Writing to Discipline My Thoughts

Disciplining My Thoughts By Writing

This morning I attended an OC Writers’ write-in. I haven’t attended a writers’ group in a long time. Been isolating myself and focusing on my son rather than my writing, rather than myself. Today, I left him home in bed, then left the meeting early to get him to class on time. When I got back home, he was dry-heaving in bed. Crap.

Hate spending my mornings trying to wake him up to do his homework and go to school. He will be seventeen next month. Time to wake up and do homework on his own. Unfortunately, his private school is not within walking distance, nor would it be a safe bike ride, and my kid has no interest in getting his drivers’ license yet. So, I’m still driving him to and from school.

The first week of June, during my son’s summer break when I didn’t have to act as alarm clock and chauffeur, I started cleaning my house with help of my next-door neighbor. She did most of the cleaning and organizing. I chatted and did a wee bit of organizing. We tackled the kitchen, spending two hours on Monday and two hours on Friday.

The second week of June was my son’s first week of summer school, so I took the week off cleaning and organizing. He has a full schedule this summer. He attended most of his classes last week, perhaps because I offered him $10/class/day. He’s motivated by money. It costs more to reschedule his classes than it does to pay him to attend.

Hypomania Raises Its Head (Again)

Last Tuesday in therapy, I said I no longer felt hypomanic. At the time, I seemed relaxed, at ease. By Wednesday my mind was racing. At night, when it was time to fall asleep, to slow down my mind – instead of thinking in my usual monologue, as an orator narrating my life – I heard a cacophony of voices.

I wondered if, when those voices crowded my mind, I should have written them down to see if I was thinking in dialogue. Were the voices characters wanting to be heard, auditory hallucinations, or thoughts racing so fast, I could not make heads or tails of them? Most likely speeding thoughts.

When I couldn’t fall asleep, instead of writing, I medicated myself to sleep. I force sleep when it won’t come on its own.

As I wrote last week during the day, while my son attended school, I could not hear the noise. Instead, I focused on my voice and that’s what I thought. Writing disciplined my thoughts.

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Silent Lately

Silence - background of clouds over Saddleback mountain range formation and trees in foreground

I haven’t written in a while, nor have I read or commented on others’ posts. I used to write brief reviews after reading a book. Recently, I’ve simply left stars on Amazon and Good Reads.

Why? Because I simply needed to recover. Recovering not from an episode of bipolar disorder – though I do live with that illness and must take care of myself – but from exhaustion, physical illness, and the demands of life.

Sometimes I need silence. Sometimes I must do less. I must NOT do.

Since my mother had her stroke November 2015, I’ve had added responsibilities overseeing my parents’ finances and care. My sister helps me make decisions and offers emotional support, but she lives in another state and has her own life to live.

I parent a high-needs adolescent who gets sick A LOT and has struggled throughout his life with migraines, ADHD, depression, and anxiety.

My husband, son, and I have all been sick.

All this weighs on me.

So, I’ve pulled back.

I’ve been silent.

I’ve binge-watched TV.

I’ve done lots of jigsaw puzzles on my iPad.

Hope - yellow hibiscus background

Starting Monday, I’m hiring my neighbor, who has been a caregiver to seniors, to help me with my chaotic physical environment. Together, we will organize and clean my house. It’s cluttered and dusty. The floors and refrigerator need cleaning. Hopefully, that will improve both our physical and emotional health.

Diagnosing Bipolar II #DavidLeite #NotesOnABanana

Creator of the James Beard Award-Winning Website "Leite's Culinaria," David Leite, "Notes on a Banana: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Manic Depression"

“Diagnosis: Mental Lite!” — Chapter 33 of David Leite’s self-deprecating Notes on a Banana: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Manic Depression — reminded me of the two decades it took before I was diagnosed bipolar type 2.

For twenty-five years Leite was treated (unsuccessfully) for depression and anxiety. Like Leite, I was an overachiever who cyclically crashed. From eighteen to thirty-nine, I was diagnosed dysthymic (chronically depressed).  Finally as a mother of a toddler, I recognized my euphoric callings from God as symptoms of hypomania and called for help.

After seeing numerous psychiatrists since he was fourteen, Leite sought and got an accurate diagnosis of bipolar II from Neil De Senna, who at the time was a Columbia University Medical Center professor of psychiatry.

Here I excerpt as bullet points the questions Dr. De Senna asked that led to Leite’s diagnosis. Buy the book to read his life story and answers to these questions — you won’t regret it.

