Ring any bells?!
Ring any bells?!
In reply to The WordPress Daily Prompt – Jan.2, 2015
Be the Change:
What change, big or small, would you like your blog to make in the world?
While I certainly don’t think this little blog will change the world, I guess my biggest hope is that it will help myself and other sufferers of bipolar to realize that it’s okay to be honest about our illness, the changes it brings, and the emotions it chokes us with. I’ve discovered that as soon as I try to be the person that I’ll never be again, or suppress the very real (though chemically imbalanced) emotions that bipolar causes to emerge – it is never something that can be maintained for long, because it isn’t truth.
I will never again be the person I was before bipolar got it’s hands on me. I mourn for that person. I mourn for the potential that was stolen by this illness – especially the potential wife, mother, and friend that I once was so well at being. But wishful thinking will never bring her back again. If I were to listen to some family members when they tell me: “Thinking that way only makes it worse. Don’t say that about yourself. You’ll get back there again, blah blah blah”, I would live in a perpetual state of unreality and disappointment, even greater than I live now. No – I have been forced to accept the fact that the old me is gone, as this illness continues to grow more and more chronic with each passing year. While I’m sure mind-trickery and the power of positive thinking may work on a good day, the bad days always come back around to knock that illusion to its knees.
Along with accepting the confusing and painful changes in identity that come with bipolar, we also need to acknowledge the irrationality and brilliance that comes with the territory. While I’m not condoning mindlessly spewing our vitriolic thoughts on anything that breathes, I know for a fact that if we try to live like those thoughts and emotions somehow don’t exist – shoving them further and further into the mold of sanity that we wish they were – they do not magically become sane. The only thing those distorted emotions do is multiply, before festering and rotting, until we can contain them no more. I’ve discovered the importance of having a safe place to share the ever-changing illogical thoughts that are forced on us, as well as our random strokes of genius.
I have grown allergic to the sugar-coated layer that some people feel more comfortable covering this illness with, in the hopes of making it more palatable to look at. This disorder has made a strange metamorphosis in recent years, to where now – even though the blame is still put on its owner – it’s become an almost fashionable illness to have. This brings with it the potential of further stigmatizing the actual sufferers, since its sheer popularity has watered down the fact that it is a serious, debilitating brain disease. I’m here to say that, although I love my mind and the creative and unique and sometimes brilliant ways it thinks, I hate the illness that makes it so intriguing. I hate the lonely isolation I feel forced to be in, as I try to protect both myself and others from me. I hate that it has stolen the friends that I once helped through their own unbearable tragedies – help that I now so desperately need myself, but refuse to allow into my life. I hate the sleepless nights filled with uncontrollable visions of how my loved ones will die a gruesome death, no matter how much my logical reason tries to convince me otherwise. I hate the constantly evolving fixations that have shamefully caused my family to go into unrecoverable debt. I hate the jealous envy I see in the eyes of others, over the few talents that make this illness bearable. I feel blessed to have the mind that I do, and yet it has betrayed me. The security of my inner sanctum has now become my reason to flee.
My hope is that by looking bipolar in the face, and recording both its distortions and its beauty, I will help others to see it for what it really is – not the romanticized view that some have been fooled by. By telling my story as honestly as I know how, I hope to give fellow sufferers the freedom to be ill. Because we have earned that freedom.
Little lethargic today. Actually, I’m uncomfortable and not sure why. It’s like my skin is on too tight, it doesn’t fit. It doesn’t feel like my own skin, but some smaller frame of flesh stretched over my skeleton.
It is what it is.
Got one more smack in the face today from someone I cared about. I must just be a toxic shit human being, no way can anyone have such short term relationships that don’t end well without being evil.
Then again, most think there’s no way one can have as much bad luck as I do, but that’s just called my life. No making it up, no dramatics. Just is…
I begged off the social thing yesterday. Felt lousy for doing so but I wasn’t in any shape to paste on the smile and feign interest. My stomach was churning (like that thing from Alien trying to claw its way out), my nerves were so bad I was breaking out in hives. (I still have the scratch marks today from scratching.)
So it was supper then I coaxed my daughter into my bed with promise of snuggle buggle. Because I was just in the rabbit hole and so groggy and so wired…Yeah, wired but groggy, oxymoron.
We nodded off. For forty minutes. Then the phone rang.
