Archive for July 2012

Is That a Scowl on Your Face or Are You English?   Leave a comment

Ever take a good look at an Englishman?  They always look like half their face is about to ask a question and the other half already knows it will be dissatisfied with the answer.  Usually one eyebrow is permanently cranked up higher than the other, with a slightly wrinkled brow and asymmetrical mouth full of crowded yellow tombstones which all seem to be trying to jump over the lower lip to their death.   But in reality they are great people who have simply never mastered “the relaxed look.”

Then there are the people who might actually have lovely faces, but their frustrations and social indignations cause them to look like they are permanently choking on a LifeSaver and giving you the evil eye all at the same time. These people can control their facial expressions, but their anger within forces them to emulate a look of disgust.  Much like when Paris Hilton has to use a public restroom in Neiman Marcus.

I recently met a girl online with the look of disgust permanently etched on her otherwise pretty face.  It was as if not only the Lifesaver was lodged in her throat, but she detested man’s treatment of women through history and carried the full Suffragette Movement squarely on her shoulders.  She sought out men just to put them down.

I once met Gloria Steinem in the 1980’s in a talk radio station at which I worked in Philadelphia  She spent the better part of her life championing women’s equality in all areas.  Yet she was pleasant, gracious, easy to talk to and was nothing but delightful to me.  I don’t think she had it in for every man.  Nor did she feel the need to set ground rules for the code of conduct and conversation in her presence.

Apparently this woman never met Gloria Steinem and was emulating how she thought a feminist should act.  And when I mentioned a woman I knew remarking she was over 200 pounds,  I got the immaturity lecture piggybacked on the defamation of women diatribe.  Just the mention of a woman’s weight for whatever reason was interpreted as slander of the entire gender.  Her voracity on this issue was so intense it bled through her face giving it a permanent scowl.   And this is the picture she chose to post on the internet to attract men.  But there was no decent English person inside struggling to get out.

At first I was angry, although I saw the warning signs when we began emailing one another and right away she started dictating the things she would not stand for.  Top of her list was how I need to speak about women.  She would not tolerate anything demeaning coming out of my mouth.  I was hugely disappointed because my opening line was calling Mother Theresa a whore and saying women should not be allowed to work outside the home.  Now I had no more smooth introductions.

At this point I should have seen her as a gargoyle, not a perspective date.  I under-estimated her toxicity.  I misjudged her scowl for being an artist tortured by the harsh realities of life.  She looked like the type who came alive through her music and poetry, not from a general disdain for men and a penchant for talking to them like a school teacher.

But I am proud of myself.  My Bipolar mind wanted to attack.  She was out of line and I wanted to shock and awe her, even though George Bush tried it in Iraq and couldn’t seem to make it work.  But I’m not from Texas and knew I could get it right..  I thought of all the things I would say to upset her in rambling emails I would pepper her inbox with on a daily basis.  I was definitely on the precipice of losing control.  She hit my trigger and I wanted to respond in a way much bigger.

Anyone who is aquatinted with me, or has read my book, articles and blogs, knows I have the utmost respect for all human beings.  Some of my greatest heros in life are actually women.  Mama Cass, Big Mama Thornton, Hillary Clinton, Janis Joplin, Rosa Parks and my adopted daughter’s birthmother, to name a few.  And, my 13 year old daughter is smart, strong and has remarkable perseverance in the most difficult situations.  I fully expect her to be a leader in whatever field she choses.  Moreover, I learned manners and chivalry I use every day  from my maternal grandmother, a figure standing out for reinforcing in me the utmost respect for the opposite sex.  I often refer to female as the smarter sex.

However I learned from experience, even when I am right, ratcheting up the tenor of a situation like this only makes me seem insane. Plus, I knew I would say something I would later regret.  So I took the ten minute Bipolar-pause and the knee jerk reaction to embarrass myself passed.  Instead I wrote this blog proclaiming my accomplishment.  Because as Bipolars we all have fired off that email, no matter how righteous we may have been, that we later regret.  And today by not doing something I actually have a feeling of accomplishment.

