Wednesday, September 29, 2004


Being UP on a travel day really sucks! I woke up at 3:45 am MST to board a plane to Chicago around 5:50am. Landed in Chicago at about 11:30 CST. Hopped on a bus, with an old man driver from hell, and landed at Notre Dame at 4:25pm. Of course, the bus stop is just about as far as you can possibly get from Brendan's apartment. Ugh!

The primary problem with being so happy and creative and UP while traveling is that this energy has nowhere to go, so your body does stupid things. My feet were twitching all day long. Even though bus travel usually lulls me to sleep, I couldn't calm my thoughts down enough to take a break from three hours of crappy views of poorly constructed freeways.

But hey, at least I sat next to a really sweet woman and her miniature pinscher/chihuahua mix puppy. Her poor little dog was FREAKING out. I felt for it because there have been times on airplanes when I wanted to panic too. Poor pooch.

I did manage to get some reading done and I traced plenty of profane and silly pictures from the lines of the plane, its carpets and compartments.

One of the reasons that I love being bipolar is that when you're happy, you're never bored.


Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Does my @$$ look big to you?

My mind has been all over the place today—blurry and frenetic and incoherent. Always makes answering questions in class a little more exciting.

Having such fast-paced thoughts makes me think about sneakers, because obviously thoughts have to run around, and sneakers make me think about jogging and jogging makes me think about fat because there's this one Simpson's episode wherein Homer has to jog for a stress test and his fat flubs all around. Thinking of fat made me think about how I've lost a bunch of weight over the past year (yeah me!) and then I started pondering how I gained all this weight anyway! I mean, when I came home from my semester in London and what not, I wasn't a pound over 150.

In talking to my friends who have been on psychiatric meds, there seems to be a consensus that meds make you fat. Well, mwahaha, turns out we're totally right.

"According to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive® of 554 bipolar patients in the U.S. over the age of 30, seven out of ten have gained weight – on average 50 pounds with one in ten gaining an alarming 100 pounds or more – while taking bipolar medications. This medication-induced weight gain caused almost half of patients surveyed to stop taking or change their medication.

More than one third of patients (39%) surveyed who had gained weight while on bipolar medications reported developing high cholesterol and three out of ten developed high triglycerides. Some even reported having other serious conditions including diabetes (13%) and abnormal lipid levels (18%).

Despite the serious consequences that bipolar patients may experience when not properly treated, the majority (67%) say that they are unwilling to take a medication that controls symptoms but could cause them to gain 10 pounds or more. Patients staying on their medication is key to reducing physician office visit and expense hospitalization.

“Many bipolar medications cause substantial weight gain, making it challenging to treat patients for this serious and often disabling condition,” said Dr. Paul E. Keck, professor of psychiatry and pharmacology and vice chairman for research, Department of Psychiatry, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. “Managing the symptoms of this disorder is the primary objective of treatment - finding an agent that is acceptable to patients is also a key element to successful treatment."

At a certain point, you have to wonder whether carrying 100 extra pounds is better for a person than being bipolar. I guess it depends on the severity of the symptoms, but man.

But let me tell you, after working my @$$ off to lose the bit of weight that I have, there's no way I'm going to jump on the bandwagon with some crappy drug that's making my bum look any bigger.

Unless I really have to...


Monday, September 27, 2004

Tabula Rasa

Tabula Rasa is Latin for blank slate. One of those crazy 18th century Brits—I think it was John Locke—proposed that every person is born with a blank mind that society fills with knowledge and disease. Any ills that manifest themselves in a person's mind are evidence of some social wrong inflicted on them at some point or another. It's the ultimate nurture over nature hypothesis.

I'm typically not one for nurture hypotheses because somehow dicussions of Freud infect what might be a valuable exercise. Personally, I think Freud was a child-molester; he made up all this crap about Oedipus cycles to justify his sexualization of children. Sometimes, parents and kids just don't get along and it has everything to do with a breakdown of effective comminication and nothing to do with anyone's unconscious desires.

I've been thinking about this stuff because I've been sifting through my old journals trying to detect any mood patterns I can within their pages. Unfortunately, I wasn't a stickler about writing frequently, so they aren't as useful as they could have been. But, I can tell you that they've churned up a lot of dirt better left settled.

For example, check out this entry:

May 31, 1998

“What a terrible day! I don’t think it could get much worse.

