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.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Rollercoaster Ride Continues

Yeah, I know, long time no update. But I've got a fairly good excuse for this one. You see, I had me another one of those big badass depressions that was so soul-crushing I nearly bought myself a short stay in the wacky ward.

And worse yet, it was almost entirely avoidable.

As those of you who have read this blog know, I had reached a fairly stable place earlier this spring. Things were as "normal" as they can get for a bipolar: I was at work most of the time, I was taking care of myself and I was engaged with the world around me. I was at such a place where my psych doc recommended that I go off a couple of my medications: Seroquel (an anti-anxiety/anti-psychotic also used to quickly stabilize manic moods) and Lexapro (an anti-depressant).

Like most bipolars, mania is not my main problem-- depression is. Most of my episodes are very deep depressions, and my manias tend to be "hypomanias"; that is, relatively small, short-lived, and easy enough to recover from. Consequently, we decided to drop the Seroquel first and see what happened.

We stopped the nightly Seroquel dose, and everything went fine. In fact, it went very well. One of Seroquel's side effects is that is messes with the hunger receptors in your brain. It makes you feel hungry, even if your stomach is full, so a lot of people who take it tend to put on weight (in my case, about 40 lbs. over the course of 18 months-- which still isn't the worst weight gain I've had on psych drugs). After I went of the Seroquel, my apetite went down markedly at night. However, Seroquel also has a sedating effect, and I noticed that I had a harder time falling asleep at night. My bedtime moved from 10:00 p.m. to midnight-- or even later. I even blogged about it right about the time I went off the Seroquel.

Going off Lexapro was also fairly easy, for the most part. I got a little imbalanced immediately afterward with my lithium, but was able to bounce back relatively easily. For the next few weeks, things seemed to be going alright. As spring had finally vanquished another bone-chilling Minnesota winter, I also stopped using my lightbox, too (my cycles are seasonal, like a lot of other bipolars-- big surprise, right?). The only thing that changed a bit was my sleep cycle-- I started falling asleep later, and waking later-- but sleeping less. However, I was still able to get to work by 9:00 most mornings, so I didn't pay much attention to it, as I was still able to function fairly normally.

Unfortunately, things didn't stay this way for long.

Right around the second week in May, things started to change. My energy level started running lower. My mood shifted, ever so slightly. I began to feel a slight bit depressed, and didn't take care of myself as well as I had previously. I quit riding my bike, and only occassionally went for walks. I started to get paranoid about my friends, coworkers, and even my new girlfriend-- a sad side-effect of my depression. This paranoia fed my growing anxiety and led me to actions that I highly regret.

Things seemed to be getting a bit better by the end of May-- not completely better, but slowly improving. But then, catastrophe struck.

On the early morning of Thursday, June 4, somebody (or bodies) broke into my home and stole a couple of laptops (one of them belonging to my employer), my cheap stereo, and (saddest of all) a Fender Stratocaster guitar that I'd owned for 17 years, and one I had written, recorded and performed most of the couple dozen songs I've written. This same guitar had been my solace through many hard times and had saved my life. I had just recently spent a couple hundred bucks having it refurbished and rebuilt into my "dream guitar", and was hoping to use it with my band when we start gigging and recording again.

Needless to say, I felt violated in the worst way. The burglars had broken into the house some time between midnight (when I had gone to bed) and 3 a.m. (when I walked into my living room, and the lights were on, and the side window screen was off and had a hole cut in it). I called the cops right away and filed a police report with the responding officer, but I knew that it was highly unlikely I would ever seen any of my stuff again.

Even worse was the sense of violation I felt. Somebody had broken into my house. While I was home. Asleep. In my bed. By myself. I wouldn't compare what happened to me to rape, but I can imagine it was probably something similar on a much smaller scale. Either way, it has left me traumatized, and I have not been able to spend a night in my home since then.

Unfortunately the break-in fed my already existant paranoia and anxiety, leading to a lot of strain my my interpersonal relationships (one in particular). By the next day, I was staying with my mother, and I had completely crashed.

Thankfully, I had called my psychiatrist earlier that Friday, and had explained the situation. She put me back on 5mg of Lexapro a day (1/2 the dose I was taking) in the hopes of keeping things from getting worse. As things did not improve over the weekend, the doc increased this dosage back to 10mg, and prescribed the light box to give me an extra boost.

By Thursday (yesterday), I was feeling a bit better. Nowhere near to normal, mind you, but normal enough to do things besides lay on the couch all day and feel horrible. I know that it will probably be another week or two before I get close to normal, but even today I'm miles ahead of where I was on Monday.

My biggest regret about this whole episode is that it didn't have to happen. If I would have stayed on the Lexipro, it's unlikely I would have had this recent depressive episode. I've lost quite a bit because of it: a few weeks of work, the goodwill of some friends, and also the affection and companionship of somebody that I love-- which is what I regret most of all.

I'm not quite sure how to end this, as there's no moral to the story and not much of a lesson to be learned. I suppose if there is one, it's that you need to try everything in your power to stay well, but also know that sometimes things don't go as planned and that you have to be prepared to fall back on your emergency plan to get through.

Oh, there is this: treasure your friends, and your companions, and your lover, every moment you are with them. Because some day you may not have them around, and you will miss them dearly.