First Hypomanic/Depressive Episode

Blue Houston
Photo credit: Thomas Hawk on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC

I moved to Houston, Texas a year after high school (I took a year off). I was going to be a music performance major, and I was thrilled to live in a different city, far away from my parents. For about 6 months, my boyfriend and I lived with his mother. Then he broke up with me.

His new girlfriend, I’d heard, was Filipino like me. I was devastated. And a little weirded out. I certainly wasn’t going to continue living with his family, even though I didn’t know how to look for an apartment.  So his mother (bless her) helped me find a nearby apartment, co-signed on the lease, and I moved out.

I had no furniture. No couch or futon to sit on, no bed to sleep on. I didn’t mind, though, because the place was mine. I spent an awful lot of time listening to Melissa Etheridge’s self-titled album. I played the song, “Similar Features,” over and over again so much, I thought the needle on the record player would be damaged from its constant use. And boy, did I ugly cry!

On campus I always ate alone, not that anyone ever invited me. I didn’t socialize with the other students in the percussion department. Most of them were older guys, or at least they seemed a lot older than my age, 19-20. I felt fear, fear, fear. I didn’t have any techniques for getting past the fear, so I turned to drugs and alcohol.

At the end of spring semester, a good friend moved back to Houston, where he was born. We got a place together. It was paaaaarty central. To me, anyway. My friend had a real job. Two of my co-workers unofficially lived with us. People were in and out of our place: my new, older (over 21) boyfriend; two couples who lived in our building.

This was, I believe, when I first experienced my first hypomanic episode. Life had become an all-day/all-night party. I hardly slept. Several months later, I went the other way. I felt suicidal for the first time in my life. I just felt awful, and I didn’t know why.

I talked to my parents over the phone, and I told them I wanted to kill myself. My mom said they would get me help back home. They came down to Houston and helped me move.

But I never got the help I needed until 1995. I don’t know why. Could be stigma in the Filipino-American community. Could be denial. Could be both.

Do you remember the circumstances surrounding you first manic episode? Or depressive episode?

Fingers Crossed That I Won’t Need ECT

fingers crossedI had an appointment with my psychiatrist today, which couldn’t come soon enough, even though it’s only been 4 weeks since my last appointment. I’ve been going through a severe depression for the past 3 weeks, right after the short hypomanic episode triggered by my misuse of my light box (I was supposed to start using it for 30 minutes, but I skipped right to an hour). Because of the hypomanic symptoms, and under doctor’s orders, I went a week or so without using it.

My mood slid smoothly from one pole to the other (hypomania to depression), so with my doctor’s permission, I began using the light box again for 30 minutes max per day. It hasn’t helped, but today we agreed that I’d start using it for up to 90 minutes a day. Still, I think I’ll work my way up from 30 minutes to 90.

The depression has been so severe that if I want to change out of my pajamas and into sweats and a t-shirt, my husband has to help me. I haven’t showered in a week (and for 2 weeks before that), and I can barely brush my teeth. Once, when I couldn’t stand the way my hair felt, my husband had to wash it for me in the sink because I couldn’t do it myself.

I’ve also had terrible insomnia, so not only do I have my depression lethargy, I’m even more tired from lack of sleep.¬†At least I’ve kept up my meditation practice and blogging daily.

I have no desire to go anywhere, but I did go to a hockey game, saw a friend’s acoustic show, and went to a coffee shop with my husband maybe twice, in the past month. A hat is good camouflage!

I’ve also made it to my weekly therapy and salon appointments (self-care, you know? ūüėČ ). I don’t particularly care about my appearance right now, but it’s nice to be pampered. Other than that, I haven’t left my house, not even to walk Rudy.

And that’s another thing. I’m experiencing hip pain, so it hurts to fu@king walk! I’ve been on 2 different anti-inflammatories that haven’t helped, and had an x-ray that looked normal except for a touch of tendinitis. I see my primary care physician for a follow-up in 2 days. It’s very painful to walk, even in my own home, so that hasn’t helped my depression.

So I described all of this to my psychiatrist, and after thinking for a few short moments, he was the conveyer of news I didn’t want to hear: he thinks the best course of treatment for my current episode is ECT. I was hoping not to have to go through that this winter, like I have for the past 4 years.

