“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.” ~
“Which of my feelings are real? Which of the me’s is me? The wild, impulsive, chaotic, energetic, and crazy one? Or the shy, withdrawn, desperate, suicidal, doomed, and tired one? Probably a bit of both, hopefully much that is neither.” Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness
Consistently trying to mimic emotions of others everyday in itself is hard, trying to be happy when you are sad and and stop the acceleration of happiness is exhausting. I cherish the moments when I can completely be myself, drown in the things I love with joy. I wish I could be consistent and a “trigger” is just a word for a simple release mechanism.
I have to pause before the hamster falls off the wheel and rewind a bit. Lately, I can’t figure out if I’m okay, about to be manic, or about to face the black dog (depression). It’s a typical meme you’ll find on the Internet. Basically, if you don’t like my mood now, wait a few minutes. I haven’t written as much on my blog in the last few weeks, mostly just unable to focus. I have emails I desperately need and want to reply too regarding how I handle having bipolar and mental illnesses or blog in general. Many praising how I am shifting such a horrible illnesses into a superpower. It’s hard to tell someone with bipolar, PTSD, depression or anxiety what works for me, because I am constantly trying to pinpoint the answer myself. Ithe is ever changing. I never post trigger warnings on my blog because no single person has the same triggers. Yes, we probably all share many of the same. But mine can be anything from hearing a baby cry in a bathroom echoing off the walls to someone asking me, “Do I know you?” to trigger a response.
So today, I was completely fine, enjoying a day with the family. We had chosen to go see a movie and walk around the mall prior. Today is Memorial day, for our family everyday is memorial day like many of our friends. We never forget those who gave all, so today was like no other except it reminds the rest of the world to pause for the day. It’s a trigger, I am reminded of my husband’s deployments, nearly losing him in the Pentagon on September 11th and those who did not come home on those days or those deployments. So for my family they are remembered everyday. So today a movie and the mall sounded perfect.
While shopping, I get a call from my credit card telling me of possible fraudulent charges. Instantly a trigger, “Did I do something and spend thousands online? Did I charge away to ASPCA (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) late at night watching those emotional commercials involving animal cruelty? Or to an organization for wounded warriors that pulled at my heartstrings?” These things ran instantly through my head. I knew it was none of those things, but what if? What if it happened and I didn’t remember. The thoughts of other things ran through my head. As I listened, I learned that it was simply we hadn’t used our credit card and when my husband bought the kids a snack with the card just minutes before, it triggered the alert from the card company (Bravo to Chase Bank for diligently). This in turn triggered me.
It was obvious to everyone, the day was over. I was rigid, emotionless, angry, irritated, and every muscle remained tense. It was no one’s fault. I just hated myself, reminded of who I was like Kryptonite to Superman. I was wounded. I saw the disappointment on everyone’s face as we left the mall for the car. Everyone knew the day with Mom was over.
Once home it took hours to stop my muscles from being so tense. Release myself from the fear and tension that had occurred in my head. I sat on the couch and didn’t move. Shortly, I fell asleep from exhaustion. Once I woke, my body ached, I was tired, not sleepy but drained. Dinner was prepared for me, the kids and Dad went to a neighborhood cookout. The day was savaged for them, but I felt like I’d spent the day in the gym. In a fog, reflecting how real it all felt.
I wanted to share that regardless of how awesome and healthy I look or appear I’m not immune to triggers. I am not perfectly super bipolar all the time. What makes me great is also what makes me horrible. A trigger to me is what I imagine and compare to the weaknesses of superheroes.
As I sat down to write tonight I was reminded of, Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness. I flipped to the highlighted quote you see at the beginning of this post. It perfectly described me. It is me yesterday, today and tomorrow. The battle never ends, but like all superheroes I will survive to fight another day.
This morning the cat and I shared a moment. It confirmed, we both suffer various psychotic symptoms. Both of us thankful for our medications. *skip to the bottom if you’re impatient.
*I suppose this is another “don’t talk about it” dirty symptom.
So before I get to our experience. I figured I’d explain a bit about bipolar disorder delusions and hallucinations. They are very different, delusions being irrational, illogical, and just a bit of false grandeur. Hallucinations can be many things, hearing, seeing, smelling, and generally sensing things with something triggering the response. Usually experienced during manic episodes.
