Bipolar and Brain Injury

2014-01-18 01.51.14

1912226_10203263918259258_1639410699_o

On December 4th I fell on the ice and suffered my second concussion in 9 months. If I had known all that would lie ahead of me in recovery I would have despaired. What lie ahead for me were months of severe headache, dizziness, sleep problems (worse) than usual, ill temper, an argument with a best friend that separated us for an entire month and never should have happened, depression, agitation and sometimes despair.

There were also wonderful moments as I applied paint to canvas to discipline my brain and get it working in a coordinated, concentrated, focused effort again. The photo on the left called, “The Spirit and The Bride Say Come” is pretty, but lacks the detail of the painting to the right ~ “Purple Passion Flowers” for same best friend, was completed this weekend ~ one and one half month later in the process.

Right now I am coming off the headache prevention pills that kept me sane. I had to wait 6 weeks to get on them. It took that long to see a concussion specialist. And it took another two weeks for them to work. The two months they worked were wonderful, now I’m weaning off of them, no longer needed and going through the usual depression and agitation that occurs when I go off any medication that has affected my brain.

I didn’t write about this experience much. I wrote one blog about my painting, found on the Amused Now Entertainment Blog. It was very difficult to write when I did that. Now the words are flowing again. I thank God for my recovery. It was really quick. It may not sound like it. But for two concussions in the span of nine months, the first one with a brain bleed. I am a very fortunate gal.

How did it mix with bipolar? As you might imagine, not well. LOL. Brain injuries bring with them mood swings. Crabbiness. Temper. Anxiety. Depression. Sleeping too much. Sleeping too little. Poor sleep. Trouble sleeping. These are the symptoms I remember most. My short-term memory was affected. I was very sensitive to light and sound. My nerves were on edge. Not real compatible with bipolar disorder. I was a crabby manic, depressed person some days and just crabby the others. My husband needs a vacation!

The painting helped so much. I thank God for helping me to paint. There were some nights I felt He was holding the brush! I would smile, dance, cry, feel loved as I painted the early Bride of Christ Bouquet paintings which I call the style of the painting on the left. Now I am painting more floral, flowers in pots. Every painter goes through stages with their art. I love to paint and it brings me great joy. I pray when I paint. I pray for the person who will eventually get the painting, that they will be blessed by in and their whole household. I praise God when I paint.

As it says in the blog for Amused Now, “When I paint I feel His pleasure”:

Both times I got my concussions falling on the ice under the snow. Once on February 22, 2013 and once on December 4, 2014. So be careful out there folks. And if you do hit your head, no matter how inconsequential it may seem, please see a doctor immediately. The second time I didn’t even get a bump, and I had a brain injury. Thank you for listening. Enjoy and take care!

The Amazing Riley: Companion Dog

Riley Love

Riley Love

I have a confession to make if you haven’t already noticed it. I am not the best mental health blogger. I like to publish my paper daily “Living Above the Madness” at livingabovethemadness.org and I feel it does a lot to inform and help. But, personally, when I’m having a rough time, I don’t like to write about it every day. I really don’t like to write about it at all. I force myself to write about it. I like to write about things that uplift the soul.

When was I was down and anxious from August until November I didn’t write in this blog much. Some people thought I was in mourning for my mother. I mentioned in one post that it began that way, but when you’re bipolar what can be a trigger, albeit a serious one, like a death, can quickly spin into a serious depression. And that’s what I had. With anxiety. And I couldn’t climb out of it. I had good moments, but not good days. The best days were spent at my friend Heather’s studio painting. But, it wasn’t enough to pull me out.

What was I wondered? My medications, even adjusted weren’t. I began to research the subject. Therapy was helping, but not enough. I kept bumping into the same thing in my research: Service dogs and companion dogs for depression and anxiety. So many psychiatrists and psychologists and the American Disabilities Association were recognizing their power to help and pull people out of depression and anxiety and help keep them out!

I talked to my psychiatrist. At first I thought a service dog. Just researching the idea made me feel better. My doctor thought a companion dog would do as well. I plan to train Riley to be a recognized companion dog who can go with me more places. She is a smart dog with a good temperament. It will not be difficult.

I searched and searched for the dog for me through Petfinder.com. They all had their unique stories. I found Riley through PAWS of Western Wisconsin. Her story was heartbreaking, triumphant too ~ and in many ways made her the perfect companion dog for me. We have both suffered. We both love people and we both have big hearts. Riley was rescued by PAWS from a kill shelter in Tennessee. Because she had been marked to die, she didn’t receive her distemper/parvo vaccine. After PAWS rescued her she contracted parvo which is often fatal. The vet clinic in Baldwin, Wisconsin where her foster mom Carrie worked along with Carrie nursed her back to health. The renamed her Riley got her 6 months old, trained her and taught her to love humans not fear them.

