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“how do i explain bipolar disorder to someone?”

24 Feb

Sometimes I start talking to stranger, acquaintances, friends about this wonderful defect, this twitching glitch in my brain. I’ll candidly mention “the second time I tried to kill myself” or “when I was on the psych ward” or even, “last time I was at the mall, I kept hearing things calling my name. heh.” I’ll keep talking, glad to be open and rational about my disorder, until I glance up and notice the looks of horror or fear on the faces before me. The sheer inability to understand.

Explaining bipolar to a “normal” is difficult. I have noticed that first off the “oh, I get depressed sometimes too” line will come out, about 70% of the time.

This line irritates me so much I want to spoon out their eyeballs and make soup. I know it’s an attempt to relate and empathize. But it comes of as condescending and like they wish to minimize what I’ve been through.

Some people have relatives with bipolar though, or DID, or other disorders, and they will quietly admit to this, as if they’re the family demons and by speaking of them they get stronger. Like it’s something to be ashamed of.

It’s rare that anyone actually wants to hear the truth, the story behind it. What happens, and why.

I’ve had the chance, the odd time, to really explain what happens. And I’m as pointed and clear and realistic as I can be.

I explain the huge variations in mood, like summer to winter, with no chance for spring. My head can wrap itself around and convince itself that those I love hate me, or that I hate them, or that they’re spying on me, or plotting against me.

I can become paranoid, even when medicated. Patterns which would otherwise be meaningless can make me question what I’m seeing. I worry that attention not paid to me is not friendship, but betrayal.

Sometimes, all I want, more than anything, is to die. Or rather, to just not exist. It’s not a matter of wanting to die-it’s when the pain is so bad, so all consuming that it colors every.single.thing. in your world, being numb, being sterile and white and blinding sounds like SUCH a good idea, even if you need to get there to die. It’s a drive, a mission to find a dry place, a soundproof place where the voices in your head have nothing to say, and you don’t ache with the pain you imagine a star could be borne of.

The death part is the hardest to understand. A rational, normal person thinks of suicide as anathema, as well they should. But I’ve always found the suicidal urges to be the simplest. Wake up, have pancakes, pick out a shirt, maybe today I’ll do it, maybe not, ham would be nice for dinner. Just the endless loop of “just maybe”. No one likes to know about this part. (Incidentally, this has been the bit that’s most isolating, and I just really don’t have anyone to talk to about it, which is how I usually work through stuff. It’s pretty much a conversation killer)

I might talk about my mania. Thankfully mine isn’t so bad, especially medicated, but I still become infuriated when normal people talk about “how manic!” they are after a cup of coffee. (The word is hyper. Not manic) I’ve explained my black rages to people, those where I can barely rein in my anger, looking through bloody, lidded eyes. I’ve explained the agitation, akin to having creatures crawling underneath and through my skin, inability to sit still, be quiet, keep money in my pocket.

People think mania sounds “neat”.

I don’t know if you can explain away that theory. To them, mania is being happy and fun. Even for me, who rarely gets very manic, especially on the meds, it’s not fun. It’s scary. A few months back, I had a week where I was insanely manic, for me, considering I’ m medicated. I could have sworn I was floating for a few days, I was so euphoric. I couldn’t focus, I could barely see straight. I vibrated.

Not neat. But to the outsider, there aren’t enough adjectives to convey the sense of slow plodding insanity mania can give you.

I always take pain to point out that I’m otherwise normal. That with the exception of my bad moments, on medication, I’m mostly like others. Sure, I still need to work harder at some things. I’ll never be as organized as a lot of people, I’ll never be able to focus as clearly as I did before I got sick. But I still get the flu. I laugh at fart jokes. I have baggage. I’m still human.

And really, that’s what this always boils down to. Conveying to people our humanity-that mental illness hasn’t stripped that away. Sure, I’m sick. But that doesn’t make me less of a wife, or mother, or friend. If anything, I’m more human, as the experience, the internal experiences I’ve been through make me fuller than any trip or purchase could make me. I have a wealth of knowledge and living behind me, something that’s made me, even sick me, so much more of a person than I would have been.

Explain our humanity. It’s all up hill from there.

bipolar people + able to love?

11 Apr

Yes, we are.

Just because we seem like monsters, doesn’t mean we are.

“do bipolar people ever get better?”

25 Mar

I get a lot of search hits along these lines-people looking for answers. Possibly the newly diagnosed, scared and worried that they’ll be on drugs for the rest of their lives, and maybe in and out of hospital. Possibly a boyfriend, a wife, a cousin,  looking to see if their own private confusion and heartache might stop sometime soon, if there’s any point in hoping, waiting for things to get better.

In a way, there isn’t.

Unlike cancer, or heart disease, there is no end date to bipolar. There is no “remission”, no little breaks from the disease, and no discounts on your mortgage either. You either have it, or you don’t, period.

