I don't go very long on any given day without thinking of myself as bipolar. Every time I do something or don't do something, or engage in any behavior to excess... Any time I am deeply involved in a project or deeply involved in avoiding something... I wonder if it might be related to my bipolarity.
When I see people I haven't seen for a long time, I will blurt out, "By the way, I'm bipolar."
Which tends to take them by surprise. And not in a good way. No one has actually said, "That can't be, you seem so normal." because quite frankly I have probably never seemed all that normal. But very few people take the news calmly. And I don't feel calm about it either. I am faking it.
I was comfortable being Depressed. I didn't run around telling everyone, "Hey I'm Depressed!" I could wait for appropriate moments. Times when it made sense to work into the conversation naturally. For the most part.
I think my uncomfortable closeness to my bipolar identity comes from a few places...
I am just not comfortable in my own bipolarity yet. I'm comfortable with being treated with medication that works. With becoming more functional (and realizing that I wasn't doing quite as well as I thought back when I believed that I was a "high functioning Depressed individual")
Don't let me fool you. I am not comfortable in my own diagnosed bipolar skin. I am just playing a role. I am talking a good game. Sometimes with a sense of unreality.
Grateful Crap: socializing with new people at quaker meeting during fellowship
took meds (150mg venlafaxine, 450mg bupropion, 100mg lamotrigine)
went to meeting
talked to people
beading projects with 3yo
So I was talking with a friend about complacency. And I thought of how little I have done for people outside of myself for quite some time. In the wake of the crap going on around the latest perpetration of racial injustice, my first thought was how I have not really done anything to address the issue of racial equity where I live.
Then I started thinking about how I haven't done anything to help the homeless.
And I haven't done anything to work toward non-violence on the local or global scale.
And I haven't done any interfaith work on building community and working toward a goal.
And I haven't done any politically active things other than vote (And I don't always do that. Which makes me feel really awful)
I started looking around to see what organizations are already doing in my area in one or the other or all of these things and I started thinking about how maybe I could help start a new committee at the Quaker meeting dealing with... something. Or everything.
And we could work on writing letters and calling people and not being part of anything that has the word "mob" in it and maybe we could engage in some kind of collective something with other groups or education of ourselves or just... SOMEthing.
But then I started getting pulled into one thing after another and I began to freak out about all the crap that is going on everywhere and how little I can actually do about it and why should I even bother and how can I possibly have had my head so far in the sand for so long and here I am back in my privileged white-girl-in-a-white-man's-world because I have been ABLE to not do anything about these issues.
I can stay in my safe neighborhood in my warm house with my enough food and my educated children and my employed spouse and local police officers who treat me with respect and store employees who don't give me a second look when I walk around browsing. I can be invisible. I can relax. I don't have the kind of mind-numbing stress that faces so many of my students at college, even. So what the hell is my problem?
And then I remember that I can't even manage to check my personal email to sign up for a Google group set up to connect parents from my Quaker meeting for the purpose of building community between just the families of my own meeting.
And that just because the meds are right, doesn't mean that I get to tackle all the ills of the world. And I remember that I filled out the application to volunteer with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). And that I promised NOT to put so much on my plate that my schedule becomes a hectic nightmare.
So I will try to start small and remember that I can't and shouldn't do everything. Even if I feel strongly about so many things. Ugh.
I am a necklace of shining glass beads, just strung. Red-blue-black-yellow-clear-green-white shining glinting in the sunlight. Only the ends aren't tied together and without great care the beads will slip from their strand and scatter across the floor in a hail of colored glass. I am a fisherman's sweater with cables and knots and patterned sections. Tree of life, lobster claw, honeycomb, basketweave, ropes. The edges unfinished. A tail of yarn. If this bit of wool snags, catches hold of anything, the stitches will undo themselves. The work unfinished becomes undone. I am a parchment illuminated with golden letters. Gothic script. A tribute to Saint Dymphna, patron to those with mental afflictions. Ink not dry. A careless hand. Words blurred across the page. Too precious to waste, the ink will be scrubbed away with crushed stone so I can be used again. A wooden bench whose joints are not set. A balloon not tethered to the earth. A race with no beginning. With no end. I am a strand of silk being pulled into thread and it seems like I can grow forever. I extend myself over children and faith and love and hope and justice and equity and peace and friendship and family and kindness. Until I become so thin, so thin I cannot be seen. And somewhere in the middle I come apart. Invisibly twisted fine threads tangled here. Tangled everywhere. And there is no collecting all the strands.
