Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Dementia & Suicidal Depression

Today I’m home from the hospital. I had a stay of five days in a psychiatric hospital for depression
with suicidal ideation. I’m no stranger to stays in psychiatric hospital because of my bipolar but I could tell there was something different about this depression. It was not the norm of my bipolar depression. And I hadn’t had depressive episode in almost a year. This felt different.

To give you a glimpse into my world of depression I call it the Nothing Feeling. I never see the episodes coming. They sneak up on me. But when they make their presence known it’s too late and I am at their mercy. You would think after 40 years by now I would be able to spot them a mile away. Maybe my brain just becomes too weak and unable to recognize them; depression. 

I would feel nothing. I call it the Nothing Feeling. There is no happiness. No joy. No sadness. Not even depression. Absolutely nothing. Calling it depression gives it no justice. I wouldn’t want to exist. I wouldn’t want to die either.

Thinking is all but non-existent. Imagine trying to think feeling nothing? It’s impossible. What minimal thinking I can muster up is reduced to thinking how you don’t want to do anything.
And that’s what I do. Nothing. Exhaustion sets in and even rolling over in the bed I have secluded myself to is a chore. It is where I would spend most of the day with low music in the background. I listen to Standards 90% of time and it seems to fit the occasion. It’s just to have something fill my mind. 

That is the trap my mind is in during my depressions.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

More on Hallucinations & Delusions

Last night I had the privilege of enjoying a quiet evening with my mother and grandmother at my home baking cooking and making dinner. It was a special time for me since I hadn’t had the chance to do this with my own children in a couple of years. It had been a tradition of our to do. We would stay up late, put Christmas cartoons on, and start making Christmas cookies. The kitchen would be a mess. But last night was July 1, 2015 and my grandmother passed away over two years ago.

I learned much of my cooking abilities from my grandmother. She taught me all of her secrets and was constantly giving me nifty little kitchen gadget. She always had a story to go with every scenario. She passed while living in a home. That night we laughed and baked as we decorated cookies. I got the privilege of writing down many of her recipes before the night was over. And it was double special for me. I haven’t been able to follow this same tradition with my own children in over two years. We had always put on Christmas cartoons or music followed by spreading out of the cooking making materials making a mess. By the time we were done the kitchen looked as if the Keebler Elf tree had been up rooted in my kitchen.

I became frantic the next day when I couldn’t find my recipes I copied. I searched everywhere. They were grandmother’s and I didn’t want to lose them. But I never wrote them down to lose them. I asked my wife about them and she never saw them and my mom never came by.

Dementia is a group of symptoms of many different complex conditions. Dementia affects the part of the brain that is responsible for our perceptions, what we see, hear, taste and smell, the cerebral cortex of the brain. The cerebral cortex is responsible for how an individual perceives a situation and how he or she responds.

Individuals suffering from dementia will experience a range of emotions and express thoughts which appear real to them at the moment. Even though these thoughts are typically imaginary or made up, they evoke feelings that are very real to the person and often times causes extreme anxiety, panic or fear.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Dementia & Bipolar: What's the connection?

I’ve never been silent to the fact that I’m also bipolar. Even today in late 2015 there is still much stigma against being mentally ill but, I refuse to buy into societies discrimination's. So I wear my diagnosis  of bipolar proudly. 

