Warning: Relapse

Honestly, I find the words evaporating before they can come into focus in my mind. I grasp at them, trying desperately to hold to just one. Please, just one to represent this. Let me have only one.

So, here I write. My first stream of consciousness entry since the very beginning of this blog.

Where to start? Is there really a starting point? The perfect place to run along the thread, coursing up and down, and through the fabric of my life. Maybe. Maybe not. I seem to get the idea that there is no beginning, and respectively, there is no end.

So, maybe I can begin with a narrative, rolling around in my mind, each time it stirs.


I am not perfect. My flaws are becoming more visible each time I look at myself. Painfully so. Everything feels so forced.

I make mistakes. I succumb to those words, the ones that usually just make a dull buzz in my head.

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In these times, the moments of darkness, it becomes louder, slower, more pronounced.

I. want. to. die.

A buried mantra, rising from dormancy.

My ears heard a beckon in my sleep. I rustled. I could sleep forever. Another summoning. In fact, I wanted to sleep forever. My eyes opened to dull grey haze, sunlight buried miles deep in cloud cover. And the words whispered to me, I want to die.

 

I had remembered my dream. It was a recurring dream, the same theme, different places, different faces. All but one. C.S.

In each dream, we are separated in some way, whether it be a wall or a world apart. We aren’t just separated, rather more like severed from one another. I am not whole. I feel that in the very depths of my shattered soul.

In this most recent recurrence, we were literally separated, not divorced, but not even living in the same place anymore. I shared an apartment with his ex-best friend. He was sick, and I took him to the hospital.

While there, I started to feel preterm labor. It was a child I hadn’t told C.S. about yet. Though we had T.D., I didn’t want him to feel obligated to stay in a marriage with me because of an unplanned pregnancy.

I just went back to the apartment. The same dingy, dark, trashed apartment that is always in my dreams. I must have done something really bad for him to discard and disregard me in such a way. I called him. I wanted nothing more than to be whole again. I needed him to come to my aid.

He refused. “Why would I want to come to that dump to see you?”

I begged. And he still refused.

I returned to the hospital, knowing that the labor would get worse. I just knew it wasn’t something that couldn’t be fixed.

Skip the labor scene. I don’t remember it, even if it did occur.

And, I went into a dark exam room, to lay on the bed with the paper sheet, in a paper gown. I saw a pad of paper sitting on an end table. I flipped through and it coldly read, “What seems to be your problem today?”

I threw it, and went to gather my belongings that were housed in a communal room, supposedly watched by a guard. Except when I went to look, they were nowhere in sight. I saw a woman sitting next to the man, holding my exact purse. I insisted it was my purse, and ripped it away from her. I pulled out my handmade keychain, looking for some proof I was who I said I was.

I got a nametag out and I had apparently been using a different last name since my separation. I went for my I’d in my wallet. A voice came from behind me.

“Her name is Em. I’m her husband.”

C.S. stood there, disappointed and disgruntled.

 

And I awoke, horrific feelings still intact. Worthlessness, abandonment, disappointment, heartache, soul-fractures, incompletely incomplete, with holes punctured through my being. I mourned that child. I mourned my broken marriage. And I wondered what lay in wait in my conscious life.

Noon. Lunch. Eggs and bacon for my son.

No excuses. Not, the infamous, “It’s five o’clock somewhere.” I poured myself a shot of Wild Turkey and nursed it. The next, I gulped. Sunday is a terrible day to drink in Pennsylvania. When you’re out, you’re out. So, I moved on to vodka.

Anything. I would do anything to erase that awful gnawing feeling. That feeling that you are being dragged into the pit, clawing and screaming as the inky blackness envelopes you, curling like vines upward, and strangling the very life from you.

I’m not going to launch into this speech about how embarrassed or downtrodden I am for my shortcomings. Not because I feel justified in my action as a result of a faulty rationalization. Because I am human. I have some permissible margin or error, right?

But, I will make certain admissions based on very stark realizations.

I was starting to get ready for work, when I realized that not all of my laundry had been returned to me. T.D. had clothes. C.S. was fine for the week. But only a few articles returned to me.

I started to get upset. Dressing for Pennsylvania weather is tricky. When the sun is shining, but it’s 30, and you know that you be out after dark later, it complicates things. Some of my classrooms are hot, and some are cold. I need layers. My sweaters were too hot.

I lost all confidence in any choice, and became flustered. T.D. screamed in the background and C.S. preached at me on the phone. I wasn’t going to make it in time. I wasn’t going to make it.

How could I even walk out of that door like this, without any guarantees that I could make it intact?

I want to die.

My parents pounded on the door. I carried T.D. down the stairs and set him down. I was shaking so badly, it caused tremors in every single electrified muscle. Halfway through the living room, my legs gave out. My whole body fell limp, and I could no longer live in my mind. I crawled to the door, and opened it.

I pulled myself onto the sofa and curled into a ball. And I cried, “I can’t do it. I can’t go to work like this.”

“Get yourself together,” my mother advised.

I wasn’t talking anymore. I was on autopilot, hyperventilating, “I can’t. I can’t. I just can’t, I have to call off.”

I did. My boss could sense the extreme distress in my voice. I lied. I told her the sitter called off because she was sick. I couldn’t bear to tell her the truth.

I’m in no mental state, because I’m having a nervous breakdown related to a recent bout of ultradian cycling that hurled me into a long awaited depression. You’re better off without me today.

And my mother asked, “Did something happen?”

“No,” I answered in a fractured voice, holding back tears, “this is just the natural course of things. This was three months in the making. Three months, almost symptom free. And now this.”

The grand herald of my depressive episode, here to announce it’s presence. And to present a list of events, in no particular, predictable order, that will push me further into this hell. This hell. This is mine. Of my own making.

