Friday, November 17, 2017

Grinch


It's the holiday season and for more people than you might think this is not the happiest time of the year. The holidays can be stressful and cause anxiety for many but more so if you suffer from depression already and you sprinkle a little Seasonal Affective Disorder on top. Not everyone celebrates the same holidays, leaving people feeling isolated from the majority and not everyone has friends and family to share them with. Which is a little bit of how I'm feeling this year.

I read an article yesterday about how to prepare your mental health for the holidays. Much of the advice I thought was sound but some was a bit impractical and it made me think of the things I do to prepare. I always do and this year more than ever. The holidays are also anniversaries for me, the anniversary of when my husband and I started dating and the anniversary of when he proposed. He doesn't believe in anniversaries so I doubt he's thinking about them but I do. This would be our 22 year together and the same age of my youngest sister, literally a lifetime together. I can already feel my heart squeezing.

The number one thing I do is make plans! Get things on my calendar! Whether it's weekend trip or lunch with a friend. It doesn't matter if it gets rescheduled the important thing is to plan it. It will give you small things to look forward to. A couple things that I planned for myself was trying to get my book group back together. I chose a fun book and a December date. The other thing I planned was to go back to doing NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writers Month, which is writing 50,000 words in the month of November. So I had a book to read and a book to write. I did have other small things that I planned but these were some bigger things I had to work towards every day.

The second thing I do is to try something new! For example, I'm not big on cooking at all. My husband was the fan of cooking but he's not here and it looks like I'm going to have to feed myself from now on. I'm trying to eat healthy because I'm still working on shedding that weight from my med changes last year so I've been teaching myself how to cook. There's a lot involved in that! Meal planning for the week, grocery shopping for food that isn't frozen and in a box and then attempting to make said meals. I've discovered some things are very easy and adding them into my basket and other things I'll try again on a day of great boredom. Other things I've done is pick a book I've always wanted to read but be intimidated by (I'm a big reader) or travel (but I try to do that as much as possible anyway).  You get my drift, you might want to try journaling or joining a very lazy book club.

Connect with your people! If you don't have friends or family near you make phone dates to talk to them. I find that by making a call date with someone I'm far more likely to talk to them than if I just call them randomly. Lets face it, texting only gets you so far if your depressed. If you do have people nearby see the number one thing, make plans! Anything you can do to stay connected.

This is an easy one, do something that requires you to come back tomorrow, or a goal! This can be binge watching Suits, choosing books that will keep you reading every day, some type of challenge (for example, this year I'm doing the Plank Challenge to get my core muscles in shape so my back will stop fritzing out like I'm 80), starting a craft project like learning to knit (it's super easy). You can do these things on days it's hard to get out of bed.

Something my doctor always says and I've always ignored her until this year is staying active! Because I get exercise induced migraines I tend to be cautious about exercise but since I've been feeling a bit better and recently acquired a treadmill, I've added that into my new daily routine and it does help. It's easier to get moving and I feel like I've done something, even if that's all I did. I've even ventured outside to walk and am really enjoying the feeling. Who knew?!

Lastly, develop a daily routine if you can. If there's anytime of the year you should try to have a good routine it's during the holidays. It will keep your mind busy... most of the time. Just remember to be gentle with yourself and don't go overboard, which is what my OCD wants to do. If you need a mental health day in bed to watch all the Harry Potter movies then you should do it! You know you.

Make these things as basic or as ambitious as you want them to be. Remember this is about taking care of your mental health during the holiday season and that's definitely the gift you want to give yourself. 

Leading me to an important take away from the article I read that I hadn't thought of before is set boundaries! I don't really have to do this during the holidays but certainly people with children, full time work, full time health issues, family and mental health issues needs to set holiday boundaries. If you can't do everything it's ok. It will get done. I'm just a big advocate for boundaries all the time. I didn't have any choice after I became a full time walking migraine. 

