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

Robin Williams – Too Sad

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I’m very sad again today. Yesterday I heard that Robin Williams had committed suicide. I’m having a hard time with this. He was my age and according to many observations he suffered from Bipolar Disorder like me, tho apparently he himself never said as much from what I’ve read. But he sure acted like it didn’t he? I was always amazed at his frenetic energy and classic manic behavior in his routines and films. He was a comic and dramatic genius as an actor and a kind and generous soul as a human being. I can’t even begin to say how much he gave to me and others throughout his life of such sorrow and joy. He did what so many of us do with this illness – he hid his struggles well, tho he was also very open about them, but he couldn’t hide it in the end. I already miss him so much.

This event is what is called a Trigger for many of us. It’s a situation that flips our emotions into a negative state that affects our ability to cope and stay OK. It pushes us towards whatever form of mental illness we carry with us and adds to our difficulties of staying well. Anytime I hear of someone who dies by their own hand due to the “push” of Bipolar it triggers me and affects me deeply, and this case is no different. In fact it’s a really hard one because of how he made me feel and how much I identified with him. Not that I’m a comic genius or anything. Far from it. But I related so well to his energy and compassion for the world. He did so much to make it a better place just by being himself. Like so many of us with Bipolar he used the impetus of the illness to fuel his comedy and dramatic turns on screen and TV. Like so many of us he also didn’t hide that energy from us, he reveled in it and I loved him for that.

Tho he never said he had Bipolar Disorder there are many who would look at his life and say it was obvious to us. I’m one of them I guess. Like his most famous mentor Johnathan Winters, who also suffered from Bipolar, he was a lightning rod for that incredible energy that made his work so real and so human. He embodied so many great character traits in his work and life and made the world so much better thru his presence. It’s being hard to write this as I keep crying, which I keep doing, and I can’t see thru the tears. It’s been like this ever since I heard about it. If I weren’t doing as well as I am right now myself this would push me into a depressive syndrome quite easily. Triggers do that. Just like what happened when my cousin’s wife died of Bipolar back in February. It really got me bad and I was so depressed for weeks after her death, tho she didn’t kill herself it turns out but mistakenly took the wrong meds and passed out and fell into a swimming pool and drowned. I feel the same way with hearing of Robin’s death. It’s triggering some bad emotions in me and I feel so sad and bereft.

You see I look at Robin’s life and how he was so very successful and how much money he had and the fame and acclaim that filled his life. And I wonder how if he lived with all that and more in his life and still couldn’t find a way to get thru it without killing himself, how will I ever do it myself? It scares the shit out of me. I look at him and see how easily it could be me there on the floor. I don’t have the resources he did, but I have good support, and tho he must have had it too, it wasn’t enough in the end. Will my support be enough for me? I wonder… Especially the fact that he and I are the same age and come from similar cultural backgrounds of coming up in the crazy 60’s and all affects me. It just feels too close to me and I fear for my well being. But as I said I’m doing well right now and am not prone to such depression at the moment so I think I’ll be OK. But it’s challenging and hard and I hate it. How will I be tomorrow? I really don’t know. Still sad I expect. Still filled with these difficult emotions.

I’m not going to write about all the films he was in or the things he did to help the world. You all know of most of those things and there are lots of articles out there now praising him and mourning his death. This is just a very personal response from me about his decision to end his life. I don’t blame him at all tho I’m so sorry he chose this path. But I’ve come too close to choosing it myself, in fact I have in the past and I still get close to it too often so it’s hard. What I have for him is compassion, and I’m tying to have it for myself too right now. I just wanted to say a few things about him and how he affected me and how triggers can come at us from out of nowhere at any moment and impair our ability to cope and live our lives. I hope this hasn’t triggered any of you because of my writing but if it has I hope you get thru it as I’m trying to do. Being grateful for Robin’s work in the world and his personality and his ways of being so real about his struggles is important for us to do.  He was a good model for us in how to live an amazing life with Bipolar dogging your steps, even tho he ended his own life in the end. I understand him I think. That’s why it’s so hard. I get it. I suspect many of you do too and I hope you do OK with this tragedy. I hope I do too. I guess only time will tell.

Missing his Manic Presence,

Steve

Note: photo as Mork by Everett Collection/REX

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

Aging with Invisible Illness

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I’ve always enjoyed getting older. I’ve found that I discover new ways to live my life every day and that as I age I’m developing a greater sense of who I am and how to live a good life. I have a good home to live in and a partner who loves me dearly. I have good food to eat and medical care and many other good things in my life. I’m glad to be where I am at this point in my life.

