Travel Tips for Bipolar Disorder

In one week I will be going on a short vacation, traveling from Michigan to Kentucky to visit with family. Even though the trip’s a week away, the travel anxiety started days ago. You know that panicky feeling of not having everything you need in order to be comfortable and secure? Yeah that’s how I feel. My Bipolar tends to trigger when I feel unsettled. I hate feeling unprepared for things. One time my wife and I flew to California and I just about lost my flipping mind. I couldn’t control my outbursts or random crying spells. The time zone threw me off and I hated the airplane. I even picked fights with my wife. While I genuinely loved California, I sure as hell didn’t show it. From that point I vowed to not allow this scene to repeat itself. I vowed to be prepared for all future trips.

I have two separate lists. One is all the things I need to do before we leave, the other is everything we need to bring with us. I don’t care if the to-do list includes painting my toenails, because I know if I don’t do it, I will feel unfinished. Anxiety makes me hyper-sensitized to the littlest things. I’m confident that checking off my lists this far in advance will allow me to have a more relaxed and outburst-free trip.

I’ve done a lot of reading on the subject of Bipolar Disorder and travel, and here are some good tips that I’ve come up with:

  • If there is a time zone change, practice for the zone before you leave. This means going to bed and getting up on your destination time. The closer you can get to the time, the better.
  • Sleep regularly while you are there. Disturbed sleep is a prime suspect in triggering episodes.
  • Forecast your destination activities. Adrenaline pumping activities, unlimited access to alcohol, large crowds of people, personality-clashing relatives, crammed quarters, or even a climate you’re not used to can all affect Bipolar Disorder.
  • Be prepared with your medications. Make sure you count out enough meds for each day you’ll be gone, so you don’t run out before returning home. Carry you doctor’s and your pharmacy information just in case. You might even want to talk to your doctor about trying something for anxiety if you feel it will be an issue during your travels.
  • Practice relaxation. Try deep breathing exercises or meditating. These are great to use if things get a little too busy and you feel yourself start to lose it. Slowly breathe in, counting to five, then exhale counting backward from five. Repeat three times.

4a00ae47faec0e023f7c593e4463e92b

Overall the biggest piece of advice I can give is to plan ahead. Have your map, your GPS, your debit cards, portable snacks, and comfortable shoes all set and ready. If you plan ahead, you will be able to spend more time focusing on what’s truly important. So far I’m taking my own advice and I hope I can make it through the next week calmly, then enjoy some R & R.

My Not So Mental Health Day

Maybe it’s because I went to bed at 2 AM, maybe it’s the 4 mind-numbing hours of Tegan and Sara videos I watched, maybe it was the weed, the six cups of coffee, the humidity, or the moon. I don’t fucking know. All I know is when I woke up this morning, my first thought was to take a personal day. I never do that. But all I could think was that I had laundry to do. And vacuuming. And scripts to call in, mail to sort, and whatever busy thing I could think of. Not to mention the gnawing fact I really need to start jogging to work off this pseudo baby weight I’ve acquired since my wife became pregnant. Clearly I had a full day ahead of me. Mostly I woke up excited to listen to the music I added to my iPod around 1 in the morning. I’m lying. I woke up utterly obsessed with the songs on my iPod. In fact that’s what I really wanted to do today. It’s embarrassing, but I get extremely lost in my head sometimes when it comes to certain music. I try to hide when I go into obsessive phases. I also know obsessions coincide with hypomania with me, sometimes triggering full blown mania. At this time I am fine. As long as my ears don’t have to go without the syrupy melody of what I love most.

I have a hard time admitting when I’m being obsessive because my father was an obsessive individual, he also was compulsive with his obsessions, resulting in compromised living situations in his latter years, when it was most out of control. I think his problem has created a weariness in my own self-monitoring. I don’t want to fall into his footsteps. As of now, I secretly listen to the same song several times throughout the day. Music gives me permission to get lost in my head. Getting carried away by that kind of mental liberation is like crack. I love the feeling, I crave it, I need it. When I remove myself from myself, and enter my mind, it produces a sort of euphoric effect. No joke. This may sound crazy, but it’s really quite beautiful.

