janus – faced: on being bipolar

Dear Internet,

As I started prepping today’s piece, it struck me as I am also a gemini and if you’re hip to astrology, geminis are dual natured. I don’t think you could make my life any more hamfisted or obvious.

So today is World Bipolar Day! Last year, I discovered the cause a day after it occurred — which is always my luck. Since I’m so prolific about writing about my mental state of being, I thought I would take today’s entry and point out some of the resources, blogs, and books that I use to keep my brain in check.

A few disclaimers.

  1. I am not a doctor or a therapist. I cannot treat or diagnose your brain. What I write on this site is what works for me (including drugs, more of which I’ll go into in a sec), so for the love of fuck do not take my experiences as the end all, be all of being bipolar.
  2. Bipolar is, in short, a chemical imbalance in the brain. Unlike things like anxiety or borderline personality disorder, which are managed by talk therapy, it is nearly impossible to function without some kind of drug therapy, in addition to talking therapy. Yes, yes, I know people have said they manage without drug therapy (or talking therapy) and those people who are successful at managing without any type of therapy, successfully, is tiny. Like really, really, tiny.
  3. I implore you not to self-medicate.
  4. There are several different types of bipolarism. I am bipolar 1.
  5. Bipolar is typically comorbid, which means you can be bipolar AND have anxiety AND so on. I am bipolar 1 with anxiety, adhd, and borderline personality disorder.
  6. FOR THE LOVE OF FUCK DO NOT DIAGNOSE YOURSELF ON THE INTERNET AND I DON’T CARE IF YOU USED THE MAYO CLINIC / WEBMD / OR SOME OTHER KIND OF REPUTABLE SITE. You can get recommendations from your general physician, your insurance company or in Google: psychiatrist “name of your city” to get a listing of shrinks in your area. You’re going to want a medicating shrink for your drugs and a talking shrink for your talk therapy. Some doctors can do both. They will diagnose you and work out a treatment plan for you.

The below are resources / books I use or have used and found success with in my management of my brain. I am listing mainly bipolar stuff and US based sites. I have found in my searches for “bipolar” or “bipolar blogs”, up comess lots and lots of academic-y pieces on the disorder or links to sites like WebMD with explanations of the disorder but not much after that. I have also found a few sites that were more about snake oil then providing resources or information.

Which brings me to: Be weary of sites that always want to sell you something like, “How I cured Bipolar in 10 Easy Steps” and that kind of crap. If someone wants to sell you their life story on them and bipolar, that’s one thing, but the rest is mostly snake-oil.

Now the recommendations. (Amazingly, to me, the Reddit subreddit for bipolar is pretty chill.)

Mine

  • Pinterest board where I’ve started curating mental health stuff website
  • Article at MindBodyGreen, “I’ve Had Bipolar Disorder For 20 Years. Here’s How I’ve Learned To Manage It” website
  • EpbaB tags bipolar | bipolar maniamentally healthy

Reources

Blogs

Books


I am a:  LibrarianWriter. Nerd. Geek. Sassy.  Pug owner. World traveler. Pierced. Tattooed. Tall.Music and book lover. Discriminating Guinness taster. Aging, alternative hipster. Eco-conscious. Equally in love with James Bond, Jane Austen, and Doctor Who.

I am not the sum of my diagnosis.

My brain is broken but I am not.

I am more the sum of my parts and so are you.

xoxo,
Lisa

This Day in Lisa-Universe: 2013, 1999

 

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Mental Illness, Shame, and the Art of Asking – 2016 Edition

#LisMentalHealth week is an initiative started by my good friend Cecily Walker and Kelly McElroy. You can follow along on Twitter, add resources to the Google doc, or check out the Storify of Monday’s chat.

Dear Internet,

If you’ve been reading (or following me on social media), it’s no surprise I’m open about my mental health. I talk pretty extensively on being bipolar (especially since I’m bipolar one which means I creep towards mania than depression), mental health in general, borderline personality disorder, adhd, depression when I get it, anxiety, and about my drugs, shrink, and fuck, probably a lot more I’m forgetting.

