Death & the Swinging Mood: Grieving When You Have Bipolar

Losing someone you love is one of the hardest things a person can go through. But what if you have bipolar disorder? Death affects people with mood disorders in different ways. I lost someone very close to me this past week, along with others since I began this blog, which is why I want to touch on some important elements of grieving when you have a mood disorder.

Emotions + Stress = Trigger Central
Normally people go through five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Of course there are variances for everyone, and not every person follows the textbook definition of how to be in each stage. Usually, in healthy-minded folks, they kind of just run their course naturally.

Someone with a mental illness, specifically a mood disorder such as bipolar (or unipolar depression), may experience certain stages more intensely or much longer than average, causing triggers, which lead to an episode or bipolar symptoms. Severe depression, irritability, irrational thinking/behavior, drug/alcohol abuse, and suicidal tendencies are some common symptoms triggered by death.

I know I mentioned in past posts that I often struggle with suicidal ideation. A little over a year ago I was triggered by a funeral I attended, which you can read about here, and I utilized certain tricks to push those thoughts from my mind. I recall also having this experience at a friend’s funeral a few years back. I was actually in the middle of perfecting a plan to take my own life when I received news of my friend’s overdose. That triggered me and my suicidal ideation sky-rocketed. Side note: I am currently in remission from suicidal feelings 🙂

The Funeral Mania Phenomenon
Funeral mania?! Yes. What the hell is it? Funeral mania when someone’s reaction to a death or a funeral is a manic episode occurring instantly or within a week of bereavement. This term can also be applied to those who become manic when a loved one is dying and has a very short time left. Funeral mania is a rare occurrence, and can be uncomfortable for the person experiencing it.

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I have absolutely experienced funeral mania. In fact, I almost became relieved when I read that this is a real thing. Four and a half years ago, my father was on Hospice, and I lost my shit. I was his caretaker during his last two months of life. Closer to the end, I never slept. I spent hours at his empty apartment organizing books, scrubbing ceiling fans, and perfecting the entire place before he had to turn the keys in. And when I did make the 45 minute drive to my own house, I still didn’t rest. I baked cakes. I reorganized my own basement. I moved everything from his apartment into my basement. At 3:00 in the morning. I went nonstop from a good week before his death, until I finally crashed more than a week after his death. I was 27, married, working, and in college. My dad’s death sent me soaring. I don’t remember crying once.

My cousin died two years ago, from cancer she had been hiding. She was only 44 years old. At this time, I was already struggling to find stability, and had recently experienced a severe mixed episode. I was freshly on my current med cocktail and I know my body wasn’t fully acclimated to it yet. Her death produced surges of adrenaline and a strong need to help with funeral planning. I camped out at my grandparents’ house for three days and didn’t sleep a wink. We have a large Italian family, and their house has always been the primary meeting spot. I thrived in the chaos. Every song that played, every old photo, every out of town aunt or cousin, I soaked it up. The food tasted so much better than food should taste. The fall air carried a fragrance like no other. I remember never feeling so alive.

If funeral mania sounds crazy to you, count yourself lucky. If you’re reading this, thinking that finally someone understands. Please know you are not alone! And that it is okay. I assume you already know that any time a manic or depressed episode linger around, it is best to talk to your doctor.

Too “stabilized” to feel?
As we know, mood stabilizers work hard to prevent you from sinking to Hades or flying above the clouds. Rather, you are functioning afloat this coveted baseline- not too happy, not too sad. I take my meds each day and night to achieve this. Therefore, I am stable, but never really too happy or too sad. This is fine for me. Until BOOM! Life thwarts my plans and my dear loved one dies. I am sad. I am very, very sad. I know that I am sad. But dammit, I cannot feel the level of sad that I need to be in order to feel better. It is beyond frustrating. Of course I attempted to use this as a reason to stop taking Lithium, and I presented my argument to my wife/med manager. She helped bring a little clarity on the subject, and while it really sucks to not have the ability to dip down super low, at least I know I can get through this without uprooting the safe stability I’ve worked to achieve.

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Hopefully this gave you guys a little bit of perspective. I think I needed to write it as part of my current grieving process. 

Life Goes On, Even When No One Gives a Shit

Surely, you all have forgotten about me. Worse yet, you think I have forgotten you. Or even worse, you think I couldn’t handle the commitment of a blog and I simply gave up. I assure you this 4 month hiatus has resulted in none of the above. I intend to fulfill the promises I keep making to the Nectar Madness Facebook page, and spit out some new posts. I could sit here and give you a list of what I’ve been up to and why I haven’t been writing, but that’s damn boring. So instead let’s pick it up where we left off. God knows my head is spinning something crazy and I have plenty to jabber on about. Plus, this new WP layout looks like an interesting new toy.

