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Worth a Lily

Last week, I was sitting outside a bookstore drinking coffee with a friend, when the book “Buy Yourself the Fucking Lilies” by Tara Schuster caught my eye. I picked it up and can’t put it down. It is a beautifully written and brutally honest book about self care. I’ve been devouring self help books for many years, I started with Dyer, then Carnegie, Robbins, Tolle, Julia Cameron, etc.

I’ve found some wonderful rituals in this book (like buying lilies that make the whole place smell like heaven). Some things I’ve encountered before, but I didn’t feel ready/open to them. For example, I’ve been trying to do gratitude lists for years, and every time it feels like homework. Ugh. I also stopped doing morning pages (ala Julia Cameron), because they felt cumbersome and time consuming. For some reason the way Tara explained gratitude, helped me see the value of them. It is like tipping the scales in my brain from evil to good. “Always look on the bright side of life” – Monty Python crew.

My husband had heart surgery the day before yesterday. I sat in the car outside (because of COVID protocols) and journaled, when I felt like I was going to jump out of my skin (the surgery went a little long), I started writing a gratitude list and I didn’t stop until the surgeon called. I think I always thought they had to be momentous things, but I got down to things like the smell of a burnt match. So lovely.

OK, time to pull out the Bipolar card and dust it off. I haven’t written about it in quite a while. When I last wrote, I was reducing my lithium, because my Endocronoligist said my Calcium was too high. Stressors increased (shared global pandemic and staying in my home 24/7 for a year). Went back to my former dosage, and my calcium is fine now. It’s kind of a crap shoot. My brother said yesterday that my kidneys have survived longer than he expected. Leave it to family to always know the right thing to say. That was a concern when I started lithium at 16, and I’m now 45. I just keep getting all the tests done, and things have been going pretty well. My husband and I are vaccinated, which is a relief, except for the variants. At this point I’m just looking the other way like I do in Silent Hill (if I can’t see it I’m fine). We also take every precaution.

My main concern today, is that almost every time my husband is ill and I take care of him, we have a certain point where he has to slow me down. Like one time I was reality/delusion testing in World of Warcraft.

I took a clonazepam, because I can sense the need to reach out and connect with everyone. That is usually my first indicator that I’m pushing myself too hard and mania creeping up on me. I did talk to him about blogging again, because he is my touchstone in times like this. Like the rest of this blog, it is a place for me to share when I’m feeling closer to the edge. I read some of the other blogs, and I’m comforted and astounded at all of the beautiful bipolar family out there in the ether. I will continue to follow more. When I was diagnosed there was no internet, and this is an exciting place to find a community who are also “Touched with Fire” – Kay Redfield Jamison. She was my first introduction to a successul, brilliant bipolar woman. She gave me hope when I was young that I can live a wonderful life. I have a signed copy that my mother gave me after my diagnosis.

I will write more later, but the clonazepam and mindless show Shiprwrecked are starting to drain my brain for now.

Peace and love.

Keyed and Restraint

I’m still feeling pretty keyed today. I had dental work, so I’m now keyed and sore. Taking Advil and watching the Circle (guilty pleasure). Followed by bed.

I am limiting my interactions with people as much as possible. One clue to my manic ascent is that I want to be friends with everyone. I am reeling it in now; saying no to going out with friends, not pushing to make friends with strangers, and not reaching out to acquaintances.

Let’s Party!

“Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s Party!’”
— Robin Williams

The sun has been shining for days. This is a bit peculiar in this neck of the woods, so I have the windows open and will go outside for a walk this afternoon. Yet I will temper my hypomanic little self and not go for a walkabout.

Last night, I took a Seroquel to sleep heavy. I avoid this one as much as possible. This is my heavy hitter, my Harley’s Hammer to get some sound sleep. It puts me to sleep and keeps me there. However, waking up feels like fighting a battle against sleep (and walking around at night is bruisy).

For decades, I didn’t know there were medications that simmer me down (I think I’ve lamented this in a previous post). I knew that antidepressants could throw me for a loop and Lithium can stabilize, but not 100% (for me). So I played the game of wait for mania. Winning this game was often accompanied by an incredulous look from a doctor and some variation of the words “you must not be taking your lithium.”

When my husband gets sick (hospitalized/ED sick), I often push myself into exhaustion and out jumps my friend mania. I don’t blame her, I think she is there to help me eek out that extra energy I need. When I start to feel “keyed” or like I’m turned up to 11, I take a clonazepam and do something that will help me simmer down now; listen to music – super chill playlists, breathe, tapping and VR meditate (new additions to the repertoire), etc. I feel like a robot fighting to power itself down. Gentle huzzah, sometimes it works. I’m still in gently choppy waters. Breathe in four, hold four, out eight. Tomorrow is another day.

