My Story – a little bit Bipolar

MY STORY

Health care professional can suffer from mental illnesses too, and I stand proud to announce that I am one of them.

Don’t ever be afraid to share your story!

Where do I even begin?

In my teens, I was treated as an outcast; I was bullied and made to feel small and unimportant. The kids judged me before they even took the time to get to know me.  They said and did hurtful things that still sting to this day. Shouting crude comments, teasing, taunting, harassing, pointing, whispering, eye-rolling, laughing, criticizing, or they left me in silence with no one to turn to, no one to talk to. I was easily rejected because people didn’t want to associate with me. When I did make friends, they weren’t the type of friends that you wanted. They were the type to subject you to the world of drugs and alcohol.

Life became risky, and I became rebellious. I gave little avail to how I was hindering my life and future.
I didn’t care because for once, I was finally feeling something besides hopelessness, fear, and sadness.

FORTUNETALY, a light bulb went off in my brain towards the ending of high school and I made it a goal to at least obtain my High School Diploma.

It was those younger days, when I felt what actual depression felt like. It was sometimes an internal battle of wanting to stay alive and wanting to end all the suffering.

Once high school was over, I entered into a state of equilibrium and it has only been disrupted if triggered by specific incidents, such as a breakup, death, failed friendship, major life change, etc. This state of equilibrium only lasted for a few years, and then as I entered my young adult life, I suffered from constant low-grade depression, with the occasional relapse into Major Depression.

In nursing school, I suffered from debilitating panic attacks. There was nothing worse than feeling like the world was closing in on you; my hands would begin to tremble; my heart would begin to race. My heart would beat so strongly that I was certain that it was going to explode or just stop from extreme exhaustion. My breathing would quicken and my hands would begin to tingle. I would feel like I was breathing but yet no air was getting into my lungs. the lump in my throat made it difficult to swallow. I was more afraid of having another panic attack then of death itself.

Once nursing school finished, so did the panic attacks…. Go figure! Actually, I think they ended up transitioning into generalized anxiety and eventually I was diagnosed with this disorder. At the height of my anxiety driven moments, I remember feeling constantly on-edge, irritable, and constantly worrying about every thought that came into my head. I would make big deals out of minuet things, things the average person would shrug their shoulders too and forget about in the next second.  Everything seemed like a BIG DEAL. And god forbid something ever had to change in my daily routine. It felt like it was the end of the world in most cases. I was fixated on an unfixable schedule. My anxiety ended up getting so bad that it prevented me from attending social gatherings, or even hanging out with friends for that matter. The very thought of having to go to a social event made me want to vomit.

My moods kept cycling between anxiety and depression, but eventually I had enough and decided to reach out for help. I had hit my absolute lowest point in depression and knew I needed help. Lying on the couch, not eating or showering for weeks was a sure sign I was giving up. I needed help!

I pulled myself into my doctor’s office, she knew right away what the problem was when I opened my mouth to speak and all that would come out was a flood of tears.

I was immediately started on an antidepressant, referred to psychiatry, and put on a medical leave of absence for work (which lasted a month and a half).

Something very interesting happened when I was put on the antidepressant, I became activated.

My mood drastically improved. I had an abundance of energy, but my anxiety had returned with vengeance. This was the start of my journey with Bipolar Type 2.

It all started to finally make sense.

My overdriven capacity for change, flood of ideas and tasks, over indulged and hyper focus on new projects, irritability, impulsivity, and the late nights and early mornings. I would get lost in my own thinking. When I had an idea, it had to be done NOW. The lack of impulse control led to purchasing cosmetic procedures and spa treatments, a whole whack of pink stuff, my dog, my vehicle, way too many dresses and books, and a bedroom makeover. I am sure there are more examples, but I think you get the point.

I was started on anti-psychotics, which only made me feel like a zombie.

I do admit, the medications did help to stabilize my mood. I stayed in a neutral state, but I was determined to do it on my own, without chemical medications.

Now please note, I am not discouraging medications by any means. There are many people that require to be on medication for a lifetime and that is perfectly okay. You have to do what is right for YOUR BODY and BRAIN. Before deciding to go off your medication, please consult your doctor first. And NEVER go off of them without tapering the dosage down. Stopping psych-medications abruptly can (and almost always does) result in NASTY side effect, commonly known as withdrawal effects. [Trust me, I learnt the hard way, don’t make the same mistake I did]

My decision to stop taking chemical medication led me to embark on a holistic journey to overcome my own mental health challenges a natural way.