And I have to face it alone. Because as of today, everyone in my life has made it abundantly clear that they are, quote, “Tired of my shit, because I’m always like this.”

That’s me. Like this. Fucking up since the mid-eighties.

This post brought to you by Tallulah, my Blackberry Bold.

Fighting Back : A Bus Story

This bus. This is the same bus I take to and from work all of the time. Same routes, same drivers, and generally the same people.

Not a whole lot changes in my life. Steady job, happily married, a resident of my neighborhood for more than two cumulative decades. It is not monotonous in the slightest. It is stable.

Because, regardless of the things that remain concrete, I am always evolving, always flowing, and fluctuating. I am up; I am down. I do not have the luxury of having a constant mental state, where everything is perceived exactly as is was yesterday, and the day before that. Also, I do not have consistency within myself and my emotions to risk tipping the scales.  The cost is too great. 

I am more than content to go on living my life in the same way, unlike many others.  Why?  Because I have endured so much and worked so hard to get to this point.  Right here, where I undoubtedly believe that there are concrete things to grab onto when I’m sliding, and I have at least a modicum of clarity about myself, my present, and my future.

It’s this clarity that keeps me intact.

The predictability that I am going to wake up next to my husband, poke around on WordPress, play with my son, feed us, walk down the street, and hop on the same bus, at the same time, with the same driver to go to the same place I went the day before.

I do that backward in the evening.

I wrote this to a friend, soon after I wrote Pause. Skip. Fast-Forward.

“My mind feels like it fell from a skyscraper and shattered on the ground, 100 stories below. That’s the kind of wreckage we’re talking about. Not only did I leave an impact crater, I’m practically dust at the bottom of it. I can’t think, and I’m overwhelmed by this horrid, damaged feeling.

. . . I was handling it pretty well from moment to moment because they were pretty pronounced from one another, and rather short. Now, I’m pretty sure something tipped me off of my precarious ledge. It doesn’t matter what the causation was, because it’s not going to act as an antidote.

It was coming anyway. Three months in the making.

. . . I can’t trust anything I say, think, or do right now . . .

A few nights ago, I found myself standing at my same stop, waiting for my same bus, having a conversation with C.S. about our respective days.  They had been rough ones.  C.S. was dealing with a defaulted loan, and several accounts that were flaming turds at work.  I had bombed an observation at work, and was dealing with a potential denial from unemployment regarding my lack of work over the summer.  Everything was off kilter, and I had been for several weeks prior to these events.

My way home.

In the 99 Quirks of Lulu, in #2 and #5, I describe certain phobias I have.  So, when I board a bus, I naturally take the seat right in front of the backdoor.  On these buses, there is a plexiglass barrier between that seat and the door.  I am positioned properly, and it alleviates claustrophobia.  I can see everyone who can get to me.  I am close enough to the front of the bus, near the driver, without occupying a disabled seat, and I have an easily accessible exit.

Of course, I always survey my surroundings, without making eye contact.  There were five other people on the bus with me.  A larger, middle-aged man in jeans, who sat two seats in front of me.  A 50-something year old woman, with short poofy hair, dyed auburn, with grey roots coming in, seated a seat behind and across the aisle.  A man occupying a disabled seat in the front, and a male and a female in the very back.

I chatted with C.S., upset by the events that were simultaneously occurring.  It is the same ritual that occurs every night, usually minus the serious conversation.  And everything was in it’s right place.

I take notice of when anyone moves around on the bus.  I have been accosted more than once while en route, so I am always cautious.  The man had been casting me glances, obviously unaware that I had noticed.  The woman got up, and leaned across the aisle to speak with the man.  I continued on with C.S., still perfectly aware of what was going on around me.

She leaned in toward me, close enough for my eyes to focus in on her greyish, crooked front teeth, and scolded loudly, growling, “You know, there are other people on this bus.”

Seeing red again, seeing red again…

Typically, I go unprovoked. I would ignore such a person and prattle louder, in the attempt to defy the other person. But, something triggered. I could feel it in the millisecond before my response. It was like the click of hammer when a gun is fired. And the projectile came out.

“Oh don’t worry, I’ll be off soon enough,” I replied bitingly, knowing my stop was just a few minutes away.

She snarled, sinking back into her seat, “You know, you don’t have to talk so loudly.”  Funny thing was, I was not talking loudly.  I was speaking in my normal voice, on a bus quiet enough to rival a library.

“Actually, this is me talking loudly.  Just so you can tell,”  I retorted, even louder this time.  I did not swear, threaten, or get up.

“As if it’s all that important.”  Clearly, she was regarding me as some teenage idiot prattling idly to her boyfriend on her cell phone, gossiping nonsensically about this and that.  Looks are deceiving.  She should have learned already in her long life to never take anything at face value.

And I raged, speaking to her as if I were scolding a student for extraordinary misconduct, “Yeah, actually it is important.  This is about my life.  Not your life.  And if you were actually listening as you clearly indicated you could have been by the volume of my voice, you would know what I was talking about.  But no, you don’t, because it’s all about you.”  She didn’t have anything else to say.  Her body language indicated she was terrified, as she became smaller, and smaller in the corner of her seat.

Meanwhile, C.S. was in my earpiece talking me off the ledge.  “Stop talking.  Ignore her.  Just stop talking to her,”  he repeated.

I got home, and we were fixing dinner.  He said to me, “I didn’t tell you to back off because I thought it was the right thing to do.  I was sitting there, listening to this, thinking to myself, ‘What would I do if someone fired their mouth off to me after a bad day?’  And I thought, ‘I’d probably punch her in the face.’  Or at least, I’d want to.  I wasn’t about to bail you out of jail tonight.”

The thing was, physical violence didn’t occur to me until I was already home, ranting about that scene with C.S.  I said to him, “Her posture indicated that she was actually afraid of me.  She should have been.  She clearly didn’t know who she was dealing with.

