Spring Brings Hypomania

SpringBringsHypomania

This year, as winter has ended and spring has begun, I’ve taken it slowly and protected myself from overstimulation. You have not heard from me as much, as I’ve not been as active writing here or on social media.

You see, springtime triggers hypomania in me. Now I’m experiencing mild hypomania, irritability, and some mixed features. I feel myself internally crying, and on the verge of tears. I have good reason to cry, but my feeling of emotional vulnerability and instability goes beyond my current life circumstances. Perhaps, for I’ve never experienced losing my parents to dementia while raising a chronically ill teenager and living with bipolar disorder type II. Sounds pretty stressful.

My response is to cocoon, to reduce stimulation, to take sleep meds if I must, to reduce stress. When I haven’t been busy caring for my son or visiting my parents, I’ve relaxed and let my husband spoil me.

Hopefully I’ll feel much better once tax season is over. Exhausting and stressful.

Hypomanic Episode Symptoms

By Steve Bressert, Ph.D. for PsychCentral

  • Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity
  • Decreased need for sleep (e.g., feels rested after only 3 hours of sleep)
  • More talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking
  • Flight of ideas or subjective experience that thoughts are racing
  • Distractibility (e.g., attention too easily drawn to unimportant or irrelevant external stimuli)
  • Increase in goal-directed activity (either socially, at work or school, or sexually) or psychomotor agitation
  • Excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences (e.g., the person engages in unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments)

Source: psychcentral.com/disorders/hypomanic-episode-symptoms/

Who Do I Care For, Really?

Definition of caregiver: a person who provides direct care (as for children, elderly people, or the chronically ill) https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/caregiver

I spend way too much emotional and physical energy toward the care of others, aside from myself. Why do I care so much, too much? No doubt due to my upbringing, to my relationship to my parents – trying to please, to earn their love and approval. Why, after decades of therapy, do I still feel and act as an enmeshed parentified daughter? I’ll just leave that question hanging there for now. Not up for explaining alcoholic family dynamics. Too tired. Adult Children of Alcoholics has a good concise description.

Who do I really care for? Good question. My husband and my son are the most important people in my life. I have devoted a great deal of time and energy trying to help my son. Too much, perhaps. No, not perhaps, without doubt. Now, I need to step back, to neglect a bit, to allow for more independence. Time to do just enough. To be just good enough. Just enough. Enough.

My sister, trying to help me set boundaries and stop taking on too much emotional responsibility, reminded me that I am not our parents’ caregiver. They are in memory care. The memory care facility provides their daily care. That’s what we pay them for.

I am not my parents’ caregiver. I am my son’s caregiver, and even he could use less of my care.

Now that my parents both have dementia and live in a memory care community, aside from being their daughter, my role is to be their power of attorney. With my sister, I make decisions on their behalf. I pay their bills. I coordinate their care, which is not the same as giving them direct care.

Before my mother’s stroke, I did not visit my parents regularly. I did, though, talk and play Words with Friends with my mom daily. I miss communicating with her. I miss my parents as they were before dementia. I’m grieving.

Living with bipolar disorder, I must take care of myself. This season, springtime, is a time when I often start mood cycling. I’ve feel particularly vulnerable and fatigued. The longer sunny days trigger hypomania and irritability.

On a more positive note, in January and February and again next week, I’ve been a NAMI Provider Educator for the staff at the hospital where I received both inpatient and partial day treatment twelve years ago. I enjoy educating their staff on what it is like to live with mental illness and to be in mental health recovery. Wish me well next week. We’re increasing the time that we devote to our personal trauma stories, so I must rewrite mine. I may edit my In Our Own Voice presentation for content, or I could take a look at what I have shared here.

Reunited and Learning ASL

My mother has moved back in with my father, back into the same Silverado memory care community (which is lovely), again sharing a room. I hope and pray it goes better this time round than last when they isolated and refused medication and care. They love one another very much, so it is wonderful to see them together.

Missing his old home, my father asked about his old beach house which we sold last year to pay for their care. The staff has told my dad “therapeutic white lies” about the house, such as saying that the plumbing is being repaired.

Instead of using a “therapeutic white lie,” I skirted the issue, telling my dad that since my mom had her stroke, she needs care and that the house was too much work. He asked her if she wanted to live in the memory care community, she nodded her head yes (since the stroke, she hasn’t been able to speak).

