Mood Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified

diagnosed bipolar and pissed about it

Month: May, 2012

distress

i woke up from my afternoon nap while the sun was still out and thought, gee, that’s strange.  why is it still so light out?  lately my naps have been stretching into the 6 hour range, while today i was only able to get in 3 hours before waking up.

i’ve been having nightmares in various shapes and sizes.  i feel noticeably distressed.  i don’t know why.  once i dreamt that all my students hated me, which through me into a panic and i woke up in a sweat.  i don’t recall what i was dreaming just now, but it was unpleasant enough to wake me up.

tasks seem overwhelming.  i have to mentally prepare to do even the simplest thing.

i feel lost and depressed.  my moodscope score today was 19%.

i am disorganized.

that’s all i can write today.

 

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what’s so bad about being bipolar?

i have not taken my bipolar diagnosis well, and that’s putting it lightly.  emotions ranging from deep depression to unbridled anger fill the spaces in between absolute shock.  one friend, in a noble attempt to positively reframe my perspective, pointed out that the diagnosis changes nothing.  i am the same person i was before the diagnosis, except now i have a diagnosis to help me understand behavior that was already there.

strictly speaking, this is true.  unfortunately it doesn’t really make me feel much better.  and, i figure since my byline is “diagnosed bipolar and pissed about it” an explanation is in order.

this won’t be a comprehensive post because one of those entails doing more research than i’m in the mood for right now.  i do have a few references in order and the general idea down, but i will likely write more about this in the future.

here goes…

when i first went in for treatment last december, it was because i felt depressed.  i had been essentially non-functioning for several months by then and i couldn’t pull myself out of it.  none of my usual tricks worked.  i got to a point where if i washed a single dish, that day was successful.  by the time i was finished, i would be exhausted.  i wouldn’t have even gone into psych services if one of my relatives hadn’t insisted i get help.  i had a brief flash of motivation, and acted on it.

up until this point, i did not like the idea of taking anti-depressants.  the situation had become so dire, however, that i wanted anything that would work.  living that life was absolute misery.  hopeless and empty don’t begin to describe it.  so i was ready for anything.  therapy, meds, you name it.  i started medication as soon as i could and met with a counselor to see about processing through some of the depression.  psych service counselors are short-term only though so i knew i wouldn’t be able to get much done. still, any progress would be good progress.

it turned out that i would get nothing done with that counselor.  i told her my most memorable childhood memory, the one where my sister’s dad is on top of my mother in the living room.  they have been fighting.  i don’t remember the domestic violence in that particular scene but i am sure it had preceded what i was observing.  i remember feeling scared.  terrified.  my mother is shouting to me, ‘call your grandma!’ and he is shouting, contradicting her, ‘no, don’t call her!’  i know my mother is trying to protect me, to get me out of there, and my sister’s dad is trying to make me feel like i have to choose a side, to confuse me.   i don’t know what happened in the end.  i just remember i am crying.  it’s strange; i can even see myself crying, as if i’m watching myself from the outside.  i was probably 3 or 4 years old.  later i begin to suspect he was raping her.  i don’t know this for sure and i don’t have the guts to ask.

the counselor stopped me cold and said i needed to go to trauma therapy.  intensive trauma therapy, she said, probably for at least a year or two.  i had already suspected PTSD, specifically complex PTSD, so this wasn’t particularly shocking.  i stopped seeing the counselor and resolved to start intensive trauma therapy in a few months after moving back home.  after all, i didn’t want to begin trauma therapy locally, move, and then have to start all over again.

the prozac worked like a charm.  a little too well, perhaps.  i was flying high and accomplishing things…lots and lots of things.  boy, i thought, this stuff is great!  what was my problem before?  then i wanted to accomplish EVERYthing and i put quitting smoking cigarettes at the top of the list.  wellbutrin had been my drug of choice for smoking cessation, so i requested it again once we had arrived at the appropriate dose of prozac.  successfully quit smoking, but then was really over stimulated.  i had muscle tension, anxiety and panic, jaw clenching even worse than normal, etc. so i asked the doc to switch me over to zoloft.  that took away the stress alright…and just about everything else too!  i didn’t care about anything and i was just happy to sit on my couch and hang out.  apparently, this is called ‘complacency’ but i call it ‘what happens when modern medicine imitates mary jane’ (pot).

unfortunately being sober-stoned wasn’t going to fly either, so we did a couple more changes: changed wellbutrin to instant release 3x a day, and when that was done, switched back to prozac.  this all occurred within a ~3 month period and i was a fucking wreck at the end of it.  no day had been alike that whole time, and i was unable to predict my functioning from one day to the next.  we probably would have kept going if that psychiatrist hadn’t left the office and i hadn’t been transferred to a new one.

my first visit with her was a day before my birthday and about a week after my sister had been hospitalized for suicide threats.  i was, to say the least, a fucking shit show.  i hadn’t slept the night before because i spent the weekend working on a manuscript, and i had taken nuvigil to help me with that.  you could say i was a bit wired by the time i showed up.

after i gave her the medication recap, it took her all of about 5 minutes to ask if i had any family that had been diagnosed with bipolar.

time came to a complete stop.  i remember thinking, wait, why are you asking about bipolar?  i’m here for depression.  i’m not bipolar.  i mean my sister was just diagnosed with bipolar but that doesn’t mean anything.

