Preface

Thomas of Cantimpré, Liber de natura rerum, France ca. 1290. Via Valenciennes, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 320, fol. 72r
Thomas of Cantimpré, Liber de natura rerum, France ca. 1290.
Via Valenciennes, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 320, fol. 72r

Dear Internet,

The other day I received two unexpected gifts from the same person. The first was the admission that thanks to my writing, this person went on to seek mental health assistance and now treatment on their own. Secondly, in thanks for simply being me and giving them the courage to seek help, this person went to my Amazon wishlist1 and bought me the bundled ebook version of the first four books of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice series, or as the rest of the world refers to it by its rightful name, Game of Thrones.

Floored by this person’s generosity, I thanked them profusely for being so kind. This person’s gentle heart and reasons for sharing with me paralleled into the increasing visibility of my journal. Daily keyword tracking shows I’m getting a lot of traffic from organic searches by those looking for answers on drug interactions, bipolarism, ADHD, and everything else related to the crazy.

This seems like a perfect time then to write a preface to the blog for if my writing my experiences can help someone else seek professional help, then I need to make sure they are clear on a few things in regards to my own experiences. This post will be in the main nav bar for easy access.

I am Bipolar I/II (depending on which doctor), with ADHD, moderate anxiety, and a side of Borderline Personality Disorder for extra flavor. While I have been diagnosed since my late teens, my most recent professional confirmation came in 2005 and 2012.

I am what is commonly referred to as high functioning, which means that while I exhibit many of the extreme symptoms of my afflictions, I have coping skills that allows me to function, more or less, with little interruption.

In December of 2012, I decided after nearly a decade of being off any kind of medicating drugs, to start the drug treatment again for bipolar and ADHD. If you are a fairly new reader, and you want to see what someone is like within the throes of bipolar, start here and go forward for a play by play look of my last year as I live blogged it all. If you want to hop around, the subjects in the right sidebar gives you the breadth of the crazy as well as my other non-crazy interests.

This journal is not a journal of bipolarism, but I do write a lot about my gifts. Please keep that in mind.

In March of 2013, I decided to stop hiding behind the journal as the only outlet on the discussion and made the conscious effort to being open about my disease.

I am drug free not because I choose to, but it is because I cannot tolerate drugs. I have been on a wide breadth of various bipolar and ADHD drugs on and off for years, all well documented on this site, and none of them work for me. I am what my medicating therapist calls, “a peculiar case.” Simply put, my brain chemistry does not allow for metabolizing of most commercial drugs for anything. For example, most SSRIs take 2-3 weeks to metabolize and for the effects to show up. In me, I metabolize the drugs within days of ingestion. This becomes problematic when addressing doses for stabilization. I also have the unfortunate luck to get all the rare side effects associated with that particular drug.

Drug interactions are typically listed on the drug’s bottle. If not, use a reliable health site such as the Mayo Clinic for more information.

If you are taking medication, take the medication as directed and do not skip a dose. Do not self-medicate unless it’s for an extremely good reason such as when Adderall makes you psychotic like it did for me.

I do not dispense individual advice nor do I recommend you seek your medical treatment from the Internets. Mental health, in particular with afflictions that have cross symptoms, can be triggered by reading others experiences. I also do not frequent forums, while some find them useful and supportive, I find they tend to trigger my anxiety.

Websites that I link in regards to mental health advocacy or support are ones either I have used or have vetted as being legit. There are a lot of schemey sites out there looking to exploit the mentally ill. Using common sense and asking yourself the usual “Who/What/Where/Why” should give you the foundation of whether or not a site is legit. Remember, if you cannot find an about page or if the person is not willing to share credentials about their expertise, keep the fuck away.

Part of managing this disease is creating a supportive network and self-soothing routine for when you go into crisis, whether that crisis is manic or depressive. Make sure your partner, parents, siblings, and close friends know that you are doing this for yourself.

