Me, Myself and I

Sometimes, I look like I am playing a part in a comedy skit. I bob up and down or push on my face or stomach when you talk to me. I stare at the wall and don’t come close to making eye contact. I start breathing like I just emerged from underwater. If we walk down the sidewalk, I may hop jerkily from side to side, making sure to miss the cracks and touch every square of pavement just right with my feet. I may run into you as I turn to avoid the colored floor tiles I cannot touch. If you see me counting on my fingers under my breath on the bus, I might explain that I am trying to prevent the other riders from hearing my thoughts. If you sit in “my” seat, I will probably just stand awkwardly nearby until you ask what’s the matter and I am forced to admit that I  cannot physically sit in another seat.

I don’t really mind those times as much as you might think. I feel uncomfortable because I worry about being judged (who doesn’t?) but I also feel honest. Some of the weirdness is medical illnesses (the OCD, the anxiety) that I am always trying to beat, but some of it is just me. Take the eye contact, for example. Direct eye contact makes my skin prickle and makes me feel exposed, naked. It makes me feel like bright lights are shining into my eyes, letting the person I am talking to peer inside my skull. Sometimes, I can fake eye contact by glancing quickly at a person and trying to look at their nose, but concentrating so hard on maintaining normal-ish eye contact is so distracting and disconcerting that I lose track of the conversation. I know that it seems like I am not listening if I am staring at the wall, but when I am stressed or overwhelmed that is truly how I listen best.

There are many times when I seem like I am playing a comedy skit character, but there are other times when you wouldn’t know anything is different about me at all. I never speak unless spoken to in class. However, a couple of my courses right now require group work. Inside, my heart may be pounding and I may feel sick, but to my group members I may seem like I am interacting fairly calmly. My breathing is normal. I am faking some eye contact.  If I were to tell them then about my handful of diagnoses, would they doubt me? Would they ask, like my gynecologist this week, “Do you really have Asperger’s?”

There is an undeniable contradiction between the (fairly) normal person who emerges occasionally and the life I lead the rest of the time. I take eight pills in the morning and eight in the evening just to stay stable, to be able to attend class at all, to spend any time whatsoever as the normal person you spoke to for two minutes in class instead of spending all my time as the woman in the first paragraph. Every time I go to class, or leave the house at all, I am putting forward my most average self (with a great deal of effort). It creates a lot of cognitive dissonance for me to know that I appear fairly normal at times, that people might sometimes not believe that I experience what I do on a daily basis.

Sometimes I doubt myself and think maybe I am exaggerating everything in my own mind. Maybe I really am just the person that others sometimes see when I sit in class. But… it is never long before the comedy skit starts up again. It returns to remind me that we are each of us different people in different situations – I am that “normal” person in class, but I’m also the person drawing stares in public. Just because the person who sits next to me twice a week doesn’t know my whole life story doesn’t mean that it isn’t real.

Update: It has been a couple of years since I last wrote, so I thought I would add a quick update. I am still in school (five years in), but will be graduating with my Bachelor’s in Psychology in the Fall of 2016! I could not be more excited.


Missed Opportunities

You think of everything you want to say to that person sitting next to you, but the words get stuck at the base of your throat and just twist and turn there until you finally just mouth them to the ground, knowing you’ll never really say them out loud. You don’t smile back at that person across the way, because the panic has got ahold of your face, frozen it into a veneer of distrust or boredom – and then you’re glad you didn’t smile back anyways because now that person won’t make an offer of friendliness again – you are clearly not interested – and you are saved from having to make painful, getting-to-know-you conversation that won’t go anywhere anyways, because who would want to be friends with you? You work for months toward an event and then don’t sign up because you are too terrified and know it won’t be fun anyways because of the fear. You skip opportunities for so many reasons (such as having to ride a different bus home than usual). You act disinterested to anyone dateable, while your heart palpates with fear they may actually be the first person ever to actually ask you out, and then you’d have to come up with a lame, obvious excuse to say no because you can’t actually go on a date – a real life, talking to someone, activities, phone calls, potential for the future, physical contact – DATE. You can’t get a job because you get exhausted when you are away from the house for more than a few hours. Besides, what if you had to count change while someone watched – quarters and nickels are hard to tell apart when your heartbeat is echoing inside your skull like a countdown to a bomb, you can’t catch your breath and your fingers are slick with sweat, numb, fumbling the coins – and you can’t remember what comes after five or how many quarters are in a dollar. So, you find that you are happiest when you are at home, friendless, dateless, jobless. Working slowly toward a degree so that you have some kind of path. Terrified about what comes after that someday commencement.

