0

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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17

My Epiphany

Before you ask, I will tell you how it came about that I decided AGAINST the bariatric sleeve after all I have done to pursue it.

WELL, a week ago, I had a follow-up visit with the Nutritionist. I came armed with my food journal that they’d made us keep for several weeks. And to be honest with you, I felt a bit smug. Smug because I felt that I have done so much RIGHT. Each day, I had completed all the categories: the day of the week, the time of day, the exact name and portion size of what I’d eaten, the caloric and protein values, how much water I’d drunk, how much exercise I’d done, what non-eating activities I’d done, AND the daily personal reflection they asked that you write. I congratulated myself that I’d stayed away from carbonated drinks and caffeine and that I’d almost always chosen single-digit fats and sugars, as they suggested.

Did I stay inside the 1000-calorie limit that they had recently imposed? HELL NO–excuse the expletive. But when you think about it, the changes that I’d made had been so comprehensive that I began to feel like a new person; I DESERVED to be congratulated. And yes, I did lose weight despite the fact that my daily calories at first were around 1400, and later closer to 1200. I was certain that the Nutritionist was going to give me a pat on the back and release me to have the surgery that the surgeon had told me he’d be glad to give me the first week in August so that I’d have time to recover before the new school year begins.

Just imagine my shock and dismay when the Nutritionist said the complete opposite. She said that I’d done okay, but that in her opinion I had not PERFECTED the goals to the extent that she could feel confident that I would not sabotage my own surgery after I’d had it. PERFECTION????? So, all this time she was looking for PERFECTION? Something that she did NOT say in the original group meeting we’d had. Long story short, she sent me home for another month to PERFECT this new eating life-style.

I already know what you want to ask and believe me when I tell you that I addressed your question to her, so that you will not have to. I said–very calmly, I might add–“Forgive me, but is it possible that it’s just ME? Am I the only 300-pound person who wants to know how you expect us to PERFECT all this BEFORE we have the surgery? I mean, if we could do that, then why on earth would we be asking to have the surgery in the first place???”

I would like to bet you seven thousand dollars that you CANNOT guess what her wide-eyed response was. Go ahead. Guess.

HAH! You are wrong. Her actual response was—brace yourself for this please—“EXACTLY!”

WTF? How could she say “exactly” as though we were saying the same thing? As though we were on the same side of the fence. As though she were not the only obstacle standing in the way of my much-dreamed-of and sought-after surgery?!

When she saw that I was nonplussed by her response, she continued, “I mean, that’s what I ask myself every day! I want all of our clients to see and understand that if you don’t get this right, you are going to end up weighing exactly what you weighed before the surgery and then all of this will have been for nothing! Why would you sign up for a surgery without knowing how to maintain your weight loss?”

Okay, so I’m not ignorant. I realize the total validity of what she said. BUT IT STILL DOES NOT ANSWER MY QUESTION!!! How do you expect me to do PRESURGERY what I have to do POST SURGERY?! Because if I could, then I would not NEED surgery. It would only be a matter of time, and I would lose weight, slow as a snail though it may be. But I WOULD lose weight.

And suddenly it hit me like a ton of bricks. Surgery or no surgery, I will HAVE to demonstrate the willpower, the grit, the persistence to consistently do the right thing, eat the right thing, stop eating the wrong thing, stop eating when I’m satisfied, nourish myself with wholesome foods and not junk, stop all emotionally based eating, etc., etc., etc. So there was my answer. That was my epiphany.

If they were going to make me do all this perfectly before the surgery, then the surgery is just a quicker, more costly route with potential complications and recovery time that I can’t afford to miss from my job. At the very least, I can thank them for helping to reestablish my feet firmly on this path. When I signed up for the surgery, I honestly thought I no longer had the ability to control myself. Well, they helped me prove myself wrong.

8

I’m Out

Well, if you followed my blog because I was about to have Weight Loss Surgery…I’m sorry for both of us.

I’m opting out of the surgery, and I’m still pressing toward being my most authentic self. I hope you will remember that my original purpose for beginning this blog was to discover and express that true Self.

