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!

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!

Late Night Musings

20130524_222113-001I’m in a new Facebook Group with some wonderful new friends with an illness in common: bipolar disorder. I was up late tonight and posted in the group trying to get to know everyone. I meant to say hi and felt so comfortable I spilled it.

Upon reflection I realized my message was important to share with you so here it is, with a few changes:

“Up late tonight, love to blog at this hour, but thought I would post and get to know you all better. Please talk, friend me, I really would like to know you all. I am up late because I’m trying Trazadone again for sleep and we forgot about how bad the headaches can be for me. I’ve been getting them every a.m. so skipping it every other day, which is not helping the sleep issue. Tonight the headache hit before I fell asleep so voila! here I am.

I hope you all take a crack at reading my online paper ‘cuz it has my bio and then I don’t have to type it again lol! Seriously it’s something I’m doing to get the word out in addition to my blog to break down communication barriers about mental disorders, just as some of you are. I hope you check it out: livingabovethemadness.org on Twitter.

If any of you want a post in it, please let me know. It’s a great feeling to reach a larger audience. How large? Large. I have 20,000 followers on Twitter and it reaches them and their followers if RT’d by anyone. I am in a Social Media Group that get a copy with a potential reach of approximately 1/4 million on Twitter. With RTs hard to say. Facebook, my account alone reaches 1500 people. Shared by friends exponentially multiplies it. G+ 3400 people have me in their circles. I post to public and to all my circles. I am saying all this not to brag but to answer a question on distribution of the posts in the paper and also to show the reach we can get by putting our blogs together into one paper. They you share with all of the people you are connected too and it grows out that way too. Plus this is a new paper. I only have a few subscribers. As people subscribe, they also share. Soon it’s getting a million plus viewership and beyond. A million people hearing how to stop the Epidemic of Suicide in our country. A million people beginning to understand and have compassion, not fear for what people with mental illness face. Understanding breeds awareness and awareness brings change.

Well, I guess I’m writing a blog post. Thanks for listening and I hope you’ll catch the paper someday. Love and blessings, Libby”

An addendum to Late Night Musings: I don’t usually give out the names of medications. I did last night. I called the on call psychiatrist last night because I was panicked I wasn’t sleeping well. My husband told me after the call, I had been sleeping better than I realized. She didn’t think I sounded manic, rather quite tired. I was very anxious. Nonetheless, I was quite certain I was hypo manic and I know myself better than a doctor who has spoken with me once. She admitted my fears were well founded. Trazadone, often prescribed for sleep, is also an antidepressant. And even in the small dose I was taking could push the patient into mania. That’s what I was feeling the beginnings of. It also can cause headaches. Another medicine crossed off my list.

I add this addendum and bring up this medicine, not to turn people off to this medication, but to illustrate the face that it is so important to be in tune with what is happening inside of you when you have a mental disorder. Stay tuned in and ask for help when things start to go out of balance. Don’t wait until they’re really bad. Just a piece of advice and a warning sign shared for those who know and love someone like me, or are someone like me. Blessings and love. Enjoy your day, knowing there are people who can help and will.

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

Shout It Out!

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I’ve never been particularly quiet! I like the phrase “Shout it Out!” And I like this quote by C.S. Lewis:

“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
― C.S. Lewis

We are pleasantly quiet at times when all is well, but when we’re in pain we cry out. Injustice cries out. Hurt cries out. Bipolar pain has been quiet too long. We cry out! We’re crying out.

I want to mobilize all the brave people blogging on bipolar pain on Word Press, Blogger, Facebook and Twitter to publish in this new paper. Maybe I should name it simply: Above the Madness, and not the name of my blog.

It’s not my paper. It’s for an illness that has lived under the shroud of shame too long. And for all who have it ~ and other mental disorders. And for all who need to know about it. Which is the world!

God “shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” C.S. Lewis.

Rouse it to Caring. To Action. To Belief. To Sharing. To Love.

Join me will you?

@copyright Libby Baker Sweiger

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