Side Effects

This is a Really Real Mental Health post.

And a Really Real Medical Health post.

TW: Talk of weight, mention of suicidal thoughts, talk of marijuana use, talk of narcotic pain medications. (Also, side note, sorry I haven’t been as good about TW, I will go back to using them more frequently.)

This is super long, way longer than most of my posts (twice the length it seems), but, writing helps, and I have a lot to say this time. I totally understand if it’s too long to get through, thanks for reading this far.

I need medications to stay stable.

Medications come with side effects.

Side effects make it difficult to continue taking the medications.

I need medications to stay stable.

The Abilify really really helped me. It kept the suicidal thoughts tame enough that I could handle them most of the time. An extra 50 lbs later (more than 50, who am I kidding), I couldn’t continue taking it anymore because my weight and the fact that I gained it all back, was making me suicidal. It seemed dumb to stay on a medication to control my suicidal thoughts when the side effects were making me suicidal.

Around the time we were taking me off of Abilify, I started using medical marijuana. A few different doctors and my therapist had mentioned that it might help with this and that, and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try.

It helped a lot once I found the right strains, I found that keeping a very low buzz was just enough to make me able to focus on work, I got more done in that few weeks than I had in awhile. It was easier to do the things that needed to be done, but at the same time I was facing a lack of motivation. I felt less anxious. I was sleeping better. My pain was almost completely controlled.

And I was eating the house again, because, munchies are a real side effect of marijuana. What’s the point of stopping a med that makes me eat too much, just to replace it with a med that makes me eat too much.

So I stopped it.

But now the lack of focus is back, the anxiety is back, the difficulty sleeping is back. My pain is back, too.

I’m on a few different medications for pain. The one I take every day is an anti-inflammatory. It helps, but not enough.

Earlier this year my primary put me back on Oxycodone, not necessarily daily, but on an as needed basis. It helps, a lot, but also I’m hesitant to take it. I didn’t need it at all when I was using marijuana. But now that I’m not using that, I’m instead falling back on the Oxycodone. It scares me. I was on it daily (actually, multiple times a day) a few years ago. I absolutely feel like dependency on medication isn’t always a bad thing (I’m dependent on my psych meds), and I absolutely feel that withdraw is something that happens with a lot of meds (stop taking a psych med cold turkey and you’ll see what I mean . . .actually, don’t do that.) Dependency on narcotics feels like a whole different ballgame. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. I don’t really want to go there, so I use it super sparingly.

I’m falling back on my Ativan more often, because it controls the overwhelming anxiety. Ativan is another one I’m super careful with. A thirty day script will often last me 6 months or more. But right now, because of the whole 2020 thing, I need it more often, and I don’t like that.

Oh, and I should mention my antidepressant and those side effects. It causes nausea. It’s bad enough that some nights I actually get sick a few hours after taking it. We’d like to increase it because it could probably work a bit better. But increased doses cause more nausea. What is worse, living with low grade depression constantly, or being miserable after taking the medication to treat it.

I’m stuck in this trap. All of the medications have side effects. Figuring out which side effects are worse than the ailment they’re treating is a constant conversation within myself and with my doctors.

I’m frustrated. I want solutions that don’t cause more problems.

I need medications to stay stable.

Medications come with side effects.

Side effects make it difficult to continue taking the medications.

I need medications to stay stable.

I Lived

This is a Really Real Widow post.

With some mental health thrown in, because they are completely entwined.

This time of year is incredibly hard.

Yesterday was the 7 year anniversary of a major accident that Kidlet and Parker were in. The pictures show up every year, reminding me of the horror of that day. Deep open wounds and the two people I loved most in the world strapped to stretchers. The screams I heard coming from my son in the ambulance that day are sounds I will never forget.

Sounds I never want to forget for the same reason I let the pictures show up in memories every year.

We survived that shit. Parker took a motorcycle to the head and Kidlet caught it, and they lived.

