Today Is Another Day: Rapid Cycling

As you may remember, yesterday I was painting my toenails in the middle of the night.

Alas, that was not to last.  I woke up this morning with a feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach.

After I finally went to sleep last night, with the aid of more Seroquel, I woke up a bunch of times because my arms were numb and tingling.

Fuck, you know, this has been going on in one form or another for several years.   I’ve been writing it off as probably due to my arthritic collar bone, but this is different.

My medical experience gives me all kinds of terrible fears.  MS is the main one these days.

I remember the day in medical school when they taught us all the bad things that can possibly happen to breasts.

My then-husband came home to find me huddled in the bed hysterically crying.

“What’s wrong?” he asks.

“My breasts!  They’re a ticking time bomb!  I want them off right now!”

“There there,” he said, not knowing what else to say.

The next day I ran to the Student Gynecology Service to get a pre-operative exam.  The kind Nurse Midwife examined me and assured me that at the moment my breasts were not explosive, and offered to re-check them whenever I started feeling breast-anxious.

I felt rather foolish, but relieved that at the age of 29, nothing was wrong with my breasts.

Why do I make these digressions when I’m depressed?

Maybe it’s because I don’t really want to engage with the depression.  I know it will pass, and something else will take its place, but when it’s on me, it’s literally on me, and all over me, and in me, and I can’t shake it off.  All that happens is I start crying and feeling like someone is trying to rip out my guts, and doing a pretty good job at it.

Then it passes, just as quickly as it came.  What follows might be a period of “normality,” meaning, neither hot nor cold, and this is heavenly.  But it never lasts.

Hypomania, or frank mania with psychosis, tends to raise its ugly head at night, about bedtime; which for me is at 9 pm because my meds take 12 hours to wear off.  Actually they take 13 hours, but that is an embarrassing amount of time to sleep, so I actually set an alarm for 9 am.

I can tell the (hypo)mania is on its way because my bedtime knockout cocktail doesn’t do a thing.  I’m awake playing Solitaire on my iPad, which usually bores me to sleep, except now I’m totally awake: uncomfortable in my skin, twitching, restless.  I don’t want to look up because sometimes my wallpaper turns into ugly faces.

I follow the protocol my shrink and I developed for these very occasions: more Seroquel.  Another 50 mg till it knocks me out.  And a double dose of my benzos for good measure.

Sometimes it takes a couple hundred more milligrams of Seroquel to do the job.  I have an incredibly low tolerance for Seroquel, so my maintenance dose is only 100 mg.  I know, I know, some of you take 600-800.  That would put me to sleep for several days.  I usually get to 300 before it’s knock-down time.

The good thing about hypo/mania is that it can be controlled, if recognized early enough.  Depression, though…that’s another beast.

Bipolar depression is different from “regular” depression for reasons I don’t know.  I was treated with regular antidepressants for years, and was pretty much suicidally depressed the whole time.  Vitamins “L” (Lithium and Lamictal) saved my life, quite literally.  Blessings upon the quirky head of my neuropsychiatrist, who was on call when I was hospitalized the first time, and got my bipolar figured out.

The only adjustment we can do for the depression part of the roller-coaster is to up the Lamictal by 50 mg, which puts me at 200.  More than that pops me over into mania.  It’s a delicate balance, as you can see.

So the only thing I can really do with this depression is to wait it out.  Sometimes it does get suicidally bad, and then I have to think about my dog and my son, and what my suicide would mean for them.

I put them in that order, because my dog is helpless without me (although yes, I could put her in Rescue, but that thought makes me cry harder) and my son second, because even though it would tear him to pieces, he is at least able to provide for himself, unlike my dog.  I know that makes no sense but that is how it happens to fall out in my brain.

I’m starting to feel tired now, which means this part of the wave is coming to a close–I don’t know exactly when–and what happens next I cannot guess.

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  1. sorry to say i know what youre talking about. and its an icky yucky feeling that you want to get rid of but cant. but good too, in a wrong kind of way.

    re:seroquel–i have had every pdoc tell me the less you take the more sleepy you’ll be, and vice versa, the more you take, the less sleepy you’ll be. just a thought. something about histamines in it.

    other than that, if you find yourself painting toenails (or anything else) and enjoying it, just enjoy and go with it.

