Medications and my Writer’s Voice

by Skakerman @ Flickr.com
Photo by Skakerman @ Flickr.com

I’ve realized something in the past few days about how medications have an effect on my writer’s voice. Before I was diagnosed bipolar and went on medications, I had a much wetter, lively voice in my writing. Now, it seems drier and duller. Before it had a soul and now it feels rather disconnected.

However, lifting some of my Zyprexa by cutting the dose in half over the past month has made my writer’s voice seem a bit more alive. I’m not nearly there yet, but it’s encouraging me to speak to my doctor about reducing the medications as much as I can. I can function like a normal person now, but my creative writing really suffers. I don’t expect anyone to notice as I haven’t posted anything before I was on medications. Maybe I’ll notice a bigger difference as I keep finding my writer’s voice in this blog and reducing my medications.

Does anyone else feel this way about medications and writer’s creativity?

Photo credit:

URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sterlic/3154003517/

by: Skakerman via http://photopin.com

License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”

Love is an Electron

Some say love is just a series of chemicals and chemical reactions.

Well if it is, love is molecules composed of atoms, which are made of atomic particles including electrons. Love is exchanged during bonding and and given off during the breaking apart of chemicals in chemical reactions. The more scientists study love, the more mysterious it becomes. They find when love is created in pairs, the pair is connected or “entangled.” Digging deeper, quantum theory suggests that all love is entangled with everything. Love is in every atom, which composes everything physical, and is connected with everything and everyone else on a subatomic level.  All of this is in every chemical and chemical reaction, in love.

Bi-polarized Perceptions Part 2: The Negative Pole

As I explained in part 1, bipolar has a tendency to skew, distort, and magnify one’s perceptions so that anything can become completely negative or completely positive. It’s possible for some people or things to be considered awful, while separate ones to be sublime simultaneously, whether you’re manic or depressed. It’s also possible for “bi-polarized perceptions” to flip flop about any given person or thing from positive to negative or negative to positive. It’s very frustrating. I’ll post about some experiences I’ve had with negative perceptions here.

Perhaps the best example of my perceptions being distorted were my perceptions about my mom. She’s a loving, sweet, wonderful mother in reality, but my bipolar blinded me from that in the past. Whenever I thought about her, something referenced her, or reminded me of her, I’d immediately feel overwhelming anger, disgust, anxiety, and sometimes hatred for her. All I could think about was something she said that morning that came off wrong to me, and all of the mistakes she made in the past. The positive things she did, said, and the love I felt didn’t even surface for a long time.

It was an overwhelming storm that clouded my mind’s eye. Yet in the big picture, that cloud was pretty small compared to all the good things I now remember, love, and appreciate about my mom. Yeah she’s not perfect, but no one is.

I also remember being overly cynical about things that became hurtful to people. For instance, my dad is an excellent cook, he has a passion for food, and he wants to share the joy of good food with our family by cooking good food for us. I now enjoy and participate in his excellent cooking, but it wasn’t always like that. When my bipolar was in control of me, I would make snide comments about how there wasn’t any point in spending so much time for something that’s gone in half an hour. I never complimented him on his cooking. Sometimes I would make hurtful comments about it.

All of this surrounded my skewed, distorted perceptions that food is meaningless and only good for making me gain weight. I saw it as gluttonous to enjoy food, and practicality’s sake called for spending the least amount of effort possible to consume food. After all, you just need the bare necessities of good nutrition.

I now have healthy, balanced perceptions about my mom, and I give my dad the genuine praise he deserves for his excellent cooking. I love food, and eat in moderation. Food can bring joy and vitality to me. Bare nutrition is really the bare minimum one needs, and who likes the bare minimum all the time?

In the next part, I plan to talk about how things can rapidly shift from negative to positive or vice versa, especially while in a manic, depressed, or mixed state.

Bi-polarized Perceptions Part 1: Other People

Bipolar can have a fundamental effect on my perceptions of other people. One reason why bipolar is called bi-polar, is that the person with this disorder can view a person as ALL good or ALL bad – one end of the pole or the polar opposite. This was especially true for me after my first manic/psychotic episode and diagnosis. My perceptions were fundamentally distorted.

