Decisions, Decisions 

Decisions, decisions. Sometimes I’m a bit impulsive and I don’t make the best ones. Gratefully one decision doesn’t have to spiral into another and another and another. It can by all means BUT it doesn’t have to.

You choose who you want to be. Some choices are easier than others but at the end of the day you have to live with yourself so choose to be someone that you can like *correction love.

And what happens if you make a decision that is contrary to your very nature? Do you roll over and die wallowing in the error of your ways? No. You acknowledge the poor choice and remind yourself that it isn’t who you are nor who you want to become.

Decisions are what make or break us. But there is no reason that you can’t take a different path once you’ve already started on one. Perhaps you are going to have to literally back track or go off terrain forging a new path, struggling along the way. But struggling is better than willfully accepting defeat in life – becoming someone who you can’t face in the mirror.

Impulse comes with the territory of being bipolar, but it’s not an excuse to throw all reason out of the window! Although I’ve definitely been guilty of that… We need to set up safety precautions when we are fully aware; road blocks that will slow us down when we start to slip out of a reality that faces any consequences. Becuase in that particular moment it’s hard to think of the repercussions.

 If you have a weakness that you are more inclined to when you are either really high or really low, acknowledge it and look for ways to hinder it’s immediate progress. If you have to stop along the way it may give you enough time consider the consequences of your actions.

I’m not saying it’s a full proof plan, but it’s definitely something that may help you prevent some oopsies otherwise

If you fall off the horse you get back on. But always acknowledge and own what you did, don’t stuff it in a closet that’s going to burst open on you. You’ll feel much better about yourself if you take back control. And if you acknowledge it, your giving yourself the opportunity to prevent it from happening again.

I made an impulsive decision recently and it wasn’t the best one. But it’s not going to define me or erase all the hard work I’ve been putting in to be the best version of me – unless I let it, and I’m not. I know what led up to me being in a position to make that decision and I’m consciously making a plan that will not put me at risk of repeating history.

Live life and love life. Love yourself and don’t let a few poor choices define who you are. You are so much more. 

– Steph  

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It’s a New Dawn

It’s the start of a new school year, but this isn’t just any school year this is my last year! I entered into a 2 year program and I’m actually going to finish it completely! This may not seem like much to most people but I graduated high school in 2009 and I have been all over the maps with my post secondary since 2010 bouncing from one thing to the next because they seemed like a great idea… first it was a fashion designer, then it was a speech pathologist, then it was a teacher, a dental hygienist… HR business personnel and finally I’ve committed and I’m completing a diploma to be a legal assistant. My health was a huge contributing factor for my prolonged post secondary experience but you live and you learn and you meet people along the way. 

I finished last year with a 3.8 GPA. I’m not saying this to boast but to point out that having bipolar with all of it’s ups and downs … switching medication… upping my doses of medication didn’t prevent me from succeeding. If you put your mind to it anything is possible, we are our only limit.

I’m excited and nervous for this year, there is a lot to learn and a lot of work ahead of me. I’m excited for my practicum and to experience working in a law firm (I’m pretty confident I’d like to go for law and become a lawyer … but slow and steady wins the race, I want one stable career under my belt first) 

I’m not going to lie I’m worried about entering the real life adult work force, sure I’m an adult but working summer jobs and having the luxury of calling in sick if I was really feeling like I couldn’t function is very different than a stable 9-5 Monday thru Friday. In the legal field there are deadlines and as the legal assistant to the lawyers I’m expected to meet them otherwise what is my value to the firm. I’ll face that hurdle when I get there. This year is preparatory for that, I’m working with my doctors and I’m trying to better myself and that’s all I can do.

I’m so proud to say I will be graduating this year, it’s been a long time coming. But if it takes you longer than most people, so be it. Never let go of a dream and goal just because you have to work differently than most people to achieve it. 

 I hope everyone has an exciting year and challenges themselves to dream big and work hard to make it happen. 
– Steph 

To Tell or Not to Tell

I recently shared that I was bipolar with a close friend of mine, she’s quite a few years older than me so perhaps in a way I was counting on her maturity. 
It’s not to say telling her was a complete fail, however if I could go back in time I’d keep it to myself regardless to the opportunity to open up. 

