Daily Archives: June 8, 2014

Dancing in the Light (tanka)

Such bright sun today, how I wish I could find the energy to dance… But I know that someday soon, I’ll be dancing in the light.Filed under: haiku, poems Tagged: dancing, happiness, light, sunshine

Jamison: Mania’s “a hard act to follow”

“I compare myself with my former self, not with others. Not only that, I tend to compare my current self with the best I have been, which is when I have been midly manic. When I am my present ‘normal’ self, I am far removed from when I have been my liveliest, most productive, most […]

Did I Shave My Legs for This?

Title is neither here nor there, it just makes me laugh.

Today is better. Neither up nor down. Kind of recovering.

Last night got worse when I got the blue screen of death from my desktop puter. I was already in dark space and that put me over the bloody edge. I was doing the backstroke in the black abyss.

I don’t know what to do now. About anything. I am just frustrated beyond mere words. All that excitement and hope for all those days…and now this, where each hour feels like an entire day and I can’t focus and don’t feel hopeful about anything…This is ass trash.

Having Bex nearby makes it less so but she knows as well as I do it has to pass, nothing can be done to fix it. Makes you feel like an inept friend sometimes but it is what it is. Ass trash.

At least my kid isn’t in demon  mode like she was yesterday. Or maybe I was just a bitch beast yesterday and she could’ve been perfect and it still would have stressed me out. I don’t even know anymore.

I am in that space where I want whiskey. Numbness. It doesn’t help, maybe it makes it worse, but…It numbs and I need novacaine for the brain right now. Weak, I know. One more crutch. The truth simply is, though. Kinda like eating chocolate when you’re sad. It’s not gonna change shit, but it’s comforting. Whiskey is my chocolate when I get this way.

Trying to behave though. It sucks. Everything kinda does, just less so than yesterday. The highs are fabulous. The lows…devour my soul.

Sylvia and Me

All those sunny miles in the countryside just north of where I live has kept me away from these pages…..

Since the last time I posted it’s just been one thing after another. First it was Passover, all the preparation, the eight-day festival itself. Then it was…..

Or, I relapsed and was off sick from the middle of March for six weeks. I went back to work on a staged return (that took another month) before I could work my full 1350 minute week (including increasingly frequent breaks.)

And after that? I guess I just got out of the habit. Of cycling. Of doing anything particularly recovery oriented - to use the mental health workers’ phrase du jour.

Regular readers will know that there is a strong didactic  – some of you might call it hectoring and finger – wagging tone – to what I have to say. In my role as a peer worker I work one to one with peers who, (sometimes) have hospital – grade symptoms, to inspire hope that recovery is possible. However, it has recently come to my attention that I can do no such thing. I am reminded of when I was first diagnosed with depression back on 15 March 2001. ( that’s The Ides of March for all you lycra – clad Shakespearean scholars out there. Go figure.) The gods must have had some time on their hands then and decided it would be amusing to bestow upon me ( a – or so I thought at the time – bona fide manager of a mental health day centre and outreach team) an enduring mental illness that would involve years off work and regular extended relapses from then on in. Initially, I was off sick for, I think, a few weeks.I had told my team what was happening and they were supportive. When I ‘hobbled’ back in to work again for the first time I felt like such a fraud.

Before I submitted my first sick note inscribed in spidery, medical handwriting with that diagnostic imposter ‘depression’, I had felt frustrated when members – this was before the whole clunky ‘Service User’ vocabulary hit the streets – failed to turn up for activities at ten o’clock in the morning. And then left around four in the afternoon to watch a tv programme called ‘Countdown’. The Daily Mirror, endless cups of tea and all that training course – fresh empathy were no match for quality time spent in the smoking room spilling flakes of rolling tobacco on the floor thanks to the demeaning side effects of psychotropic drugs.

I had thought I knew what I was doing.

I can see that after years more experience of working in the mental health field, going on training courses in everything from Introduction to Counselling (dear Lord) to Motivational Interviewing (better, but aside from thinking the trainer was great, I can’t remember what I learnt that day.)

For those of you whose eyes are starting to glaze over because of this fog of self-pity, I plan to reward you with some insight into why I am feeling so chipper at the moment.

While I was off sick this last time I found it hard to concentrate. Now this is not normally a problem since I spend a good deal of time staring into space or exercising my vocal cords at such a volume, and with so little thought as to content or audience, that I fail to notice the less than useful effects this sort of behaviour has. But failure to concentrate enough to read even a mere paragraph of Yehuda Bauer’s scholarly tome ‘Rethinking the Holocaust’ before my mind wandered, is a sign so serious that even when I am low I cannot ignore it. But this inability to follow more than a few sentences of text, helped me to discover Picture Books for Adults aka Graphic Memoirs. While I have found these much easier to read, they are just as powerful as plain old novels without pictures.