As we were leaving for church, (my mom) started rushing us, as if that would accomplish anything. I told her to calm down which prodded her to depart on an angry speech about what a terrible child I am, delivered with a smack (quite literally). Then we went to church. Upon our return, Mom bid me to sit and as a trained dog, I obeyed. She then proceeded to deliver a teary eyed speech about how much she does for me and how I need to appreciate and respect her more. It upset me to see her cry, but I detached myself and hoped her speech would end soon.

Then Dad took me on a car ride and proceeded to attack my character which pissed me off because I barely even have one. He described me as mean, malicious, cruel and ungrateful. Oh yeah! And self-absorbed, selfish etc. He babbled on about how he (being perfect) never disrespected his mother and how his mother never disrespected her mother even though his mom had to package bottles for 23 cents an hour.

Then, he took me to a cemetery and we found mom’s mom’s grave. He told me that that is how I would end up, a body in a cemetery without anyone who loved me. What a terrible thing to say! I just sat there quietly and hoped that we would return home soon and here we are.”

I was talking with my Mom the other day about my junior year in high school because we were at each other's throats all the time. She was having problems with her seasonal depression and taking them out on me. I was just as depressed and unhappy and taking it out on her. My Dad was confused and eventually sided with my mom to try to bring me back into line to restore some semblance of peace at home.

My Mom told me that she and my Dad were at their wit's end and didn't know what to do with me. That's the first time that she noticed that something was definately wrong with me.

May 31, 1998. Two weeks before my 16th birthday. Sophomore year of highschool. Guess these things started earlier than she thought.

I feel a lot for my parents when I read my journals because I know that they are good people and that they were completely baffled by my behavior. I feel a lot for myself too, because I was so alone and every time my parents and I would fight and I'd hear that I was a malicious person, or a cruel person, or a stupid blonde, or selfish bitch, a part of me sat there and nodded along.

Knowing what they know now, I know my parents would have acted differently back then.

But it's still so sad that I have these memories. If my parents were assholes, I could just hate them and reading my journal would justify that hate. But I love my parents very much and reading my journal is painful because it's like watching a car wreck where both drivers are at fault and everyone gets hurt.


Sunday, September 26, 2004

Just a Little Unwell

Do you remember those cartoons where the coyote was always chasing the road runner until some gruesome disaster abruptly ended his plots for the day? There was always one episode where the coyote would be running full speed after the bird and the feathered menace would stop just on the edge of a cliff. The coyote never stopped though. He kept running, defying gravity on a parallel plane until his momentum stopped and the sudden realization that there's no earth under his feet dawned. Kersplat.

I'm starting to wonder if I'm that coyote, just realizing that my safety net's been torn away and barring some tornadic gust of wind, I'm about to start free-falling. Except, this free-fall isn't some exhilirating plunge that ends poorly. It's more like falling with birds of prey dive-bombing you.

I hate to admit it, but I think my brief excursion into the darling, hypomanic world of this disease is plodding to an end. I knew it would, despite my best efforts to prolong its visit. I'm not one of those bipolar people who stays up for months at a time. Nope. I get just enough happiness to know what I'm missing before I crash into my old, sad self.

Welcome to another mixed state.

I feel like grabbing someone's yappy chihuahua and breaking its neck just to hear the sickening, yet satisfying pop. After killing the unsuspecting canine, I'd have to bury it and periodically put dog treats on the dirt above its decaying body. I might be a murderer, but I'm not heartless.

I can't crash right now. I can deal with the bouncing between up and down, but I can't crash. I have too much to do. I crashed all summer long. This just can't happen right now.


So what's going on here? I have a theory (don't I always?).

My doc started me on lithium a couple days ago because he didn't want me going farther (further?) up. Of course, I wasn't concerned about that because I was already worried about coming down. But whatever. I had stopped taking some of my meds so I figured that I owe him one for being a problem patient.

Okay. But what happens when you take an object that's already headed down and give it a biochemical push? My theory? It sinks faster. Unless my mood can find a way around this downward thrust, I'm headed for melancholy.

And maybe I am trying to figure out how to thwart this disheartening trend. Maybe that's why my brain feels like the left half just had a bitch fight with the right half and now they aren't talking.

Being here sucks so bad. I feel helpless and a bit worried, like an airplane passenger listening to a drunk pilot slur a warning about upcoming turbulence.

Hopefully, this is just a glitch on the radar and I'm concerned about nothing at all.

Keep your fingers crossed.