Those who are bipolar tend to also be heavily anxious, so it is even more important you create an on demand self-soothing items / routines in your skill set. This can be anything from having a favorite sweater around, to reading a particular passage from a book, eating a piece of chocolate, and the list can go on. In short: Anything that gives you comfort, bring you down, and give you peace is what you’re looking for AND can be easily accessible. Additionally, when you go into overly anxious mode, also have tools to cope such as TheHusband and I sing the 12 days of Christmas – backwards. Usually I do this when I cannot take Klonopin (the one drug that does work for me) immediately for some reason or the drug is taking too long to kick in. Another routine is five things taste, touch, sense, hear, see. You do a round of each item, finding five that fit the description, and keep going until your calm down.

Almost every encyclopedic entry on bipolar will mention a mind/body connection, that one way to help alleviate the pain of the disease is to eat right, cut out caffeine, and exercise. Even mediating can be boon.

If you think you are bipolar, hie thee to your general practitioner to get a recommendation for a medicating therapist. Bipolar is nuanced enough chemically that almost all those who are gifted with disease will have varying symptoms and medication needs. This should not be treated by your GP.

In addition to a medicating shrink, make sure you have a talking shrink as well — sometimes it can be the same person. You will need someone to monitor your drugs as well as be your touchstone that this is a chemical fuck up in your brain and you’re not a terrible person.

There is no known national bipolar foundation, though some exist in on a state level. If you are unable to get to your GP and are in crisis mode, call the national suicide prevention line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). I have used similar services in my past which have gotten me to the next day.

Keep a journal of your moods, to track when you’re up, UP, UP UP and down, down, down. Also figure out your triggers and prepare for them. Like, when I get manic, I compulsively shop. Case in point: I own 250+ tshirts.  Putting together a systems of checks and balances in place has helped me from spending thousands. I also know that any caffeine after 12PM means I could be up until 4AM. Keep a list. You will find some friends are toxic, some music sets off your mania, and watching a film about old people will send you into depression for days. Know your triggers and avoid them as much as possible.

And it’s okay to have a terrible day or several terrible days. You know these days will pass and in the great words of Stephen Fry, it will be sunny one day. If you can make it through one day, and then the next, it will get easier.

It does get easier.

I believe in you.

x0x0,
Lisa


1. Yes, I do indeed have nearly 20 wishlists under the main wishlist title, neatly sorted out by categories. TheHusband thinks I’m insane and Beth thinks I’m adorable, but I did this because I needed to separate out various works based on topic. So this organizing is for my own edification, not for people to peruse at except for TheHusband who shops from the Holidays and Lisa-mas Gift Ideas Wish List to get ideas on what to get me for gifts.

This day in Lisa-Universe:

what jail is like

Bipolar skull by Taiyo85 on Deviantart
Bipolar skull by Taiyo85 on Deviantart

Dear Internet,

As the kids say, I’m full of all sorts of feels today.

In addition to the sexual harassment shenanigans going on, I received an invite from my mother this weekend to dinner at her place for Thanksgiving with the words, “It is time to forgive and forget. Sincerely apologize” scribbled on the card. There is a metric fuck ton on that topic I need to write in regards to our estrangement, but not today.

No, today we’re going to skip talking about my pussy and boobs and my mother issues and talk about my brain.

Tonight I had a fairly final appointment with my medicating shrink, Dr. H.  I’ve been Lithium free, bipolar and ADHD drug free actually, for nearly a month and feeling pretty damn good about the whole thing. In a lot of ways, I feel like I moved over the hurdle of the mess that had become my life, sought help and while the drugs did not work, found some kind of manageable world that I can exist in the moment and not think of what could/may/potentially happen in the future.

Being bipolar is a fucked up diagnosis. You’re either vilified as being a fucking lunatic and you’re expected, thanks to the media, to accept the condition they present to the masses or treated as the ultimate muse who can spin spiderwebs of creativity at the drop of a hat.

I’ve stopped watching Homeland because I got tired of them treating Carrie’s bipolar as this alternate superhero trait and presenting that anyone with bipolar can go on a sexy times bender, complete with smooth jazz, which warrants a good reason for her demise. Another particularly interesting insight they like to allude to is at ANY TIME Carrie can go bat shit insane! And poof! She’s carted off to the psych ward and given ECT.  Against her will.

(I have made TheHusband promise, no matter how bad it ever gets in the future, he will not allow them to give me ECT. Not in a fucking million years. No.)

