Celebrating 300 Posts of Birth of a New Brain!

Photo Three

 

The Very 1st Post:

After a Two-Year-Long Hiatus, I’m Back!

Getting Better, Getting Worse & To Be Continued

 

I can’t believe it has been two years since I last posted to my blog, formerly called “Proudly Bipolar” thanks to Anthony Bourdain’s book No Reservations.  

 

Unknown

I love you Anthony! (in a platonic way)

 

I’m a big believer in the power of titles, and I felt it was apt to change my blog’s title to “Birth of a New Brain” to reflect the person I’ve become since November, 2011.  

“Birth of a New Brain” is dear to my heart.  (And brain! 😉   I love the phrase for various reasons. One little thing is that I appreciate its alliterative qualities with the “b”, but I can’t say it well if I have dry mouth syndrome! 

I came up with the title last spring. After doing extensive research, I was slowly tapering off all psychiatric medications . (9/22/15 update – I’m pro-med now! Read on and see why…)  Back then I felt my brain was changing and rebirthing, so to speak, on a cellular level. And the cells were changing. Hypomania was setting in and there would be disastrous consequences from my no-med quest. However, when I was still relatively stable I couldn’t help but love feeling so positive and creative once again, and I thought the title was imbued with my optimisim.

Birth of a New Brain was associated with a forty-page book proposal based on living with bipolar well without medication. The proposal was accepted by my former publisher and I was absolutely thrilled. (I cancelled the agreement when I relapsed with bipolar depression. Obviously my no-med concept wasn’t seaworthy.)

When I wrote the proposal I had high hopes. I secured an extraordinary British physician/author named Dr. Liz Miller, Britain’s first female neurosurgeon, to write the foreword. I discovered Dr. Miller in Stephen Fry’s groundbreaking documentary “The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive”. (You can watch it on YouTube here) Dr. Miller was Fry’s only subject who had bipolar disorder, was medication-free and doing well, so I tracked her down in London and we began corresponding.

Then I crashed and burned big-time.  I relapsed when my lithium dosage was down to 450 mg. I had to go to the psychiatric ward not once, not twice, but three times in less than two months. Once again I asked for electroconvulsive (ECT) treatments as I knew ECT was my last resort. (The first time I had ECT was in 2009 when my Dad died and I was acutely suicidal. I had a unilateral, or one-sided procedure as opposed to having bilateral ECT , i.e. electrodes placed on both sides of my brain.)  

When I relapsed, my hospital’s ECT psychiatrist Dr. L. and I agreed that I’d have bilateral ECT. Bilateral has the most intense potential side effect of memory loss. Why do it then? It can work more effectively for what I had suffered: a heavy-duty, rapid manic-to-suicidal depression state. (When my father died, I wasn’t manic to begin with; I was already deeply depressed.) It was absolutely the right decision.

I upped my lithium dosage to 900 mg. Over time I tried out a bunch of medicines for bipolar, anxiety and insomnia that gave me terrible side effects, bar none.

I worked with my new psychiatrist Dr. D. to find medication that would help me climb out of the terrifying, gripping depression that made me feel so utterly hopeless.  

Finally, in October, 2013 (my favorite month due to the beautiful autumn weather and my favorite holiday Halloween) Dr. D. suggested an old-school antidepressant drug called tranylcypromine, or Parnate.  On an interesting side-note, I recently discovered that Parnate was prescribed to this person six weeks before she died (or was allegedly murdered).

parnate-monroe

I digress.

Parnate is classified as a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI).  I’ve tried well over thirty-five medications for bipolar/anxiety/insomnia, but I *never* thought I’d take an MAOI.  This class of meds get a very bad rap because there are strict food/alcohol restrictions, and if one eats or drinks a “no-no”, one can die because of hypertension and other reasons.  

