Tag Archives: bipolar disorder

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?

Without Mania

Image from NAMINH.org

Image from NAMINH.org

Today, we went to our NAMI walk in Phoenix. Jenny and I did the 2.9k walk, with hundreds of others. The walk raised $134,250 as of today! It was a great experience, and a big thank you to everyone who donated, volunteered, and walked.

Jenny and I also talked to dozens of people, and we got stories for and took pictures of dozens of people for The Face of Mental Illness. I also learned something about myself.

I can still “turn on” my manic behavior. I can present with good energy, confidence, and a friendly demeanor. But I don’t have the chemicals to back that up. I used up all my reserves, and now I’m just plain wiped out!

Tomorrow is an exciting day for The Face, though, because we got some awesome pictures to share, including Miss Arizona International! I’m so glad to be part of this awesome new project.

I’m going to go sleep now. Yes, at 2:45 in the afternoon. I’m running on empty. I just wanted to check in with you guys, because I know you care. Carry on!

Meme Response 3: Bipolar Disorder

Nabbed from Facebook, land of stolen intellectual property. If this belongs to you, and you want me to take it down for some crazy reason, just say so.

Nabbed from Facebook, land of stolen intellectual property. If this belongs to you, and you want me to take it down for some crazy reason, just say so.

So, I’ve probably said it before, but I hate that this is “accurate” to the uneducated. Hell, even to the educated, sometimes.

The thing is, there is only one bit to this whole thing that is accurate. The “How I actually feel” is pretty dead on.

If I had the patience, I’d make a new one, but I don’t even have MS Paint, since I’m still playing on my daughter’s iMac, while I wait for my new computer to be finished.

On to how I would change it, though. The first one, I would just put a picture of my smiling, happy presenting self. In the second slot, “How my friends/family see me” I would again put a picture of my smiling, happy looking self. In the third slot “what my parents think I do when I’m alone” I would put a picture of me cleaning, or skiing. In the fourth slot, I would change the words to “how I look when I’m manic.” I would then put the same picture of me smiling. In the fifth slot, I would again change it. It would read “how I look when I’m depressed” and would be another picture of me smiling. In the last slot, I would leave it exactly as it is.

This may sound like a boring ass meme, but the thing is, when we perpetuate the kind of memes like the one pictured, we are just continuing the cycle of stigma. We have to take it under our own control, and make ourselves be seen as people, not as an illness.

I do this by telling everyone I know that I am bipolar, and have PTSD. People sometimes avoid me afterwards, for a little while, but I meet most people through preexisting groups, so they can’t usually completely avoid me. They eventually see that I’m not going to throw things, or scream at people. They come to see me as a person. Many of my friends have to think about it to remember what mental illnesses I have, even though I know they all know. Many of them read this blog, and it’s easier for them, but even they don’t think of me as “bipolar” or “crazy”. At worst, they see me as “having bipolar disorder/PTSD.”

This is a HUGE distinction. I am not labelled by my disease, I am simply myself, and it is a small facet of my personality that helps them understand why I can’t be around sometimes, or why I sometimes have to leave abruptly. My openness about my mental health allows people to understand me better, and it helps them understand mental illnesses better. It’s an amazing thing.

Now, I want you to know, I still face stigma. There are still people who refuse to be my friend, because they’ve had problems with unmedicated people with bipolar disorder. They judge me prematurely, and never give me a second chance. Wanna know what I think of those people? I think it’s very sad that they don’t understand, and don’t want to. I don’t hate them, or pity them, or judge them. I don’t write them off. I just keep trying, and hope for the best.

I’m not going to tell you how to make this decision for yourself. I will tell you all, that if you know someone who has mental health issues, don’t think they are being flaky just because they don’t present as a crazy person all the time. Remember that they are fighting for control of themselves all the time. And if they don’t come off as crazy, then they are succeeding, if only just a little.

Be considerate, be kind.

I’m Hyper and Manic. FUN!

So, I’m a bit off. I’m dealing with an odd combination of emotions, including feeling hyper, excited, happy, worried, frustrated, and oddly relaxed. It’s hard to focus on things like being socially appropriate, and wording things well for the kids. It’s also hard to make decisions, because I don’t know if I really want to do the things I think I want to do.

To complicate things, I’m feeling very poor, and also slightly unable to participate in things. I often have to tell myself “no” when there is a high chance that I will do something hurtful or unfair to others. This means I sometimes feel left out of things, just because I couldn’t participate. It’s nobody’s fault, but it still sucks.

Sorry if I’m rambling. I’ll call it a night, but please don’t worry about me. I can’t always write masterpieces. Just because this post sucks (I know it does), doesn’t mean that anything is seriously wrong. It just means I am not in the right mode at this point in time.

What Does It Feel Like To Be Suicidal?

Image from liveyourworld.wordpress.com

Image from liveyourworld.wordpress.com

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

One of the questions I get the most often is; “What does it feel like to be suicidal?”