Life doesn’t work that way, especially when you’re chemically imbalanced. Not by a long shot. When my mother tried to commit suicide a decade ago, getting her checked in to a psych ward was fucking paper work galore – because isn’t it always? The endless amounts of paperwork when your mother has OD’d on insulin is kind of astounding and makes concrete two things I hope to do in life: Not go to jail or get checked into a psych ward.

(They also had Carrie eating Lithium like its candy and IT WILL REACT THIS VERY SECOND. Lithium takes weeks to get to a medicating level and then you have to take into account the blood work involved and the cannots that could dampen the drugs effectiveness. Lithium, when it works, is a miracle drug if you’re willing to give up alcohol, pain relievers, your sex drive, and are prepared for the amped anxiety and ADHD like symptoms to name a few lovely sideeffects.)

I also get twitchy reading these stories about people who do major things in their life — lose a million pounds, conquered a major disease, overcame their illnesses. We’re only given these tiny snapshots of their insular world in these pieces and golden road after golden road on how much better their life now is! Which is fine, but it’s so hard to relate to someone when they gloss over the details and give up this facade of a mirror under the guise of “I get you.” No, you don’t get me. This is why being crazy is well crazy. Every diagnosis may have a blanket term, but how individually we are under that diagnosis varies as widely as the color spectrum.

TheHusband will tell you living with me while going on and off the drugs, was a goddamned nightmare. What Lisa was he going to end up today? Was I going to put clothes on and go to work or would I call in sick because the thought of getting out of bed was too much to fucking bear? Would I refuse to eat for random reasons or cry for hours because of images of baby elephants triggered that particular spell on that particular day? And I haven’t gotten into the mania yet which transfers, sometimes for me, into excessive shopping and long periods of not sleeping. I’m talking days of going on a few hours of sleep and lots of caffeine.

Sometimes, both at the same time.

Being crazy is ugly. You lose friends who can’t handle the mood swings; you lose jobs, lovers, your sense of self-worth, your dignity, your grace. One minute you’re high on the world and the next, you want to burn it all to the ground and salt the earth. Sometimes the highs last for a really good long period, when the world seems that much sharper, in focus and BOOM! Without warning, it flips and you’re huddled in week old clothing why you can’t bother to get up to shower.  You can track my entire adult career in education, jobs, and relationships on where exactly on the spectrum I was for my mania or depression.

Being crazy is lonely. People turn away from you, friends wander off, lovers break up with you, you have no real outlet to say, “This is me. This is who I am. There are going to be some really amazing days and some really awful days, but if you hang on, it’ll be okay.” Because you have, in a sense, said this before at the last break-up, the last phone call, the last email to someone. They’ve heard this story before — just get some help, they will tell you. Get some help, put your world back together. But what if, like in my case, the help that is supposed to set you free actually imprisons you? I cannot physically take the drugs for my disease. I have tried numerous times and each drug cocktail has shaved off days, weeks, months, sometimes years of time that I will never get back from all the lost time of experimentation. Now what? There is no handbook for this sort of thing, how am I supposed to put my world together if my world is so fragile, the smallest of changes can send it shattering into a million pieces?

Being crazy is exhausting. Whether from the drugs or the pure, raw sheer strength of keeping yourself together during the hour, day, or even the minute. The constant on guard of your feelings, emotions to make sure they don’t explode over everyone you meet.

Today I am neither ugly, lonely, or exhausted. Today has been a good day, as was yesterday and as I hope tomorrow is. Being free is knowing I have done everything under my control to keep this disease in check, to as prepared as much as I can for when the next wave hits, and hope that it will all be over soon.

I end this with a quote from one of my favorite philosophers:

There’s no point to any of this. It’s all just a… a random lottery of meaningless tragedy and a series of near escapes. So I take pleasure in the details. You know… a Quarter-Pounder with cheese, those are good, the sky about ten minutes before it starts to rain, the moment where your laughter become a cackle… and I, I sit back and I smoke my Camel Straights and I ride my own melt. Troy Dyer

x0x0,
Lisa

This day in Lisa-Universe in: 2011

Of broken bricks and forgotten combs

 

My view of the ocean from the Monterey Marriott.

