Foreword: Trigger Warning! The following topics include very sensitive subjects. If you suspect that you may have a trigger contained within, please refrain from reading. Reader discretion advised.
Blink. Blink. Blinking away. The cursor sits at a standstill while I stare ahead, poised, awaiting the words to flow out of my mind, through my arms, and out of my fingertips. Nifty title for some heavy stuff. And though there is plenty of content, I have no clue how to provide an introduction. A part of me flinches, and I find my fingers stiffening in hesitation.
No, you’re going to do this today.
Awhile ago, The Voice emerged from the jumbled noise in my head and spoke to me again. The Voice was back at feeding my paranoia and preying on my fears. I cannot understand how this conflicting persona came to be, though I tried to make sense of it in a theoretical psychology essay entitled, “Conscious, Subconscious, and Extraconscious”. I can only recall the emergence in my early teens, probably nearly coinciding with the onset of symptoms.
The Voice had never become external to myself. Until late April, mentioned in Lulu-Lunacy. Moments in time started happening where The Voice had taken on a complete audio hallucination. It had gone beyond paranoid delusion into a complete distortion of my reality. I would have believed that The Voice was a real external entity. It sounded as real as someone sitting next to me on the bus, whispering in my ear. The words were loud, crisp, and clear. But, there was no body to go with it.
I knew it wasn’t real, because I had been hearing it for as long as I could remember. However, I’ve always been able to identify it as a part of my conscious mind. This was detached. The words coming out were not words that came out of a deep, dark place. I had never considered going off of my medication. I had always regarded them as something that made me better. Instead, The Voice was telling me that the medication made me dumb, like cattle, so I could be led around by the neck.
That was my first experience with solid psychosis.
I started to believe that some kind of external source was putting The Voice in my head, and had been doing so for years. I just couldn’t hear it, because I was purposefully not listening. This reason The Voice was always one step ahead of me was because that external source had been monitoring me for years. I was chosen. And it was at this point that they wanted me to finally step up to take back my life from others who were trying to steal it for their own gain.
Yes, it was that real. Do I still think that? I have no idea.
Here’s the truth. I am not one solid person, as I began to mention in Conscious, Subconscious, and Extraconscious. I have a post drafted about my various personas and how some differ greatly from others. Really, it’s more of a spectrum. It’s almost dissociative, but not quite. A part of me is still present as a spectator while other personas take the wheel. But, I am almost in a disembodied kind of state. Sometimes, it feels like I am in a third person kind of state completely outside of myself. Other times, I don’t feel like I am present at all, and clearly I wasn’t. Chunks of time go missing and events get hazy.
Sometimes I feel like I am struggling for control of my own consciousness.
Then, there are the pararealities. I describe them in many of my more lucid, vague sounding posts. Most of the time, I feel like I am a time traveler. Except, I am not really akin to Doctor Who or Marty McFly or other time travelers. I don’t really go from this time period to other time periods. I live in pararealities. These pararealities run alongside and often overlap the linear continuum most people reside in. Here’s a visual representation of reality and pararealities:
To put it in words, I do not experience life and time in a linear way, though I do experience it in the same direction as others. Time speeds up and slows down. Some moments last forever, and sometimes days go by with a blink.
The parareality is a reality that is similar to our own, but doesn’t quite operate in the same way. It’s like living life a millisecond off of everyone else, either faster or slower. Sometimes, the parareality is a little more detached, like in the farther regions of the red and blue zones. But, they are adjacent realities overlapping in areas. More than two pararealities cannot be experienced at once, and although a spectrum may exist, it’s not like a theory of parallel dimensions where there could be dozens totally different from one another. They are much the same, but it’s often like putting a different lens on a pair of goggles.
I realize that what I am saying is complete insanity. It’s the realization alone that prompted me to stop writing and start dodging. Silence fell over me, because nothing I was thinking or feeling really made any sense when propped up against facts. And then The Voice says, “Or maybe it does.”
It’s a rabbit hole situation. I am Neo, and I’m opting for the red pill, though I am not entirely sure whether it is going to lead me to the real reality, or deeper into the delusions and hallucinations. It just feels like I’ve been taking the blue pills too long. Everything feels so forced. Life shouldn’t be forced, right?
Now, we get to the sick parts.
