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Friday, July 15, 2011

What is recovery?

I found this cool page on the DBSA website.
 "Relief of symptoms is only the first step in treating depression or bipolar disorder. The goal of your treatment is wellness and recovery---a return to a life that is meaningful to you. Recovery happens when your illness stops getting in the way of your life."

I love anything that encourages me to set and write down goals. I also love the word "recovery". It gives me a sense of hope. Hope that, while having this "thing" in my life wasn't planned for, I can follow my dreams and still live the life I have always wanted. IT doesn't define ME.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The big fat truth about bipolar medications.

So, many of us have come to accept we will need medication for the rest of our lives, but accepting some of the side effects of these medications can be least favorite... WEIGHT GAIN!!!
Many mood stabilizers, antipsychotics and antidepressants are known to pack on an extra dose of lbs.
Now, the extra weight isn't just something to watch because it makes our jeans tight. Gaining weight can cause serious health issues such as: negative effects on heart health, cholesterol, and blood pressure. It can also increase one's risk for diabetes, cancer, osteoarthritis, metabolic disease and other complications. Not to mention, gaining weight can make an already crappy mood even worse.
So, you are taking you are taking your meds and you have gained weight? WHAT NOW???
*Eat nutritious food
*Reduce portion sizes
*Eat more slowly
*Exercise regularly
*Manage stress
*Meet with a Nutritionist
*Write it down
*Talk to your Dr.

I know all too well about this issue. I gained 15 pounds in under a month when I was first put on Seroquel. Much of it was water and I have lost most of the rest, but it is still very, very frustrating. I talked to my Doctor and we changed medications but that is only what worked for me. The important thing is NOT to stop taking a medication simply due to weight gain until you talk to your Dr.!!!
 Most people I have talked to say the weight gain is temporary and the benefits of the medication far outweigh the downside of gaining a few pounds. If you are like me and you did gain some weight, don't beat yourself us about it. Especially when you work hard to lose it and nothing happens. For some reason this weight can be stubborn to lose. Just keep your focus on getting healthy inside and out and eventually it WILL come off!
Also, knowing a medication may potentially cause weight gain PRIOR to taking it may help you be more aware of your appetite and your scale. That may help keep wight gain side effects down or possibly eliminate them all together.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Exercise and Mood

We all know we should exercise. It keeps our hearts healthy, it staves off disease, and it can be a GREAT MOOD LIFTER!

During exercise, your brain releases endorphins, adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine. These are chemicals that work together to make you feel good. :)

A study at the University of Vermont showed that exercise may increase mood up to 12 HOURS following physical activity. WOW!

The Mayo clinic states other emotional and physiological benefits as well:
1. Gaining confidence
2. Taking your mind off worries
3. Getting more social interaction
4. Coping in a healthier way

These are just a few tidbits regarding exercise and mood which I found interesting. There will be MANY more to come. I know that for myself, exercise definitely makes me feel better. Nothing releases my anxiety and worry like a good run, and nothing calms and soothes my mind like an hour or more of yoga.
What better way to cope than exercise? 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

"I used to be sane...but I'm better now."

I was thinking about how my friend Troy recently told me, "Two Leesa's are better than one" and figured there had to be some funny bipolar quotes out there. I was disappointed not to find many good ones so if you hear any pass them on. Here are a couple that were alright:

"Stable is a place where horses live."
"Mood Swinger"
"Normal is a setting on a washing machine."
"I don't suffer from mania..I enjoy it!"
"I have a brain disorder, what's your excuse?"
"Expert Roller Coaster rider."
"I've been to both poles, have you?"
"If I didn't have this t-shirt on you'd never know I was bipolar."

Most of the ones I found were about love and empathy, which are great, but I wanted some funny crap and didn't find what I was looking for.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Myths vs. Facts

MYTH: Bipolar is a state of mind and if a person thinks positively enough it will go away.
FACT: Bipolar is a REAL, treatable illness of the brain that can't be overcome by "snapping out of it".

MYTH: Treatment is a cop-out for those who are too weak to cope with day-to-day life.
FACT: Seeking treatment takes courage and is a smart decision.

MYTH: Talk therapy is just whining about problems and doesn't help.
FACT: Talk therapy has been tested clinically and found to be effective. Good talk therapy can help change behaviors that make a person's mood less stable.

MYTH: Medications that treat mood disorders are addicting. They also change a person's personality.
TRUTH: When properly prescribed and used, meds are not addictive and do not change a person's true personality. Medications help a person's mood become more stable and even. They do not cloud one's judgement.

MYTH: People with mood disorders can't get better.
TRUTH: When correctly diagnosed and treated, a person with bipolar disorder can life a stable and healthy life. Millions of people already do.

