Bipolar and Migraines – A Connection?

Everyone has probably had a headache at some point in his or her life. I’ve suffered from headaches since I was a young child, and I remember quite clearly the pain that they had caused me. They would force me to stop playing, or whatever it was that I was doing, so that I could lay down and try to sleep the pain away. I would cry and just beg for them to go away. I thought my experiences with headaches back then were bad enough… that is until I experienced my first migraine, in my early twenties.

So, what’s the difference between a headache and a migraine? Well, a headache is literally pain in the head. It’s when you have pain, but it’s not really affecting any other part of your body. A migraine, on the other hand is different. Here is how WebMD defines a migraine:

There is a migraine “pain center” or generator in the brain. A migraine begins when hyperactive nerve cells send out impulses to the blood vessels, causing them to clamp down or constrict, followed by dilation (expanding) and the release of prostaglandins, serotonin, and other inflammatory substances that cause the pulsation to be painful.*

Basically, a headache hurts, but a migraine hurts like he… um… heck.

I can’t describe what anyone else’s experience with a migraine is like, but I can describe my own.

The Twinge Begins

It begins with a twinge. It’s a familiar pain that suddenly appears over my left eye. Unlike headaches, migraines tend to often occur on one side of the head only, and often it is the same side for each migraine. Although, there are indeed people who suffer from full-headed migraines too. I am thankful that is not the case for me, as I feel that is a much more severe case of the illness. For me, though, I will first feel a headache coming, and I will start taking the over-the-counter pain medicines that we have in the house. If the headache goes away relatively quickly, then I know it was merely a headache that was starting, but I was able to ward it off. However, when the pain doesn’t disappear, and only begins to get worse, I know that I will be suffering in agony for at least the next one to two days. When I get hit with a migraine, I am down for at least a day. The pain radiates from my left head, down to my left ear and left side of my jaw. I will be spending my time lying in the dark, walking around the house with sunglasses, and whispering ‘cause it hurts too much to hear my voice echo in my head. I’ll feel like crying constantly, but won’t because that will only make my head hurt even more. I’ll usually have a wet towel and bag of ice with me constantly too, but it doesn’t really do any good. If I place my hand over my left side of the head, or anyone else does, my pulse can be felt beating hard and clearly. It’s the only visual ‘wound’ (if you will) of the pain deep inside of my head. The ice can feel numbing for short periods, but the pain is still there, deep inside. And no matter how much ice I have, it doesn’t do anything to calm the dizziness, lightheadedness, and nausea.

The nausea. The nausea is awful, and the thought that I will have to vomit or dry heave, only adding to the pressure in my head, makes me worry it will explode. However, considering how much during these times I wish I could just rip into my head and pull out the source of my pain with all of my might… a head explosion wouldn’t be so bad. Sleep is usually the only thing that I can do during migraines, although I tend to have horrible dreams during these times, often with pain in them. The pain will then wake me up and it’s back to trying to bear with it in an awakened state. I can’t stand the light and too much sound is awfully irritating, both emotionally and physically. I will keep the TV on with a low volume as I need a little sound to stop my thoughts from taking over me, but that’s about it. Food? Forget about it. If I’m lucky, I manage to get some plain scrambled egg and toast in by the end of the day, but other than that, I will sip on juice or something carbonated to help the nausea. I will take way more pain meds than is recommended by the dosage on the bottle (I do not recommend doing that… don’t do it), but when I’m in that pain, I don’t care. All I want is for the pain to stop, yet no matter how many pills I take, it doesn’t. I know, as I lay there waiting for time to just speed up, that I will be sick for the rest of that day. And, if I wake up the next morning and it’s still there, then I know it will be another day of misery. It’s just how my migraines work.

One of my methods of trying to quell the pain is pushing my head up against the wall. I will stand up and lean really hard on the left side of my head and rock back and forth. It actually feels kind of good, but the pain still remains. I usually wind up with a red mark or bruise on that part of my head by the end of the migraine, but it’s something that I couldn’t care less about when I’m in that pain. Besides, as a hermit, what does it matter?

So, that is what it’s like to have a migraine… for me at least. The shortest migraine I’ve had was a day long, while the longest was four days long. That one sent me to the doctor. It’s something that I have not learned to live with, and I never will. I can learn the symptoms of one coming on. I can learn what I need to do to try and make it last as short as possible. However, I will never learn to live with the pain. It’s one of those things that you just have to deal with when it comes. You can learn to handle it as best you can, but when that pain hits, there is no way to learn to live with it. It’s a “going through the motions” experience that can only be relieved when your body decides it’s ready to play nice.

What About Bipolar?

So, considering that the title of this post is “Bipolar and Migraines – A Connection?” – I guess I better get down to the bipolar part. You may be wondering what migraines have to do with bipolar. Well, up until a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t think they had anything to do with one another. However, that’s when I got hit with another migraine. Two days of that pain was enough for me, and thankfully my body agreed.

After that dreaded experience – which I guess I knew was only a matter of time before it occurred again for me – I started thinking about migraines and bipolar. I’ve been having a difficult time these last months, and thankfully, I am now on my increased dosage of my medication, which I think is finally starting to kick in a bit. It’s been a week since I started it, and my psychiatrist said it takes a week for it to start becoming noticeable (since it’s not a new medication). I’m hoping it really is finally kicking in and not just my mind wishing it to be. The next few weeks will tell I guess. Well, after my migraine, I began thinking about how the timing of it was quite ‘perfect’ really. I mean, what better time for a migraine to hit than when you’re already down to begin with. I wondered if there could actually be a connection. I know stress is one of many triggers for a migraine, so that was an obvious one that I thought about. But, I also started wondering if there was more of a connection.

