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!

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

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

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

Dodging the Bumps in the Road

 

Every day is a challenge for many people. I’m sure it is for you. I find it to be so. Many people to look at me would not think I have a care in the world. Some days I don’t. But I do live with a secret from some. It isn’t tattooed on my forehead. I expose it as often as I can. I have bi-polar disorder. I’ve had it since my early 20’s.

Now, don’t jump to conclusions. I’m not a dreary person, quite fun, rather. I love life. Life is an adventure I would not want to miss! I love the colors, the action, the beauty, the love I feel, sunshine on my face, memories of childhood, work, play, writing, my daughter, my husband, God.

Some days I don’t love MY life. Some days I get tired of the struggle and I try to let go and float above it. Everyone’s life hits a bump in the road. Sometimes the day is filled with bumps. I have many days like a big ski race filled with moguls: dodging this fear, motivating myself to do that, jumping the hurdle of leaving the house, etc.

Then there is night, that’s hard. Nights can be very long. Sleep eludes me. Sleeplessness can cause a manic episode, insomnia is a symptom of mania, which came first? Oh, I don’t want to go manic, you cry into the night. Fortunately this is not a nightly battle. If it were to become one…to the hospital I would go. No! That is to be avoided at all costs!

These are the types of thoughts going on inside the head of someone who has a mental disorder. There is a lot to worry about. Organizing medication, filling and refilling, taking everything on time, getting to sleep early, eating right, exercise (oops!) I worry because I want to do things right. I want to stay well. I want to be functioning, successful and happy. I don’t want to be a burden. I want to contribute life and laughter to those I love — in my family, online, in my neighborhood, church, in the workplace.

One of my favorite quotes my Mother Teresa is: “Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.” (Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/mother_teresa.html#GmZYDrlESgVWesOb.99) I meet everyone with a smile regardless of how I feel inside. Seeing someone else makes me smile. People who know me well can see depression behind my smile, or in my voice, sense the over-stimulation, beginnings of mania.

I know there are so many other people who feel this way. I want to reach them…and others, who don’t understand. So, I’ve decided to write about…okay I’ll say the words: mental illness. There it is. Now I’m laughing! That wasn’t so hard to say. Stick with me and let’s learn together. Let’s blow up some misconceptions, CRUSH some taboos and EXPOSE prejudice with the good old LIGHT OF DAY! Welcome to my life and let’s see if we can live ABOVE madness!

Online articles on this subject by Libby Baker Sweiger: http://theusguys.com/2011/02/profile-libbytalks-has-a-secret/
http://libbybakersweiger.wordpress.com/2011/08/19/i-just-had-the-most-spectacular-day/

This article first appeared in The Howie Blog: Regional Blog

Copyright by Libby Baker Sweiger