I WANT TO SHARE WITH YOU SOME TIPS I HAVE LEARNED ALONG THE WAY THAT I HAVE USED TO MANAGE MY ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION.

  • Educate yourself (about your disorder)
  • Eat a healthy, Well Balanced Diet
  • Get active, get fit
  • Get enough sleep
  • Natural Remedies
  • Practice Mindfulness
  • Pick up a hobby
  • Lean on your Support Network
  • Establish a Daily routine
  • Indulge in Self-Help Books
  • Clear your mind with Journaling
  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy, self-guided
  • Consider a Coach or Counselor
  • When in a crisis, seek professional help (ie. doctor or psychiatrist).
  • And so much more.

Having gone through what I went through with my mental health and having to navigate the health care system by myself, was exhausting, if not frustrating, to say the least. It was a lot of trial and error to figure out what worked and what didn’t. I am not going to say it will be easy for you either, but with the help of a coach (like myself), they can direct you and go through the process with you.

You are not alone.

I can now say, without a doubt, that I am feeling my absolute best. I feel healthy, both mind and body. I feel mentally strong, and empowered by my own self-determination.  I feel calm, content, and happy. I feel like I can accomplish any obstacle that comes my way. I have learned to become more aware of myself so I can recognize when “warning” signs or triggers are present. I am able to prevent a relapse from taking hold. I have discovered more about myself and what my body and mind need to stay in a state of equilibrium. I have learned to love myself whole heartedly.

And I learned all this through self-discovery.

I smile again.

And so can you!

~ Rachel Page

Staying Organized Through the Chaos

It is hard to believe that it has almost been 2 month since the last time I sat down and took the time to blog something.

I am sorry.

As a Wellness Coach and Mental Health advocate, it is my job to be consistent.

And I am sorry I have failed to deliver consistent content but I am not sorry for the fact that these last two months were focused on improving myself.

With that said, It is all about finding a balance…. something I suck at.

It is difficult to find a harmonious balance when you are trying to juggle work, personal obligations, relationships, school, starting your own business and your own mental health wellness.

Lately I have been in a state of equilibrium. Mainly, just going with the flow of life.

I am happy, content, and in-love….. with myself.

What have I been doing to manage my life? (besides blogging)

Goals list

A list of overall goals has helped keep my life organized. My current goals focus on:
work, school, starting a business, my mental wellness and relationships.

Daily task list

A list of daily tasks and obligations keeps me focused. A typical day may look like:
Gym, Study, Rest, Social Media, Blog, Rest, Self-discovery, Rest. (Rest periods are typically 15 to 30 mins in length, and sometimes I have to throw in annoying personal obligations (obviously) into the mix, like laundry and groceries). I use Google Keeps for creating Goal and task lists.

Prioritize the day

What is the most important thing(s) that needs to be done now?
What can wait? What can be delegated?
Sometimes things come up that may need to be prioritized into your day, like a family member or animal falling ill, or a friend needing someone to talk to. The most valuable piece of advice that I can give you is LEARN TO BECOME FLEXIBLE WITH CHANGE.

Establish a routine and schedule

Having a routine is an essential part of my mental physique.  It keeps me calm, enhances my focus, decreases my anxiety, and keeps me consistent. A routine is a sequence of actions that flow regularly. My daily routine typically looks like: Wake up by 8am, Post to social media, eat breakfast by 8:30-9am, hit the gym by 10am, shower, lunch by 1pm, study or read (to enhance my knowledge) for 2 to 4 hours (sometimes longer). dinner by 6pm, evening self-care (personal leisure reading, painting, journaling, hang out with friends), bed by 10pm (always). 

Self-Care

Self Care seems to be a growing trend that coaches are really emphasizing the importance of these days, why? Because it keeps you mentally fit. Self care doesn’t always need to mean extravagant things like pampering yourself with $200 spa days. It simply means to take time out of your day to focus on your personal needs, which can mean anything from personal hygiene, eating a nutritious meal, exercising, engaging in self’discovery journaling, to spending time with loved ones.

