Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Being drug free and bipolar

Today marks 14 days off my medication. I've noticed several changes:

First, I've dropped a shocking eight pounds in two weeks. Most of that was probably due to water retention from the excessive amounts of food I was eating because of the med's effect on my appetite. However, my eating disorder says hello and wants to let you know that this piece of information is very important to him. My urges to binge are almost completely gone. My appetite is back to normal, I have not restricted, ED is pouting. I did have one binge, but it was not from medication-induced excessive appetite. Unfortunately someone I'm close to was in a motorboating accident this weekend. Though he escaped with minor injuries, the accident was very bad and could have been tragic. I completely freaked. But I know the med was not why I binged. He's well, and I'm calm again.

I've tried supplements to keep my mood lifted and stable. That's all good except that when my mood drops, it's bad. Really, really bad. Thoughts of wanting to end it all flitted in and out of my brain. I've been able to beat them down instantly, but this was still too scary. 

It's a lifeblood-sucking low that reminds me of the dementors in Harry Potter. I sank to this low during four days of the last 12. My therapist was right: it is very hard to be bipolar and not be medicated. But that's what you get when you get rid of an eating disorder. I'm finally feeling my emotions because I don't numb them out with food anymore. The depressive spell was scary. It made me admit that I do need the medication.

Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to the psychiatrist we go...

It's been hard to digest all of the side effects I had on the meds so I made this table for my psychiatrist.

click to make it big enough to read

The meds highlighted in yellow I discontinued because of the weight gain. In light of this we decided to try me back on wellbutrin at the dose where I was stable for over a year. It was only when I started on the double dose that I got a rash. The rash was just dose-sensitive and I am only slightly itchy. It's nothing Claritin can't handle. It hasn't ever turned to anaphylaxis (trouble breathing, hives all over, you know, the kind of allergy people get from peanuts) so my doc thinks this is the best choice for me right now. Unfortunately it's still not enough, my mood is still depressed -- but I don't have fleeting thoughts about wanting to die anymore.

As for my weight, ED and I may be making peace soon. I trust my body on Wellbutrin. My weight was extremely stable while I was on it -- I only wavered 1/2 pound up and down during a three-month monitoring period. I think I can sit back and just eat my damn food and I know that my body will find its place. While I didn't know it the first time I was on this med, I can see now that I looked pretty dang hot at my stable wellbutrin weight.

There's another word for hotness in my book: recovery. I'm finally able to appreciate my body. All of the weight I've gained has made me re-evaluate and appreciate what I had. It may not be the weight ED wants me to be, but I was stable and I wasn't letting food rule my life.

I'm feeling hopeful. Then again, I'm bipolar, so we'll see how long that lasts!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

I found the source of my hunger!

It's the med. I have no doubts.

Yesterday I was even hungrier than I was over the weekend. By 11 am I'd consumed a bagel with cream cheese, two lattes, two mini pieces of chocolate, a handful of dates and an Italian wrap sandwich and I felt like I hadn't eaten enough. It was absurd. I called my psychiatrist and he told me to stop taking the medication.

In some ways I'm crushed. This was the ninth medication we've tried me on for depression / bipolar disorder. It actually worked and was one of the few that did. But at the same time, it has been wonderful to wake up today, eat a single slice of cold pizza for breakfast, and discover that two hours have passed and I am not the least bit hungry.

What now?

My pdoc wants me to wait a few more days to get the medication completely out of my system. From there, do I wait until my weight drops back down before starting the new med? I hopped on the scale this morning and discovered that five additional pounds went on in the last week because of all of the overeating, officially putting me at my highest weight ever. Do I risk going even higher on a new med? Do I tough it out?

I'm leaning towards toughing it out. Giving myself a couple months to get re-acquainted with my hunger-fullness signals will help me better spot any weight and hunger-related problems with the last med. I also plan to only give a medication a 3-4 week trial period. In the past, I've gone as long as nine months before I put my foot down about medication side effects, hoping I could tolerate them.

