Bipolar 2 From Inside and Out

Posts tagged ‘cats’

I Want to Go Home to Bed With My Kitties

Kittens.
Jumping.
I want to go home to bed with my kitties.

These are my mantras. Or something.

I repeat these phrases, under my breath if anyone is around who doesn’t know I do this. At least I think it’s under my breath. I have at times walked out of a restroom stall to see people looking at me strangely.

My husband says they are “grounding statements,” though I understand proper grounding statements are usually more like affirmations – “I am safe.” “I can handle this.” “I am a good person.” How I ended up with mine I don’t quite know.

I do know that I mutter or say them when I am anxious. “Kittens” indicates a general level of anxiety, while “jumping” is reserved for increased levels. “I want to go home to bed with my kitties” is an all-encompassing statement of stress or dissatisfaction, and the only one that I can say nearly out loud around people with only mild looks of incomprehension.

A very few people who know me well are used to this phenomenon and even have responses. When I say, “kittens,” my friend Leslie says, “puppies,” and my husband says, “Do you like them?” When I say, “jumping,” he says, “up and down?” and my friend Robbin says, “You must really be nervous.” My husband occasionally joins me in a chorus of “I want to go home to bed with my kitties.” (The extended version is “I want to go home. I want to go to bed. I want my kitties.” The short form is “Home. Bed. Kitties.”)

I know that I use these vocalizations a lot when I have anticipatory anxiety, or after a protracted spell of having to be competent, social, and appropriate. I say them a lot in my car, or after coming home from braving the outside world. In a crowded, noisy space like a restaurant, I say them in a very matter-of-fact manner, as if I’m having a conversation with my husband.

I can accept the idea that they are non-standard grounding statements. What I know they’re not are “clang associations,” despite the fact that these can be associated with bipolar disorder. The psychotic kind. Which I do not have.

(“Clang associations” means “linking words together based on similar sounds rather than coherent meaning” – for example, clang, bang, pang, sang, singe, binge, bandage. See http://www.everydayhealth.com/bipolar-disorder/clang-associations-in-bipolar-disorder.aspx. I never say “jumping, pumping, lumping.”)

The National Mental Health Association says, “People with obsessive-compulsive disorder try to cope with anxiety by repeating words or phrases.” Fair enough. I do have a few OCD-like traits.

But to me the grounding statements explanation makes the most sense. I would argue that for me, home, bed, and kitties are all things that remind me of safety and bring me comfort. How jumping fits in, I’m not sure, except that I have hyperactive nerves and do a fair amount of it. But it certainly isn’t associated with safety or comfort. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Speaking of kitten therapy (which I was, sort of), a recent New York Times story (http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/fashion/how-a-kitten-eased-my-partners-depression.html?referrer&_r=0) was a personal account of how a kitten helped ameliorate a man’s depression.

I can testify to the truth of that. Cats or kittens have stayed up with me through bouts of insomnia, snuggled when I needed touch, purred when I needed quiet, demanded attention when I needed engagement, broken up fights when we needed distraction, and yes, even jumped when I needed amusement.

Is it any wonder that they are my touchstones, my co-therapists, my mantras?

Queen Louise

Dush

garcia:yoda

Toby

More “News” About Mental Health

Next in my ongoing series (see: https://bipolarjan.wordpress.com/2015/07/05/new-hope-for-mental-illness/) of posts about news stories that bear on mental health, and what they may or may not mean:

Depression Damages Parts of the Brain, Research Concludes, July 2, 2015, by Sasha Petrova (http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/depression-damages-parts-brain-research-concludes_

“Brain damage is caused by persistent depression rather than being a predisposing factor for it, researchers have finally concluded after decades of unconfirmed hypothesising,” the article begins.

“A study published in Molecular Psychiatry … has proved once and for all that recurrent depression shrinks the hippocampus – an area of the brain responsible for forming new memories – leading to a loss of emotional and behavioural function.”

The article also claims that “the effects of depression on the brain are reversible with the right treatment for the individual,” though what those treatments might be is not explained.

The take-away: Depression damages the brain, not the other way around. What this means for patients is not yet known.

Link Found Between Gut Bacteria and Depression, July 28, 2015, by Caroline Reid (http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/link-found-between-gut-bacteria-and-depression)

Well, if it’s not the hippocampus, it might be your guts. According to this article, “Scientists have shown for the first time that there is a way to model how the gut bacteria in a mouse can have an active role in causing anxiety and depressive-like behaviors….