My grandiose delusions are usually related to when I’m suffering mania or it is fast approaching. In a recent setback, I believed that I was approached by an Angel and he told me I’m having a child. I began seeing things, but I’ll get to that a bit further. This required, some help with medication. It’s what my husband refers to my mental reset. It also causes me to sleep for 16 to 24 hours or if that doesn’t work the good old hospital visit. It’s funny to look back on the experiences, but I mean biblically it’s happened before right? In all seriousness, it was a grandiose delusion. I have visions and find connections, I feel completely in sync with the earth’s energy, which can also be perceived as a delusional or maybe I’m just extremely in tune with nature. I can sometimes spend hours which feels like minutes staring into the woods. Keep in mind this is me medicated.
There are so many other things other than grandiose and persecutory delusions there are a great list of common hallucinations. They include olfactory (smell), auditory (hearing), gustatory (taste), tactile (feeling touched, creepy crawlers), somatic (feeling in your body) and last but not least, visual (seeing things). These aren’t always all associated with Bipolar disorder, but remember, I’m the kitchen sink, PTSD, ADHD, GAD are sometime the culprit. Now put it all in a pot and stir it, actually shake it.
My primary culprits are auditory, olfactory, visual, and somatic. These are the ones I still experiences even on medication. The delusions are generally contained very well with medication. My kids and husband believe I have this superpower to smell, the ability smell anything and pinpoint precisely the source. The hallucination is when I am convinced I smell smoke most often, sometimes it’s Jasmine. Other strong smells include, rust or blood. One that almost always gets me is some old heirloom roses that were behind my grandmother’s house as a child. I remember as a kid always stopping to smell the roses, literally. I only started smelling them after my father passed away. Roses today have lost the smell, these roses had such a strong, unique, unmistakable smell. Sometimes they smell as if they are right under my nose. Some would say this is spiritual and loved ones reaching out to let me know they are present, others hallucinations.
The auditory, are usually like whispers, but only at night. I recognize it as my mind decompressing, I’m simply hearing myself. But it’s interesting to know I sometime talk to myself in a completely sane manner. Sometime the pets and like other stories we have conversations, they have their voices too. Visually, it usually shadows…also reassured it medication adjustments by doctors. The somatic is usually gut feelings. They can be very unnerving. I could go on and on to the sense of being touched sometimes to waking at night and seeing someone.
So many of you may have skipped down here to me and the black cat. This morning in bed, the cat and I heard something downstairs. We currently live in a three story townhouse. So hearing something downstairs was a bit unnerving. So the dog, the cat and I walked downstairs to the sound in the main living area. Instantly, the cat completely puffed up her fur and arched her back and the dog stood in front of me and slightly growled. This happened once before when my mom visited and she witnessed a similar event.
I am pretty sure I heard the cat say, “holy shit” and the black dog growled just trying to be brave and quickly ran to the couch. The cat and I stood for a few moments basically, she held her puffed, arched back hissing. I just closed my eyes and use my senses. Was it a smell, was it the sound, was it delusional. I kept my eyes shut and remembered the smell of the roses and suddenly it was all gone. Whatever cause the disturbance, was sent away by thinking of the most comforting thing, the smell of those heirloom roses. Some would say my guardian angels came to my side. The room smelled of roses. The cat calmed and purred on my leg. I opened my eyes to nothingness.
Best day ever! It’s like finding money in the dryer or a jean pocket, but the joy keeps going and you are constantly being uplifted. Yesterday was one of those days. No anxiety or panic, no sadness, no flashbacks, no racing thoughts, no tears, nothing over the top. Just a blank canvas day, that ended up a beautiful picture.
My blank canvas didn’t involve winning the lottery or anything of grandeur. It simply involved waking up to two beautiful kids who let mom sleep, started the house chores, and my oldest made breakfast without burning the house down. When I finally woke up, a bit foggy forgetting the kids were even home on spring break. I walk downstairs and head directly for the coffee pot. From the other room two little heads pop up, “Hi Mom! Good morning!” I yawn and think to myself how awesome of them to let me sleep and go on autopilot. Then almost as if they planned the timing together they asked, “Mom, is today the day you have your friends teach us to play Disc Golf?” I responded with my normal noncommittal, “We’ll see, mommy needs her coffee first.” This is a protective response from me when I don’t want to let them down. Two reasons, I needed to make sure I wasn’t dreaming and second I knew this activity required a commitment from friends to teach them to play. I hate when I let down my kids, but to have someone else let them down physically hurts.