I told him that it was no longer her job to cook, clean, or take care of him. Up until the stroke, she was his caregiver, as he’s had progressive memory loss for years. I told them that their individual needs differ now. Mom cannot use language, but dad can and should take part in community activities designed to exercise the brain and fight memory loss.

The community’s social worker has started working with my mom to help her communicate her feelings. My mom didn’t like using communication boards. I knew from previous attempts at using them that my mom doesn’t seem to understand what the drawings on the boards represent. She didn’t want to try writing either, as she knows that she simply cannot.

BUT… the social worker discovered that my mom responds to ASL (American Sign Language). So now my mom, dad, and I are using simple ASL signs to communicate. Not sure how much my father will remember due to his dementia, nor how much my mother really understands due to her stroke and vascular dementia. At least, my parents seem to enjoy learning it.

Time to Write Again?

taking-it-easy_5

Pre-Christmas Travel Writing

I jump from one app to another. Jigsaw puzzle to reading to writing. Back and forth, writing and jigsaw. Uneasy. Jittery.

Uneasy. Not at ease. Tense. Guilty. Dramatic, yes, but so fucking what. That’s who I am. I have no desire to change that about myself. Besides, honestly, I keep most of my drama inside.


Back Home Organizing My Thoughts

Haven’t been writing much over this past holiday season. Left my time and energy for family and myself. Since my post-Thanksgiving chest cold, I’ve been doing jigsaw puzzles and not engaging in as many verbal activities.

Kind of like my mother. She nods yes, shakes her head no, or stares blankly not seeming to understand. She no longer reads the newspaper. Just turns the pages, pulls out the ads, and organizes the paper by section. Reassuring daily routine, even if she can no longer read.

Although I visited both my parents before both Thanksgiving and Christmas, I felt guilty leaving them behind when I visited my sister and in-laws. Broke my heart. So much guilt, even though I know after trial and error that we are giving our parents the best of care. Just can’t be in two places at once.

Last year around Christmas time, my Mom was psychiatrically hospitalized. More to the point, I had her psychiatrically hospitalized. Heart breaking decision, but I tried to do the right thing every step of the way.

We had hoped to have them living together back then. Our mother went from stroke rehab to the psychiatric hospital, then to another stroke rehab before moving into a board and care with my father. They did not do well in the board and care, so we ended up moving them into a high-quality memory care community.

Since that time, we’ve found that they do better apart in separate communities. I feel terrible that I’ve had her in so many places, but she’s stable now and my father’s health has improved. They both seem to be happy, even though they miss each other. Their memory communities arrange a weekly Skype session so they can “see” each other.


Visited My Parents This Week

The new year begins. I visited my parents before and after the holidays. When visiting my mother on Sunday, I took her out shopping. We terrorized fellow shoppers as we tried to navigate using an automated cart.

Once I got back home I debated whether I could bring her home to live with me. Our house, though, is not well suited for a stroke survivor. Bedrooms are upstairs. Our flooring is tile and hardwood. Our stairs steep and without a landing.

Just thinking about moving my mother in, I started to ramp up, to get mildly hypomanic. I found myself unable to sleep. Instead of sleeping, I researched stair treads, hand rails, stair elevators, and purchasing a single-level home.

The fact remains that my own mental health is stable because I avoid stressors that trigger symptoms and cycling. I give myself time to recover. If I was a full-time caregiver of my mother, I would not be well.

Yesterday I visited my father and brought my teen son along. My son continues to miss far too much school due to illness and migraines, which frustrates me. I try. I really do. But, I can’t carry a sixteen-year-old adolescent to school when he has a fever, is vomiting, or is coughing. I’m at my wit’s end.

My sister and I decided to give our parents’ living situation a year. They are both doing well. The quality care they receive is why.

Mini Thanksgivings

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This weekend my sister visited and we celebrated Thanksgiving twice with our parents. Friday we joined our mother at her memory care community and joined their festivities. That afternoon and early dinner went very well. We had fun decorating her room and organizing photos.

Saturday we brought our father to visit our mother for lunch. The visit went well until we left them alone for a few minutes while we got coffee in the lobby. By the time I returned to our mother’s room, they were planning their escape back to their old beach house (which they no longer own – we had to sell it to pay for their care).

Big sigh. Clearly they wish their lives were as they were before dementia, before stroke. We all do.