Sponser Lulu for Charity!

As many of my wonderful readers may already be aware, I am a martial artist. Aside from my family and being a writer that advocates for mental health and wellness, it is one of the most important parts of my life.

Martial arts changed my life. Just a year ago, I was in an awful place with myself and bipolar disorder. That’s when I walked into my first class, where I began my path as a martial artist. It started to heal me in ways that medicine and therapy just couldn’t.

Martial arts gave me a new lease on life.

Now, it’s my turn to give back.

My dojang, in affiliation with other local dojangs, is participating in the annual St. Jude’s Break-a-thon. For every $15 raised, one board is donated to the participant to break.

We break as a symbol of the strength we are hoping to provide these children in need.  I want to give these children their own new lease on life by providing them with funds so they may be able to live on.

Please, support this noble cause by sponsoring me in this event.

No donation is too small.  Every dollar that is donated goes directly to St. Jude and to the children that they treat.

And in advance, thanks for your donation.  It not only means the world to me, but it may open up a whole new world for many children in their hour of need.

Tiff Myler’s Drive Page.

Yes, that is my real name.  This is the first connection that I’ve made between my real life and my life here.  I’m proud of who I am, and I’m ready to make a difference in all areas of my life.

If you’d like to learn more about martial arts and St. Jude, visit their website.

Weaknesses Equal Strengths

In the past, I have had a problem with “black and white” thinking.  If something was good, it was good.  If something was bad, it was bad.  Opposites had two entirely different bins.  Because they were opposites, how could they possibly be one in the same?  How could they possibly share properties?  Wasn’t that the very definition of opposite?

One person was really responsible for setting this idea into motion.  I was coming up on my orange belt test, and I found that I was suddenly having difficulty executing basic techniques.  I had practiced these same techniques over months with much progress.  It seemed as if I became leaden and weighted.  I became extremely frustrated and distracted, making practice much more difficult.

My instructor asked, “Are you nervous?”

I hadn’t even considered it.  Anxiety had become automatic for me.  I took a moment and replied, “Yes.”

“Good,” she said.  I was taken aback.  How was anxiety a positive thing?  It was hindering me, and preventing me from progressing.  I thought that it might even be my doom, by causing me to fail my test.  She suggested, “Turn your mind off and focus that abundant energy into your techniques.  You don’t need to think about it anymore.  It’s all stored into your muscle memory.”

I took a moment to compose myself.  I threw all of that energy into firing off techniques.  Suddenly, I unweighted and pivoted with ease.  The forms were coming back together and my strength and agility were returning to me.  It seemed that by translating that nervous energy into a physical outlet, I had actually gained a significant asset.

There are two sides to every coin.  The point is, the two sides share a coin.  The coin itself allows the two sides to share properties, butt up against each other.  While one represents something, and the other side seems to be opposite, they are really one in the same.  All we have to do is flip the coin.

In my last article, “I Am the Best Me”, I touched upon gaining a different perspective on our own weaknesses.  Many of us are painfully aware of our own “flaws”.  They are probably something that has become a primary focus at one point or another.  , In the search for answers and solutions, we’ve invested an abundance of time and energy into putting them under the microscope and dissecting them.  There is a certain idea that if we deconstruct them, then we may be able to reassemble them into a strength.  It pushes us to put an exhausting, but fruitless effort into transforming an aspect of ourselves that is just simply a part of our nature.

There are the obvious things we can’t change.  I’m 5’1” and 28 years old.  There is no hope that I will ever grow taller.  I can wobble around in heels all day, but it doesn’t adequately compensate for my natural size.  I have a naturally larger frame, so I can’t ever realistically expect to be thin like the models.  My feet are awkwardly large for a woman of my size.  Knowing that I can’t be anything different is a little discouraging in a certain light.

But, experience has taught me that those perceived flaws are actually advantages.  In martial arts, I can use certain physical qualities to my advantage.  Many taller people are long range fighters, due to their long limbs.  By moving in close, I can jam up their attacks and land quite a few blows.  A wider frame provides a natural opportunity for a greater muscle mass.  In combination with larger feet, I can have a stronger stance, making it more difficult for me to get knocked down.  And being small in general gives me speed and agility that other opponents may not have.

When we examine the more intangible things, such as character traits and personality, it’s a little less obvious.  This is especially so when we’re incorporating symptoms of disorder into the mix.  I’ve spent a lot of time splitting hairs between the two, in the attempt to discern what I could “fix” and what I couldn’t.  Although it initially provided relief by eliminating the idea that I was “irreparably damaged”, that microanalysis eventually ended up doing me more harm than providing benefits.  It sought to put everything under the microscope under a lens of negativity.

