Tag Archives: Bipolar

Take Your Meds

I just recently read an article on FB about a 29 year old who lost her battle with mental illness (specifically Bipolar Disorder) and I grieved for the loss, both as a parent and as a person who struggles with BD.

The FB post written by her mother described this beautiful girl who was diagnosed while in college after experiencing a psychotic break. She went on to be diagnosed, hospitalized and then medicated. She did this cycle a few times over a couple of years and then tragically took her own life after deciding she no longer needed medication.

It saddens me that so many with Bipolar Disorder lose their struggle with the illness because of their resistance to medication. I understand the draw to go back, to continue on with the self you know, in the life you recognize, and I have had to do some grieving and soul searching and sacrificing and recreating of myself but I don’t see any other way.

I’m at a stage in my life where I have too much to lose if I don’t take care of myself, and live a more balanced life. I have a husband and children depending upon me, to be the best me I can be and that’s what I’m choosing.

My medication has changed me, it’s undeniable. I’m more flat, in my emotions, and my personality. I’m not as much fun or drama, some of my quick wit, sarcastic humor and loud mouth are gone. I’m more reserved, in my approach to life, to friends, in my openness, and I’m less social.   I’m a little slower mentally, tired a lot more, and sadly gaining weight because I don’t have the energy or desire most of the time to exercise. This doesn’t seem like much, but knowing yourself and attributes and then having them change after forty years is definitely an adjustment.

I stick with my medication regiment because despite the fact that I miss parts of my old self, I just can’t do the scattered chaos anymore. I am much calmer now, I yell less, I cry less. I am a more patient mother and much more loving wife.   The medication helps me relax more, emotionally and mentally, it has slowed down some of my OCD and perfectionism and has left me with more acceptance and less judgement for myself and others.

I wish I could have it all, but I realize with any kind of illness you have to pick and choose what you can and can’t live without. Since being medicated, I haven’t had the extent of mania or depression I used to have, no more days in bed struggling to function, and no more manic frenzy, crazy driving and racing thoughts of running away.

The days are more quiet and calm, I’m more of a homebody now, less inclined to be social at the drop of a hat. It’s a slower pace of life than I’m used to. No more jumping around mentally from vocational, entrepreneurial and college idea to idea. I’m settling in. To myself, to my life. I’m ok with letting go of my old frantic being that was constantly evolving in my mind. No more rush of mania to make me feel inflated, I realize now that the mania isn’t any more real than the depression that haunted me, I have to dwell in the middle ground like others. Actually, I don’t HAVE to but I NEED to for my own sanity and for my family’s semblance.

My point being, my life isn’t perfect with meds, but it’s more of a life. Please take your medicine. Don’t let this monster kill you, because on your good days, the deception is your better and you don’t need the medication. Don’t lie to yourself, be willing to see that this is a life-long illness that ebbs and flows, it will grow old with you, but let it, treat it, so you get the opportunity to have an end that is fitting. Take your illness and recovery seriously.

I know there are some that medication isn’t working or hasn’t worked in the past and my heart and prayers go out to them. I pray that they don’t give up in the meantime, that God gives them enough hope to keep them going and that there will be an end to their pain with some sort of advancement within the science and medical community that helps them.

I pray that prayer for all that suffer under the stronghold of mental illness, I pray for more recovery, more joy, and more sustainable well and long lived lives especially for those that are young and just starting out on this journey. Please take your medicine.

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Truth Teller

I came out to my friends on FB about my Bipolar Diagnosis, to mixed reviews as you can imagine. (If you want to see the exact post I put on FB you can check out my post called My Secret Kills).

I’m sure my post made people uncomfortable, it caused a stir. I have a large variety of friends on FB, some who know me well and others not as well. My close friends, some who I’ve known over twenty plus years offered kind words, support and prayers for myself and my family.

My more casual friends that I know through sports, or local social events, commented less, because I’m sure they just didn’t know what to think or say. At first it was hard to make peace with the fact that I just pushed a status button and let people see into the depth of my life. I would see them in the grocery store and on the baseball field and almost immediately I would feel embarrassed or awkward and question the sanity of my choice to reveal. And now some time has gone by, and I’ve made peace with it, the fall out being what it is.

