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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