As I stated, my migraines started around my early twenties. This was about 5 years or so after my first bipolar symptoms (or least those that I can pinpoint, looking back) began. That made me even more curious about what the two have in common, if anything. I wanted to know if it was just a matter of timing for me, or if there was something more at work. Therefore, I started to do some research and realized that there is in fact studies that have been run and completed on the connection between migraines and bipolar. And, guess what they found… there is indeed a connection!

Can you believe that? Migraines and bipolar actually have a connection. Maybe it’s just me, but when I first discovered that a couple of weeks ago, I was quite floored. I had never before put the two together. I had always thought that they were two very different illnesses. But, apparently, they’re more connected than I first thought. Now, to be clear, people can be free from mental illness and still experience migraines. But, what the studies found was that a high percentage of people who suffer from bipolar, also suffer from chronic migraines. It’s a comorbidity that I had never thought about for bipolar, mainly because it’s not an extremely wide known fact. Even my therapist was surprised to learn about my findings when I first told her a couple of weeks ago. And, my psychiatrist knows about my migraines, but has never offered the connection before. I found it interesting to read comments on some of the sites I visited on the subject, and realize that many others were also enlightened by the connection.

In an article that I read on the Psychiatric Times website, the percentage of bipolar-migraine sufferers was broken down. The article is from 2002, but it still doesn’t change the facts and results of the study. In one of the conducted studies, the findings were quite illuminating. It was found that 27% of people who have bipolar I, also suffered from migraines. That number is interesting enough, but get this… a whopping 82% of people with bipolar II suffered from migraines as well. That number is probably the part that floored me even beyond how much I was when I first learned of the connection in the first place. I have bipolar II, which as I’ve stated before in my blog is the same as bipolar I, with the exception that mania reaches the hypomanic level, and depression tends to be the more prominent of the episodes. So, as a bipolar II and migraine sufferer, I definitely fit into that 82%. I always wanted to fit in when I was a kid, but that’s not really where I had my goals aimed.

In addition to the connection between bipolar and migraines, anxiety disorders were also found to be higher among those who suffered from migraines. In another study completed in Zurich, Switzerland, it was found that it was twice as likely for the bipolar-migraine individuals studied to have anxiety disorders, as opposed to those who did not suffer from migraines. And, it was six times as likely for those with panic attacks to suffer from migraines as well. The Zurich study also found the following to be true in regard to bipolar disorders.

In the Zurich study, people with migraine had a threefold-increased one-year prevalence of bipolar spectrum disorders (9% versus 3%), a non-significant increase in manic episodes and a twofold-increased prevalence of major depression (15% versus 7%).**

So, What Now?

What does this mean? Well, we’re screwed. Ok, well that’s just one way to look at it. But, if we must look at it from a much more intellectual and mature point of view, I guess we could deduce that it means that there is some neurological, physiological, or genetic connection between the two – or rather between the three, including anxiety disorders. We already know that bipolar has a genetic attribute. Migraines have also already been considered to have a genetic source behind them.*** Therefore, it makes sense for the two to be connected. Times like these, I wish I were a medical doctor or medical researcher, so that I could find an answer that I could thoroughly understand, and relay to all of you. So, if anyone out there has more information to add to this topic, please sound off in the comments below. I’d love to learn even more or hear about any personal experiences in this matter.

I guess, in the end, the main result for my research query was found… there is indeed a connection between bipolar and migraines, and even more so if you suffer from bipolar II. Unfortunately, now I’m left with more questions about what exactly is causing the connection. I will definitely be keeping an eye open for more information on the subject. If or when I hear of any, I’ll be sure to add it here to my blog.

Well, with that load of information, I shall end this post with something a bit more hopeful. Here’s a song that I’ve been listening to a lot lately. It’s a great song and one of my many favorites. It makes me feel a little better whenever I hear it. I hope it does the same for you.

 

 

Sources:

* Migraines & Headaches Health Center – WebMD.

** Are Migraines and Bipolar Disorder Related?, by Ole Bernt Fasmer, M.D., and Ketil Joachim Oedegaard, M.D. August 1, 2002. UBM Medica Psychiatric Times.

*** The Pain in My Brain, by Carlton Davis. May 14, 2012. The Bipolar Coaster: Adventures in a Manic World. Psychology Today.

Headaches From Hell, by Barbara Kantrowitz. September 15, 2008. The Daily Beast.

 

 

Feeling Left Out

So, here I am, about a week (little less) before I can finally get my new prescription for the upped dosage of meds that I need. I really need them now, and the weird thing is that I actually want them. I hate taking my meds, but right now I can feel it inside. I feel the anger, hurt, and loneliness. I had some caffeine today in hopes that it would help me feel a little better. It did, which is why I’m probably actually writing right now and not collapsed on the couch. But, obviously that’s only a temporary fix. I was sitting here and feeling so alone and angry, about things that I don’t even understand.

Lately, every little slight, or perceived slight, has sent me hurdling downward. I begin to shutdown and suddenly want to tell everyone, “Go screw yourselves! Goodbye!” I want to turn my phone and computer off, and just curl up in a ball and just wither away. I hate who I am… from feeling left out, to feeling like I’m worthless, to feeling like I’m nothing more than an irritating flea in the lives of those I know.

I’ve been playing an online game I’ve played for years. But, something’s been happening to me in that environment lately… it’s making me feel even more left out at times. And, I don’t even understand why sometimes. It’s been the source of many therapy sessions for a few months now and I still can’t get past what I feel. However, there are times when I know exactly what is causing me to feel as I do. For example, I was on a talk chat channel the other night. It was myself and two other people. Well, one of those people has a little girl and put her up to the microphone. Well, it was obvious she told her daughter to say hello to one of the people in the channel… guess who that was… not me. I suddenly felt as if I was non-existent. The three of us adults were all talking and then, it was like I was suddenly not there and worth one of those adult’s time. It was obvious to me that she didn’t want her daughter to talk with me, and only wanted her to talk to the other person. That doesn’t surprise me due to the relationship of those two, but it still hurt. How do you tell your kid to say hi to one person, but completely ignore the other? Would you do that face-to-face? I’m curious how that person would have felt if the roles had been reversed. I’m getting tired of feeling like I’m not even there… like I’m the third wheel on a bicycle built only for two.

