Pink & Blue Mummyland

Pink and blue parenting through pink and blue moods….

Scared of the Sun

This post is related to my previous post Fear of the Fog. I realise that the titles may now come across as slightly cheesy, but what can I say – I’m an alliteration junkie (please comment below with other words for ‘junkie’ that start with ‘a’…)

This past weekend I have had the joy of going away on our church’s women’s weekend. We had 70 women all in one place, being challenged by some amazing talks and taking part in some inspiring worship.

I also managed to have some relaxed and elongated time with my best friends, Beauty ICE and Lawyer ICE. Our normal prayer times are odd hours, grabbed from between jobs and school runs, so it was lovely to have some proper conversations, intense sharing, and laid back company with colouring books, knitting, and large bars of Galaxy chocolate.

On the Saturday, Beauty ICE and I went for a walk around the grounds of the conference centre, chatting and reminiscing. During our last women’s weekend away I was in the middle of a full blown nervous breakdown as I swung quickly and wildly from hypomania to depression. Beauty ICE (who from now on I’m just going to refer to as Natalya because it’s easy and there’s now no reason not to) was the person who bore the brunt of supporting me at that point, and I can categorically state that I was not fun to be with. My brain had suddenly swung into a major low before getting over the high – the result was all the negative self talk that comes with depression, but at four times the speed. It was hideous.

So this time, I had huge reason to be thankful for my stable state of mind. We walked, thanked God for the change, and had fun whilst we walked. We laughed and we yelled and we let our hair down with gay abandon, and arrived for dinner rosy cheeked and giggly, ready to eat, drink (juice) and be merry. For the first time in a long time I felt more than ok – I felt good.

But bipolar is never far away. I can never forget that it’s there, and it’s still not been long enough for me to relax and let my guard down. By the time we got to the evening meeting I was in panic mode. What if this was hypomania? Playing on swings, running through puddles and throwing snowballs isn’t exactly normal behaviour for me, and I didn’t even notice. The more I thought about it, the more frightened I became. I was on the verge of phoning every medic I knew just to check whether I should be doubling my medication, getting to A&E, checking myself in somewhere. Somewhere along the line, bipolar stole the fun.

Fortunately, sitting between my ICE ladies is the safest place to be. I can stress, I can cry, I can talk about the same things over and over again, and they never get stressed out about “what it might mean”. By the end of the session I was fine, and headed off to the team quiz in my normal, fiercely competitive way.

But it never goes. I like to think that one day I’ll be able to stop that level of overreaction and get to the stage where I can enjoy the good days and sit through the bad days without panic of relapse. But there is a fine line between self-awareness and paranoia, and whilst the former is sensible and necessary for continued health, the latter steals the joy, reminding me that I will never be normal again.

This post doesn’t have quite the happy ending I’d hoped, but it’s real. I’m coming to terms with the idea that this is what life is like now.

scared by the sun

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Inevitable

So, this week I’ve done the thing that apparently every bipolar sufferer does that I swore I wouldn’t do, and went off meds.

It started so innocently. On Tuesday morning,I forgot to take my Lamotrigine. I’ve only been on it a week, and am still only on a tiny amount, so it probably wouldn’t have had any effect. I’m just not used to taking meds in the morning – I’m not set in the routine yet. But then it got to Tuesday evening, and it was 1am, and I hadn’t taken my quetiapine yet. A little ‘what if’ entered my head, and that was it.

I should say, I was already on the way up. The quetiapine hadn’t been doing the job for a couple of weeks – it had worked well enough to make me drowsy and exhausted all morning and tired in the afternoon, but by evening I was wired, not tired, and couldn’t see the point of bed when there was so much else to be done. On Tuesday night, I knew that if I took the quetiapine as soon as I realised, I would completely lose the next day to exhaustion, so decided to give it a miss.

I really did intend to just start everything again on Wednesday. Absolutely honestly I did. But then I woke up.

Waking up was the big deal that kept me from taking anything. I actually woke up. After five hours sleep I was up and at ’em, made breakfast for everyone, and got everyone where they needed to be, before doing housework in record time. I was sold. It was the meds making me feel rubbish, I was fine without them, and would start living a normal life again.

The thing is, although I was on the up and off the meds, I was doing great. I got everything done I’d wanted to do for ages, I saw people, I enjoyed myself, but I didn’t do anything daft. I didn’t do anything that it says to look out for – no shopping, no clubbing, no flying to Vegas on a whim. Ok, I wasn’t even remotely tired on only fifteen hours sleep over four nights, but maybe I was catching up on all the sleeplessness I’d missed over the last few years. And my friends saw that I was doing great. People said I looked more like myself than I had in a long time, that I was back behind my eyes.

Friday saw the first visible signs of hypomania. A close friends, who is deaf and has to lip read me all the time told me I had to slow down because she couldn’t understand me, and another friend asked how my meds were because I seemed a bit ‘hyped’. By afternoon, my ICE girls had got together, taken my car keys away, and told me I had to do make a decision – go back on meds or carry on without to see what happened.

