After depression

Time heals everything. That’s bullshit. Time doesn’t heal depression or help recover from it. When you get back to your feet after depression starts the hard work. Recovery isn’t easy. You will fall, you will struggle, you will start all over. You may even want to give up.

Recovery is hard especially if you suffer from bipolar disorder. There is no cure for manic-depression. It may take long until you find balance and way of living with the illness. Before that you have to find strenght and motivation to heal again and again. Recovery is an ongoing journey. It’s also a learning process. You try and learn what’s best for you.

It’s about little over three months since I got back on my feet. I am still in an early stage of my recovery process. This far I have learned that some days are harder than others. But hard days shall pass. One bad day doesn’t mean depression is back. Tomorrow’s a new try. New opportunity.

Recovery is not a nine to five job or a 30 day rehab. It takes time. Months. It’s every choise you make. It’s challenging your way of thinking. Every day. Every hour. Every moment. Hardest part about recovery is when you’re not sure you want to recover. But you have to get over it rather than give up. Giving up is not a choice but there is no progress without struggle.

I’ve been given some tools to help me get better. Sleeping, eating, exercising and daily routine. I still need 10-12 hours sleep but I have improved in my eating habits. My goal is to exercise more. I take a long walk once a week but that’s not enough. I’ve learned that it’s OK if I don’t have strenght to follow my daily plan. It’s a new day tomorrow.

The hardest part is to find meaning and purpose. Days are long when you are not working. Guilt is an everyday feeling. But your meaning and purpose is to heal yourself. Work comes later. This is more important. Every day is a battle to win. But you can do it. You have to do it.

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Started a blog in a manic state

Oh well… This happens when you start writing a blog in a manic state of mind. Bet I had some grandiose ideas about this blog. Sadly I got going on only until I crashed again. Unfinished projects everywhere. Unfinished blogs everywhere.

Today I suddenly remembered. Did I start a blog about an year ago? I had totally forgotten. I read all my posts. Totally written in manic state. I can’t write so well. Like some other person would have written all those posts. I am glad though I remembered Flawless Mind. I’ve been having an urge to write lately but didn’t have a forum where to share my thoughts. I’ve become very shy on social media. I thought maybe give this blog another try. I am almost certain I will drop this sooner or later (probably sooner) but till then this could be a safe place to write when ever I’ ve got this urge to write. So are you on board with me?

2019 was crazy for me. I am somewhat stable for now but I’m still gathering pieces of me. I was in a psych ward five times last year. I believe that’s a lot. A few ODs, some self-harm, hopelessness, psychotic depression. That’s too much for one person. I also got two hypomanias but not as bad as depression.

I am broken. Who’s gonna fix me?

Days are long. While my family is at work and school I sit in my corner of a couch only my thoughts with me. I try to stay positive but it’s hard. It’s so hard. Every day is another battle. Even though I do okay now my illness will always be there. Always part of me. Always part of each and every day. Sometimes I read, sometimes I drink coffee. I keep the house clean but still, days are too long. It’s dangerous when you have too much time to think.

Being okay is weird. I haven’t used to this. I am always high or low but never okay. I am more scared of this ‘okay’ will last than another depression. Depression feels normal. Depression feels safe because I know how it goes but I don’t know what happens after okay. Now I am waiting for what happens. And I am scared.

#bipolardisoder #mentalhealth

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Delusions and hallucinations

Hallucinations and delusions are unrealistic beliefs that are made of a wrong interpretation of one’s experience and observation. Delusions are often based on an agonizing or frightening experience. Sometimes delusions are born in a situatuation that reminds of a traumatic childhood memory. Delusions are a common symptom of schizophrenia and delusional disorder but delusions can be a symptom of a psychotic depression.

There are different kinds and different levels of delusions. Especially schizophrenic delusions can be very odd. Typically delusions are unrealistic beliefs of being persecuted or being followed by someone. I am not diagnosed with schizophrenia but my own delusions are mostly about being persecuted or followed. A person can also believe that that he/she is being talked or written about on a tv, radio or magazine. Grandeur delusions make a person think he/she is better and greater than anyone else. Religious beliefs make a person believe he/she is a God or next to God. Delusions can also be erotic, somatic or jealous.

