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Something I am grateful for (“Love Myself” Day 19)

In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, I decided to skip ahead to this question.  I’ve been thinking about thankfulness quite a bit this weekend.  Here are my top answers:

  • I am thankful that I’m still alive. Life is beautiful when I’m not severely depressed.  I’ve learned that depression is temporary, and if I keep holding on, eventually things will turn around again.  Over the last 18 months there were too many times where I seriously contemplated suicide.  I am so thankful that I didn’t do it.

 

  • I am thankful for my two children. I’ve written about my daughter but my son has been just as instrumental in keeping me here.  He’s the king of random “I love you”s and hugs.  When he spends the night at someone’s house, I know he genuinely misses me and is excited to see me again.  There is no substitute for the love of my children.  I know how deeply it would affect them if they lost me, and I’m determined not to do that to them.

 

  • I am thankful for the family members and friends who helped keep me alive. Knowing or unknowing, their calls, texts, prayers, and presence all made a difference.  Even at my lowest, I knew that I was loved and that I’d be missed.

 

  • I am thankful for my health insurance, my doctors and especially my therapist. I’ve been blessed with excellent health insurance and disability benefits, responsive and caring doctors, and a compassionate and helpful therapist.  Without those three puzzle pieces, I’m not sure where I’d be today, or if I’d even be here.

 

  • I am thankful for my husband. Although he often infuriates me, frustrates me, and drives me crazy, he has stuck with me through this 18 month rollercoaster.  He deserves a mention separate from my family and friends because he has to live with me through the highs and lows.  It hasn’t been easy, and I know there were times he wanted to quit.  But he didn’t, and I believe he won’t.  We’ll make it through together, and I’m grateful for his presence every step of the way.
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Ten Things I Want to Share About My Invisible Illness

  1. I am one of many. Nearly 1 in 2 Americans has some sort of chronic condition, and about 1 in 4 adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder every year.   Of those who live with a chronic illness, the illness is invisible 96% of the time.  In my case, I don’t look sick at all.  In fact, I appear to be quite healthy.  But my illness is very real, as real as your flu virus or broken finger.  In July of 2014, I experienced a mental breakdown and required hospitalization for eight days followed by three months of intensive outpatient therapy.  I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder earlier this year after being misdiagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder for the last 15 years.
  2. My life has changed dramatically because of my illness. I have been on disability through my employer for the last 18 months.  My former position no longer exists, so when I’m cleared to go back to work, I will have to find a new job.  That will be extra challenging because I have permanent short-term memory deficits due to electroshock therapy to treat my severe, suicidal depression.  I have also had to make significant changes in my lifestyle in order to stabilize my mood cycles.  Some of these changes were easy (getting more sleep, keeping a journal) while others have been quite difficult (reducing caffeine, eliminating alcohol, learning to be mindful).  I see a therapist weekly and communicate with my psychiatrist monthly.  I am not the same person that I was before my breakdown last July.
  3. The hardest part about my illness is fighting persistent suicidal thoughts. I have two young children, a supportive family, and many additional reasons to live.  And yet I struggle day to day, week to week, with persistent thoughts of self harm.
  4. If I could make my illness visible, it would be ugly. So far, my illness has been a great burden to myself and my family.  We would all have large, heavy black chains around our necks, dragging us down, down, down every minute of every day.  Good days, bad days, it wouldn’t matter.  The chains would always be there.
  5. I wish people would ask me questions about my illness. I would love the chance to explain how Bipolar Disorder affects me.  Everyone’s experience is a little different.  I welcome earnest questions about how I feel and why.
  6. I wish my friends understood that: there is a stark contrast between my good days and my bad days. On my good days, I look and actually feel pretty normal.  On my hypomanic days, I feel full of energy, super productive, and indestructible.  But on my bad days… I may not be able to leave the house, much less my bed.  I may have to cancel all my plans.  I feel guilty and ashamed when my illness forces me to renege on my obligations.  And no, there are not enough good days to make up for the bad days.  Time lost due to a mental illness is time gone forever.
  7. I wish my husband understood that: no matter how dark my mood or how negative my thoughts, I love him and greatly appreciate the many ways he has supported me through my illness.
  8. More than anything else, I fear that my illness will result in the destruction of my marriage. The divorce rate among those with a chronic illness is over 75%, and at 90% for those with Bipolar Disorder.  I hope that my marriage will be among the 10% that survive.
  9. The stigma that surrounds invisible illnesses like mine is crushing and demoralizing. Comments like “but you look fine” or “can’t you just snap out of it?” are both insensitive and unsupportive.  I am well aware of how healthy I look, even when I’m besieged by severe depression.  And believe me, if I could just snap out of it, I would have years ago.
  10. My illness has taught me to be empathetic towards others and never to minimize someone’s pain. As the saying goes, everyone is fighting a battle that you know nothing about.  Above all else, be kind.

 

References:

2002 Census Bureau

Kessler RC, Chiu WT, Demler O, Walters EE. Prevalence, severity, and comorbidity of twelve-month DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R). Archives of General Psychiatry, 2005 Jun;62(6):617-27

Booth, A., & Johnson, D. R.. (1994). Declining Health and Marital Quality. Journal of Marriage and Family56(1), 218–223.

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Quotes from Famous Bisexual People

Virginia Woolf said that writers must be androgynous. I’ll go a step further. You must be bisexual.  –  Rita Mae Brown

I don’t care if you’re black, white, straight, bisexual, gay, lesbian, short, tall, fat, skinny, rich or poor. If you’re nice to me, I’ll be nice to you. Simple as that.  –  Eminem

You know, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender – people are people.  – Judith Light

It’s hard being bisexual, omnisexual, multisexual, whatever you want to call it, when people have their agenda and expect you to just represent their agenda.  –  Meshell Ndegeocello

Everyone has people in their lives that are gay, lesbian or transgender or bisexual. They may not want to admit it, but I guarantee they know somebody.  – Billie Jean King

A lot of my peer group think I’m an eccentric bisexual, like I may even have an ammonia-filled tentacle somewhere on my body. That’s okay.  – Robert Downey, Jr.

 

It’s true — I am a bisexual. But I can’t deny that I’ve used that fact very well. I suppose it’s the best thing that ever happened to me.  – David Bowie

I’m Anna Paquin. I’m bisexual and I give a damn.  – Anna Paquin

I came to live in a country I love; some people label me a defector. I have loved men and women in my life; I’ve been labeled the bisexual defector. Want to know another secret? I’m even ambidextrous. I don’t like labels. Just call me Martina.  – Martina Navratilova

You know, it’s flattering when there’s a rumor that says I’m bisexual. It means I can play more kinds of roles. I’m open to whatever people want to call me. I’ve never really been attracted to men sexually, but I don’t think I would be afraid of it if it happened.  – Jake Gyllenhaal

What I’m asserting is that we are looking at bisexuality the wrong way, making the identity entirely dependent on someone other that the bisexual person him- or herself. If I’m dating a man, I’m straight. If I’m dating a woman, I’m a lesbian. But sexuality is not who you sleep with, it’s who you are. It doesn’t change according to who is standing next to you.  – Jennifer Baumgardner

People don’t become gay, bisexual, pansexual, transexual. People just fall in love with another person.  – Calum Hood

How can you go wrong with two people in love? Goodness has nothing to do with sexual orientation. Love is love, and there will never be too much.  – Fiona Apple
Read more at: http://www.azquotes.com/quotes/topics/bisexual.html

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Something I’ve Done Right (“Love Myself” Day 15)

Why is it so hard to answer this question about myself?  I can look at my friends and family and answer for them very quickly.  But for myself, it’s hard.  What have I done right?  Here’s a few things:

  1. I don’t swear or take the Lord’s name in vain. Every now and then a bad word slips out, but for the most part, you won’t hear me swear verbally or in my writing.
  2. I graduated from high school with a 4.0 GPA and from college with a 3.9 GPA
  3. I got a Master’s Degree in Biology while also having two children
  4. I’m raising two respectful, grounded, thankful children
  5. I forgave my mother for the childhood abuse
  6. I try to be grateful for my blessings – I have many
  7. I choose, every day, to live my life rather than end it.

