Archive for the ‘bipolar’ Tag

THE BIPOLAR PERSPECTIVE: OH, IT’S JUST THAT AGE   4 comments

MY CHILD IS MY HEART

Watch any kind of television program where they interview random people. When asked about their children there is an eight out of ten chance they will say, “Oh, my child is my heart.” What does that actually mean? That your child is beating inside your chest creating blood flow to your body and you are taking your red slimy beating heart to the playground and named it Raymond? Or is saying “my child is my heart” the most loving thing you can possibly say about your child? It even trumps “My child means the world to me.” So, are all the times I have said “I love my daughter” insufficient and I have not properly annunciated my love for her? If you are Bipolar with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, this is enough to double your weekly therapy visits.

BETTER CHIMES

I had a really bad upbringing. My Mother was a severely depressed Bipolar sufferer with Beating Disorder. And my Father never saw a set of doorbell chimes he couldn’t ring by raising his voice at me. Plus, nothing I said was without criticism. But I promised myself I would be a better more supportive Father in every way my parents were not to me. And being Bipolar, I was very attuned to everything that came out of my mouth to build up my daughter, instead of knocking her down. Moreover, if I ever felt I did fail, I’d ruminate on it for days trying to make it right. My concern was whether I scarred her for life. Any parenting mistake would practically send me over the edge.

THE COOL FOOL

Many parents decide they want to be their child’s best friend, instead of their best parent. I constantly took my daughter shopping and allowed her to eat anything she liked. I hoped the “let’s keep it a secret from Mom” would further endear her to me. Once When she got suspended from school we spent the rest of the day at the mall. I bought countless cars and old convertibles because I thought she’d get a kick out of them. I don’t even look like a father, with long hair and hip glasses. I was trying to give her everything I would have wanted as a child. In theory it makes sense. Now I just feel foolish.

THE PARENT RAP

In a Bipolar world, your child would love and appreciate you. They’d see how hard you are trying to make them happy and not be a nagging constantly punishing parent. And when you talk to them you try and turn it into a rap session, instead speaking to them as a parent. But in my case, my daughter did not seem to even notice or have much interest in anything I did or do. At almost sixteen she has no idea what I do for a living and nothing matters about what is going on in my life. For me the parent rap is just a parent trap, because everything I did to make her love me just gave me a bad rap. With the negative influence from my ex-wife, she has disappeared completely from my life.

OH, IT”S JUST THAT AGE

Anyone who says “Oh, it’s just that age” should be shot on site. We all remember what it’s like in high school to want to hang out with out friends constantly and not tell our parents anything. Everyone needs to give their teenager some room. But when your child does not return phone calls, emails and texts, it has nothing to do with “Oh, it’s just that age.” Instead it’s, “Oh, I’m your Dad and get back to me in a reasonable amount of time.” Could you imagine your parent’s calling you at sixteen and not getting back to them…ever? If you suffer from Bipolar Illness, the constant analysis of this situation in your mind can overcome you with severe grief, which later turns to anger. You forever feel the need to straighten things out, and at the same time want to de-friend your own kid on Facebook, plus move away without telling them. If you are lucky you’ll remember you’re the adult in the situation and get ahold of yourself.

YOUR SPOUSE IS A LOUSE

Let’s not spend too much time on this. Those of us who are divorced did it because our spouses are louses. And when they’ve got primary custody you have no idea what kind of venom they are filling your child’s head with. If you are Bipolar, you can ponder infinitely until your face turns blue trying to make sense out of the situation. It’s our nature. I’m sure my ex is not doing me any favors. The words “call your father” have been lost behind “I leased you a horse, bought you all the best riding gear and am paying for your lessons and competitions!” I guess I can’t compete unless I were a talking horse like good ole Mr. Ed.