Like I already wrote, my delusions are beliefs of being persecuted or followed. I have to say that I really don’t know when or how everything started but I believe there must have been many factors and not just one. When it happened had to be a special time and place too like staying awake all night long with three small children and being dead tired and exhausted. I believe my neighbours follow, talk ill and persecute me. I believe they think I am worse and judge whatever I am doing.

These unrealistic thoughts have made me avoid things that make me anxious. I avoid situations where I could meet my neighbours. I avoid talking with them or any other action. Just thinking of these situations make me anxious and panic. I can’t go outside, not even my own yard, I can’t take trash out or get mail. I can barely walk to my car. I do it because I have to but it’s a chaos in my head. This is how it has been several years now. I used to go outside with my kids and work on backyard but now I just can’t anymore. Anxiety makes it impossible.

Few years ago I had a great opportunity to work with a psychologist. I met this psychologist once a week and we worked on my delusions and avoiding certain things that the delusions caused. There is only one effective way to win this battle and that is to put yourself in these situations over and over again until you gain some good experiences. I can tell you that these practices are so hard! But you have to do it in order to survive as a winner. These excercises are very slow, I am talking about a few minutes at a time here. Unfortunately working with the psychologist ended too soon. Even though it was effective, I don’t believe I would have gotten rid of my fears.

At the moment, the current situation feels hopeless. I don’t feel safe to go outside. I rather not to go to the car. Leaving the house doesn’t feel good. I take fright every little noise that comes from outside. Sometimes I am scared or shadows that I see. Those shadows probably aren’t real.

When moving out to a new house was a sure thing I felt relieved about my delusions being history soon. Finally I would get rid of these false beliefs of being followed, harrased and spied on. Years and years of suffering was about to be over. Soon I could sit on my terrace enjoying sunshine and feeling safe and relaxed.

Or that’s what I thought.

It didn’t take long to realize I am not getting rid of these delusions even though it seemed for a while that I was going to survive as a winner. Soon stress and anxiety took over my mind. I haven’t even met my new neighbours but soon I had made acquaintance with them in my mind. And let me tell you that was not a very pleasant acquaintance. I was having bad dreams too. I wish I could get rid of anxiety and fear when sleeping but no… False hope. Anxiety attacks happened on a daily basis and my mind was so sensitive and fragile that I was on my toes all the time.

Fortunately I was able to re-schedule my appointment with a nurse so I could talk about all this with someone professional. The nurse told me exactly the same thing I had realised – delusions won’t go away with moving to a new address. But good news is that I have a new and fresh beginning and new opportunity to fight against delusions. We also talked about exposure exercises and that I am in a good place right now because I understand all this so it will be easier to start my fight against the delusions.

I don’t really know what these delusions are all about. Is this about my bipolar disorder or something else? Could it be schizophrenia or delusional disorder? Or simply psychotic depression? This haven’t been diagnosed yet. I haven’t talked about this to anyone else than my psychiatrist and nurse. How could I talk about this to my family or friends? They would think I am crazy. Though who cares? My diagnose list is starting to look like a grocery list so I guess one more diagnose wouldn’t make a difference. My psychiatrist thought there’s a possibility of some psychotic disorder so now I am on two different antipsychotics. If that won’t make a difference with ECT then what will?

I had a very different relationship with delusions when I was a child. Instead of suffering myself I witnessed very closely my Grandmother suffering from delusions of schizophrenia. I used to calm her down and assure her what was real and what was illness. That was all wrong but she was so dear to me that I answered her calls twenty times a day and assured her she was safe and more importantly, I was safe. She always though I was being raped or assaulted. I was 11 years old and this was part or my every day life. I was her safety net but nobody protected me from her. Sometimes she came to our house in the middle of the night. I wonder how much affect these childhood events have had on my life at adult age?

Experiences on ECT

It’s been a while, I know! Life has thrown some big things in front of me, so I haven’t been able to concentrate on writing. Maybe I’ll write a post about these things later, but I just want to tell briefly that I bought a house for me and my family and we are moving next weekend.

But now, back to the topic…

Electroconvulsive therapy, also known as ECT, has become very familiar with me during the past twelve months. I definitely have some insight on this topic, so I wanted to share my experience with you. My experience has been 100% positive without any dramatics such as an old Hollywood movie One Flew Over The Cockoo’s Nest assumes.

What is electroconvulsive therapy?