In the meantime, I will be supplementing my diet with 1200 mg of omega 3 acids in the form of krill oil, and 15 billion colony units of probiotics daily. I will add in acupuncture if necessary. I have found acupuncture to be helpful for the treatment of depression in the past, and looking like a pincushion is pretty funny to me!
There is some evidence in the literature that the high levels of omega 3 acids and probiotics help with depression as well. At the very least none of it will do any harm. I will continue to keep the sugar substitutes out of my diet as they are not helping me understand my fullness signals.

On the plus side, I love my acupuncturist and will be happy to see her again!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Hungry, thrill-seeking girl with a death grip

At least, according to the Wall Street Journal, that's what I am.

I spent the weekend sailing but this wasn't your average sailboat race. These 100+ year-old sailboats called log canoes hang people ten feet above the water on planks to keep from tipping over. Why? Because there's a ton of sail and hardly anything under the boat to counterbalance it. The end result? Two hours of exhilaration (read: sheer terror) that you're about to capsize or get whacked by a huge piece of wood while flying through the water at fantastic speeds. This video from the Wall Street Journal gives you a pretty good idea of what my experience on the log canoe Noddy was like.

Log Canoe Racing Thrills on Chesapeake Bay by WSJ_Live

I sailed one two-hour race. It was incredible exercise sliding in and out of the boards. But alas, my 'death grip' wasn't deathly enough and I fell off my board while we were tearing through the water at a good 10mph. The boat didn't stop; I got thrown a line and pulled in while it kept going at those ten miles per hour. But we finished -- upright! -- and this was apparently the first time The Noddy had finished a race all year. They called me their 'lucky charm.' They also called me their newest heavyweight.

It was a joke. You see, as a boardman on these boats it's best to be on the heavy side. While I hate the fact that I weigh 155 pounds and I feel enormous, they wanted someone heavier than me to help keep the boat upright. But no one else volunteered so I was it and apparently I was enough. But they still made fun of the fact that they wished I had weighed more, because it would've made the job of keeping the boat upright easier.

They. Wished. I. Weighed. More. 

It's very strange to think that these people had no problem with my weight; I was told for years by my family that I was overweight and therefore unhealthy, fat, ugly, and unloveable. Often in more words, though. This weekend gave me a rare moment of self-acceptance and validation. My 155 pounds helped us to our first finished race all season.

It also gave me one hell of an appetite. I had trouble getting full after both Saturday's race and after sailing my usual small boats on today. I keep telling myself that it's just the insane amounts exercise I got sailing. I didn't binge and I let myself eat. I let myself have a 200-empty-calorie hard cider after the race instead of a diet soda. It was hard for me but ultimately okay because those 155 pounds of an awful lot of muscle needed fuel.

I still worry about my hunger, hoping it's the exercise and not the med. I'm taking a day off tomorrow to rest. Hopefully my appetite will calm down. But in all it was a great, exhilarating weekend.  Oh, and I got to see a river dolphin just as we crossed the start line :o) 

p.s. For those of you who were wondering how I got into this, in the video you'll see the red-shirted "Silver Heel" crew capsizing. What you can't see is my aunt getting dunked in the water as she crewed that boat.

Friday, August 7, 2015

No sugar substiutes challenge days 2 and 3

Life always throws curveballs at just the wrong time.

I've  got an eating disorder, which means my emotions rule my eating. If I want to find out whether my med is causing my binges, ideally I need to have a period of very calm, emotionally-stable days.

No such luck!

Yesterday my eating went pretty well. I was shocked how long a normal-sized breakfast of a bagel and cream cheese kept me satisfied. I half ran/half walked the 3k loop around campus at lunch. And then I found out that my project leader is leaving work.

I'm super-sensitive to changes in leadership at work. I've had an abusive boss before and I'm terrified of having to work for another one. Immediately I turned into

And I had visions of getting kicked off of the project, living with an abusive replacement for the next year until she returns (she'll be on temporary assignment), being terrified that we'll be losing her permanently...oh, yeah. Truly ridiculous.

