Monday, September 19, 2011

Mental Health Issues

Recently, over the past four or five months, I've been struggling with my Bipolar Disorder. Last year, about this time, I was taken off of Quetiapine and it was replaced with a new medication, Risperidone. Now, Risperidone has similar properties to Quetiapine, in that it's a mood stabilizer and sleep enabler, but the second function is much less invasive and much more gentle than Quetiapine's sleep enabling properties were.

Quetiapine--take medication, go to bed, zonked out. Get up, go back to bed for three hour nap an hour after.

Risperidone--Take medication, go to bed, drift off to sleep within two hours, wake up feeling rested, no nap required.

To put a finer point on it, I once went to a morning appointment to see my primary care doctor while I was on Queitapine. By the time I got into her office, I was incoherent and couldn't even enunciate when I was making an effort to. She drove me home (I love the medical care I get here) and escorted me into my apartment to make sure that I got home safe. Risperidone doesn't do that to me.

Well, I was started off on a half-pill of my current dose of Risperidone, and it didn't take long for me to start cycling again. These weren't wild out-of-whack cycles, but mild. Still, they were frustrating. They wiped out my ability to write for days, sometimes weeks, and the worst episode has occurred since May or June--one long bipolar cycle (you may recall I'm mixed state--if you didn't, I just reminded you).

Now, when my writing goes, I really worry, because if my writing is gone, that, to me, is a sign that I'm not far from spending all day every day in bed. When this most recent cycle began (it's been the worst of the lot), I got an appointment with my psych doc and he upped the dosage of my Risperidone. That seemed to work for a while, but I was still having periods where I wasn't getting any ideas for writing (I've been working on getting past my issue with hurting my characters) for days or sometimes weeks.

Well, to solve that, I saw my psych doc again, and he increased the dosage of my Geodon to the top limit, and it seems to be working. I'm having days where I'm not writing, but that's because I'm blocked, not because I don't have ideas, and that, though frustrating, doesn't worry me. I can handle being blocked. I'm also feeling more interested in other activities, like crocheting and reading and just plain getting out of the apartment.

As for how I noticed I was cycling, I reviewed my writing logs. This makes me glad I keep them now, and has made me more determined to keep up with them. They make a good barometer of my state of mental health.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Anxiety and Writing Advice

An online friend from Forward Motion recently provided a link to a site called The Sharp Angle. In the interests of improving my writing, I enthusiastically added the link to my favorites link and have been visiting daily to read the updates. Aside from the wave of enlightenment I've received from one post on the blog, there's been an uncomfortable side effect.

Anxiety.

I recently asked for my proper psych diagnoses, and along with the Mixed-state Bipolar Disorder, I've also got unspecified anxiety. I've been aware of this anxiety for about a year or so now, on a conscious level, and my therapist has provided me some advice and methods to work past it. I've only just in the past couple weeks realized that my discomfort with writing advice in general is in fact anxiety.

It actually surprised me, though I don't know why it should have. I've come across the anxiety in filling out forms, in some social situations, and in a small variety of other things. I also don't know why I didn't recognize this discomfort as anxiety in the first place. Well, perhaps its understandable; I've been avoiding writing advice for the most part because of the discomfort it gives me, so that could explain why I haven't recognized it as anxiety before now and why it surprised me so much when I made that realization.

Basically, what happens is I read writing advice, and it makes me worry. I know that I can't follow everything perfectly all the time, but it makes me worry that I'm not doing things right. It also makes me worry that what I've already done is bad. Not wrong, but bad, as in pathetic, ugly, uninteresting. Especially with regards to my writing.

Part of dealing with this is slowing my breathing and taking deep breaths until I feel calmer. Once I feel calmer, I'm able to find things to do to distract myself from the anxiety thoughts. I'm able to come back to my writing and see it for what it really is. Imperfect but still mostly good and worth keeping. If I do happen to find something I'm unhappy with it, I'm able to cut it from the main WIP and paste it to its own file for future reference. I'm able to read over what's been previously written with an open mind toward connecting future occurrences in the story to what I'm working with presently. And I'm able to do this while keeping that writing advice in mind.

