One week down, eternity to go.

7 days into this new medicine, and I have to say that it’s been an interesting week.  From a mood point of view – which I guess is the main point of the med – I haven’t noticed too much of a difference from the past medicine.  There are some weird side effects though; near constant dizziness, major drowsiness after taking it … and they don’t seem to go away either.

But … I’m not here to complain.  The medicines are a much better alternative than not being on them.  It just has to figure itself all out again, you know?  That’s the ride.  That’s why I’m grateful though, to have family with me for support, and to have a marvelous care team in place to help get through this.

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New meds, and a fresh batch of reactions.

Given that I work in marketing, I’m sure there’s a catchy jingle in there somewhere.  Given that I’m on the front line of taking these new meds though, and it’s my brain in the vice I can’t quite get to them today.

Let me begin with apologies for the 35 day gap in writing.  This blog has been so much for me at times, especially back when things were there blackest.  I can’t imagine being without it, but it just seems such a third layer, back burner thing when I’m doing well that it’s easy to forget about.  I believe that tools and things and people are all in our lives at specific times for specific reasons, and I don’t think that this blog has completely played it’s course out yet for me.

So … to the title.

New meds.

It’s not been a bad change this time, and in fact it’s one I requested.  It wasn’t haphazard, and it certainly hasn’t been rushed.  I was in my sixth month of taking these specific meds (from early April through Monday) and it had been a decent ride.  The worst side effect (like so many of the meds out there we all live with) was weight gain and overall malaise.  In the six months I’d been on these pills, I’d put on 70 pounds.  No joke.  It’s been tough to live with, seeing some of the things that have been dearest to me (running being the number one thing) be taken away because of weight gain.  Living in a manic depressive world like I do, this had all put me squarely on the depressive side of the spectrum.

It sounds horribly vain to talk about weight gain in such a flippant manner.  I get it.  But realizing that in my life I’ve yo-yo’d that much weight in that short an amount of time FOUR times – I knew something had to give because it’s just not healthy for my heart.  So the doc tells my about a newer medicine that’s available.  It takes care of most of the past medicine’s footprint but has zero weight gain side effects.  So … I said let’s do it.

Two days in … it’s been interesting.  There’s been no grenade go off in my head like with lemictal, and no corpse like feelings like with some of the other medicines.  I’ve felt all the old emotions surge, almost like the lid was taken off of a tightly closed pipe but so far I’ve been able to keep them all in line.  There has been some mental fog in the mornings, but I’m hoping that wears off the further I get into this.   The goal with all of this is to be stabilized, right?   Right now, at 3:03 PM on 10/4/17, I feel ok.  I’m not swinging from chandeliers, and I’m not ready to take my own life.  I’m here.  I’m aware of what’s around me, and what surrounds me (there’s a difference there).

I’ll keep you all posted.  New meds means new emotions.  New reactions.

Maybe a renewed lease on life.

Of anniversaries and things.

I am someone who celebrates anniversaries.  I commemorate dates, and remember things that have happened in the past.  I can tell you that Cal Ripken played in 2682 consecutive games, and that George Patton was born on November 11 among many other useless bits of information.  I am also able to tell you that nine years ago yesterday, my wife and I were married in the St Louis Missouri LDS temple.  It’s certainly been a busy nine years, and not an uninteresting nine years at that.  I can tell you unequivocally though, that it’s been a great nine years and it’s a decision that I would easily make again.

I believe that it’s important to commemorate, to look back and evaluate things and try to find progress.  I believe that we can only ever get better by looking forward.  I know I’m six and a half months into this journey of working – because you darn well better believe it’s work – through my diagnosis and treatment.  I know I was near a point of no return back in early April when I checked myself into a mental health facility.  I know I spent five days there and came out more equipped to face my realities.

I know I couldn’t have done any of this without my wife, who I celebrate yesterday, today and forever.  Here’s to you love.

Which me IS me?

I think it’s a fair question.

I’ve fought and won battles over the last few months, nearly too many to count.  I’ve won more than I’ve lost, and I’m glad to be able to look back over them all (most of them are recorded here frankly) and say that I never stopped fighting.

That makes it easier on a day to day basis to fight the battles that don’t stop.  I don’t want to be miserable and I’m not using this as a reason to sit in my own mania.  The battles won’t stop though, which begs the question:  Which me is me?  Who am I?

I am a son of God.

I am someone who was given a burden to bear in this life, and it’s a mental illness.

I am a husband.

I am a father.

I am someone who has to figure out parenting with a mental illness.  Parenting isn’t easy, and when you combine it with mental illness it certainly doesn’t get easier.  but I work hard at it every day.

