Showering Sugar Addict

Photo from Esperanza Magazine’s Facebook Page

Okay, I haven’t done very well in terms of my sugar addiction. I still eat candy every day, but at least I’ve cut down on the amount. I don’t think I’m going to be able to do this cold turkey, and have no idea how I did it last time. BUT, I’m not going to lecture myself about how I’m not trying hard enough. I’m not going to beat myself up, either.

On the other hand, I have good news: I showered yesterday and today for the first time in 2-1/2 weeks, and I’m so happy! My husband didn’t have to wash my hair, either, like he did during the “no shower” interims. I didn’t even have to push myself.

Getting up by 6:45 AM instead of 8:00 AM like I did before my recent hypomanic episode, helps. During the depressive episode, I didn’t have the energy or will to shower. The lethargy was like a heavy blanket covering me. I always felt behind on my morning routine, so in my head, it was too late in the day to shower. Besides, I had other things to do, like read blogs and write a post! Depressed or not, I’m determined to write daily.

Also, for the past few nights in a row, I’ve slept through the night. My sleep hygiene still needs improvement, but I hope this continues, despite using the light box for 1 hour and 15 minutes daily. I took my psychiatrist’s advice and increased the amount of time I use it by 15 minutes each week. Though I’ve used light therapy for years, I was never really sure if it worked for me, but now I know it does. Between my “happy light” and the increased dose of Prozac, things are turning around.

We’ve had a ton of snow in Chicago the past several days, and although it’s been mostly gray, it’s lighter out for a longer period of time. I think this is helping, too.

I’m still going to make my decision after this weekend as to whether or not I’ll undergo ECT, but signs point to no!

Has it been light out for a little longer where you live? Have you noticed any changes in your mood?

via Daily Prompt: Lecture

Therapist #s 1 – 4

mental health binders
Photo credit: Baha’i Views / Flitzy Phoebie on Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-ND

Not counting Psychiatrist #s 1 & 2, I’ve had 4 therapists in the last 24 years. Psychiatrist #2 kept telling me to enroll into a rehab program, even though I’m not an addict — however, I did abuse and self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, pre-diagnosis — so I finally went just to shut her up!

It’s a good thing I did because that’s where I met Therapist #1, who is my current therapist. I started seeing her in 1994, when I was 25, so she’s practically seen me grow up! Except for the 4 years that I saw other therapists, she’s been a part of my life for almost half of it! That’s how much we connect.

In 1999, I moved to Ohio from Illinois for school, so I had to stop seeing Therapist #1. The university offers student behavioral health services, and I was assigned to Therapist #2. Luckily, we hit it off. She even introduced me to a professor who is also bipolar, and who would meet me for coffee just to talk.

Of course I preferred my regular therapist, who continued to see me when I was home on school breaks. I only saw Therapist #2 for 2 years — until I moved back home and saw Therapist #1 again.

At one point, Therapist #1 switched careers to become a high school guidance counselor. I began seeing Therapist #3. She was really weird. Her practice was located in a suite that had 3 offices and a waiting area. There was also a bathroom.

This woman would not allow clients to use that bathroom. That would’ve been fine if the public restrooms were clean. They weren’t. They literally smelled like a sewer.

But it wasn’t just that. She didn’t have the warm and friendly demeanor that Therapist #s 1 & 2 had. She was all business. She gave me a book to read, called Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns, MD.

Now. This particular book has evidently helped many people, but it didn’t work for me. One part of it tells you to get rid of black-and-white thinking, and yet the book itself was black-and-white. For example, Burns kept saying that if you didn’t do the prescribed exercises or whatever, then you’re not ready to get better.

But that wasn’t true — of course I was ready to get better! I just found some of the exercises overwhelming. As I continued reading, instead of helping, the book made me feel guilty and confused, like maybe I didn’t want to get better.

By that point in my recovery, I knew I didn’t have to stay with Therapist #3, that I could have found a therapist I actually liked. But I didn’t look for someone else. I think part of it was that her office had a parking lot (depending on the neighborhood, street parking in Chicago can be a nightmare), and it was close to home. I may have been going through an anxiety phase about driving then, and her office was easy to drive to. About 2 years later, Therapist #1 decided to practice again! Yay!

I recommenced seeing Therapist #1. She moved offices at one point, and was often late to my appointments. As in, she hadn’t even arrived by the time I had. She let me bring my dog to therapy, but if she wasn’t there yet, Rudy and I would sit on the floor in the narrow corridor waiting for her. Awkward.

So I switched therapists without telling her why. I saw Therapist #4 just once, because I found the courage to tell Therapist #1 that her tardiness bothered me, and waiting in the hallway made me anxious. It was a good thing that I did, because we worked things out, and now she’s always there when I arrive. It was a good lesson — I learned that I could talk to her about anything, even our therapeutic relationship. And I continued seeing her again, and still do.

I’ve also learned that it’s important to have a therapist who’s a good fit. Otherwise, it’s pointless to even go. I did exactly that for the 2 years I saw Therapist #3, and therapy didn’t help me at all — and I even knew I could have switched therapists!

It wasn’t totally pointless though, because years later, I learned that you should be able to speak to your therapist if there’s any part of your therapy you’re unhappy with. If Therapist #1 had reacted defensively when I brought up her tardiness, I definitely would have found someone else. But thank goodness she was cool, because Therapist #1 remains number one in my book!