Personality from disorder isn’t a cut and dry as we initially perceive.  In time, I discovered that my personality and disorder had a complex relationship.  They shared many things, but there was one thing they both had in common.  My personality and disorder were both directly influenced by my value system.  It made me realize that they are really rooted in the same entity, my core self.

Perceived Flaws Translated Strength
Stubborn Willful
Anxious High Energy
Indecisive Flexible
Moody Sensitive
Worrisome Cautious
Temperamental Passionate
Aggressive Forceful
Dramatic Expressive
Withdrawn Reserved
Inconsistent Complex

That’s just to name a few.

When we redefine our weaknesses as strengths, we can begin to see how they benefit us.  All of these traits have developed my creative nature.  That creativity isn’t just applicable to writing and other artistic outlets.  It benefits my problem solving skills and personal relationships.  By understanding our true natures, we can start to redefine ourselves.  This aids in identifying personal dysfunctions as something beneficially functional.  This is the root of the development of adaptive strategies.

So, drag out the thesaurus and tell me – what are your strengths?

Brave New Mind

There’s something completely mind-altering about looking into a mirror and seeing someone still familiar, and yet entirely different.  It’s a lot different from an impulsive cut and color.  Those kinds of changes are so sudden and purely aesthetic.  Underneath all of the paint, it’s still the same structure.

With changes in diet and exercise, the structure begins to gradually shift.  The roundness came away, revealing angles and shapes I had never known.  But, it wasn’t just about the weight that had come off.  I had tone in my muscles that made me look strong and sturdy.  For the first time in my life, I felt strong, inside and out, like I could take on the world.

I started to realize that sometimes, change comes from outside in.

bravenewmind

With a new found confidence from feeling comfortable in a new skin, I reexamined my own internal world with a sense of confidence that was once sorely lacking.  It wasn’t the same as the critical introspection that I was so used to engaging in.  For once, it was a realistic, objective perspective.

The Voice, as I’ve referred to intense intrusive thoughts and vaguely psychotic entities in the past, had suddenly taken my side.  I’d find myself launching into once typical degrading monologues, only to be stopped short.

Why are you so eager to hurt yourself?

There are people in your life who believe in you.  Why don’t you believe in you?

Why are good things not allowed to happen to you?

These challenging questions came slowly at first.  I was so inclined to revisit places I had already been to before.  My abusive past.  The mechanisms of growing up with early onset bipolar disorder.  I rubbed my hands up and down my self-injured scars, searching for answers.  Who did this to me?  What did this to me?

It occurred to me.  It was probably the most difficult realization I’ve ever come to in my entire life.

It all begins and ends with me.

I am the alpha and the omega in my life.  The beginning and the end of all things.

And for awhile, I sank into a depression.  By that logic, I was responsible for all of my misery and a failure at taking control of my own life.  My greatest fear had been realized.  Everything was my fault, just as everyone had been telling me for my entire life.

There was a point where I realized that the self-loathing was just counterproductive.  It didn’t inspire me to try harder or make any improvements.  It was defeating, and bred a sense of hopelessness that rendered me helpless.  In fact, I didn’t hate myself at all.  I actually liked myself and was proud of my accomplishments throughout my life.  That wasn’t me talking.  It was something else altogether.

When breaking these intrusive and abusive monologues down, I came to a startling conclusion.  The value system, of which I completely governed my life and behavior, were not mine at all.  These self-defeating values were inherited from extraordinarily flawed and rigid familial and societal governments.  They had become so deeply ingrained that responses were automatic.  The truth is, I hadn’t even been living my own life by my own rules.

Some examples include:

“Many times in life, you’ll have to do a lot of things you don’t want to do.  You just have to get it over with.”

I subjected myself to a immeasurable amount of misery that was completely unnecessary.  At certain points, I found myself only surviving my life.  I endured so many awful situations that I could have avoided if it weren’t for the idea that misery was just a part of life.  It built a certain amount of resentment for those around me who I was sacrificing myself for.

“Get a grip.”

I attempted to live my in stoicism, because I was under the impression that emotional displays were distasteful and unacceptable.  It was absolutely conflicting to my nature, being a person with bipolar disorder.  Sometimes, there is no handle on things.  And yet, I attempted to rein in my emotions and behavior, causing an explosive temper and repeated meltdowns.  It translated to me expressing every negative emotion as anger, because anger was the only acceptable thing.

“Crying means that you are weak.  You can’t show people that you are weak.”

