The Real Possibilities – Reaching Beyond a Diagnosis

I’d like to preface this with one thing.  I don’t usually post to Sunny about things in my life that are just developing or things that I would consider to be “in limbo”.  This is me, Lulu, reaching out into the community in search of some informed opinions and suggestions.  I want to hear from you to learn about your personal experiences and gain from the reader’s pool of knowledge.  Not every answer is clear cut, and most of the best answers can’t be found in a book somewhere.

The New Doc on the Block

I went into my psychiatrist’s office for my regular med check last Friday.  Except, there was nothing about this that was regular.  My psychiatrist Dr. K. wasn’t in, and another doctor I was meeting for the first time was filling in.  I figured it would be more of the same, you know, “How’s it going?”  “Fine, except a couple of things.”  “Okay, well go off into the world, be good, and take your medication.”

I was dead wrong.

He asked me a few typical questions, like “What’s your diagnosis?”  and “What medications have you been on?”  and things of that sort.  He asked me how I’ve been feeling recently, and I answered honestly.  Mostly, I’m alright.  My moods are pretty stable, and I’m in a pretty good place most days.  I’m still pretty irritable and the anxiety I’m experiencing is just unmanageable anymore.  But, those are the constants.

I’m not fighting depression or mania at the moment, or living inside the confusing anguishing hell that is a mixed episode.  I’m alright.  Just alright.  Probably the best I could expect to be doing being someone with this condition.

This part shocked the hell out of me.

The doctor goes into a long explanation of why I’m still experiencing symptoms, being that I’m apparently not on medications that actually treat the disorder.  He tells me that Lamictal is not a mood stabilizer. Since I’m not on a mood stabilizer or and an antipsychotic, and since I have a lot of options, I should be on both.  In his medical opinion, I should not be on Wellbutrin or even really any antidepressant at all.  And Xanax and Halcion are not supposed to be for long term use to manage anxiety.

I fought him on the antipsychotic, explaining that those types of medications and I don’t get along well.  He insisted it was because I’ve never been on an actual mood stabilizer.  He kindly smiles and promised that as soon as my meds were fixed, then my bipolar would be fixed, and I’d be right on track.

He advised me to take a look on the internet at my treatment option throughout the next month, and then discuss with Dr. K. when I came back.

It was like getting slapped by someone in a moving vehicle.

As quickly as I went in, I was back out again.  I was disoriented and confused.  For a minute, I actually considered his words might be the truth to the whole thing.  Then I remembered what being on antipsychotics was like.  That created a whole host of problems that were unlike any I had ever experienced before.  And I don’t care to EVER go there again.

So, Xan and I got in the car, and I laid the whole thing out for him.  He was completely on my side.  He said, “I don’t see why they are trying to fix something that isn’t broken?   Why are they trying to dope you up like this?  What did you tell him?”

I replied, “Nothing out of the ordinary!  I told him that I’m having difficulty keeping a job, but I have no idea what that’s all about.  I’m struggling socially and have been, well, pretty much my entire life.  And that irritability, insomnia, and anxiety have been a constant for me.  I mean, for my ENTIRE life, before all the mood stuff started.”

And we both agreed.  Whatever throws down, that cocktail is not happening.

To Be Bipolar, Or Maybe Not Bipolar?

I’ve been thinking about this for quite awhile now.  My moods have been pretty stable for about a year now.  I mean, that is cause for celebration here.  I’ve had some minor snags here and there, but all in all, I’ve been pretty level.  The episodes I do have are not nearly as deep as they once were, even if the duration might be seemingly longer.  So, why am I still seeing significant dysfunction in certain respects?

Is it possible that I might not even have Bipolar Disorder in the first place?  Could it be something else?  Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar share some diagnostic traits.  Could there have been a mixup?

Or, perhaps, the mood episodes were actually solved, as I suspected, and we’re now uncovering something underneath the mood shifts?  I have long suspected that the anxiety that I’m reporting hasn’t had anything to do with my mood shifts, although I did describe them as having the ability to spark depression or mania, depending on the context.

Xan and I sat down later, and I said, “You know, if Dr. K. is going to cause trouble and shift medications around, I’m going to request that we do a complete reevaluation.  I’m talking about starting from scratch, covering it all from A – Z.”

He answered, “I think that’s a good plan.”

My Homework Assignment

So, I’m doing my homework assignment right now.  I’m doing my research on the internet.

BUT!

I’m going beyond all of the articles, medical websites, and online assessments.  Sure, I’ll have those tucked under my belt, but I’m not a person who half-asses anything.

I’m taking it to the people.

Tell me about your experiences.  I’m open to all suggestions, ideas, theories, and everything and anything all open minds would like to add.

Thanks ahead of time readers.  I’m counting on you!

