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?

Sensory Integration Dysfunction and Mental Disorder

Most of my research in the past has been centered around affective disorders, theories surrounding the causation of dysfunction, and the cognition / behaviors that sustain it. I am broadening my horizons to include many mental health disorders and developmental disorder, particularly autism.

I have had a theory for awhile that hinged almost completely on curious connections I’ve made between bipolar disorder and autism spectrum disorder. Doctors ruminated on the potential for my father and bipolar disorder. By the way my parents describe his mother, it didn’t seem surprising.

We’ve always assumed that my “affective disorder” (assumed Major Depressive Disorder in my teens) was a result of my father. Assumptions are changing around parents house in light of serious mental health symptoms popping up on my mother’s side of the family. My grandmother has “dementia”, politely termed to describe her psychosis. And my aunt who cares for her has developed paranoid delusions. She has isolated herself, because she is sure that the family is “against” her and consorting with one another behind her back.

These things don’t come out of nowhere. They become present after certain events happen, whether they are biochemical or a result of external stressors.

So, why is it that two parents with suspected “affective” disorders bear one child with moderately severe classical autism and another with bipolar disorder? Another generation passes. Two parents, one with an affective disorder and another with a mental health disorder, both with psychotic features, bear a child with mild Autism Spectrum Disorder : Pervasive Development Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified?

I’m not at liberty to speak in detail about my husband’s disorder. I have determined that it is up to him; it is his own business, and it is best for his mental health to know that I am only vaguely referring to it as a “disorder”. I will leave it at that.

We have actually been speaking now, sometimes at great length concerning symptoms, dysfunction, and identifying with one another. Many of these symptoms seem to revolve around sensory disturbances. For me, I’ve gone to great length to describe times of sensory overload caused by a removal of a “sensory filter”. It’s a chicken and the egg conundrum. Does the emotional disturbance make me more susceptible to the sensory integration and processing dysfunction or vice versa?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a great deal of literature on sensory integration dysfunction and mental health disorders. However, there is a wealth of it, as it is considered a component of Autism Spectrum Disorders.

It is thought that the main feature, besides pervasive behaviors, is sensory integration dysfunction / disorder. It is observed that children with ASD fall into categories of sensory “seekers” or “avoiders”. Seekers are thought to have dampeners on sensory imput. Avoiders are opposite and have a sensory overload. But, in most cases, there is usually a combination of the two. Some seeking and some avoidance. Unfortunately, avoidance is considered the most recognized behavior, as it is considered the most dysfunctional.

I can only speak for me. In episodes of hypomania, I become a seeker. One would think there should be an avoidance, but in hypomania, I cannot get enough. My brain eats it at hyperspeed and processes it just as fast.

However, mania is a different story. Often, sensory stimuli overloads an overly active mind. It makes manic symptoms worse. Sometimes, the racing thoughts become fragmented and my thinking becomes disordered. My speech becomes disrupted and incoherent, because the intergation of external stimuli cannot be effectively integrated. And an overload occurs.

In psychotic states, the sensory stimuli becomes confused and distorted. Places and people may become foreign and strange. Hallucinations can occur, distorting sensory stimuli even further. And delusions are fed by misinterpreted stimuli.

Mixed states are the worst. As everyone knows, a mixed state is probably the most unstable a person with bipolar disorder can get. Sensory stimuli is integrated, but poorly. The cognitive associations are often misinterpreted and can spark even worse symptoms.

A sensory overload is common in this state. The internal struggle is enough to shy away from anything stimulating, because of the cognitive inability to process it properly.

I’m still working on interpreting mixed states, the dysfunction, and how I experience it. The problem I face is that many new symptoms I did not expect surfaced at the same time.

Moving to depressive states. I find that I am often very easily overstimulated, though my mental state is dulled. My mind suffers a certain retardation of congitive and physical function. The problem the occurs is the foggy state makes the processing of stimuli difficult. It deepens emotional distress when presented with too much. I simply do not have the processing speed.

So, there are several functions that cause the dysfunction. There are a few facts that remain. I am an auditory avoider when I am unable to process external stimuli due to aggitated or foggy states. I am a tactile seeker in these states, with the explicit exception of psychosis. In (hypo)manic states, I am a motion seeker, as it calms. In depressive states, I am a motion avoider, but a visual seeker. Contrastingly, I am a visual avoider in (hypo)manic and psychotic states.