I think part of what helps about The Sharp Angle is that the articles are fairly short. By the time I'm starting to worry, I'm nearly done with the article, and I'm interested enough to finish before I sit back and work on calming myself. I've got writing advice books, but I'm too uncertain to tackle them just yet, even the ones I've read before. They're much longer, and I rather dread reading through them again. But small articles focusing on one or another aspect of writing are easy to get past.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

New Medication and Other Things

Well, I've received and been taking my new sleep/mood stabilization medication for the past two weeks. I'm now on 2mg of Risperidone in addition to my 120mg of Geodon, and it's made a big improvement. Prior to receiving it, I'd stopped taking my Quetiapine because it caused me to require a nap about an hour or so after getting up, no matter how long I slept prior to rising. Even if I remained in bed for an hour after waking, that grogginess would hit me an hour after rising. It caused me to fall asleep and removed my ability to speak coherently.

The Risperidone is doing much better along that line. Unfortunately, it takes a couple hours to work if I take it with food. So, that means I go to bed, then spend two or more hours laying awake wondering when sleep is going to arrive. It works the same even if I'm exhausted. On the positive side, when I rise after sleeping, I don't get groggy, I can speak coherently, and even when I haven't slept enough, it doens't drag my ass out like the Quetiapine did even after more than 8 hours solid sleep. In fact, yesterday, I got only about 5 hours sleep and even though I had some difficulty with speech, it wasn't to the extent that I couldn't speak at all, and my slight grogginess faded the longer I remained awake. I may contact my psych doc to ask him about the options of increasing the dose so that I get to sleep sooner, but as long as I get at least 7-8 hours sleep, I do perfectly fine with it.

A couple years ago, I purchased a flute and started out practicing it right away. Unfortunately, I rather rushed through the first few lessons and grew discouraged after a few weeks. I actually haven't picked it up for over a year until this past Sunday, and I've been working on the lessons more slowly. I've been practicing the first note (one which proved difficult for me to attain the first time I tried this), but I've been having an easier time with this particular note this time around. I'm still on the first note and am now learning how to produce proper quarter notes with it; I intend to practice this for a few days as well, because my timing on the notes isn't quite there yet with just one practice session, though my consistency with the high F note is improving each time I practice. I practice for an hour right now, pausing when my left arm grows too tired to hold its position, but plan on lengthening practices on every third lesson or so, depending on how well I think I'm doing. One thing that's surprised me is the apparent return of my mini-obsession with my flute. The first time I tried learning to play it, there were times I'd spend an hour or so just polishing the damn thing, and that habit has reappeared. This rather amuses me.

One of my personal goals is to restructure my day. I'd like to get back on a schedule where I sleep at night before doing this, but I'm not sure how that'll work. I need to set up the schedule first, I think, and that means starting to take my fantasy writing more seriously. I have four projects "in progress" at the moment; their titles are posted on Pen and Keyboard, and I'll post my writing goals there as well. I also want to include my flute practice and perhaps get some books to do with a language I think I'd like to learn and do that as well. Seeing as college is pretty much out of my reach at the moment, I think the best I can do is educate myself, and I intend to do my best in that regard since I have hours on end to fill with such things and the mental capacity to perform such activities. One of my long term goals is to do my best to keep my mind active enough to avoid dementia, and hopefully these goals will go some way toward doing just that.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Mental Health Issues (or, the Joys of Being Bipolar)

I've been having difficulty finding a dose of my sleeping medication that doesn't cause me to get groggy and incoherent within an hour or two of rising. This necessitates my return to bed for a nap, and that's something I'm trying to get away from. Though the cpap machine I've now got has cut my hours of actual sleep from 12-14 to around 7-8, the problem with the Quetiapine (Seroquel) was frustrating, particularly if I happened to have an appointment, because I was getting into appointments just about the time the groggy incoherency would kick in. In fact, the last time I saw my primary care docotor, we had to cut the visit short because I couldn's speak at all, and she drove me home and escorted me into my apartment to make sure I got home safe. Even on the quarter dose I've been taking recently, I was having difficulty speaking when I visited my therapist.