I have been keeping secrets. Apparently, it is what I do the best of all. I am so skilled at illusion that I can deceive myself without even knowing it to begin with.
Enough with the pomp and circumstance. Get on with it.
I am still taking my medication, though I do not want to. I don’t want to drink alcohol anymore, not because alcohol is bad for me and it makes me feel bad. (It is and it does). Alcohol is distorting a reality that my mind is already challenging as being real. That’s all good right?
No, I have ulterior motives.
I am continuing to take my medication and to stop drinking alcohol for a very disturbing reason. These are all efforts to continue to sustain an obvious mania that has been going on for – since at least late March, but it was a component of a mixed episode at that point. It didn’t become clear mania until late May.
I am also doing these things to keep my weight down. Did you know that Wellbutrin has been known to exacerbate symptoms of eating disorders?
Wait, Lulu. You don’t have an eating disorder.
It’s probably pretty clear to those that have ED. The restrictive diet, the compulsive exercise, talk of negative body image. It’s never been something I wanted to admit. First, I didn’t think that it was a problem. It’s not, not physically anyway. Second, even if it was a problem, I didn’t want anyone to catch on to the behavior. First, because I so fear obesity. I didn’t want anyone to stop me. And second, because I didn’t want anyone to look down on me anymore than they already do. It’s bad enough that I hate me most of the time. (Unless, I’m manic when I love me).
I binge sometimes when I’m sad. I purge it when I’m disgusted. I purge when I’m nervous. I purge when I feel self-destructive. I purge when the scale is giving me an unacceptable number. I restrict when I’m very sad and self-loathing. I run to run away from all of this, to run away from myself. I run to see that number plunge. I restrict to spite myself. I restrict to self-destruct.
I have an eating disorder(s).
Finally, I am still in the grips of self-injury.
I am not proud. I am not showing off. I am not crying out for help, because at this point, I don’t even think I really want help. I am being honest, because my dishonesty was killing me. I’m supposed to be discussing mental health topics. And here we are. The very start of everything. Honesty in the face of the monster.
Day 12 : Something you never get compliments on.
One of my more recent posts eluded to a crisis in my life. I haven’t revealed it yet, because in all truth, I am rather ashamed of some of the realities of my life. In personal writing lately, a rambling piece entitled “Write it Out, Right it Out“, I went on say:
I’ve always been caught in my own world of the mindf***, you know? And when I’m drunk, I am more susceptible to mindf***ery. I don’t like it. I start to lose grasp on my reality, and sometimes it disappears completely – my grasp, that is.
I have made references to my alcoholism in the past, but never with much detail or emphasis. I neglected to mention that alcoholism is a real part of my present, mainly because I didn’t consider recreational drinking to fall under that category. I was sorely mistaken. I wrote to a friend:
Somewhere along the way, I stopped taking substance abuse seriously, like it wasn’t a fact in my life. I’m going to guess that mania had a little to do with it. Like I was above it all because I had gotten away with it.
And another in the same piece, “Write it Out, Right it Out”:
I don’t think I actually believed myself when I have described the seriousness of my alcoholism in my past. Or maybe I thought that it was somehow different, because this is a different situation. Or maybe I thought I was just too young and immature to handle myself.
The fact of the matter is this. I have been suffering from terrible alcoholism from the age of 19. At the age of 17, I took up drinking as a recreational activity. When life events sent me into a tailspin, I spent the last six months of my 18th year in a state of perpetual intoxication. By the time I was 19, alcohol was a regular fixture in my life, and was a part of every recreational activity. Finally, it progressed the point of functional alcoholism by the time I was 21. I described it to a friend as:
Except, I know that there was two years that I spent drunk every single night. I made excuses, like friends and parties, but I would drink by myself. I remember there were nights I’d drink until 4am, and have my boss call me at 6:30am to ask where the hell I was.
During the two years, I had a solid schedule. Wake up at 2pm, leave for work at 2:30pm, work three to nine, drink and eat nine thirty to four or six in the morning, and do it again. I had even devised strategies to avoid vicious hangovers and physical withdrawal. Occasionally, I would venture out with a bottle in my purse, just in case there wasn’t any alcohol where I was going.