You’ll never see generalized or social anxiety disorder listed as a serious mental illness. But if you look at my life, you’ll see a reasonably smart, generally healthy twenty-one year old who leads a very limited life. I take part-time classes at my hometown college, while living at home with my parents. I do not have a single friend, and I’ve never had a job or a boyfriend. The reason for all that is not because of my bipolar disorder (a serious mental illness) but because of my anxiety disorder. What really impedes my day to day functioning is the persistent fear, worry, dread, anxiety, and panic. It makes my life a big missed opportunity, in many ways. There is little chance of “seizing the day” when the terror and anxiety that accompany simply riding the bus preoccupy me for hours beforehand.

To be clear though, my bipolar disorder completely strips me of my ability to be happy during depressive episodes, whereas I can be happy, though my life may be limited, with my anxiety. So, these illnesses are disabling in different ways. My anxiety limits my ability to function more consistently, while the cyclic nature of my bipolar effects me severely, but episodically. My rather muddled-up point? Anxiety has the potential to be very severe and disabling – please don’t dismiss it it as a casual concern!

Happy New Year’s Eve Everyone!

Wow, it has been a long time since I wrote anything…I thought I ought to get another post out there before 2014 begins! I got a surprising 2,500 views this year. I wish I were more regular with my posting. Consistency in activities and productivity is something I really have difficulty with. I know that many people would agree that they wished they were more productive…that is a pretty much universal complaint, I would imagine! However, the extent to which I am unproductive has changed greatly since I got sick. When I was young, before 16, I was full of productive energy. At least that is how I remember myself. I got up early, went to school, after school I went to practice (swim team) and finally got home around 7:00 pm where I would do homework for a few hours and then go to bed. Of course there was time for unstructured fun in there too, but I spent a lot of my time doing productive things.

Now, I can spend entire days – more like months actually – doing nothing. When I am in an episode of depression, that mostly entails doing literally nothing…lying in bed staring at the ceiling for the entire day until my family gets home from whatever they are doing all day and then maybe I go out into the living room and sit in my chair and stair at the wall. Right now, my mood is well-managed and I am doing better than that. Thank goodness.

I took this semester off from university for a number of reasons – I went with my parents to drop my brother off at his first year at college back East, and then my parents and I went on an East Coast trip. Also, as I have posted before, I am training a service dog for myself. Not being in school made it easier to fit in lots of training sessions with the trainer I worked with and gave me lots of flexibility. Additionally, I am not on a traditional 4 year track like the average college student. I took a medical leave semester off last year, and I don’t take a full-load so I am not going to finish in anywhere close to four years. I wasn’t going to lose my scholarships by taking a semester off, so I just went for it.

Anyways, point is – over this semester off I have primarily been focused on training Percy. I think I am doing a really good job of it, and am really enjoying it. However, if you look at my life, it is hardly the productive life of the average college student.

I am going back to school next semester, but am only taking two classes. That means I am only in class two days a week and will have manageable homework load. I just cannot manage going out of the house to hugely stressful school everyday, and having hours of homework to do on top of it. I usually cannot really do homework on a day that I actually go out of the house. I usually just end up napping when I get home due to exhaustion from the stress.

My unproductivity stretches to much more fun things than homework too…I enjoy writing these blog posts, but my immense inertia usually takes over before I can open up my computer.