I could go on from there, but I won’t. I am more inclined to seek input from others. Examine your behaviors of seeking and avoidance. What do you find?

Pulling on the Reins

Firstly, I’d like to apologize to my readers.  I have not be a good blogger, and I have not been able to keep up with other blogs at the moment.  My emotional life has been chaotic, at best.

Lulu's Recent Moodscope

I’ve had a couple of 60’s and 70’s.  But, I’ve had many days that were in the blue.  I noticed what the defining factor of my highest days was.  Exercise.

Training is exhausting, but I absolutely love the run.  It does take a lot of my time and energy.  I’ve realized that I need to work on me for awhile.  Without this work, I will crumble beneath myself.  It is imperative that I start cementing my own foundation.  I find it crucial that I start defining myself in different ways, through expansion and reassigning attributes.  I find the need to grow beyond what I am at this moment.

I want to make this clear.  No, I am in no way leaving Pendulum, Canvas, or abandoning Blog for Mental Health 2012.

In fact, I am reprioritizing my blogging and my life in general.  Where these things make the top ten, in importance.  I’ve realized that mental health blogging, and mental health advocacy through blogging are extraordinarily important in my life.  I have not been giving them a great deal of priority as of late, and I find it incredibly unfair to others, including myself.

Shorting myself is something that I seem to be painfully talented at.  It is too easy for me to become complacent and put the needs of others before my own.  In my personal life, I need more freedoms.  I need more alone time.

I need to stop begging, borrowing, and stealing time.

I have to stop feeling like I owe things to people, and get trapped in a self-perpetuating cycle of obligation and manipulation.  As far as I’m concerned, I have paid my debts.  The rest is for me.

Selfish or not, that’s the way it is.

Again, I am too passive.  I am too complacent and find myself working too hard to keep the status-quot when I am completely dissatisfied with it.  My foot is down, planted on sturdy, firm ground.  I am taking a stand.

Instance:
We took a brisk, early morning walk to our local pharmacy.  It’s not too far, about a mile or so.

I had warned C.S. that it may take more than a few moments for them to fill my prescription.  Sometimes, I have to wonder who is the woman in this relationship.  He huffed and puffed, and we moved around the store.  I picked up some essentials, and have been craving new writing pens.

(I will have them.)  They just didn’t have the ones I liked.  But, a frivilous purchase, although I am a school teacher, was out of the question.

The pharmacist asked me what I’d like to do with my b/c script.  It’s not due to be filled until the 9th.  Except, for some reason, I’m early.  It would have had a co-pay that day, as opposed to not having a copay if I could wait it out two days.  I turned to ask C.S.’s opinion.  I do need the medication, but not that badly.  I can make up for missed pills.

He sat there, with our son and hassled me.  Get the pills.  Let’s go.  Beast is starting to get fussy..  I turned to him and said firmly, “I am making decisions about my health and our finances.  If you or T.D. is having a problem, then kindly take him outside and wait.”

The walk home was difficult.  Not in the sense that it physically bothered me.  I’m in fantastic shape, putting a many miles under my feet.  I went on this tirade.  “It is not your mind, and it is not your body.  It’s none of your business.”

To which he replied, “I’m paying for it.  It is my business.”

“It’s not.  You don’t live inside of me.  You don’t know what goes on in there.  You have no interest in it either.  Butt out.”

I despised that phrase, “I’m paying for it.  It is my business.”  On two fronts.  I pay my contribution toward the severe detriment we suffer due to my extensive medical needs.  I commute and hour each way to do so.  It is not as if I am laying around a sofa all day, spending all of our bank account.  Don’t portray me as so.

I had pointed out at one point that he was not my legal guardian, and no living will exists to proclaim him my proxy when and if I become incapacitated.  Damn fine move on my part.

He plays no role in my treatment.  I have signed releases that he has full access to my records.  He has never spoke to my doctor about any troublesome symptoms.  In fact, as much I hate to admit this, I would be likely to declare my indecisive mother a medical proxy.  She’s done so well with the rest of the family.

I am pulling in the reins.  This carriage will not continue until I say so.  It is my life too, and I feel like I’m being completely left out of it.  This is my stand.

