Archive for June 2012

In Bipolar We Trust   Leave a comment

Dealer:  “Hello, Car Dealer.”

Man:  “Yes, I’d like to bring my car in for service.  Do you have time available this week?”

Dealer:  “We do, but how do I know you are going to show up?”

Man:  “Because I want to get my car serviced.”

Dealer:  “Did you buy it here?”

Man:  “Yes.”

Dealer:  “Give me a minute.  I need to confirm that.”

Man:  “Can I please just schedule a service?”

Dealer:  “Is this your first service with this vehicle?”

Man:  “Yes.”

Dealer:  “You must pre-pay.”

Man:  “How do I know the cost without it being looked at?

Dealer:  “How do I know without pre-paying you’ll show up for your appointment?”

Man:  “Because my car needs service and I bought it from you.”

Dealer:  “Computer is down.  I can’t confirm that.  Call back tomorrow.”

Trust.  It’s one of the most important words in the English language.  Without it society ceases to function.  And in general the majority of people in the world are trustworthy.  But there are enough degenerates out there to ruin it for us all.

The car dealer example is a little extreme. But it’s not too far off the mark.  Most businesses will not take a personal check because they don’t trust you not to bounce it on them.  Hotels want your credit card number when you arrive just in case you decide to check out without paying.  Clothes in decent stores are hooked to the racks with alarmed wires because they are afraid you’ll steal them.  Even in Walgreens Pharmacy you can not get an electric toothbrush head without someone unlocking the cabinet.  Who in  the hell is going to steal a plastic electric tooth brush head?  Are we a society of thieves that will steal anything not nailed down, whether or not we need it?

However, we need trust to survive.  You have to trust the babysitter with which you leave your kids, or else you’ll never get out of the house.  You need faith that the item you bought and paid for on eBay is going to arrive as ordered.  And, when you sit down to eat at a nice restaurant, nobody does a credit check to see if you will be able to pay for the meal.

Trust is even more important to someone suffering from Bipolar Illness.  This is probably because everything about the illness and its treatments have a plethora of ways to present itself in each individual.  Consequently, a Bipolar person can not trust that the drug regiment that worked on their best friend will work for them.  And, that they will experience the same side effects to the same magnitude.  When it comes to treating Bipolar, even the doctors don’t make definitive statements.

But Bipolar people have to trust something.  Otherwise our lives will be in constant chaos.  We’d all be seeking different treatments, if any at all.  The majority of us would be in the throes of mania or in the deep dark bowels of depression.  So, we put our trust in our psychiatrists.   They are educated and know more about Bipolar Illness and its treatments than anyone else we have access to.  We trust them to guide us down the path to a better quality of life by learning how to best manage our illness.  We know the going can be rough until we find the right medication(s).  But, we trust the doctor to get us through it.

Bipolars also need to be able to trust people.   They need friends who will show up when they said they will for coffee.  Significant others who won’t forget to stop by the pharmacy after work to pick up your medications.  A Bipolar Support Group where you can freely talk about your issues to others going through the same trials and tribulations.  Whether they know about your illness or not, you need people who “have your back.”  In return, you must do your part and “have their back.”

A Bipolar twenty-something I wrote about once before in a Bipolar Support Group I attended took this “got your back” thing a little too far.  He has a Bipolar friend who was very depressed and cancelled plans with him several times.  The friend even told him about his depression being why he cancelled.  The guy in my support group was so disgusted he cut his ties with this person.  He said he was undependable, couldn’t be trusted and was lazy.  You’d think being Bipolar himself he’d be more understanding.  But he put himself on a pedestal for Bipolar achievement because he does not lie in bed all day.  I was pretty disgusted and asked him if he was so wonderful why was he still on state disability and not working?  He looked like someone just gave him a spoonful of motor oil.   His argument was crushed.

There are a lot of  mean people out there.  A judgmental, vindictive and belittling person can come into your life with a smile and warm handshake.  But so can an empathetic, generous and loyal friend.  For this reason never stop your quest for trust.  Exercise it whenever you can.  Trusting people often attracts other likeminded trusting individuals.  If you are Bipolar you can never have a big enough circle of friends.  And if you pick up a rotten apple, enroll them in one of Oprah Winfrey’s “Life Classes” on her OWN Network.  I heard she has an episode coming up called “I Know Nothing About Life.  Why Am I Giving Classes?”

Am I Obese Or Is It Just In My Mind?   Leave a comment

The other day I saw a grossly overweight woman trying to get a place in the check-out line at the supermarket.  People were jumping in front of her because they assumed she moved slowly.  It seemed like they were thinking, “She’s fat and will slow me down in the if I get behind her.”  This really bothered me.  The cashier checks you out, not the customer.  How could this woman have slowed down the check out process due to her weight?  It was simply insulting and taking advantage of someone because of the way they look.

This upset me on several different levels.  One, just because I hate seeing human beings being cruel to each another.  Mankind has enough hardships without creating more on our own accord.  That woman may not have shown it, but I’m sure in some way it made her feel like less of a person.  It made me want to cry.  Second, I have been in her position before, convinced I was grossly overweight and horrid at which to look.  I know what it feels like to have people laugh and disrespect my slovenly appearance.  I have been the Elephant Man.

In my teens and early twenties I simply could not understand overweight people.  I’d see them lumbering around town, guts hanging over their belts, flabby legs stuffed into their pants, shirts so tight they’re about to pop buttons, arms too chubby to fully rest at their sides, double and triple chins plus whatever else goes along with obesity.  And they’d be huffing and puffing up even the slightest inclines.  You just knew they were stuffing their faces with delicasies like sausage colachies, pizza with cheese baked into the crust, deep fried chicken tacos, milkshakes, ice cream by the barrel and 64 oz. bottles of soda to wash it all down.