I had many private messages from others with mental health diagnoses, some I knew of and some I did not, because they were quietly suffering as well. Others told me they thought I was brave and that they were proud to be my friend.

A few people out right laughed and mocked my post, of course not to my face but behind my back. I’m even ok with that, because it reveals to me where they’re at in their lives. Some people are not ok with truth, and they hide away from it because honesty can be painful at times, it can make you see things about yourself that aren’t pleasant and need some work. I’m ok with them not wanting to live honestly, but I want no part of it, I’ve worked too hard to deal with reality to live anywhere but.

In all this, I remember why I chose to come out. I was hoping to bring awareness to mental illness, I wanted people to see a face with it, to make it real, to make people realize they know someone who suffers from mental illness. That it just doesn’t look a certain way, this illness can take on anyone, at any economic level, any social status, or religion, any intellectual level, either sex, any race, mental illness doesn’t discriminate.

I wanted to create a place where people could be real, and not have to hide behind the illusion of some perfect life. Don’t get me wrong, I love to see pictures of my friends and their families, I’m ok with others success and joy, but it also cuts away at my heart when I’m struggling and it appears that other’s lives flow so smoothly. I just wanted a balance, I want to know my friends in truth, their joy and pain.

Being a truth teller has opened a door with my children. My 12 year old has now heard open discussions about Bipolar Disorder and he has seen his mother struggle but also strive to get well. He has a better understanding of real life, and the real work it involves. Though to him it isn’t a total surprise because we’ve always been open about his Asperger’s syndrome and so he knows there is no shame in honesty, in learning about and accepting one’s self. And I’m glad for him, and pray that I’ve saved him some time in embracing himself and his God given strengths and weaknesses.

My friendships feel more authentic now, I feel more authentic now. I don’t have the emotional energy to pretend to be someone I’m not, and I don’t care to. I’m starting to feel ok in my own skin, and I’m ok embracing others that are hurting, struggling with illness, with life. I’m not uncomfortable when people confide in me about their personal life. I don’t feel a need to fix them, or their situation, I just try to sit with them and listen and be present. Isn’t that what most people want in a friend anyway? It’s what I want.

I talk to my real friends, about our real lives and it’s freeing, to not be alone, to know that we all struggle on different levels with different things. I feel like struggling with mental illness has almost given me a window into others souls, not in any spiritual or magical sense, just that I can look at others and sometimes see pain in them despite the smile they put on their face to make others comfortable. It’s a hard earned gift, as is empathy, but it’s real, its truth. These days I almost prefer the honesty of AA to church, because nobody hides behind their sin, their struggle, it’s open and real.

I love truth now, I love the grace that goes with it, and freedom that it allows. I love the real acceptance it can provide for myself and others. My real friends and I accept, truth and grace. I hope that you can find this in your life and embrace it as I have.

Bloom Where You Are Planted

When I was 9 years old my Mom bought me a cross stitch sampler, which read, “Bloom where you are planted.” It hung over my bed for years in a little gold etched frame. And now at 41, I finally understand its meaning.

When I was young and things were not going my way, I would change my setting. This faulty theory of mind, encapsulated my twenties.

In my twenties I rented over twenty-five different places, sometimes I had a roommate, sometimes I lived alone. I rented apartments, rooms in homes, and even a trailer once. That’s approximately two moves a year for ten years, but some years were more sporadic than others. Some of these moves consisted of large black trash bags thrown into the back of my little Toyota hatchback.

My little red Toyota Tercel took me and my belongings up and down the coast of California, searching for what I couldn’t find internally. At this time most of my friends were working towards their futures; attending college, getting married, starting a family, growing professionally, but I was still running.

I attended five different community colleges in five different cities. And for all this effort I have about 45 units to my name and a trail of “W’s” when I made the effort to drop, and “F’s” when I didn’t.

My work record was slightly better, some jobs I stayed at for years, but some I dropped so quickly I didn’t even have enough courtesy to let them know, I was a no show. A disappearing act when there was too much pressure because I had convinced myself that it was this job, this school, this relationship, it was never me.

