The Bipolar Perspective: “There is No Tomorrow, Man”   Leave a comment

DIRTY HARRY

Until Clint Eastwood spent twenty-minutes scolding an empty chair at the National Republican Convention in 2013, he was my hero. His role as Dirty Harry in the series of movies where he was a cop carrying a big gun and answering to no one in the name of justice made him my alter ego. However, since I’m afraid of guns and violence I had to settle for living vicariously through Dirty Harry, a man who needed no support system, except maybe in his briefs.

DIRTY PETE

As a kid I always wanted to be like Dirty Harry. But there was no way to kill the cafeteria cook before he poisoned any more kids, no car to lead the principal in a high speed chase or a situation where I could call the teacher an idiot and walk out of the classroom in disgust without getting expelled. And calling myself Dirty Pete sounded like I was a pervert.

BLOWN TO SMITHEREENS

When I hit my twenties I learned I was Bipolar II with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I stayed working in Philadelphia in the radio business and everyone felt good because I was near my father and brother which were a good support system in case my head exploded or something. I was living alone, supporting myself but in a good proximity to all kinds of assistance. Then in 1991 I blew it all to smithereens and drove cross country to live in San Francisco.

GOING CONTINENTAL

No, I did not go to San Francisco without wearing any underwear. I went continental because I loved the city, the people, the lifestyle and the fact that the Dirty Harry movies were made there. But I had no support. If I lapsed into depression, mania, lost my job, got kicked out on the street, got shot by Dirty Harry or anything of the sorts, I had to power through it on my own. And I did. I got married, adopted a wonderful daughter, owned houses, had great jobs, cars, clothes… The whole American Dream. I thought I had made it and this is how it would be forever.

“TOMORROW NEVER HAPPENS, MAN”

And my favorite thing to boast about was the fact that I did it all on my own. Nobody ever gave me a dime or a bit of help and I made it. Bipolar II and all. I was set. A self made man. This was me for a million tomorrows. But as Janis Joplin said at Woodstock, “tomorrow never happens man.”

LET THE BAD TIMES ROLL

Many years later I found myself divorced, jobless, bankrupt and unable to even afford my prescriptions. My car was repossessed, I was drowning in unpaid traffic tickets and had to live with a roommate for the first time since college. And Clint Eastwood was slowly becoming senile. I needed help.

SWALLOW PRIDE WITH WATER

Swallowing your pride is a little easier when you take it with water. I called my father. I was shaking when I dialed the phone. But he gave me the support I needed from 3000 miles away, monetarily and emotionally. And he didn’t do an “I told you so” or demand anything of me except that I get back on my meds with some of the money he sent. And because of him tomorrow did happen. Sorry Janis.

MY MAIN SQUEEZE

My other savior was my fiance, Lynn. I don’t think I really understood the word commitment until my bad fortune. However she gave of herself, what little money she had and all the love in her heart. She never once said having a Bipolar fiance is too hard. All she demands is that I work with her on getting my life back on track. Lynn has more confidence in me than I do myself. I never understood how someone would want to stay with one seriously flawed person for a million tomorrows. Now I understand. Again, sorry Janis.

LINE AT THE GAS PUMP

I write to you my friends not from a position of power or resolution. I’m still depressed, occasionally suicidal, flat broke, in need of work, screwed, chewed but not yet tattooed (Lynn hates those things). I wake up everyday not sure if this will be my last. But then I think of the people who have been working so hard to make sure it isn’t. (Did I mention my psychologist is seeing me free of charge? I call her Saint Anna). Is it the Bipolar jinx, bad luck or am I retarded and just don’t realize it? Confusion is king. Motivation is evasive. Sheer will power is my fuel and there’s a goddamn line at the gas pump.

THERE IS NO ROAD MAP FOR THE FUTURE

I don’t care what the well-heeled politicians say… There is no road map for the future. Just try punching “future” into your GPS system or going to AAA and asking for one. You’ll get directions to Disneyland’s “It’s a Wonderful World” exhibit. If you are traveling the same rocky road as I, all you can do is hang on and keep working toward a better tomorrow. Or, if you’re under the covers and can’t get out, just hang on to see what happens tomorrow. And if you are that bad off and really don’t care anymore, I am the last person to fault you. Only the unlucky few feel your pain.

PIPE DREAM

My hope is that if you have a father, family member or a “main squeeze,” that you appreciate them. They are your tomorrow. Asking for help is the hardest thing you can ever do. My dream is that someday I can make them glad they did it. Right now it’s just a pipe-dream, for I can not see a light at the end of the tunnel. But with my luck it’s probably a train. Nevertheless, I am going to try and hang on one tomorrow at a time before I reach for that proverbial pipe. And if you are feeling the same pain and despair, maybe we can lock hands in solidarity and stick around for another tomorrow.

