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“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”

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Greetings and salutations.  This is my first post for Blog for Mental Health 2014.  Welcome to my little world.

My name is Erin, I’m 37 years old.  I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder II when I was 29 and then with Borderline Personality Disorder when I was 31.  I’ve attempted suicide 4 times, 2 of which landed me in the ICU.  The last time my doc wasn’t sure if I’d caused myself permanent brain damage.  That was in 2010.  I have since completed my first Master’s degree, gotten married for the 3rd time, advanced in my job as an instructional designer at a highly respected university, and started a second Master’s degree.

I am way more that my diagnoses.

I’ve taken a wide array of meds to control my symptoms – so many that I’ve forgotten most of them.  My long term memory is kind of shot and my short term memory is temperamental at best.  If I need to really remember something I write it down.  I have a 4ft x 6ft white board in my office at work so I can keep track of what I’m working on.  At home I use steno pads.

But let’s see what I can remember.

  • Lithium – been a constant since day one; the dose changes sometimes but I’ve never been off it – currently at 1500mg/day
  • Depakote – got on this last year when Geodon caused me to have tardive dyskinesia and I had to get off it – started at 1500mg, down to 1000mg right now to try to get rid of an annoying tremor in my hands
  • Gabapentin – picked this up for anxiety and found it was great for the shit that seems to hit me right before bed; taking 900mg at night
  • Benadryl and Melatonin – not really psych meds, but they’re part of my bed time cocktail – I take one Benadryl (25mg) and one Melatonin (5mg) along with the Depakote and Gabapentin – and then I pray that those 10 pills work and I get some sleep
  • Geodon – took that for ages in different doses, finally had to get off because of the TD (nasty shit that TD)
  • Seroquel – taken as little as 25mg/day all the way up to 800mg/day – still not sure how I managed to function at that high of a dose, but I did – kept working my full time job, too – it’s off the table now since it’s in the same drug class as Geodon
  • Xanax – love that shit but I’m only allowed to have it in very specific circumstances; doc says I have a “highly addictive personality” and Xanax is highly addictive – it’s an absolute must for me if I have to get on an airplane
  • Topomax – this was quite awhile ago so I don’t recall the dose or really why I was on it, all I remember is that it made any drink with carbonation taste like sewer water – to this day I’m still not fond of carbonated beverages because of that
  • Abilify – pretty sure this was used as a supplemental mood stabilizer, but again, it’s been awhile – got to the point where it just really didn’t seem to do anything
  • Lamictal – touted as a wonderful replacement for Lithium, but it never worked that way for me – I “challenged” it 3 times (take it for awhile and see if you have any nasty side effects) and the last time I got the start of Stevens-Johnson syndrome (hives inside your nose and girl bits suck) – fortunately I caught it in time and didn’t have the full blown experience, but I will NEVER try that shit again

I’m sure there have been others, but that’s all the brain is pulling up right now.

I’m fortunate to have a wonderful psychiatrist that I fondly refer to as shrinky-poo.  When I was first diagnosed I had this grumpy ass-hat of a doc that kept me so doped up on the Seroquel that I was really just a zombie version of myself.  It was so bad that I had lost all of my facial affect.  Fortunately the therapist I was seeing at the time knew of shrinky-poo and gave me the recommendation.  She’s been awesome.

I did see a whole slew of therapists when I first started this adventure.  There was the new age gal to start with (super nice, but totally not equipped for someone like me), the gal I found through United Way that got me the referral to shrinky-poo and then told me that she had Bipolar as well (at which time my sessions turned into bitchfests and I didn’t really feel I was getting good treatment anymore), the weird guy with the office downtown who kept asking me for the same exact background information each of the 6 times I saw him, and then the last one was in the same practice as shrinky-poo and was – in my mind – the best equipped to take me on.  I haven’t seen him in over 2 years now.  I felt like I got what I needed and moved on.

I did go through an entire year’s worth of DBT to help manage the Borderline.  I would actually recommend that for anyone with a mental health diagnosis.  When I first started I was incredibly resistant and actually pretty bitchy about having to go.  Shrinky-poo and my therapist blind-sided me and said if I didn’t do the DBT they were both terminating my treatment.  In hindsight, they saved my life.  I learned incredibly valuable skills that continue to help me handle emotionally difficult situations in an effective way.  Really good stuff.

But I feel like – most days – I’m at the point in my recovery where my mental health doesn’t play the lead role in my life anymore.  My meds are mostly stable, my moods fluctuate but much more like a person who doesn’t have a mood disorder, I’m able to do all of self-care on a regular basis, I’m not acting out on the Borderline urges much at all anymore…  I wouldn’t say that I’m “cured” – not by any means – but I would say that with the help of an awesome support network (doc, family, hubs, friends, co-workers) I feel like your average stranger would never know I’ve got a diagnosis unless I open up and tell them.

And really, I think that’s just pretty fucking awesome.

So, a lot of what you’ll find here is me talking about what it looks like to be me.  Some days that’s a whole lot of mental health, and some days none at all.  My diagnoses always color my interpretations of the world, but it doesn’t always come out in my writing.  I am going to try to start writing specifically about mental health more because it seems like perhaps I’ve been neglecting that lately.

Anyway, thanks for visiting and reading.

Lots of love,

Mental Mama aka Erin

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