It will not end until death. You might compensate for it a little better, or you might find a drug, or drugs that work, or therapy might help you, but you will always have this brain sickness. You will always be privy to possibly emptying the bank account because the desire to buy something, anything overrode every other piece of common sense in your body. You might eat everything you can find because it just tastes so good and makes you feel better and you hardly even notice that you went up a dress size in a month. You might launch into a rage so foolhardly and blinding, you’ll tell the people you love to leave before you beat the ever loving crap out of them. You know you mean it.

You might spend days wishing, dreaming about your death, and not even know that this isn’t normal.

This is what you live with. This is why you will never be totally better. You cannot irradiate bipolar, at least, not that anyone has figured. You cannot pump nitroglycerin into it, or transplant your brain for a new, fitter model. You are stuck with it.

I say stuck, but I don’t always give my bipolar the credit it deserves. It gives me perspective. It’s given me a certain “fuck it” attitude which allows me to enjoy my children, and my life in different ways, ways that I know many other parents can’t. My bipolar continually reminds me that we cannot judge people by how they look or act, despite a strong desire to do so. Being bipolar not only makes me see the dark sides, it allows me to watch the sunset again ice covered tree limbs, and know that beauty lies there.

We won’t get “better”, not in the way we think of when we say we’re better from the flu. We will become steady. We will become stable, and sadly in some cases numb. But with the knowledge that one has to take their pills each day so they don’t become psychotic comes the realization that better, and normal, is something unreachable, and possibly even a goal not worth reaching for in the first place.

“can you ever be normal with bipolar?”

19 Mar

Do I look not normal? Do I sound not normal?

on second thought….don’t answer that.

********************

I consider myself high functioning. Any doctor I ever had always expressed surprise and shock at the fact that I’ve been able to hold my jobs unmedicated.

I suppose they’ve never really heard of the ability to compartmentalize things. The ability to soldier on despite pain, or suffering or debilitating unfocus. The ability to pretend.

Girls are good at this sort of thing.

I look normal. A bit weird, but I seem fine and well to most people most days. I laugh, I snort, I read books, I do my job. Most days I am normal.

You don’t seem crazy when you sit quietly and fight the delusion that the world is going to end and you should go stockpile food and water. You don’t seem crazy when you’re quietly telling yourself you don’t want to die. You don’t seem crazy when you’re quiet.

Aside from those days, I’m just like everyone else. I live my life. I take my pills. I sleep little.

Normal is a relative thing after all.

**********************

I suppose one could say that I will never be “normal”-if the context of normal means never having to take pills to not hit things and never needing to watch my sleep patterns in order to make sure that I don’t get stupidly hypo manic. If normal means never having delusions or hearing strange voices or noises, then no, I’ll never be normal.

Are you normal with cancer? Heart Disease? Diabetes? No?

I will always be sick. It’s the one constant in my life. I will always have a chronic disease that can interfere with my normal life-with my job, with my marriage, with my parenting. I will always be “not-normal” because of this. I will be different. I will react to screaming children or smart alec husbands in different ways than others. But so do many people who aren’t sick.

My normal is your weird. My normal is fighting internal voices, my normal is countering the cackling bitter manic woman with calm placid thought. And I’m fine with that.

You’ll never be who you thought you’d be. But no one is. In my case, I believe I’m someone much better than I would have been if I was “normal”. I’m me.

“do people that are bipolar hang out together?”

26 Feb

Is this a trick question, along the lines of “do black people only hang out with black people”?

I don’t have a manic depressive quota to meet. In fact, in real life, I know one bipolar person. We hung out in high school, and I never knew that she was a nutter. She was fucked up, but I figured being a very out lesbian in a small town living with your ex-stepfather who snorts coke was enough to fuck anyone up. I miss her like a sister, but we never hung out because we recognized something in each other. We hung out because she had great taste in music and she loved my derby blue docs.

Finding out, all these years later, that we’re both manic depressive was kinda cool actually.

In my everyday life, I don’t know anyone. I know people online, but if the people I ran into in the psych ward are any indication, I don’t know if I want to hang out with anyone else that’s nutty for very long. I can’t imagine it’s a healthy way to live. My own bad ideas are toxic enough-having someone else along for the ride-that would end badly.

I like talking to others online who have this disease. It makes me feel less alone, allows me to find the answers I need sometimes. But on those days when we all need to pull away, I’d hate to imagine being stuck together as friends-over sensitive, possibly vengeful friends.

And really. It’s not a club. We don’t hang out together and trade tips on what to do when the lithium shits hit or what could possibly help bring you down from a nice session of hypo-mania. At least for me, this shit doesn’t happen.

And you know how groups of women tend to synchronize their periods? Imagine if that happened with a bunch of depressed bipolars. Man, we’d drop off like flies.

