Monday, May 23, 2016

Is It Getting Better?

Lately, as my mood has been the lowest it has been in months, I’ve had many things going on inside my mind.  I keep going back to one thought that has been keeping me awake at night.  We’ve all noticed that in the last few years, suicide is often at the forefront of our minds.  Mainstream media, as well as social media, have been posting a lot more about it, and it seems as if we’re hearing about another suicide every other week. 

Several months ago, I saw a heartbreaking photo online of Jim Carrey, as he helped to carry the casket of his former girlfriend from the church. She committed suicide. That could have been my husband.  It wouldn’t have been publicized like that, but regardless the pain would have been the same. 

Are we doing the right thing?  Is talking about suicide online so frequently making it happen more often?  Or, does it just seem like it happens more often because we’re talking about it? 

I look at a situation like Robin Williams, and the hell his poor daughter went through after his death.  She had to close down all of her social media accounts because she was so traumatized by the negative posts about her father’s suicide.  That’s pathetic, and how I wish I could reach out to her and tell her how sorry I am.  This is what makes me question whether we’re doing the right thing.  Perhaps we aren’t doing it the right way? 

I’m on social media every single day, and I am posting away about my life, my suicide attempt, my book, my bipolar.  It leaves me open to a great deal of criticism.  At this point, I’ve even been accused of not even really being bipolar because someone read my book, and their experiences weren’t the same as mine.  So, automatically I wasn’t really sick.  THAT is really sick. 

I’ve been committed on three separate occasions, torn my life apart, lost every job I ever had, put so many scars on my body that I look like I walked through a plate-glass window, and I almost died.  If you think I am pretending to go through these things just so now and then someone says, “Wow, I’m really sorry,” you’re the one that needs help.  I’m not stupid, weak, a coward, attention seeking, or a failure at life.  

I sit here and contemplate whether or not being so open about suicide is the best way to go, on my blog dedicated to being open about suicide. I’ve always been told I’m a walking paradox.  This is what I truly want to believe.  Yes, this is the right thing.  People need to know.  They need to understand what this is like.  Talking about it isn’t causing it to happen more often, we’re just more open to hearing about it.  That has to be the case. Otherwise, everything I’ve done has been for nothing, and I cannot stand the thought of that. 

Maybe this is just one of those situations where my mind is all over the place because I’m deep in a bout of depression that has me so completely knocked on my ass, that I’ve got no idea when I’m getting back up.  Even at night when I do sleep, my mind creates these horrific scenarios in my head.  I can’t help but think, I was lucky enough that didn’t happen, but you’re making me watch it as if it did?  WHY? 

Is social media the best thing for mental illness?  I think perhaps it’s like anything else, there are pros and cons.  I want to believe that the pros far outweigh the cons on this one.  I know that personally, and I’m certain due to my experiences, that too much of it sends me into a tailspin.  I simply can’t go to that place day after day.  It’s far too painful for me.  I’m sure there are others that feel the same way.  I do feel that it’s up to each of us to be responsible with what we post and how.  Posting a picture of your bleeding arm is not helping anyone, I can promise you that.  If anything, you just triggered about a thousand people to do that to themselves...possibly including me.  As someone who has been there, I know first-hand.  

Let’s just be careful with this.  Let’s be kind, considerate, and respectful.  That’s all I’m asking.  If someone is in a bad spot, help them out if you can.  If you can’t, that’s OK too.  You can only do as much as you can do at any given moment.  I’d love to help everyone that I scroll past, but there are sometimes when I just can’t.  I have to help myself at that moment. 

I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that my book is doing much more good than harm.  That’s why I put myself out there.  That’s why I’ve been subjected to all of this scrutiny.  I’m a mere mortal, and I can only take so much.  So, there will be days when I’m not doing well and maybe I can tell you why, and maybe I can’t.  If putting it out into the universe helps someone, I’m extremely grateful for that.  I just don’t ever want to be the source of someone else's pain. 

It’s a lot to think about all at once.  I hope I’ve made at least some amount of sense.  Yes, I think we are doing the right thing.  I just don’t think everyone is doing it the right way.  I guess when all is said and done, that’s my conclusion. 

