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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Mired in Bipolar Depression Lately

Hi everybody! I want you to know I have been intending to post for many days now. I am not posting as much as usual for a couple of reasons:
  1. I put too many things on my plate for the month of May (and beyond) and
  2. I am getting dips into depression that make writing near impossible.
You Are Here

You know those directories in the mall that show you where you are within the mall. Well, mine says within the mall of moods you are in the basement. The path to ground level is not well defined. Thick, grey concrete walls everywhere.

I am coming out of a few days of strong bipolar depression. I started this post yesterday but was overwhelmed by the suffocating mood state and had to stop.

Severe depression symptoms of sadness, irritability, rumination on negative things, anxiety, and guilt are the major offenders. And these things come with an unwelcome decrease in functionality from poor concentration, confusion and lack of clarity, mental dullness, and fatigue.

Writing Depressed

I find it extremely painstaking to write when I'm significantly depressed. I know there are some folks that write from a depressed space and benefit from it. I continue to try this but have had little success.

Topics I have previously decided on developing seem lackluster at best. The inspiration needed is so distant and insufficient in this perverse melancholic state.

What now?

I hope and plan to be writing more again very soon. I'm going to slow down with my activities, goals, and expectations and work on taking each day at a time.

I am reassessing my goals and plans. I am getting my expectations more in line with my current state. But for now, I'll be struggling to catch up with ongoing obligations for many days.

I hope you all are doing well. And if it's bad for you right now just do what I'm doing, hanging in there!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Few Days in My Lives

lake casitas bipolar camping
I just returned from a refreshing camping trip to Lake Casitas. It's in Southern California and an easy drive from my house. They have over 400 campsites of all types in more than 10 separate campgrounds.


I was fortunate to spend time with quality friends. You know, the ones you could spend hours upon hours with talking, joking, and carrying on. The kind you hope stay in your life forever.

There were friends from the old guard and some newer. In all there were 11 people, four dogs, and four campsites that were all next to each other. We had a large buffer and plenty of camping, cooking, and recreating.
Great Campsite - Kingfisher #25

Friends and Bipolar

Most of them already knew of my bipolar disorder. A married couple I met once before did not know. When around good friends the subject of bipolar or mood states rarely come up. I'm fine with this. I'm also fine (most of the time) talking about my disorder. I just go with the flow on this topic.

My symptoms were mostly well behaved this weekend. I checked out early (10 pm) Friday night from fatigue and fairly heavy depression symptoms towards days end. After sleeping for 11 hours I got up and then took a three-hour nap Saturday afternoon. This made it so I wouldn't crap out early that night. So, besides seven hours with pretty bad symptoms the outing was mostly symptom free. This was not possible just three months ago!

Disordered Talk

I talked to Adrian, the husband of the couple I didn't know so well, about bipolar some. He's studying to become a nurse so he knew more about psychiatric disorders than the average person.

Talking with him was interesting and engaging. Turns out he knew some things mental, including the areas of Pharma, adverse effects (e.g., withdrawal effects) from psych meds, and even the beneficial effects from the cannabinoids in marijuana. I haven't had a conversation at that "level" in a long time.


The take home point here is the extremely positive effect friends can have toward living a full life. The wonderful connection and personal interaction with close friends is refreshing, relaxing, and fun!

There was just one thing missing. I mean everything went really well for sure. But I could of used a little more cowbell. You see, I got camping fever. And the only prescription is more cowbell!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

And the Depression Dragon Comes Calling

Did you know that May is Mental Health Month. May was designated by Congress in 1949 as the month to raise awareness of mental health conditions and mental wellness for all. It has become apparent that mental health and wellness is essential for a person’s overall health. And we should remember that effective prevention, mitigation, and treatment of bipolar symptoms is possible. It is true that people can recover from mental disorders and live full and productive lives. This post is dedicated to the Mental Health Month of May.

Well, leave it to my bipolar depression and its minions to interfere with a perfectly good out-of-town trip. I drove up to San Francisco last week to visit an old friend for a few days. We planned on catching up, hanging out, and discussing business ideas and whatnot (remember, I’m still unemployed yet semi-retired).