As I have mentioned, when I am depressed, I do nothing. However, the inertia is there even when the bipolar is in temporary remission. I think that is due to the anxiety and worry and panic that needles me from the moment I get up. I panic when the mail man knocks on the door, when someone other than the 3 (literally 3) people I am comfortable talking with speaks to me, my hands shake when I have to pay at a cash register, I can’t breathe when asked to introduce myself…I obsess that my family doesn’t like me, that the person sitting next to me in class is angry because maybe I am sitting in their seat…I have a question in class and worry about whether or not I should ask it (even though I know I never will) and then it is the end of class and I have missed the content of the entire lecture, or even worse, I am so anxious in class that I fall asleep in the middle of lecture (day after day for the whole semester)…I worry that if I don’t say the right thing when someone leaves, I will never see them again. Randomly I am overcome by terrifying panic attacks. It makes sense I suppose that when I think to myself, “maybe I should write a blog?” instead I sit in my chair, too mentally tired to even read a book. 

However, things can get better so hopefully in 2014 you’ll be seeing more frequent posts from me! 

What a weird day I have been having. Very unpleasant in some ways. After working out this morning with my mother and grandmother, we went to get bagels at a little bagel shop. At the end of our meal I had an anxiety attack – I felt like I had been talking too much and had been saying stupid things. Luckily for me, my anxiety attacks are basically invisible, so no one really notices. They feel powerful however. My brain feels foggy, I feel out of breath and my heart pounds. Anxiety twists up my stomach and makes me want to curl up in a little ball under something heavy until it passes. After we returned home I played with and trained Percy. I ended up feeling better enough that I didn’t have to take a PRN for the anxiety.

However, a couple of hours later I had a strong craving for chocolate and I ended up eating a whole chocolate bar. I have been struggling lately with my weight, due to the metabolic side effects from Depakote, a mood-stabilizer I am on. The idea that I had just had an entire chocolate bar caused me to panic horribly. I cannot stand the thought of gaining any more weight. In the last couple of years in my recovery from anorexia, I don’t think I have had such a bad response to something I have eaten. I was desperate to purge or exercise or do something, anything just to get the evil calories OUT. I felt so guilty. Instead of doing anything I would regret, or that would feed into the addiction cycle of an eating disorder, I decided to just go sit outside in the sun with Percy and write this blog. So far it is helping to distract me.

All day today, I have also been preoccupied with self-harming. This is unusual for me these days, I usually only get like this when I am depressed. But today I am obsessing about times in the past when I self-harmed. I am feeling the powerful pull to do it again. I hate it when I get like this. I have no intention of ever hurting myself again, and it has been two years since I last did it, and yet some days it is still such a strong presence in my mind. It is such a powerful addiction. I just have to remind myself of everything I would lose if I gave into it again, and well as the fact that I would just feel worse afterwards. It is hard to remember that, because there is such a strong feeling of temporary relief after you give in – but it doesn’t last long…then the guilt, regret and remorse sets in and you simply feel worse. That’s what makes it such a powerful cycle.

Today has certainly been an odd and very challenging day, and my brain hasn’t been firing quite like it should, however, perhaps it is for the best. Keeps me from getting complacent. Having days where I am seriously tempted to “misbehave” keeps me on my toes and reminds me of what I need to do to stay safe and healthy. Today I was both tempted to engage in eating disorder behaviors, and I didn’t, and to self-harm, and I didn’t. Any day where I am tempted but do not give in strengthens my recovery.

Pausing the Panic


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Yesterday was a special day. My mood was definitely elevated, and had manic-y features, but wasn’t so high as to be a problem. The best part was that I got some of the confidence that goes along with hypomania, enough that my ever-present anxiety was significantly diminished for what felt like the first time in years. It felt like the weight of a thousand worlds was lifted off of me. Normally, when I go out in public, it feels like I am hundreds of feet under water – there is pressure on me from all sides, and I can’t take a deep breath. I struggle to reach the surface. My heart pounds and I can feel the panic rising in the back of my throat and clouding my mind so that I respond slowly to others, am frequently confused and cannot learn easily. It takes effort for me to move or think and by the time I return to my home, I am physically and mentally drained, and usually take a long nap.

Yesterday was different. I felt like I did when I was much younger, before the anxiety spread through my life and robbed me of my confidence, friends and feelings of successfulness. My mind felt sharp and I realized that my pervasive feeling of stupidity was more due to my anxiety than I had previously realized. I also realized just how far from “normal” I usually feel – I am so used to living with anxiety or mood episodes that I had forgotten what it felt like to be relatively free from those things, even for a short window of time. 

