Archive for April 2012

Sunday Kind of Blues   Leave a comment

I’m sitting here in a local San Francisco coffee shop, which is how most San Franciscans spend their days.  Everybody is busily working on business plans for new start-ups or milling around outside on their cell phones trying to convince venture capitalists to fund their new ventures.  The problem is about 3% of these nonsensical deals actually come to fruition and even fewer actually survive the first two years.  But everyone wants to jump on the get rich quick technology bandwagon.  I prefer to call it a hayride.

I’m even embarrassed to say I had a partner and we drank the micro-brew Kool-Aide too, which was all the rage, back in the late 1990’s.  Unfortunately, my partner had an aversion to making money, I bailed out and he floundered around by himself for awhile and then moved out of the area.  But we could have had something.  It was my big chance at making a serious nest egg.  Instead the hen just farted.

So, I’ll share with you today that I am a little depressed.  However I think it’s more  situational than chemical. I’m sad at 46 years old that with all the things I know how to do, I have never done anything exceptional.  I’ve done a lot of good things, but nothing that I feel will leave a mark that says “Peter Goodman was here” after I am gone. Except, for the circular water stain on the coffee table I left from putting my drink down without a coaster.

Could it be my mood stabilizers kicking in just making sure I feel neither good or bad and just exist in a quagmire of nothingness? Mine keep me in limbo from feeling excitement or despair, in this military “no fly zone” where nothing ever touches me.  They are always there to remind me how much I don’t feel, never even giving me 15 minutes for a mental coffee break.

In all my star studded brilliance I decided to sleep all weekend.  Sleeping is something we bipolars are really good at.  I wish being a good sleeper could help me leave my mark on the world. “God, that Peter Goodman wasn’t much of a guy when he was awake, but boy could that motherfucker sleep.  We’ll never see a sleeper like that again in our lifetime!”

I was already literally sick and tired when Friday rolled around.  And when my girlfriend decided to start in on me about so something ridiculous only her mind could conjure, I decided to go for a world record.  I went to bed and didn’t get out until late Sunday morning.

I love sleeping and disconnecting from my bipolar tormented mind.  I don’t know what it’s doing when we are not together, but at least I don’t have to deal with it.  It probably goes out to get a burger and a beer and then picks up hookers at the adult movie theater.

Actually, sleep has become my new therapy.  If I don’t want to deal with something, I just go home, get in bed and go to sleep.   I’m not talking about work issues or being a father to my daughter.  I’m referring to problems with my relationship, getting a speeding ticket, owing a lot in taxes, etc.  And as soon as I put my head down on that pillow and trail off to sweet slumber, I am free.

I often wonder if this is the effect people are trying for when they commit suicide?  The mindlessness of being permanently unconscious.  I have tried to do away with myself before.  And I can not promise I won’t do it again.  What people do not understand is the constant distress of the bipolar mind.  The depression, sadness and disconnection from the world and everyone in it is unbearable.  And if someone is at the point where they can not stand one more minute of it and medications, electroshock and therapy have proven benign, I believe they have the right to end it.

People do not ask to be born, and certainly not bipolar.  If they want to leave this world it should be on their own terms.  I am not advocating suicide, but I am not going to put a pad lock on the door.  And of course I don’t think it should be a rash decision.  But in the end it’s our decision.

So if you are having a hard day today making sense of it all and questioning what you are doing here, you are not alone.  I am right here with you in the blogesphere.  And if you are looking for a reason to get up tomorrow morning, do it because you might make a difference in someone’s life and without you it never would have happened.  Also, just maybe something good will happen to you.  The odds are a lot better than winning the Lottery.

The other reason to slog onward is because you still can make change in your own life. Get out of that awful living situation.  Find a better job.  Get a better shrink.  Change your meds.  Set something positive in motion and give yourself something to look forward too.  Kick those mood stabilizers in the ass and say “Not today, I’m making a change in my life and you aren’t going to sabotage my motivation.”  Then press the “override” button.  You know, the one between your…. Uh, you know where it is.

And of course always feel free to blog back at me.  I read everything and answer back if requested.  I’m not a doctor and have no psychotherapy credentials.  I’m just a guy who cares about other people with Bipolar Illness and those who love them.

Being Bipolar and a Parent: The Extra Step   1 comment

A few weeks ago we took my girlfriend’s 5 and 7 year old daughters out for pasta on a Saturday night.  As young children do, before their food came they spent a lot of time squirming in their seats, disappearing under the table and bemoaning their food was taking so long to come out like a couple of starving children from Ethiopia.   When the food finally came the older girl proceeded to eat her pasta by sticking her face in the bowl and slurping the tomato sauce stained  pasta directly into her mouth like a cattle eating out of a feed bag.  The younger one just fidgeted in her chair and intermittently blasted out some ear piercing shrieks  like she was being operated on without anesthesia.  Then she went into a tearful diatribe about not liking her pasta and wanting ice cream instead.

