In the last post, I mentioned the poisonous thoughts that arise when I try to ask other people for help. I’ve been thinking about this idea. Are there Deadly Elements (e.g. grenades) in my brain that can get triggered by my thoughts, feelings, or actions? If so, how can I find and destroy those pockets while simultaneously employing the baby steps concept?
Aren’t babies cute? There is nothing more adorable and exciting as watching babies take their first steps.
Twelve Step and other recovery groups often emphasize the need to take “baby steps” as we move along our journeys towards growth. But what does that even mean? When I think of baby steps, I see several crucial facets that can be applied to my personal journey.
First, no one expects a baby to run a marathon when she takes her first steps, yet I often expect too much of myself when I begin something new. Continue reading Baby Steps? Part 1
It is quite possible that I have social phobia or social anxiety disorder. On the other hand, maybe I am shy in a way that is completely normal. Either way, the difficulty I have being around people gets in the way of my enjoyment and happiness. Many days I don’t step foot outside of the house, even to get the mail. I just let my roommate get it when she comes home. I sometimes walk to the grocery store or the pharmacy where I get my meds (I don’t drive). I smile and say hello if someone speaks to me, but I am terrified that they might want to converse, so I leave as soon as possible. I don’t look over my grocery bill because if there is a wrong price I will have to take the item back. I would never ask a store worker where to find something, and I get embarrassed when they say, “Can I help you find something?”
Many people with mental health issues tend to go to extremes with their emotions because they are unable to regulate them successfully. When I go to extremes, I add another problem on top of the one I’m already dealing with. It’s not just the situation itself, it’s also the fact that my extreme emotions are running the show.
I relate this to what happens in the body when something irritates it — a splinter, a “scratch” on the inside of an artery, a bacterium such as N. meningitidis (meningococcus). The irritating factor is bad enough, but what happens next can be worse, as the body’s inflammatory responses kick in. The use of immunosuppressants such as steroid to treat bacterial meningitis is counterintuitive, but it works, because inflammation is part of the problem.
I lost my temper today. It was primarily caused by my feelings of shame. I’m not sure why, but I’ve been having more trouble with shame lately. My therapist said that maybe I am moving to a new level of recovery and the “old me” is fighting back. The me that feels like a horrible person. The me that gets uncomfortable when my life is going too smoothly. The me that looks for a way to sabotage any success.
Regardless of the cause, I lost my temper. I felt like crying, screaming, banging the wall, and cursing. I actually did a bit of it.
But then I stopped myself. I was seriously white-knuckling it. All I could think of was “breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out.” If I tried to think of anything else my feelings started to take over again.
After awhile I was able to relax my muscles instead of being so tense. I still felt bad, and I knew I was still fragile. The smallest thing could knock me over the edge again. My stomach was still churning, my jaws were still clenching, but if I could just hang on long enough, I knew that the awful feelings would end.
Sometimes I forget that feelings change. Especially I forget that I can make an effort to change them. Sometimes the only effort needed is to NOT do things that will make the situation worst — to get quiet inside, focus on my breath, and let peace into my mind.
Researchers have identified the mechanism by which valproic acid controls epileptic seizures, and by doing so, also revealed an underlying factor of seizures.
The drug protects the flow of potassium between neurons which is called the m current. During a seizure, the m current is inhibited, which allow the neurons to become too excitable. A seizure is the result.
Many people with bipolar disorder (including myself) also take valproic acid (divalproex/Depakote). The new mechanism explains how the drug helps with manic episodes, when neurons are hyperexcitable. But what about depression?
If manic episodes result from too little m current, perhaps depressive episodes occur due to too much m current. In that case, Depakote would work by limiting the m current.
This may sound contradictory, but if it is true, it is just one more example of homeostasis in the human body. Most conditions of the body — sleep, temperature, heart rate, growth of new cells, availability of nutrients such as protein — are best kept within a range of values that is generally the same for all people. One can have too much vitamin A or too little. Body temperature can be too low or too high.
Bipolar disorder results when the underlying factors (such as the m current) are not kept in balance, but swing wildly from one extreme to another. Drugs that adjust those underlying factors are potential treatments for bipolar.
WARNING: MAY CONTAIN TRIGGERS
I don’t know if I was ever completely serious about taking my own life. I know I wanted to hurt myself, though. And some of the things I did to hurt myself could have killed me, whether I intended that or not.
I felt so miserable at those times. No matter which way I looked I felt pain — unending, mind-crushing pain. There seemed to be no way out. I believed that I was a bad person, a complete failure, and that I had no business being on this planet making other people unhappy.
Bipolar disorder is a strong risk factor for suicide. The rate of suicide for the general public is about 1%. For those with bipolar, it is 15-17%. Suicide is the leading cause of premature death for bipolar patients. It is more likely if the person is undiagnosed or untreated. By “untreated” I mean “not taking medication.” The person may have the medication but refuse to take it. This is a very common problem for bipolar individuals — because they feel so good when they become hypomanic or even the early stages of mania, they don’t want to take a drug which will prevent both downswings and upswings.
I wonder how many people with bipolar take their meds as prescribed? Do you take them properly, or do you go with the temptation to skip them sometimes?
… or at least a part of me has taken up acting like a puffer fish. They are those poisonous little fish that can go from little to big in a matter of seconds, by taking in water and sometimes air. It’s amazing how different they look!
Some puffer fish have smooth skin, while others have spikes, like this one:
When a “porcupine” puffer feels threatened, she inflates to look as large as possible and to push out her spikes. There might be times when something unfamiliar approaches and she puffs just to be cautious. Or if she sees something that is the same shape as a predator, out come those spikes. It may not actually be a predator –and that is the crux of the problem.
My “predators” — I call them triggers — make me puff too. They can be anything that causes me shame. I cooked the chicken too long and it dried out. I wasted too much time doing puzzles. I binged on Goldfish crackers. I did something in the past that destroyed relationships with other people (I’m a certified bridge-burner). I forgot to do something. Anything
All of these cause me shame, but I pretend I don’t feel it until it gets brought to my attention by someone around me. Immediately I inflate and jab the person with my spikes — irritability, sarcasm, rage, and other unpleasantries.
I don’t enjoy being this way. Puffing my spikes takes a lot of emotional energy, and oh yeah, it can ruin relationships, too. My next task is to find a way to short-circuit the puffer fish part of me and use that energy to actually solve the problem.