Sunday, January 15, 2017

Happy New Year

Happy New Year, dear Readers!

One of my New Year's resolutions is to blog at least once per month. After I published my 5-part mania series in October, I stopped writing. I'm hoping to change that and to write more consistently.

After my most recent manic episode (September 2016), I had a lot of self-reflecting to do. I grew tired of taking my meds, so I began to take them inconsistently last summer. I didn't notice an immediate impact, but my spotty pill taking would eventually lead to a manic episode. Because of the consequences, I'm still kicking myself in the ass about that decision not to take my meds as prescribed.

There were two major consequences: more credit card debt and grad school fallout. I've accepted the fact that I'm in credit card debt, so when all was said and done, I did cringe at having a higher balance, but I've accepted that I spend when I'm manic. In the future, I'm hoping to use my mom and my fiance to help me control the spending. (Yup, fiance! I proposed when I was manic. We had been discussing getting married for a few months, so it wasn't entirely a manic, impulsive decision).

However, unlike the spending, I'm still struggling to come to terms with the grad school fallout. At the start of the fall semester, I was enrolled in three classes and a yearlong internship. After I became manic, I, along with the school administrators and my internship supervisor, decided that I should withdraw from my internship so I could focus on my recovery. Two of the three classes that I was taking were tied to the internship, so once I withdrew from one I had to withdraw from the others. That left me in one class.

No longer interning three days per week, I began applying for full-time work. I figured that if I couldn't at least intern, at least I could make some extra money. At the end of October I began working at a nearby high school in a position that fits into my needs. This job is a one-year assignment, so it'll end in June when the school year does. That is perfect for me and my grad school schedule. I'll hopefully work at a summer enrichment program for students/camp. Then, come September I'll be interning again.

Even though leaving the internship was best for my well-being and recovery, I can't help but feel disappointed. Disappointed that I won't be graduating when I originally thought. Disappointed in myself, because I brought this on myself. And disappointed that I won't be in classes with the two good friends I made in my program. I feel stagnant. Even though I know it's only temporary.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Dear Future Manic Self

This is Part 5 in a 5-Part Series: 
"When the World is Too Bright: An Intensive View of Mania from On the Ground"

(Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 Here)

Dear Future Manic Krystal,

Mania and you go together like peanut butter and jelly. After five manias in nine years, it seems pretty inevitable. And this is okay. You have learned how to cope and manage with the episodes. You have a system in place. You have the support, encouragement, and help of loved ones. You are not alone, Darling.

So don’t fear future manic episodes. Yes, an episode can be a bit scary because you don’t know how high you’ll get or how destructive it will be. But, Baby, you’ve lived through this before. Let me remind you. Five. Times. 2007. 2013. 2014. 2015. 2016. If you’ve noticed, the last four years have been particularly challenging for you with multiple manias and hospitalizations. But guess what? This mania, you managed without the hospital. This is the first time you have ever accomplished this. This, Baby, is progress. You are learning and growing and maturing in how you handle and manage the mania.

Just relish this for a moment: you are manic but you are not in the hospital. That is huge! Even your therapist recognized it in your last session. You have managed by coordinating care with your psychiatrist, your therapist, and IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program). You have recognized, yet again, how important your psychotropic drugs are to your mental and mood stability. Some people can manage without medicine. You are not one of those people. And that’s okay! Really. It is. Everyone is an individual so why wouldn’t their needs be individualized, too?

I think you charged about $5,000. But even that is progress. Let’s celebrate every milestone. Considering that in the past you have charged upwards of $10,000 at a time, $5,000 isn’t too bad. Keep it in perspective. Do not beat yourself up. Despite the high balances, your credit score is over 740. Just recognize that spending sprees come with the territory. In the future though, please give your credit cards to your accountability partner.

Despite the spending, the mania is not an all-bad experience. During your fourth mania (2015), you incorporated two businesses. During this, your fifth mania (2016), you managed to make one of the businesses into something beautiful. You turned the life coaching company you incorporated into a wellness coaching company. While manic, you wrote three curricula for the company, planned a strategic and targeted audience to market to, met with a small business mentor, solicited feedback from your friends and social media contacts via a Google Form survey, and worked with an incredible graphic designer to create a company-specific logo and forthcoming website. In short, you got a lot done. And it’s great work. The creativity and productivity worked in your favor. Yeah, you barely slept and you literally worked around the clock but you created something permanent and important.