Do you click with your therapist, or did you have to visit several to find one you liked?

via Daily Prompt: Enroll

Mental Health & Essential Oils

7279011674_52bc635f48_zAbout a year ago, an acquaintance told me that essential oils, which I’ve heard a lot about because aromatherapy seems trendy, can help improve depression in a natural way. If there was an inkling that it would work, I was willing to try almost anything to lift my mood to baseline.

So in March 2017, I bought bottles of Bergamot and Lavender oils from an Aveda salon, because the former is supposed to help with depression. It has relaxing qualities that relieves tension, and therefore, reduces depression. The latter has calming effects that soothe anxiety. I have no idea how this works.

A few drops of oil are mixed with water in a diffuser (which is kind of like a humidifier) that disperses the scent throughout the room in which the diffuser is placed. Or you can place a drop or two in a diffuser necklace or bracelet to carry the scent with you wherever you go. However, Bergamot is toxic to cats (I can’t find a link, but it affects their liver somehow), of which we have 2, so I simply inhale the scent directly from the bottle, which you can do with some oils, in the morning.

Lavender, on the other hand, is safe for dogs and cats. In fact, some animal clinics use it in their waiting room to help calm their patients. So I used that in the diffuser. Rudy didn’t seem to like the scent because he’d leave the living room whenever the diffuser was running. The cats rarely leave the bedroom unless it’s mealtime, so I don’t know that it affected them. I’m not sure it calmed Rudy. It certainly had no effect on me, so that was a bust.

I’ve been inhaling Bergamot since last March. It has a nice, citrus scent that gives me a short energy boost despite it being touted as a relaxant. Has it improved my depression? No.

Some people swear by essential oils, and I’m not knocking them. But my own experience with aromatherapy was a big fail.

Do you use essential oils? Do they work for you?

via Daily Prompt: Inkling

Photo credit: Kazuhiro Keino on Visual Hunt / CC BY

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

Marriage, Mental Illness & Blowups

Daily Prompt: Entertain via The Daily Post

5580809734_657f1a0622_zFrom Facebook’s On This Day Feature:

January 13, 2012
Near the end of our lunch time phone call.
Me: Are you mad?
My husband: No, it’s just, sometimes I feel like you don’t listen to me.
Me: Well…sometimes I don’t.

My husband and I met in grad school in the fall of 1999. We began dating that November, and one of the first things I told him is that I’m bipolar. I was stable when I started school, but once winter hit, I became depressed, which was no surprise, as that’s a tough season for me. (It also could have been “grad school depression”.) I wasn’t expecting the episode. My husband (then-boyfriend) was supportive.

We moved to Chicago in 2001, after he graduated. I had a year left to complete my thesis (I had finished my coursework), which I could do from home. Our first few years were rocky because we didn’t have much money; my husband just started a job with a stressful commute to the suburbs; and I was experiencing the highs and lows of bipolar, despite being in treatment.

My antics, mainly hurling accusations, were difficult for him to deal with. When we fought, I’d entertain the idea of self-harm as a way of coping (inappropriately), and often went through with it. This was difficult for him, as well.

At one point, I was hospitalized, though I can’t remember what for. After I was discharged, I ended up in a partial hospitalization program (PHP) at a hospital near my husband’s office, rather than in the city, where we lived. This was because left to my own devices, I probably wouldn’t have gone. So I had to drive to the suburbs with my husband every morning to go to PHP. The fights continued.

A non-profit organization called National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI, who did not ask me to mention them) in the US offers a free workshop for family members and friends of someone who has a mental illness. It’s called NAMI Family-to-Family. Around the time I finished PHP, my husband attended the workshop, and gained a deep understanding of what I was going through.

But I continually picked fights. Everything was his fault. My moods were his fault. That I couldn’t sleep was his fault. That I could no longer work (teaching) was his fault. You name it. Unfortunately, he would engage in my accusations, and my unfounded arguments would escalate into blowups. He would shut himself in the bedroom or hang up on me when I called him at work. His reactions made me angrier.

We didn’t want to split up, so we went to couples counseling. There, we learned how to use “I” language instead of “you” language. “I” language is used when there’s a conflict, and doesn’t put the other person on the defensive. “You” language is basically pointing your finger at the other person using words. Learning this and other communication techniques didn’t happen overnight, and we were in counseling for many years. I learned (and continue to learn) how to listen. We also both matured; and in individual therapy, I learned how to accept responsibility for my actions and my moods. I’m still learning.

I’m better at identifying my moods, and not blaming them on my husband. Instead, I tell him how I feel, and that the particular mood may cause me to become argumentative. We don’t have knock-down, drag-out fights anymore, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have disagreements. We discuss them calmly, and rarely do they escalate. No shouting. No doors slamming. No blowups.

I was afraid that when I told my husband that I’m bipolar, that he would dump me. Instead, he stuck by me for 18 years and counting, through all the ups and downs, highs and lows. Ours is the first stable relationship I’ve ever had. It isn’t perfect — do those even exist? — but couples counseling saved us. He is my rock. (To my husband: I love you.)

Have you been in a romantic relationship with someone who’s mentally ill? What was it like? If you have a mental illness, what have your relationships been like, or do you avoid them altogether?

Photo by PoppetCloset on / CC BY-NC-ND