So, during my psych appointment yesterday, my psych doc and I discussed the options. He's going to try me on a new medication, whose name I've forgotten. He says it might cause weight gain, but that's not a consistent side effect, and he's starting me on a pretty low dose, which I'm to take at night. Like the Quetiapine, it's supposed to help stabilize my mood.

Though I wasn't able to focus really well during my therapy visit, I did manage to outline some goals I have for therapy. We weren't able to discuss how to get me to them because of my vague incoherency, and I had to schedule another appointment. My current therapy goals include getting past my anxiety over filling forms (yes, I know it seems silly, but it's not really when you're looking at a new, complicated form and feeling tears fill your eyes), getting my writing up to speed (read more on that on my writing blog), and taking responsibility (which I've begun to do by accepting the appointment to Secretary for my square dance club). They all sort of tie into each other, particularly with the responsibility part.

I've recently been in a slight manic phase, having difficulty sleeping and focusing on things, but I think it's passing. Either that, or it's fluctuating a little each day. Some days I'm not able to make things connect, or touch the ideas I need for my writing, others I feel pretty okay and can do those things without a problem. I'm hoping I'm not heading for a depression, but that if I am, it'll be a mild one like the mania. I think, like my psych doc said, that not taking the Quetiapine regularly is having an effect, and I want my new medication to come in soon--and hope it works. I should probably have asked my psych doc to arrange for me to pick it up from the pharmacy while I was up at the VA yesterday, but they're trying to get more people to do mail order refills, and that's how I usually get my meds, so they should be here by next Thursday or Friday instead. I'll be glad.

Monday, August 23, 2010

What I'm Doing Now

I know I don't often update here, but I like having this blog for when I do feel like babbling about things. Yes, I babble, and I'm going to here.

About this time last year, I joined a square dance club and started taking lessons. Now, the last time I square danced was sometime in the eight grade--when I was about 15 or 16. I loved that module in P.E. and had great fun. When I discovered a square dance booth at Pride last year, I watched them dance, then signed up. I haven't regretted a moment. You'll find links to the national organization and the local group I belong to. They're geared for LGBT but welcome anyone, whether or not you already have a partner (most straight groups, from what I understand, require you have a partner to join in). Temple Squares is the group I belong to, and which I am now the Secretary for. Wish me luck. The appointment is both daunting and exciting.

I won't be going to college this fall. I discovered that I still have some anxiety issues over filling out forms when I went around applying for college and the financial aid I needed. I'm disappointed, but at the same time I'm glad to have learned of this, because this was something I thought I'd solved some time ago (which was why I thought I could do college). Life is so much fun when you're mentally ill, let me tell you.

I'm still writing, almost daily. Check my writing blog for updates on that. I'm currently working on a genre that isn't fantasy, and it's running fine. I've got plans for my fantasy stuff, so visit Pen and Keyboard for information on that. I should be updating more frequently as I settle into what I'm doing with my writing.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Personal Writing Manifesto

One of my writerly friends made a post on her LJ (Fire and Silk - My Personal Writing Manifesto) about her writing goals. These are not goals as in "I will write 1k words a day," but as in what she actually wants to do with her writing. I kind of like this idea, but since I'm a Blogger bitch, I'm posting mine here.

1. I want to share my writing. I don't care right now if I get paid for it or not.

2. I want to entertain people. I want to make them laugh, and I want to make them cry. I want to make them feel like their hearts are being ripped out the same time my characters are feeling that way.