And although I would not overtly make fun of them, I’d always think “how could they let themselves deteriorate like that?”  I don’t always feel like working out, but I force myself.  I’d rather have a super-burrito, but I make myself eat salad.  But these people have no self-discipline.  They deserve to be fat.  They should have to buy two airplane seats when they fly.  They wanna be pigs, let them pay for it.

Then one day I started to see myself as fat. My depression had gotten so bad I couldn’t get out of bed to exercise and eating was one of the few things that brought me pleasure.  I began to feel very out of shape and eventually literally saw myself as severely obese.   When I walked around I felt people were making fun of my big bobbling butt, hanging turkey gizzard of a neck and protruding stomach.  My self worth was in the gutter.  I was convinced of being the most unattractive person in the world.

Finally I got on the right medications for my Bipolar II.  And as I starting feeling better psycologically, I ceased seeing myself in the distorted image of a fat man anymore.  But it opened my mind to the depression the obese must face every day.  In my mind I felt the stares, jokes, rudeness and disrespect overweight people absorb on a daily basis.  I understood what it was like to be trapped in a body you hate with the seemingly insurmountable task of losing a significant amount of weight.  I experienced the depression that comes with thinking about all this plus the fact I may never find someone to love and accept me.

The average person does not understand obesity.  However I think being Bipolar gives special insight to obese trials and tribulations.  Many of us have been severely depressed.  Too down to exercise, the inactivity of constantly sleeping and not eating right causing Body Dysmorphic Disorder.  This is when you see your body as something other than it is.  And, you do not see it in a positive light.  Depressed and inactive, many Bipolars seriously view themselves as overweight and unattractive.  This is literally what they see when they look in the mirror.  It’s what I saw before I was on anti-depressants.

At one point I actually did start gaining weight due to a side effect of the medications I was taking.  However because I felt better mentally, I was motivated to eat right and work out extra hard to keep most of it off.  But the terror that comes with thinking you might blow up like a parade float is incredibly debilitating.  Depressing enough to make you want to stop taking your medication.  And many Bipolars would rather have Bipolar depression than be depressed about their weight and body image.

I do not look at obese people the same way anymore.  First of all, I refer to them as overweight, big, obese or large.  And I never fault them for being in that condition.  Many times it’s genetic and has nothing to do with exercise and diet.  Certain people are just large.  For others the idea of having to lose a massive quantity of weight is so ominous they become paralyzed.  Or, some individuals need a trainer to ride them, because they don’t have the self-discipline to do it on their own.  Of course there are still some people out there where in their mind food trumps weight and they don’t have a problem with their size.  I admire them for being happy with who they are.

I feel as Bipolars we have been given a gift to better understand what it’s like for these overweight individuals.  We understand the debilitating depression and other psychological obstacles that make change seem daunting or even unattainable. Since we have to take medications which have side-effects changing our bodies and curtailing certain of our abilities, Bipolar people understand what it’s like to be trapped inside of ourselves.

Overall I believe most obesce people are not happy with their self image and are likely to suffer from some degree of depression over things they can not do or have.  Moreover, in at least one aspect they have it worse than those afflicted with Bipolar Illness… You can not tell when someone is Bipolar because it all happens on the inside.  Unfortunately, overweight people have to wear their problem on the outside for the whole world to see.  I think it’s our duty as Bipolar sufferers to look past the body at the person inside.  We can not expect kindness and understanding from the non-afflicted if we don’t show the same compassion toward others in need.

Making a Bipolar Budget: Because Money Can Buy Happiness   Leave a comment

Whoever said money can’t buy happiness is delusional.  Obviously you can not walk into the supermarket and pick up a box of happiness, roll up a dollar bill and smoke it for instant happiness, or even just hold onto a big wad of cash and suddenly be awash in the warm well being of happiness.

But if you are underwater with your credit cards and about to lose your home, winning the lottery will make you happy.  Or if you’re tired of looking like a park ranger driving that fifteen year old hand-me-down Subaru Forrester, and you get a big bonus at work, buying a 2013 Lexus is bound to make you extremely happy.  Even if you’re depressed, simply knowing money is not one of your problems has got to make you a little happy.

When you’re bipolar money plays an even more significant role in your life.  If you don’t have it it’s one more thing to be depressed about.  Paying for your doctor and your medications are as important as your rent.  And if you don’t have enough for both, you have to decide whether you want to be functional but homeless or have a roof over your head while you wallow without medication in misery.

If you’re of modest means, experiencing bipolar depression and have credit cards, you might use them to bring you comfort; keep all your movie channels, make sure you have unlimited texting, if you’re feeling miserable you can order your favorite delivery every night and hire a cleaning lady twice a week for your studio apartment since cleaning stresses you out.  Although depressed, the credit cards have brought you a degree of happiness until you reach your limits and have to declare bankruptcy.  Then you are really depressed as the well hath run dry.

And if you are manic, money for sure can bring happiness.  You can take your friends out to dinner, order the best wine, change luxury cars like you change your socks, live in a great condo, have a fine Swiss watch for every day of the week and everything else that comes with wealth… However if you’re manic sooner or later you are going to bust out.  And when you are no longer big man on campus and have to start selling the things that brought you so much happiness, they leave you with only depression.   You end up writhing in pain for what you had, how you squandered it and your new lot in life as an ordinary schlump.

