Bipolar – my disability

My illness is flagrant. It is clear as sunshine. Bright as a star. Big as a 10 cart diamond ring. Obvious to the naked eye…

Yes it is when I have an episode.

But when I don’t…

It is dormant. Blends with the background. Goes unnoticed. Quiet common. Just like the flue. It is a John Doe..

I tend to forget, for am human. And we humans tend to do so. A lovely quality we have. Makes us able to live, to turn the page.

When my illness strikes back, am always surprised. It takes me a few days to adjust. As if it is the very first time am experiencing the symptoms. All fresh.

The pain is new, yet the depth of the scar is familiar. I remember the fear of falling into the abyss of mental illness with all what it means – more meds, more symptoms, more side effects, hospitalization, days in bed, fear of losing my mind, fear of losing control, fear of finally giving in to suicide…

Yet I know I can’t. Something tells me this cannot be the end. I recall the conversations I had, the notes I wrote, specifically for these moments to remind myself not to give in.

I try to summon my strength, the strength I have and the one I don’t, and pretend to stand up. I rise in my dream above myself, above my tears, above my hospital bed and tell my doctors to let me live some more.

But if you are ill like me, you will soon learn that living isn’t the point really. So what is the point of having a life with such an illness that makes hell a walk in the park? On average I get two good weeks a month and if am lucky we can stretch them to three.

I am heavily medicated, but at least the meds I take do work.

I got PTSD. I am being treated for it, but I feel mostly guilty all the time for how my illness affects my loved ones.

That’s where am at now with my bipolar. I cannot always embrace it. I don’t rise above it. I wish I could say it differently, bipolar is my disability…

The New Business Model in Psychiatry

I checked myself yet again at the hospital. It became my full time job really.

Shame on me, I ain’t strong enough to survive outside more than a few weeks. But is it really my fault?

Not more than 24 hours later, yes you know it, I checked myself out. I wasn’t scared of the environment this time. I liked the room. I even met a couple of people with whom I could have a decent conversation – shout out to K, L, N and N!

My problem was the medical body. My sessions with them were more of open ended questions like in qualitative research. I felt time had no essence to them. Like progress cannot be measured daily.

When I went to London, and I am not being payed to say this – if you only knew how expensive it actually is to get treated there out of pocket – every single word I said was taken seriously. Every little side effect was looked at. I was seen as a person; a real person and not a spoiled brat complaining for no reason.

Secondly, the doctors would not dwell endlessly on what to do. They took calculated risks. Because if they agreed to the status quo then nothing would happen.

I was always reassured and never ever did anyone tell me this drug or this method works for 20% of the patients. I was given hope – in abundance and also had the opportunity to chat with other patients who are now truly healed.

While I was completely fitting the box of patients in the clinic, my individual voice and needs were immediately heard.

That is why I felt I was wasting time at the hospital and that is why I left 24 hours later instead of staying for a whole 10 days.

My business teachers at university always said a good product or service starts by answering a customer pain.

Very well, mental illness is filled with customer pain; be it the patient herself or her family members.

I have been treated and admitted to hospitals both in Paris and Cairo. Although the settings could be strikingly different; there are major similarities.

Patients have little control over the course of their treatment; unless they happen to well read – and still that could be interpreted as a personality disorder.

Here, business people, here is a business model for you to follow. Instead of keeping the one patient coming back for 10 years, you can have thousands of them and most likely very happy ones too. Am no mathematician but get your excel sheets out and do the works. It doesn’t need a genius to tell you where the money is; and coincidentally health too…

TBC

I am committed

I am committed to coming back to this very hospital

I am committed to receive every form of therapy there is under the sun

I am committed to doing whatever it takes to raise our children, see them graduate and organize their weddings

I am committed to loving and honoring my immediate and extended family in every possible way

Meanwhile I am finding my happy middle

It is a mirage

But I need to keep on looking

I will check out tonight if it is the last thing I do

I will come daily as an outpatient

I am committed to heal

I am committed to survive

Worry of hope – rapid cycling

It’s 5 am and I cannot sleep.

I am angry of myself. I am angry of the world. I am angry of hope.

I am supposed to try a new treatment soon. My mood changes more than I can handle. I am up and down at the same time.

