Pills to Poetry: The Burden of Non-Compliance

The conversation between my wife and I when I don’t want to comply with medication or sleep. A bipolar dilemma. A caregiver’s burden.

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~The Burden That No One Sees ~

“It’s late.” She’s barely awake, squinting.
“I’m not tired”, I tell her, and continue working.
“That’s the point”, she says under her breath.
“What’s the point?” I’m lost.
“With your condition…” she’s exhausted. I’m making it worse.
“Seriously I’m fine.” I insist.
“Take your meds.” She isn’t giving up.
“I’m not tired”, I say.
“You have a big day tomorrow.” She’s more patient than I deserve.
“I know. But I’m wide awake.” I continue working.
“That’s the problem.” Her face is pretty, even half asleep.
“What’s the problem?” I’m lost still.
“You’re getting manic.” Her tone is serious.
“Not manic. I’m just really busy. It’s a project…”
“It’s 2am”, she informs me.
“Okay. In thirty minutes I will.”
“No. Take them now.”
“Fuck. Okay. Fine.”
The bedroom door closes behind her as I pour a handful of perfect little pharmasanity shapes from the burnt orange, child-proof bottle. I choke them down with a large swig of beer. She hates when I do that but does not complain because at least I’m taking the goddamned medication.

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After a week or so of these types of conversations, she usually ends up putting me on a bedtime schedule with a tight ritual involving complying with meds. Because I love my wife and trust her, I often go with it. Well, okay, I put up a fight half the time, which occasionally puts her in the position to give me ultimatums. This is love. This is bipolar disorder. This is a bipolar marriage. And I still fucking hate taking pills.

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Touched With Fire: Bipolar Movie Review

My review of ‘Touched with Fire’, a film about bipolar disorder.

I saw it twice. Last weekend, and again today. I don’t get to see many new films and I hardly ever go to the movies. But I’ve been waiting for this to hit theaters. And hit it did. For me anyway. The first viewing of TWF ignited so many emotions in me. I admit my expectations weren’t high considering the media doesn’t paint mental illness too favorably. I guess my guard was up. I was rooting for this film so much before even seeing it. I was rooting for the bipolar audience.

Synopsis

Meet Marco, played by Luke Kirby, and Carla, played by Katie Holmes. Both of are incredibly talented writers. Both of them are diagnosed with bipolar disorder. From my educated opinion, research, and personal experience, I would say they have bipolar type 1. Bipolar disorder type 1 is characterized by extreme highs (mania) and extreme lows (depression), and can be accompanied by psychosis. Both Marco and Carla are patients in a psychiatric hospital when they meet and they form an intense bond. Together they ignite each other’s fire. They sneak around in the hospital, and eventually form a relationship on the outside, which is front and center to a whirlwind rollercoaster.

Writer/director, Paul Dalio based the characters off of himself, and the film from his own experiences with bipolar. He incorporates the strong influence of art, poetry, famous people with mental illness, and the bipolar queen, Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison. Dr. Jamison even has a cameo in the movie.

Critique

One reason I saw TWF a second time is to make sure I wasn’t going to review it based solely on my rush of emotions. But the truth is, Touched With Fire is actually very emotional. Dalio represents a very realistic insight into the bipolar life. Manic episodes are unruly, impulsive, unbelievably creative, and indescribably passionate. These episodes are just as defiant and destructive. We see this in both Carla and Marco. We also see them crash. Again, each action and thought from the characters ring into true suicidal depression. As someone who’s lived with type 1 for over 16 years, I could absolutely relate to where these characters were, in each moment. I can’t imagine that the rest of the audience didn’t feel this spilling from the screen as well.

Another area that Dalio dove into is the realities of medication non-compliance. Non-compliance is a serious symptom of the illness. (I still fight my wife about taking my meds.) The film gives Carla and Marco an opportunity to demonstrate their views on why they don’t like to be medicated. Once off of the meds, there is a gradual deconstruction of their mental states, showing what happens when someone with severe bipolar disorder is not accepting treatment. It also involves their parents, who all seem to be pretty supportive and caring, while showing how the manic and depressive episodes affect them.

Katie Holmes makes a return to the screen, playing Carla, and her performance really did give me goosebumps. Luke Kirby was born to play the part of Marco. Both actors portrayed the challenge of channeling the characters’ emotions, actions, impulses, thoughts, desires, and talents. They nailed it.