I’m taking high doses of 6 different medications for bipolar and anxiety, and he was hesitant to increase any. The good news is, there was one medication that he felt he could adjust, and that’s the Prozac. So starting tomorrow, I’ll be taking 40 mg instead of 20 mg. I’m hoping this will help.

He said we’d see how I feel in a week, and if my depression doesn’t improve, then it’s ECT for me. It’s my choice, of course, but if even my meds aren’t helping, and ECT is the only thing that helps (based on my history of ECT treatments), then I guess I’ll do it. (If you’d like to read what the procedure is like for me, check out this post.)

I don’t really want to do it, mainly because I hate going to the hospital so early in the morning; getting a nurse who may not be good with inserting needles — I’m a “hard stick” — very few discernible veins; the anesthesia. But I can’t stand living the way I have this past month. Fingers crossed that the Prozac helps.

Have you ever had ECT? Would you be willing to share your experience? You can always use the Contact form if you want to discuss it confidentially.

Post inspired by Daily Prompt: Conveyor

Photo credit: Pamela Machado on Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

“Rediscovery” by Barb Natividad

As I mentioned in my first post of the year, I may share some of my previously published (as opposed to works-in-progress) writing. There’s not a lot! Here’s the first one. It looks long because of the way WordPress formats lines/paragraphs. Please scroll slowly so you don’t accidentally skip any of the lines. Poetry is meant to be read aloud, but obviously this is up to you.

“Rediscovery” first appeared in Babaylan: An Anthology of Filipina and Filipina American Writers, co-edited by Nick Carb√≥ and Eileen Tabios, and published by Aunt Lute Books in 2000. Before this, I’d published some really bad poetry online, which you can probably find if you look hard enough! Lol!

I’m only posting the first half of the poem, because I’m unhappy with the second half, which I find tedious. I plan to cut the second half entirely, so I may need to change the poem’s title, and definitely edit the beginning of each stanza and play with the ending. If you want to read the entire thing, you can probably borrow the book from the library. So, here it is, as it appears in the book (which doesn’t include the image).


“Rediscovery” by Barb Natividad

Sometimes I miss blaring Blondie tunes after stepping out of

the shower, towel-drying my skin, blow-drying my hair,

absorbing the music through my pores, while applying

black liquid eyeliner along the folds of my eyelids,

followed by mascara swept across the lashes, blush

along the cheekbones, lip liner, devil-red lipstick, and

loose powder to hold my face in place.


Sometimes I miss rolling black fishnet stockings up, first one

leg, then the other, held in place by satin garters barely

concealed beneath a mini-dress, sometimes Spandex,

sometimes velvet, always tight, always black; and I

wore boots always, since the night some guy

approached me, said his wife liked my boots, and I

raised my left foot onto a ledge and ordered her to kiss

that boot — and she did.


Sometimes I miss dancing all alone in a go-go cage, apart

from the crowd, and a part of the crowd when suspended

from outside the cage, hanging from its bars, slipping

inside, slipping outside through the bars; and you could

feed the animal that I was, through the bars, feed me

anything from the bar.


Sometimes I miss downing one shot, then at least another of

some liquor, sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet, sickly

sweet, thickly burning down my throat, and washed

down with icy cold, or lukewarm flat beer backwash.


Sometimes I miss occupying the far-end restroom stall,

snorting coke up, first one nostril, then the other,

sometimes through a snipped-up straw, sometimes

through a rolled-up bill, crisply burning up my nose

til icy cold blue numbness filled my head.


Sometimes I miss surveying the scene, above all heads,

suspended in the go-go cage, gazing first at one face,

then another, searching for my night’s prize, whom I

would entice to drive me home, drive me all the way

home — even better if stolen from beneath some other

chick’s nose — doubly dared; and dared, those devils

chose temptation.

The narrator has a dominant¬†personality, and yet by dancing inside a cage, there’s a part of her that’s submissive, as well. Because of this, I feel that I’ve achieved balance in the poem.

In case you’re wondering, this is autobiographical and describes my lifestyle in my early 20s, pre-diagnosis, which you can read more about here. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this.

Did you lead a self-destructive lifestyle before you were diagnosed?

