When I am weak, He is my strength

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April 27, 2013 by Kara Nichols

For many spring is a time of celebrating new life, planting gardens, and getting back outside after a a winter trapped indoors. For me, spring time always makes me a little crazy because I’m afraid of going crazy. Right now I don’t have any symptoms of mania, in fact I’m hanging out on the depressed end of the spectrum as of late. Nonetheless I feel the urge to pack a bag of clothes or gather some books and note cards in preparation for the fact that I may end up hospitalized sometime in the next 4 or so months. I’ve decided to start using MoodTracker.com again. I got sick of tracking last year – I don’t know when exactly – but it’s a great resource and it helps me watch for mania and track how much sleep I get as well, which for me is a major component of my disease. Loss of sleep could easily trigger mania.

I also have my WRAP plan which I need to update and implement. I emailed a family member my updated medication list. A staggering 5 meds total for this disease.

I still need to make a contact list with phone numbers and addresses since I won’t have access to email or cell phone in the hospital, and I crave interaction with loved ones when I’m locked up. I need to buy a calling card for the pay phone too. Hopefully I will be allowed to use my ipod again since it’s so old that I can’t access the internet on it. Obviously, internet access is not allowed, and you wouldn’t want to bring anything worth money onto the ward because there’s a good chance it will be stolen.

Something else I will do today to prepare is write instructions for care of Bijoux  (cat) and Buster (betta fish). My family could figure it out but I’d feel better knowing they were taken care of how I want them to. I don’t want them to get lost in the shuffle of what is usually a highly stressful time.

If I was a betting woman I’d bet that I will not have a manic episode this spring and summer. It’s been about 1.5 years since the last time I’ve been hospitalized. That’s a great run for me. Although after I was first diagnosed in 2001 I went about 9 years without any manic episodes. The last 4 years have been pretty gnarly with too many hospital stays to count.

There are a few things that I hope to remember when manic:

1. TAKE MY PURSE WITH PHONE AND WALLET INSIDE TO EMERGENCY ROOM. Yes, I have to go to the emergency room before being admitted to the mental hospital. A couple of times I was unprepared and it made everything much more difficult. And once there was a huge delay in getting my family involved since I hadn’t memorized their phone numbers and I didn’t have my phone with me.
2. Notify family when I go to hospital if they aren’t already with me. This step is important because they can bring me clothes, my medications, and other items sooner than later. And having some personal items can really calm me down.
3. Pack a small bag of clothes and necessities. Once I showed up at the mental hospital with a HUGE suitcase It’s funny now, but at the time I was pretty upset I couldn’t keep everything I packed. The key to packing for the mental hospital is to focus on comfortable clothes. Lots of t-shirts and sweat pants.
4. Ask to be placed in Virginia Baptist Hospital because that’s where my Dr. works and I’ll be able to see him daily and he can be in charge of my treatment. I’ve had really terrible experiences at some hospitals and I don’t want to go back. Going to UVA was ok but I prefer to stay at Virginia Baptist. Although it’s not exactly a vacation, I did feel safe there, for the most part.
5. Don’t Panic.
6. Pray. I’ve seen how God has protected me throughout the years during my manic episodes. Although I’ve had some dangerous circumstances, God was there and I took comfort in Him each time I’ve been hospitalized. As my relationship with Him grows, the safer I feel moving forward.

I tend to be very strict about my own care because I don’t want to go to the hospital ever again. Although scientifically it’s proven that the majority of people with bipolar have more and more lapses as time goes on. We also have a shorter life span, which sucks.

I get plenty of sleep, I take my medications as prescribed, I attend a support group, and I’m surrounded by faithful friends and family. I’m confident that I’m doing everything within my power to avoid a hospital visit, but that doesn’t guarantee I won’t end up there. I have accepted my brain disease.

Well,  I feel better now. I’ve got everything just about ready in case of an emergency and I can concentrate on having a great spring and summer. Today I planted a sweet pepper, two hot peppers, and cilantro. I can’t wait for homemade salsa down the road.

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