It’s also known as a “last-resort” drug for bipolar depression! Um, why hadn’t any of my previous psychiatrists brought up taking an MAOI???? Well, I suspect I know the reasons. I think they think that their patients are too dumb to follow the dietary guidelines (Stigma much? Yes, some psychiatrists look down at their patients) and they’re pressured by Big Pharma to prescribe the latest meds, certainly not an old-school MAOI that has been used for decades and actually works well. (In a small study done back in the 1970’s Parnate was found to work extremely well when combined with lithium!)

Anyway, I didn’t know until quite recently that MAOIs have helped countless people with bipolar who are considered to be medication-resistant.  

I told Dr. D. to bring it on!

I researched internet anecdotes written by those who’ve used this medication. Some people noted that Parnate worked within just a few days.  One woman recounted how Parnate lifted her ten-year-long depression in two days!

I read those accounts and thought, “They’re the lucky ones – that will never be me.”

I took my first, Pepto Bismol pink-colored pill Sunday morning.  The next morning I woke up feeling rather different.  Better.  

No way.  This has to be a dream!  I thought groggily.  

Later that morning I was feeling even better than before.  Not too much, i.e. hypomanic or manic, but I thought that maybe something was shifting in my  crappy-med-battered, shocked brain of mine.  

The next day I genuinely felt much better.  I was able to smile again, and laugh. I felt hopeful.  I felt like myself – the self I was before I ever heard or read the word “bipolar”.  I spent time with my two precious little girls and took them out places that made my skin crawl, like Toys ‘R Us and to the Night of the Living Dead mall so my older girl could get her ears pierced.

I was looking forward to interacting with people again – even the seemingly “normal” parents at the girls’ school!  I met with my longtime therapist Ina and she was amazed at what she witnessed.  She was cautiously optimistic.

Were there drawbacks to Parnate? Yes, just one, but it was intense. A daily afternoon fatigue set in (it’s a notorious Parnate side effect) but I felt that it was completely worth it compared to the benefits of the depression lifting. The majority of the anecdotes said the fatigue would go away after a few weeks. I hoped and prayed that this medication would keep working.  

Three weeks later, it was still working.  

Three weeks and a day later, I felt the depression creeping back.  

I tried denying that the Parnate had stopped working so magically, but each day my depression grew stronger.  We were on the verge of taking our biggest family vacation ever – it was one we cancelled three times before due to my bipolar depression. It was a trip for which we had scrimped and saved: the Holualoa region of Hawaii.

To be continued…

 

Dyane Leshin-Harwood’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa (author of the acclaimed Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth) will be published by Post Hill Press next year.  

Advertisements

The Seroquel Withdrawal Blues

Let me tell you a little story

(da da da da dum)

About the Seroquel blues

(da da da da dum)

Those pills are mighty powerful stuff

and they’ll make you constantly snooze

(da da da da dum)

Seroquel was my blessing and my curse

And ever since I said bye bye

(da da da da dum)

I’ve been sufferin’ the Seroquel blues

The withdrawals been making me cry

(da da da da dum)

———————————————————————————————-

(We meant to practice this a lot more for your sake, but, uh, obviously we didn’t. I can’t believe Lucy didn’t howl in protest. My apologies.)

Out of all the bipolar meds I’ve taken, the effects of the controversial antipsychotic Seroquel have been twofold. This drug has been my true blessing and also a total pain in the ass.

(A pain in the brain is more like it!)

I could easily write a 2000-word post about quetiapine (the generic form of Seroquel), but I’ll spare you and write around 1000 words as I have my memoir Birth of a New Brain to write. 

In 2013 my psychiatrist prescribed quetiapine for my hideous, agitated insomnia that hit me out of nowhere.  I filled my prescription but I kept putting off taking my first pill because I was scared of the potential side effects. It wasn’t likely that my head would fall off after taking quetiapine, and I probably wouldn’t start speaking in tongues, but I was plain-old-spooked.

Well, I finally became so desperate that I took the quetiapine and it totally helped me, so much so that I will never tell anyone not to try this stuff if they’re seriously considering it.

