Learning About Bipolar Disorder

Taken through a lecture given by Dr. Patrick McKeon, Consultant Psychiatrist at St. Patrick’s University Hospital. Can be found here. Just found out I can’t post videos on my blog without paying monthly. Boo, WordPress, boooo.

  • Bipolar disorder comes in a variety of exciting flavors, including typical ups and downs of bipolar, mostly depressive episodes with small manic stages that are hard to spot, and even completely manic or depressive.

Didn’t really realize this. There’s a spectrum to bipolar that can be difficult to nail down without signs, such as antidepressants making no difference or even making the depression worse, in my case.

  • Depression and mania of bipolar disorder can be thought of as a turning wheel, depression moving slower, mania turning faster. It’s all about the rate at which the mind functions. Depression makes processing information, recalling information (memory), and concentration more difficult. Sees a blank image when viewing the future, and has no effort because no goal exists. Sees only negative aspects of decisions.

There are definitely times when my mind varies its rate of thinking. It’s no wonder I have such a hard time expressing myself during my worst depression episodes. No wonder school is so hard at the moment. Besides my mind concentrating on things other than what it considers ‘useless’ information. Even though I know I have a goal of getting my bachelor’s degree, it continues to seem too distant and far away.

  • Elation (or mania) and hypomania (a lesser form of mania) is the complete opposite. Everything is sped up, everything attracts the attention. The sped-up mind and memory absorbs nothing or very little. Mind darts from one image to another. Judgement becomes impaired (only sees the positives), and jumps from one decision to another.

You want a reason for the amount of games I own on Steam? And how many of them I’ve only played for, say, and hour or two before I never look at them again? My mania would ignore the financial consequences of my decisions. Before I went on my current round of medication, my mind would spin so fast I couldn’t keep up with all the thoughts, often depressive ones (which I’m recognizing were mixed episodes of depression and mania, which I didn’t think were possible). It spin faster and faster until eventually it would all break down into a panic attack. Or, for brief shining moments, I would feel ‘normal’ and write fifteen pages of a story in a single sitting, never to come back to it again.

Depression:

  • F: Feel. Low, sad, depressed, anxious.
  • E: Energy. Tiredness of mind and body not relieved by sleep
  • S: Sleep. Not enough, broken, or too much.
  • T: Thinking. Difficulty concentrating or focusing.
  • I: Interest. Unable to interact with the world appropriately, especially with important aspects (food, sex, religion, loved ones, hobbies, etc.)
  • V: Value of self. Not good, uselessness, sinful or damned.
  • A; Aches. Pains, headaches, strained muscles.
  • L: Live. Not wanting to live, suicidal.

Mania:

  • F: Feel. Optimistic.
  • E: Energy. High or super high.
  • S: Sleep. Need little sleep.
  • T: Thinking. Racing thoughts, hard to get to sleep. Rapid eye movements.
  • I: Interest. Jumps to a thousand and one things.
  • V: Value. Great or greatest.
  • A: Aches. Pain disappears.
  • L: Lives. Going to live forever.

Really interesting: in high manic stages, one might feel depressed (weepy, frustrated, even angry) even as their minds and thoughts are going a million miles an hour. Mixed moods. That was me a month ago. Things felt great, but every little thing would get my tear ducts flowing. Now I’m noticing that nothing gets me to that point. I feel empty. I think I just spotted my first real long-term manic phase. It starts as early as June and ended about mid-August. School stopped it. Ugh.

  • Disruption in relationships
  • Use of drugs and alcohol
  • Debt (see-sawing financial situations)
  • Suicide

A third of people with high degrees of depression might actually have bipolar disorder–it’s hard to spot it because no one goes to a doctor when experiencing highs. Environment can trigger bipolar disorder, when there is a high genetic chance. There isn’t one gene that can be nailed down to cause bipolar, it’s more complex than that. Sleep disruption, stimulants, and drugs will usually have a more powerful effect on those with the condition.

I’m taking Lamictal (lamotrigine) and oxcarbezepine for mood stabilization and risperidone for dealing with highs… Lamictal can be used for lifting lows, but I wonder if I’m taking enough at the moment. I’ll have to ask that next time I go to the doctor.