Visit my website at: www.rebeccalombardo.com
Or check out my book on Amazon at:
www.amzn.com/0692509739

Thank you!  

Friday, May 20, 2016

Being a Bipolar Author

I’ve spent many, many years dealing with bipolar disorder.  However, I’ve only spent a year as a bipolar author.  All authors face challenges.  Struggling to be published, meeting deadlines, promoting. I am now of the opinion that those of us dealing with bipolar disorder have a different battle to fight.  On the heels of receiving my very first rude and threatening email about my book, I am facing an even greater challenge.  I have to fight to even continue to put myself out there for this type of scrutiny.  I’m constantly trying to tell myself that if I were to give up, the bullies would win.  I can’t do that. 

Take a book signing for example.  I had one last year and going into it, I was terrified.  I’ve never been good at public speaking to begin with.  When you factor in my anxiety issues, I wasn’t sure I would even get through it.  Thankfully, my husband was next to me the entire time.  I think I pulled it off, but I’m not sure how I would have done had there been more people in attendance. 

We all face issues with confidence.  I’m not so na├»ve that I don’t understand that.  I feel like authors or writers that are not dealing with mental illness may have a leg up in some areas.  In my situation, I am at a stage where I am rarely leaving my house or even my bedroom. I don’t think someone like James Patterson has to contend with such obstacles. 

In my book, I documented my enormous issues with body image and self-esteem. I’ve always been negative about my appearance. Over the years dealing with my depression, I’ve gained more weight than I ever would have imagined. Dealing with bipolar disorder, weight gain, and the possibility of appearing in photos or on television is incredibly daunting. I did one television interview early on, and I can’t even look at the video at this point. It sends me into a deep depression for days.  Even now that I’m on the right path with my health, and I’m down 27 pounds, I still beat myself up for appearing in front of the camera the way I look.

For those of us that happen to feel things much deeper than most people, negative reviews are like a sharp knife to your heart. It’s been an arduous task trying to convince myself that just because not everyone likes it, doesn’t mean I’m a failure…or as one person called me, a selfish narcissist. I never in my wildest dreams thought that putting my story out there in an effort to raise awareness about suicide would be met with such comments. I’m simply trying to help people!

Granted, I’m no Mother Teresa, but I didn’t join this fight to make myself look good. Quite the contrary.  I wanted to use this platform to tell a cautionary tale, so to speak. To let others know that I made many mistakes along the way, but I am certainly much stronger for learning from those mistakes.  Most of all, people need to understand that having a bad day doesn’t mean you have a bad life. 

So, I’ll take comfort in the fact that there are those that support me.  The mental health community is amazing. I love feeling a sense of camaraderie. As if we’re all here, fighting the same battle and hopefully making a difference.  I’ve met some of the most amazing people in the last year.  As much as I struggle with social anxiety and agoraphobia, it’s such a comfort to know that despite those issues, I may still be able to affect change in the world around me. 

Of course, there are days when it’s extremely difficult to keep focused on the positive.  It’s hard to keep focus at all.  That is one of the main reasons I’ve been rather terrified to sign on to any particular website to write a monthly column.  When I’m depressed, all concentration goes out the window.  It feels as if there’s a movie playing inside my brain on fast forward and I have no idea where the remote is.  When writer’s block sets in, I can’t slow my brain down to come up with a sentence, let alone an entire article.  I’m constantly afraid of letting people down or even letting myself down. The idea of being a failure still rests comfortably on my shoulder.  Ever present and always reminding me of the mistakes I’ve made.  I often make an effort to reach out and help others with whatever they’re working on.  At times, it helps to put my situation into perspective.  The next thing I know, I’m writing again. 

I never know when an idea will hit me.  Last night, it was around 1:30 in the morning.  It’s both a curse and a blessing.  While I’m grateful for the opportunity to put pen to paper, I’m sometimes a slave to my expanded consciousness. 