Further tales in the neurotic beliefs of yours truly... I cannot find something. And because I cannot find it I am frantic with cleany-ness.
I have taken apart the organization of my shelves in my room and redone the storage for my beading projects.
(I knew the thing I was looking for was NOT in the beading stuff.)
I have taken all of the clothes out of my drawers and sorted them into summer, winter, and "dear god, what is that thing?" Then found some cool dividers for my drawers, hung up a bunch of stuff and rearranged all of my clothing.
(I knew the thing I was looking for was NOT in with my clothing.)
I have moved the couches and shoveled out a cubic yard of dirty socks, old homework papers, library books, missing knitting needles, Lego people, beads beads beads, dust rhinos, and an inexplicably wide variety of baseball caps.
(I was pretty sure the thing I was looking for was NOT under the couch.)
I think I am afraid to look in the place where I last saw the missing item. Because I already looked there casually and didn't find it. And if I look there exhaustively now and do NOT find it, there goes the last of my hope.
And somehow, the loss of this thing has become an indictment on my worth as a human being.
And if I cannot find it, there is proof that I am Not Worthy. And if I do find it, there is proof that I am Acceptable. (Have I mentioned that my ancestors were puritans and calvinists?)
In order to not make this frantic search even more frantic and ridiculous and bordering on being a "mood episode" I am taking breaks. I am limiting the scope of my destruction. I will visit a friend later today. And I will acknowledge the absolute RIDICULOUSNESS of tying my sense of self to whether or not I can find some THING.
I'm pretty sure that I am actually panicking about something else and just foisting off all the panic onto this search.
What am I actually panicking about? I couldn't tell you.
How are you supposed to know if the panic that you are experiencing is just the panic on the surface or if there is something deeper? If someone asks you to dig deeper, you can always find something, but is that right?
Sometimes I feel like a panic-filled human-shaped balloon. Held together by stress and anxiety. A nameless, creeping dread.
1. Wake feeling like you have possibly slept on top of a billiard ball.
2. Believe that it is 5:30 am rather than 7:30 am and wonder why Spouse is already up.
3. Stay in bed being somewhat sad for no particular reason.
4. Decide to watch sad dances with awesome choreography from SYTYCD finalists.
5. Finally get up, confess to feeling abandoned (while realizing this is stoopid).
6. Go eat breakfast (take pills) and listen to stories about children whose parents died at war.
7. Wonder why you are still feeling down.
8. Spend some time thinking about other things that you're kinda sad about:
9. SNAP OUT OF IT.
10. Decide to take a break by blogging or otherwise writing.
11. Spend 30 minutes trying to get the internet to work because you decided to upgrade to a new operating system last night and now EVERYTHING IS SUPER SUPER SUPER SLOW.
I am not down. I am not all Depressed. I am just having a sad-ache.
It's like a headache, only your head doesn't hurt. You are just a little sad and you're not really sure why and instead of questing around to try and find out what made you sad (how often do we REALLY know what caused a headache) you just need to ride it out and know that the sad is temporary and it will go away.
The things that I want to do involve an imaginary universe in which I can suspend time and I temporarily have no other people living in my house except when I suddenly want them to be there. And I can sit and work on my beading and sewing and knitting and there will be no negative consequences to letting other things slide.
I can see why I sleep a lot when I actually am Depressed. It is a great avoidance technique. I have been pretty good lately about NOT taking a nap when snuggling with the 3yo as she naps. Instead, I read. That doesn't throw off my own sleep schedule.
