Daily Archives: June 8, 2012

Catching Up

So I finally got some time to sit and read/comment all you fine people’s blogs I follow. Sorry I didn’t get to it sooner, but some of you are gabby! LOL It’s ok, so am I. I’m just a little slow with my responses.

Cluster F*c!

My head feels like a huge cluster fuck. I have so many things I want to get done, neigh, NEED to get done, and I don’t know where to begin. Or something holds me back from getting something done, for instance, we are out of gasoline, so I can’t mow the lawn. Well, finish mowing the lawn. I started yesterday and ran out, which was a real bummer and a half.

Our kitchen is half-way finished. We started the “re-design” last weekend. Tore off the crap that was on the walls (I forget what it is called, it starts with a “T” it’s hard and plastic like) then discovered we have to put up new dry wall where the plastic crap was covering huge holes in the wall! Fuck me! That wasn’t in the plan! Of course, we didn’t have enough money to go out and buy more dry wall and everything else that goes with putting up new walls… So my kitchen/dining room is half way done and the other half is in shambles and it is driving me nuts! (Because that whole OCD thing, ya know?) So, I have that going for me.

Then our back yard is a mess. I want it all cut down and cleared out. But I can’t work in the heat and I can’t do a lot of strenuous work on my own (because I always seem to fuck up my back and end up in 3 – 6 months of physical therapy for that! Thank you arthritis!) So, I am at the mercy of my husband to get that done. This weekend he has a graduation party to go to. So, there goes my yard getting done. It would have to get started in the a.m., because it is supposed to be hotter than Hades this weekend. But yeah… I don’t foresee that getting done. Then the weekend after that is fathers day, and I don’t want him to do anything on fathers day. So, who knows when all of this crap is going to get done. And when things irritate me, the center of my back hurts. I feel like a snail must feel when you pour salt on it.

I get to go to the grocery tonight. Yay.

But in good news, I have my big 4-0 birthday planned! I’m going to the casino with my best friend, and possibly her sister and my sister. Haven’t heard back from my mom yet. We are going to the Rising Star in Rising Sun Indiana. I have never been there. My bestie says it is smaller than the Holllywood, and not as crowded. And since we are going on a Monday, I think it will be pretty quiet. Will take pictures and what not of the festivities.  That all happens on the 18th. So in essence, I will get 2 birthdays! :) One with my girls, an then one on my actual birthdate, the 20th. :) I am hoping for a Kindle Fire, but we will see if I get it. I dunno if the hubby is going to say me going to the casino is my gift or not.

So, I think I am going to get dressed, and go out and try to do some yard clean up while it is cool outside.

A House of Cards

I am lucky to have a fantastic husband. He loves me and gives his all to help enable me to take care of myself, and I appreciate it more than words could ever express. But… he’s human too. And he’s just as fragile as anyone else, and he’s got the weight of a world on his shoulders. There’s me in my fragility, our child, work, his family… it’s a lot for any one person to deal with. And, as I’ve learned from my own experiences, we tend to neglect ourselves when we have everyone else to deal with.

It’s hard to support your supporter. While they are completely deserving of all the good things and treatment, there is this problem where you’re a bit too broken to be able to hold it together to make sure they get the support and time off that they need. I am terrible about reminding my husband to take a break, and even when I do, he often shrugs it off; he knows that routine serves us all well. And I know that to be true; routine has shown itself to be a fantastic way to keep my mood stabilized for whatever odd reason. But that means he’s on the run from dawn to dusk, while I stare on bemusedly. I could try harder to remind him to stop and catch his breath, but that runs the risk of unbalancing me, rendering the well-intentioned attempt moot.

Then there’s always the chance for guilt to sneak up and club you. It’s a friend of depression, you see – it lays in wait to tell you what a loser you are for needing so much support. We all need support, we all need someone to lean on, sure… but you? Feh, can’t stand on your own, how sad, how pathetic. Never mind that’s not always true of bipolar and/or depression, and that we all have times where we cannot stand without the support of others… but it doesn’t stop ‘Friend’ depression from trying to knock us down with it. And it does a good job of keeping one down at the best of times; how can one confidently offer support and freedom to their supporter if they are not confident in their ability to make it a mere few hours on their lonesome?!

