Working Up To It

I have always thought of myself as a pretty open book. I don’t flat out lie. If I am asked a question, I will always try to answer it honestly and to the best of my ability. Any misinformation is either from a miscommunication or an accidental omission.

I have been having symptoms far enough outside of the scope of BP II that it made me start challenging my diagnosis.

A diagnosis is a label. A label is just a label, and it shouldn’t make much of a difference, right? The point is that I’m gulping down pills of every color that should apply to every disorder under the sun.

Wrong.

At first, I didn’t want to question it, and I prayed that the extreme symptoms would subside. I had hoped they were circumstantial and as soon as the situation was resolved, the symptoms would resolve. Somehow, I forgot a key element of disorder. It doesn’t resolve when a situation resolves. That’s why it’s termed “disorder” instead of “moodiness”.

C.S’s appointment came and went without change. No relief came for either of us. In fact, we were both more distraught than ever with the news that we would be waiting another five weeks until there was a definitive diagnosis. And even then, that’s just the start a treatment. It could be years before things start to turn around.

In the meantime, I’ve found myself in agony, like a person huddled in a cold cave, waiting out the storm. I have always been in the habit of putting others first, because they rely on me in times of need. I know what it’s like to have the rug pulled out from under me when I’m in the most desperate of need. I’d never leave a person near and dear to me to fend for themselves. Especially when they have explicitly asked for my help.

Things get better. Things get worse. It is rollercoaster of daily twists and turns, ups and downs. And I couldn’t understand why my mood and behavior were so unstable. The medication works when I’m not particularly sensitive to external stressors. The inner turmoil doesn’t exist without it. But once a person has stirred the pot, it puts things in motion.

I started my excavation. I started reading old journals, some as far back as twelve years ago. Certain recurring symptoms emerged, and these were exactly the ones plaguing me now. The ones I find exist somewhere outside of BP II.

I examined my mood chart that I began in the tail end of my most recent depressive episode. Consistently low scores. And then, suddenly, the points were very high one day, and very low the next. I am careful to chart at the same time each day, so that the scores can be considered consistent.

When I noticed the trend as it was happening, I termed it “dysphoric hypomania”. The lows weren’t sadness, it was rage and anxiety. That was, until it went beyond the definition of “hypomania”.

Energetic despair. That’s the only way I can describe it in retrospect. I started running to burn off some energy, anxiety, and emotion. I clung so hard to anger, because I couldn’t cry. And when I did cry, it was in unpredictable bouts. I would start, and everything would come flooding out.

Then, there were the fits of rage. I would find myself beyond irritable – extremely agitated is closer to the term. I became more obsessive than usual. Things had to be a certain way. My anxiety was so far through the roof that I found myself trembling at times. Chunks of memory started to fall away, and I began frequently misplacing important items. It was a recipe for recurring explosions and tantrums.

Then, I began terming what I was seeing as a “mixed episode”. Impossible for BP II, right? So, BP I? It shouldn’t matter.

The question plagued me again. Why has my medicine afforded me shorter episodes and longer stability if I’m “getting worse”? Why all of a sudden?

It didn’t add up. Obsessions and compulsions, as they were happening, were not within the criteria for anything on the BP spectrum. I started having full-blown psychotic episodes in short bursts. But, I still didn’t quite meet the criteria for a full blown “manic” episode, required in a mixed state.

As things became rockier between C.S. and I, old, very painful memories started emerging. I’d feel the pang of the emotional reaction to a situation that was “familiar”, and then I’d have the flashback. But, the flash wasn’t always strong enough for me to pin it down completely. For a millisecond, I was in that moment in my past. Not always long enough to identify it.

But, they were plaguing me at times unprovoked. Times that I allowed my mind to wander. Awful feelings would come out of acts that hardly pinged me in the past. But then again, I had been drunk and numb.

That’s not BP anything. Not even close.

I had been wanting so desperately to solve this on my own. There are so many things I can’t imagine speaking out loud to anyone. Even harboring the flicker of the memory and the attached emotion is hard enough.

I took some inventories online. I started to put labels on things.

OCD – for the obsessions, the thoughts that kept recurring, the compulsive need to check, wash, count, have certain items on my person, etc.

PTSD – for all of the flickers and flashes of things in that dark closet. For all of the things rattling the inside of the Pandora’s box that has been dormant for so long. For all of the hurt, neglect, and abuse I had never spoken a word to any professional about.