I put on my trainers and went down for a walk.

Am writing and waking while listening to music. That is how restless I am.

I am worried it will fail

I am worried I will fail

I am worried I will fail them

I am worried they will fail me

End up my post with the usual

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change

The courage to change the things I can

And the wisdom to know the difference

TBC

You must know

Know that I love you since before I was born

Know that I loved you since before you were born

Know that you are my every reason for being

Know that I want to leave to set you free

I try and I fail and I try again and I fail and fall harder

Maybe this time it will work

In the world of rapid cycling

Hello everyone. Bla bla bla yes I haven’t written for a while, miss you, etc.

You know it is not me who is inconsiderate or rude: am rapid cycling.

Say what? Say one day am high as a kite (a small kite since am bipolar 2), and the next am digging a tunnel to the the after life (does that even make any sense?)

You get the picture. Am a yo-yo, I am a roller coaster, a bullet train with bad breaks.

I enjoy my ups and do accomplish a lot; especially if you count shopping as an accomplishment. I spend hours without eating (big high five since I tend to feed like a newborn every 2 hours). I even live on 5 hours of sleep and I am Eeyore on any other day.

Woke up at 6 am today (weekend here on my side of the world) and hoped into my trainers and on to the kettle and to my smokes.

Am sociable, am pretty, am smart and talkative. I love it.

I wrote this down to me Nour. Yes to me, for in a few hours I will feel like dirt is better than me. I will feel empty and useless and I will become a burden. I will get back to staring at the ceiling and doing nothing but dealing with suicidal ideation.

Today however I will kiss my kids, a lot and lots more. I will go for a long walk like the book says. I will have lunch with my beautiful loving family and I will dress to impress. I will put on my make up and my new earrings. I will take a selfie or two and hashtag them to mentalhealthawareness.

Meanwhile my rapid cycling friend; I freakin feel you. You are my hero.

Remember, for every down there is an up coming and heck yes we shall ride the wave and rise to the moon.

Bless

TBC

Call for interviews

As part of a bigger life project, I am conducting (anonymous) interviews on how to live/cope with bipolar disorder. Send me a message here or through my Facebook page if you are interested in participating.

Bless

https://m.facebook.com/happilydepressedblog/

Choosing to live with the side effects of psychotropics – a life changing decision…

I saw my psychiatrist yesterday.

I told her about my “attacks” and she explained.

She told me that hormonal changes in female bipolar patients tend to send them over the moon sometimes. So what I am going through is not surprising. It is not a hormonal problem per se, it is just a confirmation that I have a mood disorder.

I asked if there is any biomarker that would tell us if I need a hormonal treatment to fix my mood. She said that there is currently no information on this. Surprise? Not really. So the only marker hormones wise is that of the thyroid gland functions. My numbers are not perfect, but not alarmingly different to cause such an imbalance.

My session was important despite the “negative” results. I now know that I need to make a big decision.

My doctor asked me about whether stopping lithium was due to hypomania and I said it was not. I would do this over and over again. The changes, the personality changes that most psychotropics cause me are just unbearable- to me. Again, this is such a personal matter that it would be straight stupid to advise anyone to quit or not. I am not preaching anything. I am just sharing my own journey, which might or might not be similar to yours. What is sure though, you might have gone through similarly difficult choices to make.

We agreed that my life as it is now is not fulfilling. The unpredictability of my attacks renders my illness a disability to me and to those around me. We are unable to plan anything. I struggle to be an adult, an independent person who requires little or no maintenance. I struggle to be there for my children as a full time mother. Career? What is that sir! Sometimes having a shower is already a challenge to me.

Having said that, my worst fear is hurting those around me. Till when can they deal with my unpredictability.

Till when will my husband take days off work, or leave the house with a feeling of apprehension not knowing if he will find me home when he gets back.

Till when will I have my father leave everything and stick around to be here just in case I cannot deal with the children. Till when will he hop on and off plans to come to an emergency situation beyond his or my comprehension? Till when?

So fact one; we know this cannot go on.

Fact two; there is no clear solution.

My dear doctor whom I respect so much suggested that I add a new psychotropic to my daily dose of Prozac.

