The power of unconditional love

Love has many facades and could be expressed in so many ways. In the name of love you we do so many great things and we also commit so many mistakes. When do you know you are truly loved? When do you know you are in love?

I learned the meaning of unconditional love with my father. He is the one who taught me what it is, not by saying anything in particular, but by doing, during my 40 years of being his daughter.

You know as much as I do that we don’t choose to which family we are born to. In fact, I would not want it any differently. I would do it over and over again, with all the bad and ugly – just to meet my father.

So you guessed it. Today’s post is about him. It is his birthday, and beyond any gift I want him to read my words ‘ I love you and thank you for being who you are. You are perfection’.

The power of unconditional love that my father bestowed upon me meant a whole more than just feeling good about myself. It meant a whole circle of positivity and love.

It meant that I saw the world inherently as a good place. His way of doing with me and with everyone else taught me to try, at least try, and be less judgmental. He showed me what it is to always put myself in the other person’s shoes and to throw no stones.

Giving has no end when you know him. His generosity is not just with gifts and financial support. It is with words, time and dedication. One of his famous sayings to me when I was little was ‘I am next to you as much as you want me to be’.

His radiation of calmness day in day out has enabled me to be his friend and he became my confidant. There is nothing I cannot tell him. But that is not the point. The thing is he will never judge me, or anyone else for that matter. He has the power of unconditional love. When you are at your lowest you will still feel human and capable of good when you are beside him.

Perhaps one of the aspects that marks me the most about my father, is how he really cares about the development of others around him. He spared and spares no occasion to find a way to send a message across subtly. He would take you for walks for hours and tell you tales ranging from Ancient Greek mythology, passing through psychology, history of religion, to modern physics. He will talk to you about yogis and sufis; scientists and prophets; the self and organic horticulture. But he will talk a little bit more about non-duality, and you will get confused, and you will feel your mind stretching like you were doing algebra. But all along you will be mesmerized and you will never want him to stop.

In the power of his unconditional love I was able to come to terms with many wounds in my childhood and beyond. This would never have been possible without his patience and ability to listen, to forgive and help me forgive myself.

In the power of his unconditional love I am learning to become a parent, and a person. I also learned one of the most important lessons of all: to love and respect myself.

Because of all his love I was able to depend on him many many days and nights during my illness and and also during my wellness.

I wish you a year filled with joy and peace of mind. Always young at heart and going strong! Happy birthday ❤️

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.

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…

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

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/

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

The concept of time and depression

Yet another day unfolding, yet another 24 hours to kill. I wonder why we have to kill time when time sometimes kills us.

I used to break the day into sections; before, during and after my kids’ school. Now for a couple of days it is a continuum. I am not only fighting my illness, my side effects, but time.

Till when will this be? Till when shall I sit and watch life go by? Please do not tell me it shall pass.

You know when you are in love and talk to someone who has never experienced it? This exactly the same, they would understand you more on a “theoretical” level than on a real one.

I would do just fine if I was certain that this would end. You see I don’t mind being incapacitated by my condition- I want only to know if it my prognosis.

I lost trust in medication as much as I lost trust in doctors.

My best solution is to wait for these two weeks to be over. I just need the drugs to work – if they do. I will go back to bed now. At least I forced myself to change and to have a shower.

TBC

A call for help…. I can’t beat Sunday

I thought with the new treatment I am following, that I will manage my feelings better on weekends.

It is unfortunate that nothing makes the weekend tolerable. Not my best friends coming for a surprise visit, not me going on a weekend with my family, not me getting help with another nanny specially for that, nothing works.

Please someone tell me if they feel the same like me. It is driving me insane and I have lost all ability to make myself feel better.

The monster and I

Anger is a monster whose main duty is to scare you…

It comes at night, when everything and everyone is quite…

It has big claws and red eyes, it wants you to look at it, so that you tremble and fall…

At this point you would expect that the story would turn around, and the monster will be chased far far away…

No, my monster, my anger eats me up and makes me eat up and we struggle every night. No one wins, well it mostly wins with me taking my sleeping pill that sometimes only works for a few hours. I wake up, and it is still there with red eyes staring into mine challenging me to go into battle. I know I will lose sooner or later.

So far I have kept my promise of not harming myself. But the struggle with the anger monster keeps me alive but am dead really. Nothing matters anymore. I want to eternally sleep and I have to keep my eyes opened – reminds me of a scene where Donald Duck sticks up matches in his eyes not to fall asleep.

So till when will this battle go on, and what will happen when I have no more hunger to eat to keep my eyes opened? What kind of anger will I come up with? Will it be against me? I sorely hope so. And how strong will it be, crescendo or a volcano? Will I harm myself? Will I feel this tearing up between my promise and the fantasy of death? What is this spectrum of mood disorders and where do I stand? Am I evolving forward towards a more developed syndrome? I cannot honestly answer the latest question with anything but yes.