I’ve carried the lie. I liked the idea of new beginnings, a new apartment, new school, and new job, all new with possibility. The problem of course being the one constant, me. Me, not wanting to deal with the increasing responsibilities I committed to, me not wanting to deal with me. Wanting to think that in a different setting there wouldn’t be such struggles, and sometimes this is true …. But they are just replaced with new struggles.

So often when I am unhappy with my setting, with my circumstances … it is really me I’m unhappy with. It’s me that’s struggling internally and after all of these years I have to admit it to myself.

This is true of everything in life. Every relationship, job, school setting, living situation. None of it is easy, none of it is perfect and if I want it to work, I have to invest in it, I have to invest in myself, despite the heartache and challenges that come with it.

Being married and having children forced me to stop this unhealthy pattern of fleeing. I’ve had to learn to be still, to not run. I’d like to say it was an easy transition, but it wasn’t it. It was painful as hell and down-right ugly at times. I spent some of these years drinking to escape mentally what I couldn’t physically. I needed time away from the overwhelming feelings of it all being too much and not feeling like I was enough.

I’ve done some growing up, some investing in myself, through therapy, through medication, through learning new strategies, through failure, through Christ’s grace. I know now, If I want anything meaningful, purposeful with depth in my life, I have to stay and fight and give it my best effort, even when I want to flee, even when I want to start over.

It means looking at myself and being honest with my own brokenness and being willing to work on it in small chunks, it means having the courage to change, and to apologize when need be. It means spending less time avoiding and more time mentally present in my own life, in present day life and not the mirage of some other location, some other person, some other time, etc.

It means doing the best I can in the present. With the husband I have, the children God has given me, in the home I currently live, in the church I attend filled with other sinners like myself. It means facing Asperger’s Syndrome, Bipolar Disorder, AA, and other labels and challenges that I’ve been presented with. It means not acting on my feelings but instead admitting they exist. It means trying my best to love what I’ve been given. Embracing what’s mine and drawing close to imperfection.

I’ve taken the old stitchery and its gold frame out of a box in the back of my closet and hung it in my daughter’s room. I’m praying that it doesn’t take her forty years to understand its meaning. I’m praying that her seeing her mother stay and struggle will give her the courage to face life and all of its uncertainties and to not run but to stay firm and planted in what’s beautifully and innately her own.

After Diagnosis

“Hard is trying to rebuild yourself, piece by piece, with no instruction book, and no clue as to where all the important bits are supposed to go.”
Nick Hornby, A Long Way Down

I’m past the initial discovery of being diagnosed Bipolar. I’m past the newness of it, the excitement of having answers to life-long questions. I’m into the now what stage. I’m into the now I have to live with this diagnosis stage.

This stage is difficult because it’s all the reality, its realizing that I’m sick and have been for years.  It’s rethinking my identity, looking at myself with new eyes, accepting a label I don’t fully understand.  It’s learning new strategies. It’s explaining to family, the one’s that want to know, and avoiding answers to the ones that don’t. It’s shielding myself from certain critics.

It means asking myself new questions. Why is answered now. This is the phase of why me? It’s a time of questioning my future potential, and hoping it won’t be limited by this illness and the stigma attached to it. I’m almost at a loss, because I just don’t know how this will all play out.

My therapist has suggested that I have a new way of viewing my choices. I’m supposed to view with them with a sense of stability and question, “is this the bipolar or the rational me making this choice.”  I kind of find this insulting, though I understand the point of it. In hindsight I know I’ve been bipolar since I was sixteen years old, and this is my normal. This is me, I’ve drawn from my experience for over twenty years. It’s what I know. It’s the things I love about myself and my weaknesses, it’s all intertwined and almost impossible to separate completely. I know I need to make changes, and I’m fine with that but I’m not going to totally disconnect from who I’ve been for most of my life.

It’s a time of medication trial and error, wait and see outcomes. It’s putting my life in the hands of a professional, and hoping their chemical cocktail offers some relief. It’s a time of both hope and grief. Where I just have sit with it for a while and try to really comprehend this new life I have in front of me.

It’s a time of praying and hoping that this illness doesn’t have negative long term effects on my marriage and children. Both in terms of genetics and the mistakes I’ve made with them while struggling.