Friday, September 24, 2004

A Curve Ball

If mania feels like the exhiliration of downhill skiing on the edge of control, there's always the chance that you might hit a patch of ice. If you're lucky, you'll just get a good scare.

Being manic is living on a precarious throne. You feel fantastic and you could even forget how temporary your high will be. But when you fall, you'd better be sure you don't impale yourself on your crown.

Today brought me another pdoc appointment, and yet another medication. Eskalith CR. Fun. Now I get to be a card carrying bipolar patient because I'm telling you, every bipolar person is put on lithium at some point in their course of treatment. Next thing you know, I'll join the ranks of the chicks who pop abilify and symbyax on a regular basis. If my voices get much worse...hmmm...maybe seroquel or risperdal or zyprexa.

Anyway, my appointment also exposed that charming patch of ice beneath the crunchy white snow, to return to my skiing metaphor.

Being that my flippant and anti-authoritarian side always gets the upper hand when I'm up, I asked my doc why in the crap I would take a drug to bring me out of my mania when I spent the past eight months living the life a bump on a log would call boring. Obviously, I realize that every bipolar person who can control their mania enough so that the hallucinations and delusions are manageable wants to stay high. I know I'm treading down the beaten path of noncompliance that my bipolar brethren have carved out for me.

And I suppose my good, ole pdoc knew that too. So, he posed the question--why take medication at all? Isn't that my dream in a nutshell? To be able to get through a day without having to whip out my handy pill box, without having to swallow a daily reminder that I have a poorly controlled illness that's fucking up my entire life?

Of course, you can't exactly say that in polite conversation, can you? So I mumbled something lame about not wanting to go back to the hospital and pragmatically knowing that I technically should take meds even if I don't want to. I guess that wasn't the best answer.

I'm not exactly sure what the best answer would have been. I suppose that if someone asked me why I wore my glasses, I would say, 'duh! so I can see!" But with this whole bipolar crap, it's much different. If I found a good medicinal cocktail that actually worked, maybe I could say that I'd take my meds so I will retain some kind of stability in my life, achieve some kind of emotional calm that would otherwise elude me. But why should I take meds that cost a fortune even though I still feel like crap when I'm on them? I sure as hell wouldn't wear glasses if my vision was still blurry.

Anyway, I suppose my pdoc was less than impressed by my unenthusiastic response. So, he looks at the cards in his hand and pulls out the no-relationship-will-survive-uncontrolled-mood-swings card. Trust me, having that card pulled is like walking through a rose garden and having a bowling ball fall out of the sky onto your head.

I told him flat out that dude, that's just not right.

The last thing I need to worry about right now is the idea that Brendan might decide to cut and run because my being bipolar is too much for him. Just the idea makes me physically ill. There is nothing more precious to me in the entire world than my relationship with Brendan. He's the best thing that's ever happened to me. If I lost him, I don't know what I'd do.

But that's the thing. My pdoc doesn't really know how much Brendan and I have been through together. He doesn't know that Brendan has lived my rollercoaster life with me. He doesn't know that Brendan's held me when I was hallucinating through withdrawals, he doesn't know that Brendan worried and laughed through my manic stages and he doesn't know that Brendan braved hell and hours of LA freeways and busses to hold my hand when I was locked up in the psych ward. Brendan knows exactly what this disease can do and has done and he's made the choice to deal with that. I know, beyond a doubt, that Brendan will not walk away from me because of this.

So why the emotional warfare? Maybe it's something they teach doctors in med school. I can picture a closet sadist lecturing his eager students about how psychiatric patients aren't the most rational at times, so you have to manipulate their souls into compliance. Ah, then this lecturer returns to his office and electrocutes his hamster.

But I digress. I don't approve of this tactic—this 'I don't know how to get you to take your meds, but let's threaten the greatest source of stability in your life to try to intimidate you into complinace.' Grrr. I'm all hostile.

Of course, Brendan, my adorable optimistic love muffin, challenged me to smite my reactional thinking and consider the merits of a poorly articulated argument. Damn lawyers.

Okay. Giving my shrink the benefit of the (massive) doubt, I suppose he was trying to get me to think of other reasons to take my meds—mainly, the people that I care about. The more stable I am, the more stable my relationships will be. Accepted. Maybe he was even trying to get me to think about the psychic relief my loved ones will have just knowing that I'm doing something to try to get myself better.

But I'm not an idiot. I know that this crap impacts my relationships. Just ask my close friends who just got their first phone calls from me in about a year; thank God they call me or we'd never talk!

