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emperor penguin parenting
recovery friends 05.22.23
Drove down to Sheboygan today with a crisis center friend to visit another at his sober living. Lighthouse walks, beach talks, bird watching, rock snatching, and crab rangoons.
I discharged from the crisis center two days ago and got the keys to my new apartment. I’m learning new skills and so proud of this little space in the world I’m making for me and my kiddos ♥️
Hi, my name is Bobbi.
And more than likely, I’m not bipolar.
Mmmm. Deep exhale.
While institutionalized at Winnebago Mental Health, I did not have a doctor, let alone a psychiatrist, assigned as part of my care team. The bipolar diagnosis came from two court-appointed evaluators who sat down with me for forty minutes and drew their conclusions.
Dr. Bales, who should’ve retired fifteen years ago, looked at my file the entire time, barely listened to me speak, vaguely pointed at the list of potential medications, and said, “You need mental health help.”
Okay, bro. I’ll tell that to my therapist and outside psychiatric care provider I willingly sought out on my own for a psychiatric evaluation before being chapterized.
Dr. Thuman, a psychologist, at least listened to my story. I believe she drew the same conclusion of bipolar disorder, but she wasn’t called to speak in court and I’ve yet to see her notes.
Two forty minute conversations.
One nervous breakdown.
That’s all it takes for the court to seal your fate with a chronic diagnosis and an order to take medication that’s been making me sick.
When I started the Abilify, I began on a 5mg dose for three days before being bumped up to 10mg. Aside from sleeping better, I didn’t notice any other differences in my thinking, mood, or behavior.
Upon discharge at Winnebago Mental Health Institute, a locked facility with some of the most severe mental health cases in the state, I wound up at the Winnebago County Crisis Center where I started experiencing some concerning side effects with the medication.
I have a restless feeling in my limbs, particularly in my fingertips and feet. I can’t sit still long enough to watch TV or read. I’m experiencing unspecified anxiety, a tightness in my chest that no amount of breathing or yoga can dissipate. I’m waking up with headaches consistent with interrupted breathing in my sleep.
The county psychiatrist took me up as a patient and is currently titrating me down on the Abilify. My 10mg dose was reduced to 5mg for a week, and now I’m down to 2mg. He prescribed medication to abate the restless feeling.
I’m getting help.
I’m feeling heard.
I’m supported and will be long after discharge tomorrow as I continue to meet with Dr. Vicente.
So, if it’s not bipolar disorder, then what is it? That’s the magic question.
I can say nothing conclusive has been decided. According to my psychiatrist, my symptoms are consistent with a nervous breakdown followed by four days of major insomnia and extremely limited sleep while on vacation with my family over spring break and that the behaviors mimic C-PTSD.
This feels much more nuanced considering this is my first breakdown. I haven’t experienced highs and lows consistent with a bipolar diagnosis, so I’ve been hesitant to own it as mine.
Signing off from the messy middle.
Love and Light,
freedom ride 05.10.23
Channeling wicked witch of the West on a too-small bike vibes, I found some treasures while cycling through Winnebago County Park.
“loyalty” – a slam poetry piece
You can now find me tik tokkin’.
BEAUTY in crisis 05.07.23
With the right presence and eye, true, wild beauty can be found in your own neighborhood. Here are some iPhone snaps of my first solo nature walk on 05.07.23 now that I have liberty to leave the crisis center grounds.
My shiny, new diagnosis
Hi, my name is Bobbi.
And I’m bipolar.
Yikes, even typing that sentence has me feeling like I’m wearing giant clown shoes or spilling out of a bra two cup sizes too small. The diagnosis doesn’t resonate or fit, but according to the court-appointed psychiatrist and psychologist for my involuntary commitment, it’s mine.
Disclaimer: I’ve spent more time researching and debating which toothbrush to buy than I’ve spent researching bipolar disorder. My future, far more informed self is already cringing reading this. However, Struggle Bus Confessions has always been my place to heal messily and in real time. Here’s the messy middle, y’all. I apologize in advance for my ignorance.