HOPE, DON”T MOPE

So, where do you go from here? You feel disrespected, unloved, unwanted and unsure of what you did wrong. You have done everything you can to try and find out what the issue is and repair the relationship. You hope your child has a conscious and misses you. You hope for that phone call or text from your child telling you they love you and what’s going on. But the bottom line you have no control over it. And unless you subscribe to the concept of “Magical Thinking,” the tendency is to mope. Somehow this is your fault. Could your ex be this divisive? I knew my ex was a control freak when I married her. Almost six years after our divorce I realized Miss Peaches and Cream had issues with telling the truth as well. Like I have discovered, without honesty in return, talking to your ex is like swallowing thumb tacks.

THE HARDEST THING TO DO IS NOTHING

I’m not an expert on child psychology and bitter ex-spouses. And being Bipolar my brain has this need to have everything concerning me right in the world. Disorder and anger directed at me is extremely hard with which to live. But if you are like me, you have to sit on your hands an avoid emails, phone calls and texts hoping to get even a “Hi Dad, miss you,” from your child. They know you feel terrible. This is their only way of exerting power over you. Get back in the driver seat by doing your parental duty by doing absolutely nothing. If they come around celebrate. If not, try and accept it. This may include therapy and medication. Losing a child who is not dead is a horrible thing to go through. How do you explain it to people without giving details you don’t even quite comprehend?

I TRIED AND I TRIED BUT COULD NOT LIGHT UP YOUR SKY

These are some of the last words I emailed my daughter. They are paraphrased from a rock group named “Cracker.” The song is called “I Can’t Forget You.” First they made me cry. Now they bring me comfort. I put away all her pictures and have stopped talking about her. I now have graduated to believing “it is what it is.” Probably the most profound phrase in the English language. It doesn’t bring closure. But for an estranged Bipolar Dad, it allows me to let things rest without completely shutting the door.

THE BIPOLAR PERSPECTIVE: YOU CAN LEAD A DEPRESSED PERSON TO WATER…   7 comments

Cracking the Window

Everybody has a different way of asking for help.  I have Bipolar II, with an extra serving of depression.  So when I am down so low I cannot take life anymore, I try to give it back with an overdose of my medications and as much Vodka as my body can absorb before I lose consciousness.  But no matter how many pills and how much Vodka I’ve ingested, I have still not been able to permanently put myself out of my misery.  There is no doubt at that moment in time I sincerely want to kill myself.  However, by not swallowing the entire contents of my medicine cabinet straight off, which for sure would bring about my demise, I leave the window open a crack with a parting call to my psychologist triggering an onslaught of help.  Could it be that I’d rather wake up feeling sick to my stomach six hours later than remaining unconscious feeling nothing six feet under?

Calling All Cars

The other day I was on Facebook and noticed a message from an old acquaintance.  He actually sent it out as a general notice to all his friends.  He explained he was feeling intense anxiety, depression and having trouble functioning.  He had an appointment with a doctor, but was extremely afraid of having to take medication.  I thought it was somewhat strange he was “calling all cars” about his mental condition. Most people are very private about it.  I was so intensely secretive I wrote a book about my experiences (BUZZKILL) using my real name.  My friend was obviously a mental illness novice.  He had not yet learned how to make the dramatic cry for help by at least threatening to jump from something.

Don’t Buy Generics

The last time I checked my friend had forty-one responses from some very well-meaning people.  But when you boiled it down they all had the same advice; “Hang in there.  Things will get better over time.  I’ll pray for you.”  Irrespective of the stupid simplicity of their remarks, it was amazing they all basically offered the same generic response.  And, not one person mentioned psychiatric help and medication, which my friend stated he was especially nervous about.  It reminded me of someone telling a little kid they are going to the circus, when they are really going to get a rabies shot.  And the “I’ll pray for you?”  Why not just say, “I’ll waste some time talking to myself about you instead of talking to you.”  Here was a true cry for help and in return came the off the shelf generic “You’ll be O.K.”  What these people don’t realize is that depression is life threatening, not to be thwarted with a pep talk like before the big homecoming football game.

