Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Tag: mixed-state bipolar disorder

Unplanned Hiatus

My bipolar disorder has dictated that I lose interest in keeping up with my websites. There’s more to it than that (there always is), but I won’t go into the details beyond saying my bipolar, as I think I’ve mentioned, can be pretty randomly selective in how it effects my mood. Right now, I couldn’t care less about either of my websites, and I know better than to attempt forcing myself to attend to either one, thanks to awful experiences with writing fiction when I had no desire to do so, or I’ll end up a moody, depressed wreck. As a result, there will be no updates, after today’s post, to this site until further notice. I’m hoping this will pass quickly, but so far that hope hasn’t been met, so I’m at last announcing what the issue is.

Mixed Phases

Every so often with my mixed-state bipolar disorder, I’ll go through a very mixed phase. I’m in one right now. Whereas someone with more typical cycling bipolar—someone who isn’t mixed-state will have definitive periods where they’ll experience and present symptoms of either mania or depression, I commonly have phases where I present and experience symptoms of both.

Most typically with me, the depressive side will manifest as letting my housekeeping falter or fail, while the hypomania turns me into a moody, bitchy, temperamental person. These mixed phases I do not enjoy. It takes a lot of effort to do anything around the house and I hate doing it the entire time. When I’m in a state like this, the slightest thing can set me off. I have thrown fits, and probably will again, over such minor things as untying my shoes, or the fact I let my tea steep too long and now it’s cold when I wanted it at least warm by the time I’m done mixing the sweetener and milk in, or opening one of my bottles of medication. Simple things a person without bipolar disorder wouldn’t be inclined to stress over, I have a screaming temper tantrum over. When I’m enduring this sort of mixed state, the temper tantrum state is just on the edge of my mood at all times, and the depressive side makes me not care about housework.

But on occasion, I enter a slightly different type of mixed-state phase.

Right now, my depressive side is manifesting as a desire to sleep the day away, no matter how early I go to bed. I’m much inclined to remain in bed until after noon, frequently until as late as two or three pm. I see no reason to get up, even though my writing is going fairly well right now. I wouldn’t call myself suicidally depressed, but I definitely don’t want to get up to face the day until most of the day is over. When I’m like this, getting up even for an afternoon appointment or activity (even if it’s fun) takes a great deal of effort.

This depressive phase, y’all, is why I habitually get dressed in a full day-clothes outfit each and every day, even when I’m physically ill. Being fully dressed is a mood booster. If I sat around in sweats or in pajamas all day, I’d be depressed. How do I know this? Because I used to “dress down” if I had nowhere to go during the day. This was way back when I was younger, and I noticed a propensity for my mood to grow gloomy over the course of the day, so I started dressing in day clothes every day regardless of whether or not I expected to go out. And, in fact, after forcing myself out of bed when in a mood like this, getting dressed takes little effort—and the mood-boost payoff is incredible. I’ll admit it doesn’t throw me into raptures over being awake, but once I’m dressed in day clothes, I feel much more interested in being up and about. So, quite literally, some days putting on a full day-clothes outfit is like putting on armor—armor against a low mood. It’s one of the simplest and quickest ways I know of making myself feel capable of facing the day.

But at the same time I’m feeling so “hopeless,” I’m also much more interested in household things. I spent about two or three hours cooking tonight, purely because I wanted to. I was in the mood to cook. And while cooking, I enjoyed it (I don’t when this particular mania isn’t functioning—cooking is a chore and I do as little of it as possible). Then, after I ate, I cleaned the kitchen. Other housework is on the agenda, but some of it involves disposing of boxes, and I’m not going to do that at night when the chute abuts the bedroom of the neighboring apartment. LOL

To be honest, I’ve been working up into this mood over the past couple weeks. I’m coming up out of a phase where I was experiencing no particular phase—a stable phase, so to speak. I cooked when I felt like it, cleaned when I felt like it, got up with little difficulty, but didn’t keep up with personal hygiene as well as I perhaps should have, though dental hygiene was going really well. For the most part, a typical stable phase for me.

I don’t think this is something I need to notify my psych doc about. It’s not pronounced; it’s an average mood swing, one of those I expect to have over the course of time. Eventually, I’ll swing back into either another stable phase or into a different combination of my mixed state.

