My PCOS Diagnosis and My Mental Health

One of the things I do not talk about much is the year that I had in 2017 in terms of my health. 2017 was the year that I was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder. However, months before my bipolar diagnosis, I was also diagnosed with PCOS, polycystic ovarian syndrome.

PCOS was actually a tougher diagnosis for me than bipolar disorder. Why? Because PCOS affects just about every aspect of my life and health, including my moods. One of the toughest discoveries with PCOS was that I was likely infertile.

I already had trouble with fertility before, but this diagnosis was pretty much the nail in the coffin of me becoming a mother. With my medical history and the fact that I would need expensive treatments to give myself a chance at fertility, I pretty much had to resign myself to never being a mom.

What I did not realize was how much this was going to affect my moods. I got deeply depressed with my PCOS diagnosis. While I had always suspected that I might not be able to have children, having that fact confirmed was another story entirely.

Knowing that I won’t be having children (because I cannot afford fertility treatments and am not risking my life savings on a slim chance of success), made me not only sad, but it also made me question what my life means or should be. I began to have suicidal thoughts and to wonder if I should even exist anymore.

Luckily, I was in therapy and was able to deal with my depressive episode. However, what I have found now that I have been also diagnosed with bipolar is just how much these conditions affect one another. Some of the symptoms of PCOS include depression, fatigue and tiredness, anger and agitation, brain fog, anxiety, and mood swings. Basically, PCOS can cause a bunch of issues that I already have with bipolar disorder.

This makes managing my moods especially difficult. It is never certain whether my symptoms come from my bipolar disorder or my PCOS. And, of course, PCOS is only so manageable. The physical symptoms can be partially dealt with through medications, but not completely. And those treatments only do so much for the mood issues that come along with PCOS.

As such, even with bipolar meds, I can feel depressed, foggy, or any number of other symptoms. And I think that these issues from PCOS can trigger my bipolar depressive episodes for sure, maybe even my hypomanic episodes. After all, when my hormones are off-balance, it stands to reason that my brain chemistry could also be affected.

Anyway, I want to explore the relationship between my PCOS and my bipolar disorder further in coming posts, but for now this is a basic explanation of some of what goes on with me and my mental health. Anyone else dealing with these two issues together? Any thoughts? Share your thoughts and comments below. Thanks so much for reading!

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My Life…

My life has been a crazy series of ups and downs as of late. It all started with med changes forced by insurance and has just catapulted from there. I’ve been up, I’ve been down, and I’ve been really down.

I’ve moved. I’m trying to revamp my writing career, and I am trying to figure out what my priorities are. Everything is up in the air right now and chaotic. And as those of you with bipolar disorder know, being out of control and in chaos is never a good thing. I am just waiting for that other shoe to drop right now as everything is teetering on the edge.

I am going to be contributing to this blog at least once a week. And I also recently started a Patreon page so that readers here can contribute to my blog if they deem it worthy of continuing. I would appreciate any support people are willing to give. Even $2 a month can help to keep me writing here instead of focusing my efforts elsewhere.

Anyway, with everything being so tumultuous lately, I have a lot that I can talk about in the days to come. Look for another post within the next week and hopefully continued weekly or biweekly posts from then on. Thanks as always for reading. And feel free to leave any comments or suggestions for topics.

I’d Rather Be Asleep

When I am depressed, and I mean really depressed, being awake is a constant struggle. Every movement that I make, even the slightest shift in position is like it takes all of the effort in the world. I have three dogs and taking them outside or feeding them makes me feel as if I am going to collapse from exhaustion. I feel like the worst person in the world because I am so exhausted and have so little energy to devote to them or to my cats, especially since they are the only things that keep me going some days.

When I am depressed, I would rather be asleep 99.9% of the time. When I sleep, I can be anyone and anything. I don’t have to deal with the exhaustion of my daily life. I can just be. I can live the life I have always though I should. A lot of times, my dreams are like I’m in a movie. They can be intensely dramatic or scary, or funny, or romantic, but no matter what, they are always so much better than my real life with depression.

It is a horrible feeling when the “life” in your dreams is better than the life you are living, when every breath you take can feel like more work than you can bear and all you want is some relief. I feel like this is what it means to truly be suicidal or might be the feeling that precipitates the feeling of being suicidal. Because if you can’t stand to even take your dogs out in your backyard because it physically exhausts you, what can you do?

Is this a real life that I’m living if the fantasy is preferable to the reality? Is life worth living if all I want is to be asleep. A part of me knows that this feeling, like all of my periods of depression will pass, but I have been through this so many times that I have to wonder when it will ever get better. Clearly my meds are only doing so much and it might be time to make a change again. I guess after Christmas I will be putting in a call to my doctor once again.

