Sunday, May 2, 2010

Back in hospital...

So after many months of relative wellness, here again I find myself in hospital. I spent a week at the Civic before being transferred to the Royal. I find comfort in the familiarity of my surroundings and of the staff at the Royal.

I don’t know exactly how I slipped or what went wrong…looking back, I believe I had a hypomanic episode and then just crashed to the bottom. It’s frustrating to find myself back here because I was so sure that I was doing everything right: my diet, exercise and medication regimen remained stable throughout the time before I landed in hospital.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Rachel's Story - Matt Good

I don’t know if you are familiar with Matthew Good but he is one of the several famous people who openly suffers from bipolar disorder. In 2007, he released a very candid album, 'Hospital Music', after a long stay in a psychiatric ward, a diagnosis with bipolar 2 disorder and a struggle with an addiction to anxiety medication.

I was only recently introduced to this album and though it’s not for you if you’re looking for something uplifting, it’s something I feel I can relate to from the perspective of someone who’s been on a similar journey.

Also, Matt Good has written a blog about depression and bipolar disorder and in 2008, received an award for raising awareness about mental illness.

In addition, there is some interesting info about the album in the context of his illness here:

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Rachel's Story - Difficult Time of Year

For some of us who are suffering from depression and/or anxiety, the holidays can be a very difficult time of year. The extra socializing and shopping in crowded malls only serve to heighten our anxieties. Seeing other people enjoying themselves at holiday parties while we are feeling desperately sad on the inside only serves to deepen our sadness (I always feel somehow inadequate that I can’t seem to join in on the holiday fun). Just remember, you are not alone. And try and do something for yourself EVERY day. You’ll get through it!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Rachel's Story - Accepting the Diagnosis

Someone asked me this week how I originally accepted my diagnosis. On the one hand, I was very RELIEVED when I was diagnosed. I remember how good it felt to finally have an explanation for the way I felt. It took away some of the shame and embarrassment associated with the dark feelings I was experiencing because I finally had a name and a reason for what was going on inside of me. And perhaps most importantly, I realized that there were others who were going through the same thing. I WAS NOT ALONE.

On the other hand, I was (and still am, sometimes) ANGRY. Why me? All I could see were the ways in which my life would have to change. From now on, I would have to be more careful about my sleep, constantly watching my moods, taking meds, participating in group therapy, seeing doctors regularly, having regular blood work, etc. When my mood starts to slip, my psychologist encourages me to do my “homework” (work on thinking patterns) and sometimes I just get so tired of it, I’m desperate to be “normal”. All of the effort involved in keeping myself well seems totally overwhelming and, on the bad days, I resent it.

How do others feel?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Rachel's Story - Brunch & Learn Nov. 29th

On Sunday November 29th I will be guest speaking at a Brunch & Learn about Bipolar Disorder. It begins at 9:30am and is at Agudath Israel Synagogue (1400 Coldrey Ave., Ottawa). I would love to see you there!

Here is the blurb about the talk:

Bipolar Disorder; When is a mood swing a problem?

We all have bad days, good days and, every once in a while, great days. Our moods come and go, like clouds in the wind. So when is it a problem? It’s a problem when our mood swings affect our ability to function, when they wreck our relationships, get us in trouble at work, and make it hard for us to focus in school. It’s a problem when we lose perspective and we lose our judgement, maybe do things that are very out of character, and sometimes suffer serious consequences as a result. In Bipolar Disorder, the “highs” (mania) are more than feeling great, and the “lows” (depression) are more than the blues. The symptoms that are part of this disorder can cause us (or others) terrible distress.

In their presentation, our speakers will try to shed light on Bipolar Disorder, what it is, what it feels like, and some psychological adjunct treatment approaches. Rachel Scott-Mignon is 27 years old and was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in the fall of 2006. She has an Honours Degree in Theatre and Communication from the University of Ottawa. Rachel is a spokesperson for the Royal Ottawa's Foundation for Mental Health and writes a blog about living with a mental illness at Dr. Connie Dalton is one of the co-founders o f the Ottawa Institute for CBT. She is a clinical psychologist specializes in the treatment of Depression and Bipolar Disorder and supervises psychiatry residents in cognitive behavioural therapy. Dr. Irit Sterner is a clinical psychologist, affiliated with the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, and as a Clinical Professor at the University of Ottawa. She is currently working in the Mood Disorders Program, where she provides specialized assessments and treatments in individual and group CBT for mood disorders and supervises doctoral students in psychology.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Rachel's Story - Balance

Life is so busy – especially when you’re young and your friends want to be socializing many nights and you have work commitments and exercise routines to fit in and family engagements…pretty soon there are so many demands on one’s time that it becomes stressful for anyone, let alone someone living with a mental illness. I know from experience that a big part of staying healthy with my bipolar disorder involves getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night and maintaining a healthy balance in my life (ie: not working too much, not socializing at the expense of my sleep, making sure I get regular exercise, etc.).

In the beginning, it was difficult for some of my friends to understand that occasionally I had to turn them down, choosing instead to stay in and get some rest. My true friends, though, have learned to accept this over time and it helps me to create a balanced lifestyle.

The exercise piece is difficult sometimes. When I’m really depressed, the last thing I feel like doing is dragging myself out for a run or to a yoga class. But when I’m feeling good or only mildly depressed, exercise can keep me from spiraling down. It definitely helps me to de-stress and to sleep better.

In combination with meds and regular visits to my psychiatrist & CBT, these are the elements that seem to be keeping me relatively healthy and balanced these days.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Rachel's Story - Panic

I just started a new panic group at the ROH to try to deal with the panic disorder I’ve been experiencing. Apparently, panic disorder is present if panic attacks are accompanied by a persistent anxiety or worry about having another attack, are associated with a fearful interpretation of panic symptoms or result in life changes as a result of the attacks. I’ve been experiencing several panic attacks lately, predominantly at bedtime. I suddenly become very fearful, my heart begins to race and pound, my body trembles, I sweat, feel dizzy, feel short of breath and have thoughts that I am “going crazy”.

Due to fear of panic attacks, I have often avoided certain situations. These have included public places where lots of people are in a small space such as public transportation (buses, subways), concerts, parties, shopping malls, etc.

Historically, to deal with my panic attacks, I have frequently depended upon self-harm (which I realize is destructive and not a good solution) and medication (clonazepam and lorazepam). I am hoping that the group I’ve just started will provide me with some good alternative solutions. Does anyone have any suggestions?