Advertisements

Ethereal Shadows

Anxiety runs rampantly, off of it’s leash, and unchecked.  It envelops me, trapping me in this fully contained, semi-translucent bubble.  The oxygen runs thin and the overabundance of carbon dioxide fogs my mind.  I am suffocating and immobilized, encased in thick, unyielding plastic.  I can see the world through clouded lenses all around me, but I am unable to touch it, to reach it.

The thoughts race faster than the stock cars in my mind, polluting my air within the dome.  “What if…?”  “How can I possibly…?”  “What can’t I…?”  My confidence dissolves in the thick, poisonous soup it creates.  I begin to disappear, becoming thinner within the wash.

And eventually, the cars come to a grinding halt, gears moaning and crunching at the sudden termination of everything and anything.  For a moment, the entire world, the whole existence goes blank, as plain as a clean sheet of paper.  Then, suddenly, I am propelled into pitch darkness, fumbling around for the scattered remnants that are not my own cognition.

In this blackness, there is a certain emptiness abound.  A void of mind and feeling transforms me into an ethereal creature containing the absence of any trace of matter.  I drift aimlessly upon streams of thin air, shivering as currents pass clean through me.

My soul liquifies and pours like a thick, black ribbon into a clear mason jar.  Now, it is preserved like blackberry jam, shifting and wiggling with its gelatinous quality.  My hands caress the glass longingly, for it has become as unreal as I have become.  I may look upon it, however, I may not touch.  It is now a forbidden fruit that will spoil long before I am prepared to reclaim it as my own.

Abysmal sheets of icy rain obscure my vision now.  A thick fog rolls in as dense, leaf bare woods encompass me.  Severed from me, my own emotions are carried back in with the fog, high above my head as it rolls on.  I reach, stretching my entire being high in the air above my head, attempting to get just a little bit closer toward them.  But they are not my own.

Are they?

Indistinguishable.  Everything becomes questionable in this parareality.  Wispy words come out in airless breaths within this vacuum of time and space.  Questions come rolling into reality with no discernable answer.  “Where am I?”  “Who am I?”  “What am I?”  All concepts float away, vibrating with each anxious blink.

Each push of the fog shoves me flat on my back against a frozen, unforgiving, unyielding earth.  Each successive tumble knocks even more wind from my lungs.  I squeeze my eyes shut and resign myself to this fate.  Paralyzed, I am defeated against this awesome force.

Anatomy of a Phobia

Lala at Seasons Change, and so have I reminded me this morning of some very sensitive subject matter that I often overlook.  See, I’ve programmed myself over the years to minimize my fears.  Fears are just another expression of weakness.  Or so I’ve been inadvertently taught throughout the course of my life.  Fears are irrational little demons that have no place in reality.  They are something to be ignored.  Fear is an overreaction and another possible way to be overdramatic about events that occur in life.

Fear is just another excuse not to do something.

There are a million reasons those phrases fail to sit well with me.  First, I am a person that has a complicated relationship with authority.  If fear were allowed to conquer my own free will, then it would become an authority figure.  I would become conflicted against my own self, and come to fear and loathe myself.  I can see the fallacy in the contradictory nature of all of those statements.  Because, I experience it regularly.  And the experience of fear complicates itself and entangles itself into my psyche.

I have phobias, whether I want to admit it or not.  At this point, I would rather come clean than try to diminish these symptoms any further.  It seeks to compound the confusing presentation of these intense fears.  Worse, I can’t readily dismiss fears like I used to.  As life progresses and my experience expands, I’ve come to situations that force a confrontation.  And the effects that the denial and repression produces are intense.

I fear planes and cars crashing into my house.
When I was a child, a plane crashed somewhere near my hometown.  The only reason this event was significant hinged on how it affected my area.  I lived near a fire department, a highway, and two interstates.  It seemed like there were people and sirens all night.  It was a hot summer night, and all of the windows and doors were open.  People had their eyes skyward.  And the thought of a plane falling out of the sky had never crossed my mind before.

In case I didn’t mention recently, I live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  At the time of 9/11, I lived about ten miles from our local international airport.  And we are the closest city to the crash site of Flight 93 that went down in Sommerset County, a few counties over from us.  That day was similar to the night of the crash from my childhood.  Only this time, it wasn’t an accident.  It was a terrorist attack.

I also lived by an Air force and an Army base.  When all of the planes were grounded, the skies were filled with military planes.  It was like living in a military state.  Other than those planes, the sky was empty.  The winds were unusually quiet.  And my best friend and I laid in our adjacent yards, staring skyward for the threat.

Somehow, throughout the years of being a pedestrian, the definition of “crash” came to include cars.  And Xan always joked with me about how silly it was.

