Daily Archives: July 15, 2012

Melting Contrast

Reblogged from Broken Light: A Photography Collective: Photo taken by DeeDee, who struggles with bipolar disorder and ADD. She likes to …

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Which Way to Santa Fe?

I realize today that I especially have no idea where my mood is. Maybe it’s randomly swung to hypomania? It’s hard to tell — I’m still feeling pleasant, but I’m still feeling tired. But that’s also combined with feeling extra-twitchy, and wanting to DO ALL THE THINGS! I ‘m having to watch myself on that one, as I know how quickly it can burn a soul out and bring on the depression faster (especially when, as said, I have no idea where I am right now).

I think I should just try to flop on the floor or something and sprawl, see if that helps find an answer. Stop motion… it’s a good thing.

<3

Wearing the Yellow Jersey

So, we are well into the 99th edition of the greatest bike race in the world – The Tour de France.  Here in the U.K. it is an event that is relegated to coverage by obscure sports channels and a quick mention at the end of sports bulletins (if you’re lucky).  Last year’s race garnered more coverage than usual in the media since Mark Cavendish became the first British rider to win the Green Jersey (the sprinters’ competition).  This time round the coverage, while still not headline news is getting much more coverage thanks to a British rider, Bradley Wiggins, being one of the favorites to win the Yellow Jersey.

I am writing this on the first of a couple of rest days in the Tour, sandwiched between yesterday’s time trial, and tomorrow’s ascent into the first of the gruesome mountain stages.  Bradley Wiggins is wearing the Yellow jersey and pundits are already talking about him being in pole position to win overall.

While the press clamour for quotes from Wiggins that they can quote back to their readers if he fails to fulfil expectations, the man in yellow has remained sanguine about the road ahead and the enormous challenges, both mental and physical that he, along with all the riders, face.

Bradley is managing expectations.  And that is something that I find a constant strain and effort to do.

No one is thinking of me as wearing the Yellow jersey. But expectations that I put on myself can weigh me down just as surely as full saddle bags and a pair of leaden legs.  And I’m not the only one with expectations of myself.  Lots of other people have expectations of me, as well.

No pressure, then.

The Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius was a philosophical kinda guy.  I have written about him in a previous edition of this blog, and I want to return to him again today.  He was a Stoic philosopher.  By this I do not mean that he believed that one should have a Stiff Upper Lip.  He, and others of this school of thought, believed in managing expectations. In short, don’t put pressure on yourself by putting unreasonable expectations upon yourself. we cannot do that, if they are persistent, obtrusive, we can

‘Such as are your habitual thoughts, such also will  be the character of your mind; for the soul is dyed by the thoughts’.  What he is getting at is we put pressure on ourselves, give ourselves expectations, and we do so out of habit.  And further more, our thoughts, the ones we are used to entertaining, tend to rule us by embedding themselves in our psyche ( a modern term for ‘soul’).  What he is saying is that control your thoughts, and you control your feelings; control your feelings and you can choose how to react to circumstances outside your control.  Sound like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?  I think so.  What the Stoics were all about – and there are many contemporary Stoics, too – is about understanding one’s place in the whole scheme of things – I’ll come back to that another time.  What I want to get across this time is that if we decide to believe that we can change how we behave, and thus how we feel, we can adjust our expectations.  Adjusting expectations down – as Bradley Wiggins has been doing recently.  If we can learn to adjust the expectations we have of ourselves we will be less prone to disappointment, pressure and anxiety.

Happiness

A state you must dare not enter
with hopes of staying,
quicksand in the marshes, and all

the roads leading to a castle
that doesn’t exist.
But there it is, as promised,

with its perfect bridge above
the crocodiles,
and its doors forever open.

Stephen Dunn (1939 – )


imagery

i got bored with 50 shades of grey.

not that it’s boring by any stretch of the imagination.  it’s true: the writing is frustrating at times.  but it’s fan fiction for fuck’s sake, not a classic novel.  in any case, it inspired me to get off twice in a 2 hour period, and it’s been a while since i’ve been like that.

but i need more.

i need creativity.  i need to produce.  to exact change.  to shape and mold.  i need to look forward to something.  to build something.  to make something from nothing.

literally something from nothing, because i’m fucking broke.  ha.

that basically leaves me with two options: planning the classes i’ll be teaching and this blog.  so here i am, 1:30am, wide awake, plotting the future of this source of respite and redemption.  i’ve got some ideas that are starting to simmer that entail tapping into my artistic side.

speaking of which, i forgot to mention (…imagine that) that i decided to complement my writing with visual imagery via an account on pinterest.  like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words!  i’m using this as an opportunity to find images that express my feelings because sometimes words just don’t capture it.  i’ve got a couple of boards up that are admittedly pretty depressing so you may want to hold off on checking me out for a bit.  you can click the “follow me” button at the bottom of this page if you like.

my mind is a clusterfuck.  i have too many ideas and no idea as to which one i should pursue first!