But I took care of myself. I went out to dinner, let myself have a stiff drink, a healthy salad, and a protein-rich entree. I then went and put an hour in on the ice rink. I came home feeling calm and like I handled the situation well. No binge, right?

And then came home and baked my stress away. And of course, woke up at 2 am with a case of the munchies, and proceeded to eat the treats I made. In a reasonable quantity, but still. 2 am. Me. Food. Not good.

Today I've been ravenously hungry. Maybe this is because I put in a double workout yesterday. I didn't do it to punish myself. I love skating, I like running. I needed the stress relief. But today I've been fighting off bingeing since the morning. I had to run a major meeting that lasted six hours today; and in the middle of all of this I realized that I lost my cell phone. I can't find it. Anywhere.

Needless to say, I'm stressed about stuff that I'm blowing way out of proportion. I had a protein-heavy dinner  but I still wanted to eat way beyond being full. I've been eating every two hours. Is it the med? Is it the stress? I vow not to binge, but damn, why can't I stop thinking about food? I haven't had any stevia, and I kept my caffeine intake minimal. I don't know. I need to keep going. I will keep going. And perhaps take another anxiety pill.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Day 1: No artificial sweeteners/no stevia challenge

Trigger warning: weights and food consumption

Yesterday's no aspartame/no splenda/no stevia challenge went very well. I also happened to fall asleep before taking my medication. I paid the price for it; I was suicidal during the morning before I cycling back up to being normal. However, with the medication out of my system it did give me my hunger and fullness cues back completely. It was incredibly refreshing. I didn't realize how out-of-touch I had been with my body, either from the sweeteners or the med. I ate four times yesterday, mostly at a normal speed for me, and I ate normal quantities. I found that using a food and mood log very helpful. 

It was hard to get through the afternoon without a diet soda, but I had tea with a teaspoon of sugar in it. It's amazing how my eating disorder leads me to eat enormous quantities of food sometimes, but freaks out about a teaspoon of sugar. The good news: I survived. Bad news: I realized just how dependent on the meds I am. 


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Fat and happy, or skinny and depressed?

It's a choice I'm worried I'm going to have to make. Trigger warning for eating disorder behavior and weight discussion.

I've been through 14 different medications since I started treatment back in 2011. Each one has had some major problem: two gave me violent tremors, one I was allergic to, two others made me sleep all the time, one made me drunk, two others put 20 pounds on me in four months....

Did I mention I have an eating disorder?

Six weeks ago I elected to go back on medication for my bipolar disorder. This was because I realized that although I was losing the weight I'd put on from the Seroquel, I was fighting a daily battle against the part of me that thought it was a good idea to jump out my 10th story window. This obviously was not an option. Back on the meds I went.

I was put on something called Saphris. I noticed that in two weeks I gained ten pounds and I was bingeing almost constantly. When I was off the med I was only bingeing once a month. The doctor dropped me down to the pediatric dose. I am down to bingeing once a week but I am eating myself out of house and home the rest of the time. Some of this may be that I skate three times a week and sail once a week. I am very athletic, more so than ever before. But I'm bingeing, still, far too often.

I am in a position now where I need to quickly figure out whether it is the med that is making me continue to binge once a week. The med works brilliantly and I desperately do not want to quit it. But I still don't know what's going on with the eating disorder. I have an idea though.
I think this stuff is to blame.

You see, I've never been able to shake the artificial / sugar replacers from my diet. It's part of the eating disorder that still lingers. Yet when I looked back at the last two weeks I've only binged twice. What happened the night before each of these binges? I had a beverage sweetened with stevia.