I stopped crying (at least in front of people), because I would be mercilessly mocked.  This was more reinforcement for angry outbursts.  I hid my vulnerabilities and became viciously defensive.  I instinctively pushed people away, because I was convinced that the closer I allowed someone to be, I more likely they would be to damage me.

“There are no excuses.”

Any explanation that I could provide for my shortcomings was considered to be an excuse or a rationalization.  There was no answer that I could provide that would be good enough.  All of my limitations and inexperience were of no consideration.

“What other people think is the only thing that matters.”

I got the idea that the only way to measure my self-worth was through achievement.  External approval was the singular source for validation of my actions.  Combined with all of the above, this value became the source of my own self-loathing whenever I would fail to meet an expectation.  And when all of the expectations were generally unrealistic due to overambition, it was an automatic setup for failure.

In reality, it wasn’t that I was actually responsible for my misery.  I was responsible for making changes to a rigid and dysfunctional value system that served to oppress me throughout an entire lifetime.  The great epiphany wasn’t placing blame.  It was to empower me, and help me realize that I am the main character in my own life.  I am the source.  And in the end, I had the final say in my happiness and lifestyle.  I govern myself.

Immediately, I started to view the world as a blank page.  I was liberated from all of the bonds that caged me in such a bleak and oppressive world.  I had the authority to rewrite all of the rules by taking on values that I believed in, and living a functional, productive life.

Everything in moderation.

As long as I’m still trying, I’m succeeding.

Eliminate limitations.  There is no such thing can’t.

This one requires some explanation.  In this line of thinking, there are no limitations in the sense that there are always adaptive strategies through creative problem solving that can make something a possibility.

True respect begins with respecting myself.

I have a whole article I want to write about this.

Regular and constant practice are the keys to mastering anything.

Energy is neither positive nor negative.  It’s the expression and application that determines the nature.

Meditation is necessary for a calm mind and a calm spirit.

As long as I’m acting purposefully, I cannot be acting recklessly.

Control is an illusion.  Guidance through leadership is a fact.

Humanity is not a condition.  It is a natural state of existence.

Truthfully, many aspects of my new value system have roots in the tenets, codes, and practices of martial arts.  However, martial arts is only a template.  It’s a starting point from which we are encouraged to develop ourselves mentally and spiritually in our own individual ways.  And through my knowledge of psychology, I began to mold a whole new mindset for myself to start a brand new life.

My Thanks for Wellness : The 12 Days of Thanks

In the past, I have experienced a lot of trauma directly related to holidays.  As a child, my father would throw these epic temper tantrums, because he really wasn’t interested in participating in them.  He didn’t want to go out, and he was hell bent on making everyone pay for forcing him into it.

That, in turn, had some serious effects on the family.  My mother would get into a frenzy and suffer from terrible anxiety prior to each holiday.  On the day of the holiday, she would frantically try to get everything together and do as much damage control as possible.

My brother, who has autism, would pick up on this and throw temper tantrums of his own.  He also has the OCD component involved with some forms of autism, so things would have to be absolutely perfect.  If they weren’t, all hell would break loose.

Then, we would arrive at the homes of our family members.  They were just as stressed out as our own family, and always in plainly terrible moods.

The holidays season was usually a complete disaster for my entire family.  We were pretty poor while I was growing up.  There was the business of buying a complete Thanksgiving dinner, despite the fact that we would dine at my overly crowded aunt’s house anyway.  It was at my brother’s demand.  Then, there was the obvious inconvenience to my mother for cooking a Thanksgiving dinner when she absolutely despises cooking.

Rinse and repeat for Christmas.  However, with Christmas, there was the overwhelming burden of buying Christmas presents on a very limited budget.  As much as I can fault my parents for things, when I was a kid, they really did their best to not disappoint us on Christmas.  However, the stress of it all saturated the air around me.  The mood that hung around me was charged and dark.  And I picked up on all of it.

As I grew into a young adult, Thanksgivings and Christmases became disappointing and tedious.  Presents became fewer, and my parents became almost resentful toward me for having to buy me presents once I was an adult.  I was still obligated to participate with a smile on my face, even though I carried all of the bad memories of fighting in the car and vicious attacks from my brother.

My husband and I married, and just before our first Christmas as a family, he was laid off.  We were scraping by with a newborn son.  It was probably the most disappointing Christmas of all, when we basically had to ask our family for handouts, just so we could get by until the New Year.  It was just more likely that Xan would be able to be hired in a new job in January.

That was the Christmas the broke me entirely when it came to the holiday season.  I had few fond memories of Christmas to draw from.  The ones in the recent past had been so gloomy.  Everything about it was depressing, and there was hardly a reason to look forward to it.

