Daily Archives: December 28, 2014

Revelations of the Medicinal Sort

When I was first diagnosed with Bipolar, I was put on meds of course, and they sucked.  Bad. I have tried different ones here and there but have remained pretty […]

illustrating bipolar

(Image searches bring yin yang two faced two headed beings. Polar bears either being informed or confessing that they are bipolar. Sometimes penguins are involved too.)

Curated here for your discerning perusal, is a selection of the more stylish, offbeat or downright perplexing variations on the themes.

riffing on the two headed trope

3 dimensional bipolar robot telephone girl. De luxe. Far too much fun to be offensive.


You might recognise Faboosh by the same artist. This one is called Bipolar.


EP art bipolar castro. Tattooed aztec frida kahlo in egg cups?


and the rest …

Yep, this is what it’s like. I have to summon my chauffeur to clear up the mess at least once a month.


Book cover. I was rolling my eyes far too hard to click any further than the search results.


Broken link on the next one.


Gig flyer – manic depression & mashed potatoes (these are the daze of our lives … )



manic depressive from another planet (scroll down through the other stories)
You probably already know bipolar codex
Digital images by Piotr Paczkowski

Rose Series

Kitt O'Malley:

Broken Light Collective published my Rose Series! I am truly honored.

Broken Light is “the online photography gallery for people affected by mental illness. Broken Light’s main goal is to create a safe and accepting environment where photographers of all levels who are affected by mental health issues can display their work, as well as inspire one another to keep going and keep creating, despite the dark or scary places in which they may find themselves.”

Please visit Broken Light Collective and support their work with your tax-deductible donation.

Originally posted on Broken Light: A Photography Collective:

Photos taken by contributor Kitt O’Malley, a mother and wife who lives with bipolar disorder type II. Kitt is licensed in California as a Marriage and Family Therapist, but hasn’t practiced as a psychotherapist in over 20 years. She has a bachelors in legal studies from UC Berkeley, a masters in psychology from New College of California, and has attended Fuller Theological Seminary. Her career path has included working as a legal assistant, psychotherapist, and commercial real estate professional. Now, she advocates for those who, like her, live with mental illness, by writing and using social media.

About these photos: “Roses are quite simply beautiful. Their color and form soothe me, improve my mood, and give me hope. These photos were taken of roses in my yard and in the yards of my neighborhood. I am grateful to be surrounded by such beauty.

Find more from Kitt at her website and Flickr.


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Filed under: Bipolar Disorder, Mental Health, Nature, Photos Tagged: Broken Light Collective, flowers, Roses

Why I’m Not Like Sheldon Cooper

Obviously, I’m not a man or a theoretical physicist or a character on The Big Bang Theory. But also, I can’t say, as he often does, “I’m not crazy. My mother had me tested.” I’d like to have that t-shirt, but it would be false advertising.

I am crazy and my childhood was entirely free of psychological testing.

It probably shouldn’t have been, because the crazy had taken full hold during my tender years. Crippling depression. Massive anxiety. But both my parents were ordinary folk from Kentucky transplanted to a bland Ohio suburb. They stayed true to their roots and never considered testing or counseling for me or my sister. According to their upbringing, having crazy relatives might be upsetting or embarrassing, but that’s just the way it was. You tried to shelter them from the outside world – and vice-versa – but you didn’t involve agencies or doctors or hospitals.

My crazy got too obvious to ignore when I was in junior high school. I developed a nervous tic – my head would jerk up and to the left uncontrollably. This was very distracting, not only to me, but to whoever was sitting behind me in class. It got me noticed.

It did not, however, get me to a psychologist or other mental health professional. I didn’t want to see one anyway, because I had the irrational notion that being “shrunk” would go on my permanent record and I would never get into a good college.

Instead, I was taken to our family doctor. He prescribed Valium, which did stop the twitching but did absolutely no good for my depression.

