Monday, December 14, 2015

Drowning and Depression: How I Learned to Swim

 I never learned to swim.
When I was younger no one taught me how to swim and as I grew older the water was like an enemy to me.  The fear of drowning was real and I put that fear on the top of my list. It consumed my life.  I was afraid to let my children get near the water. There were stories of so many children drowning and if they were to fall into the water…who would save them?
Not me.
I never learned to swim.
I read somewhere that when you are drowning underwater a lack of oxygen to the brain can cause a sensation of darkness closing in from all sides. A person drowning is unable to shout, call for help or seek attention.
That was enough to leave me terrified.
Then I realized…I had been drowning for years.
I had been drowning in my own self pity, sorrow, dejection and fear. For years I suffered from depression in silence unable to shout, call for help or seek attention.
Do you want to know what it’s like to be depressed?
It’s just like drowning.
No, it does not mean you are sad sometimes or have the “blues”.
When you are depressed it consumes you. It interferes with everyday life and brings with it feelings of doom and hopelessness.
Everyone has ups and downs and may feel lost on some occasions but when you are stuck in that downswing and can’t get out of it for days, weeks months and, in my case, years then you are probably suffering from clinical depression.
Depression is as dangerous as drowning and keeping your head above water is the hardest thing when you feel like no one around you can save you.  When no one ever taught how to survive the madness.
For most of my life I suffered from depression. I felt like I was drowning every day as I walked, ate, went to school, talked to friends and interacted with my family.
A few years ago I was diagnosed with Bipolar II disorder.  After living with the disorder I realized that for me, depression was much worse than hypomania. Yes, I can make some bad decisions when I’m hypo-manic or when I let myself reach manic stage.
My triggers?
With me, depression can be triggered by anything that made me stand out or seem different. It was mainly when keeping up the fa├žade that I was a normal, happy healthy human being when I felt like any other than that.
My depression increased when I started to question my sexuality. I knew that I liked boys but on some level I knew that I like girls as well. It frightened me because I prided myself on being the model child. How could I be the model child when I was clearly going to hell? I kept my secret from everyone. When you are keeping a secret it like that life begins to feel lonely.
Those were the times in my life when I felt like I didn’t want to be on this earth any longer. Sometimes the pain would get so bad that in order to get rid to it I would take a razor blade and make small slices on my legs. There was so much hopelessness and pain that I constantly thought that my family would be better off without me.
My boyfriend (now my husband) didn’t understand what it meant to be depressed. He’s an ambitious man and seeing someone laying around all day or not accomplishing anything is tantamount to blasphemy.
“Why are you in pajamas all day? When I leave you’re in pajamas and when I come home you’re in pajamas,” he would complain.
How do you explain to someone that the thought of looking for an outfit and then putting on that outfit seems like torture? Everything seems like it is a life or death situation and those simple task like combing your hair, brushing your teeth, taking a shower, putting on regular clothes( and not pajamas) seemed like running three marathons in a row.
Through therapy I learned that just like no one taught me how to swim, no one taught me how to cope with bipolar disorder and my depression. There were things going on inside of me and I lacked the tools to work with them.
The only way to deal with something is to learn what it is about, what triggers it and the best ways to cope. For me, I try hard to focus on the positive. I take medications prescribed to me and I do yoga whenever I get a chance. I learned new ways to deal and interact with people and I learned to how to explain some of the issues that consume me.  It can be so lonely sometimes down there in the way bottom. The hole of depression can go very deep and the only way to climb out is with love and support from family and in some cases the proper medications.
Last summer, I did something I thought I would never do.
I learned how to swim.
It wasn’t pretty and I was learning at the same rate as my three year old but I went to the deep end and I swam. I lifted my face up to the sky with my body floating on top and I did the backstroke all the way from one end of the pool to the other.
I learned that nothing is impossible for me and I do not let depression run my life anymore. When depression comes around (as it always will) I don’t try to keep my head above water. I swim like my life depends on it.
Sometimes…it does.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Happy Holidays…Or Not

The holidays can bring out the best in people. More people are willing to give back to the needy, help their fellow man and become closer with their families.

