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Re-evaluating Things a Bit…

March 29, 2014 3 comments

I think I’m going to need to manage my expectations about my illness differently.

From one perspective I’m very lucky. My lows and highs used to be very extreme and both of them made me pretty dysfunctional. That’s not remarkable, but it’s not pleasant.

Since I’ve been on decent meds the extremes have levelled out and I’ve been able to live a mostly normal life, however saying that things are completely normal is still wishful thinking. I noticed this fact this week when my brain tipped over from low to high (it is a gradual process).

I am a computer programmer and for months I have been having a lot of difficulty at work. I’ve been making all the usual excuses, telling myself I’m a procrastinator, that I’m just bored, that other people are making my work difficult, and so on. Even my psychiatrist told me what I needed was a good kick in the backside.

Then my brain switched into high mode and suddenly how to do all my jobs became so clear and I started working my way through them. I saw my excuses for what they were. It was my brain that was still impaired.

Don’t get me wrong: my meds deal with the worst of my symptoms. However they are not 100% effective, either.

I suppose I need to look at adjusting my meds, which is a scary thing because they do work very well. I certainly don’t want to become less functional again. Still the way things stand when I’m low things at work are pretty hard, so something has to change. No more wishful thinking.

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On Having a Bipolar Mom #2

April 7, 2012 1 comment

In my last post I talked about having a bipolar mother, but I didn’t really talk about it. All I did was offer some dry facts, but I didn’t do much in the way of analysis. In this post I hope to correct that situation.

As I tried to get across in the last post, none of us is merely the symptoms of our disorder, and my mom is no exception. Part of the job of writing an article like this is trying to separate my mom the person (the much larger part of who she is) from my mom’s bipolar symptoms (the much smaller part).

I was self-centred as a little kid, and I never once questioned that my mom was 100% committed to me, or that she loved me. My mom had a (very) explosive temper, but she got her anger out of her system quickly, and moved into to forgiveness equally quickly. I was deathly afraid of my mom’s anger, but I rarely stayed in trouble for very long. My temper is similar: explosive and intense, but quick to extinguish and to turn into reconciliation.

As a kid I was oblivious as to whether my mom was having a good day or a bad day. I remember her laughing a lot. When she was feeling good she used to laugh at everything. I think she went to a lot of effort to shield me from what she was going through. Looking back I can remember four or maybe five major derepressions, one of which she was hospitalized for. Her bipolar cycles seem to be fairly long.

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On Having A Bipolar Mom

April 6, 2012 1 comment

I didn’t know my mom was bipolar until I was in my late 30s, some years after I found out I was bipolar myself. My mom’s diagnosis was manic-depressive, so when I told her I was bipolar she didn’t make the connection immediately.

This post is one of understanding and forgiveness. I think my mom did a much better job of carrying on than I did, with much greater adversity, much worse meds, and much greater stigma.

I think my mom already had a suicide attempt and a diagnosis of at least depression by the time she was in her teens. She got pregnant with me at 18 and married my father, who was 20. Because it was the 1960s, she gave up a promising career as a ballerina (she studied alongside Karen Kain).

My father was killed in a construction accident (at my mom’s father’s construction company) when my mother was 20. So she was bipolar, widowed, and with a child at 20. She got depressed and she tells me now that her doctor recommended taking a vacation, which she did. No lithium or other meds. Just a vacation.

At some point she decided to take her own life. The details I have are sketchy, but she left me with someone, and made the attempt, which thankfully failed. She tells me she made three attempts overall in her life, and at the moment I can’t remember the details of the third, but I think this one was the last one.
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Status Report #11 (Things are Better)

April 4, 2012 Leave a comment

Today is much better than yesterday. Not perfect, but much better. The difference is caffeine. My daily routine when I am feeling down is to start the day with a monster coffee (two heaping tablespoons of instant coffee) or a double energy drink. Usually this liquid assault barely phases me. Then I sustain the feeling with about 4L of diet cola during the day. The result is that I can keep my eyes open and not drift off to sleep.