Later, during my college years – at a good school, I might add – I had another run-in with Valium. This time my symptom was pain like a railroad spike being driven into the side of my head. Naturally, I thought it was a brain tumor.

I went to the doctor, who said, “I can do any test you want, but I can tell just by looking at you what your problem is. Your jaw is crooked.” He diagnosed me with temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, explained that tension made my muscles contract unevenly and cause excruciating pain in my temples. He sent me away with a prescription for Valium. Which helped with the stabbing pain, but again not with the depression. (Also, I was self-medicating with wine, which just made the crazy train run faster.)

It was not until years later, after college, that I got half a diagnosis – depression – and a non-Valium prescription – Prozac. And many years after that until I got the more accurate diagnosis (bipolar 2) and an appropriate regimen of drugs, which does include Ativan, but not prescribed alone or with wine.

And that’s another thing I don’t have in common with Sheldon Cooper. He’s not taken any psychotropics (or wine) and is happily stuck in his supposed non-craziness. I’ve accepted my craziness, gotten help for it, and am slowly rising, if not above it, at least to where I can peek over the top of it.



Remember we had no choice as to whether we had this illness or not. However, we do have a choice as to how we react to it. So the illness does not define us. Our strength and fortitude in living with this illness and fighting this illness is what defines us. Never forget this, never. Strength!

along with the days

That fucking circadian slump, the early evening one. Motherfucker. Yet again a deadfriend’s voice do you know that feeling, when the day is done, you get home, look at the sea and suddenly it’s so blue it hurts. Damn, damned poets. I wish you’d stop treating yourself as a work of fiction, well I wish you’d shush and get back to being dead.

And the sun sinks and guinea fowl rust noisily, energetically.

Cook, read, potter about like some sensible soul. Distract, distract, distract. Sit down and ah fuck, my stupid brain is still right here in my addled head.


Music. Music is a good idea, since the TV died. What though? Nothing scars quite like music does. Richard Ashcroft. Reliable. (Yes, you do know him; he’s from the Verve.)

I lit my fire and sent my conch (I’m on fire)
Thinking of you and the love I’ve got (I’ll eat The Beatles for lunch)
I saw the devil’s servant, I sent her home
(I need somebody like you)
(I’m full of love and new desire)
(I said bring me your master, I don’t want his dog)
I built my boat from bamboo (but it sunk)
Thinking of you and the love I’ve got (I’m on fire)
(I saw the devil’s servant, I sent her home)
(I said bring me your master, I don’t want his dog)
(I ain’t afraid to die)
I lit my fire and sent my conch
(I’m on fire)
(I’ll eat The Beatles for lunch)
Thinking of you and the love I’ve got

(That’s two vocal tracks, the parentheses wind through the lines.) {lyrics} {on a beach} {acoustic version}

As wordy and wordstruck as I am, often in songs, the words matter less than their rhythmic relationship to the melody. The choon.

Washed up by an ocean who had tired of me

Sometimes there are words I love so much, that I don’t care about all the words in between them. When it’s not simply lyrics + melody = song, when the words, the lines sing too, when they make music … that’s a song. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what the words are, or what they mean.

Songs. Thank fuck for songs. It’s life that hurts.

(Please, please don’t console me.)

The Anti Textbook Case

I suppose I have known from a very early age I was…different. I marched to my own drummer even at age 5. Acknowledging my own perception of myself as being different has often lead to mental health professionals wanting to slap “schizotypal” labels on my file.
The ones that don’t want to do that want to label it “paranoid personality” disorder because I was bullied in school and began to believe I was “weird” or “outcast.” And because I have intense emotional swings, well, that’s borderline personality disorder.

