December 30, 2008

A bit about religion and why it fits with me

I imagine that this post, more than others will make you either say good for her, or grit your teeth and say why does she see that. That's just the way religion is. You're either a fan, or not a fan of it. Well, I wasn't a fan, and yes, had the latter reaction for many years, but have now become a fan. But like any other participation thing I'm not going to tell you, my reader why you should do what I've done. That is not my place, I feel. I'd feel angered beforehand if somebody told me, 'you must believe in my way, or you're wrong" essentially.

I was born, and baptized in the United Church of Canada. We're a fairly liberal bunch, (or quite liberal in some views) in that we celebrate same sex marriages performed in our churches, embrace gay ministers, and generally are a pretty easy-going bunch while still worshiping Jesus.

Frankly I feel lucky. My church is a good place although I'm not a frequent attendee.

I got angry at religion, in general, due to the mistreatment of the native people of Canada and religious schools that children were shipped to, away from their communities, parents and friends. Such a terrible, inhumane thing to do! Generations of kids scarred, in the name of the Church doing the "right" thing. Grrrrr in a word. Wiki entry on the residential school system here How could God let that happen was my reasoning.

Then a youth pastor listened to me talking and said "you seem very angry at religion in general and shouldn't be". He explained that perhaps God isn't in control of all the religions, and churches that say they follow his edicts. He cannot be blamed for all of men's evils. Religion itself can't be blamed for the evil things some men do. I use the term "men" in a general sense there, not just specifically.

So, that got me thinking along this line, "if God isn't responsible for all of it, then why am I angry at him?" That led farther to the thinking that maybe, just maybe, I'd be asking him for help, if indeed I'd lost everything of value in my life. My husband and children gone. My house gone. My dog gone. My parents gone. No support system of family left. How I'd ask him for help. So, if I'd ask for help then, why not any day? Why wouldn't I take a minute, in the good times of my life, and ask for a bit of forgiveness, a bit of strength, and a bit of love. That's the turning point in my life when I opened that door and let in God.

Some discussions via email and chat with another person helped me find out where I wanted to be, in terms of my religion. I felt so weird that first bit praying. I felt awkward and strange and like 'what the heck am I doing talking to the air??" But a sense of calm really does overcome me anytime I pray, even a bit. A whisper, and then getting on with life. Even a thought of please, grant me forgiveness.

Some things that I've done in life just shouldn't have been. If I'd stopped and thought about what the Ten Commandments say, I'd not likely have done them. But I am human, sadly enough. :)

These days, sometimes, I pray a lot. For forgiveness for yelling at my kids when they don't deserve it. For snapping at my husband, and then feeling sorry. For alienating friends who care, but who are hurt by my stupid, thoughtless reactions to perceived hurts that don't exist. I ask for strength. For smarts to deal with all of this.

Maybe it helps. I hope so. Anyways, that's my take on religion and where it fits. Hope I didn't offend, and hope I explained it well.

December 29, 2008

What is the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist?

Some may ask why do you need to see a psychiatrist as opposed to a psychologist. From the Canadian Psychiatric Assoc. website this article

How does a psychiatrist differ from a psychologist?
Psychiatrists are licensed physicians with extensive medical training in the causes, diagnosis, treatment and ongoing care of mental disorders. Their medical training allows psychiatrists to understand the interaction between the physical, social and psychological aspects of mental disorders. This training allows psychiatrists to appropriately prescribe medication, to provide psychotherapeutic treatments, and to work with patients, especially those with chronic or episodic conditions, to improve their quality of life.

According to the Canadian Psychological Association, "Psychology is the study of the biological, cognitive, affective, social and cultural aspects of behaviour. That is to say, psychologists are concerned with how people think, feel and behave in their social and physical environments." Psychologists apply their training in many arenas; some focus on the neuropsychological functioning of the brain, others on organizational behaviour. PhD clinical psychologists have received additional supervised training in, among other skills, psychological testing and providing psychotherapy treatments for mental illnesses. Psychiatrists often work hand-in-hand with psychologists in the care of a patient.

