Therapy Success – Checking the Facts

Well, I brought a written copy of an emotion regulation skill that I had used in a situation to therapy. My therapist was very impressed and we ended up teasing through the issues that were outlined including talking about things that perhaps weren’t issues, but more worded awkwardly.

This was the check the facts skill to see if the emotions that I was feeling matched the prompting event. First, I described the emotions as feeling alone and insecure. Then, I went through the event that happened when these feelings came up without emotion or judgment. I went through just the facts stating where I was at the time and the fact that I was speaking to my husband about something and his responses. This wasn’t an argument, but he had simply said that he didn’t know what to say.

Then, I went through my interpretations, thoughts and assumptions while giving other scenarios. I gave my point of view which was that I felt disconnected from my husband because he didn’t say the words that I was hoping to hear. I felt alone and like I wasn’t able to communicate what I needed to him or like we were on different pages. He doesn’t understand how that feels. I know that he doesn’t understand the disconnected feeling that I get when certain topics come up. He says he never feels that way so he just doesn’t understand. Based on this, he wouldn’t necessarily know what to say when I’m feeling that way. He’s also just plain not good about talking about subjects having to do with physical attraction. This went on a little bit going back and forth.

Next, I labeled whatever threats I felt would result from this particular situation if it just hung around. I felt like I could feel rejected and resentful. This is a real threat. It could happen; however, the likelihood is slim as this will be dropped. If it is something that is worth bringing up further, it is something that could be discussed in marriage counseling again preventing or reducing feelings of rejection and resentment.

It goes on to catastrophe and I really had trouble coming up with one. I think that’s a good thing. I suppose the worst possible thing would be ending up alone. There would be nothing worse than losing my family.

The last asks if the emotion and the intensity are warranted and gives examples of when emotions are warranted. Well, for me, this was warranted, but the intensity didn’t match the event. In the end though, the intensity of the emotion was significantly reduced just by writing this stuff out.

This morning, I was ruminating over something that happened in the past while I was in bed. I couldn’t go to sleep so I got up. The change of scenery helped. Then, I did the same exercise. Somehow, I went from bad morning to great day. My therapist wants me to do this all the time and I’m excited because it has been successful for me so far.

***The Check the Facts is a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) skill which was developed by Marsha Linehan.

 

Ponderings expressed in song lyrics

I went to see Barenaked Ladies recently. It was my 9th show and I always have a blast. It isn’t the same since Steven Page left especially since they could never perform my favorite song, Break Your Heart, without him. None of them has the voice for it. In fact, the Barenaked Ladies and Persuasions album had a better version of Old Apartment than the one Ed sings because of the voice the man in the Persuasions has. It has a richer more soulful sound and I think he did a better job hitting the high notes.

Pinch Me

Anyway, I was thinking about the following lyrics from Pinch Me which was written by Steven Page and Ed Robertson. Sadly, there have been periods that I could relate to this, especially during periods of deep depression:

“On an evening such as this
It’s hard to tell if I exist
If I packed a car and leave this town
Who’ll notice that I’m not around?”

I have seriously contemplated who would miss me if I wasn’t around or if I would be less of a burden if I just left. This was a serious symptom of my postpartum mood disorder. I regularly wanted to leave. I wonder if there will always be periods, always be episodes, where I will wonder if I exist, where I will wonder if people just won’t notice that I am gone.

I know this is a pretty depressing and introspective post, but I honestly have had these thoughts and feelings. It’s as though someone was able to delve into the depths of my brain and say what I have thought and felt and been too afraid to say.

Perhaps, it’s just me, but I’ve always found music therapeutic and this is just one example of this. It really made me think about these periods as I was sitting there having an amazing time at this concert. So, for today, I will continue to keep these lyrics in mind knowing there’s a time where they will help me through.

Thoughts on work and the future

I have not worked full-time in several years. In fact, I believe it has been 8 years since my last full-time position. I considered a career change during that period and I took the first class I need to in order to make that change. That was before I got pregnant with my oldest son and after he was born I worked part-time in a related position and I loved it. I couldn’t go back to it after the birth of my second son though as I had to quit when my FMLA time ran out while I was pregnant with him. I actually didn’t even qualify, but they were nice enough to help me out with a leave of absence.

