The Devil’s Artwork

I never expected to be chronically ill this early in life. I still have school age children, active in sports and many other things.

I have a vibrant marriage, filled love and friendship like no other. I want or need for nothing. Except good health. 

I’m in physical pain almost daily. The days I feel well are refreshing and freeing. They jump out at me and grab my attention like a fierce hug from a long lost friend, because they are so few and far between. 

I remind myself that I am not the only one in this world with pain, in pain. I’m in far less than many. More than others.

Comparing is a fool’s game, however.  I must give myself the dignity to validate my own experience regardless of its relevance to anyone else’s. I have to allow myself this selfishness. This self – love.  

Sometimes it turns into self pity and anger, and I want to pound my fist into the ground until my knuckles are dust mixed with blood and bone.

Or I want to slice my throat just to get the long, drawn out, inevitable process the fuck over with already!

But, I don’t, and I won’t.  It’s not for me to do to my family. To my children. To their minds.

I go to each doctor’s appointment, and I take their advice.  I do what I am told and I stay the same or get worse and then maybe better, and then back again. A pendulum that always comes to rest back at center.

Chronic illness is the devil’s artwork tattooed on my cells. My organs scream for the touch of God. Will I ever see His face?

Me, the Bee, and the Art of Compromise

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I called the migraine doctor this week and come to find out that the doubled dosage I am on is NOT supposed to be helping my migraines yet, because he is still slowly titrating me up to a therapeutic dose.  Wow, I totally missed that supposed part of the conversation we had during our visit back in August.  Glad I didn’t keep waiting to see if the dose I was on would start working like I was considering doing.

On the up side, I have much hope again that soon I will be migraine-free or at least be suffering significantly less.  I have to stay on this new dose for four weeks before I can go up to the minimum therapeutic dose, and then we can still bump it up from there if need be.

I’ve been having these migraines for almost six years now and they have really ingrained a lot of fear in my life.  I’m afraid to do too much because stress is the biggest trigger for them.  I am also afraid to do too much because that triggers my anxiety.  My anxiety and migraines feed off of one another and sometimes I feel like they are the wardens of a prison I am living in.

There is a commercial I have seen on T.V. a few times that talks about the people who “have things” and the people who “do things.”  They show those who have things in these extravagant homes lying around by the pool, but bored out of their minds.  Then they show the “doers” having all types of adventures like water skiing, hiking, dancing, zip lining, winning at the casino, and having the time of their lives.  The advertiser obviously assumes that everyone would rather be a “doer,” but not me.

Because of the fear my anxiety and migraines create, I would rather be in the group that has things.  I would rather being at home where it is safe and quiet and familiar.  However, I do think my life would be more fulfilling and satisfying if I got out a bit more and took a few chances.  So, this week I went to a park by myself to do some mindfulness meditation like I talked about in a recent post.

I couldn’t bring myself to get out of the safety of my car, but I was glad to be out of the house and doing something new and different for a change.  I kept the doors locked and the windows just cracked because I am paranoid about people assaulting me or opening the door and stealing my purse or something crazy like that even though I was in a very safe area next to a police station even!  However, it was a beautiful day out and I kept thinking about how nice it would be and how much more I would be able to enjoy the sounds if I would just roll my windows down.

So, I faced my fears and put them down, the whole way.  Not even one minute later a bee started hovering outside of the passenger side window.  I quickly roll them back up and started laughing out loud, I’m sure looking silly to anyone who might have seen me.

Thinking of taking chances and being adventurous, I tried talking myself into rolling the windows back down and taking my chances with the bee.  What is the worst thing that can happen, I thought.  I get stung?  So what?  Then the catastrophizing started: What if I’ve developed a bee allergy in my adulthood and I get stung and go into anaphylactic shock right here in my car and die alone in this park?

anxiety-girl

That decided it.  The windows stayed up.  I finished my meditation, then the bee and I went our separate ways.

Anyone without a mental illness can see by reading this, the mental struggle someone with an anxiety disorder goes through just to do something as simple as go to the park.  I had to talk myself into going, but kept myself locked in the car.  I talked myself into rolling down the windows, but quickly rolled them back up.  Simple tasks are not so simple when you have mental illness.

Overall, I am glad I went.  Going, but not getting out of the car, was a good compromise for me.  I try to do that when I am having trouble doing something because of my mental illnesses – compromise.  It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.  Balance is success.