Since my son was born, there have only been a handful of what I consider to be benders, which were periods of time where I would invent a reason to have friends over for drinks. I never intended on getting wasted, and I usually didn’t. But, there were occasions. Some relatively benign, ending with me waking up with a vicious hangover and swearing off alcohol entirely for awhile. Others, they ended disastrously with an altercation, and I would find myself resolving the situation by dumping all of the booze down the drain, with a certain satisfaction at my self-restraint and determination.
Here’s the truth. I never get complimented on my resolve. Because, everyone knows that I will always go back to the same old, same old. No matter how much I appear to change.
I am not always forthcoming about my weaknesses, especially the ones that spark shame. I am embarrassed by my lack of self-control, especially in matters that are extremely frowned upon. There are a lot of bad character traits that I can identify, and openly and honestly admit to. However, lack of self-control is not one of them. I’ve never considered myself as impulsive, and people often view it as immature and juvenile. I have always considered myself to be mature and responsible, with certain exceptions, like during college, because impulsive actions and lack of restraint were commonplace, and socially accepted.
Many can argue that impulsivity is not necessarily a character trait of mine, rather, a feature of Bipolar Disorder. Maybe that is true, because there really was a brief period in my childhood that I recall being very responsible, consistent, and mindful. And yet, there are still incidents that I recall as being not well thought out before execution. A condition of childhood? Maybe. Facet of personality or symptom of psychological disorder, it stands as probably the weakest trait I have.
I had never considered Borderline Personality Disorder.
The term “Personality Disorder” carries so many negative connotations. It assumes that it’s a defect of someone’s personality. That in itself assumes that a person can just snap out of it, or just change it.
BPD gets such a bad rap in the media. I thought of “Fatal Attraction” and “Single White Female”. “That’s not me,” I insisted. I even reviewed the DSM-IV criteria, and still could only see a portion of it.
- Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. Note: Do not include suicidal or self-injuring behavior covered in Criterion 5
- A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
- Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.
- Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., promiscuous sex, excessive spending, eating disorders, binge eating, substance abuse, reckless driving). Note: Do not include suicidal or self-injuring behavior covered in Criterion 5
- Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, threats or self-injuring behavior such as cutting, interfering with the healing of scars or picking at oneself (excoriation) .
- Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days).
- Chronic feelings of emptiness
- Inappropriate anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights).
- Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation, delusions or severe dissociative symptoms
First, my fear of abandonment and the way I react to it is complicated. True, if I sense that there is something off with my partner, I do come to a conclusion that I am responsible and this person will eventually leave me. But, I didn’t feel as if that was unreasonable.
Yes, I do have a history of intense, explosive relationships. Now, the intensity of my relationship is usually shared up until a certain point. I have never had this problem in my marriage where I was “too intense”. In fact, it is preferred that I am so invested in my marriage and co-dependent. Not “dependent”. Co-dependent. We depend on each other very heavily. It works just fine, and I was pretty sure that a good marriage was a marriage that worked for both people.
I never considered an identity disturbance. Not frequently anyway. I have always been mostly the same person who liked the same things. Everyone goes through periods of change and self-renewal, right?
I’m not very impulsive. I am too anxious for impulsive behavior, because I fear the consequences. Impulsive behavior doesn’t allow for fear. I have too much fear. I don’t sleep around; I’m a devoted wife. I’m very careful with money, because I never have had or have any. I have had a history of alcohol abuse though. . .
Yes, I self-harm. But, self-harm happens in affective disorders.
Of course I have affective instability. I have bipolar disorder. But, the mood doesn’t usually last only a few hours to days, unless I’m ultradian cycling. That’s rare.
I don’t feel empty. As a matter of fact, sometimes I feel too full.
I do have a temper. But, I’m usually very good at controlling it. When I go off, I’ve just gone beyond my limit. Everyone does that.
I have always been paranoid and delusional. But, I’ve spoken with doctors about this problem in the past. They don’t seem to see it as a problem, nor do they really see it as full-blown delusions anyway. Despite that voice.
I was set on disproving it. Well, until I started reading personal accounts that struck me. Then, I read explanations of the wide variety of behaviors that fall into the diagnostic criteria. And finally, certain characteristic statements. “If people actually got to know me, they probably wouldn’t like me.”
I have a private blog entitled, “If You Only Really Knew Me”. I don’t update often. But, sometimes I do. Times where I am too much of a coward to stand up and confess on Pendulum. Those words that bang at the inside of my skull, but I’d never dare reveal.
