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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Depression pick me up: things I’m grateful for

Just like my idea of listing the things I’m proud of myself for each day, I thought it might also be good to remind myself what I’m grateful for. It can be so easy, especially with depression, to get mired down in everything that’s going wrong and all the things you want but don’t have. Negative thought patterns suck.

So, I am grateful for:

  • My wonderful husband
  • My awesome and supportive parents
  • My fantastic friends
  • My two kitties
  • Having a job – no matter how much I may despise it
  • Owning a house
  • Having—in the broad scheme of things—my health. I’m not in a wheelchair, I don’t have cancer. Things can always be so much worse.
  • Hockey
  • Zumba

Just like being proud of myself each day, I think I’ll try to remind myself of these things—even when I’m not depressed.

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Inspiring story: My daughter begged me to let her die

I just read this inspiring story about a mother and daughter’s journey through mental illness from Debbie Humberstone BLOG.

Mental health: My daughter begged me to let her die.

My favorite quote is:

If someone has cancer and fights it, they’re given a pat on the back. But people who are fighting mental health problems and going through hell aren’t given the same support.

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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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Picking the weeds

The quote that inspired my blog title is from Kelly Clarkson’s song Sober:

“Picked all my weeds but kept the flowers.”

I’ve come to find that in coping with bipolar disorder it’s not only important to add positive and helpful things to your life, but to also get rid of the things that only exacerbate your symptoms.Dandelion

Stress is definitely something that is a trigger for me, and I think this is pretty common. Being hypomanic, I would sometimes dive into more activities than I could handle. Several years ago I was feeling particularly motivated and was really aching to get back into singing. I decided to join a choir at a Unitarian church. I went to several rehearsals and sang in a Sunday service or two. But I quickly came to realize that I bit off more than I could chew. It’s sad to think that committing to one rehearsal a week and a service on Sunday is too much, but I’m sure ya’ll can identify with even that kind of commitment becoming overwhelming.

I also used to do Shotokan karate. I started in college because of my boyfriend at the time and then continued on to get my black belt after we broke up. I really enjoyed it. However, this brought certain pressures into my life. Practicing karate is something that requires deep dedication, which means training at least 2-3 times a week. People would often make you feel guilty if you started missing classes regularly. (Which is something that happens when you’re depressed). Also, being one of few women black belts, there was always pressure to compete in tournaments. While these are fun, I didn’t always have the time or feel like attending. So eventually I decided I needed to take a break. I was burnt out and it was becoming a stressor I didn’t need in my life.

And sadly, sometimes picking the weeds can involve cutting a person out of your life. I had to do this last year and it definitely sucked. But my friend has a host of her own mental health problems that she wasn’t at all seeking treatment for. I know that the topic of leaving someone with a mental illness is a whole other – and very important – issue. But after years of feeling like her therapist and the one who literally had to scrape her off her closet floor, I finally realized it was more than I could handle. How could I serve as someone else’s crutch when I could barely keep my own mental health under control?

I’ve also left jobs when they (unfortunately) became a toxic environment that brought a crazy amount of stress. I’ve found that work-life balance is super important for me to literally keep myself balanced.

So there you have it. Cutting things out of your life can be hard, but I’ve found it to be very worth it. Cutting out daily stressors can almost be more difficult, but I do that as best I can.

Have you ever had to cut anything/anyone out of your life to reduce the stress/anxiety in your life?

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Distractions and coping mechanisms for depression

Depression is a parasite. It will settle in and suck you dry. I’m not sure if anyone has come up with a way to fight it off once it’s started. If they have, I’d love to know how.facewall

But just because we can’t totally get rid of it doesn’t mean there aren’t things we can do to at least help us along the way. Here are some things that I try and do to cope with depression:

