I Was A Different Person Then…

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I used to think of myself as a competent person. I started my first business in my early 20’s and created several more over the years, ending with a non-profit Healing Arts Center I founded in 1991. I thought I’d found my place in the world and would be working at it for the rest of my life. But it didn’t work out that way. I finally got “caught out” and had the worst breakdown in my life at 44. I was diagnosed with Bipolar and was forced to take a hard look at my life. What I found was that I hadn’t really  been as competent all my life as I’d thought. I was just Hypo/manic.

I don’t mean to say I never accomplished anything good. I did some good community service work and created some beautiful landscapes and gardens. But it was my headspace that messed me up. I’d thought I was good at what I did, and I guess I sorta was. I got by anyway, mostly by being a good bullshitter. I was good at projecting competence, even when it wasn’t real, as so often happened. People accepted me for who I said I was and who I pretended to be. I was good at it.

Now I look back at the work I did and see how much of it was fueled by mania or sometimes just hypomania. I doubt I ever had any real competence at all, tho I knew enough to get by, as I said. I was a con man, tho I never would have said I was or thought it at all. I always thought I was doing good work and helping to make the world a better place. And I did. But the cost was enormous. And not just to me. I cringe when I think of some of the gardens I planted that weren’t as good as they should have been. People live with my mistakes even now. It drives me nuts.

I know that hiding ourselves is a big part of being Bipolar. (Having bipolar?? – whatever…) A lot of us hide who we really are because we somehow know we’re not quite “right”, even tho we don’t know what’s wrong at the time. I always thought I was just a high energy, hyper person who was very creative and able to do amazing things that other people couldn’t do. I was a bright sparkly light in the darkness at times and I relished it so much. But there was a darker energy lurking just under the surface.

It didn’t stop me tho. I did a lot of good stuff and created some amazing entities. I did so much that was wonderful and I thought I was a pretty neat guy for doing it. I transformed the places I worked at. And the ones I started myself were unique and treasured. I got lots of compliments and good strokes on what a good role model I was for striking out on my own and creating good things for my community. It made me high I’ll admit. Too high sometimes… And we know where that can go don’t we?? Whoa!

I’ve always been a rapid cycler, tho I didn’t know that’s what it was of course. I’d do a big job and then I’d crash and burn for awhile and then I’d get it back together and try again. And the damn same thing again, and again, and again. What a mess! Those down times were awful, often going clear down to suicidal ideation and one time going even farther when I tried to off myself. A bit extreme but it fit my life at the time. Luckily I got caught – but not diagnosed correctly of course – not for years…

I have a diagnosis now – several of them fact. BP I, PTSD, Dysthymia, Chronic Intractable Pain, and more I won’t go into. It’s been 20 plus years since I got that initial Dx of BP and in that time I’ve been mostly a mess so that I really couldn’t function too well. I lived in public housing for over a decade until I met Louie and moved into his home. I’m lucky now but I wasn’t always so lucky. I’ve had to accept that who I am now is Not who I used to be. I just can’t pull it off anymore, and maybe that’s a good thing.

I think I’m more real now than I’ve ever been. More true to who I really am. But those hypo/manias are a thing of the past for the most part. I still get too high/angry sometimes and have to down myself with drugs, but mostly I’m more depressed than manic and stay at a low level of energy and interaction. I’m doing some volunteer work for the city right now and I try to keep something of a social life, tho I lost most of my friends when I had the breakdown and afterwards. But that’s mostly OK. I miss having more friends, but the ones I have are good ones.

I’m still a decent guy I think. I try to live a good life and not mess the world up too much. In fact I try to help it when I can. I garden a lot and teach people about trees and the like. But I’m so much more cautious now. I’m so scared that I’ll screw up again like I did so often in the past. I’m afraid most of the time in fact. That old Impending Doom thing so many of us have. It’s so debilitating at times I can’t even function. I walk carefully through the world these days.

