Daily Archives: August 6, 2014

I’ve Got This (For Now, Anyway)

Damn. I was so looking forward to getting all that nonsense I talked about yesterday out of the way, and I got a call just as I was leaving for my doctor appointment this morning. Seems he’d been called to an emergency surgery and needed to reschedule. So it’s been put off till Friday morning, and all I can think of is, I put makeup on for this??

There’s a story there. I usually do wear at least some mascara, but my allergies have been so bad this summer that my eyes almost continually water and itch, which is not conducive to wearing eye makeup. So I’ve gone without, except for job interviews and doctor appointments. And I’ve gotten used to it. It’s not like I’m a raving beauty even on my best days, and with all the eye-rubbing that goes on, the mascara smears and makes me look like a raccoon. I don’t know why it’s so important to get all dolled up to go to the doctor—maybe it’s just a vestige of the old days, when a woman with any self-respect at all would primp and perfume before an appointment of almost any kind—but I still do it.

Which reminds me: this is the longest I’ve ever gone without seeing Dr. Awesomesauce. Ten weeks, to be exact, and my next appointment isn’t until Monday. With the exception of that brief hiccup in June, I haven’t needed to go in, and that is surely a sign of progress. It wasn’t so very long ago that even monthly visits weren’t really enough; thankfully he is so responsive to telephone calls or I’d have needed more frequent visits than that. And to think there was even a time when I was seeing him every two weeks…..yes, boys and girls, there’s been a LOT of improvement here.

Seriously, it was once unthinkable that I could go more than a few weeks without a med change or a therapy session. Stability was only a concept, a goal to aim for but impossible to achieve for any length of time. I’d last a couple of months, get to believing I had this thing licked, and wham! another episode would slam into me with the force of a hurricane. Last fall I felt so good that I went into denial mode, thinking that my issues were merely existential, and was rewarded with a one-two punch of full-blown mania followed swiftly by a crash into depression.

I know better now. Whenever I get to fantasizing about coming off medications, I remind myself that they are what’s keeping me steady—I can’t do it on my own. Maybe someday I’ll be able to get along on fewer meds, but for now, the combination I’m on is exactly right for me. It still feels like a lot of meds, and it is, but the doses aren’t excessive and it’s become obvious—even to me!—that I need every single one of them to function.

Yes, it’s tough waiting for the other shoe to drop, because I know it will at some point. There will be another mood episode, and another one after that. But thanks to Will’s cancer and our precarious living situation, I’m learning to stay in the present and not to worry too much about the future. It doesn’t do any good, and it doesn’t change a thing; all it does is make me anxious and irritable. All that matters is that today I’m stable, and today that’s good enough. 

 


Structure a Bipolar Life

I’m extremely organized. Everything is in its place and there’s a place for everything. In addition, my time management skills are outstanding. I know when it’s time to get things done and I do them then and there. Structure is important to me and I maintain it at all times. In addition, I have bipolar […]

The post Structure a Bipolar Life appeared first on Insights From A Bipolar Bear.

Jordan

It has been generally accepted and widely known that something happened when I was in Jordan. Its easily pinpointable on the timeline of my life of when things started to shift within me. Up until today I just assumed along with everyone else it just happened to be when my myriad of mental illnesses really reared their ugly multiple heads. I was 20, unmedicated with no professional help, in complete denial of my previous diagnoses, everything changed, when I came back to the states I started to spiral into what on the surface seemed like classic bipolar episodes of extreme mania, depression, and general self destruction – it seemed a simple enough logical explanation.

That’s not what happened.

In the past few weeks something has been bubbling up that I’ve been struggling trying to grasp. The first inkling was when in group therapy a series of incidents between 2 other participants happened and my major comment on the situation towards one of the individuals was “I simply can’t fathom how you can’t see the effect your actions/comments have on other people. How can you not see?”

