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.
How many times in your life have you heard “Be careful what you ask for, because you might get it?”
My hair dresser got me good a few days ago. Been with her forever, she is in the 8 month of her third baby in the making now. I met her when she was just newly married. Until yesterday, I would just let her do whatever she wanted to do with my hair and it always worked out pretty good.
What she did was finally, after all these years together, was cut my hair exactly how I wanted it cut. I think I micromanaged ever hair on my head. She did seem to be laughing a lot, come to think of it, but I just chalked it up to pregnancy hormones.
I got home, looked in the mirror and thought “oh my GOD, this is hideous. No wonder she never listened to me before.” Having a few self-esteem issues obviously, but then I started laughing. All these years I trusted her to be an expert and do what she did best, then I butted in and thought I knew better. As we say in the gaming world – FAIL!
So I hate my haircut and will probably wear a bag over my head for a few weeks. At least it wasn’t a tattoo or piercing or something else more permanent than a bad hair day.
So what I learned was that I have trust issues even with a hair stylist. I have to trust experts to be experts. That’s a lot to ask, in my opinion. All my life I have labored under the delusion that the only one I could trust was me. Then the “me” that I knew took a flying leap into bipolar mania and suddenly I couldn’t even trust myself.
Trusting any one now requires a giant leap of faith, more faith than I can muster most days. I finally let down my hair last night (what’s left of it) with Mr. Husband a few nights ago and tried to tell him how I feel about this illness, and what I’m most afraid of. Telling someone my fears has always been a huge risk for me because it always seemed like I was giving someone a menu of items to use to push my buttons.
I’ve been keeping him at arm’s length and talking about bipolar disorder in a distant kind of way. Keeping it clinical; chemicals, neurons, clinical sounding diagnosis, medicine in terms of milligrams, rather than effects, side effect of meds, long term prognosis, etc. Instead of telling him that my biggest fear is the loss of trust of my judgment, the integrity of myself as the person I thought I knew.
Hubman told me that he has always trusted my judgment and still does. It was a huge relief and I had a good cry over it. I had been harboring the fear that he was going to start chasing me around with a butterfly net.
In the Middle Ages, it was called melancholia. In the early 1900s, it was known as neurasthenia. From the 1930s to about 1970, it was known as a nervous breakdown. “Nervous breakdown” is a term that the public uses to characterize a range of mental illnesses, but generally it describes the experience of “snapping” under immense pressure, mental collapse or mental and physical exhaustion.
My lovely daughter once dropped a quote that I thought was pretty funny at the time; “Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.” Now I think back on it, she was acting as a prophetess.
I’ll always remember the winter of 2012 as that pesky time when I lost my freaking mild altogether. Losing one’s mind is way more inconvenient thank losing one’s cell phone for example. You can always call yourself from the house phone and follow the ring to where the darned phone is hiding…this time. If you haven’t silenced the ringer – then you have to turn off everything in the house and listen for the vibration.
Checking all your coat pockets and purses you’ve used recently doesn’t help much either. A lost mind tends to lurk around in the shadows and pounce on you at inconvenient moments. Say, just long enough for you to put 2 & 2 together and realize that your answer, 42, is not quite right.
It’s really weird to be on the inside of a mental meltdown. Part of you decides to play the part of spectator and stands off on the sidelines, cheering and wincing. “Come on Girl, you can do it. Just put your pants on one leg at time, it’s not that hard once you get started.” Or “Oh, I can’t believe she said that, that’s going to be hard to explain.” Or “Oh crap, she’s never gonna live THAT down.”
I spent the majority of December 2012 and January 2012 feeling like my brain got put into a food processor and spun around on high until I ended up with a bizarre brain puree not suitable for consumption by anyone.
The whole meltdown thing started innocently enough. I began to display evidence of losing my aplomb. Minor incidents were suddenly earth shatteringly serious. I went from being annoyed by the self-destructive antics of friends and loved ones to being annoyed by their very existence on the planet.
I think one of the things that saved me from total chaos is that I can type really fast, almost fast enough to keep up with my thoughts when they are raging in a manic episode. I can sit down with a cup or 2 of coffee and bang out a novella on the outrages of using a poorly constructed can opener, 8 to 10 thousand words easy – no problem. And it all makes sense, at the time. I’ve saved a few of the crazier ones for a private look back guide to tell when I starting to careen off the rails. I just wish I could channel some of this energy into the book I’m writing. Sometimes I can.
Well, all of this nonsense ended up in an enormous train wreck from my perspective. I spent a lot of time being profoundly grateful that I was retired and didn’t have to suffer the humiliation of melting down on the job.
I saw it happen to a work friend and it was not a pretty sight. She was suffering from “forced speech” that frequently accompanies a manic episode. This meant that she couldn’t sit down in her cube and couldn’t shut up no matter what. She took to walking around wearing a blood pressure cuff as a bracelet and updated everyone on her stats on a continuous basis, about every 15 minutes.