Yes, I had major daytime grogginess and yes, that sucked, but suffering with that side effect was worth it since I finally got my all-important sleep. 

My other side effects were weight gain (15 pounds since Fall, 2013) and some late night hunger. Since I worked out every day the “Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidan way”* I wasn’t too worried about an extra fifteen pounds. As a former certified personal trainer, I knew I could lose the weight safely when I simply committed to improving my diet.

Extra adipose tissue a.k.a. blubber has been something I was able to live with for the time being. Quetiapine also caused me to have trippy, vivid and disturbing dreams – not nightmares, exactly, but not feel-good/warm fuzzy dreams either.

I also believe that Seroquel may have triggered a weird phenomenon that lasted about nine months. I felt totally inspired to write regularly, and I blogged almost every day. I fell in love with writing all over again.

I remained responsible. I took care of the girls, and I didn’t alarm my husband by writing at all hours of the night as I did when I was hypomanic/manic and hypergraphic. (My hypergraphia will be explained in my book!) 😉

Every morning I woke up, I got the kids dressed and fed, and I drove them to school. I returned home to write for a few hours without fail. I wasn’t manic, but it definitely seemed like my brain was firing unusually, that’s for sure. I can’t think of another explanation for why this sudden burst of writing happened because the only thing I did differently was add quetiapine.

My psychiatrist didn’t think the medication caused any kind of mania either.  I don’t know. Could this have been a seasonal affective disorder of some kind? Maybe. But when I reduced my quetiapine dosage, my daily writing compulsion and my highly creative juices dwindled.  I was still creative and I still wrote, but my need to write was nowhere nearly as intense as it was before.  My intuition was that I had to reduce the (relatively) high dosage of 100 mg/night of quetiapine and not stay at 100mg for the sake of my writing habit and drive. 

So with my psychiatrist’s blessing, over the past year I tapered down to 25 mg a night of Seroquel. Even though 25 mg sounds tiny, it’s not! I’ve still felt groggy during the day, and I wanted to see if I could sleep without relying upon Seroquel.  I don’t know how people can open an eye at 800/mg a day of this stuff – that just shows how different we all are.

It turns out that I can sleep on my own once more!  Hurrah! I’ve been off quetiapine for over three weeks.  However, if I need to take it again I won’t hesitate. I added a $9 magnesium supplement (manufactured by Source Naturals, a reputable company located in my town) and it seems to help me with sleep too. I’ve used lavender essential oil off and on, which is safe and it always helps me (a least a little bit) when it comes to insomnia.

I’ve read that it can take weeks or months for a quetiapine withdrawal period to run its course. I’m not allowing myself to surf endlessly on the internet about it because God knows I’ve done that before, and in this case I think it’s a total waste of time.

What matters most is that each day I feel a little better. I can sense the Seroquel withdrawal blues slowly dissipating.  I’m more alert and my freaky dreams are gone. My “Seroquel belly” is even shrinking a tiny bit.

I’ll have more to report on the withdrawal front next Thursday or Friday. If you’re tapering off a med or suffering some withdrawal blues of your own, good luck and feel free to vent your heart away here.

Until then, take care, and thanks for reading!  

XOXO

Dyane

* Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidan’s International Society for Bipolar Disorders webinar that (sorry to get all Tony Robbins on you ) totally changed my life!  Exercise Treatment for Mood Disorders: A Neurobioloigcal Rational

http://isbd.org/education/webinar-series

Dr. Alsuwaidan’s brief post. This article contains simple “exercise for mood” guidelines I follow religiously every day.

View at Medium.com

My husband was so convinced that my Alsuwaidan routine has helped my mood that when my exercise machine broke, he went out to Sears that same day (despite being swamped with work) and he got me a better machine. (I know I’m lucky!)

Yes, I could’ve gone walking or hiking or jumped rope or walked up and down the stairs, but he knew how much I loved using my elliptical. I believe my Schwinn is worth its weight in gold. Or chocolate.

