(Please skip if you don’t want to read about my mental health stuff. )
(Oh, Edited to Add: I am so not well that I am not even going to write my usual Easterfest Rant this year. Long term readers may find this astonishing.)
Today is my birthday, I am 42. I’m not feeling great. I don’t fit into the size 42 jeans I had previously shrunk out of. (Please pardon the execrable grammar, it’s been a very long week.) And my infamous stress rash of excema around my mouth and chin is back – first time in 6 years. I’d almost forgotten about that. Damn it!
With the official bipolar diagnosis comes the medication dance: go off one, take another, vary the dosage of something else. Every change effects every other medicine – keeping track of possible interactions and working out how to manage pain relief is taking up a lot of my brain.
One of the things that really upsets me about changing medications is the *fabulous* side effect of weight gain (seriously, just ONCE, could I have something that doesn’t increase appetite?!). I am feeling GINORMOUS again. I had worked hard to get under the 100kg mark, and was really hoping to keep losing weight. BUT – throw in a couple of passing bouts of flu, falling down and re-injuring myself, underactive thyroid etc etc and by the start of the year I was back around 103kg, according to the scales in the GP’s office. I don’t weigh myself at home, I just go by which clothes I can wear – and I’m back to wearing all the fatty boombah clothes. I avoid looking in the mirror, so when I see photos of myself it’s really shocking – see the post below for an example. WHO is that fat chick?
I had been feeling quite helpless about the constant HUNGER that the Seroquel brought with it. I’m trying hard to take the Nice Psychiatrist’s advice and only have things that I can eat without too much danger: fill up on veges, then protein, and only then have fruit/carbs. It’s not easy. Just as well I like carrots and celery, raw, as munchies. (Any suggestions for ways to make vege snacks more interesting are most welcome…)
The other problem Seroquel (the new mood stabiliser, I was already taking Valpro )has brought is these wretched panic attacks. Now, I KNOW panic attacks are caused by anxiety. Trouble is, I’m not sure what I’m anxious about. Body image, yes, though that’s not the main thing, I think; I’m wondering if some of the known side effects of seroquel (racing heart, dizziness, jitteriness, etc) are what my body is reacting to as if they are caused by anxiety. Maybe it’s the cessation of the antidepressants, who knows.
Or maybe the Nice Psychiatrist is right (again) and what I’m feeling are signs of getting better – if I’m not depressed, then maybe this is what close to “normal ” feels like. I hope not, I’m really not enjoying it. I’m seeing the GP on Wednesday (flu vax! Getcha seasonal flu vax!) and will speak to her about all this – and I’m hoping the NP will be in her office on Tuesday, and maybe she can help.
I have to keep telling myself “This is just an uncomfortable feeling. It will pass. I don’t have to LIKE it, I just have to observe that it’s an uncomfortable feeling and it WILL PASS.”
I know I’m getting anxious about sleeping/not sleeping – I’m used to being able to lie down and read for hours, but since the seroquel I’m finding that I get about 2 pages read before jerking awake with the realisation that I’ve been making up the story, not reading the words. I may even have to return library books unread. (GASP! That NEVER happens. Seriously, unless a book turns out to be complete crap, I read what I borrow.)
Here are two positive things: 1) I managed to sleep for a couple of hours this afternoon with my CPAP (Continuous Positive Air Pressure) mask on. Now, I’ve been compliant with my sleep apnoea treatment for – um – 5 years now. In fact, I’m pretty much the poster girl for the benefits of wearing the mask whenever I lie down – it makes THAT much of a difference to how I feel, to how well I function. I usually think about putting the mask on and starting the machine as my signal that I’m going to get a restful night of sleep. Then suddenly the other day I got worried about it. For no reason that I can see. Even writing about it is triggering more anxiety, oh bugger. (It’s just an uncomfortable feeling, it will pass…)
Last night I was so worked up about the damn mask that I couldn’t put it on – Mr Beloved said ok, let’s stop that worry and just try sleeping without it. I did, but this morning was not pretty: I felt like I did before the CPAP treatment, like I was trying to stumble through a foggy swamp. I tried going to the pharmacy by myself while Mr Beloved went through the supermarket checkout, and I had trouble making myself understood. (It didn’t help that there was a flickering fluoro tube right above the counter at the chemist’s – that’s a migraine trigger for me about 8 times out of 10.) I had to send Mr Beloved back in there for me, since of course you can’t buy painkillers over the counter without having the pharmacist label them, which always takes time.
2) I took the dog for a 10 minute walk today. (Or, she dragged me, on the uphill section back home, anyway.) Doesn’t sound like much, but it’s something I haven’t felt able to do for ages. I was having trouble with shallow breathing and inadvertently holding my breath, but hey – I did it. Such a small achievement, to walk to the railway line and back. I survived it, and while I felt out of breath, I didn’t feel like that was a cause for concern (because I had a reason to be puffed.)
And now – I cooked dinner (with lots of “hidden”veges – amazing what a food processor can do to carrot, onions, celery, garlic – somehow it’s not as daunting to eat beef and beans with no other visible veges); watched some tv (can you BELIEVE they’ve cancelled The Bill? I mean, they went through those dreadful years when the director was determined to make it a soapy, and NOW they’re getting rid of it, when the show has never been better?) and once I’ve posted this and read some emails I’m off to bed. And if I wake up in the middle of the night, it will be ok. I can deal with that. Even if I have to start by breathing into a paper bag again…
PS: I now only have the most basic of phones – it cost me $29 outright, ok? So I can’t get picture messages or take photos or anything else groovy; I can’t even tell who the messages I can’t see are from. So if you sent me something other than a plain text sms, I’m not ignoring you, I can’t see you.
PPS: Mr Beloved’s birthday is tomorrow. He tries to ignore it.