It wasn’t even seven p.m.
So we resumed the nap.
I woke up two more times during the night, stomach and nerves on edge. Check email, wait for word that never came until I sought it out. You don’t put people you care about through that.
Nice to know something I treasured was a total self serving manipulative lie.
Last I was awake was 3 am.
Amazingly, my kid slept the whole way through. I don’t want to start the bad habit of allowing her to sleep in my bed but I suppose if I get in desperate need of consistent rest, it’s one way to get it.
Lies. Lack of gratitude. Dismissal.
Mood swings. Anxiety. Hives.
Life is glorious.
I suspect another early bedtime coming on.
Truth be told, aside from licking the wounds of hurt feelings…I slept well. I woke up feeling like a sixty pound weight was no longer weighing me down. Change is scary and painful, but sometimes…It’s the only thing that lets you know the situation was putting a strain on you more than you ever realized.
Kinda when the donor walked out.
Yet…I could breathe again once the albatross was gone.
Of course, I end up feeling shitty because people are not all good or evil, we’re all a mixed bag and blaming others for my lightweight nerves and shit people skills is unfair.
One of the best things about being human, though, is that logic doesn’t apply to human emotion. You are entitled to feel how you feel, logic be damned. As long as it doesn’t control you to the point you turn yourself into the ultimate victim, it seems healthy enough.
Skin is too tight.
Reminds me of that scene in Men In Black with the “Eggar” suit. The wife comments about his skin seeming too loose so he grabs it at the back and stretches is really tight.
That’s how I feel. Skin tightened too much.
Brings new meaning to the term skintight.
I held my own life in my hands, and it was suddenly too heavy to be left there.
Elyn R. Saks – The Center Cannot Hold
I started typing to get through anxiety and it worked for a while. Emptying my head … gardez freakin’ brains.
Here is a thing I hate very much. I don’t see my lovely friends enough and when I do, I talk waaaaay too damn much. Sometimes it feels horribly beyond my control. Thank fuck they’re cool with it. You bipolaroids know the (pneumatic) drill, I know you do.
Then, having had a really good time, regardless of my own motormouth, I drive back home with sudden and full-on anxiety, for no reason other than whatever soup is bubbling through my brain at the time. Freaking hot day and I’m boiling all over except my forehead, which has developed a cold sweat. Lower ribs aching hard, fucknose why. Ughhhhh.
I remember reading with relief a blogger who said he suddenly said stuff without any thought or planning. Like, he’d say to himself, “kill yourself”. For the longest time, involuntary iloveyous and ihateyous have been my thing – only when I’m alone. Sometimes it varies, if things are really bad. I have no idea who I’m saying it to. Sigh sigh sighhhhh (passive aggressive sigh). I’m seeing my psychiatrist fairly soon, I’ll mention all that crap.
Boring boring boring …
And I was on the beach at 5am with the dogs, surely that has to take me out of my echoing head a bit.
This is why, when viewed singularly, as I am viewed these days, my tattoos don’t seem nearly as profound as I claim them to be. To the squeamish who can’t quite bear to look at me, I’m a mere curiosity; to those who do look, really look, I must seem the most isolated of souls.
Jill Ciment – The Tattoo Artist
(Seriously, the above is a wonderful read.)
Ugh … blah blah fucking blah. I distract myself for a while, even when it’s by thinking about and around the mechanics of the things that I am frightened to face … but of course the fact remains, I am so, so, so unhappy. If you said well here’s three wishes, be happy, I wouldn’t know what or how.
I don’t feel remotely capable of anything much; everything is a battle. Oh yeah, Sisyphus. I’ve been thinking about this quote on and off for the past year or so …
I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain. One always finds one’s burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night-filled mountain, in itself, forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.
… and today I have decided that it’s a load of codswallop. I don’t think we have to leap from absurd to happy. I get it and I frequently agree with Camus, but this one is just way too noble. And though absurdists may be convinced they located freedom, I suspect … ugh I’m shutting up about it, or I’ll just end up going hang on a moment, arguing the whole thing the other way and twisting myself into an exsistential absurdist pretzel. Fuck that.
I started this blog wondering who I am, now I don’t even understand my own question.
Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed?
(I quite like bits of the old testament.)
