Finding Clarity

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“She had always wanted words, she loved them; grew up on them. Words gave her clarity, brought reason, shape.”
― Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient

Clarity is a beautiful word to someone with a mental health disorder. It is something I have worked for since afflicted with bipolar disorder in my early twenties. Medically, it has been under rather good control for most of the 40 years since. With ups and downs. I have been on a medication for the mania, a charming med called an anti-psychotic, an anti-depressant, a mood-stabilizer, an anti-anxiety, sometimes two for one of these symptoms. I have done amazingly well. I worked high-stress, high-responsibility jobs for most of my adult life. I have been happy. I have been successful.

In recent years I have only worked part-time and now I run an art business and social media business out of my home, part-time. I work online for mental health advocacy and until this month ran an online newspaper for mental health. I quit doing that to get rid of the monthly cost and am writing in this blog instead. It’s more direct, more personal. I also have more clarity. I attribute it to a new med I have been taking for the past three years. It’s worth sharing.

Many people with bipolar disorder have trouble taking anti-depressants, because they can push them into mania. This is not good. I especially don’t like it because I have a nasty form of mania. Often I would be pushed into Hypo Mania, not as scary, but dangerous. It would affect my judgement. Cloudy judgement causes one to spend money one doesn’t have…awful things like that for someone with a strict budget that requires careful choices! This was a nuisance and hard on our family.

Then I was introduced to a med called Latuda. Touted as a medication for bipolar depression. It is far more than that. It is anti-psychotic with anti-depressive properties. It has been wonderful for me! I no longer flip hypo-manic because I’m not on a standard anti-depressant. I feel good. I have more clarity. I am taking less medicine. Latuda, and an anti-anxiety to help me sleep. A mood stabilizer I don’t really need too much, but it doubles as an anti-migraine med! Latuda, good doctors, God and good self care are the cause of my recent remission.

I promised to tell you in my last blog about the drug making my remission possible and that is it! It’s my hope that someone with bipolar will read this and tells their doctor about it. Or someone will tell a bipolar friend about it and they will give it a try! It’s very low in side effects and it does not cause weight gain as so many of these drugs do!

One must always cling to hope. Nurture it and help it grow. Share the good news in your life and cultivate a positive attitude when fighting a chronic illness. That is Mental Health Advocacy to me. Simply talking about things dispels shame, mystery and misinformation. Have a good day all and keep striving for clarity in your life, regardless of your circumstances!

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Don’t Fight the Calm!

“Don’t walk in front of me… I may not follow
Don’t walk behind me… I may not lead
Walk beside me… just be my friend”
Albert Camus

At sixty-three I lead a happy, but somewhat limited life. My bipolar is in remission according to my psychiatrist. My symptoms are not particularly active, but I do not stress myself much. I have an underlying anxiety problem and active insomnia. I stay at home a lot. I very rarely drive. My companion dog, Riley helps with my anxiety and is my constant companion. I paint. I read on my phone. I participate in social media, do household chores ~ dish washing and laundry. I talk on the phone to my sister, my husband, my two best friends, my daughter and my Dad. I watch upbeat television shows and some news.

I do bible study on my phone. I make dinner. When my husband, Mike gets home things get lively for Riley and I. We watch football and hockey along with my upbeat shows and news! Mike and I talk a lot! We eat on TV trays. Take the dog for a walk, weather permitting. Riley entertains us more. She’s livelier with the bigger audience! We discuss the finances, which I pay. Lots of excitement at the Sweiger household!

I do not push myself. I don’t work outside the home. I have one social media client on retainer and my art. I have a steady routine. I wish I could do more, but if I try to anxiety overwhelms me and I am overcome. These are the constraints of my illness. I know that without it I could accomplish a great deal more. I would not be housebound. I would drive Mike to work downtown and take the car. I would work more. We would have more resources. More opportunities. But I cannot let myself think that way. I cannot live with the “If Only” Syndrome. I have to live life where I am. I have to tackle the challenges life handles me. I had high blood pressure, very HIGH. I went to a Cardiologist and changed all my medicines. I joined Weight Watchers and lost 25 pounds. It’s normal now. I don’t drink caffeine. I don’t eat salt.

It is the same with bipolar disorder. I don’t push my limits. I live a low stress life. Not too low. I’m not in a coma. Yes, I rest and I watch easy viewing television. It calms me. The stories are predictable. I don’t need a high drama factor every minute of my existence. I need to quiet myself. So I do. I read. I paint. I talk to friends. I relax with my dog. Do housework. Maintain. My nature would demand a more exciting life. My nature would push the edges and encourage mania. I do not let my nature rule. My drive no longer calls the shots. My discipline, in eating and in play calls the shots. I’m in remission and I want to stay that way. I like calm. I have decided to grow accustomed to it. Stay tuned and I’ll talk about the drug that made this all possible!