The reminders of Parker’s ankle surgery a few years back show up this time every year, too. It’s the beginning of the countdown to the day she died. That surgery and the restrictions after it were the final straw that broke her. Her death date is now less than 2 weeks away.

The last video I took just went through my memories the other day. The last photos will be any day now. The post where I tell everyone she died will be a few days after that.

I could delete them, block them from my Timehop memories. But I don’t.

We survived that shit. Kidlet and I lost one of the most important people in our worlds, and we lived.

I recently saw my first firefly of the year. The first was in Florida and I’ve seen one since coming home as well. It’s another reminder that it’s this time of year. A bittersweet thing as she was my firefly, it’s nice to have that reminder of her, but also, it means that day is coming.

Each year this time passes with a different set of feelings. The first year was a sense of urgency, a sense of needing to get to that one year anniversary so that it can just be over and done with. The lead up is always worse than the actual day.

Each year the pain has lessened. In earlier years I’ve felt the need to do something to remember her. A trip to the beach, normally. I’m not sure that’s so necessary anymore.

This year the reminders are there, but the feelings are different, yet again.

I’ve been trying to figure out what’s different, why does it feel so different.

And then it came to me. It feels less traumatizing this year. That’s the difference.

In the past it was a punch to the gut with each picture or facebook post, or even a just a general look at the calendar to see the date. This year it just is. It’s a calm, gentle reminder that it is part of my story. Part of my life.

Part of what got me to this point.

I’m super down on myself right now because I feel like I’ve undone years worth of work. Years of work that were so important as I tried to live in ways that Parker couldn’t anymore. I had to get better, I had to save myself, or losing her was in vain.

But this is part of my story as well. And that’s okay.

This is okay.

I’ll survive this shit. Life has thrown me curve ball after curve ball, and I lived.

I lived.

Blah

This is a Really Real Mental Health post.

TW: Mention of weight being a problem for me, but no mention of dieting.

First of all, I realize I’ve slowed way down on my writing. I’m writing some short stuff for the Facebook page/group I’m a part of, but mostly, my writing has just stopped. (Link to page and group in the comments.)

Second, everything I have written, for awhile now, seems to deal with either my weight, or work, and how hard both of those things are for me right now.

And I really did plan to make this post different, maybe come up with some more interesting topic, or something new. Except my weight, and work are the two things that are most difficult in my life. Everything else is just . . . there . . . it doesn’t really bother me.

I mean, the dishes keep piling up in the sink, and I can’t find the will to cook. Showering, and even brushing my teeth are chores that are difficult to force myself through. I’m sleeping for 12-ish hours a night.

If it sounds like depression and looks like depression it must be nothing. This is fine, everything is fine.

Cartoon of dog surrounded by fire. Second panel has them saying “This is fine.”

Well, I guess the other things are bothering me, they just don’t feel as pressing, or has as much of a sense of urgency about them. They are just part of my current normal.

I feel like I have no will power to just muscle through this stuff. Weight and work included. I haven’t been able to make the changes I need to make. I haven’t been able to stick to a schedule. I haven’t been able to just “do the things.”

But also, I know this will pass. I will get back into a routine. I will slowly change these new, unhealthy, habits, back into the healthier habits I had before. I will go back to thriving with a routine, and find satisfaction in a job well done. Dishes and menu planning and straightening up around the house will go back to being just things that I do.

My current meds, probably the higher dose of Abilify, are muting my emotions. In an effort to keep me from rapid cycling and ending up in a mixed mood episode, we’ve made life kind of flat for me. Yeah, I don’t get hypomanic, and the suicidal thoughts are mostly controlled, but the world is kind of grey and 2 dimensional. I don’t feel difficult things as strongly, but I’m also missing out on the bright colors of emotions I’m used to seeing.

This is fueling my depression, I’m sure. When the world seems flat and made up mostly of various shades of grey, it’s harder to see the positives and feel hopeful. It’s hard to be excited about life.

When there’s no sense of accomplishment when I complete a task, it’s hard to keep repeating that task over and over again.

But, mental illness is hard. It’s an everyday battle. The constant fight is draining. Even just riding the waves without fighting against them is draining.

