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

Polaroid

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.

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.

Manic Spring

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I saw the series of pictures from tonight’s dinner and I thought I looked happy. But, very tired. I haven’t been sleeping. I might as well admit it to the world. The remission has ended. I am manic. Is it the springtime, the bonk on my head, the stress of our world, the loss of a friendship? Who knows? I’m manic. That is all that I know. I cannot sleep and I cannot think the way I usually do. I am frightened of the way my mind is not working and then again, relieved that at times it works well.

I have enjoyed bursts of creativity. Driven to write. But I really need sleep. And soon. I do not want to end up in the hospital. I hate the hospital. I would rather eat glass. Now there is a statement totally without thought or merit. I forgot to take one of my meds three days in a row. I never do that. It is totally irresponsible and not like me at all. Doing so made me much worse. At first I blamed the mania on the error, but which came first. The grievous oversight, or the mania, the lack of judgment, the carelessness which caused it?

Probably the mania. And now it is worse. I am back on the medication and pulling out of the tailspin. But damage has been done. Not just to me. I lost a friend. I wrote something careless in a blog. Ranting about something I disagreed with that happened to be near and dear to a best friend’s way of thinking. She is lost to me now. Carelessness, bravado, cruelty, lack of judgment, loss of a friend. There are such thin lines between these words, between these experiences. Lack of judgment is the curse of mania. It is the pivotal force of destruction that it brings. Overspending, overstating, over-thinking, overtalking, overdoing everything. OVERBOARD!

That is mania. Doing everything too too much. I hate it. Depression turns the destructive force inward, mania turns the destructive force loose on the world. Either way it’s a destructive disorder. That is why I hate having it so much. I don’t want to be involved in anything that hurts me or others and yet I am. I am. Powerfully involved in something that hurts. Powerfully involved in something that can hurt.

Bipolar disorder is not for sissies. It’s a Facebook Page my fellow sufferer, LeeAnn found. I love the name. It’s not for the faint of heart that is for sure. Not if you are wanting to live above the madness. I haven’t been lately. I have been trudging right through the slop. With one hand stretched heavenward, asking for help. Reaching for my creator to pull me out of the quicksand. Not my head though. My head is bowed as if I am walking into a windstorm. I am braced against the slop. Braced against it from enveloping me.

Dear Lord, MY LORD, lift me up, “out of the miry clay. Set my feet upon a rock and establish my goings. Put a new song in my heart, even praise unto my God….many shall see it and fear…and shall trust in the Lord.” There my mind shifted gears into the singing of one of my favorite Psalms. Thanks God. For your word in my heart.

I know I will trudge through this. I know I will be Above the Madness again one day soon. Until then, please think of me and pray for me dear friends. For I love you all. Thanks, Lib

@copyright Libby Baker Sweiger Living Above The Madness

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

A Cry For Help

Psalm 142 Good News Translation

A Prayer for Help

Lord, I cry to you for help;
you, Lord, are my protector;
you are all I want in this life.
Listen to my cry for help,
for I am sunk in despair.
Save me from my enemies;
they are too strong for me.
Set me free from my distress;
then in the assembly of your people I will praise you
because of your goodness to me.

This has been my summer theme song. My enemies have been the illnesses that plagued me beginning with asthma I could not shake in July. I was hospitalized twice with two bouts of serious asthma with a cough in July, ending in swollen vocal cords in early August followed by 3 weeks of exhaustion after getting out of the hospital and getting off steroids.

I was thanking The Lord for his goodness because through it all I was not overcome by the depths of despair: Depression, nor the strength of my enemies: Mania. I stayed emotionally and mentally strong and healthy. It was a  miracle.

I had that confirmed when I saw my Psychiatrist on Tuesday, head of my care team. I was telling him all I’m been through and all the steroids I’d had to take for my breathing. Steroids which push you into mania quite efficiently. He said, “It’s a miracle!” I said “I know.” We sat in silence together and were thankful.