The Bipolar Perspective: Making Shooting Yourself Less of a Hassle   Leave a comment

A SECURITY GATE THAT SWINGS BOTH WAYS

When I got to the front door of the location, in a very nondescript industrial type area on a main drag in a San Francisco suburb, there was a gate. I hit the button and was buzzed in. It reminded me of the outer gate through which you have to pass entering San Quentin State Prison, where I volunteered for two years.

The customers and employees working in the tiny gun shop looked like they were flown in from Texas. The men were fat with short hair wearing sleeveless t-shirts sporting some kind of anti-Obama slogan and baggy pants or cargo shorts. The one woman behind the counter could have been attractive if it wasn’t for the tattoos on her arms and stealth semi-rimless rectangular glasses that almost looked like shooting goggles. I guess you never know when you have to set up that Bushmaster Automatic on a tripod and gun down an entire city block. You don’t want to be messing around looking for your eye protection.

When I left through the gate I wondered who’s protection it was for; from stick-up men getting in or keeping the rednecks from getting out?

SATURDAY NIGHT REVOLVER

I told the Tea-Partier behind the counter I needed a gun as I’m a salesman and carry expensive samples in my car. I wanted it as a deterrent. In California you can not actually shoot someone unless they are attacking you or someone else.

They put a handgun down on the glass counter that was so big and heavy it was literally overkill. I told them I just wanted something inexpensive and small. I almost mentioned that I was only going to be using it once.

When they put the black Saturday Night Special down in front of me I didn’t touch it. I just said “I’ll take it.” I hate guns. They are only made for one thing; killing.

GRADUATION DAY

I have never shot a handgun before. And all I had to do was take a thirty question multiple choice test and I’d be licensed to own a gun in California. Of course I passed. Almost anyone could pass. So I flipped my tassel to the other side of my hat, put down a deposit and went home for the standard ten day waiting period. If I cleared the government check, I would be the proud owner of a bouncing baby revolver. I proudly walked down the aisle and out of the gate.

BLOWN TO PIECES

Then my suicide plan was blown to pieces. Or, so I thought. You see, I was not able to take my medication because I did not have insurance and could not afford all of my prescriptions. I was suicidal and had never had much luck with overdosing.

But because deep down inside I wanted to feel better as opposed to spattering my brains all over the inside of my car, I told my fiancee. She in turn told my psychiatrist and psychologist. She was instructed to call the gun shop and tell them not to sell me the gun because I was going to use it to kill myself.

Then she called the Justice Department and told them NOT to approve me to own a gun as I was suicidal and had been 51/50’d in the past, which is being involuntarily admitted to the Psych Ward. My entire plan was blown to pieces.

VALEDICTORIAN

When I got back on my medication and started feeling better, I decided to go to the gun store and get my $360 deposit back. My psychologist didn’t want me to go alone as she thought it might be a trigger, but I felt I could handle it.

I must have been class valedictorian. First I aced the test. Then, in spite of my fiancee calling the justice department, I PASSED the background check. And, even though she alerted the gun shop was told not to sell me a gun because I was suicidal, the guy behind the counter was ready to deliver my firearm.

But I just wanted my money back. And of course after a restocking fee and a not being a republican fee, I was only recouping $217. But I didn’t care. I did not want to die anymore. And to my utter amazement I was told my license was valid and I could buy a gun instantly anywhere in California for up to a year based on the current background check. Amazing.

BEEF JERKY

This whole thing is unconscionable. Red flags were sent up in my case to the gun store and the Justice Department, and I was still able to and can purchase a gun in California whenever I like. I guess if I ever get suicidal again it will be as convenient as walking into a Seven-Eleven and buying one of those ancient dried out beef jerky sticks at the counter. They can kill you too.

OVERKILL

There are a lot of avid gun owners who are ready to take up arms against the government if more gun laws go on the books. According to them it’s PEOPLE who do wrong with guns. Guns do not act on their own. “We have enough gun laws goddammit! If everyone were armed people would think twice before shooting up a school or movie theater.”

Then my question is “why are they not working?” When a severely depressed individual can purchase a firearm to kill themselves and the natural checks and balances to not work, human intervention at the government level is ineffective and alerting the gun shop is not-getting anywhere, we need laws that are effective. Because in this case, the individual (me) buying the gun was going to turn it on himself.

So what if everyone is armed? When I pull out my revolver in my car sitting in traffic and put it to my head, if everyone is armed are they going to jump out of their cars and shoot me first? Are more people carrying guns going to protect the mentally ill from using one to commit suicide?

SUICIDE WATCH

This is not commentary on whether or not I believe it’s moral for someone to take their own life. Until one has suffered the seemingly bottomless depths of depression born from Bipolar and other mental illnesses, I think it’s hard for others to really understand. However I do think many depressed suicidal individuals are not at their rational best.

