Capable Incapacities

Sailing off into the sunset on a placid sea is not for me as yet.  I remain on the path to employment as a Certified Peer Specialist. My internship was successful, and now, I wait. The man in charge of such things at the state level called me himself to congratulate me on a job well done, and he said he would like to hire me on a contract basis to lead groups in WRAP and Seeking Safety. That was 3 weeks ago. I’m still waiting.

It’s the government, and they are not known for working at high speed. To be fair, they are currently reorganizing their workforce, and adding a new employee, even just a contracted one, is not high on their priority list. Thankfully, I’m dealing with state government and not the federal one, which is shut down at the moment. I also have to state that the man in charge works alone. He has no secretary to help him at his job. He has no staff. What’s more, I’m patient. I am not worried. It will come.

In the meantime, I am involved with theatre, co-directing a play at the local university here where I live. It’s thrilling, and it brings a smile to my face and a flutter to my heart thinking about the theatrical process.

I am very organized. I have the rehearsal times all intertwined with the many actors’ individual schedules, no easy feat. I studied the script diligently to learn the proper motivations and their actions for the various pieces I’m responsible for directing. I wrote solid notes about salient points. I subtly questioned each actor, eliciting their own ideas about why certain words are uttered by certain characters. I offered my thoughts as well and let the actors choose how best to proceed with the growth of their work.

I’m maintaining an excellent work ethic with my group. They really are coming along fine, and the other director, a much more experienced one, complimented my actors, which I passed along to them.

All is well?

No.

I am haunted by my own incapacity to protect my most vulnerable core. In the quiet of my being, people come and use me. I allow it. I participate in it. I want it.

I tell no one. Revelation brings judgement, and I’m sick of it.

After waiting more than two months, I was finally paid for the hours I worked during my internship. It was a large sum for me, but small compared to my past earnings before my illness began. I used a good chunk to pay past medical bills, and then I spent the remainder on toys. I bought a computer tablet and a new TV and Blu-Ray DVD player.

I have the Kindle app on the tablet, and I downloaded a vast number of free Kindle books, all classics. I bought a few select new books as well. I have spent long hours reading, and that is a positive accomplishment. For many years, my illness robbed me of reading. I couldn’t concentrate, and it was beyond frustrating. It was debilitating. Getting the right medicine helped remedy that, and I can report that I enjoy a good book now. Reading on the tablet is very easy. The screen size is perfect, and my eyes flit over the lines rapidly. A finger flick turns the page. It’s brilliant.

The new TV and Blu-Ray player was a frivolous purchase. I don’t watch TV. I can’t. My daughters watch it, and I do occasionally watch movies. I like serious drama and period pieces. Some comedies are good, too.

But the machine bothers me. It throws a switch in my brain that hurts. If I really want to sit and enjoy watching a show or movie, I generally have to take a very low dose of the anti-anxiety medicine prescribe for me. Isn’t that ridiculous? I have to sedate myself to enjoy TV.

Finally, and this pains me to write, a man is using me in the worst possible way. I can’t think about it. I haven’t told anyone. I haven’t told my therapist or my nurse or my doctor or my best friend. I can write no more about it. It’s too upsetting. All is moving so well in my life, yet I allow a man to abuse me. My sleep has been disturbed. It sickens me.

Mania 3

Sigh.

Here I sit at my computer in the middle of the night when I should be sleeping.

My mind is racing.

Everything I touch is magical, and colors have meaning.

The tapping of the typing speaks to me in secret code.

I’ve been pacing through the rooms of my very small house.

I’ve overeaten.

I sat in front of the TV long enough to run from the lowest channels to the highest.

And then I paced some more.

I’ve taken my medication.

I should be sleepy.

I’m groggy, but I feel agitated.

If you go to the right side of this blog and click the word “mania” in the tag cloud, you’ll find a lot of entries about this subject.

I want to sing. Shout. Dance. But not in a healthy way. I want to flail and thrash.

I had a change in my medication recently. I’ll be calling my psychiatric prescribing nurse practitioner in the morning to ask if it could trigger mania.

I know a lot of people with bipolar disorder who actually look forward to this high, but for me, it’s devastating. I spend money I don’t have. I act out sexually in unhealthy ways. I have delusions. I talk to trees.

I’m angry and anxious.

I feel vulnerable.

I feel sick.

Life Changes

I recently celebrated a milestone and have had some time to think about my life before and after.

Before sobriety, diagnosis, and treatment:

• I dreamt of suicide and thought of it daily.

• I had self-loathing down to a tee. I’m gay, and I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian household, which taught me deep hatred.

• My relationships were not longstanding. I had fiery, quick friendships that lasted as long as the interest was fresh whether it was physical or about some mutual subject.

• I quit two high-paying jobs that had real potential to take me to greater heights of accomplishment and high status.

• I used money foolishly to attract people.