BP I – to cover the “mixed” behavior and paranoid delusions, and auditory hallucinations.

Then, there was a label for the jar that shocked me.

Borderline Personality Disorder???? What?

Through the Wood

I feel liberated!

Something happened today.  There was no click, or anything that proceeded it.  It came as a light trickle from an empty well.

I felt inspired. I started generating original thoughts again. The dense fog dispersed, and I could see once more. I awaken from an inky, dreamless slumber that lasted millenniums.  The breaths I took were like the first out of a dim room with recycled air.   The clouds parted, and the sun warmed my face, rekindling the fading fire inside.

I am still within the forest. But, the sun has penetrated. The path seems more defined. I may be on my way back to civilization.

I feel the synapses in my mind sparking. My body is energized. I am not yet with brilliance. It still filters in, trickling slowly through my veins, pumping eagerly through now beating heart. My shackles anchoring my soul loosen. The chain lengthens, and there is hope.

The bright, white, shining hope embraces me, and I nestle into it.  It has

There is a light in everyone's life that beckons.

been nearly two months since I was enveloped by shadows cast around my world.  I was sinking, anchors tethered tightly, nearly choking the very life around me.  I wasn’t living.  I was merely surviving from day to day.  Moment to moment. Nothing else could possibly exist in this world, for it was too overwhelming to even consider that the next second could contain such misery.

I crawled, belly on the ground.  I could not stand; the weight was too incredible to bear.  It prevented me from resuming life as myself.  It began to nibble away every morsel of my existence.  I took refuge in the shadows, receding into myself, folding once, twice, thrice over.  Until I was nearly a speck.

It, the shadows, the creeping, seeping darkness, took possession over me.  This horrible, unseen monster made the attempt to claim me.  Whispers.  Sever from this.  Sever from the world.  Retreat into me, and you shall not have to bear these incredible burdens.

I stood, breathless.  Tortured and tormented.  The air was in my lungs, but would not vibrate through my throat to create words.  I dared not refuse, but I hesitated to accept.  I refused to leave all of this, the wonderful people, community, and life I had built for myself.

Finally, I stood defiantly.  You are the burden that tears at my existence!  You are the shadow that blinds me!  And I refuse you, as I cast you away!

No longer do I feel oppressed, hopeless, and helpless.

It’s not as if my life has mended. The circumstances are much the same.  My grandmother is coming home, despite the fact that she is practically an invalid. My mother has been on a long bender.

I have $5 dollars to my name, and have been subsisting off of cup o noodles, doctored with some spices, accompanied by the last vegetable in my refrigerator. One more day. Just one more.

But, no matter. I am better than surviving, actually thriving in the puckered, sour face of stress and anxiety.  I am conquering, planting flags in remembrance of my victories, reclaiming my mind, life, and body. It is truly an incredible rush.

Invigorating, in certain moments. It provides the momentum to traverse these woods, and climb that mountain to take my place at the top.  Though the mountain is large, it is solid.  I walk once again upon solid ground, even if I am slipping on rocks that give.  I cling to the earth, determined to pull myself back to a vertical position.

I feel nearly free. The shadow has diminished, and I stand without it’s ominous presence. I am far from where I started, from in the beginning, still further even in these two lost months.  I have not backdrifted as much as I have deviated course.

Yet, a new path lies ahead.  It is forward, north and true.  Perhaps one day, it will cross my original path.  But, which will I choose to remain on?

The Trickery of Remission

Warning: Content has potential triggers. Reader discretion is advised.

I had come to terms awhile ago that Bipolar Disorder is a lifelong disorder. There is no cure. There is treatment. An abundance of treatment.

It was disheartening. It was a huge, ever-looming, oppressive idea. I’m going to go through this for my entire life. Not just a portion, for instance, the rest of my adult life. No. This, this bipolar disorder has been a companion for longer than I can remember. In fact, I could even conclude that it was the very fire of Bipolar Disorder that gave me life in the first place. Born out of this fire and ice.

Not a cure.

When I first started taking Vitamin L, I researched it.  And emblazoned at the top of the Lamictal website is the following statement: Prescription LAMICTAL is used for the long-term treatment of Bipolar I Disorder to lengthen the time between mood episodes in people 18 years or older who have been treated for mood episodes with other medicine.