So you see,  money does buy happiness.  But the one caveat is it all depends on how you use it.  However if you are in deep bipolar depression or in lofty mania, your judgement is skewed on how to properly disseminate your loot.  If you don’t have cash on hand, borrowing it could cause your money to turn around and attack you when it comes time to start paying it back.   Then come the harassing phone calls from collection agencies making sure you feel like a deadbeat, the repo man taking your car so all your neighbors will think you’re a deadbeat, and the trip to the bankruptcy attorney when you yourself realize you are a deadbeat.

Whether your bipolar comes with mostly depression, mania or hypomania, you have to be extra vigilant with how you handle your finances.  Remember, if money buys happiness, then having none brings just the opposite; misery.   If you don’t have a lot, put together a workable budget when you are feeling well.  If you suffer a deep depression, stay on that budget.  You can trust it to work even when your mind isn’t.  Feel secure in the fact you have a plan that works which will take care of you in your time of illness.  Simple financial security for even the poorest of the poor is very comforting when going through a significant bipolar depressive episode.

The same goes for bipolars who’s illness manifests itself in mania.  Even if you have financial resources, you still need a budget.  Otherwise you’ll overspend, start using credit and end up losing it all when you can’t pay it back.  Then you’ll take the same walk of shame to bankruptcy court.   If you have money, there is no reason why you can not have nice things.  But budget how much you can spend on non-necessities vs what you need to comfortably pay your bills. Again, if you do have a manic episode, stick to the budget no matter what you think you can afford.  If you are positive something is a good move within your financial means, it will still be a good move when you come back down from your manic episode.

Our entire society and reward system revolves around money.  And Bipolar Disease causes its sufferers to have issues with depression, mania and self-worth.  In a society where money can ease depression and increase self-worth, its interaction with bipolar people can be profound.  Furthermore, unless we become a society without currency, which does not exist anywhere even if we’re talking about trading chickens and cows in Africa, people with Bipolar Disease have to make a conscious effort to budget and stick with it.  Especially when they are in a state of depression or mania and not thinking clearly.  A budget will get them through the hard times without escalation.  Otherwise, bankruptcy will be one more ugly aspect in their bipolar basket of a broken life.

Bipolar Support Groups: What are they Supporting?   Leave a comment

A few years ago I was a mess.  Diagnosed Bipolar II with hypomanic episodes and freshly divorced, I was living with my girlfriend, one dog, a cat and her two little girls all in my tiny studio apartment in San Francisco.  Plus, my girlfriend had an ex-husband that would practically scale the side of my apartment hi-rise like a little lobster to the seventh floor looking in on us for incriminating evidence he could use against her in divorce court.

I was already seeing a psychiatrist for my medications and a psychologist for talk therapy.  But the latter felt I was suicidal and needed more support.  It was either go to group therapy or resign me as a client.  I agreed because whenever I was a little late for an appointment she started calling hospitals to see if I was on a metal table a toe tag.  Personally I thought hearing about other people’s problems would depress the pants of me.  However she was adement, so I went out of respect for all the good she had done for me in the past.

I began my group odyssey on a Saturday afternoon in a session held in the basement of a local hospital.  Right away I was greeted by an older, portly, belly sticking out of sweater, thick plastic bespectacled gentleman who would later introduce himself to me at least five more times in the next hour and a half.  I got past him and sat on a chair arranged in a big circle.  I was one of the first people to arrive aside from the facilitator.

The facilitator was not a professional and had no therapy credentials.  He was just a guy in his mid 30’s with severe depression and an uncontrollable inclination to insult strangers he sees out on the street.  Bloated from medication, too much cake and a crew cut that should have come with a complimentary pair of Dennis the Menace pavement sliders, he would read the meeting ground rules as if every syllable bored him more than the last.  Then he’d make sure anyone who wanted to talk had their ten allocated minutes.  And if anyone ever got out of line, he’d ask them to leave. But you could tell cake was his main concern.  Coffee cake, pound cake, walnut cake, angel food cake… Ah, so many wonderful cakes!

Quickly the empty seats filled up with what I assumed were bipolar butts.  But to my surprise almost anyone could sit down and chime in.  And some of the regulars were schizophrenic or had other major psychological disorders.  And when they started talking delusionally, everyone would get mad at them for wasting time and tell them to shut up.   I thought it might be a good idea to get them information about the appropriate group therapy session for their mental disorder, but the moderator just sat there with his thumb up his ass dreaming about the way sponge cake feels when rubbed all over his body.

Here is a snapshot of the Bipolar Support Group’s composure:

We had a delightful gentleman in at the ripe age of 90 who came to talk about his older sister.  He was just lonely and frightened of what life held for him.  He could have been sitting in Knitters Anonymous and be just as content.  But he was too nice a person suggest attending a different meeting.

We had a young school teacher on medical leave, afraid to return to the classroom due to severe panic attacks. It was obvious she was bright and communicative.  I felt her anxiety could be overcome with some exposure and talk therapy.  However, practically everyone united to convince heron permanent disability was the way to go.  To about half the group of around twenty people, the question wasn’t if you could go back to work, it was whether you could qualify for permanent disability.  The consensus was she could make a good case for it.

One lady was never formally diagnosed with anything, but liked making the coffee shop arrangements for after the meeting.  She was a mental illness groupie.  She would latch on to a really sick person and become their sole support system.  And when no longer needed, or getting on that person’s nerves, she’d find a new lost soul in the group to mother.  I think she had a disease called munchausen-bipolar.  She found self worth making herself part of the drama centered around a bipolar person going through hardship.