The Post of My Heart: “The Found Girl” on The Lithium Chronicles

imgres

Dear Friends,

It has been a hell of a week.  Last Friday I was high (it was natural! No inhaling took place. 😉 from sharing my good news about my book deal with Post Hill Press.  I’ll be honest with you – despite hoping to get a few solid hours of writing done, I did diddly squat.

That same day, Nicole Lyons, the feisty founder of wildly popular The Lithium Chronicles Facebook community, kicked off her Mental Health Warrior month by publishing my post “The Found Girl” on her blog. I was honored, to say the least.

I selected “The Found Girl” because out of the 275 posts I’ve published, it’s one of my very favorites. I had problems trying to reblog it, so I’m posting the link:  

http://thelithiumchronicles.org/2015/04/30/mental-health-warrior-dyane-leshin-harwood/

I usually ramble for another 818 words, but today I’m giving you a break. I hope you’re all doing well, dear bloggers. 

love, Dyane

p.s. As some of you know, I enjoy promoting sites/resources I believe in, so I’m sharing some of my favorites here.  Please help me spread the word about ’em & I’ll be forever in your debt!!

Visit The Lithium Chronicles Facebook Community 

https://www.facebook.com/TheLithiumChronicles?fref=ts 

 To check out Post Hill Press visit www.posthillpress.com

Post Hill

Dr. Walker Karraa, who’s writing the foreword to Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder, created a wonderful site called Stigmama. http://stigmama.com/ I’ve been a Regular Contributor to Stigmama for almost a year. I encourage you to visit Stigmama and consider contributing your own writing to this cutting-edge site – it has over 19,000 likes on Facebook!

Dr. Karraa’s new book Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth has been the #1 Amazon bestseller in the Postpartum category! Please buy a copy for anyone you know who has been affected by postpartum depression – it’s a truly remarkable, unique, and most important, inspiring book.  To purchase a copy please go to:

 http://www.amazon.com/Transformed-Postpartum-Depression-Womens-Stories-ebook/dp/B00STTT334/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1431040608&sr=1-1&keywords=Transformed+by+Postpartum

search-2imgres

Zoe the Hamster with Bipolar Foils Death Yet Again!

Okay, well Zoe doesn’t have a bona fide DSM-5 bipolar diagnosis, but I had to rope you in somehow! imgres

(She does seem to have rather mercurial states of mind.)   

To tell you the truth, I find it interesting that the first topic I wanted to write about today wasn’t bipolar-related. That’s a novelty. I think about bipolar disorder so constantly that it feels like a part-time job. While a hamster on the lam may not be quite as fascinating a subject as bipolar disorder, it feels good to focus on the critter and give my weary brain a break. 

Actually, I do bring up bipolar disorder at the close of this post, so please bear with me and don’t scamper off! 😉  Prepare yourself for some rodent-related high drama!

My brain is not feeling too fresh today because I awoke with a head cold. I become a big baby when I’m sick, even if it’s a mild bug. I felt the creeping crud coming on yesterday afternoon while I whizzed around doing too many errands. I think that hectic pace made me vulnerable to a germ which has been making the rounds. Sneezing, weakness, and the grumpies have been my only symptoms.  

Anyway, I noticed this morning it was very quiet. Preternaturally quiet. There were no sounds of Zoe frenetically running on her “Critter Trail” wheel. I walked over to her abode holding my breath.

Ahhhhhhhhhh! My worst suspicions were confirmed.

No Zoe!

During the night she bit through layers of duct tape used as a temporary measure to cover a hole in her cage. (Before you critique me, please know it wasn’t my idea to use duct tape!) Meanwhile, our dog Lucy ran excitedly from room to room. After checking the bathroom for signs of Zoe, I sequestered Lucy there. 

Next, Rilla and I went on a hamster hunt. All the while, I fervently prayed that Lucy didn’t have Zoe in her digestive system!  