i’m sure my facial expression said the same thing.  i seemed to respond in slow motion, yyyyeeeeeeessssss, mmmyyyy sssiiiiiiiiisssttteeerr wwaaass jjuuusst ddiiiaaaggnnooosseedd.  my heart was sinking.  i wanted to throw up.

she asked about our parents’ behavior and i explained that we had different dads and, well, my mom hadn’t been diagnosed with bipolar so the thing with my sister being diagnosed doesn’t really matter, right?  i think this is the only time in my entire life i tried to separate myself from my sister, to distinguish between us.  to highlight our differences rather than reinforce our similarities.  i felt like an asshole but i was in panic mode.

then this woman asked about our parents’ behavior.  not diagnoses, but behavior.  normally, i would have been proud of this behavioral assessment, but all it was doing was bringing me back to the conclusion that i may be bipolar.  shock was setting in by the time she requested another appointment for a ‘full evaluation’.

i knew based on diagnostic criteria, i would fit on the bipolar spectrum.  others told me to ‘wait until it’s official’ which i just found fucking annoying.  by the time she completed the full evaluation the following week, i was given an unofficial bipolar 2 diagnosis, and an official ‘mood disorder, nos’.  now i couldn’t avoid it.  even today, i am still grasping at second and third opinions but my hopes are pretty low at this point.

here’s the thing.  depression and PTSD are not necessarily chronic conditions.  they both can be treated and can eventually go away at some point.

bipolar is a different animal entirely.  here are some “highlights” of the bipolar beast:

  1. bipolar is with you your entire life (source: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/bipolar-disorder/nimh-bipolar-adults.pdf)
  2. you can manage symptoms but they only go in remission, not away as in depression and PTSD (source: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/bipolar-disorder/nimh-bipolar-adults.pdf)
  3. the primary form of treatment is medication and you should expect to be on medication for the rest of your life (source: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/bipolar-disorder/how-is-bipolar-disorder-treated.shtml)
  4. you should also probably be in intensive psychotherapy for the rest of your life (source: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/science-news/2007/intensive-psychotherapy-more-effective-than-brief-therapy-for-treating-bipolar-depression.shtml)
  5. bipolar runs in families.  with one bipolar parent, chances of a child having bipolar are 15-30%; with two bipolar parents, chances increase 50-75% (source: http://www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=about_statistics_bipolar)
  6. as many as 1 in 5 bipolars complete suicide (source: http://www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=about_statistics_bipolar)
  7. expected lifespan for bipolars is reduced by 9.2 years (source: http://www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=about_statistics_bipolar)

each of these factors has been difficult to accept and a source of bitter anger.  some are more traumatic for me than others. out of all of them, the one that really got me in a bad way was (is) #5.  seriously, this part of bipolar fucks up everything.

having a family is a personal choice, along with all of the factors one considers when thinking about starting a family.  to me, it was a deeply important goal because i had considered it an opportunity and privilege that would help me heal.  let me explain.  i have touched a bit on my early childhood here already but for simplicity’s sake let’s just say it was a goddamn freak show.

like many people, i wanted what i could not have.  and i wanted it badly.  as far back as i can remember, this started with a desire for a loving life partner.  no one in my family seemed to have this one under their belt, and they still don’t.  i admit i have spent an inordinate amount of time reading about, thinking about, observing, or practicing relationship skills.  i have fostered characteristics and skills that would facilitate a loving relationship for as long as i can remember.  i don’t tell many people this, but my career path and personal choices have all been made with a relationship and family in mind.

for many of my years, children were out of the question because i did NOT want to repeat history.  the possibility made me sick and there was no way i could allow that to happen.  you know that saying, like mother like daughter?  no phrase has scared the pants off of me more than this very one.  when unknowing people suggest my boyfriends look at my mother to see how i will end up, i shiver and hold back tears.

one thing was for sure, any and all children would NOT be had until i had a steady career and a steady marriage.  under no other circumstances was i willing to bring a child into this world.

i used to feel sorry for myself a lot.  i’d see other people who clearly admired their parents.  their mothers were actually…mothers and cared for them.  those children were not seen as a burden or an inconvenience.  importantly, their mothers wanted to be mothers, to nurture and raise, to help and support.  mother’s day is and was especially hard because the universe of possible awesome mom behaviors is advertised everywhere.

i remember the day i broke.  i was shopping with an ex boyfriend from two years ago.  we stopped in a williams & sonoma so he could take a look at gifts for his own mother, since it was right around mothers day.  i hadn’t spoken to my mother in 6 months and that period would stretch to 2 years, so i was there and trying not to dwell on the periodic feeling that i was gipped.

this store, however, had a big display in the front advertising the wonderful behavior of mom and oh don’t you remember when she was awesome and, you know, a MOM?  bitter feelings flooded me and i was one big pity party, feeling sorry for myself because i would never have that.

then i had a beautiful epiphany.  wait a tick, i thought,  i may never get to have that mother…but i could certainly be that mother.  and with this thought my entire life changed.

seriously, it was that transformative.  i no longer felt sorry for myself.  i was able to let the past stay in the past.  my focus shifted from what i don’t have to what i do have, and from my past to my future.  it was a realization that shook me to my very core.  a key part of it was the knowledge that i could create my own concept of motherhood, i could build it from the ground up.  i could take all the very best parts i had seen from other people and try to synthesize them into a coherent person.

