As gauged by willingness to attend band rehearsal.
1. Ready to leave house early. Have eaten dinner. Food is prepared for other people. I sing a merry tune as I skip out the door. I come home a bit wired after practice.
2. Spend time before rehearsal closeted in my room. Scarf down some snack before running out the door late. Other people must fend for themselves. Count the minutes until rehearsal is done. Return home exhausted.
3. Come home from school and lock myself in my dark room cocooned in the covers. Cannot leave the house. Will not interact with others.
When I have forced myself to go to rehearsal in this state, it resulted in crying jag throughout. And it is hard to play horn while crying.
Corresponding to these stages are the stages of planned inhalations... because when playing a wind instrument you have to breathe. Deeply. In places in the music that are fixed. Breathing is not optional. Breathing shallowly or quickly or randomly is not possible.
1. I am calmed by taking deep measured breaths. It feels like meditation. Like group worship in the Quaker sense. A good rehearsal can be like a gathered meeting.
2. I am pissed off that I have to take deep breaths as marked. I don’t want to. It seems like an imposition.
At the breath marks, at the raised baton... I find myself gritting my teeth. Who are you to tell me when to breathe? A level of in unwished for micromanagement.
3. Breathing is too much to ask of me. I just want to stop.
I thought I was double dosing in the escitalopram. The reverse of the dosage issue I had with the lamotrigine. But I wasn’t.
Spouse picked up a pill minder for me. I put all my am and pm pills in.
wide awake 4:39 am with headache on left side. I wonder if I made mistake with escitalopram dosage. Need to check. Manic symptom includes decreased inclination for sleep. So tracking that. Cuz like with any antidepressants it can provoke mania. Effing bipolar.
Been waking before the alarm but only getting 5-6 hours of sleep. At the end of the day my brain is done and I can’t be bothered to... I don’t know... deal with other humans.
But also some flat affect and word salad. Depression symptoms...
Yesterday I talked with elder boy and a friend about my crisis of faith... my worry that any messages I had received in meeting were really just bipolar symptoms.
Friend talked about her experience writing poetry both before and after treatment for Depression.
That was disheartening for her at first... the change in experience. But she continued to write and trusted that although her writing was different it was not gone.
So keep going.
Elder boy laughed at me so hard his face turned red and he started to cry when I told him I was afraid that my Quakerism was caused by bipolar.
His comments were essentially:
“Mom that’s like artists saying they won’t treat their mental illness because they will lose their art.”
Which we have already discussed as being a rubbish idea.
People with mental illness certainly produce great art at times... but not while debilitated or outright destroyed by their illness.
My ultra rational brain probably believes that all religion is a sign of mental illness. I have never been easy in my own faith and have failed to understand anyone else’s.
Faith is not meant for rational explanation. That’s why it isn’t called science.
Elder boy also pointed out that regardless of messages that might come through me or not... meditation is good. And it is a good community.
He is 15.
Feeling Down. Not too bad. Mostly tired. Of everything. Everyone.
(note I skipped breakfast and lunch yesterday but I did sit with a friend and bead during lunch and then I had good food when I went home)
20 mg lurasidone
10 mg escitalopram
At Quaker meeting today I did not have a need to rise and speak or sing. And it was a very calm experience.
Amazing what an hour of silence can do when not accompanied by heart palpitations and the shakes and this unexplainable something... a need to rise. Or else,
None of that today.
And it’s not uncommon to sit without a message, but I have been pretty vocal lately.
To the point where I worried people might doubt that my vocal ministry was spirit led and not just ego.
Then had an uncomfortable conversation a while ago in which it felt like I was being given performance review on the quality of my message.
Which to be clear was not my choice.
I don’t get how it works or why, but when I rise I am not deciding what to say or sing. It’s already been decided. The subconscious at the wheel. Spirit driving the bus.
Still this conversation made me doubt. What if my voice is just my voice and nothing more.
What if the prompts for vocal ministry are a symptom of my bipolar disorder? Lots of people who think they are talking to gods turn out to be mentally ill.
I don’t even believe in god and can’t explain why or how messages are delivered. Faith is not tidy.
What if the physiological signs of having a message are just caused by extra toxic cortisol from bipolar anxiety.
What if when I listen for the small still voice there is nothing to hear?
Suddenly the lack of messages seems less peaceful.
When I am properly treated will that mean the end of all songs? What will happen then?
Hey look! I can write about something that is not dealing with Depression. Woot!
Or at least not about being Depressed. Plus I went to a really busy school function last night and I’m not feeling adverse effects today.
My sleep is better. Much better. I wake before my alarm. I sleep before eleven pm. Most days this week I was willing to admit that I had some redeeming qualities.
