Thursday, September 30, 2010

Practice Delayed Gratification

Bipolar Disorder sometimes causes impulse control issues.  You want to say something, and you just can't wait until the right moment to say it. You can't hold your tongue if it would be better left unsaid.  You can't think about it for awhile to decide the correct wording and context.  No, you blurt it right out.

This is something that a person with impulse issues might do.  It's just an example.

Sometimes how I know that my symptoms aren't being contained so well, is that I say something too fast without taking a moment to pause and think it through. My brain is just moving too fast and I'm having trouble controlling myself.

When that happens to me, I try to alter my behavior so it doesn't happen again. 

I know the importance of delayed gratification.  To function as a logical, considerate, mature human being, I work hard on pausing before I act or speak.

So many people don't.  And this is not limited to bipolar disorder. This is about the whole world of people, many of whom probably don't have any psychological diagnosis.

Photo credit:

This is best observed in rush hour traffic.  People looking down at their cell phones while driving.  They can't delay the act of reading a text, or replying to one.  So they drive around almost running into the back of the other cars because they're not looking as they slide forward in bumper to bumper traffic.

And it's not limited to cell phones.  Sometimes it is food that needs to be eaten. Or a baby in the back seat. Or something intensely interesting in the seat next to them.

There is a whole world full of people who can not set aside their impulse to pay attention to something else other than what they should be paying attention to: the road in front of them.

They would rather answer the text message even if it means crashing into the back of another car.

So, try to practice delayed gratification.  You want to do something else.  But try not to. Put it off and do it later.  This is a skill that could save your life.

(Perhaps the drivers texting have another issue: They're grandiose.  They have an inflated view of their ability to successfully multitask.)

You decide:
Are Texting Drivers Grandiose or Suffering from Impulse Control Issues?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Eating too much food

In the last five years or so, I gained a lot of weight. I was blaming it on age (people get rounder as they get older), or on low blood sugar (I don't feel good when I don't eat). But I'm finished with those excuses.

For the last five years, I've been working from my home, with the kitchen nearby, and making enough money to keep food in my fridge.

The problem is that I think I've been trying to treat my bipolar disorder with food. When I don't feel good, I think, “Maybe I need to eat,” and then I eat, and I feel better.

I don't eat junk food or sweets, but rather lots of cheese, milk, bread, and other kinds of normal but high calorie foods.

Cheese, photo:

And the truth is, I feel better after eating. Sometimes when I haven't eaten in awhile, I get symptoms: cold hands, shakiness, headache, anxiety, difficulty with concentration.... Not in that order, and not the same everytime.

But it turns out that it's not low blood sugar. I got a glucose meter and tested myself. I'm normal every time. So now I'm thinking maybe the anxiety and concentration stuff is the Bipolar, and the shakiness is from caffeiene. The cold hands and headache I can't explain, but I'm human and sometimes humans get those things :)

I've been taking chromium for the last year to help even out my blood sugar, and it is working.

So, in general, at least as long as I take the chromium, I don't have low blood sugar. It's all in my head.

I know that I have psychological hang ups with food. And food does make me feel better. I just never recognized that I was eating as treatment before...... I would hear about people eating for comfort, and it didn't exactly fit my situation. Because I'm not eating to make depression better, but rather to treat “that uncomfortable feeling” which is some hard to describe bipolar feeling. And I'm not eating sweets, but just normal food. So there's a lesson I've learned – it can still be comfort eating, even if it doesn't fit the stereotypes.

Maybe part of it is that once upon a time, I didn't have enough money to buy much food, and perhaps that is buried in my psyche somewhere. I remember putting food back at the grocery store because I couldn't pay for it.

I also remember getting really sick feeling when I needed to eat, but ever since I've been taking the chromium, I don't get really sick. But I do get a headache if I go long stretches of time.

So here's my plan of action, most of which I've been trying to do for the last week:

  • Eat fruit or vegetables for snacks instead of higher calorie food.

  • Go longer between eating meals. Hunger is an OK feeling. I can be hungry, and it won't be the end of the world.

  • If I really feel like I have low blood sugar, check my blood sugar with my glucose meter to see if I have low blood sugar. This is to determine if it's just in my head or not.

  • Don't eat sweets.

  • Eat smaller meals.

  • Continue to exercise every day (I try to walk 1 mile.)

Will it work? I don't know but I'm going to give it a try. I've worked on changing my thinking before, and I do seem to have success with it so I'll see if I can work on it in this area of my life too. I've just realized that a lot of the food stuff is IN MY HEAD!

If I stay busy or distracted by doing lots of things, I tend to forget about being hungry, at least for awhile.

