Sunday, January 22, 2017

Reply To One of My Readers

Anonymous said...
I'm so glad I stumbled upon your blog. My 26 yr old daughter just had another Bipolar Meltdown today. I've been dealing with this for 16 years ( she was diagnosed at 10yrs old) and I know your pain and the pain of others out here experiencing this. The loved ones ( mostly the "targets") are in pain too...pain from watching this happen to you, pain from getting the brunt of your anger, and pain for not knowing how to help you. I am sincerely glad that you recognize these things in yourself and seem to be dealing with them well and educating your loved ones, that's fantastic! Could you please share some of the techniques you use when you feel these meltdowns coming on, and pass along the tips you give your family for dealing with them? Most days I'm at the end of my rope with my daughter, especially when it seems like she does nothing to help herself and just lets these tantrums fly.
January 6, 2017 at 9:18 AM

 Amy said...
To the parent with the 26 year old daughter,
I so wish I had better answers for you...
I am also sorry you are going through this.

As far as educating others-
There is a book I gave my husband.
I highlighted things that really related to me, my emotions, & my behaviors.
I know he keeps it in his office, and sometimes I know he's been reading it because it's in a different place or the bookmark is moved.
I've also written him little "How to" notes.. I tell him to just leave for a few hours if I upset him too much. If I'm having a really bad day, I tell him to just Go, enjoy the day with his friends, there is no reason he needs to suffer too. If I thought it would help to have him there, I would ask him to stay. But, most of the time I just need to deal with my own demons.
He also asked me to start this blog. He thought that if I wrote about it, not only could we understand it better, but maybe the world could too.
I rarely take out my anger on him, the worst of what he deals with is my withdrawal and sadness. He wants to fix me, and it tears him up that he can't.

And then you asked me, "techniques you use when you feel these meltdowns coming on". I'm sorry to say I don't have a good answer to that. I used to see my doctor and ask to tweak my medications, but honestly, I feel like I'm all med-changed out. I haven't changed medications in ten years.  There are good days and bad days, more good days than bad days, and it's something I and anyone who loves me has to accept.
Another thing I do, is "Go into my cave". I try to just wait it out.

I'm in the midst of one of the longer periods of depression that I've had for a long time. Every day, I wake up and tell myself "Tomorrow I will feel better". What else can I do?

I hope your daughter has a lot of good days too. I hope that on the days she is well, she showers you with love and kindness. That's what I do anyways. I try to make up for my shortcomings caused by bipolar any time I have a good day.

I'd also like to share these stories of hope I just stumbled upon today- video clips of real people.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Bipolar and Memory Problems

One of the largest barriers to my success has been my memory, or more lack there of it.  I am often at loss for words.  I forget names and sometimes even faces.  I repeat myself often because I always forget what I've said and to whom.  I lose things, because, of course, I forgot where I put them.  I forget to show up for appointments (although rarely because I take extreme measures not to do that).  These things are problems!  I believe my memory issues are a combination of the bipolar; damage to my brain from years of being misdiagnosed and mistreated; a history of self medicating myself  through drinking; and the Lamictal I'm now taking to manage my bipolar

That said, I have a pretty good life and I still manage to be rather successful.  I'm a computer programmer and make a pretty good living at that.  How is this possible when I forget everything?

I think the most important thing I have going for me is muscle memory.  Muscle memory is memory that involves storing a specific motor task into memory through repetition. It is as if the muscles remember even when you don't.    I have no problems mopping my floors.  Muscle memory.  I used to easily remember phone numbers back in the day because I had to punch them into an old fashion phone.  Muscle Memory.  I can type quickly because my fingers still instinctively know which keys to press.

I also use a combination of tools to help me remember things.  I keep a small notebook by my desk where I record important information such as passwords, phone numbers, website addresses,  and other information that most people easily remember.  Of course I keep a calendar with dates and times of appointments.  I ask my poor husband to remind me of everything.  Any time I have an important thought, I grab an index card and write it down.  I have stacks of these cards on my desk with random thoughts and information. I am constantly digging through the cards to get information and ideas.

As for loosing things and getting lost- I always put my keys in the EXACT SAME SPOT.  I park my car in the middle right side of the parking lot every time.  When in a parking garage, I take a photo of the row/floor.  I use a GPS so I don't get lost.  I don't travel alone out of my local town.  I take picture of everything I like with my phone so that I can remember to someday make or buy it.  Yeah, these things are imperative to my survival.

