Manic Monday: Zoom a Zoom Zoom…

Have you ever been to a NASCAR race or any kind of speedway?

If you haven’t, imagine a bunch of cars going at speeds only professionals can safely maneuver…imagine the sounds they generate as they whip around the track….

Loud…
Roaring…
Rumbling….
Constant…
Far then near, near then far….
Obnoxious…

And every now and then, a driver miscalculates, something in the car’s engine or gas tank misfires, and there’s a crash…an explosion…

Now imagine all of that-the speedway, the cars going at top speed,the sounds, the vibrations, the crashes & explosions-imagine all of that compressed and confined into, oh let’s say the Lincoln Tunnel (or any tunnel for that matter), and then imagine that tunnel with everything I just mentioned, compressed and confined in your own mind.

Congratulations you now have an inkling of what it’s like to experience racing thoughts.

To even label the mental chaos that coincides with a hypomanic or manic episode as “racing” seems to be a gross understatement at times. Sometimes it’s not too bad, focusing on one task, concentrating, and clarity of thought are capable…doable.

Others it’s terrifying…the lack of control over their frantic pace unnerving…the incessant spinning and looping nauseating…

It’s like being permanently stuck on the spin cycle-only instead of your clothes it’s your mind and you have no idea when it will stop.

Do I hear voices? No. But that doesn’t mean my thoughts aren’t loud, rambunctious chatterboxes who fly from one idea to the next in the time it takes one to blink.

On the outside I look quite fine…quiet, demure, composed…smiling & laughing, even…

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But it’s during these episodes when I feel the most unraveled, the most undone. Living life during these moments is hard only because it’s hard to grasp a thought as it flies past…

But I do…because I know it’s temporary. Feels like an eternity, but I know relief is on the way…

I just need my pills to get here.

Has anyone seen the mailman?

My Brain is Exploding…Into a Thousand Manic Pieces

I had to stop my anti-depressant a week ago. It was making me sick. Really sick. Stomach pains, nausea, the works.

I saw my psych this week yet again, and we took another ride on the medicinal merry go round to see where it would take us next.

We landed on what she’s calling a “mild mood stabilizer.” Mild in terms of the severity of it’s side effects. She’s been trying to keep me off of Lithium, Depakote, Lamictal, and the other “big guns,” as she calls them because she knows that severe side effects can render me incapable of taking care of the boys….but she’s working overtime to get me on something that works and helps me maintain a healthy fluctuation of moods because anything too high or too low also renders me incapable of taking care of myself and the boys…and school…and life. Problem is, I haven’t gotten this new med yet. It’s in the mail. On it’s way.

I apologize if my sentences are running on…or not making sense at the moment. I’m trying to be coherent, but that’s a hard task when it feels like the world is spinning at 500mph-in your mind. My mind has been exploding with ideas and energy all day, scattering my attention into a thousand little pieces…

I stopped my anti a week ago, and by Monday when I went to fill out my mood chart, I noticed I was giddy. Too giddy. Laughing incessantly. Silly. Goofy. Fun. Overjoyed. Elated. Euphoric. Happy. Smiling. Busy. Productive. Feeling creative & optimistic. I was all the best parts of me multiplied by at least a thousand.

I had started my ascent into a manic episode.

Whether or not it’s hypo, hyper, or full blown mania doesn’t really seem to matter…what does matter is that for the first time I’ve learned enough about BP and myself the months following my diagnosis that I can recognize the signs & symptoms and understand the state that I’m in… which means I can take the necessary steps to take proper care of myself while I’m in it and run preventative maintenance before the inevitable low comes….

Because the low? It’s going to come. But what I’m learning is that its severity depends on how well I take care of myself before it hits.

I’m at a stage with my BP that I’m coming to terms with it and understanding how it works; I’ve spent the past 6 months  identifying my triggers and paying attention to how I respond to what’s going on in and around me. Mood charting has helped me start to see the pattern and frequency of my cycles. Learning to be “in the moment” has afforded me the ability to take a moment while my thoughts are racing to assess how I’m feeling-even if it’s only for a split second. That split second? Makes all the difference.

When I first started reading about BP, I came across some statements from people who said they live for the highs. Living through this current episode, I can finally understand why, and I agree. Sure I can see how dangerous they can be, I’m not denying that. But I can honestly say that when placed in the confines of proper self-care, the highs are manageable. Livable. Like I said, I’m me, but I’m the best parts of me more of the time. I can take care of my boys, play with them, nurture them, read to them…My house is cleaner, my meals taste better, I have the energy to exercise, read, and interact with people….I can take better care of myself when I’m feeling manic…

But I can also understand when it’s entering the not so safe zone…

Talking too much too fast…

Feeling “scattered” mentally…

On Energizer Bunny mode one minute…

Unmotivated the next….

Lack of concentration…

A little snappier than normal…

Indecisive….

Impulse control starts to diminish….

Feeling like I’m going 500mph…

Driving and just getting out the door to run an errand takes me 3 hours….

