my year of living bipolariously

I haven’t written about my manic depression since the end of May, and I’ve had the diagnosis for a year, so it’s time to update it all here, so I have stuff to look back on where necessary.

Hi, my name is blahpolar, I’m bipolar. It has been a year since my diagnosis, but my psychiatrist reckons that trauma activated it at around the age of five.

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I’m not sure if that sounds more like a Catholic confession or an AA meeting. It doesn’t matter, it’s not something I announce irl. A little while ago, I wrote down the meds I’ve tried during the past year; here’s the list (in no particular order)…

Citalopram
Escitalopram
Buproprion
Alprazolam
Zopiclone
Quetiapine
Lithium
Methylphenidate
Lamotrigine
Chlorpromazine
Sulpuride
Sertaline

Fun side effects: various rashes, headaches, vomiting, diarrhoea, head rushes, brain zaps, breathlessness, too much/too little sleep, restless leg syndrome.
Full diagnosis: continuous, rapid cycling bipolar I, with mixed and psychotic features.
Co-morbid (gotta love that word) disorders: c-ptsd, adhd, migraine.
In the remission-mission toolbox: regular sleep (mostly), regular healthy meals (uhm…), meds compliance (always), cbt (26 weeks as part of a trainee psychiatrist’s PhD thesis, weekly), excellent psychiatrist (monthly), regular exercise (mostly), support network (my dog, a friend 15kms away, two more 45kms friends over 1000kms away, nextofkin 6000 miles away, blog friends), fresh air (lots).

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“How will I recognise euthymia?” I asked my psychiatrist. She said, “you won’t, but I’ll tell you.” I said, “I’ve fucked up half of my life during manic and mixed episodes, and I’ve spent the other half depressed.” She said, “don’t you feel better now, knowing that it was the disease, not you?” “Nope,” quoth I. Luckily she’d told me a few years before, that I must stop looking back, so I returned to my new ability to distract myself and quieten my mind. Books, embroidery, TV, walking, photographing the sky, occasional visits to game reserves. I started blogging again, and for a change I didn’t give a damn about visitor numbers. I researched bipolar obsessively, until the urge began to drift away and I began to mix normal posts into the manic depressive marathon. I made friends (and advisors).

And so here I am. I still haven’t tasted euthymia, and I don’t know whether I hate anhedonia or mixed episodes more. I’m in better shape than I was, but I still have no hope and no dreams. Also, the better shape, when looked at in the context of the past two and a half years, can be attributed to the two and a half years being those after the death of my mother. I don’t think there’s been much space for working out whether there’s been an improvement in the bipolar yet. At some point – and perhaps it’s now – I’ll be able to start trying to find the difference between bipolar and grief.

In retrospect and in terms of the good ole acceptance of the diagnosis, I’m calmer about it, but still pissed off (mostly by the unnecessary fecking delay in getting the sodding thing, and all of the curséd ramifications of that). Anyroad up…

Somewhere along the way, this post stopped being an AA intro or a confession, and shifted into a state of the nation address. Let me change gears and tell you the tale. And by that I mean tell myself the tale.

Once upon a time…

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Once upon a shitty time, which surprised me by being even shittier than the shitty years before it, I started hearing things. Specifically, I heard songs, quiet as a subdued radio; they were good songs, my sort of music – but they never, ever stopped while I was awake. Low level songs all the fecking time and it scared me. It took two and a half months to get an appointment with my psychiatrist, because I hadn’t seen her for a couple of years. The brain-radio continued thus for a month, and then it went feral on me. I’d get a very few songs streaming 24/7 for a few days, a few days peace and then different songs. The click song stayed on repeat for four days – and I only know the first two lines of it. Interspersed with it all, were moments of the sound of footsteps on a floor above. There isn’t a floor above me, I’m not close enough to anything to hear anyone walking like that. Or any other way.

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Time passed, the way time does (inexorably). The appointment came forward, by a week, I think. It was the day of my birthday, which last year, almost everyone (even nextofkin) forgot. Idgaf about my birthday usually, but it made the day a bit lonelier. I drove to a friend’s place, she drove me to the appointment – I knew I’d be in a rough state (even before I sort of crashed into her at her door, weeping, “and it’s my fucking birthday“. And thence to the shrink, where I was prescribed meds including seroquel. I don’t remember much about the appointment, except that I totally forgot to mention the in-brain sound system till I was on my way out. “That’s early psychosis,” she said and off I went, with a script and a hollow feeling. After that, I dunno. Life, pills, that sluroquel feeling and the video ‘psychosis is nothing like a badger’. I was fretful and not enjoying being on seroquel for the second time, and I emailed my shrink a lot.

A few weeks later, I had another appointment, I was panicky, I probably spent the whole month alternating between panic and sleep. Towards the end of the session, I asked for a diagnosis and got the B word applied. Bi-fucking-polar. I went home, sat on the couch and stared into space. Then I cried, those horrible, heaving sobs that hurt physically as well as emotionally. That was the start of my year of living bipolariously. It felt as though I sat in that couch for the rest of the year. The tale doesn’t have a happily ever after or an end. Well, it’ll end, but not yet. I’m not drawing any conclusions, apart from the fact that I hate this fucking disorder, there is no making friends with the fucker. So what’s next? Well, it’s time for another brain imaging journey.

