Contentment

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Over the last several months I have seen my mental health recovery take a major blow. I went from being stable in my recovery to have a major episode of mania to a major episode of depression. It is amazing to me how I was so prepared yet I still managed to have such a horrible experience and devastating ramifications from such an episode.

I have been married for almost 22 years and my husband and I have had our ups and downs due to my illness. Over the last five years, we have really learned how to work together. That was until recently. It seems like somehow we have lost all the ways we once knew how to communicate. We lost touch with how we once loved each other and how we cared for each other.

It has been a complete struggle for me since I have been dealing with delusional thought processes and feelings of discontent. I often struggle with feelings of discontent in my life so that isn’t something new for me. However, sometimes the feelings are so strong that I have no control over trying to make something new happen in my life. I struggle to make something exciting and something different to take effect and to take hold. Many times that may be starting a new friendship or a new career or another line of education. I see it as growth. My husband, however, sees it as another failed attempt I have made towards succeeding at something that I tried and didn’t like. I do not think if I am not content in something I should do it forever. Especially since I am not the breadwinner of the family and many times the things I am doing are just another job of some sort that pays minimum wage or just slightly more. Until a job is more than a job but an actual career I don’t see why I should be forced to do something I am not content or happy in.

This last episode has taught me a few things and in a way, I am glad I have had it happen. I have been very complacent. Just letting life pass by, not knowing what to do next. I have been so scared of starting over again. I have been so worried because of my husbands fear of my failure, my own insecurities of failure blossomed and began to form and take over my life. It was like when he doubted I could actually make something happen in my life I no longer believed in myself either and that became a fundamental problem in me. Not believing something as simple as being able to hold down a part-time job made me lose all the value I had in myself as a human being and doubting that I could even hold down a part-time job because I was so broken because of my illness made me feel so dehumanized. Not to mention trapped. Trapped and not able to get out of my house but trapped in a marriage that even though I wanted to stay in it knowing I had no other choice was infuriating. I felt as though my husband had made me stop believing in myself and made me believe I would fail in order to control me and make me stay with him and make me believe I was so broken no one else would ever want me and he was my only option for survival.

Now in saying this, it sounds as if my husband is a bad guy. I need to say, no my husband is great. If he did control me he did so out of love, without knowing he did so. He never meant it to come across how it did. He never meant for me to feel devalued or worthless it was never his intent for me to feel that way. Every morning my husband gets into a safe and gets out my medication and sets it out and he picks up all my medications at the pharmacy weekly, he takes damn good care of me and provides a damn good life for us. So why do I feel controlled?

It’s simple really. He doesn’t believe in me. He is always waiting for the shoe to drop. He is always waiting for the mess up. He is always expecting the fail. When you have already failed in someone’s eyes before you begin, then you are never going to live up to the expectation that they have set for you. He doesn’t believe I can do it. I start school in the fall for digital media, I wonder how many classes I will have to pass before he realizes I am actually in school and that school is my first priority.

I make things happen. It’s what I do. When I am not content I begin something new to fill a void. A new friendship, a new career, a new line of education. I have laid dormant for three years, I am ready to find some contentment again. I am ready to find some peace of mind. I am ready for something to keep my racing thoughts from racing, something to keep me busy. I am ready for school. I am ready.

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Stigma In A Small Town

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When waiting for the school bus, children should know not to play in the street and to stay far enough back from the curb so they can’t accidentally step into the street.

I always wondered how I would tell my story if ever given the chance. Having bipolar 1, ADHD, and general anxiety I have so much to share. It was cold out. That’s all I really remember. I had on a stocking cap and I was wearing a sweatshirt. This was my common attire for my then-position as a bus monitor for the school district I lived in. The depression was back and it was hitting hard core. I had lost faith in my current psychiatrist and getting in to see a new one proved to be a challenge. I had an appointment, but it was a month away. I was going to see a doctor who was newly out of school, young, and hopefully wouldn’t, as I called it, “cookie cut” me when it came to medications. I had just found the webcam feature on my new mac, hit record, and “Ramblings of a Bipolar Mom” started to flow from my mouth. After I was done speaking I thought, I am going to use this for good. Maybe someone else needs to hear it. I posted it on Facebook without a second thought. I did a video about every other day, talking about having bipolar illness and how it made me feel and some of the things that it did to me. I got some positive feedback from friends; supportive feedback. “Good for you Tosh, maybe this can help someone else,” one friend said. I felt good about the video blogs. I was very depressed, but I was getting into the doctor and hoped I would be OK soon. I remember getting one message that didn’t make any sense to me until later. It said, “I don’t care what people are saying, I have depression and I am behind you 100%.” It was from a neighbor. I live in a very small town, small enough that it is actually called a village. I just took that comment as a compliment, and it didn’t dawn on me to pay attention to the part that said “what people are saying”. I would, however, find out very soon.