i forgot to title this post

i was going to write this post yesterday, but then i got distracted and forgot, started reading the news instead, came across an article discussing 50 Shades of Grey, got excited, bought the Kindle version on amazon (on credit, of course), and read until 4am this morning.

whew.

as i mentioned, i’ve cycled into a hypomanic state.  i was starting to get suspicious when my days became SUPER productive, but by mid-week it was undeniable because i was getting fewer and fewer hours of sleep each night.  my 8-9 hours became 6, then 4, then 3.  once i popped up after only 3 hours and was wide awake, there was pretty much no doubt.  clearly i’m going to have to get better at early identification.

that day…Thursday, I think it was…was a small slice of euphoric heaven.  my senses were alight and hypersensitive.  when people talk at regular volume it sounds to me like shouting and i have to tell them to lower their voice.  i am more emotional and less in touch with reality.  the concept of consequences escapes me.

fortunately (or unfortunately?) i had an appointment with my psychiatrist that day who figured out pretty quickly what was going on.  i was out of it.  and i couldn’t blame alcohol or drugs or anything else for this state.

i was clearly hypomanic.

i was clearly bipolar.

there is not really much room for doubt now.  it’s possible, but the window of possibility has shrunk considerably.  i accept my fate.

told her i want retin-A for the acne that has plagued my skin and is a common side effect of lithium, but she advised against it because it is associated with depression.  i still want to use it anyway.  i’m almost 30 for fuck’s sake, and i look like i’m in middle school again.

since i was hypomanic, and the effects of lithium are dose-dependent, one possible strategy to bring me back down to earth is to up the dose to 1200 or 1500 mg.  fortunately, my psychiatrist took my vanity into consideration and instead recommended a small dose of valproic acid, or Depakote.  i’ve also needed to take a break from the Prozac for a couple days.

now my daily regimen will look something like:

  • 3 300mg lithium,
  • 1 250mg valproic acid,
  • 1 20mg fluoxetine (prozac),
  • 1 1000mg fish oil,
  • and 1 female formula multivitamin

we’re eventually going to move me off of prozac entirely and then start me on Lamictal, which will take a number of months before i get to the therapeutic dose.

i’ve been playing with the idea of not taking any meds because of that nagging voice that says maaaaaybe, just maybe i’m not really bipolar and all this is just some twisted expectation effect resulting in a self-fulfilling prophecy.  i was talking to lizziecracked from Running Naked With Scissors and thought it might be an interesting exercise to have a side-by-side comparison of the pros and cons for people taking medications versus not.  of course, everyone responds differently but i think it would be interesting to hear about the experiences of others.  this would be a *descriptive* activity, NOT a *prescriptive* one.  anyone interested?

back to thursday.  i got to enjoy the rest of the day in a hypomanic state, although i was totally out of touch with reality and more emotional than usual.  i was very tempted to go buy alcohol and cigarettes and go out with friends.  i decided to stay home instead…until i got a wild hair to go to my LAB MEETING and to TELL MY ADVISOR what’s been going on.

oh yes.

i didn’t change, shower, or anything.  within 3 minutes of having the idea i was out the door.  no consequences, indeed.

surprisingly, he was happy to see me which i found interesting since i hadn’t returned his calls since he made them a month ago.  he knew i was diagnosed with depression, but i thought it strange when he made an offhand comment asking if “what goes up must come down” explained my extended absence.

about 3/4 of the way into the meeting i asked for the floor.  my heart started to race and i was overcome with dizziness, like i get for any public speaking event.  there were only two other people than me there, one being my advisor and the other being a colleague, but it felt like i was talking to an audience of 100.  i was able to get out one sentence before the waterworks started.  there was no stopping it so i gave in.  i knew crying would be a risk anyway since i was in a hypomanic state, so fuck it.  let’s roll.

i got through my 20 second speech and managed a smile through my tears, waiting for the judgment, rejection, disgust, fear, and condescension that had plagued my imagination when it came to this moment.  time stopped in the moment of silence between my speech and his response.

he looked at me deadpan and said:

“Okay.  To tell you the truth I’ve suspected you were bipolar for a long time.”

what!?!

i didn’t know whether to be relieved or insulted.  i was a little bit of both, to be honest.  i was also afraid.  does this mean everyone can tell that i’m bipolar?  have people just been watching me and thinking, oh, there’s that untreated mentally ill girl again.

meanwhile he’s telling me that he’s glad i told him and he’s actually recommending that i’m open about my condition (…) because then people have something to which they can attribute my erratic behavior.  otherwise they have to come up with their own explanations, which are never as forgiving as they should be.

i’m shaking but the news is out there.  he knows (and apparently knew for a long time coming).  not only that, but at one point he even dated a bipolar woman and wrote a paper about bipolar disorder (which i need to look up now, of course).  according to him, he “knows all about it” (i’m skeptical about that).  it was certainly a different turn out than i had expected.