What is with this disorder fetish the mental health care people have latched onto? They’d label an hour old infant with some sort of disorder these days. About the only way to not have a disorder is to never come out of the womb.
I own cyclothymic bipolar disorder, panic disorder, generalized anxiety, seasonal affact…I own those.
But all this psychology bullshit that’s been thrust on me the last few years has left me pretty salty.
For fifteen years I was in counseling. I was “personality disorder not otherwise specified.” Because to qualify, you have to have a certain number of traits for a disorder.
I could never make the grade, so to speak. I’d have a trait or two from this disorder, one from that disorder, a couple from another…FIVE counselors all came to this same conclusion. Not otherwise specified.
Then suddenly social tides and the diagnostic manual changes…And everything is a personality disorder. Borderline seems to be society’s favorite.
And not even the so called professionals seem able to differentiate borderline from bipolar with any certainty.

I miss the days when you could just say, “Okay, I keep doing X and it keeps resulting in Y..So I need to change that behavior.”
NOOOO. Let’s not pinpoint one, let’s hand down a label for an entire disorder with multiple traits so you feel even more defective.
And if you don’t agree with the way that have diagnosed you usually based on ninety minutes of intake forms and banal questions…Well, it’s proof you have the disorder. Only someone with a personality flaw would dare question that someone with a degree or two knows more about them than they do themselves

The borderline thing, since the shrink tossed it out, has been driving me nuts. Because while the similarities are there, personality doesn’t change with hormones, mood cycles, manic episodes. Who I am varies from each cycle and what frame of mind I am in. That’s pure bipolar.
My rebellious streak…that’s pure personality because it doesn’t change no matter the worst depression or highest manic episode.
Most of my mood swings have no outside trigger.
And while relationships do make my emotions metastasize into monstrous things I have trouble containing…If anything, my biggest sin in relationships is that I like being alone. Being with someone makes me feel bound, tied down, hindered and oppressed. It’s never been a conscious thing, but subconsciously, I think I repeat the same behaviors in every relationship because after awhile…I want out and it’s just easier to drive people away by being a jerk.
A hallmark of borderline is a desperate need to hold onto people and not be abandoned.
But I set myself up to be abandoned because I like being alone.
How does the shrink even think that makes sense?

Oh, right, those seven minute drive through appointments in front of a tv screen make her an utmost authority on my personality.

Actually, the only person qualified to judge my personality is me because I live with it. I don’t need a disorder label to tell me I have bad traits that I need to work on.
The one good thing all the therapy has given me is a great self awareness.
Enough of it to question the so called professionals.
Because it was one of them who misdiagnosed me and gave me the wrong meds for ten years which made my condition worse rather than better.
Question authority. Question everything.
Once I was diagnosed bipolar, then the doctors were on the fence because my mood swings didn’t follow the textbook guidelines for depressive episodes or manic episodes.
Guess what?
I’m a person, not a case study in a text book.
Oddly, it took one of the worst shrinks I ever had to conclude I have cyclothymia, which is a branch off of bipolar two. All it means is that you cycle so rapidly, you’re going off script with the common bipolar symptoms.

People are not textbooks.
Mental illness does not fit into a neat little box where everyone has the exact same symptoms of the exact same duration.
And when someone spent ten of their formative years being bullied, insulted, and terrorized…Labeling them as a paranoid and calling it a disorder is akin to telling a war vet their post traumatic stress is a personality flaw.
We all have baggage and skeletons but so often it’s not considered when they slap that “mentally ill’ label on us.
Someone who got bitten by a dog as a kid will naturally fear it happening again. It doesn’t make them phobic or dysfunctional.

Society’s need to classify personality as a disorder pisses me off. Because I never fit into the box even before all the psychological scars. I don’t stand a damn chance here. The only reason I even keep dealing with the mental health “professionals” is because I’ve gone off the mood stabilizers enough times to know it’s a serious mistake and I will end up doing things I regret that I normally wouldn’t do. I need medicated. It corrects whatever is wrong in my brain wiring.

