What Does My Depression Look Like?

depression

Every one suffers depression differently. I personally experience it in different ways and in waves. Some days I don’t even want to leave bed and will lay there for twenty odd hours, and other days I blaze all day to get by. I am either hiding or lighting up lately. I am not proud of it but that’s how I cope. I’ve had days my brain felt like a computer I just wanted to turn off.

The overthinking kills me. I can think of a million and one ways a situation can go wrong and talk myself out of putting myself in that position in the first place. I miss a lot of opportunities for growth because my anxiety gets the better of me. I talk myself out of trying things I want to do because I cannot imagine anything going right. After the shit I’ve seen and experienced, I don’t think I could ever be under the illusion of anything but that expectation. Things in my life have a tendency of going to shit…and that’s an objective observation in my opinion.

I think so much that I never end up actually doing anything, if that makes sense? I never want to do anything cause I don’t want to be wasting my time but in thinking about wasting my time, I actually end up wasting my time. For example, I think at times I would like to paint or write but then decide not to in case I invest a bunch of time only to find out that I have created something of no value. This is my depressed brain overthinking and thinking negatively. I realize I could actually end up creating something very cool and if not then it would be great practice.

It becomes a bit of a vicious cycle in that my depression leads to a lack of interest in activities, and my lack of participation in activities that interest me make me depressed. I become upset with myself because I cannot enjoy the things I love to do. I become cut off from a part of myself and that is probably the most depressing part of it all – this loss of self. You can remember a time when things did not feel this way and suddenly you feel more alone because you don’t understand why things can’t be that way again.

My depression looks like me looking in the mirror every day and deciding “You’re not enough.” I do not like my current situation nor do I really like myself these days so I feel I have nothing to be positive about. I realize, again, this is my depression speaking. I have plenty to be thankful for and maybe my life needed to take this detour or break as you will to mentally recharge. This is a marathon after all and not a race. When I see it for what it is, my life has taken an unexpected turn and lull to teach me a lesson – never take it for granted.

I would like to start to be more mindful. I want to be more present in a moment, to appreciate it as it passes. To celebrate it rather than mourn it later. I want to do things that make me happier like going for a run. Running has always been a large part of my life but through my depression, I have lost that. I do, however, realize it could be something that actually alleviates some symptoms of my depression. I will be making more of a conscious effort to run and go to the gym in general this month and I shall see if my depression recedes a little. I may feel stuck right now but if I can begin to physically move more, than maybe I’ll be able to move more mentally. Only time shall see.

Wasting Time

My favourite pastime as of late seems to be wasting time. When I reflect on my life, I see a lot of time wasted. I guess that makes me the cup half empty girl. But seriously, I spend most my time napping or getting high. I want to, no I need to, be more productive with my time. This blog post is a cry of help to myself that I need to simply do better.

I have my productive moments like when I am volunteering at the local cat adoption or art store. I have even more fleeting moments of productivity on my own when I am producing an art piece or writing. But these moments are far and few in between. I want to be more productive on a regular basis.

I need to start setting goals for my day and in general. One goal I have been neglecting is to get my driver’s license and start saving up for a car. I decided as of yesterday that I have put this on the back burner long enough and am going to make an action plan on how I can achieve this.

I have also been neglecting my fitness goals like to be in the gym several times a week. I have decided this week to enroll at a gym and start to make an effort to go there and work out regularly. I would like to be down to my goal weight sooner than later. I also have a feeling if I work out regularly, some of these depression symptoms will fade.

I have wasted enough time being idle. I need to take the reigns to my life back. I need to stop saying, “Oh, I’ll do that tomorrow” and say “No, I’ll fucking do that today!”

The Carousel Never Stops Turning…

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“The carousel never stops turning” is a famous phrase from an episode of Grey’s Anatomy in which Ellis Grey is relentless with this saying. Translated it means that life never stops–for everything that happens on a daily basis, you have to keep moving on.

I feel like everyone can relate to this but I feel it more when I am depressed as I currently am. Regardless of what has happened to me and how I currently feel about it has led me to realize that life stops for no one. The carousel keeps turning so to speak in that each day will come and pass and this will all be for naught. My brain when depressed sees things more morbidly. I realize that my life is not infinite and is in fact finite.

I become caught up in thoughts about what I wanted to achieve by now and am left in despair at the realization that I am nowhere near where I wanted to be at this point in my life. I am jealous and insecure of people who “have it together” because more so than anything, I WAS that person. I once had literally everything going for me and now it feels as though I have nothing.