Depression Dragon Appears

The depression dragon came calling on the day I drove up to the Bay Area. I felt it descending upon me around 1030 that morn. The sky was gray. I was at my father’s house dropping off my dog before heading out to NorCal. Nothing against my father it just happened that way. Just sayin.
Also, I was very tired from staying up all night. I had spent the night busily reading and thinking about some things that my friend and I intended to discuss. 

bipolar depression It was exciting material, I was motivated, and so I kept on working through the wee hours of the night. Time flew by like it does when you become engaged in something you enjoy doing.

Funky Friday

I slept 18 hours straight on Friday, not getting up until 5 pm. It was one of my marathon depression slumbers. So much for talking shop that day. We’ll catch up this eve and tomorrow I thought.

But that was not to be the case. The bedeviling depression dragon had come home to roost for a time. He dwelled amongst me all evening. The feelings from ruminations over nonexistent yet “impending doom” kept me pinned on my back.


I awoke Saturday at a reasonable hour with no relief from depression symptoms. As per all depressions to this extent I had diminished capabilities, limited cognitive functioning, and a pathetic level of self worth. I was not in a good state for having lively, engaging conversation about future possibilities.

Mother’s Day

The last day of my visit was on Mother’s Day. This didn’t help my poor mood matters because this day inevitably brings up memories of my mom, usually sad. She passed on January 2, 2010.

So, after a splendid lunch with my longtime friend and his family and a short nap I departed.

My thinking about the visit on the drive home was disappointment at first. I was disappointed I didn’t have the needed access to my mind during my trip. I was robbed of important things like memory recall, attention, and a fluid mind. Never mind executive functions like planning and strategizing.

Instead I was stuck with no go neurotransmitters, nasty neural network cobwebs, and gelatinous blobs of gray matter. It’s enough to make a Jewish mother say "oy."

Dragon Departure

After talking with my friend illegally on my cell phone while driving home I felt better. I told him I was disappointed and why. He acknowledged that and was glad I communicated the matter. He knows I fight this demonic dragon each day and I’m stronger on some days over others. This helped me relax.

bipolar depression dragonI slept well Sunday night. The dragon left his roost during the night.

So as things would have it my mind and mood came back on Monday. There is still a little depression, but this much I can deal with.

The wackedness (new word, pronounced wa’ ked ness) of this bipolar depression of mine continues to amaze me. No sooner than when I get a grip and think recovery is moving forward, I find myself wallowing in the mire once again.

Final Analysis

So, was this experience a failure? Not by a long shot. I had a wonderful time hanging out with my friend and his family.

Regardless of the whims of serious depression we managed to discuss several issues and ideas. It just wasn’t to the depth and detail I was hoping for.

The work stuff and ideas will come as they do. I’m trying not to put unnecessary expectations on things. This just adds stress. And stress can very easily become a trigger for and aggravator of bipolar symptoms.

As I said to my good friend, “Sometimes you just got to be the tortoise in the race.” It takes time and patience when you are taking over the world.

So what are you in life? A tortoise or a hare?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

NAMIWalks 2012 a Success!

Hello everybody! I'm out of town right now but wanted to let you know how last week's NAMI fundraiser went. It was awesome!

Eleven of us on team "Walking on the Wild Side" walked the walk, so to speak. It was an idyllic sunny day in Southern California.

We raised $2,680 for our local NAMI chapter! Overall, over $100,000 was raised for our local NAMI affiliate with more than 1000 walkers participating. 

I want to say thank-you to all who contributed by walking, donating, and being with us in spirit. You guys are great!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

My Bipolar Life in a Blog Post

Not including the intense, short-lived manic episodes and fleeting periods of normalcy, most of my life since my teenage years has been spent fighting bipolar depression.  

I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in August 1997, while being held against my will in a psychiatric hospital by a 5150. A 5150 is a section of the California Welfare and Institution Code, which states a person is required to be hospitalized if they are considered to be a threat to themselves or someone else and/or are gravely disabled.  

I would say I may have been gravely disabled (whatever that means), certainly not a threat to anyone. Of course they didn't ask my opinion. 

I have been blessed to make it up to this point. It has taken brains, willpower, and help from above to make it. AND I get a lot of help from a good pdoc and psych meds, a good psychologist, supportive family, and understanding friends.  

