Summary

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I havent been here. I dont know why I havent, exactly, but I think its because this episode was filled with agitation more than depression, and it was too hard to concentrate to write. ive been in this state for 3 months now, so no writing came.  I cant promise what will come from here, but the agitation has mostly simmered.  For now, this is my mental illness oriented summary of June, for my future self


June was the third month of my mixed episode with psychotic features. It started in April, just before visiting Joe. April was filled mainly with anxiety attacks, panic, inability to function, and severe agoraphobia, with some low low periods. I worsened considerably throughout May, experiencing extreme heightened sensory experiences (like sounds being too loud and jumbled together, inability to parse sound, and very bright visual colors), as well as one brief psychotic-like episode where I felt like the universe was comforting me through the radio in a grocery store. I was severely agitated throughout May and into the first half of June. May was the height of my mixed episode features. I started a symptom tracker book in a bit of a frenzy, trying to find a pattern in my symptoms so I could somehow stop them. This was a grandiose idea, but I do find it very beneficial right now.

Near the beginning of June I started anti psychotic medication which helped significantly to calm things down. Things began to improve from there, but I was still having down days and occasionally being completely out of it (molasses or extreme agitation). Recently I was given sleep meds which seem to be getting me a solid 8 hours for now.

I have been living with Mom and Dad since May and will likely remain here for a few weeks (if not more) of July. Having the constant social contact helped a lot, and Mom and Dad are always a good support system. I am comfortable here and afraid to leave. My friends havent really been in the picture except for Brandon, who was really the only one who noticed something was wrong when I disappeared.

I started the stats class I need to complete in order to start grad school in the fall, and I’m managing most days, though the timeline is extremely tight now, given the late start. Its stressful, but also nice to be focusing on my brain function in a positive way again.

Jeff and Brandy had a Eleanor (Nori) on June 29th, and she is healthy and very very cute. Im still figuring out how to transition home, be helpful for J&B and the kids, but also not set myself back. There have been days where I couldn’t be near people- even them- and had to hide in the dark. I don’t want Wes and Lucy to see that or feel that from me, so managing that is my main concern about moving home. I’m super close with Wes right now, mostly because he seems to enjoy being around me more than Lucy, but I’m trying to be there for them both, and now nori too.

In short, June was still having the sawtooth up and downs, but the ups lasted a bit longer and the downs didn’t go so far down, and slowly I think I’m getting better. I also became an aunt again, which Im sure will feel more real in a few days. There’s been progress, but not perfection, which is my new motto to strive for.

I’ve gone through the worst and I’m climbing my way out, one bit at a time.

Dear Joe

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I’ve always wondered who you imagine me to be, in your head. Because much like I know you mostly through mom and dads recaps, reading abstracts of your scientific papers and vague childhood memories combined with yearly visits with screaming children at the forefront, I know it cant be very accurate. I know from the last visit that you don’t really understand much of what’s wrong with me, or how that impacts my life, and really, I don’t either. But what has become clear is that your mental version of me has little to do with the reality of my life right now. I wonder if the same is true for me with you?

I was put on thorazine recently, because sounds became louder than they were, louder than they could be, louder than any single thing and instead a chorus of many. Colors got brighter, brighter, brighter, until the ceiling started to look pink and it got a bit unnerving.

Thorazine is an anti psychotic medication, with the benefit of being an extreme tranquilizer as a side effect. Its always hard to say how much of these things is caused by my seemingly incessant state of extreme sleep deprivation, and how much is part of a bipolar symptom. I think the general conclusion is a little bit of column a, little bit of column b.

Thorazine is the brand name. My psychiatrist only refers to it by its generic name, and im unsure if this is because its simpler or if he was hoping I wouldn’t look into a seemingly innocuous name of yet another drug I shove in my body – which, to be fair, its rather surprising I did, given my current state. But I did. Apparently it’s the first, like the literal first, anti psychotic medication ever produced. There’s whole songs written about ‘thorazine dreams’ and ‘the thorazine shuffle’ and all those good dead and drooling side effects that characterize all patients who took it for decades. This is oddly not much of a deal to me. I think, at my stage, you don’t get to think about quality of life in the same way as the average person. Yes, taking this may cause all sorts of things, but are those sorts of things worse than seeing in technicolor acid trip swirls or thinking a song played through a grocery store speaker was the universe trying to send you a message? Because I feel like there’s a tipping point that comes after that that I don’t want to see.