Right now the way I see it is that if you have a Bipolar or severely depressed person in your life, you have to be on suicide watch. Learn the signs. Even come right out and ask them. And if you think they may act, get them help. Don’t let them walk into a gun store and assume the laws and morality of the individuals working there are your safety net. It’s more like a sieve and the only thing it weeds out are the people who walk in and actually put the gun in their mouth to make sure it fits.

I do not know suicide rates by firearm. But even one is too many. And yes my friends in the Lone Star State of Succession, people do pull the trigger. Guns do not think for themselves. And that is why we need better gun laws. Because people who want to commit suicide do think for themselves, just not very clearly. And the gun stores are just thinking for themselves about making a profit. Moreover, the NRA is in the pocket of the gun manufacturers making sure they make a profit. And, the only profit a victim of suicide by gun makes is that they only need to buy one bullet.

The Bipolar Perspective: Can You Afford to be Bipolar?   1 comment

FINANCING YOUR MEDS

When I heard the final tally I got kind of light headed and grabbed a walker from an old man to steady myself. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

I had walked into Walgreen’s Pharmacy a month ago and ordered refills for the cocktail of medications I take for Bipolar II. Topamax and Seroquel alone ripped into me for one-thousand dollars EACH for a monthly supply. I suddenly realized I was priced out of the Bipolar Market and had to find a disease with more reasonably priced medications. Or, find a bank that will finance my pills at a decent interest rate.

NO DOGS OR PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS ALLOWED

I left my job on May first in search of greener pastures, or ones that at least weren’t littered with as much dog shit. With it I lost my health insurance. Then I accepted a job as a private contractor, which meant I’d have to get my own insurance. And with mention of a pre-existing illness, insurance companies squeal and run away like little girls to hide behind the golf-bags of their lobbyists in Washington.

As a matter of fact, if you do get coverage, you get treated to a deductible in the thousands, and they do not cover prescriptions or any doctor’s care for one year if related to your pre-existing condition. It’s like buying auto insurance that doesn’t cover body work on your car for the first year if it has a pre-existing dent. Yet you pay through the hairy nostrils for it.

GO ONLINE AND HAVE IT RINGING OFF THE HOOK

Really want to get taken to the cleaners for carelessly being born Bipolar? Request information about insurance coverage online. Your phone won’t stop ringing for forty-eight hours straight with pitch-men and women trying to sell you coverage from companies of which you’ve never heard.

Can you imagine presenting a “Three Stooges Insurance” card to your dermatologist? The doctor has the melanoma half hanging off your rear-end in a bloody fleshy mess, and the receptionist suddenly yells in “Doctor, he’s got “Stooge Coverage!” Suddenly you are handed the scalpel, a mirror and instructions for how to finish up the rest of the surgery on your own. “Moe, Larry and Curly’s” policy only covers the first slice.

ALL ABOARD!

I finally decided to go with a company who offered a good prescription discount card, although it was not part of or administered by “their” plan. They were very careful to make this crystal clear. Everything else was even more ambiguous. In fact, nothing appeared part of the coverage except major medical and dental. And there were so many different providers mixed up in this policy I didn’t know who I was actually being insured by. It actually felt like more of a gang rape.

And the only thing the prescription discount card was good for is picking food out of your teeth. It had a million codes and membership numbers on it. And when the pharmacist called to get my discounts, I was not even in the system. And they had no idea who to call to get me in. And my new “un-sure company” wanted nothing to do with this “outside” prescription plan.

Funny thing is my “agent,” who is probably not that smart if she is working for these-second-story-men, called to let me know my ID cards were in the mail. I told her I had ten days to rescind and I wanted to do so. She said she’d call me back and then vanished like “Casper the Un-Friendly Insurance Ghost.”

SWITCHING TO A MORE AFFORDABLE DISEASE

So in the mean-time, I have cut back on some medications and eliminated others. Now I feel depressed, which is making it hard to concentrate on my new job. And I can only afford to buy a few pills at a time, as I can’t pony up thousands of dollars at once each month.

I have finally come to terms with the fact that I can not afford to be Bipolar anymore and will have to stop. I’ll just have to cease taking my medications and deal with the self-destructive mania and severe depression like a man, if the intense withdraw symptoms don’t kill me first. I’ll simply tell myself to “snap out of it.” And maybe the hopelessness and obsessive compulsive disorder will go away, kind of like a bad cold.

Actually, I heard the medications for Shingles are pretty reasonably priced. Maybe I’ll switch diagnosis. A little physical pain might be nice for a change.

It’s hard to believe every single insurance company and pharmaceutical manufacturer can be so cold-blooded and gaping-mouth-profit-hungry that they are leaving people who truly need their medications to survive unable to afford them. And now the only thing to do is find a way to survive until Obamacare in January 2014 takes affect.