Over the past  few days I have been reading Ellen Forney’s graphic memoir ‘Marbles, Mania, Depression, Michelangelo and Me’. It is the story of her journey from when she was diagnosed at 30 with Bi Polar Disorder 1 to the point 14 years later, when she can talk to her younger, newly diagnosed self, and reassure her that, while there will be times that are hard along the way, and that ‘life will be different’, the book ends on a hopeful note with Ellen looking in the mirror saying ‘I’m O.K.’

I cried so hard my shoulders shook when I read those final frames. I have returned to those last pictures several times since and the message is as clear now as it was the first time.

I am not O.K. I know this because I cannot reach back to my younger self, as Ellen does, with reassurance that ultimately I will be O.K. I am unable to do this because I know now, with a rude and abrupt certainty, that this recovery I speak so convincingly of is, in Andrew Solomon’s words, ‘a stone boat’.

For those of you who are wondering who Sylvia is, I will be kind and assume that you are new to this blog. She is the American poet Sylvia Plath. The photo above is of her. I have been reading her work (aside from poetry she wrote a novel and a children’s book) since my teens. I will say nothing else about her here. Almost exactly 51 and a 1/2 years after her death she can still speak for herself.

The Arrival of the Bee Box

I ordered this, clean wood box
Square as a chair and almost too heavy to lift.
I would say it was the coffin of a midget
Or a square baby
Were there not such a din in it.

The box is locked, it is dangerous.
I have to live with it overnight
And I can’t keep away from it.
There are no windows, so I can’t see what is in there.
There is only a little grid, no exit.

I put my eye to the grid.
It is dark, dark,
With the swarmy feeling of African hands
Minute and shrunk for export,
Black on black, angrily clambering.

How can I let them out?
It is the noise that appalls me most of all,
The unintelligible syllables.
It is like a Roman mob,
Small, taken one by one, but my god, together!

I lay my ear to furious Latin.
I am not a Caesar.
I have simply ordered a box of maniacs.
They can be sent back.
They can die, I need feed them nothing, I am the owner.

I wonder how hungry they are.
I wonder if they would forget me
If I just undid the locks and stood back and turned into a tree.
There is the laburnum, its blond colonnades,
And the petticoats of the cherry.

They might ignore me immediately
In my moon suit and funeral veil.
I am no source of honey
So why should they turn on me?
Tomorrow I will be sweet God, I will set them free.

The box is only temporary.

Sylvia Plath (1930 – 1963)






Hello And Fuck You, Clozaril!

Well my mood has crashed and burned BIG TIME!!!!!  Low, low, low, can barely stop crying….it sucks.  I texted Dr. BigHeart and he said I have to go back on the fucking Clozaril and if it doesn’t perk me back up I might have to check in to the hospital for a few days.  My response?  “Fuck!!!!!”  I only had half a tablet of Clozaril on hand and I can’t get more without bloodwork so I texted Dr. BigHeart again and he asked me to come to the hospital at 7:30 am on Monday for a zap, they’ll draw the blood for me so I can get the prescription and get back on the Weight Gain Highway.  This is all so disheartening, I can’t even tell you.

Today I am driving my parents out of town for my niece’s 8th birthday party, so that will be a good distraction.  Hopefully I can hold my shit together.  I’ll stay with my parents tonight and they’ll drive me to the hospital tomorrow morning for ECT.  Ah, the life of a Bipolar.  It just keeps getting BETTER and BETTER!

Filed under: Bipolar, Bipolar Depressed, Bipolar Disorder, Bipolar ECT, Psychology Shmyshmology Tagged: Bipolar, Clozaril, Hope, Mental Illness, Psychology, Reader

Any Day Now

[[Bif Naked - Any Day Now (Lyrics)]]

Whelp, we’re in the last official week of this pregnancy thing… woo? Woo. I’m just trying to keep busy, but not too busy; as the last day or two have shown me, I am still massively lacking in physical resources and I do myself more favours by staying at home as I can. I’ve been trying to get out a bit more in general, and yeah… just not enough there to handle it. Not that it’s going to be much better directly after the kid is born if last time was any indication, but I’ll handle that when it comes.

