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Lithium

So, there it is. The word I’ve always dreaded.

My psychiatrist went ahead and prescribed it a little more than a week ago. I guess it seems like the Lamictal is not really stabilizing my moods anymore. I am ashamed of how I have become this aggressive beast whom I don’t recognize. I hate the way I lash out. I can’t stand how angry I stay. And then I want to cry…I think. Yet no tears come. I feel numb. And I want to do something (ANYthing) to make myself feel like I have a pulse. I feel like a walking dead person.

And then there are the feelings that are the non-negotiables as far as any psychiatrist worth his salt is concerned. The feelings that “one would be better off dead.” Ugh. Do I have a plan to harm myself or kill myself, well heck no!! It’s just that feeling of wishing I didn’t have to wake up for quite a number of days. Doesn’t anyone understand that??

I function. I go to work daily. I take care of my physical appearance. I still have a decent filter that keeps me from saying all the horrible stuff that comes to my mind. But I admit that I seem to hate people more. Not REAL hate, you know. Just the feeling of being fed up with most human beings. I mostly don’t want to be bothered. I mostly want to go home after work and wrap myself up in a blanket like a fajita or a big, fat burrito and read a book or watch some Netflix. I wouldn’t mind talking on the phone…but my husband does not approve of my best friend, so that’s out. And I no longer need a phone to talk to my sister since, thankfully, our families now live together.

The good news is that I no longer succumb to the insane shopping sprees that I used to years ago when I was first diagnosed. Whew! Or, at least I mostly don’t. Or, even if I splurge, I don’t spend what I can’t somehow recover. Or, like even if I spend 2 or 3 hundred dollars, it’s not like I spend money that is needed for a bill or something.

The other good news is that I don’t have those voices compelling me to do ridiculous stuff. Or at least even if I DO think crazy stuff, I KNOW it’s crazy and I don’t follow through on it. That should count for something. I guess I’m saying that I don’t have any extra diagnoses like paranoid schizophrenia. So, that’s good.

So why am I writing about this? Because even though this lithium stuff is going to help me with the depression and with the panic attacks and all…it’s not helping yet. I know it’s only been a little more than a week and I am still in the building up phase. I haven’t even been prescribed a full dosage, which I’m glad about since even with such a small amount in my system, I’m going around like a walking zombie. It’s crazy how you can still (almost) function normally, just at a very sloooooowwwww pace. I just feel sleepy and agitated that I can’t spend the day sleeping.

So, no it’s not really helping some of the impulsiveness. I know that I just finished saying that I don’t follow through on the crazy stuff. Yet twice on last week I did something unthinkable and I remember the moment in each situation where the “snap” occurred. It was like I knew both times that I had unexpectedly found myself in an enviable (yet integrity-compromising) situation. I was going to do the right thing, I think. Or at least I was telling myself that I w
ould. I want to think that I would have followed through on the right path, if it hadn’t been for that break. That MOMENT, you know. Sometimes you don’t even recognize the split second that it happens. BUT I DID. I specifically remember making a conscious decision to do what I should not.

And I did. I did what should have remained in the land of ugly possibility. And now it cannot be undone. And I don’t feel very confident that I will do better the next time. Not very confident at all.

In what ways will Lithium help me with things like this?

 

 

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Lamictal…again

I had a truly wonderful visit with the psychologist named Camille Leaver. She was just like what you would expect: she asked probing questions, but never seemed shocked about any answers. She was non-judgmental and she–unlike Jeff Smith–was very affirming of the choices I have made over time. She congratulated me for implementing practices that help me stay fairly level and that help me cope in the event that my mood takes a dive. That was all very refreshing.

Of course I still had to go see the psychiatrist, and he was as wonderful as Camille. Even so, he suggested that I begin (or rather, RESUME after 7 years) taking Lamictal which in his professional opinion is a good proactive and preventative measure for what I might experience after the weight loss surgery. There are no guarantees that I will fall into black depressions after the surgery…but there are also no guarantees that I won’t. So, okay, fine! I got my prescription filled at Wal-mart and started taking it 2 days ago. I feel–THE SAME. Which is exactly what he expects to happen. If all goes well, I’ll just keep right on feeling THE SAME every day, which is the goal.

