Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Why am I Drippings with Goo?

First of all I have to give a hallelujah to spring finally being here. If you suffer from seasonal depression like I do then let's exchange a round of high fives now that winter is over.

I apologize for the long wait in between posts. The lap top I had been working off of for 2 years was a freebee and it was far from optimal. It got the job done so I can't complain and I'm grateful to have even had it but it crashed a lot and completely bit the dust a month ago. I saved up and got a new and improved one so I'm good to go.

In addition to my technical problems my moods have been off, way off. In the never ending quest of "why," which I know is bad to focus on while down, I have been running myself mentally ragged. I should be pursing the "how" as in how do I get back on track so I can identify why I fell off originally. This misdirected process has caused a lot of anger and frustration with myself- bad habits that existed before my diagnosis were popping up again. I've become use to dealing with episodes or a severe mood swing but have yet to conquer the small daily things that are necessary to maintain a consistent balance over all. I've had a slow and steady derailment for the past couple of months.

The entire month of March was pretty much filled with some form of underlying anger that I couldn't shake. I tried all of my usual techniques but I still felt like I was grinding my teeth just to keep the cynical, misanthropic comments from firing out of my mouth. Everyone and everything just seemed to annoy me, even while doing the things I love. Rock climbing annoyed me, the people who went with me annoyed me, my bike annoyed me, the roads annoyed me, having to get up and work out annoyed me, painting annoyed me, the space in which I paint in annoyed me, and all of these activities failed to do what they do the best- get rid of the extra energy and provide endorphins.

I wasn't receiving pleasure from any of my workouts so I cut back, but this was not on purpose. I would wake up and just focus on how frustrated I was which lead to thoughts of how annoying it is to pull my running shoes out and put them on my feet. Finding socks pissed me off. Lubing my chain pilled me off. EVERYTHING I loved about my day had me clenching my fists at my sides, ready to explode at something or someone. If the stuff that usually brought joy was stirring up these feelings then you can only imagine how I dealt with the things I didn't like or that were mild annoyances prior to March. Not very good would be the understatement of this century.

I had to hide in order to keep myself from snapping at people. The default action for almost all my moods except well balanced one is to hide. Everything little thing everyone said or did was the end of the fucking world as far as my brain was concerned. Checking out at the art supply store- some teenage know-nothing popping their gum, confused as to how to ring up a paintbrush and looking at me like it was my fault they had to put any effort into their day. I was convinced every driver on the road was put there by some cruel deity playing a massive joke on me. No one seemed to understand any of the common sense I thought was common, like don't step directly in front of me and stand there because your spacial awareness skills are that of a plaster wall. If anyone called me I would be pissed off that they didn't just text me. Assholes know I never answer my phone, why the hell are they calling me?! The world outside of my house was put here just to annoy me and all the people in it were sent to do it's nose hair plucking style bidding. It didn't matter who it was, it was all people- the way they talked, the subject those chose to talk about, their chosen vernacular, their voice- EVERYTHING. No part of my day helped me calm down.

This is the level of stupidity my anger got to. I should be ever so grateful that I'm able to be at an art store purchasing new brushes and doing what I love so much. I should be thankful I have friends who are calling, for any reason they might pick up the phone with me in mind. There are people out there who give a shit about me and I was too pissed off at the fact that my phone was squeaking with which ever annoying ring tone I had chosen. The other drivers on the road didn't have this effect on me prior to March, it was like they all leaked out onto the road at once. I knew that wasn't true and that my perception had been distorted by my annoyance with life.

I have no idea where this came from, a month long perpetual state of anger. Luckily I didn't give in and say or do something I would deeply regret. Except for the couple of pharmacy technicians that received my wrath. There are a couple places I can't go anymore. Those around me were effected but I'm lucky that they understand that in those moments the person they see isn't me. I always make it a point to apologize. I appreciate the people who put up with me and I want them to know that I am aware of the circumstances my disorder puts them in. I can't stop being bipolar so I thank them for their efforts, even if it's as simple as not punching me in the face.

The break in my mood came from a metaphor someone shared with me during a peer support meeting. I told the group about my unexplainable anger and someone referenced the river of pink slime that is underneath the city of New York in the 1989 movie Ghostbusters II. In the movie this supernatural fluid reacts to human emotions and anger is the specific emotion that allows this river of slime to grow and actually start influencing negative behaviors in others, pretty much making everyone want to kill one another. She said that my anger is like that river of slime and I can keep feeding it with my negativity or I can fight against it.