Give yourself some credit – what have you done right?

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Something I’ve Overcome (“Love Myself” Day 14)

Again, I found a handful of answers to this question.

  1. Stigma and discrimination because of my sexual orientation and mental health issues. I continue to fight both every day.
  2. Self-doubt.
  3. Low self-esteem.
  4. A failed first marriage.
  5. Multiple surgeries – right hand, right shoulder, gall bladder removal, both feet.
  6. Two difficult pregnancies.
  7. Anxiety and depression. I haven’t fully overcome them yet, but I’m working on it.
  8. Childhood abuse.
  9. A food allergy that could have killed me.
  10. A suicidal period where I very nearly killed myself.

What have you overcome?  Let’s celebrate together!

 

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Share a Meaningful Quote (“Love Myself” Day 13)

“Don’t judge my story by the chapter you walked in on.”  TobyMac

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I love this quote.  It resonates with me right now because of my current struggles with Bipolar Depression.  My life is, well, a mess at the moment.  But it wasn’t always that way, and someday it will be beautiful again.  The same is true of many other people.  And the message is the same:  Don’t Judge.  You never know where people are in their walk through life.  You may have walked in on their most difficult chapter, as has been true for me over the past 18 months.  Be tolerant.  Be accepting.  Be open.  And if you’re lucky, you may get to be part of the next chapter and make it a better story.

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Something I’d Like to Learn (“Love Myself” Day 12)

To be honest, I can think of quite a few things I’d like to learn.  So here’s a list.

  1. Another language. I studied Spanish in high school and I think it would be easy to pick it up again (20 years later!).  It might even come in handy here in Florida!
  2. How to sew. I have a sewing machine, and I can do simple things like hemming and buttons, but I’d really like to be able to create rather than just fix.
  3. Embroidery.  Both my mother and my grandmother (and probably many more women if we keep going back in time) embroider and are very skilled at it.  I’ve always admired their talent and wished I could do it as well.
  4. Whittling.  I’m not sure where this desire came from, other than that I’m a creative person at heart and whittling/carving is very appealing.
  5. How to brew my own beer. I’ve never tried, but I think I’d enjoy going through the process.
  6. How to code. I really want to be able to create my own android apps.  And I think coding would be an incredibly useful skill to combine with my science background.
  7. How to ski. I’ve been skiing twice and gotten hurt twice.  Still, it looks like a fun sport and I’d really like the opportunity to practice.
  8. How to use a really nice camera. I don’t have one, so that’s the first barrier, but if I did have one I wouldn’t know how to use 99% of its features.
  9. How to sing. I already have a musical background and I can sing in tune but… I’d like to develop my voice.  I enjoy singing with a group but don’t have much confidence in the quality of my voice.
  10. How to cook. Yes, really.  I never learned how to cook, and I think it would be incredibly valuable if I took a couple culinary classes!

What’s the #1 thing you would like to learn how to do?  What’s stopping you?

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Share a Talent (“Love Myself” Day 11)

As alluded to on Day #7, I have a talent that’s perfect for this question.  I am an excellent trumpet player.  I started college as a Music major and almost became a professional trumpet player.

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Throughout college and for a couple years afterwards, I played in every band, orchestra, and musical group I could find.  My dad and I played at Church on Christmas, Easter, and for special events.  I played solo trumpet for a handful of weddings.  I taught private lessons.  And then I realized that I was bored.

Music is a very demanding career.  As a professional, you simply cannot make mistakes during a performance.  That means every note must be perfect.  Practicing to that level of perfection can, and did, become tedious.  I realized at last that while I loved to play, I didn’t love perfection.  Like I said at the beginning, I’m an excellent trumpet player.  But I’m not perfect, and I’m perfectly happy to leave it at that.

Once I had that epiphany — that a professional career in music wasn’t for me — I committed myself to a career in science.  I was interested in cancer and wanted to do cancer research.  I know now that I made the correct decision all those years ago.

These days, I don’t play very much, but when I do, it’s like reconnecting with an old friend.  My church music director wants me to play with the music ministry, so I imagine I’ll be doing that again before long.  It has been many years since I’ve played with a musical group, and I’m excited about it.

Everyone has a talent… what is yours?  Is it something you haven’t done in a while, like me?

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Encourage Myself to Reach Goals From Day 9 (“Love Myself” Day 10)

You go girl!  Losing 15 pounds and scoring a cruise?  You can do it!  All it takes is a healthy portion of self-discipline and a solid plan.  And I do have a plan to lose weight!  I keep getting derailed by migraines and medication adjustments, but here it is anyway.

  1. Use my Fitbit every day and try to get in at least 8,000 steps
  2. Track my diet using the Myfitnesspal app
  3. Buy healthier snacks “just for me” and avoid buying snacks for the kids that I can’t resist
  4. Exercise on a regular schedule

All four of these are hard for me to accomplish.  Using my fitbit is no problem, but getting to 8,000 steps when I’m not working will be a challenge.  The Myfitnesspal app is excellent and I’ve used it before but… I know that I get tired of logging my foods.  That’s good and bad… the mere thought of having to log something can help me make better choices.  But on the other hand, eventually I get sick of it and the logging tapers off.  I can do better!

As far as exercise, it’s the “regular schedule” that I find difficult.  I never know when I’m going to feel well enough to exercise.  Some days I feel great and I work out to a DVD or ride my stationary bike or go to the gym.  Other days I feel terrible and don’t get any exercise at all.  I really need to work on my consistency, across the board.  I know I can do it.  I just need to commit and then stick to it.  This strategy has worked in the past, so there’s no reason why it can’t work again.  Oh wait… we have Thanksgiving and the Christmas holiday coming up… maybe I should just wait until New Year’s!  Just kidding.  I’ll get started on this right away.  Because I know I can do it!

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Describe a Future Goal (“Love Myself” Day 9)

For several years now, my husband and I have talked about going on a cruise.  We never took a honeymoon after our wedding 10 years ago, and a cruise sounds like just the sort of vacation we would enjoy.  We made a deal about two years ago:  If I get down to the weight I was for our wedding, we’ll go on a cruise.  Unofficially, it will be our honeymoon.

While I have lost about 10 lbs, I still have about 15 lbs to go.  (Thanks, kids!)  I’d love to be that weight and that size again, but obviously it has been a struggle so far.  I attribute my difficulties with losing weight to the many medication changes I have experienced over the last 18 months as my psychiatrist has attempted to stabilize my moods.  Quite a few of those drugs have increased my appetite and made dieting almost impossible.  Only one of them made me nauseous and killed my appetite; sadly, that turned out to be a short term side effect (darn!).  Hopefully when I’m finally stable, it will be on medication that doesn’t make dieting any more challenging than it already is!

Reasons I have to lose weight: 

  1. I’d really like to go on a cruise!
  2. We never got a honeymoon
  3. It would improve my overall health
  4. It would take pressure off my knees and feet (I’ve had foot issues in the past)
  5. As I get older, it gets more and more important that I maintain a healthy weight.  Many diseases, even cancer, are linked to carrying extra weight.
  6. Weight loss can improve depression
  7. I’d like to be in better shape so I can keep up with my kids
  8. I want to set a good example for my kids
  9. A healthy weight can help you stay mentally sharp as you age
  10. And finally, my older sister just lost about 30 lbs by dieting alone.  She’s 4 inches taller than me and now weighs less than I do.  The next time I see her, I want to have a success story too!  And not feel bad, standing next to her.

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Thus my future goal is twofold: lose weight, and earn a cruise.  I do have a plan and I’ll write about it in my next post.

I would love to hear your weight loss stories!  How did you do it?  How have you kept the weight off?

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What motivates me? (“Love Myself” Day 8)

This is a more difficult question than it sounds. Twenty years ago I could have answered without a second thought. I was very ambitious and highly motivated to succeed in my career. I was going to get a Ph.D. in Cell Biology, win some grants, run my own lab, and work towards finding a cure for cancer.  I didn’t think I’d have time for a marriage or a family.  My only focus was on my career.

I never wanted to be perfect, but I did want to excel. That was my goal: to be excellent at whatever I chose to do.  My first objective was to complete my education.