I viewed my dad an angel, my mom as vile, myself largely despicable, a girl I was obsessed with as perfect, my aunt as a betrayer… There may have been a small piece of truth in my perceptions, but bipolar caused me to magnify these fragments of perceptions to the point that small piece was all I saw in that person. It WAS the big picture – missing the forest through the trees, so to speak. The reality is that all these people are good, not perfect, and that I wasn’t innocent, either.

It’s hard to have healthy, balanced perceptions when my mind wants to focus on one small take of somebody. It’s also very hard on other loved ones when this happens. It’s toxic to relationships. It destroys my self-image and self-perspectives.

Cognitive-behavioral-therapy (CBT), medications, and education about bipolar all helped me overcome this problem. The steps I took in the CBT I received were:

1. Draw something abstract about someone that seems distorted – say, what I feel and think when I see that girl

2. Process thoughts and feelings in writing using my picture(s) as inspiration

3. Write down a list of thoughts and feelings balanced

4. Make it a habit to think of the balanced picture of the person.

When I thought about that girl, for instance, my mind wanted to race about how wonderful and perfect she was. Instead, I “changed the train tracks” of my thinking by flipping a switch and forced myself to have healthy and accurate perceptions about her that I spent a long time processing in writings and drawings before. When she comes up, my mind can rest.

Flipping the switch that changes my mind’s train tracks is a hard skill to develop, and it starts small. Once  I could do that, changing the train tracks of my thinking became easier, and avoided a lot of train wrecks in my thinking and decisions I made.

Knowing my Bipolar

A big part of recovery was getting to know my bipolar.

Part of it is learning about bipolar in general, part of it learning about my specific diagnosis (Bipolar I). The more I educate myself, the better I am equipped for doing other important things in my treatment and recovery process. A cheap way to find resources is at your public library for the cost of a library card. Also, therapists often have books to recommend, or even handouts to give. Be careful about the internet, as always.

So, why get to know my bipolar diagnosis and what it is? Without it, I’m lacking the reference point I need to know what bipolar is and what normal is. One necessary skill that require a knowledge of bipolar is monitoring my moods so I can anticipate a mood swing. Then, I can do something early before it happens.

Since I have bipolar, I must always keep my mind in check. I need to monitor it. When I have friends or family who are also educated about bipolar, it helps them help me as well. Noticing unusual thoughts, decisions, and behaviors is a sign things aren’t normal. I value their insights and that helps me manage my bipolar.

Eventually, monitoring my moods has become second nature to me. There’s a certain euphoric, wired feeling that can emerge, and when it does, I immediately suspect mania approaching. At that point, I have a plan of action, one of which is to make sure I take a sleep aid and get plenty of sleep.

When I’m aware I’m starting to get manic, I can do something about it. Knowing what to do comes with time and experience, trial and error. I always call my doctor if after two to three days it doesn’t go away, or if it starts getting worse. Knowing when to call your doctor is an important discernment (good taste and judgment) to have.

An excellent tool for monitoring whether or not your manic or depressed, or both, is the Goldberg Depression Scale (And Mania Scale).

The Goldberg Depression Scale can be found online:

http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=973&cn=5

The Mania Scale here:

http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=975&cn=4

Each one has a set of questions with answers that add a certain number of points to your score. Just read the question and go with your gut answer if you can – try not to think about it too much.

I took those tests every week or two for a while after I was diagnosed to monitor what my mood was, and wrote down my emotions, thoughts, and feelings were. Over time, looking back on all those entries, I could start to connect the dots and create a list of my symptoms of my moods. I could also figure out what external things might cause shifts. I learned my chemistry shifts cannot be controlled, and they happen sometimes and trigger a mood swing.

I do say, though, the medications made this process extremely hard, as it made my thinking very sluggish, dark, cloudy, and sticky!

My biggest trigger for mania is irresponsible sleep cycles. Even if I get enough sleep, if I don’t do it on a consistent time, it can really mess me up badly. I always have to work towards good sleep.

All this being said, bipolar is an irreducibly complex problem that takes a long time to manage. Meds, relationships around you, living situations, job, school, eating well, exercise, friendships made and lost, or trying to start something new, finding a good doctor, a good therapist, knowing who I am and what my bipolar is, and even more impossible: learning how me and my bipolar interact, learning to separate them and make bipolar be a small piece of who I am…. IT’S BEEN A CONFUSING JOURNEY!