That’s a really horrible feeling and only takes me back to my childhood when I was completely ignored by kids. Literally pushed away for being unwelcome. Heck, it takes me back to even more recent years when my own family has ignored me. I’m annoying. I’m a burden. I’m nothing but this person people happen to know. These are the thoughts that have been going through my mind ‘cause I know that would make me want to ignore someone too if they had such qualities. I can be fine. I can be laughing with family and friends, and having a great time. However, all of a sudden, something triggers me. The switch is flipped for my shutdown. I become angry with these people and feel like I’m nothing to them. I cry and lose control over what I feel. And, sometimes, I can come back out of it right away, and others I need to leave the setting. This last week, I’ve cried more while lying down at night, than anything else. I haven’t slept properly at all, but it doesn’t matter. Between family problems, which are wearing me down, to the disappointment I have for my life, to the realization that another year has passed where my life is a total failure, I’m feeling like this is never going to end.

Since the night of that chat channel incident, I have gotten past it, as I’ve found myself having to do a lot lately. No hard feelings, but it still hurts when I think about it. But I have to just get past it ‘cause that’s life, and life is just crap. Life sucks. Anything I, you, or anyone can do about it? Nope. That’s just how it is until the day we die. That’s why I have my façade. The lying, make-others-feel-better façade that hides the pain I feel inside.

I think Linkin Park say it best in one of my favorite songs of theirs.

I know what it takes to move on. I know how it feels to lie. All I want to do is trade this life for something new, holding on to what I haven’t got.

I know I’m not the only one who can relate to this.

 

Is It Over Yet?

Well, the world didn’t end… go figure.

Courtesy of NASA

Courtesy of NASA

I wish I could say that I haven’t been blogging lately because I really thought the world was going to end today and figured what was the point. However, I cannot say that… at least not honestly.

I apologize for being such an awfully inconsistent blogger these last few months. I guess when I fell out of the groove a few months ago that I couldn’t get myself back into it. I love blogging (and of course writing as a whole), but I just haven’t had the motivation. However, what better motivation is there than realizing the world has indeed begun another day.

First of all, I would like to say thank you to some new followers of my blog. I have recently had notifications that several new people are following My Bipolar Bubble, and I thank you so much for your interest. Welcome! And, to those of you who have continued to follow me over the last several months, I am grateful for your on-going support, interest and friendship. I am so blessed to be a part of such a wonderful group of bloggers, and I do not take for granted the bond we all share (both readers and writers of all of our blogs).

As you can see by this post’s title, I asked a question, “Is it over yet?” I guess that can be interpreted in many ways. It can be a reflection of the Mayan Calendar end of the world reference, or it can be in reference to something more. I actually meant it as both the former and the latter.

I had a discussion with someone yesterday that got me to thinking about one of my recent therapy sessions. As I have said, I did not believe the world was going to end today, although there was a huge part of me that had been hoping it would. Between the way I have been feeling lately, to the negative turn that it seems our society is taking, it just felt as if maybe it would be best. Why continue to live in a world that offers so much pain, hate, anger, frustration, tragedy, and most of all… grief?

It feels like it would be so much better for the world to just destroy itself than to keep dealing with us humans. But, alas, that’s not what ended up happening today. The day is barely beginning as I write this, but I’m pretty sure the sun will set and tomorrow will dawn anew. It’s something, though, how the brain works. It can take any outside source and try to use it against us. At least that is how it feels for me. This time it was the so-called prophesized end of the world. Next time, who knows what it will be.

It’s Baaaaack!

A lot of feeling this way has to do with my mood levels as of late. Since August I have been out of it. September was when it really started to hit me, though. However, it’s not the usual crash to the bottom lows, or shoot to the moon highs. It’s been one really lame roller coaster that was built with only inclines and free-falls. I can’t recall if I’ve ever described this before, but what I have been feeling lately is something that first appeared late last year. Then, it was in December, but this year it started months before. It’s a difficult feeling to describe, but I’ll explain it as best I can.

It is all of the bipolar highs and lows, except on a sped up cycle. I can be feeling great. I can be doing anything, and be either mobile or immobile at the time. I can even be laughing and having a great time, but then it happens. I get hit with an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach. To put it simply, it feels like grief, and as if all energy and substance has just been sucked out of me. In literally a matter of a few seconds, I go from feeling good to feeling like I’m lost, alone and surrounded with grief from some unknown loss from my life. If I’m sitting at the computer when it happens, I have to stop what I’m doing immediately and lay down. I can’t sit up ‘cause the energy it takes to just that is much higher content than I have to expel. If I’m talking to my mom, I will have to leave the conversation and go and lay down. No matter what it is I’m doing, it will hit me, and last from minutes, hours or days on end. It always varies. Pattern? No. Same trigger? No. Completely random? Yes. It doesn’t matter what I am doing, where I am, nor whom I’m with… there aren’t any reservations for this cruel and invisible punch to the gut. It is no wonder I have been crying myself to sleep more often than not these last few months.