I continued, “I’m going to go ahead and assume that she is near retirement age, by the greys in her hair, and likely had to stay late at work, in a job she hates, because I’ve never seen her on that bus before.  She had a bad day, was irritated, and was looking for someone to take it out on.  So, she is irritated by what looks like easy prey.  I hope she learned her lesson.”

After a few days of mulling this over, I realized what the click was.  I perceived her as a bully.  She matched multiple descriptions of my personal definition of a bully.  Clearly, she didn’t live in my lower-class neighborhood, because she was not even close to gathering her belongings for departure.  In all likelihood, she was riding to the Park N Ride two townships over, so she could drive the hill to the well-to-do part of town.  Match number one, someone with higher socioeconomic standing.  Match number two, she was older than me.  She had a sense of entitlement, as if I had to do what she said, just because she felt a certain way.  Match number three, some kind of social standing, or concept of authority.

Three strikes, you’re out.  I fought back.  Like I’ve been wanting to do my whole life.  And guess what?  I won.

Unfortunately, it took being severely unhinged to do it.

Invitations to Narnia : 30 Days of Truth

Day 05 : Something you hope to do in your life.

As it stands, one can find me within the wardrobe amongst the coats, between the real world and my Narnia. This is not the Narnia as others know it. It is the absolutely surreal, ever shifting landscape, containing both horrific monsters and beautiful, majestic creatures. All of that world is tucked away, within a wardrobe, in an innocuous cranny of my home. Many unsuspecting people could stroll up to it, jam their coat in, and never give this unassuming wardrobe another thought.

Lunaria

But, this world is not meant to exist tucked away.  This world lives inside of me, wrapped up in an old world map, tied with a satin ribbon.  It waits to unfurl for all of the world to see.

Snapshots of this map are contained within every word, in each piece that I carefully create.  Some have been privy to view them, scanning the terrain, gazing upon the horrors and magesty.  Others have been lucky enough to set foot on the Terra Amici, The Land of Friends, specifically set aside to welcome guests who have braved the Sea of Aliquim.  And others, those closest to me, have journeyed through the deepest, darkest places of Lunaria.

I dream of the day that I allow Lunaria to emerge from the wardrobe.  This is the day that the earth will quake around me to birth Lunaria from within.  I will invite others to explore at will, without the requirement of the confines to Terra Amici.  To brave the fiery mountains, volcanoes spewing molten rock,shifting and shaping the landscape daily.  The mountains grow higher, only to be whittled away by the erosion.  Bask in Bad Wolf Bay.  Peer deeply into Mare Demersi, but still fear to tread too closely.  Lose themselves in Vac Saltus, and navigate the sullen, sunken lands of Val Mergullado.

All of this, one day will be accessible to all.  Lunaria will rise.  I can openly narrate the tales and history of Lunaria without fear of persecution and ostracism.  I hope to accomplish my quest of bringing this all out of the wardrobe.  I want others to see what my world, one world of a woman with Bipolar Disorder looks like.  It possibly connects to other places, to weave a global patchwork of personal worlds, connecting us all, to encompass every single person who has been hiding their own Narnia.

I hope to have a voice that can bring this all to the world.  And I hope to build the strength to do it.

I Ain’t Afraid of No SOPA

Emblazoned on the frontpage of Wikipedia:

Imagine a World Without Free Knowledge

It didn’t take a lot of imagination yesterday. When you went to Google, there is a giant black censor block. I logged onto WordPress, and found myself staring at a page filled with censored blogs, where there should have been featured blogs. Upon clicking, this headline sits before me:

You may not be aware of the pending legislation called SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act).  It sounds good in theory.  I would know, because Representative Tim Murphy from Pennsylvania got to me first.  He declared it to be in our best interest to stop cyber terrorism.  This legislation is heralded as the great protector of our sensitive information in banks, hospitals, etc.  After I had several fraudulent charges on my joint bank account within two days of each other, two sliced and diced debit cards and no way for easy access to my money, I considered this a great thing!

Until yesterday, January 18th, 2012.  Until I was forced to open my eyes and do my civic duty by actually reading what these bills are all about.  (Thank you, President Obama for the Freedom of Information Act).

As usual, we’ve been duped.  Essentially, these bills equate to the US Patriot Act, in a manner of speaking.  The US Patriot Act is there to deny civil liberties guaranteed by our Amendments, if they suspect you as a terrorist.  They’ve set it up so that if you speak out, it can be very easy for you to disappear.

This is another step toward totalitarianism.  SOPA and PIPA seek to criminalize our freedom for information.  By doing that, they also grossly violate our First Amendment rights to write, create, and pass on information as we wish.  It grants permission to Internet Service Providers to block any information they wish.

Doesn’t this seem suspicious that these were pushed on the dawn of the Occupy Movement?  The Occupy Movement consists of local grassroots organizations that rely on the internet to make international connections between them.  What happens to all of the grassroots organizations, such as Occupy and Blog for Mental Health 2012, when our voice is stifled?

And that’s what Pendulum would look like if certain politicians had their way.  It is bad enough that many of the mental health bloggers feel the societal pressure to take refuge behind glowing monitors and clever pseudonyms.  Now, our medium and content are being threatened.  Extreme discrimination could take place.  If one party, just one, find our content to be vile, disturbing, irresponsible, or amoral, then we are likely to get shut down.

I won’t stand for that.  Personally, I want to stop this thing dead in it’s tracks.  This is my own forum to discuss mental health.  In the days of old, families would lock up their “insane” in basements, cellars, and attics.  What we would experience would be the modern equivalent.  I was tired of hiding and being disguised.  That’s why, exactly seven months ago today, I came here to be on display for all of the world to see.

It saved my life.  And, I wouldn’t know what to do without it.