Some people may wonder if ECT is still used today. It is an old treatment for sure but it really is used today as it still is one of the most effective treatments for several severe mental conditions. The ECT procedure was first conducted in 1938 and the procedure has evolved since then. ECT is used to treat major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, catatonia and schizophrenia. I have been treated with electroconvulsive therapy for my bipolar disorder, for medicine resistant depression and self-harm to be specific. The treatment is usually given 6-12 times, 2-3 times a week at first. ECT is usually started during hospitalization but it’s possible to attend treatment from home. I’ve done it both ways.

Mechanism of action of ECT still remains unknown today. It is a psychiatric treatment in which seizures are electrically induced in patients to provide relief from mental disorders. Seizures affect neurotransmitters and the responce is immediate. A course of ECT is effective for about 50% of people with treatment-resistant major depressive disorder, whether it is unipolar or bipolar. ECT impacts positively on mood, sleep and appetite. I have noticed my mood to be much brighter and energy levels higher right after the treatment. And the most important things is that I am no more suicidal and I don’t have an urge to harm myself anymore.

How does it happen?

Technically it’s a very simple operation. ECT is administered under general anesthesia with a muscle relaxant. It’s conducted in hospital’s neuromodulation unit. Anesthesia happens very fast. First time I was horrified because I didn’t have any previous experience but soon I learned that there was nothing to fear for and that the anesthesia part was, in fact, very enjoyable.

After laying down on the bed my blood pressure was measured and electrodes were put in place. Anesthesiologist started to prepare me for anesthesia and it didn’t take longer than couple of minutes I was put to sleep. It usually takes 40-45 minutes for me to wake up so the whole thing doesn’t last long. When I was at the ward someone came to pick me up back to the ward but now that I come from home for the treatment, I call someone to pick me up (usually my father or my husband). There has been coffee and some breakfast in the waiting room because you can’t eat or drink before anesthesia but that’s just a habit of this particularly unit. It could be different elsewhere.

ECT does not lead to brain damage

Yeah, ECT is totally safe. Even though it has effect in brain it does not lead to brain damage. The general physical risks of ECT are similar to those of brief general anesthesia. Sure there are some side-effects like in any treatment. The most common effects right after the treatment are confusion and memory loss.

Sometimes I’ve had a headache after the treatment or some muscle pain but that happens very seldom. A bigger side-effect has been memory loss. I think the memory loss is severe but still I think benefits of the treatment are greater than side-effects. Me and my family have accepted that this is how it’s gonna be. For kids the memory loss is a joke but sometimes it bothers me and husband. I have to write everything down in order to remember. I basically forget almost everything. Things that have happened or things that will happen. I even forget how to drive to places I’ve driven many times.

Like I said I’ve had lots of experience on ECT during the last twelve months. Last year when I was first treated with electroconvulsive therapy, I was given ECT ten times. Next time I got six times in July and six times in August. Since August I’ve been given maintenance therapy which means ECT is given once a week or once a two weeks. I had rest of August and most of September given once a week but now it’s only every two weeks. At some point the treatment will be given once a month. I don’t know what happens when it ends. I am slightly worried that I can’t do without ECT, that it is an only working medicine for me, but I try not to worry too much and concentrate on my new medicines.

Social networks and bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is not a piece of cake. It’s a serious mental illness. Whether we like it or not, it’s not something we can handle alone. If we think we can manage it alone, we are just kidding ourselves.

We are always in crisis. Bipolar disorder is so many things. It’s not always just depression or manic episode. There are more to that nobody talks about. It’s always feeling guilty and never feeling safe or understood. It’s broken relationships, jobs gone and economic disasters. It’s mental fog and being heavily medicated for your own safety. Sometimes it’s harmful coping mechanisms or even psychotic episodes. Sounds a lot right? That’s why we need support from different social networks. More you have the better.

I am lucky to have so many people in my life. Despite my bipolar disorder I have been able to establish deep friendships. I haven’t cut off my family and I’ve managed to maintain a long relationship and marriage. I’ve done some harm too, I’ve got some skeletons in the closet, but mostly took good care of my relationships.

I started to think about my social networks and came up with many different. Many would say I am lucky. Not everybody has a luxury of a big and close family. First of all, I’ve got my family. My husband and my three kids, my parents, my sister and brother, aunts, cousins and my husband’s family. My family is extended. Second of all, my friends. I am blessed to have more than one good friend. I’m not gonna do the count, let’s just say I’ve got many.