Yet the greater issue—the overall efficacy of these meds—was swept under the rug in the name of compliance. The concept that I would comply with drugs that actually work wasn't discussed. That reasonable encouragement that I just need to hang in there and eventually we'll find the right combination for me---absent.

Instead, as if I didn't have enough to worry about, I can see this tiny seed of insecurity rooting itself in my psyche. Okay. Shrink's logic = if I'm not stable, Brendan will leave me. Stability = taking my meds.

So, does that mean that Brendan will disappear when we have kids, because I really don't want to be taking meds when I'm pregnant and nursing? Does that mean that I should hide my inner turmoil from the one person I fully trust so that I don't lose him? Does that mean I'll never be able to experience a true spiritual intimacy with someone because my moods will infect their lives?

Does that mean that I should let Brendan go so that he won't waste years of his life on me when he could find himself a nice, normal girl? Cuz in my mind, even with meds, I'm always going to be moody and unpredictable. If that kills relationships, maybe I should be alone. Maybe I should shove Brendan away as hard as I can--break his heart--so that he can be happy, so that he won't have to suffer through the pain of a divorce, through the failure of knowing that despite his love, this illness overwhelmed us. That's a tragedy I don't want to be responsible for because I only want the very best for Brendan, even if that means that I'd have to disappear to give it to him.

Quite a patch of ice, eh? One minute, you're a happily engaged girl thinking about starting a family with the man you love and the next, you're confronting (yet again) the fact that an illness you didn't choose to have has the power to poison the happiness of anyone who dares to love you.

Makes me feel so very, very alone.


The Performance

If all the world's a stage, one of my favorite places to perform is sitting opposite my shrink. I have a short chunk of time to convey my existence to a relative stranger so that he can judge me and tinker with my brain chemistry. I get a half-hour consultation to try to give this guy a glimpse of my existence. And honestly, I hold all the cards. He'll only know what I want him to know and see what I want him to see.

I'm not sure how clever this one is yet. Dr. Niedorf, an ancient psychiatrist who's seen thousands of patients, had a bit of insight into me. I wouldn't say he had me pegged, but he knew enough to cut through my crap and I respected him for it. He's an old school doc, a member of a dying profession that understood the value of a bedside manner.

I suppose I'm always comparing my doctors because it gives me a way to judge them like I know they are judging me—or uh, evaluating me in PC terms. You can tell a lot about your doctor by their office and by the games they play.

For example, the more you pay for a doc, the more likely it is that they will give you a choice of chairs. Will you pick the couch? The recliner? The office chair? I'm sure that this is supposed to give them some insight into how to treat you—like if you pick the couch, you're laid back etc. With Dr. Niedorf, I'd always switch chairs, just to piss him off.

It's all about the performance. A picture is worth a thousand words and when every minute determines the course of your treatment, that picture is valuable. But it's also a facade.

Brendan gets frustrated with me when I contemplate how I'll present myself at any given appointment. He tells me I should just go as is. Of course, I counter that obviously my desire to erect a facade is part of my neurosis. The Catch-22. The stage becomes reality.

I don't envy my doctors at all. I think I'd be pissed if I had a patient like me. Or maybe I'd be intrigued.


Wednesday, September 22, 2004

A Drunken Sobriety

My mind is hazy today. Sometimes I feel like my brain is a miniature Los Angeles. A thick marine layer obscures the details of my thoughts. Or, a rainstorm exposes a beauty previously hidden beneath a coat of filth and grime.

I'm not quite myself today. It's hard to explain. I feel like I'm watching myself from the corner of the room. I feel like I'm in a police interrogration room and my thoughts are chatting on the other side of the two-way mirror. All I can see is my own reflection, no matter how hard I try to figure out what's going on beyond the glass.

I'm in a haunted house with myself today. I can't figure out what's up and what's down. Everything is clumped together and I'm supposed to unstick everything with my hands tied behind my back.

I'm so frustrated. I feel like I'm locked out of my own head. If every mind is a house, I'm running around the outside of my house, trying to find an open window. The shades are all drawn and I can only see the muted glow of lights on inside. (Ha, someone's home.)

My thoughts are so cyclical, like a dog chasing its own tail. I'm not getting any answers or conclusions. Just thinking the same thoughts over and over again in a million different ways without any resolution. It's like endlessly stirring a soup that would taste just as good if it was left alone to simmer.