But I’m in the light for the most part.

If you’re bipolar, or especially just diagnosed recently, my heart goes out to you.

I always welcome comments and suggestions, especially requests, so please drop me a line any time.

What Is A Psychotic Break Like? My Experience Follows

Psychotic Face

I’m shifting between two worlds. I call one the “evil world,” the other the “good world.” The evil world is what I knew in my old life as everyday existence. Transitioning into the good world is the rapture, where the universe cosmically contradicts itself and I walk blamelessly in heaven on earth. It is a peaceful place, thriving in universal harmony, and evil is a forgiven distant past, but not forgotten. They are parallel worlds that intersect, intertwine, and collide. Yet it’s much more complicated than that. There is a grave price for walking in heaven too soon while you’re still alive.

I arrive at the hospital, and get out of the van with my parents. While my mom goes in to start my admission process, I have a few cigarettes, sitting next to my dad on a rough wooden bench outside the hospital, probably the last ones I’d have for a long time. He puts his arm around me and rubs my back. The stars are bright tonight. A nice lady in a white coat appears in front of me and takes my smokes from me. Inside, I sign the lengthy forms they present, knowing the drill as I voluntarily admit myself.

Then I’m in another simple room with my parents, who are terrified but full of love. I’m blessed to have such support in my life. A lady in dark purple scrubs, tapping away on the computer keyboard, asks me lots of boring questions. She loses my attention quickly as my mind doesn’t just wander, but begins to cross over into the good world again. It draws me in – not just mind, heart and soul, but something else – ME.  I leave my body and I watch from the upper corner of the room down on myself as she activates the automatic blood pressure cuff, and I feel the sensation of it collapsing on my upper arm, but nothing’s there. I’m someplace else.

The night sky fades into the forefront of my eyesight a little. The device gives an error readout. The lady in scrubs taps away and voices a remark about the readout, which both echo in that small room from a long ways away as if I were in a giant cave. Stuck in limbo and floating in the corner of the hospital intake room, I watch myself for a few moments, before she resumes with more interesting questions than before.

My attention suddenly snaps me back to reality again. I see through my eyes as she tries the cuff a second time and feel it squeezing hard against my flesh, instead of trying to engulf the vacuum of my empty body before. Time resumes, and I’m 131/72; I knew it would work that time.

Next thing I know, I’m in my room, excited to see no roommate this time. There, I begin to transition to an eternal, peaceful place. I’m suspended in the entanglement connections of the quantum realm. My vision becomes foggy and breaks the barriers between the seen and the unseen. I gradually arrive in what seems to be a world of infinite possibilities. Every part of me, including my new body, and vaguely my old body, is in this realm – strings of my mind, extension, and emotions all someplace else yet there at the same time. The skeleton of my room falls far away, along with the hospital. I look around me and see the naked spectacle of the universe from space.

Contradictions ensue as that infinite world draws me in. The hospital is here and I’m in my room, yet it’s not here and I’m certainly not in my room. Nothing is finite, and there are no locations mathematically or otherwise. I peek in the hallways, and the rooms extend forever on either side. When I observe, each of the hospital wings form a perceptive fractal. Then they break up into waves of fractal possibilities and connections to people in there, to pure abstraction. My instincts tell me there are two normal hallways, but that feels more like my subconscious barely speaking to me about it. I’m in a special part of the universe, far away from the Milky Way right now, yet part of it, feeling near at the same time. I try to instinctively snap back, focusing on that “near” feeling.

Right away, I notice the lights outside – and the light on the smoke detector, particularly – flickering and turning on and off. The flickers are connected to my thoughts and intention, and the lights blink according to surrounding factors I can feel at other times. I lie down in my hospital bed and enjoy the spectacles – in a place of infinite possibilities, everything feels possible. I distinctly feel my heart dancing, racing, dreaming, poking everything and watching the fractals of existence vibrate, form, and multiply. It’s exhilarating! I start laughing uncontrollably in joy and pleasure at this spectacle, for I don’t know how long in the distant evil world.