Go With a Name Brand

Being depressed and despondent is about as real as it gets.  So I decided to “keep it real” and reach out with some useful “Name Brand Advice” via email.  After all, I suffered from depression and anxiety most of my life. Who better to advise him than an individual who will actually address his concerns.  So, I told my friend I have Bipolar Illness, which he may or may not have.  But I know well the anxiety and severe depression that goes with it.  I urged him to find a doctor who listens to him and what he could expect from medication, if in fact recommended.  Also, I suggested he read my book because it specifically addresses his concerns. Moreover, I asked him to purchase five copies and bill it through his insurance.  Lastly, I offered to meet with him anytime he needed to talk.   He thanked me.  Why not?  I’m a name brand lunatic.

Diarrhea of the Email

Then I let loose a torrent of emails also to help my friend.  I talked about medication side effects, finding the right doctor and coming with me to my support group for those who suffer from depression, anxiety and or Bipolar Illness.  Each time he thanked me, but never took me up on an offer.  Was I getting too involved?  Did he not know me well enough to open up?  Was I scaring him?  Was he afraid of turning out like me?  Did he want me to shut the fuck up with my “diarrhea of the email” advice?  My mother used to beat a subject to death so badly that if it was health related, it would cure itself by the intermission.  Was I becoming my mother?  I checked my head for electrodes.

Walk Away Renee

I finally decided enough was enough with the emails and to leave my friend alone.  Walk away Renee.  He knows what I have to offer and if he needs me I’m sure he’ll get in contact.  Sometimes when we are Bipolar and find someone who is in similar pain, although undiagnosed, we will do anything to bring assistance.  We identify with their struggle.  But at a certain point that individual has to reciprocate by reaching out.  You cannot force help down a person’s throat.  All you can do is throw them a life-preserver and see if they take it.  If not, let them find their own way.  I hear a good chiropractor can cure just about anything. Maybe my friend isn’t ready to come to terms with the possibility of needing psychiatric help?  I know when I took my first handful of psychotropic medication (in the prescribed amount), I felt the stigma of being a mental patient as if I was punched in the gut.  I was actually disappointed in myself for being so feeble!

Billboards and Bus-Backs

I was beginning to feel like a social marketer for the American Psychiatric Association.   Or, a Bipolar Recruiting Agent scouting out depressed people for a Bipolar diagnosis. Nonetheless, I have to be satisfied with having done my very best to help, and leave it at that.  Offering too much help can be just as bad as doing none at all.  Maybe I should cancel the billboards and bus-backs with my friend’s name on them, urging him to go to the emergency room if his depression gets worse.

You Can Lead a Depressed Person to Water…

Just like I have always subconsciously cracked the window during a suicide attempt, I realized my friend is doing the same with his mass email.  He made his cry for help.  Although not suicidal, he left an opening for someone to rescue him.  However, I can’t fit through it.  Maybe I represent too much reality?  Whatever the issue, I hope someone can breach the barrier.  And I have to be satisfied that I tried to offer assistance.  It’s really up to him to accept it.  As they say, you can lead a depressed person water, but you can’t make them see a shrink.

THE BIPOLAR PERSPECTIVE: SOCIAL DISTORTION MEDIA   3 comments

The Human Lost and Found

Ten years ago if you wanted to find an old friend, you could do a search on the internet, or sign up for one of those “free” web services that can locate people at nocharge.  But if you actually want to find out anything useful about them, besides their name and age, then you get “paid-membershipped” to death.  Or, you could have gone to a then fledgling Social Media site, like “My Life,” hoping the friend was active in this human lost and found.  However at that time most people were not putting their profiles online for privacy reasons.

Disgrace Book

Then Facebook matured and now almost everyone has a page and timeline complete with their current location, photos, employment, likes and dislikes plus whatever else about themselves they want people to know.  Now old high school friends can look you up without your permission to see what you have or have not been up to the last thirty years.  I was a loser in high school.  For me, Facebook has given me a whole new reason to feel like a failure in 2015.  All my insecurities have come rushing back.  Will people think my girlfriend isn’t good-looking enough?  Have I aged poorly?   Am I the only one in my class who can’t do open heart surgery, or argue a case before the Supreme Court?  Will someone from my past find out I’m Bipolar and think it makes perfect sense?  I call Facebook “Disgrace Book,” because anyone can look me up and have a hearty chortle about how poorly I’ve done in life.

