This Bipolar Life: The Lens

Clinical diagnoses are the lens through which we, as patients, are perceived.

We changed insurance companies. They didn’t cover my psychiatrist. So…new one. Guess what? Forty minutes into the new “relationship” I came away with two new diagnoses for major mental illnesses. ON TOP OF BIPOLAR. Because yeah, my previous two psychiatrists and my various therapists over the past 15 years somehow missed those two?

Anyway, I of course went directly into a tailspin until I was able to get to my therapist’s office the next day. He very carefully and repeatedly assured me that the psychiatrist was basically ill-informed and clearly had spent zero time with me. Definitely not enough to hand off these new diagnoses. He agreed I had PTSD, but we’d already talked about that before, so as an official diagnosis it shouldn’t have been hard to slap a label on me.

So, here’s the rub. I’ve gotten approval for a second opinion (because apparently the diagnoses from my last psychiatrists aren’t enough) but the diagnoses the doc placed on me – will never, ever, ever – be removed from my medical record. They are permanent. Accurate or not.

To understand the implications imagine I’ve gone into an ER for suicidal ideations and even, possibly, an attempt. Guess what? Now, rather than thinking it’s a chemical imbalance, they are ALSO going to consider these new diagnoses. This is not a good thing.

See, these diagnoses change treatment plans, they guide the next doctor who sees you. That impacts your success in treatment and that, my friends, influences the choices one has available to them when required to make one.

Wish me luck on the second opinion and thank the gods for my therapist.

This Bipolar Life: The Coin Toss

Making decisions is not my strength, yet. I’m working on it but the whole finality of the choices gets me. Like, what if I’m wrong? What if it goes sideways? What if? What if? What if? Increasingly I am also making sure to wonder if I’m right too and that’s helping!

Fortunately I have tools to use. I use techniques like remembering to go through pros/cons and asking those around me to help play out the scenario over coffee/zoom. Their feedback is invaluable as I don’t quite trust my gut just yet (another thing I’m working on) because although my mind is on point my brain chemicals can get whacky occasionally and cloud my ability to clearly see options.

Seriously though, I’m a grown-ass woman who often get’s stuck and can’t figure out what to watch on tv, which craft to pick up, which project to start, business to launch, relationships to end/start, meals to make, jobs to choose, careers, empty nest decoration…just all of it. Talk about ridiculous, right? Well I have a tool that works really well, here goes:

My solution – AND IT WORKS 100% FOR ME – has been to rely on a coin-toss. After becoming fully aware of my choices, benefits and consequences I figure out my top two options and throw a coin up. While it’s in the air I instinctively know which one I want. Heads or tails, each representing a commitment to seeing something through, and I know. Instantly. Before it hits the ground, which choice I want.

ALWAYS. Then, no matter how the coin lands, I’ve finally made my decision and I can move on.

Just one tool that works for me. Maybe you’ll find it helpful too!

This Bipolar Life: Violence of the Mind

Before I dive deep on this please know I am in a stable place. I would have to be to even write this. Please keep any comments kind and supportive as this is easily one of the most vulnerable posts for me since I’ve started years ago.

Ever see those “8 things a bipolar person doesn’t want to talk about”? Well today I’m doing a bit of a post about that from my perspective. I’m totally owning mine. One of the things “most people with bipolar never want to admit” is that we are more prone to having more physical, emotional and physical agitation than the general population. Trust me, mania (hypo- or otherwise) doesn’t always involve euphoria, major spending, and grandiose thoughts. Emotionally, mentally, verbally and yes, in some rare cases, even physical violence can happen. In fact the behaviors I list below are also considered manic.

Here are my eight:

  1. I have yelled to the point of rage
  2. I have demanded things be done on my schedule
  3. I have expected others to do exactly as I did
  4. I have enforced what later appear to be fairly draconian house rules
  5. I have slammed the door behind me countless times
  6. I have slammed things on the sofa more than once
  7. I’m sure I’ve thrown more than one tantrum in my time, yes, even as an adult.
  8. So much more here that I either a) don’t feel like owning yet or b) the list is too long

In fact, my bipolar runs a pretty wide gamut. Sometimes I want to buy everything and give it away to make people happy, at times I’ve been paranoid because I was making mountains out of molehills. However, my agitation-related emotions are far less known symptoms and often I don’t understand what’s going on myself (much less those around me) well before I’m dealing with the the damage left behind.