Psychotropic drugs are medications that affect your central nervous system, changing how your brain processes information, such as altering your mood, thoughts, perceptions, emotions, and behaviors. Most psychotropic drugs are prescribed by your therapist or health care provider to treat a diagnosed mental illness, such as bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder.

https://www.verywellmind.com/psychotropic-drugs-425321

You see I don’t have a conscientious objection against drugs. No, I don’t. The thing is with most drugs I feel alienated, weird… I twitch, I get nightmares, I get lethargy, restlessness, anxiety, and sometimes I even have suicidal thoughts that unfortunately led me to the emergency room more than once.

She said the new drug- Abilify– could help regulate my mood. The idea is to take it at 5mg – a super low dose – to keep my curves from skyrocketing or dropping at the speed of light. Sounds good yes. I would have to wait a few months to monitor the effect of Abilify on my mood and on my menstrual cycle.

Will it work? We have a fifty percent chance it does. Ok, side effects? For starters, it is prescribed to children. How bad could it be?

Then Surprise surprise, they said when they put it in the market that it does not make you gain weight. Oups! Mistake, she said it does in many patients and my readings confirmed a nice 10 to 20 kilograms of extra weight per year. Maybe at different dosages, but still. I won’t be able to tie my own shoelaces by 2020.

Ok. What else? Oh it varies greatly she said from one person to another. Reading suggests that the worst is in the beginning; like vomiting and the like. That does not scare me. What really scared me is that patients on this drug would complain of very low energy and of restlessness or need to move.

According to the official site of the drug,

ABILIFY may cause movements that you cannot control in your face, tongue, or other body parts. Tardive dyskinesia may not go away, even if you stop receiving ABILIFY. Tardive dyskinesia may also start after you stop receiving ABILIFY.

https://www.abilify.com/important-safety-information.aspx

They might get also compulsive behaviors such as gambling and binge eating, cholesterol and anxiety.

How are you supposed to fight depression with all this extra weight and without any energy, with twitches and compulsive behavior? Don’t tell me stop searching the Internet. I did differ from a wide spectrum of side effects before. They are as real as it gets.

Her idea is that my Prozac would have a counter the side effects of Abilify and things would balance out. Perhaps…

So my dilemma is simply the following:

Should I risk living with these unpredictable cycles and watch myself and my family losing our minds slowly; or should I take the drugs and lose myself little by little and become a deaf note floating around in a soundless world?

Can you relate? Did you go through the same? Can you throw me a bone here? What did you do? What would you do?

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to kno
w the difference.

TBC

Solace, where are you?

I would like to shed my skin like a snake…

I would like to change colors like a chameleon…

I know that personal growth is not always linear.

I know also that sometimes you keep on suffering until you learn the lesson.

Things are more bearable during the day. Yet, when the sun sets, and as the sky becomes darker, there is little left to be done. The few chores of the day end one by one.

I sneak back to my corner in bed. I hold my phone and do nonsense. Minute after minute, tic toc. It is past midnight already. I count the hours I have left in bed, and dread facing the next morning. I will myself to sleep but know to well that this is not how it works.

Someone else got into the control center in my head and took over. I am equally lost between trying to fight and surrendering. They are the same.

I’d do anything if I could. Like walking on shifting sand I lie on this side then on that side seeking comfort.

I finally fall asleep but my dreams are no solace. Of course they are vivid. I stopped trying to know what is true and what is not. They are as real as it gets, and also as fake as it gets.

I usually fixate on things in my dreams. Small details, they keep on coming back. I wake up without any memory of what happened. Just a feeling of weirdness and abnormality. Too much brain activity or too little. All the same.

I find small feet cuddling next to mine. They are seeking comfort and safety in me. In me…

I wake up to the sound of the alarm and hit snooze. I wish I could escape from the responsibility of being me.

I wish I could let go.

I worry about my family and how they will react – again. Pity, love, empathy, boredom, anger, what again will they feel.

I can see my temporary paralysis turning beautifully into a handicap. Will I need to be taken care of again? Till when I wonder… Will I ever be an adult?