If you have any questions or thoughts regarding this poem, I’d love to hear them.

Photo credit: Bambi Chicque of BamPu Legacies on / CC BY-NC

“Another Kind of Madness” by Stephen P. Hinshaw

Another Kind of MadnessSpeaking of stigma, last summer I read a book (this isn’t a review) called Another Kind of Madness: A Journey Through the Stigma and Hope of Mental Illness by Stephen P. Hinshaw. It was the first book I’d ever read about the stigma towards mental illness, and is told through the author’s family experience.

Hinshaw’s father was in and out of mental hospitals beginning in the ’30s, and was misdiagnosed. It wasn’t until later (the ’60s, maybe — sorry — like I said, I read the book a while ago) that he was correctly diagnosed as having bipolar I. By then, Hinshaw was old enough to understand what his dad was going through, as well as the reason for his absences when the author was growing up.

In the past, mental patients were mistreated and abused in psych wards and mental hospitals. Most of you probably know that. Hinshaw’s father was no exception. He was beaten; put into insulin-induced coma therapy; received shock treatment (now known as ECT), which in the ’50s “was often used barbarically” (p. 84); among other things.

This book resonated with me for a couple of reasons. First, Hinshaw’s dad was an esteemed professor at The Ohio State University. That’s my grad school alma mater. After graduation, I, too, wanted to be a professor until the Breakdown kept me from pursuing that career. Second, because I’ve also had numerous ECT treatments, which are no longer barbaric, thankfully, and are now done with the patient’s consent.

Although there is still much stigma towards mental illness today, society has come a long way from the stigma experienced by the Hinshaw family in the mid-20th century.

Can you recommend any good books regarding mental health stigma?

Photo from

The Face of Depression & Insomnia

Daily Prompt: Study via The Daily Post

IMG_0588Study this pic. Not a pretty sight, is it? I took this selfie at 4:52 this morning, over an hour after I woke up and couldn’t sleep again. I even practiced good sleep hygiene by taking my meds and going to bed around 10:30 PM, so I slept for about 5 hours. To anyone who has suffered from insomnia, that number may be plenty. Recently, when I experienced hypomanic symptoms triggered by my light box, I slept for 5 hours total the entire weekend. (Hypo)mania does that to you, but according to the Mayo Clinic, so does depression, which I associate with the opposite — sleeping a lot.

I’ve felt depressed ever since I’ve “come down” from my short hypomanic episode — even more than I was before my psychiatrist suggested I use the light box.¬†It’s been so bad that I haven’t had the energy to shower in a week. That sounds disgusting, I know, but lethargy is not uncommon for people who are depressed. I changed clothes, though. Most days. Anyway, I only had to go out twice.

This morning, I couldn’t stand it anymore, but still couldn’t manage to get in the shower, what to me amounts to a monumental task right now, so my husband washed my hair in the sink. I at least found the energy to wash my privates. This blog is mainly about my experiences with bipolar, so I’m not hiding anything — the good, the bad, or the ugly. This is how it is for me.

I haven’t eaten breakfast in about 2 weeks. It seems like a waste of time, even though I know it isn’t. I almost always have yogurt, and lately, tearing the foil lid off the cup and mixing the fruit into the yogurt compartment is too much work. Is it any wonder that I can’t take a shower?

This past week, I contacted my psychiatrist about my mood, and asked about trying light therapy again. I noted that my husband didn’t think I should use the box at all because of the hypomania. The doctor agreed with him. However, I said that I’d prefer to elevate my mood without any dosage changes, so we compromised: if I still felt $hitty on Monday, I’d use the light box again, but only for 30 minutes a day, in the morning.¬†So I started again today.

What I have managed to do is maintain my meditation practice. According to my meditation app, I’ve meditated for 290 consecutive days as of today. Go, me! I’ve also been writing daily, for both my blog and my fiction writing. I didn’t write for an entire year in 2016 because of depression. That was before I started blogging, something that ¬†has helped me write regularly, even when I feel like $hit. So there are some good things happening, in spite of the depression.

Have you ever experienced insomnia? What was it like?

Do you lack energy when going through a depression?

What is “coming down” from (hypo)mania like for you?

RIP Dolores O’Riordan

Photo provided by author