But, verbally sparing and expressing emotion is a tricky engagement in my household.  So, pulling in the reins is more than taking full control over own life and those dealings.  It is pulling in the reigns of my marriage.  I am pulling back.  Plans change to suit him.  I am disappointed.  Therefore, I am pulling back.  I don’t depend on him for my happiness.

I want to, I want to be someone else or I’ll explode.

Radiohead - Talk Show Host, most commonly known from Romeo + Juliet

Tag, I’m It! – Pittsburgh Edition

MM172001 tagged me this time.  And actually, after reading some responses, I am really eager to do this!

I’ll refrain from tagging anyone.  I am almost positive that this has made enough circles!

Onto the questions!

1. If you could go back and tell your younger self something.  What age would you go back to and what would you say?

I have often thought this over, although I mindfully refrain from asking the “Coulda, woulda, shoulda”s.  Had I been asked this question a year ago, I would have gone back to eighteen.

At eighteen, I had already been diagnosed and was being treated for MDD.  At the same time, I was already beginning my spiral into alcoholism.  Those are two pressing factors.  The other is the matter of my husband.

There was a brief moment in time where my husband and I were both single.  We shared a moment and a sofa.  I mentioned our history in my post Possibility and Ascension.

I would have advised myself to tell my doctor the truth about everything.  I wasn’t fine.  I had lost faith in her, because I wasn’t well after three years of treatment.  And I would have suggested bipolar disorder.

I would have told myself to stop with the alcohol.  It would almost be my destruction if I continued on that route.

And most of all, I would tell myself that C.S. and I belonged to each other.

But, I’ve thought it over.  I realized that everything happens in it’s own time for a good reason.  Though I would never wish the trials and tribulation I went through upon myself, I quite possibly needed them to get here.  My husband and I were meant to go through our awful relationships before we could be together.  Probably so that we could appreciate each other.  We needed to go through our respective hells so that we could grow toward each other.

If it weren’t for everything, I wouldn’t be me.  And as much as I don’t like myself sometimes, I actually do.  Sounds contradictory, but I like my life.  I love my husband and my son.  I wouldn’t want to change it.  So, why would I want to go back and take a chance on ruining it all?

2.  Favorite food.

Largely depends.  I find myself getting obsessed about a food.  Lately, it’s been egg white omelets.  Yum!

3. When did you start your blog? Why?  And has the purpose changed as time has?

June 19, 2011.  I often reference this post, because it was a big step for me.  It was my step into the public about my disorder.  Up until that time, I had really tried to tuck it into a corner and deal with in very privately.  I realized that I couldn’t.  Had I not written that post on June 19, 2011, I may not be here today.  It was the replacement for a potential suicide attempt.

The purpose is still largely the same.  It began as my internal monologues (and sometimes dialogues!) as my voice in this world.  That largely stands.  Except, the focus has shifted into less of a diary to chronicle my life, and more of a narrative as an outlet for my thoughts, ideas, and experiences.

It has expanded to include mental health advocacy, developing a mental health community, and a sounding board for others.  It will continue to develop in these areas, as I am now moving toward more mental health advocacy and publications.

4. What do you think your best character trait is?

Hands down, versatility.  I am extraordinarily flexible.  I can take on multiple roles, and handle a variety of situations in different settings.  I didn’t say I always do it well.  But, I can do it.

5. What do you think is your worst character trait?

Volatility.  I have come to realize and accept that I have a nasty temper.  Unfortunately, I have not yet figured out how to temper myself.

6. What is the last thing you read?

Book or blog?  I just started reading “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”.  As blogs go, I just finished reading the post that prompted this one.

7. Hero?

I don’t have heroes.  Heroes are often people we turn into characters that we idealize.  I am careful not to idealize any person or situation.  It often leads to disillusionment.  I am not good at handling that.

8. How much time do you spend on the internet in an average day?

About two hours or so.  Usually in the morning before anyone wakes up.  It’s the only time I can get the computer to myself.

Unless you count the time that I’m on my Blackberry.  Then, we’re looking at a total of about three to five.

9. If you had to chose only one social issue to fight for what would it be?

Human rights.  It covers just about everything I’d be fighting for.  Mental health advocacy, creating less of a socioeconomic gap, discrimination, and all kinds of things.  Human rights is extremely important.

