I fired my psychiatrist. And it felt great.

It was a wonderful sensation!

I went into this week with the dread having started back on Saturday night, all because I had (I love the past tense) an appointment with my psychiatrist this coming Friday.  The pre-panic, the catastrophe in advance … it all had begun again and I hated it.  Then therapy came Monday morning, and my therapist slapped me verbally in the face with this analogy (and keep in mind she’s a member of the military):

Will, if you were leading a group of people in a combat zone, and you knew bullets were flying to the left but they may not be there if you take your group to the right, which direction are you going?  You need to realize Will, that your anxiety about the psychiatrist is the combat zone where bullets are flying and the group of people is your family.  

Wow.

We then went on to discuss how mental health professionals are used to being fired, and that there are hundreds of psychiatrists out there that I can go to who would be able to help me.  We talked about how my original psychiatrist is tied too much to the anxiety and trauma that existed back in February when this all first started, so perhaps it was time to move on.  So, as soon as the session was over, I called and said … you’re fired.  And you know what?

I felt better.  Immediately.  The anxiety was gone, the pre-catastrophization that was happening in my mind stopped and I felt better.  And that’s just as important as finding another provider, which I was able to do almost immediately.

There’s no doubt in my mind that I am in a maintenance phase of my bipolar and that I need to have psychiatric care as part of my plan.  But I am in control of so many aspects of my care, and it felt good to exercise some of that control two days ago.  Anyone reading this who may be struggling, please keep that in mind.  You can control your care.

The other main point of my session the other day was to mete out what the difference is between actions taken on the bipolar whim, and actions taken based on thoughtful, purposeful spiritual preparation.  The conclusion reached was that whims happen just in my head, and purposeful decisions come from my head and heart.  That’s the difference, and that needs to be the barometer I put everything to.  I believe that prayers will bring me closer to that reality on a daily basis … but it’s on me.

Here’s the thing though:  I am someone who feels pretty strongly that even though God puts things in place to help us make the best decisions, we can all still take decisions on a whim.  I could go manically crazy and do a silly shopping spree, or I could get super depressed and attempt my life.

The key is mindfulness.  Being mindful about being mindful can make a world of difference in how things, but man it sure takes work doesn’t it?  I promise you it’s worth it.

Never Run

“Never run when you can walk, never walk when you can stand, never stand when you can sit, never sit when you can lay down, never lay down when you can sleep, and NEVER pass a supply of clean water.”  Marine Corps poem

In essence, don’t go further than you’re able to at the moment.  This poem came to the public in the HBO WWII miniseries, The Pacific, but has been around for years.  My take on this, and where this hit me today as I was watching this one of the episodes from the show tonight and thinking about everything that has gone on in the last five months in my mind and heart.

  • I am a diagnosed sufferer of bipolar disorder, but I wouldn’t have found out the diagnosis if I had never taken the steps to get treatment.
  • Meds suck horribly.  There are physical and mental side effects like you wouldn’t believe, but the other major issues would be bigger and more major if I didn’t take them.
  • I have a support team from heaven.  Quite literally, I have a group of people around me that I believe 100% were placed in my path prior to this whole experience, and that they are there to help me get through this time.
  • Panic and anxiety strike when THEY want, not when you’ve got time for, or were expecting it.  See B and C  above for further discussion points.

I do love lists, don’t I?

I just really wanted to talk tonight about how glad I am to be as aware and functioning as I am after only three months.  I’m glad for that, and I’m glad for all of you.

Happy Birthday!

It’s been a month, today, that I got out of the inpatient facility where I was the first week of April.  In that month, the new me … John William Walter the 4.5th we will say, has learned a lot.

  • I’ve got to work every day to keep myself mentally progressing – blogging is part of that, so forgive the sometimes overkill frequency with which I post.
  • I have a whole host of reasons to be happy, really happy with my life.
  • The work I am putting in now pays off on a daily basis.
  • I must take all  of this on a one day at a time basis.
  • I can still be a good person – a good husband, father, and employee – despite my diagnosis and meds.  But it takes that daily work to do so.
  • Bipolar is not a death sentence.
  • And much, much, more.

I think now, at a month out, I am more comfortable with my realities.  The best parts of being out have been the decrease in anxiety as I use the coping and grounding skills that I was taught there.  I can do most things now that had been taken away from Feb 17 – April 6 due to to the medicine.

