Archive for the ‘OCD’ Tag

A Bipolar Perspective: Eat Your Froot Loops   Leave a comment

JOB INSECURITY

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

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

ONE PILL SHORT OF A FULL PRESCRIPTION

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

BOTTOM OF THE BARREL

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

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

AGING WITH INDIGNITY

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

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

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

THE AMISH METHOD

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

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

TURDS UNDER THE CARPET

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

FROOT LOOPS

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

Advertisements

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.

A Bipolar Move   Leave a comment

There is one activity I detest more than all others… Moving.  That’s when you have to put your entire life in boxes, have some burly mover guys you don’t know toss them into the back of a truck and hopefully have your things show up at your new address intact and unharmed.  If you are Bipolar this is even more of a formidable task.

The last time I moved a mover shattered a glass coffee table by standing it upright on its side in the elevator.  The sheer weight made it collapse on itself.    My dog was even telling the guy to lay it on its side.  So remember, you are also trusting all your worldly possessions to some hot sweaty guys without shirts and baggy shorts to make moving decisions on your behalf.   You may not be there to tell them to take the frame off the bed before shoving it through a doorway.

By the time the movers actually get to your place you are already in a tizzy.  You spent the prior week making value judgements about what clothes you will never wear again, CD’s you don’t listen too anymore and personal papers you may never need and purge them from your possession to streamline your move.   But the “how do I know I won’t want to wear that jacket again” blues keep playing in your head.  Eventually you just have to get the stuff out of the house to Goodwill and the recycling bin.  The longer you leave yourself the choice of going back and rescuing that old lava lamp, you’ll be having second thoughts about not saving empty razor blade cartridges too.  “But I can store things in these!”

Then the movers show up, shirts still in tact as they have not yet started throwing your boxes around like oversized square shaped Frisbees in order to work up a sweat.  And the banging, dragging, covering, taping, lifting, shifting and emptying out of your apartment begins.  All you can do it take a Lorezapam and pray nothing gets broken.

When the movers are finally finished and shirtless, they meet you at your new residence.  But apparently first they want to stop for lunch.  So why you sally forth to your new abode, pacing the empty floors checking the windows every ten minutes for signs of the moving truck, you begin to get nervous.   Are they sitting on your furniture watching your flat screen TV in the back of the truck eating burritos and washing them down with a couple of cold ones?  It’s probably ridiculous but you can’t stop getting angry about the image of that scene playing out in your head.

Finally the truck shows up and slowly the unloading begins.  The movers are a little more subdued and quieter.  They just want to get this done.  In rapid fire succession they start shooting your boxes from a guy on the street to one in the house.  Then the big stuff comes in slapping and scratching all the woodwork as if to say “ABC Movers were here.”  And when it’s all said and done you are left with rooms full of furniture with boxes stacked on top of it ready for the pleasant task of unpacking.

But before you can unpack you have to sign off that nothing was broken by the moving company.  It seems kind of like a draconian practice, because you are giving them a pass but you have not opened the boxes or turned on the electronics to see if everything is actually in tact.  Shit, when you rent a car they go over it more carefully for scratches and dents.

So the crew chief comes in with his clip board, you end up paying more than you were quoted and realize there is nothing you can do but give him your credit card and cringe.  Every time you asked for a quote it was always an estimate.  Now you are nailed to the wall.  Plus, you still have to tip the moving men.  This is their bread and butter so you have to make it nice.  And, you have to make it cash.  All in all a 5-hour move in the same city can cost you around one thousand dollars including gratuity.

Moving is a raw deal.  I don’t know anyone who enjoys it, unless you own a moving company.  And then you just hire others to do the lifting.  But when you are Bipolar it’s even worse because it flirts with your insecurities.   The possibility of breakage or disorderliness of your possessions touches on OCD issues.  Depression swoops in when leaving a place of familiarity and comfort for an unknown.  Paranoia rears its ugly head when you suspect the moving company is grossly overcharging you. Plus, you suffer guilt for all the money moving costs, and the trade-offs you made for living in this new place.  Finally, mania comes when you realize all the things you need to make a home livable and frantically drive to Bed Bath and Beyond to get everything you need all at once.  This has to happen immediately and cannot be piecemeal.  Your new home will never be home without all the comforts of home.

