Category Archives: Bipolar

Why Are Manic Episodes So Chaotic?

(CC BY-SA 3.0) Phunk Studio

(CC BY-SA 3.0) Phunk Studio

If you’ve lived anywhere other than under a rock, you’ve likely heard horror stories of folks with Bipolar Disorder. Thankfully, they aren’t all true for everyone, and many are exaggerated. Each person with Bipolar Disorder has their own subset of symptoms and can’t be compared with each other. The most inconvenient manic trait I deal with is starting projects that I don’t complete. My to-do list ends up being extraordinarily long, as I begin project after project. But why? It’s simple enough. I feel compelled to become happy.

It always starts with the need to do something enjoyable. Crafts, video games, puzzles, and music are the high points. Crafts is the hardest, though. I will start a new project, perhaps a bracelet, blanket, or even a pillow. My manic mind is full of great ideas. They really are great, too. It’s not a matter of delusions. Rather, it’s a matter of enthusiastic optimism.

The problem comes in the finishing of the project. See, the manic mind feels compelled to seek further happiness. I could be listening to music, making a beautiful piece of art, totally happy. But it’s not enough. The longer the project takes me, the more likely that I’ll have another great idea, and start another project.

And that’s where the chaos comes from. My manic mind makes excuses for minor messes, even as they pile on. I have no qualms shelving a project, because I know I will come back to it. At least, that’s what my brain says. My desk becomes covered in projects I’m working on, and my pile of unfinished crafts grows.

Are there ways to make things less chaotic? Absolutely. The hardest, but most effective method is to limit myself to one project at a time. I make smaller things, so I can move on when it’s time. I also hold myself to a standard of minimum clutter. If things get too messy, I’m not allowed to start the next project until I’ve tidied and cleaned.

I also talk to Jenny about what I’m doing, and my plans for my project(s). Even taking five minutes to explain can save a lot of trouble. Jenny’s really good at poking holes in a plan, which means I’m much more prepared for trouble if/when it comes. Planning the project thoroughly means that I run into fewer complications that might make the project less fun. Also, it helps me realize when my plan is a little unrealistic.

Each person has to figure out what works for them, of course. Lists, companions, conversation, self-discipline, even meditation: These things all make my life less chaotic. Think about what helps you, and feel free to comment. Maybe you’ve got a nugget or two for me, too?

All I Want to Do Is Eat Sugar

"Raw sugar closeup" by Editor at Large - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5

“Raw sugar closeup” by Editor at Large – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5

Huzzah for the fall. Huzzah for cold. Boo for my growing waistline. Seriously. Rapid cycling? Always means more sugar. I’m not unstable, but I do experience more emotions in my day. Being depressed makes me want to self-soothe, in as lazy a way as possible. Being slightly manic makes me want calories to feed the energy rush. The result: eating lots and lots of sugar.

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What Do I Even Say?

Image: Rory Bristol

Image: Rory Bristol

I was a bit of a mess after reading Wil Wheaton’s latest post Tears in Rain. It made me cry, then it made me sad, and then it made me happy. And then I cried some more, because reasons. After I regained my composure, I went back to my emails, because in those vast caverns of private conversation, I have some really great stuff from you guys who are too shy to share publicly.

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The Manic Voice

Image in the public domain.

Image in the public domain.

Jenny gets me. Like, totally. Jenny totally gets me. God, that sounds dumb the more I say it, but I don’t know how else to get the point across: Jenny understands the freaking weirdo who types these words better than anyone should know anyone, regardless of relationship. Case in point? Apparently, she can hear my “Manic Voice”. That’s a big deal, people.

The Manic Voice is the part of my head that fills in the gaps. Let’s say I know ABCEFG about a subject. My brain is really good at adding the “D” in there.  There are a lot of little factors that go into the “D” factor. Here’s list:

  • My knowledge of the general subject.
  • My perceived knowledge of the general subject.
  • My knowledge of similar topics.
  • The number of times I’ve discussed this topic before.
  • The number of people I’ve discussed this, and similar topics, with.
  • The level of my mania.
  • The level of my anxiety.
  • My self-esteem that in that moment.