For you it doesn’t feel the same. You see everyone smiling and happy. They are baking cookies and singing Christmas carols. While they are enjoying the holiday season you are struggling to just get out of bed and join the world in their holiday obsession.  You feel out of step and not in tune with others around you and that can be a lonely feeling.

I am here to tell you that you are not out of step with the world. You are 1 of millions of people all over the world that are suffering from Depression, Anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and Bipolar disorder.  There are things that you can do that can make your holidays happier.
These tips will take an effort to pull off and may be easier said than done but can help when you are feeling lonely, guilty and depressed.

      Do not try to please others.

·         When you are feeling sad and low do not try and force yourself to be happy just because you want to please those around you or to make them feel more comfortable. Be honest with those around you and let them know you are having a hard time.

2.      Stay away from large crowds…if you need to.

·         If get invited to a party and you know deep down you will not have a good time or it has the capacity to make you feel worse, don’t go. Plan something at your place or somewhere you feel comfortable. You will feel less alone and may have a good time.

3.      Do not do more than you can do.

·         Set reasonable expectations with dinners, gifts and events you plan. When you set your expectations too high and you are unable to fulfill them…you set yourself up for guilt and could deepen your depression. When the holidays come less is more.

4.      Do find time for yourself.

·         Make sure you find some time to be alone. Everyone needs a moment to breathe and when you suffer from a mental illness you probably need more time than most. I know that I do and I find time by sneaking off to the bathroom or hiding in a closet if I need too. Sometimes I make an excuse that I need to get something from the store and sit in the parking lot a few extra minutes. Do what you have to do to find that 10 minutes of alone time.
5.      Do cry when you need too.

·         Sometimes things can become so overwhelming that you feel the need to cry. Cry! Crying can be a way to refresh yourself. Don’t feel guilty and don’t feel like you have to hold it in.
6.      Give Back.

·         Giving back to others has a way to make you feel good even when you think that nothing else can. It relieves some of the guilt you may have for not being happy during the happiest time of the year. Volunteer at a shelter. Coordinate a collection of items you can donate.  Giving back to your community or others in need can help and those people who aren’t able to help themselves. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

MWB (Mothering while Bipolar): Episode 1

The Kids Are Alright

I miss the days when my mental breakdowns only affected one other person…my husband. When I get scary or freak out over something he can leave for while, go for a drive and come back with chocolate cake or a whopper from Burger King. Anything to keep me calm and my anxiety levels low.  
Now that I am a mother, I can no longer be selfish when depression and/or mania kicks in. There are tiny humans running around my house that need attention. They need to be fed and clothed and washed and fed and taken to the park and fed. It’s a wonder how any mother could put up with it let alone a mother with a serious mental illness.
That’s right. I have a mental illness and it makes me cringe just to say it. The words give me anxiety, which is ironic because my mental illness…no you get the point. I try very hard not to say “mental illness” around my kids. I tell myself they don’t truly understand what that means and it’s a burden that they are too young to handle. I come up with all kinds of excuses just to get to the real reason I won’t say that to them.
I’m ashamed. I feel guilty and ashamed. It’s my problem not theirs. I know they are good kids and despite having a wacko mom like me they are very good decent human beings. They love me even when I am clad only in pajamas depressed and unable to make it off the couch and shower that day. You know what they do? They make me sandwiches and watch TV all day with me. My youngest who is only 4 years old just sits on top of me and eats snacks while watching her favorite Disney channel show. Every commercial she checks to make sure I’m ok and continues with her snacks.
They especially love it when I am manic because I make up for all the time on the couch by taking them shopping and sewing them nice new pajamas. I sit and binge watch TV shows with my oldest daughter or watch D-rated scary movies on Netflix and laugh at the typical white blonde chick that always manages to trip and fall.

