Analyzing the Lonely

I came across an article about 7 types of loneliness by Gretchen Rubin the other day which led me to take the UCLA Loneliness Scale.  I realize that loneliness is the root of many of my problems but only at certain times.  It is so subjective and complex that I think even knowing when I am lonely is hard to do because I do not trust my moods very often.  Even reading the questions on the UCLA Loneliness Scale caused me to realize that what I feel is loneliness.  It is not a fleeting mood.  It is genuine loneliness.  I told my doc I scored a 55, and he was stunned.  I am not at all – I taste, feel, dribble, smell, see and hear loneliness like it is all that exists.  Being around people is not the antidote.  Often, it makes it worse because I am so misunderstood, overlooked, overpowered, a perfectionist and so ashamed of myself.

My takeaway message from much of this self-discovery is that connection and bonding with others is really important for my happiness.  My personality type and bipolar are both affecting my connections with others.  My personality at its core is introspective, open-minded, inquisitive, quiet and laid-back until there is something that triggers a core ideal. I find it hard to trust, although that has improved a lot.  I generally have difficulty finding friends that enjoy deep conversations, relationships that have the right amount of affection and depth and a balance of “me” time among my various obligations.  These are the main reasons that I find building relationships with others painful.

Bipolar II exacerbates this.  My moods right now are triggered easily.  I do not believe I am too sensitive currently, but I find that I really need more respect in my life.  The people closest to me are not respectful – from my family, to former workplaces to prospective workplaces to social contacts.  I am let down often by others.  However, I let others down often so it is almost a self-perpetuating cycle.  I largely believe this is caused by my bipolar II as I’m reliable about 60% of the time and a flake the other 40% of the time due to my irritable-style depression and/or mixed episodes.  I HATE it, and I’m still trying to get a grip.  I used to think it was my personality and blame my flakiness on that.  Now that I know it is an illness, I do not know where to attribute those less-than-desirable traits since I do not disclose my bipolar II to anyone except those closest to me.  Those closest to me do not even get that is a chemical imbalance instead of a mood I am manipulating.

 

 

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Posted in Basics, Feelings, Mood

Functional Professional or Fraud

I am in the final recruitment states for a job, and they require that you answer a question I have paraphrased, “Do you have or have you ever experienced illness or injury that may impacted your ability to perform or work into the future?”  Sure, I have had to take time off because of ECT and hospital.  It impacted my work, but IN GENERAL I hide my bipolar very well and opt for wide-ranging excuses when I have to be away from work.  I have been burnt SO MUCH by employers due to having a mental illness.  I am not a victim in this as I have probably caused employers some unexpected frustrations by having time away from work.  When I’m at work I give my all plus some.  I manage to gain promotions despite my bipolar, but they slap me right down once I am unwell in similar ways to my pre-promotion self.

Despite that, accommodating my illness is similar to a accommodating someone in a wheelchair.  Most workplaces and society do it pretty poorly.  When you have to walk an extra mile to find a proverbial ramp to get up the same curb as everyone else, I think that is discrimination.  The hoops employers make candidates jump through even in the screening process is invasive and impersonal.  If offered, I will take the job because I need money.  However, this is an example of why an awesome person with a mental health concern is not welcomed in your organisation.  Maybe that is the way this organisation intends it.  Not-for-profits are not immune to this sort of discrimination and screening out people with mental health concerns and other marginalizing attributes.  In fact, they are often worse because they do not have thorough management training, great policies, HR practices, legal advice and funding.  It is one for the too hard basket.

I called a national mental health organisation, and discussed my situation briefly, and the first question was, “what has your GP diagnosed you with?”  When I would not disclose, the worker told me they wouldn’t be able to advise me on what to do.  Whether I have schizophrenia or anxiety has nothing to do with what the question is asking.  I told the worker hat was a COMPLETELY irrelevant question.  I self-advocated and told her in abrupt terms that for a national mental health organisation should be equipped to support those with a lived experience in a non-stigmatizing way, particularly around a common type of discrimination faced by clients.  She transferred me.  I explained the situation to the next person and was supported to answer NO to the recruitment survey since part-time work is part of a strategy to stay well.