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And then… life happened. I fell in love with a man with vastly different priorities than myself.  I put my life on hold and followed him to the middle of nowhere while he chased his dream job. My graduate school aspirations fell by the wayside. When that relationship dissolved, as it was fated to do, I found myself drifting.  Without an advanced degree, my future plans were moot.  I still wanted a career, but I also wanted a “real” husband and family. I was willing to make sacrifices for the right person.

To make a long story short, I met Peter in Jacksonville, Florida. We had two children together, and I completed my Master’s degree when our second child was 1 year old. It was tough, but worth it! Now, I work in a cancer research lab. I believe what I do is important. I still strive for excellence, and that motivates me. But I’m also highly motivated to be a good wife, a good mother, and raise children of character. I’m much less motivated by my career (and what others think of me) and much more motivated by my family (and what I think of myself). This is good and bad… when I feel like I’m failing my family due to migraines and bipolar depression, it undermines my entire world.

What motivates you? Is there something that sticks out in your mind when I ask that question? Do you have something that kills your motivation, like my migraines/depression do to me? 

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Rock Bottom Again

I spent five days in Sacramento, CA visiting my best friend and her family between last week and this week.  It was wonderful and uplifting.  I came home late Tuesday night, feeling awesome.  Ready to see my husband and kids and step back into my many roles.

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The Tower Bridge in Old Sacramento. Copyright 2015 Sarah Emmerling

My time with my friends had elevated my mood.  I felt like I’d finally scrabbled my way out of the rocky depths where I’ve been living for so long.  I wasn’t on the bottom anymore.

But the last few days haven’t been easy.  In fact, they have been terrible.  As often happens, I got a headache from the pressure changes on the airplane.  That headache became a lingering migraine, which has made every moment more difficult.  I’m struggling to stay positive.  I’m struggling to be nice and not snap, criticize, or use a harsh tone of voice.  It’s almost impossible.

On Wednesday my husband took the kids on an adventure to a local state park.  At some point during the day, my almost 8-year-old daughter misplaced her leapfrog tablet case.  This wasn’t discovered until they had reached home and unpacked the car.  She left it behind about halfway through the day, and Peter wasn’t sure where it was.  He called all the places they had visited, but the case was nowhere to be found.  Thankfully her tablet wasn’t inside.  But what it did contain – her digital camera and nine “puppies in my pocket” – was enough to send her into hysterics.

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She cried for nearly two hours about the toys she had lost and how sad she was that they were missing.  The “puppies” were brand new, so their disappearance was particularly difficult for her.  She had just purchased them with her own money, so she knew exactly how much they cost.  And she also knew how long it would take her to earn enough money to replace them.  Cue the drama.

Now, I do empathize with her.  But I feel no obligation to replace the lost toys until she has earned them again.  This experience is an excellent “teaching moment” and a critical lesson for her.  How will she ever learn to take care of her belongings if Daddy and GG immediately swoop in to replace anything that is lost?  I hate watching her cry and seeing her in pain as much as they do.  But I also want to raise a responsible child who does not feel entitled.

This is the first time she’s lost something like this.  It’s hard to accept that a toy she played with that morning is now gone forever.  Many parents would rush to reassure her and promise to replace the lost toys.  My husband and his mother feel that way.  But not me.  I’m much more pragmatic.  I was raised with three siblings and very practical parents.  If you lost something, it was simply gone.  Tough luck, that’s too bad, maybe you’ll be more careful next time.  While I agree in principle with my upbringing, I believe in being a little more gentle with my kids.

So, my interactions with her Wednesday night and Thursday morning were very matter of fact.  I said things like,

  1. “Sweetheart, I’m so sorry you lost your toys.  But the good news is that you can earn them again!”
  2. “Sweetheart, I know you think it will take forever for you to earn enough money to buy your toys again.  But I have lots of chores you can do and I bet you could earn enough money over the weekend!”
  3. “Sweetheart, I’ve left things behind too and lost them.  Just last week I forgot my sunglasses at the park, and now they’re gone.  It’s a mistake that everyone makes.”
  4. “Sweetheart, it’s not fair to blame Daddy or anyone else because you lost your toys.  They were your responsibility.  We all feel bad that you lost them.  I’m sorry to say this, but it was your mistake.  Not Daddy’s.”
  5. “Sweetheart, will crying bring your toys back?  No?  Let’s stop crying then.”

Of course, my words did nothing to help her feel better.  In fact, she complained to my husband that I was being mean to her.  I did have a migraine, and I’ll admit that my tone of voice might have sounded more harsh than I intended.  I don’t remember it that way though.  I honestly thought I was handling the situation well.  And I was not being mean…  I just wasn’t telling her what she wanted to hear.  Daddy was going to save the day while Mommy wanted her be responsible.  Gee, I wonder which parent she thought was being nice and which parent was being mean?

My husband, however, thought I was being mean.  Because of my vacation and then my headache, he has essentially been a single parent for almost 10 days.  He’s tired, and this situation pushed him over the edge.  He lost patience with me.  Empathy?  Compassion?  He hasn’t had those for months.  He told me yesterday that “this has to stop.”  He thinks I’m being mean to the kids, and he doesn’t want me around the kids if I can’t be nice.  Never mind that I’m doing the best I can, given my circumstances.  Somehow I have to do better.

Last night, my thoughts and feelings were so negative that I had to refer to my Safety Plan.  I was back at the bottom of that rocky lake, having serious suicidal thoughts.  My kids have repeatedly saved me from hurting myself.  I need their hugs, kisses, and innocent well-wishes.  If Peter’s really serious and doesn’t let me be around them, it will create a very bad situation for me.  Obviously I need to talk to him about it.  But first, I really, really need this migraine to go away.

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How My 7-year-old Stops Me From Suicide

Over the last few months, my 7-year-old daughter has been asking a lot of questions about death, dying, the soul, and heaven.  The trigger was the opening scene in the movie UP, where Mr. Frederickson and his wife Ellie’s life history is briefly presented.  This sequence always makes me cry.  It’s a poignant story of love, life, and loss.  And my 7-year-old is finally old enough to apply it to her own life.

You see, she has realized her own mortality.  She now understands that someday, she’s going to die.  And this terrifies her.  She’s even more terrified that Mom, Dad, G.G., or Granddaddy will die first.  She’s informed me that she wants us all to die together.  That way no one will be left alone, either on Earth or in Heaven.  It’s adorable, and yet sad that she’s thinking these thoughts.

She and I now have regular conversations about death and heaven.  At first, she would come to me in tears, full of anxiety and dread.  She tried talking to Daddy first, but his response was to tell her not to worry, that no one was going to die.  But that didn’t work, in fact, it just upset her further, because she knows it’s not the truth.  So she came to me instead.  Two years ago my response might have been the same as Daddy’s.  But now, after a couple years of therapy for bipolar depression, I know better.  She needs empathy and validation.  She needs to know that her curiosity about death is normal, and so is her fear.  Now there are fewer tears and more questions.

I’ve done my best to reassure her that we’re all going to heaven.  And convince her that heaven is a wonderful, beautiful place.  A place better than anything she can imagine.  Somewhere that we all want to go.  But, like a 7-year-old, she’s sure she doesn’t want to be there unless Fairies, Bunny, and our dog Basil will be there too.  I’m not going to tell her they won’t be there… because who knows for sure?  And at her age, she doesn’t need all the technical details.  At least, the little that we think we know.

I’ve told her repeatedly that it’s OK to be afraid of dying and afraid that others might die.  It’s normal.  We all feel that way.  That’s why we need to remember to be kind to each other, to say “I love you,” and to give hugs often.  We don’t know when we’re going to heaven.  We have to live each day, knowing that we could die, yet hoping we have more time here on Earth.  That uncertainty is very frightening when you’re 7.

What I haven’t told her is how her preoccupation with death and heaven has affected me.  My bipolar depression is still uncontrolled, and I struggle with suicidal ideation on a regular basis.  I’m tired of hanging on and running out of hope that things will get better.  But my daughter… she has given me powerful motivation for fighting these self-destructive thoughts.  She would be absolutely devastated if I died.  Intellectually I thought that before, but now I know it.  I’ve looked into her eyes and seen it.  She loves me more than I deserve, and I don’t want to disappoint her in any way.