I’ve made my peace with the whole thing and I no longer feel like a hypocrite. Whomever feels they can judge me is welcome to do so. Like Camillle said, I have  a 7-year record of being off meds and in a year after the surgery if I want to come back off of them again, there should be no reason that I can’t. They started me off on the lowest possible dosage, and hopefully we will stay right there.lamictal[1]

7

Upper GI Test Tomorrow

Oh my goodness. Just a month ago, it seemed like this whole weight loss surgery thing was going to take forever, but now things finally seem to be moving along.

At 8:30 a.m. (when I am supposed to be at work for the last week of teacher workdays) I have to be a Baptist Hospital so they can check out my upper gastrointestinal region and make sure everything is okay. That means I can’t have anything to eat or drink for the next 12 hours. The no eating will be okay…but NO WATER after midnight?? What about my nightly tendency to go to the kitchen for a drink of water? Even the THOUGHT of not being able to drink water makes me thirsty. Ugh.

I hear the test will only take about 45 minutes. Then I will go to work for a few hours. And THEN the fun starts: At 3:00 p.m. I go see “The Prescriber” at the Mood Treatment Center. Doesn’t that title sound ominous? THE PRESCRIBER. I don’t know why they refer to the psychiatrist that way. (Which reminds me that I really need to post about my recent visit to the Mood Treatment Center and the wonderful encounter with one of the psychologists there.)

And as if THAT were not enough for one week, tomorrow I go to the 2-hour Nutrition Class. Woohoo! So this whole process is really moving along, right? But if that’s the case, then can anyone please tell me WHY I get so creeped out worrying that something is going to pop up at the last minute to keep all this from happening?

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Up and Down (Part 2)

It was difficult to accept the diagnosis of Bipolar from the psychiatrist because of the way I had been raised. We come from a very fundamentalist religious background that pretty much “demonizes” every sort of illness and ESPECIALLY mental illness. I am not pointing fingers at anyone; I’m simply explaining why it was so difficult to accept. What made it worse was the way people would preach a doctrine of physical and spiritual perfection that made those of us who were still struggling in any way do the most hypocritical thing possible: hide our ailments and pretend that everything was okay. Admitting any sort of sickness or disease or disorder or habit after having professed salvation was the same as saying that Christ had died in vain or that despite Christ’s great sacrifice you are lacking in the faith required to receive the benefits. Either way, you’re a loser.

I can’t tell you how many prayer lines I stood in, each time believing that THIS was the night that I would be set free FOREVER. But as the months rolled on, each black pit of depression was blacker than the previous one. I lived in secret misery for years, still proclaiming Jesus as the healing miracle worker who has no respect of persons. I simply attributed my own lack of change to my inability to continually exhibit the faith that was sufficient to move Him. It was like being at the grocery store with .50 cents and the cashier telling you that you need $50. No matter how much you believe in her grace and mercy, and no matter how much you beg and plead, and no matter how much you seek to flatter her with praises you’re not leaving that store until you pay up. That’s the way I saw my own faith deficiency. And with each passing year, I felt more hopeless.

I took the meds. First, Lamictal at the lowest possible dosage. Three months later the psych increase the dosage. Later he added another med and then later increased that dosage as well. At the end of a year, I was on 3 different meds including stuff like Welbutrin and Abilify, all at the highest dosages. Eventually I was not myself in ANY way. I was in a distracted, agitated, sleepy CLOUD which did block out the crazy-impulse voices, but unfortunately also blocked out my own voice. I don’t remember being able to think ANY thoughts or feel any feelings except aggravation and lethargy. I remember wondering what was the point if one way or the other I was still going to feel like a miserable wretch.

Knowing that I had been advised not to ever come off all those meds without doctor approval or supervision, I still did it. My psychiatrist had told me that I would be on medication for the rest of my life, period and that we would just keep switching up and changing things until we found what “worked.” After a year, we had not found that magic combination. So I prayed that God would help me and sustain me when I threw the remaining meds in the trash. I committed to trying to live in a way that would not welcome anymore drama into my life and in return I just wanted Him to help me not to kill myself.

Seven years later, I am still alive. I try to live in a balanced way. I am thankful to have loving, supporting friendships as well as a loving husband. I work a full-time job and am working on a Master’s Degree. Until recently, I had been committed to eating well and getting lots of physical activity; things that I know have an impact on one’s ability to cope with life. Above all, I have embraced a spiritual path of meditation and have been blessed by the teachings of my guru, Paramahansa Yogananda. I give glory to God for having stabilized and sustained me thus far.