Instead of loathing the holiday season this year, I decided to start a project called The 12 Days of Thanks.  This year, I would like to focus on all of the positives.  And I want to practice expressing gratitude for all of the wonderful things in my life.

Today, for my first installment of my series, The 12 Days of Thanks, I want to give thanks for wellness.  Both in body, mind, and wellness in those in my family.

I have had some serious health problems in my life.  In addition to having a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder, I suffer from somatic health problems.  They are all relatively minor.  I have been plagued with asthma and allergies my entire life, causing me difficulty with breathing and recurring bronchitis most times I get sick with something minor.  I suffer from “knock-knee”, which caused me to develop tendinitis   Every time the weather changes, my knees ache and swell.  Throughout the years, I have developed prediabetes and developing heart disease, mostly related to a combination of bad genetics and weight.

But, worst of all, I battled cervical cancer for four years of my life.  Thankfully, my case of cervical cancer didn’t require me to undergo the usual methods of treating cancer.  However, it did cause me to go through a number of uncomfortable exams, painful biopsies, and two different surgeries that may have compromised my reproductive ability.

Despite all of these, I am thankful for my wellness.  On November 10th of this year, I celebrated my one year anniversary since my LEEP procedure.  So far, I’ve been free of cervical cancer for over a year now.  And in another six months, as long as my tests come back fine, I will be cleared of it entirely.

I am grateful for the periods of wellness that I experience within Bipolar Disorder.

And I have so much gratitude toward the doctors that helped me get to this point of wellness in my life.

But, most of all, I am grateful for the wellness of my family.  Xan rarely catches any of the illnesses that pass through this house.  And if he does, it’s relatively mild.  Beast is well, with no serious health problems.  Although he does have Autism Spectrum Disorder, I can be thankful that it isn’t worse than it is.  I grew up with my brother, who has ASD much worse than my son.  I realize that it could have been a lot worse.  And, I’m grateful for the Early Intervention he received from the most wonderful professionals I’ve ever met.

I’m grateful that my family is well, and continues to do well.

Abilify, Not I : Adventures in Antipsychotics

Lately, I have written a series of posts over the last two months describing certain troublesome symptoms I associated with the worsening of Bipolar Disorder, or the potential for comorbid disorders.

In my last post, When Medications Go Wrong, I briefly wrote about my recent discontiuation of the pharmocological treatment using Abilify as part of my medication regimen:

Recently, I stopped my Abilify.  Admittedly, it was because I noticed an interaction between the Abilify and my weekend consumption of alcohol.  I started to find that I would fall asleep soon after taking it on Friday’s while we drank.  I decided that I would just stop over the weekend, and continue during the weekdays as normal.  But, eventually, I just forgot to take it at all.  And soon, I started to notice an improvement in my worsening condition.

I went on to describe some of the awful side effects I was experiencing as a result.  However, the list was truncated for the sake of keeping word count down.  The description is rather limited in terms of accurately depicting exactly what I was subject to.

  • Cognition Disturbances and Memory Fragmenting.  Originally, I wrongfully blamed Lamictal in Vitamin L : Medication Adventures for my aphasia-like symptoms.  The disturbances felt like aphasia.  At first, it was almost indescernable.  I started word dropping again, meaning I would be reaching for a word, but was unable to grasp it.  Instead, I would be able to get to every synonym around it, however, those words did not fit the exact context.  Eventually, it became a more severe form of word dropping, and I found myself dropping sentences entirely at the loss of any word or synonyms around it.  It progressed into entirely dropping conversations at the loss of a sentence.  Then, I found myself

    I started forgetting things again.  These were simple things, like losing my purse or shoes in the house.  It seemed like just a simple case of forgetfulness, maybe stress related.

  • Emotional Blunting and Partial Flattening.  I had never had too much trouble with emotional blunting in the past.  While I’ve found myself in times where it was difficult to express my emotions, this didn’t indicate a lack of emotional response.  I describe it as a partial emotional flattening, because it wasn’t an entire lack of reactivity.  It felt like my spectrum of emotions had been significantly reduced, although not completely removed.  There was a certain inaccessibility to certain strong emotions.  Rather than completely removing extreme emotions, it threw a wet blanket on top of them, leaving them to bubble under the surface.  So, the emotions still existed, but were muted and unable to be adequately expressed.

    At it’s worst, I began to lose most feeling entirely, with the exception of irritation and the sensation of boredom and fatigue.  I began to lose love and my attachments to meaningful people and my relationships with them.