It really does make life more difficult and I look forward to the day I heal from this attitude I have now that nothing I ever did was really real or that I was real myself. I know that can’t be true but it sure feels like it. Those damn feelings again. Not rational at all, but so overwhelming that you can’t ignore them and it feels like they’re all there is to life. I get caught in this so much. I’m afraid to even act much of the time for fear I’ll blow it. I’m not like I used to be at all really, when I had so much courage and self confidence to do such incredible things. I miss that.

That guy is gone and good riddance. He was a braggart and a poseur and a con artist and I’m none of those things in my heart. I’m not who I used to be tho I still have a core of Self that will always be inviolate and that will keep me OK forever, I hope. It’s real now, not some false mania or hyper action that I jump into without thinking of the consequences. I may still do that and I sure still make mistakes, but I feel like they’re really my own now and not some unreal thing I manufactured to get by and get ahead without knowing the results completely. I understand more now.

Yes, I was a different person then. A good one but not always solid and real and true to myself. I was so confident and I miss that confidence a lot. But was it real confidence or just mental illness? I guess it was a little of both, but I think it was tilted toward the illness. Now that I know what I’m dealing with I can do it better. I can’t always control my life, but I try hard and I try to be as real as possible. It seems to be working to some extent and I’m in better shape than I have been in a long time now. So I’m glad I’m different, but I miss the highs and the bravado and most of all the self confidence.

I’ll just have to get used to it, eh?

Steve

Is it Mania or Just Anger?

I’ve been struggling with some emotions that are too raw and close to the surface lately and I’m worried about my reactions to things. I seem to be on a hair thin trigger these days and my anger levels are right below the surface. I know that the current political landscape, in particular the race for president, is affecting me greatly. But it’s more that that, and I wonder whats going on? It seems worse since I got on this current regimen of Wellbutrin and I wonder if this is one of the subtle hints of fracturing that I’ve experienced before on it, but in more obvious degrees. It’s confusing.

I read an interesting article on mania and anger the other day. A leading psychiatrist here in Seattle said that it was wise to beware of labeling anger as mania in Bipolar disorder because it was more often caused by substance abuse. It’s an interesting theory. I’ve not been diagnosed with substance abuse, but I’ve smoked pot since I was in high school – some 50 years now- so obviously some would say that’s my issue. But I’ve always used it carefully and now it’s strictly medical and I smoke it sparingly. My psychiatrist doesn’t mind and my counselor and ND both suggested I use it. So I don’t put much stock into this notion myself. Denial? Maybe, but I think not…

I believe that it’s more than just that. It’s dreadfully close to wrecking me. It Feels like mania, not just anger. And it’s too sharp and too intense and takes me over so much that even little bits of angst can throw me into a fit of rage where I seriously want to hurt someone or myself or destroy the world. Typical, I guess, but it’s no fun at all. Not like the bright sparkly hypo-manias I’ve had so often in life that inspire me to do good work in the world. This is a destructive mania and I’m afraid of it.

I haven’t had a lot of florid manias in my life. Mostly they’ve been long term experiences where I entered into lands uncharted and tried new things that haven’t been done before. Like creating an innovative non-profit healing arts center with my credit cards, working myself to the bone and finally ending up in bankruptcy and disability. I had a Vision you see but I couldn’t see the whole picture and I ended up in disgrace and struggling with it’s futility. It hurt me badly. It was a 4 year manic episode. And no one even noticed, because I hadn’t been diagnosed yet.

Most of my manias haven’t been that obvious to other people. But they have still been filled with lots of anger and rage, thru my whole life. I can remember times when I was a kid that I would explode in rages that terrified my little brother and caused my parents to label me with ADD as an adult. They told me my anger was palpable and horrible when I was young and had those fits of rage. Sounds like the beginnings of Manic Depression to me, eh? I was a horrible little child I think, tho no one in my family is alive to tell me how bad it really was. I can’t remember much about it but I know I wasn’t a bad kid per se, just angry and unpredictable.