3. I want to learn from my writing and how to improve my writing.

4. I want to write stories that interest me. I figure if I'm not interested in writing the story, nobody will be interested in reading it.

5. I want to enjoy writing. I want to have fun with it. I want to laugh with my characters, cry over their heartbreaks, and feel angry and upset at the same time my characters are. I figure this is the best way to elicit the same responses from my readers.

6. I want to write at my own pace, using my own methods. This means that if it takes me a year to finish a rough draft of a story, I'll take that time. This means that if I have to start ten stories to finish one, that's what I will do. My working process is different for each of the genres I write in, and I've discovered that trying to use one process for a different genre usually backfires to the point where I never finish anything. I will carry this goal into publishing, if I ever get that far, too, and I understand perfectly well that it's no way to make a living off of writing.

7. I will not make my living off of writing. I'm not the kind of writer who can do that, and I'm not going to bother trying. If I publish anything, I'll publish it when it's done, and screw getting a contract for two sequels on a book that was never meant to have sequels anyway. If the book isn't done, I won't accept a contract for it.

8. I will write according to my own style, and the style which the story I'm writing demands. This means that if I'm writing something highly formal (as a story set in Imotina tends to be), that's the style I'll use. This also means that if it gets sold, I will do my best to retain that style. This also means that if I'm writing something far less formal (as MTTM is), then I will write in a style suitable for that story. My style shifts, sometimes a great deal, depending on the requirements of the story, and I have projects in both first and third points of view and in both past and present tense.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Disability and Working

For the past year, I've been considering working. Why so long to think about it? Partially because I've been building up my courage and confidence, and partly because I've been researching what I can and can't do while on Disability.

Understandably, the courage and confidence part of this preparation relies on myself alone. I have to prepare myself for work. It's taken a lot longer than I thought it would, and part of that is because mental illness, by its very nature, destroys a person's self-confidence, and the destruction varies, depending on whether or not the person with the mental illness is able to tough it out somewhat. What I mean by "tough it out" is keeping up with regular, daily life practices, including working, if one has a job. I didn't do this; I quit working, and last year, when I first started considering returning to work, it had been approximately two years since I had last done so. As a result, I've had to work myself up to the confidence level necessary for job hunting.

This includes planning what kinds of jobs I'd like to do. I know what I'm good at: dishwashing and manufacturing jobs. I've also had experience working as tech support for a national satellite dish company. I think my manufacturing jobs could have prepared me for stock work, as well. This may not seem like a lot, but I believe it gives me a good variety of jobs, even if I'm not able to apply for manufacturing jobs for lack of transportation options.

The next step I had was to research, and research again, and again, and again--so I would fricking well remember what I'd been researching--what my options are with Disability. The search starts here, on the Social Security Administration's homepage. When you type "Disability and working" in the search bar, you get this page. Click the first option, and you get the Working While Disabled--How We Can Help pdf file. It's actually the online version of a pamphlet you could probably get from your local Social Security office if you're unwilling to read it online.

In Working While Disabled--How We Can Help, you'll find important information about working while disabled, including the various programs they have to help you launch yourself back into the workforce. These include the Ticket To Work program, which you may already know about because the SSA sends this out fairly frequently. It is, I believe, the method they prefer people to use to return to work, based on the frequency the Ticket To Work comes to my mailbox. If you're like me, you've probably received more than one offer to rejoin the workforce using this particular program since your disability was approved.

If reading the pamphlet online is too daunting, and you don't want to go to your social security office to request the printed version, you may do your research here, on the FAQ page. It'll take a little longer, but the same information available in the pamphlet is available here, usually in little factoid bites for easy consumption. Be aware that there are more than one page to this FAQ page. If you look at the top, you'll see an easy-to-use mechanism for sorting the questions to make your search for information simpler.

One last note: The information I've given here can be applied to those of you receiving SSI, as well as those receiving SSDI. If you're retired, the searches will be a little different, but the FAQ page is an excellent place to start.