Yes, sometimes I miss the days when I just had my husband around and I didn’t have to burden my children with my overwhelming depression or my out of control hypomanic episodes. Then again, having them around makes the depression much more bearable and when hypomania kicks in well a 4 year old and a 7 year old can be the best company. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Unprotected Child : The dangerous divide between Adults and Our Children

A video began spreading on social media sites Monday afternoon of an incident that happened at Spring Valley High School in northeast Richland County. In the recording, a female student can be seen sitting in her chair in a classroom where several other students are present. An officer can be seen grabbing the student out of her desk, causing the chair to flip over. Once the student is on the ground, the officer can be seen grabbing the student and dragging her for several feet.
The video is disturbing and…No, it is more than disturbing. It is terrifying, unsettling, frightening and just fucked up.
There are so many things wrong with this video that shows, unfortunately where our society is right now. There is more than a race issue involved in that terrible video.

Are our children safe in school?

With my bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder, I get really anxious. One of the things that makes me very anxious is when my children are out of my protection. The most time they spend away from me is when they are in school. 
Recently there have been multiple school shootings at high schools and colleges and that frightens me. It leaves me afraid that the schools may not be equipped enough to protect my children. I try to have faith everyday that the schools my children are attending will be vigilant and ready to protect them.
The last thing you want is to believe that the actually Resource police officers, teachers or anyone

in the administration would harm your child. Now, my children are well behaved and have never had any disciplinary actions taken against them. However, if they happened to be defiant or when asked to leave a classroom or require disciplinary action taken against them, I had faith that the adults that surround them would be trained and would know how to de-escalate the situation. When I see videos like this I do not feel that my children are safe in school. It worries me and makes me understand why so many parents are now determined to home school their children.

Are we teaching children that violence is the answer?

According to Sutter Health Palo Alto Medical Foundation and Medline Plus, Demonstrating to through teens through words and action by adults can show teens that violence is never an acceptable way to approach any situation. That is the only way to produce healthy and level headed children that can learn to communicate their frustrations in other manners.
Parents are arrested and or reported if they are abusive or use corporal punishment on their children even if the child is out of hand or cannot be controlled.
If we tell parents that violence is not the answer how can we defend a resource officer in a school who attacks a defiant child with violence. I have seen comments on social media that the child “should have listened”, “Will learn next time not to fight back” or that “she got what she deserved”.
We are the adults! How can we treat our children that way and then wonder why they choose violence against each other? This treatment of our children should not be tolerated by any one especially adults and especially those that we believe are there to protect our children.
How can we teach our children that violence is not the answer when we as adults are using violence to control them? It shows that we are teaching our children one thing and showing them another. Children will do as they see us do and not what we say.

Are police trained enough to be around our children?

I truly believe it is obvious that the police in this country are not trained properly. I am sure there was a time in our history where police were trained and understood how to de-escalate a situation and handle things like adults. You would hope that someone that has the capacity to use deadly force on someone would know when to and not to use it.
Today, I believe that our police officers lack resources and therefore they are not training police. A trained police officer would have used force on a child as a last resort on a teenage girl in class in front of other students.  A trained office would not have approached a 12 year old boy and shot him without evaluating the situation. A trained officer would not have chased down an unarmed man and shot him in the back.
Police have so much to deal with on a daily basis. They are put into dangerous situations and training would allow them to feel confident and be able to handle situations without panicking and killing someone.
Force and Deadly force should be a last resort and we in this society need to help fund the police and other institutions so that they can train police so they can do what they are supposed to do…keep us and our children safe.

Is there a race element?