AFFORDABLE AND PORTABLE

I like Obamacare. The president is giving the big insurance and drug companies a major kick in the balls for being greedy and cold-hearted. And, he’ll make it possible for people to get insurance without being penalized for having a pre-existing illness. Did I stress this will be affordable insurance as well?

It’s also portable insurance, which means if you change jobs your insurance goes with you. You’re not out on your own trying to cobble something together with Scotch tape and bailing wire until you can find a new job with full coverage.

PRICED OUT OF YOUR OWN ILLNESS

You’re Bipolar. A treatment is out there. But you can’t have it because it costs too much. We are not talking about a heart transplant. We are talking about getting pills from the fucking drugstore.

Moreover, many of these uninsured people with pre-existing conditions like Bipolar Illness requiring expensive medications are not all poor or destitute by any means. Bipolar professionals, teachers, craftspeople, etc. making good money still can’t manage to lay out thousands of dollars a month for medications. Being priced out of your illness can happen to anyone.

BE VIGILANT

So I leave you with this.. If you are Bipolar trying to get health insurance and are caught up in the pre-existing condition quagmire of insurance company irresponsibility, call your doctor and tell them the situation. He or she might have samples. Also, some local municipalities have programs to help you afford your medications or get them at no-charge. Public hospitals may have similar accommodations. And, I’ve heard there are several pharmaceutical manufacturer web sites that help people in these situations, although I don’t know enough about them to make a recommendation.

DOGS FLYING PLANES

Health insurance providers know nothing about medicine, yet they take control of your treatment, or lack there-of. It’s like letting a dog fly an airplane full of passengers. The only thing they understand is getting fed, so you know you’re in trouble no matter where you’re seated. Consequently, if you are planning on being Bipolar, you might want to wait until after you are insured.

The Bipolar Perspective: Closing the Parental Divide   Leave a comment

MIXED MOODS

Even before Bipolar was a diagnosis, little yet Bipolar with Mixed Moods, I was experiencing them.  Today Mixed Moods refer to being depressed and manic at the same time.  If you are not Bipolar or have never experienced Mixed Moods, this probably sounds as plausible as having a flat tire on a race car you are driving at 200 miles per hour around a track with no intention of stopping.  In other words, you are profoundly depressed, yet you can not slow your mind down from wanting to dig for gold in your living room, convinced you are going to strike your fortune.

Growing up with my father there was always a sense of mixed moods.  Not that he was Bipolar, but sometimes we’d have the greatest times together, and others his mind was somewhere else and everything I did was wrong.  I think his mixed moods actually came from the misery of being married to my improperly diagnosed and treated Bipolar mother with Psychotic effects.  It’s hard to relax when you are wound up like a high tension transmission wire.

DAYS IN THE SUN

My father and I had many days in the sun.  I lived with him during high school and we went running together, to the beach, barbecued all summer long and my friends thought he was the greatest.  I’d say my father had become one of my best friends and confidents.

And, when I went away to college he was always down visiting, taking an interest in my University, my friends and the sloppiness of my shared apartment.  Sometimes I’d even meet him with one of his dates for a drink.  We were extremely close.  Moreover, he was always up for a run.

THE GREAT DIVIDE

When I moved to San Francisco in 1991, we remained close for years.  My father would come out at least on an anual basis and I would go to see him usually in the summers.  By then I had been diagnosed Bipolar II, gotten married and adopted my daughter.  Everything was fine until I announced my divorce.  Suddenly everything I did was wrong.  And his disapproval was infuriating me.  I felt I had lived on my own since I was nineteen, he had never given me any substantial financial assistance and he had no right to criticize any of my life decisions.  Moreover, he was three-thousand miles away,  so who was he to play Judge Judy?

HERE COMES THE JUDGE

At the time of my divorce I had a lot of money from the sale of my marital home, dividing up some retirement funds and great commissions from my work.  And I began to think I was set for life.  I thought this is how it happens and now I’m completely secure.  So I started spending.  My apartment building had a doorman,  there was a pool on the roof, I changed cars more than some people change their underwear, I bought expensive swiss watches like I was trying to impress father-time and basically spent money with wanton abandon.  And my father, a bankruptcy lawyer for forty plus years, saw my whole Donald Trump lifestyle of being temporarily rich and famous and was worried.  It came out in the form of disapproval and weird facial expressions.  To me, it felt like I was being judged.  And I really didn’t get it until I met the real judge, in bankruptcy court.

BIPOLAR BUYER’S REMORSE

Most of the things I purchased were because I felt if I didn’t do it then I might never get the chance.  After all, when would I get to have a Shelby GT 500 Mustang that could go 180 miles per hour, especially in the city of San Francisco where the speed limit does not go above 35mph?   Or, when would I ever get to have a Doxa Special Edition Diver’s watch, in spite of the fact I have never, nor did I ever plan to go deep sea diving?  But my Obsessive Compulsive Bipolar Disorder Behavior told me I could always sell everything and get my money back… At thirty-cents on the dollar.

