A Writer or a Hack? : 30 Days of Truth

 

Day 11 : Something people seem to compliment you the most on.

(Note:  I started writing this two months ago)

This prompt could not have come at a better possible time.

In my real life, there isn’t much I get complimented on. In fact, I just asked my husband his thoughts on this prompt. His response? A poor joke, followed by a, “I don’t know.” CoF, seriously, I think C.S. needs some husband boot camp.

All of the little girls at work love my hair. An elder creeper, insisting to talk to me despite me clearly wearing earphone and typing on WordPress for Blackberry, told me that I had pretty eyes. I was pretty glad the bus pulled up to the curb moments later.

Otherwise, I get quite the opposite of compliments. It’s okay, I’m used to it.

Here on WordPress, and especially everyone involved with the dialogue happening here on Pendulum, and on our local mental health blog A Canvas of the Minds, compliments are plentiful. I will spare details, mostly because I am embarrassed to talk about myself. And secondly, because I’m not sure I can completely believe it. I sit here and think, “If you only knew me.”

I find that I am most complimented on my writing.  Believe me, I am ambivalent to share that for a number of reasons.  First, I know that once a person reveals what appears to be a strength, it is preyed upon.  In my youth, I was eager to display my intelligence and talents.  There was always at least one person who was eager to take me down, either out of jealousy or just to prove a point of fallibility.  Next, I am often unsure of how much truth there is in identifying a strength or talent.  There is always some doubt and question of the validity of such a claim.  What is the measure?  Is it a popular opinion?

And finally, there is the self-doubt / humility aspect.  I do not make any claim that I am better than anyone else.  I am by no means a brilliant writer, and clearly not in the league of literary greats.  Hardly by the standard of journalist and even fellow blog authors.  I am not making an attempt to solicit compliments by saying these things.  I am only stating that I have serious doubts as to the claims made of any talent I possess.  However, I will not refute any opinion, favorable or unfavorable.

However, if there is one literary strength I have, I do know of it.  I have always possessed an uncanny ability to find a verbal expression for emotions, thoughts, and experiences.  Most often, I have had people approach me and say, “You grabbed it right out of my head, as if you lived in there with me.”  Some ask, “How do you find the words?”  To which I reply, “I really don’t know.  It just comes out.”

The answer is absolutely honest when I provide it.  I am unable to identify the mechanisms that produce the detailed emotions and internal experience.  Imagination?  Experience with the experience / emotion / thought itself?  Education?  Really, it is just something that was always there.  But, I will admit that it is a craft that I’ve unconsciously refined throughout the years, just by practicing what has been just a hobby throughout my life.

I’ve mentioned this before.  My poor eyesight has always been kind of a handicap for me.  Back in my youth, my family could not afford to provide me with glasses more than once a year, or once every other year.  Often times, I would have to wear an outdated prescription for an extended period of time, as my eyesight deteriorated.  Sometimes, I would break a pair by accident, and I wouldn’t be able to get a new pair for upwards of a year.  I learned to see and identify things by shape and color, rather than fine detail.  I could identify people by voice alone.  And one of the only hobbies I could really do without any difficulty was reading and writing, because I could only see about as far as my hand could go in front of my face.  (Note:  My vision has deteriorated so badly now that I can’t even see my hand as far as my face.  In fact, I can’t even see a book at a normal distance.  But, I have the means to correct my vision on my own now.)

I suppose I could consider it a talent, although I’m not sure how I stack up.  I guess I should worry less about a basis for comparison and just do what I do, the best way I know how.

Finally, I’d like to thank the readers for their encouragement to write.  Sometimes, it’s just a matter of necessity for my mental health.  There are other times, like these projects, where it is a matter of a pleasurable hobby.  And other times, most of the time, it is a way for me to get my message out and have a sense of purpose when it comes to my own mental health.  I do not want to feel as if my suffering is in vain.  I do not want anyone to ever have the feeling that they are alone in their own struggle with mental health.  That is the worst feeling in the world, the loneliness, isolation, and fear that accompanies it.

