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!

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Just Snap Out of It

Society has developed some seriously bad attitudes toward mental illness.  It’s no surprise.  We see it attached to the stigma of it.  We’re treated like lepers, as if this were a terribly contagious thing.

Depression is no exception.  Today, a lot of people have been discussing the topic of the “Just Snap Out of It” phenomenon that occurs out there.  Honestly, there is a saying out there about how if a person hasn’t experienced it, then they can never truly know.  A person who hasn’t experienced clinical depression, either in the form of MDD or BP depression can never truly know it’s depth and breadth.  It is an all encompassing monster that claims every last bit of life and any possible joy that can come from it.

Having Bipolar Disorder, I am a person who naturally experiences some sometimes pretty obvious mood swings.  And the attitudes toward it are so completely off.  I have never had a person treat me poorly while I was in a manic episode.  Not one.  Not even when the plainly awful behaviors were showing.  Each person seemed to find it charming, amusing, or interesting.  Even when there were moments where I was so out of control that I was scared out of my wits, not a single person around me seemed to notice that there was something absolutely wrong with it.

No, my energy and spirits were high.  I would act impulsively, and people would take it as spontaneity.  I’d be overly, annoyingly chatty, and rudely interrupting others, but they took it as being outgoing.  Everyone seemed to think that was a sign that I wasn’t depressed anymore.  They seemed to think that it was some kind of miraculous recovery from “being like that”.

People only seem to take notice when I am depressed or mixed, like it’s some kind of disease that I choose to be afflicted with.  And the comments are absolutely endless, because everyone seems to have their own opinion about it.  It’s as if they consider themselves to be the authority on depression, anxiety and sadness in general. I will constantly hear phrases like, “Get over it” and “Get a grip” as if just snapping out of it were an option for me.

Meanwhile, people without mental health diagnoses start flinging clinical terms around, like they had some true application to their fleeting, shallow emotion.  For instance, “Oh, I’m so *bipolar* today”, instead of just saying that they are moody, or women arbitrarily making a comparison between PMS and Bipolar Disorder.   Or “I’ve just been so depressed lately”, to reference a little bit of discontent or sadness.

It’s not cute. It’s not funny. No one with those diagnoses thinks that it’s witty that someone is taking a serious clinical term with so much guilt and stigma that it could bring down a religion, and applying it to their BS, frivolous emotions!

It does everything it can to minimize those conditions.  It puts it in a light that we have some kind of real control over it.  As if it were something that a person can just “snap out of”.  It implies that a person chooses to be disordered.  It also puts a shameful connotation of attention seeking behavior.

Yeah, it’s the life, let me tell you. If I were doing anything for attention, it wouldn’t be this. It would probably be something more hilarious, like plastering myself with an obscenely worded banner and rollerblading through Downtown. Depression isn’t newsworthy, but that sure is.  Or maybe I’d be doing something a little more productive or noteworthy, like finding a cure for cancer.  But no, my depression is just that interesting that I would choose to gain that much needed attention from people I don’t even know or care about.

I have to wonder if the general public has to be so naive that they would actually be jealous over it.  So much emphasis is put on the “just get over it” ideals, as if that were possible. If I could will myself out of this state, don’t you think I would do it already? It would be more logical to think that I want to reclaim my life and be a productive person.  But no, according to others who are ignorant enough of mental illness, I am perfectly content to have disordered behaviors.   Sure, who doesn’t love ignoring their kid because the voices just got too loud? Personally, I love gripping my ears and screaming, “SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!!!!”

And as a result of this blatant ignorance, I am really starting to believe that some are just plain jealous.  Because, they seem to think that those with disorder aren’t being responsible for their emotions and behaviors that result.  I certainly have quarrels with wanting to thrust a sense of selfishness and entitlement out there, because it’s what I have to do to take care of myself and my own in this world.  It’s those same people that shove themselves and their ideals down other people’s throats, only to make them feel bad. Misery loves company, and we’re perfect targets, right?

The point is this.  If a person is out there reading this and getting offended, it’s time to take a step back and think hard.  Is it so fair to be so judgmental?  Isn’t it about time to take a look from another perspective?  Does a person with a congenital disorder choose to be symptomatic?  It would be an entirely different story if I were refusing treatment, but like anyone else, I am keeping my appointments and taking my medication according to doctors orders.  We don’t blame someone for their symptoms when they have a seizure.  Why should this be any different?

