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

A little window into the bi-polar world

Archive for the tag “mental condition”

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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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.

Mickey Mouse

There are times when thoughts skitter through your brain like mice behind a wall.  You hear them, you sense their approximate location, but you can’t see them or identify them as individuals.  This experience usually precipitates a period of hallucinations, although sometimes it happens afterward.

 

When your thoughts skitter, it is impossible to concentrate.  You find yourself sitting in a chair with several hours gone by and you don’t have any way of accounting for your time.  Not only did you think nothing, you accomplished nothing.  Keeping on a schedule or to a to-do list in this condition is a monumental chore in itself.  Showing up on time is a crapshoot – you may make it, you may not.

 

At times like this, your personal hygiene suffers, because you don’t have the time or attention to pay toward such endeavors.  You often go without meals and when you do eat it’s either raw or burnt because cooking seems like a long lost art form with all the busyness going on inside.  Even simple house chores become laborious.  You can’t remember a chain of events or the timing of events (did that happen yesterday or the day before?).  You can only manage a maximum of one activity at a time and more often than not, that activity is staring blankly into space.  Multi-tasking is definitely not a possibility during this phase.  Conversation is strictly a responsibility which you find yourself often unable to perform.  When you can manage a chat, you find yourself unable to retain or remember what was said on either side.

 

Still, you continue on with the arduous task of collecting your thoughts into some identifiable shape.  Unfortunately, like the mice, you know they are there – you just don’t know exactly how to get at them.

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.

 

 

The Show Cut

Living in chronic, low-grade depression is like show clipping a horse.  Sometimes it feels like you are making no progress, because the task seems to be getting larger.  Still, you continue, piece by piece, sprucing up your life for the showing off that comes the following day.  Sometimes the best you can do is “just the ears” and you go about turning that portion inside out, cleaning it up for the inspection to follow.  Other times you can take something larger, say the feet and legs all in one foul swoop with a burst of productive-and-problem-solving energy.

 

Sometimes the places you trim are sensitive, like the insides of the nose.  The parallel often results in crying fits and spurts of temper or rage.  Other times you are charged with softening the anatomy of a large portion (the entire neck and chest being an example) where you feel drowned in the futility of even beginning.

 

As in clipping, in life it is important to cool your blades and oil your hinges when doing any extensive work.  Diet, exercise and medication help ensure nothing seizes up in the middle of the job.

 

Sometimes you will be required to change blades for a crisper or softer affect.  Likewise in life, you need to remain nimble and be ready to change tactics for the fluxulation of the job at hand.  The tools that saw you through one day of depression may be ineffective or to harsh for another.  Smart horsemen even keep more than one of each blade in order to give one a chance to cool without interrupting the job.

 

Regardless of where you are or what you’re doing, you know that the concentrated effort will take all day, so you’d better not plan to do anything else.  During a depression is not the time to be taking on any extra projects.  Working, if you can even do it, should be limited to part-time.  Outings should be minimized and avoided if possible.  This is NOT the time to join the PTA or that fun little book club you’ve so been looking forward to.  You need to keep your mind on showing the one horse you’ve got, not adding to your barn.

 

In the end, if you’ve done it right, you have a sight to behold.  The depression will pass, as will the haircutting session, and if you’ve done it right, no one will be the wiser.  The anatomical flaws of being bi-polar are visually (if not actually) corrected, and the horse of your life looks perfect – or at least well enough to compete.

 

 

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 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.

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