My Experience of Mixed-State Bipolar Disorder

I’ve made it no secret I have bipolar disorder, or that I’ve got the mixed-state variety. What “mixed-state” basically means is that I experience aspects of mania (mine is more toward hypomania) and depression at the same time. While I can and do cycle like any other person with Bipolar I or II, as long as my medication is working, I’m stabilized in a state where neither has precedence.

And this, for me, is the experience of mixed-state bipolar disorder:

The depressive side . . .
Makes me feel like not getting out of bed.

And the manic side . . .
Inundates me with ideas for my writing to the point where I can’t focus on any one story.
(Let’s throw a temper tantrum!)

The depressive side . . .
Makes me not care about personal hygiene of any kind for anywhere from a few days up to a few weeks.

And the manic side . . .
Makes me babbly and talkative and gives me the desire to go out and be among people.
(Let’s throw a temper tantrum!)

The depressive side . . .
Makes me not care about eating healthy.

And the manic side . . .
Gives me an increased appetite.
(Let’s throw a temper tantrum!)

The depressive side . . .
Makes me want to sleep.

And the manic side . . .
Prevents me going to sleep when I need to.
(Let’s throw a temper tantrum!)

The depressive side . . .
Makes me not care about housework.

And the manic side . . .
Makes me antsy and unable to sit still.
(Let’s throw a temper tantrum!)

The depressive side . . .
Makes me not care about paying my bills.

And the manic side . . .
Insists I do in fact have spending money I do not actually possess.
(Let’s throw a temper tantrum!)

In case you’re wondering about the phrase in parentheses, which I imagine you are, that’s my mania’s basic characteristic for me. I’ve heard the more “typical” presentation of mania is more of an “I can do ANYTHING” attitude that gives the bipolar person utmost confidence in absolutely everything they decide to do. It’s a very positive outlook that has no room for even doubts, much less a realistic outlook that admits endeavors may fail. Many bipolar people will start numerous projects over the course of their manic phases and then abandon them when the depressive phase hits, only to begin other projects during the next manic phase.

I do not have this particular variety of mania.

No, I’ve been graced with an underlying strain of bitchiness. It’s always there, waiting, and it honestly takes very little to bring it out. Most of the time, I can catch myself when I feel myself working up into a temper tantrum, but sometimes I’m not able to control the launch into throwing a full-blown screaming-my-head-off flailing fit. If I’m not careful, I will throw (and break) things—sometimes things I really don’t want to break. There’s always a little part of my mind—the sensible part I’ve trained into myself—which observes the rising tantrum. Sometimes, I can latch onto this island of sanity in my own mind. Other times, it’s not quite so easy, as my temperamental side takes off before it has a chance to engage. But if I am able to latch onto this sensible part of my mind, I’m usually able to back away from whatever it is that has upset me and disengage enough to calm down.

If my bipolar is cycling? The effect is much quicker, but also of much shorter duration. For instance, right now, I’m in the depressive phase of a “typical” cycle, and I couldn’t get something to work on my computer. My first response was to scream at it to work, damn it! then I calmed down a moment later when I got an idea for how to access the file I needed to. And, as I explained, that reasonable part of my mind was back there, observing, and had already put forth the suggestion I not do what I planned to do (add a book to my Nook). That suggestion was strong enough I likely would have obeyed it if I hadn’t had the aha! moment I had that allowed me to put the book on my ereader.

So that’s my basic experience of my mixed-state bipolar disorder. Another person with the same condition may experience it differently, though.

My Mixed State

I don’t know what others with bipolar disorder go through. To be honest, though, I’ve always been of a mind that I’d far rather have Mixed-State Bipolar Disorder, then Bipolar I or II. It seems to me to be a kind of hell to go through distinct cycles from high to low. Yes, I know there are periods of relative stability between the cycles for some with Bipolar I and II, but after watching, from a distance, what my friend Bryce went through with his cyclic bipolar disorder, I decided I was happy with the version I have.

I think I’ve mentioned that I cycle, too, but it’s usually both hitting me in different ways at the same time. Or rather, it’s probably more accurate to say they each effect different aspects of my life when I cycle. They don’t always cycle up at the same time, but, generally, when one hits, the other does as well within a few days.

This has happened. I’ve been in a slight depressive phase for the past week or so. It hit near the end of last month and effected my writing. Even the new-shiny project my creative mind dropped into my conscious mind hasn’t driven me to distraction, when, normally, a new idea like this would. And now the mania’s hit.