Then there was a 350 pound woman who was sweet on the outside and a trouble maker on the inside thriving on confrontation.  Once she brought a very old little dog to the group that was literally on it’s last leg.  She was bald, blind, barely able to walk and fighting for breath from fluid filled lungs. This woman walked it around the circle basking in the “isn’t she adorables.”  But the dog was so close to death it was like bringing a dead bird to the meeting.  It was probably a blessing, but the little dog died that evening.

My favorite was a woman who complained of Personality Dissociative Disorder, so she sat with a mirror in front of her reminding herself she was still there.  She never talked.  All she did was stare into the mirror.  I wanted to say, “Put away the mirror.  I’ll let you know if you disappear.”

Finally was the lady with a greenish abscessed toe bursting out of her shoe who always wasted half the session talking about free theatre tickets she can get through an agency that donates them to non-profits.  But that infected toe was like a gargoyle that encouraged me to keep my distance from her.

My last example of the misplaced mentally ill was my greeter.  He would sleep through most of the session and suddenly awaken with a random suggestion, like how to get free pencils from the city.  Apparently he noticed someone writing with one in a notebook and felt it would be helpful knowledge.  Then his head would drop and he’d be back to slumberland in no time.

Basically out of an average of twenty people, two of them talked about real bipolar issues the first time I attended.  The rest would just give advice on how to get permanent disability, free psychiatric care and medications.  Others were there for the coffee shop get-together after each session.  It was more a place to socialize for the generally mentally ill and senile.

Not all bipolar support groups are the same.  I am sure there are some with a better illness vetting process and accredited facilitators who actually lead the group instead of waiting for it to implode.  My suggestion is to learn more about all the Bipolar Support Groups in your area and sit in on several.   Note others in the group looking for a feeling of commonality of mental disorder, age and education.  In other words, find a support group in which you feel comfortable sharing.  With support groups it’s the people attending the group who are most important. They are the ones offering advice and comfort.  It’s crucial you find people you can relate to.

That teacher with the anxiety disorder did eventually go back to work full time and the last I heard is doing quite well.  When asking someone what gave her the confidence to go back to teaching, she told me it was leaving  the support group.   If support groups were on Yelp, what a story she’d have to tell.

Ten Things You Can Do to Stop the Madness   3 comments

If you are bipolar and mania hits, your mind starts to react irrationally.  You begin to make feeble excuses for rash decisions that make sense only to you.  Your thinking becomes grandiose and your ability to complete major undertakings is greatly overestimated.  The chances of speaking your mind and telling others they are mistaken is greatly increased.  Shooting off that email for which you’ll later kick yourself is almost guaranteed.  And, you may not even be aware you are manic.  Many people in this condition think they are finally depression-free and in their true natural state.  It’s in this condition many stop even taking their medications.

I will shit you not; mania is awesome!  You practically need an intern to follow you around taking note of your brilliant ideas, homespun witticisms and words worthy of quotation.  You spend hours composing an admonishing email to a co-worker until it is a perfect piece of literary prose that would even impress The New York Times.  And when you aren’t enlightening the world and putting others in their place, you’re most likely buying an entirely black wardrobe to fit your new Johnny Cash “rebel” image.  Plus, the meds go out the window.

If you have been conscious of your bipolar symptoms for a long enough time, you usually know when you are manic.  You also probably don’t want it to end.  However, you also know the depression that ensues is that much worse.  So, here are some tips on curtailing your mania and avoiding a crash landing on the cold hard unforgiving floor of depression.

  1. Consciously identify you are going through a mind scrambling manic episode.  Then follow the next nine steps without variation.
  2. Stop talking and sit or lie down in a secluded comfortable place attempting to “slow down your mind.”
  3. Do not send any emails or leave any messages for anyone so you don’t say anything strange or offensive.
  4. Write out everything you want to do with your grandiose thinking and why it makes sense.  Then read it back to yourself.  See any flaws?
  5. Write out what you would like to say to the person you want to email, but don’t send it.  Read it back to yourself.  Still want to send it?
  6. Pretend you are now very depressed and had acted on your grandiose thinking and antagonizing email writing.  Will you be sorry?
  7. Do not browse the internet.  There are too many temptations that even those without Bipolar Illness get sucked into.
  8. Put your credit cards and cash in a safe place and institute a moratorium on expenditures until the mania has resolved itself.
  9. Take a vigorous walk or have a hard work out to “sweat the manic” out of you.  Make yourself too exhausted to run around making asinine proclamations of greatness and alienating yourself further from co-workers with non-sensical emails.
  10. Read a book, watch a movie, listen to your favorite music… Anything to take your mind off your mania and focus on something else.

I am not a doctor.  I am not a psychologist or psychiatrist.  I cannot change the oil in my car.  These are just some tips I use to curtail my behavior when I am in a manic cycle.  The steps are difficult to follow because you are in a superhero frame of mind and their focus is to slow things down until you can evaluate the situation with a clear head.

Also, if you are really worried about losing control, find a friend you can call when you are in the throes of mania who can babysit you, making sure you don’t do or say anything you’ll regret.  Being bipolar indicates an afflicted person’s mind suffers at two different poles; uncontrollable mania highs and deep depression lows.  If you allow your mania to ruin your life, your depression will be all the more worse.

