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A Tisket. A Tasket. Let Me Decide When I Want to Get in My Casket.   Leave a comment

Suicide.  A dirty word.  Taboo.  Something so bad that it’s against state and federal law.  I find that kind of funny.  If you do commit suicide, how are they going to punish you?  Put your corpse in prison for twenty-five to life?   Make you do one-hundred hours of community service as a speed bump?  Statistically, it’s actually a good thing.  It has a 0% recidivism rate.

Of course we all know why suicide is illegal.  The illogic is mostly based in Christianity, as is much of the foundation of our country and it’s laws.  And don’t get me wrong, I agree it’s wrong to murder, steal, rape and all of those other horrible transgressions against others.  I’m not even fond of coveting another’s wife, although I’ve been tempted.  But suicide is illegal because Christianity is, as are other western religions, afraid of the unknown.  Religion makes people less afraid.  God will take care of them in death as in life.  God is good.  We even say how much we trust him on our national paper currency.  But if you take your own life, God is going to be really pissed.  So our largely faith-based society made suicide illegal.  Life and death are God’s decision.  Unless you are sentenced to death for a crime.  Then it’s back in the government’s hands.

What nobody ever accounts for is the individual.  A person does not ask to be born.  Personally, I don’t remember giving my permission to be ripped out of a vagina, smacked on the back until I started screaming and live with Bipolar II and a visual impairment for the rest of my life.  So why is it illegal for me to terminate my life when I see fit?  If someone is on life support it’s acceptable to pull the plug if their quality of life will never surpass a vegetative state.   However I can not pull the trigger if my life has been nothing but depression and misery and all I can do is lie in bed like a rotten turnip?

If you are Bipolar and in severe depression, the phrase “snap out of it” is probably the most ignorant thing a person can say.  And if you are suicidal, “things aren’t that bad” are the words that put them on the fast track for stepping in front of the five o’clock commuter train.  Notice this popular nomenclature doesn’t put the emphasis on how you actually feel.  Just once I’d like to hear someone tell a suicidal person the truth.  “I can see why you want to kill yourself.  I think if I were in your situation I might want to do the same.”  Has anyone ever considered being genuine?  Would you tell a double leg amputee dragging their torso around like a snail that it is more fun than walking?

A lot of Bipolar people I know tell me they think of suicide every day.  This doesn’t mean they are suicidal, but the thought is always in their mind.  Others are in a constant holding pattern waiting for clearance from the tower;  the incident to throw them over the edge… When the depression gets so bad that they can’t take one more second of consciousness with the possibility of waking up.

For me suicide is my safety valve.  Something I know is always there when I’ve had enough.  It doesn’t mean I walk around with a pocket full of sleeping pills.  I just know I can always stop my car on the Golden Gate Bridge and do a swan dive over the edge if it gets to that point.  And just knowing I have the option helps me cope with life.  I think the original astronauts carried cyanide into space in case they ran into some other worldly beings that were going to cause them great harm.  Why can’t those who suffer from a lifetime of deep depression be offered the same compassion?

I leave you with this, figuratively and not literally. As a forty-six year old Bipolar II man I know what it is to suffer deep depression my entire life, smattered with bouts of mania where I do things that only increase my despair.  Those who condemn suicide either don’t understand what it is to spend a lifetime of debilitating depression and the havoc which ensues, or, they are projecting their fear of death on others.  Either way they are focusing on themselves and not the individual.

Suicide is a crime that will forever be broken.  So for all those who are going to kill themselves today, may you get the relief from the suffering you so sorely desire.  I hope your last decision was the best you ever made.  And for those still suffering who decide to stay with us for however long you wish to go on,  all I can offer is to share my mantra:  A tisket.  A tasket.  Let me decide when I want to get in my casket.

The Art of Being Bipolar   Leave a comment

I can’t stand opera.  I also don’t like classical music, art exhibits, ballet, musicals and anything else that requires me to sit down for long periods of time in silence and pretend to enjoy something that doesn’t personally resonate with me.   Right away I can hear every psychiatrist in unison saying “Attention Deficit Disorder,” the popular diagnosis of the decade.  But not every unpopular thought is automatically because of a mental disorder.

