Brain Fog - A Letter to Joey

I'm Bipolar - 4 Years, 11 Months from Diagnosis

My unofficially adopted children, Angel and Joey
My unofficially adopted children, Angel and Joey. © 2015 Echo's Web

Author's Note: I met young teens Joey and Angel in chat in 1996 and "adopted" them. I love them as if they were my own children, and we remain very close now that they are adults.

My darling Joey,

It's been a long time since I last wrote, so there's a lot to catch you up on. First I should tell you about my mom. In January, she traded in her 1990 car for a 2001, and she just loves it! (Even though she's going to be 81 this month and her short-term memory and cognitive functioning are erratic at best, she drives just fine.) What I like most about this car is that it has OnStar, so if she should start to feel ill she just has to push a button and OnStar will send paramedics.

Since she has now been diagnosed with emphysema, aortic stenosis and a shoulder joint that is slowly collapsing from arthritis (in addition to atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure and whatever else), I think OnStar is essential!

A couple of nights ago she fell getting out of her chair, and it was hard for her and me to get her off the floor, but she wasn't hurt. Yes, of course, I'm worried about her health. Her cardiologist recommended an angiogram to see whether balloon surgery could help the aortic valve leakage, but she refused - she just doesn't want any surgery, ever again. And the orthopedic surgeon said shoulder surgery was too dangerous at her age anyway - she'll just have to live with the disintegrating joint.

So living with her, being her caregiver, is harder than it used to be -- but I wouldn't give her up for anything.

Wow - that's a lot of heavy stuff for you to read at the beginning of a letter.

So before I start talking about myself, I'd better tell you that it starts out rough but gets better at the end!

I Wasn't Doing "Great"

I've been struggling a lot these last many months. I spent a great deal of time in denial, telling myself I was doing GREAT, when I wasn't at all -- I was either really depressed, or just hanging on.

You know my pdoc put me on Topamax to try to help me lose weight. Well, it didn't help. I have been absolutely stuck at 180 pounds for months. I am 45-45-46. Really. No, I'm not cylindrical like Robby the Robot. I look 6 or 7 months pregnant, though. It's revolting.

Over the last three months, I have been pushing myself, inch by painful inch, to work on several massive projects, the first four of which especially I really wanted to do and should have enjoyed doing:

  • Reorganizing my home office
  • Reorganizing my filing and paperwork
  • Planning my 2004 spring garden
  • Setting up a budget
  • Running backlogged client reports
  • Working on several projects for About Bipolar Disorder

Plus some smaller miscellaneous jobs and weekly housework like laundry and paying bills - I have to put every single task on a to-do list or it won't get done.

Well, to give you some idea of how hard this has been for me - first, it's the second week of April and I still haven't even decided completely what I want to buy for this year's spring garden. And even more revealing is the state of the office reorganization project.

Mammoth Project

Immediately after New Year's I cleaned out the office to start with a "bare canvas." I took 13 boxes of trash, loose papers, and stuff I didn't have room for out of the office and into the living room, and the office was stripped.

One of those boxes was thrown away. Now, three months later, there are 23 boxes of stuff stashed in the living room and other rooms AND the office is almost as messy as it was before I started. I've made a small amount of progress on the shelves, and that's it.

At Last, An Answer

But now I've come to the good news at last. Finally, FINALLY, it has penetrated through my thick skull and the fog inside my head that -- there IS fog inside my head, and its name is Topamax. I need to get off Topamax. It's stupefying me. Even though the dosage has remained steady, the fog is getting thicker. And the gods were smiling on me, because I realized this a couple of days before a pdoc appointment.

I went in and said all this to Dr. Meyer yesterday, and he agreed. I started titrating down immediately. In two weeks I'll be off this wretched drug completely, and hopefully my head will clear quickly (AND the awful taste in my mouth will go away quickly, too). Perhaps I'll soon find keys to the projects that have been so grindingly, achingly difficult all these months. Maybe I'll soon stop losing my balance.

I can tell you, sweetie, that I'm overjoyed to be dumping Topamax. It just feels RIGHT. Once I'm off it, the plan is to go at least two weeks without a mood stabilizer to let my system adjust (unless I have any major problems - I don't anticipate that).

So darling - even with all the ickiness I've been coping with, right now I feel really positive :-)

Oh, and one more thing - your sister was here for one evening a couple of weeks ago with her friend Sarah. It was such a delight to see her after so many years. I'm just amazed that Angel looks almost exactly the same now as she did seven years ago.

So when (hint hint) are you coming to visit?

Love and smoochys,

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