Anyway, my wife reminded me of the fact we need money, so I went to work, and attempted to have a normal day. Okay- normal didn’t happen. Thankfully I work in an office alone, so my music accompanies me on a daily basis. This helps me remain in a good mood and keeps my energy flowing. However, my biggest problem today was severe distraction. As busy as my mind was when I woke up, it only worsened as the morning progressed. I got fucking nothing done today! I did, however, play the same 22 songs incessantly for 8 hours. I kind of feel like I’m floating a little bit, and I’m blissfully unaware of anything going on around me.

Thoughts on Bipolar and Cannabis

I just smoked a joint in a thunderstorm. I don’t fancy storms and I cry like a fucking baby if I have to endure them. I occasionally use pot to ease my Bipolar moods and mellow me out when I’m a little too up. Some researchers say it is beneficial to relieving Bipolar symptoms, while others feel marijuana only worsens it. I don’t know about you, but I’m pro-cannabis. And indeed, today, it relaxed me during a horrible storm. While smoking an occasional joint eases my hyperness & clears my head, it also enhances my creative side. I can produce ideas more organically, without all the extra head noise distraction. I suppose there is one drawback and that is once it has worn off, I seem to have a lack of memory for the things I come up with. But whether I create or not, I feel calm and in control. Maybe you or someone you know also uses cannabis for your Bipolar treatment.

20130617-215119.jpg

100 Followers! Thank You!

I want to give sincere thanks to my amazing followers as we reach the big 100! I appreciate you checking in with me and my brain scribblings, and I welcome new readers just the same. Let’s see if we can reach 100 more hungry souls out there! Thanks again!

Today

Today
Today I feel like a star,
Today I’m more alive than ever.
This time I know I’ll get far,
It’s time to show them my clever.
Today my mind is sound,
Today I manipulate the waves.
Upon me is a new sense of found,
Clothe me in fragments that saved.
Today I dress up the world,
Today I invest in my heart.
I am no longer a tortured girl,
It is no longer backward from start.
Today my blood is hot,
Today I depend on my fire.
An action shows what you’ve got,
Reaction will lead to desire.
Today the sun bathes my skin,
Today electricity swallows my veins.
I thirst for the notion to begin,
I absorb these emotions, wild and strange.

zen waterfall

Diamond In The Rough, A Poem

One of the toughest challenges for those with mental illness is maintaining relationships. It takes extra effort and compassion. I am lucky to be married to a strong, amazing woman. This poem is in tribute to that part of my marriage.

Diamond In The Rough

Driving alone, I love the dark.

I take the freeway to your heart.

Breathe my dust into your lungs,

A gentle scratch and we are done.

My blood is bitter; you taste sweet.

You watched me shatter on the street.

Was that in vain?

Am I still stable?

Think it’s time to cut my cable.

A glittered sundown with a barren tomorrow,

I fill your being with elated sorrow.

Did you yell?

Or cry it out?

Polluted words flee my mouth.

You inhale this whirlwind even still,

Through hazy hearts, I feel your will.

Am I the diamond in your rough?

Let me know when it’s enough.

Image

Receiving the Liebster Award

Alright, I am proud to say that I have been nominated for the Liebster Award by a couple of different bloggers, and I am now ready to accept it. Requirements include stating eleven things about myself, answering eleven questions posed by the generous blogger who nominated me, and nominating five other bloggers, with less than 200 followers, to receive the award. To see the award’s origins, see Liebster origins.

