September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness month. While it’s great there’s a month dedicated to this, it should be 365-day year awareness.

I understand suicide can be a touchy subject especially for those who have struggled with it themselves or have lost a loved one to it.

I wanted to share my personal story with suicide because that was something I struggled with for a long time.

I was 14 years old when I started getting suicidal thoughts. I was in high school and was completely miserable. I was living in an abusive household suffering abuse from my mom on a daily basis. It was physical, verbal, & psychological abuse. Living in such a toxic environment and experiencing that abuse on a regular basis caused me to go into a severe depression.

I would spend hours locked in my room crying myself to sleep. I would always question God asking him “why me?”

“Why was this happening to me?”

“Why did I have to get a mom who treated me so terribly?”

It wasn’t much longer when I started to get suicidal thoughts on a regular basis.

My mom told me so many lies on a regular basis that it was hard for me to not believe them. She convinced me I was a burden to others & that I shouldn’t be on this earth. She told me things that no child or person should ever here. She told me she wished I were never born and that she wished she had me aborted when she had the chance. These are things I wish I could say never happened, but those were all lies she told me.

My thoughts started to become more negative and darker as the days went on. I started to lose feelings of happiness and forgot what happiness felt like. I started to feel numb & empty on the inside not feeling any emotions but sadness. I started to cope with self-harm when I was 14 years old. I believed it was the only way for me to feel something besides emptiness & sadness so I turned to self-harm.

That’s when the suicidal thoughts started to creep in and became more frequent. I started to believe the lies my mom and my depression told me. I believed I was a burden to others and that the world would be a better place without me in it. I wanted out of the world so bad that I came up with a plan when I was 15 years old to end my life. I had been prescribed pain medication from a dentist visit when I had to get a root canal and researched that medication and found that if I took all of the pills in the bottle I could never wake up again. That was my plan.

It was like playing tug o war in my mind though, there was that part of me that believed I was a burden and that I should just leave the world now, but there was another part of me that wanted to keep fighting. It told me to keep pushing through that those negative thoughts were lies and I could beat them.

I confided in my high school’s guidance counselor and he helped me push through the suicidal thoughts. I didn’t seek out treatment for my depression at the time even though I should have. Throughout high school I still struggled with depression and being active in sports helped me manage it.

After high school and when I went away to University the suicidal thoughts started to creep in again. I thought it was just homesickness since I was going to school on the other side of the country, but it was much deeper than that for me.

It was the summer of 2014 when I was home from University that I sought out treatment for my depression. I struggled with an alcohol addiction and one day when I had way too much to drink I couldn’t control the suicidal thoughts. I knew that if I didn’t seek out help that night, I would have harmed myself and may not be alive today. I had my best friend’s boyfriend drive me to the mental hospital and drop me off. He asked me if I was sure I wanted to do this and I told him yes I knew if I didn’t get help I was only going to get worse.

I spent three days in the crisis unit of the mental hospital. I was put on Zoloft and anxiety medication that helped ease my anxiety while I was there. I wish I could say going on Zoloft helped with my depression, but it actually made things worse for me. At the time I was diagnosed with depression and didn’t know I had bipolar disorder. When I was on Zoloft I felt like a zombie I was so out of it and numb, I hated it. I didn’t realize that for those who have bipolar disorder, anti-depressants could cause you to go into mania, which it did for me.

When I was back at University that semester I was a wreck. I was in and out of depressive episodes along with being in manic episodes. My alcohol problem was out of control and my behavior was reckless. I was failing all of my classes and was drinking on a daily basis. I started to struggle with self-harm again and the suicidal thoughts again. I knew that if I didn’t leave University and get myself out of that environment things were only going to get worse for me. That’s when I withdrew from University and moved back home to Florida.

I wish I could say everything got better for me when I got back home to Florida, but my depression grew worse. The psychiatrist I was seeing was no help at all to me and didn’t listen to my problems. He didn’t care to give me a proper psych evaluation and just wrote me a script for the next anti-depressant out there. I continued to struggle with self-harm and battled the suicidal thoughts daily.

I was empty & numb living in an endless cycle of my depression.

It wasn’t until the end of 2016 when I finally found a psychiatrist who gave me a proper psych evaluation and diagnosed me with bipolar disorder. Getting on the proper medication and changing my lifestyle to healthier habits, put an end to the suicidal thoughts. It was like the fog had finally been lifted and I could see clearly again. I started to see a therapist for a few months as well that helped me work through some of the issues from my past.