This too shall pass. Hopefully some slow med changes will help. Hopefully the warmer months and more sun will help (If I can get myself out of the house.) Hopefully continuing to adjust to this new normal will help.

Hopefully.

If I can hold onto that hope, I’m winning the battle.

Wait, Weight, Wait

This is a Really Real Mental Health post.

And a Really Real Health post.

TW: Weight/dieting/exercise. Mention of suicidal thoughts with no intent or plan.

I hate my body.

It’s making me hate who I am.

And I’ve had a few realizations in the last couple of days.

First, I remembered that I’m on a high dose of Abilify.  It made me gain some weight at lower doses but the weight gain has gotten so much worse at this increased dose. I think it’s a big reason for my whirlwind eating, and my craving of sweets.  It’s the medicine that keeps the suicidal thoughts under control.  We had to increase the dose when I was in the hospital, and we increased it again as I finished up with partial.  I think it may be time to look into decreasing the dose, or changing to a different med.

Also, I realized I hate my body right now. I hate how I look.  I hate how I feel. I hate how hard it is for me to interact with my environment.

I spent the last, however many, years looking at old pictures of me and comparing my round puffy face to the slimmer version it had become.  I constantly said how much I never wanted to be that fat and gross.  How horrible it was that I ever got that way.

How horrible I was.

It’s really hard to take good care of a body I hate. It’s hard to stick with changes because I don’t really feel like I’m worth it.

I also feel like nothing will change, and like I’ll always go back to this weight.

That thought makes the suicidal thoughts start. The idea that I can’t change this, and this is the body I’ll live in until I die, is hard hard stuff for me.

Often, when I think too much about forever fighting to stay mentally stable, I think that death would be better than fighting for the rest of my life.

Now, when I think too much about forever fighting to keep my weight under control, I think that death would be better than fighting for the rest of my life.

I started to list the things I was doing and trying to do, but honestly, those won’t matter until I go back to loving myself where I’m at.

I hate that I could say “I deserve to take up space” when I was 50 lbs lighter, but now I feel like I don’t deserve the space I take.

I hate that I could see how beautiful I am at one weight, but I can’t see my beauty now.

I hate that I feel like I need external validation.

I hate that the same people who praised me for losing weight, will judge me for gaining it back.

I hate that some of them will feel they can speak that judgement out loud.

I hate feeling like this.

I hate being like this.

I hate me.

 

I’m Tired

This is a Really Real Mental Health post.

This time last year I was intensely suicidal. I was tired of fighting the thoughts that so often wanted to kill me. I was tired of being in pain.

I was tired.

This year, comparatively, I’m doing really well. I don’t really get all that suicidal all that often. My pain is somewhat controlled. I’m relatively stable.

But.

I am tired.

I’m tired of being inside. I’m tired of not going to the gym. I’m tired of missing my friends. I’m tired of hearing about people who aren’t even trying. I’m tired of working. I’m tired of avoiding the world.

I’m tired.

I’m tired.

I’m tired.

And this time I know I’m not alone. I know there are lots of us that are tired.

And it’s still not fair.

None of us deserve this right now. None of us were prepared for it. None of us should have to learn to live with it.

But most of us are learning to live with it. We are doing what we’re supposed to do.

Those that aren’t, piss me off. The more we leave our houses the longer this will take, and it’s going to take a long while as it is.

Stay the fuck home.

I’m tired.

I’m tired of living in this world even though I’m not tired of living.

I’m tired.

I’m tired of not being able to write because there’s no life to write about.

I’m tired.

I am tired.

L-I-G! (Life Is Good!)

This is a Really Real Life Post.

Being able to be myself is nothing short of amazing.

I mean, yeah, being wholeheartedly me means I deal with some really bad depression and suicidal ideation. It means I spend days inpatient and weeks in partial sometimes. It means there are some really shitty times.

But it also means I get to be open and out there and vulnerable. I get to wear my wild skirts and bright hair. I get to tell my story in a way that helps others (and helps me at the same time). I get to laugh and cry and let my dorky hang out.