Back to Camus (haha). The whole who cares if life has meaning anyway thing ought to fit me like the proverbial glove right now and I guess if I was 17 it would. I can’t (won’t?) make that Sisyphean leap of (il)logic. Eh, meh … im/patient Job and un/happy Sisyphus.
I have a placeholder answer, taken (completely out of context) from TS Eliot’s Little Gidding.
If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same: you would have to put off
Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report.
PS: Nick Cave – where do we go now but nowhere
Aaaaand breathe …
I almost went into the hospital Wednesday.
I woke up feeling as manic as I ever have. It had been building ever since my episode in the ER where I stayed up so late. I tried calling my doctor to get in to see him, but they said they were full up and could not see me until the next Tuesday. I didn’t want to give this feeling that long to escalate.
I was pacing around like a cat on amphetamines. My mind was spinning around in a thousand different directions. Between Sunday and Wednesday, I had found out one friend of mine was getting divorced and another had been diagnosed with cancer. I couldn’t get that out of my head in relation to Bob; i.e. that I could lose him either way as well. I put a dent in my lovely little new car trying to park it in the garage too quickly. I was short with my kids and very, very paranoid about how I was feeling.
My doctor’s office finally told me to go to the behavioral health center and get an evaluation. I was going to go by myself with bags packed to stay, but Bob wanted to go with me so I wouldn’t wreck the car further. So we went.
I saw the intake counselor and the doctor on duty. I poured out how I was feeling and couldn’t seem to stop talking,. I had however, taken an extra Klonopin before we left so that I was not pacing around the room. Bob filled in the details when I got ahead of myself. The counselor was particularly interested in if I was a danger to myself or others, and I emphatically said I did not believe so–yet. I had never had a pure manic episode (where I was not also suicidal,) so what I was feeling was brand new to me.
She went out to call my doctor, and lo and behold, he suddenly had time to see me himself. Which was what I had wanted in the first place. So we truck across the street to his office and wait.
After retelling the story to him, he decided I was heading for something interesting and rejiggered my meds. He upped my Abilify and Klonopin, dropped down my Pristiq, and told me to come back in a week. So that is where I now stand. The rest of the day was touch and go because I could not increase the Abilify until nighttime. Yesterday I was better, and today the thoughts have calmed down considerably. But it was a scary, scary bit before the meds kicked in with any kind of relief.
Unfortunately, that’s the kind of thing you have to watch for in bipolar disorder. SO I did not stay up to watch the new year ring in, I went to bed at a reasonable hour and have lived to tell about it.
“I wish I had just broken my leg.” She told me, as we sat in together on the cracked and threadbare sofa in the psychiatric ward. “My brother-in-law broke his leg a few months back. Stupid motorcycle accident. His fault, by the way. He was in hospital for less than 24 hours. The entire family descended. Brought him cards and presents. Cleaned the house. Cooked him meals…I have been sick for months. I have been in hospital for weeks. Not a single person has visited me, cooked meals for my family, babysat my kids, sent me a card, or even acknowledged our trauma. I guess people understand physical pain more than mental pain…Why couldn’t I have just broken my damn leg?”
I empathise and understand her story. I believe this is the unfortunate, frustrating, and upsetting case for many – if not most – individuals hospitalised for psychiatric reasons. But I don’t necessarily agree with her point.
Because, come on, who doesn’t understand mental pain.
Everyone in the world has undergone some form of mental pain. While, obviously, the entire population doesn’t suffer from diagnosable mental illness, I refuse to believe that ANYONE sails through life without feeling some degree of emotional turmoil – whether it be loneliness, heartbreak, fear, or sadness. Turn your radio on. I guarantee that 90% of the songs given airtime detail emotional states, both positive and negative. Artists don’t sell albums filled with songs about their broken legs. It’s all about broken hearts.
It’s not lack of understanding. It’s discrimination and stigma.
I have two chronic illnesses that I deal with every day. Both offer their own “special” challenges. But I often think to myself that if I were to play favourites, I would prefer my autoimmune disease to my mental illness.
Don’t get me wrong. My autoimmune disease is a giant pain. Literally. I am so sick of explaining it to people. To having this rare illness that no one, not even the so called professionals have heard of. To having to read every single ingredient with a fine tooth comb. Of irritating the restaurant staff with my paranoid questioning. Of hurling in the car park afterwards anyway. Of indescribable pain and pills. Of fevers and fatigue and the kind of bone ache that makes you want to cry. Of highly unpleasant tests and procedures. Of hearing that my blood eosinophil level is four times the normal limit. And that’s an improvement. Of being scared to eat new foods. Of not leaving the house without a vomit bag. Of being threatened with steroids and hardcore immunosuppresants that have serious side effects. Of being sick.