My only less than positive critique is that this film is not for everybody. I guess this isn’t really critiquing the film, but rather the audience. For people who know absolutely nothing about mental illness, or who are not here to learn about it, go see something else. I was biting my tongue each time the woman down my row would obnoxiously laugh at the psychosis Marco was experiencing or the manic love the characters had. She took no social cue that nobody else was laughing until about a third of the way through the film.

Last Words

The first time I watched Touched With Fire, I got choked up so many times. I felt Paul Dalio was pulling material from inside my head. The moon plays a heavy influence in the film, and I have a huge obsession with the moon. And I’m sure many, many bipolar folks are writers with moon obsessions, but in the moment, it spoke to me. The frustration of Holmes’ character as she tries to learn of her life prior to becoming sick, to Luke Kirby’s character philosophizing every single thing. My mania has dragged me to that point too many times. I was crying at many points during the film. I was scheming on which medications to stop taking. The second time I saw the film, it was much more cognitive. I studied their behaviors and of course, compared myself to some, but mostly just watched the transformation from hypomania to mania to severe depression to being stable to impulsively triggering instability.

Overall, an excellent film. I will be adding it to my personal library. It’s only in select theaters right now, but if possible, go see it.

TWF

 

Commitments, Intentions, and the Bipolar Guilt Dance

Commitments, Intentions, and the Bipolar Guilt Dance

First, I need to thank everyone who is still following this barren blog. So many times I intended to recover from this 6 month hiatus. That desire manifested into way too many thoughts questioning what I could actually handle.

Those thoughts led to guilt for ignoring this site for so long. Then I became overwhelmed. So I avoided logging in altogether. Which made me more overwhelmed. Then I became angry with myself for the avoidance.

The 3 year anniversary of Nectar Madness came and went. I renewed my domain but decided I wasn’t ready to continue on with this commitment. And all of this is so silly because I really do enjoy being here! I’ve always felt connected to others in the blogging, as well as the mental health, communities.

I just feel like I have let down my regular readers. (Who might not be regulars anymore.) I feel bad for ignoring all of the notifications I received these past 6 months from readers with questions or looking for guidance on important matters.

Today
What I’ve Been Consumed With

What have I been doing? I don’t know if it actually matters since I’m rejuvenating the flow of this blog for present day, but here’s a synopsis.

June-August: Manic! Manic! Manic! Wonderful, addicting, dangerous bipolar mania. Things evened out & I continued treatment. I’m also still employed at my job. My biggest accomplishment this summer was cracking down on my writing, specifically poetry & fiction. It’s kept me very busy.

September: My baby boy started the toddler Montessori program. I’ve been a busy mom.

November: My second airplane ride ever. (Side note: my first was in 2009 from Michigan to California and it set me off into the most manic, anxious, erratic episode imaginable.) I was nervous, especially since I’d have to keep composure for my toddler, whose 1st flight this was. Obsessive organization is all I’ll say. And actually I will put together a bipolar travel post.

December: Seasonal depression. Yay. It helps that I’m a seasonal worker and get to stay home with my son for four months before returning in April.

Despite whatever reasons I had for not doing what I love on here, I am back. Today is the day! Now here’s a little bit about the thinking processes of people with bipolar.

Bipolar Thinking: The Shoulds, The Obsessions, The Remorse

Those who live with bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety disorders, and other psychiatric disorders experience thought processes differently than folks who are not suffering from a mental illness. Of course everybody experiences guilt, obsessive thoughts or worry, and remorse. It’s part of the human condition. A person with a mental illness might develop a thought based on something somebody said to them. Whether positive or negative, the thought will play over and over and over and over again until it has infested its way into every other thought that person has.

Here’s an example:
Tammy mentions to Paul that Aunt Beverly said he never calls her. Paul automatically feels guilty for not keeping in touch with Aunt Beverly. He goes home & can’t get it out of his head. Especially the fact that Aunt Beverly said something to Tammy. Paul now thinks he should call Aunt Beverly. But then she would think he is only calling her because Tammy told him to, not because he genuinely wants to. His anxiety is rising. Paul has now let this go on for three days. Each day he feels more and more guilty for not picking up the phone. He actively avoids making time for a phone call and makes excuses of why it’s not a good time to call.