But the rest of this crap…
Is my love for coffin and skull decor really a disorder? Is it a sign of sickness that I like watching crime and forensic programs? Am I out of touch with reality because I love reading vampire novels? And my 99% black wardrobe, is that a sign of depression or could it just be that I like black because it’s slimming and I don’t have to worry about stains?
And yeah, these are things I’ve discussed in counseling that have ended up with a little * next to them in my file along with a new personality disorder label.
It’s beyond asinine.

I have mental issues.
But I am an anti textbook case.
Because I am an individual, not a number in some survey so society can have their precious labels for anyone who strays outside the sheeple herd.
It’s okay to be self aware. It’s okay to analyze yourself and recognize patterns of behavior your repeat that end negatively for you. It’s okay to want to be a better version of yourself.
I don’t think it’s okay to view your entire existence as a disorder just because it makes society and the doctors more comfortable.
Think outside the box.
Color outside the lines.
Different is not bad. Different is pretty awesome.
Don’t ever let quirks be labeled as disorders.
That will suck the life out of you more than any psych med ever could.

my experiences in a lunatic asylum, by a sane patient

A man gets put into a private lunatic asylum, he publishes a book about it in 1879 …

The especial experience which I have to tell has nothing especially painful, and is, perhaps, none the worse for that. I have nothing to write of dark rooms or strait-waistcoats or whippings, or to reveal such secrets of the prison-house as will make each particular hair to stand on end by the telling. My lines were cast in pleasant places.

The man was Herman Charles Merivale and fair enough though, he really didn’t want to be there. A gander at his wiki tells us that his doctor sent him to Australia to be treated for depression and that by the time he got back, his lawyer had nicked all his money. That can’t have helped his level of peevishness much. But I digress.

During those months I had the advantage of living in a castellated mansion, in one of the prettiest parts of England, which I shall hate to my dying day, with a constant variety of attendants, who honoured me by sleeping in my room, sometimes as many as three at a time. I was dying in delirium and prostration, simply, and wasted to a shadow; consequently voted ‘violent,’ as the best way out of it.


With carriages to take me out for drives, closed upon wet days, open on fine ; cricket and bowls and archery for the summer, and a pack of harriers to follow across country in the winter ; with the head of the establishment, who lived in a sweet little cottage with his family, to give me five o’clock tea on the Sundays; with five refections a day whereof to partake, with my fellow-lunatics, if so disposed, in my private sitting-room when I could not stand it; with a private chapel for morning prayers or Sunday service, the same companions and attendants for a congregation, and some visitors who would come to look at us; with little evening parties for whist or music amongst ‘ourselves,’ and a casual conjuror or entertainer from town to distract us sometimes for an evening; with an occasional relative to come and see me, beg me not to get excited, and depart as soon as possible,—what more could man desire ? As I look at this last sentence of mine it reads like an advertisement.

It does rather, but no …

Death-in-life did I say ? It is worse ; for it is a life-in-life, worse than any conceivable form of death.


He started off by asking, in essence, what is mad and what is sane anyway?’, but very rapidly decided there was a big difference and that he could spot a true madman immediately. And he was bitterly and thoroughly unimpressed with being in their company.

To his credit, he did call for reform, quoting Hamlet in the process, “O, reform it altogether.”

Good grief this dude whined and whined throughout the book. He made everything about himself, even a guy who’d been locked away for 40 fricken years got zero sympathy and straight down to the usual rusty woe is me I ain’t nevah gettin’ out type speech. It’s not fair, I’m not mad, I’m just an extreme hypochondriac wah wah wahhh yadda yadda … all of it in a dry and verbose meander of a manner. The only reason I didn’t hurl the book violently from me, is that I read it in digital format. (You can too, it’s available all over the place, at a sensible price of no money at all.)

In 1887, journalist Nellie Bly went undercover into an asylum, specifically to discover and report on conditions and then to work for reforms. You can download that free too and you will find it a far better use of your time. Not only did she go to a seriously unpleasant place, she hung on to empathy and humanity. Ten Days in a Madhouse – enjoy the corset ad in the beginning too.