So, when I saw my psychiatrist this past Monday, I told her. After hearing me out and listening to everything I was saying, she said it was time to up my meds again. She said it’s rapid cycling and it’s happening because my meds aren’t doing enough. It’s like they’re helping, but not enough. I don’t recall rapid cycling anytime in the past (prior to late last year’s first appearance). So, this is new within the last year. It makes me feel that it is indeed due to my meds not being strong enough at the moment. Basically, my current dosage isn’t doing it for me anymore. I got the feeling from the tone in my doctor’s voice that she knew this was coming. I admit I’m not the easiest of patients. I haven’t been from the beginning. I have sensed her frustration with me in the past, but she has an immense amount of patience with me, which I greatly appreciate. The dosage she wanted to start me on back in 2009 was much higher than it has been. I refused it, though. I told her I was afraid of the medicines and did not want it that high. She worked with me, but has always tried to get me to go higher. Well, with this new dosage, I have now reached the dosage that she originally wanted to start me off with back when I was first diagnosed. What concerns me is that it will continue to be moving up, since this is where she wanted to start me in the beginning. Only time will tell, but I’m frustrated with myself that it took me three years to agree to do what she wanted. She didn’t give up on me. That says a lot to me… not just as a patient, but as a person.

Probably, what mostly made me a bad patient was that I hate my meds and I hate going to my psychiatrist. I don’t call her like I should, and when my therapist tells me to, I refuse. I don’t want to take my meds and often feel tempted to dump them in some way or another. Yet, although it goes against what I want, I still take those pills and keep my appointments with my psychiatrist because it’s what I need. Being fortunate enough to be able to see my therapist weekly, and sometimes multiple times a week, helps me to be able to stick with my treatment. Also, knowing that my mom (whom I love dearly and beyond the description of any words) needs me, keeps me going too. But, without those two driving forces… well, I’d rather not get into that discussion.

That Bubble Won’t Pop

Here’s the frustrating thing. I find myself still hiding. I’m still hiding in that Bipolar Bubble about which I’ve discussed before. I hide behind the façade that I so desperately continue to try and destroy. I try to say what I’m feeling, but I know people don’t want to really hear it. Everyone, I repeat… “Everyone”, has his or her own problems. Maybe it’s not mental illness, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t extremely difficult, depressing, and painful. Mental illness is only one source of pain and despair in this life. Due to that fact, I try so hard not to burden others with my problems. Especially since I have a therapist, I try to be courteous of the fact that I have someone who listens every single week. I have someone whom I can talk with when so many others do not have that option. I do not wish, nor desire, to be selfish and believe that I am the only one in need of emotional support in this life. Therefore, the façade remains. I keep the smile on, keep the laughter going when I can, and I hold it all in until I’m alone.

I’ve broken down in recent months around my mom, and that only makes her join in on the tears and worry about me. I don’t want to worry her. I don’t want her to know I’m hurting. I often lie and tell her I’m fine when she asks in that concerned tone, “Are you feeling ok?” When I was a kid, I was never good about showing my emotions to others. I would hide them from everyone whom I knew, because I knew they wouldn’t give me the comfort that I needed. I would wait until I was around my mom. I knew she’d hug me, hold me, and give me that love I needed. She was really the only one whom I could turn to in such a way. Yet, now, I find myself not even wanting to do that. I see the look on her face when I cry. She hurts and I don’t want her to hurt. I guess that’s just what happens when we grow up. We stop thinking about just ourselves and begin to realize that our actions, words, and emotions do indeed affect others who care about us. Even when we think we’re the only ones in pain, those who truly love us feel that pain too, whether it is a parent, spouse, child, friend, or any other significant person in your life.

I don’t like to see and/or hear that my loved ones are hurting inside. It hurts me so much to know that someone, whom I love and care about (whether it is family or a friend), is hurting in this life. However, it’s getting harder and harder for me to say it’s going to be ok. I guess because I don’t fully believe that about my own future. To be clear, though, right now, I feel ok. Contrary to how it may sound, I’m not sad; I’m not feeling empty inside. I truly feel ok right now as I write this. But, I know at some point it will hit me again. That punch in the gut will come out of nowhere and send me into an abyss of loneliness and wanting it all to end.

I have to fill the prescription that my psychiatrist gave me, but unfortunately my stupid pharmacy will not be able to fill it until another few weeks. They have an auto-refill system, which I’ve tried opt out of on multiple occasions, but somehow it never registers on their end… gee, I wonder why. It just automatically refilled all of my bipolar meds last week. Therefore, right now my insurance will not pay for another bottle of the one my psychiatrist has upped, and I’m unable to break the pills I have in half to up the dosage that way either. So, I’m essentially screwed for another 2-3 weeks. And, it’s going to be a timing game with them to get the script into them before they auto-refill again (they don’t take them until time to refill), because even when I talk to someone in person the request goes in one ear, and out the pocket book. It’s all greed. Auto-refill and get more money. My psychiatrist said many pharmacies are doing that now and she doesn’t like it. It’s all to get more money. Welcome to health care in the United States.

I will continue to deal with this as best I can. I will enjoy the times when I feel ok (and I definitely do have those times), and then sleep or lay away the times my invisible torturer comes to visit me. When my doctor upped my meds earlier this year for these same mood shifts, the medicine helped. It took it away and I was feeling good again. Sure I continued with ups and downs, but that’s just the illness, as well as life in general. It was nothing like what is currently happening. I’m hoping the new dosage will do the same again. I do not want to go through starting a new drug.

A Brand New Year

So, the world continues to live on. This weekend, I will be wrapping gifts, online-gaming with my friends, and eating things that I really shouldn’t eat (it’s the holidays so it’s ok… um, yeah, that’s it). Next week, I will be celebrating Christmas and wishing my Lord, Jesus, a happy birthday. And, then the following week, I will be saying goodbye to the year 2012, and saying hello to 2013.