When I tell someone I’m bipolar I brace myself for their judging eyes. Not that they are trying to judge in a harsh way, it’s just everything instantly turns into “oh you must act that way because you have bipolar” … for example I was at this friends house and I was visiting with multiple people when I decided it was time to go home because I was tired … my friend brought this up after I told her I had bipolar and she told me that she noticed my whole personna changed and it all makes sense because I’m bipolar. First off NO. My whole personna did not change – I was tired just like any normal human being gets, I didn’t change before her eyes into my crazy bipolar mode I simply said I was “going home now and have a good night”. 

To tell or not to tell?  That is the question. For now my opinion has been re-established and my answer is Not to Tell. I want people to see me as me not as bipolar and honestly as soon as that word comes out they put a big sign over your head with flashing lights that says “BIPOLAR” every action becomes branded with “because she’s bipolar” I’ve worked so hard to distance myself from that concept within my own family and my dearest closest friends. I don’t want to experience it all over again – I’m not ready for that just yet. I’m alive I react to things just like any normal person would react … sure there are times I may react with a little more zeal BUT I guarantee the average Joe is not going to see that happen.

One day I’ll be okay with people finding out … but for now it’s a no. And if I ever tell again it will be a life altering situation which has always been the case with my friends who do know and that has worked our pretty good so far. 

-Steph

Plot Twist!

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Okay… Funny story…..

I thought my world was falling apart around me… was it? Not actually. However, did I feel with every fiber of my body that it was?? Yes siree Bob!

Alright so I have been working hard trying to “get a grip” on me; me+bipolar+anxiety+ocd (my ocd is slight but I do love it… my room and notes can be accredited to it)

If you read my post about “When Your Blood Starts to Boil”, it kind of explains my frustrations with an abrupt change in my plans. I love plans, prepreation, anything that makes me feel like I have a shred of control AND basically that was all taken away in an appointment. Perhaps I was a wee bit emotionally consumed so I took it to another level BUT hey! That’s life.

The irony is that on Sunday evening as I was trying to have a calm discussion with my parents, finding a solution to all my concerns (that decided to appear a week before my university classes started) I lost my calm. BUT prior to losing my calm I emailed my university asking them to consider changing my schedule based on blah blah blah … it was a very thorough email I can assure you that. Additionally, I called Dr. L telling him I needed to see him ASAP .. see how I was setting these little safety nets?

The irony to this story is had I actually waited to receive an email from my university. .. I would have had no need to lose my marbles BUT did I wait for that email before I lost it like a crazy cat woman who doesn’t even own a cat?  Nope.

I didn’t. 

The conversation between my parents and the possible “solutions or alternatives” set me past my boiling point threshold. I blew up like a volcano seeking to destroy a village. I hate feeling like “bipolar” or its symptoms don’t allow me to do what everyone else does… I get tired sometimes and in my lows it seems relentless. I get tired of the routines, the check ups, the meds, evaluations.I get it! I seriously get it, that life with a mental illness (not exclusive to bipolar) takes effort and self sustaining behaviour… and I’m grateful for that knowledge and the support system I have. It just sucks sometimes. And last night it was all a bit too much…

Did my parents almost call the ambulance on me…. yes … oh my haha… the sad reality is that they almost did.  I escalated very quickly to a point that they had the phone in hand, and they were ready to make the call.But! I calmed down … I tried to sort thru my thoughts like I’ve been working on with Dr. L reminding myself that I did in fact have a life that I loved.enjoyed. I just had to breathe.

So this morning Dr.L called and we talked for an hour, he gave me his vote of confidence that if I decreased my meds I’d still manage this hiccup aside (his opinion has a high value in my life) and as an added bonus I recieved the email from my University giving me an alternative schedule! All my classes start at 10 am instead of 8 am… problem solved.

Ploy twist! And a lesson learned… I really need to have a bit more faith in my ability to succeed. I am the one who called my doctor and I am the one who sent that email. I was proactive and set up safety nets for me to catch myself and succeed. I didn’t need to lose my calm, but I’m human. So I will live, learn and move on.

One blip isn’t going to set me back and erase all the progress I’ve made. I have too much ahead of me to get caught up on the past. Onward we go!

