Mind Spinning

Let Me Off This Ride

Mind spinning
In circles
Like a hamster
On a wheel
Racing
Round and round
Going nowhere

Going nowhere
Too quickly
To safely
Get off

Mind spinning
Sick to my stomach
Let me off
This ride
Right now

Please slow down
Please brake
Cannot take it
Anymore

Maybe I shouldn’t
Have had
Two cups of
Coffee
This morning

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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.

NAMIWalks, Conferences, and Fatigue

This summer I’ve been recuperating from caring for my parents, going to the BlogHer16 women’s blogging conference, and training for NAMI In Our Own Voice.

A writer is a writer before, as well as after, publication. Southern California Writers' Conference

This upcoming weekend, I’m attending the Southern California Writers’ Conference, about which I’m understandably worried for I find conferences exhausting and am a bit anxious that I will be out of my depth there.

Conferences can be exhausting and overwhelming for anyone, whether or not they live with mental illness. The social interaction of conferences and trainings overstimulate me, trigger hypomania, and exhaust me, requiring rest to recuperate.

nami-walks-2016

The following weekend I’m walking 5K for NAMI Orange County. Please support me and team STIGMA SMASHERS for NAMIWalks Orange County 2016. NAMI Orange County’s programs have helped me live well with bipolar disorder.

DONATE NOW GREEN

NAMI Peer-to-Peer introduced me to the concept of mental health recovery and gave me HOPE. I volunteer as a Provider Education presenter and just trained to become an In Our Own Voice public speaker to share my story of mental health recovery.

NAMIWalks provides NAMI Orange County with 1/3 of their operating budget, enabling them to offer free mental health educational programs, meetings and support groups.

 join team stigma smashers

NAMIWalks Orange County

Saturday, October 1st
Check in: 9:00 AM
Start time: 10:30 AM
William R. Mason Park
18712 University Drive
Irvine, CA 92612

Thank you for your support!

Connecting With Others #Online

Connecting Online

Guest Post: Connecting With Others Online

– by Fliss Baker for NewLifeOutlook

Connecting with other people is vital to surviving, living and enjoying life. It is imperative in managing our mental health; we are encouraged to talk, talk and talk some more about how we feel and how our illnesses affect us.

However, the stigma of bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses, and even bipolar communication problems, can stop us from doing so. It is incredibly hard to voice our pain and insecurities to others, particularly when other people aren’t experiencing what we are.

I have spoken to people many times who can’t show real sympathy or empathy because what I describe is too hard to comprehend. It is for this reason I have often recoiled and tried to hide how I feel, which has made my symptoms worse.

Sharing Experiences

The best advice I was given was to talk to other people with the same experiences, where openly sharing is easy and people understand.

I was unable to vocalize my illness and its symptoms eight years ago because I had no idea what was going on, and neither did my family. My diagnosis came about from my father battling for me to see a psychiatrist after my behavior flew from depression to mania.

The struggle was hard but the hospitalization gave me something I hadn’t had before. I was around people who seemed to be having the same problems. If I was unable to share vocally, I could see others in pain with irritability, aggression, upset, self-harm or in the depths of suicide.

I met people from every walk of life, including soldiers with posttraumatic stress disorder, mothers with depression, a nurse with self-harm injuries and an artist with bipolar disorder. I suddenly realized I wasn’t alone and there was no limit as to the conversation we could have.

I could wake up and tell the nurses and the other patients that I couldn’t handle life and wanted it to be over. It felt impossible to do that in the ‘real world.’ The openness was crucial in my recovery.

Trust Is Essential

There are so many people available to talk and help us through our illness, moment by moment if necessary. However, the first step is being aware of where to go and who is trusted to support you.

As much as we should be opening up, it is important to go to someone you know will listen non-judgmentally and recommend strategies to help.

I was advised by my psychiatrist to link up with local mental health charities. They have excellent websites that not only educate you on your illness, but have chat rooms encouraging discussion.

I could read different posts with titles I could relate to, such as ‘I can’t cope today’ and read the replies. I didn’t respond to any posts initially as I was nervous to contribute, however, I soon felt able to ask questions and share my feelings.

It is an amazing feeling to be comfortable when you connect with others who simply get it.

I was inspired to seek out other places I could communicate easily and found independent chat rooms online. I was suffering with an eating disorder at the time so I was particularly interested in others going through the same.

However, I was warned by my psychiatrist about certain chat rooms, which can sometimes have a negative effect. I encountered this by coming across a chat room where young girls were sharing tips and picking the brains of others on how to restrict food and lose weight. It was scary and I stopped myself from being immersed as I felt it trigger my illness.

Facebook Groups

There need to be safeguards on chat rooms, and Facebook is often a good place where this is implemented. There are many places to talk about depression, bipolar, anxiety and other mental health illnesses and groups usually have hosts.

This means that any comments that are considered triggering are removed and users are aware of the regulations. Initially I almost felt bad that somebody might be told their comments were unhelpful, but then I realized that with a big group of people, we have to look after the majority to ensure everyone is kept safe and well.

I am still part of the Facebook groups, although I now don’t feel the need to contribute at the moment. I do, however, read the posts and if something is particularly moving and relevant to me, I will post something in return.

Connecting Offline With Phone Helplines

Offline, phone helplines are have been really important to my recovery. I personally find it helpful to listen to a voice at the other end that can listen, soothe and understand.

Charitable helplines are set up with highly trained individuals who know how to treat people who are incredibly vulnerable. They understand if you phone up with any problems where you are distressed and even if you are under the influence of substances or alcohol.

They also know how to deal with suicidal calls and will stay on the phone no matter what — keeping the call completely confidential.

The transition between needing to connect for support and to share support is crucial in recovery. I go through periods where I need advice and recommendations, but then want to share advice and recommendations.

Both roles are very important to me. I show my vulnerability in some cases, then feel real self-worth when I receive a message back saying “that helped me, that got me through my day.” We all know how much we need to have a purpose to keep our mental health in check.

Based on personal experience, talking to trusted people face to face, over the telephone and online using charities and regulated chat rooms is without a shadow of a doubt really helpful.
Because of this I know there is always someone out there for me. The key to is to search for the right places where you feel safe and comfortable to share and receive information.

I have asked my psychiatrist, community psychiatric nurse and mental health community team for recommendations. My only advice is to avoid triggering chat rooms, which could increase your anxiety and exacerbate your symptoms.

Take responsibility for yourself and look after your mental health. That’s the key when connecting with other people.


Fliss-Baker

Fliss Baker was diagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar in 2008. She’s passionate about ending the stigma attached to mental health and blogs about bipolar disorder. You can find more of her writing on NewLifeOutlook.