It also means that it’s time to get even more serious with therapy work and be sure to continue to improve on myself.  Yesterday with my therapist, I came to the realization that I still am fighting battles from my eating disorder and body dismorphia challenges back in 2003-2005.  That sure dovetails nicely with bipolar doesn’t it?  Surely, more to come on that as we go.  I’m starting to see the weight gain that everyone on these wonderful antipsychotics describes … so I’ve got to be sure that as I deal with that, my mind doesn’t go to those horrible dark places that it’s been before, thanks to my ED demons.  I think I can do that though – I really believe in my success as an attainable thing.

I am still imperfect, but I’d like to think I’ve at least got a firm grasp on the direction I need to be pointing myself to survive.  As someone who believes in a Higher Power, and divine plans … I think I’m finally at peace with the reality that perfection isn’t attainable in this life.  Getting to 85-90% of an existence is a pretty good place to be.

With a slight course correction, and adjustment in my vision – I feel better about the course I’m taking.  I know who my pilot is, and how He is driving.

 

Tuesday, Tuesday …

I think the Mamas and the Papas had it all wrong and should have written about Tuesdays.  There’s definitely a hangover feeling from Monday and all that goes on there – and you get next to no help getting through it.  Hump Day is tomorrow, and you’re really closer to the past weekend than you are to the next one.  Someone I follow as a career mentor though always says something that has really helped me to feel better about the days and weeks.

“If you’re living for Friday night, and you hate Monday morning – your stuff is broken.” – Gary Vaynerchuk

I believe that has so many applications: parenting, living day to day with a mental illness and surviving, also succeeding in life and business with these same limitations.  We don’t get weekends or reprieve as people who have survived suicide, or who live with mental illness.  As a parent there is never really time off, but when you throw in mental illness it really takes the idea of no weekends to a next level.  The parenting thing goes back to something I said a few posts back:  sometimes you’re the best parent for your kids when you are down on the ground with them embracing the mess and the craziness and just loving them.  It is so important for my kids to love me, and for them to understand that I’ll run through brick walls for them, and that I’ll love them with all I’ve go.  I hope that my realities or the meds or anything else never ever clouds that up for them.

There’s another new-ish song out there called “Human,” that speaks to the element of us being only human:

This guys speaks truth about survival and responsibility in so many ways with his powerful silky lyrics.

And in my own completely unorganized way, let’s go down this road for a few minutes.  I want to put my manifesto out there as someone who has survived:

  • I believe in God, and in His plan for me.  As some one who suffers from manic depressive illness (I still hate the term bipolar), that is my cross to bear in this life.
  • I have attempted to take my own life three times in 31 years, all in large part due to how I was interacting with mental illness whether it be body dismorphia, or manic depression.
  •  My surival has always been tied in to the innate desire to prove people and preconceptions wrong.
  • Though they were dangerous and scary and could have been catastrophic, I learned much from my attempts.
  • I need my family in my life to survive.  God created us in families, and I need mine to survive.
  • I feel a pull to advocate for mental health awareness like never before.  I’m doing it here on this site, and looking for others.

I’m only human.  But I’m here.

 

Forever young

I’ll say this here and make it clear – despite my alarming rate of increase in gray hair, and the seriousness of my diagnosis and medicines that I’m taking, and my job and my responsibilities etc etc etc … I refuse to feel old.   Antipsychotics can make you feel old as heck when you forget things, when you are losing things, or when you are just wanting to sleep all the time.

But this morning has been a bright sunny day.  My graying hair has glistened in the sunshine as the skies have not had a single cloud in them.   It’s a beautiful day outside and it’s been a better day in my heart.  I’m glad for today and what it means to me.  Let’s call it a day we put in the memory banks and save for later because we all know that unfortunately the dark days come too, and the memories from today will save those darker days from being as bad.

Thats why I titled this entry what I did, and why I’ve put this YouTube link in.  Give it a listen, and have a great hopefully sunshiney day (I’ll be back later with more):

When the baseline gives out …

It’s been an interesting last few days here.

From a professional point of view, my job has been flying high (manic??) and there’s been lots of good news.