Lengthen.  Not stop.

How long is that?  A few days?  Maybe a couple of weeks?

Another resignation.  I pitched any hope that there would be any long-term stability for me.  I resigned myself to the idea that I would always be in some state, whether I was slipping down to reside at the bottom of the abyss, streaking through the sky.  It didn’t seem as though there was another option.  Things are the way they are sometimes.  It’s up to us to come to terms with that.

I had decided that there was no such thing as remission in mental health disorders.  For some, it was either dormant or active.  For me, with Bipolar Disorder, there were three states: Depressive, Stable, and Hypomanic, none of which are permanent.  It is just the nature of the disorder.  Hardly anything can have any permanency with ever shifting landscapes.

At the end of October, something incredible happened.  I was not in a state of any kind.  It was like standing between heaven and hell.  Limbo, waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I was convinced that the great plunge was coming, but I only floated down easily from the mother of all hypomanic episodes.  I planted my feet firmly on solid ground, perhaps for the first time in my life.

Initially, I didn’t roam freely around this strange terrain.  There had to be a sinkhole, a bed of quicksand, something, disguised in this lovely place.  About a month of living in this landscape, with the help of others, I started to believe that there was a possibility for full remission.  I was cynical at first.  I had no evidence in my own experience to back up this notion.  However, I began to idealize a wonderful life without living in the constant fear and ever present shadow of Bipolar Disorder.

Idealization is dangerous, and it is something I often fall victim to.  I am not sure if it is a part of the human condition, as much as it is just a characteristic of certain people or disorders.  It remains to be one of the most perilous mechanisms of my delicate mind.  Typically, I knowingly guard myself against this with great cynicism unless I am proven otherwise.  Defy me.

When idealizations occur for me, it is akin to a shattering mirror when realities emerge.  In this instance, it was as if I had come to the ledge, holding tight and gazing deeply into that mirror reflecting my stable illusions.  Distracted by the beauty of it all, I took one false step.  All it takes is one to shatter the illusion, and wake up in the murky depths of depression.

Prior to this run of stability, I had no frame of reference.  A great many people mourn the loss of their lives that occurred prior to the onset of symptoms.  There was no such frame of reference for me.  My diagnosis was a relief.  It provided explanations as to why I was different, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to function properly in any capacity.  I was always content with the diagnosis itself, even if I was affected by the disorder itself.  It gave a name to many of the awful things I had started to believe were just me.

I’m not sure which is worse.  Suffering the constant bombardment of symptoms with little reprieve, or mourning that loss of a blissful, stable state and life I had, but slipped away.

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

A Spectrum of Depression

Blank.

Each time I go to write, I get a blank.  Is it a blank, because I feel as if I don’t have anything important to say.  Or is it a blank, because if I make a certain statement, then it is real.  It becomes something tangible in this world, not only for me, but for others, and I will eventually have to come nose to nose with it.

I’ve grappled with this before.  Making certain admissions.  I do not lie as much as I turn a blind eye.  I rationalize.  I attempt to will it out of existence.  But, it is just not that easy.

Simply – I am in the midst of a depressive episode.

Why was that so hard?

There is a certain hesitation for me to use the word depression.  It is not a word that I use loosely; others use it as a part of their regular vernacular to describe sadness.  Depression is not sadness.  Depression has a depth beyond that of sadness, loneliness, isolation, self-loathing, or any other word.  No amount of words arranged in any way can accurately depict depression, and do it any kind of justice.

The hesitation to term it as depression stems from the idea that, if it doesn’t feel like the worst I’ve ever felt, then it’s not depression.  I have faced more gruesome depressions than this one.  With the admission comes a certain fear.  If I am to term it as a depressive episode, then it really will be such, in the worst sense of that word.  It could worsen the episode itself by acknowledging it.

Blank.  Again.

I have found it so interesting that Bipolar Disorder has this grandiose spectrum to encompass so many different types and symptoms.  However, they are exclusive to mania.  Depression is just depression, and it by itself is MDD, or unipolar depression.  Except, now psychologists are starting to recognize symptoms that are related to atypical depression.  However, by reading through these symptoms, it seems as if it may be exclusive to unipolar depression.

How much research has been done to distinguish unipolar depression from bipolar depression?  So far, the only thing that separates the two is the existence of hypomania / mania.  In theory, there wouldn’t be a difference.  I get the feeling that there is, and it is significant enough to have a separation between the two.