Of course, no matter the race of the child, what that officer did was inexcusable and to look at that video and say “we need to investigate what happened” and to assume the child provoked her own assault is appalling. However, people get offended when it is said that his reaction was partially based on the fact that the young woman was black. Can you blame a community that has experience
violence at the hand of police from the moment they stepped on the soil of this country to see a race element in this situation?
To add insult to injury I have seen numerous comments on social media that salutes the police officer for “taking her down humanely” or she was going to end up in jail anyway. Are we seen as less than human? Do we, including our children, deserve less than children of other races? I do believe that race played a part in this situation. Even if that was not what the officer intended…that has been the response since the video made its rounds.

The University of Berkley’s Website Greater Good: the Science of a Meaningful Life, says that “The term “empathy” is used to describe a wide range of experiences. Emotion researchers generally define empathy as the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling.”
It is in my opinion that a country that considers itself to be based on Christian beliefs and values (something I contest) lacks empathy and love for its fellow man.
In order for slavery to flourish the people had to believe that another human being was less than human and that rhetoric still flourish in the minds of so many in this country. We lack the ability to empathize with the plight of others.
A child’s brain doesn’t fully mature until the age of 25. They do not have the capacity to think like an adult when they are teenagers in school. Of course they will be defiant and act out. We have no clue what that child could have been going through in that moment. Any response of violence toward a child that is not posing a dangerous threat to the other students or is unarmed is ridiculous and reprehensible on every level. You should lose your job and never be allowed to work in a school again.
If you can see someone assault an unarmed child sitting at her desk and automatically think “there has to be more to the story” you need to look in the mirror and tell the person you see staring back at you to get their shit together.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Toxic People : When you let people bring you down.

Like a lot of people, I have focused more on my family and extended family more than I have focused on myself. Not only do I focus on my kids and my husband, but my siblings, my dad, my nieces and nephews.
It started when I was a child and was told on many occasions that I would grow up to be a snobby, disloyal person that would care more about taking my dog to the vet than attending a funeral of a family member. This was told to me from a young age from my mom and my siblings that I would basically become so successful that I would look down on people.
I spent most of my life trying to disprove this. I was always there when I was needed. I babysat when asked. When I went to college, I would come home for the summer to help my family. One summer I spent money I received from my internship buying my sister and her kids food and on gas driving them back and forth to school.
When my sisters needed money I tried my best to get the money. I wanted my family to be alright and I did what I could when I could.
On the flip side, I never felt there was anyone out there to help me. When I needed things or support I didn’t have it. It led to my depression and hopelessness. I looked in all the wrong places for that help. I took all the bad behavior and swallowed my pain to help them despite how it affected my health.
When I was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder and really understand what that meant, I realized that stress and not sleeping would only make things worse.  I have lots of family.  I have lots of blood relatives but the circle that surrounds me is very small.  I spend a lot of time blaming myself for that.  It was my social anxiety disorder that led me to distance myself from people and guard myself.  Maybe it was my fault that was not close with a lot of my family members.  I know that there are times I have backed off by choice.

Then something happened.  I became fed up. My older sister decided that despite all that I have done for her I was expendable. She lives in a world where she is a perfect mother and has her life together and anyone that says different is judgmental and trying to bring her down. Despite the fact that I took in her child and worked my butt off to make sure she had an amazing life. Despite the fact that I let her take advantage of me she still only cares about herself and no one else.
My brother spends his life using and abusing people and decided that I was expendable and threaten to come to California and beat me up. He called my kids ugly and that he was done with me all because his girlfriend at the time had money he wanted to exploit.
I was finally fed up with letting myself be used and abused. Words were expressed and I realized that my choice to distance myself from my family was for my own self preservation. 
When I was younger I had no choice but to subject myself to unjust treatment of certain people my life.  As an adult I had other responsibilities and obligations.  I felt cursed.  I felt cursed with empathy.  I have spent my life absorbing the emotions and the pain of others and it has ruled my life.

If I am to get better, I have to remove the toxic people from my life. No matter if the toxic behavior is coming from my family or from friends. I have three kids and a husband that need me and need my time. I love all my family but those that are trying to harm me or disrespect me and my family need to go.  