One day I was kinda down... provoked by feeling like a failure as a parent. But that felt like mostly regular down. Not Down.
I think I have a sinus infection starting above my eyes.
I love my job.
I have bowed out of Halloween this year. No clue what the kids are going as. I’m not making extravagant or even maybe mediocre costumes. This will probably be a lie.
I can see this is not going to be one of my more finely crafted posts. Nothing to write home about.
Maybe I should just let my phone auto-decide what I’ll write...
The next paragraph will be brought to you by suggested words on my phone... ready?
“I am not sure if I wanna have y’all come over tomorrow or tomorrow night.”
Clearly not tailored to me. I definitely don’t want y’all coming over. Let’s try the middle option...
“and I’m gonna I was wondering what you were going through I gotta is your way”
Ok.., not better. Option 3...
“for you and you have to work on your day and night tomorrow”
yup. Clearly a misuse of the feature.
“I think we have a good chance we could get some stuff for tomorrow and I can go get back with y’all”
I like how my phone thinks I’m southern. (I’m not. I live at the 45th parallel.)
I love my job.
My homeroom is awesome. I only wish it were multi grade so I wouldn’t have to say goodbye to them all at once when they graduate.
They are just in 9th grade. I’ve got a while. Elder boy will graduate the year before. Yikes.
Only I don’t think I’m going to become less attached to them over time. Maybe I will. Surely the honeymoon can’t last...
Maybe they will become mean and vindictive toward one another. Maybe they will grate on me.
Only I’m not sure that will matter. They are mine, after all. My kids. And they make my day.
I love my job. It is my calling.
Grateful crap: I teach the best kids
brought something besides ramen noodles for lunch. I had been eating my emergency stash of instant noodles for the majority of lunches this year.
10 mg escitalopram am
20 mg lurasidone
200 mg lamotrigine
I am dependent on prescription meds. Not addicted per se.
But because I have medically managed my bipolar, I am intertwined with pharmaceuticals in a way I don’t much like.
I was once uncomfortable taking pain meds for a headache... how would I know when the pain was gone?
I have never been drunk. Never used illicit substances. And I would like to not be dependent on meds now.
But I am.
Because they work for me.
Still there is that nagging question: how will I know if I am still bipolar unless I stop taking my meds?
Let me explain this to me...
Bipolar is not going to go away like a headache or a sinus infection or a bout of Depression.
It will only go away like... like sleep. You can avoid it for a while and might show no symptoms of sleep... but eventually it will catch you.
I guess my recent undermedication was a fairly good picture of my continuing bipolarness.
Certainly I am not tempted to cease taking my meds considering how poorly I did on too-low doses of lamotrigine.
am 10 mg escitalopram (2 pills)
pm 200 mg lamotrigine (2pills), 20 mg lurasidone
After one month coming off lurasidone.
I’ve asked friends... am asking friends... to keep an eye on whether I’m becoming too speedy on the escitalopram. We shall see.
Remember, I am okay. Nothing happened. I am writing this now. Things are not so dire as it might sound. It's been a rough four weeks or so. I think four. Can't quite recall.
I was supposed to be taking escitaloptram (2.5 mg). This is half of a tiny pill. I destroyed the pill when I tried to halve it. So I took 5 mg instead. And didn't notice any therapeutic effect so I stopped taking entirely. Instead I should have called Psych NP. I know. I know. But I wasn't thinking real clearly.
Because when you are Depressed and an antidepressant doesn't help, you should find something that does instead of just shrugging and ceasing to take that medication. What a rookie move. What a bonehead mistake. But without writing there was little self-reflection going on.
Then fall hit with the change in light and the change from being home and unscheduled to being at work around MANY people and chaos and Fear of Failing My Students or Doing Something Wrong. And No Exercise. And no add-on antidepressant. Because I stopped taking it. Without letting anyone know.
Should it then be surprising that I kinda tanked? No. Writing this now it is COMPLETELY predictable.
This is the part you should not read.
In the past month I was probably worse off Depression-wise than I have been in a LONG LONG LONG time. I know this because instead of just feeling Down and worthless and hopeless, I was mildly suicidal.
See, I told you not to read this.
The mildly part is important. I had no plan. I hadn't thought about a method. I had no time table. I was making no preparations. Mild. Still, a crappy place to be.
And I would drop hints. Like the only reason I was sticking around was because I knew other people would not be better off without me. Or that I was ready to be done. I didn't talk about death. I just talked about not "being there." Which I guess is deliberately ambiguous.
I was not/am not actively pursuing my own death. But I thought if a house fell on me, or if I were struck by lightening, or if I could just stop breathing, that would be preferable to remaining alive. Because I was ready to be done. Ready to not fight. Ready to not breathe or have a heart that beats so fast even when I'm meant to be resting.
