Things I hate about bipolar disorder #362

Springtime Necklace & EarringsOnce upon a time there was a woman who created beautiful and unique jewelry…or maybe she was just manic.

 

multigrain oatmeal

Once upon a time there was a woman who thoroughly enjoyed bread baking…or maybe she was just manic.

 

wedding toastOnce upon a time there was a woman who had a passion for life…or maybe she was just manic.

 

Jewelry designs flutter around my brain, a sourdough starter is bubbling away on my counter, poetry and stories dash in and out of my imagination…is it just mania?

A person who does not have bipolar disorder might say “Who cares what it is, go with it.” But a person who has experienced the pain of a manic episode would understand my fear. Mania isn’t just creative bursts of energy. Mania can be physical pain, embarrassment, humiliation, sleepless nights, financial ruin, ad nauseam. Mania is often followed by a horrific crash back into depression.

Questioning enthusiasm: Things I hate about bipolar disorder #362

The cost of a mind-cleanse

bears2These three old bears are the beginning of an addiction I developed perhaps 20 years after I was given the first one. Shortly after I began earning my own money, I started collecting Steiff bears.  When I married, I stopped because it was an expensive hobby.

After I left my ex, I started again only this time I had discovered one-of-a-kind artist bears (the last four in my collection are picture below). Then bipolar mania hit. I came across Boyd’s collectibles, and I had to own every damn one in every collection. Fortunately, I somehow came to my senses before going completely bankrupt.

My living room ended up being a daily reminder of my manic behavior. I was happy to pack them up and leave them in storage when I moved in with my husband. I had grand plans of listing them on eBay and raking in the profits. The prospect of how much work that would entail was daunting, so I decided to sell them through a local auction house. I didn’t think about something very important – the key word here is “local.” In rural southern Ohio, bear collecting is not a high priority. When I finally gathered the courage to look at the auction online yesterday (it ends today), I was dismayed to see that the bids were all barely 1/10 of the value of each piece. Now take into consideration that the auction house takes 25% (they deserved that), and I had just made a very costly decision which caused me to lose a potentially large profit.

But, and finally here’s my point, when put in to the perspective of how much I would pay to cleanse my mind of this constant reminder of one of the worst aspects of my disorder, I believe it was quite a bargain. So I’ll take the money without grumbling and treat my husband to dinner at McDonald’s.

 

artist bears

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A tale of madness

After ridding her system of yet another failed psychiatric medication, she sits across the desk from her psychiatrist asking “What now?” Unfortunately, there seems to be a problem with her endocrine system (which the endocrinologist has deemed “An interesting detective story”), and nothing more will be done until that mystery has been solved. Perhaps next month she will try one more experiment in psychotropic medications (there aren’t many left that she hasn’t tried). Meanwhile he tells her he’s not worried, she has a good husband.

So the self-talk begins. She tells herself she can do this, she’s done this before, there are people who care, a patient husband who loves her, a toolbox full of self-care tools. She talks herself straight into a manic episode. This is when things start to go awry. There are official DSM terms for different types of bipolar episodes, but she doesn’t use them. Her episodes don’t seem to want to follow the rules. Life starts feeling good again, she’s confident (too confident, if you ask me – warning sign!). She becomes so confident, in fact, that she’s sure her husband wants to hear her opinion of one of his “failings.”

Oops, that didn’t go as planned. Of course, being the patient man he is, he just stares at her, “OK, well what do you want me to do about it?” And then, being the unstable lunatic she is (it’s ok for me to use that word, I have permission from the mental health gods), she storms off because he can’t read her mind. Now she realizes her racing thoughts are running laps in record time. She opens her handy dandy tool box and pulls out Breathing Exercise #24. And she breathes in, and she breathes out, and then in, and then out. What’s that you say brain? Ooooh, those are ugly words, low blow, brain. She tries again – she breathes in, breathes out…uh oh, her eyes are beginning to leak. How about Breathing Exercise #53?

She decides to change location. She runs upstairs quickly into her “safe” room, trying to out-run the pummeling of self-harm words her brain has begun to rain down. In her haste, the toolbox has been left behind. All the good intentions fade away. All that is left are the thoughts that she’s absolutely certain are true. She’s tricked everybody this time. She has even admitted her trickery to those who have been kind, “I’m an imposter, I’m not who you think I am, I am not strong, I can not do this any longer.” Her eyes are leaking badly. At this point the only coherent words that can be heard if you listen carefully are “Why haven’t I died yet?” and “Help me.”

The door opens, but she is not aware, her basic cognitive skills having left some time ago. Then warm arms are wrapped tightly around her body. Kind, coaxing words bring her back to recognize her surroundings. Strong hands help her stand up, help her walk down the stairs, help her get into bed. Loving arms wrap her in safety, quiet comforting words lull her to sleep.

She awakens the next morning to try once again.

Thief in the night

keyboardAs I lay in bed last night, tears quietly streaming out of the corners of my eyes, I wondered what happened to the woman who wrote the last few posts. It feels like someone has broken in to my home and stolen my weapons. Has this insidious disease decided to laugh in my face and show me to be a fraud? Was it all just mania that was giving me a false sense of well-being? Or perhaps I really am what someone once said to me, “a mental health pariah.” (I had to look that one up, its usage didn’t make sense at the time.)

The Mighty posted an article, 18 Clever Responses for When People Say Mental Illness is ‘All in Your Head’ that a friend and I were discussing, which then prompted me to think of the things people say to me to “help” me. You know the ones – “smile, you’ll feel better” or “it could be worse” or “change your attitude.” The one I use on myself, which someone said to me a long time ago and has stuck ever since “You’re not trying hard enough.” Is that it? Is that what’s happening now?

Monday I have an appointment for a medication review of this new med I started (which is actually a slightly different form of one that recently stopped working). Maybe I wanted it to work so badly that the placebo effect took over and it actually did work for a while. There’s a catchphrase that’s been around a long time, fake it ’til you make it. It’s been both vilified and lauded. Maybe if I can do that for just a few more days, my doctor can help me figure this out. Until then, I’ll read my own posts again, perhaps I can inspire myself…or perhaps it’s all bullshit.

wolf in sheep clothing

Mimicking Mania

Having had bipolar disorder for the majority of my life, I don’t really know what constitutes a “normal” emotion. I know what my manic behavior is like and I know what my depressive behavior is like. So when I feel excited or very happy I always question…”Is it the beginning of a manic episode?” Same with sadness, although that one’s a little bit easier. I can usually tell the difference between sad and depressed.

Last night I received a second custom order. That would make three sales this week, plus two at the Expo. I suppose that may not seem like a lot to some, but to me it’s huge. I was feeling very elated, and immediately thought “Uh oh, mania here I come.” But I didn’t hurry and start on the new piece (I had to hunt down the charms today), nor did I rush around the house finding other things to do. I took my melatonin blend, read in bed (it was late), and slept like a log. So no manic sleeplessness.

Still, this morning I felt disconnected and like my mind was starting to race. So many ideas were popping into my head about different necklaces I wanted to make. Was it just a rush of creativity? Was I elated or manic?

To those of you with bipolar disorder who read my blog, I’d love to hear your input on how you deal with this sort of thing. Will I ever stop doubting my hard-fought-for stability?