Daily Archives: May 15, 2013

of two minds – a new documentary about bipolar disorder

somehow, an announcement about a new movie crossed my desk.  i don’t go see movies very often, but this one was a necessity.  it’s called Of Two Minds, and it’s a new documentary film about living life with bipolar disorder.  it was in town for one night only, so i canceled my appointments and headed to the theater.

i wasn’t sure what to expect, both in terms of turn out and my response to the film.  i was a little nervous because i’m still in the “not sure i’m bipolar” phase and i wondered if i’d identify with the individuals in the film.  if so, it would be bittersweet.  find community, lose hope about not being bipolar.

it played at the local artsy-ish theater in town, which means it wasn’t going to be your typical movie going experience.  for instance, the director of films for the theater pulled up a microphone before the movie to introduce it, as well as the director (!), and other representatives from the mental health community.  we heard from reps from DBSA, NAMI, and the Aurora Foundation.  they announced the post-movie discussion panel and Q&A session, which i thought was a pretty neat idea too.

but let me back up a little.  i pulled up to the theater, and saw a crowd of people swarming the entrance.  fortunately, my friend was already there, so we’d have a place in line.  i was surprised to see such a turn out.  i honestly wasn’t expecting a lot of people to show, but that might be more a reflection of my history of perceiving this town to be a desert wasteland than anything.  boy, was i wrong.

by the time i parked and walked up to the theater, the line was wrapping around the building.  i scooted past a diverse group: old and young, normal…and not so normal, male, female, subculture, counterculture… the line went on.  i must admit with some amusement that it was fairly easy to distinguish the psychiatrists and psychologists in the group.  it was almost as if they had a dress code to adhere to: business professional, tweed, the works.

we walked in to a half full theater.  even then i thought it was far more people than i expected.  but they kept coming.  lines and crowds of people filtered in, filling the theater.  the start of the movie was delayed because people just kept coming and coming.  soon we were in an auditorium brimming with people.  i caught my breath, and tears filled my eyes.

i’m not alone.

once the movie started, my palms were a bit sweaty.  what would i see?  would i see myself, reflected in these lives?  would i identify with the trials and tribulations of these individuals?  the mania?  i knew the depression would be no question…but the mania?  would i identify with that too?

the movie followed the lives of several people living with bipolar disorder, some in more detail than others.  one of the opening scenes showed a young women up close to the camera.  she said, this is what mania feels like, and started dancing while the credits rolled.  i giggled a little, because it was silly, and because it resonated with me, much more so than some of the videos i’ve scanned by searching “bipolar mania” on youtube.  i wasn’t uncomfortable, to my surprise.  i wasn’t sad.  i was amused.

the stories unfolded, and spanned a variety of experiences, although i am fairly confident that the movie captured mostly bipolar 1 and not so much of bipolar 2.  it spoke of mania, psychosis, depression, and suicide.  of being untreated, undiagnosed, and unmedicated.  it featured love and relationships: those that worked, and those that didn’t.  of self-medication and pharmaceutical medication, and alternative methods of medication.

i was a little disappointed that more mania and hypomania weren’t captured on film.  that’s what i really wanted to see, in any case.  sometimes the individuals described it, along with psychotic episodes, artistic endeavors, and the vitality that is so often paired with bipolar disorder.  but it wasn’t featured all that much.  at least, not directly.  one of the characters who was refusing to take medication was clearly cycling up and down, and i think that was the extent of it, aside from the introductory cuts of the young woman dancing.

more poignant were the descriptions of depression, of yearning for death and ending the pain.  that was all too familiar.  right on the mark, really.

but overall, the film was good.  did i see myself?  yes.  was i upset about it?  no…i think i’m in a new place to be open to this possibility without freaking the fuck out.  it is what it is.  let’s just hope i don’t cycle into depression again because i’m not sure i’ll survive the next one.

the post-movie panel was great, with a few especially memorable quips by the panel members.  one guy, a representative from dbsa who is bipolar himself, said, “isn’t stable a place to keep horses?” which i found fucking hilarious, but it didn’t translate so well when i tried to recreate the moment for a non-bipolar friend.  his response was more like “…”  i, on the other hand, was crying from laughing so hard.

the director, a mr. doug blush, said probably the most striking comment i’ve heard in reference to mental illness so far.  an audience member asked him why he personally was interested in making this film.  mr. blush went on to say how much he has learned about the mental health community, and how in the mainstream media, mental illness is always portrayed in such a destructive way, with extreme behaviors that don’t capture most of life with mental illness.  he said (paraphrasing), “i’m just so tired of seeing mental illness portrayed in this way, and i’m tired of the media making mental illness out to be the only illness in this country!”  i got the tingles when he said that.  poignant indeed.

if you want to check out the movie yourself, it’s now available on amazon and itunes.  i’m going to get it, just so i can watch the extra footage.  enjoy!

When You Get Worse, Part II

The end of my blog post yesterday left me hanging by a thread trying desperately to find help for what I then thought was depression. I was reaching the point that I couldn’t stand it anymore, but every county mental health clinic I went to for help turned me away because they were backlogged. All I wanted was for someone to care enough to help me get my life back. I was going through a period of depression that was much worse and different than I experienced before. I didn’t understand at the time what was happening, I just knew that I was falling apart. It regularly felt like my brain was like cauliflower and someone was reaching in and ripping it to pieces.

I progressively got worse. I became agoraphobic and would not leave the apartment, especially if there was anyone outside in the courtyard. I couldn’t go to the supermarket because all the sounds (people talking, registers ringing, carts moving, checkers paging) were hitting me all at the same time and it was horrifying.