    • Hmm, Seroquel knocks me out the higher the dosage, so maybe it’s just me. I did enjoy my toenails, but unfortunately the nasty feeling of hypo came on sort of midway into it, so it kind of lost its shine. My toes look good, though 😉

  2. First of all, hats off to your sense of humor in your digressing about your breasts. Humor can be an excellent coping mechanism.

    (Hypo)mania truly sucks, as does bipolar depression and rapid cycling. I hate it when I keep layering on meds and still can’t fall asleep. That’s usually bad news and for me means that pdoc must increase my mood stabilizer (for me, Depakote) and reduce my antidepressant (now only 5mg Lexapro).

    Reality testing your thought process: Wonderful that you care so greatly about your dog’s well-being, and she would miss you terribly. BUT, hello depressive thought process, YOUR SON WOULD BE ABSOLUTELY DEVASTATED BY YOUR SUICIDE. He is your SON. He is HUMAN. Human suffering trumps canine suffering. Humans are more psychologically complex than dogs. He would not only miss you, but he would by psychologically scarred by your suicide. END OF STORY. It matters not that he can feed himself and pay his own rent or mortgage. SO THERE.

    • Thank you, Kitt, for your reality check. You’re right, of course. My thinking is backwards. But you know, when a hotel clerk has the chutzpah to ask me what my 12 lb service dog does for me, I tend to say, “She keeps me from killing myself.” That usually does it. I know my son would be devastated, and he is, of course, my son, and I do indeed value him more than my dog. Now I feel sheepish, and I’d like to rationalize my thought process, but I’m not getting anywhere so I’ll stop with saying, Yes, that’s what I really feel, but sometimes I can’t access that.

      • I know that you were honestly voicing your thought process. I, too, know what it is to experience depressive thoughts. I am glad that your (no doubt cute) little 12 lb dog helps you fight depression. Just suggesting some cognitive restructuring, remind yourself how important you are to your son. You are.

  3. Thinking of you, Laura……….you’ll get though this!

  4. Terri

     /  July 20, 2014

    I’m so sorry you have to go through this……normals have no idea what suffering us with mental disorders endure, and usually without support and instead judgement and stigma. I hope you make it through this time and can see the sun as soon as possible. Prayers are with you……..

  5. Laura, I’m envious you have a pdoc who works with you to adjust your meds up or down as needed. I have to get on my knees to get mine to make the slightest change. It’s a pleasure to be reading your blog again.

  6. istralouise

     /  July 20, 2014

    wow, I was hoping the hypomania would stay managable not dive into depression. Your dog would never be the same without you, even if it is a no-kill shelter. Some dogs you can just tell.. Our dog is like that, he’s both of ours, but he actually has decided that Roger, my SO is his “person” When Roger leaves he is so stressed out. It doesn’t matter that I’m there. And when Roger returns he is joyous again.

    I hope with sleep you can get back to your baseline again. Depression is no fun.

  7. I completely understand the struggle with medication, especially the delicate balance between depression and mania. I have been victim to the medication pushing me to the other side of bipolar. I hope you find your way out of the depression quickly. Don’t give up!

  8. I’m glad you have the dog and the son, in either order. I’ve been wrestling with depression myself of late (the vanilla kind.) Occurred to me lately how fortunate I am that there have always been beings I could not abandon, that it was simply not OK to hurt them.

    I love your answer about the service dog.

  9. savemefrombpd

     /  July 21, 2014

    Hello. I am glad to hear from you again now to know what’s going on.

    It sounds like such a difficult position to be in. Especially with the meds which you pretty much have to rely on and then hope that they will do their job in helping you. I do hope that your ‘vitamin L’ helps and the extra Seroquel. But you said the Seroquel isn’t helping you sleep which I guess points to hypo/mania.

    I was going to blab on about medications and the ones I am on (like 600mg Seroquel! for example) and Clonex twice a day and stuff. And I do wonder if it is adding to my tiredness and low energy too. Anyway,. I won’t go in to that. I meet with my psych tomorrow and I know that he doesn’t want to change anything because he doesn’t believe that meds can help any more than now, which is questionable even.