In my followup individual session my therapist prodded me with what was underlying the comment, saying that it was obvious how deeply upsetting the issue was to me. It was then that I realized that I just cannot understand how anyone can not consider the effect of their words or actions on others. This led to realizing how blinding my own world view can be. I am a compassionate and empathetic person, and the idea that there are people in the world who are simply not the same way deep down was baffling to me. I never understood how my ex could do the things he did with what I now understand as a complete innate blindness to the consequences to me. The same with my father. How could he not see? How could he genuinely not understand? How could he believe that I wasn’t ill and was just an attention-seeking disaster? I didn’t get it.

Earlier this week was the 100th anniversary of what is widely considered the official start of World War I – Britain’s declaration of war against Germany. I understand that being half-British I may have been closer to the issue than most, and that my genuine passion towards history, politics, international relations and conflict resolution also played a part in me being more affected than most. But something kept stirring within me. For those unaware, part of the one of the speeches given over radio in Britain on the day of declaration included the phrase “the lights are going out across Europe, never to been seen again in our lifetime.” The enormity of the situation was staggering. In memoriam, at the same time the declaration was issued 100 years ago, all across Britain and even throughout parts of Europe the lights – all of them – were literally turned off. A single candle or light was placed in the doorway for the night in remembrance. The photos, and the gesture itself, took my breath away. Buckingham Palace, pitch black but for the light at the main door. A single candle outside 10 Downing Street (the residence of the Prime Minister). All of London black and silent but for the flickering lights of candles at doors.
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A facebook post from a friend in England stating she was in tears driving home from work late that night at the sight. The somber and incredulously devout necessity to remember, and consider, what had happened. Here in the US there wasn’t a single mention on the news. I lit a candle outside my door and stood in the dusk and watched it burning, partially not caring that no one else seemed to understand or feel the need to consider the issue, partially incredulous at the fact.

Last night my mom mentioned that she didn’t think we had been talking as much. Sure, we spoke every day, but there seemed to be a lack of communication. Something stirred again as I drove over to her house to just talk. It started pouring out – what had happened in therapy, how deeply upset I was about the lack of observation of the anniversary stateside… then slowly it started to happen. I was starting to realize that all of humankind is not deep down innately good, thoughtful, benevolent, kind, compassionate, and that this was deeply disturbing and confusing to me. Why are people mean? How can someone not care – not just on any given issue or towards a particular person per se, but in the grander sense? Why are people rude? War? Plague? How can the default position not be a genuine desire to understand and fix everything and create a greater happiness? My mom interjected “You know, you used to tell me all the time that you were going to fix the Middle East. You were so confident.” My reply? “Mom, back then and up until this very second, I truly believed with every fiber of my being that I could. That anyone could.” It also came to light that I believed that just about everything in the whole world – from domestic issues to Ebola – could be bettered with a conversation. Why would anyone refuse to sit down and genuinely try to help with compassion and understanding towards fellow humankind?

Today before therapy I was exponentially nervous. I knew something was coming. I started telling my therapist everything I’ve told you. My therapist asked how I viewed my mom, who I consider to be my closest friend and the person with the most impact on my development in regards to the same issues. Turns out I see her as the absolute epitome of kindness, compassion, and understanding. Somehow I ended up posing what I thought was a rhetorical question: How could the happiest time in my life be the time that I was in a war zone apparently on the verge on mental collapse? I was SO HAPPY.”

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Then, the true question: “What happened in Jordan?”

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The answer: not anything even close to what I thought.

I don’t know how we covered so much ground in an hour, or exactly how the revelations came about, but here it is – THIS is what happened in Jordan.

I went there believing I was well on my way to saving the world. I mastered the language, reveled in the culture, and was on the highest high of my life. Several little things about my trip now seem worth mentioning:

1) My host family was comprised of a doctor, a journalist, and 3 people who worked for UNHCR – The United Nations High Commission for Refugees – kind, compassionate, good, hopeful people. I still consider the sons of that wonderful family my brothers.

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2) My time spent touring, helping in, and playing with the children of the Palestinian refugee camps was the most genuine joy I had ever experienced – the residents and workers there were kind, compassionate, good, hopeful people.

