Sunday, September 28, 2014

Your opinions please....

I'm so confused.

For the past four years I have been told I have Bipolar Disorder. Four years of mood stabilizing medication, disability pension, hospital visits, psychiatrists and therapy. Now I'm being told that could all be wrong.

I had a referral to any shrink for a second opinion on my meds because I started questioning my own doctor about his prescriptions. The new doctor was very frank about my condition and she gave me a completely new diagnosis - severe depression and anxiety disorder. That's a far cry from Bipolar. The symptoms are very similar, Bipolar combines these elements with manic attacks. I have had those episodes but not for a long time now, I have been attributing that to the mood stabilizers I take daily, such as Lithium and Invega. So I haven't questioned the diagnosis until now.

So what do I do? Who do I believe?

Do I believe the new psychiatrist and go with the new diagnosis? Or the six or seven other psychiatrists I've seen in the past years that all prop up the original diagnosis. I just don't know what to think or do.

The brain is the hardest part of the body to fix. A doctor can't make an informed decision by any normal medical standards. Half of the diagnosis comes directly from the patient in the form of interviews and observation. The other half comes from professional experience with interpreting those signs. We trust that trained psychiatrists can do this, but how well is up to the patient's interpretation. Sometimes we just don't agree with the final call, and fight back in the only way possible - a second opinion. I believe I have Bipolar Disorder, I just don't believe in all the medication that I have been saddled with. The second opinion is confusing me. Who do I believe?

In the course of my treatment I attended a Bipolar support group for six months. Above all the rest of the therapy I've gone through this group was by far the most eye-opening and useful. I had the benefit of sitting in a group with ten other people suffering the same condition, and a moderator who's professionalism and knowledge was beyond reproach. My first opinion of the group was that I really belonged. I had all the symptoms and signs that everyone else in the room had, we all shared a commonality. After a while there I began to get a better grasp on my condition and how to cope with it on a daily basis. When the program ended after six months, we all tried to figure out how to keep the group alive. We all enjoyed the experience that much. This program was the proof I needed, not the psychiatrist's opinion, my own.

Two years later I do see some of the participants now and then, they are members of Mental Health Connections - a non-profit organization here in Windsor that assists mentally ill clients with numerous activities. It's a place to go for a common cause. Everyone in there suffers from this silent beast. 

So help me out here. Please give me your opinion on this! I am quite concerned that I will make the wrong decision (even though it's the psychiatrist's decision), and I will end up starting this journey all over again.


Friday, September 5, 2014

Eternal boredom of a screwed up mind

Today is boring. 

I am watching the hours tick away, it's now been 1pm for the past three hours. I have the dumb dog to keep me company, and I have chores to do, but even they are not doing anything for my perception of time. 

Unless you follow Einstein to the letter, time is a constant, it never changes. The seconds, minutes and hours tick by at a steady rate, never varying from their paths. Never changing, never speeding up or slowing down. So why does it seem like some days time goes faster or slower? Why is today crawling along like a turtle on a seashore? The old adage goes that the more you enjoy the day the faster it will go. If that's the case I must really hate today. It's all in the perception. Today I perceive a long boring day.

I have things to do, I have laundry, I have some light cleaning to do, I can read a book, or play video games. (These of course are in order of priority for anyone curious enough to ask). I could also go for a walk, play with the dumb dog, or if the stars align, have a nap. What I'd like to do is go to work, but because of my messed up head I can't do that. It's not a secret that I suffer from depression, and that's what's working it's way into my head today, depression. All these things I could be doing suffer because in the end I just don't want to. That's the depression talking. There's the obvious difference between want to and have to, don't worry Kim, I have had the laundry going.

Depression plays games with your mind in more ways than one. It causes one to step back from the very essence of being and sit on your butt. It also causes severe grief and sadness. A sufferer of severe depression will sit back and look around at the plethora of things they could be doing and dismiss every opportunity in turn. I am borderline. I can push through the fog and actually accomplish things on most days. I just keep in mind that it's my job now, it's my function in this household to keep these things going, as hard as that may be some days. I've had my days of severe moods and I have spent days staring off into space. Even writing this blog can be a chore at times. It gets even worse when the depression is only one factor of several that one suffers from, like in my case.

In one of my group therapy sessions I met a woman who was very depressed, to the point where she could hardly function without help. She was a single mother without anyone else in the picture so I could only imagine how hard life must be for her, and her daughter, who has to endure mom's episodes. Just as my family must endure mine. This woman said something in group one day that stuck - she described the chore of just getting out of bed in the morning, she hated the day that would come before having any notion of just what it held in store. To get around that terrible feeling she insisted on making her bed as soon as she got up so as not to be tempted to get back into it. Most of us make our beds in the morning, but not for that reason!