Much of the stigma stems from lack of understanding symptoms. There are three major forms of Bipolar; Bipolar 1, Bipolar 2 and Cyclothymia.  According to World Health Organization, Bipolar disorder is the sixth leading cause of disability in the world. Bipolar disorder affects approximately 5.7 million adult Americans or about 2.6 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older every year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Bipolar Disorder has faces various episodes of symptoms like Mood Episode, Manic Episode, Depressive Episode and/ or Mixed Episode.
  • Bipolar I Disorder (mania or a mixed episode) – The classic manic-depressive form of the illness, characterized by at least one manic episode or mixed episode. Bipolar I Disorder also involves at least one episode of depression.
  • Bipolar II Disorder (hypomania and depression) – In Bipolar II disorder, the person doesn’t experience full-blown manic episodes. Instead, the illness involves episodes of hypomania and severe depression.
  • Cyclothymia (hypomania and mild depression) – Cyclothymia is a milder form of bipolar disorder. It consists of cyclical mood swings. However, the symptoms are less severe than full-blown mania or depression
Symptoms of bipolar disorder are described below.
Symptoms of mania or a manic episode
Symptoms of depression or a depressive episode
Symptoms of hypomania or hypomanic episode
  • A long period of feeling "high," or an overly happy or outgoing mood
  • Extremely irritable mood, agitation, feeling "jumpy" or "wired
  • Talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another, having racing thoughts
  • Being easily distracted
  • Increasing goal-directed activities, such as taking on new projects
  • Being restless
  • Sleeping little
  • Having an unrealistic belief in one's abilities
  • Behaving impulsively and taking part in a lot of pleasurable, high-risk behaviors, such as spending sprees, impulsive sex, and impulsive business investments.
  • A long period of feeling worried or empty
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, including sex.
  • Feeling tired or "slowed down"
  • Having problems concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
  • Being restless or irritable
  • Changing eating, sleeping, or other habits
  • Thinking of death or suicide, or attempting suicide.
  • Feel euphoric, energetic, and productive
  • To others looks like they are unusually happy. 
  • Hypomania is a less severe form of mania
  • They are able to carry on with their day-to-day lives and they never lose touch with reality
  • But may lead to bad decisions that harm relationships, careers, and reputations
  • Often escalates to full-blown mania or is followed by a major depressive episode
 What does this have to do with Parinson’s let alone with dementia you all may be asking? Well, when it comes to bipolar according to your loved one’s, you, the person with bipolar, can never just have a bad day. You can never just be upset about something. If you get mad because your daughter left food sitting out all night and you feel it’s your duty as a father to say something and be aggravated then its other people’s duty to give you the, “everyone makes mistakes honey,” speech. You’re not entitled to have a bad day because you have the possibility of making it into more than a bad day.

You can’t even enjoy being in a really good moods without being suspected of being up to something. You must have ulterior motives with a plan.

So it goes on with dementia. The accusations of playing the game of being senile while in fact you have less than your full capacities. Why would anyone subject themselves to those stigmas and criticisms is beyond me. I’ve lived a full life of being criticized as being fake at being bipolar. How dare I even think to pretend to have dementia. “He’s too smart. He know’s better. He’s just trying to get attentions.” I’ve written bills and measurements for my state representative to be heard before our senate. I’ve drafted two different proclamations for three years that my stat governor has signed. Yet I’ve landed myself in the psychiatric ward of a hospital ten times. I’ve heard some doozies of speculations of theories regarding my behavior behind my bipolar. And I can promise you that it has baffled no one more than it has baffled myself.

And the same on goes for dementia. You know the old saying, “We treat people how we want them to treat us?” Many people with dementia get treated like children. So they act like children to that person and typically only to that person. It’s degrading not only to the person with dementia but also to the caregiver. It tells us you don’t have the capacity to relate to another human being on your level or above. So you have to step over them in order to make yourself feel superior.

But that person with dementia may act out and if so it’s not the dementia and it’s not defiance. They are simply demanding respect.

Another problem I have that I’ve been told, “Oh your forgetting again.” Our information we hold in our brains is just as important to a conversation as anyone’s else’s. To be told that what you bring to a conversation isn’t important to the point that it doesn’t even need to be brought up is flat out mean and disrespectful. If you include a person with dementia in your group whether it’s the table or any other group, engage with them completely. Otherwise you make them feel second class and unworthy to be there.