I’m very clearly losing my grip on interpreting my reality correctly. I am not, however, actively psychotic, because I catch myself, to an extent. Like I know the ceiling should not be pink, as I know it is not painted pink, and I can usually make that logical connection. Therefore I am in, as my doctor says, “the funky stuff”.

Possibly the most frightening realization Im having is that I can understand how delusions work now. Its not something that sort of… appears and you suddenly believe you’re Christ and think you can save the world, or whatever the fuck the stereotypical thing of delusional people is. It’s the little things.

I was at the grocery store with mom, because I live with them now, because I cant function as a human. Not sure if anyone told you that yet. My apartment remains but I don’t exist in it and the idea of it makes me a bit uneasy. But I digress. The grocery store. Mom wondered away to get lemon and left me with the cart and the task of getting yogurt. I was very… alarmed inside. My doctor calls it heightened sensory perception, which is how he explains the Technicolor and such, but I wasn’t seeing things. I was just very alarmed, and suddenly very, very frightened. And I tried to reason with myself as I pushed the cart the 10 feet to the yogurt section, my fingers gripped around the cart handle, but people were in the way and I couldn’t get there and the fear just escalated so quickly. And I know you think I mean anxiety, but I don’t. I mean pure fear. Like falling out of a ten-story window accidentally.

Then suddenly I hear the store radio start playing a Billy Joel song. One of the ones mom used to play in the kitchen while we (well, I) was little. It was like a tidal wave of comfort. I felt for sure the universe was trying to provide me comfort. To take the fear away from me, personally, that this event was someone meaningful beyond mere coincidence. Part way through the song mom showed up and I was following along behind her sort of half mumbling the words to the song, catching my breath, basking in the sweet relief. She had no idea any of this happened. The song changed to something I didn’t know, and I swear to god I felt like the universe had abandoned me. Hit like a ton of bricks. Mom asks if I need to go outside but I tell her I just need to stay by her now, and she continues about her shopping while I snap back into reality enough to realize what the fuck was happening and how my brain was rebelling against logic without me. She doesn’t know any of that happened. I took an abnormally long time trying to pick a breakfast cereal. My eyes were probably really wide and I probably talked sporadically, but I don’t think shed have noticed much at all.

And isn’t that scary? That you don’t notice?

But the scary part for me is that I can see the logical connection to those feelings and normal rational feelings I would have had in that situation if I were just, say, anxious. Music is one of my calming tools it is what I do to distract myself from my other senses or to cheer myself up. That song making me feel better wasn’t illogical. But it didn’t make sense.

That’s now a thing I haven’t to consider more than I really know how. Over or under pathologizing behaviour isn’t very helpful but believing the universe is speaking to you isn’t exactly a symptom you can let slide, when you’re able to recognize it as a symptom.

So I take thorazine. It makes me sleep, so the sleep deprivation is gone, but the “funky stuff” still lingers so the dose is being increased. Although this stuff would usually be considered part of a manic episode, the fact that I’m also horribly depressed for large swaths of time indicate it’s a mixed episode. In other words, we have barely scratched the surface of the emotional well of crazy that is your sister.

I wonder how much that mental image of me has changed now. Do we know each other well enough that this is just a thing about me, or is it starting to define me, more than you want it to?

 

mixed, with no blessing

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i legitimately have no idea where to start or what to say or what the important bits are, anymore. im just going to ramble and see what floats to the top.

ill start with the obvious.  im in the middle of a (diagnosed) mixed episode. its been a month now. still going strong. things have been… unsettling.

my sister came down for a week because its her birthday, and this happened to coincide with my doctor cutting my wellbutrin dose in half (complicated story, simplified:  anti depressants bad. mood stabilizers good. lowered mood stabilizers, increased anti depressants, bad things happen. like mixed episodes that last for over a month).  This is a dramatic decrease, obviously, and because im me and im sensitive as fuck to medication, i obviously got some stupid withdrawal symptoms for a week. so the two combined and i stayed with my parents until they left today to drive amy back to new brunswick.

