Archive for the ‘mentally ill’ Tag

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.

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A Bipolar Perspective: Eat Your Froot Loops   Leave a comment

JOB INSECURITY

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

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

ONE PILL SHORT OF A FULL PRESCRIPTION

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

BOTTOM OF THE BARREL

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

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

AGING WITH INDIGNITY

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

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

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

THE AMISH METHOD

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

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

TURDS UNDER THE CARPET

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

FROOT LOOPS

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

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.

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.

In Bipolar We Trust   Leave a comment

Dealer:  “Hello, Car Dealer.”

Man:  “Yes, I’d like to bring my car in for service.  Do you have time available this week?”

Dealer:  “We do, but how do I know you are going to show up?”

Man:  “Because I want to get my car serviced.”

Dealer:  “Did you buy it here?”

Man:  “Yes.”

Dealer:  “Give me a minute.  I need to confirm that.”

Man:  “Can I please just schedule a service?”

Dealer:  “Is this your first service with this vehicle?”

Man:  “Yes.”

Dealer:  “You must pre-pay.”

Man:  “How do I know the cost without it being looked at?

Dealer:  “How do I know without pre-paying you’ll show up for your appointment?”

Man:  “Because my car needs service and I bought it from you.”

Dealer:  “Computer is down.  I can’t confirm that.  Call back tomorrow.”

Trust.  It’s one of the most important words in the English language.  Without it society ceases to function.  And in general the majority of people in the world are trustworthy.  But there are enough degenerates out there to ruin it for us all.

The car dealer example is a little extreme. But it’s not too far off the mark.  Most businesses will not take a personal check because they don’t trust you not to bounce it on them.  Hotels want your credit card number when you arrive just in case you decide to check out without paying.  Clothes in decent stores are hooked to the racks with alarmed wires because they are afraid you’ll steal them.  Even in Walgreens Pharmacy you can not get an electric toothbrush head without someone unlocking the cabinet.  Who in  the hell is going to steal a plastic electric tooth brush head?  Are we a society of thieves that will steal anything not nailed down, whether or not we need it?

However, we need trust to survive.  You have to trust the babysitter with which you leave your kids, or else you’ll never get out of the house.  You need faith that the item you bought and paid for on eBay is going to arrive as ordered.  And, when you sit down to eat at a nice restaurant, nobody does a credit check to see if you will be able to pay for the meal.

Trust is even more important to someone suffering from Bipolar Illness.  This is probably because everything about the illness and its treatments have a plethora of ways to present itself in each individual.  Consequently, a Bipolar person can not trust that the drug regiment that worked on their best friend will work for them.  And, that they will experience the same side effects to the same magnitude.  When it comes to treating Bipolar, even the doctors don’t make definitive statements.

But Bipolar people have to trust something.  Otherwise our lives will be in constant chaos.  We’d all be seeking different treatments, if any at all.  The majority of us would be in the throes of mania or in the deep dark bowels of depression.  So, we put our trust in our psychiatrists.   They are educated and know more about Bipolar Illness and its treatments than anyone else we have access to.  We trust them to guide us down the path to a better quality of life by learning how to best manage our illness.  We know the going can be rough until we find the right medication(s).  But, we trust the doctor to get us through it.

Bipolars also need to be able to trust people.   They need friends who will show up when they said they will for coffee.  Significant others who won’t forget to stop by the pharmacy after work to pick up your medications.  A Bipolar Support Group where you can freely talk about your issues to others going through the same trials and tribulations.  Whether they know about your illness or not, you need people who “have your back.”  In return, you must do your part and “have their back.”

A Bipolar twenty-something I wrote about once before in a Bipolar Support Group I attended took this “got your back” thing a little too far.  He has a Bipolar friend who was very depressed and cancelled plans with him several times.  The friend even told him about his depression being why he cancelled.  The guy in my support group was so disgusted he cut his ties with this person.  He said he was undependable, couldn’t be trusted and was lazy.  You’d think being Bipolar himself he’d be more understanding.  But he put himself on a pedestal for Bipolar achievement because he does not lie in bed all day.  I was pretty disgusted and asked him if he was so wonderful why was he still on state disability and not working?  He looked like someone just gave him a spoonful of motor oil.   His argument was crushed.

There are a lot of  mean people out there.  A judgmental, vindictive and belittling person can come into your life with a smile and warm handshake.  But so can an empathetic, generous and loyal friend.  For this reason never stop your quest for trust.  Exercise it whenever you can.  Trusting people often attracts other likeminded trusting individuals.  If you are Bipolar you can never have a big enough circle of friends.  And if you pick up a rotten apple, enroll them in one of Oprah Winfrey’s “Life Classes” on her OWN Network.  I heard she has an episode coming up called “I Know Nothing About Life.  Why Am I Giving Classes?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bipolar Support Groups: What are they Supporting?   Leave a comment

A few years ago I was a mess.  Diagnosed Bipolar II with hypomanic episodes and freshly divorced, I was living with my girlfriend, one dog, a cat and her two little girls all in my tiny studio apartment in San Francisco.  Plus, my girlfriend had an ex-husband that would practically scale the side of my apartment hi-rise like a little lobster to the seventh floor looking in on us for incriminating evidence he could use against her in divorce court.