Grateful Crap: stuff. not the kind of stuff that i need to donate to the goodwill. other stuff.
took meds (150mg venlafaxine, 450mg bupropion, 100mg lamotrigine (see I was wrong the other day)
trying really hard not to SUPER clean or SUPER sloth
I was thinking about my lovely yellow glasses and their spectrum-limiting ability that allegedly helps my brain know that it is night time. They don't make it dark, they just limit the amount and the kind of light that is getting to my eyes.
And I looked at my little info-graphic up there. And remembered explaining to a family member that my moods do not go from Sad to Happy. They go from Hiding-In-The Dark-And-Sleeping-A-Ridiculous-Amount to Super-Irritated-Leave-Me Alone-I-Need-To-Do-This-For-The-Next-Twelve-Hours.
"How's that working for you?"
Pretty much okay since most of the time I am not at those extremes. Or if I am I don't stay there as long. (And as I pointed out before, even people with mood disorders are allowed to experience emotion. Even people who are Depressed can be sad.)
So now I think I am working on narrowing my mood spectrum so that I am going from Sad to Happy. And those can be my extremes. Just shave a little off both ends. Because really I never need to spend any length of time at the outer edges.
A narrower range of the mood spectrum. Not eliminating strong emotions.
P.S. after I spent many many many hours singing Mary Lamber's "Secrets" while my daughter watched me choreograph a tap routine, I got to have a lovely talk with her about why she might not want to say "s**t" around people because a lot of people are offended by the word.
It's an offensive name for poop.
Yup. So how about when we sing the song we just say "stuff." Because that's really what they mean in the video. That will be our clean version. Some artists record one version of a song that has words that are offensive to some people and they will record another version with different words so their song can be played on the radio.
Yeah. I've got bipolar disorder, my stuff is not in order...
Those days that you sit around and think to yourself, "I am the worst parent in the world because..." and sit around moping while you find quite a few bits of supporting evidence...
The best thing to do is NOT to lie face down on your bed with your head under the pillow in the dark with you coat and boots still on. Because this gets sand on the sheets and makes your coat smell stinky with sweat. Also, it gets a little hard to breather under the pillow.
And eventually your poorly-parented children will discover that you are there and that you have made no preparations for dinner and they might object. Or they might just feed themselves fistfulls of candy corn that you inexplicably purchased after Halloween because it was on sale. Thus reinforcing the whole bad parent theory.
Better: drink a giant glass of water, play Louis and Armstrong duets super-loud and tap dance in the kitchen with you soon-to-be-4yo. And giggle loudly while you dance to the song, "I won't dance."
Then talk to a friend once you have calmed down enough to realize that you are not, in fact, the worst parent in the world. And receive confirmation.
Today watched a movie called "Killing Creativity" in which anxiety and creativity were linked in children. That highly creative and imaginative kids were often really good at freaking themselves out. This does not mean that all creative children are anxious or that all anxious people are creative. An I had never before thought of the connection.
But often the anxieties that kids come up with are not at all reasonable. And I can see that imagination would be related to being able to see a tornado coming out of a clear blue sky. Or thinking that sharks are most likely living in the drain at the bottom of the swimming pool. Or that the monsters under your bed (who are friendly) will be killed by the mean monsters (who are not) if you leave your bedroom door open at night.
So I will give my own imagination some credit in the anxious moments when I believe that any one thing that I have done or said or not done or not said will be the ruin of my children.
I make mac and cheese too often.
We don't serve brown rice.
I am not involved in what they are doing.
I am too involved in what they are doing.
Grateful Crap: transient anxiety
took meds (150mg venlafaxine, 450mg bupropion, 150mg lamotrigine) I think this is right. I will double check. Really super love my pill minder now that I found one that has am/pm slots for each day and is large enough to fit all my pills. Ugh.
I may have mentioned once or twice that I LOVE MY TAP CLASS. I am taking a beginning adult tap class every Wednesday. My sense of rhythm is good. My endurance is even kind of okay. But I cannot become airborn.