Repost of a Rant I did about listening to people

In one of those cosmic moments of amazement and understanding that maybe, just maybe your click is guided by a higher power, I came across a link to this rant. It was prompted by a friend who was hurt by his friends unwillingness to listen any farther. So without further ado, my repost follows.

Yeah, time for a rant about thoughtless, uncaring people. Who are wrapped in their own little lives to care about asking others how things are. I've read that that is why we've got such rudeness these days. Because people are busy, they don't have time, and they just don't care what others are thinking and feeling that much. It's a sad comment on a couple of friends when you hear from a person that they couldn't be bothered indicating any interest in hearing a story he wanted to share. A life experience, for a week, and they can't be bothered to inquire more after he'd started the conversation. How rude. How uncaring is that? Is it because they care more about what salary they are getting? Or that their mobile phone isn't the best quality one? Is that what makes these guys happy?

Further to that is that article that I posted a link to on my Facebook profile about listening.
Like it, or not, all of us have to communicate effectively. For some, it could mean a better job. For others it could mean saving that marriage you think is just fine. For others, it could be the secret to a better friendship.

Our romantic relationships run into communication problems everyday. Friendships can get too one-sided and devolve into arguments about taking too much. Even consumerism is dependent upon listening — advertising and referrals help us determine what to buy and where to buy it.

What’s that you say? You’re a great listener? I hate to break it to you, but that’s what we all think. And, as is often the case, we’re all wrong. There’s a big difference between the “passive” listening we offer to others and the “active” listening we hypocritically expect from others. Active listening involves dedicating yourself to improving your listening skills. It involves making a point of being extra vigilant about your reactions, and extra aware of your tendencies.

Hearing is easy. All that takes is a set of ears. We’ve all got them, for the most part (sorry in advance to my sans-eared readers). Listening requires yours ears and your brain. Unfortunately, that doesn’t come naturally to many people


Want to know a secret about active listening? It's the following of a statement by the other with a statement of your own: "oh that's interesting", or "oh really?" It helps foster warmth, closeness and desire for the other to say what they want to say. If you slam the door in their face by your silence, that hurts them. Then you get people saying things like "life is hard and I don't see an easy way out".

So, please, listen, ask questions of those around you who are trying to say something. Don't shut people out because you're "busy"

Sometimes we all need to strip away everything in our lives. Just stand out in the rain, feel its power, feel terror, sadness, despair, hope, love and caring when someone asks why? Then you are acting like a human. Not a machine with a time clock for a brain.

Lack of doctors is SHOCKING

I am really shocked at the lack of doctors for Canadians. For those who are out of Canada reading this it is appalling. We have a universal health care system that is "free". Yes, free of cost, not of hassle, nor long waits, nor frustrations. Get this basic fact: 1 in 5 Canadians in a major city don't have a family doctor, at all. So, if your child is sick and needs ear drops, you go to a drop in medical clinic. Thankfully I have one. Which still means this: on a weekday I show up at 10:30 am to sit there for 1 hr. roughly. Get given 1 of 12 cards for an appt. time. If you're # 13 or later? Tough, you don't get to see the doctor today. Then get an appt. time for the afternoon. Then back off home or whatever, then back to the doctors office for the appointed time. For a regular appt? That's a 6 to 8 week wait. That's who I'm depending on for my mental health "expert" at this time? Ooooo eee, I'm in trouble.

See, the psychiatrist that I mentioned a few posts ago. The one who prescribed me the Lamotringe? Well, she up and quit her job. Six years, no break and a mother to 5 kids? I'd quit too, frankly. But, no follow up on a patients prescription. Not so kosher, in my mind. A regular family doctor gets little psychiatric training, I've heard. Add into that his very busy schedule, and yes, I do feel abandoned at times. Wondering, "do I feel bad enough to go show up at a hospital emergency room where I've been told I have to go in order to see a psychiatrist?" I sigh heavily. Luckily, about a year into my treatment I decided to go ahead and also see a psychologist in between the medical appointments. Great, wonderful, awesome decision all around. She is still in the picture thankfully. I'm due to see her second week of January.