It isn’t always easy for me to track or determine just what paths my mental illness has taken, even when I pay attention, and I’m very mindful of my mental state. It behooves me to be so. If I’m not, something will blindside me, and that just makes things worse.

The past couple nights, I haven’t been able to sleep. This is a rare effect of hypomania for me, and it’s been much more dramatic than it typically is. It is also not a good thing at all. In a way, I prefer to get the moody-bitchy-temperamental kind of manic swing, because I’m actually able to sleep, and it doesn’t feed into my depressive phase like the rare insomniac manic phase does.

That’s the biggest problem with this swing of mania. I have very good meds that usually put me to sleep within a couple hours of going to bed, but they haven’t been working for the past two-three nights. Because my mania keeps me awake. I go to bed when I’m yawning constantly and lay awake for hours because sleep does not arrive due to the mania.

As I said, this feeds into the depressive phase. Sleep happens to be a very good thing for my depressive phases. If I sleep, they don’t effect me as long, and they aren’t as severe as I’ve known them to get. After two nights of little sleep—and what I’ve gotten being broken and restless—I’m starting to want to hide from the world. Yesterday was okay, but today I’ve wished several times I could just go away. Commit myself to a mental ward somewhere and not have to deal with real life.

But even with that—and this is why I prefer my version of bipolar disorder to that of I or II—I’m still able to function. I wrote two scenes last night, exercised. Today, I got out and ran some errands I needed to run, paid some bills. I’m functional, even depressed, because of the mixed state of my bipolar disorder.

I’ll be honest here. Before I was medicated at all for my bipolar, I had lots of nonfunctional days, where I huddled in bed, or, at most, got up to putter around the house. But even then, I still had functional days. Typically, when I’m not medicated, if I get out, I do okay. It’s just that with medication, my functional days managed to far outnumber my nonfunctional days. Without medication, the mental state I’m in now would have sent me to bed aside from snacks and potty breaks for several days as I chased sleep and waited for the state to pass enough I could stand to see daylight again.

But, overall right now, I’m paying particular attention to my thoughts and feelings. I’m on the lookout for suicidal thoughts and will report them to a mental health professional promptly should they occur. If I don’t drop lower on the depressive trough than wanting to commit myself to a psych ward, I’ll be happy. But just in case I do drop lower, I’ll be ready with that funky little stress ball I got from my last Therapist (Dave), because it’s got a VA hotline number for me to call. I also have the same number on my cell phone, in case I’m out of the house and need to call, and on a card in my wallet in my purse, in case I’m out of the house without my cell phone and have some sort of breakdown.

The Mixed State

I’m officially diagnosed as mixed-state bipolar. In case I haven’t defined it before, this means I generally present and experience symptoms of depression and mania (in my case, hypomania) at the same time. There are places online which explain what the symptoms of these mental states are, but such lists are a little cold.

Because I’m currently in a mixed-state swing, I’ll try to describe what I’m going through. I can’t promise it’ll be any less clinical, but maybe I’ll be able to add a little depth to the shallow lists.

1. I don’t care. About anything.

2. I want to do things with my writing and my e-friends. I have no idea what I’ll do with my writing . . .

3. Because I’m in what happens to have become a traditional writing downswing since Nano is over. I’m reading through all my writing though, which is good—I’ve spent the first week or two of December so sick of my writing I couldn’t bear to look at it the past few years, so this is a nice change.

4. But at the same time, I’m absolutely confident I’ll write at some point each day—which is why I get out of bed, even though thus far, most days have proven unproductive.

5. I don’t care to take showers, either.

6. But I love smelling good right now, so when I do finally drag myself into a shower, I do the works: wash hair, scrub body, use scented soap, and, when I’m done, put on lots of fresh-scented anti-perspirant and spritz perfume, cologne, or something nice-smelling on.

7. I hate going out. I don’t want to hang out with local friends. Going for groceries is a major hassle, even if I need food.

8. But I leap at opportunities to go square dancing, where I spend time with friends, get some exercise, and have a great time.

9. I want to eat. I want to eat food I cook. I enjoy cooking a great deal.

10. I hate cooking. It’s a chore.

11. The mess on my desk is getting on my nerves, so I’ll probably clean it at some point during this mixed-state episode.

12. Cleaning the rest of my house is out of the question, though. It’s all I can do to make my bed in the morning.

13. I’m extremely energetic. All-nighters are more frequent, and I have to force myself to go to bed. Staying up all night is fun, even if I’m bored to death the whole time.