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Hello!

Hello and happy December to All! I haven’t written in this blog for a while for a bit dear friends. Not that bipolar has not been a struggle for me, for it is  daily challenge…but because I have found other parts of my life a bit more challenging perhaps. Physical challenges one by one have hit me in small and big waves. Nothing life threatening I thanks the Savior, but trying nonetheless.

And as I come up for air from some of them ~ I am thankful to the Lord who sustains me, friends and family who are so faithful in prayer and comfort. The Lord and the Holy Spirit who comforts, brings health and strength and the Lord God who made me who is also my healer!!

What would any of us do without the Lord Jesus who brings us Life Anew each day and the healing blood of His sacrifice on the cross? Without the Father who created us or the Holy Spirit who makes all things new?

As we celebrate his birth in the coming days while some argue about calendar days ~ I like to take the time to reflect and be thankful  for the  grand plan than brought him to us. That transforms and changed this dark world and brought hope, as it does still … and the comfort there is in the remembering!

HAVE A BLESSED SEASON!!!

LOVE YOU ALL!!!

 

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Hanging in Here!

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I haven’t blogged about the bipolar life for a while. Not pretending I don’t have it. Haven’t been miraculously delivered from it, which many people have prayed I would be and which while I do believe is possible…I feel my healing is coming through living close to my Lord with the disorder and sharing my small and large victories with others. Sure I have rocky times, I will share those with you once in a while, but usually after the fact.

It’s been a hard year. I’ve been battling depression off and on for quite a long time. Starting last fall…November of 2014. My psychiatrist, a wonderful human being and gifted physician, good friend of my husband and mine feels Abilify quit working for me. In retrospect. You never know exactly what happens. One day you’re fine and the next, things go south. You still have your faith. You still have your inner strength, but your mood slips and you cannot get it back. Depression is scary that’s all I’ll say about it. I don’t like to dwell on the negative. Sadness is a shroud and the sooner it dissipates, the better. In my case, I’ll measure it for you in holiday gatherings: I missed them. I couldn’t make Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter. By Mother’s Day I was there! I will make my Birthday and my three best friends are lined up! I can hardly wait for mid-June. It’s like a Landmark ~ for after these months of struggle I’m nearly at 100% Libby!!!!! I believe I will be in rare form at the Birthday Lunch!

Past Birthdays:

Best girlfriends since Jr. High and High School -- WOW!

Best girlfriends since Jr. High and High School — WOW!

Lynn and I (Friends since age 13!)

BdayGirls

Is this a personal triumph? Yes! It’s a triumph of perseverance, grit, determination but also Faith, stubbornness, will to Live, Life fully, God’s love, my husband’s love, skilled doctors, medication management done right, experimentation gone lucky, and most of all hanging onto God for dear life. God is in there a couple of time’s I realize, also grit and words to that effect. A bit of luck. Good Fortune is a factor. Good genes. I believe in it all. Perfectly great people kill themselves when they’re depressed. I’m no better than any of them. The Lord carried me through when I hit those times and I know it. Why? That I don’t know but I am grateful. Gratitude is my biggest emotion after all of these months. And I feel joy again. Real joy and happiness.

I show my Art at the top of the page and a cross because the Lord let me have my art as my constant friend. My husband Mike helped carry me through. My family, my daughter, my sister Suzy. My companion dog Riley must be mentioned. My friend Cooley called me regularly. My dad kept tabs on me. I talked to my friend Debi who was fighting Cancer and she cheered ME up! My friend Jenny prayed me through.

We need people. Social media helped. I can always connect on it, even when I cannot make a phone call. We push back in a depression. Isolate ourselves. I was too sick to drive. Still can’t due to side effects. I’m walking more though. Kudos to my drivers: Mike, Suzy, Dad.

Love you all!

Thanks for being there! All my friends here in Minnesota, and those on Social Media who may or may not have known. You prayed. You were there. You made me laugh. For all of that ~ I thank you!

Bipolar and Brain Injury

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On December 4th I fell on the ice and suffered my second concussion in 9 months. If I had known all that would lie ahead of me in recovery I would have despaired. What lie ahead for me were months of severe headache, dizziness, sleep problems (worse) than usual, ill temper, an argument with a best friend that separated us for an entire month and never should have happened, depression, agitation and sometimes despair.

There were also wonderful moments as I applied paint to canvas to discipline my brain and get it working in a coordinated, concentrated, focused effort again. The photo on the left called, “The Spirit and The Bride Say Come” is pretty, but lacks the detail of the painting to the right ~ “Purple Passion Flowers” for same best friend, was completed this weekend ~ one and one half month later in the process.