I don’t know what to do with every single second of my day. I listen to this song then forward to another. I watch this show and then another. I go out for a smoke then decide it is too cold. I want cookies and cheese at the same time. What the hell is going on.

You know I wish I had a timeshare at a mental clinic. How cool would that be? Hello yes, this is client 44087. I am calling for room 13. Yes, is it time already. Is it empty today? Sure, like last time yes. I would like to start with the locked up package first. And I insist, don’t let me out even if I beg you too. That’s it then. See you later. Oh yes, I know the drill. No sharp objects of belts. Thank you.

Perfect customer service.

A few weeks after, my skin would have shed. Yes I am a reptile after all. Why? Oh am also a chameleon and I change colors all the time. Only difference is this is not for adaptation like reptiles. It is a malfunction, a mutation if you prefer.

At the end of the day, survival is for the fittest…

TBC

Talking out loud about your mental illness

A few weeks ago my daughter overheard a conversation about my blog. She wanted to know what a blog was, so I walked her through that. Then she wanted to know about my own blog.

“What do you write about Mama?”

It then hit me. My blog is public.

One day she might read it. I am not sure I am ready for this now. So, future me will deal with that.

With children, the rule of thumb is to answer “difficult” questions with as little information as possible. One question at a time. No need to draw a detailed account I thought, just the basics to answer to her curiosity.

So I told her my blog is about my experience. I started writing I said when I fell sick last year. I write about health, my health.

So she asked me again, like what? Then I said I write about mental health. I didn’t think she will understand. But she did. I was swept off my feet with what she said later. A lot of explaining has been done to her by my husband I thought. What a good job he had done.

She told me, oh so you write about how you feel so others who have the same problem know? I said yes, she kept on talking. So when you share your story they can know what worked and what did not? Yes love I said. That is great Mama, this is much better than just writing I take this medication and that medication. When you write how you feel it will be more useful for others.

I felt I was talking to a friend not my 9 year old daughter. She got it without lots of words. She sensed it. Those youtube DIY videos she loves to watch must have taught her something after all!

Yesterday, as I was checking my email, I found a message from someone who prefers to stay anonymous. He told me that he suffered from anxiety, panic attacks and depression in the past and that he read the blog. He raised a few important points on his experience that are common to mine.

He told me I am brave to talk about such a personal problem in the open. He said that for him and for many, it is not that easy to open up. I reflected on that and remembered the talk with my daughter. As I wrote back to him, it struck me that this is not courage at all. It is survival.

I didn’t do this blog for anything other than a deep need to be heard. I wanted to know if there was someone somewhere going through the same and feeling despair.

It happens that yes, I am not alone. You are not alone. We are all together in this. It does not matter what country you are from, what age you are, whether you are single or not, atheist or not, poor or not.

I discovered that I am read in so many different places like Greece, Austria, India, Australia, Egypt, Spain, France and many more.

This means that we all have our moments of doubts, we all go through tough moments, or witness loved ones goin through them.

When life is unbearable as my friend said in his message, the last thing you want is someone who doesn’t know what it is to feel despair to tell you what to do. Come on, it cannot be that bad they would say. You have a lot of good things in your life despite (…). Think about people who lost everything. You are much better than that. Pull yourself up. Go for a walk, watch a movie or come out with us this weekend.

Not very helpful unfortunately. The mind of the depressed doesn’t work that way. Words of actions are the last thing we want to hear. We know it looks like everything is ok with our lives, that maybe our feelings are not justified. Yes that is part of why we feel so low. Sometimes we don’t even have a good reason whatsoever to feel depressed. It does not help. Depression defies logic. It is not maths. I wish…

So back to my first story.

No, I am not worried that one day my children will read this blog. Actually, when they are old enough and god knows when this will be, I will be happy to share with them what I went through. Ideally they will know that yes we can dive as low as it gets. We could recover, or find a balance, or worst of all we might linger on in despair. It is normal.

They might then look at others differently. They would perhaps judge less. They might offer the right soothing words to someone one day. They will understand that we are made of flesh and blood and that it is not shameful to be sick.

Don’t worry; you are not alone.

Bless

TBC

Recharging

I was reluctant to fly back home. I was worried about meeting family and friends.