I thought I would always feel that way. And always be Down. And keep going lower. Until there was nothing left of me but the air in my lungs and my stupid, beating heart.
Ugh this is hard to write.
I know when the Downs get bad I shouldn't listen to my brain. Because my Depressed brain is a lying liar. And it wants to kill me. Which the not-Depressed me cannot support. Since I am actually awesome. Just high-maintenance. Unfortunately.
Something (I don't know what... maybe reading my frightening posts... maybe realizing that I was suicidal and not wanting that to get worse...) made me remember my action plan for when the Depression super sucks.
1. take lurasidone
2. call Psych NP
So I did both of those.
And here is the miraculous thing... The day after taking the lurasidone I was not incapacitated by Depression.
I also discovered that the lamotrigine I was taking had been switched when I renewed the prescription. You'd think I would notice that the pills had changed color. Instead of taking one 200 mg pill (blue) I was supposed to be taking two 100 mg pills (white.)
This means that I had been taking half the does of my mood stabilizer that has an anti-depressant effect and none of the add-on antidepressant.
Not on purpose either.
So here is the new plan. Knowing that I don't like to be on lurasidone long-terms (like to have it in my pocket as an emergency med and not really liking how it makes me feel other than the part where my brain is no longer murderous)...
I need to take 20 mg lurasidone for one month along with 10 mg escitalopram together with my 200 mg of lamotrigine.
I know in an earlier post I said I would only take meds that start with L. The punchline is that the brand name for escitalopram is Lexapro. Ha.
Have an appointment scheduled with Psych NP for 1 month from now. Have my new meds. Brain is working. Not suicidal. But I need to remember all of this. That's why I am writing it.
I am still here. No plans to leave.
So in the past it was SKAM, the Norwegian teenage drama that I couldn't stop watching. Again and again. And again. Now I am stuck on watching sappy Korean/Japanese/Chinese romance. I confess I had trouble getting to sleep most nights and I would go to bed at a reasonable hour, but then watch 2 or 3 hour-long episodes of something I needed to read subtitles on.
Of course, one might argue that I was having trouble sleeping BECAUSE I was watching something with bright flashing lights in front of my face and a scrolling line of English script that required my attention. But who asked you anyway.
Spouse thinks that I should put a meditation app on my phone that will do guided meditation for me to listen to when I am having trouble falling asleep. Only whenever I have tried guided meditation it has really pissed me off. Maybe I'm doing it wrong.
After 3 crying jags in the last week, I finally managed to call psych NP to schedule a meds check. Because (no surprise to anyone who has seen my posts or my utter lack of posts) I don't think my current meds are up to snuff in terms of treating my Depression.
I'd been bugging my co-teacher to call about her own health issues. I even went so far as to try emotional blackmail... telling her that her lack of self-care was starting to affect my quality of life. Apparently that worked, because the following day she scheduled multiple appointments for herself.
"Happy?" she glared at me.
So I responded by getting on the phone and scheduling my own self-care.
"Happy?" I glared back.
New nebulous part of my job is stressful because I don't know if I'm doing it right. And there are some people who think I should do more and some people who think I should do less and I want to please everyone but I am already letting it take up more of my life than it really should.
Stress over this was a contributing factor in several of the crying jags.
After receiving one inflammatory email I kind of put my head on my desk and pulled my hair so it stood on end in tangled blue strands. Medusa. Co-teacher said it looked like I was melting down and advised me not to do so.
Which kind of worked.
I have taken the following actions:
Started taking lurasidone (which Psych NP wants me to take when the Downs overtake me).
Called Psych NP for meds check.
One day this week I woke up at 3:30 and couldn't get back to sleep. So I watched a Chinese TV show. And then when I got up I took the lurasidone at breakfast. Which is a Bad Plan because it makes me Tired.
This was the day of said inflamatory melt-down email. But I was able to handle it a little better. I think it was the combination of sleep deprivation (which can have short-term positive effects on Depression... but is not sustainable as a long-term solution) and the perhaps psychosomatic effect of the lurasidone. Even though I am certain that it does not start working that fast.
In general that day knocked me on my ass. Felt terrible. Super exhausted. Unable to deal with anyone or anything. Or even think about leaving the house. But I didn't become a fountain of tears.
Now I am trying to take the lurasidone with dinner. What I didn't like about it before was that it made me SOOOOO tired that I had to take it right before bed. And I needed to take it with 350 calories. So I was having trouble not overeating on a daily basis.
We'll see if I can be somewhat functional from dinner until bedtime if I take it with my evening meal. Except on days when I have band because I tried that before and I should NOT have driven home because I could barely stay awake while playing French horn. I drove with the windows down and the radio blaring, singing at the top of my lungs to remain alert.