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3) The day I spent on the Jordanian border with Iraq, in a makeshift camp in hellscape of neverending desert sandstorms encased in barbed wire that was a Hail Mary during the sudden refugee crisis as a result of the height of the 2004 American led attacks on Iraq, was what changed me. And until today, I have never told anyone what I saw.

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I can summon an exact replica of that camp and its people in my mind in an instant. It was despair that could have come straight from Dante. It was hopelessness. It was my antithesis. It was what I thought I had the power to change, but it was my country that did this in the first place. And there was no hiding the plain fact that I was American.

The people of the camp flooded our small group, wailing, begging, pleading for help. Showing us their burns and shrapnel wounds. Telling us their stories. On their knees telling us what cities their children were still in and begging us – personally – to stop the bombings. Stop the war. Why were we doing this to them? “Please, in the name of God, help us” – showing us pictures of the carnage on the other side of the border, pleading for mercy. Then there were those who simply silently, stoicly, continued to stare into the abyss of the red/orange desert sandstorm and the smoked over sky.

There were two people under medical care, but not for what you’d immediately expect. One was a heavily pregnant woman under what I now realize was suicide watch. When I asked the camp workers why, their eyes went almost blank as they told me in a bone-chillingly flat affect. She was continually trying to self-abort by any meager means available to her. This included throwing herself, stomach first, repeatedly, onto rocks. In her own words, “how can I bring a child into this? All hope is lost.” The other was a middle aged man wearing what I can only describe as a “Cosby sweater.” Colorful designs made of thickly spun threads. Parts of the sweater were missing, holes where it was threadbare. His face and lips were swollen and caked in dried blood and strangely patterned scarred wounds. He fashioned crude needles out of who knows what, pulled the yarn from the only garment he escaped with, and repeatedly sewed his own mouth shut. I was told his explanation for the behavior was something to the effect of “I no longer need to speak. What is the point? No one is listening.”

I didn’t cry. We all were silent on the four hour ride back across the sprawling desert to Amman. My host family knew where I had been. They knew. But they didn’t ask, we didn’t talk about it. They made a big traditional dinner and we all stayed up late that night together. In hindsight I think they didn’t want me to be left alone.
Until today I never realized that what was bubbling inside of me now burst forth without warning 10 years ago this fall. That my world view was rocked. And that I couldn’t take it. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to process. I didn’t go crazy indiscriminately. There was a trauma, a trigger – and I did the best I could to handle it.

This realization of the horrific truth of the world order, evidence of inimaginable suffering and despair – this didn’t start a few weeks ago. It happened 10 years ago. My world changed that day. I couldn’t process, evaluate, or begin to understand. I didn’t have a random manic episode. I consciously chose to stop attending my university classes and live my life. Try to recapture the joy. Explore, travel, spend time with people, find the happiness again in anything I could. And I did – I put that day in a box on a shelf in the very back of the attic of my mind. That’s why I look so happy in the pictures. That’s why I look back so fondly on my time there. Because I was, in the beginning, truly exuberant and joyful. And after that day I made it my mission to find that again.

It’s true that that was the beginning of the spiral. Not going to those classes, combined with serious drinking and partying upon my return to the US, led to my being kicked out of the Honors program I was so proud to be a part of and eventually dropping out of college when my lack of credits at the end of my senior year caught up with me. The shame surrounding those consequences still haunts me. And yes, all these events probably did align with, as well as definitely exacerbate and possibly actually cause my previously dormant symptoms.

But I didn’t go indiscriminately crazy. I was traumatized and my entire belief system shifted. But I didn’t know what was happening, much less what to do about it.

That’s what really happened in Jordan.

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Retrograde

I never said I was sane (of course) and I spin with the turn of galaxies, retrograde ...

The 4th of August

was my birthday. I am 28, and I still have no clue what in doing, where I’m going, and how to handle my life.

I feel much better today, and have been for a while, but there is this feeling like I am missing something…

I hope all is well with you.


Filed under: Ranting

The Air Down There

WARNING: If you are a man, or a woman who’s squeamish about discussing “lady parts”, you may want to skip this post, because that’s what it’s about…..well, that and the fact that I haven’t seen a doctor about them in over eight years.

