Daily Archives: May 25, 2012

The Pilot on Our Tandem

Pottering along a country lane recently I saw a couple on a tandem cycling in the opposite direction.  I am fascinated by bicycles.  I peer at commuters’ fold up bikes on the train, watch them closely to see how, in a moment, they fold them up ready to carry into the carriage.  I would love to have a go on a recumbent model – although I’d be quite nervous taking it out in traffic clogged streets.  And as for a Penny Farthing…..

But, for me, the ultimate bike is the tandem.

Here’s why.  I first saw riders on a tandem the first time I rode the Capital to Coast charity bike ride from London to Hove (60 hilly miles).  One of the charities involved in the ride was Norwood – a charity for people with Learning Difficulties.  A volunteer was the Pilot – the rider in front, and a person using the Norwood services rode behind.  I use the word ‘rode’ loosely.  I saw a number of these tandem pairings during the ride – one overtook me on a steep climb.  I never saw the back riders pedalling……

Thinking of those tandem riders makes me think of my wife.  I wrote about her in one of the early editions of this blog, called ‘The Long – Suffering Spouse’.  You can find it in the archives.

She is my Pilot.  True, she is not a cyclist, as such.  Her bike sits stubbornly in the shed and refuses to budge.  She prefers the sweaty passion that is Bikram Hot Yoga; which is fair enough.  But she is the one who rides in front most of the time, pedalling uphill, changing gears as need be, and signalling as and when forks in the road appear.  I, on the other hand, mostly resemble those back – riders I recall from the London to Hove rides.  Happy to balance on the back seat holding the hndlebars, but not turning the pedals much.  On one of those rides I was overtaken by one such Tandem.  I can still remember the flexed forearms, the heaving chest and the puffed out cheeks of the Pilot as he turned the pedals for both of them.

We all need a helping hand from time to time.  And so does the Pilot.

Over the years I have regularly attended Peer – led support groups. From time to time, a partner, parent, spouse or sibling will come along, too.  They come for various reasons: to support someone who is nervous about attending for the first time, to understand better what the loved one is going through, and, more rarely, for support themselves.

Since the NHS and Community Care Act 1990, which revolutionised mental health care in ways that could not have been forseen, the support for sufferers by their families and friends replaced the Long – Stay Victoirian (mostly) asylums.  These were often situated on the outskirts of towns and cities, away from the public gaze.  My point here is not to digress onto the benighted path of the history of Psychiatry, but to emphasise the changing complexion of care for people living independently in the heart of the community supported by – if they have them -  family and friends.

While support for sufferers of mental health problems has grown, developed, shrunk, receeded, and re – invented itself over the past 22 years, can the same be said of the needs of people who care for and support these same people?

Living with me certainly means coping with a steep gradient most of the time, hairpin bends and unannounced steep descents.  And I’m the only one wearing the helmet, the cycling gloves and the padded shorts.

The Hum

 ‘There is not yet a single word, but the poem

can already be heard…’

- Osip Mandelstam

It takes all night to turn the page -

no offence to the poem – its image

sets up so bright a mirror

the room moves towards it, vaster

for all the darkness I’m left sitting in.

By mid-morning you were fathoming

how to decant me from one vessel to another,

his to yours, replace the stopper

and drink. But what you drank was laced

with a distance, like moonlight traced

back to the moon at her most explicit,

so much so you have to listen for it

close to my mouth. Then, in that way you have

when you persist, like a siderostat,

in fixing me in your view,

what I’ve kept hidden becomes visible to you

Rachael Boast (1975 – )

Maybe, Maybe Not

I was talking to one of my best friends earlier this week, and she was expressing her support of The Bipolar Blogger Network. She then went on to say that she would not be participating for one salient reason – it’s not terribly supportive for the message to be, ‘Once again, my bipolar has yet to effect me in any significant way‘. In this period of extended stability, I can commiserate with that sentiment. I feel like I’m beaming sunshine so hard that people should be lining up to give me a good solid facepunch, and I wouldn’t blame ‘em either. Cheerfulness isn’t’ a bad thing, obviously, but if your brain is being especially cruel and foul to you… one isn’t going to be inclined to want to grit their teeth and pretend they appreciate getting doused in it.