 

Most importantly, Keep life simple.

Stop over complicating it.

How do you organize your life? How do you keep consistent? Comment below

Rachel Page

 

Discontinue Syndrome

Aka withdrawal.

I have to admit, I made an unwise decision. Two actually.

I decided to discontinue my psych-medications without first consulting my doctor.

The next unwise decision I did was stopping abruptly without following a tapering schedule.

My lack of impulse control made me do it.

If only I could actually blame it on something or someone else. The truth is, I was desperate. I had done my research about the long term negative effects of antidepressants and antipsychotics, and decided it was time to come off of them. But I felt like I had to do it NOW! In reality, there was no rush. But I justified it with, just wanting it to be “over and done with”.

I do not regret my decision of discontinuing those medications but I do regret the “cold turkey” approach I took to stopping them.

Before I get into how I currently feel, first I want to talk about why I decided to do it.

The why’s

[Why I decide to stop my medication.]

  • Obesity

Antidepressants cause weight gain, which can lead to obesity and its accompanying health problems (such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, some cancers and stroke). I was on antidepressants for 10 months and gained 15 pounds. Despite my healthy diet and moderate activity, I was unsuccessful at losing weight. I can say, however, with a strict reduced calorie intake of 1200 to 1300, I have been able to maintain my weight and stop myself from further weight gain. Generally people lose weight with such a deficit, unfortunately not me.

  • Sexual dysfunction

In other words, I was hardly ever, never, in the mood. This made me like I was “broken”. Like I couldn’t fulfil the needs and desires of my significant other. Too much info? Sorry. But for me, it was a real concern, and I know there are many people that can relate. Beside weight gain, this is the second most reason decide to stop their psych-meds.

  • Diabetes type 2

There is a link between antidepressant use and problems with blood-sugar regulation. Antidepressants may worsen blood-sugar control because they can cause significant weight gain. For me, this was a significant reason why I wanted to stop. I do not want diabetes, or any chance of getting it.

  • Irregular heart rhythms

Taking high doses of antidepressants over an extended period of time can lead to heart rhythm abnormalities. I only have one heart and I’d like to keep it healthy and happy until the day I die as an old lady. I want to be able to walk miles, even in my older age, and I don’t want a broken heart to impede my chances of that.

  • Harm to the unborn child

I am of childbearing years, and still without a child. I suspect sometime in my distance yet near future (within the next 5 years), I will want to bring a child of my own into this world. But not while taking medications that can harm my, one-day, fetus or newborn. Studies have found a higher than average risk for low birth weight and premature delivery when antidepressants are taken during pregnancy, especially in the last three months. At birth, infants may suffer withdrawal symptoms, including jitters, crying, irritability, shivering, and, rarely, seizures.

The most important factor(s) to my final decision were:

  1. I knew I was ready
  2. I knew my mind could handle it without the extra help
  3. I knew I could do it on my own, with the addition to natural remedies

I went on to the medications for anxiety and depression. I knew I was only going to be on them for a short duration because I have always had the mindset that I can do anything on my own, as long as I set my mind to it. While I was on the medication, I made sure I was implementing techniques that could help me function on my own once off of them. I continue those lifestyle changes, skills and techniques now, such as eating healthy, exercising, meditation, mindfulness, music therapy, art, and herbal remedies. I will talk about the herbal remedies in a bit.

All of these reasons ultimately lead to my final decision of stopping my medications. For me, the risks outweighed the benefit at this point in my life.

The withdrawal symptoms I have experienced, so far:

  1. Dizziness
  2. Imbalanced
  3. Nausea
  4. Brain Flickers
  5. Anxiety (mild)
  6. Irritability
  7. Insomnia
  8. Dream-like state
  9. Hyperawareness to sounds

I stopped 4 days ago, and overall I am feeling okay. I can manage and function normally, and I know these feelings and sensations will not kill me. If anything, they are only uncomfortable and will only last for a short while. I read that only roughly 20% of people experience withdrawal symptoms, how did I become so lucky to end up in that 20%? I also read, that symptoms usually peak within a week then decrease pretty quickly, although there are some unlucky people that experience the symptoms for weeks to months.

