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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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!)

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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!

Lower Than A Snake’s Belly

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Well my mother died six weeks ago Saturday and I am no longer sad. I am in a full-blown depression. My psychiatrist has recommended a couple of counselors to me. The waiting period is only a couple of weeks. My best friends have reminded me of my many blessings. My father is coming to talk to us about our finances, not a cheery topic right now. My business is not going well, because I am depressed. I am comatose. I like sleeping and eating above all else. Writing is a chore. Most things are. I push myself to do everything and push myself I must, or I would not be in the great shape I am in (wry smile). Now I am laughing at myself. This is a very good sign. Usually, I think I am enormously funny. So this is a great sign of normalcy.

The title of this piece cheered me as well. Thinking of my dad’s favorite colloquialism for depression ~ almost worked as a preventative.

Also I can still drive. I am not so out of it that I cannot drive my car safely and well. This is good because one of my favorite things to do is to drive an hour to my best friend Heather’s to paint in her studio. The one above I painted for my mother’s Celebration of Life. You can see I look pretty happy. Obviously it has not dawned on me that my mother has gone to Heaven and is not coming back. I keep thinking throughout the day, I gotta call Mom and then I realize that my phone doesn’t reach where she is. It’s the oddest feeling. For six decades she has been accessible ~~ only a cry or a holler or a phone call away. Now she is not. Yet I still talk to her. This is the goofy thing. I suppose we all do it. We don’t like to admit it. But I figure I am already talking to myself I might as well add Mom to the mix. What I would really like is to get some real people to answer some of the little sayings we had. Like I would always say, “Good bye Big Meeces” and she would always say, “Good bye little Meeces” I don’t even know who the meeces were, mice I guess, but we always said it. And it’s funny because although she was tall she was tiny and I am not. Yet I got to say, “Good bye big Meeces and we would giggle every time…and she would say “Good Bye Little Meeces.” Giggle Giggle.

IMAG0508Now I cannot for the life of me think who I can get to do that little scenario with me. No one I guess. And it’s really no fun to do in a vacuum, or to try to do alone. Ah well. I am also looking for someone to say my name Libby with 5 exclamation points afterwards….that I cannot find. Very few people even call me Libby. Lib, Bake, Libs. Lots of things. Weezer. Not Libby. And no exclamation points. Well sometimes, but not with the Libby! and Certainly not 5!!!!!

I must say I’m going to have to continue writing about my mom, because this has cheered me enormously. I hope I haven’t depressed you all too much. What a wonderful Mom I had. Still do. In my memories. In my mind. In Heaven where she now resides. If you happen to go there in the next 10 years or so, beat me to it by any chance, please look her up: Barbara Baker…and please tell her Libby!!!!! misses her terribly. Thanks!

Above the Circling Drain

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“…You are in charge of how you react to the people and events in your life. You can either give negativity power over your life or you can choose happiness instead. Take control and choose to focus on what is important in your life…”
― Anaïs Nin

Above the circling drain in my kitchen is a counter cutout going into the living room and on it I have hung my favorite painting done by the artist wife of my husband’s drum instructor, Agnes Fine. She has a wonderful gift with watercolors. A light and dreamy touch in this painting. She began painting when she was 50. The lovely hand-blown glass pitcher below it is a gift from a treasure in my life, my friend of the heart and faith, Heather. We are sisters of the spirit and love each other deeply. So these are the precious things I look at instead of the goop circling the drain when I clean the kitchen. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

It’s a good metaphor for our lives and thoughts. After my last post. A brilliant commentor said, “I’m at a point where I don’t surround myself with anyone or anything that isn’t positive or that drains me…” She went on to talk about the balance between being exposed to negativity and doing the work on our relationships. There is a balance I agree, but for the most part, when a relationship is toxic, circling the drain so to speak it is time to let it be…let go.

I feel this way about negativity. When you have the challenge of living with bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, and mental illness trying to cripple you, negativity can be your worst enemy. It is the very head of the beast. So don’t let the barnacles cling to you too! The barnacles of others negativity might just drag you into the drain!

Instead keep your eye on the beauty of the positive things in your life. The sunshine, the God you love. Your friends and family who care for you. Your best qualities. Laughter. And pick up positive things to help you through your day. A bible verse. A great quote. A smile returned. A joke from your funny Facebook friend. You may know where to look, if not begin your search on Brainyquotes.com, Goodreads.com, thebible.com and continue your search out your window, down your street, on your computer, phone and other lifelines. Email me! livingabovethemadness@gmail.com, comment here. I will gladly reply.

Letting go of negativity is not easy. They are barnacles. And it can be the head of the beast of mental illness if you let it. But laughter can slay this best. That and your medications can defeat your illness. Don’t circle the drain. Look instead at all the beauty and possibilities that lie above it. We have only stratched the surface here. There are many more ideas in the world of positivity.