My eleven secrets and musings:

  1. Coffee is it’s own food group.
  2. I have terrible penmanship.
  3. I can sing, but won’t in front of others.
  4. I’m a lesbian.
  5. I’m addicted to summer.
  6. I love marshmallows; hate almonds.
  7. I have a low capacity for commitment.
  8. I cannot hold a grudge.
  9. Music is my therapy.
  10. I sometimes think in rhymes.
  11. I embrace my dark side.

The following questions have been asked by Winning with Bipolar

  1. What makes you stop in your tracks? 

When I hear an amazing song.

  1. When was the last time something took your breath away? 

April 30th, 2013

  1. Do you wear shoes in the house? 

Not usually.

  1. Where are your feet right now? 

Under my desk.

  1. Where do you wish your feet were right now? 

In the sand at the beach.

  1. Why do you wish to be there? 

Living in the Midwest we only get seasonal opportunities to feel the heat of summertime, and that is my favorite feeling.

  1. Plane, train, or automobile? 

Automobile

  1. When was the last time you yelled “whee!”? 

Not recently enough.

  1. Riding a roller coaster or a day at the seashore?

Seashore, hands down.

  1. Do you have time to smell the roses? 

Sure do.

  1. What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow? 

African or European?

How about some food for thought- answer these questions as part of your award requirements:

  1. How do you feel about mind over matter?
  2. Would you rather read a book or watch a movie?
  3. What does it mean to be a spiritual person?
  4. Are you good at what you do?
  5. How is beauty in the eye of the beholder?
  6. What climate do you live in?
  7. Where do you feel most secure?
  8. When was your last catharsis?
  9. Do you believe in equal rights?
  10. What is your favorite part of a story?
  11. Do you check in with yourself frequently?

Now to complete the requirements, I will select five lucky little bloggers whose trails I’ve followed (and who doesn’t already have a Liebster) and nominate them for this fabulous award. A big thank you to Winning with Bipolar for nominating me and inviting me to be a part of this.

Am I a Stability Snob?

You’re all crazy and I’m perfect. This mental superiority crept it’s way into my consciousness last night at my bipolar support group meeting. When I had the floor I shared nothing but positive events, all trickling from my new-found stability. I had a smile on my face while I talked about the classes I’m taking, while I mentioned that my job finally keeps me busy, and that I’m on a good cocktail of meds. I felt like I was bragging. I am currently the most stable I’ve been in over 6 months. This is a huge accomplishment and gives me even more motivation. I couldn’t help but notice that very few others shared my sense of wellness. There were tears during others’ stories. Some spoke of loneliness and depression. There is a possibility that I was indirectly making others feel badly about their own lack of stability. I’m not saying I feel guilty about being well, because I don’t. However, am I a stability snob? Have I reached a point where I can display the shining example of what everyone else wants to be?

I suppose some of this is tongue in cheek as I poke fun at my seemingly bratty attitude. I sit, attentively in my group, and I listen to recent hospital stories, medication failures, various struggles and despair, and I know I can most certainly relate to so much of what my group-mates are saying. The thing is- I don’t want to. Not right now. Right now I’m enjoying feeling good. I’m enjoying my social life, I’m ecstatic over having a baby, I am psychosis free and haven’t had any crying spells, I am able to sleep soundly at night, and I started driving on the express way again. Maybe I am overly eager to share my improved conditions. Maybe I am aware that I’m in a place, mentally, that others aim to reach. But I don’t think I’m being boastful or rude about it. I’m climbing my way to the top of the world one day at a time.

Bipolar Parenting: The Beginning

I want to start off by announcing some exciting news. We’re going to have a baby! That’s right, my wife is six weeks pregnant & we couldn’t be happier. Since this is our first baby, we are obsessed with researching everything. We are borderline crazy. And we love it. We also have started the discussion process on one very important aspect of our lives, and that is my Bipolar Disorder.

I am well aware that this last year has been one of my most challenging, disorder-wise. My wife and I were strained in our marriage last summer due to my extreme episodic tendencies. I’ve had less than 9 months on my current med cocktail, and I’ve experienced more than one bout of psychosis in the last 6 months. It’s impossible to not think of these factors as I approach parent-hood.