That made so much sense. While I was wasting my time trying to figure out why I'm so mad I have been feeding the underlying anger itself.

It's strange to think that after a month of intense irate struggle and daily self loathing my perspective can be turned around by a comedy that had Dan Aykryod as one of the writers and Bill Murray as the star. Mental health works in the most mysterious ways. But it's the best metaphor for what had been happening all during the month of March. There was a lot of anger inside of me and I was feeding it. I still don't have a clue what caused it but that doesn't matter because I needed to take control before I could establish a possible cause. I'm bipolar, there might not be a single cause to be found, it could just be another chemical shift in my brain.

Thanks for reading

Monday, February 17, 2014

Where You Invest Your Love, You Invest Your Life

Cycling is more than just a hobby for me. I named this blog with a bike related title not because I enjoying riding that much (although I do) but because I found out that for years I was self medicating with a combination of two wheels and leg power. I never really got into drugs and even though towards the end I drank it wasn't too much of an issue because I was more focused on making sure I could ride the next day. I would pedal to and from work, sometimes get in and extra 30-60 miles in before my commute to work, or ride another 10-30 miles after work. I loved it but looking back I realized while I was riding my demons couldn't quite catch up and that's what kept my legs moving.

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love riding for pleasure. It has served so many purposes in my life but when I was at my worst it was my crutch. I would have severe panic attacks and of course I could hop on and ride through the streets of Richmond to either distract myself or to push myself so hard I would puke and forget about the racing cesspool that was my mind. I was always fighting an unknown force inside of me and I used my pedal therapy to deal and I had no idea that's what I was doing.

I worked in a bike shop up until about two years ago. I spent 3.5 years in the industry and as hard as it was sometimes due to my anxiety, depression, and mania I absolutely loved it. It was weird that a funny looking goth chick would be so captivated by such a "normal" sport. I didn't care and all the vampires could kiss my ass- I loved cycling more than anything else I held onto in my life. I didn't know a whole lot when I first started working there so for me it was a playground of information and holy crap did I eat it up. The first year at the shop my moods seemed to level out, there were some episodes and bad weeks but over all I was ok. I always look back at that time as the last time I remembered being truly content. After that my mental health started to deteriorate bad and it became quite a struggle but I fought for everyday because I loved all things bike related.

I couldn't get enough. I would go home and read about lumens, grams, cadence, how carbon was made- friggin EVERYTHING! I used my phone to learn what each tool in the shop did and I spent months switching my brain over the the metric system. All of this is very silly but I was in love. I still looked like an idiot in front of the other guys because they had had 10+ years on me as far as experience goes but I didn't care. I asked stupid questions, got laughed at, and learned to laugh along. I also learned how to overcome a lot of anxiety working there- my coworkers were relentless and I loved them for it.

When I went home I wasn't as happy. I didn't really know anyone into cycling outside of the people in the shop. My severe anxiety kept me from group rides or even considering racing. It wasn't until a friend insisted I start going on rides with him and a group of people that I was able to break that barrier. Up until then I would spend my days off in the country for 60-90 mile rides by myself. I would take in everything and it centered me. There were some rides that were awful because my mind was breaking down but my body was able to collect my gear and get me out the door and onto the pavement. I have more memories of pedaling through tears than any thing else from my rides back then. When I had paranoia or anxiety set in I would push myself to the point of puking. I didn't care- it was better to focus on a granola bar exploding from my throat than it was to sit with the thoughts in my head for one more second.

I would ride in the rain, the cold, through thunder storms, 105 degrees outside, in the middle of the night, even through a couple snow storms. I didn't care. The faster I pedaled the further my demons seemed to fall behind me. The more I rode the less I was trapped in my own skull. I would wear my body out in hopes of killing what was wrong inside of me. I eventually spent more time on the bike that anything else as a way of avoiding dealing with my life. I was in a horrible relationship that I knew was a bad idea but the disorder attached itself so strongly to that unhealthy situation that I couldn't rationalize what I needed to be doing in order to better myself. So I would ride instead. That was when I felt like me. Those were the times that the women I have found myself as today was able to shine through. I felt human and like a strong individual that could deal with anything life threw my way. I wasn't wrong- I was very much that person but I had no idea I was tackling life and battling bipolar. I seriously had no idea that the hell that was my existence off the bike was because of a chemical imbalance. I just kept pedaling and getting more and more immersed in bike culture.