This is my depression speaking and I know that and am quite aware of it as a person struggling with bipolar disorder. I’ve also noticed a classic symptom of depression in that I am less inclined to do the things I enjoy such as painting and reading. I find my brain is too scattered or either too apathetic to want to do these things. I am however, trying to get back on my long board more.

I know I need to work through this depression and I will eventually see the end of all this hurt and hang up. I am going to start with being more physically active and taking the time to do the things I enjoy whether I feel like doing them or not. (I am taking the time to blog right now, am I not?) I will work on myself and gain back some of my confidence by setting small goals and smashing them then building on making bigger goals and working towards achieving them. I believe I can get out of this rut if I try, key word TRY.

I really have no other option but to try because my life is happening now whether I like it or not. Life stops for no one and the best thing you can do is enjoy the ride.

My Cat Saved My Life…

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This post is dedicated to my favourite animal in the entire world and that is my baby Harmony. Harmony is about fifteen years old and has been by my side since I was in elementary school (the later years). I believe having a companion whether it be a cat or even a rat is essential to dealing with mental illness. It shows you that you are not alone. Animals are usually very in tune with their owner’s feelings and Harmony is no different. When I would have depressions that lasted weeks, sometimes months, she would snuggle with me and just be with me and that is what I needed the most at the time – for someone to just BE with me.

Harmony is a Calico cat with a half black and half tan nose which I think is her most adorable feature. She is sassy beyond her years and I may have contributed to that having raised her during hormone surges in my early teens. She loves rubs but is sure to let you know with a sharp nip when she has had enough. She loves her cat nip but more than anything she loves cuddles. As a person with bipolar disorder who struggles with depression constantly these cuddles literally saved my life. When I was at my darkest, crying and tearing my hair out battling with the idea of killing myself, it was the thought of leaving Harmony behind that really put things into perspective for me.

She has laid with me during sixteen hour stretches where I could not leave my bed and wanted to hide from the world I was feeling so low. She never judges. She simply comforts. She rubs her little face on mine and I get the sense that things are not as dark as they seem. My life has meaning with Harmony and she gives me a reason to get up each morning. It is my responsibility to ensure she is fed and taken care of. I am her support system as much as she is mine.

She has also been there when I was manic and studying for hours on end with her little head propped against my laptop. She keeps me company and follows me around literally everywhere. If I leave the house for too long she greets me with extra affection as if she’s scared I’ll leave her again. I once had to leave her with my parents for three years while I went to University in a different city. When I came back admittedly she gave me the cold shoulder but within a week or two was back to her cuddly self. She is my baby and I will be so upset the day we have to part indefinitely (I know morbid) but more importantly she is my best friend.

Whether I am up or down, Harmony will always be there to keep me company or to comfort me. This I will be eternally grateful for and the fact that she saves my life literally everyday. She is my reason to keep living, to keep breathing. I wish she could read this and understand how much she has impacted my life but I think she knows on some level that she means the world to me – if all the kisses weren’t hint enough!

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Neuroscience was my first clue…

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I remember sitting in an introductory neuroscience lecture about mental health disorders when I realized something just did not add up. All the symptoms
of mania and depression seemed eerily familiar. I recalled my battle with waves of depression since a young child. When I was in grade 7 I had my first
major depressive episode (in hindsight) where I would refuse to do anything and could not even watch tv which was a favourite pastime of mine at the time.
I would go to school where I was bullied regularly then return home to lay in bed for the remainder of the day. I would mostly lie in the dark with my new
kitten at the time and I would cry my eyes out until they were severely red and puffy. This was a cycle for awhile until I gradually began to come out of it.

I would continue to have depressive episodes for the rest of my life and would always resort to lying in bed for more time than was actually comfortable.
I would cry about everything and anything, in high school, mostly channeling my anxiety towards the world. In University, however, I would experience depression
as it related to something such as when one of my boyfriends broke up with me and I was falling behind in school. The pressure to catch up and the despair of
having my heart broken yet again led to a serious depression where I would sleep for ridiculous amounts of time. I’d lay in bed for hours crying and
when I felt I had cried enough, I would go out and get wasted to deal with the emotions. This cycle lasted about two months and I lost a few friends who could
not handle seeing me that way.

These depressive episodes are examples I drew on when reading about bipolar disorder in class. At this time, I was not diagnosed but started to have a suspicion
that I should be. I not only related to symptoms of depression but actually identified more with the symptoms of mania. Before being diagnosed and looking at
my past behaviour, I noticed signs of mania like the high energy and lack of sleep. I would go to school all day, then study for hours on end then go out and participate in
whatever extra-curricular activity I was currently engaged in, come home then study for the rest of the night and throughout the night. I would get a maximum of four hours
sleep during this time and did not feel tired for it at all. I would keep this up until I crashed into a depression. I really felt like I had it all and
could do it all.