So, my advice to my Bipolar compatriots is to prepare yourselves for a big move.  Identify all the possible triggers and do what you can to minimize them.  Be sure to leave yourself enough time to pack so you don’t have these last minute dilemas on what to keep and what to give away.   Make sure you get an accurate estimate from the moving company so you will be prepared for the fleecing.  And remember, you do not have to unpack all at once or purchase every single amenity during one trip to the store.  Unless you are planning on entertaining the President in your bedroom, you can go without a bedspread that matches your curtains indefinitely.

The Bipolar issue with moving boils down to all the unknowns; What will it end up costing?  What will break?  Will the movers steal from me?  Will I like my new home?  Will my cable be hooked up properly?  What did I forget to buy?  Any one of these things is a trigger for Bipolar depression or mania.  And no matter how well you prepare, the movers are always going to be the wildcard as will whether or not you actually made the right decision by moving.

As the moving truck full of my personal possessions barreled its way up and down the city streets of San Francisco, occasionally becoming airborne,  my level of anxiety was at a plateau so great that I was speaking in an octave higher than my usual voice.  That is when I said “enough.”  I told myself I did everything I could to arrange a stress free move and what will be is what will be.  And when it was all over what it was is how it is.  Getting worked up did nothing but make a vein in my head bulge and pulsate uncontrollably.

So my Bipolar friends out there, when facing a situation you feel is out of your control, do everything possible to prepare and then as they say in the Mafia, “forget about it.”  Because there is absolutely nothing more you can do.  It is what it is.  Go for a walk.  Have a cup of coffee.  Start smoking cigarettes.  Experiment with heroine.  Donate your body to science while you’re still alive.  Just don’t stress out about the move.

Medication and Mixed Marriages   Leave a comment

I should have been happy, but she was driving me insane.  I almost had to ask my psychiatrist to add a sixth medication to my cocktail so I wouldn’t strangle my wife.  “Did you take your pills?  When did you take them?  Are you sure you took the right dose?  Lets double-check.”  At one point she even took to counting my pills out for me.  My word meant nothing.

You see, I was in a mixed marriage.  I am Bipolar II but the woman I married was sane.  However, after watching me suffer through two severe depressions ending in hospitalizations, several bouts with exhaustive mania, which usually included me buying a new car, a Swiss watch, jewelry, or all of the above, she became vigilant about me taking my medications.  To her this was the only thing she could do to ward off future episodes.  One time she even got the pills and walked them over to me like she was giving a dog a biscuit.  I was waiting for her to ask me to lift up my tongue proving I swallowed them like in the mental ward.

My wife had never experienced even a friendship with someone who was mentally ill until she met me.  And after we married I had my first major depressive episode, in which I overdosed on Lorazepam and washed them down with half a bottle of Seagrams Seven.  She was really rattled.  Watching the EMT’s accompanied by the San Francisco Police come into our apartment and load her semi-conscious husband into a waiting ambulance definitely made an impression on her.

Racially mixed marriages are easier even if you come from two different cultures.  You can experience each other’s heritage by eating favorite ethnic foods, listening to each other’s music, meeting the parents, seeing where you each grew up and getting to know one another’s friends.  But in this kind of mixed marriage, if you have Bipolar Disease, you can’t expect your sane spouse to climb into your head to experience your own private hell, have them take your medications so they can share the joys of shaky hands dumping hot coffee in their lap, have them cozy up to a schizophrenic roommate in a locked mental ward so they can see where you sometimes hang out and let them experience a manic episode culminating in a wild shopping spree, maxing out their credit cards putting themselves on the fast track to bankruptcy.

For this reason I think the chances of this type of mixed marriage working out are tenuous at best.  Lets say you are the sane one, and your spouse has Bipolar Disease.  At a certain point you are going to think they are lazy for sleeping too much.  And they are not much fun because they feel most comfortable at home away from noisy crowded restaurants and bars.  Plus they’re a total party-pooper because when the evening medication kicks in around ten PM, they are ready for bed.  Worst of all, they never want to have sex because their medication has sucked the horny right out of them.  I ask you, even if you know it’s the Bipolar Disease talking, how long can you put up with this type of in-patient lifestyle?  I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t say it would be difficult for me, even knowing what I know about Bipolar Disease.

My wife ended up asking for a divorce.  She said my Bipolar Disease wasn’t a factor, but I know it was.  I was hypomanic.  I couldn’t stand to be touched. I was self-medicating with alcohol and doing most of it outside the home in various neighborhood bars.  This is also when I first started my quarterly purchase of a new car.  And, I wasn’t keeping my wife informed regarding my medications.  Her involvement in my illness was no longer welcome.  I could not live in her world of vigilance and who in their right mind would want to live in mine of drunken insanity?