 I was at the bus barn in between runs when my boss asked me to follow him into the offices of the administration building. My chest tightened and my heart sped up as I walked through the hallway leading to the HR manager’s office. On the screen of his computer was my face, my blog pulled up as if I was doing something deceitful on the job. The whole school district was in an uproar over my videos. Some of my children’s friends were on my Facebook page and some of their parents were as well. News of my illness traveled quickly among administrative staff, principals at the schools, and all the way up to the superintendent of the district. They were flooded with calls demanding my immediate dismissal.

 I sat there blank faced. I explained I was trying to help others who have bipolar, asking why there was a problem. They told me I yelled at the students. I said I have never yelled at the students, I talked loudly. There were 70 students on the bus. If I didn’t speak loudly, how would they hear the instructions? I was dumbfounded. I was advised strongly to take the videos down immediately and not do anymore. I was hurt, and ashamed, and worse than that, I worried about my boys and how would this affect them at school. Would the other kids make fun of them for having a crazy mom?

Without thinking I took the videos down and sank even deeper into depression. The shaming, however, had just begun. Day after day I was told of phone call after phone call to the school and the administrative offices. The parents were relentless. The principal, with whom I preciously had a good relationship since my sons were in preschool (now my oldest was in high school) asked me rudely, “Is it worth it for this stupid job?” when I tried to apologize to him for all the phone calls he was having to deal with. I told him yes it was since the school board paid my insurance. I was crushed that he hadn’t assured the parents I was fine to be around their children, that he knew me personally and knew I would never harm them.

 Then the unimaginable happened on the first warm day of spring during an afternoon bus route. Seating on our bus is by grades with kindergartners sitting in the front progressing towards the back with first and second graders next, through fifth graders at the back of the bus. I always sat with the fifth graders because they tended to be the noisiest and needed the most supervision. We stopped in town where the majority of the children and I got off the bus. Seventeen kids got off starting with the youngest. I was the last one off the bus after the fifth graders exited. The snow had melted, the air was fresh and my children decided to walk the two blocks home instead of riding in the car home with me. I remembered that my oldest son had lost his key to our van in the snow a few weeks earlier so I started looking for it along the side of my car. I noticed another van parked across from mine but didn’t see who was in it, just figuring it was another parent picking up their child at the bus stop. My twins called to me, asking what I was looking for. I called back, “The van key that Colton lost a few weeks ago”. After a few more moments I gave up the search got in my car and drove home. The next day my boss asked me to come to his office. He had received a call from a man who said I had pushed his son, a kindergartner, off the bus and then went up to his son and wife sitting inside their van and started growling at them, trying to get into their van, all of which was a complete fabrication. I asked my boss, “Why do they want me gone so badly? I have done this job for four years without a problem. I don’t understand.” I had never dealt with the stigma of bipolar before that moment. Why would someone go out of their way to fabricate a complete lie to try and get me fired from a job that I had done for years for with no complaints from anyone. I couldn’t understand how people, knowing I was already depressed, would try to take something from me that could send me further into depression. I still don’t talk to many people in the town we live in. Fewer than 700 people live there, and most know of my diagnosis. They choose to think I am different because of that. I know that I’ve read somewhere that 1 in 5 people have mental illness. Is it possible the lady who made up that story about me growling at her is dealing with some undiagnosed illness of her own? Then again, maybe she is just that mean-spirited. Either way, I wouldn’t change what happened. It set the course for other things that happened in my life, and the changes that came next were bigger than anything I could have imagined. Although not all of them were good, they all did prove that I have Amazing Strength.