I felt like I was leading two different lives. Off the bike I was Typhoid Rezurex- the manic creature of the goth bar scene. On the bike and at the shop I was Gwen- the weird but sweet enough girl who asked stupid questions but knew a whole lot about what she was doing. I was no big shot at the shop or in the cycling community, in fact I was nobody so my mania had no way to latch on. I didn't like Typhoid's life but that one was most familiar and that was the one the disorder loved the most. As the years went on I saw less and less of the Gwen I did enjoy being.

My brother died at 23 years old in October of 2010 from a heroin overdose. That is what triggered my further decent into a very severe mental health decline. My relationship at the time and the death of my brother were enough to kick start the bipolar into full blown manic swings and severe depression that resulted in a hand full of suicide attempts and a couple times behind bars. My whole life flew out of control. A year later I found my fiance had been cheating on me with several different women for at least 6 months prior to me finding out. I had never known paranoia until then. My anxiety reached a level to where some days at the shop I couldn't leave the bathroom for fear of interacting with others. My self esteem plummeted so low I couldn't look myself in the mirror. The disruption in my brain seemed to have taken over and I forgot simple every day bike knowledge and job skills. Some days I would look at a drive train and have no idea what to do- like it was the first time I had ever seen one. I had days I would get confused and forget the combination on the safe at work (something I had had memorized for years), I would get frustrated because I all of a sudden couldn't explain the difference between the bike trainers we carried despite the fact it's the same ones that just last month I knew more about than most of the other guys in that shop. My brain would literally just stop working. I could true a wheel one day but forget how to put lube on a chain the next.

This was devastating. I spent a lot of time in the bathroom crying. My brother and relationship were one thing but I didn't think that would kill my ability to function, especially at something that I loved so greatly. I retreated further and further away from people and became over sensitive towards the customers and my coworkers. I felt like everyone was just trying to annoy me or waste my time. I lost the ability to have conversations with people and this wasn't good for work. I kept forgetting important information and felt stupid for it. I started to fear going to work because I didn't know who I was going to be when I showed up. There was no Gwen anymore. I didn't want to talk about bike stuff. I didn't want to hear about who was racing. I didn't care what new stuff that was coming out. I was angry because my brain had betrayed me and took away the only source of happiness I had.

I kept riding though. I didn't even enjoy it that much for a while. I didn't have any energy and I was indifferent to whether I was on the bike or not. I know now that I was going through a severe depression. But I kept riding, mostly because it was just habit for me at that point. I would ride to work, ride home, or spend 8 hours on country roads but remember none of it. It was like this for quite some time. Not every day was bad. Every once in a while Gwen would come back through and I would wake up in the middle of a ride and enjoy what I was doing. I didn't enjoy anything anymore but I kept pedaling.

I was tortured by thoughts of suicide all of the time back then. My mind couldn't seem to kill me off fast enough. I use to ride while biting my tongue until it bled in order to make them go away. Every time I passed a cemetery my mind told me that's where I belonged and that moving my legs is useless and idiotic. I pedaled through every thought about how worthless I was. I pedaled through every thought about my little brother until I just couldn't do it anymore. I had no energy. It was becoming winter, my mind and body were finished.

I took a 6 month long break from riding and tried to kill myself twice. I was miserable at work, at home, with my friends, with my fiance; I was just a body. I didn't care about my bikes, I didn't care about the bike shop, I wished cycling was something I had never gotten into. I felt so different from the people at work and who rode. I felt like we had nothing in common and that I wasn't a cyclist. They were weird for doing it. We're all just going to die any day. Who cares how much your brake pads weigh? Who cares if you have a race this weekend? Who cares if you tacoed your wheel? I didn't. They should all just give it up, it's pointless.

Of course none of that was me talking. That was the hole the disorder had created and was trying to bury me in. Of course I cared about that stuff! I just couldn't tap into it. Any time I felt anything is was because I was miserable and would spend hours in bed with fits of uncontrollable crying. I wanted my brother back and I wanted to be happy again. Cycling still represented happiness for me back then. I identified my concept of a good day with the ones I use to have at the shop, even the ones where I would ask something stupid and the guys wouldn't let me live it down. I didn't want to give up- I remembered what it was like to be happy I just needed to get back there.

 Some part of me was still alive because as soon as the weather started getting better I did as well, enough anyway to clean off the dust on my trusty steeds. I got back on my two wheeled machines and rode until my will to live was stronger. My brain got a bit better and I slowly got back into riding shape.

The biggest turning point was someone we hired at the bike shop who I felt I could relate to a bit more than the others decided I needed to do group rides with him. I swallowed my anxiety and went. That spring and summer I found my love for cycling again except it was 100x stronger. I was able to ride with others and made stronger friendships with riders. I knew through that second wind in life that no matter what in life comes and goes I'm a cyclist and the rest can suck it.