While I try not let me be these diseases, so much of what they do is an integral part of my life, it’s very hard to talk about them in some sort of context, “I’m being cray today. Ugh!”

So here is a week where I can talk freely and abundantly about my brain with professionals in my chosen career only to find as I opened up this editor to write — I am stumped on what exactly to say.

Three years ago (!), spurned by a TED Talk by Amanda Fucking Palmer, I wrote this piece: “Mental Illness, Shame, and The Art of Asking.”

In case you missed it, here is Amanda’s talk:

What I said three years ago

Yesterday, I was part of a panel at MSU Comics Forum where we gave a presentation on Golden Age: Comics and Graphic Novel Resources in Libraries. Our schtick is to present on this topic at non-library conferences because we knew it was important for artists, writers, creators, educators, and comic book lovers to be aware of what/how libraries are doing with comics and graphic novels. Within the library world, it is a given. Outside the library world, not so much.

 

While prepping for my talk, I was debating on whether or not to mention I was bipolar and relate that to graphic novels available on the topic. If part of my argument is graphic novels should be in libraries is because they help broach difficult topics, is this not a difficult topic and ergo a perfect example? The other question that would be asked is what kind of obligation do I have in mentioning I am bipolar to anyone about anything? Why does the onus fall on me?

 

This debate went on in my head up until I took the podium.

 

When the slide came up I had earmarked to mention being bipolar, I found myself just saying it as naturally if you please:

 

“I’m bipolar. I’ve had several friends who’ve read Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me and say to me, ‘Okay. I understand what you’re going through. It was eye opening.’ And this is perfectly illustrates how graphic novels and comics can help broach difficult topics.”

 

Several heads in the audience nodded with agreement.

 

In the space of a few minutes, I had negotiated in my head the trust relationship between myself and the audience. I gave myself permission to be candid. The floor did not open up and swallow me nor did fire come reigning down the heavens.

 

While I was feeling manic up until that moment, and then the world shifted into focus. When my 15 minutes was done, I felt my body relax for the first time in weeks.

 

Before watching AFP’s talk last night, I had not realized the mental negotiations taking place in my head about having a mental illness were about exchanges in trust with whomever. Oh, not you Internet, but with those in contact of my daily life, who don’t follow me across the social sphere or read this blog. There is a price tag on honesty, and on revealing, one that was too high in the past to contemplate, and one that is constantly always under scrutinizing but is becoming easier to negotiate.

 

AFP rationalized it is not about taking a risk, rather it is trust. Shame comes in when those not part of the negotiation attempt to criticize it. I am currying trust with my readership by telling them about my crazy, but someone who doesn’t read my blog, or know me, starts to make judgements on the already established link between me and my readership, they are installing shame on the affair. Anything different is open to criticism and this needs to change.

 

My name is Lisa and I am bipolar.
It needs to be said, it has to be said, I will continue to say it.

That piece still sums up what I feel today, except when it’s not.

Bipolar can be controlled with drugs and therapy. I’ve been on the same cocktail for over a year now and 9 times out of 10, life is pretty even keel. Now Borderline Personality Disorder is taking center stage, rearing its ugly head and that has been running my life for the last year+.

BPD has ruined a lot of things with the most current such as TheBassist1 breaking up with me not because he didn’t love and want me, but because I was a flight risk2 and will always be a flight risk until I got my shit together.

BPD has ruined not only romantic relationships, but platonic relationships; it’s distorted my world view; it’s fucked a lot of things for me and sometimes I feel utterly and completely out of control. “I hate you, don’t leave me!” “Everyone hates me; I’m the greatest thing since sliced bread.” “I have made a mistake somewhere and now I will be shunned/fired/etc.”

Coupled with being bipolar, I’m often surprised I’ve made it past 40. Hell, past 30.