Jenny, the miracle of a person she is, has learned to hear something in my voice that indicates that the Manic Voice has joined the conversation. Sometimes, I’m right, sometimes, I’m wrong. Always, Jenny is willing to chime in.

I discussed this with my new case worker today, and she told me to tell Jenny that she is a miracle. I have to agree. Jenny is my reality check, and that makes my life just about perfect. Except, you know, when it’s not. Whatever.

Now, I bring all this up, because I have learned to retro-actively apply a filter to some conversations and situations in which my Manic Voice was doing the talking. It’s been eye opening, and is kind of fun, dissecting my life in a whole new way. I might learn some new stuff about myself. I might even remember to tell you about it.

How novel.

Top Three Books for Understanding Bipolar Disorder

There are so many references out there, anyone should be able to understand the basics of Bipolar Disorder. The problem is finding quality resources, especially in formats that are easy to share. If you are looking for a way to understand yourself (or a loved one) better, try grabbing one of these books. They are each excellent resources in their own ways.

An Unquiet Mind book cover

Image: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison, PhD, is a raw autobiography, credited with being one of the best books to help families understand bipolar disorder. As a national bestseller, it has touched millions of people in the last fourteen years. As a psychiatrist, Jamison’s keen insight allows her to look in on herself, and celebrate the joys and pains of living inside her own brain.

The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide book cover

Image: The Guilford Press

The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide, Second Edition: What You and Your Family Need to Know by David J. Miklowitz is a step-by-step educational resource. Even those of us who have done our best to educate ourselves will find new inspiration and clarity while reading through the Survival Guide. Lauded by experts, this guide is a critical guide for anyone affected by Bipolar Disorder.

“A practical, straightforward book that will be a great help to those who have bipolar illness, as well as their families. I could not recommend this book more highly.”–Kay Redfield Jamison, PhD, author of An Unquiet Mind

Marbles book cover

Image: Gotham (publisher)

Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me: A Graphic Memoir by Ellen Forney is an illustrated account of living with Bipolar Disorder. Forney has lived in many cultures, and worked in many fields (including a time spent as a call girl). Her snappy comics send messages home in a memorable and enjoyable way. Easy to read, hard to put down, Marbles is a great read.

Not This Shit Again

Anxiety Temper is hiding.

Anxiety Temper is hiding.

I kind of like being manic. It’s kind of zen, in a really excited kind of way. I miss it when it’s gone, because it’s like I’m missing my enthusiasm. I often long for just a “little bit” of mania. Just enough to get me going through a day or two.

Last day or two, I’ve been manic. Not just the “do all the things, you are immortal!” kind, but the paranoia inducing, anxiety fueled mania. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not huddled up in a ball, waiting for the police to kick down the door. It’s more like I have a different dose of weird.

We had a new friend over for game night this week, which was nice. Except, we don’t have new people over. It just doesn’t happen. I started inviting 2 people over, once a week, last year. That’s been the extent of that. I was a ball of anxiety the first couple of times, but it got better. Hopefully, that trend will repeat, because we invited her over again, and this week’s was an emotional disaster for me.

It was actually a lot of fun. We played Dominion, one of my favorite games, and had a ball. Everyone got into the competition, and all three of our friends consider themselves “hooked.” But between turns, I was anxious. My hands were shaking, and I couldn’t stop the mental chatter.

Hurry up, hurry up, fuck you are slow, why isn’t it my turn yet? God, I hope I don’t look as impatient as I’m feeling, everyone will think I’m a dick! Shut up brain, calm your tits, this isn’t okay. Look, it’s our turn. What was I going to do again? See? Fuck you. You’re impatient to play, but you are such a jerk, you forgot to plan your turn! Fuck this shit.

At that point, I went and got some anxiety medication. I don’t take anything strong, and I refuse narcotics, so all I had was a minor extra dose of one of my mood stabilizers. Before you get any ideas, I have a separate prescription for those, PRN for anxiety. I came back to the group, gave Jenny the look that says a million words, most of them being along the lines of,

I’m anxious, and I don’t want to talk about it. Why aren’t you asking about it? Don’t you love me? Fuck, if you ask me about it, I’ll have to talk about it in front of everyone. Don’t look at me… Look at the cat or something.