Thanks for reading. Oh & Happy New Year!
-NM

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Today is National Bipolar Disorder Awareness Day

What does it mean to be aware? To spread awareness? I mean, have you ever really thought about those words?

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Merriam Webster lays it out:

aware

adjective \ə-ˈwer\

: knowing that something (such as a situation, condition, or problem) exists

: feeling, experiencing, or noticing something (such as a sound, sensation, or emotion)

: knowing and understanding a lot about what is happening in the world or around you

Let’s take the given definition and apply it to bipolar disorder:

First, do we know that bipolar exists? I mean we probably do, since many readers here either experience it themselves, or through a loved one. But what about those who use hurtful phrases like, “snap out of it” or “stop being so dramatic”. Do they know bipolar disorder is a true, often harrowing disorder? Sadly, many do not recognize it as being real.

Second, to ‘feel, experience, or notice’ bipolar disorder is actually pretty intense. Those of us who live with it most definitely experience all facets of the disorder, no matter how unique each of our experiences are from one another. What about the uneducated? Your loved ones who keep asking questions? The general public with stigmatized views of bipolar folks? Sure they may have residual feelings from their own perception, but think what a world of difference it could make if they had a true grasp on the bipolar experience, or had a clear idea of what to take notice in.

The last part of this definition emphasizes knowledge and thorough understanding of notions larger than oneself. In this case, do we (you, me, they) allow our brains to penetrate past the point of comfort and acceptance, and into the realm of higher learning? Are we hungry for knowledge on something that makes up our daily lives? Are we okay with a large percentage of the world being ignorant of mental illness? Have we really thought about the fact that we are often discriminated against, are faced with shame, with embarrassment? That is what is happening in the world around us. That is why this movement of bipolar disorder awareness is so very important.

What you can do:

  • Get educated. Seriously, tap into the internet (see links I have listed on the side of this page), go to the library or snatch an ebook such as Bipolar Disorder for Dummies .
  • Educate others. Start a conversation with your friends. Tell your parents how your disorder makes you feel. Don’t be shy.
  • Remember that bipolar disorder and other mental disorders are just as important as physical illnesses such as diabetes or cancer.
  • Address the issue of stigma. Don’t allow others to incorrectly label or generalize serious mental health issues.
  • Never use mental disorders as slurs, and correct others for doing so as well.
  • Share links to blogs, books, websites, advocacy groups, sources from mental health professionals on your social media.
  • Share your own experience through a creative outlet, or even a speaking engagement.

Let’s all commit to making a change this time around. Let’s all push a little harder to make our voice heard. Awareness exists for a reason, so let’s use it as a vessel to deliver our message.

Kindly Disregard my Absence, for my Brain Has Been All-Consuming

Hey hey everyone. I didn’t mean to ignore you recently. I’ve been riding the train of instability. a.k.a. mood swings, hallucinations, irritability, and  suicidal thoughts. My mind is currently numb and I’m a little lightheaded, but allow me to get you up to speed.

64743d1eacbd79e683a776b1ee3c34f6Suicide Stuff Again…

I know I talk about my suicidal ideation pretty often, so I apologize that I’m bringing it up again. I’ll make it brief, I promise. The last couple of months, my mind has been stepping into the dark territory again. It automatically starts developing plans and twisted theories. ( Example: “If I do it while my son is still a baby, I won’t give him an abandonment complex.”) I would try to get these things to stop entering my brain, but like clockwork, every morning, I obsessed about death. This has been constant for at least two months. It usually fades into the afternoon, so I would just try really hard to not allow it back in. I spoke of it only a little bit with my wife because I know she hates when I talk about it. She thinks I’m morbid (duh!) and it brings her down. Not my goal at all. She did make me agree to a no-harm pact before she and my son went out of town for the weekend, leaving me at home. I agreed to it. It gave her peace of mind.

WTF is THAT?!?!

Never in my life have I had visual hallucinations. I mean naturally. I’ve battled auditory hallucinations for years. Usually I hear voices speaking to me, or chatter, or music playing. About three weeks ago I saw a spider. Then I saw another spider the next day. The day after that I saw a spider on the wall. Okay, no bid deal, right? I live in the Midwest and spiders are part of the woodwork. Except these spiders didn’t start off as spiders. An imperfection on the wall. A leaf. A piece of lint I spot from the corner of my eye. They all grew legs and started moving around. They were in my kitchen, my car, my bedroom, bathroom, even at the office. I did tell my wife about the spiders and she looked panicked, but remained calm and urged me to talk to my pdoc.