Bit of a backtrack, I decided months ago I needed to take back up a hobby such as golf. I was really good at one time and really remember it being fun and therapeutic. Then, I ran across Disc golf, I was immediately intrigued. Disc golf is where you throw a flying disc at a target like chained basket, the fun is scored like golf and based on precision and accuracy on a 18 basket courses. Win, win for me, no hauling balls or golf clubs, just a bag of various discs. I loved it instantly and quickly became obsessed with the concept and game. This was going to be my new sport. I shall master it and shared this with my kids. Who watched Vine and YouTube videos that a friend had sent, over and over. They wanted to learn too!
Back to best day ever, “We’ll see” I tell the kids and I sent text to my friend. He’s, a disc golf junkie and jumped at the opportunity to teach the kids and myself. We meet at the park, I knew instantly his passion and obsession with the sport made him the perfect guy. Plus, he was a bit of a kid himself so the kids loved him and the sport.
Peter couldn’t figure out if he was left or right handed thrower. This took some time since he is ambidextrous. Eventually, he threw it, just somehow backwards each time. When advised to run into it and throw, Peter literally ran 25ft forward then threw. Peter, always the one to look for the cheat.
Turns out Rowan was really good! She was a natural. Not only did she throw really well, she was noticed by some of the local disc golf players in the league who encouraged her to join the league and play in a tournament next month. They said she probably win. That was really cool and a huge encouragement for her. She sometimes needs encouragement and this came from one of the best female players locally.
As for the mad woman, well I threw, but kept getting my butt kicked by my daughter and dodging Peters crazy Ivins. Try to not scare our new friend with our multiple personalities. Not only did we learn to play. My daughter found something she loves. Peter was still frolicking tossing, then came home to tell stories to his friend about how he plays disc golf like a boss. I found my new hobby and made great friendships.
In retrospect today, I had a day without let downs, a day away from society. It was therapeutic. It was the perfect day. I was again, a new “normal” for the day.
“When we deny our stories, they define us. When we own our stories we get to write a brave new ending.” Brené Brown
In the most inopportune times my illness takes the wheel and steers me into the ditch. In the ditch, I’m not reliable, I’m not consistent, and I’m constantly having to reschedule or delay planned activities, because of the grip of anxiety and an overwhelming fear that is unexplainable and inexcusable. I forget birthdays of even my closest friends and family. I’m the definition of a flake, but only because I hide behind a mask everyday. What most people don’t know is that I don’t intentionally flake. If I had a choice, I’d be the outgoing, helpful, and reliable girl they love to be around everyday. The life of the party, dance on the table fun girl, the girl who volunteers as much time as she can to help others. It hits me like a sledgehammer, usually a slight trigger but many times no warning. I know I’m not getting depressed, I am intimate with depression. I’m suffering the suffocation of anxiety and PTSD. I have a sudden lost of all control of my emotions. On top of everything, I realize I have won the jackpot of mental illnesses. This one much harder to treat, memories have become the enemy.
Unlike my superpower bipolar, Post traumatic stress disorder is normally in my community associated with military members who have given their mind to our country and suffer the wounds of war internally. Their wounds aren’t always visible. It’s definitely not a superpower and has no benefits. It’s become a mainstream topic and given credibility because of the media coverage and the fact that more doctors are recognizing it as a serious condition. So being around the military, I rarely talk about my own PTSD as not to take away from the service members. I hate being asked if it was caused by my service. Earning the title Marine was and is still one of my greatest achievements. My PTSD has absolutely nothing to do with my service to my country. Many of my symptoms are the same as my Bipolar disorder, except I’m haunted at times with nightmares and sudden anxiety. Triggered by the memories of near death, trauma, and lost a precious baby boy. I’m not sure I can write anymore about the cause, the trauma is something my mind can’t fully accept. I never talk about the nightmares and sudden overwhelming fears. It hard to balance being bipolar, being stable, and uncontrollable anxiety. I hide it well and it is exhausting, sometimes I am amazed I survive day to day.
So you might ask how do you lose friends and piss people off? You don’t tell them you can’t leave the house, you just cancel plans without reason. You are embarrassed to let anyone see you cry and trust me, it isn’t something that can be controled. You just don’t show up and withdraw from society. The fear of sitting or being in a group and starting to cry terrifies me, the circling of strangers asking if I’m okay and rubbing my back trying to help me and I know I can’t explain myself or my actions. It’s the fear of unwanted attention. It’s like choking and not being able to talk. You voice is muffled, when you do talk is that of a gasping hiccup. It passes like a storm, but when the dust has settled and the rain has stopped. You find yourself alone, because you decided to protect them from yourself. You cancelled, you didn’t show up, you flaked. You couldn’t bear the embarrassment of being perceived in any other way than person you chose to show the world. Turn out this pisses people off, who knew?