I realize that I have traditionally been way too hard on myself.  I need to give myself credit once in a while.  If I see someone on TV that is an extremely talented artist, musician, or even a writer, that little voice inside my head is very vocal. I’m forever thinking, “I wish I was that good at anything!” I’ve beat myself up for so many years, I’m not sure I would know how to be kind. 

I lack confidence on so many levels.  Poor self-esteem is a symptom of depression, but when will I learn to cut myself some slack? I wrote a book and I got it published, and it’s helping people! I have an extremely successful blog and I feel as if I’ve earned the respect of many others in the mental health community, at least on social media!  So, when do I stop and give myself a little pat on the back? I carry burdens that many people wouldn’t be able to shoulder for very long.  I fight a battle inside my head (and my heart) from the minute I get up in the morning. 


Perhaps now is the time to remember that despite the challenges of being an author and having bipolar disorder, it can be managed.  I just have to be willing to use a little common sense.  I’ve gotten this far.  I think I’ve probably thrown in the towel once a week for nearly a year, and I’m still going.  I didn’t die when it was all I could think about 3 years ago.  I’m a fighter.  I may not always be able to keep that in mind for myself, but I hope I can impart that wisdom onto others that are lacking in the confidence department.  Sometimes it’s OK to just exist.  If you’re facing a challenge due to your mental illness, let it be your moment to shine!  No matter how scary it is, you have to face it head on.  If you can’t be realistic about your situation on Tuesday, give yourself some time.  Maybe on Friday you can knock it out of the park.  

Monday, May 16, 2016

Thoughts on PMS and Bipolar



I understand that this post may not be the popular, especially with men. None of us really enjoy talking about our menstrual cycles. I’m certain men dislike it more than women. However, I really think that it’s worth exploring the relationship between bipolar symptoms and that time of the month.

In my research, I’ve found some interesting articles. While reading an article on WebMD.com, I was able to find a validation of sorts. I’ve had people that read my book question the validity of my diagnosis or my story because I don’t focus a great deal on the mania side of bipolar. Even though I’ve chosen not to argue with people about that, I really would like to clear the air. During the time that I was writing my book, mania wasn’t really that much of an issue for me. I don’t generally have bouts of mania immediately following bouts of depression. It just doesn’t work that way for me. Here is an important paragraph that I found:

Bipolar disorder occurs with similar frequency in men and women. But there are some differences between the sexes in the way the condition is experienced.  For example, a woman is likely to have more symptoms of depression than mania. And female hormones and reproductive factors may influence the condition and its treatment. www.webmd.com

I’ve stated clearly all along that I can only write from my experiences. Your path is not my path. Hence the title, It’s Not Your Journey. I don’t know how many more ways I can explain myself. Just because you deal with mania regularly, doesn’t mean I have to, or I’m not really bipolar. It’s a ridiculous notion. Why is it that some people that have cancer can be cured, and some can’t? Do you think the ones that can’t are waiting in the wings to criticize the ones that can? As if they really didn’t have cancer because it was cured?

Ever since I first got my monthly cycle, it has been absolutely brutal. Every month I deal with more migraines, horrific cramps, and severe depression. To the point where I will just start sobbing for no tangible reason. I’ve been on birth control pills in the past in an effort to manage the symptoms, but I’ve been told by a couple of different doctors that it’s not really wise for me to take them. Both times I was on them for any length of time, I was hospitalized for a mental breakdown. 

I have an app on my phone now that lets me track everything. I’m really glad to have found it, because now it’s not a guessing game anymore. I know within a few days when it’s going to start. The cramps generally start at least a week before. By the time it actually starts, I find myself bed-ridden for sometimes 3-4 days. As soon as the worst of it hits, I’m an emotional wreck. Suddenly, even the smallest things have me crying my head off…and I’m in the middle of it right now. You may think, I go through all of that too, and I’m not bipolar. How is it different?

