Thursday, May 9, 2013

Hyperbole and a Half: Depression Part Two

I know I haven't updated this thing in a century or two, but I just had to share this.  This is EXACTLY what a major depressive episode feels like (or, doesn't feel like, when you're deep in it).  If you know somebody who suffers from depression or bipolar disorder, please read this.

Hyperbole and a Half: Depression Part Two

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Plan Ahead, or Abilify Is a Hell of a Drug

Author's note: sorry if this rambles, but it will get somewhere eventually...

For a change, I thought I'd post an update within 48 hours of a change in my situation/psychiatrist visit/end of the world/etc., while it's all still relatively fresh in my mind.

To recap: I'm rapid cycling. This was pretty much confirmed by my doc yesterday. The short definition of rapid cycling is three or more depressive or manic episodes in a 12-month period. Currently, that's definitely me.

As I mentioned in my last post, I was running a bit manic. I had tons of extra nervous energy. There were several days in a row where I walked 5-6 miles a day, and still had energy to burn-- definitely abnormal for me. And for the first time, ever, in my life, I was having hallucinations. Nothing major, mind you, but some minor annoyances that caused me some concern and made life awkward. I never heard voices, but was always hearing music-- bad music no less.

My doc took me off my last remaining anti-depressant medication back in October, (Lexapro, 5mg-- a very low dose), as anti-depressants often cause mania in bipolar patients. In fact, that's often how doctors (at least, good doctors) distinguish between bipolar and major depression, but more on that later. Within two weeks of going off the Lexapro, I noticed that things were moving, ever so slightly, downward. My energy was a bit lower, my concentration got worse, and I got more irritable than usual. I was sleeping 7-8 hours a night again. The audio hallucinations got fewer and farther between, and I noticed that my hearing was not nearly as acute as it was when I was manic. Back to "normal" then. Good enough.

But as usual, "normal" was entirely subjective, which is why it's one of those words that is always used in quotes with me. Very soon, there were less "normal" days, and more days where I didn't feel quite right. I quit walking after work, and I noticed that even the smallest noises in my condo bugged me-- especially the sounds of the upstairs neighbors walking across the hardwood floors in their shoes and the out-of-sync noise from the furnace, which sounded like a boom car on mescaline as it rattled throughout my condo.

I had this sneaking suspicion, given how my episodes wind out, that I'd be feeling about knee-high to a grasshopper around the end of Novembeter. I planned ahead, and asked for the week of Thanksgiving off from work. If I was sick during that time, I could at least work on getting well. If I wasn't, I'd have my first full week off in over five years. I even moved up my appointment with my psychiatrist for Monday the 23rd of November, just to be extra safe.

Needless to say, planning ahead has definitely paid off. This latest depressive episode, while still difficult and painful, has been one of the easiest I've had in several years. And being prepared ahead of time has made all the difference.

It's taken several years, but I think I've finally learned to listen to my body, and my mind. This time around, I recognized that I was running a bit manic: difficult tasks at work became "too easy" for me, as did making music. I had tons of nervous energy. I was easily distracted by small things. I kept my spending under control, for the most part, but I had urges to make large purchases (*cough* new Gretsch guitar *cough*). After so many episodes, I knew what my signs were-- and because I knew they were signs, I followed them.

And whatever goes up, must also come down. I knew that I was going up, even if it was fairly small when compared to other episodes. Consequently, I got ready for the inevitable crash. I talked to my doctor. I made appointments. I took time off work, and arranged to spend the week at my mother's house, because I didn't know if I'd be able to take care of myself when I crashed.

And it has paid off.

Yes, I am still pretty depressed right now. I can't get out of bed before 9:00 a.m., and am in bed well before 10:00 p.m. I feel lethargic, and it has taken me two attempts and five hours to write this blog entry. I haven't gotten any exercise in almost a week, and feel like I've got a hangover (which is probably due to the side effects of starting Abilify, more than anything). However, I am able to get out of bed each day, I am able to feed myself, I am able to leave the house and spend time among humanity (I'm in a coffee shop as I write this). So yeah, things kind of suck right now, but they are bearable.

The moral of the story? Hell if I know. But what I do know is this: us bipolars needs to pay attention to what our brains (and our bodies) are telling us-- much more so than normal folks who don't have to ride this roller coaster. We need to be ever vigilant of the signs that we're having an episode-- manic OR depressive. We need to be pro-active, hyper aware, almost to the point of being hypochondriacs (better safe than sorry when it comes to having an episode, I say. Besides, we're the ones that pay the doctors' salaries).

We may not have asked for this condition, but we can learn to live with it. And make no mistake, it's very hard work sometimes. Sadly, our brains do not speak English. But we can understand them, if we only pay very close attention.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Did you hear that?

Jeez, it's been awhile. I really better update this thing.

Long story short: things are mostly okay. Mostly. I think I may be rapid cycling (google "rapid cycling bipolar disorder" for the gory details), and am having a tough time getting completely stable-- whatever the hell that means. Currently, I think I'm in a manic/mixed state, as my moods are generally pretty good, and I sometimes have trouble sleeping. I am getting a ton of exercise (comparatively speaking), and am walking 3+ miles a day. My appetite is good (almost too good), and I am at work most days (even if I am a couple hours late once in a while). My boss says I'm doing okay at my job, and most of my customers seem happy. I've had a few bumps in the road, but nothing that couldn't be cleaned up easily.