My personal religious belief is that people who kill themselves are not welcomed into heaven.  Someday my daughter will be taught that as well.  How will she reconcile that with her memories of me and our conversations about heaven?  Will she question my love for her or blame herself?  Will she ever accept that my suicide was due to my illness and not a rational choice?  Not only that, but kids whose mothers commit suicide are three times more likely to kill themselves.  She’s already at a higher risk for depression, anxiety, and bipolar, thanks to me.  If I were to kill myself, my suicide would shatter her chance for a normal life.

When I’m in the clutches of severe depression, my mind is consumed with self-hatred and loathing.  I feel unworthy of living and undeserving of love.  In the depths of my despair, I am willing to hurt myself and end my own life.  But am I willing to damage hers?  Can I kill myself, knowing what it would likely do to her?  The answer thus far has been a resounding NO.  Children need love and stability, not trauma and grief.  For her, my 7-year-old savior, I will press on.  I cannot give up, I cannot give in.

I must keep fighting.

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Something I Do Well (“Love Myself” Day 7)

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I’m human, just like you.  There are a few things I do well, and plenty that I do poorly.  I’ve already written about parenting-related things I do well in my post “I think I am a bad mom…”  And to be honest, the skill I’d like to write about is more appropriate as an answer to #11 (a talent).  So instead I’m going to write about a few miscellaneous things that I do particularly well.  These skills have come in handy as a friend and as a parent.

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I have an uncanny knack for fixing broken toys.  I’m not afraid to take them apart and try to figure out wherein lies the problem.  I’ve fixed quite a few in my day, to the delight of my kids.  My secrets are a good pair of tweezers, a sturdy set of tiny screwdrivers, and superglue.  Many toys have received a second chance under my ministrations.  However… I don’t have any background in circuit boards and speakers.  I wish I knew how to disable the sound on some of these toys.  It galls me to fix a toy that makes a super annoying or super loud sound effects.  But I do it anyway, silently cursing the things I don’t know about electronics.  My handy fix for loud toys is to put tape – duct tape if necessary – over the speaker.  That usually brings the volume down to a reasonable level.  In my opinion, any toy that makes noise should come with a volume adjustment and a mute button!

I’m also handy when it comes to minor problems with computers and cell phones.  If your device is running slowly or has annoying pop-ups bothering you, chances are I can fix it pretty easily.  Yes, I’m a nerd. A geek.  Whatever you want to call me.  I was president of the Computer Club in high school, and the first girl ever to hold that office.  Twenty years later, I haven’t lost my fascination with technology.  So if you need a small repair to your computer, tablet, or phone, or just have a question about why it’s doing something weird, I can probably fix it for you.

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And finally, I’m pretty good with hand tools.  I have my own toolbox (yes, it’s pink) and my own tools, complete with a drill, separate from my husband’s tools.  I’m not afraid to assemble furniture, hang curtains or blinds, put up new shelves, or install towel bars (among many other things!).  We’ve moved enough times that I’ve gotten quite good at some of these, and I enjoy doing it.  I wish my grandfather had taught me how to whittle, as I believe I would really enjoy that now as an adult.

That’s what I’m good at!  What are you good at?  Do you have any skills that no one would expect of you?

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How to Create a Comprehensive Safety Plan

If you have ever been suicidal or had thoughts of self harm, you should have a Safety Plan.  Simply put, a Safety Plan is a personalized document designed to help you remain safe despite thoughts of self harm.  I have recurrent bouts of suicidal ideation, so I recently wrote and posted my own personal Safety Plan.

One of my blogging friends (Sandra), after reading my Plan, recommended that I create a downloadable PDF form so my readers can create their own plan.  I thought this was a fantastic idea, since the plan I wrote was actually a combination of several different plans that I found online.  I could see the need for a better, more comprehensive Safety Plan.

So I spent most of today designing a PDF form that you all can either download and fill out manually or fill out online and then save, email, or print.  The PDF includes instructions and suggestions to help you get going.  Please keep in mind that I am not a doctor or a therapist… just someone who cares about you.

Safety Plan Version 1: This PDF can be downloaded, filled out, saved, and then printed or emailed.  It’s a great and super easy way to share your Safety Plan with those that need to see it. *Please note that you must download the form in order to save your information.  If you fill it out online, it won’t save.  (128 kb in size)

Safety Plan Version 2:  This PDF version cannot be edited.  You may print a copy and fill it out by hand.  Please remember to make additional copies so you can share it with your therapist, doctor, and your crisis contacts.  (98 kb in size)

These PDFs are FREE however… this was a significant amount of work, so if you could please do me a favor by liking, sharing, or commenting on this post, I would appreciate it greatly.  Or better yet, like my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter.

Also, while I do reserve the copyright on the form, I encourage you to share it on your blog or website, as long as you attribute it to me and my web site (Sarah Emmerling of http://www.bipolarbytes.com).  I welcome error reports and suggestions to make it a better, more useful tool!

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Who Commits Suicide and How to Prevent It

Why is suicide prevention so important?  Quite simply, because it is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and the 3rd leading cause of death among teenagers.  Read my Safety Plan and develop your own.

If you are feeling suicidal, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.  It is confidentail and free.  Alternatively, you can chat online at the Lifeline Crisis Chat.

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15 Leading Causes of Death in the USA    [2013]

Approximately 41,000 people die of suicide every year, which is a rate of 13 people out of every 100,000.

*rate per 100,000  |  **total number of deaths in 2013

1

Diseases of the heart (heart disease)

per 100,000

193.3*

total

611,105**

2 Malignant neoplasms (cancer) 185.0 584,881
3 Chronic lower respiratory diseases 47.2 149,205
4 Accidents  (unintentional injuries) 41.3 130,557
5 Cerebrovascular diseases (stroke) 40.8 128,978
6 Alzheimer’s disease 26.8 84,767
7 Diabetes mellitus (diabetes) 23.9 75,578
8 Influenza & Pneumonia 18.0 56,979
9 Nephritis, nephrosis [kidney disease] 14.9 47,112
10 SUICIDE [Intentional Self-Harm] 13.0 41,149
11 Septicemia 12.1 38,156
12 Chronic liver diseases & cirrhosis 11.5 36,427
13 Essential hypertension & renal disease 9.7 30,770
14 Parkinson’s disease 8.0 25,196
15 Pneuomonitis due to solids and liquids 5.9 18,579
  –All other causes (Residual) 170.0 537,554
 

 TOTAL

821.5 2,596,993
16 Homicide

Source: [click here]

5.1 16,121

Successes, Attempts, and Survivors

  • In 2013, an average of 1 person every 12.8 minutes killed themselves
  • More Americans kill themselves than are killed by others.
  • Probably twice the number of reported suicides are misclassified as accidents or are unreported.
  • There were 3.5 male deaths by suicide for each female death by suicide
  • On average there are 1,028,725 annual attempts in U.S
    • Translates to one attempt every 31 seconds.
    • There 25 attempts for every one death by suicide
  • Each suicide intimately affects at least 6 other people (survivors, estimate)
  • Based on the 825,832 suicides from 1989 through 2013, estimated that the number of survivors of suicides in the U.S. is 4.95 million (1 of every 64 Americans in 2013)
  • If there is a suicide every 12.8 minutes, then there are 6 new survivors every 12.8 minutes as well
  • 5 million living Americans have attempted to kill themselves.

Demographics

  • Whites complete  suicide approximately twice as often as blacks.
  • The greatest increase in the suicide rate has been among white males.
  • Depression is often the main clinical symptom that precedes suicide.
  • There is no strong correlation between mental illness and suicide.
  • Suicidal thoughts are experienced by about 15 percent of the general population.
  • About 30 percent showed signs of depression during the three months before death.
  • Eighty percent (80%) of those who killed themselves left definite warning signs.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among teenagers.