From a personal point of view, my girls (wife and daughters) and I have had a really great few days.  We’ve celebrated together, we’ve been able to have fun together, and just enjoy being a family.   Parenting with mental illness isn’t easy, and I’m sure it’s not easy for my wife to partner with someone who has one either.  That’s why the last few days have been good.  It’s felt good, you know?

But from a bipolar side … the pendulum seems to have been amped up and swung back.  I’ve felt three times in the last 72 hours like the mania was back, just below the surface.  Like it was ready to take over again.  Like get the klonipin ready to go.  The anxiety has been peeping it’s head around the corner, and I’m fighting like hell to keep both away. It’s been 28 days since I last took a klonipin, and frankly I like not feeling that in my body.   It’s been a month today since I checked into the facility and I’m fighting to keep that progress.  I believe that I’ve got the tools in my heart and mind and support group to keep me buoyant, but it’s really hard right now.

I don’t know what it means to pray hard necessarily – you hear people say that a lot.  But I think I’m becoming a believer in the concept of being mindful hard.  Does that make sense?  Part of me feels like I’ve become so sensitive to how my brain feels that I can make out the very moment when the mania “steps onto the stage” to try and play a role. The coping mechanisms I was taught when I was in the facility are all getting their fair share of mileage, and I’m really glad I have them.

My family (Megan first, then out from there) are my first line of defense and support and I sure as heck couldn’t survive this without them.  The core group that seems to have found me on here – those 6-10 of you who write about/write with/write of bipolarity and mental illness are becoming part of my support system.

It takes people I’ve found, to hold the baseline in place and keep the symptoms at bay. People and prayers. If you’re reading this, you’re one of my people and I’m glad you’re here.  Never doubt that I’ll be yours too if you need it – let’s survive together.

Growing up

Here we grow again.

I saw someone post about turning 29 soon, and it got me thinking about age.  I’m 31 1/2 years old, and hardly act like a mature grown up adult all the time.  I bought a house last year, I’ve bought several cars at this point, and I have a sweet home based job where I’m technically allowed to do a LOT of work in my pajamas.  But does any of that mean I’ve grown up?

I’m in a place in my life where I am having to address some pretty hard things.  Being diagnosed with a mental illness in my early thirties, starting anti-psychotic medicines on Valentine’s Day of this year, and trying to figure out parenting while dealing with both requires an element of growing up.  At the same time – I’ve got to embrace the reality that sometimes growing up means letting go on pretensions and misconceptions and just going with the moment.  Sometimes the most grown up thing out there is the act of getting on the floor and playing with my kids, or running around the house with them acting like a goof.

Parenting with mental illness is not easy.  But it doesn’t have to be hard either.

There is a greater than 50% chance that one of my two daughters will have bipolar as well.  That scene from Forrest Gump, where he asks Jenny “Is he smart or is he … like me,” always comes to mind.  It’s a fear of mine – one that I deal with daily.  Will my kids have issues like I do because of me?  The most important choice I can make on a day to day basis is to love them and be the best dad, and the best father I can be.

I see growing up as doing the things I listed above – buying the house, the car, getting the cush job etc.  I see growing old as being the cranky old man who just doesn’t live a happy fulfilled life.

Growing up doesn’t have to mean growing old does it?

 

My 13 reasons … for those of us who don’t get a special on Netflix.   

There’s been a lot of talk going around about the special on Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why.   

The community (is that the right word?) that keeps and tracks statistics around suicides calls suicide attempts that end in death successful.

I’m glad that I’ve been unsuccessful three times.

Three times.

Over nearly 32 years of life, I’ve lost the will to live and voted against the sanctity of my life as I tried to end it three times.

In the moments, and all three events are me as if they just happened yesterday, there were dozens of reasons for doing it.

  • I was too fat for attention from girls 
  • I was too much of an outsider to fit in and have friends 
  • I felt like a disappointment to my wife
  • I had managed to disappoint even myself 
  • I was on the bottoming out portion of a manic episode, and the down side just wouldn’t stop 
  • I was 100% not worth the fight it would take to live on

Suicide is a scary moment.   No matter the manner I chose to try doing it, the moment of actually taking that step is horribly scary.   It’s like the last moment before you get to the top of a roller coaster for the first drop …  but all you do is drop.  It feels for an instant like there’s no coming back up.   Thankfully for me, I’ve been able to find my way back up.