At the time, I pushed this realization that I may be bipolar to the back of my mind and continued to study like a fiend until I had the worse depressive
episode I had experienced up to date. It followed a summer of working overnight shifts which really messed up my sleep schedule to the point that I was never
really sleeping at all. They also treated me like shit at this job and it was really starting to get to me this summer the question of where my life was headed?
I had been working with a counselor to deal with my depression when I walked in one day saying how I was thinking a lot about killing myself. I was prescribed
anti-depressants for the first time in my life but they made me violently ill and even more suicidal. I remember laying in the bath thinking how easy it would be
to just slit my wrists or drown. I struggled with these thoughts until I ran from the bathtub making sure I would not do anything. I decided to wean off the
antidepressants without medical consult which I never recommend.

The following month I would struggle with my depression and found it impossible to focus on school. This was a huge red flag because I loved school and put all
my time and effort into it. My sister called me and begged me to go home saying she was afraid I was going to do something. I decided to put school on hold and return in a
year. I would ultimately return in a year but would be diagnosed officially with bipolar disorder when I would experience my first ever manic psychotic episode.

Stay Tuned, for more passages from The Secret Diaries of A Manic Depressive Girl.

Time For A Change.

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I have been reading several blog posts lately on WordPress and see a common theme of change so I’ve decided to address the changes I intend to make the next couple of months to help manage my mental health.

I started going to addiction counselling about a month ago and plan to continue seeking help in this realm of my life. I am a heavy cannabis user and cigarette smoker and want to get to the point that I am completely off the shit. I have a fear that it is seriously impacting my judgement and ability to focus or become motivated. I am curious to see if being sober would help or worsen my anxiety. I am obviously hoping it will decrease my overall anxiety. I feel as though I have no business looking for a job until I am completely sober and so this part of my life is currently on hold.

Another change I hope to make is to become more active. I want to get this body moving again like it used to. I used to bike, walk and longboard literally everywhere. Obviously winter here in Canada, got in the way of these forms of exercise but now that we ‘re entering spring I hope to get outside my house more often. I am intending on getting a gym membership to a popular gym here in town as well. I am more likely to work out if I travel to a space designated for it. It can be a bit of a struggle getting there but once i am in a gym facility, I am pretty good at focusing and getting down a workout routine. Ideally, I would like to be in the gym three times a week but we shall see!

I also want to write, blog, paint and photograph more. I need to work on some of my personal projects that I have been neglecting like my memoirs. My counsellor recommends I actually schedule time to do this but part of me worries I’d be forcing creativity. However, from most writers’ experience this has been a positive thing to do and has generated great results. I may be inclined to try it but I know myself too well, I’ll probably resist it at first and struggle with it.  I simply want to be more productive with my time and spend more time working on the things I love like art rather than spending most of my time smoking up.

If I can make these small changes happen like exercising more, quitting cigarettes and pot, and focusing my energy on artistic endeavors, then I think I may be more happier and more healthier. I believe if I dedicate more time to improving myself then I will be happier overall with who I am as a person.

Change is on the horizon, I can feel it.

Yet Another Visit To My Psychiatrist…

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Part of managing my illness is going to see my psychiatrist every few months which I consider a waste of my time other than the prescription he fills for my injection but he fills this maybe once a year. I consider it a waste of my time because my psychiatrist spends more time commenting on my outfits and purses than my actual mental health. Today, he wanted to know where my latest purse was from which I answered “I got it from a friend.” He also kept insisting I had lost weight to which I responded “Actually I have gained weight.” He ignored this comment and when on to say how he would not be able to recognize me next time for I’ll be 110 pounds!

He always inevitably asks about whether or not I would consider pursuing school to which I reply I simply do not have the funds. It’s frustrating when he asks this every time and I have explained my financial situation in depth a few times now. His words of wisdom today were “rob a bank!” To which, I nervously laugh thinking to myself “and you’re a psychiatrist?”

I live in the Niagara Region and the psychiatry here is a running joke. I tried getting a new psychiatrist and even went as far as Hamilton to consult with one but no psychiatrist will take me on as a patient while I still have one, even if that one is slightly an idiot. The psychiatrist I have now once prescribed two medications to me which induced a full blown psychotic manic episode. Needless to say, I do not trust his decisions but yet I cannot get another one even if I have major issues with the one I currently have.