I often wonder what it would be like if two bipolar people tied the knot? No longer would it be a mixed marriage.  However, I can see it either turning out to be a wonderful understanding, loving relationship, or two people fighting like hillbillies in West Virginia over a pot of three-day old rabbit stew.  On one hand they can comfort one another because they know exactly what he or she is going through.  However, being on the receiving end of a manic episode, severe depression, bouts of agoraphobia, time-consuming OCD or whatever else your mate might have bundled in their bipolar profile, might be quite menacing.  Even if you have Bipolar Disease yourself, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can take it from somebody else.  Especially if you are making more progress than your spouse in recovery.  Then you might even harbor unwarranted feelings of anger, as if they are just living a life of slack.  You could inadvertently become a Bipolar Snob creating a hierarchy within the disease.

I am not suggesting people with Bipolar Disorder give up on the idea of mixed marriage.  I think it’s the people who make the marriage work, not simply a non-afflicted partner’s ability to tune out the scary stuff.  It’s more important that they face their partner’s bipolar idiosyncrasies and possible breakdowns with an aire of calmness.  My fiancee (I still hate that pretentious word) is not bipolar, but when I hit a rough patch she is the picture of cool.  She makes sure I am safe, provides comfort and allows me to ride it out.

My advice is when entering into a mixed marriage or serious relationship, make sure the non-afflicted partner knows and understands Bipolar Disease and how it manifests in your particular situation.  Prepare them for how to handle a bout of depression or mania.  Then if and when it happens, they won’t be surprised and will already have an appropriate plan of support.

I once dated a girl and we were really starting to like each other.  She told me her criteria for getting serious with a guy is that he lived on his own and had no mental issues.  I stood up from the couch and handed her her coat.  “Well, I guess we’re not going to work out because I’m bipolar.”  It really pissed me off because it’s a disease, not an acquired trait or born out of a personality flaw.

She must have really liked me because she gave me a pass.  But I never could get her comment out of my mind.  And I knew anything I did would be under close scrutiny for being a product of my mental illness.  So, it turned out I was not comfortable dating her.  So the last thing I will say is that when embarking on a mixed relationship or marriage, save yourself some heartache and find out how the object of your desire feels about mental illness before you get too serious.  You could save yourself a miserable trip down Bipolar Break-up Lane, where relationship are only as strong as your medication.

Beating the Bipolar Jinx   Leave a comment

I sat on the couch with a small mountain of fresh from the mailbox bills, late payment notices and parking fines heaped infront of me on the coffee table.  I dreaded opening them as they were chiseling away at my non-existent bank account.  Then I checked my email.  The bank was sending me an overdraft notice and a fine for not dental flossing regularly.  My heart was pounding out of my chest in pre-panic-attack-mode when I realized I wasn’t going to be bringing in any money for at least two more weeks.  I’d have to do another juggling act.  The stress was unbearable.

I decided to go across the street and get a cup of coffee in an effort to slow down my heart rate.  On my way over I stuck my head inside my apartment building parking garage to make sure my car wasn’t hooked up to a tow truck as I was late with my rent.  They sent out the tow truck the second your payment is overdue.  I think the towing company had a special agent just assigned to my car.  Thankfully there was just a sign on the windshield announcing a tow later that day.  Now on my way back I’d have to hide my car.

 “What else could possibly go wrong today?” I muttered to myself.  Then I stopped dead in my tracks.  I felt an electrical current race through my body from head to toe.  I had just jinxed myself.  Not only can’t you think that, but you dare not speak it.  I knew the power of the jinx.  I was done for.

As I cautiously continued on and crossed the street into the Starbucks parking lot, my cell phone rang an 800 number.  Foolishly I answered.  It could only be a bill collector with an 800 prefix.   It couldn’t be Publisher’s Clearing House.  They don’t call, just surprise you at your front door with an oversized check.   It was my car finance company asking why my payment was a month late.  I was flabbergasted.  I thought I was on time.   Now I would have to come up with two payments this month of squalor. I didn’t even ask the woman at the end of the line to check and see if it was a mistake.  Nothing ever worked out in my favor.