DOs and DON’Ts

  • Know your illness
  • Acknowledge it and talk about it
  • Know the signs and symptoms

That’s what I’m trying to do. 🙂

  • Get emotional support
  • Spot the illness
    • (FESTIVAL symptoms)
    • Personal signs (patterns and actions that appear when high or low)
    • Appoint a spotter, someone who can identify the changes
  • Watch the amount of caffeine
  • Deal with hurt, let things out in the open

 

In all reality, I’m just searching for a way to deal with what I’m feeling at the moment. And I don’t know what I’m feeling. I wrote myself a very depressing letter yesterday and then crossed it all out. I didn’t tear it out of my book. I think some of what’s there is worth keeping, if only for the memory of writing it. Right now, I’m trying to search for this answer: is it me or my depression that is separating me from receiving the Spirit? I want to say it’s a combination of both… but that’s seems too quick and easy an answer. I find it difficult to say prayers and read scriptures because of my lack of emotions and difficulty of concentration. And my want of isolation and control keeps me away from church… and school. And this leads to further depression and lack of control. Exercise does nothing much more than making me tired, and food reminds me of the horrible condition of my teeth.

I guess I just need to do these things until I start to feel something positive. But to me, it’s like saying I’ll go for a drive and see if that makes the blindfold I’m wearing fall off. There’s a disconnect there. The answer doesn’t lead to emotional success. All I can do for the moment I watch for these signs and see what triggers what. In the meantime, I’ll do what I can to make it through every day.

I’m writing a story again, which hopefully I’ll post here–I’m not manic at the moment, so that’s a success unto itself I guess. So there’s that. All alone, listening to music, and managing my mind into a single track… I’ll stick to writing. It’s the best of all possible worlds.

Some Progress

A short update: I’m doing a lot better. Leagues better than where I was a year ago, and that’s for dang sure. And even better than a few months ago. I’m on a medication called oxcarbazepine, and I’d never heard of it until now. Not only does it take away a majority of the dark feelings of depression, it doesn’t make me feel like my head’s in a cloud. Just a few hot flashes and restless legs in the night-time. It’s wonderful, and I’m really hoping I don’t get ‘used’ to this medication to the point where it stops working. I’ve heard stories on reddit of lithium being this way…

But oh well. No use worrying about it. It’s working now, and that’s what matters.

And I’m sculpting again! I should be writing again , too. But now I am! Sorta!

Here’s a pair of pictures of the masks I’m making.

IMG_0067Sith Mask

I’m making this mask for my cousin who is putting together a Star Wars film of some kind in the near future. It’s a half-mask kind of like the Phantom’s mask from Phantom of the Opera, but with a decidedly more imperial look. It’s got teeth, but at this point, I’m not sure what other details if any I should include (making the cheeks and cheekbones more pronounced and skull-like, or recessed like Boba Fett’s Mandalorian helmet).

Also, how terrible are the Styrofoam heads at Hobby Lobby?! They’re so dang small! I don’t think even kids have the kind of proportions we’re talking about here. So to compensate, I gave more much more room for the mask’s length. Whether the width of the mask is too small is yet to be seen. I’m hoping one casting is all I’ll have to do and get it right the first time. If not… Let’s do it again! *grumble*

I will admit, this is the first time I’ve ever tried to sculpt a mask instead of doing it Pepakura with paper from a three-dimensional model. It’s exciting! Now to figure out how to smooth clay to get a stormtrooper helmet feel.

IMG_0077Majora’s Mask

I’m really excited about this just because it looks like I got the proportions of the eyes and color designs of the mask properly the first time!

This mask is from The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (naturally), and I noticed a lot of things about its design I hadn’t really considered while sculpting it. First of all, it’s a heart (of course). It’s also a head (a freaky one). The spikes on its sides and top move like fingers (and that’s creepy). And the evolutions of Majora himself in the video game use the mask as a chestpiece. Whether Majora was male or female isn’t specified. Majora’s Mask has a lot of uses, besides the fact that it’s a cursed mask that possesses the wearer. You know, all the terrible planet-destroying, moon-summoning power. I mean, just look at it.

majoras-mask-moon

…I won’t be making that thing as a mask. It would frighten children. And adults. And myself. Man, what kind of designer thought that was okay? And what kind of creative manager said to himself, “yeah, I’m good with that”?

😀

(Don’t) Panic

I had a panic attack yesterday. The third in a month. Starting a job is always stressful, but there’s something drastically different about starting a new job with bipolar depression. Or any depression, for that matter.