 

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Trying to Be Thankful

When you are in the midst of a depression, holidays can be tough. And that is what is happening to me today. I am trying to feel thankful and get into the spirit of the holiday, but it is really difficult for me to do so when I feel down, unmotivated, and even have been having some suicidal thoughts. But I am a stubborn person and I am determined to at least think about what I am thankful and grateful for.

Firstly, even though I am struggling right now, I am thankful to have an amazing doctor and an incredible therapist. They are the reason I am not doing a whole lot worse than I currently am. They are keeping me moving forward, even if I don’t think I can take a single step forward sometimes. And that being said, I feel grateful for my diagnosis as well because knowing what is going on with me is a major part of the battle and I finally feel like I do have a handle on that part of things.

I am also thankful for the rest of my support system including my two best friends, my mom, my aunts, uncles, grandparents, my cousins, and even my dogs and cats. They are my heart and they will do anything for me to help me feel better and get things back on track.

I am thankful for the fact that I have a roof over my head because I know many people that struggle with mental illnesses like mine do not have that luxury. Even if I am not where I want to be right now, it is better than being on the streets.

Well, I think that is all I have for now. I hope everyone is having a decent holiday, and whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, I hope you have a great day!

I Don’t Know What to Do When Depression Triggers Cannot Be Avoided

Being bipolar can be tough at times. And for me, the worst part of it is the depression. My depression gets so deep and dark that I cannot function for days, weeks, and even months at a time. And what is especially hard is when I know certain things will likely trigger a depressive episode but I can’t do anything to avoid them. This happened to me recently, specifically in my trip to see my grandparents and subsequently my dad.

My relationship with my father is not nor will it likely ever be close. He has not and will not give up drinking in order to have a healthy father-daughter relationship with me. This makes me feel horrible, to say the least, but I have to accept it and walk away as much as I can. However, he is my father and I cannot avoid him completely when he is in the same small town of 600 or so people as my grandparents.

I went up to help when my grandfather was recently hospitalized which is triggering enough for depression, seeing a strong, proud man like my grandpa in the hospital bed fighting pneumonia. Add to that my grandmother, who is the sweetest woman in the world, worried about my grandfather and suffering in her own right. These are tough things to deal with in and of themselves.

I have no problem helping care for my grandparents. In fact, I value the opportunity and every minute I get to spend with them. But when I am there I feel guilty. Guilty that I cannot do more, that I am not a good enough granddaughter, that there should be something more that I am doing for them. I drive myself crazy with self-doubt, self-loathing, and worry.

And then there is my dad, a constant source of anxiety any time I have to deal with him directly. While his attitude changed when I left to come home (earlier than I planned, by the way) and he was nicer to me, I still did not feel comfortable around him. He kept bringing up the letter I wrote to him and how we need to talk about it.

All of these factors together are a recipe for depression for me. The extreme guilt is something I have always had to deal with as long as I can remember. It leads me down a dark path where I feel as though I am worthless and should not even bother getting out of bed. On top of that, when my relationship with my father is thrown in the mix, my emotions become devastatingly low.

And so, what can I do when I know that I have to face my triggers like I did recently? So far, there is not much that I can do. I cannot always avoid my father’s side of the family. At the very least, my grandparents do not deserve that. They are kind and caring people.

But now that I’m home, I am tired, feeling foggy and fuzzy, and generally down and sad…the usual suspects when I start to get depressed. I am trying to push through it and turn things around, but I am stuck in this mood. I hope that one day I can better handle it when I have to deal with my dad. I hope I can get rid of my constant guilt one of these days. I hope, I hope, I hope. But for now, I have to ask what should I do when I cannot avoid triggers? Do any of you have effective coping mechanisms to share? Leave your comments below if you suffer from bipolar or unipolar depression and have options that work for you (besides medication, which I already take).

My dad continued…

So, in my previous post, I mentioned that my father and I are estranged. The reason for this is his drinking and a step that I took with the help of my therapist to distance myself from the toxic situation and relationship that I have with my father. His drinking scares me and when he drinks I never know if the mean drunk will come out or if he will just drink to the point of being a bit jovial. It usually ends up being the meaner side that comes out in my experience.

Anyway, yesterday, I found out that my grandfather is quite ill and I decided to drive up to see him and to stay with my grandmother while he is hospitalized. The only issue is that my dad lives in the same small town and obviously will be around his parents during this time. In fact, he is the first one that told me about the situation.

I got here and things are, of course, normal between me and my grandparents, but not between me and my father. He didn’t hug me hello and kept his distance…acting cordial for the sake of my grandparents.