If the girls were my younger brother and I, we wouldn’t have gotten past the seat squirming.  My father’s hand would have quickly and silently shot across the table like a python snake snapping out its tongue and cracked us both in the head “Three Stooges style,” telling us to “cut it the fuck out and sit quietly or there is going to be a war!”   And if one of us dared to be a kid and creatively ate our pasta, or spaghetti as it was erroneously called in the 1970’s,  my dad’s lighting arm would make another appearance and connect with my head once again, this time even harder.  “Goddamn it, use your manners.  Don’t eat like a fucking slob!” he would sharply whisper now with the venom of a python.  If my father had these girls as daughters, they’d be “scared straight.”

At thirteen, my own daughter can be extremely sassy.  Now and then she’ll call me by my first name, scream at me to wake up early on a Saturday morning because she is bored and disappears into the ladies room for the better part of a half hour when we go out to dinner to text her friends.  If I did any of this at thirteen  to my father,  no matter where I was going,  his foot would have helped me get there faster.  And he’d scream at me so loud dogs in the neighborhood would start barking or an entire restaurant would grow silent and  just stare at the purple-faced man at our table.

I always vowed to myself mid-head-cracking or ass-kicking that I would never lay a hand on my children no matter what they did, unless they did something unforgivable like spill their milk.  And I’m proud to say that I stuck to this policy, but I found being bipolar made it a lot more challenging.  There were a lot of times I wanted to grab my daughter and “shake some respect for me” into her.  Or, snatch my girlfriend’s seven year old’s pasta and say “Stop eating like a goddamn slob or go take the bus home.”  And, tell the little one in a matter of fact voice “Now it’s no ice cream for a week whether you eat dinner or not.  As a matter of fact, no food for a week.  How-do-ya like that?”   To a five year old you might as well tell them they are going to an orphanage run by bears.

But I knew this was not appropriate parenting,  And patting myself on my back for never hitting the kids isn’t a great accomplishment either.  It’s expected.    However being bipolar and dealing with my own related issues does make it harder for me to curb my emotions.  And I’m sure there are others reading this out there just like me.

Often times I may be depressed and want to sleep all day but promised to do something with my daughter or my girlfriend’s daughters.  My head is already in a bad place going into this activity.  Then kids being kids, burn down the shopping mall we’re visiting.  I want to explode and put the fear of my father into them with everything going on in my head.  But that is when I have to force myself to take an extra step, realize they are just kids playing with the flame thrower, and tell them this kind of behavior is not ok and stop napalming Abercrombie and Finche.

I find this approach usually works.  It just takes the self discipline to put your depression, anxiety or whatever else you may be experiencing aside for a moment and rationally deal with the children.  And I derive personal satisfaction for parenting the right way and not adding another layer of misbehavior on which to second guess myself about in my already over-burdened bipolar mind.

The thing to remember is that kids are kids.  Babies will cry incessantly for seemingly no reason.  Kids start out life eating like slobs.  Teenagers will be disrespectful to their parents.  It’s all part of growing up and out of child-like behaviors.  But kids are immature until we as adults show them the right way to act.  No matter how annoying it can be, you can’t get mad at them for being kids.  And when you’re bipolar and in a bad way, you have to work a little harder to remind yourself of this instead of adding your inability to parent to the list of things currently torturing your obsessive mind.

This is in no way easy.  (I have slipped up and yelled at my daughter on a handful of occasions.  As an overly-dramatic thirteen year old, she’ll contend I yell at her all the time.  I told her to go spend some time with her grandfather and then get back to me on that).  But it can be done.  However, as with everything else, raising children is harder when you’re bipolar.  It’s difficult enough to take care of ourselves,  little yet needy children.  But it can also be the greatest accomplishment of our lives.

An Apology   2 comments

I have to apologize. Yesterday I wrote a blog entitled “A Bipolar White House.”  The theme was pointing out the documentable bold-faced string of lies Mitt Romney and the Republican Party have been telling to kick off the 2012 Presidential race.  I called them psychotic for being able to tell lies with no remorse, which by definition is a true psychotic feature.  Then I went on to document some specific instances.  I closed the blog commenting someone with Bipolar Illness could never be elected to the Office of President, but a psychopath like Mitt Romney can.

I only received one negative comment, and that was from a strange man trying to pitch his polar bear book on my Buzzkill Facebook Page and this blog site.  But one thing he said made me think.  He told me to stop trying to be a political pundit.  I wasn’t, but it might have seemed that way.  Or, he is the only person who didn’t understand the underlying theme at which I was driving.