I also noticed that when I feel cold, if I get up and do some exercises or even just move around, I stop feeling cold. So that's an alternative to eating.

I know I must not be the only one who has bipolar disorder and food issues.. I hope this helps someone!  

The biggest moment of realization for me though has been using the glucose meter.  It proves to me whether I'm having a physical or mental issue.  I bought a ReliOn glucose meter with 50 test strips from Walmart. Its the best deal I could find. 

I might be crazy, but I'm not hypoglycemic!

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Bipolar Day

Today I had one of those days which make me realize that I still have Bipolar disorder.

A passing comment and thought triggered what felt like was going to be a meltdown. For some reason my emotions went haywire and I felt anxious and not cohesive.

I told me husband and he helped me decide to take some medicine (phenibut- half dose, and B-12) and it succesfully brought me back to normality.

Or, at least mostly normal.

The important part is that I was able to recover from what seemed like a meltdown and continue my day as I wanted.

That is something that I did not know how to do in the past. And although medicine is not always the answer, sometimes it is just the right thing.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Letting Go of Who You Are 'Supposed' to Be

... and finding who you want to be.

Picture taken by me... interesting wing pattern.

Because the 'supposed' to people just aren't right.  God is right.

I am supposed to be ______.  At one point, it was a doctor.  At another point, a psychologist. 

Many times it was unsaid.  The actual career decision wasn't specified, but I was supposed to be someone.

Someone with a college degree and a high paying and well respected job.

I got the college degree.  I don't have the high paying and respected job.  Something happened while in college and I almost didn't even get the degree. That something is Bipolar Disorder.

As long as I try to guide myself by someone else's concept of success, I will fail.

But if I look at my situation in life and see it as something God gave to me, then there must be a reason for everything, even the Bipolar disorder.  And I can succeed. 

Some of the reasons I don't have the career actually aren't solely the fault of the disorder.  It's also my independent nature.  I'm driven to work for myself.  My symptoms have subsided enough now that I could probably get on the right track to that high paying and well respected job... I could go into work every day and work for someone else.  It's just that I don't want to. 

However, I don't know if I could be a doctor, because I don't think I could get through medical school and residency without falling apart.  My concentration is only good sometimes and my mood problems spike under stress. So perhaps I am not meant to be a doctor. I think I can find something else to do with my brain.

God gave me a brainy brain but also an emotional one. It's an intriguing mix that I am trying to work with.  From what I've read, it's not an uncommon mix, and I think there must be a purpose for this combo.

While muddling through the bipolar mess, I had the opportunity to take a look inside of myself.  I found that part of what had been driving me mad was environmental - other people's expectations, external pressures, an unclear sense of self, etc.

So in a way bipolar is a blessing because I wouldn't have discovered all that I have if the bipolar hadn't come my way. I might have been still doing something because I was supposed to be doing it....

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The beliefs that we believe to be true

Breakthroughs can come when we realize what our beliefs are and then question them.

Which can be scary.

I'm listening to Jennifer Warnes sing "Famous Blue Raincoat" and reading the lyrics, and it is this line that made me think about the beliefs that hold us back -

"I thought it was there for good so I never tried."

I also read part of the book Toxic Parents recently, which talks about family beliefs.  That was an insight for me, because I've been working on changing my thoughts for a long time, but never thought about changing my beliefs.

Beliefs are the things that hide under our thoughts.

We don't have to have the same beliefs as our parents.

I wrote about believing in God in my last post.  This is a belief that differs from my parents and this struggle to accept my belief has been a tough one for me.  The things that I was told as a child are deeply ingrained in me, and it is an emotional fight against them.  Note, that the fight is emotional. The logical part of it is easy.  I know what is right and wrong.  I know the direction that I want my life to go in.  But my emotions still put up a fight.

I am winning.  Little steps.

Monday, September 6, 2010

How I came to believe in God

The parkway looked a lot like this.
Picture is courtesy of Kerosene Photography

Near where I grew up, there was a parkway.  I had to cross it every day to get to and from school.

This parkway was a very busy 4 lane highway.  Accidents happened at the crossing regularly.

When I was 17, I sometimes drove to school.  I could avoid crossing the parkway by driving an extra distance to another crossing that had an overpass.  I often did drive this extra distance, but one day, I forgot.

Rather than turning around, and driving the extra five or ten minutes, I decided that I could wait for an opening in the traffic.  It was near dusk and it was rush hour.

There was a lot of traffic.  I thought I had an opening to cross, but realized when I was halfway across that I had made a mistake.  A car was fast approaching me. So I put on my brakes hard.  I stopped in the middle of the 4 lane road.

I didn't get hit.  I didn't see the car swerve. I didn't hear any horns or screeching tires.