Shortly after my 1997 manic episode I had a major depressive episode that lasted three years. By the time I got to a more "normal" state I had cleared up all the financial, social, and work-related messes I'd made. My "normal" state was probably more like dysthymia (a chronic, low-level depression that lasts for at least two years) that lasted until 2002.

By May 2002 I was doing well at work, it was spring, and I had a girlfriend.  No problems, right? Wrong.  

The girlfriend insisted there was nothing wrong with me and I did not need to take my meds. I argued for weeks that she was wrong. I had bipolar disorder and pretty much everyone knew it. So, to prove her wrong, I stopped taking my meds in May. Houston we have a problem.

Shortly thereafter we all know what happens. Since I was off my psych meds I went manic in a matter of days. This manic trip was more bizarre and damaging and exciting than my 1997 episode. I did some fun stuff, but also had delusions, anger, and the symptoms associated with unbridled mania: a flood of racing thoughts, tons of energy, little or no need for sleep, rapid speech.

I was Supermanic: faster than a pissed off bartender; more powerful than an upset badger; and able to escape from bad situations in a single bound. The depression dragon feared the sight of me. I felt invincible (a bad thing).

That fun ride landed me in the hospital twice that summer. The first was a 72 hr hold (another 5150). The second was voluntary, but I left early AMA (against medical advice). I was stabilized and I got bored so I left. Plus the head doctor was being a dick. He tried to get me committed for another two weeks. It was a nice try, but I beat him in mental health court.

Following the years of depression after Mania 2002 my symptoms began to recede by 2005. I was mostly stable from 2005 to 2010. I wouldn't say recovered - more like remission from most of my depression symptoms. 

In early January 2010 my mom died. I was devastated. I was drinking hard at this point. I was drowning my sorrow over my mother's death. And then my pdoc up and retired on me in March with no advanced notice.  

By May I'm a little hypomanic maybe (definitely). By late May to late June I found myself in a manic phase once again. But this time it's without a psychiatrist!

I couldn't work. I got approved to take all of June off for medical reasons. I ended up resigning for medical reasons in November 2011 and I haven't been back to work since. I'm calling it my retirement transition period. 

Anyway, there you have it. The cliff notes version of my life from when I was first diagnosed (1997) until now. It is my life during the time bipolar dominated all else, as it does now.

Present status. I live in a house with two dogs for roommates. Currently I am in a 17 month treatment resistant bipolar depression, with a splash of anxiety.  I am on meds and participate in one-on-one psychotherapy. Dogs, sun, blogging, family, friends, and faith continue to provide me strength and sense of purpose as I struggle to live with bipolar disorder. 

I hope you are blessed with the kinds of things that contribute to a stable bipolar existence. If you continue to struggle with the disorder please be patient and do not give up.  There is good reason to remain hopeful. Many people with bipolar learn to cope and live quality lives despite the demons and depression.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

My Cymbalta Withdrawal - Review of the Trilogy

I've blogged about my ongoing withdrawal from the antidepressant Cymbalta since I started tapering doses on March 20. In that time I've written three posts sharing my experience with the most recent being "My Cymbalta Withdrawal - Return of the Mind."  

This post is a review and summary of the first segment on my journey to 0 mg/day so far. But with a twist. I am inserting characters and adding plot that represents the Star Wars series.  Why not, right?

The Trilogy

1.  Withdrawal Wars. In "Withdrawal Wars" we find our hero, Duke Taperwalker, at the very beginning of the discontinuation process when he went down from 120 mg per day to 100 mg per day. We come to find out through the master obi-one-clinician that he needs to clear himself of the toxic antidepressant before he can begin to clearly access the Life Force.

Duke had high hopes since he has made it off several psych meds without invoking the wrath of the Discontinuation Syndrome. He's thinking Cymbalta withdrawal will go smooth and last less than six weeks or two months max. Our protagonist is not aware of the evil biopsychoneuropharmacology that lurks in the not-so-distant future. 

2.  The Syndrome Strikes Back. In "The Syndrome Strikes Back" post we find Duke eating a little humble pie.  The withdrawal from Cymbalta took a turn for the worse. He has been overpowered by the Dark Side and is experiencing severe symptoms from the evil warlord Darth Depression.   