Even in wellness I feel a bit like a fraud.  Last week, I was feeling unwell.  I was not coping at all and facing hospitalization.  This week, I’m accepting job offers and am the old white-collar, career focused, sharp and determined professional.  I need a workplace that understands that when I am well, I give 2x what most people would to make up for the times I’m sick.  Healthy or not, that is how I choose to navigate bipolar II.  Living life this way is much more satisfying than having a bland, mediocre existence the majority of my life (which I would find somewhat unattainable anyway).

I fake it ’til I make it constantly.  There are 2 clear parts to my personality that if I’ll listen to will keep me out of trouble.  My writing shows this.  When I’m the well me, I am particular and cautious in my wording.  I avoid being witty.  When I am closer to unwell, I think that my sense of humor is on par with the world’s best comedians when it is really just a step down from a lame dad joke after he has had a couple beers.  🙂

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Posted in bipolar II, work

BP II and Weight Loss Surgery

I went to a free consultation 2 months ago with a doctor who’s office felt like a sweaty cattle call.  He was willing to do any surgery I wanted ASAP but would not clarify the price.  He shamed me when I told him I was not ready and was unsure about a sleeve by telling me that he sees patients like me all the time who will not get surgery but will regret it and come back in 10 years.  I am glad I trusted myself and the complexity of my health because he did not take any consideration into my complex mental health, thyroid and medication needs.

I scheduled an appointment with a new doctor who told me that there is a 48% likelihood of secondary surgery with a Lapband so they do not offer it.  They will go at my pace and check my meds every step of the way since there are concerns that lithium cannot be offered in a drip and because I’m on Nardil, a MAOI antidepressant that requires a strict diet for foods with tyramine.  They asked me if I *had* to have it, and I do need it like a fish needs water.  It has been the most helpful anti-depressant I’ve ever had, and I’ve been on bajillions of them.  They offer a dietitian, psychologist, groups and a patient liaison / surgical assistant.  A main concern I have is that the medical centre is tiny.

I still fear such body-altering surgery that takes away my stomach.  I mainly binge because of my mental health.  How will I control that?  What are the consequences if I do binge?  I still believe somehow I can pull myself up by my bootstraps despite failing on every diet I have tried.  Then part of me KNOWS I cannot.  Part of me still wants to eat absolute crap because it is the best and most enjoyable way I can self-harm.  Any diet they put me on would be really difficult given the restrictions I already have because of my MAOI.  That has been a problem with other diets, too.  It just limits me so much.  If I eat a food that is not allowed I could have a heart attack.  I am going to go back for a second consultation and check with my insurance company about how much they will cover.

Being overweight in itself is not a massive deal for me, but I hate how I cannot move and what I look like in pictures.  I want to be here for my child and not have any other chronic issues to deal with because just dealing with my bipolar II is a full time job.  My next consultation is in one month.  I am going to start exercising 30 minutes a day and continue working on my bingeing with my doctor.  I was bingeing about 5-6 times a week on 4-8 pastries a day (plus other foods), but I am down to 2 binges a week.  That would have to be around 1200 calories less a day, and exercising would minimise another 100-200 calories.  If I can eliminate 1400 calories a day, I will be doing much better and have to lose inches and weight.  I am 110 kilos right now and writing it for accountability.

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Posted in Actions, Binge Eating, Health, Medical

Lithium

I have been on lithium for a couple of years.  Compared to other drugs it has been surprisingly good.  I have been on most of the SSRIs, and they definitely affect me more.  Everyone is different though.  I wish I had taken detailed notes about all the side effects and problems I have had with each drug so that I could remember why they are not right for me.  Maybe my doc has that.  I think the general concern about lithium is that it will cause a numbing of emotions and that someone might overhear when someone whispers “lithium” at the pharmacy.

When I first went on Lithium my moods were probably a lot more muted and a lot less sharp.  How else can I explain that?  When I felt something before lithium it would often pierce every little pore with a needle sharp, attention grabbing obsession.  Now that feeling is not as prominent.  Instead, the mood more slides over me like jello, and only certain strong emotions stick into my pores.  When I feel a negative mood now, it is only in my eye cavities, temples, nose and front outer ear.  I know this sounds off to someone that does not have bipolar.  It is not totally a physical sensation, but some aspects of my mood changes have felt physical, especially now that I have been on lithium a while and feel a negative mood.  I can sit in my mood longer than before without the emotion jumping out of my body so instantaneously.  I simmer instead of steaming like a kettle.