I get to spend time with people who are just my kinda people, instead of struggling to fit in with the people who aren’t.

I’m learning how important all of this is.

I trip down the sidewalk, I fall face first down the stairs, I spill food down my shirt, all on a regular basis. But that’s just part of my charm, even the bruises, scars, and messed up shirts.

I am anxious and moody and sometimes my memory is all kinds of shit. But I keep moving forward no matter what life throws at me.

I’m falling in love with my authentic self.

My imperfect, beautiful, self.

I wish I could see things from this perspective all of the time. I wish depression didn’t creep in and pull me under. Make me nervous and afraid. Make me sad and apathetic. I wish life was all roses and bright smiles.

But even my mental illness is part of who I am. It’s part of what makes me, me. It’s part of what makes me beautiful.

Even though sometimes I’m a beautiful mess.

I’m learning to accept all of me.

And that’s pretty fucking amazing.

I can’t wait to see who I’m becoming.

The best is yet to come.

(Someone save this post and send it to me next time I’m falling apart, please.)

 

Share your story, Speak your truth.

This is a Really Real Mental Health post.

Lately, I see a lot of people getting Really Real about mental health. Part of it is who I surround myself with, part of it is that people are pulling of the veil and deciding to be truthful about who they are.

Now, I know not everyone can, or wants to do this.

But I’m so happy when I see people who do.

Parker didn’t exactly hide her mental illness, but at the same time she was afraid to speak up when it mattered most. It had, and in some ways still has, this underlying notion that mental illness is a weakness.

I remember the first time I was told to pull myself up by my bootstraps. The first time, not, by far, the only time.

It’s nice to see friends who are talking more openly. Talking about their triumphs and struggles.

Some of my favorite posts are the “I’m having a rough day, please send me memes” posts. I occasionally reach out in the same way and it’s so nice to see everyone kind of come together to shower me with love and laughs. It’s what we need! Community and support make this road a lot easier to travel.

Even better are the posts that show us we aren’t alone in this struggle. We may not have the same diagnoses or life situations, but the underlying emotions are the same.

I’m super lucky that I have an amazing support system (spanning multiple countries) but I got that support system by speaking up. By being real. By speaking my story and sharing my truth.

By being vulnerable.

Vulnerability isn’t a weakness. Vulnerability is strength. It’s how you build community, it’s how you reach out for support.

I’m glad that I see more people being real and raw and open and I wanted to globally say how much I appreciate that.

Share your story. Speak your truth.

Be vulnerable!

 

What would it look like?

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

This one got long and I’m leaving it that way, because there’s some really good stuff in here.

It’s been almost a week since I wrote.  I can normally tell things are going well when I’m not writing every day.

It’s hard to write when things are just,

Okay.

I started asking for a word a week or two ago.  I asked my therapist, asked in group therapy, asked Wonder Woman. “What’s the word for baseline, midline, “normal”?  Not manic, not depressed, just, okay.”

I don’t like using the word normal. I don’t think there is a “normal.” Add to that, having a period when I’m not hypomanic and not depressed certainly isn’t normal for me.

It hasn’t really lasted any significant period, so I wouldn’t classify it as stability.

Euthymic.

According to an online medical dictionary, “Euthymia is a normal non-depressed, reasonably positive mood. It is distinguished from hyperthymia, which refers to an extremely happy mood, and dysthymia, which refers to a depressed mood. It is a term used frequently in mental status exams.”

I’m mostly euthymic right now.

My meds are working. Unfortunately I’m on some higher doses and I’m having some shitty side effects, but I’m finding ways to cope with them.

Meanwhile I’m working on some hard shit in partial. I’m digging into some core beliefs about myself that are supremely unhelpful. I’m trying to sort out the process of getting rid of them and replacing them with positive truths. I’m digging into how I’m supposed to do that.