I am immensely grateful for my medication, and I feel that they work as well as can be expected, but now that I have had this experience, I cannot help but wonder something that I have pushed from my mind most of the time for the last 4 years…what would my life be like if most days were like yesterday? Would I still live at home? Would I have friends? Would I do better in school? Would I work? I certainly wouldn’t need to be on disability anymore. But really, none of that matters. The real question is – would my life be better if I was free of disabling mental illness? I think I would have to say that yes, yes it would (which, surprisingly enough actually surprised me). However, this is my lot in life and I am fine with it, I wouldn’t change it if I could. I do not know who I would be without the “crazy”, and I would be afraid to find out. Truthfully, I am luckier than most. I have a great family, a nice house, I love Alaska, I love my bird and my dog and despite my challenges I am making progress in my life (slowly but surely). This is good enough for me.

Percy :)


Percy is a golden retriever who was born on February 1st, 2013. I have had him since June 5th, 2013. I am training him with the help of a local service dog organization. He will be my psychiatric service dog when he is an adult. He is absolutely wonderful. He is calm and sweet, and very eager to please. Training him has been a great challenge. It requires me to leave the house and talk to other people – very difficult for me. He is learning so quickly! When he passes his Public Access Test, he will be able to go everywhere with me, according to the rules set up by the ADA. Here are the tasks that he will be trained to do for me. He is very helpful to me in many other ways, including emotional comfort, companionship, making me get out of bed to care for him, giving me a job to do, etc. but these (below) are the tasks that he will do for me to mitigate my disability (and which will legally make him a service dog with full access).


  1. Alert to panic attacks: this is something that Percy is working on. He has exhibited signs that he may be beginning to pick this up – I hope he will eventually detect early signs of rising anxiety/other precursors to a panic attack and let me know so that I have a chance to find a less public place, etc before I have a full-blown panic attack.
  2. Response to panic attack: this is something Percy is learning to do easily. When I have a panic attack or simply high anxiety, I get down on the floor or sit in a chair and ask for him to do his ‘pressure’ command (if I am able to talk). I am in a full-blown panic attack or just too anxious, I just hug him. He is quickly learning to put pressure on me during anxiety/panic. Knowing the appropriate response will also to help him learn to alert.
  3. Grounding: Percy will lay across my lap when I am having severe anxiety in class/other stressful situations and ground me, reducing my anxiety. This would allow me to focus and learn easier in class.
  4. Deep pressure: This task will be useful when I am feeling depressed/manic or anxious. For the mania, it would help me regulate my sleep. When I am manic, I have very reduced need for sleep. If Percy will provide deep pressure and calm me down, I may be able to get more sleep and prevent an escalation of symptoms. With my anxiety it would be very calming and stress-reducing to have a dog which could provide deep pressure.
  5. Wake me up in class: When I am severely anxious or depressed, I sleep excessively. Last semester, I slept through all of my classes for a whole semester. This made maintaining my grades much harder. It will be very helpful to have Percy trained to nudge me awake when I fall asleep in class. I have not started to train this, and may not need it. We shall see! Percy will always be a work-in-progress so I can begin training this at any time.

The Times They Are A-Changin’

“Admit that the waters/around you have grown/and accept it that soon/you’ll be drenched to the bone/…you better start swimmin’/or you’ll sink like a stone/for the times they are a-changin'”

Today was my first day back in real classes. It was exhausting. I have been dreading coming back to school for a number of reasons. I don’t want to put the necessary time in outside of class, I don’t have the energy or drive. I don’t want to be around people again. I don’t want to have to wear real pants, instead of pajama pants or sweats. I don’t want to do my hair or face. And, class is extremely stressful.

Every little thing I do out of my house is stressful, so when I do (or attempt to do anyways) correspondence courses in the safety and comfort of my own house, I get a much-enjoyed respite from some of the constant gnawing anxiety that surrounds me everyday. It is as if a 100 pound blanket made of wasps and nettles is suddenly lifted. I am no longer weighed down and constantly squirming from the discomfort. My muscles relax. My stomach settles. My breathing and heart rate slow. When I rest, I actually feel like I am becoming rested. Then, I realize that I have to put the blanket back on. Get back to “real life.” It is not a welcome thought.