  •  Boys complete suicide five times more often than girls.
  • Females attempt suicide more often than males
  • Teenage suicide rate has tripled over the past two decades (from 4.1 per 100,000 in the 1950’s to 12.5 per 100,000 in 1980).
  • The rest of the population remains the same.
  • Sixty-five hundred American teenagers complete suicide every year
  • Nine out of ten suicide attempts take place in the home (just before parents come home from work).
  • Cluster suicides have increased
  • About half of the suicide victims had been in trouble with the law or at school.
  • Almost half of the suicide victims were known to abuse alcohol or other drugs.

WARNING SIGNS
There is no typical suicide victim.  It happens to young and old, rich and poor.  Fortunately there are some common warning signs which, when acted upon, can save lives.  Here are some to look for:

bullet Changes in sleep or eating patterns
bullet Neglect of personal appearance
bullet Depressed, sad, angry, aggressive
bullet Job or financial loss
bullet Alcohol or drug abuse
bullet Self-mutilation (i.e., cutting)
bullet Isolation; withdrawing from family or friends
bullet Loss of interest in activities/hobbies
bullet Trouble with school or work
bullet Perfectionism or overly self-critical

URGENT DANGER SIGNS

bullet Hopelessness or helplessness
bullet Talking, writing or hinting about suicide
bullet Lethargy, apathy or sadness
bullet Extreme changes in behavior
bullet Puts one’s affairs in order — giving away possessions
bullet Relationship breakup
bullet Buys gun or weapon or stock piles drugs
bullet Suddenly happier and calmer — giving the impression that things have improved

RISK FACTORS

These are things that increase the potential for a person’s suicide.

bullet Previous suicide attempts
bullet Major illness
bullet Barriers to accessing mental health treatment
bullet Significant others who have completed suicide
bullet Relationship breakup
bullet Job or Financial loss, personal security
bullet Untreated depression, hopelessness, helplessness
bullet Isolation
bullet Access to lethal means (i.e; guns, pills, etc)
bullet Family disruption
bullet Sexual, mental or physical abuse

PROTECTIVE FACTORS

Things that help a person through periods of crisis.

bullet Family or friends or community
bullet Positive self-esteem
bullet Sobriety
bullet Sense of hope
bullet Good health
bullet Counselor or Therapist (depression screening)
bullet Treatment availability
bullet Calm environment
bullet Pet(s)
bullet Medication compliance
bullet Responsibility for children
bullet Duty to others
bullet Job security
bullet Difficult access to lethal means (i.e; gun, pills, etc)
bullet Religious beliefs
bullet Resiliency

Resources

Letter to My Older Self: You Need a Safety Plan

“I am the wound and the knife!… Victim and hangman alike.”  Charles Baudelaire  love-myself-challenge

My most recent suicidal relapse was an eye-opener.  While I have made a lot of progress in the 16 months since my hospitalization, I never actually developed a safety plan.  So instead of writing a letter to my older future self, that’s what I did.  I hope and pray that I will refer to it the next time I’m in a dangerous state of mind.

If you want to develop your own Safety Plan, please visit this page.  Oh, and this  post is actually “Love Myself Day 6.”  My relapses have derailed my progress but I hope to finish the 28 post challenge before too long.

What to do the next time I feel suicidal

  1. Identify Triggers (What puts me on the path towards self harm?)
    1. Medication transitions that crash my mood
    2. Comments that make me feel like a bad person, mom, wife
    3. Reminders of past failures that trigger self-loathing
    4. Migraines, especially during medication transitions
    5. Feelings of rejection or abandonment
    6. Feeling that I am a burden
  2. Visible warning signs of a developing crisis (How would my family recognize a crisis?)
    1. Poor self-care, re-wearing the same clothes, not showering
    2. Speaking negatively about myself and my role in the family
    3. Asking for affirmation such as:
      1. Why do you love me?
      2. Why are you still with me?
    4. Crying spells
    5. Not wanting to get out of bed or excessive sleeping
    6. Partial or complete withdrawl from loved ones
    7. Refusing or unable to participate in everyday activities
    8. Acting unusually reckless or impulsive
    9. Refusing to communicate
    10. Leaving the house without telling anyone
    11. Turning off my phone when alone
  3. Internal warning signs (What thoughts indicate potential self harm?)
    1. Feeling hopeless about my current situation and the future
    2. Thinking that my family doesn’t want or need me around
    3. Thinking that my family would be better off without me
    4. Thinking that I’m a terrible wife, mother, etc
    5. Thinking or researching the best ways to commit suicide
  4. External coping strategies (What can I do to calm myself and redirect my thoughts?)
    1. Communicate with my husband and share my thoughts and feelings
    2. Spend time with the children
    3. Watch TV or read
    4. Exercise, go for a walk, go to the gym
    5. Mindfullness: Write or journal, color
    6. Relaxation – deep breathing, extra sleep, take a bath, get a massage, listen to music, sit outside or go for a walk
    7. Call or text friends and family (see #6 below)
    8. Arrange to have lunch or dinner with a friend
  5. Internal coping strategies (How can I handle my thoughts?)
    1. Examine my negative thoughts – are they actually true?
    2. Stop the rumination cycle – distract myself with techniques from #4c,d,e,f
    3. Behavioral Activation – force myself to do something from #4
    4. Mindfulness Meditation – bring my mind back to “now” rather than making assumptions about the future
    5. Focus on recent successes
      1. Make a list of things to be grateful for
      2. Make a list of my reasons for living
    6. Think about my husband and the children, visualize the true impact of my loss on them
    7. Think about my parents and siblings, visualize the true impact of my loss on them
    8. Think about God and heaven, pray for strength and healing
  6. Who my husband can contact, especially if I won’t talk to him
    1. My parents
    2. My sister
    3. My therapist
    4. My friends (I gave him a list of five possible friends)
  7. Who I can contact, other than friends and family
    1. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (confidential and free)
    2. Lifeline Crisis Chat
  8. How my friends and family can help me
    1. Give me HOPE that the pain will end (“this too shall pass”)
    2. Check on me regularly via email, text, or phone call. If texting, word the message such that an answer is required.
    3. Affirm my role as wife, mother, and offer praise
      1. Remind me of the good things I have done
      2. Remind me of how much I would be missed
      3. Give me a gift, such as flowers, a new book, a card, something that affirms my value as a wife/mother
    4. Give me hope that someday my moods will be stable
      1. Remind me of past successes
      2. Remind me of how far I’ve come, and how I’ve successfully conquered these feelings before
    5. Help me complete some external coping strategies
      1. Draw a bath for me (this will work better than insisting I take a shower)
      2. Encourage me to work out, help me make the time
      3. Go on a walk with me
      4. Sit outside with me
      5. Make an appointment for a massage
      6. Send me to bed early or give me time to read, watch TV
      7. Have the kids do nice things for me
    6. Give me something to look forward to
      1. Near-term is more effective than long term
      2. Schedule an upcoming massage
      3. Make plans to spend time with family
      4. Arrange lunch with a friend
      5. Arrange a “date”
      6. Purchase tickets to sporting event/show/concert
      7. Plan a day trip or weekend getaway

So… That’s my plan, subject to editing and revision as needed.  I intend to share it with everyone involved, so that we’re all on the same page.

Do you have a written Safety Plan?  (Click here for help making your own Safety Plan.)  If you’ve used one, what was the most beneficial part of it?  

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You’re now reading a Liebster Award-winning blog!

First of all, much thanks to Nimi Popat of Hair Care Square for nominating my blog for a Liebster Award.  “Liebster” is a German word that means “nicest” or “sweetest”.  The Liebster Award is exchanged between blogs that have less than 200 followers as a way to promote networking and growth.  I am thrilled to be a recipient and have this chance to share more about myself with the blogosphere.

The Liebster is, however, similar to a chain letter, and it’s a lot of work.  But it does allow your readers and fellow bloggers to get to know you better.  So while I’m going to do it and nominate a handful of blogs, feel free to skip the work and just be happy for the recognition.  I won’t be offended if you’re the last link in the “chain.”  :)

Liebster Award Rules  
1. Thank the person who nominated and link back to their blog.
2. Display the Liebster Award on your blog.
3. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
4. Answer the 11 questions you were asked.
5. Nominate 11 bloggers with less than 200 followers for the award, by asking them 11 new questions (or having them answer the questions you were asked).
6. Make sure to let the bloggers know you’ve nominated them!