If you must be The Grinch at the holidays try to be the Grinch after his heart grew three sizes too large. It's easy to say, I know, but from one sufferer to another I know we can get through this holiday season together!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

#metoo


I feel like it's time to join this conversation. If you follow my blog then you've already read my history with sexual assault, refer to the post titled Terror. I don't think anyone could have predicted the events that would trickle down from Harvey Weinstein's fall, and like most women I applaud the accusers that came forward. It's not an easy thing to do. I never did. So why the post?

I'm starting to feel a little unsettled. Everyday there are new allegations, not that this surprises me in any way but I feel like the topic of sexual harassment and sexual assault are looming around me all the time. I'm having nightmares every night, I'm back to seeing men as predators instead of just people. I'm acutely aware of my surroundings everywhere I go because rape culture is already at an all time high. I don't feel safe and my PTSD has been triggered.

Let me rewind a little bit to give you some history, I grew up with a physically abusive father and a totally passive mother. My fourth grade teacher broke my arm, my fifth grade teacher sexually abused me. When I was 15 the first three times I had sex was date rape. I was sexually harassed through out high school because of this imagined reputation. I never even had sex with anyone until my college boyfriend and we had a mutually physically abusive relationship. After we broke up I had a series of men attempt to have sex with me when I was asleep. I learned some great fake snoring techniques. As an adult I was sexually harassed most days at work in an industry where I was working with powerful men and then finally the sexual assault in my home 8 years ago. After that I just shut down and locked myself in my house for 4 years. Even now I still get unsolicited pictures or advances from men of all ages. 

This is what I find scary, it's so common. Even among the rich and famous. No woman escapes this. I think the statistics on sexual abuse are dead wrong. In fact, some of this is so normal that it's not even considered a form of sexual abuse. Even my teenage nieces are subject to it, at 13! I'll add that I think it's also more common for men than is let on as well but I can only speak for women. 

I know that for some women it's important to come forward and name their accusers. I imagine in Hollywood that might be more important when trying to protect other women. I've never been able to do that. Was it because the female doctor at the emergency room doing my rape kit told me she didn't believe me? Was it because I didn't want to hurt family members of the person that hurt me? Was it because I was scared? It was all of those reasons and more. It's not like I can forget what happened to me but I want to move forward. I want to think about my male friends, or men I walk past, normally. My husband healed me of so much of that but he's not here anymore either. Back to the beginning to the part where I don't feel safe anymore.

I wonder if other women like me are feeling triggered and uneasy, that's why I wrote this. I can't be the only one. So what do we do ladies? Take yet another social media break? As if 2017 hasn't been the worst already. I'm tired of feeling like the fear always gets the upper hand (I almost typed men). I feel like a whole gender hates me and it doesn't feel good. 

Here are things I'm trying to keep in mind when I see these allegations in the news
1. It's not shocking news
2. Some of it may not be true
3. Other women feel like I do
4. I do know lots of good men
5. My dreams are not my reality

What are you doing to take care of yourself? Because I think all of this will get worse before it gets better, from accusations in Hollywood to push back in the culture of fear created by the current government. If there's anytime for "survivors" to stay strong is now and I don't want to let a younger generation grow up and live through what I've lived through. We all have voices, I may not be using mine to punish but I am trying to use mine to find out how to heal ourselves. Join me!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Going Dark


It's been nine months since I've been able to write anything on this blog. This is how time can pass for the bipolar during distress. There's not doubt that the last 9 months have been the most distressing continuously of my life.

In January I had another nervous breakdown and bought a one way ticket to Hawaii. I just left. I needed to be away from any kind of stress at all or i didn't know what would happen to me. While I was there I realized over time that I was the happiest I had been in my entire life. It was actually a very sad feeling.

My migraines didn't improve and my doctor's at Stanford wanted me to come and spend more time in the hospital. I saw my whole future ahead of me, living in an unhappy marriage, getting tortured at the hospital constantly that would cost so much that it would keep my marriage unhappy, having migraines for the next 40 years. I realized I couldn't do it. At this point I couldn't even manage the smallest amounts of stress, like doing the laundry, but my psychiatrist didn't think sending me to the hospital would help.