i never actually wrote about the trip to philly to see my brother here, and i still cant really, i mean i should, theres definitely stuff to say, and if i could string a coherent thought together i would, but basically my mixed episode started on the trip, manifested as intense anxiety and panic attacks with lots of mood shifts, i was a fucking wreck. my brother didnt know how to handle it. his family really didnt know how to handle it. i didnt know what to do. i avoided everyone a lot. i cried a lot. hysterically. hysterical is the word i would use to describe the experience.  i think joe and i got a lot closer? in the end? and i think he realized we dont actually know each other very well, considering we are siblings. it was interesting. and a mess.

things calmed down for the last few days of the trip (mood shifted up). then we got home and the mood went down but everything else stayed up up up. all the agitation. none of the sleep. all of the rapid thoughts. none of the happy.

ive been in some weird cluster of mismatched bipolar symptoms for a long time, but at any given time, what these mismatched symptoms are is a complete surprise to everyone, including me. so far the most noticeable have been extremely suicidal, extremely tired, very very very agitated, completely enraged, pumped full of adrenalin, spontaneous crying, hyper vigilance, and pressing thoughts. very few of the so called positive effects of mania.

but then.

then there are the concerning things.

yes, but definition, i guess i am implying that the previous symptoms do not merit ‘concerning’, in so much as, ‘part of being bipolar, sometimes’.

when we chopped the wellbutrin off at he knees, initially it had some very positive effects. the agitation definitely reduced. the thoughts slowed down a bit. i slept through the night for a couple days. then i slept all day, too. then i started getting sick every morning until my dose kicked in (because we cut my night dose). but like, overall good. thought that might be done.

but no.

ive been getting the scary symptoms again.

the ones ive only every gotten when extremely manic, or in a psychotic mixed state.

colors got super super bright for awhile. just like five hours here or there. only it wasnt with the exuberance that happens with mania. and then the worst symptom. the symptom i try to explain to people and they think im describing like an adhd symptom but i am really really really not.

all sounds become very very loud, and they all scramble together into a big lump. the volume doesnt bother me, like it doesnt hurt or anything, i just can. not. untangle. the. noise.

we were playing a board game and people were talking and the pieces were clicking and cards were being shuffled and the dog was sleeping and the fridge was humming and someone was talking on the street outside and amy was knitting and all the sounds all the sounds all the sounds. they get maxed out. everything at max volume and max intensity. with no ability to sort through them. like. all the sounds happen all the time, and everyone takes in all that info all the time, but our brains focus in on the bits that are important and ignore the rest, most of the time. thats why you dont usually hear yourself breathing, and how you can have conversations in coffee shops. and when i try to explain it people think im just constantly getting distracted by sounds we dont normally notice (like the fridge humming). but thats not it. its that all the sounds come in together, smooshed up, and i cant tell that that is the humming of the fridge or that that persons voice and the humming of the fridge arent the same noise.  i just. i cant explain it. but then there becomes this.. space. this layer of padding between me and all of my senses. i jut stop being able to take in any information or make sense of anything im hearing, and then seeing, and then sometimes i get extremely aware of all the sensations of my body that you dont normally notice (jeans on leg, pressure of chair, hair on arm, etc), and it all comes with an extreme sense of confusion and being overwhelmed. and then, its like my mind pops, a giant 404 error, and complete disassociation begins. but i wouldnt call it anxiety, while its happening (though definitely anxiety producing after the fact). and it can last hours and i cant make it stop. sometimes days. and all i can do is basically curling in a ball in the dark in as close to silence as i can manage and hope i can sleep until it goes away.

for me, everytime this has happened, ive been diagnosed as either being psychotic or having psychotic symptoms shortly after.

i dont know if thats happening. i dont know if like, the wellbutrin was pushing me in that direction but the sudden drop like staved it off and now im going to be fine.

i dont know whats coming.

i have never been in a position before to identify symptoms of psychosis. if you can identify them, is it really psychosis?

like i dont know how this works

i dont really consider psychosis and a standard part of my illness, but its not an unprecedented occurrence.

i dont know i dont know i dont know.

writing this is the longest ive been coherent and stable in ages.

im very tired now.

I got into grad school

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I found out like a 2 weeks ago, while I was in Philly.  I told my parents, without too much bluster, and they told Joes family, and we celebrated, kinda, a little, while we were there (there were lots of things happening, Joe got tenure! its easter! its my birthday! im having a mental breakdown!).. so it was a bit of a weird reception…. and then… then I didn’t tell anyone. At all. And theres quite a bit of story to tell in that. But for once, I’m just going to keep that seperate.