Oil Company Mentally Ill People Spill   2 comments

Yesterday I went to my neighborhood gas station-mini-mart and “home of the revolving hot dog” to be raped for $4.35+ per gallon.  Before I even shut my engine off, a short older woman with grey bobbed hair slicked back like a man, sunken in wrinkled face and baggy pants held up by a big black belt hustled over and blocked my car door from opening.  She started screaming something at me but the window was up so I could not make it out.

I put down my window and she leaned in.  In a raspy voice she yelled “Money!  I want money! Give me money!” She was right in my face.  Instantly I suspected mental illness.  Pan handlers usually make up a convoluted story why they need money.  Being bipolar, I wanted to be kind.  However I also needed to make sure she didn’t dry gulch me while I sat in my car.  So I firmly said, “Miss, please step away from my car.”  When she didn’t move I said in a louder voice, “Now!”  She moved.

As I tried to stick my credit card into the machine which allows Chevron to take advantage of you, the woman walked up to me again raging about money.  “Money!  Give me some money!”  Finally I told her I have none and she needs to leave me alone.  I towered over her in stature and when an old beat up Honda pulled up to the pump behind me, her attention turned to the elderly black woman behind the wheel.

Since even I was caught off guard, I felt this senior citizen might be really scared when verbally accosted.  I was going to help convince the mentally ill woman to move away from the Honda, but then I realized the woman inside was arguing her.  She was trying to tell her the error of her ways to no regard.  I actually heard her say she expected this poor behavior from negroes, but not from a white woman.

I smacked myself across the face with the gas pump to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating.  How could she talk like that about her own people?  Could she not see this woman was suffering from mental illness and was not a degenerate looking for a handout?  I stood there in a quandary about what to do when the “I want money woman” walked away to pump other customers at the pump for money.

As for me, I went inside the min-mart and told the manager he needs to call the police so we can get this woman the proper attention she needs.  In San Francisco the police will take the mentally ill to San Francisco General Hospital.  I can’t vouch for the quality of care, but it is better than leaving them on the street to starve, freeze or get beaten up.

However, the manager said “no.”  He told me every time he calls the police they take the woman several blocks away and dump her right off again.  And in a few minutes she’s back working the pumps.  So the manager has no way to get her to leave except through force.  And nobody wants to resort to that.  The people working at the mini-mart all seemed to understand she suffers from mental illness and were somewhat tolerant of her.

As I got in my car and drove away I saw the woman plying her trade on yet another customer in a pick-up truck.  He was not very understanding and looked like he might push her if she didn’t give him his personal space back.  The whole thing left me with an empty and helpless feeling.  Here was a sick person and we just let her operate in a potentially dangerous environment.  If she had a stroke which altered her behavior, she’d be in a hospital with the best of care.  But since you can’t physically see the cause of mental illness, we leave her begging at a gas station with the inability to communicate properly, severely handicapping her likelihood for survival.

Then we have the San Francisco Police, who obviously take this as a joke by dropping her off down the street whenever anyone complains.  Have they ever taken her to the hospital?  Has the hospital refused to accept her?  Is there not someplace they can transport her other than a street corner?  Is mental illness not a big enough priority?  Is it this or jail?  I’m perplexed as to this laxidasical attitude toward human suffering.

To me this almost seems like a Mad Mx movie where everyone fends for themselves.  Where there is no central government providing basic needs for its citizens, like a police force or community hospital.  Where it’s commonplace to see people dressed in rags wandering about muttering to themselves and scavenging for food.   Is this what the conservatives mean by less government?  Should I attach a battering ram and a machine gun turret to my car for self-defense from land pirates?

Currently in California we are going through something called Prison Realignment to save money for our ailing budget.  It means paroling people out of jail on lesser offenses, not jailing people pre-trial, making it easier for inmates i to make parole, opting for house arrest as an alternative to jail and not putting the mentally ill in jail or prison out of lack for a better solution.   Regardless of how you feel about realignment, how they are handling the mentally ill is a double edged sword.  It’s great that we are not just warehousing them in jails and prisons where they don’t belong, as most of them have not committed any significant crimes.  However, simply dumping them on the street with no place to sleep, eat and get psychiatric help might be just as bad.

In San Francisco the solution is to build more facilities and halfway houses filled with mental health professionals to give the mentally ill the treatment they deserve as human beings and get them off the streets.  The current public assistance programs are currently utilized to the breaking point.  Everyone agrees this is the solution.  Unfortunately, the city and state don’t have the money to even make this a day-dream.  So our mentally ill continue to suffer.  I am sure there are similar situations in cities across America.

My suggestion is that if the big oil companies are going to rake us over the coals with gas prices, offer us nothing but overpriced junk food, cigarettes and lotto in their mini-marts and spilling oil all over our beaches, the least they can do is peel off a few cents per gallon and donate it to assisting the mentally ill.  If you live in a major city you know gas station-mini-marts are where people go with money, so the homeless and mentally ill have made their parking lots home and the customers living breathing ATM machines.  It’s the oil company’s duty to clean up their own backyard.

Chevron dumps billions of dollars into cleaning up their oil spills.  But when the mentally ill are spilling into their parking lots harassing customers, they spend not one thin dime dealing with that human catastrophe.

Medication and Mixed Marriages   Leave a comment

I should have been happy, but she was driving me insane.  I almost had to ask my psychiatrist to add a sixth medication to my cocktail so I wouldn’t strangle my wife.  “Did you take your pills?  When did you take them?  Are you sure you took the right dose?  Lets double-check.”  At one point she even took to counting my pills out for me.  My word meant nothing.