14. After I do go to sleep, I don’t want to wake up. If I could burrow under the blanket and never get hungry or need to go to the bathroom, I’d be quite willing to spend all day sleeping.

15. I don’t want to associate with anyone when I’m out shopping for groceries or going to appts, or taking any walks I somehow get myself to do.

16. At the same time, I babble constantly to anyone nearby. It takes a lot of effort to keep my mouth shut when it should be so, and I’m always utterly depressed when someone who I know never cared to hear about my mood swings or whatever is brusque and gets away from me as fast as they can.

17. I’m optimistic about my plans and goals.

18. I don’t care if I don’t carry out those plans or meet my goals.

19. I want to buy everything I see.

20. But when it’s not right in front of me, I couldn’t care less about whatever is out there to be purchased, even if I happen to need it right now.

This is, in some ways, just as inadequate as those bipolar disorder symptom lists you’ll find in books and online. It’s the best way I can think of to explain my experience of my mental illness, but there are some aspects of the disorder which I cannot put into words. I have cycles like this maybe once or twice a year, and the more severe ones can be quite debilitating. On a scale of 1-10 ranking severity, I’m currently experiencing about a five or six, and I generally hover around a one, sometimes a two. My mixed-state phases aren’t usually particularly debilitating; I think I’ve gotten close to what I might call a ten only once or twice since my diagnosis and being placed on any correct medication regimen.

I also have periodic pure-mood swings. This is a non-technical term I have for when I’m experiencing my mood swings in an unmixed state. They’re rare occurrences, and I’m more likely to have a purely depressive swing than I am to have an upswing into pure hypomania. And my hypomanic “up”swings, when they occur, tend more toward making me irritable and impatient, not happy or cheerful.

Day vs. Night

(Considering my current condition, this will probably meander a bit.)

I’m in another of my fun bipolar swings. I’m mixed-state bipolar. In case I haven’t explained this before (and for any new readers), this basically means, I’m always, all the time, every day, experiencing some symptoms of the depressive side of the disorder while at the exact same time experiencing some symptoms of the manic (or, more precisely in my case, hypomanic) end of the disorder. This, I’m sure you realize, makes some of my days pretty interesting. One particular symptom which can be a characteristic of either end of the spectrum, is poor sleep habit.

My circadian rhythm is so screwed up right now, it’s unbelievable. A mentally healthy person could not do what I’ve been doing for the past few weeks. For example, I spent Saturday, from about noon, to Sunday, until about midnight awake. Part of this was probably because I forgot to take my night meds on time, and when I did remember to, my mind was in hypomanic mode, which even my very good psych med regimen can knock out under “normal” circumstances. However, I have not been sleeping at night for the past three or four weeks. I’ve been rising between noon and three in the afternoon and staying up until five to seven in the morning.

No, it’s not daylight that’s interfering. It’s the bipolar. It decided it wanted me up at night, so it fights the psych meds, no matter when I take them. It’s worse if I try to take them on time for a sleep at night, because I’ve got my energetic, still quite alert, natural wakefulness momentum going, and when I’m in this state, my mind gets more active when the sun sets, so even if I take my meds like I should for that night of sleep I want so very much, I still spend most of the night lying awake, getting more and more frustrated as each hour passes, which only fuels the bipolar urge to be awake at night. If I take the medications “on time” for a day sleep, which is around midnight to one in the morning, I’ll probably drop off to sleep sometime around six in the morning.

If I forget to take my meds then?

I typically don’t realize I have until I’m still wide awake at 0600 and think to check my little daily pill-dose box thingie to discover my night meds still quite unswallowed. At that point, if I take them, it won’t do me any good at all. I’ll be totally useless. Unable to sleep, because I’m in bipolar second wind, but unable to gather the mental capacity to do anything useful. Even feed myself. I have before done this and literally spend all day at my computer with barely enough mind left to surf the net, never mind pay attention to what I’m seeing when I do.

So, I spent all Saturday night and Sunday-to-midnight awake. Slept sound, got up Monday . . . and did it again. Was up at noon fifteen Monday. I’m still going strong at half past five Tuesday evening. I’m not sure when—or even if—tonight’s dose of night meds will knock me out at all. Sunday night, when I was still up three hours after taking my night meds, I took half a dose of NyQuil. That, like it usually does, knocked me out at last. I’ll probably be doing the same tonight.