It was a beautiful day, I felt beautiful and had an adventure and I knew nothing would be better than that day. It was the perfect day to die, so I tried to kill myself. Next time I'll make sure my roomie isn't a paramedic/firefighter because the next thing I know I'm being stuffed in the car and taken to the hospital. Another failure.

Two weeks later a dear friend died by her own hand. It was a terrible loss but I understood and felt more at peace knowing no one had hurt her, but it didn't mean my grieving still hasn't ended and that I don't have complex feelings about it. Perhaps another post for that.

I stayed in Hawaii until May but eventually you have to come home, I suppose. In the last 4 months I haven't gotten out of bed unless I have an appointment or traveling. I ate potato flakes for two weeks at one point. You'd think I'd have lost some weight but I'm not that lucky. I've spent all my energy hiding all of this but I felt stronger than ever about my belief that I should get to decide when I die. I've spent the summer seeing as many people that I love as I could. 

I also applied for the Hemlock society, which turned me down. Apparently those assholes have never had a migraine for 25 days. I began to feel more open about telling my friends because it probably connects to so much of what's happening in my life now.

My husband and I have agreed that it's best for both of us to get divorced. I certainly have not turned out to be a good wife, friend or supporter and I stopped trying because I really just had to focus on me. I could handle my mental health but not that and health issues, and I don't think he could either. Another failure. 

Even though I was alone most of the time because of his job, I feel somehow lost in a vacuum. I don't think we could make it work but it doesn't mean I'm not grieving. I feel like I'm grieving everything. On the one hand I could do whatever I want but on the other hand I'm really married to Stanford and the 2 doctors here that keep saving my life.

Which leads me to today. I haven't been doing well. I can't stop crying. My poor psychiatrist is at a loss because I admitted to having suicidal thoughts, which means she's supposed to put me in the hospital. She's feeling a bit torn. I'm going to her office at 4pm. If you don't hear from me for a while it means they've admitted me but I'm ok and I'm safe.

I appreciate all of you and thank you for always listening
xoxo

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Anniversaries and Updates


On December 14, 2013 I got a migraine that never went away. I have chronic migraines, cluster headaches and all the migraines in-between. 

It's been one crazy year, my friends. On this anniversary, after rereading my other posts, I'm happy to see this year gone and I don't find much comfort in my future. Hence, why I stopped writing here. At some point your run out of things on the hamster wheel and some things are too personal. However, lets start with the amazing year I had that everyone saw and am so grateful to have had!

So, the Cryoablation on my occipital nerves worked! Which doesn't mean I didn't get migraines half of this year, just not from that locations and they were more "mild". Time to get out of the house and get some epic traveling done. Big points of interest were Monument Valley, Utah, Lake Powell, AZ, Las Cruces, NM, White Sands National Park, NM, Carlsbad Caverns NM, Roswell, Mojave desert, Palm Springs, Chaco Canyon Santa Fe , Taos and Albuquerque NM, Ivins UT, Four Corners, Bryce and Zion National Parks and hitting 6 states in the motor home and saw loads of friends along the way. We also went to Kauai and took my niece to Maui! That was seriously fun! Loads of smaller trips too, Eugene, Or., Santa Cruz (twice), San Francisco, and the Oregon Coast with an older niece (I have them coming out of my ears) which I was able to do on my own! Lastly, we had some visitors this year from Alaska, Hawaii, Eugene and San Fransisco. And, I've lost nearly 30 pounds! That's some year!

Here's the rub....

I was also in the hospital 6 times over the summer, six times. Four of those times were in Stanford, where I either had to fly myself down, or the usual buddy drive. Some of those were trips for another type of treatment they've been trying on me called DHE, it's a drug they infuse into your body. My second trip I was in the hospital for 4 days but there's a national shortage, so that won't happen again anytime soon.