The Challenge of Bipolar Disorder and Living with Delusions

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Being bipolar can be challenging. For me it’s partly because my mind refuses to shut off. When I’m not doing much and just being around the house, I find myself doing the one thing that makes most people break into anxiety: overthinking. It’s one of the quickest ways to find yourself in depression.

I spend so much time pressing out the thoughts that I have forgotten what an impossible task this is. Ironically, I wind up having to take medication to help my brain press out the thoughts now causing anxiety.

Fortunately for me, normally they work. However, sometimes the thoughts become so overwhelming that no matter how I try to distract myself, I can’t seem to manage to do so. Paranoid delusional thoughts can come at me so rapidly that even when I think I have the whole bipolar delusion thing figured out, I realize that ability goes and comes.

Most of the time my delusions are that people I know and are on my side do not like me. I think people who are trying to help me make things better are against me. I feel that everyone around me is talking badly about me and are having conversations with each other about me and the things they don’t like about me. I think every giggle they make with someone else, and every look they exchange has got me in the center of it. It’s as if I am standing in front of a class in my underwear. Except for me, I am not dreaming — at that moment it’s happening in real time.

Sometimes they get so extreme that I believe my biggest supporter is against me. Sometimes I am able to pinpoint what I have done wrong with my compliance plan for managing my bipolar and figure out quickly how I got off track and started down the path where the delusions began. Other times I struggle so badly that I know that no matter how well I take care of myself the delusions will never be more than a thought away. They, just like breathing, are a part of my life. I don’t get to decide to do it, when to do it, or how often they come. I have been told many times I am a likable person, so why I believe that others dislike me will always be something I don’t understand. My mother-in-law used to say, “Tosha, they have better things to think about than you.” Although though I know that’s right I still cannot make the delusions or the overthinking stop.

I try to keep myself busy throughout the days. I read, study things I find interesting, crochet (but there is a lot of free time for thinking while crocheting), play on Facebook or clean. Sometimes, though, when things are really coming at me fast, the overthinking and delusions won’t stop no matter how hard I try to repress them. When they happen, I tend to create the environment that I was trying to avoid. I will talk about someone, call them a name, because they are out to get me, or so my mind believes. I will make up a reason for my husband to be upset with me or me to be upset with him. I believe he isn’t loving me enough or we aren’t connecting anymore. I think since I have bipolar and my mind is always going that I need the reinforcement continuously.

Now that he and I are nearly 40 and our children are well into their teen years, life is slowing down and because of it, there’s more time to think. I have more time to develop problems that are not really there. I can normally get past them, sometimes convincing myself that I am overreacting. Every once in a while, though, I forget to check myself and the delusions create something out of nothing.

My husband is very forgiving. It might take him a day or so, but he tries to remember I am not always in control of the thoughts that bog down my mind. He tries to reassure me that what I am thinking isn’t happening. At times he has just refused to talk about something because he knows I conjured it up and he won’t fall prey to my mind like I do. I am very thankful for that. He has lived with me for long enough to know when I’m having delusional thoughts.

They can be strong or they can be weak, but I am never truly free from their torment. The biggest battle has been fought, though, which was the battle to know what the delusions were. I didn’t know at one time that the paranoid thoughts I was having had a name, and they were actually part of bipolar disorder. I was both relieved and scared to learn that what was happening to me had a name. Scared because it meant that I truly did have the disorder but relieved because if it had an actual name maybe they had developed something to help me. I was lucky treatment helps me get a handle on what’s happening.

I never wanted to be put on an antipsychotic, never considered what I manifested was psychotic behavior. Long before I figured out that the thoughts were actually delusions, my doctor knew what they were. He never told me they were bipolar delusions and common in the condition. He treated the symptom of the delusions, which, I believe, has more than once saved my life. I worked hard to find the right doctor. I had two other doctors before the one I have now. He listens to me and he doesn’t give me the same medications he gave the patient he saw right before me. He gives me the medicine I need to treat my symptoms. This means I am not taking medicine I might not need. He sees patterns in my behavior and helps me recognize what my mind is doing. I trust I am getting the right care.

When the delusions start, I know what to do. I know now that they will be there no matter what I do. My doctor said when it comes to medication we have it all right. I have to learn to talk about it and learn how to work it out for myself. I can’t depend on the medication to correct everything.

