Forgiveness and recovery

The blog has shifted gears. My writings were sometimes exercises of introspection – reflecting my state of mind during my struggle with depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. Other times, I would write about what I thought was wrong with the medical system as it stands today; not seeing the person as a whole or just silencing and over drugging the mentally ill till they slowly lose themselves in an array of side effects and endless adjustments of dosages. I also wrote about misdiagnosis and malpractice, and how our lives could change just by being given one very wrong label or another.

In my last few posts I started sharing with you the lessons taken home. There is no pretentiousness or ‘I know better’ in my words. I try to repeat this one way or another because it is so important!

So here goes…

Today I want to talk to you about a pivotal moment in my recovery.

You know getting better is not linear. If anyone tells you so, then they either don’t know what they are talking about, or they are simply really very optimistic, or just they were super lucky and are the 0.01%.

Recovery has so many elements. Naive, I used to think about it like a finish line. It was actually more of a destination, and to get there you have to take a bumpy ride.

To recover, I of course needed be on the right medication. I was supposed to find stability. Yes little by little I didn’t have anymore mood swings. A small relapse here, a little adjustment there…

I relate to this as trivial compared to what I went through. I didn’t feel depressed or have this huge void eating me up; true. Yet, I felt surprisingly guilty. Probably not surprisingly.

I was not able to feel relief. Why aren’t you happy now? Good question! I was faced with two major problems.

One: the aftermath of what ‘I have done’ to my family witnessing all this suffering. Two: the immense fear of this ordeal happening again. Three: I know I said two but I also had memory issues, self-confidence issues, brain fog, and 20 plus kilograms to lose to fit in my old socks because of all the meds I was taking before finding the right treatment, tapper off a few others, and of course I had to reintegrate into society.

After spending time feeling stagnant in these negative thoughts, I talked to my psychiatrist who suggested that these signs are very well similar to those of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In brief: the experience of illness is so intense that in itself it becomes traumatic and creates guilt, fear and flashbacks. Are you familiar?

He suggested I undergo a few sessions of EMDR – Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing therapy. It is non invasive, simple and fast method of psychotherapy. I was skeptical at first but I tried and It worked really well on my trauma. Highly recommend it if you find a qualified therapist.

Relief was not immediate. But at the time I decided that I needed to open a new chapter in my life if I am to recover. Again this does not happen over night. It is a process. You plant the seed.

How can I ask those around me to forget what happened if I am constantly thinking about it? How can I be ‘normal’ if I am living every moment waiting for another attack? How can I expect to be ‘forgiven’ if I cannot forgive myself?

Forgiveness was the magic word. And trust me it is everything but cliché. 

I had no choice. I internalized this and repeated it to myself for the millionth time. Mental illness could happen to anyone at anytime. Mental illness is not a choice. Mental illness teaches you how to be human and humane. This experience showed us all how we are connected and how we love one another and how blessed I am to have my family and loved ones. They also used to tell me the same, but you know guilt…

Before all this, I had to forgive myself for the pain I went through. I decided that I will allow myself the suffering that passed and say it is ok. I don’t judge you. You were hurting and you are fine now. Again, you water the seed.

I gave myself a pat on the back and a big hug for the long road travelled and I said it is ok. I looked at all the things I have learned. How strong I have become. How loved and cared for I was and how things could have turned much much worse.

I looked at my family hoping day in day out that what dwells inside my soul will reflect into my behavior. Little by little, things began to change, and a new normal appeared.

The seed grows into a plant.

My dear reader I decided to be kind to myself because I had suffered enough and I invite you to do the same even if you are not in recovery, or even if you are not mentally ill. We have all suffered one way or another. We deserve to live guilt-free.

Allow yourself the gains you have achieved though little they may seem; for today is a good day and we only hope we replenish the well a little more tomorrow.

The importance of self-care for mental health

I don’t promise to write often or make this and advise blog, or pretend being an expert.

I simply would like to share with you in honesty as I always have something that I believe is very important and was life changing in my experience.

