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

Depression Abounds

STNG1071

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

How a Tattoo Keeps Me Stable

Tattoo of the Phoenix

Some of you will immediately recognize that this photo I posted here is the same as my Gravatar image I use on all my posts. Actually the Gravatar is the image I colored in and gave to the tattoo artist who put it on my arm in the picture above. It’s a two-headed Phoenix. It’s got two heads because I consider myself a Two Spirit person, a designation some Native peoples use to describe those of us who are gay and follow a Walks Between path, walking between man and woman, spirit and flesh, society and the individual. We’re mediators. But that’s not what this post is about.  (And I’m not a Native American but I use the term because it fits me.)

I got this tattoo sometime around 10 years ago when I was going thru a seriously unstable period in my life. I was doing something to myself that will seem abhorrent to many of you and incomprehensible at best I’m sure. I was cutting myself. That’s right. I was taking my Swiss army knife and I was cutting long strips into my arms and wrists. I had to let the poison out you see. I was in terrible psychic pain and I felt toxic and it felt like it was the only way I could get it out of me. It sounds crazy but it’s not as unusual as you might think. In fact it was an accepted medical practice well into the 1700’s and probably later but I just read about it so I know it was practiced then using a special instrument called a Flean, to use on people who had too much pressure in their systems, to relieve that pressure. That’s what I was doing. I had too much pressure.

I took some pictures of myself during those episodes and I eventually erased them because they were too painful for me to look at anymore. But I didn’t want to forget what I’d done to myself when I got better and so I decided to commemorate it with a tattoo. So I thought  about what I wanted and the Phoenix, which was a name I used for myself in certain communities came to mind. It’s the higher octave of the Scorpio, which is my birth sign and has been a symbol of regeneration and renewal for hundreds of years, rising from the ashes of its own destruction. It seemed fitting to me to use it for myself. And it’s worked. I look at that tattoo on my left wrist where I cut myself and remember what I went thru then.

Now when I feel the urge to do something to harm myself, which I still feel on many occasions, I just look at the tattoo and I remember what I did in one of my most extreme crises. I was clearly in a psychotic state at the time and it’s not an uncommon thing for people to do in that state, often when you’re Bipolar, tho not all people with BP do this of course. But it’s horrible and I only did it a few times. I can’t  imagine the people who do it all the time. It’s most common among young girls I understand and I’ve talked to some of them. They call it Self Harm these days. I’m not ashamed of myself, tho I do I regret that I have these scars on my arms now. I sometimes tell people I was pruning a particularly vicious shrub because I don’t really want to share the truth with just anyone.

So why am I telling you? Because I believe I’m probably not the only one on this site who has done this or something else to harm themselves in a way that has caused them such sorrow and they’ve given into the feeling that we somehow deserved what we did. Whether it was a suicide attempt or cutting or taking an overdose of pills just to see what it felt like to almost die, some of us have reached the limits of human endurance thru our own minds tricks and ploys. So I post this in support of all of us who have been to this place of utter emotional despair. It’s not a nice place to go but it’s possible to get over it and get thru it. And if we remember then we’re less likely to ever do it again. I never have and I never will, because I have help. And that help is a simple tattoo.

In Solidarity with those who suffer,

Steve