You see, I was in a mixed marriage.  I am Bipolar II but the woman I married was sane.  However, after watching me suffer through two severe depressions ending in hospitalizations, several bouts with exhaustive mania, which usually included me buying a new car, a Swiss watch, jewelry, or all of the above, she became vigilant about me taking my medications.  To her this was the only thing she could do to ward off future episodes.  One time she even got the pills and walked them over to me like she was giving a dog a biscuit.  I was waiting for her to ask me to lift up my tongue proving I swallowed them like in the mental ward.

My wife had never experienced even a friendship with someone who was mentally ill until she met me.  And after we married I had my first major depressive episode, in which I overdosed on Lorazepam and washed them down with half a bottle of Seagrams Seven.  She was really rattled.  Watching the EMT’s accompanied by the San Francisco Police come into our apartment and load her semi-conscious husband into a waiting ambulance definitely made an impression on her.

Racially mixed marriages are easier even if you come from two different cultures.  You can experience each other’s heritage by eating favorite ethnic foods, listening to each other’s music, meeting the parents, seeing where you each grew up and getting to know one another’s friends.  But in this kind of mixed marriage, if you have Bipolar Disease, you can’t expect your sane spouse to climb into your head to experience your own private hell, have them take your medications so they can share the joys of shaky hands dumping hot coffee in their lap, have them cozy up to a schizophrenic roommate in a locked mental ward so they can see where you sometimes hang out and let them experience a manic episode culminating in a wild shopping spree, maxing out their credit cards putting themselves on the fast track to bankruptcy.

For this reason I think the chances of this type of mixed marriage working out are tenuous at best.  Lets say you are the sane one, and your spouse has Bipolar Disease.  At a certain point you are going to think they are lazy for sleeping too much.  And they are not much fun because they feel most comfortable at home away from noisy crowded restaurants and bars.  Plus they’re a total party-pooper because when the evening medication kicks in around ten PM, they are ready for bed.  Worst of all, they never want to have sex because their medication has sucked the horny right out of them.  I ask you, even if you know it’s the Bipolar Disease talking, how long can you put up with this type of in-patient lifestyle?  I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t say it would be difficult for me, even knowing what I know about Bipolar Disease.

My wife ended up asking for a divorce.  She said my Bipolar Disease wasn’t a factor, but I know it was.  I was hypomanic.  I couldn’t stand to be touched. I was self-medicating with alcohol and doing most of it outside the home in various neighborhood bars.  This is also when I first started my quarterly purchase of a new car.  And, I wasn’t keeping my wife informed regarding my medications.  Her involvement in my illness was no longer welcome.  I could not live in her world of vigilance and who in their right mind would want to live in mine of drunken insanity?

I often wonder what it would be like if two bipolar people tied the knot? No longer would it be a mixed marriage.  However, I can see it either turning out to be a wonderful understanding, loving relationship, or two people fighting like hillbillies in West Virginia over a pot of three-day old rabbit stew.  On one hand they can comfort one another because they know exactly what he or she is going through.  However, being on the receiving end of a manic episode, severe depression, bouts of agoraphobia, time-consuming OCD or whatever else your mate might have bundled in their bipolar profile, might be quite menacing.  Even if you have Bipolar Disease yourself, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can take it from somebody else.  Especially if you are making more progress than your spouse in recovery.  Then you might even harbor unwarranted feelings of anger, as if they are just living a life of slack.  You could inadvertently become a Bipolar Snob creating a hierarchy within the disease.

I am not suggesting people with Bipolar Disorder give up on the idea of mixed marriage.  I think it’s the people who make the marriage work, not simply a non-afflicted partner’s ability to tune out the scary stuff.  It’s more important that they face their partner’s bipolar idiosyncrasies and possible breakdowns with an aire of calmness.  My fiancee (I still hate that pretentious word) is not bipolar, but when I hit a rough patch she is the picture of cool.  She makes sure I am safe, provides comfort and allows me to ride it out.

My advice is when entering into a mixed marriage or serious relationship, make sure the non-afflicted partner knows and understands Bipolar Disease and how it manifests in your particular situation.  Prepare them for how to handle a bout of depression or mania.  Then if and when it happens, they won’t be surprised and will already have an appropriate plan of support.

I once dated a girl and we were really starting to like each other.  She told me her criteria for getting serious with a guy is that he lived on his own and had no mental issues.  I stood up from the couch and handed her her coat.  “Well, I guess we’re not going to work out because I’m bipolar.”  It really pissed me off because it’s a disease, not an acquired trait or born out of a personality flaw.

She must have really liked me because she gave me a pass.  But I never could get her comment out of my mind.  And I knew anything I did would be under close scrutiny for being a product of my mental illness.  So, it turned out I was not comfortable dating her.  So the last thing I will say is that when embarking on a mixed relationship or marriage, save yourself some heartache and find out how the object of your desire feels about mental illness before you get too serious.  You could save yourself a miserable trip down Bipolar Break-up Lane, where relationship are only as strong as your medication.

Buzzkill: “One Man’s Disorderly Struggle with Bipolar Disorder” on Kindle Now   1 comment

One Man's Disorderly Struggle with Bipolar Disorder

Available on Kindle Now

Posted June 5, 2012 by Buzzkill - Official Booksite in Uncategorized

Anti-Depressants Get You Stoned? Tweet This   Leave a comment

Thanks to my medication, I am better able to control my hypomania.  I have been diagnosed Bipolar II with rapid cycling.  This means I can go from loving life to wanting to discontinue my membership all within a half hour.   My mental state can flip back and forth all day long like a freshly caught trout lying on the deck of a fishing boat struggling in vain to get back in the water.  Eventually the depression would always win out and I’d be back to planning my demise..