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Difficult Finish to 2012, Here’s to a New Year!


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It has been months since I have written. Things have not been easy, and this will probably be short because I still don’t have the motivation or drive to really write. I don’t seem to be able to maintain forward motion on any activity. My mood has been cycling rapidly, finally settling in a significant depressive period. My psychiatrist has altered my medications in response, but I don’t seem to be getting a positive result.

I start university classes again in two weeks and I am very worried I will not be able to keep up with the classwork as I was not able to accomplish much on my correspondence courses this semester. We shall have to see how things go, but I am worried.

On facebook, all my “friends” have been posting pictures of their New Year’s celebrations and parties. I had a very good time with my family, but I still do wish that I could be a part of social activities like that. I find them excessively stressful, and therefore have no friends, but I sometimes wish I was doing the “normal” thing. Being able to drink, having fun with friends, getting dressed up, going to parties.

The last few months I have just been dragging along, constantly trying to adjust to a new mood, and I am worried about school next semester. I am not hopeful about the friend/social situation, but I am not worried about it. I can deal with that at a later time, I don’t need to tackle it all at once. Trying to take on too much is a recipe for disaster. Besides, I am more distressed by the idea of not doing the “normal thing” (I should be used to this by now!) than I am by actually having no friends. I know I should focus on what is good for me, at this time, but I am still easily distracted by ideas of what I “should” be doing.

I hope everyone had a good holiday season and had someone to spend it with. Here’s to a new year, a new start, another chance. We are all still here, and that is something to celebrate.

On the Edge of Normal


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Well, if I weren’t on medication, I would most certainly be hypomanic right now. As it is, Sunday night I could barely sleep at all (usually my first warning sign). Last night, Monday, I got in bed at 11:00pm. A very few minutes later, I got up and bought a NAMI membership online. By the time I got back in bed, it was well after midnight. I managed to fall asleep, but was wide awake again by 4:03am. I got up and: finished an essay, started a history assignment, went on online NAMI discussion boards, tried to find a NAMI sweatshirt to buy, read a magazine, brushed my teeth, took a shower and ate a plum. It is now 6:15am and I am writing a blog entry. My mind is a little all over the place and I am in a very good mood. I am now going to reorganize my bookshelf – warning sign #2, every time. Chances are extremely good that if I was not on medicine, I would be in full blown hypomania right now. It is possible this will progress into a true episode, we shall have to see.

Hypomania and Bipolar II


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Bipolar II means that you have cycling moods between depression and hypomania. There is no true mania. Hypomania has less of a destructive influence on your life than mania. Also, if there is psychosis present, it is automatically classified as mania, and therefore bipolar I. If you look up the symptoms of hypomania on the internet, most sites will describe it as something fabulous. You are euphoric, productive and quick thinking, confident. That is not how I experience hypomania. [I have had an experience with what was possibly true mania, or at least somewhere in between the two. It was a reaction to an anti-depressant, so does not classify me as bipolar I. It was an crazy feeling, so far beyond anything else I have ever experienced that I have no idea how to describe it. I had delusions and even small hallucinations. [Check out my post “A Bipolar Beginning” for the full story.]

