Archives for Bipolar

addiction

What we’re missing in treating addiction

Addiction is a disease of the brain. Over and over and over we heard this at the recent National RX Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit in Atlanta.

The president said it. His drug czar Michael Botticelli, said it. Dr. Nora Volkow, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said it, along with the heads of the Centers for Disease Control, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration,...
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Alcoholism

A recovered alcoholic asks: If I take antidepressants, am I still sober?

I am a recovered alcoholic. I also have bipolar II, which can manifest in depression.

I am what they call "dual-diagnosed" - or "twice blessed" as those of us in recovery often quip. I was about 7 years into my recovery when I slid into a deep depression and was diagnosed and put on medications.

The decision to take antidepressants and a mood stabilizer posed a huge ethical and medical conundrum for me. I had heard from many fellow recovering alcoholics that WE DON'T TAKE MIND ALTERING MEDICATIONS! Obviously, antidepressants and mood stabilizers are - thank God - mood altering.

Desperate - and with the encouragement of doctor friend who understands addiction - I took them. It took several months find the right dosages and for them to kick in but when they did, my life - and sobriety - completely changed. I'm not saying my life got better but my ability to deal with life got much, much better.
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Alcoholism

How private are a drug addict’s treatment records?

The confidentiality of alcohol and drug abuse patient records is under the government's microscope.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration - SAMHSA - has filed notice of rule-making for such records. The proposed changes to 42 CFR Part 2- HIPPA - were published in Federal Register on Feb. 9.

It's been 29 years since there have been any substantive updates to the Confidentiality of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Patient Records regulations. A lot has changed, especially the recent push for an integrated, continuum of care and the use of electronic medical records.

I say changes are needed because you have a bunch of 20-something-year-old newly recovered addicts owning and operating some of the HIPPA-protected treatment programs, such as intensive outpatient programs, called IOPs. They, in turn, share a patient's health condition with their "clinical staff" - who are also newly recovered 20-something-year-old addicts who have little or no formal training and often no more than a high-school diploma.
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Bipolar

Chiropractic care for physical and mental health

My insurance company wants to know why I have been to the chiropractor so much recently. The company has asked my chiropractor for an explanation.

I've got an explanation: My back hurts. I did not injure it. I was not in a car accident. I'm 56-years old and sometimes it just goes out of whack. But here is the main reason I've been seeing my chiropractor so much. I am a recovered alcoholic and I have bipolar II.

You see, I can't and don't want to take muscle relaxers. I might abuse them. I don't want a shot of some steroid because if you take the pain away without correcting the problem, I will go back to my usual exercise routine and very likely hurt myself.

Exercise is a critical component of maintaining my mental health. It's not just the endorphins, it's the way I feel - energized, strong, capable. It builds my self-esteem and gives me confidence. It's the camaraderie and fun I have at the gym. It's my tribe.
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Alcoholism

How my depression nearly killed my sobriety

This month I celebrate 17 years of sobriety. Let me say that again. This month I celebrate 17 years of sobriety.

I can't believe I just said that because it seems so impossible and sounds so weird coming from my mouth.

17 years.

How the heck did that happen?

One day at a time. I also followed suggestions, especially from a doctor friend who told me about 12 years ago that I was in a major depression and needed antidepressants.
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Bipolar

How to avoid anxiety and loneliness when vacationing alone

Since my last major depression I have created for myself a small, insulated world - completely accessible on a 20-plus-year-old pink bike. My doctors, work, favorite restaurants, grocery store, dog park, gym and ocean are within a five mile radius of my cozy little house.

I like it that way. Driving a car is unnatural for me. It brings back heavy, gray memories of commuting 25 miles from the suburbs of Detroit into the city to work. In March, when dirty snow and a gray, seamless cloud took over the sky, the commute fueled my depression, already acute from months of seasonal-affective disorder.

Life got better after I moved to sunny Florida but depression still smothered me. Death and divorce will do that regardless of the weather. I responded by making my world small. I preferred riding a bike to driving. For awhile I had a scooter but then went back to my beloved bike.

When I ventured out of my bubble for work or vacation, I always had a reason and purpose. Conferences, graduations, reunions and exciting adventures meticulously researched. For years I have travelled with my boyfriend - a free spirit like me. We research what is available to see and do in an area, but make few plans and reservations besides renting a car.

