I may be bi-polar, but I'm medicated

A little window into the bi-polar world

Archive for the category “anxiety”

In the Coffin

 

Isolation is like being locked in a coffin, only this time, the locks are all on the inside. There is no sensation, no input, nothing to bother you or take your attention away from yourself.

 

Short periods of isolation are sometimes a good thing. Everyone needs a time-out. It’s just that the longer you isolate yourself, the better it feels and anxiety about coming out into public again grows. It takes great strength of heart, mind and body to loose those locks and sit up in the land of the living again. If I were a dog trainer (which I am) I would say that it takes a vast amount of desensitization and counter-conditioning to perform the feat.

 

Eventually, you must just bite the xanax and bear into the task. It’s better for everyone that you are a monkey-like participant in life and not holed up like a turtle in its shell.

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This taking care of business

 

For a bi-polar person, taking care of another person is akin to a misguided attempt at suicide. This effect is heightened if the person being cared for is emotionally close to the bi-polar. This happens even if the job lasts only a few short days. Trusty Boyfriend/Knight In Shining Armor recently had his appendix taken out. Not a big deal, right? For me it was a huge deal. I wanted so terribly to show my appreciation for him. He has taken a lot of baloney from me in my altered moods. Why then shouldn’t I be able to get him jello and fluff his pillows for a couple of days?

 

I’ll tell you why…it becomes so overwhelming just to see your loved one uncomfortable that you can hardly bear it. You are so depressed from the change in routine, watching someone suffer, and the extra chore burden. Even if it’s routine, the disease makes the Himalayas out of a molehill.

 

Okay, now you’re depressed and noticing the signs in yourself. That person you normally turn to when moods abound is sick or hurt, in fact they are so busy getting better you have no support. What do you do? Try and compensate of course. You try to stay on your meds and try to do something good for you each day. The problem is that the guilt piled on you for taking your attention away from your loved one is unbearable. This guilt is somehow self-imposed and non-negotiable. Even though your loved one would revel in you taking care of your own moods before a crisis, you are already set down that road, with no way to turn back.

 

With the depression and compensation going on, you begin to bounce like a rubber ball. Off the walls, floors and ceilings you careen with your emotions already out of control. Next thing you know, you are unstable, in denial, and unable to seek help. That’s what you get from this taking care of business.

The Great Wall

At times in the life of a bi-polar worry becomes a wall.  All encompassing, treacherously high and heavily fortified, it is a wall that does not fail to lock you inside, away from all of life.

 

There are certain tactics that you can use when you encounter this worry wall, and any or none of them may reap you success.  For instance, you can attempt to carve or find one small foothold after another with desensitization and counter-conditioning focused on the topic of your current worry.  This is a long, arduous task and you must be careful not to look upon the way you came, for it puts you at risk for falling back to the ground at square one.  Another way to get past it is to simply bombard through with your stubbornness and willpower.  This is a definite test of character and only the stoutest can erode the fortifications, even a small amount.  You can look for a door or a window by visualizing all is as it should be, and all will be as good as it can be.  This works well if there is in fact, a soft spot in the wall, willing to open up and permit you back into the world.  You can try to move the circumference of the wall circling you by attacking one fear at a time, slowly gaining ground.  The danger here is that you can lose ground too as new worries become obsessive instead of abating.

 

In the end, you have to figure out how you will deal with your own wall and hope that those close to you understand that you are not distancing or isolating yourself to spread dismay.  You pray that they will rather understand you are trapped.  Although it may seem vaporous in nature, it is as real and solid as any wall ever erected.  It is uncomfortable and real, in spite of the fact that it is easy to dismiss these global fears unless you are the one experiencing them.

Jacks

Very seldom do you see a bi-polar with a simple diagnosis. There always seem to be co-morbid diagnoses and these are a little like playing the game jacks.

 

You get sick, bounce the ball and pick up one jack – bi-polar. Just when you think you’ve got it all under control, you bounce the ball again, with a diagnosis of OCD. Bounce again and you pick up the previous two diagnoses and an anxiety disorder. On and on it goes, each bounce forcing you to pick up more jacks. Eventually, you can’t handle them all and you lose the game by being hospitalized or starting over with a new physician. Then you start over again.