Today, because I felt guilty for overspending, I started to blame myself more than my husband blamed me. In fact, he had let the situation go. Then he talked to me a bit about my thoughts and did not feed into my paranoid thoughts of him being more upset with me than he truly was. Eventually I was able to see what I was doing.

More and more I am able to recognize the fact that I am overthinking a situation, that my mind is not being rational. I am able to warn my husband and let him know by saying, ”I am having a hard time not overthinking things today.” I am lucky enough to have found someone who says he will never understand why I do the things I do, but he will always support me through it. I am a very lucky wife.

So yes, overthinking is a bipolar symptom. I no longer walk around in a solid depression because of what I feel others think of me. I am able to be confident and have good self-esteem. I am able to be a leader and try to help others when they don’t think they can keep going. I don’t let the delusions win. I tell them who I am, and I don’t let them destroy things I have worked hard to create. I am able to remind myself that this is part of the disorder. What I am going through is going to be there sometimes, but I don’t have to let it control me. I make the decisions in my life, my mind doesn’t anymore. I know my mind thinks it is in control most of the time but I always remind it that I, not it, is the one with the ability to stay in control of the delusions.

Trigger Induced Depression

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7 Ways to Manage Clinical Depression

The last three to four weeks for me have been extremely hard. I found myself in the grips of a deep depression. I am fortunate enough to no longer suffer from the deep devastating suicidal depression that once came with my bipolardepression, I am blessed in that way. However, nonetheless it is still a devastatingly life-halting depression that really makes life difficult to tolerate for a few weeks and difficult to carry on with my daily activities.

My normal, everyday personality is more along the lines of a bubbly, happy person, and I tend to have a larger than life, over-the-top personality. These last few weeks though I couldn’t find a way to enjoy even going out with my friends let alone smiling when we were out. It got to the point while we were out where they would ask many times over, “Tosha are you having a good time?” I would assure them I was, and honestly, I was trying to have a good time, however it was difficult to enjoy myself because the depression was so thick.

Think of depression as a black thick tar, that is what it feels like you are trying to live your life going through. Each day you are struggling to survive by crawling along barely making it, because this thick black tar is holding you back as you are trying to move forward. Every time you move it almost feels as if it is drying up around you and it is getting harder to move all the time. People who have never experienced a true bipolar depression think that it is just feeling sad when we say we have depression but it is so much more than just feeling sad. It is a complete total fatigue of energy because it takes completely every ounce of what we have to just get out of bed some days. Which is why many days we just won’t even do that.

I have anemia from having weight loss surgery, when my iron is low is when I will feel the most depressed. I figured this time my iron was low, but I had a doctor appointment this past Friday, and when I went in and saw the doctor my levels were perfect, better than perfect. This time my depression was all mood related and nothing is physically wrong with me. Which meant that I needed to make sure I was following my care plan to a T to make sure I was not letting any outside triggers influence my mood at all. The very next day I began.

As I started to dissect my care plan to figure out what I was doing wrong. I thought what had I changed recently that could be making me depressed and triggering a depression? It all started 4 weeks ago when I started to cook full size meals for my family most nights, meaning that I would eat at 5 or 5:30 at night instead of 6:30 or 7 when I would take my meds for bed. When I did that I wouldn’t get to bed on time, and I would end up staying up way past my bedtime then and be up half the night. Being up half the night ended up triggering my depression. I was doomed. My depression creeped in quickly and it held on for dear life.

By this past Monday I didn’t want to get out of bed. I went to see my favorite band this past weekend and I was there and trying to enjoy myself and I smiled and I danced, but I wasn’t truly enjoying myself. That was when I knew I had to do something and fast. This week I made some changes to my care plan that got me back on track. I am eating correctly again. Getting my meds on time. I got back to the gym, too. I had been slacking there as well, but if I take my meds on time and go to bed at the right time I have energy the next day.

It doesn’t always have to be a huge trigger that messes up your care plan. It can be a subtle change that can throw you off. However, a simple change can make the difference in not having depression or having depression when you have bipolar disorder. Stability is a constant balancing act, but that is the ultimate goal. Stability! I know it is hard to find, but in mental health recovery the goal is to have more days stable, then depressed or manic. Everyone’s recovery looks different, but recovery in every form is wonderful.