Sunday, January 12, 2014

Anxiety + Obsession+ X = Compulsion

I wouldn’t necessarily say I have an addictive personality.  Alcohol, I can take it or leave it.  A glass or two of wine always adds a little zest to a stressful holiday or a backyard barbecue.  I am nothing of a gambler.  I will play some of those word games but I often lose interest and take days taking my turn.  I don’t need that rush that you get from shopping or falling in new love over and over again.  I sometimes get stuck in a rut of doing the same thing over and over, especially laundry but that is not my doing.  I can’t really blame Bipolar for that one either.  It is mostly the crumbs that feel the need to change their clothes no less than ten times a day.

I do, however, have obsessive thoughts.  My brain never shuts up.  My brain has a way of taking one thing and blowing it so out of proportion that the original thought is no longer recognizable.  The what-ifs get so expansive that in a matter of minutes I have scripted an entire movie in my head with the most horrific ending just by wondering if the battery in the smoke alarm is still working.  I think they call that “catastrophic thinking”.  That is a pretty accurate description.  I always cry at the end as if what I just thought really happened.  I really just lived through that horrible experience.

If I lay my head down and I think about something I read or heard or even saw on TV and I have even the most mundane question about it I must seek out the answer immediately.  There is no way to distract myself from the thought.  No way to rest my mind.  It can not wait until morning.  There is no where in my brain for this nagging thought to live.  I must get it out of my head.  It’s importance is somehow magnified by the anxiety of not knowing.  I must immediately leave my warm bed and venture to the laptop where my friend, Google, will certainly provide me with the answer.  If it is a complicated question I will most likely spend hours, fighting through a medication haze, and will not give up until I find that answer.  I will say this, my anxiety and insomnia was much greater before I became acquainted with a search bar.

It would make sense that some Psychiatrist would have given me that label “OCD” by now.  I have the obsessive thoughts that always initiate a compulsive reaction but the things that I obsess about and then compulsively take action about are never anything like what you see in the movies.  I don’t need to walk around my bed three times before laying down, or have my wardrobe organized by size and color although that is a dream of mine, in a rotating closet no less.  But now that I think about it, I do have to rinse my glass three times before drinking out of it even if I just pulled it from the diswasher and all of the hangers must be plastic and they must be facing left.  This gives me something to think about.  I don’t really know all of the specifics of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  I will Google it.  I must find the value of X.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Ugly Filter

Everyday I hate life a little more.  I don’t know why.  I mean, I do but the reasons are more chemical and less environmental.  As in, my brain is more jacked than the situations and tragedies that life keeps dumping into my lap.  I try to remind myself that it could be worse.  I could live in a third world country with dirty water and no tampons.

I have been swinging up and down for the last few months.  I can not get level and it is so exhausting.  I can’t write, I can’t read, my mind is racing all over the place.  I worry about everything every single day.  To make matters worse, I have been looking through the “ugly filter” and I can’t seem to take it off.  The “ugly filter” is not really a thing.  It is what I call the way I see things when I am in this particular mood.  The sky is gray, the grass is gray, my hair is gray.  Everything, no matter how glorious is shit. Oddly, when I am in this mood is when people always need to talk to me or need me to do something for them.  Unfortunately, I usually try to accommodate their requests but it just leads me to not really listening, not having any empathy for their situation, giving them shitty advice or just completely avoiding them which just makes me look like a shitty person…and feel like a shitty person then I feel guilty for being a shitty person.

When every thought in your head(and the ones that slip out of your mouth)is negative you have to wonder what is the purpose of life and why are you even here?  And as sure as you will ask that question there will be some asshole that will say something less encouraging and more idiotic like ”if every day was wonderful and there was no sorrow and pain how you would you know how to appreciate the happy days?”  I would fucking figure it out.

Life is shit because this stupid whore Bipolar won’t leave me be.

I wrote this many months ago but I think it has an important message.  I am not looking through the "ugly filter" as of late. 

Racing Thoughts to the Bathroom

Bipolar is a lot of nasty things.  It is a greedy, little bastard.  It wants to control your brain and part of the process to conquer your brain is filling your head with racing thoughts.  Big, expansive,  racing thoughts.  A scrambled up mess.  Having racing thoughts is much different from having a lot on your mind because you “have a lot on your plate”.  I have to remember to get the ingredients for the church potluck when I go to the grocery.  I can’t believe that Bill and Betty are divorcing after all these years.  Did I set the TV to record American Idol?  Johnny’s dentist appointment is Tuesday, I am sure he will need braces.  I almost forgot that Little Katie needs to sell 50 more boxes of Girl Scout cookies to meet her goal.  How will I ever get this done?  I think the “normal” people have some type of organization to their thoughts no matter how overwhelming their lives are.