You hear a lot about taking care of how you eat, about taking supplements, doing sports, and facial routines. Every time you are on social media there is this ad or this shared article about this cream or app, or this diet that promises to make you look like a star…

Very well yes, I know all this is important. On very good days, one might give attention to these things which are important I am not denying. Now that I am better I started to take care of my body and it makes me feel good.

But tear and wear as we approach our mid thirties and forties is not on our bodies only – it is also in our minds. We tend to forget about this. We run around in stressful circles all the times despite where we live and what we do; whether we are working from home, from the office, or as stay-in dads or mums.

Life has such a demanding rapid pace that we forget to tend to the most precious part of ourselves that nourishes our beings. We silence the rising alarm that says “I am tired”, “ I am not in synchronization with whom I used to be” , until it becomes “ I am not who I used to be”…“ I am unhappy”.

In my case mental illness was not a moment.

It was a series of these moments. Small droplets that formed an ocean.

Many many many times these drops form because of events that have nothing to do with us. That goes without saying. But also, I have to be honest, self-care; this very important stopping assessing and reconsidering strategies in life could prevent staying in viscous circles that attract negativity and self destruction.

One important lesson I learned through out my journey is that in order to get out of pain it is imperative to decide to be self critical and assume responsibility. One has to want to be genuinely happy. To decide that being the victim and staying in this role brings no good.

The wish is the beginning of the realization of the dream.

Nothing and no one, no drug, no doctor will get us of our misery unless we decide we want to be genuinely better first. It could sound naive. But this is my story…

I meet many people. They talk to me and I see how they are starting to be absorbed by life and not the good part of it. How stress is consuming them. I try to tell them that they have to apply self-care before it turns into something more serious. Some do and some don’t. Applying plastic surgery to life problems doesn’t solve them.

When we have a wound we need to clean it. Sooner or later it will get inflamed and inflammation means illness.

This is how I see it: when we are unhappy we start developing all sorts of illnesses. Our immune system weakens. I promise what I am saying bears a lot of truth. Look around you. Back pain, migraines, stomach problems, weight problems, fertility issues… Dig deeper. You will find a lot of unhappiness there. And downhill we go…

We might not be able to avoid all this. But we could change what lies between our hands.

At the end life is a series of moments and happiness is a choice…

I would like to end my post by saying that there are good days and bad days. A bad day will always end. Let us seize the good days and take care of our mental health and well being and make good choices in life. Every little helps and it is never too late.

And as Rumi said “ What you seek is seeking you. ”

The importance psychiatric empathy and engagement in patient /doctor relationship

Today I had a routine FaceTime appointment with my psychiatrist. I wasn’t expecting much. We were just going to discuss the usual.

Yet, the first thing he told me

was “I read your blog”.

I was taken back for so many reasons. I had no idea he would have such interest in his patients, or have the time really.

What is interesting is that I had written my last entry on how I am suffering from the side effects of the meds I am taking, especially how I have lost hope, and how I feel disabled mostly because of the antipsychotic quetiapine of which I take a significant dose. Although I had shared this with him before, reading my words seemed to have had a different impact on him I would discover.

Yes. My doctor told me something I would have never ever have imagined any medical practitioner to ever say. He told me I have failed to treat you.

I could not believe what I just heard. First of all we are far from being done. I am still being treated. And I am a thousand times better my dear doctor than the first time I saw you. I cannot even find words to describe the state I was in when I first talked to you and you said yes I will take you as my patient. I could barely speak, yet you were able to translate my pain and understood me.

Today my doctor showed me how he truly listens to his patients. I had talked to him over and over again about reducing the dose of my antipsychotic. He had refused categorically on many different occasions and told me if I did I would relapse. He told me I had to bare the side effects and be patient. He was extremely worried about me.

Today however, he told me that he thought long and hard about my blog piece and decided to change the treatment plan.