From a bipolar standpoint, a few different things could happen here:

Depression: The stress and guilt Paul is feeling could trigger him into a depression. If this is the case, he might sleep or isolate to avoid the developing symptoms. He may never call Aunt Beverly, or speak to Tammy either.

Mania/Hypomania: The anxiety and escalating obsessions could trigger mania or hypomania in Paul. He could be restless and experiencing insomnia from the symptoms that have developed. He could either continue to avoid Aunt Beverly, or present her with a grand gesture, such as buying her an extravagant gift.

Of course this isn’t a real situation, but bipolar thoughts are real. Thinking obsessively can really wear a person down. In that moment, there is no escape. Feelings of guilt tend to snowball once they start. Depending on where someone is in their illness, whether they are depressed or manic, or rapid-cycling, for instance, plays a major role in the receptiveness of any toxic thinking.

What You Can Do

It is tough, but there are ways to alleviate these thoughts. As always, I stress that keeping in contact with your doctor is imperative. Please take your medication! I know- I have been there. And every single time I am med non-compliant, I become a hot mess. Another great tool is practicing meditation. It forces you to clear your mind. Try relaxation music and deep breathing. Select a mantra to focus on, such as a key phrase or positive affirmation. Continuous mantra meditation will slow the obsessive thoughts down and begin to eliminate how often they pop into your mind.  Staying busy helps you forget the feelings of guilt or remorse. Spending time with people who are positive and make you feel good helps as well. Lastly, I will quote my mother, “Do the thing you dread the most and have a better day.” Basically, stop the excuses and call Aunt Beverly. Just do it.

 

 

Lingerie and Lithium: Flirting with Bipolar Hypersexuality

Your energy levels are high. Priorities and principles low. Attention causes your body to react. You have a sudden, hard hunger for human contact. Just about everyone in the place looks delicious. You feel as sexy as you look. And you’re ready to release your scent to the world.

Lingerie and Lithium: Flirting with Bipolar Hypersexuality

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You make eye contact with a woman across the bar, smile flirtatiously, then nonchalantly meet one another in a bathroom stall where you go at it like ravishing lady beasts. It’s hot. It’s risky. It satisfies you. For the moment. Minutes later, your attractive friend sends you a simple text, “Hey Beautiful”, in which you respond how you couldn’t get his sexy self out of your head all day. He’s intrigued. You say you may have a little something for him when you see him tomorrow. You have a physiological reaction to the anticipation. Later that night, since you barely ever sleep, you are adorned in nothing but one of the new lacy numbers you treated yourself to the day before. You logon to your iPad and an old crush sends a late night message. You tell her how adorable she looks in her profile picture and how you really miss that face. Then you send her a seductive selfie in your lingerie. You don’t notice that she becomes awkward and says she has to go. You’re so turned on by the song on your manic playlist and still high from the attention, not to mention how incredible your cleavage looked that night. You take care of yourself and practice self love for an hour and a half. You own battery operated sex gadgets, but just need to feel the connection with your own fingertips, where you appreciate your silky lace T-string. You hit the video record button on the iPad, just to have on hand in case you ‘need’ it. At the very least, you’ll watch it yourself. You are so electrically charged that your world of sex consumes you.

This might seem extreme to many. This might seem slutty to most.

What if I said this was day three in a seven day manic spree? What if I said there were at least four other prospects in this tangled web of lust?

What if I said excessive drinking, very little need for sleep, extravagant shopping sprees, craving stimulation, grandiose thoughts, and copious amounts of energy are also present at this time?

What Exactly is Hypersexuality in Bipolar Disorder?

Hypersexuality is a clinical diagnosis used by mental healthcare researchers and providers to describe extremely frequent or suddenly increased sexual urges or sexual activity. People who suffer from bipolar disorder may often display tremendous swings in sex drive depending on their mood. As defined in the DSM-IV-TR, hypersexuality can be a symptom of hypomania or mania in bipolar disorder or schizoaffective disorder.

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In other words, a person becomes overly horny. I know I get consumed by the thought of anything I remotely find to be sexual, that I force myself to take deep breaths and try to take a walk and cool down. I already have a pretty high libido normally, and I don’t shy away from risks. Oh and I should mention that I like a considerable amount of attention. These ingredients mixed with that hypersexual stage of mania can be a recipe for disaster.