Don’t get me wrong, I see the talent that goes into these various forms of performance and stationary art, they just don’t move me.  And isn’t that what art is supposed to do?  I’m bored walking around museums looking at paintings and statues.  I’d rather participate in real life.  Opera grates on my nerves and upsets dogs.  The only inspiration I find from classical music is to take a nap.  I’d rather watch a dradle spin than a ballerina.  And, I find musicals very hard with which to identify.  In real life street gangs don’t break into song and dance before they spray one another with automatic gunfire.  Plus, they are usually fighting over drugs, not ‘a girl they just kissed named Maria.’

However, if you dare say this in public you are automatically labeled uneducated and a social miscreant.  But if one of the Three Bloated Tenors were to have criticized Lou Reed’s “Waiting for the Man,”  every martini sipping pseudo socialite would be clamoring to be the first one to burn you at the stake.   “Off with his head!” Or, “this poor sole must have a terrible mental disorder.  Who doesn’t love The Nutcracker?”  Maybe it’s because I’m nuts.

This type of backlash makes me wonder how many people feel the same way but are afraid of being labeled uneducated, uncouth or mentally ill because they do not fit the societal norm of loving the arts.  Of course there are plenty of people who are true partrons, but I’d put money on Picasso that a large number are just going with the flow.  Afraid of what people will say if they admit they prefer the Monkees to Mozart.

As a Bipolar person, it’s especially intimidating to speak up because anything you say going against the norm is instantly attributed to your illness.  People seem to think Bipolar Illness can suddenly make you enjoy drinking gasoline or listening to recordings of train wrecks.  It’s actually a mood disorder which affects your state of elation or depression, not your likes and dislikes.  Frankly, I think it makes us more apt to share what’s on our minds, as we feel emotions on a more intense level.  Many of the worlds greatest composers, performers and artists were or are in fact Bipolar.  It’s what gave or gives them their unique inspiration.  Bipolar is truly the disease that keeps on giving. How do those on the Bach Bandwagon reconcile that one?

And please understand, I am not criticizing or questioning the cultural value of the great works of art and music, even though I’ve seen and heard some things that make me beg to be rendered unconscious.   I appreciate their high technical value and groundbreaking use of their medium, voice or instruments.  I just don’t want to be forced to see or hear it.  Nor will I pretend to enjoy it.  Thus if asked, I will speak my mind.   I hardly think Monet would hold back on his opinion of Andy Warhol’s Banana.

Moreover, I don’t blame more people for not speaking up.  Especially Bipolar individuals who will immediately have their disdain for the classics attributed to their disease.  I guarantee not criticizing, just expressing your preferences, will create some sort of backlash by people who feel they need to stand up and voraciously prove their devotion to the arts.   I certainly don’t fault anyone for walking into that kind of firestorm.  After all, who among us wants to wear the scarlet letter?

Actually, I look pretty good in Deep Purple.  So I’ll take the hit for all of us afflicted with Bipolar Disease.  After all, it’s just Smoke on the Water.

Mental Illness Mother Goose   Leave a comment

It was around 1pm this past Saturday night.  All the bars were starting to close on Haight Street in San Francisco.  After drinking probably more beer than I should, I had to pee very badly.  Recently when the urge hits me, I have to go with the urgency of a Hungarian plow mule.  I was having a miserable time with the woman I was curating, partially because she was wearing a ridiculous disguise dressed as a man and also was combative about everything I said.  So when we got outside I told her I was going to have a problem if I didn’t pee, cut across the street to a dark vestibule and discretely took care of business.  When I turned back around she was gone.  I felt relieved in more ways than one. And, I inadvertently joined the ranks of millions who urinated in the doorways and alleys of the Haight Ashbury section of San Francisco since the mid 1960’s.