Thanks for giving me a place to do this, encouragement to keep on, and an audience to hear me.

Blog for Mental Health 2012 Official Blogroll Summons

Hey mental health bloggers!

So, I figured out how to put a blogroll together, finally.  I’m about to put the Blog for Mental Health 2012 Official Blogroll together, and I need to know who has pledged so far.  I know there are a number of people.  Some of you may not be aware of Blog for Mental Health 2012, because maybe you’re newer.  Click the link, or peep the badge on Pendulum’s site.

Don’t be fooled by this badge:

That one doesn’t belong to us.  In fact, as you can see by the date, this badge came well after our New Years pledge to blog for mental health for the entire year, instead of just one day.

No, our badge is different and shows a commitment to blog for mental health awareness throughout an entire year, faithfully.

 

This is the badge that belongs to us.  If you want to participate, I’m officially sponsoring you right now.  Click the image to go to the blog page for Blog for Mental Health 2012’s rules and terms of use.  I’m more than happy to spread mental health awareness by lending my support to other bloggers and inspiring others to come forward.

I am proud of all of the bloggers that have already taken the pledge, and am more than happy to invite others to take it as well.  It’s still 2012; you can still join!

So, if you want on the blogroll, leave me a comment below, something to the effect of, “I have the badge” and “I made the post” or “I want in”.  Whatever, just something to know that you’re in on it.

Thanks!

Owning It

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.

  1. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. Note: Do not include suicidal or self-injuring behavior covered in Criterion 5
  2. A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
  3. Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.
  4. 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
  5. Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, threats or self-injuring behavior such as cutting, interfering with the healing of scars or picking at oneself (excoriation) .
  6. 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).
  7. Chronic feelings of emptiness
  8. Inappropriate anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights).
  9. 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.

Why Self-injuious Behavior?

A response to carlanee’s post about self-destructive behavior. It expands upon the basic concepts noted in the reply.


Most of the time, in the clinical world, it’s referred to as “self-injurious behavior”. That includes all kinds of harmful behaviors directed toward oneself across all diagnoses.

It’s fact that SIB (self-injurious behavior) is often a behavioral expression for emotions that have no other outlet. Many children with autism spectrum disorder engage in SIB. Most often, it is because they are developmentally delayed in the social and language domains. However, many times it does have the function of attention seeking behavior – but not in the way that some perceive it. It does not carry sole intentions of “acting out” in the role of negative reinforcement. It is a way of communicating, “I’m hurting. Please attend to the situation.”

But, SIB has many different functions in other diagnoses. SIB is absolutely complex in development, function, and reinforcement. Some people engage in the behavior as an outward expression of inward suffering, others do it for the adrenaline that it releases. But, most people who engage in SIB are never aware of the root cause that sparks the behavior, nor are they aware of the function.


Reader beware: The following section may be disturbing and trigger inducing. Discretion is advised.

I have been engaging in SIB since the onset of symptoms in my early teens. Nowadays, SIB is a widely covered social issue through media outlets. So, it is pretty easy for children and teens to get some ideas and tips. However, when I was young, SIB was very hush-hush. I did not get the idea from anywhere in particular. It just occurred to me.

It became a regular and highly ritualized behavior. Dark room, so it would look like I was sleeping. Music in the background, nothing in particular. Just some background noise not to raise suspicions. My knife and me. Because, it was easier to get a hold of a kitchen knife than it was to obtain a razor. Besides, that didn’t occur to me until later on.

I will refrain from detailing it any further. The development is obvious, and needs little explanation. However, I will explain the function and reinforcement. I have had well over a decade to study it and witness it in for myself, through myself.

SIB has multiple functions for me. First, for me alone, it is a physical manifestation of the pain I experience. Sometimes, there are no words to pair with it. There are no words in the world to make the feeling go away, and the behavior has become an impulse, rather than a carefully planned, ritualistic behavior.