Then she says, “Anxiety?”

I nod and my eyes speak some more silent bullshit. Why the hell did you ask? Are you crazy? Thanks for caring, I love you too. Now, can we ignore the fact that I just took meds to help me in a social situation in my own home with my own friends? Yes? Thank God.

Jenny, of course, probably reads all that as, “Something’s wrong.” Then she asks about it, because she cares, and then she sees me nod, and reads my eyes for, “Thank you for being supportive.”

We invited our friend, and our other friends, over again for next week. Hopefully, I’ll remember to not drink any more caffeine.

Shit, I forgot to talk about the mania, because I got distracted by the anxiety. Fuck it, I guess I know what I’m writing for tomorrow…

I Once Put My Cat in the Freezer.

KANG! From the Simpsons show.

KANG! From the Simpsons show.

So here’s the low-down Charlie Brown. I’m a crazy person, right? Right.

When I was a teenager, I started hallucinating. Mostly just distracting shit, like spots and stuff. You know how, if you look at the light just right, you can see shit floating around in the air? Like dust and stuff? It was like that. Except colorful. Like unicorn vomit, or something.

I would see spots, and thought there was something wrong with my blood pressure, because high blood pressure can make you see spots. That hypothesis was wrong. Then I started seeing weird shit. Like acid-crazy shit. Frogs and halos, and weird colors and stuff. I got used to it, no biggie. This went on for like 5-6 years.

One day, I was sitting in my Comp 1 course, and my teachers head grew tentacles. Not in an awesome Cthulhu kinda way, though. It was all orange, and they were coming out at weird angles. It made him look like the aliens from the Simpsons. I took my happy ass to the emergency room. I had CAT scans, and MRIs. I got poked, prodded, and scanned again. In the end, the doc told me to stop drinking so much caffeine, and sent me home.

A month or two later, I ended up back at the emergency room (3 months without so much as a Coke). They told me I was schizophrenic, which I knew wasn’t right, because my mom has schizophrenia, and I know how crazy that shit really is. I told that doctor to fuck himself, which probably made him think “yep, definitely schizophrenic.”

A few months later, my father killed himself. Visiting with our family was a real wake-up call for me. After I got home, I made an appointment with a free Christian Community Clinic. I went in, sat down, and explained everything. I told him about my mom’s mental illness, and my dad’s suicide. I told him about my impulsive marriage, and my tendency to leave my entire life behind periodically. We talked for a long time.

When we were done, he explained to me what Bipolar Disorder was, and how it affects people. It was like he was describing me. I cried. He suggested therapy, and started me on a low dose of medication. It was enough to make me realize a few things.

Over the next few months, I had several moments of clarity. I went back to work. I stopped talking non-stop. If you know me in person, you are laughing in your sleeve right now, because you think I still talk non-stop. Nope. I used to talk so much that people would just start talking over me, and around me. They would ignore me, just so they would get a chance to talk. I barely talk at all now, compared to the way I was before.

Bigger changes happened. I realized that my ex-husband was significantly mentally ill. Despite being committed several times, he didn’t believe he was crazy. Once I was medicated though, I saw it every where. Whenever I would bring it up, he would remind me that I was the one who put the cat in the freezer. Bastard.

Quick tangent – I was having a flashback at the time, and I knew I needed to put the cat somewhere safe. I panicked, and put it in the freezer. My ex-husband rescued it promptly.

Back to the story!

I told him that it didn’t matter if I put the cat in the freezer. It didn’t make him less crazy. The argument was Legen-wait-for-it-dary! I ended up telling him not to touch me, because I didn’t trust myself, which he said basically added up to me threatening him, which is totally fucking backwards, because I was trying to protect him!

Long story short – I divorced him, and moved to Arizona, once again leaving everything I owned behind.

