Archive for the ‘Obsessive Compulsive Disorder’ Tag

The Bipolar Perspective: “There is No Tomorrow, Man”   Leave a comment

DIRTY HARRY

Until Clint Eastwood spent twenty-minutes scolding an empty chair at the National Republican Convention in 2013, he was my hero. His role as Dirty Harry in the series of movies where he was a cop carrying a big gun and answering to no one in the name of justice made him my alter ego. However, since I’m afraid of guns and violence I had to settle for living vicariously through Dirty Harry, a man who needed no support system, except maybe in his briefs.

DIRTY PETE

As a kid I always wanted to be like Dirty Harry. But there was no way to kill the cafeteria cook before he poisoned any more kids, no car to lead the principal in a high speed chase or a situation where I could call the teacher an idiot and walk out of the classroom in disgust without getting expelled. And calling myself Dirty Pete sounded like I was a pervert.

BLOWN TO SMITHEREENS

When I hit my twenties I learned I was Bipolar II with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I stayed working in Philadelphia in the radio business and everyone felt good because I was near my father and brother which were a good support system in case my head exploded or something. I was living alone, supporting myself but in a good proximity to all kinds of assistance. Then in 1991 I blew it all to smithereens and drove cross country to live in San Francisco.

GOING CONTINENTAL

No, I did not go to San Francisco without wearing any underwear. I went continental because I loved the city, the people, the lifestyle and the fact that the Dirty Harry movies were made there. But I had no support. If I lapsed into depression, mania, lost my job, got kicked out on the street, got shot by Dirty Harry or anything of the sorts, I had to power through it on my own. And I did. I got married, adopted a wonderful daughter, owned houses, had great jobs, cars, clothes… The whole American Dream. I thought I had made it and this is how it would be forever.

“TOMORROW NEVER HAPPENS, MAN”

And my favorite thing to boast about was the fact that I did it all on my own. Nobody ever gave me a dime or a bit of help and I made it. Bipolar II and all. I was set. A self made man. This was me for a million tomorrows. But as Janis Joplin said at Woodstock, “tomorrow never happens man.”

LET THE BAD TIMES ROLL

Many years later I found myself divorced, jobless, bankrupt and unable to even afford my prescriptions. My car was repossessed, I was drowning in unpaid traffic tickets and had to live with a roommate for the first time since college. And Clint Eastwood was slowly becoming senile. I needed help.

SWALLOW PRIDE WITH WATER

Swallowing your pride is a little easier when you take it with water. I called my father. I was shaking when I dialed the phone. But he gave me the support I needed from 3000 miles away, monetarily and emotionally. And he didn’t do an “I told you so” or demand anything of me except that I get back on my meds with some of the money he sent. And because of him tomorrow did happen. Sorry Janis.

MY MAIN SQUEEZE

My other savior was my fiance, Lynn. I don’t think I really understood the word commitment until my bad fortune. However she gave of herself, what little money she had and all the love in her heart. She never once said having a Bipolar fiance is too hard. All she demands is that I work with her on getting my life back on track. Lynn has more confidence in me than I do myself. I never understood how someone would want to stay with one seriously flawed person for a million tomorrows. Now I understand. Again, sorry Janis.

LINE AT THE GAS PUMP

I write to you my friends not from a position of power or resolution. I’m still depressed, occasionally suicidal, flat broke, in need of work, screwed, chewed but not yet tattooed (Lynn hates those things). I wake up everyday not sure if this will be my last. But then I think of the people who have been working so hard to make sure it isn’t. (Did I mention my psychologist is seeing me free of charge? I call her Saint Anna). Is it the Bipolar jinx, bad luck or am I retarded and just don’t realize it? Confusion is king. Motivation is evasive. Sheer will power is my fuel and there’s a goddamn line at the gas pump.