Manic thoughts can be the same content but they are hard to organize and summarize because they are bigger and faster.  It’s like trying to sweep up sand…on the beach…in a hurricane.

I have to pee.  I have to remember to get the ingredients for the potluck when I go to the grocery.  That towel rack is crooked.  I can’t believe that Bill and Betty are divorcing after all these years.  Maybe I don’t have to.  It will have to be a casserole.  Did I set the TV to record American Idol?  Johnny’s dentist appointment is Tuesday, I am sure he will need braces.  He was probably cheating.  I almost forgot that Little Katie needs to sell 50 more boxes of Girl Scout cookies to meet her goal.  That kid on the AT&T commercial is so cute, I just want to put her in my pocket.  Those judges are stupid.  I should paint the bathroom pink.  I need potatoes.  Did I pee yet?  I can probably lay new tile by myself.  What were those cookies we had in elementary school made with? What was that noise?  How much are braces?  Did I pay the cable bill?  And laundry detergent.  Like you really like it, you want more, you want more…just cracks me up!  They should put me on there.  Was that the phone?  It can’t be that hard.  Am I still trying to pee?   She could do better anyway. Those cookies were pink.  I need to paint my toenails.  Probably a million dollars, his grill is so jacked up.  Jello, I think.  Am I still sitting here? Why the hell do I have to sell the cookies?  Never fails, damn phone rings every time I go to the bathroom.  Damn, that picture is crooked too.  Did we have an earthquake?  Am I going to be getting a freakin’ badge for this shit?  What if I am peeing and we have an earthquake?  I bet it’s on Pinterest.  Shut up, brain!  I just need to pee!

Yes, I literally have to tell my brain to shut the hell up so that I can do something as simple as pee.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Are you there God, It's me medicine?

If I listed all of the different medications that I have been on in alphabetical order I could use up the entire English and Spanish alphabet.  RRisperdal.  If you could hear me you would know that I just rolled my “R”….or tried to anyway but I pretty much just spit all over the screen.  That’s most likely the reason after two years of Spanish over 20 years ago the only thing that I can remember is “tu no dinero, mi no comprehende tu”.  I doubt that is even a good translation for “if you have no money I don’t understand you” but I used to use that line in bars in my much younger years to ward off unattractive Mexican cowboys wearing oversized belt buckles and ugly ass bolo tie.  What was I saying?  Oh yes, medication.

I only like to be on medication because I like to think it makes me feel, think and act like the “normal” people.  Somtimes it actually does.  If I pop this pill, my chest doesn’t feel like it is being crushed when I drive next to a tractor trailer that is surely going to tip over on me when making a sharp right.  If I swallow this one at night I will sleep and my thoughts won't spill over into my dreams.  I won’t wake up agitated and berate anyone and everyone I come in contact with.  If I take this one I will stop crying, I might get out of bed and I might just start to live again.  The problem with that is none of the medications ever live up to my expectations.  There is never a magic bullet or a special cocktail and there is always a side effect that makes me go back and forth as to whether it is even worth it.  This yellow one seems to be calming me down, my obsessive thoughts are not as intense as they were a few weeks ago but I might be allergic to it.  Sometimes I will sneeze and then deep inside my ears and throat will start to itch.  I have entertained the thought of blowing a porcupine just to be able to scratch that itch.

It seems I always have unrealistic expectations of the medicine.  I expect them to work like an antibiotic, ten days and it’s curtains for that respiratory infection.  Why won’t the crazy pills work that way?  Why does it have to be an art when it is formulated with science?  It is always disappointing to have this image in your head of what you might be if this one works and then the result is nothing like you imagined.  Sometimes a medicine will make the symptoms worse than they were before you started and worse than you could ever imagine, even with your manic brain.  If I gulp this one down like I am supposed to I will be so paranoid.  I will think that every whisper is about me and I will realize the car sitting across the street is stalking me down.  It has taken a long time for me to realize that every prescription won't work like promised on the TV commercial and that it is OK for me to question it.  It took me a long time to realize that it is OK for me to advocate for my own health.  