But eh, we do the best we can do, and try to do the best for those most directly affected by our existence. It’s not easy when the construct as so fragile as to be knocked over by a breath of wind, but we can either try to pick ourselves back up and keep trying to lean on each other, or give up in a pile. It’s an exhausting thought either way, so I’m just glad that I’m still sort of holding on. That we are sort of holding on, that we try to keep each other in the loop about how we’re feeling so we CAN slipshoddily support each other. It’s worth it, after all.


Back on Track

The Seven Sisters

I think the recent blow to my head must have affected the choice of my first outing to get back on track for El Camino since having recuperated. With the benefit of hindsight, deciding to walk along the Beachy Head and Seven Sisters clifftops in gale force winds and driving rain possibly wasn’t one of my most inspired ideas. Particularly as I failed to check the weather forecast before setting out on a deceptively clear, sunny morning in Brighton without so much as a shower-proof jacket. Perhaps there was a hint of karma involved, given that it was a lack of water that caused my accident in the first place?

Beachy Head, where my walk started, is the UK’s highest chalk sea cliff, rising to 530 feet above sea level. High enough, apparently, for Timothy Dalton to parachute to safety from the jeep he managed to drive over edge of it at the beginning of The Living Daylights. And certainly high enough to ensure that Sting’s face wouldn’t be quite so ace when he found out what Phil Daniels had been up to with his Lambretta at end of Quadrophenia.

But the altogether darker side of this landmark is its notoriety for having one of the highest suicide rates in the world, an average 20 or so a year, surpassed only by by the Golden Gate Bridge in San Fransisco and the Aokogahara Woods in Japan, according to Wikipedia. Which also makes for a decidedly sobering start to the walk, with the edge of the cliff being dotted with memorial crosses and remembrance flowers to those who have taken their own lives.

And which is also tragically relevant to any discussion of bipolar disorder. The statistics for bipolar suicides, which I’ve taken from the exhaustively researched and highly informative blog bipolar-lives.com, speak volumes; many studies indicate a 15% rate of suicides amongst people with bipolar disorder – about 30% higher than that of the general population.

Thankfully, the statistics from some of the more recent studies indicate that rates are decreasing, and for two main reasons; firstly, the studies tend to take in a wider range of bipolar people, whereas earlier studies focussed only on those who had been hospitalised; for me, the key implication of this seems to be for those whose symptoms are less severe, the condition is eminently treatable. The second reason is the increase in the use of lithium and other medications that effectively treat biploar disorder. I’d say, a little opportunistically, I’ll admit, that these are also two excellent reasons for supporting my objective to raise as much as possible to advance the understanding and effective treatment of bipolar disorder when I finally set out to walk The Northern Way!

But getting back to this walk, one of its main attractions is being able to see the entirety of the 7 mile route over to Cuckmere Haven stretching out ahead of you. As idyllic English vistas go, it’s pretty hard to beat the South Downs undulating into the horizon on one side and the sea merging with the sky on the other. In theory, anyway. All of five minutes after I took this photo (also all of five minutes into the walk), the sky turned monochrome, a pea souper of a sea mist rolled in over the headland, and things started to become positively pluvial.

Thankfully, the only spot on the whole route that offers any kind of shelter, The National Trust café at Birling Gap, was only a fairly short walk away; you can just see it on the far side of the hill that the lighthouse sits on. But even though it’s closer than it looks, by the time I got there I think it’s fair to say that the relative appeal of walking the coastline in Northern Spain had increased quite considerably.

And even if the weather can be blamed for dampening my spirits a little, I think it’s also fair to say that any incipient unpatriotic feelings weren’t entirely helped by the The National Trust café itself. I would have thought that the demarcation lines between “buildings of historic interest that merit loving restoration” and “architectural carbuncles that ought to be carpet-bombed” were quite well defined, but apparently not.

