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

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Stuck!

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I have a good life. I have a wonderful partner who loves me to death. I have a good home to live in and I’ve been able to improve it and add to its beauty, especially thru my love of gardening and what I’ve done there. But I’ve also added to the inside of the house and it feels more like mine instead of one I just moved into 4 years ago. I have good food to eat and a nice car and clothes and all I need to survive and be happy. But I’m not happy, and it’s driving me mad.

Or maybe I’m already there. I can’t seem to stop my brain from telling me that I’m a worthless piece of crap and I should just kill myself to make the world a safer place from idiots like me. It’s nonsense I know and I’m not a bad person. But this Bipolar Disorder really has taken hold of me right now and it won’t let me go no matter what I try to do.

I’ve been diagnosed with this dreadful illness for almost 18 years now and sometimes I really think I’m getting much better. I guess I am in many ways. My counselor and psychiatrist both think I’m doing well and treat me like I’m into recovery and on my way to feeling better. But it’s just not true. I’m still a mess most every day lately and it’s getting very challenging to live in my psyche.

I’m still in the Underworld despite the fact that I usually seem to come out of it around the Spring Equinox. I did some as I started to see the plants begin to bloom and grow. That helps me a lot to see Life arsing again and fulfilling it’s promise of beauty and continuation of existence. It’s so obvious to me that Life will find a way to continue and things happen as they do without our input or actions.

I have so much going for me I can’t understand why I’m so messed up and so full of suicidal ideation that I spend time every single day lately thinking about how to kill myself. I won’t of course. I couldn’t do that to Louie and my friends and family. I know this but I don’t know what to do. I’ve tried so many of my tricks to get my mind to shift out of this mess I’m in but I’m not having much luck. I’ve written a lot here on how I use certain ways of thinking to change my thoughts but right now it’s all bunk to me. Nothing is working.

You’d think I’d be on anti-depressants or something but I can’t take them because they make me crazier than I already am and have put me into the hospital more than once when I’ve had a bad reaction to them. They hurt me and I long for a pill or something that will change my negative self image to one that is more in line with reality and lets me enjoy my life again.

I know it’s terribly hard on Louie to see me go thru this. We talk about it often and he helps me so much just by listening to me and letting me know he cares. He saves my life more often than he knows. I’m so lucky to have him in my life and without him I’d probably give in and just off myself. I can’t seem to find my Joy button anymore and it hurts so much. Depression is a real physical disease and it Hurts to be depressed in your body as well as your mind. I’m already in pain from injuries I’ve sustained in my life and my dose of pain killers would kill most people.

So when you add in the depression it adds itself to the pain of my physical body it becomes an overload and I can’t seem to maintain. I fake it a lot. I think most people think of me as a positive person trying to make the best of a bad situation and that’s probably true. But it feels so phoney and fake to me to always have to pretend to be OK when I’m really not. It’s still too scary for me to come out about my Manic Depression in many venues and so I suffer in silence as so many of us do.

I don’t tell my neighbors, usually, what’s going on or my friends even. I don’t wanna bother them and have them turn away from me like so many have in the past because of this illness. It’s caused me to leave so many situations that just caused me distress and fear and led me to worse states so that I’m left with only a few friends now and I’m isolated too much of the time. I know I need to get out more but I feel too lousy and can’t seem to break out of the cycle.

I know this is a really lousy post and I apologize. This has been building up in me for so long I just had to vent a bit and explain how it feels for someone who is as together as I am to go thru such terrible disillusion. I can’t recognize myself anymore. I don’t know who I am or why I’m here and I’ve usually known that. I’ve had visions of my life since I was in high school and I’ve followed them, often to glory but often to falling apart.

In the past 18 years I’ve gone thru so many changes. From the initial recognition of the illness to learning the tricks of the trade in how to keep yourself well to falling apart again and again to being OK again now and then. But it’s been awhile and I’m feeling the loss of my usual bright self and energetic persona. I just feel like a wet lump of dough or noodles overcooked and it’s like moving thru oil or honey just to walk some days. It’s very physical as well as mental.

