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Finally introducing myself

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Hey everyone,

I've been on this system since December, but have not been up to introducing myself yet. I think all my posts have been on the medication boards, because, hey, that's what I'm having the most trouble with now.

I'm a 30 year old woman and I live in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. My passion is dramatic writing, which unfortunately is limited due to the problems I've had in the past few years...

I've had a really, really crappy last few years. I first started developing really impairing symptoms of bipolar disorder in 2000, when I was doing my first university degree (I have two bachelor's degrees, one in science and one in arts). I was so depressed I almost didn't finish - I wouldn't have, without my parents pushing me. Luckily the depression didn't hit until my very last semester.

At that time I was a computer geek - I was studying computer science - but I lost interest (don't know if it was the depression or just a shifting of interests). Got into this crazy graduate program about life in outer space, in Seattle of all things, and went and took a stab at that, a stab that lasted 6 months - I made a mistake in my primary field, which didn't help (I picked atmospheric sciences, which turned out to be a lot of physics that I didn't understand - I preferred chemistry and biology), and then the depression was so bad that I'd sleep through classes and eat three chocolate bars in a night. At the time I wasn't health-conscious at all.

I ended up dropping out of graduate school, and working at a software company in Bellevue, WA (suburb of Seattle) for 13 months. I had been developing an interest in film (wrote my first screenplay while dropping out of school - wrote it AT school - I think I was hypomanic), in acting (took some acting classes in Seattle), and thought I wanted to go to film school, so I took the job so I could save up. I would arrive late and leave early. It was depressing, because I took the bus from Seattle, and would have to spend an hour and twenty minutes each way. Eventually I moved to Bellevue, and that was just as bad, because I was in the 'burbs, away from the life of the city. The software job was okay - it was the kind of code I liked to do, assembly language mostly - and the people were nice and the company was good to me, but I just couldn't keep doing it. First I switched to another position, doing support for content developers for Microsoft TV of all things - I was lent out to Microsoft in Redmond - but I couldn't take that either. The best things I ever did at MS were being in the chorus of a charity production of Evita!, and meeting my still-good-friend Scot.

In 2001, I moved back to Winnipeg, to study arts at the University of Winnipeg. By 2003, my dad had died from a long battle with Type II diabetes and congestive heart failure. By the end, he was blind, had arthritis, sleep apnea, fluid in his lungs, at times a tube down his throat. He was lying in that hospital bed for months at a time. It was very hard for me, but I was also distracted by my continual depression, which I didn't know was depression.

My first hospitalization was while he was sick. I think I became overwhelmed. I myself had not felt well for a long time. I was a vegan, and discovered I had an iron deficiency. I started trying to eat really iron-rich foods, like quinoa, and suddenly felt like I was getting much better. Soon I thought all sorts of magical thoughts. Then I was hospitalized for my first mania. It was an involuntary hospitalization, and it really hurt. I got the butt injection and everything. Terribly scary. I had no idea that kind of thing could happen to a person, and I felt betrayed and tricked by strangers.

After that I had many hospitalizations in between doing my arts degree, which ended up being a 3-year major in theatre, in acting of all things, though I was never in an actual show (I was supposed to be, but had a manic episode and ended up in the hospital). Many, many of my hospitalizations were involuntary and traumatic. I still hate the mental health system for it, and feel like we're in an abusive relationship. But at this point I very much recognize that I have bipolar disorder and want to make sure it's treated properly.

Most of the drugs I've taken have made me feel very lousy. So far, the *only* drug I like is lamotrigine. It makes my thinking clear (I had years of fuzzy) and sharp, my interest better, and I'm more motivated than I used to be. Unfortunately I've been on Seroquel too for years, which has made me feel depressed, anxious, unmotivated and uninterested. Seroquel was the drug that conquered my resistance to the diagnosis. It slowed my thoughts down to molasses and made me feel depressed, but at least it gave me a chance to recognize that the thoughts had been awfully fast.

The doctor is weaning me off the Seroquel now, and with each reduction I feel a lot better (though I can feel the withdrawal for a few days - last time, the top of my head felt funny). We're still trying to figure out what to replace it with. I may try lithium, despite all my fears, because I really don't want to be on another antipsychotic. My system doesn't agree with Seroquel, Zyprexa, or Risperidone. And I tried the mood stabilizer valproic acid, but it made me terribly anxious and anguished. Haven't tried Tegretol yet, but my doctor doesn't hold it up as a great choice.