Because my life is about to change exponentially, I am more determined than ever to get my Bipolar under control. I’m aware that may sound ambitious and a little worldly, but I do know that Bipolar parenting is no easy feat. In order to help get myself into mood-controlling habits, I’ve been researching the topic of parenting with Bipolar Disorder.

My wife and I already made the decision for her to carry due to my disorder. I’m not saying that Bipolar women can’t become pregnant, but there are definitely some things to consider. First, many of the medications that are used to treat Bipolar have been known to be harmful to the developing fetus. Therefore, it is common, and recommended, to come off of meds once pregnant. Second, mood swings can get extreme and stress levels can be high. Neither are healthy for mom or baby. Then there is also the issue of being able to work off of meds, the decision of when to reintroduce meds, and to breastfeed after the baby is born or not breastfeed in order to start taking medication again.

While deep in my heart I’d love to be able to become pregnant, it has pretty much been decided that will not happen for awhile, if at all. (I’m sure I’ll explore this topic more as we go along.) For now, I’m working on being the best support I can be for my nauseous, hormonal, beautiful wife. This is a time of transition and growth, and there is no room for me to bust out an episode that could make things messy. I don’t really know how I’m going to maintain stability, but I know I have more of a reason than ever to try my hardest. And of course I’ll post updates on my journey.

a7d9fda864bee5938b78342323832204

Hair Loss Is Just Another Side Effect

Let’s talk side effects for a minute. Common ones are dry mouth, tremors, sleepiness, upset stomach, and weight gain. What about hair loss? I’m talking constant loose strands, hair falling to the floor every time I touch my head, handfuls when I shampoo. I keep a Swiffer vac by my side whenever I blow dry and straighten my hair because otherwise the bathroom is decorated with what has released from my scalp. For months now I have been attributing this to everything from what I was eating, to needing a haircut, using the wrong shampoo, not washing it enough, washing it too much, not brushing it enough, brushing it too much- you catch my drift.

Then it dawned on me that this began around the time my medication was switched and I started on Lithium. After doing a little research, I have now learned that I’m not alone in this situation. According to bipolar.about.com, Lithium and Depakote are common culprits in the hair loss manifesto.

Lithium can cause thyroid problems which are associated with losing hair. Other than that, it isn’t specifically known why certain drugs cause thinning hair, but what happens is a process called telogen effluvium. Normally, most hair is in the active growing phase, while a much smaller proportion is in the resting, or telogen, phase. Growing hair pushes the resting hair out. When a medication causes many more hair follicles to enter the resting stage than is usual, there is less hair growing and more to be pushed out — or pulled out, whether by shampooing, brushing and combing, or just running your hands through your hair.

Image

At this point, I am really getting tired of dealing with this. I also find it interesting that it is a side effect you don’t hear about very much. I have been on several different cocktails and have experienced a rainbow of side effects, but this is new for me. I just had an appointment with my psychiatrist and I didn’t think to mention it, but at my next appointment I definitely will see what he says. As for everything I’ve read on how to remedy this situation, decreasing or discontinuing the medication is the most effective solution. Unfortunately, this will not be an option for me right now. I feel better than I did 6 months ago, and I know the meds play a huge role in that. Now I’m just curious if anyone here else has experienced this and how you’ve handled it.

Missing bipolar mania during remission | bphope

One of the things that I can’t ever seem to wrap my head around is why the hell I miss being manic when I’m feeling well. Bipolar remission, as this article refers to it, is a balanced and mentally healthy place to be. Extremes like depression and mania are sneaky culprits, robbing us of the balanced state of mind. It’s very easy to romanticize these extreme moods, however. (Much like I’ve been doing recently.) From the carefree and seductive mania, to the lazy melancholy of the depressed mood, we tend to appreciate the intensity of these states. Often we don’t appreciate them until they are gone, and we are feeling good. This is also where we tend to forget the ugly side of extreme moods, such as irritability, sadness, destruction, and potential consequences from poor judgement.