The Appointment…

I’m not crazy about my psychiatrist. I mean, he’s alright, but I don’t love him. I’ve been seeing him for over eight years now and we have a customized payment plan, which I appreciate. He is very educated and has many, many fancy plaques on his wall. He dresses in funky plaid suits and hates the government. And he makes me feel like he thinks I’m crazy. No joke, I tell him about the spiders and his eyes widen, almost in disbelief. Really? Like isn’t he the ONE person obligated to not make me feel crazy? Anyway, I suggested increasing my Seroquel. He decided to put me back on Abilify. I just got him to take me off of it a few months ago, and now I’m back on it.

Drugs Drugs Drugs!

It’s been five days and the side effects are certainly present. I don’t feel better yet. But I am hopeful. My next appointment with Dr. Plaid is in a couple of weeks, and I am to call him next week for an update. Until then, my upper body is tingling, my arms are tingling and restless, I feel lightheaded, and my body temperature is fluctuating. So far I’m not experiencing akathisia or twitches, like I did when starting Abilify last time. This is also a pretty low dose, so we’ll see.

 

Okay, thank you all for listening. I hope you all are well!  (I’m sorry this isn’t a better written post.)

 

 

Swinging Crashing

So yeah. I guess I crashed. I’m not doing so well right now. My moods are swinging, bringing me to a miserable depression these last two days. I really don’t even want to write this, but I’m forcing myself to.

Apparently this is part of my pattern. Every Spring/early Summer I am riding high. Hypomanic on meds and full on manic off meds. This year I traveled a lot. First was Chicago, then Toronto, then up north to a vacation town here in Michigan. I also attended a number of concerts. I was exploding with energy and feeling very social. It was summertime, after all.

Then after all the fun in the sun, the clinks of the bottles, the screaming in the crowd, I enter into a lifeless, self-loathing little pile of misery. It sucks and I hate it.

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My mind scrambles tonight to come up with excuses to get out of going to the beach with my family and friends tomorrow. I’m in a pathetic stage at the moment where I ridicule myself and compare myself to others. I literally have a reason to feel insecure with each and every person going to this outing tomorrow. I am feeling self-conscious and humiliated. I expressed this (well, a mild version of this) to my wife and I could tell by her reaction, while expressing compassion, she was disappointed in me. So I shut up about it. I really want to be excited to spend the day with my wife and my son. I will probably just muscle through it. There is no drinking at this gathering, so I can’t even numb my issues away.

I need to exercise more. I need to lose weight and boost my serotonin levels. It’s hard to get motivated when nothing sounds good. I know it sounds like I’m just whining. But mood swings and depression are real. Out of nowhere it can just jump up and bite you in the ass. I hope this passes quickly. I also hope this has nothing to do with coming of of Abilify. Because it is a noticeable pattern, I don’t think it does.

All in all, I have had some fleeting dark thoughts of ending it all, but I distracted myself and found more useful things to focus on. I guess it’ll be a day by day process. Thanks for reading.

 

Negative Self-Talk and My Inner Child

I’ve been abusing my inner child and now that inner child is acting out. It’s one thing to deal with low self esteem, but I have put myself through the stress of constant negative self-talks for so long that I’m turning into a person I don’t recognize. I don’t feel smart enough or pretty enough. My anxiety is through the roof, causing my mood swings to fluctuate in ways unusual for me. I’m self-conscious of my Bipolar and I keep thinking it will ruin my marriage, even though my wife has tried convincing me otherwise. This negative anxiety has wrapped it’s poisonous claws around the center of my mind, pushing me into a mental rock bottom. And it’s turning me mean. For instance last weekend I was at an event with my wife, and she ran into a former co-worker, whom she introduced me to. And you know what? I was fucking rude. I behaved badly. I allowed my anxiety and insecurity to lie to me so I treated this individual (who is probably a nice, decent person) like they were not worth meeting. The sad part is this isn’t the only time it has happened. I have beat my self down to the point where strangers unknowingly play a role in my distorted thinking. Surely, I don’t have to say how this affects my relationship.

Okay now that that’s out, I should update from my last post. My premonitions and distorted thoughts continued, as well as a belief that I accepted a mission between my friends that only lead to conspiracy, and a belief that something terrible will happen if I drive on the expressway home each day. The thing is, I recognize this as irrational, and that’s what I told my psychiatrist when I saw him yesterday. Of course as I was talking to him I thought he wasn’t taking me seriously and he was simply amused by me. Honestly I have no idea if that is rational or irrational. I have no witness. He made some adjustments to my medications and wants me to call him in 5 days.