 

It is hard to talk about only one diagnosis when there are so many in your hand. It is sometimes even difficult to separate which symptoms come from which disorder. Sometimes the jacks get jumbled up together and you can’t pull them apart – in other words, you occasionally have instances when you don’t know whether the anxiety is causing you discomfort the bi-polar is the source of trouble – or the PTSD or agoraphobia, etc. etc. What you are cognizant of is the difficulty of functioning throughout your daily life.

 

Through medication and counseling you can decrease the number of jacks you are required to pick up by minimizing symptoms. Anxiety can be calmed with xanax, bi-polar can be moderated with lithium, PTSD can be assisted with hypnotherapy. The idea is to use any resource available to reduce your requirement to one jack at a time (regardless of which one you pick up.) so you can continue to win the rounds with ease.

 

 

At the Carnival

I see major change as a fun house.  You step into a menagerie of twisted reality that only parallels the world outside.  Altered views of self and those around you are the play mirrors, and the world as you know it shifts as the floorboards, mechanically under your feet.  In the background, a bi-polar reel of maniacal music and laughter add to the confusion and chaos.

 

Trusty Boyfriend/Knight In Shining Armor and I have different desires and ways of dealing with the fun house.  He tends towards excitement and every day there is a new way for him to point out the fact that major change is happening in our household.  He seems more than content to play through the craziness again and again.

 

I see the change as something scary and unreal.  I don’t want to get caught up in the experience for fear that I may somehow get lost in the maze, unable to find my way to the end of the ride.The shifting floors cause me to lose my balance, the mirrors distort my vision and the ever present melodies remind me of a horror movie. I live in terror of being forgotten or found shivering in a huddle at the end of the day, when the ride shuts down with the depression of my senses.  It is for this reason I try to downplay the exhilaration.  Although I know you cannot attend the carnival of life without visiting the funhouse, I would like for it (and the roller coaster) to be a single visit.

 

I battle everyday with the giddiness Trusty shows, eagerly doling out tickets to relive the thrill that I call mania.  I try to belittle the facts, hoping that I can talk him out of a repeat performance for the day.  What I don’t do is state flatly my reluctance to go on the ride, and I surely don’t give my reasons.  Who wants to admit being afraid of the funhouse?  I know it is natural for him to revel in recent accomplishments, and I love him, so I don’t want to demean him or his efforts.  I just wish there was a way that he could enjoy the volatile atmosphere while I waited safely behind the gates of the entrance/exit sign.

The Sun and the Black Hole

Sometimes when you’re bi-polar, you’re like the white hot, shining sun.  You give light and warmth to every planet that graces you with its orbit.  You outshine all around you without comparison and there is never any question that you are the natural leader that the universe should cling to.  The problem is that sometimes you are also the black hole, sucking every bit of energy and productivity from life as everyone around you flees, desperate to evade the vacuum of increasing nothingness.

 

The most frustrating part is that it takes exactly the same amount of effort and expertise to be both of these things.  Everyone wants to shine like the sun, but when you know that it will eventually implode, there’s a lot of pressure in accepting admiration, respect and attention associated with being on top.  You know that it can’t last and you will burn out, leaving all those accolades to fade into stardust and eventually disappear completely.  It is frustrating to put forth all of your effort and talent and still be a negative factor in the universe, knowing that just a short time ago you yielded such exemplary results.

 

In the end being the black hole is so shameful and disgraceful that you carry around an inadequate sense of self to accommodate that time.  It is difficult to accept praise and admiration when you know it is only to be short-lived.  It is impossible to expect yourself to continue at the white hot pace of excellence you get when you’re really “on it”.  It is equally impossible to merely settle somewhere in the middle and become a little planet, happily circling the sun with its daily moderation.  Besides, wouldn’t being a simple planet be boring?

 

Finally, you must find and take the meds that squeeze you into the role of planet, knowing that you have the potential for much more, but accepting the opportunity cost of curbing your abilities.  It is no more simple a task to do this than to alternate between extremes, but it is healthier, so you do it and mourn for the time you were the sun.

My Dog

My prose fails to be poignant at this point.  It is an issue of illness I am afraid.  Whatever the meds don’t mask, the stress distorts, and I find myself in a position where it is impossible to articulately convey myself.  For the purposes of moving on and remaining productive however, I have come up with a simple list in lieu of my regular journal entries/essays this week on a topic I have wanted to write on for a long time.