The worst thing about this—well two things—are that this circadian rhythm switch is unpredictable with regards to beginning and ending, as well as duration. I have no warning whatsoever before this switch happens. It just happens. One night, I sleep all the way through, the next night I’m wide awake until six the next morning even after taking my meds. Not even nightly doses of NyQuil can prevent this switch—and trying to only makes me irritable and even more unlikely to sleep during night hours. And I’ve already been like this for two or three weeks . . . and it could continue for months, or, horrors, years-again.

This is one of the Gotta Live With It aspects of my particular flavor of bipolar disorder. Whether another mixed-state bipolar person goes through this is a total crapshoot, and I’m miserable enough like this I don’t care to search to find out if I’m the only one. I know “misery loves company” but I really have no wish to learn somebody else shares this particular misery.

Bipolar Disorder Is Fun!

The title of this post is my favorite “tagline” for when I make mistakes or do something which my mental illness has had a strong influence in. I say it in a variety of voices, and hear it in my head in a high-pitched, childlike tone similar to the character Columbine’s voice (from The Rocky Horror Picture Show). I can’t quite reach that tone of voice or inflection all the time, though I’ve known it to make me laugh—sometimes bitterly, sometimes with true amusement, and occasionally with a kind of grimness reflective of my determination to make it through the “ride” which Bipolar Disorder is.

I’ve probably been mildly bipolar most of my life, possibly even beginning in childhood. In my adolescence, I experienced periods of debilitating depression which, were it not for my mother, would have induced me to hole up in my room and hide from the world whenever possible. The one thing I will be eternally grateful for my mother for is forcing me to join a local Star Trek club when I was about fifteen or sixteen. It was one of the few things which gave me enough hope to endure a period of my life which I largely viewed from the bottom of a pit.

For me, the depressive episodes of bipolar disorder have always been the most traumatic. Not being a very social person to begin with only exacerbates this condition. Unmedicated Bipolar Disorder, for me, is so far from even the jokey reference to fun in my “tagline” that I’m driven into a state where I simply do not function beyond eating and using the toilet. I don’t bathe, I don’t get dressed, I don’t read, or watch movies, or get on the computer, or write. I lay in bed with the covers over my head, make periodic forays to the bathroom for the toilet, and eat a little once or twice a day. I do not function.

I have brief (extremely so) periods of hypomania when I’m unmedicated. Not quite as severe as true full-blown mania, they nevertheless have me venturing from bed. I get out, do things, participate in activities, hang out with what friends I may have. These don’t last. Invariably, I slide back into nonfunctionality and return to bed.

And I’m Mixed-State, which makes things more interesting. Unmedicated, my long periods of depression are periodically pierced by the manic symptoms of overspending, overextending myself (with favors or promised activities—which never actually ever get done), or unobtainable goals. If I’m forced to socialize at all during such a depressive phase, the “mix” of the hypomania makes me babble uncontrollably, and usually with extreme cheer and a bubbly personality which grates on others’ nerves. If I get to spend most of my time in bed, my mixed state treats me to my own personal auditory hallucinations of people murmuring unintelligibly.

In some ways, the Medicated Ashe is a vastly different person. In other ways, Medicated Ashe is just the same as Unmedicated Ashe.

I’ve been stable—on some sort of medication for Bipolar Disorder—since about 2006-2007. I’m not exactly sure, but I think that’s about right. Things from the period when I was properly diagnosed—and before—are kind of a smear at this point. I suspect it’s a side effect of bipolar disorder. I have some extremely clear memories of my life before my slide into insanity, but most of my mental illness up until I got stabilized is a jumbled blur. I remember things out of order, or not at all, or partially—and never with any kind of attachment to a season, much less time or date. The clearest memory from my mental illness is when I went for my initial evaluation with the VA. It was winter. I got off the commuter light rail, crossed to the correct sidewalk, thought I’d never find my way to the hospital with the directions I had with me, and screamed and whapped the nearest light pole with my cane, which I was at the time using ’cause my knees were extremely faulty. I still have that cane; it’s got this nice, gentle bend in it from when I abused the light pole, which survives to this day with no discernible damage to its shape or paint job.