– Steph

It’s Not the End

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This quote is a little reminder to myself and anyone else out there to keep going. Pardon the tone/mood of this blog post. This blog is about my journey and this post demonstrates that my path is not always a bucket full of sunshine….

Sometimes I hit lows that seem to suck the life right out of me, everything seems wrong. Every attempt seems futile. All the positive thinking in the world and coping exercises seem pointless, because my very soul has turned into a black hole. I avoid contact with those around me because I have no desire to drag them down in this state.

Life right now appears hopeless. However, there is a miniscule fragmant of hope. There is a tiny whisper telling me it’s not the end; that this state of dire despair will not last – it is not the end.

Friday night, I went out with friends (I figured it would lift my spirits, I was already on the verge of losing my “happy”) I had a wonderful time, but near the end of my night any resiliency I had left regarding life was lost. The personal battle I was fighting inside trying to fend off the feeling of death was lost it.

I arrived home Friday sobbing in my car and cried for a solid 3 hours working myself up to a point where I couldn’t breathe. When I finally went to bed … I had no desire to wake up. I had no desire to be alive; life and all of it’s difficulties seemed endless. Everything I thought I had a grip on slipped out of my grasp. Saturday I woke up at 7pm, I ate a bowl of cereal and I went back to sleep until Sunday at 10:30 am.

Sleep is an escape. And I admit I use it whenever I hit this particular low. Nothing anyone says seems to appease my lost mind and heart. Disconnecting is my best chance of coming out of this scenario with the least collateral damage possible. Talking or crying over what seems like “not a big deal” is the last thing to bring me comfort. Or rather laying emotionless as someone tries to offer you advice that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of your broken soul. Alone. It’s safer for both parties.

Yes, there’s logic screaming in the back of my mind saying sleep and avoidance aren’t the answer; I should know better. But sometimes it’s exhausting “knowing better”. It’s exhausting continually self evaluating, self checking, reporting my emotions to doctors, it’s exhausting following a routine, it’s exhausting containing explosive feelings because they would overwhelm the average Joe.

It’s exhausting… so I sleep until I feel like it’s not so exhausting. I isolate myself until I feel like I can get a grip, I keep to myself until I feel like the world is not going to explode.

These bad days are not the end. They are just a few days that make it seem like the end. The bad days that try to undermine and destroy all the good ones. But the magic pill for these malicious self harm and condemning thoughts is I write things down. I have hard evidence that reminds me I was happy I am a happy person. I know what it’s like to love life. To love the progress and work I’ve put into having a happy life…. it’s just right now for this period of time that I feel a prisoner within the walls of my own body. But I’ll escape and the journey will continue.

– Steph

When Your Blood Starts to Boil

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This picture illustrated me perfectly yesterday during and after my doctor’s appointment. I usually enjoy seeing my Psychiatrist, Dr. M …. BUT yesterday… not so much.

This blog post will be a bit of a rant so I aplogize in advance BUT maybe you’ll understand or perhaps you’ve experienced the same situation/ emotions.

First off, when I came into the office Dr. M was sitting in a seat that was not behind his desk. Rather, a student was sitting behind his desk; I’d met her in my previous appointment, which I wasn’t exactly thrilled about either – I don’t like people sitting in on my appointments. At all.

Last time a student tried to conduct the appointment… it ended badly. I had an anxiety attack and he ended up being escorted out of the room and any future appointments he did not sit in… haha … yah my anxiety can work up pretty intense…. I just don’t like the idea of someone who has no right to know my business ask me questions about my private life, my medical life … about me in general. Students are awesome, I’m all for learning BUT I do not like them delving into my sessions. Those are private. That rant aside….