My adventures in the world of anti psychotics – to treat my bipolar – has brought out suicidal ideation like I’ve never seen in my life, even being someone with three attempts.   That’s the main reason why I checked into a hospital back in early April – to let the medicine do the nasty work it needed to in my brain so it could stop hurting me and start helping.   Here’s the win though – it did.  We pushed through.   I haven’t wanted to think about hurting myself in longer than I can remember.  Therapy has really helped me see that life is precious.   Suicide, especially with a family, is not just a singular action.  It’s something that you do that affects everyone near you and everything from that moment forward.

I’ve thought a lot about writing about my suicide attempts, and how to write about them and what to say.   Would a play by play be appropriate?  Probably not.   Do I really need to write anything at all?   Yes, I truly believe so.   So here we are.

I’ve attempted to take my life three times in 32 years and thankfully never been successful.  My motivations have been everything from social issues, to inner perceptions of myself, to manic depressive side effects.   My methods didn’t work, and didn’t leave any permanent physical scars, but they did leave some things that I will never forget.

One day, the dawn will break, and the shadows of mortality – my weight, my bipolarity, etc – will flee.   I won’t want to hurt myself anymore because I’ll truly see myself with the lens that God sees me in, and that is perfect vision.

Friends, if you or someone you know is suffering from suicidal thoughts and wanting to take action, please reach out and talk.  I created this blog for that purpose.   As a reminder the National Suicide Prevention lifeline is 24 hours a day and they have a great website too.   Their number is 800 273 8255.

Be one of someone’s 13 reasons why they chose to live.


Parenting with mental illness

You know, it’s really easy to fall into a cycle with all this and feel like you are just broken. Between the meds, the counseling, the ups, the downs, the sleep issues, the anxiety issues, the weight gain, the weight loss, the marriage challenges, the disruptions to anything job related, and so much more, it’s easy to forget about my kids.  My kids are two of the greatest joys of my life and I can’t imagine not having them around.

Being just six weeks into a diagnosis of bipolar, I’ve done a lot of retrospective thinking about where I am as a parent and the effect that my illness has had on my reality with my kids.

I saw a request for manuscript submissions on parenting with mental illness somewhere in the wordpress-o-sphere the other day and I’ve decided that I’ll at least put all my thoughts out there.  The document I’m in the midst of creating has certainly been instrumental in helping me go backwards and realize that I’ve been dealing with mental illness and issues my whole life.  It’s nice to have this blog for daily thoughts and putting the day to day “down on paper,” but this manuscript request has been really good for me from a focused parenting point of view.  Given that parenting is one of my stronger triggers and an overall focus for me, I think it’s a good thing to have the extra focus.

Parenting is hard, I get it.  Parenting with mental illness is like trying to get out of bed in the middle of your kid’s playroom when there are Lego’s or Shopkins everywhere and you’ve got to dance through them.  It has certainly been a journey to figure out what is “wrong” with me – and I don’t necessarily feel like I’m doing it poorly given all that has gone on.  Room for improvement still?  100%.  Am I on the road and in the right direction though?  Yes absolutely.

That’s what I’ll say about the  meds.  The damn medications.  The medications which up until the last three weeks had been changed every three weeks.  The meds which ExpressScripts is now threatening to make me pay full price about because of 30 day at a time prescriptions.

They’re working.  They’re a part of who I am now unfortunately, and I’ve got to have the resolve to look at them that way or I will fail.  I’ve got to think of them as much a part of me as my glasses, or my blue eyes or my left index finger.

I want to be a good parent.  I’ve always wanted to live in the example my father, and my Father, when it comes to parenting skills.  It’s a fine and delicate balance, and the scales were made finer still by the adding of this unfair counterweight.  But it’s what I’ve been dealt in this life.  God saw fit to hand me this card, so will I wallow in self pity at the realities, or will I drink the bitter cup and ask for help to get through?

Jesus said to Peter, “Suffer the little children, to come unto me …” and much has been written and said about his thoughts and feelings on children and families.  Being a parent with mental illness doesn’t mean that I get different standards or different rules or different acceptable results.  It means I have to work harder.  Physically, mentally, spiritually, I have to work harder.

I’m down for that.

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