Panic attacks aren’t logical. Nothing about them makes sense at all.

Customer service, as a whole, is naturally a very menial and sometimes frustrating job choice. But when you imagine every next call being that one customer that will explode at you with frustration… It’s akin to walking through a minefield. You never know which step is going to be your last. No matter steady my breathing, I couldn’t stop my heart from racing. I had to run or I had to fight, neither of which is polite practice in a call center.

That’s not logical. The customer at the other end of the phone isn’t going to jump out of the headset and strangle you. The worst you’ll get is an earful of complaints, right?

But all that isn’t what caused my panic. Those were just the rocks in the backpack as I climbed the metaphorical hill. What really caused me to drop on my knees and emotionally lash out at the world was the waiting. The incessant waiting. Waiting to go to work, to step through the mental minefield again. Waiting to go to school where I could fail my classes and waste good time and money doing so. Waiting to go to church where, in my own mind, I’m not worthy enough to even pray.

So I break down. I hyperventilate. I pound on my bed, hitting it again and again as if to pound out the broken part of my brain. I shout out loud that I just want all this to stop. I want my mind to stop. I want to burn out the part of my brain responsible for the dark feelings, find a surgeon to laser it off, cut it out of me like a tumor. You know the biblical ‘weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth’? I never knew what that meant until I had a panic attack.

Misery doesn’t attempt to describe it. It’s too static a word. Misery describes circumstances beyond your control. But when a panic attack starts, you feel nothing but guilt. I caused this, somehow. I deserve this. I don’t get to be happy and comfortable, because that’s for other people to enjoy. I belong in the dark, I don’t deserve a job. I shouldn’t be allowed to find self-reliance. How can I, when I drive myself into such madness? I should be institutionalized. Something is fundamentally wrong with me.

The panic attack stops, sure. But it’s like a burning in the back of my mind. A battery that just needs more stress to recharge. A bomb that just needs a fuse. How much of this can I take before I break? How many times can I skip work because of the mental strain before I lose it? Heaven help me if I ever have a nervous breakdown at work, at school, or at church. I can hardly endure them in the comfort of my own home.

It’s so much more than words can describe.

In the midst of all this pain and anguish, I can feel me, the real me, standing somewhere else, watching all this happen. Letting it all happen. Maybe that’s my spirit, knowing it isn’t in control of my body, stepping aside and letting the natural process follow along to its conclusion. I sure wish my spirit would step in and stop all this from happening.

But it’s not to be – I AM my body. My mind is my own. What am I, but my squishy brain and the broken body I live in?

So here I am, writing about the most painful moments in my life, waiting for another one to happen. Waiting to step through another minefield tomorrow. And the next day.

I don’t know what I can do to stop this, besides taking my meds and trying to shut my eyes and calm down. I can’t fight this monster; the only solution I have is to run and hide from it. Deep down, I know it’s not enough. I have to face it, own it. Acknowledge that I have limitations, and try my damnedest to work around them. Like a river trying to cut through a mountain. Like a tree standing despite the tornado forming right beside it.

I feel every minute of my life.

And I’m not yet sure if I’m grateful for them. Maybe someday, when I can feel peace again.

This is the most difficult trial I’ve yet experienced in my life. I’m afraid it will swallow me. That I’ll never have dreams again. That I’ll forever look at the future with horror. That I’ll look back at the past and see nothing but failure.

I had a panic attack yesterday.

But I didn’t have one today. And maybe that’s all I can ask for.

A Final Boss

I don’t like being dramatic, especially when it comes to my own life. I guess no one would know it by the way I reach out for help on Facebook. I’ve spent a large amount of my life trying to avoid drama and, consequently, meaningful relationships that I could be cultivating with others. I’m wired in a weird way. I try to share what I’m feeling, and it comes out in one of two ways: either I sound like I’m fishing for sympathy from close friends and family, or I alienate acquaintances and people I don’t know.

maxresdefault

Because of course, no one wants to hear you talk about bipolar depression. I mean, what are you supposed to say, right? It feels like admitting the personal demon sitting on your shoulder. It demonstrates a weak attempt to seem different and unique, or emotionally deep and brooding. The words sound pathetic coming out of my mouth, especially in response to the oft-asked question: “How are you doing?” If the answer is anything but “good” or “all right”, then you can either put on a mask and lie or respond by selfishly turning the conversation to yourself.