I haven't seen her in about a year now, and I hope she's coping well. The group seemed to help her. When we started she never said a word and after about three months she was all talk. At least she opened up to us. I wish her the best.

Six months of Bipolar Group Therapy was good for my soul and my state of mind, but in practical application it is still an ongoing effort. If I could I would do it all over again. Now that I'm not in therapy I have to deal with problems on my own. Time and boredom being the present pains in the neck. Time ticks on. Boredom doesn't go away, not for the clinically depressed. I still have to learn to cope just as my colleague did, but it's an everyday struggle. I am not going through what she is, but I certainly can relate.

Reading back through the past few entries I've noticed that I have myself stuck on the topic of my illness. 

I don't apologize for that, as a matter of fact I am proud of the fact that I can put these problems down as a sort of ongoing journal. This blog has changed it's face from mid-life crisis in progress, to an account of my own illness. And if that is the way of the future of this blog so be it. If I can shed some light on Bipolar Syndrome and depression, then I will have achieved a personal victory.

Besides the fact that I am writing about myself and what I'm going through, I have very little else to write about! I really don't get out much anymore. I have written about the dumb dog among other topics lately but for the most part it comes back to the illness. Hopefully in the future I can get back to writing about my life at intermission, but right now that is just that - a hope.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

A walk through my mind

Yesterday I took a ridiculously long walk - about 4 hours, and ended up at a place called Mental Health Connections. I am a member there, but I rarely go down to take advantage of the offerings. They include free gym membership at the YMCA, seminars, dances, computer lab, a games room and more. They also offer lunches everyday for free. It's a great place to go and meet new people and take part in the activities. 

I go there because I suffer from a mental illness - Bipolar Syndrome. We're not allowed to inquire about other peoples maladies while we're there so I wouldn't know who's crazy or not. Yesterday I saw a woman in the lunch room going around fixing all the chairs and tables. She straightened up an unruly pile of newspapers that were actually being read at the time. She was obviously OCD in the extreme sense. She was interesting to watch in the sense that this was a woman who had serious issues and one wonders what kind of therapy she is going through for it.

I sat and drank a coffee wondering if I should introduce myself to some of the clients. Some were playing cards, some were taking part in the Summer Dance in the main hall. But being an introvert I chose to sit alone and watch the woman fixing tables. I was quite bored. It was a depressing situation. I walked all that way to take part in the activities only to sit and drink a coffee before leaving. I suffer from depression - it's part of the illness, and this day did nothing to change my outlook. 

My wife often makes reference to my little grey cloud that follows me around. Yesterday it followed me all the way home, and stayed with me the rest of the day.

I know in my screwed up little mind that I should have taken part in something, I should have talked to someone, I shouldn't have just had a coffee and left. But our minds take over and give you instructions you aren't comfortable with. Your mind is a powerful piece of human machinery that can control every aspect of your being. If it goes south, you're in trouble. I envy people that don't suffer from mental illness, they all seem so normal. But what I'm dealing with is my new normal. Medication, side effects, panic attacks, depression, lack of judgement issues, and more. I hate it. But that's the card I've been dealt. I have to deal with it all the best that I can. It could be much worse, I am still standing on two legs, I still have my health, I just have to deal with the grey cloud.

The depression is the worst of it all. The mania and other symptoms can be controlled with my meds (I take six different medications), But the depression is always omnipresent. It can be brought on by any number of negative events, like what happened at the Mental Health Connections, or money issues, job issues, and more. In my case it's the fact that I'm not working anymore and I can't stand it. I've become a house dad. Some may say that sounds like a fantasy, trust me, it's not.

Robin Williams suffered from severe depression (and Bipolar Syndrome). He struggled most of his life with alcohol and mental illness. Some have even called him an insane genius. But the fact that he took his own life seemed to bring his problems to light too late. He was always crying out for help, but being the man he was, he got laughter. He was very open about his alcoholism, but not so much about the depression that came with it. This happens to too many people. Last year in the US, 39,000 people committed suicide. In Canada the number was about 4,000 and that number is rising. These are scary statistics.

About a month ago I was suffering a lot. My meds were not working, my depression had grown exponentially, my panic attacks were growing more frequent to the point that I was afraid to drive anywhere. I was in trouble. But never once did I consider suicide. To me it's the coward's way out. So I went to the hospital. I sat in the ER for about 8 hours waiting to see a doctor. He changed some of my meds and sent me on my way. What I really wanted to to be admitted for further care and observation. I was told there were no beds available, and I would only be considered if I was suicidal. So they sent me on my way. A week later I had an appointment with my psychiatrist, who took it upon himself to change my meds again, in some cases back to what I had before. If I wasn't depressed before I certainly was now! It was a ridiculous experience, but one that I have unfortunately been through twice before.