I have a couple criticisms of lithium.  The side effect of weight gain is super serious, life altering and extremely painful for me.  The other is that my levels are a bit inconsistent, perhaps to the climate where I live and the inconsistent water intake, and I have to get my blood taken regularly.

Becoming overweight is not all due to lithium, but it does not help that lithium has this side effect and seems to make the fat stick to me.  My doctor explains that my BMI (body mass index) is now at a dangerous place for heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, etc., but due to the ups and downs I still experience in my moods, my weight fluctuation is like the biggest yo-yo diet of all time.  I talked previously about recently developing binge eating disorder (BED), too.  I cannot move like I used to, my skin feels tight, my clothes are ill fitting, I feel gross in my skin, my sex life is non-existent and I genuinely want to die because of this.  I used to be about a size 10 to a 14.  Now I barely recognize what I have become.  Instead of just having the dieting challenges most people do like a lack of motivation and time, my odds are a nauseating mess.  I have to contend with the challenges of illnesses (bipolar II and BED) where the disease AND the cure (lithium, Nardil, an MAOI) increase my likelihood of obesity.  To quantify this challenge, my depression and/or extreme bingeing can cause the rapid weight gain of 20+ pounds or weight loss of 5 to 6 pounds in a week or two.  Most of the causes are excessive exercising, excessive eating, excessive sleeping, no sleeping, excessive working, and forgetfulness to eat, drink or take meds.

My lithium was at .4 around 3 weeks ago, which was the last time I was feeling suicidal.  My next blood test was a .7.  My doctor added an extra dose of lithium to get me to .9 next week if all goes well.  He said I may experience side effects.  I am pretty blase about side effects these days.  My skin is getting as hard as a tree trunk when it comes to some of that.  My last boss told me I was not strong.  If only she fucking knew how much strength, determination, vaginal fortitude and resilience it takes to live with my illness she might be less closed-minded and one dimensional about her world view.  Bipolar causes me to expand my understanding of humans and the unseen universe.  I pity her limits and ignorance.

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Posted in Health, Meds

The Loony Bin – Locked Up & Shocked Up

So this is something that generally freaks people out.  That is understandable.  It freaks me out, too.  Going to hospital and having ECT (electroconvulsive or shock therapy) was like a freaky-good horror movie that you hate watching but cannot turn your head.  I am purposely writing minuscule details about hospital and ECT to get it out of my system and hopefully give more info to anyone out there that needs it to make decisions about their own or their loved one’s care.  P.S. I use words like, “loony,” because I’m reclaiming it.  I think people that by and large have a stigmatized illness, attend hospital and get ECT are often experts at hiding illness and often acting more “normal” than most people.  I know I have played that game for years.  I choose to get the right help these days even if people think I’m batshit crazy.  That’s their issue.

I was at the depths of the human experience a couple years ago.  My memory is a bit vague and shoddy, but I will share what I remember.  I was working full time and a full-time partner and parent to a young child for a few months with only little waves of ebbs and flows to my mood for months.  I exercised, ate pretty well, spent 1.5 hours getting ready in the mornings, kept up with friends and generally was unaffected by illness.  I think I was on a low dose of Seroquel and Lithium at that time.  I gradually started feeling a little low so the dose was increased.  Once I was on more meds I felt slow, foggy and like my ears were not working.  It was not treating my bipolar II well despite it being the most recommended drug for bipolar II (to my knowledge, at least).

My normal weekly psychiatrist visit increased to 2 times a week due to my worsening depression. I had to take off of work for a couple hours for that, and it soon changed to the whole day.  My depression worsened to the point I could not stand up without extreme effort, and my partner had to call my work in partnership with my doctor’s advice that I needed extended leave.  I stared at the wall during waking hours and slept about 20 hours a day.  Showering was impossible.  Sitting up was impossible.  Walking to the toilet took me about 1 hour to psych myself up to the point I almost wet myself.   I do not have food related memories.  The worse symptom is that I became mute.  I was trapped in a numb trance surrounded by thick commercial-grade foam where breathing was nearly non-existent. Death was all I wanted but even if I had a gun in my hand I would not have had the strength to lift it to my head.

My doctor suggested a private hospital, a private room and ECT.  My room was large.  There was no TV, but the shower and bed were nice.  I think I spent about week in bed.  They brought food to me and I had one lovely nurse who had the kindest and most non-judgmental eyes.  I think she probably helped me recover more than anything throughout my stay.  I do not remember eating at that point.