  • Dissociation I touched on a summary of the dissociative symptoms that Abilify had brought on.  I have been writing articles on the experience throughout the last few months on the subject, describing the feeling in great detail, but remained unable to exactly identify is appropriately.  The dissociation probably occurred as a response to the prior bullet points.

    The dissociation cited was experienced as a removal of self and removal from my own life.  I had felt as if I had been separated from myself and my world.  It was a feeling of something being stolen from me, or something fundamentally inaccessible.  Like, I was being locked out of my own life, or becoming transparent and just fading away.

  • Worsening of Depressive States.   This is probably a direct result of the first three bullet points.  I started to disengage from my life.  I lost interest in just about everything.  Most things were considered to be either boring or tedious.  Important things started to lose meaning.  This was experienced as a part of the emotional flattening, but it caused a concerning and distressful reaction.
  • Exacerbation of Social Anxiety Since I had lost the ability to carry on a conversation and found myself completely disinterested in socialization, my social anxiety went through the roof.  I simply didn’t care about anything anymore, especially trivial things I used to find interest in.  Therefore, I found it difficult to carry on a conversation.  This caused extreme distress in social situations, and encouraged further isolation.
  • Disturbed Sugar Levels.  While I have no concrete proof in terms of tests, certain symptoms have come to my attention.  They are notated below in the next two bullet points as thirst and weight gain.
  • Loss of Sensation of Bodily Hunger, Thirst, and Fullness.  Within the last few years, I started to become more in tune with my body.  I was able to feel the sensations of hunger through my sugar level, which probably caused the loss of bodily hunger.  The disturbed sugar levels probably also caused an extreme thirst that could not be quenched.  At first, I craved water.  Eventually, I started to put the soda back down, which probably caused part of the weight gain mentioned below.  And I felt an extreme pressure in my stomach, which was also exacerbated by the influx of so much fluid.
  • Extreme Weight GainTruthfully, I don’t dare get on a scale at the moment, so I am unable to notate at this time exactly how much weight I’ve gained.  By the fit of my clothing, I will estimate that I have gained somewhere between ten and fifteen pounds in the last three months.  That is a substantial gain for me, especially since I was losing weight prior to the start of this medication.
  • Exacerbation of Eating Related Problems.  By all definitions, it’s completely possible that I am living with an undiagnosed eating disorder.  However, I am not entirely convinced, since it isn’t an ongoing and prevalent problem.  Therefore, I define it as eating related problems and difficulties.

    The concern for weight gain and the sensation of fullness caused a very terrible reaction of binging and purging.  I was unable to control my eating, as notated above, therefore the sensation of extreme fullness would cause me to perceive the overeating as worse than it actually was.  Unfortunately, this led to a very vicious cycle and encouraged further weight gain.

  • Disturbed REM Sleep.  I was waking up tired, and noticed that it felt like I had stopped dreaming.  This caused my mental state to take a considerable dive.  It caused extreme fatigue and excessive, unproductive sleeping.

While I am cleared of most dissociative symptoms, emotional flattening, and my depressive state is lifting a little, some side effects have remained.

  • Cognitive Disturbances.   The aphasia-like symptoms remain, but to a lesser degree.  I am back to just being a little forgetful, and have some minor word dropping.
  • Memory Fragmenting.   Some of my memories remain dull, but seem to be returning.  However, most of the last three months remains inaccessible.  It may never become accessible, due to the disruption in the formation of short-term memory.
  • Disturbed Sugar Levels.   I am still thirsty, but I am no longer engaging in carbohydrate seeking consumption behavior.  I figure it will take awhile before my sugar is regulated properly again.
  • Weight.   Thankfully, my weight does seem to be coming down.  I have only been completely off of the medication for less than a week, and my clothes are already fitting better.  I’m going to assume that in addition to the weight gain, I was retaining water and constipation.  My regularity has come back, and I don’t feel as puffy as I did

Unfortunately, I am experiencing a return of some of my milder psychotic symptoms.  In Imaginary Enemies, I described a cognitive disturbance I described as “The Voice”“The Voice” can be characterized as a singular persona, as I wrote about in Conscious, Subconscious, and Extraconscious, where I described a theory of a third consciousness that exists between the subconscious and the conscious mind.

The Extraconscious is postulated as where the persona(s) reside, laying in semi-dormant waiting, perfectly aware of the current reality that is being experienced.  “The Voice”, in more severe psychotic states, can be experienced as a separate entity entirely, detached from the consciousness.  That is the defining line between a cognitive distortion and an auditory hallucination, when a persona detaches itself from the extraconscious as an external sensation.