Studies have looked at the association between bipolar disorder and premenstrual symptoms. These studies suggest that women with mood disorders, including bipolar disorder, experience more severe symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).Other research has shown that women whose disorders are treated appropriately actually have less fluctuation in mood over the course of the menstrual cycle.The greatest evidence of a hormonal association with bipolar disorder is found during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Women with bipolar disorder who are pregnant or have recently given birth are seven times more likely than other women to be admitted to the hospital for their bipolar disorder. And they are twice as likely to have a recurrence of symptoms. www.webmd.com

That explains things a bit, but it certainly doesn’t make it easier. I’ve tried on many occasions to just put the symptoms out of my mind. I’ve attempted to get up and be productive more than once. Even if I find an extra burst of energy, it never lasts very long. I’ve listened when people say that exercise will help with your symptoms. That is not the case for me.

The worst part is the guilt. Your depression tells you what a failure you are if you need to put life on the back burner.  When you combine physical pain with emotional pain, it’s often too much to handle. At least for me it is.

I am rational enough to realize that this is no way to exist. I’ve tried whatever home remedies I could. Now I think it’s time to hand it over to the “experts”.  Next month when I see my psychiatrist, I’m going to bring this up.  I’m sure at some point, I’ll have to give in and see a gynecologist. I’ve been avoiding that eventuality for several years now. It looks like it may be time to tuck my tail between my legs and just do it.

For now, I’ll just keep pushing forward and doing the best that I can. That’s all any of us can really ask for. 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Concentration


It’s not uncommon for most of us to experience days when we may not be able to concentrate fully on the task at hand for a variety of reasons.  There are days when it’s difficult to simply determine what you might want to eat, let alone come to any important conclusions.  People with bipolar disorder are no exception. In fact, it’s an even bigger problem.

I know from my own experience that regardless of whether I am in a manic phase or a severely depressed phase, concentration is a recurring issue. Most of the articles I read seem to indicate that a manic episode would cause a sharp and clear frame of mind. Historically, that is not how it works for me.

I love books. I enjoy reading very much and if I could I would do it every single day.  I’ve had many people approach me about reading their book or their blog, and I do have every intention of doing just that.  However, my brain seems to have other ideas.  There was a point in my treatment with one of my previous doctors that we came to the conclusion that my lack of an attention span could possibly be Adult ADHD.  It’s still not out of the question, especially when I consider the symptoms. 

Common emotional symptoms of adult ADD/ADHD include: sense of underachievement. doesn't deal well with frustration. easily flustered and stressed out. irritability or mood swings. trouble staying motivated. hypersensitivity to criticism. short, often explosive, temper. low self-esteem and sense of insecurity – www.helpguide.org

At that time, I was given Ritalin.  After a couple of months, I started to experience something that felt like perpetual panic attacks.  After investigating the side effects, I determined that Ritalin was not for me.

Common side effects of Ritalin include nervousness, agitation, anxiety, sleep problems (insomnia), stomach pain, loss of appetite, weight loss, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, palpitations, headache, vision problems, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, sweating, skin rash, psychosis, and numbness, tingling – www.rxlist.com


There was never another opportunity to explore that diagnosis again, because, before long, I was feeling suicidal and was hospitalized for my attempt.

Setting ADHD on the back burner for a moment, it only makes sense that someone like me wouldn’t be able to focus. It’s like a movie is fast forwarding in my brain and I can’t find the remote.  It only gets worse at night when I’m trying to sleep.  This is why I make lists.  I can’t remember half of what I was trying to get done because my brain is thinking of 25 other things I need to do.  However, by the time I’ve written down every single thing I want to get done for the next 10 years, the list has become far too overwhelming to even comprehend.  None of it gets done and I start over the next day.

Having done a bit of research on this topic, I still have a burning question. While most of my time is spent desperately trying to focus on one simple task, I do have good days.  They can go for stretches of a week or even a month. For instance, I’ve decided I wanted to spend some time enjoying the weather while reading on our back porch. I’ve had little to no difficulty concentrating on the book I’m reading.  So, where am I? I’m not severely depressed and I’m not completely manic. I feel like I’m in some sort of limbo.

