Daily Archives: March 2, 2015

headsup: world bipolar day 2015

This will be my first World Bipolar Day as an officially diagnosed manic depressive. I’m so excited – I’m rushing out to buy a nice frock asap. I knew you guys would want enough time to do the same, hence the headsup. And if you don’t already have bipolar (or support someone who does), you can either adopt one, or get bipolar yourself half price for one day only! But wait, there’s more …

Ohhhkay seriously … the blurb:

“Join us Monday, March 30, 2015 World Bipolar Day (WBD) – an initiative of the Asian Network of Bipolar Disorder (ANBD), the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF), and the International Society for Bipolar Disorders (ISBD) – will be celebrated each year on March 30th, the birthday of Vincent Van Gogh, who was posthumously diagnosed as probably having bipolar disorder.” 

image

The call to action:

“We are asking people with a lived experience, caregivers and the general public to submit a photo to us

Hold a sign, write text over your photo, or email the text for us to add, that says:
Lived Experience: “I am (something other than your illness) ” with your name (optional), and country
Caregivers: “I love/care for someone with bipolar disorder” with your name (optional), and country
General Public: “I support those who have bipolar disorder” with your name (optional), and country
Include a signed Media Release Form (permission to post your photo online) when you submit your photo – download the form.

If you enjoy things in a Facebook flavour, click this. The official Twitter account is here.

You can also grab the official WBD graphic there. I made my own quick, because I don’t cope at all well with their colour scheme.

Have fun kids, but remember – be careful out there.

How Do I Know If I’m Good?

I wrote a new song yesterday. That’s good news, I think, because I hadn’t been able to write anything new – songs, poems, stories, essays, bathroom stall graffiti – for a really long time and so I spent like 3 or 4 hours in the office/library/room where we hang the chin up bar writing and recording this song and then fucking around with it forever because the guitar part sounded weird and I have no good reason for spending that much time making minute adjustments to this guitar track, trying to make it sound less marshmallowy, when the only reason I recorded it was really just so I wouldn’t forget how to play the song.

So, like I do, I’ve been listening to this song on repeat so I can decide what changes I’m gonna wanna make to it when I go back and work on it some more. I could definitely use a second opinion. I’m not short on people who could help me out with this. Many of my friends are musicians in some capacity; some of them do it for a living, some of them do it for kicks, some are trying to get to the former from the latter, but they’re all good at least some of the time. But I rarely share my tunes with anyone anymore. I never did it a lot to begin with. I’m super bashful about my stuff because, even after ~150 songs written, I have no idea if any of it is any good.

The post-adolescent-dude-with-acoustic-guitar scene in my city is both thriving and awful. I fully own my snobbery. I feel entitled to it, I just do. Most of these dudes write garbage. I mean, I find a lot of it uninventive, as if they hammered something out and thought, This is what a song sounds like. Lots of songs sound like this song I just wrote, so I must be doing it right. (For the record, I don’t think that there’s a right or wrong way to create anything, technically, but there are plenty of ways to create shit that sucks.) Regarding music, I like things that are challenging more than I like things that are pleasant. But many of the local musicians I’ve learned to avoid when possible perform either frequently or with a great deal of confidence…or both sometimes, I guess. They don’t think that they suck. I do. I tend to think men, on the whole, are less intelligent than women. I have an argument for this, but I’ll save it ’cause it’s tangential. But these dudes get to me sometimes.

When I’m hypomanic, I feel creative and productive. I have more confidence in what I make and more confidence in what I feel I’m capable of making. This phenomenon is pretty standard for most of us. But hypomania can be fleeting, so the brilliant thing I did on Monday might be the distressingly terrible thing I did by Thursday. I like to let stuff ferment a little, but that can be a trap if I’m at the mercy of mood fluctuations, and I really, really, have a hard time distinguishing my hypomanic bravado from my ability to tell what’s good and what’s bad.

My poor band. My poor, poor band. Hey guys! I wrote a new song! Oh really? Can we hear it? No. God, no. No. Sorry. Just. Maybe gimme a little time. Never mind, it’s crap. Let’s just play something else. I’M TOTALLY GOING PLACES LIKE THIS.

Obviously, when I’m depressed, I think everything I do is not just bad, but repeated exercises in pointlessness ’cause we’re all gonna die anyway, and I suck, and I don’t wanna be remembered as that lady who tried really hard but sucked anyway, so why bother? Right??

Right now, I feel fine. I had a really good MMA class last night and I’m sore, but pumped ’cause yesterday we got to shove each other a lot and that’s always good for the spirit. I also bought my very first pair of boxing gloves yesterday which will become objects of intense sentimentality until the day I die because punching shit is really fucking fun and I wanna remember those times I had a bunch of fucking fun. So, Ok. Fine. I feel pretty good today. Also, the sun’s out. That’s neat. So far, my little song is in safe territory. For now.