In my pursuit of normalcy, I realized I segregated myself from an incredible support system. It was only once I was honest about my mental health did people understand. Many times once I opened up they opened up about their own struggles with mental health. Some of the strongest people I know had their own demons. Like myself, they hid that they relied on similar drugs. The stigma, It’s the whispers, the people who try to help, and the embarrassment of being a very professional outgoing extrovert who crashes into a barely functional introvert.
So my laundry is piled, sink is full of dishes, and I just want to be alone, the battle has begun. I will not be a flake and a prisoner to my mind. I’ll start today by going to the grocery store and I’ll cry in aisle three. I’ll let a stranger comfort me and accept the embarrassment that is only in my head. We all need to be more open about mental health.
It’s the clean up in isle three that can be just as scary.
Cats are narcissist, self gratifying creatures. My love for cats is never hampered. I still love the creature that needs me to feel loved and cared for daily. I know the cat is beautiful and can survive easily if cast aside to the wilderness. I admire the the cat.
What bothers me is if I’m cast aside would I survive? Cats have this natural instinct and narcissistic attitude. The people who I am drawn to are usually representative of a narcissist cat. They would seek self approval, if human wod post over and over again their perfect lives to a social media format. When in reality cats will kill without cause or need, breed with multiple mates, and turn on you and love you in the same moment. They will hurt you and make it your somehow your fault. I love my narcissist cat. But I’ve learned there are people who are like cats. They eat us alive. They feed on our weakness to care, to love unconditionally, and the need to be loved. They look for someone who will say, “your amazing” “your beautiful” daily to them, someone who constantly reinforces their egos. Someone who merely says thank you. Someone we imagine to be like that of friendship in Hollywood movies. These people know we will do anything for them. They know it the day they meet us and continue to accept and fluff our self-esteems until we are completely obsessed. It then they start to show their true natures. But for us, we have invested, we have loved, we just want to be loved back. We don’t want to walk away from the beautiful creatures that once told us they loved us, it rare someone could love someone like us. We certainly come with our own flaws, like the narcissist, but we never hurt to make ourselves feel better.
We invest, we love, and we grieve because we attract those who love our bipolar, anxiety, and depression. Some people are drawn to us, because in a very sad way they are using us to feel better. They don’t face there own narcissism. They are self serving and need those who will pet them, feed them, and scoop their shit.
I have all that with my cat! Why the hell would I put up with someone who emulates animal behavior (unless it’s only sex related, then maybe)? My cat metaphorically is constantly taking selfies of her amazing social life, her amazing vacations, and just her selfies of herself, she’s the Kim Kardashian of black cats. I’m scooping her shit while she’s at club med.
Dammit, I love my cat even though she doesn’t love me, I love her. She stays with me, provides me comfort with her presence. It makes me feel good she occasionally purrs on me……I know she wants something, but it’s affection. I crave affection. She meows, she talks to me….I know she wants something and I reward her. I pet her, I tell her she is the best cat in the world, she’s the perfect cat. I love narcissist cats! I recognize narcissist people because of my psychotic narcissist cat.
I guess my point is those who suffer from lows, wherever it be on the bipolar depression anxiety spectrum, remember narcissist will feed on you. You will and probably already fluff their egos daily on various social media’s such as, Facebook, instagram, or twitter to hang on to thier love and approval. Stop promoting that behavior and look at those friends who need your attention. I’m guilty of ignoring those who needed me for narcissistic people. I learned my lesson years ago, but it took my cat to put it in perspective.
You can cast a cat aside, they’ll survive to exist. Cast me aside, I’ll survive because I existed.
To slowly slip into depression is worst than the episodes that can be linked to a trigger. But no trigger this time, slowly feeling it is like waiting for the unknown. Panic and anxiety start to sink in for fear of the unknown. Some people notice right away, others just realize they haven’t seen you, some miss the life of the party, and surprisingly very few ask, “Are you okay?”
I become what I recognize as delusional now, because I know it’s not true. I call this the “Eeyore effect.” Eeyore is a character in the Winnie-the-Pooh books if you lived a sheltered childhood under a rock you may not know he is a gloomy, depressed, pessimistic old grey stuffed donkey. I certainly know depression is coming when Eeyore shows up. I tell myself I have no friends, no one cares and does anything really matter? Unlike Eeyore, I hurt those who do care and the angry outburst become common. I cling to those who make me happy hoping to pull myself out before it happens. Eventually being clingy and needy will take a toll on the sane and they don’t want to sink with you so the abandon ship. Then you realize I am clinically depressed.