Regardless,  my book Buzzkill is dedicated to very real bipolar issues as is my blog and Facebook page.  It’s not a site about political agendas, unless they intersect with bipolar interests.  So, I am going to take special care not to comment on things unless they directly relate to the bipolar spectrum of discourse.  I have very distinct political views, but that’s not what this forum is all about.

So if anyone was disappointed in yesterday’s choice of topic, I apologize and promise to get back on point.  If you did like it, I’m glad  but I can’t continue in that direction.  And to the polar bear book promoting guy, although you took some cheap shots at me being bipolar, I’m going to turn the other cheek.  My ass cheek.

Posted April 26, 2012 by Buzzkill - Official Booksite in An Apology

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A Bipolar White House?   2 comments

Last night I was watching MSNBC with Lawrence O’Donnell and he was showing footage of a speech Mit Romney made yesterday more or less accepting the Presidential candidacy nomination for the Republican Party.  I say more or less because he won most of the states in the primary, so it was pretty much a given.  His self-congratulatory speech was like me buying a house and then making a bloated speech to my real estate agent accepting the property.

The thing that bothered me most is that for many of Romney’s statements, Lawrence O’Donnell juxtaposed footage of him blatantly contradicting himself.  At first I thought I was watching a skit from Saturday Night Live.  It would have been the first funny thing they did in ten years.  Worse yet, he began revising history of how President Obama was the one who created the deficit, that we are still in a downward recession and Obama wants to make the United States a secular nation.  If you think any of this is true, you need to get out of your trailer more and stop watching FOX News.

Most revolting, is Romney wants to double the tax rate on student loans.  Well, he claims he doesn’t, but video footage shows him saying on camera at a rally students shouldn’t be relying on loans and interest rate discounts.  They should pay their full ride with no assistance.  But now he’s for keeping the student loan interest rates from doubling.  If Mit Romney went to a psychiatrist, I guarantee you’d find some major issues.  A main psychopathic feature is the ability to lie with no remorse.

However, you can’t just blame Mit.  The entire GOP is constantly rewriting history in an overt effort to bring President Obama down.  I honestly believe it’s because they can’t stand having a young magnetic black man in the White House.  And if they have to go into liar’s-overdrive, then so be it.  Wasn’t there a movie in the early 1980’s with Clint Eastwood and a Chimpanzee side-kick called “Any Which Way You Can?”  Well right now Mit is the Republican Party’s Chimp doing it “Any Which Way He Can.”

Everybody tells lies to some extent.  When I was at my obsessive compulsive worst trading in my car every six months for a new one,  I told my critics I could sell each one for even money, so why shouldn’t I drive what I want when I want?  The truth be known, I was losing a fortune trading cars in so frequently, but I couldn’t stop my compulsion.  But I was embarrassed and trying to hide my bipolar disorder.  And the only person I was hurting was myself.

The thing is, in all my bipolar illness, I would never tell a lie that would effect someone else.   If I lied, it was to keep people from finding out about my OCD, depression, a suicide attempt, a hospitalization or the likes.  I never disparaged anyone or tried to harpoon their character for my benefit.  And although bipolar people are not less prone to lying, they are not more prone either.  And I don’t think the majority of people in the world are liars either.

Then we see these republicans telling lies the size of hot air ballons that do affect our country in a negative way.   There are also a lot of stupid people out there who believe this rhetoric and republicans seem to have no remorse feeding them this political fodder in the form of pert little sound bite suppositories.    Worst of all, they literally ignore the fact their lying can be documented.  This is psychopathic behavior.

I’m still waiting for a Republican to stand up in Washington and say “this is ridiculous!  The Republican Party has gone too far!  Republicans and Tea Partiers, line up for a psychiatric evaluation at the Lincoln Memorial!”  I think it would look just like a mostly white Million Man March.

I could never run for President.  After all, I’m Bipolar II.  I could get depressed, go to bed and sleep through the passage of an amendment to the constitution.  Or, I could get hypomanic and keep threatening to launch a missel at France if they don’t send me over a wheel of brie every Friday.  I might even have an OCD flair up and start trying to conquer nations that start with the letter “M.”  No, the United States could never have a bipolar man in the White House.

A psychopathic liar out to destroy the President because his vindictive political party can’t stand to have a successful democrat, little yet an African American in the White House?  Now that’s OK with a lot of Americans.  But not a bipolar.  That’s way too dangerous.

Cocktails and Indian Food: When is Enough Too Much?   2 comments

Friday was a really rough day.  The company for which I work is in the process of merging with another and changing identity.  People are coming and going, new faces are telling me what to do and I’m not sure I’m doing everything right.   We had a department lunch to say goodbye to a very talented woman who decided to resign, and I was planning dinner and drinks with a good friend who was in town from LA.