But Medicated, I get out of bed every day, even when I don’t feel like it. I get dressed—a requirement, because if I hang about, even at home, in sweats or other clothing I’ve mentally relegated to the designation of “sleepwear,” I don’t do anything except lay around my apartment in a down mood with a head which won’t connect thoughts; dressing is an incredible mental/emotional boost for me, so I usually wear jeans and a tee, complete with shoes, unless I’m so sick and cold I’m bundled in bed dosed with the strongest OTC cold medication I can find anyway. Medicated, I write, and I get lots of fun ideas for my stories. I clean house. I keep up with hygiene. I read and look forward to going out with friends and hang out online with my e-friends who are scattered all over the world.

And then there are the “Fun” moments, usually driven by the hypomania. It’s even more “Fun” when I’m interacting on the same level with another bipolar person.

For instance, there was the time an online friend and I were discussing our living situations and how we wished we could improve them. Within three hours, we’d found apartments in my city where we could move as roommates, determined how much it would cost for my friend to drive cross-country with their furniture, and were making relatively firm plans to go with this plan. We were on this quest for a few days, emailing various landlords with requests for info regarding the places we were considering moving to (one, I remember, was a house with the fridge in the living room). I forget the mechanism which gave us the much-needed reality check, but we abruptly abandoned these plans with much resignation to our current living situations.

This is the kind of thing I mean when I say I go “bipolar” about something. And what I mean when I jokily say “Bipolar Disorder Is Fun!”

And I don’t need to be interacting with another bipolar person when I have a bipolar “moment” like this. One of Bipolar Disorder’s manic symptoms is overspending—I mentioned this before. It is incredibly easy for me to convince myself I need something so well I buy it right then. The bipolar friend I mentioned previously, and one who lives local to me part of the year both say they have this symptom. And it can become quite pronounced. I once had a general-use credit card with a limit upwards of several hundred dollars. I maxed that sucker out over a period of two or three months, convinced I had to have each and every item I used that card to purchase . . . and I have almost nothing to show for it. It takes a lot of effort for me to control my spending, and involves me making a budget each month, sending a savings fund to an account I can’t access easily or receive money from quickly, and, occasionally, overspending my “local” funds to the point of scraping by on my “backup food” of canned and frozen goods.

And this is the controlled version of Bipolar Disorder. When I’m unmedicated, I don’t keep a savings account. I don’t even do monthly budgets. I have barely enough for end-of-the-month bills, and certainly not enough money for fresh groceries most of the month, because my budget for those drops to about $25.00 a week—if I’m lucky. If I’m not? I hit food banks, which is a laborious process to undergo from where I now live, which is anywhere from one to three miles away from where most of the local ones are.

And, the most “Fun” aspect of Bipolar Disorder is, for me, the writing swings. I’m in a manic writing swing right now, winging a (ugh) gay romance I’d rather not be working on at all. I’d far rather be writing on my Chraesti or Hatuni stories. My subconscious is throwing gay romance scenes at me instead, and I can’t even make thoughts connect from the plot cards for my Chraesti and Hatuni stories. It just won’t happen. But I relax a little, and I have lots of ideas for my gay romances. I’m reluctantly going along with it with hope I’ll segue to what I’d rather be writing or, if not that, at least another writing downswing. Yes, I’d take another downswing in favor of the gay romance writing. Any day.

So, that’s my little snapshot of my Mixed-State Bipolar Disorder. It doesn’t seem very severe to me, but I imagine another bipolar person reading this will finish it and think mine’s worse than theirs. (I personally think my two mentioned bipolar friends’ conditions are worse than mine, but can’t go into much detail about theirs aside from saying, when looking at theirs from what they’ve told me—neither Mixed-State like I am—I’m rather glad I have Mixed-State Bipolar Disorder.)

Regarding This Blog

This site is a major social endeavor for me. Much of my real life, and even my online life, is quite limited socially. My online activity fluctuates according to my bipolar mood; sometimes I’m very active and all over the net, other times I’m barely on it at all; most of the time, I fluctuate between these two extremes. However, despite the stress keeping up with this site puts on me, I do have fun with it, and I want to keep up with it.

So, I’m going to be switching to posting other things besides cancer stuff, probably starting next week. Not sure what I’ll be doing, but it’ll likely be real-life related for the most part. I’ll still give cancer updates as things happen, but because I’m done the most intensive parts of treatment, I don’t expect to have much to say with such regularity regarding it. So expect a variety of more generic posts about various aspects of my real life.