He decided to change it to accommodate to my needs and because he had already increased during the past weeks my levothyroxine. [My treatment is based on three pillars: levothyroxine, quetiapine, and rTMS]. I had also a few sessions of rTMS as a back up before this new treatment plan. He also told me that if I don’t respond well to reducing the quetiapine, he would shift me to another antipsychotic. This was all I needed to hear. Hope is the most powerful medicine of all.

I am sharing this story today because it is really a breakthrough on so many levels. I rarely hear of anyone admitting or alluding that they are wrong or even questioning themselves really- especially if they have any kind of authority over you. Two, who has the time to read or listen or care about their patient outside of the 15 minute appointment slot they have? Who cares what they feel, like or dislike? I have seen my share of psychiatrists and usually when I start slightly feeling uncomfortable it means that the relationship is going south and the end is near my friend.

I have all the respect and admiration to you Dr Andy Zamar, a great man, extremely bright and sensitive.

Mind you this is just the top to the iceberg. My admiration for this great doctor has no limit.

I only hope that he has the opportunity to train other fellow psychiatrists.

Thank you for your humanity.

TBC

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

Capitalism and bipolar disorder

My illness relates to many many factors. It is my upbringing and my biology. It is society, it might even be fate.

My illness maybe relates the most to a lifestyle, no; to a mode of being that I am not the only one to have created but surely had to abide to. My illness is so common you would be surprised. My illness is “in” these days. My illness is a mutation, a mistake if you would like. My illness is a blessing as much as it is a curse.

I get to the downs of the deep blue and sometimes I stay afloat. Sometimes I even catch a boat, a sailboat- nothing too fast. I wonder and I ponder about my existence and yours. I shed a few tears and even pop a few pills.

I always end up where I started with mixed feelings about everything. Nothing is my favorite as how should I know? My illness changes my mind as I grow.

Something is constant amidst this storm. I know there is a malfunction, that much is true. Why does it relate to inequality go ahead and ask me. All is a competition, life has become a race. We run around all day seeking a bigger dream. I don’t get there and you don’t either, but why does she? Born in here, studied in there, oh that is her family? Where is my choice in all of this? Where is this leading me? Achieve and fail and fail to achieve. I ask myself why I stopped dreaming. Those images were not mine but yours, so why keep them in the first place? Illusion, delusion, materialistic being. This is not whom I should be. Why wake up and swirl like a mouse? That’s when I decided not to leave the house. I felt immense fear from life; how on earth can I win this race? Exclusion, demotion, gender roles or nationality?

TBC

When the dream catcher fails to catch all your dreams

So I went all the way to London. I am from Egypt you see, I had to pay good money for a visa, and lots more for accommodation and living expenses. One hefty sterling pound costs 23 Egyptian pounds. You get the picture.

Any-who. We travelled, out of pocket. We did everything by the book. We stayed in the nicer areas. By we I mean my husband and I, and later my sweet father. We ate out, he took me shopping. He transferred money to me weekly even though he was already paying for most of the stuff.

He isn’t a millionaire. He isn’t a business man. He is just a loving father.

Twenty five days we stayed in London. Day in day out. My husband visited every single second he had. He took me out even to the west end.

I cried in their arms and laughed some more.

I was not prepared however for what the doctor told me one fine morning.

He told me Nour you have to go home. I didn’t comprehend. What home? Like the place we are renting out here in London? No? Home as in Cairo? As in the Middle East, pyramids and all? Why!! I am following your words by the book. Doctor Zamar your words are my command like literally.

Why summon me and tell me this?

It figures the bloody Prozac is giving me horrible withdrawal symptoms. He can’t treat me with them taking place. It is nothing personal he said but rTMS won’t be efficient. Nothing would work.

His plan was to fly me home and give me back Prozac and instead of weaning me off cold turkey; to tapper it off gradually.

Trivia: do you know that they don’t sell Prozac in smaller doses than 20 mg in many countries?

Guys, people of the pharmaceutical world stop lobbying against recreational drugs and kindly start putting your **it together with psychotropics.