And that future handling should go better for one salient reason — having my bipolar diagnosis, and meds waiting for me on the other side of the birth. I’ve already got my first week of Seroquel measured up; my psychiatrist recommended I start at 50mg and go up by the same each day until I get to my old dose of 400mg. It’ll use up most of my odds and sods, but seeing how they’re there to be used, I cannot complain (and I’ve managed to save most of my stash of 25mg tabs as emergency top-up, not that I’ve needed them that often). That first week is going to be glorious, ’cause sleeeeeep. The husband will have the World Cup to keep him company, so he’s planning on handling most of the night things as possible so I can actually get a few nights of sleep while I get used to that medicine again. And ’cause, yanno, I’ve not slept the night through much since I came off on my birthday back in January, ha ha.

‘Oh but that’s not how it works with a newborn you don’t get to sleep!’

Ugh so, I’ve had more than my share of ‘That’s not how it works!!!!!’ people cropping up when I celebrate that I might actually get some sleep. I just sort of rub my eyetwitch away and try to not get facestabby. No shit Sherlock, I know that’s not how it usually goes. I do have a child already. I also know that the lack of sleep and lack of meds and lack of treatment last time meant that I’m still amazed I didn’t go completely off the deep end (I also made the mistake of trying to maintain an exercise regime, which I now know triggers mixed episodes and super-duper rapid cycling in me, ’cause so much hatred and OCD for it).I know it MIGHT not work out that I get to sleep, but at least what sleep I get will actually be of some depth, and hopefully, somewhat restful.

But really — what is it with people default assuming if someone is making a statement about something that they don’t have a lick of information that they’ve based that statement on, or are completely lacking in intelligence on the whole?! But blargh, I guess we’re all guilty on that count here and there. And, I admit, I’m a bit overly sensitive to being ‘treated stupid’ ’cause of my… charming… narcissism-laden upbringing. *cough* At least I’m starting to understand this, and find that my reactions to such triggering things are sloooooowly mellowing out. So that’s yay, especially since I’ve been doing all this work while off my meds and pregnant. I think most people would agree that is not the ideal combination for doing significant self-discovery, no matter how stable one is in pregnancy, but ah well… I’m awesome at going about everything ass-backwards? *grins*

Anyways, just checking in to say — tl;dr, I’m fine, we’re fine, things are fine. I might try to get another post out before the kiddo shows up, but we’ll see! Hope everyone out there is doing well. *gets back to knitting*


The post Any Day Now appeared first on The Scarlet B.

Medication and Creativity

Ask anyone who has experienced the highs of mania and hypomania and they will tell you that they experience so much creativity during that time. I’ve heard it said by many people with bipolar that they feel being medicated has reduced their creativity. Being a health care worker, I of course lean towards the scientific side and scoff at such reports. Then I went on meds. I saw my psychiatrist and we are again increasing my medication doses and adding another medication to combat some persistent anxiety. I never thought I’d miss the hypomanic times, but here I am, one of those people who feels like medication is limiting my creativity.

I’m not writing as much as before (obviously) and I haven’t done any DIY’s for a little bit. I get ideas for a good post, but can’t string them together to write anything cohesive. I’m determined to just write this post and not nitpick it, to just let it be what it is and get at least a partial idea out. Is my partial writer’s block due to the medication or to a simmering depressive episode that has yet to hit? I can’t say for sure. I do know some of my less than stellar habits are returning-chewing my lips until they bleed, feeling restless and not sleeping well. I’m experiencing negative self talk a bit more than I had been of late. These things usually stem from anxiety and then swiftly decline into depression. Living with bipolar is a daily struggle for sure.

I know there are many bipolar sufferers who go without medications of any kind. There are still others who only use natural or homeopathic treatments.I have what I call a hybrid treatment plan- I incorporate vitamins, medications and physical activity into my treatment plan. Going off medicines is not the right call for me. I know I need to stay on medications and make adjustments as needed. I look back to where I was when I was not medicated and compare it to life now, and while my creativity may be lessened a bit, everything else has improved. I guess it’s the price you pay for normalcy.

My fellow mental health bloggers, I was wondering if you’ve experienced anything similar. Please share your story in the comments!

Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: bipolar, blogging, creativity, hypomania, medication, writing

The Politics of Illness

As yet another mass shooting by a young and allegedly disturbed man goes to prove, it’s getting to be a downright scary time to be mentally ill in America. Not only are the anti-gun lobbyists coming out of the woodwork and demanding that we get rid of the Second Amendment to keep guns out of the hands of people like you and me, but the calls for re-institutionalizing psychiatric patients are growing louder and more insistent with each occurrence.