I wonder if the medication causes anyone else to have an identity crisis.  I have often asked, “is it me or is it the medicine?”  Sometimes I get so lost in the fog of being medicated that I don’t know who I am anymore.  Sometimes it feels like this oval one or that white one completely erases my personality.  It takes away my quick wit and strips me of my sense of humor.  The pills make me question who I am.  Maybe I don’t really have a dazzling personality and perhaps I am not really as smart as I think I am and that was just the stupid Bipolar lying to me about myself again.  Maybe I am a big, dumb, boring lump.  That is usually the point when I decide I would rather be lied to and skip a few days just to bounce up.  Just to be the me that I am used to.  The me I know.  The me that I have lived with for all of these years.  The absolutely,energetic, volatile, zany, crying, screwed up hot mess that I am accustomed to.  I know that person and sometimes it’s easier to deal with the chaos you know than to deal with the unknown that you fear.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Impulsivity

There is a part of Bipolar Disorder that takes over your brain that makes you need it now whatever “it” is. Whether it’s something you need to say, something you need to do or something you need to have, it has to absolutely, positively be completed at the precise moment that the thought of “it” enters your brain.  Basically, BP makes you seem like you have no manners or home training.

If a "nomal" person encounters this they would simply hold and maybe get a little flustered.  However, a person with Bipolar has a more extreme reaction.

If this happens:

”Thank you for your patience.  Your call is very important to us.  A representative will be on the line shortly to assist you.” 

It immediately prompts thoughts like this:

I call bullshit!  If you really thought MY call was important you would have bumped me up in your stupid call queue. Nasally recorded lady, you know your ass is lying!   Move it along, Lady!  I think we have a different definition of what important means!  I have been on hold for five minutes now.  That is five minutes that the idea has had to swim in my brain.  Do you know the havoc that can reek upon a scattered brain?  I have already thought of seven new different issues that I will be asking you to address and you will probably be met with a snide remark.  I guess the joke’s on you, slow phone answerer!

If a "nomal" person encounters this they would simply hold and perhaps get a little flustered.  However, a person with Bipolar has a more extreme reaction.


The impulsive aspect of the illness makes you stingy with your conversations. My Mama always taught me that it is rude to interrupt someone when they are talking but if you recall I have already mentioned that Bipolar does not give a crap about my Mama.  Sitting around with your friends chatting the night away or even talking to just one friend on the phone presents a challenge. There only has to be one word in your friend’s last statement that triggers a thought and sends your brain and mouth off in another direction.

Like this:

"So I was downtown the othe….."  "Oh my God, let me tell you what happened to me the other day when I was downtown!  I had to go down there to pick up some paperwork and so I was down on Main Street and this woman, I think it was a woman, anyway she was pushing this cart, it looked like a grocery cart but it had flowers all over it.  Maybe she glued them on…I don’t know but anyway so when I was walking past her she… Oh shoot!  I am so sorry, what were you saying?"  

It’s not that I am not paying attention to you or that what I have to say is more important than what you have to say.  On the contrary, your story is probably much more riveting than mine.  It’s just that my brain does not have the capacity to keep the words from falling out of my mouth no matter how hard I try.

Or this:

Babe, I am looking for oatmeal recipes, do you think you would like some muffins?"  "I’m kinda busy here."  "If you like oatmeal and you like raisins how is it that you don’t like oatmeal raisin cookies?"  "This is for work."  "Well, I am just trying to find something that you will like that will be healthy, what do you think you would like?"  "I would like to get this done."

And here we go.


I will not be ignored.  The BP will not allow it.  I am going to make you cry! Now, if you turn the tables on me you will likely make me cry.  If I can’t be listened to with the same sense of urgency that I feel about whatever it is I am saying, my feelings will be surely hurt.  On the flip side, this is the way to shut me down.  It is like an invisible pair of hands just clasped tightly over my mouth.  And that is not always a bad thing.

Tears pushed back and the words stifled.  Now the thoughts are stuck in my head and spinning wildly.  Sometimes it only takes a few seconds for the mood to flip to agitation.  OK, fine.  No fucking muffins  for you!  I sure hope your cholesterol doesn’t make your heart blow up.  I thought I was doing something good but whatever. Buddy, I sure hope you don’t think you are getting any kind of love any time soon.  My vagina just went on lockdown.  