MYTH: People with bipolar are dangerous.
TRUTH: Research shows people with mental illness do not commit significantly more violent acts than the general population. They are, however, twice as likely to be the victim of violence.

MYTH: People with bipolar should not have children.
TRUTH: People who have been treated for mood disorders can parent as well as anyone else.

MYTH: People with bipolar are not stable enough to hold positions of authority in fields like law enforcement of government.
TRUTH: People with mood disorders can and do hold positions of authority everywhere. When properly treated, a person's mood disorder does not have to affect job performance.
*I encourage you to look at my very first post. Presidents, astronauts, soldiers, philosophers, etc. have all lead profound lives while struggling with bipolar.

MYTH: Suicide is not a problem in the US.
TRUTH: Each year over 30,000 people in the US take their own lives. More than 90% of these people are believed to have had a mental illness.

*DBSA Pamphlet

What helps and what hurts....

When someone is struggling with manic or depressive episodes you probably want to help, but what do you say? Here are some suggestions from the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.
I know you have a real illness and that's what causes you to have these thoughts and feelings.
I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel but I care about you and just want to help.
 You are important to me. Your life is important to me.
Tell me what I can do now to help you.
You might not believe it now, but the way you feel will change.
You are not alone in this. I am here for you.
Talk to me. I am listening.

It's all in your head.
We all go through times like this.
You have so much to live for-why do you want to die?
What do you want me to do? I can't change the situation.
Just snap out of it. Look at the bright side.
You will be fine. Stop worrying.
Here's my advice...

I think I will have Mike post more on supporting a bipolar spouse. He has been nothing but supportive and I am sure it hasn't been easy for him.

We are everywhere....mwahahahaha!

I have had several social worker and psychology friends mention they would give my blog to their patients as a resource. It makes me feel like I need to be less silly but that is who I am so I guess it will have to stay. Silly or not Bipolar is a serious disease. It can ruin friendships, destroy marriages, drain bank accounts, end in is a big deal. But it is so important for you to know you are not alone. There are all kinds of us from all walks of life struggling with this disease to some degree.
 If you are newly diagnosed or are looking for support I encourage you to look up your local DBSA group. There is one Tuesday night at the Regional Medical Center and one Thursday night at the Riverton library. I have attended both and love the people dearly. Some nights we laugh for the entire two hours, other nights some shed tears.
 I just don't want anyone to feel alone out there. Most of my family didn't know about my situation till I started this blog, so I understand being afraid to be open about it. All I know is I feel relieved and if someone can't deal with it they aren't worth having around. I think once people realize bipolar people can love normal happy lives, they are understanding.

Hi-Ho-Hi-Ho It's off to the hospital we go.

I promised a funny story so here it is. It is mixed in with some drama so bear with me. Back in March I hadn't slept for ten days, yes TEN DAYS, and I was behaving as one behaves after such sleep deprivation. My close friends and family held an intervention and I agreed to go to the hospital to get some sleep.
We waited in the waiting room as you always do, spoke to a crisis worker who told the psychiatrist on duty I needed a bed for the night. I wasn't sure what to think . I was okay at first with this idea but now I just wanted to go home. When I got wheeled back to the psychiatric unit I thought everyone there looked crazy. HOW IRONIC!!!! They probably thought the same thing of me. I also have a hard time with hospital smells because I was with my mom when she died in a hospital. Filling out the paperwork took forever then I spoke to a battery of psychologists, social workers, nurses, and psychiatrists. I just wanted to be given something to sleep and left to read "Hunger Games". I had to take off my pants because they had strings and ended wearing a gown for HOURS!!! I had to fight for underwear. LOL I laugh about it now but it was traumatic at the time. I spent most of my time in my my room reading until I got my good old sleeping cocktail. I CRASHED for the first time in a week and a half which was awesome until I got up to pee. I was so dizzy and out of it that I bumped my head on the metal toilet paper holder and earned myself a huge goose egg on the side of my head. I found myself on the floor when two nurses came to help me up. It wasn't until I was telling this story to my sister-in-law that I realized they probably had to pull up my pants for me. HAHAHAHA! The patient rooms have a two foot gap at the bottom so they can always check on you and I was laying under it with my rear end in the air. Oh the humility! I think this story is funny now. We all have a good chuckle about it and I hope you do too. Mental illness can be funny. Even when it's happening to you . ;)
I have only had one hospital stay thus far, but I will share more about it later. In hindsight I learned a lot during those two days.

"It is all in your head"

Well, I guess in a way it is. Your brain is in your head and it is not functioning properly. I had a friend post someone close to them was told they didn't need meds because "it was in their head".
I am a healthy person. I like to eat healthy, I exercise and the thought of taking pills for the rest of my life was quite unappealing. But, the key to controlling Bipolar is definitely taking your medications whatever they may be. Would you tell a person with diabetes not to take their insulin?
 Exercising and eating nutritiously can benefit those of us with AND without bipolar but it won't make it go away. Not in any study I have read. 
I will post more on meds, nutrition and exercise when I have more time. Thanks for the comment. I am starting to feel less exposed and more supported through this blog. I think it will be a good thing. Thanks everyone!

