Hypomania aka Fried Brain

My Brain on Overdrive. Totally Fried.

Those who know me well would hardly be surprised to hear (or read) that my mind is fried. Focused? Who me, focused? Nope. Instead, one project or comment gets me going in one direction, another in another direction. I end up juggling multiple projects, with my mind racing and jumping all over the place.

So here’s what’s going on. I’ve intended for a few years now to publish a collection of my blog posts as a book. Not able to import my posts into Scrivener, I labored to cut and paste them back in 2014 and later in 2017.

Recently, I hired Sarah Fader as a book coach, and with her help realized that I have a memoir in me. I’m starting to see them as two separate projects — a memoir and a collection of blog posts or short essays — and am itching to get the posts I had copied and pasted published. I want them off my back, out of my mind. They want to be collected and published. What can I say? The writing demands it!

At the end of May, I’m attending a writers summit where I will workshop my memoir (or post/essay collection, or both). In the meantime, I’m going off in multiple directions, as is like me when overstimulated. Overstimulation, social and intellectual, triggers mood cycling and hypomania in me.

Here’s an example of how reactive I am: In real life and on Facebook, I’m a member of OC Writers. Last Wednesday, writer and group admin Greta Boris posted this question:

It’s Wisdom Wednesday. Keyword: mailing list. Do you have one? If yes, how are you growing your subscriber base? Do you send a monthly newsletter? Inquiring minds want to know.

My first reaction was: “Nope. I’m really bad about it because I find mailing lists obnoxious.” But, then I went ahead and created a MailChimp email list (click on link to a my fancy sign up page on MailChimp), which now has a total of five members. Creating this list involved a crap load of work.

To protect my personal privacy and for basic professionalism, I didn’t want to use my personal email or my personal address. To create an email account using my URL, kittomalley.com, I signed up for G Suite as the owner of my URL. Sounds simple, but I jumped through hoops to verify that I owned every iteration of my URL (kittomalley.com, http://www.kittomalley.com, kittomalley.wordpress.com, etc.).

For a mailing address, I rented a local mailbox. Luckily, the owner knows me and I was able to handle the transaction over the phone and by email, because I was sick when I was doing all this work online. The new mailing address has the added benefit of protecting my privacy online, for I’m licensed with the state of California as a Marriage and Family Therapist. (Recently completed CEUs to renew license.)

Once I had completed all that, as the graphic nerd that I am, I went through several design iterations for the mailing list pop-up, ending up with the least obnoxious: a simple white footer with no graphic design elements that allows readers to scroll my content without clicking to close the form. I’m just asking for email addresses. Don’t want to ask for too much information.

Honestly, I’m not sure what exactly I’ll use the list for. Not to send notifications of blog posts. People can sign up for those through WordPress.com. Rather, to let people know perhaps on a monthly basis the status of my book(s). Perhaps to write a monthly newsletter. Who knows? Just don’t want to inundate anyone with email. Hate email spam, thus my initial reaction.

Oh, I almost forgot. Yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day, my parents’ fifty-sixth anniversary. My husband and I visited them at their memory care community. Yes, they both have dementia. My father due to alcoholism. My mother secondary to a stroke. Visiting them is always emotional for me. My father asks the same questions over and over. My mother cannot speak and at best understands 40% of receptive speech. She doesn’t understand symbolic language either — the part of her brain responsible for language has been destroyed. Her frontal lobe, too, was damaged leaving her with behavioral complications on top of underlying undiagnosed mental illness predating her stroke. As I’m her daughter and not her psychiatrist, I can’t really diagnose what was going on with her, I can only say that she could be emotionally abusive. Those stories I’ll save for my memoir.

Upon returning from our visit, I decided to take on finishing our income taxes. I had completed most of the return on TurboTax. Just had to go through a pile in my inbox that dated back to my mother’s stroke. Seems that’s what I had put on hold. Going through the papers triggered painful memories. As I look at the dates on documents, I recalled what we were going through at those times.

My mother had her stroke one month after my son started at a new private high school due to his health problems and frequent absences. My son still struggles. Honestly, as the parent of a son struggling with multiple complex intertwined health issues, I feel like a failure. I do not have a magic wand. I cannot take away his suffering. I cannot make him get up out of bed. I take him to doctors. I try to get him to eat, or at least to drink.

Sounds like a lot? It is. I rely on my husband. We order take-out. I write, I blog, for I can. It’s something I can do. Something I can control in the midst of so much I cannot control.

Thank you.

Quick Update

What’s Up?

What’s Up with Me?

This morning I woke up feeling sick to my stomach. Unlike my son, feeling crappy doesn’t keep me from eating nor do I sleep all day. Even though I was nauseated and loopy, I managed to finish my first chapter of my book. Working with Sarah Fader as my book coach starting last week, I’ve drawn up character sketches, a book outline, and a draft of the first chapter. The first chapter focuses on childhood up to eighth grade: born in San Francisco, five years in Saudi Arabia, two years in Massachusetts, ending the chapter in Rancho Palos Verdes. The second draft will begin with our move to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. My goal is to have a working draft by the time I attend the Sunriver Writers’ Summit in late May.