This is my thing.  This is THE thing I have been trying to do for years. And I got in. I got in with a scholarship that completely covers my tuition.

I just want that to breathe. I want that to be the part of this I go back and read about in the future.

And I know that getting in and going to school does not mean that I will finish it, or that I will do well. Hell, it doesn’t even mean I will successfully complete the stats refresher course I have to take before starting the program.  And I know my therapist thinks this is a horrible idea, and I know he might be right. I know these past 2 years have basically been an example of exactly how I am not invincible to the socioeconomic effects of mental illness, and that it is not unlikely that I will spend large amounts of my future in some combination of unable to work, living in poverty, working sporadically, and maybe just feeling accomplished to hold a job of any kind.  and I get that. But I’ve also decided I can’t just let that truth dictate my goals. There is a solid argument that I shouldn’t do this, one my therapist has made many times, one that mostly surrounds failing and making myself sicker. But the financial impacts of trying are pretty small – thanks to scholarships – and I think the benefit of trying will outweigh the prospect of failing. I would forever regret not trying.

So this is it. This moment is a culmination of every fibre of perseverance, strength and that nagging sense of hope in my soul.

I’m going to grad school.

 

progress.

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my grad school interview is tomorrow.

im a little hesitant to write this because im in a generally positive frame of mind about it at the moment and dont want to make myself all nervous over analyzing shit.  so thats mostly all im going to say about that.  I didnt get the CIHR scholarship I applied for, which sucked, but honestly i was in a pretty bad state when i wrote that so i guess its not horribly surprising.  I did just find out I received a different scholarship for $10,000 (renewable) though, and given canadian tuition prices, that is quite a lot. so thats encouraging. im not sure if they give entrance/school specific scholarships out with acceptance or not. i also dont know if ive been accepted or not. hence the interview. ack.

in other news, i have officially decided to go visit joe on friday. happy, positive, non bipolar vibes please.

so.

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ok.

so.

i havent been writing because ive havent been feeling or doing literally anything. so there was nothing to say. i also stopped communicating with all but a handful of people.

but.

now.

ive been avoiding writing this for awhile. i dont know what to say. but we are at the point in the spiral where the talking needs to start happening, and because im no longer in therapy because i am broke as fuck, i guess this is now when the writing needs to start happening.

so.

for several months my mood has been shifting from ‘wow, this is what its like to have normal level emotions?’ to ‘uh. im not sure i like normal level emotions…’ to ‘…wait, do i even have emotions now?’ to ‘no…nope i dont’.

I saw my psychiatrist three or four times during this decline. To recap, in the fall he had upped my mood stabilizers and taken down my wellbutrin (anti anxiety/depression meds), and then sometime in like december? i cut my clonazapram (anxiety)  in half because i wasnt feeling really anything, so i wasnt really feeling anxious and im trying not to build up my tolerance.

so. first visit:

me: im having trouble adjusting to not feeling things like i normally do. like it feels like my world is small and i dont know what to do. its making me feel like i am missing out on my proper existence. i know this doesnt make sense.

him: this is unfortunate but mostly normal. try seeing your therapist. we will keep an eye on it. (only nice).

second visit:

me: i always thought once i stopped being actively suicidal that would mean i gained some sort of will to live? but i dont have one. at all. i cant find a reason to get out of bed. i have no drive or motivation to do anything. im exhausted all the time. i dont feel sad, or chaotic, or out of control though, and im not suicidal, so this isnt anything like what i would call depression.

him: so, sounds like youre depressed, but your mood stabilizers are working. have more wellbutrin.

third visit:

me: nothing changed. im getting less and less interested in being alive and im completely apathetic to everything around me. still dont feel sad, or chaotic or suicidal, so it still doesnt feel like depression like i know depression.

him: ok, youre definitely depressed. its weird that the wellbutrin increase had no effect. lack of drive and motivation are side effects of your mood stabilizers. lets cut 75 mg off your total of those and see if that makes the wellbutrin work.

me now:

