Lessons I’ve learned

December 5th, 2010

I wanted to share some lessons that I’ve learned over the years. I must admit I have judge others only to fall on my butt and be in the same situation.

I remember during my 20’s, a co-worker had to take a 1 month leave of absence due to major depression. He was a friend and I feel guilty about it now, but I was thinking that’s BS I want a 1 month holiday! Fast forward to 2007 after being diagnosed with bipolar, I had to go on long term disability for an 8 month “vacation”. Being on leave for mental health concerns is no vacation. It included a lot of heartache and hard work. Lesson learned.

When people would complain that they didn’t have the time and/or energy to exercise, I would think to myself  I go to the gym 5 days a week and horseback ride 6 days a week. I always felt that I was just better at time management and was more driven than the average person. After my diagnosis in 2007, I remember telling my friend that I’m tired after going to the gym 4x a week.  Her response was that’s “normal”. I finally got it; when I was doing all those activities before it was partly from the hypomania and it was partly because my mind was continuously racing.  The riding and the gym would silence my racing mind. Do I know why people say they’re too tired to exercise? Yes.

I was extremely good at money management. It was one of my obsessions. David Bach and Suze Orman were 2 of my favorite authors. I would see my friend struggling with paying off credit cards and I would think wow she needs to get her money under control. In 2008 I had been on LTD for 8 months. The reduced pay and no expense check was a huge pay cut. During that time instead of reducing my spending I continued to spend the same. When I finally got back to work I had gained 60 lbs from the medication and was feeling very uncomfortable with my body. I self soothed by spending money on clothes to hide my body. It didn’t hide anything and the amount I spent on clothes I could have gotten liposuction. Add this to a couple of hypomanic episodes and I had to get a $65,000 consolidation loan. Do I now understand how people get in financial difficulties?  Yes.

As soon as I got into horseback riding at 14 I have been thin and athletic. I ate healthy, but I  never had to worry about my weight. I would hear people complain about weight issues and I would think why don’t you just eat less and exercise. After my diagnosis a couple of the medications I was prescribed caused me to gain a lot of weight in a short period of time.  I had tried everything to try to get this weight off including hiring a trainer at $60/hour twice a week for 6 months. Nothing made the weight budge. I have only recently started to loose the weight, but this was after a medication change.  Do I understand what it’s like to struggle with weight? Yes.

Through these lessons I empathize more with others. I hope they will do the same with me. Thanks for reading.

Therapy

October 24th, 2010

When I was first diagnosed with bipolar I was “checked into” a Psychiatric Hospital. After I was discharged I was given the opportunity to participate in an intensive group therapy program that ran from November to March, Monday to Friday; 8 hours a day. The program’s cost is covered by our Provincial Health plan. I was on  medical leave  and my Psychiatrist wanted me to do this program, so I was given a referral to take it.

The first day of “school” I was very nervous. The group is made up of 12 people in my phase (phase 1) and 12 people in phase 2 (who had started the program before us). I was told ahead of time that no one in my immediate group was diagnosed with bipolar, but everyone in the group had some sort of mental illness.

During the second week we had an exercise in one of Dr. S’s groups to draw a picture of a rose bush. I am a TERRIBLE artist, but we all just laughed about it. Then we had to put our pictures in the center of our circle and each group member had to comment on the picture. The group members were all very kind about my picture because I had won them over with my charm and good humor LOL! Dr. S was the last person to comment on my picture there was a long pause and his trademark smirky smile came across his face. He announced “Hiding Something”.

I didn’t like what Dr. S had said and I immediately was ready to go into battle with him on why I am the most open and direct person he would ever meet. Why did I get mad? Because I was hiding something and he was right. During therapy I was putting on a facade and wasn’t willing to get down to the guts of my issues. I wasn’t willing to show weakness in front of these people and tell some of my childhood horror stories . It didn’t matter that it happened when I was a child, I still felt I had to put this tough person front. That was my shield and often is to this day.