I'm going to cut the story off here because there's a part two to this bipolar and bicycle tornado that I'll write hopefully next week.

I used cycling as self medication and as the first part as finding out who I really am. Without it I wouldn't have had those moments of clarity back then nor would I have had a distraction from the more harmful choices I could have made. I am very lucky that I found it when I did and I'm very grateful I worked in a shop when I did. The combination almost seems like a meant-to-be scenario but I don't really believe in that stuff but I'm glad it played out the way it did.

Thank you for reading.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Hammer of the Witches

I've always been my own worst enemy. That hasn't changed but I've also found that I am also my greatest ally. There aren't two sides to me, it's all in a mess together so it often makes it hard to discern the good from the bad. Trial and error followed by more error.

I don't give myself enough credit for the effort that I put into trying to live a well managed bipolar life. A lot of people I talk to don't give themselves enough either. The hand that we have been dealt in life isn't perfect but life sucks and it sucks for everyone. I think we spend a lot of time unknowingly discrediting ourselves. I have met very few bipolar individuals that feel as if life owes them something for inflicting this disorder upon them. In fact, I find the exact opposite- most people don't want to talk about what's wrong or apologize profusely when they try to. Their words are riddled with doubt and they're troubled with feelings of being a burden if they do speak about it. I'm guilty of it myself.

That way of viewing ourselves has to stop.

Compared to the rest of the world my life is pretty damn good. I tend to lose sight of my daily management needs because comparably my "needs" often look selfish. The ability to function is held together by the little daily details. Skipping out on any of them is the first step to a harsh decline in long term management. Stupid little first world tasks that most people wouldn't think were a part of a successful bipolar day.

I read stories of people that are suffering from 3rd world levels of poverty, starvation, unfathomable abuse, disease, or simply lacking basic human needs. These horrors make my necessities and routines seem so insignificant. When I compare myself to the lives of everyone else who is suffering from things beyond my control I start to slip on my small daily upkeep- I don't place as much value on them. I have to make my bed and clean my room to center myself each morning but as I begrudgingly send my comforter flying over my queen size bed I'll start thinking of people that don't have beds. I'm mildly pissed off because if I don't put the pillows up the way I like them the visual will annoy me and throw my mood just slightly off for that day which opens up the door for other laziness and eventually an episode. As I'm grumbling about all of this to myself I will suddenly think of children who have to sleep on dirt floors with little protection against the elements. I'll have images of mattresses that are old, stained, and too small. These kinds of thoughts are pretty regular for me. Other times I'll get mildly upset because I haven't been out to ride in a week for so (something that GREATLY stabilizes my moods) and then I'll start thinking about people that don't have legs. Here I am, upset I can't hop on a self propelled machine that costs more than most people would consider spending on a decent used car, while there are families that don't know if they can afford to keep a roof over their head for another month. My mind loves to torture me- as much as it possibly can.

Situations like this happen all the time. Any frustration that I have, no matter how big or small, my mind will create a scenario to combat it with and make me feel guilty. It keeps me from becoming completely self absorbed but it would be nice to be reminded instead of bombarded.

I despise cooking. Hate it. Food is fuel, I don't really care to think of it beyond anything but that. I enjoy food but if I'm making it chances are it's purely for performance and I'm complaining through the entire process. I get about 80% of my meals from out side of home but there is a fresh hot/salad bar at our local health food market so most of the time I'm there or other healthy food on the go options (Lamplighter!). I financially sacrifice a lot of other things just so I don't have to prepare food at home. I like it this way- that's how much I hate cooking. I'm very much a spoiled brat in this sense but I have accepted it. Some day's when I'm dragging my feet because I have to drive or ride to get food and I wish it would just come to me, I start thinking about families that struggle to feed their children or individuals that have had a long term struggle to feed themselves. There were some times growing up we didn't have any money (we never had money but some times were worse than others), we had very little to eat and I remember the impact those years had on my family and me. I dwell on how that must feel for other people especially since I've been through it. No one should have to deal with that kind of want and I think about that a lot. Every time I'm bitching because I have to drive my car or ride my bike to the store to get my healthy gluten free foods, I am brought back to those times growing up and think about the people in even worse situations.