However as the money ran out and I wasn’t getting shekels  for my leather-bomber jacket on eBay, it was becoming evident I was in grave financial trouble.  Moreover, I started racking up parking and speeding tickets which I would ignore and eventually lose track of, leading to drivers license suspensions and my car being towed or booted several times.  It got to the point where I was in a big toilet bowl making my last swirl.

THE MANTRA

Every time I told my father how bad things were, he never offered financial help.  He just kept repeating the mantra “bankruptcy.”  I thought he didn’t want to help me because he did not want to part with a nickel.  And, that he wanted me to learn a lesson by going through the humiliation and financial nightmare of bankruptcy.  Now in hindsight I realize he saw my Bipolar Disorder was playing havoc with my self control over my finances, and felt if he gave me money I wouldn’t change my behavior.  I’d just buy something.

ABOUT FACE

Bankruptcy does change your behavior; it makes you poor.  Suddenly you have no choice but to live your life differently.  And I began to realize that I was out of control with my spending impulses and living the life of a middle eastern turban topped diplomat.  Medication can not fix everything, so I had to learn to abstain from needless spending on my own as well.  I had to do an entire about face with my  life.  And, I had to deal with the carnage I had left behind.

A LIFELINE

And when I began to see the light, my entire relationship with my father changed.   Suddenly he began helping me sort out my financial issues and generously donating to the cause.  It’s then  I realized he was seeing ernest change in my spending habits and had stepped up to the plate in a way I never could have fathomed.  Not just monetarily, but assisting  with my bankruptcy to make things easier.  He was helping me with my burden at the point of my greatest frustration by giving me his time.

It had  been a long time since I  felt this loved by him.  And now every time I see a Rolex I look in the other direction because I don’t want to disappoint him and have all his efforts be for naught.  Plus, I can’t lose sight about the fact I am helping myself.

ON THE VERGE

I was on the verge of having no relationship with my father, the man who I had  so many wonderful experiences with.  Like many of us with Bipolar Disorder, I felt he did not understand me and was purposely letting me get cannibalized by the bill collectors and Traffic Court.  I was about to become a “fuck my parents” Bipolar with a permanent “he’s too cheap to help his son” chip on my shoulder.  I was on the precipice of making the great three-thousand mile divide a permanent impasse.

THE WRITE-OFF

My tale is cautionary.  Before you write-off a parent, be really sure you have analyzed the situation properly.   Make sure you truly understand where they are coming from and that they understand from where you hail.  You might realize the love has always been there, they just want to be part of your recovery and not the illnes.  When I started  to get a handle on my finances, my father’s whole attitude changed toward me.  I realized he may not understand how Bipolar Disorder can ravage any or all aspects of a life,  but he’s doing everything in his power to help me in the areas in which he knows he can do me the most good in the long term.  And for that I’m glad I put my pen down and stopped writing.

The Bipolar Perspective: And Then It Hits You   Leave a comment

GRAY BALLS OF FIRE

Ever see the poorly conceived television commercial for Capella University, where an old lady in a wheel chair is teetering at the top of a flight of steps about to take an unscheduled ride to the bottom?  All the while the voiceover is talking about your ailing professional career?  Then the camera zooms in on the constipated looking octogenarian about to take a concrete header and the announcer says, “And then it hits you.  Capella University,”  as if their degree will keep granny from tumbling down the steps in a great ball of gray hair, sagging skin, misapplied lipstick, metal, rubber and wheel chair spokes.

MY CAPELLA MOMENT

A few weeks ago I had my “Capella moment.”  I was sitting in my 2011 Mustang 5.0 outside San Jose California, inert in a freeway traffic jam enjoying my coffee and listening to The Dandy Warhols sing “Minnesoter.”  Then it hit me.  Instantaneously a woman texting while driving her SUV slammed into me at 40 something miles per hour hurling my car into the one in front of me and then rebounded me backward to hit her again like a super-ball.  Literally when the smoke cleared, my Pony was DOA with flaccid airbags, glass everywhere, no visibility in the front or back due to the twisted metal and all I could do was wonder where my coffee and sunglasses were.

MY FORD FORTUNE COOKIE

After five minutes and nobody coming to my aid, smoke started coming out of my air conditioning vents so I bailed out on to the busy four lane freeway.   Still unaided, cars were just driving around this “inconvenience.”  I walked back to the SUV who ran into me.  The middle-aged Asia lady was on the telephone but glad I was OK.  I thanked her for her concern.  The car I was pushed into was barely damaged and the male Asian college student driving was preoccupied with missing a crucial college exam.  He did ask if I was OK.   The only person who seemed to care was the California Highway Patrolman who couldn’t believe I walked away unscathed.  I was injured though, he just couldn’t see it.

