I have just discovered

I have just discovered that my blood pressure goes through the roof when I drink caffeine. For 17 years I have limited my coffee intake largely to the morning to wake up from sleepy-time meds. Sometimes I have had an occasional afternoon coffee. But my blood pressure has been giving me problems so I have been taking my levels at home several times a day.

What I am finding is that my blood pressure spikes in the morning after my daily caffeine ritual. I have cut my caffeine in half over the years making coffee with half caf and half decaf. But to be honest it sort of defies the purpose when I have four cups of this mixture a day anyway.

I have posted a message on the patient portal at my primary care physician’s office asking whether I need to curtail caffeine. I am almost sure her answer will be to cut out caffeine completely. I can do this, but it will be a huuuuge adjustment. I use the caffeine each morning to kickstart myself after a long medication induced sleep on clozapine/clauzerile.

I am not looking forward to this change in habits/behavior. But perhaps it will help with the bipolar highs and lows as well.

Anybody else have caffeine challenges? Anybody else asked to go off coffee to help with health conditions? If so, do you have any secrets for how you accomplished it?

Does anyone besides me have symptom exaggeration on vacation?

Vacation is supposed to be the time to relax and rejuvenate and get ready for what comes next. For me though, vacation can be a time of challenge.

Often during vacation we are with 3 to 4 generations of family under one roof. While there is generally no direct mal-behavior toward me from family, I can get overwhelmed with this many people sleeping and eating and playing under one roof. I am often unable to keep my same routine or best perhaps I can modify it – I am definitely a creature of habit.

During this summer’s vacation with 4 generations of family I had a bit of a meltdown. I was being extra-sensitive to the comments of my seventeen-year-old daughter when I should have known better. My Mom chatted with me about it for a while. My sister chatted with me about it for a while. My sister even let me know that when her boys were 17, she went through her husband to communicate to them. She could not get answers to direct questions or to requested behavior change. That made me feel better that my daughter’s shortness of temper with me was more a product of her age rather than that I am not measuring up due to the bipolar.

All in all we had very nice vacation times this summer with my husband’s family in June and with my family in July. I am working on letting teen-age behavior just roll off my back. Of note is that now we are back home, my daughter’s behavior is nicer and more respectful than any time since the beginning of the pandemic. I think we all forget how the pandemic has made us live on top of each other and each other’s emotions while in quarantine.

Anybody else have a vacation hiccup this summer to share? Anyone have a vacation where you might have experienced an unexpected meltdown? Were you able to work through the bulk of the meltdown by talking to others and getting more perspective? Is there anything you could name to prevent a similar hiccup in the future?

Summer has gone by quickly

This year in particular summer has gone by quickly. My daughter started her Senior year in high school in-person (full days) yesterday after a summer jam-packed with schoolwork and college essay prep. In some respects it doesn’t seem like we got much of a summer in at all with the looming work of summer assignments and prep for college work. We also spent two weeks looking at 9 potential colleges.

In addition to be noted is that kids are back in the classroom full capacity not just at 50% so there’s bound to be more risk circulating about the school. We will be watching trends closely.

All in all though, I believe we’re off to a good start at Senior Year. My goal is to be more hands off on the whole college thing and work to let my daughter manage most of it. I am sure I may not meet this goal 100% of the time. But it is true next year I will not be able to intervene in the day-to-day business of a college Freshman! Kudos to me if I can learn this early this year!

Anybody else transitioning kids back to in person learning? Or getting ready to be an empty nester?

Are we having fun yet?

I have spent a good bit more than half of my life dealing with a bipolar disorder diagnosis. Thanks to modern science I have been on a drug called clozapine since 2008 which treats treatment-resistant bipolar illness. Since taking the medicine I have been hospitalization free for almost 13 years.

While that is an accomplishment for me, I would like to raise a subject that often alludes me – having fun. It feels like most of my energy is wrapped up in getting things done, handling things in my life and my family’s life and staying symptom-free or almost.

What is completely missing from my life however is the element of having fun. What is fun anyway? Is it laughing aloud with family or friends? Is it listening to music I knew before I was diagnosed at age 22 that feels like letting go? Is it cooking a meal with my daughter — not so much full of laughs but full of good times?