So what am I doing about all of this? Well, once I realized that my inner child is suffering, it broke my heart. My wife and I had a very long discussion and I expressed all of these things to her, which is difficult for me since I don’t want to scare her or push her away, or make her worry. I made a decision that I will no longer accept the negative thoughts. Easier said than done, I know, but I will make a point to catch myself when it happens. I’m also working on finding more positive in my daily life. And mostly, I want to make a point to think of others and not myself in situations. My thoughts need to shut up when I meet new people or when I’m in high stress situations. And of course, I am keeping up with my meds and whatever changes are made in that department. Oh yeah and I’m going to try and take my own advice also, and practice the tips on self esteem that I shared on this blog.

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Swinging Out of Reality

My mind is a liar and it’s playing tricks on me. My moods have been hanging on the roller coaster again, while incorporating fleeting distortions of reality. What is this mess? My depression seems to still be present, but my agitation is very up and down, my crying spells randomly appear, I’m ultra sensitive, and have been very anxious. Also, the fact that I’m aware of the mild delusions I’ve experienced these last two days is, as far as I’m concerned, a good thing. During really bad manic episodes, I have experienced delusions and hallucinations that I sometimes could not recognize. That is not the case right now. Instead, I’m having what appear to be premonitions. Two things stand out in my premonition- the color yellow, and a dirty watch. I’ve yet to decipher the meaning of this, but hopefully either the vividness of these symbols will fade, or I will actually solve the puzzle.

For some of you this might sound crazy, for others, maybe comforting. My reality was further distorted yesterday when I pulled up to my house, it’s as if it wasn’t my house. Who’s house is this? I went inside and it’s as if I didn’t know my wife – but at the same time, I did know her. It was all very surreal. In lieu of my pressured speech, I tried to explain this to my wife, and because she had already been concerned with my rapidly changing moods during the weekend, she asked if I needed to go to the hospital. That dreaded word we all know. Hospital. I declined. I know I have been difficult to get along with lately due to my mood changes, so I understand and respect her suggestion. However, I have an appointment with my psychiatrist this week, so I can hold off until then. In the mean time, I am trying to keep busy so my mind doesn’t wander into who knows where, and so I can keep these moods at bay. Guess I’ll just have to see what’s in store for me next.

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Hello, Antidepressants

My Bipolar depression forgot to do the laundry. And the dishes. And the cat litter. And the recycling. Again. Meanwhile, overanxious thoughts remind me to not starve the dog, to shower so I don’t repel others, and to basically get my ass out of bed. Let me welcome you into my neurotically depressed existence.

First I’ll start off by saying that this depressive bout has been going on for almost two months. I know I’ve written about it a little bit in past posts, and last week I finally talked to my psychiatrist. He prescribed me a healthy dose of happy in the form of a beige pill. Antidepressants. His directions were to start by taking half a tablet as to not induce a state of mania. Yeah right. No mania here. Not a chance.

The thing that got me is while I knew I really did need something, I also had the urge to pretend everything was fine. Like I didn’t need more drugs and I didn’t need to schedule another visit in such a near future. Why do we do that? Deny ourselves the truth of our disorder? Like every time we get assigned a new prescription, we’ve failed in our behavior somehow. Whether it’s rational or not, we still toy around with these notions.

So far, I’ve been taking my antidepressants for a week and I don’t feel any difference in my deflated mood. No cheer. No miracle. But no mania either so I suppose there is a bright side. Ironically, I have a degree in this subject so I know it can take 2-3 weeks to begin working. It’s difficult to apply these things to myself sometimes.

I’m just trying to get through each day and trying to have faith that this medication will help. I admit it is tough to keep track of so many pills and adding this one didn’t exactly lighten the load. I also know that is part of the deal sometimes. Until next time, I want to send well wishes to anyone out there currently dragging through some type of depression.

Parade of Pills

Just a little ‘ol poem flirting with lunacy and pharmaceuticals…

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PARADE OF PILLS
The drama mask,
Tie it tight.
Toxic prisms
In the light.
Choose your mind
Blue, pink, white.
Wash it down,
Pose no fight.
Happy, shiny
Crystal height.
My jester hat
Falls off at night.
Behold my thoughts,
And take a bite.
Smelling voices,
Tasting sight.
Dance on arrows.
Choke me right.
Bells are screaming
Crash down kite.
Veins are ticklish,
Flesh so bright.
Parade of pills.
Test that flight.