A more comprehensive list of withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Return of depression or anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Vertigo
  • Lightheadedness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle pain
  • Chills
  • Shock-like sensations
  • Paresthesia (burning, prickly, or skin crawling sensations)
  • Visual disturbances
  • Impaired concentration
  • Vivid dreams
  • Depersonalization (a detached, out-of-body experience)
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Psychosis
  • Catatonia (a state of unresponsiveness)

Sounds pretty scary right? The longer you are on a medication, the worse the withdrawals. This is why it is so important to talk to your doctor before deciding to stop your medication.

I decided to take natural remedies to help my brain heal and function as best it can while it is rewiring itself.

  • Multivitamin
  • GABA
  • L-theanine
  • Omega 3 Fish Oil
  • Vitamin B Complex
  • Melatonin with Magnesium

These medications help with chemical and nutritional imbalances, improve mood, decrease anxiety, promote a calm and relaxed state, help with sleep or boost energy and have a ton of other benefits.

Moral of the story, have patience with yourself, things aren’t usually as urgent as they seem. If you want to get off your meds, talk to your doctor before you do it, they can come up with a plan (a tapering schedule) that offers minimal withdrawal effects. But before you do, have your own game plan… Make sure you’ve implemented measures to help you cope effectively when moments of depression or anxiety arise.

This article was dedicated to ME coming off medication, and I’m not saying that chemical synthetic medications are not okay. They just are not okay for ME. There are many people that require to be on them for life, and if that is what you need then that is what you have to do. You do what is right for you, and whatever allows you to live a high functioning and happy life.

Follow my Social Media sites for more material related to mental health:

Blog: divineminds.ca
FB Page: /divineminds1
IG: mind_over_mood
Pinterest: /divineminds1

When thoughts turn into actions

Dreams turn into reality…

My thoughts have turned into actions. I’ve taken the next step into my career journey and enrolled in becoming a Certified Wellness Coach.

The Plan: is to integrate my nursing with coaching, and start up my own business to offer services for mental wellness (with a focus on depression and anxiety). I will work with my clients to empower them to discover ways to effectively cope using positive (and proper) adaptive techniques.

I will continue to act as an advocate and help facilitate the allocation of supportive resources, making access to support easier and readily available to everyone. One of my goals is to create an App that allows peer to peer support in the form of one on one or group support.

I will also provide services on preventative health (focusing on living a healthier lifestyle to prevent chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, or diabetes) which will take a holistic approach and look at multiple areas of a person’s life.

If you don’t know already, I am very passionate about mental health. After suffering a relapse with Major Depression that required me to take a month and a half off of work, I found out first hand just our shitty access to support services are. It was so frustrating to know that I needed help but that help either came at a ridiculous cost or I had to wait months to be seen by what seemed like the only psychiatrist in all of Ontario, or group supports that I’ve been waiting on now for 6 months… although, I do not require the group support anymore. (I am very grateful of my family doctor throughout this entire process as she was always there when I needed her, even with minimal notice).

I ended up starting my own blog and website to share my story, and provide education and tips about depression and anxiety. I wanted people to know that they are not alone. But more importantly, I wanted to locate resources for people, so I went on a scavenger hunt to find resources that were available to people all over the world. My list continues to grow.

I have just over 1k of followers on my blog, 7.5k follows on instagram(which grows about 100 new followers a day now), 10k on Facebook, and 50k views per month on Pinterest.

It is increbible to know how many people I have been able to reach and potentially help in short period of time (only about 5 months).

I can’t thank each and everyone of you for making this possible. Together we are helping each other.

It has been such an incredible journey so far. ♡

Medication Phobia

I used to have a medication phobia.

I thought medications were for ‘crazy’ people, and well, I was not ‘that’ crazy.

Sure I’ve had my ups and downs and inbetweens. Actually there were no inbetweens. Either I was more up or more down. I found it very difficult to be in a happy medium. If I wasnt feeling low, I was feeling irritable. Low to me was being disengaged and withdrawn; I thought my low mood was purely boredom. Not wanting to leave the house, or talk to my friends and family, or deciding to put off going to the gym until tomorrow. It was always going to be tomorrow. I became so used to doing nothing, that I convinced myself that I was going to be nothing. The only thing I was going to be was a Nurse. Nothing more, nothing less. At work, I was my happiness. Outside of work, I was a girl that barely wanted to leave the house. I was never quite satisfied. I’d get these brilliant ideas to try something new, only to quit before it ever really began. I started to feel like a failure. I went through 4 years of nursing school, and yet I couldn’t seem to accomplish anything now, no matter how small. Very frustrating to say the least.