If you feel that your civil liberties to talk about your mental health and special concerns are in danger of being violated, take a stand.  Do it now before it’s too late.

Google wants you to take action.

Even certain parties in the White House want you to take action.

Around the world, in the UK, individuals are taking action.

And millions of others all want you to take action against SOPA and PIPA.

Every signature on every petition counts.  Shout it out, loud and clear!

SOPA WON’T SILENCE ME!

Admissions of a Birthday Girl

Tomorrow marks another year closer to three decades of my existence on Planet Earth. Admittedly, there is, and always has been a strong contradiction between the number of birthdays I’ve celebrated, the age of my face, and the age of my soul. If everyone in the world forgot the year I was born, I would be very confused about my age.

A few months ago, I gazed in the mirror one day to see my first noticeable signs of aging. Before that, I had a face as smooth and white as a baby’s bottom. A baby face, that took at least five to ten years off of my chronological age. When I was pregnant, people gazed at me in shock and horror, as if I were a teen mother. I went to complete paperwork at the bank for my name change, and the teller was taken aback. “I swear, I wouldn’t have thought you were old enough to get married.” I got that, a lot.

Tick - tock.

Quite the oddity, I was actually excited to see the fine lines across my scarred forehead and around my mouth. I may be the only woman on the planet that was excited to see my face start to catch up with my chronological age! I despised my youthful appearance. I have never felt as if my chronological age fit, nor did I take it as a compliment when someone thought I was a teenager.

I will make an admission; I am one of those people that typically loathes their own birthday.  Yes, I find it absolutely pretentious.  Except, I do not detest my birthday for the same reasons that everyone else does.  As previously stated, I like the aging process.  I have always been excited about gaining more numbers.  My birthday just falls in a bad time of the year.

Growing up, I secretly envied peers that had birthdays during warmer months.  Pennsylvania has reasonable temperatures between March and November.  My friends would have all kinds of fun parties, because they weren’t all trapped in the house, buried in four feet of snow, and huddled around the heater in subzero temperatures.  Camping parties, pool parties, outdoor parties, indoor parties where we could run around the yard, parties in the park, and every other conceivable party I couldn’t have.

As an adult, the problem grew worse.  In the last ten years, I have had two nice days on my birthday.  My 22nd and my 24th.  Neither of those birthdays had anything planned.  I can’t plan a party.  Every year I have tried, I was doomed for especially bad weather.  My 23rd had to be moved to the weekend of Superbowl Sunday, when the Steelers were playing.  Living in Pittsburgh, the Steelers in the Superbowl is more important than anything.  When they win the Superbowl, the city gets shut down for two days, because everyone is too busy celebrating to go to work.  If they’re not going to work, they sure as hell aren’t going to my birthday party.

People don’t want to come out in January if they don’t have to.  I have been cursed with ice storms, heavy snow, and subzero temperatures.  So, I stopped planning parties.  I stopped planning anything, actually.  Because each year, I have been brutally disappointed.  Those disappointments mounted into resentment for that day.

Not this year!  I don’t especially care what the weather is like.  It does not matter if my friends or family notice the date on the calendar or not.  I like my birthday.  I am celebrating me, and everything my life has amounted to.  I am happy with myself, and all that I’ve created and become.  There is no need for anyone to justify my thoughts or emotions about me.

I love that it’s on a Saturday, because there are no expectations.  I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do.  And, I have all of the time in the day to do anything I do want to do.  I will go out and have a lovely dinner on the house.  (I already have the voucher).  Then, I will buy myself the things that I actually want for my birthday.  No expectations, no disappointments.

This past year has been one of the harder ones, but not the hardest.  I have made so much progress in all aspects of my life.  I am managing my physical and mental health well.  My marriage is solid.  My career is taking root.  And my son is growing.  My family is happy and healthy.  I am happy and healthy.  Those are all of the things I’ve ever wanted. This birthday, I have them all.

The best birthday present ever is the pride that I have in myself.  I have walked through fire to get to this point.  I may not have done it all gracefully.  But, I made it out stronger, wiser, and better for it all.

The Bipolar Language

How do you describe bipolar disorder to others who do not have it?

Most of the population experiencing bipolar disorder have heralded it as something “people can’t fully understand unless they have been through it.”  Being a member of that group, I can wholeheartedly agree. In my personal attempts to convey the complexity of bipolar disorder to a non-Dx person, I have found myself at a loss for words that would do it justice. Describing emotions is putting the intangible into context.

And so much more.

Even when I am successful at touching upon the idea, I am largely incapable of even scratching the surface. The intensity, duration, debilitation, and so many other aspects seem to get lost in translation. Non-Dx people are mystified. “I feel those things, too.” Every human being has emotions akin to those that are experienced within the spectrum of bipolar disorder. Non-Dx people cannot wrap their heads around the magnitude of what creates the dysfunction. “I can control them. Why can’t you?”

Frustration ensues. Such miscommunication is an extreme aggravation. Tempers may flare. “It’s not the same thing!” It’s the same animal of a different color. In essence, similarities can be drawn, but a fault line exists between the two.

I am empathetic to the plight of a person who suffers with bipolar disorder. I have experienced the rage that boils when I feel as if I a being dismissed or preemptively judged against an unjust standard. The words above send me into elevations, like a volcano spitting lava high into the sky. At this precise moment, communications break down entirely. All hope is lost. If the villagers don’t evacuate now, total destruction is eminent.

On the other hand, using descriptive language devoid of passion fails to drive the point home. To a non-Dx person, it is any regular conversation. Words are words. It does not have the demonstrative power of action. However, action is often misinterpreted more so than words. Too many questions arise. Why? Now, we’re right back where we started.