Parenting a High Needs Chronically Ill Teen

My 17-year old son’s been sick and suffering from migraines (again, still, nothing new). He frequently gets ill, has had migraines since he was a toddler, and struggles with anxiety and depression.

Honestly, I’m exhausted trying to care for him, trying to take him to doctors’ appointments when he won’t or can’t drag himself out of bed, trying to get him to eat when he doesn’t feel well, trying to get him out of bed and to school. He’s been a very challenging kid to parent. Now he’s a young man — a sweet, highly intelligent, and handsome young man — but difficult to help, difficult to parent. I’ve tried. Oh, how I’ve tried.

Recently my husband took him to his psychiatrist (my son has an army of specialists). They agreed on lowering his topiramate dose. My son doesn’t like the negative cognitive side effects of topiramate, nicknamed “Dopamax.” When I took it as a mood stabilizer over a decade ago, I was a complete idiot. My son can’t find words or understand concepts as quickly as he once did. He complains that he used to read his Spanish vocabulary once and had it memorized. Now he has to read it multiple times. I told him, “Welcome to everyone else’s reality. Most people must study harder than you do.”

My son keeps hoping that he’ll outgrow the migraines, which he still may, for testosterone protects against migraines. He had asked to see an endocrinologist hoping he’d be prescribed testosterone, but the pediatric endocrinologist wouldn’t prescribe it. He just told Matthew that he had delayed puberty (late bloomer), and that he’d catch up.

When I heard that the psychiatrist again suggested lowering the topiramate dose, I emailed his neurologist who responded that it was a bad idea, for his migraines return whenever the dose is reduced. Got him back up to his therapeutic dose, but he’s still not 100%. Last night he threw up, as he did once last week. Migraines + viral illness = miserable son sleeping 24/7.

Low Carb Low Fat Diet

Forbidden Foods

Saw my internist today. Here’s my new diet regimen to lower my triglycerides: 100 gram carbohydrates per day, 60 grams fat day, no more than 5 nuts (preferrably walnuts), no olive oil (save 1 tablespoon to pan fry), no coconut oil, no cheese, no red meat, no pasta, no rice, and no bread.

Wish me luck! I’ve already been using the LoseIt! app to track what I eat for weight loss along with fellow mental health blogger Dyane Harwood and my husband.

There’s a good reason doctors want to meet with you to discuss lab results. See, when you download them yourself, you may misread the results, like I did. I got all worried for nothing. My internist said that my liver panel was fine.

She suspected lab error for my high potassium level.

Often a report of high blood potassium isn’t true hyperkalemia. Instead, it may be caused by the rupture of blood cells in the blood sample during or shortly after the blood draw. The ruptured cells leak their potassium into the sample. This falsely raises the amount of potassium in the blood sample, even though the potassium level in your body is actually normal.

– Mayo Clinic

As my total protein, albumin, and globulin levels were all normal and my albumin/globulin ratio was just above normal, I have no reason for concern. I can keep taking divaproex sodium (Depakote) for bipolar disorder and atorvastatin (Lipitor) for high cholesterol.

The lab sent my internist the liver panel prescribed by my psychiatrist, not the metabolic panel she requested. She relied on my (exaggerated and anxious) self report of high triglycerides (and my charted clinical history of high triglycerides).

Unfortunately, I didn’t remember what the actual triglyceride number was. If I had read the results more closely, rather than catastrophizing, I would have noticed that my triglycerides are just above normal. (I faxed my internist the lab results once I got home.)

Anyway, as high triglycerides are bad news, she prescribed fenofibrate, a medication to lower my triglycerides, and a strict low fat low carb diet. Taking a medication is easy. Keeping to a highly restrictive diet is not.

Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood. Too much of this type of fat may raise the risk of coronary artery disease, especially in women.


Both my mother and my maternal grandmother suffered from strokes. My mother’s stroke resulted in vascular dementia and loss of language (severe damage to the left hemisphere of her brain).

My father now has a fatty liver and dementia, as a result of heavy alcohol consumption. Fatty liver can also be the result of high triglycerides. Got to take care of my heart and my liver. Got to take care of my body and my brain.

Liver Panel Lab Results

Anxiously Waiting to discuss liver panel lab results with docs

So, back in November both my internist and my psychiatrist wrote out lab requests for me to fill. Put it off until January because I was nervous as to what the results might be.

Metabolic panel showed high triglycerides. I fasted, but forgot not to take my fish oil that morning. I currently take atorvastatin (LIPITOR®) for high cholesterol and high triglycerides which I had been unsuccessful at controlling using diet and exercise alone. Unfortunately, atorvastatin is hard on the liver…

Liver panel showed high potassium and high albumin/globulin (A/G) ratio which may indicate liver or kidney problems. I take two medications which can damage the liver and kidneys: atorvastatin and divalproex sodium (Depakote®) — the antiseizure medication I take as a mood stabilizer for bipolar disorder.

Thursday my psychologist, who works with my psychiatrist, cautioned me against catastrophizing, reminding me that there were solutions (reducing dose, changing medications, etc.).

Next week I have an appointment with my psychiatrist, and I plan to see my internist. The easiest solution is to go off atorvastatin and see a nutritionist to improve my metabolic blood chemistry.

Time to lower my bad (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides using diet and exercise. Wish me luck.