this practice wasn’t new to me; often i had to construct things completely from scratch because i didn’t have a model to work from.  it has its benefits and costs.  but it would work, and it would be lovely.

so now, bipolar disorder is throwing a wrench in my plans.  remember the statistics: with one bipolar parent, chances of a child having bipolar are 15-30%; with two bipolar parents, chances increase 50-75%.  the idea of producing a child who will spend most of his or her life depressed, with a reduced life expectancy, a 1 in 5 chance of completed suicide is NOT what i had in mind when i was thinking about having kids.  i can’t bear the idea.

so now, kids are likely out of the question.  in that case, why get married at all?  i mean, the marriage institution is (imo) really only so my children have security.

and if kids and marriage are out, then what the fuck have i been doing all these years?  what am i doing in a phd program?  had i known i was going to be diagnosed bipolar, i would have stuck to the more artsy stuff that i was passionate about instead of going and trying to be responsible.  dance.  painting.  sculpture. performing arts.

now i’m going to be paying off a fucking degree for years that i may not even get to use fully.  the thing is, I JUST DONT KNOW.  after all my careful thought and planning, bipolar has thrown me back into the void, where i don’t know what’s going to happen.  i can’t make predictions and so i’m just stuck like a pig in mud.

and that, ladies and gentleman, pisses me off.

turn up the lights in here

i admit that i am not at a place in my process of acceptance to execute this.  YET.

but as i was writing about disabilities it just struck me how narrow the scope of public understanding is about what being disabled actually means.  this is especially salient for mental illness that isn’t immediately apparent.  although there is increasingly media attention for disability cases involving mental illness, like the recent ones involving a man who won a case against his employer after he was fired and the woman who won the right to legally masturbate at work (!), the belief that disability is something you can always see is still overwhelmingly popular.  as a result, many times accommodations are only readily made when a disability is visible; otherwise people may take some convincing.

take, for instance, one of XBFs recent experiences.  as i mentioned before he has traumatic brain injury and there are no exterior indications that he has any injury at all.  he also has attention deficit disorder and learning disabilities.  to top it off, he has a heart condition that could potentially lead to sudden death and has a heart monitor implanted in his chest.  all of these conditions are invisible to passerby.

for a while there, XBF was sick a lot.  for like, weeks at a time.  any given day seemed to be a shuffled up mix of migraines, dizziness, nausea, throwing up, and passing out.  it was not pretty.  in any case, he clearly could not complete his school work in that condition so he requested accommodations.

it’s not a problem for him to get doctor’s notes and yet sometimes this is still not enough for people.  one particular professor douchebag stands out.  when XBF turned in an exam, this dickwad basically announces to the entire class that XBF has been absent too many times and will thus probably fail the class (a dick move even when you don’t take into consideration that sharing grades is ILLEGAL).  when XBF asked to schedule a meeting, said dickwad refuses and says “he’ll let him know what he decides”…this is, of course, on the last day to add a class so if XBF is dropped, he can’t exactly get back in.  and he hasn’t even had a chance to show medical documentation yet.  come monday, XBF is still enrolled in the class but when he gets his exam back, there are a bunch of answers marked incorrect and he ends up failing the exam.  he attempts, again, to meet with the professor but the asshat refuses, again.

no, i don’t know how this guy is a professor.  yes, this is evidence in favor of abolishing the tenure system.

the thing is, it’s a law exam and if XBF knows anything, it’s the freaking law.  both of his parents are lawyers (yes, meeting them was fucking horribly stressful but i made it).  not that that makes him an immediate expert, but it also wouldn’t be difficult to call and double check with them and that is exactly what he did.  indeed, his suspicions were confirmed and several of his supposedly “incorrect” answers were either not incorrect at all, or the question was too vague or unclear to elicit the desired response.

unfortunately, Professor Douchenozzle still refused to discuss the exam so XBF tried to go to the department head.  Unfortunately, what he didn’t know is that the Department Head Dick Head and Professor Douchnozzle were all buddy buddy like.  The Dick Head didn’t even give XBF a chance, flipping through the exam but barely looking at it.  he brushed off XBFs concerns like a speck of dust off his coat.

XBF also tried to discuss Professor Douchenozzle’s [illegal] announcement of his grade in front of the class.  he points out that his absences are a) medically excused, and b) not grounds for dismissal because no where in the syllabus was such an attendance policy described.  it is school policy that the grading system must be outlined in the syllabus and that it can not be adjusted after the fact.  instead, he included a link to the university web page on class attendance, which simply said something along the lines of ‘the attendance policy for each class is determined by the instructor’.  yeah, thanks for the obvious tip!  this is essentially an illegal policy but students wouldn’t know that!  fortunately i am a teacher and i do know that, so i told him to bring it up to the Dick Head.  when XBF told him he had been absent due to being ill, Dick Head looked him up and down and said, “well, you don’t look sick” and then he had the fucking nerve to accuse XBF of LYING about his medical conditions.  Understandably XBF saw red and chose to walk out of the office and over to the Dean’s office instead of continuing to deal with this toolbox.

before i go on, if you or someone you know is an academic asshole of this magnitude, please tell them to find different work.  people like that make me hate academia.  that’s right, i fucking HATE academics.  and i am one, so that’s saying something.