I am able to learn new skills, but keep reference materials nearby.  I am often referring back to websites and books.  I somehow know if the information I am reading is incorrect, but have trouble recalling.

In my current job, I have to write and remember computer code.   Somehow I am able to do that most days.  I know what needs to be done but often have to refer back to previous code I've written as a reminder of the correct code block sequence.  I can usually remember how to do things, or where to go to look up the steps.  That said, some days my mind is too glitchy to do anything but the most routine and basic tasks.

It took me 20 years to realize that conventional 9-5 jobs were not ideal for me. Things got easier for me when I started my own business.  My mind doesn't work perfectly every single day and employers do not like or tolerate this very well.  I was so good at my jobs though (on good days), that although my bosses yelled at me, I didn't get fired.  I got more chances than anyone else I know.  These days, when my mind gets glitchy, I take the down time that I unfortunately require.

I find people to be rather unforgiving regarding glitches in memory.  People often get annoyed when I repeat myself or if I forget their name.  I understand this.  They see me as a successful, well put together person and assume that I didn't even bother to listen to their name the first, second, or even 3rd time they told it to me.  They wonder why I keep telling them the same story.  It's a problem.

I hope I've helped you with some ideas on how to cope with memory loss, as I believe that memory problems are very common for people with any mental health problems. I'd love to hear from those of you with bipolar as to how your memory has been affected.  Have you found anything that helps improve your memory?  I'd love to be fixed!

The rest of my house is very clean, but my desk looks something like this (Einstein's desk)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Bipolar Disorder - You Don't Have To Be Normal To Be Successful

Bipolar disorder robs us of a normal life, no doubt.  Doing the things that most people more or less can do in their sleep often takes every ounce of energy for someone with bipolar.  Eventually we learn that we are faced with a choice- do we expend all of our energy trying to be normal, or do we redirect that energy and live a life that's normal for us? 

I have spent most of my life being shamed by people who are "Normal".  
Shamed and Shoulded.  Does being normal make you better than me?  You might think I am weak or stupid or simply crazy because I have bipolar, but you would be wrong.  Every day I live with this disease makes me stronger.  I am not afraid of a challenge.  I am only afraid of the highs and lows that I'm forced to control, the highs and lows that have robbed so many people who share my illness of the desire and ability to cope and to live. 

Today I am more successful than I've ever been.    I'm more successful than most people I know.  I'm making double the money I was making by trying to hold down a traditional full time job. My business is thriving, and I'm becoming much better at what I do.   What do I do?  I develop computer software, make websites, SEO, internet marketing, and do everything and anything along those lines that I can learn to do and that people will pay me to do.  I do what I can, when I can, and that works for me. 

If you have bipolar, my advice for you today is to not give up on yourself.  If you are on disability, don't let that define you.  Do something every day, or at least on those days that you can, to better yourself.  There are so many great online classes which teach marketable skills.  Get involved in that.   If washing the dishes consumes all your energy (typical for a person with bipolar), use paper plates.  If your medications make you forgetful (they do), write everything down.  If you can't work during the day, work at night.  If you can't work today, work only when you can.  Don't let this illness rob you of your life, your well being, and your success. 

If you love someone with bipolar, I know it is hard and I'm sorry.  Just know that it's hard for us too.  And please, try not to shame us, as we are doing a good enough job shaming ourselves.  Although normal might not be within our reach, success is.  

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Bipolar, The People You Surround Yourself With Make All The Difference

When I think back to the best and worst of times, the people I chose to spend the majority of my time with made all the difference.  Who do we spend the most time with?  Usually Coworkers,  Housemates, and lovers. These people, along with family and friends, make up our support system.  You can't choose your family (although you can choose how much time you spend with family), but strive to put yourself in a position in which your coworkers, housemates, and lovers are good people.  If you are bipolar, surround yourself with good people. It will make all the difference.

As I reflect back in life, there were two periods of time that were particularly dark, and both involved dark people.  Lucky for me, these people were not both in my life at the same time.  The first was a controlling, alcoholic boyfriend.  The second was an employer who desperately  needed my skills, but openly did not like me.  In both cases, I spent a considerable part of my time with these people.  The boyfriend took strategic steps to isolate me from anyone who loved me. The employer used my dependence on income to control and bully me. 

I don't suggest making radical changes quickly, but consider taking small steps that put more positive people in your life.  It might not be possible or practical  to leave your job or your lover, but seek out positive people. Good people are everywhere.  You just need to make the effort to find them and get to know them.   Having good people in your life can help negate the effects of the negative people in your life and help you eliminate bad people from your life, one by one. 