So what is the cure for the “Eeyore effect?” I’ve found doing the one thing that is the hardest for me is key, talk to my doctor. Yes, hardest thing in the world is admitting I’m depressed to my doctor. I fear yet another medication. I fear the side effects new medications. I fear she’ll think I’m just lazy. I fear she will tell me it’s normal. But for the cure to the Eeyore effect, the key is talking about my fear to the doctor and family. Being brutally honest about yourself and your moods and behavior. Sadly having bipolar once I do slip it’s dangerous so Eeyore has to be balanced quickly.
The stigma of medication and mental illness is the only thing I wish we could cure. It’s okay to admit you’re sick. Antidepressants are OKAY! If it was your heart or maybe diabetes, you’d take the medication needed to make you feel better. I just heard my friend yell that at me in my head. It took me years for family and friends to convince me it was okay. Now I help others, talk, listen and I’m open about my illness. You’d be surprised how helpful it is for you to be yourself and they understand you can’t just snap out of it when you become Eeyore.
On the other hand, the “Tigger effect” is hard for me to talk about and deserves it’s own post for all its scandal, excitement, and embarrassment. You’d think depression would be harder to talk about but writing about something you miss because of medication is hard.
Sometimes as I have my coffee I start to ponder random thoughts and immediately hear the statement “did you take you meds” in my head. A statement, I’ve come to strongly dislike but accept. It’s one thing to battle my bipolar disorder as silently as possible but every day I hear that statement. I say something overly funny, “did you take your meds?” I say something brilliant, “did you take your meds?” I make a statement about my feelings, “did you take your med?” I decided I’m going to buy a zoo…..”did you take your meds?” Yes…yes…YES….well probably forgot not buying the zoo. But I hate people asking me when I’m not up or down. It’s like even in a normal state I can’t be normal. I know I have to take meds for the rest of my life.
Over the last year, it’s been a struggle to find a perfect cocktail, but without hesitation I take whatever they give me now to make everyone happy around me. I’m not “play with my shit nuts” off meds, I’m just extreme one direction or the other. My extreme up can be very self destructive, self gratifying, hyposexual, and I have super powers. Yes, super powers! I don’t have to sleep anymore, I can do what takes a normal human a week in a day. I can sing and I’ll probably tell you about that marathon I never ran or my mountain ski trip I never took. People love me, people want to do stuff with me because I’m fun and outgoing. I can shop like no other and give very charitably. During my extremes I loose touch with reality. I am an over exaggeration of myself.
Now the dark side “the down”. So it’s true, what goes up must come down. And it happens for me like a switch. No one likes to talk about suicide or suicidal thoughts. Heck, I don’t even like saying it out loud to my doctor. I’ll just ignore or nod when she ask if I’ve been suicidal. So the “down” usually happens and feels like I’ve got the flu so I nap and become very introverted. I am sick, sick of my weight caused by meds, sick of being self destructive, embarrassed. Embarrassed is an understandment. I have to answer for all my actions that happened during my extremes and mania. I have to hear the stories, be the punchline of the joke, “and then it was awesome, she did (insert funny destruction)…..” Then look my children and husband in the face at the hurt and disappointed. I’m convinced the world hates me. I have no one, no friends. I convince myself I am only hurting those around me. That’s when that dark monster within convinces me everyone would be better off without me in this world. It’s selfish, but when you are down it’s actually pretty selfless. Your mind convinces you you’re saving everyone from the pain. It’s dark and I don’t want to really even talk about the bottom, but there is a bottom and it’s has a trap door called suicide.
So did I take my meds today, yes! Is it always effective, no! Is it worth it, yes. I like my normal self. I realize I have purpose. I remember I’m a great balance between my extremes. The friends who were there during my extremes are usually the first to leave your side. I mean, I’m not super crazy fun and buying them stuff, footing the bill to be loved. I don’t need those people and in the end those are usually the trigger.
I have probably a couple of the greatest friends in the world. I may not see them for years at a time but they are the ones to call and talk to me after or before doctor appointment. They are the ones who ask, “did you take you meds?” That’s when it really clicks, they are not asking to remind me I’m crazy but because they like the normal me.