outcomes of services -- not through cost-shifting and restricting services.  So if Ohio is truly committed to reform through value-based health care, there really are a lot of potential places to save money and improve the current Medicaid system.

What troubles me about the article is that while the program won't "cost the state money" (the author seems to stress this point a little too vigorously), state officials don't "have quality and savings goals in place to measure success."  Any time I see a governmental goal discussed that doesn't have some sort of assessment method, I get a little worried.  And as to the question of mental health care reform, in my experience, mental health care is so trial-and-error, it may be very hard to quantify mental health treatment as a "value added" treatment--unlike, say, treatments for diabetes or heart disease. 

But, hey, maybe it's still a step in the right direction.  Gotta start somewhere.

Anyhow, I got way off topic. No more boring discussion of health care or health care reform for the rest of the week, I promise.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The "New Reality" is Cuts to Mental Health Care

Sad but true
Yesterday, an article in the Dayton Daily News discussed the closing of the inpatient psychiatric care facilities, as well as cutting back on some outpatient psychiatric services, at Greene Memorial Hospital, a member of the Kettering Health Network.  Patients formerly taken in by Greene Memorial will now be directed to Kettering Behavioral Health Center (the same facility that told me, when I was pregnant and walked in for an evaluation, they could "not ethically" let me leave because I was a threat to myself and my baby...and less than 20 minutes later dismissed me out of hand, because they could not admit me because I was pregnant and pregnancy was considered a medical condition they could not accommodate.  But that's a different story).

A spokesperson for the Kettering Health Network said that "'the new reality is that hospitals will be required to care for more patients with less reimbursement.'"  To get a general idea of how many mental health patients Greene Memorial usually services, the article mentions that they discharged 508 psychiatric patients in the "first 11 months of 2011."  According to US News and World Report, Greene Memorial Hospital has a total of 185 beds across all services, so it's a safe assumption that only a small percentage of these beds are in the psychiatric inpatient unit.  So the bottom line is that the area may be losing only a few total psychiatric inpatient spaces -- but when you've only got a few to start with, every space matters.

What's especially telling is that the amount of bad debt that Greene Memorial faced increased in the past few years, to a whopping 30% -- this while its patient volume actually decreased by 13% (these stats from the same article as I mentioned before).

Here's the naked truth:  mental health care is messy.  As I talked about when I discussed the closing of the Twin Valley Behavioral Health Center and replacement with the new Access Dayton mental health facility, many of the people in the mental health care system are also in some way involved in the courts/legal system -- meaning they have Medicare or Medicaid.  Thus we are right back around to the crux of the problem:  hospitals don't want to treat patients with Medicare, Medicaid, or other similar health insurance.  And it's no mystery why -- it's because the hospital very often doesn't get the reimbursement it needs to keep its services running, which then puts them at a deficit for other services, which messes with their financial solvency, etc. etc.   

I don't usually get real political on here, mainly because if I was pressed to profess an allegiance to any party, I'd say I'm in the Voter Apathy Party and I really just can't be bothered to sift through all the parties' crap to see what I really believe in.  But when I start talking about mental health care, it's a no-brainer.  Our health care system is broken.  It needs to be fixed.  I'm not exactly sure how to do that -- it's like moving a mountain with a teaspoon -- but just because it's a hard job isn't a good enough excuse to not do it.

Almost exactly a year ago, a state trooper  was responding to a disturbance at a trailer park near here (up towards Springfield), and was shot to death in a standoff-then-shootout.  There was much public outcry when it came to light that the shooter been in a shootout almost ten years before, then served two years in a mental institution after being found not guilty by reason of insanity.  Law enforcement called for a more accessible database of offenders found not guilty by reason of insanity, so the officers knew better what kind of situations they were walking in to.  Gee, I have an idea -- let's try to help these ill people so they aren't in another shootout.  I know, crazy -- but just crazy enough to work, maybe?

On a more national scale, one can point to the shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (and others) almost exactly a year ago, and all the discussion around the fact that the shooter, Jared Loughner, should have been receiving mental health care but wasn't, according to this NPR article, because of the stigma attached to mental illness.

Advocating for mental health care is not just about "taking care of our brothers and sisters," which clearly isn't a good enough reason for many people to take it seriously as a cause (though for those people who consider themselves Christians, it should be).  Mental illness, perhaps more than many other kinds of illness, has far-reaching tentacles that does not stop at the sufferer.  Failure to attain treatment for mental illness can reach far, affecting completely anonymous, innocent bystanders in the most horrific of ways. 

Unfortunately, with the constant closing of mental health facilities like Greene Memorial, Twin Valley Behavioral Health Center, and others all across the nation, I suspect it's going to get worse before it gets better.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

More Thoughts (Mostly Negative) on ECT

Yesterday I had my second weekly ECT appointment, and it occurred to me as I was waiting that I really, strongly dislike these treatments.