Dr. M, smiled and looked at me explaining how Ms.Student would lead the discussion and this would be a good and safe way for me to work on my anxiety considering the last student experience…. yah yah yah. No. Not impressed. So throughout my session my answers were minimalistic and I couldn’t help but look at Dr. M as I answered instead of Ms.Student. I don’t have a relationship of trust with Ms.Student so disclosing information feels wrong. If that makes sense. (My arms were crossed the whole time … yes that’s definitely body language BUT it was also to help me from not working myself up I usually start tapping or hitting a leg or arm when I start getting wound up or I’ll run my fingers up and down unintentionally marking one area of my arm… so folded arms were safe)

So the appointment went on and this is where it get ugly…. I start school on September 8th, all my classes have been pre scheduled for me and lo and behold Mon – Thurs all start at 8 am. I live 45 mins out of the city and then the train ride to my school will be 45 mins…. see how much travel time there is? BUT the kicker is I will have to be up at 5am. 5am, in order to get ready and be out of my house on time to avoid traffic. HOW in the world am I supposed to wake up on time?! Or rather stay awake!? With my Seroquel Quetiapine I take 600mg and then 200mg Lamotragine… the seroquel knocks me out solid for 9 hrs… anything before that and I’m a drunk stumbling around hitting walls. If o havr a lower dose I dont seem to sleep. (If I’m in manic… medication doesnt matter pertaining to sleep… because I’m too happy)

Anyway I’ve been working for the past 8 months to “get a grip”, “prepare myself for school”… I’ve mentioned before my concern with sleep & drowsiness … in this appointment I told them “9 hours is Too MUCH” … I’d be happy with 6 or 7… yah no they are adamant it’s 8+

How in the world am I supposed to have a life if I have to go to bed at 9pm. That’s stupid. How am I supposed to study for school? go out with friends? Go to work?? Like what the heck??

So the option thrown out is take my mood stabilizer and decrease it by 100mg… which makes me nervous because I literally just started to feel like I had a grip on life. The other option go to bed as early as an old lady. Or the real winner try out different medications. ALL RIGHT BEFORE I START A NEW SEMESTER IN A NEW SCHOOL! wow… yah… let’s play with fire just as a plethora of new stressor enter my life.

Not impressed. My doctor want me to try lowering the dose by 100… I need to call if I feel off. He is worried about anxiety since obviously that med assists with my anxiety. And he was adamant and reiterated to me “that I should not at any point stop taking my medication”. Honeslty it’s never been a real thought up until lately. As much as I feel like I have a life. All this stupid sleep is stealing it from me…

So basically I was incredibly displeased with everything involving that appointment. I’m stressed to the max about school now… which I am excited for BUT I feel the joy being sucked out if it…

Perhaps a bit dramatic of a post. But holy cow. I don’t even know. I feel like everything blew up in my face in one hour after months of trying to get things under control.

– Steph 

Medication – Who Needs Them?? PT3

Fall Apart

 

Okay this is the finale to my medication blurb….. essay…. same diff PT3

After I flew back home with my mom, I was feeling awesome… invincible, like I had it all figured out. With that being said, I came up with a brilliant plan.. again. I would move to another city. It was only 3 hrs away, I figured I’d go to one of the universities there AND this would be a perfect way to redeem myself. Show I could stand on my own two feet…. HOLY I’m a gluten for punishment.

I was at home for not even 2 weeks when this plan was unveiled to my family. There reaction as you probably suspected.. “are you sure that’s a good idea?” Of course I was sure! I came up with it AND heck I was on top of the world. I’d be close enough… it was going to be perfect. I asked my eldest sister H if I could stay with her till I found a place, and her answer was a flat out NO! I couldn’t believe her, she wasn’t going to support me – but not to worry I’d do it all on my own if I had to. I drove down and in one weekend secured an apartment and a FT job. Life was mine for the taking! Reluctantly my parents helped me move, wanting to show their support – and my adventure began.

It started out great, I went and saw some doctors and talked about steps to take…. but yeeaaaaa I didn’t go back (I didn’t like how they talked to me… and when they looked at me it was .. just uncomfortable). I eventually started to spiral into a low, life was overwhelming me in every direction. I couldn’t handle being alone with my thoughts, work was just covering the bills and barely making a dent on my debts. And in a matter of 3 months…. I called my parents to move back home. They willingly agreed to help with the move, reassuring they thought it was in my best interest.

So home again, home again, I was living with my younger sister V and  my parents. Love was all around and I was looking forward to finding solid ground. I kept tabs with my family doctor and he referred me to see a psychiatrist. I also started working FT again to go towards debts. (My debt was caused from school loans…. and I had a wee problem called impulsive shopping.. like major) My mom came with me to see the psychiatrist because she wanted to ensure I was forth coming with everything (I had a tendency to play things down to avoid the… your crazy look) So we talked, he asked me what I thought of bipolar and he went on to share that he thinks its all in the head… like its not really what people say it is. He told me I had to just clean up my sleeping habits and I’d be fine. (My anxiety and OCD (I do have slight OCD) weren’t really there… all in my head). He told me to go off my meds because I was fine and dandy. So heck yah! I’d go off my meds I was perfect….