I’m hoping that things will shift soon and I’m still trying to be OK. I talk to my counselor and psych. and to Louie and other friends a bit but not too much. Maybe it’s time to go back to the Bipolar Support group I used to go to. I wonder. Sometimes others with the same illness can be good support for one another and it’s helped me in the past. I need help now. Badly. I really don’t want to implode and end my life. It’d be so stupid and I know it always changes, but it’s so hard to wait it out and feel so powerless about it all.

My diagnosis is that of Bipolar Disorder with rapid cycling and mixed states, which means I cycle back and forth from high to low too often and often will be in both places at once. It’s very confusing when I can look at my self and see how great it is and then in my inner experience it’s so terrible. It’s truly cognitive dissonance. I can’t seem to hold onto my brain and keep it running on the smooth track of self love but instead find myself on the hate train to hell. I’m so tired of it.

Is this going to be the way it is for the rest of my life or will they someday find a cure for this horrible illness that has so wrecked my lfe and made me into a different person than I used to be? I don’t like who I am right now at all… I have hope but not much. The same goes for the physical pain I live with. Together they overwhelm me too often, like today when I hurt so bad I’m at a 7 on a 10 point scale and it feels like it. I’ve had to take extra pain meds already and it’s only 11:30 in the morning.

I could use more pain killers it seems. But with the way things are going with the pain medication situation it’s so tricky just to get what I do. I can’t imagine what I’d be like if I lost the morphine. I wouldn’t be able to even function. I’d be in bed and in pain all the time and would eventually give in to it and just give up I suspect. Add in my occasional migraine and it’s a total picture of pain. It’s just too much.

OK I’ve talked enough here. I’m sorry this isn’t a more positive post. I am trying to get better. I really am.  But it seems so impossible that I feel the way I do when I have such a good life and it feels so unfair to me. Not just to me but to Louie and my other friends who have to deal with my moods and pain all the time. It’s hard on them and I’m grateful to them for staying with me and being my friends. I couldn’t do it without them.

I hope that my honesty and lack of inhibitions in talking about this will help others who suffer from this same illness feel more comfortable talking about it themselves. It’s OK, and even necessary, to air our hard stories about how difficult this illness is. I’m a big fan of education and if even one person reads this and understands more of what it’s like for us it’ll be fine with me. It’s Real and we’re Not faking it, despite the stigma we face… This is Life for way too many of us…

Wishing you a good day today,

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

Blog for Mental Health 2014

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I’ve been meaning to write a post about what Bipolar Disorder has meant for my life. And here comes a situation wherein I’m asked to do just that in order to qualify for putting this badge on my site and being a part of the 2014 Mental Health Blogroll. Here are the words of the Founder of this project:

“I pledge my commitment to the 2014 Blog for Mental Health Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”

I couldn’t agree more. I think that everything I write in Naked Nerves is about mental health in one way or another. That’s my perspective at any rate. It all comes down to your mind and how you treat it and to your interactions with others and how you deal with them when you have a mental illness. And how you stay healthy with one and don’t fall off the edge of the earth as it’s so easy to do.

A bit about my story. I wasn’t diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder until I was 45 years old. That’s pretty old for this disorder and all I can say is that I just plain didn’t get caught any sooner because I lived below the radar by living such an alternative lifestyle my whole life. I used different paradigms for my ways of being. I was just a hyper guy with some mood swings. No big deal eh? Wrong!

I’ve always been an alternative type and I never even knew what Bipolar was until shortly before I was diagnosed with it. But ignorance is no excuse and it’ll get you anyway. My mom gave me a book on depression and in it were stories of folks with Manic Depression. I recognized myself much better in those stories, so I went to a psychiatrist and said I think I’m bipolar. Am I? And he said, You Bet You Are!!!

At the time I was running a non profit educational center I’d started back in 1990 and I worked pretty hard at it. In fact I totally burned myself out doing it. I was grandiose in my Vision of what I’d created and I worked my ass off to make it happen. I overdid it and didn’t have enough help and it nearly killed me. Pretty classic I guess, for this disorder anyway…

I reached the point where I had such a severe mixed state episode that I lost it completely and had a mental/physical/spiritual/emotional breakdown that changed my life forever. I haven’t worked since and doubt I ever will since I’m now 63 years old and still too unstable for the job market. This cycle has happened to me Many times in my work life and it’s affected my career thru that my entire life.