    I just hope you can find some balance and avoid full blown depression and/or hypo/mania.

    Take care of yourself and of course anyway you will do all you can so you are trustworthy in that.

  10. Placid's Place

     /  July 25, 2014

    Hey Laura, Loved your post. Its the first time I’ve seen yours, so will now spend the rest of the day going through all your posts. I can honestly say, ‘yeah! someone out there is a nuts as me… mind you I don’t mean that in a bad way … (Ain’t humour great!!) I know where you are coming from, I am a rapid cycler just like you and do find the depression worse than the mania. The mania I can just about cope with; the depression zaps every ounce of joy from my life and I feel pretty bad at those times. Self deprecating humour is sometimes all that saves us. Good for you! I’m going to enjoy your ride with you if you don’t mind.. hugs Edel

    • Hi Edel, thanks for dropping by and sharing. It’s always comforting to know there are others who understand these **lovely** problems, although I am truly sorry that you do. I always wonder why it is that certain people get picked for these challenges–and I don’t wish them on anybody! Take care and I look forward to seeing more of you!

  11. Completely understand about the dog coming first in your mind. Nothing to do with which you love the most. Its about protection. When my first husband left me (looong time ago), he also left his cat. I always thought it was more cruel him leaving his pet than his wife. Sounds backwards but, like you, I reasoned that I could take care of myself and I could understand things but the poor cat couldn’t! Simply put- the animal would have been helpless without me. Whereas, I wouldn’t be. The cat died about 5 years ago but I still keep a framed pic of him.
    I like your blog a lot. As an artist, I have to confess I prefer to look at art/picture blogs than read blogs. I enjoyed reading your though.

    • Hi, thanks a lot for your comment. I thought a lot about your ex’s leaving his cat. Actually it was a great act of kindness, to leave the cat with you, so that you didn’t suddenly have this totally gaping hole in your life. The cat needed you, and it’s so good to have SOMEONE in your life who can’t live without you, literally as well as figuratively.

      I’m honored that you enjoy my blog. I went to art school for about six years (transferred twice) and still make a drawing now and then, and frequently wonder why I don’t do more…..but for now, my art goes into my writing, and until I get it together to make some illustrations, that’s how it’s going to be 🙂

  12. Joi

     /  November 3, 2014

    I am a sufferer of bipolar.I am recently homeless,jobless and single mother of four. I have been entertaining the death with dignity act because I am tired of being a burden to everyone.I cannot sustain on my own any longer and I refuse to allow my children to suffer any longer. I was curious on your thoughts to this. I have heard bipolar gets worse with agemy grandmother had it and developed schizophrenia and ended up killing her husband,my uncle had it and killed himself as out became toomuch. I do not want to end up like them. My children deserve better and of I’m gone they will be separated but be in better homes(accept for my youngest) which is main reason I haven’t just given them up for adoption.I keep trying but keep failing.we just lost out house and my income I have no means to support I’d out get a place and no one to help.I have my two little ones,my oldest is staying with a friend and another with my mother whom is70 and married to a prick..I want to go on some days but at the end of the day the reality is there. I have episodes weekly and they are getting more frequent them ever.I’m so scared and don’t know what to do.I keep praying and going to church trying to keep my faith but I’m still stuck.

    • Joi, I cannot even express my sorrow that you have to live like that. I know the feeling of, wow, they have death with dignity for people suffering intractable pain, and this is just as painful as any cancer, so why….and then I think about my son, who is almost 30, very sweet and sensitive…And we are very close….I know that if I killed myself it would ruin his life. So I stay here, sometimes in such pain that all I can do is take some more medicine so I can sleep it off. Alcohol makes it worse. But I can’t even imagine homelessness on top of it!!!

      All I can do is send you blessings that you should have everything you need to live comfortably, with your children, a roof over your head, a good job, food to eat, clothes, and whatever else you need to be comfortable. May this happen very soon!

      In the meantime, can you get disability and subsidized housing?


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