In general, I feel like my illness has made me a doer. As long as I am doing this or that and fulfilling obligations of wife and mother and daughter I give myself a grade of doing OK. But still, it feels like something is missing – that illusive idea of having fun.

Does anybody have a bucket list for laughter that they’d like to share? I will be working on a new list soon – a list that includes things that don’t just need to get done but also includes whether or not I am enjoying myself. I know it’s hard to fathom having fun when you are depressed or even when you are manic since that’s not the fun I am talking about. I am talking about fun that is centered in a centered self.

Does anybody want to help get the having fun list together? I think we all could benefit from reading it and/or trying to help create it?

Are We Getting It Right?

Basically in the States we are getting the message that if you are fully vaccinated you are protected against covid-19 and the various variants. The variants seem to be very contagious with worse impacts than the original. Obviously moreso for the unvaccinated. Are we getting it right that being fully vaccinated protects folks against the delta variants and others?

I hate to be a doomsdayer but it feels like we need more data and more reassurance about how protected we (the vaccinated) are from the variants. This comes at a time when most people are sick of hearing about vaccine issues and vaccine effectiveness and vaccine availability. They just want it to be over. “I got my shot(s) — I am fine.”

How will/do the experts at the CDC inform us as to whether to feel secure in the vaccine’s efficacy with the variants? How and when do they get that data? How and when do we know about the booster availability? Not to mention – what are the larger ethical concerns about vaccinating the world population at large?

I Wonder

This afternoon I have had a strange thought. What if I were to visualize all the times I have been anxious about something (like in a bar graph) and compare that with the number of occasions that something that I was anxious about really occurred.

I have not done this exercise before, but I would guess every day I have an anxiety bar graph of at least a 5 or 6 or 7 or an 8 on a scale of one to ten (ten being the worst). I would also bet that there is a one in fifty chance that something I was/am concerned about will present itself as a reality. And that reality if it presents would probably be a one or a two on that same scale from one to ten.

By choosing to create a numeric or visual graph of my anxiety, I am not trying to minimize the anxiety I experience at all, because it can be quite debilitating. What I am trying to do is give myself a visual of how severe the anxiety is as contrasted with whether that anxiety I experience is ever tied with an actual anxiety-premeditated outcome.

I guess you could say I am trying to rationalize my anxiety and put it into perspective in terms of how often the incident I am worried about actually occurs. I hope the result will be that I am able to talk down myself from a high anxiety event by recalling how many times my anxiety is NOT tied with an actual stress induced event. Ie. I would like to keep myself honest as to what percent of the time that I am worried actually results in a prior perceived stress event.

Just out of curiosity, what techniques do you use to talk yourself out of anxiety? Is that working for you? What else is important to consider in trying to mitigate your anxious feelings?

Experiencing Inappropriate Sexual Behavior

Please be aware this post could trigger child abuse / sexual abuse issues or memories. Let this be a trigger warning, please, before reading further.

I have one memory from childhood that qualifies as sexual misconduct. I am unable to discern if I was “asked” to witness this behavior several times when I was 6 or whether I was “asked” to engage in this behavior when I was 6 or both.

In any case, the behavior in question was/is pole dancing – a visual together with an audio track. I do not recall if I was exposed to such behavior on the television or a home movie screen or when visiting a neighbor. I do not recall whether I witnessed the behavior or was asked to provide the behavior. All I have as memories are a dark room with the figure of a woman or a girl pole dancing and making lewd sounds.

I honestly don’t know where to go from here. I don’t know if I have just “confronted” the abusive behavior and am now freed from its hold on me. I don’t know if I need to further explore the behavior in order to “make sense” of it. I don’t know if there is a slew of stigma now to overcome.

I have googled pole dancing and apparently now for some people it is a form of exercise. This sounds completely insane to me as my experience with pole dancing was extremely harmful and confusing and damaging. I am sorry to share details if these details disturb you. I am just trying to process something that happened over fifty years ago, to make whatever sense of it I can and move on.

I have shared this memory with my therapist several months back and her response was to acknowledge and move on but not to dwell.