Right now I am coming off the headache prevention pills that kept me sane. I had to wait 6 weeks to get on them. It took that long to see a concussion specialist. And it took another two weeks for them to work. The two months they worked were wonderful, now I’m weaning off of them, no longer needed and going through the usual depression and agitation that occurs when I go off any medication that has affected my brain.

I didn’t write about this experience much. I wrote one blog about my painting, found on the Amused Now Entertainment Blog. It was very difficult to write when I did that. Now the words are flowing again. I thank God for my recovery. It was really quick. It may not sound like it. But for two concussions in the span of nine months, the first one with a brain bleed. I am a very fortunate gal.

How did it mix with bipolar? As you might imagine, not well. LOL. Brain injuries bring with them mood swings. Crabbiness. Temper. Anxiety. Depression. Sleeping too much. Sleeping too little. Poor sleep. Trouble sleeping. These are the symptoms I remember most. My short-term memory was affected. I was very sensitive to light and sound. My nerves were on edge. Not real compatible with bipolar disorder. I was a crabby manic, depressed person some days and just crabby the others. My husband needs a vacation!

The painting helped so much. I thank God for helping me to paint. There were some nights I felt He was holding the brush! I would smile, dance, cry, feel loved as I painted the early Bride of Christ Bouquet paintings which I call the style of the painting on the left. Now I am painting more floral, flowers in pots. Every painter goes through stages with their art. I love to paint and it brings me great joy. I pray when I paint. I pray for the person who will eventually get the painting, that they will be blessed by in and their whole household. I praise God when I paint.

As it says in the blog for Amused Now, “When I paint I feel His pleasure”:

Both times I got my concussions falling on the ice under the snow. Once on February 22, 2013 and once on December 4, 2014. So be careful out there folks. And if you do hit your head, no matter how inconsequential it may seem, please see a doctor immediately. The second time I didn’t even get a bump, and I had a brain injury. Thank you for listening. Enjoy and take care!

The Amazing Riley: Companion Dog

Riley Love

Riley Love

I have a confession to make if you haven’t already noticed it. I am not the best mental health blogger. I like to publish my paper daily “Living Above the Madness” at livingabovethemadness.org and I feel it does a lot to inform and help. But, personally, when I’m having a rough time, I don’t like to write about it every day. I really don’t like to write about it at all. I force myself to write about it. I like to write about things that uplift the soul.

When was I was down and anxious from August until November I didn’t write in this blog much. Some people thought I was in mourning for my mother. I mentioned in one post that it began that way, but when you’re bipolar what can be a trigger, albeit a serious one, like a death, can quickly spin into a serious depression. And that’s what I had. With anxiety. And I couldn’t climb out of it. I had good moments, but not good days. The best days were spent at my friend Heather’s studio painting. But, it wasn’t enough to pull me out.

What was I wondered? My medications, even adjusted weren’t. I began to research the subject. Therapy was helping, but not enough. I kept bumping into the same thing in my research: Service dogs and companion dogs for depression and anxiety. So many psychiatrists and psychologists and the American Disabilities Association were recognizing their power to help and pull people out of depression and anxiety and help keep them out!

I talked to my psychiatrist. At first I thought a service dog. Just researching the idea made me feel better. My doctor thought a companion dog would do as well. I plan to train Riley to be a recognized companion dog who can go with me more places. She is a smart dog with a good temperament. It will not be difficult.

I searched and searched for the dog for me through Petfinder.com. They all had their unique stories. I found Riley through PAWS of Western Wisconsin. Her story was heartbreaking, triumphant too ~ and in many ways made her the perfect companion dog for me. We have both suffered. We both love people and we both have big hearts. Riley was rescued by PAWS from a kill shelter in Tennessee. Because she had been marked to die, she didn’t receive her distemper/parvo vaccine. After PAWS rescued her she contracted parvo which is often fatal. The vet clinic in Baldwin, Wisconsin where her foster mom Carrie worked along with Carrie nursed her back to health. The renamed her Riley got her 6 months old, trained her and taught her to love humans not fear them.

Then I came into her life. This affectionate, loving, miracle dog is my companion dog in training. She walks great on a leash, is housebroken, can sit, stay and is a lovey! I am blessed to have her and to say I am no longer depressed is an understatement. I am laughing a deep, from the soul laugh. My anxiety is gone. I am mellow. I am thankful to God for His way of working things out. Having a dog to care for when I love to care for people and pets has helped me. The puppy love has helped me, and the devotion provided by this sweet pup all have helped.

It’s a mystery, but I’ll not question success. There’s papers written on this phenomenon. Some say, you don’t need a dog. A companion animal can be a cat or any type of animal you are drawn to. For me it’s strictly a must love dogs type of bond! 🙂 Thanks God! Thanks for a dear husband helping me train her and thanks for a miracle named Riley!