“[T]he lead author of the study… concluded that stress shortly after birth in mice, alongside the microbiome associated with stress, can lead to depression later in life.”

The take-away: More help for depressed mice. As the study author says, “It would be interesting to see if this relationship also effects humans. ….We need to obtain some human data to be able to say with confidence that bacteria are really inducing anxiety or depression…. However, so far, the data is missing.” In other words, more theory, more mice, no help for patients.

Mad Cow Disease Protein May Play a Role in Depression, by Justine Alford

(http://www.iflscience.com/brain/mad-cow-disease-protein-may-play-role-depression)

“In all likelihood, there is no single cause, but one of the leading ideas is that it results from an imbalance of chemicals in the brain, namely the ‘happy’ hormone serotonin and the ‘pleasure’ hormone dopamine.” Hard to argue with that. But here’s the meat of the article: “[S]cientists may have just discovered another contributing factor – abnormal bundles of proteins called prions.” Prions are also the culprit in mad cow disease. After some theorizing and mouse research, “the researchers propose a possible mechanism for the involvement of prion proteins in depression.”

The take-away: Interesting to scientists, but no help yet for depression sufferers. Plus, the article is a bit too technical for the lay audience – and all theory, except perhaps for the mice.

Picky Eaters May Be More Likely to Develop Anxiety and Depression, by Hannah Keyser (http://mentalfloss.com/article/67034/picky-eaters-may-be-more-likely-develop-anxiety-and-depression)

This sums it up nicely: “The study... found that picky eaters are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, and ADHD in later years….While moderate cases were associated with symptoms of separation anxiety and ADHD, severe picky eaters were more likely to have an actual diagnosis of depression or social anxiety in later years. But the scientists stressed that this is a case of correlation, not causation.”
The take-away: So, no news here. Correlation does not equal causation means this may be a coincidence, or anxiety and depression may cause picky eating, or some other factor may cause them both. Note the “May Be” in the article title – it often signals a result of little or no value.

A Urine Test Could Distinguish Between Bipolar Disorder and Depression, August 8, 2015, by Stephen Luntz (http://www.iflscience.com/brain/urine-test-distinguish-forms-depression)

“An easy and reliable method of distinguishing bipolar disorder from major depressive disorder could save tens of thousands of lives, and transform millions more. Now researchers at Chongqing Medical University, China, claim to have found just that in a study based on biomarkers in urine.” According to the study, the presence of six metabolites in urine was 90 percent reliable in diagnosing the two conditions, which are notoriously difficult to tell apart. “Studies have found that as many as 39% of patients diagnosed with MDD have unrecognized bipolar.”

The take-away: More research needed, but this could be big. Pee on a stick and find out whether you’re bipolar, instead of relying on the DSM. (Full disclosure: I was diagnosed with major depression for decades before my bipolar 2 diagnosis.)

The Startup That Wants to Cure Social Anxiety, by Robinson Meyer (http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/05/the-startup-that-wants-to-end-social-anxiety/392900/?utm_campaignFacebook_lookalike2%25_8%2F3_Atlantic_desktop)

This is, if not new, at least a little different: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) delivered on the web. The article claims that “[R]esearch conducted over the past half-decade shows that CBT delivered via a website can be just as effective as CBT delivered through an in-person therapist.” The service, called “Joyable,” can be accessed for $99 per month or $239 for three months, which includes a coach. The company says that the online treatment “reduces the stigma around seeking out therapy.”

The take-away: Yeah. We’ll see. And lose the name “Joyable,” for heaven’s sake. (Full disclosure: I’ve never been a fan of CBT.)

An infographic with references and everything.
The take-away: The infographic talks about physical ailments, but many of us can testify that a purring cat on one’s lap, or even by one’s side, can calm the distressed mind as well. Completely scientific, if you count anecdotal evidence.
Cats and Mental Health, Mental Health Foundation

Seriously, though, survey says, “Half of those people [more than 600 individuals surveyed in 2011] described themselves as having a mental health problem. The results highlighted some of the benefits of feline ownership:

  • 87% of cat owners feel that the animals have a positive impact on their wellbeing
  • 76% find that coping with everyday life is easier thanks to the animals
  • Stroking a cat is a calming and helpful activity.”