Thank you for listening to my story. I hope it does not trigger your issues in any way.

Safety, Society, Stigma, Stability: Understanding the Child Within (repost)

Please be aware there is a reference to potential child abuse below.

As discussed in a prior post, my inner child is like two very different people simultaneously.  There is that child who feels hugely responsible for every negative event that occurs going back to my parents’ divorce.  This child is about ten years of age.  Then there is that child of say maybe six who is seemingly ahead of the curve of regular events in time who may see things more in terms of circular time.   I continue to seek to find this six-year-old child within and nurture her.  My goal in seeking to find this child within is that by understanding her and nurturing her and her relationship to the ten-year-old worrier, I will have much less anxiety when there are situations outside of my control.

Over the years, I have been in the process of discussing this six-year-old child within with my therapist.  I am not sure technically what it might mean if I have a six-year-old and a ten-year-old child within.

I have spent years focusing on the ten-year-old child within who is often consumed with worries for the future.  I have focused on the typical feelings that the child within may feel responsible for negative events like my parents’ divorce and that this may translate some 20 years of illness forward to feelings of responsibility for terrorist threats (real or imagined).

Only since my daughter turned ten have I begun to focus on that six-year-old child.  Until now, the six-year-old child within has remained relatively undisclosed.  I am currently mid-process in finding out about her and what she is concerned about.  So far, what I feel is true is that the six-year-old child within is not plagued by high anxiety and is very carefree.  She believes in “magical outcomes” much like any child of six years.  She loves to think about match-making for people who are alone or appear to be alone.  She loves to think about patterns and how numbers and colors organize themselves in and around patterns.  She is generally a happy child and does not feel abandoned by divorce since the divorce “has not yet occurred.” 

How this six-year-old child relates to the ten-year-old child within will be a designated focus for me in my on-going spiritual journey.  My goal will be to honor that younger child within so as to perhaps relinquish the feelings of blame and responsibility for all things negative held tight by the older child.  I am not yet sure if this approach is supported by current therapy directions but I will plan to review in the months ahead.  Perhaps the reconciliation of the six-year-old and the ten-year-old will be the focus of a next text I will write.

Ironically, the ten-year-old child within likely has the ability to “tell time” in the linear and logical sense of the phrase.  The six-year-old child appears not to be able to “tell time” but experiences time more in terms of circular time or dream time and appears to be largely unconstrained by the realities of linear time and linear events.   

More recently (in the past two years) I have come to believe that there is a reason for the child within at age 6 and at age 10.  I am convinced some fifty years after the fact that I was sexually or otherwise abused as a child of about 6 years old.  I believe I was targeted by one or another neighbors.  My memories of this experience are largely blank, yet I feel that I endured something terrible at that age.  I will continue to explore feelings of abuse as time progresses.  This may help to explain the split between the child of 6 and the child of 10.  The six-year-old exists prior to the time of abuse.  The ten-year-old somehow feels responsible for that abuse as well as other painful events including happenings such as my parents’ divorce. 

We are COVID 19 negative!

My daughter and I were having strong symptoms of the common cold beginning last weekend. I was worried that it might be COVID. We got the non-rapid release COVID test done since it was supposed to be more accurate. We both have now tested as negative for COVID-19. Praise God! It was a scary couple of days! Apparently, colds and other similar illnesses are on the rise since most people have been mostly indoors for the last year and a half and are just now beginning to expose themselves to germs that may create the common cold or other similar symptoms.

Please, stay well!

Just how delicate things are

I accidentally took my morning meds two or three hours later than usual yesterday. This sent me into an anxiety tailspin. I had no idea my reaction to my meds would be so time sensitive — that a two or three hour delay would have dire consequences. Well it did. I went into a full blown panic attack and in the process extended my anxiety to my lovely 17 year old daughter. This is so totally not fair to her. BIG lesson learned for me is that schedule DOES MATTER when taking psych meds. Also BIG lesson learned is that I need to forgive myself and ask for apologies from my daughter for extending anxiety toward her instead of the love and support she deserves.

Have you ever forgotten to take meds on time and suffered the consequences? Did you have to forgive your self in the process? And ask others to forgive you too?