I think people are trying to understand why I would want to kill myself, not once, but twice in my life. I’ve never had a good answer for anyone with that question. But I’m going to give it a shot anyway, because I want people to understand.

The first thing you should know about people who are suicidal, is that they feel that way for their own reasons, and my reasons won’t necessarily be the same as some other person’s. Don’t ever try to tell someone why they are suicidal, or to tell them “I know how you feel” unless you really have been there. There is nothing that inspires contempt in me more than when someone tells me “I been there, man. Depression sucks.” No. Depression might suck, but being suicidal has nothing to do with depression. They are two totally different things. But I digress.

When I’m suicidal, I feel like I don’t matter to anyone. It’s not that I don’t think people care. I just feel like their lives wouldn’t be changed by my death. It makes it very hard to find reasons not to die, because I feel like it doesn’t matter one way or the other.

I often will think of odd things, like; I wonder how it would feel to cut the end of my finger, or what the viscosity of my eyeball is would it actually hurt to put a blade in it? (Thank you to my friend who shared that you sometimes feels this way… you make me feel so much less alone.) I have to remind myself that it would hurt those around me more than it would hurt me. I have to rationalize not hurting myself, when my whole brain is telling me that I should hurt myself.

The worst feeling is when I realize that I don’t care who finds me. I don’t care who is hurt,  or affected. I can’t believe myself when I rationalize that the kids will be alright if I’m gone, or that it won’t hurt them to find me in the bathroom dead. Those things are never okay. But I think them anyway. I have to nearly physically jerk myself away from those thoughts.

The most insidious part is the anxiety. For once I don’t have anxiety that I will get hurt. My anxiety doesn’t focus on keeping me safe. No, instead it turns me into this quivering mess that thinks that I’m nothing but a burden on the people around me. I’m a walking drain on society, and on those that love me. I’m alone, because how could anybody follow me on such a dark path. How could anyone understand how much I loath myself? How could anyone understand that no matter what I do, I will never feel like I’m good enough to continue sharing air with the wonderful people who inspire me so much. The anxiety takes its toll on me in a way that would make the average poor self image run away in terror.

Then I start torturing myself. I obsess over all the people who would be hurt by my death. Those special people who have taken me into their families, who have taken me under their wings. Those people who trust me to take care of myself, and to be as good a friend to them as they are to me. I repeat lists of names. I pound them into my skull so forcefully that I give myself headaches. When I forget a name, I hold it against myself so violently that I might as well be smashing my hand with a hammer for the amount of pain it causes me.

I dream of physical pain. I need a release. I know that if I’m in physical pain, then I will at least have a reason to feel hurt. What excuse do I have to feel in pain now?! How dare I feel miserable when there are people in the world dying because they don’t have clean water, food, shelter. I’m not alone, so how dare I leave my loved ones feeling alone?! I hate myself more every minute, and cannot believe that I am still breathing, sucking the very oxygen that could be innervating some baby somewhere.

I obsess. I plan. I decide on the top 5 most efficient ways to die. Then I obsess some more. I plan some more. I think about how I could die without anyone I know finding me. Then I remember how many people have told me they would have no closure if they thought I just left. I know that people need to mourn, to grieve. People need to know that their loved ones lived full lives, and that they died happy. Not one person would get that if I killed myself. Like my father, people all over the country would cry out, not understanding that I just couldn’t find a way out.

I understand why my father is dead. It’s not because he was weak. It’s because his burden was so great he just had to set it down. He just didn’t know that someone else would pick it up. I sometimes think that I would be relieving the world of a burden if I died, but I remember my father, and know that I would do nothing but leave that burden on someone else.

There is so much more to say. I don’t think I could ever put it all into words. I will try again, another time. I love you all. Have a pleasant Spring.

Trying to help yourself or a loved one? Try reading Choosing to Live.

What Do You Do If You Think You Have Mental Illness?

Image belongs to: woovakoova.deviantart.com

Image belongs to: woovakoova.deviantart.com

So, we all know mental illness sucks. It sucks big time. But what do you do when you aren’t sure if you have mental illness?

It’s a simple answer, with not so simple results. See a mental health professional. One with gobs of experience, preferably. This isn’t a scam to get you to spend money. It’s the only logical choice.

Seeing a mental health professional will open several doors for you. There are tests, batteries, counseling, you name it. Your choices are not limited to seeing a regular medical doctor, and hoping he’s got enough of a clue to recommend someone for you. Ask your doctor to do so, don’t wait for them to suggest it. Check around, make sure the specialist you are referred to has a good reputation. And remember: “They didn’t give me the drugs I wanted,” is never ever cause for a “bad reputation.” Not all drugs are good for everyone.

The medical tests that might be administered to you include blood tests like thyroid panels, liver panels, and blood cell counts. Also included sometimes are sleep tests, ECGs, EKGs, and other heart exams. Even X-rays can help determine that you don’t have a physical illness. Ruling out the less severe forms of illness is always the first step.

