Archive for the ‘bipolar disease’ Tag

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.

Sex and Psychotropic Side Effects   Leave a comment

I’ll never forget my Dad and I taking a long walk when I was twelve years old.  It was longest walk of my life.  Not because of the distance, it was the subject matter discussed that made it seem like it would never end.  It was his big “sex talk,” where my father proceeded to tell me most of the things I already knew only in more clinical terminology.  And every time I tried to make a joke to lighten things up, he’d smack me in the head.  And when he told me things about my Mom I didn’t want to know, I wanted him to smack me in the head again to knock the disgusting image out of my mind.

Well now it’s time to have my sex talk with you.  However, it’s going to have a little twist; I’ll be talking about the side effects antidepressants and mood stabilizers have on many people’s sexual performance and enjoyment, or lack thereof.   It’s the one side effect from psychotropic medications used to treat Bipolar Disorder that everybody wants to talk about but nobody wants to talk about simultaneously.  So I’ll spare everyone the embarrassment and put myself out there, because whenever I mention it in a blog, I get the most responses and inquiries.  Obviously it’s a major concern.

Many antidepressants and mood stabilizers diminish sexual sensation, gratification, performance and sometimes the ability to even participate at all.   It’s a consequence for men and women, obviously manifesting itself differently between the sexes because men have penises and women have vaginas.  I’ll speak from my experiences and try to offer some solutions that don’t involve leaches or blood letting.

The sexual side effects of psychotropics on men can be devastating.  A lot of them depend on the drug(s) you are taking.  I have taken many.  Personally I have been through not being able to get an erection, no matter how much my partner or I feverishly worked, occasionally producing a soft orgasm at the very end,  just to mock me.  Through it all the lack of sensation in the penis is greatly muted.  Your mind is sexually charged but your penis doesn’t want to party.  It feels like it’s wrapped in a thick wool blanket killing all sensitivity.

If a man can achieve an erection, the sensation can be so muffled that it takes forever to have an ejaculation.  Finally when you do, you barely feel a modicum of pleasure.  Enough to wonder “why bother?”  It is literally as pleasurable as going pee.   Again, your mind wants to have sex, but you have the libido of a dead Mexican rumba dancer. Plus, you have to force penile stimulation, which is counterintuitive.  If you achieve an erection, it is like trying to walk into a hurricane.

Unbelievably, some drugs will let you fight the good fight until you can get and maintain an erection.  Then you “anti-climax” with a dry ejaculation.  Absolutely no semen emerges, nor does it feel very good.  This is the ultimate emasculating effect of Bipolar medication.   It’s only good for people with hand-washing obsessive compulsive behavior because there is nothing to clean up.

The best overall description of how psychotropics can effect sex drive, and maybe only guys can get this, is that physical charge you get starting in the pit of your stomach when you are really excited.  When you are super attracted to your partner and know you are going to have a big orgasm almost just by looking at them.  With antidepressants and mood stabilizers it’s very difficult to get that electrical current to radiate throughout your body.

When discussing what psychotropics do to women, I have to go with what Bipolar sexual partners and friends have told me.  Virtually all experience a diminished sex drive with desensitized genitalia.   But what I hear most is that it’s almost impossible for them to achieve an orgasm.  I have tried over and over to patiently orally stimulate a Bipolar girlfriend and she just couldn’t get “over the mountain.”  It’s even more difficult through traditional intercourse.  Women experiencing psychotropic sexual side effects need intense clitoral stimulation for a long period of time if they are interested in sex at all.  And, many can only reach orgasm with the help of sexual aids that vibrate alone or in conjunction with their partner.  Many times the man feels very inadequate when the woman is forced to introduce  appliances in boudoir.

So what’s a penis and vagina to do?  Can you imagine if a “normal” man or woman started facing these sexual dysfunction issues?  They’d be beside themselves calling their urologist or gynecologist on the golf course in an utter state of panic.  “Doctor, I think my penis is dying.  Is this what happens before it shrivels up and falls off?”  Or, “Doctor, my vagina has a severe loss of sensitivity.  Is this a sign I’m turning into a bitter old spinster with no interest in men?”