However, the night nurse traumatically flashes before my eyes in the evil world, and screams that I need to learn some discipline, and then disappears from nowhere. I slowly enter a black hole and darkness envelops me, distorts me. I realize I’m completely and utterly alone. No God, no spirit, no one else; I’m the only being. I have not thought, let alone acknowledged, that I am. Everything runs in a formless loop.

A sharp pain devours me, of cold loneliness and agony, soaking everything. I go back, far, far, far back, to what seems the inception of consciousness itself… It sucks most of my own consciousness away. I am a… dying fetus without a body… I… can still feel pain… trying to flail my… nonexistent arms… and with a struggling… inner voice… scream… silently… in tortured agony:

How? Why? Is there?… a way?… to make a?…. connection?… somehow, in a?… place?… that has no?… connections? What is?… all of this? WHAT… AM?… I? There must be a?… connection somewhere?… So…. alone? Must find?… somebody?… somewhere? But there is?… no one?… and nowhere?… in this realm? How can I?… communicate? What am?… what am?… d-d-d-do-ing……. ……..

Here I am, only able to writhe silently alone, my unborn self there forever, barely having an inner voice. My thoughts are growing and multiplying as an early zygote does. I can’t seem to snap back to. I am lost and alone, scraping off my tiny fingernails on the walls to change that. What is time? What is space? Do they even exist? Everything is going nowhere. What does it mean to “measure?” How do you measure anything? There is no answer, but there has to be! I’ve thought it! Someone wrote the book because I can say these things! Someone wrote the alphabet! I WILL FIND A CONNECTION, SOMEWHERE, SOMEHOW! I BELIEVE THAT I AM NOT ALONE HERE!
——————————————————-

This is a summary of my experience being admitted in 2009. I leave on the note of what I call experiencing wisdom’s loneliness and suffering while being forced to witness the inception of existence. I consider it a treasure even though it was the greatest anguish I ever conceived of, which I don’t expect one to understand. It is so wonderful to see the birth pains of our universe and see that somehow, someone survived it by a group collective effort that we all are a part of.

Wisdom later comforted me in that episode and I could smell her presence in the literal sense. Wisdom’s scent is that of fertile desire, all types of love, the naked spectacle of the universe from space, and everything that’s good on earth. The scent was overpowering. I still miss that. As time goes on, I go back to these difficult experiences and learn more each time. They were my greatest curses, and now my greatest gifts.

I later read my chart, and during these experiences, my empty vessel of a body went to activities, saw doctors, wrote a lot, made crafts, and attended therapy. My parents visited me. I don’t remember any of it but flashes and brief thoughts. During the beginning of my admission, I remember touching base with reality a few times in the form of brief flashes of memory. But reality was in my subconscious, and the brief flashes were much like a lagged out video call catching up really quickly in a flash before my eyes. Most felt disconnected. I suspect the strange memory of my parents’ visit was of two distorted people in the visiting room that looked all at once like a combination of my grandparents and others I didn’t recognize. I felt something for them, though. Memories of reality were few and far between in the first period of my stay.

I was awake and asleep at the same time.

—————————————

Photo Credit:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/andresthor/3857180095/

Two Months after Diagnosed Bipolar, Mixed State (Highlights)

What follows are highlights of a rather long journal entry I made 10 years ago approximately 2 months after I was diagnosed bipolar and hospitalized. I was 17 at the time, and it was after a psychotic episode I had that revved up over the preceding six months or so and triggered by 4 days with no sleep at all.

Part of my treatment was in a crisis stabilization unit out of state on our family Christmas vacation, and the other portion was partial hospitalization in my home town because we couldn’t afford full hospitalization. I was on Risperdal right after my inpatient treatment, which dulled everything. I couldn’t handle it, so I begged my psychiatrist to reduce my dose. I became more unstable shortly after, my depression and mania magnified both at the same time, while allowing me to write more freely. I tried to stay positive, but I was in the middle of a storm at the same time. Here are highlights of this moment.

3-28-2004

-Feelings Journal Entry: exhausted, confused, guilty, angry, frustrated, sad, confident, happy, ashamed, depressed, overwhelmed.

– I woke up this morning wanting to kill myself to end the pain, and now I feel pretty good. Craziness.