But, you know, people respect it.
If I throw up or have an allergic reaction or go to bed with fevers and sweats, people are generally sympathetic. If I can’t go to a social occasion because I am physically unwell, people are cool with it. “Get well!” They say. “Rest up!” They say.
But if I become mentally unwell, people (with exception, of course, to the few of my closest and most wonderful loved ones) don’t tell me to “Get well” or “Rest up”. I am encouraged to pull myself together. Keep my chin up. Not feel sorry for myself. Think of people who have worse problems.
Like mental experience doesn’t count.
Talk about double standards.
Those of us with mental illness are somehow expected to negate our emotional experience, while validating the emotional experiences of others through expected social interaction. We are not allowed to be clinically depressed, manic, or psychotic. But we must listen and empathise with those who are stressed, tired, involved in some sort of altercation, lovesick, feeling guilty, feeling happy, etc etc. Of course, if we want to be sad after a break up, or a death, or a job loss we can. But only for a socially acceptable amount of time, and only to a socially acceptable degree.
In my ideal world my mental illness would be treated with the same respect as my physical illness. And in my ideal world suicidal individuals would receive the help they need, and those who self harmed wouldn’t fear seeking medical assistance. Funds would be issued to psychiatric hospitals. Mental illness wouldn’t be viewed as something only the weak or dangerous succumb to. When I was younger, I wouldn’t have hid my illness for months because I was scared of what people would say.
As time goes on, the less and less I seem to care about what people think of my mental illness. In the famous words of Dr. Suess “Those who matter don’t mind. And those who mind don’t matter.” My experiences have weeded out the people who don’t matter. The people who have a problem with the fact that I have an illness I did not choose to suffer from (and I loath to use this term, as I do feel there are positive aspects of mental illness as well as negative). But I also know that I am fortunate, and possibly somewhat of an exception. I know who my true supporters are. My family and close friends are exceptional. Many others struggling with mental illness don’t have this kind of back up. I’m one of the lucky ones.
But sometimes I sit back and wonder how many people I would have lost if I had broken my leg instead.
If this were an episode of “QI”, today’s letter would be “B”. For blogging. And for bipolar.
First, though, one of those diversions which aren’t really. At least, I hope not. Sometimes, I get lost in my own blog. Goodness knows how anyone else manages to find their way round.
One of the many reasons I hated being on a ward was that I was cooped up like a house cat (1) with a bunch of other people with who I shared being mentally unwell, and a postcode.
Often, little else.
Among other things, this led to some other inmates (2) disliking, or at least misunderstanding, me because my way of dealing with being there was to glue my nose to a book. Not that I could concentrate well enough to actually read, but no one knew that but me. (3)
This was interpreted by some as me being aloof. Which it was, but not in a “I am better than you” sense. I was trying to escape into books – about as literally as I could, short of honestly thinking I lived in “Salem Falls” (4), or Merlin’s “Crystal Cave”.
My mixed-up thinking was that if I just immersed myself enough in fiction, I would forget I was someplace where I had little freedom of choice. Where I had my meds around 23:00, regardless of whether or not I wanted to stay up late. Where breakfast was at 07:30, like it or not. Where the food was dreadful. (5) Where privacy was limited, and laughable.
Someplace I always began as an “involuntary” patient, and invariably ended up sectioned.
I did make some friends. We didn’t stay in touch. Their choice, as much as mine.
Back to the world of blogging.
When I began this blog, it was with a cynical eye on my writing. To the friend who, quite rightly, said that wanting to make your writing known was not, by itself, a particularly promising reason to set up a blog, I gave assurances that I could find plenty of other things to write about.
To rant about.
What became evident, however, from my very first post was that this blog was going to be, and is, as much about my mental health as anything else.
So I kept blogging: often, about my mother, whose death touches me still. Sometimes, distress over one thing would result in my writing about another. Often, what went online was an abbreviated version of what I originally scribbled out, sometimes at stupid o’clock in the morning, in pencil, and paper.