i use this example to illustrate just how uninformed people are about disability.  being disabled may mean you have visible impairments but it may not.  i’m inspired to start a campaign (again, when i am at a more advanced place in my acceptance process) about what “disability looks like”.  it can start with simple still photography of individuals doing various activities with the caption “I am disabled”.  it would also be great to showcase not only what it can potentially look like, but what it means to be disabled.  the range of accommodations requested by people with different disabilities.

i’ll probably honor Dick Head and Professory Douchenozzle by naming said campaign after them. hehe.

what do you think?

on being disabled

i am an asshole.

when i think about it, i have never really been fully aware of the experience of disabled persons.  now that it is relevant to me, i find i’m taking more interest in the disabled community.

i think back to times when i had an opportunity to get some kind of training that specifically deals with disabled persons.  i was nice enough, i could accommodate people without a problem, why do i need special training?  on the first day of a class, i mention that students with disabilities should see me but i realize i kind of breeze over it like it is some kind of side note.  i haven’t ever been to the disability resource center.  hell, i haven’t even been to their website.  i feel like a sham.

increasingly, i see how disabilities are neglected.  and when they aren’t neglected, they are exploited.  today we are talking in class about communication and cognition.  literally in the first 5 minutes i observed that we were watching an excerpt from See No Evil, Hear No Evil.  It is a comedy about a dynamic and disabled duo who are going to foil the plans of a group of thieves.  i also noticed that the student who was presenting wore a shirt that read, “you’re just jealous because the voices to talk to me”.  all of the sudden, disabilities are everywhere.  but not in the way they should be.

i am also ashamed to say that my most regrettable decision is one that involves disabilities.  since the moment i did it, i regretted it and i shocked even myself by having done it.  it clearly indicated that some priorities needed adjusting.

not that my actions are his fault, but i was dating a major asshole at the time.  we shared a dark sense of humor and one day we were riding our bikes through campus.  i saw that some students were being led around with blindfolds on.  the goal, i think, is to understand the experience of the blind and to feel what it is like to rely on someone else for your safety and sensory experience.

i coasted by one pair walking around.  a young girl was blindfolded and holding the hand of another student.  i saw my course of action in a flash and had only a moment to execute it.  instead of thinking, ‘hey, this is a really dick thing to do’ i was thinking how funny my boyfriend at the time would find it.

i acted immediately on impulse and it was only after i had done it that i finally said to myself ‘hey, you’re a real asshole’.  when my bicycle was just a few feet away, i stood up on my pedals and shouted, “RAAAAAAAAAAWWWWWR!”.  my plan worked, and the poor girl nearly jumped out of her skin.  i was laughing on the outside, but on the inside i was asking myself, ‘who are you??’

i suppose thankfully that experience led me to seriously question the person i was becoming in that relationship and eventually to get out of it entirely.  but i have still not forgotten what a piece of shit i was that day.

even when i have been faced with disabilities nearly every day for almost a year (with XBF), i realize i have not fully grasped the meaning of accommodation nor of the feelings disabled people might have about their condition or about the way people respond to them.  XBF, for instance, is disabled due to traumatic brain injury.  accommodations have been made.  patience is not only a virtue, but a prerequisite.  i have had to trust him when he forgets (every)things.  conversations become a challenge when he loses his train of thought mid-sentence.  he responds to stress poorly and get physically sick more easily from stress.

now i am sitting here, trying to assimilate my disability with my sense of self.  it is a source of stress as well as of relief.  i feel stress when i think of acceptance from others.  i also hear my mother telling me i am a victim and have a victim mentality, as she did when i dared broach the subject of her parenting finesse (or lack thereof).  i feel relief because i can put a name to the struggles i have always felt but don’t dare to name.  i have come far in my education and i always felt that it was more difficult for me than for others, but no one wants to hear that.  it means i can stop holding myself to a perfect standard and become more comfortable in my own skin.

i wonder what accommodations are made for the teachers.  i know they are made for students, but what about instructors who are disabled?  are instructors even allowed to be disabled or to receive accommodations?  now that i think about it, i haven’t ever heard of accommodations for academics.  do they get time and a half for grading?  will i need to tell all future jobs that i have a disability?  will i be able to get a job?  will i be able to keep it?

for fuck’s sake

over the past month i have been trying desperately to stabilize.  i try to maintain a relaxed life so that i am not so susceptible to every stressor that comes by.  i am tired of being fucking debilitated by something as stupid as running out of TP or stubbing my freaking toe.

i write, i hang out with dogs, i mind my own business.  i barely leave the house even.

so will someone please tell me why the FUCK stress follows me around like a lost puppy?  there is no way, NONE, that i have done enough bad stuff in my life to warrant karma shitting on me to this degree for so long.