So I'm going to do a little challenge for myself. I want to see if it's really the stevia messing up my recovery, or whether it's just the med that's making me binge. So if you'll put up with ten days of posts on my progress, hopefully I'll have an answer about whether I have to choose between a med that makes me binge, or whether I can finally be happy and not have to worry about out-of-control eating. So that's it. No stevia, no diet sodas, no aspartame, no splenda. Nothing for ten days. Will I notice a change? Today is day 1. Here we go.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Net worth update: Month 1

This month was my first month of recording my finances. I've been separating myself financially since we split in April and it's taken me a while to get back on my feet. My goal for this month was to build up my emergency fund. This took priority over debt repayment. And it looks like I did pretty well.

Start: 7/8/20157/13/20157/20/20158/1/2015Month's ChangeYear's Change
Car loan (3.45%)(21,682.00)(21,691.21)(21,691.21)(21,325.73)356.27356.27
Paypal (0%)(200.00)(200.00)(180.00)(170.00)30.0030.00
Credit card (0%)(3,000.00)(2,975.00)(2,975.00)(2,975.00)25.0025.00
Student loan 1 (2.65%)(1,510.81)(1,510.81)(1,510.81)(1,510.81)0.000.00
Student loan 2 (2.65%)(4,845.64)(4,845.64)(4,845.64)(4,845.64)0.000.00
Car value14,232.0014,232.0014,232.0014,
Car insurance jar0.
Skis jar0.000.000.0027.6027.6027.60


My net worth went up by $1966.00 this month! That's an absurd sum, given that my entire budget after I pay the mortgage is $2500/month. Some of it was good saving. This past week I only spent $300. But mostly it came from cashing in my Health Savings Account refunds. I put all of that money towards my savings account. I don't expect to have this much of a bump again. I expect to be able to save $150 or so per week, or $600-$700 a month. There were also no disasters this month, and that's good.

Looking forward to another good month next month.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

He's back, and so is the budget

The good news...

The Chief Engineer came back.

I won't go into personal details but the couples I know who separated and came back together are quite a bit stronger than they were before. Yes, it was very painful. But I knuckled up, took better care of myself than I have in ages during my nearly three months alone, and I think we came out better for it.

One improvement is that we will now and forevermore live with separate finances. Part of our problem came from the fact that I spend money like water and he holds on to it. That of course builds resentment. Having two incomes gave me a false sense of financial security. Now I live under my own income. I also bought a car. First car! I need a car now as he and I were co-dependent before and never did anything apart (no wonder we needed to separate!) We now both have activities at the same time in different cities.

After groceries and my car loan and my contribution to our mortgage I have $400/week left to spend on what's got to get bought. That should be plenty, I think. I hope. I'm not good with money so we'll have to see how it goes.

Now here's the bad news...

When we separated it was very quick and very dirty. He took one credit card and I took the other and the debt that came with it. Fortunately I managed to snag 0% interest on a new spare credit card. I got the spare card because when I went to rent a car back in May I found out that I didn't have the right brand of card (visa/mc/amex) and couldn't do the rental. I also feel that since the stripes on my cards die occasionally, it would be good to have a spare. Here's the debt.

Debts: $3220
$3000 at 0% for 16 months on credit card
$220 at 0% until September 2015 on PayPal credit

I've added bars on the right to track my progress. I've spent the summer contributing to an emergency fund for myself but not chipping away at the debt. That is in my name and is my responsibility. Let's see how I do. Hopefully money will no longer divide us.

In the meantime, check out my "Organizing $$$" tab to follow my progress!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Organizing for house guests before and after

When the Chief Engineer moved out I decided that 1200 square feet and two bedrooms was too much space for just me, and honestly I wanted some company. I also wanted some incentive to keep the place clean and organized! I decided to put the spare space on Air BnB and within a week had two lovely guests. I specified women only. Both women were my age and very friendly and I was happy to have them over. The extra money didn't hurt on my new budget either!

Before the ladies came I needed to get things cleaned up. I'd really let go after the separation, as you can see!

Except for the kitchen. That was okay.
Problem: I come home, I'm tired, and everything lands on the couch
Or next to the bed!