Let me assure everyone.  If could have snapped out of this disorder and been a “normal” person, I may have done it, instead of living this ongoing nightmare.

Conditional Conditions

I was having a fantastic time at Tang Soo Do class last night.  I excelled in techniques that were far above my level.  I was really doing well with jump kicks and then, POP!  I landed on my knee wrong, and here I am.

Mental health disorders with limitations are difficult enough on their own.  I find that I am unable to just go to the mall.  I have to plan, and take a Xanax or two well in advance.  The same is true for many other crowded public places.  Forget concerts, bars, clubs, and occasionally anywhere within Pittsburgh City Limits.  Even the idea of attending an event is overwhelming, fiercely bashing my panic button.  It’s enough of a deterrent on its own.

Phobias often limit places I go and events I attend.  Social anxiety often limits my capacity for meeting new people and maintaining friendships.  And bipolar disorder comes with it’s own special set of challenges.

Bipolar disorder has proven to globally stunt me, from the disorder itself preventing me from having stable relationships and jobs to the medication causing aphasia, making it difficult to express my own thoughts.  “My memory ain’t what it used to be,” although it was never stellar in the first place.  I find it challenging to create new short term memories and even sometimes long term memory is kind of foggy.

Depression and mania, in their own respects, both cripple my ability to function.  In depression, I have a tendency to isolate myself, causing my relationships to go sour quickly.  I find that the state of depression and the behaviors associated with it are generally a mystery to others.  Since it is so misunderstood, people may start attributing it to life events incorrectly.  And when the depression doesn’t subside, others become short with me, occasionally to the point of ignoring me.  No one likes a wet blanket, so to speak.

Depression also causes me to lose interest in activities I used to find enjoyable.  Worse, I become disinterested in work and start to have issues with the processing speed of my cognition.  I cannot focus on a particular task, and most situations become completely overwhelming.  In short, I feel like I am unable to handle my life any longer.

Mania is a horse of a different color.  In certain types of mania, I become overly social to the point of being overbearing, blunt, attention-seeking, and needy.  It puts an extreme burden on friends and family.  In euphoric mania, I will demand my impulses be satisfied without a thought to how it will affect anyone else.  Contrastingly, in dysphoric mania, I will become enraged at the slightest thing, real or imagined.  I have been known to become aggressive.

I have a tendency to become overly ambitious.  That would entail me taking on too many tasks at once, with the intent to finish them all, but with zero follow through.  This is especially detrimental to my work, seeing as how I find it next to impossible to sit still, or remain on one task for any significant duration of time.  I will demand immediate satisfaction, and have an inclination to become aggressive with co-workers.

With psychosis involved, there is a whole new ball game.  In psychosis, my grasp on reality starts to loosen.  I will insist that conversations took place that never actually did.  I will invent ulterior motives from suspicion generated by delusion.  Or, contrastingly, I will assert myself incorrectly by insisting I am infallible and all-knowing.  In the worst instances, I have had delusions of being a time traveler, not living in this reality but in an overlapping parallel reality.  Psychosis makes typical functioning next to impossible.

Mixed states provide a variety of issues drawing from both mania and depression, respectively, but also brings other unique symptoms and behaviors to the surface.  In mixed states, I often suffer from dissociation and splitting.  It’s as if my mind cannot handle the overload of external stimuli that provokes and emotional response, therefore I dissociate.  Occasionally, I have been prone to partial dissociative amnesia, where events that took place become only vague in my memory.  I have been known to have multiple personas, and in the most distressful of moments, my dominant persona becomes pushed into a partially conscious state as a disgruntled, passive observer to the actions and behaviors of the alternate persona.

As if these conditions are not serious enough on their own, they can be aggravated by a physical illness or injury.  I am experiencing a lot of emotional turbulence over this knee injury.  First, I am panicked that I did not receive professional medical attention.  I am wearing a brace from my last visit to the ER for a similar condition, but I obsessively worry that I may be using it incorrectly.  I am putting a small amount of weight on it, and it occasionally hurts pretty badly.  I worry that I am doing more harm than good.