So I want to thank the scowling girl on the internet for helping me reach another Bipolar milestone.  Without her misconstrued interpretations, instructional demeanor and high horse she angrily rides around in mens locker rooms criticizing them for not having vaginas,  I would not have gotten to challenge my Bipolar mind on exercising self control.   Many thanks.

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Do Clothes Make the Bipolar or Does the Bipolar Make the Clothes?   Leave a comment

Did you ever have a “bad outfit day?”  It’s like a bad hair day except your outfit is making you feel like you’re dressed for no success.  If you’re a guy, maybe your shirt is giving you  man breasts, your pants are showing just a little bit too much sock or your sport coat is bunching up in the back like you’re a marionette and someone is tugging at it with strings.  If you’re a woman your jeans might make your ass look flat as a frying pan, you’re not sure if your cow-neck sweater is back in fashion or belongs on a cow or your jewelry is reminiscent of a carnival.  Whatever it is, it will drive your Bipolar mind crazy all day long until you can scurry home and put on something to relieve the emotional stress of being laughed at every where you went… Or so you thought.

I had a bad outfit day today.  It hit me when I was low on clean clothes and needed a black shirt to match what I was wearing.  I ended up wearing a faded v-neck sweater that had seen better days.  When I was standing on the cable car on my way to work and caught a glimpse of myself in a store window, the bad outfit blues hit me like a Louisville Slugger right in the back of the head.  And, I was meeting friends after work.  I couldn’t let them see me like this.

I don’t know how bad the shirt really looked.  I’m sure people wouldn’t have paid it any mind.  But in my Bipolar psyche, all eyes are always on me.  Everyone could see the ragged sleeves and neck.  And the fading would for sure let the world know I was trying to stretch my wardrobe out one more season.  No, this was serious and something had to be done.  I felt like I was wearing a garbage bag with arm holes cut out.  I waited until 10 AM when the stores opened and then ran out of work to a Banana Republic, purchased a new shirt, threw out the embarrassment-special and was back in the office ten minutes later and $75 lighter.   And then my mind was free to ruminate on whether my jeans fit properly and if my boots needed a better shine.

My question is if a Bipolar person with these exaggerated intrusive thoughts starts out the day making absolutely sure they are satisfied with their ensemble no matter what mirror and lighting they apply, will they feel more confident during the day?  Or, does it not matter whether a Bipolar is wearing a Hugo Boss Suit or Channel Gown, they will still be a wardrobe misanthrope and the only way they can stop the obsession is to divert their attention?

There is a certain point where you have to say you look as good as you can and now it’s time to stop over-analyzing and interact with the planet?  Because, other than what your mind is telling you, the only way people will be staring at your pants is if you pee in them.  But as a dry parcel of clothing is doubtful anyone really cares if they are a little short, make your ass look flat or are an “off brand.”  And unlike your head, you can always take them off at the end of the day.

Consequently, I think it’s the Bipolar who makes the clothes.  Appear confident in what you are wearing, even if you are not, because acting like a fashion faux pas is only going to  add to the circus you’ve created in your mind.  Be confident.  It can only make you look better in your bad outfit.  And being Bipolar, you have to ask yourself, “Is my outfit really that bad?”  You know, we are prone to skewed impressions of ourselves.

So, take a play right out of the fictional Bipolar Survival Guide… Find someone wearing an outfit you think is even more hideous, and just be thankful you aren’t wearing that train wreck.   Remember, y0u can always find comfort in someone less fortunate than you to boost your self confidence.

The Bipolar Break Up Blog   Leave a comment

MBA Speak: There has been a lot of spin about whether or not it’s ethical to break up with a mentally ill partner, and if so, what is best practice? What wasn’t noodled on was now that  I’ve drank the Kool Aid and walked over the hot coals, what’s my end game?