LISTEN FUCKER!  Yeah you, Karma! Just chill the fuck out while i catch my balance here.  for the love of god!

i just went to check my bank account to make sure everything is ready to go, rent-wise.  what do you know?  some FUCKING CUNT has stolen my credit card number and gone on a make-over shopping spree online.  bitch hit some website called HSN and bought a “Brazilian peel beauty treatment” and clinique wouldn’t even tell me what the order with them was.  so now i’ve got calls out to two merchants, the local police, and my bank.  i’m out of a debit card for a week.

s.o.B!!!

i’m pretty sure i know who did it too.  the sandwich place i always order delivery from is the *only* place i call to give a cc # when ordering something.  everywhere else has secure payment online.  so this little WHORE better run FAR, FAR away because she’s messing with a BIPOLAR BITCH now!

don’t make me angry.  you don’t want to see me when i’m angry.

little white lie

okay, i know i said that XBF and i talked all night and that’s mostly true.  mostly.

when he arrived i was disoriented and confused, so i kept my physical distance from him.  i actually felt incapable of making decisions to some degree, and so at one point when he tried to lean in and kiss me, i told him i felt uncomfortable.  it also seemed misleading to be kissing him when i really have no idea what’s going on.  so he stopped.

then when i woke up sometime around 4 or 5 in the morning and we started talking again, the strange sensations had seemed to subside and i found myself openly staring at XBF.  i had noticed the night before that he lost a bunch of weight and his face had taken on a more chiseled appearance.  clearly the working out and eating healthy are paying off.  i mean, even before this i could lock in on his features and it was just like a rat pressing a lever.  i’d look at him, and my brain would shoot off dopamine.

reward, reward, reward.

now i found myself just completely doomed.  i got lost in the shape of his nose, the line of his jaw, the tone of his skin.  the sensation of looking at him was pleasing, like someone was giving my brain a massage.  i started feeling a little high again, except this was a different animal entirely.  it was a familiar feeling, but i was having trouble placing it.

i don’t remember how, but then we got on the topic of me having sex with a woman, and then threesomes.  XBF isn’t comfortable with either idea (…i know, i think he’s an alien too), but i was feeling a little feisty so i asked him if it wouldn’t turn him on to see me go down on a woman (i didn’t put it so politely but you get the idea).  and he said yes but wouldn’t i be uncomfortable seeing him have sex with another woman?

maybe, maybe not.  it is a fantasy of mine, after all.  i just don’t know that i could execute it.  in any case, i had a sudden flash of this image in my mind and all of the sudden that feeling of being high shot up and i couldn’t breathe.

i was fucking HORNY!

this may not seem like a big deal to y’all, but i’ve been coming out of the depression from HELL and my sex drive hasn’t been the same for nearly a year.  a YEAR!  and for someone whose sexuality has been a central part of her identity since pretty much puberty hit, you can imagine how disturbing the loss might feel.

HALLELUJAH!!

I was back.  I kind of wanted to cry tears of joy, but instead i decided to carpe diem and enjoy the moment.  if you know what i mean.

afterward, he asked if i’ve been reading Fifty Shades of Grey.

i’ll take that as a compliment.  🙂

a day at a time

i’ve been meaning to announce something but i keep forgetting.  fortunately, today this is not the case so here goes it: i’ve been invited to syndicate my posts on the Bipolar Blogger Network.  Raeyn, the lady in charge over there, put it all together to provide a web resource to people diagnosed with bipolar.  We’re working on compiling lists of resources, like support groups and references, to make available to the public.  i just had another idea which i’m going to record here since my memory is so fickle as of late.  it would also be useful to have a library of sorts with book recommendations and reviews by our bipolar bloggers.  keep an eye out as this website takes shape over the next few months!

secondly, happy memorial day, at least for my U.S. readers.  i hope you are all enjoying your holiday and please do take at least a moment to reflect on and honor our troops.  for those of you who are international readers (hello UK!  hi Canada!  welcome Australia, Germany, Puerto Rico, and Kenya!  :: waves ::), my apologies for my apparent nationalism in honoring holidays and hope you are having a lovely monday.

announcements, check.  time to get down to bidnis (business).

yesterday i made like a social butterfly and had not one, not two, but THREE separate social engagements.  in one day!  this has got to be a record for the past year.  i felt like a crazy lady for most of it because of the hypomania but i did my best to tone it down since, you know, we were in public.  it’s kind of interesting, because feeling so high, it’s like i’m there but i’m not there.  i’m like mother fuckin’ schrodinger’s cat.

i did pretty well with lunch, working mostly on slowing down my speech, reducing the fidgeting, stifling the manic-sounding cackles i wanted to emit… by the time i went to target with my friend (yes, she brought me to TARGET during a hypomanic episode! DANGER, WILL ROBINSON!!), i was on another plane, in part because i had just gotten into it with XBF on the phone.  in defense of my friend, she did ask if going to target was a bad idea in my state of mind and i assured her that it was not and that i would be okay.  i underestimated, however, the powerful laser beams target uses to draw you in and ended up walking out with chocolate chip cookies, a skirt, and a dress.  not bad, considering my history with “Le Tar-jay”.

we then went to a frozen yogurt shop and i tried like 3 different flavors in the same taster before my friend pointed a sign literally a foot away from my face that read ‘only one taste per taster cup’ or whatever.  oops.  so i told her i had decided on the fruity flavors and promptly walked over and got VANILLA after a change of heart at the last second.  i topped my vanilla yogurt with captain crunch cereal, gummy bears, and rainbow sprinkles, looked at my cup and thought “even my yogurt looks manic”.  we sat down and the colors of the walls and paintings in this yogurt shop were just blowing my mind right out of my mind.

once we finished, she dropped me back home.  i started writing my denial blog post and called back the XBF.  he answered the phone and it sounded like he had been crying.  it was sad.  two hours earlier we had hung up the phone and he was crying, and now he was still crying.  i’m a sucker for tears, so within 30 minutes he was at my house…

hold up!