I remember when I was diagnosed in 2009, that when the end of the year came, I began to say what I had always said over the years… “May next year be a better year than this one.” However, that year it hit me that I could no longer say that. It hit me right then and there that I could not say, “Bipolar was last year, this year it’s gone.” I had already known that bipolar was for life, of course, but it was a moment that the fact got drilled into me. I had bipolar in 2009, and I was going to continue having it in 2010, 2011, 2012 and every year for the rest of my life. Every New Years since, I stopped saying, “May the next year be better than this one.” The thought still went through my mind, but I could not say it and truly believe it. I felt like it was an impossible wish. But, I realized something last night. I was sitting in my parents’ bedroom with my mom and we were talking. We were discussing all of the stresses and negative experiences that have taken place this year, especially more recent ones. And, before I could even think about what I was saying, the words came out. “Hopefully, next year will be better than this one.”

It’s not a big deal, I guess. But, it tells me that I had a bit of hope last night. A part of me believed that maybe, just maybe, next year could be better. After dealing with my bipolar diagnosis for these last few years, I have learned that there is no going forward without it. Bipolar does not make up everything about me, but it is indeed a part of me. It’s not who I am as a whole, but it is part of what makes up my brain… my mind. And, therefore, I need to continue to learn to deal with it and realize that my life can be better from year to year. I may not be able to cure this bipolar, but I can find better ways to live with it.

The world didn’t end today. I will still have to deal with mental illness on a personal basis. However, maybe on this New Year’s Eve I can once again say, “May 2013 be better than 2012,” and truly believe it’s possible. I’ll do my best to try.

To those who celebrate Christmas around the world, Merry Christmas! To those who do not, I wish you a Happy Holidays. And, to each and every one of you…

God Bless you all!

 

My favorite Christmas Song. It never fails to make me smile and move.

 

Friendship

So, what do you know? It turns out that I do in fact still remember how to hit the “publish” button. It’s been a month since my last post. I guess you can say I’ve had blogging writer’s block. I’ve been dealing with an unpredictable mood lately. I’ve been able to write, just not blog. But, today, I finally had the urge to write a post. Actually, the urge just cropped up on me about an hour ago. I hope this will be the beginning of my return to the blogosphere, but I’m not putting the cart before the horse just yet (I’ve always wanted to find a reason to use that phrase). Either way, though, I’m not planning on leaving this awesome universe of fellow bloggers anytime soon.

Now that I got that bit out, I guess I’ll just jump on into the heart of my post. Today’s urge to write can go back to this morning. I had therapy this morning, and it left me feeling quite low. Therapy is often a pleasant experience and I feel replenished sort of speak when I leave my psychologist’s office. However, today was a difficult session and quite emotional. It had to do with some issues I’ve been feeling inside lately, that have left me unhappy and feeling lonely. I know I’m not technically alone, but emotionally, I’ve felt it. I had a wonderful night this last Friday. For the first time in four years, I hung out with a couple of family members and watched a movie here at home and we ate take-out and drank Starbucks (something I hadn’t drank since 2008). It was a fun night and I was proud of myself for finally not saying, “No” to their request to hangout. It was like it was before my life falling into pieces, which I’m now trying to put back together. These family members understand how things are for me, though, and I appreciate them never giving up on me, like some of my friends have done. Once I was no longer fun to be around, they suddenly disappeared. I don’t blame them, but it still hurts.

So, the weekend started nicely. However, my mood started dropping slowly by Sunday night, and I couldn’t shake it. Part of it was due to anxiety, I know. But, something else was getting me and by the time I was trying to go to sleep, I was in tears. A sense of loneliness was once again taking over me inside. I tried praying through it, and I guess it helped since I fell asleep right afterwards. But, when I woke up it was still there, and it continued on into my therapist’s office.

After difficult sessions, I usually come home and not say anything. Even saying hi to my mom is difficult ‘cause it can feel exhausting to open my mouth and force the words to come out. So, when I came home I went into our family room for some alone time. I walked into the kitchen a short time later for some water, when she asked me how things went. I just answered, “Fine”, before walking back out of the room. However, I had to go back in there again about ten minutes later and she asked again, “Are you sure things went ok today?” This time I got upset and snapped at her, “I said it was fine!” I left the room once again, until I felt sick to my stomach. I wanted comfort and my anger wasn’t bringing me comfort. So, I walked back in the kitchen and when I saw my mom standing there, I went up to her and just hugged her. She asked me if I was ok, and I just started crying. I couldn’t say anything, and just cried. She then said, “It’s not ok, is it?” I didn’t want to talk with her about therapy, so I just kept it simple and she understood. She knew I wasn’t really mad at her, I just took it out on her, but thankfully that had been rectified now. And, it is then where the friendship side of this post comes into play.

I decided I’d log into a game that I play and just mess around in a world of fantasy, rather than my frustrating real world. When I logged in, I saw a good friend of mine was online too, which brought an immediate smile to my face. I always look forward to seeing and chatting with this person online and it helped to see her. She’s a beautiful person and I feel blessed that God has placed her in my life. We didn’t stay online long, but later on in the evening, came back and played some more. After we logged off tonight, I realized that spending time with her made me feel better. The feelings are still there, but they seem a little better now after hanging out and talking with her.

It was then, that I began thinking about friendship and how important it is in our lives. I started reflecting on past friendships of mine and how some have come and gone, while others have never left since the day they began. I’m not sure how that comes to be with some friendships lasting forever, while some do not, but I know my friendship with the aforementioned person will be a lasting one. I hope she feels the same way. Considering the world of constant connectivity through the Internet, such a concept isn’t impossible anymore.

However, I got to thinking about three friendships in particular that came, thrived and ended due to loss of such contact. The Internet can have its cons, but I think the connection of friendship is a major pro. The three friendships I’m thinking about are people who impacted my life in a positive way growing up, but since then have faded.