Friday, March 20, 2015

On Empty : When Bipolar leaves you with nothing.

There are days when I feel like I have nothing left.

When I feel that way I don’t have any energy, I don’t have any strength, I don’t have a will to be or do or become anything. I can’t shower, I can’t eat and I can’t be a functioning human being.
Recently I have had a few of those days. Grief, sadness and a feeling of worthlessness have plagued me. They have plagued me until I am so fatigued all I can do is stare at the wall.  It is hard to get away from those feelings sometimes. When you are bipolar, those feelings can creep up when you are depressed. 
I have been manic all week. Cleaning everything in sight. It felt good to make the house free of dirt, dust and cat fur. Yet when you are manic for so long…you pay for it. You pay deeply for the highs. I have Bipolar II, so the highs are not as high as when you have Bipolar I, but the lows are just as low if not lower.
It can be so lonely sometimes down here in the way bottom. My husband just lost his grandfather; I am still grieving over multiple losses in my family over a 5 year span. My best friend just had her second child today and I can’t be there to see her.
I feel so lonely. I see how people, when in this condition, fall to the deep end. Some drown and some are able to make it back to the top. They get back above water and learn how to swim. I have learned how to swim but lately I have been sinking and no amount of swimming gets me back to the top.
Depression gets worse when you think about people that are in far worse situations than you are and they you get survivor’s guilt. I have survivors guilt about my mom, who died from heart disease brought on by her excessive smoking. I always thought I should have worked harder to stop her from
smoking.  My uncle who OD’d makes me sad everyday and my cousin who at the young age of 31 died from complications from breast cancer.
 I just turned 31.
How could I feel such self pity when I am still here? I am still alive. Yet some days, I don’t feel alive. I feel like I just exist.
The thing is, I have three children to care about. I have a career to that needs my attention so I have to dig deep and pull out something. I’m on empty but I have so much on my plate that I have to dig, dig, and dig some more.

I can’t have nothing left. I have to find something. I have to get something from somewhere. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Depression and Laziness Are Not The Same Thing. Know The Difference

Before I was diagnosed with anything, I was living a life of misery, self pity, suicide, alienation, despair. I was always emotional and sensitive. I was the crier and the “angry one”.  People would ask me what was wrong with me and could not understand or would not believe me when I tried to tell them I didn’t understand what was going on myself.
Those moments when you bounce from happy to pissed to angry to depressed and back again in one day are exhausting and just as terrifying as an adult as they were when you were a child.
I knew that I made people angry and I would say things in those moments that I could never get back. I tried to talk myself down from those situations and turned to writing stories and poetry instead. That was a dark time in my life.
I am not saying that there were no good moments. I had a relatively happy childhood. Most of the time, the battle I was having was inside of me. I was making myself miserable.
In the last 12 years, I met the man of my dreams, married him, found my best friend for life in college, seen beautiful places, had three beautiful daughters, and accomplished my dream of publishing my first novel and then 4 more after that.
There have been so many good things happening to me, however, when you are depressed nothing else matters to you. Everything seems like it is a life or death situation and those simple task like combing your hair, brushing your teeth, taking a shower, putting on regular clothes and not pajamas seemed like running three marathons in a row.
Do you know what the worst thing you can say to a depressed person in this condition, in this mind frame, in this state?
“You’re just being lazy.”
My goodness. Those words can do so much damage.
Recently I had a discussion with my husband and I was telling him about how certain things made me feel and tried to get him to understand what it’s like to feel depressed and the difficulty all those mundane tasked seem to someone who is depressed.
I told him about my anxiety issues about being outside and how I feel contaminated if I am outside or in “nature” too long. I hate going to parks but I will suffer through it for my kids. If my kids are playing outside no matter how long, they must change immediately. I discussed with him the fact that because he is at work he doesn’t know that I change clothes at least three times a day and that when I wake up I change pajamas to lounge around in and then change into another pair to sleep in because I feel the others are contaminated.
After having this conversation he confesses something to me that I kinda knew anyway. He assumed that for years I was just lazy and lacked motivation to make something of myself. He felt that I was not living up to my potential because I was lazy.
I cannot begin to tell you how angry that makes me or how pissed off I was at that moment. This is ow he felt for 12 years?
 Though, he is not the only one in my life that felt or feels that way.
 My oldest daughter, when I explained to her about my social anxiety and how it keeps me sometimes from going places, asked me,
“Is that true or are you just too lazy to go?”
My entire life I have worked hard despite my depression and anxiety to graduate #5 in my class in high school, graduate college with a 3.5 GPA. I worked two jobs after college. I worked through college. I was married at 22 and planned and executed my own wedding.
While pregnant when I was 23, I moved with my husband, where we bought a house and I packed everything to move. Because we needed more money, I got another job that made more money with benefits. I adopted a child and gave birth to another. I worked the entire time with both of my pregnancies except for two weeks.
When my husband got a new job in California, I moved my husband, three kids and a cat across the country with as smooth of a tradition as I could. I have written and published 3 novels and 2 short story anthologies. I am also editing my 6th book in which I wrote in a month.
With all that being said, I am still a mom that cleans the house, does laundry, goes grocery shopping, keep the people and the cats in this house fed. I remember appointments for doctors, school events and dentists for everyone in the house (including the cats).

