Tag Archives: Health

Walking the Tightrope With Psych Meds

tightropeDealing with the need to take psych meds is like trying to walk a tightrope while juggling plates and playing an accordion. I hate having bipolar disorder, I really do. Yes, I know things could much worse, and I should be grateful. I could have some debilitating disease that had me bed ridden, in constant pain. But I don’t, I have what I have and I have to deal with it. I don’t always deal with it gracefully by a long shot.

All my evil little pill bottles have a warning on them “if you have forgotten to take your pill at a certain time, wait until it’s time to take the next dose, don’t take it now. OOOkkkKKK??!! #&^%(*@ But what do you do when you are freaking out NOW? I say “screw it!” and take them now. I’d rather get too sleepy and have to take a nap than go on a magic carpet ride of rage, depression, anxiety attacks, near catatonia and whatever the bipolar Bag 0’ Tricks has in store for me on any given day. I might be able to get away with riding it out if I had a storm bunker to lock myself in and hang a sign on the door saying “Warning! Bipolar cyclone raging within, enter at your own risk.” But I don’t and I don’t live alone and I have to leave the house occasionally. Being a hermit just depresses me more.

People who are not dealing with mood spectrum disorders tend to think “well hey, just take your meds and everything will be OK. What the hell is wrong with you anyway?” What is wrong with me??? Excuse me, but it doesn’t work that way. Taking meds “manages” a disorder; it is not a guarantee that you will never have a mood storm. It gives you a tool to fight with it. But meds can be a blunt instrument and it is extremely tricky finding a balance. Furthermore, just when you think you’ve found a balance your body decides to react differently to your meds, or worse, not respond to them at all. The balance is a moving target.

Sometimes I feel like Alice in Wonderland trying to figure out which side of the mushroom to nibble on. Too much and I blunder around in a stupor and do nothing but stare at the TV, unaware of what I’m even looking at. Not enough – I turn into a motor mouth and talk the ear off of anyone I can pin down, blissfully unaware that they are scrambling to get away from me. I also start eleventy seven projects at once and when I come to my senses I can’t figure out how to pick up where I left off.

I have those little days of the week pill cases that I fill up at the beginning of the week. They help, but sometimes it too much to face looking at an entire week’s worth of meds right under my nose. That’s when the thought creeps in “do I really need to be taking all this crap? Am I a drugged slave to big Pharma?” I have to be careful when asking these questions, because there is a never ending supply of people who are all too happy to inform me that I shouldn’t be taking meds at all, that I’m just weak or a dupe. I just need to meditate, do yoga, cut dairy out of my diet, dance naked under the full moon, etc.

That’s when I have to dig down deep and remember what it felt like when I was not taking meds. Oh sure I was “managing” it. Hanging on by my fingernails every day trying not to fall or jump into the abyss. I don’t want to live like that again. I guess it’s time to take my meds.

I Slipped and Got Stuck In My Head

In gaining a deeper understanding of madness, we gain a deeper understanding of the core existential dilemmas with which we all must struggle, arriving at the unsettling realization of just how thin the boundary really is between madness and sanity.  Rethinking Madness – Towards a Paradigm Shift in Our Understanding and Treatment of Psychosis. Paris Williams Ph.D.

rethinking madnessWell this blog went dark for a week or so because of traumatic dealings with my daughter who is mentally ill and addicted to drugs. I sort of ran out of things to say and was starting to feel and sound unhinged, even to myself. As a result I went into hibernation mode. For a couple of days I was depressed and stayed in bed all day watching the entire 2 ½ seasons of Titus High Performance, a show that was on the Fox network years ago.

It’s a show starring Christopher Titus a stand-up comedian, and is loosely based on his life. He was raised by an alcoholic father and a manic-depressive, schizophrenic mother. He married a girl who also came from a dysfunctional family of Irish catholic alcoholics, the brother a burglar and a drug user, the sister constantly having babies by different men without being married, the younger sister selling drugs….you get my drift. One episode is a thanksgiving dinner that turns into in a food fight and escalates to a brawl and shootout and the entire family ends up in the emergency room covered with food, burns, a dislocated shoulder for Titus, bumps and bruises.