An Arabic word comes to mind to describe the situation “Haram”; it roughly translates to “god forbidden”.

God forbids this bullshit companies are selling to us the millions of us this shit as pain relief…

God forbids you to prescribe us shit that will literally make us want to end our lives

God forbids you from making zillions hurting us and also making us dependent on you with every cell of our body.

We don’t need strong will to quit the poison you are selling us, we need a miracle.

I was willing to undergo Electric Chock Therapy ECT- which would basically erase what is left of my poor memory- just to get rid of the effect of the antidepressant in my body. That my friend is like asking me to deep fry my hand to get rid of a mole. It is that illogical. But I was willing to; cross my heart. Doctor bless him said it would be useless.

So now after quitting dear Prozac – the sweet antidepressant that is almost given over the counter – and I swear to god given to “normal” people who just want to lose weight; I am back to square one. I am taking it again. And will reduce the dose every 10 days.

I can’t give you more feedback about my new treatment as it came to a halt.

But for the love of god, for the love of Jesus, of Moses, Mohamed, and Buddha; NEVER take antidepressants if you might be suffering from a mood spectrum disorder.

TBC

Raw on hypomania

3:15 Am, four Xanax later, one hour on SoundCloud, about 15 cigarettes, two herbal teas, some half pack of almond thins, an Instagram and a blog post published, and as sleepless as a toddler who just won’t nap.

I wake up nightly between 2 and 4 AM. It is a killer, but it is the period I feel the most creative- unstable but creative.

I can almost smell coffee, its rich and dark brewing aroma inviting me to take a cup. Just a sip. I can also see this gin tonic fresh and calling my name. I don’t want to eat, I want to binge drink! Isn’t that a word ? It is now.

I cannot have coffee or gin as a matter of fact. Doctor’s orders. No stimulation. None. No sports. Mot even hot yogaZ Not that I was your athlete or alcoholic. But still, breaking a sweat, sipping a nice drink…

If I had hold of a car now, if I knew how to drive on the “wrong side of the road” here in London, I would have gone for a cruise. The type of ride you have when you are what 19? Windows rolled down, music loud, singing along, no care in this world.

But am in my pjs, sneaking out in the cold to smoke yo my cigarette with my yogi tea and slippers with my toes freezing like a good girl.

No make up tonight. No tight dress and high heels; first no freakin tight dress would fit now and no heels in the suitcase.

But what is a woman without day dreaming? I have lipstick. I can do lipstick at 3 am or full make up if I want to.

But now the ride is coming to an end. SoundCloud is asking me “how deep is your love?” And am like you have no idea how deep is my love. My eyes are opened and I have devotion and it is bigger than the ocean.

I am making sense, don’t give me this look. Am in Ibiza but in primrose hill and that is totally fine.

Am managing my hypomania which was just suicidal ideation about 5 hours ago. Screw that, I want to be by the beach. Close my eyes, walk on the sand. I am in control of my emotions or not. I can run or swear. Heart rate is my affair. I stimulate and get stimulated as much as I need or wish or both.

Honestly. This is my first hypomanic post. Raw, unedited by my subconscious who wants me to look wise and smart. I just want to party… was it all a dream ? Back to my herbal tea

Please no excuses

Live whitest you can

TBC

Part one: On Guidelines for treating mixed episodes and rapid cycling in bipolar disorder – Beacons Of Hope: Thyroid hormone replacement and rTMS treatment.

My problem with my illness is not my illness per se, it has always been how the medical community thus far dealt with me as a series of isolated symptoms; instead of seeing me as a whole person.

Things have been moving on though. Let me tell you my story with this new treatment am on.

But before that, we have to talk diagnosis. We have to talk guidelines. We have to talk knowledge.

Looking back, the past three weeks seem like months.

My beloved husband researched and researched my condition over and over again. He wouldn’t surrender or admit that I won’t get better. He believed that there is a way out and that I could be cured. At least he told me “let’s have the honor of trying”, bless his pure heart.