Secondly, I am embarrassed over the injury that happened in the middle of class.  In short, I landed wrong during the jump kick and felt my knee give out.  I feel like a complete rookie, although I am only a white belt at this time.  As I am very sure that many people have gotten injured before, I still feel like it is maybe too big of a deal.

Next, I feel guilty that my husband had to spend his entire night driving back to 511, our old home, to retrieve my knee brace.  Why didn’t I have the presence of mind to bring that knee brace when I am well aware that I have life long knee problems?  It seemed like an entire night wasted, all over a silly injury I probably could have prevented, had I been more careful.

And lastly, I feel helpless.  I am responsible for supervising my child while my husband is off at work for nine or ten hours a day.  I am terrified that I am not going to be adequate to care for him properly.  I am unable to move around, therefore my function is limited.  Mostly, I will likely be confined to a sitting position for most of the day.  I am at the mercy of others.

All it takes it one spark.

Antipsychosis

I find that I’m sifting through every corner and combing every shelf.  Typically, this is how the search for my marbles goes.  I have a bulging pouch, a testament to my . . . (I cannot find the word.  This is aphasia at it’s finest.)  To my bounty of sanity that I contain.  No, instead, I am frantically . . . hunting for my inspiration.

Is this dry spell the direct result of my lack of “a certain something”?  Certainly.  Am I what I would consider sane and stable?  Certainly not.  I am muted and docile.  No gusto.  No fire.

No original thoughts of my own, apparently.

There is a certain amount of pressure mounting the a point of bursting.  Unfortunately, I cannot seem to even see my own hand in front of my face.  That is how lacking in vision and perspective I am.  I am unaware if this . . . tension is a dam walling the roaring waters of content.  Silently, I pray it is.

Instead, I feel this tightness in my psyche so strongly it becomes somatic.  What lies beneath, within?  What could possibly be of such importance that it has created a friction that produces no heat?  In all honesty, what could I possibly say about anything?  There is a complete absence of thought.  It has all become a runny stew, too brothy to hold the meat and potatoes intact.

Brain Goop Soup.

. . .

And more nothingness.  Annoyingly silent, echos of almost, faintly mocking me in nondescript whispers.

. . .

I suppose that sometimes, a disconnect develops.  This disconnect . . . well, it is just as indescribable and inexplicable as the nonsense prior.  I find the disjointed nature of these thoughts to be the severing of one underdeveloped conscious thought to the next.  Reality has become too real, and I have become evicted from my own headspace.  Expelled into the real world, where time is near frozen.  Days are detached entities, and moments have no . . . a lack of continuity.

I have found that this is the polar opposite of psychosis.  This is the state of antipsychosis, where reality is overly dominant, and abstract thought . . . is a concept in which I have to make a concerted effort.  Never before in my life have I been so uninspired, so dried up.  My home was in my head, a comfy nest in which I resided.  Where do I make a home in reality?

My bullshit radar is going off.

I find the discovery that instead of tapping into something original, I am going through the motions.

I am needy.

Extroversion has become a monster that requires feeding.  I cannot find the willpower to stop myself from desperately searching outside myself for intellectual stimulation, self-affirmation, and creativity.  I do so with the intent to stir my own soup, but I instead crumple that little page of notebook in my mind and immediately discard.  Irrelevant, my brain determines.  It does not sustain my basic needs.  It is superfluous.

Just pet me and tell me that I’m wonderful.

Not because I need the validation.  I have enough evidence to convince myself of that truth.  (Mania, maybe?)  It just feels nice to be acknowledged in the real world.  Because in the real world, I feel as if I am a wandering, translucent ghost.  Are you listening?  Can you see me?  Do my words count for anything?

Is there something wrong?

Is the theory of antipsychosis actually a manifestation of psychosis?  Are my ideas of eviction from my brain, but an absence of presence in reality a problem?  It is not distressing.  Okay, I find a tiny drop of distress, only at the idea that I may never have another unique idea again.  That this blankness, this . . . blockage will be my doomed fate.

Is my intense desire to be thought of actually neediness?  It is a tad distressing.  It is watered down.  I can live with it.  I find extreme boredom in everything.  Worse, I find myself to be the most boring of all.  I have not once before experience such severe boredom.

How do I reach out and make a connection when I have nothing funny, witty, inspiring, or provocative to say?