Translation:  I decided from all I read it was appropriate to break up with my fiancee.  I did so slowly and hopefully as compassionately as possible, although I did have my moments of anger.  But now that it’s done, how will I get on with my life?

I don’t think it’s possible to flick a switch and just stop loving somebody.  Even with all the anger I felt during our relationship, love existed simultaneously.   These two emotions are not exclusive to one another.   You can hate long car rides but still love your car.  And being Bipolar, I have all the inherent second guessing as to whether she could have changed, did I do enough to help, should I have gotten her family involved and most hauntingly, how would I feel if the tables were turned and she left broken-Bipolar me?

The hardest part is that we could get back together.  I miss her voice, her softness, her face and her smell.  If she would have me I’d rush back into her arms.  And she might feel the same way.  The depression borne from my yearning for her touch could be easily cured by re-establishing that connection.

But intellectually, I know it is the wrong thing to do.  I have to reach into my Bipolar brain and press the “override” button because reverting to what is comfortable won’t be that way for long.  And, I will have negated all the strength I summoned from the depths of my tortured soul to leave and actually make the break.  Plus, going back to status quo wouldn’t be doing her any favors either.  Maybe me leaving will cause her to finally get help for the issues she has been shoveling under the rug displacing all those poor little turds for years.

However the hard part is yet to come.  I know we will run into each other.  What if she is with another guy?  What if they are kissing and holding hands?  What if they are feeling each other up right in front of me?  What if they are having lude sex before my very eyes on a sushi bar?  Am I getting ridiculous?  Welcome to my head where anything is possible, no matter how implausible.  Where just seeing her standing alone in a supermarket with a schemata on her head will invoke hiddeous jealousy.

There is only one mainstream catch all phrase that actually applies to this, and don’t worry, it’s not “snap out of it.”  It’s that “time heals all wounds.”  I truly do believe time does make a difference because a person can get used to a new reality.  However there is another part of that phrase that is often left out.  It’s “time heals all wounds, but wounds can leave nasty scars.”  But a nasty scar is a lot better than having your ex-fiancee’s name tattooed across your chest.

Is It Your Bipolar Disease or Mine?   Leave a comment

This is going to be a personal blog.  That’s why I am putting it online.  So nobody can read it.  Actually, it’s a blog about something in my life I’ve had to come to terms with, but I think it has relevance to others who have a story to tell about their experiences with Bipolar Disease.

Earlier this year I published my first book entitled Buzzkill.  It’s the story of my very disorderly struggle with Bipolar Disorder.  I tried to write it a year or two earlier and it just wasn’t working.  There was no flow nor was it the least bit compelling.  Kind of like a Daniel Steele novel.  And then one day it hit me;  I wasn’t being true to myself or potential readers.  To really tell the tale, I had to rip open my entire life with a scalpel, gut it and lay the steaming innards out on a stainless steel coroner’s table in their full rancid glory for all to read.   And when I began writing and started feeling embarrassed and uncomfortable with my prose, I knew I had begun writing the book I intended. Then the words began to flow like hot molten lava from a big dormant volcano that waited 45 years to blow its load.

Buzzkill is about my lifelong struggle with depression, mania, hypomania, suicidal attempts, hospitalizations, medications and all of the situations that arose from my erratic behavior.  Among other things, I talk about the sexual side effects from anti-depressants leaving me with absolutely no sensation in my genitals, the humiliation of being in a locked mental ward, the shrinks who almost killed me and the times I tried to kill myself.  I described wild manic buying sprees and the financial disasters that ensued along with mismatched lovers and relationships gone terribly awry.  The bottom line is that no matter how humiliating, I made it real for my readers.  I wanted to reach inside them, grab hold of their most traumatic embarrassing Bipolar experiences and say, “It’s all right.  Me too friend.”