More Torture Please

Facebook is like “enhanced interrogation,” a word Dick “I shot my friend in the face” Cheney uses to make torture sound more soft and cuddly.  But now if you don’t have a Facebook page, you are out of touch.  People need to be able to see you just lost your job, got a divorce or have a kid with an underbite like a 1957 Buick Roadmaster.  Sure, you can make your site only viewable by confirmed friends, but then you look like you really have something to hide.  And since Facebook is now frequently used as a search engine, you are almost required to have access in today’s information age.  So you maintain your page, and just like the droplets in water torture that eventually drive people mad, Facebook allows your friends and foes to slowly trickle into your life judging and eventually driving you mad as well.  And if you’re Bipolar, which commonly comes with increased anxiety, social issues and disdain for one’s past, you never know who will pop into your life digging up your most detested memories, embarrassing moments and perceived lack of achievement.

The Sniff Test

Once in a while some old work cronie posts on my timeline who I thought I was done having nightmares about in the 1990’s, Then I’ll check out their Facebook page just to make myself a little more miserable with their magnificent accomplishments.  Its like when you accidentally get a little shit on your hand picking up after the dog.  You completely wash it off, but you can’t stop sitting there discreetly sniffing your hand over and over all day long just to make sure it doesn’t smell.  Being Bipolar often makes it so you just can’t help sniffing out ancient classmates or work associates who contacted you on Facebook.  You want to make sure the reminder of their success has not stuck to your brian.

The Pull Out Method

I wish there was a big pre-lubricated condom I could put over my entire head so whenever someone from my past or present tries to friend me or comment on my Facebook Timeline, nothing they can say or think about me will reach my Bipolar brain with all its insecurities.  But since I do not see this social contraceptive on the horizon, mainly because the wearer may smother to death, I have thought about using the “Pull Out Method.”  Basically, I’d just shut down my Facebook page and go off the grid.  Solve the whole problem wham, bam, no thank you Facebook man.  Would I really be missing out on things?  I could always keep up with politics on FOX News.  But then I’d really have something to be humiliated about.

Social Media Intercourse

But if you are a business marketing to highly targeted masses, Social Media really is the new frontier.  And when a consumer is reached through Facebook, Twitter or the likes, if marketers can’t get you to click to their link immediately, some will tag you with an ad.  They are essentially invading your personal space on the internet.  I call this “Social Media Intercourse.”  Give a marketer a sliver of information and they’ll follow your future internet viewing sessions with the same banner ad for what seems an eternity.  In essence your personal space has been permeated.  Or in other words, you’ve been fucked by Facebook.  I think they even sell your information to marketers, also making Facebook a pimping service.

Taking Facebook at Face Value

Individuals dealing with Bipolar Illness need to view Facebook and other Social Distortion sites in a whole new manner.  Instead of thinking we are the only “under-achievers” in the room, which is only a perception and not a fact, realize that everyone is trying to make themselves look great on Facebook.  Who is going to put down “lost my last job due to alcohol addiction, suffer from schizophrenia, my wife is ugly and I just filed for bankruptcy?”  And you know the picture they post is going to be their very best shot with someone secretly standing behind them pulling back the loose skin on their face and neck.  So please, do not take Facebook pages at face value.  What you really want to know is lurking on the “back pages.”

Give Till It Hurts

The other thing someone with Bipolar Illness might want to consider when using Disgrace Book is to “give until it hurts.”  Only write or post about things with which you are comfortable.  Not everybody has to know every single aspect of your life.  It’s not lying, it’s called keeping certain subjects not for public knowledge.  Do you think your boss is going to post he has only one testicle?  Of course not.  It has no bearing on anything.  Neither does your Bipolar Illness.  Unless of course you want people to know.  So when updating your Facebook page, only give information until it hurts.  Then stop writing and move on to other things.  Like why you are 53 and still living with your mother.