Anyways, back to hypomania. That fabulous butterflies-sunshine-&-rainbows hypomania is not the kind I get. I am euphoric, but also wildly frustrated. Instead of “quick thinking” I have incredibly racing thoughts. My thoughts go so fast I can’t begin to keep track of them. They just whiz around my head and make me very distracted and I wish I could put a cool compress on my head to slow them down. Instead of being energetic, I am so full of energy I feel like my legs are going to fly off if I don’t run or jump or cartwheel or summersault. I feel like I am vibrating. My heart races with excitement. Not to mention, I have almost no need for sleep whatsoever. Instead of confident, I am extremely overconfident (at least compared to my normal anxiety-ridden self). Instead of productive, I am extremely energetic while I organize, straighten and tidy compulsively and wildly. I feel like I think that I will feel more in order (instead of in a million tiny zooming pieces) if I can only get my stuff straightened out. Altogether, it makes for a very unique and unpleasant feeling, accompanied by a large side of euphoria. In addition, I believe that sometimes my hypomania is really dysphoric hypomania, as described by McMan’s Depression and Bipolar Web: Euphoric hypomania is what we all wish we could put into a bottle and sell. Dysphoric hypomania, by contrast, is psychiatry’s dirty dark secret. These are your mixed states, your road rage states, where symptoms of depression collide with symptoms of hypomania. Thus, instead of dancing on tables you may be banging your shoe on one. Dysphoric hypomania is hell on earth. The DSM-IV confines mixed states to bipolar I, but the DSM-V (due out in 2013) would recognize mixed states in bipolar II.

So my question for you is: if you are bipolar, how do you experience hypomania? If you are bipolar I, how does your hypomania differ from your real mania? Please leave a comment! I am curious to hear about others’ experiences!

Will Anyone Give Me An Ear?


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Sometimes all someone needs is someone to listen to them…

There is something cathartic about hearing others’ struggles, which may be very similar to your own, and sharing some of your own thoughts. Today was my twice weekly NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) meeting. It is pretty much an open-forum meeting. In the beginning, we all go around and introduce ourselves (I always get so nervous!). Most people say their first name, diagnoses, medications, how they have been doing mentally lately and anything else they wish to share. After everyone has introduced themselves, we go into general group discussion. The group is lead by peers and the open discussion goes pretty much in whatever direction the group wants. I really enjoy the meeting.

While I am doing well with the bipolar right now, it will inevitably go bad. Hopefully not as bad as untreated – only for a little while and not as severe, but…I will have swings, it is unavoidable with bipolar. I think that this group will be a comfort when my mood is fluctuating or something else of importance has occurred. As for now, I listen and give some of these lonely people my attention. I also share any information I may have which I think will be useful for the group. Most of the people share that they are doing well. If anything is going wrong, it is usually something outside of their disorders. It seems like our group is being treated fairly successfully.

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Unavoidable Truths


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Studies have shown that starving yourself and self-harm both release certain chemicals into the brain and can cause a sort of addiction. So, while I have never had a true chemical addiction, I have had these sort of combination behavioural/chemical addictions. It is possible to have an “addictive personality,” which is influenced by a number of factors. I have mood and anxiety problems which make any kind of escape a powerful draw, and my family has quite a history of addiction. Therefore, when I went away to college, I was aware of the possible consequences to drinking.

I did not drink in high school. None of my friends did, so there were not really any opportunities. When I got to college though, I made friends who did drink. One of the first weekends of the year, we were sitting in a dorm room with a bottle of vodka. I wasn’t planning to drink as all of my medications say not to drink when on them. But, I was curious and, frankly, I thought being drunk sounded pretty great. I did not get drunk that first night but drank enough to get a little tipsy. I was a big fan. After that, I became increasingly determined to drink every weekend, and it made me angry if my friends weren’t drinking because then I had no alcohol. I looked forward to drinking all week.

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Now I Hear It, Now I Don’t



Here’s an OCD symptom you don’t often hear about…One afternoon a few years ago I was sitting in my chair in the living room when I began to hear mariachi music playing quietly. No one else could hear it, so I went around my house looking for a radio that had been left on. No matter when I went, the music never got louder or quieter. I began to notice that the sound seemed to be switching from being heard by my left ear or my right ear. I gradually realized that the music wasn’t coming from anywhere real, but that I was hallucinating it. I was pretty freaked out by that. However, research on the google turned up interesting news. Apparently, musical (and other auditory) hallucinations are surprisingly common in those with OCD.

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Driving Me Crazy


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When I was sixteen, I got my driver’s license. Driving was nerve-wracking, but I loved the independence. Plus, I had a super cute little purple car.