It turned out to be a really late night.  We went from bar to bar indulging in the new cocktail craze which has consumed the city of San Francisco.  Frankly, I think cocktails are a pretentious trend and for non-drinkers who don’t really like the taste of alcohol.   Finally these people can brag at the office that they got hammered the night before…. on Lemon Drops and Mint Juleps.  BMOC.

And as I am prone to do, I over did it.  Having taken a cab that night, I didn’t have to worry about drinking and driving.  So I took full advantage of it and filled myself to the bipolar brim with those ridiculous libations.  They didn’t taste strong and were served up in these tiny glasses.  Cocktails are sneaky little bastards.  With beer, wine and hard liquor you know what you’re getting.

Anyway, when I got my badly inebriated body home, I peeled off my clothes and flopped into bed, instantly falling asleep…. Without having the only cocktail I can’t live without… My cocktail of bipolar medications.  Usually I can not sleep without at least my 600mg of Seroquel.  Seroquel is also used off label as an antidepressant.  If I don’t take it I’ll start having nightmares and getting the shakes, wake up around 3am and realize I didn’t take my pills.  But the alcohol simply put me out.

I woke up around 12 noon.  I didn’t feel right and it wasn’t from drinking.  I panicked when I realized I didn’t take my medication the night before nor my morning dose.  I almost fell on my face jumping out of bed racing into the bathroom to take my morning dose.  “Now I should be fine,” I thought.  “Missing one evening can’t hurt me.”  Boy was I wrong.  All my bones ached and I felt like I constantly had to throw up.  My hands were shaking and I had hot flashes like I was going through menopause.  I wasn’t depressed, but I had no interest in doing anything except laying on the couch and being miserable.  My brain was bobbling around in my head like it was made of Jello.

I have withdrawn from medication before.  I knew the symptoms and these were those.  And the only way to get back “on the clock” was suffer until bedtime and then take my nighttime medications, of course including the usual 600mg of Seroquel, and hopefully feel right in the morning.  It actually took me until Monday afternoon to fully feel back to myself,  because I ate Indian take out food the night before and came down with a case of the “New Delhi Darts.”  I call them the “Darts” because about an hour after you eat the Indian food, you’re darting to the bathroom for the rest of the night.

I think it was a good thing this happened to me, except for the Indian food.  I don’t know what I was thinking when I ate that schmutz.  But sometimes we take it for granted that our medication is doing it’s job.  We even get complacent enough that we think we don’t even need our medications.  Then you have a situation like mine where you do not take you medication, even for 24 hours, and you start the withdraw process.  Like me, you get a rude reminder of just how dependent you are on those colorful little pills.

The other thing I got out of this is how foolish I was to consume that much alcohol while on these powerful psychotropics.  I knew I was getting drunk and kept going.  I was aware of the consequences of consuming large amounts of alcohol with the amount of medication I take.  But I was too comfortable in this area as well.  I’ve always been able to drink a few glasses of wine or beer with no problem whatsoever.  So I decided I was like everybody else and jumped in the deep end.

Even more frightening is if I had remembered to take my pills that night.  With the amount of alcohol I consumed, ingesting 600mg of Seroquel among other things could have killed me.  And there is no lesson to be learned when you accidentally overdose and die.  Who do you tell you learned your lesson to when they are lowering your coffin into the ground, as relatives are fighting over your 5.0 Mustang and CD collection?

It’s one thing when we feel bad and are looking for the right balance of bipolar medications.  We tend to become very vigilant and do everything right when we find the correct drug(s) and dosage amount(s).  But when we feel well and are getting complacent, we tend to take our positive mental status as a given and start letting our guard down.  And that is when we start getting in trouble.  “Sure I can drink a few more beers.  I only had nine-teen shots of tequila.”

I am not telling anyone whether or not or how much to drink, smoke or eat Indian food.  Just like with bipolar medications, everyone has a different tolerance when mixing.  Use my lack in judgement as a lesson learned;  It’s an excellent idea to always keep your head when dealing with alcohol so you can read the signs of excess and avoid losing your head.  The last thing I want on my epitaph is that I met my fate at the hands of a Roy Rogers.

Making the First Move   2 comments

One of the many things I am not an authority on are relationships.  I probably should watch more Dr. Phil and spend less time blogging.  Then I will have an answer for everything.

Actually, I have had so many failed relationships in my life, it pains me to say, but most of these ruined souffles have been my own fault.   Not because I was insensitive, cheated or put on a beer stained undershirt and slapped anyone around, but because it was a mismatch and I still got involved.

Before my marriage at 29, I never had the courage to approach the girl I really  found interesting and attractive.  I didn’t think I stood a chance.  I always felt like the ugliest guy in the room.  And I felt if a girl I really liked did go out with me, sooner or later we’d sleep together and she’d see my Zip-Lock Baggie with all the pills in my shaving kit and the gig would be up.  I was sure girls did not want to get involved with bipolar guys.  So I saved myself the embarrassment and always went for the second tier girls.  After all, I was a second or third tier guy.