 

What having a service animal means to me:

 

  1. My depression      will never become deadly again.       Before that happens, the dog will make certain that I call someone      to help fix some food and open the door for a walk.  Depression is a sneaky brute and sometimes      I don’t realize just how far into its clutches I have been drawn until      there is a total breakdown.  In an      ideal world, keeping the dog exercised daily would provide all the      serotonin required for a positive mental outlook, but sometimes, even when      I’m medicated, I continue to function only for the love of my dog, and I      am more likely to seek assistance when the dog’s health is on the line      rather than just my own.
  2. I will never be      alone again.  There will always be a      welcoming hug waiting for me, and an appreciative full-body grin to back      it up.  My dog’s not going to leave      because I get sick, he’s going to adapt to my illness and do his best to      set me straight.  There is stability      in knowing someone will always be on your side, and because I have thumbs,      my dog will be there forever.
  3. I will always      have something or someone to divert myself with when I am panicked or      agitated.  There is a healing      quality to the training of my dog.       We both win…I am calmed, he learns a new trick and we both get to      enjoy the click and treat ritual.  I      have used my dog as an excuse to go out in public when I would not      otherwise do so.  My theory is that      being a Chihuahua,      he needs extra socialization to overcome natural fears.  In reality, we are both overcoming the      tension created by being in an uncomfortable situation.
  4. My grossly      inappropriate behavior will no longer go without address.  My dog doesn’t care about hurting my      feelings, and when I’m rude or wrong, he tells me so without      compunction.  I am more likely to      take advice kindly when it comes from the dog as well.  For whatever reason, even when I cannot      interact successfully with other people, my dog has my ear and I have his.
  5. My life will      never again be without purpose or direction.  I am required to continue our education      constantly.  Being a Chihuahua, my dog      needs to be in training or he will regress into a yappy, snappy,      aggressive, possessive little being.       The only way to a confident toy dog that will pass the Delta exams      is through continuous schooling in some new subject.  When the dog’s a puppy, this is      easy.  As he gets older, it gets      more challenging to find appropriate new pastimes.  This requires discipline, direction,      leadership and effort on my part.       Because of my mental instability, those are some things that I      could not get anywhere else in the world.

I will never again forget to work hard and rest easy.  My dog teaches me how to get up early and use my energy with an intense, positive focus so that I can unwind in tranquility at the end of a glorious day.

My Pot Boileth Over

If being stressed is akin to turning a burner on under a pan of water, being bi-polar is like putting a lid on the pot.  It is never good for anyone, but in the bi-polar, stress can have dramatic effects that set you back months or even years in your treatment.

 

With no way for heat to escape, the water begins to bubble quickly with panic attacks suddenly coming out of the blue.  There appears to be no trigger whatsoever.  You are unable to control what you don’t understand and the reason for these is mystical.  You can go months without even the hint of a panic attack and then all of the sudden, after a stressor hits hard, have several bouts of boiling emotion each day, severe enough to require medication.

 

Emotions run amok as the pot boils over and medications that used to keep you stable are less helpful or completely ineffective.  This means you have to go back to the drawing board and either increase your dosage (if that’s even possible) or go hunting in the dark, guessing which chemical is out there that will calm your episodes and turn down the heat.

 

In the mean time, the bi-polar experiences extreme highs and lows that cause erratic behavior.  Just as the water is displaced in the pan, this behavior can be severe. It can cost money in lost or damaged items or worse, support in lost or damaged relationships.  Friendships are particularly at risk.  The cordial, uncommitted way that buddies develop means there’s really not all that much vested in the relationship as a whole.  Kind of like trying to pick up the boiling pot from the burner with bare hands, there is a risk of burning the relationship.  Bi-polars go through extreme changes every couple of years and it is uncommon to find one with a friend that outlasted even one of those transformations.  The short lived buddy status does not lend itself to the insulatory requirements of a hot pad in dealing with the temperatures of a bi-polar reacting to undue stress.  This in turn leads to a retraction of friendly support at a time when it is the most sorely needed.  The hand pulls back, leaving the pot to boil on the hot burner.  Also, the lack of support leads to symptoms flying even more away from the norms of society, effectively placing the pot squarely on the burner to reheat quickly.  This creates a vicious cycle.

 

Also like the boiling water, it takes a while for the water to cool even after the heat is removed.  There is an effect that lasts far longer than the stressor.  It’s a slow process.  As the temperature drops a single degree at a time, the instability becomes solid one moment at a time.  Eventually, the water returns to room temperature and the stressed bi-polar returns to normal behavior.