I have 90 minute commute via public transit today, so I’m gonna listen to that new song on repeat the whole way (mostly, gotta get in some Kurt Vile today, I just do). Sometimes I’ll think it’s worth working on more. Sometimes I’ll talk myself into thinking that an orchestra of the constipated elderly struggling to to have a bowel movement is the kinder choice regarding what I funnel into my ears. Seriously. I don’t know if I’m good at this. When people tell me I’m good, I distrust them. When people don’t tell me anything, I goad them until they reassure me and then I distrust them for doing it. Good, Laura.

So I had planned to write more about this problem, but if I don’t shake a leg, I’m gonna be late for something for the second time this week. I might get back to this topic later, but, for those of you who do creative things of any kind and then share your work with other people: How do you know you’re not terrible? How do you know if you’re good? How can I know if I’m good? I could start by trusting myself a little bit more and comparing myself to my peerless idols a little less. That’s a start, right? I hate that I’ve tied my talents too firmly to my moods. I don’t think that’s fair. What do you think? Compliment me at your peril.

-LB

Tagged: art, bipolar disorder, creativity, depression, gender, hypomania, jealousy, MMA, music, self-effacement, self-esteem

Guest Post: What it’s like to be Bipolar by Sherry

delsherryPlease don’t ever take your mental health for granted.  You have no idea what it is like to have every thought, behavior, and emotion questioned by those around you.  Sherry sure is laughing a lot — she might be manic.  Sherry seems a little down today — she might be depressed.  Sherry is angry at me — she must be sick again.  I can have NO legitimate feelings, because they are all questioned if they are the least bit different.  If I have an argument with a person, my anger is never viewed as legitimate.  Instead, “she’s getting sick again.”  I have a good productive day — “she’s getting manic.”

How wonderful it must be for “normal” people.  To not be second-guessed at every turn.  Can you imagine what it would be like to never be taken seriously?  Because it might be Sherry’s “illness talking.”  If I have a differing opinion — “Sherry’s not thinking straight.”

This can’t be my life.  What in the heck did I ever do to deserve this?  All I want is to be treated like everyone else.  If you have a problem with me, come to ME.  Don’t pull a family member or friend aside and say, ” I wish she hadn’t done that.”  If you are concerned about me, tell ME.  Yes, I am fragile, but  I DO take into consideration what others think.

How wonderful it must be to have a “legitimate” illness — like diabetes, or heart disease — where others don’t look at you and think, “Sherry just needs to get over it.”  “She could get well if she really wanted to.”  When you have a mental illness, it is viewed not as a medical problem, but as a personality flaw.  A character weakness.

The truth?  I AM more fragile than most people.  I DON’T bounce back from emotional pain as well as other people.  I feel hurt much more deeply than most.  It’s all part of my illness, and it stinks.

This  bipolar disorder has robbed me of friends, relationships, children, a career, and a decent self-image.  I hate myself — why shouldn’t everyone else?  I can’t even remember the last time I felt glad that I was even born.  Every time I get better, I am haunted by the thought of “how long will I be okay this time?”  Three years?  Three months?  Imagine the most horrible time in your life, and knowing that it will happen to you again and again and again.

Imagine being held responsible for things you said and did when you were sick that you had absolutely no control over.  Knowing that even though people say, “I know you didn’t mean it” — that they will ALWAYS remember.  And knowing that every time you get well again, you have to apologize to everyone you harmed while sick — EVEN though you weren’t in control.  It’s not my fault that I’m bipolar, but yet I am blamed for every hurtful thing I said and did when I was sick.

Do I sound bitter?  Absofreakinlutely.  I didn’t ask for this.  I don’t deserve this.  This can’t be what my life was supposed to be like.  But everyone has something, and this just happens to be MY cross to bear.  So I will cry into my pillow, begging God to either take this cross, or take my life.  Either way, it’s a win-win.  I have had wonderful happy times in my life, but the good times were NEVER as good as the bad times were bad.

I don’t want pity.  I want understanding.  I want compassion.  I don’t want my emotions, behaviors, or thoughts questioned every time they are somewhat different from the mainstream.  I have been very angry this week for personal reasons, and I had every right to be angry.  But instead of letting me be pissed off, because I have a RIGHT to my emotions, my anger is viewed as “irrational” or “unwarranted”.  I will ALWAYS have people questioning me.  I will ALWAYS have people that see me as “crazy”.  I will ALWAYS have people talk about me behind my back.  But I sure as hell don’t have to like it.  I want to live as normal a life as possible.  I want the RIGHT to FEEL and THINK and ACT, and be taken seriously.

