Until very recently I was scientifically illiterate despite 17 years of pretty decent education. I graduated high school with high honors taking awards in art and creativity- read basically voted most likely to go insane. I was bounced from “gifted” program to “advanced” program and then University hopped with marks all over the grade spectrum until the babies turned my brain to mush. Lucky me I am now barren and everybody is weaned and oh gosh, I have part of my brain back. The real problem was, I didn’t even realize how scientifically illiterate I was. And my journey to mental skillness has been longer because of it.
I loved science as a child but began to see the arts, poetry as the true places of the empathetic mind. That creativity and compassion were just not a part of science. Public school pretty much backed this up. My outside experiences with science were from my mother who just reinforced my notions that real scientists were basically just pyro-fetishists. I know not everybody was raised with explosions in the darkened hallway on Christmas Eve, but trust me, you wish you did.
Within the arts community I found people on the fringe, that I easily related to and that greatly appealed to me. I mostly knew how to act in public, thanks to the stable, loving, predictable life I grew up with. I was going mad with routine by high school though. My brain was on speed and there was no way to catch up. I burned through books and ideas like a wildfire. I adore my parents, even more as a parent myself for providing me with constant, unconditional love while I let my freak show fly. It’s as an adult; joking about my parents (mostly) fond reaction to outfits I wore from grades 7-12; everyday was halloween and the hair styles I chose- from bi-hawks to bright green chia pet spots to rainbow wigs- that I realize how awesome and supportive my parents are. I was just mind numbingly devastatingly bored. Mostly people who have known me while hypo manic would describe me as loud, fun, crazy. Even though I was stone cold sober, I seemed drunk, or high a lot of the time and this is pretty darn acceptable in the arts, a lot of the time. I felt at home.
However, I was not very self regulated and when the time came to learn new coping skills I naturally turned to the arts and alternative medicines. While I know creative expression lays at the heart of mental health for me there just were not the answers I needed on HOW to live. Lots of philosophy and grand advice about self forgiveness, and positive mental states. That just isn’t enough to get you well. I spent money I wish I hadn’t spent and time not engaged with reality that I can not get back wondering about mystical and magical things.
I was put in a Living with Bipolar 1 class that was 8 weeks long and I felt stigmatized and shaky walking through those doors. Opening new doors has opened a new life for me. I have been gorging myself on neuroscience reading and talks and dialectical behavioral therapy classes. I became interested in other forms of science as well, mostly thanks to a supremely pushy husband on the subject of scientific literacy. As I realized my tiny presence in our grand universe here on our pale blue dot I became increasingly grateful for my chance to make a positive impact on our tiny planet.
I’m now going to pursue becoming an Art Therapist, which seems like such a shockingly obvious fit. Who doesn’t want to do neuro science crafts that will pave down some positive new neuro highways?
It has been years of struggling to figure out how to live inside my own head in a settled and productive way. The struggle has been greatly eased by learning the skills of DBT. Emotional regulation, radical acceptance of reality, and mediation skills are tools we all need.
Thinking: Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Pretty much essential reading for anyone wishing to make use of their human brain.
Quick briefing on DBT. It is CBT with meditation/awareness practices. I found found it so helpful in the “how” part of emotional regulation.
For me, I had a light bulb moment in the garden with the children when I was manic 2 summers ago. I was basically neglecting my kids to obsessively dig for water. I was consumed by it. I was having spiritual revelations. My mind was blown by exposing new rocks to air for the very first time, to the point where it had magical purposes. Baby was safe on my back or in an exersaucer and the bigger kids played with sticks and dirt and puddles. Perfect, almost. Except for the fact that I lived in two realities and to be honest, the magical one was enchanting and felt like a state of mind always desired, and always slightly out of reach. After months of severe post partum depression it was clouds of heavenly angels exploding in my head. At first I marveled at how things were so beautiful they sparkled. Soon if I woke up and things were not sparkling with beauty I was smothered by an overwhelming ocean of pain and darkness. I was exuberant and had heaps of energy. Poorly directed obsessive energy, but hey, we could use me having a good round of productive hypomania couldn’t we? Hypomania feels like the ideal, creative, buzzing, likeable state. You feel like you can take on the world. And mania is even better.
But only for one person.
For everybody else it is hell because they are living with this reactive, excitable person who thinks they are in a state of sheer genius and are just at the edge of doing something radically essential or are armpit deep in doing something amazing.