Dementia care has a lot in common with bipolar care. The two diseases have a lot in common in themselves. Both hit home to end with the quote people may forget what you do for them, but they will never forget how you make them feel.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Aftermath of Lost Independence

I’ve achieved numerous milestones in my lifetime from boyhood to adulthood. I got my first job at 16. I got my drivers license at 17. I went to college during my senior year of high school and went on to earn a bachelor of science in psychology and spent a short time in the field. I got married and fathered three children. I’ve been married twice and now to a wonderful wife with a step-daughter who I care for as my own. I spent twenty years in the restaurant business learning the ins and outs of it. I became a pretty good cook doing so. 

I’ve also reached a few milestones I would’ve rather done without. But with the grace of God and His strength I overcame years of alcoholism and anorexia in my past. For years I self medicated my bipolar when my medications wouldn’t work with alcohol that almost cost me my marriage. I went through a nasty custody battle that caused me to feel out of control and as a means to find some form of it I fell victim to anorexia for six years. But by finding my renewed relationship with God He restored me and I can add the milestones of recovery to my list.

With the diagnosis of Parkinson’s and dementia I’m making a new list to mark off. A list of losses. I’m only 40 and I haven’t driven in over five years. February 18, 2010 was the last day I drove. I no longer even have a license. I remember my wife and I having “the talk” with my neurologist about me driving. It was the first step of losing my independence. I don’t drive because it’s too dangerous. I can’t react fast enough and I get lost. I get disoriented and confused. I’ll admit I’ve driven our car a couple of miles illegally a couple of times, but we won’t tell everyone about it. But for me to drive on a regular basis is too dangerous. 

I’ve accepted my diagnoses. I’ve faced reality by now. I can count that on my faith. I have found peace. But it wasn’t always that way. For a while it was depressing. For a while I was angry. The loss of independence is very life shattering. You lose your identity. You are no longer who you were. You are less of the person of who you were. You are broken. Unfixable. Childish. A burden. It is a pain that comes and goes with each and every loss.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Pick a fight

Each one of us is a unique and unrepeatable miracle of God’s grace. My wife is a miracle to me. My children are miracles.

But I do not always feel like an unrepeatable miracle of God’s grace sometimes. Unique yes. Much of the time I feel alone in this world. I mean after all, how many other people do you know who for years self medicated with alcohol and addiction and had an eating disorder, anorexia for six years and recovered from all and struggles with bipolar, migraine, Parkinson’s and dementia now. But more often I behave as though God puts up with me because He made me and now He is stuck with me. 

Logically I know this is false, but deep, and sometimes not so deep, inside it nags and gnaws at my heart, at the security and love I feel from not only others but also about myself. It creeps into my prayers, into my thoughts, into how I love and relate to my wife, to my kids, and to me.

Bipolar disorder is one of the most elusive illnesses we know of. The lives of those who live with are written like a bestselling mystery novels. The beginning opens in the middle of nowhere and every page is a twist and turn full of surprises never knowing what is going to happen next. Recognizing our thoughts are awry and our judgment is impaired is a risky business for anyone dealing with a mental illness. It all seems so sensible in our delusional state. We need to come to the conclusion there is an impairment in our functioning that prevents us from living life normally. Then again I hate that word, “normal.” Who says what is normal?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Medication Scare

Medications! Oh how I hate them. Well, I’ll be honest there are some prescription meds that can be fun I’m on but in all I hate them. I’m no stranger to taking medications. I’ve been taking them since I was a young child and as an adult I’ve always managed them myself. I took them for severe asthma on a daily basis as preventive treatment as a child. Carried an inhaler with me everywhere I went. I was a sickly child. Had pneumonia five times which landed me in the hospital three of the times. Of all the sicknesses I’ve had that one I out grew.

But I also grew up undiagnosed with childhood bipolar which later got me diagnosed with Bipolar 1 mixed rapid cycling with psychotic features where I tend to lean on the depressive side. I was diagnosed in my early 20’s. Twenty-four I think. So I’ve been taking meds for that ever since. Almost twenty years as long as I’ve been med compliant. Being mentally ill and med compliant doesn’t always go hand in hand. But for the most part I have been. I’ve had my mishaps with my mental health medications in the past years ago. Some on purpose, some not on purpose. The on purpose times were during dark depressive days I was fighting just to stay alive. The not on purpose days were due to side effects or getting new prescriptions and the meds not mixing well. 