Second, it is a form of self-punishment. This is the behavioral response to emotional neglect and abuse as a child. I had no confidants. There were no adults that existed in my life that I could relate this awful depression to. And when I attempted to do so with my own parents, it was dismissed. PMS, a phase, attention seeking behavior, imaginary, excuses. I’ve heard all of the rationalizations there are for depressive symptoms.

As a form of self-punishment, much like those of the clergy in the old church, it represented all of the punishment I deserved for being a bad person. A failure. For being insignificant and terrible enough to be unworthy of love. All that a despicable person like myself deserves is wounds. Terrible wounds that will bleed, and scab, and scar so that I might be reminded every time I look upon them.

SIB also serves as a mechanism for control. I have always noticed a pattern about the stimuli that prompts this behavioral reaction. I get to a point where I am overwhelmed, and my life is spinning out of control. I feel helpless and hopeless. The only thing I have control over is my own body, even when I cannot temper my emotions. This mechanism is dangerous, because it is the gateway to an abundance of other methods of SIB.

It is also a small part of the lingering, highly romanticized desire for death. Suicide is something else entirely, so I will leave that at that for the moment. In a way, it is like blood letting of the barbaric medicine practiced in medieval times. When a person was afflicted, blood letting was a common practice. It was though to purge toxins and evil from the body and mind.

And lastly, and most importantly is the addictive component. The act of SIB releases endorphins in the body. It allows the mind to focus on the most immediate pain it perceives, distracting from emotional suffering. Instead of being trapped with those emotions, the mind can be set free from that cage. It focuses on the real pain and the real injury. These endorphins, once the climax of the pain has been reached, take over. For a moment, a brief moment in time, the mind is empty. Everything is numb, with the exception of the radiating pain from the wound. It is similar to taking a drug to escape.

SIB is really a dangerous behavior for all of those reasons, and many more in the realm of somatic damage. I have incredible amounts of scar tissue, some still visible more than ten years later. Other bloggers have related worse to me. Nerve damage, lasting pain, etc. For those that engage in other types of SIB, the risk becomes even greater. Especially with ED and promiscuous behaviors. I am typically a very faithful person, remaining monogamous. (I am completely monogamous in my marriage. Don’t get the wrong idea. That was then, and this is now.) And I still ended up with HPV, causing me to have cervical cancer and two surgeries. The more partners, the higher the risk.

In summation, SIB has an seriously addictive component, and is not a substance, so it makes it harder to control. With a substance, a person can refrain from the substance itself. SIB is a little different because devices of self-harm exist everywhere, and can be carried out in a variety of ways. SIB can be most effectively treated with ABA techniques, mostly behavioral replacement with positive reinforcement. It is a long and difficult process, but it can be accomplished.

A Proper Name

I have never fancied myself a writer.  This is much the same as I have never imagined myself a musician, a vocalist, and many other things that I have come to find as truth in my life.  In all honesty, I’ve considered myself to be a dabbler, more of a Jack-of-all-Tradesmaster of none.  Yes, there is an emphasis.  This is not because I’m getting down on myself.

No, the focus of the emphasis is not on what I can’t do, but more of what I haven’t done.  I have dabbled in so many disciplines, some would think it akin to something attention deficit.  I have dedicated my focus, energy, and time (and sometimes some money) to the following:

  • Musical instruments
  • Music composition
  • Vocals
  • Music Education
  • Creative writing
  • Poetry
  • Prose
  • Essays
  • Informational writing and advocacy
  • Crocheting
  • Crafting
  • Eco-friendly and Green Crafting
  • Mental Health Advocacy
  • Community programs
  • Sewing
  • Musical theater directing and production
  • Autism Advocacy
  • Psychology
  • Human Development
  • Human Behavior
  • Computers
  • Networking
  • Computer Programming
  • Computer Forensics
  • RPG’s / Gaming
  • Technology
  • Graphic Art
  • Photography
  • Running
  • Collecting
  • Blogging

Perhaps it’s some serendipitous byproduct of Bipolar Disorder, or just who I am.  I would be lying if I denied having the habit of starting things and not finishing them.  There are a great deal of factors that go into that: lack of focus, growing disinterest, a block of some sort, lack of motivation, and lack of enthusiasm at times.  It has given me a wealth of experience in many areas.  However, the steep downside is that I have not remained consistent enough with any of the aforementioned activities to develop a solid level of mastery.