Who was this girl and why was I out with her?  She had a made up name and lived in a world with one toe in reality and the rest in a world of constant conflict.  I met her at a party my roommate threw in a rare instance without her disguise.   But I quickly learned about the man trying to break into her apartment wanting to murder her, the detective telling her to be vigilant and paranoid, the barricading of herself for weeks at a time inside her apartment,  not being able to maintain friendships, her confrontational nature and distrust of everyone.  On top of it all she was a self-proclaimed clairvoyant and you could not ask her questions about herself without provoking her wrath.  Not even what she does or doesn’t do for a living.

But she read my book Buzzkill and I know some of my Bipolar trials and tribulations touched her in a “better him than me” kind of way.   And she took joy in speaking with me about my hospitalizations and medications as it made her feel like she escaped getting caught in a bear trap and was free to slink around Nottingham Woods.  Maybe occasionally even pop up to the highway and nibble on some fresh road kill.

It is very clear she has a serious disorder that affects her perception of reality making her extremely combative and afraid.  And I was informed by others that she constantly spoke of my issues with Bipolar illness taken from my book ad-infinitum trying to rally support for her theory that I was a danger to society.   Up until then I didn’t realize my blogs were that bad.

So why in the world did I go out with her?  Because she asked me to.  And I had this ridiculous notion maybe I could convince her to trust me and get her some help.  Underneath the baseball hat, sunglasses at night and ill fitting mens clothing was hidden a very attractive smart woman.   I decided not to take her behavior personally and get her to at least entertain the idea I could be of assistance.  Maybe get her to a doctor for an evaluation.  Visit her in the hospital, because for sure she would be admitted. Probably by ambulance with flashing lights and a police escort while strapped to a gurney.

However the evening was a bust.  Everything I said caused nonsensical argumentative responses.  It became very evident she was experiencing a different reality than  I.  And, that I couldn’t just simply reason with her, nor could she comprehend reality, was bewildering.  The sad part is she was convinced of being the only sane person in the room. However I started to feel anger from the cumulative effect of all the abuse I had taken that evening.  I was reprimanded for complimenting her on her jewelry, her disguise, commenting on the bad service at a wine bar and on and on.

Bipolar people do not live in a separate reality from the rest of the world. Sometimes we have trouble dealing with the existing reality, but it’s the same as everyone else’s.  Our lives are spent constantly striving to negotiate it as best we can.  And because we have had our deep depressions, unbearable anxieties, visits to the psyche ward and times of great despair, we try and “mother goose” others we see in trouble.  But when the mind has an altered reality, a few kind words and some insight can’t make it right.   It’s like the sun.  You can protect yourself with sunscreen or sitting under an umbrella, but you can’t make it stop burning.

Sadly, as of last night, this woman was still texting me about the night before, amending it with details I’m sure she thinks are accurate.  And I had to realize I can not help and told her to go back into Nottingham Woods because if she continued to harass me I’d call the big bear with the straight jacket and 51/50 paperwork.

I can not fix this one.   Was it my mania making me think I could?  Is it even my responsibility?  If someone is shooting at you do you walk into the line of fire to tell them to stop, or do you take refuge somewhere safe until they run out of bullets?  This woman never even stops to reload.

In some morbid way it was interesting getting to know an individual crazier than myself.   It’s like being a rubbernecker passing a really bad car accident.  You know it’s wrong to look, but you just can’t help yourself.  And then when you see the bloody carnage, you beat yourself up because you can’t get the image out of your head.

The Price of Aggravation vs. The Cost: A Study in Bipolar Economics   Leave a comment

A few weeks ago I had to make another dreaded trip to San Francisco Superior Court for an ongoing saga because someone stole the registration sticker from my license plate almost a year ago.  I was constantly being stopped by the police and given tickets even though my car really was legally registered.  For an entire year I fought with the California Department of Motor Vehicles to get a replacement sticker,  but nobody could figure out if they should charge me again, and if so how much, because of all these tickets of which I was now curator.  It had become a maddening circle of bureaucracy that can only happen when you are dealing with city and state workers striving to punish California for their own shortcomings.  Finally I just decided to wait until it was time to re-register my car and start fresh.