It’s easy to say on the surface, especially when I’m doing well, “I’m not too much,” “I’m not less than,” “I’m good enough,” and ultimately “I’m allowed to be me and I’m wholly lovable as my true self.” But, when there’s an underlying belief that it’s all bullshit, that surface shine falls apart as soon as depression hits.

It becomes a spiral.

Depression makes me question my validity.

And my worthiness.

And my right to the space I take, both physically and emotionally.

And eventually my desire, and even my right to exist.

That’s so hard to look at from the outside.

How do I change it?

Telling myself “I am pretty, I am kind, I am important” is a great place to start. (Side note: I’ve never seen that movie) However, it only goes so far.

I was asked, “What does life look like without those beliefs?” “What does life look like without mental illness?”

Well, fuck.

This is all I’ve known.

Where does the illness end and I begin? What happens if you take me away from the trauma, away from the chaos, and away from the mental instability?

Who would I be if I were to achieve stability?

I keep saying, that right now it isn’t fair that my brain is being such an asshole. My life is the calmest it’s ever been. My bills are paid, I have lights and food and a stable roof over my head. My house isn’t filled with tension from the latest screaming match, or problems we are avoiding. I’m, in a lot of ways, living my best life right now.

And my brain is more unstable than it’s ever been.

Maybe it doesn’t know what stability should look like.

I mean, it’s not just one thing. It’s also that life is finally calm enough that I can process and heal from all of the trauma, and healing isn’t pretty.

But maybe it’s time to take a long, hard look at what my life would be if it weren’t the only thing I’ve ever known.

And that’s some hard shit.

I see you, I hear you.

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

I’m the public one.

The one who speaks up.

The one who screams my story for all to hear.

The one that everyone says is so brave.

I don’t think it’s bravery.

I’m the one getting all of the support.

I’m the one getting all of the help.

I know there are so many others in the world.

Those that suffer in silence.

Those that don’t want to tell anyone what’s going on.

Those that won’t say how bad it really is.

Those that read along and see themselves in my words.

Those that are on the edge but just can’t break down, afraid of what will happen if they do.

Those that have broken down, but no one knows.

Those that are holding themselves together with smiles and laughs

And makeup

And perfect hair.

I see you.

I know you’re out there.

I know you’re the brave ones.

Without anyone to talk to.

Still putting one foot in front of the other.

Holding on for dear life.

Begging yourself to make it one more day.

And as you kiss your babies to bed each night.

Silently hoping you’re there to see them in the morning.

I hear you,

Even when you don’t have words to say.

 

Where do I begin?

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

This post started out as a post about something completely different. But as I was writing, the topic morphed, and I realized that I needed to process through something.

Where do my illnesses end and I begin?

And not in a “I am not my illness” kind of way, but in a “I need to take responsibility for my actions and not let my illness take the blame for all of it”

I talk a lot about how I do or don’t do things because of my list of labels. The depression will keep me from cleaning the kitchen, executive dysfunction from ADHD will get in the way of doing the dishes, mania will have me spending all of the money, or anxiety will cause me to cancel plans with friends.

Any of them can send me running to my bed with covers over my head.

Maybe my kitchen is a wreck because I don’t feel like cleaning, maybe bipolar has nothing to do with it.

Maybe my sink is full of dishes right now because I’m just being lazy. Maybe it’s not executive dysfunction.

Maybe I want to spend money because I’m just bad with money. Maybe it’s my own fault and not the bipolar. Maybe I just need more self control.

Maybe I cancel plans with friends because I’ve become more introverted and I’m more comfortable being alone.

Maybe, sometimes, the illness is easy to blame, but maybe it’s just as much my personality as anything.

But, I wonder if it matters.

No matter why I’m not cleaning, I need to figure out a way to get the kitchen clean and the dishes done. It doesn’t matter if its because of my illness or because I’m a lazy lump that day, I need to find a way through it so the job gets done.

And I need to do it with kindness and compassion towards myself.

Same with the money, and finding ways to follow through on plans.

Blaming myself isn’t doing anyone any good.

I also wonder how much these things became part of my personality because of my illnesses.

Where do I end and the illnesses begin?