Having said that, I realized last night that I’m probably taking a turn to the hypomanic. I just felt too damned good yesterday, the kind where you fully expect rainbows to shoot out of your backside. Then I also realized that my focus has kind of wandered off (to only be specifically focused on x and y things that aren’t say… my gainful employ), the paranoia sneaking in slightly, and there’s been a few minor dinks attempting to take down my mood. Because I have been on this, frankly, unusual period of stability, I can’t really predict what’s going to happen. I’m also trying to not dwell on it too much, ’cause that risks becoming self-fulfilling prophecy.

I also had a (possibly snotty) mulling on whether or not those of us with bipolar do better making the most of ‘normal’ when we achieve it for whatever period we do. I know that I’ve been savoring each day that goes past feeling brighter than average; I might not be trying to climb mountains or rack up meatspace achievements, but I am relishing feeling balanced. But then, even as a child, I prayed for contentment. Not wild happiness, not gleeful orgies – contentment. Balance. After all, a pair of fishies once taught us:

‘For every up there is a down
For every square there is a round
For every high there is a low
For every to there is a fro ‘

Yeah… I’d rather the pendulum not move. Stop the ride, it’s making me dizzy!

But I guess for now, I’ll just do my best to enjoy what’s what before it changes, for only a great fool bemoans fortune. Plus, I get to bake tonight, and that generally makes all the things fantastic.


just kidding y’all, i made it all up


it looks like my little 6 hour nap yesterday is going to have to take the place of sleep tonight.  i’m tired but my mind’s newest little hobby is beating dead horses.  quite good at it too, if i do say so myself.

the latest equine victim is a little piece of the conversation i had with XBF two nights ago.  mostly i’ve just trying to understand how XBF gets off saying these things without understanding his gross hypocrisy.  when i think about it, i throw up a little in my mouth.

it involved his response when i asked him to please just read the book after he was saying something about not knowing what to do or how to handle this.  i had already read through a good chunk of it, and it looked like it could give us a lot of guidance for how to deal with bipolar.  even if my second and third and fourth opinions come back saying i don’t have bipolar disorder, it’s still a great guide for helping couples deal with mood disorders.  and if i’m not bipolar, i have depression and anxiety and PTSD.  any way you cut it, the book would be useful.  besides, i fucking paid for it so he can’t even say that, as a Jew, it would be waste of money until we knew for sure (and he totally would say something like that, just to clarify).  on top of all that, he promised me he would read it because he would “do anything to help me feel less stressed”.

and now, all of the sudden, he refused to read it and wanted a few days to think about it.  what??  i had to get to the bottom of this one.  it’s just my nature.

if i hadn’t heard it myself, i wouldn’t have believed it if you told me.  he said, “it’s always something.  before you were just going to take antidepressants and then everything would be fine, and then you changed your meds and everything was supposed to be fine.  and now you’re going on lithium, and you just want me to read this book so everything will be fine.”

holy balls.

i am glad that i was emotional and confused because i would have RIPPED HIS FUCKING HEAD OFF if i had had my wits about me.

let’s recap, shall we?

sometime around last october, i realize i am depressed.  severely.  i have never been so depressed in my entire life.  i do my best to keep it together but none of my old tricks work.  finally, in december i go in to get help from Psych Services.  after a couple of weeks, i am put on Prozac. i specifically requested this one to increase my energy levels, which were abysmal.  XBF at the time didn’t mind because it meant i played a TON of video games with him.

unbeknownst to me, those really super good amazing feelings i was having once i started Prozac likely resulted from overactivation (which became one indicator my second psychiatrist used to diagnose bipolar 2). but i felt amazing!  i got so much done, it was great.  i also spent a shit ton of money.  boy was that therapeutic.  i’ve been fucked since but it was great at the time.  in any case, XBF had been expressing concerns about my smoking cigarettes, and i had wanted to try quitting again too.  after all, i am 29 and i wanted my body good and healthy for starting a family in 4 or so years (pfft).  since prozac had me feeling so great, i thought i’d give it a whirl.  so i went back to psychiatrist number 1, who prescribed me wellbutrin.

i started wellbutrin at the end of february and quit smoking on March 1.  however, after about 4 weeks, i noticed i was REALLY stimulated from both prozac and wellbutrin.  i was tense, uncomfortable, anxious, etc.  i had even noticed i was getting more anxious around XBF, and i became increasingly more scared and paranoid about long distance.  a few problems sprouted between us so i decided to go back to psychiatrist 1 to change something to reduce anxiety.