Even tho I was 45 when I was diagnosed with BP, I was treated for depression when I was 29 and tried to kill myself in the process of coming out and dealing with identity issues and just felt too crazy and horrible about myself to live. Fortunately I survived that attempt and I’ve never tried it again, tho I want to often still.

But I have responsibilities to people and I can’t leave my lover, friends and family. I have to stay alive now, but it’s hard sometimes. I don’t care about myself then and wish I could just die, but it’s the love of others and my caring for them that keeps me here. I”m so lucky to have people to love and to love me. It keeps me alive.

I figure I’ve had this illness since I was a little kid. I can remember many rages and mood swings as early as then. I was a handful as a child and my parents didn’t know how to deal with me much of the time. I wasn’t a bad kid, just supper hyper and always changing in my moods and behaviors. I embodied the forms of bipolar even then before I knew it and it’s affected how I’ve lived forever.

I don’t mean it’s been the cause I’ve been the way I have been for my life. But I do recognize that it has had as big an impact on me as just about anything in my world ever has done. It’s allowed me to create so much in the world in the way of my work and cool things for my community. I did that when I was hypomanic and I’ve been that way most of my life so I got a lot done.

But I also had the crashes that came after my super creative days. I’ve fallen into the Pit so many times I can’t count them. But I always come back out again and that’s the main thing I try to remember about this disease. It always changes and if I feel like dying one day I can count on the fact that one day soon I’ll feel alright again and go on with my life. Knowing this can save me if I let it in.

I have to save myself. No one else will. I constantly work on my issues and my awareness of being bipolar and what it means for my life. I have to live Very Consciously and take good care of myself in all ways – diet, rest, people I hang out with, things I choose to spend my time doing and all the rest.

It takes a lot of concentration to do this and that comes and goes but my will is strong and I have excellent help from my partner, counselor and psychiatrist and other healers so I’m lucky and grateful for their help. I still cycle every day and some days I fall so deeply into depression that I just can’t believe it. In so many ways I’m a model of recovery, but in others I’m still a basket case.

But you wouldn’t know it to meet me. I seem fine, a curse in itself in some ways. Looking like you’re not ill and yet being ill is challenging and why I started this blog in fact. To write about what it’s like. Mental Health issues are about as Invisible as you can get, unless you’re in a super bad state of course. But usually you can’t see it and that’s a problem. It needs to be more Visible.

The folks who started this Mental Health Project seem to feel the same way I do as far as talking about it and how so much is connected to our mental health. You can read more about their project here: http://acanvasoftheminds.com/2014/01/07/blog-for-mental-health-2014/. I feel a connection with these folks because of our similar views and my support of what they’re trying to do in making the invisible more visible.

As they say, mental health is Everyone’s issue, not just those of us who have a mental illness. So please do check out their site and learn some more about this cool project that has been going on for a couple of years now. I think it’s great and I hope you’ll consider putting their badge on your site too if you feel the way I do about it.

Education is our salvation if we want to lead whole lives and be accepted in our societies. I’m trying to help others by blogging here, and to help myself too. I always feel better after I write a good post, not to say they’re all good…. but I try. So remember that we all have mental health concerns and it’s important to acknowledge them and come out about them. We’ll change the world if we do….

Blogging for Mental Health in 2104 and beyond!

Steve

“Being” or “Having” Bipolar

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There is much wisdom in saying that we Have a Mental Illness when we speak of our Bipolar Disorder. People say it gives us more Control. But there’s one aspect that is often forgotten. This illness by it’s very nature is cyclical, and our minds don’t always stay where we put them.

What I mean is that it’s fine and dandy to say you Have a mental illness and you Control it when you’re stable and doing OK and you can actually mean it. But when you go either too high or too low then you are Not in Control of your illness, By Definition!, and it’s silly to pretend you are, just because you use certain words to describe it.

I feel too much cognitive dissonance to think that I simply have an illness in the bad times. I’m Bipolar personified then. My emotions change and take me over and all I can see is where I’m at at the time. I can’t see out of my dilemma, even tho I Know differently.