Less than three weeks ago I was self admitted to another mental health hospital. I left the very same day. Surprise! Though practically no one understood, everyone accepted, believing I had some internal compass that points to truth. In fact, I was too restless for a single room and too “aware” to stay in a ward.

In a parallel world my husband had found a doctor in London at the London Psychiatry Centre who had very convincing arguments saying that he could treat my condition. In fact he already successfully helped hundreds like me. This brilliant man is called Doctor Andy Zamar. His attitude, bedside manners, and ultimate responsiveness to his patients make him deserve my deepest respect regardless of the outcome of my ongoing treatment. He doesn’t believe in the status quo and he bothers to read what

have written before him.

We first had a FaceTime consultation during which he made me read some research he had gathered regarding bipolar disorder. Specifically, he wanted me to read in black and white as he said how wrong it is to take antidepressants when one has a mood disorder. He made me read out loud the Maudsley Prescribing Guidelines in Psychiatry for those suffering of rapid cycling. It said loud and clear to “withdraw antidepressants in all patients”.

That my friend is an interesting finding. I have been given antidepressants by the medical community that treated me in the past three years. In 2017 Effexor led me to the emergency room trying to quit it as it was impossibly painful to deal with its withdrawal symptoms. Mind you it was done under medical supervision. But that is another story.

Later on in 2018 I began self medication when I quit lithium by myself – which interestingly I discovered does not work on its own in my particular case as per the guidelines. It has also lots of side effects I could not deal with. So I self medicated and started Prozac 20 mg for 7 months. I did that because I thought it would be a safety net that won’t let me fall into deep depression.

I was wrong, I couldn’t have done myself more harm unknowingly. I did rise into hypomania which inevitably led me to deep depression. When I went to see doctors just before meeting Dr Zamar, they advised and prescribed an increase in Prozac to 40 mg and this is when hell broke loose.

Doctor Zamar diagnosed me then with ultra rapid cycling bipolar disorder otherwise unclassified. I had hypomania turbo charged, as he explained with depressive content. Talk about suicidal thoughts!

Again I read during our call what described my state. Doctor Zamar was not reinventing the wheel. The paper is called Melancholia Agitata and Mixed Depression [Koukopoulos et al. Acta Psychiatr Scand 2007: 116 (Suppl. 433): 50-57. The paper is more that 10 years old!!

So on page 52 here is the “clinical picture of agitated depression” – it was describing me in a nutshell …

Melancholia Agitata and Mixed Depression
Melancholia Agitata and Mixed Depression p.52

So people someone was saying why I was committing suicide in ink…

Check this out

Melancholia Agitata and Mixed Depression
Melancholia Agitata and Mixed Depression p 53.

The last time Doctor Zamar prescribed antidepressants was in 2004. Say what you may. But isn’t it a million percent better to be safe than sorry?

This is a heavy post I know.

My final words are those of hope. Now that we know what not to do, the action he proposed is derived from new research based on thyroid replacement therapy and rTMS.

The treatment combo am doing is that I take on one side Olanzapine known as Zyprexa which is an atypical antipsychotic that is supposed to calm my hypomania.

Secondly I do rTMS or Repetitive Transcranial MagneticStimulation; a treatment that not only has enormous success rates for treating depression but it is virtually side effect free.

Last but not least, Doctor Zamar is using Precision Medecine Nd treating me as a person. We do weekly ECGs and blood tests. He takes my side effects seriously and he doesn’t brush them under the table. He listens. Mind you this post could sound like praise to him, which it is. But listen my friend, it is to everyone of us working with people. Stop being an ear and nose doctor and look at true bloody person you are treating.

At this clinic they do take swabs to send for genetic testing to stop wasting your time. As their website says there is no “one size fits all”. Genetic makeup therefore is very important in deciding treatment, knowing what works and what won’t and also knowing what would be tolerated. In psychiatry this saves light years.