Time Out

Anxiety is like being a little child, sitting in time out.  I watch my friends and family play about, carefree, having a good time while I am banished to watch from a corner seat.

As I sit in seclusion, I wonder who imposed this time out?  Was it me, someone else, some disease?  Why was it imposed?  Was it truly because I had the audacity to run out of insurance and couldn’t afford meds for three months?  I wonder if the penalty matches the crime here, and I wonder if payment will ever be made in full so that I can go back to enjoying life and being myself uninhibited.  The doctors and technicians don’t seem to have any more answers than I do.

All histrionic indicators show that this time out (as do all time outs) will indeed subside (and be small in the scope of all things), but I am constantly waiting for that erroneous data, forcing me to take a new sample space all over again.  One that does in fact, include permanent anxiety.   I’m pondering on when to call it erroneous data.  When does it actually cross that line (I picture a blinking red light and alarm going off – in the absence of a solid formula), and you say “well, I guess I’m going to have anxiety from now on.”?  Part of me thinks doing this would be a relief and part of me dreads the thought of giving up.  All of me wants to normalize.  The question is (and this stops the process):  normalize to what?

I guess that’s the biggest question in the life of a bi-polar person.  What should I normalize to?  The anxiety feels as regular as the highs and lows and in betweens at this point.  I never know whether I’m going to have the energy to feel bored today and wish that I could go out, feeling trapped. Or am I going to be so tired I can’t keep my eyes open and body alert enough to be out of bed for more than a half hour in the next 24?  Like the toddler, I feel eschewed for an eternity.  I have no more clue about whether this will end than the child has about whether or not he will ever be allowed to play again and the questions seem to be bigger than the answers.

 

Late

I was two minutes late for the appointment, and I couldn’t bring myself to go in.  They told me specifically to be on time, and here I was – late.  I desperately wanted to avoid the haranguing I was certain to receive prior to the eventual denial of services.  This certainty, the apparent attempt of my heartbeat to pursue a hummingbird and the sweat staining through my shirt in the stifling 40 degree heat, made the dread of tardiness simply stupefy me.  I was transformed into a sobbing, sweating, hyperventilating puddle (Can you really be reduced to a puddle if you’re “smart”?  Isn’t intelligence a preventative for that?).  I didn’t really want to talk to anyone anyway – in fact, I really didn’t care if I simply faded and died (As I was hoping to).  If prior events hadn’t seared into my experience that suicide DOES NOT WORK, I would have probably gone that route, but it seemed the only option left for me was to simply wait for the inevitable.  I mean, nobody gets out alive, right?  I would do anything – I mean ANYTHING – to help it along at this point, but active attempts were not only draining (and I had nothing left to drain), they were unfruitful.  You just wake up the next morning and nobody even notices that you feel a little hung over from the pills and booze that “should have killed a horse”.  Likewise, it is easy (although bothersome) to cover the deep tissue cuts that “had no reason not to sever an artery”.  If I went in there, what good could possibly come of it?  They would simply look at me and say (as had so many other providers and even an ER doc in the recent months) boy, there’s really nothing I can do to help you, but let me put you on a list for services and we’ll get back to you in a couple of months for the preliminary intakes.

My trusty boyfriend/Knight In Shining Armor kept hassling me with questions and ultimatums and I don’t know what all.  I think that he just wants me to talk, so I summon up every microgram of energy I have left and try to clear it up for him.  The familiar phrase comes out short, sweet, and I feel, to the point (not to mention completely explanatory):  “I’m just rearranging chairs on a ship that’s going down.”   I don’t think he got it.  He’s several years my junior and as it turns out, unfamiliar with this literary gem and bereft of any meaning it may have.

Either way, the Knight drags me in, sobbing and sweating, to the admitting desk, where I pretend that I’m O.K. and normal (but know it’s simply a socially accepted farce – no one could believe it.), and check in apologetically.  They don’t harangue me, they don’t look at their Timex or even the clock on the wall, they simply say “Have a seat and we’ll be right with you.”  I’m in shock and discover the blue-eyed miracle of my life:  this IS the intake.  Promises are made.  You will have a counselor, you will see a prescriber, there is an end to your hell, you will live again, and you can be yourself instead of this horrific shell that you don’t even recognize, it won’t be long now.  I don’t believe them, but because suicide DOES NOT WORK, I comply.

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