Dear Internet,

Despite all the scrupulous packing (and re-packing) and organizing, I discovered upon my arrival in Monterrey I had forgotten a comb. Now granted my hair is short and doesn’t really need a good brushing, but as the gods willed, if you forget something that may not have been that big of deal now it becomes a massive big deal later. Thankfully I was able to make my way to Walgreens before my world collapsed from 3″ strands of hair not being properly sorted out, which could have proved disasterous.

I’m in Monterrey, sitting in a Starbucks around the corner from my hotel on my one day off this week. Tomorrow kicks off the conference in full gear, and I wanted this day to be one of me time and relaxation as I knew as the week wore on, the conference would wear me down. While my energy levels have reappeared since I came off the lithium, I’m more conscious of personal space and needing to escape into my own world for awhile before any major social interactions are going to occur, even more importantly when there are large groups of people I do not know.

I arrived in Monterey after a very full day of traveling, which started at 8AM EDT and ended at 5PM PDT, which mainly included my hopscotching my way around the US.  As I was checking in and getting sorted, I ran into one the panelists who will be presenting with me, and his partner, both whom graciously invited me out to dinner.  After the hopscotching around various airports, I was delighted to get a chance to get a bit of a stretch around the area before heading to bed. We had dinner on the wharf and I was so determined to have my bit of vodka and Guinness, which I made happen, before anything else occurred. By the time the evening wore down, combined with jet lag, travel lag, and other wordly lags, I was hoping to fall asleep when I got back to the hotel and make it a fairly early night.

But nothing is ever really that easy as the fates again decided I had not sacrificed the correct amount of virgins to satiate them as not only was I not able to fall asleep at a reasonable hour, I was wide eye awake starting at 7AM local time despite the alcohol consumed the night before and coupled with jet lag meant I was running on 5-6 hours of sleep.

I laid in bed most of the morning, pondering what I was going to do for the day while watching terrible reality television that I seem to only care about when I’m not at home. I caught  an episode of SECRET PRINCES, which turned out to be the pilot of the second season. Later, I gleefully regaled my breakfast companions the background stories of four unlucky in love royals who came to America, Austin specifically, to find love while undercover from their true identities. The whole show is a bit daft, of course, but there is some kind of glee about these bumbling fish out of water experiences that I can view like Margaret Mead, except all virtual and not with binoculars in the grass.

The rest of the day has been lazy, walking around the downtown core and grabbing coffee to keep the energy going. The weather, and as one must always talk about the weather when travelling, turned for the worse, I ended up back in the hotel earlier than anticipated because sitting in a coffee shop with my back against the drafty window is neither noble or smart and the outcast seemed to huddle on rain for the rest of the day. It was like I had never left home.

I decided to use the rest of my time to work on personal and work projects, only to discover my charging brick for my MacBook Air is dead, which explained why some of my other devices were not charged this morning when I grabbed them on the go. Here I thought the problem was with the room outlets but that is turned out to not be the case. Even with next day shipping, I missed the window to get a new brick to me via Amazon tomorrow as it won’t show up until Tuesday and I’m leaving ungodly early (4:30AM) Thrusday morning fot the airport.  Thankfully I brought along my iPad, so the laptop will only get used in extreme emergancies while I mainlined everything else elsewhere.

I had some cause of worry for this trip, not of the conference or the people I was going to see, but the worry of my own behavior the further I get from my last dose of lithium. The same week I was first drug free, I was hit with PMS enough to cripple me and the mood swings enough to remind of all the 100s of reasons I wanted to be on mood stablizing drugs. Once that was over, and my inner world was smooth again, I’m finding myself feeling much more of myself than ever before.

I am desperate to not let this be a manic episode stemming from coming off the drugs, but it’s difficult when I’m only sleeping on 4-6 hours a night, I don’t get catch up sleep when I can sleep in, and I seem to exist on zoom the entire day with very little caffeine. The crash will come, there is almost always the certainy with that, but I’m praying to whatever will listen to not let it be so terrible that it is crippling and more importantly, I can have the forsight to be self-aware of it as it happens. It seems like a lot to ask, but if the drugs are not helping then I need something to guide me through the uncharted spaces to get me back on track again.

x0x0,

Lisa