Bipolar Moods Forever Changing

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A week ago I was hypomanic.  This week I am not.  I am not depressed either so yay for me.  Last week’s hypomania ended with migraines three days in a row.  After coming down from the agony of those and the depression the medication causes, along with the anxiety of my daughter’s homecoming-week events and a family get-together on Sunday, I spent Monday and Tuesday recuperating, had a horrible day yesterday (Wednesday) because I was in super-duper pain from doing aerobics for the first time in years on Tuesday plus I had another damn migraine.  Then something strange happened last night…

My migraine went away with just ibuprofen, which never happens.  (I always have to take an Imitrex for it, but I tried the ibuprofen instead because I needed it for my sore muscles.)  That wasn’t the strange part, however.

The strange part was when I took my daughter to volleyball practice.  It only lasts an hour so I stay there rather than drop her off and go home and come back.  Last night, I didn’t feel like sitting in the cold building on a hard chair and risk having to talk to anyone, so I stayed in my car, but rather than read the book I brought or mess around on my phone I relaxed back in my seat with my sunglasses on and lazily watched and listened to everything going on around me: people going in and out of the building, cars driving up and down the parking lot aisle, country music coming out of a truck that had its window down, a horn honking in the distance, a lady freshening her make-up in the visor mirror before getting out of her car.

I was very careful not to attach a story to any of these people or judge them in any way.  I only observed the facts like I just described them to you.  I did this for thirty full minutes before I started to become bored and lose focus, but let me tell you, I felt more relaxed than I have in ages.  I was almost anxiety free!

It was the best mindfulness meditation I have ever experienced.  In observing what was happening around and in front of me (without subjective thoughts, opinions, stories, judgements, etc.) I was able to eliminate any thoughts of “me” – what was going on with me, my worries, my mood, my feelings, my past, my future, my my my.  What a relief it was to leave me behind for a while!

I never realized how much I needed a break from myself.  Sometimes I get so wrapped up in and obsessed over how I’m handing things and what my mood is like – am I depressed?  am I anxious?  why am I anxious?  am I manic?  – that I think I begin to go crazy over being crazy.

It just felt really good to be free from all of that for a little bit.  It felt like the shackles were released.  The feeling has carried over some into today, thankfully.

I’ve tried this type of meditation at home and it has not worked so well, maybe because there is no activity to observe here when I am home alone, and when I am not alone I cannot passively observe because my family engages me into the activity.

So, I am thinking I will have to go somewhere to experience this again; to a park or mall or somewhere where I can sit alone and people watch.  Or maybe animal watch – a dog park might be good.  There’s even one near my home.

Regarding my migraines, my doctor doubled the dose of the preventative medicine I am on five weeks ago, but it hasn’t had any affect on the frequency of my migraines.  I have been debating on whether or not to give the higher dosage another month to work before calling my doctor and telling him it’s not working, and then I thought, “What the heck do I know?”  So, I’m calling him today to ask if I should give it another month to work or what we should do.

Me vs. Anxiety

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When I am in physical pain, my thoughts are jumbled, negative, and scattered.  As I reread my last post, I cringed a bit.  I am feeling better today.  The migraine is finally gone.  However, the fear of another one coming on is always there, hovering over me like a dark rain cloud ready to burst at any moment.  I have no control over it.

There are many things I have been told to do over the course of my mental illness that are supposed to control the severity of my symptoms.  I suppose they work, but only up to a certain point.  I take my medicines as prescribed, never missing a dose.  I see my doctor, never missing an appointment.  I’ve gone to counseling, I use DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) and CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) skills, pray, meditate, do yoga, exercise, eat healthy, rest, get plenty of sleep, and ask for help.

Still my moods cycle and I get six or seven migraines a month, and now, I am having stress-related lower GI issues several times a week.  I’m not quite sure what else to do about these physical ailments except to talk to my doctors about them; let them do their job and figure it out, because I have tried, and can’t come up with any solutions to make them go away.

I am grateful that I have doctors to see, insurance to pay for them, medicine that helps me, a supportive family, and financial stability.  In times like these when I get to feeling discouraged, I try to remember all of the things I have to be grateful for.  I have to or else I will fall into despair and that is a horrible place to be.

I just wish I could wave a magic wand over myself and eradicate the anxiety.  I try so hard to stay in the moment; to not think about the future, the negative ‘what ifs;’ to not worry about all of the things on my to do list; to not stress about the social engagements coming up or about having to leave the house for this and that.

I always think, “Ok, once I get this task done, I’ll feel better” or “Once that event is over and I am back home, I will be fine,” but I never am because there is always something else to do after that.  It is never-ending.  So is life.  Things are never done.  How do I deal with things to do and places to go that never end?