So 2 years ago as I watched my beautiful children’s faces screwed up in tears because they didn’t want to stay in the garden anymore or have cheese strings and popcorn for dinner, again; I realized that I was not in their reality. And although I couldn’t tell which reality was the true reality, I could tell which reality the people I loved lived in, and that’s the one I wanted to live in too. It was a lucky moment. That was the day I admitted myself to the psych ward and started to actually get the help I needed.
I wish I had had the knowledge and strength to advocate for myself when I experienced post partum psychosis after my first miscarriage and then again after the birth of Coach Rapper. After the birth of the Evil Wizard I was hallucinating by day 2 PP. But I made jokes about it, and people thought it was funny. I had little moments of insight during those spells too, but didn’t act upon them because of fear and shame and thinking post partum psychosis was baking your baby in the oven. Or that people would think I wanted to if I talked about it.
For me the Bipolar label has been useful, even if I roll my eyes at it and feel like it is more of a symptom than a diagnoses. Largely because within the paradigm of bipolar I feel normal and have been able to find the support I needed by communicating with other people experiencing mood changes incongruent with external experiences.
I am mostly well following my gyno surgery. I ended up having the ablation, laproscopy, tubal (can’t remember the name) and the hysteroscopy as excepted as well as the endometriosis that was riddling my belly removed. My intestines were pretty glued together and everything feels very strange as it settles back in.
I am stuck back on a couple of days of strict bed rest and a reminder of how little 10lbs is after overdoing it a bit near the end of last week. 2 full weeks on half assed bed rest now and mostly I am bored of it. I either feel like NOT being in bed, or so crappy that I just want to sleep. I am tucking away some time here and there for writing though, which feels good. Mr.T and the Trifecta of Terror are at the yurt today leaving me alone in the motel. Let me tell you though, I have been dreaming about being alone for years. I have taken advantage of some mint chip ice cream, had 1000 baths and have watched plenty of movies and read several novels and slept in often.
I used to love to fill days with nobody but myself, before children, just lost in my own head. This whole experience with the surgery and recovery has felt much like a birth and newborn, except I am my own hatch-ling.
The past year has been such a year of growth for me as I have learned to advocate for myself and my health. I am becoming a better mother, by becoming a better me. I had to learn when to step down from myself. I have always had such big dreams and visions of what I should be able to do so it has been really difficult to admit defeat.
With regards to my health: I finally got to see a good Neurologist and we instantly hit it off. She feels like she can indeed help me feel better, but it might not be a straight road. I have EMG’s ordered for both of my hands and another EEG and an MRI as well. my Dr’s still don’t know what is going on but they keep throwing MS around like a 4 letter word.
My short list: Bipolar, migraines with auras, extreme trouble with heat (new the last 2 years), this weird “numb gun” sensation in the top of my neck on the right hand side that shoots off tingling zaps down my arm and spine and up around my head like an electonic spiderweb, passing out randomly (I don’t have a driver’s license anymore because of this), memory problems, and episodic pain and numbness in my hands, legs and lower back. I’m tired a lot. Sometimes the pain hurts so intensely my bra straps feel like weights and the keys in my pockets like knives. I ache like a lead blanket lays between my skin and muscles. Some mornings I wake up and the pain and stiffness is unbearable. My hands have been crippled in pain like I imagine my grandmother’s as she died. Suddenly the symptoms change as quickly as they arrive. I awake and my hands are not quite fine, but useable. Am I losing my mind?
I’ve been struggling with some of this for the last 10 years. It is hard to know what is endometriosis, how much of the chronic lower back ache, cold flashes/hot sweats, migraines, mood disorder, nausea is related to that? I have about a 40% chance of needing endo surgery again. How much is not? It’s pretty obvious that isn’t the only thing going on. To be honest, I didn’t even really register the difficulty of things (eg living in a tent with 2 boys under 5 while pregnant and your husband is 1200km away) because my internal world was so painful. I was numbed to it, in fight or flight. Being in that state of urgency kept me focused. Keeping me focused kept me in reality. Anytime the focus slipped, so did my grip. I’ve always felt like for me bipolar was more of a symptom than a diagnosis. It never answered the chronic pain, extreme fatigue, electrical storms. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I do agree that I fit the diagnostic criteria for Bipolar 1, no doubt, it just doesn’t explain enough. Having a mental health crisis can be overshadowing, I guess.