• I abused alcohol passionately.

After sobriety, diagnosis, and treatment:

• I just celebrated 13 years of sobriety. I have learned in that time to find peace and serenity by living day-to-day and concentrating on the present.

• I live frugally on disability and am quite happy with it. The money I have is little, and I don’t begrudge my desires for small luxuries like ice cream or a new shirt off eBay.

• While I don’t presently work because of my disability, I serve on the board of directors of a small theater group and am intimately active in it. I act, direct, and manage productions. I am a stalwart member of the group.

• I have great relationships with my children from my marriage that I thought would make me straight. I even have a really good relationship with my ex-wife. I have true friends I can turn to in times of need.

• I no longer hate my homosexuality. I embrace it. I’m fabulous. I am a proud, out gay man, and I take part in activities that support equality in my community and my country.

• I don’t have suicidal ideation today. I was hospitalized for it recently, and that was during a mixed episode of severe mania. I went to the hospital voluntarily to stabilize my medications.

I am lucky. I have never doubted my mental illness. When I was diagnosed in 2001, it was something of a relief to me. I finally had a name for the pain that I was feeling, and I knew there was treatment for it. I began to take the medication right away and have never faltered.

I also believe wholeheartedly in talk therapy. I’ve been seeing the same therapist since 1997. She knows me inside and out and can quickly point out where I need work. She makes me do the work, too. She sugarcoats nothing.

My life continues to improve day by day. I’m happy to be here today, and regular readers of this blog know that’s another milestone.

Mania 2

I’m manic. I’m typing very slowly, because I’m rather heavily sedated. I say rather, because I’m more sedated than I like. I took my morning medication and added the dose of Klonopin that I usually skip since it makes me feel drowsy, woozy, and zombie-like. I wrote about mania here in my entry entitled “Whee!” It’s a good description of what it’s like to be manic. I can’t write like that today, not with this combination of medication roiling my brain.

I’ve been manic now for weeks and reeling. I’ve spent money best saved to pay medical bills from staying in the hospital during the holidays for an abscessed tooth. Those bills are enormous for someone on a limited income. The spending isn’t really the issue for me. It’s the emotions attached to it. There’s a drive. The need to possess is fiery. (I’ve written about my brain being on fire here, too. I think the entry was titled “Brain on Fire” simply enough.) I remember when I was newly diagnosed I thought I needed a new sofa pillow. I went to the store for one and came home with about 20 or 30. Thankfully, I returned them all at the time.

I attended a very nice craft fair yesterday overflowing with local products and many pretty things. I wanted all the pretties. So many shiny objects called to me from their tables. I succumbed once. I bought a beautiful necklace with a leaf encased in gold. On leaving the booth, I turned to the lady, a complete stranger, and told her I loved her. I said it meaningfully. I professed my love to a stranger, and it startled me a bit.

Walking away, I realized that not only could I not control my spending, but my words were beyond me, too. My voice uttered anything the tongue thought necessary.

Once home, I knew I needed medication. I thought of hospitalization. The idea of taking all my pills flashed through my mind with the words, “What’s the use?”

My next thought was that I couldn’t kill myself, because I had too many pretty clothes to wear.

Saved by a gay gene. Ha!

I took the right doses of my medication last night, and I’ve done that this morning. It’s a sunny day today. I believe I’ll put on some nice clothes and go read in the park. I’m lying. I won’t go to the park, but it sounds nice. I will put on nice clothes, but I’ll stay home. With my sedated head, I don’t trust my driving. Perhaps I’ll sit in the sunny yard. That sounds like a goal that can be accomplished. It sounds attainable.

Stopping One and Starting Another

I had to stop the lamotrigine. It has some potentially fatal side effects, and I noticed the symptom of one of those within the first week of taking it. I called my prescribing nurse practitioner, and she agreed that I should stop it immediately. She then asked me how my mood was, and I lied saying I was fine. I lied.

I called her back this morning and took responsibility for my words and told her the truth. I’m still manic. I’ve lost my appetite completely. I’m sleeping very little. My mind is racing a mile a minute. I find it difficult to concentrate on anything. Taking care of myself has gone right out the window. I’m still spending money I shouldn’t.

I wanted to buy two shirts off eBay today, but luckily, the phone rang and I forgot about one until the auction was over. I let the other one pass as I engulfed myself in a project. Getting easily distracted can have benefits.

The nurse is prescribing a different mood stabilizer that has fewer side effects. I’ll start that as soon as I can rip myself away from all the distractions I have at home and can go to the store to pick it up.

Ah, euphoria. How I wish you didn’t feel so good and would simply leave me alone.

I Suffer from Bipolar Disorder Type 1

This is what the Mayo Clinic has to say about bipolar 1:

Bipolar 1 disorder. Mood swings with bipolar 1 cause significant difficulty in your job, school or relationships. Manic episodes can be severe and dangerous.