how did this happen, you ask?  after all the BS i’ve been posting, with the “no way jose” and all else, why would i let XBF within 30 yards of my home?  oh it gets better, just wait.

after he didn’t respond for two days, i was fucking annoyed.  it’s a weekend for god’s sake so it’s not even like he has the school excuse.  i had bitched about this at lunch with my friend who agreed that XBF is seeming less and less worth my time, and by the time i got home i felt not only pissed off, but now also entitled to send an email that said “forget it. i’m over it.”

which i meant 100% at the time by the way.  so again, how did he get into my house??

prepare your mind to be boggled.

he came back at me with an equally entitled response which made me so mad i couldn’t just LET IT GO.  he wrote,

________ I’m in school and focusing on it. Id love to talk to you but you seem unable to talk to me like it was the old days. Instead you continue to send me stressful and hurtful messages. Youre stressing me out and its not fair. If you are unable to even sit with me in person im smart enough to know thats a stressful situation i shouldn’t be focusing on. Look, I love you and im happy to give as much time as you need to “prepare yourself mentally” or whatever but its not cool to try and control every aspect of the situation if its at the cost of my well being. I have no idea whats been going on with you recently and im sorry youre as upset as you are. But for real, you need to start learning to show me respect. Maybe think about how things you say and do might affect other people. Im tired of these knee jerk emotional respones. I don’t deserve it.

game on, fucker!  i responded,

Dear XBF,

Just to be clear, what I asked was to talk first by email so I could get my bearings and then we could meet in person.  In just the last week, you have flipped your interactions with me twice 180 degrees and that made me uncomfortable.  I think that should be understandable given what I’ve been through in the last month.

If anything, what I am unable to do is continue dealing with your mixed messages.  I do not like you assuring me that I can trust you and that you will work through this with me one day, two days later telling me you don’t want to “enable” me and will “let me know what you’re going to do in a few days”, and then 3 days after that sending me an email that you love and miss me like nothing has happened.  And then when I ask you to clarify by email you don’t respond for two days… on a weekend.

So yes, I support you being in school and support you focusing on it.  I’m pretty sure that’s why I helped you do so much in school over the past year, like plan your class schedule, communicate with instructors, complete online quizzes and write papers.  Please do not speak to me as if I have been the major barrier to you in school; I take quite a bit of offense to that since I probably account for your two passing grades of the last YEAR.

XBF, you are so missing the point.  It’s that its not all about you.  Which I can’t seem to get through your head.  You have no idea what is going on with me because you can’t even be around me.  I try and communicate and it’s like talking to a wall.  Let me summarize: I am sick.  Sick in such a way that is going to be transformative for my entire life.  I would think you would understand but you seem to concerned about yourself to worry about that.

I cannot believe you are having the gall to tell me I need to respect YOU right now.  It makes me sick.  I suppose now that you’re not feeling sick all the time you think you can speak to me like that.  Don’t forget who encouraged you to get better, and who was there when you were at your worst.  Too bad I can’t say the same for you.

I wasn’t trying to “control” the situation.  What I said is legit.  I am done.  We’ll work out the exchange of belongings in a few weeks.

i don’t think more than 6 minutes passed and he was calling me.  it was such a short period of time that i wasn’t sure he was calling about my email so i answered and asked.  what followed, i can’t really say.  remember, i’m feeling like i’m in two places at once.  XBF has brain damage so his reality can be a bit distorted at times.  he’s also six years my junior so his lack of experience does seem more salient in times like this.  trying to follow the conversation was like trying to walk through nearly-dry cement.  you’re not really going anywhere.

this made me feel even more crazy, so you can imagine my relief when my friend called to go to target.  it was like i became even more hypomanic because what little scaffolding i had grabbed on to was up in the air.  i felt like a snow globe that had just been shaken.  the only thing i can remember from the conversation is XBF saying “i miss my best friend. i just want my best friend.”  it really struck close to home for me.  i think that’s where i started to crumble.  i told him i’d call him back later after my adventures to target.

i did and he came over and we talked for about 2-3 hours and then i tried to sleep for a bit.  i woke up a short time later and couldn’t fall back asleep, and he had been awake the whole time since his sleep schedule is off.  we started talking again and continued for another 3 hours or so. that’s how we are; once we were on a 6 hour road trip and i barely noticed because we spent the entire time talking to each other.  there have been many a night where we find ourselves still talking as the sun rises.

nothing has been decided for our relationship, but we negotiated an arrangement that met both our needs.  i agreed to watch the Avengers with him and to hang out and spend time together, and he agreed to hang out a separate time and to really listen to what has been going on with me.  this is just one of those situations where i’m going to have to take it a day at a time.

denial

my mother called today.  she wanted to check in, since the last time we talked my moodscope was at around 18% and she was concerned about my “emotional/mental state”.  i had to go a roundabout way of getting her to understand that i am managing serious emotional issues because my mother has honed the ability of denial.  it’s really quite impressive, actually.  for instance, we only started talking again this past december after a TWO YEAR PERIOD where we didn’t talk.  and it wasn’t for lack of trying either; i could not get this woman to work through a problem with me no matter how much i tried.  she continued to ignore me and my messages the entire time.  but that’s a story for a different post.