I’m in the rebuilding phase, without the benefit of a blue print, but none the less moving forward.

 

Sola Gratia / By Grace Alone

 Ever tried? Ever failed?

No matter. Try again.

Fail again. Fail better.

~ Samuel Beckett

I am applying for college right now and am doing it with both excitement and trepidation. I have tried to be successful in the academic arena for years and have struggled. Years ago, before I had a family, there were a few semesters where I earned honors, but most of the semesters were marked with “D” for dropped or even worse when I was really struggling, an “F” because I didn’t even take the time to officially drop the course. My odds haven’t been the best I admit, I’ve attended approximately five different community colleges over the span of 15 years, with only 40 units to my name.

It’s easy to judge myself for this failing and I do. I feel shameful that I’m the only one in my family that doesn’t have a degree, that hasn’t succeeded professionally. I contribute some of my lack of academic success to not having enough discipline and immaturity. But in all honesty, most of those years were filled with the struggle of battling depression, and undiagnosed Bipolar disorder, of just surviving and supporting myself financially.  This is not a cop-out, it’s just part of hindsight that comes with accepting one’s self and being willing to grow.

Finishing my degree, has been more of a long-term goal for me because it has taken a back seat to the more immediate needs of my family, of working and of just the fact that I was so overwhelmed with life it seemed an unattainable dangled carrot.

While going to college may not seem a big deal to others, it’s huge for me. Its part of the process of grace I’m trying to have for myself, for my life, past, present and future. I’m giving myself another shot at this, despite my own cognitive internal doubt that has held me back for years from risking, from believing in myself, from investing in myself.

My husband/family want a guarantee that I’m going to finish this time. Their doubt used to stop me in my tracks, stop me from trying. I would go through all of the reasons it could not work, and then I would get stuck there and not commit to college out of fear, of uncertainty, of the risk of failing again. It was like a huge momentum that I would just succumb to.

My husband doesn’t want to invest the money and time because there’s a not a guarantee that I will finish. And he’s right, I can’t guarantee that the financial burden I’m taking on will definitely be well spent, I can’t guarantee that I will walk down the aisle with a diploma in twenty-four months.

I want to make this guarantee with all of the certainty in the world, but I’m not going to. I can guarantee that I will try, that I will put my best effort forward, that I have every intention of graduating this time. And frankly, that’s enough for me for once. It’s enough for me to feel like investing in myself again, to do something for myself for once that isn’t about my husband and children.

I’m excited that I’m giving myself the opportunity to succeed, I’m excited that I feel I am at a place emotionally where I can and want to challenge myself and take on a long term goal. Despite others reservations and self-talk that tries to stop me. I’m taking this opportunity in my life to give myself a second chance, I’m excited that I’ve found grace for myself and some amount of belief that has given me momentum to move forward in an area where I’ve been stuck for years.

I’m not letting the self-talk doubt stop me this time. When it starts I hear it, I hear all of the reasons I could fail, all of the things that could get in my way, all of the uncontrollable circumstances that could occur in life. And I let doubt run its course. But then I start the rebuilding process of Grace. That it’s ok to try, without trying there is no chance of success, that risking is part of life, being uncertain is natural, that it’s ok to succeed and it’s ok to make mistakes because both are necessities of personal growth.

I’m encouraged and I want to encourage you. When you get to a place where you catch your breath and you have room for more, take the personal challenge, invest in yourself, give yourself a chance to try, to make mistakes, to succeed.

Find grace for yourself. Sola Gratia / By Grace Alone my friends.

Missing My Friend MANIA

Started my new meds.  My Pysch progress report would read, “Mania is gone and by all measures depression seems to have lifted”. This is progress and I should be happy, the medication has shown some success in balancing out my life. But, I miss my mania.   I say MY mania, because I imagine to each person there’s something independently personal about it.

I miss my mania because she came unexpected, crept into my life with her new perspective, different from the old drudge of depression. She brought with her energy.

I finally had the physical energy to formulate an exercise plan so I could achieve my long time goal of getting back into shape and losing weight. Every day I worked out for at least an hour, sometimes longer as I pumped music and lost track of time, lost myself to this new discipline.