I’m in a really good spot right now with my marriage, my kids, and mostly my health. I’m fitter and healthier in many ways than I have ever been in my life. At times I also feel sicker. I feel really good about this spring and settling into our little valley and becoming a more engaged part of the community. I’ve just been in survival mode for so long that it’s nice to be able to sit back and breathe a bit, I have really quite enjoyed surgery recovery. I really like all my health care givers and am feeling confident that no matter what diagnosis I end up with, my quality of life will improve. It pretty much has to. It’s looking like I am going to go to either a MS clinic or a neuro/psych clinc in Vancouver sometime this year for diagnosis, since nobody really knows what to think, and it is unlikely the MRI will give enough information.
Love to you,
Google it! Fun fun. I forgot to add that I had to stay in the hospital for so long because it turns out I am allergic to the anti seizure med lamotrigine and ended up with lovely face/chest rash that once it started to hive and blister I was pulled off it cold turkey and kept longer. 7 days of Benydryl and all is good.
Okay, gimme the bad news.
I shit my pants.
The good news?
My belly doesn’t hurt anymore.
True parenting conversation I had this week.
So, where did I leave off? Mid November? I came back, cleaned and organized like mad while my Dr’s tried to get me into a neurologist/eeg/mri. I finally have an appt for a Neuro consult in early Feb. Things weren’t working out quickly enough to get me in before Christmas and so I was coached through how to get into the hospital through the ER to end up on the Med floor not in the psych ward so I could actually get an eeg instead of a benzo. And it worked! But the Med floor was full of the elderly and the dying and honestly I did not need to be in the hospital so to my agreement and delight I was moved to the Psych ward for the rest of my
vacationstay. It turned out to be full of interesting times, including 9 hours of oxygen in the ambulance for severe vomiting- they were threatening to put me on IV and the other patient being transferred having a heart attack. The paramedics were so on the ball I didn’t even realize what was happening at first and they had her stabilized and back to the hospital lickity split. I was 2.5 hours late for the EEG and pretty much missed the neuro appt where they told me my brain looked lesion free and I could go ahead and have the reproductive evacuation done. No clear answers from that, but nobody was really expecting there to be. It’s looking more and more like I will be spending a couple weeks at UBC in hospital having a neuro/psych eval done. Should I have a poll- neurotic, psychotic or both?
Internet time is up!
Christmas was lovely!
We are warm enough.
We are out of propane.
We are *hopefully* moving to Trail for Jan 15-April because hiking in with kids, water, wood, food, going to the laundromat, pool, etc is tricky, especially with all this health stuff.
Love to you all. I’ll try and update sooner.
PS. 158lbs baby! That’s something like 108lbs of weight loss!!!!!!
There is so much to say, I don’t know where to start.
Basically, I am either having seizures (more likely) or psychosis (less likely) and our dear friend Shannon is going to drive us home to BC, where early next week they will do an EEG and then go from there.
Mostly, things are better than ever and with the prescription adjustments I’ve had over the last month I am experiencing enough clarity to recognize that hey, maybe I am not crazy and my brain shouldn’t be a constant electrical storm where I feel like reality is time lapsed and full of strange auras and sensations. And I mean, I am open to me being totally off the wall fucking nuts, I am. I am even at peace with that. Either way, the $800 a month worth of migraine and anti psychotics and such hasn’t actually done anything but mood stabilize me to the point where I could view my brain with objectivity. I really need to be post brain check ups to comprehend all of this, but thought I would let anyone interest know, from me what is going on. I feel like I have a week to get things more sorted out, before I hit my pre ovulation experience.
I’ll update sometime next week. I am feeling rather optimistic about things right now.
At home, the new wood stove is in, the propane generator is all hooked up and running perfectly (although more loudly than the website and seller promised.) I am not really sure beyond that. Our plan is to just wing it, depending on how all the medical stuff plays out. I emailed Coach Rapper’s school and told them to send the bus for him next Wednesday morning. He needs time to adjust to the change before adding in another one. We have a hotel room booked for tomorrow night in Fort Macleod, so will be half way home then!
Looking forward to seeing Mr.T and checking out my gardens in the winter. Maybe digging out my dahlia to see if I can save them for next year.
1.5 cups of raw walnuts
1 cup roasted cashews
1/4 cup almond butter
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 cup of water
Blend in food processor until smooth and fluffy.
Cook in a frying pan over medium low heat for a couple minutes on each side.
Totally yummy, totally easy.