Finally the big day had arrived.   However, those tickets from constantly being hauled over to the side of the road because I didn’t have the little sticker and the cost to clear them was astronomical.  I was told I could wipe them all out, but I had to prove I had that little sticker which was stolen a year ago that nobody would give me!   All in spite of the fact my car was legally registered the entire time!  So if I wanted to update my registration, I had to pay an ungodly sum.  I could not win.

But I wanted this not so funny Comedy of Errors over with.  I didn’t care how much it cost or what I could do to possibly reduce it.  It just had to end.  So I went back in a week when I had the correct amount of money, but the penalties went up even higher or a new ticket was added to this putrid witch’s brew, so I’d have to again wait until I had even more money.   At this juncture I needed to be squired around in a wheel chair with oxygen tanks attached to the back I was so distraught.

It became a never ending cycle of prescription strength frustration eating away at my Bipolar mind.  I started mumbling to myself each time I approached  the courthouse that this time might be the time I lose it, forcing a cop to haul me kicking and screaming to jail, which is only an elevator ride away from good ole room 145.  Just knowing I was about to come in contact with a lazy overpaid city clerk who rejoices in giving you bad news you can barely hear through the dirty plexiglass , which they refuse to repeat, made every muscle in my body stiffen.

Finally I heard that if you join AAA you can avoid the DMV all together and handle vehicle registration right at your local office, which was two blocks from mine.  So sure enough I went in and was taken right away.  By now the sum I owed was over twelve hundred dollars.  This was not including the six hundred I sent the DMV weeks ago with the standard re-registration paperwork they forward me every year.  However, not surprisingly, they never re-registered my car or issued my new stickers.  They just cashed my check.  For all I know some unkept nasty DMV worker with an “if they won’t pay me enough I’m gonna take it” attitude took a trip to Reno and lost it all on the slot machines, which have the absolute worst odds possible in the degenerate world of gambling.

I didn’t care.  I wanted it to be over.  I was going to pay whatever it took right then and there.  The AAA clerk told me it was a mistake, that I might be overpaying.  I didn’t care.  I wanted that fucking sticker.  Resolving this was worth any amount of money to me.  He looked bewildered.  Nobody could understand why I would blindly pay such a hefty price.  But to make this go away once and for all, I would have thrown in my best Swiss watch as part of the deal, if I hadn’t sold it the day before to pay for my re-registration.

And now finally I have my registration tags.  I do not bemoan the money.  I feel free to drive my car and not have to constantly look in my rear view mirror for a CHP pulling me over and informing me my car doesn’t have the proper little sticker then slap me with another ticket.  After a year of that it’s worth every single penny.   Many would say I had to be mentally ill to blindly pay that amount.  Of course they would be right, as I am Bipolar II.  But I’m not crazy.  Crazy is running into the Courthouse with a baseball bat, smashing in the plexiglass at window number two in room 145, and dragging the bloated bastard of a clerk out through the shards of glass.  Then, sit on him, grab him by the neck and say, “Now, I’d sure appreciate it if you can give me one of those little red stickers for my license plate.  Otherwise I’m going to take you out to my car, pull off the licence plate and pin you to the back of it.  Do you understand me?”

So what is crazier,  pay the money and fix the problem, not matter how unfair? Or, act like a wild animal and be taken off to a cage?  In the Bipolar world, sometimes we do things that may puzzle others.  But to us they make perfect sense and demonstrate excellent impulse control.

Years ago I remember being in a deli with my grandfather.  I ordered a sandwich but he wasn’t hungry.  The waitress bought him coffee and a sandwich anyway, in spite of the fact he didn’t order anything.  He just pushed it off to the side and we continued our conversation.  I asked him why he was not sending it back and refusing to pay for it?  He told me the amount of aggravation it would cause compared to the price of the food just wasn’t worth it.  As a Bipolar man, I have never forgotten that and it’s served me well.  Sometimes you just can’t put a price on overpaying.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.