Archive for the ‘psychologist’ 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.

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

A SECURITY GATE THAT SWINGS BOTH WAYS

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

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

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

SATURDAY NIGHT REVOLVER

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

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

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

GRADUATION DAY

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

BLOWN TO PIECES

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

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

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

VALEDICTORIAN

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

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

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

BEEF JERKY

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

OVERKILL

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

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

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

SUICIDE WATCH

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

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

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

Celebrating Suicide Prevention Day – Don’t Forget Your Noisemakers   Leave a comment

Today I learned that September 10th is Suicide Prevention Day.   What struck me is the ridiculous nature of it.  November 22nd is the big National Smoke Out when everyone is supposed to give up cigarettes.  The line of reasoning makes perfect sense.  You’re a smoker, so you try to quit.  Most people know you’re a smoker so they rally around you offering support and stupid suggestions to help get you over the hump.  And the smoker has something positive to work toward, like not smelling like an ashtray and being able to breathe without their lungs sounding like two paper bags crumpling inside their chest.

But Suicide Prevention Day?  First of all, most people do not know you are suicidal nor do you want to let them in on the secret.  So who is going to rally around you?  Is your psychologist going to spend the day at your house having a barbecue?  Instead of throwing out your Marlboro Reds, do you pitch the gun you were going to use to shoot yourself in the head?  Is Suicide Prevention Day when you take an oath not to be in a suicidal depression, like it is something you have control over?  Are the people who do know your tenuous mental state going to give you little tips like; “don’t drive over any bridges, have your landlord mete out your daily medication and not a pill more, or, check into the mental wing of your local hospital for the day?”

Or, is Suicide Prevention Day intended for the general public to prevent suicides.  For instance, does the Suicide Hotline start making outgoing calls to people checking in to see if they are planning on killing themselves that day?  Maybe focus on Kentucky whose official motto is “Come to a State of Depression?”  Are people going to police roof tops, bridge railings and hardware stores that are selling an unusual amount of rope?  Will they lock up US Postal Service employees for the day so people with a death wish won’t antagonize them hoping to be shot by a lunatic mail carrier?

Why do we have to have a special day for suicide prevention.?  Shouldn’t every day be a day focused on keeping people from killing themselves?  Personally I do not think the general public has enough education on mental illness to know how to spot the danger signs of severe depression and suicidal behavior.  We all know the signs of a heart attack or stroke.  Everyone knows the signs of the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease.  But how many people know the danger signals of a severely depressed person about to commit suicide?  Or, an individual who may appear perfectly happy who is actually dropping little cues that things are amiss and are going to snuggle up that evening for the last time with a .45 Caliber automatic pistol?

And, as I’ve discussed at length in my blog A Tisket.  A Tasket.  I’ll Decide When I Want to Get In My Casket, why should all suicides be prevented?  Some people have suffered enough, have been through the medication meat grinder and legitimately see no hope of recovery, so have decided to relieve themselves of their earthly burdens.  Who are you or I to say they do not have that right?  Suicide is not bad word.  It simply means “killing ones self.”  It doesn’t mean “killing yourself because you’re a loser and can’t make it in life-like everyone else.”  It also doesn’t mean “cop-out,”  unless you are a corrupt cop and you really want out.  It’s just a noun.

What happens after Suicide Prevention Day?  Everyone can relax and it’s ok to kill yourself?  People can let down their guard and stop being vigilant about being more in tune with the people around them ?  The kid on the other end of the Suicide Hotline can go back to playing video games on his i-Phone and intermittently tell the suicidal caller “it can’t be that bad.”

This September 10th I am going to make a conscious effort that everyone I meet knows it’s Suicide Prevention Day and ask what they are doing to celebrate the occasion.  I think it should be a big party because if everyone is happy, nobody will want to kill themselves.  So if I happen to see anyone depressed and out of sorts, I’m going to reprimand them for not being in the spirit of the day.  The last thing I want is for somebody to see a depressed person.   That’s why every city and town across America should have parades of depressed people from hospital mental wards on pill bottle-shaped floats going down good ole main street waiving at the crowds with songs from the late Elliot Smith blasting out of huge loud speakers.

I can see it now spawning a new American classic movie called “Depressed on the Tenth of September.”  Tom Cruise can play a guy who tried to cut his wrists and spent two years in a mental hospital in Vietnam.  Now he has come home to a world of happy chucklehead backslappers telling him to “snap out of it.”  But all he wants to do is hang around with his mental ward buddies and give each other electro-shock treatments until they all pass out in their wheel chairs and piss themselves.

Just do me one favor;  Don’t make September 10th the only day you take the time to ask a friend who seems a little down how they are doing.  That might be the question that saves their life.  Now don’t forget your noisemakers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ten Things You Can Do to Stop the Madness   3 comments

If you are bipolar and mania hits, your mind starts to react irrationally.  You begin to make feeble excuses for rash decisions that make sense only to you.  Your thinking becomes grandiose and your ability to complete major undertakings is greatly overestimated.  The chances of speaking your mind and telling others they are mistaken is greatly increased.  Shooting off that email for which you’ll later kick yourself is almost guaranteed.  And, you may not even be aware you are manic.  Many people in this condition think they are finally depression-free and in their true natural state.  It’s in this condition many stop even taking their medications.

I will shit you not; mania is awesome!  You practically need an intern to follow you around taking note of your brilliant ideas, homespun witticisms and words worthy of quotation.  You spend hours composing an admonishing email to a co-worker until it is a perfect piece of literary prose that would even impress The New York Times.  And when you aren’t enlightening the world and putting others in their place, you’re most likely buying an entirely black wardrobe to fit your new Johnny Cash “rebel” image.  Plus, the meds go out the window.