I didn’t want to have to deal with pity. I didn’t want to answer questions. I didn’t want to remember who I was before I got sick, or know who I am now.

It was not easy in the beginning. I broke down because I was so ashamed of what had become. It was a feeling beyond me. I felt my failure and forgot all the progress I had made.

I was so tempted to end it all. I held on to the thought of how I would disappoint my loved ones if I do.

I shrank into a ball in bed, fighting my demons. My family and friends would come in one at a time to try and talk to me. I didn’t have words to say. I wanted to shut off the world. I hid behind my blankets to avoid seeing them- seeing me like this.

I asked for medication, I couldn’t do without. I got some tranquilizers, a benzodiazepine. I popped a few – nothing dangerous. I had to numb the pain. I wanted to get out on the other side – the good side.

I asked for an antidepressant. I am away from my doctor and didn’t want to call her. No energy to explain anything to anyone. I decided to take Prozac 20 mg as a preventive dose for further attacks. Just the thought of another one was enough to kill me.

As these things take time, not surprisingly I got another attack a week or so after. A few days before, I had started to feel the ups of hypomania; rapid thoughts, loss of sleep, increased self confidence. It was mild and honestly I enjoyed it. What a nice break from depression… but I worried about the crash after. The higher you go, the lower you will get.

One day shortly after I felt paralyzed when sitting on a small cliff by the beach a few meters away from my family.

I was trying to relax. It hit me as I was looking at the waves and the horizon. I was in harmony with the scenery and little by little I had to lie down. I could not sit anymore. So I did, and thought I should relax some more. A horrible fear of falling hit me. I couldn’t stand up, I couldn’t move a muscle, I couldn’t talk. I waited for it to pass, I do not know for how long.

My daughter saw me as she was swimming and I managed to wave to her. I asked her when she came up to tell my husband to come to me. He shielded me as I crawled away from the cliff when everything was swirling around me. I don’t know why this happened. I just hope it will be my last attack.

I will check in with my doctor once I am back about the drugs am taking.

Yet, despite all this, I am proud of this trip. I am proud I was able to break this wall of fear and to accept love and empathy.

I am proud of being loved and cared for. I am proud of receiving all these hugs and all this care. I still feel vulnerable and worry of breaking- of course there is no magic cure. But somehow I know the worst is over.

There are residues for sure. Yet for those who might have similar stories, reach out, find those who care for you. You might not want to, you might fear what they will say, you might worry about how they will see you… Don’t.

As much as mental illness is mysterious, as much as love is.

Love has a healing power, especially when it is unconditional. Don’t worry about facing the world. I was swept off my feet with care – literally. I had forgotten the power of living “in” a society versus the isolation I face when in Paris.

As much as I didn’t want to go on holidays because when depressed you couldn’t care less, as much as I knew I had to. I wanted to do that for my husband and for my children. They got so worn out that past year with so much pressure- mostly from me.

I put one foot in front of the other and did it. I was challenged to sit by the beach! Imagine that… I was challenged to see my children have ice cream! It was difficult to let go and enjoy islands and beaches and hotels and swimming pools… yes believe me when down no one cares about all that.

Yet magically the change of scenery worked. One at a time like a flower opening its petals, the family started to relax. It was probably contagious. I started to enjoy things instead of being lethargic. It took time, but it happened.

I cannot stress enough the importance of holidays. Needless to say it can be as simple as going to the park and enjoying the view, no need to travel miles to do that. I will personally try and keep this concept of having a break in our family routine. I urge you to do the same.

I will check in more frequently, and I will try to talk about this journey of mine, which I hope will end in recovery.

TBC

Bless

On fear

The one thing that scares me the most is me

I am unpredictable and unreliable, not to others only but to myself

I fear me

I fear my thoughts

I fear my feelings

I fear my inability to take decisions

I fear my lethargy

I fear not falling asleep and fear waking up

I fear my reactions my over reactions my under reactions

I fear others and what they think of me and what I make them feel

I fear responsibility and lack of it

I fear expectations

I fear feeling no joy and equally fear my melancholy and joy when I feel it

I fear being asked how I feel and having no words to give a logical explanation

I fear the misery I cause around me everyday

I fear how fear understands me and I cannot reciprocate