I’m medicated, and kinda sane (sometimes). He’s been diagnosed, and is seeking treatment.

It still blows my mind that $10,000.00 worth of emergency room visits didn’t catch what one single sit-down with a doctor working for free saw in a few minutes. I still remember his name, and it was some crazy Czechoslovakian thing. I can even spell it still! I won’t publish it here, though, cause he’s awesome.

Fuck. I just realized I was supposed to be lying to you. I promised that yesterday, didn’t I? Oh well, I assume this is crazy enough for you to wave at your relatives, so they get a good show on Thanksgiving. HAPPY FUCKING DEAD INDIAN DAY!

Also, Happy Hanukkah!

Question Everything. Mania Makes You a Liar (kinda).

Says so little.

Says so little.

This weekend, I did a lot of cool stuff. I made bread. I hung out with people I don’t see often. I generally did stuff. I also said a lot of things, and made promises.

Monday night, I came to the realization that I had been manic. Sometimes, it sneaks up on you!

The problem here is that I have to question everything I said over the weekend. For example, I had to question whether I was going to make fresh bread every week. While manic I was like, “Every week from now on. Forever.” After my crash, I had to look at the huge bag of flour we bought at a warehouse store, and decide whether I am actually going to be making homemade bread for the rest of my adult life.

Answer: HELL YES. Oh, my God, homemade bread is amazing. Also, it’s healthier. It’s like mana from Heaven, but with all the carbs of real food!

I’m glad I still want to make the bread. But it could easily have been the opposite. Jenny would have killed me, but that wouldn’t have changed my mind on whether I will spend 6 hours every weekend making bread. I’ve changed my mind on so many things, I’m amazed Jenny still lets me make decisions.

Also, neither of us trusts me to manage money because all the planning in the world goes right out the window when I have-to-have-a-soda-right-now. How much worse can it get, right? Wrong. I have spent thousands of dollars of student loans on stupid shit. Once, I bought an XBOX, a PS3, a Wii, two new computers, with 27 inch HD TV monitors.

I had a thousand justifications for it at the time, but what it came down to is this: I live in two worlds. I have normal life, and then I have a world that has different physics, laws, thrills, consequences, etc. It never ends.

I like some people more when I’m not medicated. Those people usually include assholes. Those times are also when I’m most likely to be an asshole. I don’t love people enough, and I treat good people like crap. I have made it my goal for the last year to not burn any bridges while upset. It allows me to not regret when I let a friendship lapse. Either I don’t want it to continue, or even better, when I do want to reinvest in a relationship, there are no hard feelings. I just say, “sorry we haven’t talked in a while, I’ve been bonkers,” and we move on with our days, happy to have talked to each other.

One day, I will think I have it trumped. And that will be the worst symptom of all, because I’ll want to go off of my meds. I pray that day only comes when I have Jenny to kick my ass. I will need it. There are two things I know will be true for the rest of my life; I will love Jenny until I die, and I will always need medication.

Until next time. Don’t let your mental illness lie to you, and don’t let it make you a liar. Think before you follow your compulsions, and love everyone all the time.

What a Day!

Photo: Rory

Photo: Rory

Yesterday was our 1 year anniversary, so Jenny and I went to Flagstaff, AZ, to have brunch at Little America Hotel. We then enjoyed a scenic drive home, and enjoyed the little fall foliage Arizona has to offer. I had a blast.

I was also manic as hell. I missed my meds on Saturday night, so I was off all day. We enjoyed ourselves a lot, but we also got some business done. Jenny and I resolved to do NaNoWriMo this year. This came from a conversation started while walking around a campground. I told Jenny the plots to all three of my planned fiction books, and she asked why I hadn’t ever written it down. It struck me, I don’t ever remember this series, unless I’m manic!

So as soon as we got home, I typed. I wrote out the plots to all my books. Then I wrote out summaries for the first book’s chapters. Jenny and I have resolved to give ourselves a more structured work day, in the effort to “win” NaNoWriMo this year.

This morning marks my first early wake up. I hope I can keep the steam up, while I’m not manic! Have a good week, all.