If you are experiencing these sexual side effects, “what can you do about them?” is your next question.  Right now there is not a lot medically you can accomplish.  But before you scream in anguish, there are things that do work, you just may not hear about them from your doctor.  As far as pills go, you can ask your doctor to switch your medication(s) to something that may have less or no sexual side effects.  And this does work for some people.  It helped me to a noticeable degree.  However I was also once prescribed Yohimbine, which is some kind of plant extract.  The only thing that gave me was false hope.

Another medical option is just for men; Viagra, Cialis or other erectile aids.  I have not heard from any Bipolar men that they are the solution to getting and maintaining an erection.  I was prescribed Viagra and it did very little.  I also tried taking three times the recommended dose with wanton abandon for having an erection lasting more than four hours and having to go to the hospital, as they warn in the commercial.  I actually would have loved having that problem.  I’d be proud to be wheeled in on a stretcher with the sheets at my midriff noticeably aloft. But nothing. However everyone is different.

Women, I have heard that taking anti-histamines can help produce heightened sensation and lead to orgasm.  This is an off-label use of these over the counter drugs and in no way am I recommending it.  But I’ve heard it works for some.  Since I don’t have female organs, I have no idea why.  I haven’t seen any Bipolar women trying to catch colds or delighted to have allergies either.

A non-medication related solution requires you to change your sexual habits.  For a man or woman with this problem, you need to set the mood.  Just don’t jump into bed.  Have a romantic dinner.  Wear provocative lingerie if you’re a woman.  If you’re a guy, take a goddamn bath.  Have a candle-light dinner.  Talk dirty.  Watch some porn.  Tease one another.  Engage in each others fetishes.  Just do things to raise the level of excitement before you move forward with actual sex.  There is something to be said for mind over matter.

Also, do not drink alcohol before sex.  Medical evidence shows that it decreases the man’s ability to get and maintain an erection and for a woman to fully lubricate and reach orgasm.  Most people know this by having learned the hard way.  If you haven’t, any college student can validate my advice.  Just coupling alcohol with psychotropics could produce negative results unrelated to sex.

The big controversial possible solution is smoking marijuana before sex.  For me it heightens my arousal, increases my sensitivity and enjoyment of  an orgasm.  Some women report increased sensitivity and stimulation as well.  However, pot isn’t like buying a prescription, even when getting it legally from a California Dispensary.  Every “grow” has a different potency no matter how accurate the growers try to be with their various strains.  Plus, different people have different tolerances.  So you have to do a lot of experimentation.  And you don’t want to get so stoned you forget you’re having sex and drift off to slumber.

Exercise is one thing I am positive helps on the sex front.  A vigorous workout gets the blood pumping through all your organs.  When I am done running I almost always have an increased libido.  Better yet, I have less trouble achieving an erection, which is actually a function of getting blood flow to my penis,  a direct result of aerobic exercise.  Furthermore, it makes my orgasm much more forceful and enjoyable.  I have heard of similar sexual benefits regarding exercise from women.  But it has to be activity that really increases and sustains your heart rate for at least a half hour.

Finally, be conscious of when you take your medication.  I found if I take mine too close to having sexual activity, I can not perform well.  But if I wait several hours I can do better.  I realize it can ruin spontaneity, but so can a soft penis or dry ejaculation.

The reason I wrote this blog is so people with bipolar Disorder experiencing these embarrassing sexual side effects from antidepressants and mood-stabilizers know they are not alone.  There are a lot of us out there who have spent years making excuses to sex partners why we can not be adequately stimulated, fully enjoy sex or even perform in the first place.  Do not give up on a solution.  This can be overcome.  It requires patience and willingness to experiment.  And the great thing about our bodies is that we can even experiment on ourselves!

If anyone ever tells you there is more to life than sex, they are right.  However sex is one of the few benefits about having a  human body.  Our bodies are constantly causing us sickness, inconveniences, ailments, embarrassing situations and in this case mental illness.  Everybody, especially people with Bipolar Disorder, deserves sexual pleasure.  It’s free, it feels great and it’s good for you.  Don’t deny yourself.  Apply yourself.

