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!

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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.

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

Living In Remission

LibsCrop-002“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”quote by

Shel Silverstein,        Photography by Mary J. Triviski

The bipolar disorder I have lived with since I was 23 is in remission. Look at how clear my eyes are, how relaxed my smile. Perfect peace! As early as last summer, July, when I was in the hospital for Asthma, they wrote in my chart and discharge notes: bipolar: In Remission. I had never heard of anything like it before.

No one had very told me this could happen, but it does. See this article: from eHow Health: How Long Is the Remission Period in Bipolar? What they are talking about is what I am experiencing, an effective management of symptoms through medication and counseling “that options to manage the symptoms, thereby rendering the disease asymptomatic, according to the Psychiatric Times.”

This is so awesome! The proof is found in what I have been experiencing since last summer. None of the usual triggers, prolonged illness, i.e. asthma, treatments that usually bring on mania (prednisone for asthma, lack of sleep due to the medications, which I have had to take off and on since July for asthma and to stop prolonged migraines, have caused mania in me, and an ensuing depression. That which has always been my pattern, is no more!
I am still continuing all of my medicines. I am not taking my anxiety medicine, except right before bed, an aftermath of my other medication for bedtime sleeping which I have since gotten off of.
I know that many people who begin to feel better, will stop or taper back on their medications. This is not recommended. For you will be much better off staying right where you are, and letting your doctor instruct you, if there needs to be any changes.

Take care all! Know you are loved and cared for by me and by our Creator in whatever stage of mental disorder you are presently in. Or perhaps you suffer with something else. We all have challenges in life. Health, financial, relationships ~ they find us and give us struggles and concerns. Keep on, keeping on! Libby

You Don’t HAVE To Get Old

Me

You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.
George Burns

I have been getting steadily older all my life. 🙂 But I have tried very hard not to grow old: mentally, physically, emotionally, especially in the way I think about things. I have done my best to embrace new concepts and new technologies. This is not to say I accept all new concepts, sometimes I decide the older ones are better, but I explore them and weigh them on their merits.

This type of thing keeps you young, I believe. As young as my brother who runs Triathalons in his 50’s. I will be 60 next June, so I should know.  I was discussing what I want to do for my birthday with my husband tonight. I really want to go out of town for a social media gathering — or throw myself a big party here in our party room. Finally, my husband was on board for my trip out of town! 🙂 He’s not big on throwing the types of BIG parties I like to. And we’re moving soon before my birthday! Same complex, bigger apartment, we hope.

So June 19-21 I’m going to the Jersey shore to spend my birthday with some friends I have made online: women, intelligent and caring. A few I have met in person. We will be lifetime friends before the long weekend at the beach talking social media is over!

About nine years ago I was told that bi-polar disorder worsens with age. I was adamant that would not happen to me. I refused to believe it. Now the doctors tell me that my case of bi-polar is in remission. Actually, what they are saying is that I am not exhibiting any symptoms. That is true. I take  my medication. I don’t use this as an excuse to go willy nilly off the meds stabilizing my mood! I am ecstatic that I am symptom free. I don’t take it for granted. I know I have to take care of myself. If I don’t get enough sleep, I grab a nap.

I know I am very fortunate. I also believe a positive attitude and good habits have taken me far. Close work with my team too. The big thing happening as a result of it all is that at 59 years old I am taking a full-time job in social media! I can hardly wait to start. I am very fortunate. The CEO of the new company knows of the disorder I have and is very supportive. I have worked with him in the past. The company is going to make a difference in the world and I am going to love the role I will play. I have had my own company and worked my own hours since 1999, so this is a big step.

What makes some people succeed and grow as they get older and others just get old? That is a very complex question. Keep living, loving and interacting. Keep learning, engaging and having fun and my own personal feeling that helps me — dye your hair :)!

Thanks for listening. Enjoy all the stages of your life. There is so much to be learned and enjoyed. Have fun!

@copyright Libby Baker Sweiger