Mania replaced the drudgery of slow moving depression. She brought an emotional and mental energy with her, and self-esteem. Years of depression meant low energy and after doling out scraps to my family it meant little or nothing left for myself. She told me I could change things about myself that I have struggled with for so long, she showed me a future I wanted.  She made me see I could actualize the self I wanted for such a long time.

With emotional and mental energy, I could sit and write every day, ideas would just come to me, words had special meaning, I didn’t have to sit and ponder in my thoughts. She told me to get off the couch, she wanted more for me than just dishes and laundry, she had ideas about going back to college, finishing what I started before I became so devoted to everyone else but myself. She gave me back a sense of self, she was a whirl wind of bravado.

I miss her.  I want her back, but I realize that she and I were unlivable to others. While she propelled me forward, she was bold and wasn’t afraid to take all that energy and direct it in one direction, on me. She was the selfish. She moved so quickly that she lost patience for those that couldn’t keep up. She drove and voiced things more aggressively. She was irritated with the small details of life and didn’t want to be bothered by them. My husband hated her, he preferred the slow me, the couch me, the more accommodating me. My children didn’t have words for the morphs that transpired in my life. But I could see while she valued me, she wanted less to do with them. She couldn’t be bothered to read a book to them or show affection, she was onto the next thing already, missing some pretty important parenting moments and opportunities. My best friend dreaded her presence as well, communication became more complicated to keep up with and self-preservation was at the forefront of her thoughts.

Now I’m left with how to reconcile what she started. I still see what she wanted for me, but I question if those goals were just too lofty for where I’m at in my life.  Is going back to college now doable, while helping three children get through school? My skinny self is almost unobtainable, exercise is burdensome again, and comes after my long list of other obligations, the pounds are creeping up again. Writing is more of a chore, the words are there but I have to make the effort to formulate them into sentences. Everything is taking more effort again, with much less of the enthusiasm.

Grieving her absence. Trying to accept that she can’t be a part of my life. I don’t think this makes any sense to my husband, children, or friends so I don’t even try to explain it. It’s my grief alone. Struggling to not be resentful over the fact that mental illness has resided in my life for so many years and made certain goals seem unobtainable. At the same time, trying to be grateful for the fact that I’m not bed ridden with depression, but that I’m functioning now. Trying to grasp onto the fact that I’m lucky, that some with mental illness aren’t as fortunate and bare an immense burden much larger than mine. I’m trying to reconcile it all in my mind. I’m trying.

Perceving Ourselves & Others

Perception defined

  • the way you think about or understand someone or something
  • the ability to understand or notice something easily
  • the way that you notice or understand something using one of your senses

Having suffered from mental illness since adolescence I question my perception often, both my self-perception and my ability to perceive others. It’s an all-out fight to be comfortable within my own mind. And as my beautiful son, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, navigates the world of adolescence I see some of this struggle within him.

I know my self-perception is based on where I’m at in my Bipolar mind. If I’m in my hypomania mind, I think I’m attractive, a diva in-her-own-right. I completely forget that I have National Geographic breasts, Lane Bryant jeans, a husband and enough baggage to keep the Brady Bunch at bay. I make eye contact, I smile, laugh, flirt. I’m a temporary unstoppable extrovert.

And then there’s the self-perception of the cursed, depressive mind that makes me see myself as the last hominid to walk the earth. I dodge mirrors and grocery store aisles, I just want to hide out in my home and not be seen.

The truth being, I’m sure something in between those two vastly different self-perceptions. Sadly though, these perceptions totally influence the way I carry myself from day to day and interact with others, my longings, goals, and motivations.  At times they can be bold lies that hold me back from success and personal happiness.

Here’s how the processing goes in my mind. What did she mean by her words? Why did she say that? Why did she act like that? And then I switch to questioning myself …. Was my response appropriate? Did I over react? Did I not understand correctly? To have to play these reruns over and over in my mind can be a taxing process.

This perception struggle has caused me to draw near to some when I shouldn’t have and push others away when I didn’t need to. I’m overly sensitive and perhaps a little paranoid at times. I take things personal, I act defensively, I internalize things I shouldn’t, and then I have to justify my irrational behavior.