I have first world problems. As an adult I am lucky enough to say I have more than enough of the basic needs and a lot of extra (I'm using my own personal laptop to type this, it's an absolute piece of shit but I have one). I have a car, 2 road bikes, plenty of art supplies, nice clothes, and so much more to be grateful for. My life isn't care free and I have a lot to deal with outside of living with this disorder but I am grateful for my position in life. I even feel that my bipolar management is a first world problem- and holy crap am I grateful that my circumstances allow me to focus my energy on that. In the great big picture that is human life my struggles aren't anywhere close to as bad as it can get and the amount of people who have it worse than I do is very humbling and I never forget that (my brain will make sure every time I am inconvenienced that I'm reminded about the AIDS babies suffering in Africa).

Even hearing other people speak about what they have been through humbles me to the point where I can lose my sense of priority. If someone crashes their car and totals it I empathize with them greatly and feel bad they have to go through that process (unless you were drinking or doing something stupid, then I have no sympathy for you). I have never once looked at anyone else and thought "my life is so much harder than yours." But I'm quick to look at others and tell myself "you're life isn't that hard."

I never pity myself but I'm quick to discredit the hurdles that my particular existence has put into place. I convince myself that my problems are superficial and therefor are a result of selfishness. A bipolar life isn't easy and I've caught myself slipping up on my responsibilities because I keep playing the comparison game. Even talking about this makes me feel kind of bad but I can't sit and cry about every problem that human kind must face that is completely out of my immediate control while I ignore my own.

Comparison is selling myself short and reinforcing behavior that isn't conducive to being happy or healthy.

I can be an empathetic person without sacrificing my needs.

Thank you for reading.

P.S. I would like to say that I greatly appreciate those who enjoy cooking and to all of the culinary wizards out there I extend my deepest gratitude. Without all of you I wouldn't be able to avoid cooking or having to think about it for this long.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Bipolar Victory!

"God had not given me a dark spirit, but a thoughtful one. This illness had 
taken over everything of worth and value in my life. I wanted to slay the
 demons inside of me. I threatened many times. The more I threatened, 
the more they tormented." -Ray Sturt, Bipolar Victory

I find an incomparable amount of inspiration and strength from other people's stories about living with bipolar. Regardless of cultural, financial, or social differences there is universal connection between all of us. Our very different minds share something at a structural level that others simply can't understand. Everything inside of me, everything that I've struggled with my whole life, can be explained from their point of view as if we have lived parallel lives. When I originally came to that realization I started this blog. All 30 years on this earth I felt I had no one to relate to and didn't know one person who could relate to me. I was finding that for the first time in my life I wasn't completely alone. Strangers from all over the world shared the darkest, oddest, and most terrifying parts of my mind. I wanted to put my story out there to continue the chain of connection and understanding. Each story serves to strengthen our minds and eliminate feelings of isolation. We do this in order to fight for a better quality of life.

Another link in the chain that is our survival is "Bipolar Victory" by Ray and Linda Sturt. Before I knew anything about them or their story I got to meet them at one of their book signings. You would never assume a day in your life either one of these people had suffered a moment in the hell that is the parasite's grip. They were happy. Genuinely happy people, smiles so warm and big you knew they came from an unshakable inner foundation. How could I have just met two joyous and lively individuals as friendly and wonderful as these two and they just put out a book about their family's struggle with bipolar.....?  Ah, the title is "Bipolar Victory." For myself and countless others we still fight daily, sometimes each minute, to even convince ourselves there might be a light at the end of the tunnel. They must have a piece of the puzzle that many of us don't know about.

Ray tells his story starting with his humble childhood, the full spectrum from him growing up, facing life's difficulties, to his eventual bipolar consumption. It's interesting to get a good understanding of his personality and then see the negative effect the disorder has on it. An outside view like that is priceless since we cannot look at ourselves that same way. Even though his early and adult life are a whole world away from mine he's incredibly easy to relate to- I felt like I knew who Ray Sturt was. Before the bipolar monster manifested he shows a lot of the good qualities that are rooted in personality. A lot of sufferers wonder if their behavior is the disorder or them, a life long struggle of not knowing if they are of good character or not. Ray is pleasant, flawed, lovable and human.                            

The Sturt's are also very honest. They didn't hide their flaws, disorder related or not. Ray's bipolar didn't surface until he was in his 40's so he had an entire lifetime to establish himself, his family, his place within his church, his place within the community, and as the hard working machinist he became. You get to enjoy the evolution of a man, who overcame living in a less than perfect home, create value in himself when others didn't always see it. After learning about the gentle but strong willed person who shaped his adult and family life to include so much happiness despite his hardships, you get to see how and when the disorder strikes. It's almost like a plot twist in a movie. It's a book about bipolar- you know it's coming but each story is different and the Sturt's is very unique.