“Of course motivation is not permanent. But then, neither is bathing; but it is something you should do on a regular basis.”
― Zig Ziglar, Raising Positive Kids in a Negative World

Fragile

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“There are so many fragile things, after all. People break so easily, and so do dreams and hearts.”
― Neil Gaiman, Fragile Things

There are so many fragile things everywhere. I have many in my house, some that have already broken, like this little glass stem. And our hearts and very beings can be fragile, tenuous, especially when we are in the throws of mania or depression. We may cry at the drop of a hat. Or become anxious out of the blue. Perhaps we have lost control of our thoughts, or they are racing and we cannot sleep. And we haven’t slept for a few nights and are becoming anxious to lie down, afraid that again sleep won’t come.

When we are strong and free from symptoms ~ we feel so good and light as air. Not heavy with dread of the next bout or wave that will hit us. Those are the time for rejoicing, for laughter, for thanking God that we are alive and that we can make it through anything!

Clinging to friends and whoever will listen. That is for the dark times. That is for the fragile times. Friends who are there for us then are friends indeed. My husband, my best friend Cooley who visited me the first time I was hospitalized and brought red licorice and all of her courage. We were only 23. It was not a good place. She is a rock of a friend. She still calls at uncanny times to say, “How are you doing, Baker? I was thinking about you!” Friends since we were 13. Ten years before the word or illness entered my life. Before we even knew what manic depression was. Still my friend. Still in my corner. I would do anything for her too, of course, and have been there for her through the loss of her parents, her own personal sorrows and her days of great rejoicing. Our frequent escapes for coffee and good conversation are and oasis in our lives.

Many great friends. Heather, a treasure. Laura. LeeAnn. Kathleen. Debi. Susan. Lois. Jeannette. Friends of the heart and of the Spirit. Consolation. Courage givers. Stephen and Joseph. Ty and Matt. Dave and Rickie. Mary Lou. Arthur. Of course, my beloved Mike and loving daughter Abby. There for me. Always there.

Strength begins go fill me as I think of them. Gifts from God all of them. Many times prayed for. Praying for me in dark and happy times. Support and love keeps the fragility at bay. Strengthens the heart and mind. Lends support to troubled emotions. Makes one feel strong in the strength of the love of God and the love of friends. How can defeat come? It cannot. Willingness to go on and triumph fills the heart and mind. Fear and anxiety flee. Resolve is strengthened. Feelings of worthlessness are banishes and worthiness replace them. It is a good life if you don’t weaken to the tunes of darkness, but listen to the tunes and music of the life of love and joy and peace in the Lord and the blessings He brings. Thank you my Lord and for the friends you have brought me I am very grateful.

Do You Deserve Me?

“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”
― Marilyn Monroe

I’ve always liked this quote by Marilyn Monroe. I don’t know if I relate to it so much, but I guess I do when in the throws of bipolar disorder. I don’t think I need to be handled exactly, but sometimes stomached is the word. Oh no, Libby you might say, who have known me on social media! You are such a sweet thing. Well, I can be. But I can be a real pip too. And the thing I wonder when I look at my husband sleeping peacefully on his Lazyboy, does he really need all this sometimes? Does he deserve me at my worst? No. At my best? Sure!

Mike, Abby and I :)

Mike, Abby and I 🙂

Who wouldn’t want me at my best and even at my not so great? But at my worst, you need patience and a loyal and giving heart. Just like the man I will have been married to 34 years this July. He is what they used to call a real trooper. When I didn’t sleep for two weeks after the birth of our daughter Abby and finally told him so ~ he asked me why. I said because I can’t stop thinking. And he asked me what I was thinking. So I proceeded to tell him the rapidly increasing phobic and manic thought processes that were keeping me up day after day after day. He got paper and a pen and wrote down my thoughts for about 45 minutes. Rantings I thought they were. He calmly wrote down what I was going through. And when I stopped for a minute he said, “I think we should call Dr. Burns.” Linda Burns was my family practice doctor and the one who had delivered Abby. I agreed and we proceeded from there. I had been terrified to talk about it for fear of hospitalization and separation from my newborn baby girl and joy of my life, Abby.

Dr. Burns gathered round the wagons and said that I would see a Psychiatrist, Dr. Feldman, who would help me, and that if I had to be admitted Abby would go with me. This was to ally my fears. The last time this happened, my son David had died while under the care of my ex-husband (not his fault) when I was in the hospital for severe mania. My mother’s heart could not bear the thought of another separation and she knew it. She said this with conviction to keep me well.

Dr. Feldman kept me out of the hospital then and for the 20+ years he treated me until he retired from treating adults, and focused solely on administration and child psychiatry. He was a wonderful doctor and a wonderful man to whom I owe a great debt. So is Dr. Burns who left her practice to serve in a third world country with her husband.

Thanks to doctors like them and a husband like mine and the tenacity of my Norwegian, German, English ancestry in that order 🙂 I have been diligent in caring for myself and seeking and keeping good care for the 36 years I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

That is why just a day or so after writing about being in a depression, I am on my way out. I saw Dr. Meyer, my current Psychiatrist. We discussed our options, increased my antidepressant dose and I am already climbing out of that hole. Granted it’s not always that easy, but we caught things early.

I have a low tolerance for bipolar gunk. I don’t like the crap. Never have and never will. And maybe for that reason alone I won’t suffer with it much. Do you deserve me at my best? I believe you all do! I will do all I can to make sure every day to be that way. With God’s help and the people I count on, including you. Love ya! Lib