I was fainting while pregnant. It wasn’t just happening when I was standing up or sitting down. I would even faint while laying down. I had a history of fainting, but I hadn’t fainted since I was in my mid-20s. I had to give up driving during this time for obvious reasons. I ended up seeing a cardiologist who had an answer that wasn’t discovered as a child despite visits to cardiologists and neurologists as having several different tests. I was diagnosed with vasovagal syncope and told that it would probably improve again after the pregnancy, but it gets worse with age and I will probably have a problem as a senior. Then, it will likely be treated with medication though some doctors go with a pacemaker which she thinks is far too aggressive.

The backstory during the period before kids

I didn’t work full-time back in those years before my first born due to my illness. I couldn’t get the treatment I needed due to insurance for some time and then I was in and out of partial hospital programs and I was in therapy three times a week. I was also hospitalized once during that time due to suicidal ideation. I wasn’t safe outside the hospital and home alone at the time.

There were some difficult things happening which contributed to the severity of my illness. My husband and I so wanted children, and it just wasn’t happening for us. I had an ectopic pregnancy and a missed miscarriage. I had lost a lot of blood during the D&C that removed the remains of the second baby. We had a diagnosis of unexplained infertility and our reproductive endocrinologist kept telling us we would have a child some day. I had trouble with the hormones during our 2 failed IUI attempts. I was afraid to leave my house so we took a break and never came back.

Around the due date of the second loss, around 4 years after we started trying to have a baby, I gave up. That is when I was so depressed that I couldn’t get off the couch. I couldn’t shower and I wouldn’t eat. Nothing was entertaining and showering was a struggle. That is when I became so suicidal that I had to get more intensive treatment than even the partial hospital program could provide and I went inpatient for 8 days while my medications were adjusted and I got extensive therapy. I got to talk about the trauma of my past and my struggles of the present. I got to utilize a weighted blanket when I became so anxious that I had trouble with my stomach and I couldn’t eat anything at all. It was at those times when I just couldn’t stop crying and calm down that I had this tool along with some anti-anxiety medications.

That hospitalization changed everything. I came out feeling better and the medication adjustment, which needed further adjustment outside of the hospital, was truly my lifesaver. I went back to therapy three times a week and within a month or so, my mood was stable.

Then, my husband and I got the shock of our lifetime. We were pregnant again and so was my sister-in-law. They had problems getting pregnant also, but they started trying after us and I found out she was pregnant before me. For us, this was a very tense time. I had this feeling that this baby was going to be born healthy and I, with the exception of having low blood sugar because he was a big baby and jaundice, he was.

As you can see, there were many stressors that impacted my life at the time which significantly impacted the course of my illness. Hormones, losses, and just this constant feeling that your body cannot do what comes most naturally to others.

Future Career Aspirations

The funny thing is that I don’t have future career aspirations. I have future career anxiety, but I know that I will be expected to work when my kids enter school full-time. I used to work in technology. My last two full-time jobs were working for software companies: one as a software support engineer for a shipping software company and the second as a technical trainer for a healthcare software company. Unfortunately, the tech industry moves at a fast pace and my existing skills are somewhat obsolete. I did take some programming classes last summer to try to bone up on those skills, but I feel like I don’t do these things day in and day out so my skills are not fresh.

That means that the thing that I know is not really something I can do. Plus, the career rehab organization for the state has it listed that I cannot work in this career anymore as it has lead to multiple episodes of my illness that have required intensive therapy. Now, I miss the problem solving that was involved in my day to day activities and both my husband and I aren’t sure if I could balance both the stress in my personal life and a professional life now.

I fear that if I continue to be a “stay at home mom” when my kids are in school people will begin to question why I stay home and that may lead to rumors. I would try to nip the rumors in the bud though my son may do that for me. He’s four and brutally honest. He knows I have something wrong with my brain chemicals and I take medicine to stay healthy and he may tell someone which is OK. I just don’t want to become the brunt of the mom jokes if I don’t go back to work.