Here in lies the problem; Nobody lives in a vacuum.  Other people were part of my life experience.  Parents, friends, doctors… They all played a role in my life.  Some of them had their own issues and were antagonists.  Some were protagonists.  And, certain characters were neither good or bad, just too damn interesting to leave out.  However you could not understand my life without discussing their lives.  Many of these people will not appreciate my portrayal of them, regardless of its truthfulness.   They will develop tunnel vision and see Buzzkill as a book all about them.  They will gloss right over the parts where I’m sitting in an emergency room being forced to drink charcoal and throwing it up all over myself.  Or, getting physically thrown out of a classroom in third grade as I was unable to control my emotional outbursts.  All that matters is I wrote “they had a nagging voice like a goat.”

No matter how big of an earthquake ensues, I told my story as it happened to me.  I make no apologies.  If I censored myself Buzzkill wouldn’t be the book I intended and certainly not worth reading.  Nobody wants to read another 300 pages of watered down drivel about coping with Bipolar Illness written by some Phd. with a pipe stuck up his ass.

The lesson learned is that we all have to be true to ourselves as Bipolar individuals.  It’s our duty to tell our stories so we can help others like us feel more comfortable with their challenges.  We can not hold back because we are afraid of the truth starting an uncontrollable wildfire.  We do not start the fires, it’s the people with blinders on who don’t want to see the truth that slash and burn.  And if you are not up to telling your story, that’s ok too.  Not everyone is required to walk on the hot coals.  Because I don’t care what anyone says, no matter how righteous of a person you are, they still burn the shit out of your feet.

Would You Take the Risk?   2 comments

I saw something on television the other evening that made me really happy.   This man and woman gave me a warm fuzzy-wuzzy feeling about the good that exists inside all of us and the power of love.

It was about a six foot four inch tall man married to a three foot and change tall woman.  They were very much in love and made many special accommodations so they could live a quasi normal life together.  It was even kind of cute the way the man carried his wife around the house like a child.  And, the woman was very attractive, making for a nice looking couple if you overlooked their disparity in size.  It made me think, “why can’t more people overlook handicaps and be together?”  I also thought of my own Bipolar Illness and the times I have been “released back into the wild” by girlfriends for being too depressed, manic or a combination thereof (hypomania).

I remembered a girl in college who was very attractive, but walked with a crutch as one leg had some sort of deformity.  I always noticed her in class talking with her girlfriends, but she seemed shy around guys.  I really wanted to ask her out, but I was afraid of being rejected.  I could care less about her leg.  Often I wondered what would had happened if I did ask her out and she said “yes.”

As I kept watching my admiration for this couple slowly turned to disgust.  You see, they already had a young daughter who also suffered from dwarfism like her mother.  I felt bad for them but admired their courage…   Until it was revealed the couple knew prior to her birth it would be a 50/50 chance of her being a dwarf before the woman got pregnant.

Even worse, the couple said even if the baby were born of normal stature, by the time she became a toddler the mother would no longer be able to physically care for her.   The toddler would then be larger than the mother.  So this couple already knew if they were to have a child, either way there would be some serious consequences.  Apparently they were too self-absorbed to care.

Let me preface this before I rant onward.  I do not advocate aborting babies because a doctor determines a handicap in utero.  However, I am pro-abortion in cases of rape, incest and unwanted pregnancies within the allowable 12 week window.   At this juncture a handicap can not be detected.  I believe handicapped people are some of the best individuals in the world because they have learned to overcome physical and mental adversity.  They offer an insight to life few of us may never get a glimpse of, but from which all of us can benefit.   Handicapped people have an important place at the table of life.

But don’t get off the commode yet.  The story gets worse.  These two Einsteins wanted to have another child even when given the same 50/50 chance of it being born a dwarf was clearly explained to them.  And if it’s normal height, it will eventually be a toddler and the mother afflicted with dwarfism will not be able to care for this child either.  Either way another baby is a bad idea.