But thanks to the advances in psychiatric diagnosis and medications, my lifelong struggle with Bipolar II hypomania has been reduced to a level I can control and I have not recently been scraping the red hot floor of the pit of depression.  In fact, I have amazed myself on how stable I have become in the face of some very serious adversity.  I thank modern science for saving my life.  And I can tell you at least fifty stories similar to mine.

I was looking at Twitter yesterday to make sure my book Buzzkill was not tweeted about again (why break the silence), and I see there is a tweeter professing that anti-depressants and other psychiatric drugs in that genre actually make you high, as in inebriated.  He goes on to purport a person on psychotropics can not make decisions because of their altered mental state.  I am paraphrasing.

Natasha Tracy did a great job calling out this shlomo and addressing his comments in her blog yesterday.  However, this uneducated moronic rhetoric from a self-appointed protector of society makes me crazier than I already am. It’s my bipolar duty to fully skewer this “Mr. Twitter” as Tracy has dubbed him.  And, this is for anybody else who is on the “bipolar doesn’t exist and anti-depressants are evil train” which is now probably winding through birther country looking to blow the cover off something else they know nothing about.

First of all,  psychotropic drugs can not possibly be “fun drugs.”  They don’t contain any kind of narcotic or agents to alter your senses.   If they did people would be chopping up Effexor and snorting it like Oxycontin.   Furthermore, each person requires a specific dose of anti-depressant medication based on their body chemistry, and the same drugs do not work on everyone.  Ineffectiveness means not only don’t they work, but they probably make you feel more depressed.  Worst of all, if a drug or combination thereof does work, you will probably have delightful side effects which may include sexual dysfunction, weight gain, dry mouth, shaky hands and short term memory loss, to name a few.  This is why anti-depressants have no street value either.

So please Mr. Twitter, explain to me what is fun about anti-depressants and alike?  I don’t see kids at Rave’s dropping Lamictals.  I don’t see kids stealing their dad’s Cymbaltas to catch a buzz.  Have you ever heard of a doctor over-prescribing Risperdal at 200-300 a month like some doctors do with Soma, Valium and Oxycontin?  And who would take a drug that may make you feel worse or feel better but ruin your sex life?  Believe me, you have to be extremely depressed to go down the medication route and it’s anything but fun.

Secondly, these drugs are based in science.  They work to regulate the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in your brain.  When not in balance they create depression and or mania.   Some guy running a garage meth lab in Newark New Jersey didn’t accidentally figure this out trying to make a pound of smack.  Nor did some brainiac at Harvard School of Medicine accidentally mix two chemicals together and have a hunch they may be good for depression.  And when they were formulating Geodon, a little cocaine didn’t fall off the shelf and accidentally get mixed in with it so now everyone is under the misconception it helps with depression.

Third, anti-depressants do work.  Personally, they enabled me to have a reasonably normal life.  I wrote about my experiences in Buzzkill, “My Disorderly Struggle with Bipolar Disorder.”  And there are at least a hundred other books out there with bipolar people telling their amazing stories.  Moreover, one in five people in the general population are dealing with some sort of mental illness.  This makes for an overwhelming cadre of individuals who have been helped by these drugs.  Since Mr. Twitter has never experienced Bipolar Disease, who is he to comment on how the medications make you feel and their efficacy?

If Mr. Twitt tries to hide behind “everybody has a right to an opinion,” I’ll be the first to say “no they don’t.”  Stupid people do not have a right to an opinion.  Only people who have real knowledge on a subject have a right to an opinion.  Otherwise they are just babbling fools.  And I’m pretty sure this guy is the latter.

Finally, how can this social moron possibly make a statement like “people on anti-depressants should not be able to make decisions?”  Is it better that we make them in the throes of suicide?  Do the pills make us so deliriously happy that we might start dry-humping our neighbors?  I’ve yet to see a bipolar person on medication so impaired they make the life-threatening decision of accidentally ordering a regular Coke when they meant to order a Diet Coke with their lunch.    These medications are designed to restore your mental state to one of normalcy.  Does this mean when a person takes an aspirin they should not be able to make decisions?  Because, an aspirin will make you about as loaded as an anti-depressant.  Nothing this person says makes any sense.

I ask you, why does Mr. Twitt, and others like him, have such a vendetta against people with Bipolar Disease?  Why is it an area of such major concern to him? Did a person with Bipolar Disease, wasted out of his mind on Elavil, rob their local Seven-Eleven armed with a pill cutter and steal all of the Gatorade because he had such intense dry mouth?  And now Mr. Twitt is out to keep the world safe by ridding society of these psychotropic drugs?  Is the suicide rate not high enough for him?  Have not enough people suffered from Bipolar Disease alone and depressed?  Am I missing some sort of satisfaction that comes from making people that already have severe depression feel worse?

The problem with social forums is that naysayers can jump on and make unsubstantiated comments remaining anonymous and unaccountable.   And although I understand the nature of the technology and should be well past letting things like this stick in my crawl,  every once in a while a dingleberry like Mr. Twitter breaks through and ignites me.

But please ignore me.  I’m stoned out of my mind on Effexor, Lamictal and Topamax.  What do I know?