What’s Your Bag?   Leave a comment

First I take the Baggie, the same one I’ve used for at least six years, out of its hiding place in my sock drawer, and put it on my dresser.  Filled to the brim with plastic prescription bottles, they’ve punched wholes through the material greatly limiting its days of functionality.

Like Pigpen’s blanket, the thought of getting rid of it upsets me. That Zip Lock and I have come such a long way together.  The end of a marriage.  A divorce.  A year being single.  An engagement.  Now a broken engagement and I’m alone again.  Maybe the Baggie is actually bad luck?  No.  It couldn’t be.  Not my Baggie.

Next I count out all the pills I need from the various bottles.  I used to use one of those daily dose containers like the elderly, but I was too lazy to keep refilling them at the end of the week.  Then I count the pills to make sure I have the right amount.  Nine in the morning, seven at night.  I also make sure they are in the right denominations.  Two 250mg Effexor, One 100mg Lamictal and so on.

Finally I put them in my cupped hand, go to the bathroom sink, get a mouth full of water and gulp them down.  Then I inspect my hand and the surrounding area to make sure none of them went astray, slipped from my fingers or shot out a nostril.  Now I’m finally free to spend the rest of the day or evening ruminating over whether I took my pills or not and if so were they in the right quantities?

This has been the ritual for the past twenty-four years of my life.  And if I miss a “feeding” I definitely feel it.  Light headedness, trouble focusing, nausea, anxiety…

If you’re Bipolar medication can be a touchy subject.  For me it’s the only thing that stands between a life of relative normalcy and being curled up in a ball on the floor begging to be put to sleep like an animal.  I just can’t stand the depression.   The fragility of my life at times can be very unnerving.  I can’t go anywhere or do anything without my beat up Baggie of psychotropic libations designed to manipulate my dopamine and norfenefrine for the best possible reception.

Some people with Bipolar Disorder have chosen not to go the medication route for a number of reasons.  People don’t want to give up the manic highs.  Others don’t want to gain ten or twenty pounds.  There are even some who feel taking medication is an official confirmation of mental illness and they’d prefer not to wear the blue ribbon.  And in this day and age of only eating raw foods and free range massaged jicama, others do not want to introduce anything man-made into their bodies.  This includes medication that may make them less annoying individuals around mealtime.

I think all reasons for or not taking medication for Bipolar Disorder are justified.  Even if someone is very unstable, as long as they are not hurting themselves or anyone else, they should decide what to put in their bodies.  Especially when it alters their moods.

What does bother me are those with Bipolar Disorder forever searching for their capsule in a pill bottle of bright and shining armor.  They want the ultimate drug that never lets them feel sad and always exist in a perpetual state of “I can’t wipe this grin off my face.”   Maybe they had taken a drug at some point in their lives that briefly made the feel that way.  Or, they once mistook a manic cycle for a drug’s efficacy.  Whatever they felt that one time, they want it back and believe the right drug or combination thereof is out there.  They refuse to stop experimenting until they reclaim the crown of perpetual happiness which is rightfully theirs and inexplicably escaped them.    And, they snuff-out psychiatrists like spent cigarette butts until they find one willing to indulge their personal quest to find the matzoh.

We all know you can never go back home.  And people still looking for the old hood are never going to find the same satisfaction.  But as a fellow Bipolar in complete disorder, I can definitely understand the chase and why some of us can’t stop.   It’s like settling for a Casio when you once wore a Rolex.  They both tell time, but the Rolex made you feel like you weren’t really a prep cook at McDonald’s.

One time a friend came to visit me in San Francisco.  She is Bipolar as well.  I was in her hotel room as she unpacked and pulled out a similar beat up Zip Lock Baggie as I had tucked away in my sock drawer, only filled with her pills.  It made me feel really good and warm inside.  Not because we were both stuck in the same Bipolar boat.  But, because I thought about how many of us must be out there with our beaten up Zip Lock Baggies taking our psychotropic medications day in and day out each with our own little rituals.