But to me, they are hobbies.  Why would I need mastery in a hobby?  It doesn’t bring me any fortune, it is not my job , was not a keystone of a career.  What is the point of having the hobby if I have completely mastered it?  There is no joy, because there is no dabbling.  There is no sense of discovery.  The hobby becomes laborious, like a job.  A hobby is certainly what I would consider to be the opposite of a job.  Although I am one of those lucky people who took a hobby, a talent, a skill, and was able to turn it into gainful employment.

Back to my point.  Today, I received an email from an eager non-profit organization that was looking for me to assist in promoting their organization’s activities for mental health advocacy.  I thought to myself, “I did it.  I finally did it.  I found my way into the door of being a mental health advocate and coming out of this wardrobe.”  I reviewed the email several times to make sure I had the details right.  And I realized how it was addressed.  Dear Mrs. Lulu Sunshine,

I’ve been writing under the pseudonym “LunaSunshine” for awhile now.  Most have come to know me as Lulu, just a cute nickname that seems to fit perfectly, as if it were meant to personify me in realm.  It was worked out fine until this moment.  I have realized that if I want to get serious in the world of mental health advocacy through my writing, then I had better get a decent pseudonym that allows me to be professional.

Therefore, after much consideration, I am changing my pseudonym to something proper enough to be seen on a website or book.

I have decided on Tallulah “Lulu” Stark.

Lulu Stark - the new avatar

I have origins for this.  The name Tallulah has Native American origins in Georgia.  As do I.  The translation means leaping water, perfect for describing my own nature as fluid, changing states and shapes.  Tallulah is also of Gaelic origin, as am I.  The translation in Gaelic is abundance, princess, lady. I am no princess, for sure.  But, I am a woman with an abundance of emotion, that carries a wealth of experience.

Stark has a few meanings.  It can mean grim, representing depressive states.  It can be beyond reasonable limits, extreme, and the perfect representation of the hypomania.  And of course, it’s a play on the cliched phrase, “stark raving mad”.

There will be a few changes.  My email will change to reflect the new pseudonym.  tallulahlulustark@gmail.com is the new address.  Until everyone is used to the new address, I will have the old one forward into the new one.

My facebook is changed as well.  I will move Pendulum’s page over there tomorrow.  For now, add me on Facebook.

I will wait awhile to change the avatar.  To allow for the transition.  Please, continue calling me Lulu.  Nothing has changed in that realm.  I wanted to put the word out there.

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!

Blog for Mental Health 2012 – A Hit!

A few days ago, I started a project I call Blog for Mental Health 2012.  I suppose, by now, the greater majority of mental health bloggers are aware of it.  I am amazed by the overwhelming response to it!  In this small amount of time, I have received a great deal of feedback, as well as the spread of it around the blogosphere.  I am nearly in tears by the enormity of it!

Thank you to everyone who is participating.  Through every writer’s participation, we are spreading awareness through our dedication.  We are openly saying that we support mental health awareness and are working our hardest to erase the stigma for every person who carries a diagnosis worldwide.  I am proud to carry a diagnosis today.  And I hope everyone who carries this badge is proud of themselves and / or someone else, too.

In addition, I’ve decided that I wanted to keep an active blogroll open to index bloggers who support Blog for Mental Health 2012.  If you would like to be on the blogroll, leave me a comment and I will be happy to add you to the list!

Currently, our participants are:

Again, if I missed a blog, please leave me a comment.  If you’d like to take the pledge and display your badge proudly, just leave me a comment with a link to your pledge page.

Again, thanks to all who took the pledge and continue to put the word out there!

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?

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.