kept the flowers

Getting off meds for pregnancy: will this be impossible?

I had a breakdown the other day about the daunting task of getting off my meds during pregnancy. It scares the shit out of me.

taking medication during pregnancyI almost broke down during my psychiatrist appointment where we were talking about options (of which, really, there are none). Not none for everyone, but it doesn’t look good for me.

My OBGYN basically said that there isn’t any bipolar/depression medication that isn’t a potential risk to the baby. Then my psychiatrist said that wellbutrin might be an option. My friend took Zoloft during her pregnancy.

I have two problems here. 1. anti-depressants don’t work for me. 2. I really don’t want to take any chances of harming the baby…at all.

It took me forever to find the right combo of meds: 500mg lamictal, 2.5mg abilify, and 10mg trazodone for sleep. And the last time I lowered my lamictal dose slightly I got depressed.

I know that everyone says that if you’re really in a terrible place mentally that the mental health of the mother might outweigh any risks from meds. And I’m starting to fear that this might be the case for me.

Maybe I just have to get over the fact that I’ll be one of the women who just can’t be entirely off medication during pregnancy. But as I said, it seems anti-depressants are the only thing recommended (to me at least), but the damn things have never worked for me. (Tried Cymblta and Lexapro).

So, in sum, I’m petrified. I’ve briefed my husband that this will likely get really terrible and that I’ll need a shit ton of support.

What experiences have you had with pregnancy and mental health meds? Is there any hope?

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Pics for those fun bipolar times

Inspired by whatshouldwecallme and howdoiputthisgently, here are some gifs for the bipolar folks out there.

WHEN I’M DEPRESSED AND JUST WANT TO EAT
inhaling wheat thins

WHEN I REALIZE I FORGOT TO TAKE MY MEDS
panic

WHEN I’M SO MANIC I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH MYSELF
cat scratching toilet paper

WHEN DEPRESSION HITS
puddle
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A lil’ pick me up: being proud of myself

How often do those of us with bipolar pat ourselves on the back or give ourselves praise? For me, this can be especially difficult when staring depression in the face.i am so proud of me

But I recently stumbled upon a nice thought pattern that gave me a little pick me up. I started listing things in my head that I was proud of myself for that day. I was proud of myself for sticking to my high protein diet when all I wanted to do was make some damn pasta. I was proud of myself for asking a potential employer for more money. I was proud that I went to the gym even though I wasn’t really feeling it.

As I started my mental list I found that more and more things came to me. It felt quite nice and gave me an instant boost of self worth and confidence. Rock it out, me.

I think I’ll try and do this every day. Depression or not, I think we all deserve to tell ourselves how awesome we are for doing even the simplest of things.

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Don’t know what you got till it’s gone

You would think that at this very moment we all know how we’re feeling. You know if you’re sad, pissed, anxious, etc. But there’s one emotional state that can sneak up on us: depression. It’s like a ninja.

sneaky catIt seems that sometimes I don’t even know I was depressed until it has lifted. (This is really just for the more mild bouts of depression—I certainly know when I’m super depressed). Sometimes it’s only when I think back to past months that I realize, oh shit…I was actually depressed that whole time.

It seems such a strange thing to me. Depression can be so crippling—how could I possibly not know when I’m depressed? I guess it’s because when you spend most of your life experiencing this state (even at low levels) that you get used to it. I just think this is how I’m supposed to feel. That not wanting to go out with friends or talk to people is normal—I’m just tired.

I keep a daily health journal where I document my moods, sleep meds, etc. Sometimes when I’m reading back through, I’ll realize that I reported my mood higher than it actually was. Having the 20/20 hindsight, I can remember more clearly how I actually felt and realize that I was just thinking my lower mood was normal.

So the question, I guess, is whether or not this matters. There’s little you can do to lift depression when you have it, so what does it matter if you don’t even know you have it? I suppose knowledge is power and at least if you can recognize you’re a bit depressed you can try to fight it—maybe exercise or force yourself to get out and socialize or do a hobby.