I was never truly suicidal. I never had a specific plan, but I certainly did wish I could simply evaporate. When I was hypomanic I would drive 80 or 90 miles an hour on the highway with my eyes closed, to see if I would crash and die. Of course, I wasn’t thinking straight, and now I am so thankful I did not hurt someone else. I could have easily killed someone, but that didn’t occur to me at the time. I never did that when driving my little brother home, but he still talked to my mother at one point, saying he didn’t feel safe riding with me. I wasn’t in a good place. I was barely sleeping or eating at all, and I was hypomanic. I should not have been on the roads. I got lucky and no terrible accidents occurred.

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Some Times You Just Need to Push “Pause” and Take a Sanity Day


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Normally, I don’t feel like my life is worse than it would be without the illnesses. I am always noticing things that I have to do differently than other people, or things that are especially hard for me, but I normally don’t feel sorry for myself. I laugh it off, make jokes. Keep it light. Some days though, it just overwhelms me.

For example, Friday and Saturday I was so worn out. I have a sore throat and don’t feel well and I have been so hideously anxious. I couldn’t make myself face the anxiety of my NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) peer-support group on Saturday, even though I actually enjoy it and it makes me feel good.

Friday, I went to therapy. I get SO anxious before therapy, it is really miserable, but I make myself go because I really want the EMDR to help. On Friday, I sat there in the office waiting for my therapist to show up for half an hour. The dread and feeling of impending doom about the appointment was building and building (the anticipation of something stressful is always the worst part). I was shaking. My heart was pounding and I could feel my heart beat all the way down into my fingertips. Continue reading

Find What Works


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I have no idea why it works…

Having been on a variety of medications while trying to find the right combination for me, I have had a variety of side effects. I have been sedated, manic, had tremors and cotton mouth, difficulty thinking, appetite changes, lithium toxicity, a weird pupil problem and more. Currently, not only do my medications work well, but I have relatively few side effects. As few as could be hoped for with five psychotropic medications.

I am not excessively sleepy, which I get with many medicines. I do have tremors in my hands and arms at times, but not all the time. The only significant side effect I have is nausea. I have spent a long time trying to deal with it, as I can’t change my medicines. The nausea can be really bad and very frequent. Anti-nausea medications made me too tired to function right, so I sometimes have had to take tests nauseous or do other important activities while feeling sick. At one point a few years ago, I threw up every time I rode in the car.

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Friendly Fire


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After having been hospitalized four times (for a total of 7.5 months), I returned for my senior year of high school…

Let me back up. In third grade, when life was still simple, a new girl was added into our class. My teacher assigned me to show her around and let her know the rules. And that was all it took – we were instant best friends. We dressed the same (I never felt like I knew what I was doing on anything, so I just followed along), wore lanyards around our necks, were obsessed with rock-climbing and spent tons of time together. We had such a great time. As we grew up we had a secret club house in the forest around my house, we did shrinky-dinks and other crafts, we hid way up in our favorite tree by the bike path near her house and made funny sounds when people walked underneath (or sang songs like American Pie), we hung stuffed animals out the window on strings when there were men working on the neighbors’ house (the kind of stuff which is hilarious when you are a kid), went out to her cabin on a lake and inter-tubed in the freezing water (while doing stunts like leaping from one tube to the one next to it and of course flying off often), rollerbladed and we played with her baby brother or her sisters (or my animals…we didn’t play with my brothers as much but I always had animals). Well, that was a lot of examples to basically say – we had a lot of fun. Continue reading

A New Challenge Emerged


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After I returned from Remuda and fell into a severe depression, I had an idea. A terrible, destructive idea. I thought to myself, “I am miserable, maybe I will feel better if I only eat three chewy bars a day for as long as possible. I will also swim two practices a day.” I am not the type of person to do things halfway. I started with the chewy bar idea, and it was not long before I wasn’t eating much of anything at all. I found that I did get a sort of rush from skipping meals, but that all together, it only made me more miserable. By this point however, I could not stop. I tried, but the overwhelming anxiety and guilt when I ate didn’t seem worth it, and I was so completely desperate to lose weight. I became slower and slower at swim practice, people asked if I had the flu. I have been told I became pale and sick-looking. I was more miserable than I had ever been in my life. Very shortly after the poor chewy bar idea, I began self-harming again. Every single day. That too gave me a brief rush, but was also followed immediately by guilt and despair. I felt like the most worthless human being on earth. My body image was rock bottom.