Surrounding yourself with good people is not always an easy thing to do, but it's extremely important for someone with bipolar disorder.  There are people who will pray on our times of weakness and manipulate us into believing they are good for us.  Don't fall into that trap. You know in your heart when someone is bringing you down.  Surround yourself with people who are going to lift you up.  Surround yourself with the best people you can find.  It will make all the difference. 

Where have you met the most positive people, and how have they changed your life?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Bipolar - How to Lose Weight When Bipolar

It is really hard to maintain your weight when bipolar, but NOT impossible.  I've got this.  Three years into my journey and 40 pounds lighter, it's time for me to talk about this.  In my teen years- the years when the highs and lows of  my bipolar were most extreme- I weighed 90 pounds which is at least 15 pounds under weight.   Three years ago,  I was double that, at 182 pounds.   I was 50 pounds overweight.   The pounds snuck up on me, yo-yoed  up and down, and once I got stable, they stuck with me.

There were many things that contributed to my weight gain, not all can be blamed on bipolar. Medication changes usually caused weight gain.  I gained 10 pounds on Depakote, and didn't lose it when I went off it.  Stress, depression, and a lack of coping skills contributed to weight gain.  I didn't exercise when I was depressed.  I ate cookies and cupcakes to make myself feel better.  When stressed I drank a lot of wine.  I gained 20 pounds when I quit smoking. (Don't let this be an excuse to keep smoking!  Best thing I ever did!).  See how this is adding up?

I didn't even consider it an issue until I couldn't squeeze into my size 14's and had to venture into a plus size store.  By then I was having trouble bending down to tie my shoes.   Exercise was difficult because my thighs  rubbed together when I walked.  I decided it was time to really get a grip.     I had no idea where to start. 
So what did I do?    I changed my lifestyle.  I didn't do all these things at once.  I did it a little at a time, bit by bit.  The top five things that have helped:
1.)  I detoxed from cookies, candy, and cake.  I got it all out of the house.  I don't care if it's buy one get one free.  I don't need it.  (I still sneak in a piece of chocolate every day!)
2.)  I quit eating out.  I was eating out all the time.  I was addicted to restaurant food, fast food, unhealthy food.  Look up how many calories are in your favorite foods.  Holy Smokes! 
3.)  I ate a LOT of Subway.  I still do.  Skip the sauce, and you can get a six inch sandwich for about 300 calories.  Don't let them put any sauce on your sandwich.  Ask for a light mayo packet on the side.  I travel a lot, so this is a life saver.
4.)  I track calories.  I write down everything I eat.  I used to keep a notebook, but now use the "Lose It" app, which by the way is free.  This is the number one thing I do that helps.
5.)  I started exercising again.  Like I said, I was really out of shape, so it was a slow process.  First just a walk around the block.  Now I either walk or do yoga almost every night. 

I still need to get that last ten pounds off, so I am interested.  What are you doing to keep your weight in check? 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Bipolar- is anybody REALLY successful?

Hello! I haven't been doing a very good job keeping up with my blog lately because I have been very busy!  My husband and I started a small business several years ago, and it has really taken off.  When we first started the business, I was also working a full time job and taking classes in computer programming.  I had a lot going on.   I can usually pull off three full years in a high stress job where I am expected to be on all the time. There came a point in time where I was feeling really overwhelmed, and I let go of the outside job and started focusing on our business and school.  It wasn't easy, and caused quite a bit of financial strain.

I finished the certificate in computer programming (added onto my BA degree).    The business got strong enough to provide enough income for both me and husband after I started writing custom software for home health companies.  Right now we are doing amazing!  We have actually hired our first full time employee. 

My life has not turned out how I planned. My career path has zig-zagged all over the place.  I have been a public school teacher, then a case worker, and now I am part owner of a business.  The key to my success is probably finding ways to take time off and  give myself a chance to slow down when  I need to. I know when I need some time off, and if I ignore the signs, I will have a breakdown. The longer I ignore it, the longer the breakdown.  A breakdown hurts you career much worse than a little down time or gaps in employment (in which you can creatively explain).

In the meantime, I've been getting some very interesting comments on my blog posts.  Someone questioned if I really was successful, and for a moment, I wondered that myself.  My life is sometimes a mess, but I sure have accomplished a lot!  Someone else said I was "too functional", and suggested I was not bipolar at all.  I assure you I AM!  There has been quite a debate on my topic "To have or Not Have Children."  I encourage you to read the comments on that post.  I really enjoy every comment, and I love the discussions we have.  My followers have really helped me stay strong. 