10. If you could live anywhere, where and why?

Right here, in Pittsburgh.  Anyone who even talks to me about Pittsburgh will get an earful.  I love this city.  I have been a lot of other places in my life, and none have compared to this city.

Everything you could ever want in a city is here.  It’s not overly populated, only having about 300K that live within city limits and 1.5mil that live in the county surrounding.  This city and surrounding suburbs covers every mode of living a person can want.  Currently, I’m suburban / urban.  My husband would like us to move to a place that is more suburban / rural.  All within 10 miles of city limits.

We have the best sports teams, if you’re into that.  We boast the best healthcare in the US.  We have a wealth of universities to study at.  CMU is among the leading in technology.  Crime is not too bad.  There are very few areas that I would consider “unsafe”.  Our cultural district is amazing, ranging from community theater to Broadway musicals.  We have an entire district dedicated to nightlife.  And another district that is like a farmer’s market every morning!

We even have our own local dialect and slang.  Pittsburghese!

Everything you need is pretty accessible.  It can be both a driving city and a walking city.  I prefer walking.  Jaywalking is a sport.  (For me, anyway).  It’s just an incredible place to be.

11. If you could chose to have the power to read people’s minds/know their thoughts, would you choose to?  It’s not something you could turn on or off, you have it or don’t.  Why?

This is another one of those questions, just like number 1, that if you had reached me in years prior, I would have given you an entirely different answer.

When I was young, I used to think of Gene Grey from X-Men.  I thought telepathy / telekinesis was an incredible ability.  It was something that I thought would give me such potential, and such an edge.

But, I’ll tell you this.  Since the onset of my symptoms associated with bipolar disorder, I have changed my mind.  Bipolar disorder make my ability as an empath so much more pronounced.  I feel what other people feel.  Sometimes, so much that it bleeds into my own emotions and I cannot distinguish between the two.  And at times, it drives me mad.

If that’s how I feel, just being able to sense emotional vibrations, then I would refuse telepathy.  I know there is an abundance of opportunity afforded with that.  However, I don’t think I could handle all of those voices in my head.  I have enough, thank you.

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.

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?

Taunts of Absolution : 30 Days of Truth

Day 4 : Something you have to forgive someone for.

In years past, my relationship with my parents was far beyond dysfunctional. Although we are building a mutually respectful relationship as adults, I do not feel as if I am considered a daughter. I am a family friend, the mother of their grandson. That extraordinarily detrimental relationship created a schism too great to have a distinct parent-child relationship. I have resigned myself to the notion that I will never be my parents daughter, and they will never be my mother and father.

I have touched upon the subject in prior posts, One Day, I’m Going to Grow Wings, Spitting Fire, and The Real Demons. Mostly, I fear I will remain unable to absolve them of the responsibility for the suffering they caused me, directly and indirectly.

I have to question every aspect of my childhood. The problem arises, because I don’t remember the greater majority of my childhood prior to age twelve. I could never figure out the reason for such an impenetrable block. It was only very recently that I discovered the numerous reasons for such incredible repression.

My brother has moderate autism. My mother was a raging alcoholic. And my father is a war veteran with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. As if that wasn’t dysfunctional enough, it accumulated into an overall bad home life. I have fragmented memories, drudged up by raising my own son.

My father was largely absent prior to age twelve. Most of his time was spent in the psychiatric ward in the Veteran’s Affairs Hospital. And when he released back home, he isolated himself from the family. I was far too young to understand what was happening. All I knew was that my daddy was sick, and he was never going to get any better. To me, it felt like my daddy didn’t love me. He didn’t love any of us.

required special accommodations. I was lonely, and felt as if I were nonexistent to them. Completely transparent in their world. I did everything I could for recognition. My grades were perfect, and my standardized scores were well into the 98th percentile. I had taught myself my instrument in one summer and My parents were busy handling my brother. He had special needs that ]gained first chair. My attendance in Sunday School was spotless, and I was a devout Episcopalian. What more could a parent ask for in their own daughter?

All of these achievements bred resentment among my classmates, and they alienated me from their social groups. My mother made it crystal clear when I was just a little girl that she had no desire to play with me. My brother was nowhere near my level of functioning to participate in games. I spent many nights in solitude, alone in my room with only my dolls and stuffed animals.