No I do not like going to parks. No I do not like being outside period. I’m terrified of everything except for domestic cats. My brain tells me when I go places alone that I will be raped or murdered or held in a dungeon. Yet I took a job as a health inspector where I had to face all that including going into strange people’s homes because my family needed me.
There were nights that I cried because I had to face that stuff the next day but I was there helping to provide for my kids.
I have been working constantly to improve myself and overcome my obstacles. I ran two 5k obstacle races because I wanted to face my anxiety and my fears so that I can be better and show my kids that staying active is a positive way to live.
It pisses me off to be called lazy.
I hate saying that I have a mental illness but the truth is this.
I have a mental illness that debilitates me sometimes but I received help so that I could be an even better and more efficient mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend and writer.
I am not fucking lazy. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Wrong Way: Mental Illnesses Are No Joke

I have been binge watching this show called Obsessed on Netflix. I was interested because it was a show about a powerful and debilitating mental illness called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. You probably know it better as OCD.
There are a lot of people out there saying, “I’m so OCD…” about this or that. If you want to know what OCD really is about you need to watch this show.
I learned so much about it after watching it. It is an extreme anxiety disorder that causes people to engage in rituals just to relieve the anxiety that they are feeling. I know that I was heading that way before I was diagnosed with Anxiety disorder and treated.
I watched an episode where a woman had to flick a light switch the perfect way or she thought her mother who was diagnosed with cancer would die and it would be her fault. Another man thought everything was contaminated and took about 8 showers a day to feel clean.
Their anxiety and OCD was taking control of them and their lives and they could no longer control it. Another woman had to work out all day long or she thought she would be fat. She spent no time with her kids or her husband. She also did not eat properly for the same reason.
OCD is a serious mental illness that should not be used unless you actually have OCD.
I hear the same thing when it comes to bipolar disorder. I hear so many people call someone bipolar because they have a bad temper or have mood swings. Bipolar or Bipolar II is so much more than that. It is also life threatening and a serious mental illness that can control your life if left untreated.
You have no idea what is like to live with these diseases and only a medical professional can diagnose someone with either.

I used to clean all day long or yell at my family about cleaning every inch of the house because I could not deal with a messy home. I could not sleep with a messy house. I would be up to 2 am cleaning grout on the tile floor because if I didn’t my anxiety would be through the roof. If I had not been treated for my anxiety, panic attacks and bipolar II, I would have drifted into the realm of OCD and it is not somewhere you want to go.