Check out this article from bphope.com on one woman’s perspective as she struggles with missing her mania during her Bipolar remission:
Missing bipolar mania during remission | bphope.

Nectar Madness now on Twitter!

Hey everyone, I just did this page a solid and joined Twitter under the name @NectarBipolar. Still a baby tweeter, I’m getting the activity up and running. It would be great if my blog followers also followed my Twitter feed. I promise to stay fresh on the communication!

Click this link:
https://twitter.com/NectarBipolar

A Primer on Positive Self-Talk

One of the things I’ve been working on recently is banishing negative thoughts, and replacing them with positive self-talk. Being more mindful of toxic thought patterns has allowed me to live more peacefully and pro-actively. Sure, I still have a lot further to go, but it’s alright because I’m getting there. Negative thinking is such a common habit among many of us, whether you have a psychiatric disorder or not. Outside factors such as other people, job stress, school, society, and media can plant negativity in our minds, which then manifests into self damage and sabotage. Below is a pretty good infograph depicting this way of thinking, and how to turn it around into positive self-talk.

9751544c80892c042180a30b0d69fcb0

Learning to Love Myself and Be Free

I’m just a proxy in my own life,
And all that blocks me from my own light.
Faced with caffeinated conviction beating from my hollow chest,
Taste of metal travels through my mouth of perfect flesh.
I speak the words that once were fused.
Dancing satellites behold my muse.
Bleeding, breathing, scream alive!
Crying, loving, feelings thrive!
Rampantly flowing, the levee’s only chance;
That time has come to learn my dance.
The door is open, so shove me hard.
Gaining, remaining, I play my part.
I’ve outgrown my private cell,
Shameless esteem unlocked from hell.
So take a chance to embrace self love,
Create the path my dreams are made of.

de5081e65f600616ce5503f8d359acd0

Power of Suggestion, Insomnia 2.0

I sit here and try to make sense of last night. The bags under my eyes whisper little taunts, validating what seemed to be a spontaneous bout of my old friend, insomnia. Once a chronic insomniac, it’s been months since I’ve had a problem falling asleep. Until last night, that is. I don’t understand it. I took my pills, which typically lull me right off into dreamland. I avoided caffeine and heavy mental stimulation. Yet, I tossed and turned for hours, my brain wide awake. I realize to some it may appear that I’m overreacting. Maybe I am. Maybe it was an isolated incident. But after years of suffering from sleepless nights, I tend to take these matters seriously for caution of pattern development.

As I ponder some more, I get my “aha!” moment. I brought this on myself via the power of suggestion! You see, I attend a Bipolar support group and at last night’s meeting, I may have overstepped my confidence on slumber ability while jabbering on at a new group member, who is struggling with her first round of insomnia.  Eager to help a newcomer and probably even more eager to spread some self-proclaimed mental wisdom, I word-vomited a bunch of sleep advice, including scientific REM sleep CD’s, avoiding blue light electronics, and of course faithfully taking your medication. Like a true recovering insomniac, I bragged about my own meds and how I peacefully drift into a perfect sleep every night. Every night until now that is. Clearly I spoke too soon.

I realize this may sound like a silly superstition. It’s not that I necessarily think I jinxed myself, but I did spend a lot of mental energy thinking about it, thus it had to have been fresh on the brain just a few hours prior to bedtime. Did I bring it on myself or is this purely coincidental? I don’t know for sure. But I will most definitely keep track of my sleep patterns for the next few days in case any adjustments need to be made. In the meantime, I will still be a welcome wagon for the newly diagnosed, but I might tone down the advice-giving a little bit.

b07d77bf63a4e8e2c8dd4e2b6d84699f