My Fantasy Twin

Third through sixth grade was a special time due to one particular friend. She was someone who loved fantasy and make-believe just as much as me. We’d play with one another often during recess and lunchtime breaks. Our imaginations guided us through a world of pretend that only we could see. We each formed the world around us, and in a Bridge to Terabithia sort of way, we fed off one another’s imaginations and could see what the other was seeing. It was fabulous, and she was the only friend whom I have ever had that was able to go into this world with me. But, then, came the end of sixth grade.

Her father got a new job in another state, and come seventh grade, she’d be gone. In a world of no Facebook, MySpace, or other social media (not even the Internet was in people’s homes yet), her departure meant the end of our friendship and Terabithia universe.

Although that friendship ended long ago (which feels like ages now), I still remember her. I will not forget her and I still have a story that she and I wrote together. The last day of school of sixth grade she handed me a typed up story. It was the story of our universe. It was what we always imagined together and what we had played for so many years. I still remember her saying that she had to write it out before she left, because it was a special memory that we had to complete before she moved away. I’m tearing up as I write this ‘cause it’s such a special thing when a friendship hits a deep and private side of your soul like that. She will always have a special place in my heart.

An Understanding Camaraderie

In the second grade, I met a girl who would become my “best” friend by eighth grade. She and I had a wonderful friendship, filled with laughs and plenty of memories. As a kid who was bullied in school a lot during these years, she was also a protector. Whenever someone tried to mess with me, and she was around, they’d back off. She spoke her mind and due to that, she became our class and school president during eighth grade. She was the most popular girl in school due to her brains and personality, and unlike most of the other kids, she didn’t treat me like I was a piece of cow dung on her shoe.

In addition to all of that, she also made me feel extremely understood – at least to a degree. I suffered from severe separation anxiety as a kid, and so sleepovers never happened. I couldn’t even go places with her and her family. I was always “sick” on the days when such events arrived, because I couldn’t get myself to go. All I could ever do is spend time with her at her house for a few hours, before I’d start becoming emotional and sick to my stomach. I could never eat at her house. I would sit there while she and her family and any other friends ate. Her mom always asked me why I wasn’t eating, and I would just say that I wasn’t hungry. That was the truth. It’s hard to be hungry when you feel like expelling your stomach’s contents onto the table before you. So, I would just sit quietly and sip on something to drink.

Through all of this behavior, though, she never gave up on me as a friend. She could have just thought I was too weird for her or that I wasn’t a good friend. But, she didn’t. Instead, she became my best friend, and an unlikely pair of comrades went through elementary school together.

Unfortunately, the world of high school would come between us. She went to one private school, while I went to another, and we slowly drifted a part. I did get to see her almost four years later, though. I was in line for the SATs (exams given in the U.S. for college entrance) with a friend of mine from high school. We were talking when a girl in front of us suddenly and loudly asked, “Summer?” I turned and after just a second of recognition, I yelled back in excitement. It was her… my friend for so many years was standing in front of me, and there we were embracing before one of the biggest exams that a young person may take in their life. We were so happy to see one another, but sadly we got split up almost immediately as they were dividing all of us test takers into classrooms. It was a bittersweet moment, but one that was quite awesome at the same time. Albeit for a short time, I got to see how she was doing at that point in her life, and vice versa. We were able to receive a life update on a good friend, which many people don’t get. She was well and thriving, and so was I… at least at that point in my life.

I still miss her, though. I will always smile when I think of her, and just as my fantasy twin, I will never forget her, as she holds a special place in my heart. She was a friend when I often needed one most. And, I always tried to be the best friend I could for her. We clicked in a way that doesn’t always happen in life, and I’m thankful for that relationship in my past.

A Friend Once There

The third friend is someone who brings with her a lot of good memories, but unfortunately I’m left with hurt ones too.

This friend and I met the second week of high school. I didn’t know a single person at this all-girls college prep Catholic school, and was suddenly thrown into a world of nuns and no boys. At first, it felt like it would be way too odd, and lonely beyond bearability. But, once I met this friend, things changed. She was the reason I didn’t wind up getting home schooled. I wanted out of the school after the first few days due to not knowing anyone and being so alone. I went from a school of bullies, to a school where I felt as if I didn’t even exist. My mom and dad had considered home schooling, until one day I came home and proclaimed with joy that I had made a friend. And, after only a month of being at that school, I realized that my high school experience was going to be much better than the previous eight years. I wasn’t being bullied. I was treated with respect and left alone by the girls that didn’t have anything in common with me. None of them jumped up in the bathroom stall next to me to invade my privacy, like when I was in fifth grade. No one laughed at me, if I fell down skinning my arms and knees. No one pulled out the chair behind me while I was sitting down, just so they could get a laugh from everyone in class. No one told me I looked like a boy and should stop lying by saying I was a girl. No one attacked me for how I looked or my strange quirks. All of that was gone. And, if not for this friend, I would not have stood at that school long enough to realize that. I would have lost out on that experience. I realize I was blessed that my bullied days were behind me when I entered high school. Too many kids are not so fortunate, and I hate that. Hate’s a strong word, yes, but when it comes to bullying, hating it is the only thing that seems appropriate. It’s not right and it’s something that needs to be put to an end. Bullying needs to stop!

My friend helped to keep me at that school and realize that things were going to be better for me. She and I became inseparable, and everyone knew that wherever I was, she wasn’t far behind, and vice versa. It was a wonderful friendship and we had a blast hanging out all of the time. She came from a strict family, and just like me wasn’t allowed to stay out past ten at night, even if our friend hadn’t cut her birthday cake yet for her 16th celebration. We had an understanding for one another and connected through both that understanding and just enjoyable times we had with one another.