What other social networks there are than family and friends? There is work community, attending medical care and different social media networks and communities. For me, those are a parent-child support group, a blogging community, few mental health forums and a messenger group with some mothers across the country.

My bipolar disorder diagnosis is quite new but I’ve been mentally ill the most of my life. I haven’t always got the help I needed. This is for several reasons. I didn’t ask for help, my family and friends didn’t know how to help or health care professionals didn’t recognize the help I needed.

I have actually suffered a lot being left alone with my illness. Rich social networks are not always a guarantee. Sometimes, for variety of reasons, you have to fight to get help. It’s quite common bipolar disorder is mistaken as unipolar depression. For me it took 15 years until doctors got it right.

Since they got it right things have improved a lot. Well, not my health but my relationship with other people. When I finally got the right diagnosis (2,5 years ago) it felt like all pieces of my life started to fall into places and make sense. The biggest improvement of all happened in my mind when I faced the fact that I was chronically ill. I always knew somehow that I was going to be ill the rest of my life but things really changed dramatically now that it got a label on it.

I kept my mental health problems a secret for most of my adult life because of a traumatic experience of being ignored when I cried for help. Since my bipolar disorder diagnosis I’ve overcome my traumatic experience and become more open about my mental health problems. I’ve still got some trust issues but I am able to talk honestly about the state of my illness, hiding nothing and without leaving anything out or lie. I’ve recognized, it’s much easier to other people understand depression than other features of this illness.

I’ve been really sick since I got the diagnosis. I’ve learned to be more open but also that it’s OK to ask help. Asking for help is not easy for me but I understood I can’t deal with this alone. I’ve been hospitalized three times over a short time. I had to learn to ask for help because my husband was trying to hold everything together alone while I was staying in the hospital.

I decided to come up with a five points list for my family and friends what I want them to know and consider. This could be useful for anybody whose family member or friend has a mental illness.

This is a five points list for my family and friends:

1. Face the fact that I am chronically ill with a mental illness. I will get better but I will be mentally ill the rest of my life.

2. Take my illness seriously. Bipolar disorder is a severe condition. It’s not just highs and lows. There’s a whole variety of symptoms from delusions to attempting suicide.

3. Get educated. You need to know everything about bipolar disorder in order to understand my behavior.

4. Keep up with me. Ask how I am doing. Don’t be afraid of my response. Sometimes I am better and sometimes worse. Don’t make me lie.

5. Be worth trust. I need to know I’m looked after when I am not capable of making decisions regarding my treatment.

That’s not much to ask, right? My illness is not easy for anybody but we need to stop pretending it doesn’t exist. Open communication is a huge factor treating this illness. At least for me open communication has been a major contribution to recovery.

Hypomania hangover

The morning after hypomania is different. All the colors have faded, music has stopped playing in my head and I feel stupid and empty. Maybe little guilty too. I’ve been riding a thrill ride called hypomania so many laps I eventually fell off. 

My depression usually turns into manic episode overnight. The last two times I’ve been hospitalized due to depression when I’ve just suddenly crawled out of depression and woke up manic. Just like that. With very little warning signs. Those times I’ve been obviously treated for my manic episode but I haven’t been symptom free when discharged from the psych ward.

This time my manic episode was very mild. Outsiders wouldn’t have noticed any difference. The first symptoms I usually experience are irritation, racing thoughts and trouble sleeping. I didn’t have any trouble sleeping or racing thoughts which was weird. Irritation, spending money, feeling super and having great amount of positive energy were my symptoms. I guess manic episode is a little different each time. I actually thought I was free from my manic episode before I left the hospital but my current mood has made me think the opposite.

I have been feeling great since I left the hospital. I’ve been cleaning up the house and taken care of all household chores with great pleasure. I’ve gotten into healthy eating and started exercising five to six times a week. I have been spending money too but I kinda thought I was over the most shopping because I didn’t have any pending orders anymore. I ordered lot of makeups, cosmetics, makeup brushes and fake lashes. I bought some clothes every now and then and more makeups and I thought I was controlling my shopping. I thought all that energy and feeling great and healthy was a normal state until my mood dropped.

Manic episode is usually followed by depression. I can’t speak for other people but that seems to be the case here. What goes up, comes down for sure. After weeks of not sleeping, eating or stopping for a moment, will come a day brain and body just can’t go on anymore. I call it hypomania hangover. Suddenly I am standing in the middle of a slightly chaotic house and wondering what the f**k just happened? I have been cleaning up the house for few weeks. I have cleaned up everyday and everything. And then I have started all over again. And when I haven’t been cleaning I was doing something else that I got obsessed with.