We all may not know each other.  If we did we would probably never think to talk about it.  However it’s like coming from the same ancestral heritage.  You know as individuals with Bipolar Disorder we have certain traditions.  Jews wear Yamakas.  Hindus wear Turbans.  And Bipolars have a special bag for their pills.

Take a Drink in My Blues   Leave a comment

The other night a friend commented to me that I drink and smoke pot every evening. She questioned, in a very nice way, if it may be in excess.  I think she was taking a mental inventory of how many wine bottles were in the trash and “roaches” in the ash tray at the end of the week.  She said so out of concern because I am Bipolar II and alcohol is not a recommended additive with anti-depressants and mood-stabilizers, of which I have both taken for years.

My friend is a mental health worker, so I gave her concern more weight than if the elderly Chinese lady who scours our trash for bottles and cans made the comment.  And as a writing-hack, I sat down to construct a blog justifying why it’s actually healthy for certain people with Bipolar Disorder to drink and smoke in moderation, visa vi there was no reason for my friend to be worried.

It took me days to write the blog.  I just could not get the wording right.  And then I finally realized it was because I was full of shit.  I was not being honest with myself and that’s why I was unable to summon the appropriate words.  So to coin a stupid phrase, “let’s get real.”

Alcohol is a depressant.  The reason people with Bipolar Disorder are told not to drink when taking anti-depressants is because it’s counterintuitive.  It will make the drug work harder or render it ineffective.

It’s the same thing with mood-stabilizers, prescribed to people on anti-depressants to make sure they don’t become overly happy.  They are meant to keep you somewhere in the middle where you are devoid of emotion, or at least that is my experience.  You won’t hit rock bottom, but you also can’t summon up a whole lot of excitement about anything either.  And of course adding alcohol into the mix can destabilize the entire situation.

Marijuana.  Who the hell knows what that does to people with Bipolar Disorder?  Some say it helps their mood, some say it makes them more depressed.  There really isn’t much information that I know of on how it interacts with anti-depressants and mood-stabilizers.   Plus with pot, even if you buy it from a legal California Dispensary, you really never know what strength and properties you are getting with every purchase.

With all this information, why would someone on anti-depressants and mood-stabilizers drink and smoke?  Well imagine a life built on a base-coat of depression with suicidal thoughts and side effects that range from constant nausea to sexual dysfunction.  Shaking hands to extreme dry mouth.  Short term memory loss to irritable bowel syndrome.  And this is all courtesy of the best medication cocktail I have ever been on.  Without it I am positive I would be dead.

In light of all this, I just can’t see anything wrong with coming home and having a couple of glasses of wine and smoking a joint over the course of the evening if it makes me feel good.  It’s nothing that many non-afflicted people do on a daily basis.

Am I addicted to drinking and smoking?  No, but I would be very unhappy if I had to stop.  And if it doesn’t affect my work or other aspects of my life, I don’t see the point.  Even if I were alcohol dependent (pot is non-addictive), at my level of consumption I would not really care.  I’m already addicted to anti-depressants and mood-stabilizers.  Take those away and it would be like withdrawing from heroine.  It’s much easier to stop drinking.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I am not recommending the consumption of alcohol and marijuana to people on psychotropic drugs.  Everybody has to make their own decisions.  I know some Bipolar people who drink, some who drink and smoke pot, some who just smoke pot and others who do nothing.  And if I were prescribed a drug that makes me feel wonderful, I would stop drinking and smoking in a heartbeat.  Why rock the boat?  Not many people with Bipolar Disorder get to sail those pristine waters.

I make no excuses for my alcohol and marijuana consumption.  Just like everyone else, blessed with Bipolar Disorder or not, I like the way it makes me feel.  I enjoy the taste of good wine and micro-brewed beer.  Pot takes away my nausea and has almost eliminated the sexual side-effects that have plagued me for years.  And for a little while I can relax and stop constantly worrying about whether I’m heading for a cycle of depression or not.

So I will say to my good friend, thank you so much for your concern.  I appreciate your vigilance.  And I hope you’ll keep looking out for me, as I will for you.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Medication and Mixed Marriages   Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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