I cried. I read a few chapter through tears. I was crying for Ray, his family, and out of sympathy. I was crying because of how it had changed this person you had come to know and empathize with, and I was crying because I knew all too well everything he talks about experiencing. You go from reading about Ray to feeling like you're reading your own life's story. It's reinforcement that this is a very real medical issue. It can take over and change anyone- regardless of strength, personality, personal integrity, effort, circumstances, environment, you name it. It's something deep withing the brain and Ray was hit hard.

One of my favorite parts of this book is that you get both Ray and Linda's perspectives. His wife also writes explaining her point of view and her thoughts. I was glued to these chapters. I've been frustrated as a bipolar person feeling disconnected with people because my view of the world doesn't seem to line up with theirs. I don't want to be the same but I want to understand. I can only imagine how terrifying and confusing it must be on the other end- especially close loved ones. Linda's words were a wonderful insight into the other side of this whole confusing debacle of a disorder. You get to read about her joyous moments and her most painful. I think about her love and dedication to Ray often. It gives me hope that having bipolar doesn't mean being excluded from the concept of romantic love or having failed relationship after failed relationship, something I know a lot of us struggle with.

The Sturt family does achieve victory over bipolar. They find their own personal way out of the misery that is over a decade of struggling. I loved reading their story and highly recommend it for anyone who has bipolar and for loved ones of someone who suffers from it. I think about Ray and his family often. They have further instilled hope in my life, that happiness can be achieved, and even that one day it will be easier to cope with a bipolar life.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Teach Me How You Dream So Sweetly

If you haven't read the previous post on suicide I highly suggest reading it before continuing with this post.

This post is on the subject of psychosis but also deals with suicide.
That can be very hard for some people so I'm putting this as a warning.

I'm currently going through a depression cycle. It's probably one of three that I've had in my life. I'm prone to mania and mood drops but not depression. I've also hit psychosis twice in the past 4 weeks. For me that's one of the two most dangerous states, the other is the all consuming numbness that the deeper levels of depression can cause.

Both these states cause a drastic rise in the chances of a suicide attempt.

Psychosis causes me to mentally disconnect with my surroundings, as if I'm detached from my body but still inside of it- watching but emotionless and with no internal responses. Not by choice, it just happens. The other day around 1 am I stood up, walked out of my house, and down to a park on the reservoir about a half mile away.  I just walked down there without a thought in my head or any concept of what I was doing. I wasn't dressed properly for the cold, wet weather but I didn't notice. It wasn't a "I don't care if it's cold and wet," it's a complete lack of conscious acknowledgment . I had a very content form of disassociation. This isn't numbness- it's very different. My mind detaches itself from receiving or processing information. I don't become some else- I become something else. This time around it was like a peaceful possession- and I only say peaceful because that is what it felt like while I was in that state. I felt nothing but a perpetual sense of calm. And that's exactly how it can get scary.

I ended up standing at the end of a dock, just standing there over the water experiencing everything but feeling nothing. In that state I don't have emotions or internal dialog. In the absence of those there is no way to police what my mind is doing. There is only indifferent silence.

While standing at the end of the dock I stared out across the water for a while until something caught my eye. I looked down and saw my body right below the surface of the water looking up at me. It was staring directly at me. She looked alive but wasn't moving- her hands and feet didn't make swimming motions in order to keep her self suspended there. The face was devoid of any emotion. She slowly started sinking and I watched her disappear with only couple bubbles replacing where she once was floating. Her expression didn't change as she sank. There was no sadness or fear just cold acceptance of her decent.

Completely unresponsive to what had just happened I shifted my gaze to further in the distance. I looked up to an image of myself walking on top of the water surface about a quarter of a mile away. She was walking with her back facing me for only a moment before she turned around. As clear as day I'm looking at myself standing on top of a lake with a boulder in my arms. She locked eyes with me and then plunges straight down into the water with a loud splash. The same expression on her face as the previous image.

I stood there for what seemed like hours looking out over the water. Neither upset or disturbed. No reaction what so ever- just that same peaceful disassociation. Eventually I saw a couple bouquets of flowers starting to float by. Beautiful bundles of white flowers almost glowing against the dark water. A couple at first and then more and more kept floating by. Hundreds of bundles of pale flowers coasting through the pitch black water directly in front of me. I knew right away what they were. They were flowers placed there after my "death." Another image my mind was throwing at me.