Kona Coffee and Hawaiian Music

Keep on keeping on

I have been at a decreased amount of lithium for almost two months. My sleep has been pretty solid. I went to a sleep doctor and got tested for apnea, just in case. Sleep is my greatest weapon against mania.

I’m still remembering my dreams, which is a treat (aside from one or two nightmares).

Next month I go back to endocrinology. Hopefully, my labs will look better.

My husband’s health has kept me busy. He had an a fib attack last month that had him admitted to the hospital, and they found other issues. I decided it’s time to seek out a therapist.

On my health front, I’ve lost 30 lbs this year by following the Mad TV diet – eat less move more. Simple? Yes. Easy? No.

Paying the Piper

I’ve been taking lithium since I was 16.  With only three manias under my belt, I feel that it has been a mostly successful treatment.  I was warned of the negative side effects, but they always felt small next to the possibility of losing touch with reality.   I’ve never noticed most them, because lithium has always been a part of my life (except toxicity – that is hell on earth).

When I turned forty, my specialists seemed to multiply like a wet gremlin.  This year, I started seeing an endocrinologist who is treating hypercalcemia and hyperparathyroidism that have sprung up over the last couple of years.  She suggested I stop taking lithium.  To hear someone casually suggest that made my heart drop to my stomach.  When I talked to my psychiatrist, we both agreed that decreasing would be a better first step than switching to a new drug.  Ugh.  The thought of switching scares me more than bathing in spiders; I still remember the pain of starting lithium.  He also mentioned that there is a journal that states that if you have been taking lithium for more than ten years, the calcium/parathyroid imbalances may be permanent.  So, yay, I could go through a painful switch for other side effects plus these.

He reduced my dose by 150mg the Monday before last.  That week I was terrified of every ounce of glee and not falling to sleep.  My husband watched me like a hawk, which always makes me feel loved but a little anxious.  Friday of that week, I dislocated my shoulder, probably Her way of getting my mind off of the lithium.  However, it messed with my sleep (the most important thing to someone with bipolar disorder).  Two nights in a row, I woke up wide awake at 1am or 2am in too much pain and too alert to go back to sleep (or was I manic?).  I once had a provider say one night is OK, two is cause for concern.  I sparingly took diclofenac, something my doctor warned me to not take for more than a week (ibuprofen and lithium are bad bedfellows, but let’s not think about kidneys right now).

The shoulder is back in place (ouch), and I’ve started PT.  The sleep has normalized, and my husband said that I’m more myself now.  We’ll see if the reduction of lithium helps reduce the endo issues in a few months.

The main thing that I have noticed, is that I’m dreaming again, well remembering them.  I haven’t remembered my dreams, steadily, since I was a teenager.  It is kind of amazing, except for the nightmares. Crossing my fingers for sweet dreams and steady sleeping.

 

Office Stigma

Two days in a row this week, I was emotionally rocked by stigma at work.

In a meeting, the word nutcase was casually used multiple times. I find some solace in the fact that my autocorrect couldn’t find that word.

Yesterday, a coworker made a joke in a hall about someone giving me a white coat. My other coworker/friend goes on to further explain that that sounds like a straight jacket. Ha ha ha thud. I have been restrained, and it was one of the most humiliating events of my life.

When this happens, I usually feel shell shocked. I’m too afraid to out myself and threaten my job, but I hope to get better about not rolling over. Maybe I can say that mental health disorders are not funny.

Online Therapy (cont.)

When I started online therapy, I was skeptical.  I think I’m always a little skeptical at the beginning of relationship with a therapist.    It was strange at first to text my therapist, but the anonymity gave me the freedom to really let loose.   When we started the cognitive behavioral therapy homework, something clicked.  I didn’t realize how how much I was soaking in negativity. I also forget how simple and effective CBT is to turn around my thinking. I haven’t used it since my mom died.

I also reconnected with my psychiatrist.  It is comforting to have someone in the wings who can help if/when things go south (or would mania be north?).  I was concerned about some of the drug advice from doctors (e.g., megadosing Advil).  He was helpful and gave me some advice about clonazepam.  Apparently, it is really bad to drink with it…  So, I’m no longer drinking on nights I take it for sleep.

The cat has decided to sit on my lap, end scene.

Online Therapy

I’ve succumbed to the allure of online therapy.  I’m nervous and excited for (another) anonymous outlet.  I appreciate this blog, because it helps me work through some of my bipolar issues, and I’ve received nothing but support from my fellow bloggers.  Doing this helped nudged me toward talking to someone and reestablishing contact with a psychiatrist for med management.

Thank you, interwebs.