My flawed perceptions have caused me to question the actions of people who genuinely love me. To give unsolicited advice, though well -meaning not at all desired. I’ve complicated business transactions and lost friendships and made a complete ass of myself publicly because of them. It’s downright embarrassing at times. It can leave me feeling like an outsider in the world and in my own mind.

I confess this not to self-indulge or have a pity party, but because I believe that even if we can’t change our brain chemistry we can teach ourselves to be better perceivers of others and ourselves. I’ve had to work on improving in this area for my own well-being and so I can help teach my Aspie son.

Some things that have helped me improve in this area;

  • I try to give myself time, and not be rushed into making a snap judgment. I ask more questions, and jump to less conclusions. I try to listen more and talk less. Sometimes this makes me look like a dumb ass, but I don’t care, I would rather allow myself the time to come to a conclusion that I’m comfortable with than have to apologize later.
  • I choose my friends more carefully. I take more time to get to know people and put less of myself out there right away. I’m a little more cautious especially when making friends with women, their behavior and words are much more difficult to interpret and easier to misinterpret and they’re pack animals. Men are a little easier to interpret, and if you misinterpret their words or actions they’re more forth coming with it, which I appreciate. At least, this has been my experience.
  • I get a trusted outsider’s view. I’m fortunate enough to have a devoted husband and best friend who let me process with them. I’m able to get second or third opinion’s on conversations or events when I’m just not sure if I got it right. I’m not suggesting all processing should be external or involve others, but at times and in important situations it can be helpful.
  • I read a lot. In the area of perception, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz has been extremely helpful to me. I don’t agree with all of his philosophies but was able to see myself in a lot of his self-limiting beliefs and thus make mental changes in my thinking.
  • Lastly, and the hardest for me. I try to take myself less seriously. I try to laugh at my mistakes more and sometimes share them others. I’m hoping in doing this that I will have more joy in my life and that my children will learn to navigate perception, humility and develop a sense of humor.

 Happy Perceiving my Friends

The Art of Self Medicating

What do you call a meeting for people with Bipolar Disorder?

A.A.

It’s my joke, and I’ve earned the right to tell it, it’s both funny and sad.

I struggle with both Alcoholism and Bipolar Disorder and according to statistics I’m not alone. Apparently, alcohol is the self-medicating drug of bipolar disorder choice, it’s reported that 60 % struggle from both.

I was Bipolar first, but didn’t have a diagnosis. The alcoholism diagnosis came in the form of an ultimatum from my husband, it was my family or the drink. In hindsight, when someone gives you this scenario and you need time to think about it, it’s pretty evident there’s a problem.

However, in my mind it wasn’t that simple or obvious. Drinking was when I felt ok, I laughed, I socialized, I had something to contribute and I had a lot to forget. I felt like I was being asked to choose between my sanity and my overwhelming daily reality and frankly that was no choice I wanted to make.

I want to say that I graciously made the right choice immediately, but I did not. When you are drowning, it is hard to let go of an imagined life preserver. I struggled with this dilemma for a few years, not all of it bad mind you. I wasn’t an all-out drunk, I was more of a binge drinker (AKA …following the cyclical torments of Bipolar Disorder) so I could handle myself for months at a time, drink occasionally and at times responsibly. But over time drinking was no longer fixing my problem, it was complicating my life to the point that I could no longer deny it.

Self-medicating, unfortunately causes as much if not more damage to ourselves and our families. We do it, unknowingly and knowingly. We realize that something within us is broken and need/want to fix it but aren’t sure how and why.

I’d like to interject at this point about my children. They have been such a paradox in my life, their existence has caused me the greatest amount of anxiety, and stress both personally and in my marriage.  But without their existence I don’t know that I would have chosen sobriety and even life for that matter. I want things for them that I feel I don’t deserve, so I push ahead for them.

I want to say just not drinking helped me, but A.A. touched me, it’s an incredibly beautiful example of courage. I needed to hear REAL, BOLD HONESTY. A.A. was no bullshit, no pretenses, it was people being real publicly. It’s uncomfortable at first to hear people openly talk about their lives and I cringed every time someone raised their hand to share. But after a few meetings it became my salvation. I felt so fortunate to be able to hear peoples’ stories, their grief, heartache, self-discovery, and second chances. In this one room, for this one hour, once a week, I didn’t feel alone, I felt connected to something tangible. Maybe it’s something you can only comprehend and appreciate after having desperation eat away at your heart and mind for years.

