When you get diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, they should hand out a list of bizarre moods that might overcome you and also clue you in that it will be excruciatingly obvious to everyone EXCEPT YOU. What will be going in your head “what the hell is wrong with all you ass hats, would you get with the program here, and make it snappy!” Lately I’ve been in the taking 200 milligrams of I don’t give a shit about anything zone, also known as Seroquel. A right amount can be a good thing, slip over the border into too much and you have a chemical lobotomy. I stopped painting, writing, brushing my hair, even getting out of bed seemed to be a task that just really wasn’t worth the effort. And at the time it all seemed so logical, so right on the spot. I wasn’t really worried about it either other than a vague feeling of life shouldn’t be like this. I used to look forward to speaking my mind, slinging paint around the room, saying things that pissed some people off, etc.
Finally I got all scientific on the problem. I’m good at that kind of stuff. My major in college was Accounting until I realized that it meant that I would have to spend the rest of my life massaging numbers. That major came to a screeching halt after I realized that I had a better grasp on the subject than the teacher did, leaving me with no one to go to when I had questions. I’d rather massage people anyway. People I know of course. I’m not talking about massaging random strangers I encounter in the shopping mall.
So I started tracking my moods and the amount and type of meds I was taking on a spreadsheet and on the calendar. Sounds a bit complicated but it’s been worth the effort. On the calendar I just use little emoticons so no one would know what it was about if the glanced at our day timer that lies on the kitchen counter. I use a smiley face for really good days, a frowney face for bad days, and a confused face for those days when I’m in a “what the f@ck is wrong with me, and everybody else?” type of mood.
After this semi-scientific method of evaluating my sanity, I realized that I had exceeded the limits of my meds and that it was time to cut back a bit and see if my brain would do a kick start. I think it did help. Proof in point is that I’m actually writing a post. Yippee!
Dealing with the need to take psych meds is like trying to walk a tightrope while juggling plates and playing an accordion. I hate having bipolar disorder, I really do. Yes, I know things could much worse, and I should be grateful. I could have some debilitating disease that had me bed ridden, in constant pain. But I don’t, I have what I have and I have to deal with it. I don’t always deal with it gracefully by a long shot.
All my evil little pill bottles have a warning on them “if you have forgotten to take your pill at a certain time, wait until it’s time to take the next dose, don’t take it now. OOOkkkKKK??!! #&^%(*@ But what do you do when you are freaking out NOW? I say “screw it!” and take them now. I’d rather get too sleepy and have to take a nap than go on a magic carpet ride of rage, depression, anxiety attacks, near catatonia and whatever the bipolar Bag 0’ Tricks has in store for me on any given day. I might be able to get away with riding it out if I had a storm bunker to lock myself in and hang a sign on the door saying “Warning! Bipolar cyclone raging within, enter at your own risk.” But I don’t and I don’t live alone and I have to leave the house occasionally. Being a hermit just depresses me more.
People who are not dealing with mood spectrum disorders tend to think “well hey, just take your meds and everything will be OK. What the hell is wrong with you anyway?” What is wrong with me??? Excuse me, but it doesn’t work that way. Taking meds “manages” a disorder; it is not a guarantee that you will never have a mood storm. It gives you a tool to fight with it. But meds can be a blunt instrument and it is extremely tricky finding a balance. Furthermore, just when you think you’ve found a balance your body decides to react differently to your meds, or worse, not respond to them at all. The balance is a moving target.
Sometimes I feel like Alice in Wonderland trying to figure out which side of the mushroom to nibble on. Too much and I blunder around in a stupor and do nothing but stare at the TV, unaware of what I’m even looking at. Not enough – I turn into a motor mouth and talk the ear off of anyone I can pin down, blissfully unaware that they are scrambling to get away from me. I also start eleventy seven projects at once and when I come to my senses I can’t figure out how to pick up where I left off.
I have those little days of the week pill cases that I fill up at the beginning of the week. They help, but sometimes it too much to face looking at an entire week’s worth of meds right under my nose. That’s when the thought creeps in “do I really need to be taking all this crap? Am I a drugged slave to big Pharma?” I have to be careful when asking these questions, because there is a never ending supply of people who are all too happy to inform me that I shouldn’t be taking meds at all, that I’m just weak or a dupe. I just need to meditate, do yoga, cut dairy out of my diet, dance naked under the full moon, etc.