I suppose the best thing for me is to just go with it.  Enjoy it while it lasts…because I have no idea how long that will be.  I have hopes that I can keep it going all summer, but that’s putting the cart before the horse. For today, I’ll be grateful for my seemingly expanded consciousness.  Now if I could just do something about this terrible memory! One thing at a time, I suppose.

During my research, I happened upon some tips for gaining more focus.  Many articles seem to conclude that getting your mood swings under control is the first step.  Here are some others:

  • Manage your time. Don’t try to do too much. Say no if you can’t do it.
  • Lead a healthy lifestyle. Eat a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Eat only low-fat meats and poultry. Get regular exercise, which can have both mental and physical health benefits. Avoid caffeine.
  • Learn relaxation techniques. These include breathing exercises, yoga, and massage. Remember to balance periods of activity with periods of relaxation.
  • Keep a daily planner. It will help you to remember appointments and commitments.
  • Seek support from family and friends. Spend time talking and listening to each other. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Choose a support group you can trust to tell you the truth even if it’s not what you want to hear.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol. Taking drugs and alcohol may lessen the effectiveness of your bipolar medications and lead to potentially dangerous side effects.
  • Get in a routine. A daily schedule can add structure to your life, and structure can help you cope with stress. – www.everydayhealth.com

If you made it this far, congratulations! You are currently not having trouble concentrating! J


I’ll be grateful for whatever time I have to check a few things off the list.  First and foremost, I need to be realistic.  I wouldn’t be surprised if my propensity for writing overly-abundant lists actually cause my focus to shift; I’ll take a closer look at that another time. For now, I have some reading to do!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Playing Catch Up


Sometimes I feel like I’m perpetually trying to catch up with my life. As if all of the good days need to be spent trying to make up for all of the bad days. I don’t think it’s even possible. I’ve let my depression steal many things from me.  I’ve missed parties, funerals, weddings…and life. Then I have to stop and ask myself, could it have been avoided?  The answer to that truly is no.

Am I entitled to feel guilt or even remorse for all that I’ve lost? Do I owe everyone I know an apology for all that I’ve taken from them? I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t do anything wrong to deserve this, yet I carry all of the burden of the guilt and the loss.  I know I have isolated myself and at times pushed people away. So, do I really have to wonder why people don’t call to check up on me? Why so many of my relationships have ended in a dramatically painful fashion?

How I wish I could get a couple of years back. With the knowledge that I possess currently, of course. Perhaps spend a little extra time with my lost loved ones.  Relive the first few years of my marriage and just be happy. Happy for me, happy for my family and for my husband. I hate this overwhelming feeling of regret. Even now the bad days cast a shadow over the good because I know that a downward spiral could happen at any moment.

I suppose I’m just feeling sorry for myself.  I can’t change the past. I know that. Can I change the future? It’s all too much.  So overwhelming. I can’t alter people’s perception of me. Whether they’re in my life or not, I can’t be something I’m not.  But, I can live in the now. This feeling like I’m shackled to my past; as if I need to carry it inside and be constantly reminded of all of the pain. I need to work on leaving it behind me.

I’m making real and positive changes to my life, and for that I’m grateful.  Is it enough? Will it keep history from repeating itself? I truly want and need to believe that is the case. I will always be terrified of getting older.  I’m frightened of losing more people that I love and even more so of dying myself. So, I’ve got to take a deep breath and come to terms with my situation.

This is the only life I have and it’s time to face facts. There are still going to be bad days.  I can’t escape that. I need to stop letting this disease lie to me. I don’t need to make up for my mistakes; I just need to learn from them. I’ve got to look inside and find a reason to feel positive about where I’m headed.  Otherwise, in 10 or 20 years I’ll be looking back at the 43-year-old me wondering why I didn’t work harder to make the future better.

I have to believe in myself and know that now I’ve been to the very bottom, I can only go up. That has to be some kind of incentive. That little voice inside of my head needs to take a step back. My raison d'etre is all around me.  This is not the final act. I’m just getting started. Everything will be better now that I’m aware of my surroundings. Perhaps I don’t know exactly which direction I’m headed, but that’s OK. I only need to keep moving…in any direction except behind me.