Thank god god for my family doctor who got me on disability when my psychiatrist signed off that I was perfectly fine (and this is when I was agoraphobic and terrified to leave the house). My family doctor has also been adjusting my anti-depressants in my psychiatrist’s absence and weaned me off them entirely which is a definite positive. They were making me lethargic and gain weight. They also have the tendency to turn me manic and I am not looking to get hospitalized again.

I will continue to go to my psychiatrist as often as he deems necessary but am praying he retires soon cause I cannot deal with his comments and lack of real support. I see him more as a walking prescription pad than a real psychiatrist. If I need any support or more support than I currently have, I will be making an appointment with my family doctor cause she is the most helpful and trustworthy.

As for robbing that bank, I told my psychiatrist “I’ll get right on that!”

Where Is My Life Headed?

Most of my anxiety stems from the fact that I have no clue where my life is headed. Everything is very uncertain right now as I’ve been battling bipolar disorder for the past couple years. I have yet to really put myself back out in the world regarding school and work. I’ve had the odd job here and there but due to crippling anxiety always quit and bail within a few months of working. I don’t like to stay in any one place too long because I have a fear people will see my worth and determine I am worthless. I realize this is an irrational fear but when it plays on repeat in your brain all day, every day you begin to believe it.

I would pursue educational goals but sadly lack the financial resources. I am debating taking a credit online towards my Bachelor’s but have too much anxiety about whether my brain can handle it, to really make it a goal. I have this fear that ever since experiencing mania my brain has degenerated in some way because I lack concentration and have poor memory since being hospitalized. So for now, my education is on the back burner and has been for quite some time.

I think a lot about what I should be doing with my life and I honestly come up with no answers other than that I should take each day as it comes. I have decided to focus on myself for now and do things to build my confidence up before pursuing any lofty goals, like throwing myself into the workforce or trying my hand at a degree. I want to take baby steps like firstly get sober. I think if I can approach the world with a sober mind then I will be equipped with the means necessary to handle whatever it throws at me.

One major goal for me is to get back into the gym. When I’m working out and I see results, it makes me feel good about myself. I want that again. Another goal is to blog more which I am currently doing. I also want to create, create, create. I have been painting a lot lately and volunteering at the local art store. I want to be as productive with my time as possible and focusing on these things in my life helps make me sane.

So Where Is My Life Headed?

When I am objective and positive I am more certain that my life is headed in the right direction and that my mental health and various hospitalizations were just a detour. I believe I am taking steps forward to become the person I want to be which is a caring, artistic, and insightful person. My life may not be going according to plan but it is as it should be. I am exactly where I need to be and am supposed to be.

 

Let’s Talk Medication.

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Bipolar disorder comes with many side effects one of them being a lifelong dependence on medication to maintain a sense of equilibrium. Psychiatrists and doctors will say its not an exact science and that everybody reacts differently to different medications. I am here to testify that it is indeed a matter of trial and error which can be frustrating but if you are dedicated to your well being you will find the right drug cocktail for you, to keep you sane.

When I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I was experiencing a psychotic manic episode. I was having visual and auditory hallucinations, as well as, delusions, paranoid thoughts, and delusions of grandeur. They prescribed lithium and olanzapine which allowed me to think more clearly and see reality once again. The hallucinations and paranoid thoughts subsided, however, I was left with an inability to concentrate or retain information. I was on a very high dose of lithium and it made me lethargic and unable to leave bed for days at a time. Lithium is a staple drug used to treat bipolar disorder and majority of people suffering from bipolar use this medication to remain stable. However, for me, it became detrimental to my well being and led to my depression.

I was hospitalized for depression and gradually weaned off of lithium and put on two antidepressants known as Cipralex and Wellbutrin. I started to do much better and began going out with friends on a regular basis. However, if you have bipolar disorder you should rarely if ever be prescribed antidepressants since they may trigger mania. This is exactly what happened to me. My life turned into a whirlwind until I suddenly found myself in the hospital, delusional and raving on about all the money and things I had to offer. My manic brain had convinced itself that it was a millionaire with a never ending supply of sports cars and businesses. If I could conceive it, I believed it.

The psychiatrists at the hospital decided to try something new after first putting me on lithium again and finding that I had turned suicidal. I remember lying in my mother’s arms in the hospital bed crying about how I just wanted it to end and that I wanted to go to heaven with my father. I was trying to conceive of ways to kill myself in a room that was safeguarded from anyone killing themselves. The best I could come up with was to fill the garbage pale with water and shove my head in forcibly drowning myself. Of course I realized how ridiculous this was and decided against it. The psychiatrists at the hospital decided to put me on an anti-psychotic called Abilify and this would be my first experience with it.