Lastly, the mania is not a curse. I know you used to feel like your diagnosis was a source of suffering. But, Darling, do not take such a negative view of the mania. You do not suffer from bipolar disorder; you live with bipolar disorder. You happen to get manic more than you get depressed. Thus, your default mood is slightly more elevated than the average person. That is okay. You are you. Relish in your uniqueness. Bipolar, and mania in particular, have granted you some amazing gifts. Appreciate them. Gifts such as being able to tell your story through blogging, connecting with an international readership, meeting incredible women of color in your social media support group, starting a memoir, and choosing to re-learn to speak Spanish.

Be proactive; choose how you see the cup. Is it half full or half empty? Your outlook on life actually shapes your experiences of life. To live with bipolar disorder is not the worst thing. Always remember that, Darling.


Your current hypomanic/manic self (2016)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Pet Therapy and Mania

This is Part 4 in a 5-Part Series: 
"When the World is Too Bright: An Intensive View of Mania from On the Ground"

(Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 Here)

I moved back home with my mother a few years ago for financial reasons. Now that I’m back in graduate school, it’s been an even bigger help. My mom has a teensy tiny Yorkie, named Brandi. Brandi can be a handful! She loves to give sloppy kisses and to sleep on top of your head or under your back. She’s also a bit aggressive (aren’t the smaller dogs always are?!) with other dogs and some people. But she can be a sweetheart.

When I started to feel manic, I’m sure she sensed it. She followed me around even more than usual. Most nights, she chose to sleep with me rather than in her own bed or with my mom. And I appreciated every minute of it.

When I have been hospitalized or have attended IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) in the past, we have done pet therapy with dogs. I am no animal lover, but there is something about animals loving on humans when we don’t feel our best. It is an immediate mood booster and spirit lifter.

Or in the case of my mania, it slows me down and takes me out of my head. When caring for Brandi, if my mom forgets, I have to remember to feed her and take her for walks. I have to say that it is nice not to have the full responsibility of caring for Brandi, but I do appreciate her presence in my life.

Brandi’s kisses.      

           Cuddling with Brandi.            

Lounging in the backyard with Brandi. 
I work; she plays.

Out for a walk.

Trying to get a head-on shot with her is so hard!
Brandi – look at the camera!

She loves the sun!
She will seek it out wherever it lands in the house.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Self-Care in Action via Photos: A Bipolar Consumer’s Attempt to Stave off Mania

This is Part 3 in a 5-Part Series: 
When the World is Too Bright: An Intensive View of Mania from On the Ground"

(Read Part 1 and Part 2 Here)

I fancy myself an iPhone-photographer/Instagram-photographer! I love taking pictures throughout my week to document where I've been, what I've eaten, and what I've seen. However, I'm not much of a selfie taker. In fact, if you scroll through my Instagram feed, you'll notice that I post more photos of "stuff" (such as food, places, things) instead of people.

When I noticed that I was becoming manic, I decided that I wanted to document as much of this experience as possible - both through words (blogging) and photographs. What follows are the images of me engaging in self-care in an attempt to stave off a full-blown manic episode and a potential hospitalization. I was overly ambitious with the first two pictures, where I made collages of that day's self-care. However, after the first two days, I no longer possessed the wherewithal to sit still long enough to make cutesy collages of text and images.

This is an old acupuncture picture.
The other photos here are from that first Monday in September 2016.

On Tuesday, I had lunch with a friend and wrote a few mania-themed haikus.
My bedroom always gets extremely messy when I am in the throes of depression or mania.
This day, I took the time to straighten up.

This was at one of my acupuncture sessions. My acupuncturist showed me
a move I could do to ground myself. Mania lives in my head, so I literally have to bring
my head and heart closer to the earth.