Now you have a glimpse of what it’s like to be bipolar.  I wouldn’t wish one day of that hell on my worst enemy.

Note:  At the time I wrote this, I had every right to be angry, as I mentioned in the text.  I was forced to change my work hours to a less convenient time because a co-worker didn’t feel comfortable working with someone who was bipolar.  I was so hurt that my boss at the time, who normally fought so hard for people who fell through the cracks, decided to cater to that co-worker.


Sunday Anxiety Soup

3:16 p.m.

Random anxiety attacks have moved in.
No idea why, no triggers. Just…WHAM.
My heart feels like it may burst from my chest wall.
It’s not my favorite.

3:31 p.m.

Anxiety attack still in progressed, though it’s more generalized than specific. I feel edgy. I’ve cut so far down on pop and caffeine stuff, thinking that could be a factor. (Cos the powers that be say so.)
I think lack of caffeine is making my anxiety worse.
I don’t get any of it.

3:43 p.m.

Got up and sorted some clean laundry, thinking physical activity might help.
It didn’t.
And now I’m a little saddened by the fact that of three big loads of laundry, I only had one bra in the whole lot. Which indicates that I wore a bra ONE day the whole last week.
Sad.
Probably why my boobs are not perky. Too many long depressions where I couldn’t be bothered to wear a bra for support.
Unfortunately, it’s not likely to improve any time soon.It’s not pessimism so much as realism. Until the doctor balances my meds out properly, I am in a constant state of flux and that means so are my conditions.
At this point, I’d try accupuncture, a shaman, or a voodoo priestess to be rid of all this mental bulshit.
Just no animal sacrifices.

5:12 p.m.

The phone has rang seven times today. Dad, dad, dad, dad, avon lady, dad dad. Geeze, no wonder I am on edge. Ringing phones are a trigger. Hell, noise is a trigger. Which means with a child who literally never stops talking…I am perpetually on edge.
Then I noticed on my cell phone from last night I had three calls from R’s wife and daughter, all because he wasn’t answering his phone. Surprised they didn’t call out the national guard.
The guy may have possessions and bit of money…But the short leash his entire family keeps him on would be like a noose for me. People are free not to answer their phones. Unless it’s been a day or two with no answer…CHILL.
The irony is, he doesn’t answer his phone and freaks them out, it’s an oops, no biggie to him.
Yet if I fail to answer my phone or instantly return a text, he gets pissed at me.
Oddly, I still pick and choose when to answer my phone and when to get back to people because, well, ya know, free will and all that. I am not a slave to the almighty cell phone.

6:00p.m.

Let the kid have the main tv so I could go in my room and put away laundry. Wanted to hear a song, music’s always been my lifeline. I played the song once, then became so unnerved I switched it to some crime series I’ve watched ad nauseum.
I can’t even enjoy music, what the fuck?

8:00 pm.

Anxiety aside…Very productive day. Floors cleaned, cat boxes cleaned (thanks to my kid loving the dirty job, I swear she’s Mike Rowe or something) I did dishes, bathed the kid, dyed my roots, bathed myself. Even cleaned off the kitchen table which had sort of become a junk catch all for the last year. For some reason, I have these fuctional days, PROVIDED I don’t have to deal with the petri dish. I can go my own pace at home. The world, though, expects me to go their speed and it’s just outside my realm of skillset.
I felt good about all that I had gotten done.

What irked me was I took my double dose Xanax…And still couldn’t get to sleep. Then when I did…I woke up at two a.m. For no reason. And I was awake until almost 4. So by the time the alarm went off, I hit snooze six times.
I’m in zombie land, at this point. I used to joke “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” because I struggled with insomnia for so many years. I thought lack of sleep was some sort of badge of honor.
Then they started giving me the coma sleeping pills and sleeping too much became my problem.
Since my kid was born…
She doesn’t sleep through.
I don’t sleep through.
Sleep meds make me useless if she needs tended to.
I thought maybe Melatonin or Benadryl.
But those are stop gap measures. Much like all the anti depressants, they took konk out on me after a few weeks.
So…sleep deprivation as a way of life.

Is it any wonder I am so grumpy and anxious?