Things have been very hard for a very long time. Only now is my creativity starting to come back, but I have to contend with this chronic pain limiting what I do. I have muscular issues that threaten my writing, like wrists getting easily tired and hands hurting, neck pain and occasionally squeezing feelings in my arms, legs, and feet. I don't know what's up there. It's one of those things doctors haven't helped me with. Had some physiotherapy and that helped some with the hands. This kind of thing is very often on my mind, to the point where I wonder if the anxiety over it is making it worse - but I don't want to get into a self-blaming mode.

I'm looking into doing Taoist Tai Chi (it's much more reasonably priced than yoga, it's a volunteer club, I felt comfortable going in there the other day and talking to a volunteer - I've felt uncomfortable with the culture of yoga classes, the expense, and the whole professional yoga teacher thing), I walk a fair bit, I did some swimming and aquasize yesterday, and I try to eat healthy (avoid fast food and deep fried food, only drink water or juice except when having a rare treat like a virgin margarita or a chai latte, hardly ever ingest caffeine, eat lots of fruit and try to get what vegetables I can, go for whole grains, skim milk, never have potato chips, just occasional tortillas, and I like baked chips a lot better anyways). I haven't been a vegan for years, so now I eat moderate amounts of meat and dairy, but never more than one meal involving meat per day, and often I skip days. It's a hard trade-off, because when I was a vegan I never felt full, and I've found that a little bit of meat does help me feel more satisfied. Probably the worst thing I do is dessert sometimes, but I never get those crappy snack cakes or anything, and I try to eat no more than one junky thing in a day - and that includes sweet drinks (though I hate soft drinks now anyways). I like to eat special things for dessert, and won't just gobble anything from the convenience store. Often I will go for those funky organic granola bars, which, I confess, I don't treat as treats so much, even though I'm sure they have lots of sugar. So you can see, I try, but I'm not perfect.

Since my Seroquel has been lowered, I don't feel like having late-night food binges - I used to have to eat or I'd feel so anxious I couldn't go to sleep. Also, my sleep itself has been very good - and the only other thing I'm on is lamotrigine, so I consider myself very lucky. I used to be on Wellbutrin, and I needed a sleeping pill every night, even with the Seroquel! That really sucked. I felt like I was being pulled into a coma every night. Now, I can't really say that the Seroquel helps me sleep - at least it doesn't put me out right away - but things are still fine in that department.

Lately I've been turning my eyes back to my dreams, however far away they seem right now. I've had mentorships in the area of playwriting, was once invited to a summer retreat, have had one play produced, now contribute to an amateur radio drama on a campus community radio station, and am working on a TV series that I developed in a professional workshop (just wrote the pilot) but haven't tried to pitch yet, as I don't know how I'll be in the future. I just submitted a one-play to a festival of works by Canadian female playwrights, actually, and will be hearing back about it by the end of April.

Otherwise, I like to watch TV and hang out with my boyfriend Mark. He loves me even when I'm manic. He even thinks I still make sense a lot of the time. Last time, he followed me around for as long as he could before needing some sleep, and was very respectful and open when he called the mobile crisis unit. For a change I didn't feel tricked or patronized. We sleep together every night, and I mean sleep together not as a euphemism for something else. He holds me, and it helps a lot. I hope one day to be able to sleep alone again, at least sometimes - we're moving into a 2 bedroom apartment at the beginning of May and having our own bedrooms - to know that I can be alone and be okay. I used to call him late at night when I was feeling upset to come over.

I'm on social assistance disability, which sucks. I make about $900 CAD a month, which is enough for me to live on, especially since I only take the bus, but my worker recently found out I was moving in with Mark and tried to say we were common-law and he had to support me! He makes $900 a month too! (Has an IT business with some friends, and works part-time.) That was terribly stressful. I cried a lot and my worker's supervisor took pity on me, at least for six months.

I've never really had a job I liked. I am so over the computer thing. I've been over it since around 2000, really. I love writing scripts and even talking about stories and drama, and wish I could do that for a living.

Anyhow, I think that's enough! I'll be surprised if anyone reads this post the whole way through.


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Hi Frog. Sounds like quite a journey. I'm on my way out the door, but wanted to say hi and that I read. Lithium is a good med, btw. It seems to go well with Lamictal for many. I was rapid cycling at the time, so the combo didn't work completely, but enough that I'm still on both meds. Talk to you doc about how fast to titrate up on Li. Some do fine. Others have to go slow. Some like me do fine, then it's horrible, so off we go. I went back doing an incredibly slow (months) titration because it did so much for me. No problems this time. It's good stuff, IMO.

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