I'm jittery too. I feel like some kind of heroin addict desperately in need of another hit. Either that or an overworked nurse sipping a crappy cup of hospital coffee that's been sitting on the burner too long, dreading going back to cranky and uncomfortable patients.

Today is one of those days. It's hard to be productive in any meaningful way. It's the perfect day to clean or do laundry, to distract yourself with mindless tasks.

String enough of these days together, and soon life becomes a mindless task.


Monday, September 20, 2004

Challenging Reason to a Duel

When I think about what makes a person sentient, I think about reason. Reason gives us the capacity to think, to create and to change. It also gives us perspective.

Anyone who has suffered from a high fever or a debilitating stomach flu knows that acute illness distorts your perception. You shiver and sweat in a room that stays the same temperature. You can sleep for days and still feel exhausted. You have disconnected dreams, fragments and clips of different movies spliced together in a macabre tapestry.

The worst part of being mentally ill is being well enough to know that you are sick. I can still see myself as others see me. I know that my lax monetary discipline of late is a manifestation of a burgeoning mania. I realize that being impulsive is an indication of being up. I know that it is not normal to get emotional over the texture of a cheeto. But just as a person with a fever cannot simply will it to go away, I cannot stop thinking the way that I do. This is an illness that infects your mind before thoughts have formed; it's attached to a part of you that predates sentience, a raw, animalistic side of our nature governed by impulse and instinct.

The animal in us knows no reason. It leaps before it looks. It takes action to preserve itself.

When I was in highschool, a dear friend of mind told me that she used to wrap rubberbands tightly around her fingers until the tips turned black after her father would scream at her. It was like the discomfort was a liferaft, keeping her from taking more dramatic and damaging action. She eventually graduated to cutting herself with a sharp piece of glass she kept on a bookshelf. She said she couldn't feel the pain of each cut, but it felt like some of the emotions she couldn't name would escape through each slice.

She never learned how to process those emotions. She let the animal take over her reason. She started drinking Draino.

Pain is a funny thing that way. To me, it hurts. To her, it provided a cathartic release from an emotional maelstrom.

In psychological parlance, she failed to develop appropriate coping skills.

But maybe, pain is a way of controling the animal in us. One of the women on my listserv wrote her profound thoughts on self-injury:

"I read a question from someone asking if anyone cuts. I cut, pinch, or scratch myself when my anxiety is kicking. The pain brings a blessed release that I could not live without. I bought myself a box cutter, the blade I can adjust so I won't get too deep and need medical treatment, and I always cut on places I can easily hide. The scars bring up questions too because I've cut my wrists so many times. My body is a maze of scars, dark and light streaks of skin, some long, some short, but all subtle proof of a part of me I can not control. No one really knows I do this still, they think I've stopped because they don't see the new injuries. They don't need to know though, it would only cause unneeded bullshit in my already upside down life. We all have our own little ways of dealing with things."

This is just one of my many questions for psychiatry to answer: Why is it that while one person can cope with tragedy by planting a garden, another person finds their only release from inner torment in pain?

And I don't want some bullcrap theory about messed up childhoods. I want answers.


Saturday, September 18, 2004

2.7 seconds on a bull named fu manchu

For those in the fog of depression with thoughts like molasses, I figured you probably missed this story about Linda Hamilton and her battle with manic depression. Like so many people out there, she went undiagnosed for years and the destructive influence of the disease on her daily existence left a path like a tornado through a potentially normal existence.

Life is so deeply beautiful and inspiring today. I'm finding the most mundane things stunning—the cracks in the leather on the hand-me-down couch from my parents for example. Each crease tells its own story. Just like little rivers breaking through the paths of least resistance, the serpentine wrinkles make me wonder why they formed where they did. Why there and not an inch or two to the left of right? What makes that spot the most desirable place for a miniscule wrinkle? It's just like my skin. Closer inspection makes certain patterns of the couch look like reptile scales. It makes me think of boots made of crocodiles. When I was little, I used to think that animals would live without their skin. I figured that somewhere, there was a crocodile or a cow walking around with its muscles and blood exposed to the air, a ruby phantom of former grandeur. I was quite the little environmentalist.

I still have enough perspective to know that these observations are gifts of mania. Few people contemplate the texture of a cheeto or the shifty eyes of gorging finches with as much intensity or fascination as my mind indulges itself with right now. After months of sluggish and dull observations, a world so full of ideas, eternal truths and mind-boggling beauty is as welcome as a cool breeze flowing across an asphalt parking lot on a 110 degree day. It's enough to insulate me from the next horror behind this illusion of grace.