After 40 days of sobriety things began to become clear. I had developed some healthy habits in place of drinking; exercising, writing, reading my Bible but I was still just the shell of a person looking to fix within me that which was broken. Time went by. I prayed, I cried, I annoyed the hell out of my husband, pastor and friends and finally I was given an answer. Three individuals/professionals in my life approached me separately within a seven day time period and told me/diagnosed me as having Bipolar Disorder II. And I’m now beginning the next phase of this journey.

I want to say to you, that no matter which side of the bar stool you’re on, no matter where you’re at in your life… there is hope for this illness. Sometimes it comes in the way of blatant honesty around a table with strangers. Sometimes it’s the courage you find for the ones you love. I implore you to take that first step and begin your journey of wellness

Two Speeds

Being Bipolar is like having two speeds. Low and High, and nothing in between.

Low speed is not enough to accomplish what I’ve committed to. It doesn’t supply enough energy for the physical and emotional needs of a husband, three children, and pets. It doesn’t quite cover the laundry, dishes, and baking, cooking, volunteer commitments. Low speed means I can forget about a social life, even talking on the phone is cumbersome. Forget about exercising, having sex or any activity that requires much of anything. It means grocery shopping seems over whelming, and planning meals in my head hurts.

Low speed means constantly disappointing those in your life because you can’t quite keep up with their expectations, and you already have to deal with your own self-disappointment. It means less hope and seeing all of my flaws in 3D. Low speed is critical and self-defeating. It means doubting the quality of what I’ve previously done and grieving what I need to get to but can’t.

Low speeds means I’ve made social commitments I can’t fathom following through on, and promises I made to the kids to take them to do things. I feel despair at this speed for my children, that I’m not enough, that I have nothing to draw from and give them and I don’t know how to explain it in a way they can understand. I want to explain it though, because I don’t want them to internalize it, my illness is not about them, it is not their fault. Low speed means I think about whether I should leave my children to my family to take care of, so they have a chance at a happy childhood. At low speed I feel angry at my husband for not contributing more around the house and with the kids, for not being able to make up for my deficit.  I need help, but I’m too exhausted and embarrassed to have to ask.

AND THEN SOMETHING STARTS FIRING IN MY BRAIN, TELLING IT TO GO … AND I’M ONTO HIGH SPEED JUST LIKE THAT.

High speed. With racing thoughts, and jarring movements. This speed means that everyone around is annoyingly and irritatingly slow. It means less sleep and much more worrying and analyzing. It means being defensive and overreacting. It means certain volumes of noise are unbearable, especially repetitive noises. It means no details can be processed or focused at great length.  It means intense workouts, it means that time goes by quickly. It means socializing and talking nonstop. It means driving quickly and not as carefully.

High speed means euphoria, big ideas and plans, intermingling in my mind all at the same time.  It means I finally think things are coming together, that finally there will be some sense completion. I don’t want this feeling to end, that I don’t want to go back to low speed, I’ve spent too much time there already, in high speed I feel like I’m accomplishing the list in my head. I view myself as finally coming to be, because there’s a chance I’ll actually achieve some of my goals since I finally have the emotional and physical energy to do so.

This speed can be volatile and hard on my family. I bark orders, want things done correctly and quickly. I have patience for no one. I don’t want to sit and snuggle with my children, or read them a book, I have things to do. It means impulsively making decisions and then regretting them. It means being to open, revealing myself intimately and then later wishing I hadn’t. It means drinking and fantasizing about hugely optimistic goals for myself. This speed takes me from my children as well but in a more selfish, all-consuming way, and sadly with less regret on my part.

Just having been diagnosed correctly, FINALLY. I’m hoping that there will be a middle speed possible with mood stabilizers. I’m not anticipating perfection because from my twenty-plus years struggling with mental illness, I know its trial and error, while Science tries to catch up with the creator.

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