i had to stay on wellbutrin another 2-4 weeks so i had him switch me to zoloft so i wasn’t freaking out so much.  he also gave me valium for the interim.  then, i was fucking exhausted and sleeping all the time and THAT wouldn’t work either because i had work to do.  even not taking valium, i had a hard time staying awake.  so i went back AGAIN and the doc switched my wellbutrin to 3x a day, instant release tabs to get a little boost of energy.

as soon as i was done with the wellbutrin, i went BACK on Prozac because it had been so great before.  i couldn’t wait to be so productive again, and this time as a non-smoker!  around this time psychiatrist #1 moved to another state so i was introduced to psychiatrist #2, who immediately pegged me for bipolar 2.  it took me at least 3 weeks to think she might be right and even that was after i joined the blogging community and read so many stories that sounded like my own.  finally, i broke down and decided to take lithium because prozac wasn’t working on it’s own and the depression felt unbearable, so i was willing to try anything.  and that’s where i am now.  and i am trying to make sense of all this by joining the online community, and by finding resources for my friends and family and, i thought, my love.

so technically, yes he’s right.  i’m always trying something, and i always expect that it will make things better.

well, DUH!  that’s because i’m trying to get treatment to get better!!

i thought i was depressed so i took anti-depressants.  i switched them around to manage side effects.  i learned about the bipolar diagnosis so i sought out resources and finally decided to take the medication while ALSO making appointments for second and third opinions.  so will someone tell me WHAT THE FUCK THE PROBLEM IS?!

i mean, what he’s saying is the equivalent of me giving him shit for his last heart surgery because it was supposed to CURE his condition.  well it didn’t.  do i blame him for this?  of course not!  (because I’m not a DICK!)

so i guess he can’t be bothered to read through the book because according to him, it won’t solve anything.  because according to him, i am just doing all of this for fucking kicks.


how statistics can save your relationship

i remembered something i wanted to blahg about this morning which is a fucking miracle.  i haven’t been able to retrieve short term memories for almost a month now.  unless, of course, it’s fucking traumatic and then i can remember it just fine.  mostly.

you may have already read about my statistical analysis of the pros and cons from my last relationship.  indeed that is one way that statistics can help you make decisions when you find yourself lost in relationship fuckery confusion.  another way statistics can save your relationship is highly underutilized in my opinion.  it involves estimating the cost of being wrong.

no one likes to think they’re wrong.  of course, we’re all making decisions based on what we know at the time, right?  fair enough, but many of us don’t even leave any room for error.  and this can be a very, very grave mistake.

statistics helps us see what we cannot see with the plain eye, provided you know how to use them.  we can also use statistics to help us think about how to make decisions and what conclusions we can draw from those decisions.

say, for example, that you are XBF.  you have been thinking that you “doubt my doctor for prescribing me lithium, and me for taking it without a second opinion first”.  in other words, you doubt the possibility of me having this disorder.  and out of the kindness of your heart, you don’t want to “enable” me by providing support when i am “stressed in the middle of the night”.

so, you have a decision to make.  provide support or not.  in either case, you can be correct, or you can be wrong, and there is a possibility that you will NEVER KNOW whether you were correct or not.

in the case that you decide to provide support, and in reality I am in emotional distress and in need of support, then you have made the CORRECT decision.  everyone is happy, we all go home.  hooray.

on the other hand, you could decide to provide support, but the reality is I am overreacting (i guess is the implication?) and providing support will just fuel the fire.  In that case, your conclusion leads to a FALSE ALARM.  In statistics, we call this a Type I error and it’s the probability of concluding something is there (there is an effect, in stats lingo) when in fact it does not exist in reality (a population, in stats lingo).  so that is one possible error you could make.  and it may strain your relationship, especially depending on the number of times this has happened before.  but let’s say for the sake of this example that this is the first time you would be making such an error.

now, you can also decide NOT to provide support.  if you’ve decided this is the route you will take, and in reality I am overreacting, you have made the CORRECT choice.  assuming i am at least somewhat rational and level-headed, i will probably listen to what you have to say, quit whining, and knuckle up.

however, if you decide NOT to provide support, and the reality is that I am in emotional distress and in need of support, you have committed a Type II error, or a MISS.  In other words, you have failed to find something that is actually there.  now what have you done?  you have isolated someone you care about, broken trust, and increased emotional distress.  which blows for someone who has just been diagnosed with something like bipolar disorder which in itself is a disease that leaves its survivors more susceptible to STRESS.