After a few injections of Abilify, I found I was completely sane, well as sane as I was used to, haha. I no longer believed I was a millionaire celebrity who could buy and do whatever they wanted. The suicidal thoughts caused by lithium subsided and my brain was the most clearest it’s ever been. I have now been on this injection of Abilify for a couple of years and have experienced little to no side effects, the only side effect being a bit of weight gain. In these past few years, I have not experienced a full blown episode of mania or depression, nor hallucinations or delusions. I think I have finally found the medication that works for me! However, that being said I was in a six year period of trial and error with medication. I was at the mercy of my doctors and psychiatrists who never gave up on me and always tried to push me forward.

I am writing this blog post with the hopes that if you are a reader struggling with a new medication that you may know there are medications that are out there tailored for you. You just have to find them and not give up hope that something may and eventually will work for you.

Stay Positive and Know that this is a process, but one you can most definitely make it through.

 

Cocaine on the Table

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Addiction is a popular topic in conjunction with mental health and so I figured it about time I addressed addiction and how it relates to my mental health, both past and present.

Addiction is a condition in which a person engages in the use of a substance or in a behavior for which the rewarding effects provide a compelling incentive to repeatedly pursue the behavior despite detrimental consequences. There is scientific evidence that addictive substances and behaviors share a key neurobiological feature—they intensely activate brain pathways of reward and reinforcement, many of which involve the neurotransmitter dopamine.

In my personal experience, I am a dopamine junkie. I’ve picked many poisons over the years but find my greatest addiction today is of a simper kind…nicotine. However, it was not always simpler times. I’ve experimented with cocaine, mushrooms, ecstasy, MDMA, speed, ADHD medications, and marijuana. Some were more addicting than others and had a longer lasting effect on my life. I have memories of trips, ranging from amazing to scary. I’ve gone through phases in my life where one drug was more predominantly used and times where I quit cold turkey and did not do any. I do not struggle with addiction in the same way others do but rather am addicted to new experiences.

Drugs were just that –  a new experience.   After all both impulsivity and sensation seeking have been linked to substance use. I used to have a saying which summed up my approach to drugs which was that “if there’s cocaine on the table then I’m snorting it.” Basically I mean if the drug is readily available and in my face, there’s no point in resisting it. I realize this is an insane approach to substance use but as someone who tried most drugs without prior knowledge of their detrimental effects, it seemed appropriate.

The drug I probably struggled the most with was MDMA. I put myself in a lot of stupid and unnecessary situations as a result of using this drug. I even over dosed one morning on it when I parachuted a large amount after having drank a bottle of wine. I ended up hallucinating that I was puking blood and demanded to be taken to the hospital. My friend who gave me the drug at the time (who I thought was a decent human being) refused to take me and told me to ride it out. He took advantage of me later that morning and needless to say we were never friends again. My addiction to MDMA got so bad that I was parachuting small amounts at work to keep me going. I found I was irritable and rather explosive when I did not have the drug in my system. I decided to chase highs instead of dealing with the challenge of sobriety.

Then one day I decided for my health to quit every drug I was doing at the time, including smoking pot and the result was disastrous. I became suicidal and had to return home from school and take the year off to recover. I continued to have suicidal ideations for awhile until I gradually began smoking pot again but I had kicked my MDMA and Coke habit for the time being. Years later I would dabble in using cocaine here and there but would eventually quit the drug for good and what I hope is for life.

Today I am addicted to a more simpler and legal drug, you guessed it – marijuana. I struggle with abusing it and smoking it all day, every day. I am seeking counselling to quit which I know some of my readers are like huh., why? There are various factors for me wanting to quit my addiction and the main one being my mental health. I struggle with bipolar disorder and am prone to hallucinations and delusions. Marijuana has the ability to induce these, however, I am on an anti-psychotic and have yet to experience one since being put on it. I do not want to push my luck though. I also find I have been self-medicating my anxiety with pot and am now at a point in my life that I want to seek alternative and healthier ways to manage it like going to the gym. My main motivation though is my memory of before I ever started smoking marijuana and that time in my life was the most productive and successful I have ever had. I have a theory I can get back to that point if I just sober up.

The point of this blog is to address addiction and to educate my readers on the high covariance of mental health disorders and addiction. I struggle with bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety as well as active addiction. Each day is a struggle to choose not to snort, inhale or light up drugs. I am currently attending a few support groups to help with the issue and find I have decreased my smoking but have yet to fully quit. I am saying there is hope out there for a sober life but also I am saying if you are struggling with a mental disorder and find you struggle with addiction too, it’s ok, don’t beat yourself up. There are supports out there and you can find the right one – if you’re ready.