The next thing I remember is that the car was way past me.  It was safe to continue crossing.

It was surreal and unexplainable.  I don't think there is any way to speed up really fast to cross and then to stop in the middle of the parkway and for nothing to happen. There wasn't even any space in the middle.

I remember thinking that I was going to be really hurt or dead.  And yet nothing happened.

It doesn't make sense. I attribute it to God.  Of course, there are other possible explanations. Maybe I was hullucinating and there was no car.  Maybe the event didn't happen how I remember it.  Maybe physics can someday explain such an event where there is a loss of space and time.

I've come to believe in God.  There are also other things, that you might call coincidences, but I think that God plays a roll.  I can't proove it.  But it is just a feeling.

This is of special importance to me because I grew up in a non-religous household. My Dad is an atheist and my Mom undecided.  I never thought that I would believe in God.

My belief in God has been helpful in coping with my moods. I can pray to God and it seems to help. I've also come to realize that I'm here on this earth, doing what I am doing, for a reason.  I guess that's all I'll say for now.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Taking Care of Mom

** In this post, the Mom I refer to is my Mother-in-Law.

My Mom was in the hospital this week for back problems and untreated diabetes.

Its been a week of turmoil.  Mom's biggest problem is that she hasn't been able to walk.  And that she is obese.  Although we all love her so much, none of us can lift her.

It all started a couple of weeks ago.  She started complaining that her back hurt.  Her progression from having a hurt back to being unable to walk is hazy in my mind, but basically one day she just was in pain, and then the next day she had fallen on the floor and couldn't get up.

We came over, and through a long process of using a board that she could get onto and then slide up onto a chair, we got her off of the ground.

Then the next day, she fell again. She didn't tell anyone and was on the floor for hours. Thats when we decided that someone had to stay with her all of the time.

Her back, and then leg, continued to hurt. It was increasingly difficult for her to get up off of the couch.

Her daughter decided to take her to the emergency room in the middle of the night.  At the emergency room, they found out that she had high blood sugar, but didn't do anything to treat it.  Mom said that she didn't need any pain medicine, and after an x-ray, she went home.

So the emergency room didn't accomplish anything, but she did get an appointment with her doctor in a few days.

In the meantime, I took turns staying with her.  I stayed two out of three nights with her.

It would take her over an hour to get up to go to the bathroom.  And then she would sit in her walker and I would push her to the bathroom.  We didn't have a wheelchair.  The second night, we got a portable commode set up for her next to the couch, but she still had extreme difficulty getting up to use it.

I didn't get much sleep either of those nights (2 hours one night), but I managed to get through it without a huge mood problem!  Yay!  I did cry a bunch and feel emotional, but I was able to deal with it.  It was very stressful for me to sit there and watch her try to get up to use the bathroom.  All I could do was offer food, words of encouragment, and pray with her.  I tried to keep the situation as positive as possible, even though inside of me I was scared.

Finally it was the day for her doctor's appointment.  Her doctor admitted her to the hospital. She stayed in the hospital three nights.  After the first night, she finally agreed to take pain medication (vicodin) which made a would of difference.  They also gave her medicine for diabetes.

Now, she is at her son's house.  She has a wheelchair and hospital style bed.  She is taking her medicine and on a diabetic diet.  She is going to have physical therapy twice a week.  I'm confidant that she will regain her mobility.  Already she is able to move around easier, and can use the portable toilet on her own.

All of this has been hard on me.  I've come to love her very much, and I want to help all that I can.  It is a pull between wanting to do everything and being careful to let others do the work so that I don't hurt my health.  

I'm sensitive to changes.  For example, her house is right down the street from mine, and I like to walk to her house about every other day and visit.  When I wasn't doing well, she often provided me with emotional support. Now I can still visit her, but I have to drive about 15 minutes.  It's not bad, but not the same.  Other people are there too, so it's not the same as having one on one time with her.  So that's just one change in my routine and support system that I have to deal with.

The hardest part is that I tend to take on other people's emotions.  Perhaps a better way to say it is that I have a lot of empathy.  When she was scared about being in the hospital, I felt anxious for her.  I worried about her.  I worried that without her mobility, she might have to be in a nursing home, and it might not be a good one.

Fortunately, her son and his family are able to take care of her in their house.  So now I feel a lot of relief.  But I still wonder if she is going to recover well enough to be at home by herself.  Everything seems to indicate that she will be able to, but the future in unknown.

Taking care of her has changed me.  It was a lot of responsibility and stress, and it makes me wonder how much I can take on and still continue to manage my bipolar OK.  I think I was successful because I continued to take my medicine on time, I got sleep whenever I could, and other family members helped me.  I cried and got hugs and it was all OK.