Then I came into her life. This affectionate, loving, miracle dog is my companion dog in training. She walks great on a leash, is housebroken, can sit, stay and is a lovey! I am blessed to have her and to say I am no longer depressed is an understatement. I am laughing a deep, from the soul laugh. My anxiety is gone. I am mellow. I am thankful to God for His way of working things out. Having a dog to care for when I love to care for people and pets has helped me. The puppy love has helped me, and the devotion provided by this sweet pup all have helped.

It’s a mystery, but I’ll not question success. There’s papers written on this phenomenon. Some say, you don’t need a dog. A companion animal can be a cat or any type of animal you are drawn to. For me it’s strictly a must love dogs type of bond! :) Thanks God! Thanks for a dear husband helping me train her and thanks for a miracle named Riley!

The Science of Mental Health

A dear friend of mine on Social Media, Dean Clevett, kindly put this on my Facebook timeline this morning and I wanted to share it with all of you:

The livestream of RiAus’s Behind the Headlines special report on mental health is starting NOW! The event will bring together mental health experts, psychiatrists and neuroscientists to explain the science of mental health and how it’s portrayed in the media.

Join the live stream, it will be repeating all night for all time zones: http://bit.ly/od2nYT

As more develops from this Special Report, I will post the information here. Thank you dear friends for all you do to support the efforts of keeping us all aware of the issues facing those of us with Mental Health issues and the lives we impact!

Clark To The Rescue: Mental Health Service Dog

Clark: Mental Health Service Dog in Training

Clark: Mental Health Service Dog in Training

“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

I have several blogs and this one in particular called Living Above The Madness, as well as online paper of the same name in which I discuss the idea of LIVING SUCCESSFULLY with BIPOLAR DISORDER. Yet am I? Well yes in the main sense of the word. I am alive. Anyone surviving serious mental illness is a success. Yet I am functioning way below the level I wish to. I strive to become better than I am as the quote says, because I love life. I love people. I love God and there is much I wish to do!

So what is my life like right now. I am drowsy all day because of the meds I take. Some days I accomplish very little. Sitting in my chair, two tired even to go online. I get behind on the housework, my online accounts, living in general. My clients in my business dwindle to one and I cannot get a job outside the home due to severe anxiety.

Some days I break away and drive to paint with my best friend Heather. Those are great days. But they are too few and far between to be consider my regular functioning.

So what am I going to do about this? I have been researching and researching the best options for me. Someone who wants an active rich life and a career who has severed depression, hypo mania at times and bad anxiety.

I’m getting a Service Dog trained to help the Psychologically Disabled from Dog Wish, Inc. with all of your help I will. I have to raise money. While people with physical disabilities are still many times getting their dogs paid for that is not the case with those who are mentally disabled. We need to raise part of the money ourselves. I’m not going to throw a pity party about it. I’ve looked at every organization out there, found the best one and also the least expensive and I’m going to fund-raise.

Because this dog will change my life. I’ve read the statistics, the methods, the testimonies. It works. It’s the answer. These dogs will change the lives of many and once I have mine. Clark, named for Clark Kent/Superman…I will help others get theirs!

Dog Wish, Inc.’s Blog

Lower Than A Snake’s Belly

1238714_10201895692934480_254970239_n

Well my mother died six weeks ago Saturday and I am no longer sad. I am in a full-blown depression. My psychiatrist has recommended a couple of counselors to me. The waiting period is only a couple of weeks. My best friends have reminded me of my many blessings. My father is coming to talk to us about our finances, not a cheery topic right now. My business is not going well, because I am depressed. I am comatose. I like sleeping and eating above all else. Writing is a chore. Most things are. I push myself to do everything and push myself I must, or I would not be in the great shape I am in (wry smile). Now I am laughing at myself. This is a very good sign. Usually, I think I am enormously funny. So this is a great sign of normalcy.

The title of this piece cheered me as well. Thinking of my dad’s favorite colloquialism for depression ~ almost worked as a preventative.

Also I can still drive. I am not so out of it that I cannot drive my car safely and well. This is good because one of my favorite things to do is to drive an hour to my best friend Heather’s to paint in her studio. The one above I painted for my mother’s Celebration of Life. You can see I look pretty happy. Obviously it has not dawned on me that my mother has gone to Heaven and is not coming back. I keep thinking throughout the day, I gotta call Mom and then I realize that my phone doesn’t reach where she is. It’s the oddest feeling. For six decades she has been accessible ~~ only a cry or a holler or a phone call away. Now she is not. Yet I still talk to her. This is the goofy thing. I suppose we all do it. We don’t like to admit it. But I figure I am already talking to myself I might as well add Mom to the mix. What I would really like is to get some real people to answer some of the little sayings we had. Like I would always say, “Good bye Big Meeces” and she would always say, “Good bye little Meeces” I don’t even know who the meeces were, mice I guess, but we always said it. And it’s funny because although she was tall she was tiny and I am not. Yet I got to say, “Good bye big Meeces and we would giggle every time…and she would say “Good Bye Little Meeces.” Giggle Giggle.