It started at the beginning of the second week when they dropped Duke's dose to 80 mg per day. The psychmed rebel fighter began experiencing severe depression, which became mild by the end of the week. During the third week the depression became severe again, but this time worse than the prior week! And the fourth week was like the third. 
Even though young Taperwalker stayed at 80 mg per day, he continues to experience attacks from Darth Depression.  

So, we leave our hero devastated and trapped by the intensity of withdrawal symptoms. The Syndrome has regrouped and attacked with ferocity.  What now?  Where will this perilous journey lead him?
3. Return of the Mind. In "Return of the Mind" we find Duke pleasantly surprised and thoroughly relieved by the remission of Darth Depression. However, drug recon data and recent Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms indicate this is going to be a long and arduous process.

The episode starts at a point where the withdrawal from Cymbalta took another big turn. This time for the better! It is near the end of fifth week and he remains at 80 mg per day. Duke has actually had as much as six days in a row with only mild depression!!
It looks like the kid might be stabilized with intermittent, mild depression. He has remained in communication with his rebel leader psychiatrist, Dr. G, on a weekly basis throughout this withdrawal process. 

At the end of the fifth week the Executive Council of the Psychmed Rebel Alliance was convened to decide what to do next. Even though it was not clear what direction Duke's withdrawal symptoms were heading, the recommendation was to stay at 80 mg/day for a few more days and see what happens. It turns out that was a good move!

It is now the end of the fifth week of this episodic battle to get off Cymbalta. Duke Taperwalker has defeated the Discontinuation Syndrome once again!  His mind is clearer and his mood is significantly better. The psychmed rebels are enjoying an extended period of peace between the dark and light sides of the disordered universe. There is hope once again in the Pharma Galaxy!

What's Up Cymbalta What's Up?

I have had better moods lately because we paused the campaign to rid my body of Cymbalta. I've been at 80 mg per day for over five weeks now.

My psychiatrist wants me to stay at 80 mg for an unspecified period of time, but I'm wanting to press on, but respect for her recommendation resulted in a compromise. I agreed I would stay at 80 mg per day for four weeks and at that time evaluate my progress to determine whether to lower my Cymbalta dose or not.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Changing the Minds of America at NAMIWalks 2012

Dear Readers,

I'm writing to tell you about an important event I am participating in. It is the 2012 NAMIWalks. NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental IllnessNAMIWalks are the main source of annual operating funds for local NAMI chapters across America.
I am on a late entry team, Team BipolarXpress. If you in a position to support my journey to change minds one step at a time, then please go here.

NAMI - National Alliance on Mental Illness

NAMI is the largest education, support, and advocacy organization serving the needs of those whose lives are touched by these serious mental disorders.  This includes persons with psychiatric disorder, their families, friends, employers, the law enforcement community and policy makers.  

The NAMI organization is composed of approximately 1100 local affiliates, 50 state offices and a national office. Each year NAMI works to break down barriers and improve services with those with serious mental illnesses, such as Bipolar Disorder.

The Good

NAMIWalks is an effective way to educate and advocate others about psychiatric disorders. The goals of the NAMIWalks program are: to fight the stigma that surrounds mental illness: to build awareness of the fact that the mental health system in this country needs to be improved; and to raise funds for NAMI so that they can continue their mission. And NAMI does this at no cost to them!

The Bad

It seems like mental illness strikes almost every family in some fashion. Yet, because of the stigma attached to it and the discrimination that surrounds it, it is difficult to find appropriate assistance. NAMI works to ensure assistance is available for those that need it!

The Ugly

The ugly part of this whole mess is the suffering of those with psychiatric disorders, their caregivers, and concerned friends and family. While we don't have cures for the disorders, there exists ample resources in this country to make the lives of each person affected by Bipolar Disorder much more bearable.

In my view the only real ugliness out there is the crime that all people affected by the disorder are not on the road to wellness!

Will You Support Our Cause?

If you would like to help our cause please visit my event walker page. It features a link so you can sponsor me online. Donating online is fast and secure. No donation is too big or small. Even a donation of $10 (their minimum) is a personal VOTE for our cause!  

NAMI is a 501(c)3 charity and any donation you make to support my participation in this event is tax deductible. NAMI has been rated by Worth magazine as among the top 100 charities "most likely to save the world" and has been given an "A" rating by The American Institute of Philanthropy for efficient and effective use of charitable dollars.

Thank you for your consideration and support!  Keep on truckin.