In and out of the assembly, I am telling His people of His care for me. The miracle I experienced and the blessing of good health. I am so thankful to be well and to have not added a trip to the psychiatric ward to come off a major manic high to the mix, which would easily have happened without the miracle!

@copyright Libby Baker Sweiger

Feeling better

Think Before You Speak ~ Even To Yourself

“Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.”
Napoleon Hill

This quote is true, as are most Napoleon Hill quotes ~ in my opinion! The words you say, your influence plant the seeds of success or failure in the minds of others. What about yourself? How do you speak to your self? Are you kind and encouraging in the face of the adversity we all face in life? Or are you harsh and critical and condemning? Do  you call yourself stupid, or do you give yourself a break? Do you criticize or praise? You could be determining your own success or failure in actions by what you tell yourself in thoughts. You are in fact!

It’s very easy when you’re ill, or down to let your mind fall into a pattern of negative self talk, and negative talk in general. You don’t feel well. It’s hard to think of great and encouraging things to say. I have been ill since the beginning of July. I have been positive and I have been discouraged. I have kept from mania and depression by some miracle even though hospitalized twice.

I’m so happy I got through it stable and strong. But I have had my down moments and my discouraged days. Now I feel I’m turning the corner and getting well. For the first time in a long time I’m up late happily write to you all.

Positive self talk is something I aspire to. I haven’t mastered it. It’s my goal every day. I know how important it is to my well being and performance. My happiness and outlook. I focus on kindness to others first. That reminds me to be kind to myself. It works for me.

Have a good week my friends and remember to think before you speak, even to yourself. You are precious too!

@copyright Libby Baker Sweiger

This post also appears in the August 27th, The Howie Blog, Regional Blog, http://www.howiehanson.com/  AND

is given a shout out in the front page of August 27th StarTribune.Com:

http://www.startribune.com/local/yourvoices/167346045.html

Good Reads

Libby Baker Sweiger: Think before you speak, even to yourself

Happy Or Sad Or Mad

“I have the choice of being constantly active and happy or introspectively passive and sad. Or I can go mad by ricocheting in between.”  ― Sylvia Plath

Poor Sylvia, she sounds bipolar. In fact, she killed herself at the age of thirty. Something was desperately wrong, but no one knew. Everyone knows I have bipolar disorder. As many people as possible anyway. I am shouting it from the rafters hoping others will see it is okay to talk about.

The only thing wrong with this quote as a description of bipolar is the word “choice”. We really don’t have one. We cycle between happiness or sadness like the change of the weather and there is no way to tell where or when the wind may change.  Or when the madness may come in. When we have cycled to such an extreme that we are in fact psychotic and have lost touch with reality. At least that is when I call it madness.

Psychosis is to be avoided at all costs. But is there a choice? Only as far as taking your medications, trying all you can to get your rest. Taking care of yourself and asking for help when you begin to lose control of your thoughts. Because the faster you mention that the easier it is to stop it. With a medication adjustment rather than a hospital stay. That is always my goal. I hate going to the hospital. But I go if I have to, because the question they ask is: are you a danger to yourself or others? Well I have not ever been a danger to others. That leaves me. I’ll be darned if I’m going to fight so hard to stay ahead of this disorder. To live victoriously with it to succumb to what got Sylvia Plath at this late date! Not going to happen.

But I’m not pushing it. Not going to push this illness to the breaking point. I’m not going to pretend everything is fine when I really need help. The hospital is not that bad. Actually it’s the best place to be when you need to be there. I know that. So in I will go, if necessary.  And I will work hard, doing everything I need to: adjust to new medications, work on sleep, group, whatever it takes, until it is time to get out.

I’m never alone. I have faith that the Lord is with me. He goes before me, beside me and has my back. I have nothing to fear. Having nothing to fear makes bipolar disorder a lot easier to have. I don’t fear death or destruction because of it. I don’t fear that I will be abandoned or alone. I don’t fear the hospital or strange people, like myself, only sicker. I do not fear because I am  never alone.