I will be staying explaining in my following post the thyroid replacement therapy.Meanwhile I urge you to read this beautiful hopeful article published on their blog: Bipolar News – Millions could benefit from bipolar breakthrough #worldfirst

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

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

You are not the problem; you are the solution

I have been away from writing for a while. It was a period of re-evaluation. I needed time to gather my thoughts before I share them with you.

Today, I want to talk about living in the now. I want to talk about living without fear. I want to talk about hope…

I want to talk about waking up without wanting the day to end. I want to tell you that it’s possible to enjoy life even if circumstances are not ideal.

I want to share with you today my insight about a previously feared decision that I was very hesitant to make.

I was hesitant to live.

My fear blocked me. Doubt was consuming me inside out. I didn’t like the present (my illness) , I regretted the past (my recent diagnosis with depression and bipolar disorder, my genes, my upbringing…), and worried incessantly about the future (relapses, pain, facing myself or even another day).

This topic was my obsession. I thought of nothing but bipolar disorder. I was not sick with the disease, I was the disease itself. I couldn’t put a distance between me and “it”. Bipolar was the boss of me, and I didn’t know any better.

Little by little my dissatisfaction with the situation kept building up. It was sort of an unconscious rebellion surfacing. With hindsight, I understand why I opposed certain hospitalizations and certain drugs or doctors. I refused over and over again to be numbed. Because when I get numb, I forget why I am in this situation in the first place.

I knew something was amiss.

The healing system I surrendered to was treating my symptoms and not my illness.

Traditional psychiatry attempted to take my pain away without telling me that I will also lose myself in the process.

I have been aware for a while that my condition is psychological but to a big big extent also physiological.

I couldn’t accept that my childhood, no matter how sad it was could still affect me some 30 years later. I couldn’t accept that moving from one country to another is enough of a reason to have me sedated by force while I was trying to escape from the ICU after a suicide attempt.

What couldn’t they see? What is being told to me by this suffering? Why is my family witnessing this? Is it all coincidence? Is it all in vain? I was a mental health practitioner at some point, how could I be the patient now? What happened to me???

As my rebellion became my revolution, I weaned myself off drugs. But that was only the beginning. Slowly my cognitive abilities came back. Not all, I still have memory blockage, or loss. I lack concentration sometimes too. But in general I can tell you with confidence that this is my brain. Those are my feelings. This is my reality.

I began to put 2 and 2 together and made some parallels- and those made and still make sense to me. They might not be universal truths; but is there such a thing?

I thought that each hospitalization began with a series of blood tests. Why do they keep on saying that there is no bio marker for mental illness!! A lie. A big fat ugly lie.

I don’t know about you, but I would rather have a half truth than none at all. The medical community has knowledge about biological, pure physiological imbalances that accompany depression, or any illness to that end.

People just take the easy track and stop investigating, or they don’t want to claim responsibility. Tell me why is my sedimentation rate (ESR) abnormal? Why is my vitamin D so low? Why is my thyroid imbalanced? Why did I bleed for weeks with no end between my periods staining every surface I touched before I was diagnosed? Hormones anyone? My ferritin was low, my proteins were in the wrong values. Soon after I started treatment I began to have bad cholesterol. Is my mother the reason for all that? Or is it rainy Paris? Or maybe my then 2 extra kilograms?

I was prescribed “vitamins and supplements” yes, but no one ever told me that they would be key in healing me if taken religiously and monitored regularly. I was told not to miss my antipsychotics, my antidepressants, my anxiolytics; those drugs that alienated me further and further from me, from those around me and most importantly from the truth.

I was told I need to play sports and bathe when I was pinned to my bed by drugs. Yes yes, exercise is good for depression. Not once was I told that there is a link between what goes into my body (food yes food!) and my physical or psychological condition.

Not once was meditation mentioned. Not once was yoga mentioned. Not once was even coloring-in mandalas brought up. Just take the drugs and come back for more. I was offered psychotherapy, but I didn’t give it much importance then. I think now it was because I felt to a huge degree that talking about my problems wouldn’t make them disappear.