Ups and Downs

Yesterday was a special day for my city.  Our light rail extended two more stops.  We are now minutes away from my alma mater and an amazing neighborhood that has felt closed off to us.  The energy on the train was electric, we’ve been waiting for many years for this.  Voting and waiting and delays.  The trip there was great.  We went and walked around the cherry blossoms at the university.  Surrounded by people celebrating the brief and beautiful gift of life that the blossoms represent.  All of a sudden, I felt frustrated and irritated.  It felt like a mini bipolar trip.  I’ve experienced this before, when I strive for a goal and reach it; what goes up must go down.  I started thinking about how long we’ve waited for this train. I remember being excited for this in high school, and I blinked and I’m forty.  I then thought about the Buddhist teachings to keep your mood steady during the ups and downs.  Maybe there is a lesson for me there, but it may take a few more runs to absorb it.

My husband and a friend of mine were talking about the changes yesterday, and my husband pulled out “Wear Sunscreen” by Baz Luhrmann for our friend who had not heard it.  That song always gives me a better mood/perspective.  I have always assumed it was Baz that gave the speech, so I googled it.  I had no idea that there was a urban myth that Kurt Vonnegut wrote it, but it was actually a Chicago Tribune article written by a woman named Mary Schmich.  I found her on Facebook and she has less than 2,000 followers.  This small revelation reminded me that, even at 40, I’m learning new things every day.  Facts that I learned in high school and college are actually changing as scientists make new discoveries.  Learning that neurologists are learning we can regrow gray matter blew my mind.  I it is an interesting time to be alive, as I write messages to the wind on an an internet that didn’t exist to me when I was in high school.  I’m listening to a playlist on Spotify of haunting, sad songs that I never would have heard in the day of cassettes and radio.  My favorite sad song “Breathe Me” by Sia is playing taking me back to the end of “Six Feet Under”.  It always brings a tear.  It is reminding me that I dreamt of my mother last night.  I was in a room where I had set all her clothes up in a closet like she was alive again.  I smelled her shirt, sad that her smell was disappearing.  (She died in 2010 – 23 years older than I am now.)

Feeling a mixture of happiness, sadness, and hope.  Also, a strong urge to exercise so I can drop some weight and live more of this adventure.

A GIF that captures some of this feeling:
https://media.giphy.com/media/l2R05moIruMJwWmBy/giphy.gif

Wear Sunscreen

Author: Mary Schmich (https://www.facebook.com/mary.schmich)

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’97
Wear sunscreen

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it
A long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists
Whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable
Than my own meandering experience, I will dispense this advice now

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth, oh, never mind
You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth
Until they’ve faded, but trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back
At photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now
How much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked
You are not as fat as you imagine

Don’t worry about the future
Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing Bubble gum
The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind
The kind that blindsides you at 4 p.m. On some idle Tuesday
Do one thing every day that scares you

Saying, don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts
Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours

Floss

Don’t waste your time on jealousy
Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind
The race is long and in the end, it’s only with yourself
Remember compliments you receive, forget the insults, if you succeed in doing this, tell me how
Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements

Stretch

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life.
The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives
Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t
Get plenty of calcium
Be kind to your knees
You’ll miss them when they’re gone

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t
Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t
Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the ‘Funky Chicken’
On your 75th wedding anniversary
Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much
Or berate yourself either
Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s

Enjoy your body, use it every way you can
Don’t be afraid of it or what other people think of it
It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own
Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your own living room
Read the directions even if you don’t follow them
Do not read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly

Brother and sister together we’ll make it through
Some day a spirit will take you and guide you there
I know you’ve been hurting but I’ve been waiting to be there for you
And I’ll be there just helping you out whenever I can

Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for good
Be nice to your siblings, they’re your best link to your past
And the people most likely to stick with you in the future

Understand that friends come and go
But a precious few, who should hold on

Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle
For as the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young
Live in New York City once but leave before it makes you hard
Live in northern California once but leave before it makes you soft

Travel

Accept certain inalienable truths
Prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too, will get old
And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young
Prices were reasonable, politicians were noble
And children respected their elders

Respect your elders

Don’t expect anyone else to support you
Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse
But you never know when either one might run out

Never mess too much with your hair
Or by the time you’re 40 it will look 85

Be careful whose advice you buy but be patient with those who supply it
Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past
From the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts
And recycling it for more than it’s worth

But trust me on the sunscreen

Brother and sister together we’ll make it through
Some day a spirit will take you and guide you there
I know you’ve been hurting but I’ve been waiting to be there for you
And I’ll be there just helping you out whenever I can

Everybody see it oh yeah yeah

Everybody see it oh yeah
He want you to feel good!

Read more: Baz Luhrmann – Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen) Lyrics | MetroLyrics