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????????????????These earrings personify the bipolar experience for me. When I am manic, I am like the skeletor face and when I am depressed I am the personification of the drooping mask…even though we are required to wear masks in our day-to-day life I don’t know about you, but it is nearly impossible for me to wear a happy face in all arenas.

For the longest time I was reluctant to wear these earrings because I thought they were too weird and Aztec pagan, but recently I realized they are the perfect expression of my personality. Someone from outside could look at these and think they are weird or cool. But no one but myself will know what they truly signify. And I don’t know about you but sadly being bipolar is part of my identity.

I think, from DBT class and a lot of other blogs, that bipolar shouldn’t define a person. You can use your social and behavioral skills to mask it and not rock the boat for anyone else. But, right or wrong, being bipolar is part of who I am. I cannot escape from this, no matter how acceptably I behave; no matter what positive philosophy I adopt.

And I truly do believe that these positive philosophies are the way to go. Bipolar DOES NOT own you. But for my part, though it doesn’t own me, it is still a part of who I am and I do get sick of all the “positivity” and “cheerleading”. Does that make me a person who gives up? I don’t think so. Being aware is OK. It keeps a person ready to think a moment before reacting to something.

Because you are aware. Awareness isn’t a failing. Acknowledgement is not a failing. Acknowledgement is important and really the best way to help yourself.

Acknowledgement is not the same thing as characterizing oneself. I have been guilty of this. Acknowledgement does not give the disorder its power. Its power comes from characterizing yourself.

You are more than your bipolar disorder. But acknowledging it, even gaining personal power from the knowledge and experience, are good things, in my opinion as a person who has struggled with self-hatred and inferiority from this disease.

So I do like my earrings. They don’t mean the same thing to everyone.

Nothing does.

There is power in personal symbols.

 

If anyone remembers the Macro Manic Day post, you might have wondered if the car ever exploded.

Well, the good news is it hasn’t so far, and I’ve been forced to drive it only once since my “I will never drive this car again” vow.

Our car is so special. It is a red 1991 Jeep Cherokee. The parking brake doesn’t work. The cassette player is on the fritz. You can’t pick up any radio stations at all around here because the country station is so overpoweringly strong (and the antenna is not connected to the radio. Apparently, it will take a lot of money to fix that). The air conditioner and the cruise control are gone forever. Our right back passenger door got caved in in some accident and was replaced with a white one that doesn’t open from the outside. Some crack-pot body shop. The right rear plastic that covers the taillight is broken. My son has the light itself held onto the car by electrical tape. These are the little things.

The bigger things are the oil leak, between the main parts of the engine. This can only be fixed by pulling the engine. So we drive around with a can of oil in the car at all times and a terrible stench of oil burning on the engine. At all times.

Then there are the doors. They are falling off. The welds that hold the door hinges to the car are breaking. Well, the driver’s side one already completely broke. The professional welder said it was impossible to fix, that no weld would ever hold. So this other guy hubby ran into, who was an amateur welder and didn’t know it couldn’t be done, welded it back on. There is a wadded up plastic bag stuck between the place where the door closes on the little button that makes the car go beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep when the door is open, because the door doesn’t close right and without the wadded up piece of plastic, it would just go beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee all the time while we were driving it (but never get to that terminal p), and run the car battery down to nothing when it was not being driven.

So that weld’s getting ready to go again; we don’t dare open the door all the way. The passenger door is starting to go too. We can see where the weld is starting to fail.

And two nights ago, we discovered what was probably the cause of the horrible stench and smoke coming out of the steering column that day. Because, ta-da! the windshield wipers no longer work!

So driving it in the rain is going to be a challenge.