Prior to the Cryoablation in May my migraines were the worst they've been, which is why I had the procedure. We aren't sure the Botox is working anymore or maybe they will work better together. The Cryoablation lasted about 4 months and you have to wait at least 5-6 months and the second Botox in this rotation didn't work at all. Just because I'm not having occipital nerve migraines does not mean I'm not having migraines. I don't count my pain free days anymore but my migraine app can show you I'm still having roughly the same, or a bit less at one point, just not disabling. So disabling for me, is bleeding out of my eyeballs because I can't drive, it gets in my eyes. That's where pain and I stand now. 

Thankfully I feel like I was able to truly enjoy and be in the moment for all of the amazing things that happened this year, despite the pain. The truth is I'm worse, which to me has meant facing the loss of ALL my hopes and dreams for MY future. People forget I used to have a career, I'm not a wifey. I want to see the world, I doubt I'd live through a transatlantic flight or a cruise. I like to have a healthy social life, I may need to move to a bigger town for that anyway. I wanted to grow up to be the opposite of my parents, not become them, workaholic husband and dependent female I'm not saying I can't make new dreams, I'm just saying when you realize that it takes time to process and grieve and then be reborn. I'm still grieving. I don't want platitudes because no one else knows and if they do they feel the same way. 

These are some things I learned this year... big learning year for me
1. No matter what, your oldest friends are still your best friends
2. Say yes
3. let go or set boundaries (both are so hard)
4. I learned what absolute pain is and it broke my heart
5. No one will ever know what you're talking about, ever, until the end of time, when you talk about your migraines, no matter how many times to explain it. Don't talk about it.
6. Don't trust anyone over 16 1/2
7. Always smile, it makes people feel better and it might make you feel better too
8. Avoid stress, don't try to manage it
9. Do things for yourself, without asking permission
10. Radical Acceptance

As a holiday bonus, I'll tell you about my second Cryoablation that I had done about a week ago. I had a different doctor who was great! He pumped up the local anesthesia and the pain I felt was "normal". So we left after 30 minutes, because you're not allowed to leave immediately because of all the meds in your system, and we go to the hotel. I'm walking on the sidewalk and I hit a crack and face planted into the cement. Boom, didn't even put my hands up because I was still drugged. So precise was this fall that I didn't have a scratch! I just went down like a hammer. Of course I had a concussion.. and I hope some of you are laughing.. if you know me you definitely are, because only I could perform such a glorious feat. So Happy Holidays, for my next trick....

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Happy Days


I've been meaning to write about this for a while but I haven't quite known how to work it out from my head to my words. I've been working on it with my therapist and to me it still sounds a little silly but she assures me that other people with Mental Illnesses go through this as well people with Chronic Illnesses so I thought I should make a brief post and see if I got any thoughts from anyone.

For a few years now a truly happy day has been far and few between. I live on small happy moments but I've been working hard to expand those moments to try to have happy days, despite what I might be going though. I feel like I'm getting better at it. When I was going through my manic phase it was so much easier! It was great to feel so awesome. I think I mentioned that that's why people who have Bipolar don't really go to the doctor when they are experiencing a mania because it can feel so good for a while.

After some torturous medication tinkering and finally sleeping after a month I started coming down but continued to have happy days and it freaked me out. Was I still manic? Was it ok for me to feel happy? To someone without Mental Illness this sounds like a woman with too much time on her hands but put yourself in my position. I don't know if I'm really happy or if the disease I have that lies to me is playing more games with my head. I don't know if I'm really happy..... I just wanted to say that again because how terrible is it to not know what happiness can feel like. 

I know what all the bad stuff feels like, I know what calmness or peacefulness feels like but in my life between my experiences and my stupid brain chemistry I question what happiness is. I find that deeply disturbing and sad. Was I happy at my wedding? No I wasn't, there was many circumstances for this. This is supposed to be the happiest day of your life right? I can't even think of another example to use as a universal time I should be happy. I love to travel and I find it calming and of course theres moments of happiness. I just don't know what it is so how am I to determine when I'm having genuine happy days?

I have to ask my therapist
It's distressing

But I'm glad I did because I found out that I'm not alone in this and it's ok. This is how I can learn the differences between my real emotions and disease, or just learn what I never learned as I was growing up. I think. 