As part of my plot to hurt myself and withhold things from myself as punishment for some flaw in my person, I decided to stop sleeping as well. I was very successful at that, which made me feel sort of accomplished (same with not eating), since I didn’t feel good at anything else. Then, the mania hit and I didn’t need to sleep. Months passed in this manner. Continue reading

A Bipolar Beginning

Alright, where were we? Ah…my return from Remuda. Very shortly after I returned from Remuda, things got much worse. There was a short window upon my return where life was going smoothly. I was more in control of the OCD, my mood was great, and I was so happy to be home.

Jumping back in time a bit, the winter before Remuda, we had a three day ice-day. I began to feel restless, agitated, energetic and euphoric. It was a feeling unlike any other I had ever experienced. I had always been a enthusiastic (and sometimes a little overexcited) child with loads of energy, but this was a whole new level of energy and agitation. I put on my sneakers and informed my Mom I was going on a run (I very rarely ran). She thought I was running around the loop of my neighborhood. Instead though, the running felt so good and I had so much energy, so I took off and ran to my grandmother’s house with my music blaring in my ears. Her house was 6 miles away, and the roads were the iciest I had ever seen. I fell often, and by the time I made it, my legs were scraped all over. I stayed at her house for a few minutes, where she urged me to call my Mom and let her know where I had gone, which, in my state hadn’t occurred to me. She later let me know she was surprised at my energy, but I was always energetic at times, so she wasn’t worried. She was also surprised at the distance I had run, because I very rarely ran. I left and ran back home, cutting up my legs even more. I did not feel tired after that 12 mile run.

Shortly after I returned from Remuda, I fell into a horrible depression. It was the worst I had ever experienced. I couldn’t understand why I felt so awful. I was put on anti-depressants, but they didn’t work. Prozac (which I had tried at the hospital) also made me agitated and restless (which often happens when people with bipolar disorder are put on anti-depressants). Eventually, I was put on a new anti-depressant, which was not a SSRI. It is called mirtazapine and it exhibits both noradrenergic and serotonergic activity. Once put on mirtazapine, my energy sky rocketed. One of its normal side-effects is a decrease in energy, but because of the bipolar, it had a different effect on nme. I was swept up into a manic episode. I walked on the bike path was 7 or 8 miles, with no shoes. I had rocks imbedded in my feet and I hadn’t even noticed. One night, I was *attempting* to help my partners on a school project, but in reality I was literally running in circles. I could not stop. I suddenly began to believe I would bounce if I fell off my friend’s 3rd floor balcony, so I climbed up. I was going to try to balance in a star shape on the railing. Luckily, my best friend pulled me off the railing just in time. I made crazy art in the middle of the night and intentionally hot glued my hands. I almost never slept for weeks on end. I simply didn’t need to. Two hours every other night was plenty. I began to see my books rearranging themselves on my bookshelf out of the corner of my eye. I was seeing a therapist at the time, and she called my parents and told them she would call child protective services if I was not taken to the hospital, because I was not safe. I was brought to the psychiatric emergency room, where after many hours waiting I was authorized to go off the mirtazapine, and was told how to do it safely. I gradually came down off my manic high.

This episode lead to my bipolar diagnosis. I was diagnosed as bipolar II, because I had never had a non-medicine induced manic episode, only hypomanic episodes. The criteria for determining whether it is a manic episode or hypomanic episode are largely the same, but hypomania is less severe. Also, psychotic breaks or delusions automatically define an episode as manic. I began to get appropriate treatment, instead of treatment for major depressive disorder. After lots of changes and tweaking, I am finally on a medicine program that works well for me. I am on lithium, bupropion (an atypical anti-depressant so it works well for me), risperidone and gabapentin (for the anxiety). I also have an anxiety PRN – hydroxyzine. It is effective enough that if I take my medicine at a regular time everyday, my mood episodes are usually short and usually not as severe as before medication. Being bipolar has been hard to manage at times, but right now things are going as well as could be hoped for.