It’s important to acknowledge where you’re at in life. If you’re in the pit or flying too high then you are Not in control of your illness. Why else take all those pills and go to therapy and do all the mind tricks we do to take care of  ourselves to be OK? If we weren’t messed up by the illness we wouldn’t need to do all that would we?  Of course not. We’d be fine like the rest of humanity… (some sarcasm here…)

Personally I use the terms interchangeably. I find them both empowering. I found it empowering the first time I was diagnosed 18 years ago at age 45 and I have ever since. I’ve had Bipolar my whole life and I’m considered a model of recovery by my Psychiatrist and counselor both. I do well mostly, and have a lot of insight into my illness. But I still lack that control much of the time.

Now and then I have some control, but I am Not in Control when push comes to shove. Then the bipolar takes over and I’m lost. That’s when I feel like I Am bipolar, deep in my bones. And you know what? I don’t mind calling myself Bipolar when I feel like that. It seems to fit me better than just saying I Have it. It’s more visceral.

I don’t mean this to be a downer for anyone. In fact I mean it to be empowering. I believe that You control your life in the long run. But being in control of your own life means accepting all the parts of it, even the Bipolar disorder that takes away that control.

In the end what matters most is how you relate to your illness and your strength to endure it. And I do mean endure because it’s hard as hell. Making peace with all parts of ourselves is crucial to this struggle. Accepting the dark parts of ourselves is a part of the Dance of Life, especially for those of us with Bipolar, and it’ll always be this way.

So think whatever you want. Call it by any name you choose. Relate to it however it gets you thru the night. It’s all good, but don’t think you have it under Control. Don’t make that mistake when you say you “just Have” this illness. It’s all too easy to think you have it all under control if you say you just have it. Be careful not to let it mean more than it can.

Words have power and the words you use will define things for you it’s true. But saying you Are Bipolar doesn’t hurt you. It means you know yourself. You know who you are in your worst moods. You know yourself deeply and fully and you accept responsibility for that knowing by claiming your identity. It’s OK to do this. It’s even wise I think.

And it’s also fine to think that you Have this illness. I don’t mean to imply differently. But I’ve written all of this just to point out that it’s not any one way all the time. It Changes! It’s cyclical and when it changes and you lose control, you have to accept where you’re at with whatever grace you can.

If that means saying you Have bipolar that’s cool. If it means you say you Are bipolar that’s cool too. Yes words have power, but only the power we give to them. We don’t have to lose what power we do have by always being “psychiatrically correct” in the words we use to describe our illness. We have free will in the definitions we use to talk about our lives, even if not completely in what our lives may have become.

Wishing you stability in the coming year,

Steve

Depression Abounds

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I’ve been reading a lot of posts on the Bipolar Blogroll this morning and it seems like a Lot of people are suffering right now with severe depression. Like the type where you just want to die or hide out from those in your life, or tell all your friends to go away and leave you alone. Bad stuff. It hurts to read all these posts because they’re so close to home for me right now.

I’ve been in a depression for weeks now I guess. It’s so hard to tell sometimes. I just feel bad and out of it. I wake up crying every day and not just for me, it’s for the world and all the suffering in it. I cry at the strangest things and at the most inopportune times. It’s gotten worse as I’ve gotten older. Too much pain and sorrow to have seen.

But I know I’m not alone in this. There are so many of us who suffer from this horrible disorder. Sometimes it feels like my whole being has been taken over by an alien life form and I don’t know who I am anymore. I used to be a happy person in my life, didn’t I? I think so. Or at least I could fake it well enough to get by.

But faking it is real hard right now. I try to write about it but I just get stuck and can’t say what I want to say. I’ve deleted my last two posts here because I just hated what I was writing so much. I wonder how many others do that, or do they just let it be and see what happens. I can’t risk that I guess.

I feel too vulnerable already. Like my world is falling apart. And the strange and awful thing is that my life is really pretty damn good. I have a lover and partner who loves me and a house to live in and food to eat and even have mental health care that’s pretty good. I have a lot of good things in my life, but I’m still suicidal. Why the Fuck do I feel this way?

Going up and down all the time gets so old. It’s so hard on you and takes away your sense of self and your ability to just feel OK. It’s a cruel disease and I’ve read that they’re now being able to image it on a MRI when someone is having a bipolar episode. Maybe it’ll be better if we can “Prove” we’re sick, but I dunno.

There’s so much stigma against mental illness. I’m pretty open about it to people who I feel safe with, but it’s a difficult call and I’ve been burned more than once by being honest. So I watch who I tell but I tell everyone I can. Does that make sense? See, I figure that only by telling our stories will we ever gain the respect of the world and let them see us as humans who are damaged and sick and need help instead of ridicule.