These images seem 100% real when they happen. I can see them as clear as day. They are not faint, they are not cloudy, and they aren't fleeting images seen out of the corner of my eye. The parasite has full control over my mind during these episodes.

I stood there for a long time with images and thoughts like this flooding my consciousness. Obviously I didn't act on any of them nor did I have a desire to. I wasn't fighting anything that was going on, I was just standing there and watching it like a movie.

Eventually I walked back home, not a conscious decision- things just happen in this state. I laid on my bed and stared at the ceiling. Blissful and peaceful nothing. Every thing around me registered as what it was but I still felt 1000 miles away from my mind and body. I was a ghost.

I did eventually have some of my mind return because I remember telling myself "take your medication and your sleeping meds then lay down." This message wasn't a harmful "take more than the prescribed amount of sleeping meds," it was just enough of my regular self preservation breaking through, knowing that tomorrow this will be gone.

Waking up the next day was terrifying. I panicked almost immediately. Every bit of fear I should have felt the night before I experienced when I woke up. The next 3 hours were spent crying on and off, almost incapable of getting out of bed to face myself. I couldn't believe I "saw" what I did. I knew they weren't real when they were happening but in the moment I didn't mind their existence. I focus so much on making sure I don't act out and negatively impact my loved ones with my mood swings that I neglected to realize the parasite could let me torture myself. I became afraid of who I was. My mind has the ability to conjure up images of me taking my own life that look 100% real.

This is all very terrifying but I found out a bit more about myself through this. I have alcohol induced psychosis.

When I was at UPMC I was really concerned about this revelation that I have "feelings" of things that aren't there (images hadn't manifested themselves until recently). It sounded like schizophrenia and I had just begun to accept the label of bipolar- I didn't know how I would feel about switching my diagnosis. They assured me I wasn't schizophrenic and it had to do with my type of bipolar. Also the fact that I knew these things weren't real apparently attributed greatly to the divide between the two.

They also pin pointed that my symptoms got worse when I drank, something I had not pieced together on my own.

I have almost never "seen" images and never to the extreme that has been the past 3 months. After speaking with my Drs and some self research I found out my mood stabilizers alter the chemical make up of my liver and therefor it doesn't process alcohol properly. My meds cause it to create an extra enzyme that regular livers don't produce. I haven't been drinking often and I sure as shit haven't been drinking heavily. But I did notice one glass of wine or one  hard cider would drop my mood or make me feel uneasy. I told myself that I wouldn't drink anymore months ago but in my depression and lack of daily maintenance I had lost sight of my goals and mistakes were being made.

I only had two and a half glasses of wine over the course of 4 hours to cause the images that night on the dock.

Through this very harsh experience I had to reevaluate everything in my current life and path to recovery. I didn't learn it right away but I am here solidifying and accepting this limitation in my life. I cannot drink. Not a glass of wine with dinner, not a hard cider hanging out with friends, not a shot of liquor to calm my nerves. Nothing. If I want to be healthy and functional like I keep fighting so desperately for I have to accept this as fact and no longer test those limits.

I will not let this disorder take me down. I will break the cycle in my family and give my daughter and others a success story.

Thank you for reading

Sunday, November 10, 2013

If There's a Future We Want It

I'm having overwhelming emotions tonight but some of them are the right ones. I'm feeling remorseful, very sad, and vulnerable. A lot of loss- a very deep stinging sense of loss. But at the same time that has kick started some determination and purpose inside of me. I have to reorganize my life and it's going to be painful and there will be casualties. I have to get back in contact with my needs and remember that I can't please everyone. I need stability more than pleasure. Most of all I have to remember that I have bipolar disorder and I have to live my life according to a different set of guide lines. It's a difficult and painful process but the rewards are greater than most people could possibly hope for, even with an emotionally stable life.

I can't keep feeding this depression. I'm letting apathy control me. That sounds impossible unless you've been there. Your ability to exist but care very little is a slow but powerful force. I've neglected myself, my environment, and my ability to act when I have needed to. I haven't been setting my boundaries nor have I been true to myself. The internal conversations I have in order to keep myself in check have dried up- mostly because I didn't like what I heard. I have been running away from my problems in the form of inaction.

I am terrified of what I have to face now. Emotions can be crippling to me- my whole life has been haunted by an extreme and over powering amount of emotions that have the ability to take me down when they want to. I have dealt with so much and my mind hasn't wanted to deal with them any more. 

I am vulnerable and scared but I am not weak.