At one point when we were alone, I told him that my diagnosis has changed to bipolar. Why I did this I am not sure. I guess I thought it would be better if he found out from me directly since I am here. He did not really react and when I mentioned it again, he said something about it being hereditary and how it must be from my mother (it is not).

Then, when he was leaving my grandparents’ house for the night, he mentioned the letter I had sent him. I confronted him about his drinking behavior and other issues we have had over the years in a letter because it was the only way I felt safe to express myself without immediately being argued with or shamed for how I feel.

All he said to me last night was that we need to discuss this letter sometime, but probably not on this trip because he is already stressed and upset. He also said, “all I will leave you with is that it was pretty cold” and just walked out of the house without another word. However, the tone with which he said it was full of rage and hatred.

Instead of considering my words and knowing that he has hurt me my entire life, he blames me for being cold. Instead of dealing with his drinking and stopping (he hasn’t even considered it), he passive aggressively threatens me. I am in a toxic environment away from my support system and I know that when I finally do get home I am going to probably have a crash into depression which always happens after dealing with my dad. Not a great start to the week in my bipolar life.

My Father Shamed My Mental Health

When you have a mental health disorder, no matter what it is, you may experience what I did with my father regarding my mental health issues. But before I can get into the most recent of the events that occurred with my now estranged father, I want to go back to my youth.

My relationship with my father wasn’t always contentious. In fact, when I was very young, we got along great. He taught me to play board games, would read to me at night, and generally was a good dad in my eyes. However, eventually it changed. I became a person with opinions. I started to think for myself and I did not always think in the same way that my father did.

He didn’t like that. I was too much like my mother. I needed to be put in my place. Whatever, his rational behind it, he became more of a source of fear for me than a loving father. Part of this was because of his drinking problem. My father is an alcoholic (though he would never admit that to be true, which is the source of our estrangement today).

His drinking is, in my mind, his defining characteristic, which is sad and disturbing at the same time. The other characteristic is his emotional and mental absence from my life, from childhood through the bulk of my adulthood. And considering we are not even on speaking terms now, I doubt that will ever change.

Okay. Enough background. Now to the part about my mental health. As my post, “My Diagnosis” revealed, I have struggled with mental health issues pretty much all my life. At an early age, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I was in therapy for about six months and then stopped going. But what I did not mention was why treatment was so short-lived.

You guessed it. My father was the reason. It was a fight for my mother (a school counselor with extensive psychological education) to even get my dad to agree to a short stint in counseling. He didn’t believe in therapy and counseling and thought it was all worthless. I can only imagine what my life would have been like later if I had had the opportunity to stick with those early sessions with my therapist (who was amazing and who did help me quite a bit).

Fast forwarding now to my teenage years and my eating disorder. I was sickly thin. I had inflammation in my pancreas and spleen (signs of organ damage and possible failure), and if I stood up quickly, I almost passed out. But my dad was against treatment for my eating disorder. He didn’t think I had a mental health issue. He didn’t think there was an issue at all. I was fine in his eyes. Nothing to worry about.

You can see how all of these points in my life were defining moments and how a different course of action would have changed my life in significant and lasting ways. If I had gotten eating disorder treatment, maybe I wouldn’t have a binge eating disorder today instead of anorexia. If I had gotten early treatment for my anxiety and depression, maybe my bipolar disorder would have been diagnosed and treated long before I was 32. If only.

When I recently started therapy as an adult and began also getting medical treatment for my anxiety and depression (before I was diagnosed with bipolar) and I finally told him after a few months in treatment, he acted okay with it. But, then the sideways shaming started. I went to visit my grandparents and he told me that he didn’t tell them I was struggling with anxiety and depression, all he said was that I was having a hard time with a physical condition I was diagnosed with (PCOS – polycystic ovarian syndrome). He didn’t want them to know I was in therapy or had a mental health diagnosis.

I was so hurt by his actions, I have no words. It was shameful to him that I was getting help for mental health. But if I was struggling with a physical health ailment, that was okay. It was literally easier to talk to my grandparents about my ovaries than my brain. His actions showed me that he would never accept me for me and would never accept that mental health conditions are legitimate and treatable through therapy and medical management.

That was the beginning of the end of our relationship and now, he doesn’t even know I have bipolar II, unless someone on that side of the family has read this blog and told him. I wish a lot of things about my father and our relationship, but most of all I wish that he hadn’t been so against counseling and therapy in general and that his opinions on those matters hadn’t so greatly shaped the course of my life. I can only imagine where I would be if I had an earlier diagnosis or long-term treatment for the mental health issues that affected me over the years.

Let me know what you think about my experiences. Do you have similar stories about people close to you? Have people in your life let you down? Leave comments or feel free to share this post if you like it! Thanks!