See? It already sounds like I’m looking for pity just by writing this all down. I can’t describe my feelings without wondering if I’m wasting my time. No one wants to hear all this. Not even me. Though this seems to be the only subject I’m knowledgeable about these days.

And all this junk goes through my head whenever I attempt to socialize.

Video-Game-Shadow-of-the-Colossus-37265

You know in most video games (any Zelda game comes to mind), how you crawl through dungeons, solving puzzles and defeating a bunch of enemies only to come to a gigantic boss fight? Usually in that dungeon you find a tool or magic item that enables you to defeat it with startling efficiency. The hero can defeat bosses hundred of times their size (Shadow of the Colossus comes to mind), or tear through hundreds of monsters with relative ease (Kingdom Hearts 2 comes to mind). In all of these cases, as is the case with most video games, these massive obstacles are designed to be defeated. Afterwards, the story moves on, and the plot continues to unfold.

In my dungeon, there’s no tool of magic item. Even the smallest monsters sap my health points within minutes. I’ve only got a small lantern in a huge foreboding cavern, and there’s not a large brazier or wall torch in sight. I’d say this dungeon mirrors Dark Souls or Bloodbourne in difficulty, but despite their designs, they too were created to be beaten. If my dungeon were designed to be overcome, it’s gotta be one of those long and complicated final dungeons; and all I got is a rusty knife and a shield made of flotsam.

My brittle defense is better than I had a few months ago, though. So there’s that. “Progress,” I guess.

Ganon_(Ocarina_of_Time)

And when I feel like I’m coming to the final boss, feeling the slightest glimmer of confidence for the battle ahead, I step into the room to find the gigantic monster is invisible and has more than twenty life bars. You know what I mean? I can get away with a few timid swipes. Then comes the smashing and slashing, and I’m sent right back to the beginning room without any health potions. I think I lose all my rupees, too; it depends on the day.

Of course this is the best analogy I can come up with; my video game senses are the only thing I can be proud of these days.

So this is the reason I’ve been unable to update this blog. With everything clogging up my mind, the last thing I feel like doing is drawing cartoons. Or writing anything, for that matter. I guess I apologize to myself. I’m trying to find a hobby I can call my own, and enjoy it for its own sake. But boy, it’s hard. In one of my digital media classes in college, the professor told us to make this promise: that we would produce more than we consume. That way, we’d be guaranteed success in life. That would be nice. Because I am the very definition of a consumer. Entertainment, food, time… And then the guilt of consuming makes me sad, and leads me to consume more.

So, yeah, drama. As a writer, I suppose drama is something positive to convey. And as much as I hate it, I’m sure good at it. Oh well. It’s all therapy. Perhaps that’s one of the few health potions I have left.

Just a few thoughts about the way life is shaping up at the moment. I’m just clinging to the hope that I can beat this final boss in the end. I can’t even dream, but I hear there’s a heck of a cutscene afterwards. There might even be a new game+. I guess we’ll see.

real_monsters_reboot__anxiety_by_zestydoesthings-d6m5sbw

An awesome image about anxiety. ZestyDoesThings designed monsters based on mental health issues, including bipolar. They’re all neat.

New Medications Are Not Phun

I’m sorry. Life isn’t real fun at the moment.

Right now, I am being absolutely paralyzed by what doctors call akathesia (or mad restlessness), and it’s been going for about three hours now. It’s being caused by my ‘solution’ medication called Latuda (40 mg at the moment, at a crazy-fast build-up pace, in my opinion). The good news is that for the two weeks I’ve been taking it, my mind has been very clear and I’ve even bravely gotten a part-time job. The bad news is obvious. Apparently though, Benedryl can take care of most of this akathesia, so that’s what I’m trying now. In fact, the only reason I’m typing right now instead of going out of my mind is simply trying to focus on something else. But even this is trying…

So I guess what I’m saying is, I apologize for the lack of fun-and-fancy-free worm times. I hope to keep drawing as soon as my body permits it.

And for anyone else going through mental health issues, I’m right there with you. Sometimes the solutions for a broken mind can break other parts of your body before the right solution. But that doesn’t mean you should give up. Keep going, and stay in tune with your doctor, and don’t give in – that’s my plan.