I had a scare the day before yesterday that many of my Facebook friends from my regular page know and my dementia support group already know about. At 8:00am I took my morning meds. Around 10:00am for some reason thought I hadn’t taken them so I took them again. Within two hours I took double the dosages of all my morning meds. Some of them are very dangerous to take too much of. My chest started hurting and I was getting very foggy and extremely exhausted. One med was a blood pressure pill I take for migraine prevention. Another was an anticonvulsant. Another a sedative and a benzodiazepine with a muscle relaxer. Luckily I was talking to my wife on Facebook and told her what was going on. She rushed home and took me to the emergency room where they monitored me for a few hours. My blood pressure was a little low for a while and the EKG was fine. My blood pressure returned to normal and I was released to sleep it off. Needless to say I’m ok and we have already come up with a new system to distribute me my daily meds.

I received wonderful words of encouragement on Facebook with countless words of advice on how to possibly come up with ways to handle my medications all of which my wife and I can glean from. They showed so much love.

Like I said, I’m no stranger to medication. I’ve taken it for almost 40 years. Medications are a two-edged sword. They play a vital part in helping the person with dementia to sleep, in controlling their agitation, or in treating other conditions. At the same time, they are susceptible to overmedication and to reactions from combinations of drugs. 

I don’t know if it was the dementia that caused me to forget I took my meds or if it was a side effect of one my meds. I didn’t take anything new or anything out of schedule. I took my 8:00am meds as usual, with coffee and a Coke. However, I have been more forgetful here lately. 

So it seems I am no longer able to manage my own medications now. I knew the day would come. And I have always feared a dangerous mishap with my medications. So I’m glad it didn’t turn out worse than it did. We left the hospital and went to McDonald’s. 

I handle the loss of independence fairly well. I know it will all come in steps one at a time eventually. I can’t control it. I can’t foresee it and I accept that. I can’t even anticipate the speed of each arrival. I accept the fact that now my wife will prepare my medications each night and prepare for them for me for the next day. I understand it is for my safety and so that it means I will be around longer for her. Rather than getting angry at this loss of independence I have to accept it with grace that I have a loving wife who is here for me to accept me as I am and is willing to care for me as this disease comes.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Good Days...Bad Days

Years before my body ever fell victim to the demise of Parkinson’s my mind and sanity was at the
mercy of Bipolar ever since I was a child. As I grew into an adult I was specifically diagnosed as Bipolar 1 mixed rapid cycling with psychotic features. I’m no stranger to unpredictable changes. I’m no stranger to bad days and I’m no stranger to good days. Although my good days could get me into trouble.

In January 2002 I wrote in my journal, “I find myself amidst another attack. It’s odd to refer to it as finding myself since it seems I can never hide from the pain. It always finds me as some late night stalker tormenting me following me everywhere I go only to jump out of the corner to make its presence known. I feel like I have made someone or something mad, to have this pain hurt so badly. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have no attacks. To be able to do the things I need to do. Would I get things done? Would I get better grades? Would I be more pleasant to be around? Would others tolerate me more? No pills! No darkness!

Life has become like a storm. The pain arrives either suddenly, like lightening or slowly, as the thunder from a far off storm building its intensity but instead inside my head.”

I liken my Parkinson flare ups and dementia to my bipolar episodes. Much of the time I was not aware of their impending damage that was about to enter our lives. But my wife on the other hand could spot the subtle changes in me on a minute scale. 

I could slowly slip into a suicidal depression before it was too late. Unknowingly I would find myself almost paralyzed bedridden while my mind was plagued with suicidal thoughts. Or I could one night go to bed feeling on top of the world only to wake the next day to have slipped into what I call the “Nothing Feeling,” a state where I only exist completely void of any and all emotions. The same could go for a manic phase.