How will I know if I can go back to work and when the time is right?

Father’s Day is Here

Father’s Day is a trigger for me due to the history I have with my father. I got through today by honoring the fathers that serve as examples to others.

Last night my husband and I got a date night and saw the Barenaked Ladies. We almost missed it because we had some serious issues with a sitter. I accidentally asked our sitter for Friday night instead of Saturday. It worked out in the end though. I had a blast and it was my 9th show and my husband’s 4th. I don’t know why I have so much fun, but I do. It’s not the same since Steven Page is gone because the other guys singing his parts doesn’t sound as good. I just found out Steven released a new album though and I have heard little blips and I love the content. It’s dark and it’s about recovery.

Father’s Day and my father

I don’t have any contact with my father so for me Father’s Day is a trigger to all of the verbal and emotional abuse that I experienced at his hands as a child. This year, I have used mindfulness and maybe a bit of the wise mind ACCEPTS skills today. I’m focusing on what is going on today, at this very moment, and today I see how loving my husband is towards our children. I see how happy they make him and how good of a father he is to the boys, both setting boundaries and comforting them.

I’m also making a special dinner to honor him tonight. I’m making baked ziti with salad. I also bought bread and ice cream cake for dessert. My 2 year old egg allergic son can eat it which was one of the reasons I bought it instead of a different cake. The sauce for dinner has been on the stove since about noon. I simmer it low and slow for hours. My oldest even helped me make it and he’s so proud of himself.

We have to call my father-in-law to wish him a happy Father’s Day and sitting here thinking about it is making me sad. It’s not the same wishing him a happy Father’s Day as it would be to my biological father as there should be two people that I’m wishing this to.

My four year old didn’t know I had a father for a while. He just assumed that I’d been born without one. I was doing our family tree and I had to explain that I had a dad, but he was mean and he hurt grandma. I told him that he’d never have to meet him. He has seen him thought at a family event. My father has never seen my youngest child, at least not in person.

This day makes me wonder whether or not I will regret not seeing him before he dies. Hubby says that I will never know how I will feel at his death, but he knows that nothing good will come of his re-entry into my life. My siblings have also cutoff contact with him and my husband rightfully feels that there’s a reason for that.

He gave me by bipolar diagnosis. I can trace it back at least 3 generations on his side of the family. One of my relatives was diagnosed as insane and wasn’t allowed to enter the US. My father is still in denial that he has bipolar disorder though which is one of the reasons that his children avoid him. Untreated, he is abusive and cruel.

I have two blessings to honor today though. My husband is the best father that I have ever known. He is loving, fun, kind but sets boundaries, and he makes time for them, even when work and other things get in the way. We also honor my father-in-law who raised my husband.

Mood Update

I got a big chunk of sleep though I still only got 6 hours which isn’t typically enough for me. I feel good today though. I’m neither up nor down. Right now, my anxiety is in check as well. Perhaps, last night’s fantastic date night is just what I needed to get back on track. I have also been consistently busy, but it was low stress. Structure has always been helpful. Hopefully, the pattern will continue. My husband and I agreed to a check-in tonight to determine if I need to call the psychiatrist to quickly nip any potential episode in the bud early. At this point, I think this weekend has warded the call and kept the demon in hibernation.

Am I in for an episode?

Sleep has been inconsistent and elusive and I worry that I may be in for an episode of depression or mania. There have been events around the end of the school year that have impacted my mental health as well.

I wonder if I am due for an episode. It’s been a week without a night of solid sleep. I’m still tired so that’s a very good sign for me. I need to get sleep though or I am going to swing one way or another and parenting while depressed or manic is very difficult. I can barely take care of myself and sometimes I cannot even do that. Thus, I’m trying to ward off the demon lurking in the shadows.

It started with missing my morning medications twice this week. My routine was thrown off and I just forgot. It wasn’t anything intentional and I would never intentionally skip any medication without speaking to a physician first. I know my illness cannot go treated without a medication in my case. I have tried and then I ended up fighting for stability for years. I’m not going to fall into that trap again where I think I can do without the medications or that I am better off without them for whatever reason.