Sometimes I’ve been drunk and taking my meds irregularly. My brain tells me to stop taking them. More fun promised. I’ve been so excited I couldn’t handle it. I’ve been so unfocused driving a car is major hazard. I’ve been to that point when I’m no more capable of doing nothing but race back and forth and wanting to cut off my own head in order to silence it. Thank God my manic episode was mild this time. But here I stand now. House full of unfinished projects. Who will finish all these projects? Who will clean up this mess?  Where did all that energy and enthusiasm go? How can it just stop existing? 

I am tired and weak. Foggy. Suddenly I don’t want to get out of bed. Suddenly I am not interested in anything anymore. I don’t want to exercise. I don’t want to go outside. I am disapointed and little angry. Unfinished business everywhere. I am overwhelmed. I am drowning. Crushed under manic wave.

Officially bipolar

What is it like to get a bipolar diagnosis? What does that change? Does it make a huge difference or does it just have a minor impact on your life? How does the new diagnosis make you feel? And how is the diagnosis discovered? I am thinking of these questions and writing about my own experience.

My bipolar diagnosis is quite new. I´ve suffered from depression, anxiety and panic attacks since I was a child but I got this diagnosis in 2017. When I look back at my life I recognize my first mania at the age of 18. Somehow I made it this far without the right diagnosis and medication but the last two years have been crazy for me.

For me getting a bipolar disorder diagnosis was a relief. I think if I didn’t get the right diagnosis then, I would have gotten it soon anyway because my mind literally started to fall apart and I was losing control over my life. Mental health problems run in my family and I always thought I would heritate some of that. The causes of bipolar disorder are not certain but both environmental and genetic factors play a role. As a child I witnessed closly what a mental illness can do to a person but I failed to see any symptoms of mania in myself. It was summer of 2017 when a friend of mine told me that I was being manic. After being told I was manic, I started to do my research. I became pretty certain about having bipolar disorder but it took some months to finally get the diagnosis.

In autumn 2017 I was sent to a hospital due to severe and psychotic depression. I went to the hospital as a day patient for eight weeks. At the hospital a psychiatrist and nurses started to run diagnostics on me. Pages and pages of questions and several interviews on my past and present. Answering all those questions made me realize I really do have some serious issues to deal with in order to continue my life and make it worth living. The tests indicated strongly to bipolar disorder. I felt relieved things were finally going forward.

I finally got my diagnosis in October 2017. It felt like all pieces of my life started to fall in place. All my actions and behavior got an explanation and I was able to forgive myself my mistakes in past. A new medication, a new life I thought. I understood it wasn´t that simple though. Finding the balance could take a while. After all it took 15 years to get the diagnosis right so only God knew how long it would take finding the right medication and dosage. Anyways, I thought it was a turnover in my life. I was optimistic about my future and could never imagine how much struggle there was ahead despite of my new diagnosis.

Thw new diagnosis made me thinking about changes I had to make in order to lead a happy life from now on. I knew I had to change some things, I wouldn´t be cured with medicines. It was a fresh start for me. My life would never be the same. With the new diagnosis I learned that I had to live with that the rest or my life. There is no cure for bipolar disorder. The biggest change I made was to stop guarding myself and let people to see the real me. I wrote an email to my parents and told everything. Till that day I had faked a smile and pretended to be happy and strong. That email changed everyting. With the support of my family I learned to accept myself and my illness. I also had to face the fact I was too ill to work. I also learned the importance of healthy routines. Sleep is everything for bipolar and alcohol doesn´t go well with medication.

Since the diagnosis I have gone through some rough times, trial of different medications and dosages, ECT, hospitalization and therapy. I´ve had depression, I´ve been psychotic, I´ve been suicidal, I´ve had mania, hypomania and mixed episodes, I´ve abused medicines and I´ve self-harmed. That´s more than enough for one person to deal with. I’ve learned so much of my illness and myself and most importantly, become closer with my family and friends. For me bipolar disorder made so much sense. I think it was easier for me to accept the illness because I had some time to do research of my own before doctors put a label on it. At the moment I am enjoying balance but I am still in recovery. Balance is fragile. Things could get ugly again but so far so good.