So back to my proposal here. Given my experiences in my life I can’t say what is causing me to be so angry these days. I know I can’t discount the situation in the world. It really does affect me. I’m super empathic and I feel the suffering of others deeply. It hurts me. It also makes me mad. This is a problem and I haven’t figured out what to do about it yet. I hope I can keep it under control but I dunno. I haven’t broken anything or slit my wrists, which I’ve wanted to do many times. I haven’t exploded at Louie or any of my friends. And I actually haven’t hurt myself, except with my thinking, which is bad enough.

I try to calm myself down when I feel this anger growing but it’s very hard to do. I often have to resort to drugs and take some Klonopin, or when it’s really bad, some Abilify, that will knock me on my ass and put me totally out of it. At least it’s better than the rage but it wastes me and I don’t  really like that. But it’s better than the anger for sure. If I don’t know where it comes from and what to do to stop it I can at least alleviate it some and that’s good for me. I also use CBT to tell myself to Stop It! But that doesn’t always work out too well. I’m often too far gone, unless I catch it early. Sometime I can, but not always.

I think this is a bit of a manic response to situations that I can’t control and that cause me distress to the point where I crack up and lose it. Or is it just anger? I’m still confused. It’s been there so long, but then maybe I’m just an angry person. I don’t think so tho. No one I know would ever call me that. But I would. I feel it so much. Sometimes I know that my anger is invigorating and it helps me come out of my depressions really well. But this stuff is out of bounds and isn’t connected to reality. It’s troubling. I’m at a loss as to what to do besides trying to just live with it and try my best to deal with it safely for myself and others. So far, so good. Maybe it doesn’t matter what it is, maybe what counts is dealing with it well. Sounds good to me…

How’s Your anger level?

Steve

Bored With Bipolar

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You’d think that after almost 19 years of being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and 63 years of living with it, I’d have come to terms with it by now. And frankly I have, many times. But right now, and for the last few months, I’ve been at odds with my illness and it’s been anything but acceptance that I’m feeling. I’m feeling ripped apart by this disease that has so impaired my life that I have spent hours and days and weeks feeling like I should just kill myself. That I should just end it all and be done with it.

This where it gets Boring. I feel so totally boring in my depression. I’m not a fun guy these days. I don’t feel like laughing at funny things or enjoying the accomplishments I’ve had in my life. I feel like this is too much for me to handle and I just can’t keep doing it. I’ve talked with my psychiatrist and counselor about going into the hospital just for a change of venue for awhile to see if that would kick start me out of this state I’m in now. The Psych. even suggested things like ECT and Vagus Nerve stimulation, all of which scare the hell out of me.

But I need to do something. We also talked about anti-depressants. It’s been a few years since I tried one of them and maybe it’s time to try another one, tho so far I’ve failed on all of them and many have made me more ill than I was before I took them. So I don’t have much hope that they’ll fix things any but I have to keep trying. I’m working so hard on trying to change my attitude and perspective and focus on gratefulness and the abundance in my life. I have a good life and I know it, but it doesn’t seem to make any difference now. I just wanna be done with it all. This is so boring and is why I live a life that is just impossible. I so miss my hypomanias when I felt great and like I could take on the world. Sometimes I went too far with them but I’d take that any day over these crushing depressions I live with these days. A little up time would be nice…

But those times have ended pretty much due to taking an anti-psychotic for several years now. The Abilify cuts down on my hypomanias and keeps me on the low end of the spectrum. I don’t get to experience those times of intense creativity and joy and brilliance that accompany hypomanias. All I get to live with is the depression and how it eats away at my soul. I feel like I’m dying and that I’ve gotten into such a deep hole that I can’t even discern any way out of it. I wrote awhile ago about being stuck and that’s still how I feel.

I don’t have anything interesting to say here, which is why I titled it as I did. I’ll admit that being in touch with a depressed person is a boring thing to have to do. We’re just no fun and we’re a drag to be with. We had company over last night and it was all I could do to pretend that I was alright and could just seem to be OK even tho I’m not sure I was. I so wish I had a space in my life where it’s just OK to be depressed and alone and not impact others with my situation. But I’m in a relationship and that means I have to try to be OK for my partner at least as often as I can just to be fair. He has to put up with so much. I don’t understand why he bothers. I don’t think I’m worth it at all anymore.