WHAT GROUP THERAPY CAN DO FOR YOU

Originally posted on bipolar balance:
Well done Dyane?on setting up a bipolar support group in her area – a really brave thing to do.You inspired me to write this post about attending a support group. I attended?Aware Ireland’s?group for depression…

God’s Got This

Well, yesterday was another low day, but you know what?  I got through it. It rained, and I had to get out in it to go grocery shopping, but guess what?  That was okay once I got home and knew I was finished with it.   Heard a very inspiring message at church about keeping on when things threatened to keep us back.  I may have bipolar disorder, but Lord willing, it doesn’t have to have me.  I read a little inspiring writing, I had fun watching TV with my family, and I was just determined to let it be a good day.

Attitude is so important when facing something lifelong, whether it’s bipolar disorder or some other struggle.  My Sunday School teacher has asked for prayer for a niece of his that also suffers from bipolar disorder; her family has been dealing with it since she was fifteen years old.  She typically takes the attitude that everyone else is wrong about her condition, and that she can do whatever she wants to do.  That attitude has led her down some dark paths.  She does not take her disorder seriously, and since she lives on her own, the family is unsure about her compliance with her meds.

I hate to see someone complicate their lives unnecessarily by making poor choices.  I told my teacher about the blog and that his niece was free to contact me through it if she needed someone to listen who might understand.  I don’t know if she’s reading it or not.  But I hope she can find help somewhere else if not here.  I want to support people in whatever they’re facing.  I hate to think that she might have to hit rock bottom before she sees what her choices are doing to her.  But that may be the case.  Stephanie, if you’re reading, know that you are not alone and others go through what you are going through.


blogging 101: introduce yourself to the world

So I decided to do the blogging 101 thingy that a lot of you have already done. A lot of this one will be repetition, but what the hey – it’s questions and I lurve questions.

image

.

OH MY BLOG, THEY SENT CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR!!!1!!111!!!!!!!

*leans towards the microphone with something between an earnest expression and a squint*

Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?
That’s a great question Christiane. Basically, I am, despite the introversion, a total attention whore in some ways. I’m insecure and desperate for the validation when I’m down, and arrogant and desperate for adulation when I’m up. I also needwant the immediate gratification of readers; I just wouldn’t write as much in private. I believe that blogging about the sort of things I do, is a way of passively rebelling against stigma and stupidity. Ranting occurs irregularly. And I’ve been blogging on various platforms since about the year 2000, so I’m a hardcore addict as well – ah jest cain’t help mahself. But of course, I can stop any time I want …

What topics do you think you’ll write about?
My blog is around six months old and thus far I have written about bipolar mostly. I also write about mental illness neurobiological and neurotoxic disorders in general, with some focus on ptsd, c-ptsd, depression, anxiety, grief, psychosis and schizophrenia. I review books, documentaries and music relating to manic depression. I’m starting to write more about my personal life and the interior landscape of my navel. I also blog about blogging. My natural predilection for lecturing people unprovoked has led me to write various guides to the disorder and how to support us. It’ll continue in that direction in future, with less serious research and linkage, because I’m now at a more comfortable stage in my journey from diagnosis to wherever I’m going. Taxi!!

image

Who would you love to connect with via your blog?
It’s an anonymous blog, with a very select few of my friends irl in possession of the url. I want to connect more with them and I already connect with you; you in this case being largely bipolar people and people who care about bipolar. I think people who are neither of those two, get bored pretty rapidly. And I blog a lot, which is annoying to anyone who uses individual email notifications, rather than the digest options. I want to keep connecting with you. I’d also like to connect with a bright and kind lesbian and move slowly towards happily ever after. Ain’t gonna happen though, my visitor stats show eff all from South Africa and I won’t emigrate. Also, truth be told, I’m terrified of the notion.

Christiane, please take your hand off my knee.

If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?
Sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll, a modelling contract, twelve chickens, wealth, fame and groupies. Alternatively, exactly what I have ‘accomplished’ already (I’d prefer the word ‘gained’). The gains are experienced people and advice, answers to various questions, warm friendships, intellectual conversation and a tribe/family/circle of people who always understand and never judge.

I’m sorry Christiane, we’ll have to wrap it up for today; I’m already late for my next deluded daydream. Great to meet me … er, I mean you – give me plenty of warning before the photoshoot please. Uh, no, I haven’t got time for a “coffee”.

*strides off talking self-importantly into an enormous mobile phone*

Disclaimery caveat: no imaginary Christiane Amanpours were harmed in the making of this post.

The Ghost of a Sign

Finest ghostly meat!

Finest ghostly meat: Doncaster

Where do we draw the line between inspiration, and imitation? Who decides whether “West Side Story” is a fully fledged work in its own right, rather than just another “Romeo and Juliet” remake?

