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!

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!

Bipolar Found

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When bipolar hit me I was estranged from my husband, struggling to take care of a sick child, long without sleep and running from myself. My father was the only one running after me. Trying desperately to help. Seeing my terrible sickness, trying to get me help. If it hadn’t been for my dad, I fear I may have died. I wasn’t suicidal then, but I was dangerous. Manic to the point of psychosis. Starved for sleep. Alone and looking for help. But not sure what type of help I was looking for. Staying up late every night. Not resting. Driving. I was dangerous and didn’t know it.

All of my energy was being used to care for David, none was left for me. He was being fed. He was sleeping. He was getting his medicine. He was making it to his doctor’s appointments. My father called at David’s doctor appointment looking for me. He asked the doctor, the pediatric cardiologist to keep me there so he could talk with me. He was so worried. He wanted to get me care. And to get someone with more functioning emotional balance to care for David. My dear step mom Betty. He accomplished it. It was a miracle. I don’t know how he did it. I was running so hard from treatment. I was so frightened. I didn’t know what was wrong and I didn’t want to be separated from my baby.

As I think of it, despair fills me. I am proud of my father that he took care of David and I. So sorry that my ex came into town and took over. So sad that Davey died under his care. I know it wasn’t his fault. I don’t blame him. I just hurt so badly. Hurt so that Davey died while I was in the hospital.

A mother’s heart broke that day. On Mother’s Day week it seems impossible not to think about. Yet, I’m so thankful to my father that he was there for me. Yes, it is a tragedy that my son died when I was in the hospital. But, so much better that it happened while we were both getting care. What if it had happened while I was driving under a terrible manic high? What if it had been before my dad found me and got me help. Or if I had refused help and gotten even worse?

What an unspeakable tragedy that would have been! Yes, my dad found me. He found me when I was showing signs the frightening signs of mania. Before any of us knew what that was. When I was very sick. Sicker than I have ever been since. And he saved my boy from dying because of me. He saved me from that. And he saved me from death in a reckless moment of mania. And he got me help.

My dad is my hero. Always was. He always took care of me. You can see a bit of our bond in this picture. He also introduced me to my dear husband when I was well and recovered. My new hero. My caring lover and stalwart friend. We bipolar types need friends. We can use heroes. Caring loves in our lives. We may need rescuing sometimes.

This is a dramatic story. Sometimes our moms and friends rescue us. Sometimes we help rescue ourselves. Sometimes our caregivers do. Please have a rescue plan in place so things don’t get this dramatic, for you. I have one now. So I won’t need to be rescued like that again. I am found. I intend to stay that way.

Restored Friendship, Heart and Soul

You wouldn’t think the act of restoration would be an easy one would you? Normally I would agree. Mending minds that have been frazzled by lack of sleep, especially bipolar ones. It takes nights and nights of beautiful deep, healing sleep for healing to come. Mending hearts hurt by heartache can take many years of counseling and prayer and talk therapy. Misunderstandings, that is something else again. They can go on for generations. Tearing apart families and even countries.

Or God can heal in an instant.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. “Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” Albert Einstein

I was praying with a dear friend on Facebook. Praying for my estranged friend and I. Suddenly, they began to pray in earnest for healing of the pain that person was in. In all my writings I have focused on my pain and in my thoughts as well. Not thinking of the pain that person was in. I began to think about it. And, I began to cry as I prayed. We both did. We prayed and cried as the Heavens opened and brought healing. Healing to my soul. Not long after we prayed, I saw a text from my friend they had sent that morning. The text was delayed and suddenly appeared. It was a prayer for me. I texted a reply. A reply of reconciliation as it turns out. I won’t go into the details as they are private, except to say that a miracle happened in both of our hearts and God restored our friendship. Something we both had prayed for.

Forgiveness. Forgetting. Love. It is all a miracle. And so wonderful when it happens. I love this quote I found tonight on people and restoration:

“People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone.”
― Audrey Hepburn

We had come too close to losing a wonderful friendship. As it turns out, she never intended to end our friendship. I had misunderstood that part. I was ready to end it due to my pain. God had better plans for us. And I believe has better plans for all of us. If we two friends can come back from the brink of such a huge misunderstanding isn’t there hope for everyone?

Hope to understand each other a little better. Hope to listen to our own hearts? Hope to find peace and the solace we need in our God and in each other. I think there is. Audrey Hepburn was wise. People do need to be restored, renewed, redeemed, most especially. We have a God who will handle these things for us. All we need to do is pray.

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.