I’m not going to hash over the gun debate, except to say that people don’t give up their Constitutional rights when they are diagnosed with a mental illness, and that we need wiser minds than those of our current government officials to decide how we’re going to prevent more Sandy Hooks and Columbines. I don’t trust the President or Congress to do the right thing here, not only because the political posturing that passes for debate is nothing more than big talk, but we don’t really know yet what the right thing is.

That leaves the sticky question of what to do with the millions of mentally ill Americans who have never committed, and indeed will never commit a violent crime, but who face social discrimination from all angles. There are so many degrees of illness, so many subtle ‘flavors’, yet all of them are labeled “bad” and “not us”. Society really isn’t too keen on making those distinctions because it is intellectually lazy and far too easily influenced by the mass media; it’s so much more convenient to consider the mentally ill as a monolith and deal with us on a one-size-fits-all basis.

There is, of course, a rather large problem with this view. For one thing, we are all different, and we have different illnesses which vary in scope and severity. Some people manage just fine on a low dose of antidepressant medication; others with more serious illness need intensive medication management and therapy; while still others can’t make it on the “outside” and must be hospitalized for their own protection.

But how do we know which individual is a potential Aaron Ybarra or a James Holmes? And is it ever OK to deprive someone of his or her rights as an American because of something he or she MIGHT do?

I say No. Not just because I’m mentally ill myself, but because no one should have to surrender their personhood OR their citizenship at the door to their psychiatrist’s office. Unless I woke up in China this morning, my condition is my own business and that of my doctor, not the media (unless I choose to disclose it, as I do here), and certainly not the government. I have broken no laws, nor do I intend to; why should I not have a gun in my house if I want one? And why ever would millions of Americans like me need to be institutionalized, as some of the more rabid reformers would have it, when we have proven ourselves to be stable and trustworthy enough to live in society?

There simply is no way to predict who will be the next mass shooter, and no legal way to prevent him (or her) from carrying out his/her scheme. The only thing we can reasonably be certain of is that there will be another…..and another…..and another after that. And sometimes, it won’t even be someone with a mental illness; after all, there IS such a thing as evil in this world, and it exists in humans. All you have to do is look at a Charles Manson or a John Wayne Gacy to see its face.

I wish I knew the answer to all this. But at this point, I don’t even know if there is one. All I know is that gutting the Second Amendment and locking up all the mental patients isn’t it. And I know that somewhere there exists a fountain of common sense, and that we must drink deeply of it if we are to have any hope of putting an end to these tragedies.


The Rushing Waters of Time

The trees surrounding my perch in my tiny 6′x6′ deck have leafed out, mostly obscuring my view of the river.  The river has become my friend.  Its constant roar, modulated only by the volume of water crashing over the rocks of the small waterfall, used to give me a feeling of vague unrest, when I first moved into this primitive building.  Now I welcome its constancy, and the violent early-summer storms bring an exciting urgency to the swollen stream, as if by throwing itself over the waterfall it might relieve its own discomfort.

The waterfall, although small, is mighty dangerous.  There’s only one chute, and even at low water, or perhaps especially at low water, the hidden rock directly below the chute is a trap for inexperienced boaters.  The experienced ones take the placid flatwater bypass around the falls.  They know about the treacherous hole that awaits the nose of a kayak or canoe, to flip it over and dump its occupants into the swirling eddy.  If they’re lucky, they’ll get thrown free of the boat.  If not, they might hit their heads on the submerged rock, and if not rescued by their comrades, go the way of many an unsuspecting boater on this piece of an otherwise easy river.

I sit in my perch and grip the rail, as I would at any sporting event; except that this is not for competition or entertainment (except maybe in the boaters’ minds).  Whether they know it or not, this is a life-or-death moment.

I become morose sometimes, watching and remembering how I used to be an avid whitewater canoeist: the crazier the water, the better.  But these widow-maker rocks with a hole on the other side….no thank you.  I didn’t mind “going swimming” (the river runners’ term for getting dumped unintentionally into the water) occasionally, but notoriously dangerous falls were not on my menu.  I wanted to pull my boat out of the water at day’s end, exhausted and happy, and most of all, alive.

My body is past the point of boating.  Both of my wrists have been reconstructed, and the torque of a paddle even in flat water would be painful.  Whitewater would tear them right off my arms.  So I guess that’s history.  I am banished to my front-and-center box seat, where I sit and cheer the players on, breath held when they attempt the chute, applauding when they make it through, looking on anxiously when the scrape of boat on rock indicates a wreck.