Once I was talking to a low hanging piece of fruit I was trying to date and she told me straight out she won’t go with guys who live at home or have any kind of mental illness.   I was shocked she even thought about this in advance.  Now I was in the category with some 25 year old guy named Maynard whose mother probably still buys his underwear.

So I got involved with a woman who had an under-bite like a 1954 Buick.  And a women so overly impressed with herself that I basically became her butler.  And, one with a voice so shrill I suggested we take up silent meditation.  All because I didn’t think I could do any better.  I was bipolar.  Damaged goods.  At best I was an “open box” sale.  I was lucky to have someone at all.

I think we as bipolar sufferers tend to do this with relationships because we are embarrassed we take so many pills, or that we have spent time in a mental hospital or ward, or that our hands shake sometimes and we can’t even drink a glass of wine without our meds making us a little too relaxed.  It will suddenly be obvious we are different and the eye of our affection won’t want to deal with the baggage.

But we are not different.  Bipolars can be as attractive as anyone else in the population.  So we can not let our insecurities about an illness nobody can see cheat us out of meeting the people we’d really like to get to know.   Thankfully we do not have to wear green fluorescent placards across our chests like crossing guards warning little children to stay away.

In my opinion we ofter underestimate the object of our fancy.  If we can get the courage to approach them, we might find they would like to spend time with us.  And the first thing you say doesn’t have to be a disclaimer that you are bipolar and once flipped out and kicked a hole in the wall.  This is conversation for a later date.  And, you might be surprised how well he or she handles it.  It isn’t the dark ages anymore where you were labeled manic depressive and given a lobotomy as regular course of treatment, then spent the rest of your life walking around fascinated with parking meters.

I was married for 13 years.  The wonderful woman I finally summoned up the courage to approach did not care about me being bipolar.  As a matter of fact, she took an active interest in helping me manage it.  It was completely unexpected and I’m extremely grateful.  Unfortunately we did get divorced, but it was not due to bipolar issues.  I had found other creative ways to ruin my marriage.

Don’t let the self-consciousness of being bipolar be what is holding you back from getting the person you really want.  Remember, bipolar sufferers usually have lived more complicated and sometimes tragic lives with dramatic ups and downs a lot of other people can’t even begin to imagine.  If we can get through that, we can definitely go for the person we really want rather than settle for second or third best.  We have thicker skins.

It only took me 46 years to figure this one out.  If I had only paid more attention to Dr. Phil!  Did I mention he has an answer for everything?

Bipolars and Burning Bridges   2 comments

I am the king of burning bridges.   Put me in a situation, have someone do me wrong, and I’ll launch a cruise missile at them that could turn the Bay Bridge into a seven mile piece of frayed rope connecting San Francisco to Oakland.  I’m not talking about someone stepping on my foot by accident.  I’m talking about the time a company came to fix my kitchen cabinetry and the owner grabbed and kissed my girlfriend in the parking garage when I wasn’t around, then denied it.   Or when an acquaintance was supposed to watch our dogs for the weekend never showed up. Upon return our apartment looked like a giant un-flushed toilet bowl, smelled like a men’s room in a Greyhound Bus Station and the dogs were gnawing on furniture for nourishment.  However, he did take the two-hundred and fifty dollars we paid him in advance.

And, the cruise missel is usually in the form of a venomous voice mail, a hot tempered email or a no-turning-back text message.  But even if they really are rotten people, when I take a step back I always feel I was too harsh, escalating the situation and wishing I had thought about it a little longer before I hit the “send” button.  Even after I have made the mistake of reacting too soon  hundreds of times in my life, like a compulsive Black Jack gambler, I keep asking the dealer to hit me when I’m holding two face cards hoping for an ace.

But what is that ace for which I am looking?  Is the recipient of my snide comments or email rants, no matter how justified, going to suddenly see the light and make nice too me?  Are we going to sit on the floor and play paddy-cake?  Face it, if I we ever cross paths, I’m the one who is going to feel like I just got stuck in an elevator with my ex-father in law.

If you are bipolar and have been going off half-cocked all your life, even when justified to later regret it, you are not alone.  I have spoken with many fellow bipolar illness sufferers who have the exact same issue.  My belief is that we feel things on a much deeper level than normal people as we have a higher consciousness of our emotions.   Our psyches are more delicate, and when something happens making us feel happy, excited, angry, unjustly wronged, sad, etc., we sense it more strongly and more immediately.  If it’s anger or  injustice, we as bipolars tend to act quickly because we want to resolve the negative emotion.  We want the sadness to go away and not become a trigger causing a major episode.