To be charitable, maybe it was just the Diamond Jubilee decorations that let it down; let’s just say that whoever was responsible for this particular aesthetic triumph had not been fully briefed on the National Trust’s tagline “Time Well Spent”. Or maybe it was the Diamond Jubilee commemorative menu, which seemed to consist predominantly of soggy fish and chips, ossified scones and that glittering star of British cuisine, the Battenburg cake. I think I’ll leave it to that ultimate arbiter of bad taste, Charlie Brooker, to summarise the appeal of this little amuse bouche with his analgous reference to it in his take on the theme tune of Coronation Street: “…the aural equivalent of having half-chewed, week-old Battenburg cake dribbled into your ear canal by a senile grandparent”.

On the upside, the rain had also subsided to a light dribble by the time I left the café. Without the benefit of a guidebook to occupy me with choice anecdotes about the rest of the walk, I had to rely on my limited powers of observation as I traversed the sheer rising and falling gradients of The Seven Sisters cliffs to fill in the gaps writing this; quite how limited is clear from the fact that I almost managed to walk straight past this rare sighting of a Peregrine Falcon up close in the wild, and only just managed to fumble a quick photo a split second before it soared off in search of prey which I hoped, for its own sake, would be slightly more observant than I was.

But one thing that I did notice left me stumped. Clustered together at regular intervals along the top of the cliff face were what I could see no other explanation for than exit points for rabbit burrows that had been dug just the other side of the cliff brow. Was this perhaps evidence of a mass migration of lemmings to the English south coast taking a fancy to the local rabbit population, creating a mutant species with a self-destructive streak? Or proof of the existence of colonies of bob-tailed wannabe Laurence Llewelyn-Bowens competing to create the ultimate warren with a view? Or maybe rabbits are just a bit thick? Whatever the reason, it looks like the local falcon population is quids in.

All of which utterly pointless mental meandering brought this walk to its conclusion, back down onto the beach at the stunningly pretty, and conveniently named, Cuckmere Meanders and the satisfying sight of The Seven Sisters stretching all the way back to where this post began.

Filed under: Camino Countdown Tagged: Brighton, British, El Camino, English, Photograph, Rain, The Northern Way, The South Downs Way, Training, Travel, Walking

is diagnosing bipolar social engineering?

just to preface, i am not denying the existence of bipolar disorder.  the real question i am asking is a bit long for a blog post title: what proportion of bipolar diagnoses are cases of social engineering?

in other words, how many people are diagnosed as having bipolar disorder because their behavior deviates outside the norm of social acceptability?  is the diagnosis of a mental illness and subsequent prescription of medicine a way of controlling unruly people?

i’m going to stick with bipolar 2, since that is what i am most familiar with, and i will really just be evaluating the hypomanic end of the spectrum.  finally, i am NOT a medical doctor nor a clinically trained psychologist.  so, with that in mind let’s commence.

first, some facts.

what are the criteria for bipolar 2?

  1. The presence or history of at least one hypomanic episode and depressive episode
  2. No history of a manic episode
  3. Significant stress or impairment in social, occupational, or other areas of functioning

the new DSM 5 lists a similar set of criteria, and i will get the definition of hypomania from that site.

Hypomanic Episode

Note: This is not a codeable disorder.

A.   A distinct period of abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood and abnormally and persistently increased activity or energy, lasting at least 4 consecutive days and present most of the day, nearly every day (or any duration if hospitalization is necessary).

B.   During the period of mood disturbance and increased energy and activity, three (or more) of the following symptoms have persisted (four if the mood is only irritable), represent a noticeable change from usual behavior, and have been present to a significant degree:

1.  Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity

2.  Decreased need for sleep (e.g., feels rested after only 3 hours of sleep)

3.  More talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking

4.  Flight of ideas or subjective experience that thoughts are racing

5.  Distractibility (i.e., attention too easily drawn to unimportant or irrelevant external stimuli), as reported or observed

6.   Increase in goal-directed activity (either socially, at work or school, or sexually) or psychomotor agitation

7.   Excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences (e.g., the person engages in unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments)

C.   The episode is associated with an unequivocal change in functioning that is uncharacteristic of the person when not symptomatic.

D.   The disturbance in mood and the change in functioning are observable by others.

E.   The episode is not severe enough to cause marked impairment in social or occupational functioning, or to necessitate hospitalization. If there are psychotic features, the episode is, by definition, manic.