Since I’ve determined I can keep up with two posts a week fairly well, I’ve decided on a tentative posting schedule. I’ve had it in mind for several weeks now, based on what my habits already are. It’ll never be anything besides tentative, but I figure I’ll do a real-life post on Tuesdays and a writing-related post on Fridays. This is mainly to give readers an idea when to swing around if they’re not getting the posts in email.

There are probably going to be occasional unannounced hiatus periods on the blog. I will do my best not to be “away” from the site for more than two consecutive posts. If I think I won’t be posting for a longer period, I’ll be sure to announce it. Now that I don’t have a driving need to post something (because the major cancer stuff is over), I know I’ll likely have more frequent periods like I did the week of March 16th this year, where, for whatever reason, I won’t post anything. That was because of burnout, and I’ve found it’s generally wisest for me not to force things when I’m burnt out or I end up hating everything to do what I’m forcing and giving up completely.

Following Final Chemo

This entry is part 27 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

I’m glad I had only four cycles of chemo. I had it relatively easy and I know it. My friend JA Marlow‘s mother has a very invasive and aggressive form of brain tumor. Early last year, Mother Hen, as JAM’s mother is called, had surgery to remove the original tumor and radiation. She’s been receiving chemo in pill doses at home. Unfortunately, the tumor has regrown, and it’s in an area which is affecting her much more than the original tumor did.

By comparison? My experience with breast cancer is nothing.

It has been my hope that putting my experiences up online would inform and assist other people with breast cancer, if not other forms. With that in mind, I’ll expound a bit upon my last post-chemo experience.

The fatigue was as profound on Wednesday as on most other previous days. I spent most of the day in bed, but was able to get up, eat, and putter around a little bit, though I was never up long enough for a cup of tea with water properly boiled in a kettle. I drank orange juice most of Weds and Thurs, as that was quick, easy, and tasty—so tasty, in fact, I drank my first two gallons before my three-week cycle period ended. It’s probably what helped me avoid getting sick about a week or so later, as I felt the beginnings of symptoms of an illness my mother recovered from just prior to her visit the week after chemo week, to drop off homemade burrito makings and an apple pie.

On the Friday of chemo week, I went in to see my new official (and hopefully permanent) Oncologist, Dr. Colonna (not sure that’s the correct spelling, but will correct it in later posts if it’s wrong once I’ve seen her again), who is specializing in breast cancer up at the VA. She’s the one who sat and talked to me and Mom all those months ago, answering the many questions my mother and I had about various things to do with my cancer diagnosis. She was pleased with my progress and sent me on my way with encouraging words.

The next week wasn’t as bad, PottyTime wise as previous cycles. I think it may be because I entered a heightened mixed-state phase (my bipolar is mixed-state, meaning I have symptoms and presentations of both mania and depression at the same time) and spent two nights out of that week awake because I couldn’t sleep. I don’t suggest this as a method of shortening the duration of the diarrhea, though that’s what it seemed to do for me. By the end of the week, my PottyTime phase was pretty much over as well, but I was not in any kind of condition worthy of being called “human.” I wasn’t a raving lunatic, or abusive, or temperamental. I was Jell-O. And this despite my two sleepless nights not following one right after the other. There were one or two nights where I actually slept between them.

I finally got fed up and shaved my head of all the straggling hair leftover from chemo-balding. Now I have stubble and fuzz. I did this with my women’s fancy wire-wrapped razor in the shower (the wire wrapping is important. Would not have done this without it) since I don’t have an electric shaver I could have used dry as I generally don’t shave my legs, and that’s what I’d use it for if I had one.

Chemo mouth was more severe. The cycle previous, it had spread to throughout my mouth, and this last cycle, it did the same, only drier. For the first time, this part of post-chemo treatment annoyed me. Could not eat anything spicy, as I learned one night when I made French toast (I put pepper in scrambled eggs, and in my Ft egg mixture with cinnamon, nutmeg, and sweetener, with a dash of salt and a few tablespoons of milk), because I think I exhaled flame after that meal. My mouth hurt for several minutes during and after eating that French toast. Hot temperatures were just as prominent, so drinking my tea while it was still very warm was out of the question; tepid was the hottest I could handle. Also, it felt as if my tongue had numerous cuts on the top, though I don’t think that was actually the case. I tell ya, between heat killing the top of my mouth and even the softest, blandest food torturing my tongue, I’m rather amazed I ate at all. LOL

Earlier this week, I went to the Huntsman Cancer Institute for my radiation setup appointment; I’ll write about it sometime next week.

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