This went on for 2 days in a row. Being the one responsible for keeping track of employees at that time, I had to be the one to have HR call her husband to come get her. Actually I was relieved that he came and quietly spirited her away. We spoke for a few minutes and I thanked him for coming to get his wife. He thanked me for doing something instead of just ignoring her. I felt terrible that she went through that. The company ended up giving her a generous retirement package and we never saw her again.
I heard through a mutual friend a year or so later and she had received treatment and was feeling much better. She was working part time in a low stress, small grocery store owned by a family member. She was able to get out of the house, and a huge benefit was that they were kind and patient with her when she had “one of those days” and was unable to handle being in the store.
I’m grateful for my beloved husband for bearing with me during this episode. I don’t know how he stood it really. I couldn’t even stand myself. It must be incredibly challenging to face someone who switches from “I’m pissed that you left the toilet seat up, please don’t do that” – to – “I’m pissed that you left the toilet seat up, therefore I’m leaving and moving to Brazil!’ in the blink of an eye.
Compassion is the willingness to suffer with someone. It is not to suffer for them when they refuse to help themselves.
People who suffer from Bipolar disorder don’t suffer alone. Far from it, the people in their lives suffer too. It’s a heart breaking, gut wrenching experience to watch someone you love crawl through the black hole depths of depression or spiral into an out of control train wreck manic episode.
You may think “my God in heaven, if it was me going through this, I would be driving to the doctor going 180 miles an hour, up in the sidewalk if I have to, to scream “Help me! Help me NOW, now, now – please.” But that is the reaction of a sane rational person. A person in the grips of untreated mental illness is not always, or sometimes rarely sane or rational.
Speaking as a person on the inside, I know that these episodes feel real – realer than real. “There’s nothing wrong with ME – you are the jerk, and you just don’t understand me. If you would just go away and leave me alone, everything will be fine.” It doesn’t matter if I’m up on the roof or hiding under the bed. It feels “normal” to be doing this. “If you felt like I feel you would be doing the same thing!”
It sounds and feels like talking to an alcoholic when they are drunk. There is no reasoning with someone when they are drunk or in the throes of mania. It’s a waste of time.
However, you as the loved one and or caregiver have a right to some semblance of sanity and a normal life. You do not have to accept unacceptable behavior and physical, emotional or verbal abuse. The person with bipolar or any other mental disorder still has to accept responsibility for their actions or refusal to act. If you get drunk and wrap your car around a telephone pole you are still responsible (read – accountable) for your actions. Being mentally ill is not an excuse to throw up your hands and say “hey, this is just me, this is who I am. Take it or leave it.”
Guess what? As the lover or caretaker you do not have to settle for “take it or leave it.” That is dichotomous – black or white thinking. Technically yes, a person with a disease has the right to refuse treatment. However, what they do not have is the right to insist that people continue to care for them and shoulder the brunt of the consequences of their refusal to take care of themselves and manage their illness.
It’s a loving and compassionate act to help someone when they are ill and bear with them as they are struggling and trying to find a way to treat and cope with an illness, in a responsible manner. It’s an ENABLING act to protect someone from the consequences of their actions and accept unacceptable behavior and refusal to seek treatment. It’s an unfortunate fact that sometimes you have to be responsible one, the grownup one, get tough and say “I’m not willing to continue living like this. I will not accept abuse, yelling, blaming, neglecting responsibility and throwing everything in my lap, while you feel free to spiral unchecked into insanity. I absolutely insist that you get help, immediately, if not sooner.”
It sucks to be in this situation. I know because I’ve been on both sides of the fence. I’ve had to play it hard as nails and tell someone I love “No, I’m not bailing you out of your pickle this time; you’re on your own. It’s time to accept the fact that you have a problem and deal with it. That’s not my job.” And then I’ve been on the crazy side. I know I’m hurting people around me with my own illness and I hate it when someone suggests that I need help. But when enough people tell me the same thing I start to wonder, “Hmm, maybe I really do need help.” But it’s really hard, because when I am in the throes of a manic episode it feels like I am the normal one and everyone else is crazy.
Think for a minute about what they tell you on an airplane. If the oxygen masks drops out of the ceiling you are supposed to put your mask on first before you try to help someone else. It’s the exact same thing when trying to care for someone with a mental disorder. Put your mask on first. Take care of yourself first and your children, if children are involved.
Also beware of falling into the trap of becoming desensitized by a ongoing out of control life. You may start thinking “hey, he’s not chasing me around with a kitchen knife, today is a good day.” If you find yourself feeling fear and loathing towards your loved one to the point that you want to flee the house -this is a strong indication that your loved one is so out of control that they are a danger to themselves or others. Take them to a hospital, if they resist, well that’s too bad. They NEED to go there. If they were laying in the floor bleeding you would take them to the ER, whether of not they wanted to go. This is of the same magnitude. Call their doctor, get a doctor if they don’t have one. But most of all take care of yourself first. Draw a line and put your foot down. This is absolutely critical – it could be a matter of life or death.