For the past few days, the caffeine has just made me hyper, unfocused, and agitated. I couldn’t even write on paper, and it did nothing for being sleepy, either. I guess it’s because I’m in a mixed-mood.

I switched to water yesterday and I noticed that I felt better, so today I cut the caffeine right back (no coffee and only a litre of pop–I don’t want to get withdrawals) and it has made a big difference. Funny that. Who’d imagine that I’d be a full-blown Java-junkie[1]?

[1] Ironically, I’m a Java programmer. I *am* a Java-junkie.

Status Report #10 (My Doctor is Retiring)

March 31, 2012 2 comments

Well, I found out yesterday that my long-time psychiatrist is retiring in July. I’ve been seeing him since 2003 and while I had another doctor before him, that doctor retired after only a few visits. In Ontario it can take 4-6 months to get a new psychiatrist, so if I start now I might have a replacement in August or September. This doctor was a good doctor as far as I’m concerned. He did very little psychoanalysis; his approach was more of asking what were my symptoms and prescribing the meds to control them. I know a lot of people would be horrified by that approach, but it was just what I needed.

I suppose that going to a new doctor will be like starting over, to a degree. I suppose I can just cut-and-paste parts of this blog (maybe he or she doesn’t need to see the post on bullshit), fill in some more detail (did I mention my mother is bipolar?), and print it out. Seriously. On a positive note, I used to work right in downtown Toronto, so my doctor is in downtown Toronto. Now I live and work in the greater Toronto area (GTA), 40km away, so this is my chance to get a doctor closer to where I live.

At the moment I am taking Divalproex and lithium, but for a long time my doctor has wanted to put me on Lamotrigine, which is yet another mood stabilizer–this one also effective against depression. I was on it for a short time a few years ago but I lost my health coverage. Now I have my health coverage back, so we are trying Lamotrigine again. Anything that keeps away the depression is fine by me. If it doesn’t work I can stop it.

Status Report #9

March 29, 2012 1 comment

It’s been four days since my Modecate injection and I don’t seem to be having a “down” (except that I need more sleep). In fact,  I’m going the opposite way, which seems to indicate that the down and the last injection were a coincidence. That’s good.

My downs are getting to be pretty mild. They’re nothing to joke about, but they’re mild all the same. I did have a bad down from mid October to the end of November but that was when I was losing my dream job, living on no money, and going through a lot of stress at home. Since then I’ve had dips, but they’ve been both minor and short.

My mood swings used to last for months and used to be severe in both directions. I can remember months of sitting in a stupor, almost as if encased in clear plastic, unable to move or think on my own or to feel anything. I could react, but I had no motivation of my own. That was when I would hurt myself, I guess so I could feel something. To tell you the truth I don’t know why I did it.

Anyway, I bring up the past only for contrast to the present. I don’t eat well, or sleep well, or exercise, or meditate, or do yoga, or basically do anything to deserve feeling this good. I take lithium and Divalproex. That’s it. The Modecate keeps the weird thoughts at bay.

I am thankful every day at how fortunate I am.

Challenge to self: Unless something dramatic happens, I will not mention my mood for the next 10 posts.

Status Report #8 (And a Segue into Mood Swings)

March 24, 2012 4 comments

Sorry I haven’t been posting much to the blog, but it’s been hectic the past two weeks at work. I’ve even been bringing work home. I’ve already used up my three sick days for 2012, plus a fourth day (which was unpaid). The problem is I’ll have my OCD nightmares all night, then in the morning I won’t be thinking straight and I’ll call in sick just for a few more hours of sleep. Well, not any more. I can’t afford to lose any more days’ pay.

In other news, I had a bit of a down time in the past few weeks, but it was so mild I didn’t say anything because I wasn’t even sure if it was there. Mostly it has just manifested itself in a greater need for sleep, a decreased need for self-expression, and a decreased need for sex. In the past few days I have noticed less need for sleep, an increase in self-expression, and an increased need for sex. It’s a faster cycle than I am used to. I think I had a downtime at this same time last year, but coincidentally, I had my Modecate injection three weeks ago. I am due for another one on Monday. If I have another dip in my mood, next week I’m really going to wonder about a correlation with the Modecate.

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