Now, whenever I have to drive somewhere (which I avoid whenever possible because it usually results in a social encounter of some kind), I take the newer vehicle, the 1993 green-and-white GMC pickup I like to call “Truckie,” and which our ubiquitous  friend refers to as “the Jimmy,” which drives me completely bonkers because it is NOT A JIMMY and he pronounces it “Jyyemmy” which takes about 15 seconds to say–Now the “Jyyemmy” is special too, because its windshield is a spiderwork of cracks, the window washer fluid doesn’t work, there is no stereo or radio, and I can’t use the parking brake because the release is broken off. There is a thingy down there that I can access and pull towards me while pushing on the parking brake pedal, but the brake won’t release unless I let go of the parking brake pedal while my hand is under there pulling the thingy so the pedal almost always smashes my hand. It just got a supposedly new clutch (new until the mechanic spilled the beans by telling hubby, “you’ll think it’s a brand-new clutch”). It makes a horrible noise which hubby says is meaningless. It has no functional spare tire and even if it did we don’t have a lug wrench in it or a good spot to place a jack. This makes it extra scary to pull horses (it’s already scary enough)…Also, the passenger side rearview mirror is broken and held together by duct tape and one of the rear tail lights is missing, and worst of all, the seatbelt things that you snap the seatbelt into are BROKEN! all but one. So, for passengers to be buckled in, it is necessary to pull the passenger seatbelt across your lap, then feed the center seatbelt up through it, and then put the center belt down through the driver’s seatbelt, and push it into the latch. So when two or three people are in the truck, we are all dependent upon the center belt fed through the driver and passenger belts. From the outside, it looks like we are seatbelted, but I don’t know if the seatbelts would pass inspection were an officer to look inside. The one good thing that can be said for the GMC, which cannot be said for the Jeep, is that the heater works.

There. I don’t know if I’m manic, depressed, enraged, or trying to keep my mind off something else, but you are now informed about our cars. You’re welcome.

It turns out that yes, indeed, I am manic, very much so, and have been for a while now.  Mania is not always a good thing, even though many of us are medicated to the point that it seems we are kept below the threshold of “normal” in terms of happiness and productivity. Thus we long for the mania to return, or even hypomania, for which I have wished repeatedly during my prolonged depressive periods.

My mania lately has taken a freaky form: Anxiety, right-brained reactivity and destructive impulsivity that has now resulted in me truly hurting someone and forever burning a bridge that was important to many people. I am filled with remorse, and many things, particularly horses, will be no longer enjoyed without that prick of sorrow and guilt that I have set myself up for with my actions taken in the throes of mania.

I have medicated myself rather heavily in order to accept the constant yelling I am getting from my hubby and myself right now. Everything I say is responded to by hubby as “you aren’t hearing a word I am saying,” and “it’s like talking to a rock!” and “Stop it” You are being ridiculous.” Ridiculous, ridiculous, ridiculous are all my concerns as I watch him doing what I believe to be further damage over the phone, and insisting that I abdicate what I feel is important responsibility without offering a different solution to take the place of my abdication. I wish he would stop it but there is nothing I can say that isn’t “ridiculous.” I also know he is trying to do helpful things that will lead to the solution of our current problems more productively than the things I did, in the hopes of keeping me out of the hospital again. God bless him!

So, thanks to my understanding doctor who has prescribed me some extra medication (extra risperidone and clonazepam) to help me react without anger or bitterness or dangerous breakdowns to these triggers, I am able to use the extra medicine she prescribed to enable me to control myself, namely, my tongue for the most part. I have little doubt that when the crisis is passed, I will be able to return to my normal tiny dosages, as I don’t like taking the refuge of extra medication. I would prefer to handle my crises with mindfulness, wise mind, essential oils, prayer and so forth. But now I need to feel as little emotion as possible or the anxiety would get out of control. Of course, it can also be argued that in this circumstance, anxiety and fear and crippling remorse are warranted and normal, too.

I am reminded of the words of Jesus, and I pray every day that he will help me guard my tongue. He said if a part of the body offends, then cut it off. Not sure if he was being literal or speaking in a parable. Sometimes I wish I could cut out my tongue. I feel it has caused me to do damage beyond forgiveness. I will never receive the forgiveness of the person I have hurt, but I know my heavenly Father will forgive me.

To be Christian about this for a moment: “I [God] live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. I will not accuse forever, nor will I always be angry, for then the spirit of man would grow faint before me–the breath of man that I have created.” – Isaiah 57: 15-16

There is some spiritual help for me and for others who have done horrible things through the erroneous impulses that accompany mania. Deeds done while in the manic state should never be written off just to being manic. We should take responsibility for what we have done, for we have done these things.

There may have been one way in which my destructive impulses have worked out for good and that is what my husband reminds me of when he is being compassionate toward me, and it comforts me but only a little. How I wish for the good mania, the type that doesn’t result in craziness.

Yet I know too, that this will pass, just as I know my normal, functional times will pass, and that my depressive periods will pass. Everything passes and turns into something else with bipolar. You can count on not staying a certain way forever; there will always be a change, and sometimes for the better. Take encouragement from that. Remember to take a breath, mindfully, seeking wise mind to operate from. Hopefully wise mind will become a habit. It has not happened for me during my manic freakouts, but that does not mean I will not be able to achieve this with the help of the good Lord. Many others have succeeded at this and I know that I can too.