IMAG0508Now I cannot for the life of me think who I can get to do that little scenario with me. No one I guess. And it’s really no fun to do in a vacuum, or to try to do alone. Ah well. I am also looking for someone to say my name Libby with 5 exclamation points afterwards….that I cannot find. Very few people even call me Libby. Lib, Bake, Libs. Lots of things. Weezer. Not Libby. And no exclamation points. Well sometimes, but not with the Libby! and Certainly not 5!!!!!

I must say I’m going to have to continue writing about my mom, because this has cheered me enormously. I hope I haven’t depressed you all too much. What a wonderful Mom I had. Still do. In my memories. In my mind. In Heaven where she now resides. If you happen to go there in the next 10 years or so, beat me to it by any chance, please look her up: Barbara Baker…and please tell her Libby!!!!! misses her terribly. Thanks!

The Pest of Bipolar Disorder: Disabling Anxiety

969864_10201458695129808_627872291_n

“A true friend knows your weaknesses but shows you your strengths; feels your fears but fortifies your faith; sees your anxieties but frees your spirit; recognizes your disabilities but emphasizes your possibilities.” ― William Arthur Ward

Don’t we all need friends like that some days! Friends like my dear Heather Siebens. She was over the other evening and we were discussing one of my least favorite topics ANXIETY. I have bipolar it’s true. And it is finally coming under control again after the fall I took this winter, suffered a brain bleed and a resulting time of headaches and dizziness that eventually stressed me enough to throw me into hypomania, depression, hypomania and now just as things are settling what I like to call the PEST of bipolar disorder: Anxiety. It’s like the mosquito of the disease. Sometimes just a few to cause an annoyance — sometimes a swarm to disable you and knock you down. Since I have been found occasionally on the floor unable to get up and drive to an appointment, I may have hit a swarm!

What bugs me beyond the uncomfortable nature of the anxiety itself and the extra meds which tire me is that it affects my ability to accomplish meaningful work. That is what I crave the most in life. Meaningingful work. I was loving my job so much. Now I’m having to put myself on hold again. Slow down a bit. Rest and recuperate. Get stronger. Again.

I get so incredibly frustrated. It’s hard on the finances two of course. Always is. That is the ticklesh part. But nothing is more important than your health people will say. And of course they are right. But getting well is hard when you worry about medical bills and other things.

So you must stop in really and focus on getting well. One must get a ride to the doctor and get ones pills tweeked again. Hold out hope for the anxiety to dwindle. I know I probably just over did in my excitement for the new project. It was so much fun!

It is sad to say and harder to remember, especially with my disposition, but someone with bipolar disorder must avoid having too much fun and excitement and I did celebrate my birthday congruently for nearly three weeks!

Moderation is not my strong suit. I really must learn some to avoid these other negative and inconvenient emotions. They are also unpleasant and take their toll on my body and my mind!

The Angst of Writing

This post is republished from the Amused Now Blog:

posted on June 13, 2013 in eBooks

20130611_222456

The writing process is the most personal thing I go through in my life. I bare my soul much more than I want to. Then I ask myself, who wants to read something if it is not from the heart?

The most personal piece of writing I ever tackled was a screenplay I wrote in college about my first experience with bipolar disorder. The wound was so raw, I had to fictionalize it. I told the true story, but not in the first person. It was too painful to admit that it had happened to me, because there was a great deal of misunderstanding about mental illness at the time.

Because I didn’t admit the screenplay was a true story about my life, it seemed so bizarre to others. People didn’t believe it. They found the story implausible. “That could never happen!” was the criticism I received from my classmates.

I rewrote the story on a blog, and it has been accepted by one publisher. All I have left is some final editing and to make an initial investment in marketing, and I will have completed the book. Yet, I hesitate. What holds me back? I am open online about my disorder. I publish a daily paper on mental health and mental illness. What is keeping me from moving forward? ~ The angst of writing. I am not ready to relive those early experiences.

That is the dilemma of being a writer. I know that I cannot back away from the pain in my story, and you cannot let yourself or your characters off the hook either. Face the emotional pain and triumph. You must face the pain and write it down. Write down your feelings. Be honest and true to your story. Anything else cheats your readers of the depth of your story and your experience as you lived it.

I’ll never forget the advice my screenwriting teacher gave me many years ago, “Do not back away from the drama.” Why? If you do, your story loses all its power. You won’t connect as genuinely with your readers, because you cheated them of the depth of anguish, pain, or fear that the protagonist is going through. In a good story, that character suffers through, finds courage and plunges ahead.

Just as I must do to finish story about a young woman who loses everything: her husband, her career, her mind, her only child and must work hard on her health to come back to life. The story has a triumphant ending and will be available in book form as “A Mother’s Ring.” I appreciate readers sending positive thoughts my way as I attempt to finish the tale.

Don’t be afraid to suffer for your craft. The rewards are great. You do it for the audience and to share your story which may change the day, or even the life of someone who reads it.

Libby Baker Sweiger
@libbytalks
LBS Consult