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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.

 

 

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! 🙂

 

 

Brainspace

That’s all I wanted. Just a little room to think.

I’d done it. I’d forced myself out of the worst of the depression by using Opposite Action (a DBT skill) and getting out there. I’m a better wife, better mother, better participant, more effective homework-helper than I’ve been in months. My latest walk with my horse included two family members, their horses, and a volunteer with a rescue! But it feels like I’m never alone now. Will no one SHUT UP?

Brain space, please!

Or not. Here in the mixed-manic state, for which I do not know the real definition, my mind races with others like tongue-flapping pups in the sun, and it flees alone into wildernesses. Wildernesses of bogs and dead cedars; of dry reservoirs with sharp rocks, hungry mud, and rusty coyote traps; of thick, hot showers where the songs are hollowed out from themselves and filled with monsters; of flat, gray skies over swarming snowfields and a heart so frozen that the sad, mascaraed eyes of a teenage girl evoke no compassion or curiosity.

I thought I needed brain space, but whenever it found me, they were waiting. Inevitably, my thoughts would curdle into miasma, to be met by my demons. The old, familiar ones: self-doubt, worthlessness, learned helplessness, blame of God, self-blame and -hatred; and the newer ones: rage, fear and paranoia that have not shoved their sticky eyeballs into my sockets since the Great Desperation of ’02.

I am a loner by nature. Alone with my brain, I imagine all sorts of wonderful pastimes. I could write, imagine, draw, torment a variety of musical instruments from which my fingers have not evoked dissonance in far too long … instead, I find myself procrastinating these diversions, and my responsibilities too. Rather I brood. I brood, and wait, and fear them and what they will do and when they will show themselves and what I will do when they do.  !!!

People have hurt me and my family. They are still hurting me and my family, and they will go on hurting us, because that is what people do. Reality can be so intrusive.

So can bipolar. I can’t plan anything, because I never know. Mood charts, group therapy, medications…none of them predict how I will react to another person or an unexpected situation. They only marginally protect. They are loose loopy mail against the slings and arrows, and they are something.

So I’ve gone and re-learned something valuable for myself, which I suppose I must go on through life continuing to forget and re-learn. Even lacking friends, I learned of the great help in “keeping busy” and staying part of everything, even when I have not planned on it, am not trying to, and above all, don’t want to. The grandiose assumption that I have finally risen above the depressive is illusory for now. All that is keeping depression down is busy-ness and faith, and that’s OK for now.

For Now = Things Always Change. It WILL get better.

So screw the brain space for now, and just enjoy the love that is all around.

 

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