I passed through a hell of a night, but I kept alive. The fridge and I talked together like good old best friends. You see it helps me fight the monster. I looked at myself in the mirror while passing from one room to another. I saw my reflection: I was the monster. My eyes were shot red, my hair all over the place, my skin grey…

Yet I was alive. But this is a small fake victory – for am not alive no more than the monster is real.

I am an insane mother and this monster cannot hurt my little ones. I will not allow it, alive or dead….

I know how to fake it with my children. I only do not know how much longer I will be able to do this…

But I will do it till there is nothing left of me – or in this state (a lot) if you get what I mean.

I make no sense at all, even those around me find me nonsensical. I am one day seeking hospitalization, the second minute am cracking my head against the wall to get out.

I am scared from the monster, for that monster is nothing but my own mind….

TBC

When you are denied suicide

As the droplets of rain fall onto my swollen feet, I wonder about the meaning of existence…

What does existence mean I ask in t his suffering? I gained 5 kilos in 2 days. That is a reflection of the anger and irritation inside of me.

When the grey sky looks down upon me, I wish I did not make promises of any kind to anyone.

Existence is so painful. That is the phrase that keeps repeating itself in my mind. With my swollen feet, I walk with shame around the house.

I want to shut the curtains and cover the mirrors. Yet, I can still see myself with my eyes closed, I suffer in silence.

If I am to scream, I would be voiceless. I am drained. I am a mass of depression roaming the house with clothes that ache from holding on to my ever growing body. I wonder how they manage to do it!

My body, my mind, my bipolarity are insanity. Insanity is a state of mind where nothing is logical or meaningful anymore.

A promise kept at the dark alley of a mental hospital to stay alive is the only thing to which I am holding. I do not even think I am helpable (new word)

I feel like red ridding hood, in a dark ugly forest with someone showing me the way to avoid being hurt by the wolf. I am now alone with my fears with no medical help to avoid this wolf of suicide and depression. Maybe the sounds of the ambulances I rode were not so bad. Maybe the million questions asked by the paramedics before being reanimated are not too difficult to answer. Maybe just the fact of voiding myself and putting the responsibility of being alive on someone else’s skills is not that stupid after all.

Just a vow to stay alive. My only wish is for this vow to be kept. No, I am lying, my only wish is that something not of my doing happens to me to alleviate this pain by ending the source of it: my mind. Maybe falling into a coma would be achieving both goals: staying alive and shutting off my mind if I am lucky.

The only hope is that when I end, all this suffering will end with me. Otherwise, it will be the biggest farce humanity has ever faced.

Unfortunately TBC

5 Ways to make your bipolar day pass without biting your nails

Today I am writing about one easy technique to shift your mind from facing racing thoughts, of even black ones. This worked well for me yesterday, and maybe it would work for you too.

Basically, I put my nice pjs (the ones that look like a training suit) and my nice coat on and hit the road. I had company, which had was great, but I could have done it alone to. So why is this would be good for you?

1- makes you get out of bed: Yet you do not need to take off your pjs if you planned it well the night before – don’t over do it. Getting out, I think is an essential tool for healing. First of all, you have to think about stupid things like crossing the street. You also despite your illness and foggy mind, start noticing people: a pair of purple shoes, a child with a dinosaur helmet, a woman with a chapka on her head…. (probably me)

Chapka hat, why not?

2- It gets your find an aim: I think a major problem I have is finding goals- no matter how small or useless – to fill up my day. I wake up and if you’d see my expression it is somewhere between a story dog and a toddler learning to walk. Well, I look weird and feel even stranger. I have say at least 12 hours to fill before the blissful sleeping pill is taken. So going out with your phone to find pictures that relate to your “illness” is great! It makes you feel important, like you are some artist on a mission for a new project they are taking on.

Bipolar is everywhere - credit of thought to dear father Ahmed Loutfy

3-It diverts your attention: Not to be confused with the previous point. When you focus on something, usually your brain forgets what it was thinking about the second before. I make this assumption even if your brain is completely coucou like mine. I have a rule of thumb, if it happens once, it can happen again. Guess what, while taking meaningless pictures across Paris with my father, I forgot being bipolar by totally being bipolar. Tricky right? I mean the importance of your state of mind is shifted to what your current state of mind can do. Hope you get it better now.

Nothing is perfect

4-You start taking hold of your destiny: Yes you are still crazy and your mood shifts from one minute to the other – I wonder how you are actually reading me now. Anyway, when you walk, you have to choose which way to go. You can keep going straight, yes true- but it is still a choice. Medication, psychotherapy sessions, visits to your psychiatric, you will do all this but with little to say. Taking this precious iPhone (fine you can take your Samsung either but not sure it would work as well) makes you the captain of the ship. The ship my friend is you.

Do you really want eggs?

5- Might be a useful exit in social situation: If you ever find yourself in a situation where you have to answer the famous “So, what do you do?” Or “What is your passion”? There, in their faces, you got your pictures, you are an artist. It is actually a bit more complex that this. I think taking pictures helps you shape your identity. Now, I would like to find one bipolar pal who doesn’t need this.

Define your identity by trying out things