I don’t want to sound like we’re negligent hamster owners, but these things do happen. We’ve had Zoe escape once before…

https://dyaneharwood.wordpress.com/2015/02/12/late-nights-with-zoe-the-syrian-hamster/

I worried that it was highly unlikely for us to have another happy ending.  

I ran around the house with Rilla, snot running down my face in the mayhem. I peered into every nook and cranny for the wily brown furball. I looked down over the edge of Marilla’s bunk bed that pressed up against the wall, where there were a few inches of space between bed and wall. To my shock, Zoe’s head popped out from underneath the lower bunk.  Hallelujah! After coaxing her out with hamster grub, Rilla grabbed her as gently as she could. Relief washed over me.  

I covered Zoe’s cage’s hole with a brick instead of duct tape. 

From now on, I’m calling her the Houdini Hamster. 

Now I’m tuckered out from all the commotion, so I’m off to be a banana slug. This hamster excitement took a lot out of me, but at least I don’t have a hysterical seven-year-old on my hands. Thank God I’m not making plans for a hamster funeral.

I’m also glad I had the energy to find Zoe. If this incident happened during my bipolar depression days, I would’ve hidden beneath my comforter, unable to deal with it. Finding Zoe was a small-yet-significant triumph.

Sending you all my sluggy love until late next week,

Dyane

 Fascinating Banana Slug Fact:

Banana slugs can be found hanging out in our front yard. Fortunately Lucy doesn’t try to eat them – that would be gross, as they love to slither along things such as dog excrement.imgres-1imgres

Cookie Monster Offers Private Sessions

 

 

 

imgresDear Cool Cats,

I want to apologize to each of you for my last post, a.k.a. the negative whinefest. Between that and the Linda Blair photo, I hope I didn’t scare anyone away.

Too late now, eh?

To make up for my whines and the gruesome Linda pic, I’d like to share this very sweet, uplifting video of the eminent Cookie Monster leading therapy sessions. I watched it with Avi last night and we were laughing. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we did!  A special thanks goes out to Plucky You, one of my favorite blogs, for sharing Cookie Monster’s therapy. Plucky You also brought light into my world with the magnificent, unforgettable Alpaca Dancing Cow video that changed my life.  Please check out her blog when you can!  

Have a super-fab weekend!

Love,
Dyane

p.s. When in doubt, don’t forget Cookie Monster’s divine wisdom:
“WHERE THE COOKIE? WHERE THE COOKIE???”

imgres-1

PLUCKY YOU

View original post

The Peer Support Group ROCKED!

imgres-1

Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidan

The peer support group was a wonderful experience for everyone!!!

I just had to let you guys know how it went right away! Knowing that some of you in various corners of the world have been rooting & even lighting candles for me/the group has been nothing short of precious! (I will never be able to think of that word again without thinking of LOTR! – the awesome blogger McKarlie would most likely agree with me on that point!) I could not have done this without the encouragement and help of a local, dark chocolate-loving friend who I shall call “Anonymous”.

I’m going to keep this post short…well, I can’t just post that teeny bit. I must also let you know that even though I’m wiped out from hosting, I get a mysterious slight second wind at this time of day (5:30 p.m.) – it’s Exercise Time! I know in my gut that there’s no way I could pull the support group off without my daily dose of exercise per Dr. Alsuwaidan’s guidelines! (I’ll be sharing his information with the support group, of course.)

Dr. Alsuwaidan’s guidance, which is from his blog at http://www.kuwaitmood.com, has become my credo. If you haven’t read this yet, please read it. Ask me any questions in the comments, as I’m a former American Council on Exercise certified personal trainer and while I’m not a pdoc, I know a thing or two about exercise for mood stability/improvement! Okay, that’s more than enough for this week. Off I go to sweat to INXS on Pandora!

