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About Ignotum

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  1. I often wonder quite seriously to myself whether I have made this whole bipolar thing up in my head. Not so much when I'm in the grips of an actual episode, but during the periods of relative calm between extremes I question how severe my mood and behaviour changes really are (I mean, how bad are they really?), and if I'm not just exaggerating them out of some sort of narcissistic compulsion for sympathy and/or accommodation. Maybe I just wanted an excuse to pardon my more reckless and antisocial behaviour? Maybe I'm just a selfish and inconstant person that wants other people to make allowances for me so I don't need to face up and deal with the more uncomfortable elements of reality. I start to feel like a sham who has taken my friends and family on a ride. But then I think about the bad times; and how little control I have felt I had over any aspect of my life, not to mention over my own mind. I think of how much more productive I have been on meds over the past six years compared to the fourteen years previous. I think of the time that I felt like an antenna that was receiving transmissions directly from the hub of the universe, and the furious effort I had made to record them. I think of the barely focused, compulsive behaviour that led me directly to dangerous people and places and situations that I never would have felt comfortable being with, in, or around had I not been out of my right mind. Yes though, it's a constant battle to keep things in perspective, and remember that the disorder is real. When you're not in the thick of it the whole thing can feel like an aberration that everyone took a little too seriously.
  2. I'm hit with sudden patches of apathy, hypersomnia, and just general heaviness on a semi-regular basis; but true bone-crushing depression usually comes upon me in increments. I might have some sense that things are starting to go badly, but the fundamental change in my mood happens in stages, and usually by the time I know I'm in real trouble there's been a lot of antisocial and self-destructive behaviour under the bridge.
  3. There's a lot to resonate with in this thread. I find that my relationship with self-awareness has been highly variable since I've been diagnosed--it comes and it goes--but it is not for a lack of trying to figure it all out, as I analyze myself at every turn. Even then I still get sideswiped by radical shifts in my mood, disposition, energy levels, sociability; and I am coming to realize that I am not the best judge of myself as imbalances are occurring. My problem is that I start to doubt my diagnosis once I've been living within a "normal" range for any prolonged period of time, say a few good months. Most of my adult life has been dominated by rapid cycling, but I had no way to interpret that until I had a pdoc sit with me and comb through my thoughts and behaviour in detail. A three or four month period without severe oscillation grants me enough leeway to begin to think that my illness is either misdiagnosed, overblown, or fabricated. Which I know isn't the case in the smarty-pants region of my brain, but the empathic cynic portion of my mind begins to suspect that I've made everything up, and that I'm just a person with weak character desperately seeking attention. Consequently, I have a tendency to downplay what I'm going through to everyone around me, and I shut my life into compartments, where I only see and interact with people who are familiar with me in whatever mode I'm experiencing. My brain is very sneaky, and it doesn't disclose all of its plans to my consciousness. I just sort of quietly, progressively fall into negative patterns and tell myself that I'm not nearly as bad as I used to be. "Sure this might not be ideal, but it's not like before there were prescription drugs!" Depression and mixed states have been the more familiar demons this past year. They make themselves at home, or I in them (I'm not really sure which way it works), and then, one day, I wake up and realize that I've been acutely miserable for ages, and that I've been doing many self-destructive things. And then the tempest in the teapot explodes, and everyone pays attention--including myself. I've been writing myself letters from this last episode, trying to educate my future self what I should be looking out for. As well as my friends.
  4. I've been a steady 5 all day. I can live with that.
  5. I owe my whole network of friends a great debt of gratitude for the support they've lent to me over the past few weeks. I've been crawling out of a desolate, bleak place since the beginning of August, and although I'm doing worlds better than I was I don't know what state I would be in now if my intimate troupe of capable women hadn't been able to drop what they were doing and come and help me out. My sister and my best friends caught me as I was going under, buoyed me up, got me back to solid ground. Their rally has been an immense relief, and a possibly life saving occurrence. I have actually been spending a lot of time today trying to figure out how to properly thank them for helping me manage the crisis. They were simply amazing. I am stupendously lucky to have all of them.