The driver of the flatbed hauling my dead Pony to its final resting place gave me a lift to the San Jose Airport so I could rent a car and get back home to San Francisco.  I thanked him, climbed out and watched him drive away with my prized possession contorted  and bleeding until it disappeared into the traffic on the freeway.  And then it hit me;  My car is gone.  I’m all alone at the San Jose International Airport.  I have little cash and no credit cards.  And, I was about to spend time with the three people I despise the most:  An attorney, an insurance agent and a car salesman.   Fuck Capella University.

WITH A GUN

The depression didn’t take long to set in.  When I finally made it back to San Francisco, I got into bed and hid under my blankets for days.  All I could think of was if I got out I’d kill myself.  I wanted to use a gun so I couldn’t screw up not taking enough pills, as I had in the past.  With a gun all you need is the gumption to quickly pull the trigger and it’s over.   A week earlier I had been assaulted over a parking space, had my car unfairly towed costing me $850, paid hundreds of dollars in bogus parking tickets, filed for bankruptcy and finally was able to get a neighborhood parking permit worth it’s weight in gold.  Now I just fell down the proverbial steps in the wheel chair to my demise.

Actually, I was pushed.  Nobody can have luck this bad.   I was convinced of it.  Someone or something was doing this to me.  I didn’t know why but if I stayed in bed I was safe, unless the house caught on fire.  The Bipolar jinx was alive, well and inescapable    All the negative forces in my life converged and took one big shit on me.  I wanted to die before the next act.

WHERE SUICIDE RESIDES

Well obviously I’m out of bed and I’m not dead.   Everybody keeps checking to see if I am still suicidal and I keep explaining that being Bipolar means suicide never leaves your mind.  It just becomes a manageable thought you can push to the side when things aren’t directly blowing your life to pieces.   When things get bad it shoves its way to the forefront and takes over your mind, offering up helpful suggestions on how to rub yourself out.

My psychiatrist ended up raising my Effexor dose to 400mg and has me taking an extra 1mg of Lorazepam each day.   I don’t know if it’s making a difference.  I am still convinced nobody can have as bad luck as I.   Even dropping off the rental car turned into a fiasco.  They couldn’t find the car for three days after it was returned and accused me of still having it, even though they had they keys and rental papers.  Am I a magician now?

A BERLIN SPECIAL

A couple of days ago I went back to work newly medicated and slightly calmer.   I had bought a used car.  Financing it with a bankruptcy was like walking over hot coals while banks chucked poisonous spears at my neck and torso.   But as I drove my new used car through downtown San Francisco enjoying my coffee and listening to NPR, then it hit me.  A German tourist opened her car door into traffic and conveniently clipped off my diver side mirror, giving it a Berlin special.  She caused $1,900 in damage to my 2002 used Mercedes-Benz.

I firmly believe life is a bitch and then you die.  And if you’re Bipolar everything is magnified ten times bigger than life.  You can become unglued about every little thing that happens, or you can roll with it and save the hysterics for the really big stuff.   Sometimes you have to fight to maintain your composure.   But if you are going to stick around you have to take it one day at a time.

INCH BY INCH.  PIECE BY PIECE.

I always thought “take it one day at a time” was a stupid English colloquialism I’d wanted to shove up the ass of anyone who dare say it to me.  However now I think it was written specifically for Bipolar people like me.   If you look at everything that’s wrong and unfair in your life all at once it’s going to consume you.   But if you just do the best you can each day and worry about tomorrow when it comes, life is suddenly a little more manageable.

So if you’re Bipolar and the world is taking you apart piece by piece, deal with it as it comes… In pieces.  Capella University will not come to your rescue with a degree to make it all go away.   It’s a rebuilding process.  And it takes patience.

And then it fucking hit me again.  I am the old woman in the wheel chair at the top of the steps.  Fragile and teetering on the precipice of losing control.  I can either wait for a strong gust of wind to push me over or slowly wheel myself away from the steps.   But I do have the control.

THE TRUE MEANING OF CAPELLA

Whenever I see it I marvel how Capella University’s advertising campaign makes no sense whatsoever.  They never explain how a degree from their school relates to an old woman in a wheel chair sitting precariously at the top of a flight of steps.   And then it hits you.   They teach the lost art of armor suit-making.  If the woman were wearing one, it would protect her from the fall.  If only they could teach me to make one for my mind.

A Bipolar Perspective: Eat Your Froot Loops   Leave a comment

JOB INSECURITY

There is nothing like going back to the office after you’ve just had to take a week off due to a manic shopping spree followed by several days of suicidal depression.   Even if you managed to have your meltdown outside the workplace, you still have to let management know why you suddenly fell off the grid.

In your mind, no matter how understanding they seem, you are forever marked as a Bipolar firecracker that can go off anytime, dramatically jerking, flinching and angrily sputtering out vile insults to potential and existing clients.   And although you can not be fired for having Bipolar Disorder under The Federal Employees with Disabilities Act, management will start talking to you in calibrated calmer tones so you don’t have a sudden freak-out and assign all future stressful assignments to the receptionist.