I woke up about a week later.  They started making me walk about 20 steps to get my drugs from the drug closet.  Within a day or two, I was strongly encouraged to go get my meals.  It was weird seeing the people in there.  My fellow patients’ attributes are forever sealed in my memory more than any other memory on this planet.  It is a weird and chilling but somewhat comfortable phenomenon.  I noticed every detail, expression and movement.  I felt as though I was inside a video game and that I needed to dodge other patients.  I went to one group in the 4 weeks I was there.  It was about CBT or social rhythym therapy.  I cannot remember much except the do-gooder patient that was trying to impress everyone with her self awareness.

I did not talk to another human while in hospital except for those caring for me and the family that visited.  None of my closest friends knew about my brain fry or even that I had depression until I disclosed it to them months after leaving hospital.  I was too ashamed. I still have not disclosed to some of my most immediate family members and many friends because of that.  It is too complicated with my family because their dense understanding of mental illness is too swollen in stigma and probably either self denial or self preservation since bipolar runs in genetic material like a reckless steam train out of control.  Now I am less ashamed of myself and more aware of the real-life consequences of disclosure.  I’ll talk about my genetic and family history stuff some other time.  I could write books about real-life consequences of disclosure so I am sure that will come up for me at some point.

TRIGGER WARNING, SUICIDE: So in full disclosure, one of the things that gave me the shits and panic with my hospitalization is that the person staying in the room next to me completed suicide.  I was in my room and heard the nurse yell a code out to other nurses.  Everyone ran panicked.  CPR, etc. Patient was wheeled out covered head to toe by a sheet.  This was obviously something disturbing to witness even if I were well, but it had an effect on my feelings of safety and recovery.

Soon my “shock the fuck out of my brain therapy” began.  Please pardon my French.  They woke me up at about 4:30 am.  No food.  I had to go to this holding space with other patients and sit on ugly wingback chairs with sweaty hand stains that were last upholstered circa 1994.  I felt like a dazed and unknowing cow before it feels the burn of branding or even the electric shock of the abattoir.  We could be seen by anyone was awake at that hour so even in the hospital it felt embarrassing to me.  They would call my name and buzz me into a corridor like those cold white halls of a hospital.  I could see other patients passed out in an adjoining room.  I had to hop up on a hospital bed, and say hello to the same nurse with a long brown ponytail, my crazy shock doc (said with all the love one has for a mad scientist) and the anesthetist.  It smelled like operating room.  They would talk about daily news while they put this tight rubber strap with double belt holes around my head.  It was cold but felt similar to the way the tourniquet does when they take blood from your arm.  They put thick gel goo all throughout my long hair with electrodes hooked to it.  The anesthetist would give me a shot (or an IV, I can’t remember), and my doctor would still be talking about elephants in Zimbabwe or something and sleep would zap me.  [Just so you know,  I think they also used Ketamine somewhere, but do not quote me on that.  It is something I need to find out because my memory is a bit lapsed in that area.]

When I woke, my jaw would be SOOO sore for days to the point it felt like I had been beaten by someone holding bricks.  Nonetheless, I would sit up in a recliner and eat the hospital breakfast they served.  Dry toast with super cold unspreadable butter, corn flakes, stewed prunes.  Uuugh.  I had to sit there 90 minutes or so and was cold and needed a blanket.  My brain felt the way it feels when you are really drunk without the feelings of euphoria.  Things were confusing and memories only existed in the time and place I was present.  I had gel glue mushed in my hair as a tell-tell sign to everyone else in hospital that I had ECT.  Many days I was not strong enough to shower.   I think I had ECT 15 times in my month long hospital stay and as an outpatient for about two additional weeks where relatives brought me back to the hospital.

I felt about 82% better, but not like, “OMG!! I’m healed Jesus, I’m healed!!”  My memory has been affected, but I do not really notice it because I do not remember what I do not remember, if that makes sense.  I look at pictures of my child, and it’s like, “Oh, I don’t remember taking those photos.”  I find that can happen in normal life anyway, too.  However, I have noticed other gaps in my longer term memory that do not make sense.  It is as though my memory has taken all the marshmallows spread throughout Lucky Charms cereal.  It’s just not as good without the colorful bits.

