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.

What does self-care actually mean?

I talked in my last post about self-care and its importance to mental health and well-being:

Today I would like to elaborate a little bit and dig deeper and try to tell you what I really mean by this concept.

Superficially, self-care is really simple to understand. It entails taking care of yourself. If you google the term you will find diagrams and articles giving examples of self-care including eating well, good sleeping habits, going for a walk, listening to music, and so on… Basically, it is about any action you do to take care of yourself.

I of course agree with all of the above. Who wouldn’t? But I like to stretch the concept a little bit more to include some other essential elements to our well-being that we tend to overlook.

Self Care is about Self Acceptance, Self Forgiveness, and Self Love.

Self-care is also essentially about self-acceptance, self-forgiveness, and self-love.

If we don’t accept, forgive and love ourselves we will not be able to truly care and mend our wounds, and ultimately start unfolding to meet our true self.

My new year’s resolutions, my goals, were almost never achievable not just because I lacked the will and the motivation to reach them. I discovered it was because I was rarely true and honestly accepting where I was at; I was not forgiving myself for my “mistakes” and I was judging myself for “lagging behind”. I didn’t love myself wholeheartedly and doubted that I could ever achieve anything.

We also get dragged and pulled by negativity right and left. We are consumed by toxins and more importantly by toxic relationships. We spend hours tending to these tasks while we could be using this vital life energy on our beings.

Self Care is about using our intelligence and intellect; our senses and sensibilities.

Self-care is about using our intelligence and intellect; our senses and sensibilities. We know down deep inside what we need to develop; what capacities we lack in order to become stronger and more complete.

I discovered along the way that my anxiety would reduce exponentially when I would “work” on myself away from the attacks. I had to accept me and forgive me and love me.

Another attack was bound to happen. Anxiolytics had to be stopped – they were threatening my life; I was becoming “addicted”. At the time, pain equaled pill: it was unbearable.

Putting thoughts into compartments helped me a lot. I blocked the negative energy coming from outside. I protected myself. I set boundaries. This is very important in self-care and it is not selfishness.

Along with compartmentalization, prioritizing, labeling my emotions, and repeating that I want to be happy and that I can be happy were all part of the package.

I repeat that I am under treatment and that I am very lucky that I found a good one that works for me. The final result would not have been possible without it.

But for months during my illness I suffered from severe brain fog. I was not able to think clearly. It was the residue of all the bad chemicals in my system – yes even after I quit them. It was the strangest feeling. Still deep under the person was still there; the process was in place.

The real you is always there. Your beautiful self is there, whispering and waiting to be heard.

I am telling you this because no matter where you are at now in your journey it is never too late or too early. Despite the heavy meds you are taking, despite the pain and the rejection you are feeling towards yourself: you can stop, assess and reconsider.

The same goes if you just feel that you are not in-synch with yourself. If you feel you are unhappy, starting a mild depression. Stop. Assess and reconsider.

I invite you not to wait till it bubbles up into something that becomes more organic and more difficult to manage.

“There is no higher or lower goal. There is only one goal, Self-Realization”

Meher BABA [The Answer 26]

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. ”

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/