By writing this, I see how the anxiety is making it difficult for me to persevere.  It takes a lot of energy for me to go through daily activities; a lot more than a person without mental illness.  Does this mean I am doing more than I am capable of?  All of the time?

I hate the thought of this being true because it means I would have to cut out doing things with my children and I don’t think I could bring myself to sacrifice that, especially since I am not one hundred percent convinced it would relieve my physical symptoms.

I think most of the things I do give me anxiety, but I have really never asked myself why they give me anxiety.  A great counselor taught me there is a reason for each feeling we have.  Maybe if I understand where this anxiety is coming from, look for some patterns, I can get a better handle on it.

I realize that I am, once again, trying to control it, but I have to do something about it.  It is disrupting my health and my life, and I just refuse to sit by and do nothing.

 

Homecoming Triggers PTSD

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My daughter has her first “official” date this weekend as it is her high school homecoming.  I had a very stressful high school career due to growing up in an alcoholic family.  I was a extremely shy yet self-destructive teenager.  Those years looked fun on the outside, but on the inside it was the most painful experience ever.  Well, not ever, because I have experienced painful things that have equaled it since then.  I have experienced many painful situations and emotional states lasting for days, weeks and months on end.  My life in general is pain-filled; right now, physically as well.  My migraines are out of control, and the increase in medication this month I was hopeful would work is not.  I’ll have to call the doctor on Monday.  I am very depressed about the pain I have from the migraines.  It makes me think of killing myself to escape the pain.

Back to homecoming…my anxiety is through the roof because of it, but not because I am worried about her.  Well, I am worried about her, but the PTSD anxiety is there because the homecoming brings back so many horrible memories for me.  Years ago this happened when my kids went to a sports clinic put on by the high school when they were still in elementary school.  When I walked them into that gymnasium, I almost threw up from panic.  My therapist at the time said I just needed to acknowledge the feelings.  She said they will always somewhat be there.  The key was to integrate them.  I forget what she meant by that now.  Wish I could remember because it is obviously what I need to currently do.

I was up at 5am baking.  It is what I seem to do when I am stressed.  I am trying to stay in the moment and I am praying and doing my chores and taking care of my children.  I did my daughter’s pedicure, I’ll take her to get her hair done tomorrow and to the park for pictures with her friends and date.  I am functioning; going through the motions; not totally faking it, but not one hundred percent there either.  I am in pain, physically and anxiety wise, but I can still live.  It is not an either or proposition.  It never was, is, or will be.  My disease likes to tell me otherwise.  I have to be wary of that.  If you have mental illness, you might want to watch out for it, too.

Stress Triggers Hypomania

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Something is not right.  I am obsessively working on projects.  When I do that I am either becoming hypomanic or overly anxious.  I sort of think I am dealing with a bit of hypomania because I can’t seem to keep my mind still and I feel like my cells are vibrating on some sort of low-level frequency.  I’ve also been seeing the world in techno-color, and I mean full-on mega saturation and contrast, damn near HDR quality, which I’ve been blaming on too much photo editing time on the computer, but now I am thinking maybe not.  Maybe hypomania is to blame.  Weird because I have never experienced this visual symptom before.  It is really freaky – almost like hallucinating.

I don’t like hypomania.  It makes me feel edgy and uncomfortable, like having an itch that I can’t scratch.  I want to nap, but I can’t.  I want to relax my muscles, but I can’t.  I think I will try some stretches.  Maybe some meditation.  It will be difficult since the end result will not be something tangible, something I can see, hold, touch, observe, like my photos, this blog post, the cookies I baked the other day, the new hairstyle I did yesterday, the pedicure I gave myself over the weekend, etc. etc.  So project oriented…good ol’ hypomania.

Funny thing is that just the other day I was writing my last post worrying about becoming depressed because of my prolonged anxiety.  It just goes to show you how unpredictable bipolar disorder really is, and how hellish it can be to have it.

On the up side, I know from experience these moods don’t last very long for me because I am what they call a rapid cycler.  This hypomania may last a few days or a week or two at the most.  What comes afterwards is anyone’s guess.  I’m bummed about that.

I am tired but wired; being pulled in opposite directions; literally bipolar.  Those of you who have it, too, please know you are not alone.  I feel your pain.

 

Choice is a Luxury

Seahorse memories
flood the ocean floor
on this, the day,
you died of depression.

Some say you
had a choice
like if you wanted
fries with that,
or not.

Choice is a luxury of the sane.

You no more chose this
than your blue eyes.

Nature is an ass-biting bitch,
and powerful,
especially over a mind
that has left;

a “not in their right mind”
kind of mind.

You didn’t do anything.
This happened to you,
but you know all of this already,
don’t you?