Symptoms of Manic Hypersexuality

  1. Thinking obsessively about sex all day long.
  2. Feeling horny for no particular reason.
  3. Uncharacteristically having sex with both men and women.
  4. Not feeling in control over when and with whom to have sex with.
  5. Going out to the bar or social gathering every day to find hook-ups.
  6. Feeling overwhelmed by the urge of needing sex.
  7. Masturbating several times a day without the control to stop.
  8. Participating in group sex situations.
  9. Wearing uncharacteristically provocative clothing every day to any kind of location.
  10. Compulsively viewing a significant amount of porn movies, pornographic or sexy photos.
  11. When having sex, safe sex is hardly an option.
  12. Flirting with or trying to pick up your platonic friends.
  13. Excessive fantasizing about celebrities or crushes.
  14. Obsessing about exes or past flings and desiring a “last” hook-up.
  15. Every song you hear is interpreted as sexual, or else you only play sexy music.

Consequences of Manic Hypersexuality

  1. Cheating on your partner & possibly losing them.
  2. Susceptible to new and risky sex games.
  3. Vulnerable to people offering money or goods for sex.
  4. More susceptible to being offered jobs in the sex industry.
  5. Very sensitive to combining drugs and alcohol with sex.
  6. Feeling guilty for joining in on sex parties.
  7. Losing friends.
  8. Not being aware of any of the consequences your actions might have.
  9. Confused on the concept of right and wrong.
  10. Not being aware of possible sexual abuse.
  11. Losing complete track of time and place.
  12. Contracting sexually transmitted diseases.
  13. Risking to die of murder for being in dangerous environments.
  14. Needing years of therapy to cope with the guilt and shame later on.
  15. Finding it difficult to trust yourself or others again.

My Bipolar Boom Boom

Hypersexuality is something I have been plagued with. Or is it blessed with? I’m not going to lie, sometimes it’s hard to know. I love sex. I love lust. Anticipation. Flirting. The rapid heartbeat. Increased swelling and wetness in your skivvies. Yeah, I’m into all of it. I’m turned on just typing this. And I’m not even manic right now.

I discovered the idea of sexuality when I was very young. My parents watched the 80’s sitcom, “Three’s Company”, where the characters spoke nothing but cheesy lines and sexual innuendos. An articulate child, I picked up on the sexual energy of the show. Lacking the maturity to understand what I was indeed understanding, it sat in the back of my mind until I began interpreting radio songs, and insisting my mother watch daytime soap operas, so I could secretly observe the women with their hefty bosoms crammed into cheap looking lingerie.

In middle school, I got boobs before my friends. Feeling self conscious at first, I quickly discovered boobs get you places. And they get you attention. By seventh grade, I was wearing low cut tops and skin tight sweaters. In my mind I oozed sex appeal, and I liked it. I had many crushes, including the realization of my interest in females.

By my senior year of high school, I was exhibiting many bipolar symptoms, including full blown mania. Getting in trouble in school, running away from home, grandiose ideas, obsessions, and delusions were all forming. I was also exploring my interest in girls even more. I was infamous for going bra-less to school, or wearing little skirts with fishnet stockings. I felt sexy when I was on my periodic highs. (I also experienced a deal of depression in high school too.) I was experimenting with sexual fantasies, such as tying my girlfriend to my headboard, trying out sex toys, or sneaking lesbian erotica into choir class. I also masturbated ALL THE TIME.

By my 20’s, I was known for being wild. At various points I initiated group sex, attended fetish parties, and did erotic photography. I went into manic episodes often and my most severe, longest episode was when I was 22. I impulsively left my boyfriend of three years, quit my job, and cut my hair. I started hanging out with an ex girlfriend, with whom I immediately rekindled our old flame. Our usual chill spot was a local dive bar that eventually became my sanctuary. Shortly after, I reunited with another friend there, with whom I left girl 1 inside the bar so I could fuck this girl out in the car in the bar’s parking lot. I continued seeing girl 1 and girl 2 until girl 1 decided to get a girlfriend. She brought new girl up to the dive, and with very little effort, new girl went home with my number, met up the next day where we fucked for hours in the parking lot of a different bar, all the way until a police officer had to intervene. With little regard for girl 1, I now had myself girl 3, aka girl 1’s girlfriend. Because I was very manic, and not just horny, I suffered from psychosis as well. I truly had convictions that somebody put pheromone spray in the vents of the bar and were drugging all of us to the point of a mass turn on. Then again, I had other theories about cheese being the meaning of life, so my credibility is questionable there. Girl 3 and I hooked up in places other than cars. We got it on in the courtyard of the bar, at other people’s houses, bathroom stalls at clubs, Denny’s parking lot, and in most rooms of our homes. Girl 4 didn’t come until the end of that manic phase. An old high school crush I only got to make out with once at a party, I was thirsty for the opportunity to get in her pants. As if it wasn’t enough, when girls 1, 2, 3, 4 didn’t call me fast enough, I still occasionally got my rocks off with the ex boy. At this point I was exclusively with women, but I made the exception for function and familiarity.