As an extraconscious persona, “The Voice” can best be defined as a quasipersona, lying somewhere between Dissociative Identity Disorder and psychosis.  It is experienced as a semi-active part of the conscious mind, as the dominant persona is well aware of it’s existence and there is a certain interaction that occurs between the dominant persona and “The Voice”.

That is the best theory I can offer as to the existence and function of the quasipersona, known to me as “The Voice”.

The mild auditory hallucinations and visual hallucinations have returned, probably defined better as a sensory disturbance, rather than a symptom of psychosis.  When experiencing a sensory disturbance, it’s not full on hallucinations as described in the definition of psychosis.  There are not entities separate from the body.  They are recognized as a disturbance in the current reality, distorting shapes, colors, and contrast in the vision.  In the hearing, it is experienced as a distortion in sound, causing sounds to be sharper, duller, muffled, or louder than they actually are.  It can only be sensed by a sudden shift in perception.

So, instead of hearing things at a normal sound level, the sound volume may increase to deafening levels or may become muted and difficult to discern from nonexistent static that occurs in the mind.  My visual disturbances may be perceived as viewing the world in high contrast, extremely bright colors, and / or extra high definition resolution.  Or, they may be seen as duller than usual, muting colors, distorting shapes, and / or clouding the vision with that appearance of a veil or foggy goggles.

Intrusive thoughts have returned, but not with the same extreme nature as experienced several months ago.  In truth, they were never completely removed by the Abilify, and at some points were made worse by the drug.  Instead of experiencing them as a truth in reality, I am now able to separate them using logic.  I can talk myself off of the ledge and separate them from the reality of a situation using DBT techniques of mindfulness and distress tolerance.  Prior to the cessation of Abilify, I was unable to utilize those techniques.

I don’t mean to put anybody off of treatment with psychiatric medications, but I felt this was important to document and have as a resource on the internet for anyone who is thinking about taking the drug.  Some of these side effects aren’t listed in the pamphlet, as they are probably isolated to a condition.  But, I feel they are still a distinct possibility for anyone who is being treated for similar conditions.  It is vital that this information be notated and readily available for medication education purposes.  This information probably should not be generalized to all psychiatric medications, especially in the class of antipsychotics.

 

When Medications Go Wrong

For years, I’ve pretty much been medicating myself.  I take my scripts home and medicate how I see fit for my situation.  I realize that makes me medication non-compliant.  The trouble I come to is my trust in doctors.  I have been burned so badly before that I find I have a lack of faith in them to know how they are really treating me.

When I was in my teens, and being treated for Major Depressive Disorder (misdiagnosis – strike one), I was put on high doses over a slew of medications for years with little result (overmedication – strike two).  I suffered extreme side effects, with little done to relieve them.  I took Zoloft in increasing doses over a three year period.  I continued to complain of extreme fatigue, anxiety, motion sickness, and periods of flu-like symptoms.

The doctor’s answer?  More medication.  It came to a head when I found that if I sat still for too long, I would drift off to sleep.  Sitting in school became impossible, and I was sleeping fourteen to sixteen hours a day.  Eventually, I was put on 300 mg of Zoloft with Provigil to combat narcoleptic symptoms.

It was at the doctor’s suggestion that I continue to exceed maximum dose and go to 350 mg that my mother finally put her foot down.  “Put her on something else.  We’ve put three years into this, and it clearly isn’t working.”  And much to my doctor’s chagrin, I was switched to Lexapro.

Wrong answer.

Immediately, I started to have dissociative symptoms.  I recall laying in my room, laying on the floor, and staring at my ceiling in the dark.  My mother stood in my doorway, just observing me.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Nothing,” I answered blankly.

Yes, I was finally awake.  But, every moment was torturous.  I lost my sense of self, and started to drift away.  My memory began to fragment, and I sunk into a deep, desperate depression.  I was frantic and crazed, while feeling numb and blank at the same time.  I became paranoid, and started to assert that everyone was doing things against me.  They were intending to harm me, and I started to give meaning to harmless comments and phrases.

I attempted suicide several times in the first month.  The cutting became so bad that I was doing it in rather public places.  I was caught one time at my boyfriend’s house, and I had a dull exacto set ripped off of me and immediately chucked into the local creek.

We were unaware of all of the side effects at the time, because all of the medications I was placed on were brand new.  When a pharmaceutical representative left her office prior to my visit one day, it became clear that I had become an experiment to brand new medications.  I was taking expensive, largely untested medications for her financial benefit.  Strike three.