That perfection came at a price, and I couldn’t pay it. I started to spiral out of control so yet again in a matter of 2 weeks – I went to my family doctor, I also asked if I could see another psychiatrist… he said not to worry AND put me back on antidepressants… the psychiatrist wasn’t all that important for me to see in his opinion.

I entered my relationship with my ex around this time, we were on and off for two years, I was up and dramatically down. His words would reassure me and cut me down till I felt like nothing (not the best environment for me to be in) My impulse’s were becoming more intense (just as the doctor yet again kept increasing my meds)… I’d leave and drive at 1 am, 2am, 3am just because I could to drive to the city my ex lived in 3 hrs away. I’d race my car like the fast and furious because I was invincible or because death was an appealing option. I once had two semi trucks; one in front and one coming up on my left side, I allowed a tiny window of opportunity to pass between the two semi’s so I sped up and fit right between… just because I was on top of the world and wanted to push my limits. Reckless driving, reckless spending. When I’d be in a low I’d be damaging to myself…. just so I could try and feel something… punching my punching bag till my hands bled… ripping through thorn bushes when gardening so my arms would be cut and bleeding. Quitting jobs all the time because I felt people were picking up on me – there was no stability. When it came to sleep I was over excessive or had none at all. I was so reactive & explosive. Conversations or any reasoning were nearly impossible. Suicide crossed my mind – ALOT. The voices in my head (my own voice) were always tearing me apart in confusion. And my doctors cure was up, up, up my meds.

Eventually I lost it, I did something that I would never have done, I acted in a way that I knew I could/would commit suicide – out of sheer disgust of myself. This one night in particular I got home and I just knew it was over. I was losing the battle of life, I wasn’t living I was existing and what for??! Just so I could hate my life, and be at constant war with myself? Just so that I could make my family worried sick, overwhelmed with my unreliability and self-destructive ways? I went to my room, and I looked at my bottle of pills. I looked at myself in the mirror and I was ready… I knew I was ready for this escape… but I just couldn’t… I had to, I had no choice – My mom knocked on my door in the middle of my dilemma, she came in and I burst out crying (I love my mom so much, my family so much). She asked me what’s wrong and I told her straight out I was ready to die, I wanted to die, I had no more fight left in me. I had two options of suicide ready. My mom called my dad; my crying escalated to hyperventilating and hitting myself in the leg or arm or my head against the wall (I know that sounds extreme, but I had so much pain I couldn’t get it all out with just crying… so when ever I worked myself up I’d hit myself to the point of bruising) They took me to the hospital. My full on stutter came out, I could barely breathe and then somehow this doctor in particular calmed me down… he didn’t look at me like it was all in my head. He wanted to make sure I was going to be okay.

I was able to go home with my parents that night, but he informed me two nurses would be coming in the morning to see me for an evaluation… this was more than anything before. The nurses came and we talked I let everything out, all the history, all my behaviours, all my reactions… and they simply said ” Stephanie you have two options, your mother can drive you to our hospital, or you can come and be escorted by us – either way you are coming going, because you are a danger to yourself and other people” WoW! they meant business. We confirmed my mother would take me, once we arrived I was put in a room. I had two nurses and 2 doctors come and talk to me (all separately) and at the end I was given another option “Stephanie you can come willingly be admitted to the Psych Ward, or you can come under restraint – But you not going is not an option… it will be to your advantage if you go willingly.” WoW! Yet again.