Friday, September 17, 2004

When I'm Up

The kitten is Sasha. She's very sociable, although she's much happier lying down next to me—she doesn't like to be picked up so much. But she's cute when she's cranky anyway.

As you can probably tell from the new hair color, I'm feeling a bit manic. It's a fabulous manic though. When I'm shifting from depressed to manic, sometimes I never get to manic and just flow into a mixed state, which is not enjoyable. But, getting away from the depressive phase of this crap and leaping into a mania—that's the JOY of this disease.

Woohoo! I've been so productive. I cleaned my entire house yesterday (and trust me, that needed to be done). I cleaned out my car and my fridge. I went shopping, and spent, uh, a bit of money. Thank God I'm getting paid next week!

It was funny b/c I went to Target to buy my brother's birthday present and I told myself that I shouldn't get a cart b/c then I would buy too much stuff. So I took a basket instead and I was like, there, I can only buy so much. But man, let me tell you, that basket was filled to the MAX by the time I got out of there. I basically told myself that I'm actually being responsible because I bought stuff that I've been looking at and wanting for a long time. How's that for manic logic?

As far as I'm concerned, this manic thang is fantastic. I can stay up till all hours of the night and I'm SO motivated to do work and mebbe I'll even get some of my thesis written. And by some, I mean a chapter. :)

Huzzah, I say, huzzah!

A part of me, somewhere, a fading part of me, is like, 'beware the crash.' But right now, I'm high as a kite (ijustmightstoptocheckyouout), and I don't see the ending any time soon. I see my doc next week and somehow, I think he might be a little surprised about my change in appearance. Mwahahaha!

I want y'all to smile today! YEAH! SMILES!


Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Just Another Paradox

Once upon a time, yours truly spent a night in the ER listening to the old man next to her slur his way through what, to the armchair doctor, sounded like a stroke. I was there for what was labeled "acute suicidal ideation."

Psychiatry is a queer science. A psychologist, those charming and typically useless couldn't-hack-med-school types, came in and talked to me about this whole issue. Poor guy. I felt so bad that I pulled him out of bed in the middle of the night, away from his family, to come and talk to me. I guess it's his job, but it's a crappy part of his job.

Anyway, when push came to shove and we talked about this "acute suicidal ideation," he asked the question I'd been waiting to hear. "Do you think you need to go to the hospital?"

Now, surely rational people can see the irony of asking a person who has obviously lost perspective what they should do in what could be a life or death situation. And yet, I've repeatedly been asked whether I think I should go to the hospital. It's like, retard, if I knew, I wouldn't be here!

In talking to Brendan about this earlier today, I likened this doctor-patient exchange to a cancer doc asking a patient whether or not they think the lump should be removed. 'Well, it could be cancerous and kill you, or it might be benign. Do you think we should remove it?'

Brendan made the point that actually, it would be like a doctor asking the lump if it should be removed. Provocative stuff as the shrinks essentially ask the disease whether or not it is deadly when dealing with suicidal patients.

I feel for docs. I really do. It has to be agonizing to send a suicidal patient home, always wondering if they will be okay. I would make a crappy doctor because I would put these patients in the hospital for my sanity. I don't know if I could ever cope with making the wrong decision.

A dilemma of the worst kind.


Monday, September 13, 2004

Eating Bread

After a night of partying, people stumble home and the damage control begins. Some swear by a big glass of water and two aspirin. Others eat bread with the idea that it acts like a sponge, absorbing all that alcohol. The more desperate sit over a toilet with two fingers down their throats, flushing away their night in an ode to the porcelain goddess.

The past few weeks, I feel like I've been eating bread like a desperate Somalian. There's always something to apologize for, whether it's saying too much when you're manic or not saying enough when you're depressed and essentially in hiding. I'm sure I've spent some time in that happy medium, but I haven't been there for months.

In my current state, I'm getting the worst of both worlds. Calling this disease bipolar is misleading because it implies that there are two definitive poles that people wobble to and fro like pong balls. Ping ping pong. You get the point.

But that's not really true. From what I've gathered from my bipolar buddies, mixed states are actually much more common than pure depressions or manias.

I think that's why one in five people with bipolar disorder commit suicide. Imagine an agitated, energetic, impulsive suicidal depression.