Sometimes I feel angry I have been left out to dry. Why aren't there enough psychiatrists to go around? Why indeed in all of West Quebec, and Ottawa, can't one psychiatrist find room for me. I guess if the husbands, and wives who are violent stop that stuff, then maybe the less mentally sick of us may get some attention :P (dark, black sarcasm there sorry). But man, it is "FRUSTRATING"!!!!

If you know of, heard of, or experienced any form of alternative health care for mental illnesses including depression please, leave a comment or send me an email. Thanks. I'm going to look into acupuncture as an adjunct procedure to help deal with the still present mood swings.

Motivations

The title of this entry is all about motivations. What prompted me to seek help in the first place. What prompted me to stay on the drugs despite the side effects. What prompted me to write this particular blog at this time.

Ok, well, I notice in April and May of 2005 I was having a distinctly dark time of life. I felt as though I was staring into a deep, endless void of darkness, and sometimes lost in it. Barely able to reach the shore, and really struggling some days to get out of bed. A feeling of wanting to stay under the covers all day, where I'd be safe and warm. Other days, on a euphoric high, out running, laughing, enjoying life, losing weight, and running a 10 k, and a half-marathon race. A friend said to me, online, "Deb you seem to go from really low to really high in your emails. Maybe you should get that checked out". So, yes, I read up on the web, and thought, "you know what? I think I may have bipolar". So, got to see my family doctor soon. He agreed and put me on drugs right away. And got the appointment for the psychiatrist in July. What really, truly motivated me to stay on the drugs was shortly before my diagnosis there was the shock of hearing of Paul Hester. A talented drummer/musician with Split Enz and Crowded House, he'd hung himself in a Melbourne, AU, park with the dog's leash. Everything to live for, with a radio show, a wife, two beautiful daughters, and he killed himself. "Why?" was the question I read that people were asking. "Why?" I thought of my girls losing me at that point. How they would ask "why?" for all the rest of their lives. That scared me, deeply. That is why, to this day, I don't muck about with this disease. If it can take him away, it can take me away. And I'm not going to let that happen, I assure you.

Getting back to Paul Hester as I read his obit I couldn't help but think: that's so much me. The bon vivant, laughing, joking, life-of-the-party, and inside? A small, scared, timid person who hurts. Never bleeding on the outside, but hurting on the inside, badly. According to this article he'd been suffering from depression for years, and was noted for his extreme mood swings. As I sat there thinking, I thought, what place does a person have to bottom out to decide to do it? I mean, physically stand up, throw a dog leash, or a rope, or load a gun and then actually "do it". Jump, kick over, shoot, whatever. Just how much pain must they be feeling at this moment? I'd guess there is no thought of what will the family think and/or feel. Maybe they just want a release from the pain? I don't know, and never want to know the actual feelings. But I can empathize with them. So sad. I hate to say it too, but a very selfish move, on their parts.

Lately I've had a string of deaths that I've heard of. My mother-in-law Phoebe, and my best friend Pam's uncle that I knew well, since childhood. A lady at church whom I spoke with, and then two weeks before Christmas more bad news. A friend whom I met in the online game Uru, spoke to me in an email about his step-fathers suicide the week before. How the shock, the anger, the tears hadn't stopped at all. How he'd told few about it, not even knowing how to talk about it. Not knowing if he was crying too much or too little. How does one go about saying that they're sorry to hear that? So sad. But, somehow, amongst the tears and the feeling of "why did he do that?" I replied. Hearing his grief just reinforced the reminder to be strong. To never give up, as Sir Churchill likely said.

And then the article that I linked to in the title. Where it says that Mr. Kirby will be the head of a Mental Health task force, similar to the Canadian Cancer Society. Well, bravo to that.

Quote from him here

He always keeps in mind the stories he heard when the Senate committee first held hearings. In particular, he recalls a young woman from a rural community who took the microphone in Newfoundland and spoke about her family, who responded to her depression by telling her to "buck up," and the long weeks when she couldn't get out of bed.

