Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The Anxious Bipolar

I suppose the laws of probability dictate that I should be a member of this statistic, but I'm still cranky about it. According to an article in the American Journal of Psychiatry, more than half of bipolar people also have anxiety disorders. When both disorders are present, it typically indicates a younger age of onset and a diminished hope for a functional life. Ugh.

My foray into learning that I was bipolar actually started with a gastroenterologist because I was so keyed up all the time, my stomach was slowly dissolving itself with acid. Yummy. A couple months and several panic attacks and trips to the ER later, I finally figured out that my body wasn't actually dying, my mind was merely FREAKING out. That's unsettling. I mean, we're supposed to be able to trust our minds and our perceptions. When they become warped, the world becomes a very unpredictable and frightening place. Or a very sensual and welcoming place. Or just a freakin place, like any other damn place.

The holidays are making me slightly irritated. Well actually, everything is making me irritated, but the holidays are like the straw that broke the camel's back. I can't help but thinking that we're all ants. We run into our consumerist temples and grab a shirt and some lotion to let a loved one know that we care. Does that seem messed up? I mean, aren't there other ways of sharing the love? Do we have to participate in this capitalist orgy?

Of course, I love getting presents. I love giving them too.

I suppose a Starbucks latte makes the bitter pill a little more palatable.

Or not.




In two weeks, I'll be leaving my home in Arizona and moving into the frigid Northern clime of South Bend, Indiana. Of course, between then and now I have to plan as much of my wedding as humanly possible, pack up my entire life into boxes (again), spend as much time as I can with my siblings and parents, and celebrate the holidays in style.

I'm stressed out.

I feel like plunking down on the floor and having a good solid cry. Then, after my face is all red and blotchy and gross, I could indulge in a stack of my mom's decadant Christmas cookies before getting depressed about my woefully large waistline as of late. At which point, I would naturally have to sit down and cry again.

My mind is stuck in a thousand little cycles like this right now and it's frustrating. Instead of heading in one solid direction with focus and determination, my ambitions are scattered like one of Gallagher's watermellons. I suppose part of vacation is supposed to be about letting your direction ebb and flow as it so chooses, but ugh! My direction is choosing a dumb route.

I feel stuck. Maybe this is a piece of the calm before a tornada runs through my life and settles me in a dying Northern hamlet. Man. I sincerely hope that South Bend turns out better than I'm currently picturing it. Somehow, in my unflinching optimism, I can see myself getting a job that entails asking the ever-so-important question: "would you like fries with that?"

Mmmmm. French fries.


Thursday, December 16, 2004


Woohoo! Today I officially graduated with a master's in history from ASU. I suppose it's only natural that I would compare and contrast my graduation from USC last year with this graduation. Aside from the fact that the ceremoney looked like a poorly run high school drama club production, I felt much more accomplished this time around. Maybe it's because I got to wear a bitchin hood and walk around like I was hot shit. Or maybe it's because I felt like I had to work a lot harder.

Sadly enough, my last semester at USC was a bit of a drag for me. I was so mired in the depths of an agitated, yet ruthless depression that I ended up being a part time student because I was only taking two classes. In contrast, this year, I ended on a high note, with a successful and enjoyable thesis defense. I was laughing because some of the girls in the department were asking me about my defense and they seemed so afraid of having to talk about their own research. I was like, dude, I would do it again if I had the opportunity.

That's the supergirl in me. In some social situations, I can be slightly shy. In others, I am the life of the party. That's part of the reason I chose academics actually. I don't want to get a job at a research university necessarily. I'd love to work at a teaching college because I like lecturing and dare I say, I'm good at it.

My bipolar swings have been subdued quite a bit in the past few weeks. In the past, periods of relative calm have typically been followed by a major fluctuation in my physical and mental state. My only current issue is that I'm utterly exhausted. I don't have a good excuse; watching four seasons of CSI in five days shouldn't be strenuous. I feel like my body is still running on the adrenaline it fed off of while I was tunneled in on my thesis.

I'm getting out of that mindset now, I think. I don't know if other people get like that. Honestly, when my mind is wrapped around something or piqued by something, I forget about other obligations. It's like only my mind and its pursuit exist. Everything else gets put on hold.

For example, I was driving around yesterday and it hit me that we really are in the Christmas season. People have had their lights on since December 1st in my development, but I just absorbed the fact that crap, I need to make a budget and do Christmas shopping and decorating, not to mention writing my Christmas card extravaganza and finding the ridiculous amount of Christmas music I downloaded while Napster was in its glory days.

Alas, all is merry and bright.

I'm totally proud of myself and I think I can ride this high through the holidays.


Sunday, December 12, 2004

A New Obsession

I've always had this uncanny ability to focus on a task at hand. Even when I was a child, my mom tells me that I could sit and play the same game for hours on end. That's a skill I've never lost.

I think our gifts can also be our weaknesses. The same focus that allowed me to complete my thesis in a month is currently holding me hostage to a new obsession—CSI. As a gift for myself for successfully defending and jumping through all the hoops necessary to graduate, I bought myself the first four seasons of CSI on DVD. I got them on Thursday. Today is Sunday. I started at the beginning, and I'm halfway through season three. That's 61 episodes in two and a half days. Do normal people do that?

My bipolar disorder is as well contained as it's ever been. I don't get those hideous, life-dampening lows—or at least, I haven't for a few weeks. Of course, I've also had my obsessions to keep my mind occupied.