That night I went home and really thought about what Dr. S said. I decided I had 2 options I could be a seat warmer in therapy or I could actually do the work and dig up this crap in my past. The next day I brought my shovel.

Thanks for reading.

My Bipolar Diagnosis

August 24th, 2010

2007 I declared would be “Year of Beth”. I was feeling grrrrreat! I told my friends that this would be my year. My year to take my career to the next level. My year to take my relationship to the next level. My year to……well you get the picture. I know now that I was in a  hypomanic episode and as those diagnosed know what goes up must come down and boy did I go down.

By June, I was in a full blown major depression. I couldn’t “snap out of it”. Everything that worked in the past wasn’t working anymore. I had never felt this horrible. I was useless at work. The simplest reports I couldn’t do any more. All day I would just open and close files on my computer, but I couldn’t write anything.

By August I went to my GP. I remember being in the waiting room for about an hour and thinking everyone knew I was depressed. I didn’t do depression. I looked at it as a sign of weakness and I didn’t want to be weak. When my GP walked into the examination room I burst into tears. He was shocked. He always saw me as happy go lucky Beth; full of drive and a great sense of humor.  I was a blubbering mess. He is a great doctor and took the time to talk to me; then prescribed me a SSRI anti-depressant and scheduled another appointment the following week. I was already planning my exit from life, but I thought the anti-d’s would save me. It actually made things worse.

Throughout August I tried unsuccessfully to off myself. The last attempt would have worked, but I was found and was taken to the local Psychiatric Hospital. I was committed……I’ve saved the papers. I don’t know what to do with them, but I feel I needed to save them. Kinda like saving tickets to a great concert, but not. My Psychiatrist explained I would need to spend the night on the Emergency ward because there were no beds available on the “lock down” ward. It was an actual padded room and I was locked in. Security would accompany the nurses when they checked my vitals; gave me my meds etc. I should have been humiliated, but I was past that. The next afternoon I went to lock down. Not a fun ward and I hope I never have to go back. By my last day I was in a full blown mixed episode and felt like I had lost my mind. I sobbed to my Psychiatrist that I felt like I was an animal in a zoo with no enrichment. I was not well.

The following week on Monday, I had been on the open ward for 3 days. I woke up at 7 am and I felt GRRREAT! I signed out my hair dryer; straightening iron; did my hair and FULL face of make-up. Very necessary for a patient staying on a psychiatric ward. The nurses were all pleased. “How great Beth your doctor is going to be soooo happy.” I told my friends that I would be getting out by the end of the week.

I met with my Psychiatrist and told her how great I felt. She responded that this was good, but she wanted to keep an eye on it since there is bipolar in my family. I told her no problem, but I knew I didn’t have bipolar. Progressively through the week I started to get irritable. I chalked this up to me being better and I didn’t need to be locked up anymore. My natural character is to be very compassionate to others, but I started getting snappy with other patients. I told my friend that it was because I couldn’t be around THESE negative people.

By Friday I woke up at 6 am and signed out my cell phone. I was a volunteer with Big Brothers and Sisters and had missed my weekend with my “Little Sister”. That morning at 6 am felt like the perfect time to call my little sister’s social worker and leave her a message on why I didn’t show up. It was a horrible message. I rambled. One of the lines was “I’m in the hospital, but don’t worry I’m not dying”. Two hours later I had come back down to earth and I was mortified. My Psychiatrist was at the front desk on the ward and I walked up to her and said I felt “Coo Coo”. She asked what do you mean? All I could explain was that I felt “Coo Coo.”

That night I was taken off the anti-depressants and I was given the dreaded peach pill (Lithium). My mom has bipolar, so I knew what my Psychiatrist thought I had. My Psychiatric Hospital stay was 6 weeks. Do I see depression or any other mental illness as being weak? Definitely not. It takes a lot of courage to reach out for help and I just about died from trying to suffer in silence. I will not do that again.

Thanks for reading. Beth