Sometimes, people with Bipolar Disorder just need to be told to simmer down and shut the hell up!  It gives them that jolt back to reality….if only for a moment.  If you know someone with Bipolar Disorder and you know them well enough and you are educated enough about the illness to recognize the signs you really do have the power to help them.  You just have to know how and when to do it.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Loving BiPolar

Bipolar Disorder does not give two shits about your relationships.   It doesn’t care about your mother, father, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, coworkers or lovers.   I told you it was a selfish whore.

Relationships are hard work even for the “normal” people. Think about how many “normal” people you know that have family conflicts, multiple failed marriages, constant drama with friends, hell, even trying to find a compatible date for Friday night on Match.com is a trying experience.  You throw a mood disorder into the mix and it is almost always recipe for disaster.  It is easy to fall in love with a person with Bipolar Disorder because they are intriguing, dynamic and they have a type of magnetism that draws you in immediately  but you have to be a special kind of person with a special kind of patience to endure the ups and downs of loving someone with BP for the long haul.

The very first thing you need to do is educate yourself about Bipolar Disorder.  Just because you don’t suffer from it doesn’t mean you won’t suffer because of it.  It doesn’t affect everyone the same way, with the same intensity or even with the same symptoms.  Remember, it’s unpredictable.   The more you know about the illness the easier it will be for you to determine how to manage a relationship with a person that has BP or even if you have the ability or desire to.

All relationships are different and complicated in their own way. You can make maintaining a relationship with someone with Bipolar Disorder a little easier if you try to remember it is not personal.  The irrational, impulsive aspect of BP makes us say and do things that we would not if we were stable.  Ugly things.  Things that we can’t take back and surely later regret. If your brother calls you for a favor that you are unable to fulfill and he ends that conversation by saying you are a stupid bitch and goes into great detail of how you are ruining his life and you just want to punish him he is most likely somewhere in the middle of a manic episode.  I know that when I am in a manic episode whatever it is that I need or want to do or say must be done immediately.  There is no room in my brain for it…whatever it is.  If the idea requires any type of participation or facilitation by another person and that person is unable or unwilling to help, it triggers the agitation and in the moment you are the person standing directly in the way of me being able to turn this idea into something real.  Now.  Right now. Not later.  Now.  For instance, if I decide that I need to paint my family room because the Home Depot commercial I just saw inspired me and if I ask you to drive me to buy said paint and you tell me that your day is booked up but you will tomorrow, you are a selfish piece of shit.   Not really but in the moment you are preventing me from doing what I need to do at the precise time I need to do it.  I will apologize later.

You should know that if you are a “fixer”, you can not fix Bipolar.  You cannot cure it with your words or your actions. A manic episode will not disappear because you sing a soothing lullaby to your boyfriend while you serve him a steaming cup of chamomile tea.  A depressive episode will not just go away because you say things like "just snap out of it" or "tomorrow’s a new day" or "Let go and let God".  In general, people with BP are intelligent people and we can recognize that your words and actions are out of concern and love but sometimes when our loved ones say things like "just get back up on that horse" it only reminds us that we can’t. This type of support can sometimes make the situation worse.  This is not to say don’t even bother, sometimes we need words of encouragement and sometimes we just need space and if and when you can figure out the difference it can save everyone a lot of frustration.  It may even be the difference between the success and the demise of that relationship.

I know that it sounds like I am putting a lot of the responsibility of making the relationship work on the “normal” person but in all relationships it takes both parties to make a healthy union.  You should never sacrifice your own happiness or safety.  You have to set boundaries.  To steal a line from all of those prescription drug advertisements, you have to weigh the risks with the benefits.  Only you know if a relationship is worth the turmoil.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Reintroducing Bipolar Disorder

My last post was over two years ago and since so much time and life has passed it all just seemed irrelevant. Now those posts read more like memories from journals I found shoved in a box in the attic. As I glanced through old posts, I realized that the life I once wrote about didn't seem like my own.  Much has changed but mostly I have. 

Perhaps you remember me but probably not.  I stopped writing.  Life made me stop and life made me uninspired.  Life happens. 

I cleaned up my space, tried to clear my head and I am giving a crash course of my brain, my life.  My life with this stupid, creative, aggravating, wonderful brain.