And extreme action is likely to be met with animosity or apathy. It is ironic that when a person has a severe bipolar episode, others often fall short of providing the appropriate responses. I’ve often encountered loved ones who laid certain claims; “I am not going to tolerate this behavior.” – “Get a grip.” – “I refuse to talk to you when you’re like this.” – “Get over it.” – “Are we going to go through this, again?” Resentment. That is what perpetuates throughout repeated episodes.

The schism between people with bipolar disorder an non-Dx people grows in breadth and depth. Communication is endangered, if not completely extinct. Isolation begins, and episodes worsen. Without a support system, a non-Dx person is likely to crumble. A support system that is non-existent in the life of a person with bipolar disorder is the quickest route to utter annihilation of oneself.

I have been there. Then, I managed to navigate my way back again.

Back to the original question. How do you describe bipolar disorder to a person that doesn’t have it?

In my experience, I have worked it out. Non-Dx people do have strong emotions. These are in response to serious situations. To them, they are overwhelming; to me, it would knock me flat.

I allow the non-Dx person to draw the comparison between emotions. It is a good jumping point, although it is likely meant as a retort coming from their end. “This is not an argument. This is a discussion,” I remind myself repeatedly when tempers start to flare. I continue with the following points:

My brain chemistry is unique in the way that I become particularly reactive. That is one of many facets of bipolar disorder. Extreme sensitivity to situations that provoke strong emotion.

This may be met with a usual, “Grow a thicker skin.” or “Let it slide.”

I continue:

Recall a situation where you felt strongly about something. Like, when someone very close to you died. Or, you lost your job. Or, you found out that the love of your life cheated on you.

Okay.

Weren’t you very distraught? Even extremely sad?

Yes.

Imagine having those feelings arise without cause. Then, consider what it would be like to live months like that.

That is how I relate depression. Extreme feelings of worthlessness, sadness, and despair for long periods of time.

For hypomania, I continue like this:

Now, remember a time where you felt the best you ever did. You got a promotion or bought your first car or house. Maybe the day your spouse said yes to your proposal or the day you got married.

Yeah, those were some great times.

Now, think of what it would be like to feel that way for a long time.

That sounds awesome!

Sure, but think of a time where you were the most angry you could ever be. Someone you love lied to you or stole from you. A co-worker betrayed you and threw you under the bus. Your boss unjustly blamed you. Think of a time where you just wanted to scream and break things.

That’s the other side of the feeling good. It is being really irritable or angry constantly for a long time.

Oh, that’s not good.

No. But that’s not all. What would it be like to never really know for sure how you’re going to feel? Pretty scary, maybe? And worse, you may never know how long you’re going to feel that way.

That’s part of living life with bipolar disorder. Did you ever have a time that you did or said something you regret because you lost control for a minute?

Of course!

That’s what an episode is like. Struggling for control, every single day, because you can’t help the way you feel.

It puts the person in your shoes for a second. It helps them cultivate an understanding of the intensity and duration of human emotion that creates the dysfunction. This dysfunction has a name. It’s called bipolar disorder.

Now, I want to know. How have you gone about relating your disorder to others? It doesn’t have to limited to bipolar disorder. Non-Dx people and people of different Dx’s all have trouble relating to disorders. How do you explain what you experience?

Blog for Mental Health 2012

Blog for Mental Health 2012 Project
Clearly, I am a mental health blogger. I have been dedicated to sharing my experiences with bipolar disorder for nearly seven months now. That is my primary focus, though I have a tendency to get a little off topic from time to time.  Not only is this therapeutic for me, but I hope that is can be an inspiration for others who suffer with mental health issues.  This is especially the ones who do so in silence.  Every voice is important, as it collects and makes our community’s voice stronger.

This is the premise for Pendulum, as written in the About This Blog page:

Many people suffering from Bipolar Disorder do so in silence. Prior to this blog, I could have included myself. This blog is meant for others to experience living with this disorder the way I, and many others, do. It is also for others to find their voice here and to know that they are not alone in their struggle. Lastly, it is to encourage dialogue and community between bipolar bloggers.

Sometimes it’s interesting. Sometimes it’s sad and at other times it sounds crazy. Grab the pendulum, and hold on for dear life. Otherwise, you just might end up in the pit.

This morning, I found myself interested in an official blogging project to raise awareness for mental health education. I sifted through Google for awhile, unable to find anything like it. And I thought, “Why don’t I start one?” It would be easy! All I would need to do is produce a graphic and some instructions.

The badge above is featured on Pendulum’s homepage, because I am dedicated to continue blogging throughout 2012 for mental health. So, here are the rules.

1.) Take the pledge by copy and pasting the following into a post featuring “Blog for Mental Health 2012”.

I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2012 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.

2.) Link back to the person who pledged you.

3.) Write a short biography of your mental health, and what this means to you.

I have been symptomatic of Bipolar Disorder and Anxiety for most of my life. I was incorrectly diagnosed with MDD in my teens, and suffered in silence. After my son was born in 2008, I went on to experience a severe relapse in symptoms considered to be postpartum psychosis. Several months later, I sought treatment and was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder II.

That was almost three years ago now. Today, I am experiencing the longest stable state I’ve ever had, going on three months now. I am still hesitant to say that I am in remission.

This pledge is my opportunity to commit to mental health awareness. I can publicly display this badge to instantly tell my audience what this is all about. And, I can encourage others within the mental health community that have a Dx to do the same.

4.) Pledge five others.

I am pledging give of my fellow bloggers who have stood with me, and have proven their medal in my eyes as mental health bloggers.

  1. Ruby – I Was Just Thinking…
  2. FracturedAngel – The Mirth of Despair
  3. Monday – Manic Monday
  4. Vivien – Manic Muses
  5. Sarah – bi[polar] Curious

If you happen upon this without being pledged, I still pledge you. Feel free to take the pledge! Promote awareness!

Love the Way You Lie : 30 Days of Truth

Day 3 : Something you have to forgive yourself for.