I talk a lot about the domino effect which has plagued me these last few years. But what I haven’t discussed is exactly how that affected me on a much more personal level:

  • The #teamharpy case has made me a leper in the library world
  • nina and I racked up $15K in legal fees
  • I ran myself into $40K credit card debt between September 2014 and June 2015
  • On paper I’ve been homeless, on and off, since October 2014
  • I’ve had several breakdowns, starting with a long period of mania that lasted for about six months, then a bout of depression, back to mania, which finally came to a head in October when TheBassist broke it off with me.
  • From October to mid-December I rarely left TheExHusband’s condo or got out of my jimjams or did any kind of self-care. I ugly cried nearly every day
  • I’ve rarely smoked more than a couple of cigarettes a month until this past summer where I’m coming up to half a pack a day
  • While not suicidal, I’ve been in crisis at least twice in the last year

I’m probably missing a few things but this is the laundry list of ills that have been the albatross in my life for the last 18 months. A lot of these are my own choices, “If only I had…”

  • …used the word ‘alleged’ in that fucking tweet
  • …stop spending money on useless shit since I don’t have a job
  • …stopped denying everything was great and I was sick
  • …listened to what my loved ones said instead of thinking I could go at this alone

There are a lot of “If onlys.” Aren’t there always?

Being mentally ill is a goddamned highway with lots of on and off ramps. You make decisions based on your illness, it backfires, and you lose something important. You make a decision based on your illness, it comes up smelling of roses. You just never know how the die is going to roll and we keep taking the chance that what we decided was right.

We’re gamblers, we are. We worry by not telling anyone, we’ll not be able to get help when we need it. We worry if we do tell someone, we’ll lose out on life/partners/jobs. We worry how drugs will affect us or if self-care will actually work. We worry about the stigma, the pain, the anguish, the shame. We make ourselves sicker because we cannot disclose our sickness without fear something terrible is going to happen.

And the most painful thing? No one trusts you. TheBassist doesn’t trust me. TheExHusband doesn’t trust me. I’ve lost a lot of friends who can no longer trust me. What comes out of my mouth today can and has been either half-way true or another variation tomorrow3. It’s hard to ask for help when no one trusts you, even if they love you.

A lot of hard questions are coming up in the #lismentalhealth chat. Questions I want to be the queen of all that is mentally ill and bestow my wisdom to everyone as I have all the answers (“I am the greatest thing since sliced bread.”). I’m afraid to post because I don’t want to be seen as a scene stealer (“Everyone hates me.”). I don’t want to seem “weak” (“I can control this thing no matter what you say”), whatever that means, and I don’t want people to take pity on me even though I crave their adoration (“Don’t leave me.”). I’m a raging, sarcastic asshole towards people (“I hate you.”)

Being mentally ill is goddamned exhausting. I think this is one thing we can all agree upon.

One of the questions that did come up I can, somewhat, safely answer is about disclosing your illness to current and future employers. Right now I’m of the mindset of “No.” In my last position, because I was hell bent on being open and honest, I told my immediate boss. Within a few months, they used my illnesses against me. See the revised job description they put up when they did a call after my contact was about to expire. Look particularly at 12. They also would use verbiage such as, “Go take more drugs,” and “have you seen your therapist lately” out of spite. (Yes, I did try to get them reprimanded for such impertinence but since no one heard them, I had no physical proof…you get the idea where this going, right?) Despite the disability act/equal opportunity form you can volunteer to answer when you apply for a job, I choose “no response” to the question or I don’t fill out the damned thing at all. I cannot take the chance if someone sees I’m bipolar they will automatically disqualify me from getting a job. While this is illegal, I’ll never know since I will just get your standard rejection.

I have nothing to say. I have everything to say. I have a zillion answers. I have no answers.

I wish I did.

xoxo,
Lisa


1. One day there will be a day when I don’t mention him in a piece but today is not that day.
2. I can’t blame him for this part of why our relationship failed this time around. When the love of you life is leaving you every couple of months and then calls you ugly crying, you’d probably cut ties off too. But that’s a post for another time.
3. Pinky swear, on my grandmother’s grave, everything I’ve written in here, my world, has been true. It may have been fucked up, crazy sounding, or depressing as fuck, but this is the only place I have always felt like my safe space and thus can be completely honest.