But I worry about getting older as well. Especially with all the illnesses I suffer from. I worry about what’s going to happen to me as time goes on. I’ve heard conflicting stories about people aging with Bipolar Disorder. Some seem to say that you can get better as you get older as long as you take good care of yourself. That seems to be the way to me.

I’ve seen what happens when people with Bipolar don’t take care of themselves, either because they are too sick to do it or are in denial about having the illness and won’t seek treatment or get help. I have a difficult time with the latter folks who suffer so much and cause the ones around them to suffer too because they are too scared to want to know the truth of their situation.

But I don’t blame them either. I understand not wanting to know I guess, tho it’s not my way of being. Maybe it’d be easier if I pretended that I just don’t have these illnesses and try to live a normal life and see if I could get by OK without the drugs and the therapy and all the help I receive from my partner and friends. Maybe it’d be easier to be in denial, especially as I get older. Lots of people do it.

It’d be so much simpler to not have to deal with all these things I deal with on a daily basis. It’s truly overwhelming sometimes and I crash and burn just trying to keep myself from doing just that. It’s a vicious circle and as I age the circle seems to get tighter around me. The options seem to be fewer and I have to make better choices.

I have to be very careful in how I live with my aging body now having all the same things that happen to anyone who is 63 years old. A lot of my problems are just because I’m getting older and it’s part of human nature to age and deteriorate, at least to some extent. But doing it with illness just makes it seem impossible to handle. It makes it much harder if you’re sick.

I take something like 50 odd pills every day, most of which are allopathic medicines tho many are also supplements I take from my Naturopath. I think complimentary medicine is a good way to go and I see various MDs, a Psychiatrist, a counselor, a naturopath and an acupuncturist, at least for now. We’ll see how that all goes but it’s helping me now at least.

I’ve talked about most of the problems I face on here already but for those new to my blog I’ll update a few things with a link to a previous post I did early on that describes my conditions well. Read this to get a good take on things you probably don’t know about me and my illnesses here: https://nakednerves.wordpress.com/2012/11/23/30-things-about-my-invisible-illnes-you-may-not-know/. It’s grown a bit since I wrote it but it’s still true.

I live with Bipolar Disorder Type II and it’s probably my most serious illness, tho the chronic intractable pain I live with is a close second and at times it’s number one. Both are too challenging to really be able to cope with well or easily. But I do it and I’m so grateful for the help I get to do so. Without the help I’d be dead I’m sure. Such is life.

I wonder what will happen to me in the same way most people do – will my partner outlive me or will he pass first is probably my biggest concern. I really don’t know what I’d do if I lost him. I don’t know if I could go on without him in my life. He brings me so much joy and caring. I guess it’s the way for anyone in love isn’t it? But being sick adds an extra poignancy to it. I not only love him, I need him and his help. A lot…

I have good health care – having both Medicare and Medicaid because of my split disability. It’s good coverage and I’m lucky to have it because it pays for all my medical bills except for some co -pays. But I don’t trust the way things are going in the Congress as far as people on disability and pubic assistance. There are too many mean people who’d like to take it away from me and I wouldn’t have a way to live then.

This is a huge fear – that of losing my medical care for some obscure reason the government comes up with to save money by taking it from the poorest among us. And I have been poor. I lived in public housing for 12 or 13 years before I met Louie and moved in with him so I know I can do that if I have to but I sure don’t want to.

Public housing is awful and tho it’s a good roof over your head and I’m grateful for that it really curtails your freedoms and it’s difficult a lot of the time. At least it was for me. Plus there’s a lot of stigma attached to being on disability and living in public housing. It just adds to the burden of being sick. People can be so cruel…

But really the biggest fear I have is that they cut my medications down to below my threshold for pain and I’ll have to live with the pain I experience on a daily basis without enough medication. I take a whole lot of morphine every day and have to get a special permit to get that much. Each time they renew it I come unglued till it’s approved. Someday they might not approve it, and what do I do then?