So anyway I watched this show to “ground” myself, as in I’m not the only one with an insane family of origin. Then the next day I started percolating into a rage of “I’m sick of this shit, I can’t take anymore.” I was so angry that I was shaking. I ended up screaming at the dishes in the dishwasher. “When all the dishes are clean there is no place to put anything!!!! We have too God damned many coffee cups!” Mr. Husband caught the tail end of this when he walked into the kitchen and I turned to him and yelled “STOP BUYING COFFEE CUPS!!!!” That just made his day, lemme tell ya. All he had really done was to cook a wonderful 4th of July dinner. So sorry Hubman, really I am.

In this down time I read a bunch of books about dysfunctional families, substance abuse, etc. There are many different perspectives on these issues. Then main thing I take away is that I’m not alone in this struggle and I don’t have to put up with unacceptable behavior from anyone, including from my children.

When I get extremely stressed out I tend to turn in on myself and get quiet and hide. Fortunately for those around me, I don’t turn actively psychotic and start throwing rocks at the neighbors or burn down the house. But inside my head there is all kinds of freaking and shrieking going on. I get stuck in a loop of repetitive thoughts. Things like what I’m going to say to my daughter next time she calls, and blah blah blah. It’s absolutely crazy making and exhausting.

The thing I realized is that when this happens I become physically and emotionally paralyzed and just sit there staring into to space or at the TV. Being a writer and budding artist I decided to sit down and try to get this out of my head and onto paper. That was an interesting development. I tried to draw a sort of combination infinity sign or yin yang. What I discovered was that I was having trouble making the 2 sides connect, how odd. But then I started writing in all the things going on in my head versus all things going on physically. When I was done I had a graphical representation of what was going on in my head. The revelation was that the mental side of the drawing had tons of stuff in it…fear, guilt, anger, frustration, apathy, boredom, while the physical side had not much of anything except ills such as a headache, stomach ache, neck pain and so on.

That’s when it hit me. God grief, I’m stuck in my head! I need to get out of here and start living in the physical world again. I need to get moving around and doing things again. I hate when I get stuck in my head. It’s like mental plumbing trouble. I wonder if there is such a thing as a laxative for my brain.

Upper Body Strength is Important for Women

exercise equipment

My Personal Gym

This post is sort of a public service announcement for women based on recent events and things I learned. If you’re a guy reading this, you may want to put your fingers in your ears and say “la la la la.” But then again, you may just want to pass it on to a female you know and care about.

As mentioned recently, my daughter had a scare with an iffy mammogram. It turned out to be a false alarm, thank God. But as a result of this I decided in solidarity with her to go and get a mammogram myself. A test I’ve been putting off for years. Not out of fear of the results really. I just don’t enjoy having my breasts smashed flat as a pancake. They always say “this may be a bit uncomfortable.” Well….Pafiffle! It’s quick, but it does hurt, just go ahead and say it and get on with it. Don’t bullshit me, I don’t appreciate it.

The test turned out fine, but the technician commented that one reason the test was good one was that I have good upper body muscle definition. “Me???” I thought. She explained that if a woman has good muscle definition there is a clear line of muscle against the chest wall to go by to make sure that all of her breast tissue got scanned in the test. She added that few women she tests have good upper body muscles. I asked her why that is and she told me that many women exercise by walking; outdoors, or on a treadmill or elliptical machine, and that doesn’t do much to develop upper body muscles.

I got to thinking about this and realized that I have been working on upper body strength for years because of my neck problems. I have a herniated disk in my neck and developing strong upper body muscles and the resulting better posture helps keep the pain away. I can always tell when I’ve been neglecting my exercise because I start to get neck and shoulder pain.

You don’t need an expensive set of equipment or lots of space to achieve this either. In the picture here I’ve included my entire set of exercise gadgets; a foam roller to lie on, a pair of 2 lb weights, and a broomstick. I purchased the foam roller and the weights at Walmart, spending maybe $25. The broomstick was free. I just sawed the head off of an old broom. My foot is in the picture to show the size scale. The purpose of the foam roller is that when you lay on it to do arm and other upper body exercise with light weights, you have to also balance on the foam roller. This helps strengthen that persnickety set of elusive core muscles.

The broom stick is excellent for keeping your shoulders strong and limber. All you have to do is grasp each end of the stick in front of you, lift it over your head and then down your back, without letting go of the broomstick. The first time I saw this done I thought “well that will dislocate my shoulders!” But it doesn’t. You may not be able to do it at first, but soon you will.

One thing I like about the broomstick especially is that you can usually find one anywhere you go. The broom or mop head can still be on it. Just be careful not to knock over someone’s lamp or heirloom vase while you’re doing it.