 

 

Reasons why Bipolar is difficult to diagnose:

It has different components, which manifest at different times, so often the doctor has only what s/he sees at a given time to go on, eg:

– has similarities to other illnesses such as major depressive

– when presents as psychotic, any disorder which includes psychosis

– may present as a normal, well person, etc.

This can also apply to someone who is seeing a psychologist for crisis evaluation or a psychiatrist for emergency med management, you can seem normal then too. How? Read on if you wish. (Be warned, it’s another of my personal horror stories, very recent)…

All few of you who read this blog know I’ve been struggling for some time now with a great depressive epoch, and have recently found that some of the symptoms of my “depression” are actually more symptoms of mania. . .. therefore I’m rapid cycling like the wheels of a bicycle racer near the finish line. (please forgive the obvious metaphor, I’m not too creative at the moment, heh).

My life is unpredictable, my family never knows what will happen next. I don’t either. I know something is wrong with my meds, yet I’m reluctant to have them adjusted, especially by a doctor who no longer is familiar with my case, because of the release I’ve experienced on my current meds from cognitive dysfunction, and having regained a lot of my lost memory on the current regimen.

Yet, I sensed a crisis impending so my husband, who also sensed it, did what we both had sworn we’d never do. . . call that place for crisis help again. In this oddly rare instance, a “crisis counselor” was not available, though we’d expressed our reluctant understanding of the need to jump through that deplorable hoop before seeing a psychiatrist. It turned out that we were referred to the main crisis guy, over the phone, who mysteriously was able to produce an opening in the psychiatrist’s schedule on the spot!

Wonderful, we thought. So we saw her, and she, after only a few minutes, pronounced me normal and doing well and no adjustment of my meds was needed and she would see me again in 6 months. No opportunity to dispute that was apparent. Period. Then (unbeknownst to us) she canceled my previously scheduled appointment with my regular psychiatrist, which had been coming up fairly soon. A week later, I had the crisis my husband and I had feared.

Something triggered my destructive half, and I knew I was losing it fast. I felt rage and frustration and knew I was going out of control. So I went to an area where someone had stacked T-posts without consulting me and where I did not want them, and began heaving them out of there. What I was doing appeared like random destruction, to observers, but I had every intention of re-stacking them in a more appropriate place when I was done heaving them out of the stupid place. The kind of thing I had been counseled to do, take out my feelings in a safe way without hurting myself or exposing my family to my “episode”.

The observers (hubby and daughter) did not know what I was doing or why, and so hubby attempted to interfere with my work. Well, he successfully interfered with it, and there I went, set off. An argument ensued, which quickly escalated into something beyond my control and I began to self-harm in my usual way when out of control, which is to start bashing my head into things.

I was being yelled at to “just stop it! Please stop!”

What my interferer didn’t know was just how hard I WAS trying to stop it. I was bashing my head into the horizontal 2x4s of the horse stall wall instead of the 8×8 cemented support post that I FELT COMPELLED to bash my head into. For example. Also, how when I was smashing the bowl in the kitchen, my body/brain was screaming at me to smash WINDOWS. And other things, which I was given to understand made me a bad person who was acting out on purpose. It ended up hours later with me lying on the thin, softening ice of our stock pond trying to “cool off” but preferably go to sleep there and actually perish of hypothermia.

Unfortunately, my crying kids found me there and begged me to get off the ice. I was heartbroken, for them, but could not move. Then my husband showed up and was a little more belittling than I felt he need be. I felt, soon after I had been gotten into the house, that I was being treated the way Therapist K had treated me all those months ago, calling the police to the mental-health facility, like I was a sub-human animal who was acting out on purpose.

The horror of the whole thing for me was that I had all these self-harm/suicide prevention strategies hard-wired (I thought) into my brain. And yet they were not sufficient.

All this about a week after the psychiatrist had pronounced me normal and in no need of a medication adjustment. Boy were we glad I had another appointment already scheduled with my usual psychiatrist  (who was to be leaving the institution soon).

The next day, of sound mind, it occurred to me that I’d better check that. Make a call to confirm that appointment, since I already knew the system was broken, the front desk people were overworked, and the policies were often stupid and usually detrimental to the mental health patient.