The solution doesn’t involve air guns and paint balls being shot from a moving vehicle.   Simply give yourself a cooling off period before you react.  Set an arbitrary period of a time, like a half hour.  Try and think about sending or leaving that message and how you would feel if you ran into this person the next day.  Also, is this person a bridge you want to burn?  If you tell your male-chauvinist supervisor he’s a freak and quit, you are decimating your chances for a good relationship with the company as a whole? Worse yet, what if you end up working with this person again at another place of employment?  That’s enough to justify an extra Xanax for first day jitters.  Chances are if you really think it over, you’ll use a more tempered approach.

A few weeks ago I was driving home in thick downtown rush hour traffic.  I couldn’t find a good song on the radio, my “low fuel” light went on and a fax machine kept redialing my cell phone and blasting me through my speakers.  All of a sudden a banged-up maroon mini-van battering-ram darted out of a parking space and cut in front of me, causing me to slam on my breaks.  I almost hit the guy.  Then he darted up the street and pulled into another space.  My heart was in my throat.  I took a deep breath.  “What a fucking idiot.”

I drove a little further and the same mini-van pulls out of its new spot and cuts in front of me, almost causing me to hit him again!  I was furious.  Now, I am not a confrontational person.  I was the kid who covered up every time my grade school friends threw fake punches at me.  However I lept out of my car, leaving it idling in traffic like a car thieve’s wet dream, went up to the mini-van and tried to pull the driver door open to verbally assault the terrified diver.  When he frantically locked the door I pounded on the window until it fell off the track and into the door.  When the middle aged bespectacled driver started yelling for help, I realized I was committing a crime, was hit by a lighting bolt of common sense and ran back to my car.  And the very worst part? Traffic patterns forced me behind this guy all the way back to my obscure neighborhood, on the complete other side of the city.  We practically lived next to one another!

It’s likely I will see the maroon mini-van again.  And, I am the one who blew up.   I am the one who will feel shame when he points me out to his children and says “Stay away from people like that.  He’s a bad man.”  I doubt the guy even knows he cut me off twice.  Worse yet, he could have had me arrested for attempted battery and property damage.  For the rest of the evening all I could do was marvel at my stupidity.   I had never done anything like that in my life.  And now the consequences made me feel like a criminal on the lam.   I kept waiting for the cops to kick down my door with the min-van driver in tow yelling and pointing at me sitting on the couch in my underwear, “That’s him!.  That’s him!”

At 46 I’m just learning the lesson of not burning bridges.  As bipolar individuals, I think we have it a little harder because our emotions get the best of us and weaken our impulse control.  So we have to be extra vigilant when it comes to letting things “marinate” before we serve them up.  Because once that bridge is on fire, it’s virtually impossible to put it out.  And the last thing you want are people saying, “Oh, he’s bipolar.  Just ignore whatever he says.  He’s not right.”   Then it doesn’t matter what you say, nobody listens at all.

The Bipolar Discus: Now Everyone Has It.   5 comments

Has anybody noticed there are a lot more bipolar people in the world today than there were ten years ago?   I don’t have an exact number, but when the body shop returns your car without a windshield because the technician was diagnosed bipolar, and decided you car is a trigger, you know something is not right.

I actually think it’s a combination of things.  First, bipolar is becoming a catch all disease umbrella for suspected mental illnesses doctors can’t figure how else to categorize.  People tell you you’re a miserable person because all you do is spread negativity and mope around like you just ran over your cat.  You tell your psychiatrist or sometimes just your family doctor, and right away you’re bipolar.  After all, you’re not schizophrenic or a cutter, so what else could it be?  It must be bipolar!  Then again, you could just have a rotten attitude.  But the doctor brands you bilpolar and  for the rest of your life you are treated as such.

Secondly, a lot of people actually want the bipolar brand.  I call them wannabe bipolars, as if anyone would purposely afflict themselves with the illness, as if it’s contagious.  And if the doctor doesn’t make the diagnosis, they’ll guide them toward it with exaggerated symptoms, or find a doctor who will.  I’ve even met people in a bipolar therapy groups who are self-diagnosed bipolar.  They’ve never seen a doctor about it but are sure they have the affliction and identify themselves as such.

Once the wannabe bipolars go public with their disease, which many are more than happy to do, it also becomes carte blanche for public temper tantrums, walking out on the job, rude behavior and any other form of acting out which they can then blame on the bipolar, avoiding any and all responsibility for their actions.  In many cases they are actually interpreting how a bipolar person might act when in crisis.

I find this especially disturbing because most of the bipolar individuals I know do not have public outbursts or horrid displays of emotion.  It’s a part of their lives they’d prefer to keep private.  And if they are having a related emotional issue, they’re more likely to leave the room rather than put on a broadway production.  The last thing most bipolar people want to do is walk around carrying a freak flag.