We have slept in the back of an SUV and stayed in five-star hotels. When a mountain stream looked as though it might have some trout in it, we pulled over and fished. No timetable. No plans besides the occasional baseball game at legendary fields - Wrigley in Chicago and the Green Monster at Boston's Fenway.

Vagabond wanderlust.

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Bipolar

The tao of depression for a journalist

About 15 years ago the newspaper where I work sent me to a number-crunching boot camp, where I learned how to analyze data. I became a geek.

As journalism morphed from the old fashioned pen, notebook and musty records at the courthouse to the internet's ability to gather mountains of data in the blink of an eye, my geekiness blossomed. I attended more bootcamps on advanced statistics and mapping.

I added SQL, shapefiles and string functions to my arsenal of reporting skills. My brain changed, too. I could feel it. A portion of my brain that had been slacking was now firing. I thought differently. It's hard to explain.

The analytical side of my brain teamed up with the creative side and my thinking became three-dimensional. The skies parted and I realized that 3+2 and 4+1 both equaled 5. There were suddenly many solutions to the same problem. This revelation came fast and hard and not without severe consequences.
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Bipolar

Pulling the plug on my mania and CrossFit

Mania is a luscious, exhilarating state of mind. All the fatigue and weariness in your bones and soul vaporizes. Your muscles feel bigger and stronger and ready to strike. Your thoughts are clear and brilliant. You are like a racehorse in the gate, wide-eyed and pawing at the ground with your hoof. There is no off-switch.

Medications give you a dimmer but you still have to have the desire and willingness to use it beyond the involuntary waning it induces.  You have to make the decision to turn the dimmer nob further to the left.

That is where I find myself today - turning the nob to the left. I am - of my own volition - taking my life down a notch. I don't want to but I need to. It's hard for me to believe I'm doing this. But years of therapy and the wisdom that comes with 56-years of f#*king up my life have taught me it's time.

I have bipolar II - called hypomania. It's bipolar lite. My ups and downs are not nearly as intense as those poor souls with bipolar I. Of course, fueling my mania with drugs and alcohol for decades enhanced those ups and downs. But I know I am blessed to have this lesser form of bipolar.
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Alcoholism

I have depression and alcoholism. So what?

I find people generally have three reactions when I tell them I am a recovered alcoholic with Bipolar II. They either tell me that they or a loved one has struggled with a mental illness, begin talking about the weather or look at me like I just told them I have a stripper pole in my bedroom - which I don't.

I can pretty much tell how they feel about mental illness by their reaction. When someone responds with their own experience, I listen. It's such a comfort to have someone else willing to share their own experience. As for the weather response, I chime in with my own thoughts about the weather.

The last thing I want to do is make someone uncomfortable discussing mental illness. I figure I've planted a little seed in their mind that it's okay to talk about mental illness. It's their responsibility to let it grow - or die.

The stripper-pole response? Well, that's a little trickier. I take into consideration the context in which the topic arose during our conversation and the person's attitude before I made my revelation.

If they were being a smart-ass about someone else's mental illness or treatment, I throw it right back at them. I've always been what my father called a weisenheimer, (think Curly in the Three Stooges.)
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Alcoholism

Mentally ill now and forever…amen.

Every now and then I get a glimpse of what my mental illnesses look like.

It's been a long time. I have taken my medications without fail for years.  I exercise, eat healthy foods, get as much sleep as I can, visit my psych-nurse practitioner every three months and I get on my knees every night and thank God for my sobriety. In other word, I do what I am told - an unnatural act for me.

But for the last two weeks I have been under an unconscionable amount of stress. I say "unconscionable" because I allowed it to happen.

As a reporter for a daily newspaper, I am accustomed to stress. For nearly 30 years I have lived with a deadline hanging over my head. I took six weeks off to have a baby, 8 weeks for my last major depression but other than the one- or two-week vacations, I have had a deadline over my head.

Recently, I accepted  an assignment which today I realize I should not  have done. I agreed to leave my home and my dog, suspend my exercise routine and healthy eating habits and forego nights of 8-hours of sleep to cover the Florida legislature's last two-weeks in session.

I did this once before, nearly 30 years ago when reporters were only expected to write a story for the newspaper. Now, we must also Tweet, blog and make videos. Despite my degree in political science, after 30+ years in journalism, I'm kinda disallusioned with politics.

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