According to the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-5, bipolar disorders are described as “a group of brain disorders that cause extreme fluctuation in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to function.”
I’m diagnosed with Bipolar I specifically which “is a manic-depressive disorder that can exist both with and without psychotic episodes.”
Additionally, bipolar disorder falls between “depressive disorders and schizophrenia spectrum disorders. People who live with bipolar disorder experience periods of great excitement, overactivity, delusions, and euphoria (known as mania) and other periods of feeling sad and hopeless (known as depression). As such, the use of the word bipolar reflects this fluctuation between extreme highs and extreme lows.”
If I’m being completely honest, I hate the term itself. “Bi-” signifies a binary which feels like you’re either one or the other without a lot of gray in between. In this case, manic or depressive. For the majority of my life, I haven’t felt either one of those ways chronically.
I hate that it’s mine, too. With one single event of manic-like thinking and behavior, I’ve managed to secure a diagnosis. I’ve felt the euphoric high but have yet to experience the low. There has been no crash. My mood has never been dramatically swing-y until having a spiritual awakening several weeks ago.
So, yeah. It’s complicated.
I’m court-ordered to take medication and am currently initiating my nightly med disbursement of 10mg of aripiprazole (Abilify) and 5mg of melatonin at night.
And they’re fine. I just don’t know if they’re necessary. Time to start researching, I guess.
Truschel, R. (2020, September). Bipolar definition and DSM-5 diagnostic criteria – psycom. PSYCOM. Retrieved May 8, 2023, from https://www.psycom.net/bipolar-definition-dsm-5
Unshackling from people-pleasing and codependency
On March 10th, 2023, I hit a critical threshold in my recovery from people-pleasing and codependent tendencies. Knowing my beliefs and values weren’t going to be universally accepted among my colleagues during professional development at work, I still stepped into my power and spoke my truth in a very direct, public way.
Something in my body knew nothing would be the same after that conversation. Prior to my chance to speak, my leg shook like crazy. My heart beat rapidly. I couldn’t focus.
I excused myself to take deep breaths and watch the snow fall through the school entrance. I channeled my “Rebecca-from-Ted-Lasso” energy and made myself ferocious in the bathroom, silently roaring at myself in the mirror.
I quit shrinking; I made myself big to advocate for the change our students need and deserve. And for the first time in almost a decade at my job, I didn’t know where I stood with every person in the room.
Immediately afterwards, I felt shell-shocked. My mind didn’t know what to tell my body to feel. I went to debrief with my soul sister work wife and ended up sobbing hysterically. The breakdown was about so much more than humane, equitable grading practices – it was knowing I lost my most coveted survival mechanism at work, and that I could never go back to shrinking myself to prioritize the comfort of other adults.
After carrying me through the most intense stretch of my breakdown, she shepherded me to another beloved colleague who helped me unravel and re-ravel the chaos in my brain and body. She listened non-judgmentally and helped me recognize the feeling that came up: anger triggered by a feeling of urgency.
Anger? That feeling I never let myself feel for long before slapping a happy face sticker on it and sweeping it under a rug? What was it doing at work?
I’ve always been triggered by others’ showy anger and couldn’t believe that mine had made some of my colleagues that I love, respect, and admire uncomfortable. I couldn’t shove it back in the box though. She’d been freed from her shackles, and I knew we would be walking side-by-side for a long time.
Wiping tears away, I asked my colleague where she puts her anger when it becomes too much. She simply opened her palms wide and simply said, “In God’s hands.”
I stopped crying and set down my lovingly prepared cup of calm tea. Nothing ever resonated so deeply in my soul before.
Since that conversation, that’s what I’ve done. When my anger takes over, I cry. I find a quiet place, get on my knees, and beg God to carry it for me before we burn up together. And it works.
I’ve found myself shattered and on my knees more times than I can count since reaching that critical recovery threshold, but I love the me that’s rising from the ashes on the other side.
She’s empowered, strong, and activated. She feels her feels and calls out injustice every single time, not just when it’s safe and convenient.
I trust her. I trust us. I trust me.