So now all of the sudden the earth is crawling with bipolar people like bees swarming a hive.  Doctors are throwing the term around like a discus.  Consequently, some individuals could be  getting the wrong treatment for other very real mental illnesses.  Other people are getting treatment and there is nothing clinically wrong with them.  And some seek out the diagnosis like it’s a Fast Pass to drive in the commuter lane on the freeway and zip through the toll booth without having to stop and pay.

Never in my life have I seen a disease so frequently and haphazardly diagnosed.  It bothers me because it dilutes the seriousness and severity of the bipolar affliction for those who truly suffer from it.   My fear is that if we keep misdiagnosing the disease, one day being bipolar will be on par with having a headache.  Can you imagine if the diagnosis of cancer was bandied about like bipolar illness?  Stopping by the pharmacy to pick up your chewable chemo-tablets would be commonplace.   Or, “He’s walking funny.  It must be leg cancer.  Let’s radiate.”

I don’t have a solution.  I don’t even know if it’s perceived as a problem.  Obviously it’s not by the psychiatric community or they’d stop diagnosing bipolar like a Los Vegas black jack dealer.  And I’m sure the drug companies are loving it, so they are not going to speak up.  If they had their way, we’d all be taking Lithium as a precautionary measure.  Kind of like taking those oversized anti-malaria pills before you go to Asia and get dysentery.  I’m just hoping somebody with knowledge and authority decides to speak up on the issue.

Remember, some people are not overweight because they eat too much.   It could be genetics or a condition which has nothing to do with food.  Others are overweight because they say “yes” when asked by the lady in the window if they “want that super sized?”  Would you staple both their stomachs?  Of course not.  Then why is the medical community suddenly labeling more and more people as bipolar?   Is everyone coming down with the same disease? Or, do we need to come up with a more accurate diagnosis?

Suffering in a Six by Nine Cell   2 comments

He left the classroom, which was nothing more than a converted trailer, and walked out onto the San Quentin prison yard.  He sat down on the deserted baseball infield legs crossed in his prison blues.  Nobody noticed him at first until he started ripping up handulls of grass and shoving them in his mouth.  Finally a guard took note and walked over to the fence surrounding the baseball field.  He wanted to know what the prisoner was doing and ordered him to stop.  No response.  It was obvious the man was having some kind of  mental breakdown.

Guards at San Quentin, as they are in other jails and prisons, are taught not to enter a potentially dangerous situation with a prisoner without at least eight other guards.  This is to completely imobilize the inmate and not risk their own personal safety.  This particular one was sitting quietly on the ground shoving gobs of turf in his own face. He was obviously a threat and needed to be beaten down before things got out of hand.

So, when the proper amount of guards amassed, they proceeded to approach the man and do just that.  In fact, they protected the prison so well  the man was actually removed from the institution…  By ambulance.   Once again things were safe again inside San Quentin from grass-eaters experiencing psychological breakdowns..

And the volunteer teacher showing great concern who ran outside to see what was happening to her student?  She was also removed from the prison.  Told she needed to concentrate on teaching, and not the delicate prison security maneuvers she knew nothing about.  “Next time stay in the trailer,” were the gruff instructions meted out to her.

If you are not shocked by this, you should be.  But go inside a prison like San Quentin for any length of time and you’ll start to see such abuses of the mentally ill.  Sans the beating,  many are not getting the proper treatment or follow up they would get on the street.  Most of these men, and women in crisis, don’t end up in the hospital.  They are thrown back in their six by nine cells to silently suffer by  themselves.

However, if inmates are hearing voices or anything that pronounced, they could be fortunate enough to end up in the prison hospital where they have a better chance of being treated for their mental illness.  But if you are severely depressed from bipolar illness, that’s ok. “You’re in prison.  You’re not supposed to be happy.” is what you might get back from a guard.

Can you imagine hitting bipolar rock bottom, locked in a jail cell and not getting the right medication, if any at all?  Writhing in deep depression, unable to sleep, not knowing if anybody will come help or if anyone is even thinking about you?  Or to be mistakenly denied your medication and going through serious withdraw symptoms?  And in the middle of your dry heaving, severe muscle pain and uncontrollable tears, you’re told the prison psychologist already went home for the weekend and will see you on Monday morning?  But you are expected to sit in your hot little decrepit yellowed paint peeling cell and wait while he plays a little golf, barbecues a few steaks, gets his Lexus detailed, screws his wife, takes an aspirin for a headache and indulges in all the other pleasantries of being free and mentally stable?