After ages of decluttering, my problem now is not that I don't have space for things, it's just that I don't put things away. After I tidyed up here's how it all looked. So much better, right?

Does anyone have any suggestions for avoiding the mess in the first place? I'm so tired when I come home from work that I just drop it all and then don't seem to get around to tidying up until I have a reason, like house guests. I think it's good incentive for me to continue to do Air BnB.

Monday, June 22, 2015

So many hobbies, so much stuff!

A big challenge of being separated and alone again has been keeping myself busy, happy, and organized without someone else doing the planning. Also, without breaking the bank!

One of my favorite activities is sailing. Sounds expensive, right? But because I live in Maryland and work at a place with a sailing club it’s a cheap activity. It costs me $10 per person to rent the sailboat for a half day or $7.50 to participate in a regatta, aka a boat race. Gas is $15 if I drive alone. $25 isn’t bad for an entire day’s worth of fun.  

The hardest part has been making sure that I have all of my stuff ready for sailing. I can’t believe how much gear is involved! The first two times I went out this year I had to turn around and go back home because I forgot things. I ended up late to the marina both times. One of those times was the morning of a regatta. Not good!

My sailing instructor suggested a go-bag. It’s just a pre-packed bag. The idea is that when you get home from a day sailing you re-pack it so that you’re ready to go the next time. An important part of the go-bag is a list of all of the stuff that has to be added on the day-of. This way you really don’t forget anything. 

Here’s the waterproof card I keep in the bag. It tells me what needs to be in the bag at all times.

Here’s what all of the pre-packed stuff looks like.

On the morning of a sail I can use this card to know what to add. 
And since my glasses case isn’t big enough to fit my huge sunglasses, I store them in my sailing gloves. Instead of buying a new pair of sailing gloves ($25+) I just repurposed my old gardening gloves. The ropes on a boat can give you awful blisters so the gloves are a must!

If you’re like me and you’re always forgetting things on the way out the door, a go-bag works great. The bag just lives next to my door so that when I’m running out the door at 6:30 on a Saturday morning I don’t have to think!

Looking forward to another day out on the water.

How do you prepare your gear for hobbies you participate in often? 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

What a year it's been, are you still the same?

Has your opinion changed?

Those are some of my favorite lyrics from a song I love, I Don't Know You Anymore, by Savage Garden. In some ways, it sums up my life since I've stopped blogging.

So here's what happened.

In January of 2014 I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type II. Then they started throwing meds at me. Five in total. Then, I didn't realize, the medication made me crazier than I was to start with. I spent a week on a psych ward, voluntarily. I got out of the hospital and spent 9 months thinking I was well.

I wasn't. I was happy but I was bingeing more than I had in years and I was incredibly disconnected from the world, from my work, from my husband. The only things I could do well were write stories, write music, spend money, and sleep.

Of course it all came crashing down on me. In March I almost lost my job because I couldn't focus.

In April the Chief Engineer left. Whether he's coming back in another question. Some of this is to do with the mental health issues I've struggled with, some of it is his own issues, and some of it is that we've been together for 10 years and grown into different people in that time.

So where does it leave me?

I'm off the bipolar medication. Not a decision I regret, as I'm able to focus on my job-related work and on the people around me. When I went off the meds the bingeing almost all but went away! So now I mostly have the ups and downs to contend with. It's going to take a while to learn to deal with them without medication and without using the eating disorder to numb those emotions.

I have the condo to myself and the only one to pick up after me is me. I also now have a car and a car loan. I also have the guilt associated with both of these moves as I wasn't financially prepared to buy a car and I told myself that I would never lead a life where I would need a car. But I need it to see my aunt and uncle and friends who live nowhere near me, all of whom are keeping me sane right now. I have discovered that it was a huge mistake not to have a bank account to myself. I feel like I'm starting over financially, emotionally. That's not a bad thing. I made a lot of mistakes before. I'm only 32, and still willing to learn.

Back to budgeting, decluttering, and sorting myself out emotionally. I'm ready for the ride.