THERE IS NO ROAD MAP FOR THE FUTURE

I don’t care what the well-heeled politicians say… There is no road map for the future. Just try punching “future” into your GPS system or going to AAA and asking for one. You’ll get directions to Disneyland’s “It’s a Wonderful World” exhibit. If you are traveling the same rocky road as I, all you can do is hang on and keep working toward a better tomorrow. Or, if you’re under the covers and can’t get out, just hang on to see what happens tomorrow. And if you are that bad off and really don’t care anymore, I am the last person to fault you. Only the unlucky few feel your pain.

PIPE DREAM

My hope is that if you have a father, family member or a “main squeeze,” that you appreciate them. They are your tomorrow. Asking for help is the hardest thing you can ever do. My dream is that someday I can make them glad they did it. Right now it’s just a pipe-dream, for I can not see a light at the end of the tunnel. But with my luck it’s probably a train. Nevertheless, I am going to try and hang on one tomorrow at a time before I reach for that proverbial pipe. And if you are feeling the same pain and despair, maybe we can lock hands in solidarity and stick around for another tomorrow.

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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.

A Bipolar Perspective: Eat Your Froot Loops   Leave a comment

JOB INSECURITY

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

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

ONE PILL SHORT OF A FULL PRESCRIPTION

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

BOTTOM OF THE BARREL

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

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

AGING WITH INDIGNITY

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

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

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

THE AMISH METHOD

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

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

TURDS UNDER THE CARPET

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

FROOT LOOPS

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

The Bipolar Perspective: Floating Down The Nile in Denial   2 comments

THE 530 GANG

There was a time in my life when I could walk into a car dealership to look at a car I didn’t even need and allow the salesman to run my credit.   The middle-aged pot-bellied red in face sales-manager would then come off his dealmaking perch and introduce himself to me in person.

“Mr. Goodman.  We rarely see credit this good.  You can buy any car on the lot.  Just let us know which one you want and I’ll personally give you a great deal.”  Then I’d get to shake his hand sweaty from greed.

Now if I were to walk into that same dealership the sales-manager wouldn’t even look up from his paperwork to acknowledge my presence.  This is because the salesman who greeted me flashed him “the 530 gang sign” after he ran my credit.   530 is my new subterranean credit score.  I still could have any car on the lot… I just had to pay cash.   I was now in “The 530 Gang,” whether I liked it or not.   We were real low-riders in every sense of the word.

How did I go from the “good credit poster child” to the example of “this is what can happen to you with bad financial planning” in the Charles Schwab Introduction to Investing pamphlet?  Denial.

TWO FOR THE PRICE OF ONE

Bipolar Disorder affects many facets of a person’s behavior.   Aside from the depression and the mania, it could also include Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Rapid Cycling, Dissociative Disorder and even Schizophrenia.   Often the afflicted suffer from two diagnoses simultaneously.  For instance, Mania and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.   Mania often occurs to satisfy some sort of compulsion.  I was monomaniacal about purchasing new cars because my OCD would not let me run up more than twenty-thousand miles on my current one.   I was convinced the car would become junk at that point and needed to rid myself of it before I get stuck with a pile of scrap metal.

THE NILE IN DENIAL

Denial is a manifestation of Bipolar Disorder.   However, not a separate diagnosis.   When money started getting tight I started prioritizing what and what not to pay.  And parking and speeding tickets took a backseat to car payments and insurance.   But eventually they started piling up.   When I didn’t hear anything for several months on a speeding ticket, I’d convince myself the highway patrolman who pulled me over thought I was a good guy and probably tore it up.  He just wanted to scare me into driving slower.   And all the parking tickets?   I changed cars every six to nine months.   The parking authority won’t even know what car to boot.    I had it all figured out.

Unfortunately, ignorance is bliss and I was haplessly floating down The River Nile in utter denial.   Whenever I tried to get a handle on things the task seemed overwhelming and I figured somehow it would work its way out.   Sooner or later a nice person from the Parking Authority or Traffic Court would call to help me straighten everything out.   In the back of my mind I knew this to be false.  There are no nice people at The Parking Authority or Traffic Court.