I had gained thirty-five pounds over a six month period.  I was 4’11” and 165lbs.  That put me at a BMI of 33.3, and in the obese range.  And despite all of my best, and even worst, and unhealthy efforts, I still couldn’t manage to get my weight below 145lbs.  I was starving myself on 900 calories a day, and I still hovered around obesity.

I couldn’t afford my medication once I was kicked off of my parent’s insurance, and I just decided that since it failed to ease my symptoms, I would stop taking the medication entirely.  They failed to mention that if I attempted to stop the medication cold, then I would be stricken with the worst withdrawal I had ever known.  It was a good thing my parents had been through this before with my father, because they knew how to ween me off.

It took me years to get the rest of that weight off.  But, by then, the medication had already done long lasting damage far worse than just weight.  I had begun to develop a drinking problem.  I had engaged in risky sexual behavior due to hypomania.  And it sent me walking with bad eating habits.

After that, I distrusted doctors and medication entirely.  I had lost faith in mental health treatment.  I was left with a feeling that I didn’t have a disorder at all, and instead, it was just me.  I was convinced that I wasn’t treatable.

It took a lot to make me realize that I was in desperate need of treatment.  I had taken psychology courses and was suggested by several psychologists in my college to have bipolar disorder.  I knew my behavior wasn’t “normal”, just as I had always suspected.  It took the my marriage, my depleting mental health of my husband, and the birth of my son to encourage me to start treatment again.

Three years, four doctors, and a another slew of medications later, and here I am, again the victim of overmedication and bad medication choices.

Recently, I stopped my Abilify.  Admittedly, it was because I noticed an interaction between the Abilify and my weekend consumption of alcohol.  I started to find that I would fall asleep soon after taking it on Friday’s while we drank.  I decided that I would just stop over the weekend, and continue during the weekdays as normal.  But, eventually, I just forgot to take it at all.  And soon, I started to notice an improvement in my worsening condition.

Suddenly, I was able to think again.  I started to feel more like myself.  I became more aware of what I was thinking and feeling, and I finally started actually living in the world around me.  It actually felt like living again.  And that’s when I noticed the weight I had put on.  I had fell victim to Abilify’s weight gain, among other things.

I can blame the dissociative symptoms on Abilify.  It had created an emotional flattening, and I started to dissociate from myself and my world.  It had robbed me of my ability to write and care for my family appropriately.  I wasn’t feeling, so I wasn’t caring.

The anxiety?  Well, I recently started to run out of a supply of Wellbutrin I can’t really afford right now.  I started to cut back to make ends meet, and I discovered that was starting to subside.  Other than rebound depressive symptoms, I was feeling better.  It didn’t matter to me anyway.  I was still going through crying jags, whether I was taking the Wellbutrin or not.  The difference was between whether they were loaded with distressful urgency to cut or not.  I decided that I would prefer to keep my near streak of four months without cutting.

I don’t blame my doctor.  He’s an old school doctor who works off of the biological model and treats symptoms.  I have declined therapy several times, though my requests to be seen since have not been honored.  All of my symptoms point to mild psychosis in general, aggravated by extreme life stressors.

I blame myself for not listening to myself and taking action sooner.  Treatment happens on both ends, and I have not been holding up my end of the bargain.  I have not been mood charting, and I have not been notating subtle symptoms.  It has become abundantly clear to me since my extreme meltdown and psychotic break during the summer that I had been probably Bipolar 1.5 all along.

Though I don’t experience full on mania, I do experience mild psychosis, practically all of the time.  I have not been pressing the issue about invasive thoughts, paranoia, “The Voice”, or any of the mild hallucinations that I experience.  Only when I had my break did I bring it to my doctor’s full attention.  And I was met with extreme medication.

Personally, I’m at a loss as to what to do.  I’m damned if I do, and I’m damned if I don’t.  I noticed last night that “The Voice” has returned, even if it’s benign (right now).  I don’t want to be overmedicated, and I can’t risk gaining anymore weight.  The weight is worse for my mental health than anything else.

And it completely screws up my bodily function.  Now, I’m experiencing weight related problems again.  My knees and back hurt.  I have acid reflux near to the point of anorexia again.  Sexual dysfunction is destroying my sex life, my self-esteem, and hurting my marriage.  And I’m back to full on social anxiety, because I’m too self-conscious to function.

But, at the same time, I’m aware that I need some kind of medication.  While, for now, I’m better off without it, the day will come where I am asked to step up, and perform at a higher function.  My family, including Finn, has been very great about my general lower function and picking up a lot of the slack for me.  However, this won’t last forever.

Homesickness at 106

I’ve been so homesick lately.  It’s been almost four months since I moved into this new home, and I’m finally getting homesick.