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Eleven Random Facts about Me:

1. I despise water chestnuts.  I know, they don’t really have any taste, but I swear it’s the texture.  I just don’t like them at all.

2. I’m allergic to shrimp.  Only shrimp, not any other shellfish.  I developed this allergy as an adult after I’d already realized that I love shrimp.  Drat.

3. I have zero programming knowledge, but I still root every android phone I’ve owned and install custom software.  Why?  To get rid of all that corporate bloatware and tweak the phone to maximize its performance.  Yes, I do this for fun.

4. In the last two weeks I’ve decided to write a book.  Well, maybe I’ll start with a novella rather than try to tackle an entire book with my first attempt.  So far, I’m starting to develop characters and outline a plot, but I don’t yet know what shape it will take.  I’m not entirely sure on the genre yet but I’m thinking romance.

5. I used to work as a Flight Controller for NASA.  I worked on a couple of space shuttle missions before the shuttles were decommissioned.

6. I attended a small dinner party that was also attended by one of the astronauts who later died in the Columbia accident.

7. I’ve been on disability through my employer for severe depression for the last 16 months.  I hope to be approved to return to work after Christmas.

8. I hate to cook but love to bake.  This is extremely ironic because my husband is a Type 1 diabetic and avoids baked goods like the plague.  So I rarely bake.

9. I have misophonia.  Read about it here if you’re interested.  I hate having it.  In college, taking tests in a room full of other students was very difficult.  But at the time, I didn’t know what was going on.  I thought it was something everyone struggled with from time to time.

10. I wear glasses, but I don’t need to.  My glasses have no correction.  The lenses, however, are coated to reduce glare and UV, both of which can trigger migraines.  Wearing glasses is one of many lifestyle changes I’ve made to cut down on the frequency of my migraines.

11. I drink more than a gallon of water every day.

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Answers to my Nominator’s Eleven Questions:

1.What do you specially do on weekends?

Weekends are for fun time with my husband and kids.  If I’m lucky, I might get to sleep in one of the days.  Sunday we go to Church.

2.Have you ever thought of being full time blogger?

Yes, but it’s super tough to make an income from blogging.  I’d love to do it, but it’s just not realisitic.  Writing a book, however…

3.What is your favorite place to visit?

Anywhere that I can see my family.  They all live 1000 miles away.

4.Homemade food or street food ?

Homemade, because street food is usually pretty unhealthy and loaded with ingredients that can cause migraines.  Sigh.  But it’s often so tasty.

5.What was your first thought when you woke up in this morning ?

Damn it’s early.  But, yay!!  Time for my vacation in California!  Time to see my bestest friend, whom I haven’t seen for two years!

6.What cheers you up ?

Chocolate, dessert, good friends and good conversation, a cup of specialty coffee, an unexpected gift or random compliment on my writing.  And hugs and kisses from my kids.

7.What do you order or not order at restaurant ?

Whatever doesn’t have nuts or any of the many other items on my migraine trigger list.  I also avoid friend foods and of course shrimp.  Usually there are only a few items left to choose from.  I like to try new things, but it comes with a risk.  My migraines are debilitating so… I often stick with the tried and true entrees that I know are safe.

8.What question do you hate to answer ?

Since my mental health crisis last year, I abhor the question “How are you doing?”  I can’t give an acceptable answer yet, and I hate always saying that I’m “just OK” or “still have a ways to go.”  I feel like a broken record.

9.Have you ever danced on stage?

Not sure what you mean by this, but no.  Never have and never will.  I don’t like being the center of attention, so dancing where everyone can see me simply isn’t going to happen.

10.What have you always wanted? Did you get it?

A family.  A husband and kids.  Yes, I have it.

11.How do you use your leisure time?

Wait, what leisure time?  I have two kids!  If I do have free time, I’m probably writing or updating my twitter or facebook accounts.

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And (drumroll please) the Nominees are… (for some of you, I don’t know exactly how many followers you have, but picked you because I enjoy reading your blog)

Frankie Tells It Like It Is

Bisexual Love Advice

Sanity Not Included

Successfully Stressed

Bipolar Barbie-Q

Downnotout1969

Sarah Learns Life

ThisTruthICannotHide

Reborn Normal

Bipolar Housewife

I Need a New Shrink

Sunshine / Moonshine

The Life of a Bipolar Mom

LIFE-LONG BIPOLAR

Being Lydia

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Eleven questions for my Nominees:

1. Why do you blog and how did you get started?

2. How long have you been blogging?  What accomplishments have you achieved so far?

3. What is your favorite place to visit?

4. What makes you happy?

5. What makes you lost it (angry)?

6. What question do you hate to answer?

7. What little white lies do you tell regularly?

8. What was/is your proudest moment?

9. What is your favorite blog post (on your own blog)?

10. What other hobbies do you have?

11. What is (or was) your “other” job or career?

Thank you all, and congratulations new award winners!

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Follow-Up to Delusion, Psychosis or Mistake

It’s been six days since I posted about my breakdown, overreaction, mistake, or whatever you want to call it.  I’ve since communicated with both my therapist and my doctor, and I think we’re going to call it an overreaction, possibly with elements of PTSD, largely due to uncontrolled depression.  Neither of them believes I experienced a delusion or a psychotic event, which has me feeling very relieved!  (You can read the backstory and then about the actual event.  My month of October has been pretty crappy.)

My doctor immediately adjusted my medication.  She added back a small dose of Abilify to help improve my mood.  Abilify had been working for my depression back in September, but it caused severe anxiety and insomnia.  So at the very end of September we switched to Depakote and Seroquel.  Adding back the Abilify has helped to raise me out of the depression, but still not enough for me to be satisfied.  I plan to contact her again this week to see if we can up the dosage further.

As far as the “incident,” my doctor thinks it was just an overreaction due to my depressed state.  Not something to be concerned about, as long as we can keep my moods higher than that.  I tend to agree with her, for the most part.

My therapist thinks there might be an element of PTSD in my response.  It might be a little strong to call it PTSD, but who knows?  When I was a child, I was physically and verbally abused by my mother.  When she was angry, she would yell, just like my husband did that evening.  My siblings and I would immediately retreat to a safe place and wait out her anger.  Even if it took hours, we’d stay in our little hidey hole until she calmed down.  My childhood may have conditioned me to respond in the way that I did.  Run, hide, and come back when it’s safe.

That’s pretty much what I did that night.  The main difference is that he wasn’t actually mad at ME… but my brain made that very logical leap without any help.  Of course it was ultimately my fault.  I was incapacitated with a migraine, he had the kids all day, the kids had been difficult, and his unstable blood sugars were affecting his moods.  If I hadn’t had a migraine and had been able to be part of the family that day, he probably wouldn’t have reached the boiling point.

The other difference is that I brought along pills.  Enough to end it all, if I really wanted to.  Thankfully I never reached that point.  However… part of me is very frustrated with him and what I feel is a lackadaisical response to my disappearance.  It was four hours from his first text/call to the first time he asked me if I was suicidal.  He had asked if I was safe several times before that, but I never answered the question.  He conveniently texted me during the halftime of the Sunday Night Football game (but not during the game).  He knew I was severely depressed… why wasn’t he more concerned, and sooner?

My therapist wants me to bring him along to our next therapy session.  I hope she can help us figure this out.  He needs to know how to respond in that sort of situation.  And he also needs to understand how he triggers me.  If we can figure these things out, I believe it would go a long way towards improving my depression.

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Eight Things I Wish My Straight Girl Friends Knew About My Bisexuality

I feel like my straight friends don’t really understand what I mean when I tell them I’m bisexual.  For the record, I wanted to spell it all out.  Enjoy.  :)

 1. Yes, I am bisexual. No, I’m not just going through a phase, and I’m not confused.  I’m not actually a heterosexual woman who’s “experimenting.”  I’m attracted to both men and women, and always have been.  I didn’t choose to be bisexual any more than you chose to be heterosexual.  This is just a part, a small part, of who I am.  Please accept that.