These are called “ear seeds.” They are tiny adhesive squares that have a tiny
black seed in the center. The seed is placed over a pressure point. And throughout the day,
I massage the seed, sending pressure to that corresponding point. The pressure points I focus on correspond to relaxation and sleep.

It is extremely important to drink as much water as possible.
One side effect of my psych meds is constipation. Increased water intake
helps to keep my body hydrated and hopefully mitigate the drying effects of the meds.

I have a hard time focusing when I am manic which often translates into 
me not eating enough. So when I am manic and finally do decide/take time to eat, I like to eat meals that I especially like. This is chicken teriyaki with brown rice and edamame. 

Here's another photo of a snack I ate; it is a cored apple with caramel dip. 
I’m sure you can tell that this photo made it onto my Instagram!

My meds are processed through the liver. Once, a few years back, one of my meds caused liver toxicity; I was immediately taken off that regimen.  I like to drink Yogi Detox tea to counteract the meds’ impact. I love colorful and beautiful things, and both the mug and my journal meet those requirements.

Part of my self-care is looking put-together. When I was depressed for the first time in 2006, I did not bathe or groom. When the depression ended a few months later, I vowed to myself that I would always have my hair done and I would always wear clothes that made me feel good.

This is my on-the-go pill box that I carry in my purse. I also have a much larger pill box for daily use. The reason I spiraled into mania is that I stopped taking my psych meds consistently a few months back. As much self-care as I do, it would not matter if I am not also taking my meds. The ultimate self-care for me is: adequate sleep, taking my meds consistently and as prescribed, and managing my stress.  

When I am manic, I am extra spiritual and religious. I feel as if I commune better with God when I am manic. It becomes easier to see His hand in my life. On this day, I went to church with my mother and shared a blogging testimony. One of my readers left a comment on a recent blog post saying that he was suicidal, but because of my words he decided to live. His story was so humbling for me. I never really know if my blogging is impacting my audience and readers. But his comment touched me to my core.

As I mentioned, Instagram is my favorite form of social media. I’ve reposted memes, 
but it wasn’t until this year that I started creating my own memes. I am both a visual 
person and a logophile (lover of words). So memes combine both my loves. 
Here's a meme I created recently.

Tune in tomorrow for part four...

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Mania Haikus: Using the Heightened Creativity to Process My Episode

This is Part 2 in a 5-Part Series: 
"When the World is Too Bright: An Intensive View of Mania from On the Ground"

(Read Part 1 Here)

I recently came across the poetry of Nayyirah Waheed. I follow her on Instagram and she posts beautiful, bite-sized poetry. Reading her work makes me want to write poetry, too.

At the beginning of the month (September 2016), I felt the stirrings of mania. There were no spending sprees, nor hypersexuality, or racing thoughts. Those are my typical symptoms. This time I only noticed two changes: disturbances in my sleep and heightened creativity and productivity.

When I was manic in 2015, I incorporated a life coaching company and a social justice curricular consulting company. I was so excited to go into business for myself. I mean, why not? I had all these great ideas until the mania dissipated. After I came down in 2015, I spent months recovering and settling back into my homeostasis. The two businesses were the last things on my mind.

Yet here I find myself, in September 2016, dusting off the life coaching company and developing curricula for workshop presentations. For the first week of September 2016, I feverishly researched and wrote, and consulted, and designed. At first, I thought it was normal creative frenzy, but when I didn’t sleep one night, I knew I was teetering into familiar territory. Mania is defined by excess. I was doing too much.

Here are five haikus I wrote to process the mania.

Spano excited.
Just like Spano? Yup, Jessie.*

*Jessie Spano from Saved By The Bell

Wrote a business plan.
Conducted a survey too:
self-care consulting.

I’m intentional
about self-care coping skills.
Sleep. Breathe. Eat. Shower.

Be in the moment.
Try to calm the energy.
Breathe, breathe, breathe deeply.

Sleep escapes me, {sigh}.
Too many creative thoughts.
Can I just press “pause”?

Tune in tomorrow for part three in the series...