I'm in a bit of a mixed state myself. I'm motivated enough to let the irksome overachiever in me compel me to do work. I'm depressed enough to work and have zero energy for anything else. I'm agitated—my limbs are always twitching like I have Parkinson's because if I stop moving, this ball of angst builds up under my sternum and makes me want to vomit until my intestines are staring back at me. So yeah, twitching is much preferred. I'm anti-social, withdrawn, quiet, almost shy (which is out of character for me).

I keep thinking of the line from the Lord of the Rings movie when wormtongue complains about Aragorn bringing ill bearings and he uses the word malcontent.

That is my one word description of the day.



Sunday, September 12, 2004

Who needs heroin?

You know, your brain communicates with your body along nerves that carry eletrical impulses down your spine and over your muscles. That whole knee-jerk crap that doctors do to piss you off—it's all about testing your nervous system.

Well, if it's all about electricity, my brain is having a serious thunderstorm right now. Every hair on my body is standing up, my stomach is in knots and my teeth are going to crack if I keep clenching my jaw like this. I'm exhausted, but totally on edge. One of my cats brushed against my foot while I was proofreading a paper and I nearly hit the roof.

If I were a cartoon character, I would either be the one ripping out their hair in frustration or the one waving their arms all around or pacing.

Of course, it's not only my body that's on edge. My emotions are a bit tremulous as well.

The dominant feeling of today is a gnawing, wrenching, suffocating anxiety.

Imagine dreaming. Your a little kid, five or six. It's a beautiful snowy day and you're walking on the ice of a lake. There's an adult somewhere back there, but you aren't paying attention to them because the water beneath your feet is beautiful, icy and seductive. And suddenly, the ice travels like fire up your legs and across your ribs. You've fallen through and there's an irresistable force pulling you into the water. You sink, away from the light. And it's so cold. You come up for air and hit your head. Solid ice. There's no surface to break through. Your lungs are bursting. You see the adult on the other side of the ice. But there's no saving you. And you realize it. Just before your lungs open and the darkness swallows you whole, you know that you are going to die.

That's how I feel. Except, I'm not drowning. My body just thinks there's some catastrophe to fight. And my mind knows there isn't. Tension. To explain why my body is freaking out, my brain starts conjuring up images, scenes, nightmares. There has to be something to be so keyed up about.

So the doom comes. I feel like something horrible is going to happen—like I'll come home to find some psychopath has gutted my kittens and slit my dog's throat. Or I'll wake up to find myself covered in hairy spiders the size of hands. Or I'll get a call that my parents have died in a car accident.

This only adds fury to the torment in my mind and my body tenses to high alert. (Aha! The highest terror alert!)

Oddly, the cycle only stops when it stops. It's like a hurricane hitting land. Eventually, it tuckers itself out and the only reminder of the spiraling mass is a few wispy clouds.

Who knew I would be desperate for the clouds?


Friday, September 10, 2004

Silent Screaming

I've always envisioned my brain—well, my sentient self anyway—as a council. I see my inner selves sitting around a giant oak table with different drinks in front of each one. Becky #1 drinks ice cold milk. Becky #2, a pint of beer. Becky #3, piping hot espresso.Becky #4, vodka from the freezer.

You get the point.

All of these Beckys get together and talk about things we need to do. They debate about how I should behave and what I should say. Sometimes, one wins out and sometimes, a different one will.

Today, I feel like three or four of my council members are sitting down and crying hysterically. The other people at the table are upset about how they're behaving, except for one or two of us who are just pissed off. The babies should stop crying and start problem solving.

Other Beckys are pacing, constantly thinking about the overwhelming number of things that I have to do in the next six months. As they roam back and forth, they annoy other people sitting at the table.

Well, except for the one Becky gazing out over the table like no one else exists.

There's a leader in all of this. She watches everyone else and tries to negotiate a compromise between the Beckys so that I can know how to feel. But today, she's losing. The Beckys don't want to compromise and so nothing gets done. When the council is deadlocked or particularly disagreeable, I can't do all that much about it.


I'm feeling subversive and slightly self-destructive today. I'm debating about the logic behind staying on some of my meds that I've been on for a long time. If they aren't working by now, they aren't going to work. I'm sick of putting crap in my body when I'm not getting any kind of clear benefit from taking it.

Logically, a voice in my head is screaming at me, telling me that crazy people always stop taking their meds and it's a mistake. I suppose I should listen to that voice and I probably will. But I've never been so tempted to stop taking my meds before.

