Archive for the ‘bipolar’ Tag

A Bipolar Perspective: Eat Your Froot Loops   Leave a comment

JOB INSECURITY

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

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

ONE PILL SHORT OF A FULL PRESCRIPTION

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

BOTTOM OF THE BARREL

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

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

AGING WITH INDIGNITY

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

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

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

THE AMISH METHOD

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

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

TURDS UNDER THE CARPET

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

FROOT LOOPS

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

Advertisements

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.

Elephant Mind Syndrome   Leave a comment

I’m recently single again after a broken engagement.  It would have been my second marriage, but it didn’t feel right.   This time I knew enough to dial it back before the Rabbi told me to break another glass.   I hadn’t really thought about what it meant to be single again, until I had my first weekend alone.  Unlike before, I was not ramping up with the dating sites and connecting them to my cell phone so I didn’t miss a possible connection.  I had practically hooked my phone to my belt last time, which is something I swore I would never do, along with wearing Dockers.

This time I am not motivated to go online.  I know if I do I’ll be crazed with generating activity and I just don’t feel like one more thing with which to be obsessed.  I decided to just meet girls the old-fashioned way; Screaming at them out of my car window waiving a six-pack of Bud and inviting them up to my place to get loaded.  I shouldn’t joke, maybe that does work.   It did in high school.

Actually, the old-fashioned way is just meeting girls through normal everyday interactions and where I socialize.  And I do see lots of women through the course of my work and in the neighborhood bars and coffee shops I frequent.  Usually I would balk at this method.  Just walking up to a woman and introducing myself was out of the question.  I had the self-confidence of a paraplegic dwarf with a twin growing out of the right side of my face, and all you can see are teeth and lips.

A good part of this was due to my Bipolar Disorder.  Having a mental disorder is always in the back of my mind.  It’s not so much that I think women can tell, it’s just that eventually if I met one sooner or later I’d have to drop the B-bomb.   Once I had a date who laid down the ground rules before I could even open the hatch under the plane.  She said she was fine with anything except guys who didn’t have jobs or had mental illnesses.   This is the kind of thing your therapist says will never happen in the real world.  Nobody would be so brazen to say such a thing.

I also recall all the things that embarrassed me throughout my Bipolar life and somehow thought every girl I spoke with automatically knows everything in my screwed up head.  I call this Elephant Mind Syndrome.  Like how as a kid I was made fun of constantly because I was horrible at sports.  Or, for years how my mom made me swim with a bathing cap so my ear plugs would not fall out.  I spent summers being relentlessly teased about being a topless girl.  Then there were my suicide attempts and stays in the psyche ward.

If I did meet someone and got past all that and was still trying to hang in there with a rap, I’d start ruminating on my medication’s side effects.  If my mouth was dry I wondered if I lisped like a deaf person.  I also worried if I had some crusted food or beverage in the corners of my mouth from the dryness.  Or, I wondered if she noticed my eyes shift slightly back and forth because of my nystagmus.  Coupled with the speech impediment and I thought the girl was ready to tell me “how wonderful it is that I am on my own and whether I lived in special needs housing or with my parents.?” Worst of all, I was afraid if I bought her a drink my shaky hands would dump it all over the bar.  I couldn’t tell if I was killing the relationship in my mind or these things were actually happening.   Eventually the pressure was too much and I’d go home to watch Lock-Up.  Cell extractions are so uplifting.

And what if by some miracle I found a girl who actually liked me?  Moreover, there was a possibility we might be getting intimate that evening?  First I’d  have to figure out what’s wrong with her.  I once brought a homeless woman to my apartment because she was wearing a business suit.  I had no idea that was all she owned.   So if I vetted her as normal,  I then had to worry about whether I’d be able to perform because of the meds I take.  Also, there’s the whole dilemma of how long can I put off taking my night-time medication which usually makes me very tired and useless as a bedfellow.

My point? When you are Bipolar, nothing is simple.  There is no such thing as going with the flow.  No matter what turn your life takes, there are a series of related anxieties.  And I recently realized if I let those Bipolar driven fears consume me, the only women I am going to meet are the nurses in the emergency room pumping my stomach.

I know a lot of Bipolar guys and girls reading this blog have had similar feelings attached to meeting the opposite sex.  Tired of losing the demolition derby before I even strap myself onto a bar stool, I will share my new approach to meeting the opposite sex;  If you see a man or woman you’d like to meet, force yourself to go up and introduce yourself.  The worst thing they can do is say “I’m not interested.”  “I’m not interested” can mean a million different things that have nothing to do with you.  Maybe they are waiting for someone, they are attached, not staying long or you could not be their type.  But I doubt they can see your lifetime of embarrassment playing like a video loop in your eyeballs or think you are mentally retarded because you have dry-mouth.  And if you really aren’t their type, so what?  There are a lot of pretty people out there that are not your type for one reason or another.

The important thing is that if you really want to meet someone, keep trying.  Practice makes perfect.  Keep challenging your fear.  I actually just started practicing with some “trainers.”  “Trainers” are women or men you are not particularly interested in but you try to strike up conversations just for practice.  That way if you embarrass yourself or say the wrong thing, it doesn’t really matter.   Consider it a pre-season game.  It doesn’t count.

Have you ever walked down the street and saw a really ugly guy with a very attractive woman and wondered how that mismatch got made ?  It’s because of self-confidence.  The guy was probably persistent and refused to accept his shortcomings as a reason not to be a desirable human being.  People with Bipolar Disorder are lucky in a way because our shortcomings are on the inside.   And, they really aren’t shortcoming at all.  For many of us our disease has made us stronger.  So if you are Bipolar and looking for your soul mate, the only way someone can see all your issues is if you tell them.  And if and when you tell them is for you to decide.

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.

The Art of Being Bipolar   Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mental Illness Mother Goose   Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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