However, just as high school divided me from my friend from elementary school, college became the division of this friend. It didn’t happen right away, though. At first, we kept in contact a lot while she was away at school. After moving in with her roommates into a townhouse near campus, though, our friendship began to fade. I became closer with a good mutual friend of ours from high school, and she with her roommates. As we grew up further into the world of adulthood, our mutual friend and I became closer as we had more in common. My old high school best friend had the taste of freedom in college. She wanted to only party, drink and go to nightclubs. She enjoyed that entertainment, while our mutual friend and I enjoyed chilling at the campus cafe, chatting at Starbucks, going to the movies, or just cruising up and down the coast and going to the beach. That bored my old friend and she made it known, by saying she was going to go to sleep in the backseat and we can wake her when we had decided on something to do.

Our company was no longer fun for her, and she made that perfectly and coldly clear. Sadly, there wasn’t anything we could do about that. I’m not a nightclub, drinker, or party person. I can’t stand that atmosphere, and prefer a quiet and laid back environment. It was only a matter of time until our friendship divided.

Eventually, she cut me out of her life by unexpectedly changing her number and not giving me the new one, and never replying to my emails about what was up. We never had an argument. We never said a goodbye. The last time we spoke all was fine I thought. She said she’d give me her new number, but never did. After my diagnosis, I started worrying that it was the bipolar. I hadn’t been diagnosed when she cut me off, but my moods had been affecting plenty in my life back then, and I just worried that she finally had enough of me. Maybe that was the reason, or maybe not, but I guess it doesn’t really matter anymore. For a while I worried that something had happened to her, but then my good friend (our mutual friend) saw her with a group of girlfriends one day. She was happy and laughing while going to lunch with them. She had moved on with her life and had cut me out without any reason or notification.

I was hurt and confused as to why she lied to me and told me she’d give me her number, only to just cut me out. However, through all of that, I was also happy to know that she was ok. She wasn’t hurt or worse, as I had begun to worry. She had only moved on. It hurt for a long time, but now I realize that was on her, and not me. I can’t make anyone like me, nor would I try. I tried as a kid, but not anymore. I’m a grown adult who now realizes that sometimes people just aren’t going to like me, and that’s fine. I’m not here to make people like me. I’m here to be who I am. I’m here to enjoy and love my friends whom I do have, and appreciate their presence in my life every day.

I will always have the good memories of my high school “best” friend, and to this day, I have no ill feelings toward her. I hope she is living a great life, and if she were to suddenly pop into my life again someday, I would have a hug waiting for her. I have no reason to be hateful toward her. All she did was grow up and so did I. It was just meant to be, I guess.

It’s All Meant To Be

In the past, I’ve talked about how I am a firm believer that all things happen for a reason. I may not always know what that reason is, but I have to believe that it’s there. My above three friends from childhood may no longer be in my life, but they will always be in my heart, and maybe that was the purpose. They brought something into my life, and I into theirs, when we were kids. I now have a small circle of friends. I no longer have a “best” friend as I value and love all of my friends, and don’t like to place such a label onto any of them. They all are each the “best” in their own ways and they each mean something special to me.

Only a few of them have now learned of the bipolar, but they have not abandoned me. They have given me their support and love, and one in particular has been amazing in her support of me since my diagnosis. She knows who she is. I love you so much “Lillie”.

I’m Now Changed For Good

One of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard on friendship is from my favorite Broadway musical Wicked. It never fails to make me cry. I think it sums up my relationships with the three friends who made a huge impact on my life as a kid, which has in turn impacted who I am today. This song is for them.

 

 

 

The Place I’ve Reached

****Trigger Warning: This post may contain triggers for those who read. Please proceed with caution.

My therapist has been on vacation for a few days now (she left on Wednesday), and will continue to be until the middle of September. It’s starting to really hit me now that I’m alone until then. I know technically I’m not alone, but I feel alone. Whenever my therapist goes on vacation, I know that the one person with whom I can talk without reservation is gone.

So, I’m just counting down the days until I get to see her again. It didn’t hit me when I saw her last week. We had been preparing for her departure for the last few weeks, and she’s been helping me to get ready for not having that connection. But, it wasn’t until last night when it started to truly hit me. Usually, every Friday I think about how it’s only a short time before I get to see her again the following week. I look forward to it, especially when things aren’t going well. However, last night, when the thought began to enter my mind, I was reminded that I would not be seeing her. I would not be seeing her for another two weeks.

I know to the average person that probably sounds like not such a big deal. I mean two weeks… that’s not long. That’s true. It’s not a long time when what you’re waiting for is just an average event or experience to come your way. But, two weeks is a long time being without the one person whom you feel most comfortable telling your most inner darkest feelings, without being afraid of pushing that listener away.

Blogging often brings about that fear for me. I worry that I may push those I know away with what I write. Everyone has his or her own problems. I fully understand that, and I worry that sometimes people I know may get sick of reading what I have to say. I’ve only told a handful of loved ones about my blog, and I love and trust each and every one of them. But, that doesn’t take away that fear that maybe they will one day just say, “I’ve had enough of this whiner… this annoyance.”

Maybe, I’m just in more of a self-pity place right now. I’ve been trying to keep myself up for the last month. I’ve been trying to be active in Facebook as it’s the only connection that I have with the outside world, of course in addition to this awesome blogosphere. As frustrating as Facebook can be at times, it’s also the one place where I can feel that I’m connected with loved ones. But, as I’ve mentioned before, Facebook can bring about some of the most anxiety-inducing and disheartening situations. I realize that I’m oversensitive, and I’ve discussed this in previous posts. I’m trying hard to work through that in the Facebook world, though. I know I will not change how I am, but my hope is to just learn how to better adapt in such environments. But, boy is it hard.