So I called to confirm the appointment and surprise, surprise, there was no appointment. My recently-visited psychiatrist had cancelled all other appointments in favor of the one six months away. I was a bit disappointed about that, considering what had happened last night, and insisted the appointment be rescheduled since I had been suicidal. Oh, no, that appointment was already filled, did I want to be put on a cancellation list?

I explained how important it was that I see a psychiatrist immediately, so I got an appointment for three weeks hence. And I was told I am on the cancellation list, although I’m pretty sure that if I were, I’d have gotten in by now.

My husband has tried very hard to get through to them. Not even my new therapist, who had replaced Therapist K on my case because she was of a more appropriate age and qualification, had anything at all helpful to offer him. So he went to the head crisis  guy, who found him to be in crisis himself! My poor husband, doing all he can with what he has, and has been doing so for 19 years! What greater love can there be from a mortal than that I am blessed with from him???? ❤ ❤ ❤

So, there’s an example of how bipolar can present in ways that result in incorrect diagnoses with potentially disastrous results. In my case, I had the diagnosis, but my status was incorrectly evaluated, or rather, not evaluated at all, because of how I seemed when I walked into the consultation room. So a patient, with or without a diagnosis, should be very sure to make certain the doctor hears the whole enchilada and doesn’t have to go only by what he/she sees in the consulting room.

Roatcap Fire Smoke

Well, after all that whining I did a while back about how there is no support system for people living with bipolar illness in my area, a wonderful thing did happen. A new therapist came to town, and decided that starting a bipolar support-or therapy- group would be a good idea. And boy, was I happy. I’ve been to every single one so far, because it is so wonderful to sit and talk with others who know exactly what it is like to live with bipolar disorder, things that people without it simply cannot understand, no matter how willing they are to let you try to explain it to them.

I thought I was alone. I thought no one could possibly understand how it is to feel trapped by this illness, powerless (at times) to control thoughts or behavior or decisions. . .we’ve been exploring what it means to be manic, depressed, psychotic and found that we can all relate to the ways in which bipolar illness has affected one another’s lives. We may not share the identical circumstances, or have had the same experiences, but yet we can all relate. We can all understand what the other person was going through at the time. It is impossible to express how refreshing that is.

It has also been a wonderful time of learning. There are so many things to know about bipolar illness, and no one knows it all, not even veteran sufferers like yours truly, who has had the diagnosis for decades and been on every medication known to science. . .there is always something new to learn.

For example, I had a psychiatrist who, for many years found my happiness to be signs of hypomania and therefore took me down with more mood stabilizers. This went on for so long that I began to long for “hypomania” just so I could function like a “normal” person, do things, finish them, make plans, be happy.

Over the years, I began to think of mania as a positive state. Okay, maybe not a safe one, but a positive one. Famous actors, writers, other accomplishers of great things operated in this state. Great periods of creativity and grandiosity. These seemed terribly desirable to me. I longed to be manic, despite the dangers.

And I stayed just on the up end of depressed for, it seemed, forever. I came to group thinking, I must not be Bipolar I anymore. I must be Bipolar II, because my disease doesn’t swing toward mania at all. No mania, just deep depression. Periods where I experienced irrational rage or horrible sobbing misery I called “Mixed Manic” states, not sure what that clinically meant either, but applying it to myself.

So when we in group went around and said what mania was, I was enlightened.

Mania is not necessarily positive at all! Good and bad news for me, I guess.

The handout says: 1. Profuse and rapidly changing ideas, exaggerated sexuality, impulsivity, gaiety, or irritability, and decreased sleep.

2. Violent abnormal behavior.

3. An irrational but irresistible motive for a belief or action (been there!)

and at least a week of psychotic behavior.

Characteristics of mania as complied by our group included:

  • Anger
  • impulsivity
  • poor judgment
  • No self-control
  • Racing thoughts
  • Paranoia and delusions
  • Inflated ego, sense of self, or abilities
  • Hallucinations
  • decreased need for sleep
  • talking more
  • unforgiving, can’t let go of things

Wow.  Mania comes in many flavors, and even more than these. . .and some of these symptoms also overlap with depression. I am sure that if you are bipolar and reading this you can think of more characteristics of mania.

I have lived with many of these things for most of my life. Not positive at all. On the mood chart I would mark times of fear, paranoia, anger, impulsivity as “very depressed” when actually I was manic. So I do experience mania, a lot. It’s just not the good kind. I wish I knew how to get ahold of the good kind, heheh.