so now:



i am pretty sure it doesn’t take graduate training in statistics to think about this shit.  i mean, i’m pretty sure i also would have erred on the side of caution.  i’m sure because that’s exactly what i DID do when XBF had health issues and i would take care of him for weeks at a time.

did i think he was being a big baby sometimes?  yes.

did i sometimes doubt his symptoms? sure.


because it was always more important for me to be there and be supportive and to encourage healthy behaviors that would result in fewer instances of his illnesses.  oh and one more reason…

because I’m not a DICK!


force field, my ass.

i feel like shit.  i’m sad, i want to cry, i just hurt.  i guess it was just my anger that buffered these feelings last night, not the lithium.  i knew it was too good to be true.

i felt angry all the way up until i read a blog that reminded me of something endearing about XBF, and then i felt the dam start to crack.  i was kind of surprised since, you know, i thought i was now made of teflon.  the familiar sting pierced my consciousness and now every moment is trying to find space around it in my mind.  unsuccessfully.

thankfully (?), the lithium makes me tired.  so tired that i came home from class and slept until 8pm.  i don’t think i will have trouble falling asleep soon either thankfully.  or maybe that’s the aching depression whose brief hiatus tricked me.  the sneaky son of a bitch.

don’t get me wrong. the short respite was welcome, but it’s kind of like pausing while getting a tattoo: before the break your skin developed a sense of numbness, which fades the longer of a break you take as nerve endings start to regain sensation…so starting up again hurts like a motherfucker.  the moral of the story, of course, is don’t take a freaking break while getting a tattoo.

speaking of tattoos, i find myself wanting to act out more and more because i’m pissed off about this diagnosis.  i envision myself as the young “sociopathic” inmate in girl, interrupted played by angelina jolie.  i mean fuck it, right?  my plans are shot.  even if i do find someone who would be willing to date me, i’m reading statistics that bipolars have a 90% divorce rate.  given my family history, i was already worried about a 50-60% divorce rate.  but 90%?  really?  and it only goes up if you have additional, comorbid disorders, which I do (PTSD).  so tell me, what is the fucking point?

on the other hand, maybe i will fulfill my polygamous dream of having a harem.  yes.  and i will call them by the day of the week.

“Monday!  Oh, Monday!  Where are you dear?  It’s almost Tuesday and I have company coming.  Shoo, shoo.”

Yeah.  That could work.

in a sense, i have more freedom because i’m not so restricted by what a potential mate will want.  e.g., now i have long, blonde locks, only a couple of tattoos and most of my “radical” piercings are gone.  i know my manners and how to hold a conversation (sometimes).  i know how to look classy but i’m flexible enough to fit in with people, ranging from the very poor to the very rich (although the latter do make me quite uncomfortable).  i’m educated and i’ve traveled and read lots.  all that crap.  and all for what?  because to be honest, i’ve been grooming myself for true love since i was a little girl.  so i don’t end up like them, so lonely and angry.  so i can create the family i always wanted.

now that that seems wiped off the menu, what now?  now i can just follow my “id”, right?  live for me because i’m pretty much going to be the one keeping myself company in this long haul.  i’m pretty sure my dogs don’t care if my nose is pierced or i have dip dyed the ends of my hair blue.  i can still look hot, i’ll just look counter culture hot and then i ward off most candidates anyway.  the serious ones, at least.

i can start smoking cigarettes again.  the shorter i have to spend living this fucked life the better.  might as well enjoy it while it lasts.

and don’t think i won’t test each and every one of those so-called boundaries with bipolar.  sleep the same time every night?  well what if i change the schedule by 2 hours?  4?  no drinking?  let’s see how many i can get away with.  i’ll exercise if i FEEL like it.  why do i want to treat this body with any respect anyway?  it’s letting me down.  why invest in it anyway?  i’m like the motherfucking walking dead.

and why finish this stupid PhD?  in hindsight, the people in this fucking place have triggered so many episodes that i should sue.  unsafe work environment.

it’s not like i’m going to be able to do the work i want to do anyway.  maybe i can still write up a business proposal so someone can do it.  it was strongly aligned with my values and i do still think it could help people.  just someone else will execute it.  but who can??  i designed the business based on my specialized training and experience.

it’s just appalling, y’all.  i just want to completely self-destruct.