So please, don’t just throw those terms around. These are serious mental illnesses that need to be respected as such. Not every girl you see is “Bipolar…” just because she is nice and suddenly gets mad at you. Maybe you were being a jerk and pissed her off.
You are not “OCD” just because you like your bagel a certain way.

Just show some compassion and respect.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Social Anxiety and The Quest to be like everyone else

Close your eyes.

 Remember when you were that awkward teen and you worried what others thought of you. You wondered if they thought you were smart, funny, and cute. Did they like you or did they want you as a friend? Could they be a big part of your life? Do they want to be a part of your life? Do they like the way you dress, will they tease you or make fun of you. Do they see you as cool?
When we are younger it was common to deal with those fears when you are growing up and still finding yourself. You have all these questions and you want to know where you fit in.
Imagine that when you are an adult, you are still having those feelings. You have those feelings and they are more intense. You have friends and you hold back because you are afraid they will judge how you raise your kids, how well you clean your house. You wonder if they are judging you on what you feed your kids and how you live your life.
All these thoughts make you have massive anxiety and panic attacks.  That makes you feel like someone is squeezing all the air out of your chest. Your heart is beating faster and so your body kicks into flight or fight because it perceives a danger and you have to survive.
You decide that it is better to just stay away from people as best as you can.  You just want to be a hermit and refuse to go out and socialize. You leave the house only when you have to and when you have to you get so anxious that you start to feel sick. 
This is called Social Anxiety.
Social anxiety is a feeling of discomfort, fear, or worry that is centered on our interactions with other people and involves a concern with being judged negatively, evaluated, or looked down upon by others.
I suffer badly from Social Anxiety. I dread going out to hang out with people. If my calendar is empty I get so excited and relaxed. I hate to see items on my To-Do list. I will freak out up until the time is over. For the past three months I have been engrossed in deep painful anxiety and it has made me dread going anyway. 
You start to feel like no one understands how it feels to want to talk to someone about your issues and yet be too afraid to call or get in the car and drive over to their house 5 minutes away. 
People think you are lazy and just want to stay home and stay on the couch. Not true.  When I am smack dab in the middle of an event, my anxiety can go away. I sit back, have fun and chat and laugh at my companions for the evening. Yet inside I am freaking out and I always feel like “I just need to go home.” My brain tells me that over and over again.
When I move to new cities or go to new places, I am a hermit for weeks until I feel brave enough to go outside. Then I only go out to buy groceries and take the kids to school.
It is a terrible feeling and you have to take it day by day to get better.

I remember that I entered to run in an obstacle course and I had a panic attack. Fear gripped me and my brain perceived it as a life and death situation. So you tend to stay away from the things that make you that way. People are the main culprit.
Every day I try hard to engage with people and to be a part of the society around me. To not be afraid to talk to neighbors and to my daughters basketball game without having a panic attack.
I just try and take baby steps like…Taking the kids to a hockey game. I know they will have a lot of fun.

I’m terrified

Friday, January 9, 2015

My Bipolar II Symptoms : Paranoia

It’s a scary and miserable feeling to think that any second you’re going to die. I don’t mean that you are going to die eventually. No. I mean the feeling that someone or some thing is coming to get you…at any second.
You get a bad case of Hypochondria and you believe you have every disease imaginable.
“Mom, I think I have prostate cancer!”