I FEEL ALL THE THINGS AND THEY ARE ALL BAD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD EVERYTHING IS AWFUL I CANNOT BREATHE HOLY FUCK HOLY FUCK HOLY FUCK OUTSIDE IS HORRIFYING I CANT TALK TO PEOPLE HOLY FUCK HOLY FUCK HOLY FUCK IM LITERALLY SO ANXIOUS I CANNOT FUNCTION HOLY FUCK HOLY FUCK HOLY FUCK IM REALLY REALLY REALLY UPSET FOR NO REASON HOLY FUCK HOLY FUCK HOLY FUCK

i cant give many concrete examples, because i have legitimately stopped leaving my house unless it is in a car with a family member, and usually only to my parents house or like, grocery shopping (which is its own little form of hell right now). this is the first of three major signs of when my anxiety crashes into my bipolar and i stop being a functioning human. step 1: agoraphobia step 2: intense fear of germs (see: scrubbing down showers for hours with tooth brushes, for example) step 3: extreme anxiety about animal life. things living underground start freaking me the fuck out. nature becomes extremely unsettling. how the universe is constructed becomes extremely unsettling. step 4: some sort of bipolar break down.

on saturday i had people come to my house.  i was supposed to go to brandons house twice during the week but i had to cancel both times because i couldnt leave my house and was super panicky (side note: it really bothers me that there is a ‘k’ in panicky), so i avoided the situation because i could. brandon kinda knows whats up, but not really. so. saturday. third time trying to make plans with brandon. he and sav have this thing where they watch rupauls dragrace together and the new season was starting and he wanted me to join. obviously, we learned leaving the house probably wasnt going to happen so they were going to come here. ok. then robb was going to come too. ok. day of: sleep schedule massively fucked up. already panicking about having people in my house. brandon invites kale too. i like all of these people. these are literally my best friends. i have a hyperventilating panic attack. i call my parents, stay on the phone for like an hour just basically being unable to talk and crying. brandon says they can go to savs if i cant do it. i eventually resolve to do it, 1 mg of clonazparam and 4 mg of ativan later. they come over. i have basically cleaned my whole apartment but i keep apologizing for how dirty it is because literally all i can see is the dirt of things that arent really that dirty (like the dust i missed while sweeping, and shit). it is mostly fine, and mostly a good night. first time watching dragrace, more enjoyable than expected. people leave around midnight, so basically 5 hours of company. they leave and i then start panicking and overanalyzing everything i said all night and whether or not kale hates me now (we have a convo about the trans guy on survivor and i think what i was trying to say came out wrong). fixate on this for several hours. dont sleep.

parents know i cant take the bus to their house for sunday dinner so they come get me. feeling mostly better and able to function around people, which is good because jeffs kids are there. exhausted, pass out at midnight and wake up at 10am. have moments of talking about my bipolar with my mom, which we dont really do. mostly stuff about being really uncertain what symptoms are coming and how everything is factoring in with possibly going to visit joe, and how joe, while family, having no experience with me as a mentally ill person, and how i dont know if thats something im going to do. manage to go to the grocery store on the way home today. mom had to do most of the work, but i was physically present so that is something.

i came home and cooked an actual meal – roasted a chicken and vegetables. ate that. watched an episode of girls.

so here we are.

i need to call my psychiatrist tomorrow and see if he will change my meds, or do something, because things are bad, and they seem like they are about to get a lot worse. im not scheduled to see him for four more weeks. i dont think anyone anticipated this med change throwing this sort of wrench into life. they weird part is, i dont think it actually changed anything, i think it just kind of ripped the plastic wrap off. like the complete numbness that was on the surface went away and all the horrible stuff underneath is now being felt again.

i guess the kind of fucked up part is i find that a bit of a relief.

now the overarching thing im worrying about -besides breathing, sleeping, the outside, people, public transportation, people touching me, the bipolar shitstorm that is coming, my complete lack of financial stability, etc –  is whether or not i should go to joes with my parents in april. its stressing me out a lot.

also, i got an email notification that theyd made a decision on my giant scholarship application but that i cant access the results of that decision until april 1. so thats unsettling. also im supposed to find out if i got in to grad school in a couple weeks. probably while id be in philly. im…. assuming i didnt get in and also very worried about how im going to handle that. i still dont know if ill go if i do get in. but i feel like having something lined up might help? i dont know.

ok. thats all. im starting to panic again.