Today two out of three in a party of four boaters bit the dust; or rather, went swimming.  The first boat, a two-seater, contained a couple of experienced and skillful boaters: they took their time, back-paddled for a bit, assessing the situation.  When they made up their minds that they were really going to shoot that rapids, they lined up perfectly with the chute, and paddled like mad.  They flew through the chute and hit the rock with the bow pointing up.  The boat shot up and they became briefly airborne, accompanied by amusement-park shrieks.  I could practically see their hearts pounding as they floated in the eddy and came to rest in the pool nearby the little beach opposite the falls.

Boater number two, a big guy in a single sit-in kayak, landed nose-down in the hole, got thrown from the boat–luckily, for he could have got stuck in the hole, or whacked his head on the rock and been no more.  As it was, he got himself scraped up on the rock.  Then he got caught up in the eddy while trying to get back into his boat.  He was altogether shaken, and when he finally got hold of his boat, he hauled it out on the small beach below the rapids.  The couple in the first boat paddled over and pulled out to help their wet and shaken comrade.  He had broken both paddles, which were fixed on his boat with oar-locks.

Boat number three fared no better.  Number four wisely took the flat-water bypass.

Sigh.  No more boating for me, not flat water, not rapids.  No more skiing, no more running.  No more this, no more that.

Thank God, I can still walk, although sometimes painfully.  I now use two hiking sticks: not for the exercise; rather, so as not to fall over.  My balance isn’t so good because of the weirdness of my spine.  I’m sure the effects of poly-pharmacy don’t help.

So today, being the Sabbath and having no other responsibilities, and the weather being perfect, I mixed up a spray of lemongrass and geranium oils, which makes a fine bug repellent; and taking sticks in hand, with with little Noga on leash because of the lamentably lush growth of poison ivy, set off on a walk into deep old woods.

When we got past the worst of the poison ivy I let Noga off the leash and she tore off, exercising her nose as much as her little furry legs.  I wondered if her anti-tick stuff was really going to work.  I would be sure to make a thorough examination when we got home.

The forest understory is rich with treasures now: blue and black Cohosh, St. John’s Wort on the edges, and miracle of miracles, some real ginseng.  There are lots of things that look like ginseng, but once you’ve seen the real thing you’ll never forget.  I used to have a patch of it in a little crease in my mountain, when I had one; but unfortunately my goats ate my ginseng instead of the multiflora rose they were purchased to eat.

At last Noga and I found ourselves swishing through the meadow that borders the creek, or “branch,” as they used to call it here.  The grasses were knee-high; both Noga and I became uncomfortable.  This year has already been a good one for snakes; and I am always wary of putting my feet or hands in places I cannot see.  A copperhead could easily be stalking the plentiful crop of frogs along the branch, hidden underfoot in the lush meadow.

So we turned tail and made for home.  The shadows were already lengthening, and by the time we got home it was dinnertime for both of us.  Leftovers from last night for me: Teriyaki salmon, home-made cole slaw, and a last-minute concoction of quinoa and various vegetables that tastes pretty good in spite of its improvised nature.  Dog food for Noga; she is disappointed, even though it is salmon-flavored dog food that cost me a fortune.  She gazed mournfully at my dinner, then grudgingly yet thoroughly ate hers.

I understand why so many “retired” athletes commit suicide.  One minute you’re out there tearing it up, the next you’re reaping the unfortunate consequences of the excesses of youth.  When I was young, I would never have applied the word “athletic” to myself.  Looking back, I glimpse myself running three miles a day, seven days a week, lifting weights three days a week, Shaolin Kung Fu every day, dancing Salsa/Merengue/Cha-cha several nights a week, running rivers on the weekends; and then, when I got too old for that, skiing daily, horseback riding daily, 6am aerobics–crazy stuff.

I never could do tennis because the first time I tried it I dislocated my elbow.  But raquetball was OK.

I see the pattern, and I felt it then: physical activity was my medicine.  I remember acutely how it felt to run off an incipient manic episode; or conversely, to run off an episode of depression, running until I “hit the wall” and pushing through it into exhilaration, the “runner’s high,” which lasted an hour or two before the Black Dog curled up at my feet again.

Now bending my elbow to wash down handsful of pills seems to be about as much exercise as I get in a day.  Even gentle yoga, which may feel good while I’m doing it, tends to give me a bad pain day on the following day.  But I am finding some serenity now.  I just determined that I had better accept the fact that my ass has its own postal code, and buy some larger pants.