"The punchline was when she said, 'I really wished I had breast cancer instead — I wouldn't have lost my friends. I wouldn't have lost my family. I wouldn't have lost my job,'" Mr. Kirby recalls.


Sounds similar to my father, and his attempts to get me to clean up my act, my house, and my life, and my weight. Doesn't matter that I do a damn fine job of keeping care of my daughters, my husband, the dog, and getting them all off to their various places, and managing my best to keep up with the daily stuff. No, gotta have a pin-tidy house + lose some 50 odd pounds and oh, get a job too, maybe huh Deb? So discouraging, in a word. Just so a way to get me down, when I'm feeling up. Would we tell a child who's just walking "you're not steady enough, get better!" No! Why would he tell somebody who manages to get by without falling apart, "do better!" I sigh heavily.

So, yes motivations to write this blog came about from many sources. I do hope it helps at least one person. If so, maybe my feeling of being a completely self-centered person who babbles on and on about her sick head may go away. But, as of now? I feel very silly writing this blog.

Explaining to my daughter why I'm writing this

My older daughter, who's 9 is watching over my shoulder as I type. I'm explaining to her what is a blog. She kinda gets it. I said it's like an online diary that I want other people to see, and to read, and help you understand what I'm going through. She says boring... and moves on to the next thing LOL.

Ah kids.

Hopefully some day she'll find this and read back to what I thought these days, and understand me a bit better. I pray I'll be around to talk to her about it. :)

December 28, 2008

Lack of sleep

Here's a thought at 10 pm roughly. I've been asleep for a bit, because I was tired, and yet, one hour later here I am at the computer typing. Hmm, why? Well, often my brain just literally will not shut off. I can't just say 'relax' and do the deep breathing exercises I used to do. I used to be able to say to myself, "k, imagine each breath is drawing in a color, let's say red, from your toes. With each breath it's creeping up your body." It was a mindful way of relaxing myself, and hence falling into a good sleep. These days I literally fall over from exhaustion, sleep a few hours and then am awake again. Bright awake, but tired for a couple more hours in the middle of the night. I wander around, drink milk, look at the dog who looks at me, 'we up for good mum? time for a walk?' Nope, I fall back asleep again, for a few more hours. I never need an alarm clock, ever. I'm always awake, fast. This leads to irritation as you might imagine. I'm tired during the day. I make myself lie down after lunch and spend at least a bit of time just resting, with eyes closed. Trying to keep my mind from racing.

I've been taking a couple of herbal remedies, that are ok with the pharmacist. They work to a point. But a cup of camomile tea seems to help a lot.

I think that that lack of sleep is sometimes causing my reaction. I am touchy and reactive due to that.

Support

Well, it's a start, and I hope it grows. I've had some messages of support. I've found out that people do care, although, yes, I do know already that they did. But for me, it helps. It really does help to get that phone call "How are you? Are you feeling good today? Anything you want to talk about?" I need that human touch of compassion towards me. Maybe that's why I reach out as much as I do. Perhaps that's why I am on Messenger, Facebook, Blogger, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr, MySpace, and oh maybe two or three others that I forget. See what I mean? I do reach out in many ways to communicate. It's like I need that in order to feel good about myself. Maybe saying "There see, they wrote to me, or responded, that means they care". A normal person may *KNOW* that, and yet, maybe because of bipolar I'm not realizing that as much as I should be.

I aim to provide insight into thoughts that I have. Insecurities that I have. Are they inherent to me? Or are they inherent in people with bipolar? Or maybe in all mentally ill people? That I don't know.

Thank you so much to those who've already said way to go Deb. Thank you so much.

Why am I starting this blog?

Why indeed do I start another blog? Well, like I wrote about my infertility when I was dealing with it, on bulletin boards, it's a way of dealing with it. I don't write easily in diaries. I get hand cramps, and carpal tunnel syndrome and heck I don't get any feedback! Feedback I like and want as part of the showman attitude I have. An entertainer, a spokesman, and a reporter are all jobs I've been told by various surveys that I should do.

