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

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.

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