I'm in Arlington VA after seeing Paramore with a great friend. They have a song that hits home with me and it's been part of my silly but very helpful self encouragement soundtrack I created in my head. When I heard that song tonight I felt the apathetic part of me. My response wasn't as powerful as it should have been. Something had a grip on me and I realized it was my minds current addiction to nothing.

I am not and will not be an apathetic person. My disorder chose that emotion or lack there of as a defense mechanism and it's holding me back. I didn't choose this chemically fucked brain but it's my choice to deal with it or not. 

When life gives you coal- crush it into diamonds.

Thank you for reading and goodnight.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Demons to Some, Angels to Others

I have to start this post off by saying that I am a very loving indifferent atheist. I passionately believe everyone has the right to worship or not worship who/whatever they want. Doesn't make you right but it doesn't make you wrong. I attach lovingly indifferent to that tittle because I don't care to disprove or argue with other people about their beliefs. Frankly- I just don't care. That's your business, not mine.

Religion is a very touchy subject- I understand this.

With that being said I'm going to talk about bipolar and personal beliefs. I've been reading Bipolar Victory by Ray and Linda Sturt and outside of it being a very good read it got me thinking quite a bit about the connection between bipolar and spiritual beliefs. Ray, Linda, and their two sons are very religious. They believe very deeply in the bible, it's message, and are completely devoted to living their lives according to their Christian faith. They express how that was what they held onto in order to survive all of the struggles with living with bipolar. I enjoy their story and how their faith is very much ingrained in all of the battles life has to throw at them.

That's their story. It has been told by their point of view- I enjoy and respect that.

Ray and Linda are two of the nicest people you'll meet. When I got a chance to meet them they were very warm and welcoming to myself and a friend of mine. I'm not a conventional looking kind of woman and my friend who accompanied me that day was scaring the children walking by with his outfit. The Sturts didn't even seem to notice. Absolutely wonderful people. They believe that their Christian faith is what healed Ray and their family from the bipolar monster and other tragedies they have had to deal with throughout their married lives together.

I've mentioned in previous posts that I'm a fan of science and what is true right in front of me.

I believe bipolar is a product of evolution. I don't know if it's a flaw or if it once served a purpose when we were a primitive nomadic peoples. I like the theory that it is genetic- passed down from generation to generation. My grandmother was bipolar. She self medicated with alcohol most of her life and eventually heroin before committing suicide. My oldest daughter (9 years old) has it. I can see me in her, it's like I'm watching myself grow up- mood swings and all. My father had it. Most of the people I know who have it tend to have another relative with bipolar or relatives that could be but they are undiagnosed.

I don't believe in a higher power so I have to rely on myself in the darker battles against the disorder. I don't believe that an evil force is what causes it. I don't buy into the good vs evil or that things in life are that clear cut- black and white. Life is mostly all grey areas. Everything is situational to me.

Some times having a belief system seems like it could make it easier to get through this for some. Whether or not it's "correct" is not my purpose here. I imagine being able to trust your physical, mental, and spiritual well being to a higher power could definitely provide a level of comfort and relief otherwise difficult to find. An external entity that you can share your inner turmoil with. Something or someone that is ideally perfect- detached from your suffering as a faulty human. Especially if it's perceived as loving or forgiving. I think humans need and want to believe- it provides comfort, purpose and answers. That concept has always been part of the human psyche. We have always worshiped or had faith something, whether is was a handful of sticks or a king in the sky. The human imagination knows no bounds.

 I believe in managing this disorder and living out a successful and happy life. That is what I hold onto in my good times and bad. It's not quite as in depth as a spiritual belief but it provides comfort and determination when I need it. It's something I cannot currently prove, just like any spiritual belief.

I don't care for faith, god, or spiritual conquests. There is no current way to know why we are here or where we go after death. I've accepted this as fact and have moved on. It seems irrelevant to how I live my life. That doesn't mean my life and actions aren't governed by rules and standards. I'm not going to kill anyone or take cash out of some one's wallet. Though my own rationalization, application of forethought, and social conditioning I have come to understand empathy, the consequences of my actions, and general concern for my fellow man. It's ever evolving just like I am but there is a system in place.

Bipolar is hard. You're already burdened with trying to survive the horrors of your own mind, I can imagine trying to understand the "why" in all of this could be torture to some people. It makes sense that one would want answers they could believe in and find relief in.

Personally I don't care "why." I'm fixated on moving forward and managing this chemical brain parasite. I believe it's science, it happened somewhere along the line and has been passed down, and that is what life gave me. It's genetic chance.


Thank you for reading