I realized that no matter the good will around me is, no one would help me but me. I decided to take charge of my life.

At 38, I finally decided to become an adult.

I will listen to the medical community orthodox or not, because yes they do have insight. But most importantly, I will now forward listen to myself. I started to believe in me. I started to believe in my cognitive abilities surfacing and my instinct.

I knew I am no longer Bipolar Disorder. I am Me.

Simply put I began to circle around the idea of inflammation. I knew that illness meant imbalance and imbalance was often caused by inflammation. I also thought that inflammation is not only physical but psychological. I thought I would enforce a way of doing – a way of living – that is anti inflammatory.

When you are ready, the stars align. Without being esoteric, when you buy a red car you start seeing red cars all around you. When you brain focuses on a certain topic, you see it in plenitude.

I began to dig for links and for alternative remedies. I found that others – plenty of others- think the same. I hadn’t given alternative ways a serious thought before. Cancer healed by pure will and some plants? Yeah right!

I think that if you want to go alternative and drive off road, you cannot pick and chose. It has to be integral or better still systematic. Again that is me talking not science.

So it figures that turmeric or curcuma is a miracle drug that treats a wide range of problems relating to inflammation. It figures that I need to treat my candida problem that has been an integral part of my life for the past 10 plus years if I want to heal. Not one, not a single medical authority wanted to establish this link; as if I had several bodies or as if my organs were not related and living in the same ecosystem.

It figures there is a link. And yes, essential oils do work if taken long enough and right enough. It seems that the liver needs a proper cleanse to get rid of all the bad stuff we feed ourselves all the time. Otherwise healing would be in vain.

It figures that sugar and gluten can also be part of the problem, feeding regularly the inflammatory machine. The more you eat it, the more inflamed your body will be, and the more you will crave it. Funny, I consumed jar after jar of jam before my first hospitalization; a food that I truly dislike.

Activities are also inflammatory. Sitting hours in traffic jams is inflammatory. Dealing with negative people and draining meaningless tasks is inflammatory. Going for a walk is anti inflammatory and so is listening to music. Playing with the kids is anti inflammatory; trying to prove that I am right all the time is inflammatory. You get my point.

None of that would work alone. It is a system. A wholistic system that you create and you alone- it has to make sense to you.

The knowledge is there. I am no genius and you don’t have to be one.

We went through hell and back – all of us. Whether you lost a child, a limb, a job, or financial security. You are unhappy because you chose to define yourself as a problem. I Am The One without a Mother. I Am Bipolar Disorder. I am Divorce. I am Unemployment. I am Obesity.

While doing that we forget all the other things that we are, or aren’t! Yes you could be bipolar and it is sad, but you are so much more than that. And you are not so many other bad bad things.

The truth is there is always better; but mind you there is always worse.

So let us take a leap of faith and try to breath it out.

Say it out loud with me

I am not my illness, I am me.

I know this is not an ideal situation, but there is no such a thing.

I know I cannot control tomorrow, but thinking about it constantly won’t change a thing;

When I need help I will ask for it, but I am in charge of my existence;

I live for a reason; and that reason is to understand and free myself from suffering;

I am as happy today as I could ever be….

I beg you please to listen to yourself. Listen to your body. You are not the problem: You are the solution.

Bless

TBC

On hormones and bipolar disorder

Like a silent mantra I tell myself I am better. I tend not to think of the future in any upsetting way. I try to remember to breath and sense the air filling up my lungs, releasing magical oxygen that fights any little stress bubble there might be.

I focus on what is, what I have now, the moment. I don’t think in terms of ambitions or dreams or hopes. I make to do lists. Simple ones of course. I try to remain connected. I pick up my phone; actually I call my friends.

I am present with my children. I plan activities for them, and actively participate. I think about my whole family and remember how much they mean to me everyday. I enjoy my husband and always know that I am very lucky to be in love and to be loved by this amazing person.