Internet Pornography: Use Your Head   1 comment

The other night I found myself out of 25mg Topamax tablets.  I take 125mg in the morning and at bedtime as a mood stabilizer.  So I used a pill cutter to quarter a 100mg pill and more or less jerry-rigged the right dosage.  When you’ve been bipolar as long as I have been, you learn to improvise.

Well that protective covering on pills is there for a reason.  I woke up around 3am with my esophagus burning and the sensation spreading like a heat wave across my chest giving me horrific heartburn. When I stood up to go into the bathroom so did the contents of my stomach.  It’s like there was a wide open freeway between my stomach and mouth and not a toll booth in sight.  I felt like I just had the Imperial Indian Buffet and washed it down with a glass of whole whipping cream straight out of the container to achieve this level of heartburn and acid reflux.

Needless to say I stayed home from work that day.  And like any intelligent professional, I spent the afternoon looking at porn on the internet.  Obviously I’ve already seen some of it, but I never really crawled into the dark alleys and under the bar-stools before.  The thing that struck me is just how predatory in nature it is.

Of course, logging on is your decision.  But there is an amazing plethora of sites to connect with women who want sex in your area, sites to view and chat live with women, sites for married people to discreetly meet other frustrated souls for sex, sites to satisfy any fetish under the sun, sites for fetishes that haven’t even become fetishized yet, and hundreds of sites to get an escort to a hotel room within an hour.   You can have college girls, MILFS, cougars, dominatrixes…. Anything you want right there for the pickin’ if you have a cell phone and credit card.

And all of  the sites have free trial offers with features so limited the horny can barely enter their credit card numbers fast enough to become full members.  Most sites out of kindness keep automatically charging you monthly so your membership will never run out.  However trying to get someone on the phone to cancel is harder than finding a good restaurant in Dayton, Ohio.

Personally, I love how the porn industry has made the internet their home.  I remember the days of seedy adult bookstore like shacks set back from the road with gravel parking lots where customers never made eye contact. Also, there was the risk of embarrassment being seen in the adult section of your neighborhood video store by someone you know.   It even took guts to buy a Playboy at a Seven-Eleven when I was coming of age in the late 70’s.  I would have rather tried to buy beer and cigarettes.  Getting busted was far less humiliating.

But the internet gives you complete privacy to wallow in your fetishes. It even offers live video striptease where you run the show making the girl do anything you desire. You almost expect her hand to reach through your computer screen and grab your crotch.  Although it hasn’t ever happened as far as I know,  many of the girls are only too happy to meet later for a drink.

Theoretically the internet has given voyeurs the best quality and most choices of porn the world has ever seen.  And perverts are a small segment of the audience.  Everybody gets horny or curious and takes a peek at one time or another.  It’s human nature.  But if you are a bipolar male, and I am speaking to you as one, internet porn can make you obsessed.  Since we all often suffer from some degree of obsessive compulsive disorder, or are frequently looking for distractions to take our minds off of our undesirable mental states, it’s easy to get sucked into this world of free trial memberships, escorts just waiting for your call, married but horny sites filled with frustrated women who are dying to meet you and swingers and sex clubs which can make all your hidden desires come true.

Internet porn is addictive and it never sleeps.  And except for the really raunchy things, I liked it all to some degree.  But I also see my bipolar side becoming obsessed with it.  Some of the sites are so sophisticated you can talk live in a private session with a naked girl. Subconsciously I thought the longer I stayed online the greater my chances.  Chances of what? I had no idea.  Maybe there is a naked girl lurking out there in cyberspace waiting for me.

This was the beginning of classic Obsessive Compulsive Behavior.  If I had not been consciously looking for how and why it kicks in with internet porn, I might have become a customer.  And of course I made a conscious effort not to let it run my life by becoming an addiction.  I headed it off at the pass.  The problem is a bipolar male unaware of internet porn’s power to become another manifestation of his OCD can get sucked in with ease.

I’m a 46 year old heterosexual male.  I like to look at naked women and those in sexy lingerie.  I am very careful not to spend an inordinate amount of time online looking.  I think most bipolar men feel the same way I do and have a modicum of self control not to let it run their lives.  Online porn is not the problem, it’s people who can not  make it fit proportionally into their lives.  Porn just happens to be the catalyst.  But you can just substitute obsessive hand-washing for internet porn and you see the same behavior pattern.  Bipolars have to be vigilant not to become addicted.

I also see too much pornography having an emotional downside.  It makes women look less like people and more like objects men use for sexual gratification.  Moreover, many of these women are sex professionals, so when a spouse or a girlfriend can’t perform at their level, or won’t recreate specific scenarios, it can cause problems in the relationship.

Unfortunately, I am not able to speak about bipolar women and their usage of internet pornography.  However, if in the comment box women would like to write about their experiences, thoughts and concerns on the subject, I’d be more than happy to post them for all to read.

In conclusion, remember that sex and being bipolar can be a very tenuous combination.  Even the most self aware regarding their Bipolar Illness are still affected by hormones to which they have little to no control over.  When common sense might tell you enough internet porn for the day, your penis is telling you just a few more pictures or movies.  The feeling of excitement is overpowering.  And when the little head is talking, the big head isn’t listening.  And that is exactly why the internet porn industry has become so successful; guys can’t resist the excitement and keep coming back for more.

So, as a bipolar man, I say enjoy the pornography the internet has to offer.  Just understand the mechanics of your mind and don’t let it become an obsession.  It’s not a particularly savory one.  Nobody ever says, “Yeah, Bill is a great guy.  Did you know he spends five hours a day looking at internet porn?  He’s really committed.  I don’t know how he manages it with a family and part time job.”