When I began middle school, I finally began to make friends. It was the best thing that ever happened to me! Finally, I wouldn’t be so alone. I was incredibly enthusiastic about the prospect of friendship and all of the wonderful kinship it entailed.

It was short lived. Only a year later, I began to suffer my first symptoms of bipolar disorder.

And that is the precise time my father emerged from his decade long hibernation. The man was disgusted with everything about me. He was certainly a far cry from shy about vocalizing his opinions. The criticisms ranged from my appearance, to my friends, to my music, and my hobbies. I was hurt. It was more evidence to strengthen my theory of his lack of love for me, as I was, instead of his idea of me.

I was also enraged. Who was he to come bursting into my life after so many years of absence?

He was merciless in his punishments. The greater majority of my teen years were spent incarcerated in the very same room I was isolated in as a girl. These were typically for minor infractions – “talking back” (which I considered to be expressing an opinion), disrespect, messy room, “feigning illness”, lying, etc. All because I wanted some independence and to assert myself as an individual.

In heated arguments, he would rough me up. He was careful not to do this when my mother was around, or leave any evidence. One time, I called him an asshole. Insistently, he got in my face and demanded I take a free swing at him. I refused. It would only provide him with an opportunity to lay his hands on me.

Ultimately, it didn’t matter. He grabbed my throat in one hand and pinned me against the wall, and lifted me high into the air. I tried to scream, but there was not enough air in my lungs. He screamed in my face, leaving me soaked in spit. He let me go, and I crumpled to the ground, nearly in tears.

I won’t cry. I won’t give him the satisfaction.

My mother found an even better excuse to take figurative and literal swings at me. She’d get belligerently drunk and deliberately provoke me. I would attempt escape, but there was nowhere to go. I wasn’t even allowed the privacy of a door on my room.

There was an instance where she followed me around the house, insulting me as I went. I begged her to leave me alone. I attempted escape to somewhere, anywhere I could possibly manage in the house. I ended up heading to my room, of course. She taunted me, saying, “You’re just a lot of fucking talk, you little bitch. I’ll teach you a lesson about that mouth of yours.”

She swung at me, and caught me across my right jaw. Instinctively, I pulled my right hand back, and swung down toward her face, backhanding her as hard as I could. Disoriented by the blow, she stumbled backward, nearly falling down a flight of stairs. (It wasn’t the first time, and wouldn’t be the last). I grabbed her arm and pulled her forward to standing.

A look of shock and malice spread across her face as she spewed, “Just wait until I tell your father.”

So many things were said. Hurtful, awful things.

My father:

This is not a democracy. This is a dictatorship, and I’m the dictator!

I wish you were never born!

How dare you defy me, you little bitch!

Go on! Run up to your room and play that gloomy noise you call music. I dare you to cut yourself! Cut to your hearts content, I don’t give a shit!

My mother:

You are the little bitch that ruined my life!

Go on out there and be the little slut that you are.

I am ashamed to even take you out in public.

If it weren’t for you, your father and I would never fight. You’re going to tear our family apart. I hope you’re happy.

These haunting words still have a faint echo in certain corridors of my mind.

- Staind

I cried out for help. I was dismissed as spoiled, going through a phase, and attention-seeking. I did need attention. By the time I was in high school, I had attempted suicide twice and was cutting at least weekly. And still, they turned a blind eye to it. I had to force their hand to get the help I needed. I can’t help but feel if they were more involved, they would have noticed my behavior was amiss. They failed to get me diagnosed correctly.

For a great duration, I held them accountable for my screwed up mind. In my eyes, all of the neglect and abuse made me crazy. I went on to have dysfunctional and abusive relationships. I was devoid of self-esteem and vulnerable. My baggage would have been too much to check at the airport.

As I have grown, I have come the realization that certain things were beyond their capacity for parenting. They could not have been better parents, given the circumstances. It’s not as if there weren’t moments where they tried. By that point, the damage had been done.

I have tried desperately to forgive them for those awful behaviors. But, each time I find myself getting close, another hurtful experience comes to pass, reviving old memories that I relive in my mind over and over again. Some scars will never fade. I can never forget. But perhaps, one day, I will have the capacity to forgive all of their wrongdoings.

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.