For me, at the time, it was the desire to have children. I felt, based on some opinions off ill-informed medical professionals, that being on medication would result in children who had horrible birth defects. Later, talking to people who actually understood the research and work with people with mood disorders, I learned that no two medications are equal and neither are any two patients. There is solid data around the effects of medication in pregnancy and a patient can do research around these medications with their psychiatrist and, perhaps, more of an expert.

Lack of sleep is a trigger for depression, mania, and mixed episodes for me. I think that it might be time to take something to help me sleep. I need to do all I can to control an illness that is sometimes uncontrollable.

Speaking of the lurking demon

My son’s last day of school was Wednesday and there was a family day on Friday. My social anxiety was out in full force to the point where I had stomach problems all morning before the event. I couldn’t stay home because my son was looking forward to this for two weeks. He even knew the date on the calendar. I knew I didn’t have a physical ailment so that was out of the question as an excuse.

I didn’t let the demon win. I went to the event knowing my husband would be there for a time and I believed that would be helpful. In reality, his presence wasn’t helpful because we took a divide and conquer approach with the boys and we were separated most of the time. I avoided the other parents like the plague as I was petrified. I did say goodbye and thank you to his teacher who is not returning next year. I did it though. I went. I let my son play with his friends and do the various activities. My anxiety didn’t stop him from having a good time. The demon didn’t win.

I immediately felt better upon leaving. I was no longer shaking and my stomach had settled. I used this time as a learning experience for my son. He knows I have a mental illness and we’ve talked about it before. I explained that was really hard for mommy and that we should do those things that are hard for us. We should try to do those things that are not easy.

Final proud mama brag

My speech delayed vision impaired son had a perfect report card. I’m not sure how to refer to his vision problem so vision impaired might not be the correct terminology and if that’s the case, I’m sorry.

He had Ms for meets expectations for everything. The M means that the kids are kindergarten ready in those particular areas and the goal is to have all Ms in the June before Kindergarten. Well, my kiddo has another year before he enters kindergarten and I’m so proud!! I knew he was smart, but I’m so excited that his issues aren’t holding him back.

More Changes for the Big Guy

The big guy is facing some changes around his vision and speech therapy. I’m trying to figure out how to prepare him for potential bullies.

We went and selected glasses for the big guy on Saturday and he was so excited. We went in thinking we were going to be spending a lot less than we were especially with a 2 for 1 deal, but my big guy needs special lenses because his prescription is so strong for his astigmatism causing bilateral refractive amblyopia. His glasses are covered for 12 months for accidental damage, but it takes 10 days to get a replacement so we bought a backup pair with the heavier lenses.

We discovered his private SPL-T is leaving the location she is at due to her commute. I’m very disappointed because he just changed his SPL-T and SPL-TA at school a couple of months ago on short notice and school is ending so he is also losing that support. We are supposed to discuss setting up observation times for the new therapist when we go in to speech this afternoon.

The good news is that he is so excited about his glasses. His momma wears them and one of his friends also wear them so he thinks it’s kind of cool. His dad really needs glasses too, but they messed up his prescription and we can’t afford to buy a new pair out of pocket. Anyway, he is excited and he is looking forward to looking cool and being able to see.

The bad news is that I’m getting some flack about the fact that he’s going to wear glasses. I have been told to wait until he wears them in school and see if he still likes them then. First off, my kid who has a speech issue is loved by the kids in class. They even translate for him when the teachers don’t understand that he wants the black marker and not the blue marker. These kids aren’t going to suddenly stop being friends because he gets glasses. One of his friends even has glasses now.

Second, the kid cannot bead a string because he can’t see. He’s overly cautious on steps because he can’t see. There are things he just can’t do that preschoolers are supposed to be able to do because he can’t see and everyone thinks that glasses will open a new world to him. They believe that once he gets the glasses the whole world will open to him because everything will be so much clearer.

Potential Bullies…..Already?

