Archive for the ‘bipolar disease’ Tag

THE BIPOLAR PERSPECTIVE: BEARING THE BAGGIE OF BURDENS   Leave a comment

PISSED

The other day I finally went to the urologist.  I wanted to find out why at fifty years of age I started wetting the bed three nights a week.  As I walked into my sparse HMO Plan’s Doctor’s Office, I was prepared for news of a cancerous growth in my manhood, a renegade testicle or an untreated progressive tropical sexual disease I picked up eating Cuban Food in San Francisco’s Mission District.  But I got even worse news… There was nothing physically wrong with me.  The emotionless managed care physician even managed to look at my prostate, which apparently gave him the “OK” sign as well.  I wonder if it was a “thumbs up” or it just “winked”at him like a Cheshire cat?

RESTRICTED FLOW

 If my member is not sick, that means my night-time urinary incontinence must be in my head.  Or at least that was my first conclusion.  After all these years in therapy trying to keep my Bipolar mind afloat, now I had sprung a leak down below.  And, the treatment was as vague as the apparent cause.  So the vanilla urologist gave the tasteless advice not to drink fluids three hours before bedtime and see what happens.  He also emphasized no alcohol.  I knew this was implausible. My Bipolar medications make my mouth extremely dry.  I have to keep drinking liquids or suffer from such bad cotton mouth my lips stick together when I speak, causing annoying suction sounds.  Plus, the thought of restricting the flow of alcohol prematurely during an evening on the town is out of the question.  I prefer to drink with wanton abandon.  Why should I once again have to add another limitation to my already restricted existence?

HI-HO!

And then it hit me… This was just one more annoying annotation to my treatment schedule I will have to endure due to my Bipolar Disorder.  Just like the cadre of pills I have to take twice a day, now I must regulate my liquid intake.  Another hurdle to clear, inconvenience to negotiate and regiment to be saddled with in order to remain ready for prime time.  I feel like I am in an 1800’s horse-drawn wagon, piled high with pills and their side-effects, barely inching across the baron plains of the old west.  Hi-Ho Effexor, Lamictal and Topamax! Git!

MANAGED MEDICAL INCONTINENCE

However the thing the Managed Healthcare Professional said that bothered me most is he felt the assortment of Bipolar medications I take are probably the cause of my night-time incontinence.  I’m well aware they cause dry mouth, nausea, severe constipation and weight gain, among other things.   But because my nightly dose of the anti-depressant Seroquel makes me sleep quite deeply, I may not be waking up when I have the urge to urinate.  Consequently, I go in my sleep.  And, the doctor made it clear he did not think I should discontinue any of my medications.  So in essence, he was saying it was best to continue wetting my bed.  That way “at least I have my sanity.”  I call this Managed Medical Incontinence.

BEARING THE BAGGIE OF BURDEN

One time a friend who I met in a Bipolar Chat Room came to visit me in San Francisco. When I helped her get settled in her hotel room, she pulled out an identical Zip Lock Baggie to mine filled with pill bottles containing her personal mixture of Bipolar elixirs and poultices.  I suddenly felt a strong commonality with her. I realized all Bipolar sufferers carry their own “baggie” full of unique prescriptions and medication induced limitations like mine, everywhere they go in life. I take a handful of assorted pills twice a day. Some people take theirs three times daily. Some have to take meds with food. Mine make me too nauseous to eat right away.  A number of people can drink alcohol with them, but others get violently sick or depressed and can not combine the two.  Each baggie contains a mixed bag of burdens specially formulated for that individual.  But we all bear the same baggie of burden.

MY BAGGIE IS BIGGER THAN YOUR BAGGIE

Wetting the bed is a pretty heavy burden for a baggie to bear.  You can learn to keep your shaky hands in your pockets, and take your midday dose of medication out of sight from your co-workers.  But if you are ever going to have an intimate relationship, you can’t hide the fact that you are irrigating the bed.  Or, you can wear a diaper to sleep at night and call it an “undergarment,” so it sounds more like Mormon underwear. However I’ve come to the realization that everyone’s baggie seems equally big in their own eyes.  Different people with Bipolar Illness have different medication regiments.  It’s not as simple as just popping a Prozac.  And consequently, we all have our own set of annoying side-effects. Moreover, if they are your annoying side-effects, they are bigger than anyone else’s.  When I first started taking a once daily dose of the anti-depressant Elavil in the mid-1980’s to treat my Bipolar, I didn’t even need a baggie. Conversely,  I thought taking that single pill at night would be a massive intrusion on the rest of my life.  Now I carry a heavy duty Zip Lock Baggie, and yearn for the days of simplicity that came with only needing one pill bottle.  These were the days when my side-effects could be counted on one hand, not amplified to a roar and punctuated by constantly having to change my bed sheets.

THE CAT IS OUT OF THE BAGGIE

Now that the cat is out of the baggie, do I accept my predicament or search for a solution? If you suffer from Bipolar Disorder, you are forever trying to do one thing to compensate for another.   Am I willing to discontinue the Seroquel, become sleepless, depressed and dehydrated, so I can awaken dry just in time for another miserable day of suicidal ideations? Personally I am not ready to accept the Meaningless Managed Medical Memorandum on my nocturnal incontinence. So I will go forth seeking solutions that may or may not materialize.  Will I end up adding to my baggie or shrinking it?  I don’t know. But I do know I am not alone. Because Bipolar babies all have baggies.  No matter how big or small, they are enormous to the bearer.  And all of us in the Bipolar Community anticipate with bated breath a cure for their individual intolerable side-effects just around the corner.  Side-effects are the price we pay for being alive and sane.  However they can also drive you insane.

HALF IN THE BAGGIE

I thought the only way I could write about this was if I were “half in the baggie.”  It’s an embarrassing thing to do sober.  And nobody except the person “sleeping on my bottom bunk” really has to know.  But so rarely can you showcase a Bipolar medication related side-effect that makes the non-afflicted truly realize how gruesome this business can be.  There is no free ride.  Moreover, in most cases Bipolar medication only works to a point.  It does not completely wipe out deep depression, anxiety or mania.  Just enough to get by.  But the side-effects are full strength and show no mercy.

 

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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.