So far, the mood spectrum looks like this:

But, I really think that’s being too broad about it.  I fall smack dab in the middle of Bipolar II, no full on psychosis equals no full on mania, even if I have delusions.  I wouldn’t even suspect that I have full on mania, anyway.  Even with delusional thinking, I can honestly say that there has never been a time where I have been hypomanic where I lost touch with reality.

People with mood disorders are familiar with the depressive symptoms.  But, I’ll sum them up:

Sadness, anxiety, irritability,  Loss of energy,  Feelings of guilt, hopelessness, or worthlessness,  Loss of interest or enjoyment from things that were once pleasurable,  Difficulty concentrating,  Uncontrollable crying,  Difficulty making decisions,  Increased need for sleep,  Insomnia, Change in appetite causing weight loss or gain, Suicidal ideation, and / or Attempting suicide.

Symptoms of atypical depression:

Increased appetite, Unintentional weight gain. Increased desire to sleep. Heavy, leaden feeling in the arms and legs, Sensitivity to rejection or criticism that interferes with your social life or job, Relationship conflicts. Trouble maintaining long-lasting relationships, Fear of rejection that leads to avoiding relationships, Having depression that temporarily lifts with good news or positive events but returns later

These are all familiar.  I’ve bolded the ones that I’m experiencing at the moment.  It seems that I’m bordering on the more atypical part of depression.  This is the kind of depression that no one really tells you about.

I had mentioned my diagnosis of Bipolar II, resulting from non-psychotic “manias” clinically termed “hypomania”.  Fair enough.  Let me put a question out there.  Has anyone ever experienced a psychotic depressive episode?

I have.  And I have mentioned this to doctors on several occasions.  I will have breaks with reality when I am depressed.  I have severe delusions, almost completely the opposite of delusions of grandeur.  I will have severe paranoid episodes – in fact, I just had one.  I can have myself convinced that everyone hates me and is out to destroy my life.  It makes me combative.  I will sometimes invent conversations that never happened, just because my brain contorts a criticism.

Mayo Clinic appended this in fine print below their list of classical depressive symptoms:

When a person with psychosis is depressed, there may be delusions of guilt or worthlessness — perhaps there is an inaccurate belief of being ruined and penniless, or having committed a terrible crime.

Perhaps?  I’m nearly positive that exists because not enough research on bipolar depression versus unipolar depression exists to accurately differentiate between the two.

There are a few questions that remain.  Again, not to just the bipolar population but the unipolar population as well, have you ever experienced a psychotic depressive episode?  Is this more commonly found in MDD, BP II, or BP I?

Because if this is common amongst all populations, then the mood spectrum should look more like this:

Perhaps a more accurate model

Pause. Skip. Fast-Forward.

Pause.  Suspended in reality.  There is only today.  No yesterday.  And no tomorrow.  Just today.  Time thought of as a linear concept becomes only that. A concept.

Life on pause.

 

In the pause, I see pieces strewn about.  Some torn from other realities, others borrowed, and some with no known origin.  The tapestry weaves itself using these bits, with all of it’s snags and imperfections.  The universe, in itself, is imperfect.

Shifted, a nanosecond’s beat off of the pounding drum.  Syncopated, life in the eighths, sixteenths, thirty-seconds – meshing two different time signatures.  A skip, skip, skip, the record bounces the needle about, as it tries to navigate through the scar, marring the sleek grooves. Re-re-re-repeating passages, repeating the same phrases.

Gaining momentum. G-gai-gaining, racing, and a burst, blasting forward. Time breaks up into less than moments to reside in. Reality has no fluidity, it’s cohesion being pulled at the seams. Each second is independent of another. In between are blurred strands, a plethora of life within life. Scarce are discernible planes of time that can sustain this particular consciousness.

Planes, islands unto their own, in the continuum. Each contained within their own space, intersecting reality when a ripple passes through the line. Magnetic, they pull the scraps from the currents of light and energy coursing through the invisible stream. Thoughts are whole, yet fragmented when fished from that stream.

It slows, screeching to a near halt. Reality takes on a certain buoyancy, a fermata punctuating the melodies and rhythms. This is the closest any entity may approach the void without being consumed. A near stop, the world around keeps pace all around, though it appears in slow motion. Each minute is an accented passage. It is one moment for several eternities.