I used to have a decent opinion of myself and felt like I had a handle on this Bipolar Disease. But I don’t feel that well at all anymore. If feels like I’ve got so much going on that it will be impossible to ever regain it. I feel so useless and like I have no reason to live anymore. I’m in deep despair and disillusionment. If it doesn’t break soon I really don’t know what I’ll do. I can’t kill myself because it just wouldn’t be fair to Louie and my few friends to do that to them. I do know better and that it’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem. But I don’t really care. I’m too far gone. I had a good friend tell me that any one who tried to commit suicide is just a coward and it really felt bad since I’ve tried to kill myself before many years ago and have never felt bad about that. But now I do. I feel like other people will judge me for it and wouldn’t understand why I did it if I did. It’s all boring tho, isn’t it?

I don’t have any morsels of wisdom to share today. I need help badly and I don’t know where to get it. I’ve slipped so much in my self esteem and self perception that it feels like I’m a totally different person than I used to be. I saw my MD the other day and when I told him I was stuck in depression and that I was stuck in feeling pain and stuck in the knowledge that I’d be in this state for the rest of my life that he just shut down on me and it’s like he didn’t even care anymore. This may be my perspective and he’s fine with me but I dunno. I think he, like me, was bored with me being still upset that I have to live with taking all these damn drugs for the rest of my life just to stay alive. Not to thrive but just to be alive. It hardly seems worth it. It doesn’t in fact.

Anyway I guess I should stop now. I know some people have been worried about me in that I haven’t posted here in such a long time, and I doubt that this post will ease their minds, but at least now the truth is out there still and the angst I feel is clear. At least it’s the true experience of someone who has Bipolar Disorder and can’t control it at all at the moment. Oh I can fake it pretty well for an hour or two but it’s hard to be upbeat for long. I just wanna hide out and not see anyone at all or interact with the world at all. And I have people coming to visit me soon and I don’t know what I’m going to do. I definitely can’t be present with them for too long but I’ll try.

So enough whining and complaining and pissing and moaning. I told you at the start it’d be boring and it sure is isn’t it? I long so much for a change and it feels like I just can’t pull it off by myself and the help I have isn’t doing it. I’m open for something new to try and see if it’ll work. So far nothing is effective and that makes me feel despondent and discouraged. Maybe someday they’ll find a cure for this illness, but until then I’ll keep trying to stop being so boring and be more positive. But I have no faith that I can do it. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see, eh?

Wishing you an interesting life,

Steve

Inside a Hypo-Manic Episode

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“No I’m not just upset. I’m way beyond that. I’m truly enraged. I can’t stop my heart from racing and my pulse is pounding. I feel like I want to kill someone, anyone, but especially myself. I want to blow the whole world away. I feel way too much energy in me right now and I can’t sit still.

My brain is boiling and my eyes burn. My head feels like it’s about to explode and the energetic spasms in my body are thru the roof. I have to do something really quickly to stop this or I’ll do something I’ll regret later I’m sure and I don’t want to do that. But I feel so lost and disoriented and out of control. I Hate this shit.”

That was me yesterday when things were really bad. I couldn’t even write about it because I was too irrational. I wasn’t making any sense and I knew it and I had to take action, as I describe below, to keep myself from doing harm to myself or others, or just plain trash my belongings. And I still feel it today too, damnit. Why do I feel this way? It really doesn’t matter. What matters to me is How I feel.

If there are ever any times I doubt the manic part of my bipolar diagnosis it’s when I stay depressed for so long I think that part of me has gone away. It takes times like this to realign myself with my full nature to recognize that the manic part of me is still alive and well, unfortunately.

I usually stay well below the midline with my moods. I’m usually depressed or on the verge of it. It’s my default state of being. But now and then something happens to me that makes me so angry, irritable and enraged that I explode and lose it entirely. That’s when I recognize the mania that I embody as well as the depression.

