The Science of Mental Health

A dear friend of mine on Social Media, Dean Clevett, kindly put this on my Facebook timeline this morning and I wanted to share it with all of you:

The livestream of RiAus’s Behind the Headlines special report on mental health is starting NOW! The event will bring together mental health experts, psychiatrists and neuroscientists to explain the science of mental health and how it’s portrayed in the media.

Join the live stream, it will be repeating all night for all time zones: http://bit.ly/od2nYT

As more develops from this Special Report, I will post the information here. Thank you dear friends for all you do to support the efforts of keeping us all aware of the issues facing those of us with Mental Health issues and the lives we impact!

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Clark To The Rescue: Mental Health Service Dog

Clark: Mental Health Service Dog in Training

Clark: Mental Health Service Dog in Training

“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

I have several blogs and this one in particular called Living Above The Madness, as well as online paper of the same name in which I discuss the idea of LIVING SUCCESSFULLY with BIPOLAR DISORDER. Yet am I? Well yes in the main sense of the word. I am alive. Anyone surviving serious mental illness is a success. Yet I am functioning way below the level I wish to. I strive to become better than I am as the quote says, because I love life. I love people. I love God and there is much I wish to do!

So what is my life like right now. I am drowsy all day because of the meds I take. Some days I accomplish very little. Sitting in my chair, two tired even to go online. I get behind on the housework, my online accounts, living in general. My clients in my business dwindle to one and I cannot get a job outside the home due to severe anxiety.

Some days I break away and drive to paint with my best friend Heather. Those are great days. But they are too few and far between to be consider my regular functioning.

So what am I going to do about this? I have been researching and researching the best options for me. Someone who wants an active rich life and a career who has severed depression, hypo mania at times and bad anxiety.

I’m getting a Service Dog trained to help the Psychologically Disabled from Dog Wish, Inc. with all of your help I will. I have to raise money. While people with physical disabilities are still many times getting their dogs paid for that is not the case with those who are mentally disabled. We need to raise part of the money ourselves. I’m not going to throw a pity party about it. I’ve looked at every organization out there, found the best one and also the least expensive and I’m going to fund-raise.

Because this dog will change my life. I’ve read the statistics, the methods, the testimonies. It works. It’s the answer. These dogs will change the lives of many and once I have mine. Clark, named for Clark Kent/Superman…I will help others get theirs!

Dog Wish, Inc.’s Blog

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!

The Pest of Bipolar Disorder: Disabling Anxiety

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“A true friend knows your weaknesses but shows you your strengths; feels your fears but fortifies your faith; sees your anxieties but frees your spirit; recognizes your disabilities but emphasizes your possibilities.” ― William Arthur Ward

Don’t we all need friends like that some days! Friends like my dear Heather Siebens. She was over the other evening and we were discussing one of my least favorite topics ANXIETY. I have bipolar it’s true. And it is finally coming under control again after the fall I took this winter, suffered a brain bleed and a resulting time of headaches and dizziness that eventually stressed me enough to throw me into hypomania, depression, hypomania and now just as things are settling what I like to call the PEST of bipolar disorder: Anxiety. It’s like the mosquito of the disease. Sometimes just a few to cause an annoyance — sometimes a swarm to disable you and knock you down. Since I have been found occasionally on the floor unable to get up and drive to an appointment, I may have hit a swarm!

What bugs me beyond the uncomfortable nature of the anxiety itself and the extra meds which tire me is that it affects my ability to accomplish meaningful work. That is what I crave the most in life. Meaningingful work. I was loving my job so much. Now I’m having to put myself on hold again. Slow down a bit. Rest and recuperate. Get stronger. Again.

I get so incredibly frustrated. It’s hard on the finances two of course. Always is. That is the ticklesh part. But nothing is more important than your health people will say. And of course they are right. But getting well is hard when you worry about medical bills and other things.

So you must stop in really and focus on getting well. One must get a ride to the doctor and get ones pills tweeked again. Hold out hope for the anxiety to dwindle. I know I probably just over did in my excitement for the new project. It was so much fun!

It is sad to say and harder to remember, especially with my disposition, but someone with bipolar disorder must avoid having too much fun and excitement and I did celebrate my birthday congruently for nearly three weeks!

Moderation is not my strong suit. I really must learn some to avoid these other negative and inconvenient emotions. They are also unpleasant and take their toll on my body and my mind!

The Angst of Writing

This post is republished from the Amused Now Blog:

posted on June 13, 2013 in eBooks

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The writing process is the most personal thing I go through in my life. I bare my soul much more than I want to. Then I ask myself, who wants to read something if it is not from the heart?

The most personal piece of writing I ever tackled was a screenplay I wrote in college about my first experience with bipolar disorder. The wound was so raw, I had to fictionalize it. I told the true story, but not in the first person. It was too painful to admit that it had happened to me, because there was a great deal of misunderstanding about mental illness at the time.

Because I didn’t admit the screenplay was a true story about my life, it seemed so bizarre to others. People didn’t believe it. They found the story implausible. “That could never happen!” was the criticism I received from my classmates.

I rewrote the story on a blog, and it has been accepted by one publisher. All I have left is some final editing and to make an initial investment in marketing, and I will have completed the book. Yet, I hesitate. What holds me back? I am open online about my disorder. I publish a daily paper on mental health and mental illness. What is keeping me from moving forward? ~ The angst of writing. I am not ready to relive those early experiences.

That is the dilemma of being a writer. I know that I cannot back away from the pain in my story, and you cannot let yourself or your characters off the hook either. Face the emotional pain and triumph. You must face the pain and write it down. Write down your feelings. Be honest and true to your story. Anything else cheats your readers of the depth of your story and your experience as you lived it.

I’ll never forget the advice my screenwriting teacher gave me many years ago, “Do not back away from the drama.” Why? If you do, your story loses all its power. You won’t connect as genuinely with your readers, because you cheated them of the depth of anguish, pain, or fear that the protagonist is going through. In a good story, that character suffers through, finds courage and plunges ahead.

Just as I must do to finish story about a young woman who loses everything: her husband, her career, her mind, her only child and must work hard on her health to come back to life. The story has a triumphant ending and will be available in book form as “A Mother’s Ring.” I appreciate readers sending positive thoughts my way as I attempt to finish the tale.

Don’t be afraid to suffer for your craft. The rewards are great. You do it for the audience and to share your story which may change the day, or even the life of someone who reads it.

Libby Baker Sweiger
@libbytalks
LBS Consult

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.

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.