I had absolutely no idea that BPD was so diverse. The stigma would have everyone believe the “I hate you, don’t leave me” thing. But, there’s so many different ways it can operate. I started to see the pattern emerge in early adolescence, as is described. I saw how it dominated my previous relationship and sustained the mutual abuse. And I could see it in me.
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.
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?
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?
Hello, my name is Lulu. And I am a perfectionist.
I have at least six half-written posts ready to roll out. Each contains explanations of what has been going on in my life lately. Yes, I’m aware that nearly a week has elapsed since I posted anything.
Why don’t I release any of them? Because, they aren’t quite right. None of them are actually completed. And every time I read them, I deem that there are entirely too many non sequitur tangents, and start editing. Before you know it, I pulled the wrong thread and the whole thing unraveled! Well, sh*t!
At least I know that I’m getting closer to returning to my original condition. You see, I was born into this world as a perfectionist. It is one of those . . . (dropped the word. Thanks Lamictal!), neurotic tics in my very DNA, bred into one generation after another since the beginning of time.
During the big bang, a collection of cosmic dust got together and became determined on being perfect. In evolution, this was found as a specific enzyme that became a tiny molecule in long DNA sequences. From an amoeba, all the way through vertebrates, into the homo genus, it settled into my first line of ape ancestors 9 million years ago. This was the same ape you saw engaging in curious behavior of sorting leaves for no specific reason. Later, it was the caveman who etched, and then went back to attempt to re-etch cave drawings. Today, it’s a genetic line, mostly comprised of dark blonde Scottish women, that are consumed with the urge to perfect everything.
I hope you could find that as amusing as I did. That was exactly one of those sidebars I was describing. But, since I have deemed this a stream of consciousness post, I can write whatever pops out. Now, I want you to do something for me. Locate the little red X at the top right of your screen. If this gets to be a little too Woody Allen-esque or It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, you have your option. Otherwise, note the comment section below.
Back on track, or thereabouts. This started earlier than I have memory. When I was four, I recall the need to conquer everything I hadn’t yet mastered, but I was aware of. My handwriting was always meticulous. That was until I learned that handwriting is not meant to be uniform and is unique to each person. Of course, this happened during the “I am Unique, Hear Me Roar!” phase all teenagers eventually go through. For me, it was more like the discovery of self-loathing in depression that causes complete defeat and perpetuates the cycle of self-loathing.
Here’s where I’m going.
I do not have OCD. Okay, maybe I have some tendencies, but it doesn’t cause me significant dysfunction. I do have a threshold for this. Eventually, I’ll get too frustrated, throw my hands up in the air, and scream, “F**k it!”, as I’m seen setting the proverbial (or actual) fire to the whole thing. (Note: I am not an arsonist. I think. Define arsonist.)
That’s pretty much what happened to me. Bipolar disorder probably put the stop to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Before, I was obsessed with perfecting skills and creations. I actually remember my life before Bipolar Disorder! Granted, I was only eleven and younger, but it did exist!
Then, I became distracted with myself. My feelings, my consciousness, my cognition, and my world. It was all about me. I went around with the blow torch and sledgehammer and demolished everything. Because, if it came from me, then it was flawed in design from its origins. It was as flawed as I was.
And for a very long time, I went through a cycle of self-fulfilling prophecies through self-sabotage. I carry an inherent flaw. Time to get to the incinerator!
But, as years of treatment have ticked by and the medicine has coursed through my veins, I began a process of ecdysis (look it up, I’m not linking it, I’m busy). I don’t consider this a process of reversion. But, it is not synonymous with metamorphosis, because I am not coming out of the cocoon as a different being. It is something different entirely.
I am moving in a corkscrew fashion down a time line that is supposed to be linear. It is only linear in the sense that one can draw lines down the outside of the corkscrew to find a correlation between that snap shot and the next at the point of intersection in the corkscrew.
So, here I am. A whole month of bipolar of stability. The longest point in my treatment that I have experienced this. And if I were idly questioned, I’d remark that I hardly feel stable. My life is a hectic mess right now. But hey, when is anything hectic organized? Pristine chaos – HA! But, my emotions are solid, though they rattle. Is this what non-Dx people feel like?
Now, I’m busy, so I’m going to stop writing now. Have a lovely day.