I’m Here, I’m Me

It’s been quite a while since I have written, but in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, I’ve pushed myself to do so. I’ve been through a lot, in terms of my bipolar disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder since December of 2019 and, well, I have no end date, yet. Since March of 2020, I have either tried or increased/decreased doses of 9 medications, all to help regulate my mood and even out the hypomania and depression. I attended 2 different Intensive Outpatient Treatment Programs from February of 2020 to June of 2020, then from July of 2020 to September of 2020. During this time, the medication trials were happening in conjunction with the programs.

I did not improve and then underwent 2 separate courses of TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation), which I had done in 2016-2017. Unfortunately, I could not complete each course as each caused hypomanic states.

All of this happened while a pandemic took over all our lives. I was already going through something unimaginable and then it was as if there was a part II of something unimaginable occurring at the same time. I would be depressed for a week, then be in a mixed state with both depressed symptoms and hypomanic symptoms at the same time, then would be hypomanic for a couple of weeks. All of this while trying to keep things as sane as possible for my daughter, while having distance learning at home and then 10 weeks of summer vacation at home.

I had to take a break from my job in February of 2020, pre-pandemic, due to my illness and attendance in the IOPs. I was then, with all my fellow employees, placed on furlough, which continues today.

The last time my psychiatrist and I decided to try another new medication was in March of 2021 and that didn’t work out due to side effects, which happened with all of the prior trials. Since then, I have been maintaining myself on my current 5 psychiatric medications. It is difficult and we are ready to add a new medication if I become too depressed or hypomanic. It’s a medication I have not tried but it is known to help those with Bipolar II (me).

I still have zoom sessions with my therapist 5 times per week and we do some very difficult work together. We are a good team and she has helped me since the day I first met her in 2017. I see my psychiatrist every 2-4 weeks, depending on how I am doing, and we also work well together.

It’s difficult to be at home but I try to schedule things but often become overwhelmed by them and I don’t always follow through. I hope to return to work sometime in June but only 4 hours per week to start. I need to take things slowly and my manager is completely supportive of my needs. I am very lucky.

As difficult as the past year and a half has been, I am here and doing my best. It’s not always that great, but I’m learning a lot about myself that I never knew, or connected, in my work with my therapist and none of that is easy.

I’m not feeling terrible and I’m not feeling great and I never know when certain symptoms will show themselves, which is the hardest part of having bipolar disorder. I just thank God every day that I have my husband, our daughter, family, and amazing friends who always support me, no matter what state I am in.

All I can really say is:

I’m here, I’m me.


My Experiences with Bipolar Disorder

Here is an update of how I have been managing, emotionally, with my Bipolar Disorder.


My OCD Has Been Out of Control for Months, But You May Not Have Known That

Overall, I am doing pretty well. The thing that has been wreaking havoc on me is my OCD. I have had OCD since adolescence but didn’t disclose this until a couple of years ago to my therapist, detailing my obsessions and compulsions. They were “normal” to me but at the same time, extremely troubling.

Having OCD is, in one word, exhausting. I don’t mean this in terms of, “I didn’t sleep well last night and I just feel exhausted.” What I mean is, waking up to my brain already racing, never-ending tasking, conducting those tasks only to add more tasks as there is no relief. It’s ordering tasks, then re-ordering those tasks, planning out exactly how my day will run then starting over with another plan for the day. It’s noticing numbers on a clock, on a truck and adding those numbers together a few times. It’s ironing clothes to wear to work and then telling myself at least 10 times that the iron is unplugged and it’s safe for me to walk away. It’s planning dinners for the week and going over that plan too many times only to question and question again how the cooking will work with my schedule. It cycles constantly until I try to go to sleep at night. Sometimes my brain quiets with my night medication and allows sleep to settle in, sometimes not.

While my OCD is always there, lurking like the tyrant it is, it’s been worse the past couple of summers, which is now a time of year when my depressive symptoms also increase. Summer represents an anniversary for me of extreme illness, hospitalizations and last ditch treatments. While it hasn’t ruined the past 2 summers, it remains to be a harder time of year for me, symptomatically.

My current difficulty is that it hasn’t really quieted since it increased around June. The pressure I feel to complete an obsession is just as high:
Obsession > Compulsion > Obsession > Compulsion. There’s no actual cycle where relief follows the compulsive behavior to alleviate the obsessive thoughts. No circle is ever created.

I tested myself a couple of weeks ago while unloading the dishwasher. I have to unload it in the same order each time and would never think of changing it but on this day, I dared myself to. I put away the silverware, plates then the mugs before the glasses, when my must-do order is putting the glasses away before the mugs. When I finished the glasses, after the mugs, I almost started to cry, completely regretting that I changed the order. I knew I shouldn’t have done it and then I felt it. I felt hopeless and guilty, and actually terrified there’d be a consequence for my not following my own protocol. It’s a fucking dishwasher and I was nearly brought to tears. I know what this sounds like and how incredibly irrational this is but when I’m in it, it makes perfect sense to me as being reasonable. OCD is anything but reasonable. It taunts me whether I’m aware of the thoughts as they’re happening, after or when I have no awareness.

I don’t really have any more medication options to help alleviate my OCD symptoms as I tried 2 off-label medications last year with no luck and have tried too many others to count. I have been reading articles about Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) being used in different parts of the brain for OCD, instead of the usual left frontal lobe targeted for depression. A few years ago I completed a full course of TMS, targeting the left frontal lobe for my severe depression with questionable results. I need to know more. Of course, I’m already worried that there aren’t local, reputable clinics/offices that offer this specific form of TMS targeting OCD. I don’t want to be back at square one.

Although I am constantly working on combatting my symptoms with my therapist and can notice more when I’m in an obsessive/compulsive state, I am having such a difficult time getting out of it and not feeling like it’s “pointless” or “impossible.” I need much more help with this than I care to admit which is what led me to research TMS as an option. I can’t keep going through each day like this.

The image I have is of an amoeba seen through a microscope, constantly moving, searching for food. My OCD is also unseen to the naked eye, and although it would not be seen in a microscope, it is also in constant motion, searching for ongoing sustenance to maintain itself. I wonder how exhausted that amoeba feels. Does it feel out of control in its quest for food? I feel out of control within my own brain, desperate for relief. My OCD has been well-fed for much too long and the end result for me is irritability, frustration and utter and complete exhaustion.