In the past few weeks, I've started having minor hallucinations. Nothing too serious-- no voices telling me to kill myself or others. Just a lot of strange audio sensations: music, odd noises, things like that. During a walk a few weeks ago, I thought I saw somebody hiding in the bushes. I've also noticed my hearing is extremely acute-- I swear I can hear a gnat flapping its wings in Oregon. I've never had hallucinations before, even at my sickest, so it's a new sensation for me. My doc has done some minor adjustments of my meds and I'm waiting to see what happens (most med adjustments take 4-6 weeks to kick in).

In other news, my band is playing its first gig in over a dozen years tomorrow night, November 7. We will be playing at least three new songs I've written since June of this year. We've been practicing like mad for it, and I have to say we are sounding really good. We're expecting approximately 30 people, most of whom are close friends and/or relatives. I'm nervous, but I've also never been as prepared for a gig as I am for this one. I've managed to cover every detail, and make contingencies for things that may not go right the first time.

I don't know if things are good or bad right now. They just are. And I can't ask for much more than that.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I'm still me

I'm still me.

I may be having an episode of depression (or mania, or even a mixed state episode) right now, but I am still the same person you know. Sure, I may be feeling a little out of sorts, but I'm still the same quirky, cynical yet caring guy I've always been. I still like and dislike the same things. I still laugh at the same things, and I still cry at the same things too.

I am still the guy who would never, EVER hurt you. I am not a violent person. I've never been in a fight in my life, and I'm not going to start now. I would just as soon hurt myself as I would hurt you, or your friends, or your family.

I know I've been a bit paranoid and/or obsessive in the past few weeks. I know I've caused you some pain because of that. I am sorry. I don't mean to behave that way. It is a byproduct of the depression-- one I am working hard at controlling, and one that is getting better day by day.

You don't have to be afraid of me. I am not going to come after you. Nor should you be afraid for me, either. I have an excellent support system in place to deal with this kind of thing. Unfortunately, it's all part of the disease-- it's still possible to have the occasional episode even if I'm taking my medications. I've been through them many times before, and I've survived. I will survive this one, too-- I promise.

I know that I'm going to be back to normal soon. Every day is better than the last. My sleep patterns are back to normal. I'm asleep by 11, and awake by 6. My appetite is improving, and I'm eating a healthier diet (I've lost 20+ lbs so far). The brain fog is lifting, and my concentration is improving. I am working more hours every day, and I even finished writing a new song-- the first one I've completed in ten years.

I am starting to feel like the same person I was back in the spring, only better. I realize now that I was sliding into depression back then because of some med changes my doctor and I had made. Those changes were a mistake, but unfortunately psychiatry is not an exact science, and no medication combination works the same on every person. If I could undo that med change, I would, in a heartbeat, because I don't like going through this-- nor do I like putting you through this, either.

I know you were worried that, because of this episode, I am the same person you knew before. I wanted to tell you that I'm still me. I'm still the same person I was. Even when I'm having an episode, I'm still the same person on the inside.

This disease is a part of me, but it is not me.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

An update

Well, I was working on a cool piece about how bipolars experience emotions different from normal people, but unfortunately I can't seem to pull it together. I don't know if it's because my brain is done with thinking today (it tends to "wear out" early when I'm recovering from a depressive episode) or because I can't think of what to say, but I've put that one back on the shelf and thought I'd just give everyone a general update on how things are going.

I'm sitting in a neighborhood cafe as I write this, having completed another six-hour day at work. So far, that seems to be about all I can work at this time. I'm actually pretty well mentally exhausted after four hours of work, but I'm able to do busy work for the other two to make it a six-hour day. After work, I've taken to writing either music or lyrics (or blogging), depending on what my mood is. I have not done anything remotely creative in years, and I don't think I've actually finished a new song in a decade. Pretty sad for somebody who claims to be a singer/songwriter/musician, no?

But this week, I have completed two songs: one that I've been toiling over for a couple of years and another that just kind of fell together in a day. I've written a number of songs both ways before, and one way is not necessarily better than the other. And the results tend to be fairly mixed, as well. Tonight, my band is going to go through them, and put some arrangements with the words and chords. Again, this will also be the first time we've learned a new original in a decade.

Getting my creativity back has been a godsend. I have struggled for so long to create something new, something original (something GOOD) that it's almost a relief to be able to be able to do it.
However, at the same time, I know I have to be careful, because hightened creativity is also linked with hypomania-- and the last thing I need right now is a manic episode.

However, I don't see that happening this time. For one thing, I don't have any of my usual manic symptoms: alcohol craving, road rage, rapid speech, or racing thoughts. But I know that if I start experiencing ANY of these symptoms, I will call my doctor ASAP.

As is common with people taking lithium, I suffered from hypothyroidism. I've been working with an endocrinologist for the past few months to remedy the situation, and I'm happy to report that my latest TSH check came back normal. Yet more good news.

Right now, I'm going to work on being creative, and getting back my attention span. I feel like I have ADD, as I am still easily distractable and have a hard time concentrating on things for any lenght of time. For example, it's taken me over an hour to compose the few paragraphs in this post. Normally I'd have that done in no time.

Still, I am thankful that this most recent depressive episode was relatively short, and that my recovery is happening much faster than I had anticipated (or even dreamed of, for that matter). Hopefully things will continue in that direction.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Reeling (some new song lyrics)

Spinning through April
Reeling through May
Careening through June
Crashing every day

Spinning through today
Careening through the night
Reeling into tomorrow
Never know what's right

Monday, June 15, 2009

Three wicked mistresses

May Nia: She's got me wired.
Ann Xiety: She's got me worried.
Dee Pression: She just brings me down.