The entire idea just bothers me for some reason. And don’t bring up the goth thing-most goths I’ve known were disgustingly well adjusted, wallowing in “sorrow” like I’d go slumming in Regent Park. Listening to bad music doesn’t make you crazy. Just stupid. We aren’t squirrels or lemmings. We’re people. Just because I have bipolar doesn’t mean I want to hang out with other crazies. Just because I have a vagina doesn’t mean I like women.

We’re just people, just like you.

“does bipolar go away?”

23 Feb

No. No, it doesn’t.

I don’t think that there ever was a time I didn’t have this disease in my brain. I think it was minimized, something I could control to some degree, something I could compensate for. But my extreme sensitivity as a child? My varying moods, my shyness-all things that could be normal in a child, but which seem, in hindsight, to be indicators, potentials.

Being molested by a neighbour, watching my mother slowly die over a number of years, only letting go when told there was no point anymore, trying to hold on to the splinters we called family-I can’t help but think these things, and puberty, forced the hand and took me from merely strange, to a little crazy.

I had a nasty habit of hitting things when angry. Things like thick wooden fences and concrete walls. I’d turn on friends in an instant, for no reason even I could discern. I’d shut myself off, blocking the world out for days.

I found lovely delicious drugs which liked me back.

I think most of my adolescence was spent in denial. Denying anything was wrong to any of the shrinks who saw me-pushing away anyone who might have wanted to help me.

What’s surprising is that Mogo was willing to be with the mess I was, and staying through all the late night accusations and needy MEMEME that involves so much of bipolar for me. Nothing was ever enough. I needed to be shown, I needed his love to be proved. As if staying with someone who’d sit in a bathtub running cold water when she was freaked out wasn’t proof enough.

Babies came. PPD came. My mind left.

There’s an awful sense of doom when you’re diagnosed and you realize that this is it. After years of not knowing what it was, years of Mogo saying “I think you might be manic-depressive” and me snapping “Fuck off-I’m not crazy”, years of pretending everything was ok and maintaining a life that was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain, you suddenly think it will be ok. You have a reason.

But then you realize that that reason is a life sentence. You will never escape your disease. It IS you. It’s part of you, it’s formed you and in some ways, you’re at it’s mercy. You’ll take drugs for the rest of your life, and you’ll hope like hell they don’t stop working. You’re thankful that there are drugs that make you mostly normal.

Bipolar doesn’t go away. There’s no magic switch to turn on and off. There’s no secret formula to fix your brain. It just is. Cancer you can cure. You can get a new heart. Your brain? All you can do is drink a magic potion, and hope it works.

Do I wish there was a magic switch? Hells yes. I worry daily that the drugs won’t work-now that I’m on Lithium, and it works, and I can see the chaos I spawned and what the ultimate ending I was headed for I worry. Because my BPD, untreated, is a death sentence. If I was still untreated, it’s more than likely I would be dead by now. I could feel it building. It’s why the periodic feelings of “hey, swallow those pills/cut yourself” scare me so completely. Because they are still there, and I fear them. I fear that voice, and I fear, more than many things, returning to that state of living.

You don’t realize how bad those voices, those thoughts are, until they’re not there. Every day, for years, I thought of dying. Of taking my own life. Those thoughts became friends-bad friends, but friends nonetheless. They were always there.

Now, living without them is such clear bliss that I would have trouble going back to living with them in my head everyday.

I wish it would go away. I wish I didn’t have to take 4 pink pills every night. I wish I didn’t have to worry about my children, how I’m affecting them, if they’ve inherited it. I wish I didn’t have to worry about my husband, who has spent far too many days wondering where his wife went, and if she was going to survive. I wish I could say I’ll never be hospitalized ever again.

I wish, I wish….but at the end of the day, it’s not going away. So we pick ourselves up, and soldier on, hoping we stay strong, yet preparing daily for the worst.

“can pregnant woman eat pizza hut wings”

17 Feb

HELLS yes. I lived on Pizza Hut my second pregnancy (as my ass and 50 lb weight gain can attest)

You can eat what you want, with the exception of the usual suspects-beer a 40 of vodka, crack cocaine, sushi  fish from Lake Erie, six pack of Jolt.

More than likely, everyone and their Mother has been telling you “You can’t eat that!!!” in the same tones that one would warn small children from open flame. Ignore them. Frankly, anyone who dares tell a pregnant woman what they can or cannot eat deserves to be kicked, repeatedly in the vicinity of where a baby might come out. Welcome to motherhood-a land where everyone else knows better than you.

Don’t overdo the eating of crap (trust me-50lbs….but I quit smoking, so I figure it works out) but don’t listen to people with their stupid unfounded prejudices about food either. OR, levy some advice of your own-something like “Hey, that purse makes your ass look big” or “that chest hair makes you look like a wookie.”

And then, go have a big honkin’ pile of wings. And hot sauce.

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