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

A little window into the bi-polar world

Archive for the category “Major depressive disorder”

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.


Lost in the Corn

Every bi-polar experiences symptoms from time to time. When this happens, your judgment is unstable. In fact, you may not notice the symptoms until it’s so severe, it is a bit like being lost in a cornfield. You know the way out is simple…choose a direction that crosses the rows and keep walking. The corn will end eventually, right? The problem is that you lose sight of what is straight, and you often find yourself straying with hasty reactions that seem logical at the moment. After every decision you make, you are forced to recalculate and choose a new “straight” direction. Unfortunately, this furthers your symptoms and elongates your recovery period.

It is very lonely, this trip through the emotional corn, and confusing. Meds and counseling, the only compass, are sometimes difficult or impossible to access. People who you count on to be stable support for you seem to waver in the distance, and you are suddenly unsure as to their ability to lead you out of the field. Isolation becomes your comfort and directional mistake at once.

So here I sit, alone in the corn. I have been here for months now and have no idea whether or not I am making progress. Things are not going so well in my life, though I never expect it to be smooth with symptoms. I just continue on day after day with the slow drudgery of choosing what appears to be the most promising direction.

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.


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.



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.

Diving Board

In between manic and depressive cycles there is this particular point of time where you’re neither.  It’s a lot like being on a diving board, preparing for a dive.  You press down into depression only to spring back up into mania.  This is followed by a gravitational pull into a deeper depression and an even higher mania until you finally plummet into the deep waters of the crash that inevitably follows such a pattern.

There is a moment though when your feet are touching the board and you are neither up nor down.  This moment should not be confused with the inactivity equated with stability, it is simply a moment when you are central.  The bi-polar moment doesn’t feel stable, but it’s rather a moment when you gather your senses and realize how terrible it is or is not yet.  It’s a little like taking a deep breath when you’re being flogged in fact, because it’s so short and essential.

This incredibly small window is the only time you really have to effectively create treatment plans or discuss with your health care provider what’s going on.  Before you know it, you will be even more disabled by another cycle, whether up or down on the board.  While in the middle of a cycle, you can follow the treatment plan and report what you feel at the moment, but are helpless to create much of anything outside of chaos.  Timing becomes imperative and the struggle to reach help, or help yourself, at just this balanced moment ensues.

These are the moments a bi-polar will call into the 24 hour help line or call a friend.  This is the moment when I approach Trusty Boyfriend/Knight In Shining Armor and say “Take me to the hospital.”  This moment of being neither up nor down is full of emotion and crisis.  Eventually, this moment will end with some sort of motion; perhaps the actual dive that will bring the commencement of true stability.


Light in the Darkness

There was only one thing about “being sick” that was appealing.  Certainly, it wasn’t the week in the Quonset without food, water or shower.  Neither was it thinking I would be better off dead nor rushing headlong toward that end.  The beauty wasn’t worth being sick to get it again, but it was stunning nonetheless.  When Trusty Boyfriend/Knight In Shining Armor finally talked me into the house (after a couple of appointments – an intake and a counseling that week), he fed me, showered me (I lacked the energy or concentration to do either alone – he literally showered me – an all time low for me, I assure you.) and we got into bed.  Then it happened.  He held me and I clung to him.  Both of us exhausted beyond anything else, we slept.  It sounds silly now, but at the time I remember thinking that there is just something about a man and a woman sleeping together after surmounting a life-changing event that is so attractive.  It was like a statement to the world: “Throw it at us, we don’t care, it may be hard but we’ll end up all right and together in the end!”

There was also the time Trusty “told me a secret”.  It was within a day or so of coming into the house and I lamented on my condition and its bearing on his health (oh again with the suicidal ideations already).  He said he had a secret for me, leaned over and poured the sweetest nectar I’ve ever tasted into my ear with a single whispered sentiment.  My heart skipped a beat, bubbles rose in my guts and I knew I had truly found my Knight In Shining Armor, despite any shortcomings he may have.

These were wonderful, bright lights in the gloom and doom of my illness and I would never wish upon anyone to go through the trouble for such a diminutive prize.  But at the same time, for me, these were life events; something to stand out as remarkable throughout the years.  Remarkable in a good way no less.  If being sick is what it took to warrant such a prize, I don’t begrudge the illness.

Here’s the sad part of these left-handed wonders:  I hope to never have another.  If experiencing a miracle means being sick again, I’ll go with hum-drum, thank you for the offer.


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.

Post Navigation