As is my normal state of behaviour, I did what pleased everyone else (see, I can’t have been that high!). So now I’m back on the treadmill of exhausted in the mornings, ok in the afternoon, agitated and wired in the evening, but with an added dose of pissed off that I had it so good for a while and can’t have more. But I guess that with only two good days before becoming classically hypomanic, I’ve recognised that I do need the drugs.

So here’s my plan: up the Lamotrigine as planned, but with the view of coming off the quetiapine as soon as humanly possible. I could just come off it now, but I don’t think my doctors are going to be as open to me making my own drug decisions if I just come off them with no medical supervision. I feel crap, but it will hopefully be for a season.

What I could really do with now is understanding the drugs I’m on. So, has anyone been on Quetiapine or Lamotrigine? Can you give me any insight?

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Is it just me… or is the world on go-slow?

OK, so at the end of the day I have got myself into the habit of taking stock of my day, looking at how I’ve been through the day – moods, thoughts, energy – all that jazz.

This evening, because I’ve been feeling a bit jittery, I’ve made the effort to keep track of my thoughts. The following have all occurred:

Is my iron broken? It’s not getting the creases out as quickly!

I’m sure the SVU theme tune isn’t normally this slow….

is it too late to get a babysitter and go out? It’s only nine fifteen…

Perhaps I should also note at this point that typing on the touchscreen of my iPad isn’t working very well because I keep missing letters out. I’m sure I can’t normally type too fast for the tech to keep up…

So here’s my first question: Should I be worried?
And my second: If I’m self-aware enough to worry, surely I’m fine?

Interested in your thoughts, fellow bipolarites….

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Jitterbug

I am, today, what we refer to in our house as ‘jazzy’. This means that I talk fast and move fast and have a constant feel of the jitters, but not high as in manic. That said, my laundry is all done and dry and piled, the whole second floor has been vacuumed, and my kitchen hasn’t looked this clean since Beauty ICE came in and blitzed it to her own, slightly obsessive compulsive standard.

Unfortunately, the physical energy doesn’t last, and I’m beginning to slump, but the brain is still going strong, and thoughts are zinging around quicker than hummingbirds disappear when you’re trying to take a photo. So this is when I write, and hope that there are at least a couple of nuggets of wisdom (or good writing) in amongst the flow of thoughts that just keep coming.

I’ve been working really hard to understand what my affect (posh doctor word for mood) is. I’m not even at a stage of figuring out why – the what would be enough for me. I fairly frequently seem to be thrown something that could be described as a mixed state, but less stable – I have some symptoms of hypomania and some symptoms of depression, which fits the definition of a mixed state, but it’s not consistent, and certainly doesn’t always last the four days dictated by DSM.

So, following my bipolar support group meeting last night, I have spent doing some research, and discovered the concept of ‘rapid cycling’. This describes to a tee what it is I have been trying to deal with. Why has no doctor ever mentioned this?! I have been beating myself up over it, berating myself for being melodramatic over everyday mood swings, and yet it turns out that it has a name and that other people struggle as much as I do! Funny how not feeling alone in suffering can suddenly make things so much easier. (Note to self – write insightful post about how Jesus experiencing our suffering and having suffered himself is what makes our relationship with so close and comforting).

I’ve also discovered an explanation of mixed and rapid mood cycles that differs from everything else that I’ve read. I found it on a website called psycheducation.org. I’d not discovered it before, and had what I think of as a healthy scepticism, but was comforted by fact no-one was asking for money, it wasn’t sponsored by any kind of insurance company, and that the doctor who wrote it told me to be sceptical and check both his professional standing, and all his sources. The page that most fascinated me is this one. It suggests that affect can be charted and monitored not on a single axis, but in three different areas – mood, energy and intellect (the ability to form and connect ideas). Classic mania would involve these three all being top of the graph, and classic depression seeing all three at the bottom. But each of these three aspects can increase and decrease independently, causing mixed states and rapid cycling.

So, to use myself as an example: last night, intellect and energy were fairly high, but mood wasn’t quite so high. So, at my bipolar support group, I talked fast and couldn’t really sit still, but mood wise I wasn’t completely out there. I talked about sensible things, and concerns I had, just a bit faster than normal (although I’m sure it was that everyone else was really, really slow…!). This morning, mood was lower, but I was still agitated and talking and thinking at speed. Since early afternoon, the energy has followed the mood – I’m now exhausted, but still having to chase thoughts through my head to catch them. To see how this might look on a pictorial graph, go here again.

This has opened up to me a whole new way of thinking about my mood and how I might manage it. I’m not sure how – or whether – it can be treated, but I do know that knowledge is a great weapon in the battle with bipolar. I’m now trying not to feel substandard, or like I’m making a big fuss about nothing, just because my moods don’t fit the textbook descriptions.

So, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, what do you think? Those of you who have been on the bipolar train longer than I have, does this make sense? And – most importantly – what helps? Any little nugget of advice would be most appreciated….

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