If you have been conscious of your bipolar symptoms for a long enough time, you usually know when you are manic.  You also probably don’t want it to end.  However, you also know the depression that ensues is that much worse.  So, here are some tips on curtailing your mania and avoiding a crash landing on the cold hard unforgiving floor of depression.

  1. Consciously identify you are going through a mind scrambling manic episode.  Then follow the next nine steps without variation.
  2. Stop talking and sit or lie down in a secluded comfortable place attempting to “slow down your mind.”
  3. Do not send any emails or leave any messages for anyone so you don’t say anything strange or offensive.
  4. Write out everything you want to do with your grandiose thinking and why it makes sense.  Then read it back to yourself.  See any flaws?
  5. Write out what you would like to say to the person you want to email, but don’t send it.  Read it back to yourself.  Still want to send it?
  6. Pretend you are now very depressed and had acted on your grandiose thinking and antagonizing email writing.  Will you be sorry?
  7. Do not browse the internet.  There are too many temptations that even those without Bipolar Illness get sucked into.
  8. Put your credit cards and cash in a safe place and institute a moratorium on expenditures until the mania has resolved itself.
  9. Take a vigorous walk or have a hard work out to “sweat the manic” out of you.  Make yourself too exhausted to run around making asinine proclamations of greatness and alienating yourself further from co-workers with non-sensical emails.
  10. Read a book, watch a movie, listen to your favorite music… Anything to take your mind off your mania and focus on something else.

I am not a doctor.  I am not a psychologist or psychiatrist.  I cannot change the oil in my car.  These are just some tips I use to curtail my behavior when I am in a manic cycle.  The steps are difficult to follow because you are in a superhero frame of mind and their focus is to slow things down until you can evaluate the situation with a clear head.

Also, if you are really worried about losing control, find a friend you can call when you are in the throes of mania who can babysit you, making sure you don’t do or say anything you’ll regret.  Being bipolar indicates an afflicted person’s mind suffers at two different poles; uncontrollable mania highs and deep depression lows.  If you allow your mania to ruin your life, your depression will be all the more worse.

Short Term Memory Loss: There is a Pill for That   6 comments

I slid on my headphones, adjusted the microphone and as the song ended I hit the “on air” button.   As instructed by the program director, I gave the call letters, frequency and then back-sold the five songs I just played.  The only problem was I got through two of them and could not remember the third to save my life.  Dead air.

I fumbled for the CD cover knocking over the whole stack sitting on the console next to me.  It must have sounded like a train wreck over the air.  So I made a joke about being up too early in the morning and the weak station coffee and finally found the CD.  I finished reviewing the previous songs I played, pre-sold what was coming up next and went right into a commercial.

As soon as I hit the “off air” button I whipped off my headphones, spiked them on the floor and cursed my bipolar medications for eating my brain alive.  My show was sounding like a talking dog was behind the mike because I couldn’t remember the songs I programmed myself the evening bef0re.   I was never going to be one of the great disc jockeys when short term memory loss unexpectedly rears it’s ugly head when I’m on the air.

Although I take a cocktail of anti-depressants and mood-stabilizers to treat my bipolar II, I was pretty sure I knew the culprit…  Topamax.  Major side effects; short term memory loss and decreased appetite.  The drug is actually an anti-seizure medication and years ago was also used as a diet pill.  However, it’s off label usage is as a mood-stabilizer.  My doctor would not have even thought to prescribe it if it hadn’t worked so well for my bipolar mother, who seems to respond positively to the same medications as I.

Topamax is better know to those who take it as Dope-amax, because of its innate ability to deep fry your short term memory.  On it you can literally forget you spouse’s name for a  moment.  Or, you can easily forget the name of a well known actor in one of your favorite movies, rack you brain for days trying to remember, and then surrender your pride and finally look it up on the internet.

I often wonder if this is what the early stages of Alzheimer Disease is like?  And for all the pundits who say medications for bipolar disorder are pleasure drugs and we should not be treated with them as they are the “easy way out,”  I ask you who would intentionally take a drug that causes short term memory loss as “an easy way out?”  Ridiculous.

So if you are taking a drug like Topamax or another medication for bipolar disorder causing short term memory loss that is really helping, and you do not want to try a new drug trading off for different unknown side effects, here are some ways of coping;

The simplest thing to do is make lists. At the end of each day I quickly scribble down what I need to do the next day.  It only takes a second and you’d be amazed the next day when you realize what you probably would have forgotten.

Also, write down all appointments.  Whenever my psychologist changes appointment times with me, I always think I’ll remember.  Then I get a call at 4pm on a Thursday afternoon from my doctor asking me where I am and don’t I remember I switched times?  Of course I do, it just slipped my mind.  Write it down even if you think you won’t forget.

What I’m basically driving at is to just be a little bit more prepared when going about your daily routine.  I knew damn well when I was on the radio that I was going to have to announced the last five songs I had just played in order many times during my air shift..   What I later learned to do was line up the CD cases in front of me so I could simply rattle them off on the air.  It only took a month for my brilliant mind to figure that one out.

So, if you are taking a drug to combat bipolar disorder and short term memory loss is a side effect, there are simple ways to deal with it that only involve being a little more organized and jotting down some notes.  And if you’re in a situation where you are speaking with others and you have a brain fart from which you can not recover, there is absolutely nothing wrong with graciously saying, “I can’t remember.”  It happens to everyone, even the people who think we take medication for bipolar disorder for the incredible high.