Grateful Crap: watching my EL kids play soccer. They are really good. And super happy when I come to the games.
going to soccer games
talking to friends/Friends
reading comments from F/friends on FB without getting sucked in to all the other parts of FB
200 mg lamotrigine (need to refill today. not entirely certain how faithful I have been)
20 mg lurasidone
I think I will only take meds that start with L.
But even their brand names are L (lamictal and latuda)
P.S. Elder Boy struggling with school again. See last year when my Depression sucked. February? It is a link I would rather not have. Not sure if there is causation. But it still sucks.
I have ultra-awesome superpowers of doom. I can take any innocuous comment and build an entire universe of awful around it. A single phrase in a context-free email can easily be interpreted as "whatever you did is crap and you will likely be fired."
Luckily I followed up my ridiculous reading of said email with a quick note to my admin who
A) sent me an email back disabusing me of my overreactive imaginings
B) hunted me down in person to give me a hug
C) reminded me to come to her right away when I am feeling this way
C) all of the above
I have started both of the last two days with crying jags. Yesterday I called my co-teacher from the lounge to warn her that she would have to start class without me since I couldn't stop crying. There is no why, remember. There is the trigger, but that is not why. The why is just Depression.
Today I went to a meeting focusing on students that we are concerned about. And I became so concerned about several of the students that it triggered another crying jag. Instead of making it to the staff lounge, however, some of my EL kids spotted me in the hallway and needed my help to find a room for PSAT testing.
Because nothing beats taking the PSAT when you have been in the country for just over a year and are reading at the 3rd grade level.
Admin spotted me in the hall and said, "Oh no! Not again..."
But I told her it was just that I was so worried about my students. And she was all reasonable and advised not to borrow trouble and that we can only do what we can for them while they are with us. And that is true.
But I want it not to be true.
I want to be able to fix things. But this wanting doesn't make it so. And the fact that I cannot fix things for my students kind of wrecks me. The more I know about their personal struggles, the more I struggle.
And if I am broken I am no good to anyone.
When I worked with adults I think I did a better job of this. Making my classroom a safe space. Not ever knowing too much about their backgrounds. Now I feel irresponsible for not knowing more. But the more I know, the more precarious of a position I am in.
I had a conversation with Elder Boy today in which I advised him not to run away from home. He thought this was a ridiculous comment and tried to imagine what on earth would make him run away from home.
Well, if your mom smells.
Or if you become a Nazi (which wouldn't make her kick you out of the house even) but she wouldn't let you hold your Hitler Youth rallies in the basement.
He still thought running away would be less preferable to just hiding in his room. I'm with him. Hiding in rooms is awesome. Under beds if possible. In closets if not.
In Japan I had neither a closet nor a bed to hide under... so I had to kind of wriggle underneath my futon. Which was not anywhere near as satisfying.
It's what I did when my host dad was hitting my host brother for not doing his homework fast enough. I had never seen anyone hit a child before. I didn't know what to do. He was nine. I was twenty. I would live in their home for an entire semester.
My teenage host sister was embarrassed and muttered something under her breath by way of apologizing for her dad's behavior. Urusai. Which made him come out and slap her across the face. The mark of his hand red against her skin. The sound hit the side of my skull after bouncing off the walls. Echoing somehow in such a small space.
I only hid.
I only kept my mouth shut.
What should I have done?
I can't fix everything.
I can't fix anything.
And everything is broken.
And I am broken too.
It was a long dark week. No reason just cuz. Someone asked what my bipolar cycles are like... and I think it’s like this:
I have what they call “ultra rapid cycling” bipolar. Which means I have a lot more than 4 mood episodes per year.
And climate-wise I’m in the Downs. Where I have been for a long time. With little squalls of hypomania blowing through now and again.
This is sometimes good... like feeding off positive energy from my small class of students.
Sometimes less good like when I spend too much time in crowds, noise, excitement. Without a clear plan to counteract the effects.
I think that to a large extent the mood stabilizer has limited any extended hypomanic episodes. But Depression just keeps hanging around.
Like it has nothing better to do.
After my last post a Friend showed up at my door for a wellness check and took me to get replacement beading supplies.
So now I’m beading. Which I think will be good.
Need to have seasonal meds check. Don’t really want to go since the only med I have really liked is the one I’m on... and it seems not quite up to snuff.
I am able to admit that I am potentially awesome at times so this is not a day that I am deep in the Downs.
Imma keep doing things as if I want to do them. Routine. Leaving the house. Showering. Eating food. Keep the Downs from setting up permanent residence.
Quaker, teacher, parent,