I’ve tried to cut back on the morphine but it only showed me that I need this much to stay OK and not be in super bad pain all the time. I need it and I’m dependent on it too. It’s all a hateful situation to be stuck on opiates and listen to all the hoopla about people dying of it and how it’s misused so they want to take it away from all of us. It’s terribly scary and frightening. I don’t know what I’d do without it. Stay in bed all day I guess. Sigh…

And my mind is slowly slipping too. Of course some of that is aging naturally, but some of it is because of the depression and manias I go thru. The pain makes me nuts too so it’s all a vicious circle and as I age it’s getting worse to handle it. I don’t have as much mulch as I used to have to deal with it all. It’s getting to be too much.

I suppose the take away from all this is that when you’re really sick you already have to live your life very carefully so you can survive and thrive. But when you get older and you’re sick it doubles the responsibility you have to yourself and your family to really do a good job of being good to yourself and being smart about what you do with your time and energy.

You only have so much of it as you age and it’s really important that you put it to good use. It’s imperative to live honestly and openly and to ask for help as you need it, which you will, and to accept the good will that there is in the world around you. There are helpers everywhere if you allow them into your life. Don’t shut down as you age. Stay active and awake and you’ll be able to live a good life as you get older, even with Invisible Illness.

Consciously Aging,

Steve

Bipolar Takes Another Life

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I’m totally devastated right now. I just got a call from my favorite cousin telling me that his wife had just taken her own life this morning. She was 67 and had suffered with Bipolar Disorder for many many years and tried to kill herself several times before. Always they were able to save her before, but not this time.

I couldn’t stop the tears as he described the circumstances of finding her face down in their swimming pool when he got up today. He’s been in very bad shape himself from the weight of caring for her for all these years and getting sicker himself as it went along. He couldn’t talk much but he knew how much I loved her and how it would affect me so he called me.

This is so sad to me I can barely write about it but I feel it might help me if I do so I’m going to. I loved this woman so much. She was so funny and articulate and bright. She was the best school administrator in her district for many years before she retired because of the bipolar disorder. She was a dynamo and a jokester par excellence. She was the light of his world and a good friend to me too.

We were born on the exact same day only she was 4 years older than I am. 11/11 for us both. We used to spend a lot of time together when I lived in CA but I haven’t seen them as much since then. They were here for a short visit a couple three years ago but she got sick when they were here and had to cancel the trip. We saw them two years ago when we went to CA to see relatives of mine.

I was shocked to see how she had deteriorated even then. She always had a hard time figuring out which meds were the right ones for her to take. It’s a cruel irony to learn that the antipsychotic that has pretty much saved me from mania was the one that eventually killed her. It scares me so much. Not just for the drug but for what I might do to myself someday.

See I spend a lot of time wishing I was dead. I wish I didn’t have to say that but it’s just true. I have suicidal ideation frequently and it makes life hard and difficult. I Know I can’t kill myself because of what it would do to my partner Louie and to my remaining family and friends. I’ve decided not to do it ever. But I don’t trust my mind and so I’m scared.

This could so easily be me we’re talking about, or maybe it could be you too if you suffer from depression or Bipolar disorder. It’s a cruel disease and we tend to forget that 15% or more of people with it end up killing themselves. It’s a life threatening illness tho it’s still considered a stigma to talk about it and try to heal those of us who have it. I hate it right now with a vengeance…

It could too easily be Louie making calls to my family to tell them that I couldn’t stand the pain any longer, as my cousin couldn’t do, and that I’ve ended it. My own experience when I did try to kill myself was instructive to me. It showed me that when you reach the end of your resources to endure the pain you believe you have no choice but to end your life. That’s what happened to me. I couldn’t bear it any longer.

I’m  lucky I did pills then and the docs pumped my stomach and gave saline and got rid of the drugs. I thought I’d been clever, even calling the Poison control center in my town so to make sure that the pills I took would  kill me.( I said it was about my roommate…. sick..) But it didn’t work and I’m so glad at this point. I didn’t think of others at all  but I don’t blame myself. I was doing my best. It just wasn’t good enough.

So it must have been for her. She reached the point where she’d tried to kill herself several times before this and was in so much distress and confusion from the wrong antipsychotic that she wasn’t thinking right anymore. I haven’t been able to talk to her in some time because she couldn’t handle the phone, so I don’t know where she was at at the end, tho I can guess. I know it too well myself.

I don’t know what else to say. I’m drained of energy and feel like a wet dish rag from the crying and sadness I feel. It’s hard to imagine I’ll never see her again. She always made me laugh and was one of the closest people in my family to me even tho we weren’t really related except for marriage. She was Family to me and my family is one short today. We’ll all miss her dearly and mourn her forever.

Grieving for the loss of a dear friend,

Steve