When I am manic, I tend to talk more, laugh more, become more social, become more consumed with paranoia and negativity, make plans I can’t keep, set unattainable goals for myself, think I have better ideas than I actually do, believe my writing is better than it actually is, and am absolutely sure I am right about everything. I am also absolutely sure I am wrong about everything, and everything is my fault. I get highly emotional, and anger has become a problematic emotion for me. So has anxiety. I become extremely anxious and full of doom. So when I think of mania now, I see that it encompasses a greater part of my life than I ever thought before.

These symptoms affect the people around me as much or more than my depression symptoms do. My husband wants me to come up with a “safe word” or an “off button” that can be pushed when he sees my symptoms getting out of control. Unfortunately when he sees that, I’ve already noticed it too, and have sadly realized (with that bit of rationality that sits in the corner watching myself in horror) that there is no “off button.”

Usually I can break myself out of it, but not before I’ve said or done at least one regrettable thing.  (such as post last night’s entry on this blog!)

The best cure for a manic episode that I have found (and I am talking about the kind I have) is to get off by myself as fast as possible, drink a bottle of water laced with homeopathic aconite, slather myself in calming essential oils, and/or write in my journal until all those feelings are down on paper. If I find myself on the cusp of an epic, grandiose gesture, I picture the cliff I am about to step off of and flash forward to what it will feel like, for me or for my family, when I land. That usually does it for me.

Well, I don’t know what else to say, and I’m getting a migraine here, so quitting now. If anyone reading this has any more insights on mania, I would love to hear them. Good night! 🙂

 

 

OK, depression, I’ve got you in my teeth like a wild warg and I’m slamming you this way and that and you better just lie there, bloodied and broken and submissive, at least through tomorrow.

Uh, does that sound manic? Am I manic, or just excited? How do I tell the difference?

Last night we survived being pulled over, on the way home from my daughter’s 4-H club meeting.

I thought it might be that the officer thought I was drunk because, with a benighted dashboard before me (that will never again illuminate its information) I could not see the speedometer. I was trying to flip down my highbeams, turn on my dome light, stay in my lane, and peer around my own shadow to read the speedometer by the light of the dome, all at the same time. With two squealing teenage girls in the back seat, I fought visceral terror at the flashing lights behind me and pulled over.

I couldn’t open the window on my side for the officer because I hadn’t pulled over far enough for the officer to be safe there, and I couldn’t open the window on the passenger side, where he arrived, because it was broken. So I opened my passenger door, and the officer was treated to the spectacle of my nervous, fumbling hand vainly searching in the glove box among flashlights, dirty napkins, fuses, dirt, and other things that weren’t gloves, for the registration. He watched me move the envelope around for a while, then suggested that that might be it. I handed it to him.

The girls tittered and joked around while the officer retired to his patrol car. They were what kept me sane. Then he returned, offering to check the function of my highbeams. It seemed to him that one of them was out. Sure enough, both headlights worked except on highbeam, the driver’s side didn’t brighten. He issued me a friendly warning.

What a vigilant fellow to notice something like that and then pull them over for it. We all thanked God and went on our merry way, and somehow my mood became elevated…just like that.

So today, before my daughter’s birthday cake and ice cream, I made good on my promise to myself and got my butt out to the barn and took a walk in the sun on the snow and the ice with my horse beside me. We walked for an hour and it felt like 15 minutes. When I got back to the house I discovered we had no birthday candles. My daughter, with perfect teenage nonchalance, blew out fifteen imaginary candles on the lopsided chocolate cake my husband had baked, and the party commenced.

Tomorrow I’m going to a boot camp for writers. I used to be a writer. Yes, it’s true. At least, that’s how I thought of myself. But I haven’t written in years, and now all of a sudden with the fog clearing, I think I want to try to write again. But in a public, structured setting with PEOPLE there??

I guess I’m better off than a painter struggling to re-emerge. At least no one will observe my hesitant strokes while I’m trying to create.

I see this plan to attend boot camp as a positive step against the force of depression, a willful lurch out of paralysis. Unfortunately I cannot say or guess how long this positive surge will last… but I will ride it gladly, toward whatever bright vistas, as if it will never end.

It will take work. There will be things I will have to make myself do: pull on my boots, drive my falling-to-pieces Jeep, step across thresholds, speak with people I know and don’t know and whose names I am mortified I don’t remember, but hopefully it will be worth it. If anyone is reading this, please wish me luck.

Also I shall wish myself luck. Good luck, me.

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