The jinx went way beyond decimating me financially.   In my case it also never let me have anything new stay that way.  Once, I finally found the exact black boots for which I had been yearning. I bought them and the first time out I tripped on a sewer grate and literally ripped a hole in the right boot’s toe.   Even the shoemaker said he had never seen that kind of wound, and he was a medic in the Vietnam War.  Then whenever I got a new car the jinx was alive and well.  Within a week I’d grind a wheel into the curb while parellel parking, the freshly shredded rim ruining the whole new car feeling of pride.  And when I moved into a new house, I noticed a stain on the wall.  After hours of careful rubbing with various solvents it became bigger and permanent.   You want more? I was wearing a brand new v-neck black sweater.  I walk into the living room and my dog randomly jumped up and with one swipe of her claw rips it right down the front instantly making a sweater vest.  Without a word I just slipped it off in disgust and tossed it in the trash.

I’ve actually spoken with other bipolar people and they have felt jinxed as well.  That same feeling I have where nothing ever seems like it can go right without a hitch.  However, I’ve come to the realization that believing in the jinx is closely related to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder from which many people with Bipolar Illness suffer, including myself.  We want new things to be perfect and can’t stand when they don’t go as planned in our lives.  That’s why we incessantly count things, only sit facing East, don’t step on cracks, etc.  We feel more in control.  We are obsessed with keeping new things in pristine condition. A “bad count” or ripping a brand new boot means we have lost control.  If you don’t have OCD, it feels like a big truck once drove by your house and the vibration made every cabinet, closet and drawer open, the contents spilled onto the floor, some broke and everything mixed together with the kitchen trash.  Then you had to put everything back where it belonged and spend the rest of your life going through rituals to make sure a big truck never drives by your house again.

But when you’re out in the world things happen.  And no matter with how much vigilance you try to keep your new i-Phone from getting scratched, keep that new silver bracelet from oxidizing or keep your new leather jacket out of the rain, “shit happens.”  Many bipolars think it is only happening to them.  That they alone are jinxed.   It seems all the things they try to keep looking new always meet with the “jinx wrecking-ball.”  “It just cannot be random.  There are too many instances.  The jinx becomes as real as a bad 1970’s Malter Matthau movie.

I felt this way too.  Until, I started looking around.  I began to notice everyone’s i-Phone has been dropped and scratched a few times.  And even the nicest homes have a stain or some imperfection.  Most commonly, half the cars on the road have mashed up at least one tire trying to parellel park.  And boots go on your feet.  Of course they are going to get dirty and meet up with an occasional hazard you are unable to negotiate.  So I began to realize, these things were out of my control.  But they were also not because of a jinx.   They happen to everyone.  If I was going to get hung up on every little imperfection, my OCD was going to win out.  The jinx would  be my reality.

I don’t think you are ever completely cured of OCD.  But I did realize the jinx is just a manifestation of it.  I’m not going to lie and say when I scratched the crystal on my best Swiss watch I didn’t have a mild mental meltdown.   However, I reminded myself this happens to everyone, and I’m not the only one with an imperfection in my ensemble.   I looked and saw all the people and cars surrounding me with their own imperfections.  Most cars I saw had a dent or a scrape.  And everyone had something funky going on with their hair, clothes or jewelry.    Nobody was lying in the street moaning about stains, scratches and tares.

So, I’m convinced the jinx is just a mindset.  There isn’t a little troll following me around waiting until things are going well and then he lobs a heart attack at me, makes the cleaners ruin my favorite shirt or snaps a mirror off my car.  I believe since the jinx lives within in our minds, we at least have the power to understand it’s not real and is actually a mutated form of OCD.  When you truly get your head around this, you can deal with the real issue, which is your OCD. Unless of course you think you got OCD because you were jinxed.  Then things get ugly.

The Magic of Guilt   4 comments

I remember watching  Master Magician David Copperfield tie himself up in chains and have someone sink him in a tank of water to make his miraculous escape in front of millions of gaping mouthed television viewers.  My mouth was gaping too, because I was lusting over a bag of salt and vinegar potato chips.  Same thing when he had someone saw him in half while in a coffin.  While everyone oohed and aahed I was in the bathroom trying to pop a zit.  The guy had a cover over the escape tank and who knows how many trick compartments were in that coffin?  Now having David Copperfield simply stand there naked on stage while a random audience member holding on with both hands runs a chain saw through his torso and he remains whole, that would have been a real feat of magic.  Or, a really gory viral video on YouTube.

However, I do believe we all posses a magical power within us.  Some are really adept at using it and others just let it chain them up and drown them.  It’s called guilt.  You can use it to manipulate others to do what you want or others can control you with it.  And it doesn’t involve slight of hand, fire, white doves, rabbits or coffins.  Anybody can use the power of guilt with little to no instruction.  In fact, it’s an innate ability some say given by God.  God is actually the embodiment of guilt.  If you don’t believe, bad things will happen.