I am someone whose world can change from hour to hour, and moment to moment.  But that’s ok – I’ve got a great support system that loves every version of me, and that is here to help me.  I’m equipped for the long haul.

I’m here to win.

Music

There is a power in music that exceeds words, actions and nearly everything else in the strata of human existence.  Music can, and does change the world on a daily basis.  I am a particular fan of instrumental music, those large orchestral pieces that give way to sweeping imagery in your mind and heart.  I believe that children should be exposed to music of all types at a young age, whether or not parents want them to be musicians or musically inclined at all.  Music just makes you feel the waves of life so much better.   The piece below, titled “Honor,” speaks to me in a way I can barely describe with words.  There is so much going on in this piece, such a story that is being told … please do your day a favor and click below to listen to it once or twice:

I literally LOVE that piece of music.

When I say that music has, at times, saved my life – I mean it.  It’s pulled me from ledges, both literal, and figurative over the last six months and I’m glad for it.  This piece of music fills me with hope and gives place for the wounds in my soul to hide and recover.

What I’m learning is that no amount of medicine or therapy will help me/make me recover quickly.  It’s a timing thing, and the timing doesn’t even get to be all mine.  I’m largely in charge of factors, like “Do I take my medicine?” or “Do I go to therapy?”  But the timing of all of it, is still not fully my call.

And I hate that.  With the fire of 1000 suns.

Saying you don’t like the timing of something is shorthand for saying you don’t like not controlling something am I right?  That’s a lesson this 31 year old hasn’t wrapped his head around yet, and I’m almost positive will never fully do.  I’m a headstrong, obnoxious person, probably made even more so by my mania (thank you bipolar I), and I just struggle to let go, and let God drive.

It’s time to be still, and know that He’s got the wheel.

Hi, My Name is Will. I believe we’ve met?

With many apologies for the crazy run of time between posts …. I’d like to reintroduce myself.

My name is Will, and I have Bipolar I.  I’m relatively new at this, and still only six months into my diagnosis.  I struggle to see the efficacy and need for medicines – but I take mine regularly every night.  There’s a permanent alarm set in my iPhone that takes me to the medicine cabinet every night at 9:30 … and as I take those three pills, I’m left to consider the alternative.  I don’t like the regularity of it, and the having to have it.  I’m a rebel, and I like to imagine being off of it.

I also remember what it was like to be on the “other” meds; the ones that were part of the program before we settled on the current cocktail of drugs.  Those meds opened up a crater in my mind that pushed me to the edge of survival.  Those meds, let’s just say that they were the closest I’ll ever come to experiencing hell on earth.  I’m glad they’re in the rearview mirror.  So I take my meds dutifully because I’ll never go back to the “other” pills.

I have spent time in a mental health institution this year as well.  In those five days I learned more about myself than perhaps at any other time in my life – because when you can’t even open a door for yourself you’ve got lots of time to think and evaluate and find ways to cope and get better.

I have also bid farewell to my mania, that mental adrenaline that never left, until it did.  That desire to base jump every day into the corners of my life.  That need to be swinging from chandeliers all day every day, until the connecting wire broke.  I told it to leave.  I rose up and said, “No.  More.”  Here, (and it was April 7 2017) I took control of my life again, or maybe for the first time.  But dammit all – I have taken control of it.

That’s not to say there aren’t still flashes of mania.

Part of the last four weeks since I wrote has been a change in my job as well.  Yes, *humble brag alert* I have been promoted to a new role at the company I work for and it requires a lot of travel.  Travel by nature is a manic and depressive activity … all at once essentially.  When you add in that a portion of my travel is to NYC – have mercy.  Frank Sinatra was singing about manic depression when he wrote “New York, New York.”

BUT here is where it all comes together.  I’ve learned coping skills, and tools, and methods and ways to stay safe.  The moments of being out of control are shorter than they were before, and I feel better – usually – every day.

So to recap – my name is Will.  I’ve got Bipolar I, and I may hate my meds but I take them. I’ve fought all of this hard this spring and summer and I’m making progress against the terror.  I’ll never stop fighting because though the clouds may gather occasionally, the sun shines brighter by the day.

Meds

Meds.  Medicine.  Pills.

Necessary?  Likely.   Enjoyable experience taking them?  Not even close.  I’m torn with how I feel about my meds.  Unfortunately though I am in a place now where I am totally without my meds.

Part of the joys of the American medical and insurance systems is a prescription plan.  Mine calls my meds maintenance medications and says that I have to go through a 90 day supply or pay the full price.   After my last appointment with the psychiatrist I did my diligence and got set up, or so I thought.   Long story short – the fine folks in charge of my prescription plan shipped the meds to the wrong address and their processing is so slow, it will end up being two weeks off meds before I get back on.