Living a disjointed reality, time being nonsequential, so contorted that it becomes ethereal. Double exposed film, putting images over images. One within another, shifting, overlapping, separating.

It’s almost as if I am a time traveler, but I am the vessel. This is ultradian cycling. Passing between these realities in incohesive skips and discontinuatations causes heavy destabilization of every molecule, every tip of each nerve, each overloaded synapse. Worse for the wear, much more intense than individuals episodes with any width, length, or depth.

Fourteen days today. At least since I had my first suspicions.

It’s all been swimming around my head for at least a week now. I’m moving at a breakneck pace and it doesn’t feel like I’m even going anywhere. I thought I walked the tighrope, but I was wrong. I’m grasping the pendulum with all of my might, trying not to fly, trying not to fall.

A swing upward puts me in zero gravity. It’s that split second suspended in time for an hour, a day. And I’m flying – it’s thrilling! Everyone is my best friend. I want to share all of my joy and stability with the world. I want everyone to have this incredible feeling for a moment, even just for once I their lives.

The highs are beyond high, so high that it is starting to go beyond distorting my memory to erasing it. I live a whole lifetime in a day that ceases to exist in the others that follow. Yet, there are physical remnants. If there were no evidence, those thin, wispy snapshots could be too transparent to stand as memories. And only a gaping hole in time would remain.

The downward swing inevitably comes. There are too many words to attribute to that experience. There is the terror of the fall. The air rushes out of my lungs and completely deflates me. I’m less than flat, I’m sunken. And all I want is to disappear. To implode into myself, leaving no remnants of my existence at all. But, that’s impossible. My prints exist everywhere now, far and wide.

Sometimes, when a building has been wounded, there is a question of whether it will implode, explode, or topple. That is my question. There is clearly a raging fire going, roaring into my own ears, dizzying my senses. Plumes of smoke. Are they signals? What does it mean?

What do I f@*!#ing want with myself? How do I get off this ride!?!?

Ultradian cycling they call it. Why? After so long, after almost three months of stability, or maybe just hibernation or stagnation, why this all of a sudden?

I’m in love. I’m in hate. There is black, inky, onxy and there is white, pure, fresh pearls, and the biggest smear of grey in between. Striped in monochrome, paint streaks of different textures. It all feels different and still the same.

All the shades of grey.

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.

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 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.

Oh, Fluck!

With enough wits, a person might be clever enough to deduce the meaning of this Luluism without the aid of a definition.

Fluck (fah-lah-uck): a combination term used as an alternative to a swear. It is used to describe an intense negative reaction. Derived from “f***ing luck”.

As in: Oh, fluck! I forgot to pick up my Lamictal from the pharmacy! On a Sunday night. When they close early. And I won’t have enough time to grab them until after work on Monday.

Fluck.

This realization didn’t hit me until I was going to make the attempt to refill my weekly pill case. I finally broke down and started using one. A lot of good it did me. I ran out on a Saturday.

I stood there and stared at the empty container in disbelief that I could have forgotten something so very important. I have taken my Vitamin L daily, without fail for so long. I just plain forgot.

Understandably so. Production on Thursday, sleigh ride in the van-buggy on Saturday. I don’t believe I even called it in until Saturday night. Sunday morning mass and Sunday afternoon family function. In all of that travel, I passed the pharmacy at least four times!

Oh well. A day without Lamictal never hurt me before.

Quite reassuring now that I’m in the hot seat.

I woke up late, and seemingly amongst chaos. I could not wake up this morning for the life of me. I literally stumbled around, trying to get my footing. I never did find it, honestly.

C.S. left for work, and everything was mostly typical. I should have felt it happening. Slowly, the reigns slipped out of my grip. The horses started running more freely. The ride became bumpier. When I did notice, it was too late. Each time I’d made a solid grab, I opened my fist to have them fly further away.

I dare say that my emotional stability is crumbling under the very path I’m walking on!

By afternoon, I was spitting certain phrases like a bad taste in my mouth. “I hate my effing life!” “That irritates the hell out of me!” “Shut up!” It’s as if I were dangling by a flailing string. The wind would shift and suddenly, “I’m so sorry. I’m sorry. I hate myself for being so horrible.”