Hypercortisolemia also has been shown to cause brain damage. This is seen in untreated or inadequately treated BD. It does not affect the brain globally. Rather it selectively damages parts of the frontal lobe (anterior cingulate) and the hippocampus. Both of these brain structures play a crucial role in regulating emotion. With significant and progressive damage, this leads to more severe BD symptoms. Also damage to the hippocampus can result in memory problems. Fortunately some bipolar medications can protect and help to repair some of this damage (especially in the hippocampus). The drugs that do this are: lithium, Tegretol, Depakote, Lamictal, and Seroquel. All of these drugs increase BDNF: a protective protein. source

It’ll be fine though.

Onwards.

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blahpolar

battlescarred, bright, bewildered, bent, blue & bipolar

35 thoughts on “my year of living bipolariously”

  1. glad you said it. i think there are alot of us out here who think it, but don’t say it. you are dead on-i will never be friends with bipolar, no matter how long i have it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ja… I feel that acceptance is necessary, but I’m never going to snuggle up to it and sing its praises for all the valuable lessons and so forth. If my shrink is right, I’ve had 39yrs of untreated bipolar, and life has been fucking tough and unsettled almost all the way through. I don’t dwell on that too much, but I just don’t see myself making friends. It’s more like the annoying neighbours that play their music too loud.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Fucking hell, lass! Pissed off? Too bloody right.

    I don’t remember my response to my diagnosis, but I was in psychiatric hospital for the 2nd time, and high as a kite being flown by an eagle.

    This, though: “At some point – and perhaps it’s now – I’ll be able to start trying to find the difference between bipolar and grief.”

    For me, it was about distinguishing between being happy, and being a kite flown by an eagle. Or being depressed, versus pissed off, or sad. I still struggle with it, but it has gotten better. Diagnosed nearly 10 years ago, so I’ve had time.

    Blessings and best wishes, especially with separating your diagnosis, from your grief. I do hope that now is the time. Take care.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks tons for your words and your solidarity. It’s good for me to barf out posts like this, I feel as though a wind has blown through my mind and swept all the leaves and pollution away. Thanks again.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have an attachment issue! I’d love to be detached from my bipolar! Am 4 weeks through cbt myself and its tough. But detaching anxiety and behaviour because of anxiety from bipolar and its symptoms is ….. ummmm …….. interesting….:)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Throughout it all you have managed to offer (us, the readers) education AND entertainment (you’re super witty & smart). Bipolar doesn’t own you. It’s a nightmare of a renter, one that you’d like to kick out of your building with a metal-pointed cowboy boot to the ass, but I’ve seen the party in you. Sometimes it’s a pity party, but we all have that. Might not seem so, but you’ve progressed a lot this past year. Happy Diagnorsary *hands you some good quality chocolate*

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Exactly! I wonder if my brain (and references/imagery) will grow as my kids grow or if I’ll be like Dr Seuss my whole life…enjoy the chocolate :)

        Liked by 1 person

  5. You’re obviously on the right track. It’s hard to have had such a rocky start, especially being undiagnosed. Acceptance is good,b ut let it be on your terms. It’s your life, your label, the rest is up to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What’s euthymia? This all sounds like it’s been a really crap year for you from a number of different directions! I didn’t know about the selective brain damage thing – explains why my emotions have been spiking for the last 8 months, I hope they get me some fucking meds while there’s enough of my brain left for it to make a difference. Does it grow back??? Can rapid cycling get booted into remission? I learn so much from your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d love to hear other people’s different explanations, but I looked this up somewhere on my own learning curve. Or more like, on my own little sine wave of emotions:

      euthymia is feeling basically like everyone else, kind of the normal phase of it, in math it would be y=0, more or less normal happy affect subject to normal life experience. hyperthymia is the high side, actually kind of awesome, y > 0, and dysthymia, the low side, or y < 0, sucks ass. and, f.y.i., those are exact, descriptive, clinical terms: "sucks," "ass."

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I see. But does hyperthymia mean “feeling emotions more strongly” or “feels emotions more like other people do” (what’s increasing on this hypothetical graph??) and does dysthymia mean “feels less emotions” or “feels emotions less like other people do” (because if hyperthymia is what BPD/bipolar mania feels like, I sputter and fail at the agitation and get trapped in it so think it’s just as shitty as dysthymia (if that’s depression/bipolar depression) or is it on a different axis entirely to the elevation/depression gradient? I wonder if a relationship could be derived… sorry I’m thinking about all this as I’m typing, it may not make any sense (to me either). It’s an interesting concept, I’d definitely like to hear more about this…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Here’s a simple illustration, it doesn’t answer your questions, but I’ll try to in its context.

          Euthymia is the baseline stable state, everybody’s moods fluctuate above and below that. Hyperthymia is on the same level as hypomania, but without the problems hypomania brings with it, it’s generally used to describe energetic etc personalities (neurotypical ones). The levels below it could also be labelled, from euthymia down, as disthymia, major depression and melancholic depression. Bipolar I, ii and unipolar depression can all reach the lowest level.

          Dunno if that’s helpful, hope so.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Yes, thank you, it was the hyperthymia vs hypomania thing I was confused on. I think I get it now – hypothymia is bouncy happy joy joy and hypomania is argh why do I have so much energy I want to bite my arm off and throw it at the whole world?? That kinda makes sense.

            Liked by 1 person

  7. Lithium REPAIRS memory? I would never ever have thought about that.
    My memory is shite and getting shitier, but I’m not so sure it’s a bad thing!!!
    Always good to read you, even though it’s echoes of you. Enough compliments now.

    Liked by 1 person

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