anyway, knowing this, i knew that she’d need a little help facing the reality.  fortunately, i have a good relationship with her new boyfriend.  i like him a lot and probably would have made vastly different mating decisions had he been around.  shoot, i might even not be bipolar if he was my dad.  in any case, he checks in on me periodically by email.  he sent a message after he found out that my plans to move to california at the end of the summer may have been diverted, and i confessed that i was in a bad state and that i had missed work, and been written up already for missing work.  it was nice confiding in someone who i knew would listen, and had the added benefit of his influence on my mother.  see, my mother’s behavior is disproportionately influenced by the man in her life.  it has always been this way and i knew this would be no different.

there are also trust issues at play here, but again we’ll save those for a different post too.

so when i called her today and i sounded giddy on the phone, she said ‘oh, you sound much better!’ optimistically.  i responded, ‘yes, i’m kinda hypomanic right now’ and she sounded noticeably taken aback, doubtful even.  big surprise.

my mother has exhibited the best doubting abilities of anyone i have ever met.  she could doubt mother teresa even.

so she proceeded to counter my experiences and the various things i was feeling with, ‘well, couldn’t that just be __________?’ or ‘isn’t that just a sign of ___________’.  whatever it was, one thing was for certain: it was NOT bipolar disorder.

i’m starting to get the sense that she too did not read the book i sent her.  le sigh.

this is especially amazing because not just one but both of her daughters have just been diagnosed with bipolar.  this clearly means something is wrong with someone else, NOT that there is something wrong with us.  we can’t BOTH be bipolar.  because you know what that means?  it was the first comment she made when i told her the psychiatrist had decided on a bipolar diagnosis partly due to the family history (i.e., my sister).  she said, ‘but, that would mean that i am bipolar too…’

lest she start going into all the reasons why she was most definitely NOT bipolar, i countered that it is also possible that both my biological dad AND my sister’s biological dad are bipolar.  she sounded relieved.

she also sounded proud when she told me my sister is only taking an anti-depressant right now, and was somehow okay with the fact that my sister went to LAS. VEGAS. this weekend.  holy balls!  she most definitely did NOT read the book.

so is this what it comes to?  you get to a place where you may finally come to terms with this diagnosis, and then you have spend the rest of your time convincing everyone else too?  i know my mother has got a special skill but she is not the first nor the only one to straight deny the possibility of a bipolar diagnosis.  she does share one characteristic with the others though: they all seem especially concerned by what the diagnosis means about them.

 

 

when you’re strange

the doors ‘people are strange‘ has been on repeat in my mind for two days now.  it seems befitting since i seem to be internalizing this diagnosis a little more each day and now i can reframe behavior previously perceived as odd.  don’t get me wrong, it’s still odd, but now there are just more people who share my characteristics.  it’s like finding a sense of community in my diagnosis.

it also means i have some explanation for previously inexplicable behavior.  for instance, in the last year i have found myself unable to function more times than i can count.  i feel as though i’ve been more susceptible to stress in some ways, which has been difficult to accept because i have always felt that i have withstood a great deal of stress over the course of my life.  so, i thought, many times, that i could just push through it.  i would try to set goals and make plans and fail and fail and fail.  and i suck at failing so it just made me feel worse.

especially since i am a doctoral candidate, and i am expected to be very responsible and to have my shit together and be able to pull off research projects and teaching assignments and managing a lab.  i found i was constantly flogging myself for just sucking at life in general.  for being unable to be consistent and follow through.  i thought it was just some flaw in my character, that somehow my struggle against the waves of my mood meant i am just weak and undisciplined.  that there is always something i could be doing to remedy the situation.  it got so bad that sometimes i even thought i became failure.  like if you looked up failure in the dictionary, you would find my picture and a list of bullet pointed examples for why i am made of suck.

in fact, sitting in the psychiatrist’s office, as she was describing what i could expect from a stabilized state compared to a hypomanic or depressive episode, i asked if bipolar mood swings could account for even rapid changes in mood or in being inconsistent and she said yes.  i don’t think i meant to say the following out loud, but it kind of just came out.  i started tearing up and in possibly the meekest voice i have ever heard out of myself before–i thought i sounded like a little girl, in fact–i asked, “so you mean i can stop beating myself up for that?”

i would just like to say that going from feeling like a piece of shit failure to having a possible explanation, a REASON for behavior that had been so confusing and detrimental, was like lifting 1000 pounds off my shoulders.  and that treatment might allow me to manage those experiences…well, it was then that i decided lithium was worth a shot.

so now i am on lithium, and i am not quite sure i am at “management” stages yet.  i am still feeling hypomanic today.  i am impatient with people and easily distracted.  fidgety up the wazoo.  my thoughts are racing and i am giddy and hyper.  listening to music feels good.  the strange thing, however, is that i would expect sleepless nights with this kind of hypomania…except last night i couldn’t have stayed up past midnight if i tried.  i was SO. TIRED.

i have no idea what next week will bring, or even tomorrow.  i still don’t want to go out or socialize with many people, because my hypomanic state will be such a stark contrast to the debilitating depression i experienced not even a week ago.  i don’t want to have to explain one state or the other, or how i got from one place to the next.  and i don’t want to offend those who i failed as a colleague, or as an instructor .