In May 2010, a drunk driver crashed his jeep into the front of my house.  It was the day after Mother’s Day and only five minutes after my husband had left to put our one-and-a-half year old son into the car to come get me from work.  Had it been five minutes earlier, my son would be dead.  The impact to the front of the house sent the sofa into the middle of the room.  The impact would have been enough to serious maim Xan and kill, then 27 lb, Beast.

Since then, I would cringe every single time I would hear a car make an awful noise outside my home.  It is among the dozens of reasons I moved from 511 to 106.  Except, 106 is only a couple of miles from the airport now.  Instead, I cringe at low flying planes, and look skyward to their shiny metal bellies.

I fear enclosed spaces and crowds.
This comes to include any area that could become cramped or would be difficult to maneuver out of. I fear being crushed.  I have dreams about it sometimes.  I’ll go in after Beast in one of those kids tubes, and it will start to collapse on me.  Or, I’ll just get stuck.  And there will always be something threatening happening.

This definition expanded after the Columbine School Shooting.  It came to include areas where I would be “trapped”.  That means classrooms, buses, shopping malls, lecture halls, and unfamiliar cars.  Anywhere where I was not openly permitted to leave, or wasn’t easily escapable became suspect.

This was compounded when I was pregnant with my son.  I was afraid that I was going to be accidentally harmed in a public place by someone careless.  And, it was made even worse when Xan was involved in a serious car accident in June 2011.  People get hurt by the negligence of others all of the time.

I fear having an episode in public.
I know Bipolar Disorder isn’t as episodic as an anxiety disorder.  Maybe I have an anxiety disorder.  I just don’t know, and I’m not qualified to make that determination.  I’m afraid of being overtly symptomatic in public.  I just have this severe anxiety that I am going to have an unrelenting panic attack and do something, for lack of a better word, crazy.  Or that I’ll break down in hysterical tears over something practically benign, like losing my scarf or breaking a pencil.  Or worse, I’ll go out and binge eat to suppress some other urge.

I fear elevators.
Combine my fear of catastrophe, a mild fear of heights, and a severe fear of enclosed spaces, and a torrent of anxiety develops.  That’s what an elevator represents to me.

I have always been afraid of elevators, because the motion doesn’t agree with me.  I don’t like that moment of weightlessness when ascending and I don’t enjoy that feeling of plummeting to doom when descending.  I don’t like the jolts and starts.  And I especially don’t like being knocked off balance.

Compound that fear with actually getting stuck in an elevator.  It was my freshman year in high school, and I was assigned a dorm room on the sixth floor at camp.  We were children, and we were stupid.  The elevator clearly stated that the maximum capacity was 14 people.  Instead, we had closer to twenty, all jammed in that elevator.  When it opened, I could clearly see the floor between the fifth and sixth floors.  We were stuck in midair in a rickety old elevator, where no one could immediately get to us.

From then on, I took the stairs.  I dragged my footlocker and luggage up flights and flights of stairs to avoid any similar occurrence.  Of course, it never happened under their watch again.  But the singular experience was enough to have me fit for stairs and hiking stairwells for the rest of my life.

My doctor’s office is on the third floor of an office.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been running late, and I arrive at that check in desk breathless and sweaty.

Then, there are the sillier fears.
The aforementioned are just huge fears that have come true for me.  There are fears that have absolutely no grounds in reality.  For instance, I fear toilet snakes.  I know there is no such thing.  I don’t know if there has ever been an incident of someone getting bitten by a poisonous snake while using the bathroom.  And if there has, don’t tell me.  I don’t want to know.

I fear lightning strikes.

I fear bugs in the bed.  Or just bugs crawling on me in general.

I fear the apocalypse.  Irony of ironies.

I fear being touched by a stranger.  There are a million different reasons why that’s a serious fear that has no grounds.  All my brain knows is that sometimes touch is bad.

Then, there are the more common ones.
I fear judgement.  I fear failure.  I fear unfamiliar social situations.  I fear being alone.  I fear dying alone.  I fear getting hurt and having no one there to help me.  I fear strangers.  I fear germs.

I know that some of these are rational, and these are things that should be reasonably feared.  But most of the time, they strike me, and I’m left with the deer in the headlights feeling.  That is unreasonable.

What are the most common fears out there?  What are the most uncommon?  Which are ones that my mind made up?

 

Not Your Usual Serving Of Canvas

As some of you might not be well aware, and you’d probably be correct at this point at any point in confusion, I am a co-founder with Ruby Tuesday and a writer for A Canvas of the Minds. The following is a post on Canvas that request every mental health bloggers help for Mental Health Awareness.

via Not Your Usual Serving Of Canvas.

Thank you for your support in advance.  I would guess that everyone who is involved with Blog for Mental Health 2012 would be interested in joining Canvas and participating with us in our time of need of your support!!!