I had been well educated with depression, but for some reason, when it came to myself, I was in complete denial.

Anyways… I got a bit side tracked.

Medication Phobia, right!

I finally went to my doctor for something unrelated to depression (or so I thought). I was experiencing very high levels of anxiety, and I was getting to the point where I couldn’t cope well. I was coping, but not to the best of my abilities. I started to show avoidant behaviours.

While I was at the doctors, she made me fill out these questionaires, one of which I score d high on depression. I walked out of her office with not only one diagnosis BUT TWO. Major Depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Before I walked out though, my doctor kindly provided me with all my options to managing my conditions, and we both agreed that the pharmacological route would be the best option for now.

Boy was I scared.

I had grown up believing that medications were ‘taboo’, and that they were the reason that my Nana turned nutso. Sorry Nana.(God bless her soul – Love you Nana). But it is the truth. It was something that became rooted in my family beliefs. I also thought I was going to become addicted or be on them for life. I probably will be on them for life, and I am okay with that. The fact is, we (and I do mean my specific people in my family), were uneducated, and simply learning about it helped erased that stigma.

Going on medication was the best thing for me. I’m not afraid to admit it. Yes I am a Registered Nurse and take psych meds. NO I’m not crazy. And yes I can save your life. My conditions never affected my ability to practice safety and competently as a nurse. It affected my feelings and emotions but not the knowledge and skills I gained over the years. I am a great damn nurse. I’m really not sure why I felt the need to justify any of that.

Side tracked again.

What have medications done for me?

  • They brought me back to the light
  • The fog has been lifted
  • I can concentrate and focus
  • I can go out with my friends again
  • I can say hello to a stranger
  • I can go to events and parties
  • I can get out of my own head
  • My thoughts don’t race
  • I feel calm and content
  • I have more motivation
  • I am back at the gym
  • I’m wanting to be outside in the warmth
  • I am wanting to discover more hobbies
  • I am blogging again
  • I know I am enough
  • I am doing me, for me
  • Laughing feels great

And the list goes on.

The bottom line is I truly feel like myself again.

And that is what matters the most.

You only have one life to live.

This is it.

Do what you need to do to feel your best.

Follow my Social Media sites for more material related to mental health:

Blog: divineminds.ca
FB Page: /divineminds1
IG: mind_over_mood
Pinterest: /divineminds1

Emergency Night

Another night in Emergency.

Come to think about it, I dont think I have ever blogged about my experiences in the ER.

I feel my absolute best when I am at work. I feel energized, motivated and accomplished.

The reward of being a nurse is beyond anything I have ever experienced. It is an incredible feeling knowing that you are touching the lives of another human being, with as much as a genuine smile.

I have worked in Emergency for just over a year now, and it is like my second home. I feel like this is where I am suppose to be. My calling.

I will share some of my personal experiences (eventually) but the identify of my patients or the people involved will be kept confidential.

This is just my introduction to my life in the ER.

It is as ‘crazy’ as people claim it to be.

A moment of silence

I apologize for my absence. I needed some time to recollect my thoughts. Although I still don’t have a complete hold on them, I will try my best. [LOL]

Overall, things have been wonderful. I can honestly say, I am almost back to my “complete self”. My life will feel satisfied when I start hitting the gym again, and increase my social interactions.

I have been having difficulty focusing my mind to produce anything concrete. I have so many ideas, goals, tasks, commitments, and responsibilities flooding my mind every minute, it makes it difficult sit down long enough to even type a sentence, before I have the urge to get up and do something else. I am learning to get a grip on this ADD.

Throughout the years, I have learned the skills necessary to overcome the constraints of my illness (ADD). What works is goal setting, prioritization, routine, scheduling, and simplicity. Beyond those basic principles, I think it’s important to also take care of yourself and know when it’s time to take a break and relax. Gift yourself some tender loving care. It speaks volumes when you learn to love yourself.

Is there anybody that wants me to post about something in particular?

Perhaps drop a comment about a particular situation you’re having difficulties with and maybe we can all help each other?

Let’s help each other.