Sometimes the injuries to other people can be repaired and others, well other times relationships are lost. Big and little ones. Not always but frankly it’s not uncommon. Sadly, sometimes friends are just not able to withstand the vagaries of being friends with someone who lives with bipolar disorder.

So I decided to do something about it. I’ve been actively working on my own anger management for the past year and although I’m nowhere near perfect my internal reactions have reduced some. This gives me room to respond in a way much more respectful, both to the other person and to myself.

Remember folks: Respond rather than React. Harder than it seems but critical.

More (very helpful) info can be found at this 2017 MedLine article.

This Bipolar Life: The Dance

Better to dance with the devil you know than the one you don’t, right?

If I had known how things were going to turn out there are some choices I might make differently. What I’ve discovered though is that mistakes are lessons to learn. These might be painful to recall and process (with or without therapy) but the truth is just that. Facts can’t be discarded based on what I hope was different. What’s happened has done so and cannot be changed. However, improvement is always available and even a small step forward is sometimes the tiny bit of “oomph!” to give me what I need to keep going. 

I have chosen to see my bipolar disorder as something I treat and effectively work with while pursuing a successful career and relationships. To me it is a dance. One step forward and sometimes a step or two back, but always dancing forward regardless, just not always sure of the tempo.

It’s not something I would like to do and it’s cost me a metric ton of losses over the years but I’m getting better and managing the fancy footwork. Bipolar wants to twist my steps, pull me down or skyrocket me up and I refuse to let it, at least as much as is possible, because I want a stable life. As my therapist and psych dr. both say, I’m pretty stable and my bipolar is being treated successfully. Apparently this means I’m now strong enough to get my shit together, grow up, get a backbone where a wishbone once was and start contributing more intentionally and frequently.

I was resistant at first because I’ve been dancing with my demons for at least 15 years and didn’t think I would ever get out of my entrenched patterns. The truth is I still have a hard time and although I’m working diligently to improve it’s not always forward progress. Due to an excellent therapist and self-knowledge efforts, I know where I’m going but sometimes it feels like I’m just going ‘round and ‘round in circles, you know?

When someone brings a character or behavioral issue to me I try to keep an open mind and be receptive to respectful critique. That’s generally not what happens though. Usually I get immediately defensive and stand my ground regardless of whether I’m right. I tend to think whatever my opinion or version of something is the truth. I forget that my memory is not what I would like and sometimes (ok, lots of times) I need to be reminded to accurately recall something or realize I don’t truly “get it” and finally defer to other people’s memories. As I’m sure you can appreciate this is extremely frustrating, but it is a reality of my disorder.

I survive it. I will continue to do so. As above, it’s better to dance with the devil you know than the one you don’t. At this point I am intimately aware of all the ups and downs of bipolar and ready to two-step anytime. I’m the boss of my bipolar.

Marijuana and Bipolar Disorder

Hello my bipolar friends, followers, and fans. Today we’re going to talk about a controversial topic in the treatment of bipolar disorder: Marijuana aka Weed/Cannabis or CBD and its effect on the body and mind while dealing with the condition.

Fortunately for me I have been able to try several different kinds of variants and can now confidently make choices that I know will (or won’t) work for me. For example, my doctor prescribed it for me for treatment and I’ve learned how certain strains can impact my thoughts and body negatively as well as those that are positive. Sometimes I try a new one but when I do that I ALWAYS make sure I am not alone just in case I have a strong reaction, good or bad. I recommend anyone else trying a new strain do the same.

When I use anything with a Sativa strain I can get a bit more paranoid and panicky as well as start down the road to depression. Others, such as those with Indica strains work really well and help to calm down my manic moments. They relax my body and help redirect my thoughts toward positive memories and lift my spirits a little bit. Not enough to swing me into mania but enough to bring a smile, which, when I’m depressed are fairly rare.

CBD is a component of cannabis that can be extracted from the plant and used medicinally to treat pain as well as many other needs. It comes in many formats but most frequently in liquid or capsule form. It tends to work well for my headaches and I like it because it doesn’t cause it doesn’t alter your brain. It is truly just a medicine and although there is often minute amounts of THC (the “high” aspect of cannabis) in the CBD it’s so minor it doesn’t influence the mind at all for most people.

So, what’s worked (or not) for you?

Also, in case you’d like to learn more here is an article outlining in greater detail some of the risks, and there are real risks, and benefits of using cannabis for bipolar treatment:

https://www.healthline.com/health/bipolar-disorder/marijuana-and-bipolar

As always, if someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis please suggest they call the National Suicide Hotline at: 1-800-273-8255