Mutually Abusive Relationships
There is practically no literature on the subject of mutually abusive relationships, as this is only a recently recognized phenomenon.  While professionals, such as Dawn Bradley Berry, J. D. acknowledge that it occurs, few can agree on whether it was mutual in nature.

The dynamics of abusive relationships are significantly more complex than professionals seem to think.  In decades prior, society bred women to be docile, obedient, and complacent.  Most research reflects that in abusive relationships.  The man “attacks”, and the woman is “victimized”.

Unquestionably, that is precisely the manner abuse presented itself in my relationship prior to this one.  It began innocuously with casual criticisms and negative remarks.  A person is inclined to believe that a loved one only means the best, even if the words sting.  There was hardly a second thought toward the words.  Eventually, they grew into berating remarks, lambasting lectures, and generalized nitpicking over every action, behavior, expression, inaction, word, thought, emotion . . .

By then, I was already convinced that these heinous contortions were the embodiment of what I truly was.  I was already manipulated into believing I had been delusional about my own nature to begin with.  It was like being in a house of mirrors.  Every reflection revealed a new flaw.

But, a miniscule portion of my consciousness spotted the cracks all along.  It seemed I was not entirely convinced that this was the absolute truth.  Contradictions existed at everywhere in this fun house.  How was it possible that I was so stupid when my grade point average was far above his?  If I was such a flawed, inadequate, and vile person, why did I have so many faithful, loving friends?

At that point, the seeds of alcoholism were taking root.  I violated my own rules of drinking.  It’s 5 o’clock somewhere!  I’m not drinking alone if I’m drinking with my boyfriend.  Hair of the dog, best way to cure a hangover.  If I’m still managing to get to school and hold an honor’s average, I’m not drinking too much.

Liquid courage and comfortingly numb.

Naturally, I engaged the fire breathing dragon with my own fire.  Raw throat from screaming for hours, until one of us locked the other out, or I started packing a bag.  I was attempting to turn his own game right around on him.  The problem is that he was the gamemaster, and I was just a pawn.  I was always the pawn.  He could play me against me, and change the rules at will.

It was common knowledge. I would never leave.  I was already too terrified of the potential consequences.  Besides, all of my money was tied up in that apartment.  We had acquired a sizable amount of mutual property.  I was unwilling to sacrifice all of my gains, my gains, because I paid for them, to someone else.

Next, we moved into the isolation stage.  Suddenly, all of my girl friends were whores and my male friends wanted to get into my pants.  Your friends are a reflection of who you are.  No wonder you’re a completely stupid whore.  A drop of truth existed.  One of my closest friends was a teen mom, a stripper, and into drugs.  I didn’t see a whole lot wrong there.  She had a good heart, despite her mistakes.  But. . . maybe I was wrong.

We graduated college, lost our apartment, and moved onto some family property.  This was the turning point.  Here, we were completely alone.

I was a victim as much as I was an abuser.

It is one of the most difficult realities I have to face.

Prior to that point, I had never laid my hands on anyone with malicious intent.  And truthfully, I can’t pinpoint where it began.  Being in a perpetual state of inebriation has likely damaged that portion of my memory to beyond retrievable.  I can only recall certain events.  But, my mind will never be able to purge itself of the horror, guilt, rage, terror, hurt, and animosity I felt.

He started abusing me first.  Again, it started innocently enough with playful roughhousing that usually got out of hand.  Eventually, it turned into vulgar, degrading, often coerced, dangerously rough sex.  Then, it finally graduated to domestic life.  The transitions were so smooth that it was too hard to distinguish in the house of mirrors.  Sometimes you need to be put in your place.  You don’t know what’s good for you.

I became the monster that I loathed.  I was an animal, trapped in a cage, and emotionally, verbally, and now physically beaten for mistakes.  Sometimes, it was events that were beyond my control.  And, I gave in to my natural instincts.  I started fighting back.

I wanted him to feel the pain he inflicted upon me.

I recall a specific incident, the worst of them all.  We were drinking and playing World of Warcraft.  He was highly competitive, and I was entirely defensive.  As usual, he had remarks on my lack of skill and inadequacy in the team.  I started back in on him.  There was a back and forth that eventually provoked me to get up in his face.  He saw me coming and hit me in the face with a CAT5 cord.  The cord slashed my face and the connector rendered my right eye useless.

I pounced, but he knocked me flat on my back, with his foot on my chest.  He commanded, “You stay down there!”  I wrested myself free and attempted to get on my feet, only to be knocked flat and pinned again.  “Stay on the f***ing floor!”  Once more.  “I thought I f***ing told you to lay on the f***ing floor!”

I couldn’t free myself this time, and I angrily searched the floor for something, anything.  I grabbed a discarded vodka bottle and hurled with all of my strength at his head.  He jerked to dodge the impact, and I got to my feet.  I stared at him defiantly with my mouth twisted into a snarl.

“What the f*** do you think you’re doing?!  You could have f***ing killed me, you stupid b****!”

“I’m sorry I didn’t!”

He came at me, but I lunged for him, tackling him to the floor. I began mercilessly wailing on him as he antagonized me, “Is that all you got?! A fly could do more damage!” I slapped him across the face so hard that my red handprint swelled on his cheek.

He threw me off of him, but I was still in pursuit. My cheek burned, my eye puffed shut, and my rage incinerated every last shred of humanity that remained. I grabbed him by his shirt before he made it to the front door. He shoved me, but I remained latched to him.

“I’m leaving you, you crazy b****!”

“Take this with you!”, I spit at him and sunk my teeth into the flesh over his heart. He picked me up by my throat, viciously thrust me to the floor, and slammed the door. I laid there, coughing and gasping to regain my breath.