there is also a fear i can’t deny, that people will somehow be able to tell.  i think my hypomanic behaviors are very obvious, and i do feel a bit like a crazy person because i’m so elated and unable to focus.  i don’t even want to call friends because i’m talking so rapidly that sometimes i stutter, and even typing i forget words or get ahead of myself.  if i had to guess, i would say i would fit in perfectly on a dance floor at about 1am when everyone else is already drunk.

if only i can figure out a way to get  paid for hypomanic behavior, then i’m set…

 

are we there yet?

i want to post an update about my lithium journey.  the trouble is, i find myself unsure about what could be due to lithium, and what could be due to…other things.

there are some things i am more confident about, like the metallic aftertaste in my mouth that seems to be getting sharper by the day.  for example, last night i had cookies and milk.  i never mind if the cookies break off into the milk because it just means more tasty goodness at the end.  after i savored my last cookie for that session i went to drink the rest of the milk and get to my secret pot of gold at the bottom of my cup, but i couldn’t even get past a sip.  there’s not really an easy way to describe what milk and metal taste like together, but it is NOT. GOOD.  I’m shuddering just thinking about it.

my moodscope is looking pretty optimistic too, relatively speaking.  my new high score is 45%.  still on the more negative side of things but compared to 7%, let me tell you: the weather is great up here.  it seems that the lithium is definitely doing its part for my depression, although i am curious how much of that can be attributed to the lithium + prozac combination.

if i have to be completely honest though, i would admit that i think i am a little happier than “normal”.  i mean, it is a relief to not feel abysmal and it’s possible that the stark contrast from just a few days ago accounts for this observation.  but i have a sneaking suspicion that i might be experiencing a little more hypomania and that i find myself not wanting to tell my psychiatrist about it (lest she change anything) lends a bit more support to that hypothesis.

we’ll table the fact that this physiological and behavioral response to lithium indicates a correct bipolar II diagnosis, for now.  but just to describe the experience: my sense of hearing is much more sensitive, so i have to turn down the volume of my phone or videos.  i find myself feeling a little high, a little giddy.  perhaps even a bit devious and deviant.  kind of like i’ve just had my first couple greyhounds (vodka + grapefruit) and the night is starting to take shape.  i am impatient and distractible, and even a little irritable.  laughter comes more easily.  i can conclude that this isn’t “normal”–not other people normal, anyway–because this is how i felt before i was depressed.  i notice that my writing and thinking is a bit more erratic and it’s harder for me to focus on creating a structure for this blog entry.  i really, really want to go on an adventure.

thank goodness i have video games to entertain me so i don’t go off and do something rash.

as for the “other things”…yesterday i felt quite stressed for a reason i will explain momentarily, but the result was a very turbulent sleep and what felt like psychological warfare on my dreams.  i had a long series of dreams about conflicts and problems and people from my past.  but one dream was so disturbing that i don’t even want to write about it.  i don’t want any cues as to what it was about, and the sooner i forget about it, the better.  i’ve had some pretty horrifying dreams in my day, but this one definitely hit the top 10.  i woke up sweating, stressed, anxious, and ready to cry.

fortunately i’ve been able to turn my day around due to some really uncharacteristic, but lovely weather for this time of year.  i spent a lot of time outside with the dogs, i watched a movie i loved, i felt inspired, i talked to a friend on the phone and i painted my nails green.

but the source of stress is still there, lying in waiting.  gnawing at me.  stealing this shining moment of release from darkness.

you may have guessed it by now.  XBF has made contact.  yesterday he sent a peculiar email.  it was peculiar in the sense that it communicated the opposite of what our last conversation seemed to, and he titled it Missing You.  he expressed his love for me and that he missed me.  he made no mention of our previous conversation or of his not one but now two 180-degree flips in behavior, but instead sent me a link to make me laugh like he had been there for me this whole time.

and I’M the bipolar one here?

when i told him i was confused and asked for an update since his attitude seemed to have changed quite a bit since the last time we talked, he said we could meet in person when i’m free.

ha!  no way jose.  i’m finally getting a break from mind boggling depression.  i’m not so stressed out that i feel close to some kind of  psychotic break.  there is no way i am walking into a situation where i can be potentially blindsided again, without warning.

so i told him i felt uncomfortable with that and asked to talk by email first so at least i have a chance of managing my emotions.

he hasn’t responded.  of course.  he clearly didn’t read the freaking book.

i have mixed feelings about all of this.  i love him but i am just tired of it.  if i take an inventory of the stress he has *added* to my life, it is not trivial.  and with how he handled even recent events, despite my explicit request to minimize stressful events, i don’t feel comfortable trusting him with my peace of mind.  it makes me sad, really sad.  and pretty pissed off and annoyed too but i think that may be my irritability and impatience talking.

hmm…

and if my hypomanic state is guiding my behavior, then should i really be talking to him anyway?

ultimately, i am just really shitty at making decisions when it comes to relationships.  that whole setting boundaries lesson has been lost on me for years and i struggle with it daily.  i’ve gotten better, but in general i can never tell when enough is enough.  i really mean i can’t tell.  i can’t SEE it.  so i usually err on the side of caution and try to work through things, so hopefully i’m not cutting people out prematurely like SOME people in my family (:cough: my mother :cough:).

i guess in some twisted way this diagnosis can be a blessing…i am trying to stabilize (sort of) so the clear cut off point is whether something adds too much stress or not.  if it does, it’s removed.  this way, i don’t have to include my heart in the decision-making process.  and let me tell you, that makes a world of difference.

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