The weird facet of my obsession du jour is that I know I won't be satisfied until I'm finished with the episodes I have in my posession. I NEED to watch them. It's like that's the only thing that really matters to me right now. I mean, I still take my dog to the park and pet my kittens. But I've stopped taking phone calls unless they by chance fall into a break between episodes. I'll be able to call people and talk endlessly, when I'm done. But now, if I talk to people, it's just going to be an exercise lackluster, non-focused communication.

Of course, when I finish with my current CSI binge, I have no idea how I'll keep myself occupied. I suppose Christmas shopping is next on my list, but to be honest, I'm a bit insecure about shopping by myself because I feel like I'm in one of those moods when my finances are theoretically unlimited and realistically paltry.

We all have our quirks.


Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Bipolar Babies

As a result of an Instaboost on my Valkyrie blog, I've gotten oodles of interesting commentary regarding my desire to have children despite being bipolar. Some have suggested that the severity of the illness should deter me from procreating and passing it on to the next generation. Others believe that I haven't given it any thought whatsoever:

"Brendan: Wait a minute, Reginleif, the fact that Becky might have to make gut-wrenching choices involving her own health vs. her career vs. the potential health of her (and my) eventual progeny, makes you have less sympathy for her? That makes no sense.

It would make sense if she were actually considering the welfare of said progeny first, rather than merely petulantly stating, "I want to be a young mother." Not once in her post does she actually express any worry about what it will be like to raise kids while having bipolar disorder, or about passing it on to them.

BTW, drugs for manic-depression such as lithium and Depakote, when taken by a pregnant woman, can have serious teratogenic effects on a fetus. But that's merely the rock. The hard place is if she goes off medications entirely during her pregnancy, which can put her life at risk if her behavior becomes reckless (as happens in the manic stage) and/or she becomes suicidal.

I've seen far too many women who aren't so much parents as overgrown girls playing dollhouse with live dolls. Forgive me, but your significant other seems to fit into this category."

Alas, I just cannot let a comment like this go answered.

Ignorance is bliss and apparently, this commenter must be incredibly happy. Permit me to indulge myself in proving this attitude wrong in my particular case.

First and foremost, being bipolar is a treatable ailment and is becoming moreso everyday. Read this blog and I continually post updates on medication and diagnostic advances. Based on the current state of the science, by the time my children would manifest with bipolar if they were going to, psychiatry would be able to help them more effectively than it helped me.

Secondly, while being bipolar does change my perspective on life, I'm not sure I would want to give it up. I am a religious person and I do believe that there is a reason that God chose to make me this way. I see the world much differently than other people and that's a gift. I love my own life. I've found love and happiness. I am intelligent and successful; I'm proud to be graduating with an MA at 22. If I can be as productive as I am with bipolar disorder, I have no doubt that my children will also be able to overcome obstacles it could potentially put in their way.

Thirdly, I do consider the consequences of a bipolar pregnancy. I will not take any of my medications during pregnancy--even those like Lexapro which have been greenlighted by the FDA. I know the consequences of not being on my medications. I know that I will relapse and I am committed to preparing for that. However, I also know that women tend to have the same type of pregnancies that their mothers' did. So, it is my most solemn prayer that my pregnancies will follow the positive experiences that my mom had when she was pregnant. If they don't, I know that Brendan and I will find a way to deal with the consequences.

Fourth, the world needs more people like me. Brendan and I are both statistically above average in terms of our intelligence. We are both involved in post-undergraduate education. We're funny. And sweet. We're good, honest people. If we have ten kids, the world will be a better place for it.

I'm feeling a bit lazy at the moment, and so I'm not going to rant about the frightening eugenic implications of this comment, but suffice it to say that I have thought long and hard about having children. Moreover Brendan and I both believe that we should wait to start our family for a few years until he is finished with his education, so we'll have more time to plan and pray before starting our family.

Just one more thing. Kids are not dolls. I have cats for that. :)


Friday, December 03, 2004

A Diagnositc Tool

While I've been living in a bubble of thesis writing and pop tarts (mmmpoptarts), the rest of the world has apparently kept on turning without me! The last time I had time to step back and take account of my life was in October and damn, things have changed quite a bit since then.

For starters, my pdoc put me on lithium and despite the minor annoyance of not being able to take NSAIDS like ibprofen to reduce the back pain brought on by hours hunched over a computer, I admit that I am feeling eerily stable. I can't say that this is how it feels to be "normal"—whatever the crap that is—but I can say that the majority of my mental energy hasn't been absorbed by monitoring my conduct.

I don't really have a frame of reference to compare my current artificial calm with because I've been consumed by moods since puberty and it seems to me that childhood moodiness manifests itself a bit differently than adult moodiness so a comparison between then and now wouldn't be fruitful. But from the time this disorder of mine became unmanageable when I was 18, I honestly don't remember a time when I've felt so stable for so long. I suppose that's kind of sad seeing as how I've only been feeling level for about a month.

Getting this thing under some semblance of control has really changed my outlook on life quite a bit. I mean, the amount of energy and time that I previously devoted to holding myself together and keeping my emotions under wraps was enormous and suddenly, it's been emancipated from its previous duties. Obviously, living life with a poorly managed illness is exhausting. I feel like I've been pulling a freakin cart full of books for the past five years and someone just gave me their donkey. It's liberating and strange.

Enough of my musings for now. You should check out this info on the development of a definitive diagnosis for bipolar disorder. Pretty spiffy.