ONE PILL SHORT OF A FULL PRESCRIPTION

Moreover, although management pledged to keep this to themselves, when walking into the office on your first day back from “sick in the head” leave, you smack right into The Great Wall of Rumors.   And unlike The Great Wall in China, there isn’t a Starbucks at the end for your co-workers to enjoy.  It seems everyone knows bits and pieces of your ordeal. Furthermore, embellished tales of you in a straight jacket and a padded room have rounded things out.  But nobody will acknowledge you were ever even gone, although you’re forever labeled as one pill short of a full prescription.

BOTTOM OF THE BARREL

This same scenario can play out in other areas of your life with Bipolar Disorder.   The quickest way to distance yourself from a long time friend is to tell them you are Bipolar and on medication.  If they are closed-minded,  the words “mental disorder” and “medication” will earn you the same respect as saying you are sexually interested in young boys.  To them, “You’re not right in the head.   You need medication to keep you from becoming a monster.  You are not the person they thought you were.”   In their brain that never breaks wind, your entire history together needs to be re-examined.

Basically just like in the workplace, you’ve suffered a loss of dignity.   There is nothing dignified about mental illness.   With cancer you are a hero every day you fight to stay alive.  A Quadriplegic in a wheel chair is courageous for carrying on with such a pronounced disability.   Even those with brain damage caused by an accident or stroke are looked upon with sympathy and hope.  But if you have Bipolar Disorder, you’re just an emotional mess taking a handful of psych-meds to keep a handle on your compulsions, since you lack the ability to control them on your own.   Bipolar Disease is among the bottom of the barrel in regard to human afflictions.  You can’t even make gravy out of it.

AGING WITH INDIGNITY

One of the nicest comments I ever received was from a girl working in a coffee shop in my neighborhood.   Somehow we got on the topic of age, and I mentioned I was 46.  She was surprised, as she thought I was in my late 30’s, and commented I was “aging gracefully.”  I was flattered.   For a moment I was Steve McQueen.

What she didn’t know is that I am Bipolar, and sometimes feel as if  I am actually “aging with indignity.”   Maybe you can’t see it on the outside, but inside my cranium my brain in being pushed around in a wheel chair wearing a food stained bib and hospital gown begging for its meds.

Those who know me have seen my life go from right on track to me having to hit the “start over” button.  Many have seen my rocky slide from owner to renter, and whether it’s true, partially-true or not at all, attribute it to my Bipolar Disorder.  It’s impossible to simply “screw up” with this disorder.   Accidentally slice your finger cooking dinner?  “He’s a cutter!  Hold him down!  I’ll get the spit mask!  Someone call 911!  Hello, Rampart? Yes, I’ll start two CC’s of Ringers Lactate.”

THE AMISH METHOD

I can’t change who I am or the fact that I basically dumped my life in a Cuisinart and hit “chop” during several bouts of mania and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  Moreover, almost everyone I know has some inkling that something in my life has not gone quite right, if not being privy to the whole disturbing tale.

This is why the only thing I can think to do is adhere to the “Amish Method” of coping.   I figuratively tumble through life ignoring all the cars cutting me off in my horse and buggy and people jumping out trying to tip it over.   Because if I ruminate on how bad it sucks to be stuck in the 1800’s in the 21st Century,  I’ll never get out of bed in the morning.  So I live my life as if everything is status quo and I like getting some teat action at four in the morning.  I can’t stop to think about the time I was hauled off to the psychiatric ward in an ambulance in front of my entire neighborhood. The sheer humiliation will cause me to melt into a puddle of Prozac.  I was drunk, depressed and mentioned suicide.  Did the driver have to flash the lights and sound the siren?  I wasn’t dying.  At least not physically.

TURDS UNDER THE CARPET

If you are suffering from Bipolar Disorder, you are going to have turds under the carpet.   The less turds the luckier you are.   The more turds and you’ve probably dealt with a lot of shit in your life.   But we’ve all got a few hidden kernels.   It’s how you manage them that will make the difference in how you relate to the world.  And, how the world relates to you.

FROOT LOOPS

My solution is to start-off each morning with a big heaping bowl of Froot Loops.   I love the irony in it.  It helps put everything into perspective.   Also, it gives me the ability the laugh at my insecurities and get on with my day.   And for those who say you are what you eat, then I’m colorful, sweet and packed with 8 essential vitamins and minerals.   So if you still think I’m incapable of handling life’s challenges… Eat me.

The Bipolar Perspective: Floating Down The Nile in Denial   2 comments

THE 530 GANG

There was a time in my life when I could walk into a car dealership to look at a car I didn’t even need and allow the salesman to run my credit.   The middle-aged pot-bellied red in face sales-manager would then come off his dealmaking perch and introduce himself to me in person.