I noticed the other day, after my last post, that I only made three posts in the entire month of August. I wasn’t feeling much in the writing mood last month, but didn’t realize just how much of a stump I was in. I apologize for not being as present in my blog as of late. I have been trying to keep up with my reading of blogs too, but it’s been hard. I feel so far behind. I don’t even know why this is happening. In the beginning of the summer, I was in a low and was working hard to come out of it. But, as August approached, I seemed to have gone back down again. Yet, I’m not depressed right now. The strange thing is that I’m finding myself feeling fatigued and emotional at times, but then I come right back up and feel ok again. Again, it’s not depression that I’m feeling, though. It’s something else. I can’t help but think it has to do with my therapist. August has never been my favorite month, as I discussed in my post I Never Liked August. However, I think my therapist going on vacation is what has made me go down. It’s been on my mind all month, as I’ve dreaded this time away from her.

I know I have anxiety due to it, and my Tourette’s has flared up too. It always flares up during times of immense stress and anxiety. In the past, it flares up each time she has gone away for long periods of times. Now, as and adult, my Tourette’s is mild and not as bad as it was when I was a kid, but it’s still there. I hope it eases soon, because the facial tics are hard to deal with. The facials are worse than the vocal tics, as they cause me to be unable to breathe sometimes, until I can get the tic finished. The sensations are in my nose and throat, so those aren’t the best places.

So, as the summer comes to a close, and the fall is just around the corner, I am trying to bring myself to a place of stability that makes me feel good. I’m worried, as Christmas gets closer, as I have tended to fall into a seasonal depression the last five years now. But, I’m hoping this year will be different.

I have come a long way since my diagnosis in 2009. I have been thinking about that a lot lately. Sometimes, I wonder if maybe I don’t need my meds anymore. Maybe I just think I do, and if I stop them, then I will be able to handle everything. I will wonder if maybe the doctors have it all wrong. I’ve read that it’s common to feel that way… often questioning your diagnosis. But, I still can’t help but wonder if maybe I could stop all of the meds and I’ll be fine. However, then I remember those days.

I remember the days when I’d be in a state of utter despair and feeling as if I didn’t have anything for which to live anymore. I remember those days of standing in the kitchen and screaming at my mom in pain. I was hurting inside, and couldn’t put it into words. All that I could say to her was that it hurt and that something was wrong in my head. I screamed at her, “There’s something wrong!” I’d proceed to bang my head on the wall and punch it with my fists. It was as if I had hoped that whatever it was would come out. The pain felt good too, ‘cause I knew that I was causing it. I had a source for it, whereas the other pain didn’t have a source. It was this mysterious torturer that was attacking my soul.

I remember the day I walked around the house looking for a place that would support my weight to hang myself. I just wanted it all to be over, and my prayers to God to take me weren’t doing anything. I couldn’t bring myself to do it, though. I didn’t want to do that to my parents. I knew they’d be the ones to find me. I couldn’t put them through that. In addition, my faith teaches me that it’s a sin to commit suicide. I’ve done a lot of research about that, actually. I’ve wanted to know if it really is a sin. I still have yet to find a definitive answer. I’ve found opinions, but nothing more. So, I would just go back to praying and hoping that God would finally take me home.

To be clear, I’m not in that place right now. I haven’t been that low in a long time. But, I remember it clearly, when I allow myself to reflect back to that time. In doing so, I also allow myself to realize that I truly have come a long way. To not be in that place anymore feels wonderful. I’ve reached pretty low places in regard to depression episodes since, but never that low. The meds are helping, and I am grateful for that.

It is, then, that I remember… when I know that I must not stop my meds. I must not stop doing what I’m doing; otherwise I will slip back down into that place, and may not come out of it next time. Then, there is the opposite end of the spectrum. I’m often tempted to stop my meds to feel that hypomanic euphoria. I want to feel that. It’s such a great emotional high, and I get so much done during that time. Sleep becomes completely unnecessary and I love that ‘cause I don’t like to force myself to sleep every night. But, I know it’s not a good place to be either. It may not always be as bad as the depression in terms of mood (although, it can be in its own way), but it is in terms of safety and health. I try hard to remind myself that I need these meds to remain balanced. I hope that I never lose that focus.

I always say that my denial is gone. I’m starting to think, though, that maybe our denial never goes away. Maybe, it’s just always about trying to fight that temptation to ignore what our treatment has done for us. Some people are better at that battle than others, but I think I’m someone who still needs to work on my fighting skills. The temptation comes at me way too often, and it comes on strong. It’s a fight between the parts of my brain saying, “Stay on those meds… don’t forget where you used to be.” And, “Screw it all! You don’t need any of that.”

I look at this point that I’ve reached in my life, and I think I need to be proud of myself. It’s so easy for me to say that I haven’t accomplished anything these past years. My life isn’t where I want it to be – or where it should be, for that matter – and it’s so easy for me to put myself down, and say that I’m a loser. In the Facebook world of comparing oneself to others, those thoughts come a lot more easily. But, I think I need to realize where I’ve come. I may not have accomplished the average achievements that society deems ‘normal’. But, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t accomplished other goals. I have come a long way since 2009, and well before that, and I need to appreciate that. So much easier said than done, but I can at least try.

I know that I have many more struggles ahead of me with this illness, and that I will always have to be on guard not to fall back into that hellish abyss from years ago. But, I also know that I also have some struggles in my past through which I have made it. I just need to keep reminding myself of one fact. Through hard work, the place I’m in now is better than where I used to be.

I think that’s one heck of an accomplishment.

The following is one of my favorite songs. I think it should be the unofficial song of those of us who suffer from mental illness. We’re not freaks. We’re not crazy. We have something unique to offer the world. Everyone, we are strong, and we have wonderful voices.