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Why am I telling you all of this? Because with five different sex partners- often two in the same day- I was still starving for sex. In what little spare time I had, I would masturbate at least once a day. Wait- I always say I don’t masturbate, I have sex with myself. I dressed sexy, but not slutty. Makeup was always done. And I mastered the art of playing it cool. I only listened to music one could fuck to.

I was the poster child for manic hypersexuality.

I was also living life in the fast lane. Drinking, cocaine, getting kicked out of my college of choice, and fighting with my family were all consequences. I would wake up in the morning, being spooned by one of the girls, but have no recollection of which one I went home with. In my hungover haze, I would look around the room and try to put the pieces together. I broke more than a few hearts and lost some friends. I could have contracted an STD. And yet, I chose to be unmedicated.

Now, in my 30’s, life has been a bit different because I’m married. (And very medicated!) While I still get the heavy urges, I constantly find desperate ways to pacify my sexual appetite. I won’t lie, I have real crushes and often find it difficult to resist temptation. I flirt with friends who I know are deemed “safe”. I masturbate religiously. I enjoy lesbian porn, sexy music, and wearing revealing clothes. I tend to take more selfies during this phase. And I write fiction where my characters can do as they please, like little pawns in my steamy world. To an extent, my wife knows how I am. She came into my life overlapping the tail end of girls 1,2,3, and 4. While I’ve come close to infidelity, I tend to teeter on the edge, then by some saving grace, I pull myself back onto the side where I belong. Then within a couple of weeks, the episode dissipates. During these times I feel reckless. And I behave selfishly. My wife and I have had many fights and she knows when I’m crossing boundaries. The problem is, I don’t always know my boundaries.

Taming the Wild Animal Inside

If you are experiencing many of these symptoms and consequences of hypersexuality, then there is a likeliness that you may have bipolar disorder. I recommend seeing a psychiatrist or even a therapist to get started. You most likely need medication to treat the chemical imbalance.

Please note: this is different from a sex addiction. Manic hypersexuality comes as a symptom of mania or hypomania in bipolar disorder. If you experience these symptoms for more than short periods at a time, or if you don’t resolve to a healthy state of mind once treated, please consider getting help for addiction, or a sexual function issue. Now, it is possible for someone with bipolar to become addicted to sex, just as any other addiction. But please research the differences. I won’t spew the DSM at you.

If you are aware of your triggers and you are going trough a tough manic stage, try taking a cold shower, going for a run alone, attending a family function, or anything that would be considered the least stimulating. Attending bipolar support groups are great too.

Another option for those of you who are married or involved, be open with your partner about your hypersexual waves, and make the most of them. Together, I mean. Play with fantasies and take advantage of frequency. In a trusting, loving environment this could be a positive experience. Any non-communication could lead to resentment later on, or the feeling that one was taken advantage of during a time of illness.

Balance > Mania (Even if it doesn’t always seem that way)

Too much of a good thing can be bad for your health in more ways than one. I shared my personal experiences on this topic to hopefully help educate about real symptoms affecting the lives of many. Bipolar mania has many symptoms and hypersexuality is just one. And pretty much after any manic episode, despite the symptoms, comes a crash. Energy is drained and sleepiness or depression may creep in. The sexy beast may be replaced with a lack of libido. Finding a way to balance episodes is imperative.

Please share feedback. I’d love to pick your brain!

Sources:
Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll Mania. Bipolar Women and Hypersexuality
Personal experience & observation, along with undergrad studies
DSM-IV-TR & DSM V (Bipolar manic episode symptoms, hypersexuality)

Alter Ego: A Poem About Piper, a.k.a. Manic Delusions

Alter Ego

Hey there siren, hey there again.
Without warning, how long has it been?