Over little things. T.D. got into my makeup and my jewelry again today. He has made a real mess of things in my room. I was infuriated. Makeup and jewelry are expensive!!! But – they are just stuff. The world was ending! I couldn’t find my good headphones where I can actually hear music and conversations on my Blackberry! And I carried on about it to C.S. for at least fifteen minutes of his break.

Yup, there are plenty of reasons to hate myself today.

Then, the ultimately bad phrase popped into my head. I want to kill myself. Red flag. And I threw it out there on my playing field, oh so silently. I don’t want to rouse suspicion. I am at work after all.

I should have realized this was going to be the result at the very time I skipped the dose. Not even an hour later, I had the best sex of my life. It was complete with saturation of every sense from every nerve. My brain was throwing out visual and auditory stimulation that it doesn’t usually do. I don’t know why I don’t find the clearest clues, right in front of my face.

Live and learn.

Don’t sound the alarm. I’ll be fine, but it is my top priority to get some medicine into me, fast. Something is going very, very wrong. But, until at least 7PM, I’m stuck in the hell of my own making.

Lesson learned. Don’t skip your medicine. Ever.

As The Pendulum Swings

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my blog and the psychology of color.  We are all aware that colors around us alter our perceptions about the place, people, and situations we encounter.  I live in Pittsburgh, and I experience The Grey Season throughout months primarily between November and March.  Part of this is also known as Winter.  In The Grey Season, my perceptions are altered.  Everything is just more, well, blah, for lack of a better word.  It’s depressive but not necessarily depression.

Here’s a run-down of the psychology of color.

  • Black: considered to a serious color.  Usually is representative of any subject that is exclusively serious.  It usually revolves around death.  Invokes feelings of seriousness, gloomy, and despair.
  • White: considered to be a color of purity, cleanliness, and impartiality.  It can be thought of as a clean slate and new beginnings.  White bears no judgement.
  • Grey: thought to be a color that represents mediocrity.  It is not a moving color.  It is absolutely uninspiring.
  • Red: is considered to be a color that represents aggression and anger.  Think of the bullfighters holding the red drape.  The bull naturally feels aggression when seeing the color red.
  • Orange: is a vibrant color and typically represents change.  Orange is a color that is found most in the fall.  It is the color of pumpkins in the harvest, and leaves falling from trees.
  • Yellow: thought of as a joyful color.  Yellow is the color of the sun, and the light that it brings into this world.  The sun brings warmth, and is necessary for plants to grow.  It is considered a high energy color full of happiness.
  • Green: is thought of as an intelligent color.  Green is the color of money, but also the color of plants.  It is often representative of fertility and luck.
  • Blue: considered a color of serenity.  Blue occurs naturally in the world as the largest entities.  The sky is blue.  The oceans are blue.  Many people don’t realize that the water represents the fluidity of our emotions.  Blue water is calm water.  It is healing for the mind in nature.
  • Purple: is a regal color.  The robes of kings and queens were made from precious and rare indigo dye.  It represents wisdom, respect, and stimulates the brain for problem solving.
  • Brown: thought of as a stable color.  It is the color of the very earth we walk on.  It is reliable and constant.

As you may have noticed, my banner changed.  The banner was a hand-crafted graphic of hand selected clocks.  Each clock represents a frame of mind.  And every clock represents the seconds that are passing in our lives, during this very moment.

As the Pendulum Swings is a term that represents a number of ideas and concepts.  First and foremost, it represents the swinging of a pendulum in relation to the nature of bipolar disorder.  For every swing in one direction, I experience a swing in the opposite direction.  Whether they are long swings, or short swings, the pendulum will never stop until I am dead.

As the Pendulum Swings is also a play off of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum”.  If you are interested, the link will take you to the entire text for your reading pleasure.  Poe’s writings have always resonated with me, even as a young teen.  There was something in there that seemed to describe my very nature.  I felt the title of my blog was an appropriate reference to this work.

And finally, As the Pendulum Swings represents the swinging of the pendulum as it ticks our lives away.  Each swing is a second we have either gained for ourselves, or forever lost in the folds of the fabric of time.  It is a constant reminder that we should be constantly aware of our precious mortality.  Our physical lives are actually not exclusively owned. Rather, they are on lease, and we cannot be sure when that lease will expire.  We may lose our mortal flesh, but our souls are ours to keep.

What will you gain today from your mortal seconds to assimilate into your undying soul?