I am sooooooo happy for all my friends here who have had and those who will have the surgery. I wish you the best of luck and the best of health. I honestly mean that. I pray we will all get there; where we want to be.

As for me, I had to confront the truth: that I had made a fear-based, emotionally-charged decision: something I know from experience is a horrible thing to do and rarely has good outcomes. On the contrary, the decisions I have made that way have usually come with a horrifying price tag and many, many regrets. At the age I am now, I honestly cannot afford to make many more decisions like that.

Somewhere deep inside I have believed and do believe that I will receive Divine help. And yet it seems that looking back, I have consistently drawn back in doubt and then fallen into the trap of trying to do what has been successful for other people. I have never been true (over the long term) to the Guidance that I know for a fact that I have received. Instead, I have made many choices in desperation. Even now, I am carrying around an extra 100 pounds on my body that is largely due to one of those decisions to act in desperation when my weight-loss efforts were not paying off dividends fast enough for my satisfaction.

Be Blessed. Be Happy. Be Well.

3

Two Ninety-WHAT?

Dang it. It had been cool to go see the physician a few weeks ago and weigh in at 290.5. Not that it’s a good number. It’s just that I thought I weighed even more. So what a bummer it was to get weighed at the first Nutrition Class the other day and be told I weigh 293.5. Not cool. I realize that we woman have a normal tendency to fluctuate in weight during the month just because of hormonal stuff and the moon and water retention. But at the same time I wondered if I hadn’t sort of let the reins loose a little once I knew I was a candidate for this surgery. You know, saying “goodbye” and “so long” and “adios” to a number of foods that I know for sure I won’t be able to eat again any time soon after the surgery. Is THAT why I gained weight without knowing it?

Not too worry though, little did I know that we would be put on a calorie-restricted(and fat-reduced and protein-enhanced) diet beginning on the very first day of the class. 1400 calories. I kindly raised my hand and told the young woman conducting the class that if I could successfully refrain from eating more than 1400 calories a day on my own, THEN I WOULD NOT HAVE SIGNED UP FOR THE SURGERY!! Some smart-a$$ fat girl (yes, I know we are ALL fat) interrupted to “encourage” me not to fret at all. She says that she has been doing this for a week and lost 6 pounds and that after the first 2 days she found herself eating far more food than she ever ate in her life. She said that she is now never hungry and that this it totally do-able.

Okay, good for her. My story is different. Although I can say that the first day was a true success, the second and third day, my body completely revolted. Like, “Woman are you out of your mind?! Do you think that a body that has become accustomed to about 3000 calories a day is just going to sit back and allow you to take all it’s energy away???” So I had headaches that ranged from mild to REALLY BAD for that time period and I couldn’t do any work or go get any exercise. And my stomach was always growling, begging for food and making other weird and loud noises that I don’t ever remember hearing before. And I felt faint and irritable and listless. And that’s when I decided that they don’t know what they are talking about, trying to give us all this one size-fits-all requirement. I told myself that I was just going to eat more calories whenever I felt that I needed them and furthermore that I would eat every single time my stomach or my headache signaled that I was starving.

And that’s what I did. I have ended up eating sometimes every 2 hours or so, but it’s usually only enough to stave off the gnawing hunger. And something miraculous happened: in the end I have still abided within 100 calories of the limit! And best of all, after a week of no energy whatsoever, I was able to get up and go walking for 30 minutes. Yay! AND, I was so upset that my son had not cut the yard, that I grabbed the lawn mower and cut the front lawn for 30 minutes. Woohoo! So the smarty-pants fat girl was right. This IS do-able.

So when I successfully demonstrate by turning in my food journals that I have totally cut out all carbonated drinks, that I can live off 1400 calories a day that mostly come from protein and non-starchy vegetables and that I get about 30 minutes of exercise daily, then I will be given a date for my surgery. And then the REAL trial begins: Optifast for 3 weeks.

And then, the surgery…

5

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]

9

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.

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.