Hey there wild one, hey there storm.
Untamed whispers, in seamless form.

Hey there you, hey there Miss Thing.
Complete invasion, the chaos you bring.

She wears me out,
She breaks me down.
When Piper calls,
I come around.
She lures me in,
Without a sound.
I lust for her,
And we are bound.

Hey there lil nympho, hey there alright.
Pheromone syrup, smothered all night.

Hey there electricity, hey there alive.
Inexpressible hype, off the high dive.

Hey there obsession, hey there crave.
Euphoria spree, you won’t ever behave.

She wears me out,
She breaks me down.
When Piper calls,
I come around.
She lures me in,
Without a sound.
I lust for her,
And we are bound.

Hey there liberty, hey there Queen Bee.
Envied butterfly, perpetual and free.

Hey there persuasion, hey there yearn.
Thick addiction, never to learn.

Hey there enigma, hey there silhouette.
Delicious delusion, you’ll soon regret.

She wears me out,
She breaks me down.
When Piper calls,
I come around.
She lures me in,
Without a sound.
I lust for her,
And we are bound.

Piper

The Truth About Recovery

There is a misconception about mental illness and recovery. It’s not the same as recovering from the flu, or a broken bone. Recovery for a mental disorder is an ongoing process. It’s about managing the symptoms and finding the right treatment. I know for me, as I’ve gotten older, my illness has gotten more severe, thus requiring varying degrees of treatment in order to aid in my recovery process.

Recovery

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Of course we should be mindful all the time, but May brings us a chance to educate others on mental illness. Let’s help each other be advocates and give everyone who is living with a mental illness the respect they deserve.63ed8f2c2b4305c9b772ddc092562340

Knock, Knock. Who’s There? Oh It’s You, Seroquel. 

I said I’d keep everyone posted on my recent decision to come off of Seroquel. (As you recall, I was dealing with weight gain side effects.)

Well I’ve been completely off for 2 weeks (after weaning down for 2 weeks) and it’s been a struggle. My moods are all over the place, I’m certainly not sleeping, and it’s put a strain on my family. My wife has endured additional stress and we have been fighting more. I feel badly about it, and of course I also wish she could be more supportive of my decision. But when it comes down to it, our long-time agreement has been in order for this marriage to work, I must stay on meds. 

When it comes down to it, I am excited about losing 5lbs. The scale hasn’t budged in so long, and this gave me hope. But I’ve weighed out my situation (no pun intended..) and have decided to go back on the Seroquel. I gave it a try, but I can’t help that my illness requires certain medications. I admit I feel defeated. But I also know this is just me being responsible. 

Thanks for listening to my saga. I know many of you have experienced Seroquel side effects and I thank you for sharing your experiences with me. Best of wellness to all of you. 

  

Buh Bye, Seroquel

So, I’ve made a decision to come off of Seroquel. The weight I’ve gained with it has overstayed it’s (non-existent) welcome.

Bipolar weight pills

I know what you must be thinking. And before you lecture me on quitting meds, please know I am making this move based on careful consideration. I have been on Seroquel for about two years now, along with Lithium and Abilify. My current dose is 200mg. When I first started taking it, I just noticed my extreme sleepiness. This was good, since I am a natural insomniac. I started on only 100mg, and after some time, went up to the current dose. I know people on higher doses, and folks on lower doses. Every individual is different. Dosages are based on brain chemistry, body weight, interactions with other meds, etc.

The Cost of Side Effects

I certainly don’t want to scare anyone out of taking Seroquel because it is a really effective drug, and it has absolutely saved my life in many ways. It’s just that I am at a point where the side effects are not worth my time anymore. Seroquel is known for weight gain as a side effect (several psych meds have this quality), and I have been researching many sources and forums, as well as discussions with my psychiatrist, and it is an unfortunate fact. I put on 20 pounds with this medication. Many other folks have put on 40-50 pounds. On my 5’1″ frame, 20 pounds is kind of a lot.

It’s a Personal Thing

I definitely battled with this decision. I already have insomnia, and Seroquel has helped rock me to sleep each night since taking it. I also haven’t had any full blown manic episodes since being treated with it. So, yes, coming off of it does frighten me a little. But, conversely, I am becoming quite dismayed at stepping onto the scale and not seeing it budge. I have completely changed my eating habits, which includes pretty much all health food, and small portions. I even signed up for a gym membership. Yet my jeans still don’t fit. I feel discouraged and it’s bringing me down.