In my opinion they should both be sterilized.  If you get in your car and the mechanic says there is a 50/50 chance when you put your key in the ignition the engine will catch fire, most people would not put it in.  Yet they have no qualms about sticking the key in the ignition when they are told there is a 50% chance their offspring will suffer a life of hardship.  Especially when they already melted one engine the last time they tried it.

What gives me the authority to talk about other people’s right to propagate?  How dare I say this couple should be sterilized?  Who gave me the carte blanche to say who should and shouldn’t be born?  Nobody.  This is just my opinion which I happen to feel strongly about.  Probably because I have been in this situation myself, making it a valid opinion.

I have Bipolar II.  My mother has it.  Her mother had it.  When my wife at the time and I wanted to start a family, my psychiatrist told me the illness had a decent chance of being passed on.  Moreover, I have a eye condition causing me irreversible poor eye-sight and was told this was also genetic.  Again, there was a good possibility this could be passed on to my offspring.   Our decision was not to roll the dice with another human being’s life.  Bipolar Illness has made life a continuous struggle.  And my eyesight is bad enough that I almost could not get a driver’s license.   Purposely putting a child through this is abusive.  So we decided to adopt.  And, we are grateful for a wonderful daughter.

So I talk the talk because I have walked the walk.  I’ve made these decisions.  And although I will never tell anyone what to do, if they are going to put it on television, I have a right to comment.   If they don’t want to hear it, they should keep it to themselves.  And maybe it’s taboo to criticize a female dwarf, but why not?  She’s not retarded.  Her husband isn’t mentally deficient either.  They are just selfish people.  They should be grateful for the child they have, because some couples who would be wonderful parents never get to have a child to love.  And they’re off rolling the dice like they’re shooting craps in Vegas.

Lastly, I don’t think anyone Bipolar needs to follow my example.  Maybe my fear of passing the disease on is too extreme.  All I know is that I would not want to have been conceived if I knew what a struggle life had in store for me.  I spent my childhood and teens severely depressed, suicidal in my twenties and thirties and still trying to recover today in my mid-forties.  To me it’s simple; Why would I knowingly take the chance of passing this disease on to someone else?

I make this judgment on nobody else.  Every situation is different.  These were people featured on a cable television network reality show which gives you an up close view of the people you see at the mall your parent taught you not to stare at.  And in turn these people feel like celebrities and live life large for the cameras.   Shame on the network for not seeing the real depravity of this situation in the name of cheap entertainment.

A Bipolar Move   Leave a comment

There is one activity I detest more than all others… Moving.  That’s when you have to put your entire life in boxes, have some burly mover guys you don’t know toss them into the back of a truck and hopefully have your things show up at your new address intact and unharmed.  If you are Bipolar this is even more of a formidable task.

The last time I moved a mover shattered a glass coffee table by standing it upright on its side in the elevator.  The sheer weight made it collapse on itself.    My dog was even telling the guy to lay it on its side.  So remember, you are also trusting all your worldly possessions to some hot sweaty guys without shirts and baggy shorts to make moving decisions on your behalf.   You may not be there to tell them to take the frame off the bed before shoving it through a doorway.

By the time the movers actually get to your place you are already in a tizzy.  You spent the prior week making value judgements about what clothes you will never wear again, CD’s you don’t listen too anymore and personal papers you may never need and purge them from your possession to streamline your move.   But the “how do I know I won’t want to wear that jacket again” blues keep playing in your head.  Eventually you just have to get the stuff out of the house to Goodwill and the recycling bin.  The longer you leave yourself the choice of going back and rescuing that old lava lamp, you’ll be having second thoughts about not saving empty razor blade cartridges too.  “But I can store things in these!”

Then the movers show up, shirts still in tact as they have not yet started throwing your boxes around like oversized square shaped Frisbees in order to work up a sweat.  And the banging, dragging, covering, taping, lifting, shifting and emptying out of your apartment begins.  All you can do it take a Lorezapam and pray nothing gets broken.

