Sunday, May 17, 2015

BP Magazine Interview

Back in December, I mentioned that I was interviewed for the spring issue of BP Magazine (Bipolar Magazine). Well, that issue has been published! Check out my interview below. It was really cool seeing my story in print. I've been published in online outlets over the last few months, but there's nothing like having a finished product to actually hold in your hands. Call me old fashioned, but I still like print.
In the article, I discuss how difficult it was navigating my life around the depression. But somehow I managed to do it for an entire year. It helped that my employer was understanding and accommodating. I know that's not always the case.
Note: The article accurately captures my depression. However, they get my age wrong. I am 31 not 35.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Weight Loss and Weight Gain Update

In June 2013, my Seroquel dose was increased from 600mg to 800mg. Seroquel is notorious for weight gain as a side effect. Mind you, I had been on Seroquel for 6 years on a low dose of 100mg and had never had weight gain issues.
But at 800mg, the uppermost dosage I believe, I didn't stand a chance. I couldn't control my hunger urges. I was eating everything in sight. Literally. I was eating all the time. And the pounds packed on. I gained 52 pounds in three to four months. In my first 29 years, I had never weighed more than 128 pounds. In fact, it took me forever to break 125 pounds. I was so happy when I finally weighed that much. But after the Seroquel weight gain, I got up to 171 pounds. The weight gain coincided with a 12-month depression. I'm sure the body image issues I gained did nothing to help the depression.
I became manic during the summer of 2014 and the weight just started to fall off. I wasn't exercising, but I was consciously eating less (as a tactic and as a side effect of the mania). And I've heard weight loss is more about diet than exercise. Well, they work together, but portion control goes a long way.
After this recent manic hospitalization (March 2015), I lost a few pounds as I always do when I'm having an episode (whether manic or depressive; I don't eat much during either). But since getting discharged, I've gained about 11 pounds. I'm currently hovering between 140 and 142 pounds. I don't think I'll see 128 pounds again, but I also don't want to be more than 150.
I'll be going back to watching my portion sizes and I'm going to get back into a consistent exercise routine. I haven't exercised consistently since before the third mania (summer 2014). A year ago I was exercising three to four times per week. That is my goal again.
What a difference a year makes!
Left: February 2014
Right: February 2015

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Dating with Bipolar Disorder

When my bipolar disorder manifested, or rather, I should say, when I was diagnosed, I was 23 and in graduate school. I had recently begun dating a guy I went to high school with. So we had known each other for about ten years. When I was hospitalized for mania, he came to visit me. When I was discharged, he supported me and stayed with me. We would break up a few months later. Not because of the bipolar disorder, but for other reasons.

I did not realize that what I experienced with this guy was such a huge feat.

For the next six years I would be stable - no episodes, no hospitalizations. My next serious relationship happened because of I met a fellow teacher and we bonded instantly. The attraction was immediate. We dated for a few months, close to a year. We too broke up, but remained loosely attached in that weird limbo of do-I-don't-I-want-you land. Then, my second hospitalization happened. He did not come visit me in the hospital. He did not call my mother to check on me. When I was discharged I did not call him out on this behavior, but I was saddened by it. A few months later he completely cut me off. With no warning or any explanation. A year would go by before we spoke again. But when we did, I asked him why the disappearing act. His honest response was that my hospitalization scared him. I do not blame him for walking away. Not everyone can handle dating a person with a mental illness/mood disorder. But what was not acceptable was how he handled it.

After this, which occurred two years ago, I became worried that no one would want to date me because of my diagnosis. I was depressed June 2013 to May 2014 so I wasn't worried about dating during that year. But when the depression ended, and the mania started, I grew interested in a relationship again. Summer 2014 I dated casually and seriously. The guy I was dating seriously would eventually become my current boyfriend.

He read and researched the topic of dating someone with bipolar disorder. He attended a Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) meeting with me in August 2014. And when I was hospitalized a month ago for 13 days, he visited me twice (commuting from NYC to NJ to see me) and we spoke every day.

Since I've been blogging, I've been reading articles about mental health and I follow a bunch of mental health organizations on social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram). Some of these articles discuss being in relationships with people who have mental illnesses and I must confess, people's views on dating people with mental illness scare me sometimes. There were so many horror stories in the comments section. So many people cautioning non-diagnosed people away from dating people with diagnoses. Stories of anger issues, money mismanagement, mood swings, violence, and overall low-functioning life abilities (i.e. the inability to hold down a job or pay bills on time or to seek help whether in the form of psychotherapy or medication). It all sounded so bleak.

So when my current boyfriend decided that he was ready to turn our casual/serious dating into a full-fledged relationship I was nervous and skeptical. Given all the reading he'd done, and given that my last boyfriend fled, why would he chance dating me?

Despite the dating and marriage horror stories and despite my chronic illness (I've been hospitalized every spring for the last three years), he still chose me. I chose him, too. But I just feel like I come with a lot of baggage. And the thing is, I never thought any of this until the teacher boyfriend from two years ago left. The guy I dated from high school was cool with the bipolar just like my current boyfriend is. So I guess two out of three isn't so bad after all.

If you too have a mental illness and are worried about dating, don't worry too much. I honestly believe there is someone for everyone. Just keep looking. And do not be discouraged by the articles and the horror stories. Remember: we are the masters of our own fates, the captains of our own souls. We choose how our relationship stories go. It does not have to be a horror story.