Yea…when I start to feel like that, I know I’m in trouble. So I have to find ways to make my world slow down, spin slower…allow the manic feelings to run their course, just in constructive ways.

Like getting fresh air…

Baking….lots of baking.

Dancing…

Sitting on the floor with the boys and watching them play…

Yoga….

I would say prayer, but I pray on the go these days or as I’m writing a letter to God in my journal. It’s the only way I can focus my thoughts in these states. I think He’s okay with that…

and writing. lots of writing.

That’s why I wrote this today instead of what I planned on discussing.

And you know what? I’m feeling way more peaceful than I did before I forced myself to sit here and talk to you.

Now I feel like I can go bake 5 loaves of delish bread instead of 15. I don’t have 15 neighbors so making that much would just be a waste. And we can’t be wasteful, now can we?

 

 

 

Manic Mondays (On Tuesdays): Hypersexuality, Faith, & Womanhood pt. 1

Confession: This is the probably the hardest series of posts I’ve ever written here on ‘Confessions, because it deals with a personal and often ‘taboo’ subject in Christian culture. But I believe in the power of transparency, and I realize that this is part of owning my story and having honest dialogue with others, so that’s why I’m writing about this particular subject. Not sure how many parts there will be  this series, but I hope that this proves to be a healthy exploration for myself and whoever finds themselves in reading these posts.

Bipolar Disorder: When Sexuality Is in Overdrive – Bipolar Disorder Center – Everyday Health.

I read this article today while taking a break from doing my project on the book of Philemon. I’m in the middle of finals week and the end of the semester, (hence my absence from the blogging world) but I knew after reading this, I had to stop and write about it…

…or rather about my experience with hypersexuality as a woman trying to manage BP.  About being a Christian who struggles severely with this symptom of BP and what how I believe it impacts my walk with God…

About a year ago, I started noticing that I was having very sexual dreams, which was out of the norm for me. While sex isn’t something I dream about normally, that’s not what bothered me about the dreams. What bothered me was that I was constantly dreaming about having sex with women, which was definitely something I had NEVER done before. I also started noticing that I would have days (possibly a couple of weeks…or a month even) where all I would think about is having sex.

Now, let me say this. (Again, I’m being transparent here, so understand my disclosure serves a purpose) I lost my virginity at 16 and didn’t have sex again until I was 20-when I met my next boyfriend. While I enjoy sex, I’m not the type to have “friends with benefits,” one night stands, or even casual sex with strangers or people I don’t know very well. I tried having a casual sex relationship once and I hated it. (and it didn’t last very long). The only other person I “casually” had sex with was my ex…but I had known him for over a year. We were friends….and then we were dating…and the sex? It just happened. In other words, if I’m sharing my cookie jar with you, it’s because I know you, I trust you, and we’re in a monogamous relationship…. and even then, depending on how my spiritual health is, sex might not even happen under those circumstances.Sex and being intimate with someone I care about is awesome, but I’ve never been the type who felt like I had to have it regularly if I was single. I had more of a “take it or leave it” attitude concerning sex…if I was taking it, I thoroughly enjoyed it with my significant other…if I was single and leaving it, I was perfectly okay with that.

So while I enjoy it and I don’t mind exploring my sexuality, I’ve never been a slave to it…or felt like I was at the mercy of my desires….until I started having dreams about trysts with women (and liking it) and found myself getting into these moods where it’s all I seemed to think and fantasize about.

These moods would always catch me off guard because after having Alex and starting Zoloft, I had noticed that my sex drive or desire for it had dropped significantly, which is pretty normal after pushing a bowling ball-sized object out of your vagina and starting an anti-depressant. I would have days or even a couple of months where I wouldn’t even think about it, or it didn’t feel like a need that just had to be satisfied…and then I would find myself  waking up with my hands down my pajamas….dreaming about random sexual encounters with total strangers….and wanting to jump on top of my ex every time I thought of or saw him.

If you’re reading this and you’re a woman, I’m sure you know how um…aroused you can get as you draw closer to your period, right?  (yep, I went there and said the p-word-go ahead, you can squirm a little more, it’s ok) Well imagine those feelings multiplied by, oh I don’t know, maybe a thousand or so and you’ll get a picture of how I would feel in these moods. They would totally consume me, I felt like some kind of pervert or sex addict. It was so bad sometimes that even my ex would look at me and be like, “uh…yea…NO!” and would ask if I was okay. You know it’s bad when you’re so overwhelmed with needing to have sex that it decreases your partner’s desire for it.  Yea….ouch.

One of the frustrating things about feeling so sexual was that no matter how much I had, it never satisfied the need, it only intensified it. I even took to pleasing myself which while I’ve known other women who do it and it’s not  a big deal, it was for me because it was something I had never done. These feelings weren’t just about trying to explore my sexuality or what I “liked.” It was literally like a wildfire just burning out of control. I tried everything to uh…satisfy it, squash it, ignore it. It literally became a highly agitating state to be in, and I didn’t really understand what was going on….