That wasn’t the end. The end didn’t come for nearly another year. And in that year, incidents such as these were commonplace. I could not legitimately claim victimization. I shared equal fault for the escalation of the abuse that occurred. Despite any trauma I have suffered, I am responsible for another person’s trauma.

That alone hinders healing.  Most of the world will never see themselves in that light.  I have more than glanced at the monster in the mirror.  I became it.  I abhor all parties involved in each and every single last act.  Including myself.  How could I possible forgive myself for such atrocities that I committed when I have personally felt the pain they inflict?

The Open Mind Policy : 30 Days of Truth

Day 2: Something you love about yourself.

Following up on the subject of self-love, I embody some admirable qualities.

The Open Mind Policy
“I’ll try anything once.”

Truthfully, that was once my motto.  Except, I found myself in too great of a number of undesirable situations that I would have preferred to not experience.  We live – we learn.

This is the basis of my Open Mind Policy.  It is truth when it is generalized that all humans have certain biases.  That is part of the human condition, and not exactly shameful.  It functioned as a survival mechanism in primal humans.  Hence, we are fearful of unfamiliarity.  Unfortunately, this fear typically turns to hate, and that is one emotion I tend to keep at bay.

Throughout my last year at my job, I have noticed different attitudes in the African American community.  Much of their community is now highly diverse.  These divisions are no longer even regarded as anything.  They’ve helped me understand a world and a culture beyond my own.  And they’ve really opened my mind.

Through my eyes, people are people. Divisions of race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, political orientation, socioeconomic status, mental and physical health, age, and lifestyle do not matter to me. Those differences have no bearing on how I view a person.

- Eminem

A person is who they are, not how they are labelled.  Humans have a particular penchant for categorizing everything within their world.  While this organization is important for cognitive function and development, it does not function as segregation of people.  It is not meant to emphasize differences among peoples, their behaviors, and their cultures.

In recent years, I have noticed that racial tolerance has become the norm. Tolerance is not acceptance, and is by no means synonymous. Acceptance is when those divisions dissolve into an unrecognizable remnants of past prejudices.  I have learned that by working in a community of people unlike any I have ever been exposed to.  I see children and adults alike regarding people as just another person, another friend.  Despite color, culture, heritage, quirkiness, and what-have-you, we act as if we are in a family system.

I am proud to say that I have rid myself of religious biases. I am personally weary of claiming my own religious affiliation, though very interested in the religions of the world. However foreign, and however devout, I am accepting of others who may not share the same sentiments on spirituality.  I realize that everyone has their own interpretation.  At this point, I refuse to make a statement at this point in time concerning my own spiritual beliefs. There is no better way to lose friends and alienate people.  So, I mostly avoid the subject anyhow.

The same goes politics. In past years, I groaned when a person started in on the opposing side of a subject I felt passionately about.  This created a serious schism in interpersonal relations.  Many friends were lost in the heat of debate.

I’ve learned that it’s not worth it.  I may disagree with where another person stands, but I refuse to judge their character by it. Different lifestyles and socioeconomic standings create different opinions.  I promote unity and balance, without digging my heels in too much.  I’ve never walked a mile in many people’s shoes.  I cannot know their journey and where they are coming from.

As for my own journey, I am not one to set my own choices up as the standard in which everyone strives. My own lifestyle choice is likely not fitting for everyone else. There is no such thing as “one size fits all”.  People are more content when they don’t feel societal pressure to live a certain way.

Therefore, I am not exclusively friends with the population that is married with children.  Marriage and children are not a lifestyle choice for everyone.  As a matter of fact, I applaud those that resist the societal pressure, when they know that is not what they want for themselves.  Many recognize that they have a preference for living solo.  Some have a different sexual orientation, and that’s fine with me.  I’m not homosexual (I can’t say I didn’t try in college).  But attraction and love are beyond anyone’s control.  It’s not up to me to decide.  It’s up to the individual.

Individuals have different biology, right down to the molecular level.  We are unique, atom by atom.  We look uniquely, function uniquely, think uniquely, and behave uniquely.  I have a special place in my heart for those that suffer debilitating physical and mental debilitating disease and disorder.  I find a certain kinship within the group of people with unique mental health concerns.

This is a preference, and I’m now careful to not reverse a discrimination against those who do not carry a diagnosis, or norms, Non-Dx, as I may refer to them.  I sometimes use norm(s) as a derogatory term to refer to people who are especially ignorant to the topic of mental health.  Although I am still outraged, I have come to understand that these people are victims.  They are victims of widespread ignorance and fear.  I cannot wage war when my ultimate goal is to bring education to the general population.

I am also guilty of occasional gender discrimination or man-bashing, as it’s typical referred to in the female community.  In all honesty, I do not mean it.  I am not a feminist man-hater pushing the female agenda.  In fact, quite the opposite.  However, I am aware that it perpetuates a stereotype that others could buy into.

The point is, one bad apple does not ruin the whole bunch.  The gender war has been present since the beginning of time.  Only now, in the 20th and 21st centuries are we progressing toward equality for both genders.  That does not mean that stereotypes and biases are erased from existence, much like that in race.

Everyone has heard about the “crazy bitch” or the “pigheaded jerk”.  Women are moody largely in part of a constant cycle of ever changing body chemistry.  Men think sexually because testosterone is essentially the hormone responsible for sexual impulses.  (It’s also responsible for aggression).  That’s fact.  Again, because of the extreme individuality that humans have through by nature and nurture, this can be more or less prevalent.  Accept the fact that it’s possible.  Learn to live together.

And most of all, socioeconomic status. I share in the plight of the working poor. Although I am an avid Occupy supporter, it’s less about the 1% and more about the abuse of power through corruption. That is about justice.

I’m not saying I don’t judge at all. I am human after all. We all judge. However, I will only judge a person when they have proven to commit heinous acts.