I read some other reviews of Merivale’s book that praised it for its account of conditions and treatments back then, but it’s dense and self-indulgent prose to wade through and besides, there are plenty other books on the subject to download free at the Gutenberg Project, Open Library and so forth.

the doctor doctor bipolar linkdump

A: Doctor, doctor, I’m bipolar!
B: …

There’s no punchline. We should come up with one.

There is, of course, a kneejerk and fuckwitted one:

A: Doctor, doctor, I’m manic-depressive.
B: Calm down. Cheer up. Calm down. Cheer up …

Mhm and we hate bipolar it’s awesome too. Fuck off?

Bipolar is an expensive, high maintenance thing to have. Even with all the riches in the world, it’d be a total bitch to treat – and to live with. Let’s take a look at the stuff that doesn’t depress the hell out of us for a change.


From the 10 best things about being bipolar, a fun and tongue in cheek list:

You can openly pay someone to put up with your shit and react in a patient, thoughtful way, because it’s more acceptable to do this with a psychiatrist than with a prostitute. (Bill McCurry)

You might also enjoy mental illness: the bigfoot of the brain.

I’m not sure whether I’ve already linkdumped this one, but even if I have, it’s more than good enough to do so again. It’s how to talk to your psychiatrist, which may sound a bit duh, but absolutely isn’t. As well as the importance of getting the communication right (not to mention productive), there’s valuable stuff about how to know whether a psychiatrist is good.


What about bipolar psychiatrists? I found the article really, really, really fascinating.

One morning when she was 27, Suzanne Vogel-Scibilia, MD, went to work, a young, up-and-coming resident psychiatrist at a major Pittsburgh hospital and left, hours later, as a person with bipolar disorder.

If you’re wondering about bipolar psychologists, the best place to start is probably Kay Redfield Jamison, author of numerous books, speaker, professor etc. But I figure almost all of my readers already know.

Bipolar comes in at number 2 on listverse’s 10 weird things that make you smart. It’s probably even easier to find 10 smart things that make you weird.

Nice one from cowbirds in love (always good to find cartoons, memes etc that don’t contain the words hate and awesome).


The legal drugs bit is right at the end of this …

I’ve Looked at Drugs from) Both Sides Now
by Alexander of Hollywood™ (with apologies to Joni Mitchell)

Roaches, bongs and Rasta-wear, while swirling smoke infests the air
And all your friends pretend to care, I’ve looked at weed that way
But now it only hurts my throat, not get me off nor float my boat
And bosses smell it on my coat, ganj sure can bum your day
I’ve looked at weed from both sides now
From Sens to skunk and still somehow
It’s weed’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know weed at all
Trails and tails and feeling numb, think you’re profound, you just sound dumb
Your favorite song tastes like a thumb, I’ve looked at acid that way
But now it’s just another trip, you drop your tab, try not to flip
And don’t forget it’s not that hip; don’t throw your mind away
I’ve looked at acid from both sides now
From “Wow!” to “Yikes!” and still somehow
It’s ‘cid’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know ‘cid  at all

Scabs and stabs and skanky chicks; hyper hearts but flaccid dicks
Tweakers are some scary hicks! I’ve looked at meth that way
Now I switch from snort to shoot (or snort to smoke, the point is moot)
Gone are my looks, as is my loot, speed stole my youth away
I’ve looked at crank from both sides now
From nerves to pervs and still somehow
It’s speed’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know speed at all

Needles, spoons and nodding off, welfare from the public trough
Tying up then floating off, I’ve looked at junk that way
But now it only pricks my skin, it makes me dull and way too thin
So many bands I could be in, but smack got in my way
I’ve looked at “H” from both sides now
From Burroughs to Cobain and still somehow
It’s junk’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know junk at all

Thrills and pills and bellyaches, psychotropic ice-cream cakes
Deals and steals and brownie-bakes, I’ve looked at drugs that way
But now they only blunt the pain, I don’t get high, I just maintain
Brain cells are lost, but something’s gained, in drugging every day
I’ve looked at drugs from both sides now
Within, without, and still somehow
It’s drugs’ illusions I recall
I really don’t know drugs at all

Going Back to What I Started

Well, I’m pleased to announce that we emerged from Christmas relatively unscathed.