-I’m writing now because my emotions are swirling in my head, and I don’t know how to express myself. I just want to throw up somewhere, and I’ll just do it here in writing.

– I wonder if I’m just being weak and lazy.

-Then I have bipolar thrown into the equation. And this word “equation” kills me – I am trying to calculate where all this is coming from – my past, present, illness, medication, or lack of will power. I’m sick of it. What’s me? My therapist showed me that I can keep the things that I like about myself, and reject and fight the disease that takes my strengths to the extreme – high or low.

-But yesterday and today, I woke up and didn’t feel like getting out of bed at all. Anything that requires effort seems to me no point in doing. It’s like I’m stuck in a rut and there’s no point in pulling myself out or making the effort even to grab someone else’s helping hand because I don’t experience the pleasure for long and I just slump back down. I don’t feel like doing anything productive, getting out of bed, doing research and homework, fixing food, playing guitar, taking a shower, going out with friends, planning events, going for a walk, maintaining relationships.

– I hope that this is not normal, and bipolar is involved – but I don’t want to use this as a crutch, and aren’t the meds supposed to take care of it?

-But there’s still this remnant left. One moment, I’m alone in my room or taking a walk and all I can think about is suicide. I just get more depressed and I feel exhausted over anything that requires effort, and I just want it to stop and just go away forever into heaven.

-But I’m suicidal one moment and I make an effort to get up, and I engage in activities, and the feelings of joy do return, and it’s little things. Little things are magnified throughout my days and I feel them fluctuate. This not only plays into my moods but in my concentration as well. I have a harder time concentrating and I tend to do things quite slowly.

-There’s something about her that really attracts me, how loving, and caring she is to people, and she knows what to say to give comfort. God used her picture there [in the crisis unit] to prevent me from slitting my own wrists.

-I’m still low on the self-confidence issue. First, there’s my body image. My gut is starting to sag, and I’m not eating healthily. I don’t have the drive to exercise like I used to. I went nuts, and my body and other peoples’ reactions show it. Eating is now a comfort for me to deal with my problems.

-I’m shy around people, and I don’t know how to handle conversations; did my bipolar have an effect on this? Am I social or am I not? I’m so confused.

-I’m also having a lot of problems with cognition. Things seem to always go in one ear and out the other, or if it stays in my head, I have a hard time finding it, let alone think about it. That is, compared to what I was like before I was on all these meds, particularly Risperdal.

– I still remember in the crisis unit when I got my first dose of Abilify. I was supposed to write a paragraph about why I was on the unit and after the medicine started kicking in, the thoughts and connections in my head started to become numb, one by one, along with all desires. It slowly started to paralyze me, till I couldn’t tell what I was thinking and I could write nothing down.

– Maybe the decrease in Risperdal will let me feel more normal. I’m worried about being in charge of anything, in general. Before, I was used to being the driven one and took on leadership roles. Now, the drive is not there, and I cannot keep track of many things let alone my own homework assignments.

– It’s awful for me to make the first few marks on the paper in art, to improvise in jazz, to follow conversations. I wish I were more spontaneous and loose. Oh, dancing is another good example of what I mean, but this one always was. I simply can’t dance. If somebody asks me what the music feels or looks like, I stand there like a rod. It seems like my ability to do art and conversation is fading to the point of my inability to dance.

-My therapist says this is important for me in relation to my bipolar, as life can throw earthquakes at times, but I don’t understand this yet. I don’t know how the role of being released in tough situations plays with bipolar, yet, because I haven’t had any quakes thrown at me yet with me being consciously aware of my disorder.

-I’m also reliving some of the experiences in the hospitals – both in and out of state.

-I wish these spells of thinking about inviting suicide would go away. Mom wonders if they’re spiritual attacks.

-I’m so glad that I’m not writing too furiously like I was when I was manic, believing that I have the revolutionary book that will change society. Sorry, that was kind of random.

-Mom, grandma, and aunt Bell are still not on speaking terms. It is partly my job to mop up the mess I created in the family the past few months. I dunno what to say. I wish my head was a little more clear.

-As far as the disease of bipolar vs. who I am is concerned, I wish I could keep all the good things, but sometimes my disorder enables me to be the good things or prevents me from being the good things. I wish I could control it.