Call Me Crazy -Lifetime Movie to Fight Stigma

This trailer is for a movie that puts a dent in the stigma of mental illness. It covers stories of people with Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Schizophrenia and PTSD and gives hope. I highly recommend this for those with a diagnosis as well as loved ones.

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20 Myths about Bipolar Disorder

20 Myths about Bipolar Disorder.

Help end the stigma by passing this on!

I must give credit to  http://landoflenore.wordpress.com/ which is where I got this…

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Mood Disorders and Pregnancy – Great Resource

This is a website for any women who have a mood disorder and are or want to be pregnant. It includes research, articles and opinions about medications, hormones and pregnancy. There is even a registry for those pregnant and on meds to further their research. Being informed makes me feel more in control of my situation – I hope it helps you, too!

http://www.womensmentalhealth.org

 

 

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Bipolar and wanting to be pregnant

So, two months ago my husband and I decided that we are officially wanting to try to start a family. Our relationships is healthy (not perfect, but strong and supportive) and my mood has been stable. The first step is to address my medications. I was taking, at the time 200mg of Lamictal and 50mg of Seroquel XR. I started taking Lamictal in 2004 and increased the dose in 2006 during a severe bout of depression. I have been taking this medication for 9 years. So, given that it can cause cleft palate and lip when taken during the first trimester, I and my Psychiatrist decided to taper off. I started going down 25mg every 2 weeks and managed fine until around 75mg. Then the irritability and agitation kicked in. I insisted that it was minor and manageable. Then once I got down to 50mg I became hypomanic – trouble sleeping, wound up, obsessive, forgetting to eat, angry, crying and feeling out of control. My Psychiatrist is mainly concerned with my sleeping patterns as this seems to trigger mood episodes, so we added 50mg of regular Seroquel and I have been taking that for 2 weeks. It helps me sleep and has pulled me out of hypomania before but now I’m frozen at 50mg of Lamictal and still don’t feel like myself. 

I hate this. I hate it so much. I have wanted to be a mother my whole life and have done everything to set my life up so that I can be a good parent. I have fought so hard to not give up despite the hurdles this illness has posed for me but I am tired. I hate that this illness is the reason I am not yet a mother. I hate that I am the reason my husband, who is almost 40, has to wait longer to start a family. (He is so incredibly supportive despite this fact). I hate how long this is taking and what I have to feel and go through in order to have a healthy child. I hate the decisions I am having to make about medications and pregnancy. I hate that no one in my life understands or even believes me when I try to explain how hard it is. I hate it when people ask me when we plan to have a family. I want one now but can’t explain my situation to just anyone. I hate how unbalanced I feel and how it affects my daily life. I hate the number of pills I have to take throughout the day. I am afraid that I won’t be stable enough to have a baby. I am afraid that I will rob my husband and myself of that experience. I am afraid that I won’t feel like myself again. 

I am tired and afraid. And yet I go about my life as though I’m fine. I talk to my mom and husband about this, I go to therapy every week and see my Psychiatrist. But I am alone and afraid and try so hard to remain hopeful. I put on a brave and normal face for my clients and am proud that I am still able to be there for them. But it is hard and I am tired. I hope that the next month will bring more hope and stability for me. 

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Hypomania

So, being that this is my third post today I am going to talk about my hypomania.

This is new to me in recent years because I was not aware that my periods of agitation were part of a Bipolar spectrum rather than a depressive one. I had a severe bout of hypomania last year that was antidepressant induced. I believe I would have ended up fully manic and in the hospital had I not discontinued the medication and restarted Seroquel. (Note: I do not endorse any medication over another – everyone has different experiences, talk to your Psychiatrist). I was relatively stable in November, then in December had alternating irritability and anxiety, but this was minor and manageable. I started to taper off my Lamictal in November as well, as we hope to start a family soon. I have gone from 200 to 50 mg and continue to taper. For the past week I have been hyperaroused. This includes, decreased tolerance for pain (tooth sensitivity, bladder irritation, back pain, etc) that is not medically justified (I don’t have any cavities and my urine tox was negative). I fixate on things – clutter and messes drive me crazy and I will drop whatever I’m doing to fix it. I either flit from one thing to another without completing the task or I fixate on one thing for a long time (i.e. I’ve been on this blog for 1 1/2 hours and need to pee but am still typing). I am reactive and have poor motor control (running into things, dropping things). It is difficult to follow conversations at times, I sleep lightly (although still 7-8 hours a night – I usually sleep 9) and have almost no appetite.

I differentiate this from full mania as I am aware of my symptoms, I am able to work (although it takes much more energy and effort to focus and be organized). I am rational for the most part and active in treatment. It is easier for me to compartmentalize depressive symptoms than it is hypomania – and I don’t get the euphoria that is sometimes experienced.

What freaks me out the most is the thought “How far will it go this time?”. Will I need to increase my Seroquel? Will it just go away? Is it seasonal? I have been tapering off meds to prepare for pregnancy so the thought of needing to increase is frustrating.

