Goin’ Back Up after The Dreads Arrive

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This morning I’m writing old-school style, with a pen and a college-ruled notebook.  It’s foreign to write this way, which feels bittersweet.  I’ve become so used to using my laptop for writing that I haven’t used a pen in ages.   I’ve only touched a pen or pencil to jot down birthday card greetings, return addresses on bills (alas, I don’t have those nifty address labels!) and grocery lists.

I’m not handwriting today for its romantic element.  To my intense frustration, I’ve been blocked from using our shared computers, but I don’t feel up to making a fuss over it.  I want this morning to be as calm as possible because I woke up in a big ‘ol funk.  At 5:00 a.m. the precocious Lucy, now a thirteen-week-old bundle of energy, woke me up, raring to go on a puppy ultra-marathon.  My husband Craig also rose early and he made enough noise in leaving our room that I couldn’t get back to sleep.  

While hiding my head in my pillow, a heavy-duty case of what I call The Dreads fell upon me.

The Dreads are a first-cousin of depression and, like The Black Dog, consist of mental and physical fatigue, plus a looming dread of the day to come.  As I sat there in bed I was too wiped out to get up to start the day.  Ironically, when I’ve been hit with The Dreads,  once I’ve gotten out of bed and had my first cup of coffee, The Dreads slowly but surely vanish like a vampire caught in daylight.  That’s the difference between depression and The Dreads – a couple hours. But they still suck.

When I finally crawled out of bed at 7:00 a.m., I remembered I had cut down my Seroquel the night before.  I went from 100mg to 50 mg.  As I hadn’t had The Dreads hit me this intensely for a while, I wondered if there could be any connection between the medication drop and my distressing mental state.   

Of course it could just be a coincidence or my paranoia about how this med reduction affected me, or it could be both things!  But just in case it really is the Seroquel reduction, I’m going to resume my 100mg of Seroquel tonight and remain at that amount for the rest of the summer.

I’ve already found out that ever since my kids got out of school, our days have been too unstructured for my mental well-being.  I think I need a more regular daily schedule in order for me to feel confident about changing my medication dosage.  In any case, I can definitely live with my Seroquel-related grogginess for the next two months.  

My friend Becca Moore, the author and founder of the new website the Bipolar Parenting Project, wrote a great post on routine in her Psych Central Bipolar Parenting column.  Here’s the link:  

http://blogs.psychcentral.com/bipolar-parenting/2014/06/routines-and-structure/

Maybe if I improve other habits that mess up my energy level, such as my sugar-infused diet, that could help with the grogginess.  Also, if I attempt to go to sleep and wake up at regular times like I did when the girls were in school, that would help with kicking The Dreads’ butt and with my grogginess too.

When the girls’ school closed for summer break, I stopped using my Sunbox therapeutic bright light every morning, which I did for a minimum of a half hour.  I didn’t think the light was making a significant difference in terms of keeping the nasty Dreads away, but maybe it has helped me more than I thought.  I’m going to make a point of using my Sunbox on a daily basis once again.  It’s really easy to do this as I can write, surf the net or read in front of it.  And, of course, eat while using it.  (Hopefully not too much double chocolate Talenti gelato!!)

On the brighter side, it helps me to notice that I’ve improved on my “all or nothing thinking” that I’ve done for so long.  In the past, I would have felt that I failed my one-day-long Seroquel taper.  I would have thought horrible things such as “You f*cking loser!” and “You’ll never be able to lower your Seroquel!”  Now, I think differently, and my self-flagellation is thankfully gone.  I’m able to think about all of this more rationally, and I’ll look to the fall as a better time to try again.  That’s pretty cool!

I can’t expect every day to be sunshine and rainbows.  (Can I?)  Well, I know a couple people who actually do feel strongly that way, and I admire them for their attitude, but I’m not there yet.  

In the meantime, I’m going to carry on with my self-care routine the rest of this afternoon. That consists of working out, paying attention to my kids and husband, and trying my best not to eat too much ice cream.  (It’s sooooo good this time of year, though.)

I’ll take Lucy for a stroll on our “Death Road” in which I pray she doesn’t have diarrhea like she did yesterday.  (Oh yes, I practice the fine art of T.M.I.)  I’m so glad The Dreads disappeared because after suffering with bipolar depression, any glimpse of those awful feelings is scary as hell.  

I’ll be around here in Blogville this Friday, and I’ll let you know how my Seroquel increase goes.