  • Did I ever have rapid, repetitive thinking?
  • Did I ever talk fast, sometimes so fast people couldn’t understand me?
  • Had I ever been so irritable, I shouted at people or started fights or became violent?
  • Had I ever had a decreased need for sleep? If I slept just a few hours, did I feel great?
  • Did I ever engage in risky behavior that endangered my life?
  • Had I felt unusually self-confident in myself and my abilities? Did I ever experience grandiosity?
  • Had I ever had morose, violent thoughts?
  • Had I ever contemplated suicide? Had I ever attempted it?
  • Had I ever lost interest in things because nothing gave me pleasure?
  • Were there times when I was very interested in being with people, and other times when I wanted to be alone?
  • Did I have crying jags, anxiety and panic, trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, bad feelings about myself?

Now I quote without editing, De Senna’s description of bipolar I and bipolar II:

He explained that there are two types of bipolar disorder. Bipolar I is the more severe form, what Kay Redfield Jamison, the author of An Unquiet Mind, has. In it, the manias are screechingly amped up and oftentimes dangerous. They’re emblazoned with inflated self-esteem and billowing grandiosity, a marked decrease in sleep, a pressing need to talk, sometimes with odd features such as “clanging,” where speech loses meaning and follows a pattern of rhymes or sounds. Someone suffering from full-blown mania can be grossly distracted; battle racing, looping thoughts; and engage in potentially dangerous and deadly activities, such as unchecked buying sprees, risky or anonymous sex, foolish business dealings, and reckless driving. All the while, psychosis—a disconnection from reality—can be skulking in the background, just waiting for a pause, an opening. These manias can disrupt a person’s life to such a degree that jobs are lost, relationships implode, families disintegrate. Hospitalizations usually follow.

“What you have, bipolar II,” he continued, “is a milder form of the illness.” While the depressions can be just as deep and disabling, disabling, he said, what makes the difference is the quality, degree, and length of the high times. With bipolar II, a person suffers from hypomania. Elevated, expansive moods that are seductively attractive to the sufferer and the people around him, hypomanias are a watercolor version of bright-neon manias. Through it all, life isn’t disrupted to the same degree, and there’s never a psychotic break. Hospitalizations aren’t common.

“It can be very, very difficult to diagnosis hypomania,” Neil said. “Especially in type-A people who are normally goal-oriented, high energy, and creative. Their personalities can mask the illness at times.”

By quoting from David Leite’s memoir, published by HarperCollins, I do not intend to avoid copyright law. My hope is to educate, and as an added bonus to Leite and HarperCollins, to promote a great memoir of a creative soul living with manic depression.

Thank You, Treatment Team

Photos of my treatment team: Alex Michelson, MD; Brynne Lum, LMFT; My Family (son and husband)

Assuming that my therapist, Brynne Lum, LMFT, was not available (she’s very popular), I called my psychiatrist to see if he was available. He was! Yay!

Alex Michelson, MD saw me, listened to me, and reassured me that it sounds like I’m exhausted, which is understandable considering all that I’ve done in the last year and a half.

Brynne happened to be there when I visited, and I learned that she had a cancellation next week. Double yay! Now I don’t have to wait until the end of the month to see her.

Dr. Michelson reminded me that group therapy was always available for me to rejoin.

Anyway, before I got through to my team, I decided to take a couple of days off. Not exactly on a nature retreat. Just staying in a local hotel overlooking our local toll road (which is LOUD). Not as nice as I had hoped…

Maybe I’ll check out tomorrow and find somewhere quieter for my second night “away.”

Rejected

Just got rejected by an online psychotherapist using LiveHealthOnline. Ouch. Slap in face. No doubt because of my bipolar diagnosis. I understand that online therapy is not always appropriate. The therapist in question may not have had the proper background and training. 

Still, it hurts, and I remain… I don’t know… Vulnerable… Feeling in need of support — specifically psychological support.

My psychiatrist, with whom my psychotherapist works, runs weekly group therapy, which I used to attend. But, I don’t do well in groups. My boundaries are poor. I take care of others and don’t get enough support for myself. I’m selfish right now and know that I need the undivided attention of a psychotherapist. I need some healing. Badly.

Honestly, my fantasy is to go on a therapeutic retreat. Something like a spa weekend, but including sessions with a licensed psychologist with expertise in bipolar disorder (which is a serious mental illness). Must maintain coping mechanisms. Cannot fall apart.