So, I'll tell you the life of a mum with bipolar in the following days, months and maybe years.

I'm a mother of two daughters, ages 6 (almost 7) and 9. They are my sanity and my insanity at times. More often the sanity I need, thank goodness. Something about hugging my daughter, hearing her say "I love you Mummy" and feeling her unconditional love makes it all okay.

So, how did I get here? Well, I think I had the first symptoms at around age 19. When the drinking got out of hand and I couldn't stop. The bar scene and all that entailed. The craziness of being a pizza delivery person in a rough area. And then a terrible car crash where I rolled my car on the main highway of Ottawa. I would have died if I'd not had on my seatbelt. Or if the car roof had caved in. Or if I'd been ejected from the car. That day was a turning point. As was the day I met, and fell in love with Tim, my husband of 21 years in July. Thank you God for sparing me, for finding him. I was okay until after the birth of my 2nd child. After two years of supplementing with flax oil capsules while breastfeeding, I stopped taking them as I stopped the breastfeeding. That's when the crazies, as I'll call it, set in. I took my crazy pills as my daughters might say, about me, or about our dog, when he zips around the house.

I was self-diagnosed, got myself to my family doctor (THANK GOD I have one!), and then referred to a psychiatrist. She was an hour drive away in Shawville, Qc. She listened to me talk for an hour and then when I asked, directly "do I have bipolar you think?" she nodded and said yes. We established that she didn't think I had the additional burden of schizo, or multi-personality disorder aka "Carrie" the movie lady.

So, immediately went on drugs to help out. Not Lithium, but a mood stablizer called Valproex (valproic acid) and an antipressant called Celexa. Not bad controlling my mood disorder but a terrible drag on me, and my body. So tired, is my memory of the 2+ years being on them. Gained about 50 pounds due to the tiredness, the lack of will to get out and exercise, and just the drug itself that causes weight gain. So, last July, 2008, I went to my meeting with the pyschiatrist. I asked her to put me on another drug, less tiring, if possible. She suggested Lamotringe. It is working to a point to protect against the lows. But it isn't protecting against the highs. The euphoria of believing I can do things I can't. The tears of feeling sad, at times. The inability of me to make proper, informed decisions. Actions that are measured, and thought out ahead of time. Instead, I think => I act. I act impulsively. I react impulsively. I react sometimes as suddenly as an elastic band snapping back against your finger. I get reactions like "Whoa! Where did this come from Deb?" Sometimes I snap like that at my kids. How does that make them feel? How does that make myself feel? Badly, in a word. Thankfully my husband is patient, to a point. But many times he's been ready to walk out.

If I didn't have a husband, I'd be a cat lady, I imagine. That lady who wanders around her house, chattering to her cats. Stumbling around the garden, talking to her plants. Likely looking at her roses, and seeing the beautiful flower, but thinking, "maybe just wrap my hands around the stem and feel the thorns sink in" and see the blood ooze out. And think that's how painful I feel at times.

And yet, still people just walk away from me. Alienate me because I don't act "right". I don't have a disfiguring disease on my face, or on my skin. I don't have cancer. I don't have a fatal illness. No, I have a mental disease. Not a condition that I should be "able" to deal with, with some exercise. Thanks Tom Cruise for making me feel I should get out and run a bit farther, and take some more vitamins. You can still go to hell as I said back then when you portrayed your ignorance for the world to see.

So, yes, that's it in a nutshell. I'm a walking, talking nutcase that isn't going to sit on a street corner mumbling. No, I'm going to fight this thing, tooth and nail. I'm going to talk about it. Not be like Jane Fonda's mum and get locked away, only out for a family photo op, and then locked away again, only to kill herself. Thank you God for putting me in the late 1900's and early 2000's where, yes, we will talk about mental illness. And see it for what it is: a disease. Not easily treated. Nor, my god, easily lived with.