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Homeschooling – Not a Cure-all

I am continuing my posts about my childhood anxiety and other symptoms, in my last post I ended with the fact that my parents decided to home school me. I was home schooled for 4th and 5th grade.

They cite several reasons for this – we lived in a town of 2,000 people and the school didn’t have many resources. Also, they felt I would do better in a gifted program but because of my anxiety, my test scores were too low. Then there was my anxiety and poor peer relationships at school. I also think my parent’s desire to “protect” me from the world outside of our safe and secure microcosm played a role in their decision.

I had friends. Some through church and some through my fiddling (we did live in the country, after all). I had very small-scale slumber parties (2-3 people max) and attended birthdays. We went to church activities and I was in Girl Scouts. We traveled all over Northern California to visit family and National Parks – I had a good childhood. But even during homeschooling my internal distress was overwhelming. I spend hours inside myself, daydreaming and imagining – I would pretend that I was a character in a book I was reading and leave the real world that was so anxiety provoking behind.

I could not make sense of the world because of how sheltered I was. I remember once my Dad (who, just to review is a Protestant Minister) was going to a Pro-Life Rally (this was probably around 1991) and explained to me what that meant. Being 9 years old I was appalled  at the idea of abortion and asked if I could go with him. I believe he actually took me, although I don’t remember that part. There was no pressure to agree with him or attend – it was what I felt I wanted to do. Morally, I was only exposed to conservative and religious views during my childhood. So thinking back to 3rd grade when my classmate’s teenage sister was having a baby, I felt panic because I didn’t understand how this was possible. I was always afraid to ask about these things. I got sex ed as everyone does in 4th grade. But I got the Christian version – the “God says don’t do it” Version. I had wonderful diagrams and details about getting my period and puberty but the sex part was glossed over and saved for later – for marriage. Again, hearing that a teenager was pregnant was upsetting and confusing and these conflicts did contribute to my anxiety.

When I was 9 I had one (female) friend over for a sleep over and we camped in a tent in the back yard. I asked her if she had ever kissed a boy and she said no. I don’t remember who suggested this but we ended up kissing. Awkwardly, of course because we were 9 but I felt so horribly guilty that I threw up (discretely in the bathroom) and was convinced that God hated me. I have never told anyone other than a therapist about this.

I was fortunate to have 2 parents who had flexible work schedules and were educated and able to teach me what I needed to learn and more. My Dad taught me on Wednesdays when my Mom taught her full day of classes at the local Junior College as well as some other mornings when she worked. I had an amazing education those 2 years – probably better than I would have had at school that included dissecting real farm animal organs in the back yard and classical music education. But I became more and more naive and introverted despite our social activities and had difficulty going back to public school.

The bad dreams and stomach aches went away after a year or two. But I don’t know if it was from being removed from a confusing world or if my symptoms simply morphed into other things. Maybe I was depressed or hypomanic and then the cycle ended. It all started again at age 13 – but that will be another post…

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Childhood Anxiety Continued

This is meant to be a continuation of my last post, which was quite a while ago… In my last post I talked about the unexplained anxiety and bad dreams I had as a child.

These symptoms continued through the 3rd grade and continued to worsen. I would at times be confident and excited about things and other times be terrified to the point of making myself ill. I remember in 2nd grade rehearsing for a Christmas play. Note that this was a Rehearsal and there was no audience or pressure. Before I even got onto the stage I felt this rush of panic. My heart was racing and pounding and the room got blurry. I realized I was going to throw up and raced out of the room and down the hall towards the bathroom. I didn’t make it and sprayed vomit through my fingers onto the hallway wall. I continued to run to the bathroom, although there was nothing left at that point. I remember my body was shaking as I looked into the mirror and saw vomit on  my eyelashes. This is a specific memory as I was not expecting this. I washed off my face and went to the nurse’s office where they called my mom and let me walk home. (This was in a rural area and we lived across the street). I was not sick and still have no idea what the exact trigger was. I was used to being in the front of church, singing and doing plays and other things. I played the fiddle and performed in competitions but there were these times when I just could not explain my physiological responses to stress.

When we would visit my Grandparents or they would visit us, I loved the visits – but when it was time to say goodbye, I would cry. I would cry for an hour heavily in a panic. I believed they they would die and I would never see them again. It was a horrifying thought and feeling to manage at such a young age – thoughts of death and loss. I imagine they disliked saying goodbye to me during that period of my life, it must have been quite uncomfortable to be around.

My anxiety bled into social relationships. If a peer talked to me in a rude way or teased me, I would burst into tears and have trouble calming down. I was a bright student, the second best in the class at times tables and excelled at reading. I often rushed through my work and had to do it over and got in trouble a lot for talking in class. I was not overly pressured about grades and enjoyed recess and playing outside. I just had this sporadic internal drive to be reactive or panic. My bad dreams and stomach aches continued and after a few pointless sessions with the school counselor, my parents decided to try homeschooling me.

Were these early signs of Bipolar Disorder? My Psychiatrist says that there is usually a family history of anxiety in Bipolar patients – which I definitely have.

Continued in further posts…

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