I greatly detest people with hate and malice in their heart.  With those two emotions, people have waged unnecessary wars (what war is necessary?), committed vile acts such as genocide, and perpetuated more hate and malice through organizations such as the KKK.  If these people would stop for one moment, think of The Golden Rule, and open their minds to the possibilities, the world would be a much better place.

The Heath Ledger Paradox

Warning: This post has contents that may be hazardous to mental health.  It contains strong themes of suicide, suicidal behavior, and substance abuse.  Reader discretion is advised.

Have you ever had a moment where you heard the distinct and deafening sound of your own clock ticking down?

I have only heard this sound a handful of times. The first few times, it was difficult to distinguish from the other garble in my mind. But, the last time this occurred, the sound was unmistakable.

Tick.
Tock.

It happens when my physical state is badly threatened, but I’m not mentally aware. That is my defense mechanism that seems to be biologically programmed to protect me. It is what creates the Heath Ledger paradox.

And that’s what I experienced.

The Heath Ledger Paradox

Some things happen by accident

Personally, not proudly, I have attempted suicide between a half of a dozen and a dozen times in my life. I don’t really keep score; there is no tally anywhere. In fact, in total, I have only left a handful of notes behind. They don’t always correspond to the actual attempt, though.

I am not a violent woman. My method of choice was almost always centered around substances. My very first attempt landed me in a bathtub with a belly full of pills. It was an unintentional coincidence between Sylvia Plath’s and Virgina Woolf’s suicides. I know this to be truth, because I was only in my early teens at the time. I had yet to read about these authors. And despite these attempts, even some carefully orchestrated with blatant drug interactions, I never succeeded.

What was different about me that made me a survivor of my own wretched malice? Many a person has done these things accidentally! Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Lee, Brittany Murphy, and many others are examples in our modern culture of how accidental overdose happens.

I met a guy in college that I stayed friends with. Eventually, we ended up working together. He was dismissed for failure to attend, and we all suspected he had a drug problem. A few days later, he was found dead in his apartment from a multiple-drug interaction. The guy ended his own existence with his own carelessness. How could he do it by accident and I couldn’t possibly do it on purpose?

That’s the Health Ledger Paradox. It is easier to succeed when the mind is unaware.

Last night, I accidentally set my foot onto the other side of the fence for a moment.

I still have impacted wisdom teeth on both the bottom left and right sides. These wisdom teeth have risen up partially in the back, causing skin pockets to form. Occasionally, I will get something trapped back there and a small infection will form. If I treat it immediately with a rinse and keep the pain manageable, I can usually escape a trip to the doctor and an antibiotic.

I detest going to the doctor to hear the same thing repeatedly. Yes, I know I need to have those teeth out. Though, I now have dental insurance, I do not have the money for a serious co-pay there. I just had a major surgery a month and a half ago. I don’t have the time or energy to spend in recovery. And I always feel worse on the “cillan” antibiotics than I did with the infection. Other women will feel me here. I usually end up with a worse infection in the end.

I had some Vicodin remaining from my surgery. Admittedly, I hadn’t taken many. I had a problem where the Vicodin would cancel the Temazepam out. I would be up for hours, sleepless and still aching. I decided that my body needed rest more than I needed pain relief. I had to heal. Last evening seemed like a good time to take it. I don’t know how I let the situation with my teeth go from uncomfortable to agonizing. But, it happened more quickly than my mind could have processed. So, I took the Vicodin.

Bad choice.

I spent the rest of the night staring at the white porcelain bottom of a toilet bowl. At first, it was akin to other bad reactions I had to other narcotics. I do not respond well to Oxycontin or Percocet. And this was a similar episode. But, by the sixth hour, I knew there was something terribly wrong. My stomach had already emptied itself twice and was going for a third. This time, only water remained.

By the seventh hour, it became clear to me. I leaned forward and wretched. It felt like my stomach was turning itself inside out, in hopes to vacate an invader. I literally felt empty, as if I had evacuated every ounce of anything I’d eaten in the last 36 hours. And it dawned on me. My body was having a reaction – but why? I had taken Vicodin before with great success. I took it after my surgery and this didn’t happen.

I couldn’t muster the strength until the morning. I had only slept five hours out of fear that I’d never awaken again. I decided to refer to the almighty Medscape Mutli-Drug Interaction Checker. I thought I remembered doing this. Typically, I screen all new medications coming in. As I was trying to rattle my brain for all of my prescriptions, it occurred to me. I did do this, but I had forgotten a very important medication, Wellbutrin.

Significant – Monitor Closely

bupropion + hydrocodone

bupropion will increase the level or effect of hydrocodone by affecting hepatic enzyme CYP2D6 metabolism. Significant – Monitor Closely.

lamotrigine + acetaminophen

lamotrigine decreases levels of acetaminophen by increasing metabolism. Minor or non-significant interaction. Enhanced metabolism incr levels of hepatotoxic metabolites.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg there. That’s among four additional interactions. Those are the most important though. That’s the reason I was hugging the toilet, wondering why my sedation was outrageous and my pain relief was minimal.

And I realized, I just set foot on the other side of The Heath Ledger Paradox. If it wasn’t for that mechanism, that beautiful inborn, DNA encoded device inside me, I would have been dead. Something in me told me not to take more medication when my pain relief was marginal. And that same thing kept me safe by alerting my body that there was a dangerous toxin that needed to be rejected from my stomach. There was still a tiny bit of knowledge encoded from some source that this was life-threatening.

Not everyone has that, and most people with it can bypass the safeties with enough of a loading dose. That’s the aim in a suicide – to get past the safety, just like a gun. Except, when most people knowingly stand on that ledge and look into the void, they turn back. The point with accidental overdose is that all of that is gone. It’s like playing with a gun without knowing if it’s loaded or if the safety is on.

That gun was loaded last night. Thank the powers that be in the universe that I have a safety.