Monday, October 17, 2016

Mania #5: What, How, Why

This is Part 1 in a 5-Part Series: 
"When the World is Too Bright: An Intensive View of Mania from On the Ground"

This is my fifth mania in the nine years since I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. However, just because this is my fifth mania doesn’t mean that the experience of the mania this time around hasn’t been rough. I have been manic every year since 2013. Yup. 2013. 2014. 2015. And now 2016. My mania manifests pretty similarly each episode. For instance, I typically experience heightened creativity and productivity, a heightened libido, impulsivity, spending sprees, weight loss, loss of appetite, and sleep disturbances.

The creativity and productivity feel incredible. I feel an intense need to create when I am manic. During my third mania (in 2014), I started blogging about my mental health journey. During my fourth (in 2015), I began a memoir and founded two companies. However, this creativity and productivity are not without their share of problems for me. When I first started blogging, I encountered boundary issues with what and whom I wrote about. The two companies I founded set me back about $8,000 in incorporation costs and website creations. I also shop more. Over the life course of my disorder, I have charged around $30,000 on my credit cards. I am currently still in credit card debt. Thus, the temporary nature of my manic episodes have long-lasting consequences for me.

Yet, this is the first manic episode that did not result in a hospitalization. In the past, mania meant being hospitalized. My manias take me so high, so quickly that in order to head it off at the pass, I check myself into the hospital. But for my current manic episode, I am managing with IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) only. I attend IOP two days per week for 3.5 hours each day.

During this current episode, I got the idea to re-brand my life coaching company as a wellness company focused on promoting self-care. I stayed up all night writing feverishly and researching best practices for self-care for the company. I became really excited because I discovered that I could turn what I once perceived as a manic financial blunder – starting a life coaching company in the first place - into a viable source of income. It was almost confirmation that my manic-self knew something my stable-self did not. However, once I was not sleeping through the night, I knew I was in trouble.

I knew the excitement I was experiencing was more than just normal excitement. I was less vigilant than normal about having symptoms of mania because it was not springtime. All of my previous manias occurred between the months of February and June. Now, in September 2016, I exhibited symptoms. I didn’t know what to make of this change to my norm.  

In response to the appearance of symptoms of mania, I increased the number of acupuncture sessions I received from once every three weeks, to two to three sessions per week. I also started taking my medicine consistently once again. Since the summer, I had been inconsistently adhering to my psychiatric medicine routines for various reasons - chief among them, I am just tired of taking pills. I have been a compliant patient ever since I learned of my diagnosis. With the exception of my first mania and my current manic episode, my manias are generally caused by medicine changes my psychiatrist ordered (e.g. one medicine caused liver toxicity so I had to come off it). However, this current mania is my fault and I can definitely say “lesson learned.” As a result of my veering from my medicine routine, I have added an additional year to my graduate schooling since I am currently enrolled less than half-time. There will be no more inconsistent medicine usage on my part.

Tune in tomorrow for part two in the series...

Friday, September 9, 2016

Weight Gain Struggles

One of the enduring effects of my psychiatric medication side effects is the weight gain.

Side effects can occur when one starts a new medicine or when there is a dose change in a medicine one is already taking. I had a medicine dose change, an increase, in 2013, shortly after the picture on the left was taken to control a manic episode. In 2013 I gained 52 pounds over the span of a three- or four-month window of time.

In 2015, while manic again, I managed to lose about 25 pounds or so. I wasn't consciously trying to lose weight, I wasn't exercising, but when I'm manic I eat less. I wrote about my weight fluctuations last year. But since then I've gained all the weight back. I think it partly had to do with my birth control.

I used to avoid taking pictures after I initially gained the weight. I was used to being thin my entire life and to all of a sudden put on so much weight... I didn't like the way I looked in clothes. I felt frumpy.

Now, I make an effort to buy clothes that flatter my shape. And it doesn't hurt that my boyfriend likes my current body. It's a great boost to my self-esteem and body image.

I'd still like to lose some of this weight. I don't need to get back down to 128 pounds (I'm currently 169 pounds), but I want to be smaller. I haven't been exercising consistently. To change that, I signed up for a fitness class held at my town's recreation center. The first class is next week. I'm hoping to attend regularly.

Wish me luck!