I tried everything I could think of to get help, but there was nothing left I could do. I ran out of ideas. At this point suicide was whirling in my brain on a regular basis. Then, one day, Melissa, a good friend of ours, offered an idea. It sounded a bit crazy, but at that point it seemed like my best option. We rushed to the emergency room at a county hospital and told them I was going to kill myself. Plain and simple – if they didn’t check me in I would be dead very soon. It didn’t work at the clinics, so I wasn’t real hopeful that it was going to work at the hospital. I was wrong.

After telling the admissions people I was going to kill myself, I was taken directly to the psych ward, stripped of my clothing, and handed a hospital gown to wear. I looked at the terrible rooms that people were assigned to. I was envious. I couldn’t wait until I was formally checked in so that I would have a room. I thought that it may be ugly and it may be loud here in the psych ward, but I was looking forward to it. Just let me curl up in my cell and not have to worry about anything. I was handed a blanket, but I wasn’t assigned a room yet, so I curled up on a bench and tried to sleep the best I could. It wouldn’t take long. I knew they’d come get me soon and put me in one of the small individual rooms.

I fell asleep so I have no idea how long I had been there, but it felt like several hours. A doctor woke me up and sat down to speak with me. She told me she had been talking with Maurice and Melissa. I was excited that she was finally going to get me the help I needed. I was wrong. She told me she was sending me home. After talking with them she decided I had a strong enough support group that it was safe for me to go home. That was when I snapped.

For the first time I didn’t ask for help. I DEMANDED it. I refused to take no for an answer and I told her I was not going anywhere. She was in shock. I told her how badly I needed help and I wasn’t leaving until they helped me. All I asked for was a place for me to go the next day and get the help I needed. I needed a guarantee. She walked away.

Finally after a grueling amount of time she came back with a piece of paper with a phone number on it. She assured me that if I called that number in the morning that I would get the help I needed. She was going to make sure of that. I was skeptical. How would I know if I would get in? Should I demand to stay until an appointment had already been made? I took a leap of faith and left the hospital.

The next day I called the number and voila I had an appointment. Not with an admissions person who would turn me away again. This time I was given an appointment with a real, honest to God, doctor. I was ecstatic. It was at this clinic that I was finally, and accurately, diagnosed as having bipolar disorder. After many years I finally manipulated the system enough that I got in. It took far too long than it should have, but it finally happened. I now have a psychiatrist who I see every month and I see a psychologist twice each month.

Think of the many, many others out there who never get the big break I did. Those who don’t have the energy to persevere. Think of those who have fallen through the cracks. Think of the 1 in 5 people who are bipolar and successfully commit suicide. I think of them all nearly every day.

Nothing Much Today

Hello from Bathrobe Central, better known as my chair at home. No, I’ve not had a relapse in a relapse — we decided that as part of easing myself back to work, I’d stay home today. I’ll go in tomorrow and tentatively Friday, and hopefully be up to snuff for Tuesday of next week.

For the moment, I’m just enjoying the quiet and still. I don’t even have a radio on, which is sort of amazing (I, like many of y’all, need a bit of background noise to keep my brain happy). I am also trying to restrict my movement a bit, because my shoulder is still in agony (and the other one is starting to feel a bit pulled out of place today). I’m a bit muzzy and woozy ’cause I found a 100mg tab of Seroquel on the floor that I dropped last night and took upon finding, but it’s not denting my mood overly.

So yeah, that’s about it for the moment. Back to trying to rouse myself a bit!


The post Nothing Much Today appeared first on The Scarlet B.

Moody Blues

No clue why but I spent the first few hours of the day in a semi angry rubber band snapping glaring gloom. I just felt pissed off and sad and I had no reason to be. None. And ya know, thankfully I am surrounded by self absorbed people who just don’t want to know most of the time, because I am not good at hiding these black moods. It’s bad enough if someone picks up on you being upset or angry and you feel obligated to answer since they felt obligated to ask or comment. “I had a fight with my (spouse,mom, dustbuster).” or “I wrecked my car/truck/broom/Hoverround.”

But true awkwardness comes when someone asks what’s wrong, and you have NO idea yourself so how does one explain that? I apparently do it so much Kenny ignores me all the time now because he sees my mood swings and has decided I am never mad at him, just taking it out on him. If only he weren’t so damned dumb, he’d get a fucking clue that sometimes I am mad/irritated/allergic to his mere presence. He reminds me so much of The Donor. It took me so long to figure out just what it is about Kenny that rubbed me the wrong way other than his constant presence, lack of enthusiasm for his own kid, and the “fly by the seat of my pants ha ha ha everything is a joke” attitude. I know now. Maybe it’s not fair to him but I stand by my prior assessments. He’s kind of leechy and owes R a lot of money at this point, all because he walked out on a good job like a tantrum throwing child. SOOO Donor-ish.

So it can be good that I am dismissed when my moods shift. But if no one takes you seriously, like ever, that’s not good either. Hard to communicate with people who blow off every word you say as some affectation or mere mood. It’s frustrating.

But true to form, the mood slid upwards towards the afternoon.

Tonight, other than being sweaty, I feel okay.

I see the shrink in the morning so no doubt it will change. She never makes me feel better. The only thing that makes me feel better is the moment I walk out of the office and know I don’t have to go back for another month. Doesn’t sound very mentally healthy does it? What’s that saying? Kill all the lawyers? In my experience, we should kill all the shrinks. Fuck the pharma companies. Booze is cheaper. And like most meds, doesn’t solve fuck all but at least for an hour or two you feel better.

Yes, I am deranged/insane/sanity challenged.