Silently, like clouds gathering midday, I feel a change is coming. It is from within. I can tell that colors are not as vivid as they were a few moments ago. I repeat the mantra with hope knowing that everything shall pass. I resist seeing the faded colors and try to see them as bright as they were moments ago.

It works sometimes. The sky might meanwhile clear up, and things get back as sharp as they were. Sometimes it doesn’t though. The clouds keep on gathering and it gets darker. I remember to breath and try to send my magical oxygen around to stop these sad bubbles from forming. Sometimes it works…

When it doesn’t, I take my time. Nothing is eternal I repeat. Though I know that being active helps a lot in fighting depression, I give myself a break. I do as much as my body and my mind allow me. I don’t surrender. If a burst of energy comes, I get up and act.

Yet I also switch to energy saving mode. The mode I know best. It is what made me survive so far. I could stay still for hours, and sleep the day away. It upsets me because I feel I should know better. I remember the routine I need to follow everyday and stick to a minimum.

Like an hourglass, I feel precious particles are slipping away. Is it time passing that bothers me? Is it my lethargy building up? Is it my fear of what might be if this doesn’t change fast?

Yet, I try not to complicate things. Or do I not?

My psychiatrist told me that I should observe my cycle as it might be affecting my mood. I have been doing that and she is actually right. I had always thought of PMS as a mild passing condition that deserves no more attention than some chocolate and a hot water bottle.

I was wrong. My hormonal changes affect me big time. I don’t even know if that is PMS. I have noticed for a few cycles the following pattern. I would have a few days with a lot of energy and a decreased need for sleep. Then this would be followed by low energy and too much sleep. Mood wise, I would be up then totally down.

But now I know that these are the effects of my hormones. These almost drove me to suicide a few months ago. I had no idea they could be that powerful.

Come to think about it, it is not that strange. Hormones change us from children to adults. Without them we would not be able to reproduce, the human race as we know it would simply end. We wouldn’t even know if we are hungry or cold…

I decided to read a bit more on the subject to see if my theory is right. I remember clearly that before my illness I had suffered from severe bleeding for a few months – on and off; more on really. After a hormonal treatment, bleeding ceased and depression came in full blown.

After a basic search, that is what I found out. Hormones happen to be essential for transmitting chemical messages throughout the body. They circulate in our blood, going from one place to another. Like neurotransmitters – those chemical particles responsible for sending messages to and from our brain – hormones work closely with the hypothalamus a gland that is extremely important to our survival.

This little guy is a very powerful component of our brain. It works on so many functions but mostly its main job is to help the body achieve homeostasis- a balance where things are healthy and coordinated.

Guess what! The hypothalamus is big time related to Bodily Rhythms, and those are super responsible for setting off a bipolar episode. Our sleep cycle for one affects our mood and can be a major source of stress. Also what I learned is that the hypothalamus (with the help of hormones and neurotransmitters as well as the immune system) creates what is called Seasonal Rhythms; our reaction to the amount of daylight in each season. Many complain of having worsened depression symptoms as fall approaches; and many feel better for no logical reason as day becomes longer in spring and summer.

Both Social and Bodily Rhythms create for each individual what is called Social Rhythms. These are our routines that we build starting first thing in the morning, till we fall asleep at night. It also includes our interaction with people. How well we function socially that is.

So bipolarity is super complex. What sets off one episode varies greatly from one person to another. Biology plays a major part in all this and it is good to know that. If I could only talk to my hypothalamus; I would say Your Highness; would you be so kind to give me a break?

If only I could see my hypothalamus and all the little complex connections it receives and sends all day long, maybe I could find the faulty one and fix it.

I feel like my hypothalamus is a bomb and I need a squad to deactivate it. Pull the wrong fuse and Bam! Yes I heard this noise a time too many.

Perhaps I am not responsible for the dysfunction in my brain. I am responsible for how I choose to react to that dysfunction.

I called my psychiatrist today to make an appointment.

I will end my post with my favorite prayer; the serenity prayer.

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

Bless

TBC