It pains me to my core to know things like this are going on everyday in the California correctional system.  And, I’m sure we aren’t the only state without basic compassion for human beings in mental crisis.  I don’t want to hear, “well, they did commit a crime.” I drove in the car pool lane two months ago by myself intentionally.  It was faster and I was late.  Spotted by the California Highway Patrol, I got a $350 ticket. Does this mean I should be denied on the scene care from an EMT if I ever get into a serious car accident?  Because I once drove in the carpool lane without another passenger on purpose?  Of course not.  So why is it if you commit a crime are you denied psychiatric care, or competent psychiatric care, for that matter?  Why don’t we just stone mentally ill prisoners while we’re at it?

Nobody knew or ever reported on the San Quentin incident.  How many more went un-noticed?   Think how you would feel being incarcerated and bipolar.  Would you feel confident you were getting the right care?  How would your anxiety level be locked in a six by nine cell with another grown man you don’t like?   Everyone is complaining around you.  Can you even make your voice heard?

Being locked up and denied your freedom is the punishment for committing certain crimes.   Mental suffering while locked up is not something the judge orders.  Yet, our prison systems in the United States continue to serve it up.  We have to learn to slip the cuffs of silence on the subject.

Finding a Psychiatrist: The Bipolar Toll Booth   1 comment

“She can only see me once a month between European vacations.”  “It doesn’t seem like he’s listening to me.” ” He text messages during our sessions.”  “She never calls me back when I’m in crisis. Then when I end up in the emergency room she only calls the attending physician to make sure everyone knows it’s not her fault.” “I swear he ignores the pharmacy’s request for my refills on purpose.”  “He just gives me the same medications and dosages, even when I tell him they aren’t working.”

These are what I’ve heard fellow bipolar sufferers say about their psychiatrists.  If you read my book Buzzkill, you also learn of my experience with a doctor who could not stand the smell of cologne and the fluid used to dry clean suits.  The first half of each session was always spent sniffing me out to make sure I was oder free.  Irregardless of the fact that after the first session I purposely wore a “dirty suit,” she’d start accusing me of wearing a clean one, run around the office opening all the windows and blowing a fan directly in my face.  Then she’d start “honking” like Felix Unger, the compulsively clean and hyper-allergenic character on the 1970’s comedy The Odd Couple.  I felt like I should have been the doctor and she the patient.

I also wrote about the mood disorder specialist who pumped me up on a cocktail of drugs in our consultation, then didn’t find a need to see me again.  Wouldn’t answer the phone or my emails.  So while probably stuffing his face with Peking Duck in Lobster Sauce on a Saturday night with his doctor friends in Chinatown, I’m at home all loopy and depressed from the mixture of antidepressants and mood stabilizers he cowboyed into me.

It’s not only hard to find a psychiatrist,  but it’s hard to find one that will see you.  And when you’re suicidal, depressed, manic and have been awake for days,  it’s even a more of a daunting task.  “No, I’m not taking on any new patients.  But good luck finding a doctor before you clock out.”  “Well, I don’t work with bipolar patients.  I just like whiney housewives.”  “I’m planning a trip around the world.  But I can give you a couple of names I just pulled out of my ass.”  “Oh, you sound at your wits end.  I’m so sorry. But I won’t have an opening for six months. Can you hang on until then?”  Thank you doctor.

At this point when you do find a doctor you are selecting them out of desperation rather than reputation.  As long as they have a first year medical student’s knowledge of bipolar illness, you’ll go see them.  I’ve been so desperate before I would have gone to a pediatrist if I thought he could help.  Beggars can’t be chosers.

This is why I recommend, even if you are doing well at the moment, make sure you have a doctor you are comfortable with now.  That way if you ever end up in a crisis situation, you won’t be stuck looking for a psychiatrist with the phone in one hand and a bottle of pills in the other.

If you are on public assistance, your choices are a bit more limited.  However you do not always have to take what you get.  For instance, I know in San Francisco there are several centers for people without financial means to go for psychiatric help.  And I’ve been told some are better than others.  I’d investigate which is the best clinic for an emergency and establish a relationship with a doctor there beforehand.

But if you have the means to see a private psychiatrist, get ready for a shock.  And it’s not part of therapy.  Not only are you charged egregiously for the visit, but you have to pay each time you have a phone conversation by the minute and for each prescription they refill.  Plus you have to submit your own insurance paperwork.  It kind of makes you angry like when charged fifteen dollars to check a bag at the airport.  You know you’re being milked, but you can’t drive yourself to Hawaii.  Nor can you write your own prescriptions.

Luckily, I was fortunate to find a great doctor who was on the phone with me three times a day for almost a week trying to stabilize me even before he could see me for our first session.  And he turned out to be as caring and competent in person as he was on the phone.  I feel extremely fortunate to have found him.  But yes, like all good professionals, he comes at a price.

But I prefer to look at psychiatrist fees  like driving through a bipolar toll booth.  You have to pay if you want to get where you want to go.