Where does my Chronic Illness fit in? I guess I didn't care if I was happy before I got Chronic Migraines and Cluster Headaches because you don't know what you have until it's gone. Maybe I didn't notice. I'm not sure, but now I want to have a full life. I'm not satisfied with my options at this point. I'm going to take any chance for being happy that I can, even if that means having that terrible cranium procedure every six months. Which I think worked, by the way, but that's another post. 

I've found a new opportunity for personal growth in a bed of ashes. Sometimes that can be the miracle of continuing this wheel of life.  

Monday, August 1, 2016

Manic Depression


Even when I was a kid I knew that when Jimi Hendrix sang Manic Depression I felt what he felt. Now we call it Bipolar Disorder. My "official" diagnosis is Bipolar Disorder 2 Depressive, I have other diagnosis as well but let's just discuss this today. What this says is that my mood disorder isn't considered overly severe (by medical standards) and I'm normally depressed. Since the onset of my Chronic Migraines and Cluster Headaches I've gone through two manic phases, one being current. I'd say on average I'd have one every few years, after my teen years. That would be me in a drug fueled manic phase when I was about 17 above, it lasted two years and left me with serious consequences as well as a disbelief I lived through it. This was probably my peak.

Why am I talking about this today? I just read a terrible article about 5 truths of mania. Sure, I guess they were true on a very basic level. For example, "I'm going to read all the books"... right, lofty goals but it's so much larger and scarier than that and I'm going to tell the really awful truths about mania because that's what I do, it's my jam. Keep in mind, my bipolar is the "easy" bipolar. 

I'll keep my lofty goals in check and stick with 5 things about mania as well. 

1. Lofty goals! I'm going to catch up on my reading, catch up with my friends, finally finish Game of Thrones.... and so on, mostly because I'm not sleeping and when I'm not sleeping I feel weird and I just can't slow down, but I'm really tired so I'm drinking a lot of coffee. See where this is going?

2. Perfection! I feel weird so I can't quite understand what I'm reading, or saying to people and does GOT seem stranger than normal. I'll just clean the house! Great idea but there's this one spot on the floor that just stays sticky and I have to mop it over and over. Now I have to start washing my hands every time I touch something because I hate anything that could possibly be sticky. I'd better just leave the house for a while and take a break. It will help me relax.

3. I'll just run to the store. I need to pick up some socks... Excessive Shopping. I have groceries, a summer wardrobe and there was a sale at the jewelry store. Also my hairdresser squeezed me in and I have a whole new look and I have to say I look really good! I just look different. I feel really confident and that's a good thing right? I always feel so bad about myself. I'm probably just feeling better because the new meds are working. I don't need to call the doctor. I feel so good right now, I'm just going to go get a quick drink.

4. Hyper sexuality or Excessive anything that might be bad for you. I'm fine after a few drinks to drive besides there's all these cute men here talking to me. I knew I looked better. I wonder if anyone has anything besides alcohol. This group of people wants to hang out and they seem fun.

5. It all hurts and you can be a depressed manic. I can't get the house clean or do anything else because I can't concentrate. I don't want to be around anyone because I'm acting weird and I know it. I have to stop shopping online. I'm afraid to be alone, I hear things and I can't sleep. I hate everyone and no one is spared my manic anger. I don't know what to do. Just make it all stop. Now call your doctor.

I can barely write about it because I hate being manic so much but I also love it too. I feel like 10 times the person. That's why patients never call the doctor when they are in a manic phase. This is also the time most likely for someone to harm themselves because they have the energy to do it. If you know someone who is depressed and suddenly their mood improves you should pay attention. 