2. The fact that I’m bisexual does not automatically mean I’m interested in a threesome with you and your boyfriend.   I prefer exclusive, long-term relationships.  My partner and I are normal people facing the same kinds of relationship struggles that you have with your boyfriend/husband.

3. I am not attracted to you. I think you’re beautiful, intelligent, funny, and all-around awesome.  But when I look at you, I see my friend, and I cherish our friendship.  I know your orientation is not the same as mine, and I’m perfectly fine with that.

4. If I compliment you, I really mean it. Whatever I said, I probably thought about it first to make sure you wouldn’t take it the wrong way.  You may not realize it, but I try very hard to ensure my sexuality doesn’t make you uncomfortable.

5. It’s OK to hug me like you would any girl friend.  I confess, I like to give hugs.  Whether you’re happy or sad or anywhere in between, I’d love a hug.  But I know not everyone is comfortable with that for many reasons.  You’re my friend, and friends respect each other’s boundaries.  I understand if this is one of yours.

6. I hate women’s locker rooms even more than you do. Even if I was straight, I would be uncomfortable.  Ladies, please!  Put on a towel!  Straight or gay, many of us women are very self-conscious about our own bodies.  We don’t want to see yours.  Me personally, I’m in the locker room just long enough to collect my stuff and change in the restroom or private dressing room, then head home for my shower.  I’m currently in a relationship – and even if I wasn’t – it would be highly inappropriate for me to look at you in your undressed state.  Please make it easier for me by ­covering yourself when you’re in the common areas.­

7. I experience discrimination from all sides. Many of the gay and lesbian population do not believe that bisexuality is real.  Instead they believe that female bisexuals are actually lesbians who are afraid to fully come out.  Some lesbians have refused to date me because they were afraid I wouldn’t be able to commit to an exclusive relationship.  And of course, homophobia from the straight population has been pretty unavoidable.  So you see, it’s not easy to be bisexual.  I feel like I’m trapped in between two different worlds and not fully welcomed as part of either one.

8. Because of #7, I sincerely treasure my friendship with you and all my other friends, straight or gay. Being bisexual has made me more empathetic towards others who might be carrying an invisible burden, whether it be their physical health, financial difficulties, mental health, abuse, or other issue.  Much like me and my sexuality, that burden might be part of who they are, but it does not define them.

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Bipolar Delusion, Psychosis, or Mistake?

So my husband took our two children out of the house for most of the afternoon so I could rest.  When he got home, I could tell he wasn’t in a very good mood.  The kids had been arguing and he was at his wit’s end.  After an exchange with our almost 8 year old daughter left her in tears, he yelled, “Everything I do is wrong!  I can’t do a f*cking thing right!”  (read the background story here)

This, from the man who never, ever swears.  He lost his temper, and I lost my mind.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but my husband was actually angry because his blood sugar was high (again) and the kids were fighting (again) and I wasn’t really able to help out (again).  After his outburst, he apologized to all of us.  Thankfully the kids didn’t pick up on the F-word, although they understood that Daddy was pretty upset.  Peter decided to take the kids to the park and then out to dinner, again leaving me alone so I could rest.  When I have a severe migraine, like I did that day, that’s the only way he can help me.  It puts a lot of pressure on him to keep the kids entertained and out of the house, but usually he enjoys it rather than resenting it.

But that Sunday was different.  Maybe it was something I heard in his voice, maybe it was his frustration with the situation, maybe it wasn’t him at all.  Maybe it was my terrible headache, depression, and all the self-loathing and guilt I was feeling.  Regardless of the whys and the hows, the message that I got from him was that he’d reached his limit.  He was tired of taking care of everyone, especially me.  Alone in our house, I started to cry.  I cried for an hour, thinking of all the reasons he had to have fallen out of love with me.  I could think of more reasons for him to despise me than I could think of reasons for him to love me.  I was convinced that was the real reason he had been angry and left with the kids.  He’d reached his limit, was tired of caring for me, and didn’t love me anymore.

I cried harder.  Even though I had no actual evidence to support my theory, I was convinced.  I felt like I had very few options.  How could I stay with him, if he had fallen out of love for me and was tired of dealing with my illness?  If he wanted a divorce, he could easily get custody of the kids and leave me with nothing.  What judge would give the children to an unstable bipolar parent, who also suffers from severe migraines?  Couple that with the fact that I’ve been on disability for the last 18 months, and I don’t have the financial ability to move out.  I don’t even have a job.  Those thoughts only upset me further.  What was left for me to do?  I didn’t want to be here when he got home.  So I packed a small bag and drove away in my car.  I would stay in a hotel tonight.  He could put the kids to bed by himself.  He might as well get used to it.

I drove around for a while and ended up at the closest Mall.  I found a remote parking space and just sat there, crying.  As I had packed my bag, I had tossed in several full bottles of pills.  If I wanted to end it, I could.  But first, I wanted to talk to him.  So I put my phone on vibrate and I waited.

At last he called.  I didn’t answer.  I’d already decided that I would text with him, but no way was I going to talk on the phone.  He always manages to turn the tables on me when we talk.  I thought texting might allow me to make my points so he’d actually hear them.  So he texted me.  His words are in bolded black, mind are in bolded red.  This is the actual, unedited text conversation.

Sunday evening, approximately 7:15 pm.  I left the house an hour previously.  He has just gotten home with the kids.

Peter:  Where are you?  Are you OK?

Sarah:  I just needed some distance

P:  I’ve had a really bad blood sugar day.  I was really low this afternoon and now I’m really high.  I don’t feel well.  If I blow up, I expect you to reach out to me with love and see what you can do to help.  The kids had a really bad listening day and I needed your help getting them to bed.  I’m barely holding on with how I feel right now.  Are you coming home?

S:  I’m barely holding on with how I feel right now.  But I forgot.  Only your feelings matter.

(~ 2 hour delay)

P:  Time to come home.  Where are you?  Are you safe?  Why are you ignoring my calls?

S:  I don’t want to talk to you.

P:  Sorry babe – we’re married – you need to.

S:  What’s the point?

P:  So a couple nights ago you show me this article about what an amazing caregiver I am.  Then I have a bad day (which quite frankly has little to do with you) and you abandon me??  What am I supposed to think?  Was that all BS?

S:  No it wasn’t.  But I left out quite a bit. Like how you don’t understand depression and always take it personally.  You don’t understand what I’m going through.  Never more obvious than tonight.

P:  Only my feelings matter?  What have I been doing the last few years? Granted I have ups and downs but I have to expect you to stick with me when I have a down.

S:  You didn’t even like the article.

P:  You are telling yourself stories.

S:  I don’t feel like you care about my feelings anymore

P:  Where are you?  I need to know if you are safe

S:  Why do you care anymore?

(long delay)

P:  Where are you?  I need to know if you are safe

S:  Haven’t I caused enough pain?

P:  I’m really worried about you right now – please answer your phone

S:  I don’t want to talk to anyone

P:  Are you suicidal?  Think of our kids.  I’m going to call you one more time and if you don’t answer I am calling the police.

I really did not want the police looking for me, and I especially did not want to be Baker Acted into the psychiatric hospital, even though that’s where I probably belonged.  One glance into my bag would have been enough to have me committed.  Ironically, even though I had brought so many pills, I hadn’t ever had any desire to take them.  Not saying something couldn’t have pushed me to that point… but the actual events did not.

The next time he called, I answered the phone.  By this time I was completely exhausted and still dealing with a throbbing migraine.  So I made a deal with him.  I would tell him where I was, and come home, if he would let me go to bed.  No interview long discussions about what had just happened.  No hospital.  Just bed.  He said OK to that, so I went home.

By the time I got home, it was after 11 pm.  The delusion, psychosis, or whatever I was under had worn off.  I could hardly believe what I had just done.  I knew he loved me.  I knew he hadn’t been angry with me when he left with the kids.  Why… how… what exactly happened to me?  It made no sense to my rational mind.  I couldn’t explain it.  I still can’t.