So – two weeks without pills.  The meds that I hate and the meds that I have to have are the same pills.  What do I do?  How do I survive?  Do I NEED them to survive?

Its been interesting following the paths in my mind as the medicine has worn off and left my body.  I’ve felt the emotions closer to the surface, I’ve seen myself be closer to tears, and I’ve been acutely aware of the changes as they happen.  It’s almost as if I can feel the changes happening in my brain as they move to and fro.

It’s weird to feel some of the same feelings that I felt back in February, March and April.  It’s a source of happiness though to feel at least a little more in control.  The coping skills that I’ve learned have helped me from falling as far as before, and I’m glad to have them.

Just the same, this is tough.

Meds.  Medicine.  Pills.

Am I a pioneer?

When you hear the word pioneer, what images come to mind?

It brings to mind for me images of wagons pulled by oxen, of people pulling handcarts across the plains.  I think of people rushing across the plains for the chance of finding gold.   I think of people who didn’t speak the native language coming here in boats from Europe and beyond.  I think of people who made that first scary move into the unknown on the chance that it would be better for them and their world.

Some modern pioneers come to mind as well.  John Glenn, and Neil Armstrong among many.  Those men touched the face of God and gave a nation something to believe in.

I also think of pioneers like Dr. Kay Jameson, who I have written about befor.  She experiences the daily battles of manic depression, while being a credentialed psychiatrist and knowing EXACTLY what is happening in her brain.  But guess what – she’s lived well.  I think of Dr John Huber who is dedicating his career to ending the stigma associated with all mental illnesses.

So that brings me to the point of today’s blog.  Am I a pioneer?  Am I taking a first step into the unknown?  It’s overwhelming to think of myself in the same breath as any pioneer.  My therapist and I had a good conversation about it last week and she says that my efforts to fight this are pioneer like.  I’m engaged in this fight and I’m determined not to stop.  It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever even thought to try and do, but it’s worth every step.

When I realize that there’s a 50% chance of bpd being passed down to my kids I’m encouraged to fight harder.   To paraphrase someone much wiser than I  – I study bipolar disorder and mental illness so that my children and my children’s children may study math and science and literature and life and love in spite of what may come.

I’m not sure if my children will have to deal with this, or if I’m “pioneering” directly for them.  But I will gladly continue that first step into the darkness, with the hope that it will continue to lead to good and better things for me in my world.

Time flies.

Whether or not you’re having fun, so there’s wisdom in enjoying it.  There’s a lot of excuses to not have written for eight days – I’m busy, I’m transitioning to a new job, I’m blah blah blah-ing.  Long story short, it’s been a long seven and a half days – I miss writing here.  Self expression is without a doubt high on my list of self care.  I’d like to think that it ties in to me writing my own story with this whole experience.

I’ve read several books at this point about manic depression, and they all seem to carry common threads:  years of misdiagnosis, or years of undiagnosed living; frustrations at an inability to express all the feelings and emotions we know come with bpd; and a burning hatred of medicine, along with the side effects it brings.  I’m right there with all of that.

Where I feel like I diverge from that narrative a little bit at least is my desire to share and advocate for mental health awareness.  I’m only six months into this adventure, but I struggle with not shouting from the rooftops that I have suffer from Manic Depressive and that I am fighting this thing.  Punch for punch, I’m right there with it, and not going down easy.  I’m street fighting this thing like it’s Mortal Kombat from the 90’s.

It’s my opinion that we all need to widen the net and share the load that mental health brings.  Whether it’s through forums like this (I appreciate any and all of you who read this and especially those who have been reading since February), or going to a therapist, or support group, or Facebook pages, or whatever the hell works for you, do it.  The reason that I work so hard – the last eight days notwithstanding – on writing here.  I’m humbled that anyone follows my blog, and I hope that those of you who read regularly get something good and helpful from each entry.

Like I said at the top – time flies.  We are all (those with mental health challenges or not) obligated to do our very best to make the most of our time on this earth.  For me, my time on earth finally makes sense.  When the psychiatrist looked at me on February 17 2017 and said, “Well Will, you’ve got Bipolar 1,” that clarified what would be the rest of my life.  I finally knew why.  The clarity has caused a lot of things to become better in my life.

I am a believer in things happening exactly how they should – it’s just in my nature, and it’s been part of who I am as a result of my faith as well.  My diagnosis happened at 31, and not 21 for a reason.  My appetite for sharing and advocacy is much stronger now.

I am writing my own story as someone fighting manic depressive illness.  I will win.

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