Did you ever have a person that you'd known for years, and one day it just hit you that you really didn't like them?  This has happened to me a couple of times recently, and I kind of liken it to how I suddenly came to feel about the ECT treatments.  I'm not saying that I don't think they're doing some good -- I do -- but just the whole process is really not my cup of tea. (Here's an article from about ECT side effects).

My first dislike (and I'm going to sound like a total baby here) is that every time I go they run an IV.  Obviously, they have to do that to administer the general anesthesia, and you'd think it would get easier the more frequently they do it, but it doesn't.  And every so often they kind of botch it up, and I'm left with a massive, painful bruise on one of my hands for a week.

My second complaint is the anesthesia itself.  I'm going to be clear and say, unequivocally, that I do NOT want to be awake for these treatements.  I want to be asleep.  I do not want to be conscious of being shocked into a seizure.  However, that weird "Lost Weekend" feeling you get after you go under general anesthesia really freaks me out.  Like, you remember being in the procedure room, then all of a sudden you're sitting in a chair drinking a Sprite with no recollection of how you got there, and no sense of passing time.  I think that's really the worst part, that it's not like going to sleep where you have some sense that an hour or so has passed; instead, you close your eyes and then (feel like you) immediately open them and an hour has passed.  For some reason, I think that must be sort of like being dead, or at least a close approximation.

Then there's other little things that just make the whole experience less-than-pleasurable.  Weird aches and pains from the seizure itself, the time involvement, and the draggy post-anesthesia feeling I get.  In the past, the anesthesia hasn't been so bad, but for several treatments I had this horrible feeling when I woke up that I was suffocating.  The doctor explained to me that it was because the sleep medication was wearing off before the muscle relaxers, so the heaviness in my muscles was making it hard for me to breathe.  The anesthesiologist fixed this problem by giving me more sleep medication,  It worked -- I haven't had the suffocating feeling since then, but I've also wanted to sleep for a full two days after the treatment.  I know my husband thinks I should just tell them to take away the other sleep medication, but if you've ever felt like you were going to suffocate or drown (even if you weren't), you'd know that there are very few reasons you'd voluntarily experience it. (Here's an article from about the risks of general anesthesia).

But, as I said, I do think they're working, at least on some degree.  I feel generally more mellow, and it's helped a lot with my "racing thoughts" (the bane of a bipolar person's existence) and overall suicidal feelings.  Well, at least till the last few days when I think my "normal" mental issues are vying for attention with some serious PMS problems and I'm just a not fun person to be around.

On a more positive note, I got a really cute book for Christmas called Itty-Bitty Toys, by Susan B. Anderson (her blog is listed at the left).  There are some adorable knit critters in there, and they look like pretty quick hitters, so I've dug in and started on a little bear.  Gotta keep the hands busy -- it helps the mind shut up!

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Required "New Year's Resolution" Post

I thought I'd join the rest of the world in dedicating my first post of 2012 to my "resolution" for the year.

I need to say, first, though, that I don't believe in New Year's Resolutions.  Or, at least, I don't believe in them for me -- I'm not good at saying "I must do this!", and then sticking to it.  As soon as I break my resolution, I pretty much give up and there go my good intentions.  Some people in my life would tell you that I lack resolve; I prefer to think that I like to stay flexible.

This being said, though, I am making one goal for myself for 2012. It's a little thing, really, and to most people, it doesn't seem like it would be particularly difficult, but judging by my 2011, it may be harder than it sounds for me.  My goal: stay out of the hospital.

With the year drawing to a close, I counted up all my overnight hospital stays I had in 2011, and it was a whopping ten.  Ten!  And it's not like I have cancer or some other terminal or chronic sickness.  Ten is unacceptable for an otherwise healthy 35 year old.  Here's the breakdown:
  • Three overnight stays of varying lengths for preterm labor problems when I was pregnant in the first part of the year;
  • One two-night stay when I had my sweet little 8-month-old in April;
  • One one-night stay when I had my gall bladder removed in October;
  • And a staggering five stays of varying lengths for psychiatric reasons -- three at the Lindner Center and two at the hospital.
I did a very cursory search for statistics on bipolar disorder and hospitalization, and according to the Stanley Bipolar Foundation Network, 85.1% of patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder had been hospitalized at some point, with patients being hospitalized on average 3 times.  Admittedly, this data is probably culled from the sickest bipolar patients (that's what the Stanley Bipolar Foundation works with), but it's still a pretty disturbing statistic.

So I've decided that I've used up my average number of hospitalizations -- and then some -- and I'm done.  In 2012, I'm going to be hospital-free.  All those "resolutionists" can keep their marathons, their 60 lbs, their TV-watching-reductions, their writing goals, and their volunteer resolve.

I just wanna stay home.