The next day, we talked a little about what had happened.  He said he’d finally realized that there were times where he needed to treat me as a “patient,” and make decisions for me.  Clearly I had not been rational on Sunday night.  Thinking he might be receptive to it, I showed him some research I had done about bipolar delusions and psychosis.  He scoffed at the idea.

“You’re just a normal person who made a poor choice.  We all do it.  It doesn’t mean you have something diagnosable,” he asserted firmly.

This, from the man who just admitted that sometimes I’m incapacitated and he needs to make decisions on my behalf.  Sigh.  Do I think my actions were only a poor choice?  No, I think there was more to it than that.  I plan to discuss it in detail with my therapist and psychiatrist as soon as possible.  Please let me know your thoughts as well.

bipolar-statue

Anatomy of a Relapse

It began about a month ago, the last time I saw my psychiatrist at the end of September.  We decided at that time to make a change to my medication (Read that Day 1 post here).   Abilify was causing severe anxiety and insomnia.  BUT.  But.  It was helping the depression.  Even though I was exhausted and restless and constantly expecting something horrible to happen… I was happy.  At least, happier than I have been in years.

So I tapered off the Abilify and started on Seroquel.  Within a week, I could already feel the downward slide into depression (Day 5 post here).  The insomnia resolved and the anxiety decreased.  I was sleeping well and no longer felt like the sky was falling.  The Seroquel, however, did nothing to slow the waves of depression.  I began feeling tired and hopeless once again.

I contacted my psychiatrist and told her I’d like to try Depakote next.  When I saw her Sept. 30, she had given me a choice between about five meds.  She wanted me to research them and choose one, which we would add about a week after I’d started the Seroquel.  Today was the day, so I picked Depakote because it can also work as a migraine preventative, and I desperately need that.  My notes say that a serious migraine had started yesterday.  I ended up suffering from that migraine off and on over the next two weeks, as I adjusted to all the new medications and dosages.  Depakote doesn’t treat an existing migraine, so it was useless in that capacity.  I just hope it will be helpful in the future.

I finally started on a low dose of the Depakote on Day 7 (October 6).  By this time, the depression was starting to take over.  I felt overwhelmed and overcommitted.  It was getting harder and harder to get out of bed in the morning.  My thoughts were leaning towards negativity, but I hadn’t had the suicidal thoughts return yet.  I was starting to worry that I was going to need to cancel some activities.  My migraine was severe.  Add a migraine on top of depression and… it’s not pretty.

By Day 14, I was struggling with a severe migraine (likely related to going on the new medication) and severe depression.  Between the two, I was incapacitated.  I didn’t get out of bed Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 8-11.  I missed several important family gatherings, which only fueled my negative thoughts.

I hated myself and my body.  I was convinced that the family must think that I didn’t want to spend time with them.  I’m such a bad mom, bad wife, bad daughter-in-law.  Why couldn’t I drag myself out of bed for a few hours at least?  They probably didn’t miss me and had more fun without me.  Those were the thoughts I was trying to fight, while also dealing with a piercing migraine.  To make matters worse, the suicidal thoughts returned.  Those thoughts are much harder to fight when I feel like I’m being repeatedly stabbed in the eye.  But I did.  I managed.  I felt terribly guilty for missing those family events, but a friend reminded me to be gentle with myself.  I found myself repeating those words – be gentle – when the self-loathing and guilt threatened to consume my thoughts.  It helped a little.

My most recent blog post was Oct. 16, where I told you all that I’ve given myself permission not to write for a little while.  I had lost the desire to write.  Actually I had lost the desire to do most everything.  I was still struggling with severe migraines and debilitating depression.  My goal was to hold on for two more weeks and give the medication time to work.  But that’s not what happened.

The weekend of October 17-18 started off OK.  I had a headache, but I went with my husband and the kids to a fall festival at the kids’ school.  It was outside, and while the weather was beautiful, the brightness only exacerbated my headache.  I also ate a hot dog for lunch (limited choices) even though I knew that might make my headache worse (the preservative sodium nitrate is a trigger).  My husband was proud of me for making the effort.  I was glad that I went, even though it meant I was exhausted for the rest of the day.  And unfortunately, waking up on Sunday with a migraine much worse than Saturday’s.

Sunday was not a good day.  I didn’t go to Church, which means I didn’t sing in the choir.  I tried to be up and with the family, but the headache was bad enough that I wasn’t good company.  I was irritable, easily angered, couldn’t modulated my tone of voice, and was very emotionally labile.  Not a good combination!  So my husband took our two children out of the house for most of the afternoon so I could rest.  When he got home, I could tell he wasn’t in a very good mood.  The kids had been arguing and he was at his wit’s end.  After an exchange with our almost 8 year old daughter left her in tears, he yelled, “Everything I do is wrong!  I can’t do a f*cking thing right!”

This, from the man who never, ever swears.  He lost his temper, and I lost my mind.  What happened next will have to be a separate post.  I’ll try to finish it up today.

Giving Myself Permission to Not to Write

Since I started transitioning medications about two weeks ago, I haven’t felt like writing.  I’ve made a couple small posts, but I haven’t written at the frequency and in the quantity that I was previously.  Somewhere along the way, my desire faded.

Intellectually, I know this is a hallmark of depression.  And it’s very characteristic of my personal depression symptoms.  I am tired and unmotivated.  Writing feels like a chore rather than a joy. I don’t really want to do it.  What’s the point?  No one’s really going to notice if I don’t write.  No one’s holding their breath for my next post (if you are, please let me know!).

And yet, I believe this feeling is temporary.  Depression is temporary.  Next week, my new medication might start working.  Ever so slowly, my desire to be creative might return.  In a week, I could be looking back at today and thinking, that was the turning point.  That was the day I started to get better.  The day writing began to appeal to me again.

Until then, I’m giving myself permission to heal.  Permission not to write.  Permission to scale back on my activities and focus on the basics, like caring for my children.  Nothing else matters right now.  Someday, hopefully soon, I’ll be writing like I used to.

 

Medication Change, Day 14: Being Gentle with Myself

The past couple days have been rough.  A piercing migraine came to visit on Thursday and overstayed its welcome. I was trapped in bed Thursday through Sunday afternoon, unable to handle even the basic family chores, much less attend events.  I missed my father-in-law’s 65th birthday party, which I deeply regret.  I didn’t get to see my brother and sister-in-law and their children, who were visiting from out-of-town.  My husband and children had to attend the family gatherings without me.

I absolutely hate when my migraines incapacitate me to that extent.  To make matters worse, my new drugs aren’t working yet.  My mood has crashed since two weeks ago when I stopped the Abilify.  Now, I’m quickly overwhelmed by negative thoughts:

  • I’m such a loser
  • I hate myself
  • I hate my body
  • I’m a bad mom, bad wife, bad daughter-in-law
  • They must think I don’t like spending time with them
  • They probably had more fun without me

I know these thoughts are cognitive distortions, but they’re really hard to fight when I also have a migraine.  The best I can do is grit my teeth and hang on until the pain passes.  In terms of the headache, I finally started feeling better on Monday but today is the first day I’ve felt “normal.”  My new normal, on this new medication combination, translates to tired, unmotivated, and all around dragging.  I’m not done adjusting to it, and we’re going to change the dose again soon, so hopefully the tiredness will ease and the anti-depressive effects will kick in.

In the meantime, I’m trying to be more gentle with myself.  A friend of mine, also Bipolar, reminded me of that over the weekend.  I tend to be very hard on myself, especially when my migraines or depression interfere with my family life.  But my own self-criticism is not helpful.

At times like this, I need to give myself a break.  Acknowledge that yes, the migraines and depression do have a negative effect on my life.  But they don’t define ME. This is just a temporary setback.  I’m not a loser.  I’m doing OK as a mom, wife, and daughter-in-law.  I may have missed the party, but the family missed me and wished I was there.  They do understand my headaches and wish me well.  Reality is completely different from the negative zone where my thoughts were caught.

So today I’m working on treating myself gently.  I’ve hardly written over the last two weeks, and my desire to write has dwindled.  But that’s OK.  That’s where I’m at right now, and it will likely change.  I don’t feel as happy or as motivated as I did two weeks ago.  But that’s OK.  I need to give myself time to adjust, and room to heal.