So I endure, I cope. I have been through the entire mental health system from therapy to a place that specializes in helping people cope through activities - Mental Health Connections. And I still seem to be followed by the little grey cloud. It will get better, someday, but not today. 

Today it's supposed to rain.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Morning With The Dog

This day started like it should have, at 4:30am.
Wait, scratch that, it should have started at 7:30am. So I went back to bed for three hours.

I put on a pot of coffee, checked for burglary damage, and headed up to unleash the beast - Our 40 puppy Labrador/Greyhound cross. I encouraged this ball of energy to head straight outside - I even had the door wide open for him, so he could hopefully perform his morning ablutions. But alas, he stopped in the front hall and dropped one. We use puppy pads for training, the dog, like so many men,  has no sense of aim. So I cleaned up both messes and carried on. I fed and watered the beast. Only then did he go outside.

His name is Prometheus, but I call him lugnut; mainly because he has the IQ of one. Prometheus was a Greek Titan. In Greek Mythology Prometheus gave fire to man and there on was named 'Friend of Man'. We can't do anything simply around here. We couldn't have named the dog spot or something.

I finally had my coffee and by this time Kim was up joining me. The dog of course, was not going to make morning coffee easy for either of us; he kept attacking us with an old shoe we gave him to chew on. Problem was he couldn't tell the difference between us and the shoe, we too, got chewed. After a while it was time to take Kim to work. Imagine how much fun it is to put lugnut into the crate. He whined and bit while being dragged to the infernal thing. 

After a short trip to drop off the wife I returned to find lugnut (I really should call him Prometheus, but lugnut is easier to type), sitting patiently in the crate, not making a noise. I let him out, then let him run around the back yard for a bit, before he crunched on the couch. Such a tough live he lives. The only stress he has is trying to avoid the cat (who by the way also is not named Spot - we named it Skimbleshanks, from T.S. Elliot's CATS). The dog and cat hate each other respectively. Sometimes it gets entertaining. Anyway back on track here; The dog fell asleep so I took the opportunity to close my eyes. 

But my evil side kicked in, I had an anxiety attack. Too many things on my mind and no release for them all. When things subsided I resumed my siesta. I woke up fine an hour later with the dog licking my face. My glasses were still on. Yuck. It hasn't stopped since. He's got the energy of a horse, and fucking sharp teeth - not a good combination!

So as I sit here writing this, I'm fending off attacks from either side. He's got a penchant for biting your sleeves just above your wrists, I'm covered in scars.

Anyone want a free dog?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Medication Mania

If you haven't been here for a while, well, let's face it, nobody has been here in a while, including me. Anyway, if you have been following this you'll know that I have developed Bipolar Disorder. That's the reason I haven't written for so long. At first I wrote furiously about the new challenges I was facing, about this new road I was on and so forth. Since then I've dwindled off into the twilight of the blogosphere. 

There are many reasons for this, first and foremost being the side effects from my medication. The simple fact is I can't remember the simplest things anymore. As a writer in waiting, that makes putting stories together a slight bit difficult. It drives me nuts when in the middle of a conversation I have to stop and think what word should come next. That never happened before I became more medicated than a tranquillized elephant. 

That all being said I haven't come anywhere near the computer lately, lately meaning about six months. Not a way to keep your readers happy. But I'm not happy either. There was a time where I could spit out stories about almost anything, many of them ending up here. I know I can write so dammit! why can't I put two words together now! 

I have other side effects besides loss of memory, such as constant drowsiness, hallucinations, and other I'd rather not name. They almost make the side effects worse than the disorder itself. 

One thing I do have in my favour is time. Lots of time. Not working has allowed me the time I need to write, however I have found other things to occupy my days. I have chores to do, a big lug of a puppy that needs constant attention, and now that spring is finally here, yard work. Between these I have naps. Many naps. It's hard to make it through the day without them. The puppy is just like a baby - sleep when they sleep. This is a dog who thinks it's name is "no".

My wife has a new mantra - positive spin. When bad things happen, put a positive spin on the situation. Find something, no matter how insignificant, that you can spin into a gain in your favour. This doesn't always work to change your mood but if you try it you'd be surprised. I've used this philosophy lately and find that it really does do you some good. So you see it here, I've gone on about how bad the side effects are and why I can't write as much as I used to. Then the positive spin - talking about my home time and how I can use it to my advantage. I just have to keep the philosophy in the back of my mind at all times. I have to remember that I can do this writing thing. I have to put the side effects away and just do this thing.

The hard part is turning the computer on. The easy part should be changing a white screen into black and white.