I’m happy to say that I am stable now and have not harmed myself in over three years now. I still find myself going into depressive episodes every now and then and will catch the suicidal thoughts creeping into my mind. I’ve become a lot stronger than I was three years ago and can fight off the thoughts much better than before.

I know living with a mental illness will be a life long battle for me. I’ve spent over ten years now fighting the demons and while it can be exhausting, I know I will survive the fight.

For those of you that have experienced something similar or going through a tough time please never hesitate to seek out help. There are so many resources available out there today and remember you are not a burden to others. Your life matters and you are never alone in this fight.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255

Being Medication Free… Is it Possible?

As the New Year gets underway, an underlying question remains.

The Bipolar Writer Looks at the Possibilities

My story, the one where my mental illness became Bipolar One, begins with so much pain. That, of course, is a story for another time.

What I want to talk about today is medication. Day one there were a handful of medications that, in the psychiatric ward, I was told I had no choice but to take if I ever wanted to leave. To be fair, I was quite suicidal at the time. There is a real need for medication throughout the last eleven years. I would not be here without the medication that I have been on, and I know this is the truth. That doesn’t mean that change is good.

Over the last few months, a consistent theme has been coming into fruition in my mind–could I live this Bipolar life without medication?

In the last few months, I have worked to get myself of antidepressants with a lot of success. My depression is down without medication (side note my other medications help with depression prevention as well.) Still, I can say with certainty I am better off without the antidepressants.

Things have been different. I usually go through some severe depression, and last year around this time I was going through a small but destructive depression cycle. It put me back quite a bit, and the only thing that got me through was this blog. From March to May, I also suffered a significant setback in my depression with a prolonged depression cycle. I made it through, but I knew things had to change.

I must say this, any medication change should be consulted with a psychiatrist or whomever you seek your medication from!

The changes that I made was under the care of my psychiatrist and we planned out the stepping down of medication.

With the success, I am wondering about two medications that I wish I could live without–Seroquel and Ativan. The issue I have with Ativan is that I have been taking this (benzo) for a long time. With the Seroquel, I wonder if it is a contributing factor to my social anxiety.

The worst part of Seroquel is how it makes you feel throughout the day. It makes it hard to wake up in the morning, and while it used to help me sleep right away, it sometimes takes hours before I get to sleep when I take my dosage.

This coming Friday I have my first psychiatrist visit of the New Year. This will be a topic of discussion. I really believe it is possible to live this life without the mountain of medication. Anything is possible, and worst case I have to get back on the medication. I can imagine a life without it, even if it has been my life every day for over eleven years.

Always have hope in the future. Continuously evolve in this mental illness life. I will most likely be Bipolar for life, but that doesn’t mean it has to control me. I will be updating my progress (and if my psychiatrist agrees) in future posts. Stay tuned.

Always Keep Fighting (AKF)

James

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Hello Depression, My Old Friend

I’ve come to feel it once again.

I’ve been here before, then again later, and again after that.

I am speaking, as the title indicated, of Depression. Do you know it? Do you know its seeping, creeping darkling tendrils? Its suffocating mass? Its overwhelming prevalence in your life?

The funny thing is that I want to feel it. I draw Depression over myself like a comforting blanket, speak through its muffling effects, and even run my thoughts through its percolating filter.

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I’m afraid. And as much as I fear the mental state I can get to with Depression, I fear the unknowns of real life much more -especially the variables known as people. Actually, that’s not fair. A lot of my negative thoughts result from a constant need to numb any feeling at all.

When my mind is awake and aware, the reality of my pointless life rises up in walls around me. It doesn’t stop there. Depression curdles my thoughts, reminding me of how much I have in life and how I should feel bad for feeling bad. I should also stop thinking selfishly at all. Sure; I don’t ever address my own happiness, but I’m more functional that way.

When around people, every little gesture or tone or blink sends my anxiety off the charts. I talk too much, or too little. I don’t smile enough. Maybe I smiled too much? I know they hated me because they did that little side-smile and nervous laugh. Why oh why did I talk about social injustice when they just wanted to talk about Joanna Gaines?

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Reeling at the stimuli I quickly opt for substance abuse, staying up late, stopping my mind, and squashing my innermost desires.

I forget all the good advice and hide beneath my cloud of encroaching gloom known as Depression.

And only when I am at the bottom of the pit do I notice things might not be ideal. When my mind shouts, “NO YOU’RE NOT” over the top of a compliment. When I yearn to not exist. When, in short, the thoughts altered by Depression go beyond what I think is ‘real’ and definitely enter ‘lying.’

That’s when I begin to fidget a bit. Perhaps, I consider, this Depression thing isn’t such a great comforter after all.