This Day in Lisa-Universe: 2013, 2011, 2011, 1997

drive

Dear Internet,

It’s Memorial Day and while most of you are out enjoying (hopefully) the good weather, I’m in TheExHusband’s condo waiting for it rain. Without access to a grill, and impending iffy weather, we’re keeping it indoors for the day. Pot roast will be consumed, laundry done, and at some point I will be start catching up on some telly. If we’re super honest, I will not get out of my jimjams for the rest of day and I’m okay with that.

I’ve spent the morning doing clean up and restructuring of some things around here.It seemed if I’m going to be coming back with gusto, a lot of the old features should be revamped and reinstated. I’m bringing back Collection of Cunning Curiosities, my breakdown of things I’ve liked that week across various mediums. I’ve dropped the medieval spelling and instead of a line item of things, it will be a summary of that particular medium. I’ve been Pocketing loads of things for months without referencing them after they were saved which was the point of CoC.

I’ve massively updated my Book List of 2015 and while it feels like I’ve been reading more as of late, the list still looks fairly puny to where I should be in order to hit the 100 book mark for the year. If you’re a visual person like me, I’ve also updated the board at Pinterest.

TheExHusband sprung for a new iPad Mini as an early Lisamas gift. Of course, I’m feeling overwhelmed with his generosity but my old iPad2 was becoming slower than molasses in January, close to obsolescence, and often freezing up. Surprisingly, as a second generation tech, it’s still much preferred over the next few generations until the iPad Minis and Airs were released.

I used my iPad2 like mad in the four years I’ve owned it but at some point, I noted it was, in addition to slowness, coupled with only 16g of space, almost too cumbersome for reading and game playing. The new iPad Mini that is sitting next to me is several chip generations ahead, bigger drive, thus much snappier and reading on it, especially comics with its retina display, is a delight.

I’m pretty sure TheExHusband and I do not have a normal divorced relationship, considering how much he’s been by my side through all of my foibles. But we were so integral to each other’s lives for so long, just disconnecting altogether would feel wrong.

My mania pitched this morning. It may be partially due to my intake of Lamictal, which is slowly being upped to 400mg and should be stabilized in the next few weeks. It could also be due to the pot of coffee I’ve had today. I swear, I didn’t feel manic when I woke up this morning and I even went to bed at a reasonable hour with zero problems sleeping! I have been so energetic this afternoon that we went on a walk because I’m even annoying myself. Of course the walk had to have a purpose – to get a waffle cone of chocolate sorbet. Huzzah!

I’ve been interested in tracking my sugars, not because I’m diabetic or even close, but I read a recent article in WaPo that it isn’t exercise or cutting fats that will allow you to lose weight, but cutting sugars. I’ve had success in the past when I’ve been diligent with calories, so cutting those along with watching my sugars seems a natural way to go with changing my eating. It is also bikini season.

The author, a doctor, uses reports and studies to back up his findings, and hell, who couldn’t do better with a more normalized diet? As a starter, I started documenting my food intake today  in which the only meals I have had is brunch and a snack, yet I have already consumed 125% of my sugar allowance. Obviously the sorbet didn’t help. So there is that. (And if you’re one of those people, you can find me on MyFitnessPal as biblyotheke. You can also find me on FitBit if you do a search for byvalkyrie@facebook dot com.)

Eurovision was Saturday, which TheExHusband and I watched live. The best way to explain it is American Idol on super speed but with 40ish countries competing instead of 12 hopeful contestants. The pageantry, costumes, and kitschy national pride is what sets it apart from just about anything else. Don’t believe me? Here is a quick recap of all the contestants from 2014.

Rising like a phoenix,
xoxo,
Lisa

Today in Lisa-Universe: 2014, 2o03