So I keep trying to stay OK and not kill myself. It’d be way too hard on my partner and my few friends. I’ve lost most of them over the years due to this disorder because it does have a chilling effect on relationships at times. Especially when they don’t see you as sick.

That’s why I wrote about this as an Invisible Illness. It’s not often that people see me as sick or ill in any way let alone in my head. I hide it really well and I function well enough to be able to pull it off. Hit in my weaker moments when I’m all alone and feeling bad about myself and none of that matters. All that counts is the way I feel at this exact moment.

My counselor tells me that I’m in a depression when I feel this way and that it’ll change. I know that. I guess that’s the one awareness that keeps me going. But I don’t believe it much when I feel this bad. It’s hard to stay positive tho that’s my usual attitude. But sometimes it’s just too hard as I’ve spent days being depressed every single day lately and it’s being way hard on me. I want to die so badly.

But I won’t do anything rash or kill myself. People care about me even if it’s not that many. I’d leave a big hole in my social circle if I wasted myself, so I won’t do it. I did try it once and failed, fortunately, but I could try again and I sort of made a pact with myself that I wouldn’t do it so this is all so much more anguish because I can never end it.

If I thought I’d stop it by dying I would, but I doubt it’d end the suffering , it’d just transfer it to someone else, and that’s not cool. Other people would be hurt and I can’t do that to them. They’ve cared too much for me to betray that confidence they have in me now.

I do love myself and I’m so grateful for all the good things in my life. But I sure wish the depression would give me a break. I want to stop my antipsychotics so I’ll get hypomanic but I know that’s a bad idea. I’ll just get irritable and angry if I do that, too manic. I would love to feel Good like I used to when I’d get hypomanic. I used to revel in it but these days it’s so rare and damaging it scares me. And it’s “just” hypomania not full blown stuff. It’s bad enough.

They say Bipolar II is “Bipolar Lite” sometimes because we don’t have full blown manias, tho I have had them but never got caught in one…. So I was diagnosed with BP II and it fits me cause I’m so depressed so much. I can’t imagine thinking this illness is anything like “Lite” tho. It’s so hard on me how can it be a light disease? It kills people damnit.  It’s not an easier way to be than BP I. It’s just different.

I have a lot of rapid cycling and mixed states, when I’m either going up and down all the time or I’m in both places at once. It’s not supposed to be possible with BP II but there it is. I do have mixed states a lot and they’re so dangerous. I have plenty of energy to kill myself and the desire too, so watching out is the way to proceed.

I just need to keep it up. With the pain and the depressions I have a lot to deal with. But I have a lot of good help and support too. Without it I’d be dead for sure. So I’m grateful and thankful for my life despite all the traumas and dramas. It’s a good life and it’s mine. What else do I need?

Struggling with the rest of you,

Steve

Keeping My Sense of Humor

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Sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself. Sometimes it just gets so absurd that there’s nothing else to do about it but take a totally different approach. When working on yourself to change your state of mind becomes burdensome laughter is the answer. I couldn’t stay alive if I didn’t laugh as much as I do. It gets me thru some very hard times.

I’m lucky to have a goofy partner. He has a great sense of humor that transcends my own, and often when I reach that point where I just seem to come unglued all I need to do is talk to him and he throws out a non sequitur or a pithy remark and my mood changes instantly. His goofiness really does help me change my life for the better, and I’m so grateful for him in my life..

The issue for me seems to be that I cycle so frequently from up to down that I can’t seem to keep a hold on my thoughts or my mind. When I get that way I’ve found that I often need help to change my mood. I can’t always do it for myself so having his humor is often critical for me. It cuts thru my melancholy or sadness or freakouts like a sharp knife thru butter. It’s amazing. Humor is like that.

Poking fun at oneself has been a tradition in oppressed cultures around the world for centuries I’d guess, since it’s so prevalent today. Gay humor, Black humor, Jewish humor, Native American humor… I could go on. All of these cultures have developed a way of laughing at their sorrows and problems that is inspiring to me and helps me do it for myself too. When you’re down you might as well have some company, eh?