And yet, I don’t fully shake it. Instead, I feel I go round and round the cycle again.

I told my counselor once that I don’t know why I keep at it. I said that maybe I was waiting for ‘rock bottom;’ for a major event to shake me out of this. “You don’t want rock bottom,” she reminded me. She’s right, of course. I don’t.

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I feel I need to take my own advice and stop pretending I don’t need to. I need to keep at it and not assume all’s well enough to get lazy. I need to actually do what I just said.

What do you do to push away the blues, and remember that they need to stay away? How do you stick with it?

Photo Credit:
Megan te Boekhorst
Alexandra Gorn
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José Ignacio García Zajaczkowski

Falling Back Into Depression

A month ago I wrote about how I wasn’t feeling depressed, that I was able to feel happy and be productive (check it out here). It was really great while it lasted but I have started falling back down into the hole of depression.

It hit me yesterday evening, just tripping me up. I began to lose control over my emotions  during a stupid little thing with my boyfriend. I began to cry, something I often do when I feel out of control and when I feel like I have done something wrong. I cried even though he tried to tell me everything was fine but that voice in my head told me otherwise.

I woke up this morning figuring yesterday was just a fluke, that everything would be better today. I was very much wrong. My brain kept conjuring up feelings of guilt and telling me that my boyfriend doesn’t love me anymore because I am the way I am. I began sobbing, shouting into my bed that everything is all my fault. That it is my fault he is unhappy and that I am ruining my relationship even though this isn’t true. We have been together for nearly 2 years and are planning to live together in 2019.

In that fit of sobbing I knew my brain felt weird. That something wasn’t quite right, something was off. I felt depression grabbing me, dragging me back down into the imaginary hole where it lives. I’m back to where I was a few months ago. Feeling empty, sad, lazy and that I am not good enough for anyone or anything.

It is such a stark contrast from where I was yesterday afternoon. Depression gives zero f***s about when it wants to punch you in my stomach and drag you back to where you were trying to escape.

I feel disappointed in myself to be back in this depressive state. It feels unfair that I have to return to this state of being after being truly happy for over a month.

Ideas to Ease Depression

Since this is the first post of 2018, I wanted to talk about a familiar subject, but in a different context. I have written before about how role-playing video games are one way that I use to ease my depression symptoms. It is at its most important in my own life between the months of November to March when the seasonal component of my depression is at its strongest.

What we know about depression is that it is one of the most common mental health problems that we see today. For me, it has been a major part of my life since I was a teenager. The most common way that doctors treat depression is through medication.

In my experience with anti-depressants, they can be effective at easing my own depression symptoms. The problem is over time they before less effective. Over the past ten years, I have changed to a new anti-depressant once a year.

It gets worse for me when I am in a long depression cycle. In one tough year my psychiatrist changed my anti-depressant medication three different times.

Medications are an important part of the process of easing depression. But you can do things that you can do that are outside the realm of medication that help ease depression. It can be is as effective as medication.

Sleep is a major part of if your depression worsens or gets better. One thing I have learned is not to oversleep or take naps. I never take naps so it is never an issue for me. The expert in my life tells me all the time that naps are counterproductive. It can worsen your depression because staying in bed while depression is consuming you is a bad thing.

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That leads to another important “rule of thumb.” I have written recently how staying in bed for three straight days was helpful, but it made me fall deeper into the depths of my depression. This is a gray area. Staying in bed feels good in the moment but in the long term, it could mean more days of feeling worse. That is why out of all the advice I can give, this is the hardest to do.

I had to make the decision to finally get out of bed at the start of this week. Since then I have been able to ease my depression by getting back to what I love. Writing.

One of the worst parts of my depression life is that when I am depressed I tend to go away from a healthy and balanced diet. Eating right, according to every one of my doctors, is paramount to easing depression symptoms. When I skip meals or even go a day without an appetite I know my depression is getting worse. For me, this is a sign, and eating is so important to living. Eating right as a part of my mental health plan isn’t always synch, when I am depressed I tend to skip meals. When I finally start eating regular meals again, I can tell the difference.

It pays to be kind to yourself.

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I struggle with this the most when I am depressed. When I am lost deep in my depression I tend to feel like the only way out is to push the limits. I try to write all day in hopes that I will feel better in the end. It never works because I am not being kind to myself.