That helps a great deal. I dreamed one time I was in the hospital that I was falling. You know that old superstition that if you dream you are falling and if you land in your dream you will die? No? Well it was a superstition when I was a child. And I still believed it back when I was 23, in the hospital with bipolar for the first time and having this dream. Suddenly to my horror, I landed. I lay there expecting the worst. Instead I was surrounded by the warmest, deepest love I had ever felt. And I knew for once and for all that God was not only at the mountain top, but in the deepest pit we could ever fall into. I knew it then, and I know it now. He is always there for me — and for you.

Common Sense Out the Window: Mania Has Arrived!

I don’t get into a full blown manic episode very often anymore. Usually I get hypo manic, which is a mood disturbance marked by uncharacteristic behavior and lack of judgment among other things. I shop. Bills to pay. I shop. Hard on the family, selfish and wrong, I shop.

“Between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before.” — Mae West

Mae West and I have a bit in common during these times. Otherwise, I am nothing like her. I don’t like the values she represents. She is funny though. When I say I’m nothing like her I don’t mean to sound too good to be true, but I’ve learned over the years to compensate for the negative behavior of shopping sprees. I’m really good at taking things back. When the hypo manic episode has dissipated in a few days, I try my best to right my world.

Unfortunately this is not always possible. I remember a lady I met in the hospital. She had taken her family’s money and flown to Nepal! Her husband and children didn’t know where she was and they were hurt severely financially and every way.

I have had bipolar disorder a long time. I can anticipate mania. Now I give my debit card to my husband when I feel it coming on and try to spare us the pain of it all. One thing I haven’t talked about yet is family and the effects of all this on them. It’s hard to do so. My husband is very patient and hates to see me struggle. Financial trials are also very stressful.

I have a daughter who was raised by two loving parents. She was lucky there. On mother’s day this year I was giving my husband Mike credit for all the typical mommy duties he assumed in raising her. An example: I was sleeping through the night on medication and Mike was bottle feeding her from the time she was two weeks old. She said to her dad, “Yeah, you raised me from a pup!” I teared up. But, I’m happy they are so close and shared so much when she was a baby and all through her childhood. I did not sleep for two weeks after her birth in the grips of a severe manic episode. Fortunately I was not hospitalized, or separated from her, but I did have to sleep through the night feedings from then on.

I don’t mean to sound sorry for myself. Many people with bipolar disorder do not get to have children because they cannot get off their medication to get pregnant. I had a psychiatrist back then who believed in lots of exercise. I ran and ran to increase the endorphins in my brain, got off all psyche meds and got pregnant. My little girl was medication free in utero, and healthy as anything! I feel so very fortunate to have her. We have a special bond. She still calls me “Momma” at 29 years old. 🙂

Is it worth the risk to have a baby when you are bipolar? I would answer a resounding yes! To that! To living! It is all worth it! Dealing with life becomes so much more tenable when you have good mental health care, take your medications, get your sleep and don’t encourage the trauma of mania or depression with bad care. Staying well and not going there is the best way to manage.

But when it happens, remember it is not forever. If you’re manic, prepare ahead of time. Have a plan. Do you have someone to take you to the hospital and a doctor to help you see you need to go. If you’re only hypo manic, how do you tell? What are your weaknesses? Can you go on a cash allowance and take yourself out of the family account until it passes?

I recommend psychcentral.com to you. It is an online service run by doctors with all the latest research. It has a Mania Quiz, Depression Quiz, a Sanity Test, things you can take online to take your Mental Health temperature. You create a user name so it remains anonymous. It is no substitute for Mental Health care, but it can give you some idea of where you are. Tell a loved one. Use it yourself. Find out if you are depressed and seek help. Please. Your life, quality of it and very existence could depend on it. Thank you! Here is the link. Now make a great big dent of happiness in your day!

@Copyright Libby Baker Sweiger