So there you have it. Upper body strength is important to women especially as we age. It keeps us from getting all hunched over and makes for a good catch on mammograms.

White Coat Tachycardia

scary doctorHad my follow visit with the gastroenterologist yesterday. This was the visit where he tells me the results of the endoscopy (AKA – alien tentacle probe) and biopsy of my stomach lining. It occurred to me around noon that he might tell me something I don’t want to hear, and I started to get scared.

By the time I got to the office I was on the verge of a heart attack. The nurse did the usual measure my vitals stuff. She commented that my heart rate was 125 beats per minute. I asked “uh, is that bad?” She laughed and said no, you just have white coat tachycardia? What is that? It’s caused by getting scared to death at the sight of a doctor in a white coat.

And why not? Doctors are scary – they hold your life in their hands. And if they can’t figure out what is wrong with you, then you get labeled a hypochondriac. After all, it did take these doctors 57 years to figure out that I had bipolar disorder rather than just a severe case of being a cantankerous crone. Not a lot of trust going on here.

Before I go any farther I’ll say that I’m going to live, nothing serious. I have helicobacter pylori gastritis. It’s a form of extreme belly ache caused by the H. pylori bacterium. About 20 years ago researchers figured out that bacteria rather than stress causes ulcers and gastric cancer and can be cured rather than just managed by a bland diet and lots of antacids.

He asked me if I’ve been out of the country recently and I had to laugh. The answer is no, not recently. But I’ve traveled all over the world. The only continents I haven’t visited are Antarctica and Australia. The Doc said that this infection is usually from bad water and is common in Mexico and Jamaica, both places I’ve been to on more than one occasion.

I could have had this thing going on for years or even decades. That’s explains a lot. I’ve always passed it off as “I just have a weak stomach” because I’ve had episodes of debilitating stomach distress for as long as I can remember.

I’ve always had a morbid fascination with that show “Mystery Diagnosis.” It’s a show about people who suffer for years or decades with some malady that the doctors can’t figure out. The thing that brings me hope is that these people never give up. They keep searching the internet and go to doctor after doctor looking for an answer. And they are relieved when some doctor finally figures out what is wrong with them, even if it’s serious.

Well, I’m hugely relieved and I don’t even have something all that serious. All I have is some designer belly bug that is totally treatable.  So today is a happy day for me. I can get rid of my recurring stomach ache and get on with it. Yiipeee!

Snow White and the Seven Dorks

comicsidontunderstand.com

comicsidontunderstand.com

On my journey back to mental wellness I’ve started to notice a few things. I’m not the only one who channels Snow White’s seven housemates. You know them surely; sleepy, grumpy, sneezy, dopey, et al. I’m also noticing that I’m not the only one who does not appreciate having their every minor decision questioned.

I find that the best response a friend or family member who is channeling one of these dorks is, “Pfffftttt” or “I see” and a good shrug of the shoulders, followed by an immediate evacuation of the scene. Further pursuance of the question at hand will only result in a blowout. So it seems that I have to remember how much I hate getting dragged over the coals of sixty-four thousand questions when asking questions.

Well damn! Living in the real world can be a pain in the kazoo. I think verbal manipulations should be registered as an Olympic sport. Yes indeed folks. I’ve come across people who actually manage to take an innocent question you ask such as, “how are you?” and twist around to imply that you are a selfish mental microbe who doesn’t care about anyone or anything.

The following hypothetical dialogue (based on an actual conversation) illustrates my take on this scenario:

Me: Hey how are you?

Person X: Well I’m fine, but I’m just tired.

Me: (falling into the trap) Oh, why are you tired?

Person X: Well I was up all night worrying about the national debt. Unlike some people I know (read you) I care about what happens to our country. Also I kept smashing my big toe with a hammer.

Me: (taken aback) OOOkkkk, Uh, why were you smashing your toe with a hammer?

Person X: Well someone (not me obviously) has to take steps to protect our economy. If my toe hurts then I won’t go out shopping and buy wasteful things while other people are suffering.

Me: (feeling a vague unnamed guilt) Uh, I don’t understand how not sleeping and injuring yourself is helping anyone.

Person X: Well of course you don’t see it! And therefore YOU are part of the problem.

Me: See ya later pal, I think I left something on the stove.

I always end up with a mild headache and wondering how I managed to blunder into such a conversation. However, with some people this seems to be the norm.  I never did quite comprehend how worrying about something to the point of harming myself helps anything or anyone.

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