After my latest bout with depression, I decided to read. I opened up my favorite collection of Edgar Allan Poe written works and I read my favorites. The Raven. The Purloined Letter. I got lost for a few hours in my favorite Poe poems. It felt good to do something that I love. The next day when I went back to writing I eased into it. Only wrote on my blog. The next I worked on a chapter. By mid-week, I was back to writing in a normal schedule, but when I reached my limit, I walked away for the day.

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Find ways to be kind to yourself by finding things that you love and do them. If a bubble bath makes you feel great, do it. Listening to some great music over the last couple days was helpful in easing my depression to a manageable level. You can read a book. Allowing yourself moments in your day of downtime can mean all the difference. It pays to be kind to yourself.

The last thing that I wanted to talk about is self-acceptance. I have learned over the past four months of writing this blog that when you believe in yourself, it changes your perspective. It sounds cliche, but don’t let others define who you are in this life. In my own life, I have learned to accept who I am with my illness. No one is perfect and for so long I thought I had to be to have success.

It’s a false thought. I have lived through so much anxiety and depression since starting this blog. Yet, I still find a way to connect with my fellow bloggers. Every day that I accept that I am a decent person despite being Bipolar, means I am more comfortable in my own skin.

I believe that we all have something to offer in this world. If those of us in the mental illness community start respecting ourselves and those like us, it could mean that we can finally start to strip away the stigma that surrounds us. It starts with accepting who you are in this life.

Always Keep Fighting.

J.E. Skye

 

Photo Credits:

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unsplash-logoHernan Sanchez

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Stabilize

I sat in the waiting room clutching papers in my hand. For two weeks I had prepared to tell my doctor that I finally began seeing a therapist and that the diagnosis from her standpoint was leaning towards bipolar disorder. Awkwardly I gathered my things together once my name was called and followed the nurse for blood pressure and weight checks. Weighing in at 210 pounds threw me off guard at first, but I suppose that’s what happens when you stop drinking every day.

The nurse handed me the same GAD checklist that gets filled out each visit. I hadn’t seen my doctor in a little over a month so my numbers were up higher than in previous visits. As I would fill out “More than half the days”, I could feel that I was getting beside myself again. I should’ve been better than this. I should’ve been normal.

The doctor came in the room almost as quickly as the nurse left it. Before I could even allow the “hello” to escape her lips, the paperwork was extended in her direction and I told her I had gone to a therapist. “We think I may have bipolar disorder. I’m not throwing chairs or anything like that but after reading off the symptoms, a lot of things make a lot of sense. The high sex drive, the huge interest in hobbies only to drop them within a week or so, the days of not being able to make myself get off of the couch, my lack of focus and excess of indecision, it’s all here and then some.”, I said while pointing at the bipolar information sheet.

“Well I had my suspicions, but getting a second opinion from a therapist definitely solidifies a treatment option. Let’s try weaning off of one of your antidepressants and adding a mood stabilizer.”, she said.

I want to be clear by saying that I’m not glad that I am on another medication, but I am glad that I may be one step closer to finding a way to live life without my life getting in the way of… Well… My life. The problem I have with my mental health is that I wake up with either no motivation to get anything done, or so much motivation that I run errands and still not get anything done. I can have a great day until a derogatory comment is made to either me or a friend, and it sends my mood into a sullen, sarcastic, and depressing cloud for either hours or the rest of the day. I feel as though I have never had any control over my sensitivity or emotions, even as a child.

It has been four days since I have begun the process to stabilize. The new medicine I am trying is called Topiramate and if it’s anything like my Lexapro, it probably is something that will take time for my body to chemically register before a difference is noticed. Honestly, the biggest side effects I feel today are lethargy and extreme dizziness. It is as if I have hit the bottle hard enough to have woken up drunk and held onto it. This medicine is also used to treat seizures as well as migraines, so I feel that it plays with a different part of the mind than I am used to, so hopefully a change will come soon. According to other articles, it takes around five to six days for the side effects to dissipate.

This is only the beginning of this journey, and I write to keep you in the loop about this process in case any of you ever go through the same thing. If you feel as though you need help with mental health please reach out to someone. You are never alone. I am available for contact via social media if anyone ever needs an ear to listen. You can find my contact information as well as my other blog posts at www.outtodry.blog.

Take care everyone!

Introduction

If you have ever ridden a roller coaster, you understand the excitement and fear that courses through your mind and body as you burst through the track. You experience such an intense jolt of so many emotions as your breath is stolen from falling and you only have enough time to take another breath as you ascend. In a lot of ways, bipolar disorder seems to share many similarities. It seems to change a person drastically in mere moments and can even span episodes for days at a time. You never know how you will feel when you wake up in the morning. You never know what will happen to send you spiraling into a depressive episode. I often like to call it a “Jekyll and Hyde” effect in my personal blog.