On their website, the Mayo Clinic lists the following symptoms for a manic phase of bipolar disorder:

  • Euphoria
  • Inflated self-esteem
  • Poor judgment
  • Rapid speech
  • Racing thoughts
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Agitation or irritation
  • Increased physical activity
  • Risky behavior
  • Spending sprees or unwise financial choices
  • Increased drive to perform or achieve goals
  • Increased sex drive
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Easily distracted
  • Careless or dangerous use of drugs or alcohol
  • Frequent absences from work or school
  • Delusions or a break from reality (psychosis)
  • Poor performance at work or school

For depressive episodes, they list the following:

  • Sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior
  • Anxiety
  • Guilt
  • Sleep problems
  • Low appetite or increased appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of interest in activities once considered enjoyable
  • Problems concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Chronic pain without a known cause
  • Frequent absences from work or school
  • Poor performance at work or school

Another sign of the disorder is

  • Psychosis. Severe episodes of either mania or depression may result in psychosis, a detachment from reality. Symptoms of psychosis may include false but strongly held beliefs (delusions) and hearing or seeing things that aren’t there (hallucinations).

I have all these symptoms at one time or another. Thankfully, they don’t come all at once, but they do come. My doctors tell me at times I am psychotic. In other words, I have a break with reality.

In other places on this blog, I have gone into great detail about my personal struggle with this disease. Please, explore and read. The disease is real and devastating. I live on disability payments from the government. The process to receive that distinction is long and arduous often requiring two or three attempts. I won on the first try. Even the government noted the severity of my case.

This blog is my safe place. I will not defend myself here. All comments in which my status or my experience are belittled will continue to be deleted. If you think mental illness is not real, go somewhere else. Leave this blog.

This blog is also meant to be a resource of others with mental illness. I want them to know they are not alone. Others experience the horrors of delusions. I once thought I could cure AIDS with eight apples and a plastic water bottle. I only had to breathe on the apples and write magic words on the bottle, and a person with terminal AIDS would be cured. It took six months of concerted effort to convince myself that delusion was false.

I have hallucinations. I hear voices that are not there, telling me secrets or just speaking gibberish. I have seen people who were not present.

The euphoria of mania is luscious. I am invincible at those times. I have a cracked tooth from trying to walk through a wall; another delusion.

The rapid speech baffles those around me.

The racing thoughts are scary. My mind careens out of control and often the only thought I can cling to is death.

My risky behavior has put me in places where I could lose my physical health, my freedom, and my home.

The depression is akin to being a the bottom of a black pit so deep that not even a pinprick of light shines through. I have sat on the side of the tub with a utility knife ready to commit suicide and was saved only by the chance ringing of the phone. I have been hospitalized twice for suicide attempts.

I have experienced everything in the list for depression.

It is demeaning that I am having to defend myself on this blog. Walk in my shoes. Spend a minute inside my head. If you can stand the horror, then I will count myself less a person.

I feel alone.

Adding a New Medication

I saw my prescribing nurse practitioner, and she’s added a mood stabilizer to my regimen of medication. It’s called lamotrigine. I don’t know what the non-generic name is. It seems that the past two times I’ve seen her I’ve been manic. It’s a concern, because I make rash decisions when I’m manic. I can’t think things through in a calm way. I rush headlong into projects and take on more than I can handle.

I noticed that I’ve spent a lot of money buying books on Amazon lately. It’s money that I shouldn’t have spent that way, but it’s done now. Spending sprees is an unfortunate symptom of bipolar disorder. The upside is I have a lot to entertain myself with for quite some time.

I continue to be surprised at the way readers discover this little blog. Most people find it through Google searches, and the one search I see often is a bipolar sufferer’s inability to watch television. I am amazed that this symptom is not talked about by researchers.

I can’t watch television, and it seems I’m far from alone. I’m allergic to it. When I try to sit down and relax in front of the TV, I last for five minutes at most. I start to squirm during those minutes, too. If I manage to keep the TV set on, then I start to pace around the room. Finally, I’ll end up turning it off.

Many people I’ve explained this to laugh and say I’m better off for it, but they’re missing the point. I can’t watch TV. It’s physically impossible. My mind won’t be still. The racing thoughts come like an itch at the back of my head that spreads like ants making me jittery. I miss out on shows that I would honestly like to see. Many of my friends watched “Downton Abbey” regularly, and I wanted to join. My brain won’t let me. Their discussions about characters and plot twists are lost on me. It’s a real loss.

I have trouble reading, too. I can only do it in short spurts. Gone are the days when I could sit and lavishly lose myself for hours in the pages of great writing. I complained about that for years to my psychiatrist and then to the nurse practitioner. Nothing seems to help. I’ll just have to take my time working my way through the stack of books from Amazon.

I almost forgot to mention I’ve had two panic attacks in the past month. What joy!