Batteries aren’t always called “batteries.” They can be called “evaluations” or “examinations” as well. Either way, what it comes down to is that they will ask you many, many questions, and sometimes your answers will spark more questions. This is normal, and a suggested part of a treatment plan. This is so critical because your health care professionals need to know if you are a drug/alcohol/tobacco user/abuser. They won’t turn you into the police, or refuse service. They just don’t want to kill you with medication. Please just be honest with them, so they can take care of you!

Finally, counseling is a huge part of mental health care, because it provides the opportunity to express yourself in a guilt-free environment, and sometimes, just talking it out with a counselor allows you to come to conclusions that you wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to understand about yourself. Many paths to change come from self-understanding.

Remember, take initiative, be honest, and be your own advocate.

Stereotyped

stereotype

Sometimes, you have to look twice.

Have you ever been stereotyped? Anyone ever stop treating you the same, because they learned something about you? I go through this on a fairly regular basis. I have had people pull their child away from me. I have had people literally ward me off with crossed fingers. I have had people tell me in no uncertain terms that I should be sterilized so that I don’t have children. No, I don’t have a hideous deformity. No, I’m not a felon. No, I am simply Bi-polar, and not afraid to talk about it.

Sometimes, it just comes up. Someone will start ranting about how mentally ill people should all be locked up, for the safety of everyone else. I will then ask something akin to “How do you propose we support ¼ of our population?”  When they stare at me blankly, I inform them: “Mental illness affects over 1.7 billion people. One in four of us is likely mentally ill.” Sometimes they stupidly insist that I name “Who’s the psycho in this room, then?”  Then I simply say “Me,” and let it go at that. Sometimes I get horror stories of hallucinations and manic behaviors, other times I get to watch my friend pull away from me, sometimes forever. I try to explain that not all people with mental illness have the same kinds of mental illness, or the same severity of symptoms. Not to mention, some people handle their symptoms better than others do.

I don’t win all these arguments. I have lost, and will lose more, of my friends.  It’s all part of culling my circle of friends down to those that will truly accept me no matter what. Some of the people I have dated for example, thought that everything was tea and biscuits until I told them that I had bipolar disorder. Then the world came crashing down, and I was “using them” or “lying to them” by not telling them sooner. This is actually good though. I left those people in my dust, missing out on the horror that would have been dating that person long term. Sadly, I’ve had to let some friends go. Even more sadly, I will have to do it again. But I will never let this get me “down” because I know it will make my circle of friends that much tighter.

So, I encourage you to know a few things about mental illness. Namely, that it can affect anyone it affects a LOT of people, and that you can’t tell by looking. Know about YOUR mental illness in particular. Know how it normally affects people, and how you are(n’t) the same. Know the prescribed methods of treatment, and be able to discuss them frankly. It can help to speak clinically about how the disorder is normally treated, so you don’t have to talk about your own treatments all the time.

Let’s all work on ending the stereotypes, and the stigma of mental illness. We should all be here for each other, and for ourselves.

Thinking Your Way Out of a Paper Bag

Some times you just need to pull yourself out.

Some times you just need to pull yourself out. Photo copyright Rory Stark.

You know that point you reach, when you’ve thought yourself into a corner, and you can’t get out? Anxiety, re-play, flashbacks, paranoia; they all make us do it sometimes. I call this “thinking your way into a paper bag.” Yesterday, two of my friends thought themselves into tears, via flashbacks and anxiety. It left me with the distinct feeling that sometimes, our collective ability to be creative, our drive, our very intelligence is our downfall. When you can imagine the very, very worst, who can convince you that it’s not a possibility? And when your brain is at an extraordinary level of intelligence, what better tool does mental illness have than the very brain it is occupying?

Case in point: My ex used to just hide in the bedroom until all the problems went away. Just sleep, medication, and ignoring problems. This will never help any individual address their own needs, or help them confront their inner demons. It will just lower their self-esteem, reinforce whatever ammunition said inner demons may possess, and leave that person less able to cope. But there are some people, who, just through sheer will, make it through to the other side.

Yesterday, a very good friend of mine could not leave her house because of flashbacks. This is a common, mostly healthy response, given her situation. However, she took it a step further. She grabbed the situation with both hands, and wrote it all down. Very clinically, very directly, with little emphasis on why she reacted the way she did, or what her exact feelings were, and she shared with her friends exactly why her life had been interrupted so abruptly. I cannot tell you how proud I am of her for putting herself out there like that. She gave herself some closure, and took steps towards reducing a fear that could potentially be emotionally crippling. She also did the most important thing of all: She opened herself to the encouragement and understanding of those that love her. I am so glad I was able to be one of those people, because she knows that I have been where she is standing, and that we were, for just a brief moment, able to commune in a new way as friends.

So, I want you to take her example. If you have thought yourself into a paper bag: Accept the challenge, and find your way out. Talk to someone, put yourself in a safe place, or just write it down, and tuck it away, even if you can’t share it with others. It just might give you some closure for yourself.

If you need some guidance, check out some books on self-coaching.