:))) Dyane

EXERCISE & MOOD – From Science to Action by the psychiatrist Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidan

http://kuwaitmood.com/exercise-mood-part-iii-from-science-to-action/

There is probably no one word that can sum up what people want in terms of emotional or mental health. Whether it be clients I meet in the clinic with a mood or anxiety disorder or a friend or acquaintance asking for an opinion in a social setting, the theme of the question is common but each one is different. However I think there is one common thread that joins the questions and ONE word that captures 99% of what is ideally sought STABILITY.
Those with recurring depressive episodes or mood swings want mood stability. Others with anxiety, nervousness or worry want calm stability. The frazzled, stressed, workaholics want relaxed stability. For many achieving stability would make them happier, more productive, more sociable and have a better quality of life. I don’t claim that exercise is the only way to achieve stability. There is no panacea. The correct treatment of all of the above situations is an individually tailored combination that could include medications, talk-therapy, lifestyle changes and other components but should ALWAYS include exercise.
Now let’s make the leap from the science we reviewed in the previous blog posts to action. How do we “dose” exercise? What kind of exercise? What time should I exercise? For how long? How do I start and how do keep going?
For an easy reference I will summarize the answer in one sentence then explain the details and the fine tuning will come later. Remember here we are talking about the ‘dosing’ of exercise that changes the biology of the brain and not the number of packs in your Abs! Although that might be a welcome side effect – if you are trying to achieve that talk to a personal trainer. Here we are treating the brain and going after STABILITY. ! ! ! Exercise for 30 minutes 6 days a week at a high-impact level. ! ! That’s it simple, right? Ok ok I know it is not that easy. So let me explain further by breaking it down into 3 rules.
Rule #1
– Exercise: For brain health exercise can be any type that suits you. It does NOT have to be weight-lifting or running on a treadmill. You do NOT have to go to a gym or use a workout DVD. Do any exercise that you enjoy. Swim, run, hike, climb, lift weights, tennis, basketball, soccer, yoga, cycling and on and on. Adapt the exercise to your body if your capacity is limited by physical needs or injuries, but anyone can do some sort of exercise unless you are fully paralyzed.
Rule #2
– 30 minutes 6 days a week: The bottom-line is that the research shows this is the average of the dose needed for the brain to adapt. Now let’s break this rule down. First reactions are usually – 6 days?! That’s a lot! Yes it is, but we are only asking for 30 minutes. Think about it, how many hours a day do you sit at the internet or TV? 30 minutes is very short. In fact, DON’T do more than 30 minutes (unless you have a routine and have been doing this for years). Doing more will lead to inconsistency and skipping workout days. The science shows it is far better (at least for the brain) to be consistent in exercising most days of the week rather than spending an hour exercising 2 or 3 days a week. In fact, for you gym-goers if you think about it (and research also supports this) if you are spending more than 30 minutes at the gym then your are chatting and resting too much. Thirty minutes makes it harder to come up with excuses such as: There is no time! or I’m too busy! If you work a lot or travel find 30 minutes to do some stretches, pushups, air-squats, jumping jacks etc. 30 focused minutes is all you need, Done! Six days too much? Fine five days is the absolute minimum, but better to aim for 6 so that if you fall short then you have a day to save for later.
Rule # 3
– High Impact: For the scientists reading this that is 16 kcal/kg/week. What?? English please! Ok so here is how I explain high-impact to people: For most of the 30 minutes you are exercising you should be sweating and it should be difficult to speak in complete sentences without needing to catch your breath. This means you work hard for 30 minutes then you are done. Walking doesn’t count unless it meets the criteria above. Commuting does not count! That is your normal energy expenditure. Remember we are trying to change the brain and you can’t do that without effort.
Last few tips:
• You can exercise anytime in the day that fits your schedule. I find first thing in the morning works best because it is the time of day with the least demands on your schedule. Plus there is evidence this timing may have a more efficient effect than other timings. If it means you have to wake up 30 minutes earlier then do it and just sleep 30 minutes earlier at night. No big deal. But if it doesn’t work just exercise at any time that’s the most important thing. Get it done.
• You can either start slow and build up to 6 days a week over a number of weeks or just pick a week and start. If you have started and stopped exercise routines in the past you will find this one is easier to maintain because it is more flexible. You can do anything as long as you break a sweat. Jumping rope is great if you don’t have a lot of equipment and can’t go to a gym. Keep telling yourself it’s only 30 minutes and just get up and do it.
• If you skip days and don’t exercise at least 5 days in a week don’t be discouraged and go back down to zero. Just start again. It is normal to stumble. I do all the time.
The important thing is to keep the 30 minutes 6 days a week in your head and keep as close to that as you can. But the closer you are to that ‘dose’ the better the result will be.

– Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidan

imgres

“I’m Not A Mess” (Except When I’m A Mess)

 

 

“I’m Not A Mess” by Dyane

Trigger Warning:

A touch of profanity and silly, embarrassing neck movements 

 

Last Friday I was inspired by the writing of Dr. Walker Karraa, founder of Stigmama.com and author of the bestselling book Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth.  

Dr. Karraa wrote about how the media only portrays women with postpartum mood disorders (PPMD’s) as sad. The reality is that I, along with most women with PPMD’s, use the full range of our emotions.  Many of us don’t walk around 24/7 with gloom and doom expressions.  I came up with my ditty “I’m Not a Mess”, and I felt pretty spunky when I recorded my tune.  Little did I know that I’d become a major mess over the weekend.

Valentine’s Day was beautiful and sunny, but I woke up out of sorts.  The previous night I read a Freshly Pressed post that deeply affected me: Asher’s “Bipolar as Unexpected Gift” on My Beautiful Machine.   In a nutshell, I allowed Asher’s post title to trigger me.  I wrote a complaint to WordPress letting them know why I wasn’t thrilled with their selection.

Next, I wrote my own blog post about Asher’s post.  I broke my stringent rule of not waiting a minimum of twenty-four hours to review and publish any post.  Instead, as soon as I finished typing “Do YOU think bipolar is a gift?”, I pressed the blue “Publish” button.  Shazam! I had no idea what I was about to stir up.  

I received more comments about “Do YOU think bipolar is a gift?” than any of the other 257 posts I’ve written. (Speaking of comments, I apologize for not having responded to comments yet. I will! My apologies!)

If I could re-do Valentine’s weekend, I would have put my energy into doing something else than writing about Asher’s post.  It’s so easy to look back at such events and think, “Hmmmm – that wasn’t good for me, as much as I wanted to hop on my soapbox and pontificate!”   I should have given stinky Lucy a lavender and mint-scented bath instead, or hang out with the girls, or God forbid, work on my book. But nooooooooooo!

Ironically, Asher and I wound up getting in touch with one another after I published my post. He took the high road instead of becoming defensive. I thought he had every right to be huffy, so I was pleasantly surprised by his positive attitude. We both agreed on how much we love the blogosphere, and it was nice to interact with a blogger who could take my criticism with a grain of salt and a cup of compassion.  Asher was willing to re-examine different perceptions of bipolar as gift, as evil incarnate, or somewhere in between…  (You all know how I feel about that! 😉  I was grateful to him.

Moving on….

Then, Saturday evening I became The Devil.  

Valentine’s Day is always weird for me.  For years I’ve pretended that I’m low-maintenance and claimed that I don’t need a mushy card, flowers, high-end chocolate, a nice dinner, and so on. But that has been a blatant lie, and like a volcano, I’ve kept my bubbling, lava-like anger inside of me until I finally burst. 

I didn’t communicate with my husband about my expectations – my first big mistake.  When Valentine’s Day came round, my husband gave me a card, but that was it.  When Craig and I turned in for the night, I made a caustic remark that irritated him more than I thought it would.  He became an ice cube and fell asleep instantly.

Meanwhile, yours truly fumed. I even started crying – it was unusual for me to cry over a rebuff like that, but I felt so hurt and disappointed.  I wanted our evening to be special, or at least have some affection, but there was no hug or kiss goodnight.  Nada.

I couldn’t sleep.