When the movers are finally finished and shirtless, they meet you at your new residence.  But apparently first they want to stop for lunch.  So why you sally forth to your new abode, pacing the empty floors checking the windows every ten minutes for signs of the moving truck, you begin to get nervous.   Are they sitting on your furniture watching your flat screen TV in the back of the truck eating burritos and washing them down with a couple of cold ones?  It’s probably ridiculous but you can’t stop getting angry about the image of that scene playing out in your head.

Finally the truck shows up and slowly the unloading begins.  The movers are a little more subdued and quieter.  They just want to get this done.  In rapid fire succession they start shooting your boxes from a guy on the street to one in the house.  Then the big stuff comes in slapping and scratching all the woodwork as if to say “ABC Movers were here.”  And when it’s all said and done you are left with rooms full of furniture with boxes stacked on top of it ready for the pleasant task of unpacking.

But before you can unpack you have to sign off that nothing was broken by the moving company.  It seems kind of like a draconian practice, because you are giving them a pass but you have not opened the boxes or turned on the electronics to see if everything is actually in tact.  Shit, when you rent a car they go over it more carefully for scratches and dents.

So the crew chief comes in with his clip board, you end up paying more than you were quoted and realize there is nothing you can do but give him your credit card and cringe.  Every time you asked for a quote it was always an estimate.  Now you are nailed to the wall.  Plus, you still have to tip the moving men.  This is their bread and butter so you have to make it nice.  And, you have to make it cash.  All in all a 5-hour move in the same city can cost you around one thousand dollars including gratuity.

Moving is a raw deal.  I don’t know anyone who enjoys it, unless you own a moving company.  And then you just hire others to do the lifting.  But when you are Bipolar it’s even worse because it flirts with your insecurities.   The possibility of breakage or disorderliness of your possessions touches on OCD issues.  Depression swoops in when leaving a place of familiarity and comfort for an unknown.  Paranoia rears its ugly head when you suspect the moving company is grossly overcharging you. Plus, you suffer guilt for all the money moving costs, and the trade-offs you made for living in this new place.  Finally, mania comes when you realize all the things you need to make a home livable and frantically drive to Bed Bath and Beyond to get everything you need all at once.  This has to happen immediately and cannot be piecemeal.  Your new home will never be home without all the comforts of home.

So, my advice to my Bipolar compatriots is to prepare yourselves for a big move.  Identify all the possible triggers and do what you can to minimize them.  Be sure to leave yourself enough time to pack so you don’t have these last minute dilemas on what to keep and what to give away.   Make sure you get an accurate estimate from the moving company so you will be prepared for the fleecing.  And remember, you do not have to unpack all at once or purchase every single amenity during one trip to the store.  Unless you are planning on entertaining the President in your bedroom, you can go without a bedspread that matches your curtains indefinitely.

The Bipolar issue with moving boils down to all the unknowns; What will it end up costing?  What will break?  Will the movers steal from me?  Will I like my new home?  Will my cable be hooked up properly?  What did I forget to buy?  Any one of these things is a trigger for Bipolar depression or mania.  And no matter how well you prepare, the movers are always going to be the wildcard as will whether or not you actually made the right decision by moving.

As the moving truck full of my personal possessions barreled its way up and down the city streets of San Francisco, occasionally becoming airborne,  my level of anxiety was at a plateau so great that I was speaking in an octave higher than my usual voice.  That is when I said “enough.”  I told myself I did everything I could to arrange a stress free move and what will be is what will be.  And when it was all over what it was is how it is.  Getting worked up did nothing but make a vein in my head bulge and pulsate uncontrollably.

So my Bipolar friends out there, when facing a situation you feel is out of your control, do everything possible to prepare and then as they say in the Mafia, “forget about it.”  Because there is absolutely nothing more you can do.  It is what it is.  Go for a walk.  Have a cup of coffee.  Start smoking cigarettes.  Experiment with heroine.  Donate your body to science while you’re still alive.  Just don’t stress out about the move.