  6. I have been on ziprazidone for almost four years. We tried it after I had gone through all the other first line defence drugs for bipolar control. In my case it has definitely helped to suppress hypomania and full blown manic episodes, with (what I consider) to be fairly minimal side effects--especially after what I went through on just about everything else. The only times I have found myself with an unhealthily elevated mood since starting on it have been when I have not been diligent about taking it, or in fact taking it but not with enough (or any) food. I had been on 60mg twice a day until just recently--a few weeks ago I was upped to 80mg twice a day after I went through a prolonged mixed state. I seem to be tolerating the higher dose fine. As for side effects, I am sometimes hit with an extreme lethargy that lasts for two to three hours after dosing the drug. I describe it as my brain being stuffed with cotton. It makes acting and reacting quite difficult. This doesn't happen consistently, but it can be quite debilitating. I wouldn't want to be driving a car, for instance. I also am prone to muscle tremors, which I think is related to the ziprazidone, but I'm on a bunch of other medications for a different condition, so it's not entirely clear if that's what we can trace the occasional shakes to. They may be the product of a drug interaction. Lastly, my libido is significantly lower than it used to be, but with that said, my sex drive used to be intimately tied to my hypomanic (and full blown manic) episodes, so I don't know how much loss of lust is due to absence of symptoms or suppression due to the medication. But I'd say that 90% of the time it's a good match for me. Good luck.
  7. Disability Services are definitely your friend. You want to be registered with them before anything happens (or if anything happens) because then you have an advocate built into the structure of the institution and do not need to crack it from the outside-in. If there is any environment that is predisposed towards being supportive (though I certainly cannot speak for all of them) post-secondary school is probably the place. I wouldn't go shouting your diagnosis in the quad or anything, but don't be afraid of telling people that are in positions to help you.
  8. I decided that I wanted to return and finish my undergrad when I was 32. It was a year later before I had got through admissions and funding arrangements, and I am now 36 going into my final year. Socially it's been a mixed bag, to be sure. In the plus column, I am a much better student in my thirties than I was in my late teens/early twenties. I am reaping much better rewards and learning a whole lot more than I ever would have the first time I was in university; but at the same time the isolation you speak of is very real. Higher learning takes a central place in your universe if you undertake it seriously, and it's that much harder to pursue if you do not have a peer group around you to commiserate, or laugh, or brainstorm with. All of my old friends are in the midst of career building and new family rearing, I'm the only one on this path, and the people that I'm surrounded by in my day-to-day are--frankly--little more than children. After three years I have only managed to make a couple of good friends that are actively involved in academics. Both are older than the average undergrad (26 and 35, respectively), and I feel like I was lucky to make a connection with both of them. Part of what provided us with common ground was sharing a larger portion of life experience from outside of the educational system then most of our classmates, and bringing that experience to bear on our current environment has given us a lot to talk about and share. In each case finding these individuals was a matter of keeping your antenna out and tuned for other people that feel a little out of place (and look a little more mature). I've been sitting on the fence all this time about getting involved in extracurricular activities on campus. I've made a few little inroads into a couple of clubs, but the age gap does really feel like a genuine issue for me when I try. The real connections that I've made with the life force of the school have been through making sure to take advantage of my professors' office hours, and trying to build relationships with them if we have any kind of rapport. I am often closer in age to them than I am to my fellow students, and they're often happy to talk shop--not to mention that I think they find it refreshing to speak to someone that's more mature as well. It can be a lonely endeavour being a mature student, but if you're determined, it is possible to squeeze some kind of sense of community out of the experience, it's just going to be a different one than your younger compatriots are experiencing. I dearly hope that graduate school will be different.
  9. Hello, all! I have to admit, I'm ready for a peer group, be it virtual or otherwise, to act as a sounding board for the erratic staging ground that is my consciousness. I've been struggling with bipolar my whole adult life, but was only diagnosed about five years ago. It's been up and down ever since, but within a narrower range of extremes than before I was medicated. The last few years have been a long period of adjustment to new ways of being--and feeling, and acting--and I have been chafing under the restrictions that seem to be required of living a healthy lifestyle free of triggers and provocations. I've missed hypomania and the particular magic that comes with it. I miss having a brain that can regularly surprise me with insights and intuitions. I don't really care for this feeling of suppression that has come along with stability. So, at turns, I've been a little cavalier with my meds; and I haven't been putting a great deal of effort into my mental hygiene the past while. Which has led to a consequent rocky, roily, unstable last few months, and those capped off with a few scary, black weeks that I am just now climbing out of. This scare has helped me re-orient my perspective on managing my illness, and I think an important part of that may be finding some kind of community that I can relate to, communicate with, and access on a regular basis. I like the look of it here. It feels like somewhere I could contribute and make connections. I'm happy that it exists. Hopefully I'll be reading and writing with many of you in the future.
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