The even more frustrating part about my hypersexual feelings was the fact that because I’m an unmarried Christian, I felt endless amounts of guilt about what I was experiencing. And the shame. Oh the shame that would consume me and still does at times was all encompassing. I felt…dirty. Full of lust. A lustful, sinful woman who just couldn’t control herself. I didn’t know how to talk to anyone about it, let alone God. I felt guilty for wanting sex as much as I did, guilty for having it as much as I was, guilty for pleasuring myself (masturbation is a no no in Christian culture, apparently), guilty for just any and everything about sex. It was awful and the guilt and shame I felt only fueled my depressive moods, tying me down in the gravity wells these moods placed me in.

During these states my mind would swirl with racing thoughts: Was I just consumed with lust? What was wrong with me? Was God disgusted with me? Angry with me? Did He understand? I would stand at the altar at the end of service, begging God to help me stop compromising, asking for forgiveness and desiring to be and do better. Then a few days would pass or maybe a week or two and I’d find myself right back in the same state: hot, bothered, and full of this urge I lacked the ability to control…

Since my diagnosis in July, I’ve learned so much about BP and its symptoms I feel less guilt and shame because I know (for the most part) what’s causing it. Learning that it’s a symptom of my disorder and not necessarily a reflection of my character has brought me to a place of acceptance about it. I still wrestle with what to do about these feelings when they arrive and become overwhelmingly intense, but I don’t beat myself up over having them anymore…

My questions to God these days are more about management and how to maintain celibacy until marriage. I’m rather frank with Him about it and I believe He’s far more understanding about it than I originally gave Him credit for.

Hear me: I’m not trying to justify my behavior, so Christians don’t crucify me. I’m also not trying to use this symptom of my disorder as an excuse to just be all “A’Driane Gone Wild.” But I am trying to manage, understand and walk this issue out in a way that is spiritually healthy and doesn’t “taint” my relationship with God.

I’m also trying to be more open and honest about this issue, which is something I don’t think enough of us Christians do…

I’ll talk about this and more about my faith, hypersexuality and how they impact me next week. Until then….any thoughts? Feel free to share…

Manic Mondays: Training My Pet Dragon

You know those wild fires that burn out of control every year here in the U.S. ? They rage for days, possibly weeks, while firefighters and rangers work overtime to try and control the blaze, possibly contain it so it doesn’t spread. They cost millions of dollars worth of damage and alter the lives of those affected forever.

That’s what Bipolar Disorder is like.

Especially rapid cycling Bipolar Disorder type II.

It’s a fire, full of unconstrained emotions and hormones that rage like a wildfire, consuming your entire being physically, mentally, and emotionally. Sometimes it’s triggered by an external source, others it’s something internal that ignites the spark.  Much like the wildfires that burn across the West, it’s a fire that can burn out of control…it’s takes finding the right combination of medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes to put the fire out or at a minimum help it die down to a manageable state. If it rages too long, it can cause damage to the person suffering from it and to those around them. It burns. It’s painful. It’s a hard battle to fight.

I’ve been referring to BP lately as a dragon. Ironically, I happen to LOVE the movie “How to Train Your Pet Dragon” and when I think about living with this disorder, that’s what I envision: A roaring, raging, fire breathing, dragon that can thrash around and cause chaos and destruction in my life if I don’t learn how to  do the following:

  • Find out what triggers her (yes, it’s a she….cause I’m a she. Duh)
  • What stirs up the fire in her
  • What she likes/dislikes
  • What helps her stay content in her cave…asleep, dormant
Remember the scenes in the movie where Hiccup and his other Vikings in training are in the ring, trying to battle the baby dragons? Each trainee was expected to know everything about the dragon they were to face-it’s strengths, weaknesses and how to defeat it.  Remember how when Hiccup befriended Toothless and learned what made him happy versus what freaked him out? Remember how Hiccup took what he learned and applied to the other dragons?  That’s how we’ve gotta handle living with something like this. Learn everything you can about it, what triggers it, and adjust our lives accordingly. There are times when no matter what preventative maintenance we do, our dragons will rage and breath fire…but if we learn how to train them? They can stay in their cave more often.
I’ve been reading numerous posts, articles and even had a conversation with someone who gave me hope that  BP is NOT a death sentence. It may be something that we have to live with for the rest of our lives, but it doesn’t have to destroy or even control every aspect of them. From what I’ve been reading and hearing, manageability is attainable-and for a person with BP, that’s recovery. Finding what keeps it manageable and in the cave is tough, it’s a battle. But once we do, and once we know what even causes it to rage,  we are then properly equipped to fight the battle….and WIN.
Bipolar Disorder doesnt’ have to be a big, scary, fire breathing behemoth that rages out of control in our lives….and it’s kinda like a “pet” we’re stuck with.  Just gotta learn how to train it. 
**Manic Mondays is a new series here on ‘Confessions where I hope to share more insight on what it’s like living with Bipolar Disorder. The goal? Raise awareness, increase understanding and help erase the shame and stigma surrounding this form of mental illness. If you’d like to guest post or share your story, email me at bconfessions (at) gmail (dot) com