I am Shelton Fisher and recently I have been given the privilege to be a contributing writer for The Bipolar Writer. I am a 25 year old with a full time job, an amazing wife, and the two best dogs in the world. I used to be a decent musician and writing has become a passion of mine. Amid the wonderful things that life has provided for me, I have mental health issues that fight me tooth and nail on a regular basis. Anxiety has been a familiar part of my life since I was a child, but alcoholism and panic attacks made me realize that I needed to finally address these problem medically. In September of last year I was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder and began a regimen of serotonin inhibitors and recently I have began seeing a therapist. After several sessions addressing my childhood behaviors and my current behaviors, we have discussed that I may be bipolar and the symptoms honestly surprised me.

As I continue the journey into my mental health to confirm a diagnosis and discover how to live a better life, I want to include you through personal stories, free verse poetry, and the occasional informative post. I am not a professional by any means, but I am living proof that mental health is a war to be won. If you have ever been afraid to speak, afraid to make a move, lost motivation and hope, hurt yourself because you couldn’t find the right words or felt trapped inside your body, screamed at the top of your lungs with tears rolling down your boiling red cheeks, self medicated with alcohol or drugs, fallen into depression for no apparent reason, or just want to know how I am handling things, my posts are for you.

Bipolar Medication, What Works?

In my ten plus years since my diagnosis, I have been on so many different medications. It has been especially hard for me to keep an anti-depressant for more than a year at a time. I will talk in this blog post about my medications associated with my diagnosis of Bipolar One and what was given for depression.

One of the questions that a blogger asked of me recently was about anti-depressants. The blogger wanted me to discuss if anti-depressants have gotten better. The other part of the blogger’s question was this. Can Bipolar medication help someone get to a point of normalcy? The blogger wanted me to share my experience in this area.

So here we go.

Have Antidepressants Improved?

In my personal opinion, and my experience, anti-depressants have improved. Since my first diagnosis of severe depression, it was always anti-depressants that were given. It was the first medication I was ever given. It was about three weeks before my second diagnosis. I honestly don’t remember my first anti-depressant but it lasted only about three weeks. It was before my diagnosis of the Schizoaffective disorder, and then to my diagnosis of Bipolar One that my anti-depressant that was changed by my first real psychiatrist. These diagnosis‘ came on the heels of my first suicide attempt.

I can remember my second anti-depressant, Zoloft. I took that off and on for a year. Since then I changed anti-depressants at a rate of once a year until about two years ago. My doctor gave me a new medication called Venaflaxine that has been my most consistent anti-depressant. Of course, I don’t take just an anti-depressant for depression and my Bipolar Disorder. I take other effective medication that I have found balance.

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Lithium, My Most Consistent Medication

Lithium has been with me since the beginning but there was about a year when I went off of it. But, for the most part, I have been taking lithium as my main mood stabilizer. It has some bad side effects like making me thirsty 24/7 and the uncontrollable shaking of my hands. But, my psychiatrist says it is the most effective medicine to treat Bipolar disorder.

Since going back on lithium I have seen myself gain better control over my depression. It’s not the only reason. Its a combination of that help like my anti-depressant, my mood stabilizer, and my anti-psychotic medication. Seroquel is the other medication that I take for Bipolar disorder. I have chronicled my struggles with this medicine, you can find it here.

What Does it all Mean?

To put everything into perspective, my level of anxiety that I track daily has seen a steady decrease. Over the last twelve months, I have seen my depression levels, on a scale of 1-10, go from high levels to manageable. Over the last six months, for example, I have been registering more in the 4-5 and 2-4 range for my depression most days.

There have been days where my depression will spike, but that never lasts. It has been good to finally get my depression in a manageable range. I can even see my depression disappear for weeks at a time.

Medication is a big part of it. There are other factors like diet, exercise, and the time of the year. It helps to write about it.

To answer the questions posed by my fellow blogger. Yes, anti-depressants have improved. I see them improving even more in the coming years. They now have medication that does the job of anti-depressants and mood stabilizers.

As for the question if Bipolar medicine can help you achieve some normalcy? The answer for me is yes. It’s never going to cure you, but the right combination of medication means you can feel normal most days. That in my book is a win.

So talk you your medical provider. Whether it be a psychiatrist, therapist, counselor, or wherever you get your meds. Find what works for you. Sometimes it will take trial and error. That’s okay. That’s life, to be honest. Keep working at it.

Always Keep Fighting.

J.E. Skye

Photo Credit:

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