  • Talk to people. Whether it’s getting up and talking to coworkers during the day, gchatting with a friend, or calling someone up, it can definitely help to lift my mood. Of course this is difficult because it’s the last thing I want to do when I’m depressed. But it definitely helps me to feel better if only for a little bit.
  • Exercise. I already frequent the gym, but of course when depression hits it’s just not what I feel like doing. Going home and crawling into bed or vegging out seems like a much more favorable activity. But I swear that I feel better after that zumba class.
  • Read a book. Silly as it might be, this can also seem like a difficult task since it feels like it takes more motivation to do than just sitting and watching TV. But I find that you can escape into a book in a way you can’t do with TV
    . True it’s just a distraction from how I’m feeling, but I’ll take it.
  • Laugh. I get onto my favorite websites/blogs and give myself a good laughing session or healthy dose of adorable animals. I personally love WhatShouldWeCallMe, HowDoIPutThisGently, icanhascheezburger, Maru, and damnyouautocorrect.
  • Do a worksheet to combat negative thought patterns. In his book “Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy,” David Burns lays out a way to record your negative thoughts and then write down why they’re exaggerated or incorrect. And I’ll be damned if that doesn’t help bring me back to reality and halt the negative cycle a bit. I would highly recommend giving this a try! Click here to check out my pretty little worksheet that I made to go along with this exercise.

Of course trying to distract yourself or cope with depression isn’t easy, and sometimes even the easiest activities that you know will help seem impossible. But at least having an arsenal of things to turn to can help.

If you have them, what are your ways of coping with/distracting yourself from depression?

Here is Maru – he is fantastic.

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Expecting a little too much from the wounded

Have you ever had a friend that disappointed you? Maybe they just didn’t try to keep in touch or always flaked out on you. Or maybe your family member has bad habits like smoking/drinking/eating poorly. These things can be frustrating and easy to get upset about.baggage

But have you ever stepped back and asked yourself where this behavior might be coming from? Maybe your friend is just really busy or flaky or has other priorities they rank above you. And maybe they just like to eat. But what’s beneath that? Are there deeper reasons for this behavior? I’ve come to realize that things are rarely as simple as we might make them out to be.

We all know our own baggage and issues that are always churning inside of us. Of course in our heads, we know the explanation for all of our behavior on some level. But maybe other people don’t. Say you freak out at someone for lying to you about something little. You know your reaction is stemming from the fact that your ex lied to you for years. But is that something they even know or would realize? Maybe not.

As the years go by, I’ve come to look at people’s shortcomings in a different light. Maybe coming to terms with my own inner demons and mental health has caused my eyes to open. I’m realizing, hey – if I have baggage and anxiety and depression, maybe other people do too. And that probably drives some of the behavior that I’m upset about.

Maybe my friend has trouble keeping in touch with friends because she herself is depressed because she lost her father. And I think my family member who overeats does it to self-soothe because he’s still dealing with the baggage of his life—Vietnam, being fired, family feuds—as well as his own anxiety and depression.

So I’ve realized that there have been times I’ve expected too much from these people. Just like me, they’re fighting their own battles and should be forgiven for their reactions and coping mechanisms. I’m going to try and apply this idea to more people in my life and lay down some straight up understanding.

PS: The post title is a quote from a song I enjoy: 3 Libras by A Perfect Circle.

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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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Can’t figure out what’ll be left of me

My whole life I’ve been known as hyper, dramatic, loud, excitable, dynamic. who am IAnd that’s how I knew myself, too. But when I was slapped with the diagnosis of Bipolar II and slid into a cave of depression, that all slipped away. Or rather, got put into a box that I hoped to open someday.

And then the desperate search for my “real” self began…and a billion questions hit me all at once. Was hypomania causing me to act that way all those years? What would I be like without it? Who the heck am I?

If I ever find the right meds to stabilize me—when the hypomania has been stripped away—what’ll be left of me?

And I still don’t think I know the answer. To me, Lauren is the same melodramatic, happy, and confident woman she’s always been. Because that’s all I know.

But while a lot of those qualities are positive, I can see the negative. Looking back, I can see hypomania causing me to get too worked up and excited; to stay up all hours, unable to sleep; have a lead foot behind the wheel and develop road rage easily.

But after months and years of depression, I’m ready to have it back. Bring it on. I’ve had some peeks at it, and it feels good…it feels like me. The girl who cracks jokes in the meeting and is motivated to do things.

Sure, opening that box and having it back full-fledged would really just be hypomania all over again. And maybe the real Lauren is just a slightly more controlled version of that. The melodrama minus the anxiety. I can only hope I find that girl someday. A girl who isn’t constantly in a battle with hypomania or depression. A girl that can truly be just who she is.

I think I would like that girl.

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