I would like to share one person's post, which I think is amazing. I call it, "What is Success?" The poster talks about everything he/she has accomplished, yet wonders if that really is success.    I think this is a very important topic and I would love to hear your stories.    
Anonymous has left a new comment on your post
Hi there,
This post and these comments are exactly what I'm struggling with at the moment. I had my dream job and then things got weird a couple years ago. I have now been diagnosed with BP1 and have been in and out of hospital (for delusions, manic behaviour, etc). I had to disclose to my boss that something was wrong because I was acting very out of character (not the way one is to speak/act around their boss). They had decided to do a performance review after a few of my outbursts but the only thing that saved me was that I'd already begun the search for a good psych who by the time I saw him immediately had me admitted to hospital. (the company couldn't fire me for needing to go to hospital)
I have a business degree from one of the top uni's in the country and am about to embark on an MBA. I was made redundant about a year after things got weird at my dream job which sent me into a bit of a tizz. I'm very career orientated and haven't been able to get much luck finding a job since. So I've gone back to hospitality for a while to at least get money in. I feel that if I do an MBA I can say that was why there's a gap in my CV (it is actually due to my psychiatrist telling me to not work as I was teetering upon another episode with a bunch of other major triggers happening at the same time...).
As far as success stories go, I think you're right, ppl are in the closet or don't know if they'd consider themselves successful. It would depend how you would define success. Like as Amy mentioned, you may find more ppl saying they've been successful at the end of their professional careers (if they chose to retire for example, rather than going off the charts and losing their jobs).
I went to a group for ppl with BP and met a man in his late 50s, has rapid cycling BP for about 10 years, and found out that he needed to shape his career to be in a position to be the boss. That way he was less likely to get irritable at his superiors (as he said he said he spend 70 percent of his time apologising for inappropriate behaviour spurned by his BP). I thought that was a fantastic way to manage his career around his illness, to ensure his success (he is the owner of several successful businesses).
I guess we've got to trust in our abilities (something i'm struggling with now that I no longer have that 'dream job' and I was diagnosed and lost the job just under a year after being diagnosed) and build a career that allows you to escape to your office if you need to use meditation techniques to distress, or work to your own hours or be autonomous or whatever it is that will less likely to trigger you.
Hopefully I'll be able to join you in that secret bipolar and successful club, and maybe we won't have to be so secretive about it then.
Best of luck.
Posted by Anonymous to Bipolar And Successful at March 5, 2013 at 11:46 PM

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bipolar and Successful, Quit Smoking

I read that something like 70 percent of people with Bipolar Disorder and 90 percent of people with Schizophrenia smoke, whereas smokers in the general population are closer to 20 percent. Smoking is ridiculously expensive and it's slowly killing you. Cigarettes kill more people than all other drugs combined.

Everyone has their own reasons for smoking. I always said, "I enjoy it too much to quit." I didn't only enjoy it, I loved it. I had to go back to Behavior Therapy 101, "What's Rewarding the Behavior?" I realized that my primary motivation for smoking was to feel relaxed. I enjoyed sitting down, taking a break, and deep breathing.

When I did decide to quit, I felt physically ill. I was nauseous, got terrible headaches, was irritable, and my anxiety skyrocketed. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done. I was terribly addicted to cigarettes. The physical symptoms only lasted a few days; the psychological urges lasted much longer.
Something that really helped me at first was to take fake cigarette breaks. I'd go hide out and "pretend smoke" for five minutes. My pretend smoke break involved me taking a break, sitting down, and deep breathing for five minutes.

To stay quit long term, I started spending my smoking money on travel because that's something I really love. My husband and I were spending about $300 per month on cigarettes, and we both quit at the same time. I was having a much harder time staying quit than he did, so he finally suggested that we take the money we would spend on cigarettes every money and spend it on travel. It was money up in smoke anyways. Weekend at the beach or cigarette? I learned to love our romantic getaways and it still keeps me motivated. It's a tradition that we have kept.

On my journey, I found a website that not only convinced me to quit, but also had every possible solution to quitting - . Trust me, it's an awesome website if you think you might want to quit. No advice I can give you will compare to the advice and support you will find on that website.

Has anyone else with bipolar quit smoking? What helped you?