I’M THAT IDIOT

You can take all the anti-depressant and mood-stabilizing medication in the world for Bipolar Disorder, but it can’t force you to pay attention to your life.   And when I got pulled over for a burnt out tail light, I learned my driver’s license had been suspended for months due to numerous unpaid speeding and parking violations.   All at once I was without a driver’s license and stranded in the middle of nowhere unable to legally operate my vehicle.   The cop didn’t like me nor did he tear up that ticket after all.   And there are definitely no nice city workers ready to assist me in cleaning this mess up.   Nobody was to blame but myself.

And I had no idea where to start in order to untangle this spiderweb of speeding infractions and failures to appear.   I was the loser you see the judge reprimanding in traffic court for having so many unpaid tickets.   You wonder what kind of idiot could let his life get so out of control?   Well pleased to meet you.   I’m that idiot.

THE BIG DIG

I had two directions I could dig.   Up or down.  Digging down meant my I was going to let the State of California bury me.   No more license, no car and no dignity.  Or, dig up and out of this self-created seemingly constantly quadrupling quagmire of fines.  I chose to dig skyward.  Unfortunately, digging uphill is always harder.

I literally forced myself to get all my infractions together, sort out what I owed to which country, paid what I had to pay immediately and set up payment plans for the rest.   It took weeks of running back and forth between city offices, talking to half-asleep city workers more interested in their next break than giving you a break and waiting in monstrous lines that often extended outside the building.

THE AFTERMATH

When all is said and done, if you do the math, after I paid all my fines procrastinating cost me at least an extra five-thousand dollars in late fees.   And the time it took me to straighten things out cost me unfathomable hours of valuable work and personal time.   But I also learned something valuable about my Bipolar Disorder which applies to others like me.

People with Bipolar Disorder tend to become overwhelmed more easily because we are dealing with managing our disease, which is a full-time job in itself.   And if we have a secondary diagnosis, like OCD, it adds another layer of dysfunctionality to our lives.   It’s easy to let things go with so much happening in our heads.   You put bills, fines, banking information and ominous looking letters aside unopened to handle at a later date when you feel better equipped to deal.

IT’S RAINING MONKEYS

But we never feel more equipped.  And the bills and fines will not go away.   So we must train our Bipolar minds to deal with things immediately instead of procrastinating.    You will always feel like it’s raining monkeys.   But the objective is to get them off your back one at a time before they start piling up and dragging you down.  Bipolar Disorder distorts reality.  The secret is not to give it a helping hand.

The Bipolar Perspective: The Bipolar Mandate in a Society of Hate   Leave a comment

HATE MAKES THE WORLD GO ROUND

Want to get somebody really amped up about a cause?   Don’t tell them how they can stop hunger in Africa.  Or, child abuse in America.  Or even heroin addiction among teens right in their own quiet suburb.   Just park too close to their Porsche in the garage at the mall this holiday season.   They will sit vigil for hours until you come out of the mall and harang you up close and personal for this awful capital offense with a string of obscenities that would make Redd Foxx flip over in his grave.

And if you ignore them and be on your way, they will follow you home with blinding high beams in your rear view mirror and finish their tirade.   Mind you, no damage was ever done to their magnificent German feat of engineering.  It’s just the idea of what could have happened.

However, try to get this same Carrera-minded individual to volunteer the same couple of hours they spent trying to “make you sorry you disrespected their 911” to attend a half-hour citizen’s watch meeting to curb neighborhood violence.  You won’t even get an RSVP.

PROPERTY VS. PROPRIETY

People’s belongings have become more important than their beings.   With the start of the economic downturn in 2008, a huge cultural fracture occurred.  People who were once the epitome of financial security went from drinking a fine cab every evening to driving a dirty one every night.   And those able to hang on to their treasures decided they did something right and slowly divorced themselves from the less fortunate.