F.   The episode is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication, or other treatment).

Note: A full Hypomanic Episode emerging during antidepressant treatment (medication, electroconvulsive therapy, etc.) and persisting beyond the physiological effect of that treatment is sufficient evidence for a Hypomanic Episode diagnosis. However, caution is indicated so that one or two symptoms (particularly increased irritability, edginess or agitation following antidepressant use) are not taken as sufficient for diagnosis of a Hypomanic Episode, nor necessarily indicative of a bipolar diathesis.

Specify with Mixed Features.


so when i told my new therapist about my behaviors last summer, the period i perhaps presciently called my manic period, which included profuse drinking, recreational drug use, inability to hold a part-time job, copious sex with a 21 year old italian deviant playboy, and spending every last cent i had, she said indeed that does sound like a hypomanic episode.

to me, that just sounds like a hell of a good time.

is it really a reflection of mental illness?  or is the Man just shifting form and finding a new way to tell me how to live my life?

second opinions

i’ve been reading this book about bipolar disorder.  it’s pretty impressive so far and i’m thinking of writing a review of it when i’m done.

i just started reading a section on people’s responses when they find out they are being diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  some underidentify or ignore the diagnosis, thinking they are not bipolar or do not need medication.  these individuals can be at risk for making the disorder worse, as i’m reading that untreated bipolar disorder can lead to more frequent and more extreme episodes.  on the other side of the coin, some individuals overidentify and in a sense “become the disorder”, and prematurely change life plans and so on as a result.  i believe this reaction is the fountain head of the whole “i am bipolar” vs. “i have bipolar” distinction i see some people making.

interestingly, it is not only the person receiving the diagnosis that shows these responses, but also those around them.  no one quite knows what to do with a mental illness diagnosis, but we’re all comparing against someone we once knew that was bipolar or based on past judgments of the person’s behavior (that we disapproved of).  perhaps i should be less surprised that despite people not knowing much of anything about mental illness, virtually everyone has an opinion about it.

i’m not kidding, it’s like some people think the outcome will be determined by election.  and opinions run the gamut of conviction: some are convinced i have it while others are sure i don’t.  and they lobby, too, to those who are within their sphere of influence but who are still on the fence about things, including me.

as an example, i will include a poll here; for those of you who have been reading my blog for some time now i would appreciate your opinion.  of course, i can’t link it back to you so be honest.  i’m even going to vote too.

what i’m hoping to show is that we’ve all got a little armchair psychologist inside.  i have an opinion, you have an opinion.  we all have an opinion.  let’s be real.  whatever version of truth you subscribe to influences your behavior and willingness to provide support to the person who has been diagnosed.

this has been my experience, anyway.  and while everyone is duking it out, i’m still sitting here with a bipolar 2 diagnosis and not a fucking clue as to what to do with myself.  very few people seem to know how to provide support in a time like this.  and i don’t blame them.  where are they supposed to learn?

one thing is for sure, though.  people’s opinions are weighted differently in my own analysis and i would like to offer an outline of my own opinion hierarchy.

Disregarded opinions

  • opinions where there is a clear conflict of interest or agenda
  • people who are just trying to make me feel better

Opinions I will listen to but take with a grain of salt

  • opinions of people who have seen me only in a limited context
  • people who have experience in mental health fields that are tangential or unrelated to diagnosing mental illness

Opinions that motivate me to find more information

  • people who have demonstrable experience in mental health fields, specifically in diagnosing or treating mental illness
  • individuals who are qualified, but who diagnose during the first meeting

Opinions that can be trusted

  • specialists who have dealt with mood disorders, who are critical in the diagnosis and who do not diagnose in the first meeting
  • they have a PhD in clinical psychology from an accredited university that emphasizes evidence-based practice

Being diagnosed with a mental illness is surprisingly lonely.  People do not seem to know how to respond.  Some act like it’s not even there, which may be well intentioned but is frustrating for the alleged bipolar individual who is going through a life transforming experience.  Others are too busy with their own opinion to be concerned with anyone else.

I find it really striking how few people ask about the experience of being diagnosed.  Or about what I think about the diagnosis.  It’s the great elephant in the room.

Is there something I could be doing differently to elicit the support I need?

Good list!