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

A SECURITY GATE THAT SWINGS BOTH WAYS

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

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

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

SATURDAY NIGHT REVOLVER

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

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

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

GRADUATION DAY

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

BLOWN TO PIECES

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

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

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

VALEDICTORIAN

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

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

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

BEEF JERKY

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

OVERKILL

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

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

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

SUICIDE WATCH

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

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

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

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

FINANCING YOUR MEDS

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

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

NO DOGS OR PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS ALLOWED

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

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

GO ONLINE AND HAVE IT RINGING OFF THE HOOK

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

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

ALL ABOARD!

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

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

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

SWITCHING TO A MORE AFFORDABLE DISEASE

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

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

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

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

AFFORDABLE AND PORTABLE

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

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

PRICED OUT OF YOUR OWN ILLNESS

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

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

BE VIGILANT

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

DOGS FLYING PLANES

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

The Bipolar Perspective: Closing the Parental Divide   Leave a comment

MIXED MOODS

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

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

DAYS IN THE SUN

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

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

THE GREAT DIVIDE

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

HERE COMES THE JUDGE

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

BIPOLAR BUYER’S REMORSE

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

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

THE MANTRA

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

ABOUT FACE

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

A LIFELINE

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

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

ON THE VERGE

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

THE WRITE-OFF

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

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

GRAY BALLS OF FIRE

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

MY CAPELLA MOMENT

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

MY FORD FORTUNE COOKIE

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

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

WITH A GUN

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

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

WHERE SUICIDE RESIDES

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

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

A BERLIN SPECIAL

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

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

INCH BY INCH.  PIECE BY PIECE.

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

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

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

THE TRUE MEANING OF CAPELLA

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

A Bipolar Perspective: Eat Your Froot Loops   Leave a comment

JOB INSECURITY

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

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

ONE PILL SHORT OF A FULL PRESCRIPTION

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

BOTTOM OF THE BARREL

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

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

AGING WITH INDIGNITY

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

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

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

THE AMISH METHOD

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

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

TURDS UNDER THE CARPET

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

FROOT LOOPS

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

The Bully Pulpit   Leave a comment

The anxiety started the moment I got off the school bus in the afternoon, haunted me all evening, gave me nightmares while I slept and caused me to physically shake and fight back tears as I waited for the bus to pick me up for school again in the morning.

I wore thick glasses, had severe nystagmus, causing my eyes to uncontrollably shift back and forth, had poor vision, horrible coordination when attempting to play sports, undiagnosed Bipolar Disorder making my behavior over-exaggerated at times and was a terrible student because I was embarrassed to say I couldn’t see the blackboard, even from the front of the classroom.

My entire school day was spent ducking the kids who tormented me for my physical inadequacies and snuck in a quick trip, punch, smack or pencil stabbing whenever a teacher wasn’t looking.  In the 1970’s if you told a teacher kids were kicking you in the back as you stood in front of the urinal, all it would do is increase the veracity of the retribution.  As scared as I was to be in school, I was terrified of getting jumped off school grounds.

Never in my entire life would I ever think a group like StudentsFirst would actually pass Anti-Bullying Legislation.  Laws to stop kids from picking on their classmates for deviating from the norm or just simply being weaker.  Where was this legislation when I was getting repeatedly stuck in the ass by thorns as I was boarding the school bus everyday?

Here is my conundrum;  Can teachers not see what goes on in lunchrooms, hallways and playgrounds?  Or, do they feel discipline is not part of their job description?  Do we need the courts to come into the classrooms because school administrators can no longer control their students?  I detest bullies, but should they be faced with jail time because they are turning out to be the imbeciles reflective of the parents rearing them?

The new argument for bringing courts into the classroom is that victims of bullish behavior are feeling so much anguish they are committing suicide.  And, before they go, in extreme cases they are killing their peers and or complete strangers in incidents like Columbine as acts of final revenge.    These are horrible outbursts of violence, but I question whether the media and other watchdog groups are inadvertently convincing people bullies are provoking revenge killings and we need the courts to control them.