When we are supposed to "leap" my body simply refuses to defy gravity. If I cheat and use my arms to kind of swing around and propel me in an upwardly direction I might get an inch off the ground. This does NOT count as a leap.
One problem is that I have never had any kind of vertical. Which made my brief stint on a basketball team rather ridiculous. And it meant that I was never a cotender to play goalie on the soccer team.
The other problem is that I am "well endowed." Rubenesque. Curvaceous. Busty. Full figured. Too many people on the front porch...
So even if I were technically able to acheive liftoff, I risk putting out an eye or bruising my ribs without the Proper Foundational Garment.
These things have become routine:
I feel pretty good about this. In general I think that the means I am using to keep my bipolar in check are working quite well. I am getting less afraid that I will tip off one end of the tightrope or the other.
I find this somewhat funny following almost immediately on the heels of despairing utterly about my abilities as a parent. But that was really just the panic of a moment. And everyone gets to have those.
Even people with mood disorders are allowed to have moods.
These are the things i wish were routine:
Grateful Crap: Feeling mostly pretty much okay
meds in the morning and at night
time with family
Glad I have been open with people around me about being in treatment for mental illness. Because one person approached me today. After having talked to a counselor. Who recommended that she regularly see a therapist.
She said if I had not talked to her about my own treatment that
1. she would have been unlikely to see the counselor in the first place
2. she would have seen therapy as a cop-out, as something that was for other people
3. she would have believed that she needed to solve everything on her own
But, the counselor told her something that resonated with her. Something that sounded like a discussion we'd had. And she will get help to deal with the world that is crumbling all around... the ground that is being yanked out from under her feet.
Super super super glad for this direct first-hand knowledge of the positive effects of my being "out" as a person being treated for mental illness.
Matter of fact.
This is who I am.
I have this condition.
This is how I take care of it.
If you have a condition, I highly recommend seeking treatment.
It makes a difference.
It is still scary for me to "come out" as bipolar in a way that it was not scary for me to admit to being Depressed. I am less scared of the diagnosis as I have come to know more about the ways that the condition manifests. Less scared as I experience positive outcomes after being treated for the correct illness.
But bipolar is a way scarier-sounding condition. And there is a shock value when bringing it up with other people. And the topic of bipolar disorder very rarely comes out in casual conversation.
In this case I think that Depression benefits in an odd way from sharing a name with a sad mood. Because people have been sad. They know sad. So you say you are Depressed, and people who have been sad can relate. (The down side of that, so to speak, is the feeling that Depressed is the same as sad and you should be able to just get over it.)
But bipolar is not a mood. It is only a mood disorder.
In this case, I don't think any particular diagnosis was the key. Just being able to have a normal conversation about seeking counseling, finding a therapist, and getting the help you need.
Now that I am regularly getting enough quality sleep I am more likely to dream and to remember these dreams. Last night I had a particularly coherent and story-like series of dreams. Part of it that I don't remember terribly well involved the end of the world and poorly-spelled words done in crop-circles all around the world.
The rest of it was some messed-up metaphor for learning to live with bipolar (at least if I were forced to analyze the dream in some lit-crit kind of a way).
Here is the reduction: there was an inherited superhero/royalty position. This boy thought it belonged to him upon the recent death of his father but it turned out that a girl he grew up with was from a supposedly missing branch of the family.
They had to decide whether to coexist or fight it out. The boy believed that he was the only true inheritor; the girl wanted to work together (I apologize for my terribly sexist subconscious)
Part of the reason she resisted fighting is that she knew that she would win and she remembered their friendship and didn't want to hurt him. Still, she wasn't willing to let herself be destroyed so she was left without much of a choice.
During the fight the boy actually separated into two different people: the nice boy she grew up with and the arrogant inheritor of the superpowers. She hoped that she could vanquish just one, but they were inextricably tied together.
In the end she was forced to destroy both. Which kinda sucked.
Quaker, teacher, parent,