It helps, of course, when you have Leonard Bernstein. Everything’s better with Bernstein. I wouldn’t mind hiring him to write the background music to my life. (1) Except, damnit, he’s dead. In which case, please may I have George Winston ? (2)

Back to imitation, and art. What if the subject is photography, and Henri Cartier-Bresson, the classic “Life” magazine photogaphers, et al, aren’t exactly quaking in their boots? (3)

I’ve been taking pictures for awhile. These days, with a slightly more deliberate eye toward this blog. Sure, I could scour the net, and get smarter, clearer, and infinitely better shots, but:

1) There’s the question of rights. And, er, legal stuff.
2) Where’s the fun in that, compared to snapping away myself?

FR Stubbs Ironmongers, York

FR Stubbs, York. For all your iron mongering needs

Just as there are two schools of novel writing thought, ie, “planners” v “pantsers” (4), so too with photography. Some, like our mate Eric, and my Dad – both keen photographers – take lots of snaps, then cherry pick the best. Alternatively, Cartier-Bresson would apparently set up his camera for a portrait, then spend hours waiting for the ideal moment to take a few pictures.

As befits a pants-ing writer, I tend to simply snap away. Looking back at my digital photos, I can generally work out whether I had a good year or not. Did I take a lot of pictures? Are they organised into folders? Did I give them titles such as “Jake Enthralled” or “The Demon of Christmas”, rather than leave them with names like “P2004739″?

All these, save the first, are usually promising indicators.

I started taking pictures of painted signs following a visit in the early 2000s to the Detroit Historical Museum. As well as viewing some of the static displays, and buying a pencil with a baseball pattern (5), I spent quite some time checking out an exhibition featuring photos of painted signs.

I cannot recall the name of exhibition, nor the name of the photographer(s). I do remember seeing a picture of the Eveready “Nine Lives” cat. The thing that struck me most – above the artistry, even beauty, of some of the signs – was the point that this was a history that, if not captured by photography, would by its nature fade.

Wonder what she was so upset about?

York street sign

Sadly, I didn’t manage to snap any “ghost signs” (6) during the rest of my stay in Detroit.  So far, my collection is made up of ones I’ve seen in England: predominantly, Yorkshire.

Over the years, the collection has morphed and expanded to include all sorts of signs, including street and shop names which amuse me. I’ll close with what I call an “accidental” sign, which I happened to notice whilst working in Sheffield some years back.

Don't think the kids would forget that outing.

Don’t think anyone will forget that outing.

(1) “The only problem with life is that there is no background music.” – Anon.
(2) Equally great whether he’s performing other people’s work, or his own.
(3) Or practical shoes. Because who takes great pictures when their feet hurt?
(4) In British English, “pantsers” should be “trouser-ers”. Unless, of course, the writer in question spends a lot of time in their underwear.
(5) You simply can’t wait for my blog “In Praise of Pencils”, can you?
(6) My former flatmate, Karin, who conducts historical tours of Detroits, tells me that this is the term for such signs.

 

 

I Thought I Would Feel Different

I thought that my emotions would be different. I thought that I would suddenly want to do all sorts of things. I thought once I was in my house I wouldn’t experience the depression. I was wrong.

I’ve been feeling kind of blah today. Things are still not completely put away and I can’t take care of them until some dressers and shelves come later this week. I’m feeling overwhelmed and stressed.

I thought that I would just automatically be happier. I didn’t think that the mood swings would happen so soon. I thought I would at least be able to ride the high of owning a home.

It’s frustrating. I want to be happy and relaxed. Stupid brain.


When I’m Sixty-Four

Having only reached the age of 56, this old Beatles tune isn’t about me, but about Will, whose birthday we have been celebrating for the past several days. And yes, I still need him and I still feed him even though he is, indeed, 64. (Actually, he feeds ME most of the time, but that’s not in the song.)

It was a day that we once feared would never come. Honestly, it was a miracle that he made it to 63, so seeing him reach this new milestone was like, well, icing on the cake. Yes, he still has a terrible disease that will eventually win; that’s why we see each day as a gift. We don’t know how many birthdays he has left.

But that’s true for all of us. With my own family history of heart disease on one side and cancer on the other, I’m living on borrowed time as it is. But I don’t lose much sleep over it, because it would be my luck to die from something stupid, like stepping in front of a bus, that’ll put me beyond worrying about whether a heart attack or a brain tumor will take me out. (And no, it wouldn’t be on purpose.)

So the children and grandchildren gathered at the different homes and we spent parts of four days enjoying food, sharing laughs, and paying tribute to a man whom I don’t think we fully appreciated until he got sick. And I marvel at how great it is that we didn’t have to learn this lesson the hard way—that we came to realize what a magnificent human being he really is…..BEFORE it’s too late to tell him so.