Even when the original piece was heavily edited, the final product was always emotionally honest. Even when I slightly altered the facts. Emphasis on “slightly”.
Phrases and words like “mental health”, “Time to Change” and “bipolar” started creeping in. Then, in October, I wrote a blog which chock-a-block with self-loathing. One which, for the first time, I didn’t link to my FB account. Because I really didn’t believe anyone would want to read that one. But I wrote anyways, in an attempt to at least try and exorcise those blasted, feckin’ feelings.
And I woke to the world of bipolar bloggers. Or, as I termed it in a reply to a blisteringly, wonderfully down-to-earth post by Tearlines, “the community of the honestly uncomfortable”.
This wake up call was, in retrospect, odd. Because years ago, I had already come across Seaneen Malloy, aka “The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive“. And, through Seaneen’s blogroll (6), the wonderful world of bipolar bloggers.
So here I am. And here we are. United by illness, and writing. By our honest approach to feelings and thoughts which – if you are like me – we spent years running away from. Or denying. Or sweeping under the emotional carpet. Or being suffocated by.
Or maybe all of the above, or none. I don’t know. I don’t truly comprehend anyone else’s flavour of bipolar. I don’t even understand my own.
But blogging helps. So does reading other people’s blogs, about their own flavours.
Welcome, to the community of the honestly uncomfortable. Make yourself comfy, by the fireplace of thought.
(1) A house cat in the sense that I was given shelter, warmth, food, etc., but was unable to roam about and indulge my catlike curiosity, let alone desire to roam about.
(2) It felt like a prison. And no, I haven’t been to prison.
(3) Plus friends, family, the more aware amongst the other patients, some staff, etc.
(4) A brilliant, compact book by Jodi Picoult, which a friend gave me along with a load of other books, during one of my stays on the ward. Thanks again, R’ski.
(5) You think all hospital food is bad? Try vegetarian hospital food.
(6) Any Word Press bloggers out there, who can help me make sense of my own blogroll? It is a woefully limited reflection of the blogs I follow, and enjoy.
Panel discussion at the World Science Fair 2012 – hosted by Cynthia McFadden.
Panel of professors:
Kay Redfield Jamison (psych) (bipolar)
James Fallon (neuroscience) (ocd, bipolar, sociopath)
Elyn Saks (psych and law) (schizophrenic, hypochondriac)
The intro is poems and stuff, at the end there’s a performance by Irish singer Susan McKeown. If you’re cool with lines like balls on the floor and smells like cabbage in a serious sense, you’ll probably enjoy those sections more than I did. The panel discussion, however, was really good.
It isn’t only about bipolar at all, schizophrenia, depression, psychosis, psychopathy and sociopathy are there too. At just over 90mins long, it sustained the pace and held my interest well. I’m not going to run through the whole thing here, I’ll just give you some tidbits and observations.
The first if these is that KRJ really doesn’t do eye contact. Is that a bipolar thing?
I want to read Elyn Saks’ books. She has an odd laugh; she actually does go ha ha ha ha ha.
Cynthia McFadden’s hair has a life of its own.
James Fallon resembles a teddy bear – not only physically (though his PET scan suggests that he is a serial killer).
It’s a pity we don’t use the word maladroit more. Such a cool sounding word.
Bipolar has the highest correlation with creativity and it shows in the spatial something or other in paintings.
Bipolar people refuse meds in fear of losing their creativity, with schizophrenics it’s more the ‘narcissistic injury’ of having something wrong with them.
You can sustain brain damage and end up better off.
You are not exclusively your brain.
No matter what your genes say, a positive and loving environment gives a far better chance of being fine.
We have an uncivilised healthcare system and not enough hospital time available.
Psychosis is not like an on/off switch, it’s a dimmer.
Stubbornness can be good.
Routine and a support system are essential.
Are the illnesses dimensional or categorical?
All in all it’s a lively discussion, with some excellent laughs – it’s well worth watching. (YouTube again.) I heard consistently as Sicily quite a lot, which made some things a bit surreal (my brain does that when I read sometimes too – if it happens a lot it seems to predict a little doom).
I’d always been optimistic that when and if the mystery of me was solved, it could be fixed; now I was being told that whatever had gone wrong inside my head was permanent and, from all indications, unfixable.
Elyn R. Saks – The Center Cannot Hold