Over the last few days, I’ve been looking around this home, and I realized that nothing about it feels like mine.  Nothing about it feels like the comfort of home.  I don’t see any of the useless trinkets that adorned my last home.  Instead, I see items that belonged to another person in another time.  The sugar bowls above my cabinets.  The ceramic that clutters my counter by the stove.  Inherited, ugly dishwear that we eat off of.  Foreign pots and pans that I prepare food on.

At first, it was like an exciting vacation home.  It was an escape from my ramshackle house that had strings like Pinocchio.  I was a puppet in my own home, and eventually, I was forcibly removed from that home with the final passive-aggressive jabs in a long, relentless series of them.  I had broken free of my failure to launch syndrome and was on the road to becoming a self-sufficient adult.

Now, I feel more helpless than ever before.  In my hometown, I could free myself of the bondage of my house whenever I felt like it.  There was a wealth of places I could go and see.  Here, I am trapped at the end of a beautiful, scenic private driveway in an idyllic little town.  To get off of this mountainous terrain, it’s a mile’s walk straight down a series of steep hills.  And even if I were to make it into town, there is nothing to do and nowhere to go.

I don’t miss the cramped nature of 511, with junk brimming from every tiny storage area there was.  But, now, I feel that there is no place of solace for me.  My bedroom was my bedroom.  All of my stuff was comforting, and my space was adorned with knicknacks of years past.  It was a representation of me.  I feel like this place is completely devoid of that.  This place feels devoid of me, and I’m beginning to feel lost.  I’m beginning to feel like I’m losing myself, instead of finding a place where I could discover myself once again.

There’s too many negative memories attached to that house.  So many, that they actually outweigh the positive ones.  In that house, I lived with Avi, without heat, in the most brutal winter I can recall.  I lived out of boxes, surrounded by piles of garbage and junk.  I was estranged from that house in warmer months as a means of escape.  I hit the bottom of the barrel with a miserable labor job, a serious drinking problem, and a completely hopeless future.

It was in that house that I was coerced into having immoral sex with Simon in a sick, twisted threesome.  I hardly remember it.  Most of what I can recall from the situation has a haze over it.

There were good things.  It was the place where Xan was partially unconscious in my lap on New Years’ Eve, and I fed him a special New Years’ Eve pretzel I made in the bakery at work.  It was the place where I first realized that I loved him.  That was the house where Xan and I first lived together as a couple.  It was the first place we made love.

That was the place where we started our life together.  It was the place we went back to after our wedding.  It was the house that our child was conceived in.  We brought our little bundle of joy home there, and slept on the living room floor next to his bassinet for the first month.  There, our son took his first steps, said his first words, and grew from a baby to a child.

Again, there was the bad and even the ugly.  Too much violence happened there, both physical, verbal, and self-inflicted.  It was a breeding ground for negativity.  Xan and I used to have these knock-down, no-hold-barred fights there.  I recall too many moments where I stormed up the stairs to escape him.  The whole last four months of our residence in that home was a complete disaster in our marriage.

In essence, I escaped that place.  But, is the devil you don’t know worse than the devil you do?

Positives.  Think of the positives.

This house has the potential to become my lifetime home.  Maybe I am just homesick because I spent six years in the last house, and only four months here.

This house is located in a safe area for my son, and provides a calm, free environment for him.  In addition, it has a better school district and provides better learning opportunities and support for him.

This house has additional space.  I don’t feel as cramped and caged, even if I do feel lonely and secluded.

Even though this house contains a lot of foreign items, it won’t forever.  I will acquire more items to replace the old ones that feel more like me.  It will become more familiar as time passes.

This house is not a money pit.  It is in good condition and was well built.  I do not spend a large amount of money on utilities, and there is hardly a threat that I will ever be without.

I will never be threatened to be evicted from this home.  There are no strings attached and the owner is very hands-off.  I will never find myself threatened or harassed over this house.

Xan and Beast are happy here.

It is easy to clean and requires little maintenance.  It might be a little more overwhelming, since it’s a bit bigger than the other house.  But, I don’t have to look at torn out walls and feel a sense of hopelessness and fear toward the condition.

I can be happy here.  I have been happy here.  Summers are far more temperate and beautiful here.  Autumn is gorgeous with all of the foliage.  Winter might even be nice with fresh white snow covering the yard and the woods.

It’s quiet.  I can think.

And one day, I’ll be able to get around on my own.  Even if there is really nowhere to go.  I’ll be less lost and I’ll understand the area a little better.

I’ll find my place here.  I know I will.  It’s just going to take some time.