Revenge killings are very extreme cases fueled by the availability of guns and the plethora of “how to be a little terrorist” materials on the internet.  Most of the kids who trip other kids carrying their lunch trays aren’t going to be doing this in their forties.   I doubt the kids who relentlessly picked on me for my shifting eyes are still laughing about it and seeking out others with nystagmus to castigate.   Nor are they teaching their children how to take over the reigns.  They didn’t deserve to be disciplined by our legal system.

It is very true that the internet has given bullies a new tool to ply their trade.  And a powerful one at that.  It can permeate the classroom environment into a child’s private life.  Personally I think it’s taken the place of physical in favor of psychological abuse.  And instead of writing insulting things about each other on bathroom walls, kids are now doing it in chat rooms and on Facebook.  But the internet is here to stay and I don’t think anyone is going to eradicate new ways kids have devised to use it to be mean to the downtrodden.

I have a thirteen year old daughter living in a very nice suburb of San Francisco with her mother.  She goes to a very good public school.  First hand I have seen the feverish pitch of paranoia school administrators have reached to prove they are on the super mutated anti-bully bandwagon. Moreover, they are beside themselves with fear of an unstable student targeted by bullying, getting his or her hands on a machine gun (thanks to the NRA for making them so accessible), and mowing down the student body.  For sure in this day and age they would be held legally responsible by someone.

So if a kid in my daughter’s school hurls a profanity at a classmate online, a girl slaps a boy for being sexually harassing or a kid is caught selling something as benign as candy on school grounds, the full weight of the administration comes down on them.  I have personally heard of kids detained, suspended and expelled for such horrid “miscreant” behavior.   (I actually learned the kid who sold the candy tried to argue it was for personal use, but the principal wouldn’t buy it).

To add to the fervor, a celebrity revered by younger people like Lady Gaga came out against bullying.  I find her incredibly intelligent, compassionate, courageous and my daughter insists talented.  I think having an international celebrity stand up against bullying is more than for which bullied kids could even fathom when I was growing up.   But such an influential figure to kids on the bully pulpit, although I believe is meant with all sincerity, is adding to the disproportionate reaction.

Like most things in America, I think we have gone to an extreme on the school bullying issue.  I agree it’s a problem.  I have battle scars to prove it.  If I saw a kid bullying another I’d confront him or her immediately.  If my child were doing they bullying, I’d not only reprimand her, but I’d make sure she doesn’t do it again.  When my child has been bullied, I provided her with love, comfort and helped her understand why kids act this way and how to remain strong.  If it’s relentless, I’ll talk to the school or the “opposing side’s” parents.  Most importantly, I’ll stay on top of the issue.

What I don’t want is court intervention with legal consequences for childhood misbehavior.  Bullies belong in detention or suspension, not incarceration.   And if we start relating incidents like Columbine as bullying cause and effect to our children, bullied children are going to think this is what could happen to them when they reach their breaking point.   They may even imitate such behavior.  Moreover, they’ll begin to rely on the legal system or Lady Gaga to mitigate their circumstances, instead of turning to their parents or teachers.

There is no solution to bullying.  There never will be.  This is what kids do.  It’s cruel and it sucks.  And it’s great that there are adults standing against it.  But it doesn’t belong in the courts.   When it goes in the courts school administrator ass holes tighten and they punish a kid if they just look at someone the wrong way, terrified of being blamed for another school shooting.  Of course this makes the parents go off the deep end policing their kids for any signs of being bullied.  And when the kids see how crazed adults have become, they become more dramatic to fit the tenor of the situation. This is when the shooting starts.

Take this advice from a shifty eyed, visually impaired, bipolar with poor coordination who used to get stuck in the ass by thorns;  If you build it, they will come.  If we legislate instead of parent, laws will be broken.  Schools will become detention centers.  And kids will not learn appropriate responses and resolutions.  Instead they’ll depend on laws to set their personal boundaries.

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.