Okay, as for the long term result, I think ECT lasted about 3 months.  It turns out that I’m largely treatment resistant.  For me, I would give ECT 1.5 stars out of 5.  The reason I would only give it 1.5 stars is because of the trauma I feel around the experience.  It did not last long enough to pay off for me.

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Posted in Health, Medical

Famous Folks Fighting It – Stephen Fry, Robbie Williams?

There’s a documentary out there that is an oldie but goodie where Stephen Fry (famous in the UK) explains his experience  of diagnosis, feelings and behavior with bipolar I.  What makes this 2 hour documentary wild is that he interviews a lot of people that are totally “normal,” but struggle with bipolar.  There is some interesting empirical information around a the world’s largest research study in the world around bipolar.  Stephen covers pregnancy, brain activity, young people, stress, treatments, etc.  For example, it discusses how there’s a 60% risk of becoming extremely ill during pregnancy and childbirth if a woman already has bipolar.  A doctor explains how bipolar related suicide is the leading cause of death around childbirth in England.  No wonder I thought I was going to die during childbirth and pregnancy.  I often wonder if I experienced PTSD from that whole experience.  I was off any meds, only diagnosed with uni-polar depression at that point and had limited social supports.  Anyway, this documentary is entertaining and ideal to share with non-bipolar folks so they get a more realistic and less-freaked-out understanding of the disease.

Another thing is that whole career thing where incredible things then earth-shattering things happen.  I have been there a lot the past few years – promotions one day and unexplained job loss or my resignation the next.  My resume looks like Swiss cheese there are so many gaps in it over the past few years.  Workplaces have felt like powerful psychological abuse (and the toxicity of some of my former workplaces probably were), but I feel my illness certainly has a place somewhere in there.  Unfortunately, when workplaces started shutting down on me they did not want to give feedback on my performance or behavior.  I think some of that was bosses doing a Dr. Google diagnosis on me and potentially discrimination based, but I will never know.  I felt as though I was going into work and doing consistently really well.  I have been unemployed for about a month, and I think I have defined the criteria I need in a job to manage my illness.  These things include part time hours, brain engaging work, quiet environment about 80% of the time, normal hours, commute with minimal traffic, limited large group work (triggers me), steady workflow (no major projects), supportive supervisors and helping society and/or people (but not necessarily dealing with people directly).  Yeah, good luck to me finding all of that in one job.

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Posted in Resources

Bipolar II & Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

Okay party people, I binge eat.  Lots.  I can down the amount of calories normal people have over days and eat it in a 2o minutes.  It’s like food that is orgasmic for weeks then I eat so much and drain our bank account so far that I detest that food and move onto the next one.  Oh the psychological, physical and pleasure center layers that exist with this!  I can’t even begin to sort it.  I’m telling you this because in a few months I’m making a big decision.  I’ve tried a several weight loss plans, medically supported, too.  What happens is that when I go into a period of depression or a mixed episode that all my goodwill and ambition to lose goes out the window.  I hate the way my body feels.  Even my taste buds change.  Most of the time I love veggies, but when my buds change with the fluctuations in my mood, healthy foods that I normally love cause a gag reflex.

The drugs I take in case you are wondering are:

  • Lithium
  • Nardil (old school drug – has to be refrigered and weird diet – MAOI) – Many chemists don’t know what this is and have to special order it (refrigeration req’d)
  • Thyrozine (thyroid meds) (refrigeration req’d)
  • Immovane (sleep – sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t)
  • Adavan (only occasionally for severe anxiety)

This mix works pretty well for me.  I have gained 25 lbs (about 10 kilos) from my latest 2 weeks of bingeing.  It took me 8 weeks to lose that much.  The lithium causes weight gain, too. Doc mentioned a drug called Vyvance today.  The review on its site are AWESOME and HORRIBLE.  It’s like there’s no in between.  If I can take the drug, I would have to go off my Nardil because it’s an MAOI. I’d like to see if I can try it before I can go the surgical route, but I don’t know if it’s wise to get off of Nardil because it works well for me.

I’m going for another consult for weight loss surgery in a couple weeks.  I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m not happy with my weight.  I’m not happy with the feelings of being out of control with food.  I’m an addict.  No doubt.  I checked out a nonprofit place for eating disorders, but their waiting list is super long.  Once concern I have for the surgery is that I hear it can push you to depression because of the food deprivation and side effects like vomiting and having to eat tiny bites.  I’ll see what they say.  Toodles.

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Posted in Binge Eating, Meds