I am wondering if my sensitivity is a mental illness issue or a mama bear thing. My son is in preschool and I am being told he isn’t going to like going to school because he’s going to get bullied because of his glasses.

The big issue is now I am truly concerned about it. I’m wondering how to talk to him about bullying and what to do if he his being bullied. I guess I would try to start from his perspective and I think it would be super important to validate what he’s feeling and experiencing. I want him to know that if something is being done or said that upsets him, it’s OK to feel angry or sad. I want him to know feelings are natural and a part of life.

I want him to know it’s not OK for others to be mean or cruel nor is it OK for him to be cruel. I want him to know that he should tell someone what happened that has made him upset. I don’t want him to think that he must hold these things in because it will make things worse because we want to help him to make things better for him. I also want him to know that we love him the way that he is and we want him to continue to be the sweet caring boy that he is and treat others kindly. I would also want him to know his momma and daddy will do whatever we can to find a way to discuss this with school and improve his environment.

Another thing I would want to talk to him about is how to handle those emotions. He and I have been working on deep breathing to settle when he is very upset. This has been extremely important and beneficial because there are times when he is crying so hard that I cannot understand the words that he is saying. The breathing has helped calm him enough to speak and express his feelings. We cannot help the situation if we cannot find out what the problem is.

think it will also be beneficial for him to find other ways of self soothing when he is hurting. I don’t have a solution for that as of yet. I know holding one of his toys is beneficial, but his toy doesn’t go everywhere and I’m not sure that would help in the long-term. I suppose I have time to figure out some other things to help him.

I guess these are the joys of parenting these days.

 

Thinking About the Dialectic

DBT, or dialectical behavioral therapy, has been a huge part of my therapy for the past 7 years or so. It has been the main therapeutic module that I have used and it has been the one that has shown the most success for me over the course of my lifetime.

A main idea of DBT is that of the dialectic. That idea is that universe is filled with multiple opposing sides and forces and that also leads to the fact that there’s also more than one to view a situation or solve a problem. It also has this idea that change is the only constant. Those two things, which I believe to be true, may seem a bit too philosophical; however, for me, they have been a big factor in my ability to adapt even when I am symptomatic. It’s something that my therapist and I walk through when things come up.

For example, I have two young sons, which is why this blog is called Being a Bipolar Mom, and there are times where things happen around them where we will test my perception or my problem solving abilities. For example, someone in my family will say something about my son’s speech sound disorder and tell me that he needs to have that fixed by kindergarten. I get angry because they make it sound like my son has something where it has a natural progression and we can say exactly when it will be “fixed”. I saw this as a shot at my son initially and I felt that they were placing way too much pressure on him.

Talking to my therapist, we were able to tease out details of the conversation that I may have misread because I was in mama bear mode protecting my son. I had the feeling of who the hell are they to say what my son should and shouldn’t do by such and such time and how the hell do they know if he is going to be able to do it or not?

The part that was missing was that they were trying to help. They told us they wanted us to send him for private speech therapy, which my husband and I were in the process of doing already, and that they were willing to pay for it. My mother-in-law used doctor google and informed herself of the horrible perils of a speech delay in K and how he won’t be able to learn to read, etc. Of course, she doesn’t know that my son can spell phonetically. He may not be able to say the sounds, but he sure as hell knows what they sound like. He can sound out some words too and he’s 4. Neither myself, my husband, his speech therapy team (2 SLP-Ts and a SLP-TA), nor his teacher think that he’s going to have any trouble reading as a result and think that we’re doing a great job with sound awareness.

Basically, in all of this, I learned that there was a disconnect. She was seeing his speech disorder as this horrible thing that was going to cripple him and that we should get him all the help that he needs. I heard it as you need to do more or he’s going to be illiterate. Part of that was that I let my mommy bear get out in front of me. I didn’t want him to hear any of what she said. The other part was that our communication was not clear. Instead of asking us about our son’s progress, she assumed that it was holding him back in ways it wasn’t. Instead of me asking her what she meant by paying for whatever it takes to get it fixed, I shouldn’t have bottled it all in getting more frustrated. We both wanted the same thing though.