It’s hard for me to tell if I’m always like this when I cycle so much. My style of Bipolar Disorder is called Rapid Cycling with Mixed States. That means I flip from up to down a lot and often, or I’m in both places at once. This is a challenge to say the least. When I’m in this state it feels like I’ve been in it forever and am there all the time. But I know that’s not true. I hope it’s not anyway.

I get so serious about it. It takes me away from myself and my life so quickly and without warning that it catches my breath and I fall into the pit in an instant. On the other hand something good can happen and just as fast I’m flying high and feeling so good about my life that the bad parts seem not ever to have been there. I really do try to live in the present, but so much is in my emotions, for better and for worse, and the emotion of laughter is the one that’s most important for me to keep strong.

It’s not easy to do this when I change so often. I never know just who I’m going to be each day. Or each minute sometimes. To be precise, I have Ultra Rapid Cycling Bipolar, which means I often cycle several times every day, not just the 4 times a year that the DSM says is my criteria. What’s so hard about it is it’s intensity and suddenness. It just happens so fast I can’t keep up with it. It takes me over almost completely for at least awhile.

Anything can set me off. I have tons of triggers – those things that can flip me into a different state of mind so quickly it’s almost like it’s hard wired in me. This attitude I have that if I mess up or make a mistake I should just kill myself for instance. It’s so common for me that I live with suicidal ideation much of the time. I went thru a period when I didn’t feel this awhile back but it’s come back again and doesn’t look like it’s going away soon. Winter can be a hard time for depression.

I don’t mean to whine or complain here. I’m just stating the facts of my life in the hopes that others will recognize these traits in themselves and connect with my words and know that there are others like us out here who cycle so often that we just flip out. That’s when I try to laugh at it and turn it around on myself to something else. Something I can enjoy, instead of simply endure.

So getting back to where I started, you can see why I have to just laugh at this. I mean c’mon… how  silly is it to think that I should actually Die, just because I messed up or did something not as well as I should have or just because a thought came into my mind that I should die. What can I do but laugh at this absurdity?

It’s so crazy and Louie helps me realize this so quickly that I’ve learned that I need to just talk about this stuff when I can. Getting it out in the open often is what brings on the laughter, or at least a bemused smile of recognition that I’m doing it to myself once again. I, like many of us, am my own worst enemy. Since I Know that I can ask for help without shame or guilt and just let myself Receive. But, man, is that a hard one!

Accepting help is one of the toughest things I have to do when I’m not well. I want so much to be in control and that’s when I’m least in control, so what do I do? Either I spend time ruminating on how bad things are or I try to shift them to something different. Something lighter and not so heavy on my spirit. Just receiving help is hard enough, but asking for it is a whole other level of difficulty. I’ve gotten way better over the years but it’s still difficult for me.

I’m so grateful to have Louie and to have a great counselor who is very proactive in helping me to work on myself in hard ways sometimes. He helps me laugh at myself too, tho it’s not as quick a fix as it is with Louie. It’s more work to delve deeply into the heart of things than just to have a realization that you’re being stupid and change it. Working on yourself is hard work and yet it’s the only way to get thru this stuff, or so I believe.

I recently asked my Psychiatrist how she thought I was doing. I’ve been seeing her for many years and I’ve been thru some very hard times with her around. She said she thought I’d gained a lot of insight into my condition and was doing really well. We even decided that I could stop seeing her every month and go to every other month. I guess I’m a model of Recovery…

This is great news for me. I feel so under the thumb of the Medical Establishment sometimes it drives me nuts. But they help me so I go to them. Accepting help even when I may distrust the source as I do with Psychiatry. They have their models and frankly I subscribe to the idea of neuro-chemicals flooding my system and making me crazy. I Feel them in my body. But I go on with my life and find humor even in the thought of me being a Model of Anything… It makes me laugh.

I do seem to be a model of Recovery tho, and I am doing well. I have to give credit to the fact that I’ve kept such a good sense of humor about the absurdity of life in general and mine in particular, and the great joys that can come when you can let go of the suffering and pain for a bit. I’m so grateful to those times when I can laugh at my problems instead of wanting to kill myself. I guess that’s kinda simplistic isn’t it? But it’s so real to me that I take it seriously. Laughter is serious business after all when it means that you might live or die.

Jeez, I’m such a drama queen, aren’t I? 😉 Enough…

Steve