That was me at 12. I knew I was going to die young. I couldn’t see myself growing old. Now until I had kids and I wanted to grow old for them.
When someone dies you feel like you’re next. What’s keeping you from being next? You’re afraid to sleep for fear you won’t wake up. Or maybe your kids will be next…or your husband. Someone could break in and steal your kids and when you wake up in the morning they will be gone.
You buy alarms and put them on all the doors and windows. Every little sound makes you wonder if this is your time to die. When your partner is out of town and you are alone with the kids, was someone watching you and knows you are alone and this is their opportunity to come in and kill you.
When your kids are away, you worry about their safety every second of the day. Are they being taken away from you at this moment?
You feel like you will be framed for murder or a crime. That you will touch something and they will find your fingerprints and even though you are not guilty they will lock you away for life and you will never see your loved ones again.
Life can be painful and miserable with all these thoughts running through your head. How do you live like that? Why would you want to lie like that? That is when the suicidal thoughts kick in. You feel like you want to kill yourself to make the pain go away or you want to go out on your own terms.
That is what runs through my head on a deadly basis. Without medication, I would still be depressed and irrational. Sometimes those feelings can still affect me but I have the tools now to work through. Yet, ever now and then I can’t sleep and those feelings cause my chest to get tight and I feel like someone is squeezing my lungs. 
Paranoia is a real part of my Bipolar II symptoms. Darkness follows me and I try constantly to run away. I have to get away from it. It makes it so hard to breathe sometimes.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Fantastic Four: My life and the medication that saved it.

There was a joyous time in my life where I took the occasional pill for headaches, prenatals when I was pregnant and sleeping pills for my insomnia. That time seems so long ago now. Once I was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder… that all changed.
I call them the Fantastic Four.
Yes the combination of Lexapro, Trileptal, Welbutrin and Ativan is the stuff of champions.  I can’t make it through a day without them. I know there are some of you that feel one should not be dependent on prescription pills to make it through the day.
That is what I believed at one time in my life. I tried just therapy first and we soon discovered that therapy just might not be enough…at least that is what they told me. I was skeptical. I didn’t want to take pills that would change me.

I saw a psychologist that informed me that I needed medication for my anxiety and depression. I filled the prescription but I cried when it was time to take them. My life revolves around my creativity and writing is a huge part of my life. I wondered how much would these pills change me? Maybe I needed to be a little crazy to do what I do? Would the characters that I write about talk to me anymore?
I have heard stories about people who take medication and become zombies. They lose themselves. They can longer do what they used to do. Artists in general. That terrified me.
I sat on the edge of my bed and I cried. My husband kneeled in front of me. He didn’t want to see me cry or have to take medication but he was there on the outside looking in and he knew how I struggled.
He was witness to me staying up to 4 in the morning and then getting up at 7:30am getting the kids ready for food. He witnessed me not wanting to leave the house because of my Social anxiety. He was there during my random crying fits and he was there when I wouldn’t shower for weeks because I was so depressed.
He did not want me to have to take medication…but he wanted me to get better and if these pills would do that then I at least needed to give them a try.
So I began two of the four and I began to feel better. Lexapro and Ativan helped me so much. Then we discovered other systems. Excessive shopping to the point where I was spending money we did not have and it was close to tearing me and my marriage apart. My irritability reached new levels and I couldn’t control it.
That is when I talked to my psychologist again and was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder II. Then I was given Trileptal and Welbutrin to focus and give me energy.
I have been on my medication for a couple of years now and I feel better than I have ever felt before.  My goodness, I wake up in a fairly decent mood. I don’t yell or feel irritated as much by life. I want to get off the couch in the morning. I shower regularly.  I write more. My creativity is still there and I even have more energy to complete a novel in a month.  Who I am has not changed.  I am just a better me. I’m not a zombie.
Everyone around me is happier because they don’t have to worry about me as much. As long as I take my medication I feel like I can live a normal life. I can take on the world.
I admit, there have been some side effects for me. Some medications have been adjusted to find the proper dosage that works better for me. But with all that said, the good feeling I feel every day makes it worth it. I weighed the pros and cons  and the cons come nowhere close to the good and amazing things the medication has done for me and for my life.
The reason why I wrote this post is to implore you. If you are taking meds and they are working, please don’t assume you just got better and the pills had nothing to do with it. If you want to get off your meds work with your doctor to wean you off slowly and safely. I care about you and I do not want you to just stop taking and spiral down into a worse place. Long term medication may not work for everyone but if you are on them please, please take them until your doctor says it is okay for you to get off them. Be Safe.