That’s when I have to dig down deep and remember what it felt like when I was not taking meds. Oh sure I was “managing” it. Hanging on by my fingernails every day trying not to fall or jump into the abyss. I don’t want to live like that again. I guess it’s time to take my meds.
I just finished reading a book “From Psychic to Psychotic and Beyond – A True Story of My Bipolar Disorder,” by Kerry Ann Jacobs. The most frightening aspect of the book, from my point of view, is that I don’t think the author has reached a stable state of mind. The final note of the book is a request to contact her with any psychic experiences you have had because she is working on a 2nd and 3rd book about psychic phenomenon.
I suspect that she is either misdiagnosed or has a dual diagnosis. Some of the experiences she describes sound a lot more like schizophrenia than bipolar, especially the hearing voices part.
The first 70 pages of the book is a long , drawn out, day by day, blow-by-blow ramble of a 2 year period where she claimed to hang out on a daily basis with the spirit bodies of Jude Law, Heath Ledger, Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Princess Di, Michael the Archangel, and so on. She also had a constant companion she called Wes, who she claimed was a husband from a previous life. They had a spirit child together which no one could see. At one point the angels told her that the world had actually ended and that everyone was in a spirit body.
She heard voices that at first were friendly and helped her and then became demons that threatened and abused her, including sexual abuse. They told her that she had died and was living in hell. An interesting metaphor since having an untreated mental illness can indeed feel like living in hell.
While she was suffering through this rather spectacular meltdown she became deeply involved with psychic dabblings such as tarot cards and crystal balls. She was a practicing lawyer and began to offer reading to her clients. Eventually she didn’t need the crystal ball and could see messages written on the carpet or hear them in her head. It comes as no surprise that she fell into a financial crisis because she was losing clients right and left, but kept spending money as if she had a thriving practice. In the portion of the book written from her mother’s point of view she stated that Jacobs was $36,000 in debt at the time of her first trip to the mental hospital.
This went on for years. My question is how the hell did anyone not pick up on the fact that she was as crazy as a bedbug? Her friends and parents were scared and concerned, but I know how difficult it is to convince someone who is mentally ill that there is something wrong and they need help.
She finally reached out for help when the demons threatened to kill her. She called her mother who, being a 50 minute drive away, sent her brother to pick her up. The police also came. By the time they got there the demons had told her that the police and her brother were also demons masquerading as the police and her brother, so they had a hell of a time getting her to the hospital.
Arriving at the hospital, Jacobs is convinced that everyone at the hospital were also demons. She fought and refused to take medication being convinced it was poison. The hospital staff injected her with a sedative that didn’t have much effect.
The next part of the book, after her first hospitalization, she battles with accepting she has an illness, goes of her meds, the voices come back, and of course she bounces back in the hospital 6 months later. The scariest part of this section of the book is that she seems to focus more on what to say or not say to a psychiatrist to get released from the hospital, rather than how to recover and manage her illness. At no point in the book does she come out and state clearly that she had an illness and was not a psychic. The closest she got was to explain that because she was bipolar she was “too sensitive” to be involved in psychic practices.
The next section of the book is page after page of doctors reports from her numerous hospitalizations. They pretty much all said the same thing over and over so it was rather redundant.
The final whammy of the book was what I mentioned earlier. On her “final note” page she gives her email address and asks people to contact her regarding any psychic experiences because she is writing books about it. This part made my blood run cold. This woman is obviously not in recovery or a stable state of mind and gives every indication that she’s heading right back down the rabbit hole.
My heart goes out to this woman and can only imagine how much she suffers. I’m grateful every day that I have a combo of meds to keep me in a stable and happy state of being. This book really rammed it home that things could have gotten a lot worse before they got better…if they got better. I seem to be blessed with enough self-awareness that when things start to go bad, I run screaming to my psychiatrist like my hair is one fire.
Had my follow visit with the gastroenterologist yesterday. This was the visit where he tells me the results of the endoscopy (AKA – alien tentacle probe) and biopsy of my stomach lining. It occurred to me around noon that he might tell me something I don’t want to hear, and I started to get scared.
By the time I got to the office I was on the verge of a heart attack. The nurse did the usual measure my vitals stuff. She commented that my heart rate was 125 beats per minute. I asked “uh, is that bad?” She laughed and said no, you just have white coat tachycardia? What is that? It’s caused by getting scared to death at the sight of a doctor in a white coat.
And why not? Doctors are scary – they hold your life in their hands. And if they can’t figure out what is wrong with you, then you get labeled a hypochondriac. After all, it did take these doctors 57 years to figure out that I had bipolar disorder rather than just a severe case of being a cantankerous crone. Not a lot of trust going on here.