I’m not proud to admit that. I’m a nurse, I know better. I’ve still got all the equipment I came into the world with, and having gone through menopause doesn’t mean that I get to neglect it. But it’s all too easy to do when your primary care doctor never addresses it and you don’t have a gynecologist who will. I mean, NOBODY likes pelvic exams—that horrible position you have to get into for this event is bad enough—and the rest of it is just…..icky. “Scoot down,” they always say, even though you feel like you’re about to fall off the table. And right when you KNOW you’re going to fall off, they say, “Okay, now scoot some more”.

Now, after five babies and 21 years in healthcare, I don’t have any modesty left, so that’s not the issue here. But I am uncharacteristically nervous, not just because this is being done on something of an urgent basis, but because it’s a new doctor and I don’t know yet what I’m in for. It means talking about my health history, my medications, and yes, I’m sure the bipolar will come up. But I’m also going to have to talk about the most intimate details of my life, and I’m not thrilled with that idea at all. I don’t even discuss those things with Dr. Awesomesauce!

I won’t have any trouble talking about my past experiences with gynecological exams, though. I’ve had some pretty gnarly ones thanks to a couple of cancer scares, and I’m not looking forward to repeating them. I’ve had endometrial biopsies (ouch), where they snip bits of tissue from the uterus and examine it for signs of cancer. I’ve had ultrasounds (gotta love having a transducer wand up in your business along with the 32 oz. of water they make you drink beforehand so they can visualize things better). I’ve even had the ever-popular D & C (no description is necessary). None of which I remember fondly, what with all the cramping afterwards, but I got through it.

However, that was also when I was a lot younger, and the parts of me which make me a girl had not yet seen the end of their biological usefulness. Now I feel just like my mother did when she had to go get checked out after having some postmenopausal bleeding (and yes, I’ve had that too)….more scared of the procedure than of the possible outcome. 

Oh well, what must be done, must be done. I’ll let you know how it goes. ~sigh~

 


Rethinking ECT

I had an unfortunate meeting with Dr. BigHeart last week. So much so that I am rethinking his name, thinking that maybe “Dr. Ka-ching!” may be more appropriate. Whereas I used to believe he had my best interests in mind, I am now questioning if it’s all about keeping me coming back for more and more ECT. He actually said that it was a feasible and rational idea that I might have to do ECT every week for the rest of my life!!!!!! This about made me fall out of the bed, then he continued to tell me that I will NEVER go back to my “Professional” life and that this is as good as it gets. If I accepted what he said, I would have been devastated. However, I believe that he is one hundred percent full of shit, and I don’t believe I want to be receiving care from someone who holds out so little hope for me. It HAS to get better than this!!! The depression HAS to lift!!! I MUST have hope of going back to work some day!!! Granted, I do not want to go back to work in the IT field, I am totally burned out on it. But there has to be SOMETHING I can do!! I have a fucking college degree! I’m trainable!! I’m not ready for lifetime disability!!! That just sounds too much like giving up. And I REFUSE to give up! I am going to keep doing this fucking meditation and keep doing this goddamn yoga and keep doing this daily exercise and I’M GOING TO GET BETTER!!!!!! Just watch me.


Filed under: Bipolar, Bipolar Depressed, Bipolar Disorder, Bipolar ECT, Bipolar Exercise, Psychology Shmyshmology Tagged: Bipolar, ECT, Hope, Mental Illness, Psychology, Reader

Radio Interview


I was interviewed tonight for the Black Women Empowerment Radio.

If you missed, it you can listen here.

I was very nervous. But it went well. And the three callers were all friends of mine. I am very happy with the support and love I get from my family and friends.

Treasuring It

A nothing day. Literally. I went to the shop and I put on the fake face for dealing with people. Came home. Marinated in my own sweat. Mood held steady. Didn’t even need a xanax the entire day. I only took it just now to slow my mind down enough to eventually sleep.

I treasure the days my mind is this quiet. They are few and far between. Prelude to a storm, perhaps, but I’ll take it.