Keeping Up With Progress

So far I have cut my dose in half and I am having a hard time falling asleep at night. I am not experiencing any mania or psychotic episodes, luckily. My wife is fully aware of my plan, and is on board. This helps with monitoring my moods, especially with the changing season.

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I have not yet spoken to Dr. B. about this. I plan to at our next appointment, which isn’t until May. Honestly, I want to see how well I do without his input right now. Also, I’m a little shy of trust for him and his office after the urinalysis incident. I just thought I’d share my current experience with you guys. We all know what a pain in the ass it is to find meds that work out for us in all areas.

Sources:
Seroquel XR Side Effects Study
(Just Google Seroquel and weight gain/side effects. There is a world of information on the topic.)

Ambush Drug Test at my Psych Appointment- Wait, What?

I’m still shaking off my first experience with Medication Monitoring. This took place a few days ago, and I was completely bombarded, with no explanation, no warning, no consideration for my personal space.

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My pdoc appointment went quite smoothly. I talked about my grandfather’s funeral, about the baby, about being a temporary stay at home mom. We went through the checklist about side effects, mood fluctuations, and if I have any thoughts of harming myself (I don’t). Pdoc agreed we should keep my medications the same as they’d been, and he wrote up the new scripts. I gathered my wallet and keys, and started for the office door. Just before I hit the front desk, he informs me that everyone is taking a urinalysis for medication monitoring. I was a little confused. He laughed and said it’s to make sure people are taking their meds, and not selling their Adderall. Well since I take my meds and I don’t sell anything, I just agreed that it wasn’t a problem. I was also under the assumption that he would write me a prescription to take to a lab for the test proceedings. Those of you on Lithium know about this all too well. Was that what happened? Nope.

Surprise! As I walked through the second set of doors into the lobby, a woman I’d not seen before was standing there waiting for me with a little piss cup in her hand. She gestured toward the waiting room bathroom. I felt ambushed. No opportunity for questions, no discussion. I’d been at this psychiatric facility for almost ten years and never felt so put off. Honestly, I felt as if I were in trouble.

After I provided my little sample, she had me sign a form, supposedly for them to bill my insurance. This is also when I was given an informational card entitled, “Medication Monitoring Explained”.
Some key points given include:

  • Helps to understand what medications you are currently taking which could interfere with your prescribed medications.
  • Provides essential information for the safe and effective use of your medications.
  • Your doctor will determine how often you will be tested based on your medical needs.

The kicker in my situation is that in all definitions of the term, I failed my drug test. Yes, I had other substances in my system. I had been treating two pinched nerves in my back with a narcotic pain reliever for about three days, and I occasionally self-medicate with marijuana. During my grandfather’s death and funeral days, I smoked pot in the evenings. (For those of you just tuning in, I’ve always been a cannabis advocate.) The biggest clincher here is that I would have absolutely disclosed this information to my doctor had I any idea it would be relevant. (*Note: I do not promote the notion of self-diagnosing or self-medicating. In my instance, I have had much experience with these substances and I know how my body reacts, on prescribed meds and off.)

All in all, I understand and agree with new advances in patient treatment. If urinalysis is a tool in helping doctors help patients, then I support it. I really think, in my case anyway, that there needs to be a much different procedure in collecting the samples. I already feel vulnerable, as it is when working on my mental health, so in some ways I felt my trust had been violated.

Have any of you had experiences with medication monitoring? I’d like to hear your stories.

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.

blog manic

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. 

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.

Positivity and Creativity for a Healthy Mind

I was determined to start this weekend better than the ones I’ve had in recent months. No demons allowed, only positive, healthy activities. Since photography is one of my long lost hobbies, I decided to tackle the project of my son’s 9-month photos. It was a beautiful day for the nearby park. My baby finally fit into the outfit his aunt gave him. My wife agreed to help me. I had no excuses.

I did have a period of irritability when a fellow amateur photographer made some rude remarks, setting me off. My wife had to stop me from fighting with her. Other than that, we had a really great day. And his photos turned out really great too!

DSC_0454

I practiced positive thinking, while utilizing creativity, in a healthy manner. I’m pleased to say that I am proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone and doing something to nurture my mind and abilities. I know it’s not always easy but I consider today a baby step.

 

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.)