Before I go any farther I’ll say that I’m going to live, nothing serious. I have helicobacter pylori gastritis. It’s a form of extreme belly ache caused by the H. pylori bacterium. About 20 years ago researchers figured out that bacteria rather than stress causes ulcers and gastric cancer and can be cured rather than just managed by a bland diet and lots of antacids.
He asked me if I’ve been out of the country recently and I had to laugh. The answer is no, not recently. But I’ve traveled all over the world. The only continents I haven’t visited are Antarctica and Australia. The Doc said that this infection is usually from bad water and is common in Mexico and Jamaica, both places I’ve been to on more than one occasion.
I could have had this thing going on for years or even decades. That’s explains a lot. I’ve always passed it off as “I just have a weak stomach” because I’ve had episodes of debilitating stomach distress for as long as I can remember.
I’ve always had a morbid fascination with that show “Mystery Diagnosis.” It’s a show about people who suffer for years or decades with some malady that the doctors can’t figure out. The thing that brings me hope is that these people never give up. They keep searching the internet and go to doctor after doctor looking for an answer. And they are relieved when some doctor finally figures out what is wrong with them, even if it’s serious.
Well, I’m hugely relieved and I don’t even have something all that serious. All I have is some designer belly bug that is totally treatable. So today is a happy day for me. I can get rid of my recurring stomach ache and get on with it. Yiipeee!
Got my eagerly awaited copy of Silver Linings Playbook in the mail today. I’ve been waiting see what Hollywood’s latest take is on mental illness. It’s a story of a man, Pat Politano (played by Bradley Cooper), who is fresh out of mental institution. He was there for 8 months as a plea bargain for assault. He came home early from work and found his wife naked in the shower with a co-worker and beat the crap out of him. Yea he went nuts – extreme stress will do that to you if you are already on the edge with an underlying mental disorder.
I was wondering if they managed to capture a bit of how it feels to be labeled as bipolar. How it feels to have some force reach down in and rip your life out by the roots and throw it out the window. Pat has lost everything at this point; wife, house, job, friends. It was pretty much spot on. I also found it interesting that the movie managed to capture how mental illness can run in a family.
Pat grapples with not wanting to take medication and not wanting to accept that he is ill. Not long after coming home Pat has a spectacular middle of the night breakdown that ended up in a brawl with his father. Not long after this he decides to go back on medication. When he was standing there at the kitchen sink looking at the pills in his hand I felt like I had a brick in my throat. God is sucks to look at these little pellets in your hand and try to believe that they are what is keeping you sane, or “normal,” keeping you out of the hospital or jail, and able to interact with other people. And not wanting to believe it at the same time. Maybe it’s just too much for one mind to accept.
There was one scene that was so funny that I choked on my water. He was lying in bed in his parent’s attic reading, sat up and yelled “what the f@@k?” then threw the book out the window. The scene cuts to the yard and you see the book smashing through the window glass of the attic and splats in front yard. He was reading Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms. Oh my God, I so identify. When reading becomes your only solace, a bad ending can so absolutely enrage you to the point that you want to destroy the book. I’ve thrown books I’m mad at across the room, into the fireplace, even broken the spine and tore them in half. Somehow deleting them off my Kindle is not as satisfying. I’ve even been tempted to buy a hard copy of a book I hate just so I can destroy it.
He then goes down to his parent’s bedroom at 3:00 am to rant about Hemingway and bad endings to books. Yup, poor impulse control. He demands a personal apology from Hemingway. I wonder why it is that bipolar mania seems to catch us at 3:00 am, the most wicked hour of the day.
Throughout the story Pat is struggling from the obsession or delusion that he can somehow get back together with his wife. That’s a little tricky because his wife and the school he worked for have restraining orders against him. He is not allowed to come within 500 feet of his wife and is forbidden to communicate with her in anyway.
Enter Jennifer Lawrence in her Oscar winning role as Tiffany, a broken young widow who is struggling with her own demons. She agrees to help Pat contact his wife via letter in exchange for him helping her with her dream of entering a dance contest. The beginning of their relationship is so awkward that it’s cringe worthy. But, really how many relationships start off smoothly and always go according to plan.
I’m left with a sense that some things that are broken can never be fixed. And too much time is wasted trying to fix unfixable things. Maybe life is more about learning to coexist with lunacy.