That became a BIG problem.

I took an extra 25 mg of my Seroquel.  I read a book. Still, no sleep in sight.

I fumed some more.  Then I did something extremely rare.  I woke up Craig from his enviable deep sleep.  I told him that I couldn’t sleep.  He didn’t hear my snorts and sniffles; instead he rolled over and he went back to sleep within seconds.

I woke him up again.  The same pattern took place.

I barely slept the rest of the night, and my history has shown that’s disastrous.  Even one night’s lack of sleep messes me up big-time!  The following day I was a zombie and despite another beautiful, sunny day, I stayed in bed. I was exhausted, I was still bottled up with anger  and what was worse was that I felt depressed.  That scared the sh*t out of me, as I hadn’t felt that down in a long time.

I tried taking a nap, but it wasn’t happening.  The only thing that brought me comfort aside from Lucy licking away my tears was watching the sixth season of “Nurse Jackie”.

In the afternoon Craig inadvertently made some noise as I tried in vain to nap. I got out of the bed and met him in the hallway, unable to look him in the eye.

Our girls were at a playdate, and so I let loose like Mt. Vesuvius.  I slammed the door several times, screaming all the while like a banshee about every wrong he ever did me for the past seventeen years of our relationship, and I screeched other things that should only be thought about, but never said out loud in anger.  

I told him that he should have woken up when he heard  me say that I couldn’t sleep, and he should have helped me somehow.  

Ever since my bipolar one kicked in (which, aside from a genetic predisposition to bipolar, was mainly caused by no sleep due to labor), without proper sleep, I become the biggest mess of all time.

My tantrum was so awful that afterwards my throat was bloody.  That evening I took extra Seroquel PRN per my psychiatrist. (Coincidentally PRN stands for the Latin phrase pro re nata, which means “as the situation demands.”) I’m allowed to use Seroquel PRN when faced with acute insomnia.  Thank God I slept through the night.

Craig and I made peace the next morning, and I explained to him that in the future,  if I ever wake him up and indicate I can’t sleep, it’s imperative that I need his assistance.  I should have taken extra Seroquel at the first sign that my insomnia was much worse than usual, but rage and sorrow clouded my judgement.  If Craig had urged me to take the medicine, I could have nipped the cycle in the bud.

This is no rocket science-like realization, but it took our having that kind of argument to realize that as someone with bipolar one, we can’t screw up even one night of my sleep if we can help it.  And yes, it needs to be a “we”.  

The best valentine I could ask for from my husband, bar none, is mental health support. When it’s obvious that I’m emotionally disturbed at bedtime (a precarious time because if I’m upset, I don’t sleep…) I need him to pay close attention, even if he’s tired and/or mad at me.  I need him to check in with me, and suggest I take extra medication if I haven’t done so already.

We learned a sober lesson from this Valentine’s Day.  Next year I’ll remember to ask for what I want instead of repress my feelings. I don’t expect a diamond ring or roses, but I do expect communication, kindness and proactiveness from my partner.

 

Literally right after I finished writing this post, I spotted an International Bipolar Foundation Facebook announcement of a new app called “Aware” creating awareness for people living with bipolar disorder.  Check out what it does below…

http://www.meganharley.com/#!aware/c1u5g

 

Aware is a wristband worn at night. It is unique in the sense that it is specifically aimed at people living with bipolar disorder, providing a way to measure, monitor and manage their sleep to ultimately become aware before a possible relapse as sleep acts as a prominent bio-marker in people with bipolar disorder.

 ‘Aware’ is about exactly what the title suggests, creating awareness for people living with bipolar disorder with sleep being a prominent bio-marker in terms of managing the disorder ” After many intense interviews and observations it was apparent that sleep has a major effect on bipolar disorder relapses and eventual hospitalization.

 This then led to the influential design ‘Aware’ which is a wristband worn at night, enabling a method to measure,monitor and manage their sleep to become aware of a possible relapse and aim to prevent it from happening.