Of course, Hubster received a Nerf gun from his Secret Santa, then promptly shot my sister in the eye which resulted in a Christmas Eve trip to the doctor. Although this was vaguely traditional as Christmas isn’t Christmas in our household if someone doesn’t end up in the Emergency Room. Master D announced to the table in a rather stern manner that “we don’t eat poo’s, only dinners” (not particularly complimentary of my food, I felt). Mum decided to back her computer up which somehow resulted the kind of chaos only my family can achieve; deep and meaningful discussions on the best method of backing up, accusations of “nephelious” content, and despair when the back up was predicted to take 67 days. And no one seemed to appreciate my helpful renditions of “Back that Thang Up” by Juvenile.

But all in all, it was a good Christmas. I didn’t poison myself. For that matter, I didn’t poison anyone else. No one poisoned me. To get to the point, no vomiting or morphine based drugs were required. And I only had one panic attack. Unscathed.

Now I have to face the fact that in under two weeks I am going back to university. My emotional response to this is variable, but almost always resides on a five point scale ranging from “Slightly Dubious” to “Holy Crap”

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE what I do. I love writing. I love researching. I’m passionate about reducing mental illness stigma. I sure as hell want to earn my title of “doctor”. I’ve worked damn hard to get to the point I am at.

But I’m scared.

You see, I started my PhD last year. I was given a scholarship that only nine others were offered. I was told my by supervisors and other academic staff that I was talented and could go far in the industry. I was invited to present at the national conference in my first six months which is HUGE.

And then I got sick, spent five months in hospital, and had to take the rest of the year off. I had to bow out of the conference (although my talk was still presented by my supervisor). While I was having ECT I couldn’t even remember what my thesis was on. Now I have to go back into the office. Say “hi” to all the people I haven’t seen for a year. And somehow pick up where I left of. It is incredibly daunting.

And on top of undertaking a full-time PhD, which is, I’m assuming, challenging at the best of times. I have to do it in half the time due to difficulties in childcare arrangements. I currently have three days a week to achieve what my colleagues do in five or six. I also have to factor in, not one, but two chronic illnesses. I also have a three year old. Just to save time here: “yes”I have thought about going part time, “no” it is not possible without forfeiting my scholarship and putting my family into a inferior financial position.

The thing is, I keep worrying. I had terrible side effects from ECT. What if my mind won’t work the way it used to? What if I get sick again? What if I let everyone down? And here is the big one: What if I am unable to achieve what I have wanted to do since I was about 12 years old?

I did, in a particularly rebellious moment, decide to pack in the PhD and become a Fudge Master instead. I like making fudge. People like eating it. And It may or may not be an uncracked industry. I decided my business would be called “MotherFudger” and I would sell my stash at the local markets. Unfortunately my dream was cut short when I realised there was already a “MotherFudger” out there (well, many actually. But we won’t go into that). I also worked out that even if I heavily overpriced my fudge my profit margin would probably put me under the poverty line. So that idea, in short, was “fudged” from the get go.

So with Plan B knocked off the list, it is back to Plan A. I’ve thought about and how I will handle it, and all that does is make me incredibly stressed. So I’ve come up with three basic PhD rules:

1) Take each day at a time and don’t put too much pressure on yourself
2) No degree is more important than your physical and mental health
3) No degree is more important than your son and family

I also came up with a reminder:

Do your best, but if it doesn’t work out you are not a failure. You can always go back to the degree in the future.

So I’m getting my laptop in order. Rereading my notes. Boxing up data to take into the office. And after all this time I’m going to go back to what I started.