I was already seeing a psychiatrist for my medications and a psychologist for talk therapy.  But the latter felt I was suicidal and needed more support.  It was either go to group therapy or resign me as a client.  I agreed because whenever I was a little late for an appointment she started calling hospitals to see if I was on a metal table a toe tag.  Personally I thought hearing about other people’s problems would depress the pants of me.  However she was adement, so I went out of respect for all the good she had done for me in the past.

I began my group odyssey on a Saturday afternoon in a session held in the basement of a local hospital.  Right away I was greeted by an older, portly, belly sticking out of sweater, thick plastic bespectacled gentleman who would later introduce himself to me at least five more times in the next hour and a half.  I got past him and sat on a chair arranged in a big circle.  I was one of the first people to arrive aside from the facilitator.

The facilitator was not a professional and had no therapy credentials.  He was just a guy in his mid 30’s with severe depression and an uncontrollable inclination to insult strangers he sees out on the street.  Bloated from medication, too much cake and a crew cut that should have come with a complimentary pair of Dennis the Menace pavement sliders, he would read the meeting ground rules as if every syllable bored him more than the last.  Then he’d make sure anyone who wanted to talk had their ten allocated minutes.  And if anyone ever got out of line, he’d ask them to leave. But you could tell cake was his main concern.  Coffee cake, pound cake, walnut cake, angel food cake… Ah, so many wonderful cakes!

Quickly the empty seats filled up with what I assumed were bipolar butts.  But to my surprise almost anyone could sit down and chime in.  And some of the regulars were schizophrenic or had other major psychological disorders.  And when they started talking delusionally, everyone would get mad at them for wasting time and tell them to shut up.   I thought it might be a good idea to get them information about the appropriate group therapy session for their mental disorder, but the moderator just sat there with his thumb up his ass dreaming about the way sponge cake feels when rubbed all over his body.

Here is a snapshot of the Bipolar Support Group’s composure:

We had a delightful gentleman in at the ripe age of 90 who came to talk about his older sister.  He was just lonely and frightened of what life held for him.  He could have been sitting in Knitters Anonymous and be just as content.  But he was too nice a person suggest attending a different meeting.

We had a young school teacher on medical leave, afraid to return to the classroom due to severe panic attacks. It was obvious she was bright and communicative.  I felt her anxiety could be overcome with some exposure and talk therapy.  However, practically everyone united to convince heron permanent disability was the way to go.  To about half the group of around twenty people, the question wasn’t if you could go back to work, it was whether you could qualify for permanent disability.  The consensus was she could make a good case for it.

One lady was never formally diagnosed with anything, but liked making the coffee shop arrangements for after the meeting.  She was a mental illness groupie.  She would latch on to a really sick person and become their sole support system.  And when no longer needed, or getting on that person’s nerves, she’d find a new lost soul in the group to mother.  I think she had a disease called munchausen-bipolar.  She found self worth making herself part of the drama centered around a bipolar person going through hardship.

Then there was a 350 pound woman who was sweet on the outside and a trouble maker on the inside thriving on confrontation.  Once she brought a very old little dog to the group that was literally on it’s last leg.  She was bald, blind, barely able to walk and fighting for breath from fluid filled lungs. This woman walked it around the circle basking in the “isn’t she adorables.”  But the dog was so close to death it was like bringing a dead bird to the meeting.  It was probably a blessing, but the little dog died that evening.

My favorite was a woman who complained of Personality Dissociative Disorder, so she sat with a mirror in front of her reminding herself she was still there.  She never talked.  All she did was stare into the mirror.  I wanted to say, “Put away the mirror.  I’ll let you know if you disappear.”

Finally was the lady with a greenish abscessed toe bursting out of her shoe who always wasted half the session talking about free theatre tickets she can get through an agency that donates them to non-profits.  But that infected toe was like a gargoyle that encouraged me to keep my distance from her.

My last example of the misplaced mentally ill was my greeter.  He would sleep through most of the session and suddenly awaken with a random suggestion, like how to get free pencils from the city.  Apparently he noticed someone writing with one in a notebook and felt it would be helpful knowledge.  Then his head would drop and he’d be back to slumberland in no time.

Basically out of an average of twenty people, two of them talked about real bipolar issues the first time I attended.  The rest would just give advice on how to get permanent disability, free psychiatric care and medications.  Others were there for the coffee shop get-together after each session.  It was more a place to socialize for the generally mentally ill and senile.

Not all bipolar support groups are the same.  I am sure there are some with a better illness vetting process and accredited facilitators who actually lead the group instead of waiting for it to implode.  My suggestion is to learn more about all the Bipolar Support Groups in your area and sit in on several.   Note others in the group looking for a feeling of commonality of mental disorder, age and education.  In other words, find a support group in which you feel comfortable sharing.  With support groups it’s the people attending the group who are most important. They are the ones offering advice and comfort.  It’s crucial you find people you can relate to.

That teacher with the anxiety disorder did eventually go back to work full time and the last I heard is doing quite well.  When asking someone what gave her the confidence to go back to teaching, she told me it was leaving  the support group.   If support groups were on Yelp, what a story she’d have to tell.