This was my opportunity; this was what I needed to get the proper help, to see people who would actually help me have and live a life. So I agreed; they took me by ambulance to another hospital… and when I arrived I was terrified out of my mind, I changed my mind I didn’t want to be there!! Especially when I saw some residents (I know that sounds mean BUT its the truth) I had a tour of the facility and was informed of meal times (I honestly didn’t eat when I was there I was so stressed out… I had my siblings and friends eat my food to make it look like I did, such a rebel I know)My mom came a bit after I arrived with my clothes and I told her she needed to take me home immediately, that we could figure things out on our own AND I didn’t need to be here… yah no. That didn’t work. I was there until I saw the psychiatrist and he wasn’t going to be there for a couple days. I would stay in my room unless I had visitors.. writing notes/thoughts  (my room consisted of a bed with a curtain separating it from 4 other women) Honestly, one of the scariest experiences of my life… but I was blessed I had two really close friends who came to see me, and my sisters and parents came everyday so I wasn’t completely alone all day.

Finally when the doctor came, he asked if it would be alright for students to sit behind a two way mirror and observe our interview, and for the sake of education I said yes (I was in university again at this time). I wanted to make sure they understood you don’t have to look “crazy” to need help with mental illness… which is really why I felt so many other doctors didn’t take me serious… I look like I have it all together, which is something I work very hard on. Anywho, the interview began… questions were asked, questions were answered… He left and when he came back , I was presented with an action plan. I’d leave the hospital BUT I would have to come back for appointments with their psychiatrist in the bipolar out-patient unit. SOLD! I was totally okay with that.

Seeing my Psychiatrist was/is incredible, everything didn’t magically disappear but I knew I was on the right road to finally have a chance at life. The first medication a mood stabilizer for bipolar that we tried, failed – miserably. I felt like a zombie, drugged up, could hardly focus in  my classes (I withdrew from a couple after getting out of the hospital). When I relayed my concerns to my doctor he said “lets try a different one”, NOT JUST INCREASE THE DOSE; he actually listened to me. The next medication, had no bad side effects… it was a nice fit BUT in my case, we raised the dose gradually… it was catered to me. Additionally, my doctor recognized that my lows were pretty severe, so he recommended I take an antidepressant that is appropriate for bipolar as well, and gradually we increased the dose. Although my medication increased I didn’t feel like I was becoming less of “me”, I felt like I was finally coming out of hiding to be me!

My doctor asked if it would be alright for me to see a psychologist, he thought it would be in my best interest. I agreed.  I was willing to trust him, and try anything that would help me live a fulfilled life, anything that would help me learn how to live and manage my bipolar – I began meeting with my Psychologist once a week. And I was checking in with my psychiatrist once every 2 weeks for the first year….  let me give a time line:

I went into the psych ward Feb 2014 – I saw my Psychiatrist every 2 weeks till Feb 2015, I now see him every 5-6 weeks.

I started seeing my Psychologist once a week since October 2014… I still see him once a week present day.

I have put in time and work, I’ve hung on to life by my finger nails to get where I am now. I go to my appointments , I am honest with  my doctors, I read books on bipolar, on helping yourself if you have bipolar, about mastering the mind, reading exercises from my docs. I have been actively engaged with living and creating a life for myself. Because if I don’t, who will? I have been able to stop physically hurting myself, I’ve been successful in my university studies (pulling A’s). I’ve been able to leave an abusive relationship without falling into complete ruin (of course I cry and still ugly cry sometimes over it) – we got back together once I got out of the hospital IRONIC  since he was a contributing factor as to why I ended up going to the hospital (I’m a gluten for punishment we’d always get back together- But now its been over since Nov 2014 I realized my life would go on without him)

I have been ridding my life of toxicity because I want to survive and thrive. I have been embracing support rather than always trying to fix it on my own.

For so long I felt like my life was over, like I didn’t have a chance to reach the goals I had as a little girl… everything had been taken away and ruined with mental illness BUT sucking up my pride and going to the hospital; being admitted to the psych ward was the best decision of my life, and as scared as I was  –  I’d do it again.

Starting from the ground up sometimes is the best place to start.

There’s hope, I am living proof.

I am no longer swallowed up into the abyss of hopelessness, I get to experience joy and confidence in who I am; Bipolar and everything.

 

I apologize for the length of these posts. I just wanted to make it clear that I struggled and fought my way into the life I am living now, and I still fight battles but I do not shun away because I know my potential. It was a long painful journey and I have my scars to prove it BUT I am stronger now, and I can offer my strength to help and lift others up. Hold onto the sliver of hope inside of you, you can make it,  I know you can.

With love,

– Steph