It’s a reversal of fortune, giving the newly poor a taste of what it’s like to be Bipolar, although there is no way for them to make the direct connection.  But in a lot of ways, people with Bipolar Disorder feel on the outside too.  Like we did something wrong for having been afflicted and have never been able to play with the completely well-adjusted.  Now some of the formerly financially well-adjusted  aren’t really welcome to play with those who survived the economic downturn.  The wealthy’s property is more precious to them than their propriety as compassionate human beings.

IT”S A JUNGLE IN THERE

I don’t know if it’s the Bipolar Disorder or my mind is actually out-of-order, but when I lay my head down at night the only things that stand out are all the negativity which occurred in my day.  The imposing Cadillac Escalade who cut me off in traffic and almost caused me to hit another driver.   The weathered gray-bearded man begging on the street as a passer-by callously told them to “get a job.”  The puritanical suburbanite in the elevator who yelled I almost “ran grandma down” on my way in and demanded an apology.   The short and stout bespectacled German tourist who almost knocked me to the ground trying to get the last spot on the cable car on my way home from work.  Each night my mind is a jungle fraught with the nastiness of mankind.  It’s amazing I can sleep at all.

THE STRUGGLE

I constantly grapple with the idea of whether it is really that bad out there or if my Bipolar Disorder is magnifying the situation?   I think it’s a little of both.   I see how people are treating one another and it disgusts me.   And then my Bipolar Disorder magnifies the depression that ensues.  Trying to keep positive in a world of people intent on defecating on one another is a real challenge to someone who is already dopamine deficient.

DOUBLE DOWN

To top off the bad economy causing this great human divide, our political divisiveness is  making everything worse.   Now the conservative right is fighting to keep the elite in a class by themselves and the rest of the country at the kids table.  Plus, they are  doubling down blaming the left for everything from women allowing themselves to be raped to permitting poor people to breath the same air.

Well I’m doubling down too.  Each day I strive to be nicest most considerate individual I can be.  I am courteous to others,  helpful to my co-workers and considerate of the less fortunate.  I open doors for women, offer my seat on public transportation to the elderly and if I have an extra dollar for someone in need, it’s theirs.   Someone has to start a full-out assault on this national tone of hostility with a groundswell of kindness.

THE BITTER TASTE OF REVENGE

However when someone egregiously does you wrong, revenge is seen as a sweet way to even the score.   And I think being afflicted with Bipolar Disorder, which is also conveniently packaged with the Obsessive Disorder included, it’s easy to be consumed with retaliation.   Someone has your car towed?   Track them down and smear dog shit under their car door handles, wrap their house in cellophane so they can’t get out,  send pizza delivery guys to their house at all hours of the night and on and on.   You can become giddy with the possibilities.

But not only does this escalate the incident, it feeds this cycle of hatred.  And, revenge never really works out as gloriously as anticipated.  You get arrested for trespassing while gift-wrapping the house, get dog shit all over your hands rigging the car door handles and punish a lot of innocent pizza delivery guys who are just out trying to earn a living.

So no, the best revenge is doing nothing at all.  Not only does it show you are the better person, but it stops feeding into this cycle of human cruelty that has gone awry.   Revenge is born of bitterness, and it tastes just as bad as it ends up feeling.

THE BIPOLAR MANDATE

As Bipolar afflicted individuals, we have a special mandate in this massive freeway pile up of humanity in which everyone is out of their cars blaming one another for the fog.  We feel injustice, cruelty and disrespect more deeply than others.  So we have to consciously try harder to be ambassadors of kindness and understanding.

I know this sounds like pacifist bullshit.  But think about it.   We can be lazy and let our illness take us down the road of hopelessness and insurrection.  Or we can fight it by not succumbing to all the ass-holes of the world.

Bipolars can not act or be consumed by negativity, which in my case will lead to suicide.  Because I know if I not only don’t start letting things slide off my back and commence putting some kindness back into our society, eternal unconsciousness is a much more preferable state of mind.

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.