Either way, I hope we all get to a point where feeling even mildly depressed isn’t a ‘normal’ feeling. It should be something we do recognize because it’s actually different than the way we normally feel.

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The terrible 20s

I used to think that my 20s would be the best years of my life. Apparently, I was mistaken. And hopefully, they will actually be the worst—because that would mean that things get better.

It seems I’m not the only one to experience this. Both of my parents said that their 20s pretty much sucked. My mom’s 20s were fraught with change and turmoil and my dad went to Vietnam. And then, things got better.

I’m sure that many people thoroughly enjoy their 20s. But I sit here actually looking forward to turning 30, because that could mean that my bipolar is being better managed, my husband and I are both in jobs that we like, and we have some money to fix up the house and go on vacations.

Losing your youth is scary, but my desire to beat depression and feel better has overpowered that. I do tend to take after my mother, so maybe I’ll just have to survive my 20s before really starting to live, too.

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Famously bipolar

I had heard of the “typical” bunch of famous people who had/have bipolar disorder. You know, Vincent van Gogh, Virginia Woolf, Catherine Zeta-Jonesmaybe Jimi Hendrix, possibly Britney Spears.

But I didn’t know about Catherine Zeta-Jones. And this is a bigger deal to me than others because she is bipolar II like me. I had no idea! It just happened last April, yet somehow I missed this news completely.

I do hope her bravery of facing the public about this did impact people. I hope it melted away some stigma in the public even just a little. People worship celebrities, so they really do have the power to make a difference. Certainly for mental illnesses, someone like Zeta-Jones can be a positive role model and example of someone proactively managing their condition.

Because lord knows, manic depression is a frustrating mess.

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There are storms we cannot weather

When I was in college, my best friend’s father was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer that had spread to his brain. stormIt was very advanced and there was little they could do. It was devastating. My friend was one of six children and extremely close with her father. It was simply unimaginable that this was happening.

Once weekend when I was home, I was visiting my church (more on that later). My old youth group leader asked me how my friend’s dad was doing, and I broke down as I told him. One of the things he said to comfort me has stuck with me throughout the years: “He never gives you more than you can handle.”

As soon as he said it I knew I disagreed. It was a nice thing to say and is probably a nice thing to believe. But I don’t…mostly for the reason that it’s simply not true.

People are given more than they can handle all the time—that’s why people commit suicide. That’s why they quit, run away, and break down.

This has never been more true to me than now, after I’ve been fighting a losing battle with bipolar depression for months on end. I have come to truly understand what “too much” feels like and why someone would take their own life to escape.

So though it’s not comforting, I prefer the truth found in Les Miserables’ I Dreamed a Dream:

But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather

I think sometimes just acknowledging the hard reality of things can be motivating in and of itself. And when it’s not…there’s always Glee.

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Allow me to question your diagnosis

There are so many fun things about mental illness. It’s a regular smorgasbord of awesome.mental illness

But one of my most recent faves is the diagnosis questioning. i.e., the complete devaluation of your medical condition.

Yes, medical condition. But that’s the problem—people don’t see mental illnesses as real, biological conditions. It goes something like this:

“Yeah, I know you were told you’re bipolar II…but what if you’re not?”

That’s no different than saying, “I know you were told you have diabetes…but what if you don’t?” But so many people don’t see that.

And the worst part of it all is when the questioning comes from friends and family…the people who are on your side, who support you.

So shouldn’t they understand? Why don’t they get it? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because we never receive a real education about mental health; because of the stigma that continues to surround it; because it’s a really scary concept to wrap your head around about someone you love.

Regardless of the cause, it hurts. I don’t know how frequently this happens to other people, but I have to imagine it’s not just me. And that’s what makes me want to do something, anything, to make a difference on this issue…to raise awareness so that the stigma melts away just a little.

Suffering from a mental illness is bad enough—having it questioned on top of that just twists the knife even further.

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