Thanks to my time in DBT Therapy I feel like I have skills now to avoid many of these things. There's nothing wrong with making lists of my lofty goals of things to do, or creating a "mania schedule". I have plans for these things in place. Do I win every day? Nope but I try really hard every day and that's all I can do. I don't think the cats can help me much so the hard work is up to me. It's a bit of a crap deal when your brain chemistry imbalance is telling you to do things that make perfect sense but you have remember your brain isn't correct. There isn't anything harder.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Anxiety




I believe we've all experienced times of anxiety. The day before a job interview, the first day of school or a blind date. It's a painful feeling residing inside your ribcage and it seems to take over your entire nervous system, also your higher brain functions. Now imagine feeling this all the time and your job, should you choose to accept it, is to fight it in any way possible. This can include channeling it, ignoring it, giving into it, developing destructive behaviors, disguising it, talking about it, finding help and developing skills on your own to manage it. I do all of these things but I haven't always. Before I  move on, I think this is a great article!

http://realhealthhelper.com/common-panic-anxiety-attack-symptoms-10-signs-you-may-have-an-anxiety-disorder/

I know I've been complaining so much about how high my anxiety is lately, which is why I threw in some informational blog posts. See how I bored you to death with my medical procedures! But then I have a week like last week and the universe (or whatever) has a way making me see face the truth about my anxiety and when I had two huge moments of clarity at the beginning, then the end of the "week" I finally understood the largeness of what I'm carrying. Thanks to two of my doctors I can even see this monster that's grown and taken over my body. Imagine that kid from The Ring drawing the creepy black scribble circles over and over, that is my anxiety (you may include the creepy kid).
Got all of it? Now add chest pain and heart palpitations. There I am.

My first glimpse of who this demon was, was during my acupuncture session when the needles triggered a trauma response from my surgery. My practitioner is also my energy healer. I bet you thought you'd never hear me say that! I never thought I would either but when we met 10 years ago, she helped me get off pain medication, we had a connection and my "energy", or whatever, was moved. I can't speak of it to other people because it's my experience and it's real and it works. I just started crying, well sobbing. She told me it was ok to just let go of this thing that I'm holding. I knew then that I couldn't let go. Normally I'm all about setting energy free but I knew if I did I would be letting myself go. I'm holding on so tightly because I'm holding myself together, if I let go, I told her, she would be taking me to a psychiatric facility for care. Funnily, she took me the last time I went. This made me laugh and cry and the same time and this is when I knew that I am having my third nervous breakdown.

I jetted off to Utah for a long weekend and didn't sleep but had an amazing time with one of my best friends. I don't feel weird around her because I'm just myself and she's always just let me be that way. It was a wonderful respite for my mind, heart and soul. There's no thank you big enough for that.

As soon as I get home my creepy anxiety kid, who almost fell asleep, started perking up. No sleep, thank goodness for nieces on summer vacation and I made it to my therapist. Back where I left off. I'm feeling manic again, I'm not self harming (yet, I'm too tired), I'm resentful of my life, I can't breathe because I become so anxious and it spills out of my mouth that my anxiety, at this level is me. That's what my breakdown previously meant. I have to keep this because it's so damn important to everyone that I stay alive. I have to keep it together but it's causing me this stress. 

It's also my mental illness, I have anxiety that normally I can handle. It's also my migraines, when am I going to get one, or how long will I have it? It's also trying to manage chronic illness, when do I get my prescriptions, when are my appointments, whats happening with insurance and finally regular life. Just my regular life is complicated, like yours is. Fuck man, our parents never told us this is what life was. 

Life has moments of beauty and certainly mine has been so lucky in many, many ways! I'm often brought to tears of gratitude for this but there are important things that everyone should have that I haven't and I never will. 

If my extra anxiety is me holding me together during this time of having Chronic Migraines and Cluster Headaches and struggling with my Bipolar as a result, and there is no treatment or prognosis for my health improvement (rather I seem to be getting worse) what will this mean? My therapist would like me to stay with my friend in Utah, or my friend in Hawaii, for a while but that really doesn't seem like an answer, because there is no answer to this riddle. 

Understanding all of this now, and the events of the last month and a half, have broken my heart for the last time. Will I act different my friends? Naw, I'm still made out of glitter but now I'd rather say my broken heart is held together with anxiety and smothered in glitter.