The article also refutes the myth about “crazy cat ladies” and self-harm.

My take-away: Pet therapy is a recognized technique that provides benefits to shut-ins, geriatric and psychiatric patients, those with ADD and autism, and even prisoners. My four cats increase the effects of Zoloft, Ativan, Lamictal, and Abilify. Be sure to have your pet spayed or neutered.

 

 

Maybe Another Manic Monday

The great Abilify experiment continues. I’m still roller-coastering, which is “normal” for me, but I really can’t tell whether the drug is affecting the ups and downs.

The highs and lows do seem to be higher and lower (respectively). I am dubious about this being a Good Thing. For several days I was so thoroughly depressed that I was ready to call Dr. R. and tell him I need to stop taking the drug. Then I leveled out to my usual place on the continuum – functioning, but not spectacularly well or consistently.

Now I think I’m starting to get manicky. One way I can tell is that I actually had fun, laughing and playing with my husband the other night and exulting in getting an old friend to walk straight into an awful joke. (Me: Have you heard the new Ebola joke going around. Him: No, what is it? Me: Eh, you probably won’t get it. Him: No, c’mon, try me. Me: That WAS the joke. Him (in evident pain): Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!)

But the real clue that the upswing may be swinging more than it should. I’m thinking about starting more blogs.

I already have two – this one and a general purpose blog called Et Cetera, etc. (janetcobur.wordpress.com, if you’re interested). For over six months I met my goal of posting something in both of them once a week.

Then the big low hit me. But I’m back on track now, after several weeks’ absence.

The thing is, I have ideas for two other blogs. I just don’t know if I could handle them.

One would be Cats, Etc. – stories and anecdotes about life with cats, cat care and health, and so forth. We have three cats right now (Louise, Garcia, and Dushenka), plus many former fur-family members, so there would be no shortage of material.

The other idea is Books, Etc. I’m an avid reader, and though the bipolar has sapped my concentration so much that it varies between 20 minutes to two hours at a time, I’m starting to see some progress. And I find myself wanting to write about what I’m reading – maybe book reviews, maybe lists or quotations, maybe even some lit crit (my original background).

But could I maintain them? And not have them drain off the limited energy that I should use to do the freelance work that pays the bills.

I think it is a sign that I’m still fairly well anchored that I haven’t rushed off and started them already. But the yearning to do more reading and writing keeps getting stronger. Maybe I could keep my current two at once a week, and do the others on alternate weeks. But that would still mean three blog posts per week, plus the freelance. Frankly, I don’t know if I could handle it. I keep asking myself, should I try? Or should I wait to see if my moods level out on the Abilify and it becomes clear whether they are Good or Bad Ideas, or even possible.

Words – both reading and writing them – have sustained me for most of my life. It was a sign of my most profound depression when I found myself unable to maintain enough focus to read. Now that I can again read and write to some extent, do I dare to push myself, push the boundaries? Can I? Should I?

Good thing I see my psychotherapist today.

Can’t Write Today, So Here’s a Cat

maggie

I have been avoiding the Internet for days (and TV news and commentary as well) because I just can’t handle it right now. Actions, reactions, reactions to the reactions, et endless cetera. I’m depressed enough without all that.

There are plenty of thoughts I have on the Isla Vista shootings, and the media coverage of it, and mental health, and gun regulations. I’m sure most of them have already been said, and probably better than I could, and everything about the subject makes me angry, confused, outraged, despairing, hopeless, helpless, and majorly depressed.

Then there’s everything I’ve read lately about bodily autonomy and male privilege and the “war on women” (why does everything have to be a war?) and politics and climate change and all of those make me angry, confused, outraged, despairing, hopeless, helpless, and majorly depressed too.

But it is TBT, so here is a picture of Maggie, a cat who saw the glowing design on Dan’s forehead that reads “Sucker.” He instantly scooped her up and brought her home. She was thereafter totally devoted to him. He could arouse her to a fever pitch of writhing and seduction with only the use of his voice. I mean, if they had been the same species, I wouldn’t have stood a chance.

Maybe next week I’ll have pulled myself together a bit and can write about something. For now, I’ll just say the best things that have happened to me today are a head-bonk, a nose-touch, and two nose-licks from Dushenka (Little Soul) with the Crazy Eyes.

Dushenkacu

Yours truly,

A Truly Crazy Crazy Cat Lady

 

 

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