Wishing you sunshine, rainbows, gelato ( if you like it) and most importantly, not a whisper of The Dreads EVER! :))

xoxox

Dyane

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Bipolar Books I Recommend – I Mean Books About Bipolar! ;) – Part One

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Today it’s truly raining cats and dogs and I’m using my Sunbox to cope with the gloomy weather.  Some of you are rain-lovers, I’m sure, but not this born-in-sunny-Los Angeles gal.  There is nothing quite like a rainy day that is so ideal for staying home to be warm and cozy, and of course read a good book.  Reading on a rainy day is my nirvana, well that, and being in Hawaii when I am not depressed!  For more about my Hawaii trip please read one of my favorite posts:

https://dyaneharwood.wordpress.com/2013/12/23/hell-in-paradise-part-one/

Now, I am a voracious reader; even when I am depressed I devour books.  I have read all the “biggie” bipolar books.  I’m sure you have heard of some of these: Dr Kay Redfield Jamison’s An Unquiet Mind, Teri Cheney’s Manic and The Dark Side of Innocence: Growing up Bipolar, Marya Hornbacher’s Madness: A Bipolar Life and many more books.  I’m always on the lookout for more good books about living with bipolar, and I’ve noticed a surge in the overall amount of books published about this topic literally almost every single day.  I discovered this fact while I was using Amazon.com to conduct book searches for bipolar books.  Once I found the main bipolar category, I selected to sort it for “most recently published” books. (I’m making it sound harder than it is – this takes all of thirty seconds to do.)  This search is a pretty amazing feature and one can see which books will be published in the future – even a year or two from now.

I read some of these books post-bilateral electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) so I have a better recollection of what they cover.  Other books on my list are ones that I read years ago, and I don’t remember much about them except whether or not I really liked the book.  I wish I could recall all the juicy little details, but alas, that’s not meant to be. Most of these books are very reasonably priced for my Kindle, which I love.  An added bonus to having a Kindle is that you can sample the book for free before you purchase it, which is a fantastic option.  I’m sure that some of these books can be requested for purchase through your local library, or perhaps your library already has the book available to loan.

Haldol and Hyacinths by Melody Moezzi

Melody is an amazing writer and mental health advocate.  Her memoir is truly unique as she is an Iranian-Muslim-American with a spicy sense of humor.  I read her blog religiously on BP (Bipolar) Magazine’s website (www.bphope.com) and Moezzi’s book is absolutely fascinating.  I gave it a five star review on Amazon and here is what I wrote:

“I’ve always been a huge fan of Moezzi’s work.  I knew that Haldol and Hyacinths would not fail to disappoint me.  I was 100% right!  Moezzi’s sharp-as-nails writing takes you in from the very first page, and her brilliance shines through her narrative.  I could use every superlative I know to recommend this book, but in the interest of space here, I won’t.  All I can say is that if you have bipolar disorder or know someone who does, this book is a must-read.  And if you aren’t touched by this particular brand of mental illness, I say read it anyway, because the story ends in hope and it’s totally fascinating.  You will definitely learn things you did not know about, not just about bipolar disorder, but about Iranian Muslim culture, that I found made this bipolar memoir stand apart from the numerous bipolar memoirs available these days.  I honestly could not put it down once I started reading it, even though I was vacationing in gorgeous Kona, Hawaii and there were numerous activities beckoning to me – it was that good!”

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So Far by Cristina Negron

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Here’s the five star Amazon review I wrote for this book:

“I love reading juicy memoirs – the more disturbing, the better, as long as the author includes some redemptive themes so the book is not a total soul-sucking experience!  Yesterday I finished reading So Far by Cristina Negron, a former Rodale editor married to Amby Burfoot, longtime editor of “Runner’s World” and a winner of the 1968 Boston Marathon.  This book was published last fall.  Negron’s title appeared on my Kindle during a general search I selected for recently published bipolar-themed books.  I like to see what’s up-and-coming in the bipolar book world, and it never ceases to amaze me what people write and publish. The phrase “it takes all kinds” comes to mind…I was intrigued by this book as it was clear in its brief description that running plays a central theme in the story.  I used to be a long-distance runner in high school and I kept running in my 20’s.  I subscribed to Runner’s World and ran 10 kilometer races.  I’ve always believed that running consistently delayed the onset of my clinical depression and bipolar.  Negron’s book is well-written and very inspiring. While I don’t want to give anything away, I’ll mention briefly that she discusses her large Mexican-American family at length.  She reveals truly heartbreaking situations in connection with these relatives.

I found it refreshing that the topic of bipolar disorder did not dominate the story.  Yes, a bipolar disorder diagnosis played a pivotal role in her life and in the book.  However, Negron wove different elements throughout the narrative that gave her story depth.  Her writing style allowed the reader to have breaks, per se, from the highly sobering sections in a finely wrought fashion.  After I finished the last page, I knew that certain members of Negron’s family would stay with me, especially the ones who were extraordinarily brave.  Whenever I complete a book that has been the proverbial “can’t put down” type, I feel a void in releasing a world I have immersed myself in so intensely.  I felt that way with So Far.”

