Week 2 of Job Training

The second week of job training starts tomorrow, and I’m very excited. I’m looking forward to it so much that I only got five hours sleep last night. That’s not a good thing for me. I normally sleep nine whole hours. I’m concerned that it’s a sign of a swing toward mania.

I got some very good financial news recently, and I’m watching myself for signs of overspending. Spending sprees are a symptom of bipolar widely recognized by psychiatry. There’s nothing better than a whole day spent losing money I don’t have for this gay man. So far, the only luxury has been a dinner with one of my daughters at a cheap restaurant. I don’t think that’s overdoing it yet.

I’m taking my medication as prescribed. I am taking care of myself by brushing my teeth, etc. I am doing the daily maintenance called for in my WRAP.

Who am I kidding? I’m not faithfully following my WRAP. I’m neither meditating nor exercising. I am doing the other things on my Plan:

  • maintaining my sobriety
  • drinking plenty of water
  • eating healthy meals
  • chatting with my best friend
  • checking in with myself
  • talking to supporters
  • educating myself about my recovery and my illness
  • writing
  • being open about my sexuality

I am following those points on my Plan but not two important ones.

Meditating keeps me focused. Even a short five-minute session in the morning affects my mood for the whole day. I sit on a stool in my bedroom and breathe, and then I follow a well-worn path to my happy place, which you can read about here.

I want to exercise. I love walking. I love power walking to be precise. But I can’t right now. I’ve developed painful plantar faciitis, and simple walking around the house is difficult. The good news is that the job training requires me to travel and stay in a hotel with an exercise room. Perhaps there will be some machine there I can use. If I like it, I’ll check out the YMCA’s gym when I get home next week. Maybe I’ll join.

You know what? I’m really fine. I will meditate today and hobble around a local park for some fresh air. I’ve made — what are for me — earth-shattering changes in the last three weeks, and I am happy.

I am happy!

You were born with wings, why prefer to crawl through life? - Rumi

You were born with wings, why prefer to crawl through life? – Rumi

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.

Mania

I saw my case worker and my therapist today. That’s a lot for this bipolar person to handle. Whew. Two appointments in one day. Plus, I called and rescheduled an appointment for my regular doctor. I was busy, busy, busy.

My case worker is an excellent advocate and all around great guy. We had an in-depth discussion about some of my recent risky behavior. I made a commitment with him to call when I felt myself moving toward acting in unhealthy ways. We talked about my childhood and the–I hate to use the word but for lack of a better one I will–programming I endured. We talked about my medication. We talked about alcoholism and the twelve steps. It was a really good preliminary discussion to have before I went to see my psychologist.

My psychologist is even better. She is insightful and knows how to draw things out of me in helpful ways that I may not want to fully face. We started talking about some of the good things that happened during the holidays, but we cut quickly to the heart of why I was there. Her assessment of the situation was a bit different from my case worker’s. She thinks I’m in a manic phase, and to really get down to brass tacks, she pulled out her frayed copy of the DSM-IV. It lists six or seven symptoms a person has to exhibit to be considered manic. I have five of them: decreased need for sleep, talkativeness, racing thoughts, risky behavior, and spending sprees.

I’ve even experienced manic eating the past few days. I allowed myself to run out of chocolate. That’s right. For two days, there was no chocolate in the house! During that time, I found myself eating anything I could with sugar in it. I binged on cookies. Unfortunately, they were not chocolate chip. I even thought about eating sugar straight out of the bag. It was unbearable. I rectified the situation and bought chocolate yesterday, plain Hershey’s, and my blood pressure immediately came down. It only took a few bites to fix me. I didn’t even have to eat the whole bar. Still, the behavior to look at was the obsession over not having chocolate in the house.

In the attitude of a winner with bipolar, I practiced some affirmations with my therapist: I love and fully accept everything about myself, I am a snazzy dresser, I have people who love me deeply, I have a nice place to live, and I have in the past felt like a real winner over bipolar. I worded the last one in that way, because I have felt broken and despondent recently, but there have been times in the past when I have felt like a winner.

I had a lot to think about today, and I have a lot to talk to my prescribing nurse tomorrow.

Busy. Busy. Busy.

Manic Spending

I just moved house. I moved from a one bedroom, dark, depressing apartment in a loud neighborhood to a charming two bedroom cottage that is light and airy on a quiet cul-de-sac. The old place never felt like home even though I lived there over two years.

The neighbors were constantly fighting, and I had to call the police on two separate occasions to report suspected child abuse. The last night I slept there, the police came to deal with a violently drunk man, and the firemen came to put out a kitchen fire. Needless to say, I don’t miss anything about the place.

In preparing for the move, I carefully measured the rooms of the new house to plan on how to best arrange the furniture. I spent hours imagining how I was going to hang my pictures on the walls. I fantasized about the peaceful nights and having friends come over for coffee and games and what-not.

In my preparations as well, I went shopping. Everyone knows that when you move you wipe out the kitchen cabinets and put down clean paper. So I bought shelf paper.

The carpet in the house is worn, and I wished to cover the worst parts. Rugs! In the entry. In the hall. In the living room. In my bedroom. I had to have rugs. Did I settle for the ones I found at the bargain store. Of course not. I went to all the furniture stores in town and found one at half price that was still double the discount store price.

Walking through an antique store, I found a really cool modern sculpture made of leucite. I immediately thought it would look lovely in my entry sitting below a painting my sister did for me years ago. It was only $75. Out came the credit card and up went my debt.

What haven’t I bought? New clothes for me. Oh, that’s not completely true. I bought a new hat, and I have my eye on a nice shirt that’s for sale on eBay.

I have a problem spending. I spend splendidly.

Shopping sprees are a symptom of bipolar disorder, and I remember vividly going to the store once for a new decorative cushion for the couch and coming home with over a dozen. I had gone with the intention of buying one, and I came home with bags and bags of pretty pillows.

I wish I could write that I have coping mechanisms for this behavior, but I honestly don’t. I buy things, and then I return them. I talk about it with my therapist. I sit on my hands when I look at items on eBay. I avoid the used book stores and instead haunt the library. Basically, I hold on to something solid when I think I need to spend.

I would not make a good rich person. I would simply spend all the money.