Thank You!!!

I simply have to post to thank everyone for all of your support. I don't know why I felt so compelled to share my story but I am glad I did. I appreciate all the love from everyone. There will probably always be a stigma around mental illness but the more we all learn, the quicker that will go away. And Tom, glad you found it entertaining. LOL Just wait for the funny hospital story I have coming up......

Sunday, July 3, 2011

What do these people have in common?


Buzz Aldrin

Carey Grant

Isaac Newton

Abraham Lincoln

Marilynn Monroe

Mark Twain


Napoleon Bonaparte

Edgar Allen Poe

Theodore Roosevelt

Tim Burton

Vincent Van Gogh

Winston Churchill

Take a good look at the people in this post. What do they all have in common? They are a handful of people who suffer(ed) from some form of Bipolar Disorder. There are astronauts, artists, philosophers, writers, politicians, Presidents, actors, and, well, one familiar face to many of you......ME! More on that later. I looked up famous people with the disease to feel less alone and felt it important to share.

Just what is this Bipolar you speak of?

Bipolar Disorder is a brain disorder that can cause dramatically unusual shifts in mood, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day to day tasks. Everyone has ups and downs but bipolar symptoms often result in damaged relationships, poor performance and even suicide. But, before anyone freaks out, BIPOLAR CAN BE TREATED AND PEOPLE WITH THIS ILLNESS CAN LEAD FULL AND PRODUCTIVE LIVES!!!

It often developed in teens or early adulthood. Although I was diagnosed at 29, I can pinpoint manic episodes throughout my life. I am sure my roommates can too. I always thought it was great I could stay out with my friends all night, do my homework and then go to school with no sleep. Um, not normal Leesa. Bipolar is hard to diagnose. I don't get the depressive lows like I get the manic highs. It may sound fabulous to be "up" all the time but to have your brain NEVER shut off is a terrible experience.

*National Institute of Mental Health

How is bipolar diagnosed?

Before I go into symptoms I feel it important for nobody to self diagnose themselves. People can have periods of time where they have of these. Don't assume you are bipolar! See your doctor if you are curious. This is just to help you understand where those of us diagnosed are coming from. I don't have ALL of the symptoms, but I had enough to be classified as bipolar.

*A long period of feeling "high" or an overly happy or outgoing mood.
* Extremely irritable mood, agitation, feeling "jumpy or "wired"
*Talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another, having racing thoughts.
*Being easily distracted.
*Increasing goal-oriented activities such as taking on new projects.
*Being restless.
*Sleeping little.
*Having an unrealistic belief in one's abililties.
*Behaving impulsively and taking part in a lot of pleasurable activities that are high-risk, such as spending sprees, impulsive sex, and impulsive business investments.

*A long period of feeling worried or empty.
*Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed.
*Feeling tired of slowed down.
*Having problems concentrating, remembering and making decisions.
*Being restless or irritable.
*Changing eating, sleeping, or other habits.
*Thinking of death or suicide or attempting suicide.

There are different and more detailed criterion out there but this one is pretty comprehensive. If you know someone suffering from this I hope you now have a better understanding of what they are going through. It sucks people. If anyone has questions they would  like answered I would be happy to look into them.

*National Institute of Mental Health


The stigma

When I was first diagnosed with bipolar back in 2009 it was like a wave washing over me. I FINALLY knew why I was the way I was. I FINALLY had an answer as to why I could go 10 days with no sleep and still function. But, no matter how good I felt having a diagnosis, I was worried about the stigma. I had always thought of bipolar people as being a little nutty, so if you feel the same way don't feel bad. I am a little nutty. LOL
Turns out I was on the wrong meds and had been given the wrong bipolar diagnosis but that is a WHOLE other scary story for a later post.
Bipolar is a chronic illness. I will have to take medication for the rest of my life and keep a constant sleep journal to assure my symptoms are at bay. It is hard because if I had diabetes people would sympathize, but because I have mental illness people want to stay away. Maybe it's all in my head. So far, I haven't lost any friendships due to this.
I can function just fine. I can work, I am an awesome mom and wife (well I do my best), I have supportive and awesome friends who have been nothing but there for me since I told them. The purpose of the is blog is to educate all of us as to what the disease is, how to live with/support someone with the disorder, and to support others who are suffering as well. I am really putting myself out there but I figure f I can help educate one person to get help, or allow one person not to feel alone in this, throwing out my pride will be worth it.