Moorestorms: A Guide For The Bipolar Parent by Rebecca Moore

After I bought Rebecca Moore’s book I discovered her insightful blog “Moorestorms” (www.moorestorms.wordpress.com)  I gave five stars to Ms. Moore’s moving book Moorestorms: A Guide For The Bipolar Parent.

“The book was a fast, moving read filled with tons of helpful information.  Reading Moorestorms was like sitting down with a good friend to learn about what it’s like to live with this illness, and how to live a better life in spite of its damage.  As Moore is the parent of seven children, she has learned an enormous deal about how to be the best parent she can be and shares this knowledge with her readers.  I wish I had this book a long time ago when my two kids were young, as it would have made me feel less alone with my struggles and it would have given me practical pointers as well.  The author bares her soul throughout the book. She never condescends to the reader like some “bipolar experts” do in their tomes. I highly recommend it.”

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Will I Ever Be The Same Again: Transforming the Face of ECT (Shock Therapy) by Carol Kivler

Carol and I have communicated via her blog for Esperanza the Anxiety and Depression Magazine website (www.hopetocope.com).  She is a wonderful, inspiring woman.  Long before I exchanged emails with her, I purchased her book about ECT and found it very useful.  I had ECT done for bipolar depression while Carol had it done for major depression.  Here is the Amazon.com description of her book:

Blessed with a loving family, a successful business as an executive coach and money in the bank, Carol Kivler was suddenly and unexpectedly brought to her knees by “The Beast” – clinical depression.  The story of her journey to recovery from medication-resistant depression is not only informative but inspires hope in others who suffer from this debilitating illness.  Because medication did not work for her, and despite serious reservations, Kivler eventually agreed to ECT (electroconvulsive therapy, or shock therapy).  The treatment not only gave her back the desire to live but the ability to thrive in her personal and professional life.  Electroconvulsive therapy became her “ladder out of the depression pit.”  In her opinion, the stigma associated with ECT deprives severely depressed individuals the right to potential recovery.  Consequently, the section of her book on “Demystifying ECT” provides accurate, up to date information about today’s modernized procedure, answers common questions such as “Does it hurt?” (No!) and discusses possible side effects (which Kivler found to be no worse than those from medication).

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Undercurrents by Dr. Martha Manning

I read this book long ago (before both of my rounds of ECT) and to this day I vividly remember it being so lyrical and convincing regarding ECT as saving her life.  I was so impressed with Dr. Manning that when I was hired to write my first professional article for a national magazine (the sadly defunct “Fit” Magazine; my 1997 article discussed the importance of exercise with women) I contacted Dr. Manning to interview her for my piece.  I also interviewed none other than Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison.  Dr. Jamison was a famous bestselling author and in the late 1990’s numerous writers clamored her for interviews.  I stood out because she and I attended the same high school, although we never met there as she is older than me.  I also had the honor of meeting her when she gave a fantastic talk at the Palisades Library – the lecture room was packed like sardines in a can, she was so popular.

Copied below is the primary description for Dr. Manning’s book that I found on the Amazon.com website.  I find it rather strange that the ECT that saves Dr. Manning’s life is not mentioned in the blurb.  I could be mistaken, but to me that is a subtle form of stigma towards mental illness and ECT.

“This is the memoir of an ordinary woman—a mother, a daughter, a psychologist, a wife—who tells the tale of her spiraling descent into a severe, debilitating depression. Undercurrents pioneers a new literature about women and depression that offers a vision of action instead of victimhood, hope instead of despair.”

I believe a much better description is the review by the Library Journal:

As psychotherapist Manning began her slow descent into depression, she recognized the signposts along the way: a sense that she was losing control of her life, perpetual fogginess in her head, social withdrawal and subsequent isolation, and a painful alienation from all that gave her life pleasure and meaning-except her daughter. She recounts how medications were tried and discarded, psychotherapy proved fruitless, and her mind became overwhelmed with thoughts of death as a way out of her ceaseless torment. The one last hope was electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), the thought of which left her feeling frightened and totally helpless. Nevertheless, ECT alleviated her despair and began her recovery. Told in journal form, the events so sensitively and insightfully depicted here reveal how tenuous one’s connection to physical and mental well-being can be. Recommended for general readers.

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I am so grateful to Dr. Manning for her book, as it made me feel better about getting ECT when my time came.  I still had huge reservations, of course, but I was desperate.  (I also cover this issue in a prior blog post:

https://dyaneharwood.wordpress.com/2014/01/22/are-you-shocked-that-i-got-shocked/

Tomorrow I will share Part Two of my favorite books with you…and mention a few I will be purchasing in the coming year that look really cool, unique and helpful.  Take care and if you are staying home due to inclement weather like I am, happy reading!