“Mr. Goodman.  We rarely see credit this good.  You can buy any car on the lot.  Just let us know which one you want and I’ll personally give you a great deal.”  Then I’d get to shake his hand sweaty from greed.

Now if I were to walk into that same dealership the sales-manager wouldn’t even look up from his paperwork to acknowledge my presence.  This is because the salesman who greeted me flashed him “the 530 gang sign” after he ran my credit.   530 is my new subterranean credit score.  I still could have any car on the lot… I just had to pay cash.   I was now in “The 530 Gang,” whether I liked it or not.   We were real low-riders in every sense of the word.

How did I go from the “good credit poster child” to the example of “this is what can happen to you with bad financial planning” in the Charles Schwab Introduction to Investing pamphlet?  Denial.

TWO FOR THE PRICE OF ONE

Bipolar Disorder affects many facets of a person’s behavior.   Aside from the depression and the mania, it could also include Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Rapid Cycling, Dissociative Disorder and even Schizophrenia.   Often the afflicted suffer from two diagnoses simultaneously.  For instance, Mania and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.   Mania often occurs to satisfy some sort of compulsion.  I was monomaniacal about purchasing new cars because my OCD would not let me run up more than twenty-thousand miles on my current one.   I was convinced the car would become junk at that point and needed to rid myself of it before I get stuck with a pile of scrap metal.

THE NILE IN DENIAL

Denial is a manifestation of Bipolar Disorder.   However, not a separate diagnosis.   When money started getting tight I started prioritizing what and what not to pay.  And parking and speeding tickets took a backseat to car payments and insurance.   But eventually they started piling up.   When I didn’t hear anything for several months on a speeding ticket, I’d convince myself the highway patrolman who pulled me over thought I was a good guy and probably tore it up.  He just wanted to scare me into driving slower.   And all the parking tickets?   I changed cars every six to nine months.   The parking authority won’t even know what car to boot.    I had it all figured out.

Unfortunately, ignorance is bliss and I was haplessly floating down The River Nile in utter denial.   Whenever I tried to get a handle on things the task seemed overwhelming and I figured somehow it would work its way out.   Sooner or later a nice person from the Parking Authority or Traffic Court would call to help me straighten everything out.   In the back of my mind I knew this to be false.  There are no nice people at The Parking Authority or Traffic Court.

I’M THAT IDIOT

You can take all the anti-depressant and mood-stabilizing medication in the world for Bipolar Disorder, but it can’t force you to pay attention to your life.   And when I got pulled over for a burnt out tail light, I learned my driver’s license had been suspended for months due to numerous unpaid speeding and parking violations.   All at once I was without a driver’s license and stranded in the middle of nowhere unable to legally operate my vehicle.   The cop didn’t like me nor did he tear up that ticket after all.   And there are definitely no nice city workers ready to assist me in cleaning this mess up.   Nobody was to blame but myself.

And I had no idea where to start in order to untangle this spiderweb of speeding infractions and failures to appear.   I was the loser you see the judge reprimanding in traffic court for having so many unpaid tickets.   You wonder what kind of idiot could let his life get so out of control?   Well pleased to meet you.   I’m that idiot.

THE BIG DIG

I had two directions I could dig.   Up or down.  Digging down meant my I was going to let the State of California bury me.   No more license, no car and no dignity.  Or, dig up and out of this self-created seemingly constantly quadrupling quagmire of fines.  I chose to dig skyward.  Unfortunately, digging uphill is always harder.

I literally forced myself to get all my infractions together, sort out what I owed to which country, paid what I had to pay immediately and set up payment plans for the rest.   It took weeks of running back and forth between city offices, talking to half-asleep city workers more interested in their next break than giving you a break and waiting in monstrous lines that often extended outside the building.

THE AFTERMATH

When all is said and done, if you do the math, after I paid all my fines procrastinating cost me at least an extra five-thousand dollars in late fees.   And the time it took me to straighten things out cost me unfathomable hours of valuable work and personal time.   But I also learned something valuable about my Bipolar Disorder which applies to others like me.

People with Bipolar Disorder tend to become overwhelmed more easily because we are dealing with managing our disease, which is a full-time job in itself.   And if we have a secondary diagnosis, like OCD, it adds another layer of dysfunctionality to our lives.   It’s easy to let things go with so much happening in our heads.   You put bills, fines, banking information and ominous looking letters aside unopened to handle at a later date when you feel better equipped to deal.

IT’S RAINING MONKEYS

But we never feel more equipped.  And the bills and fines will not go away.   So we must train our Bipolar minds to deal with things immediately instead of procrastinating.    You will always feel like it’s raining monkeys.   But the objective is to get them off your back one at a time before they start piling up and dragging you down.  Bipolar Disorder distorts reality.  The secret is not to give it a helping hand.