Coming from a Jewish background, tossing around guilt was practically a sport in my family.  I remember around twelve years old I formally started studying for my Bar Mitzvah.  Even at that tender young age religion and God just didn’t seem believable to me.  I needed to see something concrete.  However four years earlier I’d say the same bedtime prayer up to ten times in a row until it was perfect.  I wanted to make sure God accepted it so all the people I wanted him to bless would not die the next day.  Notice a little OCD working here?

So since I had no more faith, getting Bar Mitzvahed seemed like nothing more than a chance for my battling divorced parents to throw a big party so my embittered waring relatives could shower me with money and gifts and kill each other in a caged wrestling match.  And when I began to push back about having to sing from a prayerbook written backwards and in Hebrew and walk around the synagogue holding a Torah over my head which looked like a double roll of paper towels in an ornate blue velvet and gold cover, my parents threatened me with no Bar Mitzvah.  I took a deep adolescent sign of relief and thanked them.  Now I had more time to masturbate.

Then came out the magical powers.  “How could I be so selfish.  I would break my great grandfather’s heart, who was smuggled into this country from Russia on a boat, not to see his great grandson Bar Mitzvahed.   And being one of only a handful of Jews in my private school, it was my duty to stand up  and accept manhood as a Jew.  It was up to me to represent my religion.”  Then my father snapped his fingers and my mother wiggled her nose like Elizabeth Montgomery in Bewitched and I was guilted into having a Bar Mitzvah.  They never even pulled the word God out of their parental quiver.

But here is the thing that many people don’t realize about guilt;  You don’t have to feel it.  You allow yourself to be guilted into something.  If you don’t feel guilty about something, nobody’s words can make you adopt the emotion.  Feeling guilt is your choice.  But please don’t misunderstand, just because you can chose not to feel guilt, it doesn’t make it an invalid emotion.  If you steal, you should feel guilty.  You took something that wasn’t yours.  If you don’t feel guilt there is something wrong with you.  But if you decide not to go to a party because you’re depressed and really don’t have the capacity to interact with others, you should not assume guilt over being bipolar and needing to take care of yourself.

Now of course there are selfish people who do whatever they please and don’t feel a lick of guilt, even when they should.  I have a friend who has cancels on me every single time we are supposed to get together.  This has happened at least ten times.  I’d be utterly embarrassed if I were her.  I doubt she feels guilt or she wouldn’t treat me like this.  The worst part is I really don’t have a burning desired get together with her in the first place.  She was asking me to help her with something.  The humorous part is that she is a deeply religious Christian.   Christians are almost as good as Jews with at assigning guilt.  Doesn’t she know  “Jesus died for her sins.”  That’s some pretty powerful guilt.

I think bipolar people are more susceptible to taking on guilt.  So many times because of depression, medication side effects, mania or just needing to rest our complicated brains, we opt out of social activities and now and then work related events.  We feel guilty because we lie about why we did not participate.  “I have food poisoning.”  “The house flooded and I have to stay with the plumber.”  “My car died.”  Why should we be required to broadcast to the world we are bipolar and need some time to get our heads together?  Women having painful cramps don’t announce their periods in public.  It’s fine to just say they are a little under the weather.  I doubt they feel any guilt.  But because you can’t see Bipolar Illness, we allow ourselves to feel guilty when we have to opt out of certain activities and tell a little white lie. This is the kind of guilt we should chose not to feel.

Unfortunately, one of the fun things about being bipolar is that we often feel things we do not want to feel but they stick in our minds disproportionately magnified until they dominate our thoughts.  We second guess everything we do or say and play it over and over in our heads ad infinitem.  And if someone drops the guilt bomb on us, or we do it to ourselves, we find ourselves in a web of mixed emotions from which not even Spiderman can untangle.  If you are bipolar, it’s very hard to simply chose not to feel that kind of guilt no matter how justified.

It’s like when someone walks up to you who knows you are bipolar and says, “Snap out of it.”  My new response is “Sure, and let me tie you up in chains and submerse you head first in a tank of water like David Copperfeild.   That’s kind of what it feels like to be bipolar.  Then you can show me how easy it is to snap out of it.”   Of course I’ll jump in and save him before he drowns.  Can you imagine the guilt I’d feel if I let someone die in one of David Copperfeilds magic props without permission?