THAT’s why I was so upset about the recent Psych Eval in which he said he would not recommend me as a candidate for weight loss surgery unless I got back on medication. It’s like a slap in the face and a total disregard for my growth over these seven years.

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Up and Down (Part 1)

In 2007 I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. As a child, people called me “spastic,” and “hyper.” In my pre-teen and teenage years I would feel depressed from time to time. As a young adult the depression would be so deep that I felt I could hardly breathe sometimes.

But it was only when I was 36 that I was diagnosed. Did I suspect before then that I had a serious problem. YES. I have kept journals since I was in the 8th grade and I had an English teacher who required that we do so. It’s impossible to journal on a regular basis and not eventually notice a pattern in your moods. And yet, every time the cloud would lift, I had the insane idea that I would never again feel so much like killing myself. Can you believe I thought that EVERY SINGLE TIME?

Then my husband cheated on me. And left me and my four sons to live in the church that he used to pastor. And then I took him back after a year of praying to God to PLEASE send him back. [Yes, in retrospect I do realize just how insane I had to be.] And then I realized I’d made a mistake in taking him back and the depressive phases would last much longer. And then I decided to stay with him until I could finish college and enter the work force so that I could leave his ass. But then, years later while I was working on my Master’s Degree–which is enough to drive anyone batty all by itself–he left me for the second time.

What I’m trying to demonstrate is that I was never sure that it was ME who had the problem. I just thought my LIFE was extremely problematic. I sincerely thought that the trauma of my life (having been molested as a child; experiencing teenage pregnancy, the homesickness of living in Europe for 2 years, the poverty associated with marrying young, having four sons and being uneducated and jobless, having a husband who was a preacher, liar, and adulterer, the stresses associated with maintaining a 4.0 average in college and grad school as an adult and as a sometimes-single-parent) were causing me to be…well, you know, “up and down.”

If it had not been for the fact that I was nominated for the only full-ride scholarship and stipend given annually in the department where I was to do grad studies, I may never have even sought psychiatric evaluation and psychological therapy, much less been able to afford them. Indeed, if I had not forced by the dean to stop breaking down in the bathroom in uncontrollable crying and screaming fits, I guess I would have just continued the silent suffering that had become my life story. I would never have put myself into the category of people who have a “chemical imbalance.”

And the good times were no longer just good; they were AMAZING beyond belief. I began to feel high on life whenever I wasn’t in the black pit. And once my husband had left me I was free to experience all the “life” that I had given up after high school in order to marry him. And even more incredible was the fact that I was taking 5 classes at a time, and learning other languages and producing some the best academic writing I have ever done. I was a freaking GENIUS. All while I was losing my mind.

And then came the meds.

10

I Knew Better than to Be Honest

Damn.

I’m sorry if that word offends anyone. I am soooo not a person who goes around cursing. It’s quite ineffective. But boy, what a stressful day! With all my heart I had been looking forward to the Psych Eval that I was to be given as a first step on my journey to weight loss through bariatric surgery. But now I am so angry and confused that I just want to go to bed and get rid of this day.

I promise to write about the whole damnable experience, but right now suffice it to say that it was a freaking DISASTER. In spite of my original hesitation about doing do, I answered all the questions in the battery of tests and in his personal interview with transparency and full disclosure. End result: He wants me to go back to the same medications that I have not taken in about SEVEN YEARS and get my mood stabilized before he will recommend me for the surgery. He said that I am “obviously” Bipolar and that I manifest all the signs of being in a manic phase RIGHT NOW.

What an ugly and TOTALLY unexpected obstacle. I felt enough shame already for having to ask for help through surgery in the first place. Please imagine how I will feel if I go back to taking the same medications that I have told people ALL OVER THE WORLD that I now live without. Why do I have to be such a freaking sell-out? What a twisted, mean world this is. What I hypocrite I feel like. What I failure I feel like.

This is NOT going at all how I’d planned.

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BRAZEN, by Camelia Flores

51UZpSYF6rL__SS140_SH35_This is a book I wrote a couple of years ago, much to the embarrassment of some people dear to me. And yet, it is a story very dear to my heart. It is still for sale on Amazon; this cover is from the paperback version. If you do not understand Bipolar Disorder with extreme psychosis, paranoia, and schizophrenia, then you may not be prepared to read this short book. Your thoughts?