Crazy.  Nuts.  Bonkers.  Loon.  Insane.  Cuckoo.  Delusional.  Psycho. Bipolar.  Fruitcake.  Cracked.  Lunatic.  Whack.  Bananas.  
All of these words have been used at one time or another to describe me. Sometimes I am offended and sometimes I am not.  Heck, I even use these same words about myself but I try to use them to describe my actions not my being.   I am not Bipolar.  I have Bipolar Disorder.  There is a difference.  The English language is a funny thing.  Words have become so interchangeable and depending on the situation or person you are describing and your intent some of these same harsh words could even be used as a compliment.  That girl is crazy;She just cracks me up! 

Most people do not really understand Bipolar Disorder.  They believe it is a character flaw.  It is a medical condition.  It is a chemical imbalance.  If you have no problem calling a diabetic a fatass then you probably have no problem calling a person with BP a nutjob.  That would make you a bigot.  Bipolar Disorder, on the other hand, does not discriminate.  It does not care who you are or where you come from.  It does not care if you are man or woman,  rich or poor, smart or dumb, ugly or pretty,  interesting or boring.  It does not give a damn if you have a lofty career with fabulous benefits or if you work a shit job with shit insurance.  It does not care.  It mostly does what it wants, when it wants to whom it wants with no regard for consequences.  It really is rather selfish.

There is no cure for Bipolar Disorder.  However, there are all types of treatments that can help manage the symptoms and there are new ones being developed every day.  You are born with the disorder but it’s nothing like being born white or black or short or tall.  There is nothing you can do to change that about yourself.  BP is more like being born a brunette and bleaching your hair blonde.  There are things you can do to “cover it up” but you can’t change it and eventually your hair will grow and your roots will show.  It is like that extra fifteen pounds you have been carrying since Thanksgiving, you really just want to wish it away but you know that you have to eat lettuce and run yourself ragged on a treadmill to make it happen.  Managing BP symptoms takes the same hard work.  It is exhausting.  There are days that you look in the mirror and hardly recognize yourself and wonder is it even worth all of the hassle.

Bipolar Disorder is unpredictable and extreme.  It takes you from happy to sad and everywhere in between with or without warning.   It makes you angry and agitated.  It makes you say and do things that are irrational and mean.  It makes you say inappropriate things at inappropriate times.  Sometimes it even makes you say things that make absolutely no sense to the “normal” people and when you get stable sometimes you will reflect and realize it does not even make sense to you.  It makes your brain think way too much about way too many things.  It is like trying to watch TV whilst some asshole flips through the 900 cable channels that you subscribe to.  It makes you spend your last twenty bucks on brightly colored ink pens and a journal that will surely be tossed into the drawer with all the others as soon as the manic episode passes.  It makes you paranoid.  It makes you question everything and everyone.  There is an ulterior motive for everyone’s actions.  Even a good deed done for you is cause for suspicion.  Your mind can turn a benign noise like a creaky floor board into a ninja burglar on your roof and he will be inside your home in minutes to kill you and steal your fancy, new pens.  And, you just know that everyone that knows you will be talking about how stupid you were for leaving such a valuable treasure just lying around before your body is even cold.

Bipolar Disorder makes you cry.  It makes you cry until you can not cry anymore.  It takes you so far past sad that you become almost numb.  Numb, if it weren't for the nagging feeling that you are such a worthless, hopeless, unfixable mess and you and everyone that you care about would be better off if you were dead.  It makes you want to be dead and it has an uncanny ability to make dead seem like a glorious thing.  Certainly, whatever is waiting on the other side has to be better than what I am feeling right now on this side. It makes you feel and it makes you want to never feel again.

Bipolar has a good side too.  It makes you happy.  Happier than the happiest person in the history of happiness.  No one has ever felt this wonderful.  You are smarter, faster, prettier, funnier and better than.  Better than anyone and better than yourself.  You can accomplish things that “normal” people cannot. It makes you the fastest hands on the assembly line.  You are the go-to person when someone needs something done in a snap.  You are the one in the circle of friends that has the hilarious one-liners and the quick-witted responses.  You are the life of the party.  You are talented.  You can sing and dance.  You are an artist and a poet.   There’s really nothing that you cannot do.  The sky’s the limit!

Most importantly, Bipolar is a liar.  It tells you things about yourself, other people and your surroundings and it is so convincing in its deception that you will believe it every time.  BP is a big, fat, ugly liar and you cannot believe a word it says or it will destroy you.