Now is when I feel the Manic-depressive aspects of this damn illness. I can stop these feelings better than I can the depression because I have drugs to help me with mania and I don’t with depression. Still, I got so angry and enraged yesterday that I thought I was going to do something really bad to myself or something else. I really felt like destroying everything.

So I took a dose of my anti-psychotic and a dose of an anti-anxiety medicine and in time they calmed me down to the point of being almost comatose. I could barely move after awhile and had to lie down on the couch to decompress and just rest I was so wiped out from the drugs. But that’s a better place to be than destruction.

Technically I’m only supposed to feel Hypo-mania, not True mania, because I was originally diagnosed as Bipolar II, which doesn’t include getting truly manic, just a bit below that, which is called Hypo-mania. That’s mostly true for me in my life. But hypo-mania is just as dangerous as mania if you don’t control it. It can still kill you or make you do things you’d rather not do.

It may not last too long but it lasts long enough to totally degrade my thinking and make my life a living hell. And it’s not so easy on my partner either. He tries to help me but I get so shut down that I refuse all offers of help or suggestions of assistance. I get totally locked up in myself and I can’t move or act constructively.

This is very different from depression. When I’m depressed I feel like I deserve to just die and that’s it. I feel hopeless, discouraged, in despair, and all the rest of the stories any of you who suffer from depression know all too well. But I can see how I’m being and ask for help and receive it. I can change my moods.

Mania is very different for me. I generally lose most of my self awareness. I was barely able to hold on long enough to take drugs yesterday and if I hadn’t done that I’d have been lost for sure. I can see how when I have true mania I totally lose myself in it and can’t begin to act even as well as I did yesterday. You can’t tell you’re messed up is the thing. You think you’re normal. But you’re not…

I’d love to have a handle on these extreme mood swings I have. I guess I do have many of them if I look back at my earlier posts and see that I’ve talked about how to change your moods and thoughts many times. But right now it’s all bullshit to me and none of it is real. I’m just a mess and I feel like I’ll always be one so why bother living.

Shit, I guess I’m starting to slip back into depression even as I write this. Wow. How can I go from being so high to so low in just a few minutes?!! This is called Rapid Cycling and it’s common for a small percentage of those of us who have Bipolar disorder. It’s when we flip from one state to the other several times in a year, or in my case, in a month, a week or a day even. It happens Fast.

I also suffer from having Mixed States where I’m both too high and too low at the same time. I guess that’s what’s going on now because I feel both in my system. It’s like my whole body is flooded with chemicals that make me feel weird and out of it. Slow and draggy but hyper and antsy all at once. It’s not the drugs, it’s the Manic-Depression at work in me. It’s bio-chemical after all so why shouldn’t’ I feel it that way?

So now I’m totally screwed. I feel too hyper to sit and rest and too depressed to do anything about it. A classic state of mind for a mixed state and one I’m all too familiar with. But the fact that I’m shifting does mean that sometime soon I’ll be back to myself and be able to change this mood of mine. I’ve learned that when I feel too powerless with it all I just have to wait it out, like a bad drug trip, and it’ll change in time.

I just hope that I make it thru that time and don’t do something really stupid in the interim. I can tell I’m still on the edge with it all. I’ve even thought of deleting this whole blog because I feel so isolated in it so often. Why do I bother I wonder? No one cares… sigh. Wait! This is depressive thinking I can tell and I have to stop it. Now!

It’s amazing to me how much writing out this stuff can help me. It may not be interesting to you but it’s Real and it’s a glimpse of what I go thru on a daily or weekly basis. I do this dance a lot and it’s a hard one for all of us who have this Disorder. If you have it I suspect you’ll recognize my journey here. If not maybe you’ll understand more about what it’s like to go thru it.

In any event I hope it’s useful to someone out there. It’s been good for me to talk about it and I’m grateful for this forum to speak the things that we live with and how we are in the world. I’m Bipolar and I accept that. It’s an OK way to be much of the time, even tho it’s hell other times. In fact sometimes it really rocks so remember that too. I’ll write about that part when I’m really OK sometime, maybe. We’ll see, eh?

No longer enraged but still Hypo-manic…

Steve