I'm sad. These meds suck. I hate withdrawing from this crap, but I'm sick of taking this stuff that isn't helping me. I know I should wait for my doctor to tell me what to do, but he doesn't have to live like I do every freakin day. I'm the one who pops these pills in the morning and deals with their stupid side-effects. I'm the one who suffers when they don't work. And damn, I'm the one who should have the ultimate choice about what I put in my body.

So it begins. The constant temptation to stop medicating, the sneaking suspicion that life would be a bit more fun without any meds at all.

It's a damn lucky fact of life that I'm overwhelmingly practical and sensible somewhere deep down.

I'll be the obedient guinea pig for another day.


Thursday, September 09, 2004

Oh Motivation, Where Art Thou?

One 8 page paper due Monday: a couple hours
One 12 page paper due Tuesday: a day or two
One detailed thesis outline due Tuesday: AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

Watching law and order? Procrastination perfected.

You know, there was a time when I was in undergrad when I loved to sit down and just read my books for school for hours and hours everyday. I thought it was fun, like ripping open a yummy box of cookies and realizing that they're delicious and fat free.

Now, I have a hard time forcing myself to focus on readings. I start and in the middle of a sentence, my mind will trail off in its own direction. I'll start thinking about how I have to cancel a credit card that I misplaced. I'll feel the urge to sweep my floor and this irritation will obsess me until I get up and sweep. I become overwhelmed by the thought of reading an entire book (not to mention writing an entire thesis!).

Even writing this post is agonizing. I have ideas floating around in my head like flies and I can't catch them no matter how hard I try. It's hard to convey how horrible this is for me. I've always been able to put ideas together without trying; they would just appear like a polaroid picture. Now it's like my mind is silent, like I'm trying to look at the picture in a pitch black room.

A part of me wants to run around screaming. I want to shave my head, pierce my tongue, get another tatoo, scratch my skin off, take an ice cold bath, and crack open my head so it will finally stop aching. I want to sleep for hours and hours and hours without waking up to let the dog out. I want to sit down and devour a banana walnut muffin. I want to draw all over myself in permanent marker and walk around the mall like nothing is askew. I want to punch a stranger in the face and then walk away. I want to drive down to Mexico and buy a poncho. I want to buy a corvette, and another dog, and a plane ticket to London. I want to go to Dennys or iHop and eat a giant portion of french toast with a big ass glass of chocolate milk.

Of course, I'll probably read a couple pages, go to sleep and wake up flipping out about the massive amount of work threatening to squash my sanity.

I don't know how I'm going to pull things off this time.


Wednesday, September 01, 2004

The Famous Face

I'm watching an interview with Jane Pauley on Dateline NBC. The former anchor confesses in her book, Skywriting: A Life Out of the Blue, that a mismanaged course of steroids combined with antidepressants tossed her into mood swings; she was eventually diagnosed bipolar.

Listening to her talking about how it feels to be bipolar is like looking into a verbal mirror. Her description of a mixed state—like trying to thread two constantly shaking needles—is beautiful and accurate. Being in a mixed state, that is, being manic and depressed at the same time, is so infuriating and exhausting. When I'm manically depressed (or is it depressively manic?), I feel so agitated and impulsive, self-destructive and anxious, angry and lazy. It's like having someone constantly poking you in the arm and being helpless to stop it and so your annoyance grows to a fever pitch.

The end of her interview is talking about her father, which I find useless in a discussion of bipolar disorder. I guess it's supposed to be tracing her problems to a far away root cause or something. Either that, or she's trying to sell books.

The main differences between Pauley and the millions of bipolar sufferers in the world is that most people with bipolar disorder have had it for years and can see its impact on their young adulthood and beyond. Most don't have the money to hire the best psychiatric care and so, suffer through years of misdiagnosis. Most are shuffled between doctors and therapists and so, are forced to reinvent the wheel at every turn.

Personally, in my lifetime, I've been seen by six psychiatrists. Two were university health center staff (the two worst, might I add), one worked in a psychiatric hospital, and three were in private practice. From my first appointment at 17, it took 3 years until I arrived at my diagnosis of bipolar II. The next year, shrink #5 backed off that diagnosis and when I dumped her and took up with shrink #6, I was re-diagnosed as bipolar II. The fun never ends.

I wish I could be manic again. It's been a really long time since I've been plain ole hypomanic and that's all I want. After everything else psychiatry has done to me, you think they'd be able to perk me up a bit! :)